Chapter 57


The death of the marquis took place in December, long before which time the second marquis of Worcester, ever busy in the king's affairs, and unable to show himself with safety in England, or there be useful, had gone from Ireland to Paris. As the country was now a good deal quieter, and there was nothing to detain her in London, and much to draw her to Wyfern, Dorothy resolved to go home, and there, if possible, remain. Indeed, there was now nothing else she could well do, except visit Mr. Herbert at Llangattock. But much as she revered and loved the old man, and would have enjoyed his company, she felt now such a longing for activity, that she must go and look after her affairs. What with the words of the good marquis and her own late experiences and conflicts, Dorothy had gained much enlightenment. She had learned that well-being is a condition of inward calm, resting upon yet deeper harmonies of being, and resulting in serene activity, the prevention of which natural result reacts in perturbation and confusion of thought and feeling. But for many sakes the thought of home was in itself precious and enticing to her. It was full of clear memories of her mother, and vague memories of her father, not to mention memories of the childhood Richard and she had spent together, from which the late mists had begun to rise, and reveal them sparkling with dew and sunshine. As soon, therefore, as marquis Henry had gone to countess Anne, Dorothy took her leave, with many kind words between, of the ladies Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary, and set out, attended by her old bailiff and some of the men of her small tenantry, who having fought the king's battle in vain, had gone home again to fight their own. At Wyfern she found everything in rigid order, almost cataleptic repose. How was it ever to be home again? What new thing could restore the homefulness where the revered over-life had vanished? And how shall the world be warmed and brightened to him who knows no greater or better man than himself therein--no more skilful workman, no diviner thinker, no more godlike doer than himself? And what can the universe have in it of home, of country, nay even of world, to him who cannot believe in a soul of souls, a heart of hearts? I should fall out with the very beating of the heart within my bosom, did I not believe it the pulse of the infinite heart, for how else should it be heart of MINE? I made it not, and any moment it may SEEM to fail me, yet never, if it be what I think it, can it betray me. It is no wonder then, that, with only memories of what had been to render it lovely in her eyes, Dorothy should have soon begun to feel the place lonely. The very next morning after her rather late arrival, she sent to saddle Dick once more, called Marquis, and with no other attendant, set out to see what they had done to dear old Raglan. Marquis had been chained up almost all the time they were in London, and freedom is blessed even to a dog: Dick was ever joyful under his mistress, and now was merry with the keen invigorating air of a frosty December morning, and frolicsome amidst the early snow, which lay unusually thick on the ground, notwithstanding his hundred and twenty miles' ride, for they had taken nearly a week to do it; so that between them they soon raised Dorothy's spirits also, and she turned to her hopes, and grew cheerful. This mood made her the less prepared to encounter the change that awaited her. What a change it was! While she approached, what with the trees left, and the towers, the rampart, and the outer shell of the courts--little injured to the distant eye, she had not an idea of the devastation within. But when she rode through one entrance after another with the gates torn from their hinges, crossed the moat by a mound of earth instead of the drawbridge, and rode through the open gateway, where the portcullises were wedged up in their grooves and their chains gone, into the paved court, she beheld a desolation, at sight of which her heart seemed to stand still in her bosom. The rugged horror of the heaps of ruins was indeed softly covered with snow, but what this took from the desolation in harshness, it added in coldness and desertion and hopelessness. She felt like one who looks for the corpse of his friend, and finds but his skeleton. The broken bones of the house projected gaunt and ragged. Its eyes returned no shine--they did not even stare, for not a pane of glass was left in a window: they were but eye-holes, black and blank with shadow and no-ness. The roofs were gone--all but that of the great hall, which they had not dared to touch. She climbed the grand staircase, open to the wind and slippery with ice, and reached her own room. Snow lay on the floor, which had swollen and burst upwards with November rains. Through room after room she wandered with a sense of loneliness and desolation and desertion such as never before had she known, even in her worst dreams. Yet was there to her, in the midst of her sorrow and loss, a strange fascination in the scene. Such a hive of burning human life now cold and silent! Even Marquis appeared aware of the change, for with tucked-in tail he went about sadly sniffing, and gazing up and down. Once indeed, and only once, he turned his face to the heavens, and gave a strange protesting howl, which made Dorothy weep, and a little relieved her oppressed heart. She would go and see the workshop. On the way, she would first visit the turret chamber. But so strangely had destruction altered the look of what it had spared, that it was with difficulty she recognised the doors and ways of the house she had once known so well. Here was a great hole to the shining snow where once had been a dark corner; there a heap of stones where once had been a carpeted corridor. All the human look of indwelling had past away. Where she had been used to go about as if by instinct, she had now to fall back upon memory, and call up again, with an effort sometimes painful in its difficulty, that which had vanished altogether except from the minds of its scattered household. She found the door of the turret chamber, but that was all she found: the chamber was gone. Nothing was there but the blank gap in the wall, and beyond it, far down, the nearly empty moat of the tower. She turned, frightened and sick at heart, and made her way to the bridge. That still stood, but the drawbridge above was gone. She crossed the moat and entered the workshop. A single glance took in all that was left of the keep. Not a floor was between her and the sky! The reservoir, great as a little mountain-tarn, had vanished utterly! All was cleared out; and the white wintry clouds were sailing over her head. Nearly a third part of the walls had been brought within a few feet of the ground. The furnace was gone--all but its mason-work. It was like the change of centuries rather than months. The castle had half-melted away. Its idea was blotted out, save from the human spirit. She turned from the workshop, in positive pain of body at the sight, and wandered she hardly knew whither, till she found herself in lady Glamorgan's parlour. There was left a single broken chair: she sat down on it, closed her eyes, and laid back her head. She opened them with a slight start: there stood Richard a yard or two away. He had heard of her return, and gone at once to Wyfern. There learning whither she had betaken herself, he had followed, and tracking what of her footsteps he could discover, had at length found her.