CHAPTER THE LAST.
Carlton Abbey, the estate of the Earls of Castlemere for centuries back, was situated near Ollarten, on the borders of Sherwood Forest, in Nottinghamshire. It was formerly a religious house of the highest order, largely and richly endowed, whose broad acres ran some distance into “Merrie Sherwood” itself. It is reported that the renowned Robin Hood, with a score of his followers, once sought and obtained shelter and protection there, when pursued by the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire for slaying the king’s deer and other misdemeanors within the limits of the forest; and later here also took place the celebrated meeting between Cardinal Woolsey and the Duke of Buckingham, previous to that haughty prelate’s dismissal from royal favor and ultimate disgrace, and on the death of the Marchioness of Cosingby who, for forty years reigned as the Lady Abbess, the sisters of this order moved elsewhere, as the property fell into the hands of Eustace, first Earl of Castlemere, heir-at-law, by whom and his successors, alterations and additions were made becoming the home of an English noble; but although the last Earl lived a retired and secluded life, Carlton Abbey was not allowed to fall into decay, and the manor, preserves, and grounds generally were kept in excellent order, and so the Earl of Castlemere, as we must now designate our hero, found it; for on being assured that he was, beyond the possibility of a doubt, heir to the estate, had paid a flying visit to Nottinghamshire, and while there had given orders to the housekeeper and steward to have a handsome suit of apartments prepared for the reception of the Countess and himself; he likewise gave directions to his agent to raise a troop of volunteer cavalry, the cost of which was to be defrayed out of the revenues of the estate, the men to be selected from among the tenantry and well-to-do farmers residing on the Abbey lands.
On their return from the continent, the Earl and his bride took formal possession of Carlton Abbey, received the visits of the neighboring families, inspected the newly improvised cavalry, mustered and feasted the tenantry, and made known to all concerned that they intended to reside, for at least four months in each year, at the Abbey, then took their departure, leaving a very favorable impression behind them.
On the return to London of Edith and Arthur from their wedding tour, they were presented at Court. The Queen seemed to take considerable interest in the handsome Earl and his beautiful Countess, for His Excellency the Commander-in-chief had mentioned to Her Majesty some of Arthur’s gallant exploits while in India, and the romantic train of events that had happened to both Earl and Countess prior to their marriage. As a mark of royal favor they were invited to Windsor Castle. This, in itself, was sufficient to give them eclat in the highest circles. They gave a series of brilliant entertainments in Saint