« AnteriorContinuar »
Sir Godfrey reflected. Mr Hesketh added that it was a consideration, however, which need not be lost sight of in renewing leases. He took up a sheet of paper from the table, on which the awkward handwriting of the late Sir John was conspicuous, in ink of various hues and periods, or mere pencil-scrawls, like a fragment of a journal; yet it bore the tenor of a rude will and testament, in the first place solemnly bequeathing all his property, real and personal, to his brother Godfrey and his heirs. was signed and dated in due form, some years before, after a fall in hunting; while the rude mark of Welsh Will, the huntsman, and the subscription of the rector, in a somewhat shaky hand, were obvious in attestation below, confirmed by the well-known seal. It was the only document which the lawyer had been unaware of, and had occasioned him some surprise, evincing, as it did, either the baronet's utter ignorance of law, or a touch of fitful eccentricity such as in this instance appeared a craze; since, as the simplest cottager knew, the estate had been entailed on the eldest brother, Sir Henry, and now fell as naturally as the title itself to his remaining brother. What had given it any importance, however, in the Colonel's eyes, was the fact that it was followed on the same sheet by rambling codicils, of various periods, as the recollection seemed to have occurred to the writer, charging him, in the easiest disregard of legal terms, with certain provisions for favourite servants, dependants or hangers-on, like the half-witted dog-keeper himself-small annuities to faithful domestics, or slight testimonies to friends and acquaintances, some of them far back in his history, or scarcely reputable. Last of all was a hurried mention of a French female name, in a particular number of a particular street in Paris, for whom the private notebook showed that a trifling pension had been at intervals sent to a French banker; wherefore, there was no indication, nor of what more was meant to be done. Above all, to the string of loose memoranda there was no vestige of a signature.
"This is not of the slightest force,
VOL. LXXVI.-NO. CCCCLXV.
Sir Godfrey," said the solicitor, throwing it down after a second glance. "We may throw it forthwith into the fire."
The new baronet raised his eyes to him with some surprise. "Sir," he said, "I intend carrying out these desires to the letter."
"Then it will add considerably to the difficulty of coming to any arrangement at all, Sir Godfrey!" demonstrated Mr Hesketh; but Sir Godfrey carefully folded the sheet, and placed it in a pocket-book.
"Indeed," ,"added the former, slowly, while he again rustled among the papers, and hesitated, hemmed, and coughed at intervals-" I can scarcely perceive-in this case, Sir Godfrey -in fact, it is perhaps fortunate that Sir Henry's entail was not, nay at the time could scarcely be, carried out. Why, I say-I mean, I see no other practicable plan than to-to sell Stoke at once, Colonel Willoughby!"
Sir Godfrey sat up and stared at him, then pushed away his seat, and rose. "Sell it?" he emphatically repeated; "are you serious, sir?"
"Why, it might possibly be done," replied the solicitor, in an abstracted tone-" with all its burdens, to men of sufficient means, there would benay, I hear that the earl himself has thought of it. Still, I should scarcely be disposed at once to-to accede "
"My good sir," interrupted the baronet, suddenly, though with selfcontrol, "I do not intend to sell Stoke. The truth is, that with the sale of my commission, and some slight savings at my command, I see that I shall be able gradually to clear off these encumbrances. A little economy will enable us to live in the mean time on the interest of my wife's fortune, small as that is." Mr Hesketh drew down his glasses again, pored into the papers, and sat silent.
"You may, of course, let out the park, too, Mr Hesketh," added the baronet, pacing the room deliberately; "and, indeed-should a favourable opportunity occur for that matter, the house also!"
The lawyer involuntarily started, and stared over his spectacles. "Sell Stoke I shall not," continued Sir Godfrey, stopping still with folded arms. "No, sir, not while a stone of it stands, or a tree of it spreads, to
be a future object to my children! Though I should not myself see it again, it shall be my last breath to them, to retain Stoke and make it prosperous. For my own part, I am accustomed to change of place. I have made up my mind, Mr Hesketh, that we shall at once go abroad."
Mr Hesketh merely drew a breath, cleared a huskiness from his throat, and abruptly bowed a nod. briefly responded to the other points on which the baronet's wishes had to be made known; his best ability would be directed to the whole-his entire mind given to it; good hopes might be entertained. When he began to tie up his papers and put them into the green tin box, lettered white with Willoughby of Stoke, Sir Godfrey rang for refreshments, and conversed on indifferent topics. Mr Hesketh only desired the presence of his clerk, who appeared to make a few memoranda, and take the box; whereupon he himself was followed to the library door by Sir Godfrey, and, returning a hasty nod to his ceremonious farewell bow, was shown down the staircase. The long-backed clerk closed the chaise door carefully behind his master, and mounted the dickey beside the sober-looking driver in drab; then the unpretending equipage rattled down the avenue, and rolled past Stoke into the road to Exeter.
steel-breasted to the full-wigged, gazed down through mould and cobweb. They had no slight significance for him; their old love of form and colour, in that casement, made at the moment something gorgeous of the bare boughs, the distant park, and the very snow which had begun to fall; the twigs looked dipped in wine, the bare knolls suffused themselves in amber; while purple feathers came down, with crimson stars and gemlike crystals, thicker and faster through a rosy sky, or changing into gold. Though through deep unstained side-casements, equally alive, on the other hand, to mere truth, was all the natural spectacle the more literally presented; the wintry nakedness stared in, growing spectral as it whitened in the muddy air, which drearier showed the leaden-hued fog through all its hovering spots. Only with a fondness for much light, tinged greenish by the glass itself, and for many-paned division of its space to shape and vary it, diamondwise or lozenged, oval - wrought or latticed-for the earliest dawn and latest evening, and the peep of church or village, for the near trees and clustered rookery, with the high-hedged garden below the terrace, full of trellis, and clipped figures of live box, dark yew, and the crisp green gloss of holly; to the very orchard-skirt, the office-roofs and the house-pasture on the other side of the brook. It had a cheerful prospect even then-nay, the more, as winter threatened; and without any active fancy-in fact, with but little habit of imagination-Sir Godfrey felt drawn as by the natural picture into a lively intelligence of his forefathers. Their strong character and manly sense seemed to enter into him, even from the dusky portraits. His own mind was cast in a somewhat old-fashioned mould, which though his active profession had done much to conceal, it had rather confirmed; and far before the life of town, even within knowledge of its stirring events and objects, could he have liked to spend the rest of his days among rural scenes, amidst his family, quiet, comfortable, happy, giving personal heed to the estate, enjoying the society of neighbours who might offer it, or pleased at
As Colonel Willoughby paced the library by himself till dinner-time, waiting for his two sons, he felt cheerful in his purpose. The fine old oriel at one end, with its ruby-red emblazonry, its ciphered device and blackletter to, bordered all about by a saffron tain, was proof how those longe him had confided in their how The noblest apartment in it ning to latticed summer parprivate oratory, and out on back terrace, that chamber of the great solid time of th: little used for years, or nglected, it had wainscot that ine darkly to the ample hearth, Took-presses and carved cabiat might yet take active knowthings extant; while a few old Ls, sternly or complacently, ho ruffed and bearded to the and lace-collared, from the
the sight of happiness in others. He loved his wife, and was fond of his children, with the young circle they brought about them, and was thus rather apt to hospitality, and meetings of relations, or the presence of any old brother officer whatever. He had also a notion of still compensating for early defects of education by reading; he had offered no obstacle to his eldest son Francis studying for the church; but he had meant that Charles, the younger, should not follow his own profession without such knowledge of military science, such familiarity with the history of campaigns, and such acquaintance with models of generalship, as should at once instruct himself, and better qualify his boy for the career he chose. So that many images of the most attractive kind had sparkled before him as he paced the room, only to be scattered; and if he yet remained tranquil-nay, sanguine -it was because aware that the work had begun, without in any way detracting from the future, or from obligations to the past.
It was as he sat down that his mind reverted to the singular paper found amongst his brother's confused documents. He took it from his pocket-book and read it again, chiefly to fix on memory the defined provisions for servants or acquaintances, which the lawyer had already taken note of, with charge for their fulfilment. The principal piece of manuscript only struck him with some painful emotion, as a strange symptom of warmth in that heart, now cold, which had so long lost the guidance of a clear brain. It did indeed revive his recollection of perhaps the chief folly in his brother's life, well enough known to the family, as necessarily to Mr Hesketh; it had been the cause, probably, of every subsequent imprudence, and of all that gloomy disappointment which could afterwards but turn for its solace to field sports and jovial riot. It was not of the oncerumoured kind, from any unsuccessful suit in rivalry with a brother, but a mad runaway marriage (when still plain Mr John Willoughby, of sporting reputation) with a beautiful young actress, passionately admired by him, as by others like him; and the shocking event which had destroyed
both his wife and her child, when the house was burnt during his short absence from Paris, though never afterwards spoken of by himself, had been announced in the French newspapers of the day, from the procès-verbal of the police. A mystery had indeed hung over it, to Colonel Willoughby in particular: not that there could be a doubt of their death, to which the slightest allusion had absolutely convulsed Sir John, when they two first met, years afterwards, nor could there have been any object or reason for deception- nay, Sir John, in answer to a formal legal question, at his succession to the estate and title, had solemnly stated his distinct knowledge that he had no lawful heir of his body living. The claim fell, stripped of its baronetage, after the Colonel himself, to cousins, the children of their younger sister, with another name altogether. And it might have been but a bewildered mingling of times and persons, when feverish from excess, or perhaps the dread of some imposition, which could yet scarcely occur to the wildest brain, that had secretly prompted this odd expedient to the late baronet.
It was quite a different recollection, known only to himself, that troubled Sir Godfrey; nor had that any bearing on his mere interests as a proprietor or holder of a title. Amongst the persons involved in that fatal accident at Paris had been his brother's valet, a young German or Swiss, previously in his own service in the regiment, with so much fidelity and usefulness, that when the young man purchased his own discharge to avoid going abroad, Captain Willoughby had left him with the strongest recommendations to his brother. Yet years after the event, in the thick of the American Revolution, when thinking of no one less, had Colonel Willoughby for a moment imagined that by the flash of fire from the muskets of his men, against a crowd of colonial militia, he saw the very features of this servant, his heavy forehead, light blue eyes, and broad chin, only changed by a yellow beard. It seemed a fancy of the most absurd kind; yet it clung to him, recurring with each thought of either event: he never breathed it, yet the more was it like
rious pantomime, to convey to passing acquaintance that the lawyer was within.
the hint of some disagreeable mystery, some inscrutable circumstance, or hidden plot and disguise, of which he himself might have been the innocent occasion, so that its vile instrument might yet hover near him by the mere attraction of his name. His good sense, however, showed him that, in eighteen years since the occurrence, no fact had ever transpired to corroborate such a notion; and he ceased to think of it, only refolding the paper, and returning it carefully to his pocket-book, as well as the small private memorandum which referred to the French banker, and to the little pension of Suzanne Deroux, 48 Rue Chrétienne, l'île-de-Cité.
As for Stoke Manor, it was soon vacant; left to the care of the housekeeper, the old butler, and a couple of under-servants. The hounds were sold off; so also the horses, save two which Sir Godfrey took along with him. The lodge was kept by the gardener, who might have found it a sinecure, but for his having the whole grounds to mind, added to his own young children, whose mother worked all day at the Hall. Welsh Will, the dog-keeper, went to live in the village, croaking and grumbling, because he had a good-for-nothing wife, who wasted his pension; he croaked and grumbled also against a bad surgeon, a bad lawyer, and a bad parson, of whom, however, no one could ever hear the names from him. There was something always odd about Welsh Will; he had had an undutiful son too, though not by his present wife, it seemed,-about whom he often talked, because he had broken his indentures at Mr Hesketh's office in Exeter, years before, and run away; though Will had expected great things of him, and got him there to be out of idleness, through his master's good word. It was a thing that had hitherto seemed to grieve him little, till he came back to his wife. And Mr Hesketh one day suddenly questioned him on the point; but the late huntsman was sullen as pped hound, and as close. e surly answers, and knew of his lad now, but nd taken him to break ne Sir John had had a the boy for If old Sir J luntsman, ho ls in the R
ing parhad had hrewdly ak, as one yer-many Could show, uncovered, Finally, in off himself from as said to have ole catching, then Avelling tinker.
began to sink. The quired a lazy, weedy, hat spread about to partly to Deanstoke,the farmers, who
Now it was natural that his lawyer,
saw food f
had quite expected higher rents under lawyer Hesketh, learnt his inclination to leniency: though he was firm at present against granting fresh leases.
And the Manor House had a melancholy aspect the emptiness made its windows gloomily mysterious; it gave the house a great spectral air, like a ghost itself, when through the Janu
ary woods it rose fronting the blast, amidst tossing boughs and the last leaves still flying. The impression almost fixed itself, even while summer embowered it from sight, that an uncommon secret, yet to be known, lay hidden in Stoke Manor. As for the family, they were already established in Paris, by the time the winter had passed away.
THE BATTLE OF LEPANTO.
THE military history of the world scarcely affords episodes more interesting than are to be found in the long and sanguinary struggles between the Venetian and the Turk. At the present day, when we behold Turkey, fallen in the scale of nations, indebted for existence to foreign sup. port, we look back as upon a dream or a fable to a time when her power was perilous to Christendom, when the most puissant nations of Europe were fain to league together to repel her encroachments, whilst others, adopting a less hardy resolve, courted her alliance, and even purchased tranquillity by tribute to the Infidel. Venice, the geographical position of whose dominions rendered her one of the first objects of the Turk's ambition, and peculiarly exposed her to his assaults, held a very unequal conduct in the contests that occurred during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We find her alternately waging heroic warfare, and accepting shameful peace, on terms that lost her nearly all the points of her costly contests and not unfrequent victories. Her island possessions in the eastern Mediterranean had become, by Turkish conquests on the European and African continents, the advanced posts of the Christian world-posts perilously situated, and which could be secured to her only by maritime superiority. Corfu, Cephalonia, Zante, Candia, and, still farther east, at short distance from the Syrian shore, the
beautiful isle of Cyprus, all required strong garrisons and strict vigilance to protect them from the attacks, often sudden and treacherous, of the Turks, to whom it was a constant eyesore to behold the banner of the Cross waving within sight of their coasts. After Venice, Spain was the maritime power that had most to fear from the aggressive and invading policy of Mahomet's successors. Her Italian and African possessions, especially Naples and Sicily, could hardly be considered safe -if not from conquest, at least from great molestation-at a time when the Grand Seignior, having seized upon Rhodes and grievously assaulted Malta, displayed his Crescent flag at the gates of Rome and Marseilles, sheltering under it numerous galleys and whole fleets of corsairs, who captured ships in the very Tiber's mouth, and into whose Infidel hands a pope once nearly fell. Under Mahomet II., Bajazet II., and Selim I., surnamed the Ferocious, the Turkish power made immense strides. Bajazet invaded the dominions of Venice, and obtained from the republic by treaty, in exchange for the island of Cephalonia, the important fortresses of Lepanto, Modon, Coron, Durazzo, and Navarino. By the conquest of Egypt and subjection of the Mamelukes, Selim inherited the tribute paid by the Venetians for the free navigation of the Nile. But it was under Soliman, styled the Magnificent, that the Ottoman power made enormous
Historia del Combate Naval de Lepanto, y juicio de la importancia y consecuencias de aquel suceso; obra premiada por voto unánime de la Real en el concurso de 1853. Su autor Don CAYETANO ROSELL.
Academia de la Historia, Madrid, 1853.