網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

wild unearthly screech. And then the door was thrown open, and I, not expecting it, was precipitated head foremost into the room, to the great damage of my nose. When I got up, Peter had vanished, I suppose, as he came; and there was poor Sir Piers leaning back upon the pillow, with his hands stretched out as if in supplication ; his eyes unclosed and staring; and his limbs stark and stiff !”

A profound silence succeeded Tyrconnel's narrative. Mr. Coates would not venture upon a remark. Dr. Small seemed, for some minutes, lost in painful reflection : at length he spoke. “ You have described a shocking scene, Mr. Tyrconnel, and in a manner that convinces me of its fidelity. But I trust you will excuse me, as a friend of the late Sir Piers, in requesting you to maintain silence in future on the subject. Its repetition can be productive of no good, and may do infinite harm, by giving currency to unpleasant reports, and harrowing the feelings of the survivors. Every one acquainted with Sir Piers's history must be aware, as I dare say you are already, of an occurrence, which cast a shade over his early life, blighted his character, and endangered his personal safety. It was a dreadful accusation. But I believe, nay, I am sure, it was unfounded. Dark suspicions attach to a Romish priest of the name of Checkley. He, I believe, is also beyond the reach of human justice. Erring, Sir Piers was undoubtedly. But I trust he was more weak than sinful. I have reason to think he was the tool of others, especially of the wretch I have named. And it is easy to perceive how that incomprehensible lunatic Peter Bradley has obtained an ascendency over him.

His daughter, you are aware, was Sir Piers's mistress. Our friend is now gone, and with him let us bury his offences, and the remembrance of them. That his soul was heavily laden, would appear from your account of his last moments; yet I fervently trust that his repentance was sincere, in which case there is hope of forgiveness for him. " At what time soever a sinner shall repent him of his sins, from the bottom of his heart, I will blot out all his wickedness out of my remembrance, saith the Lord.' God's mercy is greater than man's sins. And there is hope of salvation even for Sir Piers.”

“I trust so, indeed,” said Titus, with emotion ; to repeating a syllable of what I have just said, devil a word

or and as

[merged small][ocr errors]

more will I utter on the subject. My lips shall be shut and sealed, as close as one of Mr. Coates's bonds, for ever and a day: but I thought it just right to make you acquainted with the circumstances. And now having dismissed the bad for ever, I am ready to speak of Sir Piers's good qualities, and not few they were. What was there becoming a gentleman that he couldn't do, I'd like to know? Couldn't he hunt as well as ever a one in the county ? and hadn't he as good a pack of hounds ? Couldn't he shoot as well, and fish as well, and drink as well, or better — only he couldn't carry his wine, which was his misfortune, not his fault. And wasn't he always ready to ask a friend to dinner with him, and didn't he give him a good dinner when he came, barring the cross-cups afterwards ? And hadn't he every thing agreeable about him, except his wife, which was a great drawback? And with all his peculiarities and humours, wasn't he as kind-hearted a man as needs be ? and an Irishman at the core ? And so, if he wern't dead, I'd say long life to him. But as he is, here's peace to his memory !”

At this juncture, a knocking was heard at the door, which some one without had vainly tried to open.

Titus rose to unclose it, ushering in an individual known at the hall as Jack Palmer.

CHAPTER IX.

AN ENGLISH ADVENTURER.

Mrs. Peachum, Sure the captain's the finest gentleman on the road.

Beggar's Opera.

JACK PALMER was a good-humoured, good-looking man, with immense, bushy, red whiskers, a freckled, florid complexion, and sandy hair, rather inclined to scantiness towards the scalp of the head, which garnished the nape of his neck with a ruff of crisp little curls, like the ring on a monk's shaven crown. Notwithstanding this tendency to baldness, Jack could not be more than thirty, though his looks were some five years in advance. His face was one of those inex. plicable countenances, which appear to be proper to a peculiar class of men — a regular Newmarket physiognomy

com.

а

pounded chiefly of cunning and assurance; not low cunning, nor vulgar assurance, but crafty sporting subtlety, careless as to results, indifferent to obstacles, ever on the alert for the main chance, game and turf all over, eager, yet easy, keen, yet quiet. He was somewhat showily dressed, in such wise that he looked half like a fine gentleman of that day, half like a jockey of our own. His nether man appeared in well-fitting, well-worn buckskins, and boots with tops, not unconscious of the saddle; while the airy extravagance of his broad-skirted, sky-blue riding coat, the richness of his vest, (the pockets of which were beautifully exuberant, according to the mode of 1737,) the smart luxuriance of his shirt-frill, and certain curious taste in the size and style of his buttons, proclaimed that, in his own esteem at least, his person did not appear altogether unworthy of decoration ; nor, in justice to Jack, can we allow that he was in error. He was a model of a man for five feet ten; square, compact, capitally built in every particular, excepting that his legs were slightly imbowed, which defect probably arose from his being almost constantly on horseback; a sort of exercise in which Jack greatly delighted, and was accounted a superb rider. It was, indeed, his daring horsemanship, upon one particular occasion, when he had outstripped a whole field, that had procured him the honour of an invitation to Rookwood. Who he was, or whence he came, was a question not easily answered - Jack, himself, evading all solution to the inquiry. Sir Piers never troubled his head about the matter : he was a “d-d good fellow

rode devilish well, and stood on no sort of ceremony; that was enough for him. Nobody else knew any thing about him, save that he was a capital judge of horse-flesh, kept a famous black mare, and attended every hunt in the West Riding that he could sing a good song, was a choice companion, and could drink three bottles without feeling the worse for them.

Sensible of the indecorum that might attach to his appear. ance, Doctor Small had hastily laid down his pipe, and arranged his wig. But when he saw who was the intruder, with a grunt of defiance he resumed his occupation, without returning the bow of the latter, or bestowing further notice

Nothing discomposed at the churchman's displeasure, Jack greeted Titus cordially, and carelessly saluting

upon him.

[ocr errors]

mourners.

Mr. Coates, threw himself into a chair. He next filled a tumbler of claret, and drained it at a draught.

“ Have you ridden far, Jack ? " asked Titus, noticing the dusty state of Palmer's azure attire.

“ Some dozen miles,” replied Palmer; “ and that, on such a sultry afternoon as the present, makes one feel thirstyish. I'm as dry as a sand-bed. Famous wine this - beautiful tipplebetter than all your red fustian. Ah, how poor Sir Piers used to like it! Well, that's all over

a glass like this might do him good in his present quarters ! I'm afraid I'm intruding. But the fact is, I wanted a little information about the order of the procession, and missing you below, came hither in search of you.

You're to be chief mourner, I suppose, Titus — rehearsing your part, eh ? "

“ Come, come, Jack, no joking,” replied Titus ; subject 's too serious. I am to be chief mourner - and I expect you to be a mourner and every body else to be

We must all mourn at the proper time. There 'll be a power of people at the church.”

There are a power of people here already,” returned Jack, “ if they all attend.”

“ And they all will attend, or what is the eating and drinking to go for? I shan't leave a soul in the house."

“Excepting one,” said Jack, slily. “ She wo'n't attend, I think.”

Ay, excepting one — Lady Rookwood and her abigail. All the rest go with me, and form part of the procession. You go too."

What time do you start ? " “ Twelve precisely. As the clock strikes, we set out all in a line, and a long line we'll make. I'm waiting for that ould coffin-faced rascal, Peter Bradley, to arrange the order.”

“ How long will it all occupy, think you,” asked Jack carelessly.

“ That I can't say,” returned Titus ; possibly an hour, more or less. But we shall start to the minute

that is, if we can get all together, so don't be out of the

And hark ye, Jack, you must contrive to change your toggery. That sky-blue coat wo’n't do. It's not the thing at all, at all."

way.

" Of course,

[ocr errors]

“ Never fear that,” replied Palmer. « But who were those in the carriages ?

“ Is it the last carriage you mean? Squire Forester and his sons. They 're dining with the other gentlefolk, in the great room up stairs, to be out of the way. Oh, we'll have a grand berrin. And by Saint Patrick! I must be looking after it.”

Stay a minute,” said Jack; “let's have a cool bottle first. They ’re all taking care of themselves below, and Peter Brad. ley has not made his appearance, so you need be in no hurry. I'll go with you presently. Shall I ring for the claret ?

By all means,” replied Titus. Jack accordingly arose, and a butler answering the summons, a long-necked bottle was soon placed before them.

“ You heard of the affray, last night, I presume,” said Jack, renewing the conversation.

“ With the poachers ? - to be sure I did. · Wasn't I called in to examine Hugh Badger's wounds, the first thing this morning - and a deep cut there was, just over the eye, besides other bruises."

“ Is the wound dangerous ? ” inquired Palmer.

“ Not exactly mortal, if you mean that,” replied the Irishman ; dangerous, certainly.”

“ Humph !” exclaimed Jack, they 'd a pretty hardish bout of it, I understand. Any thing been heard of the body?"

“ What body ? ” inquired Small, who was half dozing.

“ The body of the drowned poacher,” replied Jack ; “they were off to search for it this morning.”

“ Found it — not they !” exclaimed Titus, “ Ha, ha ! I can't help laughing, for the life and sowl of me - a capital trick he played 'em capital ha, ha! What do

you

think the fellow did ?

Ha, ha!

- after leading 'em the devil's dance, all round the park, killing a hound as savage as a wolf, and breaking Hugh Badger's head, which is as hard and thick as a butcher's block, what does the fellow do but dive into a pool, with a great rock hanging over it, and make his way to the other side, through a subterranean cavern, which nobody knew any thing about, till they came to drag it, thinking him snugly drowned all the while — ba, ha!”

Ha, ha, ha!” chorussed Jack; « bravo! he's a lad of the right sort — ha,

ha !”

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »