Abbildungen der Seite

well-informed, and recited her lesson faithfully so long as she was suffered to follow the beaten track. How impossible it was to extract anything beyond that from her we soon had proof.

She ushered us next into my lord's parlor, which nearly adjoined the gallery. This room was hung with arras,retained a few articles of ancient furniture, had one or two pictures hanging on its walls, and presented, altogether, a more habitable look than any other portion of the castle. Our little maid had got on well with her description of this room, had pointed out the portrait of Prince Arthur, once a resident at the hall, had introduced that of Will Somers, my lord's jester, as glibly as if Will were a playmate of her own, had deciphered for us the excellent moral precept carved in old English beneath the royal arms, "Drede God and honour the King," and was proceeding rapidly with an array of measurements and dates, when I unluckily interrupted her.—I think it was to ask some question about the tapestry. She looked at me reproachfully, indignantly,—just as a child reciting the multiplication-table before the School-Committee would look, if tripped up between the numbers, or as a boy, taken advantage of in play, might cry, "No fair!" She did not condescend to answer me, perhaps she could not, but paused a moment, reflected, went deliberately back in her recital, repeated the last few dates and phrases by way of gaining ^n impetus, and then went tin withou* faltering to the end of her prescribed narration.

Poor child! She had my sympathy, and has still. What a grudge she must owe us tourists, even the tamest and most submissive of us, for whom she is thus compelled to tax her unwilling memory I

But if her spirits were damped, her good-humor threatened, it was for a minute only. Upon completing our rapid survey of my lord's parlor, and looking round for the guide who should conduct us farther, she had become invisible. So we moved on without her, and

commenced exploring a narrow passage with a certain sense of bewilderment at its loneliness, and the doubt whither it might lead, when, suddenly, we were startled by a merry laugh, which seemed to ring through the air directly above . our heads. Was it a mocking spirit that haunted the place? or one of the old figures on the tapestry, started into life? We looked up, and there, on a rough platform of pine boards, projecting from the wall, stood our Fenella. She was leanmg over the shoulder of an artistboy, who, seated at his easel, was copying one of the Gorgon-heads that stood out on the faded tapestry. She had dismissed us wholly from her thoughts, and, giving play to her native fun and coquetry, was taunting the youth with the slowness of his labors and the little progress he had made since she last inspected his work. No wonder that she laughed at the taste of the boy or his employer. Graver heads than hers might question the motive which had set the painter such a model. Imagination suggested that some elfln godmother must have prescribed the task as a condition of her future favor. At all events, the malicious sprite now acting as overseer felt a sense of triumph in this captive boy, perched against the wall, and condemned, like herself, to reproduce the past and bring out in fresh colors the staring eyes and mummied cheeks which would otherwise soon be lost to memory. She certainly made the most of her opportunity to taunt and tease him, for there was time for a laugh and a word of railleryonly, to which he seemed too shamefaced to respond, before she was at our side again, gravely announcing, "My lady's chamber!" — and as we looked around the apartment, whose furniture and decorations imparted to it a superior air of neatness and refinement to that observable elsewhere, she pointed out to us a private doorway, conducting to a flight of steps, and affording an exit by which "my lady" had easy access to the courtyard, and thence to the chapel where she performed her devotions.

"And what are the rooms opposite?" ire asked, pointing to a long row of windows on the second floor, on the opposite side of the quadrangle to that of which we had now completed the inspection.

"Those rooms are never shown," was the mysterious answer.

"But you will show them to us" (spoken coaxingly).

She shook her head, and sealed her lips, with an expression of determination.

"What is in them?"

"Oh, nothing in particular."

"Then we might see them."

No encouragement, but, on the contrary, a resolute negative.

A bribe was held out, — for, by this time, the child's air of mystery and reserve had suggested a closet like that of Bluebeard, a chamber of torture, or, at least, the proofs of some family-secret .

We might aa well have offered a twoshilling bribe to the Iron Duke himself. The miniature castle-keeper was so firm and so non-committal that she disarmed us of all our ingenuity, defeated all our tacties, and we gave up the point . I have since learned that this quarter of the mansion consists of a labyrinth of rooms, shut up because devoid of interest, and containing only some old lumber. To have conducted us through them would have been to disobey orders, and, worse still, establish a precedent, from which the child might well shrink. It would have doubled her arduous round of duty. It was policy, no less than loyalty, which had inspired her.

So, too, when we came to inspect the chapel. She mounted an old oak chest in the rear of the little sanctuary, just beneath the solitary window, whose quaint patterns in stained glass pointed to centuries long past . Seated comfortably on this elevation, she rehearsed the history and described the architecture of the most primitive place of worship I ever saw,—or, if she left her post to point out some minuter detail, she returned to it as jealously as a watch-dog to some spot which he is specially appointed to guard.

When our curiosity was otherwise satisfied, — when we had even ascended to the rude confessional, which was a mere excavation in the soft stone of the wall, — when we had put our hands in the hollow, not unlike a swallow's nest in a mudbank, once the receptacle lor holy water, — when we had descended the stony pathway, for it was so worn as scarcely to merit the name of staircase,— when, standing once more on the chapel-pavement, with minds excited by the thought of those monkish days when* priestcraft ruled the land, — our eyes naturally fell on the old oak chest . What further revelation might not this disclose I What sacred relies, what curious church-plate, what vellum manuscript, might not be hidden beneath this heavy lid! Would she rise and let us see?

No, — she maintained her seat and her reserve with as much rigidity as on the former occasion. Unconvinced by this experience, our imaginations still ran riot. They shadowed forth every possible beauty and horror which such a giant chest might contain. The story even of " The Bride of the Mistletoe-Bough" might be verified, if we could but get a peep. At last we prevailed. The child was persuaded to dismount, we lifted the cover, and the chest was empty, — literally empty.

Once more the plain fact of the present had swept away the cobwebs of the past, the real had banished the ideal. While the child of to-day sought only a comfortable rest from weariness, we had been seeking myths. She looked on as indignant as a dethroned queen. We turned away a little mortified, and a good deal disappointed.

But the Fenella of the castle was not so very, tired, after all. True, she was tired of the old manor-house, tired of us, tired of her own dull routine of duty; but there was a well-spring of freshness in her yet. She moved languidly, to be sure, as she now led the way to the tower, the only portion of the castle yet unvisited. Following her, we ascended, first, to a bare upper room, a sort of anteroom, from which the ascent to the tower commenced. It presented a solid inclosure of stone, except on the western side, where it was dimly lighted through one or two slits in the masonry. Turning my eyes in this direction, I saw our little guide leaning against the stone framework of one of these chinks in tho wall. The beams of western sunlight came slanting in at precisely the angle of her figure as she leaned back in infantile repose; her white ribbons, her snowy apron, her golden hair caught and held the sunshine, and the ray of light which relieved the gloom of the gray old vault seemed to emanate from the child.

One of our party addressed some question to her regarding the probable design of the empty room in which we stood; but there was no answer, — not even a responsive glance. Her eyes were fixed upon the stone roof. She looked spellbound. Before we could follow the direction of her steady gaze, we were startled by the flapping of wings overhead, and, still more, by the sudden rushing forward of the child with a loud cry of "Shoo! shoo I" and with her hands stretched eagerly into the air. Our presence had disturbed a swallow, which had found its way in through one of the slits, and, perhaps, built a nest in some crevice of the wall. The girl's languor was instantaneously dispelled by the discovery and the excitement of pursuit. Here, now, was congenial sport. Hopeless as was the attempt to catch the bird, the joy of frightening it was sure; and our guide sprang wildly from side to side of the building, uttering exciting exclamations, and making vain passes at the little creature, which flew round high above her head, now and then settling in some secure "coigne of vantage." In these intervals we endeavored to catch the attention of the mischievous fowler, but her task had ended with this tower-room, she had done with us, she had found an unexpected source of sport, and was not to be deterred from an enjoyment which she probably thought well-earned. With one eye following the least motion of the bird,

she informed us, at last, in reply to repeated inquiries, that there was nothing to be told about the room we were in, — that it merely led to the tower, — we could go up into the tower, if we wished.

She must go with us and show us the way.

"No," was the cool reply. She never went into the tower; she never went any farther than this.

Glancing at the dilapidated state of the stairs leading to the successive stories of the tower, we were almost tempted to believe that her instinct of self-preservation had reached its climax here, — that we might break our necks, if we liked,— she preferred not to run the risk. Resolved to satisfy our suspicions, we pressed the point, and, after many inquiries and waiting a considerable time upon the motions of the child and her new plaything, we got the brief and somewhat scornful explanation, —

'' What if some other party should come while I was away?"

"We part here, then?"

She nodded in assent, received the fee for her services without acknowledgment, and saw us depart on our breakneck expedition with an indifference equalled only by the nonchalance with which she had admitted us on our arrival. The moment our backs were turned, she resumed her play.

After exploring the successive stories of the tower in safety, we descended by way of the anteroom, but the bird and its pursuer had both of them flown. We passed through a door she had previously pointed out, and gained the garden as surreptitiously as did Dorothy Veraon, of old, when, according to the tradition, she escaped through this same doorway on the night of her sister's nuptials, and eloped with her lover, Mr. (afterwards Sir John) Manners, who had long been haunting the neighboring forest as an outlaw. We strolled through the ancient garden, all ivied and moss-grown, admired the stone balustrade, which, thnestained and mouldy, is still the student's favorite bit of architecture, and at last made our way back to the farm-house,— I am sure I do not remember how, for we were as deficient in a guide as on our first attempt at entrance. Whether another party arrived while we were in the tower, and were engrossing her attention, — whether she was engaged in the more agreeable office of coquetting with the young artist, or was still chasing the swallow from room to room of the manorhouse, I do not know. We saw her no more. She had barely condescended to let us in, and now left us to find our way out as we could.

She cared nothing at all for us. All the interest we had manifested in her (and it was considerable) had failed to awaken any emotion. We were a stereotyped feature of the old hall; and the old hall, though she had sprung from its root, and her life had been nourished by its strength, was no part of herself, — was her antipathy. Still I never think of the mansion, with all the romantic associations which cluster around it, but the image of this child comes to break my reverie, as she did on the day when it was first indulged.

So we go to visit some royal oak, and bring away, as a memento, the daisy which blooms at its foot; so we stand, as the reward of toil and fatigue, upon an Alpine glacier, and the trophy and pledge of our visit are the forget-me-not that grew on its margin. Thus youth and beauty ever press on the footsteps of old age, and youth and beauty bear away the palm.

My faith in legendary lore is confirmed, when I call to mind the Gothic fortress, with its strong defences against the enemy, its rude suggestions of centuries of hospitality, its tower-lattices, whence generation after generation of high-born maids waved signals to knightly lovers, its stairways, worn slippery with the tread of heavy-mailed warriors, its chapel-vanlt, where chivalrous lord and noble dame have turned to dust. But there is a faith more precious than the faith in old song and legend; and the golden - haired child, who flourishes so

fresh and fair amidst all this ruin and decay, stands forth to my mind as an emblem of that power which renovates earth and defies time. Had she been a pattern child, had her instructors (whoever they were) succeeded in moulding her into a mere machine, she might not so vividly have roused my interest; but there was something in her saucy independence, her wayward freaks, her coquettish airs, her fiery chase after the swallow, which —breaking in, as they did, upon the docility with which she otherwise went through her round of duty — revivified the desolation of the old hall with a sudden outburst of humanity. Everywhere else the fountain of life seemed to have died out, but here it gushed forth a living stream.

We gaze down the centuries and see in them ignorance, error, warning, and ruin at last. What hope for the race, then, if this were all? But it is not all. The child's foot treading lightly over the graves is the type of the time-is triumphing over the time-was. Full of faults and imperfections, she is still the daughter of Hope and Opportunity. She has the past for her teacher, and the door of knowledge, repentance, and faith stands open before her. Thus childhood is the rainbow of God's providence, and the brightest feature of His covenant with men.

Silence, desolation, and decay have set their seal upon old Haddon Hall, but chance has set a child over them all, and the lesson her simple presence teaches is worth more to me than all the Idyls of the King.

And thus it is that I treasure up the memory of her among my catalogue of guides; . and so she did more for me than she promised, when she undertook to lend me her light through the old Hall.

If there are any who can live without thus borrowing, then let them disparage guides. For the rest, the best guide is Humility. We have all so many dark paths to tread from the cradle to the grave, that we need to lay hold on all the helps we can. Groping blindly down the

avenues of Time, who is there that does est path in safety with his hand in the

not long to grasp some friendly hand, or hand of a little child,

follow in the track of some traveller fa- . God grant me guides, then, to my

miliar with the way? journey's end! God guide us all, wbeth

For me, Experience is a staff on which er we will or no! guide the nations,

I am glad to lean, Simplicity is an un- and make for them a way through the

failing leader where Learning might go dust, the turmoil, and the strife which

astray. Trust is a lamp that burns through Time has heaped in their path, to the

the darkest night; and sometimes, when freshness and promise of the new birth!

strong men are weak and wise men fool- guide each poor yearning soul through

ish, strength and wisdom are given unto the darkness and doubt that overshadow

babes, and he whom the counsels of the it, as it journeys on to the clear light of

elders cannot save may walk the narrow- immortal day!


Into the city of Kambalu,
By the road that leadeth to Ispahan,
At the head of his dusty caravan,
Laden with treasure from realms afar,
Baldacca and Kelat and Kandahar,
Rode the great captain Alan.

The Khan from his palace-window gazed:

He saw in the thronging street beneath,

In the light of the setting sun, that blazed

Through the clouds of dust by the caravan raised,

The flash of harness and jewelled sheath,

And the shining scimitars of the guard,

And the weary camels that bared their teeth,

As they passed and passed through the gates unbarred

Into the shade of the palace-yard.

Thus into the city of Kambalu

Rode the great captain Alati;

And he stood before the Khan, and said, —

"The enemies of my lord are dead;

All the Kalifs of atf the West

Bow and obey his least behest;

The plains are dark with the mulberry-trees,

The weavers are busy in Samarcand,

The miners are sifting the golden sand,

The divers are plunging for pearls in the seas,

And peace and plenty are in the land.

"Only Baldacca's Kalif alone
Rose in rebellion against thy throne:
His treasures are at thy palace-door,

« ZurückWeiter »