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and it shall go hard but I will, ere long, with your leave and that of your father's, ascertain not only who he is, but what are his motives of action.”
“I sincerely wish you may succeed,” exclaimed Montchensey, with a thoughtful and perturbed brow; whilst on the countenance of Helen there sate an expression of timidity and pensiveness, which seemed to indicate an anxious and somewhat alarmed state of feeling.
The conversation, however, soon took a more lively if not a more interesting turn, and after many enquiries had been made concerning their Stratford friends, and a wish had been expressed by Helen that Mrs. Hall had accompanied her father, Shakspeare entered into an animated eulogium on the characteristic beauties of the country through which he had lately passed, describing the partial appearance of Wyeburne Hall, as it struck him in the rays of the setting sun, just previous to his descent into the valley, with all that warmth and enthusiasm, and richness of language, which absolutely paints what it strives to impress.
“ A beam of satisfaction lighted up the fea
tures of Montchensey as the picture came before him, glowing with all the fairy tints which Shakspeare knew to give it. “ Yes, my friend,” he exclaimed in allusion to a sentiment which had fallen from the poet, “ I am indeed truly proud of Wyeburne Hall; it has been the seat of my ancestors ever since the conquest, and many a deed of worth and valour hath tradition treasured to their memory. But, alas !” he added, and a cloud of deep gloom came over him as he uttered it, “ I am the last male descendant of my house. A storm at once overwhelming and unforeseen, hath strewed its honours on the ground, and I remain a lone and blighted tree, desolate and withering in the blast of heaven !"
6 And can this lovely scion,” said his guest, pointing to the weeping Helen, who had clasped her father's knees, “ can she be overlooked ?” 6 Oh no, oh no,” cried the afflicted parent, raising his fond child to his bosom, “ I am much to blame; she is my only hope and stay, the very link to - which my being clings; but even for her safety,” and he shuddered whilst
he spoke it, “ am I in continual apprehenison and the dread of losing her sometimes influences my mind as if the event had really happened. But I beg your pardon,” he added, starting from his chair; “ I take shame to myself for this unseasonable introduction of my domestic sorrows."
As he said this he rang for his servants, and assuming a morecheerfulair, “Come, my friend,” he exclaimed, leading the way at the same time to the banquetting-room, “ let me obliterate my fault by declaring, that notwithstanding what you have just witnessed, never did I exercise the rites of hospitality at Wyeburne Hall with more sincere and heart-felt pleasure than on the present occasion.”
They now sate down to a repast in the true Elizabethan style of plenty and good cheer. Montchensey forgot, or contrived to lull to rest, his numerous cares; Helen smiled again with her wonted sweetness and fascination, and, after an hour spent in delightful and unalloyed intercourse, Shakspeare retired to rest, his host marshalling him the way across the hall, and
up a massive flight of stairs, into a large and lofty chamber hung with arras, and situated immediately over the withdrawing-room.
Hither, in a few moments after Montchensey had wished his guest a good night, came the servant of the latter to unpack his master's wardrobe ; but with a face so pale and troubled, and with such evident marks of trepidation in it, that Shakspeare, after gazing upon him for an instant or two, as the poor fellow stood trembling with a taper in his hand, called out, “ In the name of wonder, John, what is the matter, for thou seemest to have lost the few senses which nature had been kind enough to spare thee?"
“ Lord help me, Sir,” he answered, looking around him with dismay, “ Peter has been telling me such strange stories about this old house, that I am almost afraid to see my shadow in it. I had as lief a hundred times be fired at by those ill-looking fellows that bide in yonder rocks, than be way-laid by these same sprites and goblins, that can glide through a chink, and whisk through a key-hole. Do you know, Sir," he continued, getting up close to his master's side, and speaking in an under tone, as if fearful of being overheard, “ that this very wing in which we now stand, or at least a part on't, as they tell me, which runs backward by the side of an old court yonder, has been shut up, God knows how long, haunted, as they say, by the ghost of a former lady of the Hall, who came by her death in a way too horrible to tell. Just as the clock strikes twelve, Sir—"
“ Prythee no more of thy nonsense,” cried the bard, somewhat impatiently, “but make haste and put those things into the chest. Thou hast scarcely been more than two hours in the place, and thy head has been filled with all this trumpery !” “ Please your honour, Sir, Peter declares ” “ Peter is an ass, and thou art little better,” retorted his master, half smiling and half angry; “ go, get thee gone, and try, if thou canst, to forget these idle stories.”
" So," thought Shakspeare to himself, as his servant very reluctantly quitted the apartment, 6 if a man now were inclined for the indulgence of the sombre and mysterious, here might he find food for it ; for, though I have ridiculed the credulity of this poor fellow, and perhaps