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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Last Of The Barons - Book 10 - Chapter 2
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The Last Of The Barons - Book 10 - Chapter 2 Post by :alatom Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1400

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The Last Of The Barons - Book 10 - Chapter 2


From the night in which Hastings had saved from the knives of the tymbesteres Sibyll and her father, his honour and chivalry had made him their protector. The people of the farm (a widow and her children, with the peasants in their employ) were kindly and simple folks. What safer home for the wanderers than that to which Hastings had removed them? The influence of Sibyll over his variable heart or fancy was renewed. Again vows were interchanged and faith plighted. Anthony Woodville, Lord Rivers, who, however gallant an enemy, was still more than ever, since Warwick's exile, a formidable one, and who shared his sister's dislike to Hastings, was naturally at that time in the fullest favour of King Edward, anxious to atone for the brief disgrace his brother-in-law had suffered during the later days of Warwick's administration. And Hastings, offended by the manners of the rival favourite, took one of the disgusts so frequent in the life of a courtier, and, despite his office of chamberlain, absented himself much from his sovereign's company. Thus, in the reaction of his mind, the influence of Sibyll was greater than it otherwise might have been. His visits to the farm were regular and frequent. The widow believed him nearly related to Sibyll, and suspected Warner to be some attainted Lancastrian, compelled to hide in secret till his pardon was obtained; and no scandal was attached to the noble's visits, nor any surprise evinced at his attentive care for all that could lend a grace to a temporary refuge unfitting the quality of his supposed kindred.

And, in her entire confidence and reverential affection, Sibyll's very pride was rather soothed than wounded by obligations which were but proofs of love, and to which plighted troth gave her a sweet right. As for Warner, he had hitherto seemed to regard the great lord's attentions only as a tribute to his own science, and a testimony of the interest which a statesman might naturally feel in the invention of a thing that might benefit the realm. And Hastings had been delicate in the pretexts of his visits. One time he called to relate the death of poor Madge, though he kindly concealed the manner of it, which he had discovered, but which opinion, if not law, forbade him to attempt to punish: drowning was but the orthodox ordeal of a suspected witch, and it was not without many scruples that the poor woman was interred in holy ground. The search for the Eureka was a pretence that sufficed for countless visits; and then, too, Hastings had counselled Adam to sell the ruined house, and undertaken the negotiation; and the new comforts of their present residence, and the expense of the maintenance, were laid to the account of the sale. Hastings had begun to consider Adam Warner as utterly blind and passive to the things that passed under his eyes; and his astonishment was great when, the morning after the visit we have just recorded, Adam, suddenly lifting his eyes, and seeing the guest whispering soft tales in Sibyll's ear, rose abruptly, approached the nobleman, took him gently by the arm, led him into the garden, and thus addressed him,--

"Noble lord, you have been tender and generous in our misfortunes. The poor Eureka is lost to me and the world forever. God's will be done! Methinks Heaven designs thereby to rouse me to the sense of nearer duties; and I have a daughter whose name I adjure you not to sully, and whose heart I pray you not to break. Come hither no more, my Lord Hastings."

This speech, almost the only one which showed plain sense and judgment in the affairs of this life that the man of genius had ever uttered, so confounded Hastings, that he with difficulty recovered himself enough to say,--

"My poor scholar, what hath so suddenly kindled suspicions which wrong thy child and me?"

"Last eve, when we sat together, I saw your hand steal into hers, and suddenly I remembered the day when I was young, and wooed her mother! And last night I slept not, and sense and memory became active for my living child, as they were wont to be only for the iron infant of my mind, and I said to myself, 'Lord Hastings is King Edward's friend; and King Edward spares not maiden honour. Lord Hastings is a mighty peer, and he will not wed the dowerless and worse than nameless girl!' Be merciful! Depart, depart!"

"But," exclaimed Hastings, "if I love thy sweet Sibyll in all honesty, if I have plighted to her my troth--"

"Alas, alas!" groaned Adam.

"If I wait but my king's permission to demand her wedded hand, couldst thou forbid me the presence of my affianced?"

"She loves thee, then?" said Adam, in a tone of great anguish,--"she loves thee,--speak!"

"It is my pride to think it."

"Then go,--go at once; come back no more till thou hast wound up thy courage to brave the sacrifice; no, not till the priest is ready at the altar, not till the bridegroom can claim the bride. And as that time will never come--never--never--leave me to whisper to the breaking heart, 'Courage; honour and virtue are left thee yet, and thy mother from heaven looks down on a stainless child!'"

The resuscitation of the dead could scarcely have startled and awed the courtier more than this abrupt development of life and passion and energy in a man who had hitherto seemed to sleep in the folds of his thought, as a chrysalis in its web. But as we have always seen that ever, when this strange being woke from his ideal abstraction, he awoke to honour and courage and truth, so now, whether, as he had said, the absence of the Eureka left his mind to the sense of practical duties, or whether their common suffering had more endeared to him his gentle companion, and affection sharpened reason, Adam Warner became puissant and majestic in his rights and sanctity of father,--greater in his homely household character, than when, in his mania of inventor, and the sublime hunger of aspiring genius, he had stolen to his daughter's couch, and waked her with the cry of "Gold!"

Before the force and power of Adam's adjuration, his outstretched hand, the anguish, yet authority, written on his face, all the art and self-possession of the accomplished lover deserted him, as one spell-bound.

He was literally without reply; till, suddenly, the sight of Sibyll, who, surprised by this singular conference, but unsuspecting its nature, now came from the house, relieved and nerved him; and his first impulse was then, as ever, worthy and noble, such as showed, though dimly, how glorious a creature he had been, if cast in a time and amidst a race which could have fostered the impulse into habit.

"Brave old man!" he said, kissing the hand still raised in command, "thou hast spoken as beseems thee; and my answer I will tell thy child." Then hurrying to the wondering Sibyll, he resumed: "Your father says well, that not thus, dubious and in secret, should I visit the home blest by thy beloved presence. I obey; I leave thee, Sibyll. I go to my king, as one who hath served him long and truly, and claims his guerdon,--thee!"

"Oh, my lord!" exclaimed Sibyll, in generous terror, "bethink thee well; remember what thou saidst but last eve. This king so fierce, my name so hated! No, no! leave me. Farewell forever, if it be right, as what thou and my father say must be. But thy life, thy liberty, thy welfare,--they are my happiness; thou hast no right to endanger them!" And she fell at his knees. He raised and strained her to his heart; then resigning her to her father's arms, he said in a voice choked with emotion,--

"Not as peer and as knight, but as man, I claim my prerogative of home and hearth. Let Edward frown, call back his gifts, banish me his court,--thou art more worth than all! Look for me, sigh not, weep not, smile till we meet again!" He left them with these words, hastened to the stall where his steed stood, caparisoned it with his own hands, and rode with the speed of one whom passion spurs and goads towards the Tower of London.

But as Sibyll started from her father's arms, when she heard the departing hoofs of her lover's steed,--to listen and to listen for the last sound that told of him,--a terrible apparition, ever ominous of woe and horror, met her eye. On the other side of the orchard fence, which concealed her figure, but not her well-known face, which peered above, stood the tymbestere, Graul. A shriek of terror at this recognition burst from Sibyll, as she threw herself again upon Adam's breast; but when he looked round to discover the cause of her alarm, Graul was gone.

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BOOK XCHAPTER III. VIRTUOUS RESOLVES SUBMITTED TO THE TEST OF VANITY AND THE WORLD. On reaching his own house, Hastings learned that the court was still at Shene. He waited but till the retinue which his rank required were equipped and ready, and reached the court, from which of late he had found so many excuses to absent himself, before night. Edward was then at the banquet, and Hastings was too experienced a courtier to disturb him at such a time. In a mood unfit for companionship, he took his way to the apartments usually reserved for him, when a gentleman

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BOOK X. THE RETURN OF THE KING-MAKER. CHAPTER I. THE MAID'S HOPE, THE COURTIER'S LOVE, AND THE SAGE'S COMFORT. Fair are thy fields, O England; fair the rural farm and the orchards in which the blossoms have ripened into laughing fruits; and fairer than all, O England, the faces of thy soft-eyed daughters! From the field where Sibyll and her father had wandered amidst the dead, the dismal witnesses of war had vanished; and over the green pastures roved the gentle flocks. And the farm to which Hastings had led the wanderers looked upon that peaceful field through its leafy screen;