Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Foxholme Hall, and Other Tales

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Foxholme HallAnd other TalesBy WHG KingstonPublished by Virtue and Co, London.This edition dated 1867.

  Foxholme Hall, by WHG Kingston.


  ________________________________________________________________________FOXHOLME HALL, BY WHG KINGSTON.



  We had our choice given us whether we would spend our Christmas holidayswith our most kind and estimable old relative, our mother's cousin, MissGillespie, in Russell-square, and go to the theatre and panoramas, andother highly edifying entertainments, or at Foxholme, in the New Forest,with our great uncle, Sir Hugh Worsley. "Foxholme for ever, I shouldthink indeed!" exclaimed my brother Jack, making a face which was notcomplimentary to Cousin Barbara. "But she is a good kind old soul, ifshe wasn't so pokerish and prim; and that was a dead-alive fortnight wespent with her two winters ago. I say Foxholme for ever."

  "Foxholme for ever," I repeated. "Of course there couldn't be thethinnest slice of a shadow of doubt about the matter. There'll beCousin Peter, and Julia, and Tom and Ned Oxenberry, and Sam Barnby, andPonto, and Hector, and Beauty, and Polly; and there'll be hunting, andshooting, and skating, if there's a frost--and of course there will be afrost--and, oh, it will be such jolly fun!"

  A few weeks after this we were bowling along the road to Southampton onthe top of the old Telegraph, driven by Taylor--as fine a specimen of aJehu as ever took whip in hand--with four white horses--a team of whichhe was justly proud. I see him now before me, his fine tall figure,truly Roman nose, and eagle eye, looking as fit to command an army as todrive a coach, with his white great-coat buttoned well up to hisgay-coloured handkerchief, a flower of some sort decking his breast, abroad-brimmed beaver of white or grey, and a whip which looked as if ithad just come from the maker's hands--indeed, everything about him waspolished, from the crown of his hat to his well-fitting boots; and Ibelieve that no accident ever happened to the coach he drove. There wasthe Independent, also a first-rate coach, and, in those days, Collier'sold coach, which carried six inside, in which we once made a journey--that is, Jack and I--with four old ladies who ate apples and drank gin,with the windows up, all the way, and talked about things which seemedto interest them very much, but which soon sent us to sleep.

  The sky was bright, the air fresh, with just a touch of a frosty smellin it, and we were in exuberant spirits. We had our pea-shooters ready,and had long been on the watch for the lumbering old vehicle, when wesaw it approaching. Didn't we pepper the passengers, greatly to theirindignation! What damage we did we could not tell, for we were by themlike a flash of lightning.

  At Southampton we changed into a much slower coach, which, however,conveyed us safely through the forest to the neighbourhood of Lyndhurst,when, waiting in the road, we espied, to our intense delight, apony-carriage driven by Sam Barnby, who held the office of extracoachman, gamekeeper, and fisherman, besides several other employments,in the establishment at Foxholme. With us he was a prodigiousfavourite, as he was with all the youngsters who went to the place; andSir Hugh, I know, trusted him completely, and employed him in numerouslittle private services of beneficence and charity when a confidentialagent was required. He was the invariable companion of all theyoungsters in our boating, fishing, and shooting excursions.

  It was dusk when we got into the carriage, and as our way lay for somedistance through the thickest part of the forest by a cross-road whichfew people but Sam Barnby would have attempted to take at that latehour, we could often scarcely distinguish the track under the thickbranches of the leafless trees which, stretching across it, formed atrellis-work over our heads, while the thick hollies and otherevergreens formed an impenetrable wall on either side. Now and then,when the forest opened out and the forms of the trees were rather moreclearly defined, they often assumed shapes so fantastic and strange,that I could scarcely prevent a sort of awe creeping over me, and halfexpected that the monsters I fancied I saw would move from their placesand grab up Jack, Sam Barnby, the carriage, and me, and bolt off with usinto some recess of the forest. Jack was talking away to Sam. I hadbeen up bolstering the night before, and had not slept a wink. Suddenlythe carriage stopped, and I heard Sam and Jack utter an exclamation. Iechoed it, and pretty loudly too; for I thought that one of the monstersI had been dreaming about had really got hold of us.

  "Hillo! who have we got here?" exclaimed Sam. "Do you hold the reins,Master Jack, and I'll get out and see."

  I was now fully awake. I asked Jack what it was.

  "We nearly drove over somebody; but the pony shied, fortunately. Therehe is; I can just see him moving."

  "Why, I do believe it's poor silly Dick Green!" exclaimed Sam. "Is ityou, Dicky? Speak out, man! How came you here?"

  "Yes, it be I," said the idiot. "Can't I sleep here? It's verycomfortable--all clean and nice--no smoke, no noise."

  "Why, you would be frozen to death, man, if you did," answered Sam."But, I ask, what brought you here?"

  "That's a secret I bean't a-going to tell thee," whispered the idiot."But just do thee stop here; thee'll foind it very pleasant."

  "No, thank you; we'd rather not," said Sam. "But just do thee get intothe carriage alongside Master William there, and we'll take thee to theHall, and give thee some supper--that's what thee wants, lad."

  "Well, now, that's kind like," simpered the idiot. "I know thee well,Sam Barnby; thee had'st always a good heart."

  "Well, well, lad, don't stand talking there, but scramble in at once,"cried Sam, as he forced the poor creature down by my side.

  Soon afterwards we passed a woodman's or a keeper's hut, from the windowof which a gleam of light streamed forth on the idiot's face, and acreeping feeling of fear stole over me as I caught his large lack-lustreeyes peering into mine, the teeth in his ever-grinning mouth lookingwhite and shining under his upturned lip. I knew that he was said to beperfectly harmless and good-natured, but I would have given anything ifJack would have changed places with me. I did not drop off to sleepagain, that is very certain. The way seemed far longer than I hadexpected, and I almost fancied that Sam must have mistaken his road--nota very likely thing to occur, however.

  As we neared the lodge-gate of Foxholme, I shut my eyes, lest the lightfrom the window should again show me the poor idiot's face staring atme. All disagreeable feelings, however, speedily vanished as we droveup in front of the chief entrance, and the hall-door was flung open, anda perfect blaze of light streamed forth, and the well-known smilingfaces of Purkin, the butler, and James Jarvis, the footman, appeared;and the latter, descending the steps, carried up our trunk and hat-boxesand a play-box we had brought empty, though to go back in a verydifferent condition, we had a notion. Then we ran into thedrawing-room, and found our uncle Sir Hugh, and our kind, sweet-smilingaunt, and our favourite Cousin Julia--she was Sir Hugh's only daughterby a first marriage--and our little Cousin Hugh--his only son by thepresent Lady Worsley; and there, too, was Cousin Peter. He was SirHugh's cousin and Aunt Worsley's cousin, and was cousin to a greatnumber of people besides--indeed everybody who came to the house calledhim cousin, it seemed.

  Some few, perhaps, at first formally addressed him as Mr Peter, or MrPeter Langstone; but they soon got into the way of calling him MrPeter, or Cousin Peter, or Peter alone. He wasn't old, and he couldn'thave been very young. He wasn't good-looking, I fancy--not that we everthought about the matter. He had a longish sallow face, and a big mouthwith white teeth, and lips which twisted and curled about in a curiousmanner, and large s
oft grey eyes--not green-grey, but truly blue-grey--with almost a woman's softness in them, an index, I suspect, of hisheart; and yet I don't think that there are many more daring or cool andcourageous men than Cousin Peter. He had been in the navy in his youth,and had seen some pretty hard service, but had come on shore soon afterhe had received his promotion as lieutenant, and, for some reason orother, had never since been afloat. Sir Hugh was very much attached tohim, and had great confidence in his judgment and rectitude; so that hetried to keep him at Foxholme as much as he could. He might have livedthere and been welcome all the year round.

  I have said nothing yet about Cousin Julia. She was about twenty-two,but looked younger, except when she was about any serious matter. Ithought