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the house can afford be spared in serving up a collation as quickly as possible in the grand eating-chamber."
“ But you will not surely give audience to the Duke of Buckingham in this unseemly trim ?" inquired Hope, mortified at the thought that her young lady should not be seen to the best advantage.
“ If the Duke of Buckingham purpose to tarry at Lovell House till he obtain audience of me, his visit is like to be of inconvenient duration,” replied Lady Lovell. “ Ha! my good friend,” cried she, turning towards Master Shum, who at that moment made his appearance in his full-bottom wig and black velvet suit of ceremony, in which he maintained a most respectable and very professional appearance, “I pray you,.wait in my name upon the very unexpected guest who hath dropped upon us from the skies. Acquaint him that the Lady Lovell receiveth no visiters, and hath delegated you to learn from his lips the purport of his coming."
" I greatly fear, madam, that this will scarcely be esteemed a courteous, still less a hospitable reception,” replied the auditor.
“ It is my intention to accord no other,” replied Lady Lovell, in a tone which Master Shum perfectly understood to be decisive; and bowing respectfully, he withdrew to fulfil her commission.
“ Thy husband, dearest Hope, is beginning to comprehend the peremptory nature of thy friend !" observed her ladyship, drawing down Mistress Shum to a place beside her on the settee.
“ Your ladyship well knows that Enoch is anxious to act only for your honour and advantage."
“ Had he persisted in forwarding my honour and advantage by advocating an interview with this parlous Duke of Bucks," cried Lady Lovell, recovering her spirits, now that she found herself secure in the stronghold of her own chamber, “I would have requited his sauciness, and promoted his own honour and advantage, by insisting that his pretty wife should beår me company in the audience.”
“ And why not, madam ?” inquired the simple-minded young woman, reared in modest puritanism, and unversed in that gossip of foreign courts, which, in spite of her endeavours, the old general chose occasionally to bestow upon his niece.
“ Ay, why not, indeed I" cried Lady Lovell, not choosing to enlighten her mind with a sketch of the character and pursuits of the Duke of Bucks; and it was a relief that Judith at that moment returned, panting with inquiries touching the disposal of his grace's retinue-at what table my lord's gentleman of the presence was to dine ?-at what table his ushers and pages ?
“ This is coming down upon us like an ambassador indeed !” cried Lady Lovell, with a smile. “ 'Tis well if Robin Forrester have venison enough at his lodge to make out a fitting entertainment. Your dovecot and poultry-yard, my dear Hope, are, I know, never to be taken at a disadvantage, even by a knight who brings us, like the patriarchs of old, his whole household at his back.”
But while Judith and Mistress Shum were discussing together the arrangements to be made, the grave spouse of the latter reappeared, to communicate, with an air of deep deference, to his lady, that “ the Duke of Buckingham was bearer of a message from the king, which regarded her private ear.”
“Have the goodness to explain to his grace,” replied Anne, with a harassed look, that my private ear regardeth my private friends.;his majesty has delegated the duke to signify his pleasure to me-I select you to receive the signification."
“ In the absence of better counsellors, such as the general and my uncle Wright, I presume, madam, to observe to you,” said the auditor timidly, " that such marked disrespect towards the representative of the king will excite universal disapproval. If his majesty's message,
for instance, should relate to some law process in contemplation against the title of your ladyship’s estate
“ Thou dreamest of nothing but processes and estates !” cried Lady Lovell, with a smile. “Be assured that were the affair of a legal nature, it would have been communicated to me through a common pursuivant-at-arms, on a skin of parchment, having the great seal of England suspended to the corner, lest peradventure any one of the fifty hungry officials, having fees to claim upon the deed, should be defrauded of his perquisites. No, no! to interpret the errand from the bearer thereof, his majesty hath rather some idle project in hand, the report of which is to be despatched to Italy for the diversion of Sir Richard's nephew. I pray you therefore, sir, to do my pleasure.”
The Duke of Buckingham, meanwhile, who had undertaken the adventure in the mere wantonness of a festive hour to thwart Lord Lovell, of whose rivalship in the favour of the king he stood somewhąt in awe, was now stimulated, by all he had heard and seen at Lovell House, to a deeper interest in the business than the winning of his wager. He had prepared himself for the heavy humdrum rụsticity of a country seat and country madam, curtseying obsequiously at the first intimation of his arrival; and the proud independence of Lady Lovell commanded his respect. There was something in the very mansion, and its ordering, singularly accordant with his tastes, which hitherto in such matters he had esteemed transcendent. Ushered through the suite of state apartments, hung with brocade richly panelled in scrollwork of white and gold, he was at liberty, during the period of Master Shum's negotiations, to penetrate through the grand saloon into a chamber which was evidently the favourite retreat of the lady of Lovell House.
A small þookcase, recessed in the wall, contained exactly the selection in several languages of the poets and essayists he would have made for the recreation of his own leisure. In an agate cup, upon a marble table, was a single spray of a rare exotic of singular beauty, On a bracket nearer the silken lounging chair stood a tapestry frame, the half-finished embroidery in which was such as he had never seen arise under the nimble Parisian fingers, with whose fairy labours he had been recently familiar; and beside it a pencil and sketch-book, filled with studies from nature, and crayons of the most piquant description, each bearing the initials of A. L.
“ Truly a dainty bower-chamber for the rantipole Blowzabelle described by Arran,” muttered his grace on a first survey of the little sanctum; but ere he had stood five minutes upon its hallowed ground, the cause of Lady Lovell was sanctified and embalmed by the poetical
atmosphere of the spot. “ This is the retreat of no ordinary mind," was his secondary reflection ; and by the time Master Shum came to deliver the message from his lady, Buckingham had begun to regard an interview with the coy beauty as essential to his happiness."
" My Lady Lovell prays you will partake of the hospitality of her poor roof until your grace's horses and retinue are rested,” observed the auditor, with a respectful obeisance. “Her ladyship is grieved to understand that the Duke of Buckingham should have breathed his horses at Thrapstone after pausing for the night at Wrest Park; but trusts that, after communicating to myself (her agent-at-law) the message of his majesty, he will condescend to accept a collation here ere he retraceth his route."
“ Now, out upon this woman and her smooth-spoken agent-at-law!" was Buckingham's secret reflection on receiving an intimation so worded as clearly to express Lady Lovell's cognisance that short baiting-time was necessary to enable the noble traveller to resume his journey. All, however, that he overtly expressed, was a cheerful acceptance of the latter part of the proposal, trusting that, in the course of the banquet, his hostess might be mollified by a sense of the duties of hospitality, or moved by feminine curiosity, to accord him an interview. While the table was preparing, Master Shum, with the established ceremony of country breeding, proposed to the noble visiter to visit the French garden, the pheasantry and apiary, which were esteemed curious in the neighbourhood ; and Buckingham, fresh from the glorious gardens of France and Holland - St. Germain en Laye, Fontainebleau, the Louvre, the Hague, found himself in politeness bound to saunter by the side of the precise Enoch from parterre to parterre, praising fountains which he regarded as threads, and parterres which were as vulgar in his eyes as a judge's posy.
Nevertheless, being persuaded that both the Lady Lovell and a certain fair damsel, of whom he had caught a glimpse on crossing the great hall, and little suspected to be the spouse of the steeple-crowned and solemn gentleman by his side, were slily peeping from the windows to take a survey of an animal so rare in Northamptonshire as a courtier from Whitehall, he demeaned himself with the most courtier-like urbanity. Alack! poor gentleman, his airs of dignity had no worthier spectator than Lady Lovell's favourite spaniel
, which went whiffing at his grace's heels as if trying to make out the meaning of so unusual a display of laces and ribbons, and such vapours of frangipane and musk.
It was fated that the gallant duke should receive rather than create agreeable impressions. On reaching the doors of the great banqueting-chamber, where a splendid collation had been hastily set forth, his grace was startled by a concert of French horns, such as he had never yet heard save in the establishment of the Duc de Vendôme, grand veneur de France ; nor did the triumphant Enoch think it necessary to diminish the charm by informing him that four of her ladyship's prickers had been instructed in the art by General Lovell, who had perfected himself as an amateur in the school of the Grand Veneur. It had been Lady Lovell’s charge to Master Shum that the name of Sir Richard should not be pronounced in presence of the duke ; and so strictly was he in the habit of obeying his lady's commands, that when Buckingham, in the course of his morning saunter, struck by the elegant simplicity of the sylvan lodge, made careless inquiries touching its destination, the auditor could find no better reply wherewith to parry the interrogatory, than—" The lodge was built, so please your grace, after a special design of my Lady Lovell, as a residence for-for-an officer-a cavalier—a gentleman of high honour and account, whom her ladyship did not hold it expedient to lodge ostensibly at Lovell House.”
“And who resides accordingly at yonder rustic pavilion ?" “Who resides yonder at the rustic pavilion ?”
Had Enoch Shum been an interpreter of visages, he might have perceived how, from that moment, the countenance of the Duke of Buckingham began to brighten. All was now explained. The lady's seclusion, his own exclusion, and the confusion of the steward under his questioning! He freely forgave her now the ungraciousness of her reception. This cavalier paramour might be ome jealous susceptible Drawcansir, whose chastisement she dared not provoke. Nay ! he forgave her even the loss of his wager; for the news he was about to bear to court touching this Lucretia of Northampton would prove more mortifying to the malapert Lovell than would have been the failure of his bet.
It was this sudden accession of good-liumour, perhaps, which caused his grace to estimate so highly the reveillée of the cors de chasse ; and to whisper within himself that Chiffinch’s petit couvert at Whitehall was not more appetisingly served than the viands of my Lord Lovell's bumpkin wife.
“On my soul!” cried he, after tasting a truffled pheasant pâté à la financière, a favourite dish with Sir Richard, whose most trifling whims were studied by his niece, “I passed two days last hunting season at Chantilly, and Vatel himself produced nothing more purely and exquisitely giboyé than this páté !"
The wine was equally to his taste. There were Spanish wines of great age, brought over in the latter years of Elizabeth's reign, when a Lord Lovell represented the British court at that of the Escurial; besides French wines of every kind, recently provided to gratify the palate of the old general, so long accustomed to the light and sparkling vintages of France.
“My message, good sir, is half answered already, without so much as speech of your invisible lady,” cried Buckingham, behind whose chair Master Shum had made a motion to wait, which was instantly negatived by the high breeding of the guest. “ I came hither charged by his majesty to express to the fair Lady Lovell his earnest hope that one so fitted by birth, fortune, beauty, and accomplishments, to do honour to his court, would not longer continue to seclude herself in homely retirement, but deign to accept some post of honour in the establishment about to be formed for our expected queen.”
“ The happy news is authentic then, my lord, of his gracious majesty's marriage?" cried Shum, interrupting him.
Nov. 1838.-VOL. XX111.NO. XÇı.
“ True as the Talmud, Alcoran, Gospel, or whatever other cođe, most worshipful sir, may happen to command your faith l” cried Buckingham, with a sneer. “ But (if I may be permitted to continue my exposition) I am already cognisant of the unlikelihood that your lady will be moved to stoop to so uncouth a household as the royal sty of Whitehall. Betwixt ourselves, Rowley's cooks are mere gargotiers compared with the cordon bleu entertained by her ladyship; and for plate, saving a few wretched platters, salvers, and flagons for his majesty's private buffets, pewter is the richest metal that graceth the royal banquets. The crown cupboard found its way with the crown jewels to the Hague, in the pouch of the gracious queenmother, some fifteen years agone, to be changed into ducats and doubloons; and God send our pragmatical gentry of the parliament may ever find grace to repair the loss by a sufficient grant! The varlets maintain that a good haunch eats more savourily off the baser metal. They to set up for judges! who have evermore dieted on wether-mutton served upon trenchers, washed down by black jacks of ale. I crave, fair sir, another glass of the choice Malvoisie with which you just now favoured me, to efface the filthy notion from my palate.”
“ Your grace (pardon me) is wholly in error !" cried the auditor, with rising warmth. “ Permit me to declare that my Lady Lovell is as indifferent to creature comforts as though by profession belonging to the Presbyterian church ; her ladyship's mind
“ 'Tis fair as her body, and doubtless a mirror for the reflection of soberness, temperance, and chastity !" interrupted Buckingham. “ Granted !-unheard and uncared-for. Since the death of Elizabeth the Prudish, I am convinced that so peerless a dame never set the lances of chivalry in 'rest. Nevertheless, I must still take upon myself to believe that the elegant luxuriousness of Lovell House would ill prepare her for the disorderly mesquineries of the royal household.”
“ Luxuriousness, my lord, is a word scarcely applicable to a lady of my noble mistress's active and self-denying habits; to a lady whose draught is evermore of pure spring water ; the hangings of whose chamber are of simplest linen, while every other apartment here is rich in velvet or brocade; who, winter or summer, riseth with the sun, and is galloping over hill and dale, while others are yawning away the morning in lounging chairs, discoursing scandal with their dainty mates."
“ Of the nature of her ladyship's potations (as she declines to do me the courtesy of a pledge) I pretend not to judge,” replied Buckingham, with ironical solemnity. “ To the hangings of her apartment-less fortunate than yourself, worthy sir- I am equally unable to bear testimony. And with respect to her horse-coursing, hawking, hunting, and other truly feminine pursuits, I am no further qualified to bear witness for my mission to Northampton, than I was to defend her ladyship when these propensities were lately pithily described at Whitehall for the diversion of his majesty. I held it at the time a romantic project on the part of Rowley to dream of attracting so buxom a peeress to his court! Yet was he in gallantry bound to attempt the civilisation of a lady reputed so fair; and in