Theresa Marchmont Or, the Maid of Honour A Tale

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Language: English
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CHAPTER I.


"Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
shall never tremble. Hence horrible shadow!
Unreal mockery, hence!"—MACBETH

It was a gloomy evening, towards the autumn of the year 1676, and the driving blasts which wept from the sea upon Greville Cross, a dreary and exposed mansion on the coast of Lancashire, gave promise of a stormy night and added to the desolation which at all traces pervaded its vast and comfortless apartments.

Greville Cross had formerly been a Benedictine Monastery, and had been bestowed at the Reformation, together with its rights of Forestry upon Sir Ralph de Greville, the ancestor of its present possessor. Although that part of the building containing the chapel and refectory had been long in ruins, the remainder of the gloomy quadrangle was strongly marked with the characteristics of its monastic origin. It had never been a favourite residence of the Greville family; who were possessed of two other magnificent seats, at one of which, Silsea Castle in Kent, the present Lord Greville constantly resided; and the Cross, usually so called from a large iron cross which stood in the centre of the court-yard, and to which thousand romantic legends were attached, had received few improvements from the modernizing hand of taste. Indeed as the faults of the edifice were those of solid construction, it would have been difficult to render it less gloomy or more convenient by any change that art could affect. Its massive walls and huge oaken beams would neither permit the enlargement of its narrow windows, nor the destruction of its maze of useless corridors; and it was therefore allowed to remain unmolested and unadorned; unless when an occasional visit from some member of the Greville family demanded an addition to its rude attempts of splendour and elegance. But it was difficult to convey the new tangled luxuries of the capital to this remote spot; and the tapestry, whose faded hues and moulding texture betrayed the influence of the sea air, had not yet given plan to richer hangings. The suite of state apartments as cold and comfortless in the extreme, but one of the chambers had been recently decorated with more than usual cost, on the arrival of Lord and Lady Greville, the latter of whom had never before visited her Northern abode. Its dimensions, which were somewhat less vast than those of the rest of the suite, rendered it fitter for modern habits of life; and it had long ensured the preference of the ladies of the House of Greville, and obtained the name of "the lady's chamber," by which it is even to this day distinguished. The walls were not incumbered by the portraits of those grim ancestors who frowned in mail, or smiled in fardingale on the walls of the adjacent galleries. The huge chimney had suffered some inhospitable contraction, and was surmounted with marble; and huge settees, glittering with gilding and satin, which in their turn would now be displaced by the hand of Gillow or Oakley, had dispossessed the tall straight backed-chairs, which in the olden times must have inflicted martyrdom on the persons of our weary forefathers....