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Chapter 4 Lord Twemlow’s chaplain visits his patron’s kinsman, and Mistres_lorinda shines on her birthday night

  • Uncivilised and almost savage as her girlish life was, and unregulated by an_utward training as was her mind, there were none who came in contact with he_ho could be blind to a certain strong, clear wit, and unconquerableness o_urpose, for which she was remarkable.  She ever knew full well what sh_esired to gain or to avoid, and once having fixed her mind upon any object, she showed an adroitness and brilliancy of resource, a control of herself an_thers, the which there was no circumventing.  She never made a blunde_ecause she could not control the expression of her emotions; and when sh_ave way to a passion, ’twas because she chose to do so, having naught t_ose, and in the midst of all their riotous jesting with her the boo_ompanions of Sir Jeoffry knew this.
  • “Had she a secret to keep, child though she is,” said Eldershawe, “there i_one—man or woman—who could scare or surprise it from her; and ’tis a strang_uality to note so early in a female creature.”
  • She spent her days with her father and his dissolute friends, treated hal_ike a boy, half a fantastical queen, until she was fourteen.  She hunted an_oursed, shot birds, leaped hedges and ditches, reigned at the riotou_eastings, and coquetted with these mature, and in some cases elderly, men, a_f she looked forward to doing naught else all her life.
  • But one day, after she had gone out hunting with her father, riding Rake, wh_ad been given to her, and wearing her scarlet coat, breeches, and top-boots, one of the few remaining members of her mother’s family sent his chaplain t_emonstrate and advise her father to command her to forbear from appearing i_uch impudent attire.
  • There was, indeed, a stirring scene when this message was delivered by it_earer.  The chaplain was an awkward, timid creature, who had heard storie_nough of Wildairs Hall and its master to undertake his mission with a quakin_oul.  To have refused to obey any behest of his patron would have cost hi_is living, and knowing this beyond a doubt, he was forced to gird up hi_oins and gather together all the little courage he could muster to beard th_ion in his den.
  • The first thing he beheld on entering the big hall was a beautiful tall yout_earing his own rich black hair, and dressed in scarlet coat for hunting.  H_as playing with a dog, making it leap over his crop, and both laughing an_wearing at its clumsiness.  He glanced at the chaplain with a laughing, brilliant eye, returning the poor man’s humble bow with a slight nod as h_lainly hearkened to what he said as he explained his errand.
  • “I come from my Lord Twemlow, who is your master’s kinsman,” the chaplai_altered; “I am bidden to see and speak to him if it be possible, and hi_ordship much desires that Sir Jeoffry will allow it to be so.  My Lor_wemlow—”
  • The beautiful youth left his playing with the dog and came forward with al_he air of the young master of the house.
  • “My Lord Twemlow sends you?” he said.  “’Tis long since his lordship favoure_s with messages.  Where is Sir Jeoffry, Lovatt?”
  • “In the dining-hall,” answered the servant.  “He went there but a moment past, Mistress.”
  • The chaplain gave such a start as made him drop his shovel hat.  “Mistress!” And this was she—this fine young creature who was tall and grandly enoug_uilt and knit to seem a radiant being even when clad in masculine attire.  H_icked up his hat and bowed so low that it almost swept the floor in hi_beisance.  He was not used to female beauty which deigned to cast grea_miling eyes upon him, for at my Lord Twemlow’s table he sat so far below th_alt that women looked not his way.
  • This beauty looked at him as if she was amused at the thought of something i_er own mind.  He wondered tremblingly if she guessed what he came for an_new how her father would receive it.
  • “Come with me,” she said; “I will take you to him.  He would not see you if _id not.  He does not love his lordship tenderly enough.”
  • She led the way, holding her head jauntily and high, while he cast down hi_yes lest his gaze should be led to wander in a way unseemly in one of hi_loth.  Such a foot and such—!  He felt it more becoming and safer to lift hi_yes to the ceiling and keep them there, which gave him somewhat the aspect o_ne praying.
  • Sir Jeoffry stood at the buffet with a flagon of ale in his hand, taking hi_tirrup cup.  At the sight of a stranger and one attired in the garb of _haplain, he scowled surprisedly.
  • “What’s this?” quoth he.  “What dost want, Clo?  I have no leisure for _ermon.”
  • Mistress Clorinda went to the buffet and filled a tankard for herself an_arried it back to the table, on the edge of which she half sat, with one le_ent, one foot resting on the floor.
  • “Time thou wilt have to take, Dad,” she said, with an arch grin, showing tw_ows of gleaming pearls.  “This gentleman is my Lord Twemlow’s chaplain, who_e sends to exhort you, requesting you to have the civility to hear him.”
  • “Exhort be damned, and Twemlow be damned too!” cried Sir Jeoffry, who had _reat quarrel with his lordship and hated him bitterly.  “What does th_anting fool mean?”
  • “Sir,” faltered the poor message-bearer, “his lordship hath—hath bee_oncerned—having heard—”
  • The handsome creature balanced against the table took the tankard from he_ips and laughed.
  • “Having heard thy daughter rides to field in breeches, and is an unseemly- behaving wench,” she cried, “his lordship sends his chaplain to deliver _iscourse thereon—not choosing to come himself.  Is not that thy errand, reverend sir?”
  • The chaplain, poor man, turned pale, having caught, as she spoke, a glimpse o_ir Jeoffry’s reddening visage.
  • “Madam,” he faltered, bowing—“Madam, I ask pardon of you most humbly!  If i_ere your pleasure to deign to—to—allow me—”
  • She set the tankard on the table with a rollicking smack, and thrust her hand_n her breeches-pockets, swaying with laughter; and, indeed, ’twas ringin_usic, her rich great laugh, which, when she grew of riper years, was muc_auded and written verses on by her numerous swains.
  • “If ’twere my pleasure to go away and allow you to speak, free from th_wkwardness of a young lady’s presence,” she said.  “But ’tis not, as i_appens, and if I stay here, I shall be a protection.”
  • In truth, he required one.  Sir Jeoffry broke into a torrent of blasphemy.  H_amned both kinsman and chaplain, and raged at the impudence of both in darin_o approach him, swearing to horsewhip my lord if they ever met, and to hav_he chaplain kicked out of the house, and beyond the park gates themselves.
  • But Mistress Clorinda chose to make it her whim to take it in better humour, and as a joke with a fine point to it.  She laughed at her father’s storming, and while the chaplain quailed before it with pallid countenance and fairl_ang-dog look, she seemed to find it but a cause for outbursts of merriment.
  • “Hold thy tongue a bit, Dad,” she cried, when he had reached his loudest, “an_et his reverence tell us what his message is.  We have not even heard it.”
  • “Want not to hear it!” shouted Sir Jeoffry.  “Dost think I’ll stand hi_mpudence?  Not I!”
  • “What was your message?” demanded the young lady of the chaplain.  “You canno_eturn without delivering it.  Tell it to me.   _I_  choose it shall be told.”
  • The chaplain clutched and fumbled with his hat, pale, and dropping his eye_pon the floor, for very fear.
  • “Pluck up thy courage, man,” said Clorinda.  “I will uphold thee.  Th_essage?”
  • “Your pardon, Madam—’twas this,” the chaplain faltered.  “My lord commanded m_o warn your honoured father—that if he did not beg you to leave of_earing—wearing—”
  • “Breeches,” said Mistress Clorinda, slapping her knee.
  • The chaplain blushed with modesty, though he was a man of sallow countenance.
  • “No gentleman,” he went on, going more lamely at each word—“notwithstandin_our great beauty—no gentleman—”
  • “Would marry me?” the young lady ended for him, with merciful good-humour.
  • “For if you—if a young lady be permitted to bear herself in such a manner a_ill cause her to be held lightly, she can make no match that will not be _ishonour to her family—and—and—”
  • “And may do worse!” quoth Mistress Clo, and laughed until the room rang.
  • Sir Jeoffry’s rage was such as made him like to burst; but she restrained hi_hen he would have flung his tankard at the chaplain’s head, and amid hi_torm of curses bundled the poor man out of the room, picking up his hat whic_n his hurry and fright he let fall, and thrusting it into his hand.
  • “Tell his lordship,” she said, laughing still as she spoke the final words, “that I say he is right—and I will see to it that no disgrace befalls him.”
  • “Forsooth, Dad,” she said, returning, “perhaps the old son of a—”—somethin_nmannerly—“is not so great a fool.  As for me, I mean to make a fine marriag_nd be a great lady, and I know of none hereabouts to suit me but the old Ear_f Dunstanwolde, and ’tis said he rates at all but modest women, and, i_aith, he might not find breeches mannerly.  I will not hunt in them again.”
  • She did not, though once or twice when she was in a wild mood, and her fathe_ntertained at dinner those of his companions whom she was the most incline_o, she swaggered in among them in her daintiest suits of male attire, an_aused their wine-shot eyes to gloat over her boyish-maiden charms and jaunt_irs and graces.
  • On the night of her fifteenth birthday Sir Jeoffry gave a great dinner to hi_oon companions and hers.  She had herself commanded that there should be n_adies at the feast; for she chose to announce that she should appear at n_ore such, having the wit to see that she was too tall a young lady fo_hildish follies, and that she had now arrived at an age when her market mus_e made.
  • “I shall have women enough henceforth to be dull with,” she said.  “Thou ar_ut a poor match-maker, Dad, or wouldst have thought of it for me.  But no_nce has it come into thy pate that I have no mother to angle in my cause an_each me how to cast sheep’s eyes at bachelors.  Long-tailed petticoats fro_his time for me, and hoops and patches, and ogling over fans—until at last, if I play my cards well, some great lord will look my way and be taken by m_hape and my manners.”
  • “With thy shape, Clo, God knows every man will,” laughed Sir Jeoffry, “but _ear me not with thy manners.  Thou hast the manners of a baggage, and the_re second nature to thee.”
  • “They are what I was born with,” answered Mistress Clorinda.  “They came fro_im that begot me, and he has not since improved them.  But now”—making _reat sweeping curtsey, her impudent bright beauty almost dazzling hi_yes—“now, after my birth-night, they will be bettered; but this one night _ill have my last fling.”
  • When the men trooped into the black oak wainscotted dining-hall on th_ventful night, they found their audacious young hostess awaiting them i_reater and more daring beauty than they had ever before beheld.  She wor_nee-breeches of white satin, a pink satin coat embroidered with silver roses, white silk stockings, and shoes with great buckles of brilliants, revealing _eg so round and strong and delicately moulded, and a foot so arched an_lender, as surely never before, they swore one and all, woman had had t_isplay.  She met them standing jauntily astride upon the hearth, her back t_he fire, and she greeted each one as he came with some pretty impudence.  He_air was tied back and powdered, her black eyes were like lodestars, drawin_ll men, and her colour was that of a ripe pomegranate.  She had a fine, haughty little Roman nose, a mouth like a scarlet bow, a wonderful lon_hroat, and round cleft chin.  A dazzling mien indeed she possessed, and read_nough she was to shine before them.  Sir Jeoffry was now elderly, having bee_ man of forty when united to his conjugal companion.  Most of his friend_ere of his own age, so that it had not been with unripe youth Mistres_lorinda had been in the habit of consorting.  But upon this night a newcome_as among the guests.  He was a young relation of one of the older men, an_aving come to his kinsman’s house upon a visit, and having proved himself, i_pite of his youth, to be a young fellow of humour, high courage in th_unting-field, and by no means averse either to entering upon or discussin_ntrigue and gallant adventure, had made himself something of a favourite.
  • His youthful beauty for a man almost equalled that of Mistress Clorind_erself.  He had an elegant, fine shape, of great strength and vigour, hi_ountenance was delicately ruddy and handsomely featured, his curling fai_air flowed loose upon his shoulders, and, though masculine in mould, hi_nkle was as slender and his buckled shoe as arched as her own.
  • He was, it is true, twenty-four years of age and a man, while she was bu_ifteen and a woman, but being so tall and built with such unusual vigour o_ymmetry, she was a beauteous match for him, and both being attired i_ashionable masculine habit, these two pretty young fellows standing smilin_aucily at each other were a charming, though singular, spectacle.
  • This young man was already well known in the modish world of town for hi_eauty and adventurous spirit.  He was indeed already a beau and conqueror o_emale hearts.  It was suspected that he cherished a private ambition to se_he modes in beauties and embroidered waistcoats himself in time, and be a_enowned abroad and as much the town talk as certain other celebrated beau_ad been before him.  The art of ogling tenderly and of uttering soft nothing_e had learned during his first season in town, and as he had a great meltin_lue eye, the figure of an Adonis, and a white and shapely hand for a ring, h_as well equipped for conquest.  He had darted many an inflaming glance a_istress Clorinda before the first meats were removed.  Even in London he ha_eard a vague rumour of this handsome young woman, bred among her father’_ogs, horses, and boon companions, and ripening into a beauty likely to mak_own faces pale.  He had almost fallen into the spleen on hearing that she ha_eft her boy’s clothes and vowed she would wear them no more, as above al_hings he had desired to see how she carried them and what charms the_evealed.  On hearing from his host and kinsman that she had said that on he_irth-night she would bid them farewell for ever by donning them for the las_ime, he was consumed with eagerness to obtain an invitation.  This hi_insman besought for him, and, behold! the first glance the beauty shot at hi_ierced his inflammable bosom like a dart.  Never before had it been hi_ortune to behold female charms so dazzling and eyes of such lustre and youn_ajesty.  The lovely baggage had a saucy way of standing with her whit_ewelled hands in her pockets like a pretty fop, and throwing up her littl_ead like a modish beauty who was of royal blood; and these two tricks alone, he felt, might have set on fire the heart of a man years older and colder tha_imself.
  • If she had been of the order of soft-natured charmers, they would have falle_nto each other’s eyes before the wine was changed; but this Mistress Clorind_as not.  She did not fear to meet the full battery of his enamoured glances, but she did not choose to return them.  She played her part of the prett_oung fellow who was a high-spirited beauty, with more of wit and fire tha_he had ever played it before.  The rollicking hunting-squires, who had bee_er play-fellows so long, devoured her with their delighted glances and roare_ith laughter at her sallies.  Their jokes and flatteries were not of the mos_eemly, but she had not been bred to seemliness and modesty, and was no mor_gnorant than if she had been, in sooth, some gay young springald of a lad.
  • To her it was part of the entertainment that upon this last night the_onducted themselves as beseemed her boyish masquerading.  Though country- bred, she had lived among companions who were men of the world and live_ithout restraints, and she had so far learned from them that at fifteen year_ld she was as worldly and as familiar with the devices of intrigue as sh_ould be at forty.  So far she had not been pushed to practising them, he_ingular life having thrown her among few of her own age, and those ha_hanced to be of a sort she disdainfully counted as country bumpkins.
  • But the young gallant introduced to-night into the world she lived in was n_umpkin, and was a dandy of the town.  His name was Sir John Oxon, and he ha_ust come into his title and a pretty property.  His hands were as white an_ejewelled as her own, his habit was of the latest fashionable cut, and hi_air flowing locks scattered a delicate French perfume she did not even kno_he name of.
  • But though she observed all these attractions and found them powerful, youn_ir John remarked, with a slight sinking qualm, that her great eye did no_all before his amorous glances, but met them with high smiling readiness, an_er colour never blanched or heightened a whit for all their masterl_kilfulness.  But he had sworn to himself that he would approach close enoug_o her to fire off some fine speech before the night was ended, and h_ndeavoured to bear himself with at least an outward air of patience until h_eheld his opportunity.
  • When the last dish was removed and bottles and bumpers stood upon the board, she sprang up on her chair and stood before them all, smiling down the lon_able with eyes like flashing jewels.  Her hands were thrust in he_ockets—with her pretty young fop’s air, and she drew herself to her ful_omely height, her beauteous lithe limbs and slender feet set smartl_ogether.  Twenty pairs of masculine eyes were turned upon her beauty, bu_one so ardently as the young one’s across the table.
  • “Look your last on my fine shape,” she proclaimed in her high, rich voice.
  • “You will see but little of the lower part of it when it is hid i_arthingales and petticoats.  Look your last before I go to don my fine lady’_urbelows.”
  • And when they filled their glasses and lifted them and shouted admiring jest_o her, she broke into one of her stable-boy songs, and sang it in the voic_f a skylark.
  • No man among them was used to showing her the courtesies of polite breeding.
  • She had been too long a boy to them for that to have entered any mind, an_hen she finished her song, sprang down, and made for the door, Sir Joh_eheld his long-looked-for chance, and was there before her to open it with _reat bow, made with his hand upon his heart and his fair locks falling.
  • “You rob us of the rapture of beholding great beauties, Madam,” he said in _ow, impassioned voice.  “But there should be indeed but  _one_  happy ma_hose bliss it is to gaze upon such perfections.”
  • “I am fifteen years old to-night,” she answered; “and as yet I have not se_yes upon him.”
  • “How do you know that, madam?” he said, bowing lower still.
  • She laughed her great rich laugh.
  • “Forsooth, I do not know,” she retorted.  “He may be here this very nigh_mong this company; and as it might be so, I go to don my modesty.”
  • And she bestowed on him a parting shot in the shape of one of her pretties_oung fop waves of the hand, and was gone from him.
  • * * * * *
  • When the door closed behind her and Sir John Oxon returned to the table, for _hile a sort of dulness fell upon the party.  Not being of quick minds o_entiments, these country roisterers failed to understand the heavy cloud o_pleen and lack of spirit they experienced, and as they filled their glasse_nd tossed off one bumper after another to cure it, they soon began again t_augh and fell into boisterous joking.
  • They talked mostly, indeed, of their young playfellow, of whom they felt, i_ome indistinct manner, they were to be bereft; they rallied Sir Jeoffry, tol_tories of her childhood and made pictures of her budding beauties, comparin_hem with those of young ladies who were celebrated toasts.
  • “She will sail among them like a royal frigate,” said one; “and they will pal_efore her lustre as a tallow dip does before an illumination.”
  • The clock struck twelve before she returned to them.  Just as the last strok_ounded the door was thrown open, and there she stood, a woman on each side o_er, holding a large silver candelabra bright with wax tapers high above her, so that she was in a flood of light.
  • She was attired in rich brocade of crimson and silver, and wore a great hoope_etticoat, which showed off her grandeur, her waist of no more bigness than _an’s hands could clasp, set in its midst like the stem of a flower; her blac_air was rolled high and circled with jewels, her fair long throat blazed wit_ collar of diamonds, and the majesty of her eye and lip and brow made up _ien so dazzling that every man sprang to his feet beholding her.
  • She made a sweeping obeisance and then stood up before them, her head throw_ack and her lips curving in the triumphant mocking smile of a great beaut_ooking upon them all as vassals.
  • “Down upon your knees,” she cried, “and drink to me kneeling.  From this nigh_ll men must bend so—all men on whom I deign to cast my eyes.”