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must have been fancy, for I found that no one ever went into that room, Estelle having locked it and taken the key away with her. The trees, too, seemed to moan and shudder in the strong autumn winds, and throw their weird arms about till they assumed strange fantastic shapes, and the dead dry leaves would go whirling down the walks as if pursued.
I was obliged to remain a great deal in-doors, as sometimes, for days together, a dull heavy rain would patter down upon the windows, and going out became quite impossible. The housekeeper, under whose care I had been left, was very kind and respectful, but she was also very old and deaf, consequently no use as a companion. Most of the other servants had been sent away, so that we were nearly alone in the house, she and I. Sometimes (for she had always lived with the Verecrofts of Gundringham) she would tell me stories of those she had known in her youth-Verecrofts who had long been dead and sleeping in the chapel vault, and whose portraits now only remained. They were not cheerful stories, but I fancy she liked dwelling upon anything that could be made horrible or a mystery.
My Aunt Verecroft had forbidden my going beyond the park gates; but to this rule there was one exception, and that was on Sunday. On Sunday the old housekeeper and I attended service in a little chapel belonging to the village, about half a mile off. One Sunday, just before Christmas, as I was kneeling in the pew belonging to the Verecrofts
, I happened to look up suddenly, and was startled by seeing Cousin Geoffrey sitting just opposite to me, only on the other side of the church, and watching me intently. For a moment I fancied that it was one of my mistakes, but I saw that the housekeeper had observed him also. I can't describe intense joy. I felt as if I must burst into tears, and I did not realise till then how very miserable I had been before. I had hardly patience to wait till the service was concluded.
Cousin Geoffrey was standing at the door, and looking out for us. “ I have come back, little Mabel,” he said. And he drew my
hand within his arm, and we went home together across the park.
“No, not in doors," I entreated, when he reached the house, so we turned again, and walked straight down to the old avenue.
“ Little Mabel,” said Cousin Geoffrey, “ you look pale and unhappy!"
I could not help it any longer. I burst into tears. How sweet it was to be soothed by Cousin Geoffrey. How often I had wept for whole hours, and there had been no one even to notice it. Still I tried to stop my choking sobs, for I was afraid Cousin Geoffrey might be vexed.
“I am not unhappy now,” I said, as soon as I could speak; “but oh! I have been so lonely.”
He drew me more closely to him.
“Poor little Mabel, you shall not be lonely any longer. Mabel, do you know why I have come back ?” I shook
head. “I have come back to ask you to be my wife. Little Mabel, ca you learn to love me?”
I had never thought of it before, but I felt then that I had always loved him. I could hardly realise that such happiness could be for me, but, somehow, I crept into his arms as if they were my natural restingplace.
“God bless you, little Mabel,” he said, “ and grant that I may be worthy of your love."
And it was so that Cousin Geoffrey and I became engaged. “ Tell me,” I said, as we walked slowly on, “something of Estelle.” “ Estelle has taken the veil."
"Cousin Geoffrey, I want to know something more. Why did you not marry Estelle ?"
He looked pained.
“Mabel,” he said, “there is a mystery connected with Estelle that I cannot tell you now, but which I promise you shall know one day, when the time comes.
Can you trust me, Mabel ?" I could not help saying that I trusted him, for I did down in my heart so fully and entirely; but I felt something like a pain, as I remembered that he had loved Estelle. I think he guessed what I wanted to know, and that my face had no secrets from Cousin Geoffrey, for he went on, quite gravely:
“Estelle and I were brought up together, and betrothed when almost children by our parents, with the intention that in future years we should be married. I liked Estelle, and never thought of freeing myself from the bond; and, in a way, Estelle liked me. I went abroad when I was about nineteen, and circumstances occurred to prolong my stay for some years. On my return our engagement still continued, but the wedding was indefinitely postponed. I was quite willing for it to take place, but I think the mutual belief that we should at some future day fulfil our promised relationship made us linger out the intervening time. At last, just before you arrived, all the arrangements were made. I think, until then, I was more anxious for it than Estelle ; for although I felt that Estelle liked me better than she had ever appeared to do before, still she had wished to put off the marriage.”
I looked up at Cousin Geoffrey. What difference had my coming made ?
“ I never loved Estelle,” he said, “after I knew the White Rose; but I must have married Estelle I was bound by every tie of honour to do it. What I suffered, little Mabel, God only knows; and my release even came to me in a manner that was too terrible.”
“ Then something happened ?" I said. “Yes," he replied, “ a fearful revelation was made to me—what, little Mabel, I cannot tell you now, but you shall know it some day, when the time comes.
Can you trust me ?" “Yes,” I said, “ fully and entirely.”
Oh, what halcyon days those were the days of my early engagement to Cousin Geoffrey, before I had got used to being happy, when I trembled for fear something would come, and that I should wake and find it was a dream. Cousin Geoffrey did not stay at Gundringham, but in the neighbourhood; still he managed to see me every day, and we walked and rode together, as we had done before. At last my Aunt Verecroft came back, and we were married quite quietly in the little chapel.
My Aunt Verecroft was just the same, except that she looked older, and there was a frightened expression in her eyes. She talked even less than usual, but dreamed away her days with her hands folded, and sitting in an
arm-chair. She never mentioned Estelle, and I did not like to do so either. She seemed very anxious that Geoffrey and I should come back and live at Gundringham, but this Geoffrey refused to do till the place became his own, and I was very glad, for I thought I could go back to it better when some of the old memories had worn away.
We went abroad, Geoffrey and I, all through sunny Italy, guided only by our own sweet will, revelling in its lovely scenery and its cloudless skies, its marble palaces and gorgeous scenery. Everything was so new to me, everything both in nature and art.
“ You have the wondering look of a child in your blue eyes, little Mabel,” my husband would say;
and I did feel as if I had never really lived before. We came home by Paris. How dazzled I was by all the beauties of that enchanting city! How lovely it was to walk and ride in the Boulevards with Geoffrey, and watch all the gaily-dressed people, and listen to the bands of music playing.
One day, as Geoffrey and I were riding home, we passed a nunnery, and this circumstance reminded me of Estelle. I checked my horse, and, bending down my head, whispered :
“Geoffrey, has the time come ?”
And he answered, “ Yes, little Mabel, it has. To-morrow you shall know."
All the next morning I watched my husband's face, but I did not like to ask him any questions, for I felt sure he had not forgotten me. In the afternoon an open carriage came to the door, and Geoffrey handed me into it. After giving some directions to the coachman, he placed himself at my side, and we drove off. We left Paris and went out for some miles into the country, out among the fields and lanes, and the waving corn bright with scarlet poppies.
“Where are you taking me to, Geoffrey?" I said. “Wait,” he replied, " and you shall see. .”
We stopped at last, and he took me out of the carriage, put my arm within his, and led me through an iron gate. It was a little cemetery. There was a tiny chapel in the middle, where a light was burning, and all around were graves-graves marked by wood or marble crosses, bearing their inscriptions to the memory of the dead who slept beneath. Bright immortelles were thrown on some, and natural flowers on others, which had been placed there by the mourners—mourners who even then were kneeling about in different parts of the burial-ground, dressed in their deep black dresses, and shedding bitter tears over those loved ones who would never come back to them again.
Involuntarily I clung more closely to my husband's side, but he led me past all these far away to the other side of the grounds, and there we paused before one little grave.
There was no cross to mark the name no immortelle--no flowers laid there by loving hands-only long dank grass. I looked wonderingly up into my husband's face.
Mabel," he said, “that little mound of earth covers Estelle's child.”
“Estelle's child !” I exclaimed, starting back.
“ I told you, Mabel, that I left England for some years, but what happened during that time I never knew till within ten days of my expected marriage. The packet you delivered to Estelle revealed my know
ledge of it to her. It came to me quite accidentally through a relation of Estelle's French maid -a man who expected to make money by it. I started at once for Paris, in order to make investigations, and my worst fears were confirmed.”
“ Poor Estelle !" I said, “if she has sinned, how fearful must be the expiation."
“ Poor Estelle !” he repeated. “God grant that she may be forgiven; but there is a crime connected with that little grave which even you must never seek to know. I have told you this, little Mabel, because I love you so dearly, and because there should be no secrets between a man and his wife.” How good and noble he was. I drew closer to him, and my hot tears
his hand. We lingered on for some minutes more, and then he led me away, and put me back into the carriage.
We were very silent for all the rest of that day. Estelle's story had sunk deep into my heart. Surely,” I said to myself, “if she has repented, though her sins may have been as scarlet, the mercies of God are infinite."
Some years after, when Mrs. Verecroft died, we went back to live at Gundringham. Estelle had taken the black veil, so she was dead to the world and to us. Her room was never afterwards reopened. People used to say a light really was seen burning there, and a shadow passing up and down; but I fancy it must have been imagination, or a tale that had got about in consequence of one of the old housekeeper's storiesstories which are likely still to be handed down to other generations of the Verecrofts of Gundringham.
Most persons know Charles Waterton by name as an original and singularly amusing writer and as a naturalist of wide-spread fame; many have also heard of his peculiarities and of the interest which attached itself to his home-Walton Hall. It is not, then, without a sense of gratitude to his friend, Dr. Hobson, of Leeds, that we have now placed before us some personal details regarding this strange individual, and a minute account of his home. This esteemed, talented, and humane but eccentric man, was, indeed, devoted to natural history pursuits. His early travels, the character of which are sufficiently indicated in his “Essays” and “ Wanderings,” and bis museum-every quadruped, bird, reptile, and insect in which had been prepared and mounted with bis own handfully attest to this fact. But he was not a closet but a field naturalist, distinguished as such, in every sense of the word. He would never, excepting in specially necessary instances,
* Charles Waterton; his Home, Habits, and Handiwork. By Richard Hobson, M.D. Cantab. Whittaker and Co.
permit a gun to be fired within the precincts of his park, which is extensive, its circumferential walls measuring three miles. The ground within these walls has an agreeable undulating surface, is well wooded, and is enlivened by a splendid sheet of water. No boat, under any circumstances, was ever allowed on the lake from September to May, nor were any fishermen permitted to prosecute even their passive vocations for this lengthened period; consequently, all land and water fowl had a perfectly unmolested and secluded retreat for upwards of six successive months. This privilege was extended also to every animal within the park, with the exception of what Mr. Waterton designated the “Hanoverian” rat. Even the fox, although at enmity with many of the squire's prime favourites, was always secure, as regards life, within this domain. Upon one occasion, a fox was enabled, by using a gate which had been left leaning against the outside of the park wall as a ladder, to gratify his curiosity by venturing an intrusion into the interior of the park. The culprit was, however, speedily detected by the squire himself, who was delighted to have the opportunity of turning him out, and setting him once more at liberty. Mr. Waterton had, indeed, with all bis kindness to living things, been a keen foxhunter in his early days.
Walton Hall, the residence of the late Mr. Waterton, is about three miles south of Wakefield. The mansion is situated on an island, surrounded by a beautiful and extensive sheet of water. Within the hall there is a neat but plain chapel, which is served by the Roman Catholic priests from St. Anne's, in Leeds. On the southern side of the mansion, on a slightly elevated mound, stands a most complete and very beautiful sun-dial. Very near is a subterraneous passage, which leads to two boat-houses, which are entirely concealed under that part of the island on which the house stands. Four large sycamores effectually screen the mansion from the north-west blast, and have from time immemorial afforded admirable roosting branches, especially for peafowl, whilst the decayed trunk of a fifth was tenanted by a pair of saucy jackdaws. Everything, to the minutest detail, was, indeed, characteristic of the owner.
On the northern side of the island, close to a cast-iron bridge entrance, is a ruin, covered to a considerable extent with ivy. This ruin was, in times far distant, the only pass to the island by a swivel bridge. In its gable still hang the veritable ancient doors, ornamented by their original antique and huge hinges, bolts, knocker, and other appendages of a former age. These doors, upwards of two hundred years ago, stood the test of Cromwell's fire-arms, and were found sufficiently strong to resist the besieging influence of that daring Puritan. There is a tradition at Walton Hall, that the Mrs. Waterton of the day especially signalised herself upon this occasion, and in the absence of her husband, aided by the household, was enabled to repel the invaders. A brass plate is affixed, with an inscription recording this event, around one of the bullets which still remain on the outer surface of the doors.
The old ruin is fertile in objects of curiosity. On the top is erected a stone cross, at the base of which a wild-duck nested and hatched her young. It is enclosed on the south by a yew fence, so that the birds,