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Vernons of Derbyshire, can have but an imperfect notion of the golden days of old England. Though now deserted and dilapidated—its i. silent—the sacred bell of its chapel mute—though its tables no longer send up the cheering smell of roasted boars, and spitted oxen—though the music and the voice of the minstrel are silenced, and the light foot of the dancer no longer sounds on the floor —though no gentle knights and gentler dames go trooping hand in hand, and whispering among the twilight groves--and the portal no longer sends out its shining helms, and its barbed steeds;—where is the place that can recal the stately hospitality and glory of former times, like the Hall of Old HADDoN ? It happened on a summer evening, when I was a boy, that several curious old people had seated themselves on a little round knoll near the gate of Haddon Hall; and their talk was of the Vernons, the Cavendishes, the Manners, and many old names once renowned in Derbyshire. I had fastened myself to the apronstring of a venerable dame, at whose girdle hung a mighty iron key, which commanded the entrance of the hall; her name was Dolly Foljambe; and she boasted her descent from an ancient red cross knight of that name, whose alabaster figure, in mail, may be found in Bakewell church. This high origin, which, on consulting family history, I find had not the concurrence of clergy, seemed not an idle vanity of the humble portress; she had the straight frame, and rigid, demure, and even warlike cast of face, which alabaster still retains of her ancestor; and had she laid herself by his side, she might have passed muster, with an ordinary antiquarian, for a coeval figure. At our feet the river Wye ran winding and deep; at our side rose the hall, huge and grey; and the rough heathy hills, renowned in Druidic, and Roman, and Saxon, and Norman story, bounded our wish for distant prospects, and gave us the mansion of the Vernons for our contemplation, clear of all meaner encumbrances of landscape. “Ah! dame Foljambe,” said an old husbandman, whose hair was whitened by acquaintance with seventy winters; “it’s a sore and a
sad sight, to look at that fair tower, and see no smoke ascending. I remember it in a brighter day, when many a fair face gazed out at the windows, and many a gallant form appeared at the gate. Then were the days when the husbandman could live—could whistle as he sowed; dance and sing as he reaped; and could pay his rent in fatted oxen to my lord, and in fatted fowls to my lady. Ah! dame Foljambe, we remember when men could cast their lines in the Wye; could feast on the red deer and the fallow deer, on the plover and the ptarmigan; had right of the common for their flocks, of the flood for their nets, and of the air for their harquebuss. Ah! dame, old England is no more the old England it was, than that hall, dark and silent and desolate—is the proud hall that held Sir George Vernon, the King of the Peak, and his two lovely daughters, Margaret and Dora. Those were days, dame; those were days.” And as he ceased, he looked up to the tower, with an eye of sorrow, and shook and smoothed down his white hairs. “I tell thee,” replied the ancient portress, sorely moved in mind, between present duty and service to the o: owner of Haddon, and her lingering affection for the good old times, of which memory shapes so many paradises, “I tell thee the tower looks as high and as lordly as ever; and there is something about its silent porch, and its crumbling turrets, which gives it a deeper hold of our affections, than if an hundred knights even now came prancing forth at its orch, with trumpets blowing, and to. displayed.” “Ah! dame Foljambe,” said the husbandman; “yon deer now bounding so blythely down the old chase, with his horny head held high, and an eye that seems to make nought of mountain and vale; it is a fair creature. Look at him see how he cools his feet in the Wye, surveys his shadow in the stream, and now he contemplates his native hills again. So f away he goes, and we gaze after him, and admire his speed and his beauty. But were the hounds at his flanks, and the bullets in his side, and the swords of the hunters bared for the brittling; Ah! dame, we should change our cheer: we should think that such shapely limbs, and such stately antlers, might have reigned in wood and on hill for many summers. . Even so we think of that stately old hall, and lament its destruction.” “ Dame Foljambe thinks not so deeply on the matter,” said a rustic; “ she thinks, the less the hall fire, the less is the chance of the hall being consumed; the less the company, the longer will the old hall floor last, which she sweeps so clean, telling so many stories of the tree that made it;-that the sevenVirtues in tapestry would do well in avoiding wild comy; and that the lass with the Hong shanks, Diana, and her nymphs, . hunt more to her fancy on her dusty acre of old arras, than in the dubious society of the lords and the heroes of the court gazette. Moreover, the key at her girdle is the commission by which she is keeper of this cast-off and moth-eaten garment of the noble name of Manners; and think ye that she holds that power lightly, which makes her governess of ten thousand bats and owls, and gives her the awful responsibility of an armoury, containing almost an entire harquebuss, the remains of a
|. of boots, and the relique of a uff jerkin P” What answer to this unceremonious attack on ancient things committed to her o the portress might have made, I had not an opportunity to learn; her darkening brow indicated little meekness of reply; a voice, however, much sweeter than the dame's, intruded on the debate. In the vicinity of the hall, at the foot of a limestone rock, the summer visitors of Haddon ma and do refresh themselves at a o fount of pure water, which love of the clear element induced one of the old ladies to confine within the limits of a large stone basin. Virtues were imputed to the spring, and the superstition of another proprietor erected beside it a cross of stone, lately mutilated, and now removed, but once covered with sculptures and rude emblems, which conveyed religious instruction to an ignorant peole. Towards this fountain, a maiden rom a neighbouring cottage was observed to proceed, warbling, as she went, a fragment of one of those legendary ballads which the old minstrels, illiterate or learned, scattered so abundantly over the country.
1. It happen'd between March and May-day, When wood-buds wake which slumber'd late, When hill and valley grow green and gaily, And every wight longs for a mate; When lovers sleep with an open eye-lid, Like nightingales on the orchard tree, And sorely wish they had wings for flying, So they might with their true love be;
A knight all worthy, in this sweet season
3. Her gentle hand was a good how bearing, The deer at speed, or the fowl on wing, Stay'd in their flight, when the bearded arrow Her white hand loosed from the sounding string. Old men made bare their locks, and blest her, As blythe she rode down the Durwood side, Her steed rejoiced in his lovely rider, Arch'd his neck proudly, and pranced in pride.
This unexpected minstrelsy was soon interrupted by dame Foljambe, whose total devotion to the family of Rutland rendered her averse to hear the story of Dora Vernon's elopement, profaned in the familiar ballad strain of a forgotten minstrel. “I wonder at the presumption of that rude minion,” said the offended portress, “ in chaunting such ungentle strains in my ear. Home to thy milk-pails, idle hussey—home to thy distaff, foolish maiden; or if thou wilt sing, come over to my lodge when the sun is down, and I will teach thee a strain of a higher sort, made by a great court 1. on the marriage of her late Grace. It is none of your rustic chaunts, but full of fine words, both long and lordly; it begins,
Come, burn your incense, ye god-like
None of your vulgar chaunts, mimion, I tell thee; i. stuffed with spiced words, and shining with gods, and garters, and stars, and precious stones, and odours thickly dropping ; a noble strain indeed.” The maiden smiled, modded acquiescence, and tripping homewards, renewed her homely and interrupted song, till the river bank and the ancient towers acknowledged, with their sweetest echoes, the native charms of her voice. “I marvel much,” said the hoary portress, “at the idle love for strange and incredible stories which possesses as with a demon the peasants of this district. Not only have they given a saint, with a shirt of hair cloth and a scourge, to every cavern, and a druid with his golden sickle and his mistletoe to every circle of shapeless stones; but they have made the Vernons, the Cavendishes, the Cockaynes, and the Foljambes, erect on every wild place crosses or altars of atonement for crimes which they never committed; unless fighting ankledeep in heathen blood, for the recovery of Jerusalem and the holy Sepulchre, required such outlandish penance. They cast too a supernatural light round the commonest story; if you credit them, the ancient chapel bell of Haddon, safely lodgcd on the
attendant maidens, al
floor for a century, is carried to the top of the turret, and, touched by some invisible hand, is made to toll forth midnight notes of dolour and woe, when any misfortune is about to befal the noble family of Rutland. They tell you too that wailings of no earthly voice are heard around the decayed towers, and along the garden terraces, on the festival might of the saint who presided of old over the fortunes of the name of Vernon. And no longer agone than yesterday, old Edgar Ferrars assured me that he had nearly as good as seen the aparition of the King of the Peak imself, mounted on his visionary steed, and, with imaginary horn, and hound, and halloo, pursuing a spectre stag over the wild chase of Haddon. Nay, so far has vulgar credulity and assurance gone, that the great garden entrance, called the Knight's porch, through which Dora Vernon descended step by step * her twenty rustling in embroidered silks, and shining and sparkling like a winter sky, in diamonds, and such like costly stones— to welcome her noble bridegroom, Lord John Manners, who came cap in hand with his company of gallant gentlemen—” “Nay, now, dame Foljambe,” interrupted the husbandman, “all this is fine enough, and lordly too, I'll warrant; but thou must not apparel a plain old tale in the embroidered raiment of thy own brain, nor adorn it in the precious stones of thy own fancy. Dora Vernon was a lovely lass, and as proud as she was lovely; she bore her head high, dame; and well she might, for she was a gallant Knight's daughter; and lords and dukes, and what not, have descended from her. But, for all that, I cannot forget that she ran away in the middle of a moonlight might, with young Lord John Manners, and no other attendant than her own sweet self. Aye, dame, and for the diamonds, and what not, which thy story showers on her locks and her garments, she tied up her berry brown locks in a menial's cap, and ran away in a mantle of Bakewell brown, threeyards for a groat. Aye, dame, and instead of going out regularly by the door, she leapt out of a window; more by token she left one of her silver heeled slippers fastened in the grating, and the place has ever since been called the Lady's Leap.” Dame Foljambe, like an inexperienced rider, whose steed refuses obedience to voice and hand, resigned the contest in despair, and allowed her rustic companion to enter full career into the debatable land, where she had so often fought and vanquished in defence of the decorum of the mode of alliance between the houses of Haddon and Rutland. “And now dame,” said the husbandman, “I will tell thee the story in my own and my father's way. The last of the name of Vernon was renowned far and wide for the hospitality and magnificence of his house, for the splendour of his retinue, and more for the beauty of his daughters, Margaret and Dorothy. This is speaking in thy own manner, dame Foljambe; but truth's truth. He was much given to hunting and hawking, and jousting, with lances either blunt or sharp ; and though a harquebuss generally was found in the hand of the gallant hunters of that time, the year of grace 1560, Sir George Vernon despised that foreign weapon; and well he might, for he bent the strongest bow, and shot the surest shaft, of any man in England. His chase-dogs too were all of the most expert and famous kinds—his falcons had the fairest and most certain flight; and though he had seen foreign lands, he chiefly prided himself in maintaining unimpaired the old baronial grandeur of his house. I have heard ~..y grandsire say, how his great grandsire told him, that the like of the knight of Haddon, for a stately form, and a noble, free, and natural grace of manner, was not to be seen in court or camp. He was hailed, in common tale, and in minstrel song, by the name of the KING of the PEAK ; and it is said, his handsome person and witchery of tongue chiefly prevented his mistress, good Queen Bess, from abridging his provincial designation with the headsman's axe. “It happened in the fifth year of the reign of his young and sovereign mistress, that a great hunting festival was held at Haddon, where all the beauty and high blood of Derbyshire assembled. Lords of distant counties came; for to bend a bow, or brittle the deer, under the eye of Sir George Vernon, was an honour sought for by
many. Over the chase of Haddon, over the hill of Stanton, over Bakéwell-edge, over Chatsworth hill and Hardwicke plain, and beneath the ancient castle of Bolsover, as far as the edge of the forest of old Sherwood, were the sounds of harquebuss and bowstring heard, and the cry of dogs and the cheering of men. The brown-mouthed and whitefooted dogs of Derbyshire were there among the foremost; the snow-white hound and the coal-black, from the Scottish border and bonny Westmoreland, preserved or augmented their ancient fame; nor were the dappled hounds of old Godfrey Foljambe, of Bakewell bank, far from the throat of the red deer when they turned at bay, and gored horses and riders. The great hall floor of Haddon was soon covered with the produce of wood and wild. “Nor were the preparations for feasting this noble hunting party unworthy the reputation for solid hospitality which characterised the ancient King of the Peak. Minstrels had come from distant parts, as far even as the Scottish border; bold, free-spoken, rude, rough witted men; “for the selvage of the web,” says the northern proverb, ‘is aye the coarsest cloth.' But in the larder the skill of man was chiefly employed, and a thousand rarities were prepared for pleasing the eye and appeasing the appetite. In the kitchen, with its huge chimneys and prodigious spits, the menial maidens were flooded nigh ankle deep in the richness of roasted oxen and deer; and along the passage, communicating with the hall of state, men might have slided along, because of the fat droppings of that prodigious feast, like a slider on the frozen Wye. The kitchen tables, of solid plank, groaned and yielded beneath the roasted beeves and the spitted deer ; while a stream of rich smoke, massy, and slow, and savoury, sallied out at the grated windows, and sailed round the mansion, like a mist exhaled by the influence of the moon. I tell thee, dame Foljambe, I call those the golden days of old England. “But I wish you had seen the hall prepared for this princely feast. The floor, of hard and solid stone, was strewn deep with rushes and fern: and there lay the dogs of the chase o
couples, their mouths still red with the blood of stags, and panting yet from the fervour and length of their Fo At the lower end of the all, where the floor subsided a step, was spread a table for the stewards and other chiefs over the menials. There sat the keeper of the bows, the warder of the chase, and the head falcomer, together with many others of lower degree, but mighty men among the retainers of the noble name of Vernon. Over their heads were hung the horns of stags, the tusks of boars, the skulls of the enormous bisons, and the foreheads of foxes. Nor were there wanting trophies, where the contest had been more bloody and obstinate—banners and shields, and helmets, won in the Civil, and Scottish, and Crusading wars, together with many strange weapons of annoyance or defence, borne in the Norwegian and Saxon broils. Beside them were hung rude paintings of the most renowned of these rustic heroes, all in the picturesque habiliments of the times. Horns, and harquebusses, and swords, and bows, and buff coats, and caps, were thrown in negligent groups all about the floor, while their owners sat in expectation of an immediate and ample feast, which they hoped to wash down with floods of that salutary beverage, the brown blood of barley. “At the upper end of the hall, where the floor was elevated exactly as much in respect, as it was lowered in submission at the other, there the table for feasting the nobles stood; and well was it worthy of its station. It was one solid plank of white sycamore, shaped from the entire shaft of an enormous tree, and supported on squat columns of oak, ornamented with the arms of the Vernons, and grooved into the stone floor, beyond all chance of being upset by human powers. Benches of wood, curiously carved, and covered, in times of more than ordinary ceremony, with cushions of embroidered velvet, surrounded this ample table;—while in the recess behind appeared a curious work in arras, consisting of festivals and processions, and bridals, executed from the ancient poets; and for the more staid and grave, a more devout hand had wrought some scenes from the controvcrsial fathers and the
monkish legends of the ancient church. The former employed the white hands of Dora Vermon herself; while the latter were the labours of her sister Margaret, who was of a serious turn, and never, happened to be so far in love as to leap from a window.” “And now,” said dame Foljambe, “I will describe the Knight of Haddon, with his fair daughters and principal guests, myself.” “A task that will last thee to doomsday, dame,” muttered the husbandman. The portress heeded not this ejaculation, but with a particular stateliness of delivery proceeded. “The silver dinner bell rung on the summit of Haddon hall, the warder thrice wound his horn, and straightway the sound of silver spurs was heard in the passage, the folding door opened, and in marched my own ancestor, Ferrars Foljambe by name. I have heard his dress too often described not to remember it. A buff jerkin, with slashed and ornamented sleeves, a mantle of fine Lincoln green, fastened round his neck with wolf-claws of pure gold, a |. of gilt spurs on the heels of his rown hunting-boots, garnished above with taslets of silver, and at the square and turned-up toes, with links of the same metal connected with the taslets. On his head was a boar-skin cap, on which the white teeth of the boar were set tint with gold. At his side, was a hunting horn, called the white hunting horn of Tutbury, banded with silver in the middle, belted with black silk at the ends, set with buckles of silver, and bearing the arms of Edmund, the warlike brother of Edward Longshanks. This fair horm descended by marriage to Stanhope, of Elvaston, who sold it to Foxlowe, of Staveley. The gift of a king and the property of heroes was sold for some paltry pieces of gold.” “ Dame Foljambe,” said the old man, “the march of thy tale is like the course of the Wye, seventeen miles of links and windings down a fair valley five miles long. Aman mightcarve thy ancestor's figure in alabaster in the time thou describest him. I must resume my story, dame; so let thy description of old Ferrars Foljambe stand; and suppose the table filled about with the gallants of the chase and many fair ladies, while at the head sat the King of the Peak himself,