« AnkstesnisTęsti »
HON. JAMES MURRAY MASON.
THIS famous Virginian, whose recent capture on board the British packet ship Trent has made him and his companion in misfortune, John Slidell, the leading topics of the day, was born 3d Nov., 1798, on Analostan Island, County Fairfax, Virginia, and was educated at Georgetown College, near Washington. Descended from an ancient English family, the arrogance of birth is very strongly developed in him, and amusing stories ⚫ are told of his gasconading on several occasions. One is related, in which, referring to a dispute he had with a northern senator,
Convention which assembled in 1829 to revise the constitution of Virginia. In 1837 he was sent to Congress, and, although serving but one term-for he refused a re-election-his pompous manners, and the assumption of possessing a ponderous quantity of information, deluded, as it generally does, the masses into a belief that he was destined to achieve great distinction as a statesman.
In January, 1847, he was re-elected to a seat in the United States Senate. He was re-elected in 1849, and again in 1855. His influence and reputation have latterly proceeded almost entirely from being the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which has enabled him to a considerable ex
this descendant of the cavaliers haughtily observed, "My an- | tent to shape the foreign policy of this government. With an cestors in England used to crop the ears of such men!" Only exception, when in 1856 he killed Senator Douglas's clause reso late as last year he declared that he would never visit Bostonlating to our dispute with Great Britain on the right of search, again till he went as ambassador from the Confederate States. by substituting his own, he has ever shown unmitigated hosLet us hope the Athens of America may infuse a better spirit and a nobler intelligence into the representative of one of our oldest and most honored names.
tility to England, and even then his conduct was dictated more by hostility to the Little Giant, whom he regarded as parvenu, than by any sentiment of international justice.
For the last three years of the Buchanan regime, he and John Slidell were the evil genii of that unhappy old public functionary, for it was they who terrified him into repudiating the very
In 1818 he graduated at the University of Pennsylvania, and at once commenced the study of law at William and Mary's College, Virginia, and received a diploma while in the office of Benjamin Watkins Leigh, and soon after practised in Winches-policy he had sent Walker and Stanton to Kansas to inaugurter, Western Virginia, meeting with signal success.
ate. To Mason and Slidell are owing more than to any other In 1826 he was elected a member of the House of Delegates, two men the fostering into life the embryo demon conceived and served three sessions; he was also chosen a member of the by Calhoun, Beverley Tucker and their fellow conspirators. VOL. X., No. 1-3
When the present rebellion broke out, Mason, of course, went | Fernwood, a country mansion twenty miles from York, in order with the secessionists; and, although he took no active mili- that I might become acquainted with the family of Mr. Lewis tary part, for which his arrogance and indolence unfitted him, Wendale, to whose only son, Laurence, I was engaged to be he yet aided them by his influence and counsel, and was so married. identified with their cause, that he was selected by Jefferson Davis to represent the Confederate States as Minister Extraordinary at the Court of St. James, and embarked from Charleston in October for that purpose. Having arrived at Havana, where he was received with distinguished honor by the Spanish authorities, he embarked on board the British packet Trent for England, in company with his associate, John Slidell, of Louisiana, who was accredited in a similar capacity to the Court of the Tuileries.
Laurence Wendale and I had only been acquainted during the brief May and June of my first London season, which Ithe orphan heiress of a wealthy Calcutta merchant-had passed under the roof of my aunt, Mrs. Maddison Trevor, the dashing widow of a major in the Life Guards, and the only sister of my dead father. Mrs. Trevor had made many objections to this brief six weeks' engagement between Laurence and I: but the impetuous young Yorkshireman had overruled everything. What objection could there be? he asked. He was to have two thousand a year and Fernwood at his father's death; forty thousand pounds from a maiden aunt the day he came of agefor he was not yet one-and-twenty, my impetuous young lover. As for his family, let Mrs. Trevor look into Burke's County Families" for the Wendales of Fernwood. His mother was Lady Adela, youngest daughter of Lord Kingwood, of Castle Kingwood, County Kildare. What objection could my aunt have, then? His family did not know me, and might not approve of the match, urged my aunt. Laurence laughed aloud; a long ringing peal of that merry, musical laughter I loved so well to hear.
"Not approve!" he cried-"not love my little Bella! That is too good a joke!" On which immediately followed an invitation to Fernwood, seconded by a note from Lady Adela Wendale.
It was to this very note that my aunt was never tired of taking objection. It was cold, it was stiff, constrained; it had been only written to please Laurence. How little I thought of the letter! and yet it was the first faint and shadowy indication of that terrible rock ahead upon which my life was to be wrecked; the first feeble link in the chain of the one great mystery in which the fate of so many was involved.
The letter was cold, certainly. Lady Adela started by declaring she should be most happy to see us; she was all anxiety to be introduced to her charming daughter-in-law. And then my lady ran off to tell us how dull Fernwood was, and how she feared we should regret our long journey into the heart of Yorkshire to a lonely country-house, where we should find no one but a captious invalid, a couple of nervous women, and a young man devoted to farming and fieldsports.
But I was not afraid of being dull where my light-hearted Laurence was; and I overruled all my aunt's objections, ordered half a dozen new dresses, and carried Mrs. Maddison Trevor off to the Great Northern Station before she had time to remonstrate.
Laurence had gone on before us to see that all was prepared for us; and had promised to meet us at York, and drive us over to Fernwood in his mail phaeton. He was standing on the platform as the train entered the station, with the sunshine glittering about his chestnut curls, and his clear blue eye radiant with life and happiness.
Laurence Wendale was very handsome; but perhaps his greatest charm consisted in that wonderful vitality, that untiring energy and indomitable spirit, which made him so different to all other young men whom I had met. So great was this vitality, that, by some magnetic influence, it seemed to I communicate itself to others. I was never tired when Laurence was with me. I could waltz longer with him for my partnerride longer in the Row with him for my cavalier-sit out an opera, or examine an exhibition of pictures, with less fatigue when he was near. His presence pervaded a whole house; his joyous laugh rang through every room. It seemed as if where he was sorrow could not come.
I felt this more than ever as we drew nearer Fernwood. The country was bleak and bare; wide wastes of moorland stretched away on either side of the by-road down which we drove. The afternoon sunshine had faded out, leaving a cold gray sky,
"No, Isabel, I do not consider that Lady Adela seconded her with low masses of leaden clouds brooding close over the landson's invitation at all warmly.".
scape, and shutting in the dim horizon. But no influence of scenery.or atmosphere could affect Laurence Wendale. His spirits were even higher than usual this afternoon.
This was the third time within the last hour that my aunt had made the above remark. We were seated opposite to each other in a first-class carriage of the York express, and the flat "They have fitted up the oak rooms for you, ladies," he said. fields of ripening wheat were flitting by us like yellow shadows"Such solemn and stately chambers, with high canopied beds under the afternoon sunshine. We were going on a visit to crowned with funeral plumes; black oak paneling; portraits of
dead-and-gone Wendales: Miss Aurora, with pannier hoops and a shepherdess's crook: Mistress Lydia, with ringlets à la Sévigné and a pearl necklace; Mortimer Wendale, in a Ramilies wig; Theodore, with love-locks, velvet doublet, and Spanish leather boots. Such a collection of them! You may expect to see them all descend from their frames in the witching time of night to warm their icy fingers at your sea-coal fires. Your expected arrival has made quite a sensation in our dull old abode. My mother has looked up from the last new novel she had from Mudie half a dozen times this day, I verily believe, to ask if all due preparations were being made; while my dear active, patient, indefatigable sister Lucy has been running about superintending the arrangements ever since break
"Your sister Lucy," I said, catching at his last words; "I shall so love her, Laurence."
"I hope you will, darling," he answered, almost gravely, "for she has been the best and dear st sister to me. And yet I'm half afraid; Lucy is ten years older than you are-grave. reserved, sometimes almost melancholy; but if ever there was a banished angel treading this earth in human form, my sister Lucy surely is that guardian spirit."
"Is she like you, Laurence?"
"Like me? Oh, no, not in the least. She is only my halfsister, you know. She resembles her mother, who died young." We were at the gates of Fernwood when he said this-high wooden gates, with stone pillars moss-grown and dilapidated; a tumble-down-looking lodge, kept by a slatternly-looking woman, whose children were at play in a square patch of ground, planted with cabbages and currant-bushes, fenced in with a rotten paling, and ambitiously called a garden. From this lodge entrance a long avenue stretched away for about half a mile, at the end of which a great red brick mansion, built in the Tudor style. frowned at us, rather as if in defiance than in welcome. The park was entirely uncultivated; the trunks of the trees were choked with the tangled underwood; the fern grew deep in the long vistas, broken here and there by solitary pools of black water, on whose quiet borders we heard the flap of the heron's wing, and the dull croaking of an army of frogs.
into habitual despondency from sheer casy fortune and want of vexation."
The phaeton drew up before a broad fight of stone steps as Laurence ceased speaking, and in five minutes more he had assisted my aunt and myself to alight, and had ushered us into the presence of Lady Adela and Miss Lucy Wendale.
We found Lady Adela, as her son's description had given us reason to expect, absorbed in a novel. She threw down her book as we entered, and advanced to meet us with considerable cordiality; rather, indeed, as if she really were grateful to us for breaking in upon her solitary life.
"It is so good of you to come," she said, folding me in her slender arms with an almost motherly embrace, and so kind of you, too, my dear Mrs. Trevor, to abandon all your town pleasures for the sake of bringing this dear girl to me. Believe me, we will do all in our power to make you comfortable, if you can put up with very limited society; for we have received no company whatever since my son's childhood, and I do not think my visiting-list could muster half a dozen names."
Lady Adela was an elegant-looking woman, in the very prime of life; but her handsome face was thin and careworn, and premature wrinkles gathered about her melancholy blue eyes and thoughtful mouth. While she was talking to my aunt, Lucy Wendale and I drew nearer to each other.
Laurence's half sister was by no means handsome; pale and sallow, with dark hair and rather dull gray eyes, she looked as if some hidden sorrow had quenched out the light of her life long ago, in her earliest youth; some sorrow that had neither been forgotten nor decreased by time, but that had rather grown with her growth, and strengthened with her strength, until it had become a part of her very self-some disappointed attachment, I thought, some cruel blow that had shattered a girl's first dream, and left a broken-hearted woman to mourn the fatal delusion. In my utter ignorance of life, I thought these were the only griefs which ever left a woman's life desolate.
You will try and be happy at Fernwood, Isabel," Lucy Wendale said gently, as she drew me into a seat by her side, while Laurence bent fondly over us both. I do not believe, dear as we were to each other, that my Laurence ever loved me as he loved this pale-faced half sister. "You will try and be happy, will you not, dear Isabel? Laurence has been breakAc-ing in the prettiest chestnut mare in all Yorkshire, I think, that you may explore the country with us. I have heard what a daring horsewoman you are. The pianos have been put in tune for you, and the billiard-table re-covered that you may have exercise on rainy days; and if we cannot give you much society, we will do all else to prevent your feeling dull."
Lady Adela was right. Fernwood was a dull place. I could scarcely repress a shudder as we drove under the dark averne; while, as for my poor aunt, her teeth chattered audibly. customed to spend three parts of the year in Onslow Square, and the autumn months at Brighton or Ryde, this dreary Yorkshire mansion was a terrible trial to her rather over sensitive
Laurence seemed to divine the reason of our silence "The place is frightfully neglected, Mrs. Trevor," he said, apologetically; "but I do not mean this sort of thing to last, I assure you. Before ever I bring my delicate little Bella to Fernwood, I will have landscape-gardeners and upholsterers down by the score, and try to convert this dreary wilderness into a terrestrial paradise. I cannot tell you why the place has been suffered to fall into decay; certainly not for want of money, still less for want of opportunity, for my father is an idle man, to whom one would imagine restoring and rebuilding would afford a delightful hobby. No, there is no reason why the place should have been so neglected."
"I shall be very happy here with you, dear Lucy," I said; "but you tell me so much of the dulness of Fernwood, while, I dare say, you yourself have a hundred associations that make the old place very dear to you."
She looked down as I spoke, and a very faint flush broke through the sallow paleness of her complexion.
"I am not very fond of Fernwood," she said gravely. It was at Fernwood, then, that the great sorrow of her life came upon her. I thought.
"No, Lucy," said Laurence almost impatiently, "everybody knows this dull place is killing you by inches, and yet nothing on earth can induce you to quit it. When we all go to Scarborough or Burlington, when mamma goes to Harrogate, when I run up to town to rub off my provincial rust, and see what the world is made of outside these dreary gates-you obstinately persist in staying at home; and the only reason you can urge for doing so is, that you must remain here to take care of that unfortunate invalid of yours, Mr. Thomas."
I was holding Lucy's hand in mine, and I felt the poor wasted little fingers tremble as her brother spoke. curiosity was strongly aroused.
He said this more to himself than to us, as if the words were spoken in answer to some long train of thought of his own, and then, growing silent, he seemed to relapse into this old reverie. I watched his fare earnestly, for I had seldom seen him look so thoughtful. Presently he said, with more of his old manner : "As you are close upon the threshold of Fernwood now, ladies, I ought perhaps to tell you that you will find ours a most low-spirited family. With everything in life to make us happy, we seem for ever under a cloud. Ever since I can remember my poor father, he has been dropping slowly into decay, almost in the same way as this neglected place, till now "Mr. Thomas!" I exclaimed, half involuntarily. he is a confirmed invalid, without any positive illness. My "Ah, to be sure, Bella, I forgot to tell you of that memmother reads novels all day, and half lives upon sal-volatile ber of our household, but as I have never seen him, I may and spirits of lavender. My sister, the only active person in be forgiven the omission. This Mr. Thomas is a poor relathe house, is always thoughtful, and very often melancholy.tive of my father's; a hopeless invalid, bedridden, I believe Mind, I merely tell you this to prepare you for anything you is he not, Lucy ?-who requires a strong man and an exmay see; not to depress you, for you may depend upon my exer-perienced nurse to look after him, and who occupies the tions towards reforming this dreary household, which has sunk entire upper storey of one wing of the house. Poor Mr.
Thomas, invalid as he is, must certainly be a most fasci- afternoon, began to dress my hair before the massive oak-framed nating person. My mother goes to see him every day, but looking-glass. as stealthily as if she were paying a secret visit to some condemned criminal. I have often met my father coming away from his rooms, pale and melancholy; and, as for my sister Lucy, she is so attached to this sick dependent of ours, that, as I have just said, nothing will induce her to leave the house, for fear his nurse or his valet should fail in their care of him."
I still held Lucy's hand, but it was perfectly steady now. Could this poor relative, this invalid dependent, have any part in the sorrowful mystery that had overshadowed her life? And yet, no; I thought that could scarcely be, for she looked up with such perfect self-possession as she answered her brother:
"My whole life has gradually fallen into the duty of attendance upon this poor young man, Laurence; and I will never leave Fernwood while he lives."
"The truth of the matter is," I said to myself, "that after all there is nothing more to be said about it. I have tried to create a mystery out of the simplest possible family arrangement. Mr. Wendale has a bedridden relative, too poor and too helpless to support nimself. What more natural than that he should give him house-room in this dreary old mansion, where there seems space enough to lodge a regiment?''
I found the family assembled in the drawing-room. Mr. Wendale was the wreck of a very handsome man. He must in early life have resembled Laurence; but, as my lover had said, it seemed indeed as if he and the house and grounds of Fernwood had fallen into decay together. But notwithstanding his weak state of health, he gave us a warm welcome, and did the honors of his hospitable dinner-table with the easy grace of a finished gentleman.
After dinner, my aunt and Lady Adela sat at one of the windows talking; while Laurence, Lucy and I gathered together upon a long stone terrace outside the drawing-room, watching the last low crimson streak of the August sunset fade out behind the black trunks of the trees and melt away into faint red splashes upon the water-pools amongst the brushwood. We were very happy together; Laurence and I talking of a hundred different subjects, telling Lucy our London adventures, describing our fashionable friends, our drives and rides, fêtes, balls and dinners; she, with a grave smile upon her lips, lis
A young man! Mr. Thomas was a young man, then. Lucy herself led my aunt and I to the handsome suite of apartments prepared for us. Mrs. Trevor's room was separated from mine by a corridor, out of which opened two dressing-rooms and a pretty little boudoir, all looking on to the park. My room was at the extreme angle of the building; it had two doors, one leading to the corridor communicating with my aunt's apartments, the other opening into a gallery running the entire length of the house. Looking out into this gallery, I saw that the opposite wing was shuttening to us with almost maternal patience. in by a baize door. I looked with some curiosity at this heavy baize door. It was most likely the barrier which closed the outer world upon Laurence Wendale's invalid relation.
"I must take you over the old house to-morrow, Isabel," Laurence said, in the course of the evening. "I suppose Lucy did not tell you that she had put you into the haunted room?'' "No, indeed!"
Lucy left us as soon as she had installed my aunt and I in "You must not listen to this silly boy, my dear Isabel," said our apartments. While I was dressing for dinner, the house- Miss Wendale. "Of course, like all other old houses, Fernkeeper, a stout, elderly woman, came to ask me if I found every-wood can boast its ghost-story; but since no one in my father's thing I required.
"As you haven't brought your own servant with you, miss," she said, "Miss Lucy told me to place her maid Sarah entirely at your service. Miss gives very little work to a maid herself, so Sarah has plenty of leisure time on her hands, and you'll find her a very respectable young woman."
I told her that I could do all I wanted for myself; but before she left me I could not resist asking her one question about the mysterious invalid.
lifetime has ever seen the phantom, you may imagine that it is not a very formidable one."
"But you own there is a ghost?" I exclaimed eagerly. "Pray tell me the story."
"I'll tell you, Bella," answered Laurence, "and then you'll know what sort of visitor to expect when the bells of Fernwood church, hidden away behind the elms yonder, tremble on the stroke of midnight. A certain Sir Humphrey Wendale, who lived in the time of Henry VIII., was wronged by his wife, a
"Are Mr. Thomas's rooms at this end of the house?" I very beautiful woman. Had he acted according to the ordinary asked.
fashion of the time, he would have murdered the lady and his The woman looked at me with an almost scared expression, rival; but our ancestor was of a more original turn of mind, and was silent for a moment.
and he hit upon an original plan of vengeance. He turned "Has Mr. Laurence been saying anything to you about Mr. every servant out of Fernwood House; and one morning, when Thomas?'' she said; rather anxiously, as I thought.
the unhappy lady was sleeping, he locked every door of the
"Mr. Laurence and his sister Miss Lucy were both talking of mansion, secured every outlet and inlet, and rode away merrily him just now."
"Oh, indeed, miss," answered the womau, with an air of relief; "the poor gentleman's rooms are at the other end of the gallery, miss."'
"Has he lived here long?" I asked.
in the summer sunshine, leaving his wife to die the slow and hideous death of starvation. Fernwood is lonely enough even now, heaven knows! but it was lonelier in those distant days. A passing traveller may now and then have glanced upward at the smokeless chimneys, dimly visible across the trees, as he
"Nigh upon twenty years, miss-above twenty years, I'm rode under the park palings; but none ever dreamed that the thinking."
"I suppose he is distantly related to the family." "Yes, miss."
"And quite dependent on Mr. Wendale ?''
"It is very good of your master to have supported him for so many years, and to keep him in such comfort."
'My master is a very good man, miss."
The woman seemed determined to give me as little information as possible; but I could not resist one more question. "How is it that in all these years Mr. Laurence has never seen this invalid relation?" I asked.
It seemed that this question, of all others, was the most embarrassing to the housekeeper. She turned first red and then pale, and said, in a very confused manner, "The poor gentleman never leaves his room, miss; and Mr. Laurence has such high spirits, bless his dear heart, and has such a noisy, rackety way with him, that he's no fit company for an invalid."
It was evidently useless trying for further information, so I abandoned the attempt, and bidding the housekeeper good
deserted mansion had one luckless tenant. Fifteen months afterwards, when Sir Humphrey rode home from foreign travel, he had some difficulty in forcing the door of the chamber in which you are to sleep; the withered and skeleton form of his dead wife had fallen across the threshold."
"What a horrible story!" I exclaimed, with a shiver. "It is only a legend, dear Isabel," said Lucy; "like all tradition, exaggerated and distorted into due proportions of poetic horror. Pray, do not suffer your mind to dwell upon such a fable."
"Indeed I hope it is not true," I answered. "How fond people are of linking mysteries and horrors such as this with the history of an old family! And yet we never fall across any such family mystery in our own days."
I slept soundly that night at Fernwood, undisturbed by the attenuated shadow of Sybil Wendale, Sir Humphrey's unhappy wife. The bright sunshine was reflected in the oak-panels of my room, and the larks were singing high up in a cloudless blue sky when I awoke. I found my aunt quite reconciled to her visit.