Part 1 out of 10
BY THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD, K.G.
'Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child?'
'The child of love, though born in bitterness
And nurtured in convulsion.'
In happier hours, when I first mentioned to you the idea of this Work,
it was my intention, while inscribing it with your name, to have
entered into some details as to the principles which had guided me in
its composition, and the feelings with which I had attempted to shadow
forth, though as 'in in a glass darkly,' two of the most renowned and
refined spirits that have adorned these our latter days. But now I
will only express a hope that the time may come when, in these pages,
you may find some relaxation from the cares, and some distraction
from the sorrows, of existence, and that you will then receive this
dedication as a record of my respect and my affection.
This Work was first published in the year 1837.
Some ten years before the revolt of our American colonies, there was
situate in one of our midland counties, on the borders of an extensive
forest, an ancient hall that belonged to the Herberts, but which,
though ever well preserved, had not until that period been visited by
any member of the family, since the exile of the Stuarts. It was an
edifice of considerable size, built of grey stone, much covered with
ivy, and placed upon the last gentle elevation of a long ridge of
hills, in the centre of a crescent of woods, that far overtopped its
clusters of tall chimneys and turreted gables. Although the principal
chambers were on the first story, you could nevertheless step forth
from their windows on a broad terrace, whence you descended into the
gardens by a double flight of stone steps, exactly in the middle
of its length. These gardens were of some extent, and filled with
evergreen shrubberies of remarkable overgrowth, while occasionally
turfy vistas, cut in the distant woods, came sloping down to the
south, as if they opened to receive the sunbeam that greeted the
genial aspect of the mansion, The ground-floor was principally
occupied by the hall itself, which was of great dimensions, hung round
with many a family portrait and rural picture, furnished with long
oaken seats covered with scarlet cushions, and ornamented with a
parti-coloured floor of alternate diamonds of black and white marble.
From the centre of the roof of the mansion, which was always covered
with pigeons, rose the clock-tower of the chapel, surmounted by a
vane; and before the mansion itself was a large plot of grass, with a
fountain in the centre, surrounded by a hedge of honeysuckle.
This plot of grass was separated from an extensive park, that opened
in front of the hall, by tall iron gates, on each of the pillars of
which was a lion rampant supporting the escutcheon of the family. The
deer wandered in this enclosed and well-wooded demesne, and about a
mile from the mansion, in a direct line with the iron gates, was an
old-fashioned lodge, which marked the limit of the park, and from
which you emerged into a fine avenue of limes bounded on both sides
by fields. At the termination of this avenue was a strong but simple
gate, and a woodman's cottage; and then spread before you a vast
landscape of open, wild lands, which seemed on one side interminable,
while on the other the eye rested on the dark heights of the
This picturesque and secluded abode was the residence of Lady Annabel
Herbert and her daughter, the young and beautiful Venetia, a child, at
the time when our history commences, of very tender age. It was nearly
seven years since Lady Annabel and her infant daughter had sought the
retired shades of Cherbury, which they had never since quitted. They
lived alone and for each other; the mother educated her child, and
the child interested her mother by her affectionate disposition,
the development of a mind of no ordinary promise, and a sort of
captivating grace and charming playfulness of temper, which were
extremely delightful. Lady Annabel was still young and lovely. That
she was wealthy her establishment clearly denoted, and she was a
daughter of one of the haughtiest houses in the kingdom. It was
strange then that, with all the brilliant accidents of birth, and
beauty, and fortune, she should still, as it were in the morning of
her life, have withdrawn to this secluded mansion, in a county where
she was personally unknown, distant from the metropolis, estranged
from all her own relatives and connexions, and without resource of
even a single neighbour, for the only place of importance in her
vicinity was uninhabited. The general impression of the villagers was
that Lady Annabel was a widow; and yet there were some speculators
who would shrewdly remark, that her ladyship had never worn weeds,
although her husband could not have been long dead when she first
arrived at Cherbury. On the whole, however, these good people were not
very inquisitive; and it was fortunate for them, for there was little
chance and slight means of gratifying their curiosity. The whole of
the establishment had been formed at Cherbury, with the exception of
her ladyship's waiting-woman, Mistress Pauncefort, and she was by far
too great a personage to condescend to reply to any question which was
not made to her by Lady Annabel herself.
The beauty of the young Venetia was not the hereditary gift of her
beautiful mother. It was not from Lady Annabel that Venetia Herbert
had derived those seraphic locks that fell over her shoulders and
down her neck in golden streams, nor that clear grey eye even, whose
childish glance might perplex the gaze of manhood, nor that little
aquiline nose, that gave a haughty expression to a countenance that
had never yet dreamed of pride, nor that radiant complexion, that
dazzled with its brilliancy, like some winged minister of Raffael or
Correggio. The peasants that passed the lady and her daughter in their
walks, and who blessed her as they passed, for all her grace and
goodness, often marvelled why so fair a mother and so fair a child
should be so dissimilar, that one indeed might be compared to a starry
night, and the other to a sunny day.
It was a bright and soft spring morning: the dewy vistas of Cherbury
sparkled in the sun, the cooing of the pigeons sounded around, the
peacocks strutted about the terrace and spread their tails with
infinite enjoyment and conscious pride, and Lady Annabel came forth
with her little daughter, to breathe the renovating odours of the
season. The air was scented with the violet, tufts of daffodils were
scattered all about, and though the snowdrop had vanished, and the
primroses were fast disappearing, their wild and shaggy leaves still
looked picturesque and glad.
'Mamma,' said the little Venetia, 'is this spring?'
'This is spring, my child,' replied Lady Annabel, 'beautiful spring!
The year is young and happy, like my little girl.'
'If Venetia be like the spring, mamma is like the summer!' replied the
child; and the mother smiled. 'And is not the summer young and happy?'
'It is not quite so young as the spring,' said Lady Annabel, looking
down with fondness on her little companion, 'and, I fear, not quite so
'But it is as beautiful,' said Venetia.
'It is not beauty that makes us happy,' said Lady Annabel; 'to be
happy, my love, we must be good.'
'Am I good?' said Venetia.
'Very good,' said Lady Annabel
'I am very happy,' said Venetia; 'I wonder whether, if I be always
good, I shall always be happy?'
'You cannot be happy without being good, my love; but happiness
depends upon the will of God. If you be good he will guard over you.'
'What can make me unhappy, mamma?' inquired Venetia.
'An evil conscience, my love.'
'Conscience!' said Venetia: 'what is conscience?'
'You are not yet quite old enough to understand,' said Lady Annabel,
'but some day I will teach you. Mamma is now going to take a long
walk, and Venetia shall walk with her.'
So saying, the Lady Annabel summoned Mistress Pauncefort, a
gentlewoman of not more discreet years than might have been expected
in the attendant of so young a mistress; but one well qualified for
her office, very zealous and devoted, somewhat consequential, full of
energy and decision, capable of directing, fond of giving advice, and
habituated to command. The Lady Annabel, leading her daughter, and
accompanied by her faithful bloodhound, Marmion, ascended one of those
sloping vistas that we have noticed, Mistress Pauncefort following
them about a pace behind, and after her a groom, at a respectful
distance, leading Miss Herbert's donkey.
They soon entered a winding path through the wood which was the
background of their dwelling. Lady Annabel was silent, and lost in her
reflections; Venetia plucked the beautiful wild hyacinths that then
abounded in the wood in such profusion, that their beds spread like
patches of blue enamel, and gave them to Mistress Pauncefort, who, as
the collection increased, handed them over to the groom; who, in turn,
deposited them in the wicker seat prepared for his young mistress. The
bright sun bursting through the tender foliage of the year, the clear
and genial air, the singing of the birds, and the wild and joyous
exclamations of Venetia, as she gathered her flowers, made it a
cheerful party, notwithstanding the silence of its mistress.
When they emerged from the wood, they found themselves on the brow
of the hill, a small down, over which Venetia ran, exulting in the
healthy breeze which, at this exposed height, was strong and fresh.
As they advanced to the opposite declivity to that which they had
ascended, a wide and peculiar landscape opened before them. The
extreme distance was formed by an undulating ridge of lofty and savage
hills; nearer than these were gentler elevations, partially wooded;
and at their base was a rich valley, its green meads fed by a clear
and rapid stream, which glittered in the sun as it coursed on, losing
itself at length in a wild and sedgy lake that formed the furthest
limit of a widely-spreading park. In the centre of this park, and
not very remote from the banks of the rivulet, was an ancient gothic
building, that had once been an abbey of great repute and wealth, and
had not much suffered in its external character, by having served for
nearly two centuries and a half as the principal dwelling of an old
Descending the downy hill, that here and there was studded with fine
old trees, enriching by their presence the view from the abbey, Lady
Annabel and her party entered the meads, and, skirting the lake,
approached the venerable walls without crossing the stream.
It was difficult to conceive a scene more silent and more desolate.
There was no sign of life, and not a sound save the occasional
cawing of a rook. Advancing towards the abbey, they passed a pile of
buildings that, in the summer, might be screened from sight by the
foliage of a group of elms, too scanty at present to veil their
desolation. Wide gaps in the roof proved that the vast and dreary
stables were no longer used; there were empty granaries, whose doors
had fallen from their hinges; the gate of the courtyard was prostrate
on the ground; and the silent clock that once adorned the cupola over
the noble entrance arch, had long lost its index. Even the litter of
the yard appeared dusty and grey with age. You felt sure no human foot
could have disturbed it for years. At the back of these buildings were
nailed the trophies of the gamekeeper: hundreds of wild cats, dried to
blackness, stretched their downward heads and legs from the mouldering
wall; hawks, magpies, and jays hung in tattered remnants! but all
grey, and even green, with age; and the heads of birds in plenteous
rows, nailed beak upward, and so dried and shrivelled by the suns and
winds and frosts of many seasons, that their distinctive characters
'Do you know, my good Pauncefort,' said Lady Annabel, 'that I have
an odd fancy to-day to force an entrance into the old abbey. It is
strange, fond as I am of this walk, that we have never yet entered it.
Do you recollect our last vain efforts? Shall we be more fortunate
this time, think you?'
Mistress Pauncefort smiled and smirked, and, advancing to the old
gloomy porch, gave a determined ring at the bell. Its sound might
be heard echoing through the old cloisters, but a considerable time
elapsed without any other effect being produced. Perhaps Lady Annabel
would have now given up the attempt, but the little Venetia expressed
so much regret at the disappointment, that her mother directed the
groom to reconnoitre in the neighbourhood, and see if it were possible
to discover any person connected with the mansion.
'I doubt our luck, my lady,' said Mistress Pauncefort, 'for they do
say that the abbey is quite uninhabited.'
''Tis a pity,' said Lady Annabel, 'for, with all its desolation, there
is something about this spot which ever greatly interests me.'
'Mamma, why does no one live here?' said Venetia.
'The master of the abbey lives abroad, my child.'
'Why does he, mamma?'
'Never ask questions, Miss Venetia,' said Mistress Pauncefort, in a
hushed and solemn tone; 'it is not pretty.' Lady Annabel had moved
The groom returned, and said he had met an old man, picking
water-cresses, and he was the only person who lived in the abbey,
except his wife, and she was bedridden. The old man had promised to
admit them when he had completed his task, but not before, and the
groom feared it would be some time before he arrived.
'Come, Pauncefort, rest yourself on this bench,' said Lady Annabel,
seating herself in the porch; 'and Venetia, my child, come hither to
'Mamma,' said Venetia, 'what is the name of the gentleman to whom this
'Lord Cadurcis, love.'
'I should like to know why Lord Cadurcis lives abroad?' said Venetia,
'There are many reasons why persons may choose to quit their native
country, and dwell in another, my love,' said Lady Annabel, very
quietly; 'some change the climate for their health.'
'Did Lord Cadurcis, mamma?' asked Venetia.
'I do not know Lord Cadurcis, dear, or anything of him, except that he
is a very old man, and has no family.'
At this moment there was a sound of bars and bolts withdrawn, and the
falling of a chain, and at length the massy door slowly opened, and
the old man appeared and beckoned to them to enter.
''Tis eight years, come Martinmas, since I opened this door,' said the
old man, 'and it sticks a bit. You must walk about by yourselves, for
I have no breath, and my mistress is bedridden. There, straight down
the cloister, you can't miss your way; there is not much to see.'
The interior of the abbey formed a quadrangle, surrounded by the
cloisters, and in this inner court was a curious fountain, carved with
exquisite skill by some gothic artist in one of those capricious moods
of sportive invention that produced those grotesque medleys for which
the feudal sculptor was celebrated. Not a sound was heard except the
fall of the fountain and the light echoes that its voice called up.
The staircase led Lady Annabel and her party through several small
rooms, scantily garnished with ancient furniture, in some of which
were portraits of the family, until they at length entered a noble
saloon, once the refectory of the abbey, and not deficient in
splendour, though sadly soiled and worm-eaten. It was hung with
tapestry representing the Cartoons of Raffael, and their still vivid
colours contrasted with the faded hangings and the dingy damask of the
chairs and sofas. A mass of Cromwellian armour was huddled together in
a corner of a long monkish gallery, with a standard, encrusted with
dust, and a couple of old drums, one broken. From one of the windows
they had a good view of the old walled garden, which did not
tempt them to enter it; it was a wilderness, the walks no longer
distinguishable from the rank vegetation of the once cultivated lawns;
the terraces choked up with the unchecked shrubberies; and here and
there a leaden statue, a goddess or a satyr, prostrate, and covered
with moss and lichen.
'It makes me melancholy,' said Lady Annabel; 'let us return.'
'Mamma,' said Venetia, 'are there any ghosts in this abbey?'
'You may well ask me, love,' replied Lady Annabel; 'it seems a
spell-bound place. But, Venetia, I have often told you there are no
such things as ghosts.'
'Is it naughty to believe in ghosts, mamma, for I cannot help
believing in them?'
'When you are older, and have more knowledge, you will not believe in
them, Venetia,' replied Lady Annabel.
Our friends left Cadurcis Abbey. Venetia mounted her donkey, her
mother walked by her side; the sun was beginning to decline when they
again reached Cherbury, and the air was brisk. Lady Annabel was glad
to find herself by her fireside in her little terrace-room, and
Venetia fetching her book, read to her mother until their dinner hour.
Two serene and innocent years had glided away at Cherbury since this
morning ramble to Cadurcis Abbey, and Venetia had grown in loveliness,
in goodness, and intelligence. Her lively and somewhat precocious mind
had become greatly developed; and, though she was only nine years of
age, it scarcely needed the affection of a mother to find in her an
interesting and engaging companion. Although feminine education was
little regarded in those days, that of Lady Annabel had been an
exception to the general practice of society. She had been brought
up with the consciousness of other objects of female attainment and
accomplishment than embroidery, 'the complete art of making pastry,'
and reading 'The Whole Duty of Man.' She had profited, when a child,
by the guidance of her brother's tutor, who had bestowed no unfruitful
pains upon no ordinary capacity. She was a good linguist, a fine
musician, was well read in our elder poets and their Italian
originals, was no unskilful artist, and had acquired some knowledge
of botany when wandering, as a girl, in her native woods. Since her
retirement to Cherbury, reading had been her chief resource. The hall
contained a library whose shelves, indeed, were more full than choice;
but, amid folios of theological controversy and civil law, there might
be found the first editions of most of the celebrated writers of the
reign of Anne, which the contemporary proprietor of Cherbury, a man of
wit and fashion in his day, had duly collected in his yearly visits to
the metropolis, and finally deposited in the family book-room.
The education of her daughter was not only the principal duty of Lady
Annabel, but her chief delight. To cultivate the nascent intelligence
of a child, in those days, was not the mere piece of scientific
mechanism that the admirable labours of so many ingenious writers have
since permitted it comparatively to become. In those days there was no
Mrs. Barbauld, no Madame de Genlis, no Miss Edgeworth; no 'Evenings at
Home,' no 'Children's Friend,' no 'Parent's Assistant.' Venetia loved
her book; indeed, she was never happier than when reading; but she
soon recoiled from the gilt and Lilliputian volumes of the good Mr.
Newbury, and her mind required some more substantial excitement than
'Tom Thumb,' or even 'Goody Two-Shoes.' 'The Seven Champions' was
a great resource and a great favourite; but it required all the
vigilance of a mother to eradicate the false impressions which such
studies were continually making on so tender a student; and to
disenchant, by rational discussion, the fascinated imagination of her
child. Lady Annabel endeavoured to find some substitute in the essays
of Addison and Steele; but they required more knowledge of the
every-day world for their enjoyment than an infant, bred in such
seclusion, could at present afford; and at last Venetia lost herself
in the wildering pages of Clelia and the Arcadia, which she pored over
with a rapt and ecstatic spirit, that would not comprehend the warning
scepticism of her parent. Let us picture to ourselves the high-bred
Lady Annabel in the terrace-room of her ancient hall, working at
her tapestry, and, seated at her feet, her little daughter Venetia,
reading aloud the Arcadia! The peacocks have jumped up on the
window-sill, to look at their friends, who love to feed them, and by
their pecking have aroused the bloodhound crouching at Lady Annabel's
feet. And Venetia looks up from her folio with a flushed and smiling
face to catch the sympathy of her mother, who rewards her daughter's
study with a kiss. Ah! there are no such mothers and no such daughters
Thus it will be seen that the life and studies of Venetia tended
rather dangerously, in spite of all the care of her mother, to the
development of her imagination, in case indeed she possessed that
terrible and fatal gift. She passed her days in unbroken solitude, or
broken only by affections which softened her heart, and in a scene
which itself might well promote any predisposition of the kind;
beautiful and picturesque objects surrounded her on all sides; she
wandered, at it were, in an enchanted wilderness, and watched the deer
reposing under the green shadow of stately trees; the old hall
itself was calculated to excite mysterious curiosity; one wing was
uninhabited and shut up; each morning and evening she repaired with
her mother and the household through long galleries to the chapel,
where she knelt to her devotions, illumined by a window blazoned with
the arms of that illustrious family of which she was a member, and
of which she knew nothing. She had an indefinite and painful
consciousness that she had been early checked in the natural inquiries
which occur to every child; she had insensibly been trained to speak
only of what she saw; and when she listened, at night, to the long
ivy rustling about the windows, and the wild owls hooting about the
mansion, with their pining, melancholy voices, she might have been
excused for believing in those spirits, which her mother warned her to
discredit; or she forgot these mournful impressions in dreams, caught
from her romantic volumes, of bright knights and beautiful damsels.
Only one event of importance had occurred at Cherbury during these two
years, if indeed that be not too strong a phrase to use in reference
to an occurrence which occasioned so slight and passing an interest.
Lord Cadurcis had died. He had left his considerable property to his
natural children, but the abbey had descended with the title to a very
distant relative. The circle at Cherbury had heard, and that was all,
that the new lord was a minor, a little boy, indeed very little older
than Venetia herself; but this information produced no impression. The
abbey was still deserted and desolate as ever.
Every Sunday afternoon, the rector of a neighbouring though still
somewhat distant parish, of which the rich living was in the gift of
the Herberts, came to perform divine service at Cherbury. It was a
subject of deep regret to Lady Annabel that herself and her family
were debarred from the advantage of more frequent and convenient
spiritual consolation; but, at this time, the parochial discipline
of the Church of England was not so strict as it fortunately is at
present. Cherbury, though a vicarage, possessed neither parish church,
nor a residence for the clergyman; nor was there indeed a village. The
peasants on the estate, or labourers as they are now styled, a term
whose introduction into our rural world is much to be lamented, lived
in the respective farmhouses on the lands which they cultivated. These
were scattered about at considerable distances, and many of their
inmates found it more convenient to attend the church of the
contiguous parish than to repair to the hall chapel, where the
household and the dwellers in the few cottages scattered about the
park and woods always assembled. The Lady Annabel, whose lot it had
been in life to find her best consolation in religion, and who was
influenced by not only a sincere but even a severe piety, had no other
alternative, therefore, but engaging a chaplain; but this, after much
consideration, she had resolved not to do. She was indeed her own
chaplain, herself performing each day such parts of our morning and
evening service whose celebration becomes a laic, and reading portions
from the writings of those eminent divines who, from the Restoration
to the conclusion of the last reign, have so eminently distinguished
the communion of our national Church.
Each Sunday, after the performance of divine service, the Rev. Dr.
Masham dined with the family, and he was the only guest at Cherbury
Venetia ever remembered seeing. The Doctor was a regular orthodox
divine of the eighteenth century; with a large cauliflower wig,
shovel-hat, and huge knee-buckles, barely covered by his top-boots;
learned, jovial, humorous, and somewhat courtly; truly pious, but not
enthusiastic; not forgetful of his tithes, but generous and charitable
when they were once paid; never neglecting the sick, yet occasionally
following a fox; a fine scholar, an active magistrate, and a good
shot; dreading the Pope, and hating the Presbyterians.
The Doctor was attached to the Herbert family not merely because they
had given him a good living. He had a great reverence for an old
English race, and turned up his nose at the Walpolian loanmongers.
Lady Annabel, too, so beautiful, so dignified, so amiable, and highly
bred, and, above all, so pious, had won his regard. He was not a
little proud, too, that he was the only person in the county who had
the honour of her acquaintance, and yet was disinterested enough to
regret that he led so secluded a life, and often lamented that nothing
would induce her to show her elegant person on a racecourse, or to
attend an assize ball, an assembly which was then becoming much the
fashion. The little Venetia was a charming child, and the kind-hearted
Doctor, though a bachelor, loved children.
O! matre pulchra, filia pulchrior,
was the Rev. Dr. Masham's apposite and favourite quotation after his
weekly visit to Cherbury.
Divine service was concluded; the Doctor had preached a capital
sermon; for he had been one of the shining lights of his university
until his rich but isolating preferment had apparently closed the
great career which it was once supposed awaited him. The accustomed
walk on the terrace was completed, and dinner was announced. This meal
was always celebrated at Cherbury, where new fashions stole down with
a lingering pace, in the great hall itself. An ample table was placed
in the centre on a mat of rushes, sheltered by a large screen covered
with huge maps of the shire and the neighbouring counties. The Lady
Annabel and her good pastor seated themselves at each end of the
table, while Venetia, mounted on a high chair, was waited on by
Mistress Pauncefort, who never condescended by any chance attention to
notice the presence of any other individual but her little charge, on
whose chair she just leaned with an air of condescending devotion.
The butler stood behind his lady, and two other servants watched the
Doctor; rural bodies all, but decked on this day in gorgeous livery
coats of blue and silver, which had been made originally for men of
very different size and bearing. Simple as was the usual diet at
Cherbury the cook was permitted on Sunday full play to her art, which,
in the eighteenth century, indulged in the production of dishes more
numerous and substantial than our refined tastes could at present
tolerate. The Doctor appreciated a good dinner, and his countenance
glistened with approbation as he surveyed the ample tureen of potage
royal, with a boned duck swimming in its centre. Before him still
scowled in death the grim countenance of a huge roast pike, flanked
on one side by a leg of mutton _a-la-daube_, and on the other by
the tempting delicacies of bombarded veal. To these succeeded that
masterpiece of the culinary art, a grand battalia pie, in which the
bodies of chickens, pigeons, and rabbits were embalmed in spices,
cocks' combs, and savoury balls, and well bedewed with one of those
rich sauces of claret, anchovy, and sweet herbs, in which our
great-grandfathers delighted, and which was technically termed a Lear.
But the grand essay of skill was the cover of this pasty, whereon the
curious cook had contrived to represent all the once-living forms that
were now entombed in that gorgeous sepulchre. A Florentine tourte, or
tansy, an old English custard, a more refined blamango, and a riband
jelly of many colours, offered a pleasant relief after these vaster
inventions, and the repast closed with a dish of oyster loaves and a
pompetone of larks.
Notwithstanding the abstemiousness of his hostess, the Doctor was
never deterred from doing justice to her hospitality. Few were the
dishes that ever escaped him. The demon dyspepsia had not waved its
fell wings over the eighteenth century, and wonderful were the feats
then achieved by a country gentleman with the united aid of a good
digestion and a good conscience.
The servants had retired, and Dr. Masham had taken his last glass
of port, and then he rang a bell on the table, and, I trust my fair
readers will not be frightened from proceeding with this history, a
servant brought him his pipe. The pipe was well stuffed, duly lighted,
and duly puffed; and then, taking it from his mouth, the Doctor spoke.
'And so, my honoured lady, you have got a neighbour at last.'
'Indeed!' exclaimed Lady Annabel.
But the claims of the pipe prevented the good Doctor from too quickly
satisfying her natural curiosity. Another puff or two, and he then
'Yes,' said he, 'the old abbey has at last found a tenant.'
'A tenant, Doctor?'
'Ay! the best tenant in the world: its proprietor.'
'You quite surprise me. When did this occur?'
'They have been there these three days; I have paid them a visit. Mrs.
Cadurcis has come to live at the abbey with the little lord.'
'This is indeed news to us,' said Lady Annabel; 'and what kind of
people are they?'
'You know, my dear madam,' said the Doctor, just touching the ash of
his pipe with his tobacco-stopper of chased silver, 'that the present
lord is a very distant relative of the late one?'
Lady Annabel bowed assent.
'The late lord,' continued the Doctor, 'who was as strange and
wrong-headed a man as ever breathed, though I trust he is in the
kingdom of heaven for all that, left all his property to his unlawful
children, with the exception of this estate entailed on the title, as
all estates should be, 'Tis a fine place, but no great rental. I doubt
whether 'tis more than a clear twelve hundred a-year.'
'And Mrs. Cadurcis?' inquired Lady Annabel.
'Was an heiress,' replied the Doctor, 'and the late Mr. Cadurcis a
spendrift. He was a bad manager, and, worse, a bad husband. Providence
was pleased to summon him suddenly from this mortal scene, but not
before he had dissipated the greater part of his wife's means. Mrs.
Cadurcis, since she was a widow, has lived in strict seclusion with
her little boy, as you may, my dear lady, with your dear little girl.
But I am afraid,' said the Doctor, shaking his head, 'she has not
been in the habit of dining so well as we have to-day. A very
limited income, my dear madam; a very limited income indeed. And
the guardians, I am told, will only allow the little lord a hundred
a-year; but, on her own income, whatever it may be, and that addition,
she has resolved to live at the abbey; and I believe, I believe she
has it rent-free; but I don't know.'
'Poor woman!' said Lady Annabel, and not without a sigh. 'I trust her
child is her consolation.'
Venetia had not spoken during this conversation, but she had listened
to it very attentively. At length she said, 'Mamma, is not a widow a
wife that has lost her husband?'
'You are right, my dear,' said Lady Annabel, rather gravely.
Venetia mused a moment, and then replied, 'Pray, mamma, are you a
'My dear little girl,' said Dr. Masham, 'go and give that beautiful
peacock a pretty piece of cake.'
Lady Annabel and the Doctor rose from the table with Venetia, and took
a turn in the park, while the Doctor's horses were getting ready.
'I think, my good lady,' said the Doctor, 'it would be but an act of
Christian charity to call upon Mrs. Cadurcis.'
'I was thinking the same,' said Lady Annabel; 'I am interested by what
you have told me of her history and fortunes. We have some woes in
common; I hope some joys. It seems that this case should indeed be an
exception to my rule.'
'I would not ask you to sacrifice your inclinations to the mere
pleasures of the world,' said the Doctor: 'but duties, my dear lady,
duties; there are such things as duties to our neighbour; and here is
a case where, believe me, they might be fulfilled.'
The Doctor's horses now appeared. Both master and groom wore their
pistols in their holsters. The Doctor shook hands warmly with Lady
Annabel, and patted Venetia on her head, as she ran up from a little
distance, with an eager countenance, to receive her accustomed
blessing. Then mounting his stout mare, he once more waived his hand
with an air of courtliness to his hostess, and was soon out of sight.
Lady Annabel and Venetia returned to the terrace-room.
'And so I would, my lady,' said Mistress Pauncefort, when Lady Annabel
communicated to her faithful attendant, at night, the news of the
arrival of the Cadurcis family at the abbey, and her intention of
paying Mrs. Cadurcis a visit; 'and so I would, my lady,' said Mistress
Pauncefort, 'and it would be but an act of Christian charity after
all, as the Doctor says; for although it is not for me to complain
when my betters are satisfied, and after all I am always content, if
your ladyship be; still there is no denying the fact, that this is
a terrible lonesome life after all. And I cannot help thinking your
ladyship has not been looking so well of late, and a little society
would do your ladyship good; and Miss Venetia too, after all, she
wants a playfellow; I am certain sure that I was as tired of playing
at ball with her this morning as if I had never sat down in my born
days; and I dare say the little lord will play with her all day long.'
'If I thought that this visit would lead to what is understood by the
word society, my good Pauncefort, I certainly should refrain from
paying it,' said Lady Annabel, very quietly.
'Oh! Lord, dear my lady, I was not for a moment dreaming of any such
thing,' replied Mistress Pauncefort; 'society, I know as well as any
one, means grand balls, Ranelagh, and the masquerades. I can't abide
the thought of them, I do assure your ladyship; all I meant was that a
quiet dinner now and then with a few friends, a dance perhaps in the
evening, or a hand of whist, or a game of romps at Christmas, when the
abbey will of course be quite full, a--'
'I believe there is as little chance of the abbey being full at
Christmas, or any other time, as there is of Cherbury.' said Lady
Annabel. 'Mrs. Cadurcis is a widow, with a very slender fortune. Her
son will not enjoy his estate until he is of age, and its rental is
small. I am led to believe that they will live quite as quietly as
ourselves; and when I spoke of Christian charity, I was thinking only
of kindness towards them, and not of amusement for ourselves.'
'Well, my lady, your la'ship knows best,' replied Mistress Pauncefort,
evidently very disappointed; for she had indulged in momentary visions
of noble visitors and noble valets; 'I am always content, you know,
when your la'ship is; but, I must say, I think it is very odd for a
lord to be so poor. I never heard of such a thing. I think they will
turn out richer than you have an idea, my lady. Your la'ship knows
'tis quite a saying, "As rich as a lord."'
Lady Annabel smiled, but did not reply.
The next morning the fawn-coloured chariot, which had rarely been used
since Lady Annabel's arrival at Cherbury, and four black long-tailed
coach-horses, that from absolute necessity had been degraded, in
the interval, to the service of the cart and the plough, made their
appearance, after much bustle and effort, before the hall-door.
Although a morning's stroll from Cherbury through the woods, Cadurcis
was distant nearly ten miles by the road, and that road was in great
part impassable, save in favourable seasons. This visit, therefore,
was an expedition; and Lady Annabel, fearing the fatigue for a child,
determined to leave Venetia at home, from whom she had actually never
been separated one hour in her life. Venetia could not refrain from
shedding a tear when her mother embraced and quitted her, and begged,
as a last favour, that she might accompany her through the park to
the avenue lodge. So Pauncefort and herself entered the chariot, that
rocked like a ship, in spite of all the skill of the coachman and the
Venetia walked home with Mistress Pauncefort, but Lady Annabel's
little daughter was not in her usual lively spirits; many a butterfly
glanced around without attracting her pursuit, and the deer trooped
by without eliciting a single observation. At length she said, in a
thoughtful tone, 'Mistress Pauncefort, I should have liked to have
gone and seen the little boy.'
'You shall go and see him another day, Miss,' replied her attendant.
'Mistress Pauncefort,' said Venetia, 'are you a widow?'
Mistress Pauncefort almost started; had the inquiry been made by a
man, she would almost have supposed he was going to be very rude. She
was indeed much surprised.
'And pray, Miss Venetia, what could put it in your head to ask such an
odd question?' exclaimed Mistress Pauncefort. 'A widow! Miss Venetia;
I have never yet changed my name, and I shall not in a hurry, that I
can tell you.'
'Do widows change their names?' said Venetia.
'All women change their names when they marry,' responded Mistress
'Is mamma married?' inquired Venetia.
'La! Miss Venetia. Well, to be sure, you do ask the strangest
questions. Married! to be sure she is married,' said Mistress
Pauncefort, exceedingly flustered.
'And whom is she married to?' pursued the unwearied Venetia.
'Your papa, to be sure,' said Mistress Pauncefort, blushing up to her
eyes, and looking very confused; 'that is to say, Miss Venetia, you
are never to ask questions about such subjects. Have not I often told
you it is not pretty?'
'Why is it not pretty?' said Venetia.
'Because it is not proper,' said Mistress Pauncefort; 'because your
mamma does not like you to ask such questions, and she will be very
angry with me for answering them, I can tell you that.'
'I tell you what, Mistress Pauncefort,' said Venetia, 'I think mamma
is a widow.'
'And what then, Miss Venetia? There is no shame in that.'
'Shame!' exclaimed Venetia. 'What is shame?'
'Look, there is a pretty butterfly!' exclaimed Mistress Pauncefort.
'Did you ever see such a pretty butterfly, Miss?'
'I do not care about butterflies to-day, Mistress Pauncefort; I like
to talk about widows.'
'Was there ever such a child!' exclaimed Mistress Pauncefort, with a
'I must have had a papa,' said Venetia; 'all the ladies I read about
had papas, and married husbands. Then whom did my mamma marry?'
'Lord! Miss Venetia, you know very well your mamma always tells
you that all those books you read are a pack of stories,' observed
Mistress Pauncefort, with an air of triumphant art.
'There never were such persons, perhaps,' said Venetia, 'but it is not
true that there never were such things as papas and husbands, for all
people have papas; you must have had a papa, Mistress Pauncefort?'
'To be sure I had,' said Mistress Pauncefort, bridling up.
'And a mamma too?' said Venetia.
'As honest a woman as ever lived,' said Mistress Pauncefort.
'Then if I have no papa, mamma must be a wife that has lost her
husband, and that, mamma told me at dinner yesterday, was a widow.'
'Was the like ever seen!' exclaimed Mistress Pauncefort. 'And what
then, Miss Venetia?'
'It seems to me so odd that only two people should live here, and both
be widows,' said Venetia, 'and both have a little child; the only
difference is, that one is a little boy, and I am a little girl.'
'When ladies lose their husbands, they do not like to have their names
mentioned,' said Mistress Pauncefort; 'and so you must never talk of
your papa to my lady, and that is the truth.'
'I will not now,' said Venetia.
When they returned home, Mistress Pauncefort brought her work, and
seated herself on the terrace, that she might not lose sight of her
charge. Venetia played about for some little time; she made a castle
behind a tree, and fancied she was a knight, and then a lady, and
conjured up an ogre in the neighbouring shrubbery; but these daydreams
did not amuse her as much as usual. She went and fetched her book, but
even 'The Seven Champions' could not interest her. Her eye was fixed
upon the page, and apparently she was absorbed in her pursuit, but
her mind wandered, and the page was never turned. She indulged in an
unconscious reverie; her fancy was with her mother on her visit; the
old abbey rose up before her: she painted the scene without an effort:
the court, with the fountain; the grand room, with the tapestry
hangings; that desolate garden, with the fallen statues; and that
long, gloomy gallery. And in all these scenes appeared that little
boy, who, somehow or other, seemed wonderfully blended with her
imaginings. It was a very long day this; Venetia dined along with
Mistress Pauncefort; the time hung very heavy; at length she fell
asleep in Mistress Pauncefort's lap. A sound roused her: the carriage
had returned; she ran to greet her mother, but there was no news; Mrs.
Cadurcis had been absent; she had gone to a distant town to buy some
furniture; and, after all, Lady Annabel had not seen the little boy.
A few days after the visit to Cadurcis, when Lady Annabel was sitting
alone, a postchaise drove up to the hall, whence issued a short and
stout woman with a rubicund countenance, and dressed in a style which
remarkably blended the shabby with the tawdry. She was accompanied
by a boy between eleven and twelve years of age, whose appearance,
however, much contrasted with that of his mother, for he was pale and
slender, with long curling black hair and large black eyes, which
occasionally, by their transient flashes, agreeably relieved a face
the general expression of which might be esteemed somewhat shy and
sullen. The lady, of course, was Mrs. Cadurcis, who was received by
Lady Annabel with the greatest courtesy.
'A terrible journey,' exclaimed Mrs. Cadurcis, fanning herself as she
took her seat, 'and so very hot! Plantagenet, my love, make your
bow! Have not I always told you to make a bow when you enter a room,
especially where there are strangers? This is Lady Annabel Herbert,
who was so kind as to call upon us. Make your bow to Lady Annabel.'
The boy gave a sort of sulky nod, but Lady Annabel received it so
graciously and expressed herself so kindly to him that his features
relaxed a little, though he was quite silent and sat on the edge of
his chair, the picture of dogged indifference.
'Charming country, Lady Annabel,' said Mrs. Cadurcis, 'but worse
roads, if possible, than we had in Northumberland, where, indeed,
there were no roads at all. Cherbury a delightful place, very unlike
the abbey; dreadfully lonesome I assure you I find it, Lady Annabel.
Great change for us from a little town and all our kind neighbours.
Very different from Morpeth; is it not, Plantagenet?'
'I hate Morpeth,' said the boy.
'Hate Morpeth!' exclaimed Mrs. Cadurcis; 'well, I am sure, that
is very ungrateful, with so many kind friends as we always found.
Besides, Plantagenet, have I not always told you that you are to hate
nothing? It is very wicked. The trouble it costs me, Lady Annabel, to
educate this dear child!' continued Mrs. Cadurcis, turning to Lady
Annabel, and speaking in a semi-tone. 'I have done it all myself, I
assure you; and, when he likes, he can be as good as any one. Can't
Lord Cadurcis gave a grim smile; seated himself at the very back of
the deep chair and swung his feet, which no longer reached the ground,
to and fro.
'I am sure that Lord Cadurcis always behaves well,' said Lady Annabel.
'There, Plantagenet,' exclaimed Mrs. Cadurcis, 'only listen to that.
Hear what Lady Annabel Herbert says; she is sure you always behave
well. Now mind, never give her ladyship cause to change her opinion.'
Plantagenet curled his lip, and half turned his back on his
'I regretted so much that I was not at home when you did me the honour
to call,' resumed Mrs. Cadurcis; 'but I had gone over for the day to
Southport, buying furniture. What a business it is to buy furniture,
Lady Annabel!' added Mrs. Cadurcis, with a piteous expression.
'It is indeed very troublesome,' said Lady Annabel.
'Ah! you have none of these cares,' continued Mrs. Cadurcis, surveying
the pretty apartment. 'What a difference between Cherbury and the
abbey! I suppose you have never been there?'
'Indeed, it is one of my favourite walks,' answered Lady Annabel;
'and, some two years ago, I even took the liberty of walking through
'Was there ever such a place!' exclaimed Mrs. Cadurcis. 'I assure you
my poor head turns whenever I try to find my way about it. But the
trustees offered it us, and I thought it my duty to my son to reside
there. Besides, it was a great offer to a widow; if poor Mr. Cadurcis
had been alive it would have been different. I hardly know what
I shall do there, particularly in winter. My spirits are always
dreadfully low. I only hope Plantagenet will behave well. If he goes
into his tantarums at the abbey, and particularly in winter, I hardly
know what will become of me!'
'I am sure Lord Cadurcis will do everything to make the abbey
comfortable to you. Besides, it is but a short walk from Cherbury, and
you must come often and see us.'
'Oh! Plantagenet can be good if he likes, I can assure you,
Lady Annabel; and behaves as properly as any little boy I know.
Plantagenet, my dear, speak. Have not I always told you, when you pay
a visit, that you should open your mouth now and then. I don't like
chattering children,' added Mrs. Cadurcis, 'but I like them to answer
when they are spoken to.'
'Nobody has spoken to me,' said Lord Cadurcis, in a sullen tone.
'Plantagenet, my love!' said his mother in a solemn voice.
'Well, mother, what do you want?'
'Plantagenet, my love, you know you promised me to be good!'
'Well! what have I done?'
'Lord Cadurcis,' said Lady Annabel, interfering, 'do you like to look
'Thank you,' replied the little lord, in a more courteous tone; 'I
like to be left alone.'
'Did you ever know such an odd child!' said Mrs. Cadurcis; 'and yet,
Lady Annabel, you must not judge him by what you see. I do assure you
he can behave, when he likes, as pretty as possible.'
'Pretty!' muttered the little lord between his teeth.
'If you had only seen him at Morpeth sometimes at a little tea party,'
said Mrs. Cadurcis, 'he really was quite the ornament of the company.'
'No, I wasn't,' said Lord Cadurcis.
'Plantagenet!' said his mother again in a solemn tone, 'have I not
always told you that you are never to contradict any one?'
The little lord indulged in a suppressed growl.
'There was a little play last Christmas,' continued Mrs. Cadurcis,
'and he acted quite delightfully. Now you would not think that, from
the way he sits upon that chair. Plantagenet, my dear, I do insist
upon your behaving yourself. Sit like a man.'
'I am not a man,' said Lord Cadurcis, very quietly; 'I wish I were.'
'Plantagenet!' said the mother, 'have not I always told you that you
are never to answer me? It is not proper for children to answer! O
Lady Annabel, if you knew what it cost me to educate my son. He never
does anything I wish, and it is so provoking, because I know that he
can behave as properly as possible if he likes. He does it to provoke
me. You know you do it to provoke me, you little brat; now, sit
properly, sir; I do desire you to sit properly. How vexatious that you
should call at Cherbury for the first time, and behave in this manner!
Plantagenet, do you hear me?' exclaimed Mrs. Cadurcis, with a face
reddening to scarlet, and almost menacing a move from her seat.
'Yes, everybody hears you, Mrs. Cadurcis,' said the little lord.
'Don't call me Mrs. Cadurcis,' exclaimed the mother, in a dreadful
rage. 'That is not the way to speak to your mother; I will not be
called Mrs. Cadurcis by you. Don't answer me, sir; I desire you not
to answer me. I have half a mind to get up and give you a good shake,
that I have. O Lady Annabel,' sighed Mrs. Cadurcis, while a tear
trickled down her cheek, 'if you only knew the life I lead, and what
trouble it costs me to educate that child!'
'My dear madam,' said Lady Annabel, 'I am sure that Lord Cadurcis has
no other wish but to please you. Indeed you have misunderstood him.'
'Yes! she always misunderstands me,' said Lord Cadurcis, in a softer
tone, but with pouting lips and suffused eyes.
'Now he is going on,' said his mother, beginning herself to cry
dreadfully. 'He knows my weak heart; he knows nobody in the world
loves him like his mother; and this is the way he treats me.'
'My dear Mrs. Cadurcis,' said Lady Annabel, 'pray take luncheon after
your long drive; and Lord Cadurcis, I am sure you must be fatigued.'
'Thank you, I never eat, my dear lady,' said Mrs. Cadurcis, 'except at
my meals. But one glass of Mountain, if you please, I would just take
the liberty of tasting, for the weather is so dreadfully hot, and
Plantagenet has so aggravated me, I really do not feel myself.'
Lady Annabel sounded her silver hand-bell, and the butler brought some
cakes and the Mountain. Mrs. Cadurcis revived by virtue of her single
glass, and the providential co-operation of a subsequent one or two.
Even the cakes and the Mountain, however, would not tempt her son to
open his mouth; and this, in spite of her returning composure, drove
her to desperation. A conviction that the Mountain and the cakes were
delicious, an amiable desire that the palate of her spoiled child
should be gratified, some reasonable maternal anxiety that after so
long and fatiguing a drive he in fact needed some refreshment, and
the agonising consciousness that all her own physical pleasure at the
moment was destroyed by the mental sufferings she endured at having
quarrelled with her son, and that he was depriving himself of what was
so agreeable only to pique her, quite overwhelmed the ill-regulated
mind of this fond mother. Between each sip and each mouthful, she
appealed to him to follow her example, now with cajolery, now with
menace, till at length, worked up by the united stimulus of the
Mountain and her own ungovernable rage, she dashed down the glass and
unfinished slice of cake, and, before the astonished Lady Annabel,
rushed forward to give him what she had long threatened, and what she
in general ultimately had recourse to, a good shake.
Her agile son, experienced in these storms, escaped in time, and
pushed his chair before his infuriated mother; Mrs. Cadurcis, however,
rallied, and chased him round the room; once more she flattered
herself she had captured him, once more he evaded her; in her despair
she took up Venetia's 'Seven Champions,' and threw the volume at his
head; he laughed a fiendish laugh, as, ducking his head, the book flew
on, and dashed through a pane of glass; Mrs. Cadurcis made a desperate
charge, and her son, a little frightened at her almost maniacal
passion, saved himself by suddenly seizing Lady Annabel's work-table,
and whirling it before her; Mrs. Cadurcis fell over the leg of the
table, and went into hysterics; while the bloodhound, who had long
started from his repose, looked at his mistress for instructions, and
in the meantime continued barking. The astonished and agitated Lady
Annabel assisted Mrs. Cadurcis to rise, and led her to a couch. Lord
Cadurcis, pale and dogged, stood in a corner, and after all this
uproar there was a comparative calm, only broken by the sobs of the
mother, each instant growing fainter and fainter.
At this moment the door opened, and Mistress Pauncefort ushered in the
little Venetia. She really looked like an angel of peace sent from
heaven on a mission of concord, with her long golden hair, her bright
face, and smile of ineffable loveliness.
'Mamma!' said Venetia, in the sweetest tone.
'Hush! darling,' said Lady Annabel, 'this lady is not very well.'
Mrs. Cadurcis opened her eyes and sighed. She beheld Venetia, and
stared at her with a feeling of wonder. 'O Lady Annabel,' she faintly
exclaimed, 'what must you think of me? But was there ever such an
unfortunate mother? and I have not a thought in the world but for that
boy. I have devoted my life to him, and never would have buried myself
in this abbey but for his sake. And this is the way he treats me,
and his father before him treated me even worse. Am I not the most
unfortunate woman you ever knew?'
'My dear madam,' said the kind Lady Annabel, in a soothing tone, 'you
will be very happy yet; all will be quite right and quite happy.'
'Is this angel your child?' inquired Mrs. Cadurcis, in a low voice.
'This is my little girl, Venetia. Come hither, Venetia, and speak to
'How do you do, Mrs. Cadurcis?' said Venetia. 'I am so glad you have
come to live at the abbey.'
'The angel!' exclaimed Mrs. Cadurcis. 'The sweet seraph! Oh! why did
not my Plantagenet speak to you, Lady Annabel, in the same tone?
And he can, if he likes; he can, indeed. It was his silence that so
mortified me; it was his silence that led to all. I am so proud of
him! and then he comes here, and never speaks a word. O Plantagenet, I
am sure you will break my heart.'
Venetia went up to the little lord in the corner, and gently stroked
his dark cheek. 'Are you the little boy?' she said.
Cadurcis looked at her; at first the glance was rather fierce, but
it instantly relaxed. 'What is your name?' he said in a low, but not
'I like you, Venetia,' said the boy. 'Do you live here?'
'Yes, with my mamma.'
'I like your mamma, too; but not so much as you. I like your gold
'Oh, how funny! to like my gold hair!'
'If you had come in sooner,' said Cadurcis, 'we should not have had
'What is a row, little boy?' said Venetia.
'Do not call me little boy,' he said, but not in an unkind tone; 'call
me by my name.'
'What is your name?'
'Lord Cadurcis; but you may call me by my Christian name, because I
'What is your Christian name?'
'Plantagenet! What a long name!' said Venetia. 'Tell me then,
Plantagenet, what is a row?'
'What often takes place between me and my mother, but which I am sorry
now has happened here, for I like this place, and should like to come
often. A row is a quarrel.'
'A quarrel! What! do you quarrel with your mamma?'
'Why, then, you are not a good boy.'
'Ah! my mamma is not like yours,' said the little lord, with a sigh.
'It is not my fault. But now I want to make it up; how shall I do it?'
'Go and give her a kiss.'
'Poh! that is not the way.'
'Shall I go and ask my mamma what is best to do?' said Venetia;
and she stole away on tiptoe, and whispered to Lady Annabel that
Plantagenet wanted her. Her mother came forward and invited Lord
Cadurcis to walk on the terrace with her, leaving Venetia to amuse her
Lady Annabel, though kind, was frank and firm in her unexpected
confidential interview with her new friend. She placed before him
clearly the enormity of his conduct, which no provocation could
justify; it was a violation of divine law, as well as human propriety.
She found the little lord attentive, tractable, and repentant,
and, what might not have been expected, exceedingly ingenious
and intelligent. His observations, indeed, were distinguished by
remarkable acuteness; and though he could not, and indeed did not even
attempt to vindicate his conduct, he incidentally introduced much
that might be urged in its extenuation. There was indeed in this,
his milder moment, something very winning in his demeanour, and Lady
Annabel deeply regretted that a nature of so much promise and capacity
should, by the injudicious treatment of a parent, at once fond and
violent, afford such slight hopes of future happiness. It was arranged
between Lord Cadurcis and Lady Annabel that she should lead him to his
mother, and that he should lament the past, and ask her forgiveness;
so they re-entered the room. Venetia was listening to a long story
from Mrs. Cadurcis, who appeared to have entirely recovered herself;
but her countenance assumed a befitting expression of grief and
gravity when she observed her son.
'My dear madam,' said Lady Annabel, 'your son is unhappy that he
should have offended you, and he has asked my kind offices to effect a
perfect reconciliation between a child who wishes to be dutiful to a
parent who, he feels, has always been so affectionate.'
Mrs. Cadurcis began crying.
'Mother,' said her son, 'I am sorry for what has occurred; mine was
the fault. I shall not be happy till you pardon me.'
'No, yours was not the fault,' said poor Mrs. Cadurcis, crying
bitterly. 'Oh! no, it was not! I was in fault, only I. There, Lady
Annabel, did I not tell you he was the sweetest, dearest, most
generous-hearted creature that ever lived? Oh! if he would only always
speak so, I am sure I should be the happiest woman that ever breathed!
He puts me in mind quite of his poor dear father, who was an
angel upon earth; he was indeed, when he was not vexed. O my
dear Plantagenet! my only hope and joy! you are the treasure and
consolation of my life, and always will be. God bless you, my darling
child! You shall have that pony you wanted; I am sure I can manage it:
I did not think I could.'
As Lady Annabel thought it was as well that the mother and the son
should not be immediately thrown together after this storm, she kindly
proposed that they should remain, and pass the day at Cherbury; and,
as Plantagenet's eyes brightened at the proposal, it did not require
much trouble to persuade his mother to accede to it. The day, that had
commenced so inauspiciously, turned out one of the most agreeable,
both to Mrs. Cadurcis and her child. The two mothers conversed
together, and, as Mrs. Cadurcis was a great workwoman, there was
at least one bond of sympathy between her and the tapestry of her
hostess. Then they all took a stroll in the park; and as Mrs. Cadurcis
was not able to walk for any length of time, the children were
permitted to stroll about together, attended by Mistress Pauncefort,
while Mrs. Cadurcis, chatting without ceasing, detailed to Lady
Annabel all the history of her life, all the details of her various
complaints and her economical arrangements, and all the secrets of her
husband's treatment of her, that favourite subject on which she ever
waxed most eloquent. Plantagenet, equally indulging in confidence,
which with him, however, was unusual, poured all his soul into the
charmed ear of Venetia. He told her how he and his mother had lived at
Morpeth, and how he hated it; how poor they had been, and how rich he
should be; how he loved the abbey, and especially the old gallery, and
the drums and armour; how he had been a day-scholar at a little school
which he abhorred, and how he was to go some day to Eton, of which he
was very proud.
At length they were obliged to return, and when dinner was over the
postchaise was announced. Mrs. Cadurcis parted from Lady Annabel with
all the warm expressions of a heart naturally kind and generous; and
Plantagenet embraced Venetia, and promised that the next day he would
find his way alone from Cadurcis, through the wood, and come and take
another walk with her.
This settlement of Mrs. Cadurcis and her son in the neighbourhood
was an event of no slight importance in the life of the family at
Cherbury. Venetia at length found a companion of her own age, itself
an incident which, in its influence upon her character and pursuits,
was not to be disregarded. There grew up between the little lord and
the daughter of Lady Annabel that fond intimacy which not rarely
occurs in childhood. Plantagenet and Venetia quickly imbibed for each
other a singular affection, not displeasing to Lady Annabel, who
observed, without dissatisfaction, the increased happiness of her
child, and encouraged by her kindness the frequent visits of the boy,
who soon learnt the shortest road from the abbey, and almost daily
scaled the hill, and traced his way through the woods to the hall.
There was much, indeed, in the character and the situation of Lord
Cadurcis which interested Lady Annabel Herbert. His mild, engaging,
and affectionate manners, when he was removed from the injudicious
influence of his mother, won upon her feelings; she felt for this
lone child, whom nature had gifted with so soft a heart and with a
thoughtful mind whose outbreaks not unfrequently attracted her notice;
with none to guide him, and with only one heart to look up to for
fondness; and that, too, one that had already contrived to forfeit the
respect even of so young a child.
Yet Lady Annabel was too sensible of the paramount claims of a
mother; herself, indeed, too jealous of any encroachment on the full
privileges of maternal love, to sanction in the slightest degree, by
her behaviour, any neglect of Mrs. Cadurcis by her son. For his sake,
therefore, she courted the society of her new neighbour; and although
Mrs. Cadurcis offered little to engage Lady Annabel's attention as
a companion, though she was violent in her temper, far from well
informed, and, from the society in which, in spite of her original
good birth, her later years had passed, very far from being
refined, she was not without her good qualities. She was generous,
kind-hearted, and grateful; not insensible of her own deficiencies,
and respectable from her misfortunes. Lady Annabel was one of those
who always judged individuals rather by their good qualities than
their bad. With the exception of her violent temper, which, under the
control of Lady Annabel's presence, and by the aid of all that kind
person's skilful management, Mrs. Cadurcis generally contrived to
bridle, her principal faults were those of manner, which, from the
force of habit, every day became less painful. Mrs. Cadurcis, who,
indeed, was only a child of a larger growth, became scarcely less
attached to the Herbert family than her son; she felt that her life,
under their influence, was happier and serener than of yore; that
there were less domestic broils than in old days; that her son was
more dutiful; and, as she could not help suspecting, though she found
it difficult to analyse the cause, herself more amiable. The truth
was, Lady Annabel always treated Mrs. Cadurcis with studied respect;
and the children, and especially Venetia, followed her example.
Mrs. Cadurcis' self-complacency was not only less shocked, but more
gratified, than before; and this was the secret of her happiness. For
no one was more mortified by her rages, when they were past, than Mrs.
Cadurcis herself; she felt they compromised her dignity, and had lost
her all moral command over a child whom she loved at the bottom of her
heart with a kind of wild passion, though she would menace and strike
him, and who often precipitated these paroxysms by denying his mother
that duty and affection which were, after all, the great charm and
pride of her existence.
As Mrs. Cadurcis was unable to walk to Cherbury, and as Plantagenet
soon fell into the habit of passing every morning at the hall, Lady
Annabel was frequent in her visits to the mother, and soon she
persuaded Mrs. Cadurcis to order the old postchaise regularly on
Saturday, and remain at Cherbury until the following Monday; by these
means both families united together in the chapel at divine service,
while the presence of Dr. Masham, at their now increased Sunday
dinner, was an incident in the monotonous life of Mrs. Cadurcis far
from displeasing to her. The Doctor gave her a little news of the
neighbourhood, and of the country in general; amused her with an
occasional anecdote of the Queen and the young Princesses, and always
lent her the last number of 'Sylvanus Urban.'
This weekly visit to Cherbury, the great personal attention which she
always received there, and the frequent morning walks of Lady Annabel
to the abbey, effectually repressed on the whole the jealousy which
was a characteristic of Mrs. Cadurcis' nature, and which the constant
absence of her son from her in the mornings might otherwise have
fatally developed. But Mrs. Cadurcis could not resist the conviction
that the Herberts were as much her friends as her child's; her
jealousy was balanced by her gratitude; she was daily, almost hourly,
sensible of some kindness of Lady Annabel, for there were a thousand
services in the power of the opulent and ample establishment of
Cherbury to afford the limited and desolate household at the abbey.
Living in seclusion, it is difficult to refrain from imbibing even a
strong regard for our almost solitary companion, however incompatible
may be our pursuits, and however our tastes may vary, especially when
that companion is grateful, and duly sensible of the condescension of
our intimacy. And so it happened that, before a year had elapsed, that
very Mrs. Cadurcis, whose first introduction at Cherbury had been so
unfavourable to her, and from whose temper and manners the elegant
demeanour and the disciplined mind of Lady Annabel Herbert might have
been excused for a moment recoiling, had succeeded in establishing a
strong hold upon the affections of her refined neighbour, who sought,
on every occasion, her society, and omitted few opportunities of
contributing to her comfort and welfare.
In the meantime her son was the companion of Venetia, both in her
pastimes and studies. The education of Lord Cadurcis had received no
further assistance than was afforded by the little grammar-school at
Morpeth, where he had passed three or four years as a day-scholar, and
where his mother had invariably taken his part on every occasion that
he had incurred the displeasure of his master. There he had obtained
some imperfect knowledge of Latin; yet the boy was fond of reading,
and had picked up, in an odd way, more knowledge than might have been
supposed. He had read 'Baker's Chronicle,' and 'The Old Universal
History,' and 'Plutarch;' and had turned over, in the book room of an
old gentleman at Morpeth, who had been attracted by his intelligence,
not a few curious old folios, from which he had gleaned no
contemptible store of curious instances of human nature. His guardian,
whom he had never seen, and who was a great nobleman and lived in
London, had signified to Mrs. Cadurcis his intention of sending his
ward to Eton; but that time had not yet arrived, and Mrs. Cadurcis,
who dreaded parting with her son, determined to postpone it by every
maternal artifice in her power. At present it would have seemed that
her son's intellect was to be left utterly uncultivated, for there
was no school in the neighbourhood which he could attend, and no
occasional assistance which could be obtained; and to the constant
presence of a tutor in the house Mrs. Cadurcis was not less opposed
than his lordship could have been himself.
It was by degrees that Lord Cadurcis became the partner of Venetia
in her studies. Lady Annabel had consulted Dr. Masham about the poor
little boy, whose neglected state she deplored; and the good Doctor
had offered to ride over to Cherbury at least once a week, besides
Sunday, provided Lady Annabel would undertake that his directions,
in his absence, should be attended to. This her ladyship promised
cheerfully; nor had she any difficulty in persuading Cadurcis to
consent to the arrangement. He listened with docility and patience to
her representation of the fatal effects, in his after-life, of his
neglected education; of the generous and advantageous offer of Dr.
Masham; and how cheerfully she would exert herself to assist his
endeavours, if Plantagenet would willingly submit to her supervision.
The little lord expressed to her his determination to do all that she
desired, and voluntarily promised her that she should never repent
her goodness. And he kept his word. So every morning, with the full
concurrence of Mrs. Cadurcis, whose advice and opinion on the affair
were most formally solicited by Lady Annabel, Plantagenet arrived
early at the hall, and took his writing and French lessons with
Venetia, and then they alternately read aloud to Lady Annabel from the
histories of Hooke and Echard. When Venetia repaired to her drawing,
Cadurcis sat down to his Latin exercise, and, in encouraging and
assisting him, Lady Annabel, a proficient in Italian, began herself
to learn the ancient language of the Romans. With such a charming
mistress even these Latin exercises were achieved. In vain Cadurcis,
after turning leaf over leaf, would look round with a piteous air to
his fair assistant, 'O Lady Annabel, I am sure the word is not in the
dictionary;' Lady Annabel was in a moment at his side, and, by some
magic of her fair fingers, the word would somehow or other make its
appearance. After a little exposure of this kind, Plantagenet would
labour with double energy, until, heaving a deep sigh of exhaustion
and vexation, he would burst forth, 'O Lady Annabel, indeed there is
not a nominative case in this sentence.' And then Lady Annabel
would quit her easel, with her pencil in her hand, and give all her
intellect to the puzzling construction; at length, she would say,
'I think, Plantagenet, this must be our nominative case;' and so it
Thus, when Wednesday came, the longest and most laborious morning of
all Lord Cadurcis' studies, and when he neither wrote, nor read, nor
learnt French with Venetia, but gave up all his soul to Dr. Masham, he
usually acquitted himself to that good person's satisfaction, who left
him, in general, with commendations that were not lost on the pupil,
and plenty of fresh exercises to occupy him and Lady Annabel until the
next week. When a year had thus passed away, the happiest year yet
in Lord Cadurcis' life, in spite of all his disadvantages, he had
contrived to make no inconsiderable progress. Almost deprived of a
tutor, he had advanced in classical acquirement more than during the
whole of his preceding years of scholarship, while his handwriting
began to become intelligible, he could read French with comparative
facility, and had turned over many a volume in the well-stored library
When the hours of study were past, the children, with that zest for
play which occupation can alone secure, would go forth together, and
wander in the park. Here they had made a little world for themselves,
of which no one dreamed; for Venetia had poured forth all her Arcadian
lore into the ear of Plantagenet; and they acted together many of
the adventures of the romance, under the fond names of Musidorus and
Philoclea. Cherbury was Arcadia, and Cadurcis Macedon; while the
intervening woods figured as the forests of Thessaly, and the breezy
downs were the heights of Pindus. Unwearied was the innocent sport
of their virgin imaginations; and it was a great treat if Venetia,
attended by Mistress Pauncefort, were permitted to accompany
Plantagenet some way on his return. Then they parted with an embrace
in the woods of Thessaly, and Musidorus strolled home with a heavy
heart to his Macedonian realm.
Parted from Venetia, the magic suddenly seemed to cease, and Musidorus
was instantly transformed into the little Lord Cadurcis, exhausted by
the unconscious efforts of his fancy, depressed by the separation from
his sweet companion, and shrinking from the unpoetical reception which
at the best awaited him in his ungenial home. Often, when thus alone,
would he loiter on his way and seat himself on the ridge, and watch
the setting sun, as its dying glory illumined the turrets of his
ancient house, and burnished the waters of the lake, until the tears
stole down his cheek; and yet he knew not why. No thoughts of sorrow
had flitted through his mind, nor indeed had ideas of any description
occurred to him. It was a trance of unmeaning abstraction; all that he
felt was a mystical pleasure in watching the sunset, and a conviction
that, if he were not with Venetia, that which he loved next best, was
to be alone.
The little Cadurcis in general returned home moody and silent, and
his mother too often, irritated by his demeanour, indulged in all the
expressions of a quick and offended temper; but since his intimacy
with the Herberts, Plantagenet had learnt to control his emotions,
and often successfully laboured to prevent those scenes of domestic
recrimination once so painfully frequent. There often, too, was a note
from Lady Annabel to Mrs. Cadurcis, or some other slight memorial,
borne by her son, which enlisted all the kind feelings of that lady in
favour of her Cherbury friends, and then the evening was sure to pass
over in peace; and, when Plantagenet was not thus armed, he exerted
himself to be cordial; and so, on the whole, with some skill in
management, and some trials of temper, the mother and child contrived
to live together with far greater comfort than they had of old.
Bedtime was always a great relief to Plantagenet, for it secured
him solitude. He would lie awake for hours, indulging in sweet and
unconscious reveries, and brooding over the future morn, that always
brought happiness. All that he used to sigh for, was to be Lady
Annabel's son; were he Venetia's brother, then he was sure he never
should be for a moment unhappy; that parting from Cherbury, and the
gloomy evenings at Cadurcis, would then be avoided. In such a mood,
and lying awake upon his pillow, he sought refuge from the painful
reality that surrounded him in the creative solace of his imagination.
Alone, in his little bed, Cadurcis was Venetia's brother, and he
conjured up a thousand scenes in which they were never separated, and
wherein he always played an amiable and graceful part. Yet he loved
the abbey; his painful infancy was not associated with that scene; it
was not connected with any of those grovelling common-places of his
life, from which he had shrunk back with instinctive disgust, even
at a very tender age. Cadurcis was the spot to which, in his most
miserable moments at Morpeth, he had always looked forward, as the
only chance of emancipation from the distressing scene that surrounded
him. He had been brought up with a due sense of his future position,
and although he had ever affected a haughty indifference on the
subject, from his disrelish for the coarse acquaintances who were
perpetually reminding him, with chuckling self-complacency, of his
future greatness, in secret he had ever brooded over his destiny as
his only consolation. He had imbibed from his own reflections, at a
very early period of life, a due sense of the importance of his lot;
he was proud of his hereditary honours, blended, as they were, with
some glorious passages in the history of his country, and prouder of
his still more ancient line. The eccentric exploits and the violent
passions, by which his race had been ever characterised, were to him a
source of secret exultation. Even the late lord, who certainly had
no claims to his gratitude, for he had robbed the inheritance to the
utmost of his power, commanded, from the wild decision of his life,
the savage respect of his successor. In vain Mrs. Cadurcis would
pour forth upon this, the favourite theme for her wrath and her
lamentations, all the bitter expressions of her rage and woe.
Plantagenet had never imbibed her prejudices against the departed, and
had often irritated his mother by maintaining that the late lord was
perfectly justified in his conduct.
But in these almost daily separations between Plantagenet and Venetia,
how different was her lot to that of her companion! She was the
confidante of all his domestic sorrows, and often he had requested
her to exert her influence to obtain some pacifying missive from Lady
Annabel, which might secure him a quiet evening at Cadurcis; and
whenever this had not been obtained, the last words of Venetia were
ever not to loiter, and to remember to speak to his mother as much as
he possibly could. Venetia returned to a happy home, welcomed by the
smile of a soft and beautiful parent, and with words of affection
sweeter than music. She found an engaging companion, who had no
thought but for her welfare, her amusement, and her instruction: and
often, when the curtains were drawn, the candles lit, and Venetia,
holding her mother's hand, opened her book, she thought of poor
Plantagenet, so differently situated, with no one to be kind to him,
with no one to sympathise with his thoughts, and perhaps at the very
moment goaded into some unhappy quarrel with his mother.
The appearance of the Cadurcis family on the limited stage of her
life, and the engrossing society of her companion, had entirely
distracted the thoughts of Venetia from a subject to which in old days
they were constantly recurring, and that was her father. By a process
which had often perplexed her, and which she could never succeed in
analysing, there had arisen in her mind, without any ostensible
agency on the part of her mother which she could distinctly recall, a
conviction that this was a topic on which she was never to speak. This
idea had once haunted her, and she had seldom found herself alone
without almost unconsciously musing over it. Notwithstanding the
unvarying kindness of Lady Annabel, she exercised over her child
a complete and unquestioned control. Venetia was brought up with
strictness, which was only not felt to be severe, because the system
was founded on the most entire affection, but, fervent as her love was
for her mother, it was equalled by her profound respect, which every
word and action of Lady Annabel tended to maintain.
In all the confidential effusions with Plantagenet, Venetia had never
dwelt upon this mysterious subject; indeed, in these conversations,
when they treated of their real and not ideal life, Venetia was a mere
recipient: all that she could communicate, Plantagenet could observe;
he it was who avenged himself at these moments for his habitual
silence before third persons; it was to Venetia that he poured forth
all his soul, and she was never weary of hearing his stories about
Morpeth, and all his sorrows, disgusts, and afflictions. There was
scarcely an individual in that little town with whom, from his lively
narratives, she was not familiar; and it was to her sympathising heart
that he confided all his future hopes and prospects, and confessed the
strong pride he experienced in being a Cadurcis, which from all others
was studiously concealed.
It had happened that the first Christmas Day after the settlement of
the Cadurcis family at the abbey occurred in the middle of the week;
and as the weather was severe, in order to prevent two journeys at
such an inclement season, Lady Annabel persuaded Mrs. Cadurcis to pass
the whole week at the hall. This arrangement gave such pleasure to
Plantagenet that the walls of the abbey, as the old postchaise was
preparing for their journey, quite resounded with his merriment. In
vain his mother, harassed with all the mysteries of packing, indulged
in a thousand irritable expressions, which at any other time might
have produced a broil or even a fray; Cadurcis did nothing but laugh.
There was at the bottom of this boy's heart, with all his habitual
gravity and reserve, a fund of humour which would occasionally break
out, and which nothing could withstand. When he was alone with
Venetia, he would imitate the old maids of Morpeth, and all the
ceremonies of a provincial tea party, with so much life and genuine
fun, that Venetia was often obliged to stop in their rambles to
indulge her overwhelming mirth. When they were alone, and he was
gloomy, she was often accustomed to say, 'Now, dear Plantagenet, tell
me how the old ladies at Morpeth drink tea.'
This morning at the abbey, Cadurcis was irresistible, and the more
excited his mother became with the difficulties which beset her, the
more gay and fluent were his quips and cranks. Puffing, panting,
and perspiring, now directing her waiting-woman, now scolding her
man-servant, and now ineffectually attempting to box her son's ears,
Mrs. Cadurcis indeed offered a most ridiculous spectacle.
'John!' screamed Mrs. Cadurcis, in a voice of bewildered passion, and
stamping with rage, 'is that the place for my cap-box? You do it on
purpose, that you do!'
'John,' mimicked Lord Cadurcis, 'how dare you do it on purpose?'
'Take that, you brat,' shrieked the mother, and she struck her own
hand against the doorway. 'Oh! I'll give it you, I'll give it you,'
she bellowed under the united influence of rage and pain, and she
pursued her agile child, who dodged her on the other side of the
postchaise, which he persisted in calling the family carriage.
'Oh! ma'am, my lady,' exclaimed the waiting-woman, sallying forth from
the abbey, 'what is to be done with the parrot when we are away? Mrs.
Brown says she won't see to it, that she won't; 'taynt her place.'
This rebellion of Mrs. Brown was a diversion in favour of Plantagenet.
Mrs. Cadurcis waddled down the cloisters with precipitation, rushed
into the kitchen, seized the surprised Mrs. Brown by the shoulder, and
gave her a good shake; and darting at the cage, which held the parrot,
she bore it in triumph to the carriage. 'I will take the bird with
me,' said Mrs. Cadurcis.
'We cannot take the bird inside, madam,' said Plantagenet, 'for it
will overhear all our conversation, and repeat it. We shall not be
able to abuse our friends.'
Mrs. Cadurcis threw the cage at her son's head, who, for the sake of
the bird, dexterously caught it, but declared at the same time he
would immediately throw it into the lake. Then Mrs. Cadurcis began to
cry with rage, and, seating herself on the open steps of the chaise,
sobbed hysterically. Plantagenet stole round on tip-toe, and peeped
in her face: 'A merry Christmas and a happy new year, Mrs. Cadurcis,'
said her son.
'How can I be merry and happy, treated as I am?' sobbed the mother.
'You do not treat Lady Annabel so. Oh! no; it is only your mother whom
you use in this manner! Go to Cherbury. Go by all means, but go by
yourself; I shall not go: go to your friends, Lord Cadurcis; they are
your friends, not mine, and I hope they are satisfied, now that they
have robbed me of the affections of my child. I have seen what they
have been after all this time. I am not so blind as some people think.
No! I see how it is. I am nobody. Your poor mother, who brought you
up, and educated you, is nobody. This is the end of all your Latin and
French, and your fine lessons. Honour your father and your mother,
Lord Cadurcis; that's a finer lesson than all. Oh! oh! oh!'
This allusion to the Herberts suddenly calmed Plantagenet. He felt in
an instant the injudiciousness of fostering by his conduct the latent
jealousy which always lurked at the bottom of his mother's heart, and
which nothing but the united talent and goodness of Lady Annabel could
have hitherto baffled. So he rejoined in a kind yet playful tone, 'If
you will be good, I will give you a kiss for a Christmas-box, mother;
and the parrot shall go inside if you like.'
'The parrot may stay at home, I do not care about it: but I cannot
bear quarrelling; it is not my temper, you naughty, very naughty boy.'
'My dear mother,' continued his lordship, in a soothing tone, 'these
scenes always happen when people are going to travel. I assure you it
is quite a part of packing up.'
'You will be the death of me, that you will,' said the mother, 'with
all your violence. You are worse than your father, that you are.'
'Come, mother,' said her son, drawing nearer, and just touching her
shoulder with his hand, 'will you not have my Christmas-box?'
The mother extended her cheek, which the son slightly touched with his
lip, and then Mrs. Cadurcis jumped up as lively as ever, called for a
glass of Mountain, and began rating the footboy.
At length the postchaise was packed; they had a long journey before
them, because Cadurcis would go round by Southport, to call upon a
tradesman whom a month before he had commissioned to get a trinket
made for him in London, according to the newest fashion, as a present
for Venetia. The commission was executed; Mrs. Cadurcis, who had been
consulted in confidence by her son on the subject, was charmed with
the result of their united taste. She had good-naturedly contributed
one of her own few, but fine, emeralds to the gift; upon the back of
the brooch was engraved:--
TO VENETIA, FROM HER AFFECTIONATE BROTHER, PLANTAGENET.
'I hope she will be a sister, and more than a sister, to you,' said
'Why?' inquired her son, rather confused.
'You may look farther, and fare worse,' said Mrs. Cadurcis.
Plantagenet blushed; and yet he wondered why he blushed: he understood
his mother, but he could not pursue the conversation; his heart
A most cordial greeting awaited them at Cherbury; Dr. Masham was
there, and was to remain until Monday. Mrs. Cadurcis would have opened
about the present immediately, but her son warned her on the threshold
that if she said a word about it, or seemed to be aware of its
previous existence, even when it was shown, he would fling it
instantly away into the snow; and her horror of this catastrophe
bridled her tongue. Mrs. Cadurcis, however, was happy, and Lady
Annabel was glad to see her so; the Doctor, too, paid her some
charming compliments; the good lady was in the highest spirits, for
she was always in extremes, and at this moment she would willingly
have laid down her life if she had thought the sacrifice could have
contributed to the welfare of the Herberts.
Cadurcis himself drew Venetia aside, and then, holding the brooch
reversed, he said, with rather a confused air, 'Read that, Venetia.'
'Oh! Plantagenet!' she said, very much astonished.
'You see, Venetia,' he added, leaving it in her hand, 'it is yours.'
Venetia turned the jewel; her eye was dazzled with its brilliancy.
'It is too grand for a little girl, Plantagenet,' she exclaimed, a
'No, it is not,' said Plantagenet, firmly; 'besides, you will not
always be a little girl; and then, if ever we do not live together as
we do now, you will always remember you have a brother.'
'I must show it mamma; I must ask her permission to take it,
Venetia went up to her mother, who was talking to Mrs. Cadurcis. She
had not courage to speak before that lady and Dr. Masham, so she
called her mother aside.
'Mamma,' she said, 'something has happened.'
'What, my dear?' said Lady Annabel, somewhat surprised at the
seriousness of her tone.
'Look at this, mamma!' said Venetia, giving her the brooch.
Lady Annabel looked at the jewel, and read the inscription. It was
a more precious offering than the mother would willingly have
sanctioned, but she was too highly bred, and too thoughtful of the
feelings of others, to hesitate for a moment to admire it herself, and
authorise its acceptance by her daughter. So she walked up to Cadurcis
and gave him a mother's embrace for his magnificent present to his
sister, placed the brooch itself near Venetia's heart, and then led
her daughter to Mrs. Cadurcis, that the gratified mother might
admire the testimony of her son's taste and affection. It was a most
successful present, and Cadurcis felt grateful to his mother for her
share in its production, and the very proper manner in which she
received the announcement of its offering.
This was Christmas Eve; the snow was falling briskly. After dinner
they were glad to cluster round the large fire in the green
drawing-room. Dr. Masham had promised to read the evening service in
the chapel, which was now lit up, and the bell was sounding, that the
cottagers might have the opportunity of attending.
Plantagenet and Venetia followed the elders to the chapel; they walked
hand-in-hand down the long galleries.
'I should like to go all over this house,' said Plantagenet to his
companion. 'Have you ever been?'
'Never,' said Venetia; 'half of it is shut up. Nobody ever goes into
it, except mamma.'
In the night there was a violent snowstorm; not only was the fall
extremely heavy, but the wind was so high, that it carried the snow
off the hills, and all the roads were blocked up, in many places
ten or twelve feet deep. All communication was stopped. This was an
adventure that amused the children, though the rest looked rather
grave. Plantagenet expressed to Venetia his wish that the snow would
never melt, and that they might remain at Cherbury for ever.
The children were to have a holiday this week, and they had planned
some excursions in the park and neighbourhood, but now they were all
prisoners to the house. They wandered about, turning the staircase
into mountains, the great hall into an ocean, and the different rooms
into so many various regions. They amused themselves with their
adventures, and went on endless voyages of discovery. Every moment
Plantagenet longed still more for the opportunity of exploring the
uninhabited chambers; but Venetia shook her head, because she was sure
Lady Annabel would not grant them permission.
'Did you ever live at any place before you came to Cherbury?' inquired
Lord Cadurcis of Venetia.
'I know I was not born here,' said Venetia; 'but I was so young that I
have no recollection of any other place.'
'And did any one live here before you came?' said Plantagenet.
'I do not know,' said Venetia; 'I never heard if anybody did. I, I,'
she continued, a little constrained, 'I know nothing.'
'Do you remember your papa?' said Plantagenet.
'No,' said Venetia.
'Then he must have died almost as soon as you were born, said Lord
'I suppose he must,' said Venetia, and her heart trembled.
'I wonder if he ever lived here!' said Plantagenet.
'Mamma does not like me to ask questions about my papa,' said Venetia,
'and I cannot tell you anything.'
'Ah! your papa was different from mine, Venetia,' said Cadurcis; 'my
mother talks of him often enough. They did not agree very well; and,
when we quarrel, she always says I remind her of him. I dare say Lady
Annabel loved your papa very much.'
'I am sure mamma did,' replied Venetia.
The children returned to the drawing-room, and joined their friends:
Mrs. Cadurcis was sitting on the sofa, occasionally dozing over a
sermon; Dr. Masham was standing with Lady Annabel in the recess of
a distant window. Her ladyship's countenance was averted; she was
reading a newspaper, which the Doctor had given her. As the door
opened, Lady Annabel glanced round; her countenance was agitated; she
folded up the newspaper rather hastily, and gave it to the Doctor.
'And what have you been doing, little folks?' inquired the Doctor of
the new comers.
'We have been playing at the history of Rome,' said Venetia, 'and now
that we have conquered every place, we do not know what to do.'
'The usual result of conquest,' said the Doctor, smiling.
'This snowstorm is a great trial for you; I begin to believe that,
after all, you would be more pleased to take your holidays at another
'We could amuse ourselves very well,' said Plantagenet, 'if Lady
Annabel would be so kind as to permit us to explore the part of the
house that is shut up.'
'That would be a strange mode of diversion,' said Lady Annabel,
quietly, 'and I do not think by any means a suitable one. There cannot
be much amusement in roaming over a number of dusty unfurnished
'And so nicely dressed as you are too!' said Mrs. Cadurcis, rousing
herself: 'I wonder how such an idea could enter your head!'
'It snows harder than ever,' said Venetia; 'I think, after all, I
shall learn my French vocabulary.'
'If it snows to-morrow,' said Plantagenet, 'we will do our lessons as
usual. Holidays, I find, are not so amusing as I supposed.'
The snow did continue, and the next day the children voluntarily
suggested that they should resume their usual course of life. With
their mornings occupied, they found their sources of relaxation ample;
and in the evening they acted plays, and Lady Annabel dressed them up
in her shawls, and Dr. Masham read Shakspeare to them.
It was about the fourth day of the visit that Plantagenet, loitering
in the hall with Venetia, said to her, 'I saw your mamma go into the
locked-up rooms last night. I do so wish that she would let us go
'Last night!' said Venetia; 'when could you have seen her last night?'
'Very late: the fact is, I could not sleep, and I took it into my head
to walk up and down the gallery. I often do so at the abbey. I like to
walk up and down an old gallery alone at night. I do not know why; but
I like it very much. Everything is so still, and then you hear the
owls. I cannot make out why it is; but nothing gives me more pleasure
than to get up when everybody is asleep. It seems as if one were the
only living person in the world. I sometimes think, when I am a man, I
will always get up in the night, and go to bed in the daytime. Is not
'But mamma!' said Venetia, 'how came you to see mamma?'
'Oh! I am certain of it,' said the boy; 'for, to tell you the truth, I
was rather frightened at first; only I thought it would not do for a
Cadurcis to be afraid, so I stood against the wall, in the shade, and
I was determined, whatever happened, not to cry out.'
'Oh! you frighten me so, Plantagenet!' said Venetia.
'Ah! you might well have been frightened if you had been there; past
midnight, a tall white figure, and a light! However, there is nothing
to be alarmed about; it was Lady Annabel, nobody else. I saw her as
clearly as I see you now. She walked along the gallery, and went to
the very door you showed me the other morning. I marked the door; I
could not mistake it. She unlocked it, and she went in.'
'And then?' inquired Venetia, eagerly.
'Why, then, like a fool, I went back to bed,' said Plantagenet. 'I
thought it would seem so silly if I were caught, and I might not have
had the good fortune to escape twice. I know no more.'
Venetia could not reply. She heard a laugh, and then her mother's
voice. They were called with a gay summons to see a colossal
snow-ball, that some of the younger servants had made and rolled to
the window of the terrace-room. It was ornamented with a crown of
holly and mistletoe, and the parti-coloured berries looked bright in a
straggling sunbeam which had fought its way through the still-loaded
sky, and fell upon the terrace.
In the evening, as they sat round the fire, Mrs. Cadurcis began
telling Venetia a long rambling ghost story, which she declared was
a real ghost story, and had happened in her own family. Such
communications were not very pleasing to Lady Annabel, but she was too
well bred to interrupt her guest. When, however, the narrative was
finished, and Venetia, by her observations, evidently indicated
the effect that it had produced upon her mind, her mother took the
occasion of impressing upon her the little credibility which should
be attached to such legends, and the rational process by which many
unquestionable apparitions might be accounted for. Dr. Masham,
following this train, recounted a story of a ghost which had been
generally received in a neighbouring village for a considerable
period, and attested by the most veracious witnesses, but which was
explained afterwards by turning out to be an instance of somnambulism.
Venetia appeared to be extremely interested in the subject; she
inquired much about sleep-walkers and sleepwalking; and a great many
examples of the habit were cited. At length she said, 'Mamma, did you
ever walk in your sleep?'
'Not to my knowledge,' said Lady Annabel, smiling; 'I should hope
'Well, do you know,' said Plantagenet, who had hitherto listened in
silence, 'it is very curious, but I once dreamt that you did, Lady
'Indeed!' said the lady.
'Yes! and I dreamt it last night, too,' continued Cadurcis. 'I thought
I was sleeping in the uninhabited rooms here, and the door opened, and
you walked in with a light.'
'No! Plantagenet,' said Venetia, who was seated by him, and who spoke
in a whisper, 'it was not--'
'Hush!' said Cadurcis, in a low voice.
'Well, that was a strange dream,' said Mrs. Cadurcis; 'was it not,
'Now, children, I will tell you a very curious story,' said the
Doctor; 'and it is quite a true one, for it happened to myself.'
The Doctor was soon embarked in his tale, and his audience speedily
became interested in the narrative; but Lady Annabel for some time
maintained complete silence.
The spring returned; the intimate relations between the two families
were each day more confirmed. Lady Annabel had presented her daughter
and Plantagenet each with a beautiful pony, but their rides were at
first to be confined to the park, and to be ever attended by a groom.
In time, however, duly accompanied, they were permitted to extend
their progress so far as Cadurcis. Mrs. Cadurcis had consented to
the wishes of her son to restore the old garden, and Venetia was his
principal adviser and assistant in the enterprise. Plantagenet was
fond of the abbey, and nothing but the agreeable society of Cherbury
on the one hand, and the relief of escaping from his mother on the
other, could have induced him to pass so little of his time at home;
but, with Venetia for his companion, his mornings at the abbey passed
charmingly, and, as the days were now at their full length again,
there was abundance of time, after their studies at Cherbury, to ride
together through the woods to Cadurcis, spend several hours there, and
for Venetia to return to the hall before sunset. Plantagenet always
accompanied her to the limits of the Cherbury grounds, and then
returned by himself, solitary and full of fancies.
Lady Annabel had promised the children that they should some day
ride together to Marringhurst, the rectory of Dr. Masham, to eat
strawberries and cream. This was to be a great festival, and was
looked forward to with corresponding interest. Her ladyship had kindly
offered to accompany Mrs. Cadurcis in the carriage, but that lady was
an invalid and declined the journey; so Lady Annabel, who was herself
a good horsewoman, mounted her jennet with Venetia and Plantagenet.
Marringhurst was only five miles from Cherbury by a cross-road,
which was scarcely passable for carriages. The rectory house was a
substantial, square-built, red brick mansion, shaded by gigantic elms,
but the southern front covered with a famous vine, trained over it
with elaborate care, and of which, and his espaliers, the Doctor was
very proud. The garden was thickly stocked with choice fruit-trees;
there was not the slightest pretence to pleasure grounds; but there
was a capital bowling-green, and, above all, a grotto, where the
Doctor smoked his evening pipe, and moralised in the midst of his
cucumbers and cabbages. On each side extended the meadows of his
glebe, where his kine ruminated at will. It was altogether a scene as
devoid of the picturesque as any that could be well imagined; flat,
but not low, and rich, and green, and still.
His expected guests met as warm a reception as such a hearty friend
might be expected to afford. Dr. Masham was scarcely less delighted at
the excursion than the children themselves, and rejoiced in the sunny
day that made everything more glad and bright. The garden, the grotto,
the bowling-green, and all the novelty of the spot, greatly diverted
his young companions; they visited his farmyard, were introduced to
his poultry, rambled over his meadows, and admired his cows, which he
had collected with equal care and knowledge. Nor was the interior of
this bachelor's residence devoid of amusement. Every nook and corner
was filled with objects of interest; and everything was in admirable
order. The goddess of neatness and precision reigned supreme,
especially in his hall, which, though barely ten feet square, was a
cabinet of rural curiosities. His guns, his fishing-tackle, a cabinet
of birds stuffed by himself, a fox in a glass-case that seemed
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