Part 5 out of 11
of the Lord and of Gideon!"
"Part them, part them!" cried Everard, as he and Tomkins, at first
astonished at the suddenness of the affray, hastened to interfere.
Everard, seizing on the cavalier, drew him forcibly backwards, and
Tomkins contrived, with risk and difficulty, to master Harrison's sword,
while the General exclaimed, "Ha! two to one--two to one!--thus fight
demons." Wildrake, on his side, swore a dreadful oath, and added,
"Markham, you have cancelled every obligation I owed you--they are all
out of sight--gone, d--n me!"
"You have indeed acquitted these obligations rarely," said Everard, "Who
knows how this affair shall be explained and answered?"
"I will answer it with my life," said Wildrake.
"Good now, be silent," said Tomkins, "and let me manage. It shall be so
ordered that the good General shall never know that he hath encountered
with a mortal man; only let that man of Moab put his sword into the
scabbard's rest, and be still."
"Wildrake, let me entreat thee to sheathe thy sword," said Everard,
"else, on my life, thou must turn it against me."
"No, 'fore George, not so mad as that neither, but I'll have another day
"Thou, another day!" exclaimed Harrison, whose eye had still remained
fixed on the spot where he found such palpable resistance. "Yes, I know
thee well; day by day, week by week, thou makest the same idle request,
for thou knowest that my heart quivers at thy voice. But my hand
trembles not when opposed to thine--the spirit is willing to the combat,
if the flesh be weak when opposed to that which is not of the flesh."
"Now, peace all, for Heaven's sake,"--said the steward Tomkins; then
added, addressing his master, "there is no one here, if it please your
Excellency, but Tomkins and the worthy Colonel Everard."
General Harrison, as sometimes happens in cases of partial insanity,
(that is, supposing his to have been a case of mental delusion,) though
firmly and entirely persuaded of the truth of his own visions, yet was
not willing to speak on the subject to those who, he knew, would regard
them as imaginary. Upon this occasion, he assumed the appearance of
perfect ease and composure, after the violent agitation he had just
manifested, in a manner which showed how anxious he was to disguise his
real feelings from Everard, whom he considered so unlikely to
participate in them.
He saluted the Colonel with profound ceremony, and talked of the
fineness of the evening, which had summoned him forth of the Lodge, to
take a turn in the Park, and enjoy the favourable weather. He then took
Everard by the arm, and walked back with him towards the Lodge, Wildrake
and Tomkins following close behind and leading the horses. Everard,
desirous to gain some light on these mysterious incidents, endeavoured
to come on the subject more than once, by a mode of interrogation, which
Harrison (for madmen are very often unwilling to enter on the subject of
their mental delusion) parried with some skill, or addressed himself for
aid to his steward Tomkins, who was in the habit of being voucher for
his master upon all occasions, which led to Desborough's ingenious
nickname of Fibbet.
"And wherefore had you your sword drawn, my worthy General," said
Everard, "when you were only on an evening walk of pleasure?"
"Truly, excellent Colonel, these are times when men must watch with
their loins girded, and their lights burning, and their weapons drawn.
The day draweth nigh, believe me or not as you will, that men must watch
lest they be found naked and unarmed, when the seven trumpets shall
sound, Boot and saddle; and the pipes of Jezer shall strike up, Horse
"True, good General; but methought I saw you making passes, even now, as
if you were fighting," said Everard.
"I am of a strange fantasy, friend Everard," answered Harrison; "and
when I walk alone, and happen, as but now, to have my weapon drawn, I
sometimes, for exercise' sake, will practise a thrust against such a
tree as that. It is a silly pride men have in the use of weapons. I have
been accounted a master of fence, and have fought for prizes when I was
unregenerated, and before I was called to do my part in the great work,
entering as a trooper into our victorious General's first regiment of
"But methought," said Everard, "I heard a weapon clash with yours?"
"How? a weapon clash with my sword?--How could that be, Tomkins?"
"Truly, sir," said Tomkins, "it must have been a bough of the tree; they
have them of all kinds here, and your honour may have pushed against one
of them, which the Brazilians call iron-wood, a block of which, being
struck with a hammer, saith Purchas in his Pilgrimage, ringeth like an
"Truly, it may be so," said Harrison; "for those rulers who are gone,
assembled in this their abode of pleasure many strange trees and plants,
though they gathered not of the fruit of that tree which beareth twelve
manner of fruits, or of those leaves which are for the healing of the
Everard pursued his investigation; for he was struck with the manner in
which Harrison evaded his questions, and the dexterity with which he
threw his transcendental and fanatical notions, like a sort of veil,
over the darker visions excited by remorse and conscious guilt.
"But," said he, "if I may trust my eyes and ears, I cannot but still
think that you had a real antagonist.--Nay, I am sure I saw a fellow, in
a dark-coloured jerkin, retreat through the wood."
"Did you?" said Harrison, with a tone of surprise, while his voice
faltered in spite of him--"Who could he be?--Tomkins, did you see the
fellow Colonel Everard talks of with the napkin in his hand--the bloody
napkin which he always pressed to his side?"
This last expression, in which Harrison gave a mark different from that
which Everard had assigned, but corresponding to Tomkins's original
description of the supposed spectre, had more effect on Everard in
confirming the steward's story, than anything he had witnessed or heard.
The voucher answered the draft upon him as promptly as usual, that he
had seen such a fellow glide past them into the thicket--that he dared
to say he was some deer-stealer, for he had heard they were become very
"Look ye there now, Master Everard," said Harrison, hurrying from the
subject--"Is it not time now that we should lay aside our controversies,
and join hand in hand to repairing the breaches of our Zion? Happy and
contented were I, my excellent friend, to be a treader of mortar, or a
bearer of a hod, upon this occasion, under our great leader, with whom
Providence has gone forth in this great national controversy; and truly,
so devoutly do I hold by our excellent and victorious General Oliver,
whom Heaven long preserve--that were he to command me, I should not
scruple to pluck forth of his high place the man whom they call speaker,
even as I lent a poor hand to pluck down the man whom they called
King.--Wherefore, as I know your judgment holdeth with mine on this
matter, let me urge unto you lovingly, that we may act as brethren, and
build up the breaches, and re-establish the bulwarks of our English
Zion, whereby we shall be doubtless chosen as pillars and buttresses,
under our excellent Lord-General, for supporting and sustaining the
same, and endowed with proper revenues and incomes, both spiritual and
temporal, to serve as a pedestal, on which we may stand, seeing that
otherwise our foundation will be on the loose sand.--Nevertheless,"
continued he, his mind again diverging from his views of temporal
ambition into his visions of the Fifth Monarchy, "these things are but
vanity in respect of the opening of the book which is sealed; for all
things approach speedily towards lightning and thundering, and unloosing
of the great dragon from the bottomless pit, wherein he is chained."
With this mingled strain of earthly politics, and fanatical prediction,
Harrison so overpowered Colonel Everard, as to leave him no time to urge
him farther on the particular circumstances of his nocturnal skirmish,
concerning which it is plain he had no desire to be interrogated. They
now reached the Lodge of Woodstock.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH.
Now the wasted brands do glow,
While the screech-owl, sounding loud,
Puts the wretch that lies in woe,
In remembrance of a shroud.
Now it is the time of night
That the graves, all gaping wide,
Every one lets out its sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide.
MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
Before the gate of the palace the guards were now doubled. Everard
demanded the reason of this from the corporal, whom he found in the hall
with his soldiers, sitting or sleeping around a great fire, maintained
at the expense of the carved chairs and benches with fragments of which
it was furnished.
"Why, verily," answered the man, "the _corps-de-garde_, as your worship
says, will be harassed to pieces by such duty; nevertheless, fear hath
gone abroad among us, and no man will mount guard alone. We have drawn
in, however, one or two of our outposts from Banbury and elsewhere, and
we are to have a relief from Oxford to-morrow."
Everard continued minute enquiries concerning the sentinels that were
posted within as well as without the Lodge; and found that, as they had
been stationed under the eye of Harrison himself, the rules of prudent
discipline had been exactly observed in the distribution of the posts.
There remained nothing therefore for Colonel Everard to do, but,
remembering his own adventure of the evening, to recommend that an
additional sentinel should be placed, with a companion, if judged
indispensable, in that vestibule, or ante-room, from which the long
gallery where he had met with the rencontre, and other suites of
apartments, diverged. The corporal respectfully promised all obedience
to his orders. The serving-men being called, appeared also in double
force. Everard demanded to know whether the Commissioners had gone to
bed, or whether he could get speech with them? "They are in their
bedroom, forsooth," replied one of the fellows; "but I think they be not
"What!" said Everard, "are Colonel Desborough and Master Bletson both in
the same sleeping apartment?"
"Their honours have so chosen it," said the man; "and their honours'
secretaries remain upon guard all night."
"It is the fashion to double guards all over the house," said Wildrake.
"Had I a glimpse of a tolerably good-looking house-maid now, I should
know how to fall into the fashion."
"Peace, fool!" said Everard.--"And where are the Mayor and Master
"The Mayor is returned to the borough on horseback, behind the trooper,
who goes to Oxford for the reinforcement; and the man of the
steeple-house hath quartered himself in the chamber which Colonel
Desborough had last night, being that in which he is most likely to meet
the--your honour understands. The Lord pity us, we are a harassed
"And where be General Harrison's knaves," said Tomkins, "that they do
not marshal him to his apartment?"
"Here--here--here, Master Tomkins," said three fellows, pressing
forward, with the same consternation on their faces which seemed to
pervade the whole inhabitants of Woodstock.
"Away with you, then," said Tomkins;--"speak not to his worship--you see
he is not in the humour."
"Indeed," observed Colonel Everard, "he looks singularly wan--his
features seem writhen as by a palsy stroke; and though he was talking so
fast while we came along, he hath not opened his mouth since we came to
"It is his manner after such visitations," said Tomkins.--"Give his
honour your arms, Zedekiah and Jonathan, to lead him off--I will follow
instantly.--You, Nicodemus, tarry to wait upon me--it is not well
walking alone in this mansion."
"Master Tomkins," said Everard, "I have heard of you often as a sharp,
intelligent man--tell me fairly, are you in earnest afraid of any thing
supernatural haunting this house?"
"I would be loth to run the chance, sir," said Tomkins very gravely; "by
looking on my worshipful master, you may form a guess how the living
look after they have spoken with the dead." He bowed low, and took his
leave. Everard proceeded to the chamber which the two remaining
Commissioners had, for comfort's sake, chosen to inhabit in company.
They were preparing for bed as he went into their apartment. Both
started as the door opened--both rejoiced when they saw it was only
Everard who entered.
"Hark ye hither," said Bletson, pulling him aside, "sawest thou ever ass
equal to Desborough?--the fellow is as big as an ox, and as timorous as
a sheep. He has insisted on my sleeping here, to protect him. Shall we
have a merry night on't, ha? We will, if thou wilt take the third bed,
which was prepared for Harrison; but he is gone out, like a mooncalf, to
look for the valley of Armageddon in the Park of Woodstock."
"General Harrison has returned with me but now," said Everard.
"Nay but, as I shall live, he comes not into our apartment," said
Desborough, overhearing his answer. "No man that has been supping, for
aught I know, with the Devil, has a right to sleep among Christian
"He does not propose so," said Everard; "he sleeps, as I understand,
"Not quite alone, I dare say," said Desborough; "for Harrison hath a
sort of attraction for goblins--they fly round him like moths about a
candle:--But, I prithee, good Everard, do thou stay with us. I know not
how it is, but although thou hast not thy religion always in thy mouth,
nor speakest many hard words about it, like Harrison--nor makest long
preachments, like a certain most honourable relation of mine who shall
be nameless, yet somehow I feel myself safer in thy company than with
any of them. As for this Bletson, he is such a mere blasphemer, that I
fear the Devil will carry him away ere morning."
"Did you ever hear such a paltry coward?" said Bletson, apart to
Everard. "Do tarry, however, mine honoured Colonel--I know your zeal to
assist the distressed, and you see Desborough is in that predicament,
that he will require near him more than one example to prevent him
thinking of ghosts and fiends."
"I am sorry I cannot oblige you, gentlemen," said Everard; "but I have
settled my mind to sleep in Victor Lee's apartment, so I wish you good
night; and, if you would repose without disturbance, I would advise that
you commend yourselves, during the watches of the night, to Him unto
whom night is even as mid-day. I had intended to have spoke with you
this evening on the subject of my being here; but I will defer the
conference till to-morrow, when, I think, I will be able to show you
excellent reasons for leaving Woodstock."
"We have seen plenty such already," said Desborough; "for one, I came
here to serve the estate, with some moderate advantage to myself for my
trouble; but if I am set upon my head again to-night, as I was the night
before, I would not stay longer to gain a king's crown; for I am sure my
neck would be unfitted to bear the weight of it."
"Good night," exclaimed Everard; and was about to go, when Bletson again
pressed close, and whispered to him, "Hark thee, Colonel--you know my
friendship for thee--I do implore thee to leave the door of thy
apartment open, that if thou meetest with any disturbance, I may hear
thee call, and be with thee upon the very instant. Do this, dear
Everard, my fears for thee will keep me awake else; for I know that,
notwithstanding your excellent sense, you entertain some of those
superstitious ideas which we suck in with our mother's milk, and which
constitute the ground of our fears in situations like the present;
therefore leave thy door open, if you love me, that you may have ready
assistance from me in case of need."
"My master," said Wildrake, "trusts, first, in his Bible, sir, and then
in his good sword. He has no idea that the Devil can be baffled by the
charm of two men lying in one room, still less that the foul fiend can
be argued out of existence by the Nullifidians of the Rota."
Everard seized his imprudent friend by the collar, and dragged him off
as he was speaking, keeping fast hold of him till they were both in the
chamber of Victor Lee, where they had slept on a former occasion. Even
then he continued to hold Wildrake, until the servant had arranged the
lights, and was dismissed from the room; then letting him go, addressed
him with the upbraiding question, "Art thou not a prudent and sagacious
person, who in times like these seek'st every opportunity to argue
yourself into a broil, or embroil yourself in an argument? Out on you!"
"Ay, out on me indeed," said the cavalier; "out on me for a poor
tame-spirited creature, that submits to be bandied about in this manner,
by a man who is neither better born nor better bred than myself. I tell
thee, Mark, you make an unfair use of your advantages over me. Why will
you not let me go from you, and live and die after my own fashion?"
"Because, before we had been a week separate, I should hear of your
dying after the fashion of a dog. Come, my good friend, what madness was
it in thee to fall foul on Harrison, and then to enter into useless
argument with Bletson?"
"Why, we are in the Devil's house, I think, and I would willingly give
the landlord his due wherever I travel. To have sent him Harrison, or
Bletson now, just as a lunch to stop his appetite, till Crom"--
"Hush! stone walls have ears," said Everard, looking around him. "Here
stands thy night-drink. Look to thy arms, for we must be as careful as
if the Avenger of Blood were behind us. Yonder is thy bed--and I, as
thou seest, have one prepared in the parlour. The door only divides us."
"Which I will leave open, in case thou shouldst holla for assistance, as
yonder Nullifidian hath it--But how hast thou got all this so well put
in order, good patron?"
"I gave the steward Tomkins notice of my purpose to sleep here."
"A strange fellow that," said Wildrake, "and, as I judge, has taken
measure of every one's foot--all seems to pass through his hands."
"He is, I have understood," replied Everard, "one of the men formed by
the times--has a ready gift of preaching and expounding, which keeps him
in high terms with the Independents; and recommends himself to the more
moderate people by his intelligence and activity."
"Has his sincerity ever been doubted?" said Wildrake.
"Never, that I heard of," said the Colonel; "on the contrary, he has
been familiarly called Honest Joe, and Trusty Tomkins. For my part, I
believe his sincerity has always kept pace with his interest.--But come,
finish thy cup, and to bed.--What, all emptied at one draught!"
"Adszookers, yes--my vow forbids me to make two on't; but, never
fear--the nightcap will only warm my brain, not clog it. So, man or
devil, give me notice if you are disturbed, and rely on me in a
twinkling." So saying, the cavalier retreated into his separate
apartment, and Colonel Everard, taking off the most cumbrous part of his
dress, lay down in his hose and doublet, and composed himself to rest.
He was awakened from sleep by a slow and solemn strain of music, which
died away as at a distance. He started up, and felt for his arms, which
he found close beside him. His temporary bed being without curtains, he
could look around him without difficulty; but as there remained in the
chimney only a few red embers of the fire which he had arranged before
he went to sleep, it was impossible he could discern any thing. He felt,
therefore, in spite of his natural courage, that undefined and thrilling
species of tremor which attends a sense that danger is near, and an
uncertainty concerning its cause and character. Reluctant as he was to
yield belief to supernatural occurrences, we have already said he was
not absolutely incredulous; as perhaps, even in this more sceptical age,
there are many fewer complete and absolute infidels on this particular
than give themselves out for such. Uncertain whether he had not dreamed
of these sounds which seemed yet in his ears, he was unwilling to risk
the raillery of his friend by summoning him to his assistance. He sat
up, therefore, in his bed, not without experiencing that nervous
agitation to which brave men as well as cowards are subject; with this
difference, that the one sinks under it, like the vine under the
hailstorm, and the other collects his energies to shake it off, as the
cedar of Lebanon is said to elevate its boughs to disperse the snow
which accumulates upon them.
The story of Harrison, in his own absolute despite, and notwithstanding
a secret suspicion which he had of trick or connivance, returned on his
mind at this dead and solitary hour. Harrison, he remembered, had
described the vision by a circumstance of its appearance different from
that which his own remark had been calculated to suggest to the mind of
the visionary;--that bloody napkin, always pressed to the side, was then
a circumstance present either to his bodily eye, or to that of his
agitated imagination. Did, then, the murdered revisit the living haunts
of those who had forced them from the stage with all their sins
unaccounted for? And if they did, might not the same permission
authorise other visitations of a similar nature, to warn--to instruct--
to punish? Rash are they, was his conclusion, and credulous, who receive
as truth every tale of the kind; but no less rash may it be, to limit
the power of the Creator over the works which he has made, and to
suppose that, by the permission of the Author of Nature, the laws of
Nature may not, in peculiar cases, and for high purposes, be temporarily
While these thoughts passed through Everard's mind, feelings unknown to
him, even when he stood first on the rough and perilous edge of battle,
gained ground upon him. He feared he knew not what; and where an open
and discernible peril would have drawn out his courage, the absolute
uncertainty of his situation increased his sense of the danger. He felt
an almost irresistible desire to spring from his bed and heap fuel on
the dying embers, expecting by the blaze to see some strange sight in
his chamber. He was also strongly tempted to awaken Wildrake; but shame,
stronger than fear itself, checked these impulses. What! should it be
thought that Markham Everard, held one of the best soldiers who had
drawn a sword in this sad war--Markham Everard, who had obtained such
distinguished rank in the army of the Parliament, though so young in
years, was afraid of remaining by himself in a twilight-room at
midnight? It never should be said.
This was, however, no charm for his unpleasant current of thought. There
rushed on his mind the various traditions of Victor Lee's chamber,
which, though he had often despised them as vague, unauthenticated, and
inconsistent rumours, engendered by ancient superstition, and
transmitted from generation to generation by loquacious credulity, had
something in them, which, did not tend to allay the present unpleasant
state of his nerves. Then, when he recollected the events of that very
afternoon, the weapon pressed against his throat, and the strong arm
which threw him backward on the floor--if the remembrance served to
contradict the idea of flitting phantoms, and unreal daggers, it
certainly induced him to believe, that there was in some part of this
extensive mansion a party of cavaliers, or malignants, harboured, who
might arise in the night, overpower the guards, and execute upon them
all, but on Harrison in particular, as one of the regicide judges, that
vengeance, which was so eagerly thirsted for by the attached followers
of the slaughtered monarch.
He endeavoured to console himself on this subject by the number and
position of the guards, yet still was dissatisfied with himself for not
having taken yet more exact precautions, and for keeping an extorted
promise of silence, which might consign so many of his party to the
danger of assassination. These thoughts, connected with his military
duties, awakened another train of reflections. He bethought himself,
that all he could now do, was to visit the sentries, and ascertain that
they were awake, alert, on the watch, and so situated, that in time of
need they might be ready to support each other.--"This better befits
me," he thought, "than to be here like a child, frightening myself with
the old woman's legend, which I have laughed at when a boy. What
although old Victor Lee was a sacrilegious man, as common report goes,
and brewed ale in the font which he brought from the ancient palace of
Holyrood, while church and building were in flames? And what although
his eldest son was when a child scalded to death in the same vessel? How
many churches have been demolished since his time? How many fonts
desecrated? So many indeed, that were the vengeance of Heaven to visit
such aggressions in a supernatural manner, no corner in England, no, not
the most petty parish church, but would have its apparition.--Tush,
these are idle fancies, unworthy, especially, to be entertained by those
educated to believe that sanctity resides in the intention and the act,
not in the buildings or fonts, or the form of worship."
As thus he called together the articles of his Calvinistic creed, the
bell of the great clock (a token seldom silent in such narratives)
tolled three, and was immediately followed by the hoarse call of the
sentinels through vault and gallery, up stairs and beneath, challenging
and answering each other with the usual watch-word, All's Well. Their
voices mingled with the deep boom of the bell, yet ceased before that
was silent, and when they had died away, the tingling echo of the
prolonged knell was scarcely audible. Ere yet that last distant tingling
had finally subsided into silence, it seemed as if it again was
awakened; and Everard could hardly judge at first whether a new echo had
taken up the falling cadence, or whether some other and separate sound
was disturbing anew the silence to which the deep knell had, as its
voice ceased, consigned the ancient mansion and the woods around it.
But the doubt was soon cleared up. The musical tones which had mingled
with the dying echoes of the knell, seemed at first to prolong, and
afterwards to survive them. A wild strain of melody, beginning at a
distance, and growing louder as it advanced, seemed to pass from room to
room, from cabinet to gallery, from hall to bower, through the deserted
and dishonoured ruins of the ancient residence of so many sovereigns;
and, as it approached, no soldier gave alarm, nor did any of the
numerous guests of various degrees, who spent an unpleasant and
terrified night in that ancient mansion, seem to dare to announce to
each other the inexplicable cause of apprehension.
Everard's excited state of mind did not permit him to be so passive. The
sounds approached so nigh, that it seemed they were performing, in the
very next apartment, a solemn service for the dead, when he gave the
alarm, by calling loudly to his trusty attendant and friend Wildrake,
who slumbered in the next chamber with only a door betwixt them, and
even that ajar. "Wildrake--Wildrake!--Up--Up! Dost thou not hear the
alarm?" There was no answer from Wildrake, though the musical sounds,
which now rung through the apartment, as if the performers had actually
been, within its precincts, would have been sufficient to awaken a
sleeping person, even without the shout of his comrade and patron.
"Alarm!--Roger Wildrake--alarm!" again called Everard, getting out of
bed and grasping his weapons--"Get a light, and cry alarm!" There was no
answer. His voice died away as the sound of the music seemed also to
die; and the same soft sweet voice, which still to his thinking
resembled that of Alice Lee, was heard in his apartment, and, as he
thought, at no distance from him.
"Your comrade will not answer," said the low soft voice. "Those only
hear the alarm whose consciences feel the call!"
"Again this mummery!" said Everard. "I am better armed than I was of
late; and but for the sound of that voice, the speaker had bought his
It was singular, we may observe in passing, that the instant the
distinct sounds of the human voice were heard by Everard, all idea of
supernatural interference was at an end, and the charm by which he had
been formerly fettered appeared to be broken; so much is the influence
of imaginary or superstitious terror dependent (so far as respects
strong judgments at least) upon what is vague or ambiguous; and so
readily do distinct tones, and express ideas, bring such judgments back
to the current of ordinary life. The voice returned answer, as
addressing his thoughts as well as his words.
"We laugh at the weapons thou thinkest should terrify us--Over the
guardians of Woodstock they have no power. Fire, if thou wilt, and try
the effect of thy weapons. But know, it is not our purpose to harm
thee--thou art of a falcon breed, and noble in thy disposition, though,
unreclaimed and ill-nurtured, thou hauntest with kites and carrion
crows. Wing thy flight from hence on the morrow, for if thou tarriest
with the bats, owls, vultures and ravens, which have thought to nestle
here, thou wilt inevitably share their fate. Away then, that these halls
may be swept and garnished for the reception of those who have a better
right to inhabit them."
Everard answered in a raised voice.--"Once more I warn you, think not to
defy me in vain. I am no child to be frightened by goblins' tales; and
no coward, armed as I am, to be alarmed at the threats of banditti. If I
give you a moment's indulgence, it is for the sake of dear and misguided
friends, who may be concerned with this dangerous gambol. Know, I can
bring a troop of soldiers round the castle, who will search its most
inward recesses for the author of this audacious frolic; and if that
search should fail, it will cost but a few barrels of gunpowder to make
the mansion a heap of ruins, and bury under them the authors of such an
"You speak proudly, Sir Colonel," said another voice, similar to that
harsher and stronger tone by which he had been addressed in the gallery;
"try your courage in this direction."
"You should not dare me twice," said Colonel Everard, "had I a glimpse
of light to take aim by."
As he spoke, a sudden gleam of light was thrown with a brilliancy which
almost dazzled the speaker, showing distinctly a form somewhat
resembling that of Victor Lee, as represented in his picture, holding in
one hand a lady completely veiled, and in the other his leading-staff,
or truncheon. Both figures were animated, and, as it appeared, standing
within six feet of him.
"Were it not for the woman," said Everard, "I would not be thus mortally
"Spare not for the female form, but do your worst," replied the same
voice. "I defy you."
"Repeat your defiance when I have counted thrice," said Everard, "and
take the punishment of your insolence. Once--I have cocked my pistol--
Twice--I never missed my aim--By all that is sacred, I fire if you do
not withdraw. When I pronounce the next number, I will shoot you dead
where you stand. I am yet unwilling to shed blood--I give you another
chance of flight--once--twice--THRICE!"
Everard aimed at the bosom, and discharged his pistol. The figure waved
its arm in an attitude of scorn; and a loud laugh arose, during which
the light, as gradually growing weaker, danced and glimmered upon the
apparition of the aged knight, and then disappeared. Everard's
life-blood ran cold to his heart--"Had he been of human mould," he
thought, "the bullet must have pierced him--but I have neither will nor
power to fight with supernatural beings."
The feeling of oppression was now so strong as to be actually sickening.
He groped his way, however, to the fireside, and flung on the embers
which were yet gleaming, a handful of dry fuel. It presently blazed, and
afforded him light to see the room in every direction. He looked
cautiously, almost timidly, around, and half expected some horrible
phantom to become visible. But he saw nothing save the old furniture,
the reading desk, and other articles, which had been left in the same
state as when Sir Henry Lee departed. He felt an uncontrollable desire,
mingled with much repugnance, to look at the portrait of the ancient
knight, which the form he had seen so strongly resembled. He hesitated
betwixt the opposing feelings, but at length snatched, with desperate
resolution, the taper which he had extinguished, and relighted it, ere
the blaze of the fuel had again died away. He held it up to the ancient
portrait of Victor Lee, and gazed on it with eager curiosity, not
unmingled with fear. Almost the childish terrors of his earlier days
returned, and he thought the severe pale eye of the ancient warrior
followed his, and menaced him with its displeasure. And although he
quickly argued himself out of such an absurd belief, yet the mixed
feelings of his mind were expressed in words that seemed half addressed
to the ancient portrait.
"Soul of my mother's ancestor," he said, "be it for weal or for woe, by
designing men, or by supernatural beings, that these ancient halls are
disturbed, I am resolved to leave them on the morrow."
"I rejoice to hear it, with all my soul," said a voice behind him.
He turned, saw a tall figure in white, with a sort of turban upon its
head, and dropping the candle in the exertion, instantly grappled with
"_Thou_ at least art palpable," he said.
"Palpable?" answered he whom he grasped so strongly--"'Sdeath, methinks
you might know that--without the risk of choking me; and if you loose me
not, I'll show you that two can play at the game of wrestling."
"Roger Wildrake!" said Everard, letting the cavalier loose, and stepping
"Roger Wildrake? ay, truly. Did you take me for Roger Bacon, come to
help you raise the devil?--for the place smells of sulphur consumedly."
"It is the pistol I fired--Did you not hear it?"
"Why, yes, it was the first thing waked me--for that nightcap which I
pulled on, made me sleep like a dormouse--Pshaw, I feel my brains giddy
with it yet."
"And wherefore came you not on the instant?--I never needed help more."
"I came as fast as I could," answered Wildrake; "but it was some time
ere I got my senses collected, for I was dreaming of that cursed field
at Naseby--and then the door of my room was shut, and hard to open, till
I played the locksmith with my foot."
"How! it was open when I went to bed," said Everard.
"It was locked when I came out of bed, though," said Wildrake, "and I
marvel you heard me not when I forced it open."
"My mind was occupied otherwise," said Everard.
"Well," said Wildrake, "but what has happened?--Here am I bolt upright,
and ready to fight, if this yawning fit will give me leave--Mother
Redcap's mightiest is weaker than I drank last night, by a bushel to a
barleycorn--I have quaffed the very elixir of malt--Ha--yaw."
"And some opiate besides, I should think," said Everard.
"Very like--very like--less than the pistol-shot would not waken me;
even me, who with but an ordinary grace-cup, sleep as lightly as a
maiden on the first of May, when she watches for the earliest beam to go
to gather dew. But what are you about to do next?"
"Nothing," answered Everard.
"Nothing?" said Wildrake, in surprise.
"I speak it," said Colonel Everard, "less for your information, than for
that of others who may hear me, that I will leave the Lodge this
morning, and, if it is possible, remove the Commissioners."
"Hark," said Wildrake, "do you not hear some noise like the distant
sound of the applause of a theatre? The goblins of the place rejoice in
"I shall leave Woodstock," said Everard, "to the occupation of my uncle
Sir Henry Lee, and his family, if they choose to resume it; not that I
am frightened into this as a concession to the series of artifices which
have been played off on this occasion, but solely because such was my
intention from the beginning. But let me warn," (he added, raising his
voice,)--"let me warn the parties concerned in this combination, that
though it may pass off successfully on a fool like Desborough, a
visionary like Harrison, a coward like Bletson"--
Here a voice distinctly spoke, as standing near them--"or a wise,
moderate, and resolute person, like Colonel Everard."
"By Heaven, the voice came from the picture," said Wildrake, drawing his
sword; "I will pink his plated armour for him."
"Offer no violence," said Everard, startled at the interruption, but
resuming with firmness what he was saying--"Let those engaged be aware,
that however this string of artifices may be immediately successful, it
must, when closely looked into, be attended with the punishment of all
concerned--the total demolition of Woodstock, and the irremediable
downfall of the family of Lee. Let all concerned think of this, and
desist in time."
He paused, and almost expected a reply, but none such came.
"It is a very odd thing," said Wildrake; "but--yaw-ha--my brain cannot
compass it just now; it whirls round like a toast in a bowl of
muscadine; I must sit down--haw-yaw--and discuss it at leisure--
Gramercy, good elbow-chair."
So saying, he threw himself, or rather sank gradually down on a large
easy-chair which had been often pressed by the weight of stout Sir Henry
Lee, and in an instant was sound asleep. Everard was far from feeling
the same inclination for slumber, yet his mind was relieved of the
apprehension of any farther visitation that night; for he considered his
treaty to evacuate Woodstock as made known to, and accepted in all
probability by, those whom the intrusion of the Commissioners had
induced to take such singular measures for expelling them. His opinion,
which had for a time bent towards a belief in something supernatural in
the disturbances, had now returned to the more rational mode of
accounting for them by dexterous combination, for which such a mansion
as Woodstock afforded so many facilities.
He heaped the hearth with fuel, lighted the candle, and examining poor
Wildrake's situation, adjusted him as easily in the chair as he could,
the cavalier stirring his limbs no more than an infant. His situation
went far, in his patron's opinion, to infer trick and confederacy, for
ghosts have no occasion to drug men's possets. He threw himself on the
bed, and while he thought these strange circumstances over, a sweet and
low strain of music stole through the chamber, the words "Good
night--good night--good night," thrice repeated, each time in a softer
and more distant tone, seeming to assure him that the goblins and he
were at truce, if not at peace, and that he had no more disturbance to
expect that night. He had scarcely the courage to call out a "good
night;" for, after all his conviction of the existence of a trick, it
was so well performed as to bring with it a feeling of fear, just like
what an audience experience during the performance of a tragic scene,
which they know to be unreal, and which yet affects their passions by
its near approach to nature. Sleep overtook him at last, and left him
not till broad daylight on the ensuing morning.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE SIXTEENTH.
And yonder shines Aurora's harbinger.
At whose approach ghosts, wandering here and there,
Troop home to churchyard.
MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
With the fresh air and the rising of morning, every feeling of the
preceding night had passed away from Colonel Everard's mind, excepting
wonder how the effects which he had witnessed could be produced. He
examined the whole room, sounding bolt, floor, and wainscot with his
knuckles and cane, but was unable to discern any secret passages; while
the door, secured by a strong cross-bolt, and the lock besides, remained
as firm as when he had fastened it on the preceding evening. The
apparition resembling Victor Lee next called his attention. Ridiculous
stories had been often circulated, of this figure, or one exactly
resembling it, having been met with by night among the waste apartments
and corridors of the old palace; and Markham Everard had often heard
such in his childhood. He was angry to recollect his own deficiency of
courage, and the thrill which he felt on the preceding night, when by
confederacy, doubtless, such an object was placed before his eyes.
"Surely," he said, "this fit of childish folly could not make me miss my
aim--more likely that the bullet had been withdrawn clandestinely from
He examined that which was undischarged--he found the bullet in it. He
investigated the apartment opposite to the point at which he had fired,
and, at five feet from the floor in a direct line between the bed-side
and the place where the appearance had been seen, a pistol-ball had
recently buried itself in the wainscot. He had little doubt, therefore,
that he had fired in a just direction; and indeed to have arrived at the
place where it was lodged, the bullet must have passed through the
appearance at which he aimed, and proceeded point blank to the wall
beyond. This was mysterious, and induced him to doubt whether the art of
witchcraft or conjuration had not been called in to assist the
machinations of those daring conspirators, who, being themselves mortal,
might, nevertheless, according to the universal creed of the times, have
invoked and obtained assistance from the inhabitants of another world.
His next investigation respected the picture of Victor Lee itself. He
examined it minutely as he stood on the floor before it, and compared
its pale, shadowy, faintly-traced outlines, its faded colours, the stern
repose of the eye, and death-like pallidness of the countenance, with
its different aspect on the preceding night, when illuminated by the
artificial light which fell full upon it, while it left every other part
of the room in comparative darkness. The features seemed then to have an
unnatural glow, while the rising and falling of the flame in the chimney
gave the head and limbs something which resembled the appearance of
actual motion. Now, seen by day, it was a mere picture of the hard and
ancient school of Holbein; last night, it seemed for the moment
something more. Determined to get to the bottom of this contrivance if
possible, Everard, by the assistance of a table and chair, examined the
portrait still more closely, and endeavoured to ascertain the existence
of any private spring, by which it might be slipt aside,--a contrivance
not unfrequent in ancient buildings, which usually abounded with means
of access and escape, communicated to none but the lords of the castle,
or their immediate confidants. But the panel on which Victor Lee was
painted was firmly fixed in the wainscoting of the apartment, of which
it made a part, and the Colonel satisfied himself that it could not have
been used for the purpose which he had suspected.
He next aroused his faithful squire, Wildrake, who, notwithstanding his
deep share of the "blessedness of sleep," had scarce even yet got rid of
the effects of the grace-cup of the preceding evening. "It was the
reward," according to his own view of the matter, "of his temperance;
one single draught having made him sleep more late and more sound than a
matter of half-a-dozen, or from thence to a dozen pulls, would have
done, when he was guilty of the enormity of rere-suppers, [Footnote:
Rere-suppers (_quasi arriere_) belonged to a species of luxury
introduced in the jolly days of King James's extravagance, and continued
through the subsequent reign. The supper took place at an early hour,
six or seven o'clock at latest--the rere-supper was a postliminary
banquet, a _hors d'oeuvre_, which made its appearance at ten or eleven,
and served as an apology for prolonging the entertainment till
midnight.] and of drinking deep after them."
"Had your temperate draught," said Everard, "been but a thought more
strongly seasoned, Wildrake, thou hadst slept so sound that the last
trump only could have waked thee."
"And then," answered Wildrake, "I should have waked with a headache,
Mark; for I see my modest sip has not exempted me from that epilogue.--
But let us go forth, and see how the night, which we have passed so
strangely, has been spent by the rest of them. I suspect they are all
right willing to evacuate Woodstock, unless they have either rested
better than we, or at least been more lucky in lodgings."
"In that case, I will dispatch thee down to Joceline's hut, to negotiate
the re-entrance of Sir Henry Lee and his family into their old
apartments, where, my interest with the General being joined with the
indifferent repute of the place itself, I think they have little chance
of being disturbed either by the present, or by any new Commissioners."
"But how are they to defend themselves against the fiends, my gallant
Colonel?" said Wildrake. "Methinks had I an interest in yonder pretty
girl, such as thou dost boast, I should be loth to expose her to the
terrors of a residence at Woodstock, where these devils--I beg their
pardon, for I suppose they hear every word we say--these merry
goblins--make such gay work from twilight till morning."
"My dear Wildrake," said the Colonel, "I, as well as you, believe it
possible that our speech may be overheard; but I care not, and will
speak my mind plainly. I trust Sir Henry and Alice are not engaged in
this silly plot; I cannot reconcile it with the pride of the one, the
modesty of the other, nor the good sense of both, that any motive could
engage them in so strange a conjunction. But the fiends are all of your
own political persuasion, Wildrake, all true-blue cavaliers; and I am
convinced, that Sir Henry and Alice Lee, though they be unconnected with
them, have not the slightest cause to be apprehensive of their goblin
machinations. Besides, Sir Henry and Joceline must know every corner
about the place: it will be far more difficult to play off any ghostly
machinery upon him than upon strangers. But let us to our toilet, and
when water and brush have done their work, we will enquire--what is next
to be done."
"Nay, that wretched puritan's garb of mine is hardly worth brushing,"
said Wildrake; "and but for this hundred-weight of rusty iron, with
which thou hast bedizened me, I look more like a bankrupt Quaker than
anything else. But I'll make _you_ as spruce as ever was a canting rogue
of your party."
So saying, and humming at the same time the cavalier tune,--
"Though for a time we see Whitehall
With cobwebs hung around the wall,
Yet Heaven shall make amends for all.
When the King shall enjoy his own again."--
"Thou forgettest who are without," said Colonel Everard.
"No--I remember who are within," replied his friend. "I only sing to my
merry goblins, who will like me all the better for it. Tush, man, the
devils are my _bonos socios_, and when I see them, I will warrant they
prove such roaring boys as I knew when I served under Lunford and
Goring, fellows with long nails that nothing escaped, bottomless
stomachs, that nothing filled,--mad for pillaging, ranting, drinking,
and fighting,--sleeping rough on the trenches, and dying stubbornly in
their boots. Ah! those merry days are gone. Well, it is the fashion to
make a grave face on't among cavaliers, and specially the parsons that
have lost their tithe-pigs; but I was fitted for the element of the
time, and never did or can desire merrier days than I had during that
same barbarous, bloody, and unnatural rebellion."
"Thou wert ever a wild sea-bird, Roger, even according to your name;
liking the gale better than the calm, the boisterous ocean better than
the smooth lake, and your rough, wild struggle against the wind, than
daily food, ease and quiet."
"Pshaw! a fig for your smooth lake, and your old woman to feed me with
brewer's grains, and the poor drake obliged to come swattering whenever
she whistles! Everard, I like to feel the wind rustle against my
pinions,--now diving, now on the crest of the wave, now in ocean, now in
sky--that is the wild-drake's joy, my grave one! And in the Civil War so
it went with us--down in one county, up in another, beaten to-day,
victorious tomorrow--now starving in some barren leaguer--now revelling
in a Presbyterian's pantry--his cellars, his plate-chest, his old
judicial thumb-ring, his pretty serving-wench, all at command!"
"Hush, friend," said Everard; "remember I hold that persuasion." "More
the pity, Mark, more the pity," said Wildrake; "but, as you say, it is
needless talking of it. Let us e'en go and see how your Presbyterian
pastor, Mr. Holdenough, has fared, and whether he has proved more able
to foil the foul Fiend than have you his disciple and auditor."
They left the apartment accordingly, and were overwhelmed with the
various incoherent accounts of sentinels and others, all of whom had
seen or heard something extraordinary in the course of the night. It is
needless to describe particularly the various rumours which each
contributed to the common stock, with the greater alacrity that in such
cases there seems always to be a sort of disgrace in not having seen or
suffered as much as others.
The most moderate of the narrators only talked of sounds like the mewing
of a cat, or the growling of a dog, especially the squeaking of a pig.
They heard also as if it had been nails driven and saws used, and the
clashing of fetters, and the rustling of silk gowns, and the notes of
music, and in short all sorts of sounds which have nothing to do with
each other. Others swore they had smelt savours of various kinds,
chiefly bituminous, indicating a Satanic derivation; others did not
indeed swear, but protested, to visions of men in armour, horses without
heads, asses with horns, and cows with six legs, not to mention black
figures, whose cloven hoofs gave plain information what realm they
But these strongly-attested cases of nocturnal disturbances among the
sentinels had been so general as to prevent alarm and succour on any
particular point, so that those who were on duty called in vain on the
_corps-de-garde_, who were trembling on their own post; and an alert
enemy might have done complete execution on the whole garrison. But amid
this general _alerte_, no violence appeared to be meant, and annoyance,
not injury, seemed to have been the goblins' object, excepting in the
case of one poor fellow, a trooper, who had followed Harrison in half
his battles, and now was sentinel in that very vestibule upon which
Everard had recommended them to mount a guard. He had presented his
carabine at something which came suddenly upon him, when it was wrested
out of his hands, and he himself knocked down with the butt-end of it.
His broken head, and the drenched bedding of Desborough, upon whom a tub
of ditch-water had been emptied during his sleep, were the only pieces
of real evidence to attest the disturbances of the night.
The reports from Harrison's apartment were, as delivered by the grave
Master Tomkins, that truly the General had passed the night undisturbed,
though there was still upon him a deep sleep, and a folding of the hands
to slumber; from which Everard argued that the machinators had esteemed
Harrison's part of the reckoning sufficiently paid off on the preceding
He then proceeded to the apartment doubly garrisoned by the worshipful
Desborough, and the philosophical Bletson. They were both up and
dressing themselves; the former open-mouthed in his feeling of fear and
suffering. Indeed, no sooner had Everard entered, than the ducked and
dismayed Colonel made a dismal complaint of the way he had spent the
night, and murmured not a little against his worshipful kinsman for
imposing a task upon him which inferred so much annoyance.
"Could not his Excellency, my kinsman Noll," he said, "have given his
poor relative and brother-in-law a sop somewhere else than out of this
Woodstock, which seems to be the devil's own porridge-pot? I cannot sup
broth with the devil; I have no long spoon--not I. Could he not have
quartered me in some quiet corner, and given this haunted place to some
of his preachers and prayers, who know the Bible as well as the
muster-roll? whereas I know the four hoofs of a clean-going nag, or the
points of a team of oxen, better than all the books of Moses. But I will
give it over, at once and for ever; hopes of earthly gain shall never
make me run the risk of being carried away bodily by the devil, besides
being set upon my head one whole night, and soused with ditch-water the
next--No, no; I am too wise for that."
Master Bletson had a different part to act. He complained of no personal
annoyances; on the contrary, he declared he should have slept as well as
ever he did in his life but for the abominable disturbances around him,
of men calling to arms every half hour, when so much as a cat trotted by
one of their posts--He would rather, he said, "have slept among a whole
sabaoth of witches, if such creatures could be found."
"Then you think there are no such things as apparitions, Master
Bletson?" said Everard. "I used to be sceptical on the subject; but, on
my life, to-night has been a strange one."
"Dreams, dreams, dreams, my simple Colonel," said Bletson, though, his
pale face and shaking limbs belied the assumed courage with which he
spoke. "Old Chaucer, sir, hath told us the real moral on't--He was an
old frequenter of the forest of Woodstock, here"--
"Chaser?" said Desborough; "some huntsman, belike, by his name. Does he
walk, like Hearne at Windsor?"
"Chaucer," said Bletson, "my dear Desborough, is one of those wonderful
fellows, as Colonel Everard knows, who live many a hundred years after
they are buried, and whose words haunt our ears after their bones are
long mouldered in the dust."
"Ay, ay! well," answered Desborough, to whom this description of the old
poet was unintelligible--"I for one desire his room rather than his
company; one of your conjurors, I warrant him. But what says he to the
"Only a slight spell, which I will take the freedom to repeat to Colonel
Everard," said Bletson; "but which would be as bad as Greek to thee,
Desborough. Old Geoffrey lays the whole blame of our nocturnal
disturbance on superfluity of humours,
'Which causen folk to dred in their dreams
Of arrowes, and of fire with red gleams,
Right as the humour of melancholy
Causeth many a man in sleep to cry
For fear of great bulls and bears black,
And others that black devils will them take.'"
While he was thus declaiming, Everard observed a book sticking out from
beneath the pillow of the bed lately occupied by the honourable member.
"Is that Chaucer?" he said, making to the volume; "I would like to look
at the passage"--
"Chaucer?" said Bletson, hastening to interfere; "no--that is Lucretius,
my darling Lucretius. I cannot let you see it; I have some private
But by this time Everard had the book in his hand. "Lucretius?" he said;
"no, Master Bletson, this is not Lucretius, but a fitter comforter in
dread or in danger--Why should you be ashamed of it? Only, Bletson,
instead of resting your head, if you can but anchor your heart upon this
volume, it may serve you in better stead than Lucretius or Chaucer
"Why, what book is it?" said Bletson, his pale cheek colouring with the
shame of detection. "Oh! the Bible!" throwing it down contemptuously;
"some book of my fellow Gibeon's; these Jews have been always
superstitious--ever since Juvenal's time, thou knowest--
"'Qualiacunque voles Judaei somnia vendunt.'
"He left me the old book for a spell, I warrant you; for 'tis a
"He would scarce have left the New Testament as well as the Old," said
Everard. "Come, my dear Bletson, do not be ashamed of the wisest thing
you ever did in your life, supposing you took your Bible in an hour of
apprehension, with a view to profit by the contents."
Bletson's vanity was so much galled that it overcame his constitutional
cowardice. His little thin fingers quivered for eagerness, his neck and
cheeks were as red as scarlet, and his articulation was as thick and
vehement as--in short, as if he had been no philosopher.
"Master Everard," he said, "you are a man of the sword, sir; and, sir,
you seem to suppose yourself entitled to say whatever comes into your
mind with respect to civilians, sir. But I would have you remember, sir,
that there are bounds beyond which human patience may be urged, sir--and
jests which no man of honour will endure, sir--and therefore I expect an
apology for your present language, Colonel Everard, and this unmannerly
jesting, sir--or you may chance to hear from me in a way that will not
Everard could not help smiling at this explosion of valour, engendered
by irritated self-love.
"Look you, Master Bletson," he said, "I have been a soldier, that is
true, but I was never a bloody-minded one; and, as a Christian, I am
unwilling to enlarge the kingdom of darkness by sending a new vassal
thither before his time. If Heaven gives you time to repent, I see no
reason why my hand should deprive you of it, which, were we to have a
rencontre, would be your fate in the thrust of a sword, or the pulling
of a trigger--I therefore prefer to apologise; and I call Desborough, if
he has recovered his wits, to bear evidence that I _do_ apologise for
having suspected you, who are completely the slave of your own vanity,
of any tendency, however slight, towards grace or good sense. And I
farther apologise for the time that I have wasted in endeavouring to
wash an Ethiopian white, or in recommending rational enquiry to a
Bletson, overjoyed at the turn the matter had taken--for the defiance
was scarce out of his mouth ere he began to tremble for the
consequences--answered with great eagerness and servility of
manner,--"Nay, dearest Colonel, say no more of it--an apology is all
that is necessary among men of honour--it neither leaves dishonour with
him who asks it, nor infers degradation on him who makes it."
"Not such an apology as I have made, I trust," said the Colonel.
"No, no--not in the least," answered Bletson,--"one apology serves me
just as well as another, and Desborough will bear witness you have made
one, and that is all there can be said on the subject."
"Master Desborough and you," rejoined the Colonel, "will take care how
the matter is reported, I dare say; and I only recommend to both, that,
if mentioned at all, it may be told correctly."
"Nay, nay, we will not mention it at all," said Bletson, "we will forget
it from this moment. Only, never suppose me capable of superstitious
weakness. Had I been afraid of an apparent and real danger--why such
fear is natural to man--and I will not deny that the mood of mind may
have happened to me as well as to others. But to be thought capable of
resorting to spells, and sleeping with books under my pillow to secure
myself against ghosts,--on my word, it was enough to provoke one to
quarrel, for the moment, with his very best friend.--And now, Colonel,
what is to be done, and how is our duty to be executed at this accursed
place? If I should get such a wetting as Desborough's, why I should die
of catarrh, though you see it hurts him no more than a bucket of water
thrown over a post-horse. You are, I presume, a brother in our
commission,--how are you of opinion we should proceed?"
"Why, in good time here comes Harrison," said Everard, "and I will lay
my commission from the Lord-General before you all; which, as you see,
Colonel Desborough, commands you to desist from acting on your present
authority, and intimates his pleasure accordingly, that you withdraw
from this place."
Desborough took the paper and examined the signature.--"It is Noll's
signature sure enough," said he, dropping his under jaw; "only, every
time of late he has made the _Oliver_ as large as a giant, while the
_Cromwell_ creeps after like a dwarf, as if the surname were like to
disappear one of these days altogether. But is his Excellency, our
kinsman, Noll Cromwell (since he has the surname yet) so unreasonable as
to think his relations and friends are to be set upon their heads till
they have the crick in their neck--drenched as if they had been plunged
in a horse-pond--frightened, day and night, by all sort of devils,
witches, and fairies, and get not a penny of smart-money? Adzooks,
(forgive me for swearing,) if that's the case I had better home to my
farm, and mind team and herd, than dangle after such a thankless person,
though I _have_ wived his sister. She was poor enough when I took her,
for as high as Noll holds his head now."
"It is not my purpose," said Bletson, "to stir debate in this honourable
meeting; and no one will doubt the veneration and attachment which I
bear to our noble General, whom the current of events, and his own
matchless qualities of courage and constancy, have raised so high in
these deplorable days.--If I were to term him a direct and immediate
emanation of the ANIMUS MUNDI itself--something which Nature had
produced in her proudest hour, while exerting herself, as is her law,
for the preservation of the creatures to whom she has given existence--
should scarce exhaust the ideas which I entertain of him. Always
protesting that I am by no means to be held as admitting, but merely as
granting for the sake of argument, the possible existence of that
species of emanation, or exhalation, from the ANIMUS MUNDI, of which I
have made mention. I appeal to you, Colonel Desborough, who are his
Excellency's relation--to you, Colonel Everard, who hold the dearer
title of his friend, whether I have overrated my zeal in his behalf?"
Everard bowed at this pause, but Desborough gave a more complete
authentication. "Nay, I can bear witness to that. I have seen when you
were willing to tie his points or brush his cloak, or the like--and to
be treated thus ungratefully--and gudgeoned of the opportunities which
had been given you"--
"It is not for that," said Bletson, waving his hand gracefully. "You do
me wrong, Master Desborough--you do indeed, kind sir--although I know
you meant it not--No, sir--no partial consideration of private interest
prevailed on me to undertake this charge. It was conferred on me by the
Parliament of England, in whose name this war commenced, and by the
Council of State, who are the conservators of England's liberty. And the
chance and serene hope of serving the country, the confidence that
I--and you, Master Desborough--and you, worthy General Harrison--
superior, as I am, to all selfish considerations--to which I am sure you
also, good Colonel Everard, would be superior, had you been named in
this Commission, as I would to Heaven you had--I say, the hope of
serving the country, with the aid of such respectable associates, one
and all of them--as well as you, Colonel Everard, supposing you to have
been of the number, induced me to accept of this opportunity, whereby I
might, gratuitously, with your assistance, render so much advantage to
our dear mother the Commonwealth of England.--Such was my hope--my
trust--my confidence. And now comes my Lord-General's warrant to
dissolve the authority by which we are entitled to act. Gentlemen, I ask
this honourable meeting, (with all respect to his Excellency,) whether
his Commission be paramount to that from which he himself directly holds
his commission? No one will say so. I ask whether he has climbed into
the seat from which the late Man descended, or hath a great seal, or
means to proceed by prerogative in such a case? I cannot see reason to
believe it, and therefore I must resist such doctrine. I am in your
judgment, my brave and honourable colleagues; but, touching my own poor
opinion, I feel myself under the unhappy necessity of proceeding in our
commission, as if the interruption had not taken place; with this
addition, that the Board of Sequestrators should sit, by day, at this
same Lodge of Woodstock, but that, to reconcile the minds of weak
brethren, who may be afflicted by superstitious rumours, as well as to
avoid any practice on our persons by the malignants, who, I am
convinced, are busy in this neighbourhood, we should remove our sittings
after sunset to the George Inn, in the neighbouring borough."
"Good Master Bletson," replied Colonel Everard, "it is not for me to
reply to you; but you may know in what characters this army of England
and their General write their authority. I fear me the annotation on
this precept of the General, will be expressed by the march of a troop
of horse from Oxford to see it executed. I believe there are orders out
for that effect; and you know by late experience, that the soldier will
obey his General equally against King and Parliament."
"That obedience is conditional," said Harrison, starting fiercely up.
"Know'st thou not, Markham Everard, that I have followed the man
Cromwell as close as the bull-dog follows his master?--and so I will
yet;--but I am no spaniel, either to be beaten, or to have the food I
have earned snatched from me, as if I were a vile cur, whose wages are a
whipping, and free leave to wear my own skin. I looked, amongst the
three of us, that we might honestly, and piously, and with advantage to
the Commonwealth, have gained out of this commission three, or it may be
five thousand pounds. And does Cromwell imagine I will part with it for
a rough word? No man goeth a warfare on his own charges. He that serves
the altar must live by the altar--and the saints must have means to
provide them with good harness and fresh horses against the unsealing
and the pouring forth. Does Cromwell think I am so much of a tame tiger
as to permit him to rend from me at pleasure the miserable dole he hath
thrown me? Of a surety I will resist; and the men who are here, being
chiefly of my own regiment--men who wait, and who expect, with lamps
burning and loins girded, and each one his weapon bound upon his thigh,
will aid me to make this house good against every assault--ay, even
against Cromwell himself, until the latter coming--Selah! Selah!"--
"And I," said Desborough, "will levy troops and protect your
out-quarters, not choosing at present to close myself up in garrison"--
"And I," said Bletson, "will do my part, and hie me to town and lay the
matter before Parliament, arising in my place for that effect."
Everard was little moved by all these threats. The only formidable one,
indeed, was that of Harrison, whose enthusiasm, joined with his courage,
and obstinacy, and character among the fanatics of his own principles,
made him a dangerous enemy. Before trying any arguments with the
refractory Major-General, Everard endeavoured to moderate his feelings,
and threw something in about the late disturbances.
"Talk not to me of supernatural disturbances, young man--talk not to me
of enemies in the body or out of the body. Am I not the champion chosen
and commissioned to encounter and to conquer the great Dragon, and the
Beast which cometh out of the sea? Am I not to command the left wing,
and two regiments of the centre, when the Saints shall encounter with
the countless legions of Grog and Magog? I tell thee that my name is
written on the sea of glass mingled with fire, and that I will keep this
place of Woodstock against all mortal men, and against all devils,
whether in field or chamber, in the forest or in the meadow, even till
the Saints reign in the fulness of their glory."
Everard saw it was then time to produce two or three lines under
Cromwell's hand, which he had received from the General, subsequently to
the communication through Wildrake. The information they contained was
calculated to allay the disappointment of the Commissioners. This
document assigned as the reason of superseding the Woodstock Commission,
that he should probably propose to the Parliament to require the
assistance of General Harrison, Colonel Desborough, and Master Bletson,
the honourable member for Littlefaith, in a much greater matter, namely,
the disposing of the royal property, and disparking of the King's forest
at Windsor. So soon as this idea was started, all parties pricked up
their ears; and their drooping, and gloomy, and vindictive looks began
to give place to courteous smiles, and to a cheerfulness, which laughed
in their eyes, and turned their mustaches upwards.
Colonel Desborough acquitted his right honourable and excellent cousin
and kinsman of all species of unkindness; Master Bletson discovered,
that the interest of the state was trebly concerned in the good
administration of Windsor more than in that of Woodstock. As for
Harrison, he exclaimed, without disguise or hesitation, that the
gleaning of the grapes of Windsor was better than the vintage of
Woodstock. Thus speaking, the glance of his dark eye expressed as much
triumph in the proposed earthly advantage, as if it had not been,
according to his vain persuasion, to be shortly exchanged for his share
in the general reign of the Millennium. His delight, in short, resembled
the joy of an eagle, who preys upon a lamb in the evening with not the
less relish, because she descries in the distant landscape an hundred
thousand men about to join battle with daybreak, and to give her an
endless feast on the hearts and lifeblood of the valiant. Yet though all
agreed that they would be obedient to the General's pleasure in this
matter, Bletson proposed, as a precautionary measure, in which all
agreed, that they should take up their abode for some time in the town
of Woodstock, to wait for their new commissions respecting Windsor; and
this upon the prudential consideration, that it was best not to slip one
knot until another was first tied.
Each Commissioner, therefore, wrote to Oliver individually, stating, in
his own way, the depth and height, length and breadth, of his attachment
to him. Each expressed himself resolved to obey the General's
injunctions to the uttermost; but with the same scrupulous devotion to
the Parliament, each found himself at a loss how to lay down the
commission intrusted to them by that body, and therefore felt bound in
conscience to take up his residence at the borough of Woodstock, that he
might not seem to abandon the charge committed to them, until they
should be called to administrate the weightier matter of Windsor, to
which they expressed their willingness instantly to devote themselves,
according to his Excellency's pleasure.
This was the general style of their letters, varied by the
characteristic flourishes of the writers. Desborough, for example, said
something about the religious duty of providing for one's own household,
only he blundered the text. Bletson wrote long and big words about the
political obligation incumbent on every member of the community, on
every person, to sacrifice his time and talents to the service of his
country; while Harrison talked of the littleness of present affairs, in
comparison of the approaching tremendous change of all things beneath
the sun. But although the garnishing of the various epistles was
different, the result came to the same, that they were determined at
least to keep sight of Woodstock, until they were well assured of some
better and more profitable commission.
Everard also wrote a letter in the most grateful terms to Cromwell,
which would probably have been less warm had he known more distinctly
than his follower chose to tell him, the expectation under which the
wily General had granted his request. He acquainted his Excellency with
his purpose of continuing at Woodstock, partly to assure himself of the
motions of the three Commissioners, and to watch whether they did not
again enter upon the execution of the trust, which they had for the
present renounced,--and partly to see that some extraordinary
circumstances, which had taken place in the Lodge, and which would
doubtless transpire, were not followed by any explosion to the
disturbance of the public peace. He knew (as he expressed himself) that
his Excellency was so much the friend of order, that he would rather
disturbances or insurrections were prevented than punished; and he
conjured the General to repose confidence in his exertions for the
public service by every mode within his power; not aware, it will be
observed, in what peculiar sense his general pledge might be
These letters being made up into a packet, were forwarded to Windsor by
a trooper, detached on that errand.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH.
We do that in our zeal,
Our calmer moments are afraid to answer.
While the Commissioners were preparing to remove themselves from the
Lodge to the inn at the borough of Woodstock, with all that state and
bustle which attend the movements of great persons, and especially of
such to whom greatness is not entirely familiar, Everard held some
colloquy with the Presbyterian clergyman, Master Holdenough, who had
issued from the apartment which he had occupied, as it were in defiance
of the spirits by whom the mansion was supposed to be disturbed, and
whose pale cheek, and pensive brow, gave token that he had not passed
the night more comfortably than the other inmates of the Lodge of
Woodstock. Colonel Everard having offered to procure the reverend
gentleman some refreshment, received this reply:--"This day shall I not
taste food, saving that which we are assured of as sufficient for our
sustenance, where it is promised that our bread shall be given us, and
our water shall be sure. Not that I fast, in the papistical opinion that
it adds to those merits, which are but an accumulation of filthy rags;
but because I hold it needful that no grosser sustenance should this day
cloud my understanding, or render less pure and vivid the thanks I owe
to Heaven for a most wonderful preservation."
"Master Holdenough," said Everard, "you are, I know, both a good man and
a bold one, and I saw you last night courageously go upon your sacred
duty, when soldiers, and tried ones, seemed considerably alarmed."
"Too courageous--too venturous" was Master Holdenough's reply, the
boldness of whose aspect seemed completely to have died away. "We are
frail creatures, Master Everard, and frailest when we think ourselves
strongest. Oh, Colonel Everard," he added, after a pause, and as if the
confidence was partly involuntary, "I have seen that which I shall never
"You surprise me, reverend sir," said Everard;--"may I request you will
speak more plainly? I have heard some stories of this wild night, nay,
have witnessed strange things myself; but, methinks, I would be much
interested in knowing the nature of your disturbance."
"Sir," said the clergyman, "you are a discreet gentleman; and though I
would not willingly that these heretics, schismatics, Brownists,
Muggletonians, Anabaptists, and so forth, had such an opportunity of
triumph, as my defeat in this matter would have afforded them, yet with
you, who have been ever a faithful follower of our Church, and are
pledged to the good cause by the great National League and Covenant,
surely I would be more open. Sit we down, therefore, and let me call for
a glass of pure water, for as yet I feel some bodily faltering; though,
I thank Heaven, I am in mind resolute and composed as a merely mortal
man may after such a vision.--They say, worthy Colonel, that looking on
such things foretells, or causes, speedy death--I know not if it be
true; but if so, I only depart like the tired sentinel when his officer
releases him from his post; and glad shall I be to close these wearied
eyes against the sight, and shut these harassed ears against the
croaking, as of frogs, of Antinomians, and Pelagians, and Socinians, and
Arminians, and Arians, and Nullifidians, which have come up into our
England, like those filthy reptiles into the house of Pharaoh."
Here one of the servants who had been summoned, entered with a cup of
water, gazing at the same time in the face of the clergyman, as if his
stupid grey eyes were endeavouring to read what tragic tale was written
on his brow; and shaking his empty skull as he left the room, with the
air of one who was proud of having discovered that all was not exactly
right, though he could not so well guess what was wrong.
Colonel Everard invited the good man to take some refreshment more
genial than the pure element, but he declined: "I am in some sort a
champion" he said; "and though I have been foiled in the late
controversy with the Enemy, still I have my trumpet to give the alarm,
and my sharp sword to smite withal; therefore, like the Nazarites of
old, I will eat nothing that cometh of the vine, neither drink wine nor
strong drink, until these my days of combat shall have passed away."
Kindly and respectfully the Colonel anew pressed Master Holdenough to
communicate the events that had befallen him on the preceding night; and
the good clergyman proceeded as follows, with that little characteristic
touch of vanity in his narrative, which naturally arose out of the part
he had played in the world, and the influence which he had exercised
over the minds of others. "I was a young man at the University of
Cambridge," he said, "when I was particularly bound in friendship to a
fellow-student, perhaps because we were esteemed (though it is vain to
mention it) the most hopeful scholars at our college; and so equally
advanced, that it was difficult, perhaps, to say which was the greater
proficient in his studies. Only our tutor, Master Purefoy, used to say,
that if my comrade had the advantage of me in gifts, I had the better of
him in grace; for he was attached to the profane learning of the
classics, always unprofitable, often impious and impure; and I had light
enough to turn my studies into the sacred tongues. Also we differed in
our opinions touching the Church of England, for he held Arminian
opinions, with Laud, and those who would connect our ecclesiastical
establishment with the civil, and make the Church dependent on the
breath of an earthly man. In fine, he favoured Prelacy both in
essentials and ceremonial; and although, we parted with tears and
embraces, it was to follow very different courses. He obtained a living,
and became a great controversial writer in behalf of the Bishops and of
the Court. I also, as is well known to you, to the best of my poor
abilities, sharpened my pen in the cause of the poor oppressed people,
whose tender consciences rejected the rites and ceremonies more
befitting a papistical than a reformed Church, and which, according to
the blinded policy of the Court, were enforced by pains and penalties.
Then came the Civil War, and I--called thereunto by my conscience, and
nothing fearing or suspecting what miserable consequences have chanced
through the rise of these Independents--consented to lend my countenance
and labour to the great work, by becoming chaplain to Colonel Harrison's
regiment. Not that I mingled with carnal weapons in the field--which
Heaven forbid that a minister of the altar should--but I preached,
exhorted, and, in time of need, was a surgeon, as well to the wounds of
the body as of the soul. Now, it fell, towards the end of the war, that
a party of malignants had seized on a strong house in the shire of
Shrewsbury, situated on a small island advanced into a lake, and
accessible only by a small and narrow causeway. From thence they made
excursions, and vexed the country; and high time it was to suppress
them, so that a part of our regiment went to reduce them; and I was
requested to go, for they were few in number to take in so strong a
place, and the Colonel judged that my exhortations would make them do
valiantly. And so, contrary to my wont, I went forth with them, even to
the field, where there was valiant fighting on both sides. Nevertheless,
the malignants shooting their wall-pieces at us, had so much the
advantage, that, after bursting their gates with a salvo of our cannon,
Colonel Harrison ordered his men to advance on the causeway, and try to
carry the place by storm. Nonetheless, although our men did valiantly,
advancing in good order, yet being galled on every side by the fire,
they at length fell into disorder, and were retreating with much loss,
Harrison himself valiantly bringing up the rear, and defending them as
he could against the enemy, who sallied forth in pursuit of them, to
smite them hip and thigh. Now, Colonel Everard, I am a man of a quick
and vehement temper by nature, though better teaching than the old law
hath made me mild and patient as you now see me. I could not bear to see
our Israelites flying before the Philistines, so I rushed upon the
causeway, with the Bible in one hand, and a halberd, which I had caught
up, in the other, and turned back the foremost fugitives, by threatening
to strike them down, pointing out to them at the same time a priest in
his cassock, as they call it, who was among the malignants, and asking
them whether they would not do as much for a true servant of Heaven, as
the uncircumcised would for a priest of Baal. My words and strokes
prevailed; they turned at once, and shouting out, Down with Baal and his
worshippers! they charged the malignants so unexpectedly home, that they
not only drove them back into their house of garrison, but entered it
with them, as the phrase is, pell-mell. I also was there, partly hurried
on by the crowd, partly to prevail on our enraged soldiers to give
quarter; for it grieved my heart to see Christians and Englishmen hashed
down with swords and gunstocks, like curs in the street, when there is
an alarm of mad-dogs. In this way, the soldiers fighting and
slaughtering, and I calling to them to stay their hand, we gained the
very roof of the building, which was in part leaded, and to which, as a
last tower of refuge, those of the cavaliers, who yet escaped, had
retired. I was myself, I may say, forced up the narrow winding staircase
by our soldiers, who rushed on like dogs of chase upon their prey; and
when extricated from the passage, I found myself in the midst of a
horrid scene. The scattered defenders were, some resisting with the fury
of despair; some on their knees, imploring for compassion in words and
tones to break a man's heart when he thinks on them; some were calling
on God for mercy; and it was time, for man had none. They were stricken
down, thrust through, flung from the battlements into the lake; and the
wild cries of the victors, mingled with the groans, shrieks, and
clamours, of the vanquished, made a sound so horrible, that only death
can erase it from my memory. And the men who butchered their
fellow-creatures thus, were neither pagans from distant savage lands,
nor ruffians, the refuse and offscourings of our own people. They were
in calm blood reasonable, nay, religious men, maintaining a fair repute
both heavenward and earthward. Oh, Master Everard, your trade of war
should be feared and avoided, since it converts such men into wolves
towards their fellow creatures."
"It is a stern necessity," said Everard, looking down, "and as such
alone is justifiable. But proceed, reverend sir; I see not how this
storm, an incident but e'en too frequent on both sides during the late
war, connects with the affair of last night."
"You shall hear anon," said Mr. Holdenough; then paused as one who makes
an effort to compose himself before continuing a relation, the tenor of
which agitated him with much violence. "In this infernal tumult," he
resumed,--"for surely nothing on earth could so much resemble hell, as
when men go thus loose in mortal malice on their fellow-creatures,--I
saw the same priest whom I had distinguished on the causeway, with one
or two other malignants, pressed into a corner by the assailants, and
defending themselves to the last, as those who had no hope.--I saw
him--I knew him--Oh, Colonel Everard!"
He grasped Everard's hand with his own left hand, and pressed the palm
of his right to his face and forehead, sobbing aloud.
"It was your college companion?" said Everard, anticipating the
"Mine ancient--mine only friend--with whom I had spent the happy days of
youth!--I rushed forward--I struggled--I entreated.--But my eagerness
left me neither voice nor language--all was drowned in the wretched cry
which I had myself raised--Down with the priest of Baal! Slay Mattan--
slay him were he between the altars!--Forced over the battlements, but
struggling for life, I could see him cling to one of those projections
which were formed to carry the water from the leads, but they hacked at
his arms and hands. I heard the heavy fall into the bottomless abyss
below. Excuse me--I cannot go on."
"He may have escaped."
"Oh! no, no, no--the tower was four stories in height. Even those who
threw themselves into the lake from the lower windows, to escape by
swimming, had no safety; for mounted troopers on the shore caught the
same bloodthirsty humour which had seized the storming party, galloped
around the margin of the lake, and shot those who were struggling for
life in the water, or cut them down as they strove to get to land. They
were all cut off and destroyed.--Oh! may the blood shed on that day
remain silent!--Oh! that the earth may receive it in her recesses!--Oh!
that it may be mingled for ever with the dark waters of that lake, so
that it may never cry for vengeance against those whose anger was
fierce, and who slaughtered in their wrath!--And, oh! may the erring man
be forgiven who came into their assembly, and lent his voice to
encourage their, cruelty!--Oh! Albany, my brother, my brother, I have
lamented for thee even as David for Jonathan!"
[Footnote: Michael Hudson, the _plain-dealing_ chaplain of King Charles
I., resembled, in his loyalty to that unfortunate monarch, the
fictitious character of Dr. Rochecliffe; and the circumstances of his
death were copied in the narrative of the Presbyterian's account of the
slaughter of his school-fellow;--he was chosen by Charles I., along with
John Ashburnham, as his guide and attendant, when he adopted the
ill-advised resolution of surrendering his person to the Scots army.
He was taken prisoner by the Parliament, remained long in their custody,
and was treated with great severity. He made his escape for about a year
in 1647; was retaken, and again escaped in 1648. and heading an
insurrection of cavaliers, seized on a strong moated house in
Lincolnshire, called Woodford House. He gained the place without
resistance; and there are among Peck's Desiderata Curiosa several
accounts of his death, among which we shall transcribe that of Bishop
Kenneth, as the most correct, and concise:--"I have been on the spot,"
saith his Lordship, "and made all possible enquiries, and find that the
relation given by Mr. Wood may be a little rectified and supplied.
"Mr. Hudson and his party did not fly to Woodford, but had quietly taken
possession of it, and held it for a garrison, with a good party of
horse, who made a stout defence, and frequent sallies, against a party
of the Parliament at Stamford, till the colonel commanding them sent a
stronger detachment, under a captain, his own kinsman, who was shot from
the house, upon which the colonel himself came up to renew the attack,
and to demand surrender, and brought them to capitulate upon terms of
safe quarter. But the colonel, in base revenge, commanded that they
should not spare that rogue Hudson. Upon which, Hudson fought his way up
to the leads; and when he saw they were pushing in upon him, threw
himself over the battlements (another account says, he caught hold of a
spout or outstone,) and hung by the hands, as intending to fall into the
moat beneath, till they cut off his wrists and let him drop, and then
ran down to hunt him in the water, where they found him paddling with
his stumps, and barbarously knocked him on the head."--_Peck's
Desiderata Curiosa_, Book ix.
Other accounts mention he was refused the poor charity of coming to die
on land, by one Egborough, servant to Mr. Spinks, the intruder into the
parsonage. A man called Walker, a chandler or grocer, cut out the tongue
of the unfortunate divine, and showed it as a trophy through the
country. But it was remarked, with vindictive satisfaction, that
Egborough was killed by the bursting of his own gun; and that Walker,
obliged to abandon his trade through poverty, became a scorned
For some time a grave was not vouchsafed to the remains of this brave
and loyal divine, till one of the other party said, "Since he is dead,
let him be buried."]
The good man sobbed aloud, and so much did Colonel Everard sympathize
with his emotions, that he forebore to press him upon the subject of his
own curiosity until the full tide of remorseful passion had for the time
abated. It was, however, fierce and agitating, the more so, perhaps,
that indulgence in strong mental feeling of any kind was foreign to the
severe and ascetic character of the man, and was therefore the more
overpowering when it had at once surmounted all restraints. Large tears
flowed down the trembling features of his thin, and usually stern, or at
least austere countenance; he eagerly returned the compression of
Everard's hand, as if thankful for the sympathy which the caress
Presently after, Master Holdenough wiped his eyes, withdrew his hand
gently from that of Everard, shaking it kindly as they parted, and
proceeded with more composure: "Forgive me this burst of passionate
feeling, worthy Colonel. I am conscious it little becomes a man of my
cloth, who should be the bearer of consolation to others, to give way in
mine own person to an extremity of grief, weak at least, if indeed it is
not sinful; for what are we, that we should weep and murmur touching
that which is permitted? But Albany was to me as a brother. The happiest
days of my life, ere my call to mingle myself in the strife of the land
had awakened me to my duties, were spent in his company. I--but I will
make the rest of my story short."--Here he drew his chair close to that
of Everard, and spoke in a solemn and mysterious tone of voice, almost
lowered to a whisper--"I saw him last night."
"Saw _him_--saw whom?" said Everard. "Can you mean the person whom"--
"Whom I saw so ruthlessly slaughtered," said the clergyman--"My ancient
college friend--Joseph Albany."
"Master Holdenough, your cloth and your character alike must prevent
your jesting on such a subject as this."
"Jesting!" answered Holdenough; "I would as soon jest on my
death-bed--as soon jest upon the Bible."
"But you must have been deceived," answered Everard, hastily; "this
tragical story necessarily often returns to your mind, and in moments
when the imagination overcomes the evidence of the outward senses, your
fancy must have presented to you an unreal appearance. Nothing more
likely, when the mind is on the stretch after something supernatural,
than that the imagination should supply the place with a chimera, while
the over-excited feelings render it difficult to dispel the delusion."
"Colonel Everard," replied Holdenough, with austerity, "in discharge of
my duty I must not fear the face of man; and, therefore, I tell you
plainly, as I have done before with more observance, that when you bring
your carnal learning and judgment, as it is but too much your nature to
do, to investigate the hidden things of another world, you might as well
measure with the palm of your hand the waters of the Isis. Indeed, good
sir, you err in this, and give men too much pretence to confound your
honourable name with witch-advocates, free-thinkers, and atheists, even
with such as this man Bletson, who, if the discipline of the church had
its hand strengthened, as it was in the beginning of the great conflict,
would have been long ere now cast out of the pale, and delivered over to
the punishment of the flesh, that his spirit might, if possible, be yet
"You mistake, Master Holdenough," said Colonel Everard; "I do not deny
the existence of such preternatural visitations, because I cannot, and
dare not, raise the voice of my own opinion against the testimony of
ages, supported by such learned men as yourself. Nevertheless, though I
grant the possibility of such things, I have scarce yet heard of an
instance in my days so well fortified by evidence, that I could at once
and distinctly say, This must have happened by supernatural agency, and
"Hear, then, what I have to tell," said the divine, "on the faith of a
man, a Christian, and, what is more, a servant of our Holy Church; and,
therefore, though unworthy, an elder and a teacher among Christians. I
had taken my post yester evening in the half-furnished apartment,
wherein hangs a huge mirror, which might have served Goliath of Gath to
have admired himself in, when clothed from head to foot in his brazen
armour. I the rather chose this place, because they informed me it was
the nearest habitable room to the gallery in which they say you had been
yourself assailed that evening by the Evil One.--Was it so, I pray you?"
"By some one with no good intentions I was assailed in that apartment.
So far," said Colonel Everard, "you were correctly informed."
"Well, I chose my post as well as I might, even as a resolved general
approaches his camp, and casts up his mound as nearly as he can to the
besieged city. And, of a truth, Colonel Everard, if I felt some
sensation of bodily fear,--for even Elias, and the prophets, who
commanded the elements, had a portion in our frail nature, much more
such a poor sinful being as myself,--yet was my hope and my courage
high; and I thought of the texts which I might use, not in the wicked
sense of periapts, or spells, as the blinded papists employ them,
together with the sign of the cross and other fruitless forms, but as
nourishing and supporting that true trust and confidence in the blessed
promises, being the true shield of faith wherewith the fiery darts of
Satan may be withstood and quenched. And thus armed and prepared, I sate
me down to read, at the same time to write, that I might compel my mind
to attend to those subjects which became the situation in which I was
placed, as preventing any unlicensed excursions of the fancy, and
leaving no room for my imagination to brood over idle fears. So I
methodised, and wrote down what I thought meet for the time, and
peradventure some hungry souls may yet profit by the food which I then
"It was wisely and worthily done, good and reverend sir," replied
Colonel Everard. "I pray you to proceed."
"While I was thus employed, sir, and had been upon the matter for about
three hours, not yielding to weariness, a strange thrilling came over my
senses, and the large and old-fashioned apartment seemed to wax larger,
more gloomy, and more cavernous, while the air of the night grew more
cold and chill. I know not if it was that the fire began to decay, or
whether there cometh before such things as were then about to happen, a
breath and atmosphere, as it were, of terror, as Job saith in a
well-known passage, 'Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made my
bones to shake;' and there was a tingling noise in my ears, and a
dizziness in my brain, so that I felt like those who call for aid when
there is no danger, and was even prompted to flee, when I saw no one to
pursue. It was then that something seemed to pass behind me, casting a
reflection on the great mirror before which I had placed my
writing-table, and which I saw by assistance of the large standing light
which was then in front of the glass. And I looked up, and I saw in the
glass distinctly the appearance of a man--as sure as these words issue
from my mouth, it was no other than the same Joseph Albany--the
companion of my youth--he whom I had seen precipitated down the
battlements of Clidesbrough Castle into the deep lake below!"
"What did you do?"
"It suddenly rushed on my mind," said the divine, "that the stoical
philosopher Athenodorus had eluded the horrors of such a vision by
patiently pursuing his studies; and it shot at the same time across my
mind, that I, a Christian divine, and a Steward of the Mysteries, had
less reason to fear evil, and better matter on which to employ my
thoughts, than was possessed by a Heathen, who was blinded even by his
own wisdom. So, instead of betraying any alarm, or even turning my head
around, I pursued my writing, but with a beating heart, I admit, and
with a throbbing hand."
"If you could write at all," said the Colonel, "with such an impression
on your mind, you may take the head of the English army for dauntless
"Our courage is not our own, Colonel," said the divine, "and not as ours
should it be vaunted of. And again, when you speak of this strange
vision as an impression on my fancy, and not a reality obvious to my
senses, let me tell you once more, your worldly wisdom is but
foolishness touching the things that are not worldly."
"Did you not look again upon the mirror?" said the Colonel.
"I did, when I had copied out the comfortable text, 'Thou shalt tread
down Satan under thy feet.'"
"And what did you then see?"
"The reflection of the same Joseph Albany," said Holdenough, "passing
slowly as from behind my chair--the same in member and lineament that I
had known him in his youth, excepting that his cheek had the marks of
the more advanced age at which he died, and was very pale."
"What did you then?"
"I turned from the glass, and plainly saw the figure which had made the
reflection in the mirror retreating towards the door, not fast, nor
slow, but with a gliding steady pace. It turned again when near the
door, and again showed me its pale, ghastly countenance, before it
disappeared. But how it left the room, whether by the door, or
otherwise, my spirits were too much hurried to remark exactly; nor have
I been able, by any effort of recollection, distinctly to remember."
"This is a strange, and, as coming from you, a most excellently
well-attested apparition," answered Everard. "And yet, Master
Holdenough, if the other world has been actually displayed, as you
apprehend, and I will not dispute the possibility, assure yourself there
are also wicked men concerned in these machinations. I myself have
undergone some rencontres with visitants who possessed bodily strength,
and wore, I am sure, earthly weapons."
"Oh! doubtless, doubtless," replied Master Holdenough; "Beelzebub loves
to charge with horse and foot mingled, as was the fashion of the old
Scottish general, Davie Leslie. He has his devils in the body as well as
his devils disembodied, and uses the one to support and back the other."
"It may be as you say, reverend sir," answered the Colonel.--"But what
do you advise in this case?"
"For that I must consult with my brethren," said the divine; "and if
there be but left in our borders five ministers of the true kirk, we
will charge Satan in full body, and you shall see whether we have not
power over him to resist till he shall flee from us. But failing that
ghostly armament against these strange and unearthly enemies, truly I
would recommend, that as a house of witchcraft and abomination, this
polluted den of ancient tyranny and prostitution should be totally
consumed by fire, lest Satan, establishing his head-quarters so much to
his mind, should find a garrison and a fastness from which he might
sally forth to infest the whole neighbourhood. Certain it is, that I
would recommend to no Christian soul to inhabit the mansion; and, if
deserted, it would become a place for wizards to play their pranks, and
witches to establish their Sabbath, and those who, like Demas, go about
after the wealth of this world, seeking for gold and silver to practise
spells and charms to the prejudice of the souls of the covetous. Trust
me, therefore, it were better that it were spoiled and broken down, not
leaving one stone upon another."
"I say nay to that, my good friend," said the Colonel; "for the
Lord-General hath permitted, by his license, my mother's brother, Sir
Henry Lee, and his family, to return into the house of his fathers,
being indeed the only roof under which he hath any chance of obtaining
shelter for his grey hairs."
"And was this done by your advice, Markham Everard?" said the divine
"Certainly it was," returned the Colonel.--"And wherefore should I not
exert mine influence to obtain a place of refuge for the brother of my
"Now, as sure as thy soul liveth," answered the presbyter, "I had
believed this from no tongue but thine own. Tell me, was it not this
very Sir Henry Lee, who, by the force of his buffcoats and his
greenjerkins, enforced the Papist Laie's order to remove the altar to
the eastern end of the church at Woodstock?--and did not he swear by his
beard, that he would hang in the very street of Woodstock whoever should
deny to drink the King's health?--and is not his hand red with the blood
of the saints?--and hath there been a ruffler in the field for prelacy
and high prerogative more unmitigable or fiercer?"
"All this may have been as you say, good Master Holdenough," answered
the Colonel; "but my uncle is now old and feeble, and hath scarce a
single follower remaining, and his daughter is a being whom to look upon
would make the sternest weep for pity; a being who"--
"Who is dearer to Everard," said Holdenough, "than his good name, his
faith to his friends, his duty to his religion;--this is no time to
speak with sugared lips. The paths in which you tread are dangerous. You
are striving to raise the papistical candlestick which Heaven in its
justice removed out of its place--to bring back to this hall of
sorceries those very sinners who are bewitched with them. I will not
permit the land to be abused by their witchcrafts.--They shall not come
He spoke this with vehemence, and striking his stick against the ground;
and the Colonel, very much dissatisfied, began to express himself
haughtily in return. "You had better consider your power to accomplish
your threats, Master Holdenough," he said, "before you urge them so
"And have I not the power to bind and to loose?" said the clergyman.
"It is a power little available, save over those of your own Church,"
said Everard, with a tone something contemptuous.
"Take heed--take heed," said the divine, who, though an excellent, was,
as we have elsewhere seen, an irritable man.--"Do not insult me; but
think honourably of the messenger, for the sake of Him whose commission
he carries.--Do not, I say, defy me--I am bound to discharge my duty,
were it to the displeasing of my twin brother."
"I can see nought your office has to do in the matter," said Colonel
Everard; "and I, on my side, give you warning not to attempt to meddle
beyond your commission."
"Right--you hold me already to be as submissive as one of your
grenadiers," replied the clergyman, his acute features trembling with a
sense of indignity, so as even to agitate his grey hair; "but beware,
sir, I am not so powerless as you suppose. I will invoke every true
Christian in Woodstock to gird up his loins, and resist the restoration
of prelacy, oppression, and malignancy within our borders. I will stir
up the wrath of the righteous against the oppressor--the Ishmaelite--the
Edomite--and against his race, and against those who support him and
encourage him to rear up his horn. I will call aloud, and spare not, and
arouse the many whose love hath waxed cold, and the multitude who care
for none of these things. There shall be a remnant to listen to me; and
I will take the stick of Joseph, which was in the hand of Ephraim, and
go down to cleanse this place of witches and sorcerers, and of
enchantments, and will cry and exhort, saying--Will you plead for
Baal?--will you serve him? Nay, take the prophets of Baal--let not a man
"Master Holdenough, Master Holdenough," said Colonel Everard, with much
impatience, "by the tale yourself told me, you have exhorted upon that
text once too often already."
The old man struck his palm forcibly against his forehead, and fell back
into a chair as these words were uttered, as suddenly, and as much
without power of resistance, as if the Colonel had fired a pistol
through his head. Instantly regretting the reproach which he had
suffered to escape him in his impatience, Everard hastened to apologise,
and to offer every conciliatory excuse, however inconsistent, which
occurred to him on the moment. But the old man was too deeply
affected--he rejected his hand, lent no ear to what he said, and finally
started up, saying sternly, "You have abused my confidence, sir--abused
it vilely, to turn it into my own reproach: had I been a man of the
sword, you dared not--But enjoy your triumph, sir, over an old man, and
your father's friend--strike at the wound his imprudent confidence
"Nay, my worthy and excellent friend," said the Colonel--
"Friend!" answered the old man, starting up--"We are foes, sir--foes
now, and for ever!"
So saying, and starting from the seat into which he had rather fallen
than thrown himself, he ran out of the room with a precipitation of step
which he was apt to use upon occasions of irritable feeling, and which
was certainly more eager than dignified, especially as he muttered while
he ran, and seemed as if he were keeping up his own passion, by
recounting over and over the offence which he had received.
"So!" said Colonel Everard, "and there was not strife enough between
mine uncle and the people of Woodstock already, but I must needs
increase it, by chafing this irritable and quick-tempered old man, eager
as I knew him to be in his ideas of church-government, and stiff in his
prejudices respecting all who dissent from him! The mob of Woodstock
will rise; for though he would not get a score of them to stand by him
in any honest or intelligible purpose, yet let him cry havoc and
destruction, and I will warrant he has followers enow. And my uncle is
equally wild and unpersuadable. For the value of all the estate he ever
had, he would not allow a score of troopers to be quartered in the house
for defence; and if he be alone, or has but Joceline to stand by him, he
will be as sure to fire upon those who come to attack the Lodge, as if
he had a hundred men in garrison; and then what can chance but danger
This progress of melancholy anticipation was interrupted by the return
of Master Holdenough, who, hurrying into the room, with the same
precipitate pace at which he had left it, ran straight up to the
Colonel, and said, "Take my hand, Markham--take my hand hastily; for the
old Adam is whispering at my heart, that it is a disgrace to hold it
extended so long."
"Most heartily do I receive your hand, my venerable friend," said
Everard, "and I trust in sign of renewed amity."
"Surely, surely,"--said the divine, shaking his hand kindly; "thou hast,
it is true, spoken bitterly, but thou hast spoken truth in good time;
and I think--though your words were severe--with a good and kindly
purpose. Verily, and of a truth, it were sinful in me again to be hasty
in provoking violence, remembering that which you have upbraided me
"Forgive me, good Master Holdenough," said Colonel Everard, "it was a
hasty word; I meant not in serious earnest to _upbraid_."
"Peace, I pray you, peace," said the divine; "I say, the allusion to
that which you have _most justly_ upbraided me with--though the charge
aroused the gall of the old man within me, the inward tempter being ever
on the watch to bring us to his lure--ought, instead of being resented,
to have been acknowledged by me as a favour, for so are the wounds of a
friend termed faithful. And surely I, who have by one unhappy
exhortation to battle and strife sent the living to the dead--and I fear
brought back even the dead among the living--should now study peace and
good will, and reconciliation of difference, leaving punishment to the
Great Being whose laws are broken, and vengeance to Him who hath said, I
will repay it."
The old man's mortified features lighted up with a humble confidence as
he made this acknowledgment; and Colonel Everard, who knew the
constitutional infirmities, and the early prejudices of professional
consequence and exclusive party opinion, which he must have subdued ere
arriving at such a tone of candour, hastened to express his admiration
of his Christian charity, mingled with reproaches on himself for having
so deeply injured his feelings.
"Think not of it--think not of it, excellent young man," said
Holdenough; "we have both erred--I in suffering my zeal to outrun my
charity, you perhaps in pressing hard on an old and peevish man, who had
so lately poured out his sufferings into your friendly bosom. Be it all
forgotten. Let your friends, if they are not deterred by what has
happened at this manor of Woodstock, resume their habitation as soon as
they will. If they can protect themselves against the powers of the air,
believe me, that if I can prevent it by aught in my power, they shall
have no annoyance from earthly neighbours; and assure yourself, good
sir, that my voice is still worth something with the worthy Mayor, and
the good Aldermen, and the better sort of housekeepers up yonder in the
town, although the lower classes are blown about with every wind of
doctrine. And yet farther, be assured, Colonel, that should your
mother's brother, or any of his family, learn that they have taken up a
rash bargain in returning to this unhappy and unhallowed house, or
should they find any qualms in their own hearts and consciences which
require a ghostly comforter, Nehemiah Holdenough will be as much at
their command by night or day, as if they had been bred up within the
holy pale of the Church in which he is an unworthy minister; and neither
the awe of what is fearful to be seen within these walls, nor his
knowledge of their blinded and carnal state, as bred up under a prelatic
dispensation, shall prevent him doing what lies in his poor abilities
for their protection and edification."
"I feel all the force of your kindness, reverend sir," said Colonel
Everard, "but I do not think it likely that my uncle will give you
trouble on either score. He is a man much accustomed to be his own
protector in temporal danger, and in spiritual doubts to trust to his
own prayers and those of his Church."
"I trust I have not been superfluous in offering mine assistance," said
the old man, something jealous that his proffered spiritual aid had been
held rather intrusive. "I ask pardon if that is the case, I humbly ask
pardon--I would not willingly be superfluous."
The Colonel hastened to appease this new alarm of the watchful jealousy
of his consequence, which, joined with a natural heat of temper which he
could not always subdue, were the good man's only faults.
They had regained their former friendly footing, when Roger Wildrake
returned from the hut of Joceline, and whispered his master that his
embassy had been successful. The Colonel then addressed the divine, and
informed him, that as the Commissioners had already given up Woodstock,
and as his uncle, Sir Henry Lee, proposed to return to the Lodge about
noon, he would, if his reverence pleased, attend him up to the borough.
"Will you not tarry," said the reverend man, with something like
inquisitive apprehension in his voice, "to welcome your relatives upon
their return to this their house?"
"No, my good friend," said Colonel Everard; "the part which I have taken
in these unhappy broils, perhaps also the mode of worship in which I
have been educated, have so prejudiced me in mine uncle's opinion, that
I must be for some time a stranger to his house and family."
"Indeed! I rejoice to hear it with all my heart and soul," said the
divine. "Excuse my frankness--I do indeed rejoice; I had thought--no
matter what I had thought; I would not again give offence. But truly
though the maiden hath a pleasant feature, and he, as all men say, is in
human things unexceptionable, yet--but I give you pain--in sooth, I will
say no more unless you ask my sincere and unprejudiced advice, which you
shall command, but which I will not press on you superfluously. Wend we
to the borough together--the pleasant solitude of the forest may dispose