The inhabitants of this region are the incarnation of its health, strength, and beauty,–a tall, comely race; bold, steadfast, and thrifty, with very positive opinions on all subjects. There are no Laodiceans among the men and women of the North-Riding; they are one thing or another–Episcopalians or Calvinists; Conservatives or Radicals; friends or enemies. For friendship they have a capacity closer than brotherhood. Once friends, they are friends forever, and can be relied on in any emergency to “aid, comfort, and abet,” legally or otherwise, with perhaps a special zest to give assistance, if it just smacks of the “otherwise.”
Of such elements, John Atheling, lord of the manors of Atheling and Belward, was “kindly mixed,” a man of towering form and great mental vigour, blunt of speech, single of purpose, leading, with great natural dignity, a sincere, unsophisticated life. He began this story one evening in the May of 1830; though when he left Atheling manor-house, he had no idea anything out of the customary order of events would happen. It is however just these mysterious conditions of everyday life that give it such gravity and interest; for what an hour will bring forth, no man can say; and when Squire Atheling rode up to the crowd on the village green, he had no presentiment that he was going to open a new chapter in his life.
I brought my soul with me—an eager soul, impatient for the loves and joys, the struggles and triumphs of the dear, unforgotten world. No doubt it had been aware of the earthly tabernacle which was being prepared for its home, and its helper in the new onward effort; and was waiting for the moment which would make them companions. The beautifully fashioned little body was already dear, and the wise soul would not suffer it to run the risks of a house left empty and unguarded. Some accident might mar its beauty, or cripple its powers, or still more baneful, some alien soul might usurp the tenement, and therefore never be able effectually to control, or righteously use it.
I was a very fortunate child, for I was “possessed by a good spirit, yea rather being good, my spirit came into a body undefiled and perfect” (Wisdom of Solomon, 8:20). Also, my environments were fair and favorable; for my parents, though not rich, were in the possession of an income sufficient for the modest comforts and refinements they desired. My father was the son of Captain John Henry Huddleston, who was lost on some unknown sea, with all who sailed in his company. His brother, Captain Thomas Henry Huddleston, had a similar fate. His ship, The Great Harry, carrying home troops from America, was dashed to pieces on the Scarlet Rocks, just outside Castletown, the capital of the Isle of Man. When the storm had subsided the bodies of the Captain and his son Henry were found clasped in each other’s arms, and they were buried together in Kirk Malew churchyard. During the years 1843 and 1844 I was living in Castletown, and frequently visited the large grave with its upright stone, on which was carved the story of the tragedy. Fifteen years ago my sister Alethia went purposely to Castletown to have the lettering on this stone cleared, and made readable; and I suppose that it stands there today, near the wall of the inclosure, on the left-hand side, not far from the main entrance.
For the prevailing names of this district are all of the Norwegian type, especially such abounding suffixes and prefixes asseat from "set," a dwelling; dale from "dal," a valley; fell from "fjeld," a mountain; garth from "gard," an enclosure; andthwaite, from "thveit," a clearing. It is certain, also, that, in spite of much Anglo-Saxon admixture, the salt blood of the roving Viking is still in the Cumberland dalesman. Centuries of bucolic isolation have not obliterated it. Every now and then the sea calls some farmer or shepherd, and the restless drop in his veins gives him no peace till he has found his way over the hills and fells to the port of Whitehaven, and gone back to the cradling bosom that rocked his ancestors.
But in the main, this lovely spot was a northern Lotus-land to the Viking. The great hills shut him in from the sight of the sea. He built himself a "seat," and enclosed "thwaites" of greater or less extent; and, forgetting the world in his green paradise, was for centuries almost forgotten by the world. And if long descent and an ancient family have any special claim to be held honorable, it is among the Cumberland "statesmen," or freeholders, it must be looked for in England.
The Sandals have been wise and fortunate owners of the acres which Lšgberg Sandal cleared for his descendants. They have a family tradition that he came from Iceland in his own galley; and a late generation has written out portions of a saga,Ñlong orally transmitted,Ñwhich relates the incidents of his voyage. All the Sandals believe implicitly in its authenticity; and, indeed, though it is full of fighting, of the plunder of gold and rich raiment, and the carrying off of fair women, there is nothingimprobable in its relations, considering the people and the time whose story it professes to tell.
In the city the business of the day was over; but at the open doors of many of the shops, little groups of apprentices in leather aprons were talking, and on the broad steps of the City Hall a number of grave-looking men were slowly separating after a very satisfactory civic session. They had been discussing the marvellous increase of the export trade of New York; and some vision of their city's future greatness may have appeared to them, for they held themselves with the lofty and confident air of wealthy merchants and "members of his Majesty's Council for the Province of New York."
The plant, with all its lovely relations, had settled in the garden at Seat-Ambar. Aspatria’s mother had loved them all: the girl could still remember her thin white hands clasping the golden jonquils in her coffin. This memory was in her heart, as she hastened through the lonely place one evening in spring. It ought to have been a pleasant spot, for it was full of snowdrops and daffodils, and many sweet old-fashioned shrubs and flowers; but it was a stormy night, and the blossoms were plashed and downcast, and all the birds in hiding from the fierce wind and driving rain.
She was glad to get out of the gray, wet, shivery atmosphere, and to come into the large hall, ruddy and glowing with fire and candle-light. Her brothers William and Brune sat at the table. Will was counting money; it stood in small gold and silver pillars before him. Brune was making fishing-flies. Both looked up at her entrance; they did not think words necessary for such a little maid. Yet both loved her; she was their only sister, and both gave her the respect to which she was entitled as co-heir with them of the Ambar estate.
She was just sixteen, and not yet beautiful. She was too young for beauty. Her form was not developed; she would probably gain two or three inches in height; and her face, though exquisitely modelled, wanted the refining which comes either from a multitude of complex emotions or is given at once by some great heart-sorrow. Yet she had fascination for those capable of feeling her charm. Her large brown eyes had their childlike clearness; they looked every one in the face with its security of good-will. Her mouth was a tempting mouth; the lips had not lost their bow-shape; they were red and pouting, but withal ever ready to part. She might have been born with a smile. Her hair, soft and dark, had that rarest quality of soft hair,—a tendency to make itself into little curls and tendrils and stray down the white throat and over the white brow; yet it was carefully parted and confined in two long braids, tied at the ends with a black ribbon.
Consequently Ethel had no idea when she returned home one night from a rather stupid entertainment that she was about to open a new and important chapter of her life. Hitherto that life had been one of the sweetest and simplest character—the lessons and sports of childhood and girlhood had claimed her nineteen years; and Ethel was just at that wonderful age when, the brook and the river having met, she was feeling the first swell of those irresistible tides which would carry her day by day to the haven of all days.
It was Saturday night in the January of 1900, verging toward twelve o'clock. When she entered her room, she saw that one of the windows was open, and she stood a moment or two at it, looking across the straight miles of white lights, in whose illumined shadows thousands of sleepers were holding their lives in pause.
"It is not New York at all," she whispered, "it is some magical city that I have seen, but have never trod. It will vanish about six o'clock in the morning, and there will be only common streets, full of common people. Of course," and here she closed the window and leisurely removed her opera cloak, "of course, this is only dreaming, but to dream waking, or to dream sleeping, is very pleasant. In dreams we can have men as we like them, and women as we want them, and make all the world happy and beautiful."
She was in no hurry of feeling or movement. She had been in a crowd for some hours, and was glad to be quite alone and talk to herself a little. It was also so restful to gradually relinquish all the restraining gauds of fashionable attire, and as she leisurely performed these duties, she entered into conversation with her own heart—talked over with it the events of the past week, and decided that its fretless days, full of good things, had been, from the beginning to the end, sweet as a cup of new milk. For a woman's heart is very talkative, and requires little to make it eloquent in its own way.