THE TWO MARQUISES.
Dinner over, lady Margaret led Dorothy back to her parlour, and
there proceeded to discover what accomplishments and capabilities
she might possess. Finding she could embroider, play a little on the
spinnet, sing a song, and read aloud both intelligibly and
pleasantly, she came to the conclusion that the country-bred girl
was an acquisition destined to grow greatly in value, should the day
ever arrive--which heaven forbid!--when they would have to settle
down to the monotony of a protracted siege. Remarking, at length,
that she looked weary, she sent her away to be mistress of her time
till supper, at half-past five.
Weary in truth with her journey, but still more weary from the
multitude and variety of objects, the talk, and the constant demand
of the general strangeness upon her attention and one form or other
of suitable response, Dorothy sought her chamber. But she scarcely
remembered how to reach it. She knew it lay a floor higher, and
easily found the stair up which she had followed her attendant, for
it rose from the landing of the straight ascent by which she had
entered the house. She could hardly go wrong either as to the
passage at the top of it, leading back over the room she had just
left below, but she could not tell which was her own door. Fearing
to open the wrong one, she passed it and went on to the end of the
corridor, which was very dimly lighted. There she came to an open
door, through which she saw a small chamber, evidently not meant for
habitation. She entered. A little light came in through a crossed
loophole, sufficient to show her the bare walls, with the plaster
sticking out between the stones, the huge beams above, and in the
middle of the floor, opposite the loop-hole, a great arblast or
crossbow, with its strange machinery. She had never seen one before,
but she knew enough to guess at once what it was. Through the
loophole came a sweet breath of spring air, and she saw trees
bending in the wind, heard their faint far-off rustle, and saw the
green fields shining in the sun.
Partly from having been so much with Richard, her only playmate, who
was of an ingenious and practical turn, a certain degree of interest
in mechanical forms and modes had been developed in Dorothy,
sufficient at least to render her unable to encounter such an
implement without feeling a strong impulse to satisfy herself
concerning its mechanism, its motion, and its action. Approaching it
cautiously and curiously, as if it were a live thing, which might
start up and fly from, or perhaps at her, for what she knew, she
gazed at it for a few moments with eyes full of unuttered questions,
then ventured to lay gentle hold upon what looked like a handle. To
her dismay, a wheezy bang followed, which seemed to shake the tower.
Whether she had discharged an arrow, or an iron bolt, or a stone, or
indeed anything at all, she could not tell, for she had not got so
far in her observations as to perceive even that the bow was bent.
Her heart gave a scared flutter, and she started back, not merely
terrified, but ashamed also that she should initiate her life in the
castle with meddling and mischief, when a low gentle laugh behind
her startled her yet more, and looking round with her heart in her
throat, she perceived in the half-light of the place a man by the
wall behind the arblast watching her. Her first impulse was to run,
and the door was open; but she thought she owed an apology ere she
retreated. What sort of person he was she could not tell, for there
was not light enough to show a feature of his face.
'I ask your pardon,' she said; 'I fear I have done mischief.'
'Not the least,' returned the man, in a gentle voice, with a tone of
amusement in it.
'I had never seen a great cross-bow,' Dorothy went on, anxious to
excuse her meddling. 'I thought this must be one, but I was so
stupid as not to perceive it was bent, and that that was the--the
handle--or do you call it the trigger?--by which you let it go.'
The man, who had at first taken her for one of the maids, had by
this time discovered from her tone and speech that she was a lady.
'It is a clumsy old-fashioned thing,' he returned, 'but I shall not
remove it until I can put something better in its place; and it
would be a troublesome affair to get even a demiculverin up here,
not to mention the bad neighbour it would be to the ladies'chambers.
I was just making a small experiment with it on the force of
springs. I believe I shall yet prove that much may be done with
springs--more perhaps, and certainly at far less expense, than with
gunpowder, which costs greatly, is very troublesome to make,
occupies much space, and is always like an unstable, half-
treacherous friend within the gates--to say nothing of the expense
of cannon--ten times that of an engine of timber and springs. See
what a strong chain your shot has broken! Shall I show you how the
He spoke in a gentle, even rapid voice, a little hesitating now and
then, more, through the greater part of this long utterance, as if
he were thinking to himself than addressing another. Neither his
tone nor manner were those of an underling, but Dorothy's startled
nerves had communicated their tremor to her modesty, and with a
gentle 'No, sir, I thank you; I must be gone,' she hurried away.
Daring now a little more for fear of worse, the first door she tried
proved that of her own room, and it was with a considerable sense of
relief, as well as with weariness and tremor, that she nestled
herself into the high window-seat, and looked out into the
quadrangle. The shadow of the citadel had gone to pay its afternoon
visit to the other court, and that of the gateway was thrown upon
the chapel, partly shrouding the white horse, whose watery music was
now silent, but allowing one red ray, which entered by the iron
grating above the solid gates, to fall on his head, and warm its
cold whiteness with a tinge of delicate pink. The court was more
still and silent than in the morning; only now and then would a
figure pass from one door to another, along the side of the
buildings, or by one of the tiled paths dividing the turf. A large
peacock was slowly crossing the shadowed grass with a stately strut
and rhythmic thrust of his green neck. The moment he came out into
the sunlight, he spread his wheeled fan aloft, and slowly
pirouetting, if the word can be allowed where two legs are needful,
in the very acme of vanity, turned on all sides the quivering
splendour of its hundred eyes, where blue and green burst in the
ecstasy of their union into a vapour of gold, that the circle of the
universe might see. And truly the bird's vanity had not misled his
judgment: it was a sight to make the hearts of the angels throb out
a dainty phrase or two more in the song of their thanksgiving. Some
pigeons, white, and blue-grey, with a lovely mingling and interplay
of metallic lustres on their feathery throats, but with none of that
almost grotesque obtrusion of over-driven individuality of kind, in
which the graciousness of common beauty is now sacrificed to the
whim of the fashion the vulgar fancier initiates, picked up the
crumbs under the windows of lady Margaret's nursery, or flew hither
and thither among the roofs with wapping and whiffling wing.
But still from the next court came many and various mingling noises.
The sounds of drill had long ceased, but those of clanking hammers
were heard the more clearly, now one, now two, now several together.
The smaller, clearer one was that of the armourer, the others those
of the great smithy, where the horse-shoes were made, the horses
shod, the smaller pieces of ordnance repaired, locks and chains
mended, bolts forged, and, in brief, every piece of metal about the
castle, from the cook's skillet to the winches and chains of the
drawbridges, set right, renewed, or replaced. The forges were far
from where she sat, outside the farthest of the two courts, across
which, and the great hall dividing them, the clink, clink, the
clank, and the ringing clang, softened by distance and
interposition, came musical to her ear. The armourer's hammer was
the keener, the quicker, the less intermittent, and yet had the most
variations of time and note, as he shifted the piece on his anvil,
or changed breastplate for gorget, or greave for pauldron--or it
might be sword for pike-head or halbert. Mingled with it came now
and then the creak and squeak of the wooden wheel at the draw-well
near the hall-door in the farther court, and the muffled splash of
the bucket as it struck the water deep in the shaft. She even
thought she could hear the drops dripping back from it as it slowly
ascended, but that was fancy. Everywhere arose the auricular vapour,
as it were, of action, undefined and indefinable, the hum of the
human hive, compounded of all confluent noises--the chatter of the
servants' hall and the nursery, the stamping of horses, the ringing
of harness, the ripping of the chains of kenneled dogs, the hollow
stamping of heavy boots, the lowing of cattle, with sounds besides
so strange to the ears of Dorothy that they set her puzzling in vain
to account for them; not to mention the chaff of the guard-rooms by
the gates, and the scolding and clatter of the kitchen. This last,
indeed, was audible only when the doors were open, for the walls of
the kitchen, whether it was that the builders of it counted cookery
second only to life, or that this had been judged, from the nature
of the ground outside, the corner of all the enclosure most likely
to be attacked, were far thicker than those of any of the other
towers, with the one exception of the keep itself.
As she sat listening to these multitudinous exhalations of life
around her, yet with a feeling of loneliness and a dim sense of
captivity, from the consciousness that huge surrounding walls rose
between her and the green fields, of which, from earliest memory,
she had been as free as the birds and beetles, a white rabbit,
escaped from the arms of its owner, little Mary Somerset, lady
Margaret's only child, a merry but delicate girl not yet three years
old, suddenly darted like a flash of snow across the shadowy green,
followed in hot haste a moment after by a fine-looking boy of
thirteen and two younger girls, after whom toddled tiny Mary.
Dorothy sat watching the pursuit, accompanied with sweet outcry and
frolic laughter, when in a moment the sounds of their merriment
changed to shrieks of terror, and she saw a huge mastiff come
bounding she knew not whence, and rush straight at the rabbit,
fierce and fast. When the little creature saw him, struck with
terror it stopped dead, cowered on the sward, and was stock still.
But Henry Somerset, who was but a few paces from it, reached it
before the dog, and caught it up in his arms. The rush of the dog
threw him down, and they rolled over and over, Henry holding fast
the poor rabbit.
By this time Dorothy was half-way down the stair: the moment she
caught sight of the dog she had flown to the rescue. When she issued
from the porch at the foot of the grand staircase, Henry was up
again, and running for the house with the rabbit yet safe in his
arms, pursued by the mastiff. Evidently the dog had not harmed
him--but he might get angry. The next moment she saw, to her joy and
dismay both at once, that it was her own dog.
'Marquis! Marquis!' she cried, calling him by his name.
He abandoned the pursuit at once, and went bounding to her. She took
him by the back of the neck, and the displeasure manifest upon the
countenance of his mistress made him cower at her feet, and wince
from the open hand that threatened him. The same instant a lattice
window over the gateway was flung open, and a voice said--
'Here I am. Who called me?'
Dorothy looked up. The children had vanished with their rescued
darling. There was not a creature in the court but herself, and
there was the marquis, leaning half out of the window, and looking
'Who called me?' he repeated--angrily, Dorothy thought.
All at once the meaning of it flashed upon her, and she was
confounded--ready to sink with annoyance. But she was not one to
hesitate when a thing HAD to be done. Keeping her hold of the dog's
neck, for his collar was gone, she dragged him half-way towards the
gate, then turning up to the marquis a face like a peony, replied--
'I am the culprit, my lord.'
'By St. George! you are a brave damsel, and there is no culpa that I
know of, except on the part of that intruding cur.'
'And the cur's mistress, my lord. But, indeed, he is no cur, but a
'What! is the animal thy property, fair cousin? He is more than I
'He is mine, my lord, but I left him chained when I set out from
Wyfern this morning. That he got loose I confess I am not
astonished, neither that he tracked me hither, for he has the eyes
of a gaze-hound, and the nose of a bloodhound; but it amazes me to
find him in the castle.'
'That must be inquired into,' said the marquis.
'I am very sorry he has carried himself so ill, my lord. He has put
me to great shame. But he hath more in him than mere brute, and
understands when I beg you to pardon him. He misbehaved himself on
purpose to be taken to me, for at home no one ever dares punish him
The marquis laughed.
'If you are so completely his mistress then, why did you call on me
'Pardon me, my lord; I did not so.'
'Why, I heard thee call me two or three times!'
'Alas, my lord! I called him Marquis when he was a pup. Everybody
about Redware knows Marquis.'
The animal cocked his ears and started each time his name was
uttered, and yet seemed to understand well enough that ALL the talk
was about him and his misdeeds.
'Ah! ha!' said his lordship, with a twinkle in his eye, 'that begets
complications. Two marquises in Raglan? Two kings in England! The
thing cannot be. What is to be done?'
'I must take him back, my lord! I cannot send him, for he would not
go. I dread they will not be able to hold him chained; in which evil
case I fear me I shall have to go, my lord, and take the perils of
the time as they come.'
'Not of necessity so, cousin, while you can choose between
us;--although I freely grant that a marquis with four legs is to be
preferred before a marquis with only two.--But what if you changed
'I fear it could not be done, my lord. He has been Marquis all his
'And I have been marquis only six months! Clearly he hath the better
right--. But there would be constant mistakes between us, for I
cannot bring myself to lay aside the honour his majesty hath
conferred upon me, "which would be worn now in its newest gloss, not
cast aside so soon," as master Shakspere says. Besides, it would be
a slight to his majesty, and that must not be thought of--not for
all the dogs in parliament or out of it. No--it would breed factions
in the castle too. No; one of us two must die.'
'Then, indeed, I must go,' said Dorothy, her voice trembling as she
spoke; for although the words of the marquis were merry, she yet
feared for her friend.
'Tut! tut! let the older marquis die: he has enjoyed the title; I
have not. Give him to Tom Fool: he will drown him in the moat. He
shall be buried with honour--under his rival's favourite apple-tree
in the orchard. What more could dog desire?'
'No, my lord,' answered Dorothy. 'Will you allow me to take my
leave? If I only knew where to find my horse!'
'What! would you saddle him yourself, cousin Vaughan?'
'As well as e'er a knave in your lordship's stables. I am very sorry
to displease you, but to my dog's death I cannot and will not
consent. Pardon me, my lord.'
The last words brought with them a stifled sob, for she scarcely
doubted any more that he was in earnest.
'It is assuredly not gratifying to a marquis of the king's making to
have one of a damsel's dubbing take the precedence of him. I fear
you are a roundhead and hold by the parliament. But no--that cannot
be, for you are willing to forsake your new cousin for your old dog.
Nay, alas! it is your old cousin for your young dog. Puritan!
puritan! Well, it cannot be helped. But what! you would ride home
alone! Evil men are swarming, child. This sultry weather brings them
out like flies.'
'I shall not be alone, my lord. Marquis will take good care of me.'
'Indeed, my lord marquis will pledge himself to nothing outside his
'I meant the dog, my lord.'
'Ah! you see how awkward it is. However, as you will not choose
between us--and to tell the truth, I am not yet quite prepared to
die--we must needs encounter what is inevitable. I will send for
one of the keepers to take him to the smithy, and get him a proper
collar--one he can't slip like that he left at home--and a chain.'
'I must go with him myself, my lord. They will never manage him
'What a demon you have brought into my peaceable house! Go with him,
by all means. And mind you choose him a kennel yourself.--You do
not desire him in your chamber, do you, mistress?'
Dorothy secretly thought it would be the best place for him, but she
was only too glad to have his life spared.
'No, my lord, I thank you,' she said. '--I thank your lordship with
all my heart.'
The marquis disappeared from the window. Presently young Scudamore
came into the court from the staircase by the gate, and crossed to
the hall--in a few minutes returning with the keeper. The man would
have taken the dog by the neck to lead him away, but a certain form
of canine curse, not loud but deep, and a warning word from Dorothy,
made him withdraw his hand.
'Take care, Mr. Keeper,' she said, 'he is dangerous. I will go with
him myself, if thou wilt show me whither.'
'As it please you, mistress,' answered the keeper, and led the way
across the court.
'Have you not a word to throw at a poor cousin, mistress Dorothy?'
said Rowland, when the man was a pace or two in advance.
'No, Mr. Scudamore,' answered Dorothy; 'not until we have first
spoken in my lord Worcester's or my lady Margaret's presence.'
Scudamore fell behind, followed her a little way, and somewhere
Dorothy followed the keeper across the hall, the size of which, its
height especially, and the splendour of its windows of stained
glass, almost awed her; then across the next court to the foot of
the Library Tower forming the south-east corner of it, near the two
towers flanking the main entrance. Here a stair led down, through
the wall, to a lower level outside, where were the carpenters' and
all other workshops, the forges, the stables, and the farmyard
As it happened, when Dorothy entered the smithy, there was her own
little horse being shod, and Marquis and he interchanged a whine and
a whinny of salutation, while the men stared at the bright
apparition of a young lady in their dingy regions. Having heard her
business, the head-smith abandoned everything else to alter an iron
collar, of which there were several lying about, to fit the mastiff,
the presence of whose mistress proved entirely necessary. Dorothy
had indeed to put it on him with her own hands, for at the sound of
the chain attached to it he began to grow furious, growling
fiercely. When the chain had been made fast with a staple driven
into a strong kennel-post, and his mistress proceeded to take her
leave of him, his growling changed to the most piteous whining; but
when she actually left him there, he flew into a rage of indignant
affection. After trying the strength of his chain, however, by three
or four bounds, each so furious as to lay him sprawling on his back,
he yielded to the inevitable, and sullenly crept into his kennel,
while Dorothy walked back to the room which had already begun to
seem to her a cell.