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BY HENRY KINGSLEY, AUTHOR OF
AN ACCOUNT OF THE FAMILY OF RAVEN
Now, although the Ravenshoes, like all respectable houses, have an hereditary lawsuit (a feud with the Humbys, of Hele), a ghost (which the present Raven
shoe claims to have repeatedly seen in I had intended to have gone into quite early youth), and a buried treasure, yet a family history of the Ravenshoes, from I have never heard that they had a the time of Canute to that of her present banshee. Had such been the case, that Majesty, whom I here humbly congratu- unfortunate spirit would have had no late of having wiser advisers than the sinecure of it, but rather must have monarch last mentioned, as she has kept howling night and day for nine never yet been so unfortunate as to wet hundred years or so, in order to have her Royal feet through the bad advice got through her work at all. For of either party-I had meant, I say, the Ravenshoes were almost always to have been quite diffuse on the annals in trouble, and yet had a facility of getof one of our oldest commoner fami
ting out again, which, to one not aware lies; but, on going into the subject, of the cause, was sufficiently inexplicable. I found I must either chronicle little
Like the Stuarts, they have always taken affairs which ought to have been for- the losing side, and yet, unlike the gotten long ago, or do my work in a very Stuarts, have always kept their heads on patchy and inefficient way. When I say their shoulders, and their house over that the Ravenshoes have been engaged their heads. Lady Ascot says that, if in every plot, rebellion, and civil war, Ambrose Ravenshoe had been attainted from about a century or so before the in 1745, he'd have been hung as sure Conquest to 1745, and that the history as fate : there was evidence enough of the house is marked by cruelty and against him to hang a dozen men. I rapacity in old times, and in those more myself, too, have heard Squire Densil modern by political tergiversation of the declare, with great pride, that the Ravenblackest dye, the reader will under- shoe of King John's time was the only stand why I hesitate to say too much in Baron who did not sign Magna Charta ; reference to a name which I especially and, if there were a Ravenshoe at Runnyhonour. In order, however, that I may mede, I have not the slightest doubt. give some idea of what the hereditary that such was the case. Through the character of the familiar is, I must just Rose wars, again, they were always on lead the reader's eye lightly over some of the wrong side, whichever that might the principal events of their history. have been, because your Ravenshoe,
The great Irish families have, as is mind you, was not bound to either side well known, a banshee, or familiar spirit, in those times, but changed as he fancied who, previous to misfortune or death, fortune was going. As flits moaning round the ancestral castle. was the sort of man who generally joined
a party just when their success was in- of facts, would have consigned him to a dubitable—that is to say, just when the rather speedy execution. However, the reaction against them was about to set in King seems to have looked on this -he generally found himself among the gentleman with a suspicious eye, and to party which was going down hill, who have been pretty well aware what sort despised him for not joining them before, of man he was, for I find him writing to and opposed to the rising party, who his wife, on the occasion of his going to hated him because he had declared against Court—“ The King's Grace looked but them. Which little game is common “sourly upon me, and said it should go enough in this present century among “hard, but that the pitcher which went so deep dogs, and men of the world, who " oft to the well should be broke at last. seem, as a general rule, to make as little “Thereto I making answer, “that that by it as ever did the Ravenshoes. “should depend on the pitcher, whether
Well, whatever your trimmers make “it were iron or clomb,' he turned on his by their motion now-a-days, the Raven- “heel, and presently departed from me.” shoes were not successful either at liberal He must have been possessed of his conservatism, or conservative liberalism. full share of family audacity to sharpen At the end of the reign of Henry VII. his wits on the terrible Harry, with they were as poor as Job, or poorer. such an unpardonable amount of treason But, before you have time to think of it, hanging over him. I have dwelt thus behold, in 1530, there comes you to long on him, as he seems to have poscourt a Sir Alured Ravenshoe, who in. sessed a fair share of the virtues and continently begins cutting in at the top vices of his family—a family always of the tune, swaggering, swearing, dress- generous and brave, yet always led astray ing, fighting, dicing, and all that sort of by bad advisers. This Alured built thing, and, what is more, paying his Ravenshoe house, as it stands to this way in a manner which suggests success- day, and in which much of the scene ful burglary as the only solution. Sir of this story is laid. Alured, however, as I find, had done no They seem to have got through the worse than marry an old maid (Miss Gunpowder Plot pretty well, though I Hincksey, one of the Staffordshire Hinck
can show you the closet where one of seys) with a splendid fortune; which the minor conspirators, one Watson, lay fortune set the family on its legs again perdu for a week or more after that for some generations. This Sir Alured gallant attempt, more I suspect from the seems to have been an audacious rogue. effect of a guilty conscience than any He made great interest with the King, thing else, for I never heard of any diswho was so far pleased with his activity tinct charge being brought against him. in athletic sports that he gave him a post The Forty-five, however, did not pass in Ireland. There our Ravenshoe was so quite so easily, and Ambrose Ravenshoe fascinated by the charming manners of went as near to lose his head as any the Earl of Kildare that he even accom- one of the family since the Conquest. panied that nobleman on a visit to Des- When the news came from the north *mond ; and, after a twelvemonth's unau- about the alarming advance of the thorized residence in the interior of Highlanders, it immediately struck Ireland, on his return to England, he Ambrose that this was the best opporwas put into the Tower for six months tunity for making a fool of himself that to “ consider himself.”
could possibly occur. He accordingly, This Alured seems to have been a without hesitation or consultation with deuce of a fellow, a very good type of the any mortal soul, rang the bell for family. When British Harry had that his butler, sent for his stud-groom, difference we wot of with the Bishop of mounted every man about the place Rome, I find Alured to have been en- (twenty or so), armed them, grooms, gaged in some five or six Romish plots, gardeners, and all, with crossbows and such as, had the King been in possession partizans from the armoury, and rode
into the cross, at Stonington, on a market have said, a daughter of Lord Ascot, a day, and boldly proclaimed the Pre- Staunton, as staunchly Protestant a tender King. It soon got about that house as any in England. She, however, “the Squire” was making a fool of managed to fall in love with the handhimself, and that there was some fun some young Popish Squire, and to elope going ; so he shortly found himself sur- with him, changing not only her name, rounded by a large and somewhat dirty but, to the dismay of her family, her rabble, who, with cries of "well done, old faith also, and becoming, pervert-like, rebel!"and“hurrah for the Pope!" escort- more actively bigoted than her easyed him, his terror-stricken butler and his going husband. She brought little or shame-stricken grooms, to the Crown and no money into the family; and, from her Sceptre. As good luck would have it, portrait, appears to have been exceedthere happened to be in the town that ingly pretty, and monstrously silly. day no less a person than Lord Segur, To this strong-minded couple was the leading Roman Catholic nobleman born, two years after their marriage, a of the county. He, accompanied by son, who was called Densil. several of the leading gentlemen of the This young gentleman seems to have same persuasion, burst into the room got on much like other young gentlewhere the Squire sat, overpowered him, men till the age of twenty-one, when it and, putting him bound into a coach, car- was determined by the higher powers in ried him off to Segur castle, and locked conclave assembled that he should go to
It took all the strength of the London and see the world; and so, havPopish party to save him from attainder. ing been cautioned duly how to avoid The Church rallied right bravely round the flesh and the devil, to see the world the old house, which had always assisted he went. In a short time intelligence her with sword and purse, and never came to the confessor of the family, and once had wavered in its allegiance. So, through him to the father and mother, while nobler heads went down, Ambrose that Densil was seeing the world with a Ravenshoe's remained on his shoulders. vengeance ; that he was the constant Ambrose died in 1759.
companion of the right honourable John (Monseigneur) in 1771.
Viscount Saltire, the great dandy of the Howard in 1800. He first took the Radical Atheist set, with whom no man Claycomb hounds.
might play picquet and live ; that he Petre in 1820. He married Alicia, had been upset in a tilbury with only daughter of Charles, third Earl of Mademoiselle Vaurien of Drury-lane at Ascot, and was succeeded by Densil, the Kensington turnpike; that he had fought first of our dramatis personæ-the first the French emigré, a Comte De Hautenof all this shadowy line that we shall see bas, apropos of the Vaurien aforemenin the flesh. He was born in the year tioned,-in short, that he was going on 1783, and married, first in 1812, at his at a deuce of a rate : and so a hurried father's desire, a Miss Winkleigh, of council was called to deliberate what whom I know nothing; and second, at was to be done. his own desire, in 1823, Susan, fourth “He will lose his immortal soul,” said daughter of Lawrence Petersham, Esq., the Priest. of Fairford Grange, county Worcester, “ He will dissipate his property,” said by whom he had issue
his mother. Cuthbert, born 1826.
“ He will go to the devil,” said his Charles, born 1831.
father. Densil was an only son. His father, So Father Clifford, good man, was dea handsome, careless, good-humoured, spatched to London, with post horses, but weak and superstitious man, was and ordered to bring back the lost sheep entirely in the hands of the priests, who vi et armis. Accordingly, at ten o'clock during his life were undisputed masters one night, Densil's lad was astounded of Ravenshoe. Lady Alicia was, as I by having to admit Father Clifford, who led the way.
demanded immediately to be led to his ing an angry glance at the priest, who master.
stood calmly like a black pillar, with his Now this was awkward, for James hands folded before him. “It is unwell knew what was going on upstairs ;
endurable.” but he knew also what would happen “Quem Deus vult,” &c. Father Clifsooner or later to a Ravenshoe servant ford had seen that scowl once or twice who trifled with the priest, and so he before, but he would not take warning.
He said, The lost sheep which the good father “I am ordered not to go westward had come to find was not exactly sober without you. I command you to come.' this evening, and certainly not in a very “Command me! command a Ravengood temper. He was playing écarté shoe!” said Densil furiously. with a singularly handsome though Father Clifford, by way of mending supercilious-looking man, dressed in the matters, now began to lose his temper. height of fashion, who, judging from the “ You would not be the first Ravenheap of gold beside him, had been win- shoe who has been commanded by a ning heavily. The priest trembled and priest ; ay, and has had to obey too," crossed himself—this man was the terri- said he. ble, handsome, wicked, witty, Atheistical, * And you will not be the first jack radical Lord Saltire, whose tongue no priest who has felt the weight of a Ravenwoman could withstand, and whose pistol shoe's wrath,” replied Densil brutally. no man dared face ; who was currently Lord Saltire leant back, and said to believed to have sold himself to the the ambient air, “I'll back the priest, deuce, or indeed, as some said, to be the five twenty's to one." deuce himself.
This was too much. Densil would A more cunning man than poor simple have liked to quarrel with Saltire, but Father Clifford would have made some that was death-he was the deadest shot common-place remark and withdrawn, in Europe. He grew furious, and beyond after a short greeting, taking warning all control. He told the priest to go to by the impatient scowl that settled on (further than purgatory); grew blasDensil's handsome face. Not so he. To phemous; emphatically renouncing the be defied by the boy whose law had been creed of his forefathers, and, in fact, all his word for ten years past never entered other creeds. The priest grew hot and into his head, and he sternly advanced furious too, retaliated in no measured towards the pair.
terms, and finally left the room with his Densil inquired if anything were the ears stopped, shaking the dust off his matter at home. And Lord Saltire, anti- feet as he went. Then Lord Saltire cipating a scene, threw himself back in drew up to the table again laughing. his chair, stretched out his elegant legs, “Your estates are entailed, Ravenshoe, and looked on with the air of a man I suppose,” said he. who knows he is going to be amused, "No." and composes himself thoroughly to “Oh! It's your deal, my dear felappreciate the entertainment.
low.” “Thus much, my son," said the priest ; Densil got an angry letter from his “your mother is wearing out the stones father in a few days, demanding full of the oratory with her knees, praying apologies and recantations, and an imfor her first-born, while he is wasting mediate return home. Densil had no his substance, and perilling his soul, apologies to make, and did not intend with debauched Atheistic companions, to return till the end of the season. His the enemies of God and man."
father wrote declining the honour of his Lord Saltire smiled sweetly, bowed further acquaintance, and sending him a elegantly, and took snuff.
draft for fifty pounds to pay his out“Why do you intrude into my room standing bills, which he very well knew and insult my guests ?” said Densil, cast- amounted to several thousand pounds.
In a short time the great Catholic thoroughfares in such a dress, to-morrow, tradesmen, with whom he had been for a heavy bet—I fancy not. dealing, began to press for money in He smiled sardonically—“My dear a somewhat insolent way; and now fellow," he said, “when a man comes on Densil began to see that, by defying and a visit of condolence, I kņow it is the insulting the faith and the party to which most wretched taste to say, “I told you he belonged, he had merely cut himself so ;' but do me the justice to allow off from rank, wealth, and position. He that I offered to back the priest five to had defied the partie prêtre, and had I have been coming to you all the yet to feel their power. In two months week, but Tuesday and Wednesday I he was in the Fleet prison.
was at Newmarket; Thursday I was His servant (the title “ tiger" came in shooting at your Cousin Ascot's; yesterlong after this), a half groom, half valet, day I did not care about boring myself such as men kept in those days—a simple with you; so I have come to-day because lad from Ravenshoe, James Horton by I was at leisure and had nothing better name--for the first time in his life dis- to do." obeyed orders; for, on being told to re- Densil looked up savagely, thinking turn home by Densil, he firmly declined he had come to insult him ; but the doing so, and carried his top boots and kindly, compassionate look in the piercwhite neckcloth triumphantly into the ing grey eye belied the cynical curl of Fleet, there pursuing his usual avocations the mouth, and disarmed him. He with the utmost nonchalance.
leant his head upon the table, and “A very distinguished fellow that of sobbed. yours, Curly," (they all had nicknames Lord Saltire laid his hand kindly on for one another in those days,) said his shoulder, and said, Lord Saltire. “If I were not Saltire, “ You have been a fool, Ravenshoe; I think I would be Jim. To own the you have denied the faith of your foreonly clean face among six hundred fel- fathers. Pardieu, if I had such an artilow creatures is a pre-eminence, a decided cle, I would not have thrown it so pre-eminence. I'll buy him of you." lightly away.”
For Lord Saltire came to see him, “ You talk like this? Who next ? It snuff-box and all. That morning Densil was your conversation led me to it. Am was sitting brooding in the dirty room I worse than you ? What faith have you, with the barred windows, and thinking in God's name ?” what a wild free wind would be sweep
“ The faith of a French Lycée, my ing across the Downs this fine November friend ; the only one I ever had. I day, when the door was opened, and in have been sufficiently consistent to that, walks me my lord, with a sweet smile I think.” on his face.
“ Consistent, indeed,” groaned poor He was dressed in the extreme of Densil. fashion—a long tailed blue coat with “Now, look here,” said Saltire ; “I gold buttons, a frill to his shirt, a may have been to blame in this. But I white cravat, a marvellous short waist- give you my honour, I had no more coat, loose short nankeen trousers, low idea that you would be obstinate enough shoes, no gaiters, and a low-crowned to bring matters to this pass, than I had hat. I am pretty correct, for I have that you would burn down Ravenshoe seen his picture, dated 1804. But you house because I laughed at it for being must please to remember that his lord- old-fashioned. Go home, my poor little ship was in the very van of the fashion, Catholic pipkin, and don't try to swim and that probably such a dress was not with iron pots like Wrekin and me. universal for two or three years after- Make submission to that singularly wards. I wonder if his well-known distingué-looking old turkey-cock of a audacity would be sufficient to make priest, kiss your mother, and get your