« ForrigeFortsæt »
ST. JAMES'S MAGAZINE
HERALDIC AND HISTORICAL REGISTER.
CALVERLEY, OF CALVERLEY.
Ir is not quite two centuries and a half since the tragedy I am about to relate from ancient tradition, was enacted; and yet to use no very forced or ambiguous metaphor-time has already begun to efface the record, or at least to render some portions of it indistinguishable. good fortune, however, would have it, the mutilations have occurred only where they were of the least consequence, upon some of the detached outworks, as we may call them, and not upon the main body of the building.
They who unite imagination to the love of antiquity, and are familiar with the more perfect remains of the olden time—if the term "perfect" can, with propriety, be applied to that which is already under the influence of decay-will easily understand us when we attempt to illustrate this part of our subject, by the example of those beautiful ruins, of which, while the outlines still exist, the details have perished, or are crumbling around in huge disjointed fragments, amidst docks, and weeds, and nettles. There yet stand the walls, the highly-ornamented gothic casements, the flying buttresses, the winding staircases; and yet, how much—and at the same time how little-is wanted to make up the ancient edifice. A groined roof, a few windows of stained glass, an arch restored here, a wall completed there, and the magnificent creation of other days is once again before us. Even so it is with many of the romantic and historical traditions that belong to the same period; they have shared a similar fate in coming down to us, more or less mutilated by time, which, like Saturn of old, or the double deity of the east, is at once both creator and destroyer. Thus much by way of preface-a short one, if not a necessary one-for the romancer requires the preluding chord or symphony almost as much as the singer does.
The family of Calverley-or, as it is sometimes written, Caverley, perhaps from following a corrupt pronunciation-may be traced up to a very early period, their name having been derived from the place wherein they settled a township in the West Riding of Yorkshire, about seven miles from Leeds, and three from Bradford. According to the custom of ST. JAMES'S MAG., NO. VII.
those very warlike and pious times, when fighting and praying were looked upon as the principal occupations of life, the Calverleys made frequent donations upon a large scale to the church, and died right gallantly in their harness; and yet neither the brave nor the bounteous of that name have acquired for it so much celebrity, as one who committed the most atrocious crimes, and ended his career as a malefactor. Indeed, it may be said that the saints and heroes of Calverley are alike forgotten, or at best they are scantily remembered in some dry antiquarian page, which few ever read, while our hero, Walter Calverley, figures in blank verse, and has obtained to his own share, a muchlarger space in local history than has been allowed to all the rest of his race from the time when John, called Scoticus, or Scot, from his country, married Lardarina, daughter of Alphonsus Gospatrick, and, in her right, became Lord of Calverley.
The father of Walter Calverley dying while the latter was still in his nonage, the minor fell under the guardianship of an old friend of the family. How far this event influenced the future character of the young heir, it would be hard to say; his guardian was, to all accounts, a gentleman of unquestioned worthand honour, yet it is seldom seen that a stranger, even with the best intentions, fully supplies the place of a deceased parent. However this may be, Walter was to all appearance a youth of the highest promise, sufficiently versed in the accomplishments of the day, well-made, handsome, and-what seems somewhat at variance with his after-life—of a steady and even grave demeanour. Hence it was generally augured, that he would be an honour to his father's house, and a credit to his native county; a point upon which provincials are, for the most part, not a little jealous. But some few, who pretended to look more closely into things, were far from entertaining the same favourable opinions. They saw, or fancied they saw, without exactly accusing him of hypocrisy, that his character was the very reverse of what it seemed to be; he was, said they, like a river smoothed over by the ice, but once let the sun rise in its strength to melt the wintry mask, and they would then learn how fierce a torrent it had concealed.
These forebodings, however, did not prevent the heir to eight hundred a-year from being an acceptable guest in most families, especially where daughters and sisters were on hand, all as willing to be married, as fathers mothers, and brothers, could be to get rid of them; or, as they more delicately phrased it, to see the fair ones settled in life. Thus it fell out, that he was at once the "invited and welcome guest to a gentleman of cheefe note in his country," whose name the old chronicler, so minute in other respects, having omitted to tell us, we shall, for the sake of convenience, call him Sir Luke Escholt. This gentleman had an only daughter, Emily, a consideration which, it may be supposed without any lack of charity, had some weight in the more than usual kindness he bestowed upon his youthful visitor, though perhaps we should do him wrong in supposing that he acted upon any definite scheme of entrapping him into an alliance. On these occasions the motives to action are in a certain measure secret even to ourselves, and, while they most influence our conduct, assume to our minds no precise form, but hold on their course quietly, like the thin stream, whose progress is only visible by the fresher and deeper green of the herbage through which it steals its way.
Both Emily and her young guest were at that age when, unless the heart is previously occupied by some other object, it requires little more
than constant intercourse to kindle the flames of passion; and this, in the present case, was not wanting. Lonely walks together at early day, or when the moonlight was on the glades, and the dance often prolonged beyond the midnight hour, soon ripened acquaintance into intimacy, intimacy into liking, and, by a process as rapid as it was natural, liking into love. All this was seen and approved of by the politic Sir Luke; nor was he in the least surprised when one day Walter, who had long before secured the lady's assent, made a formal proposal to him for his daughter's hand in marriage.
"My dear Walter," replied the old gentleman, "so far as I am concerned, I may safely avouch, there is not a man in the whole shire that I would sooner have for a son-in-law than yourself; but you are not yet of age, or entitled to act in this matter for yourself."
"I shall be in six months," interrupted Walter, hastily. "In less than six months. '
"Be so when that day comes we will resume the subject, unless, in the meanwhile, you should change your mind."
"Never!" exclaimed Walter.
"Young man," said Sir Luke, laying his hand with much kindness on his shoulder; "never is a word that comes the readiest to the lips of youth on these occasions; but, credit my experience, such nevers are too often of short date."
"Not with me, sir, I assure you,-on my life-on my honour. It is impossible for me to change, on a subject like this."
Well, time will shew, and to time we will refer it. When you are of age your mind still holding-come back to us, and my consent will not, I dare say, be wanting to your wishes."
But Walter was not to be so satisfied. He pressed his suit with all the ardour of a young lover; and although he could not extort from Sir Luke his consent to an immediate marriage in private, which might be afterwards publicly ratified at their own convenience, he prevailed so far over his scruples that he allowed them to exchange pledges, and reciprocally bind themselves to each other. It is even possible that his perseverance might have overcome the old gentleman's last doubts, and brought about an instant union could he have remained there a few days longer; but affairs of importance made his presence in the capital indispensable, and he reluctantly prepared to set out, when, as the chronicler is careful to tell us, "the virtuous gentlewoman danced a loth to depart on his contracted lips;" or, in plain English, the damsel gave her lover a parting kiss; the loth to depart being a popular tune in the olden time, and often used by our earlier dramatists to express an unwilling separation.
The young heir had not been long in town before the wisdom of Sir Luke's doubts was made apparent, and probably in much less time than he himself had contemplated when he gave the warning. Already in the third week of his abode there, the never was forgotten-obliterated by a single glance from a pair of bright eyes, so completely as ever the returning tide of the sea washed out the wrinkles from the sands, only to leave other impressions in their place. In one evening, forgetting his rural beauty, he had fallen desperately in love with Philippa Brooke, and the maiden had listened, nothing loth, to his protestations, for, as we before mentioned, Walter possessed all those external qualifications which make young ladies fain, the eyes and ears being gene
rally their counsellors in such matters, without any reference to the sober churl, reason. In brief space, Philippa was won; and so far from the course of love never running smooth, as the poet would have us believe, it may be truly said that no ball ever rolled more easily along a bowling-green, than did the ball of love with Walter. Everything, in fact, tended to help on his wishes; his guardian chanced to be a friend to early marriages, under the idea that they settled a young man in life, and kept him out of mischief; the lady, moreover, was his own niece; and the father saw no objection. When therefore Walter, with his characteristic impatience, pressed for the immediate celebration of the marriage, few difficulties were thrown in his way, except by the proverbial delay of the lawyers, and even they were induced, by certain golden considerations, to quicken their usual pace-if not into a positive gallop, at least into a sort of decent trot.
He thus got married before he had time to change his mind, which with so fickle a temper he most likely would have done, had he allowed himself, or had circumstances forced upon him any longer probation.
Even in those days, when conveyance from one place to another was a work of much time and difficulty, ill news was as proverbial for its speedy travelling, as it is amongst ourselves, with all the advantage of railways and electric telegraphs; and these tidings were not slow in reaching Emily. They proved her death-warrant. Yet she indulged in no passionate expressions either of grief or anger on receiving them. It might have been better for her if she had; for wounds that bleed inwardly are always the most dangerous-but contented herself with saying, while a smile lighted up her pale features, "I intreat of God to grant both prosperous health and fruitful wealth, both to him and her, though I am sick for his sake." Nor were these mere words, such as escape from weakness, or which pride uses when it would hide a deeper feeling. She had loved
as only woman can love, and the cruel disappointment of her dearest hopes had struck so home, that she faded away like a stricken lily, and died with a rapidity that might have well nigh seemed marvellous. It is common, as we well know, to laugh at the idea of broken hearts, in any case; and, least of all, from a cause so shadowy and undefined in its nature as that which bears the name of love; to this it may be replied that our tale is no idle fiction, but one of those dark and terrible pages in the records of human life, which leave far behind them the wildest dreams of the imagination; when, moreover, we have discovered how it is that the immaterial soul acts upon the material body, in the general wear and tear of our earthly trial, it will be time enough to discuss how the heart may be broken,—and broken too by love.
It soon appeared that the friends who grieved for the premature death of Emily, grieved more naturally than wisely. In a few short months, almost indeed before they had laid the turf upon her head, the character of Walter Calverley began to unfold itself in a way that made the grave seem a happy refuge from his marriage-bed, and shewed the living wife to be much more an object of compassion than her departed rival.
About a week after the marriage, which had been celebrated in London, the young couple took up their abode at Calverley Hall. It was one of those late and beautiful autumns, when the summer brilliance remains still undiminished, and mingles strangely with the symptoms of decay that are the peculiar characteristics of the later season.
who really loved a country life, the scene around must have possessed the deepest interest, and, though unused to anything of the kind, it was not long before this was felt in its fullest extent by Philippa, whose gentle and somewhat romantic nature found an inexpressible charm in the sight of this quiet landscape, which she was henceforth, in right of her husband, to call her own. She felt as if all her previous existence had been a dream, and she was now, for the first time, transferred to her native element.
For some few weeks, Walter appeared to share in the feelings of his beautiful bride; but then, with as swift a transition as a northern winter bounds into spring, a change took place with him, this bitter feeling turning into discontent, not to say disgust, and an unappeasable desire for pleasures of a more exciting kind. The very gentleness of Philippa had become tameness and insipidity. In consequence he ran into such riot and excesses of all kinds, that he found himself compelled, first, to mortgage one part of his estate, then another; then he incurred debts, and, finally, he involved some of his best friends in his difficulties, by persuading them to become bound for him, when his own name had sunk so low in worldly estimation, that it would no longer obtain him credit. This, of course, had not been done all at once, or even in a very short time; rapid as is the descent to ruin, it took about four years to bring him to this pass, which, however, when it did come, effectually provided for his future moderation, by cutting off all the means of extravagance. There was an end to riot, since the sources that fed it were drained and dried up; the companions of his prosperous hours as naturally falling away from him, as the leaves fall from the trees in autumn. But the moral and physical abstinence forced upon him by this decay of his fortunes, instead of ameliorating his heart, only soured his temper; he grew morose and sullen, and even savage, much to the grief of his wife, who still loved him tenderly in spite of all his follies. For a long time her fear of him kept her silent; at length, in her anxiety to relieve his distress of mind, if possible, she took courage, and resolved to tend and heal those mental wounds, that from day to day were getting worse, and made him as painful an object to others as to himself. But all her efforts proved unavailing; the only result was, that her rapacious husband, availing himself of the gentle affection of his wife, obtained possession of all her jewels, and at length insisted that she should sell her dowry also. Nor did he at all attempt to gild over this proposal by affecting any intention of using the money, when obtained, for good or useful purposes; on the contrary, he plainly told her that he loved his own pleasures beyond all other considerations, and intended to employ it in maintaining them. Bitter as the insult was, Philippa would have cheerfully yielded to the sacrifice demanded of her, but the interests of her children would be deeply involved in it, and it required all her strong sense of duty towards a husband, and those lingering remains of affection, which, when once sown in a woman's bosom, is seldom wholly eradicated, to conquer her reluctance to thus depriving them of their natural inheritance. She did, however, bring herself even to this point, and, as usual, submitting her will to his commands, went to London for the purpose of disposing of her dowry. Upon arriving there, her first visit was naturally to the uncle who had formerly been her guardian, and had discharged the office