Imatges de pÓgina
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massive curtain-walls flanking it like towers on either side, was of Norman architecture in its severest style, and led into a narrow outer bailey; while within this again, planted on a mound, and standing out in massive strength dark against the evening sky, rose the original keep of Saxon building from which the place took its name. A moat and drawbridge, as usual, completed the defences; and standing as it did upon the edge of a narrow tongue of high ground, from which a natural escarpment swept down towards the river-level on one side, while the other was protected by ancient and almost impenetrable woods, it formed, notwithstanding its small extent, a very strong position. Drawbridge was raised, gates closed, and there was no sign of life, far less any token of welcome, upon the stern old walls, which with their two or three cross loop-holes cut at irregular intervals frowned upon the visitors with a most unpleasant expression of countenance.

"Ride on with the guidon, Raoul," shouted Sir Godfrey to his follower, "and bid Dickon blow his best to let them know of the honour we intend them; old Warenger still sticks to his lesson, I see, and keeps watch and ward as rigidly as if it were in the good old times; he has his eye on us from his old nest long ago; but

not a bolt will he open, unless he be doubly sure who we are. Mass! he makes a rare jailer for the fair Gladice; I would advise you, Le Hardi, to hold him to his service in that capacity after ye are wed; I trow such precaution may be not altogether needless."

Sir Nicholas smiled quietly, but made no other answer. The young squire seized the Knight's banner from the man-at-arms who had borne it, and, followed by the trumpet, dashed rapidly past his lord up the winding horse-path, waving it gaily as he rode, till he halted his panting steed at a turn which brought him in full view of the gate; and the trumpet, as soon as the bearer could get breath enough to show his skill, rang out long and clear its notes of friendly summons. An answering banner ran up the little flagstaff on the walls, and the old drawbridge slowly and, as it seemed, unwillingly, with groans audible to the party even where they stood, descended to admit them. The castellan himself, a grey-haired warrior of near seventy winters, but wearing his years and his steel harness more lightly than many younger men, was visible in the gateway with two or three attendants, ready to receive his visitors with such honours as he might.

A WINTER JOURNEY.

"So we are really to start to-morrow-will it come true, do you think?" said my sister to me; and I answered her by repeating the question, for we had determined upon the journey so long, and had postponed it so often, that it was hard to believe in it now. We were going to Florence, as we told everybody; but I rather think we were all young enough to be going to that impossible country, which is always somewhere else than where we happen to be, and which, after all, is most certainly to be reached in a fortunate summer morning's dream. However, we did not convey our superlative expectations to each other, but spoke like sober British people, and pretended that we expected only to see pictures and cathedrals, like the rest of the world, leaving all the vaguer glories without expression. However, we were neither habitual tourists nor rich people, and it took us no small trouble to get fairly underweigh, which was the event of the mutual question which passed be

tween us two women as we sat over a newly-lighted fire in a bedroom of a hotel at London Bridge, a little excited and a little anxious, resting for the first time that day, and having a little mutual confidence over our cup of tea.

We were anxious, and not without reason, for we were a whole household bent upon foreign travel, with little children whose capabilities of bearing fatigue were quite untried; and the health of the head of the house was somewhat broken; and we were not rich, so that it was necessary for somebody to keep one wakeful eye always upon the expenses, whatever else of more exciting interest might intervene. Our party consisted of a husband and wife, two children, an English nursemaid, and the husband's sister, I myself, who am no longer a young lady, though I am an unmarried woman. My brother was brought up to be an architect, and had begun to do very well in his profession when my father died. My father had been a builder

in extensive business, and died, as busy men do so often, just at the moment when his business wanted him most. We were all sisters but Harry, all married but myself, and our little fortunes were in the utmost peril. Harry said immediately that there was but one course for him to take-he relinquished his own profession, though at the cost not only of his own likings and his own pride, but of that progress and advancement then open to him which a professional man finds it so hard to regain, and went heroically, the very day after the funeral, through the noisy building-yard to my father's old office. I am not quite sure even that my sister-in-law quite approved of this sacrifice, or that he had the support from her which would have helped him on, poor fellow; and he had not been brought up to business, and was tormented with a divided heart, discontent with the occupation he was compelled to, and eagerness to return to his own proper path. Even the sight of other people who had not started half so well, nor were nearly so able as himself, getting on before him, and being intrusted with works which were quite above them, while he was cribbed up in that builder's office, fretted and vexed his spirit within him. He persevered about three years, then, disgusted and unsuccessful, sold the business, and then paid over to us all the sums my father had left us, which it had been impossible to realise before. When our old home was broken up, I had gone to live with Harry. Alice was an old old friend of mine. I knew she and I could get on together, and I was determined that no brother-in-law should have the chance of frowning me away. I remember that night after they had all gone away, Harry came in very tired and pale. He put down a book on the table before Alice, and explained it all to her how their own money matters stood. "Now," said he, jumping up, "I must have a new start. We must put something between us and this business, which

has been the death of us. Pack up the little ones in a basket, and let's be off to Italy for a year."

I looked up in surprise, thinking it a joke; but Alice was neither surprised nor joking. I saw in a moment that they had settled upon it before. That was quite six months before the time when my sister and I sat together over the bedroom fire at London Bridge, wondering whether we really positively should start on the next day.

Of course we missed the early train next morning. It was not nurse's fault, for little Johnnie and Mary stood virtuously ready, with little redand-blue faces just appearing out of a mass of wrappings, full twenty minutes before the hour. It was not my fault; I was stirring ever so long before. It was not Alice's fault, nor Harry's fault; but the conclusion was we lost the Folkestone train, and had to content ourselves with the down one half an hour later, into which we all managed to scramble a half-minute before it started. The treacherous waves of the Channel looked quiet that day. Quiet and clear into the grey winter sky rose the cliffs and the castle, brown and grey and dull white in a sober harmony of monotones. We made mutual congratulations all round: no fear of sea-sickness this day at least. Oh bootless boast! There was no storm, not the very least in the world; one had not the sad satisfaction of believing in a possibility of going to the bottom presently, and being relieved of one's misery. It was a famous passage; but only to see the determined melancholy of that poor lady with the veil over her face, whose eyes are fixed upon her footstool as if her life depended on it! or the spasmodic energy of that other, who runs her little girl about the deck, and declares with her last breath that motion and air are salvation! Let us not speak of these distresses; only let me beg everybody to put no dependence on a calm day-no faith in the still ripple with which that big traitor woos his victims from the track. The Channel is inscrutable.

We slept that night in Paris, and here made a halt of two days. Neither

Alice nor myself had ever been in Paris before. What could we see in two days? I am afraid we saw nothing but that outside aspect which habitués have ceased to notice, but which must always strike strangers. Leaving our hotel, we came at once in sight of the Tuileries, with all its recollections of splendour and of horror-where the Grand Monarque holds court for ever-where Marie Antoinette continually erects her brave white face; and one can always see that poor beautiful head carried on the spear point past those princely windows. One cannot tell what tragedies may still lurk in the Imperial romance which holds present possession of these walls; but I confess my first thought, with a shiver, was of the Princess Lamballe and her friend-mistress looking out upon the mob in that splendid square. Such squares! One after another spread abroad with palaces for walls, and such size, and breadth, and conscious superiority to all limitations about them, as somewhat startles an inexperienced insular eye. Despotism is unquestionably grander to look at than that form of government which includes Boards of Works and Marylebone Vestries. Suppose a palace, half a mile long, drawn out in magnificent quadrangles down one side of Regent Street, turning a long line of windows and archways to the street, and toppling over half-a-dozen houses here and there whenever it is minded to thrust forth a new arm, or dislikes its neighbours, or finds their presence interfere with the clear and rigid line in which its royal taste delights. This imperial and arbitrary grandeur has, however, its other side. The dirtiest cab, the poorest hack, nay, very omnibuses, come and go unquestioned and unhesitating in a dozen different and eccentric lines of road through those same squares, penetrating through sentinelled gateways, and lumbering their heavy way within a hundred yards and in full sight of the canopied door by which the imperial visitors find admittance to the sovereign's presence; and all day and all night long the palacelistens to the common din of common Parisian life and labour, and shelters under its shadow the honest épicier,

that favourite of fiction; and Mademoiselle, amongst her gloves and embroideries, as neat, as piquant, and as attractive, as she who had the luck to furnish Sterne with gloves and a paragraph. This mixture of the arbitrary and familiar is somewhat amazing to an unaccustomed stranger. If I were to philosophise, I should be inclined to say with humility that this was inseparable from a despotic and irresponsible power. The father of his people, who kindly takes all the management of all their concerns, while he snubs the inquisitive elder branches, must pet the simpler portion of his family. He loves to live among them; he delights in the sight and sound of all their activity; he does not withdraw himself into the haughty seclusion of parks and woods like a constitutional majesty. Yes, your Emperor is the true efflorescence and expression of your universal popular opinion and rule of everybody. The one man who can do it, and the everybody who is nobody, always side together and support each other against that lot of people who think they can do it, who represent the country in the eyes of the world in everything but government, and who are the nation, so far as influence and judgment goes. This is my opinion, in spite of the barricades and the Red Republicans. I am a woman, and, consequently, superior to argument. A democracy and a despotism are as near as possible convertible terms; in proof of which, dear friends, I offer you the Tuileries, which you can see any day, as the London rioter saw those bricks and that oven which proved Jack Cade to be Mortimer, and I hope you will be equally satisfied with the proof.

I am obliged to admit that we did not even attempt to enter the Louvre. There was certainly very little time; but we went to Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle, which were more immediately interesting to Harry. I suppose everybody knows, though I did not, that Notre Dame is the heart of the Ile de Paris, in the middle of the Seine, an insulated point, crested and bristling with spires and pinnacles. In the centre of this there rises up to heaven, with

all its arches and pillars and clustered floriation, one of those noblest works of human skill, which, for my part, I rather reckon with the everlasting rocks and mountains than with the visible productions of men. My brother is rather elaborate in the descriptions which he makes to our uninstructed and feminine understandings. I ought to know how much of a building belongs to one period and how much to another, and to rejoice in discovering where one generation of labourers broke off, and another entered into their labours. But I am inclined to resent sometimes this picking to pieces of a perfection. My theory is that it was never made-that the thing was born, or grew with a spontaneous and indescribable progression. Of course there were throngs of scaffolds, and workmen clustering on like bees on every pinnacle as it rose; but does any one suppose they made it, these mere artificers in wood and stone? There is a sort of refinement of barbarism in that piece of antiquarian solemnity, which I have heard of, of numbering and preserving the stones of a fine old church, forsooth, to put it together as if it had been a chair or a bedstead! The life of the old ages sprang from its native soil by natural impulse into these living tabernacles. The life of our age finds another development. Let us be content. I am quite willing that every stone should be numbered, and every course of masonry traced in the churches that people build now.

But Our Lady has wonderful habitations, it must be admitted. Where she sits there with her divided river on each side of her, and half the laundresses of Paris busy on the brink rustling their wet linen in the cold Seine, though it is January, she has seen the strangest fortunes in her day. Even now pillar and wall inside are tawdry with the remaining decorations for the last princely baptism; but within, the place looks forlorn and cold, heavy with incense, and soiled with use, yet not inhabitable. Perhaps all foreign churches are somewhat the same to English eyes. I will not say quite so much as that, but I certainly thought so in Notre Dame.

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At the end of a long, broad, noble avenue of trees, the Place de la Concorde separates the gardens of the Tuileries from the Champs Elysées, which is simply another very fine avenue, with lines of trees on either side, and great houses retired within long withdrawing gardens beyond. It is something to see the Place de la Concorde at night. The extent is so great, and the lamps so many that they seem to be placed at two or three different levels, and dazzle the spectator like an illumination. Then there are the carriage-lamps (or cab-lamps, which are quite as good at a distance), twinkling along the different lines of road which intersect it, and looking like wandering couples of lights which have been seized with the fancy of promenading. Few people about, the darkness of a winterly night lying heavy upon the Tuileries gardens on one side, and the Champs Elysées on the other; very little around to be heard anywhere, and silence gradually falling even upon the Rue Rivoli. This great Place, in possession of its lights, is exceedingly imposing. Then the long colonnades of the Rue Rivoli itself, with a lamp at every arch, a profusion and waste of light spreading its brightness on the night air with nobody to see it, which, I presume, if the épiciers dared form themselves into vestries and deliver their opinion upon public economy, would not be so abundant and prodigal. As for the daylight streets, with their gay and noisy crowds-the artificiality quite beyond anything known to us, yet quaintly mingled with a homeliness equally foreign to the British atmosphere everybody has described them. Master Johnnie made his own comment on the scene as he marched through the streets shouting, "Soldier! soldier!" at the top of his small voice, that being a development of humanity in which Johnnie particularly delights-a true description, and a more simple one, could not be given-it is soldier, soldier everywhere-red-legged soldiers, Zouaves, fierce, picturesque, and with a look of Orientalism more real than one could have supposed; blue soldiers, grey soldiers, gendarmes in cocked hats gloriously superior to

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the gentlemen in blue who comforted the heart of Frederika Bremer. Imagine Policeman X in a cocked-hat and mustaches! or heroes like these condescending to flirtation in an area; or lost children and unprotected females clinging to the warlike skirts of such protectors of the peace! For I rather think our lively neighbours have no comprehension of defence or protection which has not a military and aggressive air. Honour to Policeman X! -he is an Anglo-Saxon ideal, though he does not know it; and Master Johnnie delivers a true judgment when he shouts, "Soldier! soldier!" in acknowledgment of the cocked-hats of the gendarmes.

I confess I found the Palais Royal very attractive; the shop windows in that paradise of nicknacks were full of ornaments made of the new metal aluminium, which the scientific people declare with triumph to look nearly as well as pewter, and to be rather dearer than silver. It was pretty enough in the said shop windows to tempt my sister and I a little; but our French is, or was, to speak genteelly, limited, and Harry would lend himself to no extravagances. I almost think there was the least morsel of a quarrel on the subject; but I have long ago given up in disgust any interference with the quarrels of married people. Just at the very moment when the struggle gets interesting, when one has taken one's side, and gets excited by the conflict, the combatants suddenly appear all smiles and mutual satisfaction; one or the other has happened to touch the harmonising string, and the affair is over. I say it may be very good fun for themselves, but it is excessively disgusting to the spectator, who had made up his or her mind for a battle-royal, and suddenly finds the ground taken from beneath his feet, and the two dear people before him totally unconscious of having been at daggersdrawn half an hour ago; so I have given up all part in quarrels matrimonial. We went back to our hotel accordingly, a little silent and sulky, to dine at a table-d'hôte where there was nobody but dreary young Englishmen and wandering Yankees,

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