While he yet spoke, their horses, of their own accord, passed
through the gate which Eccles had thrown wide to admit them, and
carried them into the Fountain court. Here, indeed, was a change of
aspect! All that Dorothy had hitherto contemplated was the side of
the fortress which faced the world--frowning and defiant, although
here and there on the point of breaking into a half smile, for the
grim, suspicious, altogether repellent look of the old feudal castle
had been gradually vanishing in the additions and alterations of
more civilised times. But now they were in the heart of the
building, and saw the face which the house of strength turned upon
its own people. The spring sunshine filled half the court; over the
rest lay the shadow of the huge keep, towering massive above the
three-storied line of building which formed the side next it. Here
was the true face of the Janus-building, full of eyes and mouths;
for many bright windows looked down into the court, in some of which
shone the smiling faces of children and ladies peeping out to see
the visitors, whose arrival had been announced by the creaking
chains of the portcullis; and by the doors issued and entered, here
a lady in rich attire, there a gentlemen half in armour, and here
again a serving man or maid. Nearly in the centre of the quadrangle,
just outside the shadow of the keep, stood the giant horse, rearing
in white marble, almost dazzling in the sunshine, from whose
nostrils spouted the jets of water which gave its name to the court.
Opposite the gate by which they entered was the little chapel, with
its triple lancet windows, over which lay the picture-gallery with
its large oriel lights. Far above their roof, ascended from behind
that of the great hall, with its fine lantern window seated on the
ridge. From the other court beyond the hall, that upon which the
main entrance opened, came the sounds of heavy feet in intermittent
but measured tread, the clanking of arms, and a returning voice of
loud command: the troops of the garrison were being exercised on the
slabs of the pitched court.
From each of the many doors opening into the court they had entered,
a path, paved with coloured tiles, led straight through the finest
of turf to the marble fountain in the centre, into whose shadowed
basin the falling water seemed to carry captive as into a prison the
sunlight it caught above. Its music as it fell made a lovely but
strange and sad contrast with the martial sounds from beyond.
It was but a moment they had to note these things; eyes and ears
gathered them all at once. Two of the warder's men already held
their horses, while two other men, responsive to the warder's
whistle, came running from the hall and helped them to dismount.
Hardly had they reached the ground ere a man-servant came, who led
the way to the left towards a porch of carved stone on the same side
of the court. The door stood open, revealing a flight of stairs,
rather steep, but wide and stately, going right up between two
straight walls. At the top stood lady Margaret's gentleman usher,
Mr. Harcourt by name, who received them with much courtesy, and
conducting them to a small room on the left of the landing, went to
announce their arrival to lady Margaret, to whose private parlour
this was the antechamber. Returning in a moment, he led them into
She received them with a frankness which almost belied the
stateliness of her demeanour. Through the haze of that reserve which
a consciousness of dignity, whether true or false, so often
generates, the genial courtesy of her Irish nature, for she was an
O'Brien, daughter of the earl of Thomond, shone clear, and justified
her Celtic origin.
'Welcome, cousin!' she said, holding out her hand while yet distant
half the length of the room, across which, upborne on slow firm
foot, she advanced with even, stately motion, 'And you also,
reverend sir,' she went on, turning to Mr. Herbert. 'I am told we
are indebted to you for this welcome addition to our family--how
welcome none can tell but ladies shut up like ourselves.'
Dorothy was already almost at her ease, and the old clergyman soon
found lady Margaret so sensible and as well as courteous--prejudiced
yet further in her favour, it must be confessed, by the pleasant
pretence she made of claiming cousinship on the ground of the
identity of her husband's title with his surname--that, ere he left
the castle, liberal as he had believed himself, he was nevertheless
astonished to find how much of friendship had in that brief space
been engendered in his bosom towards a catholic lady whom he had
never before seen.
Since the time of Elizabeth, when the fear and repugnance of the
nation had been so greatly and justly excited by the apparent
probability of a marriage betwixt their queen and the detested
Philip of Spain, a considerable alteration had been gradually
wrought in the feelings of a large portion of it in respect of their
catholic countrymen--a fact which gave strength to the position of
the puritans in asserting the essential identity of episcopalian
with catholic politics. Almost forty years had elapsed since the
Gunpowder Plot; the queen was a catholic; the episcopalian party was
itself at length endangered by the extension and development of the
very principles on which they had themselves broken away from the
church of Rome; and the catholics were friendly to the government of
the king, under which their condition was one of comfort if not
influence, while under that of the parliament they had every reason
to anticipate a revival of persecution. Not a few of them doubtless
cherished the hope that this revelation of the true spirit of
dissent would result in driving the king and his party back into the
bosom of the church.
The king, on the other hand, while only too glad to receive what aid
he might from the loyal families of the old religion, yet saw that
much caution was necessary lest he should alienate the most earnest
of his protestant friends by giving ground for the suspicion that he
was inclined to purchase their co-operation by a return to the creed
of his Scottish grand-mother, Mary Stuart, and his English
great-great-grand-mother, Margaret Tudor.
On the part of the clergy there had been for some time a
considerable tendency, chiefly from the influence of Laud, to
cultivate the same spirit which actuated the larger portion of the
catholic priesthood; and although this had never led to retrograde
movement in regard to their politics, the fact that both were
accounted by a third party, and that far the most dangerous to
either of the other two, as in spirit and object one and the same,
naturally tended to produce a more indulgent regard of each other
than had hitherto prevailed. And hence, in part, it was that it had
become possible for episcopalian Dr. Bayly to be an inmate of Raglan
Castle, and for good, protestant Matthew Herbert to seek refuge for
his ward with good catholic lady Margaret.
Eager to return to the duties of his parish, through his illness so
long neglected, Mr. Herbert declined her ladyship's invitation to
dinner, which, she assured him, consulting a watch that she wore in
a ring on her little finger, must be all but ready, seeing it was
now a quarter to eleven, and took his leave, accompanied by
Dorothy's servant to bring back the horse--if indeed they should be
fortunate enough to escape the requisition of both horses by one
party or the other. At present, however, the king's affairs
continued rather on the ascendant, and the name of the marquis in
that country was as yet a tower of strength. Dorothy's horse was
included in the hospitality shown his mistress, and taken to the
stables--under the mid-day shadow of the Library Tower.
As soon as the parson was gone, lady Margaret touched a small silver
bell which hung in a stand on the table beside her.
'Conduct mistress Dorothy Vaughan to her room, wait upon her there,
and then attend her hither,' she said to the maid who answered it.
'I would request a little not unneedful haste, cousin,' she went on,
'for my lord of Worcester is very precise in all matters of
household order, and likes ill to see any one enter the dining-room
after he is seated. It is his desire that you should dine at his
table to-day. After this I must place you with the rest of my
ladies, who dine in the housekeeper's room.'
'As you think proper, madam,' returned Dorothy, a little
disappointed, but a little relieved also.
'The bell will ring presently,' said lady Margaret, 'and a quarter
of an hour thereafter we shall all be seated.'
She was herself already dressed--in a pale-blue satin, with full
skirt and close-fitting, long-peaked boddice, fastened in front by
several double clasps set with rubies; her shoulders were bare, and
her sleeves looped up with large round star-like studs, set with
diamonds, so that her arms also were bare to the elbows. Round her
neck was a short string of large pearls.
'You take no long time to attire yourself, cousin,' said her
ladyship, kindly, when Dorothy returned.
'Little time was needed, madam,' answered Dorothy; 'for me there is
but one colour. I fear I shall show but a dull bird amidst the gay
plumage of Raglan. But I could have better adorned myself had not I
heard the bell ere I had begun, and feared to lose your ladyship's
company, and in very deed make my first appearance before my lord as
a transgressor of the laws of his household.'
'You did well, cousin Dorothy; for everything goes by law and order
here. All is reason and rhyme too in this house. My lord's father,
although one of the best and kindest of men, is, as I said, somewhat
precise, and will, as he says himself, be king in his own kingdom--
thinking doubtless of one who is not such. I should not talk thus
with you, cousin, were you like some young ladies I know; but there
is that about you which pleases me greatly, and which I take to
indicate discretion. When first I came to the house, not having been
accustomed to so severe a punctuality, I gave my lord no little
annoyance; for, oftener than once or twice, I walked into his
dining-room not only after grace had been said, but after the first
course had been sent down to the hall-tables. My lord took his
revenge in calling me the wild Irish-woman.'
Here she laughed very sweetly.
'The only one,' she resumed, 'who does here as he will, is my
husband. Even lord Charles, who is governor of the castle, must be
in his place to the moment; but for my husband--.'
The bell rang a second time. Lady Margaret rose, and taking
Dorothy's arm, led her from the room into a long dim-lighted
corridor. Arrived at the end of it, where a second passage met it at
right angles, she stopped at a door facing them.
'I think we shall find my lord of Worcester here,' she said in a
whisper, as she knocked and waited a response. 'He is not here,' she
said. 'He expects me to call on him as I pass. We must make haste.'
The second passage, in which were several curves and sharp turns,
led them to a large room, nearly square, in which were two tables
covered for about thirty. By the door and along the sides of the
room were a good many gentlemen, some of them very plainly dressed,
and others in gayer attire, amongst whom Dorothy, as they passed
through, recognised her cousin Scudamore. Whether he saw and knew
her she could not tell. Crossing a small antechamber they entered
the drawing-room, where stood and sat talking a number of ladies and
gentlemen, to some of whom lady Margaret spoke and presented her
cousin, greeting others with a familiar nod or smile, and yet others
with a stately courtesy. Then she said,
'Ladies, I will lead the way to the dining-room. My lord marquis
would the less willingly have us late that something detains
Those who dined in the marquis's room followed her. Scarcely had she
reached the upper end of the table when the marquis entered,
followed by all his gentlemen, some of whom withdrew, their service
over for the time, while others proceeded to wait upon him and his
family, with any of the nobility who happened to be his guests at
the first table.
'I am the laggard to-day, my lady,' he said, cheerily, as he bore
his heavy person up the room towards her. 'Ah!' he went on, as lady
Margaret stepped forward to meet him, leading Dorothy by the hand,
'who is this sober young damsel under my wild Irishwoman's wing? Our
young cousin Vaughan, doubtless, whose praises my worthy Dr. Bayly
has been sounding in my ears?'
He held out his hand to Dorothy, and bade her welcome to Raglan.
The marquis was a man of noble countenance, of the type we are ready
to imagine peculiar to the great men of the time of queen Elizabeth.
To this his unwieldy person did not correspond, although his
movements were still far from being despoiled of that charm which
naturally belonged to all that was his. Nor did his presence owe
anything to his dress, which was of that long-haired coarse woollen
stuff they called frieze, worn, probably, by not another nobleman in
the country, and regarded as fitter for a yeoman. His eyes, though
he was yet but sixty-five or so, were already hazy, and his voice
was husky and a little broken--results of the constantly poor health
and frequent suffering he had had for many years; but he carried it
all 'with'--to quote the prince of courtesy, sir Philip
Sydney--'with a right old man's grace, that will seem livelier than
his age will afford him.'
The moment he entered, the sewer in the antechamber at the other end
of the room had given a signal to one waiting at the head of the
stair leading down to the hall, and his lordship was hardly seated,
ere--although the kitchen was at the corner of the pitched court
diagonally opposite--he bore the first dish into the room, followed
by his assistants, laden each with another.
Lady Margaret made Dorothy sit down by her. A place on her other
side was vacant.
'Where is this truant husband of thine, my lady?' asked the marquis,
as soon as Dr. Bayly had said grace. 'Know you whether he eats at
all, or when, or where? It is now three days since he has filled his
place at thy side, yet is he in the castle. Thou knowest, my lady, I
deal not with him, who is so soon to sit in this chair, as with
another, but I like it not. Know you what occupies him to day?'
'I do not, my lord,' answered lady Margaret. 'I have had but one
glimpse of him since the morning, and if he looks now as he looked
then, I fear your lordship would be minded rather to drive him from
your table than welcome him to a seat beside you.'
As she spoke, lady Margaret caught a glimpse of a peculiar
expression on Scudamore's face, where he stood behind his master's
'Your page, my lord,' she said, 'seems to know something of him: if
it pleased you to put him to the question--'
'Hey, Scudamore!' said the marquis without turning his head; 'what
have you seen of my lord Herbert?'
'As much as could be seen of him, my lord,' answered Scudamore. 'He
was new from the powder-mill, and his face and hands were as he had
been blown three times up the hall chimney.'
'I would thou didst pay more heed to what is fitting, thou monkey,
and knewest either place or time for thy foolish jests! It will be
long ere thou soil one of thy white fingers for king or country,'
said the marquis, neither angrily nor merrily. 'Get another flask of
claret,' he added, 'and keep thy wit for thy mates, boy.'
Dorothy cast one involuntary glance at her cousin. His face was red
as fire, but, as it seemed to her, more with suppressed amusement
than shame. She had not been much longer in the castle before she
learned that, in the opinion of the household, the marquis did his
best, or worst rather, to ruin young Scudamore by indulgence. The
judgment, however, was partly the product of jealousy, although
doubtless the marquis had in his case a little too much relaxed the
bonds of discipline. The youth was bright and ready, and had as yet
been found trustworthy; his wit was tolerable, and a certain gay
naivete of speech and manner set off to the best advantage what
there was of it; but his laughter was sometimes mischievous, and on
the present occasion Dorothy could not rid herself of the suspicion
that he was laughing in his sleeve at his master, which caused her
to redden in her turn. Scudamore saw it, and had his own fancies
concerning the phenomenon.