Part 8 out of 8
sheer precipice. On either side the cove or chine was closely shut
in by treeless, iron-coloured masses of rock, behind one of which
the few inhabited hovels were clustered, and the boat which had
brought her was drawn up. In front was the sea, still lashed by a
fierce wind, which was driving the fantastically shaped remains of
the great storm cloud rapidly across an intensely blue sky. The
waves, although it was the ebb, were still tremendous, and their
roar re-echoed as they reared to fearful heights and broke with the
reverberations that she had heard all along. Peregrine kept quite
high up, not venturing below the washed line of shingle, saying that
the back draught of the waves was most perilous, and in a high wind
could not be reckoned upon.
"No escape!" he said, as he perceived Anne's gaze on the
inaccessible cliff and the whole scene, the wild beauty of which was
lost to her in its terrors.
"Where's your ship?" she asked.
"Safe in Whale Chine. No putting to sea yet, though it may be fair
Then she put before him the first scheme she had thought out, of
letting her escape to Sir Edmund Nutley's house, whence she could
make her way back, taking with her a letter that would prove his
existence without involving him or his friends in danger. And
eagerly she argued, "You do not know me really! It is only an
imagination that you can be the better for my presence." Then,
unheeding his fervid exclamation, "It was my dear mother who did you
good. What would she think of the way in which you are trying to
"That I cannot do without you."
"And what would you have in me? I could be only wretched, and feel
all my life--such a life as it would be--that you had wrecked my
happiness. Oh yes! I do believe that you would try to make me
happy, but don't you see that it would be quite impossible with such
a grief as that in my heart, and knowing that you had caused it? I
know you hate him, and he did you the wrong; but he has grieved for
it, and banished himself. But above all, of this I am quite sure,
that to persist in this horrible evil of leaving him to die, because
of your revenge, and stealing me away, is truly giving Satan such a
frightful advantage over you that it is mere folly to think that
winning me in such a way could do you any good. It is just a mere
delusion of his, to ruin us both, body and soul. Peregrine, will
you not recollect my mother, and what she would think? Have pity on
me, and help me away, and I would pledge myself never to utter a
word of this place nor that could bring you and yours into danger.
We would bless and pray for you always."
"No use," he gloomily said. "I believe you, but the others will
never believe a woman. No doubt we are watched even now by
desperate men, who would rather shoot you than let you escape from
It seemed almost in connection with these words that at that moment,
from some unknown quarter, where probably there was an entrance to
the Chine, Sir George Barclay appeared with a leathern case under
his arm. It had been captured on the wreck, and contained papers
which he wanted assistance in deciphering, since they were in Dutch,
and he believed them to be either despatches or bonds, either of
which might be turned to profit. These were carried indoors, and
spread on the table, and as Anne sat by the window, dejected and
almost hopeless as she was, she could not help perceiving that,
though Peregrine was so much smaller and less robust than his
companions, he exercised over them the dominion of intellect,
energy, and will, as if they too felt the force of his strange eyes;
and it seemed to her as if, supposing he truly desired it, whatever
he might say, he must be able to deliver her and Charles; but that a
being such as she had always known him should sacrifice both his
love and his hate seemed beyond all hope, and "Change his heart!
Turn our captivity, O Lord," could only be her cry.
Only very late did Burford come back, full of the account of the
wreck and of the spoils, and the struggles between the wreckers for
the flotsam and jetsam. There was much of savage brutality mated
with a cool indifference truly horrible to Anne, and making her
realise into what a den of robbers she had fallen, especially as
these narratives were diversified by consultations over the Dutch
letters and bills of exchange in the wrecked East Indiaman, and how
to turn them to the best advantage. Barclay and Burford were so
full of these subjects that they took comparatively little notice of
the young lady, only when she rose to retire, Burford made a sort of
apology that this little business had hindered his going after the
parson. He heard that the Salamander was at the castle, and
redcoats all about, he said, and if the Annick could be got out to-
morrow they must sail any way; and if Pil was still so squeamish, a
Popish priest could couple them in a leash as tight as a Fleet
parson could. And then Peregrine demanded whether Burford thought a
Fleet parson the English for a naval chaplain, and there was some
boisterous laughter, during which Anne shut herself up in her room
in something very like despair, with that one ray of hope that He
who had brought her back from exile before would again save her from
that terrible fate.
She heard card-playing and the jingle of glasses far into the night,
as she believed, but it seemed to her as if she had scarcely fallen
asleep before, to her extreme terror, she heard a knock and a low
call at her door of 'Guennik.' Then as the Bretonne went to the
door, through which a light was seen, a lantern was handed in, and a
scrap of paper on which the words were written: "On second
thoughts, my kindred elves at Portchester shall not be scared by a
worricow. Dress quickly, and I will bring you out of this."
For a moment Anne did not perceive the meaning of the missive, the
ghastly idea never having occurred to her that if Charles had
suffered, the gibbet would have been at Portchester. Then, with an
electric flash of joy, she saw that it meant relenting on
Peregrine's part, deliverance for them both. She put on her clothes
with hasty, trembling hands, thankful to Guennik for helping her,
pressed a coin into the strong toil-worn hand, and with an earnest
thrill of thankful prayer opened the door. The driftwood fire was
bright, and she saw Peregrine, looking deadly white, and equipped
with slouched hat, short wrapping cloak, pistols and sword at his
belt, dark lantern lighted on the table, and Hans also cloaked by
his side. He bent his head in salutation, and put his finger to his
lips, giving one hand to Anne, and showing by example instead of
words that she must tread as softly as possible, as she perceived
that he was in his slippers, Hans carrying his boots as well as the
lantern she had used. Yet to her ears the roar of the advancing
tide seemed to stifle all other sounds. Past the other huts they
went in silence, then came a precipitous path up the cliff, steps
cut in the hard sandy grit, but very crumbling, and in places
supplemented by a rude ladder of sticks and rope. Peregrine went
before Anne, Hans behind. Each had hung the lantern from his neck,
so as to have hands free to draw her, support her, or lift her, as
might be needful. How it was done she never could tell in after
years. She might jestingly say that her lightened heart bore her
up, but in her soul and in her deeper moments she thought that truly
angels must have had charge over her. Up, up, up! At last they had
reached standing ground, a tolerably level space, with another high
cliff seeming to rise behind it. Here it was lighter--a pale streak
of dawn was spreading over the horizon, both on sky and sea, and the
waves still leaping glanced in the light of a golden waning moon,
while Venus shone in the brightening sky, a daystar of hope.
Peregrine drew a long breath, and gave an order in a very low voice
in Dutch to Hans, who placed his boots before him, and went off
towards a shed. "He will bring you a pony," said his master.
"Excuse me;" and he was withdrawing his hand, when Anne clasped it
with both hers, and said in a voice of intense feeling--
"Oh, how can I thank you and bless you! This _is_ putting the Evil
Angel to flight."
"'Tis you that have done it! You see, I cannot do the wicked act
where you are," he answered gloomily, as he turned aside to draw on
"Ah! but you have won the victory over him!"
"Do not be too sure. We are not out of reach of those rascals yet."
He was evidently anxious for silence, and Anne said no more. Hans
presently brought from some unknown quarter, a little stout pony
bridled and saddled; of course not with a side saddle, but cloaks
were arranged so as to make a fairly comfortable seat for Anne, and
Peregrine led the animal on the ascent to St. Catherine's Down. It
was light enough to dispense with the lanterns, and as they mounted
higher the glorious sight of daybreak over the sea showed itself--
almost due east, the sharp points of the Needles showing up in a
flood of pale golden light above and below, with gulls flashing
white as they floated into sunlight, all seeming to Anne's thankful
heart to be a new radiance of joy and hope after the dark roaring
terrors of the Chine.
As they came out into the open freedom of the down, with crisp
silvery grass under their feet, the breadth of sea on one side,
before them fertile fields and hills, and farther away, dimly seen
in gray mist, the familiar Portsdown outlines, not a sound to be
heard but the exulting ecstasies of larks, far, far above in the
depths of blue, Peregrine dared to speak above his breath, with a
question whether Anne were at ease in her extemporary side saddle,
producing at the same time a slice of bread and meat, and a flask of
"Oh, how kind! What care you take of me!" she said. "But where are
"Wherever you command," he said. "I had thought of Carisbrooke.
Cutts is there, and it would be the speediest way."
"Would it not be the most dangerous for you?"
"I care very little for my life after this."
"Oh no, no, you must not say so. After what you are doing for me
you will be able to make it better than ever it has been. This is
what I thought. If you would bring me in some place whence I could
reach Sir Edmund Nutley's house at Parkhurst, his servants would
help me to do the rest, even if he be not there himself. I would
never betray you! You know I would not! And you would have full
time to get away to your place in Normandy with your friends."
"You care?" asked he.
"Of course I do!" exclaimed she. "Do I not feel grateful to you,
and like and honour you better than ever I could have thought?"
"You do?" in a strange choked tone.
"Of course I do. You are doing a noble, thankworthy thing. It is
not only that I thank you for _his_ sake, but it is a grand and
beautiful deed in itself; and if my dear mother know, she is
blessing you for it."
"I shall remember those words," he said, "if--" and he passed his
hand over his eyes. "See here," he presently said; "I have written
out a confession of my identity, and explanation that it was I who
drew first on Archfield. It is enough to save him, and in case my
handwriting has altered, as I think it has, and there should be
further doubt, I shall be found at Pilpignon, if I get away. You
had better keep it in case of accidents, or if you carry out your
generous plan. Say whatever you please about me, but there is no
need to mention Barclay or Burford; and it would not be fair to the
honest free-traders here to explain where their Chine lies. I
should have brought you up blindfold, if I could have done so with
safety, not that _I_ do not trust you, but I should be better able
to satisfy those fellows if I ever see them again, by telling them I
have sworn you to secrecy."
Then he laughed. "The gowks! I won all those Indian bonds of them
last night, but left them in a parcel addressed to them as a
Anne took the required pledge, and ventured to ask, "Shall I say
anything for you to your father?"
"My poor old father! Let him know that I neither would nor could
disturb Robert in his inheritance, attainted traitor as the laws
esteem me. For the rest, mayhap I shall write to him if the good
angel you talk of will help me."
"Oh do! I am sure he would rejoice to forgive. He is much
"Now, we must hush, and go warily. I see sheep, and if there is a
shepherd, I want him not to see us, or point our way. It is well
these Isle of Wight folk are not early risers."
CHAPTER XXXIV: LIFE FOR LIFE
"Follow Light, and do the Right--for man can half-control his doom--
Till you find the deathless Angel seated in the vacant tomb.
Forward, let the stormy moment fly and mingle with the Past.
I that loathed, have come to love him. Love will conquer at the last."
On they had gone in silence for the most part, avoiding villages,
but as the morning advanced and they came into more inhabited
places, they were not able entirely to avoid meeting labourers going
out to work, who stared at Hans's black face with curiosity. The
sun was already high when they reached a cross-road whence the
massive towers of Carisbrooke were seen above the hedges, and
another turn led to Parkhurst. They paused a moment, and Anne was
beginning to entreat her escort to leave her to proceed alone, when
the sound of horses' feet galloping was heard behind them.
Peregrine looked back.
"Ah!" he said. "Ride on as fast as you can towards the castle. You
will be all right. I will keep them back. Go, I say."
And as some figures were seen at the end of the road, he pricked the
pony with the point of his sword so effectually that it bolted
forward, quite beyond Anne's power of checking it, and in a second
or two its speed was quickened by shouts and shots behind. Anne
felt, but scarcely understood at the moment, a sharp pang and thrill
in her left arm, as the steed whirled her round the corner of the
lane and full into the midst of a party of gentlemen on horseback
coming down from the castle.
"Help! help!" she cried. "Down there."
Attacks by highwaymen were not uncommon experiences, though scarcely
at eight o'clock in the morning, or so near a garrison, but the
horsemen, having already heard the shots, galloped forward. Perhaps
Anne could hardly have turned her pony, but it chose to follow the
lead of its fellows, and in a few seconds they were in the midst of
a scene of utter confusion. Peregrine was grappling with Burford
trying to drag him from his horse. Both fell together, and as the
auxiliaries came in sight there was another shot and two more men
rode off headlong.
"Follow them!" said a commanding voice. "What have we here?"
The two struggling figures both lay still for a moment or two, but
as some of the riders drew them apart Peregrine sat up, though blood
was streaming down his breast and arm. "Sir," he said, "I am
Peregrine Oakshott, on whose account young Archfield lies under
sentence of death. If a magistrate will take my affidavit while I
can make it, he will be safe."
Then Anne heard a voice exclaiming: "Oakshott! Nay--why, this is
Mistress Woodford! How came she here?" and she knew Sir Edmund
Nutley. Still it was Peregrine who answered--
"I captured her, in the hope of marrying her, but that cannot be--I
have brought her back in all safety and honour."
"Sir! Sir, indeed he has been very good to me. Pray let him be
"Let him be carried to the castle," said the commander of the party,
a tall man sunburnt to a fiery red. "Is the other alive?"
"Only stunned, my lord, I think and not much hurt," was the answer
of an attendant officer; "but here is a poor blackamoor dead."
"Poor Hans! Best so perhaps," murmured Peregrine, as he was lifted.
Then in a voice of alarm, "Look to the lady, she is hurt."
"It is nothing," cried she. "O Mr. Oakshott! that this should have
"My lord, this is the young gentlewoman I told you of, betrothed to
poor young Archfield," said Sir Edmund Nutley.
Lord Cutts, for it was indeed William's favoured 'Salamander,' took
off his plumed hat in salutation, and both gentlemen perceiving that
she too was bleeding, she was solicitously invited to the castle, to
be placed under the charge of the lieutenant-governor's wife. She
found by this time that she was in a good deal of pain, and
thankfully accepted the support Sir Edmund offered her, when he
dismounted and walked beside her pony, while explanations passed
between them. The weather had prevented any communication with the
mainland, so that he was totally ignorant of her capture, and did
not know what had become of Mr. Fellowes. He himself had been just
starting with Lord Cutts, who was going to join the King for his
next campaign, and they were to represent the case to the King.
Anne told him in return what she dared to say, but she was becoming
so faint and dazed that she was in great fear of not saying what she
ought; and indeed she could hardly speak, when after passing under
the great gateway, she was lifted off her horse, at the door of the
dwelling-house, and helped upstairs to a bedroom, where the wife of
the lieutenant-governor, Mrs. Dudley, was very tender over her with
essences and strong waters, and a surgeon of the suite almost
immediately came to her.
"Oh," she exclaimed, "you should be with Mr. Oakshott."
The surgeon explained that Mr. Oakshott would have nothing done for
him till he had fully made and signed his deposition, in case the
power should afterwards be wanting.
So Anne submitted to the dressing of her hurt, which was only a
flesh wound, the bone being happily untouched. Both the surgeon and
Mrs. Dudley urged her going to bed immediately, but she was
unwilling to put herself out of reach; and indeed the dressing was
scarcely finished before Sir Edmund Nutley knocked at the door to
ask whether she could admit him.
"Lord Cutts is very desirous of speaking with you, if you are able,"
he said. "Here has this other fellow come round, declaring that
Oakshott is the Pilpignon who was in the Barclay Plot, and besides,
the prime leader of the Black Gang, of whom we have heard so much."
"The traitor!" cried Anne. "Poor Mr. Oakshott was resolved not to
betray him! How is he--Mr. Oakshott, I mean?"
"The surgeon has him in his hands. We will send another from
Portsmouth, but it looks like a bad case. He made his confession
bravely, though evidently in terrible suffering, seeming to keep up
by force of will till he had totally exonerated Archfield and signed
the deposition, and then he fainted, so that I thought him dead, but
I fear he has more to go through. Can you come to the hall, or
shall I bring Lord Cutts to you? We must hasten in starting that we
may bring the news to Winchester to-night."
Anne much preferred going to the hall, though she felt weak enough
to be very glad to lean on Sir Edmund's arm.
Lord Cutts, William's high-spirited and daring officer, received her
with the utmost courtesy and kindness, inquired after her hurt, and
lamented having to trouble her, but said that though he would not
detain her long, her testimony was important, and he begged to hear
what had happened to her.
She gave the account of her capture and journey as shortly as she
"Whither was she taken?"
She paused. "I promised Mr. Oakshott for the sake of others--" she
"You need have no scruples on that score," said Lord Cutts.
"Burford hopes to get off for the murder by turning King's evidence,
and has told all."
"Yes," added Sir Edmund; "and poor Oakshott managed to say, 'Tell
her she need keep nothing back. It is all up.'"
So Anne answered all the questions put to her, and they were the
fewer both out of consideration for her condition, and because the
governor wanted to take advantage of the tide to embark on the
In a very few hours the Archfields would have no more fears. Anne
longed to go with Sir Edmund, but she was in no state for a ride,
and could not be a drag. Sir Edmund said that either his wife would
come to her at once and take her to Parkhurst, or else her uncle
would be sure to come for her. She would be the guest of Major and
Mrs. Dudley, who lived in the castle, the actual Lord Warden only
visiting it from time to time; and though Major Dudley was a stern
man, both were very kind to her.
As a Whig, Major Dudley knew the Oakshott family, and was willing to
extend his hospitality even to the long-lost Peregrine. The Lord
Warden, who was evidently very favourably impressed, saying that
there was no need at present to treat him as a prisoner, but that
every attention should be paid to him, as indeed he was evidently a
dying man. Burford and another of his associates were to be carried
off, handcuffed, with the escort to Winchester jail, but before the
departure, the soldiers who had been sent to the Chine returned
baffled; the place was entirely deserted, and Barclay had escaped.
Anne allowed herself to be put to bed, being indeed completely
exhausted, and scarcely able to think of anything but the one
blessed certainty that Charles was safe, and freed from all stigma.
When, after the pain in her arm lulled enough to allow her to sleep,
she had had a few hours' rest, she inquired for Peregrine, she heard
that for many hours the surgeon had been trying to extract the
balls, and that they considered that the second shot had made his
case hopeless, as it was in the body. He was so much exhausted as
to be almost unconscious; but the next morning, when Anne, against
the persuasions of her hostess, had risen and been dressed, though
still feeling weak and shaken, she received a message, begging her
to do him the great kindness of visiting him.
Deadly pale, almost gray, as he looked, lying so propped with
pillows as to relieve his shattered shoulder, his face had a strange
look of peace, almost of relief, and he smiled at her as she
entered. He held out the hand he could use, and his first word was
of inquiry after her hurt.
"That is nothing--it will soon be well; I wish it were the same with
"Nay, I had rather cheat the hangman. I told those doctors
yesterday that they were giving themselves and me a great deal of
useless trouble. The villains, as I told you, could not believe we
should not betray them, and meant to make an end of us all. It's
best as it is. My poor faithful Hans would never have had another
"But you must be better, Peregrine," for his voice, though low, was
"There's no living with what I have here," he said, laying his hand
on his side; "and--I dreamt of your mother last night." With the
words there was a look of gladness exceeding.
"Ah! the Evil Angel is gone!"
"I want your prayers that he may not come back at the last." Then,
as she clasped her hands, and her lips moved, he added, "There were
some things I could only say to you. If they don't treat my body as
that of an attainted traitor, let me lie at your mother's feet.
Don't disturb the big Scot for me, but let me rest at last near her.
Then tell Robin 'tis not out of want of regard for him that I have
not bequeathed Pilpignon to him, but he could do no good with a
French estate full of Papists; and there's a poor loyal fellow,
living ruined at Paris--a Catholic too--with a wife and children
half starved, to whom it will do more good."
"I meant to ask--Shall a priest be sent for? Surely Major Dudley
"I don't know. I have not loved such priests lately. I had rather
die as near your mother as may be."
"Miss Woodford," said a voice at the door, and going to it, Anne
found herself clasped in her uncle's arms. With very few words she
led him to the bedside, and the first thing he said was "God bless
you, Peregrine, for what you have done."
Again Peregrine's face lighted up, but fell again when he was told
of the Portsmouth surgeon's arrival at the same time, saying with
one of his strange looks that it was odd sort of mercy to try to
cure a man for Jack Ketch, but that he should baffle them yet.
"Do not set your mind on that," said Dr. Woodford, "for Lord Cutts
was so much pleased with you that he would do his utmost on your
"Much good that would do me," said poor Peregrine, setting his teeth
as his tormentor came in.
Meantime, in Mrs. Dudley's parlour, while that good lady was
assisting the surgeon at the dressing, Anne and her uncle exchanged
information. Mr. Fellowes had arrived on foot at about noon, with
his servant, having only been released after two hours by a
traveller, and having been deprived both of money and horses, so
that he could not proceed on his journey; besides that he had given
the alarm about the abduction, and raised the hue and cry at the
villages on his way. There had been great distress, riding and
searching, and the knowledge had been kept from poor Charles
Archfield in his prison. Mr. Fellowes had gone on to London as soon
as possible, and Dr. Woodford had just returned from a fruitless
attempt to trace his niece, when Sir Edmund Nutley and Lord Cutts
appeared, with the joyful tidings, which, however, could be hardly
Nothing, Dr. Woodford said, could be more thorough than the
vindication of Charles Archfield. Peregrine had fully stated that
the young man had merely interposed to prevent the pursuit of Anne
Woodford, that it was he himself who had made the first attack, and
that his opponent had been forced to fight in self-defence. Lord
Cutts had not only shown his affidavit to Sir Philip, but had paid a
visit to the Colonel himself in his prison, had complimented him
highly on his services in the Imperial army, only regretting that
they had not been on behalf of his own country, and had assured him
of equal, if not superior rank, in the British army if he would join
it on the liberation that he might reckon upon in the course of a
very few days.
"How did you work on the unhappy young man to bring about this
blessed change?" asked the Doctor.
"Oh, sir, I do not think it was myself. It was first the mercy of
the Almighty, and then my blessed mother's holy memory working on
him, revived by the sight of myself. I cannot describe to you how
gentle, and courteous, and respectful he was to me all along, though
I am sure those dreadful men mocked at him for it. Do you know
whether his father has heard?"
"Robert Oakshott is gone in search of him. He had set off to beat
up the country, good old man, to obtain signatures to the petition
in favour of our prisoner, and Robert expected to find him with Mr.
Chute at the Vine. It is much to that young man's credit, niece, he
was so eager to see his brother that he longed to come with me
himself; but he thought that the shock to his father would be so
great that he ought to bear the tidings himself. And what do you
think his good wife is about? Perhaps you did not know that Sedley
Archfield brought away jail fever with him, and Mrs. Oakshott,
feeling that she was the cause by her hasty action, has taken
lodgings for him in Winchester, and is nursing him like a sister.
No. You need not fear for your colonel, my dear maid. Sedley
caught the infection because he neither was, nor wished to be,
secluded from the rest of the prisoners, some of whom were, I fear,
only too congenial society to him. But now tell me the story of
your own deliverance, which seems to me nothing short of
The visit of the Portsmouth surgeon only confirmed Peregrine's own
impression that it was impossible that he should live, and he was
only surviving by the strong vitality in his little, spare, wiry
frame. Dr. Woodford, after hearing Anne's story, thought it well to
ask him whether he would prefer the ministrations of a Roman
Catholic priest; but whether justly or unjustly, Peregrine seemed to
impute to that Church the failure to exorcise the malignant spirit
which had led him to far worse aberrations than he had confessed to
Anne. Though by no means deficient in knowledge or controversian
theology, as Dr. Woodford soon found in conversation with him, his
real convictions were all as to what personally affected him, and
his strong Protestant ingrain education, however he might have
disavowed it, no doubt had affected his point of view. He had
admired and been strongly influenced by the sight of real devotion
and holiness, though as his temptations and hatred of monotony
recurred, he had more than once swung back again. Then, however, he
had been revolted by the perception of the concessions to popular
superstition and the morality of a wicked state of society. His
real sense of any religion had been infused by Mrs. Woodford, and to
her belongings, and the faith they involved, he was clinging in
these last days.
Dr. Woodford could not but be glad that thus it was, not only on the
penitent's own account, but on that of the father, who might have
lost the comfort of finding him truly repentant in the shock of
finding a Popish priest at his bedside. And indeed the contrition
seemed to have gathered force in many a past fit of remorse, and now
was deep but not unhopeful.
In the evening the father and brother arrived. The Major was now an
old man, hale indeed, and with the beauty that a pure, self-
restrained life often sheds on an aged man. He was much shaken, and
when he came in, with his own white hair on his shoulders, and
actually tears in his eyes, the look that passed between them was
like nothing but the spirit of the parable so often, but never too
Peregrine, who never perhaps had spent a happy or fearless hour with
him, and had dreaded his coming, felt probably for the first time
the mysterious sense of home and peace given by the presence of
those between whom there is the tie of blood. Not many words
passed; he was hardly in a state for them, but from that time, he
was never so happy as when his father and brother were beside him;
and they seldom left him, the Major sitting day and night by his
pillow attending to his wants, or saying words of prayer.
The old man had become much softened, by nothing more perhaps than
watching the way in which his daughter-in-law dealt with the
manifestations of the Oakshott imp nature in her eldest child.
"If I had understood," he said to Dr. Woodford. "If I had so
treated that poor boy, never would he have been as he is now."
"You acted according to your conscience."
"Ah, sir! a man does not grow old without learning that the
conscience may be blinded, above all by the spirit of opposition and
"I will not say there were no mistakes," said the Doctor; "and yet,
sir, the high standard, sound principle, and strong faith he learnt
from you and your example have prevailed to bear him through."
The Major answered with a groan, but added, "And yet, even now,
stained as he tells me he is, and cut off in the flower of his age,
I thank my God and his Saviour, and after Him, you and yours, that I
am happier about him than I have been these eight and twenty years."
With no scruple, Major Oakshott threw his heart into the
ministrations of Dr. Woodford, which Peregrine declared kept at bay
the Evil Angel who more than once seemed to his consciousness to be
striving to make him despair, while friend and father brought him
back to the one hope.
From time to time Anne visited him for a short interval, always to
his joy and gratitude. There was one visit at last which all knew
would be the final one, when she shared in his first and last
English Communion. As she was about to leave him, he held her hand,
and signed to her to bend down to hear him better. "If you can, let
good Father Seyton at Douai know that peace is come--the Evil One
beaten, thanks to Him who giveth us the victory--and I thank them
all there--and ask their prayers."
"I will, I will."
Some one at the door said, "May I come in?"
There was a sunburnt face, a head with long brown hair, a white
"Archfield?" asked Peregrine. "Come, send me away with pardon."
"'Tis yours I need;" and as Charles knelt by the bed the two faces,
one all health, the other gray and deathly, were close together.
"You have given your life for mine, and given _her_. How shall I
"Make her happy. She deserves it."
Charles clasped her hand with a look that was enough. Then with a
strange smile, half sweetness, half the contortion of a mortal pang,
the dying man said, "May she kiss me once?"
And when her lips had touched the cold damp brow--
"There--My fourth seven. At last! The change is come. Old--
impish--evil--self left behind. At last! Thanks to Him who treads
down Satan under our feet. Thanks! Take her away now."
Charles took her away, scarce knowing where they went,--out into the
spring sunshine, on the slopes above the turf bowling-green, where
the captive King had beguiled his weary hours. Only then would awe
and emotion let them speak, though his arm was round her, her hand
in his, and his first words were, as he looked at the scarf that
still bore up her arm, "And this is what you have borne for me?"
"It is all but healed. Don't think of it."
"I shall all my life! Poor fellow, he might well bid me deserve
you. I never can. 'Tis to you I owe all. I believe, indeed, the
ambassador might have claimed me, but he is so tardy that probably I
should have been hanged long before the proper form was ready; and
it would have been to exile, and with a tainted name. You have won
for me the clearing of name and honour--home, parents and child and
all, besides your sweet self."
"And it was not me, but he whom we so despised and dreaded. Had I
not been seized, I could only have implored for you."
"I know this, that if you had not been what you are, my boy would
have borne a dishonoured name, and we should never have been
together as now."
It was in truth their first meeting in freedom and security as
lovers; but it could only be in a grave, quiet fashion, under the
knowledge that he, to whom their re-union was chiefly owing, was
breathing out the life he had sacrificed for them. Thus they only
gently and in a low voice went over their past doings and feelings
as they walked up and down together, till Dr. Woodford came in the
sunset to tell them that the change so longed for had come in peace,
and with a smile that told of release from the Evil Angel.
* * * * *
Peregrine's wish was fulfilled, and he was buried in Portchester
Churchyard at Mrs. Woodford's feet. This time it was Mr.
Horncastle, old as he was, who preached the funeral sermon, the In
Memoriam of our forefathers; and by special desire of Major Oakshott
took for his text, 'At evening time there shall be light.' He
spoke, sometimes in a voice broken, as much by feeling as by age, of
the childhood blighted by a cruel superstition, and perverted, as he
freely made confession, by discipline without comprehension, because
no confidence had been sought. Then ensued a tribute of earnest,
generous justice to her who had done her best to undo the warp in
the boy's nature, and whose blessed influence the young man had
owned to the last, through all the temptations, errors, and frenzies
of his life. Nor did the good man fail to make this a means of
testifying to the entire neighbourhood, who had flocked to hear him,
all that might be desirable to be known respecting the conflict at
Portchester, actually reading Peregrine's affidavit, as indeed was
due to Colonel Archfield, so as to prove that this was no mere
pardon, though technically it had so to stand, but actual acquittal.
Nor was the struggle with evil at the end forgotten, nor the
surrender alike of love and of hatred, as well as of his own life,
which had been the final conquest, the decisive passing from
darkness to light.
It was a strange sermon according to present ideas, but not to those
who had grown up to the semi-political preaching of the century then
in its last decade; and it filled many eyes with tears, many hearts
with a deeper spirit of that charity which hopeth all things.
* * * * *
A month later Charles Archfield and Anne Jacobina Woodford were
married at the little parish church of Fareham. Sir Philip insisted
on making it a gay and brilliant wedding, in order to demonstrate to
the neighbourhood that though the maiden had been his grandson's
governess, she was a welcomed and honoured acquisition to the
family. Perhaps too he perceived the error of his middle age, when
he contrasted that former wedding, the work of worldly
conventionality, with the present. In the first, an unformed,
undeveloped lad, unable to understand his own true feelings and
affections had been passively linked to a shallow, frivolous, ill-
trained creature, utterly incapable of growing into a helpmeet for
him; whereas the love and trust of the stately-looking pair, in the
fresh bloom of manhood and womanhood, had been proved in the furnace
of trial, so that the troth they plighted had deep foundation for
the past, and bright hope for the future.
Nor was anybody more joyous than little Philip, winning his Nana for
a better mother to him than his own could ever have been
It was in a blue velvet coat that Colonel Archfield was married. He
had resigned his Austrian commission; and though the 'Salamander,'
was empowered to offer him an excellent staff appointment in the
English army, he decided to refuse. Sir Philip showed signs of
having been aged and shaken by the troubles of the winter, and
required his son's assistance in the care of his property, and
little Philip was growing up to need a father's hand, so that
Charles came to the conclusion that there was no need to cross the
old Cavalier's dislike to the new regime, nor to make his mother and
wife again suffer the anxieties of knowing him on active service,
while his duties lay at home.
Sedley Archfield, after a long illness, owed recovery both in body
and mind to Mrs. Oakshott, and by her arrangement finally obtained a
fresh commission in a regiment raised for the defence of the
possessions of the East India Company. And that the poor changeling
was still tenderly remembered might be proved by the fact that when
the bells rung for Queen Anne's coronation there was one baby
Peregrine at Fareham and another at Oakwood.