THE ENCHANTED CHAIR.
In the castle things went on much the same, nor did the gathering
tumult without wake more than an echo within. Yet a cloud slowly
deepened upon the brow of the marquis, and a look of disquiet, to be
explained neither by the more frequent returns of his gout, nor by
the more lengthened absences of his favourite son. In his judgment
the king was losing ground, not only in England but in the deeper
England of its men. Lady Margaret also, for all her natural good
spirits and light-heartedness, showed a more continuous anxiety
than was to be accounted for by her lord's absences and the dangers
he had to encounter: little Molly, the treasure of her heart next to
her lord, had never been other than a delicate child, but now had
begun to show signs of worse than weakness of constitution, and the
heart of the mother was perpetually brooding over the ever-present
idea of her sickly darling.
But she always did her endeavour to clear the sky of her countenance
before sitting down with her father-in-law at the dinner-table,
where still the marquis had his jest almost as regularly as his
claret, although varying more in quality and quantity both--now
teasing his son Charles about the holes in his pasteboard, as he
styled the castle walls; now his daughter Anne about a design, he
and no one else attributed to her, of turning protestant and
marrying Dr. Bayly; now Dr. Bayly about his having been discovered
blowing the organ in the chapel at high mass, as he said; for when
no new joke was at hand he was fain to content himself with falling
back upon old ones. The first of these mentioned was founded on the
fact, as undeniable as deplorable, of the weakness of many portions
of the defences, to remedy which, as far as might be, was for the
present lord Charles's chief endeavour, wherein he had the best
possible adviser, engineer, superintendent, and workman, all in the
person of Caspar Kaltoff. The second jest of the marquis was a pure
invention upon the liking of lady Anne for the company and
conversation of the worthy chaplain. The last mentioned was but an
exaggeration of the following fact.
One evening the doctor came upon young Delaware, loitering about the
door of the chapel, with as disconsolate a look as his lovely
sightless face was ever seen to wear, and, inquiring what was amiss
with him, learned that he could find no one to blow the organ
bellows for him. The youth had for years, boy as he still was, found
the main solace of his blindness in the chapel-organ, upon which he
would have played from morning to night could he have got any one to
blow as long. The doctor, then, finding the poor boy panting for
music like the hart for the water-brooks, but with no Jacob to roll
the stone from the well's mouth that he might water the flocks of
his thirsty thoughts, made willing proffer of his own exertions to
blow the bellows of the organ, so long as the somewhat wheezy
bellows of his body would submit to the task.
By degrees however the good doctor had become so absorbed in the
sounds that rushed, now wailing, now jubilant, now tender as a
twilight wind, now imperious as the voice of the war-tempest, from
the fingers of the raptured boy, that the reading of the first
vesper-psalm had commenced while he was yet watching the slow rising
index, in the expectation that the organist was about to resume. The
voice of his Irish brother-chaplain, Sir Toby Mathews, roused him
from his reverie of delight, and as one ashamed he stole away
through the door that led from the little organ loft into the
minstrel's gallery in the great hall, and so escaped the catholic
service, but not the marquis's roasting. Whether the music had any
share in the fact that the good man died a good catholic at last, I
leave to the speculation of who list.
Lady Margaret continued unchangingly kind to Dorothy; and the
tireless efforts of the girl to amuse and please poor little Molly,
whom the growing warmth of the season seemed to have no power to
revive, awoke the deep gratitude of a mother. This, as well as her
husband's absences, may have had something to do with the interest
she began to take in the engine of which Dorothy had assumed the
charge, for which she had always hitherto expressed a special
dislike, professing to regard it as her rival in the affections of
her husband, but after which she would now inquire as Dorothy's
baby, and even listen with patience to her expositions of its
wonderful construction and capabilities. Ere long Dorothy had a tale
to tell her in connection with the engine, which, although simple
and uneventful enough, she yet found considerably more interesting,
as involving a good deal of at least mental adventure on the part of
her young cousin.
One evening, after playing with little Molly for an hour, then
putting her to bed and standing by her crib until she fell asleep,
Dorothy ran to see to her other baby; for the cistern had fallen
rather lower than she thought well, and she was going to fill it.
She found Caspar had lighted the furnace as she had requested; she
set the engine going, and it soon warmed to its work.
The place was hot, and Dorothy was tired. But where in that wide and
not over-clean place should she find anything fitter than a
grindstone to sit upon? Never yet, through all her acquaintance with
the workshop, had she once seated herself in it. Looking about,
however, she soon espied, almost hidden in the corner of a recess
behind the furnace, what seemed an ordinary chair, such as stood in
the great hall for the use of the family when anything special was
going on there. With some trouble she got it out, dusted it, and set
it as far from the furnace as might be, consistently with watching
the motions of the engine. But the moment she sat down in it, she
was caught and pinned so fast that she could scarcely stir hand or
foot, and could no more leave it again than if she had been
paralyzed in every limb. One scream she uttered of mingled
indignation and terror, fancying herself seized by human arms; but
when she found herself only in the power of one of her cousin's
curiosities, she speedily quieted herself and rested in peace, for
Caspar always paid a visit to the workshop the last thing before
going to bed. The pressure of the springs that had closed the trap
did not hurt her in the least--she was indeed hardly sensible of it;
but when she made the least attempt to stir, the thing showed itself
immovably locked, and she had too much confidence in the workmanship
of her cousin and Caspar to dream of attempting to open it: that she
knew must be impossible. The worst that threatened her was that the
engine might require some attention before the hour, or perhaps two,
which must elapse ere Caspar came would be over, and she did not
know what the consequences might be.
As it happened, however, something either in the powder-mill or
about the defences detained Caspar far beyond his usual hour for
retiring, and the sultriness of the weather having caused him a
headache, he represented to himself that, with mistress Dorothy
tending the engine, who knew where and would be sure to find him
upon the least occasion, there could be no harm in his going to bed
without paying his usual precautionary visit to the keep.
So Dorothy sat, and waited in vain. The last drops of the day
trickled down the side of the world, the night filled the crystal
globe from its bottom of rock to its cover of blue aether, and the
red glow of the furnace was all that lighted the place. She waited
and waited in her mind; but Caspar did not come. She began to feel
miserable. The furnace fire sank, and the rush of the water grew
slower and slower, and ceased. Caspar did not come. The fire sank
lower and lower, its red eye dimmed, darkened, went out. Still
Caspar did not come. Faint fears began to gather about poor
Dorothy's heart. It was clear at last that there she must be all the
night long, and who could tell how far into the morning? It was good
the night was warm, but it would be very dreary. And then to be
fixed in one position for so long! The thought of it grew in misery
faster than the thing itself. The greater torment lies always in the
foreboding. She felt almost as if she were buried alive. Having
their hands tied even, is enough to drive strong men almost crazy.
Nor, firm of heart as she was, did no evils of a more undefined and
less resistible character claim a share in her fast-rising
apprehensions; she began to discover that she too was assailable by
the terror of the night, although she had not hitherto been aware of
it, no one knowing what may lie unhatched in his mind, waiting the
concurrence of vital conditions.
But Dorothy was better able to bear up under such assaults than
thousands who believe nothing of many a hideous marvel commonly
accepted in her day; and anyhow the unavoidable must be encountered,
if not with indifference, yet with what courage may be found
responsive to the call of the will. So, with all her energy, a
larger store than she knew, she braced herself to endure. As to any
attempt to make herself heard, she knew from the first that was of
doubtful result, and now must certainly be of no avail when all but
the warders were asleep. But to spend the night thus was a far less
evil than to be discovered by the staring domestics, and exposed to
the open merriment of her friends, and the hidden mockery of her
enemies. As to Caspar, she was certain of his silence. So she sat
on, like the lady in Comus, 'in stony fetters fixed and motionless;'
only, as she said to herself, there was no attendant spirit to
summon Caspar, who alone could take the part of Sabrina, and 'unlock
the clasping charm.' Little did Dorothy think, as in her dreary
imprisonment she recalled that marvellous embodiment of unified
strength and tenderness, as yet unacknowledged of its author, that
it was the work of the same detestable fanatic who wrote those
appalling 'Animadversions, &c.'
She grew chilly and cramped. The night passed very slowly. She dozed
and woke, and dozed again. At last, from very weariness of both soul
and body, she fell into a troubled sleep, from which she woke
suddenly with the sound in her ears of voices whispering. The
confidence of lord Herbert, both in the evil renown of his wizard
cave and the character of his father's household, seemed mistaken.
Still the subdued manner of their conversation appeared to indicate
it was not without some awe that the speakers, whoever they were,
had ventured within the forbidden precincts; their whispers, indeed,
were so low that she could not say of either voice whether it
belonged to man or woman. Her first idea was to deliver herself from
the unpleasantness of her enforced espial by the utterance of some
frightful cry such as would at the same time punish with the pains
of terror their fool-hardy intrusion. But the spur of the moment was
seldom indeed so sharp with Dorothy as to drive her to act without
reflection, and a moment showed her that such persons being in the
marquis's household as would meet in the middle of the night, and on
prohibited ground, apparently for the sake of avoiding discovery,
and even then talked in whispers, he had a right to know who they
were: to act from her own feelings merely would be to fail in
loyalty to the head of the house. Who could tell what might not be
involved in it? For was it not thus that conspiracy and treason
walked? And any alarm given them now might destroy every chance of
their discovery. She compelled herself therefore to absolute
stillness, immeasurably wretched, with but one comfort--no small
one, however, although negative--that their words continued
inaudible, a fact which doubtless saved much dispute betwixt her
propriety and her loyalty.
Long time their talk lasted. Every now and then they would start and
listen--so Dorothy interpreted sudden silence and broken renewals.
The genius of the place, although braved, had yet his terrors. At
length she heard something like a half-conquered yawn, and soon
after the voices ceased.
Again a weary time, and once more she fell asleep. She woke in the
grey of the morning, and after yet two long hours, but of more
hopeful waiting, she heard Caspar's welcome footsteps, and summoned
all her strength to avoid breaking down on his entrance. His first
look of amazement she tried to answer with a smile, but at the
expression of pitiful dismay which followed when another glance had
revealed the cause of her presence, she burst into tears. The honest
man was full of compunctious distress at the sight of the suffering
his breach of custom had so cruelly prolonged.
'And I haf bin slap in mine bed!' he exclaimed with horror at the
Had she been his daughter and his mistress both in one, he could not
have treated her with greater respect or tenderness. Of course he
set about relieving her at once, but this was by no means such an
easy matter as Dorothy had expected. For the key of the chair was in
the black cabinet; the black cabinet was secured with one of lord
Herbert's marvellous locks; the key of that lock was in lord
Herbert's pocket, and lord Herbert was either in bed at Chepstow or
Monmouth or Usk or Caerlyon, or on horseback somewhere else, nobody
in Raglan knew where. But Caspar lost no time in unavailing moan. He
proceeded at once to light a fire on his forge hearth, and in the
course of a few minutes had fashioned a pick-lock, by means of
which, after several trials and alterations, at length came the
welcome sound of the yielding bolts, and Dorothy rose from the
terrible chair. But so benumbed were all her limbs that she escaped
being relocked in it only by the quick interposition of Caspar's
arms. He led her about like a child, until at length she found them
sufficiently restored to adventure the journey to her chamber, and
thither she slowly crept. Few of the household were yet astir, and
she met no one. When she was covered up in bed, then first she knew
how cold she was, and felt as if she should never be warm again.
At last she fell asleep, and slept long and soundly. Her maid went
to call her, but finding it difficult to wake her, left her asleep,
and did not return until breakfast was over. Then finding her still
asleep she became a little anxious, and meeting mistress Amanda,
told her she was afraid mistress Dorothy was ill. But mistress
Amanda was herself sleepy and cross, and gave her a sharp answer,
whereupon the girl went to lady Broughton. She, however, being on
her way to morning mass, for it was Sunday, told her to let mistress
Dorothy have her sleep out.
The noise of horses' hoofs upon the paving of the stone court roused
her, and then in came the sounds of the organ from the chapel. She
rose confounded, and hurrying to the window drew back the curtain.
The same moment lord Herbert walked from the hall into the
fountain-court in riding dress, followed by some forty or fifty
officers, the noise of whose armour and feet and voices dispelled at
once the dim Sabbath feeling that hung vapour-like about the place.
They gathered around the white horse, leaning or sitting on the
marble basin, some talking in eager groups, others folding their
arms in silence, listening, or lost heedless in their own thoughts,
while their leader entered the staircase door at the right-hand
corner of the western gate, the nearest way to his wife's apartment
of the building.
Now Dorothy had gone to sleep in perplexity, and all through her
dreams had been trying to answer the question what course she should
take with regard to the nocturnal intrusion. If she told lady
Margaret she could but go with it to the marquis, and he was but
just recovering from an attack of the gout, and ought not to be
troubled except it were absolutely necessary. Was it, or was it not,
necessary? Or was there no one else to whom she might with propriety
betake herself in her doubt--lord Charles or Dr. Bayly? But here now
was lord Herbert come back, and doubt there was none any more. She
dressed herself in tremulous haste, and hurried to lady Margaret's
room, where she hoped to see him. No one was there, and she tried
the nursery, but finding only Molly and her attendant, returned to
the parlour, and there seated herself to wait, supposing lady
Margaret and he had gone together to morning service.
They had really gone to the oak parlour, whither the marquis
generally made his first move after an attack that had confined him
to his room; for in the large window of that parlour, occupying
nearly the whole side of it towards the moat, he generally sat when
well enough to be about and take cognizance of what wa's going on;
and there they now found him.
'Welcome home, Herbert!' he said, kindly, holding out his hand. 'And
how does my wild Irishwoman this morning? Crying her eyes out
because her husband is come back, eh?--But, Herbert, lad, whence is
all that noise of spurs and scabbards--and in the fountain court,
too? I heard them go clanking and clattering through the hall like a
torrent of steel! Here I sit, a poor gouty old man, deserted of my
children and servants--all gone to church--to serve a better
Master--not a page or a maid left me to send out to see and bring me
word what is the occasion thereof! I was on the point of hobbling to
the door myself when you came.'
'Being on my way to the forest of Dean, my lord, and coming round by
Raglan to inquire after you and my lady, I did bring with me some of
my officers to dine and drink your lordship's health on our way.'
'You shall all be welcome, though I fear I shall not make one,' said
the marquis, with a grimace, for just then he had a twinge of the
'I am sorry to see you suffer, sir,' said his son.
'Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,' returned the
marquis, giving a kick with the leg which contained his inheritance;
and then came a pause, during which lady Margaret left the room.
'My lord,' said Herbert at length, with embarrassment, and forcing
himself to speak, 'I am sorry to trouble you again, after all the
money, enough to build this castle from the foundations--'
'Ah! ha!' interjected the marquis, but lord Herbert went on--
'which you have already spent on behalf of the king, my master,
'YOUR master, Herbert!' said the marquis, testily. 'Well?'
'I must have some more money for his pressing necessities.' In his
self-compulsion he had stumbled upon the wrong word.
'MUST you?' cried the marquis angrily. 'Pray take it.'
And drawing the keys of his treasury from the pocket of his frieze
coat, he threw them down on the table before him. Lord Herbert
reddened like a girl, and looked as much abashed as if he had been
caught in something of which he was ashamed. One moment he stood
thus, then said,
'Sir, the word was out before I was aware. I do not intend to put it
into force. I pray will you put up your key again?'
'Truly, son,' replied the marquis, still testily, but in a milder
tone, 'I shall think my keys not safe in my pocket whilst you have
so many swords by your side; nor that I have the command of my house
whilst you have so many officers in it; nor that I am at my own
disposal, whilst you have so many commanders.'
'My lord,' replied Herbert, 'I do not intend that they shall stay in
the castle; I mean they shall be gone.'
'I pray, let them. And have care that MUST do not stay behind,' said
the marquis. 'But let them have their dinner first, lad.'
Lord Herbert bowed, and left the room. Thereupon, in the presence of
lady Margaret, who just then re-entered, good Dr. Bayly, who,
unperceived by lord Herbert in his pre-occupation, had been present
during the interview, stepped up to the marquis and said:
'My good lord, the honourable confidence your lordship has reposed
in me boldens me to do my duty as, in part at least, your lordship's
humble spiritual adviser.'
'Thou shouldst want no boldening to do thy duty, doctor,' said the
marquis, making a wry face.
'May I then beg of your lordship to consider whether you have not
been more severe with your noble son than the occasion demanded,
seeing not only was the word uttered by a lapse of the tongue, but
yourself heard my lord express much sorrow for the overslip?'
'What!' said lady Herbert, something merrily, but looking in the
face of her father-in-law with a little anxious questioning in her
eyes, 'has my lord been falling out with my Ned?'
'Hark ye, daughter!' answered the marquis, his face beaming with
restored good-humour, for the twinge in his toe had abated, 'and you
too, my good chaplain!--if my son be dejected, I can raise him when
I please; but it is a question, if he should once take a head,
whether I could bring him lower when I list. Ned was not wont to use
such courtship to me, and I believe he intended a better word for
his father; but MUST was for the king.'
Returning to her own room, lady Margaret found Dorothy waiting for
'Well, my little lig-a-bed!' she said sweetly, 'what is amiss with
thee? Thou lookest but soberly.'
'I am well, madam; and that I look soberly,' said Dorothy, 'you will
not wonder when I tell you wherefore. But first, if it please you, I
would pray for my lord's presence, that he too may know all.'
'Holy mother! what is the matter, child?' cried lady Margaret, of
late easily fluttered. 'Is it my lord Herbert you mean, or my lord
'My lord Herbert, my lady. I dread lest he should be gone ere I have
found a time to tell him.'
'He rides again after dinner,' said lady Margaret.
'Then, dear my lady, if you would keep me from great doubt and
disquiet, let me have the ear of my lord for a few moments.'
Lady Margaret rang for her page, and sent him to find his master and
request his presence in her parlour.
Within five minutes lord Herbert was with them, and within five
more, Dorothy had ended her tale of the night, uninterrupted save by
lady Margaret's exclamations of sympathy.
'And now, my lord, what am I to do?' she asked in conclusion.
Lord Herbert made no answer for a few moments, but walked up and
down the room. Dorothy thought he looked angry as well as troubled.
He burst at length into a laugh, however, and said merrily,
'I have it, ladies! I see how we may save my father much annoyance
without concealment, for nothing must be concealed from him that in
any way concerns the house. But the annoyance arising from any
direct attempt at discovering the wrongdoers would be endless, and
its failure almost certain. But now, as I would plan it, instead of
trouble my father shall have laughter, and instead of annoyance such
a jest as may make him good amends for the wrong done him by the
breach of his household laws. Caspar has explained to you all
concerning the water-works, I believe, cousin?'
'All, my lord. I may without presumption affirm that I can, so long
as there arises no mishap, with my own hand govern them all. Caspar
has for many weeks left everything to me, save indeed the lighting
of the furnace-fire.'
'That is as I would have it, cousin. So soon then as it is dark this
evening, you will together, you and Caspar, set the springs which
lie under the first stone of the paving of the bridge. Thereafter,
as you know, the first foot set upon it will drop the drawbridge to
the stone bridge, and the same instant convert the two into an
aqueduct, filled with a rushing torrent from the reservoir, which
will sweep the intruders away. Before they shall have either
gathered their discomfited wits or raised their prostrate bones, my
father will be out upon them, nor shall they find shelter for their
shame ere every soul in the castle has witnessed their disgrace.'
'I had thought of the plan, my lord; but I dreaded the punishment
might be too severe, not knowing what the water might do upon them.'
'There will be no danger to life, and little to limb,' said his
lordship. 'The torrent will cease flowing the moment they are swept
from the bridge. But they shall be both bruised and shamed; and,'
added his lordship, with an oath such as seldom crossed his lips,
'in such times as these, they will well deserve what shall befall
them. Intruding hounds!--But you must take heed, cousin Dorothy,
that you forget not that you have yourself done. Should you have
occasion to go on the bridge after setting your vermin-trap, you
must not omit to place your feet precisely where Caspar will show
you, else you will have to ride a watery horse half-way, mayhap to
the marble one--except indeed he throw you from his back against
When her husband talked in long sentences, as he was not
unfrequently given to do, lady Margaret, even when their sequences
were not very clear, seldom interrupted him: she had learned that
she gained more by letting him talk on; for however circuitous the
route he might take, he never forgot where he was going. He might
obscure his object, but there it always was. He was now again
walking up and down the room, and, perceiving that he had not yet
arranged all to his satisfaction, she watched him with merriment in
her Irish eyes, and waited.
'I have it!' he cried again. 'It shall be so, and my father shall
thus have immediate notice. The nights are weekly growing warmer,
and he will not therein be tempted to his hurt. Our trusty and
well-beloved cousin Dorothy, we herewith, in presence of our liege
and lovely lady, appoint thee our deputy during our absence. No one
but thyself hath a right to cross the bridge after dark, save Caspar
and the governor, whom with my father I shall inform and warn
concerning what is to be done. But I will myself adjust the escape,
so that the torrent shall not fall too powerful; Caspar must connect
it with the drawbridge, whose fall will then open it. And pray
remind him to see first that all the hinges and joints concerned be
well greased, that it may fall instantly.'
So saying, he left the room, and sought out Caspar, with whom he
contrived the ringing of a bell in the marquis's chamber by the
drawbridge in its fall, the arrangement for which Caspar was to
carry out that same evening after dark. He next sought his father,
and told him and his brother Charles the whole story; nor did he
find himself wrong in his expectation that the prospect of so good a
jest would go far to console the marquis for the annoyance of
finding that his household was not quite such a pattern one as he
had supposed. That there was anything of conspiracy or treachery
involved, he did not for a moment believe.
After dinner, while the horses were brought out, lord Herbert went
again to his wife's room. There was little Molly waiting to bid him
good-bye, and she sat upon his knee until it was time for him to go.
The child's looks made his heart sad, and his wife could not
restrain her tears when she saw him gaze upon her so mournfully. It
was with a heavy heart that, when the moment of departure came, he
rose, gave her into her mother's arms, clasped them both in one
embrace, and hurried from the room. He ought to be a noble king for
whom such men and women make such sacrifices.
To witness such devotion on the part of personages to whom she
looked up with such respect and confidence, would have been in
itself more than sufficient to secure for its object the
unquestioning partisanship of Dorothy; partisan already, it raised
her prejudice to a degree of worship which greatly narrowed what she
took for one of the widest gulfs separating her from the creed of
her friends. The favourite dogma of the school-master-king, the
offspring of his pride and weakness, had found fitting soil in
Dorothy. When, in the natural growth of the confidence reposed in
her by her protectors, she came to have some idea of the immensity
of the sums spent by them on behalf of his son, had, indeed, ere the
close of another year read the king's own handwriting and signature
in acknowledgment of a debt of a quarter of a million, she took it
only as an additional sign--for additional proof there was no
room--of their ever admirable devotion to his divine right. That the
marquis and his son were catholics served but to glorify the right
to which a hostile faith yielded such practical homage.
Immediately after nightfall she repaired to Caspar, and between them
everything was speedily arranged for the carrying out of lord
But night after night passed, and the bell in the marquis's room