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With the decay of summer, lady Vaughan began again to sink, and became at length so weak that Dorothy rarely left her room. The departure of Richard Heywood to join the rebels affected her deeply. The report of the utter rout of the parliamentary forces at Edgehill, lighted up her face for the last time with a glimmer of earthly gladness, which the very different news that followed speedily extinguished; and after that she declined more rapidly. Mrs. Rees told Dorothy that she would yield to the first frost. But she lingered many weeks. One morning she signed to her daughter to come nearer that she might speak to her.
'Dorothy,' she whispered, 'I wish much to see good Mr. Herbert. Prithee send for him. I know it is an evil time for him to travel, being an old man and feeble, but he will do his endeavour to come to me, I know, if but for my husband's sake, whom he loved like a brother. I cannot die in peace without first taking counsel with him how best to provide for the safety of my little ewe-lamb until these storms are overblown. Alas! alas! I did look to Richard Heywood--'
She could say no more.
'Do not take thought about the morrow for me any more than you would for yourself, madam,' said Dorothy. 'You know master Herbert says the one is as the other.'
She kissed her mother's hand as she spoke, then hastened from the room, and despatched a messenger to Llangattock.
Before the worthy man arrived, lady Vaughan was speechless. By signs and looks, definite enough, and more eloquent than words, she committed Dorothy to his protection, and died.
Dorothy behaved with much calmness. She would not, in her mother's absence, act so as would have grieved her presence. Little passed between her and Mr. Herbert until the funeral was over. Then they talked of the future. Her guardian wished much to leave everything in charge of the old bailiff, and take her with him to Llangattock; but he hesitated a little because of the bad state of the roads in winter, much because of their danger in the troubled condition of affairs, and most of all because of the uncertain, indeed perilous position of the Episcopalian clergy, who might soon find themselves without a roof to shelter them. Fearing nothing for himself, he must yet, in arranging for Dorothy, contemplate the worst of threatening possibilities; and one thing was pretty certain, that matters must grow far worse before they could even begin to mend.
But they had more time for deliberation given them than they would willingly have taken. Mr. Herbert had caught cold while reading the funeral service, and was compelled to delay his return. The cold settled into a sort of low fever, and for many weeks he lay helpless. During this time the sudden affair at Brentford took place, after which the king, having lost by it far more than he had gained, withdrew to Oxford, anxious to re-open the treaty which the battle had closed.
The country was now in a sad state. Whichever party was uppermost in any district, sought to ruin all of the opposite faction. Robbery and plunder became common, and that not only on the track of armies or the route of smaller bodies of soldiers, for bands of mere marauders, taking up the cry of the faction that happened in any neighbourhood to have the ascendancy, plundered houses, robbed travellers, and were guilty of all sorts of violence. Hence it had become as perilous to stay at home in an unfortified house as to travel; and many were the terrors which during the winter tried the courage of the girl, and checked the recovery of the old man. At length one morning, after a midnight alarm, Mr. Herbert thus addressed Dorothy, as she waited upon him with his breakfast:
'It fears me much, my dear Dorothy, that the time will be long ere any but fortified places will be safe abodes. It is a question in my mind whether it would not be better to seek refuge for you--. But stay; let me suggest my proposal, rather than startle you with it in sudden form complete. You are related to the Somersets, are you not?'
'Is the relationship recognized by them?'
'I cannot tell, sir. I do not even distinctly know what the relationship is. And assuredly, sir, you mean not to propose that I should seek safety from bodily peril with a household which is, to say the least, so unfriendly to the doctrines you and my blessed mother have always taught me! You cannot, or indeed, must you not have forgotten that they are papists?'
Dorothy had been educated in such a fear of the catholics, and such a profound disapproval of those of their doctrines rejected by the reformers of the church of England, as was only surpassed in intensity by her absolute abhorrence of the assumptions and negations of the puritans. These indeed roused in her a certain sense of disgust which she had never felt in respect of what were considered by her teachers the most erroneous doctrines of the catholics. But Mr. Herbert, although his prejudices were nearly as strong, and his opinions, if not more indigenous at least far better acclimatised than hers, had yet reaped this advantage of a longer life, that he was better able to atone his dislike of certain opinions with personal regard for those who held them, and therefore did not, like Dorothy, recoil from the idea of obligation to one of a different creed--provided always that creed was catholicism and not puritanism. For to the church of England, the catholics, in the presence of her more rampant foes, appeared harmless enough now.
He believed that the honourable feelings of lord Worcester and his family would be hostile to any attempt to proselytize his ward. But as far as she was herself concerned, he trusted more to the strength of her prejudices than the rectitude of her convictions, honest as the girl was, to prevent her from being over-influenced by the change of spiritual atmosphere; for in proportion to the simplicity of her goodness must be her capacity for recognizing the goodness of others, catholics or not, and for being wrought upon by the virtue that went out from them. His hope was, that England would have again become the abode of peace, long ere any risk to her spiritual well-being should have been incurred by this mode of securing her bodily safety and comfort.
But there was another fact, in the absence of which he would have had far more hesitation in seeking for his ewe-lamb the protection of sheep, the guardians of whose spiritual fold had but too often proved wolves in sheep-dogs' clothing: within the last few days the news had reached him that an old friend named Bayly, a true man, a priest of the English church and a doctor of divinity, had taken up his abode in Raglan castle as one of the household--chaplain indeed, as report would have it, though that was hard of belief, save indeed it were for the sake of the protestants within its walls. However that might be, there was a true shepherd to whose care to entrust his lamb; and it was mainly on the strength of this consideration that he had concluded to make his proposal to Dorothy--namely, that she should seek shelter within the walls of Raglan castle until the storm should be so far over-blown, as to admit either of her going to Llangattock or returning to her own home. He now discussed the matter with her in full, and, notwithstanding her very natural repugnance to the scheme, such was Dorothy's confidence in her friend that she was easily persuaded of its wisdom. What the more inclined her to yield was, that Mr. Heywood had written her a letter, hardly the less unwelcome for the kindness of its tone, in which he offered her the shelter and hospitality of Redware 'until better days.'
'Better days!' exclaimed Dorothy with contempt. 'If such days as he would count better should ever arrive, his house is the last place where I would have them find me!'
She wrote a polite but cold refusal, and rejoiced in the hope that he would soon hear of her having sought and found refuge in Raglan with the friends of the king.
Meanwhile Mr. Herbert had opened communication with Dr. Bayly, had satisfied himself that he was still a true son of the church, and had solicited his friendly mediation towards the receiving of mistress Dorothy Vaughan into the family of the marquis of Worcester, to the dignity of which title the earl had now been raised--the parliament, to be sure, declining to acknowledge the patent conferred by his majesty, but that was of no consequence in the estimation of those chiefly concerned.
On a certain spring morning, then, the snow still lying in the hollows of the hills, Thomas Bayly came to Wyfern to see his old friend Matthew Herbert. He was a courteous little man, with a courtesy librating on a knife-edge of deflection towards obsequiousness on the one hand and condescension on the other, for neither of which, however, was his friend Herbert an object. His eye was keen, and his forehead good, but his carriage inclined to the pompous, and his speech to the formal, ornate, and prolix. The shape of his mouth was honest, but the closure of the lips indicated self-importance. The greeting between them was simple and genuine, and ere they parted, Bayly had promised to do his best in representing the matter to the marquis, his daughter-in-law, lady Margaret, the wife of lord Herbert, and his daughter, lady Anne, who, although the most rigid catholic in the house, was already the doctor's special friend.
It would have been greatly unlike the marquis or any of his family to refuse such a prayer. Had not their house been for centuries the abode of hospitality, the embodiment of shelter? On the mere representation of Dr. Bayly, and the fact of the relationship, which, although distant, was well enough known, within two days mistress Dorothy Vaughan received an invitation to enter the family of the marquis, as one of the gentlewomen of lady Margaret's suite. It was of course gratefully accepted, and as soon as Mr. Herbert thought himself sufficiently recovered to encounter the fatigues of travelling, he urged on the somewhat laggard preparations of Dorothy, that he might himself see her safely housed on his way to Llangattock, whither he was most anxious to return.
It was a lovely spring morning when they set out together on horseback for Raglan. The sun looked down like a young father upon his earth-mothered children, peeping out of their beds to greet him after the long winter night. The rooks were too busy to caw, dibbling deep in the soft red earth with their great beaks. The red cattle, flaked with white, spotted the clear fresh green of the meadows. The bare trees had a kind of glory about them, like old men waiting for their youth, which might come suddenly. A few slow clouds were drifting across the pale sky. A gentle wind was blowing over the wet fields, but when a cloud swept before the sun, it blew cold. The roads were bad, but their horses were used to such, and picked their way with the easy carefulness of experience. The winter might yet return for a season, but this day was of the spring and its promises. Earth and air, field and sky were full of peace. But the heart of England was troubled--troubled with passions both good and evil--with righteous indignation and unholy scorn, with the love of liberty and the joy of license, with ambition and aspiration.
No honest heart could yield long to the comforting of the fair world, knowing that some of her fairest fields would soon be crimsoned afresh with the blood of her children. But Dorothy's sadness was not all for her country in general. Had she put the question honestly to her heart, she must have confessed that even the loss of her mother had less to do with a certain weight upon it, which the loveliness of the spring day seemed to render heavier, than the rarely absent feeling rather than thought, that the playmate of her childhood, and the offered lover of her youth, had thrown himself with all the energy of dawning manhood into the quarrel of the lawless and self-glorifying. Nor was she altogether free from a sense of blame in the matter. Had she been less imperative in her mood and bearing, more ready to give than to require sympathy,--but ah! she could not change the past, and the present was calling upon her.
At length the towers of Raglan appeared, and a pang of apprehension shot through her bosom. She was approaching the unknown. Like one on the verge of a second-sight, her history seemed for a moment about to reveal itself--where it lay, like a bird in its egg, within those massive walls, warded by those huge ascending towers. Brought up in a retirement that some would have counted loneliness, and although used to all gentle and refined ways, yet familiar with homeliness and simplicity of mode and ministration, she could not help feeling awed at the prospect of entering such a zone of rank and stateliness and observance as the household of the marquis, who lived like a prince in expenditure, attendance, and ceremony. She knew little of the fashions of the day, and, like many modest young people, was afraid she might be guilty of some solecism which would make her appear ill-bred, or at least awkward. Since her mother left her, she had become aware of a timidity to which she had hitherto been a stranger. 'Ah!' she said to herself, 'if only my mother were with me!'
At length they reached the brick gate, were admitted within the outer wall, and following the course taken by Scudamore and Heywood, skirted the moat which enringed the huge blind citadel or keep, and arrived at the western gate. The portcullis rose to admit them, and they rode into the echoes of the vaulted gateway. Turning to congratulate Dorothy on their safe arrival, Mr. Herbert saw that she was pale and agitated.
'What ails my child?' he said in a low voice, for the warder was near.
'I feel as if entering a prison,' she replied, with a shiver.
'Is thy God the God of the grange and not of the castle?' returned the old man.
'But, sir,' said Dorothy, 'I have been accustomed to a liberty such as few have enjoyed, and these walls and towers--'
'Heed not the look of things,' interrupted her guardian. 'Believe in the Will that with a thought can turn the shadow of death into the morning, give gladness for weeping, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.'
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