Chapter 56


I have now to recount a small adventure, to which it would scarcely be worth while to afford a place, were it not for the important fact that it opened to Richard a great window not only in Dorothy's history while she lived at the castle, but, which was of far more importance, into the character moulding that history--for character has far more to do with determining history than history has to do with determining character. Without the interview whose circumstances I am about to narrate, Richard could not so soon at least have done justice to a character which had been, if not keeping parallel pace with his own, yet advancing rapidly in the same direction. The decree of the parliament had gone forth that Raglan should be destroyed. The same hour in which the sad news reached Caspar, he set out to secure, if possible, the treasures he had concealed. He had little fear of their being discovered, but great fear of their being rendered inaccessible from the workshop. Having reached the neighbourhood, he hired a horse and cart from a small farmer whom he knew, and, taking the precaution to put on the dress of a countryman, got on it and drove to the castle. The huge oaken leaves of the brick gate, bound and riveted with iron, lay torn from their hinges, and he entered unquestioned. But instead of the solitude of desertion, for which he had hoped, he found the whole place swarming with country people, men and women, most of them with baskets and sacks, while the space between the outer defences and the moat of the castle itself was filled with country vehicles of every description, from a wheelbarrow to a great waggon. When the most valuable of the effects found in the place had been carried to London, a sale for the large remainder had been held on the spot, at which not a few of the neighbouring families had been purchasers. After all, however, a great many things were left unhid for, which were not, from a money point of view--the sole one taken--worth removing; and now the peasantry were, like jackals, admitted to pick the bones of the huge carcase, ere the skeleton itself should be torn asunder. Nor could the invading populace have been disappointed of their expectations: they found numberless things of immense value in their eyes, and great use in their meagre economy. For years, I might say centuries after, pieces of furniture and panels of carved oak, bits of tapestry, antique sconces and candlesticks of brass, ancient horse-furniture, and a thousand things besides of endless interest, were to be found scattered in farm-houses and cottages all over Monmouth and neighbouring shires. I should not wonder if, even now in the third century, and after the rage for the collection of such things has so long prevailed, there were some of them still to be discovered in places where no one has thought of looking. When Caspar saw what was going on, he judged it prudent to turn and drive his cart into the quarry, and having there secured it, went back and entered the castle. There was a great divided torrent of humanity rushing and lingering through the various lines of rooms, here meeting in whirlpools, there parted into mere rivulets--man and woman searching for whatever might look valuable in his or her eyes. Things that nowadays would fetch their weight in silver, some of them even in gold, were passed by as worthless, or popped into a bag to be carried home for the amusement of cottage children. The noises of hobnailed shoes on the oak floors, and of unrestrained clownish and churlish voices everywhere, were tremendous. Here a fat cottager might be seen standing on a lovely quilt of patchwork brocade, pulling down, rough in her cupidity, curtains on which the new-born and dying eyes of generations of nobles had rested, henceforth to adorn a miserable cottage, while her husband was taking down the bed, larger perhaps, than the room itself in which they would in vain try to set it up, or cruelly forcing a lid, which, having a spring lock, had closed again after the carved chest had been already rifled by the commissioner or his men. The kitchen was full of squabbling women, and the whole place in the agonies of dissolution. But there was a small group of persons, fortuitously met, but linked together by an old painful memory of the place itself, strongly revived by their present meeting, to whom a fanatical hatred of everything catholic, coupled with a profound sense of personal injury, had prevailed over avarice, causing them to leave the part of acquisition to their wives, and aspire to that of pure destruction. It was the same company, almost to a man, whose misadventures in their search of Raglan for arms, under the misguidance of Tom Fool, I have related in an early chapter. In their hearts they nursed a half-persuasion that Raglan had fallen because of their wrongs within its walls, and the shame that there had been heaped upon the godly. These men, happening to meet, as I say, in the midst of the surrounding tumult, had fallen into a conversation chiefly occupied with reminiscences of that awful experience, whose terrors now looked like an evil dream, and, in a place thus crowded with men and women, buzzing with voices, and resounding with feet, as little likely to return as a vanished thundercloud. In the course of their conversation, therefore, they grew valiant; grew conscious next of a high calling, and resolved therewith to take to themselves the honour of giving the first sweep of the besom of destruction to Raglan Castle. Satisfying themselves first therefore that their wives were doing their duty for their household,--mistress Upstill was as good as two men at least at appropriation,--they set out, Cast-down taking the lead, master Sycamore, John Croning, and the rest following, armed with crowbars, for the top of the great tower, ambitious to commence the overthrow by attacking the very summit, the high places of wickedness, the crown of pride; and after some devious wandering, at length found the way to the stair. When Caspar Kaltoff entered the castle, he made straight for the keep, and to his delight found no one in the lower part. To make certain however that he was alone in the place, ere he secured himself from intrusion, he ran up the stair, gave a glance at the doors as he ran, and reached the top just as Upstill in fierce discrowning pride was heaving the first capstone from between two battlements. Casper was close by the cocks; instantly he turned one, and as the dislodged stone struck the water of the moat, a sudden hollow roaring invaded their ears, and while they stood aghast at the well-remembered sound, and ere yet the marrow had time to freeze in their stupid bones, the very moat itself into which they had cast the insulted stone, storming and spouting, seemed to come rushing up to avenge it upon them were they stood. The moment he turned the cock, Casper shot half-way down the stair, but as quietly as he could, and into a little chamber in the wall, where stood two great vessels through which the pipes of the fire-engine inside had communicated with the pipes in the wall outside. There he waited until the steps which, long before he reached his refuge, he heard come thundering down the stairs after him, had passed in headlong haste, when he sprang up again to save the water for another end, and to attach the drawbridge to the sluice, so that it would raise it to its full height. Then he hurried down to the water trap under the bridge and set it, after which he could hardly help wasting a little of his precious time, lurking in a convenient corner to watch the result. He had not to wait long. The shrieks of the yokels as they ran, and their looks of horror when they appeared, quickly gathered around them a gaping crowd to hear their tale, the more foolhardy in which, partly doubting their word, for the fountains no longer played, and partly ambitious of showing their superior courage, rushed to the Gothic bridge. Down came the drawbridge with a clang, and with it in sheer descent a torrent of water fit to sweep a regiment away, which shot along the stone bridge and dashed them from it bruised and bleeding, and half drowned with the water which in their terror and surprise found easy way into their bodies. Casper withdrew satisfied, for he now felt sure of all the time he required to get some other things he had thought of saving down into the shaft with the cabinet and chest. Having effected this, and with much labour and difficulty, aided by rollers, got all into the quarry and then into the cart, he did not resist the temptation to go again amongst the crowd, and enjoy listening to the various remarks and conjectures and terrors to which doubtless his trick had given rise. He therefore got a great armful of trampled corn from the field above, and laid it before his patient horse, then ran round and re-entered the castle by the main gate. He had not been in the crowd many minutes, however, when he saw indications of suspicion ripening to conviction. What had given ground for it he could not tell, but at some point he must have been seen on the other side of the tower-moat. All this time Upstill and his party had been recounting with various embellishment their adventures both former and latter, and when Kaltoff was recognised, or at least suspected in the crowd, the rumour presently arose and spread that he was either the devil himself, or an accredited agent of that potentate. 'Be it then the old Satan himself?' Caspar heard a man say anxiously to his neighbour, as he tried to get a look at his feet, which was not easy in such a press. Caspar, highly amused, and thinking such evil reputation would rather protect than injure him, showed some anxiety about his feet, and made as if he would fain keep them out of the field of observation. But thereupon he saw the faces and gestures of the younger men begin to grow threatening; evidently anger was succeeding to fear, and some of them, fired with the ambition possibly of thrashing the devil, ventured to give him a rough shove or two from behind. Neither outbreak of sulphurous flashes nor even kick of cloven hoof following, they proceeded with the game, and rapidly advanced to such extremities, expostulation in Caspar's broken English, for such in excitement it always became, seeming only to act as fresh incitement and justification, that at length he was compelled in self-defence to draw a dagger. This checked them a little, and ere audacity had had time to recover itself, a young man came shoving through the crowd, pushing them all right and left until he reached Caspar, and stood by his side. Now there was that about Richard Heywood to give him influence with a crowd: he was a strong man and a gentleman, and they drew back. 'De fools dink I was de tuyfel!' said Caspar. Richard turned upon them with indignation. 'You Englishmen!' he cried, 'and treat a foreigner thus!' But there was nothing about him to show that he was a roundhead, and from behind rose the cry: 'A malignant! A royalist!' and the fellows near began again to advance threateningly. 'Mr. Heywood,' said Caspar hurriedly, for he recognised his helper from the time he had seen him a prisoner, 'let us make for the hall. I know the place and can bring us both off safe.' It was one of Richard's greatest virtues that he could place much confidence. He gave one glance at his companion, and said, 'I will do as thou sayest.' 'Follow me then, sir,' said Caspar, and turning with brandished dagger, he forced his way to the hall-door, Richard following with fists, his sole weapons, defending their rear. There were but few in the hall, and although their enemies came raging after them, they were impeded by the crowd, so that there was time as they crossed it for Caspar to say: 'Follow me over the bridge, but, for God's sake, put your feet exactly where I put mine as we cross. You will see why in a moment after.' 'I will,' said Richard, and, delayed a little by needful care, gained the other side just as the foremost of their pursuers rushed on the bridge, and with a clang and a roar were swept from it by the descending torrent. They lost no time in explanations. Caspar hurried Richard to the workshop, down the shaft, through the passage, and into the quarry, whence, taking no notice of his cart, he went with him to the White Horse, where Lady was waiting him. And Richard was well rewarded for the kindness he had shown, for ere they said good bye, the German, whose heart was full of Dorothy, and understood, as indeed every one in the castle did, something of her relation to Richard, had told him all he knew about her life in the castle, and how she had been both before and during the siege a guardian angel, as the marquis himself had said, to Raglan. Nor was the story of her attempted visit to her old playfellow in the turret chamber, or the sufferings she had to endure in consequence, forgotten; and when Caspar and he parted, Richard rode home with fresh strength and light and love in his heart, and Lady shared in them all somehow, for she constantly reflected, or imaged rather, the moods of her master. As much as ever he believed Dorothy mistaken, and yet could have kneeled in reverence before her. He had himself tried to do the truth, and no one but he who tries to do the truth can perceive the grandeur of another who does the same. Alive to his own shortcomings, such a one the better understands the success of his brother or sister: there the truth takes to him shape, and he worships at her shrine. He saw more clearly than before what he had been learning ever since she had renounced him, that it is not correctness of opinion--could he be SURE that his own opinions were correct?--that constitutes rightness, but that condition of soul which, as a matter of course, causes it to move along the lines of truth and duty--the LIFE going forth in motion according to the law of light: this alone places a nature in harmony with the central Truth. It was in the doing of the will of his Father that Jesus was the son of God--yea the eternal son of the eternal Father. Nor was this to make little of the truth intellectually considered--of the FACT of things. The greatest fact of all is that we are bound to obey the truth, and that to the full extent of our knowledge thereof, however LITTLE that may be. This obligation acknowledged and OBEYED, the road is open to all truth--and the ONLY road. The way to know is to do the known. Then why, thought Richard with himself, should he and Dorothy be parted? Why should Dorothy imagine they should? All depended on their common magnanimity, not the magnanimity that pardons faults, but the magnanimity that recognises virtues. He who gladly kneels with one who thinks largely wide from himself, in so doing draws nearer to the Father of both than he who pours forth his soul in sympathetic torrent only in the company of those who think like himself. If a man be of the truth, then and only then is he of those who gather with the Lord. In forms natural to the age and his individual thought, if not altogether in such as I have here put down, Richard thus fashioned his insights as he sauntered home upon Lady, his head above the clouds, and his heart higher than his head--as it ought to be once or twice a day at least. Poor indeed is any worldly success compared to a moment's breathing in divine air, above the region where the miserable word SUCCESS yet carries a meaning.