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as the clear, keen glow of orange fol- master, had fallen asleep in a passage; lowed it, from streak to streak of he woke up at last, and heard Sir cloud, the house might have been John snoring so loud from an open thought to light up for a wedding. chamber, that it seemed ere long to
It was a cloudy night when the snort through all the house, and then guests came riding out homeward, and heavily to moan. He thought it was with sweeping fits of shadow and a dream the baronet might have fallen light, that drizzled rain ; but they into, and, running up, strove to wake were merrier than before. The old fat him, but could not; then to bleed him rector came walking slowly forth with with a horse-flemm, but equally in the surgeon from Deanstoke, on whom vain : Sir John was senseless. The he leant heavily, seeming the only man roused the servants, and, taking solemn man of the party: he would the best horse, rode off full speed to on no account go out through the Deanstoke for the surgeon ; he did wicket, but must have the carriage- not find him at his house, but on the gate thrown wide for him. He closed way back, leaning quietly over a gate. it himself after them with extreme So when the surgeon refused to come, care, having become all at once ex- saying with a hiccup it was all noceedingly angry with the surgeon thing but too little claret after the for a joke about the broad and the port, the stout huntsman, with an narrow ways, and the camel going oath, caught the little doctor by the through the eye of a needle; nay, collar as he rode on, dragged hin stood endeavouring to reprove himwith a souse through the first horsealmost in a religious strain--some- pond, and brought him dripping sober times staring, with a mysterious up the avenue, to bleed Sir John. gravity, at the devices in the iron. But Sir John would bleed no longer, work, as the weak fits of moonlight for lancet or leech-blisters helped brought them out wet and gleaming. little better; only by the afternoon Yet they went on again together in he roused up in a way, though quite the friendliest way, often repeating to speechless, his eyes looking out dully each other, “Sub Rosa," till they from the curtains to the light, and laughed; indeed, when they shook round the room walls, where his hands, the rector would fondly have guests had brought him by chance ; seen the surgeon home all the way to they were hung with an old-fashioned Deanstoke, as his parisbioner, but that tapestry, full of wild figures in the latter left him inside the rectory helmets, waves that bore antique vesgate. As for the last horsemen, they sels, hoary harpers, and maidens left Stoke avenue with loud voices, with roses, acting various shadowy laughing, shouting a catch for four: scenes. The old housekeeper had as they rode round into the highway, preserved it there, and it was said the house fronted them again through afterwards, that in the same bedroom the bare trees of the park, with three or his own mother, who eloped with the four of its triple-mallioned windows penniless baronet, his father, had actustill lit; nor could they but look at it, till ally been born. By that time the it was blended with the woods. Then curate had come up at the doctor's they were seized with more obstreper- advice, and made some attempts to ous mirth and voice, for it was the first convey a sense of his awful state to time any one had known Sir John Sir John, to no purpose. At last the give way to liquor, or could say they old rector came in cautiously behind helped to carry him upstairs-he had the curtains, sidling toward the curate never before been suspected of a brain with some mumbled whisper about that could be soaked. But with the the communion, or a sacramental chill midnight that gloomed abont occasion; till suddenly, seeing the them, full of a sharp wind that rose sick man's stare rest on him with a far off, bringing wet gusts and dead sort of glassy brightness, the rector leaves, their words waxed incoherent; sank upon a chair helpless, covering letting their impatient horses go, they his face with his hands, and sitting scattered off.
there, not daring to go. Outside the Welsh Will. a dark half-witted door the whole while had been the fellow, indeed, but always near his huntsman, Welsh Will, who was as rough as he was half-witted, and Sir -nor, above all, mysteriously satisJohn had often rated him with fied. There were two or three times, pretty harsh usage, like the hounds : during the nights of their watching, he had his shoes off, holding his while they comforted themselves on breath and hiding, though he brushed the other side of a screen at the his nose ever and anon with his shin- fire, that, pipkin in hand, they paused, ing caff, till towards the last it began looked to each other fearfully, and to be thought there was a dog up- hastily put by some particularly welstairs, for his low sniffings grew to a come viand, not used in cottagesbroken whimper, then suddenly into as if he had been that moment about a loud sobbing howl, at which he was to leap up, throw off the drapery, and discovered, and angrily sent down make something known that he had stairs. His mean spirit was by some left unsaid. That rumour even crept of the other servants imputed to about the neighbourhood, that there canning—for Sir John's heavy eyelids had been more than common, after all, had striven to rise, he had seemed in Sir John. trying for a moment to turn his head A message had been sent by post that way; but they soon saw that if to Colonel Willoughby in London, there had been no will made already, when he first fell ill, as well as one the fellow's grief could only have been to Mr Hesketh in Exeter. The lawyer at thinking none could be made, or had arrived that night, but finding all that the relations might hear of it. useless, took up a candle in the diningThe baronet dozed into deeper and hall as soon as he saw the surgeon, deeper sleep, that grew a lethargy; with sealing-wax and the baronet's not a muscle stirred, nor a breath own seal; then taking his clerk and seemed to come ; past midnight, the the housekeeper to every desk, cabinet, surgeon listened at his mouth, felt the drawer, or closet, that could hold pulse, even brought a looking-glass money or papers, stamped the crested to hold above his face, peering at the motto of the Willoughbies over its same time into it himself. The doctor lock, in conspicuous red. That done, said at last to the old woman from he gave the seal itself to the rector, to Stoke, and the housekeeper, that he carry carefully home; and another was gone; but till the doctor went message to London for the colonel down stairs, saying the sooner they was sent in the track of the first. The saw things right, the better, they entail that should haye bound Sir scarce believed it.
John, even after the loss of his infant The two old women had often seen son, from parting with any portion of Sir John at church, and knew his the estate, or otherwise burdening it, face well. So when, after its hearty needed no better fulfilment than the and jovial aspect, its rosy fulness, reputation of the Colonel. It had been somewhat stolid latterly, his body lay prepared by the lawyerly anxiety of straight, cold, and taking the hue of their eldest brother, Sir Henry, though stone, it really looked unusual to only not finished and signed during his them, accustomed to such sights last moments. Sir Henry had seemed though they were. He had never to have a thorough apprehension of seemed stately before, por gravely wise his brother's careless turn of mind.
CHAPTER III.—STOKE MANOR EMPTY, AND THE LIFE ELSEWHERE.
6. Close the doors, the shutters close,
Or through the windows we shall see
TENNYSON's Deserted House.
The Colonel, accompanied only by his two sons, at last arrived in deep mourning; and the funeral was duly solemnised : among the muffled car
riages which came to await and follow it, there was even one from Oakleigh Castle, the earl's seat, and the lordly coronet was visible on it. But when people hastened to gain a view of the Creed, and he audibly joined his clear noble occupant within, or his son, or voice to the dolorous " Amen" of the some one belonging to that elevated little parish-clerk, or stood and sang family-when boys stretched from a to the choir and organ, with down. wall, or peered breathless from round cast eyelids. He was Mr Francis, the wall-tops of the gate-pillars, and from Oxford, who had once or twice out of the very churchyard branches, been seen at Stoke before, sometimes to see through the glass-it was al shooting with his uncle; but oftener most as startling as if they had gazed angling, a sport rather too quiet for into the hearse itself. The breath poor Sir John. It was the younger from within did not steam the ice-cold lad, sitting by his father, that drew pane, though the day was frosty with all eyes; for he was quite new to rime; it could be clearly seen into them, and like no Willoughby that and some had caught momentary any one remembered; so rich brown glimpses of a countenance looking out, was the health on the boy's cheek, with or even more than one, with every bright-brown eyes, and vivid, cordial appearance of the expected presence ; mouth, and over his full round foretill the dall light stared throngh and head such curling hair as gave out through at a corner, as the carriage gold: wintry though the daylight slowly returned, following next in was, when the dusky blazonry of the order to the mourning-coach which great window did not brighten, and bore the family—and everybody saw the chequers of the tesselated pavewith a strange surprise that it was ment on the chancel lay cold-blue quite empty. Still, on reflection, beneath, glossed with a marble chill. when his lordship was really found not In his looks there crept out nothing to have remained at the Hall, nor to of that vague dissatisfaction which, have come in any bodily sense what whether keen or gloomy, thoughtful ever, it gave an impressive feeling of or involuntary, had come to resemble the earl's disposition to pay due re- a foreboding in the family; but the spect, by acknowledging the invitation quick light gathered in his eyes like and the relationship, though no doubt a wish to speak through the church, detained personally by affairs of public and freely he turned them about, as if concern or cares of state.
enjoying what was new, noticing every The rector of Stoke, too, was pre- face; sometimes with demure represvented by indisposition from perform- sion of a smile, when the curate ing the last rites, as on the subse- droned, or the clerk snuffled, or the quent Sunday his feelings naturally old fat rector, sitting inside the rail rendered him incapable of preaching beyond the reading-desk, opened his either of the sermons. But the curate dull eyes with a start, and coughed, seemed to have devoted his whole followed by half his flock; while mind to consolation, while with face ever would his upward gaze settle unconsciously turned toward the black visibly on the glow of that circle in hung pew, he rapidly enumerated all the arch, as on a novelty; where, its reasons, and dwelt with a plaintive like a blended posy, it rose high from resignation on the transitory nature out of the flowing trace-work, threeof things in general. The sight of fold yet single-hearted, seeming to Colonel Willoughby, now Sir Godfrey, turn inward from some hidden tree of was indeed reassuring in itself: tall, radiance outside, that climbed from the erect, and serious, yet mild, with hair churchyard, all netted over outside wbose blackness the white hair-powder with wire. Almost the whole congrecoald not conquer, he steadily kept gation appeared to gaze with him, his eyes on the clergyman in grave curious as himself, to mark it slowly attention; while opposite him, with a burn brighter, and cast the painted composed, quiet air, half-sad, half- expanse below into shade, with all thoughtful, & dark young man sat the saintly old imagery, compartment listening, though turned another way: by compartment; till the crimson there was something firm and manly foils, the snowy white, the deep mariabout his whole aspect, though at all gold, and the blood-red centre, were the responses in the service his lips fashed together in one lustre, and moved, his head bent devoutly at the there came shifting beams adown the dusk, of all rainbow tints, visiting the temper, his strange eccentricities, remotest parts of the church, to the and his ever-confirmed incapacity dastiest corner, or the damp-green for business, or inveterate neglect of stain on the wall-then imperceptibly it; so that the former had more passing away. Nay, straight round than once, after reasoning with him, they glanced with him to the aisle been desirous to throw up the guidwhere the new hatchment hung, as if ance, only consenting to retain it to compare the motto in both places, on conditions which had been as and translate "Sub rosâ robur." often forgotten. He excused Sir People felt proud of the boy's interest, John on the ground of a natural and there were few to doubt but that carelessness, a generous disposition, this was the lively young face which, perhaps a mind latterly somewhat some day or other, might be dignified shaken. It had been much against to that of an earl. It was to little Mr Hesketh's wishes that even so purpose that a neighbouring vicar, recently as a few weeks before his who discoursed in the afternoon, made death, a considerable sum had for the many sad comments on the vanity of last time been advanced on the best human wishes, and the brevity of farm in the estate, through a source human life; a bald-headed clergy- opened as usual by the solicitor himman with a large white wig, similar self-from, in fact, one of his own to the downy crown of an old thistle, oldest and most confidential clients, or the hazy film-ball of a ripe dande- whose money lay at his professional lion—who was full of proverbial trite disposal; an arrangement so unusual, ness. But there was far more confi. that but for its easier terms, and hints dence under the fresh promise before from Sir John of application to other them, than sadness in the thought of sources, he could scarcely have agreed Sir John, with all his ruddy vigour, to effect it. covered by the hush of that aisle, and The Colonel, with unshaken calmgone under the rose for ever. The ness, gave his scrupulous attention to black-bung pew, the mourning suits, all. As paper after paper, parchment and the grave features, looked a be- upon parchment, was unfolded, he coming guise, ere long to be cast aside; showed at once a clear, straightforwhen repairs at the Manor, and cheer- ward purpose to see the worst, a milifal stir, and a pleasant air altogether, tary promptitude and exactness which would revive all Stoke till Lady struck through all technical complicaWilloaghby came down. She was no tions-serving him, as it seemed, in fashionable town-dame, it seemed, lieu of them — and an honourable bat come of a good country stock, as nicety in determining to render every notable for thrift and management as one his due, though it were legally for number and health, with a name inexigible. He studiously refrained tbat, peculiar as it was, had never from the least censure of his brother's before been heard of.
acts, as from any response to excuses Colonel Willoughby, however, found for them; but at the end did not fail the examination of his late brother's to show a sense of the lawyer's corpapers a somewhat painful matter. rect judgment, the friendly intimations They were sufficiently unimportant in he himself had on more than one occathemselves, as they were quite value- sion previously received from him, less enough, to have been spared the with the slightness of the professional careful secresy of the lawyer's wax, emolument which had in fact resulted the seal, or the tape. He had long to Mr Hesketh throughout. The long anticipated the disorder which Mr services and well-known integrity of Hesketh was aware of, and which old Mr Hesketh, the father, had inprofessional service abroad, delicacy deed been such during the time of the of position, perhaps reasons for sym former squires, the colonel's maternal pathy, and acquaintance with his grandfather and uncle, as to make it brother's character, had precluded him as much an obligation as a choice, from seriously attempting to avert. that his eldest brother, Sir Henry, Not less difficult had been the office with all his own legal ability, had of the solicitor to make the best of judged fit to retain the advice and it, despite all the late baronet's hot experience of the son. And as he
said so, sitting up erect in his chair, of his sagacity as bird-like : he seemed from the old library - table covered to have double eyes- those of pebble with the proofs of undeniable embar- that looked up from his brow, or gazed rassment, Sir Godfrey's marked fea- down — those of more human subtures displayed their mild tendency. stance, which coincided but partially Looking straight at Mr Hesketh, his with their shining shells. air grew firmer again; be repeated "I agree with you, sir,"said Sir Godhis satisfaction more emphatically, frey, whose anxious look had reverted and his reliance on the same skilful to him, “thoroughly. But it is now management for the future, in a tone ended. I await your advice, Mr of soldier-like brevity, as if assured of Hesketh. The naked sum is a assent, yet ready to put it as a question. beavily encumbered estate - timber
The lawyer bowed formally. He neglected, or cut down - a house had been verging more and more to greatly out of repair-old plate, old some important point, through sugges- furniture, and a few family portraits tions whether the legal care had not or worthless pictures - with longbetter be now transferred to some standing bills and their interest." other; with allusions to failing strength “ Just so," said the lawyer, drily, and the cares of business, from which as he gathered the respective statehe had some thoughts of retiring, ments together. “Some of these bills since they were already grown some- appear to have been purposely dewhat onerous for his time of life, and layed-a rascally thing; but I fear ought, perhaps, to be left chiefly to they had better be paid at once. With his experienced partner, along with interest on the mortgages, it will his own son, bred under his own eye. almost cover the next year's rents, There was, in truth, nothing to excite Sir Godfrey." personal warmth in the dry, unfeel. “So I see," was the reply. “But ing air of Mr Hesketh, or about his there has been no increase of rental, as square visage, all bare, colourless, and I think, for a considerable time : is netted over with small wrinkles and there no room for change in this recracks, like parchment itself ; with spect? Can you not effect-fairly, of his brown unpowdered wig, the chill course—a little improvement over the clearness of his small eyes, and that estate ?" manner of rugged probity. No cor- “Scarcely at present, Sir Godfrey, dial intercourse could be produced; I am afraid," answered the solicitor, he had not seemed conscious of the thoughtfully. “In one or two cases, delicacy of some points, from which, perhaps—but since the peace on the during the course of their investiga- Continent, and the independence of tions, the colonel had winced — nor the colonists, markets have continued offended by a haughty tone, or an low. A bad harvest might do someoccasionally recoiling superiority. Yet thing — still better, a war — which he had been just as cautious of giving seems improbable. As it is, farmers advice, as he seemed careful to hear even grumble at the game." the colonel's opinion, or to hear his “I understand, however," said Sir purposes. He again lowered the large Godfrey, " that rents are considerably gold spectacles he had pushed up on higher on some of the neighbouring his forehead, and gazed with pro. properties where the land is no better truded chin, projected lower lip, upon than here?" the principal documents spread before “I am aware of it," continued Mr him, musing deeply.
Hesketh, calmly. "Mrs Dilkes has "This could not have gone on much the game carefully kept down at the longer, Colonel Willoughby-Sir God- Priory, and will not prosecute a frey, I should have said. Certainly poacher-on Merltor estate there are not!” And Mr Hesketh shook his few leases given at all, or very short head, still glancing downward from ones. As for Lord Wycombe, he does paper to paper. In that attitude, not reside, and leaves the entire conwith lean neck thrust forth from trol to his legal agent, of whom, from his cravat, with the sharp, hooked professional propriety, I shall say nonose, and the wig somewhat off his thing more than that a tenant seldom forehead, it was difficult not to think continues long under him."