Doctor Grimshawe's Secret
Part 3 out of 5
shut eyes; into a limbo where things were put away, shows of what had
once been, now somehow fainted, and still maintaining a sort of half-
existence, a serious mockery; a state likely enough to exist just a
little apart from the actual world, if we only know how to find our way
into it. Scenes and events that had once stained themselves, in deep
colors, on the curtain that Time hangs around us, to shut us in from
eternity, cannot be quite effaced by the succeeding phantasmagoria, and
sometimes, by a palimpsest, show more strongly than they. [Endnote: 3.]
In the course of the morning, however, he was a little too feelingly
made sensible of realities by the visit of a surgeon, who proceeded to
examine the wound in his shoulder, removing the bandages which he
himself seemed to have put upon this mysterious hurt. The traveller
closed his eyes, and submitted to the manipulations of the professional
person, painful as they were, assisted by the gentle touch of the old
palmer; and there was something in the way in which he resigned himself
that met the approbation of the surgeon, in spite of a little fever,
and slight delirium too, to judge by his eye.
"A very quiet and well-behaved patient," said he to the palmer. "Unless
I greatly mistake, he has been under the surgeon's hand for a similar
hurt ere now. He has learned under good discipline how to take such a
thing easily. Yes, yes; just here is a mark where a bullet went in some
time ago,--three or four years since, when he could have been little
more than a boy. A wild fellow this, I doubt."
"It was an Indian bullet," said the patient, still fancying himself
gone astray into the past, "shot at me in battle; 'twas three hundred
"Ah! he has served in the East Indies," said the surgeon. "I thought
this sun-burned cheek had taken its hue elsewhere than in England."
The patient did not care to take the trouble which would have been
involved in correcting the surgeon's surmise; so he let it pass, and
patiently awaited the end of the examination, with only a moan or two,
which seemed rather pleasing and desirable than otherwise to the
"He has vitality enough for his needs," said he, nodding to the palmer.
"These groans betoken a good degree of pain; though the young fellow is
evidently a self-contained sort of nature, and does not let us know all
he feels. It promises well, however; keep him in bed and quiet, and
within a day or two we shall see."
He wrote a recipe, or two or three, perhaps, (for in those days the
medical fraternity had faith in their own art,) and took his leave.
The white-bearded palmer withdrew into the half concealment of the
oratory which we have already mentioned, and then, putting on a pair of
spectacles, betook himself to the perusal of an old folio volume, the
leaves of which he turned over so gently that not the slightest sound
could possibly disturb the patient. All his manifestations were gentle
and soft, but of a simplicity most unlike the feline softness which we
are apt to associate with a noiseless tread and movement in the male
sex. The sunshine came through the ivy and glimmered upon his great
book, however, with an effect which a little disturbed the patient's
nerves; besides, he desired to have a fuller view of his benign
"Will you sit nearer the bedside?" said he. "I wish to look at you."
Weakness, the relaxation of nerves, and the state of dependence on
another's care--very long unfelt--had made him betray what we must call
childishness; and it was perceptible in the low half-complaining tone
in which he spoke, indicating a consciousness of kindness in the other,
a little plaintiveness in himself; of which, the next instant, weak and
wandering as he was, he was ashamed, and essayed to express
it. [Endnote: 4.]
"You must deem me very poor-spirited," said he, "not to bear this
trifling hurt with a firmer mind. But perhaps it is not entirely that I
am so weak, but I feel you to be so benign."
"Be weak, and be the stronger for it," said the old man, with a grave
smile. "It is not in the pride of our strength that we are best or
wisest. To be made anew, we even must be again a little child, and
consent to be enwrapt quietly in the arms of Providence, as a child in
its mother's arms."
"I never knew a mother's care," replied the traveller, in a low,
regretful tone, being weak to the incoming of all soft feelings, in his
present state. "Since my boyhood, I have lived among men,--a life of
struggle and hard rivalry. It is good to find myself here in the long
past, and in a sheltered harbor."
And here he smiled, by way of showing to this old palmer that he saw
through the slight infirmity of mind that impelled him to say such
things as the above; that he was not its dupe, though he had not
strength, just now, to resist its impulse. After this he dozed off
softly, and felt through all his sleep some twinges of his wound,
bringing him back, as it were, to the conscious surface of the great
deep of slumber, into which he might otherwise have sunk. At all such
brief intervals, half unclosing his eyes, (like a child, when the
mother sits by its bed and he fears that she will steal away if he
falls quite asleep, and leave him in the dark solitude,) he still
beheld the white-bearded, kindly old man, of saintly aspect, sitting
near him, and turning over the pages of his folio volume so softly that
not the faintest rustle did it make; the picture at length got so fully
into his idea, that he seemed to see it even through his closed
eyelids. After a while, however, the slumberous tendency left him more
entirely, and, without having been consciously awake, he found himself
contemplating the old man, with wide-open eyes. The venerable personage
seemed soon to feel his gaze, and, ceasing to look at the folio, he
turned his eyes with quiet inquiry to meet those of the
stranger. [Endnote: 5.]
"What great volume is that?" asked the latter. [Endnote: 6.]
"It is a book of English chronicles," said the old man, "mostly
relating to the part of the island where you now are, and to times
previous to the Stuarts."
"Ah! it is to you, a contemporary, what reading the newspaper is to
other men," said the stranger; then, with a smile of self-reproach, "I
shall conquer this idle mood. I'm not so imbecile as you must think me.
But there is something that strangely haunts me,--where, in what state
of being, can I have seen your face before. There is nothing in it I
distinctly remember; but some impression, some characteristic, some
look, with which I have been long ago familiar haunts me and brings
back all old scenes. Do you know me?"
The old man smiled. "I knew, long ago, a bright and impressible boy,"
"And his name?" said the stranger.
"It was Edward Redclyffe," said the old man.
"Ah, I see who you are," said the traveller, not too earnestly, but
with a soft, gratified feeling, as the riddle thus far solved itself.
"You are my old kindly instructor. You are Colcord! That is it. I
remember you disappeared. You shall tell me, when I am quite myself,
what was that mystery,--and whether it is your real self, or only a
part of my dream, and going to vanish when I quite awake. Now I shall
sleep and dream more of it."
One more waking interval he had that day, and again essayed to enter
into conversation with the old man, who had thus strangely again become
connected with his life, after having so long vanished from his path.
"Where am I?" asked Edward Redclyffe.
"In the home of misfortune," said Colcord.
"Ah! then I have a right to be here!" said he. "I was born in such a
home. Do you remember it?"
"I know your story," said Colcord.
"Yes; from Doctor Grim," said Edward. "People whispered he had made
away with you. I never believed it; but finding you here in this
strange way, and myself having been shot, perhaps to death, it seems
not so strange. Pooh! I wander again, and ought to sleep a little more.
And this is the home of misfortune, but not like the squalid place of
rage, idiocy, imbecility, drunkenness, where I was born. How many times
I have blushed to remember that native home! But not of late! I have
struggled; I have fought; I have triumphed. The unknown boy has come to
be no undistinguished man! His ancestry, should he ever reveal himself
to them, need not blush for the poor foundling."
"Hush!" said the quiet watcher. "Your fever burns you. Take this
draught, and sleep a little longer." [Endnote: 7.]
Another day or two found Edward Redclyffe almost a convalescent. The
singular lack of impatience that characterized his present mood--the
repose of spirit into which he had lapsed--had much to do with the
favorable progress of his cure. After strife, anxiety, great mental
exertion, and excitement of various kinds, which had harassed him ever
since he grew to be a man, had come this opportunity of perfect rest;--
this dream in the midst of which he lay, while its magic boundaries
involved him, and kept far off the contact of actual life, so that its
sounds and tumults seemed remote; its cares could not fret him; its
ambitions, objects good or evil, were shut out from him; the electric
wires that had connected him with the battery of life were broken for
the time, and he did not feel the unquiet influence that kept everybody
else in galvanic motion. So, under the benign influence of the old
palmer, he lay in slumberous luxury, undisturbed save by some twinges
of no intolerable pain; which, however, he almost was glad of, because
it made him sensible that this deep luxury of quiet was essential to
his cure, however idle it might seem. For the first time since he was a
child, he resigned himself not to put a finger to the evolution of his
fortune; he determined to accept all things that might happen, good or
evil; he would not imagine an event beyond to-day, but would let one
spontaneous and half-defined thought loiter after another, through his
mind; listen to the spattering shower,--the puffs of shut-out wind; and
look with half-shut eyes at the sunshine glimmering through the ivy-
twigs, and illuminating those old devices on the wall; at the gathering
twilight; at the dim lamp; at the creeping upward of another day, and
with it the lark singing so far away that the thrill of its delicious
song could not disturb him with an impulse to awake. Sweet as its carol
was, he could almost have been content to miss the lark; sweet and
clear, it was too like a fairy trumpet-call, summoning him to awake and
struggle again with eager combatants for new victories, the best of
which were not worth this deep repose.
The old palmer did his best to prolong a mood so beneficial to the
wounded young man. The surgeon also nodded approval, and attributed
this happy state of the patient's mind, and all the physical advantages
growing out of it, to his own consummate skill; nor, indeed, was he
undeserving of credit, not often to be awarded to medical men, for
having done nothing to impede the good which kind Nature was willing to
bring about. She was doing the patient more good, indeed, than either
the surgeon or the palmer could fully estimate, in taking this
opportunity to recreate a mind that had too early known stirring
impulse, and that had been worked to a degree beyond what its
organization (in some respects singularly delicate) ought to have
borne. Once in a long while the weary actors in the headlong drama of
life must have such repose or else go mad or die. When the machinery of
human life has once been stopped by sickness or other impediment, it
often needs an impulse to set it going again, even after it is nearly
But it could not last forever. The influx of new life into his being
began to have a poignancy that would not let him lie so quietly, lapped
in the past, in gone by centuries, and waited on by quiet Age, in the
person of the old palmer; he began to feel again that he was young, and
must live in the time when his lot was cast. He began to say to
himself, that it was not well to be any longer passive, but that he
must again take the troublesome burden of his own life on his own
shoulders. He thought of this necessity, this duty, throughout one
whole day, and determined that on the morrow he would make the first
step towards terminating his inaction, which he now began to be half
impatient of, at the same time that he clutched it still, for the sake
of the deliciousness that it had had.
"To-morrow, I hope to be clothed and in my right mind," said he to the
old palmer, "and very soon I must thank you, with my whole heart, for
your kind care, and go. It is a shame that I burden the hospitality of
this house so long."
"No shame whatever," replied the old man, "but, on the contrary, the
fittest thing that could have chanced. You are dependent on no private
benevolence, nor on the good offices of any man now living, or who has
lived these last three hundred years. This ancient establishment is for
the support of poverty, misfortune, and age, and, according to the word
of the founder, it serves him:--he was indebted to the beneficiaries,
not they to him, for, in return for his temporal bequests, he asked
their prayers for his soul's welfare. He needed them, could they avail
him; for this ponderous structure was built upon the founder's mortal
transgressions, and even, I may say, out of the actual substance of
them. Sir Edward Redclyffe was a fierce fighter in the Wars of the
Roses, and amassed much wealth by spoil, rapine, confiscation, and all
violent and evil ways that those disturbed times opened to him; and on
his death-bed he founded this Hospital for twelve men, who should be
able to prove kindred with his race, to dwell here with a stipend, and
pray for him; and likewise provision for a sick stranger, until he
should be able to go on his way again."
"I shall pray for him willingly," said Edward, moved by the pity which
awaits any softened state of our natures to steal into our hearts.
"Though no Catholic, I will pray for his soul. And that is his crest
which you wear embroidered on his garment?"
"It is," said the old man. "You will see it carved, painted,
embroidered, everywhere about the establishment; but let us give it the
better and more reasonable interpretation;--not that he sought to
proclaim his own pride of ancestry and race, but to acknowledge his
sins the more manifestly, by stamping the emblem of his race on this
structure of his penitence."
"And are you," said Redclyffe, impressed anew by the quiet dignity of
the venerable speaker, "in authority in the establishment?"
"A simple beneficiary of the charity," said the palmer; "one of the
twelve poor brethren and kinsmen of the founder. Slighter proofs of
kindred are now of necessity received, since, in the natural course of
things, the race has long been growing scarce. But I had it in my power
to make out a sufficient claim."
"Singular," exclaimed Redclyffe, "you being an American!" [Endnote: 8.]
"You remember me, then," said the old man, quietly.
"From the first," said Edward, "although your image took the fantastic
aspect of the bewilderment in which I then was; and now that I am in
clearer state of mind, it seems yet stranger that you should be here.
We two children thought you translated, and people, I remember,
whispered dark hints about your fate."
"There was nothing wonderful in my disappearance," said the old man.
"There were causes, an impulse, an intuition, that made me feel, one
particular night, that I might meet harm, whether from myself or
others, by remaining in a place with which I had the most casual
connection. But I never, so long as I remained in America, quite lost
sight of you; and Doctor Grimshawe, before his death, had knowledge of
where I was, and gave me in charge a duty which I faithfully endeavored
to perform. Singular man that he was! much evil, much good in him.
Both, it may be, will live after him!"
Redclyffe, when the conversation had reached this point, felt a vast
desire to reveal to the old man all that the grim Doctor had instilled
into his childish mind, all that he himself, in subsequent years, had
wrought more definitely out of it, all his accompanying doubts
respecting the secret of his birth and some supposed claims which he
might assert, and which, only half acknowledging the purpose, had
availed to bring him, a republican, hither as to an ancestral centre.
He even fancied that the benign old man seemed to expect and await such
a confidence; but that very idea contributed to make it impossible for
him to speak.
"Another time," he said to himself. "Perhaps never. It is a fantastic
folly; and with what the workhouse foundling has since achieved, he
would give up too many hopes to take the representation of a mouldy old
"I find my head still very weak," said he, by way of cutting short the
conversation. "I must try to sleep again."
The next day he called for his clothes, and, with the assistance of the
pensioner, managed to be dressed, and awaited the arrival of the
surgeon, sitting in a great easy-chair, with not much except his pale,
thin cheeks, dark, thoughtful eyes, and his arm in a sling, to show the
pain and danger through which he had passed. Soon after the departure
of the professional gentleman, a step somewhat louder than ordinary was
heard on the staircase, and in the corridor leading to the sick-
chamber; the step (as Redclyffe's perceptions, nicely attempered by his
weakness, assured him) of a man in perfect and robust health, and of
station and authority. A moment afterwards, a gentleman of middle age,
or a little beyond, appeared in the doorway, in a dress that seemed
clerical, yet not very decidedly so; he had a frank, kindly, yet
authoritative bearing, and a face that might almost be said to beam
with geniality, when, as now, the benevolence of his nature was aroused
and ready to express itself.
"My friend," said he, "Doctor Portingale tells me you are much better;
and I am most happy to hear it."
There was something brusque and unceremonious in his manner, that a
little jarred against Redclyffe's sensitiveness, which had become
morbid in sympathy with his weakness. He felt that the new-comer had
not probably the right idea as to his own position in life; he was
addressing him most kindly, indeed, but as an inferior.
"I am much better, sir," he replied, gravely, and with reserve; "so
nearly well, that I shall very soon be able to bid farewell to my kind
nurse here, and to this ancient establishment, to which I owe so much."
The visitor seemed struck by Mr. Redclyffe's tone, and finely modulated
voice, and glanced at his face, and then over his dress and figure, as
if to gather from them some reliable data as to his station.
"I am the Warden of this Hospital," said he, with not less benignity
than heretofore, and greater courtesy; "and, in that capacity, must
consider you under my care,--as my guest, in fact,--although, owing to
my casual absence, one of the brethren of the house has been the active
instrument in attending you. I am most happy to find you so far
recovered. Do you feel yourself in a condition to give any account of
the accident which has befallen you?"
"It will be a very unsatisfactory one, at best," said Redclyffe, trying
to discover some definite point in his misty reminiscences. "I am a
stranger to this country, and was on a pedestrian tour with the purpose
of making myself acquainted with the aspects of English scenery and
life. I had turned into a footpath, being told that it would lead me
within view of an old Hall, which, from certain early associations, I
was very desirous of seeing. I think I went astray; at all events, the
path became indistinct; and, so far as I can recollect, I had just
turned to retrace my steps,--in fact, that is the last thing in my
"You had almost fallen a sacrifice," said the Warden, "to the old
preference which our English gentry have inherited from their Norman
ancestry, of game to man. You had come unintentionally as an intruder
into a rich preserve much haunted by poachers, and exposed yourself to
the deadly mark of a spring-gun, which had not the wit to distinguish
between a harmless traveller and a poacher. At least, such is our
conclusion; for our old friend here, (who luckily for you is a great
rambler in the woods,) when the report drew him to the spot, found you
insensible, and the gun discharged."
"A gun has so little discretion," said Redclyffe, smiling, "that it
seems a pity to trust entirely to its judgment, in a matter of life and
death. But, to confess the truth, I had come this morning to the
suspicion that there was a direct human agency in the matter; for I
find missing a little pocket-book which I carried."
"Then," said the Warden, "that certainly gives a new aspect to the
affair. Was it of value?"
"Of none whatever," said Redclyffe, "merely containing pencil
memoranda, and notes of a traveller's little expenses. I had papers
about me of far more value, and a moderate sum of money, a letter of
credit, which have escaped. I do not, however, feel inclined, on such
grounds, to transfer the guilt decidedly from the spring-gun to any
more responsible criminal; for it is very possible that the pocket-
book, being carelessly carried, might have been lost on the way. I had
not used it since the preceding day."
"Much more probable, indeed," said the Warden. "The discharged gun is
strong evidence against itself. Mr. Colcord," continued he, raising his
voice, "how long was the interval between the discharge of the gun and
your arrival on the spot."
"Five minutes, or less," said the old man, "for I was not far off, and
made what haste I could, it being borne in on my spirit that mischief
"Did you hear two reports?" asked the Warden.
"Only one," replied Colcord.
"It is a plain case against the spring-gun," said the Warden; "and, as
you tell me you are a stranger, I trust you will not suppose that our
peaceful English woods and parks are the haunt of banditti. We must try
to give you a better idea of us. May I ask, are you an American, and
recently come among us?"
"I believe a letter of credit is considered as decisive as most modes
of introduction," said Redclyffe, feeling that the good Warden was
desirous of knowing with some precision who and what he was, and that,
in the circumstances, he had a right to such knowledge. "Here is mine,
on a respectable house in London."
The Warden took it, and glanced it over with a slight apologetic bow;
it was a credit for a handsome amount in favor of the Honorable Edward
Redclyffe, a title that did not fail to impress the Englishman rather
favorably towards his new acquaintance, although he happened to know
something of their abundance, even so early in the republic, among the
men branded sons of equality. But, at all events, it showed no ordinary
ability and energy for so young a man to have held such position as
this title denoted in the fiercely contested political struggles of the
"Do you know, Mr. Redclyffe, that this name is familiar to us,
hereabouts?" asked he, with a kindly bow and recognition,--"that it is
in fact the principal name in this neighborhood,--that a family of your
name still possesses Braithwaite Hall, and that this very Hospital,
where you have happily found shelter, was founded by former
representatives of your name? Perhaps you count yourself among their
"My countrymen are apt to advance claims to kinship with distinguished
English families on such slight grounds as to make it ridiculous," said
Redclyffe, coloring. "I should not choose to follow so absurd an
"Well, well, perhaps not," said the Warden, laughing frankly. "I have
been amongst your republicans myself, a long while ago, and saw that
your countrymen have no adequate idea of the sacredness of pedigrees,
and heraldic distinctions, and would change their own names at
pleasure, and vaunt kindred with an English duke on the strength of the
assumed one. But I am happy to meet an American gentleman who looks
upon this matter as Englishmen necessarily must. I met with great
kindness in your country, Mr. Redclyffe, and shall be truly happy if
you will allow me an opportunity of returning some small part of the
obligation. You are now in a condition for removal to my own quarters,
across the quadrangle. I will give orders to prepare an apartment, and
you must transfer yourself there by dinner-time."
With this hospitable proposal, so decisively expressed, the Warden took
his leave; and Edward Redclyffe had hardly yet recovered sufficient
independent force to reject an invitation so put, even were he
inclined; but, in truth, the proposal suited well with his wishes, such
as they were, and was, moreover, backed, it is singular to say, by
another of those dreamlike recognitions which had so perplexed him ever
since he found himself in the Hospital. In some previous state of
being, the Warden and he had talked together before.
"What is the Warden's name?" he inquired of the old pensioner.
"Hammond," said the old man; "he is a kinsman of the Redclyffe family
himself, a man of fortune, and spends more than the income of his
wardenship in beautifying and keeping up the glory of the
establishment. He takes great pride in it."
"And he has been in America," said Redclyffe. "How strange! I knew him
there. Never was anything so singular as the discovery of old
acquaintances where I had reason to suppose myself unknowing and
unknown. Unless dear Doctor Grim, or dear little Elsie, were to start
up and greet me, I know not what may chance next."
Redclyffe took up his quarters in the Warden's house the next day, and
was installed in an apartment that made a picture, such as he had not
before seen, of English household comfort. He was thus established
under the good Warden's roof, and, being very attractive of most
people's sympathies, soon began to grow greatly in favor with that
When Edward Redclyffe removed from the old pensioner's narrow quarters
to the far ampler accommodations of the Warden's house, the latter
gentleman was taking his morning exercise on horseback. A servant,
however, in a grave livery, ushered him to an apartment, where the new
guest was surprised to see some luggage which two or three days before
Edward had ordered from London, on finding that his stay in this part
of the country was likely to be much longer than he had originally
contemplated. The sight of these things--the sense which they conveyed
that he was an expected and welcome guest--tended to raise the spirits
of the solitary wanderer, and made him.... [Endnote: 1.]
The Warden's abode was an original part of the ancient establishment,
being an entire side of the quadrangle which the whole edifice
surrounded; and for the establishment of a bachelor (which was his new
friend's condition), it seemed to Edward Redclyffe abundantly spacious
and enviably comfortable. His own chamber had a grave, rich depth, as
it were, of serene and time-long garniture, for purposes of repose,
convenience, daily and nightly comfort, that it was soothing even to
look at. Long accustomed, as Redclyffe had been, to the hardy and rude
accommodations, if so they were to be called, of log huts and hasty,
mud-built houses in the Western States of America, life, its daily
habits, its passing accommodations, seemed to assume an importance,
under these aspects, which it had not worn before; those deep downy
beds, those antique chairs, the heavy carpet, the tester and curtains,
the stateliness of the old room,--they had a charm as compared with the
thin preparation of a forester's bedchamber, such as Redclyffe had
chiefly known them, in the ruder parts of the country, that really
seemed to give a more substantial value to life; so much pains had been
taken with its modes and appliances, that it looked more solid than
before. Nevertheless, there was something ghostly in that stately
curtained bed, with the deep gloom within its drapery, so ancient as it
was; and suggestive of slumberers there who had long since slumbered
The old servant, whose grave, circumspect courtesy was a matter quite
beyond Redclyffe's experience, soon knocked at the chamber door, and
suggested that the guest might desire to await the Warden's arrival in
the library, which was the customary sitting-room. Redclyffe assenting,
he was ushered into a spacious apartment, lighted by various Gothic
windows, surrounded with old oaken cases, in which were ranged volumes,
most or many of which seemed to be coeval with the foundation of the
hospital; and opening one of them, Redclyffe saw for the first time in
his life [Endnote: 2] a genuine book-worm, that ancient form of
creature living upon literature; it had gnawed a circular hole,
penetrating through perhaps a score of pages of the seldom opened
volume, and was still at his musty feast. There was a fragrance of old
learning in this ancient library; a soothing influence, as the American
felt, of time-honored ideas, where the strife, novelties, uneasy
agitating conflict, attrition of unsettled theories, fresh-springing
thought, did not attain a foothold; a good place to spend a life which
should not be agitated with the disturbing element; so quiet, so
peaceful; how slowly, with how little wear, would the years pass here!
How unlike what he had hitherto known, and was destined to know,--the
quick, violent struggle of his mother country, which had traced lines
in his young brow already. How much would be saved by taking his former
existence, not as dealing with things yet malleable, but with fossils,
things that had had their life, and now were unchangeable, and revered,
At one end of this large room there was a bowed window, the space near
which was curtained off from the rest of the library, and, the window
being filled with painted glass (most of which seemed old, though there
were insertions evidently of modern and much inferior handiwork), there
was a rich gloom of light, or you might call it a rich glow, according
to your mood of mind. Redclyffe soon perceived that this curtained
recess was the especial study of his friend, the Warden, and as such
was provided with all that modern times had contrived for making an
enjoyment out of the perusal of old books; a study table, with every
convenience of multifarious devices, a great inkstand, pens; a
luxurious study chair, where thought [Endnote: 3] upon. To say the
truth, there was not, in this retired and thoughtful nook, anything
that indicated to Redclyffe that the Warden had been recently engaged
in consultation of learned authorities,--or in abstract labor, whether
moral, metaphysical or historic; there was a volume of translations of
Mother Goose's Melodies into Greek and Latin, printed for private
circulation, and with the Warden's name on the title-page; a London
newspaper of the preceding day; Lillebullero, Chevy Chase, and the old
political ballads; and, what a little amused Redclyffe, the three
volumes of a novel from a circulating library; so that Redclyffe came
to the conclusion that the good Warden, like many educated men, whose
early scholastic propensities are backed up by the best of
opportunities, and all desirable facilities and surroundings, still
contented himself with gathering a flower or two, instead of attempting
the hard toil requisite to raise a crop.
It must not be omitted, that there was a fragrance in the room, which,
unlike as the scene was, brought back, through so many years, to
Redclyffe's mind a most vivid remembrance of poor old Doctor Grim's
squalid chamber, with his wild, bearded presence in the midst of it,
puffing his everlasting cloud; for here was the same smell of tobacco,
and on the mantel-piece of a chimney lay a German pipe, and an old
silver tobacco-box into which was wrought the leopard's head and the
inscription in black letter. The Warden had evidently availed himself
of one of the chief bachelor sources of comfort. Redclyffe, whose
destiny had hitherto, and up to a very recent period, been to pass a
feverishly active life, was greatly impressed by all these tokens of
learned ease,--a degree of self-indulgence combined with duties enough
to quiet an otherwise uneasy conscience,--by the consideration that
this pensioner acted a good part in a world where no one is entitled to
be an unprofitable laborer. He thought within himself, that his
prospects in his own galvanized country, that seemed to him, a few
years since, to offer such a career for an adventurous young man,
conscious of motive power, had nothing so enticing as such a nook as
this,--a quiet recess of unchangeable old time, around which the
turbulent tide now eddied and rushed, but could not disturb it. Here,
to be sure, hope, love, ambition, came not, progress came not; but here
was what, just now, the early wearied American could appreciate better
than aught else,--here was rest.
The fantasy took Edward to imitate the useful labors of the learned
Warden, and to make trial whether his own classical condition--the
results of Doctor Grim's tuition, and subsequently that of an American
College--had utterly deserted him, by attempting a translation of a few
verses of Yankee Doodle; and he was making hopeful progress when the
Warden came in fresh and rosy from a morning's ride in a keen east
wind. He shook hands heartily with his guest, and, though by no means
frigid at their former interview, seemed to have developed at once into
a kindlier man, now that he had suffered the stranger to cross his
threshold, and had thus made himself responsible for his comfort.
"I shall take it greatly amiss," said he, "if you do not pick up fast
under my roof, and gather a little English ruddiness, moreover, in the
walks and rides that I mean to take you. Your countrymen, as I saw
them, are a sallow set; but I think you must have English blood enough
in your veins to eke out a ruddy tint, with the help of good English
beef and ale, and daily draughts of wholesome light and air."
"My cheeks would not have been so very pale," said Edward, laughing,
"if an English shot had not deprived me of a good deal of my American
"Only follow my guidance," said the Warden, "and I assure you you shall
have back whatever blood we have deprived you of, together with an
addition. It is now luncheon-time, and we will begin the process of
replenishing your veins."
So they went into a refectory, where were spread upon the board what
might have seemed a goodly dinner to most Americans; though for this
Englishman it was but a by-incident, a slight refreshment, to enable
him to pass the midway stage of life. It is an excellent thing to see
the faith of a hearty Englishman in his own stomach, and how well that
kindly organ repays his trust; with what devout assimilation he takes
to himself his kindred beef, loving it, believing in it, making a good
use of it, and without any qualms of conscience or prescience as to the
result. They surely eat twice as much as we; and probably because of
their undoubted faith it never does them any harm. Dyspepsia is merely
a superstition with us. If we could cease to believe in its existence,
it would exist no more. Redclyffe, eating little himself, his wound
compelling him to be cautious as to his diet, was secretly delighted to
see what sweets the Warden found in a cold round of beef, in a pigeon
pie, and a cut or two of Yorkshire ham; not that he was ravenous, but
that his stomach was so healthy.
"You eat little, my friend," said the Warden, pouring out a glass of
sherry for Redclyffe, and another for himself. "But you are right, in
such a predicament as yours. Spare your stomach while you are weakly,
and it will help you when you are strong This, now, is the most
enjoyable meal of the day with me. You will not see me play such a
knife and fork at dinner; though there too, especially if I have ridden
out in the afternoon, I do pretty well. But, come now, if (like most of
your countrymen, as I have heard) you are a lover of the weed, I can
offer you some as delicate Latakia as you are likely to find in
"I lack that claim upon your kindness, I am sorry to say," replied
Redclyffe. "I am not a good smoker, though I have occasionally taken a
cigar at need."
"Well, when you find yourself growing old, and especially if you chance
to be a bachelor, I advise you to cultivate the habit," said the
Warden. "A wife is the only real obstacle or objection to a pipe; they
can seldom be thoroughly reconciled, and therefore it is well for a man
to consider, beforehand, which of the two he can best dispense with. I
know not how it might have been once, had the conflicting claim of
these two rivals ever been fairly presented to me; but I now should be
at no loss to choose the pipe."
They returned to the study; and while the Warden took his pipe,
Redclyffe, considering that, as the guest of this hospitable
Englishman, he had no right to continue a stranger, thought it fit to
make known to him who he was, and his condition, plans, and purposes.
He represented himself as having been liberally educated, bred to the
law, but (to his misfortune) having turned aside from that profession
to engage in politics. In this pursuit, indeed, his success wore a
flattering outside; for he had become distinguished, and, though so
young, a leader, locally at least, in the party which he had adopted.
He had been, for a biennial term, a member of Congress, after winning
some distinction in the legislature of his native State; but some one
of those fitful changes to which American politics are peculiarly
liable had thrown him out, in his candidacy for his second term; and
the virulence of party animosity, the abusiveness of the press, had
acted so much upon a disposition naturally somewhat too sensitive for
the career which he had undertaken, that he had resolved, being now
freed from legislative cares, to seize the opportunity for a visit to
England, whither he was drawn by feelings which every educated and
impressible American feels, in a degree scarcely conceivable by the
English themselves. And being here (but he had already too much
experience of English self-sufficiency to confess so much) he began to
feel the deep yearning which a sensitive American--his mind full of
English thoughts, his imagination of English poetry, his heart of
English character and sentiment--cannot fail to be influenced by,--the
yearning of the blood within his veins for that from which it has been
estranged; the half-fanciful regret that he should ever have been
separated from these woods, these fields, these natural features of
scenery, to which his nature was moulded, from the men who are still so
like himself, from these habits of life and thought which (though he
may not have known them for two centuries) he still perceives to have
remained in some mysterious way latent in the depths of his character,
and soon to be reassumed, not as a foreigner would do it, but like
habits native to him, and only suspended for a season.
This had been Redclyffe's state of feeling ever since he landed in
England, and every day seemed to make him more at home; so that it
seemed as if he were gradually awakening to a former reality.
After lunch, the Warden showed a good degree of kind anxiety about his
guest, and ensconced him in a most comfortable chair in his study,
where he gave him his choice of books old and new, and was somewhat
surprised, as well as amused, to see that Redclyffe seemed most
attracted towards a department of the library filled with books of
English antiquities, and genealogies, and heraldry; the two latter,
indeed, having the preference over the others.
"This is very remarkable," said he, smiling. "By what right or reason,
by what logic of character, can you, a democrat, renouncing all
advantages of birth,--neither priding yourself on family, nor seeking
to found one,--how therefore can you care for genealogies, or for this
fantastic science of heraldry? Having no antiquities, being a people
just made, how can you care for them?"
"My dear sir," said Redclyffe, "I doubt whether the most devoted
antiquarian in England ever cares to search for an old thing merely
because it is old, as any American just landed on your shores would do.
Age is our novelty; therefore it attracts and absorbs us. And as for
genealogies, I know not what necessary repulsion there may be between
it and democracy. A line of respectable connections, being the harder
to preserve where there is nothing in the laws to defend it, is
therefore the more precious when we have it really to boast of."
"True," said the Warden, "when a race keeps itself distinguished among
the grimy order of your commonalty, all with equal legal rights to
place and eminence as itself, it must needs be because there is a force
and efficacy in the blood. I doubt not," he said, looking with the free
approval of an elder man at the young man's finely developed face and
graceful form,--"I doubt not that you can look back upon a line of
ancestry, always shining out from the surrounding obscurity of the
Redclyffe, though ashamed of himself, could not but feel a paltry
confusion and embarrassment, as he thought of his unknown origin, and
his advent from the almshouse; coming out of that squalid darkness as
if he were a thing that had had a spontaneous birth out of poverty,
meanness, petty crime; and here in ancestral England, he felt more
keenly than ever before what was his misfortune.
"I must not let you lie under this impression," said he manfully to the
Warden. "I have no ancestry; at the very first step my origin is lost
in impenetrable obscurity. I only know that but for the aid of a kind
friend--on whose benevolence I seem to have had no claim whatever--my
life would probably have been poor, mean, unenlightened."
"Well, well," said the kind Warden,--hardly quite feeling, however, the
noble sentiment which he expressed,--"it is better to be the first
noble illustrator of a name than even the worthy heir of a name that
has been noble and famous for a thousand years. The highest pride of
some of our peers, who have won their rank by their own force, has been
to point to the cottage whence they sprung. Your posterity, at all
events, will have the advantage of you,--they will know their
Redclyffe sighed, for there was truly a great deal of the foolish
yearning for a connection with the past about him; his imagination had
taken this turn, and the very circumstances of his obscure birth gave
it a field to exercise itself.
"I advise you," said the Warden, by way of changing the conversation,
"to look over the excellent history of the county which you are now in.
There is no reading better, to my mind, than these country histories;
though doubtless a stranger would hardly feel so much interest in them
as one whose progenitors, male or female, have strewn their dust over
the whole field of which the history treats. This history is a fine
specimen of the kind."
The work to which Redclyffe's attention was thus drawn was in two large
folio volumes, published about thirty years before, bound in calf by
some famous artist in that line, illustrated with portraits and views
of ruined castles, churches, cathedrals, the seats of nobility and
gentry; Roman, British, and Saxon remains, painted windows, oak
carvings, and so forth.
And as for its contents the author ascended for the history of the
county as far as into the pre-Roman ages, before Caesar had ever heard
of Britain; and brought it down, an ever swelling and increasing tale,
to his own days; inclusive of the separate histories, and pedigrees,
and hereditary legends, and incidents, of all the principal families.
In this latter branch of information, indeed, the work seemed
particularly full, and contained every incident that would have worked
well into historical romance.
"Aye, aye," said the Warden, laughing at some strange incident of this
sort which Redclyffe read out to him. "My old friend Gibber, the
learned author of this work, (he has been dead this score of years, so
he will not mind my saying it,) had a little too much the habit of
seeking his authorities in the cottage chimney-corners. I mean that an
old woman's tale was just about as acceptable to him as a recorded
fact; and to say the truth, they are really apt to have ten times the
life in them."
Redclyffe saw in the volume a full account of the founding of the
Hospital, its regulations and purposes, its edifices; all of which he
reserved for future reading, being for the present more attracted by
the mouldy gossip of family anecdotes which we have alluded to. Some of
these, and not the least singular, referred to the ancient family which
had founded the Hospital; and he was attracted by seeing a mention of a
Bloody Footstep, which reminded him of the strange old story which good
Doctor Grimshawe had related by his New England fireside, in those
childish days when Edward dwelt with him by the graveyard, On reading
it, however, he found that the English legend, if such it could be
called, was far less full and explicit than that of New England.
Indeed, it assigned various origins to the Bloody Footstep;--one being,
that it was the stamp of the foot of the Saxon thane, who fought at his
own threshold against the assault of the Norman baron, who seized his
mansion at the Conquest; another, that it was the imprint of a fugitive
who had sought shelter from the lady of the house during the Wars of
the Roses, and was dragged out by her husband, and slain on the door-
step; still another, that it was the footstep of a Protestant in Bloody
Mary's days, who, being sent to prison by the squire of that epoch, had
lifted his hands to Heaven, and stamped his foot, in appeal as against
the unjust violence with which he was treated, and stamping his foot,
it had left the bloody mark. It was hinted too, however, that another
version, which out of delicacy to the family the author was reluctant
to state, assigned the origin of the Bloody Footstep to so late a
period as the wars of the Parliament. And, finally, there was an odious
rumor that what was called the Bloody Footstep was nothing miraculous,
after all, but most probably a natural reddish stain in the stone door-
step; but against this heresy the excellent Dr. Gibber set his face
The original legend had made such an impression on Redclyffe's childish
fancy, that he became strangely interested in thus discovering it, or
something remotely like it, in England, and being brought by such
unsought means to reside so near it. Curious about the family to which
it had occurred, he proceeded to examine its records, as given in the
County History. The name was Redclyffe. Like most English pedigrees,
there was an obscurity about a good many of the earlier links; but the
line was traced out with reasonable definiteness from the days of Coeur
de Lion, and there was said to be a cross-legged ancestor in the
village church, who (but the inscription was obliterated) was probably
a Redclyffe, and had fought either under the Lion Heart or in the
Crusades. It was, in subsequent ages, one of the most distinguished
families, though there had been turbulent men in all those turbulent
times, hard fighters. In one age, a barony of early creation seemed to
have come into the family, and had been, as it were, playing bo-peep
with the race for several centuries. Some of them had actually assumed
the title; others had given it up for lack of sufficient proof; but
still there was such a claim, and up to the time at which this County
History was written, it had neither been made out, nor had the hope of
doing so been relinquished.
"Have the family," asked Redclyffe of his host, "ever yet made out
their claim to this title, which has so long been playing the will-of-
the-wisp with them?"
"No, not yet," said the Warden, puffing out a volume of smoke from his
meerschaum, and making it curl up to the ceiling. "Their claim has as
little substance, in my belief, as yonder vanishing vapor from my pipe.
But they still keep up their delusion. I had supposed that the claim
would perish with the last squire, who was a childless man,--at least,
without legitimate heirs; but this estate passed to one whom we can
scarcely call an Englishman, he being a Catholic, the descendant of
forefathers who have lived in Italy since the time of George II., and
who is, moreover, a Catholic. We English would not willingly see an
ancestral honor in the possession of such a man!"
"Is there, do you think, a prospect of his success?"
"I have heard so, but hardly believe it," replied the Warden. "I
remember, some dozen or fifteen years ago, it was given out that some
clue had been found to the only piece of evidence that was wanting. It
had been said that there was an emigration to your own country, above a
hundred years ago, and on account of some family feud; the true heir
had gone thither and never returned. Now, the point was to prove the
extinction of this branch of the family. But, excuse me, I must pay an
official visit to my charge here. Will you accompany me, or continue to
pore over the County History?"
Redclyffe felt enough of the elasticity of convalescence to be desirous
of accompanying the Warden; and they accordingly crossed the enclosed
quadrangle to the entrance of the Hospital portion of the large and
intricate structure. It was a building of the early Elizabethan age, a
plaster and timber structure, like many houses of that period and much
earlier. [Endnote: 1] Around this court stood the building, with the
date 1437 cut on the front. On each side, a row of gables looked upon
the enclosed space, most venerable old gables, with heavy mullioned
windows filled with little diamond panes of glass, and opening on
lattices. On two sides there was a cloistered walk, under echoing
arches, and in the midst a spacious lawn of the greenest and loveliest
grass, such as England only can show, and which, there, is of perennial
verdure and beauty. In the midst stood a stone statue of a venerable
man, wrought in the best of mediŠval sculpture, with robe and ruff, and
tunic and venerable beard, resting on a staff, and holding what looked
like a clasped book in his hand. The English atmosphere, together with
the coal smoke, settling down in the space of centuries from the
chimneys of the Hospital, had roughened and blackened this venerable
piece of sculpture, enclosing it as it were in a superficies of decay;
but still (and perhaps the more from these tokens of having stood so
long among men) the statue had an aspect of venerable life, and of
connection with human life, that made it strongly impressive.
"This is the effigy of Sir Edward Redclyffe, the founder of the
Hospital," said the Warden. "He is a most peaceful and venerable old
gentleman in his attire and aspect, as you see; but he was a fierce old
fellow in his day, and is said to have founded the Hospital as a means
of appeasing Heaven for some particular deed of blood, which he had
imposed upon his conscience in the War of the Roses."
"Yes," said Redclyffe, "I have just read in the County History that the
Bloody Footstep was said to have been imprinted in his time. But what
is that thing which he holds in his hand?"
"It is a famous heirloom of the Redclyffes," said the Warden, "on the
possession of which (as long as they did possess it) they prided
themselves, it is said, more than on their ancient manor-house. It was
a Saxon ornament, which a certain ancestor was said to have had from
Harold, the old Saxon king; but if there ever was any such article, it
has been missing from the family mansion for two or three hundred
years. There is not known to be an antique relic of that description
now in existence."
"I remember having seen such an article,--yes, precisely of that
shape," observed Redclyffe, "in the possession of a very dear old
friend of mine, when I was a boy."
"What, in America?" exclaimed the Warden. "That is very remarkable. The
time of its being missed coincides well enough with that of the early
settlement of New England. Some Puritan, before his departure, may have
thought himself doing God service by filching the old golden gewgaw
from the Cavalier; for it was said to be fine, ductile gold."
The circumstances struck Redclyffe with a pleasant wonder; for, indeed,
the old statue held the closest possible imitation, in marble, of that
strange old glitter of gold which he himself had so often played with
in the Doctor's study; [Endnote: 2] so identical, that he could have
fancied that he saw the very thing, changed from metal into stone, even
with its bruises and other casual marks in it. As he looked at the old
statue, his imagination played with it, and his naturally great
impressibility half made him imagine that the old face looked at him
with a keen, subtile, wary glance, as if acknowledging that it held
some secret, but at the same time defying him to find it out. And then
again came that visionary feeling that had so often swept over him
since he had been an inmate of the Hospital.
All over the interior part of the building was carved in stone the
leopard's head, with wearisome iteration; as if the founder were
anxious to imprint his device so numerously, lest--when he produced
this edifice as his remuneration to Eternal Justice for many sins--the
Omniscient Eye should fail to be reminded that Sir Edward Redclyffe had
done it. But, at all events, it seemed to Redclyffe that the ancient
knight had purposed a good thing, and in a measurable degree had
effected it; for here stood the venerable edifice securely founded,
bearing the moss of four hundred years upon it; and though wars, and
change of dynasties, and religious change, had swept around it, with
seemingly destructive potency, yet here had the lodging, the food, the
monastic privileges of the brethren been held secure, and were
unchanged by all the altering mariners of the age. The old fellow,
somehow or other, seemed to have struck upon an everlasting rock, and
founded his pompous charity there.
They entered an arched door on the left of the quadrangle, and found
themselves hi a dark old hall with oaken beams; to say the truth, it
was a barn-like sort of enclosure, and was now used as a sort of
rubbish-place for the Hospital, where they stored away old furniture,
and where carpenter's work might be done. And yet, as the Warden
assured Redclyffe, it was once a hall of state, hung with tapestry,
carpeted, for aught he knew, with cloth of gold, and set with rich
furniture, and a groaning board in the midst. Here, the hereditary
patron of the Hospital had once entertained King James the First, who
made a Latin speech on the occasion, a copy of which was still
preserved in the archives. On the rafters of this old hall there were
cobwebs in such abundance that Redclyffe could not but reflect on the
joy which old Doctor Grimshawe would have had in seeing them, and the
health to the human race which he would have hoped to collect and
distil from them.
From this great, antique room they crossed the quadrangle and entered
the kitchen of the establishment. A hospitable fire was burning there,
and there seemed to be a great variety of messes cooking; and the
Warden explained to Redclyffe that there was no general table in the
Hospital; but the brethren, at their own will and pleasure, either
formed themselves into companies or messes, of any convenient size, or
enjoyed a solitary meal by themselves, each in their own apartments.
There was a goodly choice of simple, but good and enjoyable food, and a
sufficient supply of potent ale, brewed in the vats of the Hospital,
which, among its other praiseworthy characteristics, was famous for
this; having at some epoch presumed to vie with the famous ale of
Trinity, in Cambridge, and the Archdeacon of Oxford,--these having come
down to the hospital from a private receipt of Sir Edward's butler,
which was now lost in the Redclyffe family; nor would the ungrateful
Hospital give up its secret even out of loyalty to its founder.
"I would use my influence with the brewer," said the Warden, on
communicating this little fact to Redclyffe; "but the present man--now
owner of the estate--is not worthy to have good ale brewed in his
house; having himself no taste for anything but Italian wines, wretched
fellow that he is! He might make himself an Englishman if he would take
heartily to our ale; and with that end in view, I should be glad to
give it him."
The kitchen fire blazed warmly, as we have said, and roast and stewed
and boiled were in process of cooking, producing a pleasant fume, while
great heaps of wheaten loaves were smoking hot from the ovens, and the
master cook and his subordinates were in fume and hiss, like beings
that were of a fiery element, and, though irritable and scorching, yet
were happier here than they could have been in any other situation. The
Warden seemed to have an especial interest and delight in this
department of the Hospital, and spoke apart to the head cook on the
subject (as Redclyffe surmised from what he overheard) of some especial
delicacy for his own table that day.
"This kitchen is a genial place," said he to Redclyffe, as they
retired. "In the evening, after the cooks have done their work, the
brethren have liberty to use it as a sort of common room, and to sit
here over their ale till a reasonable bedtime. It would interest you
much to make one at such a party; for they have had a varied experience
in life, each one for himself, and it would be strange to hear the
varied roads by which they have come hither."
"Yes," replied Redclyffe, "and, I presume, not one of them ever dreamed
of coming hither when he started in life. The only one with whom I am
acquainted could hardly have expected it, at all events."
"He is a remarkable man, more so than you may have had an opportunity
of knowing," said the Warden. "I know not his history, for he is not
communicative on that subject, and it was only necessary for him to
make out his proofs of claim to the charity to the satisfaction of the
Curators. But it has often struck me that there must have been strange
and striking events in his life,--though how it could have been without
his attracting attention and being known, I cannot say. I have myself
often received good counsel from him in the conduct of the Hospital,
and the present owner of the Hall seems to have taken him for his
counsellor and confidant, being himself strange to English affairs and
"I should like to call on him, as a matter of course rather than
courtesy," observed Redclyffe, "and thank him for his great kindness."
They accordingly ascended the dark oaken staircase with its black
balustrade, and approached the old man's chamber, the door of which
they found open, and in the blurred looking-glass which hung deep
within the room Redclyffe was surprised to perceive the young face of a
woman, who seemed to be arranging her head-gear, as women are always
doing. It was but a moment, and then it vanished like a vision.
"I was not aware," he said, turning to the Warden, "that there was a
feminine side to this establishment."
"Nor is there," said the old bachelor, "else it would not have held
together so many ages as it has. The establishment has its own wise,
monkish regulations; but we cannot prevent the fact, that some of the
brethren may have had foolish relations with the other sex at some
previous period of their lives. This seems to be the case with our wise
old friend of whom we have been speaking,--whereby he doubtless became
both wiser and sadder. If you have seen a female face here, it is that
of a relative who resides out of the hospital,--an excellent young
lady, I believe, who has charge of a school."
While he was speaking, the young lady in question passed out, greeting
the Warden in a cheerful, respectful way, in which deference to him was
well combined with a sense of what was due to herself.
"That," observed the Warden, who had returned her courtesy, with a
kindly air betwixt that of gentlemanly courtesy and a superior's
acknowledgment,--"that is the relative of our old friend; a young
person--a gentlewoman, I may almost call her--who teaches a little
school in the village here, and keeps her guardian's heart warm, no
doubt, with her presence. An excellent young woman, I do believe, and
very useful and faithful in her station."
On entering the old palmer's apartment, they found him looking over
some ancient papers, yellow and crabbedly written, and on one of them a
large old seal, all of which he did up in a bundle and enclosed in a
parchment cover, so that, before they were well in the room, the
documents were removed from view.
"Those papers and parchments have a fine old yellow tint, Colcord,"
said the Warden, "very satisfactory to an antiquary."
"There is nothing in them," said the old man, "of general interest.
Some old papers they are, which came into my possession by inheritance,
and some of them relating to the affairs of a friend of my youth;--a
long past time, and a long past friend," added he, sighing.
"Here is a new friend, at all events," said the kindly Warden, wishing
to cheer the old man, "who feels himself greatly indebted to you for
your care." [Endnote: 1.]
There now ensued a conversation between the three, in the course of
which reference was made to America, and the Warden's visit there.
"You are so mobile," he said, "you change so speedily, that I suppose
there are few external things now that I should recognize. The face of
your country changes like one of your own sheets of water, under the
influence of sun, cloud, and wind; but I suppose there is a depth below
that is seldom effectually stirred. It is a great fault of the country
that its sons find it impossible to feel any patriotism for it."
"I do not by any means acknowledge that impossibility," responded
Redclyffe, with a smile. "I certainly feel that sentiment very strongly
in my own breast, more especially since I have left America three
thousand miles behind me."
"Yes, it is only the feeling of self-assertion that rises against the
self-complacency of the English," said the Warden. "Nothing else; for
what else have you become the subject of this noble weakness of
patriotism? You cannot love anything beyond the soil of your own
estate; or in your case, if your heart is very large, you may possibly
take in, in a quiet sort of way, the whole of New England. What more is
possible? How can you feel a heart's love for a mere political
arrangement, like your Union? How can you be loyal, where personal
attachment--the lofty and noble and unselfish attachment of a subject
to his prince--is out of the question? where your sovereign is felt to
be a mere man like yourselves, whose petty struggles, whose ambition--
mean before it grew to be audacious--you have watched, and know him to
be just the same now as yesterday, and that to-morrow he will be
walking unhonored amongst you again? Your system is too bare and meagre
for human nature to love, or to endure it long. These stately degrees
of society, that have so strong a hold upon us in England, are not to
be done away with so lightly as you think. Your experiment is not yet a
success by any means; and you will live to see it result otherwise than
"It is natural for you Englishmen to feel thus," said Redclyffe;
"although, ever since I set my foot on your shores,--forgive me, but
you set me the example of free speech,--I have had a feeling of coming
change among all that you look upon as so permanent, so everlasting;
and though your thoughts dwell fondly on things as they are and have
been, there is a deep destruction somewhere in this country, that is
inevitably impelling it in the path of my own. But I care not for this.
I do aver that I love my country, that I am proud of its institutions,
that I have a feeling unknown, probably, to any but a republican, but
which is the proudest thing in me, that there is no man above me,--for
my ruler is only myself, in the person of another, whose office I
impose upon him,--nor any below me. If you would understand me, I would
tell you of the shame I felt when first, on setting foot in this
country, I heard a man speaking of his birth as giving him privileges;
saw him looking down on laboring men, as of an inferior race. And what
I can never understand, is the pride which you positively seem to feel
in having men and classes of men above you, born to privileges which
yon can never hope to share. It may be a thing to be endured, but
surely not one to be absolutely proud of. And yet an Englishman is so."
"Ah! I see we lack a ground to meet upon," said the Warden. "We can
never truly understand each other. What you have last mentioned is one
of our inner mysteries. It is not a thing to be reasoned about, but to
be felt,--to be born within one; and I uphold it to be a generous
sentiment, and good for the human heart."
"Forgive me, sir," said Redclyffe, "but I would rather be the poorest
and lowest man in America than have that sentiment."
"But it might change your feeling, perhaps," suggested the Warden, "if
you were one of the privileged class."
"I dare not say that it would not," said Redclyffe, "for I know I have
a thousand weaknesses, and have doubtless as many more that I never
suspected myself of. But it seems to me at this moment impossible that
I should ever have such an ambition, because I have a sense of meanness
in not starting fair, in beginning the world with advantages that my
fellows have not."
"Really this is not wise," said the Warden, bluntly, "How can the start
in life be fair for all? Providence arranges it otherwise. Did you
yourself,--a gentleman evidently by birth and education,--did you start
fair in the race of life?"
Redclyffe remembered what his birth, or rather what his first
recollected place had been, and reddened.
"In birth, certainly, I had no advantages," said he, and would have
explained further but was kept back by invincible reluctance; feeling
that the bare fact of his origin in an almshouse would be accepted,
while all the inward assurances and imaginations that had reconciled
himself to the ugly fact would go for nothing. "But there were
advantages, very early in life," added he, smiling, "which perhaps I
ought to have been ashamed to avail myself of."
"An old cobwebby library,--an old dwelling by a graveyard,--an old
Doctor, busied with his own fantasies, and entangled in his own
cobwebs,--and a little girl for a playmate: these were things that you
might lawfully avail yourself of," said Colcord, unheard by the Warden,
who, thinking the conversation had lasted long enough, had paid a
slight passing courtesy to the old man, and was now leaving the room.
"Do you remain here long?" he added.
"If the Warden's hospitality holds out," said the American, "I shall be
glad; for the place interests me greatly."
"No wonder," replied Colcord.
"And wherefore no wonder?" said Redclyffe, impressed with the idea that
there was something peculiar in the tone of the old man's remark.
"Because," returned the other quietly, "it must be to you especially
interesting to see an institution of this kind, whereby one man's
benevolence or penitence is made to take the substance and durability
of stone, and last for centuries; whereas, in America, the solemn
decrees and resolutions of millions melt away like vapor, and
everything shifts like the pomp of sunset clouds; though it may be as
pompous as they. Heaven intended the past as a foundation for the
present, to keep it from vibrating and being blown away with every
"But," said Redclyffe, "I would not see in my country what I see
elsewhere,--the Past hanging like a mill-stone round a country's neck,
or encrusted in stony layers over the living form; so that, to all
intents and purposes, it is dead."
"Well," said Colcord, "we are only talking of the Hospital. You will
find no more interesting place anywhere. Stay amongst us; this is the
very heart of England, and if you wish to know the fatherland,--the
place whence you sprung,--this is the very spot!"
Again Redclyffe was struck with the impression that there was something
marked, something individually addressed to himself, in the old man's
words; at any rate, it appealed to that primal imaginative vein in him
which had so often, in his own country, allowed itself to dream over
the possibilities of his birth. He knew that the feeling was a vague
and idle one; but yet, just at this time, a convalescent, with a little
play moment in what had heretofore been a turbulent life, he felt an
inclination to follow out this dream, and let it sport with him, and by
and by to awake to realities, refreshed by a season of unreality. At a
firmer and stronger period of his life, though Redclyffe might have
indulged his imagination with these dreams, yet he would not have let
them interfere with his course of action; but having come hither in
utter weariness of active life, it seemed just the thing for him to
do,--just the fool's paradise for him to be in.
"Yes," repeated the old man, looking keenly in his face, "you will not
leave us yet."
Redclyffe returned through the quadrangle to the Warden's house; and
there were the brethren, sitting on benches, loitering in the sun,
which, though warm for England, seemed scarcely enough to keep these
old people warm, even with their cloth robes. They did not seem
unhappy; nor yet happy; if they were so, it must be with the mere bliss
of existence, a sleepy sense of comfort, and quiet dreaminess about
things past, leaving out the things to come,--of which there was
nothing, indeed, in their future, save one day after another, just like
this, with loaf and ale, and such substantial comforts, and prayers,
and idle days again, gathering by the great kitchen fire, and at last a
day when they should not be there, but some other old men in their
stead. And Redclyffe wondered whether, in the extremity of age, he
himself would like to be one of the brethren of the Leopard's Head. The
old men, he was sorry to see, did not seem very genial towards one
another; in fact, there appeared to be a secret enjoyment of one
another's infirmities, wherefore it was hard to tell, unless that each
individual might fancy himself to possess an advantage over his fellow,
which he mistook for a positive strength; and so there was sometimes a
sardonic smile, when, on rising from his seat, the rheumatism was a
little evident in an old fellow's joints; or when the palsy shook
another's fingers so that he could barely fill his pipe; or when a
cough, the gathered spasmodic trouble of thirty years, fairly convulsed
another. Then, any two that happened to be sitting near one another
looked into each other's cold eyes, and whispered, or suggested merely
by a look (for they were bright to such perceptions), "The old fellow
will not outlast another winter."
Methinks it is not good for old men to be much together. An old man is
a beautiful object in his own place, in the midst of a circle of young
people, going down in various gradations to infancy, and all looking up
to the patriarch with filial reverence, keeping him warm by their own
burning youth; giving him the freshness of their thought and feeling,
with such natural influx that it seems as if it grew within his heart;
while on them he reacts with an influence that sobers, tempers, keeps
them down. His wisdom, very probably, is of no great account,--he
cannot fit to any new state of things; but, nevertheless, it works its
effect. In such a situation, the old man is kind and genial, mellow,
more gentle and generous, and wider-minded than ever before. But if
left to himself, or wholly to the society of his contemporaries, the
ice gathers about his heart, his hope grows torpid, his love--having
nothing of his own blood to develop it--grows cold; he becomes selfish,
when he has nothing in the present or the future worth caring about in
himself; so that, instead of a beautiful object, he is an ugly one,
little, mean, and torpid. I suppose one chief reason to be, that unless
he has his own race about him he doubts of anybody's love, he feels
himself a stranger in the world, and so becomes unamiable.
A very few days in the Warden's hospitable mansion produced an
excellent effect on Redclyffe's frame; his constitution being naturally
excellent, and a flow of cheerful spirits contributing much to restore
him to health, especially as the abode in this old place, which would
probably have been intolerably dull to most young Englishmen, had for
this young American a charm like the freshness of Paradise. In truth it
had that charm, and besides it another intangible, evanescent,
perplexing charm, full of an airy enjoyment, as if he had been here
before. What could it be? It could be only the old, very deepest,
inherent nature, which the Englishman, his progenitor, carried over the
sea with him, nearly two hundred years before, and which had lain
buried all that time under heaps of new things, new customs, new
institutions, new snows of winter, new layers of forest leaves, until
it seemed dead, and was altogether forgotten as if it had never been;
but, now, his return had seemed to dissolve or dig away all this
incrustation, and the old English nature awoke all fresh, so that he
saw the green grass, the hedgerows, the old structures and old manners,
the old clouds, the old raindrops, with a recognition, and yet a
newness. Redclyffe had never been so quietly happy as now. He had, as
it were, the quietude of the old man about him, and the freshness of
his own still youthful years.
The Warden was evidently very favorably impressed with his
Transatlantic guest, and he seemed to be in a constant state of
surprise to find an American so agreeable a kind of person.
"You are just like an Englishman," he sometimes said. "Are you quite
sure that you were not born on this side of the water?"
This is said to be the highest compliment that an Englishman can pay to
an American; and doubtless he intends it as such. All the praise and
good will that an Englishman ever awards to an American is so far
gratifying to the recipient, that it is meant for him individually, and
is not to be put down in the slightest degree to the score of any
regard to his countrymen generally. So far from this, if an Englishman
were to meet the whole thirty millions of Americans, and find each
individual of them a pleasant, amiable, well-meaning, and well-mannered
sort of fellow, he would acknowledge this honestly in each individual
case, but still would speak of the whole nation as a disagreeable
As regards Redclyffe being precisely like an Englishman, we cannot but
think that the good Warden was mistaken. No doubt, there was a common
ground; the old progenitor (whose blood, moreover, was mixed with a
hundred other streams equally English) was still there, under this
young man's shape, but with a vast difference. Climate, sun, cold,
heat, soil, institutions, had made a change in him before he was born,
and all the life that he had lived since (so unlike any that he could
have lived in England) had developed it more strikingly. In manners, I
cannot but think that he was better than the generality of Englishmen,
and different from the highest-mannered men, though most resembling
them. His natural sensitiveness, a tincture of reserve, had been
counteracted by the frank mixture with men which his political course
had made necessary; he was quicker to feel what was right at the
moment, than the Englishman; more alive; he had a finer grain; his look
was more aristocratic than that of a thousand Englishmen of good birth
and breeding; he had a faculty of assimilating himself to new manners,
which, being his most un-English trait, was what perhaps chiefly made
the Warden think him so like an Englishman. When an Englishman is a
gentleman, to be sure, it is as deep in him as the marrow of his bones,
and the deeper you know him, the more you are aware of it, and that
generation after generation has contributed to develop and perfect
these unpretending manners, which, at first, may have failed to impress
you, under his plain, almost homely exterior. An American often gets as
good a surface of manners, in his own progress from youth, through the
wear and attrition of a successful life, to some high station in middle
age; whereas a plebeian Englishman, who rises to eminent station, never
does credit to it by his manners. Often you would not know the American
ambassador from a duke. This is often merely external; but in
Redclyffe, having delicate original traits in his character, it was
something more; and, we are bold to say, when our countrymen are
developed, or any one class of them, as they ought to be, they will
show finer traits than have yet been seen. We have more delicate and
quicker sensibilities; nerves more easily impressed; and these are
surely requisites for perfect manners; and, moreover, the courtesy that
proceeds on the ground of perfect equality is better than that which is
a gracious and benignant condescension,--as is the case with the
manners of the aristocracy of England.
An American, be it said, seldom turns his best side outermost abroad;
and an observer, who has had much opportunity of seeing the figure
which they make, in a foreign country, does not so much wonder that
there should be severe criticism on their manners as a people. I know
not exactly why, but all our imputed peculiarities--our nasal
pronunciation, our ungraceful idioms, our forthputtingness, our uncouth
lack of courtesy--do really seem to exist on a foreign shore; and even,
perhaps, to be heightened of malice prepense. The cold, unbelieving eye
of Englishmen, expectant of solecisms in manners, contributes to
produce the result which it looks for. Then the feeling of hostility
and defiance in the American must be allowed for; and partly, too, the
real existence of a different code of manners, founded on, and arising
from, different institutions; and also certain national peculiarities,
which may be intrinsically as good as English peculiarities; but being
different, and yet the whole result being just too nearly alike, and,
moreover, the English manners having the prestige of long
establishment, and furthermore our own manners being in a transition
state between those of old monarchies and what is proper to a new
republic,--it necessarily followed that the American, though really a
man of refinement and delicacy, is not just the kind of gentleman that
the English can fully appreciate. In cases where they do so, their
standard being different from ours, they do not always select for their
approbation the kind of man or manners whom we should judge the best;
we are perhaps apt to be a little too fine, a little too sedulously
polished, and of course too conscious of it,--a deadly social crime,
To return from this long discussion, the Warden took kindly, as we have
said, to Redclyffe, and thought him a miraculously good fellow, to have
come from the rude American republic. Hitherto, in the little time that
he had been in England, Redclyffe had received civil and even kind
treatment from the English with whom he had come casually in contact;
but still--perhaps partly from our Yankee narrowness and reserve--he
had felt, in the closest coming together, as if there were a naked
sword between the Englishman and him, as between the Arabian prince in
the tale and the princess whom he wedded; he felt as if that would be
the case even if he should love an Englishwoman; to such a distance,
into such an attitude of self-defence, does English self-complacency
and belief in England's superiority throw the stranger. In fact, in a
good-natured way, John Bull is always doubling his fist in a stranger's
face, and though it be good-natured, it does not always produce the
most amiable feeling.
The worthy Warden, being an Englishman, had doubtless the same kind of
feeling; doubtless, too, he thought ours a poor, distracted country,
perhaps prosperous for the moment, but as likely as not to be the scene
of anarchy five minutes hence; but being of so genial a nature, when he
came to see the amiableness of his young guest, and how deeply he was
impressed with England, all prejudice died away, and he loved him like
a treasure that he had found for himself, and valued him as if there
were something of his own in him. And so the old Warden's residence had
never before been so cheery as it was now; his bachelor life passed the
more pleasantly with this quiet, vivacious, yet not troublesomely
restless spirit beside him,--this eager, almost childish interest in
everything English, and yet this capacity to take independent views of
things, and sometimes, it might be, to throw a gleam of light even on
things appertaining to England. And so, the better they came to know
one another, the greater was their mutual liking.
"I fear I am getting too strong to burden you much longer," said
Redclyffe, this morning. "I have no pretence to be a patient now."
"Pooh! nonsense!" ejaculated the Warden. "It will not be safe to leave
you to yourself for at least a month to come. And I have half a dozen
excursions in a neighborhood of twenty miles, in which I mean to show
you what old England is, in a way that you would never find out for
yourself. Do not speak of going. This day, if you find yourself strong
enough, you shall go and look at an old village church."
"With all my heart," said Redclyffe.
They went, accordingly, walking slowly, in consequence of Redclyffe's
yet imperfect strength, along the highroad, which was overshadowed with
elms, that grew in beautiful shape and luxuriance in that part of
England, not with the slender, drooping, picturesque grace of a New
England elm, but more luxuriant, fuller of leaves, sturdier in limb. It
was a day which the Warden called fine, and which Redclyffe, at home,
would have thought to bode rain; though here he had learned that such
weather might continue for weeks together, with only a few raindrops
all the time. The road was in the finest condition, hard and dry.
They had not long emerged from the gateway of the Hospital,--at the
venerable front and gables of which Redclyffe turned to look with a
feeling as if it were his home,--when they heard the clatter of hoofs
behind them, and a gentleman on horseback rode by, paying a courteous
salute to the Warden as he passed. A groom in livery followed at a
little distance, and both rode roundly towards the village, whither the
Warden and his friend were going.
"Did you observe that man?" asked the Warden.
"Yes," said Redclyffe. "Is he an Englishman?"
"That is a pertinent question," replied the Warden, "but I scarcely
know how to answer it."
In truth, Redclyffe's question had been suggested by the appearance of
the mounted gentleman, who was a dark, thin man, with black hair, and a
black moustache and pointed beard setting off his sallow face, in which
the eyes had a certain pointed steeliness, which did not look English,
--whose eyes, methinks, are usually not so hard as those of Americans or
foreigners. Redclyffe, somehow or other, had fancied that these not
very pleasant eyes had been fixed in a marked way on himself, a
stranger, while at the same time his salute was evidently directed
towards the Warden.
"An Englishman,--why, no," continued the latter. "If you observe, he
does not even sit his horse like an Englishman, but in that absurd,
stiff continental way, as if a poker should get on horseback. Neither
has he an English face, English manners, nor English religion, nor an
English heart; nor, to sum up the whole, had he English birth.
Nevertheless, as fate would have it, he is the inheritor of a good old
English name, a fine patrimonial estate, and a very probable claim to
an old English title. This is Lord Braithwaite of Braithwaite Hall, who
if he can make his case good (and they say there is good prospect of
it) will soon be Lord Hinchbrooke."
"I hardly know why, but I should be sorry for it," said Redclyffe. "He
certainly is not English; and I have an odd sort of sympathy, which
makes me unwilling that English honors should be enjoyed by foreigners.
This, then, is the gentleman of Italian birth whom you have mentioned
to me, and of whom there is a slight mention in the County History."
"Yes," said the Warden. "There have been three descents of this man's
branch in Italy, and only one English mother in all that time.
Positively, I do not see an English trait in his face, and as little in
his manner. His civility is Italian, such as oftentimes, among his
countrymen, has offered a cup of poison to a guest, or insinuated the
stab of a stiletto into his heart."
"You are particularly bitter against this poor man," said Redclyffe,
laughing at the Warden's vehemence. "His appearance--and yet he is a
handsome man--is certainly not prepossessing; but unless it be
countersigned by something in his actual life, I should hardly think it
worth while to condemn him utterly."
"Well, well; you can forgive a little English prejudice," said the
Warden, a little ashamed. "But, in good earnest, the man has few or no
good traits, takes no interest in the country, dislikes our sky, our
earth, our people, is close and inhospitable, a hard landlord, and
whatever may be his good qualities, they are not such as flourish in
this soil and climate, or can be appreciated here." [Endnote: 1.]
"Has he children?" asked Redclyffe.
"They say so,--a family by an Italian wife, whom some, on the other
hand, pronounce to be no wife at all. His son is at a Catholic college
in France; his daughter in a convent there."
In talk like this they were drawing near the little rustic village of
Braithwaite, and saw, above a cloud of foliage, the small, low,
battlemented tower, the gray stones of which had probably been laid a
little after the Norman conquest. Approaching nearer, they passed a
thatched cottage or two, very plain and simple edifices, though
interesting to Redclyffe from their antique aspect, which denoted that
they were probably older than the settlement of his own country, and
might very likely have nursed children who had gone, more than two
centuries ago, to found the commonwealth of which he was a citizen. If
you considered them in one way, prosaically, they were ugly enough; but
then there were the old latticed windows, and there the thatch, which
was verdant with leek, and strange weeds, possessing a whole botanical
growth. And birds flew in and out, as if they had their homes there.
Then came a row of similar cottages, all joined on together, and each
with a little garden before it divided from its neighbors by a hedge,
now in full verdure. Redclyffe was glad to see some symptoms of natural
love of beauty here, for there were plants of box, cut into queer
shapes of birds, peacocks, etc., as if year after year had been spent
in bringing these vegetable sculptures to perfection. In one of the
gardens, moreover, the ingenious inhabitant had spent his leisure in
building grotto-work, of which the English are rather ludicrously fond,
on their little bits of lawn, and in building a miniature castle of
oyster-shells, where were seen turrets, ramparts, a frowning arched
gateway, and miniature cannon looking from the embrasures. A pleasanter
and better adornment were the homely household flowers, and a pleasant
sound, too, was the hum of bees, who had their home in several
beehives, and were making their honey among the flowers of the garden,
or come from afar, buzzing dreamily through the air, laden with honey
that they had found elsewhere. Fruit trees stood erect, or, in some
instances, were flattened out against the walls of cottages, looking
somewhat like hawks nailed _in terrorem_ against a barn door. The
male members of this little community were probably afield, with the
exception of one or two half-torpid great-grandsires, who [were] moving
rheumatically about the gardens, and some children not yet in breeches,
who stared with stolid eyes at the passers-by; but the good dames were
busy within doors, where Redclyffe had glimpses of their interior with
its pavement of stone flags. Altogether it seemed a comfortable
"Do you see that child yonder," observed the Warden, "creeping away
from the door, and displaying a vista of his petticoats as he does so?
That sturdy boy is the lineal heir of one of the oldest families in
this part of England,--though now decayed and fallen, as you may judge.
So, you see, with all our contrivances to keep up an aristocracy, there
still is change forever going on."
"There is something not agreeable, and something otherwise, in the
thought," replied Redclyffe. "What is the name of the old family, whose
representative is in such a case?"
"Moseby," said the Warden. "Their family residence stood within three
miles of Braithwaite Hall, but was taken down in the last century, and
its place supplied by a grand show-place, built by a Birmingham
manufacturer, who also originated here."
They kept onward from this outskirt of the village, and soon, passing
over a little rising ground, and descending now into a hollow came to
the new portion of it, clustered around its gray Norman church, one
side of the tower of which was covered with ivy, that was carefully
kept, the Warden said, from climbing to the battlements, on account of
some old prophecy that foretold that the tower would fall, if ever the
ivy mantled over its top. Certainly, however, there seemed little
likelihood that the square, low mass would fall, unless by external
violence, in less than as many ages as it had already stood.
Redclyffe looked at the old tower and little adjoining edifice with an
interest that attached itself to every separate, moss-grown stone; but
the Warden, like most Englishmen, was at once amazed and wearied with
the American's enthusiasm for this spot, which to him was uninteresting
for the very reason that made it most interesting to Redclyffe, because
it had stood there such a weary while. It was too common an object to
excite in his mind, as it did in Redclyffe's, visions of the long ago
time when it was founded, when mass was first said there, and the
glimmer of torches at the altar was seen through the vista of that
broad-browed porch; and of all the procession of villagers that had
since gone in and come out during nine hundred years, in their varying
costume and fashion, but yet--and this was the strongest and most
thrilling part of the idea--all, the very oldest of them, bearing a
resemblance of feature, the kindred, the family likeness, to those who
died yesterday,--to those who still went thither to worship; and that
all the grassy and half-obliterated graves around had held those who
bore the same traits.
In front of the church was a little green, on which stood a very
ancient yew tree, [Endnote: 2] all the heart of which seemed to have
been eaten away by time, so that a man could now creep into the trunk,
through a wide opening, and, looking upward, see another opening to the
"That tree," observed the Warden, "is well worth the notice of such an
enthusiastic lover of old things; though I suppose aged trees may be
the one antiquity that you do not value, having them by myriads in your
primeval forests. But then the interest of this tree consists greatly
in what your trees have not,--in its long connection with men and the
goings of men. Some of its companions were made into bows for Harold's
archers. This tree is of unreckonable antiquity; so old, that in a
record of the time of Edward IV. it is styled the yew tree of
Braithwaite Green. That carries it back to Norman times, truly. It was
in comparatively modern times when it served as a gallows for one of
James II.'s bloodthirsty judges to hang his victims on after Monmouth's
On one side of this yew was a certain structure which Redclyffe did not
recognize as anything that he had before seen, but soon guessed its
purpose; though, from appearances, it seemed to have been very long
since it had served that purpose. It was a ponderous old oaken
framework, six or seven feet high, so contrived that a heavy cross-
piece shut down over another, leaving two round holes; in short, it was
a pair of stocks, in which, I suppose, hundreds of vagrants and petty
criminals had sat of old, but which now appeared to be merely a matter
"This excellent old machine," said the Warden, "had been lying in a
rubbish chamber of the church tower for at least a century; when the
clerk, who is a little of an antiquarian, unearthed it, and I advised
him to set it here, where it used to stand;--not with any idea of its
being used (though there is as much need of it now as ever), but that
the present age may see what comforts it has lost."
They sat down a few moments on the circular seat, and looked at the
pretty scene of this quiet little village, clustered round the old
church as a centre; a collection of houses, mostly thatched, though
there were one or two, with rather more pretension, that had roofs of
red tiles. Some of them were stone cottages, whitewashed, but the
larger edifices had timber frames, filled in with brick and plaster,
which seemed to have been renewed in patches, and to be a frailer and
less durable material than the old oak of their skeletons. They were
gabled, with lattice windows, and picturesquely set off with projecting
stones, and many little patchwork additions, such as, in the course of
generations, the inhabitants had found themselves to need. There was
not much commerce, apparently, in this little village, there seeming to
be only one shop, with some gingerbread, penny whistles, ballads, and
such matters, displayed in the window; and there, too, across the
little green, opposite the church, was the village alehouse, with its
bench under the low projecting eaves, with a Teniers scene of two
wayfaring yeomen drinking a pot of beer and smoking their pipes.
With Redclyffe's Yankee feelings, there was something sad to think how
the generations had succeeded one another, over and over, in
innumerable succession, in this little spot, being born here, living,
dying, lying down among their fathers' dust, and forthwith getting up
again, as it were, and recommencing the same meaningless round, and
really bringing nothing to pass; for probably the generation of to-day,
in so secluded and motionless a place as this, had few or no ideas in
advance of their ancestors of five centuries ago. It seems not worth
while that more than one generation of them should have existed. Even
in dress, with their smock frocks and breeches, they were just like
their fathers. The stirring blood of the new land,--where no man dwells
in his father's house,--where no man thinks of dying in his
birthplace,--awoke within him, and revolted at the thought; and, as
connected with it, revolted at all the hereditary pretensions which,
since his stay here, had exercised such an influence over the fanciful
part of his nature. In another mood, the village might have seemed a
picture of rural peace, which it would have been worth while to give up
ambition to enjoy; now, as his warmer impulse stirred, it was a
weariness to think of. The new American was stronger in him than the
"I should go mad of it!" exclaimed he aloud.
He started up impulsively, to the amazement of his companion, who of
course could not comprehend what seemed so to have stung his American
friend. As they passed the tree, on the other side of its huge trunk,
they saw a young woman, sitting on that side of it, and sketching,
apparently, the church tower, with the old Elizabethan vicarage that
stood near it, with a gate opening into the churchyard, and much
embowered and ivy-hung.
"Ah, Miss Cheltenham," said the Warden. "I am glad to see that you have
taken the old church in hand, for it is one of the prettiest rustic
churches in England, and as well worthy as any to be engraved on a
sheet of note-paper or put into a portfolio. Will you let my friend and
me see your sketch?"
The Warden had made his request with rather more freedom than perhaps
he would to a lady whom he considered on a level with himself, though
with perfect respect, that being considered; and Redclyffe, looking at
the person, saw that it was the same of whose face he had had a glimpse
in the looking-glass, in the old palmer's chamber.
"No, Doctor Hammond," said the young lady, with a respectful sort of
frankness, "you must excuse me. I am no good artist, and am but jotting
down the old church because I like it."
"Well, well, as you please," said the Warden; and whispered aside to
Redclyffe, "A girl's sketchbook is seldom worth looking at. But now,
Miss Cheltenham, I am about to give my American friend here a lecture
on gargoyles, and other peculiarities of sacred Gothic architecture;
and if you will honor me with your attention, I should be glad to find
my audience increased by one."
So the young lady arose, and Redclyffe, considering the Warden's
allusion to him as a sort of partial introduction, bowed to her, and
she responded with a cold, reserved, yet not unpleasant sort of
courtesy. They went towards the church porch, and, looking in at the
old stone bench on each side of the interior, the Warden showed them
the hacks of the swords of the Roundheads, when they took it by storm.
Redclyffe, mindful of the old graveyard on the edge of which he had
spent his childhood, began to look at this far more antique receptacle,
expecting to find there many ancient tombstones, perhaps of
contemporaries or predecessors of the founders of his country. In this,
however, he was disappointed, at least in a great measure; for the
persons buried in the churchyard were probably, for the most part, of a
humble rank in life, such as were not so ambitious as to desire a
monument of any kind, but were content to let their low earth-mounds
subside into the level, where their memory had waxed so faint that none
among the survivors could point out the spot, or cared any longer about
knowing it; while in other cases, where a monument of red freestone, or
even of hewn granite, had been erected, the English climate had
forthwith set to work to gnaw away the inscriptions; so that in fifty
years--in a time that would have left an American tombstone as fresh as
if just cut--it was quite impossible to make out the record. Their
superiors, meanwhile, were sleeping less enviably in dismal mouldy and
dusty vaults, instead of under the daisies. Thus Redclyffe really found
less antiquity here, than in the graveyard which might almost be called
his natal spot.
When he said something to this effect, the Warden nodded.
"Yes," said he, "and, in truth, we have not much need of inscriptions
for these poor people. All good families--every one almost, with any
pretensions to respectable station, has his family or individual
recognition within the church, or upon its walls; or some of them you
see on tombs on the outside. As for our poorer friends here, they are
content, as they may well be, to swell and subside, like little billows
of mortality, here on the outside."
"And for my part," said Redclyffe, "if there were anything particularly
desirable on either side, I should like best to sleep under this lovely
green turf, with the daisies strewn over me by Nature herself, and
whatever other homely flowers any friend might choose to add."
"And, Doctor Hammond," said the young woman, "we see by this gravestone
that sometimes a person of humble rank may happen to be commemorated,
and that Nature--in this instance at least--seems to take especial
pains and pleasure to preserve the record."
She indicated a flat gravestone, near the porch, which time had indeed
beautified in a singular way, for there was cut deep into it a name and
date, in old English characters, very deep it must originally have
been; and as if in despair of obliterating it, Time had taken the
kindlier method of filling up the letters with moss; so that now, high
embossed in loveliest green, was seen the name "Richard Oglethorpe
1613";--green, and flourishing, and beautiful, like the memory of a
good man. The inscription originally seemed to have contained some
twenty lines, which might have been poetry, or perhaps a prose eulogy,
or perhaps the simple record of the buried person's life; but all this,
having been done in fainter and smaller letters, was now so far worn
away as to be illegible; nor had they ever been deep enough to be made
living in moss, like the rest of the inscription.
"How tantalizing," remarked Redclyffe, "to see the verdant shine of
this name, impressed upon us as something remarkable--and nothing else.
I cannot but think that there must be something worth remembering about
a man thus distinguished. When two hundred years have taken all these
natural pains to illustrate and emblazon 'Richard Oglethorpe 1613.' Ha!
I surely recollect that name. It haunts me somehow, as if it had been
familiar of old."
"And me," said the young lady.
"It was an old name, hereabouts," observed the Warden, "but has been
long extinct,--a cottage name, not a gentleman's. I doubt not that
Oglethorpes sleep in many of these undistinguished graves."
Redclyffe did not much attend to what his friend said, his attention
being attracted to the tone--to something in the tone of the young
lady, and also to her coincidence in his remark that the name appealed
to some early recollection. He had been taxing his memory, to tell him
when and how the name had become familiar to him; and he now remembered
that it had occurred in the old Doctor's story of the Bloody Footstep,
told to him and Elsie, so long ago. [Endnote: 3] To him and Elsie! It
struck him--what if it were possible?--but he knew it was not--that the
young lady had a remembrance also of the fact, and that she, after so
many years, were mingling her thoughts with his. As this fancy recurred
to him, he endeavored to get a glimpse of her face, and while he did so
she turned it upon him. It was a quick, sensitive face, that did not
seem altogether English; he would rather have imagined it American; but
at all events he could not recognize it as one that he had seen before,
and a thousand fantasies died within him as, in his momentary glance,
he took in the volume of its contour.
After the two friends had parted from the young lady, they passed
through the village, and entered the park gate of Braithwaite Hall,
pursuing a winding road through its beautiful scenery, which realized
all that Redclyffe had read or dreamed about the perfect beauty of
these sylvan creations, with the clumps of trees, or sylvan oaks,
picturesquely disposed. To heighten the charm, they saw a herd of deer
reposing, who, on their appearance, rose from their recumbent position,
and began to gaze warily at the strangers; then, tossing their horns,
they set off on a stampede, but only swept round, and settled down not
far from where they were. Redclyffe looked with great interest at these
deer, who were at once wild and civilized; retaining a kind of free
forest citizenship, while yet they were in some sense subject to man.
It seemed as if they were a link between wild nature and tame; as if
they could look back, in their long recollections, through a vista,
into the times when England's forests were as wild as those of America,
though now they were but a degree more removed from domesticity than
cattle, and took their food in winter from the hand of man, and in
summer reposed upon his lawns. This seemed the last touch of that
delightful conquered and regulated wildness, which English art has laid
upon the whole growth of English nature, animal or vegetable.
"There is nothing really wild in your whole island," he observed to the
Warden. "I have a sensation as if somebody knew, and had cultivated and
fostered, and set out in its proper place, every tree that grows; as if
somebody had patted the heads of your wildest animals and played with
them. It is very delightful to me, for the present; and yet, I think,
in the course of time, I should feel the need for something genuine, as
it were,--something that had not the touch and breath of man upon it. I
suppose even your skies are modified by the modes of human life that
are going on beneath it. London skies, of course, are so; but the
breath of a great people, to say nothing of its furnace vapors and
hearth-smokes, make the sky other than it was a thousand years ago."
"I believe we English have a feeling like this occasionally," replied
the Warden, "and it is from that, partly, that we must account for our
adventurousness into other regions, especially for our interest in what
is wild and new. In your own forests, now, and prairies, I fancy we
find a charm that Americans do not. In the sea, too, and therefore we
are yachters. For my part, however, I have grown to like Nature a
little smoothed down, and enriched; less gaunt and wolfish than she
would be if left to herself."
"Yes; I feel that charm too," said Redclyffe. "But yet life would be
slow and heavy, methinks, to see nothing but English parks."
Continuing their course through the noble clumps of oaks, they by and
by had a vista of the distant hall itself. It was one of the old
English timber and plaster houses, many of which are of unknown
antiquity; as was the case with a portion of this house, although other
portions had been renewed, repaired, or added, within a century. It
had, originally, the Warden said, stood all round an enclosed
courtyard, like the great houses of the Continent; but now one side of
the quadrangle had long been removed, and there was only a front, with
two wings; the beams of old oak being picked out with black, and three
or four gables in a line forming the front, while the wings seemed to
be stone. It was the timber portion that was most ancient. A clock was
on the midmost gable, and pointed now towards one o'clock. The whole
scene impressed Redclyffe, not as striking, but as an abode of ancient
peace, where generation after generation of the same family had lived,
each making the most of life, because the life of each successive
dweller there was eked out with the lives of all who had hitherto lived
there, and had in it equally those lives which were to come afterwards;
so that there was a rare and successful contrivance for giving length,
fulness, body, substance, to this thin and frail matter of human life.
And, as life was so rich in comprehensiveness, the dwellers there made
the most of it for the present and future, each generation contriving
what it could to add to the cosiness, the comfortableness, the grave,
solid respectability, the sylvan beauty, of the house with which they
seemed to be connected both before and after death. The family had its
home there; not merely the individual. Ancient shapes, that had
apparently gone to the family tomb, had yet a right by family hearth
and in family hall; nor did they come thither cold and shivering, and
diffusing dim ghostly terrors, and repulsive shrinkings, and death in
life; but in warm, genial attributes, making this life now passing more
dense as it were, by adding all the substance of their own to it.
Redclyffe could not compare this abode, and the feelings that it
aroused, to the houses of his own country; poor tents of a day, inns of
a night, where nothing was certain, save that the family of him who
built it would not dwell here, even if he himself should have the bliss
to die under the roof, which, with absurdest anticipations, he had
built for his posterity. Posterity! An American can have none.
"All this sort of thing is beautiful; the family institution was
beautiful in its day," ejaculated he, aloud, to himself, not to his
companion; "but it is a thing of the past. It is dying out in England;
and as for ourselves, we never had it. Something better will come up;
but as for this, it is past."
"That is a sad thing to say," observed the Warden, by no means
comprehending what was passing in his friend's mind. "But if you wish
to view the interior of the Hall, we will go thither; for, harshly as I
have spoken of the owner, I suppose he has English feeling enough to
give us lunch and show us the old house of his forefathers."
"Not at present, if you please," replied Redclyffe. "I am afraid of
destroying my delightful visionary idea of the house by coming too near
it. Before I leave this part of the country, I should be glad to ramble
over the whole of it, but not just now."
While Redclyffe was still enjoying the frank hospitality of his new
friend, a rather marked event occurred in his life; yet not so
important in reality as it seemed to his English friend.
A large letter was delivered to him, bearing the official seal of the
United States, and the indorsement of the State Department; a very
important-looking document, which could not but add to the importance
of the recipient in the eyes of any Englishman, accustomed as they are
to bow down before any seal of government. Redclyffe opened it rather
coolly, being rather loath to renew any of his political remembrances,
now that he was in peace; or to think of the turmoil of modern and
democratic politics, here in this quietude of gone-by ages and customs.
The contents, however, took him by surprise; nor did he know whether to
be pleased or not.
The official package, in short, contained an announcement that he had
been appointed by the President, by and with the advice of the Senate,
to one of the Continental missions, usually esteemed an object of
considerable ambition to any young man in politics; so that, if
consistent with his own pleasure, he was now one of the Diplomatic
Corps, a Minister, and representative of his country. On first
considering the matter, Redclyffe was inclined to doubt whether this
honor had been obtained for him altogether by friendly aid, though it
did happen to have much in it that might suit his half-formed purpose
of remaining long abroad; but with an eye already rendered somewhat
oblique by political practice, he suspected that a political rival--a
rival, though of his own party--had been exerting himself to provide an
inducement for Redclyffe to leave the local field to him; while he
himself should take advantage of the vacant field, and his rival be
thus insidiously, though honorably, laid on the shelf, whence if he
should try to remove himself a few years hence the shifting influences
of American politics would be likely enough to thwart him; so that, for
the sake of being a few years nominally somebody, he might in fine come
back to his own country and find himself permanently nobody. But
Redclyffe had already sufficiently begun to suspect that he lacked some
qualities that a politician ought to have, and without which a
political life, whether successful or otherwise, is sure to be a most
irksome one: some qualities he lacked, others he had, both almost
equally an obstacle. When he communicated the offer, therefore, to his
friend, the Warden, it was with the remark that he believed he should
"Accept it?" cried the Warden, opening his eyes. "I should think so,
indeed! Why, it puts you above the level of the highest nobility of the
Court to which you are accredited; simple republican as you are, it
gives you rank with the old blood and birth of Europe. Accept it? By
all means; and I will come and see you at your court."
"Nothing is more different between England and America," said
Redclyffe, "than the different way in which the citizen of either
country looks at official station. To an Englishman, a commission, of
whatever kind, emanating from his sovereign, brings apparently a
gratifying sense of honor; to an American, on the contrary, it offers
really nothing of the kind. He ceases to be a sovereign,--an atom of
sovereignty, at all events,--and stoops to be a servant. If I accept
this mission, honorable as you think it, I assure you I shall not feel
myself quite the man I have hitherto been; although there is no
obstacle in the way of party obligations or connections to my taking
it, if I please."
"I do not well understand this," quoth the good Warden. "It is one of
the promises of Scripture to the wise man, that he shall stand before
kings, and that this embassy will enable you to do. No man--no man of
your country surely--is more worthy to do so; so pray accept."
"I think I shall," said Redclyffe.
Much as the Warden had seemed to affectionize Redclyffe hitherto, the
latter could not but be sensible, thereafter, of a certain deference in
his friend towards him, which he would fain have got rid of, had it
been in his power. However, there was still the same heartiness under
it all; and after a little he seemed, in some degree, to take
Redclyffe's own view of the matter;--namely, that, being so temporary
as these republican distinctions are, they really do not go skin deep,
have no reality in them, and that the sterling quality of the man, be
it higher or lower, is nowise altered by it;--an apothegm that is true
even of an hereditary nobility, and still more so of our own Honorables
and Excellencies. However, the good Warden was glad of his friend's
dignity, and perhaps, too, a little glad that this high fortune had
befallen one whom he chanced to be entertaining under his roof. As it
happened, there was an opportunity which might be taken advantage of to
celebrate the occasion; at least, to make it known to the English world
so far as the extent of the county. [Endnote: 1.]
It was an hereditary custom for the warden of Braithwaite Hospital,
once a year, to give a grand dinner to the nobility and gentry of the
neighborhood; and to this end a bequest had been made by one of the
former squires or lords of Braithwaite which would of itself suffice to
feed forty or fifty Englishmen with reasonable sumptuousness. The
present Warden, being a gentleman of private fortune, was accustomed to
eke the limited income, devoted for this purpose, with such additions
from his own resources as brought the rude and hearty hospitality
contemplated by the first founder on a par with modern refinements of
gourmandism. The banquet was annually given in the fine old hall where
James II. had feasted; and on some of these occasions the Warden's
table had been honored with illustrious guests; especially when any of
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