Dating from 1560-1565, Hoghton Tower is a Grade I listed fortified manor house situated on the highest hill in the Hoghton area. The following tale by John Roby was published in his ‘Traditions of Lancashire’ in 1872. He refers to it being left to decay and by the middle of the 19th century it was derelict. Restoration of Hoghton Tower started when it was inherited by Sir Henry de Hoghton, the 9th Baronet (1821-1876) in 1862 and continued after his death by his brother Sir Charles de Hoghton, 10th Baronet (1823-1893), who lived there from 1880.
“The ancient castle denominated Hoghton Tower stands on the summit of a hill, formerly shrouded with trees, four miles and a half west of Blackburn. It was erected by Sir Thomas Hoghton*, in the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. It remained for several generations the principal seat of the Hoghton family; and after part of it had been blown up by accident, when garrisoned for Charles the First, the injury was repaired. The family have now removed to Walton Hall; and Hoghton Tower is left to decay, two poor families inhabiting the south wing only. A ponderous gateway, immediately under the centre tower, leads to the quadrangular courtyard, capable of holding six hundred men. The noble embattled tower, forming the west front, with its two minor square towers, serve as appendages to the north and south wing, and are united by low walls. Within the courtyard, a noble flight of steps leads to the middle quadripartite, similar in aspect to Stonyhurst College, the ancient residence of the Sherbornes. This middle pile contains large staircases, branching out to long galleries, into which the several chambers open. One chamber, still called James the First’s room, is considered ‘most worthy of notice;’ it has two square windows in both north and south, is beautifully wainscoted, and contains some old furniture. A fine prospect is gained from this ancient and sequestered abode: the pretty village of Walton-le-dale, delightfully situate in a valley, the improving town of Preston, and the single-coned Nase Point presenting itself majestically in the distance. The gentle river Darwen pursues its placid course among the enclosures at the base of the hill.”
The above description, extracted from Nichols’s Royal Progresses of James the First, and likewise the particulars scattered through the following tale, will, we hope, convey to the reader a pretty accurate idea of this noble but deserted mansion.
A petition, which was presented here (some say at Meyerscough) to King James, by a great number of Lancashire peasants, tradesmen, and servants, requesting that they might be allowed to take their diversions (as of old accustomed) after divine service on Sundays, is said to have been the origin of the Book of Sports, soon after promulgated by royal authority. James being persuaded those were Puritans who forbade such diversions, and that they were Jewishly inclined, because they affected to call Sunday the Sabbath, recommended that diverting exercises should be used after evening prayer, and ordered the book to be read publicly in all churches; and such ministers as refused to obey the injunction were threatened with severe punishment in the High Commission Court. This legal violation of the day which is unequivocally the Christian Sabbath, roused at the time the indignation of the seriously disposed, and has been frequently reprobated by historians. Foremost of its opposers, and eminent in example, stands the virtuous and firm Archbishop Abbot, who, being at Croydon the day it was ordered to be read in churches, flatly forbade it to be read there; which the King was pleased to wink at, notwithstanding the daily endeavours that were used to irritate the King against him. The Book of Sports is not, however, without its apologists among modern writers. The following are Mr D’Israeli’s remarks on the subject:—”The King found the people in Lancashire discontented, from the unusual deprivation of their popular recreations on Sundays and holidays after the church service: ‘With our own ears we heard the general complaint of our people.’ The Catholic priests were busily insinuating among the lower orders that the Reformed religion was a sullen deprivation of all mirth and social amusements, and thus ‘turning the people’s hearts.’ But while they were denied what the King terms ‘lawful recreations’ (which are enumerated to consist of dancing, archery, leaping, vaulting, May-games, Whitsun-ales, morris-dances, and the setting up of Maypoles, and other manly sports), they had substituted some vicious ones. Alehouses were more frequented, drunkenness more general, tale-mongery and sedition, the vices of sedentary idleness, prevailed, while a fanatical gloom was spreading over the country. The King, whose gaiety of temper instantly sympathised with the multitude, being perhaps alarmed at this new shape which Puritanism was assuming, published the Book of Sports, which soon obtained the contemptuous name of ‘The Dancing Book'” (Life of James, p. 135). In reply to this view of the subject we shall, for the present, conclude with Dr Whitaker’s remark, that “The King was little aware of the effects which the ill-judged licence was likely to produce on the common people. The relics of it are hardly worn out to this day; and there is scarcely a Sunday evening in any village of the county of Lancaster which does not exhibit symptoms of obedience to the injunction of honest ‘recreation.'”—Royal Progresses of James I.
On the 15th of August, in the year 1617, a day memorable for its heat and brightness, and for the more enduring glory shed over this remote corner of our rejoicing and gladdened realm, came forth King James, from the southern gate of his loyal borough of Preston, in a gilded and unwieldy caroche, something abated of its lustre by reason of long service and the many vicissitudes attending his Majesty’s “progresses,” which he underwent to the great comfort and well-being of his dominions.
It were needless to set forth the mighty state in which this war-hating monarch, this “vicegerent of Divinity,” departed—or the great error and agitation of Mr Breares, the lawyer, when he made a marvellous proper speech at the town-cross—wiping his forehead thrice, and his mouth barely once. Nor shall we dilate upon the distress, and dazzling silk doublets of the mayor and aldermen of this proud and thrice-happy borough—nor how they knelt to the soft salute of his Majesty’s hand. Our whole book were a space too brief, and a region too inglorious, for the wide pomp and paraphernalia of the time; and how the bailiff rode, and the mace-bearer guarded the caroche, it were presumption, an offensive compound of ignorance and pride, to attempt the portraiture. Suffice it to say, they wore mulberry-coloured taffeta gowns, carried white staves and foot-cloths, and were preceded by twenty-four stout yeomen riding before the king, with fringed javelins, unto a place beyond Walton, where they departed. Our object is to notice matters of less magnitude and splendour; occurrences then too trivial to guide the pen of the chronicler, lost beneath the blaze and effulgence that followed on the track of this pageant-loving king. Scraps, which the pomps and vanities of those days would have degraded, we thus snatch from oblivion; a preservation more worthy, and an occupation more useful, we hope, than to hand down to admiring ages the colour and cut of taffeta or brocade.
This “wisest” of earthly kings was an ill-spoiled compound of qualities, the types of which existed in his monitor and his preceptor; two great men, whom history has not failed to distinguish—Archie Armstrong and George Buchanan—the wit and the scholar, which in him became the representatives of two much more useful and esteemed qualities—fool and pedant!
Attended by his favourite Buckingham and a numerous train of officials, he “progressed” upon the road to Hoghton Tower, the spacious and splendid dwelling of Sir Richard Hoghton, the first baronet of that family, whose guest he was to continue for a space, to the great envy and admiration of the whole neighbourhood.
As they came nigh the Tower, nothing could be conceived more beautiful or picturesque. Its embattled-gateway, bartizans, and battlements, crowning the summit of a bold and commanding eminence, became brightly illuminated, flashing against grim and shapeless masses of cloud, the shattered relics of a storm, that was rolling away in the distance.
Many of the neighbouring gentry were in attendance, not disdaining to wear, out of grace and courtesy to Sir Richard Hoghton, the livery of their thrice-honoured entertainer.
The king’s train alone were very numerous, amongst whom appeared Lord Zouch, Constable of Dover Castle, and Sir George Goring, Lieutenant of the Gentlemen Pensioners. With the latter rode Sir John Finett, Assistant Master of the Ceremonies, but who acted the chief part in this important office during the king’s journey; two worthies, of whom it might be said, that for tempering of the king’s humour, and aptness in ministering to his delights, their like could scarcely have been found. Such nights of feasting and dancing, such days of hawking, hunting, and horse-racing, had never before gladdened the heart of “Merry Englonde,” or England’s monarchs. It seemed as if the whole realm were given up to idolatry and dissipation. The idol pleasure was worshipped with such ardour and devotion, that all ranks were striving to outdo each other in tinsel, trumpery, and deeds of worthlessness and folly.
The king loved such disguises and representations as were witty and sudden; the more ridiculous, and to him the more pleasant. This vain and frivolous humour might seem unworthy and unbecoming in so great a prince, whose profundity of wisdom had well entitled him to the appellation of “our English Solomon,” did we not call to remembrance that the greatest of men have not disdained to be children in their sports; the deepest dispositions of the mind seeming to require the lightest and most frivolous recreations.
These worthy purveyors to the king’s pleasure were of a temper and capacity widely different. Sir George Goring was caustic and severe; Sir John Finett pleasant and social, delighting in nothing so much as in the happiness and gratification of his friends. But the natural disposition of his thoughts was wild and melancholic, taking its hue from some early impression, that was now fading in doubt and disappointment.
The full burst of his hilarity floated joyously on the surface, and his loud mirth, blunting the keen edge of his own feelings, became the more exhilarating in proportion to their acuteness. He had the warm blood of the Italian in his veins, being descended from an ancient family of Sienna; and his rich brown cheek and darkly-speaking eye belied not the land of his origin. Goring was fat and swarthy: his nose small and supercilious, and his eye grey and piercing. He cared not whom he wounded, provided the shafts he drew were well pointed; and his wit quick and well-aimed, causing the king to laugh, and his victim to writhe during their operation.
As the monarch sate discoursing with the Duke of Buckingham, being sore heated, he threw open the windows of his coach, from whence he occasionally obtruded his wise head for a survey, and a visit from some vagrant and silly breeze, if any were abroad. The roads admitted not of aught but the gentlest paces, and the great clamour and cloud about the procession made the dust and heat excessively annoying; whereupon the king, it is said, did apply a very uncourteous epithet to some of his loving subjects, who came too close upon his person, which, though not generally averse to being gazed at, was in too warm an atmosphere at present for enjoying these kingly exhibitions.
“O’ my saul, that meikle stane would build a bra’ chappin-block for my Lord Provost,” said royalty, its head again stationed at the window, surveying with solemn curiosity an egg-shaped stone of the boulder sort, which, sure enough, was of a remarkable bigness, though not of that rarity or infrequence that should have drawn forth the wonder of a king. His native dialect he generally employed on jocose and familiar subjects. In affairs of importance he affected the use of the English tongue, which he spoke with great formality and pomp.
“Stop,” said he. “There be literæ or letters thereon. Unto what purport?”
But no one could resolve him as to the use of the stone, or the purport of the writing. His worthy host protested that the wonder had never before been observed. It was doubtless some miracle worked for the occasion.
“But the scriptum or writing will set forth the motive or argument thereto. The letters be goodly and well-shapen.”
Many voices recited the inscription, forming the following ill-spelled line.
“Torne me o’re, an I’le tel thee plaine.”
The well-known childish curiosity of the monarch would not permit him to go away unsatisfied. The day was hot, and the stone was heavy; but a long and laborious toil brought to light the following satisfactory intelligence,—
“Hot porritch softens hard butter-cakes,So torne me o’er again”
“And o’ my saul,” said the king, “ye shall gang roun’ to yere place again; for sa meikle as these country gowks mauna ken the riddle without the labour.”
So the “muckle stane” was replaced for the next comer who had strength and curiosity enough to unriddle the sphinx.
But James did not relish fooleries wherein he was the butt. Whether it was devised by some wicked rhymester and contemner of royalty in the neighbourhood, or placed there by some of the wits of his own company, was never ascertained, though he challenged them at random, and swore lustily that he would know the originator of this piece of folly and impertinence.
As the king drew nigh to the avenue, there presently issued forth a goodly flourish of trumpets, which made the women caper and the horses prance. Sir Richard Hoghton rode with the king; but his son Sir Gilbert met his Majesty with a great retinue, clad mostly after the same fashion; many of the neighbouring gentry, as we have before observed, not disdaining to put on Sir Richard’s gowns and liveries, to swell the pomp and magnificence of that memorable occasion.
The javelin-bearers rode two and two: halting at his Majesty’s approach, they formed an avenue, through which Sir Gilbert, sumptuously attired, went forth to salute the king. His cloak and hose were all glistening and spangled with embroidery; his vest was cloth of gold, enriched with rare and costly stones; his shirt-bands and ruffles were worked in silver; and his gloves, Spanish, breathing out the choicest perfume; his hat was of French murrey, the brims thick set with gold twist and spangles; round it was a band of goldsmith’s work, looped with a crystal button.
On approaching the monarch he gracefully alighted; whereupon James commanded that the carriage should be stayed, thrusting out his hand in a very gracious sort to this worthy knight, who, on his knees, received the blessing.
His Majesty then took horse, assisted by Buckingham, who held the stirrup. But the king’s peculiar and unsteady vaulting was much noticed. Many of the bystanders, not aware of his Majesty’s dislike to these equestrian feats, marvelled not a little at the motion of his leg, and the disturbed and uneasy position he assumed. The pathway up the avenue was laid with purple velvet, on which the glittering cavalcade, horse and foot, formed a noble pageant, whose pomp was almost dazzling to behold. The carriages took another path opened for the occasion. The whole area in front of the Tower teemed with multitudes, whose shouts and huzzas made the very hills and echoes loyal, while they rang with acclamations to their sovereign. Presently issued forth from the middle gateway two curiously-attired figures, bearing emblems to indicate their character and design. There were living allegories, represented by the house-steward and Hobbe Handycap, the forester or tienman, keeper of vert and venison, a “ryghte merrie knave,” and one foremost in all pastimes and “honest recreations;” a great promoter and performer of May-games, morris-dancing, and the like. These figures were to be conceived as household gods, the tutelary deities of Hoghton. The first spokesman was clad in a purple taffeta mantle; in one hand was a palm-tree branch, on his head a garland of the like sort, and in the other hand he carried a dog.
King James accustomed to, and expecting these mummeries, made a full stop, when, forthwith, began the purple mantle as follows—
“This day, great Kinge, for government admired,Which these thy subjects have so much desired,Shall be kept holy in their heart’s best treasure,And vowed to James, as is this month to Cæsar;” with a good score of lines besides, of the like brevity and metre. In them he was said to be greater even than the immortal gods themselves, seeing that they came to render their homage unto him, together with all things else over which they bare rule, even as the greater doth include the less.
Then spake Hobbe, the deity of the chase:—
“Greatest of mortals!”
But he was presently nonplussed, and the steward stept forth to his relief, reciting how that the glorious beams from his Majesty’s person had stricken dumb this weaker divinity. Having finished, the heat being intense, and they mightily encumbered with garments, did presently turn their backs on the king’s majesty, making all speed towards the gateway for shelter. This breach of good manners was not unnoticed by the monarch, who said, wittily, we suppose, for it was much applauded, that these gods were not of High Olympus, but of the nether sort, inasmuch as they had turned tail upon their subject.
James and his company, passing through the ponderous and embattled gateway, entered into the great quadrangle, an area, it is reported, of sufficient size to contain six hundred men. Here he alighted, and was conducted in great state to the oaken chamber, where, royalty being very hot, a tankard of Rhenish wine, mingled with rosewater, was handed to him; of this he partook but sparingly, calling to Buckingham for a cup of muscadine and eggs.
Goring and Finett were not idle, but each of them fully employed in their respective vocations. Sir John had been pierced by a pair of dark eyes from the crowd upon the staircase, and Goring was making all haste for the royal hunt, his Majesty having signified that he would on that same evening kill a stag. James was, generally, as quick to resolve as he was impotent to execute; vacillating, and without any fixed purpose, in matters that required decision and promptitude of action.
With his usual pusillanimity the king went through the business of the hunt, the deer being literally driven into the very teeth of the dogs. An hour having been thus occupied, he commanded that they should return, highly satisfied with his own skill and intrepidity. Ascending the hill with his favourite, Goring, and discoursing pleasantly on this noble pastime, the king turned round on the sudden, as though recollecting something he had lost.
“What! Jack Finett. Quhere? quhere, I say, is my Sienna balsam?” said he, laying a deep emphasis on the guttural. This sally was acknowledged with delight by the courtiers. But “Jack” had not been seen or even remembered. Some trick or device was doubtless intended, and the king held himself in readiness for the expected surprise; but none was forthcoming. No magazine of mirth exploded; no mine was sprung; and James entered into his chamber without any visible expression of jocoseness issuing from the fertile brains of Sir John Finett. The irritation produced by his absence seemed to arise, not from any need of him, but from that tormenting desire which mortals universally feel for the possession of objects beyond their reach. Search was commanded for the truant, unsuccessfully; and supper was begun.
The eastern side of the hill on which the tower is built is bold and rugged, being steep and difficult of access. At its base the Darwen forces itself through a narrow channel, its waters tumbling over huge heaps of rock, and reeling in mazy eddies to the echo of their own voice. The river seems to have worked itself a passage through the chasm; and the boiling and noisy torrent, struggling to free itself from observation, foams and bellows like the gorge of a whirlpool, from whence originates its name, “The Orr,” not unlike in sound to the effect that is here produced.
On the opposite shore the rock is nearly perpendicular, the dog-rose and the bramble hiding its crevices, and the crawling campanula wreathing its bright bells about the sterile front, from which its sustenance was derived, like youth clinging to the cold and insensate bosom of age. The declivity sloping abruptly from the tower was then covered with a wild and luxuriant underwood, stunted ash and hazel twigs thinly occupying a succession of ridges to the summit. Here and there a straggling oak threw its ungraceful outline over a narrow path, winding immediately under the base of the hill,—its bare roots undermined by oozings from above, and giving way to the slow but certain operation of the destroyer. From the heat and dryness of the season the torrent was much diminished, rushing into a succession of deep pools, which the full free light of heaven had scarcely ever visited. Now dimly seen through the hot gleams of a summer evening, they seemed wavering in the lurid reflection from surrounding objects.
Up this narrow gorge had strayed Sir John Finett with a companion, too busily engaged, it might seem, in their own converse to note the lapse of time, and the probable consequences of the king’s displeasure.
“Fair lady,” said the gay cavalier, “I am not more bold than my vocation holdeth meet. Your cousin, at Myerscough, was so liberal of his own suit, and my countenance therein, that he hath entrusted this love-billet to my keeping, warning me that I should let none but yourself be privy to its delivery.”
“Would that my cousin had eschewed letter-writing! I am averse to his suit, and yet he ceaseth not to vex me continually with his drivelling ditties. His ballad-mongering to these ‘eyne’ alone would set up one of your court rhymesters for a twelvemonth.”
“Yet may aversion cease, and your mislikings be not over difficult to assuage,” said the courtier.
“I doubt not but Sir John Finett speaks of the capricious and changeable humours he hath witnessed;—our country fashion holdeth not so lightly by its affection or disfavour.”
“Then there be doubtless of those stout vessels that shall never leak out a lady’s favour. That this lot were mine!”
Sir John, perhaps unconsciously, threw his dark eyes full upon the lady, who blushed deeply; but the gloom concealed this outward show of feeling, too unformed and indefinite for thought. She spoke not; but the knight, under cover of his errand, continued the discourse without awakening her alarm. He excelled in that specious, though apparently heedless raillery, which is so apt to slip without suspicion into a lady’s ear; and he could ply his suit, under this disguise, with such seeming artlessness and unconcern, that a lodgement in the citadel was sometimes effected ere the garrison was aware of the intrusion.
This fair dame, Grace Gerard, was of gentle blood, a daughter of the Gerards of Ashton Hall, near Lancaster. At the earnest solicitations of the Hoghton family, she was induced to remain a guest with them during the royal visit. Of a sweet and excellent temper, her form and face were its very image and counterpart. The world was to her untried—fresh, fair, unblemished—she looked upon it as though she were newly alighted on “some heaven-kissing hill,” from whence the whole round of life’s journey was blent and mingled with the glowing beam that now encompassed her. Alas! that youth should so soon pluck and eat of the “Tree of Knowledge!” that a nearer approach should dissipate the illusion! that our path, as it winds through those scenes we have looked on from afar in the light of our imagination, should at every step discover the tracks of misery,—a world of wretchedness and of woe!
Sir John, with all his faults, inseparable it may be from the society into which he had been thrown, was not vicious. Loving and beloved, he existed but as the object of woman’s regard. This foible he indulged not farther. But many a bright eye waxed dim,—many a fond heart was withered, in the first spring-tide of its affection.
“Now that I have granted you this audience for my cousin’s sake, and given him my reply, it is needful that we return. Besides, the night is coming on. The king and the feast demand your presence.”
“Nay, thou cruel tyrant, tell me not of my chain. The king’s humour I can control, but”——
“Presume not on the favour of princes; an ancient but wholesome caution,” said the maiden, laughing at Sir John, who, for the first time, seemed to be aware of his duty, and was puzzling his brains for an excuse.
The bell now rang out lustily from the Tower, increasing the knight’s perplexity. The innocent cause of this delay only laughed at his concern, singing, as though to herself—
“‘The bell has been rung, and the mass hath been sung,And the feast eat merrily, Merrily!’
“and the king’s master of the ceremonies absent.”
The aspect of affairs was now more serious than he had anticipated. Supper was indeed commencing. Some scheme or witty device must be hit upon,—speedily too, or the king’s displeasure might be difficult to assuage.
“But for thy bright eyes and fair speech, my lady Grace, I had not been amissing from my duty.” He looked thoughtful, and it was the maiden’s turn to rally.
They ascended the hill by a short but steep path. As they approached the summit, he seemed to awake from a deep reverie.
“Now have you granted me an audience for a lover’s sake—to-morrow, let me be the ambassador for another.”
“I have no lovers from whom I would care to be honoured with an embassy!”
“None?” said the knight, peering curiously, as if he would penetrate the folds of a real Flanders scarf she had thrown carelessly about her head—
“‘Then will I be thy lover true,And thou my beauteous queene,’
“through these gay festivities. But mark me!”—He became serious on the sudden. The expression of his eye, from its general character of assumed gaiety, was changed into that of tenderness and respect. “Mark me, lady, I would be spared the horror of a rival. Will you be my partner in these pageantries—my mistress unto whom I may render mine homage and my trust?”
“‘Tis a brave speech, Sir John,” cried the lady, as though wishful to divert the subject. “My cousin tells me that you are a knight of great courage and renown, but he sayeth not aught of your disposition to outrival him in heroics. Good-bye—a promise made is a promise broken; therefore, I’ll offer none. I meet you not to-night at the feast, having obtained mine excuse.”
Saying this, she bounded from him ere he was aware, and was speedily out of sight.
He was not a little chagrined at her abrupt departure; yet her very carelessness, and the open simplicity of her manner, only served to fix her the more deeply in his thoughts. But a problem of greater difficulty was to be resolved than how to fix the chameleon hue of woman’s thought. He had a king to pacify—wayward as a child, fickle as a lady’s favour. Unless he could acquit himself by some witty quibble or device, he might bid adieu to the gaieties over which he presided. The time was short, and his wit must needs be ambling. As he passed through the court, revolving many plans for his deliverance, he was aware of a loud dispute between the two household divinities we have before noticed. Words were nigh being exchanged for blows, but they were stayed out of respect to the intruder.
Leaving Sir John to confer with those doughty disputants, let us follow the king to supper. Space forbids that we describe the wonders of this feast, and the dainties that were provided—how the swans were roasted, and the herons eaten cold—how pies were baked of the red deer, and the wild boar, not a whit too small for the reception of any moderate-sized Christian subject of his Majesty’s. There were turkeys, quails, poults, and plovers; but of pheasants only two, and one for the king. The greatest triumph, however, was reserved for the confections; an artificial hen was here served of puff-paste; her wings displayed, sitting upon eggs of the same materials. In each of these was enclosed a fat lark roasted, and seasoned with pepper and ambergris.
They sat down, but the master of the ceremonies was still absent; whereupon the king, much distempered thereby, called out to Sir George Goring—
“Our mummer and our dancer being departed—whilk thing, aforetime, we did maist righteously inhibit—thinkest thou, he may not henceforth eschew our service?”
“My liege, your Grace’s commands were to seek him a full hour agone, but the scared deer hath taken to covert. He was, peradventure, afraid of the hunting, and liketh his own neck better than the sport. He careth not, methinks, to show his face that turns big back on his comrade’s peril.”
“May be,” said Buckingham, “your Majesty’s favour is not so winsome as a lady’s cheek. I would wager my cap, Jack Finett hath found a smoother tongue, but a harder service, than your Majesty’s.”
“O’ my saul,—if I thought so,” said the monarch, as he threw down a spoonful of buttered pease, “I would send him to the Tower, and he should write a book on Hercules his distaff.”
“Or Omphale’s spindle,” said a voice at the lower end of the hall, which, issuing from a mask, closely fitted, sounded wondrously hollow and portentous. A profound silence ensued—all eyes being turned towards the speaker, who was no less a personage than the first household god, attired in his proper suit. He approached the king’s table, waving his hand in token of attention—
“The knight ye speak of, mark me well,I’ve just drawn from the castle-well!”
“Mercy on us,” cried Sir Richard Hoghton. “The draw-well is more than eighty yards deep. Thou art a lying deity, and shalt be banished from this bright Olympus.”
But the deity, nothing abashed, thus continued—
“How came he thus, I dare not tell;My brother may the mystery dispel.”
He stooped down—rising again to the astonished eyes of the fair dames and nobles at the upper bench, in the forester’s habit of Kendal green, with cloak and doublet of the same colour.
“What’s now?” said James. “Witchery and fause negromancie, o’ my troth. ‘Tis treason, Sir Richard, to use glamour in the king’s presence.”
But the sylvan god continued in the doggerel of his predecessor—
“Sir John to be forgiven would hope;He had been drowned, but for the rope!”
“Ay,” said the king, chuckling at this opportunity, purposely given, for a display of his wit—”he’ll be hanged—na doot, na doot.”
“Prythee, Sylvanus, or whatever thou be, bring Sir John hither, that he may dry his web in the hot sunshine of a lady’s glance,” said Villiers, with an ill-suppressed sneer.
Again this Proteus was transformed. Doffing his habit, Sir John Finett stood confessed before them. He knelt penitently before the king, humbly assuring his Majesty that he had been preparing this device, and many others, to please and surprise him; but that, through the bungling of some, and the bashfulness of others, he was obliged to enact the parts himself. This excuse the king was graciously pleased to accept, commending him for his great diligence and zeal.
The night now wore on with much outward show of mirth and revelry; but the king went early to rest, purposing to rise betimes.
On the following day he went out again with a great company, and killed a brace of stags, which mighty achievement, by authentic record, we find was accomplished before dinner—the king alone being able to bring down the venison.
We willingly pass over this day’s banquet; nor do we care to chronicle the feats of Morris the head-cook, and his deputies of the ranges and the pastries. The boiling and roasting of poults and pullets, and the construction of comfits and confections, we consign to everlasting oblivion.
When the king rose from table, about four o’clock, as we find it in the private journal of one present, he purposed to view the alum-mines, about two miles distant from the Tower; but, being eager for the sport, he went forth again a-hunting. He shot at a stag and missed. The next bolt broke the thigh-bone, and the dog being long in coming, Lord Compton despatched the poor beast, whereby his capture was effected. We forbear to dwell on this, and much more of the like interest, returning with the king to supper, where the beauteous Grace Gerard was present, and Sir John Finett, her true knight and devoted slave. Dr Morton, then Bishop of Chester, was chaplain, doling out a long Latin grace with great unction.
The music had ceased, the second course being just served, when a signal was given for the king’s pledge.
“Let each one pledge the fairest,” cried the royal toast-master, moved to some unwonted gallantry by approximation with the fair and lusty dames about his person. For it hath been wittily if not wickedly said by a popular writer in another place that James was in all things like unto Solomon, save in the matter of women.
Now was there a brave stir throughout the assembly. Such pledging of mistresses and challenging of cups, that nothing could be like unto it.
“To the bright eyes and peerless grace of the lady Grace Gerard,” said Sir John Finett, draining his goblet to the uttermost;—and the maiden’s cheek glowed like a furnace.
“Said I not that he could win a lady’s grace sooner than a monarch’s disfavour? Nay, your Majesty, I but meant that Sir John conveys the fairest eyes and the warmest hearts into his own keeping, like an Ochus-Bochus,” said Buckingham, looking envious at the distinction he had gained.
“I see plainly that Truth is hidden in a well,” said Goring, drily.
Sir John Finett, courtier and dissembler as he was, could scarcely hide the truth of this sally. But he quickly recovered his self-possession ere the king’s eye could detect a change. Yet did he not escape the vigilance of his two friends, who suspected the real cause of his absence on the preceding night.
“Thou shalt be her true knight to-morrow, and she shall be queen of our sports,” said the king, graciously extending his hand to the blushing maiden.
But this speech pleased not some of the courtiers, and Buckingham, having his eye on this fair flower, secretly resolved that Sir John should not enjoy its fragrance unmolested.
On the following morning, being Sunday, there came a great company of peasants and handicraftsmen—notorious idlers about the parish—with a petition, wherein it was shown that the loyal and peaceable inhabitants of Lancashire had been long hindered of their usual diversions on Sundays and other holidays by the rigour of Puritans, Precisians, and such like folk, who, being enemies to all innocent and lawful mirth, did mightily begrudge and maliciously restrain their use. These petitioners, therefore, prayed his Majesty, “that he would not forbid their exercising of all honest and lawful recreation, such as dancing of men and women, archery, running, leaping, and vaulting; nor prohibit the use of May-games, May-poles, morris-dances, and other like lawful sports, so that the same should not impediment or cause neglect of divine service.”
The ground of this complaint was laid in the time of Elizabeth, who, in order to reform the manners of the people, instituted a high commission in the year 1579. The commissioners were Henry Earl of Derby, Henry Earl of Huntingdon, William Lord Bishop of Chester, and others. At their sittings, which were held in Manchester, they issued orders throughout the county against “pipers and minstrels playing, making, and frequenting bear-baiting and bull-baiting on the Sabbath days, or upon any other days in time of divine service, and also against superstitious ringing of bells, wakes, and common feasts; drunkenness, gaming, and other vicious and unprofitable pursuits.” These restrictions the royal pedant thought incompatible with the public weal, and graciously answered the petitioners in such-wise that he would have these over-righteous zealots rebuked; that it was a misuse of their authority; and that he would not only grant the humble request of his subjects, but, on that very evening he would have a masque and an allegory, with dancing and other like diversions, by the lords and other nobility there present.
Such was the origin of the famous Book of Sports. His Majesty, on returning to the capital, issued a proclamation, stating—
“That in his progress through Lancashire he found it necessary to rebuke some Puritans and precise people, and took order that the said unlawful carriage should not be used by any of them hereafter, in the prohibiting and unlawfully punishing his good people, for using their lawful recreations and honest exercises upon Sundays, after divine service.” “His Majesty further saw that his loyal subjects in all other parts of the kingdom did suffer in the same kind, though not, perhaps, in the same degree as in Lancashire; and he did therefore, in his princely wisdom, publish a declaration to all his loving subjects concerning lawful sports to be used on Sundays and festivals.”—Published by his royal command in the year 1618, under the title of the Book of Sports. The royal visit to Lancashire proved ultimately of more importance to the civil and ecclesiastical establishments of the kingdom than could have been anticipated either by the king or his subjects. This infamous Book of Sports formed the first link in that mysterious chain of events, ending in the downfall of the Stuarts, and their exile and expulsion from the throne.
The gladsome tidings having been communicated to the petitioners, with one accord they galloped off, shouting and huzzaing, to the great annoyance of all peaceable and sober-minded persons, and the great dishonour of that holy day.
The king attended divine service at the chapel, where Dr Morton preached, commanding and exhorting to an obedience well pleasing to their Maker; inasmuch as it was rendered to the vicegerent of heaven, the high and mighty and puissant James, defender of the Faith, and so forth. After this comfortable and gracious doctrine, there was a rush-bearing and a piping before the king in the great quadrangle. Robin Hood and Maid Marian, with the fool and hobby-horse, were, doubtless, enacted to the jingling of morris-dancers and other profanities.
These fooleries put the king into such good humour that he was more witty in his speech than ordinary. Some of these sayings have been recorded, and amongst the rest that well-known quibble which has been the origin of an absurd mistake, still current through the county, respecting the sirloin. It is said to have been knighted there by his Majesty, who found, such were his knight-making propensities, that other subjects were exhausted.
The occasion, as far as we have been able to gather, was thus:—Whilst he sat at meat, casting his eyes upon a noble surloin at the lower end of the table, he cried out—
“Bring hither that surloin, sirrah, for ’tis worthy of a more honourable post, being, as I may say, not surloin but sirloin, the noblest joint of all;” which ridiculous and desperate pun raised the wisdom and reputation of England’s Solomon to the highest.
Great was the stir and preparation for the evening masque; a pageant containing many allegories and devices; dancing and merry games, with all other “lawful recreations and honest amusements.” Little heed was given, we fear, to their Maker’s service, these vain follies running in the heads and filling the thoughts of the few who chose to attend in the chapel; the greater portion were preparing for the entertainment, into which service they entered heartily, and without grudge.
Sir George Goring and Sir John Finett were verily indefatigable on the occasion, drilling and marshalling men, women, and children; conning their lessons, and correcting the awkward and ridiculous movements and mistakes of their pupils. Hobbe and the house steward were the foremost in their parts, having important functions allotted to them; one to grunt and howl in the similitude of a huge bear, and the other to roar in lieu of a lion, before the “Bower of Beautie” for such was the title or motto of the pageant. Nor was Sir John lacking in due homage to his mistress; she was appointed to enact “The Queen of Beautie.” It was after much solicitation that she consented, receiving with great gravity and attention the instructions of her accomplished preceptor.
The day was nigh spent and the sun fast sinking on the ocean, now waiting with a chariot of flame to conduct him to other skies.
Grace was just finishing her toilet, and her maid adjusting the last plait in her head-dress, when a low and guarded knock announced a visitor. The door was slightly opened, when a messenger threw in a gay billet and departed. It was superscribed thus:—”To the Fairest, These.”
With a quickened pulse and a tremulous hand, she glanced over the page, elaborately penned as follows:—
“The Bower of Beautie hath a snake; beware that he come not nigh thee, for his tooth has venom, and his tail a sting.
“From the mask with the black visard and silver mantle.
She had barely finished the perusal, when there came tripping in the page of Sir John Finett, carrying a sealed billet redolent with the most costly perfume. The superscription was precisely similar, and nearly in the same hand:—”To the Fairest, These.”
She hastily broke open the packet.
“Beauteous and most matchless queen! jealous of thy coming, the orb of day hasteneth to hide himself in Thetis’s lap. He leaveth thee our luminary in his stead, whose twin stars shall so outmimic day that his brightness shall not be remembered. Truly am I in great heaviness and sorrow, seeing that I cannot be with you in the opening of the pageant, by reason of mine office, and my duty to the king. Yet will I not leave you without a protector. My trusty friend Weldon will enact your faithful knighte. He weareth a black visard and mantle of spotted silver, and will accompany you to the bower, from whence he delivereth the queene and her distressed damsels out of durance. When the dancing begins, expect me.
Little space was left for deliberation. The bell rang out its signal for the actors to arrange themselves; hearing which, she thrust the billets behind her stomacher, and hastened to the great court, where, on a platform supported by four wheels, was builded a sort of hut, decorated in a tawdry and fanciful style, and yeleped “The Bower of Beautie.”
Into this bower the queen was to be conducted, but the uproar and confusion was indescribable; strange and antic figures hurrying to and fro, seeking their companions, and crying lustily for their places. Sir John Finett and Sir George Goring fulfilled the office of whippers-in, attempting to establish order out of these undisciplined elements. Grace drew back; but suddenly there came forth an armed knight from the bower towards her, wearing a black visor and a mantle of spotted silver, courteously beseeching her that she would accompany him to her station. A great curtain of figured arras hung in front, concealing the interior, where the queen and her maidens were supposed to be held captive. Grace stepped into this temporary confinement, in which were four other ladies masked, who graciously saluted their queen. The black-faced visor having seated himself, the arras was again let down; when several men, bedizened with ribands and nosegays, wheeled off the vehicle to its destination on the green.
The bower was garnished with roses, gilliflowers, pinks, and odoriferous herbs. Garlands of artificial flowers were interspersed; likewise imitations in satin, silk, and gold, of various trees, herbs, and fruits, not to be found in those parts. All this had been accomplished with great pains by the ladies of the queen’s mimic court, Sir John Finett superintending “The Bower of Beautie,” as his peculiar province. To Sir George Goring were allotted the bears, satyrs, imps, angels, gods, and other like rabble, who were taught with much labour and difficulty, in so short a space, their several parts.
Sir John Finett had received a mandate to be near the king during the acts, that he might be instructed in their several uses and designs, Buckingham having signified his wish to sport a mask on the occasion; Sir John, therefore, much to his regret, was completely debarred from approaching his mistress.
The king’s coming was announced by a flourish of trumpets, and a loud bray from the delighted multitude, who sent up a shout that shook the very foundations.
Under a pavilion of crimson cloth, decked with fringes and valences of gold, walked forth the monarch. He leaned familiarly on the arm of his host, who, together with Sir John Finett, was in immediate attendance. After the king’s train had passed, came a troop of morris-dancers, and the hobby-horse, who frolicked in a most ungainly fashion round the Bower of Beautie, kissing hands, and making many salutations towards their enthralled queen. Next came out a bear and a lion, accompanied by a thing intended to represent an ape, whose office it was to torment these grave animals with his tricks. But so encumbered were they in their disguise,—a heavy covering of bucks’ skins and long wool,—that they had much ado to keep on their clothes, while attempting to resent the indignities they endured.
“Hang thee, Will—keep thy paws off my tail,” said lion: “Dost not see I shall be uncovered before the king?”
“I’ll baste thine hide,” said bear, “if thou meddlest any more with mine.”
The ape had settled himself on the back of this august-looking animal, from whence he was suddenly dislodged, much to the delight and entertainment of the king, who laughed heartily at his disaster. The ravenous animals were on their way to the bower, there to watch for the captives, making great demonstrations all the while of their bloodthirsty intent.
Bear and lion accordingly squatted down before it, making as though they would gladly have been at supper on the fair carcases of those within. Anon comes a mighty magician, with a long beard, and a wand of some ells in extent, purposing to effect the deliverance of the captives; but the beasts rushed upon him, and in a trice brought him to the ground. At this juncture the Silver Knight—showing thereby the superiority of true valour over false gramarye—should have issued from the bower, rescued the magician, and slain the beasts, opening a way for the escape of these imprisoned damsels, who were to come forth dancing, and representing a fair masque before the king;—but the magician remained unrescued, while bear and lion lay growling for a long space, not knowing what else to do. They looked about wistfully, not choosing to feast on their prostrate victim. At last, finding no change in the posture of affairs, they fairly stood erect, much to the marvel and amusement of the spectators, running off on their hind legs amid the shouts and derision of the assembly.
Sir John, apprehending some mistake, left the king for a moment to see how matters stood; but Goring had lifted up the arras, and, lo! the knight with the black visor and mantle of silver was not there, neither was the Queen of Beauty in her bower. The four disconsolate maidens still sat waiting for their cue, and expecting release. This was an unlooked-for disaster. The pageant was at a stand. On inquiry, the maidens told how that the gallant knight and the peerless queen had departed before the king’s arrival, saying they would return anon.
Sir John was bewildered and alarmed. The Silver Knight was trusty, and no suspicion crossed him from that source; yet was their absence wholly unaccountable. The king, seeing some mistake in the unravelling or conception of the plot, good-naturedly commanded the minstrels to strike up a favourite tune; at the hearing of which a number of masks immediately mustered to begin dancing in the soft and dewy twilight. Amongst the rest came in Buckingham, negligently attired, and without his visor.
“I thought thee hidden amongst the maskers,” said the king.
“Ay, my liege, a short space;—but the night is hot, and I am something distempered and weary in this turmoil.”
Buckingham looked flushed and agitated, strangely differing from his usual manner. It was not unobserved by the king, who attributed the change to illness.
“Thou shalt continue about our person,” said the monarch. “Jack, see to the sports:—the pageant hath suffered greatly from thine absence. I do think the Queen of Beauty hath played thee false.”
Buckingham took his usual station by the king; and Sir John Finett, in great dolour, went forth in search of his mistress. He questioned the guests diligently, but could gain no further tidings, save that she had been seen by many in company with the Silver Knight. Every minute added to his uneasiness: thoughts of a wild and terrible import haunted him. In vain he tried to shake off these intruders—they came like shadows, horrible and indistinct. His naturally sensitive and sanguine temperament, as prone to the anticipation of evil as of delight, was a curse, and not a blessing. Departed hopes may fling a deeper shadow even on the brow of Despair!—and rayless was the night which visited his spirit. It was now too evident—for he was no novice in the science—that his admiration had awakened one dormant but hallowed affection, long lulled in the soft lap of pleasure. The maiden, with whom it was his sole aim to pass a few hours of pleasantry and amusement, had enthralled him by so sudden a spell, that he was more than half inclined to believe in the boasted skill and exploits of the sex, which has rendered Lancashire so famous. Her unaccountable absence impressed itself strangely upon his thoughts. He was in love!—and he writhed at the discovery; but he would have given worlds just then to have proclaimed it at his mistress’s feet.
Scarcely conscious how the night wore on, he was obliged to act his part. Supper was announced; and he took his station where he could see the guests unmask as they entered to the banquet.
The tables were nearly filled, but the Silver Knight and his fair lady were still absent. Grace Gerard is doubtless in her own chamber, was the host’s reply to some inquiry from Sir John:—she had craved excuse from some slight indisposition. But this did not satisfy him to whom it was addressed: he suspected her chamber would be found unoccupied;—his heart felt wasted and desolate;—it was as if the whole fair face of nature were blotted out,—the light being gone which rendered it visible.
“What ho!” said the king, “bring my Sienna knight a cup of hot sack and a merry-thought, for he seems melancholic and watchful—a wary eye, but a silent tongue. Sir John, are your wits a wool-gathering with your queen?”
“I am in my widowhood, most gracious prince,—my queen having departed.”
“More fool thou, to fling thy heart after thy wits. Come, honest Jack, we’ll have some minstrelsy after the feast,—a merry troll and a short one.”
Sir John was well skilled in handling the lute and rebeck. He had been early trained to their use; and many a kind glance and tender word he had won thereby.
The feast was over, and those hushed halls thrilled to the following ditty:—
I. “They bade me sing, they bade me smile,They bade my heart be gay;They called my spirit forth, to whileThe laughing hours away.I’ve sung, I’ve smiled: where’er my pathMirth’s dazzling meteors shine:All hearts have owned its magic power,And all are glad but mine.
II. “I’ve soothed the darkest surge of woe,And many a bosom blessed;Forbade the sufferer’s tear to flow,And brought the weary rest:I’ve poured upon the bleeding heartThe balm of Hope,—the shrineWhere holier, happier thoughts shall dwell;—But who shall gladden mine?
III. “Forgive; ’tis but one short complaint,One pang I would reveal:The wretch upon the torturing rackIs not forbid to feel!Then laugh,—let merry hearts to-nightTheir brightest wreaths entwine:The flowers that bloom on every breastWill, withering, fade on mine!”
Many were the bright eyes glittering on him through their long silken lashes; but Sir John looked downward,—diligently noting something extraordinary in the disposition of his shoe-roses, or in the tie of his garter.
“One raven will set another croaking,” said Sir George.
“That we may escape a concert so detestable,” cried out Buckingham, “let Sir John Finett follow me, and we will reel with our fair dames, until cares whirl off like sling-stones.”
“And may he that tires first fiddle the witches’ jig,” said the sapient king.
A burst of harsh music followed, and Sir John’s feebly tinkling strings were thrown aside. Never had he wished so anxiously for one short hour of quietness; and right fain he was when the king retired to his chamber. His duties for that day were over, and he strolled out from the hot and oppressive atmosphere into a calm quiet moonlight. The cool breeze came like a healing balm upon his spirit, the soft dew fell upon his cheek,—but the fire in his veins burnt fiercely. His mistress’s form, her face, the sweet influence of her smile, were fixed indelibly on his heart. Away from the bustle and cares of office,—which, like waves on the surface, for a while effaced their image,—the whole beauteous impression was revealed before him in all its loveliness and truth. His heart bounded at the thought:—it was but for a moment. Again he stood, hopeless and desolate, gazing upon the soft mist-wreath in the valley, as though expecting it would render up the form of his beloved.
Suddenly the short swift steps of a steed were heard hurrying up the avenue. A horseman approached the gateway: it was his friend, the soi-disant knight of the silver mantle!
“How now, Weldon!—whither have thy unlucky familiars carried thee? Hast thou bestridden the enchanted horse, or wert thou bidden to a witch-feast?”
“I have been to Myerscough with your message,—and the pains I have had for my labour.”
“My message!” said Sir John, with amazement: “I sent thee on no other errand than to guard the lady, whom thou hast either made away with or she hath slipped from thine hold.”
“You are pleasant, Sir John. Your tricks are well enough in court-hours. Come, be serious, and tell me thou hast had a fool’s errand out of me.”
“I never was more serious in my life, Weldon, I do vouch, as my head shall swing safely on its pivot. But who gave thee a message—and to whom?”
“To our fair hostess at Myerscough. Thy page thrust a scrap of writing into my hand after prayers. The request was, that I should see the accompanying billet safely delivered, and with mine own hand, without loss of time. It was one of your curiously-folded fantastic love-billets, as I thought. Knowing I could well be spared hence, I immediately took horse, and came in a bath of foam to the lady; but when she opened her pretty token, she drew herself erect with great majesty. ‘Tell Sir John Finett,’ said she, ‘that when he next sends thee forth on his fooleries, to choose another butt; to shoot his arrows where they will stick, or his goose-feathers may fly back again.'”
Horror almost deprived Sir John of utterance. That some foul play had been meditated, and in all probability accomplished, was but too plain; but how, or by whom, was inscrutable as ever.
The page was straitly questioned; but he merely said that his message was given him by some person he did not recognise in the crowd at the chapel-doors, who said he was to seek Weldon forthwith, and deliver him the papers from his master. What course to adopt, or where to begin their search, were questions alike embarrassing and impossible to answer. In the end they determined to lay the matter before the king on the morrow.
It may be needful to go back a short space to “The Bower of Beautie,” wherein the knight of the silver mantle, having safely ensconced himself, as the reader may remember, the arras was let down; after which, being wheeled away to their destination, they were to await for the commencement of the masque. But the Silver Knight, lifting up the curtain, observed they were much too early for the performance, and courteously entreated the lady that she would alight. The evening was hot, and the bower close and oppressive. An hour might, in all probability, elapse ere their presence would be required. Grace, trusting to her companion, quitted the car, strolling out amongst the masks. Gradually they left the main crowd, unconsciously approaching the steep brow of the hill, where, looking towards the east, they beheld the broad red moon swinging out from the blue horizon. The loud hum of the revellers came softly and pleasantly on the ear. It was an hour of quietness and delight—a few hasty, happy moments snatched from these gaudy hours—the pomp and circumstance of life. Would that Sir John had been here in lieu of his friend! thought Grace. No, she did not think so, but she felt as though such a thought might have been nursed into being with little effort. They were now stealing down the hill, and the dark waters of the Orr were leaping and bubbling at their feet.
“We must return,” said the maiden, looking up, alarmed at seeing, for the first time, that they were cut off from all connection and intercourse with their companions. Her attendant was a perfect stranger, except in name, and though counselled to rely implicity on his care by the master of the ceremonies himself, she felt her situation embarrassing and unpleasant.
“And why must we return?” said the mask. The tone startled her; its expression was now soft and beseeching, as though he had before spoken in a masked voice.
“Why!” said she, looking as though she would have pierced through his disguise.
“Nay, whet not thy glance so keenly. I am not what I seem, and yet am not unseemly.”
“Your jests had been better timed had they taken a fitter season. I must hence.”
“Go not, my beauteous queen,” said the stranger, taking her hand, which she dashed from her with indignation and alarm. She was darting up the crag, but was again detained.
“I will worship thee:—thou shall be my star—the axle of my thoughts. All”——
“Unhand me, sir, or I’ll call those who have the power to punish as well as to humble thy presumption!”
“Whom wilt thou call, my pretty lamb? The wolf? The snake is scotched in the bower, and I but beseech thy gratitude. How that look of scorn becomes thee! Pout not so, my queen, or thou wilt indeed make an excuse for my rudeness.”
“How? Again this insult! Begone, or thou shalt rue that ever thy thought escaped thy tongue. I’ll report thee to thy betters.”
“My betters! and who be they, maiden? Thou knowest me not, perdie. Hath not Sir John Finett shorn his love-locks and eschewed thy service after leaving thy bower the other night?”
This taunt raised her indignation to a blaze—her bosom swelled at the rebuke.
Still he retained her hand—with the other she clung to a withered tree, whose roots held insecurely by the rock. Making another effort, she sprang from his grasp; but the tree was rent from its hold, and she fell with it to the edge of the precipice. Ere the Silver Knight could interpose, a faint shriek announced her descent: a swift crash was heard amongst the boughs and underwood—a groan and a rebound. He saw her disappear behind a crag. Then came one thrilling moment of terror, one brief pause in that death-like stillness, and a heavy plunge was heard in the gulf below! He listened—his perceptions grew more acute—eye and ear so painfully susceptible, and their sensibility so keen, that the mind scarcely distinguished its own reactions from realities—from outward impressions on the sense. He thought he heard the gurgle and the death-throe. Then the pale face of the maiden seemed to spring out from the abyss. He rushed down the precipice. Entangled in the copsewood and bushes, some time elapsed ere he gained the narrow path below. He soon found, as in most other situations, the shortest road the longest—that the beaten track would have brought him quicker to his destination; but these nice calculations were forgotten. All pranked out and bedizened as he was, the puissant knight plunged into the gulf; but his exertions were fruitless, and he gave up the search. His love for the maiden living and breathing did not prompt him to drown himself for her corpse. With hasty steps he regained the Tower, where he doffed his dripping garments unobserved.
Sir John Finett, by advice from his friend Weldon, determined on acquainting their host with the lady’s disappearance. They had a shrewd suspicion that Buckingham was the contriver of this daring outrage; though from his great power, influence, and audacity, they had everything to fear and but little to hope from the result. Yet no time should be lost in the attempt.
As they entered the hall, Sir Gilbert Hoghton and several of the guests were still making merry after the feast. Calling him aside, they communicated the dismal tidings.
“Grace Gerard amissing, say ye?”
“‘Tis even so,” said Sir John; “we have yet no clue to the search; but this night shall not pass without the attempt, at any rate. In the morning we will to the king with our complaint.”
“Boy,” said the baronet to his little henchman, “go to the woman’s suite, and rouse Grace Gerard’s maid.”
“The woman was in the kitchen some half hour agone, conveying her mistress a warm draught, or some such puling diet,” said the page.
“Haste,” cried Sir John impatiently, marvelling at this unexpected intelligence,—”the lad is blinded by some misapprehension. I’ll forfeit my best jewel she is not in her chamber. This interlude works i’ the plot—part of the trickery now enacting.”
But the page made a quick return.
“What news?” said Finett.
“The lady is gone to rest; something discomposed, though, and out of spirits. So says her maiden, whom I would have questioned more straitly, but she rebuked me sharply for my impertinence.”
“Pray you send and question her,” said Sir John.
“Nay,” returned Sir Gilbert, smiling, “I’ll be bound the lady is safe; and her maiden has other guess-matters to look to than letting out the secrets of her mistress’s chamber.”
They were obliged to rest satisfied, or rather unsatisfied, with this answer. But the mystery was more and more inexplicable. Either some laughable mistake or some deep-laid villany was intended. Sir John dared not pursue the subject to this extremity. He felt assured of her purity and honour. Her manners, so confiding and unsuspicious, showed a heart unacquainted with guile.
After a sleepless night Sir John arose, feverish and unrefreshed. He threw open the window of his chamber, which looked into the courtyard. Near a side postern stood a grey palfrey, caparisoned for a lady’s use, and impatiently awaiting its burden. The hour was too early for morning rambles, but the beast was evidently equipped for a journey. Two other steeds were now led forth, as if for the attendants. He caught a glimpse of Grace Gerard’s maid, who seemed, by her dress, to be of the party whose movements he was so anxious to ascertain. He suspected this sudden departure was for the purpose of escaping without his observance. He hurried towards the stairs: just entering the corridor, he met Grace Gerard. She was evidently confused at his appearance. It was but for a moment; her spirit grappled with the occasion; and she replied firmly, and with becoming dignity, to his questions.
“Whither away, our beauteous queen?” said he, bowing almost to the ground. “Are you bound for some isle of the Western Ind, getting the start of Phoebus in his nightly race to those gem-bearing climes? Methinks the sun is departing from us, though but just risen.”
“‘Tis my purpose to depart, Sir John. This clime is too bright, and its beams too fervid, for a lady’s eye.”
“One word in sober speech:—Wherefore?”
“I know your question, Sir John. Time hastens, and I reply. Your knight of the silver mantle I proclaim a recreant, as treacherous as he is base. Sir John, for my—no, for your own sake”——
“Another stole into his place,” said he, interrupting her with great eagerness. “A base-born changeling!—some villain, who, under this disguise, abused our honourable intent; but say, peerless princess, to whose prowess we owe your rescue.”
“‘Tis my first venture into the unhallowed limits of your licentious court; and through the grace that hath preserved me harmless, I here resolve it shall be my last. By your instructions, Sir John, I relied implicitly on the protection of your friend. He would fain have abused his trust, but I escaped from the offered insult. Struggling to free my hand from his grasp, by yonder hill-side, I lost my footing. I fell down the steep unhurt. Fear lent me unwonted strength, and I escaped unseen, round the narrow pathway. My discourteous knight thought, doubtless, I had tumbled into the roaring abyss; for the night mist hung below, and I heard a huge fragment of rock, loosened in my descent, plunge into the dimly-rolling waters. Now, hear me: my resolve is taken, and no earthly influence or persuasion shall stay me. 1 was bewildered, yet flattered by your follies: foolish and thoughtless enough to frolic and flutter on the very brink of a precipice. I was dazzled by the glittering but dangerous excitement. Conscience spoke, but I durst not listen. My course of life hitherto has been through scenes of gentleness and peace, and I could not look on your bustle and dissipation without alarm. Yet was I persuaded to mingle in your sports yesterday—that day hallowed by the last fiat of its Creator, wherein the soul, freed awhile from the cares of earth, may prostrate itself in homage before Him who said, ‘It is mine!’ Justly punished for trifling with my better thoughts, my escape shall not be without its acknowledgment.”
Sir John was silent. She stood before him like some purer, brighter thing than could be deemed akin to this polluted earth.
“Those siren waves were bearing me on to the gulf where”—She paused a moment, shuddering at the dark retrospect of the past. “Where all your pomp and pageantry will be overwhelmed, and yourselves, for ever, in the same irretrievable ruin!”
Sir John looked uneasy, and his eye wandered, as if in search of some object wherewith to throw off these gloomy anticipations. The maiden again spoke:—
“It seemed as though a veil, invisible heretofore, were suddenly undrawn. The glory and the baseness, the splendour and the pollution, were at once revealed. The hand unseen had drawn it aside. I would now shun—I hope for ever—- these paths of folly; and I bid farewell to your pleasures without a murmur or a regret.”
Sir John, courtier though he was, ardently and willingly rendering homage at the shrine of pleasure and dissipation, was awe-struck. Conscience echoed a fearful response; and he shrank before the reproof he could not shun.
“Without regret!” said he, faltering and abashed. “I had hoped—perhaps wished—but it was too presumptuous. My purest thoughts would have sullied so pure a shrine.”
“Stay, Sir John; though the confession be humbling to a maiden’s pride, yet my heart tells me ’tis the last time we meet; and it is the only acknowledgment,—I render it to your honesty and good faith.” Her voice grew hesitating and tremulous. “There was a tendril twining about my heart; but it is wrung off, and I am again—alone!”
Her heart was full, and her whole frame convulsed by some overpowering emotion. An adieu died upon her lips; but she resolutely refused any further communication. Hastening to the courtyard, she mounted her little white palfry, and quitted for ever those fascinating and dangerous allurements, which, having once felt, few have had the power to withstand.
We need scarcely add, that, amid the gaieties and splendours by which the lover was enthralled, the recollection of Grace Gerard sometimes mingled in the revelries of this votary of pleasure. It often came as a warning and a rebuke. By degrees the impression grew less powerful. Each succeeding wave from the ever-tossing ocean left the traces less distinct, until they were overwhelmed in the dull tide of oblivion.
The music to these words is traditionary, if we may be allowed the expression. It is one of the many wild and characteristic melodies floating about, perhaps unappropriated, on the popular breath, varied indefinitely according to the humour of the performer. The author has listened to several of these ditties; some of them he thinks peculiar to this and the neighbouring counties. They are generally sung by the labouring classes, and would, in many cases, defy any attempt to commit them to writing, being apparently founded upon a ratio of tones and semitones at variance with our diatonic scale. From this we might almost be led to imagine some truth in the theory that the ancients had different scales peculiar to their different moods: a theory which, however impossible it may be considered, is not without its advocates, who will perhaps not be displeased to find here some slight confirmation of their opinions. Yet in these songs the prevailing character of the minor key may generally be detected, which, from its being imperfect, and probably vitiated by the mistakes of these rustic melodists, may give a colour to the notion of a change in the scale.
The great antiquity of these melodies is unquestionable, and it would be an interesting inquiry to trace them back through remote ages, perhaps to the Jewish temple and the tent of the patriarchs. The author has found in them a strong resemblance to the Hebrew music, sounds which, since the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, and the destruction of their temple, 606 B.C., and in consequence of musical instruments being afterwards forbidden, they have clung to with increased tenacity, preserving their ancient melodies, and bequeathing them by memory from one generation to another with the same jealous care that a miser would his treasure, and as the last melancholy relics of a “kingdom passed away.”
Algarotti says, “Those airs alone remain for ever engraven on the memory of the public, that paint images to the mind, or express the passions, and are for that reason called the speaking airs, because more congenial to nature, which can never be justly imitated but by a beautiful simplicity, that will always bear away the palm from the most laboured refinement of art.”
The author has ventured to give the following air, which he fancies would almost suggest the words of the song to which Sir John Finett is supposed to have appropriated it. As we have before mentioned, the tune is traditionary, possessing some of the peculiar characteristics we have described. It bears a considerable resemblance to the ancient Jewish music, and likewise to the airs generally given to the little snatches of old ballads in Shakespeare’s plays, which are supposed to have been handed down successively from the performers in his time; being then probably “household” music more ancient than the ballads themselves. This opinion seems warranted by the poet himself in that beautiful allusion, with which he introduces one of the songs of the Clown, in Twelfth Night—
“Mark it, Cesario; it is old and plain:The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,And the free maids that weave their thread with bones,Do use to chant it; it is silly sooth,And dallies with the innocence of loveLike the old age.”
They bade me sing, they bade my smile,They bade my heart be gay;They called my spirit forth to whileThe laughing hours away.I’ve sung, I’ve smiled: where’er my pathMirth’s dazzling meteors shine;All hearts have owned its magic power,And all are glad but mine.
 “Sir George Goring, of Hurst Pierrepoint, in Sussex, representative of a junior line of the respectable family of Goring, which maintains its importance in that county, was bred at Court, under the care of his father, one of Elizabeth’s Gentlemen Pensioners; was knighted May 29, 1608; in 1610, occurs as Gentleman in Ordinary of the Bedchamber to Prince Henry; and now accompanied the king to Scotland as Lieutenant of his Gentlemen Pensioners. He was recommended to James equally by his sagacity and a peculiar jocularity of humour, and became the king’s familiar companion.”—Nichols’s Royal Progresses, vol. iii. p. 256.
 Sir John Finett, says Anthony à Wood (Fasti by Bliss, vol. i. col, 492), was son of Sir Robert Finett, of Soulton, near Dover, in Kent, son and heir of Sir Thomas, son and heir of John Finett, of Sienna, in Italy (where his name is ancient), who came into England in quality of servant to Cardinal Campegius, and married a maid of honour to Queen Katharine. “Sir John was always bred in the Court, where by his wit, innocent mirth, and great skill in composing songs, he pleased James the First very much. He was sent into France in 1614, about matters of public concern, and in the year after received the honour of knighthood at Whitehall; about which time (or rather about 1612) he was made assistant to the master of the ceremonies, with the reversion of that place.”—Nichols’s Progresses, vol. iii. p. 133.
 This stone, the author has been told, was in existence less than a century ago, though not in the precise situation above alluded to. He has heard the disappointment of the curious passers-by told with considerable humour; they, however, generally took care to replace the stone with its word of promise before the eye, that the next comer might bestow the same labour for the like result.
 Some say this petition was presented at Myerscough, but we incline to the opinion here given.
 Royal proclamation, May 21, 1618.
 This ceremony was formerly used for the conveyance of rushes intended to be strewed in the church upon the clay floors between the benches. It is now generally known but as an unmeaning pageant still practised in the northern and eastern parts of Lancashire, for the purpose of levying contributions on the inhabitants. An immense banner, of silk adorned with tinsel and gay devices, precedes the rush-cart, wherein the rushes, neatly woven and smooth cut, are piled up and decorated with flowers and ribands, in rustic taste. The cart, thus laden, is drawn round to the dwellings of the principal inhabitants, by morris-dancers, who perform an uncouth dance, attended by a man in motley attire, a sort of nondescript, made up of the ancient fool and Maid Marian. This personage jingles a horse-collar hung with bells, which forms not an unsuitable accompaniment to the ceremony.
 See Note at the end.
 This person is supposed to be the writer of a curious satire (Harl. MSS. 5191), called a Description of Scotland. Welden’s name is not attached to it in the MS., but it is duly ascribed to him by Sir Walter Scott, in his description of Holyrood Chapel, in the Antiquities of Scotland. Sir Anthony Weldon accompanied the king into Scotland; but that he returned with him is not so certain, one of his letters saying he should return by sea. By this, however, may be understood his return to the court at Edinburgh, having had leave of absence to visit his friends in London.
*Thomas Hoghton of Hoghton Tower was murdered in 1589. Father of Sir Richard Hoghton, 1st Baronet (Born 28 September 1570– Died 1630)