Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

none

The lady pushes her pillow aside,

Upsprings—as light as a fawn from its lairHer bodice's strings she has loosely tied

Pressed under her cap her pròfuse hairThen gently the casement, that may

hear, She opes-and thro' it, in hootings drear,

Bursts the screech of an owl, as if sent to scare. Dark the night-and mournful the blast

The banners wave over the creaking door.
Then in long procession the household passed,

With lanterns in rows, and one before-
The porter nods, as if he were dreaming-
The huntsman's wick is spluttering and streaming,

And with mouth, like an ogre, yawns the Moor.
Thro' the court-yard winds the long array;

And proud in her office, is seen to go, A guard to the maids, the abigail grey.

* But what is that skurrying to and fro ?”— 6 Shall I thro' the parted curtain be seen ?” All eyes are strained towards the crimson screen.

Then slowly they turn their heads away. “Do I dream? What figure is seen to pass,

And o'er the terrace in mockery to bend?
Woe's me! it looks as I look in the glass,

That such my features good angels defend.
It raises its hands white as flakes of snow,
Is that the velvet band o'er

my

brow ?
Oh Heaven ! am I crazed- -or nears ny

end ?” The lady pales, and the lady glows

The lady turns not her looks askance, As scarcely touching the steps, up goes

The Shape with its spectral countenance : A lamp in her right hand holds the maid, Its flame flickers over the balustrade,

Misty and dim, as an elf-light's dance. Under the dome of the spangled sky,

Like one in a trance, with dreams for a guide, Floats the phantom, slowly—slowly by

They open their ranks—and step asideHer foot makes no sound, as she glides along, And the lights she has dimmed, seem to burn more strong,

As they wind up the stair so broad and wide. The lady hears not the buzz of affright,

Heeds not the shy looks, that of panic speak; Fast follow her eyes the bluish light,

That streams on the pavement with ghastly streak. It is now in the hall now the record-room ; Now 'tis lost at once in a niche's gloom :

Ha! it comes agaia--ever faint-and more weak.

“ I will speak to thee-yes! I will make thee stay." Straight at her word she is

gone,

and behold! Thro' the darkness she threads her devious

way ; Now her foot strikes a stone-now her dress catches hold. « Spirits have subtler senses, but still Escape me you shall not-fly as you

will.” By my faith and my truth, the lady is bold. “ Ha! bolted and barred-she has entered here !

What hopes she to find in the record's store ?" First the lady her eye, and then her ear,

Shuddering, applies to the chink of the door: What hears she within ? a sound, like the creak Of a parchment-roll-what sees she? a streak

Like the will-o'-the-wisp flickering over the floor! She beats her throbbing bosom down.

She holds her breath—and crouches low.
What look is that which rivets her own ?

Whence comes that light with its lurid glow ?
And arm against arm-one step between-
On either side of the fissure lean

The Maid and her Image, brow to brow.
She back recoils—the form retreats-

She nearer steps—the figure also
There they stand face to face-eye-eyeball meets :

They bore each other as Vampires do :
The self-same cap is over her brow,
The self-same night-dress, as white as snow,

Around them in like disorder flow,
Slowly they bend o'er the panel's breach ;

And slowly, as from a mirror, one In lineaments, they each to each

Stretch their right hands ringed with the self-same stone.
Lo! wavers the form-now here, now there ;
See ! 'tis parted now by a gust of air-

Look! it fades away-like a mist, is flown.
And when in the waltz youths and maids are joined,

You may see a damsel, lovely and wild ;
For many a year she has sickened and pined,

One hand is ungloved, and I have been told
An icicle's glimmer is not more cold ;
But she merrily, inerrily laughs, and is styled

The crazy Maiden of Rodenchild.

THE ABDUCTION OF LADY CAROLINE CAPER.

BY DUDLEY COSTELLO..

LADY CAROLINE CAPER, the only daughter of the Earl and Countess of Dancette, was the pride of Belgravia.

Her presentation, at the first Drawing Room this year, was quite the event of the season ; indeed, without it the season, as everybody knows, would have been less than nothing. The Countess of Dancette bore up under the éclat of Lady Caroline's debut with all the triumphant humility of a successful mother : other fashionable ladies, whose daughters had not made so great a sensation, rather pitied their friend for the mistake they thought she had made in bringing out Lady Caroline at a time when all the young men had gone to the Black Sea with their regiments, or to the Baltic in their yachts.

The countess, however, bore up also under this calamity with her accustomed serenity, being content to know that if all the young men were gone, the best partis, somehow, were still to be met with in her saloons, the admirers of her beautiful daughter.

A great destiny, in the fashionable acceptation of the word, had been reserved - by her parents for Lady Caroline, long before she entered her teens. Indeed, the expectations of the countess were fornied while her lovely child was still in the cradle, and the earl, himself

, a man of very lofty ideas, had been heard to say to noble friend he had no friend out of the Peerage, merely a few inevitable acquaintances in “the other House,"—that he should never think of marrying his daughter to any one under the rank of a duke. As his lineage was high and his fortune large, the earl's resolve was not so impossible as many parental anticipations chance to be; the only difficulty was to find a marriageable duke at the moment he was wanted, and to inspire that duke with the desire to marry Lady Caroline Caper.

The last condition was a matter of course with Lord Dancette, who was of .opinion that his daughter had only to be seen to fulfil her destiny, and as far as beauty and, I may add, accomplishments went, he was scarcely wrong. One can't always put oneself in another person's position, but had I been an unmarriageable duke—and not otherwise disposed of-I think I should have made an offer to Lady Caroline.

Pride of birth is a pre-eminent virtue in the British aristocracy. It is quite right that they should be proud of it, the long lines of ancestry of which they boast being so particularly free from blemish or interruption. It may not be the easiest thing in the world to prove a lineal descent from one of the Normans who came over with Duke William ; neither does it quite establish the question of antiquity to say that "circa” soand-so, Giles de Bumblenose was " settled in the county of Kent and “possessed” of the lordships of Thynge-um-erye and Whats-hys-nayme, and that by marriage with the heiress of the house of Fitzwarren or De Vere-as the case may be—he “succeeded" as fourth Earl of Devylskyone and received an augmentation to his arms from Edward the First of three pitchforks or on a field vert for his distinguished services at the battle of Knockemdowne ; nor to be told that “this great proge. nitor of our ancient nobility was created to the dukedom in 1397, and

He was

being instrumental in the accession of King Henry the Fourth, was constituted Earl Bozzledor of England for his life, which was passed in military and state employment,” nor that “ he died at a very great age on the 21st of October, 1425," having apparently lived a couple of hundred years. These matters may savour somewhat of hocus-pocus to the uninitiated, but they are perfectly satisfactory to “noble lords,” and constitute a state of things of which, as I have said before, they are, with reason, proud.

The Earl of Dancette, whose title was purely heraldic, set great store by a patrician pedigree: it was precisely on that account that he married his countess, who, like himself, “ claimed” to be descended from one-or. other-of the prolific barons who accompanied the Conqueror, though whether or not the claim was fairly made out, concerned nobody but themselves. But personal qualities are not hereditary, even in the noblest families, and the notions of Lady Caroline Caper differed widely from those of her illustrious parents. She did not feel inclined, at all risks, to fall in love with a heavy old man who happened to be a duke, nor with a. frivolous young one because he was a duke-expectant.

The truth is, Lady Caroline had a heart--not made of emblazoned parchment—and she gave it away to one who, not being born to "the Peerage,”

even by accident, ought never, according to Lord Dancette, to have been born at all. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Richard Maplehurst-that was his undistinguished name-not only came into the world without the permission of the noble earl, but justified his appearance in it by his extraordinary good looks and remarkable abilities. nobody, as the phrase is

, having simply been educated at Cambridge, and called to the bar--and he had nothing, save the paternal allowance, which was not excessive-his first brief being still in nubibus: but he was handsome and agreeable, and the entrée of more than one fashionable house being accorded him, he met Lady Caroline Caper at a ball, danced with her, and fell in love, and she-forgetting all about dukes, their garters, coronets, and eseutcheons-reciprocated his passion.

What were they to do?

Walk hand-in-hand into the earl's library or the countess's boudoir, and throwing themselves—gracefully-on their knees, avow their mutual affection, and plead for parental indulgence? Would it have been advisable for the young and briefless barrister candidly to state the fact to the proud and pompous peer, that, being temporarily endowed with the large sum of one hundred and fifty pounds a year, by his sire, a very respectable country gentleman, he solicited the honour of his daughter's hand? Would it have answered for Lady Caroline calmly to discuss with her mamma the kind of trousseau which the aforesaid temporary income was likely to furnish forth? There are no such things as lettres-de-cachet now-a-days--though a judge's order in chambers is, frequently, very like one ;--but there are lunatic asylums, private ones, strongly barred and hard to get out of, in which peccant daughters and adventurous lovers may be very safely lodged, if they rouse the ire of implacable and influential fathers. You could not, probably, have impressed the mind of the Earl of Dancette with so complete an idea of insanity in your own person-always supposing that you are “nobody," with nothing”-in other words, not a marquis and a millionaire-as by proposing a matrimonial alliance with his exalted family. Lady

Caroline knew this, and so, of course, did Mr. Richard Maplehurst, on which account they wisely abstained from any demonstration, by genuflection or otherwise, that could convey to the Earl and Countess of Dancette the slightest suspicion that they had formed a mutual attachment.

What they were not to do was, therefore, sufficiently evident; but still the question arose-What was to be done ?

It is a fact more true than strange, that the younger two lovers are, the less they feel inclined to hoard their capital, which is time. The idea of waiting, as Lady Caroline said, “till Heaven knows when," was at once discarded from their plans ; but then, if they did not wait, only one alternative remained, and that was to be married immediately. How this was to be accomplished became the real difficulty.

In the infancy of railways the latest express train was the great abductor, in all those cases where the Aintiness of fa ers' hearts drive daughters to desperation ; but the electric telegraph has- in the most indiscriminate manner-entirely neutralised the advantages which the matrimonial

express

afforded. Instead of the blacksmith at Gretna, ready to forge the bolts of Hymen, runaway couples are met at Preston by railway-policeman Blackbrow, who takes charge of “the parties,” “restoring" the lady “ to her disconsolate friends,” and “consigning" the gentleman, if he is refractory, which is most probable, to "safe custody,” accompanied, it may be, by a little gentle coercion, administered with fist and truncheon by Policeman Blackbrow himself. Flight by railway was, consequently, out of the question, yet how was any other kind of flight to be effected ?

In an establishment so perfectly monté as that of the Earl of Dancette, it was impossible that the « sole daughter of his house” could stir one foot from home unattended. The trajet from the hall-door to the carriage-steps was the longest walk Lady Caroline had ever been permitted to take in the streets of London, and even this occurrence was always marked by the greatest publicity : the fat old hall-porter roused himself for the nonce into an erect position, four powdered and liveried “menials” ranged themselves uncovered near the door, the door itself was thrown open ten minutes beforehand, and, guarding the approach to the carriage, two equally-well powdered and liveried, but, on this occasion, hatted-and-gold-caned-footmen were planted on the pavement, to the great admiration and surpassing delight of the butchers

' and poulterers' boys of the neighbourhood, those intelligent youths having always plenty of time on their hands when anything in the shape of a sight--from Punch to a peer, from the Fantoccini to a fair lady—is to be seen.

Free agency was, to all appearance, impossible in a mansion so stately. Still, if Lady Caroline Caper were bent upon escaping from her father's house, it would have been a lasting reproach to woman's ingenuity if she could not have found out the way. Besides, there was a royal precedent for the act, the historical reference of all young ladies similarly situated, in the flight of the Princess Charlotte from Carlton House, and something like that Lady Caroline resolved to attempt.

Of course she had a confidential lady’s-maid: it is not permitted to the very highest in station to be without one--at all events upon such an emergency as this. Miss Larkins was the depositary of Lady Caro

« AnteriorContinuar »