« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
meandering below, its site forms a spot happily selected for human habitations. They who peopled it at the time of which we speak were a simple, unsophisticated set, many of whom tilled the soil which several progenitors had successively cultivated.
The tenure of the lands had remained unaltered for many generations, and so sure were the occupants that their successors would hold them on the same terms, that it was not uncommon for the father to will the lease to his children. Dwelling in this quiet seclusion, and pursuing a kind of patriarchal existence, far from the vanities and temptations of politer life and a more advanced world, this little community, if it lacked the advantages of refinement and fashion, escaped many evils and moral corruptions.
If their pleasures were not intense and exalted, their happiness was of a more even tenor and more lasting. But it must be confessed, that even the denizens of Elleringay did not enjoy an immunity from human trials and human afflictions. They had their cares and their grievances—a share of those ills which man is born to inherit.
In the midst of a few low-built and scattered houses stood the venerable mansion long known by the name of Elleringay Manor House. Its massive walls, crumbling buttresses, small latticed windows, stonecovered roof, the green ivy whose clinging tendrils had for ages pertinaciously clung to their barren attachments, the corroded corner-stones mouldered by winters long passed away, and the general tendency to dilapidation, bespoke its antiquity, and told of the wasting breath of Time. The garden by which it was surrounded was fenced in by tall and unsightly walls. Its once neatly laid-out parterres had run to wildness with weeds and rank grass; the trees and shrubs had grown in unrestrained luxuriance; it seemed as if the proprietor had long been an absentee, or that the property was under the keeping of a niggardly expectant heir.
Two or three mutilated figures, once set up for picturesque effect, were in unison with
other associations; here stood a headless Apollo, there Neptune without his trident, yonder Hercules bereft of his club. The pretty little summer-house, with its green alcoves, was filled with empty flower-pots, garden implements, and similar lumber; the conservatory could hardly boast a single pane of uncracked glass; the walks were covered with grass and rubbish. When you entered the sombre hall, that spacious and unfurnished entrance imparted an air of discomfort. The two or three dark oaken chairs, undoubtedly coeval with the building itself, the worn-out mats and oil-coverings, gave a foretaste of what was to be anticipated in other parts of the house. Dining-room, drawing-room, up-stairs, and down, the long unpainted doors, the shabby curtains, dirty gilt picture frames, worn-out carpets, old-fashioned furniture, told of the occupant's oddities or his poverty.
The representative of the house was Godfrey de Bohun. The De Bohuns, as the reader will be aware, belong to one of the most ancient families in the kingdom. Harlowen De Bohun was grandfather of the Conqueror, and traced his descent from the renowned Charlemagne. The Earlof Moreton, who figured at Hastings, was another of the blood, as one Hugh De Bohun, a mighty subject in olden time, was the royal keeper of Dover Castle, in the thirteenth century; but a more important fact than all this with Godfrey was, that an ancestor, William, married the daughter of Henry III., hence his Plantagenet blood was the pride of his life.
In the days of Charles I., his greatgrandfather not only distinguished himself amongst those valiant gentlemen who espoused the royal cause and are better known as the Cavaliers at Naseby and Worcester, but he could show the receipts given to the said great-grandfather for silver christeningbowls, tankards, and gold cups, which he had sent to be melted down to fill the king's treasury at Oxford.
In more recent times, his forefathers, if less known to fame, were always considered of the aristocracy; and, indeed, Godfrey felt his house was noble in all but name. The lands on which he lived had been bestowed on an ancestor by Richard II. The tarnished gilt frames before referred to preserved the quaint portraitures of some of those stalwart heroes who were now alone remembered by the canvas on which they frowned. He had truly some reason to be proud of his lineage, and he classed his house with the great historic families of his country.
In person Godfrey showed the good breeding it had been his lot to inherit. His tall and commanding figure, with finely-moulded limbs and erect carriage; those acute, strongly
marked features, with quick eyes and aquiline nose; the thin lips, ample brow, and dark hair, together with the small foot and little hand, testified his origin as not plebeian.* He dressed after the manner of the times, and just hit that happy medium, neither to incur the disdain of frivolous foppery, nor the censure of a sloven. There was a neatness, an exactness in his attire, which showed the man of the world as well as the man of taste. His blue coat, buff vest, ruffled shirt, clean smalls, bright
See note at the end of volume.