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measured the height of the precipice; and the vessels, spread over the vast expanse of ocean, appeared, as their white sails turned to the sun, like pearls set in an outspread mantle of azure.
Lord Mowbray cast a glance over the precipice, and, stepping hastily back, turned towards the entrance. A low arch led by a few steps into a sort of porch, at the end of which appeared a massive weatherbeaten door opening into a spacious hall, where damp and mildew hung in large patches upon the bare and neglected wall. Here and there remained the rusty fastenings which formerly had held the armour and warlike weapons of the inmates of the Castle; and above, suspended from the beams of the ceiling, tattered and clad with cobwebs, waved the remnants of banners once proudly borne by Lord Mowbray's ancestry in the field of battle, or planted in defiance on the ramparts of their fortress.
It was impossible that Lord Mowbray should not feel sad at these signs of departed greatness; and if his spirit had been of a turn to pass lightly over the reflections which they suggested, the very gloom of the place would have inspired him with melancholy. A wide and ample staircase, of the stone found in the neighbouring Isle of Portland, ascended from the middle of the hall, and, branching off right and left, terminated in a length of gallery communicating with the different apartments above. The broad and massive railing, on each side the steps, was ornamented with fretwork of quatre feuil; and at intervals were placed escutcheons, sculptured with the bearings of different families allied to the Mowbrays. As his eye rested on these frail emblems of pride, and saw the distinctions, thus vainly endeavoured to be preserved, mutilated and crumbling into dust, Lord Mowbray sighed, and the occasion of his visit was recalled forcibly to his mind. " Let a few years pass,” he said inwardly, " and some one will be here to fulfil the same duty to my remains : what then avail all this parade, and these distinctions of earthly grandeur ?"
Many of the rooms, as they advanced, appeared going fast to total decay; the wind whistled from between the shutters, which, shrunk and rotten, no longer fitted the apertures; and some, suspended by one hinge only, left uncontrolled entrance to the storms of heaven. The torn arras, the remnants of rich brocade, hanging in shreds upon the walls; the empty picture-frames, robbed of the animated forms that once had spoken in mute intelligence to the spectator; the broken articles of massive furniture piled up in the fireplace,
or standing tottering and leaning against the walls; the squalid state of the floors and ceilings; the birds' nests, built in the angles and recesses of the cornices and mouldings : all showed the approaching ruin of this once proud structure, and the evident neglect which had allowed destruction to make such inroads upon it.
The .steward hastened Lord Mowbray forward as quickly as be dared, and urged his reaching the eastern apartments, which had been prepared for his reception, and were by far the best preserved in the building. “ Better, I hope, at any rate, than those we have passed,” said Colonel Pennington, “or, by my faith! we are likely to be badly off in this Castle of yours, my Lord.”
As they entered the room, it offered an appearance of comparative comfort, after what they had witnessed. Some decorations painted on the walls were still perfect, and maintained their eolouring: the furniture, of antique form, seemed to bid defiance to the hand of time; and the black oak table, planted in the middle of the apartment and screwed to the floor, looked as if it could fall only with the Castle walls. The upper part of the window was decorated with some very richly painted glass, which here and there cast an increased lustre on the colours of the walls ; while its own brilliancy was contrasted with the coarse, blue-knotted panes that had, from time to time, supplied deficiencies in the original casements.
The steward, having ushered Lord Mowbray in to this and the adjoining apartments, withdrew to attend the wants of his domestics; and his Lordship and Colonel Pennington had an opportunity of commenting on the strange reception, and altogether curious class of dependents, who appeared in possession of his late kinsman's property. “We shall know more about the matter," said Lord Mowbray," when I have seen the agent of the estate in the neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the person who commands here seems active and obliging, and he cannot help the ruined state of things, I sup
" I feel certain,” replied Colonel Pennington, “ that these apartments are usually the residence of the gentleman who has just left us, or they would not be as comfortable as they are; and see here,” as he fixed his eye on a telescope that was hanging against the wall, “it appears he fills up his idle hours with counting the vessels at sea. Very pretty pastime: I give him credit for his taste ; I should do the same myself if I lived here :" and so saying, he took down the glass, and proceeded to examine it. “A very fine glass, upon my honour, my Lord,” added Colonel Pennington, as he looked
through it; “I can almost tell the colours of that litile brig that you can scarcely see with the naked eye. What a constant source of amusement, picking up all the vessels that go by! This window commands the whole of Portland Reach, my Lord; and, seated at a little distance, you may fancy yourself on board a man of war. What an inexhaustible source of interest !”
“Heaven forbid !" said Lord Mowbray, “that I should be doomed to such an entertainment. It puts me in mind of all the horrors of being at sea; and hearing some one tell me,' that is the coast of Spain--that is the island of Minorca—there is such and such a promontory; when at best they only look like little black streaks in the horizon. It is just the same to see ships through a glass, passing and repassing on their trackless way. It conveys no feeling to me but that of profound melancholy."
“ You have never been long enough at sea, my Lord, to try it fairly.”
“ I never shall, I hope, my dear Colonel. Come, lay aside your glass and walk out with me; I want to look more about, and to see the Chapel and the burial-place. I imagine all that ragged crew that beset us on our arrival will be elsewhere now—perhaps with the servants in the kitchen, if they have such a place.”.
“Oh! I'll answer for that,” said Colonel Pennington, “and a cellar to boot; or my friend has a nose which does him wondrous
They now repassed the desolate gallery, and reached the entrance, where, to the dismay of Lord Mowbray, he encountered Smiling Bill.“ What, ho! my friend, go fetch the steward, and tell him I wish to see the Chapel.”
This he did as much to get rid of him, as to find the way thither; and while he paced the platform in front of the Castle, and looked round him on every side, he exclaimed to Colonel Pennington, “Where can the Chapel be situated ? We seem to be perched high enough to see every thing for twenty miles round, and not a vestige of Chapel or Holyrood can I discover.”
At that moment Smiling Bill came from the porch, with a bunch oflarge keys in his hand. “Please you, my Lord, the steward sent me with these keys to conduct your Lordship to the Chapel. He will be with your Lordship in a twinkling ; but he's seeing your Lordship's cattle are well foddered up; for the stabling isn't over good, my Lord. This way, if your Lordship pleases.” And before Lord Mowbray could demand the keys, or enforce his absence, Smiling
Bill had strode half-way to the edge of the cliff, and was, or pretended to be, beyond hearing.
Lord Mowbray followed ; but in another moment his guide bad almost disappeared, and nothing but his head was to be seen above the precipice.
Another step forward, and Lord Mowbray found that a steep stair cut in the rock afforded a dangerous path along its sides; and on following this, about half-way down, they came to a ledge of even ground, on which the Chapel was built. It was in good preservation, and, though small, of beautiful and most curious workmanship of the richest and most elaborate Gothic order. There it stood, like a lovely gem cast on a desert shore. It was a thing of beauty, dropped as it were from Heaven, to lead the soul back from earth and earthly vanities to its divine source.
Not a word was said. Smiling Bill opened the doors, and with reverential awe Lord Mowbray entered. The vault was open which was to receive his kinsman's remains; he paused, and, sitting down on a stone bench near it, listened to the sound of the dashing waves beneath, which were in unison with the scene and with his own feelings. “One might well choose to be laid at rest here,” said Lord Mowbray to Colonel Pennington, at length breaking silence ; “I never saw so tranquil, and, at the same time, so appropriate a spot for the quiet of a last sleep."
“ What signifies the spot ?" answered Colonel Pennington, in his highest tone, to master the womanish feelings which he felt rising to his eyes" what signifies the spot ? all places are alike good to the good. It is where one is when alive, and above all what one does, that is of consequence. Many of your ancestors lie here, and some of them deserve to be remembered by you, looked up to by you; but whether their bones whiten on the beach below, or crumble in these vaults, it is all one."
“ It is so," replied Lord Mowbray, with a sigh ; " and yet there are feelings-"
“ Which had better be all put in requisition for active service," interrupted Colonel Pennington, “ than be allowed to evaporate in useless sentiment. Come, my good Lord, there are many things to be thought of, believe me, which it imports you to consider. Let us begone:" and Lord Mowbray suffered himself to be conducted back to the Castle.
The mournful procession arrived that night, and the next day the clergyman of the parish performed the funeral service, at which
Lord Mowbray, Colonel Pennington, the agent of the estate, the steward, and a few domestics, alone attended. All the persons he had seen the day before had vanished, and Lord Mowbray accounted for it, in his own mind, by the sentiment he had heard the old woman express at Abbotsbury. He had generally professed, and perhaps still continued to do so, that he valued not the opinion of the world, and cared not what was said of him; yet the remembrance of that old woman's words often recurred to him. "Tis true that
“Many a shaft at random sent,
Finds aim the archer never meant;
And in after life Lord Mowbray could trace the beneficial train of reflection (he even did so now) which a casual hearing of rebuke to his ancestor's memory had given rise to.
In the arrangement of his affairs, which occupied him incessantly during his stay at Mowbray Castle, a wish to conciliate the good opinion of all dependent upon him seemed the prevailing feeling in the orders which he issued; and many an abuse and encroachment on the part of his tenantry was overlooked, or but slightly noticed, in the accomplishment of this object; while all grievances were instantly redressed, complaints listened to with patience, even when unreasonable in themselves, and promises of reward held out to laudable and proper exertions of industry. The Castle was to be repaired, the roads improved, and the Park and its vicinity brought into better order, so that abundance of employment was marked out to the neighbouring poor. Lord Mowbray felt happy in the idea that he was thus the cause of happiness in others. He might have done what he was then doing, perhaps, without any other impulse than that of self-interest,—for what he did was only what another in his situation would have found it advantageous to do; but Lord Mowbray felt an inward consciousness that the words which had reached him at hazard when walking through the lonely village of Abbotsbury, were the true source of his actions on the present occasion; and the being who had so unconsciously awakened him to a sense of duty, he felt, ought not to go unrewarded.
Under this impression, he one morning left the Castle to walk to Abbotsbury and visit the cottage of the old woman, from whose lips he considered he had received so salutary a lesson. It was a