Part 4 out of 11
as if it would of itself make battle against the Evil One; but I peered
over his shoulder, and, alas! the good gentleman held the bottom of the
page uppermost. It was as if one of your musketeers, noble and valued
sir, were to present the butt of his piece at the enemy instead of the
muzzle--ha, ha, ha! it was a sight to judge of schismatics by; both in
point of head, and in point of heart, in point of skill, and in point of
courage. Oh! Colonel, then was the time to see the true character of an
authorised pastor of souls over those unhappy men, who leap into the
fold without due and legal authority, and will, forsooth, preach, teach,
and exhort, and blasphemously term the doctrine of the Church saltless
porridge and dry chips!"
"I have no doubt you were ready to meet the danger, reverend sir; but I
would fain know of what nature it was, and from whence it was to be
"Was it for me to make such inquiry?" said the clergyman, triumphantly.
"Is it for a brave soldier to number his enemies, or inquire from what
quarter they are to come? No, sir, I was there with match lighted,
bullet in my mouth, and my harquebuss shouldered, to encounter as many
devils as hell could pour in, were they countless as motes in the
sunbeam, and although they came from all points of the compass. The
Papists talk of the temptation of St. Anthony--pshaw! let them double
all the myriads which the brain of a crazy Dutch painter hath invented,
and you will find a poor Presbyterian divine--I will answer for one at
least,--who, not in his own strength, but his Master's, will receive the
assault in such sort, that far from returning against him as against
yonder poor hound, day after day, and night after night, he will at once
pack them off as with a vengeance to the uttermost parts of Assyria!"
"Still," said the Colonel, "I pray to know whether you saw anything upon
which to exercise your pious learning?"
"Saw?" answered the divine; "no, truly, I saw nothing, nor did I look
for anything. Thieves will not attack well-armed travellers, nor will
devils or evil spirits come against one who bears in his bosom the word
of truth, in the very language in which it was first dictated. No, sir,
they shun a divine who can understand the holy text, as a crow is said
to keep wide of a gun loaded with hailshot."
They had walked a little way back upon their road, to give time for this
conversation; and the Colonel, perceiving it was about to lead to no
satisfactory explanation of the real cause of alarm on the preceding
night, turned round, and observing it was time they should go to the
Lodge, began to move in that direction with his three companions.
It had now become dark, and the towers of Woodstock arose high above the
umbrageous shroud which the forest spread around the ancient and
venerable mansion. From one of the highest turrets, which could still be
distinguished as it rose against the clear blue sky, there gleamed a
light like that of a candle within the building. The Mayor stopt short,
and catching fast hold of the divine, and then of Colonel Everard,
exclaimed, in a trembling and hasty, but suppressed tone,
"Do you see yonder light?"
"Ay, marry do I," said Colonel Everard; "and what does that matter?--a
light in a garret-room of such an old mansion as Woodstock is no subject
of wonder, I trow."
"But a light from Rosamond's Tower is surely so," said the Mayor.
"True," said the Colonel, something surprised, when, after a careful
examination, he satisfied himself that the worthy magistrate's
conjecture was right. "That is indeed Rosamond's Tower; and as the
drawbridge, by which it was accessible has been destroyed for centuries,
it is hard to say what chance could have lighted a lamp in such an
"That light burns with no earthly fuel," said the Mayor; "neither from
whale nor olive oil, nor bees-wax, nor mutton-suet either. I dealt in
these commodities, Colonel, before I went into my present line; and I
can assure you I could distinguish the sort of light they give, one from
another, at a greater distance than yonder turret--Look you, that is no
earthly flame.--See you not something blue and reddish upon the edges?--
that bodes full well where it comes from.--Colonel, in my opinion we had
better go back to sup at the town, and leave the Devil and the red-coats
to settle their matters together for to-night; and then when we come
back the next morning, we will have a pull with the party that chances
to keep a-field."
"You will do as you please, Master Mayor," said Everard, "but my duty
requires me that I should see the Commissioners to-night."
"And mine requires me to see the foul Fiend," said Master Holdenough,
"if he dare make himself visible to me. I wonder not that, knowing who
is approaching, he betakes himself to the very citadel, the inner and
the last defences of this ancient and haunted mansion. He is dainty, I
warrant you, and must dwell where is a relish of luxury and murder about
the walls of his chamber. In yonder turret sinned Rosamond, and in
yonder turret she suffered; and there she sits, or more likely, the
Enemy in her shape, as I have heard true men of Woodstock tell. I wait
on you, good Colonel--Master Mayor will do as he pleases. The strong man
hath fortified himself in his dwelling-house, but lo, there cometh
another stronger than he."
"For me," said the Mayor, "who am as unlearned as I am unwarlike, I will
not engage either--with the Powers of the Earth, or the Prince of the
Powers of the Air, and I would we were again at Woodstock;--and hark ye,
good fellow," slapping Wildrake on the shoulder, "I will bestow on thee
a shilling wet and a shilling dry if thou wilt go back with me."
"Gadzookers, Master Mayor," said, Wildrake, neither flattered by the
magistrate's familiarity of address, nor captivated by his munificence--
"I wonder who the devil made you and me fellows? and, besides, do you
think I would go back to Woodstock with your worshipful cods-head, when,
by good management, I may get a peep of fair Rosamond, and see whether
she was that choice and incomparable piece of ware, which the world has
been told of by rhymers and ballad-makers?"
"Speak less lightly and wantonly, friend," said the divine; "we are to
resist the devil that he may flee from us, and not to tamper with him,
or enter into his counsels, or traffic with the merchandise of his great
"Mind what the good man says, Wildrake," said the Colonel; "and take
heed another time how thou dost suffer thy wit to outrun discretion."
"I am beholden to the reverend gentleman for his advice," answered
Wildrake, upon whose tongue it was difficult to impose any curb
whatever, even when his own safety rendered it most desirable. "But,
gadzookers, let him have had what experience he will in fighting with
the Devil, he never saw one so black as I had a tussle with--not a
hundred years ago."
"How, friend," said the clergyman, who understood every thing literally
when apparitions were mentioned, "have you had so late a visitation of
Satan? Believe me, then, that I wonder why thou darest to entertain his
name so often and so lightly, as I see thou dost use it in thy ordinary
discourse. But when and where didst thou see the Evil One?"
Everard hastily interposed, lest by something yet more strongly alluding
to Cromwell, his imprudent squire should, in mere wantonness, betray his
interview with the General. "The young man raves," he said, "of a dream
which he had the other night, when he and I slept together in Victor
Lee's chamber, belonging to the Ranger's apartments at the Lodge."
"Thanks for help at a pinch, good patron," said Wildrake, whispering
into Everard's ear, who in vain endeavoured to shake him off,--"a fib
never failed a fanatic."
"You, also, spoke something too lightly of these matters, considering
the work which we have in hand, worthy Colonel," said the Presbyterian
divine. "Believe me, the young man, thy servant, was more likely to see
visions than to dream merely idle dreams in that apartment; for I have
always heard, that, next to Rosamond's Tower, in which, as I said, she
played the wanton, and was afterwards poisoned by Queen Eleanor, Victor
Lee's chamber was the place in the Lodge of Woodstock more peculiarly
the haunt of evil spirits.--I pray you, young man, tell me this dream or
vision of yours."
"With all my heart, sir," said Wildrake--then addressing his patron, who
began to interfere, he said, "Tush, sir, you have had the discourse for
an hour, and why should not I hold forth in my turn? By this darkness,
if you keep me silent any longer, I will turn Independent preacher, and
stand up in your despite for the freedom of private judgment.--And so,
reverend sir, I was dreaming of a carnal divertisement called a
bull-baiting; and methought they were venturing dogs at head, as merrily
as e'er I saw them at Tutbury bull-running; and methought I heard some
one say, there was the Devil come to have a sight of the bull-ring.
Well, I thought that, gadswoons, I would have a peep at his Infernal
Majesty. So I looked, and there was a butcher in greasy woollen, with
his steel by his side; but he was none of the Devil. And there was a
drunken cavalier, with his mouth full of oaths, and his stomach full of
emptiness, and a gold-laced waistcoat in a very dilapidated condition,
and a ragged hat,--with a piece of a feather in it; and he was none of
the Devil neither. And here was a miller, his hands dusty with meal, and
every atom of it stolen; and there was a vintner, his green apron
stained with wine, and every drop of it sophisticated; but neither was
the old gentleman I looked for to be detected among these artisans of
iniquity. At length, sir, I saw a grave person with cropped hair, a pair
of longish and projecting ears, a band as broad as a slobbering bib
under his chin, a brown coat surmounted by a Geneva cloak, and I had old
Nicholas at once in his genuine paraphernalia, by--."
"Shame, shame!" said Colonel Everard. "What! behave thus to an old
gentleman and a divine!"
"Nay, let him proceed," said the minister, with perfect equanimity: "if
thy friend, or secretary, is gibing, I must have less patience than
becomes my profession, if I could not bear an idle jest, and forgive him
who makes it. Or if, on the other hand, the Enemy has really presented
himself to the young man in such a guise as he intimates, wherefore
should we be surprised that he, who can take upon him the form of an
angel of light, should be able to assume that of a frail and peaceable
mortal, whose spiritual calling and profession ought, indeed, to induce
him to make his life an example to others; but whose conduct,
nevertheless, such is the imperfection of our unassisted nature,
sometimes rather presents us with a warning of what we should shun?"
"Now, by the mass, honest domine--I mean reverend sir--I crave you a
thousand pardons," said Wildrake, penetrated by the quietness and
patience of the presbyter's rebuke. "By St. George, if quiet patience
will do it, thou art fit to play a game at foils with the Devil himself,
and I would be contented to hold stakes."
As he concluded an apology, which was certainly not uncalled for, and
seemed to be received in perfectly good part, they approached so close
to the exterior door of the Lodge, that they were challenged with the
emphatic _Stand_, by a sentinel who mounted guard there. Colonel Everard
replied, _A friend_; and the sentinel repeating his command, "Stand,
friend," proceeded to call the corporal of the guard. The corporal came
forth, and at the same time turned out his guard. Colonel Everard gave
his name and designation, as well as those of his companions, on which
the corporal said, "he doubted not there would be orders for his instant
admission; but, in the first place, Master Tomkins must be consulted,
that he might learn their honours' mind."
"How, sir!" said the Colonel, "do you, knowing who I am, presume to keep
me on the outside of your post?"
"Not if your honour pleases to enter," said the corporal, "and
undertakes to be my warranty; but such are the orders of my post."
"Nay, then, do your duty," said the Colonel; "but are the cavaliers up,
or what is the matter, that you keep so close and strict a watch?"
The fellow gave no distinct answer, but muttered between his mustaches
something about the Enemy, and the roaring Lion who goeth about seeking
whom he may devour. Presently afterwards Tomkins appeared, followed by
two servants, bearing lights in great standing brass candlesticks. They
marched before Colonel Everard and his party, keeping as close to each
other as two cloves of the same orange, and starting from time to time;
and shuddering as they passed through sundry intricate passages, they
led up a large and ample wooden staircase, the banisters, rail, and
lining of which were executed in black oak, and finally into a long
saloon, or parlour, where there was a prodigious fire, and about twelve
candles of the largest size distributed in sconces against the wall.
There were seated the Commissioners, who now held in their power the
ancient mansion and royal domain of Woodstock.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH.
The bloody bear, an independent beast,
Unlick'd to forms, in groans his hate express'd--
Next him the buffoon ape, as atheists use,
Mimick'd all sects, and had his own to choose.
HIND AND PANTHER.
The strong light in the parlour which we have described, served to
enable Everard easily to recognise his acquaintances, Desborough,
Harrison, and Bletson, who had assembled round an oak table of large
dimensions, placed near the blazing chimney, on which were arranged
wine, and ale, and materials for smoking, then the general indulgence of
the time. There was a species of movable cupboard set betwixt the table
and the door, calculated originally for a display of plate upon grand
occasions, but at present only used as a screen; which purpose it served
so effectually, that, ere he had coasted around it, Everard heard the
following fragment of what Desborough was saying, in his strong coarse
voice:--"Sent him to share with us, I'se warrant ye--It was always his
Excellency my brother-in-law's way--if he made a treat for five friends,
he would invite more than the table could hold--I have known him ask
three men to eat two eggs."
"Hush, hush," said Bletson; and the servants, making their appearance
from behind the tall cupboard, announced Colonel Everard. It may not be
uninteresting to the reader to have a description, of the party into
which he now entered.
Desborough was a stout, bull-necked man, of middle-size, with heavy
vulgar features, grizzled bushy eyebrows, and walleyes. The flourish of
his powerful relative's fortunes had burst forth in the finery of his
dress, which was much more ornamented than was usual among the
roundheads. There was embroidery on his cloak, and lace upon his band;
his hat displayed a feather with a golden clasp, and all his habiliments
were those of a cavalier, or follower of the court, rather than the
plain dress of a parliamentarian officer. But, Heaven knows, there was
little of courtlike grace or dignity in the person or demeanour of the
individual, who became his fine suit as the hog on the sign-post does
his gilded armour. It was not that he was positively deformed, or
misshaped, for, taken in detail, the figure was well enough. But his
limbs seemed to act upon different and contradictory principles. They
were not, as the play says, in a concatenation accordingly;--the right
hand moved as if it were upon bad terms with the left, and the legs
showed an inclination to foot it in different and opposite directions.
In short, to use an extravagant comparison, the members of Colonel
Desborough seemed rather to resemble the disputatious representatives of
a federative congress, than the well-ordered union of the orders of the
state, in a firm and well-compacted monarchy, where each holds his own
place, and all obey the dictates of a common head.
General Harrison, the second of the Commissioners, was a tall, thin,
middle-aged man, who had risen into his high situation in the army, and
his intimacy with Cromwell, by his dauntless courage in the field, and
the popularity he had acquired by his exalted enthusiasm amongst the
military saints, sectaries, and Independents, who composed the strength
of the existing army. Harrison was of mean extraction, and bred up to
his father's employment of a butcher. Nevertheless, his appearance,
though coarse, was not vulgar, like that of Desborough, who had so much
the advantage of him in birth and education. He had a masculine height
and strength of figure, was well made and in his manner announced a
rough military character, which might be feared, but could not easily
become the object of contempt or ridicule. His aquiline nose and dark
black eyes set off to some advantage a countenance otherwise irregular,
and the wild enthusiasm that sometimes sparkled in them as he dilated on
his opinions to others, and often seemed to slumber under his long dark
eyelashes as he mused upon them himself, gave something strikingly wild,
and even noble to his aspect. He was one of the chief leaders of those
who were called Fifth-Monarchy men, who, going even beyond the general
fanaticism of the age, presumptuously interpreted the Book of the
Revelations after their own fancies, considered that the second Advent
of the Messiah, and the Millenium, or reign of the Saints upon earth,
was close at hand, and that they themselves, illuminated, as they
believed, with the power of foreseeing these approaching events, were
the chosen instruments for the establishment of the New Reign, or Fifth
Monarchy, as it was called, and were fated also to win its honours,
whether celestial or terrestrial.
When this spirit of enthusiasm, which operated like a partial insanity,
was not immediately affecting Harrison's mind, he was a shrewd worldly
man, and a good soldier; one who missed no opportunity of mending his
fortune, and who, in expecting the exaltation of the Fifth Monarchy,
was, in the meanwhile, a ready instrument for the establishment of the
Lord-General's supremacy. Whether it was owing to his early occupation,
and habits of indifference to pain or bloodshed acquired in the
shambles, to natural disposition and want of feeling, or, finally, to
the awakened character of his enthusiasm, which made him look upon those
who opposed him, as opposing the Divine will, and therefore meriting no
favour or mercy, is not easy to say; but all agreed, that after a
victory, or the successful storm of a town, Harrison was one of the most
cruel and pitiless men in Cromwell's army; always urging some misapplied
text to authorize the continued execution of the fugitives, and
sometimes even putting to death those who had surrendered themselves
prisoners. It was said, that at times the recollection of some of those
cruelties troubled his conscience, and disturbed the dreams of
beatification in which his imagination indulged.
When Everard entered the apartment, this true representative of the
fanatic soldiers of the day, who filled those ranks and regiments which
Cromwell had politically kept on foot, while he procured the reduction
of those in which the Presbyterian interest predominated, was seated a
little apart from the others, his legs crossed, and stretched out at
length towards the fire, his head resting on his elbow, and turned
upwards, as if studying, with the most profound gravity, the half-seen
carving of the Gothic roof.
Bletson remains to be mentioned, who, in person and figure, was
diametrically different from the other two. There was neither foppery
nor slovenliness in his exterior, nor had he any marks of military
service or rank about his person. A small walking rapier seemed merely
worn as a badge of his rank as a gentleman, without his hand having the
least purpose of becoming acquainted with the hilt, or his eye with the
blade. His countenance was thin and acute, marked with lines which
thought rather than age had traced upon it; and a habitual sneer on his
countenance, even, when he least wished to express contempt on his
features, seemed to assure the individual addressed, that in Bletson he
conversed with a person of intellect far superior to his own. This was a
triumph of intellect only, however; for on all occasions of difference
respecting speculative opinions, and indeed on all controversies
whatsoever, Bletson avoided the ultimate _ratio_ of blows and knocks.
Yet this peaceful gentleman had found himself obliged to serve
personally in the Parliamentary army at the commencement of the Civil
War, till happening unluckily to come in contact with the fiery Prince
Rupert, his retreat was judged so precipitate, that it required all the
shelter that his friends could afford, to keep him free of an
impeachment or a court-martial. But as Bletson spoke well, and with
great effect in the House of Commons, which was his natural sphere, and
was on that account high in the estimation of his party, his behaviour
at Edgehill was passed over, and he continued to take an active share in
all the political events of that bustling period, though he faced not
again the actual front of war.
Bletson's theoretical politics had long inclined him to espouse the
opinions of Harrington and others, who adopted the visionary idea of
establishing a pure democratical republic in so extensive a country as
Britain. This was a rash theory, where there is such an infinite
difference betwixt ranks, habits, education, and morals--where there is
such an immense disproportion betwixt the wealth of individuals--and
where a large portion of the inhabitants consist of the inferior classes
of the large towns and manufacturing districts--men unfitted to bear
that share in the direction of a state, which must be exercised by the
members of a republic in the proper sense of the word. Accordingly, as
soon as the experiment was made, it became obvious that no such form of
government could be adopted with the smallest chance of stability; and
the question came only to be, whether the remnant, or, as it was
vulgarly called, the Rump of the Long Parliament, now reduced by the
seclusion of so many of the members to a few scores of persons, should
continue, in spite of their unpopularity, to rule the affairs of
Britain? Whether they should cast all loose by dissolving themselves,
and issuing writs to convoke a new Parliament, the composition of which
no one could answer for, any more than for the measures they might take
when assembled? Or lastly, whether Cromwell, as actually happened, was
not to throw the sword into the balance, and boldly possess himself of
that power which the remnant of the Parliament were unable to hold, and
yet afraid to resign?
Such being the state of parties, the Council of State, in distributing
the good things in their gift, endeavoured to soothe and gratify the
army, as a beggar flings crusts to a growling mastiff. In this view
Desborough had been created a Commissioner in the Woodstock matter to
gratify Cromwell, Harrison to soothe the fierce Fifth-Monarchy men, and
Bletson as a sincere republican, and one of their own leaven.
But if they supposed Bletson had the least intention of becoming a
martyr to his republicanism, or submitting to any serious loss on
account of it, they much mistook the man. He entertained their
principles sincerely and not the less that they were found
impracticable; for the miscarriage of his experiment no more converts
the political speculator, than the explosion of a retort undeceives an
alchymist. But Bletson was quite prepared to submit to Cromwell, or any
one else who might be possessed of the actual authority. He was a ready
subject in practice to the powers existing, and made little difference
betwixt various kinds of government, holding in theory all to be nearly
equal in imperfection, so soon as they diverged from the model of
Harrington's Oceana. Cromwell had already been tampering with him, like
wax between his finger and thumb, and which he was ready shortly to seal
with, smiling at the same time to himself when he beheld the Council of
State giving rewards to Bletson, as their faithful adherent, while he
himself was secure of his allegiance, how soon soever the expected
change of government should take place.
But Bletson was still more attached to his metaphysical than his
political creed, and carried his doctrines of the perfectibility of
mankind as far as he did those respecting the conceivable perfection of
a model of government; and as in the one case he declared against all
power which did not emanate from the people themselves, so, in his moral
speculations, he was unwilling to refer any of the phenomena of nature
to a final cause. When pushed, indeed, very hard, Bletson was compelled
to mutter some inarticulate and unintelligible doctrines concerning an
_Animus Mundi_, or Creative Power in the works of Nature, by which she
originally called into existence, and still continues to preserve, her
works. To this power, he said, some of the purest metaphysicians
rendered a certain degree of homage; nor was he himself inclined
absolutely to censure those, who, by the institution of holydays, choral
dances, songs, and harmless feasts and libations, might be disposed to
celebrate the great goddess Nature; at least dancing, singing, feasting,
and sporting, being conformable things to both young and old, they might
as well sport, dance, and feast, in honour of such appointed holydays,
as under any other pretext. But then this moderate show of religion was
to be practised under such exceptions as are admitted by the Highgate
oath; and no one was to be compelled to dance, drink, sing, or feast,
whose taste did not happen to incline them to such divertisements; nor
was any one to be obliged to worship the creative power, whether under
the name of the _Animus Mundi_, or any other whatsoever. The
interference of the Deity in the affairs of mankind he entirely
disowned, having proved to his own satisfaction that the idea originated
entirely in priestcraft. In short, with the shadowy metaphysical
exception aforesaid, Mr. Joshua Bletson of Darlington, member for
Littlefaith, came as near the predicament of an atheist, as it is
perhaps possible for a man to do. But we say this with the necessary
salvo; for we have known many like Bletson, whose curtains have been
shrewdly shaken by superstition, though their fears were unsanctioned by
any religious faith. The devils, we are assured, believe and tremble;
but on earth there are many, who, in worse plight than even the natural
children of perdition, tremble without believing, and fear even while
It follows, of course, that nothing could be treated with more scorn by
Mr. Bletson, than the debates about Prelacy and Presbytery, about
Presbytery and Independency, about Quakers and Anabaptists,
Muggletonians and Brownists, and all the various sects with which the
Civil War had commenced, and by which its dissensions were still
continued. "It was," he said, "as if beasts of burden should quarrel
amongst themselves about the fashion of their halters and pack-saddles,
instead of embracing a favourable opportunity of throwing them aside."
Other witty and pithy remarks he used to make when time and place
suited; for instance, at the club called the Rota, frequented by St.
John, and established by Harrington, for the free discussion of
political and religious subjects.
But when Bletson was out of this academy, or stronghold of philosophy,
he was very cautious how he carried his contempt of the general
prejudice in favour of religion and Christianity further than an implied
objection or a sneer. If he had an opportunity of talking in private
with an ingenuous and intelligent youth, he sometimes attempted to make
a proselyte, and showed much address in bribing the vanity of
inexperience, by suggesting that a mind like his ought to spurn the
prejudices impressed upon it in childhood; and when assuming the _latus
clavus_ of reason, assuring him that such as he, laying aside the
_bulla_ of juvenile incapacity, as Bletson called it, should proceed to
examine and decide for himself. It frequently happened, that the youth
was induced to adopt the doctrines in whole, or in part, of the sage who
had seen his natural genius, and who had urged him to exert it in
examining, detecting, and declaring for himself, and thus flattery gave
proselytes to infidelity, which could not have been gained by all the
powerful eloquence or artful sophistry of the infidel.
These attempts to extend the influence of what was called freethinking
and philosophy, were carried on, as we have hinted, with a caution
dictated by the timidity of the philosopher's disposition. He was
conscious his doctrines were suspected, and his proceedings watched, by
the two principal sects of Prelatists and Presbyterians, who, however
inimical to each other, were still more hostile to one who was an
opponent, not only to a church establishment of any kind, but to every
denomination of Christianity. He found it more easy to shroud himself
among the Independents, whose demands were for a general liberty of
conscience, or an unlimited toleration, and whose faith, differing in
all respects and particulars, was by some pushed into such wild errors,
as to get totally beyond the bounds of every species of Christianity,
and approach very near to infidelity itself, as extremes of each kind
are said to approach each other. Bletson mixed a good deal among those
sectaries; and such was his confidence in his own logic and address,
that he is supposed to have entertained hopes of bringing to his
opinions in time the enthusiastic Vane, as well as the no less
enthusiastic Harrison, provided he could but get them to resign their
visions of a Fifth Monarchy, and induce them to be contented with a
reign of Philosophers in England for the natural period of their lives,
instead of the reign of the Saints during the Millenium.
Such was the singular group into which Everard was now introduced;
showing, in their various opinions, upon how many devious coasts human
nature may make shipwreck, when she has once let go her hold on the
anchor which religion has given her to lean upon; the acute self-conceit
and worldly learning of Bletson--the rash and ignorant conclusions of
the fierce and under-bred Harrison, leading them into the opposite
extremes of enthusiasm and infidelity, while Desborough,
constitutionally stupid, thought nothing about religion at all; and
while the others were active in making sail on different but equally
erroneous courses, he might be said to perish like a vessel, which
springs a leak and founders in the roadstead. It was wonderful to behold
what a strange variety of mistakes and errors, on the part of the King
and his Ministers, on the part of the Parliament and their leaders, on
the part of the allied kingdoms of Scotland and England towards each
other, had combined to rear up men of such dangerous opinions and
interested characters among the arbiters of the destiny of Britain.
Those who argue for party's sake, will see all the faults on the one
side, without deigning to look at those on the other; those who study
history for instruction, will perceive that nothing but the want of
concession on either side, and the deadly height to which the animosity
of the King's and Parliament's parties had arisen, could have so totally
overthrown the well-poised balance of the English constitution. But we
hasten to quit political reflections, the rather that ours, we believe,
will please neither Whig nor Tory.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE TWELFTH.
Three form a College--an you give us four,
Let him bring his share with him.
BRAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
Mr. Bletson arose and paid his respects to Colonel Everard, with the
ease and courtesy of a gentleman of the time; though on every account
grieved at his intrusion, as a religious man who held his free-thinking
principles in detestation, and would effectually prevent his conversion
of Harrison, and even of Desborough, if any thing could be moulded out
of such a clod, to the worship of the _Animus Mundi_. Moreover, Bletson
knew Everard to be a man of steady probity, and by no means disposed to
close with a scheme on which he had successfully sounded the other two,
and which was calculated to assure the Commissioners of some little
private indemnification for the trouble they were to give themselves in
the public business. The philosopher was yet less pleased, when he saw
the magistrate the pastor who had met him in his flight of the preceding
evening, when he had been seen, _parma non bene relicta_, with cloak and
doublet left behind him.
The presence of Colonel Everard was as unpleasing to Desborough as to
Bletson: but the former having no philosophy in him, nor an idea that it
was possible for any man to resist helping himself out of untold money,
was chiefly embarrassed by the thought, that the plunder which they
might be able to achieve out of their trust, might, by this unwelcome
addition to their number, be divided into four parts instead of three;
and this reflection added to the natural awkwardness with which he
grumbled forth a sort of welcome, addressed to Everard.
As for Harrison, he remained like one on higher thoughts intent; his
posture unmoved, his eyes fixed on the ceiling as before, and in no way
indicating the least consciousness that the company had been more than
doubled around him.
Meantime, Everard took his place at the table, as a man who assumed his
own right, and pointed to his companions to sit down nearer the foot of
the board. Wildrake so far misunderstood his signals, as to sit down
above the Mayor; but rallying his recollection at a look from his
patron, he rose and took his place lower, whistling, however, as he
went, a sound at which the company stared, as at a freedom highly
unbecoming. To complete his indecorum, he seized upon a pipe, and
filling it from a large tobacco-box, was soon immersed in a cloud of his
own raising; from which a hand shortly after emerged, seized on the
black-jack of ale, withdrew it within the vapoury sanctuary, and, after
a potential draught, replaced it upon the table, its owner beginning to
renew the cloud which his intermitted exercise of the tube had almost
allowed to subside.
Nobody made any observation on his conduct, out of respect, probably, to
Colonel Everard, who bit his lip, but continued silent; aware that
censure might extract some escapade more unequivocally characteristic of
a cavalier, from his refractory companion. As silence seemed awkward,
and the others made no advances to break it, beyond the ordinary
salutation, Colonel Everard at length said, "I presume, gentlemen, that
you are somewhat surprised at my arrival here, and thus intruding myself
into your meeting?"
"Why the dickens should we be surprised, Colonel?" said Desborough; "we
know his Excellency, my brother-in-law Noll's--I mean my Lord Cromwell's
way, of overquartering his men in the towns he marches through. Thou
hast obtained a share in our commission?"
"And in that," said Bletson, smiling and bowing, "the Lord-General has
given us the most acceptable colleague that could have been added to our
number. No doubt your authority for joining with us must be under
warrant of the Council of State?"
"Of that, gentlemen," said the Colonel, "I will presently advise
you."--He took out his warrant accordingly, and was about to communicate
the contents; but observing that there were three or four half-empty
flasks upon the table, that Desborough looked more stupid than usual,
and that the philosopher's eyes were reeling in his head,
notwithstanding the temperance of Bletson's usual habits, he concluded
that they had been fortifying themselves against the horrors of the
haunted mansion, by laying in a store of what is called Dutch courage,
and therefore prudently resolved to postpone his more important business
with them till the cooler hour of morning. He, therefore, instead of
presenting the General's warrant superseding their commission, contented
himself with replying,--"My business has, of course, some reference to
your proceedings here. But here is--excuse my curiosity--a reverend
gentleman," pointing to Holdenough, "who has told me that you are so
strangely embarrassed here, as to require both the civil and spiritual
authority to enable you to keep possession of Woodstock."
"Before we go into that matter," said Bletson, blushing up to the eyes
at the recollection of his own fears, so manifestly displayed, yet so
inconsistent with his principles, "I should like to know who this other
stranger is, who has come with the worthy magistrate, and the no less
"Meaning me?" said Wildrake, laying his pipe aside; "Gadzooks, the time
hath been that I could have answered the question with a better title;
but at present I am only his honour's poor clerk, or secretary,
whichever is the current phrase."
"'Fore George, my lively blade, thou art a frank fellow of thy tattle,"
said Desborough. "There is my secretary Tomkins, whom men sillily enough
call Fibbet, and the honourable Lieutenant-General Harrison's secretary
Bibbet, who are now at supper below stairs, that durst not for their
ears speak a phrase above their breath in the presence of their betters,
unless to answer a question."
"Yes, Colonel Everard," said the philosopher, with his quiet smile,
glad, apparently, to divert the conversation from the topic of last
night's alarm, and recollections which humbled his self-love and
self-satisfaction,--"yes; and when Master Fibbet and Master Bibbet _do_
speak, their affirmations are as much in a common mould of mutual
attestation, as their names would accord in the verses of a poet. If
Master Fibbet happens to tell a fiction, Master Bibbet swears it as
truth. If Master Bibbet chances to have gotten drunk in the fear of the
Lord, Master Fibbet swears he is sober. I have called my own secretary
Gibbet, though his name chances to be only Gibeon, a worthy Israelite at
your service, but as pure a youth as ever picked a lamb-bone at Paschal.
But I call him Gibbet, merely to make up the holy trefoil with another
rhyme. This squire of thine, Colonel Everard, looks as if he might be
worthy to be coupled with the rest of the fraternity."
"Not I, truly," said the cavalier; "I'll be coupled with no Jew that was
ever whelped, and no Jewess neither."
"Scorn not for that, young man," said the philosopher; "the Jews are, in
point of religion, the elder brethren, you know."
"The Jews older than the Christians?" said Desborough, "'fore George,
they will have thee before the General Assembly, Bletson, if thou
venturest to say so."
Wildrake laughed without ceremony at the gross ignorance of Desborough,
and was joined by a sniggling response from behind the cupboard, which,
when inquired into, proved to be produced by the serving-men. These
worthies, timorous as their betters, when they were supposed to have
left the room, had only withdrawn to their present place of concealment.
"How now, ye rogues," said Bletson, angrily; "do you not know your duty
"We beg your worthy honour's pardon," said one of the men, "but we dared
not go down stairs without a light."
"A light, ye cowardly poltroons?" said the philosopher; "what--to show
which of you looks palest when a rat squeaks?--but take a candlestick
and begone, you cowardly villains! the devils you are so much afraid of
must be but paltry kites, if they hawk at such bats as you are."
The servants, without replying, took up one of the candlesticks, and
prepared to retreat, Trusty Tomkins at the head of the troop, when
suddenly, as they arrived at the door of the parlour, which had been
left half open, it was shut violently. The three terrified domestics
tumbled back into the middle of the room, as if a shot had been
discharged in their face, and all who were at the table started to their
Colonel Everard was incapable of a moment's fear, even if any thing
frightful had been seen; but he remained stationary, to see what his
companions would do, and to get at the bottom, if possible, of the cause
of their alarm upon an occasion so trifling. The philosopher seemed to
think that _he_ was the person chiefly concerned to show manhood on the
He walked to the door accordingly, murmuring at the cowardice of the
servants; but at such a snail's pace, that it seemed he would most
willingly have been anticipated by any one whom his reproaches had
roused to exertion. "Cowardly blockheads!" he said at last, seizing hold
of the handle of the door, but without turning it effectually round--
"dare you not open a door?"--(still fumbling with the lock)--"dare you
not go down a stair-case without a light? Here, bring me the candle, you
cowardly villains!--By Heaven, something sighs on the outside!"
As he spoke, he let go the handle of the parlour door, and stepped back
a pace or two into the apartment, with cheeks as pale as the band he
"_Deus adjutor meus_!" said the Presbyterian clergyman, rising from his
seat. "Give place, sir," addressing Bletson; "it would seem I know more
of this matter than thou, and I bless Heaven I am armed for the
Bold as a grenadier about to mount a breach, yet with the same belief in
the existence of a great danger to be encountered, as well as the same
reliance in the goodness of his cause, the worthy man stepped before the
philosophical Bletson, and taking a light from a sconce in one hand,
quietly opened the door with the other, and standing in the threshold,
said, "Here is nothing!"
"And who expected to see any thing," said Bletson, "excepting those
terrified oafs, who take fright at every puff of wind that whistles
through the passages of this old dungeon?"
"Mark you, Master Tomkins," said one of the waiting-men in a whisper to
the steward,--"See how boldly the minister pressed forward before all of
them. Ah! Master Tomkins, our parson is the real commissioned officer of
the church--your lay-preachers are no better than a parcel of club-men
"Follow me those who list," said Master Holdenough, "or go before me
those who choose, I will walk through the habitable places of this house
before I leave it, and satisfy myself whether Satan hath really mingled
himself among these dreary dens of ancient wickedness, or whether, like
the wicked of whom holy David speaketh, we are afraid, and flee when no
Harrison, who had heard these words, sprung from his seat, and drawing
his sword, exclaimed, "Were there as many fiends in the house as there
are hairs on my head, upon this cause I will charge them up to their
So saying, he brandished his weapon, and pressed to the head of the
column, where he moved side by side with the minister. The Mayor of
Woodstock next joined the body, thinking himself safer perhaps in the
company of his pastor; and the whole train moved forward in close order,
accompanied by the servants bearing lights, to search the Lodge for some
cause of that panic with which they seemed to be suddenly seized.
"Nay, take me with you, my friends," said Colonel Everard, who had
looked on in surprise, and was now about to follow the party, when
Bletson laid hold on his cloak, and begged him to remain.
"You see, my good Colonel," he said, affecting a courage which his
shaking voice belied, "here are only you and I and honest Desborough
left behind in garrison, while all the others are absent on a sally. We
must not hazard the whole troops in one sortie--that were
unmilitary--Ha, ha, ha!"
"In the name of Heaven, what means all this?" said Everard. "I heard a
foolish tale about apparitions as I came this way, and now I find you
all half mad with fear, and cannot get a word of sense among so many of
you. Fie, Colonel Desborough--fie, Master Bletson--try to compose
yourselves, and let me know, in Heaven's name, the cause of all this
disturbance. One would be apt to think your brains were turned."
"And so mine well may," said Desborough, "ay, and overturned too, since
my bed last night was turned upside down, and I was placed for ten
minutes heels uppermost, and head downmost, like a bullock going to be
"What means this nonsense, Master Bletson?--Desborough must have had the
"No, faith, Colonel; the goblins, or whatever else they were, had been
favourable to honest Desborough, for they reposed the whole of his
person on that part of his body which--Hark, did you not hear
something?--is the central point of gravity, namely, his head."
"Did you see any thing to alarm you?" said the Colonel.
"Nothing," said Bletson; "but we heard hellish noises, as all our people
did; and I, believing little of ghosts and apparitions, concluded the
cavaliers were taking us at advantage; so, remembering Rainsborough's
fate, I e'en jumped the window, and ran to Woodstock, to call the
soldiers to the rescue of Harrison and Desborough."
"And did you not first go to see what the danger was?"
"Ah, my good friend, you forget that I laid down my commission at the
time of the self-denying ordinance. It would have been quite
inconsistent with my duty as a Parliament-man to be brawling amidst a
set of ruffians, without any military authority. No--when the Parliament
commanded me to sheath my sword, Colonel, I have too much veneration for
their authority to be found again with it drawn in my hand."
"But the Parliament," said Desborough, hastily, "did not command you to
use your heels when your hands could have saved a man from choking. Odds
dickens! you might have stopped when you saw my bed canted heels
uppermost, and me half stifled in the bed-clothes--you might, I say,
have stopped and lent a hand to put it to rights, instead of jumping out
of the window, like a new-shorn sheep, so soon as you had run across my
"Nay, worshipful Master Desborough," said Bletson, winking at Everard,
to show that he was playing on his thick-sculled colleague, "how could I
tell your particular mode of reposing?--there are many tastes--I have
known men who slept by choice on a slope or angle of forty-five."
"Yes, but did ever a man sleep standing on his head, except by miracle?"
"Now, as to miracles"--said the philosopher, confident in the presence
of Everard, besides that an opportunity of scoffing at religion really
in some degree diverted his fear--"I leave these out of the question,
seeing that the evidence on such subjects seems as little qualified to
carry conviction as a horse-hair to land a leviathan."
A loud clap of thunder, or a noise as formidable, rang through the Lodge
as the scoffer had ended, which struck him pale and motionless, and made
Desborough throw himself on his knees, and repeat exclamations and
prayers in much admired confusion.
"There must be contrivance here," exclaimed Everard; and snatching one
of the candles from a sconce, he rushed out of the apartment, little
heeding the entreaties of the philosopher, who, in the extremity of his
distress, conjured him by the _Animus Mundi_ to remain to the assistance
of a distressed philosopher endangered by witches, and a Parliament-man
assaulted by ruffians. As for Desborough, he only gaped like a clown in
a pantomime; and, doubtful whether to follow or stop, his natural
indolence prevailed, and he sat still.
When on the landing-place of the stairs, Everard paused a moment to
consider which was the best course to take. He heard the voices of men
talking fast and loud, like people who wish to drown their fears, in the
lower story; and aware that nothing could be discovered by those whose
inquiries were conducted in a manner so noisy, he resolved to proceed in
a different direction, and examine the second floor, which he had now
He had known every corner, both of the inhabited and uninhabited part of
the mansion, and availed himself of the candle to traverse two or three
intricate passages, which he was afraid he might not remember with
sufficient accuracy. This movement conveyed him to a sort of
_oeil-de-boeuf_, an octagon vestibule, or small hall, from which various
rooms opened. Amongst these doors, Everard selected that which led to a
very long, narrow, and dilapidated gallery, built in the time of Henry
VIII., and which, running along the whole south-west side of the
building, communicated at different points with the rest of the mansion.
This he thought was likely to be the post occupied by those who proposed
to act the sprites upon the occasion; especially as its length and shape
gave him some idea that it was a spot where the bold thunder might in
many ways be imitated.
Determined to ascertain the truth if possible, he placed his light on a
table in the vestibule, and applied himself to open the door into the
gallery. At this point he found himself strongly opposed either by a
bolt drawn, or, as he rather conceived, by somebody from within
resisting his attempt. He was induced to believe the latter, because the
resistance slackened and was renewed, like that of human strength,
instead of presenting the permanent opposition of an inanimate obstacle.
Though Everard was a strong and active young man, he exhausted his
strength in the vain attempt to open the door; and having paused to take
breath, was about to renew his efforts with foot and shoulder, and to
call at the same time for assistance, when to his surprise, on again
attempting the door more gently, in order to ascertain if possible where
the strength of the opposing obstacle was situated, he found it gave way
to a very slight impulse, some impediment fell broken to the ground, and
the door flew wide open. The gust of wind, occasioned by the sudden
opening of the door, blew out the candle, and Everard was left in
darkness, save where the moonshine, which the long side-row of latticed
windows dimmed, could imperfectly force its way into the gallery, which
lay in ghostly length before him.
The melancholy and doubtful twilight was increased by a quantity of
creeping plants on the outside, which, since all had been neglected in
these ancient halls, now completely overgrown, had in some instances
greatly diminished, and in others almost quite choked up, the space of
the lattices, extending between the heavy stone shaftwork which divided
the windows, both lengthways and across. On the other side there were no
windows at all, and the gallery had been once hung round with paintings,
chiefly portraits, by which that side of the apartment had been adorned.
Most of the pictures had been removed, yet the empty frames of some, and
the tattered remnants of others, were still visible along the extent of
the waste gallery; the look of which was so desolate, and it appeared so
well adapted for mischief, supposing there were enemies near him, that
Everard could not help pausing at the entrance, and recommending himself
to God, ere, drawing his sword, he advanced into the apartment, treading
as lightly as possible, and keeping in the shadow as much as he could.
Markham Everard was by no means superstitious, but he had the usual
credulity of the times; and though he did not yield easily to tales of
supernatural visitations, yet he could not help thinking he was in the
very situation, where, if such things were ever permitted, they might be
expected to take place, while his own stealthy and ill-assured pace, his
drawn weapon, and extended arms, being the very attitude and action of
doubt and suspicion, tended to increase in his mind the gloomy feelings
of which they are the usual indications, and with which they are
constantly associated. Under such unpleasant impressions, and conscious
of the neighbourhood of something unfriendly, Colonel Everard had
already advanced about half along the gallery, when he heard some one
sigh very near him, and a low soft voice pronounce his name.
"Here I am," he replied, while his heart beat thick and short. "Who
calls on Markham Everard?"
Another sigh was the only answer.
"Speak," said the Colonel, "whoever or whatsoever you are, and tell with
what intent and purpose you are lurking in these apartments?"
"With a better intent than yours," returned the soft voice.
"Than mine!" answered Everard in great surprise. "Who are you that dare
judge of my intents?"
"What, or who are you, Markham Everard, who wander by moonlight through
these deserted halls of royalty, where none should be but those who
mourn their downfall, or are sworn to avenge it?"
"It is--and yet it cannot be," said Everard; "yet it is, and must be.
Alice Lee, the devil or you speaks. Answer me, I conjure you!--speak
openly--on what dangerous scheme are you engaged? where is your father?
why are you here?--wherefore do you run so deadly a venture?--Speak, I
conjure you, Alice Lee!"
"She whom you call on is at the distance of miles from this spot. What
if her Genius speaks when she is absent?--what if the soul of an
ancestress of hers and yours were now addressing you?--what if"--
"Nay," answered Everard, "but what if the dearest of human beings has
caught a touch of her father's enthusiasm?--what if she is exposing her
person to danger, her reputation to scandal, by traversing in disguise
and darkness a house filled with armed men? Speak to me, my fair cousin,
in your own person. I am furnished with powers to protect my uncle, Sir
Henry--to protect you too, dearest Alice, even against the consequences
of this visionary and wild attempt. Speak--I see where you are, and,
with all my respect, I cannot submit to be thus practised upon. Trust
me--trust your cousin Markham with your hand, and believe that he will
die or place you in honourable safety."
As he spoke, he exercised his eyes as keenly as possible to detect where
the speaker stood; and it seemed to him, that about three yards from him
there was a shadowy form, of which he could not discern even the
outline, placed as it was within the deep and prolonged shadow thrown by
a space of wall intervening betwixt two windows, upon that side of the
room from which the light was admitted. He endeavoured to calculate, as
well as he could, the distance betwixt himself and the object which he
watched, under the impression, that if, by even using a slight degree of
compulsion, he could detach his beloved Alice from the confederacy into
which he supposed her father's zeal for the cause of royalty had engaged
her, he would be rendering them both the most essential favour. He could
not indeed but conclude, that however successfully the plot which he
conceived to be in agitation had proceeded against the timid Bletson,
the stupid Desborough, and the crazy Harrison, there was little doubt
that at length their artifices must necessarily bring shame and danger
on those engaged in it.
It must also be remembered, that Everard's affection to his cousin,
although of the most respectful and devoted character, partook less of
the distant veneration which a lover of those days entertained for the
lady whom he worshipped with humble diffidence, than of the fond and
familiar feelings which a brother entertains towards a younger sister,
whom he thinks himself entitled to guide, advise, and even in some
degree to control. So kindly and intimate had been their intercourse,
that he had little more hesitation in endeavouring to arrest her
progress in the dangerous course in which she seemed to be engaged, even
at the risk of giving her momentary offence, than he would have had in
snatching her from a torrent or conflagration, at the chance of hurting
her by the violence of his grasp. All this passed through his mind in
the course of a single minute; and he resolved at all events to detain
her on the spot, and compel, if possible, an explanation from her.
With this purpose, Everard again conjured his cousin, in the name of
Heaven, to give up this idle and dangerous mummery; and lending an
accurate ear to her answer, endeavoured from the sound to calculate as
nearly as possible the distance between them.
"I am not she for whom you take me," said the voice; "and dearer regards
than aught connected with her life or death, bid me warn you to keep
aloof, and leave this place."
"Not till I have convinced you of your childish folly," said the
Colonel, springing forward, and endeavouring to catch hold of her who
spoke to him. But no female form was within his grasp. On the contrary,
he was met by a shock which could come from no woman's arm, and which
was rude enough to stretch him on his back on the floor. At the same
time he felt the point of a sword at his throat, and his hands so
completely mastered, that not the slightest defence remained to him.
"A cry for assistance," said a voice near him, but not that which he had
hitherto heard, "will be stifled in your blood!--No harm is meant
you--be wise and be silent."
The fear of death, which Everard had often braved in the field of
battle, became more intense as he felt himself in the hands of unknown
assassins, and totally devoid of all means of defence. The sharp point
of the sword pricked his bare throat, and the foot of him who held it
was upon his breast. He felt as if a single thrust would put an end to
life, and all the feverish joys and sorrows which agitate us so
strangely, and from which we are yet so reluctant to part. Large drops
of perspiration stood upon his forehead--his heart throbbed, as if it
would burst from its confinement in the bosom--he experienced the agony
which fear imposes on the brave man, acute in proportion to that which
pain inflicts when it subdues the robust and healthy.
"Cousin Alice,"--he attempted to speak, and the sword's point pressed
his throat yet more closely,--"Cousin, let me not be murdered in a
manner so fearful!"
"I tell you," replied the voice, "that you speak to one who is not here;
but your life is not aimed at, provided you swear on your faith as a
Christian, and your honour as a gentleman, that you will conceal what
has happened, whether from the people below, or from any other person.
On this condition you may rise; and if you seek her, you will find Alice
Lee at Joceline's cottage, in the forest."
"Since I may not help myself otherwise," said Everard, "I swear, as I
have a sense of religion and honour, I will say nothing of this
violence, nor make any search after those who are concerned in it."
"For that we care nothing," said the voice. "Thou hast an example how
well thou mayst catch mischief on thy own part; but we are in case to
defy thee. Rise, and begone!"
The foot, the sword's-point, were withdrawn, and Everard was about to
start up hastily, when the voice, in the same softness of tone which
distinguished it at first, said, "No haste--cold and bare steel is yet
around thee. Now--now--now--(the words dying away as at a distance)--
thou art free. Be secret and be safe."
Markham Everard arose, and, in rising, embarrassed his feet with his own
sword, which he had dropped when springing forward, as he supposed, to
lay hold of his fair cousin. He snatched it up in haste, and as his hand
clasped the hilt, his courage, which had given way under the
apprehension of instant death, began to return; he considered, with
almost his usual composure, what was to be done next. Deeply affronted
at the disgrace which he had sustained, he questioned for an instant
whether he ought to keep his extorted promise, or should not rather
summon assistance, and make haste to discover and seize those who had
been recently engaged in such violence on his person. But these persons,
be they who they would, had had his life in their power--he had pledged
his word in ransom of it--and what was more, he could not divest himself
of the idea that his beloved Alice was a confidant, at least, if not an
actor, in the confederacy which had thus baffled him. This prepossession
determined his conduct; for, though angry at supposing she must have
been accessory to his personal ill-treatment, he could not in any event
think of an instant search through the mansion, which might have
compromised her safety, or that of his uncle. "But I will to the hut,"
he said--"I will instantly to the hut, ascertain her share in this wild
and dangerous confederacy, and snatch her from ruin, if it be possible."
As, under the influence of the resolution which he had formed, Everard
groped his way through the gallery and regained the vestibule, he heard
his name called by the well-known voice of Wildrake. "What--ho!--
holloa!--Colonel Everard--Mark Everard--it is dark as the devil's
mouth--speak--where are you?--The witches are keeping their hellish
sabbath here, as I think.--Where are you?"
"Here, here!" answered Everard. "Cease your bawling. Turn to the left,
and you will meet me."
Guided by his voice, Wildrake soon appeared, with a light in one hand,
and his drawn sword in the other. "Where have you been?" he said--"What
has detained you?--Here are Bletson and the brute Desborough terrified
out of their lives, and Harrison raving mad, because the devil will not
be civil enough to rise to fight him in single _duello_."
"Saw or heard you nothing as you came along?" said Everard.
"Nothing," said his friend, "excepting that when I first entered this
cursed ruinous labyrinth, the light was struck out of my hand, as if by
a switch, which obliged me to return for another."
"I must come by a horse instantly, Wildrake, and another for thyself, if
it be possible."
"We can take two of those belonging to the troopers," answered Wildrake.
"But for what purpose should we run away, like rats, at this time in the
evening?--Is the house falling?"
"I cannot answer you," said the Colonel, pushing forward into a room
where there were some remains of furniture.
Here the cavalier took a more strict view of his person, and exclaimed
in wonder, "What the devil have you been fighting with, Markham, that
has bedizened you after this sorry fashion?"
"Fighting!" exclaimed Everard.
"Yes," replied his trusty attendant. "I say fighting. Look at yourself
in the mirror."
He did, and saw he was covered with dust and blood. The latter proceeded
from a scratch which he had received in the throat, as he struggled to
extricate himself. With unaffected alarm, Wildrake undid his friend's
collar, and with eager haste proceeded to examine the wound, his hands
trembling, and his eyes glistening with apprehension for his
benefactor's life. When, in spite of Everard's opposition, he had
examined the hurt, and found it trifling, he resumed the natural
wildness of his character, perhaps the more readily that he had felt
shame in departing from it, into one which expressed more of feeling
than he would be thought to possess.
"If that be the devil's work, Mark," said he, "the foul fiend's claws
are not nigh so formidable as they are represented; but no one shall say
that your blood has been shed unrevenged, while Roger Wildrake was by
your side. Where left you this same imp? I will back to the field of
fight, confront him with my rapier, and were his nails tenpenny nails,
and his teeth as long as those of a harrow, he shall render me reason
for the injury he has done you."
"Madness--madness!" exclaimed Everard; "I had this trifling hurt by a
fall--a basin and towel will wipe it away. Meanwhile, if you will ever
do me kindness, get the troop-horses--command them for the service of
the public, in the name of his Excellency the General. I will but wash,
and join you in an instant before the gate."
"Well, I will serve you, Everard, as a mute serves the Grand Signior,
without knowing why or wherefore. But will you go without seeing these
"Without seeing any one," said Everard; "lose no time, for God's sake."
He found out the non-commissioned officer, and demanded the horses in a
tone of authority, to which the corporal yielded undisputed obedience,
as one well aware of Colonel Everard's military rank and consequence. So
all was in a minute or two ready for the expedition.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH.
She kneeled, and saintlike
Cast her eyes to heaven, and pray'd devoutly.
KING HENRY VIII.
Colonel Everard's departure at the late hour, for, so it was then
thought, of seven in the evening, excited much speculation. There was a
gathering of menials and dependents in the outer chamber or hall, for no
one doubted that his sudden departure was owing to his having, as they
expressed it, "seen something," and all desired to know how a man of
such acknowledged courage as Everard, looked under the awe of a recent
apparition. But he gave them no time to make comments; for, striding
through the hall wrapt in his riding suit, he threw himself on
horseback, and rode furiously through the Chase, towards the hut of the
It was the disposition of Markham Everard to be hot, keen, earnest,
impatient, and decisive to a degree of precipitation. The acquired
habits which education had taught, and which the strong moral and
religious discipline of his sect had greatly strengthened, were such as
to enable him to conceal, as well as to check, this constitutional
violence, and to place him upon his guard against indulging it. But when
in the high tide of violent excitation, the natural impetuosity of the
young soldier's temper was sometimes apt to overcome these artificial
obstacles, and then, like a torrent foaming over a wear, it became more
furious, as if in revenge for the constrained calm which it had been for
some time obliged to assume. In these instances he was accustomed to see
only that point to which his thoughts were bent, and to move straight
towards it, whether a moral object, or the storming of a breach, without
either calculating, or even appearing to see, the difficulties which
were before him.
At present, his ruling and impelling motive was to detach his beloved
cousin, if possible, from the dangerous and discreditable machinations
in which he suspected her to have engaged, or, on the other hand, to
discover that she really had no concern with these stratagems. He should
know how to judge of that in some measure, he thought, by finding her
present or absent at the hut, towards which he was now galloping. He had
read, indeed, in some ballad or minstrel's tale, of a singular deception
practised on a jealous old man, by means of a subterranean communication
between his house and that of a neighbour, which the lady in question
made use of to present herself in the two places alternately, with such
speed, and so much address, that, after repeated experiments, the dotard
was deceived into the opinion, that his wife, and the lady who was so
very like her, and to whom his neighbour paid so much attention, were
two different persons. But in the present case there was no room for
such a deception; the distance was too great, and as he took by much the
nearest way from the castle, and rode full speed, it would be
impossible, he knew, for his cousin, who was a timorous horsewoman even
by daylight, to have got home before him.
Her father might indeed be displeased at his interference; but what
title had he to be so?--Was not Alice Lee the near relation of his
blood, the dearest object of his heart, and would he now abstain from an
effort to save her from the consequences of a silly and wild conspiracy,
because the old knight's spleen might be awakened by Everard's making
his appearance at their present dwelling contrary to his commands? No.
He would endure the old man's harsh language, as he endured the blast of
the autumn wind, which was howling around him, and swinging the crashing
branches of the trees under which he passed, but could not oppose, or
even retard, his journey.
If he found not Alice, as he had reason to believe she would be absent,
to Sir Henry Lee himself he would explain what he had witnessed. However
she might have become accessory to the juggling tricks performed at
Woodstock, he could not but think it was without her father's knowledge,
so severe a judge was the old knight of female propriety, and so strict
an assertor of female decorum. He would take the same opportunity, he
thought, of stating to him the well-grounded hopes he entertained, that
his dwelling at the Lodge might be prolonged, and the sequestrators
removed from the royal mansion and domains, by other means than those of
the absurd species of intimidation which seemed to be resorted to, to
scare them from thence.
All this seemed to be so much within the line of his duty as a relative,
that it was not until he halted at the door of the ranger's hut, and
threw his bridle into Wildrake's hand, that Everard recollected the
fiery, high, and unbending character of Sir Henry Lee, and felt, even
when his fingers were on the latch, a reluctance to intrude himself upon
the presence of the irritable old knight.
But there was no time for hesitation. Bevis, who had already bayed more
than once from within the Lodge, was growing impatient, and Everard had
but just time to bid Wildrake hold the horses until he should send
Joceline to his assistance, when old Joan unpinned the door, to demand
who was without at that time of the night. To have attempted anything
like an explanation with poor dame Joan, would have been quite hopeless;
the Colonel, therefore, put her gently aside, and shaking himself loose
from the hold she had laid on his cloak, entered the kitchen of
Joceline's dwelling. Bevis, who had advanced to support Joan in her
opposition, humbled his lion-port, with that wonderful instinct which
makes his race remember so long those with whom they have been familiar,
and acknowledged his master's relative, by doing homage in his fashion,
with his head and tail.
Colonel Everard, more uncertain in his purpose every moment as the
necessity of its execution drew near, stole over the floor like one who
treads in a sick chamber, and opening the door of the interior apartment
with a slow and trembling hand, as he would have withdrawn the curtains
of a dying friend, he saw, within, the scene which we are about to
Sir Henry Lee sat in a wicker arm-chair by the fire. He was wrapped in a
cloak, and his limbs extended on a stool, as if he were suffering from
gout or indisposition. His long white beard flowing over the
dark-coloured garment, gave him more the appearance of a hermit than of
an aged soldier or man of quality; and that character was increased by
the deep and devout attention with which he listened to a respectable
old man, whose dilapidated dress showed still something of the clerical
habit, and who, with a low, but full and deep voice, was reading the
Evening Service according to the Church of England. Alice Lee kneeled at
the feet of her father, and made the responses with a voice that might
have suited the choir of angels; and a modest and serious devotion,
which suited the melody of her tone. The face of the officiating
clergyman would have been good-looking, had it not been disfigured with
a black patch which covered the left eye and a part of his face, and had
not the features which were visible been marked with the traces of care
When Colonel Everard entered, the clergyman raised his finger, as
cautioning him to forbear disturbing the divine service of the evening,
and pointed to a seat; to which, struck deeply with the scene he had
witnessed, the intruder stole with as light a step as possible, and
knelt devoutly down as one of the little congregation.
Everard had been bred by his father what was called a Puritan; a member
of a sect who, in the primitive sense of the word, were persons that did
not except against the doctrines of the Church of England, or even in
all respects against its hierarchy, but chiefly dissented from it on the
subject of certain ceremonies, habits, and forms of ritual, which were
insisted upon by the celebrated and unfortunate Laud with ill-timed
tenacity. But even if, from the habits of his father's house, Everard's
opinions had been diametrically opposed to the doctrines of the English
Church, he must have been reconciled to them by the regularity with
which the service was performed in his uncle's family at Woodstock, who,
during the blossom of his fortunes, generally had a chaplain residing in
the Lodge for that special purpose.
Yet deep as was the habitual veneration with which he heard the
impressive service of the Church, Everard's eyes could not help straying
towards Alice, and his thoughts wandering to the purpose of his presence
there. She seemed to have recognised him at once, for there was a deeper
glow than usual upon her cheek, her fingers trembled as they turned the
leaves of her prayerbook, and her voice, lately as firm as it was
melodious, faltered when she repeated the responses. It appeared to
Everard, as far as he could collect by the stolen glances which he
directed towards her, that the character of her beauty, as well as of
her outward appearance, had changed with her fortunes.
The beautiful and high-born young lady had now approached as nearly as
possible to the brown stuff dress of an ordinary village maiden; but
what she had lost in gaiety of appearance, she had gained as it seemed
in dignity. Her beautiful light-brown tresses, now folded around her
head, and only curled where nature had so arranged them, gave her an air
of simplicity, which did not exist when her head-dress showed the skill
of a curious tire-woman. A light joyous air, with something of a
humorous expression, which seemed to be looking for amusement, had
vanished before the touch of affliction, and a calm melancholy supplied
its place, which seemed on the watch to administer comfort to others.
Perhaps the former arch, though innocent expression of countenance, was
uppermost in her lover's recollection, when he concluded that Alice had
acted a part in the disturbances which had taken place at the Lodge. It
is certain, that when he now looked upon her, it was with shame for
having nourished such a suspicion, and the resolution to believe rather
that the devil had imitated her voice, than that a creature, who seemed
so much above the feelings of this world, and so nearly allied to the
purity of the next, should have had the indelicacy to mingle in such
manoeuvres as he himself and others had been subjected to.
These thoughts shot through his mind, in spite of the impropriety of
indulging them at such a moment. The service now approached the close,
and a good deal to Colonel Everard's surprise, as well as confusion, the
officiating priest, in firm and audible tone, and with every attribute
of dignity, prayed to the Almighty to bless and preserve "Our Sovereign
Lord, King Charles, the lawful and undoubted King of these realms." The
petition (in those days most dangerous) was pronounced with a full,
raised, and distinct articulation, as if the priest challenged all who
heard him to dissent, if they dared. If the republican officer did not
assent to the petition, he thought at least it was no time to protest
The service was concluded in the usual manner, and the little
congregation arose. It now included Wildrake, who had entered during the
latter prayer, and was the first of the party to speak, running up to
the priest, and shaking him by the hand most heartily, swearing at the
same time, that he truly rejoiced to see him. The good clergyman
returned the pressure with a smile, observing he should have believed
his asseveration without an oath. In the meanwhile, Colonel Everard,
approaching his uncle's seat, made a deep inclination of respect, first
to Sir Henry Lee, and then to Alice, whose colour now spread from her
cheek to her brow and bosom.
"I have to crave your excuse," said the Colonel with hesitation, "for
having chosen for my visit, which I dare not hope would be very
agreeable at any time, a season most peculiarly unsuitable."
"So far from it, nephew," answered Sir Henry, with much more mildness of
manner than Everard had dared to expect, "that your visits at other
times would be much more welcome, had we the fortune to see you often at
our hours of worship."
"I hope the time will soon come, sir, when Englishmen of all sects and
denominations," replied Everard, "will be free in conscience to worship
in common the great Father, whom they all after their manner call by
that affectionate name."
"I hope so too, nephew," said the old man in the same unaltered tone;
"and we will not at present dispute, whether you would have the Church
of England coalesce with the Conventicle, or the Conventicle conform to
the Church. It was, I ween, not to settle jarring creeds, that you have
honoured our poor dwelling, where, to say the truth, we dared scarce
have expected to see you again, so coarse was our last welcome."
"I should be happy to believe," said Colonel Everard, hesitating,
"that--that--in short my presence was not now so unwelcome here as on
"Nephew," said Sir Henry, "I will be frank with you. When you were last
here, I thought you had stolen from me a precious pearl, which at one
time it would have been my pride and happiness to have bestowed on you;
but which, being such as you have been of late, I would bury in the
depths of the earth rather than give to your keeping. This somewhat
chafed, as honest Will says, 'the rash humour which my mother gave me.'
I thought I was robbed, and I thought I saw the robber before me. I am
mistaken--I am not robbed; and the attempt without the deed I can
"I would not willingly seek offence in your words, sir," said Colonel
Everard, "when their general purport sounds kind; but I can protest
before Heaven, that my views and wishes towards you and your family are
as void of selfish hopes and selfish ends, as they are fraught with love
to you and to yours."
"Let us hear them, man; we are not much accustomed to good wishes
now-a-days; and their very rarity will make them welcome."
"I would willingly, Sir Henry, since you might not choose me to give you
a more affectionate name, convert those wishes into something effectual
for your comfort. Your fate, as the world now stands, is bad, and, I
fear, like to be worse."
"Worse than I expect it cannot be. Nephew, I do not shrink before my
changes of fortune. I shall wear coarser clothes,--I shall feed on more
ordinary food,--men will not doff their cap to me as they were wont,
when I was the great and the wealthy. What of that? Old Harry Lee loved
his honour better than his title, his faith better than his land and
lordship. Have I not seen the 30th of January? I am neither Philomath
nor astrologer; but old Will teaches me, that when green leaves fall
winter is at hand, and that darkness will come when the sun sets."
"Bethink you, sir," said Colonel Everard, "if, without any submission
asked, any oath taken, any engagement imposed, express or tacit,
excepting that you are not to excite disturbances in the public peace,
you can be restored to your residence in the Lodge, and your usual
fortunes and perquisities there--I have great reason to hope this may be
permitted, if not expressly, at least on sufferance."
"Yes, I understand you. I am to be treated like the royal coin, marked
with the ensign of the Rump to make it pass current, although I am too
old to have the royal insignia grinded off from me. Kinsman, I will have
none of this. I have lived at the Lodge too long; and let me tell you, I
had left it in scorn long since, but for the orders of one whom I may
yet live to do service to. I will take nothing from the usurpers, be
their name Rump or Cromwell--be they one devil or legion--I will not
take from them an old cap to cover my grey hairs--a cast cloak to
protect my frail limbs from the cold. They shall not say they have, by
their unwilling bounty, made Abraham rich--I will live, as I will die,
the Loyal Lee."
"May I hope you will think of it, sir; and that you will, perhaps,
considering what slight submission is asked, give me a better answer?"
"Sir, if I retract my opinion, which is not my wont, you shall hear of
it.--And now, cousin, have you more to say? We keep that worthy
clergyman in the outer room."
"Something I had to say--something touching my cousin Alice," said
Everard, with embarrassment; "but I fear that the prejudices of both are
so strong against me"--
"Sir, I dare turn my daughter loose to you--I will go join the good
doctor in dame Joan's apartment. I am not unwilling that you should know
that the girl hath, in all reasonable sort, the exercise of her free
He withdrew, and left the cousins together.
Colonel Everard advanced to Alice, and was about to take her hand. She
drew back, took the seat which her father had occupied, and pointed out
to him one at some distance.
"Are we then so much estranged, my dearest Alice?" he said.
"We will speak of that presently," she replied. "In the first place, let
me ask the cause of your visit here at so late an hour."
"You heard," said Everard, "what I stated to your father?"
"I did; but that seems to have been only part of your errand--something
there seemed to be which applied particularly to me."
"It was a fancy--a strange mistake," answered Everard. "May I ask if you
have been abroad this evening?"
"Certainly not," she replied. "I have small temptation to wander from my
present home, poor as it is; and whilst here, I have important duties to
discharge. But why does Colonel Everard ask so strange a question?"
"Tell me in turn, why your cousin Markham has lost the name of
friendship and kindred, and even of some nearer feeling, and then I will
answer you, Alice?"
"It is soon answered," she said. "When you drew your sword against my
father's cause--almost against his person--I studied, more than I should
have done, to find excuse for you. I knew, that is, I thought I knew
your high feelings of public duty--I knew the opinions in which you had
been bred up; and I said, I will not, even for this, cast him off--he
opposes his King because he is loyal to his country. You endeavoured to
avert the great and concluding tragedy of the 30th of January; and it
confirmed me in my opinion, that Markham Everard might be misled, but
could not be base or selfish."
"And what has changed your opinion, Alice? or who dare," said Everard,
reddening, "attach such epithets to the name of Markham Everard?"
"I am no subject," she said, "for exercising your valour, Colonel
Everard, nor do I mean to offend. But you will find enough of others who
will avow, that Colonel Everard is truckling to the usurper Cromwell,
and that all his fair pretexts of forwarding his country's liberties,
are but a screen for driving a bargain with the successful encroacher,
and obtaining the best terms he can for himself and his family."
"But for your family you have--Yes, I am well assured that you have
pointed out to the military tyrant, the way in which he and his satraps
may master the government. Do you think my father or I would accept an
asylum purchased at the price of England's liberty, and your honour?"
"Gracious Heaven, Alice, what is this? You accuse me of pursuing the
very course which so lately had your approbation!"
"When you spoke with authority of your father, and recommended our
submission to the existing government, such as it was, I own I
thought--that my father's grey head might, without dishonour, have
remained under the roof where it had so long been sheltered. But did
your father sanction your becoming the adviser of yonder ambitious
soldier to a new course of innovation, and his abettor in the
establishment of a new species of tyranny?--It is one thing to submit to
oppression, another to be the agent of tyrants--And O, Markham--their
"How! bloodhound?--what mean you?--I own it is true I could see with
content the wounds of this bleeding country stanched, even at the
expense of beholding Cromwell, after his matchless rise, take a yet
farther step to power--but to be his bloodhound! What is your meaning?"
"It is false, then?--I thought I could swear it had been false."
"What, in the name of God, is it you ask?"
"It is false that you are engaged to betray the young King of Scotland?"
"Betray him! _I_ betray him, or any fugitive? Never! I would he were
well out of England--I would lend him my aid to escape, were he in the
house at this instant; and think in acting so I did his enemies good
service, by preventing their soiling themselves with his blood--but
betray him, never!"
"I knew it--I was sure it was impossible. Oh, be yet more honest;
disengage yourself from yonder gloomy and ambitious soldier! Shun him
and his schemes, which are formed in injustice, and can only be realized
in yet more blood!"
"Believe me," replied Everard, "that I choose the line of policy best
befitting the times."
"Choose that," she said, "which best befits duty, Markham--which best
befits truth and honour. Do your duty, and let Providence decide the
rest.--Farewell! we tempt my father's patience too far--you know his
She extended her hand, which he pressed to his lips, and left the
apartment. A silent bow to his uncle, and a sign to Wildrake, whom he
found in the kitchen of the cabin, were the only tokens of recognition
exhibited, and leaving the hut, he was soon mounted, and, with his
companion, advanced on his return to the Lodge.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH.
Deeds are done on earth
Which have their punishment ere the earth closes
Upon the perpetrators. Be it the working
Of the remorse-stirr'd fancy, or the vision,
Distinct and real, of unearthly being,
All ages witness, that beside the couch
Of the fell homicide oft stalks the ghost
Of him he slew, and shows the shadowy wound.
Everard had come to Joceline's hut as fast as horse could bear him, and
with the same impetuosity of purpose as of speed. He saw no choice in
the course to be pursued, and felt in his own imagination the strongest
right to direct, and even reprove, his cousin, beloved as she was, on
account of the dangerous machinations with which she appeared to have
connected herself. He returned slowly, and in a very different mood.
Not only had Alice, prudent as beautiful, appeared completely free from
the weakness of conduct which seemed to give him some authority over
her, but her views of policy, if less practicable, were so much more
direct and noble than his own, as led him to question whether he had not
compromised himself too rashly with Cromwell, even although the state of
the country was so greatly divided and torn by faction, that the
promotion of the General to the possession of the executive government
seemed the only chance of escaping a renewal of the Civil War. The more
exalted and purer sentiments of Alice lowered him in his own eyes; and
though unshaken in his opinion, that it were better the vessel should be
steered by a pilot having no good title to the office, than that she
should run upon the breakers, he felt that he was not espousing the most
direct, manly, and disinterested side of the question.
As he rode on, immersed in these unpleasant contemplations, and
considerably lessened in his own esteem by what had happened, Wildrake,
who rode by his side, and was no friend to long silence, began to enter
into conversation. "I have been thinking, Mark," said he, "that if you
and I had been called to the bar--as, by the by, has been in danger of
happening to me in more senses than one--I say, had we become
barristers, I would have had the better oiled tongue of the two--the
fairer art of persuasion."
"Perhaps so," replied Everard, "though I never heard thee use any, save
to induce an usurer to lend thee money, or a taverner to abate a
"And yet this day, or rather night, I could have, as I think, made a
conquest which baffled you."
"Indeed?" said the Colonel, becoming attentive.
"Why, look you," said Wildrake, "it was a main object with you to induce
Mistress Alice Lee--By Heaven, she is an exquisite creature--I approve
of your taste, Mark--I say, you desire to persuade her, and the stout
old Trojan her father, to consent to return to the Lodge, and live there
quietly, and under connivance, like gentlefolk, instead of lodging in a
hut hardly fit to harbour a Tom of Bedlam."
"Thou art right; such, indeed, was a great part of my object in this
visit," answered Everard.
"But perhaps you also expected to visit there yourself, and so keep
watch over pretty Mistress Lee--eh?"
"I never entertained so selfish a thought," said Everard; "and if this
nocturnal disturbance at the mansion were explained and ended, I would
instantly take my departure."
"Your friend Noll would expect something more from you," said Wildrake;
"he would expect, in case the knight's reputation for loyalty should
draw any of our poor exiles and wanderers about the Lodge, that you
should be on the watch and ready to snap them. In a word, as far as I
can understand his long-winded speeches, he would have Woodstock a trap,
your uncle and his pretty daughter the bait of toasted-cheese--craving
your Chloe's pardon for the comparison--you the spring-fall which should
bar their escape, his Lordship himself being the great grimalkin to whom
they are to be given over to be devoured."
"Dared Cromwell mention this to thee in express terms?" said Everard,
pulling up his horse, and stopping in the midst of the road.
"Nay, not in express terms, which I do not believe he ever used in his
life; you might as well expect a drunken man to go straight forward; but
he insinuated as much to me, and indicated that you might deserve well
of him--Gadzo, the damnable proposal sticks in my throat--by betraying
our noble and rightful King, (here he pulled off his hat,) whom God
grant in health and wealth long to reign, as the worthy clergyman says,
though I fear just now his Majesty is both sick and sorry, and never a
penny in his pouch to boot."
"This tallies with what Alice hinted," said Everard; "but how could she
know it? didst thou give her any hint of such a thing?"
"I!" replied the cavalier, "I, who never saw Mistress Alice in my life
till to-night, and then only for an instant--zooks, man, how is that
"True," replied Everard, and seemed lost in thought. At length he
spoke--"I should call Cromwell to account for his bad opinion of me;
for, even though not seriously expressed, but, as I am convinced it was,
with the sole view of proving you, and perhaps myself, it was,
nevertheless, a misconstruction to be resented."
"I'll carry a cartel for you, with all my heart and soul," said
Wildrake; "and turn out with his godliness's second, with as good will
as I ever drank a glass of sack."
"Pshaw," replied Everard, "those in his high place fight no single
combats. But tell me, Roger Wildrake, didst thou thyself think me
capable of the falsehood and treachery implied in such a message?"
"I!" exclaimed Wildrake. "Markham Everard, you have been my early
friend, my constant benefactor. When Colchester was reduced, you saved
me from the gallows, and since that thou hast twenty times saved me from
starving. But, by Heaven, if I thought you capable of such villany as
your General recommended,--by yonder blue sky, and all the works of
creation which it bends over, I would stab you with my own hand!"
"Death," replied Everard, "I should indeed deserve, but not from you,
perhaps; but fortunately, I cannot, if I would, be guilty of the
treachery you would punish. Know that I had this day secret notice, and
from Cromwell himself, that the young Man has escaped by sea from
"Now, God Almighty be blessed, who protected him through so many
dangers!" exclaimed Wildrake. "Huzza!--Up hearts, cavaliers!--Hey for
cavaliers!--God bless King Charles!--Moon and stars, catch my hat!"--and
he threw it up as high as he could into the air. The celestial bodies
which he invoked did not receive the present dispatched to them; but, as
in the case of Sir Henry Lee's scabbard, an old gnarled oak became a
second time the receptacle of a waif and stray of loyal enthusiasm.
Wildrake looked rather foolish at the circumstance, and his friend took
the opportunity of admonishing him.
"Art thou not ashamed to bear thee so like a schoolboy?"
"Why," said Wildrake, "I have but sent a Puritan's hat upon a loyal
errand. I laugh to think how many of the schoolboys thou talk'st of will
be cheated into climbing the pollard next year, expecting to find the
nest of some unknown bird in yonder unmeasured margin of felt."
"Hush now, for God's sake, and let us speak calmly," said Everard.
"Charles has escaped, and I am glad of it. I would willingly have seen
him on his father's throne by composition, but not by the force of the
Scottish army, and the incensed and vengeful royalists."
"Master Markham Everard," began the cavalier, interrupting him--"Nay,
hush, dear Wildrake," said Everard; "let us not dispute a point on which
we cannot agree, and give me leave to go on.--I say, since the young Man
has escaped, Cromwell's offensive and injurious stipulation falls to the
ground; and I see not why my uncle and his family should not again enter
their own house, under the same terms of connivance as many other
royalists. What may be incumbent on me is different, nor can I determine
my course until I have an interview with the General, which, as I think,
will end in his confessing that he threw in this offensive proposal to
sound us both. It is much in his manner; for he is blunt, and never sees
or feels the punctilious honour which the gallants of the day stretch to
"I'll acquit him of having any punctilio about him," said Wildrake,
"either touching honour or honesty. Now, to come back to where we
started. Supposing you were not to reside in person at the Lodge, and to
forbear even visiting there, unless on invitation, when such a thing can
be brought about, I tell you frankly, I think your uncle and his
daughter might be induced to come back to the Lodge, and reside there as
usual. At least the clergyman, that worthy old cock, gave me to hope as
"He had been hasty in bestowing his confidence," said Everard.
"True," replied Wildrake; "he confided in me at once; for he instantly
saw my regard for the Church. I thank Heaven I never passed a clergyman
in his canonicals without pulling my hat off--(and thou knowest, the
most desperate duel I ever fought was with young Grayless of the Inner
Temple, for taking the wall of the Reverend Dr. Bunce)--Ah, I can gain a
chaplain's ear instantly. Gadzooks, they know whom they have to trust to
in such a one as I."
"Dost thou think, then," said Colonel Everard, "or rather does this
clergyman think, that if they were secure of intrusion from me, the
family would return to the Lodge, supposing the intruding Commissioners
gone, and this nocturnal disturbance explained and ended?"
"The old Knight," answered Wildrake, "may be wrought upon by the Doctor
to return, if he is secure against intrusion. As for disturbances, the
stout old boy, so far as I can learn in two minutes' conversation,
laughs at all this turmoil as the work of mere imagination, the
consequence of the remorse of their own evil consciences; and says that
goblin or devil was never heard of at Woodstock, until it became the
residence of such men as they, who have now usurped the possession."
"There is more than imagination in it," said Everard. "I have personal
reason to know there is some conspiracy carrying on, to render the house
untenable by the Commissioners. I acquit my uncle of accession to such a
silly trick; but I must see it ended ere I can agree to his and my
cousin's residing where such a confederacy exists; for they are likely
to be considered as the contrivers of such pranks, be the actual agent
who he may."
"With reference to your better acquaintance with the gentleman, Everard,
I should rather suspect the old father of Puritans (I beg your pardon
again) has something to do with the business; and if so, Lucifer will
never look near the true old Knight's beard, nor abide a glance of
yonder maiden's innocent blue eyes. I will uphold them as safe as pure
gold in a miser's chest."
"Sawest thou aught thyself, which makes thee think thus?"
"Not a quill of the devil's pinion saw I," replied Wildrake. "He
supposes himself too secure of an old cavalier, who must steal, hang, or
drown, in the long run, so he gives himself no trouble to look after the
assured booty. But I heard the serving-fellows prate of what they had
seen and heard; and though their tales were confused enough, yet if
there was any truth among them at all, I should say the devil must have
been in the dance.--But, holla! here comes some one upon us.--Stand,
friend--who art thou?"
"A poor day-labourer in the great work of England--Joseph Tomkins by
name--Secretary to a godly and well-endowed leader in this poor
Christian army of England, called General Harrison."
"What news, Master Tomkins?" said Everard; "and why are you on the road
at this late hour?"
"I speak to the worthy Colonel Everard, as I judge?" said Tomkins; "and
truly I am glad of meeting your honour. Heaven knows, I need such
assistance as yours.--Oh, worthy Master Everard!--Here has been a
sounding of trumpets, and a breaking of vials, and a pouring forth,
"Prithee, tell me in brief, what is the matter--where is thy
master--and, in a word, what has happened?"
"My master is close by, parading it in the little meadow, beside the
hugeous oak, which is called by the name of the late Man; ride but two
steps forward, and you may see him walking swiftly to and fro, advancing
all the while the naked weapon."
Upon proceeding as directed, but with as little noise as possible, they
descried a man, whom of course they concluded must be Harrison, walking
to and fro beneath the King's oak, as a sentinel under arms, but with
more wildness of demeanour. The tramp of the horses did not escape his
ear; and they heard him call out, as if at the head of the brigade--
"Lower pikes against cavalry!--Here comes Prince Rupert--Stand fast, and
you shall turn them aside, as a bull would toss a cur-dog. Lower your
pikes still, my hearts, the end secured against your foot--down on your
right knee, front rank--spare not for the spoiling of your blue
aprons.--Ha--Zerobabel--ay, that is the word!"
"In the name of Heaven, about whom or what is he talking" said Everard;
"wherefore does he go about with his weapon drawn?"
"Truly, sir, when aught disturbs my master, General Harrison, he is
something rapt in the spirit, and conceives that he is commanding a
reserve of pikes at the great battle of Armageddon--and for his weapon,
alack, worthy sir, wherefore should he keep Sheffield steel in calves'
leather, when there are fiends to be combated--incarnate fiends on
earth, and raging infernal fiends under the earth?"
"This is intolerable," said Everard. "Listen to me, Tomkins. Thou art
not now in the pulpit, and I desire none of thy preaching language. I
know thou canst speak intelligibly when thou art so minded. Remember, I
may serve or harm thee; and as you hope or fear any thing on my part,
answer straight-forward--What has happened to drive out thy master to
the wild wood at this time of night?"
"Forsooth, worthy and honoured sir, I will speak with the precision I
may. True it is, and of verity, that the breath of man, which is in his
nostrils, goeth forth and returneth"--
"Hark you, sir," said Colonel Everard, "take care where you ramble in
your correspondence with me. You have heard how at the great battle of
Dunbar in Scotland, the General himself held a pistol to the head of
Lieutenant Hewcreed, threatening to shoot him through the brain if he
did not give up holding forth, and put his squadron in line to the
front. Take care, sir."
"Verily, the lieutenant then charged with an even and unbroken order,"
said Tomkins, "and bore a thousand plaids and bonnets over the beach
before him into the sea. Neither shall I pretermit or postpone your
honour's commands, but speedily obey them, and that without delay."
"Go to, fellow; thou knowest what I would have," said Everard; "speak at
once; I know thou canst if thou wilt. Trusty Tomkins is better known
than he thinks for."
"Worthy sir," said Tomkins, in a much less periphrastic style, "I will
obey your worship as far as the spirit will permit. Truly, it was not an
hour since, when my worshipful master being at table with Master Bibbet
and myself, not to mention the worshipful Master Bletson and Colonel
Desborough, and behold there was a violent knocking at the gate, as of
one in haste. Now, of a certainty, so much had our household been
harassed with witches and spirits, and other objects of sound and sight,
that the sentinels could not be brought to abide upon their posts
without doors, and it was only by a provision of beef and strong liquors
that we were able to maintain a guard of three men in the hall, who
nevertheless ventured not to open the door, lest they should be
surprised with some of the goblins wherewith their imaginations were
overwhelmed. And they heard the knocking, which increased until it
seemed that the door was well-nigh about to be beaten down. Worthy
Master Bibbet was a little overcome with liquor, (as is his fashion,
good man, about this time of the evening,) not that he is in the least
given to ebriety, but simply, that since the Scottish campaign he hath
had a perpetual ague, which obliges him so to nourish his frame against
the damps of the night; wherefore, as it is well known to your honour
that I discharge the office of a faithful servant, as well to
Major-General Harrison, and the other Commissioners, as to my just and
lawful master, Colonel Desborough"--
"I know all that.--And now that thou art trusted by both, I pray to
Heaven thou mayest merit the trust," said Colonel Everard.
"And devoutly do I pray," said Tomkins, "that your worshipful prayers
may be answered with favour; for certainly to be, and to be called and
entitled, Honest Joe, and Trusty Tomkins, is to me more than ever would
be an Earl's title, were such things to be granted anew in this
"Well, go on--go on--or if thou dalliest much longer, I will make bold
to dispute the article of your honesty. I like short tales, sir, and
doubt what is told with a long unnecessary train of words."
"Well, good sir, be not hasty. As I said before, the doors rattled till
you would have thought the knocking was reiterated in every room of the
Palace. The bell rung out for company, though we could not find that any
one tolled the clapper, and the guards let off their firelocks, merely
because they knew not what better to do. So, Master Bibbet being, as I
said, unsusceptible of his duty, I went down with my poor rapier to the
door, and demanded who was there; and I was answered in a voice, which,
I must say, was much like another voice, that it was one wanting
Major-General Harrison. So, as it was then late, I answered mildly, that
General Harrison was betaking himself to his rest, and that any who
wished to speak to him must return on the morrow morning, for that after
nightfall the door of the Palace, being in the room of a garrison, would
be opened to no one. So, the voice replied, and bid me open directly,
without which he would blow the folding leaves of the door into the
middle of the hall. And therewithal the noise recommenced, that we
thought the house would have fallen; and I was in some measure
constrained to open the door, even like a besieged garrison which can
hold out no longer."
"By my honour, and it was stoutly done of you, I must say," said
Wildrake,--who had been listening with much interest. "I am a bold
dare-devil enough, yet when I had two inches of oak plank between the
actual fiend and me, hang him that would demolish the barrier between
us, say I--I would as soon, when aboard, bore a hole in the ship, and
let in the waves; for you know we always compare the devil to the deep
"Prithee, peace, Wildrake," said Everard, "and let him go on with his
history.--Well, and what saw'st thou when the door was opened?--the
great Devil with his horns and claws thou wilt say, no doubt."
"No, sir, I will say nothing but what is true. When I undid the door,
one man stood there, and he, to seeming, a man of no extraordinary
appearance. He was wrapped in a taffeta cloak of a scarlet colour, and
with a red lining. He seemed as if he might have been in his time a very
handsome man, but there was something of paleness and sorrow in his
face--a long love-lock and long hair he wore, even after the abomination
of the cavaliers, and the unloveliness, as learned Master Prynne well
termed it, of love-locks--a jewel in his ear--a blue scarf over his
shoulder, like a military commander for the King, and a hat with a white
plume, bearing a peculiar hatband."
"Some unhappy officer of cavaliers, of whom so many are in hiding, and
seeking shelter through the country," briefly replied Everard.
"True, worthy sir--right as a judicious exposition. But there was
something about this man (if he was a man) whom I, for one, could not
look upon without trembling; nor the musketeers,--who were in the hall,
without betraying much alarm, and swallowing, as they will themselves
aver, the very bullets--which they had in their mouths for loading their
carabines and muskets. Nay, the wolf and deer-dogs, that are the
fiercest of their kind, fled from this visitor, and crept into holes and
corners, moaning and wailing in a low and broken tone. He came into the
middle of the hall, and still he seemed no more than an ordinary man,
only somewhat fantastically dressed, in a doublet of black velvet pinked
upon scarlet satin under his cloak, a jewel in his ear, with large roses
in his shoes, and a kerchief in his hand, which he sometimes pressed
against his left side."
"Gracious Heavens!" said Wildrake, coming close up to Everard, and
whispering in his ear, with accents which terror rendered tremulous, (a
mood of mind most unusual to the daring man, who seemed now overcome by
it)--"it must have been poor Dick Robison the player, in the very dress
in which I have seen him play Philaster--ay, and drunk a jolly bottle
with him after it at the Mermaid! I remember how many frolics we had
together, and all his little fantastic fashions. He served for his old
master, Charles, in Mohun's troop, and was murdered by this butcher's
dog, as I have heard, after surrender, at the battle of Naseby-field."
"Hush! I have heard of the deed," said Everard; "for God's sake hear the
man to an end.--Did this visitor speak to thee, my friend?"
"Yes, sir, in a pleasing tone of voice, but somewhat fanciful in the
articulation, and like one who is speaking to an audience as from a bar
or a pulpit, more than in the voice of ordinary men on ordinary matters.
He desired to see Major-General Harrison."
"He did!--and you," said Everard, infected by the spirit of the time,
which, as is well known, leaned to credulity upon all matters of
supernatural agency,--"what did you do?"
"I went up to the parlour, and related that such a person enquired for
him. He started when I told him, and eagerly desired to know the man's
dress; but no sooner did I mention his dress, and the jewel in his ear,
than he said, 'Begone! tell him I will not admit him to speech of me.
Say that I defy him, and will make my defiance good at the great battle
in the valley of Armageddon, when the voice of the angel shall call all
fowls which fly under the face of heaven to feed on the flesh of the
captain and the soldier, the warhorse and his rider. Say to the Evil
One, I have power to appeal our conflict even till that day, and that in
the front of that fearful day he will again meet with Harrison.' I went
back with this answer to the stranger, and his face was writhed into
such a deadly frown as a mere human brow hath seldom worn. 'Return to
him,' he said, 'and say it is MY HOUR, and that if he come not instantly
down to speak with me, I will mount the stairs to him. Say that I
COMMAND him to descend, by the token, that, on the field of Naseby, _he
did not the work negligently_.'"
"I have heard," whispered Wildrake--who felt more and more strongly the
contagion of superstition--"that these words were blasphemously used by
Harrison when he shot my poor friend Dick."
"What happened next?" said Everard. "See that thou speakest the truth."
"As gospel unexpounded by a steeple-man," said the Independent; "yet
truly it is but little I have to say. I saw my master come down, with a
blank, yet resolved air; and when he entered the hall and saw the
stranger, he made a pause. The other waved on him as if to follow, and
walked out at the portal. My worthy patron seemed as if he were about to
follow, yet again paused, when this visitant, be he man or fiend,
re-entered, and said, 'Obey thy doom.
'By pathless march by greenwood tree,
It is thy weird to follow me--
To follow me through the ghastly moonlight--
To follow me through the shadows of night--
To follow me, comrade, still art thou bound;
I conjure thee by the unstaunch'd wound--
I conjure thee by the last words I spoke
When the body slept and the spirit awoke,
In the very last pangs of the deadly stroke.'
"So saying, he stalked out, and my master followed him into the wood.--I
followed also at a distance. But when I came up, my master was alone,
and bearing himself as you now behold him."
"Thou hast had a wonderful memory, friend," said the Colonel, coldly,
"to remember these rhymes in a single recitation--there seems something
of practice in all this."
"A single recitation, my honoured sir?" exclaimed the Independent--
"alack, the rhyme is seldom out of my poor master's mouth, when, as
sometimes haps, he is less triumphant in his wrestles with Satan. But it
was the first time I ever heard it uttered by another; and, to say
truth, he ever seems to repeat it unwillingly, as a child after his
pedagogue, and as it was not indited by his own head, as the Psalmist
"It is singular," said Everard;--"I have heard and read that the spirits
of the slaughtered have strange power over the slayer; but I am
astonished to have it insisted upon that there may be truth in such
tales. Roger Wildrake--what art thou afraid of, man?--why dost thou
shift thy place thus?"
"Fear? it is not fear--it is hate, deadly hate.--I see the murderer of
poor Dick before me, and--see, he throws himself into a posture of
fence--Sa--sa--say'st thou, brood of a butcher's mastiff? thou shalt not
want an antagonist."
Ere any one could stop him, Wildrake threw aside his cloak, drew his
sword, and almost with a single bound cleared the distance betwixt him
and Harrison, and crossed swords with the latter, as he stood
brandishing his weapon, as if in immediate expectation of an assailant.
Accordingly, the Republican General was not for an instant taken at
unawares, but the moment the swords clashed, he shouted, "Ha! I feel
thee now, thou hast come in body at last.--Welcome! welcome!--the sword