Imágenes de páginas

baronet--6 died, certainly having given birth to a son ; but that SON DIED within a week of his christening. This

young man, who has always hitherto borne the name of William Fowler, was an orphan son of a poor woman that died in the neighbourhood of Mrs. Fowler, who took her child, nursed it, gave it the name of William Fowler, and died, leaving it about two years of age. The whole has been the singularly artful contrivance of the late Mr. Job Oxleigh, to hold Sir William Gwynne in bondage, and extort from him the estate called The Sheaves, of which Mr. Oxleigh was possessed. I may take the liberty of suggesting, that, though the baronet has acted cruelly and illegally, under the circumstances, a prosecution against him would not be more than barely sustained. He has suffered greater torture for the last nine or ten years, than the law can now inflict

him. It is of

course, however, for you and others to consider this, which I merely offer as a suggestion. Sir, I beg to hand you my written opinion, as well as the document to which I have alluded; and to intimate that I am compelled to withdraw, being summoned to attend the king."

The attorney general bowed, and withdrew into another room, leaving Mr. Parkhurst, and indeed all present, completely thunderstruck.

“ What! Be I no baronet, then, after all ?" inquired Fowler, wofully chopfallen. Mr. Parkhurst gave him no answer.

“ Who is to send me back again to America ?"

These were puzzling and unwelcome questions. How the poor fellow was eventually disposed of, I know not; though, it is said, he was seen, shortly after, in his old character of a wagoner; and his splendid adventures silenced for ever the claims to popularity of

Dick Forster. Mr. Parkhurst did not continue in town two hours after the attorney general had delivered his opinion; but stepped into a postchaise and four, and hurried down into Shropshire, to release Sir William Gwynne from all restraint, and communicate the extraordinary turn which circumstances had taken. He reached Gwynne Hall in time to see the return of the mournful funeral procession which had attended Sir Williain's remains to the vault of his ancestors.. The griefworn, broken-hearted baronet—the victim of villany almost unequalled in systematic atrocity--had expired about a week before, begging he might be buried as quickly as possible--as though he were ashamed for his remains to be upon the face of the earth. The titles and estates went to a remote member of the family.






Bast. Your sword is bright, sir : put it up again.
Sal. Not till I sheath it in a murderer's skin.

King John. The soft sunlight streamed sadly through many a dim and gloomy vista of Monkwynd Forest, towards the close of a sultry afternoon, in the autumn of 1399. On every side, beyond the eye's ken, stretched vast sylvan colonnades of amber-hued trees, here and there interrupted by a gaunt and hoary oak, who seemed struggling to maintain his patriarchal supremacy over his leafy brethren—and irregular clumps of towering elms. Dimly through the distance was occasionally seen the form of a solitary deer, glancing swiftly among the trees, as if in search of his strayed comrades. Solemn and unbroken stillness reigned throughout the gloomy depths of Monkwynd. Rich masses of broken sunlight fell at intervals on the soft, glistening moss, which looked as though it had never been crushed beneath the proud footsteps of man. The sun was as yet at a considerable height above the vast outline of the Welsh mountains, which bounded the borizon.

A slight gloom overcast the rich and tranquil scenery; and the aspect of the sky betokened the rapid approach of a thunder storm. The sun, with his regal train, presently disappeared behind a dense phalanx of tow

ering clouds, which seemed as though collecting from all parts “the loud artillery of heaven.” A few moments ensued, of that intense and sultry stillness which usually precedes a storm. Nature seemed to sink with fearful apprehension of what might follow. At last, a few large drops of rain were heard pattering slowly through the motionless branches ; they were soon followed by an astounding peal of thunder, which seemed to shake the whole forest, as its long and deep reverberations died away among the distant groves. Several awfully vivid sheets of lightning shed over the scenery a transient ghastly light; and in a few moments the rain poured down in torrents. There was something freshening, in hearing its ceaseless clatter among the hurtling leaves and branches, and viewing it streaming on the emerald grass and moss beneath.

On a slightly elevated mound of grass, at some distance from the surrounding trees, in the very heart of the forest, apparently unconcerned amid the torrents of rain, the reverberating thunder claps, and the livid, incessant flash of lightning, stood the tall figure of a stranger. His arms, folded on his breast, drew tightly around him the folds of a long dark cloak; it doubled over his head in the shape of a hood, which, in the present instance, was thrown rather aside. It was the monkish costume. His pale, stern, and forbidding countenance, and restless vulture eye, conveyed to the spectator the idea that he contemplated a monument of ruined ambition. He was gazing on the sky; and the fitful lightning shed over his features a most wild and unearthly expression. His lips were compressed sullenly together; and his broad forehead, partially shaded with black hair, was knotted with a gloomy air of intense thought and disquietude.

“Ay!” he exclaimed, in a deep tone, after witnessing a terrific flash of lightning, "an I envy not that cloud, may Satan asshrive me this night! It hath cast forth from its dark chambers a troublesome guest, and now flitteth on its journey easily. Holy St. Botolph !

would I were able to cast forth the lightning which scorcheth me secretly-ay, blighteth every hour of my accursed life! And that thunder-why the earth seemed to leap with horror at the hearing on't-yet it shaketh not the soul o' him that standeth thereon! I weeten* that these fresh, rain drops would cool my burning brow—but alack! they roll off hot-hot! Marry! that was a doughty feat, in sooth !” said he, as the lightning descended on a giant oak, and rent it asunder with a loud crash. That same lightning hath taught me a lesson. It careered over the sky till it had collected all its might-and then it flung down at once the whole of its fiery vengeance; and see how it hath blasted the proud old king o’Monkwynd! In like manner I have wandered from far, over lonesome hill and valley; and crossed the troublous seas—and now will I do in like manner, by the mass !” As he spoke these last words with subdued


bitterness, he reached over his hand to his left side, as though he felt something beneath his cloak. A wild smile passed over his face. “ An't shall piease thy reverence,” exclaimed a husky voice, thou hadst better turn within, and abide under cover, till the rain be overpast.” The voice issued from the door of a small cave, which conveniently opened between the trunks of two trees, at about ten paces distance from the mound on which stood the moody stranger. The speaker was a jolly obese little friar, with a smooth-shaven crown, and vermilion tinted nose. The stranger stalked slowly to the cave, and stood leaning against one of the elm trees. He glared silently on the lightning, as it flashed incessantly afar off.

“ Sancta Maria! what a dreary even is this !" quoth Father Gootle, fingering his dusky beads.

6 Yon lightning looketh like fiery snakes i’ the sky: an't. please ye, sir serpents, I wot ye would keep far from

* In several parts of the ensuing narrative I have adopted the col. loquial phrases of the period at which our story commences.

« AnteriorContinuar »