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HEIRESS OF HADDON.
WM. E. DOUBLEDAY.
SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT AND CO., LIMITED.
BUXTON AND BAKEWELL:
U.F. WARDLEY, "HIGH PEAK NEWS" OFFICES.
The real romance of Haddon Hall is a sweet, old-world idyll of singular attractiveness and interest. The gems of the story have been reset by dramatists in different surroundings; but while, as in the Sullivan-Grundy opera, many of its chief incidents have been retained, many have been omitted.
In the old story there are no Puritans, and not one solitary Scotchman appears upon the scene. The original drama was enacted in the pastoral days of "Good Queen Bess," when the Tudor Queen was still young and beautiful, and
"When all the world was young, lad,
And all the trees were green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen."
Haddon Hall, the scene of the story, is situated at the foot of the Peak, between Bakewell and Chatsworth, close to Matlock, and not far from Buxton. Far from the madding crowd the hoary old edifice stands, carefully preserved, and generously thrown open to public view by its princely owners, the Dukes of Rutland, who, though for more than a century back they have ceased to inhabit it, have yet most carefully protected the building from falling into the slightest disrepair.
In our own day, the Hall stands very much as it did in the heyday of its glory, when the sisters Margaret and Dorothy received the homage of their numerous admirers, or the "King of the Peak" himself passed to and fro within its walls. But it is more beautiful now than it was then, for now it is tinged with a beauty which age alone can bestow, and mellowed with a charm that none of the Vernons ever knew.
And of this charm Dorothy Vernon herself is assuredly the central figure. For three centuries her romantic career has been a favourite theme with minstrel, poet, and painter; and during all this time-like the ivy which grows and clusters around the walls and nooks and crannies of what, generations ago, were the abiding-places of kings or nobles, scenes of splendour and animation-so, during the lapse of time, there has grown a beautiful and romantic web of legendary lore which clings tenaciously to every wall, window, and stone of the old Hall, until every room and every corner of old Haddon seems to tell the story of the beautiful maiden who, once upon a time, fell in love with a certain plain John Manners, whom she was determined to wed, in spite of all the obstacles that were placed in her way.
The story telling how she accomplished this has been told in many varying forms, but in the following pages the writer has sought to incorporate the essence of nearly all the legends, concerning not only Dorothy, but also of Sir George Vernon. A considerable amount of fresh matter has been introduced, and, without unduly intruding the dry facts of history, a few of the great events and persons of the time have been pressed into service; whilst at the same time, some of the old English customs of the days of "Good Queen Bess" have been made to serve the purpose of the narrative.
THE HEIRESS OF HADDON.
CHAPTER I. AT FIRST SIGHT.
There is a spirit brooding o'er these walls
That tells the record of a bygone day,
When 'mid the splendour of these courtly halls,
A pageant shone, whose gorgeous array
Like pleasure's dream has passed away.
Where both deliberate the love is slight;
Who ever loved that love not at first sight?
Amid the hills of Derbyshire which cluster around the Peak there rises, in a lovely dale slyly peeping out from behind the surrounding trees, the fine old pile of Haddon Hall.
Perhaps the old shire of Derby, with its many rich examples, can present to view nothing equal in historic and legendary interest to this old mansion. Its turrets and towers, its windows and its walls, its capacious kitchens, and its fine halls and banqueting rooms-unspoiled by the hands of the "restorer"-have gained for it the almost unchallenged position of being the finest baronial residence which still exists.
There stand the grey old walls whose battlements have proudly bidden defiance to the storms and blasts of half a thousand winters, and there still stand the gnarled old trees which have gently swayed to and fro while many a baron has ruled the Hall, and whose leaves after growing in superlative beauty, seeming to partake in the grandeur and pride of the "King of the Peak," have drooped and fallen, after having made, with their rich autumnal tints, a succession of beautiful living pictures which have delighted the lords and ladies of Haddon for almost twenty generations.
When William the Conqueror had invaded England and had succeeded in seating himself upon his somewhat insecure throne, he began to reward his followers with liberal grants of the land he had won. Among these fortunate individuals was one, William Peveril, said to be a son of the Conqueror, and to him, in common with many other estates in and around Derbyshire, was given the manor of Haddon. Part of the fabric which was then erected is still standing, and it is surmised by some that traces are still left of a previous Saxon erection. In the year 1154, the estate was forfeited to the Crown, and it was granted by King Henry II. to the Avenals, from which family, two hundred years later, it was transferred by marriage to the Vernons.
Its fate has been strangely wrapped up in the history of its women, for as it passed from the Avenals to the Vernons by marriage, so again, three centuries later, by a similar process, it passed from the Vernon family to the Rutland, which ever since has retained it in its possession.
Everything around, both inside and out, is fragrant with interest. Everything seems to breathe out the spirit of departed ages. It is one vast relic of "Merrie England's" bygone splendour.
It was the old original "Palace of the Peak," nor was it unworthy of the name. The glory of many royal palaces of its time indeed might well have paled beside its splendour, and as a matter of fact the baron of Haddon was a king within his own domain, who wielded a power which few around dared to question, and fewer still resist. Its hospitality was lavish, as the poor of a neighbourhood of no small radius knew full well; and the vastness and riches of the property which accompanied the ownership of Haddon was enough to maintain its lord in an almost regal state.
What happy scenes have taken place within its walls! How many fair ladies have stepped off the riding stone outside its gate, helped by the gallant but superfluous aid of chivalrous knights, each striving to outdo the others by gentle acts of courtesy! What brilliant cavalcades have issued from its portals! How many merry hunting parties have started from its iron-studded gate; and what jovial monster feasts have taken place within its rooms. If walls could speak, what a tale would Haddon have to tell.
The spring of the year of grace 1567 had just commenced, and the trees were beginning to adorn themselves once again in their green array, when the Knight of Haddon, Sir George Vernon, led out a merry company for the first hawking expedition of the year. The winter had been unusually long, and more than extraordinarily severe; and whilst the knight and his sturdy friends had been enabled to pursue their sport by submitting to a more than usual amount of inconvenience, yet the ladies had been almost entirely confined within the limits of the Hall. Winter at Haddon was by no means a dreary imprisonment, for fetes and balls were continually taking place, and however rough the weather might be, and the condition of the miserable tracts which in those days did duty for roads, there were not a few cavaliers, both old and young, who would gladly adventure the discomforts of a journey to Haddon, even were it to be only rewarded by a smile, or perchance a dance with the two daughters of the host, whose beauty, though of different types, many were ready to swear, and to maintain it, if need be, at the point of the sword, could not be surpassed in all the counties of the land.
Indeed, the beauty of Margaret and Dorothy was almost as famous as the reputation of the "King of the Peak" himself, and the old knight, owner as he was of immense wealth, was often heard to assert that his two daughters were the greatest treasures he possessed.
Many eyes were cast upon these two fair maidens, and many hearts were laid at their feet. Margaret, the elder, was already being wooed by Sir Thomas Stanley, and some gossips even went so far as to say that she had already plighted her troth to him. The younger sister, however, had kept her heart intact, and in spite of the persuasions of Sir George and the threats of Lady Maude, had refused to comply with their request to accept Sir Henry de la Zouch as her betrothed.
Although by no means dreary, yet the continual round of winter feasts had at last begun to assume an aspect of staleness, and lords and ladies alike had for some time past been eagerly anticipating the time when they might once more pursue their noble sports. As the winter had gradually withdrawn its ice and snow, and occasional gleams of sunshine appeared, hearalding the advent of spring, the excitement had increased. Dancing was discarded, the tapestry work was laid aside, and all with one mind began to make preparations for the coming excursions.