The Red Court Farm (Vol. 1 of 2) A Novel
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THE RED COURT FARM.
MRS. HENRY WOOD.
IN TWO VOLUMES.--VOL. I.
LEIPZIG: BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ.
PARIS: C. REINWALD & CIE, 15, RUE DESSAINTS-P»RES.
PARIS: THE GALIGNANI LIBRARY, 224, RUE DE RIVOLI,
AND AT NICE, 48, QUAI ST. JEAN BAPTISTE.
This Collection is, published with copyright forContinentalcirculation, but all purchasers are earnestly requested not tointroduce the volumes into England or into any British Colony.
THE RED COURT FARM BY MRS. HENRY WOOD.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
By the same Author,
|EAST LYNNE||3 vols.|
|THE CHANNINGS||2 vols.|
|MRS. HALLIBURTON'S TROUBLES||2 vols.|
|VERNER'S PRIDE||3 vols.|
|THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT||3 vols.|
|TREVLYN HOLD||2 vols.|
|LORD OAKBURN'S DAUGHTERS||2 vols.|
|OSWALD CRAY||2 vols.|
|MILDRED ARKELL||2 vols.|
|ST. MARTIN'S EVE||2 vols.|
|ELSTER'S FOLLY||2 vols.|
|LADY ADELAIDE'S OATH||2 vol.|
|ORVILLE COLLEGE||1 vol.|
|A LIFE'S SECRET||1 vol.|
|ANNE HEREFORD||2 vols.|
|ROLAND YORKE||2 vols.|
RED COURT FARM.
MRS. HENRY WOOD,
AUTHOR OF "EAST LYNNE," "TREVLYN HOLD," ETC.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
The Right of Translation is reserved.
OF VOLUME I.
|II.||Robert Hunter and his Wife.|
|III.||Clara Lake's Dream.|
|V.||Red or Green.|
|VI.||Justice Thornycroft's Visit.|
|VIII.||Catching a Chill.|
|X.||Mary Jupp's Explosion.|
|XI.||The Dream worked out.|
|XIII.||What was the Fear?|
|XV.||The New Mistress of the Red Court.|
THE RED COURT FARM.
PART THE FIRST.
On a certain portion of the English coast, lying sufficientlyconvenient to that of France to have given rise to whispers ofsmuggling in the days gone by, there is a bleak plateau of land,rising high above the sea. It is a venturesome feat to walk closeto its edge and gaze down the perpendicular cliffs to the beachbelow--enough to make a strong man dizzy. A small beach just there,called the Half-moon from its shape, nearly closed in by theprojecting rocks, and accessible only from the sea at high water; atlow water a very narrow path leads from it round the left projectionof rock. It was a peculiar place altogether, this spot; and it isnecessary to make it pretty clear to the imagination of those who readthe story connected with it. The Half-moon itself was never underwater, for the tide did not reach it, but the narrow path windinground to the left was; and that rendered the half-circular beachunapproachable by land at intervals in the four-and twenty hours. Afew rude steps shelved down from this Half-moon to a small strip oflower beach underneath, whose ends were lost in the sea. Theprojecting rocks on either side, forming as may be said the corners ofthe Half-moon, went right into the sea. Those on your right hand(standing face to the sea) cut off all communication with the shorebeyond, for a depth of water touched them always. Those on the leftextended less far out, and the narrow path winding round them was drywhen the tide was down. It thus arose that the Half-moon could begained by this one narrow path only, or by a boat from the sea.
For all practical purposes it might just as well have beenunattainable. Not once in a month--nay, it might be said, not once intwelve months--would any human being stray thither. Not only was thereno end to be answered in going to it, but the place was said to behaunted; and the simple villagers around would sooner have spentthe night watching in the church's vaults than have ventured to theHalf-moon beach between sundown and cockcrow. The most superstitiousrace of men on the earth's surface are sailors; and fishermen partakeof the peculiarity.
Turning round on the plateau now--it is called the plateau just as thebeach below is called the Half-moon--with our backs to the sea, welook inland It is only the plateau that is high; the coast itself andthe lands around lie rather low. On the left hand (remember that ourhands have been reversed) a long line of dreary coast stretchesonwards, not a habitation to be seen; on the right lies thevillage--Coastdown. Fishermen's huts are built on the side and top ofthe cliffs, not there so perpendicular; small cottages dot thelow-lying grass lands; and an opening in the one poor street (if itcan be called such) of the village, shows the real useable beach andthe few fishing craft moored to it.
Standing still on the plateau, our backs to the sea, the eye falls ona landscape of cultivated plains, extending out for miles and miles.The only house near to the plateau is exactly opposite to it--a largeredbrick house built in a dell. It may be a quarter of a mile distantfrom the edge of the plateau where we stand, but the gradual descentof the grassy land causes it to look very much nearer. This is the RedCourt Farm. It is a low, long house, rather than a high one, and hasbeen built on the site of an ancient castle, signs of whose ruins maybe seen still. The plateau itself is but as wide as about a goodstone's throw; and on its lower part, not far from where it joins thelands of the Red Court Farm, and the descent is rather abrupt, rises adilapidated circular stone wall, breast high, with a narrow openingwhere the door used to be. This is called the Round Tower, and issupposed to have been the watch-tower of the castle.
The Red Court stands alone, the last house of the colony, somedistance removed from any; its gates and door of entrance are at theend of the house, looking to the village. The nearest building to itis the small old church, St. Peter's, standing in the midst of a largegraveyard dotted with graves; with its portico-entrance, and itssquare belfry, grey with age, green with patches of moss. The highroad, advancing from the open country behind--it's hard to say whence,or from what bustling cities--comes winding by the entrance gates ofthe Red Court Farm with a sharp turn, and sees two roads branching offbefore it. It takes the one to the right, bearing round to thevillage, passes through it, and goes careering on to Jutpoint, a smalltown, some four or five miles distant, having the sea on the right allthe way. The other branching road leads past the church to the heath,or common, on which are situated the handful of houses, all ofmoderate size, inhabited by the gentry of the place.
The only good house was the Red Court Farm. Thornycroft was the nameof the family living in it. Mr. Thornycroft owned the Red Court andsome of the land around it; and he rented more, which he farmed. Manyyears ago a gentleman had come down to look at the place, which wasfor sale, and bought it. He was named Thornycroft. His two sons,Richard and Harry, were fine powerful young men, but wild in theirhabits, and caused some scandal in the quiet place. Previous to thepurchase, the house had been known as the Red Court, it was supposedfrom the deep red of the bricks of which it was built. Mr. Thornycroftat once added on the word "Farm"--the Red Court Farm. A right goodfarmer he proved himself to be, the extent of the land being aboutthree hundred acres, comprising what he rented. Within a very fewyears of the purchase Mr. Thornycroft died, and Richard, the eldestson, came into possession. In the following year Richard also died,from the effects of an accident in France. Both the brothers were fondof taking continental trips, Richard especially.
Thus the place came into the hands of Harry Thornycroft, and heentered upon it with his wife and little son. His ostensible residencesince his marriage had been in London; but he had stayed a great dealat the Red Court Farm. A second son was soon after born, and some fiveor six years later another boy and a girl. Mrs. Thornycroft, a gentle,ladylike, delicate woman, did not enjoy robust health. Something inher face and manner seemed to give the idea that she had an inwardcare--that skeleton in the closet from which so few of us are quitefree. Whether it was so or not in her case none could tell. That HarryThornycroft made her a fond and indulgent husband--that they were muchattached to each other--there could be no doubt of. Her look of caremay have arisen solely from her state of health; perhaps from thesecret conviction that she should be called away early from herchildren. Years before she died Coastdown said she was fading away.Fade away she did, without any very tangible disorder, and was laid torest in a corner of the churchyard. To those who know where to lookfor it, her large white tombstone may be distinguished from ourstanding-place on the plateau. That grief had been long over, and theRed Court itself again.
Mr. Thornycroft was a county magistrate, and rode in to Jutpoint, whenthe whim took him, and sat upon the bench there. There was no bench atCoastdown; but petty offenders were brought before him at the RedCourt--partly because he was the only gentleman in the commission ofthe peace living at Coastdown, partly from the fact that he was morewealthy and influential than all the other residents put together. Alenient justice was he, never convicting when he could spare: many afine, that he himself had imposed from the bench at Jutpoint, wasmysteriously conveyed out of his pocket into the poor offender's tosave the man from prison. To say that Justice Thornycroft--the titlegenerally accorded him--was beloved in Coastdown, would be a poor wordto define the feeling of the poorer people around. He had a liberalhand, an open heart; and no person carried a tale of trouble to him invain. His great fault, said the small gentry around, was unreasonableliberality. Never was there a pleasanter companion than he, and hisbrother magistrates chuckled when they got an invitation to the RedCourt dinners, for they loved the hearty welcome and the jolly cheer.
The two elder sons, Richard and Isaac, were fine towering men likehimself--rather wild both, just what Harry Thornycroft and his elderbrother had been in their young days. Richard was dark, stern, andresolute; but he would unbend to courtesy over his wine when guestswere at table. The few who remembered the dead elder brother saidRichard resembled him much more than he did his father, as issometimes seen to be the case. Certainly in countenance Richard wasnot like the justice. Isaac was. It was his father's fair and handsomeface over again, with its fine features, its dark-blue eyes, and itsprofusion of light curling hair. There was altogether a great charm inIsaac Thornycroft. His manners were winning; his form, strong and tallas Richard's, had a nameless grace and ease that Richard's lacked; andhis heart and hand were open as his father's. The young one, Cyril,was less robust than his brothers--quiet, gentle, very much like hisdead mother. Cyril's taste was all for books; to the out-of-door lifefavoured by Richard and Isaac he had never been given. Richard calledhim a "milksop;" Isaac would pet him almost as he might a girl; allindulged him. To Richard and Isaac no profession was given; as yetnone was talked of for Cyril. The two elder occupied themselves on theland--ostensibly, at any rate; but half their time was spent inshooting, fishing, hunting, according to the seasons. "A thriving farmthe Red Court must be," quoth the neighbours given to gossip, "for theold man to keep all his sons to it." But it was well known that Mr.Thornycroft must possess considerable private property; the style ofliving would alone prove that.
A broad gravel drive led straight from the gates to the entrance door.There were different gates and entrances at the back of the house,serving for farm vehicles, for servants, and for people on businessgenerally. The kitchens and other domestic apartments were at theback, looking on to the various buildings behind--barns, stables, andsuch like. The further end of the stables joined some of the old ruinsstill standing--in fact, it may be said that part of the ruins wereused as such. The young men kept their dog-cart there--a large,stylish affair, capable of containing no end of dogs--and the fleet,strong, fine horse that usually drew