Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

“ Are we going to stop at Blenheim ?” “ Cromwell !” said our Lieutenant, she asked.

thoughtfully. “Ah, then, it is another I suppose so," said our driver. story. But I agree with you, Made“I think we ought not,” said Bell; moiselle : if you believe in these people "we shall be greatly disappointed, if very much, do not go into the park, or we do. For who cares about the Duke you will be disappointed.” of Marlborough, or Sir John Vanbrugh's “As you please," said Tita, with a architecture ? You know you will be smile.--I began to observe that when looking about the trees for the old the two young folks agreed about anyknight with the white beard, and for thing, my Lady became nothing more Alice Lee, and for pretty Phæbe May- than an echo to their wishes. flower, and for Wildrake and the At length we came to the walls that soldiers. Wouldn't it be better to go surrounded the great park. Should we past the walls, Tita, and fancy that all leave all its mysteries unexplored ? If these old friends of ours are still walk- one were to clamber up, and peep over, ing about inside in their picturesque might not strange figures be seen, in costume! If we go inside, we shall buff coats and red, with bandoleers and only find an empty park and a big house, helmets; and an aged knight with a and all tbose people gone away, just like laced cloak, slashed boots, and long the fairies who used to be in the woods.” sword ; countrywomen in white hoods

“But what are the people you are and black gowns; divines with tall speaking of ?" said the Count. "Is it Presbyterian hats and solemn visage ; & from history, or from a romance ?braggart and drunken soldier of the

“I am not quite sure,” said Bell, king, and a colonel the servant of “how much is history, and how much Cromwell ? Or might not Queen Elizais romance; but I am sure we know the beth be descried, looking out as a prisoner people very well ; and very strange on the fair domains around her? Or things happened inside the park that might not Chaucer be found loitering we shall pass by and by. There was a under those great trees that he loved and pretty young lady living there, and a celebrated in his verse? Or, behind that very sober and staid colonel was her splendid wall of chestnuts and elms, was lover. The brother of this young lady it not possible that Fair Rosamond herself was much attached to the fortunes of might be walking all alone, passing liko the Stewarts, and he brought the young a gleam of light through the green Prince Charles in disguise to the house; shadows of the trees, or sitting by the and all the gratitude shown by the well that still bears her name, or readPrince was that he began to amuse him- ing in the heart of that bower that was self by making love to the sister of the surrounded by cunning ways? Was it man who had risked his life to save

along this road that Eleanor came? Or him. And of course the grave colonel did Rosamond, surviving all her sin and discovered it, and he even drew his her splendour, sometimes walk this way sword upon Prince Charles

with her sister-nuns from Godstow, and “I beg your pardon, Mademoiselle,” think of the time when she was mistress said the Lieutenant, “but do not trouble of a royal palace and this spacious park? to tell me the story; for I know it very We drove into the town of Wood. well. I did read it in Germany years stock. The handful of houses thrown ago; and I think if Colonel Esmond had into the circular hollow that is cut in thrashed the Prince

two by the river Glym, was as silent as “Oh no, you are mistaken,” said Bell, death. In the broad street that plunged with some wonder; “it is Colonel down into the valley, scarcely a soul was Markham, not Colonel Esmond; and the to be seen; and even about the old brother of the young lady succeeded in town-hall there were only some children getting the Prince away just before visible. Had the play been played out, Cromwell had time to seize him." and the actors gone for ever ? When King Henry was fighting in France or sometimes, too, she gave way to those in Ireland, doubtless Rosamond, left all impulsive imaginative flights that led by herself, ventured out from the park, her unthinkingly into an excitement of and walked down into the small town, talk which Tita used to regard with a and revealed to the simple folks the sort of amused wonder. But of late all wonders of her face, and talked to them. these things were gradually disappearing. No mortal woman could bave remained She was less abrupt, independent, way. in a bower month after month without ward in her manner. She waited more seeing anyone but her attendants.

patiently to receive suggestions from Doubtless, too, the people in this others. She was becoming a good quaint little town were very loyal to listener; and she received meekly wards her; and would have espoused criticisms that would, but a short time her cause against a dozen Eleanors. before, have driven her into a proud And so it happened, possibly, that when and defiant silence, or provoked some the romance came to an end, and Rosa- rejoinder a good deal more apt than mond went to hide her shame and her gentle. It was very odd to mark this penitence in the nunnery of Godstow, amiable self-discipline struggling with all the light and colour went out of her ordinary frank impetuosity; although Woodstock, and left it dull, and grey, sometimes, it is true, the latter had the and silent as it is to this day.

best of it. The main street of Woodstock, that On this occasion, when the Lieutenant dips down to the banks of the Glym, had jumped down and got out the guitar rises as abruptly on the other side ; and for her, she took it very obediently; and once past the turnpike, the highway runs then Tita rested the horses for a little along an elevated ridge, which on the

while under the shadow of some overone side is bounded by a continuation of hanging trees. Of course you know the Blenheim Park, and, on the other, slopes

ballad that Bell naturally turned to, seedown to a broad extent of level meadows. ing where she was at the moment, and When we had got up to this higherground,

the sort of music she was most familiar and found before us

an illimitable

with. stretch of country, with ourselves as the “Near Woodstock town I chanced to stray, only visible inhabitants, the Lieutenant When birds did sing and fields were gay, managed to introduce a remote hint And by a glassy river's side about a song which he had heard Bell

A weeping damsel I espied.” humming in the morning.

This was what she sang, telling the “I think it was about Woodstock," story of the forlorn maiden who was he said ; " and if you will please to sing found weeping for her faithless lover, it now, as we go along, I shall get out who only wished that he might come for you the guitar."

and visit her grave, and think of her “If you will be so kind,” said Bell, as “one who loved, but could not hate." quite submissively.

Perhaps this old-fashioned ballad is not What had become of the girl's inde- a masterly composition ; but the music pendence ? Asked to sing a song at of it is expressive enough ; and we who great trouble to herself—for who cares were familiar with Bell's ballads had got to play a guitar in the back-seat of a into a habit of not caring much what phaeton, and with two pairs of wheels she sang, so long as she only continued rumbling an accompaniment ?

accompaniment ? --- she singing. meekly thanks him for suggesting it! “You would make your fortune by Nay, it was becoming evident that the singing," said Tita, as Bell finished, and girl was schooling herself into docility. the horses were sent forward. She had almost dropped entirely the “Perhaps," said the girl, "if all my wild phrases and startling metaphors audience were like you. But I think that so deeply shocked Tita. Sometimes you must have been lent out as an inthey dropped out inadvertently; and fant to an old woman with an organ, and 80, by merely sitting on the vibrating husbands there told their wives what wood, you have become so sensitive to sums they signed away under the inmusic that anything at all pleases you." fluence of the wine?

“No, Mademoiselle," said the Lieu- “I dare say," says one of the party, tenant, "you do yourself an injustice. " that the wives would be sorry to see I never heard a voice like yours, that so much money go in charity which has the tremble of a zither in it, and might otherwise have been squandered is much softer than a zither."

in millinery and extravagances." Bell blushed deeply: but to conceal “Don't be ill-tempered, my dear," her embarrassment, she said lightly to says Queen Tita, graciously. "Women Tita

are quite as charitable as men; and they “ And how am I to make my

fortune? don't need a guinea dinner to make them Oh, I know-by coming in after public think of other people. That is a sort dinners, to sing grace, and follow the of charity that begins at home. Pray toasts with a glee. I am in white silk, how much did you put down ?” with a blue ribbon round my neck, “Nothing." white gloves, bracelets, and a sheet of "I thought so. Go to a charity dinner, music. There is an elderly lady in black enjoy yourself, and come away without velvet and white pearls, who smiles in giving a farthing! You would not find a pleasant manner-she sings, and is women doing that." much admired by the long rows of “Only because they have not the gentlemen—they have just dined, you courage. know, and are very nice and amiable. “They have plenty of courage in Then there is the tenor—fair and smooth, other directions—in getting married, with diamond-rings, a lofty expression, for example, when they know what men and a cool and critical eye, that shows

are.” he is quite accustomed to all this. “Knowing that, is it not a pity Then there is the stout, red-bearded man they choose to make martyrs of themwho sings bass, and plays the piano for selves? Indeed, their anxiety to become the four of us, and is very fierce in the martyrs is astonishing. But what if I way he thumps out his enthusiasm about

say that in the next published list of the Queen, and the Navy, and the Army, subscriptions you will find my name and the Volunteers. What a happy way down for about as much as your last of living that must be! They will give millinery bill came to ?” us a nice dinner beforehand-in a room “I think that a good deal more by ourselves, perhaps ; and all we have likely, for I know the state of philanto do is to return thanks for it in an emo- thropy into which men get at a public tional way, so that all the waiters shall dinner-fathers of families, who ought stand round in a reverential manner. But to remember their own responsibilities, when that is over, then we introduce a and who are impatient enough if any few songs--sprightly, coquettish songs, extra bit of comfort or kindness is and the gentlemen are vastly amused- wanted for their own kith and kin.” and you think

“Some such trifling matter as a fur Well, what do you think?” said I, cloak, for instance, that is bought out seeing that Bell rather hesitated. of a Brighton shop-window for sixty-five

“I think," said Tita, with a smile, guineas, and is only worn twice or thrice, " that you are very ungenerous, Bell, in because some other woman has the remembering so much of what you saw neighbour of it." the other night from the gallery of the “ That is not true. You know the Freemasons' Tavern. Is it fair to recall, weather changed." in open daylight, in the cool forenoon, - The weather ! what weather ? Were the imbecile good-nature and exuberant you at Brighton at the time?” loyalty of a lot of gentlemen who have Titania did not reply for a considerjust dined ? I wonder how many of the able time. Perhaps she was thinking

[ocr errors]

of some crushing epigram ; but at all and was a very handsome young woman events Bell endeavoured to draw her besides, with shining light-blue eyes away from the subject by pointing out and yellow hair. The Lieutenant at another river, and asking whether this or once entered into a polite conversation the Glym at Woodstock was the stream with her, and she informed him, in associated with the “Oxfordshire Tra- answer to his respectful inquiries, that gedy” she had just been singing. We she had just come from Folkestone. discovered, however, that this small “ From Folkestone! that is a seaport stream was also the Glym, which here -a busy place—a large town, is it winds round and through the marshy not ?” country that Thomas Warton described.i “Yes, there was some business doing Bell came to the conclusion that the there," said the maid, with an inflecbanks by the river at this part were not tion of voice which rather cast discredit sufficiently picturesque for the scene of on Chipping Norton. the song, where the love-lorn heroine “Don't you find this place dull ?” he sits and weeps by a glassy stream, and asked. complains that her lover is now wooing “Well, I can't say the people seem another maid.

to worry themselves much,” she replied Meanwhile, my Lady had given ex- with a slight curl of the lip. pression to the rebellious thoughts pass- " That is very good for the health," ing through her mind, by admonishing

said the Count gravely. “Now I Castor and Pollux slightly; and these do think you have a very nice and accordingly were going forward at a even temper, that does not irritate rattling pace. We rushed through you—' Enstone. We dashed along the level But here my Lady and her companion highway that lies on the high ground came into the room, and the conversabetween the Charlford Farms and tion ceased ; for the Lieutenant had at Heythrop Park. We sent the dust once to spring up and take charge flying behind us in clouds as of the books, maps, and scarves that scudded down to Chipping Norton; Bell had brought in with her. And and there, with a fine sweep, we then, when we sat down to lunch, cantered up the incline of the open he was entirely engrossed in attendsquare, clattered over the stones in ing to her wants, insomuch that he front of the White Hart Inn, and was barely civil to the more elderly pulled up with a noise that consi- lady who had from the first been his derably astonished the quiet village. champion. As for Bell, what had

This large open space gives to become of her dislike to officers, her Chipping Norton a light and agreeable antipathy to the German race, her appearance; and on entering the big horror of Uhlans? That very morning tall inn that looks down over the

I had heard on good authority that square, found everything very

Bell had been asking in confidence cleanly, bright, and comfortable. The whether England did not owe a great very maid-servant who served us with debt to Germany for the gift of Prolunch was a model of maid-servants,

testantism which that country had sent us.

“And were not the Prussians 1 “Within some whispering osier isle, mostly Protestant ?” asked Bell. What

Where Glym's low banks neglected smile;
And each trim meadow still retains

answer was returned I do not know; The wintry torrent's oozy stains;

for Queen Titania is strong on the Beneath a willow, long forsook,

point that the word “Protestant” is not The fisher seeks his custom'd nook ; scriptural. And bursting through the crackling sedge, “But I have quite forgotten to tell That crowns the current's caverned edge, He startles from the bordering wood

you,” remarked the Lieutenant, “that The bashful wild-duck's early brood.” this morning, when I was walking about

Ode to the First of April. in Oxford, I came into the theatre. I

we

we

« Did

saw some bills up; I went along a strange

you
visit

any more of the colpassage ; I found an iron gate, and much leges ?” says Tita, at the same moment. lime and stone, and things like that. A “Or get up a ballet ?” man came-I asked him if I could see the “Or go down to the Isis again !” theatre, and he took me into the place, Von Rosen was rather bewildered; which they are repairing now. Oh, it but at last he stammered out-is a very dingy place ---small, tawdry, “No, Madame, I did not go down to with ridiculous scenes, and the de the river this morning.

I walked from corations of the galleries very amusing the theatre to the hotel ; for I remained and dirty. Why, in an old city, with much too long in the theatre. Yes, I plenty of rich and intelligent people, know something about the interior of you have such a pitiful little theatre ?— theatres. I have been great friends with it is only fit for a country green and the managers and actors, and took great wandering actors. In a great university interest in it. I used to be much behind town, you should have the theatre sup the stage—every night at some times; ported by the colleges and the bequests, and that is very curious to a young man and hire good actors, and play all the who likes to know more than other best dramas of your great writers. people, and thinks himself wise not to That would be good education—that believe in delusions. I think it is Goethe would be a good compliment to pay to who has made many of our young men your great dramatists. But here, in a like to know stage-managers, and help city where you have much learning, to arrange pieces. But I find that they much money, much of your young men always end by being very much in love of good families being educated, you with one of the young ladies, and then have only a dingy small show, and I they get not to like the theatres, for suppose it is farces they play, and they do not wish everybody to admire wretched dramas, for the townspeople her and be allowed to look at her. This and the farmers. That is not much is very good for the theatre, however; respect shown to your best authors for they take many boxes, and ask their by your learned institutions."

friends to accompany them, and that “No wonder students find the milli. pays better than to let out the seats by ners' shops more attractive," said Tita the year to families. Some of the young with a smile.

men make light of this; others are more “But I think there is always much melancholy, but afterwards they have interest in an empty theatre,” con much interest in some theatres merely tinued the Lieutenant. “I did go all for the sake of the old associations." over this poor little building, and saw “Oh, Bell,” exclaimed Tita, turning how it imitated the deceptions of fine anxiously to our companion, "did you theatres in a coarse manner.

I saw the see that your guitar was properly put rude scenes, the bad traps, the curious away, or has it been left lying open in arrangements, which I do not think the phaeton ?" can differ much from the theatre which "I did put it away, Madame," said the Shakespeare himself described, where a Lieutenant. man was made to represent a city, if “Oh, thank you,” said Tita.

“I am I am right.

sure if some of those ostlers were to “ You are familiar with the arrange

have their curiosity aroused, we should ments of a theatre, I suppose ?” I say have no more music all the journey." to the Lieutenant.

And thus, having got the Lieutenant “Pray tell me if you saw anything away from rambling reminiscences of else in Oxford this morning," says theatres, the little woman took very Tita, hastily.

good care he should not return to them; “I suppose you could produce a and so we finished luncheon without pantomime yourself," I observe to the any catastrophe having happened. Bell young man.

had been sitting very quietly during

« VorigeDoorgaan »