Part 7 out of 7
far in the good graces of Alice's father, he could not help suspecting
that Bridgenorth was desirous, as the price of his favour, that he
should adopt some line of conduct inconsistent with the principles of
Arrived in England, Julian first hastened to Martindale, only to find
the castle in the hands of officers of the House of Commons and his
mother and Sir Geoffrey prisoners on suspicion of conspiring in the
popish plot, and about to be escorted to London by a strong guard. On
their departure the property of the castle was taken possession of by an
attorney in the name of Major Bridgenorth, a large creditor of the
Julian himself was soon seized and put to trial with his father. But the
fury of the people had, however, now begun to pass away, and men's minds
were beginning to cool. The character of the witnesses was more closely
sifted--their testimonies did not in all cases tally. Chief Justice
Scroggs, sagacious in the signs of the times, saw that court favour, and
probably popular opinion also, were about to declare against the
witnesses and in favour of the accused.
Sir Geoffrey and. Julian were both declared "not guilty" of the
monstrous and absurd charges brought against them and the accusation
against Lady Peveril was dropped.
No sooner had the Peverils, father and son, escaped to Lady Peveril's
lodgings, and the first rapturous meeting over, than Alice Bridgenorth
was presented by Julian's mother as the pretended daughter of an old
cavalier, and Sir Geoffrey embraced her warmly. Julian, to whom his
mother whispered that Alice was there by her father's authority, was as
one enchanted, when a gentleman arrived from Whitehall bidding Sir
Geoffrey and his son instantly attend upon the king's presence.
The Countess of Derby had come openly to court, braving all danger, when
she heard of the arrest of the Peverils, resolved to save their lives.
From the king's own lips she heard of the acquittal, and Charles II.,
for the moment anxious to reward the fidelity of his old follower,
invited them forthwith to Whitehall.
Sir Geoffrey, with every feeling of his early life afloat in his memory,
threw himself on his knees before the king, and Charles said, with
feeling, "My good Sir Geoffrey, you have had some hard measure; we owe
you amends, and will find time to pay our debt."
Later in the evening the Countess of Derby, who had had much private
conversation with Julian, said, "Your majesty, there is a certain Major
Bridgenorth, who designs, as we are informed, to leave England for ever.
By dint of the law he hath acquired strong possession over the domains
of Peveril, which he desires to restore to the ancient owners with much
fair land besides, conditionally that our young Julian will receive them
as the dowry of his only child."
"By my faith!" said the king, "she must be a foul-mouthed wench if
Julian requires to be pressed to accept her on such fair conditions."
"They love each other like lovers of the last age," said the countess;
"but the stout old knight likes not the roundheaded alliance."
"Our royal word shall put that to rights," said the king. "Sir Geoffrey
Peveril has not suffered hardship so often at our command that he will
refuse our recommendation when it comes to make amends for all losses."
The king did not speak without being fully aware of the ascendancy which
he possessed over the spirit of the old Tory; and within four weeks
afterwards the bells of Martindale-Moultrassie were ringing for the
union of the two families, and the beacon-light of the castle blazed
high over hill and dale.