Part 3 out of 11
parlour, locking it, and taking out the key, "no one shall profane this
"Had his honour any other commands for the night?"
"None, save to clear the apartment of yonder man. My clerk will remain
with me--I have orders which must be written out.--Yet stay--Thou gavest
my letter this morning to Mistress Alice?"
"Tell me, good Joceline, what she said when she received it?"
"She seemed much concerned, sir; and indeed I think that she wept a
little--but indeed she seemed very much distressed."
"And what message did she send to me?"
"None, may it please your honour--She began to say, 'Tell my cousin
Everard that I will communicate my uncle's kind purpose to my father, if
I can get fitting opportunity--but that I greatly fear'--and there
checked herself, as it were, and said, 'I will write to my cousin; and
as it may be late ere I have an opportunity of speaking with my father,
do thou come for my answer after service.'--So I went to church myself,
to while away the time; but when I returned to the Chase, I found this
man had summoned my master to surrender, and, right or wrong, I must put
him in possession of the Lodge. I would fain have given your honour a
hint that the old knight and my young mistress were like to take you on
the form, but I could not mend the matter."
"Thou hast done well, good fellow, and I will remember thee.--And now,
my masters," he said, advancing to the brace of clerks or secretaries,
who had in the meanwhile sate quietly down beside the stone bottle, and
made up acquaintance over a glass of its contents--"Let me remind you,
that the night wears late."
"There is something cries tinkle, tinkle, in the bottle yet," said
Wildrake, in reply.
"Hem! hem! hem!" coughed the Colonel of the Parliament service; and if
his lips did not curse his companion's imprudence, I will not answer for
what arose in his heart,--"Well!" he said, observing that Wildrake had
filled his own glass and Tomkins's, "take that parting glass and
"Would you not be pleased to hear first," said Wildrake, "how this
honest gentleman saw the devil to-night look through a pane of yonder
window, and how he thinks he had a mighty strong resemblance to your
worship's humble slave and varlet scribbler? Would you but hear this,
sir, and just sip a glass of this very recommendable strong waters?"
"I will drink none, sir," said Colonel Everard sternly; "and I have to
tell _you_, that you have drunken a glass too much already.--Mr.
Tomkins, sir, I wish you good night."
"A word in season at parting," said Tomkins, standing up behind the long
leathern back of a chair, hemming and snuffling as if preparing for an
"Excuse me, sir," replied Markham Everard sternly; "you are not now
sufficiently yourself to guide the devotion of others."
"Woe be to them that reject!" said the Secretary of the Commissioners,
stalking out of the room--the rest was lost in shutting the door, or
suppressed for fear of offence.
"And now, fool Wildrake, begone to thy bed--yonder it lies," pointing to
the knight's apartment.
"What, thou hast secured the lady's for thyself? I saw thee put the key
in thy pocket."
"I would not--indeed I could not sleep in that apartment--I can sleep
nowhere--but I will watch in this arm-chair.--I have made him place wood
for repairing the fire.--Good now, go to bed thyself, and sleep off thy
"Liquor!--I laugh thee to scorn, Mark--thou art a milksop, and the son
of a milksop, and know'st not what a good fellow can do in the way of
crushing an honest cup."
"The whole vices of his faction are in this poor fellow individually,"
said the Colonel to himself, eyeing his protegé askance, as the other
retreated into the bedroom, with no very steady pace--"He is reckless,
intemperate, dissolute;--and if I cannot get him safely shipped for
France, he will certainly be both his own ruin and mine.--Yet, withal,
he is kind, brave, and generous, and would have kept the faith with me
which he now expects from me; and in what consists the merit of our
truth, if we observe not our plighted word when we have promised, to our
hurt? I will take the liberty, however, to secure myself against farther
interruption on his part."
So saying, he locked the door of communication betwixt the
sleeping-room, to which the cavalier had retreated, and the parlour;--
and then, after pacing the floor thoughtfully, returned to his seat,
trimmed the lamp, and drew out a number of letters.--"I will read these
over once more," he said, "that, if possible, the thought of public
affairs may expel this keen sense of personal sorrow. Gracious
Providence, where is this to end! We have sacrificed the peace of our
families, the warmest wishes of our young hearts, to right the country
in which we were born, and to free her from oppression; yet it appears,
that every step we have made towards liberty, has but brought us in view
of new and more terrific perils, as he who travels in a mountainous
region, is by every step which elevates him higher, placed in a
situation of more imminent hazard."
He read long and attentively, various tedious and embarrassed letters,
in which the writers, placing before him the glory of God, and the
freedom and liberties of England, as their supreme ends, could not, by
all the ambagitory expressions they made use of, prevent the shrewd eye
of Markham Everard from seeing, that self-interest and views of
ambition, were the principal moving springs at the bottom of their
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE SIXTH.
Sleep steals on us even like his brother Death--
We know not when it comes--we know it must come--
We may affect to scorn and to contemn it,
For 'tis the highest pride of human misery
To say it knows not of an opiate;
Yet the reft parent, the despairing lover,
Even the poor wretch who waits for execution,
Feels this oblivion, against which he thought
His woes had arm'd his senses, steal upon him,
And through the fenceless citadel--the body--
Surprise that haughty garrison--the mind.
Colonel Everard experienced the truth contained in the verses of the
quaint old bard whom we have quoted above. Amid private grief, and
anxiety for a country long a prey to civil war, and not likely to fall
soon under any fixed or well-established form of government, Everard and
his father had, like many others, turned their eyes to General Cromwell,
as the person whose valour had made him the darling of the army, whose
strong sagacity had hitherto predominated over the high talents by which
he had been assailed in Parliament, as well as over his enemies in the
field, and who was alone in the situation to _settle the nation_, as the
phrase then went; or, in other words, to dictate the mode of government.
The father and son were both reputed to stand high in the General's
favour. But Markham Everard was conscious of some particulars, which
induced him to doubt whether Cromwell actually, and at heart, bore
either to his father or to himself that good-will which was generally
believed. He knew him for a profound politician, who could veil for any
length of time his real sentiments of men and things, until they could
be displayed without prejudice to his interest. And he moreover knew
that the General was not likely to forget the opposition which the
Presbyterian party had offered to what Oliver called the Great
Matter--the trial, namely, and execution of the King. In this
opposition, his father and he had anxiously concurred, nor had the
arguments, nor even the half-expressed threats of Cromwell, induced them
to flinch from that course, far less to permit their names to be
introduced into the commission nominated to sit in judgment on that
This hesitation had occasioned some temporary coldness between the
General and the Everards, father and son. But as the latter remained in
the army, and bore arms under Cromwell both in Scotland, and finally at
Worcester, his services very frequently called forth the approbation of
his commander. After the fight of Worcester, in particular, he was among
the number of those officers on whom Oliver, rather considering the
actual and practical extent of his own power, than the name under which
he exercised it, was with difficulty withheld from imposing the dignity
of Knights-Bannerets at his own will and pleasure. It therefore seemed,
that all recollection of former disagreement was obliterated, and that
the Everards had regained their former stronghold in the General's
affections. There were, indeed, several who doubted this, and who
endeavoured to bring over this distinguished young officer to some other
of the parties which divided the infant Commonwealth. But to these
proposals he turned a deaf ear. Enough of blood, he said, had been
spilled--it was time that the nation should have repose under a
firmly-established government, of strength sufficient to protect
property, and of lenity enough to encourage the return of tranquillity.
This, he thought, could only be accomplished by means of Cromwell, and
the greater part of England was of the same opinion. It is true, that,
in thus submitting to the domination of a successful soldier, those who
did so, forgot the principles upon which they had drawn the sword
against the late King. But in revolutions, stern and high principles are
often obliged to give way to the current of existing circumstances; and
in many a case, where wars have been waged for points of metaphysical
right, they have been at last gladly terminated, upon the mere hope of
obtaining general tranquillity, as, after many a long siege, a garrison
is often glad to submit on mere security for life and limb.
Colonel Everard, therefore, felt that the support which he afforded
Cromwell, was only under the idea, that, amid a choice of evils, the
least was likely to ensue from a man of the General's wisdom and valour
being placed at the head of the state; and he was sensible, that Oliver
himself was likely to consider his attachment as lukewarm and imperfect,
and measure his gratitude for it upon the same limited scale.
In the meanwhile, however, circumstances compelled him to make trial of
the General's friendship. The sequestration of Woodstock, and the
warrant to the Commissioners to dispose of it as national property, had
been long granted, but the interest of the elder Everard had for weeks
and months deferred its execution. The hour was now approaching when the
blow could be no longer parried, especially as Sir Henry Lee, on his
side, resisted every proposal of submitting himself to the existing
government, and was therefore, now that his hour of grace was passed,
enrolled in the list of stubborn and irreclaimable malignants, with whom
the Council of State was determined no longer to keep terms. The only
mode of protecting the old knight and his daughter, was to interest, if
possible, the General himself in the matter; and revolving all the
circumstances connected with their intercourse, Colonel Everard felt
that a request, which would so immediately interfere with the interests
of Desborough, the brother-in-law of Cromwell, and one of the present
Commissioners, was putting to a very severe trial the friendship of the
latter. Yet no alternative remained.
With this view, and agreeably to a request from Cromwell, who at parting
had been very urgent to have his written opinion upon public affairs,
Colonel Everard passed the earlier part of the night in arranging his
ideas upon the state of the Commonwealth, in a plan which he thought
likely to be acceptable to Cromwell, as it exhorted him, under the aid
of Providence, to become the saviour of the state, by convoking a free
Parliament, and by their aid placing himself at the head of some form of
liberal and established government, which might supersede the state of
anarchy, in which the nation was otherwise likely to be merged. Taking a
general view of the totally broken condition of the Royalists, and of
the various factions which now convulsed the state, he showed how this
might be done without bloodshed or violence. From this topic he
descended to the propriety of keeping up the becoming state of the
Executive Government, in whose hands soever it should be lodged, and
thus showed Cromwell, as the future Stadtholder, or Consul, or
Lieutenant-General of Great Britain and Ireland, a prospect of demesne
and residence becoming his dignity. Then he naturally passed to the
disparking and destroying of the royal residences of England, made a
woful picture of the demolition which impended over Woodstock, and
interceded for the preservation of that beautiful seat, as a matter of
personal favour, in which he found himself deeply interested.
Colonel Everard, when he had finished his letter, did not find himself
greatly risen in his own opinion. In the course of his political
conduct, he had till this hour avoided mixing up personal motives with
his public grounds of action, and yet he now felt himself making such a
composition. But he comforted himself, or at least silenced this
unpleasing recollection, with the consideration, that the weal of
Britain, studied under the aspect of the times, absolutely required that
Cromwell should be at the head of the government; and that the interest
of Sir Henry Lee, or rather his safety and his existence, no less
emphatically demanded the preservation of Woodstock, and his residence
there. Was it a fault of his, that the same road should lead to both
these ends, or that his private interest, and that of the country,
should happen to mix in the same letter? He hardened himself, therefore,
to the act, made up and addressed his packet to the Lord-General, and
then sealed it with his seal of arms. This done, he lay back in the
chair; and, in spite of his expectations to the contrary, fell asleep in
the course of his reflections, anxious and harassing as they were, and
did not awaken until the cold grey light of dawn was peeping through the
He started at first, rousing himself with the sensation of one who
awakes in a place unknown to him; but the localities instantly forced
themselves on his recollection. The lamp burning dimly in the socket,
the wood fire almost extinguished in its own white embers, the gloomy
picture over the chimney-piece, the sealed packet on the table--all
reminded him of the events of yesterday, and his deliberations of the
succeeding night. "There is no help for it," he said; "it must be
Cromwell or anarchy. And probably the sense that his title, as head of
the Executive Government, is derived merely from popular consent, may
check the too natural proneness of power to render itself arbitrary. If
he govern by Parliaments, and with regard to the privileges of the
subject, wherefore not Oliver as well as Charles? But I must take
measures for having this conveyed safely to the hands of this future
sovereign prince. It will be well to take the first word of influence
with him, since there must be many who will not hesitate to recommend
counsels more violent and precipitate."
He determined to intrust the important packet to the charge of Wildrake,
whose rashness was never so distinguished, as when by any chance he was
left idle and unemployed; besides, even if his faith had not been
otherwise unimpeachable, the obligations which he owed to his friend
Everard must have rendered it such.
These conclusions passed through Colonel Everard's mind, as, collecting
the remains of wood in the chimney, he gathered them into a hearty
blaze, to remove the uncomfortable feeling of dullness which pervaded
his limbs; and by the time he was a little more warm, again sunk into a
slumber, which was only dispelled by the beams of morning peeping into
He arose, roused himself, walked up and down the room, and looked from
the large oriel window on the nearest objects, which were the untrimmed
hedges and neglected walks of a certain wilderness, as it is called in
ancient treatises on gardening, which, kept of yore well ordered, and in
all the pride of the topiary art, presented a succession of yew-trees
cut into fantastic forms, of close alleys, and of open walks, filling
about two or three acres of ground on that side of the Lodge, and
forming a boundary between its immediate precincts and the open Park.
Its enclosure was now broken down in many places, and the hinds with
their fawns fed free and unstartled up to the very windows of the silvan
This had been a favourite scene of Markham's sports when a boy. He could
still distinguish, though now grown out of shape, the verdant
battlements of a Gothic castle, all created by the gardener's shears, at
which he was accustomed to shoot his arrows; or, stalking before it like
the Knight-errants of whom he read, was wont to blow his horn, and bid
defiance to the supposed giant or Paynim knight, by whom it was
garrisoned. He remembered how he used to train his cousin, though
several years younger than himself, to bear a part in those revels of
his boyish fancy, and to play the character of an elfin page, or a
fairy, or an enchanted princess. He remembered, too, many particulars of
their later acquaintance, from which he had been almost necessarily led
to the conclusion, that from an early period their parents had
entertained some idea, that there might be a well-fitted match betwixt
his fair cousin and himself. A thousand visions, formed in so bright a
prospect, had vanished along with it, but now returned like shadows, to
remind him of all he had lost--and for what?--"For the sake of England,"
his proud consciousness replied,--"Of England, in danger of becoming the
prey at once of bigotry and tyranny." And he strengthened himself with
the recollection, "If I have sacrificed my private happiness, it is that
my country may enjoy liberty of conscience, and personal freedom; which,
under a weak prince and usurping statesman, she was but too likely to
But the busy fiend in his breast would not be repulsed by the bold
answer. "Has thy resistance," it demanded, "availed thy country, Markham
Everard? Lies not England, after so much bloodshed, and so much misery,
as low beneath the sword of a fortunate soldier, as formerly under the
sceptre of an encroaching prince? Are Parliament, or what remains of
them, fitted to contend with a leader, master of his soldiers' hearts,
as bold and subtle as he is impenetrable in his designs! This General,
who holds the army, and by that the fate of the nation in his hand, will
he lay down his power because philosophy would pronounce it his duty to
become a subject?"
He dared not answer that his knowledge of Cromwell authorised him to
expect any such act of self-denial. Yet still he considered that in
times of such infinite difficulty, that must be the best government,
however little desirable in itself, which should most speedily restore
peace to the land, and stop the wounds which the contending parties were
daily inflicting on each other. He imagined that Cromwell was the only
authority under which a steady government could be formed, and therefore
had attached himself to his fortune, though not without considerable and
recurring doubts, how far serving the views of this impenetrable and
mysterious General was consistent with the principles under which he had
While these things passed in his mind, Everard looked upon the packet
which lay on the table addressed to the Lord-General, and which he had
made up before sleep. He hesitated several times, when he remembered its
purport, and in what degree he must stand committed with that personage,
and bound to support his plans of aggrandizement, when once that
communication was in Oliver Cromwell's possession.
"Yet it must be so," he said at last, with a deep sigh. "Among the
contending parties, he is the strongest--the wisest and most moderate--
and ambitious though he be, perhaps not the most dangerous. Some one
must be trusted with power to preserve and enforce general order, and
who can possess or wield such power like him that is head of the
victorious armies of England? Come what will in future, peace and the
restoration of law ought to be our first and most pressing object. This
remnant of a parliament cannot keep their ground against the army, by
mere appeal to the sanction of opinion. If they design to reduce the
soldiery, it must be by actual warfare, and the land has been too long
steeped in blood. But Cromwell may, and I trust will, make a moderate
accommodation with them, on grounds by which peace may be preserved; and
it is to this which we must look and trust for a settlement of the
kingdom, alas! and for the chance of protecting my obstinate kinsman
from the consequences of his honest though absurd pertinacity."
Silencing some internal feelings of doubt and reluctance by such
reasoning as this, Markham Everard continued in his resolution to unite
himself with Cromwell in the struggle which was evidently approaching
betwixt the civil and military authorities; not as the course which, if
at perfect liberty, he would have preferred adopting, but as the best
choice between two dangerous extremities to which the times had reduced
him. He could not help trembling, however, when he recollected that his
father, though hitherto the admirer of Cromwell, as the implement by
whom so many marvels had been wrought in England, might not be disposed
to unite with his interest against that of the Long Parliament, of which
he had been, till partly laid aside by continued indisposition, an
active and leading member. This doubt also he was obliged to swallow or
strangle, as he might; but consoled himself with the ready argument,
that it was impossible his father could see matters in another light
than that in which they occurred to himself.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.
Determined at length to dispatch his packet to the General without
delay, Colonel Everard approached the door of the apartment, in which,
as was evident from the heavy breathing within, the prisoner Wildrake
enjoyed a deep slumber, under the influence of liquor at once and of
fatigue. In turning the key, the bolt, which was rather rusty, made a
resistance so noisy, as partly to attract the sleeper's attention,
though not to awake him. Everard stood by his bedside, as he heard him
mutter, "Is it morning already, jailor?--Why, you dog, an you had but a
cast of humanity in you, you would qualify your vile news with a cup of
sack;--hanging is sorry work, my masters--and sorrow's dry."
"Up, Wildrake--up, thou ill-omened dreamer," said his friend, shaking
him by the collar.
"Hands off!" answered the sleeper.--"I can climb a ladder without help,
I trow."--He then sate up in the bed, and opening his eyes, stared
around him, and exclaimed, "Zounds! Mark, is it only thou? I thought it
was all over with me--fetters were struck from my legs--rope drawn round
my gullet--irons knocked off my hands--hempen cravat tucked on,--all
ready for a dance in the open element upon slight footing."
"Truce with thy folly, Wildrake; sure the devil of drink, to whom thou
hast, I think, sold thyself"--
"For a hogshead of sack," interrupted Wildrake; "the bargain was made in
a cellar in the Vintry."
"I am as mad as thou art, to trust any thing to thee," said Markham; "I
scarce believe thou hast thy senses yet."
"What should ail me?" said Wildrake--"I trust I have not tasted liquor
in my sleep, saving that I dreamed of drinking small-beer with Old Noll,
of his own brewing. But do not look so glum, man--I am the same Roger
Wildrake that I ever was; as wild as a mallard, but as true as a
game-cock. I am thine own chum, man--bound to thee by thy kind deeds--
_devinctus beneficio_--there is Latin for it; and where is the thing
thou wilt charge me with, that I wilt not, or dare not execute, were it
to pick the devil's teeth with my rapier, after he had breakfasted upon
"You will drive me mad," said Everard.--"When I am about to intrust all
I have most valuable on earth to your management, your conduct and
language are those of a mere Bedlamite. Last night I made allowance for
thy drunken fury; but who can endure thy morning madness?--it is unsafe
for thyself and me, Wildrake--it is unkind--I might say ungrateful."
"Nay, do not say _that_, my friend," said the cavalier, with some show
of feeling; "and do not judge of me with a severity that cannot apply to
such as I am. We who have lost our all in these sad jars, who are
compelled to shift for our living, not from day to day, but from meal to
meal--we whose only hiding place is the jail, whose prospect of final
repose is the gallows,--what canst thou expect from us, but to bear such
a lot with a light heart, since we should break down under it with a
This was spoken in a tone of feeling which found a responding string in
Everard's bosom. He took his friend's hand, and pressed it kindly.
"Nay, if I seemed harsh to thee, Wildrake, I profess it was for thine
own sake more than mine. I know thou hast at the bottom of thy levity,
as deep a principle of honour and feeling as ever governed a human
heart. But thou art thoughtless--thou art rash--and I protest to thee,
that wert thou to betray thyself in this matter, in which I trust thee,
the evil consequences to myself would not afflict me more than the
thought of putting thee into such danger."
"Nay, if you take it on that tone, Mark," said the cavalier, making an
effort to laugh, evidently that he might conceal a tendency to a
different emotion, "thou wilt make children of us both--babes and
sucklings, by the hilt of this bilbo.--Come, trust me; I can be cautious
when time requires it--no man ever saw me drink when an alert was
expected--and not one poor pint of wine will I taste until I have
managed this matter for thee. Well, I am thy secretary--clerk--I had
forgot--and carry thy dispatches to Cromwell, taking good heed not to be
surprised or choused out of my lump of loyalty, (striking his finger on
the packet,) and I am to deliver it to the most loyal hands to which it
is most humbly addressed--Adzooks, Mark, think of it a moment longer--
Surely thou wilt not carry thy perverseness so far as to strike in with
this bloody-minded rebel?--Bid me give him three inches of my
dudgeon-dagger, and I will do it much more willingly than present him
with thy packet."
"Go to," replied Everard, "this is beyond our bargain. If you will help
me it is well; if not, let me lose no time in debating with thee, since
I think every moment an age till the packet is in the General's
possession. It is the only way left me to obtain some protection, and a
place of refuge for my uncle and his daughter."
"That being the case," said the cavalier, "I will not spare the spur. My
nag up yonder at the town will be ready for the road in a trice, and
thou mayst reckon on my being with Old Noll--thy General, I mean--in as
short time as man and horse may consume betwixt Woodstock and Windsor,
where I think I shall for the present find thy friend keeping possession
where he has slain."
"Hush, not a word of that. Since we parted last night, I have shaped
thee a path which will suit thee better than to assume the decency of
language and of outward manner, of which thou hast so little. I have
acquainted the General that thou hast been by bad example and bad
"Which is to be interpreted by contraries, I hope," said Wildrake; "for
sure I have been as well born and bred up as any lad of Leicestershire
"Now, I prithee, hush--thou hast, I say, by bad example become at one
time a malignant, and mixed in the party of the late King. But seeing
what things were wrought in the nation by the General, thou hast come to
a clearness touching his calling to be a great implement in the
settlement of these distracted kingdoms. This account of thee will not
only lead him to pass over some of thy eccentricities, should they break
out in spite of thee, but will also give thee an interest with him as
being more especially attached to his own person."
"Doubtless," said Wildrake, "as every fisher loves best the trouts that
are of his own tickling."
"It is likely, I think, he will send thee hither with letters to me,"
said the Colonel, "enabling me to put a stop to the proceedings of these
sequestrators, and to give poor old Sir Henry Lee permission to linger
out his days among the oaks he loves to look upon. I have made this my
request to General Cromwell, and I think my father's friendship and my
own may stretch so far on his regard without risk of cracking,
especially standing matters as they now do--thou dost understand?"
"Entirely well," said the cavalier; "stretch, quotha!--I would rather
stretch a rope than hold commerce with the old King-killing ruffian. But
I have said I will be guided by thee, Markham, and rat me but I will."
"Be cautious, then," said Everard, "mark well what he does and
says--more especially what he does; for Oliver is one of those whose
mind is better known by his actions than by his words; and stay--I
warrant thee thou wert setting off without a cross in thy purse?"
"Too true, Mark," said Wildrake; "the last noble melted last night among
yonder blackguard troopers of yours."
"Well, Roger," replied the Colonel, "that is easily mended." So saying,
he slipped his purse into his friend's hand. "But art thou not an
inconsiderate weather-brained fellow, to set forth as thou wert about to
do, without any thing to bear thy charges; what couldst thou have done?"
"Faith, I never thought of that; I must have cried _Stand_, I suppose,
to the first pursy townsman or greasy grazier that I met o' the
heath--it is many a good fellow's shift in these bad times."
"Go to," said Everard; "be cautious--use none of your loose
acquaintance--rule your tongue--beware of the wine-pot--for there is
little danger if thou couldst only but keep thyself sober--Be moderate
in speech, and forbear oaths or vaunting."
"In short, metamorphose myself into such a prig as thou art, Mark,--
Well," said Wildrake, "so far as outside will go, I think I can make a
_Hope-on-High-Bomby_ [Footnote: A puritanic character in one of Beaumont
and Fletcher's plays.] as well as thou canst. Ah! those were merry days
when we saw Mills present Bomby at the Fortune playhouse, Mark, ere I
had lost my laced cloak and the jewel in my ear, or thou hadst gotten
the wrinkle on thy brow, and the puritanic twist of thy mustache!"
"They were like most worldly pleasures, Wildrake," replied Everard,
"sweet in the mouth and bitter in digestion.--But away with thee; and
when thou bring'st back my answer, thou wilt find me either here or at
Saint George's Inn, at the little borough.--Good luck to thee--Be but
cautious how thou bearest thyself."
The Colonel remained in deep meditation.--"I think," he said, "I have
not pledged myself too far to the General. A breach between him and the
Parliament seems inevitable, and would throw England back into civil
war, of which all men are wearied. He may dislike my messenger--yet that
I do not greatly fear. He knows I would choose such as I can myself
depend on, and hath dealt enough with the stricter sort to be aware that
there are among them, as well as elsewhere, men who can hide two faces
under one hood."
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE EIGHTH.
For there in lofty air was seen to stand
The stern Protector of the conquer'd land;
Draw in that look with which he wept and swore,
Turn'd out the members and made fast the door,
Ridding the house of every knave and drone,
Forced--though it grieved his soul--to rule alone.
THE FRANK COURTSHIP.--CRABBE.
Leaving Colonel Everard to his meditations, we follow the jolly
cavalier, his companion, who, before mounting at the George, did not
fail to treat himself to his morning-draught of eggs and muscadine, to
enable him to face the harvest wind.
Although he had suffered himself to be sunk in the extravagant license
which was practised by the cavaliers, as if to oppose their conduct in
every point to the preciseness of their enemies, yet Wildrake, well-born
and well-educated, and endowed with good natural parts, and a heart
which even debauchery, and the wild life of a roaring cavalier, had not
been able entirely to corrupt, moved on his present embassy with a
strange mixture of feelings, such as perhaps he had never in his life
His feelings as a loyalist led him to detest Cromwell, whom in other
circumstances he would scarce have wished to see, except in a field of
battle, where he could have had the pleasure to exchange pistol-shots
with him. But with this hatred there was mixed a certain degree of fear.
Always victorious wherever he fought, the remarkable person whom
Wildrake was now approaching had acquired that influence over the minds
of his enemies, which constant success is so apt to inspire--they
dreaded while they hated him--and joined to these feelings, was a
restless meddling curiosity, which made a particular feature in
Wildrake's character, who, having long had little business of his own,
and caring nothing about that which he had, was easily attracted by the
desire of seeing whatever was curious or interesting around him.
"I should like to see the old rascal after all," he said, "were it but
to say that I _had_ seen him."
He reached Windsor in the afternoon, and felt on his arrival the
strongest inclination to take up his residence at some of his old
haunts, when he had occasionally frequented that fair town in gayer
days. But resisting all temptations of this kind, he went courageously
to the principal inn, from which its ancient emblem, the Garter, had
long disappeared. The master, too, whom Wildrake, experienced in his
knowledge of landlords and hostelries, had remembered a dashing Mine
Host of Queen Bess's school, had now sobered down to the temper of the
times, shook his head when he spoke of the Parliament, wielded his
spigot with the gravity of a priest conducting a sacrifice, wished
England a happy issue out of all her difficulties, and greatly lauded
his Excellency the Lord-General. Wildrake also remarked, that his wine
was better than it was wont to be, the Puritans having an excellent gift
at detecting every fallacy in that matter; and that his measures were
less and his charges larger--circumstances which he was induced to
attend to, by mine host talking a good deal about his conscience.
He was told by this important personage, that the Lord-General received
frankly all sorts of persons; and that he might obtain access to him
next morning, at eight o'clock, for the trouble of presenting himself at
the Castle-gate, and announcing himself as the bearer of despatches to
To the Castle the disguised cavalier repaired at the hour appointed.
Admittance was freely permitted to him by the red-coated soldier, who,
with austere looks, and his musket on his shoulder, mounted guard at the
external gate of that noble building. Wildrake passed through the
underward or court, gazing as he passed upon the beautiful Chapel, which
had but lately received, in darkness and silence, the unhonoured remains
of the slaughtered King of England. Rough as Wildrake was, the
recollection of this circumstance affected him so strongly, that he had
nearly turned back in a sort of horror, rather than face the dark and
daring man, to whom, amongst all the actors in that melancholy affair,
its tragic conclusion was chiefly to be imputed. But he felt the
necessity of subduing all sentiments of this nature, and compelled
himself to proceed in a negotiation intrusted to his conduct by one to
whom he was so much obliged as Colonel Everard. At the ascent, which
passed by the Round Tower, he looked to the ensign-staff, from which the
banner of England was wont to float. It was gone, with all its rich
emblazonry, its gorgeous quarterings, and splendid embroidery; and in
its room waved that of the Commonwealth, the cross of Saint George, in
its colours of blue and red, not yet intersected by the diagonal cross
of Scotland, which was soon after assumed, as if in evidence of
England's conquest over her ancient enemy. This change of ensigns
increased the train of his gloomy reflections, in which, although
contrary to his wont, he became so deeply wrapped, that the first thing
which recalled him to himself, was the challenge from the sentinel,
accompanied with a stroke of the butt of his musket on the pavement,
with an emphasis which made Wildrake start.
"Whither away, and who are you?"
"The bearer of a packet," answered Wildrake, "to the worshipful the
"Stand till I call the officer of the guard."
The corporal made his appearance, distinguished above those of his
command by a double quantity of band round his neck, a double height of
steeple-crowned hat, a larger allowance of cloak, and a treble
proportion of sour gravity of aspect. It might be read on his
countenance, that he was one of those resolute enthusiasts to whom
Oliver owed his conquests, whose religious zeal made them even more than
a match for the high-spirited and high-born cavaliers, who exhausted
their valour in vain defence of their sovereign's person and crown. He
looked with grave solemnity at Wildrake, as if he was making in his own
mind an inventory of his features and dress; and having fully perused
them, he required "to know his business."
"My business," said Wildrake, as firmly as he could--for the close
investigation of this man had given him some unpleasant nervous
sensations--"my business is with your General."
"With his Excellency the Lord-General, thou wouldst say?" replied the
corporal. "Thy speech, my friend, savours too little of the reverence
due to his Excellency."
"D--n his Excellency!" was at the lips of the cavalier; but prudence
kept guard, and permitted not the offensive words to escape the barrier.
He only bowed, and was silent.
"Follow me," said the starched figure whom he addressed; and Wildrake
followed him accordingly into the guard-house, which exhibited an
interior characteristic of the times, and very different from what such
military stations present at the present day.
By the fire sat two or three musketeers, listening to one who was
expounding some religious mystery to them. He began half beneath his
breath, but in tones of great volubility, which tones, as he approached
the conclusion, became sharp and eager, as challenging either instant
answer or silent acquiescence. The audience seemed to listen to the
speaker with immovable features, only answering him with clouds of
tobacco-smoke, which they rolled from under their thick mustaches. On a
bench lay a soldier on his face: whether asleep, or in a fit of
contemplation, it was impossible to decide. In the midst of the floor
stood an officer, as he seemed by his embroidered shoulder-belt and
scarf round his waist, otherwise very plainly attired, who was engaged
in drilling a stout bumpkin, lately enlisted, to the manual, as it was
then used. The motions and words of command were twenty at the very
least; and until they were regularly brought to an end, the corporal did
not permit Wildrake either to sit down or move forward beyond the
threshold of the guard-house. So he had to listen in succession
to--Poise your musket--Rest your musket--Cock your musket--Handle your
primers--and many other forgotten words of discipline, until at length
the words, "Order your musket," ended the drill for the time. "Thy name,
friend?" said the officer to the recruit, when the lesson was over.
"Ephraim," answered the fellow, with an affected twang through the nose.
"And what besides Ephraim?"
"Ephraim Cobb, from the goodly city of Glocester, where I have dwelt for
seven years, serving apprentice to a praiseworthy cordwainer."
"It is a goodly craft," answered the officer; "but casting in thy lot
with ours, doubt not that thou shalt be set beyond thine awl, and thy
last to boot."
A grim smile of the speaker accompanied this poor attempt at a pun; and
then turning round to the corporal, who stood two paces off, with the
face of one who seemed desirous of speaking, said, "How now, corporal,
"Here is one with a packet, an please your Excellency," said the
corporal--"Surely my spirit doth not rejoice in him, seeing I esteem him
as a wolf in sheep's clothing."
By these words, Wildrake learned that he was in the actual presence of
the remarkable person to whom he was commissioned; and he paused to
consider in what manner he ought to address him.
The figure of Oliver Cromwell was, as is generally known, in no way
prepossessing. He was of middle stature, strong and coarsely made, with
harsh and severe features, indicative, however, of much natural sagacity
and depth of thought. His eyes were grey and piercing; his nose too
large in proportion to his other features, and of a reddish hue.
His manner of speaking, when he had the purpose to make himself
distinctly understood, was energetic and forcible, though neither
graceful nor eloquent. No man could on such occasion put his meaning
into fewer and more decisive words. But when, as it often happened, he
had a mind to play the orator, for the benefit of people's ears, without
enlightening their understanding, Cromwell was wont to invest his
meaning, or that which seemed to be his meaning, in such a mist of
words, surrounding it with so many exclusions and exceptions, and
fortifying it with such a labyrinth of parentheses, that though one of
the most shrewd men in England, he was, perhaps, the most unintelligible
speaker that ever perplexed an audience. It has been long since said by
the historian, that a collection of the Protector's speeches would make,
with a few exceptions, the most nonsensical book in the world; but he
ought to have added, that nothing could be more nervous, concise, and
intelligible, than what he really intended should be understood.
It was also remarked of Cromwell, that though born of a good family,
both by father and mother, and although he had the usual opportunities
of education and breeding connected with such an advantage, the fanatic
democratic ruler could never acquire, or else disdained to practise, the
courtesies usually exercised among the higher classes in their
intercourse with each other. His demeanour was so blunt as sometimes
might be termed clownish, yet there was in his language and manner a
force and energy corresponding to his character, which impressed awe, if
it did not impose respect; and there were even times when that dark and
subtle spirit expanded itself, so as almost to conciliate affection. The
turn for humour, which displayed itself by fits, was broad, and of a
low, and sometimes practical character. Something there was in his
disposition congenial to that of his countrymen; a contempt of folly, a
hatred of affectation, and a dislike of ceremony, which, joined to the
strong intrinsic qualities of sense and courage, made him in many
respects not an unfit representative of the democracy of England.
His religion must always be a subject of much doubt, and probably of
doubt which he himself could hardly have cleared up. Unquestionably
there was a time in his life when he was sincerely enthusiastic, and
when his natural temper, slightly subject to hypochondria, was strongly
agitated by the same fanaticism which influenced so many persons of the
time. On the other hand, there were periods during his political career,
when we certainly do him no injustice in charging him with a
hypocritical affectation. We shall probably judge him, and others of the
same age, most truly, if we suppose that their religious professions
were partly influential in their own breasts, partly assumed in
compliance with their own interest. And so ingenious is the human heart
in deceiving itself as well as others, that it is probable neither
Cromwell himself, nor those making similar pretensions to distinguished
piety, could exactly have fixed the point at which their enthusiasm
terminated and their hypocrisy commenced; or rather, it was a point not
fixed in itself, but fluctuating with the state of health, of good or
bad fortune, of high or low spirits, affecting the individual at the
Such was the celebrated person, who, turning round on Wildrake, and
scanning his countenance closely, seemed so little satisfied with what
he beheld, that he instinctively hitched forward his belt, so as to
bring the handle of his tuck-sword within his reach. But yet, folding
his arms in his cloak, as if upon second thoughts laying aside
suspicion, or thinking precaution beneath him, he asked the cavalier
what he was, and whence he came?
"A poor gentleman, sir,--that is, my lord,"--answered Wildrake; "last
"And what may your tidings be, sir _gentleman_?" said Cromwell, with an
emphasis. "Truly I have seen those most willing to take upon them that
title, bear themselves somewhat short of wise men, and good men, and
true men, with all their gentility; yet gentleman was a good title in
old England, when men remembered what it was construed to mean."
"You say truly, sir," replied Wildrake, suppressing, with difficulty,
some of his usual wild expletives; "formerly gentlemen were found in
gentlemen's places, but now the world is so changed that you shall find
the broidered belt has changed place with the under spur-leather."
"Say'st thou me?" said the General; "I profess thou art a bold
companion, that can bandy words so wantonly;--thou ring'st somewhat too
loud to be good metal, methinks. And, once again, what are thy tidings
"This packet," said Wildrake, "commended to your hands by Colonel
"Alas, I must have mistaken thee," answered Cromwell, mollified at the
mention of a man's name whom he had great desire to make his own;
"forgive us, good friend, for such, we doubt not, thou art. Sit thee
down, and commune with thyself as thou may'st, until we have examined
the contents of thy packet. Let him be looked to, and have what he
lacks." So saying the General left the guard-house, where Wildrake took
his seat in the corner, and awaited with patience the issue of his
The soldiers now thought themselves obliged to treat him with more
consideration, and offered him a pipe of Trinidado, and a black jack
filled with October. But the look of Cromwell, and the dangerous
situation in which he might be placed by the least chance of detection,
induced Wildrake to decline these hospitable offers, and stretching back
in his chair, and affecting slumber, he escaped notice or conversation,
until a sort of aide-de-camp, or military officer in attendance, came to
summon him to Cromwell's presence.
By this person he was guided to a postern-gate, through which he entered
the body of the Castle, and penetrating through many private passages
and staircases, he at length was introduced into a small cabinet, or
parlour, in which was much rich furniture, some bearing the royal cipher
displayed, but all confused and disarranged, together with several
paintings in massive frames, having their faces turned towards the wall,
as if they had been taken down for the purpose of being removed.
In this scene of disorder, the victorious General of the Commonwealth
was seated in a large easy-chair, covered with damask, and deeply
embroidered, the splendour of which made a strong contrast with the
plain, and even homely character of his apparel; although in look and
action he seemed like one who felt that the seat which might have in
former days held a prince, was not too much distinguished for his own
fortunes and ambition. Wildrake stood before him, nor did he ask him to
"Pearson," said Cromwell, addressing himself to the officer in
attendance, "wait in the gallery, but be within call." Pearson bowed,
and was retiring. "Who are in the gallery beside?"
"Worthy Mr. Gordon, the chaplain, was holding forth but now to Colonel
Overton, and four captains of your Excellency's regiment."
"We would have it so," said the General; "we would not there were any
corner in our dwelling where the hungry soul might not meet with manna.
Was the good man carried onward in his discourse?"
"Mightily borne through," said Pearson; "and he was touching the
rightful claims which the army, and especially your Excellency, hath
acquired by becoming the instruments in the great work;--not instruments
to be broken asunder and cast away when the day of their service is
over, but to be preserved, and held precious, and prized for their
honourable and faithful labours, for which they have fought and marched,
and fasted, and prayed, and suffered cold and sorrow; while others, who
would now gladly see them disbanded, and broken, and cashiered, eat of
the fat, and drink of the strong."
"Ah, good man!" said Cromwell, "and did he touch upon this so feelingly!
I could say something--but not now. Begone, Pearson, to the gallery. Let
not our friends lay aside their swords, but watch as well as pray."
Pearson retired; and the General, holding the letter of Everard in his
hand, looked again for a long while fixedly at Wildrake, as if
considering in what strain he should address him.
When he did speak, it was, at first, in one of those ambiguous
discourses which we have already described, and by which it was very
difficult for any one to understand his meaning, if, indeed, he knew
himself. We shall be as concise in our statement, as our desire to give
the very words of a man so extraordinary will permit.
"This letter," he said, "you have brought us from your master, or
patron, Markham Everard; truly an excellent and honourable gentleman as
ever bore a sword upon his thigh, and one who hath ever distinguished
himself in the great work of delivering these three poor unhappy
nations. Answer me not: I know what thou wouldst say.--And this letter
he hath sent to me by thee, his clerk, or secretary, in whom he hath
confidence, and in whom he prays me to have trust, that there may be a
careful messenger between us. And lastly, he hath sent thee to me--Do
not answer--I know what thou wouldst say,--to me, who, albeit, I am of
that small consideration, that it would be too much honour for me even
to bear a halberd in this great and victorious army of England, am
nevertheless exalted to the rank of holding the guidance and the
leading-staff thereof.--Nay, do not answer, my friend--I know what thou
wouldst say. Now, when communing thus together, our discourse taketh, in
respect to what I have said, a threefold argument, or division: First,
as it concerneth thy master; secondly, as it concerneth us and our
office; thirdly and lastly, as it toucheth thyself.--Now, as concerning
this good and worthy gentleman, Colonel Markham Everard, truly he hath
played the man from the beginning of these unhappy buffetings, not
turning to the right or to the left, but holding ever in his eye the
mark at which he aimed. Ay, truly, a faithful, honourable gentleman, and
one who may well call me friend; and truly I am pleased to think that he
doth so. Nevertheless, in this vale of tears, we must be governed less
by our private respects and partialities, than by those higher
principles and points of duty, whereupon the good Colonel Markham
Everard hath ever framed his purposes, as, truly, I have endeavoured to
form mine, that we may all act as becometh good Englishmen and worthy
patriots. Then, as for Woodstock, it is a great thing which the good
Colonel asks, that it should be taken from the spoil of the godly and
left in keeping of the men of Moab, and especially of the malignant,
Henry Lee, whose hand hath been ever against us when he might find room
to raise it; I say, he hath asked a great thing, both in respect of
himself and me. For we of this poor but godly army of England, are
holden, by those of the Parliament, as men who should render in spoil
for them, but be no sharer of it ourselves; even as the buck, which the
hounds pull to earth, furnisheth no part of their own food, but they are
lashed off from the carcass with whips, like those which require
punishment for their forwardness, not reward for their services. Yet I
speak not this so much in respect of this grant of Woodstock, in regard,
that, perhaps, their Lordships of the Council, and also the Committeemen
of this Parliament, may graciously think they have given me a portion in
the matter, in relation that my kinsman Desborough hath an interest
allowed him therein; which interest, as he hath well deserved it for his
true and faithful service to these unhappy and devoted countries, so it
would ill become me to diminish the same to his prejudice, unless it
were upon great and public respects. Thus thou seest how it stands with
me, my honest friend, and in what mind I stand touching thy master's
request to me; which yet I do not say that I can altogether, or
unconditionally, grant or refuse, but only tell my simple thoughts with
regard thereto. Thou understandest me, I doubt not?"
Now, Roger Wildrake, with all the attention he had been able to pay to
the Lord-General's speech, had got so much confused among the various
clauses of the harangue, that his brain was bewildered, like that of a
country clown when he chances to get himself involved among a crowd of
carriages, and cannot stir a step to get out of the way of one of them,
without being in danger of being ridden over by the others.
The General saw his look of perplexity, and began a new oration, to the
same purpose as before; spoke of his love for his kind friend the
Colonel--his regard for his pious and godly kinsman, Master Desborough--
the great importance of the Palace and Park of Woodstock--the
determination of the Parliament that it should be confiscated, and the
produce brought into the coffers of the state--his own deep veneration
for the authority of Parliament, and his no less deep sense of the
injustice done to the army--how it was his wish and will that all
matters should be settled in an amicable and friendly manner, without
self-seeking, debate, or strife, betwixt those who had been the hands
acting, and such as had been the heads governing, in that great national
cause--how he was willing, truly willing, to contribute to this work, by
laying down, not his commission only, but his life also, if it were
requested of him, or could be granted with safety to the poor soldiers,
to whom, silly poor men, he was bound to be as a father, seeing that
they had followed him with the duty and affection of children.
And here he arrived at another dead pause, leaving Wildrake as uncertain
as before, whether it was or was not his purpose to grant Colonel
Everard the powers he had asked for the protection of Woodstock against
the Parliamentary Commissioners. Internally he began to entertain hopes
that the justice of Heaven, or the effects of remorse, had confounded
the regicide's understanding. But no--he could see nothing but sagacity
in that steady stern eye, which, while the tongue poured forth its
periphrastic language in such profusion, seemed to watch with severe
accuracy the effect which his oratory produced on the listener.
"Egad," thought the cavalier to himself, becoming a little familiar with
the situation in which he was placed, and rather impatient of a
conversation--which led to no visible conclusion or termination, "If
Noll were the devil himself, as he is the devil's darling, I will not be
thus nose-led by him. I'll e'en brusque it a little, if he goes on at
this rate, and try if I can bring him to a more intelligible mode of
Entertaining this bold purpose, but half afraid to execute it, Wildrake
lay by for an opportunity of making the attempt, while Cromwell was
apparently unable to express his own meaning. He was already beginning a
third panegyric upon Colonel Everard, with sundry varied expressions of
his own wish to oblige him, when Wildrake took the opportunity to strike
in, on the General's making one of his oratorical pauses.
"So please you" he said bluntly, "your worship has already spoken on two
topics of your discourse, your own worthiness, and that of my master,
Colonel Everard. But, to enable me to do mine errand, it would be
necessary to bestow a few words on the third head."
"The third?" said Cromwell.
"Ay," said Wildrake, "which, in your honour's subdivision of your
discourse, touched on my unworthy self. What am I to do--what portion am
I to have in this matter?"
Oliver started at once from the tone of voice he had hitherto used, and
which somewhat resembled the purring of a domestic cat, into the growl
of the tiger when about to spring. "_Thy_ portion, jail-bird!" he
exclaimed, "the gallows--thou shalt hang as high as Haman, if thou
betray counsel!--But," he added, softening his voice, "keep it like a
true man, and my favour will be the making of thee. Come hither--thou
art bold, I see, though somewhat saucy. Thou hast been a malignant--so
writes my worthy friend Colonel Everard; but thou hast now given up that
falling cause. I tell thee, friend, not all that the Parliament or the
army could do would have pulled down the Stewarts out of their high
places, saving that Heaven had a controversy with them. Well, it is a
sweet and comely thing to buckle on one's armour in behalf of Heaven's
cause; otherwise truly, for mine own part, these men might have remained
upon the throne even unto this day. Neither do I blame any for aiding
them, until these successive great judgments have overwhelmed them and
their house. I am not a bloody man, having in me the feeling of human
frailty; but, friend, whosoever putteth his hand to the plough, in the
great actings which are now on foot in these nations, had best beware
that he do not look back; for, rely upon my simple word, that if you
fail me, I will not spare on you one foot's length of the gallows of
Haman. Let me therefore know, at a word, if the leaven of thy malignancy
is altogether drubbed out of thee?" "Your honourable lordship," said the
cavalier, shrugging up his shoulders, "has done that for most of us, so
far as cudgelling to some tune can perform it."
"Say'st thou?" said the General, with a grim smile on his lip, which
seemed to intimate that he was not quite inaccessible to flattery; "yea,
truly, thou dost not lie in that--we have been an instrument. Neither
are we, as I have already hinted, so severely bent against those who
have striven against us as malignants, as others may be. The
parliament-men best know their own interest and their own pleasure; but,
to my poor thinking, it is full time to close these jars, and to allow
men of all kinds the means of doing service to their country; and we
think it will be thy fault if thou art not employed to good purpose for
the state and thyself, on condition thou puttest away the old man
entirely from thee, and givest thy earnest attention to what I have to
"Your lordship need not doubt my attention," said the cavalier. And the
republican General, after another pause, as one who gave his confidence
not without hesitation, proceeded to explain his views with a
distinctness which he seldom used, yet not without his being a little
biassed now and then, by his long habits of circumlocution, which indeed
he never laid entirely aside, save in the field of battle.
"Thou seest," he said, "my friend, how things stand with me. The
Parliament, I care not who knows it, love me not--still less do the
Council of State, by whom they manage the executive government of the
kingdom. I cannot tell why they nourish suspicion against me, unless it
is because I will not deliver this poor innocent army, which has
followed me in so many military actions, to be now pulled asunder,
broken piecemeal and reduced, so that they who have protected the state
at the expense of their blood, will not have, perchance, the means of
feeding themselves by their labour; which, methinks, were hard measure,
since it is taking from Esau his birthright, even without giving him a
poor mess of pottage."
"Esau is likely to help himself, I think," replied Wildrake.
"Truly, thou say'st wisely," replied the General; "it is ill starving an
armed man, if there is food to be had for taking--nevertheless, far be
it from me to encourage rebellion, or want of due subordination to these
our rulers. I would only petition, in a due and becoming, a sweet and
harmonious manner, that they would listen to our conditions, and
consider our necessities. But, sir, looking on me, and estimating me so
little as they do, you must think that it would be a provocation in me
towards the Council of State, as well as the Parliament, if, simply to
gratify your worthy master, I were to act contrary to their purposes, or
deny currency to the commission under their authority, which is as yet
the highest in the State--and long may it be so for me!--to carry on the
sequestration which they intend. And would it not also be said, that I
was lending myself to the malignant interest, affording this den of the
blood-thirsty and lascivious tyrants of yore, to be in this our day a
place of refuge to that old and inveterate Amalekite, Sir Henry Lee, to
keep possession of the place in which he hath so long glorified himself?
Truly it would be a perilous matter."
"Am I then to report," said Wildrake, "an it please you, that you cannot
stead Colonel Everard in this matter?"
"Unconditionally, ay--but, taken conditionally, the answer may be
otherwise,"--answered Cromwell. "I see thou art not able to fathom my
purpose, and therefore I will partly unfold it to thee.--But take
notice, that, should thy tongue betray my counsel, save in so far as
carrying it to thy master, by all the blood which has been shed in these
wild times, thou shalt die a thousand deaths in one!"
"Do not fear me, sir," said Wildrake, whose natural boldness and
carelessness of character was for the present time borne down and
quelled, like that of falcon's in the presence of the eagle.
"Hear me, then," said Cromwell, "and let no syllable escape thee.
Knowest thou not the young Lee, whom they call Albert, a malignant like
his father, and one who went up with the young Man to that last ruffle
which we had with him at Worcester--May we be grateful for the victory!"
"I know there is such a young gentleman as Albert Lee," said Wildrake.
"And knowest thou not--I speak not by way of prying into the good
Colonel's secrets, but only as it behoves me to know something of the
matter, that I may best judge how I am to serve him--Knowest thou not
that thy master, Markham Everard, is a suitor after the sister of this
same malignant, a daughter of the old Keeper, called Sir Henry Lee?"
"All this I have heard," said Wildrake, "nor can I deny that I believe
"Well then, go to.--When the young man Charles Stewart fled from the
field of Worcester, and was by sharp chase and pursuit compelled to
separate himself from his followers, I know by sure intelligence that
this Albert Lee was one of the last who remained with him, if not indeed
the very last."
"It was devilish like him," said the cavalier, without sufficiently
weighing his expressions, considering in what presence they were to be
uttered--"And I'll uphold him with my rapier, to be a true chip of the
"Ha, swearest thou?" said the General. "Is this thy reformation?"
"I never swear, so please you," replied Wildrake, recollecting himself,
"except there is some mention of malignants and cavaliers in my hearing;
and then the old habit returns, and I swear like one of Goring's
"Out upon thee," said the General; "what can it avail thee to practise a
profanity so horrible to the ears of others, and which brings no
emolument to him who uses it?"
"There are, doubtless, more profitable sins in the world than the barren
and unprofitable vice of swearing," was the answer which rose to the
lips of the cavalier; but that was exchanged for a profession of regret
for having given offence. The truth was, the discourse began to take a
turn which rendered it more interesting than ever to Wildrake, who
therefore determined not to lose the opportunity for obtaining
possession of the secret that seemed to be suspended on Cromwells lips;
and that could only be through means of keeping guard upon his own.
"What sort of a house is Woodstock?" said the General, abruptly.
"An old mansion," said Wildrake, in reply; "and, so far as I could judge
by a single night's lodgings, having abundance of backstairs, also
subterranean passages, and all the communications under ground, which
are common in old raven-nests of the sort."
"And places for concealing priests, unquestionably," said Cromwell. "It
is seldom that such ancient houses lack secret stalls wherein to mew up
these calves of Bethel."
"Your Honour's Excellency," said Wildrake, "may swear to that."
"I swear not at all," replied the General, drily.--"But what think'st
thou, good fellow?--I will ask thee a blunt question--Where will those
two Worcester fugitives that thou wottest of be more likely to take
shelter--and that they must be sheltered somewhere I well know--than, in
this same old palace, with all the corners and concealment whereof young
Albert hath been acquainted ever since his earliest infancy?"
"Truly," said Wildrake, making an effort to answer the question with
seeming indifference, while the possibility of such an event, and its
consequences, flashed fearfully upon his mind,--"Truly, I should be of
your honour's opinion, but that I think the company, who, by the
commission of Parliament, have occupied Woodstock, are likely to fright
them thence, as a cat scares doves from a pigeon-house. The
neighbourhood, with reverence, of Generals Desborough and Harrison, will
suit ill with fugitives from Worcester field."
"I thought as much, and so, indeed, would I have it," answered the
General. "Long may it be ere our names shall be aught but a terror to
our enemies. But in this matter, if thou art an active plotter for thy
master's interest, thou might'st, I should think, work out something
favourable to his present object."
"My brain is too poor to reach the depth of your honourable purpose,"
"Listen, then, and let it be to profit," answered Cromwell. "Assuredly
the conquest at Worcester was a great and crowning mercy; yet might we
seem to be but small in our thankfulness for the same, did we not do
what in us lies towards the ultimate improvement and final conclusion of
the great work which has been thus prosperous in our hands, professing,
in pure humility and singleness of heart, that we do not, in any way,
deserve our instrumentality to be remembered, nay, would rather pray and
entreat, that our name and fortunes were forgotten, than that the great
work were in itself incomplete. Nevertheless, truly, placed as we now
are, it concerns us more nearly than others,--that is, if so poor
creatures should at all speak of themselves as concerned, whether more
or less, with these changes which have been wrought around,--not, I say,
by ourselves, or our own power, but by the destiny to which we were
called, fulfilling the same with all meekness and humility,--I say it
concerns us nearly that all things should be done in conformity with the
great work which hath been wrought, and is yet working, in these lands.
Such is my plain and simple meaning. Nevertheless, it is much to be
desired that this young man, this King of Scots, as he called
himself--this Charles Stewart--should not escape forth from the nation,
where his arrival has wrought so much disturbance and bloodshed."
"I have no doubt," said the cavalier, looking down, "that your
lordship's wisdom hath directed all things as they may best lead towards
such a consummation; and I pray your pains may be paid as they deserve."
"I thank thee, friend," said Cromwell, with much humility; "doubtless we
shall meet our reward, being in the hands of a good paymaster, who never
passeth Saturday night. But understand me, friend--I desire no more than
my own share in the good work. I would heartily do what poor kindness I
can to your worthy master, and even to you in your degree--for such as I
do not converse with ordinary men, that our presence may be forgotten
like an every-day's occurrence. We speak to men like thee for their
reward or their punishment; and I trust it will be the former which thou
in thine office wilt merit at my hand."
"Your honour," said Wildrake, "speaks like one accustomed to command."
"True; men's minds are likened to those of my degree by fear and
reverence," said the General;--"but enough of that, desiring, as I do,
no other dependency on my special person than is alike to us all upon
that which is above us. But I would desire to cast this golden ball into
your master's lap. He hath served against this Charles Stewart and his
father. But he is a kinsman near to the old knight Lee, and stands well
affected towards his daughter. _Thou_ also wilt keep a watch, my
friend--that ruffling look of thine will procure thee the confidence of
every malignant, and the prey cannot approach this cover, as though to
shelter, like a coney in the rocks, but thou wilt be sensible of his
"I make a shift to comprehend your Excellency," said the cavalier; "and
I thank you heartily for the good opinion you have put upon me, and
which, I pray I may have some handsome opportunity of deserving, that I
may show my gratitude by the event. But still, with reverence, your
Excellency's scheme seems unlikely, while Woodstock remains in
possession of the sequestrators. Both the old knight and his son, and
far more such a fugitive as your honor hinted at, will take special care
not to approach it till they are removed."
"It is for that I have been dealing with thee thus long," said the
General.--"I told thee that I was something unwilling, upon slight
occasion, to dispossess the sequestrators by my own proper warrant,
although having, perhaps, sufficient authority in the state both to do
so, and to despise the murmurs of those who blame me. In brief, I would
be both to tamper with my privileges, and make experiments between their
strength, and the powers of the commission granted by others, without
pressing need, or at least great prospect of advantage. So, if thy
Colonel will undertake, for his love of the Republic, to find the means
of preventing its worst and nearest danger, which must needs occur from
the escape of this young Man, and will do his endeavour to stay him, in
case his flight should lead him to Woodstock, which I hold very likely,
I will give thee an order to these sequestrators, to evacuate the palace
instantly; and to the next troop of my regiment, which lies at Oxford,
to turn them out by the shoulders, if they make any scruples--Ay, even,
for example's sake, if they drag Desborough out foremost, though he be
wedded to my sister."
"So please you, sir," said Wildrake, "and with your most powerful
warrant, I trust I might expel the commissioners, even without the aid
of your most warlike and devout troopers."
"That is what I am least anxious about," replied the General; "I should
like to see the best of them sit after I had nodded to them to begone--
always excepting the worshipful House, in whose name our commissions
run; but who, as some think, will be done with politics ere it be time
to renew them. Therefore, what chiefly concerns me to know, is, whether
thy master will embrace a traffic which hath such a fair promise of
profit with it. I am well convinced that, with a scout like thee, who
hast been in the cavaliers' quarters, and canst, I should guess, resume
thy drinking, ruffianly, health-quaffing manners whenever thou hast a
mind, he must discover where this Stewart hath ensconced himself. Either
the young Lee will visit the old one in person, or he will write to him,
or hold communication with him by letter. At all events, Markham Everard
and thou must have an eye in every hair of your head." While he spoke, a
flush passed over his brow, he rose from his chair, and paced the
apartment in agitation. "Woe to you, if you suffer the young adventurer
to escape me!--you had better be in the deepest dungeon in Europe, than
breathe the air of England, should you but dream of playing me false. I
have spoken freely to thee, fellow--more freely than is my wont--the
time required it. But, to share my confidence is like keeping a watch
over a powder-magazine, the least and most insignificant spark blows
thee to ashes. Tell your master what I said--but not how I said it--Fie,
that I should have been betrayed into this distemperature of passion!--
begone, sirrah. Pearson shall bring thee sealed orders--Yet, stay--thou
hast something to ask."
"I would know," said Wildrake, to whom the visible anxiety of the
General gave some confidence, "what is the figure of this young gallant,
in case I should find him?"
"A tall, rawboned, swarthy lad, they say he has shot up into. Here is
his picture by a good hand, some time since." He turned round one of the
portraits which stood with its face against the wall; but it proved not
to be that of Charles the Second, but of his unhappy father.
The first motion of Cromwell indicated a purpose of hastily replacing
the picture, and it seemed as if an effort were necessary to repress his
disinclination to look upon it. But he did repress it, and, placing the
picture against the wall, withdrew slowly and sternly, as if, in
defiance of his own feelings, he was determined to gain a place from
which to see it to advantage. It was well for Wildrake that his
dangerous companion had not turned an eye on him, for _his_ blood also
kindled when he saw the portrait of his master in the hands of the chief
author of his death. Being a fierce and desperate man, he commanded his
passion with great difficulty; and if, on its first violence, he had
been provided with a suitable weapon, it is possible Cromwell would
never have ascended higher in his bold ascent towards supreme power.
But this natural and sudden flash of indignation, which rushed through
the veins of an ordinary man like Wildrake, was presently subdued, when
confronted with the strong yet stifled emotion displayed by so powerful
a character as Cromwell. As the cavalier looked on his dark and bold
countenance, agitated by inward and indescribable feelings, he found his
own violence of spirit die away and lose itself in fear and wonder. So
true it is, that as greater lights swallow up and extinguish the display
of those which are less, so men of great, capacious, and overruling
minds, bear aside and subdue, in their climax of passion, the more
feeble wills and passions of others; as, when a river joins a brook, the
fiercer torrent shoulders aside the smaller stream.
Wildrake stood a silent, inactive, and almost a terrified spectator,
while Cromwell, assuming a firm sternness of eye and manner, as one who
compels himself to look on what some strong internal feeling renders
painful and disgustful to him, proceeded, in brief and interrupted
expressions, but yet with a firm voice, to comment on the portrait of
the late King. His words seemed less addressed to Wildrake, than to be
the spontaneous unburdening of his own bosom, swelling under
recollection of the past and anticipation of the future.
"That Flemish painter" he said--"that Antonio Vandyck--what a power he
has! Steel may mutilate, warriors may waste and destroy--still the King
stands uninjured by time; and our grandchildren, while they read his
history, may look on his image, and compare the melancholy features with
the woful tale.--It was a stern necessity--it was an awful deed! The
calm pride of that eye might have ruled worlds of crouching Frenchmen,
or supple Italians, or formal Spaniards; but its glances only roused the
native courage of the stern Englishman.--Lay not on poor sinful man,
whose breath is in, his nostrils, the blame that he falls, when Heaven
never gave him strength of nerves to stand! The weak rider is thrown by
his unruly horse, and trampled to death--the strongest man, the best
cavalier, springs to the empty saddle, and uses bit and spur till the
fiery steed knows its master. Who blames him, who, mounted aloft, rides
triumphantly amongst the people, for having succeeded, where the
unskilful and feeble fell and died? Verily he hath his reward: Then,
what is that piece of painted canvas to me more than others? No; let him
show to others the reproaches of that cold, calm face, that proud yet
complaining eye: Those who have acted on higher respects have no cause
to start at painted shadows. Not wealth nor power brought me from my
obscurity. The oppressed consciences, the injured liberties of England,
were the banner that I followed."
He raised his voice so high, as if pleading in his own defence before
some tribunal, that Pearson, the officer in attendance, looked into the
apartment; and observing his master, with his eyes kindling, his arm
extended, his foot advanced, and his voice raised, like a general in the
act of commanding the advance of his army, he instantly withdrew.
"It was other than selfish regards that drew me forth to action,"
continued Cromwell, "and I dare the world--ay, living or dead I
challenge--to assert that I armed for a private cause, or as a means of
enlarging my fortunes. Neither was there a trooper in the regiment who
came there with less of personal ill will to yonder unhappy"--
At this moment the door of the apartment opened, and a gentlewoman
entered, who, from her resemblance to the General, although her features
were soft and feminine, might be immediately recognised as his daughter.
She walked up to Cromwell, gently but firmly passed her arm through his,
and said to him in a persuasive tone, "Father, this is not well--you
have promised me this should not happen."
The General hung down his head, like one who was either ashamed of the
passion to which he had given way, or of the influence which was
exercised over him. He yielded, however, to the affectionate impulse,
and left the apartment, without again turning his head towards the
portrait which had so much affected him, or looking towards Wildrake,
who remained fixed in astonishment.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE NINTH.
_Doctor_.--Go to, go to,--You have known what you should not.
Wildrake was left in the cabinet, as we have said, astonished and alone.
It was often noised about, that Cromwell, the deep and sagacious
statesman, the calm and intrepid commander, he who had overcome such
difficulties, and ascended to such heights, that he seemed already to
bestride the land which he had conquered, had, like many other men of
great genius, a constitutional taint of melancholy, which sometimes
displayed itself both in words and actions, and had been first observed
in that sudden and striking change, when, abandoning entirely the
dissolute freaks of his youth, he embraced a very strict course of
religious observances, which, upon some occasions, he seemed to consider
as bringing him into more near and close contact with the spiritual
world. This extraordinary man is said sometimes, during that period of
his life, to have given way to spiritual delusions, or, as he himself
conceived them, prophetic inspirations of approaching grandeur, and of
strange, deep, and mysterious agencies, in which he was in future to be
engaged, in the same manner as his younger years had been marked by fits
of exuberant and excessive frolic and debaucheries. Something of this
kind seemed to explain the ebullition of passion which he had now
With wonder at what he had witnessed, Wildrake felt some anxiety on his
own account. Though not the most reflecting of mortals, he had sense
enough to know, that it is dangerous to be a witness of the infirmities
of men high in power; and he was left so long by himself, as induced him
to entertain some secret doubts, whether the General might not be
tempted to take means of confining or removing a witness, who had seen
him lowered, as it seemed, by the suggestions of his own conscience,
beneath that lofty flight, which, in general, he affected to sustain
above the rest of the sublunary world.
In this, however, he wronged Cromwell, who was free either from an
extreme degree of jealous suspicion, or from any thing which approached
towards blood-thirstiness. Pearson appeared, after a lapse of about an
hour, and, intimating to Wildrake that he was to follow, conducted him
into a distant apartment, in which he found the General seated on a
couch. His daughter was in the apartment, but remained at some distance,
apparently busied with some female needle-work, and scarce turned her
head as Pearson and Wildrake entered.
At a sign from the Lord-General, Wildrake approached him as before.
"Comrade," he said, "your old friends the cavaliers look on me as their
enemy, and conduct themselves towards me as if they desired to make me
such. I profess they are labouring to their own prejudice; for I regard,
and have ever regarded them, as honest and honourable fools, who were
silly enough to run their necks into nooses and their heads against
stonewalls, that a man called Stewart, and no other, should be king over
them. Fools! are there no words made of letters that would sound as well
as Charles Stewart, with that magic title beside them? Why, the word
King is like a lighted lamp, that throws the same bright gilding upon
any combination of the alphabet, and yet you must shed your blood for a
name! But thou, for thy part, shalt have no wrong from me. Here is an
order, well warranted, to clear the Lodge at Woodstock, and abandon it
to thy master's keeping, or those whom he shall appoint. He will have
his uncle and pretty cousin with him, doubtless. Fare thee well--think
on what I told thee. They say beauty is a loadstone to yonder long lad
thou dost wot of; but I reckon he has other stars at present to direct
his course than bright eyes and fair hair. Be it as it may, thou knowst
my purpose--peer out, peer out; keep a constant and careful look-out on
every ragged patch that wanders by hedge-row or lane--these are days
when a beggar's cloak may cover a king's ransom. There are some broad
Portugal pieces for thee--something strange to thy pouch, I ween.--Once
more, think on what thou hast heard, and," he added, in a lower and more
impressive tone of voice, "forget what thou hast seen. My service to thy
master;--and, yet once again, _remember_--and _forget_."--Wildrake made
his obeisance, and, returning to his inn, left Windsor with all possible
It was afternoon in the same day when the cavalier rejoined his
round-head friend, who was anxiously expecting him at the inn in
Woodstock appointed for their rendezvous.
"Where hast thou been?--what hast thou seen?--what strange uncertainty
is in thy looks?--and why dost thou not answer me?"
"Because," said Wildrake, laying aside his riding cloak and rapier, "you
ask so many questions at once. A man has but one tongue to answer with,
and mine is well-nigh glued to the roof of my mouth."
"Will drink unloosen it?" said the Colonel; "though I dare say thou hast
tried that spell at every ale-house on the road. Call for what thou
wouldst have, man, only be quick."
"Colonel Everard," answered Wildrake, "I have not tasted so much as a
cup of cold water this day."
"Then thou art out of humour for that reason," said the Colonel; "salve
thy sore with brandy, if thou wilt, but leave being so fantastic and
unlike to thyself, as thou showest in this silent mood."
"Colonel Everard," replied the cavalier, very gravely, "I am an altered
"I think thou dost alter," said Everard, "every day in the year, and
every hour of the day. Come, good now, tell me, hast thou seen the
General, and got his warrant for clearing out the sequestrators from
"I have seen the devil," said Wildrake, "and have, as thou say'st, got a
warrant from him."
"Give it me hastily," said Everard, catching at the packet.
"Forgive me, Mark," said Wildrake; "if thou knewest the purpose with
which this deed is granted--if thou knewest--what it is not my purpose
to tell thee--what manner of hopes are founded on thy accepting it, I
have that opinion of thee, Mark Everard, that thou wouldst as soon take
a red-hot horse-shoe from the anvil with thy bare hand, as receive into
it this slip of paper."
"Come, come," said Everard, "this comes of some of your exalted ideas of
loyalty, which, excellent within certain bounds, drive us mad when
encouraged up to some heights. Do not think, since I must needs speak
plainly with thee, that I see without sorrow the downfall of our ancient
monarchy, and the substitution of another form of government in its
stead; but ought my regret for the past to prevent my acquiescing and
aiding in such measures as are likely to settle the future? The royal
cause is ruined, hadst thou and every cavalier in England sworn the
contrary; ruined, not to rise again--for many a day at least. The
Parliament, so often draughted and drained of those who were courageous
enough to maintain their own freedom of opinion, is now reduced to a
handful of statesmen, who have lost the respect of the people, from the
length of time during which they have held the supreme management of
affairs. They cannot stand long unless they were to reduce the army; and
the army, late servants, are now masters, and will refuse to be reduced.
They know their strength, and that they may be an army subsisting on pay
and free quarters throughout England as long as they will. I tell thee,
Wildrake, unless we look to the only man who can rule and manage them,
we may expect military law throughout the land; and I, for mine own
part, look for any preservation of our privileges that may be vouchsafed
to us, only through the wisdom and forbearance of Cromwell. Now you have
my secret. You are aware that I am not doing the best I would, but the
best I can. I wish--not so ardently as thou, perhaps--yet I _do_ wish
that the King could have been restored on good terms of composition,
safe for us and for himself. And now, good Wildrake, rebel as thou
thinkest me, make me no worse a rebel than an unwilling one. God knows,
I never laid aside love and reverence to the King, even in drawing my
sword against his ill advisers."
"Ah, plague on you," said Wildrake, "that is the very cant of it--that's
what you all say. All of you fought against the King in pure love and
loyalty, and not otherwise. However, I see your drift, and I own that I
like it better than I expected. The army is your bear now, and old Noll
is your bearward; and you are like a country constable, who makes
interest with the bearward that he may prevent him from letting bruin
loose. Well, there may come a day when the sun will shine on our side of
the fence, and thereon shall you, and all the good fair-weather folks
who love the stronger party, come and make common cause with us."
Without much attending to what his friend said, Colonel Everard
carefully studied the warrant of Cromwell. "It is bolder and more
peremptory than I expected," he said. "The General must feel himself
strong, when he opposes his own authority so directly to that of the
Council of State and the Parliament."
"You will not hesitate to act upon it?" said Wildrake.
"That I certainly will not," answered Everard; "but I must wait till I
have the assistance of the Mayor, who, I think, will gladly see these
fellows ejected from the Lodge. I must not go altogether upon military
authority, if possible." Then, stepping to the door of the apartment, he
despatched a servant of the house in quest of the Chief Magistrate,
desiring he should be made acquainted that Colonel Everard desired to
see him with as little loss of time as possible.
"You are sure he will come, like a dog at a whistle," said Wildrake.
"The word captain, or colonel, makes the fat citizen trot in these days,
when one sword is worth fifty corporation charters. But there are
dragoons yonder, as well as the grim-faced knave whom I frightened the
other evening when I showed my face in at the window. Think'st thou the
knaves will show no rough play?"
"The General's warrant will weigh more with them than a dozen acts of
Parliament," said Everard.--"But it is time thou eatest, if thou hast in
truth ridden from Windsor hither without baiting."
"I care not about it," said Wildrake: "I tell thee, your General gave me
a breakfast, which, I think, will serve me one while, if I am ever able
to digest it. By the mass, it lay so heavy on my conscience, that I
carried it to church to see if I could digest it there with my other
sins. But not a whit."
"To church!--to the door of the church, thou meanest," said Everard. "I
know thy way--thou art ever wont to pull thy hat off reverently at the
threshold; but for crossing it, that day seldom comes."
"Well," replied Wildrake, "and if I do pull off my castor and kneel, is
it not seemly to show the same respects in a church which we offer in a
palace? It is a dainty matter, is it not, to see your Anabaptists, and
Brownists, and the rest of you, gather to a sermon with as little
ceremony as hogs to a trough! But here comes food, and now for a grace,
if I can remember one."
Everard was too much interested about the fate of his uncle and his fair
cousin, and the prospect of restoring them to their quiet home, under
the protection of that formidable truncheon which was already regarded
as the leading-staff of England, to remark, that certainly a great
alteration had taken place in the manners and outward behaviour at least
of his companion. His demeanour frequently evinced a sort of struggle
betwixt old habits of indulgence, and some newly formed resolutions of
abstinence; and it was almost ludicrous to see how often the hand of the
neophyte directed itself naturally to a large black leathern jack, which
contained two double flagons of strong ale, and how often, diverted from
its purpose by the better reflections of the reformed toper, it seized,
instead, upon a large ewer of salubrious and pure water.
It was not difficult to see that the task of sobriety was not yet become
easy, and that, if it had the recommendation of the intellectual portion
of the party who had resolved upon it, the outward man yielded a
reluctant and restive compliance. But honest Wildrake had been
dreadfully frightened at the course proposed to him by Cromwell, and,
with a feeling not peculiar to the Catholic religion, had formed a
solemn resolution within his own mind, that, if he came off safe and
with honour from this dangerous interview, he would show his sense of
Heaven's favour, by renouncing some of the sins which most easily beset
him, and especially that of intemperance, to which, like many of his
wild compeers, he was too much addicted.
This resolution, or vow, was partly prudential as well as religious; for
it occurred to him as very possible, that some matters of a difficult
and delicate nature might be thrown into his hands at the present
emergency, during the conduct of which it would be fitting for him to
act by some better oracle than that of the Bottle, celebrated by
Rabelais. In full compliance with this prudent determination, he touched
neither the ale nor the brandy which were placed before him, and
declined peremptorily the sack with which his friend would have
garnished the board. Nevertheless, just as the boy removed the trenchers
and napkins, together with the large black-jack which we have already
mentioned, and was one or two steps on his way to the door, the sinewy
arm of the cavalier, which seemed to elongate itself on purpose, (as it
extended far beyond the folds of the threadbare jacket,) arrested the
progress of the retiring Ganymede, and seizing on the black-jack,
conveyed it to the lips, which were gently breathing forth the
aspiration, "D--n--I mean. Heaven forgive me--we are poor creatures of
clay--one modest sip must be permitted to our frailty."
So murmuring, he glued the huge flagon to his lips, and as the head was
slowly and gradually inclined backwards, in proportion as the right hand
elevated the bottom of the pitcher, Everard had great doubts whether the
drinker and the cup were likely to part until the whole contents of the
latter had been transferred to the person of the former. Roger Wildrake
stinted, however, when, by a moderate computation, he had swallowed at
one draught about a quart and a half.
He then replaced it on the salver, fetched a long breath to refresh his
lungs, bade the boy get him gone with the rest of the liquors, in a tone
which inferred some dread of his constancy, and then, turning to his
friend Everard, he expatiated in praise of moderation, observing, that
the mouthful which he had just taken had been of more service to him
than if he had remained quaffing healths at table for four hours
His friend made no reply, but could not help being privately of opinion
that Wildrake's temperance had done as much execution on the tankard in
his single draught, as some more moderate topers might have effected if
they had sat sipping for an evening. But the subject was changed by the
entrance of the landlord, who came to announce to his honour Colonel
Everard, that the worshipful Mayor of Woodstock, with the Rev. Master
Holdenough, were come to wait upon him.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE TENTH.
Here we have one head
Upon two bodies,--your two-headed bullock
Is but an ass to such a prodigy.
These two have but one meaning, thought, and counsel:
And when the single noddle has spoke out,
The four legs scrape assent to it.
In the goodly form of the honest Mayor, there was a bustling mixture of
importance and embarrassment, like the deportment of a man who was
conscious that he had an important part to act, if he could but exactly
discover what that part was. But both were mingled with much pleasure at
seeing Everard, and he frequently repeated his welcomes and all-hails
before he could be brought to attend to what that gentleman said in
"Good, worthy Colonel, you are indeed a desirable sight to Woodstock at
all times, being, as I may say, almost our townsman, as you have dwelt
so much and so long at the palace. Truly, the matter begins almost to
pass my wit, though I have transacted the affairs of this borough for
many a long day; and you are come to my assistance like, like"--
"_Tanquam Deus ex machina_, as the Ethnic poet hath it," said Master
Holdenough, "although I do not often quote from such books.--Indeed,
Master Markham Everard,--or worthy Colonel, as I ought rather to
say--you are simply the most welcome man who has come to Woodstock since
the days of old King Harry."
"I had some business with you, my good friend," said the Colonel,
addressing the Mayor; "I shall be glad if it should so happen at the
same time, that I may find occasion to pleasure you or your worthy
"No question you can do so, good sir;" interposed Master Holdenough;
"you have the heart, sir, and you have the hand; and we are much in want
of good counsel, and that from a man of action. I am aware, worthy
Colonel, that you and your worthy father have ever borne yourselves in
these turmoils like men of a truly Christian and moderate spirit,
striving to pour oil into the wounds of the land, which some would rub
with vitriol and pepper: and we know you are faithful children of that
church which we have reformed from its papistical and prelatical
"My good and reverend friend," said Everard, "I respect the piety and
learning of many of your teachers; but I am also for liberty of
conscience to all men. I neither side with sectaries, nor do I desire to
see them the object of suppression by violence."
"Sir, sir," said the Presbyterian, hastily, "all this hath a fair sound;
but I would you should think what a fine country and church we are like
to have of it, amidst the errors, blasphemies, and schisms, which are
daily introduced into the church and kingdom of England, so that worthy
Master Edwards, in his Gangrena, declareth, that our native country is
about to become the very sink and cess-pool of all schisms, heresies,
blasphemies, and confusions, as the army of Hannibal was said to be the
refuse of all nations--_Colluvies omnium gentium_.--Believe me, worthy
Colonel, that they of the Honourable House view all this over lightly,
and with the winking connivance of old Eli. These instructors, the
schismatics, shoulder the orthodox ministers out of their pulpits,
thrust themselves into families, and break up the peace thereof,
stealing away men's hearts from the established faith."
"My good Master Holdenough," replied the Colonel, interrupting the
zealous preacher, "there is ground of sorrow for all these unhappy
discords; and I hold with you, that the fiery spirits of the present
time have raised men's minds at once above sober-minded and sincere
religion, and above decorum and common sense. But there is no help save
patience. Enthusiasm is a stream that may foam off in its own time,
whereas it is sure to bear down every barrier which is directly opposed
to it.--But what are these schismatical proceedings to our present
"Why, partly this, sir," said Holdenough, "although perhaps you may make
less of it than I should have thought before we met.--I was myself--I,
Nehemiah Holdenough, (he added consequentially,) was forcibly expelled
from my own pulpit, even as a man should have been thrust out of his own
house, by an alien, and an intruder--a wolf, who was not at the trouble
even to put on sheep's clothing, but came in his native wolfish attire
of buff and bandalier, and held forth in my stead to the people, who are
to me as a flock to the lawful shepherd. It is too true, sir--Master
Mayor saw it, and strove to take such order to prevent it as man might,
though," turning to the Mayor, "I think still you might have striven a
"Good now, good Master Holdenough, do not let us go back on that
question," said the Mayor. "Guy of Warwick, or Bevis of Hampton, might
do something with this generation; but truly, they are too many and too
strong for the Mayor of Woodstock."
"I think Master Mayor speaks very good sense," said the Colonel; "if the
Independents are not allowed to preach, I fear me they will not
fight;--and then if you were to have another rising of cavaliers?"
"There are worse folks may rise than cavaliers," said Holdenough.
"How, sir?" replied Colonel Everard. "Let me remind you, Master
Holdenough, that is no safe language in the present state of the
"I say," said the Presbyterian, "there are worse folk may rise than
cavaliers; and I will prove what I say. The devil is worse than the
worst cavalier that ever drank a health, or swore an oath--and the devil
has arisen at Woodstock Lodge!"
"Ay, truly hath he," said the Mayor, "bodily and visibly, in figure and
form--An awful time we live in!"
"Gentlemen, I really know not how I am to understand you," said Everard.
"Why, it was even about the devil we came to speak with you," said the
Mayor; "but the worthy minister is always so hot upon the sectaries"--
"Which are the devil's brats, and nearly akin to him," said Master
Holdenough. "But true it is, that the growth of these sects has brought
up the Evil One even upon the face of the earth, to look after his own
interest, where he finds it most thriving."
"Master Holdenough," said the Colonel, "if you speak figuratively, I
have already told you that I have neither the means nor the skill
sufficient to temper these religious heats. But if you design to say
that there has been an actual apparition of the devil, I presume to
think that you, with your doctrine and your learning, would be a fitter
match for him than a soldier like me."
"True, sir; and I have that confidence in the commission which I hold,
that I would take the field against the foul fiend without a moment's
delay," said Holdenough; "but the place in which he hath of late
appeared, being Woodstock, is filled with those dangerous and impious
persons, of whom I have been but now complaining; and though, confident
in my own resources, I dare venture in disputation with their Great
Master himself; yet without your protection, most worthy Colonel, I see
not that I may with prudence trust myself with the tossing and goring ox
Desborough, or the bloody and devouring bear Harrison, or the cold and
poisonous snake Bletson--all of whom are now at the Lodge, doing license
and taking spoil as they think meet; and, as all men say, the devil hath
come to make a fourth with them."
"In good truth, worthy and noble sir," said the Mayor, "it is even as
Master Holdenough says--our privileges are declared void, our cattle
seized in the very pastures. They talk of cutting down and disparking
the fair Chase, which has been so long the pleasure of so many kings,
and making Woodstock of as little note as any paltry village. I assure
you we heard of your arrival with joy, and wondered at your keeping
yourself so close in your lodgings. We know no one save your father or
you, that are like to stand the poor burgesses' friend in this
extremity, since almost all the gentry around are malignants, and under
sequestration. We trust, therefore, you will make strong intercession in
"Certainly, Master Mayor," said the Colonel, who saw himself with
pleasure anticipated; "it was my very purpose to have interfered in this
matter; and I did but keep myself alone until I should be furnished with
some authority from the Lord-General."
"Powers from the Lord-General!" said the Mayor, thrusting the clergy-man
with his elbow--"Dost thou hear that?--What cock will fight that cock?--
We shall carry it now over their necks, and Woodstock shall be brave
"Keep thine elbow from my side, friend," said Holdenough, annoyed by the
action which the Mayor had suited to his words; "and may the Lord send
that Cromwell prove not as sharp to the people of England as thy bones
against my person! Yet I approve that we should use his authority to
stop the course of these men's proceedings."
"Let us set out, then," said Colonel Everard; "and I trust we shall find
the gentlemen reasonable and obedient."
The functionaries, laic and clerical, assented with much joy; and the
Colonel required and received Wildrake's assistance in putting on his
cloak and rapier, as if he had been the dependent whose part he acted.
The cavalier contrived, however, while doing him these menial offices,
to give his friend a shrewd pinch, in order to maintain the footing of
secret equality betwixt them.
The Colonel was saluted, as they passed through the streets, by many of
the anxious inhabitants, who seemed to consider his intervention as
affording the only chance of saving their fine Park, and the rights of
the corporation, as well as of individuals, from ruin and confiscation.
As they entered the Park, the Colonel asked his companions, "What is
this you say of apparitions being seen amongst them?"
"Why, Colonel," said the clergyman, "you know yourself that Woodstock
was always haunted?"
"I have lived therein many a day," said the Colonel; "and I know I never
saw the least sign of it, although idle people spoke of the house as
they do of all old mansions, and gave the apartments ghosts and spectres
to fill up the places of as many of the deceased great, as had ever
"Nay, but, good Colonel," said the clergyman, "I trust you have not
reached the prevailing sin of the times, and become indifferent to the
testimony in favour of apparitions, which appears so conclusive to all
but atheists, and advocates for witches?"
"I would not absolutely disbelieve what is so generally affirmed," said
the Colonel; "but my reason leads me to doubt most of the stories which
I have heard of this sort, and my own experience never went to confirm
any of them."
"Ay, but trust me," said Holdenough, "there was always a demon of one or
the other species about this Woodstock. Not a man or woman in the town
but has heard stories of apparitions in the forest, or about the old
castle. Sometimes it is a pack of hounds, that sweep along, and the
whoops and halloos of the huntsmen, and the winding of horns and the
galloping of horse, which is heard as if first more distant, and then
close around you--and then anon it is a solitary huntsman, who asks if
you can tell him which way the stag has gone. He is always dressed in
green; but the fashion of his clothes is some five hundred years old.
This is what we call Demon Meridianum--the noon-day spectre."
"My worthy and reverend sir," said the Colonel, "I have lived at
Woodstock many seasons, and have traversed the Chase at all hours. Trust
me, what you hear from the villagers is the growth of their idle folly
"Colonel," replied Holdenough, "a negative proves nothing. What
signifies, craving your pardon, that you have not seen anything, be it
earthly or be it of the other world, to detract from the evidence of a
score of people who have?--And besides, there is the Demon Nocturnum--
the being that walketh by night; he has been among these Independents
and schismatics last night. Ay, Colonel, you may stare; but it is even
so--they may try whether he will mend their gifts, as they profanely
call them, of exposition and prayer. No, sir, I trow, to master the foul
fiend there goeth some competent knowledge of theology, and an
acquaintance of the humane letters, ay, and a regular clerical education
and clerical calling."
"I do not in the least doubt," said the Colonel, "the efficacy of your
qualifications to lay the devil; but still I think some odd mistake has
occasioned this confusion amongst them, if there has any such in reality
existed. Desborough is a blockhead, to be sure; and Harrison is fanatic
enough to believe anything. But there is Bletson, on the other hand, who
believes nothing.--What do you know of this matter, good Master Mayor?"
"In sooth, and it was Master Bletson who gave the first alarm," replied
the magistrate; "or, at least, the first distinct one. You see, sir, I
was in bed with my wife, and no one else; and I was as fast asleep as a
man can desire to be at two hours after midnight, when, behold you, they
came knocking at my bedroom door, to tell me there was an alarm in
Woodstock, and that the bell of the Lodge was ringing at that dead hour
of the night as hard as ever it rung when it called the court to
"Well, but the cause of this alarm?" said the Colonel.
"You shall hear, worthy Colonel, you shall hear," answered the Mayor,
waving his hand with dignity; for he was one of those persons who will
not be hurried out of their own pace. "So Mrs. Mayor would have
persuaded me, in her love and affection, poor wretch, that to rise at
such an hour out of my own warm bed, was like to bring on my old
complaint the lumbago, and that I should send the people to Alderman
Dutton.--Alderman Devil, Mrs. Mayor, said I;--I beg your reverence's
pardon for using such a phrase--Do you think I am going to lie a-bed
when the town is on fire, and the cavaliers up, and the devil to pay;--I
beg pardon again, parson.--But here we are before the gate of the
Palace; will it not please you to enter?"
"I would first hear the end of your story," said the Colonel; "that is,
Master Mayor, if it happens to have an end."
"Every thing hath an end," said the Mayor, "and that which we call a
pudding hath two.--Your worship will forgive me for being facetious.
Where was I?--Oh, I jumped out of bed, and put on my red plush breeches,
with the blue nether stocks, for I always make a point of being dressed
suitably to my dignity, night and day, summer or winter, Colonel
Everard; and I took the Constable along with me, in case the alarm
should be raised by night-walkers or thieves, and called up worthy
Master Holdenough out of his bed, in case it should turn out to be the
devil. And so I thought I was provided for the worst, and so away we
came; and, by and by, the soldiers who came to the town with Master
Tomkins, who had been called to arms, came marching down to Woodstock as
fast as their feet would carry them; so I gave our people the sign to
let them pass us, and out-march us, as it were, and this for a twofold
"I will be satisfied," interrupted the Colonel, "with one good reason.
You desired the red-coats should have the _first_ of the fray?"
"True, sir, very true;--and also that they should have the _last_ of it,
in respect that fighting is their especial business. However, we came on
at a slow pace, as men who are determined to do their duty without fear
or favour, when suddenly we saw something white haste away up the avenue
towards the town, when six of our constables and assistants fled at
once, as conceiving it to be an apparition called the White Woman of
"Look you there, Colonel," said Master Holdenough, "I told you there
were demons of more kinds than one, which haunt the ancient scenes of
royal debauchery and cruelty."
"I hope you stood your own ground, Master Mayor?" said the Colonel.
"I--yes--most assuredly--that is, I did not, strictly speaking, keep my
ground; but the town-clerk and I retreated--retreated, Colonel, and
without confusion or dishonour, and took post behind worthy Master
Holdenough, who, with the spirit of a lion, threw himself in the way of
the supposed spectre, and attacked it with such a siserary of Latin as
might have scared the devil himself, and thereby plainly discovered that
it was no devil at all, nor white woman, neither woman of any colour,
but worshipful Master Bletson, a member of the House of Commons, and one
of the commissioners sent hither upon this unhappy sequestration of the
Wood, Chase, and Lodge of Woodstock."
"And this was all you saw of the demon?" said the Colonel.
"Truly, yes," answered the Mayor; "and I had no wish to see more.
However, we conveyed Master Bletson, as in duty bound, back to the
Lodge, and he was ever maundering by the way how that he met a party of
scarlet devils incarnate marching down to the Lodge; but, to my poor
thinking, it must have been the Independent dragoons who had just passed
"And more incarnate devils I would never wish to see," said Wildrake,
who could remain silent no longer. His voice, so suddenly heard, showed
how much the Mayor's nerves were still alarmed, far he started and
jumped aside with an alacrity of which no one would at first sight
suppose a man of his portly dignity to have been capable. Everard
imposed silence on his intrusive attendant; and, desirous to hear the
conclusion of this strange story, requested the Mayor to tell him how
the matter ended, and whether they stopped the supposed spectre.
"Truly, worthy sir," said the Mayor, "Master Holdenough was quite
venturous upon confronting, as it were, the devil, and compelling him to
appear under the real form of Master Joshua Bletson, member of
Parliament for the borough of Littlefaith."
"In sooth, Master Mayor," said the divine, "I were strangely ignorant of
my own commission and its immunities, if I were to value opposing myself
to Satan, or any Independent in his likeness, all of whom, in the name
of Him I serve, I do defy, spit at, and trample under my feet; and
because Master Mayor is something tedious, I will briefly inform your
honour that we saw little of the Enemy that night, save what Master
Bletson said in the first feeling of his terrors, and save what we might
collect from the disordered appearance of the Honourable Colonel
Desborough and Major-General Harrison."
"And what plight were they in, I pray you?" demanded the Colonel.
"Why, worthy sir, every one might see with half an eye that they had
been engaged in a fight wherein they had not been honoured with perfect
victory; seeing that General Harrison was stalking up and down the
parlour, with his drawn sword in his hand, talking to himself, his
doublet unbuttoned, his points untrussed, his garters loose, and like to
throw him down as he now and then trode on them, and gaping and grinning
like a mad player. And yonder sate Desborough with a dry pottle of sack
before him, which he had just emptied, and which, though the element in
which he trusted, had not restored him sense enough to speak, or courage
enough to look over his shoulder. He had a Bible in his hand, forsooth,