Imagens das páginas

around it; but he began to fear that this feeling was gradually dying away, and that with the novelty of the pursuit, its pleasure was expiring. Under this impression, and with the conviction that to maintain such a feeling was of vital importance to the happiness of a man of Lord Mowbray's turn of character, he studied with the most friendly zeal the best means of keeping it alive. Observation and reflection led him to think that a temporary absence from the scene, before satiety should destroy the relish of its pleasures and pursuits, would be the most likely course to ensure success to his wishes : and he made proposals to Lord Mowbray, in consequence, to accompany him in a visit which he had engaged to make in Hampshire.

“ As soon, my Lord, as you have put things in train here, I do not see that your actual presence will be wanted for some time: not that I wish you to neglect this place," continued Colonel Pennington,—" quite the contrary; but I believe we are all the better for changing the scene, and you will return with more interest when you think you are to see your improvements in a state of more forwardness."

“ But where is it you are going to take me?" replied Lord Mowbray.

“Oh, it is to the house of the oldest and the very kindest friend I have—to General Montgomery's, not very far from Southampton.”

Montgomery! Southampton!" ejaculated Lord Mowbray, with some surprise; “are you acquainted with General Montgomery ?”

“Yes, to be sure, and have been these fifty years and more—why do you look so surprised?—but will you go with me ?”

“Oh! certainly,” said Lord Mowbray, with more than usual alacrity—“ with much pleasure.”

"Well, then, I will write to Montgomery to say, he may expect you with me—when shall I say? will a fortnight suffice for the arrangements still to be made at this Castle of yours i “Oh, undoubtedly," answered Lord Mowbray;


you like."

Why, what the deuce makes the man in such a hurry, and what made him look so astonished just now ?” said Colonel Pennington to himself as he took up his pen, and was sitting down to write to his friend, with the information that Lord Mowbray would accompany him to Montgomery Hall.

The prospect held out in the approaching visit seemed to inspire both parties with renewed spirits. Lord Mowbray was elated with the idea of change; his curiosity in regard to the fair incognita (if

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

Le Brun's information were correct) might perhaps have added to the satisfaction he experienced, although, till the name of Montgomery recalled the circumstance, he had almost forgotten whatever interest that circumstance had excited. Colonel Pennington, too, was delighted to observe this change in his friend, which he attributed to his feeling that his stay at the Castle was no longer as a duty he was called on to perform, and which he could not evade.

The days preceding their departure passed rapidly away-final orders were to be given, and arrangements definitively made-certain ameliorations in the condition of the tenantry immediately in the vicinity of the Castle were to be carried into effect under Lord Mowbray's eye; for even in the ennui which had at times taken possession of him, he had never abandoned the object that first roused him to exertion on coming there. And as the period of his leaving the Castle approached, he proved himself more anxious than ever that his intentions in this respect should be realized. His time, therefore, was fully occupied; and he found in Colonel Pennington an active and able coadjutor in all the plans and proposals he suggested for the comfort of those around him.

As they were talking over, on the evening preceding their departure, what had been done, and what still remained to do, to complete the improvements, Colonel Pennington started from his chair, exclaiming, “Do come to the window, Lord Mowbray, and see that blaze of light--what can it be?” They approached close to the casements, and perceived a lurid glare of fire, which, though its source was hidden from them, proceeded evidently from some large conflagration on the shore immediately beneath; for its red light gleamed far across the waves, and, mingling with the silvery moonshine, afforded a combination of colours that was perfectly magical ; while the cliff, cireling on either side the building, was shrouded in obscurity, or showed only its ragged outline illuminated at intervals as the flames shot upwards. “Let us inquire what all this means," said Lord Mowbray.

“Let us go and see rather,” said Colonel Pennington; "for your people will be too indolent to inquire, or perhaps some of them here may not be over-willing that you should know the truth.” And so saying, they left the apartment. Lord Mowbray called to the servant usually in attendance near the door, but no answer was returned.

“ The fellow is gone to see the fire, my Lord, depend upon it," said Colonel Pennington; " but how he should have caught sight


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of it through that thick door, or have known it was in existence, I do not understand.”

They crossed the hall, and, opening the portal, found themselves on the grassy sward white with dew, and glittering in the fresh and pure moonlight. The atmosphere towards the coast, however, appeared glowing with fire, and the Castle presented a solemn mass of shade where opposed to it.

Lord Mowbray walked to the edge of the cliff, towards the path leading to the Chapel. Still nothing appeared to satisfy them as to the cause of the illumination, which they saw rising more strongly than ever from beneath the butting rock on which they stood. The moon afforded them light enough to guide them in their descent, and Lord Mowbray, followed by his companion, proceeded down the winding declivity. “What can it be?” said Lord Mowbray.

Why, I rather suspect,” replied Colonel Pennington, “ that it is à signal to smugglers on the coast; and if our appearance does not disturb the party, we may have an opportunity of seeing how they manage these affairs :-keep close, my Lord, to the side of the cliff, for otherwise our figures will catch the reflection from the fire."

They had already reached the platform, which stood before the entrance to the Chapel, when Lord Mowbray stopped—“ I think I hear voices,” he said, in a whisper.

“ Hush! bush !" answered Colonel Pennington, and they stood quite still: “I also hear voices," resumed the Colonel; "and music too, or else my ears deceive me : why, the rascals have run their cargo, I suppose, and are now making merry over it: let us go and try to get a peep at them.”

They stole gently down the continuation of the path; though, as the ostensible reason for its formation seemed at an end when they had reached the Chapel, it was narrower and more difficult; and then, too, Lord Mowbray's acquaintance with its turnings and windings had ceased. By the help of the flame below, however, which began to illuminate the rock now very generally, they made their way well enough till, at a sudden turn, not many fathoms above the shore, they came abruptly in sight of a deep cavern on the beach ; its dark recesses gleamed with torches, and at its entrance was burning the fire that had first attracted their attention from the Castle windows. Lord Mowbray started back a few paces, and, laying his finger on his lips, led Colonel Pennington to the spot.

By advancing a little, they had now a full view of what was passing within ; and the Colonel, making signs to Lord Mowbray to

follow his example, placed himself on his knees, and stooping down, they remained effectually concealed from observation by the rude parapet left in the rock. It would be difficult to describe the group and the seene that they witnessed; but from the mixture of foreign dresses, and the circumstance of many of the party being attired in seamen's habits, Colonel Pennington's suspicion, that it was altogether an affair of smugglers, did not appear improbable. However, there were females in the company, and Lord Mowbray's surprise and entertainment were extreme, as he saw his man, Le Brun, with all bis airs and graces, lead out a remarkably pretty girl, French apparently by her dress, and perform a minuet with her in the midst of the surrounding party: the man playing the fiddle too, though partly obscured by a projecting side of the rock, he thought was his old acquaintance, Ben Hardy; and he recollected the fellow's casuistry when he questioned him about having always earned an honest livelihood. The minuet received great applause, and a song was called for; but before this began, the liquor was served round; and Lord Mowbray’s dismay was extreme, as he saw the person who officiated as steward at the Castle step forward, attended by a fellow in his own livery, bearing a reeking bowl of some hot liquor, which the steward served out to each guest in rotation, and then the song commenced; it was very easy to any one who had once heard his voice, to recognize, in the strain that followed, the powerful note of Smiling Bill; and as the whole company joined in the chorus, and seemed too much taken up with their entertainment to observe any movement made by the party in ambush, Lord Mowbray jogged Colonel Pennington's elbow, and they crept away in silence.

It was well they had thought of moving, for the dying embers of the fire now scarcely sent up light enough to direct them in their path; and the moon had already passed behind the Castle, and left the shore in obscurity. They paused when they left the platform in front of the Chapel. “A pretty rascal that steward, my Lord, to be leagued with such a band!” observed Colonel Pennington: "they are, depend upon it, one-half of them smugglers from the opposite coast, and the other half their confederates on this side the water.”

“ I confess I am more sorry than surprised,” said Lord Mowbray; “ for I did not augur well of the characters who surrounded us on our arrival here. Do you. remember, Pennington, the hang-dog countenance of that fellow whom they call Smiling Bill? It becomes, however, a serious matter, indeed, when I find the ma

as every

holding chief authority in the Castle at the head of them: there is no saying exactly what may be in his power, or how far this misrule extends; it will require consideration before I act."

" True," replied Colonel Pennington, beginning to ascend the path which led to the Castle—"true enough, and I will give you my opinion on that point presently; meanwhile, I think, we had better regain our apartment quietly, and as quickly as we can; the party will else be separating: and should our knowledge of their proceedings be suspected, it may prove a means of preventing a full discovery of the facts :~ depend upon it, you have artful knaves to deal with."

Lord Mowbray assented to this advice, but added, “I shall see my agent to-morrow, before we go; and I shall leave directions with him, to have the path from the Chapel to the beach, as well

other access to it, blocked up. This will be one means of cutting of communication, and can excite no wonderment. The privacy of the immediate neighbourhood of the Castle requires the precaution."

By this time they had reached the summit of the cliff, and in a few moments re-entered the Castle walls. Every thing wore the same repose, and the same stillness reigned as when they crossed its dreary portal. It was clear that every inmale had forsaken it, and, with the exception of themselves, had been bidden to the festival of

This circumstance added still more to the conviction which both Lord Mowbray and Colonel Pennington felt, that the proceedings of the evening, from some motive or other, were intended to remain a secret; and although no immediate step was taken against the parties concerned, Lord Mowbray issued such orders on the morrow previous to his departure, as would probably render a recurrence of the same scenes difficult, if not impossible.

the cavern.

« AnteriorContinuar »