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´╗┐Title: Under the Storm
Author: Yonge, Charlotte M. (Charlotte Mary), 1823-1901
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Under the Storm" ***

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UNDER THE STORM

or

STEADFAST'S CHARGE


By Charlotte M. Yonge

Author of "The Heir of Redclyffe," &c.


[Illustration: Cover]


CONTENTS.

Chapter I.--The Trust

   "       II.--The Stragglers

   "      III.--Kirk Rapine

   "       IV.--The Good Cause

   "        V.--Desolation

   "       VI.--Left to Themselves

   "      VII.--The Hermit's Gulley

   "     VIII.--Stead in Possession

   "       IX.--Wintry Times

   "        X.--A Terrible Harvest Day

   "       XI.--The Fortunes of War

   "      XII.--Farewell to the Cavaliers

   "     XIII.--Godly Venn's Troop

   "      XIV.--The Question

   "       XV.--A Table of Love in the Wilderness

   "      XVI.--A Fair Offer

   "     XVII.--The Groom in Grey

   "    XVIII.--Jeph's Good Fortune

   "      XIX.--Patience

   "       XX.--Emlyn's Service

   "      XXI.--The Assault of the Cavern

   "     XXII.--Emlyn's Troth

   "    XXIII.--Fulfilment



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

    Farewell to the Cavaliers
    The Hiding of the Casket
    Stead Stirring the Porridge
    Finding of Emlyn
    Stead before the Roundheads
    Emlyn at Market



UNDER THE STORM:

OR

STEADFAST'S CHARGE.



CHAPTER I. THE TRUST.



     "I brought them here as to a sanctuary."
                                   SOUTHEY.


Most of us have heard of the sad times in the middle of the seventeenth
century, when Englishmen were at war with one another and quiet villages
became battlefields.

We hear a great deal about King and Parliament, great lords and able
generals, Cavaliers and Roundheads, but this story is to help us to
think how it must have gone in those times with quiet folk in cottages
and farmhouses.

There had been peace in England for a great many years, ever since the
end of the wars of the Roses. So the towns did not want fortifications
to keep out the enemy, and their houses spread out beyond the old walls;
and the country houses had windows and doors large and wide open, with
no thought of keeping out foes, and farms and cottages were freely
spread about everywhere, with their fields round them.

The farms were very small, mostly held by men who did all the work
themselves with the help of their families.

Such a farm belonged to John Kenton of Elmwood. It lay at the head of a
long green lane, where the bushes overhead almost touched one another
in the summer, and the mud and mire were very deep in winter; but that
mattered the less as nothing on wheels went up or down it but the hay
or harvest carts, creaking under their load, and drawn by the old mare,
with a cow to help her.

Beyond lay a few small fields, and then a bit of open ground scattered
with gorse and thorn bushes, and much broken by ups and downs. There,
one afternoon on a big stone was seated Steadfast Kenton, a boy of
fourteen, sturdy, perhaps loutish, with an honest ruddy face under his
leathern cap, a coarse smock frock and stout gaiters. He was watching
the fifteen sheep and lambs, the old goose and gander and their nine
children, the three cows, eight pigs, and the old donkey which got their
living there.

From the top of the hill, beyond the cleft of the river Avon, he could
see the smoke and the church towers of the town of Bristol, and beyond
it, the slime of the water of the Bristol Channel; and nearer, on one
side, the spire of Elmwood Church looked up, and, on the other, the
woods round Elmwood House, and these ran out as it were, lengthening and
narrowing into a wooded cleft or gulley, Hermit's Gulley, which broke
the side of the hill just below where Steadfast stood, and had a little
clear stream running along the bottom.

Steadfast's little herd knew the time of day as well as if they all had
watches in their pockets, and they never failed to go down and have a
drink at the brook before going back to the farmyard.

They did not need to be driven, but gathered into the rude steep path
that they and their kind had worn in the side of the ravine. Steadfast
followed, looking about him to judge how soon the nuts would be ripe,
while his little rough stiff-haired dog Toby poked about in search of
rabbits or hedgehogs, or the like sport.

Steadfast liked that pathway home beside the stream, as boys do love
running water. Good stones could be got there, water rats might be
chased, there were strawberries on the banks which he gathered and
threaded on stalks of grass for his sisters, Patience and Jerusha. They
used to come with him and have pleasant games, but it was a long time
since Patience had been able to come out, for in the winter, a grievous
trouble had come on the family. The good mother had died, leaving a
little baby of six weeks old, and Patience, who was only thirteen, had
to attend to everything at home, and take care of poor little sickly
Benoni with no one to help her but her little seven years old sister.

The children's lives had been much less bright since that sad day; and
Steadfast seldom had much time for play. He knew he must get home as
fast as he could to help Patience in milking the cows, feeding the pigs
and poultry, and getting the supper, or some of the other things that
his elder brother Jephthah called wench-work and would not do.

He could not, however, help looking up at the hole in the side of the
steep cliff, where one might climb up to such a delightful cave, in
which he and Patience had so often played on hot days. It had been their
secret, and a kind of palace to them. They had sat there as king and
queen, had paved it with stones from the brook, and had had many plans
for the sports they would have there this summer, little thinking that
Patience would have been turned into a grave, busy little housewife,
instead of a merry, playful child.

Toby looked up too, and began to bark. There was a rustling in the
bushes below the cave, and Steadfast, at first in dismay to see his
secret delight invaded, beheld between the mountain ash boughs and ivy,
to his great surprise, a square cap and black cassock tucked up, and
then a bit of brown leathern coat, which he knew full well. It was the
Vicar, Master Holworth, and his father John Kenton was Churchwarden,
so it was no wonder to see him and the Parson together, but what could
bring them here--into Steadfast's cave? and with a dark lantern too!
They seemed as surprised, perhaps as vexed as he was, at the sight of
him, but his father said, "'Tis my lad, Steadfast, I'll answer for him."

"And so will I," returned the clergyman. "Is anyone with you, my boy?"

"No, your reverence, no one save the beasts."

"Then come up here," said his father. "Someone has been playing here, I
see."

"Patience and I, father, last summer."

"No one else?"

"No, no one. We put those stones and those sticks when we made a fire
there last year, and no one has meddled with them since."

"Thou and Patience," said Mr. Holworth thoughtfully. "Not Jephthah nor
the little maid?"

"No, sir," replied Steadfast, "we would not let them know, because we
wanted a place to ourselves."

For in truth the quiet ways and little arrangements of these two had
often been much disturbed by the rough elder brother who teased and
laughed at them, and by the troublesome little sister, who put her
fingers into everything.

The Vicar and the Churchwarden looked at one another, and John Kenton
muttered, "True as steel."

"Your father answers for you, my boy," said the Vicar. "So we will e'en
let you know what we are about. I was told this morn by a sure hand that
the Parliament men, who now hold Bristol Castle, are coming to deal with
the village churches even as they have dealt with the minster and with
St. Mary's, Redcliffe."

"A murrain on them!" muttered Kenton.

"I wot that in their ignorance they do it," gently quoted the Vicar.
"But we would fain save from their hands the holy Chalice and paten
which came down to our Church from the ancient times--and which bearing
on them, as they do, the figure of the Crucifixion of our blessed Lord,
would assuredly provoke the zeal of the destroyers. Therefore have we
placed them in this casket, and your father devised hiding them within
this cave, which he thought was unknown to any save himself--"

"Yea," said John, "my poor brother Will and I were wont to play there
when we herded the cattle on the hill. It was climbing yon ash tree that
stands out above that he got the fall that was the death of him at
last. I've never gone nigh the place with mine own good will since that
day--nor knew the children had done so--but methought 'twas a lonesome
place and on mine own land, where we might safest store the holy things
till better times come round."

"And so I hope they will," said Mr. Holworth.

"I hear good news of the King's cause in the north."

Then they began to consult where to place the precious casket. They had
brought tinder and matches, and Steadfast, who knew the secrets of the
cave even better than his father, showed them a little hollow, far back,
which would just hold the chest, and being closed in front with a big
stone, fast wedged in, was never likely to be discovered readily.

[Illustration: The Hiding Of The Casket]

"This has been a hiding place already."

"Methinks this has once been a chapel," said the clergyman presently,
pointing to some rude carvings--one something like a cross, and a large
stone that might have served as an altar.

"Belike," said Kenton, "there's an old stone pile, a mere hovel, down
below, where my grandfather said he remembered an old monk, a hermit, or
some such gear--a Papist--as lived in hiding. He did no hurt, and was
a man from these parts, so none meddled with him, or gave notice to the
Queen's officers, and our folk at the farm sold his baskets at the town,
and brought him a barley loaf twice a week till he died, all alone in
his hut. Very like he said his mass here."

John wondered to find that the minister thought this made the place
more suitable. The whole cavern was so low that the two men could hardly
stand upright in it, though it ran about twelve yards back. There were
white limestone drops like icicles hanging above from the roof; and
bats, disturbed by the light, came flying about the heads of their
visitors, while streamers of ivy and old man's beard hung over the
mouth, and were displaced by the heads of the men.

"None is like to find the spot," said John Kenton, as he tried to
replace the tangled branches that had been pushed aside.

"God grant us happier days for bringing it forth," said the clergyman.

All three bared their heads, and Mr. Holworth uttered a few words of
prayer and blessing; then let John help him down the steep scramble
and descent, and looked up to see whether any sign of the cave could be
detected from the edge of the brook. Kenton shook his head reassuringly.

"Ah!" said Mr. Holworth, "it minds me that none ever found again the
holy Ark of the Covenant that King Josiah and the Prophet Jeremiah hid
in a cavern within Mount Pisgah! and our sins be many that have provoked
this judgment! Mayhap the boy will be the only one of us who will see
these blessed vessels restored to their Altar once more! He may
have been sent hither to that very end. Now, look you, Steadfast
Kenton--Steadfast thou hast ever been, so far as I have known thee, in
nature as well as in name. Give me thy word that thou wilt never give up
the secret of yonder cavern to any save a lawfully ordained minister of
the church."

"No doubt poor old Clerk North will be in distress about the loss," said
Kenton.

"True, but he had best not be told. His mind is fast going, and he
cannot safely be trusted with such a mighty secret."

"Patience knows the cavern," murmured Steadfast to his father.

"Best have no womenfolk, nor young maids in such a matter," said the
Vicar.

"My wench takes after her good mother," said John, "and I ever found my
secrets were safer in her breast than in mine own. Not that I would have
her told without need. But she might take little Rusha there, or make
the place known to others an she be not warned."

"Steadfast must do as he sees occasion, with your counsel, Master
Kenton," said the Vicar. "It is a great trust we place in you, my son,
to be as it were in charge of the vessels of the sanctuary, and I would
have thy hand and word."

"And," said his father, "though he be slower in speech than some, your
reverence may trust him."

Steadfast gave his brown red hand, and with head bare said, "I promise,
after the minister and before God, never to give up that which lies
within the cave to any man, save a lawfully ordained minister of the
Church."



CHAPTER II. THE STRAGGLERS.



     "Trust me, I am exceedingly weary."
                            SHAKESPEARE.


John Kenton, though a Churchwarden, was, as has been said, a very small
farmer, and the homestead was no more than a substantial cottage, built
of the greystone of the country, with the upper story projecting a
little, and reached by an outside stair of stone. The farm yard, with
the cowsheds, barn, and hay stack were close in front, with only a
narrow strip of garden between, for there was not much heed paid to
flowers, and few kitchen vegetables were grown in those days, only a few
potherbs round the door, and a sweet-brier bush by the window.

The cows had made their way home of their own accord, and Patience was
milking one of them already, while little Rusha held the baby, which was
swaddled up as tightly as a mummy, with only his arms free. He stretched
them out with a cry of gladness as he saw his father, and Kenton
took the little creature tenderly in his arms and held him up, while
Steadfast hurried off to fetch the milking stool and begin upon the
other cow.

"Is Jeph come home?" asked the father, and Rusha answered "No, daddy,
though he went ever so long ago, and said he would bring me a cake."

Upon this Master Kenton handed little Benoni back to Rusha, not without
some sounds of fretfulness from the baby, but the pigs had to be shut up
and fed, and the other evening work of the farmyard done; and it was
not till all this was over, and Patience had disposed of the milk in the
cool cellars, that the father could take him again.

Meantime Steadfast had brought up a bucket of water from the spring,
and after washing his own hands and face, set out the table with a very
clean, though coarse cloth, five brown bowls, three horn spoons and two
wooden ones, one drinking horn, a couple of red earthen cups and two
small hooped ones of wood, a brown pitcher of small ale, a big barley
loaf, and a red crock, lined with yellow glazing, into which Patience
presently proceeded to pour from a cauldron, where it had been simmering
over the fire, a mess of broth thickened with meal. This does not sound
like good living, but the Kentons were fairly well-to-do smock-frock
farmers, and though in some houses there might be greater plenty,
there was not much more comfort beneath the ranks of the gentry in the
country.

As for seats, the father's big wooden chair stood by the fire, and there
was a long settle, but only stools were used at the table, two being the
same that had served the milkers. Just as Rusha, at her father's sign,
had uttered a short Grace, there stood in the doorway a tall, stout,
well-made lad of seventeen, with a high-crowned wide-brimmed felt hat,
a dark jerkin with sleeves, that, like his breeches and gaiters, were of
leather, and a belt across his shoulder with a knife stuck in it.

"Ha! Jeph," said Kenton, "always in time for meat, whatever else you
miss."

"I could not help it, father," said Jephthah, "the red coats were at
their exercise!"

"And thou couldst not get away from the gape-seed, eh! Come, sit down,
boy, and have at thy supper."

"I wish I was one of them," said Jeph as he sat down.

"And thou'dst soon wish thyself back again!" returned his father.

"How much did you get for the fowls and eggs?" demanded Patience.

Jephthah replied by producing a leathern bag, while Rusha cried out for
her cake, and from another pocket came, wrapped in his handkerchief, two
or three saffron buns which were greeted with such joy that his father
had not the heart to say much about wasting pence, though it appeared
that the baker woman had given them as part of her bargain for a couple
of dozen of eggs, which Patience declared ought to have brought two
pence instead of only three halfpence.

Jephthah, however, had far too much news to tell to heed her
disappointment as she counted the money. He declared that the price
of eggs and butter would go up gallantly, for more soldiers were daily
expected to defend Bristol, and he had further to tell of one of the
captains preaching in the Minster, and the market people flocking in to
hear him. Jeph had been outside, for there was no room within, but he
had scrambled upon an old tombstone with a couple of other lads, and
through the broken window had seen the gentleman holding forth in his
hat and feather, buff coat and crimson scarf, and heard him call on all
around to be strong and hew down all their enemies, even dragging the
false and treacherous woman and her idols out to the horse gate and
there smiting them even to the death.

"Who was the false woman?" asked Steadfast.

"I wot not! There was something about Aholah, or some such name, but
just then a mischievous little jackanapes pulled me down by the leg,
and I had to thrash him for it, and by the time I had done, Dick, the
butcher's lad, had got my place and I heard no more."

Whether the Captain meant Aholah or Athaliah, or alluded to Queen
Henrietta Maria, or to the English Church, Jeph's auditors never knew.
The baby began to cry, and Patience to feed him with the milk and water
that had been warmed at the fire; his father and the boys went out to
finish the work for the night, little Rusha running after them.

Presently, she gave a cry and darted up to her father "The soldiers!
the soldiers!" and in fact three men with steel caps, buff coats, and
musquets slung by broad belts were coming into the yard.

Kenton took up his little girl in his arms and went forward to meet
them, but he soon saw they did not look dangerous, they were dragging
along as if very tired and footsore and as if their weapons were a heavy
weight.

"It's the goodman," said the foremost, a red-faced, good-natured looking
fellow more like a hostler than a soldier, "have you seen Captain
Lundy's men pass this way?"

"Not I!" said Kenton, "we lie out of the high road, you see."

"But I saw them, a couple of hours agone, marching into Bristol," said
Jephthah coming forward.

"There now," said the man, "we did but stop at the sign of the 'Crab'
the drinking of a pottle, and to bathe Jack's foot near there, and we
have never been able to catch them up again! How far off be Bristol?"

"A matter of four mile across the ferry. You may see it from the hill
above."

He looked stout enough though he gave a heavy sigh of weariness, and the
other two, who were mere youths, not much older than Jeph, seemed quite
spent, and heard of the additional four miles with dismay.

"Heart alive, lads," said their comrade, "ye'll soon be in good
quarters, and mayhap the goodman here will give you a drink to carry ye
on a bit further for the Cause."

"You are welcome to a draught for civility's sake," said Kenton, making
a sign to his sons, who ran off to the house, "but I'm a plain man, and
know nought about the Cause."

"Well, Master," said the straggler, as he leant his back against the
barn, and his two companions sat down on the ground in the shelter,
"I have heard a lot about the Cause, but all I know is that my Lord
of Essex sent to call out five-and-twenty men from our parish, and the
squire, he was in a proper rage with being rated to pay ship money,
so--as I had fallen out with my master, mine host of the 'Griffin,' more
fool I--I went with the young gentleman, and a proper ass I was to do
so."

"Father said 'twas rank popery railing in the Communion table, when it
was so handy to sit on or to put one's hat on," added one of the youths
looking up. "So he was willing for me to go, and I thought I'd like to
see the world, but I'd fain be at home again."

"So would not I," muttered the other lad.

"No," said the ex-tapster humorously, "for thou knowst the stocks be
gaping for thee, Dick."

By this time Jeph and Stead had returned with a jug of small beer, a
horn cup, and three hunches of the barley loaf. The men ate and drank,
and then the tapster returning hearty thanks, called the others on,
observing that if they did not make the best speed, they might miss
their billet, and have to sleep in the streets, if not become acquainted
with the lash.

On then unwillingly they dragged, as if one foot would hardly come after
the other.

"Poor lads!" said Kenton, as he looked after them, "methinks that's
enough to take the taste for soldiering out of thy mouth, son Jeph."

"A set of poor-spirited rogues," returned Jeph contemptuously, as he
nevertheless sauntered on so as to watch them down the lane.

"Be they on the right side or the wrong, father?" asked Steadfast, as he
picked up the pitcher and the horn.

"They be dead against our parson, lad," returned Kenton, "and he says
they be against the Church and the King, though they do take the King's
name, it don't look like the right side to be knocking out church
windows, eh?"

"Nay!" said Steadfast, "but there's them as says the windows be popish
idols."

"Never you mind 'em, lad, ye don't bow down to the glass, nor worship
it. Thy blessed mother would have put it to you better than I can, and
she knew the Bible from end to end, but says she 'God would have His
worship for glory and for beauty in the old times, why not now?'"

John Kenton had an immense reverence for his late wife. She had been far
more educated than he, having been born and bred up in the household
of one of those gentlemen who held it as their duty to provide for the
religious instruction of their servants.

She had been serving-woman to the lady, who in widowhood went to reside
at Bristol, and there during her marketings, honest John Kenton had won
her by his sterling qualities.

Puritanism did not mean nonconformity in her days, and in fact everyone
who was earnest and scrupulous was apt to be termed a Puritan. Goodwife
Kenton was one of those pious and simple souls who drink in whatever is
good in their surroundings; and though the chaplain who had taught her
in her youth would have differed in controversy with Mr. Holworth, she
never discovered their diversity, nor saw more than that Elmwood
Church had more decoration than the Castle Chapel. Whatever was done by
authority she thought was right, and she found good reason for it in
the Bible and Prayer-book her good lady had given her. She had named her
children after the prevailing custom of Puritans because she had heard
the chaplain object to what he considered unhallowed heathenish names,
but she had been heartily glad that they should be taught and catechised
by the good vicar. Happily for her, in her country home, she did not
live to see the strife brought into her own life.

She had taught her children as much as she could. Her husband was
willing, but his old mother disapproved of learning in that station of
life, and aided and abetted her eldest grandson in his resistance, so
that though she had died when he was only eleven or twelve years old,
Jephthah could do no more than just make out the meaning of a printed
sentence, whereas Steadfast and Patience could both read easily, and did
read whatever came in their way, though that was only a broadside ballad
now and then besides their mother's Bible and Prayer-book, and one or
two little black books.

The three eldest had been confirmed, when the Bishop of Bath and Wells
had been in the neighbourhood. That was only a fortnight after their
mother died, and even Jeph was sad and subdued.

Since that sad day when the good mother had blessed them for the last
time, there had been little time for anything. Patience had to be the
busy little housewife, and what she would have done without Steadfast
she could not tell. Jeph would never put a hand to what he called maids'
work, but Stead would sweep, or beat the butter, or draw the water,
or chop wood, or hold the baby, and was always ready to help her, even
though it hindered him from ever going out to fish, or play at base
ball, or any of the other sports the village boys loved.

His quiet, thoughtful ways had earned his father's trust, though he was
much slower of speech and less ready than his elder brother, and looked
heavy both in countenance and figure beside Jeph, who was tall, slim,
and full of activity and animation. He had often made his mother uneasy
by wild talk about going to sea, and by consorting with the sailors at
Bristol, which was their nearest town, though on the other side of the
Avon, and in a different county.

It was there that the Elmwood people did their marketing, often leaving
their donkeys hobbled on their own side of the river, being ferried over
and carrying the goods themselves the latter part of the way.



CHAPTER III. KIRK RAPINE.



     "When impious men held sway and wasted Church and shrine."
                                             LORD SELBORNE.


Patience, in her tight little white cap, sat spinning by the door,
rocking the cradle with her foot, while Rusha sometimes built what she
called houses with stones, sometimes trotted to look down the lane to
see whether father and the lads were coming home from market.

Presently she brought word, "Stead is coming. He is leading Whitefoot,
but I don't see father and Jeph."

Patience jumped up to put her wheel out of the way, and soon she saw
that it was only Steadfast leading the old mare with the large crooks or
panniers on either side. She ran to meet him, and saw he looked rather
pale and dazed.

"What is it, Stead? Where's daddy?"

"Gone up to Elmwood! They told us in town that some of the soldiers and
the folk of that sort were gone out to rabble cur church and our parson,
and father is Churchwarden, you know. So he said he must go to see what
was doing. And he bade me take Whitefoot home and give you the money,"
said Steadfast, producing a bag which Patience took to keep for her
father.

She watched very anxiously, and so did Stead, while relieving Whitefoot
of her panniers and giving her a rub down before turning her out to get
her supper.

It was not long however before Kenton and Jeph both appeared, the one
looking sad, the other sulky. "Too late," Jeph muttered, "and father
won't let me go to see the sport."

"Sport, d'ye call it?" said Kenton. "Aye, Stead, you may well gape at
what we have seen--our good parson with his feet tied to his stirrups on
a sorry nag, being hauled off to town like a common thief!"

"Oh!" broke from the children, and Patience ventured to ask, "But what
for, father?"

"They best know who did it," said the Churchwarden. "Something they said
of a scandalous minister, as though his had not ever been a godly life
and preaching. These be strange times, children, and for the life of me,
I know not what it all means. How now, Jeph, what art idling there
for? There's the waggon to be loaded for to-morrow with the faggots I
promised Mistress Lightfoot."

Jeph moved away, murmuring something about fetching up the cows, to
which his father replied, "That was Steadfast's work, and it was not
time yet."

In fact Jeph was very curious to know what was going on in the village.
If there was any kind of uproar, why should not he have his part in
it? It was just like father to hinder him, and he had a great mind to
neglect the faggots and go off to the village. He was rather surprised,
and a good deal vexed to see his father walking along on the way to the
pasture with Steadfast.

It was for the sake of saying "Aye, boy, best not go near the sorry
sight! They would not let good Master Holworth speak with me; but I
saw he meant to warn me to keep aloof lest Tim Green or the like should
remember as how I'm Churchwarden."

"Did they ask after those things?" inquired Steadfast in a lowered
voice.

"I can't say. But on your life, lad, not a word of them!"

After work was done for the evening, Jeph and Stead were too eager
to know what had happened to stay at home. They ran across the bit of
moorland to the village street and the grey church, whose odd-shaped
steeple stood up among the trees. Already they could see that the great
west window was broken, all the glass which bore the picture of the Last
Judgment, and the Archangel Michael weighing souls in the balance was
gone!

"Yes," said Tom Oates, leaping over two or three tombstones to get to
them. "'Twas rare sport, Jeph Kenton. Why were you not there too?"

"At Bristol with father," replied Jeph.

"Worse luck for you. The red coat shot the big angel right in the eye,
and shivered him through, and we did the rest with stones. I sent one
that knocked the wing of him right off. You should have seen me, Stead!
And old Clerk North was running about crying all the time like a baby.
He'll never whack us over the head again!"

"What was the good?" said Steadfast.

"You never saw better sport," said the boys.

And indeed, since, when once begun, destruction and mischief are apt to
be only too delightful to boys, they had thoroughly and thoughtlessly
delighted in knocking down the things they had been taught to respect. A
figure of a knight in a ruff kneeling on a tomb had had its head
knocked off, and one of the lads heaved the bits up to throw at the last
fragment of glass in the window.

"What do you do that for?" asked Stead.

"'Tis worshipping of idols," said a somewhat graver lad. "'Break down
their idols,' the man in the black gown said, 'and burn their graven
images in the fire.'"

"But we never worshipped them," said Stead.

"Pious preacher said so," returned the youth, "and mighty angered was
he with the rails." (Jeph and Will were sparring with two fragments of
them.) "'Down with them,' he cried out, so as it would have done your
heart good to hear him."

"And the parson is gone! There will be no hearing the catechism on
Sundays!" cried Ralph Wilkes, making a leap over the broken font.

"Good luck for you, Ralph," cried the others. "You, that never could
tell how many commandments there be."

"Put on your hat, Stead," called out another lad. "We've done with all
that now, and the parson is gone to prison for it."

"No, no," shouted Tom Oates, "'twas for making away with the Communion
things."

"I heard the red coat say they had a warrant against scandalous
ministers," declared Ralph Wilkes.

"I heard the man with the pen and ink-horn ask for the popish vessels,
as he called them, and not a word would the parson say," said Oates.

"I'd take my oath he has hid them somewheres," replied Jack Beard, an
ill-looking lad.

"What a windfall they would be for him as found them!" observed Wilkes.

"I'd like to look over the parsonage house," said Jeph.

"No use. Old dame housekeeper has locked herself in, as savage as a bear
with a sore head."

"Besides, they did turn over all the parson's things and made a bonfire
of all his popish books. The little ones be dancing their rounds about
it still!"

Stead had heard quite enough to make him very uneasy, and wish to get
home with his tidings to his father. There was a girl standing by with a
baby in her arms, and she asked:

"What will they do to our minister?"

"Put him in Little Ease for a scandalous minister," was the ready
answer. "But he _is_ a good man. He gave us all broth when father had
the fever!"

"And who will give granny and me our Sunday dinner?" said a little boy.

"But there'll be no more catechising. Hurrah!" cried Oates, "hurrah!"

"'Tis rank superstition, said the red coat, Hurrah!" and up went their
caps. "Halloa, Stead Kenton, not a word to say?"

"He likes being catechised, standing as he does like a stuck pig, and
answering never a word," cried Jack.

"I do," said Steadfast, "and why not?"

"Parson's darling! Parson's darling!" shouted the boys. "A malignant!
Off with him." They had begun to hustle him, when Jeph threw himself
between and cried:

"Hit Steadfast, and you must hit me first."

"A match, a match!" they cried, "Jeph and Jack."

Stead had no fears about Jeph conquering, but while the others stood
round to watch the boxing, he slipped away, with his heart perplexed and
sad. He had loved his minister, and he never guessed how much he cared
for his church till he saw it lying desolate, and these rude lads
rejoicing in the havoc; while the words rang in his ears, "And now they
break down all the carved work thereof with axes and with hammers."



CHAPTER IV. THE GOOD CAUSE.



     "And their Psalter mourneth with them
      O'er the carvings and the grace,
      Which axe and hammer ruin
      In the fair and holy place."
                     Bp. CLEVELAND COXE.


When next John Kenton went into Bristol to market he tried to discover
what had become of Mr. Holworth, but could only make out something about
his being sent up to London with others of his sort to answer for being
Baal worshippers! Which, as he observed, he could not understand.

There seemed likely to be no service at the church on Sunday, but John
thought himself bound to walk thither with his sons to see what was
going on, and they heard such a noise that they looked at each other
in amazement. It was not preaching, but shouting, laughing, screaming,
stamping, and running. The rude village children were playing at
hide-and-seek, and Jenny Oates was hidden in the pulpit. But at Master
Kenton's loud "How now, youngsters" they all were frightened, some ran
out headlong, some sneaked out at the little north door, and the
place was quiet, but in sad confusion and desolation, the altar-table
overthrown, the glass of the windows lying in fragments on the pavement,
the benches kicked over.

Kenton, with his boys' help, put what he could straight again, and
then somewhat to their surprise knelt down with bowed head, and said
a prayer, for they saw his lips moving. Then he locked up the church
doors, for the keys had been left in them, and slowly and sadly went
away.

"Thy mother would be sad to see this work," he said to Steadfast, as
he stopped by her grave. "They say 'tis done for religion's sake, but I
know not what to make of it."

The old Parish Clerk, North, had had a stroke the night after the
plunder of the church, and lay a-dying and insensible. His wife gave
his keys to Master Kenton, and on the following Sunday there was a
hue-and-cry for them, and Oates the father, the cobbler, a meddling
fellow, came down with a whole rabble of boys after him to the farm to
demand them. "A preacher had come out from Bristol," he said, "a captain
in the army, and he was calling for the keys to get into the church and
give them a godly discourse. It would be the worse for Master Kenton if
he did not give them up."

John had just sat down in the porch in his clean Sunday smock with the
baby on his knee, and Rusha clinging about him waiting till Stead had
cleaned himself up, and was ready to read to them from the mother's
books.

When he understood Gates' message he slowly said, "I be in charge of the
keys for this here parish."

"Come, come, Master Kenton, this wont do, give 'un up or you'll be made
to. Times are changed, and we don't want no parsons nor churchwardens
now, nor no such popery!"

"I'm accountable to the vestry for the church," gravely said Kenton.
"I will come and see what is doing, and open the church if so be as the
parish require it."

"Don't you see! The parish does--"

"I don't call you the parish, Master Gates, nor them boys neither," said
Kenton, getting up however, and placing the little one in the cradle, as
he called out to Patience to keep back the dinner till his return. The
two boys and Rusha followed him to see what would happen.

Long before they reached the churchyard they heard the sound of a
powerful voice, and presently they could see all the men and women of
the parish as it seemed, gathered about the lych gate, where, on the
large stone on which coffins were wont to be rested, stood a tall thin
man, in a heavy broad-brimmed hat, large bands, crimson scarf, and buff
coat, who was in fiery and eager words calling on all those around to
awaken from the sleep of sloth and sin, break their bonds and fight for
freedom and truth. He waved his long sword as he spoke and dared the
armies of Satan to come on, and it was hard to tell which he really
meant, the forces of sin, or the armies of men whom he believed to be
fighting on the wrong side.

Someone told him that the keys of the church were brought, but he heeded
not the interruption, except to thunder forth "What care I for your
steeple house! The Church of God is in the souls of the faithful. Is
it not written 'The kingdom of heaven is within you?' What, can ye not
worship save between four walls?" And then he went on with the utmost
fervour and vehemence, calling on all around to set themselves free from
the chains that held them and to strive even to the death.

He meant all he said. He really believed he was teaching the only way of
righteousness, and so his words had a force that went home to people's
hearts as earnestness always does, and Jephthah, with tears in his eyes,
began begging and praying his father to let him go and fight for the
good Cause.

"Aye, aye," said Kenton, "against the world, the flesh, and the devil,
and welcome, my son."

"Then I'll go and enlist under Captain Venn," cried Jeph.

"Not so fast, my lad. What I gave you leave for was to fight with the
devil."

"You said the good Cause!"

"And can you tell me which be the good Cause?"

"Why, this here, of course. Did not you hear the Captain's good words,
and see his long sword, and didn't they give five marks for Croppie's
bull calf?"

"Fine words butter no parsnips," slowly responded Kenton.

"But," put in Steadfast, "butter is risen twopence the pound."

"Very like," said Kenton, "but how can that be the good Cause that
strips the Churches and claps godly ministers into jail?"

Jephthah thought he had an answer, but fathers in those times did not
permit themselves to be argued with.

Prices began going up still higher, for the Cavaliers were reported
to be on their way to besiege Bristol, and the garrison wanted all the
provisions they could lay in, and paid well for them. When Kenton
and his boys went down to market, they found the old walls being
strengthened with earth and stones, and sentries watching at the gates,
but as they brought in provisions, and were by this time well known, no
difficulty was made about admitting them.

One day, however, as they were returning, they saw a cloud of dust in
the distance, and heard the sounds of drums and fifes playing a joyous
tune. Kenton drew the old mare behind the bank of a high hedge, and the
boys watched eagerly through the hawthorns.

Presently they saw the Royal Standard of England, though indeed that did
not prove much, for both sides used it alike, but there were many lesser
banners and pennons of lords and knights, waving on the breeze, and as
the Kentons peeped down into the lane below they saw plumed hats,
and shining corslets, and silken scarves, and handsome horses, whose
jingling accoutrements chimed in with the tramp of their hoofs, and the
notes of the music in front, while cheerful voices and laughter could be
heard all around.

"Oh, father! these be gallant fellows," exclaimed Jephthah. "Will you
let me go with these?"

Kenton laughed a little to himself. "Which is the good Cause, eh, son
Jeph?"

He was, however, not at all easy about the state of things. "There is
like to be fighting," he said to Steadfast, as they were busy together
getting hay into the stable, "and that makes trouble even for quiet
folks that only want to be let alone. Now, look you here," and he
pulled out a canvas bag from the corner of the bin. "This has got pretty
tolerably weighty of late, and I doubt me if this be the safest place
for it."

Stead opened his eyes. The family all knew that the stable was used as
the deposit for money, though none of the young folks had been allowed
to know exactly where it was kept. There were no banks in those days,
and careful people had no choice but either to hoard and hide, or to
lend their money to someone in business.

The farmer poured out a heap of the money, all silver and copper, but he
did not dare to wait to count it lest he should be interrupted. He tied
up one handful, chiefly of pence, in the same bag, and put the rest into
a bit of old sacking, saying, "You can get to the brook side, to the
place you wot of, better than I can, Stead. Take you this with you and
put it along with the other things, and then you will have something
to fall back on in case of need. We'll put the rest back where it was
before, for it may come handy."

So Steadfast, much gratified, as well he might be, at the confidence
bestowed on him by his father, took the bag with him under his smock
when he went out with the cows, and bestowed it in a cranny not far from
that in which that more precious trust resided.



CHAPTER V. DESOLATION.


     "They shot him dead at the Nine Stonerig,
      Beside the headless Cross;
      And they left him lying in his blood,
      Upon the moor and moss."
                                      SURTEES.


More and more soldiers might be seen coming down the roads towards the
town, not by any means always looking as gay as that first troop.
Some of the feathers were as draggled as the old cock's tail after
a thunderstorm, some reduced even to the quill, the coats looked
threadbare, the scarves stained and frayed, the horses lean and bony.

There was no getting into the town now, and the growling thunder of a
cannon might now and then be heard. Jeph would have liked to spend all
his time on the hill-side where he could see the tents round the town,
and watch bodies of troops come out, looking as small as toy soldiers,
and see the clouds of smoke, sometimes the flashes, a moment or two
before the report.

He longed to go down and see the camp, taking a load of butter and
eggs, but the neighbours told his father that these troops were bad
paymasters, and that there were idle fellows lurking about who might
take his wares without so much as asking the price.

However, Jeph grew suddenly eager to herd the cattle, because thus he
had the best chance of watching the long lines of soldiers drawn out
from the camp, and seeing the smoke of the guns, whose sound made poor
Patience stay and tremble at home, and hardly like to have her father
out of her sight.

There was worse coming. Jeph had been warned to keep his cattle well out
of sight from any of the roads, but when he could see the troops moving
about he could not recollect anything else, and one afternoon Croppie
strayed into the lane where the grass grew thick and rank, and the
others followed her. Jeph had turned her back and was close to the
farmstead when he heard shouts and the clattering of trappings.
Half-a-dozen lean, hungry-looking troopers were clanking down the lane,
and one called out, "Ha! good luck! Just what we want! Beef and forage.
Turn about, young bumpkin, I say. Drive your cattle into camp. For the
King's service."

"They are father's," sturdily replied Jeph, and called aloud for
"Father."

He was answered with a rude shout of derision, and poor Croppie was
pricked with the sword's point to turn her away. Jeph was wild with
passion, and struck back the sword with his stick so unexpectedly that
it flew out of the trooper's hand. Of course, more than one stout man
instantly seized the boy, amid howls of rage; and one heavy blow had
fallen on him, when Kenton dashed forward, thrusting himself between his
son, and the uplifted arm, and had begun to speak, when, with the words
"You will, you rebel dog?" a pistol shot was fired.

Jeph saw his father fall, but felt the grasp upon himself relax, and
heard a voice shouting, "How now, my men, what's this?"

"He resisted the King's requisition, your Grace," said one of the
troopers, as a handsome lad galloped up.

"King's requisition! Your own robbery. What have you done to the poor
man, you Schelm? See here, Rupert," he added, as another young man rode
hastily up.

"Rascals! How often am I to tell you that this is not to be made a place
for your plunder and slaughter," thundered the new comer, rising in his
stirrups, and striking at the troopers with the flat of his sword, so
that they fell back with growls about "soldiers must live," and "curs of
peasants."

The younger brother had leapt from his horse, and was trying to help
Jephthah raise poor Kenton's head, but it fell back helplessly, deaf
to the screams of "Father, father," with which Patience and Rusha had
darted out, as a cloud of smoke began to rise from the straw yard. Poor
children, they screamed again at what was before them. Rusha ran wildly
away at sight of the soldiers, but Patience, with the baby in her arms,
came up. She did not see her father at first, and only cried aloud to
the gentlemen.

"O sir, don't let them do it. If they take our cows, the babe will die.
He has no mother!"

"They shall not, the villains! Brother, can nothing be done?" cried
the youth, with a face of grief and horror. And then there was a great
confusion.

The two young officers were vehemently angry at sight of the fire, and
shouted fierce orders to the guard of soldiers who had accompanied them
to endeavour to extinguish it, themselves doing their best, and making
the men release Steadfast, whom they had seized upon as he was trying to
trample out the flame, kindled by a match from one of the soldiers
who had scattered themselves about the yard during the struggle with
Jephthah.

But either the fire was too strong, or the men did not exert themselves;
it was soon plain that the house could not be saved, and the elder
remounted, saying in German, "'Tis of no use, Maurice, we must not
linger here."

"And can nothing be done?" again asked Prince Maurice. "This is as bad
as in Germany itself."

"You are new to the trade, Maurice. You will see many such sights,
I fear, ere we have done; though I hoped the English nature was more
kindly."

Then using the word of command, sending his aides-de-camp, and with much
shouting and calling, Prince Rupert got the troop together again, very
sulky at being baulked of their plunder. They were all made to go out of
the farm yard, and ride away before him, and then the two princes halted
where the poor children, scarce knowing that their home was burning
behind them, were gathered round their father, Patience stroking his
face, Steadfast chafing his hands, Jephthah standing with folded arms,
and a terrible look of grief and wrath on his face.

"Is there no hope?" asked Prince Maurice, sorrowfully.

"He is dead. That's all," muttered Jeph between his clenched teeth.

"Mark," said Prince Rupert, "this mischance is by no command of the
King or mine. The fellow shall be brought to justice if you can swear to
him."

"I would have hindered it, if I could," said the other prince, in much
slower, and more imperfect English. "It grieves me much. My purse has
little, but here it is."

He dropped it on the ground while setting spurs to his horse to follow
his brother.

And thus the poor children were left at first in a sort of numb dismay
after the shock, not even feeling that a heavy shower had begun to fall,
till the baby, whom Patience had laid on the grass, set up a shriek.

Then she snatched him up, and burst into a bitter cry herself--wailing
"father was dead, and he would die," in broken words. Steadfast then
laid a hand on her, and said "He won't die, Patience, I see Croppie
there, I'll get some milk. Take him."

There were only smoking walls, but the fire was burning down under the
rain, and had not touched the stable, the wind being the other way.
"Take him there," the boy said.

"But father--we can't leave him."

Without more words Jephthah and Steadfast took the still form between
them and bore it into the stable, the baby screaming with hunger all the
time, so that Jephthah hotly said--

"Stop that! I can't bear it."

Steadfast then said he would milk the cow if Jeph would run to the next
cottage and get help. People would come when they knew the soldiers were
gone.

There was nothing but Steadfast's leathern cap to hold the milk, and
he felt as if his fingers had no strength to draw it; but when he had
brought his sister enough to quiet little Ben, she recollected Rusha,
and besought him to find her. She could hardly sit still and feed the
little one while she heard his voice shouting in vain for the child,
and all the time she was starting with the fancy that she saw her father
move, or heard a rustling in the straw where her brothers had laid him.

And when little Ben was satisfied, she was almost rent asunder between
her unwillingness to leave unwatched all that was left of her father,
still with that vain hopeless hope that he might revive, all could not
have been over in such a moment, and her terrible anxiety about her
little sister. Could she have run back into the burning house? Or could
those dreadful soldiers have killed her too?

Steadfast presently came back, having found some of the startled cattle
and driven them in, but no Rusha. Patience was sure she could find her,
and giving the baby to Steadfast ran out in the rain and smouldering
smoke calling her; all in vain. Then she heard voices and feet, and in a
fresh fright was about to turn again, when she knew Jephthah's call. He
had the child in his arms. He had been coming back from the village with
some neighbours, when they saw the poor little thing, crouched like a
hare in her form under a bush. No sooner did she hear them, than like a
hare, she started up to run away; but stumbling over the root of a tree,
she fell and lay, too much frightened even to scream till her brother
picked her up.

Kind motherly arms were about the poor girls. Old Goody Grace, who had
been with them through their mother's illness, had hobbled up on hearing
the terrible news. She looked like a witch, with a tall hat, short
cloak, and nose and chin nearly meeting, but all Elmwood loved and
trusted her, and the feeling of utter terror and helplessness almost
vanished when she kissed and grieved over the orphans, and took the
direction of things. She straightened and composed poor John Kenton's
limbs, and gave what comfort she could by assuring the children that the
passage must have been well nigh without pain. "And if ever there was
a good man fit to be taken suddenly, it was he," she added. "He be in
a happier place than this has been to him since your good mother was
took."

Several of the men had accompanied her, and after some consultation, it
was decided that the burial had better take place that very night, even
though there was no time to make a coffin.

"Many an honest man will be in that same case," said Harry Blane, the
smith, "if they come to blows down there."

"And He to Whom he is gone will not ask whether he lies in a coffin, or
has the prayers said over him," added Goody, "though 'tis pity on him
too, for he always was a man for churches and parsons and prayers."

"Vain husks, said the pious captain," put in Oates.

"Well," said Harry Blane, "those could hardly be vain husks that made
John Kenton what he was. Would that the good old times were back again;
when a sackless man could not be shot down at his own door for nothing
at all."

Reverently and carefully John Kenton's body was borne to the churchyard,
where he was laid in the grave beside his much loved wife. No knell was
rung: Elmwood, lying far away over the hill side in the narrow wooded
valley with the river between it and the camp, had not yet been visited
by any of the Royalist army, but a midnight toll might have attracted
the attention of some of the lawless stragglers. Nor did anyone feel
capable of uttering a prayer aloud, and thus the only sound at that
strange sad funeral was the low boom of a midnight gun fired in the
beleaguered city.

Then Patience with Rusha and the baby were taken home by kind old Goody
Grace, while the smith called the two lads into his house.



CHAPTER VI. LEFT TO THEMSELVES.


     "One look he cast upon the bier,
      Dashed from his eye the gathering tear,
      Then, like the high bred colt when freed
      First he essays his fire and speed,
      He vanished---"
                                SCOTT.


Steadfast was worn and wearied out with grief and slept heavily, knowing
at first that his brother was tossing about a good deal, but soon losing
all perception, and not waking till on that summer morning the sun had
made some progress in the sky.

Then he came to the sad recollection of the last dreadful day, and knew
that he was lying on Master Blane's kitchen floor. He picked himself up,
and at the same moment heard Jephthah calling him from the outside.

"Stead," he said, "I am going!"

"Going!" said poor Stead, half asleep.

"Yes. I shall never rest till I have had a shot at those barbarous
German princes and the rest of the villains. My father's blood cries to
me from the ground for vengeance."

"Would father have said like that?" said the boy, bewildered, but
conscious of something defective, though these were Bible words.

"That's not the point! Captain Venn called every man to take the sword
and hew down the wicked, and slay the ungodly and the murderers. I
will!" cried Jeph, "none shall withhold me."

He had caught more phrases from these fiery preachers than he himself
knew, and they broke forth in this time of excitement.

"But, Jeph, what is to become of us? The girls, and the little one! You
are the only one of us who can do a man's work."

"I could not keep you together!" said Jeph. "Our house burnt by those
accursed sons of Belial, all broken up, and only a lubber like you to
help! No, Goody Grace or some one will take in the girls for what's left
of the stock, and you can soon find a place--a strong fellow like you;
Master Blane might take you and make a smith of you, if you be not too
slow and clumsy."

"But Jeph--"

"Withhold me not. Is it not written--"

"I wish you would not say is it not written," broke in Stead, "I know it
is, but you don't say it right."

"Because you are yet in darkness," said Jeph, contemptuously. "Hold your
tongue. I must be off at once. Market folk can get into the town by the
low lane out there, away from the camp of the spoilers, early in the
morning, and I must hasten to enlist under Captain Venn. No, don't call
the wenches, they would but strive to daunt my spirit in the holy work
of vengeance on the bloodthirsty, and I can't abide tears and whining.
See here, I found this in the corn bin. I'm poor father's heir. You
won't want money, and I shall; so I shall take it, but I'll come back
and make all your fortunes when I am a captain or a colonel. I wonder
this is not more. We got a heap of late. Maybe father hid it somewhere
else, but 'tis no use seeking now. If you light upon it you are welcome
to do what you will with it. Fare thee well, Steadfast. Do the best you
can for the wenches, but a call is laid on me! I have vowed to avenge
the blood that was shed."

He strode off into the steep woodland path that clothed the hill side,
and Steadfast looked after him, and felt more utterly deserted than
before. Then he looked up to the sky, and tried to remember what was
the promise to the fatherless children. That made him wonder whether
the Bible and Prayer-book had been burnt, and then his morning's duty of
providing milk for the little ones' breakfast pressed upon him. He took
up a pail of Mrs. Blane's which he thought he might borrow and went off
in search of the cows. So, murmuring the Lord's Prayer as he walked,
and making the resolution not to be dragged away from his trust in the
cavern, nor to forsake his little sister--he heard the lowing of the
cows as he went over the hill, and found them standing at the gate of
the fold yard, waiting to be eased of their milk. Poor creatures, they
seemed so glad to welcome him that it was the first thing that brought
tears to his eyes, and they came with such a rush that he had much ado
to keep them from dropping into the pail as he leant his head against
Croppie's ruddy side.

There was a little smouldering smoke; but the rain had checked the fire,
and though the roof of the house was gone and it looked frightfully
dreary and wretched, the walls were still standing and the pigs were
grunting about the place. However, Steadfast did not stop to see what
was left within, as he knew Ben would be crying for food, but he carried
his foaming pail back to Goody Grace's as fast as he could, after
turning out the cows on the common, not even stopping to count the sheep
that were straggling about.

His sisters were watching anxiously from the door of Goody Grace's
hovel, and eagerly cried out "Where's Jeph?"

Then he had to tell them that Jeph was gone for a soldier, to have his
revenge for his father's death.

"Jeph gone too!" said poor Patience, looking pale. "Oh, what shall we
ever do?"

"He did not think of that, I'll warrant, the selfish fellow," said Goody
Grace. "That's the way with lads, nought but themselves."

"It was because of what they did to poor father," replied Stead.

"And if he, or the folks he is gone to, call that the Christian
religion, 'tis more than I do!" rejoined the old woman. "I wish I had
met him, I'd have given him a bit of my mind about going off to his
revenge, as he calls it, without ever a thought what was to become of
his own flesh and blood here."

"He did say I might go to service (not that I shall), and that some one
would take you in for the cattle's sake."

"O don't do that, Stead," cried Patience, "don't let us part!" He had
only just time to answer, "No such thing," for people were coming about
them by this time, one after another emerging from the cottages that
stood around the village green. The women were all hotly angry with Jeph
for going off and leaving his young brothers and sisters to shift for
themselves.

"He was ever an idle fellow," said one, "always running after the
soldiers and only wanting an excuse."

"Best thing he could do for himself or them," growled old Green.

"Eh! What, Gaffer Green! To go off without a word or saying by your
leave to his poor little sister before his good father be cold in his
grave," exclaimed a whole clamour of voices.

"Belike he knew what a clack of women's tongues there would be, and
would fain be out of it," replied the old man shrewdly.

It was a clamour that oppressed poor Patience and made her feel sick
with sorrow and noise. Everybody meant to be very kind and pitiful, but
there was a great deal too much of it, and they felt quite bewildered
by the offers made them. Farmer Mill's wife, of Elmwood Cross, two miles
off, was reported by her sister to want a stout girl to help her, but
there was no chance of her taking Rusha or the baby as well as Patience.
Goody Grace could not undertake the care of Ben unless she could have
Patience, because she was so often called away from home, nor could she
support them without the cows. Smith Blane might have taken Stead, but
his wife would not hear of being troubled with Rusha. And Dame Oates
might endure Rusha for the sake of a useful girl like Patience, but
certainly not the baby. It was an utter Babel and confusion, and in the
midst of it all, Patience crept up to her brother who stood all the
time like a stock, and said "Oh! Stead, I cannot give up Ben to anyone.
Cannot we all keep together?"

"Hush, Patty! That's what I mean to do, if you will stand by me," he
whispered, "wait till all the clack is over."

And there he waited with Patience by his side while the parish seemed
to be endlessly striving over them. If one woman seemed about to make a
proposal, half-a-dozen more fell on her and vowed that the poor orphans
would be starved and overworked; till she turned on the foremost with
"And hadn't your poor prentice lad to go before the justices to shew the
weals on his back?" "Aye, Joan Stubbs, and what are you speaking up
for but to get the poor children's sheep? Hey, you now, Stead
Kenton--Lack-a-day, where be they?"

For while the dispute was at its loudest and hottest, Stead had taken
Rusha by the hand, made a sign to Patience, and the four deserted
children had quietly gone away together into the copsewood that led
to the little glen where the brook ran, and where was the cave that
Steadfast looked on as his special charge. Rusha, frightened by the loud
voices and angry gestures, had begun to cry, and beg she might not be
given to anyone, but stay with her Patty and Stead.

"And so you shall, my pretty," said Steadfast, sitting down on the stump
of a tree, and taking her on his knee, while Toby nuzzled up to them.

"Then you think we can go on keeping ourselves, and not letting them
part us," said Patience, earnestly. "If I have done the house work all
this time, and we have the fields, and all the beasts. We have only lost
the house, and I could never bear to live there again," she added, with
a shudder.

"No," said Steadfast, "it is too near the road while these savage
fellows are about. Besides--" and there he checked himself and added,
"I'll tell you, Patty. Do you remember the old stone cot down there in
the wood?"

"Where the old hermit lived in the blind Popish times?"

"Aye. We'll live there. No soldiers will ever find us out there, Patty."

"Oh! oh! that is good," said Patience. "We shall like that, shan't we,
Rusha?"

"And," added Steadfast, "there is an old cowshed against the rock
down there, where we could harbour the beasts, for 'tis them that the
soldiers are most after."

"Let us go down to it at once," cried the girl, joyfully.

But Steadfast thought it would be wiser to go first to the ruins of
their home; before, as he said, anyone else did so, to see what could be
saved therefrom.

Patience shrank from the spectacle, and Rusha hung upon her, saying the
soldiers would be there, and beginning to cry. At that moment, however,
Tom Gates' voice came near shouting for "Stead! Stead Kenton!"

"Come on, Stead. You'll be prentice-lad to Dick Stiggins the tailor, if
so be you bring Whitefoot and the geese for your fee; and Goodman Bold
will have the big wench; and Goody Grace will make shift with the little
ones, provided she has the kine!"

"We don't mean to be beholden to none of them," said Steadfast,
sturdily, with his hands in his pockets. "We mean to keep what belongs
to us, and work for ourselves."

"And God will help us," Patience added softly.

"Ho, ho!" cried Tom, and proud of having found them, he ran before them
back to the village green, and roared out, "Here they be! And they say
as how they don't want none of you, but will keep themselves. Ha! ha!"

Anyone who saw those four young orphans would not have thought their
trying to keep themselves a laughing matter; and the village folk, who
had been just before so unwilling to undertake them, now began scolding
and blaming them for their folly and ingratitude.

Nothing indeed makes people so angry as when a kindness which has cost
them a great effort turns out not to be wanted.

"Look for nothing from us," cried Dame Bold. "I'd have made a good
housewife of you, you ungrateful hussy, and now you may thank yourself,
if you come to begging, I shall have nothing for you."

"Beggary and rags," repeated the tailor. "Aye, aye; 'tis all very fine
strolling about after the sheep with your hands in your pockets in
summer weather, but you'll sing another song in winter time, and be
sorry you did not know when you had a good offer."

"The babe will die as sure as 'tis born," added Jean Oates.

"If they be not all slain by the mad Prince's troopers up in that place
by the roadside," said another.

Blacksmith Blane and Goody Grace were in the meantime asking the
children what they meant to do, and Stead told them in a few words.
Goody Grace shook her head over little Ben, but Blane declared that
after all it might be the best thing they could do to keep their land
and beasts together. Ten to one that foolish lad Jephthah would come
back with his tail between his legs, and though it would serve him
right, what would they do if all were broken up? Then he slapped Stead
on the back, called him a sensible, steady lad, and promised always to
be his friend.

Moreover he gave up his morning's work to come with the children to
their homestead, and see what could be saved. It was a real kindness,
not only because his protection made Patience much less afraid to go
near the place, and his strong arm would be a great help to them, but
because he was parish constable and had authority to drive away the
rough lads whom they found already hanging about the ruins, and who had
frightened Patience's poor cat up into the ash tree.

The boys and two curs were dancing round the tree, and one boy was
stripping off his smock to climb up and throw poor pussy down among them
when Master Blane's angry shout and flourished staff put them all to
flight, and Patience and Rusha began to coax the cat to come down to
them.

Hunting her had had one good effect, it had occupied the boys and
prevented them from carrying anything off. The stable was safe. What had
been burnt was the hay rick, whence the flames had climbed to the house.
The roof had fallen in, and the walls and chimney stood up blackened and
dismal, but there was a good deal of stone about the house, the roof was
of shingle, and the heavy fall, together with the pouring rain, had
done much to choke the fire, so that when Blane began to throw aside the
charred bits of beams and of the upper floor, more proved to be unburnt,
or at least only singed, than could have been expected.

The great black iron pot still hung in the chimney with the very meal
and kail broth that Patience had been boiling in it, and Rusha's little
stool stood by the hearth. Then the great chest, or ark as Patience
called it, where all the Sunday clothes were kept, had been crushed
in and the upper things singed, but all below was safe. The beds and
bedding were gone; but then the best bed had been only a box in the wall
with an open side, and the others only chaff or straw stuffed into a
sack.

Patience's crocks, trenchers, and cups were gone too, all except one
horn mug; but two knives and some spoons were extracted from the ashes.
Furniture was much more scanty everywhere than now. There was not much
to lose, and of that they had lost less than they had feared.

"And see here, Stead," said Patience joyfully holding up a lesser box
kept within the other.

It contained her mother's Bible and Prayer-book. The covers were turned
up, a little warped by the heat, and some of the corners of the leaves
were browned, but otherwise they were unhurt.

"I was in hopes 'twas the money box," said Blane.

"Jeph has got the bag," said Patience.

"More shame for him," growled their friend. Steadfast did not think it
necessary to say that was not all the hoard.

Another thing about which Patience was very anxious was the meal chest.
With much difficulty they reached it. It had been broken in by the fall
of the roof, and some of the contents were scattered, but enough was
gathered up in a pail fetched from the stable to last for some little
time. There were some eggs likewise in the nests, and altogether Goodman
Blane allowed that, if the young Kentons could take care of themselves,
and keep things together, they had decided for the best; if they could,
that was to say. And he helped them to carry their heavier things to
the glen. He wanted to see if it were fit for their habitation, but
Steadfast was almost sorry to show anyone the way, in spite of his trust
and gratitude to the blacksmith.

However, of course, it was not possible to keep this strange
hiding-place a secret, so he led the way by the path the cattle had
trodden out through the brushwood to the open space where they drank,
and where stood the hermit's hut, a dreary looking den built of big
stones, and with rough slates covering it. There was a kind of hole for
the doorway, and another for the smoke to get out at. Blane whistled
with dismay at the sight of it, and told Stead he could not take the
children to such a place.

"We will get it better," said Stead.

"That we will," returned Patience, who felt anything better than being
separated from her brother.

"It is weather-tight," added Stead, "and when it is cleaned out you will
see!"

"And the soldiers will never find it," added Patience.

"There is something in that," said Blane. "But at any rate, though it be
summer, you can never sleep there to-night."

"The girls cannot," said Stead, "but I shall, to look after things."

These were long days, and by the evening many of the remnants of
household stuff had been brought, the cows and Whitefoot had been
tied up in their dilapidated shed, with all the hay Stead could gather
together to make them feel at home. There was a hollow under the rock
where he hoped to keep the pigs, but neither they nor the sheep could
be brought in at present. They must take their chance, the sheep on the
moor, the pigs grubbing about the ruins of the farmyard. The soldiers
must be too busy for marauding, to judge by the constant firing that had
gone on all day, the sharp rattle of the musquets, and now and then the
grave roll of a cannon.

Stead had been too busy to attend, but half the village had been
watching from the height, which accounted perhaps for the move from the
farm having been so uninterrupted after the first.

It was not yet dark, when, tired out by his day's hard work, Stead
sat himself down at the opening of his hut with Toby by his side. The
evening gold of the sky could hardly be seen through the hazel and
mountain-ash bushes that clothed the steep opposite bank of the glen and
gave him a feeling of security. The brook rippled along below, plainly
to be heard since all other sounds had ceased except the purring of a
night-jar and the cows chewing their cud. There was a little green glade
of short grass sloping down to the stream from the hut where the rabbits
were at play, but on each side the trees and brushwood were thick, with
only a small path through, much overgrown, and behind the rock rose like
a wall, overhung with ivy and traveller's joy. Only one who knew the
place could have found the shed among the thicket where the cows were
fastened, far less the cavern half-way up the side of the rock where
lay the treasures for which Steadfast was a watchman. He thought for a
moment of seeing if all were safe, but then decided, like a wise boy,
that to disturb the creepers, and wear a path to the place, was the
worst thing he could do if he wished for concealment. He had had his
supper at the village, and had no more to do, and after the long day
of going to and fro, even Toby was too much tired to worry the rabbits,
though he had had no heavy weights to carry. Perhaps, indeed, the poor
dog had no spirits to interfere with their sports, as they sat upright,
jumped over one another, and flashed their little white tails. He missed
his old master, and knew perfectly well that his young master was in
trouble and distress, as he crept close up to the boy's breast, and
looked up in his face. Stead's hand patted the rough, wiry hair, and
there was a sort of comfort in the creature's love. But how hard it was
to believe that only yesterday he had a father and a home, and that now
his elder brother was gone, and he had the great charge on him of being
the mainstay of the three younger ones, as well as of protecting that
treasure in the cavern which his father had so solemnly entrusted to
him.

The boy knelt down to say his prayers, and as he did so, all alone in
the darkening wood, the words "Father of the fatherless, Helper of the
helpless," came to his aid.



CHAPTER VII. THE HERMIT'S GULLEY.


     "O Bessie Bell and Mary Grey,
      They were twa bonnie lasses--
      They digged a bower on yonder brae,
      And theek'd it o'er wi' rashes."     BALLAD.


Steadfast slept soundly on the straw with Toby curled up by his side
till the morning light was finding its way in through all the chinks of
his rude little hovel.

When he had gathered his recollections he knew how much there was to be
done. He sprang to his feet, showing himself still his good mother's own
boy by kneeling down to his short prayer, then taking off the clothes in
which he had slept, and giving himself a good bath in the pool under the
bush of wax-berried guelder rose, and as good a wash as he could without
soap.

Then he milked the cows, for happily his own buckets had been at the
stable and thus were safe. He had just released Croppie and seen her
begin her breakfast on the grass, when Patience in her little red hood
came tripping through the glen with a broom over her shoulder, and
without the other children. Goody Grace had undertaken to keep them for
the day, whilst Patience worked with her brother, and had further lent
her the broom till she could make another, for all the country brooms
of that time were home-made with the heather and the birch. She had
likewise brought a barley cake, on which and on the milk the pair made
their breakfast, Goody providing for the little ones.

"We must use it up," said Patience, "for we have got no churn."

"And we could not get into the town to sell the butter if we had,"
returned her brother. "We had better take it up to some one in the
village who might give us something for it, bread or cheese maybe."

"I would like to make my own butter," sighed Patience, whose mother's
cleanly habits had made her famous for it.

"So you shall some day, Patty," said her brother, "but there's no
getting into Bristol to buy one or to sell butter now. Hark! they are
beginning again," as the growl of a heavy piece of cannon shook the
ground.

"I wonder where our Jeph is," said the little girl sadly. "How could he
like to go among all those cruel fighting men? You won't go, Stead?"

"No, indeed, I have got something else to do."

The children were hard at work all the time. They cleared out the inside
of their hovel, which had a floor of what was called lime ash, trodden
hard, and not much cracked. Probably other hermits in earlier times
had made the place habitable before the expelled monk whom the
Kentons' great-grandfather recollected; for the cell, though rude, was
wonderfully strong, and the stone walls were very stout and thick, after
the fashion of the middle ages. There was a large flat stone to serve as
a hearth, and an opening at the top for smoke with a couple of big slaty
stones bent towards one another over it as a break to the force of the
rain. The children might have been worse off though there was no window,
and no door to close the opening. That mattered the less in the summer
weather, and before winter came, Stead thought he could close it with
a mat made of the bulrushes that stood up in the brook, lifting their
tall, black heads.

Straw must serve for their beds till they could get some sacking to
stuff it into, and as some of the sheep would have to be killed and
salted for the winter, the skins would serve for warmth. Patience
arranged the bundles of straw with a neat bit of plaiting round them,
at one corner of the room for herself and Rusha, at the opposite one for
Stead. For the present they must sleep in their clothes.

Life was always so rough, and, to present notions, comfortless, that
all this was not nearly so terrible to the farmer's daughter of two
centuries ago as it would be to a girl of the present day. Indeed,
save for the grief for the good father, the sense of which now and then
rushed on them like a horrible, too true dream, Steadfast and Patience
would almost have enjoyed the setting up for themselves and all their
contrivances. Some losses, however, besides that of the churn were
very great in their eyes. Patience's spinning wheel especially, and the
tools, scythe, hook, and spade, all of which had been so much damaged,
that Smith Blane had shaken his head over them as past mending.

Perhaps, however, Stead might borrow and get these made for him. As to
the wheel, that must, like the churn, wait till the siege was over.

"But will not those dreadful men burn the town down and not leave one
stone on another, if Jeph and the rest of them don't keep them out?"
asked Patience.

"No," said Stead. "That is not the way in these days--at least not
always. So poor father said last time we went into Bristol, when he had
been talking to the butter-merchant's man. He said the townsfolk would
know the reason why, if the soldiers were for holding out long enough to
get them into trouble."

"Then perhaps there will not be much fighting and they will not hurt
Jeph," said Patience, to whom Jeph was the whole war.

"There's no firing to-day. Maybe they are making it up," said Steadfast.

"I never heeded," said Patience, "we have been so busy! But Stead, how
shall we get the things? We have no money. Shall we sell a sheep or a
pig?"

Stead looked very knowing, and she exclaimed "Have you any, Stead? I
thought Jeph took it all away."

Then Stead told her how his father had entrusted him with the bulk of
the savings, in case of need, and had made it over to the use of the
younger ones.

"It was well you did not know, Patty," he added. "You told no lie, and
Jeph might have taken it all."

"O! he would not have been so cruel," cried Patience. "He would not want
Rusha and Ben to have nothing."

Stead did not feel sure, and when Patience asked him where the hoard
was, he shook his head, looked wise, and would not tell her. And then he
warned her, with all his might and main against giving a hint to anyone
that they had any such fund in reserve. She was a little vexed and hurt
at first, but presently she promised.

"Indeed Stead, I won't say one word about it, and you don't think I
would ever touch it without telling you."

"No, Patty, you wouldn't, but don't you see, if you know nothing, you
can't tell if people ask you."

In truth, Stead was less anxious about the money than about the other
treasure, and when presently Patience proposed that the cave where they
used to play should serve for the poultry, so as to save them from the
foxes and polecats, he looked very grave and said "No, no, Patty, don't
you ever tell anyone of that hole, nor let Rusha see it."

"Oh! I know then!" cried Patience, with a little laugh, "I know what's
there then."

"There's more than that, sister," and therewith Stead told in her ear of
the precious deposit.

She looked very grave, and said "Why then it is just like church! O no,
Stead, I'll never tell till good Mr. Holworth comes back. Could not we
say our prayers there on Sundays?"

Stead liked the thought but shook his head.

"We must not wear a path up to the place," he said, "nor show the little
ones the way."

"I shall say mine as near as I can," said Patience. "And I shall ask God
to help us keep it safe."

Then the children became absorbed in seeking for a place where their
fowls could find safe shelter from the enemies that lurked in the wood,
and ended by an attempt of Stead's to put up some perches across the
beam above the cow-shed.

Things were forward enough for Rusha and Ben to be fetched down to their
new home that night; when Patience went to fetch them, she heard that
the cessation of firing had really been because the troops within the
town were going to surrender to the King's soldiers outside.

"Then there will be no more fighting," she anxiously asked of Master
Blane.

"No man can tell," he answered.

"And will Jeph come back?"

But that he could tell as little, and indeed someone else spoke to him,
and he paid the child no more attention.

Rusha had had a merry day among the children of her own age in the
village; she fretted at coming away, and was frightened at turning
into so lonely a path through the hazel stems, trotting after Patience
because she was afraid to turn back alone, but making a low, peevish
moan all the time.

[Illustration: Stead Stirring The Porridge.]

Patience hoped she would be comforted when they came out on their little
glade, and she saw Stead stirring the milk porridge over the fire he had
lighted by the house. For he had found the flint and steel belonging
to the matchlock of his father's old gun, and there was plenty of dry
leaves and half-burnt wood to serve as tinder. The fire for cooking
would be outside, whenever warmth and weather served, to prevent indoor
smoke. And to Patience's eyes it really looked pleasant and comfortable,
with Toby sitting wisely by his young master's side, and the cat
comfortably perched at the door, and Whitefoot tied to a tree, and the
cows in their new abode. But Jerusha was tired and cross, she said it
was an ugly place, and she was afraid of the foxes and the polecats, she
wanted to go home, she wanted to go back to Goody Grace.

Stead grew angry, and threatened that she should have no supper, and
that made her cry the louder, and shake her frock at him; but Patience,
who knew better how to deal with her, let her finish her cry, and come
creeping back, promising to be good, and glad to eat the supper, which
was wholesome enough, though very smoky: however, the children were used
to smoke, and did not mind it.

They said their prayers together while the sun was touching the tops of
the trees, crept into their hut, curled themselves up upon their straw
and went to sleep, while Toby lay watchful at the door, and the cat
prowled about in quest of a rabbit or some other evening wanderer for
her supper.

The next day Patience spent in trying to get things into somewhat better
order, and Steadfast in trying to gather together his live stock, which
he had been forced to leave to take care of themselves. Horse, donkey,
and cows were all safe round their hut; but he could find only three of
the young pigs and the old sow at the farmyard, and it plainly was
not safe to leave them there, though how to pen them up in their new
quarters he did not know.

The sheep were out on the moor, and only one of them seemed to be
missing. The goat and the geese had likewise taken care of themselves
and seemed glad to see him. He drove them down to their new home, and
fed them there with some of the injured meal. "But what can we do with
the pigs? There's no place they can't get out of but this," said Stead,
looking doubtfully.

"Do you think I would have pigs in here? No, I am not come to that!"

It ended in Stead's going to consult Master Blane, who advised that the
younger pigs should be either sold, or killed and salted, and nothing
left but the sow, who was a cunning old animal, and could pretty well
take care of herself, besides that she was so tough and lean that one
must be very hungry indeed to be greatly tempted by her bristles.

But how sell the pigs or buy the salt in such days as these? There was,
indeed, no firing.

There was a belief that treaties were going on, but leisure only left
the besiegers more free to go wandering about in search of plunder; and
Stead found all trouble saved him as to disposing of his pigs. They were
quite gone next time he looked for them, and the poor old sow had been
lamed by a shot; but did not seem seriously hurt, and when with some
difficulty she had been persuaded to be driven into the glen, she seemed
likely to be willing to stay there in the corner of the cattle shed.

The children were glad enough to be in their glen, with all its bareness
and discomfort, when they heard that a troop of horse had visited
Elmwood, and made a requisition there for hay and straw. They had used
no violence, but the farmers were compelled to take it into the camp
in their own waggons, getting nothing in payment but orders on the
treasury, which might as well be waste paper. And, indeed, they were
told by the soldiers that they might be thankful to get off with their
carts and horses.



CHAPTER VIII. STEAD IN POSSESSION.


     "At night returning, every labour sped,
      He sits him down, the monarch of a shed."
                                          GOLDSMITH.


Another day made it certain that the garrison of Bristol had surrendered
to the besiegers. A few shots were heard, but they were only fired in
rejoicing by the Royalists, and while Steadfast was studying his barley
field, already silvered over by its long beards, and wondering how soon
it would be ripe, and how he should get it cut and stacked, his name
was shouted out, and he saw Tom Oates and all the rest of the boys
scampering down the lane.

"Come along, Stead Kenton, come on and see, the Parliament soldiers come
out and go by."

Poor Steadfast had not much heart for watching soldiers, but it struck
him that he might see or hear something of Jephthah, so he came with the
other boys to the bank, where from behind a hedge they could look down
at the ranks of soldiers as they marched along, five abreast, the road
was not wide enough to hold more. They had been allowed to keep their
weapons, so the officers had their swords, and the men carried their
musquets. Most of them looked dull and dispirited, and the officers had
very gloomy, displeased faces. In fact, they were very angry with their
commander, Colonel Fiennes, for having surrendered so easily, and he was
afterwards brought to a court-martial for having done so.

Stead did not understand this, he thought only of looking under each
steel cap or tall, slouching hat for Jephthah. Several times a youthful,
slender figure raised his hopes, and disappointed him, and he began to
wonder whether Jeph could have after all stayed behind in the town, or
if he could have been hurt and was ill there.

By-and-by came a standard, bearing a Bible lying on a sword, and behind
it rode a grave looking officer, with long hair, and a red scarf, whom
the lads recognised as the same who had preached at Elmwood. His men
were in better order than some of the others, and as Steadfast eagerly
watched them, he was sure that he knew the turn of Jeph's head, in spite
of his being in an entirely new suit of clothes, and with a musquet over
his shoulder.

Stead shook the ash stem he was leaning against, the men looked up, he
saw the well-known face, and called out "Jeph! Jeph!" But some of the
others laughed, Jeph frowned and shook his head, and marched on. Stead
was disappointed, but at any rate he could carry back the assurance to
Patience that Jeph was alive and well, though he seemed to have lost all
care for his brothers and sisters. Yet, perhaps, as a soldier he could
not help it, and it might not be safe to straggle from the ranks.

There was no more fighting for the present in the neighbourhood. The
princes and their army departed, only leaving a garrison to keep the
city, and it was soon known in the village that the town was in its
usual state, and that it was safe to go in to market as in former times.
Stead accordingly carried in a basket of eggs, which was all he could
yet sell. He was ferried across the river, and made his way in. It was
strange to find the streets looking exactly as usual, and the citizens'
wives coming out with their baskets just as if nothing had happened.

There was the good-natured face of Mistress Lightfoot, who kept a
baker's shop at the sign of the Wheatsheaf, and was their regular
customer.

"Ha, little Kenton, be'st thou there? I'm right glad to see thee. They
said the mad fellows had burnt the farm and made an end of all of
you, but I find 'em civil enow, and I'm happy to see 'twas all
leasing-making."

"It is true, mistress," said Stead, "that they burnt our house and shot
poor father."

"Eh, you don't say so, my poor lad?" and she hurried her kind questions,
tears coming into her eyes, as she thought of the orphans deserted by
their brother. She was very anxious to have Patience butter-making again
and promised to come with Stead to give her assistance in choosing both
a churn and a spinning wheel if he would come in the next day, for he
had not ventured on bringing any money with him. She bought all his eggs
for her lodger, good Doctor Eales, who could hardly taste anything and
had been obliged to live cooped up in an inner chamber for fear of the
Parliament soldiers, who were misbehaved to Church ministers though
civil enough to women; while these new comers were just the other way,
hat in hand to a clergyman, but apt to be saucy to the lasses. But she
hoped the Doctor would cheer up again, now that the Cathedral was set in
order, so far as might be, and prayers were said there as in old times.
In fact the bells were ringing for morning prayer, and Stead was so glad
to hear them that he thought he might venture in and join in the brief
daily service. There were many others who had done so, for these anxious
days had quickened the devotion of many hearts, and people had felt what
it was to be robbed of their churches and forbidden the use of their
prayer-books. Moreover, some had sons or brothers or husbands fighting
on the one side or the other, and were glad to pray for them, so that
Stead found himself in the midst of quite a congregation, though the
choir had been too much dispersed and broken up for the musical service,
and indeed the organ had been torn to pieces by the Puritan soldiers,
who fancied it was Popish.

But Stead found himself caring for the Psalms and Prayers in a manner he
had never done before, and which came of the sorrow he had felt and the
troubles that pressed upon him. He fancied all would come right now, and
that soon Mr. Holworth would be back, and he should be able to give up
his charge; and he went home, quite cheered up.

When he came into the gulley he heard voices through the bushes, and
pressing forward anxiously he saw Blane and Oates before the hovel door,
Patience standing there crying, with the baby in her arms, and Rusha
holding her apron, and an elderly man whom Stead knew as old Lady
Elmwood's steward talking to the other men, who seemed to be persuading
him to something.

As soon as Stead appeared, the other children ran up to him, and Rusha
hid herself behind him, while Patience said "O Stead, Stead, he has come
to turn us all out! Don't let him!"

"Nay, nay, little wench, not so fast," said the steward, not unkindly.
"I am but come to look after my Lady's interests, seeing that we heard
your poor father was dead, God have mercy on his soul (touching his hat
reverently), and his son gone off to the wars, and nothing but a pack of
children left."

"But 'tis all poor father's," muttered Stead, almost dumbfounded.

"It is held under the manor of Elmwood," explained the steward, "on the
tenure of the delivery of the prime beast on the land on the demise of
lord or tenant, and three days' service in hay and harvest time."

What this meant Steadfast and Patience knew as little as did Rusha or
Ben, but Goodman Blane explained.

"The land here is all held under my Lady and Sir George, Stead--mine
just the same--no rent paid, but if there's a death--landlord or
tenant--one has to give the best beast as a fee, besides the work in
harvest."

"And the question is," proceeded the steward, "who and what is there to
look to. The eldest son is but a lad, if he were here, and this one is a
mere child, and the house is burnt down, and here they be, crouching in
a hovel, and how is it to be with the land. I'm bound to look after the
land. I'm bound to look after my Lady's interest and Sir George's."

"Be they ready to build up the place if you had another tenant?" asked
Blane, signing to Stead to hold his peace.

"Well--hum--ha! It might not come handy just now, seeing that Sir George
is off with the King, and all the money and plate with him and most
of the able-bodied servants, but I'm the more bound to look after his
interests."

That seemed to be Master Brown's one sentence. But Blane took him up,
"Look you here, Master Brown, I, that have been friend and gossip this
many years with poor John Kenton--rest his soul--can tell you that your
lady is like to be better served with this here Steadfast, boy though he
be, than if you had the other stripling with his head full of drums and
marches, guns and preachments, and what not, and who never had a good
day's work in him without his father's eye over him. This little fellow
has done half his share and his own to boot long ago. Now they are
content to dwell down here, out of the way of the soldiering, and don't
ask her ladyship to be at any cost for repairing the farm up there, but
will do the best they can for themselves. So, I say, Master Brown, it
will be a real good work of charity, without hurt to my Lady and Sir
George to let them be, poor things, to fight it out as they can."

"Well, well, there's somewhat in what you say Goodman Blane, but I'm
bound to look after my Lady's interests and Sir George's."

"I would come and work like a good one at my Lady's hay and harvest,"
said Stead, "and I shall get stronger and bigger every year."

"But the beast," said the steward, "my Lady's interests must come first,
you see."

"O don't let him take Croppie," cried Patience. "O sir, not the cows, or
baby will die, and we can't make the butter."

"You see, Master Brown," explained Blane, "it is butter as is their
chief stand-by. Poor Dame Kenton, as was took last spring, was the best
dairywoman in the parish, and this little maid takes after her. Their
kine are their main prop, but there's the mare, there's not much good
that she can do them."

"Let us look!" said the steward. "A sorry jade enow! But I don't
know but she will serve our turn better than the cow. There was a
requisition, as they have the impudence to call it, from the Parliament
lot that took off all our horses, except old grey Dobbin and the colt,
and this beast may come in handy to draw the wood. So I'll take her, and
you may think yourself well off, and thank my Lady I'm so easy with you.
'Be not hard on the orphans,' she said. 'Heaven forbid, my Lady,' says
I, 'but I must look after your interests.'"

The children hung round old Whitefoot, making much of her for the last
time, and Patience and Rusha both cried sadly when she was led away;
and it was hard to believe Master Blane, who told them it was best for
Whitefoot as well as for themselves, since they would find it a hard
matter to get food even for the more necessary animals in the winter,
and the poor beast would soon be skin and bone; while for themselves
the donkey could carry all they wanted to market; and it might be more
important than they understood to be thus regularly accepted as tenants
by the manor, so that no one could turn them out.

And Stead, remembering the cavern, knew that he ought to be thankful,
while the two men went away, Brown observing, "One can scarce turn 'em
out, poor things, but such a mere lubber as that boy is can do no good!
If the elder one had thought fit to stay and mind his own business now!"

"A good riddance, I say," returned Blane. "Stead's a good-hearted lad,
though clownish, and I'll do what I can for him."



CHAPTER IX. WINTRY TIMES.


     "Thrice welcome may such seasons be,
      But welcome too the common way,
      The lowly duties of the day."


There was of course much to do. Steadfast visited his hoard and took
from thence enough to purchase churn, spinning wheel, and the few tools
that he most needed; but it was not soon that Patience could sit down to
spin. That must be for the winter, and their only chance of light was in
making candles.

Rusha could gather the green rushes, though she could not peel them
without breaking them; and Patience had to take them out of her hands
and herself strip the white pith so that only one ribbon of green was
left to support it.

The sheep, excepting a few old ewes, were always sold or killed before
the winter, and by Blane's advice, Stead kept only three. The butcher
Oates took some of the others, and helped Stead to dispose of four more
in the market. Two were killed at different intervals for home use, but
only a very small part was eaten fresh, as a wonderful Sunday treat,
the rest was either disposed of among the neighbours, who took it in
exchange for food of other kinds; or else was salted and dried for the
winter's fare, laid up in bran in two great crocks which Stead had been
forced to purchase, and which with planks from the half-burnt house laid
over them served by turns as tables or seats. The fat was melted up in
Patience's great kettle, and the rushes dipped in it over and over again
till they had such a coating of grease as would enable them to be burnt
in the old horn lantern which had fortunately been in the stable and
escaped the fire.

Kind neighbours helped Stead to cut and stack his hay, and his little
field of barley. All the grass he could cut on the banks he also saved
for the animals' winter food, and a few turnips, but these were rare and
uncommon articles only used by the most advanced farmers, and his father
had only lately begun to grow them, nor had potatoes become known except
in the gardens of the curious.

The vexation was that all the manor was called to give their three days'
labour to Lady Elmwood's crops just as all their own were cut, and as,
of course, Master Brown had chosen the finest weather, every one went
in fear and trembling for their own, and Oates and others grumbled so
bitterly at having to work without wage, that Blane asked if they called
their own houses and land nothing.

There was fresh grumbling too that the food sent out to the labourers in
the field was not as it used to be, good beef and mutton, but only bread
and very hard cheese, and bowls of hasty pudding, with thin, sour small
beer to wash it down. Oates growled and vowed he would never come again
to be so scurvily used; and perhaps no one guessed that my lady was far
more impoverished than her tenants, and had a hard matter to supply even
such fare as this.

Happily the weather lasted good long enough to save the Kentons' little
crop, though there was a sad remembrance of the old times, when the
church bell gave the signal at sunrise for all the harvesters to come to
church for the brief service, and then to start fair in their gleaning.
The bell did still ring, but there were no prayers. The vicar had never
come back, and it was reported that he had been sent to the plantations
in America. There was no service on Sunday nearer than Bristol. It
was the churchwardens' business to find a minister, and of these, poor
Kenton was dead, and the other, Master Cliffe, was not likely to do
anything that might put the parish to expense.

Goodman Blane, and some of the other more seriously minded folk used to
walk into Bristol to church when the weather was tolerably fine. If it
were wet, the little stream used to flood the lower valley so that
it was not possible to get across. Steadfast was generally one of the
party. Patience could not go, as it was too far for Rusha to walk, or
for the baby to be carried.

Once, seeing how much she wished to go again to church, Stead undertook
to mind the children, the cattle, and the dinner in her place; but
what work he found it! When he tried to slice the onions for the broth,
little Ben toddled off, and had to be caught lest he should tumble into
the river. Then Rusha got hold of the knife, cut her hand, and rolled it
up in her Sunday frock, and Steadfast, thinking he had got a small bit
of rag, tied it up in Patience's round cap, but that he did not know
till afterwards, only that baby had got out again, and after some search
was found asleep cuddled up close to the old sow. And so it went on,
till poor Steadfast felt as if he had never spent so long a day. As to
reading his Bible and Prayer-book, it was quite impossible, and he never
had so much respect for Patience before as when he found what she did
every day without seeming to think anything of it.

She did not get home till after dark, but the Blanes had taken her to
rest at the friends with whom they spent the time between services, and
they had given her a good meal.

"Somehow," said Patience, "everybody seems kinder than they used to be
before the fighting began--and the parsons said the prayers as if they
had more heart in them."

Patience was quite right. These times of danger were making everyone
draw nearer together, and look up more heartily to Him in Whom was there
true help.

But winter was coming on and bringing bad times for the poor children
in their narrow valley, so close to the water. It was not a very cold
season, but it was almost worse, for it was very wet. The little brook
swelled, turned muddy yellow, and came rushing and tumbling along, far
outside its banks, so that Patience wondered whether there could be any
danger of its coming up to their hut and perhaps drowning them.

"I think there is no fear," said Steadfast. "You see this house has been
here from old times and never got washed away."

"It wouldn't wash away very easily," said Patience, "I wish we were in
one of the holes up there."

"If it looks like danger we might get up," said Steadfast, and to please
her he cleared a path to a freshly discovered cave a little lower down
the stream, but so high up on the rocky sides of the ravine as to be
safe from the water.

Once Patience, left at home watching the rushing of the stream, became
so frightened that she actually took the children up there, and set
Rusha to hold the baby while she dragged up some sheepskins and some
food.

Steadfast coming home asked what she was about and laughed at her,
showing her, by the marks on the trees, that the flood was already going
down. Such alarms came seldom, but the constant damp was worse. Happily
it was always possible to keep up a fire, wood and turf peat was
plentiful and could be had for the cutting and carrying, and though the
smoke made their eyes tingle, perhaps it hindered the damp from hurting
them, when all the walls wept, in spite of the reed mats which they had
woven and hung over them. And then it was so dark, Patience's rushes did
not give light enough to see to do anything by them even when they did
not get blown out, and when the sun had set there was nothing for it,
but as soon as the few cattle had been foddered in their shed and cave,
to draw the mat and sheepskins that made a curtain by way of door,
fasten it down with a stone, share with dog and cat the supper of broth,
or milk, or porridge which Patience had cooked, and then lie down on
the beds of dried leaves stuffed into sacking, drawing over them the
blankets and cloaks that had happily been saved in the chest, and
nestling on either side of the fire, which, if well managed, would
smoulder on for hours. There the two elder ones would teach Rusha her
catechism and tell old stories, and croon over old rhymes till both the
little ones were asleep, and then would hold counsel on their affairs,
settle how to husband their small stock of money, consider how soon it
would be expedient to finish their store of salted mutton and pork to
keep them from being spoilt by damp, and wonder when their hens would
begin to lay.

It could hardly be a merry Christmas for the poor children, though they
did stick holly in every chink where it would go, but there were not
many berries that year, and as Rusha said, "there were only thorns."

Steadfast walked to Bristol through slush and mire and rain, not even
Smith Blane went with him, deeming the weather too bad, and thinking,
perhaps, rather over much of the goose at home.

Bristol people were keeping Christmas with all their might, making the
more noise and revelry because the Parliament had forbidden the feast to
be observed at all. It was easy to tell who was for the King and who for
the Parliament, for there were bushes of holly, mistletoe, and ivy, at
all the Royalist doors and windows, and from many came the savoury steam
of roast beef or goose, while the other houses were shut up as close as
possible and looked sad and grim.

All the bells of all the churches were ringing, and everybody seemed to
be trooping into them. As Steadfast was borne along by the throng, there
was a pause, and a boy of his own age with a large hat and long feather,
beneath which could be seen curls of jet-black hair, walked at the head
of a party of gentlemen. Everyone in the crowd uncovered and there was
a vehement outcry of "God save the King! God save the Prince of Wales!"
Everyone thronged after him, and Steadfast had a hard struggle to
squeeze into the Cathedral, and then had to stand all the time with
his back against a pillar, for there was not even room to kneel down at
first.

There was no organ, but the choir men and boys had rallied there, and
led the Psalms which went up very loudly and heartily. Then the Dean
went up into the pulpit and preached about peace and goodwill to men,
and how all ought to do all in their power to bring those blessed gifts
back again. A good many people dropped off during the sermon, and more
after it, but Steadfast remained. He had never been able to come to the
Communion feast since the evil times had begun, and he had thought much
about it on his lonely walk, and knew that it was the way to be helped
through the hard life he was living.

When all was over he felt very peaceful, but so hungry and tired with
standing and kneeling so long after his walk, that he was glad to lean
against the wall and take out the piece of bread that Patience had put
in his wallet.

Presently a step came near, and from under a round velvet skull-cap a
kind old face looked at him which he knew to be that of the Dean.

"Is that all your Christmas meal, my good boy?" he asked.

"I shall have something for supper, thank your reverence," replied
Steadfast, taking off his leathern cap.

"Well, mayhap you could away with something more," said the Dean. "Come
with me."

And as Steadfast obeyed, he asked farther, "What is your name, my child?
I know your face in church, but not in town."

"No, sir, I do not live here. I am Steadfast Kenton, and I am from
Elmwood, but we have no prayers nor sermon there since they took the
parson away."

"Ah! good Master Holworth! Alas! my child, I fear you will scarce see
him back again till the King be in London once more, which Heaven grant.
And, meantime, Sir George Elmwood being patron, none can be intruded
into his room. It is a sore case, and I fear me the case of many a
parish besides."

Steadfast was so much moved by the good Dean's kindness as to begin to
consider whether it would be betraying the trust to consult him about
that strange treasure in the cave, but the lad was never quick of
thought, and before he could decide one of the canons joined the Dean,
and presently going up the steps to the great hall of the Deanery,
Steadfast saw long tables spread with snowy napkins, trenchers laid all
round, and benches on which a numerous throng were seating themselves,
mostly old people and little children, looking very poor and ragged.
Steadfast held himself to be a yeoman in a small way, and somewhat above
a Christmas feast with the poor, but the Dean's kindness was enough to
make him put away his pride, and then there was such a delicious steam
coming up from the buttery hatch as was enough to melt away all nonsense
of that sort from a hungry lad.

Grand joints of beef came up in clouds of vapour, and plum puddings
smoked in their rear, to be eaten with them, after the fashion of these
days, when of summer vegetables there were few, and of winter vegetables
none. The choirmen and boys, indeed all the Cathedral clergy who were
unmarried, were dining there too, but the Dean and his wife waited on
the table where the poorest were. Horns of ale were served to everyone,
and then came big mince pies. Steadfast felt a great longing to take
his home to his sisters, but he was ashamed to do it, even though he saw
that it was permissible, they were such beggarly-looking folks who set
the example.

However, the Dean's wife came up to him with a pleasant smile and asked
if he had no appetite or if he were thinking of someone at home, and
when he answered, she kindly undertook to lend him a basket, for which
he might call after evensong, and in the basket were also afterwards
found some slices of the beef and a fine large cake.

Then the young Prince and his suite came in, and he stood at the end of
the hall, smiling and looking amused as everyone's cup was filled with
wine--such wine as the Roundhead captains had left, and the Dean at the
head of the table gave out the health of his most sacred Majesty King
Charles, might God bless him, and confound all his enemies! The Prince
bared his black shining locks and drank, and there was a deep Amen,
and then a hurrah enough to rend the old vaulted ceiling; and equally
enthusiastically was the Prince's health afterwards drunk.

Stead heard the servants saying that such a meal had been a costly
matter, but that the good Dean would have it so in order that one more
true merry Christmas should be remembered in Bristol.



CHAPTER X. A TERRIBLE HARVEST DAY.


     "There is a reaper, whose name is death."
                                    LONGFELLOW.


Spring came at last, cold indeed but dry, and it brought calves, and
kids, and lambs, and little pigs, besides eggs and milk. The creatures
prospered for two reasons no doubt. One was that Stead and Patience
always prayed for a blessing on them, and the other was that they were
almost as tender and careful over the dumb things as they were over
little Ben, who could now run about and talk. All that year nothing
particular happened to the children. Patience's good butter and fresh
eggs had come to be known in Bristol, and besides, Stead and Rusha used
to find plovers' eggs on the common, for which the merchants' ladies
would pay them, or later for wild strawberries and for whortleberries.
Stead could also make rush baskets and mats, and they were very glad of
such earnings, some of which they spent on clothes, and on making their
hut more comfortable, while some was stored up in case of need in the
winter.

For another year things went on much in the same manner, Bristol was
still kept by the King's troops; but when Steadfast went into the place
there was less cheerfulness among the loyal folk, and the Puritans began
to talk of victories of their cause, while in the Cathedral the canon's
voice trembled and grew choked in the prayer for the King, and the
sermons were generally about being true and faithful to King and church
whatever might betide. The Prince of Wales had long since moved away,
indeed there were reports that the plague was in some of the low,
crowded streets near the water, and Patience begged her brother to take
care of himself.

There had been no Christmas feast at the Deanery, it was understood that
the Dean thought it better not to bring so many people together.

Then as harvest time was coming on more soldiers came into the place.
They looked much shabbier than the troops of a year ago, their coats
were worn and soiled, and their feathers almost stumps, but they made up
for their poverty by swagger and noise, and Steadfast was thankful
that it was unlikely that any of them should find the way to his little
valley with what they called requisitions for the King's service, but
which meant what he knew too well. Some of the villagers formed into
bands, and agreed to meet at the sound of a cowhorn, to drive anyone off
on either side, who came to plunder, and they even had a flag with the
motto--


     "If you take our cattle
      We will give you battle."


And they really did drive off some stragglers. Stead, however, accepted
the offer from Tom Gates of a young dog, considerably larger and
stronger than poor old Toby, yellow and somewhat brindled, and known as
Growler. He looked very terrible, but was very civil to those whom he
knew, and very soon became devoted to all the family, especially to
little Ben. However, most of the garrison and the poorer folk of the
town were taken up with mending the weak places in the walls, and
digging ditches with the earth of which they made steep banks, and there
were sentries at the gates, who were not always civil. Whatever the
country people brought into the town was eagerly bought up, and was paid
for, not often in the coin of the realm, but by tokens made of tin or
some such metal with odd stamps upon them, and though they could be used
as money they would not go nearly so far as the sums they were held to
represent--at least in anyone's hands but those of the officers.

There were reports that the Parliament army was about to besiege the
town, and Prince Rupert was coming to defend it. Steadfast was very
anxious, and would not let his sisters stir out of the valley, keeping
the cattle there as much as possible.

One day, when he had been sent for to help to gather in Lady Elmwood's
harvest, in the afternoon the reaping and binding were suddenly
interrupted by the distant rattle of musketry, such as had been heard
two years ago, in the time of the first siege but it was in quite
another direction from the town. Everyone left off work, and made what
speed they could to the top of the sloping field, whence they could see
what was going on.

"There they be!" shouted Tom Gates. "I saw 'em first! Hurrah! They be at
Luck's mill."

"Hush! you good-for-nothing," shrieked Bess Hart, throwing her apron
over her head. "When we shall all be killed and murdered."

"Not just yet, dame," said Master Brown. "They be a long way off, and
they have enow to do with one another. I wonder if Sir George be there.
He writ to my lady that he hoped to see her ere long."

"And my Roger," called out a woman. "He went with Sir George."

"And our Jack," was the cry of another; while Steadfast thought of
Jephthah, but knew he must be on the opposite side. From the top of the
field, they could see a wide sweep of country dipping down less than two
miles from them where there was a bridge over a small river, a mill, and
one or two houses near. On the nearer side of the river could be seen
the flash of steel caps, and a close, dark body of men, on the further
side was another force, mostly of horsemen, with what seemed like
waggons and baggage horses in the rear. They had what by its
colours seemed to be the English banner, the others had several
undistinguishable standards. Puffs of smoke broke from the windows of
the mill.

"Aye!" said Goodman Blane. "I would not be in Miller Luck's shoes just
now. I wonder where he is, poor rogue. Which side have got his mill,
think you, Master Brown?"

"The round-headed rascals for certain," said Master Brown, "and the
bridge too, trying to hinder the King's men from crossing bag and
baggage to relieve the town."

"See, there's a party drawing together. Is it to force the bridge?"

"Aye, aye, and there's another troop galloping up stream. Be they
running off, the cowards?"

"Not they. Depend on it some of our folks have told them of Colham ford.
Heaven be with them, brave lads."

"Most like Sir George is there, I don't see 'em."

"No, of course not, stupid, they'll be taking Colham Lane. See, see,
there's a lot of 'em drawn up to force the bridge. Good luck be with
them."

More puffs of smoke from the mill, larger ones from the bank, and a
rattle and roll came up to the watchers. There was a moment's shock and
pause in the assault, then a rush forward, and the distant sound of a
cheer, which those on the hill could not help repeating. But from the
red coats on and behind the bridge, proceeded a perfect cloud of smoke,
which hid everything, and when it began to clear away on the wind, there
seemed to be a hand-to-hand struggle going on upon the bridge, smaller
puffs, as though pistols were being used, and forms falling over
the parapet, at which sight the men held their breath, and the women
shrieked and cried "God have mercy on their poor souls." And then the
dark-coated troops seemed to be driven back.

"That was a feint, only a feint," cried Master Brown. "See there!"

For the plumed troop of horsemen had indeed crossed, and came galloping
down the bank with such a jingling and clattering, and thundering of
hoofs as came up to the harvest men above, and Master Brown led the
cheer as they charged upon the compact mass of red coats behind the
bridge, and broke and rode them down by the vehemence of the shock.

"Hurrah!" cried Blane. "Surely they will turn now and take the fellows
on the bridge in the rear. No. Ha! they are hunting them down on to
their baggage! Well done, brave fellows, hip! hip!--"

But the hurrah died on his lips as a deep low hum--a Psalm tune sung by
hundreds of manly voices--ascended to his ears, to the accompaniment
of the heavy thud of horsehoofs, and from the London Road, between
the bridge and the Royalist horsemen, there emerged a compact body of
troopers, in steel caps and corslets. Forming in ranks of three abreast,
they charged over the bridge, and speedily cleared off the Royalists who
were struggling to obtain a footing there.

There was small speech on the hill side, as the encounter was watched,
and the Ironsides forming on the other side, charged the already broken
troops before they had time to rally, and there was nothing to be
seen but an utter dispersion and scattering of men, looking from that
distance like ants when their nest has been broken into.

It was only a skirmish, not to be heard of in history, but opening the
way for the besiegers to the walls of Bristol, and preventing any of
the supplies from reaching the garrison, or any of the intended
reinforcements, except some of the eager Cavaliers, who galloped on
thither, when they found it impossible to return and guard the bridge
for their companions.

The struggle was over around the bridge in less than two hours, but no
more of Lady Elmwood's harvest was gathered in that evening. The people
watched as if they could not tear themselves from the contemplation
of the successful bands gathering together in their solid masses, and
marching onwards in the direction of Bristol, leaving, however, a strong
guard at the bridge, over which piled waggons and beasts of burthen
continued to pass, captured no doubt and prevented from relieving the
city. It began to draw towards evening, and Master Brown was beginning
to observe that he must go and report to my lady, poor soul; and as to
the corn, well, they had lost a day gaping at the fight, and they must
come up again to-morrow, he only hoped they were not carting it for the
round-headed rogues; when at that moment there was a sudden cry, first
of terror, then of recognition, "Roger, Hodge Fitter! how didst come
here?"

For a weary, worn-out trooper, with stained buff coat, and heavy boots,
stood panting among them. "I thought 'twas our folks," he said. "Be
mother here?"

"Hodge! My Hodge! Be'st hurt, my lad?" cried the mother, bursting
through the midst and throwing herself on him, while his father
contented himself with a sort of grunt. "All right, Hodge. How com'st
here?"

"And where's my Jack?" exclaimed Goody Bent.

"And where's our Harry?" was another cry from Widow Lakin.

While Stead longed to ask, but could not be heard in the clamour,
whether his brother had been there.

Hodge could tell little--seen less than the lookers on above. He had
been among those who had charged through the enemy, and ridden towards
Bristol, but his horse had been struck by a stray shot, and killed under
him. He had avoided the pursuers by scrambling through a hedge, and then
had thought it best to make his way through the fields to his own home,
until, seeing the party on the hill, he had joined them, expecting to
find his parents among them.

Sir George he knew to be on before him, and probably almost at Bristol
by this time. Poor Jack had been left weeks ago on the field of Naseby,
though there had been no opportunity of letting his family know. "Ill
news travels fast enough!" And as to Harry, he had been shot down by a
trooper near about the bridge, but mayhap might be alive for all that.

"And my brother, Jeph Kenton," Steadfast managed to say. "Was he there?"

"Jeph Kenton! Why, he's a canting Roundhead. The only Elmwood man as is!
More shame for him."

"But was he there?" demanded Stead.

"There! Well, Captain Venn's horse were there, and he was in them! I
have seen him more than once on outpost duty, prating away as if he had
a beard on his chin. I'd a good mind to put a bullet through him to stop
his impudence, for a disgrace to the place."

"Then he was in the fight?" reiterated Steadfast.

"Aye, was he. And got his deserts, I'll be bound, for we went smack
smooth through Venn's horse, like a knife through a mouldy cheese, and
left 'em lying to the right and left. If the other fellows had but stuck
by us as well, we'd have made a clean sweep of the canting dogs."

Hodge's eloquence was checked by the not unwelcome offer of a drink of
cider.

"Seems quiet enough down there," said Nanny Lakin, peering wistfully
over the valley where the shadows of evening were spreading. "Mayhap if
I went down I might find out how it is with my poor lad."

"Nay, I'll go, mother," said a big, loutish youth, hitherto silent;
"mayn't be so well for womenfolk down there."

"What's that to me, Joe, when my poor Harry may be lying a bleeding his
dear life out down there?"

"There's no fear," said Hodge. "To give them their due, the Roundheads
be always civil to country folk and women--leastways unless they take
'em for Irish--and thinking that, they did make bloody work with the
poor ladies at Naseby. But the dame there will be safe enough," he
added, as she was already on the move down hill. "Has no one a keg of
cider to give her? I know what 'tis to lie parching under a wound."

Someone produced one, and as her son shouted "Have with you, mother,"
Steadfast hastily asked Tom Oates to let Patience know that he was gone
to see after Jephthah, and joined Ned Lakin and his mother.

Jeph had indeed left his brothers and sisters in a strange, wild way,
almost cruel in its thoughtlessness; but to Stead it had never seemed
more than that elder brotherly masterfulness that he took as a matter of
course, and there was no resting in the thought of his lying wounded and
helpless on the field--nay, the assurance that Hodge shouted out that
the rebel dogs took care of their own fell on unhearing or unheeding
ears, as Steadfast and Ned Lakin dragged the widow through a gap in the
hedge over another field, and then made their way down a deep stony lane
between high hedges.

It was getting dark, in spite of the harvest moon, by the time they
came out on the open space below, and began to see that saddest of all
sights, a battlefield at night.

A soldier used to war would perhaps have scorned to call this a battle,
but it was dreadful enough to these three when they heard the sobbing
panting, and saw the struggling of a poor horse not quite dead, and his
rider a little way from him, a fine stout young man, cold and stiff, as
Nanny turned up his face to see if it was her Harry's.

A little farther on lay another figure on his back, but as Nanny stooped
over it, a lantern was flashed on her and a gruff voice called out,
"Villains, ungodly churls, be you robbing the dead?" and a tall man
stood darkly before them, pistol in hand.

"No, sir; no, sir," sobbed out Nanny. "I am only a poor widow woman,
come down to see whether my poor lad be dead or alive and wanting his
mother."

"What was his regiment?" demanded the soldier in a kinder voice.

"Oh, sir, your honour, don't be hard on him--he couldn't help it--he
went with Sir George Elmwood."

"That makes no odds, woman, when a man's down," said the soldier.
"Unless 'tis with the Fifth Monarchy sort, and I don't hold with them. I
have an uncle and a cousin or two among the malignants, as good fellows
as ever lived--no Amalekites and Canaanites--let Smite-them Derry say
what he will. Elmwood! let's see--that was the troop that forded higher
up, and came on Fisher's corps. This way, dame. If your son be down,
you'll find him here; that is, unless he be carried into the mill or one
of the houses. Most of the wounded lie there for the night, but the poor
lads that are killed must be buried to-morrow. Take care, dame," as poor
Nanny cried out in horror at having stumbled over a dead man's legs. He
held his lantern so that she could see the face while she groaned out,
"Poor soul." And thus they worked their sad way up to the buildings
about the water mill. There was a shed through the chinks of which light
could be seen, and at the door of which a soldier exclaimed--

"Have ye more wounded, Sam? There's no room for a dog in here. They lie
as thick as herrings in a barrel."

"Nay, 'tis a poor country woman come to look for her son. What's his
name? Is there a malignant here of the name of Harry Lakin?"

The question was repeated, and a cry of gladness, "Mother! mother!"
ended in a shriek of pain in the distance within.

"Aye, get you in, mother, get you in. A woman here will be all the
better, be she who she may."

The permission was not listened to. Nanny had already sprung into the
midst of the mass of suffering towards the bloody straw where her son
was lying.

Steadfast, who had of course looked most anxiously at each of the still
forms on the way, now ventured to say:--

"So please you, sir, would you ask after one Jephthah Kenton? On your
own side, sir, in Captain Venn's troop? I am his brother."

"Oh, ho! you are of the right sort, eh?" said the soldier. "Jephthah
Kenton. D'ye know aught of him, Joe?"

"I heard him answer to the roll call before Venn's troop went off to
quarters," replied the other man. "He is safe and sound, my lad, and
Venn's own orderly."

Steadfast's heart bounded up. He longed still to know whether poor Harry
Lakin was in very bad case, but it was impossible to get in to discover,
and he was pushed out of the way by a party carrying in another wounded
man, whose moans and cries were fearful to listen to. He thought it
would be wisest to make the best of his way home to Patience, and set
her likewise at rest, for who could tell what she might not have heard.

The moon was shining brightly enough to make his way plain, but the
scene around was all the sadder and more ghastly in that pallid light,
which showed out the dark forms of man and horse, and what was worse the
white faces turned up, and those dark pools in which once or twice he
had slipped as he saw or fancied he saw movements that made him shudder,
while a poor dog on the other side of the stream howled piteously from
time to time.

Presently, as he came near a hawthorn bush which cast a strangely shaped
shadow, he heard a sobbing--not like the panting moan of a wounded man,
but the worn out crying of a tired child. He thought some village little
one must have wandered there, and been hemmed in by the fight, and he
called out--

"Is anyone there?"

The sobbing ceased for a moment and he called again, "Who is it? I won't
hurt you," for something white seemed to be squeezing closer into the
bush.

"Who are you for?" piped out a weak little voice.

"I'm no soldier," said Steadfast. "Come out, I'll take you home
by-and-by."

"I have no home!" was the answer. "I want father."

Steadfast was now under the tree, and could see that it was a little
girl who was sheltering there of about the same size as Rusha. He tried
to take her hand, but she backed against the tree, and he repeated "Come
along, I wouldn't hurt you for the world. Who is your father? Where
shall we find him?"

"My father is Serjeant Gaythorn of Sir Harry Blythedale's troopers,"
said the child, somewhat proudly, then starting again, "You are not a
rebel, are you?"

"No, I am a country lad," said Steadfast; "I want to help you. Come, you
can't stay here."

For the little hand she had yielded to him was cold and damp with the
September dews. His touch seemed to give her confidence, and when he
asked, "Can't I take you to your mother?" she answered--

"Mother's dead! The rascal Roundheads shot her over at Naseby."

"Poor child! poor child!" said Steadfast. "And you came on with your
father."

"Yes, he took me on his horse over the water, and told me to wait by the
bush till he came or sent for me, but he has not come, and the firing is
over and it is dark, and I'm so hungry."

Steadfast thought the child had better come home with him, but she
declared that father would come back for her. He felt convinced that
her father, if alive, must be in Bristol, and that he could hardly come
through the enemy's outposts, and he explained to her this view. To
his surprise she understood in a moment, having evidently much more
experience of military matters than he had, and when he further told
her that Hodge was at Elmwood, and would no doubt rejoin his regiment
at Bristol the next day, she seemed satisfied, and with the prospect of
supper before her, trotted along, holding Steadfast's hand and munching
a crust which he had found in his pouch, the remains of the interrupted
meal, but though at first it seemed to revive her a good deal, the poor
little thing was evidently tired out, and she soon began to drag, and
fret, and moan. The three miles was a long way for her, and tired as he
was, Steadfast had to take her on his back, and when at last he reached
home, and would have set her down before his astonished sisters, she was
fast asleep with her head on his shoulder.



CHAPTER XI. THE FORTUNES OF WAR.


     "Hear and improve, he pertly cries,
      I come to make a nation wise."
                                    GAY


Very early in the morning, before indeed anyone except Patience was
stirring, Steadfast set forth in search of Roger Fitter to consult him
about the poor child who was fast asleep beside Jerusha; and propose to
him to take her into Bristol to find her father.

Hodge, who had celebrated his return by a hearty supper with his
friends, was still asleep, and his mother was very unwilling to call
him, or to think of his going back to the wars. However, he rolled down
the cottage stair at last, and the first thing he did was to observe--

"Well, mother, how be you? I felt like a boy again, waking up in the old
chamber. Where's my back and breast-piece? Have you a cup of ale, while
I rub it up?"

"Now, Hodge, you be not going to put on that iron thing again, when
you be come back safe and sound from those bloody wars?" entreated his
mother.

"Ho, ho! mother, would you have me desert? No, no! I must to my colours
again, or Sir George and my lady might make it too hot to hold you here.
Hollo, young one, Stead Kenton, eh? Didst find thy brother? No, I'll be
bound. The Roundhead rascals have all the luck."

"I found something else," said Steadfast, and he proceeded to tell about
the child while Dame Fitter stood by with many a pitying "Dear heart!"
and "Good lack!"

Hodge knew Serjeant Gaythorn, and knew that the poor man's wife had been
shot dead in the flight from Naseby; but he demurred at the notion
of encumbering himself with the child when he went into the town. He
suspected that he should have much ado to get in himself, and if he
could not find her father, what could he do with her?

Moreover, he much doubted whether the serjeant was alive. He had been
among those on whom the sharpest attack had fallen, and not many of them
had got off alive.

"What like was he?" said Steadfast. "We looked at a many of the poor
corpses that lay there. They'll never be out of my eyes again at night!"

"A battlefield or two would cure that," grimly smiled Hodge.
"Gaythorn--he was a man to know again--had big black moustaches, and
had lost an eye, had a scar like a weal from a whip all down here from a
sword-cut at Long Marston."

"Then I saw him," said Stead, in a low voice. "Did he wear a green
scarf?"

"Aye, aye. Belonged to the Rangers, but they are pretty nigh all gone
now."

"Under the rail of the miller's croft," added Stead.

"Just so. That was where I saw them make a stand and go down like
skittles."

"Poor little maid. What shall I tell her?"

"Well, you can never be sure," said Hodge. "There was a man now I
thought as dead as a door nail at Newbury that charged by my side only
yesterday. You'd best tell the maid that if I find her father I'll send
him after her; and if not, when the place is quiet, you might look at
the mill and see if he is lying wounded there."

Steadfast thought the advice good, and it saved him from what he had no
heart to do, though he could scarcely doubt that one of those ghastly
faces had been the serjeant's.

When he approached his home he was surprised to hear, through the
copsewood, the sound of chattering, and when he came in sight of the
front of the hut, he beheld Patience making butter with the long handled
churn, little Ben toddling about on the grass, and two little girls
laughing and playing with all the poultry round them.

One, of course, was stout, ruddy, grey-eyed Rusha, in her tight round
cap, and stout brown petticoat with the homespun apron over it;
the other was like a fairy by her side; slight and tiny, dressed in
something of mixed threads of white and crimson that shone in the
sun, with a velvet bodice, a green ribbon over it, and a gem over the
shoulder that flashed in the sun, a tiny scarlet hood from which such
a quantity of dark locks streamed as to give something the effect of a
goldfinch's crown, and the face was a brilliant little brown one, with
glowing cheeks, pretty little white teeth, and splendid dark eyes.

Patience could have told that this bright array was so soiled, rumpled,
ragged, and begrimed, that she hardly liked to touch it, but to
Steadfast, who had only seen the child in the moonlight, she was a
wonderful vision in the morning sunshine, and his heart was struck with
a great pity at her clear, merry tones of laughter.

As he appeared in the open space, Toby running before him, the little
girl looked up and rushed to him crying out--

"It's you. Be you the country fellow who took me home? Where's father?"

Stead was so sorry for her that he took her up in his arms and said--

"Hodge Fitter is gone into town to look for him, my pretty. You must
wait here till he comes for you," and he would have kissed her, but she
turned her head away, pouted, and said, "I didn't give you leave to do
that, you lubber lad."

Steadfast was much diverted. He was now a tall sturdy youth of sixteen,
in a short smock frock, long leathern gaiters, and a round straw hat
of Patience's manufacture, and he felt too clumsy for the dainty little
being, whom he hastened to set on her small feet--in once smart but very
dilapidated shoes. His sisters were somewhat shocked at her impertinence
and Rusha breathed out "Oh--!"

"I am to wait here for Serjeant Gaythorn," observed the little damsel
somewhat consequentially. "Well! it is a strange little makeshift of a
place, but 'tis the fortune of war, and I have been in worse."

"It is beautiful!" said Rusha, "now we have got a glass window--and
a real door--and beds--" all which recent stages in improvement she
enumerated with a gasp of triumph and admiration between each.

"So you think," said little Mistress Gaythorn. "But I have lived in a
castle."

She was quite ready to tell her history. Her name was Emlyn, and the
early part of the eight years of her life had been spent at Sir Harry
Blythedale's castle, where her father had been butler and her mother my
lady's woman. Sir Harry had gone away to the wars, and in his absence
my lady had held out the castle (perhaps it was only a fortified house)
against General Waller, hoping and hoping in vain for Lord Goring to
come to her relief.

"That was worst of all," said Emlyn, "we had to hide in the cellars when
they fired at us--and broke all the windows, and a shot killed my
poor dear little kitten because she wouldn't stay down with me. And
we couldn't get any water, except by going out at night; young Master
George was wounded at the well. And they only gave us a tiny bit of
dry bread and salt meat every day, and it made little Ralph sick and he
died. And at last there was only enough for two days more--and a great
breach--that's a hole," she added condescendingly,--"big enough to drive
my lady's coach-and-six through in the court wall. So then my lady
sent out Master Steward with one of the best napkins on the end of a
stick--that was a flag of truce, you know--and all the rascal Roundheads
had to come in, and we had to go out, with only just what we could
carry. My lady went in her coach with Master George, because he was
hurt, and the young ladies, and some of the maids went home; but the
most of us kept with my lady, to guard her to go to his Honour and the
King at Oxford. Father rode big Severn, and mother was on a pillion
behind him, with baby in her arms, and I sat on a cushion in front."

After that, it seemed that my lady had found a refuge among her kindred,
but that the butler had been enrolled in his master's troop of horse,
and there being no separate means of support for his wife and children,
they had followed the camp, a life that Emlyn had evidently enjoyed,
although the baby died of the exposure. She had been a great pet and
favourite with everybody, and no doubt well-cared for even after the sad
day when her mother had perished in the slaughter at Naseby. Patience
wondered what was to become of the poor child, if her father never
appeared to claim her; but it was no time to bring this forward, for
Steadfast, as soon as he had swallowed his porridge, had to go off to
finish his day's labour for the lady of the manor, warning his sisters
that they had better keep as close as they could in the wood, and not
let the cattle stray out of their valley.

He had not gone far, however, before he met a party of his fellow
labourers running home. Their trouble had been saved them. The Roundhead
soldiers had taken possession of waggons, horses, corn and all, as the
property of a malignant, and were carrying them off to their camp before
the town.

Getting up on a hedge, Stead could see these strange harvestmen loading
the waggons and driving them off. He also heard that Sir George had
come late in the evening, and taken old Lady Elmwood and several of the
servants into Bristol for greater safety. Then came the heavy boom of a
great gun in the distance.

"The Parliament men are having their turn now--as the King's men had
before," said Gates.

And all who had some leisure--or made it--went off to the church tower
to get a better view of the white tents being set up outside the city
walls, and the compact bodies of troops moving about as if impelled by
machinery, while others more scattered bustled like insects about the
camp.

Steadfast, however, went home, very anxious about his own three cows,
and seven sheep with their lambs, as well as his small patches of corn,
which, when green, had already only escaped being made forage of by the
Royalist garrison, because he was a tenant of the loyal Elmwoods. These
fields were exposed, though the narrow wooded ravine might protect the
small homestead and the cattle.

He found his new guest very happy cracking nuts, and expounding to Rusha
what kinds of firearms made the various sounds they heard. Patience had
made an attempt to get her to exchange her soiled finery for a sober
dress of Rusha's; but "What shall I do, Stead?" said the grave
elder sister, "I cannot get her to listen to me, she says she is
no prick-eared Puritan, but truly she is not fit to be seen." Stead
whistled. "Besides that she might bring herself and all of us into
danger with those gewgaws."

"That's true," said Stead. "Look you here, little maid--none can say
whether some of the rebel folk may find their way here, and they don't
like butterflies of your sort, you know. If you look a sober little
brown bee like Rusha here, they will take no notice, but who knows what
they might do it they found you in your bravery."

"Bravery," thought Patience, "filthy old rags, me seems," but she had
the prudence not to speak, and Emlyn nodded her head, saying, "I'll do
it for you, but not for her."

And when all was done, and she was transformed into a little
russet-robed, white-capped being, nothing would serve her, but to
collect all the brightest cranesbill flowers she could find, and stick
them in her own bodice and Rusha's.

Patience could not at all understand the instinct for bright colours,
but even little Ben shouted "Pretty, pretty."

Perhaps it was well that the delicate pink blossoms were soon faded and
crushed, and that twilight veiled their colours, for just as the cattle
were being foddered for the night, there was a gay step on the narrow
path, and with a start of terror, Patience beheld a tall soldier, in
tall hat, buff coat, and high boots before her; while Growler made a
horrible noise, but Toby danced in a rapture of delight.

"Ha! little Patience, is't thou?"

"Jephthah," she cried, though the voice as well as the form were greatly
changed in these two years between boyhood and manhood.

"Aye, Jephthah 'tis," he said, taking her hand, and letting her kiss
him. "My spirit was moved to come and see how it was with you all, and
to shew how Heaven had prospered me, so I asked leave of absence
after roll-call, and could better be spared, as that faithful man,
Hold-the-Faith Jenkins, will exhort the men this night. I came up by
Elmwood to learn tidings of you. Ha, Stead! Thou art grown, my lad. May
you be as much grown in grace."

"You are grown, too," said Patience, almost timidly. "What a man you
are, Jeph! Here, Rusha, you mind Jeph, and here is little Benoni."

"You have reared that child, then," said Jeph, as the boy clung to his
sister's skirts, "and you have kept things together, Stead, as I hardly
deemed you would do, when I had the call to the higher service." It was
an odd sort of call, but there was no need to go into that matter, and
Stead answered gravely, "Yes, I thank God. He has been very good to us,
and we have fared well. Come in, Jeph, and see, and have something to
eat! I am glad you are come home at last."

Jephthah graciously consented to enter the low hut. He had to bend his
tall figure and take off his steeple-crowned hat before he could enter
at the low doorway, and then they saw his closely cropped head.

Patience tarried a moment to ask Rusha what had become of Emlyn.

"She is hiding in the cow shed," was the answer. "She ran off as soon as
she saw Jeph coming, and said he was a crop-eared villain."

This was not bad news, and they all entered the hut, where the fire was
made up, and one of Patience's rush candles placed on the table with
a kind of screen of plaited rushes to protect it from the worst of the
draught. Jeph had grown quite into a man in the eyes of his brothers
and sisters. He looked plump and well fed, and his clothes were good and
fresh, and his armour bright, a contrast to Steadfast's smock, stained
with weather and soil, and his rough leathern leggings, although
Patience did her best, and his shirt was scrupulously clean every Sunday
morning.

The soldier was evidently highly satisfied. "So, children, you have done
better than I could have hoped. This hovel is weather-tight and quite
fit to harbour you. You have done well to keep together, and it is well
said that he who leaves all in the hands of a good Providence shall have
his reward."

Jeph's words were even more sacred than these, and considerably overawed
Patience, who, as he sat before her there in his buff coat and belt,
laying down the law in pious language, was almost persuaded to believe
that their present comfort and prosperity (such as it was) was owing to
the faith which he said had led to his desertion of his family, though
she had always thought it mere impatience of home work fired by revenge
for his father's death.

No doubt he believed in this reward himself, in his relief at finding
his brothers and sisters all together and not starving, and considered
their condition a special blessing due to his own zeal, instead of to
Steadfast's patient exertion.

He was much more disposed to talk of himself and the mercies he had
received, but which the tone of his voice showed him to consider as
truly his deserts. Captain Venn had, it seemed, always favoured him from
the time of his enlistment and nothing but his youth prevented him from
being a corporal. He had been in the two great battles of Marston Moor
and Naseby, and come off unhurt from each, and moreover grace had been
given him to interpret the Scriptures in a manner highly savoury and
inspiriting to the soldiery.

Here Patience, in utter amaze, could not help crying out "Thou, Jeph!
Thou couldst not read without spelling, and never would."

He waved his hand. "My sister, what has carnal learning to do with
grace?" And taking a little black Bible from within his breastplate, he
seemed about to give them a specimen, when Emlyn's impatience and hunger
no doubt getting the better of her prudence, she crept into the room,
and presently was seen standing by Steadfast's knee, holding out her
hand for some of the bread and cheese on the table.

[Illustration: Finding of Emlyn]

"And who is this little wench?" demanded Jeph, somewhat displeased
that his brother manifested a certain inattention to his exhortation
by signing to Patience to supply her wants. Stead made unusual haste to
reply to prevent her from speaking.

"She is biding with us till she can join her father, or knows how it is
with him."

"Humph! She hath not the look of one of the daughters of our people."

"Nay," said Steadfast. "I went down last night to the mill, Jeph, to see
whether perchance you might be hurt and wanting help, and after I had
heard that all was well with you, I lighted on this poor little maid
crouching under a bush, and brought her home with me for pity's sake
till I could find her friends."

"The child of a Midianitish woman!" exclaimed Jeph, "one of the Irish
idolaters of whom it is written, 'Thou shalt smite them, and spare
neither man, nor woman, infant, nor suckling.'" "But I am not Irish,"
broke out Emlyn, "I am from Worcestershire. My father is Serjeant
Gaythorn, butler to Sir Harry Blythedale. Don't let him kill me," she
cried in an access of terror, throwing herself on Steadfast's breast.

"No, no. He would not harm thee, on mine hearth. Fear not, little one,
he _shall_ not."

"Nay," said Jephthah, who, to do him justice, had respected the rights
of hospitality enough not to touch his weapon even when he thought
her Irish, "we harm not women and babes save when they are even as the
Amalekites. Let my brother go, child. I touch thee not, though thou
be of an ungodly seed; and I counsel thee, Steadfast, touch not the
accursed thing, but rid thyself thereof, ere thou be defiled."

"I shall go so soon as father comes," exclaimed Emlyn. "I am sure I
do not want to stay in this mean, smoky hovel a bit longer than I can
help."

"Such are the thanks of the ungodly people," said Jeph, gravely rising.
"I must be on my way back. We are digging trenches about this great
city, assuredly believing that it shall be delivered into our hands."

"Stay, Jeph," said Patience. "Our corn! Will your folk come and cart it
away as they have done my lady's?"

"The spoil of the wicked is delivered over to the righteous," said Jeph.
"But seeing that the land is mine, a faithful servant of the good cause,
they may not meddle therewith."

"How are they to know that?" said Steadfast, not stopping to dispute
what rather startled him, since though Jeph was the eldest son, the land
had been made over to himself. To save the crop was the point.

"Look you here," said Jeph, "walk down with me to my good Captain's
quarters, and he will give you a protection which you may shew to any
man who dares to touch aught that is ours, be it corn or swine, ox or
ass."

It was a long walk, but Steadfast was only too glad to take it for the
sake of such security, and besides, there was a real pleasure in being
with Jeph, little as he seemed like the same idle, easy-going brother,
except perhaps in those little touches of selfishness and boastfulness,
which, though Stead did not realise them, did recall the original Jeph.

All through the moonlight walk Jeph expounded his singular mercies,
which apparently meant his achievements in killing Cavaliers, and the
commendations given to him. One of these mercies was the retention of
the home and land, though he kindly explained that his brothers and
sisters were welcome to get their livelihood there whilst he was serving
with the army, but some day he should come home "as one that divideth
the spoil," and build up the old house, unless, indeed, and he glanced
towards the sloping woods of Elmwood Manor, "the house and fields of the
malignants should be delivered to the faithful."

"My lady's house," said Steadfast under his breath.

"Wherefore not? Is it not written 'Goodly houses that ye builded not.'
Thou must hear worthy Corporal Hold-the-Faith expound the matter, my
brother."

They crossed the ferry and reached the outposts at last, and Stead was
much startled when the barrel of a musquet gleamed in the moonlight, and
a gruff voice said "Stand."

"The jawbone of an ass," promptly answered Jephthah.

"Pass, jawbone of an ass," responded the sentry, "and all's well. But
who have you here, comrade!"

Jeph explained, and they passed up the narrow lane, meeting at the end
of it another sentinel, with whom the like watchword was exchanged, and
then they came out on a large village green, completely changed from its
usual aspect by rows of tents, on which the moonlight shone, while Jeph
seemed to know his way through them as well as if he were in the valley
of Elmwood. Most of the men seemed to be asleep, for snores issued
from sundry tents. In others there were low murmurings, perhaps of
conversation, perhaps of prayer, for once Stead heard the hum of an
"Amen." One or two men were about, and Jeph enquired of one if the
Captain were still up, and heard that he was engaged in exercise with
the godly Colonel Benbow.

Their quarters were in one of the best houses of the little village,
where light gleamed from the window, and an orderly stood within the
door, to whom Jeph spoke, and who replied that they were just in time.
In fact two officers in broad hats and cloaks were just coming out,
and Stead admired Jeph's military salute to them ere he entered the
farmhouse kitchen, where two more gentlemen sat at the table with a
rough plan of the town laid before them.

"Back again, Kenton," said his captain in a friendly tone. "Hast heard
aught of thy brethren?"

"Yes, sir, I have found them well and in good heart, and have brought
one with me."

"A helper in the good cause? Heaven be gracious to thee, my son. Thou
art but young, yet strength is vouchsafed to the feeble hands."

"Please, sir," said Steadfast, who was twisting his hat about, "I've got
to mind the others, and work for them."

"Yea, sir," put in Jeph, "there be three younger at home whom he cannot
yet leave. I brought him, sir, to crave from you a protection for the
corn and cattle that are in a sort mine own, being my father's eldest
son. They are all the poor children have to live on."

"Thou shalt have it," said the captain, drawing his writing materials
nearer to him. "There, my lad. It may be thou dost serve thy Maker as
well by the plough as by the sword."

Steadfast pulled his forelock, thanked the captain, was reminded of the
word for the night, and safely reached home again.



CHAPTER XII. FAREWELL TO THE CAVALIERS.

[Illustration: Farewell To The Cavaliers]


     "If no more our banners shew
      Battles won and banners taken,
      Still in death, defeat, and woe,
      Ours be loyalty unshaken."
                                 SCOTT


The next day the whole family turned out to gather in the corn. Rusha
was making attempts at reaping, while Emlyn played with little Ben, who
toddled about, shouting and chasing her in and out among the shocks. Now
and again they paused at the low, thunderous growl of the great guns
in the distance, in strange contrast to their peaceful work, and once a
foraging party of troopers rode up to the gate of the little field, but
Steadfast met them there, and showed the officer Captain Venn's paper.

"So you belong to Kenton of Venn's Valiants? It is well. A blessing on
your work!" said the stern dark-faced officer, and on he went, happily
not seeing Emlyn make an ugly face and clench her little fist behind
him.

"How can you, Stead?" she cried. "I'd rather be cursed than blessed by
such as he!"

Stead shook his head slowly. "A blessing is better than a curse any
way," said he, but his mind was a good deal confused between the piety
and good conduct of these Roundheads, in contrast with their utter
contempt of the Church, and rude dealing with all he had been taught to
hold sacred.

His harvest was, however, the matter in hand, and the little patch of
corn was cut and bound between him and his sisters, without further
interruption. The sounds of guns had ceased early in the day, and a
neighbour who had ventured down to the camp to offer some apples for
sale leant over the gate to wonder at the safety of the crop, "though to
be sure the soldiers were very civil, if they would let alone preaching
at you;" adding that there was like to be no more fighting, for one of
the gentlemen inside had ridden out with a white flag, and it was said
the Prince was talking of giving in.

"Give in!" cried Emlyn setting her teeth. "Never. The Prince will soon
make an end of the rebels, and then I shall ride-a-cock horse with our
regiment again! I shall laugh to see the canting rogues run!"

But the first thing Steadfast heard the next day was that the royal
standard had come down from the Cathedral tower. He had gone up to
Elmwood to get some provisions, and Tom Oates, who spent most of his
time in gazing from the steeple, assured him that if he would come up,
he would see for himself that the flags were changed. Indeed some of the
foot soldiers who had been quartered in the village to guard the roads
had brought the certain tidings that the city had surrendered and that
the malignants, as they called the Royalists, were to march out that
afternoon, by the same road as that by which the parliamentary army had
gone out two years before.

This would be the only chance for Emlyn to rejoin her father or to
learn his fate. The little thing was wild with excitement at the news.
Disdainfully she tore off what she called Rusha's Puritan rags, though
as that offended maiden answered "her own were _real_ rags in spite
of all the pains Patience had taken with them. Nothing would make them
tidy," and Rusha pointed to a hopeless stain and to the frayed edges
past mending.

"I hate tidiness. Only Puritan rebels are tidy!"

"We are not Puritans!" cried Rusha.

Emlyn laughed. "Hark at your names," she said. "And what's that great
rebel rogue of a brother of yours?"

"Oh! he is Jeph! He ran away to the wars! But Stead isn't a Puritan,"
cried Rusha, growing more earnest. "He always goes to church--real
church down in Bristol. And poor father was churchmartin, and knew all
the parson's secrets."

"Hush, Rusha," said Patience, not much liking this disclosure, however
Jerusha might have come by the knowledge, "you and Emlyn don't want to
quarrel when she is just going to say good-bye!"

This touched the little girls. Rusha had been much enlivened by the
little fairy who had seen so much of the world, and had much more
playfulness than the hard-worked little woodland maid; and Emlyn, who
in spite of her airs, knew that she had been kindly treated, was drawn
towards a companion of her own age, was very fond of little Ben, and
still more so of Steadfast.

Ben cried, "Em not go;" and Rusha held her hand and begged her not to
forget.

"O no, I won't forget you," said Emlyn, "and when we come back with the
King and Prince, and drive the Roundhead ragamuffins out of Bristol,
then I'll bring Stead a protection for Croppie and Daisy and all, a
silver bodkin for you, and a Flanders lace collar for Patience, and a
gold chain for Stead, and--But oh! wasn't that a trumpet? Stead! Stead!
We must go, or we shall miss them." Then as she hugged and kissed them,
"I'll tell Sir Harry and my lady how good you have been to me, and get
my lady to make you a tirewoman, Rusha. And dear, dear little Ben shall
be a king's guard all in gold."

Ben had her last smothering kiss, and Rusha began to cry and sob as the
gay little figure, capering by Stead's side, disappeared between
the stems of the trees making an attempt, which Steadfast instantly
quenched, at singing,

               "The king shall enjoy his own again."

Patience did not feel disposed to cry. She liked the child, and was
grieved to think what an uncertain lot was before the merry little
being, but her presence had made Rusha and Ben more troublesome than
they had ever been in their lives before, and there was also the anxiety
lest her unguarded tongue should offend Jeph and his friends.

Emlyn skipped along by Steadfast's side, making him magnificent
promises. They paused by the ruins of the farm where Stead still kept up
as much of the orchard and garden as he could with so little time and
so far from home, and Emlyn filled her skirt with rosy-cheeked apples,
saying in a pretty gentle manner, "they were such a treat to our poor
rogues on a dusty march," and Stead aided her by carrying as many as he
could.

However, an occasional bugle note, clouds of dust on the road far below
in the valley, and a low, dull tramp warned them to come forward, and
station themselves in the hedge above the deep lane where Steadfast had
once watched for his brother. Only a few of the more adventurous village
lads were before them now, and when Stead explained that the little
wench wanted to watch for her father, they were kind in helping him to
perch her in the hollow of a broken old pollard, where she could see,
and not be seen. For the poor camp maiden knew the need of caution. She
drew Steadfast close to her, and bade him not show himself till she
told him, for some of the wilder sort would blaze away their pistols
at anything, especially when they had had any good ale, or were out of
sorts.

Poor fellows, there was no doubt of their being out of sorts, as they
tramped along, half hidden in dust, even the officers, who rode before
them, with ragged plumes and slouched hats. The silken banners, which
they had been allowed to carry out, because of their prompt surrender,
hung limp and soiled, almost like tokens of a defeat, and if any one
of those spectators behind the hawthorns had been conversant with Roman
history, it would have seemed to them like the passing under the yoke,
so dejected, nay, ashamed was the demeanour of the gentlemen. Emlyn
whispered name after name as they went by, but even she was hushed and
overawed by the spectacle, as four abreast these sad remnants of the
royal army marched along the lane, one or two trying to whistle, a few
more talking in under tones, but all soon dying away, as if they were
too much out of heart to keep anything up.

She scarcely stirred while the infantry, who were by far the most
numerous, were going by, only naming corps or officer to Stead, then
there came an interval, and the tread of horses and clank of their
trappings could be heard. Then she almost forgot her precautions in her
eagerness to crane forward. "They are coming!" she said. "All there are
of them will be a guard for the Prince."

Stead felt a strange thrill of pain as he remembered the terrible scene
when he had last beheld that tall, slight young figure, and dark face,
now far sterner and sadder than in those early days, as Rupert went to
meet the bitterest hour of his life.

Several gentlemen rode with him, whom Emlyn named as his staff, and
then came more troopers, not alike in dress, being, in fact, remnants of
shattered regiments. She was trembling all over with eagerness, standing
up, and so leaning forward, that she might have tumbled into the lane,
had not Steadfast held her.

At last came a scream. "There's Sir Harry! There's Dick! There's
Staines! Oh! Dick, Dick, where's father?"

There was a halt, and bronzed faces looked up.

"Ha! Who's there?"

"I! I! Emlyn. Oh! Dick, is father coming?"

"Hollo, little one! Art thou safe after all?"

"I am, I am. Father! father! Come! Where is he?"

"It is poor Gaythorn's little wench," explained one of the soldiers, as
Sir Harry, a grey-haired man, looking worn and weary, turned back, while
Steadfast helped the child out on the bank with some difficulty, for
her extreme haste had nearly brought her down, and she stood curtseying,
holding out her arms, and quivering with hope that began to be fear.

"Poor child!" were the old gentleman's first words. "And where were
you?"

"Please your honour, father left me in the thorn brake," said Emlyn,
"and said he would come for me, but he did not; it got dark, and this
country lad found me, and took me home. Is father coming, your honour?"

"Ah! my poor little maid, your father will never come again," said Sir
Harry, sadly. "He went down by the mill stream. I saw him fall. What is
to be done for her?" he added, turning to a younger gentleman, who rode
by him, as the child stood as it were stunned for a moment. "This is the
worst of it all. Heaven knows we freely sacrifice ourselves in the cause
of Church and King, but it is hard to sacrifice others. Here are these
faithful servants, their home broken up with ours, their children dying,
and themselves killed--she, by the brutes after Naseby, he, in this last
skirmish. 'Tis enough to break a man's heart. And what is to become of
this poor little maid?"

"Oh! I'll go with your honour," cried Emlyn, stretching out her arms.
"I can ride behind Dick, and I'll give no one any trouble. Oh! take me,
sir."

"It cannot be done, my poor child," said Sir Harry. "We have no women
with us now, and we have to make our way to Newark by forced marches to
His Majesty. I have no choice but to bestow you somewhere till better
times come. Hark you, my good lad, she says you found her, and have been
good to her. Would your mother take charge of her? I'll leave what I can
with you, and when matters are quiet, my wife, or the child's kindred,
will send after her. Will your father and mother keep her for the
present?"

"I have none," said Steadfast. "My father was killed in his own yard by
some soldiers who wanted to drive our cows. Mother had died before, but
my sister and I made a shift to take care of the little ones in a poor
place of our own."

"And can you take the child in? You seem a good lad."

"We will do our best for her, sir."

"What's your name?" and "Where do you live?" followed. And as Steadfast
replied the old Cavalier took out his tablets and noted them, adding,
"Then you and your sister will be good to her till we can send after
her."

"We will treat her like our little sister, sir."

"And here's something for her keep for the present, little enough I am
afraid, but we poor Cavaliers have not much left. The King's men
were well to do when I heard last of them, and they will make it up
by-and-by. Or if not, my boy, can you do this for the love of God?"

"Yes, sir," said Steadfast, looking up with his honest eyes, and
touching his forelock at the holy Name.

"Here, then," and Sir Harry held out two gold pieces, to which his
companion added one, and two or three of the troopers, saying something
about poor Gaythorn's little maid, added some small silver coins. There
was something in Steadfast's mind that would have preferred declining
all payment, but he was a little afraid of Patience's dismay at having
another mouth to provide for all the winter, and he thought too that
Jeph's anger at the adoption of the Canaanitish child might be averted
if it were a matter of business and payment, so he accepted the sum,
thanked Sir Harry and the rest, and renewed his promise to do the best
in his power for the little maiden. He rather wondered that no questions
were asked as to which side he held; but Sir Harry had no time to
inquire, and could only hope that the honest, open face, respectful
manner, clean dress, and the kindness which had rescued the child on
the battlefield were tokens that he might be trusted to take care of
the poor little orphan. Besides, many of the country people were too
ignorant to understand the difference between the sides, but only took
part with their squire, or if they loved their clergyman, clung to him.
So the knight would not ask any questions, and only further called out
"Fare thee well, then, poor little maid, we will send after thee when
we can," and then giving a sharp, quick order, all the little party
galloped off to overtake the rest.

Emlyn had been bred up in too much awe of Sir Harry to make objections,
but as her friends rode off she gave a sharp shriek, screamed out one
name after another, and finally threw herself down on the road bank in a
wild passion of grief, anger, and despair, and when Steadfast would
have lifted her up and comforted her, she kicked and fought him away.
Presently he tried her again, begging her to come home.

"I won't! I won't go to your vile, tumble-down, roundhead, crop-eared
hole!" she sobbed out.

"But, Sir Harry--"

"I won't! I say."

He was at his wits' end, but after all, the sound of other steps coming
up startled her into composing herself and sitting up.

"Hollo, Stead Kenton! Got this little puppet on your hands?" said young
Gates. "Hollo, mistress, you squeal like a whole litter of pigs."

"I am to take charge of her till her friends can send for her," said
Stead, with protecting dignity.

"And that will be a long day! Ho, little wench, where didst get that
sweet voice?"

"Hush, Tom! the child has only just heard that her father is dead."

This silenced the other lads, and Emlyn's desire to get away from them
accomplished what Steadfast wished, she put her hand into his and let
him lead her away, and as there were sounds of another troop of cavalry
coming up the lane, the boys did not attempt to follow her. She made no
more resistance, though she broke into fresh fits of moaning and crying
all the way home, such as went to Steadfast's heart, though he could not
find a word to comfort her.

Patience was scarcely delighted when Rusha darted in, crying out that
Emlyn had come back again, but perhaps she was not surprised. She took
the poor worn-out little thing in her arms, and rocked her, saying kind,
tender little words, while Steadfast looked on, wondering at what girls
could do, but not speaking till, finding that Emlyn was fast asleep,
Patience laid her down on the bed without waking her, and then had time
to listen to Stead's account of the interview with Sir Harry Blythedale.

"I could not help it, Patience," he said, "we couldn't leave the poor
fatherless child out on the hedge-side."

"No," said Patience, "we can't but have her, as the gentleman said, for
the love of God. He has taken care of us, so we ought to take care of
the fatherless--like ourselves."

"That's right, Patience," said Steadfast, much relieved in his mind,
"and see here!"

"I wonder you took that, Stead, and the poor gentlemen so ill off
themselves."

"Well, Patience, I thought if you would not have her, Goody Grace might
for the pay, but then who knows when any more may come?"

"Aye," said Patience, "we must keep her, though she will be a handful.
Anyway, all this must be laid out for her, and the first chance I have,
some shall be in decent clothes. I can't a-bear to see her in those
dirty gewgaws."



CHAPTER XIII. GODLY VENN'S TROOP.


     "Ye abbeys and ye arches,
      Ye old cathedrals dear,
      The hearts that love you tremble,
      And your enemies have cheer."
                          BP. CLEVELAND COXE.


"What would Jeph say?" was the thought of both Steadfast and Patience,
as Emlyn ran about with Rusha and Ben, making herself tolerably happy
and enlivening them all a good deal. After one fight she found that she
must obey Patience, though she made no secret that she liked the sober
young mistress of the hut much less than the others, and could even
sometimes get Steadfast to think her hardly used, but he seldom showed
that feeling, for he had plenty of sense, and could not bear to vex his
sister; besides, he saw there would be no peace if her authority was not
supported. It was a relief that there was no visit from Jeph for some
little time, though the fighting was all over, and people were going in
and out of Bristol as before.

Stead took the donkey with the panniers full of apples and nuts on
market day, and a pile of fowls and ducks on its back, while he carried
a basket of eggs on his arm, and in his head certain instructions from
Patience about the grogram and linen he was to purchase for Emlyn, in
the hope of making her respectable before Jeph's eyes should rest upon
her. Stead's old customers were glad to see him again, especially Mrs.
Lightfoot, who had Dr. Eales once again in her back rooms, keeping
out of sight, while the good Dean was actually in prison for using the
Prayer-book. Three soldiers were quartered upon her at the Wheatsheaf,
and though, on the whole, they were more civil and much less riotous
than some of her Cavalier lodgers had been, she was always in dread of
their taking offence at the doctor and hauling him off to gaol.

Steadfast confided to her Patience's commission, which she undertook
to execute herself. It included a spinning-wheel, for Patience was
determined to teach Emlyn to spin, an art of which no respectable woman
from the Queen downwards was ignorant in those days. As to finding his
brother, the best way would be to ask the soldiers who were smoking in
the kitchen where he was likely to be.

They said that the faithful and valiant Jephthah Kenton of Venn's horse
would be found somewhere about the great steeple house, profanely
called the Cathedral, for there the troops were quartered; and thither
accordingly Stead betook himself, starting as he saw horses gearing or
being groomed on the sward in the close which had always been kept in
such perfect order. Having looked in vain outside for his brother, he
advanced into the building, but he had only just had a view of horses
stamping between the pillars, the floor littered down with straw, a
fire burning in one of the niches, and soldiers lying about, smoking or
eating, in all manner of easy, lounging attitudes, when suddenly there
was a shout of "Prelatist, Idolater, Baal-worshipper, Papist," and
to his horror he found it was all directed towards himself. They were
pointing to his head, and two of them had caught him by the shoulders,
when another voice rose "Ha! Let him alone. I say, Bill! Faithful! It's
my brother. He knows no better!" Then dashing up, Jeph rammed the great
hat down over Stead's brow, eyes and all, and called out, "Whoever
touches my brother must have at me first."

"There," said one of the others, "the old Adam need not be so fierce in
thee, brother Jephthah! No one wants to hurt the lad, young prelatist
though he be, so he will make amends by burning their superstitious
books on the fire, even as Jehu burnt the worshippers of Baal."

Steadfast felt somewhat as Christians of old may have felt when called
on to throw incense on the altar of Jupiter, as a handful of pages torn
from a Prayer-book was thrust into his hands. Words did not come
readily to him, but he shook his head and stood still, perhaps stolid in
resistance.

"Come," said Jeph, laying hold of his shoulder to drag him along.

"I cannot; 'tis Scripture," said Stead, as in his distress his eye fell
on the leaves in his hand, and he read aloud to prove it--

"Thy Word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my path."

There was one moment's pause. Perhaps the men had absolutely forgotten
how much of their cherished Bible was integral in the hated Prayer-book;
at any rate they were enough taken aback to enable Jeph to pull his
brother out at the door, not without a fraternal cuff or two, as he
exclaimed:

"Thou foolish fellow! ever running into danger for very dullness."

"What have I done, Jeph?" asked poor Stead, still bewildered.

"Done! Why, doffed thy hat, after the superstitious and idolatrous
custom of our fathers."

"How can it be idolatrous? 'Twas God's house," said Stead.

"Aye, there thou art in the gall of bitterness. Know'st thou not that no
house is more holy than another?" and Jeph would have gone on for
some time longer, but that he heard sounds which made him suspect
that someone had condemned the version of the Psalms as prelatical and
profane, and that his comrades might yet burst forth to visit their
wrath upon his young brother, whom he therefore proceeded to lead out
of sight as fast as possible into the Dean's garden, where he had the
entree as being orderly to Captain Venn, who, with other officers, abode
in the Deanery.

There, controversy being dropped for the moment, Stead was able to tell
his brother of his expedition, and how he had been obliged to keep the
child, for very pity's sake, even if her late father's master had not
begged him to do so, and given an earnest of the payment.

Jeph laughed a little scornfully at the notion of a wild Cavalier ever
paying, but he was not barbarous, and allowed that there was no choice
in the matter, as she could not be turned out to starve. When he heard
that Stead had come with market produce he was displeased at it not
having been brought up for the table of his officers, assuring Stead
that they were not to be confounded with the roistering, penniless
malignants, who robbed instead of paying. Stead said he always supplied
Mistress Lightfoot, but this was laughed to scorn. "The rulers of the
army of saints had a right to be served first, above all before one who
was believed to harbour the idolater, even the priest of the groves."

Jeph directed that the next supply should come to the Deanery, as one
who had the right of ownership, and Stead submitted, only with the
secret resolve that Dr. Eales should not want his few eggs nor his pat
of fresh butter.

Jeph was not unkind to Stead, and took him to dine with the other
attendants of the officers in the very stone hall where he had eaten
that Christmas dinner some twenty months before. There was a very
long grace pronounced extempore, and the guests were stout, resolute,
grave-looking men, who kept on their steeple-crowned hats all the
time and conversed in low, deep voices, chiefly, as far as Stead could
gather, on military matters, but they seemed to appreciate good beef and
ale quite as much as any Cavalier trooper could have done. One of them
noticing Stead asked whether he had come to take service with the saints
and enjoy their dominion, but Jeph answered for him that his call lay at
home among those of his own household, until his heart should be whole
with the cause.

On the whole Stead was proud to see Jeph holding his own, though the
youngest among these determined-looking men. These two years had made
a man of the rough, idle, pleasure-loving boy, and a man after the
Ironsides' fashion, grave, self-contained, and self-depending. Stead had
been more like the elder than the younger brother in old times, but he
felt Jeph immeasurably his elder in the new, unfamiliar atmosphere; and
yet the boy had a strong sense that all was not right; that these were
interlopers in the kind old Dean's house; that the talk about Baal was
mere absurdity; and the profanation of the Cathedral would have been
utterly shocking to his good father. His mind, however, worked slowly,
and he would have had nothing to say even if he could have ventured to
speak; but he was very anxious to get away; and when Jeph would have
kept him to hear the serjeant expound a chapter of Revelation, he
pleaded the necessity of getting home in time to milk the cows, and made
his escape.

On the whole it was a relief that Jeph was too much occupied with his
military duties to make visits to his home. It might not have been over
easy to keep the peace between him and Emlyn, fiery little Royalist as
she was, and too much used to being petted and fascinating everyone by
her saucy audacity to be likely to be afraid of him.

If Patience crossed her she would have recourse to Stead, and he could
seldom resist her coaxing, or be entirely disabused of the notion that
his sister expected too much of her. And perhaps it was true. Patience
was scarcely likely to understand differences of character and
temperament, and not merely to recollect that Emlyn was only eighteen
months younger than she had been when she had been forced into the
position of the house mother. So, while Emlyn's wayward fancies were a
great trial, Steadfast's sympathy with them was a greater one.

Stead continued to see Jeph when taking in the market produce, for which
he was always duly paid. Jeph also wished the whole family to come in
on Sunday to profit by the preaching of some of the great Independent
lights; but Stead, after trying it once, felt so sure that Patience
would be miserable at anything so unaccustomed, so thunderous, and, as
it seemed to him, so abusive, that he held to it that the distance was
too great, and that the cattle could not be left. The soldiery seemed to
him to spend their spare time in defacing the many churches of the city,
chiefly in order to do what they called purifying them from all idols,
in which term they included every sort of carving or picture, or even
figures on monuments.

And in this work of destruction a chest containing church plate had been
come upon, making their work greedy instead of only mischievous.

When all the churches in Bristol had been ransacked, they began to
extend their search to the parish churches in the neighbourhood, and
Stead began to be very anxious, though he hoped and believed that the
cave was a perfectly safe place.



CHAPTER XIV. THE QUESTION.


     "Dogged as does it."--TROLLOPE.


"Stead, Stead," cried Rusha, running up to him, as he was slowly digging
over his stubble field to prepare it for the next crop, "the soldiers
are in Elmwood."

"Yes," said Emlyn, coming up at the same time, "they are knocking about
everything in the church and pulling up the floor."

"Patience sent us to get some salt," explained Rusha, "and we saw them
from Dame Redman's door. She told us we had better be off and get home
as fast as we could."

"But I thought we would come and tell you," added Emlyn, "and then
you could get out the long gun and shoot them as they come into the
valley--that is if you can take aim--but I would load and show you how,
and then they would think it was a whole ambush of honest men."

"Aye, and kill us all--and serve us right," said Stead. "They don't
want to hurt us if we don't meddle with them. But there's a good wench,
Rusha, drive up the cows and sheep this way so that I can have an eye on
them, and shew Captain Venn's paper, if any of those fellows should take
a fancy to them."

"They are digging all over old parson's garden," said Rusha, as she
obeyed.

"Was Jeph there?" asked Stead.

"I didn't see him," said the child.

Steadfast was very uneasy. That turning up the parson's garden looked
as if they might be in search of the silver belonging to the Church, but
after all they were unlikely to connect him with it, and it was wiser
to go on with his regular work, and manifest no interest in the matter;
besides that, every spadeful he heaved up, every chop he gave the
stubble, seemed to be a comfort, while there was a prayer on his soul
all the time that he might be true to his trust.

By-and-by he saw Tom Oates running and beckoning to him, "Stead, Stead
Kenton, you are to come."

"What should I come for?" said Stead, gruffly.

"The soldiers want you."

"What call have they to me?"

"They be come to cleanse the steeple house, they says, and take the
spoil thereof, and they've been routling over the floor and parson's
garden like so many hogs, and are mad because they can't find nothing,
and Thatcher Jerry says, says he, 'Poor John Kenton as was shot was
churchwarden and was very great with Parson. If anybody knows where the
things is 'tis Steadfast Kenton.' So the corporal says, 'Is this so,
Jephthah Kenton?' and Jeph, standing up in his big boots, says, 'Aye,
corporal, my father was yet in the darkness of prelacy, and was what in
their blindness they call a Churchwarden, but as to my brother, that's
neither here nor there, he were but a boy and not like to know more than
I did.' But the corporal said, 'That we will see. Is the lad here?' So
I ups and said nay, but I'd seen you digging your croft, and then they
bade me fetch you. So you must come, willy-nilly, or they may send worse
after you."

Stead was a little consoled by hearing that his brother was there. He
suspected that Jeph would have consideration enough for his sisters and
for the property that he considered his own to be unwilling to show the
way to their valley; and he also reflected that it would be well that
whatever might happen to himself should be out of sight of his sisters.
Therefore he decided on following Oates, going through on the way the
whole question whether to deny all knowledge, and yet feeling that
the things belonging to God should not be shielded by untruth. His
resolution finally was to be silent, and let them make what they would
out of that, and Stead, though it was long since he had put it on, had a
certain sullen air of stupidity such as often belongs to such natures as
his, and which Jeph knew full well in him.

They came in sight of the village green where the soldiers were
refreshing themselves at what once had been the Elmwood Arms, for though
not given to excess, total abstinence formed no part of the discipline
of the Puritans; and one of the men started forward, and seizing hold of
Steadfast by the shoulder exclaimed--

"As I live, 'tis the young prelatist who bowed himself down in the house
of Rimmon! Come on, thou seed of darkness, and answer for thyself."

If he had only known it, he was making the part of dogged silence and
resistance infinitely easier to Steadfast by the rudeness and abuse,
which, even in a better cause, would have made it natural to him to act
as he was doing now, giving the soldier all the trouble of dragging him
onward and then standing with his hands in his pockets like an image of
obstinacy.

"Speak," said the corporal, "and it shall be the better for thee. Hast
thou any knowledge where the priests of Baal have bestowed the vessels
of their mockery of worship."

Stead moved not a muscle of his face. He had no acquaintance with
priests of Baal or their vessels, so that he was not in the least
bound to comprehend, and one of them exclaimed "The oaf knows not your
meaning, corporal. Speak plainer to his Somerset ears. He knows not the
tongue of the saints."

"Ho, then, thou child of darkness. Know'st thou where the mass-mongering
silver and gold of this church be hidden from them of whom it is written
'haste to the spoil.' Come, speak out. A crown if thou dost speak--the
lash if thou wilt not answer, thou dumb dog."

Stead was really not far removed from a dumb dog. All his faculties were
so entirely wrought up to resistance that he had hardly distinguished
the words.

"Come, come, Stead," said Jeph, "thou art too old for thine old sulky
moods. Speak up, and tell if thou know'st aught of the Communion Cup and
dish, or it will be the worse for thee. Yes or no?"

Stead made a move with his shoulder to push away his brother, and still
stood silent.

"There," said Jeph, "it is all Faithful's fault for his rough handling.
His back is set up. It was always so from a boy, and you'll get nought
out of him."

"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction
shall drive it far from him," quoted the Corporal, taking up a
waggoner's whip which stood by the inn door, and the like of which had
no doubt once been a more familiar weapon to him than the sword.

"Speak lad--or--" and as no speech came, the lash descended on Stead's
shoulders, not, however, hurting him much save where it grazed the skin
of his face.

"Now? Not a word? Take off his leathern coat, Faithful, then shall he
feel the reward of sullenness."

That Jeph did not interfere, while Faithful and another soldier tugged
off his leathern coat, buffeting and kicking him roughly as they did so,
brought additional hardness to Stead. He had been flogged in his time
before, and not without reason, and had taken a pride in not giving in,
or crying out for pain; and the ancient habit acquired in a worse cause,
came to his help. He scarcely recollected the cause of his resistance;
all his powers were concentrated in holding out, and when after another
"Now, vile prelatic spawn, is thy heart still hardened? Yes or no?" the
terrible whip came stinging and biting down on his shoulders and
back, only protected by his shirt, he was entirely bound up in the
determination to endure the pain without a groan or cry.

But after blows enough had fallen to mark the shirt with streaks of
blood, Jeph could bear it no longer.

"Hold!" he said. "You will never make him speak that way. Father and
mother never could. Strokes do but harden him."

"The sure token of a fool," said the corporal, and prepared for another
lash.

"'Tis plain he knows," said one of the others. "He would never stand
this if a word would save him."

"Mere malice and obstinacy," said Faithful, "and wilfulness. He will
not utter a word. I would beat it out of him, as I was wont with our old
ass."

Another stroke descended, worse than all the others after the brief
interval, but Jeph again spoke, "Look you, I know the lad of old and
you'll get no more that way than if you were flogging the sign-post
there. Whether he knows where the things are or not, the temper that is
in him will never answer while you beat him, were it to save his life.
Leave him to me, and I'll be bound to get an answer from him."

"And I am constable, and I must say," said Blacksmith Blane, moving
forwards, with a bar of iron in his hand, and four or five stout men
behind him, "that to come and abuse and flog a hard-working, fatherless
lad, that never did you no harm, nor anyone else, is not what honest men
look for from soldiers that talk so big about Parliament and rights and
what not!"

"'Twas for contumacy," began the corporal.

"Contumacy forsooth, as though 'twas the will of the honest gentlemen in
Parliament that boys should be misused for nothing at all!"

"If the young dog would have spoken," began the corporal, but somehow he
did not like the look of Blane's iron bar, and thought it best to look
up at the sun, and discover that it was time to depart if the party were
to be in time for roll-call. As it was a private marauding speculation,
it might not be well to have complaints made to Captain Venn, who never
sanctioned plunder nor unnecessary violence. Even Jeph had to march off,
and Steadfast, who had no mind to be pitied, nor asked by the neighbours
what was the real fact, had picked up his spade and jerkin, and was out
of sight while the villagers were watching the soldiers away.

The first thing he did was to give thanks in heart that he had been
aided thus far not to betray his trust, and then to feel that Corporal
Dodd's flogging was a far severer matter than the worst chastisement he
had ever received from his father, even when he kept Jeph's secret about
the stolen apples. Putting on his coat was impossible, and he was so
stiff and sore that he could not hope to conceal his condition from
Patience.

At home all were watching for him. They ran up in anxiety, for one
of the ever ready messengers of evil had rushed down the glen to tell
Patience that the soldiers were beating Stead shamefully, and Jeph
standing by not saying one word. Little Ben broke out with "Poor, poor!"
and Rusha burst into tears at sight of the blood, while Emlyn said "Just
what comes of going among the rascal Roundheads," and Patience looked up
at him and said "Was it--?" he nodded, and she quietly said "I'm glad."
He added, "Jeph's coming soon," and she knew that the trial was not
over. The brother and sister needed very few words to understand one
another, and they were afraid to say anything that the younger ones
could understand. Patience washed the weals with warm water and milk,
and wrapped a cloak round him, but even the next morning, he could not
use his arms without fresh bleeding, and the hindrance to the work
was serious. He could do nothing but herd the cattle, and he was much
inclined to drive them to the further end of the moorland where Jephthah
would hardly find him, but then he recollected that Patience would be
left to bear the brunt of the attack, so that he would not go far
off, never guessing, poor fellow, that in his dull, almost blundering
fashion, he was doing like the heroes and the martyrs, but only feeling
that he must keep his trust at all costs. Jeph, however, did not come
that day or the next, so that inwardly, the wound-up feeling had passed
into a weariness of expectation, and outwardly the stripes had healed
enough for Stead to go about his work as usual only a little stiffly.
He went into Bristol on market day as usual, and then it was, on his way
out that Jeph joined him, saying it was to bid Patience and the little
ones farewell, since the marching orders were for the morrow. He was
unusually kind and good-natured; he had a load of comfits for Rusha and
Ben, and a stout piece of woollen stuff for Patience which he said was
such as he was told godly maidens wore, and which possibly the terror of
his steel cap and corslet had cheapened at the mercer's; also he had
a large packet of tractates for Stead's own reading, and he enquired
whether they possessed a Bible.

Stead wondered whether all this was out of regret at the treatment he
had undergone, or whether it was to put him off his guard, and this
occupied him when Jeph began to preach, as he did uninterruptedly for
the last mile, without any of the sense, if there were any, reaching the
mind of the auditor.

They reached the hut, the gifts were displayed; and when the young ones,
who were all a little afraid of the elder brother, had gone off to feast
upon the sweets, Jeph began with enquiries after Steadfast's back, and
he replied that it was mending fast, while Patience exclaimed at the
cruelty and wickedness of so using him.

"Why wouldn't he speak then?" said Jeph. "Yea or nay would have ended it
in a moment, but that's Stead's way. He looks like it now!" and he did,
elbows on knees, and chin on hands.

"Come now, Stead, thou canst speak to me! Was it all because Faithful
hauled thee about?"

"He did, and he had no call to," said Stead, surlily.

"Well, that's true, but I'm not hauling thee. Tell me, Stead, I mind now
that thou wast out with father that last day ere the Parson was taken
to receive his deserts. I don't believe that even thy churlishness
would have stood such blows if thou hadst known naught of the idolatrous
vessels, and couldst have saved thy skin by saying so! No answer. Why,
what have these malignants done for thee that thou shouldst hold by
them? Slain thy father! Burnt thine house! No fault of theirs that thou
art alive this day! Canst not speak?"

Jeph's temper giving way at the provocation, he forgot his conciliatory
intentions and seizing Stead by the collar shook him violently. Growler
almost broke his chain with rage, Patience screamed and flew to the
rescue, just as she had often done when they were all children together,
and Jeph threw his brother from him so that he fell on the root of a
tree, and lay for a moment or two still, then picked himself up again
evidently with pain, though he answered Patience cheerfully that it was
nought.

"Thou art enough to drive a man mad with thy surly silence," exclaimed
Jeph, whom this tussle had rendered much more like his old self, "and
after all, knowing that even though thou art not one of the holy ones,
thou wilt not tell a lie, it comes to the same thing. I know thou
wottest where these things are, and it is only thy sullen scruples that
hinder thee from speaking. Nevertheless, I shall leave no stone unturned
till I find them! For what is written 'Thou shalt break down their
altars.'"

"Jeph," said Stead, firmly. "You left home because of your grief and
rage at father's death. Would you have me break the solemn charge he
laid on me?"

"Father was a good man after his light," said Jeph, a little staggered,
"but that light was but darkness, and we to whom the day itself is
vouchsafed are not bound by a charge laid on us in ignorance. Any
way, he laid no bonds on me, but I must needs leave thee alone in thy
foolishness of bondage! Come, Patience, wench, and aid me, I know
this rock is honeycombed with caves, like a rabbit warren, no place so
likely."

"I help thee--no indeed'" cried Patience. "Would I aid thee to do what
would most grieve poor father, that thou once mad'st such a work about!
I should be afraid of his curse."

Possibly if Jeph had not pledged himself to his comrades to overcome
his brother's resistance, and bring back the treasures, he might have
desisted; but what he did was to call to Rusha to bring him a lantern,
and show him the holes, promising her a tester if she would. She brought
the lantern, but she was a timid, little, unenterprising thing, and was
mortally afraid of the caverns, a fear that Patience had thought it well
not to combat. Emlyn who had already scrambled all over the face of the
slope, and peeped into all, could have told him a great deal more about
them; but she hated the sight of a rebel, and sat on the ground making
ugly faces and throwing little stones after him whenever his back was
turned.

Stead, afraid to betray by his looks of anxiety, when Jeph came near the
spot, sat all the time with his elbows on his knees, and his hands
over his face, fully trusting to what all had agreed at the time of the
burial of the chest, that there was no sign to indicate its whereabouts.

He felt rather than saw that Jeph, after tumbling out the straw and fern
that served for fodder in the lower caves, where the sheep and pigs
were sheltered in winter, had scrambled up to the hermit's chapel, when
suddenly there was a shout, but not at all of exultation, and down among
the bushes, lantern and all came the soldier, tumbling and crashing into
the midst of an enormous bramble, whence Stead pulled him out with the
lantern flattened under him, and his first breathless words were--

"Beelzebub himself!" Then adding, as he stood upright, "he made full at
me, and I saw his eyes glaring. I heard him groaning. It is an unholy
popish place. No wonder!"

Patience and Rusha were considerably impressed, for it was astonishing
to see how horribly terrified and shaken was the warrior, who had been
in two pitched battles, and Ben screamed, and needed to be held in
Stead's arms to console him.

Jeph had no mind to pursue his researches any further. He only tarried
long enough to let Patience pick out half-a-dozen thorns from his cheeks
and hands, and to declare that if he had not to march to-morrow, he
should bring that singular Christian man, Captain Venn, to exorcise the
haunt of Apollyon. Wherewith he bade them all farewell, with hopes that
by the time he saw them again, they would have come to the knowledge of
the truth.

No sooner was he out of sight among the bushes than Emlyn seized on
Rusha, and whirled her round in a dance as well as her more substantial
proportions would permit, while Steadfast let his countenance expand
into the broad grin that he had all this time been stifling.

"What _do_ you think it was?" asked Patience, still awestruck.

"Why--the old owl--and his own bad conscience. He might talk big, but he
didn't half like going against poor father. Thank God! He has saved His
own, and that's over!"



CHAPTER XV. A TABLE OF LOVE IN THE WILDERNESS.


     "Yet along the Church's sky
      Stars are scattered, pure and high;
      Yet her wasted gardens bear
      Autumn violets, sweet and rare,
      Relics of a Spring-time clear,
      Earnests of a bright New Year."    KEBLE


No more was heard or seen of Jephthah, or of Captain Venn's troop. The
garrison within Bristol was small and unenterprising, and in point of
fact the war was over. News travelled slowly, but Stead picked up scraps
at Bristol, by which he understood that things looked very bad for the
King. Moreover, Sir George Elmwood died of his wounds; poor old Lady
Elmwood did not long survive him, and the estate, which had been left
to her for her life, was sequestrated by the Parliament, and redeemed
by the next heir after Sir George, so that there was an exchange of
the Lord of the Manor. The new squire was an elderly man, hearty and
good-natured, who did not seem at all disposed to interfere with any one
on the estate. He was a Presbyterian, and was shocked to find that
the church had been unused for three years. He had it cleaned from the
accumulation of dirt and rubbish, the broken windows mended with plain
glass, and the altar table put down in the nave, as it had been before
Mr. Holworth's time; and he presented to the living Mr. Woodley, a
scholarly-looking person, who wore a black gown and collar and bands.

The Elmwood folk were pleased to have prayers and sermon again, and
Patience was glad that the children should not grow up like heathens;
but her first church going did not satisfy her entirely.

"It is all strange," she said to Stead, who had stayed with the cattle.
"He had no book, and it was all out of his own head, not a bit like old
times."

"Of course not," said Emlyn. "He had got no surplice, and I knew him for
a prick-eared Roundhead! I should have run off home if you had not held
me, Patience. I'll never go there again."

"I am sure you made it a misery to me, trying to make Rusha and Ben as
idle and restless as yourself," said Patience.

"They ought not to listen to a mere Roundhead sectary," said Emlyn,
tossing her head. "I couldn't have borne it if I had not had the young
ladies to look at. They had got silk hoods and curls and lace collars,
so as it was a shame a mere Puritan should wear."

"O Emlyn, Emlyn, it is all for the outside," said Patience. "Now, I
did somehow like to hear good words, though they were not like the old
ones."

"Good, indeed! from a trumpery Puritan."

Stead went to church in the afternoon. He was eighteen now, and that
great struggle and effort had made him more of a man. He thought much
when he was working alone in the fields, and he had spent his time on
Sundays in reading his Bible and Prayer-book, and comparing them with
Jeph's tracts. Since Emlyn had come, he had made a corner of the cowshed
fit to sleep in, by stuffing the walls with dry heather, and the
sweet breath of the cows kept it sufficiently warm, and on the winter
evenings, he took a lantern there with one of Patience's rush lights,
learnt a text or two anew, and then repeated passages to himself and
thought over them. What would seem intolerably dull to a lad now, was
rest to one who had been rendered older than his age by sorrow and
responsibility, and the events that were passing led people to consider
religious questions a great deal.

But Stead was puzzled. The minister was not like the soldiers whom he
had heard raving about the reign of the saints, and abusing the church.
He prayed for the King's having a good deliverance from his troubles,
and for the peace of the kingdom, and he gave out that there was to be
a week of fasting, preaching, and preparation for the Sacrament of the
Lord's Supper.

The better sort of people in the village were very much pleased, nobody
except Goody Grace was dissatisfied, and people told her that was only
because she was old and given to grumbling at everything new. Blane the
Smith tapped Stead on the shoulder, and said, "Hark ye, my lad. If it
be true that thou wast in old Parson's secrets, now's the time for thou
know'st what."

Stead's mouth was open, and his face blank, chiefly because he did not
know what to do, and was taken by surprise, and Blane took it for an
answer.

"Oh! if you don't know, that's another thing, but then 'twas for nothing
that the troopers flogged you? Well," he muttered, as Stead walked
off, "that's a queer conditioned lad, to let himself be flogged, as I
wouldn't whip a dog, all out of temper, because he wouldn't answer a
question. But he's a good lad, and I'll not bring him into trouble by a
word to squire or minister."

The children went off to gather cowslips, and Stead was able to talk it
over with Patience, who at first was eager to be rid of the dangerous
trust, and added, with a sigh, "That she had never taken the Sacrament
since the Easter before poor father was killed, and it must be nigh upon
Whitsuntide now."

"That's true," said Stead, "but nobody makes any count of holy days now.
It don't seem right, Patience."

"Not like what it used to be," said Patience. "And yet this minister is
surely a godly man."

"Father and parson didn't say ought about a godly man. They made me take
my solemn promise that I'd only give the things to a lawfully ordained
minister."

"He is a minister, and he comes by law," argued Patience. "Do be
satisfied, Stead. I'm always in fear now that folks guess we have
somewhat in charge; and Emlyn is such a child for prying and chattering.
And if they should come and beat thee again, or do worse. Oh, Stead!
surely you might give them up to a good man like that; Smith Blane says
you ought!"

"I doubt me! I know that sort don't hold with Bishops, and, so far as
I can see, by father's old Prayer-book, a lawful minister must have a
Bishop to lay hands on him," said Stead, who had studied the subject
as far as his means would allow, and had good though slow brains of his
own, matured by responsibility. "I'll tell you what, Patience, I'll go
and see Dr. Eales about it. I wot he is a minister of the old sort, that
father would say I might trust to."

Dr. Eales was still living in Mrs. Lightfoot's lodgings, at the sign of
the Wheatsheaf, or more properly starving, for he had only ten pounds a
year paid to him out of the benefice that had been taken away from him;
and though that went farther then than it would do now, it would not
have maintained him, but that his good hostess charged him as little as
she could afford, and he also had a few pupils among the gentry's sons,
but there were too many clergymen in the same straits for this to be a
very profitable undertaking. There were no soldiers in Mrs. Lightfoot's
house now, and the doctor lived more at large, but still cautiously, for
in the opposite house, named the "Ark," whose gable end nearly met the
Wheatsheaf's, dwelt a rival baker, a Brownist, whose great object seemed
to be to spy upon the clergyman, and have something to report against
him, nor was Mrs. Lightfoot's own man to be trusted. Stead lingered
about the open stall where the bread was sold till no customer was at
hand, and then mentioned under his breath to the good dame his desire to
speak with her lodger.

"Certainly," she said, but the Doctor was now with his pupils at
Mistress Rivett's. He always left them at eleven of the clock, more
shame of Mrs. Rivett not to give the good man his dinner, which she
would never feel. Steadfast had better watch for him at the gate which
opened on the down, for there he could speak more privately and securely
than at home.

He took the advice, and passed away the time as best he could, learning
on the way that a news letter had been received stating that the King
was with the Scottish army at Newcastle, and that it was expected that
on receiving their arrears of pay, the Scots would surrender him to the
Parliament, a proceeding which the folk in the market-place approved or
disapproved according to their politics.

Mrs. Rivett's house stood a little apart from the town, with a court and
gates opening on the road over the down; and just as eleven strokes were
chiming from the town clock below, a somewhat bent, silver-haired man,
in a square cap and black gown, leaning on a stick, came out of it.
Stead, after the respectful fashion of his earlier days, put his knee to
the ground, doffed his steeple-crowned hat and craved a blessing, both
he and the Doctor casting a quick glance round so as to be sure there
was no one in sight.

Dr. Eales gave it earnestly, as one to whom it was a rare joy to find a
country youth thus demanding it, and as he looked at the honest face he
said:

"You are mine hostess' good purveyor, methinks, to whom I have often
owed a wholesome meal."

"Steadfast Kenton, so please your reverence. There is a secret matter on
which I would fain have your counsel, and Mistress Lightfoot thought I
might speak to you here with greater safety."

"She did well. Speak on, my good boy, if we walk up and down here we
shall be private. It does my heart good to commune with a faithful young
son of the Church."

Steadfast told his story, at which the good old Canon was much affected.
His brother Holworth, as he called him, was not in prison but in the
Virginian plantations. He was still the only true minister of Elmwood,
and Mr. Woodley, though owned by the present so-called law of the land,
was not there rightly by the law of the Church, and, therefore, Stead
was certainly not bound to surrender the trust to him, but rather the
contrary.

The Doctor could have gone into a long disquisition about Presbyterian
Orders, contradicting the arguments many good and devout people adduced
in favour of them, but there was little time, so he only confirmed with
authority Stead's belief that a Bishop's Ordination was indispensable
to a true pastor, "the only door by which to enter to the charge of the
fold."

Then came the other question of attendance on his ministry, and whether
to attend the feast given out for the Sunday week, after the long-forced
abstinence: Patience's, ever since the break-up of the parish;
Steadfast's, since the siege of Bristol. Dr. Eales considered, "I cannot
bid you go to that in the efficacy of which neither you nor I believe,
my son," he said. "It would not be with faith. Here, indeed, I have
ministered privately to a few of the faithful in their own houses, but
the risk is over great for you and your sister to join us, espied as we
are. How is it with your home?"

"O, sir, would you even come thither?" exclaimed Steadfast, joyfully,
and he described his ravine, which was of course known to the Elmwood
neighbours, but very seldom visited by them, never except in the
middle of the day, and where the thicket and the caverns afforded every
facility for concealment.

Whitsun Day was coming, and Dr. Eales proposed to come over to the glen
and celebrate the Holy Feast in the very early morning before anyone was
astir. There were a few of his Bristol flock who would be thankful for
the opportunity of meeting more safely than they could do in the city,
since at Easter they had as nearly as possible been all arrested in a
pavilion in Mr. Rivett's garden which they had thought unsuspected.

There would be one market day first, and on that Stead would come and
explain his preparations, and hear what the Doctor had arranged. And
so it was. The time was to be three o'clock, the very dawn of the long
summer day, the time when sleep is deepest. Dr. Eales and Mrs. Lightfoot
would come out the night before, he not returning after his lesson to
the Rivetts, and she making some excuse about going to see friends for
the Sunday.

The Rivetts, living outside the gates where sentries still kept guard,
could start in the morning, and so could the four others who were to
form part of the congregation. Goody Grace was the only person near home
whom Patience wished to invite, for she too had grieved over the great
deprivation, and had too much heart for the Church to be satisfied with
Mr. Woodley's ministrations. Perhaps even she did not understand the
difference, but she could be trusted, and the young people knew how
happy it would make her.

Little can we guess what such an opportunity was to the faithful
children of the Church in those sad days. Goody Grace folded her hands
and murmured, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace," when
Patience told her of the invitation, and Patience, though she had all
her ordinary work to do, went quietly about it, as if she had some great
thought of peace and awe upon her.

"Why, Patience, you seem as if you were making ready for some guest, the
Prince of Wales at least!" said Emlyn, on Saturday night.

Patience smiled a sweet little happy smile and in her heart she said
"And so I am, and for a greater far!" but she did say "Yes, Emlyn, Dr.
Eales is coming to sleep here to-night, and he will pray with us in the
early morning."

It had been agreed that the Celebration should take place first, and
then after a short pause, the Morning Service. Jerusha was eleven years
old, and a very good girl, and since Confirmation was impossible, her
brother and sister would have asked for her admission to the Holy Feast
without it, but she could not be called up without the danger of awaking
Emlyn; and Patience was so sure that it was not safe to trust that
damsel with the full knowledge of the treasure that, though Steadfast
always thought his sister hard on her, he was forced to give way. The
children were to be admitted to Matins, for if any idea oozed out that
this latter service had been held, no great danger was likely to come
of it. Dr. Eales arrived in the evening, Steadfast meeting him to act
as guide, and Patience set before him of her best. A fowl, which she had
been forced to broil for want of other means of dressing it; bread baked
in a tin with a fire of leaves and small sticks heaped over it; roasted
eggs, excellent butter and milk. She apologised for not having dared
to fetch any ale for fear of exciting suspicion, but the doctor set her
quite at ease by his manifest enjoyment of her little feast, declaring
that he had not made so good a meal since Bristol was taken.

Then he catechised the children. Little Ben could say the Lord's Prayer,
the Belief, and some of the shorter Commandments, and the doctor patted
his little round white cap, and gave him two Turkey figs as a reward.

Jerusha, when she got over her desperate fright enough to speak above a
whisper, was quite perfect from her name down to "charity with all men,"
but Emlyn stumbled horribly over even the first answers, and utterly
broke down in the Fourth Commandment; but she smiled up in the doctor's
face in her pretty way, and blushed as she said "The chaplain at
Blythedale had taught us so far, your reverence."

"And have you learnt no further?"

"If you were here to teach me, sir, I would soon learn it," said the
little witch, but she did not come over him as she did with most people.

"You have as good an instructor as I for your needs, in this discreet
maiden," said Dr. Eales, and as something of a pout descended on
the sparkling little face, "when you know all the answers, perchance
Steadfast here may bring you to my lodgings and I will hear you."

"I could learn them myself if I had the book," said Emlyn.

The fact being that the Catechism was taught by Patience from memory
in those winter evenings when all went to bed to save candle light, but
that when Steadfast retired to the cow-house, Emlyn either insisted
on playing with the others or pretended to go to sleep; and twitted
Patience with being a Puritan. However, the hopes of going into Bristol
might be an incentive, though she indulged in a grumble to Rusha, and
declared that she liked a jolly chaplain, and this old doctor was not a
bit better than a mere Puritan.

Rusha opened her big eyes. She never did understand Emlyn, and perhaps
that young maiden took delight in shocking her. They were ordered off to
bed much sooner than they approved on that fair summer night, when the
half-moon was high and the nightingales were singing all round--not that
they cared for that, but there was a sense about them that something
mysterious was going on, and Emlyn was wild with curiosity and vexation
at being kept out of it.

She would have kept watch and crept out; but that Patience came in, and
lay down, so close to the door that it was impossible to get out without
waking her, and besides if Emlyn did but stir, she asked what was the
matter.

"They mean something!" said Emlyn to herself, "and I'll know what it
is. They have no right to keep me out of the plot; I am not like
stupid little Rusha! I have been in a siege, and four battles, besides
skirmishes! I'll watch till they think I'm asleep, if I pull all the
hulls out of my bed! Then they will begin."

But nothing moved that Emlyn could hear or see. She woke and slept, but
was quite aware when Patience rose up after a brief doze, and found the
first streaks of dawn in the sky, a cuckoo calling as if for very life
in the nearest tree, and Steadfast quietly sweeping the dew from the
grass in a little open space shut in by rocks, trees, and bushes, close
to the bank of the brook.

A chest which he kept in the cow-shed, and which bore traces of the fire
in the old house, had been brought down to serve as an Altar, and it was
laid over, for want of anything better, with one of poor Mrs. Kenton's
best table-cloths, which Patience had always thought too good for use.

The next thing was to meet the rest of the scanty congregation at the
entrances of the wood, and guide them to the spot. This was safely done,
Goody Grace knew the way, and had guided one of the old Elmwood maid
servants whom she had managed to shelter for the night. Mrs. Lightfoot
was there with Mrs. Rivett, her daughter, elder son, and a grave-looking
man servant, Mr. Henshaw, a Barbados merchant, with his wife, and a very
worn battered shabby personage, but unmistakably a gentleman of quality,
and wounded in the wars, for he was so lame that the merchant had to
help him over the rough paths.

It was a wonderful Whitsun-day morning that none of the little party
could ever forget. The sunrise could not be seen in that deep, narrow
place, but the sky was of a strange pale shining blue, and the tender
young green of the trees overhead was touched with gold, the glades
of the wood were intensely blue with hyacinths, and with all sorts of
delicate greens twined above in the bushes over them. A wild cherry, all
silver white, was behind their Altar, the green floor was marbled with
cuckoo flowers and buttercups, and the clear little stream whose voice
murmured by was fringed with kingcups and forget-me-nots. The scents
were of the most delicious dewy freshness; and as to the sounds! Larks
sang high up in the sky, wood pigeons cooed around, nightingales,
thrushes, every bird of the wood seemed to be trying to make music and
melody.

And in the midst the grey-haired priest stood close to an ivy-covered
rock, with the white covered Altar, and the bright golden vessels which
he had carefully looked to in the night, and the little congregation
knelt close round him on cloaks and mats, the women hooded, the old
Cavalier's long thin locks, the merchant's dark ones, and the close
cropped heads of the servant and of Steadfast bared to the morning
breeze in its pure, dewy, soft freshness, fit emblem of the Comforter.
No book was produced, all was repeated from memory. They durst not raise
their voices, but the birds were their choir, and as they murmured
their _Gloria in Excelsis_, the sweet notes rang out in that unconscious
praise.

When the blessing of peace had been given there was a long hush, and no
one rose till after the vessels had been replaced in their casket, and
Stead was climbing up with it again to the hiding place. Then there
was a move to the front of the hut, where Rusha was just awakening, and
Emlyn feigned to be still asleep. It was not yet four o'clock, but the
sweet freshness was still around everything. Young Mistress Alice Rivett
and her brother were enchanted to gather flowers, and ran after their
hosts to see the cows milked, and the goats, pigs, and poultry fed,
sights new to them; but the elder ladies shivered and were glad to warm
themselves at the little fire Patience hastily lighted, after cleaning
the hut as fast as she could, by rolling up the bedding, and fairly
carrying Ben out to finish his night's rest in the cow-house.

The guests had brought their provisions, and insisted that their young
hosts should eat with them, accepting only the warm milk that Patience
brought in her pail, and they drank from the horn cups of the family.
Dr. Eales observed to the Cavalier that it was a true _Agape_ or
love-feast like those of the ancient Church, and the gentleman's
melancholy, weather-beaten face relaxed into a smile as he sighed and
hoped that the same endurance as that of the Christians of old would be
granted in this time of persecution.

Emlyn was gratified at being a good deal noticed by the company as so
unlike the others. She was not shy and frightened like Rusha, who hung
her head and had not a word to say for herself, but chattered away to
the young Rivetts, showing them the kid, the calves, and the lambs,
taking Mistress Alice to the biggest cowslips and earliest wild roses,
and herself making a sweet posy for each of the ladies. The old Cavalier
himself, Colonel Harford, was even amused with the pretty little maid,
who, he told Dr. Eales, resembled Mirth as Master John Milton had
depicted her, ere he took up with General Cromwell and his crew; and was
a becoming figure for this early morn.

On learning the child's history, he turned out to know Sir Harry
Blythedale, but not to have heard of him since they had parted at
Newark, he to guard the king to Oxford, Sir Harry to join Lord Astley,
and he much feared that the old knight had been killed at Stowe, in the
fight between Astley and Brereton. This would account for nothing having
been heard from him about Emlyn, but Colonel Harford promised, if any
opportunity should offer, to communicate with Lady Blythedale, whom he
believed to be living at Worcester; and he patted Emlyn on the head,
called her a little loyal veteran, accepted a tiny posy of forget-me-not
from her, and after fumbling in his pocket, gave her a crown piece.
Steadfast and Patience were afraid it was his last, and much wished
she had contrived not to take it, but she said she should keep it for a
remembrance.

After this rest, the beautiful Whitsuntide Matins was said in the fair
forest church, and before six o'clock this strange and blessed festival
had ended, though not the peace and thankfulness in the hearts of the
little flock.

Indeed, instead of a sermon, Dr. Eales's parting words were "And he went
in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights."



CHAPTER XVI. A FAIR OFFER.


     "We be content," the keepers said,
      "We three and you no less,
      Then why should we of you be afraid,
      As we never did transgress."
                              ROBIN HOOD BALLAD.


Steadfast was busy weeding the little patch of barley that lay near the
ruins of the old farm house with little Ben basking round him. The great
carefulness as to keeping the ground clear had been taught him by his
father, and was one reason why his fields, though so small, did not
often bear a bad crop. He heard his name called over the hedge, and
looking up saw the Squire, Mr. Elmwood, on horseback.

He came up, respectfully taking off his hat and standing with it in his
hand as was then the custom when thus spoken to. "What is this I hear,
Kenton," said the squire, "that you have been having a prelatist service
on your ground?"

Steadfast was dismayed, but did not speak, till Mr. Elmwood added, "Is
it true?"

"Yes, sir," he answered resolutely.

"Did you know it was against the law to use the Book of Common Prayer?"

"There was no book, sir."

"But you do not deny it was the same superstitious and Popish ceremony
and festival abolished by law."

"No, sir," Stead allowed, though rather by gesture than word.

"Now, look you here, young Kenton, I ask no questions. I do not want
to bring anyone into trouble, and you are a hard-working, honest lad
by what they tell me, who have a brother fighting in the good Cause
and have suffered from the lawless malignants yourself. Was it not
the Prince's troopers that wrought this ruin?" pointing towards the
blackened gable, "and shot down your father? Aye! The more shame you
should hold with them! I wish you no harm I say, nor the blinded folk
who must have abused your simplicity: but I am a justice of the peace,
and I will not have laws broken on my land. If this thing should happen
again, I shall remember that you have no regular or lawful tenure of
this holding, and put you forth from it."

He waited, but a threat always made silent resistance easy to Steadfast,
and there was no answer.

Mr. Elmwood, however, let that pass, for he was not a hard or a
fanatical man, and he knew that to hold such a service was not such an
easy matter that it was likely to be soon repeated. He looked round at
the well-mended fences, the clean ground, and the tokens of intelligent
industry around, and the clean homespun shirt sleeves that spoke of the
notable manager at home. "You are an industrious fellow, my good lad,"
he said, "how long have you had this farm to yourself?"

"Getting on for five years, your honour," said Steadfast.

"And is that your brother?"

"Yes, please your honour," picking Ben up in his arms to prevent the
barley from being pulled up by way of helping him.

"How many of you are there?"

"Five of us, sir, but my eldest brother is in Captain Venn's troop."

"So I heard, and what is this about a child besides?"

"An orphan, sir, I found after the skirmish at the mill stream, who was
left with us till her friends can send after her."

"Well, well. You seem a worthy youth," said Mr. Elmwood, who was
certainly struck and touched by the silent uncomplaining resolution
of the mere stripling who had borne so heavy a burthen. "If you were
heartily one of us, I should be glad to make you woodward, instead of
old Tomkins, and build up yonder house for you, but I cannot do it for
one who is hankering after prelacy, and might use the place for I know
not what plots and conspiracies of the malignants."

Again Steadfast took refuge in a little bow of acknowledgment, but kept
his lips shut, till again the squire demanded, "What do you think of it?
There's a fair offer. What have you to say for yourself?"

He had collected himself and answered, "I thank you, sir. You are very
good. If you made me woodward, I would serve your honour faithfully, and
have no plots or the like there. But, your honour, I was bred up in the
Church and I cannot sell myself."

"Why, you foolish, self-conceited boy, what do you know about it? Is not
what is good enough for better men than you fit to please you?"

To this Stead again made no answer, having said a great deal for him.

"Well," said Mr. Elmwood, angered at last, "if ever I saw a dogged
moon-calf, you are one! However, I let you go scot free this time, in
regard for your brother's good service, and the long family on your
hands, but mind, I shall put in an active woodward instead of old
Tomkins, who has been past his work these ten years, and if ever I hear
of seditious or prelatical doings in yonder gulley again, off you go."

He rode off, leaving Steadfast with temper more determined, but mind
not more at ease. The appointment of a woodward was bad news, for the
copsewood and the game had been left to their fate for the last few
years, and what were the rights of the landlord over them Stead did not
know, so that there might be many causes of trouble, especially if the
said woodward considered him a person to be specially watched. Indeed,
the existence of such a person would make a renewal of what Mr. Elmwood
called the prelatist assembly impossible, and with a good deal of sorrow
he announced the fact on the next market day to Mrs. Lightfoot. He could
not see Dr. Eales, but when next he came in, she gave him a paper on
which was simply marked "Ps. xxxvii, 7." He looked out the reference and
found "Hold thee still in the Lord and abide patiently upon Him." Stead
hoped that Patience and the rest would never know what an offer had been
made to him, but Master Brown, who had recommended him, and who did not
at all like the prospect of a strange woodward, came to expostulate with
him for throwing away such a chance for a mere whim, telling Patience
she was a sensible wench and ought to persuade her brother to see what
was for his own good and the good of all, holding up himself as an
example.

"I never missed my church and had the parson's good word all along,
and yet you see I am ready to put up with this good man without setting
myself up to know more than my elders and betters! Eh! Hast not a
word to say for thyself? Then I'll tell the squire, who is a good and
friendly gentleman to all the old servants, that you have thought better
of it, and will thankfully take his kindness, and do your best."

"I cannot go against father," said Steadfast.

"And what would he have done, good man, but obey them that have the
rule, and let wiser folk think for thee. But all the young ones are
pig-headed as mules now-a-days, and must think for themselves, one
running off to the Independents, and one to the Quakers and Shakers, and
one to the Fifth Monarchy men, and you, Steadfast Kenton, that I thought
better things of, talking of the Church and offending the squire with
thy prelatic doings, that have been forbidden by Act of Parliament.
What say you to that, my lad? Come, out with it," for Stead had more
difficulty in answering Master Brown, who had been a great authority
throughout his life, than even the Squire himself.

"Parson said there was higher law than Parliament."

"Eh! What, the King? He is a prisoner, bless him, but they will never
let him go till they have bent him to their will, and what will you do
then?"

"Not the King," muttered Steadfast.

"Eh! what! If you have come to pretending to know the law of God better
than your elders, you are like the rest of them, and I have done with
you." And away tramped the steward in great displeasure, while Patience
put her apron over her head and cried bitterly.

She supposed Stead might be right, but what would it not have been to
have the old house built up, and all decent about them as it was in
mother's time, and fit places to sleep in, now that the wenches were
growing bigger?

"But you know, Patty, we are saving for that."

"Aye, and how long will it take? And now this pestilent woodward will be
always finding fault--killing the fowls and ducks, and seizing the swine
and sheep, and very like slaughtering the dogs and getting us turned out
of house and home; for now you have offended the squire, he will believe
anything against us."

"Come, Patty, you know I could not help it. This is sorest of all, you
that have always stood by me and father's wish."

"Yes, yes," sobbed Patience. "I wot you are right, Stead. I'll hold to
you, though I wish--I wish you would think like other folk."

Yet Patience knew in her secret soul that then he would not be her own
Steadfast, and she persuaded him no more, though the discomforts and
deficiencies of their present home tried her more and more as the family
grew older. Stead had contrived a lean-to, with timbers from the old
house, and wattled sides stuffed with moss, where he and little Ben
slept in summer time, and they had bought or made some furniture--a
chair and table, some stools, bedding, and kitchen utensils, and she
toiled to keep things clean, but still it was a mere hovel, with the
door opening out into the glade. Foxes and polecats prowled, owls
hooted, and the big dog outside was a needful defender, even in summer
time, and in winter the cold was piteous, the wet even worse, and they
often lost some of their precious animals--chickens died of cold,
and once three lambs had been carried away in a sudden freshet. Yet
Patience, when she saw Steadfast convinced, made up her mind to stand by
him, and defended him when the younger girls murmured.

Rusha was of a quiet, acquiescent, contented nature, and said little, as
Emlyn declared, "She knew nothing better;" but Emlyn was more and more
weary of the gulley, and as nothing was heard of her friends, and she
was completely one of the home, she struggled more with the dullness
and loneliness. She undertook all errands to the village for the sake of
such change as a chatter with the young folk there afforded her, or for
the chance of seeing the squire's lady or sons and daughters go by; and
she was wild to go on market days to Bristol.

[Illustration: Emlyn at the Market]

In spite of Puritan greyness, soldiers, sailors, gentlemen, ladies, and
even fashions, such as they were, could be seen there, and news picked
up, and Emlyn would fain have persuaded Steadfast that she should be
the most perfect market woman, if he would only let her ride in on the
donkey between the panniers, in a broad hat, with chickens and ducks
dangling round, eggs, butter, and fruit or nuts, and even posies,
according to the season, and sit on the steps of the market-place among
the other market women and girls.

Steadfast would have been the last to declare that her laughing dark
eyes, and smiling lips, and arch countenance would not bring many a
customer, but he knew well that his mother would never have sent his
sister to be thus exposed, and he let her pout, or laughed away her
refusal by telling her that he was bound not to let a butler's daughter
demean herself to be stared at by all the common folk, who would cheapen
her wares.

And when she did coax him to take her to Bristol on any errand she
could invent, to sell her yarns, or buy pins, or even a ribbon, he was
inexorable in leaving her under Mrs. Lightfoot's care, and she had to
submit, even though it sometimes involved saying her catechism to Dr.
Eales. Yet that always ended in the old man's petting her. It was only
from her chatter that the old clergyman ever knew of the proposal that
Stead had rejected for conscience's sake. It vexed the lad so much that
he really could not bear to think of it, and it would come over him now
and then, was it all for nothing? Would the Church ever lift up her head
again? or would Mr. Woodley be always in possession at Elmwood Church,
where everyone seemed to be content with him. The Kentons went thither.
It was hardly safe to abstain, for a fine upon absence was still the
law of the land, though seldom enforced; and Dr. Eales who considered
Presbyterianism by far the least unorthodox and most justifiable sect,
had advised Stead not to allow himself or the others altogether to lose
the habit of public worship, but to abstain from Communions which might
be an act of separation from the Church, and which could not be accepted
by her children as genuine. Such was the advice of most of the divines
of the English Church in this time of eclipse; and though Stead, and
still less Patience, did not altogether follow the reasoning, they
obeyed, while aware that they incurred suspicion from the squire by not
coming to "the table."

The new woodward, Peter Pierce, was not one of the villagers as usual,
but had been a soldier in one of the regiments of the Earl of Essex, in
which Mr. Elmwood's eldest son had served.

Instead of succeeding to old Tomkins's lodge in the great wood, he had
a new one built for him, so as to command the opening of Hermit's Gulley
towards the village, and one of the Bristol roads. Could this be for the
sake of watching over anything so insignificant as the Kentons?

The copse on their side of the brook was their own, free to do what they
chose with except cutting down the timber trees, but the further side
was the landlord's, as they had now to remember; and as, when the brook
was at its lowest, their pigs and goats were by no means likely to
recollect; though Steadfast was extremely anxious to give no occasion
for the mistrust and ill-will with which Pierce regarded him, as a
squatter, trespasser, and poacher, almost as a matter of course, and
likewise a prelatist and plotter.

Once he did find a kid on the wrong side, standing on a rock, browsing
a honeysuckle, and was about either to seize it or shoot it, as it went
off in three bounds, when Emlyn darted out, and threw herself between.
It was her darling kid, it should never trespass again, she would--she
would thank him ever more--if he would spare it this once.

And Emlyn as usual had touched the soft place in the heart of even a
woodward. He told her not to cry, and contented himself with growling a
tremendous warning to Steadfast and Patience.

There were several breezes about Growler, who was only too apt to use
his liberty in pursuing rabbits on the wrong side, and whom Peter more
than once condemned; but Emlyn and Ben begged him off, and he was kept
well chained up. At last, however, he won even the woodward's favour by
the slaughter of a terrible wild cat and her brood, after all Peter's
dogs had returned with bleeding faces from the combat.

The woodward had another soft place in his heart. He had a pretty young
wife and a little son. Nanny Pierce was older in years, but far more
childish than Patience, and the life in this gulley seemed to her utter
solitude and desolation, and if Patience had been ten times a poacher
and a prelatist, she could not have helped making friends with the only
creature of her own kind within a mile. And when Patience's experience
with Ben and other older babes at rest in the churchyard, had aided the
poor little helpless woman through a convulsion fit of her baby's before
Goody Grace could arrive, Peter himself owned that "the Kenton wench
was good for somewhat," though he continued to think Steadfast's great
carefulness not to transgress, only a further proof that "he was a deep
one"--all the more because he refused to let anyone but himself have a
search for a vanished polecat in "them holes," which Peter was persuaded
contained some mystery, though Steadfast laid it, and not untruly, on
the health of the young stock he kept penned in the caves, which were
all, he hoped, of which Peter was aware.

All this was harassing, but a greater trouble came in the second winter.
Good Dr. Eales was failing, and the tidings of the King's execution were
a blow that he never recovered. Mrs. Lightfoot had tears in her eyes
when Stead asked after him, week by week, and she could only say that he
was feebler, and spent all his days in prayer--often with tears.

At last came peace. He lay still and calm, and sent a message that young
Kenton should be brought to him for a last farewell.

And as Stead stood sorrowful and awed by his bed side, he bade the
youth never despair or fall away from his hope of the restoration of the
Church.

"Remember," he said, "she is founded on a rock, and the gates of hell
shall never prevail against her. She shall stand forth for evermore as
the moon, which wanes but to wax again; and I have good hope that thou
wilt see it, my son. He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall
be saved."

Then Dr. Eales pointed to a small parcel of books, which he had caused
Mrs. Lightfoot to put together, telling Steadfast that he had selected
them alike for devotion and for edification, and that if he studied
them, he would have no doubt when he might deliver up his trust to a
true priest of the Church.

"And if none should return in my time?" asked Steadfast.

"Have I not told thee never to despair of God's care for His Church? Yet
His time is not as our time, and it may be--that young as thou art--the
days of renewal may not be when thou shalt see them. Should it thus be,
my son, leave the secret with one whom thou canst securely trust. Better
the sacred vessels should lie hidden than that thou shouldst show thy
faith wanting by surrendering them to any, save according to the terms
of thy vow. See, Steadfast, among these books is a lighter one, a
romance of King Arthur, that I loved well in my boyhood, and which may
not only serve thee as fair pastime in the winter nights, but will mind
thee of thine high and holy charge, for it goeth deeper than the mere
outside."

His voice was growing weak. Mrs. Lightfoot gave him a cordial, and Stead
knelt by his bedside, felt his hand on his head, and heard his blessing
for the last time. The next market day, when he called at the good
bakester's stall, she told him in floods of tears that the guest who had
brought a blessing on her house, was gone to his rest.



CHAPTER XVII. THE GROOM IN GREY.


     "Heroes and kings, in exile forced to roam,
      Leave swelling phrase and seven-leagued words at home."
                                                       SCOTT.


Another summer and winter had gone by and harvest time had come again,
when Steadfast with little Ben, now seven years old, for company, took
two sacks of corn to be ground at the mill, where the skirmish had been
fought in which Emlyn's father had been killed.

The sacks were laid across a packsaddle on a stout white horse, with
which, by diligent saving, Steadfast had contrived to replace Whitefoot,
Ben was promised a ride home when the sacks should have been emptied,
and trotted along in company with Growler by his brother's side,
talking more in an hour than Stead did in a week, and looking with great
interest to be shown the hawthorn bush where Emlyn had been found.
For Stead and Ben were alike in feeling the bright, merry, capricious,
laughing, teasing Emlyn the charm and delight of home. In trouble, or
for real aid, they went to Patience, but who was like Emlyn for drollery
and diversion? Who ever made Stead laugh as she could, or who so played
with Ben, and never, like Rusha, tried to be maidenly, discreet, nay,
dull?

It was very inconvenient that just as they reached the famous thorn
bush, the white horse began to demonstrate that his shoe was loose. They
were very near the mill, and after disposing of the sacks, the brothers
led the horse on to a forge, about a furlong beyond. It was not a place
of which Stead was fond, as the smith was known to be strong for the
Covenant, and he could not help wishing that the shoe had come off
nearer to his good friend Smith Blane.

Original-Sin Hopkins, which was the name of the blacksmith, was in great
excitement, as he talked of the crowning mercy vouchsafed at Worcester,
and how the son of the late man, Charles Stewart, had been utterly
defeated, and his people scattered like sheep without a shepherd. Three
or four neighbours were standing about, listening to the tidings he had
heard from a messenger on the way to Bristol. One was leaning on the
unglazed window frame, and a couple of old men basking, even in that
September day, in the glow of the fire, while a few women and children
loitered around, thinking it rather fine to hear Master Original-Sin
declaim on the backsliding of the Scots in upholding the son of the
oppressor.

The shoeing of Stead Kenton's horse seemed a trivial matter beneath the
attention of such an orator; but he vouchsafed to bid his lad drive in a
few nails; and just as the task was commenced, there came to the forge
a lady in a camlet riding dress and black silk hood, walking beside
a stout horse, which a groom was leading with great care, for it had
evidently lost a shoe. And it had a saddle with a pillion on which they
had been riding double, after the usual fashion of travelling for young
and healthy gentlewomen in those days of bad roads.

The lady, a quiet, self-possessed person, not in her first youth, came
forward, and in the first pause in the blacksmith's declamation, begged
that he would attend to her horse.

He gave a nod as if intending her to wait till Steadfast's work was
done, and went on. "And has it not been already brought about that the
man of blood hath--"

"So please you," interrupted the lady, "to shoe my horse at once. I
am on my way to Abbotsleigh, and my cousin, Mr. Norton, knows that my
business brooks no delay."

Mr. Norton, though a Royalist, was still the chief personage in that
neighbourhood, and his name produced sufficient effect on Original-Sin
to make him come forward, look at the hoof, and select a shoe from those
hung on the walls of his forge. Little Ben looked on, highly delighted
to watch the proceedings, and Steadfast, as he waited, glanced towards
the servant, a well-made young man, in a trim, sober suit of grey cloth,
with a hat a good deal slouched over a dark swarthy face, that struck
Stead as having been seen by him before.

After all, the lady's horse was the first finished. Hopkins looked at
all the other three shoes, tapped them with his hammer, and found
them secure, received the money from the lady, but gave very slight
salutations as the pair remounted, and rode away.

Then he twisted up his features and observed, "Here is a dispensation!
As I am a living soul, this horse shoe was made at Worcester. I know the
make. My cousin was apprenticed there."

"Well, outlandish work goes against one's stomach," said one of the
bystanders, "but what of that, man?"

"Seest thou not, Jabez Holt? Is not the young man there one of them who
trouble Israel, and the lady is striving for his escape. Mr. Norton is
well known as a malignant at heart, and his man Pope hath been to and
fro these last days as though evil were being concerted. I would that
good Master Hatcham were here."

"Poor lad. Let him alone. 'Tis hard he should not get off," said one of
the bystanders.

"I tell thee he is one of the brood of Satan, who have endeavoured to
break up the godly peace of the saints, and fill this goodly land with
blood and fire. Is it not said 'Root them out that they be no more a
people?'"

"Have after them, then," said another of the company. "We want no more
wars, to be taking our cows and killing our pigs. After them, I say!"

"You haven't got no warrant, 'Riginal," said a more cautious old man.
"Best be on the safe side. Go after constable first, and raise the
hue-and-cry. You'll easy overtake them. Breakneck Hill be sore for
horseflesh."

"I'd fain see Master Hatcham," said the smith, scratching his head.

Stead had meantime been listening as he paid his pence. It flashed over
him now where he had beheld those intensely dark eyes, and the very
peculiar cut of features, though they had then been much more boyish.
It was when he had seen the Prince of Wales going to the Cathedral on
Christmas Day, in the midst of all his plumed generals, with their gay
scarfs, and rich lace collars.

He had put little Ben on horseback, and turned away into the long,
dirty lane, or rather ditch, that led homeward, before, through his
consternation, there dawned on him what to do. A gap in the hedge lay
near, through which he dragged the horse into a pasture field, to the
great amazement of Ben, saying "See here, Ben, those folk want to take
yonder groom in grey. We will go and warn them."

Ben heartily assented.

"I like the groom," he said. "He jumped me five times off the
horseblock, and he patted Growler and called him a fine fellow, who
didn't deserve his name--worth his salt he was sure. We won't give
Growler salt, Stead, but don't let that ugly preaching man get the good
groom!"

Steadfast was by this time on the horse behind his little brother,
pressing through the fields, which by ancient custom were all thrown
open from harvest time till Christmas; and coming out into the open bit
of common that the travellers had to pass before arriving at Breakneck
Hill, he was just in time to meet them as they trotted on. He hardly
knew what he said, as he doffed his hat, and exclaimed--

"Madam, you are pursued."

"Pursued!" Both at once looked back.

"There's time," said Steadfast; "but Smith Hopkins said one of the shoes
was Worcester make, and he is gone to fetch the constable and raise the
hue-and-cry."

"And you are a loyal--I mean an honest lad--come to warn us," said the
groom.

"Yes, sir. I think, if you will trust me, they can be put off the
track."

"Trusty! Your face answers for you. Eh, fair Mistress Jane?"

"Sir, it must be as you will."

"This way then, sir," said Steadfast, who was off his own horse by this
time, and leading it into a rough track through a thicket whence some
timber had been drawn out in the summer.

"They will see where we turned off," whispered the lady.

"No, ma'am, not unless you get off the hard ground. Besides they will go
on the way to Breakneck Hill. Hark! I hear a hallooing. Not near--no--no
fear, madam."

They were by this time actually hidden from the common by the copsewood,
and the distant shouts of the hue-and-cry kept all silent till they were
fairly out beyond it, not far from Stead's own fields.

Happily they had hitherto met no one, but there was danger now of
encountering gleaners, and indeed Stead's white horse could be seen from
a distance, and might attract attention to his companions.

"Hallo!" exclaimed the groom, as they halted under shelter of a pollard
willow. "I've heard tell that a white horse is the surest mark for a
bullet in a battle, and if that be Breakneck Hill, as you call it, your
beast may bring the sapient smith down on us. Had we not best part?"

"Aye," said Steadfast. "I was thinking what was best. Whither were you
going?"

He blurted it out, not knowing to whom to address himself, or how to
frame his speech. The lady hesitated, but her companion named Castle
Carey.

"Then, please your honour," said Stead, impartially addressing both,
"methinks the best course would be, if this--"

"Groom William," suggested that personage.

"Would go down into yonder covert with my little brother here, where my
poor place is, and where my sister can show a safe hiding-place, in case
Master Hopkins suspects me, and follows; but I scarce think he will.
Then meanwhile, if the lady will trust herself to me--"

"O! there is no danger for me," she said.

"Go on, my Somerset Solomon," said the groom.

"Then would I take the lady on for a short space to a good woman in
Elmwood there. And on the way this horse shall lose his Worcester shoe,
and I will get Smith Blane, who is an honest fellow, to put on another;
and when the chase is like to be over, I will come back for him and put
you on the cross lane for Castle Carey, which don't join with the road
you came by, till just ere you get into the town."

"There's wit as well as cheese in Somerset. What say you, my guardian
angel?" said Groom William.

"It sounds well," she reluctantly answered. "Does Mr. Norton know you,
young man?"

"No, madam," said Stead, with much stumbling. "But I have seen him in
Bristol. My Lady Elmwood knew of me, and Sir George Elmwood too, and the
Dean could say I was honest."

"Which the face of you says better than your tongue," said the groom.
"Have with you then, my bold little elf," he added, taking the bridle of
the horse on which Ben was still seated. "Or one moment more. You knew
me, my lad--are there any others like to do so?"

"I had seen you, sir, at Bristol, and that is why I would not have you
shew yourself in Elmwood. But my sister has never seen you, and the only
neighbours who ever come in are the woodward and his wife. He served in
my Lord of Essex's army, but he has never seen you. Moreover, he was to
be at the squire's to-day helping to stack his corn. Ben, do you tell
Patience that _he_"--again taking refuge in a pronoun--"is a gentleman
in danger, and she must see to his safety for an hour or two till I come
back for him."

"A gentleman in danger," repeated Ben, anxious to learn his lesson.

"He and I will take care of that," said the grey-coated groom gaily, as
he turned the horse's head, and waved his hat in courtly fashion to the
lady so that Steadfast saw that his hair was cropped into black stubble.

"Ah!" said the lady with a sigh, for the loss of a Cavalier's locks was
a dreadful thing. "You know him then."

"I have seen him at Bristol," said Steadfast, with considerably less
embarrassment, though still in the clownish way he could not shake off.

"And you know how great is the trust you--nay, we have undertaken. But,
as he says, he has learnt the true fidelity of a leathern jerkin."

Then Jane Lane told Steadfast of the King's flight from Worcester, and
adventures at Boscobel with the Penderells, and how she had brought him
to Abbotsleigh, in hopes of finding a ship at Bristol, but that failing,
it was too perilous for him to remain there, so that she was helping him
as far as Castle Carey on his way to Trent.

Before they were clear of the wood, Stead asked her to pause. He knocked
off the tell-tale shoe with the help of a stone, threw it away into the
middle of a bramble, and then after a little consultation, she decided
on herself encountering the smith, not perhaps having much confidence in
the readiness of speech or invention of her companion.

When they arrived at the forge, where good-humoured, brawny Harry Blane
was no small contrast to his gaunt compeer Original-Sin Hopkins, she
averred that she was travelling from her relations, and having been
obliged to send her servant back for a packet that had been forgotten,
this good youth, who had come to her help when her horse had cast a
shoe, had undertaken to guide her to the smith's, and to take her
again to meet her man, if he did not come for her himself. Might she be
allowed in the meantime to sit with Master Blane's good housewife?

Master Blane was only too happy, and Mistress Jane Lane was accordingly
introduced to the pleasant kitchen, with sanded floor, and big
oak table, open hearth, and beaupots in the oriel window where the
spinning-wheel stood, and where the neat and hospitable Dame Blane made
her kindly welcome.

Steadfast, marvelling at her facility of speech, and glad the king's
safety did not depend on his uttering such a story, told Blane that he
must go after his cattle and should look after the groom on the way.

As he walked through the wood, and drew near the glade, he was dismayed
to hear voices, and to see Peter Pierce leaning against the wall of the
house, but Rusha came running up to him exclaiming, "Oh! Stead, here is
this good stranger that you met, telling us all about brother Jeph."

"Yes, my kind host," said the grey-coated guest, with a slight nasal
intonation, rising as Stead came near, "I find that you are the very lad
my friend and brother Jephthah Kenton, that singular Christian man, bade
me search out. 'If you go near Bristol, beloved,' quoth he,' search
me out my brothers Steadfast and Benoni, and my sisters, Patience and
Jerusha, and greet them well from me, and bear witness of me to them.
They dwell, said he, in a lonely hut in the wood side, and with them
a fair little maiden, sprung of the evil and idolatrous seed of the
malignants, but whom their pious nurture may yet bring to a knowledge of
the truth,' and by that token, I knew that it was the same." There was
an odd little twinkle towards Emlyn just then.

"And Stead, Jeph is an officer," said Patience, who was busied in
setting before the visitor on a little round table, the best ale, bread,
cheese, and butter that her hut afforded, together with an onion, which,
he declared, was "what his good grandfather, a valiant man for the
godly, had ever loved best."

"An officer! Aye is he. A captain of his Ironside troop, very like to be
Colonel ere long."

Stead was absolutely bewildered, and could not find speech, beyond an
awkward "Where?"

"Where was he when I last saw him? Charging down the main street of
Worcester, where the malignants and Charles Stewart made their last
stand. Smiting them hip and thigh with the sword of Gedaliah, nay, my
tongue tripped, 'twas Gideon I would say."

"Aye," said the woodward, "Squire had the tidings two days back in a
news letter. It was a mighty victory of General Cromwell."

"In sooth it was," returned the groom; "and I hear he hath ordered a
solemn thanksgiving therefore."

"But Jephthah," put in Patience, "you are sure he was not hurt?"

"The hand of Heaven protecteth the godly," again through his nose spoke
the guest. "He was well when I left him; being sent south by my master
to attend my mistress, and so being no more among them that divide the
spoil."

"Where have you served, sir?" demanded the woodward.

"I am last from Scotland," was the answer. "A godly land!"

"Ah! I know nought of Scotland," said the woodward. "I was disbanded
when my Lord Essex gave up the command, more's the pity, for he was for
doing things soberly and reasonably, and ever in the name of the poor
King that is gone! You look too young to have seen fire at Edgehill or
Exeter, sir."

"Did I not?" said the youth. "Aye, I was with my father, though only as
a boy apart on a hill."

The reminiscences that were exchanged astonished Steadfast beyond
measure, and really made him doubt whether what had previously passed
had not been all a dream. The language was so like Jephthah's own too,
all except that one word "fair" applied to Emlyn; and Patience, Rusha,
and the Pierces were entirely without a suspicion, that their guest was
other than he seemed. How much must have been picked out of little Ben,
without the child's knowing it, to make such acting possible?

And how was the woodward, who was so much delighted with the visitor, to
be shaken off? Stead stood silent, puzzled, anxious, and wondering
what to do next, a very heavy and awkward host, so that even Patience
wondered what made him so shy.

Suddenly, however, a whistle, and the sharp yap of a dog was heard
across the stream. Nanny Pierce exclaimed, "There are those rascal lads
after the rabbits again!" and the gamekeeper's instinct awoke. Pierce
shook hands with his fellow soldier, regretted he could not see more of
him, and received his promise that if he came that way again, he would
share a pottle of ale at the lodge; and then tramped off after his
poachers over the stream.

Groom William then kissed the young women (the usual mode of salutation
then), Nanny Pierce and all, thanked Patience, and looked about for the
goodly little malignant, as he called Emlyn, but she was nowhere to be
seen, and Stead hurried him off through the wood.

"Ho! ho! sly rascal," said Charles, as they turned away. "You're
jealous! You would keep the game to yourself."

Stead had no answer to make to this banter, the very notion of Emlyn as
aught but the orphan in his charge was new to him.

They were not yet beyond the gulley when from between the hazel stems,
out sprang Emlyn, and kneeling on the ground caught the King's hand and
kissed it.

"Fairy-haunted wood!" cried Charles, and indeed it was done with great
natural grace, and the little figure with the glowing cheeks, her hood
flying back so as to shew her brilliant eyes sparkling with delight and
enthusiasm, was a truly charming vision. "It is like one of the masques
of the merry days of old." And as he retained her hand and returned the
salute on her lips, "Queen Mab herself, for who else saw through thy
poor brother sovereign's mean disguise?"

"I had seen your Majesty with the army," replied Emlyn, modestly
blushing a good deal.

"Ah! The Fates have provided me with a countenance the very worst for
straits like mine. But that matters the less since it is only my worthy
subjects who see through the grey coat. I would lay my crown, if I had
it, to one of those crispy ringlets of yours, that Queen Mab was the
poacher who drew off the crop-eared keeper."

"'Tis Robin Goodfellow, please your Majesty, who leads clowns astray,"
said Emlyn in the same tone.

"Sometimes a horse I'll be, sometimes a hound," quoted the King.

Stead could only listen in amazement without a word to say for himself.
Near the confines of the wood, he had to leave Emlyn to guide the King
over a field-path while he fetched Mrs. Jane Lane and the horse to meet
them beyond, as it was wiser for the King not to shew himself in the
village. Again Charles jested on his supposed jealousy of leaving the
fair Queen Mab alone in such company, and on his blunt answer, "I only
feared the saucy child might be troublesome, sir."

At which the King laughed the more, and even Emlyn smiled a little.

All was safely accomplished, and when Steadfast had brought Mrs. Lane to
the deep lane, they found the King and Emlyn standing by the stile, and
could hear the laughter of both as they approached.

"He can always thus while away his cares," said Jane Lane in quite a
motherly tone. "And well it is that he is of so joyous a nature."

Perhaps it was said as a kind of excuse for the levity of one in so much
danger chattering to the little woodland maid so mirthfully, and like
one on an equality. When they appeared, Charles bestowed a kiss on
Emlyn's lips, and shook hands cordially with Steadfast, lamenting that
he had no reward, nor even a token to leave with them.

Stead made his rustic bow, pinched his hat, and muttered, "It is enough
to--"

"Enough reward to have served your Majesty," said Emlyn, "he would say."

"Yea, and it is your business to find words for him, pretty one," said
the King. "A wholesome partnership--eh? He finds worth, and you find
wit! And so we leave the fairy buried in the woodland."

And on the wanderers rode, while Steadfast and Emlyn turned back over
the path through the fields; and she eagerly told that the King had
slept at Blythedale on his way to Worcester, and that though Sir Harry
was dead, his son was living in Holland. "And if the King gets there
safely, he will tell Master George, and if my uncle is with him, no
doubt he will send for me, or mayhap, come and fetch me."

There was a shock of pain in Steadfast's heart.

"You would be glad?"

"Poor old Stead. I would scarce be glad to quit you. I doubt me if the
Hague, as they call it, would show me any one I should care for as much
as for your round shoulders, you good old lubber! But you should come
too, and the King would give you high preferment, when he comes to his
own again, and then we won't be buried alive in this Hermit's Gulley."

She danced about in exultation, hardly knowing what wild nonsense she
talked, and Stead was obliged to check her sharply in an attempt to sing

     "The king shall enjoy his own again."

"But Stead," asked Ben, after long reflection, "how could Groom William
know all about brother Jeph?"

A question Stead would not hear, not wishing to destroy confidence in
His Majesty's veracity.



CHAPTER XVIII. JEPH'S GOOD FORTUNE.


  "Still sun and rain made emerald green the loveliest fields on earth,
   And gave the type of deathless hope, the little shamrock, birth."
                                                  IRISH BALLAD.


The King's visit left traces. Emlyn had become far more restless and
consciously impatient of the dullness and seclusion of the Hermit's
Gulley. Not only did she, as before, avail herself of every pretext for
going into the village, or for making expeditions to Bristol, but she
openly declared the place a mere grave, intolerable to live in, and she
confided to Jerusha that the King had declared that it was a shame to
hide her there--such charms were meant for the world.

The only way of getting into the world that occurred to her was going
into service at Bristol, and she talked of this whenever she specially
hated her spinning, or if Patience ventured to complain of her gadding
about, gossipping with Nanny Pierce or Kitty Blane, or getting all the
young lads in Elmwood round her, to be amused and teased by her lively
rattle.

Patience began to be decidedly of opinion that it would be much better
for all parties that the girl should be under a good mistress. Both she
and Rusha were over sixteen years old; and though it was much improved,
the house was hardly fit for so many inhabitants, and both Goody Grace
and Dame Blane had told Patience that it would be better, both for
the awkward Rusha and the gay Emlyn, if they could have some household
training.

Mistress Elmwood, at the Hall, had noted the family at church, and
observed their perfect cleanliness and orderliness, and it was intimated
that at the Ladyday hiring, she would take Rusha among her maidens.

Shy Rusha cried a great deal, and wished Emlyn would go instead, but
Mrs. Elmwood would not have hired that flighty damsel on any account,
and Emlyn was sure it would be but mopish work to live under a starched
old Puritan. Mrs. Lightfoot was therefore applied to, to find a service
for Emlyn Gaythorn, and she presently discovered one Mistress Sloggett,
a haberdasher's wife of wealth and consideration, who wanted a young
maidservant.

Emlyn was presented to her by the bakester, undertook for everything,
and was hired by the twelvemonth, going off in high glee at the variety
and diversion she expected to enjoy at the sign of the "Sheep and
Shears," though clinging with much tenderness to her friends as they
parted.

"Remember, Emlyn, this is the home where you will always be welcome,"
said Stead.

"As if I wanted to _remember_ it," said Emlyn, with her sweet smile. "As
if I did not know where be kind hearts."

The hovel seemed greatly deserted when the two young girls were gone.
Patience sorely missed Rusha, her diligent little helper, and latterly
her companion too; and the lack of Emlyn's merry tongue made all around
seem silent and tedious. Steadfast especially missed the girl. Perhaps
it was due to the King's gibes that her absence fully opened to him the
fact that he knew not how to do without her. After his usual fashion,
he kept the discovery to himself, not even talking to Patience about it,
being very shamefaced at the mere thought, which gave a delicious warmth
to his heart, though it made him revolve schemes of saving up till he
had a sufficient sum, with which to go to the squire and propose to meet
him half-way in rebuilding the old house; not such an expensive matter
as it would be in these days. There, in full view of all that passed
down Elmwood Lane, Emlyn could not complain of solitude, he thought! But
there was this difficulty in the way, that Jephthah had never resigned
his claims as eldest son, and might come home at any time, and take
possession of all the little farm at which Steadfast had worked for
seven years.

The war was over, and nothing had been heard of Jeph, except the
king's apocryphal history, since his visit after the taking of Bristol.
Patience had begun to call him "poor Jeph," and thought he must have
been killed, but Stead had ascertained that the army had not been
disbanded, and believed him still to be employed.

At length, one market day, Mrs. Lightfoot told him, "There has been
one asking for you, Kenton, Seth Coleman, the loriner's son, that went
soldiering when your brother did. He landed last week from Ireland with
a wooden leg, and said he, 'Where shall I come to the speech of one
Steadfast Kenton? I have a greeting from his brother, the peculiarly
favoured,' or some such word, 'Jephthah Kenton, who told me I should
hear tidings of him from Mrs. Bakester Lightfoot, at the sign of the
"Wheatsheaf."' I told him where you abode, and he said he knew as much
from your brother, but he could not be tramping out to Elmwood on a
wooden leg. So says I 'I will send Steadfast Kenton to you next market
day.' You will find him at the sign at the 'Golden Bridle,' by the Wharf
Stairs."

Stead had no sooner disposed of his wares than he went in search of
the loriner's shop, really one for horse furniture. There was a bench
outside, looking out on the wharf and shipping, and on it was seated
the returned soldier, with a little party round him, to whom he was
expounding what sounded more military than religious:

"And so, the fort having been summoned and quarter promised, if so be
no resistance were made, always excepting Popish priests, and--Eh! What
now? Be you an old neighbour? I don't remember your face."

"I have seen you, though. I am Jephthah Kenton's brother, that you asked
for."

"I mind you were but a stripling in those days, and yet in gross
darkness. Yea, I have a letter for thee from my comrade, who is come to
high preferment."

"Jeph!"

"Yea, things have prospered with him. He was a serjeant even before we
sailed for Ireland, and there he did such good service in hunting
out Popish priests and rebels in their lurking places in the bogs and
mountains, that the Lord General hath granted him the land that he
took with his sword and his bow, even a meadow land fat and fertile,
Ballyshea by name, full of the bulls of Bashan, goodly to look at. And
to make all sure, he hath taken to wife the daughter of the former owner
of the land a damsel fair to look upon."

"Jeph! But sure--the Irish are Papists."

"Not the whole of them. There are those that hold to Prelacy and call
themselves King's men, following the bloody and blinded Duke of Ormond.
Of them was this maid's father, whom we slew at the taking of Clonmel,
where I got this wound and left my good right leg. So is the race not to
the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happeneth
to all. When I could hobble about once more on crutches, I found that
the call had come to divide and possess the gate of the enemy, and that
the meads of Ballyshea had fallen to Serjeant Kenton. Moreover, in the
castle hard by, dwelt the widow and her daughter, who cried to General
Lambert for their land, and what doth he say to Jephthah, but 'Make it
sure, Kenton. Take the maid to wife, and so none will disturb you in the
fair heritage.' Yea, and mine old comrade would have me sojourn with him
till I was quite restored, so far as a man with one limb short may be. I
tell you 'tis a castle, man."

"Our Jeph lord of a castle?"

"Aye, even so. Twice as big as Elmwood Hall, if half were not in ruins,
and the other half the rats run over like peas out of a bag. While as to
the servants, there are dozens of them, mostly barefoot and in rags, who
will run at the least beck from the old mistress or the young mistress,
though they scowl at the master. But he is taking order with them, and
teaching them who is to be obeyed."

"Then our Jephthah is a great man?"

"You may say that--a bigger man than the squire at Elmwood, or at Leigh
I can tell you. Only I would give all that bare mountain and bog, full
of wild, Popish, red-haired kernes for twenty yards in a tidy street at
Bristol, with decent godly folk around me. Murdering or being murdered,
I have marvelled more than once whether the men of Israel were as sick
of it in Canaan as I was at Drogheda, but the cry ever was, 'Be not
slack in the work.' But I will bring you Jephthah's letter. He could not
write when he went off, but he could not be a serjeant without, so we
taught him--I and Corporal Faith-Wins."

Jephthah's handwriting was of a bold description doing honour to his
tutors, but the letter was very brief, though to the purpose--


"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"This is to do you, to wit, that by the grace of Heaven on my poor
endeavours I am come to high preferment. A goodly spoil hath fallen
unto me, namely, the castle and lands of Ballyshea, and therewith
the daughter of the owner, deceased, by name Ellen Roche, whom I have
espoused in marriage, and am bringing to the light of truth. I have
castle, lands, flocks and herds, men-servants and maid-servants in
abundance, and I give thanks to Him who hath rewarded His servant.

"Therefore I wholly resign to you, my brethren, Steadfast and Benoni,
any rights of heirship that may be mine in respect of the farmstead of
Elmwood, and will never, neither I nor my heirs, trouble you about it
further. Yet if Ben, or my sisters Patience and Jerusha, be willing to
cross over to me in this land of promise they shall be kindly welcome,
and I shall find how to bestow them well in marriage. Mine old comrade,
Seth Coleman, will tell them how to reach the Castle of Ballyshea, and
how to find safe convoy, and tell you more of the estate wherewith it
has pleased Heaven to reward my poor services.

"And so commending you to His holy keeping, no more from your loving
brother,

"JEPHTHAH KENTON."


The spelling of this was queer, even according to the ways of the time,
but it was not hard to understand, and it might well fill Steadfast with
amazement.

He longed to share the tidings with Emlyn, but he did not feel as if it
would be right to let anyone hear before Patience. Only as he went back
and called again at Mrs. Lightfoot's for his basket, she asked
whether he had found Seth Coleman, and if his brother had come to such
preferment as was reported.

"Yea," said Steadfast, "he hath a grant of land, and a castle, and a
wife."

"Eh, now! Lack-a-day! 'Tis alway the most feather-pated that fly
highest."

Cromwell's Ironsides feather-pated! But that did not trouble Steadfast,
who all the way home, as he rode his donkey, was thinking of the
difference it made in his prospects, and in what he had to offer Emlyn
to be able to feel his tenure so much more secure.

Patience and Ben listened in utter amazement ending in a not
complimentary laugh on the part of the former. "Our Jeph lord of a
castle? I'd like to see him."

"Would you? He has a welcome and a husband ready for you and Rusha
both?"

"D'ye think I would go and leave you for Jeph, if he were lord of ten
castles?"

And Ben, whose recollections of Jeph were very dim, exclaimed, "Lord of
a castle! I shall have a crow over Nick Blane now!"

Rusha, who was well content with her service at the hall, had no mind
for such a terrible enterprise as a journey "beyond seas" to Ireland,
and mayhap Jeph's prospective husband was a less tempting idea, because
a certain young groom had shown symptoms of making her his sweetheart.

Steadfast thought often of telling the great secret of his heart to his
faithful sister Patience, but his extreme shyness and modesty, and the
reserve in which he always lived, seemed to make it impossible to him
to broach the subject, and there might be a certain consciousness that
Emlyn, while his own pet, had been very troublesome to Patience.

Stead was two-and-twenty, a sturdy well-grown fellow, but the hard work
he had been obliged to do as a growing lad, had rounded his shoulders,
and he certainly did not walk like the men who had been drilled for
soldiers. His face was healthy and sunburnt, with fair short hair and
straightforward grey eyes. At the first glance people would say, "What
a heavy-looking, clownish young man," but at the second there was
something that made a crying child in the street turn to him for help
in distress, and made the marketing dames secure that he told the truth
about his wares.

Patience was rather startled by seeing him laboriously tying up a posy
of wild rose, honeysuckle, and forget-me-not, and told him the Bristol
folks would not buy those common wild flowers.

"They are for none of them," replied Stead, a little gruffly, and
colouring hotly at being caught.

"Oh!" said Patience, in her simplicity. "Are they for Emlyn? I do not
think her mistress will let you see her."

"I shall," said Stead. "She ought to know of our good fortune."

"He has forgotten that Emlyn is not our sister after all," said
Patience, as she went back to her washing.

"She might as well," said Ben, who could not remember the hut without
Emlyn.

Stead had better luck than Patience foreboded from a household where the
servants were kept very strictly, for there was a good deal of curiosity
in Bristol about the report that a lad from the neighbourhood had won an
Irish heiress and castle, and when Stead presented himself at the
door of the house under the overhanging gable, and begged to see Emlyn
Gaythorn to give her some tidings, the maid who opened it exclaimed, "Is
it anent the castle in Ireland?"

Stead awkwardly said "Aye, mistress." And as it became evident that the
readiest way of learning the facts would be his admission, he was let
into the house into a sort of wainscotted hall, where he found the
mistress herself superintending three or four young sempstresses who
were making shirts for the gentlemen of the garrison. Emlyn was among
them, and sprang up looking as if white seams were not half so congenial
as nutting in the gulley, but she looked prettier than ever, as the
little dark curls burst out of the prim white cap, she sniffed the
flowers with ecstasy, and her eyes danced with delight that did Stead's
heart good to see. He needed it, for to stand there hat in hand before
so many women all staring at him filled him with utter confusion,
so that he could scarcely see, and stumbled along when Mrs. Sloggett
called, "Come here, young man. Is it true that it is your brother who
has won a castle and a countess in Ireland?"

"Not a countess, ma'am," said Stead, gruff with shyness, "but a castle."

Mrs. Sloggett put him through a perfect catechism on Jeph and his
fortunes, which he answered at first almost monosyllabically, though
afterwards he could speak a little more freely, when the questions
did not go quite beyond his knowledge. Finally he succeeded in asking
permission to take Emlyn and show her his brother's letter. Mrs.
Sloggett was gracious to the brother of the lord of a castle, even in
Ireland, and moreover Emlyn was viewed in the light of one of the Kenton
family.

So leave was granted to take Master Kenton (he had never been so called
before) out into the garden of pot-herbs behind the house, and Emlyn
with her dancing step led the way, by a back door down a few steps into
a space where a paved walk led between two beds of vegetables, bordered
with a narrow edge of pinks, daisies, and gilliflowers, to a seat under
the shade of an old apple tree, looking out, as this was high ground,
over the broad river full of shipping.

"Stead! Stead, good old Stead," she cried, "to come just as I was half
dead with white seam and scolding! Emlyn here! Emlyn there! And she's
ready with her fingers too. She boxed mine ears till they sang again
yesterday."

"The jade," muttered Stead. "What for?"

"Only for looking out at window," said Emlyn. "How could I help it, when
there were six outlandish sailors coming up the street leading a big
black bear. Well, Stead, and are you all going to live with Jeph in his
castle, and will you take me?"

"He asks me not," said Stead, and began to read the letter, to which
Emlyn listened with many little remarks. "So Patience and Rusha wont go.
I marvel at them, yet 'tis like sober-sided old Patty! And mayhap among
the bogs and hills 'tis lonelier than in the gulley. I mind a trooper
who had served in Ireland telling my father it was so desolate he would
not banish a dog there. But what did he say about home, Stead, I thought
it was all yours?"

Stead explained, and also the possibility of endeavouring to rebuild the
farmhouse. If he could go to Mr. Elmwood with thirty pounds he thought
it might be done. "And then, Emlyn, when that is saved (and I have five
pounds already), will you come and make it your home for good and all?"

"Stead! oh Stead! You don't mean it--you--Why, that's sweethearting!"

"Well, so it is, Emlyn," said Stead, a certain dignity taking the place
of his shyness now it had come to the point. "I ask you to be my little
sweetheart now, and my wife when I have enough to make our old house
such as it was when my good mother was alive."

"Stead, Stead, you always were good to me! Will it take long, think
you? I would save too, but I have but three crowns the year, and that
sour-faced Rachel takes all the fees."

"The thing is in the hands of God. It must depend on the crops, but
with this hope before me, I will work as never man worked before," said
Stead.

"And I will be mistress there!" cried Emlyn.

"My wife will be mistress wherever I am sweet."

"Ah, ha!" she laughed, "now I have something to look to, I shall heed
little when the dame flouts me and scolds me, and Joan twits me with her
cousin the 'prentice."

They had only just time to go through the ceremony of breaking a tester
between them before a shrill call of "Emlyn" resounded down the garden.
Mrs. Sloggett thought quite time enough had been wasted over the young
man, and summoned the girl back to her sewing.

Emlyn made a face of disgust, very comical and very joyous, but as the
good dame was actually coming in search of her no more could pass.

Stead went away overflowing with happiness, and full of plans of raising
the means of bringing back this sunshine of his hearth. Perhaps it was
well that, though slow of thought, Patience still had wit enough in the
long hours of the day to guess that the nosegay boded something. She
could not daunt or damp Steadfast's joy--nay, she had affection enough
for the pretty little being she had cherished for seven years to think
she shared it--but she knew all the time that there would be no place
in that new farmhouse for her, and there was a chill over her faithful
heart at times. But what would that signify, she thought, provided that
Stead was happy?



CHAPTER XIX. PATIENCE.


     "I'm the wealthy miller yet."
                        TENNYSON.


Most devoted was the diligence with which Steadfast toiled and saved
with the hope before him. Since the two young girls were no longer at
home, and Ben had grown into a strong lad, Stead held that many little
indulgences might be dispensed with, one by one, either because they
cost money or prevented it from being acquired. No cheese was bought
now, and he wanted to sell all the butter and all the apples that were
not defective.

Patience contrived that Ben should never be stinted of his usual fare;
and she would, not allow that he needed no warm coat for the winter, but
she said nothing about the threadbare state of her own petticoat, and
she stirred nothing but the thinnest buttermilk into her own porridge,
and not even that when the little pigs required it. It was all for
Stead.

Patience at twenty was not an uncomely maiden so far as kindly blue
eyes, fresh healthy cheeks, and perfect neatness could make her
agreeable to look at, but there was an air of carefulness, and of having
done a great deal of hard work, which had made her seem out of the reach
of the young men who loitered and talked with the maidens on the village
green, and looked wistfully at the spot where the maypole had once
stood.

Patience was the more amazed by a visit from the Miller Luck and his
son. The son was a fine looking young man of three or four and twenty,
who had about three years before married a farmer's daughter, and had
lost her at the birth of her second child. There he stood, almost as
bashful as Stead himself could have been under the circumstances, while
his father paid the astonished Patience the compliment of declaring that
they had put their heads together, and made up their minds that there
was no wench in those parts so like to be a good mother to the babes,
nor so thrifty a housewife as she; and, that, though there were plenty
of maids to be had who could bring something in their hands, her ways
were better than any portion she could bring.

It really was a splendid offer. The position of miller's wife was very
prosperous, and the Lucks were highly respected. The old miller was good
and kindly, Andrew Luck the steadiest of young men, and though not seen
to much advantage as he stood sheepishly moving from leg to leg, he
was a very fine, tall, handsome youth, with a certain sweetness and
wistfulness in his countenance. Patience had no scruples about previous
love and courtship. That was not the point as she answered--

"Thank you, Master Luck, you are very good; but I cannot leave my
brothers."

"Let the big one get a wife of his own then," and, as Patience shook her
head, and glanced at where Ben, shy of strangers, was cutting rushes,
"and if you be tender on the young one, there would be work for him
about the place. I know you have been a good mother to him, you'd be
the same to our little ones. Come, Andrew, can't ye say a word for
yourself?"

"Come, Patience, do 'ee come!" pleaded poor Andrew, and the tears even
sprang to his eyes. "I'd be very good to thee, and I know thou would'st
be to my poor babes."

Patience's heart really warmed to him, and still more to the babes, but
she could only hold out.

"You must find another," she said.

"Come, you need not be coy, my lass," said the old miller. "You'll not
get a better offer, and Andrew has no time nor heart either for running
about courting. What he wants is a good wife to cheer him up, and see to
the poor little children."

It was powerful pleading, and Patience felt it.

"Aye, Master Miller," she said, "but you see I'm bound not to leave
Steadfast till he is married. He could not get on no ways without me."

"Then why--a plague on it--don't he wed and have done with it?"

"He cannot," said Patience, "till he has made up enough to build up our
old house, but that won't be yet awhile--for years maybe; and he could
not do it without me to help him."

"And what's to become of you when you've let your best years go by
a-toiling for him, and your chance is gone by, and his wife turns you to
the door?" said Master Luck, not very delicately.

"That God will provide," said Patience, reverently. "Anyway, I must
cleave to Steadfast though 'tis very good of you, Master Luck and Master
Andrew, and I never could have thought of such a thing, and I am right
sorry for the little ones."

"If you would only come and see them!" burst out the poor young father.
"You never see such a winsome little poppet as Bess. And they be so
young now, they'd never know you were not their own mother."

"Don't, don't, Master Andrew!" cried Patience, "I tell you I'd come if I
could, but you can't wait, and they can't wait; and you must find a good
mother at once for them, for I have passed my word to hold by Stead till
he is married, and I must keep to it."

"Very well, my lass," said the miller, grimly. "There's wenches better
portioned and better favoured than you, and I hope you won't have to
repent of missing a good offer."

Of course he said it as if he hoped she would. Patience cried heartily
when they were gone. Ben came up to her and glowered after them,
declaring he wouldn't have his Patty go to be only a step-mother to
troublesome brats; but Stead, when he came to know of it, looked grave,
and said it was very good of Pat; but he wished she could have kept the
young fellow in play till she was ready for him.

Goody Grace, who was looking after the children till the stepmother
could be found, came and expostulated with Patience, telling her she was
foolish to miss such a chance, and that she would find out her mistake
when Stead married and that little flighty, light-headed wench made the
place too hot to hold her. What would she do then?

"Come and help you nurse the folk, Goody," said Patience, cheerfully.

Her heart would fail her sometimes at the outlook, but she was too busy
to think much about it. Only the long evenings had been pleasanter when
Stead used to teach Ben to read Dr. Eales's books and tell her bits such
as she could understand than now when he grudged a candle big enough
to be of any use, and was only plaiting rushes and reckoning up what
everything would bring.

Ben was a bright little fellow, and could read as well as his brother.
He longed for school, for when boys were not obliged to learn, some of
them wished to do so. There was a free grammar school about three
miles off to which he wanted to go, and Patience, who was proud of his
ability, wished to send him, neither of them thinking anything of the
walk.

Stead, however, could see no use in more learning than he had himself.
Neither he nor Jeph had been to school. Why should the child go? He
could not be spared just as he was getting old enough to be of some use
and save time, which was money.

And when the little fellow showed his disappointment, Stead was even
surly in telling him "they wanted no upstarts."

It was a hard winter, and the frost was followed by a great deal of wet.
One of the sheep was swept away by the flood; three or four lambs
died; and Stead, for about the first time in his life, caught a severe
feverish cold in looking after the flock, and was laid by for a day or
two, very cross and fretful at everything going wrong without him.

Poor little Ben was more railed at for those few days than ever he had
been before, and next he broke down and had to be nursed; and then came
Patience's turn. She was ill enough to frighten her brothers; and Goody
Grace, who came to see to her, finding how thin her blanket was, and how
long it was since she had had any food but porridge, gave Steadfast
a thorough good scolding, told him he would be the death of a better
sister than he deserved, and set before him how only for his sake
Patience might be living on the fat of the land at the mill.

To all appearance, Stead listened sulkily enough, but by-and-by Goody
found a fowl killed and laid ready for use. It was an old hen, whose
death set Patience crying in her weakness. Nevertheless, it was stewed
down into broth which heartened her up considerably, and a blanket that
came home rolled up on the donkey's back warmed her heart as much as her
limbs.

Mrs. Elmwood spared Rusha for a week, and it was funny to see how the
girl wondered at its having been possible to live in such a den. She
absolutely cried when Ben told her how hard they had been living, and
said she did not think Stead would ever have used Patience so.

"Then why did she make as if she liked it?" said Stead, gruffly.

But for all that Stead was too sound-hearted not to be grieved at
himself, and to see that his love and impatience had led him into
unkindness to those who depended on him; and when Master Woodley
preached against love of money he felt pricked at the heart, though it
had not been the gain in itself that he aimed at. And when he had to go
to the mill, the sight of the comfortable great kitchen, with the
open hearth, glowing fire, seats on either side, tall settle, and the
flitches of bacon on the rafters, seemed to reproach him additionally.
The difficulties there had been staved off by the old miller himself
marrying a stout, motherly widow, who had a real delight in the charge
of a baby.

"For," said Master Luck, "Andrew and I could agree on no one for him."

Moreover, Stead ceased to grunt contemptuously when Patience, with Goody
Grace to back her, declared that Ben was too young and slight for farm
work.

The boy was allowed to trudge his daily three miles to school, and there
his progress was the wonder and delight of his slower-witted brother and
sister.



CHAPTER XX. EMLYN'S SERVICE.


     "Oh, blind mine eye that would not trace,
      And deaf mine ear that would not heed
      The mocking smile upon her face,
      The mocking voice of greed."
                                     LEWIS CARROLL.


When Lady-day came round, Steadfast found to his delight and surprise a
little figure dancing out to meet him from Mrs. Lightfoot's.

"There, Master Stead. Are not you glad to see me, or be you too
dumbfounded to get out a word, like good old Jenny?" stroking the
donkey's cars. "Posies of primroses! How sweet they be! You must spare
me one."

"As many as you will, sweetheart. They be all for you, whether given or
sold. And you've got a holiday for Lady-day."

"Have a care! I got my ears boxed for such a Popish word. 'Tis but
quarter day, you know, being that, hang, draw, and quarter is more
to the present folks' mind than ladies or saints. I have changed my
service, you must know, as poor Dick used to sing:--

          "Have a new master, be a new man."

"You have not heard from your own folk," cried Stead, this being what he
most dreaded.

"Nay. But I can away no more with Dame Sloggett, and Cross-patch Rachel,
white seam and salmon, and plain collars. So I bade her farewell at the
end of the year, and I've got a new mistress."

Stead stood with open mouth. To change service at the end of a year was
barely creditable in those days, and to do so without consultation with
home was unkind and alarming.

"There now, don't be crooked about it. I had not time to come out and
tell you and Patience, the old crones kept me so close, stitching at
shirts for a captain that is to sail next week, and I knew you would be
coming in."

"Where is it?" was all Stead uttered.

"What think you of Master Henshaw's, the great merchant, and an honest
well-wisher to King and Church to boot?"

"Master Henshaw, the West Indian merchant? His is a good, well-ordered
household, and he holds with the old ways."

"Yes. He was out that Whitsun morning we wot of," said Emlyn. "I wist
well you would be pleased."

"But I thought his good lady was dead," said Steadfast.

"So she is. She that came out to the gully, but there's a new Mistress
Henshaw, a sweet young lady, of a loyal house, the Ayliffes of Calfield.
And I am to be her own woman."

"Own woman," said Mrs. Lightfoot, for they were by this time among the
loaves in her stall. "Merchants' wives did not use to have women of
their own in my time."

For this was the title of a lady's maid, and rules as to household
appointments were strictly observed before the rebellion.

"Mistress Henshaw is gentlewoman born," returned Emlyn, with a toss of
her head. "She ought to have all that is becoming her station in return
for being wedded to an old hunks like that! And 'tis very well she
should have one like _me_ who has seen what becomes good blood! So
commend me to Patience and Rusha, and tell Ben maybe I shall have an
orange to send him one of these days. And cheer up, Stead. I shall get
five crowns and two gowns a year, and many a fee besides when there is
company, so we may build the house the sooner, and I shall not be mewed
up, and shall see the more of thee. 'Tis all for you. So never look so
gloomy on it, old Sobersides."

And she turned her sweet face to him, and coaxed and charmed him
into being satisfied that all was well, dwelling on the loyalty and
excellence of the master of the house.

He found it true that it was much easier to see Emlyn than before. Mrs.
Henshaw, a pretty young creature, not much older than Emlyn, was pleased
to do her own marketing, and came out attended by Emlyn, and a little
black slave boy carrying a basket. She generally bought all that
Steadfast had to sell, and then gave smiling thanks when he offered to
help carry home her purchases. She would join company with some of her
acquaintance, and leave the lovers to walk together, only accompanied by
little Diego, or Diggo as they called him, whose English was of the most
rudimentary description.

Emlyn certainly was very happy in her new quarters. Neither her lady nor
herself was arrayed with the rigid plainness exacted by Puritanism, and
many disapproving glances were cast upon the fair young pair, mistress
and maid, by the sterner matrons. Waiting women could not indulge in
much finery, but whatever breast knots and tiny curls beyond her little
tight cap could do, Emlyn did without fear of rebuke. Stead tried to
believe that the disapproving looks and words, by which Mrs. Lightfoot
intimated that she heard reports unfavourable to the household were only
due to the general distrust and dislike to the bright and lively Emlyn.
Mrs. Lightfoot was no Puritan herself, but her gossips were, and he
received her observations with a dull, stony look that vexed her, by
intimating that it was no business of hers.

Still it was borne in upon him that, good man as Mr. Henshaw certainly
was, the household was altered. It had been poverty and distress which
had led the Ayliffe family to give their young sister to a man so much
her elder, and inferior in position; and perhaps still more a desire to
confirm the Royalist footing in the city of Bristol. The lady's brothers
were penniless Cavaliers, and one of them made her house his home, and
a centre of Royalist plots and intelligences, which excited Emlyn very
much by the certainty that something was going on, though what it was,
of course, she did not know; and at any rate there was coming and going,
and all sorts of people were to be seen at the merchant's hospitable
table, all manner of news to be had here, there, and everywhere, with
which she delighted to entertain Steadfast, and show her own importance.

It was not often good news as regarded the Cavalier cause, for Cromwell
was fixing himself in his seat; and every endeavour to hatch a scheme
against him was frustrated, and led to the flight or death of those
concerned in it. However, so long as Emlyn had something to tell, it
made little difference whether the tidings were good or bad, whether
they concerned Admiral Blake's fleet, or her mistress's little Italian
greyhound. By-and-by however instead of Mrs. Henshaw, there came to
market Madam Ayliffe, her mother, a staid, elderly lady, all in black,
who might as well, Emlyn said, have been a Puritan.

She looked gravely at Stead, and said, "Young man, I am told that you
are well approved and trustworthy, and that my daughter suffers you to
walk home with this maiden, you being troth plight to her."

Stead assented.

"I will therefore not forbid it, trusting that if you be, as I hear,
a prudent youth, you may bring her to a more discreet and obedient
behaviour than hath been hers of late."

[Illustration: Stead before the Roundheads]

So saying, Mrs. Ayliffe joined company with the old Cavalier Colonel
and went on her way as Emlyn made that ugly face that Stead knew of old,
clenched her hand and muttered, "Old witch! She is a Puritan at heart,
after all! She is turning the house upside down, and my poor mistress
has not spirit to say 'tis her own, with the old woman and the old hunks
both against her! Why, she threatened to beat me because, forsooth, the
major's man was but giving me the time of day on the stairs!"

"Was that what she meant?" asked Stead.

"Assuredly it was. Trying to set you against me, the spiteful old
make-bate, and no one knows how long she will be here, falling on the
poor lads if they do but sing a song in the hall after supper, as if she
were a very Muggletonian herself. I trow she is no better."

"Did you not tell me how she held out her house against the Roundheads,
and went to prison for sheltering Cavaliers?"

"I only wish they had kept her there. All old women be Puritans at
heart. I say Stead, I'll have done with service. Let us be wed at once."

Stead could hardly breathe at this proposition. "But I have only nine
pounds and two crowns and--" he began.

"No matter, there be other ways," she went on. "Get the house built, and
I'll come, and we will have curds and whey all the summer, and mistress
and all her friends will come out and drink it, and eat strawberries!"

"But the Squire will never build the place up unless I bring more in
hand."

"You 'but' enough to butt down a wall, you dull-pated old Stead," said
Emlyn, "you know where to get at more, and so do I."

Stead's grey eyes fixed on her in astonishment and bewilderment.

"Numskull!" she exclaimed, but still in that good humoured voice of
banter that he never had withstood, "you know what I mean, though maybe
you would not have me say it in the street, you that have secrets."

"How do you know of it?"

"Have not I eyes, though some folk have not? Could not I look out at a
chink on a fine summer morning, when you thought the children asleep?
Could not I climb up to your precious cave as well as yourself; and hear
the iron clink under the stone. Ha, ha! and you and Patience thought no
one knew but yourselves."

"I trust no one else does."

"No, no, I'm no gad-about, whatever you may be pleased to think me. They
say everything comes of use in seven years, and it must be over that
now."

"Ten since 'twas hidden, nigh seven since that Whitsuntide. There's
never a parson who could come out, is there? Besides, with Peter
Woodward nigh, 'tis not safe to meet."

"That's what your head is running on. No, no. They will never have it
out again that fashion. The old Prayer-book is banished for ever and a
day! I heard master and the Captain say that now old Noll has got his
will, he will soon call himself king, and there's no hope of churches
or parsons coming back; and old madam sat and cried. The Jack Presbyters
and the rest of the sectaries have got it all their own way."

"Dr. Eales said I had no right to give it to Master Woodley, or any that
was not the right sort."

"So why should you go on keeping it there rotting for nothing, when
it might just hinder us from wearing our very lives out while you are
plodding and saving?"

Stead stood stock still, as her meaning dawned on him, "Child, you know
not what you say," at last he uttered.

"Ah well, you are slow to take things in; but you'll do it at last."

"I am slow to take in this," said Stead. "Would you have me rob God?"

"No, only the owls and the bats," said Emlyn. "If they are the better
for the silver and gold under them! What good can it do to let it lie
there and rot?"

"Gold rots not!" growled Stead.

"Tarnishes, spoils then!" said Emlyn pettishly. "Come, what good is't to
any mortal soul there?"

"It is none of mine."

"Not after seven years? Come, look you now, Stead, 'tis not only being
tired of service and sharp words, and nips and blows, but I don't like
being mocked for having a clown and a lubber for my sweetheart. Oh
yes! they do, and there's a skipper and two mates, and a clerk, and a
well-to-do locksmith, besides gentlemen's valets and others, I don't
account of, who would all cut off their little fingers if I'd only once
look at them as I am doing at you, you old block, who don't heed it, and
I don't know that I can hold out against them all," she added, looking
down with a sudden shyness; "specially the mates. There's Jonah
Richards, who has a ship building that he is to have of his own, and he
wants to call it the 'Sprightly Emlyn,' and the other sailed with Prince
Rupert, and made ever so many prizes, and how am I to stand out when you
don't value me the worth of an old silver cup?"

"Come, come, Em, that's only to frighten a man." But she knew in his
tone that he was frightened.

"Not a bit! I should be ever so much better off in a tidy little house
where I could see all that came and went than up in your lane with
nought to go by but the market folk. 'Tis not everyone that would have
kept true to a big country lout like you, like that lady among the
salvage men that the King spoke of; and I get nothing by it but wait,
wait, wait, when there's stores of silver ready to your hand."

"Heaven knows, and you know, Emlyn, 'tis not for want of love."

"Heaven may know, but I don't."

"I gave my solemn word."

"And you have kept it these ten years, and all is changed." Then
altering her tone, "There now, I know it takes an hour to beat a notion
into that slow brain of yours, and here we be at home, and I shall have
madam after me. I'll leave you to see the sense of it, and if I do not
hear of something before long, why then I shall know how much you care
for poor little Emlyn."

With which last words she flitted within the gates, leaving Steadfast
still too much stunned to realise all she meant, as he turned homewards;
but all grew on him in time, the idea that Emlyn, his Emlyn, his orphan
of the battlefield, bereaved for the sake of King and Church, should be
striving to make him betray his trust! "The silver is Mine and the
gold is Mine," rang in his ears, and yet was it not cruel that when she
really loved him best, and sought to return to him as a refuge from the
many temptations to her lively spirit, he should be forced to leave her
in the midst of them--against her own warning and even entreaty, and
not only himself lose her, but lose her to one of those godless riotous
sailors who were the dread and bane of the neighbourhood? Was not a
human soul worth as much as a consecrated Chalice?

These were the debates in Steadfast's much tormented soul. He could
think, though he could not clothe his thoughts in words, and day after
day, night after night he did think, while Patience wondered at the
heavy moodiness that seemed to have come over him. He would not open his
lips to ask her counsel, being quite certain of what it would be, and
not choosing to hear her censure of Emlyn for what he managed to excuse
by the poor child's ignorance and want of training, and by her ardent
desire to be under his wing and escape from temptation.

He recollected a thousand pleas that he might have used with her, to
show it was not want of love but a sacred pledge that withheld him, and
market day after market day he went in, priming himself all the way
with arguments that were to confirm her constancy, arm her against
temptation, and assure her of his unalterable love, though he might not
break his vow, nor lay his hand upon sacred things.

But whether Emlyn would not, or could not, meet him, he did not know,
for a week or two went by before he saw her, and then she was carrying
a great fan for her young mistress, who was walking with a Cavalier,
as gay as Cavaliers ever ventured to be, and another young lady, whose
waiting woman had paired with Emlyn. They were mincing along, gazing
about them, and uttering little contemptuous titters, and Stead could
only too well guess what kind of remarks Emlyn's companion might make
upon him.

Near his stand, however, the other lady beckoned her maid to adjust
something in her dress; and Stead could approach Emlyn. She looked up
with her bright, laughing eyes with a certain wistfulness in them.

"Have you made up your mind to cheat the owls?" she asked.

"Emlyn, if you would not speak so lightly, I could show cause--"

"Oh, that's enough," she answered hastily, turning as the other maid
joined her; and Stead caught the shrill, pert voice demanding if that
was her swain with clouted shoes. Emlyn's reply he could not hear, but
he saw the twist of the shoulders.

There are bitter moments in everyone's life, and that was one of the
very bitterest of Steadfast Kenton's.



CHAPTER XXI. THE ASSAULT OF THE CAVERN.


     "By all description this should be the place.
      Who's here?"
                                  SHAKESPEARE.


Harvest was over, and the autumn evenings were darkening. It was later
than the usual bed time, but Patience had a piece of spinning which she
was anxious to finish for the weaver who took all her yarn, and Stead
was reading Dr. Eales's gift of the Morte d'Arthur, which had great
fascination for him, though he never knew whether to regard it as truth
or fable. He wanted to drive out the memory of what Mrs. Lightfoot had
told him about the Henshaw household, where the youngest of the lady's
brothers had lately arrived from beyond seas, bringing with him habits
of noise and riot, which greatly scandalised the neighbours.

Suddenly Growler started up with pricked ears, and emitted a sound like
thunder. Patience checked her wheel. There was an unmistakable sound of
steps. Stead sprang up. Growler rushed at the door with a furious volley
of barking. Stead threw it open, catching up a stout stick as he did so,
and the dog dashed out, but was instantly driven back with an oath and
a blow. It was a bright moonlight night, and Stead beheld three tall men
evidently well armed.

"Ho, you fellow there," one called out, "keep back your cur, we don't
want to hurt him nor you."

"Then what are you doing here?" demanded Stead.

"We are come for what you wot of. For the King's service."

"Who sent you?" asked Stead, for the moment somewhat dazed.

One of them laughed and said, "As if you did not know."

There was a sickening perception, but Stead's powers were alert enough
for him to exclaim, "Then you have no warrant."

"My good fellow, don't stickle about such trifles. For the King's
service it is, and that should be enough for all loyal hearts. Hollo,
what's that? Silence your dog, I say," as Growler's voice resounded
through the gulley, "or it will be the worse for you and him."

Stead took hold of the dog's collar, and amidst his choked grumbles,
said, "I do nought but on true warrant."

"Hark ye, blockhead," said the foremost. "I'm an officer of His
Majesty's, with power to make requisitions for his service."

"Shew it," said Stead, quite convinced that this was sheer robbery.

"You addle-pated, insolent clown, to dispute terms with gentlemen in His
Majesty's service. Stand aside. I've done you only too much honour by
parleying with you. Out of the way. We don't want to take a stick of
your own trumpery, I say."

"Sir, it is Church plate."

"Ha, ha! Church plate is His Most Sacred Majesty's plate. Don't ye know
that, you ass? Here! we'll throw you back something for yourself if you
will show us the cave and save us trouble, for we know which it is by
the token of the red stone and twisted ash. Ho! take--What's become of
the clown? He has run off. Discreet fellow!"

For Stead had disappeared in the black darkness behind the hut. He
remembered Jephthah's discomfiture by the owl, and it struck him that
from within the cavern it would be quite possible to keep the robbers at
bay, if they tried without knowing the way to climb up among the bushes.
He was not afraid for his brother and sister, as the marauders evidently
did not want anything but the plate. Indeed, his whole soul was so
concentrated on the defence of his charge that he had no room for
anything else.

Knowing the place perfectly, Stead had time to swing himself, armed with
a stout bludgeon, up into the hermit's cave, and even to drag after him
Growler, a very efficient ally. The contrasts of moonlight were all in
his favour, the lights almost as bright as in sunshine, the shadows so
very dark. He could see through the overhanging ivy and travellers' joy
the men peering about with their dark lantern, looking into the caves
where the pigs were, among the trees, and he held Growler's mouth
together lest the grim murmurs that were rolling in the beast's throat
should serve as a guide.

Then he heard them shout to Patience to come and guide them since her
coward of a brother had made off, and he heard her answer, "Not I, 'tis
no business of mine."

"We'll see about that. D'ye know how folks are made to speak, my lass?"

Then Stead recollected with horror that he had left her to her fate.
Would he be obliged to come down to her help? At that moment, however,
there was a call from the fellow who bore the lantern. "Here's the red
stone. That must be the ash. Now then!"

"You first, Nick." Then came a crackling and rustling of boughs, a head
appeared, and at that moment Stead loosed Growler and would have dealt
a blow with his stick, but that the assault of the dog had sufficed to
send the assailant, roaring and cursing, headlong down the crag.

Furious threats came up to him and his dog, but he heard them in
silence, though Growler's replies were vociferous. Stead gathered that
the fall had in some degree hurt the man for he made an exclamation of
pain, and the others bade him stay there and keep back the wench.

"We'll have you down though we smoke you out like a wasps' nest, you
disloyal adder, you," was one of the threats.

"Or serve him like the Spaniard at Porto Santo," said another.

Presently after numerous threats and warnings that they had firearms
and were determined to use them, two of the men began climbing much more
cautiously, holding by the trees, so as not to be suddenly overthrown.
However the furious attack of such a dog as Growler, springing from
utter darkness was a formidable matter, and the man against whom he had
launched himself could not but fall in his turn, but the dog went after
him, and the companion, being on his guard, was not overthrown. Stead
aimed a blow at the fellow with all his might, but the slouching hat
warded off the full force of the bludgeon. Then Stead sprang at him and
grappled with him. There was the report of a pistol, and both rolled
headlong among the bushes, but at that moment a fresh shout was heard--a
cry of "Villains, traitors, robbers--what be at?" and a rush of feet,
while in the moonlight appeared Peter Pierce with his fowling piece,
another man, Ben, and four or five dogs.

The robbers never waited to see how small the reinforcement was, and
it made noise enough for the whole hue-and-cry of the parish. Off they
dashed, through the wood, the new comers after them.

But all Patience knew was that Steadfast was lying senseless at the
bottom of the cliff, with poor Growler moaning by him, and licking his
face, and that her hands were wet with what must be blood.

It was too dark to see anything, but she could hardly bear to leave him,
as she hurried back to the hut for the lantern. All this had taken but
few minutes, so that she had only to catch it up from the table where
Stead's book still lay.

By the time she came back, he had opened his eyes, and his hand was on
Growler's head.

"Are they gone?" he asked faintly.

"Yes, and Peter after them. Oh! Stead, you are badly hurt."

"They have not got it?"

"Oh no, no, you saved it."

"Thank God. Is Ben safe?"

"Yes, after them with Peter. I sent him out while you were talking to
call Peter."

"Good--" and his eyes closed again. "Good Growler, poor Growl--" he
added, fondling the big head, as the dog moaned. "See to him, Pat."

"I must see to you first. Oh! Stead, is it very bad?"

"I'll try to get in, if you'll help me."

He raised himself, but this effort brought a rush of blood to the lips,
which greatly terrified Patience. To her great relief, however, Nanny
Pierce having satisfied herself that all was quiet round the hut, here
called out to ask where Patience was. She was profuse in "Lack-a-daisy!"
"Dear heart!" and "Poor soul!" and was quite sure Stead was as good as
a dead man; but she had strong arms, and so had Patience, and when they
had done what they could to stanch the wound in his side, which however,
was not bleeding much externally, they carried him in between them
to Patience's bed which had been Emlyn's, and therefore was the least
uncomfortable. Poor Growler crept after, bleeding a good deal, and
Steadfast would not rest till his faithful comrade was looked to. There
was a dagger cut in his chest, which Nanny, used to dog doctoring, bound
up, after which the creature came close to his master, and fell asleep
under his hand.

It was a very faint hand. Movement or speech alike brought blood to the
mouth, and Stead's ruddy checks were becoming deadly white. He struggled
to say, "You and Ben guard it! Say a prayer, Pat," and then the two
women really thought that in the gush that followed all was over, and
Nanny marvelled at the stunned calm in which Patience went over the
Lord's Prayer, and such Psalms as she could remember.

Steps came, and Nanny shrieked. Then she saw it was her husband and the
other two men.

"Made off to the town," said Peter, gruffly.

"How now--hurt?"

"O, Peter, they have made an end of the poor lad. Died like a lamb, even
now."

"No, no," said Peter, as he came close to the bed with his more
experienced eye; "he ain't dead. 'Tis but a swoon. Hast any strong
waters, Pat? No, I'll be bound. Ho, you now, Bill, run and knock them up
at the Elmwood Arms, and bring down a gill."

"And call Goody Grace," entreated Patience, "she will know best what to
do."

On the whole, Peter's military experience was more hopeful, if not more
helpful than Goody Grace's. He was the only person who persisted in
declaring that such wounds were not always mortal, though he agreed
in owning that the inward bleeding was the worst sign. Stead did not
attempt to speak again, but lay there deadly white and with a stricken
look on his face, which Patience could not bear to see, and she ascribed
to the conviction that the wretched little Emlyn must have betrayed his
secret.

The hut was over-full of volunteers of assistance and enquiry the next
day, including the squire and Master Woodley; but nobody seemed to guess
at the real object of the robbers' attack, everybody thinking they
had come for the savings which Stead was known to be making towards
rebuilding the farmhouse.

Mr. Elmwood was very indignant and took Pierce, and Blane the constable,
into Bristol to see whether the felons could be captured and brought to
justice, but they proved to have gone down to the wharf, and to have got
on board a vessel which had dropped down the river in the early morning.
They were also more than suspected of being no other than buccaneers who
plied their trade of piracy in the West Indies. The younger Ayliffe had
gone with them, and was by no means above suspicion.

Mr. Elmwood also brought out a barber surgeon to see young Kenton, a
thing which his sister would not have dared to propose. But there was
not much to be done, the doctor decided that the bullet was where the
attempt at extraction would be fatal, and that the only hope of even
partial recovery was in perfect stillness and silence--and this Patience
could promise to ensure as far as in her lay. Instructions on dressing
the wound were given to her, and she was to send in to the barber's shop
if ointment or other appliances were needed. This was all that she was
to expect, and more indeed than she had thought feasible; for folks of
their condition were sick and got well, lived or died without the aid of
practitioners above the skill of Goody Grace. However, he gave her very
little hope, though he would not pronounce that her brother was dying. A
few days would decide, and quiet was the only chance.

Scarcely however were the visitors gone, and Stead left to what rest
pain would allow him after being handled by the surgeon, when a sound of
sobbing was heard outside. "Oh! oh! I'm afraid to go in! Ben! Oh! tell
me, is he not dead? I'm the most miserable maid in the world if he is."

"He's alive, small thanks to you," responded Ben, who had somehow
arrived at a knowledge of the facts, while Rusha, who was milking,
buried her head in Daisy's side, and would not even look at her.
Patience felt in utter despair, and longed to misunderstand Stead's
signs to her to open the door. She tried to impress the need of quiet,
but Emlyn darted in, her hood pushed back, her hair flying, her dress
disordered, looking half wild, and dropping on the floor, she crouched
there with clasped hands, crying "Oh! oh! he looks like death. He'll die
and I'm the most--"

"If you make all that noise and tumult he will," said Patience, who
could bear no more. "Are you come here to finish what you have done? Do
go away."

"Oh! but I must tell you! They said it was for the King, and that he had
the right. Yes they did, and they swore that they would hurt no one."

Stead looked to a certain extent pleased, but Patience broke out, "As if
you did not know he would rather die than give up his trust."

"I thought he would never know--"

"Robber!" said Patience. "Go! You have done harm enough already."

"But I must tell you," persisted Emlyn. "I used to see Dick Glass among
Lord Goring's troopers, and he is from our parts, and he has been with
Prince Rupert. There was a plot, I know there is, and both the Master
Ayliffes are in it, and we were to go and raise Worcestershire, only
they wanted money, and Dick was to--to wed me--and set us across the
river this morning, when they had got the treasure. 'Twas for the King.
And now they are all gone, Master Philip and all, and master says they
are flibustiers, and pirates, and robbers; and Mrs. Lightfoot's boy came
and said Stead Kenton was shot dead at his house door, and then I was
neither to have nor to hold, but I ran off here like one distraught, for
I never loved anyone like you Stead."

"Pretty love!" said Patience. "Oh! if you think you love him, go and let
him be at peace."

"I do! I do!" cried the girl, quite unmanageable. "Only it made me mad
that he should heed an old chest and a musty parson more than me, and
so I took up with Dick, and he over persuaded me with his smooth tongue
that we would raise folk for the King."

Stead held out his hand.

"Oh! Stead, Stead, you are always kinder than Patience! You forgive me,
dear old Stead, do not you? And I'll tend you day and night, and you
shall not die, and I'll wed you, if you have nought but the shirt to
your back."

Patience felt nearly distracted at the notion of Emlyn there day and
night, but at that instant Goody Grace, who had been to her home in
preparation for spending the night in nursing, walked in.

"How now, mistress, what are you about here?"

"She wants to stay and tend him, and I don't know whether she has come
with her mistress's knowledge," sighed Patience.

"Fine tendance!" said the old woman. "My lady wants to kill him
outright. Nay, nay, my young madam, we want none of your airs and
flights here. You can do no good, except by making yourself scarce--you
that can't hold your tongue a moment."

Stead here whispered, "Her mistress, will she forgive her?"

"Oh, yes, no fear but that she will," said Emlyn, who perhaps had
revolved in her mind, since her first impulse, what it would be to nurse
Stead in that hovel, with two such displeased companions as Goody and
Patience. More to pacify Steadfast's uneasy eyes than for her own sake,
Patience gave her a drink of milk and a piece of bread, and Peter coming
just then to ask if he could help Ben with the cattle, undertook to
see her safely on her way, since twilight was coming on. Sobered and
awestruck by the silence and evident condemnation of all around, she
ended by flinging herself on her knees by the bed, and saying "Stead,
Stead, you forgive me, though no one else does?"

"Poor child--I do--as I hope--"

"The blood again. You've done it now," exclaimed Goody Grace. "Away with
you!"

Peter fairly dragged her out, while the women attended to Stead.

But he let her wait outside till they heard, "Not dead, but not far from
it."



CHAPTER XXII. EMLYN'S TROTH.


     "Woman's love is writ in water,
      Woman's faith is traced in sand."
                                     AYTOUN.


Day after day Steadfast Kenton lingered between life and death, and
though the external wound healed, there was little relief to the deeper
injury which could not be reached, and which the damps and chills of
autumn and winter could only aggravate.

He could move little, and speak even less; and suffered much, both from
pain and difficulty of breathing, as he lay against sacks and pillows
on his bed, or sat up in an elbow chair which Mrs. Elmwood lent him.
Everybody was very kind in those days of danger. Mrs. Elmwood let Rusha
come on many an afternoon to help her sister, and always bringing some
posset, or cordial, or dainty of some sort to tempt the invalid. Goody
Grace, Mrs. Blane, Dame Oates, Nanny Pierce vied with each other in
offers of sitting up with him; Andrew, the young miller, came out of his
way to bring a loaf of white bread, and to fetch the corn to be ground.
Peter Pierce, Rusha's lover, and more old comrades than Patience quite
desired, offered their services in aiding Ben with the cattle and
other necessary labours, but as the first excitement wore off, these
volunteers became scantier, and when nothing was to be heard but "just
the same," nothing to be seen but a weak, wan figure sitting wrapped
by the fire, the interest waned, and the gulley was almost as little
frequented as before. Poor Ben's schooling had, of course, to be given
up, and it was well that he was nearly as old as Stead had been when
they were first left to themselves. Happily his fifteen months of study
had not made him outgrow his filial obedience and devotion to the less
instructed elder brother and sister, who had taken the place of the
parents he had never known. Benoni, child of sorrow, he had been named,
and perhaps his sickly babyhood and the mournful times around had tended
to make him a quiet boy, without the tearing spirits that would have
made him eager to join the village lads in their games. Indeed they
laughed at him for his poverty and scholarship, and called him Jack
Presbyter, Puritan, bookworm, and all the opprobrious names they could
think of, though no one ever less merited sectarian nicknames than he,
as far as doctrine went. For, bred up on Dr. Eales' books, and obliged
to look out on the unsettled state of religious matters, he was
as staunch a churchman as his brother, and fairly understood
the foundations of his faith. Poor boy, the check to his studies
disappointed him, and he spent every leisure moment over his Latin
accidence or in reading. Next to the stories in the Bible, he loved
the Maccabees, because of the likeness to the persecuted state of the
Church; and he knew the Morte d'Arthur almost by heart, and thought it
part of the history of England. Especially he loved the part that tells
of the Holy Grail, the Sacred Cup that was guarded by the maimed King
Pelles, and only revealed to the pure in heart and life. Stead had fully
confided to him the secret of the cave, in case he should be the
one left to deliver up the charge; and, in some strange way, the boy
connected the treasure with the Saint Grail, and his brother with the
maimed king. So he worked very hard, and Patience was capable of a good
deal more than in her earlier days. Stead, helpless as he was, did
not require constant attendance, and knew too well how much was on his
sister's hands to trouble her when he could possibly help doing so. Thus
they rubbed on; though it was a terrible winter, and they often had to
break in on the hoard which was to have built the house, sometimes for
needments for the patient, sometimes to hire help when there was work
beyond the strength of Patience and Ben, who indeed was too slender to
do all that Stead had done.

Ben did not shine in going to market. He was not big enough to hold his
own against rude lads, and once came home crying with his donkey beaten
and his eggs broken; moreover, he was apt to linger at stalls of books
and broadsheets. As soon as Patience could venture to leave her brother,
she was forced to go to market herself; and there was a staidness and
sobriety about her demeanour that kept all impertinence at a distance.
Poor Patience, she was not at all the laughing rustic beauty that Emlyn
would have been at market. She would never have been handsome, and
though she was only a few years over twenty, she was beginning to look
weather-beaten and careworn, like the market women about her, mothers of
half-a-dozen children.

Now and then she saw Emlyn in all her young, plump beauty, but looking
much quieter, and always coming to her for news of Steadfast. There were
even tears in those bright eyes when she heard how much he suffered.
The girl had evidently been greatly sobered by the results of her
indiscretion, and the treachery into which it had led her. She probably
cared more for Steadfast than for anyone else except herself, and was
shocked and grieved at his condition; and she had moreover discovered
how her credulity had been played upon, and that she had had a narrow
escape of being carried off by a buccaneer.

Her master too had been called to order by the authorities, fined and
threatened for permitting Royalist plots to be hatched in his house. He
had been angered by the younger Ayliffe's riotous doings, and his wife
had been terrified. There had been a general reformation in which Emlyn
had only escaped dismissal through her mistress's favour, pleading her
orphanhood, her repentance, and her troth plight to the good young man
who had been attacked by those dissolute fellows, though Mrs. Henshaw
little knew how accountable was her favourite maid for the attack.

So good and discreet was Emlyn, so affectionate her messages to Stead,
and so much brightness shone in his face on hearing them; there was so
much pleasure when she sent him an orange and he returned the snowdrops
he had made Rusha gather, that Patience began to believe that Stead was
right--that the shock was all the maiden needed to steady her--and that
all would end as he hoped, when he should be able to resume his labours,
and add to the sadly reduced hoard.

It was not, however, till the March winds were over that Stead made any
decided step towards recovery, and began to prefer the sun to the fire,
and to move feebly and slowly about the farmyard, visiting the animals,
too few in number, for his skilled attention had been missed. As summer
came on he was able to do a little more, herd them with Growler's help,
and gradually to undertake what required no exertion of strength or
speed, and there he stopped short--all the sunny months of summer could
do no more for him than make him fit to do such work as an old man of
seventy might manage.

He was persuaded, much against his will, to ride the white horse into
Bristol at a foot-pace to consult once more the barber surgeon. That
worthy, who was unusually sagacious for his time and had had experience
in the wars, told him that his recovery was a marvel, but that with the
bullet where it was lodged, he could scarcely hope to enjoy much more
health or comfort than at present. It could not be reached, but it might
shift, when either it would prove fatal or become less troublesome; and
as a friend and honest man, he counselled the poor youth not to waste
his money nor torture himself by having recourse to remedies or doctors
who could do no real good.

Stead thanked the barber, paid his crown, and slowly made his way to
Mrs. Lightfoot's, where he was to rest, dine, and see Emlyn.

Kind Mrs. Lightfoot shed tears when she saw the sturdy, ruddy youth
grown so thin and pale; and as to Emlyn, she actually stood silent for
three minutes.

The two were left together in Mrs. Lightfoot's kitchen, for Patience was
at market, and their hostess had to mind her trade.

Stead presently told Emlyn somewhat of the doctor's opinion, and then,
producing his portion of the tester, and with lips that trembled in
spite of himself, said that he had come to give Emlyn back her troth
plight.

"Oh! Stead, Stead," she cried, bursting into tears. "I thought you had
forgiven me."

"Forgiven you! Yea, truly, poor child, but--"

"But only when you were sick! You cast me off now you are whole."

"I shall never be whole again, Emlyn."

"I don't believe Master Willis. He is nought but a barber," she
exclaimed passionately. "I know there are physicians at the Bath who
would cure you; or there's the little Jew by the wharf; or the wise man
on Durdham Down. But you always are so headstrong; when you have made
up your mind no one can move you, and you don't care whose heart you
break," she sobbed.

"Hearken, little sweet," said Stead. "'Tis nought but that I wot that it
would be ill for you to be bound to a poor frail man that will never be
able to keep you as you should be kept. All I had put by is well nigh
gone, and I'm not like to make it up again for many a year, even if I
were as strong as ever."

"And you won't go to the Jew, or the wise man, or the Bath?"

"I have not the money."

"But I will--I will save it for you!" cried Emlyn, who never had saved
in her life. "Or look here. Master Henshaw might give you a place in
his office, and then there would be no need to dwell in that nasty, damp
gulley, but we could be in the town. I'll ask my mistress to crave it
from him."

Stead could not but smile at her eagerness, but he shook his head.

"It would be bootless, sweetheart, I cannot carry weights."

"No, but you can write."

"Very scurvily, and I cannot cypher."

For Stead, like everyone else at Elmwood, kept his accounts by tally and
in his head, and the mysteries of the nine Arabic figures were perfectly
unknown to him. However, Emlyn stuck to the hope, and he was so far
inspired by it that he ceased to insist on giving up the pledges of the
betrothal, and he lay on the settle in quiet enjoyment of Emlyn's castle
building, as she sat on a stool by his side, his hand on her shoulder,
somewhat as it was wont to lie on Growler's head. And in spite of
Master Willis's opinion, he rode home to the gulley a new man, assuring
Patience, on the donkey by his side, that there was more staunchness
and kindness in little Emlyn than ever they had thought for. Even the
ferryman who put them over the river declared that the doctor must
have done Master Kenton a power of good, and Stead smiled and did not
contradict him.

Stead actually consulted Mr. Woodley how to learn cyphering beyond what
Ben had acquired at school; and the minister lent him a treatise, over
which he pored with a board and a burnt stick for many an hour when he
was out on the common with the cattle, or on the darkening evenings in
the hut. Ben saw his way into those puzzles with no more difficulty than
whetted his appetite, worked out sum after sum, and explained them
to his brother, to the admiration of both his elders, till frowns of
despair and long sighs from Stead brought Patience to declare he was
mazing himself, and insist on putting out the light.

Stead had more time for his studies than he could wish, for the cold
of winter soon affected the injured lungs; and, moreover, the being no
longer able to move about rapidly caused the damp and cold of the
ravine to produce rheumatism and attendant ills, of which, in his former
healthy, out-of-door life, he had been utterly ignorant, and he had to
spend many an hour breathless, or racked with pain in the poor little
hovel, sometimes trying to give his mind to the abstruse mysteries of
multiplication of money, but generally in vain, and at others whiling
away the time with his books, for though there were only seven of them,
including Bible and Prayer-book, a very little reading could be the text
of so much musing, that these few perfectly sufficed him. And then he
was the nurse of any orphaned lamb or sick chicken that Patience was
anxious about, and his care certainly saved many of those small lives.

The spring, when he came forth again, found him on a lower level, less
strong and needing a stick to aid his rheumatic knee.

Not much was heard of Emlyn that spring. She did not come to market
with her mistress, and Patience was not inclined to go in quest of her,
having a secret feeling that no news might be better for Stead than
anything she was likely to hear; while as to any chance of their coming
together, the Kentons had barely kept themselves through this winter,
and Steadfast's arithmetic was not making such progress as would give
him a place at a merchant's desk.

Patience, however, was considerably startled when, one fine June
day, she saw Mrs. Henshaw's servant point her out to two tall
soldierly-looking men, apparently father and son.

"Good morrow to you, honest woman," said the elder. "I am told it is you
who have been at charges for many years for my brother's daughter, Emlyn
Gaythorn."

Patience assented.

"You have been right good to her, I hear; and I thank you for that same,
and will bear what we may of the expense," he added, taking out a heavy
bag from his pouch.

He went on to explain that he and his son having gone abroad with his
master had been serving with the Dutch, and had made some prize money.
Learning on the peace that a small inheritance in Worcestershire had
fallen to the family, they had returned, and found from Lady Blythedale
that the brother's daughter was supposed to be alive somewhere near
Bristol. She had a right to half, and being honourable men, they had
set out in search of her, bringing letters from the lady to Mr. Henshaw,
whose house was still a centre of inquiry for persons in the Cavalier
interest. There, of course, they had discovered Emlyn; and Master
Gaythorn proceeded to say that it had been decided that the estate
should not be broken up, but that his son should at once wed her and
unite their claims.

"But, sir," exclaimed Patience, "she is troth plight to my brother."

"So she told me, but likewise that he is a broken man and sickly, and
had offered to restore her pledge."

Patience could not deny it, though she felt hotly indignant.

"She charged me to give it back to you," added the uncle; "and to bid
you tell the young man that we are beholden to you both; but that since
the young folk are to be wedded to-morrow morn, and then to set forth
for Worcestershire, there is no time for leave-takings."

"I do not wonder!" exclaimed Patience, "that she has no face to see us.
She that has been like a child or a sister to us, to leave us thus! O my
brother!"

"Come, come, my good woman, best not make a pother." Poor Patience's
homely garb and hard-worked looks shewed little of the yeoman class to
which she belonged. "You've done your duty by the maid and here's the
best I have to make it up."

Patience could not bring herself to take the bag, and he dropped it
into her basket "I am sorry for the young man, your brother, but he knew
better than to think to wed her as he is. And 'tis better for all there
should be no women's tears and foolishness over it."

"Is she willing?" Patience could not but ask.

"Willing?" Both men laughed. "Aye, what lass is not willing to take a
fine, strapping husband, and be a landed dame? She gave the token back
of her own free will, eh, Humfrey; and what did she bid us say?"

"Her loving greetings to--What were their Puritanical names?" said the
son contemptuously. "Aye, and that she pitied the poor clown down there,
but knew he would be glad of what was best for her."

"So farewell, good mistress," said Master Gaythorn, and off they clanked
together; and Patience, looking after them, could entirely believe that
the handsome buff coat, fringed belt, high boots, and jauntily cocked
hat would have driven out the thought of Stead in his best days. And now
that he was bent, crippled, weak, helpless,--"and all through her, what
hope was then," thought Patience, "yet if she had loved him, or there
had been any truth in her, she could have wedded him now, and he would
have been at ease through life! A little adder at our hearth! We are
well quit of her, if he will but think so, but how shall I ever tell
him?"

She did not rush in with the tidings but came home slowly, drearily,
so that Stead, who was sitting outside by the door, peeling rushes,
gathered that something was amiss, and soon wormed it out of her, while
her tears dropped fast for him. Still, as ever, he spoke little. He said
her uncle was right in sparing tears and farewells, no doubt reserving
to himself the belief that it was against her will. And when Patience
could not help declaring that the girl might have made him share her
prosperity, he said, "I'm past looking after her lands. Her uncle would
say so. 'Tis his doing; I am glad of what is best for my darling as was.
There's an end of it, Patience--joy and grief. And I thank God that the
child is safely cared for at last."

He tried to be as usual, but he was very ill that night.

Patience found the money in her basket. She hated it and put it aside,
and it was only some time after that she was constrained to use it, only
then telling Stead whence it came, when he could endure to hear that the
uncle had done his best to be just.



CHAPTER XXIII. FULFILMENT.


     "My spirit heats her mortal bars,
      As down dark tides the glory glides,
      And mingles with the stars."
                                  TENNYSON.


The year 1660 had come, and in the autumn, just as harvest was over, and
the trees on the slopes were taking tints of red, yellow, and brown, an
elderly clergyman, staff in hand, came slowly up the long lane leading
to Elmwood, whence he had been carried, bound to his horse, seventeen
years before.

He had not suffered as much as some of his fellow priests. After a term
of imprisonment in London, he had been transported to the plantations,
namely, the American settlements, and had fallen in with friends, who
took him to Virginia. This was chiefly colonized by people attached to
the Church, who made him welcome, and he had ministered among them till
the news arrived of the Restoration of Charles II, and likewise that the
lawful incumbents of benefices, who had been driven out, were reinstated
by Act of Parliament. Mr. Holworth's Virginian friends would gladly have
kept him with them, but he felt that his duty was to his original flock,
and set out at once for England, landing at Bristol. There, however, he
waited, like the courteous man he was, to hold communication with his
people, till he had written to Mr. Elmwood, and made arrangements with
him and Master Woodley.

They were grieved, but they were both men who had a great respect for
law and parliament, so they made no difficulties. Mr. and Mrs. Woodley
retired to the hall and left the parsonage vacant, after the minister
had preached a farewell sermon in the church which made everyone cry,
for he was a good man and had made himself loved, and there were very
few in the parish who could understand that difference between the true
Church and a body without bishops. Mr. Holworth had in the meantime gone
to Wells to see his own Bishop Piers, an old man of eighty-six, and it
was from thence that he was now returning. He had not chosen to enter
his parish till the intruded minister had resigned the charge, but he
had been somewhat disappointed that none of his old flock, not even
any Kentons, who had so much in charge, had come in to see him. He now
arrived in this quiet way, thinking that it would not be delicate to
the feelings of the squire and ex-minister to let the people get up any
signs of joy or ring the bells, if they were so inclined. Indeed, he was
much afraid from what he had been able to learn that it would be only
the rougher sort, who hated Puritan strictness and wanted sport and
revelry, who would give him an eager welcome.

So he first went quietly up to the church, which he found full of
benches and pews, with the Altar table in the middle of the nave, and
the squire's comfortable cushioned seat at the east end. He knelt on the
step for a long time, then made a brief visit to his own house, where
the garden was in beautiful order, but only a room or two were furnished
with goods he had bought from the Woodleys, and these were in charge of
a servant he had hired at Bristol.

Thence the old man went out into the village, and his first halt was
at the forge, where Blane, who had grown a great deal stouter and more
grizzled, started at sight of his square cap.

"Eh! but 'tis the old minister! You have come in quietly, sir! I am
afraid your reverence has but a sorry welcome."

"I do not wonder you are grieved to part with Master Woodley."

"Well, sir, he be a good man and a powerful preacher, though no doubt
your reverence has the best right, and for one, I'm right glad to see
an old face again. We would have rung the bells if we had known you were
coming."

"That would have been hard on Master Woodley. I am only glad they are
not melted. But how is it with all my old friends, Harry? Poor Sir
George writ me that old clerk North died of grief of the rifling of the
church; and that John Kenton had been killed by some stragglers. What
became of his children?"

"That eldest lad went off to the Parliament army, and came swaggering
here in his buff coat and boots like my Lord Protector himself, they say
he has got a castle and lands in Ireland. Men must be scarce, say I, if
they have had to make a gentleman of Jeph Kenton."

"And the rest?"

"Well, sir, I'm afraid that poor lad, Stead, is in poor plight. You
mind, he was always a still, steady, hard-working lad, and when his
father was killed, and his house burnt, and his brother ran away, the
way he and his sister turned to was just wonderful. They went to live
in an old hut in the gulley down there, and they have made the place so
tidy as it does your heart good to look at it. They bred up the young
ones, and the younger girl is well married to one of the Squire's
folks, and everyone respected them. But, as ill-luck would have it, some
robbers from Bristol seem to have got scent of their savings. Some said
that the Communion Cup was hid somewhere there."

Mr. Holworth made an anxious sound of interrogation.

"Well, I did see the corporal, when the Parliament soldiers were at
Bristol, flog Stead shamefully to know where it was, and never get a
word out of him, whether or no; and as he was a boy who would never tell
a lie, it stands to reason he knew where they were."

"But how did anyone guess at his knowing?" asked Mr. Holworth.

"His brother might have thought it likely, poor John being thick with
your reverence," said Blane. "After that I thought, myself, that he
ought to give them up to Master Woodley, if so be he had them; but I
could never get a hint from him. The talk went that old Dr. Eales, you
mind him, sir, before he died, came out and held a prelatist service,
begging your pardon, sir, and that the things were used. Stead got into
trouble with Squire about it."

"But the robbers, how was that? You said he was hurt!"

"Sore hurt, sir; and he has never got the better of it, though 'tis nigh
upon four years ago. There was a slip of a wench he picked up as a child
after the fight by Luck's mill, and bred up; a fair lass she grew up
to look on, but a light-headed one. She went to service at Bristol, and
poor Stead was troth plight to her, hoped to save and build up the house
again, never knowing, not he, poor rogue, of her goings on with the
sailors and all the roistering lads about her master's house. 'Tis my
belief she put those rascals on the track, whether she meant it or not.
Stead made what defence he could, stood up like a man against the odds,
three to one, and got a shot in the side, so that he was like to die
then. Better for him, mayhap, if he had at once, for it has been nought
but a lingering ever since, never able to do a day's work, though that
wench, Patience, and the young lad, Ben, have fought it out wonderfully.
That I will say."

Mr. Holworth had tears in his eyes, and trembled with emotion.

"The dear lad," he said. "Where is he? I must go and see him."

"He bides in the gulley, sir; he has been there ever since the
farm-house was burnt."

Ere long Mr. Holworth was on his way to the gulley. What had been only a
glade reaching from rock to stream, hidden in copsewood, was now an open
space trodden by cattle, with the actual straw-yard more in the rear,
but with a goat tethered on it and poultry running about. It was a sunny
afternoon, and in a wooden chair placed so as to catch the warmth, with
feet on a stool, sat, knitting, a figure that Mr. Holworth at first
thought was that of an aged man; but as he emerged from the wood, and
the big dog sprang up and barked, there was a looking up, an instant
silencing of the dog, a rising with manifest effort, a doffing of the
broad-brimmed hat, and the clergyman beheld what seemed to him his
old Churchwarden's face, only in the deadly pallor of long-continued
illness, and with the most intense, unspeakable look of happiness and
welcome afterwards irradiating it, a look that in after years always
came before Mr. Holworth with the "Nunc dimittis."

Dropping the knitting, and holding by the chair, he stood trembling and
quivering with gladness, while, summoned by the dog's bark, Patience,
pail in hand, appeared on one side, and Ben, tall and slight, with his
flail, on the other.

"My dear lad," was all Mr. Holworth could say, as he took the thin,
blanched hand, put his arm round the shoulders, and reseated Stead,
still speechless with joy. Patience, curtseying low, came up anxiously,
showing the same honest face as of old, though work and anxiety had
traced their lines on the sun-burnt complexion, and Ben stood blushing,
and showing his keener, more cultivated face, as the stranger turned to
greet them so as to give Steadfast time to recover himself.

"Oh! sir, but we are glad to see your reverence," cried Patience. "Will
you go in, or sit by Stead? Ben, fetch a chair."

"And is this fine strapping fellow, the sickly babe that you were never
to rear, Patience?"

"God has been very good to us, sir," said Patience.

"And this is best of all," said Stead, recovering breath and speech. "I
thank Him that I have lived to see this day! It is all safe, sir."

"And you, you faithful guardian, you have suffered for it."

If it had not been for Blane's partial revelations, Mr. Holworth never
would have extracted the full story of how for that sacred trust,
Steadfast Kenton had endured threats and pain, and had foregone ease,
prosperity, latterly happiness, and how finally it had cost him health,
nay life itself, for he was as surely dying of the buccaneer's pistol
shot, as though he had been slain on the spot.

Long illness, with all the thought and reflection it had brought, had so
far changed and refined Stead that his awkward bashfulness and lack of
words had passed from him, and when he saw the clergyman overcome with
emotion at the thought of all he had undergone he said,

"Never heed it, your reverence, it has come to be all joy to me to have
had a little to bear for the Master! 'Tis hard on Patience and Ben, but
they are very good to me; and being sick gives time for such comforts as
God sends me. It is more than all I could have had here."

"I am sure of that, my dear boy. I was not grieving that I gave you
the trust, but thinking what a blessed thing it is to have kept it thus
faithfully."

Two Sundays later, the Feast was again meetly spread in Elmwood Church,
the Altar restored to its place, and all as reverently arranged as it
could yet be among the broken carved work.

In some respects it was a mournful service, few there were who after the
lapse of seventeen years even remembered the outlines of the old forms;
and the younger people knew not when to kneel or stand. There were
few who could read, and even for those who could there were only four
Prayer-books in the church, the clergyman's, the clerk's, the Kentons',
and one discovered by an old Elmwood servant. The Squire's family
came not; Goody Grace was dead, and though Rusha tried to instruct her
husband and her little girl, she herself was much at a loss.

To Mr. Holworth it was almost like that rededication of the Temple when
the old men wept at the thought of the glory of the former house, but
there were some on whom his eye rested with joy and peace. There were
Blane and his wife, good and faithful though ignorant; there were the
old miller and his son, who had come all that distance since there
had as yet been no restoration in their church, and the goings on of
Original-Sin Hopkins and his friends had thoroughly disgusted them, and
made the old man yearn towards the church of his youth, and there was
the little group of three, the toil-worn but sweet-faced sister, calm
and restful, though watchful; the tall youth with thoughtful, earnest,
awe-struck face, come for his first Communion, for which through those
many years he had been taught to pray and long, and between them the
wasted form and wan features lighted up with that wonderful radiance
that had come on them with the sense that the trust was fulfilled, only
it was brighter, calmer, higher, than even at the greeting of the vicar.
Did Steadfast see only the burnished gold of the Chalice and paten he
had guarded for seventeen years at the cost of toil, danger, suffering,
love, and life itself? Did he not see and feel far beyond those outward
visible signs in which others, who had not yet endured to the end, could
only as yet put their trust by faith?

Mr. Holworth, as he stood over him and saw the upturned eye, was sure it
was so. No doubt indeed Ben thought so too, but poor imaginative Ben
had somehow fancied it would be with his brother as with the King
who guarded that other sacred Cup, and when all was over, was quite
disappointed that Stead needed his strong arm as much as ever, nay more,
for on coming out into the air and sunshine a faintness and exhaustion
came on, and they had to rest him in the porch before he could move.

"O Stead, I thought it would have healed you," the lad said.

Stead slightly smiled. "Healed? I shall soon be healed altogether, Ben,"
he said. He had with great difficulty and very slowly walked to church,
and Mr. Holworth wished him to come and rest at the Vicarage, but he was
very anxious to get home, and after he had taken a little food, Andrew
Luck offered to share with Ben and Rusha's husband the carrying him back
between them on an elbow chair.

This pleased him, and he looked up to Andrew and said, "You are in the
same mind as long ago?"

"I never found anyone else I could lay my mind to, since my poor Kitty,"
said Andrew.

"She will come to you--soon," said Stead. "She'll have a sore heart, but
you will be good to her."

"That I will. And little Bess and Kate shall come and tell her how they
want her."

Stead smiled and his lips moved in thankfulness.

"And if Ben would come with her," added Andrew, "I'd be a brother to
him."

"Parson wants Ben," said Stead. "He says he can make a scholar of him,
and maybe a parson, and it will not be so lonesome in the vicarage."

"And your farm?"

"Rusha and her man take that. They have saved enough to build the house.
Yes, all is well. It is great peace and thankfulness."

Patience returned with the cushions she had borrowed and they brought
Steadfast home, very much exhausted, and not speaking all the way.
Perhaps the unusual motion and exertion had made the bullet change its
place, for he hardly uttered another word, and that night, as he had
said to Ben, he was healed for ever of all his ills.

The funeral sermon that Mr. Holworth preached the next Sunday, was on
the text so dear to all the loyal hearts who remembered the White King's
coronation text--

"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."



THE END





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