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cousin, gone out to India, it became a popular belief that the baronet at Stoke, failing their issue, was next heir to the new peerage, at all events to the bulk of its estates. And utter ignorance of them on the earl's part, great indifference on theirs, corroborated the report.

The truth was, that if this prospect could have done anything to sustain the fortunes of Stoke Manor, as a great hope will do much, it came rather late. Of all their kindred, they had clung most to past influences; the long family descent, with those generous traditions of their house, had served to cherish a pride, near which dishonour had not come, nor even apparent diminution; many as were the members of it that had gone abroad equipped from its acres, or had been dowered from its woodland. And ever from the time, in short, when they ceased to have a share in events, or to care how affairs passed on above them, the Willoughbies of Stoke had seemed possessed by a careless spirit, an easy humour, or a reckless enjoyment of the present hour: the same shrunken and vacant consciousness, it might be, as in noble hounds or horses, which, having lost their masters, may then be easily subdued, but scarce ever used by others. To the common eye it was highly acceptable; the squire always lived on his estate, encouraged his tenantry, and was charitable to his poor; he shot his own game with his friends, hunted with the county pack, supported county balls and county institutions, the county member for church and state, all county things and parish things; always saving, as justice of the peace, the thefts of their gypseys, or their disturbances at fairs. In great contrast even with their neighbours at Deanstoke, on the Priory estate, or under the colonel at Merltor, there were few changes on farms about Stoke, no poachers, and no politicians; but the best understanding, and the purest terms of acquaintance, whether the squire was in his crustiest mood or his sunniest temper. If he chanced to die, it was at Stoke Manor; and though it struck a perceptible impression through the village adjacent, it was generally in a good ripe age, with the most natural circumstances, in a

quiet regular way; his family had been by, and the stout young squire, already like his father, would soon mix among them with the heartier welcome, anxious only that everything should be managed as near as possible to the paternal system. It caused nights of discourse in the Royal Oak at Stoke, penetrating even to Deanstoke, some mile or so away, in much discussion of all the family character and history; for there the Stoke arms retained traces of their ampler possession, like marks of an old seamargin, at the entrance of the little red market-town, beside the coachroad to Exeter. The gauntlet holding a double rose was yet in mouldy relief on the lintel-stone of its porch, where the motto in black-letter character had grown less decipherable; so that a landlord of some reflection, being wholly independent of Stoke Manor, had caused his own interpretation to be painted at large upon a sign-board, pendent towards the road from the tree at his gable-corner. It afforded well-nigh as lively a topic for dispute as the matters of the family; for it was a fanciful portrait of the oak itself by which it was suspended, bearing bright roses like acorns, to the topmost branches; above, it was entitled the Stoke Arms, and below was the familiar legend in plain English, staringly white-" Thomas Hibbert-Cheap entertainment for Man and Beast-Vintner."

The auspicious succession of the first baronet, on the death of his uncle, the last squire, who had no surviving heirs-direct, created a singular effect at Stoke. It happened some time before the elevation of his legal cousin by the father's side to a more illustrious title; and whatever fortune his mother had carried away from Stoke on her flight, had been spent long ere he was old enough to have estimated it. Poor himself, he had just married a portionless beauty, and had begun to court briefs from necessity, as a revived barrister, till the unexpected change brought out a will, by which he became master of Stoke. Repairs and improvements had begun to make a stir there, to the no small satisfaction of the village; nor, though ab. ruptly checked, after what was absolutely necessary to a new household

had been done, did it much reduce the sanguine expectations of advantages from the possession of an actual baronet amidst them. It was the rumour of intended changes, in other respects, that made an unpleasant feeling precede his arrival; alterations in leases, attention to farming, to the wood, the game, the rights of way, and the understood customs, the very cottages, the common, and the poor; with talk of encumbrances to be cleared off, an intended entail, and a change in the family lawyer; activity that was to be encouraged, idleness that was to be cleared away, and things never thought of before, that were to be inquired into. Mr Hesketh, the lawyer, himself, in his yellow wheeled single-horse chaise, drove to Stoke from Exeter and back again, during that period, at a somewhat quicker rate than usual; he seemed to look graver and keener, and his old clerk had a mysteriously foreboding gloom, a melancholy nod to give his village acquaintances.

The quiet arrival of Sir Henry was therefore greeted by no display of welcome, or cheering groups; the church bells had been discouraged from pealing by Mr Hesketh, and there were no garlands except over the tavern-door; the rest was but doubtful curiosity, out of the village casements, out of village doors, when the post-chaise drove past. The very beauty of his lady, and his own air of breeding, joined to a bright eye and a quiet air of intelligence, wrought little in their favour, save with the thoughtless part of the congregation, or the foolish girls he looked too sharp, and she too delicately brought up; and at the sight of how he minded all her steps through the churchyard, lest she trod her satin foot in nettles, or might trip over a half-sunk stone, the old folks silently shook their heads. It was thought to mean that all was owing to her high notions; to which, truly, however beautiful, she had no right, having brought no fortune.

called up to town on a sudden, with some sort of important business or great expectations; so that for that winter there was nothing changed, to speak of, about Stoke; and his lady, though considered about her time of giving the estate an heir, followed after him; no doubt, for the sake of fashion and balls, or not thinking a country Christmas gay enough, nor Stoke Manor fit for her child's birth.

And every new week came something, slightly as these, to verify the impression. It was of no account that be was said to be well thought of in the county, as showing great promise, and having an active turn for politics. In time of Parliament, in fact, he was

Dreadful rumours spread suddenly one spring morning through the village, and the shocking news was to be found all day at the hall. It was like the fulfilment of a doom. His new plans, it seemed, his superior abilities, and his active spirit, had been the occasion of his death. He had been shot in a duel about politics. His spirit must have been very high and hot, for all the thoughtful look of his face.

Really there was a degree of relief in the village excitement that day, which was far from making the evening talk less eager, the tap-room dialogue duller, or the tankards foam seldomer with their fresh ale. It was by the tidings which ere long succeeded, that all the lamentable nature of the event came home to Stoke. None stopped the bells then from tolling. It could be heard all day through the woods to Deanstoke: and when the hearse came at last, nodding on to the churchyard gate, with blackness through the green of April, through its showery sunshine, there was a great crowd, still as death, to see. Lady Willoughby was there with her husband. She had guessed her loss, and found it out through every disguise, and in the sudden anguish had met her other agony before its time. An heir to Stoke, that had never opened his eyes to the light, was buried with them; and it was an awful day there. The new escutcheon that was hung visibly in the aisle, bearing the gauntleted hand with its double rose, and that golden motto beneath, which none could ever exactly understand, was all that remained of Sir Henry's promise, or his threatenings.

When the sermon was preached, his brother, Sir John, sat alone in the raised and curtained pew; his coun tenance was pale in the deep black

mourning-dress, and he listened with a fixed firmness to the preacher, although the sermon was no striking one; it was only dull as death itself, full of dust and dryness, and an everfalling tone. The escutcheon was behind him; the great chancel-window of the church, with its painted panes, and the stained rose-shape in its head; he never lifted his eye up to it. seemed absorbed in the thoughts presented to his mind; at the end he walked out, noticing no one; he hurried away from Stoke soon after-it was said to the Continent, where he had lived before. The report was, however, that he returned there to follow the man by whose hand his brother had fallen. The next year, it was known that Sir John intended settling at the Hall.


His Oxford days were rumoured to have been wild, and his whole youth a restless, gay, wandering one, in foreign parts. There was nothing of this perceptible, nevertheless, when he finally took up his abode at Stoke. He only returned with a gloom far deeper than before, with the mourning-dress still on; doubtful rumours had preceded him, never fully cleared up among the common country-folks, of when he had been left a widower, and how he had lost his little boy; it was an affliction of that delicate kind which only time could explain or soothe. Yet for a considerable time his quietness and seclusion were singular to think of, in one so hale, stout, and manly; nor less strange was it in church, how motionlessly attentive he seemed to the dull rector, or the formal curate, and was never known to cast an eye across to the small squire's seat opposite, with its blooming faces, or the captain's fair daughter from Deanstoke, the brewer's buxom niece in the gallery, who was an heiress, or the miller's sister, who was a country beauty. Yet he was a handsome man to look at, handsomer by far than his elder brother, and in his prime; the colour came by degrees in his face again, too, the healthy light to his eyes, the stout fulness, the firm gait, and the bluff manner, back to his whole aspect, which were seen at last to have been natural to him. For as Sir John saw more of the rector, who was only dull in the pulpit, and got

acquainted, through him, with his neighbours in the county, he took more and more to a social life; he went into coursing, sporting, and foxhunting, like a man perfectly familiar with them, and gave a yearly cup of his own to Exeter races. When his elderly maiden sister came to live with him, he gave also dinners at the Hall, and grew yet the more jovial after she died, in the way of easy bachelor suppers there. All through Stoke, and among the tenants, and round about, to the very humblest old woman, his popularity at last excelled all that had ever attached to the old squires of the Manor; the more odd and unaccountable things he did, they liked him but the better; nay, his fits of moodiness, his awful passion, were ten times made up for by an openhanded generosity that might otherwise have been reckoned foolish. And the first suspicions of madness, which some turned-off maidservant had once spread, gave way to the kindlier discovery that he had been early crossed in love-a fact which explained many perplexities about him, when fully brought to light by time. According to this version, it had been his brother's lady that they had both courted when he was neither a baronet nor an owner: she had preferred the title, though leaning personally to him; hence his reported wildness, and hasty marriage with some one beneath him, his former gloom, and his constant eccentricity-and so it ceased to trouble any one. Lady Willoughby was but faintly recollected; people's interest had grown milder with years, and with families of their own; Sir John himself was young no longer, nor in the prime, nor yet handsome. Little expectation of an heir from him remained; but it was known that his younger brother, the colonel, had plenty of children.

A portly bachelor, in buckskin breeches, with top-boots, a coat sometimes of blue, sometimes of huntinggreen, he sat punctual as the bells in the old pew; whatever the doings of the week had been, or even the last night's sight of the rector, now old and fat-Sir John listened to him with a face as solemn as the orthodoxy he heard and upheld; even as, although supporting institutions, he toasted the

a singular tint on certain features of others, not seldom appropriate; while wakening up old thoughts in older folks, or making the younger blush doubly deep at glances from aside. Nor failed it to give some quiet occupation to children in counting the hues and petals, or spelling out that legend which perplexed the boys: "Sub Rosâ Robur." It was thought the curate never had seen it, that the parson did not know the meaning of it; for their discourses had no more the same interest, or the slightest sign of its intelligence, than the spiders that wove cobwebs over the pulpittop, or the flies that walked on the wall. Whether Sir John himself understood it, and kept it a solemn secret, was unknown.

memory of the Pretender. His face was broad and rosy, so that, glowing out over white cravat and breast-frill, it looked all openness; it revealed nothing but a hearty temper, with a whimsical humour, that prompted him every Sunday in the year to wear a rose in his button-hole; how or why it was hard to say, but to wear that rose he would spend guineas upon guineas, or turn off a careless gardener. The fixed look stole gradually into perfect satisfaction, till it was suddenly seen, that, with an air of utter vacancy, his mouth opening, Sir John had fallen asleep; whereupon, if prayers ended, the clerk would cough very loudly through the silence, to awake him ere the psalm was given out. And awkwardness would creep over half the congregation, as if, ere rising to their feet, they ought to wait his pleasure; or the organ he had liberally presented to the church-choir would burst forth with immense force upon the tune, as it were to cover his confusion, when he started up and found the place held over to him by some one, and sang with all his hunting vigour. Pious ancient Willoughbies had built the church; Willoughbies, too, in their halcyon days had caused crown the high east-window with a triple rose-head, wrought in the arch's point, and stained variously, while round it in the border was their peculiar motto, veiled, as it were, modestly in difficult Gothic cipher. So that ofttimes, of a hot forenoon, when the new curate preached with more intense uninterestingness than usual, or with more abstract moralities, it was pleasant to see even how the Ten Commandments gleamed dimly on both sides of the altar-space-how farther up rose the dull old Apostles from compartment to compartment, before the net of wire outside, with their faded heads, their sad-coloured roses, their odd painful postures of feet and hands, gazing down or up unimpassioned and how up above the shadow would kindle the leaves of the rose-light, shedding a silent illumination far through half the edifice, or in beneath the Willoughbies' family aisle. It gave curious distinctness then to sundry people's faces, perhaps people who had done something that was almost forgot; it threw sometimes

And when the Earl of Oakleigh's arms were reported to bear the same, when the important facts were traced through all change of name, with the earl's origin, his old age, his few intervening heirs, it excited all Stoke. Stoke had risen already to one title, and it was the more sanguine of a higher. It claimed purer blood than the earl's son could boast; nor was Sir John too old, even then, to marry. The whispered encumbrances on the estate became less disagreeable to speak of. But he showed no corresponding interest; he dozed not a whit the less on Sundays, followed the pointers or the hounds with as much thorough zest, enjoying the society of his friends afterwards with the same loud jollity, the same old crusted port and punch, the same jovial old hunting-choruses. The county belles had no additional charms for his eye, nor received the less easy bluffness of courtesy from his manner. If his brother, the colonel, or the colonel's children, were to succeed to Stoke ere the earldom or its riches fell to them,-then, with the burdens that were said to hang over the estate, there was no doubt rents would have to rise ere they drew much income from it. There did indeed come a time,-one summer after his nephew from Oxford had been staying to fish with him, and had departed— when, in his own eccentric unexpected way, Sir John showed signs of uneasiness, almost alarm; the family lawyer came and had a long interview

with him,—that same Mr Hesketh from Exeter, in the same single-horsed yellow chaise, and the same driver, whose office had seemed precarious sixteen years before under Sir Henry. He was now past middle age himself, however; a pair of large gold spectacles helped to soften the keenness of his features, while spotless cambric and glossy brown, prim almost as a quaker's, took away from his spare appearance; and he had altogether a less anxious, a more self-satisfied and easy look, as if he did a favour in coming. When he spoke to a farmer about the crops, or came to Deanstoke to draw the rents, he was indeed wonderfully mild; and it was oftener his grave head-clerk that he sent in his own place, upon a roadster. His young man on the dickey beside the driver, holding the blue bag, was now new, and had a townish air between the supercilious and the slily humorous, as they rattled past the village, blazing yellow to the sun, and turned to the Hall gate. After the long interview, the baronet was like a man woke up; there was no one, friend or neighbour, or the very servants, to whom he did not talk openly about a system of economy; whilst through all the hay-time, and harvest-time, when there was nothing else for him to do, he could be seen to ride about the whole estate with his land-bailiff, from farm to farm-to walk from wood to wood with his forester, observing timber, or with the keeper along copses and preserves, considering game and damage from it. And all Stoke, East Stoke, and Nether Wycombe, were afraid again; some farmers even thought of offering advances at their next leases, of their own accord, to Mr Hesketh. In his soiled velveteens, Welsh Will, the huntsman, was seen to loiter about, very melancholy, for the harriers and otter-dogs were to be sold.

But it turned out a good harvest and an early autumn; sharp and soon came the September coolness, the October rime and rain. The shootingseason had opened briskly; and, ere Hallowtide, was expected the first "meet," hard by in Somersetshire, for a renowned old fox that had been marked from his last goose. Sir John saw his lawyer again, at as deliberate

length as before, and they parted in a friendly manner at the gate; the very lodge-house people could hear that he had put off his plans till springthat his brother the colonel, his wife and daughter, and the boys, were coming down from London to spend Christmas with him, when there would be a merry party, and he hoped Hesketh would drive over for a night himself, and talk of business in the morning. And at the gate Sir John stood rubbing his hands; as he turned back, he chucked little Nelly Brown, the porter's daughter, under the chin, asked after her schooling, and gave her a silver sixpence for a luck-penny.

It was a great run into Somersetshire and back to Devon, beyond eastermost Stoke, with none the less glee that the heavy rector was thrown out early, and came riding homeward in a sorry plight, more ashamed than ever he was of a drowsy audience. Cheerily came back the rout through the deep lanes, with their crimsonsoiled scarlet, and spattered white, after the piebald dogs, making a merry flourish of the horn past Stoke avenue; for Welsh Will bore the brush, and Sir John had been one of those in at the death in the midst of one of his own farmer's yards. There were many of the hunt who yielded to Sir John's hospitable pressures, seeing where Stoke Manor had already begun to rise rich-red and yellow again to sight from the village, with its clustered chimneys smoking beyond their wont, through thinned tracery of November woods; so cheerful-like a place toward winter, when its high old roofs were thus backed by the sober brown boughs of oaks, a broad window or two shining below with firelight, ere the upper casements of one double-gabled end had ceased to glitter to the west; while the tall church-tower behind the village, hidden all summer by luxuriant elms, lifted its bright clock-dial against their outspread fibres, or out-topped the cottage smoke with its stair-slits, its bell-holes, till all its decorated lightness darkened up, offering both ways a fringed angle from the distant sky. The Hall was ever convenient, since it had failed to have a mistress, for hunting-dinners; yet as the frosty crimson died coldly off beyond Stoke,

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