The Shakespeare Memorial.
The Shakespeare Library.
The Childs Fountain.
Leaving this bond of union between England and America, I strolled beside the river Avon, which, like a silver ribbon, threads its way for miles between green meadows carpeted with velvet turf and gemmed with flowers. The very trees seem fond of this historic stream; for they bend over it, gaze into its dark depths, and with their countless fingers touch caressingly its limpid waves. Surely, beside this stream of Shakespeare all national differences can be forgotten. Upon the Avon's banks Americans and English form but one historic family, bowing alike in filial admiration for the king of poets, and claiming as their common heritage the noble English language, which the great bard of Stratford has so glorified. One of the most enjoyable excursions I ever made in England had for its destination the historic mansion known as Haddon Hall. The grounds of this estate possess an endless charm, being built up in stately terraces, with long-drawn paths and massive balustrades, above which grand old English oaks spread out their aged but protecting arms. It would be difficult to imagine a more delightful country-seat than this, possessing, as it does, extensive area and boundless shade, as well as numberless historic memories. For Haddon Hall has been in existence more than seven hundred years, and during all that time has been in the possession of only two families. As, therefore, I descended from one flower-bordered staircase to another, the Muse of History seemed lurking in the shadows of this sylvan solitude, and I could fancy that the ghosts of former actors on this stage were silently awaiting me at the dark terminus of every avenue. In fact, so laden is the atmosphere of Haddon with romantic legends, that one half expects to meet here some of the former occupants of the place, arrayed in velvets, silks, and jewels, and eagerly discussing the exciting news of the defeat of the Armada, or the escape of Mary, Queen of Scots. It was, however, on the upper terrace that we were told of Haddon's most romantic bit of history.
Beside The Avon.
Haddon Hall, From The River.
Dorothy Vernon's Walk.
"That," said our guide, "is Dorothy Vernon's door".
"And who was Dorothy Vernon ?" we inquired. The old man looked a little shocked, and then replied:
"Miss Dorothy, Sir, was the fairest woman of all who were ever christened, married, or buried from Haddon Hall. That," he continued, "was in 1567, when Dorothy's father, Sir George Vernon, lived here in such style that he was famed throughout all England for his princely hospitality".
"Was Dorot h y the only daughter ?" we asked.
"No, there w ere two of them," was the reply, "and it was on the very night when her elder sister, Margaret, had been married here that through this door and down these steps fair Mistress Dorothy eloped".
"Eloped?" we cried; "this promises to be exciting. Go on".
The old attendant warmed up like an actor under generous applause, and led us into the ball-room of the castle. "Well," he exclaimed, with the alacrity and earnestness of one who told the facts for the first time, "it happened thus: the wedding guests had come hither from the chapel, when it was suddenly perceived that Mistress Dorothy had disappeared. No one could fail to notice this; for she was far more beautiful than any other lady at the ball, and was fairly idolized by all who knew her. None of her many suitors had pleased her, except one handsome fellow, named John Manners, son of the Earl of Rutland. Against him no objection could be urged, save that of a long-existing family quarrel. But over such a barrier the lovers thought that they could safely leap. Yes, come to this window," he continued, "and you will see down there, among the trees, a little structure still called 'Dorothy Vernon's Bridge.' Close by this, hidden in the shade, that night, stood Dorothy's lover, young John Manners, who had not been invited to the ball. Meantime, a mutual friend, while dancing with Miss Dorothy, whispered a message from her lover, and in a moment more the girl had left the room, and, hastening across that bridge, was instantly encircled by her lover's arms. Horses were waiting a few yards away, and off they rode through the summer night, and the next morning, in Leicestershire, were made man and wife. John Manners was, indeed, doubly fortunate; for he not only won a beautiful bride, but, after a short time, the whole estate of Haddon Hall passed by this marriage into the possession of his family, by whom it has been held more than three hundred years".