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A plain stone slab, laid horizontally over the grave of both, now marks the spot of their
and on it are the words
ALAS, POOR EMILY!
Not long after the death of the stranger lady, the matron of the hospital informed me of some particulars that transpired immediately before the deceased's tongue was stilled for ever; and amongst others, that her last intelligible words were “ Alfred," and, Mrs. Logie fancied, something about a “sacred promise.” “Poor gentlewoman,” thought I, “the grave will now inviolably keep thy secret!" I asked myself again, “Had she ever been at the altar ?" Yet the emblem of that ceremony was on her finger-or-or had she “loved not wisely, but too well?”
One day, about this time, I received a note desiring me to call on Mrs. Parkins. On doing so, Mrs. Parkins, in the same sorrow as on previous visits, burst into an unrestrained flood of tears; her grief seemed to acquire force and intensity instead of becoming mitigated. She could not even mention Mrs. Allen's name without greater poignancy of suffering. After the first ebullition of her fretting had passed, she became more calm, and at length informed me of the deceased's having left a small token of her regard and memory. Mrs. Parkins then put into my hand a handsome emerald ring, bearing the simple inscription " From E. A.” This treasured relic I yet retain, and often now, though long and obliterating years have passed, do I steadfastly look upon the amulet, and think with a sigh on the donor.
It was the intention of Mrs. Parkins to leave Scotland immediately after the burial of Mrs. Allen. The constant watching over the former, the weeks of broken rest, and, more than all, the mental suffering which that death had created, conjointly proved too much for her health. She became ill, and was for some time confined to her room.
The stranger lady was no more. It was less important for Mrs. Parkins to be so taciturn; she became communicative, and I was informed of the sad history of her late companion. From the perusal of journals, letters, and other documents, as well as from the oral details of Mrs. Parkins and other sources, I have endeavoured to arrange that information as follows:
THE STORY OF THE REMINISCENCE. In scarcely any country, except England, are to be seen those picturesque and pleasing realities of rural felicity which in every age artists have painted and poets sung ; and when we behold those happy pictures so frequently to be met with in every part of this richly-cultivated country-when we see the luxuriant fields, the waving woods, green pastures, white flocks, and yellow corn, the landscape here and there interspersed with villages, hamlets, and scattered homes-the distant prospect impresses the notions of simple virtues and artless life, reminds the beholder of Arcadian days and the retired happiness of the Sabine farm! The mightiest and most dignified of mankind, when tired of camps, wearied of senates, and nauseated with splendour, have in all ages loved for a season to steal away from the world's disquietudes and cares, to dwell at ease in the tranquillising retirement of country life. There, a constant survey of the beauties of nature, the stillness and repose
of every scene, form agreeable contrasts to the turmoil and excitement of cities. The mansion hereafter to be described was so situate, and in it warriors, statesmen, and courtiers, had in other days found á pleasant and acceptable retreat.
In one of the southern counties, in a remote and unfrequented district, is the pretty little village of Woodthorpe-situated on a gentle acclivity, and commanding an extensive prospect over a broad expanse of country, screened in on the north and east by dark woods of sturdy oak, towering elms, and spreading beech, with a crystal stream meandering below it, formed a spot happily selected for human habitations. They who peopled it were a simple, an unsophisticated set, many of whom tilled the soil which several progenitors had successively cultivated. The tenure of the lands had remained unaltered for many generations, and so sure were the occupants that their successors would hold them on the same terms, that it was not uncommon for the father to will the lease to one or more of his children. Dwelling in this quiet seclusion, and pursuing a kind of patriarchal existence, far from the vanities and temptations of politer sife and a more advanced world, this little community, if it lacked the advantages of refinement and fashion, escaped many evils and moral corruptions. If their pleasures were not intense and exalted, their happiness was of a more even tenor and more lasting. But it must be confessed that even the denizens of Woodthorpe did not enjoy an immunity from human trials and human afflictions. They had their cares and their grievances—a share of those ills which man is born to inherit.
In the midst of a few low-built and scattered houses stood the venerable mansion long known by the name of Spenser House. Its massive walls, crumbling buttresses, small latticed windows, stone-covered roof, the lots of green ivy whose clinging tendrils had for ages pertinaciously clung to their barren attachments, the corroded corner-stones moulded by winters long passed away, and the general tendency to dilapidation, bespoke its antiquity, and told of the wasting breath of Time. The garden by which it was surrounded was fenced in by tall and unsightly walls. Its once neatly laid-out parterres had run to wildness with weeds and rank grass; the trees and shrubs had grown in unrestrained luxuriance ; it seemed as if the proprietor had long been an absentee, or that the property was under the keeping of a niggardly expectant heir. Two or three mutilated figures, once set up for picturesque effect, were in unison with other associations ; here stood a headless Apollo, there Neptune without his trident, yonder Hercules bereft of his club. The pretty little summer-house, in its green alcoves, was filled with empty flower-pots, garden implements, and similar lumber; the conservatory could hardly boast a single pane of uncracked glass; the walks were covered with grass and rubbish. When you entered the sombre hall, that spacious and unfurnished entrance imparted an air of discomfort. The two or three dark oaken chairs, undoubtedly coeval with the building itself, the worn-out mats and oilcoverings, gave a foretaste of what was to be anticipated in other parts of the house. Dining-room, drawing-room, up-stairs and down, the long unpainted doors, the shabby curtains, dirty gilt picture-frames, worn-out carpets, old-fashioned furniture, told of the occupant's oddities or his poverty. The head of the house was Godfrey Spenser, the representative of a time-immemorial and aristocratic family; and proud indeed was Godfrey of the gentle blood that flowed in his veins, prouder far than the base-bred rich whose wealth might make him ten times richer. Between him and those who could boast but of their wealth, he deemed a great gulf fixed; a distinction that exalted him immediately above. But all have their vanities, and it was Godfrey's vanity to expatiate on his illustrious descent. At the Conquest his genealogical tree did not first fix rootHe could prove, he said, that his remote ancestry were Scandinavian chieftains, commanding clans on the borders of the Baltic before the Norsemen had gained a more convenient territory in the Gallic dominions ; that they had served with the Rou; that some of the name had perished with Harold Hardrada, whom the Saxon Tostig had led to death, and his followers to discomfiture. When Duke William made his descent upon England, a De Spenser (the prefixture had been omitted in successive generations) figured at Hastings, and the roll at Battle Abbey now bears his name. He was sprung from that Godfrey too who, with Tancred, valiantly rode over slaughtered Moslems to prostrate at the sepulchre of Christ. His progenitors had ensanguined the fields of Cressy and Poictiers, and been foremost in those heroic bands who sought to win for the brave Plantagenets a sovereignty over kingdoms on the continent. A Spenser fell at the battle of Bosworth ; and, coming down. to the days of Charles the First, his great-grandfather not only distinguished himself amongst those valiant gentlemen who espoused the royal cause (and better known as the Cavaliers) at Naseby and Worcester, but Godfrey could show the receipts given to the said great-grandfather for silver christening-bowls, tankards, and gold cups, which he had sent to be melted down to fill the king's treasury at Oxford. In more recent times, his forefathers, if less known to fame, were always considered of the aristocracy; and, indeed, Godfrey felt his house was noble in all but name. The lands on which he lived had been bestowed on an ancestor by Richard the Second. The tarnished gilt frames before referred to preserved the quaint portraitures of some of those stalwart heroes who are now alone remembered by the canvas on which they frown. He had truly some reason to be proud of his lineage, and he classed his house rather with the De Veres and Talbots than with the Percys and Howards!
In person Godfrey showed the good breeding it had been his lot to inherit. His tall and commanding figure, with finely moulded limbs and erect carriage; those acute, strongly marked features, with quick eyes and aquiline nose; the thin lips, ample brow, and dark hair, together with the small foot and little hand, testified his origin as not plebeian. He
* The description of physical formations given in the text are the generally received personal peculiarities of Norman extraction, and nothing is more generally accepted than that the small hand and foot are the characteristics of gentle blood. This opinion is not unmixed with error. Small hands and feet were common to the whole race of Norsemen, and not to their chiefs alone. They are Scandinavian peculiarities. The museums in some of the northern capitals of Europe possess swords used during the times of the sea-kings, which have handles so small as to only admit hands of a very diminutive size, and these swords were the weapons of the hardy bands who accompanied their leaders as half-pirates, half-soldiers. From such historic records as we possess, the Norsemen were of agile figure; yet we are also told of certain Saxons who were of equally elegant proportions. When Harold, son of Godwin, was at William the Norman’s court, he was admired for his fine
dressed after the manner of the times, and just hit that happy medium, neither to incur the disdain of frivolous foppery, nor the censure of a sloven. There was a neatness, an exactness in his attirement, which showed the man of the world as well as the man of taste. His blue coat, buff vest, ruffled shirt, clean smalls, bright buckled shoes, and powdered wig, set off to advantage that neat and agile form. Though his wardrobe might have with advantage been more frequently replenished, yet he was never in dishabille, and always looked the gentleman. At thirty years of age he married the daughter of a country squire, who was not more celebrated for her beauty than esteemed for her worth. By this lady he had a large family, and, as Godfrey used to say, they were within a fraction all of the wrong sort, seven-eighths of the number total being of the softer sex. Their only son was a fine lad, and long before his birth Mrs. Spenser had fixed upon the name of Alfred. The father did not like that name, and wished instead of Alfred to call him Godfrey, because it was a family name; and it was one of his prejudices that old family names should be kept up. Mrs. Spenser, when the time came, prevailed upon her husband, for that one time, to let her have her own way; she contested that she had named six of the girls out of the seven, and it was but fairness in the present instance to allow her to decide; because, she said, the infant had her uncle's nose, and he was Alfred, because it was a pretty name,—and because Alfred the Great was a good and learned man, as she had said this boy would be.
- Powerful arguments, indeed !" ironically said Godfrey; but at length he was obliged to yield, yet not without stipulating that the next should be a Godfrey; in default of such next he would put into his last will and testament for the next male heir to be so named, or it would, as he conceived, be a decided reflection on not less than three of the previously mentioned gentlemen occupying the shabby gilt frames; and, in a kind of consolatory strain, he muttered in conclusion, “ It's no use arguing, women will have their own way, and the more you reason and explain, the more obstinate and wrong-headed they become!”
As Alfred grew up, he became the apple of his father's eye. And, it figure, and they might have thought him Norman. It must be remembered, too, that at the Conquest many of low station emigrated to England, and on their arrival assumed the importance of esquires and nobles, who in their own country bad really been grooms and lacqueys, and they had doubtless the personal peculiarities in question. It is fact equally true, that the Saxon nobility had large hands and feet; and Bulwer says that their characteristics may be yet traced amongst some of our oldest noble families who are more directly sprung from the ancient Saxon blood. Large hands and feet are common to the Teutonic tribes, and as the ancient Saxons were Teutonic, this physical distinction has been transmitted through many centuries. An ingenious writer has recently written elaborately on the formation of the human hand, and has classified the various conformations common to particular races. The Celtic are more elegant, having long taper fingers, and that shape is associated with an imaginative mind, hence possessed by the highest order of poets and artists. The broad palm, the short, obtuse, truncated fingers are Teutonic, which he terms the spatula conformation. It is the spatula form which is common to the Anglo-Saxon races, to that race which, by a strange chance of Providence, is peopling the earth, and spreading its language and religion from Cape Horn to the northernmost region—from the sunny banks of the Ganges to the immense valley of the Mississippi; and, says the chirologist, the spatula hand is associated with all that energy and enterprise common to the Saxon blood,
is truth to say, never was there a finer, more fearless, more taking lad. Nature had favoured him, in bestowing a well-built frame, that promised, when matured, to be herculean, with an animated eye that flashed with the impetuous feelings of a soul full of ardour and enterprise. His features were particularly handsome, manly, and expressive--though without the deep lines of his father's. His hair fell in thick jetty curls down low and powerful shoulders, whilst his quick step and erectness of bearing bespoke no common personage. Well, indeed, might a father look complacently on so comely a youth, and little would his insensibility be envied who felt not a father's pride when he beheld a young cedar whose head might tower aloof in the forest of Lebanon. As he advanced in years, horses, dogs, and every field-sport, were a passion with him. Many are the deeds of mischievous fun which in the buoyancy of boyhood spirits he committed. Towards the villagers' cats he held perpetual hostilities, and whenever one of the feline tribe crossed his path, two or three yelping terriers, which were his constant companions, were sure to be hounded on in the pursuit. Rooks' nests he plundered with an unsparing hand, and it was his delight to courageously climb the loftiest trees in which they had built their eyrie homes. The finny inhabitants of the deep were also frequent sacrifices to his adroit snaring, or the dexterous manner in which he threw the fly. At fourteen, his deadly aim could hit the swallow on its lightning flight, and often had his rifle stopped the wild pigeon when sailing on electric wing. Such the fancies of his active boyhood—such his happiness when confinement's lingering hour was done.“ Possessing faculties created for energy and action, it was a task to remain in palling quiet, and he constantly sought some object for the occupation of a restless mind. Nature, in the consummate wisdom which she hath observed in the attainment of her plans, has wisely implanted in the breasts of infancy and youth the inextinguishable desire for variety and action ; by which the body receives that proper amount of exercise indispensable for the natural stimulus of its complicated functions, which could not otherwise be insured at a time when the reasoning faculties cannot observe or comprehend the necessary rules of health. The pastimes and amusements of children are to them a kind of business, which they prosecute with as much ardour and labour as are brought to bear on those sterner duties of after life; and again in the selection of those the particular bias and characteristics of mind may at an early age be often rightly foretold. The great Newton, in his childhood, delighted in mechanical constructions ; Pope lisped in numbers ; William of Nassau was a pensive, thoughtful child, and in early youth pondered on camps and senates ; Walter Scott delighted in the legendary tales of his nurse; Napoleon was a hero in his schoolboy band. From the youthful delights of Alfred his partiality for an exciting life might be judged.
Though Godfrey Spenser was a man of unrelenting sternness, and at times having a coldness of manner amounting well-nigh to aceticism, he doted on his boy ; to him he looked as the upholder of their name; the sole representative of an illustrious line.
Godfrey, in the early part of his life, had been in the army, and on his retirement was captain in the
For the profession of arms he had a passionate partiality, and he deemed the two services as the