صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

glancing involuntarily at Dorothy, who was adjusting her hood at the mirror.

“So he said himself,” replied the Colonel. “Nevertheless, he seemed very well pleased to go when his mother proposed it, and Sir Guy will be glad that he has changed his mind."

“ 'Tis fortunate that Will had to go this evening, father," remarked Alice, when Dolly had gone. “I like him well enough,

“ but I want you all to myself, father; I shall see little of you when we get to the Hall."

Alice woke up early next morning, for, notwithstanding her partial dislike to going, she felt excited by the novelty of a journey, and a little curious about the fresh faces she should see. There was Kate Hildyard, Ralph's sister, of whom he had frequently spoken. She must be a charming maiden, if reports spake truly. Alice wondered, as she stood dressing in the gray dawn, whether Mistress Kate would be a fine lady, and look down upon her simple self, or whether she would be gentle and friendly like Dorothy Crowle. And then there was Ralph himself. Her mind had dwelt so much upon his rival Andrew, and on public affairs, that she had well nigh forgotten Ralph's existence—a fact that would have deeply mortified that gentleman had he known it. This morning she remembered, with an uncomfortable sensation, how he had annoyed her with his civilities last spring. She hoped, however, that, with other ladies in the house, she should now be spared some of his attentions.

Soon after eleven o'clock the Colonel's favourite black horse stood in the courtyard, bearing a saddle and pillion ; and, at the stable door, was Simon's stout cob, similarly accoutred, for carrying Lucy and himself. The day was fine, though the snow lay a few inches on the ground; but Alice was well protected from the cold ; her cloak and boots were lined with the softest furs, the costly gifts of old Master Rotenherring, a foreign merchant, living in Hull, who had conceived a great admiration for the maiden. A pretty blue silk hood completed her equipment, making so sweet a picture that the Colonel's fatherly pride might be forgiven, as he seated her carefully behind him, and bade his good steed tread firmly over the slippery roads. Leaving them to find their way across the snow, and through the little forest that skirted the Winestead estate, we will look in at the Hall, where they are expected every moment.

Ralph Hildyard had only arrived there the night before, from London, and he had still much to tell Kate of his doings since they last met. The brother and sister had always clung closely together since they had been left fatherless and motherless, and Ralph's contact with the selfish world had not weakened his warm affection for Kate, or led him to withdraw from her his unreserved confidence. There

was a younger brother, Henry; but of late years he had been associated with the friends of Lord Strafford, and all his sympathies were with the King. Ralph was influenced by men of opposite opinions, and so their interests became divided, to the sorrow of old Sir Guy Hildyard, who, like his elder grandson, bad a high respect for Pym and Hampden. Henry had excused himself from the Christmas gathering, and his absence was as much a relief as it was a source of regret to the happy household.

Ralph was seated now in Kate's dressing-room, turning her dark curls round his fingers, fingers that almost rivalled her own in shape and whiteness, for the brother and sister were wonderfully alike, with the same dark hair and eyes, and the same Italian complexion.

“I was glad when I heard she was coming,” said Ralph, for the third time. Grandfather could not have done me a better service, though he did not know it. But I thought she would refuse; she is so shy before strangers, and the Colonel always seemed too full of business to leave home a day for pleasure.”

“Perhaps her father wishes her to get used to seeing strange folks," replied Kate. “She can't always be mewed up like a nun if she is as lovely as you say, Ralph; unless she marries an uncouth trader, that will value her only for the ornament she will be in his house."

“Come, Katherine, you think too ill of these merchants. All the learning and politeness isn't confined to the noble and gentle. I have seen merchants in Hull that would put some of our courtiers even to shame by their good manners and knowledge of books. Think of the De La Poles of Hull, who married into the royal family, and rose almost to the throne itself; the haughtiest noble in England could not surpass them in dignity of manner, or goodliness of person. And in these days I see no worthier men than those who frequent Colonel Lister's mansion."

“Well, 'tis something rare and new for Ralph Hildyard, who is as proud as any living gentleman of his ancestry, and of the rich blood that flows in his veins, to be trumpeting the praises of mushroom knights and wealthy traders ; this merchant's niece has surely bewitched you ;” and Kate laughed rather scornfully.

“ Perhaps she has. But, Kate, the times are changing now, and if we would see peace and order restored to this land, it is not on the nobles and gentry we shall have to depend; but we must look to these traders that you despise, who take life earnestly. If the laws are broken, they suffer most; their liberty and trade is taken away. They are often not rich enough to get redress, and yet many of them will give up everything rather than submit to injustice. I am inclined to think, sometimes, that to have such a

9

brave, conscientious heart, without a name or a title, is better than a dukedom lacking it."

“Marry! Why, you will say you are a Republican next, Ralph."

“And if I did my sister Kate would soon be of my mind, and would defend her brother stoutly did any dare to condemn his new opinions," said Ralph, pinching her ear playfully.

Kate laughed. “ Most likely I should, for we bave never differed. But listen! I hear the sound of wheels."

Ralph went to the window, and looked eagerly up the avenue ; but there were no signs of their guests, and the sounds had ceased. He sauntered back to his seat. You will speak a good word for me to the maiden, now and then, won't you, Kate ? "

"Hum," replied his sister, pouting her lips and trying to hide a smile; "I can't promise until I see her. I am quite jealous already, and it is hardly to be expected that I shall assist in my dethronement.”

“But I know you will, dear Kate, and you are too generous to be jealous. Mistress Alice can never take your place, nor would she wish it. If I had not known you loved me well, I should never have told you all my hopes and fears."

Kate's face instantly softened, and, putting her hand on his shoulder, she said, “I only jested, Ralph, for I am really proud to be told all this. You might have chosen a bride far away, and one whom when I saw I could not love save for your sake. But why should you have any fears, dear brother? think she looks with kindness on any of these merchants P”

“Nay; I never saw her favour any of these ; 'tis young Andrew Marvel, the parson's son, of whom you have heard before-that is the thorn in my flesh. After he came home she was amazingly taken with his society, and I cannot deny but that he is an uncommonly pleasant companion. He has little besides his wit and learning ; but the Colonel is not a man that would seek wealth for his daughter, so long as the suitor was worthy; and he thinks mightily of Andrew Marvel, having known him from a boy. I could not discover if Mistress Alice regarded him in that light, or if she only felt a friendly interest in her old playfellow, and that is what I want you to find out, if you can, while she is here.” " I will try, Ralph ; but can't promise success.

Of course you think that Master Andrew aspires to the lady's hand.”

“ Yes; unless the thought of his poverty should check his ambition. But men will dare do much for love, and there is no doubt she is dear as life to him. And how could it be otherwise ? With him she is more free and natural than with others. Sometimes she would laugh and bandy words, as if they were children again; but then suddenly she would seem to remember how old she was, and

Do you

cease, and a pretty shy look would come over her face, that I saw pleased him well enough, and that made me quite hate him. There is really a coach coming now, Kate.” "

They both went to the window. " It is Sir Clifford Wharton and your dear Johanna," exclaimed Kate, as an immense vehicle came in sight.

Ralph laughed, and bade her go downstairs, saying that he should not appear until dinner time. He stood still, watching until a horseman entered the gates, and he recognised Colonel Lister's broad shoulders, and splendid black steed, and also saw behind him a little figure, with a blue silk hood and fur-edged riding dress. Curls of golden brown hair escaped the hood, but Ralph could not catch a glimpse of the face that it shaded. He just waited to see them ride up to the steps, and then hurried to his own room to complete a rather elaborate toilet.

CHAPTER X.- KATHERINE HILDYARD. Winestead Hall was 'a very large and picturesque dwelling; the principal portion had been rebuilt in Queen Elizabeth's reign, but one wing was of much older date, and a tower had been added by the present owner. Well-grown trees surrounded it on three sides, and a broad avenue of considerable length led through the park to the grey stone steps of the terrace in front of the hall. It was a beautiful spot, either in summer or winter, and famed for the hospitality that the baronet showed to both friends and strangers.

As Alice and her father turned into the park they saw a carriage rolling up the drive; so the Colonel slackened his speed, that these new comers might alight and receive their welcome before he arrived.

“That is the Wharton livery, Alice, and that is young Lawrence Wharton, on horseback. Old Sir Clifford is a worthy man, but his family are not to my taste. There is Sir Guy, Alice, on the steps."

As the empty coach was driven away, Colonel Lister rode up, and the master of the house came hurrying down the steps again, to bestow upon his unattended quiet-suited guests as hearty a greeting as he had accorded to his grander friends.

“Ab, Colonel, this is what I like; to take a journey with a lady without any fuss. No one is more welcome here than a Lister. Your nephew came yesterday, and this is your daughter, the Yorkshire Forget-me-not,'-rightly named too, Mistress Alice. You see how your fame has spread. Kate is impatient to see you. Walk in, little maid.” While the kind old man spoke he had lifted Alice down, kissed her in a fatherly way, and led her to the door. Here a tall lady, with silvery hair, was waiting to repeat

[ocr errors]

the salutation. This was Lady Hildyard, as kind, if more stately, than himself. She asked about their journey, and feared Alice must be frozen almost to death, shook the Colonel cordially by the band, and then presented her granddaughter. Kate came forward and took Alice's hand, saying, “I should know you anywhere, Ralph has given us such a true picture,”—a remark that did not put poor Alice much at her ease. " Will you come this way? Your maid has not arrived, I suppose ; bnt never mind, we shall have time to know each other a little before dinner. Your things are all in your chamber."

. Alice followed her up a handsome staircase of polished oak, Kate talking as she tripped up the broad steps, and turning round towards her a pair of the blackest eyes she ever saw in a lady's possession. “Just like Ralph's, only livelier," said Alice to herself, as she stumbled after her, being weary and rather encumbered with her heavy dress.

“This is your room," said Kate, ushering her into a pretty, crimson-draped apartment, with a bright fire burning on the hearth. Palling a chair forward, she seated her visitor in it; then, bending down, she looked steadily into Alice's face until the blue eyes sank, and the colour rose beneath her gaze. “I think I shall like you, Alice Lister," said Kate, frankly, after a few moments' contemplation; "will you give me a kiss ?" Alice put up her lips for answer; and her new friend continued merrily, “ Please call me Kate, won't you ? Sit still; I am your maid now,

if
you

don't dislike it. You must be tired, for you are almost as pale as the snow itself.” She put Alice's hands gently aside, as she spoke, and waited upon her like an elder sister, her observant eye taking note of everything in the maiden's dress and person. She wanted to see all that had so fascinated her fastidious brother. To no ordinary beauty or amiability could she yield the first place in his affections, for she demanded far more for him than she would ever expect for herself. She had said that she would not make up her mind either way, that day; but it was being made up all the time she stayed in Alice's chamber, and her heart was growing lighter. Alice was kindly commanded to lie down and rest, and then Kate asked, “Do you know Johanna Wharton ? She is here."

"No," replied Alice.
“ That is strange; they live at Beverley."

“My father knows Sir Clifford, and I have spoken to him often; but I know nothing of his wife or daughter."

Well, we are pretty good friends, and frequently meet; but I am not over fond of her. You will see all the folks when you go down to dinner. Now, you must take something to eat, and here comes Cicely with it.”

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »