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But when they had passed the domain of Herstmonceux, and gaining the open country, began to approach the wide-spread park of Laughton, each one began to feel a keen interest in their intended sport, especially as there was some risk to be encountered; for Sir Nicholas Pelham was known to watch sharply over his well-stocked chase.
When they had proceeded some way, the clouds began to break, and the wind to lull; so that the moon's light was far more steady than before.
"I would fain," said Lord Dacre, "have brought our servants with us; the night is clear, and Pelham's rangers will have a right goodly view of us, should they at all cross our path."
Why, marry my Lord," said a yeoman, "eight of us are enough for Sir Nicholas' keepers; they never exceed a band of four, at the most."
Aye," was the answer; "but they may be enough to spoil our sport. And yet the men we have sent round must meet us soon, 'tis true. We will go to Pikehay first; they call it the nearest point of the park."
"What think you of the park, Lord Dacre?" enquired Cheney; " though a stranger to these parts, I have heard much of its fame; 'tis large enough, I trow."
"And a goodly park, too," he replied; "I have hunted here with its owner often enough before this. Only Sir Nicholas is somewhat devout, withal; he sends almost every buck he kills to the good monks of Battle; and they in return do pray for his soul."
"That do they, by my faith," said Roidon," and call him almost a saint. Oh! they care well for his soul, the pious brotherhood; do they so for thine, Lord Dacre ?” "Nay, I am not so pious," said he; "I send a fat buck every year to the Abbot, and hold that enough for our Holy Mother, and my soul."
"Know ye the Abbot of Battle, fair sir?" said Roidon to Cheney; and then without pausing for a reply, "I' faith he holds right goodly cheer; what pity that our Lord the King should be so evil-inclined towards the convents of the realm."
Why, by the rood," said another, " they say he will even dissolve them; would he had never quarrelled with the Pope; for what should we do without our good monks ?"
"We must e'en do without them, I fear," said Dacre; " and I should be the gainer, for I shall save my buck."
In such conversation they "wiled away" the road, which intervened between Herstmonceux and Pikchay, one of the nearest points of the extensive domain.
They came before a time-worn portal, over which was carved the Pelham buckle, and were almost immediately joined by a party, which had been sent round another way, and brought news that the coast was clear. They then prepared altogether for the sport, which was fated to be speedily interrupted. They had not proceeded above a hundred yards from the gate, where the wood began to grow thicker, before the whole band were called to stop by a voice close at hand, and shortly after three men presented themselves in the middle of the path, under the clearly shining moon, to prevent their farther passage.
"Now, by Saint Mary," said Lord Dacre, on perceiving the small party, "thou art too insolent, John Busbrig; pass on, or stand to thy guard."
"Bethink thee, Lord Dacre," said the man," how little credit thou wilt get from this affray. 'Tis shame for thee to encroach thus on the lands of a neighbour, and one who is thy friend. Turn back, and we will not say
that we met thee here."
This friendly admonition had no effect on the party; they pushed the rangers rudely aside, and Dacre had already passed on, when he heard the clanking of a weapon. "Stay, stay, gentles!" he cried, "drive the men away, but do not hurt them."
He was too late; one of his party had struck John Busbrig, and he promptly returned the blow; upon this began a fatal affray, in which the ranger was seriously wounded, and carried off by his two comrades, who vowed revenge for the injury he had received. Lord Dacre turned back in moody silence.
(To be continued.)
The steed, impatient of control,
Snorts for the chase, or grasps the goal :
On wings of rage to battle borne
He rends the earth in very scorn!
Spurns with exulting hoof the plain
And champions the wind in high and proud disdain!
Once more upon the bounding sea
His good ship tightly running free;
Child of the billow, and the breeze
One look of love !—Away !—A shame to landsmen's ease!
The exile, from that shore beloved torn,
Of which he was a scion, not a slave-
His loved-lost country fadeth from the view,
One reeling glance !—as tho' to pierce the gloom—
So I, nor like the hot and pampered steed,
Do see Youth's visions fade, and, wrapt in mist, depart !
Ye hallowed groves, and Muse-devoted bowers!
That shines, character'd in the scroll of Fame;
Mother of good, and great, ETONA-thy caress
Has blest our country's fav'rite children-and will bless.
Lost in thy cloister'd courts—a thoughtless child,
I'd fain avoid that cold and pathless wild
Of broken hearts, and unrequited pain,
Contemned vows, crush'd hope, and dark disdain ;
The last, and sweetest drop; the fairest, fleetest flower!
Oft by that aged river straying,
Whereon the sunbeams quiver, playing
Beneath the pendant shade of trees,
That ever, and anon in graceful ease
The amber-tinted light;
A Spirit of ages, buried, and gone,
Then, rambling sadly thro' History's page,
With a thrilling, wild emotion;
"ALL ETON'S PRIDE."
No more! no more!
The spirit hath sped, and this heart is sore.
No more shall sever, nor destroy
Sweet thoughts, that, ever glowing, linger, Of Youth, and Hope, and guiltless Joy!
Farewell! a word of care and fear!
Then life, and health, and thanks be thine!
But waft this tribute, fond and free,
Of love, and reverence to thee!