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cousin, gone out to India, it became quiet regular way; his family had a popolar belief that the baronet at been by, and the stout young squire, Stoke, failing their issue, was next already like his father, would soon heir to the new peerage, at all events mix among them with the heartier to the bulk of its estates. And welcome, anxious only that everyutter ignorance of them on the earl's thing should be managed as near as part, great indifference on theirs, possible to the paternal system. It corroborated the report.
caused nights of discourse in the Royal The truth was, that if this prospect Oak at Stoke, penetrating even to could have done anything to sustain Deanstoke, some mile or so away, in the fortunes of Stoke Manor, as a much discussion of all the family chagreat hope will do much, it came racter and history; for there the Stoke rather late. Of all their kindred, they arms retained traces of their ampler bad clung most to past influences; possession, like marks of an old seathe long family descent, with those margin, at the entrance of the little generous traditions of their house, had red market-town, beside the coachserved to cherish a pride, near which road to Exeter. The gauntlet holddishonour had not come, nor even ing a double rose was yet in mouldy apparent diminution ; many as were relief on the lintel-stone of its porch, the members of it that had gone where the motto in black-letter chaabroad equipped from its acres, or had racter had grown less decipherable; been dowered from its woodland. so that a landlord of some reflection, And ever from the time, in short, when being wholly independent of Stoke they ceased to have a share in events, Manor, had caused his own interpreor to care bow affairs passed on above tation to be painted at large upon a them, the Willoughbies of Stoke sign-board, pendent towards the road had seemed possessed by a careless from the tree at his gable-corner. It spirit, an easy humour, or a reckless afforded well-nigh as lively a topic for enjoyment of the present hour : the dispute as the matters of the family; same sbrunken and vacant conscious for it was a fanciful portrait of the ness, it might be, as in noble hounds oak itself by which it was suspended, or horses, which, having lost their bearing bright roses like acorns, to masters, may then be easily subdued, the topmost branches; above, it was but scarce ever used by others. To entitled the Stoke Arms, and below the common eye it was highly accept was the familiar legend in plain able; the squire always lived on his English, staringly white-" Thomas estate, encouraged his tenantry, and Hibbert - Cheap entertainment for was charitable to his poor; he shot Man and Beast-Vintner." his own game with his friends, hunted The auspicious succession of the with the county pack, supported county first baronet, on the death of his uncle, balls and county institutions, the the last squire, who had no surviving county member for church and state, heirs-direct, created a singular effect all county things and parish things; at Stoke. It happened some time before always saving, as justice of the peace, the elevation of his legal cousin by the the thefts of their gypseys, or their father's side to a more illustrious title; disturbances at fairs. In great con- and whatever fortune his mother had trast even with their neighbours at carried away from Stoke on her flight, Deapstoke, on the Priory estate, or had been spent long ere he was old under the colonel at Merltor, there enough to have estimated it. Poor were few changes on farms about himself, he had just married a portionStoke, no poachers, and no politicians; less beauty, and had begun to court but the best understanding, and the briefs from necessity, as a revived purest terms of acquaintance, whether barrister, till the unexpected change the squire was in his crustiest mood brought out a will, by which he beor his sunniest temper. If he chanced came master of Stoke. Repairs and to die, it was at Stoke Manor; and improvements had begun to make a though it struck a perceptible impres- stir there, to the no small satisfac. sion through the village adjacent, it tion of the village; nor, though ab. was generally in a good ripe age, with ruptly checked, after what was absothe most natural circumstances, in a lutely necessary to a new household
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brend sizzle-use chrise, drore to bad been shot in a deel about politics. Site from Eseter and back again, His spirit mast have been very high dring that period, at sone wat and bot, for ail the thozzátfal look of caster rate than usual: be seemed his face. to bck zraver and keeper, and his old Really there was a degree of relief cik tad a mysterioas's foreboding in the village excitement that day,
O, a melaran nod to give his which was far from making the erennge aocaziotaaces.
ing talk less eager, the tap-room The quiet arrival of Sir Henry was dialogue doller, or the tankards foam therefore greeted by no display of seldomer with their fresh ale. It was we cone, or cheerioz groaps: the by the tidings which ere lon; succeedcharch bells bad been discouraged ed, that all the lamentable nature of from pealing by Mr Haketh, and the event came home to Stoke. None ttere were no gırlac-is except over stopped the bells then from tolling. It tte taver-door; the rest was bat could be heard all day through the cocbefol curiosity, out of the village woods to Deanstoke: and when the asements, oat of age doors, when bearse came at last, noulding on to to post-cbaise drove past. The very the churchyard gate, with blackness baast of his lady, and his own air of through the green of April, through trasz, jaised to a bright eye and a its showery sunshine, there was a caietai: intelligence, wrogght little great crowd, still as death, to see. in the fargar, sare with the thought. Lady Willoughby was there with less part the cosgrega:ion, or the her husband. She had guessed her foolish as he looked too sharp, and loss, and found it out through erery she tood ata!s brought up; and disguise, and in the sudden anguish at the size of bow be minded all her had met her other agony before its steps torcazh the churchyard, lest she time. An heir to Stoke, tbat had trid ber satin fors in nettles, or might never opened his eyes to the light, trip over a ball suck stone, the old was buried with them; and it was 16. silently shook their beads. It an awful day there. The new escutwas tbspzbt to mean that all was cheon that was hung visibly in the
wag to ber high Dins; to which, aisle, bearing the gauntleted hand trt.y, kowever beautiful, she had no with its double rose, and that golden rim having brought so fortune. motto beneath, which none could ever
Ard every new week came some exactly understand, was all that rething, slightly as these, to verify the mained of Sir Henry's promise, or his isression. It was of no account that threatenings. be was said to be well thought of in When the sermon was preached, his the county, as showing great promise, brother, Sir John, sat alone in the and having an active turn for politics. raised and curtained pew; his coun. In time of Parliament, in fact, he was tenance was pale in the deep black
mourning-dress, and he listened with acquainted, through him, with his a fixed firmness to the preacher, al- neighbours in the county, he took though the sermon was no striking more and more to a social life; he one; it was only dull as death itself, went into coursing, sporting, and foxfall of dust and dryness, and an ever- hunting, like a man perfectly familiar falling tone. The escutcheon was be- with them, and gave a yearly cup of hind him; the great chancel-window his own to Exeter races. When his of the church, with its painted panes, elderly maiden sister came to live with and the stained rose-shape in its head; him, he gave also dinners at the Hall, he never lifted his eye up to it. He and grew yet the more jovial after seemed absorbed in the thoughts pre- she died, in the way of easy bachelor sented to his mind; at the end he suppers there. All through Stoke, walked out, noticing no one; he hur- and among the tenants, and round ried away from Stoke soon after-it about, to the very humblest old wowas said to the Continent, where he man, bis popularity at last excelled had lived before. The report was, all that had ever attached to the old however, that he returned there to squires of the Manor ; the more odd follow the man by whose hand his and unaccountable things he did, they brother had fallen. The next year, liked him but the better; nay, his fits it was known that Sir John intended of moodiness, his awful passion, were settling at the Hall.
ten times made up for by an openHis Oxford days were rumoured to handed generosity that might otherhave been wild, and his whole youth wise have been reckoned foolish. And a restless, gay, wandering one, in fo- the first suspicions of madness, which reign parts. There was nothing of some turned-off maidservant had once this perceptible, nevertheless, when spread, gave way to the kindlier dishe finally took up his abode at Stoke. covery that he had been early crossed He only returned with a gloom far in love-a fact which explained many deeper than before, with the mourn- perplexities about him, when fully ing-dress still on; doubtful rumours brought to light by time. According had preceded him, never fully cleared to this version, it had been his brother's up among the common country-folks, lady that they had both courted when of when he had been left a widower, he was neither a baronet nor an owner: and how he had lost his little boy ; it she had preferred the title, though was an affliction of that delicate kind leaning personally to him ; hence his which only time could explain or reported wildness, and hasty marriage soothe. Yet for a considerable time with some one beneath him, his forhis quietness and seclusion were singu- mer gloom, and his constant eccentrilar to think of, in one so hale, stout, city-and so it ceased to trouble any and manly; nor less strange was it in one. Lady Willoughby was but church, how motionlessly attentive he faintly recollected; people's interest seemed to the dull rector, or the for. had grown milder with years, and with mal curate, and was never known to families of their own ; Sir John himcast an eye across to the small sqnire's self was young no longer, nor in the seat opposite, with its blooming faces, prime, nor yet handsome. Little exor the captain's fair daughter from pectation of an heir from him remainDeanstoke, the brewer's buxom niece ed; but it was known that his younger in the gallery, who was an heiress, or brother, the colonel, had plenty of the miller's sister, who was a country children. beauty. Yet he was a handsome man A portly bachelor, in buckskin to look at, handsomer by far than his breeches, with top-boots, a coat someelder brother, and in his prime; the times of blue, sometimes of huntingcolour came by degrees in his face green, he sat punctual as the bells in again, too, the healthy light to his the old pew; whatever the doings of eyes, the stout fulness, the firm gait, the week had been, or even the last and the bluff manner, back to his night's sight of the rector, now old whole aspect, which were seen at last and fat-Sir John listened to him with to have been natural to him. For as a face as solemn as the orthodoxy he Sir John saw more of the rector, who heard and upheld; even as, although was only dull in the pulpit, and got supporting institutions, he toasted the memory of the Pretender. His face a singular tint on certain features of was broad and rosy, so that, glowing others, not seldom appropriate; while out over white cravat and breast-frill, wakening up old thoughts in older it looked all openness; it revealed folks, or making the younger blush nothing but a hearty temper, with a doubly deep at glances from aside. whimsical humour, that prompted him Nor failed it to give some quiet occaevery Sunday in the year to wear a pation to children in counting the rose in his button-hole; how or why hues and petals, or spelling ont that it was hard to say, but to wear that legend which perplexed the boys: rose he would spend guineas upon "Sub Rosa Robur." It was thought guineas, or turn off a careless gardener. the curate never had seen it, that the The fised look stole gradually into parson did not know the meaning of perfect satisfaction, till it was sod- it; for their discourses had no more denly seen, that, with an air of utter va- the same interest, or the slightest sign cancy, his month opening, Sir John had of its intelligence, than the spider3 fallen asleep ; whereapon, if prayers that wove cobwebs over the pulpitended, the clerk would cough very top, or the flies that walked on the loudly through the silence, to awake wall. Whether Sir John himself ander. him ere the psalm was given out. stood it, and kept it a solemn secret, And awkwardness would creep over was unknown. half the congregation, as if, ere rising And when the Earl of Oakleigh's to their feet, they ought to wait his arms were reported to bear the same, pleasure; or the organ he had libe- when the important facts were traced rally presented to the church-choir through all change of name, with the would burst forth with immense force earl's origin, his old age, his few inupon the tune, as it were to cover tervening heirs, it excited all Stoke. his confusion, when he started up and Stoke had risen already to one title, found the place held over to him by and it was the more sanguine of a some one, and sang with all his hunt- higher. It claimed parer blood than ing vigour. Pious ancient Willough- the earl's son could boast ; nor was Sir bies had built the church; Willough. John too old, even then, to marry. bies, too, in their halcyon days had The whispered encumbrances on the caused crown the high east-window estate became less disagreeable to with a triple rose-head, wrought in speak of. But he showed no correthe arch's point, and stained variously, sponding interest; he dozed not a whit while round it in the border was their the less on Sundays, followed the peculiar motto, veiled, as it were, pointers or the hounds with as much modestly in difficult Gothic cipher. thorough zest, enjoying the society of So that ofttimes, of a hot forenoon, his friends afterwards with the same when the new curate preached with loud jollity, the same old crusted port more intense uninterestingness than and punch, the same jovial old huntusual, or with more abstract morali- ing-choruses. The county belles had ties, it was pleasant to see even how no additional charms for his eye, nor the Ten Commandments gleamed dimly received the less easy bluffness of on both sides of the altar-space-how courtesy from his manner. If his farther up rose the dull old Apostles brother, the colonel, or the colonel's from compartment to compartment, children, were to succeed to Stoke ere before the net of wire outside, with the earldom or its riches fell to their faded heads, their sad-coloured them,--then, with the burdens that roses, their odd painful postures of were said to hang over the estate, feet and hands, gazing down or up un- there was no doubt rents would impassioned-and how up above the have to rise ere they drew much shadow would kindle the leaves of income from it. There did indeed the rose-light, shedding a silent illu- come a time,-one summer after his mination far through half the edifice, nephew from Oxford had been staying or in beneath the Willoughbies' family to fish with him, and had departedaisle. It gave curious distinctness when, in his own eccentric unexpected then to sundry people's faces, perhaps way, Sir John showed signs of unpeople who had done something that easiness, almost alarm; the family was almost forgot; it threw sometimes lawyer came and had a long interview
with him,—that same Mr Hesketh from length as before, and they parted in a Eseter, in the same single-horsed friendly manner at the gate ; the very yellow chaise, and the same driver, lodge-house people could hear that whose office had seemed precarious he had put off his plans till springsixteen years before under Sir Henry. that his brother the colonel, his wife He was now past middle age himself, and daughter, and the boys, were however; a pair of large gold specta- coming down from London to spend cles helped to soften the keenness of Christmas with him, when there would his features, while spotless cambric be a merry party, and he hoped Hesand glossy brown, prim almost as a keth would drive over for a night quaker's, took away from his spare himself, and talk of business in the appearance; and he had altogether a morning. And at the gate Sir John less anxious, a more self-satisfied and stood rubbing his hands; as he turned easy look, as if he did a favour in com- back, he chucked little Nelly Brown, ing. When he spoke to a farmer the porter's daughter, under the chin, about the crops, or came to Deanstoke asked after her schooling, and gave to draw the rents, he was indeed her a silver sixpence for a lack-penny. wonderfully mild ; and it was oftener It was a great run into Somersethis grave head-clerk that he sent in shire and back to Devon, beyond his own place, upon a roadster. His eastermost Stoke, with none the less young man on the dickey beside the glee that the heavy rector was thrown driver, holding the blue bag, was now out early, and came riding homeward new, and had a townish air between the in a sorry plight, more ashamed than sapercilious and the slily humorous, ever he was of a drowsy audience. as they rattled past the village, blaz- Cheerily came back the rout through ing yellow to the sun, and turned to the deep lanes, with their crimsonthe Hall gate. After the long inter- soiled scarlet, and spattered white, view, the baronet was like a man after the piebald dogs, making a merry woke up; there was no one, friend or flourish of the horn past Stoke avenue; neighbour, or the very servants, to for Welsh Will bore the brush, and whom be did not talk openly about a Sir John had been one of those in at system of economy; whilst through all the death in the midst of one of his the hay-time, and harvest-time, when own farmer's yards. There were there was nothing else for him to do, many of the hunt who yielded to Sir he could be seen to ride about the John's hospitable pressures, seeing whole estate with his land-bailiff, where Stoke Manor had already begun from farm to farm-to walk from to rise rich-red and yellow again to wood to wood with his forester, ob- sight from the village, with its clusserving timber, or with the keeper tered chimneys smoking beyond their along copses and preserves, consider. wont, through thinned tracery of Noing game and damage from it. And vember woods ; so cheerful-like a all Stoke, East Stoke, and Nether place toward winter, when its high Wycombe, were afraid again; some old roofs were thus backed by the farmers even thought of offering ad. sober brown boughs of oaks, a broad vances at their next leases, of their window or two shining below with own accord, to Mr Hesketh. In his firelight, ere the upper casements of soiled velveteens, Welsh Will, the one double-gabled end had ceased to huntsman, was seen to loiter about, glitter to the west; while the tall very melancholy, for the harriers and church-tower behind the village, hidotter-dogs were to be sold.
den all summer by luxuriant elms, Bat it tarned out a good harvest lifted its bright clock-dial against their and an early autumn; sharp and soon outspread fibres, or out-topped the came the September coolness, the Oc- cottage smoke with its stair-slits, its tober rime and rain. The shooting. bell-holes, till all its decorated lightseason had opened briskly; and, ere ness darkened up, offering both ways Hallowtide, was expected the first a fringed angle from the distant sky. " meet," hard by in Somersetshire, The Hall was ever convenient, since for a renowned old fox that had been it had failed to have a mistress, for marked from his last goose. Sir John bunting-dinners; yet as the frosty saw his lawyer again, at as deliberate crimson died coldly off beyond Stoke,