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Title: The Broken Font, Vol. 1 (of 2) - A Story of the Civil War
Author: Sherer, Moyle
Language: English
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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.

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  THE BROKEN FONT.

  A STORY OF THE CIVIL WAR.

  BY THE AUTHOR OF “TALES OF THE WARS OF OUR TIMES,”
  “RECOLLECTIONS OF THE PENINSULA,” &c. &c. &c.


  IN TWO VOLUMES.

  VOL. I.

  LONDON:

  PRINTED FOR
  LONGMAN, REES, ORME, BROWN, GREEN, & LONGMAN,
  PATERNOSTER-ROW.

  1836.


  LONDON:
  Printed by A. SPOTTISWOODE,
  New-Street-Square.



PREFACE.


It is impossible to read or meditate concerning that period of history
in which the scene and action of my tale are laid without partaking of
the feelings of both parties in that great quarrel, and “being (in an
innocent sense) on both sides.”


In such a spirit has my story been conceived and written. Until the
sword was drawn, the more generous and constitutional Royalists were
separated by but a faint line from the best and most patriotic men of
the Parliament party.


I have, however, confined myself more particularly to the
contemplation of those miseries and violent acts of persecution which
the appeal to arms brought upon many private families, and especially
upon those of the clergy.


In the contrivance of such a fiction, it became necessary to introduce
pictures of fanaticism and hypocrisy, and to describe scenes of
cruelty and of low interested persecution; but such parts of the story
must not be considered separately from the rest. The general tenor of
my volumes will, I trust, be found in strict consistency with that
charity that “thinketh no evil,” but “hopeth all things.”



THE BROKEN FONT.



CHAPTER I.

    Thus till man end, his vanities goe round,
    In credit here, and there discredited;
    Striving to binde, and never to be bound;
    To governe God, and not bee governed:
      Which is the cause his life is thus confused,
      In his corruption, by these arts abused.
                                   LORD BROOKE.


It was the early afternoon of a fine open day in the last week of
April, in the year 1640. The sun shone warm; not a breath of wind was
stirring the tender foliage of the tall trees, or the delicate flower
of the lowly harebell beneath the hedge-rows. All was still, save that
at intervals the voice of the cuckoo was heard--loud, but yet
mellow--from the bosom of a neighbouring wood. The swains in the
field lay stretched in the shade, as though summer were already come:
in gardens and court-yards not a sound of labour or a clatter of life
disturbed the silence of the hour.

In a shady alcove, which looked out on the bowling alley of Milverton
House, sate the worthy old master of the mansion, with one leg crossed
over the other, a book upon his knee, and a kindly smile playing
across his manly features. Not far distant, upon the steps which led
up to the near end of a stately terrace, was seated a fair little
girl, about six years of age. A thick laurel protected her with its
shadow; and it might be seen by the paper in her hand, by the motion
of her lips, and by the sway of her little head and neck, that she was
committing some task to memory, with that pleasure that makes a
pastime even out of a lesson. Out on the smooth green an old
flap-mouthed hound, whose hunting days were long past, lay basking in
the sun, among the dispersed bowls, which the last players had idly
neglected to put away; and with them a boy’s bow and arrow had been
left, or forgotten, on the ground. The child’s murmur was lower than
the soft coo from the dove-cote, or the gentle music of the fountain;
and there was a hush of quiet about all these whispers of created life
that was in harmony with the general silence.

The shadow of the dial had crept on nearly half an hour before this
repose was broken. It was so at last, by a hot boy of fourteen, with
vest unbuttoned, and without a hat, who came to seek his bow and
arrow. The glad cry of “I have found them!” dispelled the silence: the
little girl thrust her paper into her bosom, and jumped up at the
sound of the welcome voice; and the old man looked up, and, putting
his book down on the seat beside him, scolded the noble boy for having
left the bowls out to be scorched and injured by the sun.

With no abatement of good humour, the cheerful boy, eagerly helped by
the little girl, gathered them up, and carried them into the
bowl-house. The old hound was too much accustomed to the thing even to
stir for it, though one of the bowls almost touched his nose.

This duty done, the boy, upon whose mind one thing lay uppermost, with
that abruptness which belongs to nature and to boyhood, propounded to
his great-uncle, Sir Oliver Heywood, the following most startling
question:--

“Was it not, sir, a very wicked thing to cut off Mr. Prynne’s ears?”

Had it suddenly thundered the old knight could not have been more
surprised; and, if a wasp had stung him in a tender place, he could
not have been less pleased.

“Master Prynne! what do you know about Master Prynne, you foolish
boy?”

“O, I know--I know very well! they cut off his ears because he didn’t
like plays; and that was very cruel! What a shame it would be to cut
off the ears of old Josh. Cross, that takes care of your hawks,
because he didn’t like to hear Stephen play upon the fiddle!”

“Why, Arthur, what has come to you, boy? who has been teaching you
this nonsense? If Master Prynne had lost his head, instead of his
ears, it would be no more than he deserved, and I hope he may live to
own it.”

At this rebuke the boy coloured, and hung his head; but added, as if
pleading for his fault,--

“It was Master Noble said so; and you know, sir, you have told us all
to mind what he says, for he is always in the right.”

Sir Oliver bade him hastily go play; and the boy, taking his little
niece by the hand, they ran out of the bowling-green at one angle,
while the good old knight, not a little discomposed by the incident,
ascended slowly to the terrace. Here he found old Philip, the keeper
of the buttery, seated at the far end, in the shade, in the calm
enjoyment of a pipe. Instead of the wonted word of pleasant greeting,
Sir Oliver told him, in a rough tone, to go and seek instantly for
Master Noble, and send him thither.

While the kind old serving man went away with his message in no
comfortable mood--for the young tutor was as great a favourite in
kitchen as in hall--the old gentleman paced the terrace with a
leisurely and thoughtful step; and made frequent stops and soliloquies
on the strange and unexpected words and sentiments which he had just
heard from the lips of his open and artless boy. While thus engaged,
we will leave him for a few moments to place before our reader the
state of the family at the time of which we write.

At the village of Milverton, in Warwickshire, upon a sweet spot above
the valley of the Avon, Sir Oliver Heywood, the descendant of a
successful and honoured merchant, occupied a fair and pleasant mansion
erected in the reign of Elizabeth by his wealthy father.

The family at Milverton House consisted of the worthy knight, a maiden
sister, his daughter--an only child--and a boy who was the son of a
favourite nephew slain in the German wars, in which he had been led to
engage as a diversion of his grief on the loss of a beloved wife.

In addition to these regular members of the family there was a little
orphan girl, whom his benevolent sister had adopted. This sister,
Mistress Alice, was two years the junior of Sir Oliver, and had
attained the age of sixty-one. She had taken up her abode with him at
the death of Lady Heywood, about four years before the period of
which we now speak.

Katharine, his daughter, was in her twentieth year, and his nephew’s
son was about fourteen years of age.

Master Noble, of whom mention has been made, was tutor to the boy
Arthur, and resided with the family.

This young scholar was the son of an old school-fellow and friend of
Sir Oliver’s, who held the benefice of Cheddar, in Somersetshire.
Cuthbert Noble, like his father before him, had been educated at
William of Wykeham’s school of Winchester; but not succeeding so far
as to obtain a fellowship at New College, Oxford, which is the usual
aim and reward of the scholars upon the Winchester foundation, he had
proceeded to Cambridge, and there graduated with good report. He had
been now six months at Milverton.

Sir Oliver’s birthday was ever a high festival at the manor-house.
This year it was the pleasure of his daughter to celebrate it by a
masque; and all the arrangements for this masque were referred by
Mistress Katharine to Cuthbert Noble. He cheerfully undertook them;
and having gained some experience in these matters at college, and
having some skill in painting, set himself to prepare scenes--then a
very recent invention. As, with a painting brush in his hand, he was
standing before a scene, nearly finished, and dashing in the white and
foamy water upon canvass, that was fast changing into a torrent,
falling from rocks, and rushing through a lonely glen,--and as he
stood back surveying the effect, and humming the fragment of a song,
Philip came slowly up the gallery, and said gravely,--

“Master Cuthbert, Sir Oliver wants to speak with you directly.”

“Where is he?”

“In the garden, on the lower terrace; and I wish he was looking more
pleasant:--it’s my thought, Master, there’s something wrong; for it is
not a small matter that can vex him.”

Cuthbert put down his brush and palette, and proceeded slowly towards
the terrace. As he was descending the wide steps which led to it, he
could not but observe that the good knight was serious, if not angry.

“Master Cuthbert,” said Sir Oliver with an air of gravity and
displeasure, “I have sent for you to hear from your own lips some
little explanation or defence of a matter that hath come to my
knowledge by the accident of a child’s artless utterance. It may be
that it was only a word lightly dropped by you--a passing levity--a
lapsus of the tongue, not of the judgment--such an indiscretion as I
may pass over in one of your unripe age and little experience, without
further correction than a faithful reproof, and a timely warning of
the danger of such vain observations, and of their unsuitableness and
impropriety in one who fills so important an office in my family, and
hath so far enjoyed my confidence as to have doubtless a great
influence for evil or for good.”

This long preface Sir Oliver delivered, pacing slowly on the terrace
with his eyes bent upon the ground. Cuthbert walked by his side,
anxious for the direct charge, now too plainly whispered from within
by his own swift thoughts.

Sir Oliver paused, and, looking full and steadily upon the serious
countenance of the youthful tutor, demanded of him whether it were
true that he had said publicly before any of his family or household,
that it was a barbarous and cruel thing to cut off Master Prynne’s
ears?

“I certainly so expressed myself,” was the calm answer of Cuthbert.

“Where and to whom did you thus speak?”

“It was in the library--the lady Alice was present, and Master Arthur
was there at his lesson.”

“And are these the lessons that you teach in my house and to my
children?--know you, sir, that Master Prynne is a traitor--that he
speaketh evil of dignities, and soweth disloyalty--that he is a
hypocrite and a fanatic?”

“Sir Oliver,” said Cuthbert, “there was no discourse upon this matter,
save only the one remark of which you question me:--this fell from my
heart when your good sister read out some news of him--and thereupon
the lady Alice went forth without a word; for I presume not to
intrude my poor thoughts of court affairs upon any one in this house.
I know my place better.”

“Life of me! Thou dost not confess thy fault--thou dost not say thy
pænitet for teaching this false lesson to my child!”

“I would not be slow to speak out my sorrow and shame if I felt them,
but I am conscience-whole in this thing,--and my few words did give no
other lesson than one of plain humanity.”

“Master Cuthbert, I do believe thee a true and gentle youth, of best
intentions, and thou comest of a good stock. Thy father is my good
friend from the gladsome days when we were school-fellows together at
St. Mary, Winton; and where hath church or state a better parson or
better subject than he? therefore, I would for his sake, as for thine
own, entreat thee mildly. Youth is warm and tender, and wanting a far
sight to the great end of punishment--the axe might rust and the
scourge gather cobwebs before hearts like thine would give rogues
their due.”

“I am of sterner stuff, Sir Oliver, than to wish a rogue safe from
the beadle, or a traitor from the headsman; but I am not so taught as
to think the mistakes of a severe piety treasons deserving of
torture.”

“Odd’s life! I see how it is--thou art bitten by these gloomy
fanatics--the venom is in thy veins:--well for me that I have seen its
first workings. By my fathers! these new papists, these worse
Carthusians, would drive sunshine from the earth, and kill the
flowers, and stop the singing of birds, and give us a world of rock
and clouds--hard as their stony hearts, and gloomy as their cold
minds! Master Cuthbert, we must part. I’ll not have the path of my boy
shadowed over before it be God’s will. The earth is green and goodly,
and pleasant to the eyes; and long may his heart rejoice in it, as
mine has before him. Look you, we must part.”

“At your pleasure I came, Sir Oliver, and I am ready, at your
pleasure, to return to my father’s. My stay with you has been short,
and I would fain hope that I have not failed in my duty to you. May
you be more fortunate in your choice of a tutor for Master Arthur
than you have been in me!”

Cuthbert spoke these words with so much self-command that not one
syllable trembled in the utterance; yet the tone was at once mournful
and resolved.

The better feelings of Sir Oliver were touched: the expression of his
eye showed plainly that he was repenting of his hastiness, relenting
in his decision. What his reply might have been, may, in its spirit,
be easily imagined; but a sudden interruption checked the words that
were rising to his lips; and a sounder and more prudential reason for
desiring the departure of Cuthbert was presented to his judgment than
any objection which could have been urged at that time, with any
semblance of fairness, against his errors as a churchman, or his sins
as a subject.

“Master Noble,” called a rich clear voice from above them,--“Master
Noble, we poor players do wait your pleasure, and are ready with our
parts; but we cannot go on with our rehearsal till the manager doth
come to us.” Looking up, Sir Oliver saw his daughter leaning over the
balustrade, with a paper in one hand, and a tall wand wreathed with
flowers in the other; and, as he turned his eyes upon Cuthbert Noble,
the strong emotions with which Cuthbert was evidently struggling did
not escape his observation.

“I have business with him just now, Kate,” said her father: “go thy
way. He shall come to thee in the hall anon.” But as he spoke, the boy
Arthur came down the steps, leading in his hand the little girl; and,
running up to Cuthbert with joyous eagerness, cried out, “Kitten can
do her part--she can say every word quite perfect--you must hear her.”
With that, the little girl letting go his hand, and putting back her
sunny curls, which had fallen over her blue eyes, repeated, with an
air of sweet intelligence and pretty innocence, these lines:--

    “I do childhood represent,
    Listen to my argument:
    Mine the magic power to bring
    Pleasure out of every thing;
    Sunbeams, flowers, and summer air,
    Music, wonders, visions fair,
    All my happy steps attend;
    Mine is peace without an end;--
    All things are at peace with me,
    Beast in field, and bird on tree;
    The sheep that lie upon the grass
    Never stir as I do pass;
    If by the singing bird I stray,
    He never quits his chosen spray;
    If to the squirrel’s haunt I go,
    He comes with curious eye below;
    Earth and I are full of love,
    I fear no harm from Heav’n above,
    For there, as here, all things do tell
    A Father God doth surely dwell:--
    O! could I be a child alway,
    How happy were life’s holyday!”

The countenance of Sir Oliver recovered all its wonted expression of
good humour, as the child prettily recited these lines; and patting
her on the head, as she concluded, he turned to Cuthbert and said, in
his usual kind tone, “We will talk our matter over another time: I see
that you are no joy-killer, and would never mar an innocent
pleasure-making--I was ever fond of a good play--a pox on these
prick-eared knaves that would forbid them!

    “‘Why kings and emperors have taen delight
    To make experience of their wits in plays,’

as Master Kyd hath it, in his Spanish tragedy.”

Cuthbert said nothing; but having a recollection of the passage from
which Sir Oliver had quoted, thought he might have found a more
comfortable sanction and a much better authority.

“But, prithee,” continued Sir Oliver, “whose rhymes be these that the
child has just spoken?”

“They are my poor doggerel,” answered Cuthbert; “for this dear child
would give me no rest till I made a part for her in the Birthday
Masque.”

“Marry,” rejoined the knight, “the fancy of them pleaseth me, and for
the verse I care not.”

They all now turned to ascend the steps; and as they did so, apparent
at the same instant to both Sir Oliver and Cuthbert was Mistress
Katharine, leaning over the balustrade of the upper terrace, with an
air of grave and perplexed curiosity.

As soon as they reached the top, which was level with the lawn in
front of the mansion, Katharine caught Kitten in her arms, kissed her
fair brow, and ran with her towards the house; the happy child calling
out the while, “Come along, Master Noble, pray, come,” and at the same
time clapping together her two little hands at thought of the coming
pleasure.



CHAP. II.

    “White, I dare not say good, witches (for woe be to him
    that calleth evil good!) heal those that are hurt, and help them
    to lost goods.

    “Methinks she should bewitch to herself a golden mine, at
    least good meat, and whole clothes.”
                                  FULLER’_s_ _Profane State_.


While a select few among the maidens and the serving men, who were, to
their great contentment, to figure beneath strange dresses and uncouth
vizards in the antimasque, and while some neighbouring gentles of
quality, who were to take part in the masque itself, were rehearsing
in the hall, old Philip, the butler, betook himself to the outer gate,
and there sitting down on the porter’s stone, replenished his pipe,
and fell a-thinking about Sir Oliver and Master Noble. But the more he
thought, the more he was puzzled; and so he opened his vest to catch
the breeze from the valley, and smoked with half-closed eyes, too
much accustomed to the glorious scene before him to be always moved by
its beauties. Below him, in the rich bottom of the vale, flowed the
shining Avon. The white foam of the water at Guy’s mill might be seen,
and the rush of it might be almost heard.

The cliff of the renowned Guy presented a fine scarp of stone, the
summit of which was overhung with knotted and rude shrubs of a
fantastic growth; and far away to the left, at a distance of two
miles, might be seen the lordly towers, and the tall and ivied wall of
Warwick Castle. Such were the objects, which might, we say, have been
discerned from the spot where old Philip sate, together with broad and
pleasant meadows, well stocked with kine and sheep, and many goodly
trees of a stately size, and many a distant coppice of rich underwood.
Doubtless the old man had often felt the glad influence of that
scene,--but now, overcome with heat, tobacco, and the labour of
perplexed guesses about the grave mood of his master, he fell fast
asleep. Philip was one of those good faithful old creatures whose
world was his master’s, and whose greatest sin was the love of
victual. This sin was duly punished by black dreams; and now, as he
lay snoring against the wall, his indulgence over a rich mutton pie at
dinner was visited with the terrors of one of those nightmare visions
with which he was deservedly familiar. He dreamed that it was the
statute fair, and that they were roasting an ox whole in the
market-place of Warwick. The frontlet of the poor beast was gaily
gilded, and the horns were painted blue, and gilt at the tips. The
mighty spit turned slowly round. On one side stood a fat cook basting
the brown loins that the beast might not burn, and on the other a
stout and expert carver occasionally stopped the rude spit, and with a
long broad knife detached savoury portions for the greedy by-standers,
who, on receiving the same, dropped their penny of thanks into the cap
of the carver, and, slipping out of the crowd, made way for others.
Dreams are to the dreamer realities. Philip’s mouth watered: he
thought he had never before seen beef so delicious; fat and lean in
their exact proportions; the meat of the finest grain, juicy, and full
of gravy; but then his suit, his badge, his pride of place, forbade
his wishes: partake of the dainty he could not, but he might go near,
just out of curiosity, and for mere amusement. Lo and behold! with an
angry bellow forth leaped the furious beast, his eyes all fire, the
spit point issuing from his foaming mouth, his carcass smoking and
dripping, and half the sirloins cut away. He singled old Philip from
the crowd; he lowered his blue and gilded horns; he shook the spit
between his grinning teeth; and as he made his rush, old Philip died a
thousand deaths in one, and woke into another world,--that other he
had so shortly quitted. Nor was the object on which his waking eyes
first rested exactly calculated to compose his terrors. A crowd of
noisy clowns was standing round him; and in the midst of them, upon a
hurdle, they bore an old withered and bony woman, crooked and
blear-eyed, who was counted the witch of that neighbourhood, and well
known by the name of yellow Margery of the Sand Pit.

They set down the hurdle close at Philip’s feet, and called loudly for
justice and Sir Oliver. “Hag!”--“Crone!”--“Beldame!”--“To the
faggot!”--“To the river,”--“Justice in the King’s name!”--were the
various cries by which the impatient rustics frighted all the
household of Milverton from their propriety and their pleasures, and
brought most of them forth to the gate, and the rest to the hall
steps, or the casements. Sir Oliver himself came forth, among the
first, loudly rating them. “Why, how now, ye rude varlets; is
Milverton a pot-house, and the seat of justice an ale bench?
Speak--what would you?--speak, you, Morton,--you should know better
than to head a rabble rout of this fashion.”

“Why then, troth, Sir Oliver, as thou art a worshipful knight, and a
king’s justice, not man, woman, nor child in the whole parish can sup
their porridge in peace or sleep o’ nights for this old witch Margery:
we’ve crown witness enough to hang, drown, and burn her twenty times
over.”

“Not so fast, not so fast, neighbour,” said Sir Oliver, seating
himself on the stone from which old Philip had retired melting with
fear. “Where are the witnesses, and what have they to say? Let them
stand forth.”

“First, here’s Master Crumble, the clerk; then, afore him, here’s
Master Screw, the great witch-finder from Coventry; and here’s Jock,
my carter; and old Blow, the blacksmith, and Pollard, your worship’s
woodman.”

“Stop, stop, I can’t hear all at once,--say thy say, Crumble.”

“Why, your worship, my sow--your worship, my sow is dead: all of a
sudden, this blessed morn, as I poured out her wash, down she lay all
in the shivers; and if the poor dumb creature had been her own flesh
and blood, my old woman could not ha’ taken on more. Says I, directly,
‘This is a bit of Margery’s work; for I see her brush the old sow with
her black petticoat at the lane end, Sunday was a week.’ It’s quite a
plain case you see, Sir Oliver.”

“Stand back, you silly man.”

“Silly, forsooth. I am thirty-seven year clerk of the parish, come
next Lammas, and I say it’s writ on the Bible, ‘Thou shalt not suffer
a witch to live.’”

“That is true enough--it is so; but how do you know a witch?”

“Why, I know that a man’s not a witch.”

“That is true, thou art a man and no witch. But how dost thou know
one?”

“Why, it is an old woman, not to say any one, but a crook back, with a
hooked nose, and a peaked chin like Margery.”

“Master Crumble, I have done with thee, and in the matter of thy sow’s
death do acquit Margery.”

“That’s not crown law, nor Gospel charity,” said the old clerk, as he
stepped back into the crowd, who muttered and whispered among each
other till the next witness spoke out. This was the witch-finder.

“Please your worship, I am ready to make oath that she hath a
familiar, always about her in the shape of a brown mouse; for I have
seen it crawling about her neck, and playing and feeding in her hand.”

Here there was a mixed utterance of triumph and horror in the crowd,
and Sir Oliver himself looked grave.

“What dost thou answer to this, Margery?”

“They say true in that they say I have a tame mouse; and haven’t court
ladies their monkeys, and their parrots, and their squirrels, and
their white mice,--and why mayn’t an old lone woman have her pet as
well as they?” As thus she spoke, she held out her open hand, and a
lively brown mouse sat up quietly on the palm seemingly quite tame.
There was a slight shudder ran through the veins of all present; and
Cuthbert Noble, fearing lest this mode of defence might rather hinder
than help her, went up to advise her better.

“A warm blessing on you, Master Noble,--the blessing of one whom you
have saved before, and are trying to save again.”

Here Cuthbert stopped her, and observed to Sir Oliver aloud, that this
mouse was but such a pet as a shepherd’s boy might play with, and that
the old woman, whose ways were odd, had once told him that when she
was a child and her little brother died, she had taken to a field
mouse which he had petted, and that she had ever since as one died
procured another.

The worthy knight was now for discharging Margery; but Farmer Morton
insisted that they should hear his carter’s story. Accordingly Jock
stepped forward, and smoothing down his hair said,--“Please your
worship, I lost my best startups (high shoes) the day before last
cattle fair, and precious mad I was; and Sukey Sly told me if I went
to old Margery, and took her a wheaten loaf, and crossed her palm with
a silver penny, she’d tell me where to find ’em. Well, I went, and the
old woman said she didn’t want to have aught to say to me. ‘Look ye,’
says I, ‘Margery, here I be, here’s the bread and here’s the money: I
ha’ lost my startups, and you must tell me where to find them; and I
wo’n’t budge till you do.’ So with that she puts her mouse down
against the loaf, and finely he nibbled away, and she set of a brown
stud for a bit, and then told me to wait for the first full moon, and
then, exactly at midnight, to walk backwards from the yard gate to the
dung mixen, with my eyes fixed on the moon, and that I should find
them on the mixen; but if it were before or after twelve o’clock, and
if I looked behind me, or took my eyes off the moon, the charm would
be broke, and I should never see my startups again; and sure enough I
never have seen ’em.”

There was a little titter among the women; and Sukey Sly, whose legs
were set off in a pair of new red stockings, could not suppress a
laugh at Jock’s story: but the clowns called out for justice, and Sir
Oliver had much ado to pacify them. He did so at last, by assuring the
old woman, that, on condition she told what was the great charm by
which she was said to cure diseases, she should be set free.

“Cure diseases! God bless you, Master! why I’m a poor helpless old
body, that can’t cure myself, and should starve but for pity,” said
Margery. “However, may be, once or so in a quarter there comes some
wilful body like Jock, with a tied-up face, and makes a witch of me,
whether or no, and will have the charm. Then I take his loaf and his
money, and I say,--

    “‘My loaf in my lap,
      My penny in my purse;
    Thou art never the better;
      I’m never the worse.’”

This confession was followed by laughter, in which most joined; and,
except the clerk of the parish and the balked witch-finder, all
dispersed in such good humour, that the poor old crone was released
from her hurdle and her troublesome attendants, and, with a basket of
broken meat and a bottle of ale, was suffered to hobble back to her
hovel in the sand pit, without let or hinderance. It is true that
Margery was most justly liable to the charge of imposture in the
matter of Jock; and certain that, but for the easy and kind temper of
the knight, and the good humour which her own quaint and jocular
confession suddenly struck out of the wayward crowd, she might have
been committed by Sir Oliver, or half drowned by the brutal and
superstitious rustics on her road back to her miserable hovel. But as
she lived at a lone spot on the far side of the Avon, and was not
often seen in the parish of Milverton, and as the good knight (though
by no means free from the prevalent belief in witchcraft, and still
doubting whether under the form of a mouse she was not attended by an
imp, as the witch-finder had averred,) was a timid magistrate, hated
trouble, and sincerely feared doing what was either wrong in law or
severe in punishment, he rejoiced to be well quit of the troublesome
appeal. Nevertheless, he was not a little secretly disturbed, when,
late in the evening, old Philip--in a fear which had not even yielded
to the comforting warmth of a cup of spiced ale--related to him his
comical dream, with manifold exaggerations, and expressed his stout
belief that he had been possessed during his sleep by the evil
influence of old Margery.

Truth to say, at the period of which we write such was the fear and
hatred of those forlorn and miserable old women, whose unsightly
features, infirm gait, and cross tempers, excited among their
neighbours any suspicion that they held intercourse with evil spirits,
and exercised the powers of witchcraft, as drove forth the unhappy
beings to lonely abodes in solitary places. Here again, in the
vicinity of some village, remote from the scene of their persecution,
their very loneliness, all compelled and oppressive as it was, did
most naturally subject them anew to the suspicions of fresh
oppressors. So bloody, too, were the laws which at that time disgraced
the statute book, having for their end the punishment of witchcraft,
so cruel were the modes of trial among the mean and malignant persons
who drove a lucrative trade as witch-finders, and so credulous was the
ignorant and easily abused multitude, that, upon evidence far less
colourable with guilt than that adduced against Margery, unfortunate
persons of both sexes were publicly executed without shame and without
pity. In numberless instances false confessions were extorted from the
hopeless sufferers by torture, and adduced upon the day of trial, or
proclaimed at the place of execution. Thus a rooted persuasion of the
existence of sorcery and the practices of witchcraft was fixed in the
minds of the vulgar, and even infected those of the better and the
educated classes. As a natural consequence of this terrible
superstition, some of the poor creatures suspected of witchcraft, who
found themselves thrust out of the pale of human sympathy--avoided and
shunned by some, beaten and set upon by others--did madden, and
mumble curses in their gloomy solitude, and at last began to suspect
themselves as the servants of unseen spirits, and the partakers of a
supernatural power.

In the breast of Cuthbert Noble the vulgar and cruel prejudice
concerning witchcraft had no place. His humane and enlightened father
had very early instilled into his mind clear notions of the love and
care of the great Father of the human families; of the sacredness of
human life, indeed of all life, and of the holiness of creation;--and
he had, moreover, taught him to regard all particular cases of severe
and inexplicable suffering as parts only of one vast and mysterious
whole, and subserving, in the great end and issue, some wise, holy,
wonderful purpose of divine and universal love. He had taught him,
too, that ours was a marred and fallen nature; and how and by what
means, and in whose divine person, it actually was restored; and how
all the sons of Adam had become capable, through divine mercy, of
partaking all the benefits of that restoration of man’s nature--in
some degree even in this troubled and probationary state--in full and
satisfying perfection in that state which is future and eternal.
Hence, to the eye of Cuthbert, every one of human form was an object,
though not perhaps of personal interest and affection, yet of wonder
and of reverence, as a creature of God, born for immortality--an
imperishable, an indestructible being; and, when the crimes and errors
of his fellow-creatures stirred up his angry passions to punish and
withstand them, the sense of his own weakness and his own sinfulness
was ever waiting for him in his heart’s closet, to rebuke and humble
him in the calmness of solitude. But Cuthbert as yet had been little
tried; he knew not what spirit he was of. He thought that his placid
and firm father was the model which he surely followed; but the
settled and peaceful joy of that amiable and benevolent and subdued
father was as yet unknown to him.

However, the character and the life of Parson Noble will be the better
understood and conceived of by transporting our reader to the village
in Somersetshire where he dwelt, and where, had it been her good
fortune to have been a parishioner of his, old Margery, in spite of
her wild and withered aspect, might have lived unmolested and in peace
with her neighbours, and would not have lacked such acquaintance with
the mercy of the great Redeemer, as it is in the power of a mere human
instrument to impart.



CHAP. III.

    A branch of May we have brought you,
      And at your door it stands;
        It is but a sprout,
        But it’s well budded out,
      By the work of our Lord’s hands.

      The hedges and trees they are so green,
        As green as any leek;
      Our heavenly Father he watereth them,
        With his heavenly dew so sweet.
                     _From the Mayer’s Song._


The morning star glittered brightly above the fine old tower of
Cheddar church, and the low parsonage lay still and asleep amid the
flowers and the dewy grass plots of its pleasant garden, as advancing,
from beneath the ancient yew in the churchyard, to the wicket opposite
the good vicar’s porch, a party of hale young rustics with coloured
ribands in their hats and on their loose white sleeves, planted, on
either side the entrance, a fine branch of white thorn in full
blossom, and struck up, with full and cheerful voices, the very
ancient medley from which the stanzas at the head of our present
chapter are taken. They had not sung two verses before the door of the
parsonage was opened by a merry looking old serving man--two lasses’
heads were thrust from a window over the kitchen--the mistress’s good
humoured eyes were seen over a white chamber blind,--and the parson
himself, with a face as expressive of joy as a child’s, though marked
with the furrows of seven-and-sixty years, came forth to the wicket in
a loose morning gown, with a black scull-cap on his silvery hairs, and
listened, with a motion of the lips, that showed his voice, though not
audible, and his kind heart were attuned to theirs, and to the coming
holyday. When their song was done, he dismissed them with his
blessing, with the customary gift of silver, and with a caution to
keep their festival with gladness and innocence, and with the love of
brothers; letting the poor and aged fare the better for it.

“And let us have no brawls on the ale bench,” said the old
parson,--“let our May-pole be the rod of peace; so that none may rail
at our sports and dances, but rather take note of us as merry folk and
honest neighbours.”

With loud thanks, and lively promises, and rude invocations of
Heaven’s best gifts on him, and his lady, and his absent sons, the
party now faced about, and with the accompaniment of pipe and tabor,
and a couple of fiddles, moved off at a dancing pace to pay the like
honours at the door of the chief franklin, and to deck the village
street as they passed along.

Parson Noble now passed round to his favourite terrace walk, that
overlooked a rich and extensive level, and taking up his lute, which
lay in a little alcove at one end of it, he breathed out his morning
hymn of thanksgiving, as was his wont, and thus composed, went into
his study, and secluded himself for an hour from all interruption. At
the close he again came into his garden, where he commonly laboured
both for pleasure and health, every day of his life, in company with
the attached old servant, who, for his quaint words and ways, had
been long known to the village by the name of plain Peter,--an
epithet, which, as it gave him credit for blunt honesty, as well as
for a cast in his eye, he readily pardoned,--nay, some said he was
proud of it;--for what manner of man is it that hath not a pride in
something?

“Master,” said Peter, putting down his rake as the parson came up the
walk, “I have won a silver groat on your words this day.”

“How so? what dost thou mean, Peter?”

“Why, last market day, when I was in the kitchen at the old Pack Horse
at Axbridge, that vinegar-faced old hypocrite, Master Pynche, the
staymaker, comes in, and asks me to bring out Betsy Blount’s new
stays.

“Says I, ‘That I’ll do for Betsy’s sake,--a lass that hasn’t her
better for a good heart, or a pretty face, in all Somersetshire.’

“‘Verily, Master Peter, I think,’ said he, ‘thy speech might have more
respect to me, and more decency to the damsel, but thou savourest not
of the things that be from above:--thou art of the earth, earthy.’

“‘Why, for the matter of things above,’ said I, ‘Master Pynche, I
don’t pretend to any skill in moonshine; and as to being of the earth,
that I don’t deny, and thirsty earth too; with that I put to my lips
the cup of ale that I had in hand, and drank it down.’

“‘Is it not written,’ he replied in a snuffling tone, ‘that favour is
deceitful, and beauty is vain?--but thou art a servant of Beelzebub,
and thou speakest the words of thy master, and his works wilt thou
do.’

“‘In the name of plain Peter,’ I added, ‘herewith I proclaim you
Prince of Fools, and I will send you a coloured coat, and a hood and
bells, and thou shalt have a bauble, and a bladder of pease, and a
licence to preach next April.’

“With that he lifted up his eyes and hands, and muttering something
about pearls and swine, glided off like a ghost at cock crow.”

“Peter,” interrupted Noble, “thou shouldst not have said such things.”

“Marry, did he not call me a servant of Beelzebub? the peevish old
puritan!--Well, but to go on with my story. The folk in Dame Wattle’s
kitchen fell a discoursing after Pynche was gone; and some spake up
after a fashion that made my hair stand up. Says a sturdy pedlar in
the corner,--‘Ay, they’ll soon be uppermost, and the sooner the
better; rot ’em, I don’t like ’em, the godly rogues; but they are
better than parsons, any way.’

“So with that I felt my blood come up, and I was going to speak, when
old Hardy, the cobbler, took up his words, and says he, ‘That’s true
of some, and it’s true of our old Tosspot; but there’s Peter’s master,
of Cheddar,--you may search the country far and near before you will
find his like. I remember when my niece Sally lay dying, night and
day, fair weather and foul, he would trudge through mire or snow to
give her medicine for body as well as soul, and that’s what I call a
good parson.’”

“‘A good puritan,’ said Dame Wattle. ‘I have heard of his sayings and
doings, and trust me, he’ll go with your parliament men, your
down-church men: you’ll never have any more May-games and Christmas
gambols at Cheddar.’

“‘There you’re out, Dame,’ said I, ‘and don’t know any more about
Master Noble than a child unborn.’

“‘A silver crown to a silver groat he’ll give a long preachment
against the May-pole next May-morning.’

“‘Done with you, Dame,’ said I.

“‘You may lay a golden angel to a penny there will be no May-poles at
all, if you make it May twelvemonth,’ said the pedlar, ‘without,
indeed, there be such as have pikes at the end of them;’ and with that
he pulled out a printed paper, that he brought from London, and read
out a long matter about the king and the bishops, and about church
organs, and tithes, and play actors, and ship money, and Master
Hampden; and made out, as plain as a pike staff, that there would be
many a good buff coat and iron head piece taken down from the wall
before long. ‘We shall have a civil war soon, and God defend the
right,’ said he, as he folded up the paper and took up his pack.

“Civil,” thought I, “that’s a queer word. I have heard talk of civil
people and civil speeches, but a civil blow from a battle-axe is a
new thing. I’ll tell master all about it when I get home, and axe what
it means;--but as I was on the path in Nine Acres, whom should I meet
but Master Blount, the young one, and he made me promise not to say a
word to you before May-day was come, for fear the old sports might be
hindered; and he told me that civil war meant war at home; for which I
didn’t think him much of a conjuror, as my guess had reached that far:
and now, Master, prithee tell me what civil means.”

“Peter, thou art an honest fellow, and as good a citizen as if thou
knewest what it was called in Latin, and that a civil war was a war of
citizens, but of a truth this is no matter for smiles; however,
‘sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ This is no morning for
a cloudy face.”

“Well, then, here comes one, and the worst that darkens our doors. For
my part, I can’t bide the sight of it, ’t would turn all the milk in
the dairy.”

The vicar looked over his hedge, and saw the curate of a parish with
whom he was but slightly acquainted, walking across the last close,
which led by a footway into his orchard. The apple-trees concealed
Noble from his approaching visiter, who, just as he reached the gate
of the orchard, overtook a little boy, about nine years of age,
carrying in his hand a cluster of cowslips half as big as himself, and
having a thick crown of field flowers round his straw hat.

With a severe scowl, he snatched the cowslips from the frightened
child, and threw them away, and then made a gripe at his little hat;
but, the boy drawing back with a blubbering cry, the zealous and tall
curate, who had a little over-reached himself, slipped and fell prone
upon the grass. This, however, was the lightest part of his
misfortune; for it so chanced that his face came in full contact with
a new-made rain-puddle, and he arose with his eyes half blinded, and
his face covered and besmeared with mud. With the tears yet rolling
down his red cheeks, the little fellow, as he saw himself avenged in
a measure so contenting, and a manner so ridiculous, ran out of his
reach, literally shrieking with laughter; and a hearty roar from old
Peter at once completed his mortification, and determined his retreat.
This soon became a maddened flight: for a sleeping dog roused by the
noise of the laughter pursued him with angry barkings, from which, as
he had no staff, and the grassy close could furnish no stone, there
was no escape till the wearied animal paused and turned.

The whole of this scene was so very swiftly enacted, that Noble had no
opportunity to say or do any thing in the matter; and charity itself
could not suppress a smile at a punishment so well suited to the
morosity which had led to it. Neither was he at all sorry to be
relieved upon this festal day from the intrusive visit of a sour,
ill-instructed fanatic, whose opinions he could not value, and for
whose character he felt no respect. He looked, therefore, with unmixed
satisfaction at the laughing urchin, as he gathered up his scattered
wealth, and departed.

Now merrily rang out the lively bells of Cheddar Tower; and already
was every street a green alley, freshened by thick boughs, and made
fragrant by small branches of white thorn neatly interwoven.

The house of the chief franklin, Mr. Blount, was more especially
honoured. Before his door was planted the largest and fairest branch
of May that could be found in a circuit of five good miles, and his
hospitable porch was made a rich bower of shrubs and flowers. Beneath
the tall trees in front of it was a little crowd of youths and
maidens, in holyday trim, wearing garlands, with green rushes and
strewing herbs in their arms, or aprons: full they were of smiles and
glee; and, out on the road, all the village was assembled, save the
infirm old and the cradled young; though, of these last, not a few
were borne in their mothers’ arms, or lifted up with honest pride in
those of their brown fathers, whose burning toils a field were, for
this joyous day, forgotten.

From the words passing in these expectant groups, a stranger might
soon have gathered that something more than the common sport of
May-day was engaging the honest and buzzing mob of men, women, and
children, that blocked the street opposite this goodly mansion, and
what that something was. “Better day better luck.”--“A bonny bride is
soon dressed.”--“Honest men marry soon,” said a black-eyed, nut-brown
wife, with a lively babe in her arms, and two curly-headed little ones
holding her apron,--and “Wise men not at all,” added a gruff old
blacksmith, with a seamed visage.--“Ah, it’s no good kicking in
fetters, Roger,” rejoined the laughing wife, at the same time giving
her infant into the horny hands of a stout young woodman, with a green
doublet and a clean white collar, who held it up, kicking and
shrieking with delight, as though it would spring out of his arms, and
chimed in with “Ah, Master Roger, it’s an ill house where the hen
crows loudest.”--“Ah, thou’lt find that some day, Stephen;” for this
he got a heavy slap on his shoulder from the young wife, whose coming
words were checked by the sound of fiddles, as the bridal procession
came forth. “Dear heart,” said she, “how pretty Bessy does look in
that lilac gown with brave red guardings and the golden cawl on her
fair hair, and what a beautiful lace rochet she has.”--“Ah, fine
feathers make fine birds,” said a spinster standing near.--“He’s a
proper man is young Hargood, and should have known better than choose
a wife by the eye.”--“She had rather kiss than spin, I’ll
warrant.”--“Better be half hanged than ill wed.”--“You may know a fool
by her finery.”--“A precious stone should be well set,” said the young
wife, sharply, “and Bessy’s blue eyes and her blushing cheeks are
small matters to her ways and words.” But envy and ill will were
low-voiced, and confined to few, for old Blount and all his house were
well loved by the people; and with many a word of cheerful greeting
they made way for the party, and the most of them followed it to the
church.

The procession was led by a few youths and maidens, with whom were all
the musicians of the village; while others, walking immediately before
the bride and her two bride maidens, strewed the ground, as they went,
with rushes and herbs. The bridegroom, in a suit of violet-coloured
cloth, guarded with velvet of the deepest crimson, and with a falling
collar of worked linen, followed, supported by his bridesmen, in fit
bravery of apparel; next came a group of relations, male and female,
led by the old franklin himself, with his grave and comely wife, and
the men and maids of his household brought up the rear of the
procession. It was met at the churchyard gate by Parson Noble and his
wife,--she joining old Mrs. Blount, and the good vicar, in his snowy
surplice, taking place at the head of it, immediately between the
herb-strewers and the bridal party; and now a gravity and silence
succeeded, and in decency and order all entered the church, and
proceeded with quiet steps to the altar. There, the sweet and solemn
service, which binds together for “better for worse, for richer for
poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do part,” was reverently
and impressively performed by Noble, his own deep and mellow tones
being only interrupted by the manly voice of the bridegroom, and the
faltering accents of the shy and trembling bride, as they gave
utterance to their heart’s true and hallowed responses. No sooner was
the ceremony ended than the bells, which had, for a while, been
silent, struck out with the wedding peal; and as the new married
couple came forth into the churchyard the air was rent with the joyous
acclamations of the crowd without; and the procession returned in
nearly the same order as it had left the house of the worthy franklin,
only, according to the good custom of the time, the parson made one of
the wedding party, and partook of the marriage feast.

Such of the old as could not walk abroad, stood leaning on staves, or
sat dim-eyed on the stones before their doors, to see or hear the
bridal train pass down; for each of these Parson Noble and the
franklin had a kind word as they went by, returned by the benison and
good wishes for the bride, who had herself no voice for any one, and,
supported on her husband’s arm, scarce saw her path through eyes that
were filling from a happy bosom’s overflow.

We shall not detain our reader by describing the dinner at Master
Blount’s; right plentiful was the cheer. Parson Noble said a grace in
rhyme, out of old Tom Tusser’s book of Husbandry, to the great
contentment of his hospitable host, that being the one book by which,
after his Bible, Blount squared his honest life.

    “God sendeth and giveth both mouth and the meat,
    And blesseth us all with his benefits great;
    Then serve we the God, who so richly doth give,
    Show love to our neighbours, and lay for to live.”

This being the franklin’s rule,--while his guests were feasted in the
old oak parlour, at the back of the house; in the pleasant orchard,
all his labourers were regaled with a hearty meal of meat and
plum-porridge; and huge jacks of ale were emptied and replenished, to
the health of bride and bridegroom and good master.

After due carvings of veal and bacon, unlacing of fat capons, and
untrussing of great pies of fruit and other dainties, in the parlour,
and after some mantling cups of wine drank to the happy pair, the old
people yielded to the impatience of the young, and all adjourned to
Robin’s Meadow, not, however, before they had sung, as the grace after
meat, a short psalm of praise.

The meadow, in which from generations before the May-pole was raised,
had a fine level sward, which Blount kept smooth as a bowling-ground
for the dancers, while a part of it rose in swelling banks, shaded by
trees. These, though, as yet, but in early leaf, were gaily green, and
contrasted well with the many-coloured and blushing wreaths of
field-flowers that wound about the May-pole, at the top of which
glittered a small crown, newly gilded in honour of the wedding, and
further adorned with a few of the rarest plants which the gardens of
Cheddar could produce.

A pleasure it was, as they passed into the meadow, to see the happy
children rolling and tumbling and racing down the steep bank, from
which they now scrambled away, to make room for the franklin’s party,
and for the elders of the village, who, from this grassy knoll, were
wont to preside over the pastimes of this holyday. We give not this
scene in detail:--the dances of the young, as, with light and elastic
steps, they bounded to lively measures round the May-pole, and the
nodding heads of the musicians keeping time with the dancers, and the
races and gambols of the ruddy children, each reader may figure forth
to his own fancy. Neither tell we of the pretty ceremonies with which
the milk maids brought their cows, with horns all garlanded, into the
adjoining close, and prepared and offered the delicious syllabub: our
aim is only to give an outline of a village May-day of the times of
which we write, and to show the good parson of the best school of that
period mingling in mirth among his people. Leaving, therefore, the
happy villagers to continue their sports till set of sun, we shall
confine ourselves to the steps of the pastor, and complete the journal
of his day.

As the chimes struck six o’clock, he quietly withdrew, and passed from
the scenes of pleasure and feasting to those of sickness and of
mourning. If he had regarded the former with complacent joy, he was
not the less willing, nor the less prepared, to cheer the latter with
those high contemplations and those tender sympathies to which, by
faith, as a Christian, he could point, and which, in charity, as a
man, he truly felt. Of the old, who were confined to their own
thresholds, he found two or three cross and short, but most of them
garrulous, and in good humour. They had got pleasant portions from the
franklin, and they could tell of old May-days, and heard, with
thankful nods and ready “ayes,” and strong fetchings of the breath,
that were not sighs of grief, the grave good words with which he
taught them how only they could die in peace.

Of his flock only one lay at the point of death, and her he visited
last.

She was the miller’s daughter, and had been the May-queen of the
bygone year. Sacred be such visit, in its most solemn communings! but
we may paint the scene of it, and the trifles which belong to those
sympathies of our humanity, that often survive the resigned hope of
life.

In a tall chair, against the back of which she leaned her head, sate a
pale maiden, warmly wrapped in a robe of white woollen, close to the
small window of an upper chamber, on which the evening sun shone warm:
curling honey-suckles did make a frame to it; and one rose, with an
opening bud, peeped from the trained bush beneath. Upon a little table
near her stood a fragrant branch of May in a cup of water. There were
faint flushes in her transparent cheeks, and there was an unearthly
brightness in her eyes--not fitful--but a calm, steady, serene ray,
that, as the declining sun poured over the damsel its yellow glories,
presented her to the thoughtful gazer such as she might be when
treading the celestial courts above.

“And have you any other wish, my child?” said Noble, as he rose to go.

“Yes, if it be not too foolish.”

“Tell it, my dear.”

“I would like some flowers from the May-pole strewn on my
winding-sheet, and a bit of rosemary from your own garden put in my
hands.”

“And you shall have them,” said Noble, pressing her wan hand in his,
and turning quick away.



CHAP. IV.

    And if physitians in their art did see
    In each disease there was some sparke divine,
      Much more let us the hand of God confesse
      In all these sufferings of our guiltinesse.
                           _A Treatie of Warres._


Night closed on Cheddar, without any other disturbance than a
quarrel--loud and short as a thunder-storm--between the blacksmith and
his old termagant wife, which, Roger being potent in liquor,
terminated in a complete victory on his part; and thus silence, if not
peace, was restored to the quarter in which he dwelt.

Moreover, at the door of the Jolly Woodcutter, the most decent
ale-house in the townlet, an old soldier with one leg, who tramped the
country as a ballad-singer, with a fiddle and a dancing dog, became so
very uproarious that it was found absolutely necessary by the parish
constable to secure his one sturdy limb in the village stocks, where,
after venting a few loud and angry curses at this dignitary, and
abusing the village fiddlers for not playing the grand march of the
king’s beef-eaters to the right tune, he addressed himself to making
as easy a sleeping posture as his wooden fetter would allow; and,
being apparently very familiar with such a resting-place, soon
grumbled off into snoring forgetfulness: his little four-footed
companion and guard did meanwhile drag up the cloak, which he had
dropped some yards from the place of his confinement, and, arranging
it in a soft heap, curled itself thereon with an evident sense of
comfort.

But May-day festivals--though certainly in towns, and in those
parishes in the rural districts where not conducted by discreet
persons, they were often fruitful in scenes of riot and
licentiousness--were not, in the present instance, chargeable with
either of the noisy incidents which had for a half hour frighted the
village from its propriety; seeing that the disputes of Roger and his
rib were of every-day occurrence, and his potations also; and as for
the old soldier, his drinking bouts were regulated by the state of
that narrow poke in which he deposited his uncertain gains; and his
sobriety was never secure while one coin remained in it.

Our parson came forth at the first glimpse of day on the morrow, to
inquire at the mill how the poor sufferer had passed the night. She
was in a profound and calm sleep, and he returned thankfully home,
taking the street which led by the market cross. Nobody was yet
abroad; but, under the great tree in the market place, he saw the old
soldier sitting up in the stocks, and looking about him very forlorn
and penitential. No sooner did he perceive the good vicar approaching,
than he began to plead for his freedom.

“May it please your good reverence, make them loose me. I am not a
pig, that I should be thus pounded:--never said or did harm to man or
Christian, save only in the way of duty, your reverence. I am but a
poor old toss-pike, done up in the wars; and gain an honest livelihood
with this old kit and scraper, and this dumb creature, that shall
dance you jig or coranto with any city madam of them all.”

“Why, I’ll see what I can do; but you would not have been put here for
nothing, friend.”

“Nothing in life, your reverence, but drinking the health of King
Charles in a brimmer, last evening, that was May-day, and a court
holyday all the world over; and then the wound in my old head always
aches, Parson, and I say more nor I mean, and, may be, louder than
your gentles talk.”

“Well, but this is a sorry way of life for an old soldier,--to go
about like a vagabond. Have you no home?”

“Home, bless you! none but this old bit of a cloak.”

“What parish were you born in?”

“Ah! there it is! I was born i’ the camp, in the Low Countries. That
same day that the most noble Sir Philip Sidney was killed, my mother
had a fright from a shot striking the sutler’s waggon, and I came into
the world a month before time.”

“And have you no friends living?”

“None in the wide world that care a split straw whether I am above
ground or under, this blessed day, save, may be, this little dumb
thing that’s used to me.”

“Where did you lose your leg?”

“In the lines before St. Martin, your reverence: it will be thirteen
years agone, come next September; and the right-worshipful knight, Sir
Joseph Burroughs, was killed by the same shot. We used to say in
hospital (you know, your reverence, we were vexed, and it was some of
the officers, in their cups, spoke it out of a play-book,)--

    “‘Off with his head!--So much for Buckingham.’

“Well, they had their wish, in a manner, a year after; and I always
minded after, that Master Felton was one of them.--Poor fellow! He
gave me four-pence in silver, when I hadn’t a halfpenny to buy bread
in London; and that same morning I saw his Grace of Buckingham in a
sedan chair in Whitehall, and I would have tossed my staff before him,
in hope of a largess; but his running footmen, with their fine silver
badges, shouldered me into the gutter, crying, ‘Room for his Grace!
room for my Lord’s Grace!’ Well, it was little room he took or wanted
that day was a month! I was very sorry for Master Felton,--and I went
to see him hanged.”

“You know he was _a murderer_.”

“O yes, I know that; but he gave me four-pence when I was starving;
and, though he was only a lieutenant, he was a better officer than
Buckingham, who was all lace and velvet, satin and feathers:--a likely
man to look upon, and did not want courage; but he knew no more about
commanding an army than the court fool.”

“Don’t you know, friend, that you must one day die yourself; and that
it is a terrible thing to die and go before God without preparation?”

The veteran gave his buff jerkin a twitch, and said, “Why, for the
matter of that, Parson, you see, I am no scholar, and cannot tell a B
from a bull’s foot.”

“You believe in God?”

“Why, Master, haven’t I lain half my life abroad in the open fields,
with the stars shining over my head? Ah, you don’t know what grand
things come into a poor fellow’s mind when he wakes in the night and
sees them bright things above him.”

“Yes, but I do,” said Noble with emotion; “and it is because I do,
that I ask you these things. Do you ever pray to God?”

“Why, bless you, Master, I wouldn’t trouble him about a poor chopstick
like myself.”

“You know the name of Christ, friend?”

“Yes,” said the homeless wanderer, and bowed his grey head.

“And what are your thoughts of him?”

“Why that he’ll be so good as to speak a word to God Almighty for me,”
was the man’s strange yet pregnant answer. It is this mixture of
recklessness, ignorance, and the mysterious worship of that inner
spirit, which struggles upwards after something to which the heart may
reach, and where it may finally rest, that makes every human being a
subject of sad yet of sublime contemplation;--a fellow, a brother, an
immortal spirit, passing here below his brief time of sojourning, but
born for eternity.

Our good vicar was a true messenger of peace:--we need not say more
than that this and all such opportunities were gladly improved by him.
He sowed beside all waters. In the present instance the old soldier
was speedily released, and taken up to the parsonage, and there, in
the shady porch, he had a hearty breakfast; and when the little
household assembled for prayer the wondering wayfarer was brought into
the hall, and heard the more excellent way very plainly set before
him,--and was then suffered to depart with bread in his wallet, and a
parting word of solemn warning and brotherly kindness, as he set
forward on his path, carrying with him the new thought and feeling,
that, though he was a ballad singer and a sot, accustomed only to
revilings, he had found a man of God, who had not passed him by, but
had served him, and soothed him, and cared for his soul.

Such a man and such a minister was our parson of Cheddar: he had been
now resident in the parish for fifteen years. Hither he had then
brought a sensible wife,--of many rare accomplishments, and of a solid
piety. Three fine children then played in their garden: of these,
their girl had been taken from them in her twelfth year; and their two
boys, who had both attained the age of manhood, had quitted the
paternal roof, and taken their respective paths in life. Cuthbert, the
eldest, had been educated at Winchester College, had afterwards passed
through his university course at Cambridge, and was now domiciled, as
has been already seen, in the house of Sir Oliver Heywood, as a tutor.

Martin, the youngest, had been five years at Westminster School as a
day scholar, under the care, during that period, of one Mr. Philips, a
worshipful and wealthy gentleman, of the most honourable company of
Goldsmiths, and brother to the late Sir John Philips, knight, a very
eminent merchant in the Levant trade, who, having made an unsuccessful
speculation, and losing his whole venture, had taken the failure of
his fortunes so much to heart, that he sickened and died soon after,
leaving behind him one portionless daughter. This girl, while under
the roof of her uncle, who was very considerably the junior of her
father in age, was seen and admired by Noble, and had soon become his
welcome prize.

With this maternal uncle, Martin, at his own request, was placed, as
soon as he quitted school, that he might be brought up in the same
thriving business. He quickly became remarkable for his taste and
skill in the art of design, and as a fine judge of precious stones, so
that his uncle predicted for him great eminence and wealth in the line
which he had chosen; but Martin chancing one day to wait upon Vandyck
with an ornamental piece of plate which a nobleman presented to that
great genius, and being questioned about the design, confessed, with
some hesitation, that it was his own. Hereupon the painter broke out
into praise so warm, and took such notice of the youth, that, to
Martin, a painter did soon seem the highest style of man;--to be of
this bright company was now the highest object of his ambition. He
had a strong will; for this he rose early, and late took rest: and the
bent of his inclination became so decided, and his promise of
excellence so great, that his uncle, at the recommendation of Vandyck,
determined to afford him the opportunity and advantage of visiting
Italy, and pursuing his studies in the city of Rome. There, surrounded
by the great models of the divine art to which he was devoted, daily
extending his knowledge, and increasing his delight, Martin lived at
once to labour and to enjoy.

But the absence of these dear boys, though necessary, was severely
felt by Noble and his wife; nor, in those days, were communications by
letter of regular or frequent occurrence, even at home,--and of
course, from abroad, very rare and most uncertain.

The good vicar, though anxious about Martin’s residence at Rome, was
not wanting in true sympathy for his pursuits; having himself a taste
for the arts, which he had improved by a leisure tour through Italy
(before his marriage) as tutor and guardian to a young gentleman of
large possessions in Oxfordshire.

Nothing could be more retired than the life led by these childless
parents at Cheddar.

It is a large village, or townlet, situate at the foot of the Mendip
Hills, in Somersetshire, and lying pleasantly sheltered on the
south-west side of that bleak and naked chain. The noble tower of its
fine old church is richly adorned with double buttresses, pinnacles,
and pierced parapets, and in the open space, which forms the centre of
its few irregular streets, is an ancient hexagonal market cross, where
the wayfarer may find a shelter from the hot suns of July, or from the
heavy rains of winter. The neighbourhood of Cheddar is romantic: it
commands a fine view, in one direction, over a rich and extensive
level; and it is immediately surrounded by rich, well-watered
pastures, always verdant. Within a mile of the market cross before
mentioned, on the road to Wells, there is a narrow, but a stupendous
pass, or chasm, by which the chain of the lofty hills of Mendip is
cleft, as it were, in sunder. The road winds through the bottom of
this strange defile; the cliffs rise on either side--ragged, scarped,
and terrific in their aspect--presenting, in many places, a sheer fall
of four hundred feet. Nothing can more sublimely impress the spirit of
a lonely traveller than the passage of this wild ravine, on a day of
cloud, and gloom, and rushing winds. In the sunny calm of summer, when
the wild pink, springing from the crevices of the rocks, adorns the
scene with something of gentleness, it is still of uncommon grandeur.
Black yews project from the larger fissures: here is a narrow ledge
covered with verdure; there a thick mantle of ivy clothes the summit:
here the mountain ash slants forward in its fantastic growth; while
yet, in many places, the craggy front is naked and dazzling as a wall
of stone.

By this road, once a week, the quiet parson ambled on an old grey
horse to the fair city of Wells to refresh and recreate his spirit at
a private music meeting in the Close; nor did he ever omit on these
occasions to pass one hour of joy and praise in its magnificent
cathedral. Upon the breezy summits of the Mendip hills, which
bordered this road, he spent many serene and healthful hours. His life
was most even in its tenour; and the scenes around him, though daily
before his eyes, were as dear to him, or more so, than when, first
entering on residence, he had surveyed them with grateful rapture.

Villages, however, like kingdoms, have their revolutions; and the
chronicles of them are preserved in chimney-corners with more or less
of fidelity, according to the interest of the events and the worth of
the characters who figured in them.

These rustic historians have a mode of reckoning very different from
citizens. With prime ministers they have nought to do. Their
government is nearer to them, and they have never wanted wit enough to
know when that was good or evil. Over these rural communities the
ruler has, from time immemorial, been the lord of the manor, or the
chief franklin, or the parson of the parish. According as these
personages were disposed to promote religion and happiness, or to look
with indifference on vice and misery, the rustic population was
contented and cheerful, (because industrious in their callings, and
peaceable in their lives,) or they were sullen and profligate. Under
the joint reign of Franklin Blount and Parson Noble the inhabitants of
Cheddar had long dwelt together in comfort and harmony; but this is a
world of change,--and many things in the aspect of public affairs, of
which the villagers heard and heeded little, gave serious warning to
the prescient mind of Noble, that trouble was near.

He was so beloved and respected by his people, and so regarded and
confided in by the worthy franklin, that he had hitherto been able to
evade, counteract, or over-rule, for the good of his flock, those
strange enactments which had been from time to time so inconsiderately
imposed. That which enjoined him to _publish_ the Book of Sports on
the Sabbath-day he totally disregarded. On this point he would have
consented to deprivation rather than obey. Hence he became suspected,
by some parsons of a very different stamp, for a puritan; and there
were not wanting uncharitable surmises among these concerning the
course which Master Noble would take in the hour of trial; not that
those who really knew him well ever doubted of that course at all.

But while these surmises were, as regarded himself, utterly devoid of
foundation, it was asserted by some of his friends at Wells, the
correctness of whose judgments and the charity of whose sentiments
well accorded with his own, that his son Cuthbert had imbibed, from
his late associates at Cambridge, a spirit of a very dangerous nature.
Cuthbert had a large philanthropy, and a resolute courage to sustain
and act out those promptings of benevolence which his love of freedom
was continually urging upon his mind. Virtuous in his character,
sanguine in his hopes, present evils he saw, and for present remedies
he panted--but he looked not far on to consequences. A notion of his
state of mind may be found in the letter which follows:--

    “Most dear Father,

     “You tell me in your last letter, which I have read over many
     times with serious thought, that my mother wishes me to send
     her a more particular account of this place and family, that
     she may the better see my present courses with the eye of her
     mind.--I will make a trial of my pen to set these matters in
     some order before her--and, first, of this mansion: it is a
     goodly fabric of stone, built by the father of the present
     knight in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He, as you know,
     exchanged some of his full money-bags for a fair estate in
     land, and closed all his great and prosperous ventures in
     commerce by a wise retirement to the noble pleasures of a
     country life. A situation more pleasant than this of Milverton
     you may not see in all the journey through these parts. The
     house standeth on a fine swelling slope of verdant ground, and
     is well sheltered by stately trees on three sides, but to the
     front the prospect is open, and maketh the heart dance with
     gladness, it is so full of delight. Looking to the south, you
     see the towers of that famous castle of Guy of Warwick. This
     castle is seated on a rock, very high, upon the river Avon, and
     hath a look of strength and of great majesty; as seen against
     the light of the distant sky--nothing can be more grand and
     commanding;--also, from the middle of the good city of Warwick,
     the fair pinnacles of the lofty tower of St. Mary’s Church do
     pierce the heaven, and she standeth like a crowned queen. I do
     fear for her diadem, for they say that the embattled keep of
     ancient Guy frowneth on our lady: but, turning the eyes from
     these stately objects, which the intervening woods may not
     conceal, directly below Milverton the river flows through a
     fair valley of green pastures; and there cannot be, in all
     England, a mill more pleasant to look upon and listen to than
     Guy’s mill: it standeth upon the farther bank of the Avon, over
     which there is a foot-bridge of wood, very narrow, and long
     enough to reach across a small meadow, which, when the waters
     are out, is always flooded. Not far from this mill, to the
     left, and upon the same bank, is an old decayed chapel, where I
     have seen a rude statue of the renowned Guy, more than eight
     feet in length; and near to this spot, close by the side of the
     water, there is a cave in the rock, where, as a hermit, he
     ended his days. But I will say no more of these places, of
     which report may have reached you through the discourse of
     others.

     “Milverton House lacks nothing of furniture that money and good
     taste may command. There is a profusion of very fine carved oak
     in the hall and in the winter-parlour. In the latter, over the
     fire-place, is a curious representation of the meeting of Jacob
     and Esau; and inscribed above are the words, ‘With my staff I
     passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands.’ And in
     the private chamber of Sir Oliver is another piece, in three
     compartments, Jacob lying down alone in the Wilderness--the
     Vision of the Ladder of Angels--and Jacob setting up his Pillar
     of Remembrance.

     “I name these things rather than the rich hangings and the
     handsome carpets which cover some of the tables, and the ebony
     cabinets, and the massy plate, because I know that they would
     give more contentment to my pious mother than all the
     costliness and bravery in the king’s palace.

     “In the small room appointed for me, there is a posy worked
     upon a sampler, hung against the wall, that runneth thus:--

    “What better bed than conscience good, to pass the night with sleep;
    What better work than daily care, from sin thyself to keep.”

     And there is an engraved portrait of Luther, with the words ‘In
     silentio et in spe erit fortitudo vestra.’ I cannot look upon
     these things without being deeply reminded of those feeling
     lectures of piety which the lips of my dear mother have read to
     me from my very childhood; but, truth to say, my dear parents,
     I feel an angel plucking me by the sleeve, and whispering in my
     ear that my stay in this sweet abode will not be long. Sir
     Oliver and Mistress Alice and Mistress Katharine entreat me
     with that kind civility and favourable respect, which make my
     days happy, and I find Master Arthur so docile and of such
     lively parts that my office is never irksome.

     “Nothing can be more orderly than the manner of life here; and
     although the good knight is most hospitable, yet, as he doth
     not use the exercise of hunting, and has no park, the visiters
     are not many. He rides daily in the forenoon, and will
     sometimes go to see the stag-hounds of Stoneleigh Abbey throw
     off, with which pack he hunted for twenty years; but his chief
     delight now is in the culture of his garden and orchards, and
     of a vineyard, which he has laid out, at a great cost, on a
     favourable site, one mile from the mansion. All the farms in
     the village of Milverton are his, and his tenants are the sons
     of those who held the land under his father; so that the hamlet
     is but one large family, of which Sir Oliver is the head.

     “Mistress Katharine, his daughter, rides constantly with her
     father, except when she takes the diversion of hawking, or goes
     out after the beagles with her young cousin, Arthur, who is as
     high-spirited and active a youth in the field, as he is earnest
     and persevering in the study. To see Mistress Katharine fly a
     hawk is gladsome; and although I have, from boyhood, accounted
     that sport cruel and unfeminine, yet, when I look on that
     inspiring sight, I deem it so no longer; certain I am that her
     mind did never once connect the thought of cruelty with a usage
     so common. She, too, seems as eager to learn what my poor
     scholarship can teach her as my own pupil; and if a tutor can
     be happy, I am, in the privilege of reading with this noble
     maiden, and seeing her fine countenance lighted up with the
     love of wisdom and of truth.

     “But this state of things is far too bright to last. When a man
     dareth to think differently from those around him, he will soon
     become an object of suspicion and prejudice. I feel that my
     trial in this kind will assuredly come; for Sir Oliver, with
     all his kindness, has so rooted a dislike to all change in the
     established order of things, that a word against the undue
     stretch of the king’s authority, against the tyranny of the
     starchamber, or those abuses in the state, which are manifest
     to her best friends, would be enough to make his countenance
     change towards me past recovery.

     “Upon these subjects, you, my dear father, have written to me
     with more earnestness and fear than I should have looked for.
     You tell me that I see not the inevitable consequences which
     must follow from the acting out of those opinions and
     sentiments with which I am so captivated. I confess that I am
     an ardent friend to civil and religious liberty. I desire to
     see the laws administered without fear or favour; to see
     taxation imposed by the Commons alone, and to see purity and
     charity preaching from our pulpits and ministering at our
     altars. You must not blame me: these were the desires that you
     implanted, when you taught me the immutable and eternal
     principles of justice, and when, both by lip and in your life,
     you showed me how sacred was the character, and how hallowed
     were the duties, of an ambassador for Christ. I look for
     reformation in the state, and purification of the church. You,
     perhaps, despair of either; and therefore you dread an ill
     result to the patriotic and pure efforts which so many great
     and good men are now making. Some of the best and wisest of my
     college friends think with them. Of that number are my late
     tutor and my late chamber-fellow, with both of whom you
     expressed yourself so much delighted, when, during my last year
     of residence, you visited Cambridge. I confess, frankly, that I
     hold their sentiments, and entertain hopes of ultimate good to
     my country as sanguine as theirs. The cause of liberty must
     triumph.

     “Your last letter gave but little hope of poor Fanny at the
     mill: what a fair, cheerful, good girl she was. Martin will be
     very sorry when he hears about her: if you remember, he was
     always for dancing with Fanny on May-day.

     “I am glad to hear that Bessy Blount is going to be married.
     She will make Tom Hargood’s farm as happy a home as any in
     England. However, I will not talk about weddings,--the very
     word makes me melancholy. I am just now preparing a short
     masque, which we are to perform next week, in honour of Sir
     Oliver’s birth-day. I suppose Martin, as well as myself, has
     very different notions of female beauty now to any we gathered
     at Cheddar; though, I doubt, if we shall either of us become
     the happier for our knowledge. Rosy cheeks and laughing eyes
     are joyous and pleasant to look upon, but they seldom beget
     cureless heart-aches, or plant the long-lived sorrow:--all this
     is very idle. The love of country is the next best love to that
     of God, and, after that, the most rewarding.

     “I suppose that you will soon have a letter from Rome: no doubt
     Martin is very happy among the galleries and studios of that
     ancient city. I often wish that I could be transported there
     for an hour, and see him, as he stands alone, before a
     master-piece of Raphael, and sighs for the very fulness of his
     admiration. Forget not to let me hear the earliest news of
     Martin. I shall think of you all on May-day at old Blount’s;
     but, as the good old country customs are kept up here with
     great spirit, shall have no leisure to grieve over my absence
     from Cheddar, till night restores me to the solitude of my
     chamber, and to that sacred companionship with you in prayer,
     which I ever maintain.

     “Your dutiful and loving son,
     “CUTHBERT NOBLE.
     “_Milverton, April 20, 1640._”



CHAP. V.

    Now winde they a recheat, the roused deer’s knell,
      And through the forrest all the beasts are aw’d;
    Alarm’d by Eccho, Nature’s sentinel,
      Which shows that murd’rous man is come abroad.
                                          _Gondibert._


Early in the morning of the day after that on which the rehearsal at
Milverton House was interrupted by the humiliating scene already
recorded, Cuthbert sallied forth, while the first rays of the level
sun were reflected back by glittering dewdrops; and brushing them with
swift steps from his path, crossed the foot-bridge near Guy’s mill,
and was soon lost to view in the woods upon the far side of the Avon.
The mill was already at work, but he lingered not to gaze upon the
rushing waters. His eye glanced at the glad scene, and his ear drank
in the living sound; but the prosy old miller was at his door, and his
daughter stood on the stepping stones below, watching the white
breasted ducks that played in the back current, therefore, with a
short “good morrow,” that waited for no reply, he passed onwards, for
he was bound on an errand of mercy. Although the old body, Margery,
had escaped the persecution of yesterday, there was good ground for
fearing that it would be soon and more cruelly repeated, if she
continued to dwell in her lonely and exposed hovel; and Cuthbert had
found a poor bricklayer from Coventry, who was then employed in
repairing the roof of an outhouse at Milverton, and who had witnessed
the scene of the day before with a true Christian feeling, quite
willing to give the old woman a lodging in the small house in the mean
alley in which he dwelt, for such consideration as Cuthbert was
willing to pay. With this proposal of shelter and security he sought
the wood, in the bosom of which, beneath a sand-stone rock, in a
forsaken pit, was poor Margery’s desolate abode. From the rude clay
chimney, in the blackened thatch, curled a blue wreath of smoke: he
leaned against the rock above, and called to Margery, but there was
no reply. He went down and entered the hut. Upon a low stretcher on a
coarsely plaited mat of straw, dressed in the same rags in which she
walked abroad, she lay fast asleep, and her breathing sounded soft as
that of a child,--a raven with a clipped wing and club-foot hopped
upon the floor, and croaked at the intrusion; but the sound, though
loud, did not awaken her. “I will not fright away a sleep so
friendly,” thought Cuthbert: he went forth again, and seated himself
beneath a stately oak at no great distance. In an open grassy glade
not far off, in front, a few deer were feeding,--the scene around was
peace and beauty,--trees, herbs, beasts of the field and fowls of the
air were declaring the glory and praising the goodness of a present
God. In silent rapture Cuthbert mused his praise; but adoration was
succeeded by a sense of pain,--another scene, another image,
interposed between the sunny objects before him and his mental vision.
The stony desolation of Mount Calvary, and the black sky above, and
the pale and holy forehead with its crown of thorns, came up startling
and apparent, and reminded him that he was the inhabitant of a fallen
world. This solemn turn being given to his thoughts, his mind
reverted, with serious consideration, to the views of that party in
the state which was already designated by the name of Puritans, and
which had been hitherto, and but for the questions of civil liberty
now widely agitated would still have been, a by-word and a reproach
among the people. “It is true,” said he, “a Christian must be a
mourner--he cannot be other than a mourner; but yet, are we not
graciously commanded to serve the Lord with gladness? is the
countenance always to be sad? is there to be no rejoicing in the light
of the sun? Where is the middle ground between these two great parties
in church and state? Why is not a great and overwhelming majority of
moderate men found there to defend the best interests of all?” The
thoughts to which he thus gave utterance would have found a response
in the bosoms of thousands--indeed they were the very sentiments of
his own father; only that good man knew, what Cuthbert was as yet
ignorant of,--a knowledge which he was soon to purchase at the heavy
price of a most bitter and heart-breaking experience. He had yet to
learn that, in times of public commotion, there is no middle path, and
that a party does too often take the colour of the very worst persons
among those who compose it. The cant of the fanatic and the curses of
the cavaliers alike disgusted him. But yet he was of an age when men
will be sanguine about having the world mended according to their
desired pattern; and his heart glowed with the hope that the best men
of the parliament side would in the end triumph over the cold and
severe intolerance of the high church party, would control the power
of the crown, and would effect great and glorious things for the
liberty and the happiness of England. With these sentiments he had a
very difficult card to play at Milverton, for Sir Oliver was a decided
enemy to the party which he secretly approved; and some of the
neighbouring gentlemen, holding the same opinions with the knight,
gave a much coarser expression to them. He had to hold his mouth as
with a bridle in their presence. Among these persons by far the most
obnoxious was Sir Charles Lambert, a gentleman of about
five-and-thirty, related to Sir Oliver, and residing within a few
miles, at Bolton Grange, upon a fine property, with two younger
sisters left dependent on him.

He had been a great deal about the court formerly, and in his youth
had been attached, for a few years, to the retinue of the late Duke of
Buckingham. Not proving of a capacity for public affairs, he had been
thrown back upon country life, without the true refinements of a
courtier, but with all those vices and fopperies, which, in the train
of Buckingham, it was not difficult to acquire. He covered with satin
and musk a heart as brutal and savage as one of his own
hounds,--resembling in nothing that generous and warm race of men the
country gentlemen of England but in a fine person and in a passion for
the chase. Nevertheless he did so conceal from Sir Oliver his true
character, that he was always made welcome at Milverton. In such
thoughts the mind of Cuthbert was tossed about as on a troubled sea;
and from mere weariness he fell into a contemplation of the sweetness
of nature, and the soft manner of her nursing, when we lie still and
passive in her lap, and look upon her face. So long a time had he
lingered in this green haunt, that the sun was three hours high; and
the great clock of Warwick, striking seven, warned him to return home.
Of the small herd in the open glade a few were still grazing,--others,
and a noble hart among them, lay in perfect repose: but, suddenly,
every neck was raised and turned--the ears stood erect--the nostrils
distended and closed--the eyes dilated--and then, as by accord, they
all stole slowly off to the rocky and difficult ground above them. He
looked around, and could see nothing to alarm them; but, in the same
instant, the blast of a distant hunting horn came up faint on the
wind: the sound was again heard nearer; and the loud voice of dogs in
concert, shrill yet deep, made the woods echo with notes that silenced
every bird, and drove away all the panting creatures from their lairs.
Yet was it a gallant sight--a sight to stir the blood--as within some
twenty yards of the tree under which Cuthbert stood, the chase in
full career swept by:--with antlers well thrown back, in its last
staggering speed, came a blown stag, with a stanch hound so close upon
its flank, you looked to see the fine creature torn down instantly;
not far behind, two leash of dogs were hanging on its track, their
mouths loud opening for prey:--with shouts of joy, and pace
precipitate, the huntsmen followed,--a small but eager band on gallant
steeds all foaming at the mouth, and stained with sweat. Swift as a
vision of the night they passed, and from beyond a swell of ground in
front a winding horn sent forth the well known mort. Cuthbert,
naturally excited, ran to a knoll before him, which might command the
country beyond. On the side of an open slope, at some considerable
distance, he saw the last act of the death. The lifted knife, all red
and reeking, was in the hand of a stranger of noble presence, by whose
side stood Sir Charles Lambert. The lordly game lay stretched upon the
ground, and near, with lolling tongues and panting sides, the hounds
lay gasping as for life. The riders were all dismounted, and their
horses, with drooping heads and their hind quarters sunk and
contracted, stood stiff and motionless beside them. By the loud and
exulting voices of the sportsmen you might know that the run had been
severe; two or three lagging horsemen were seen coming up in their
track; and by a cross path, just above the spot where the stag was
killed, two foresters on foot burst down at the top of their speed,
and joined the group that now more closely surrounded the noble game.
The sound had brought out all the household at Milverton, from whence
the slope was plainly to be seen. The boy Arthur, with some of the
serving-men, ran down the pathway towards Guy’s mill, while Cuthbert
could discern Sir Oliver standing out on the terrace, and Mistress
Katharine by his side, with a loose white kerchief thrown over her
head, to keep off the rays of the sun, which were already powerful.

The hunters now sounded the relief, and waved their caps towards
Milverton; intimating, by that note and action, that they would claim
the hospitality of the mansion; and then, leading their tired horses
by the bridle, they proceeded thither by the mill. Cuthbert, unseen
himself, watched all their motions; and when they had disappeared
within the gates of Milverton, and all below and around him was again
still, he turned, with a dead and jaded interest, towards the
sand-pit. Upon the edge of it, near the rock, he saw the bent figure
of Margery, as if in the act of listening; and as she raised her head,
and observed him walking to the spot, she hastily disappeared below.

He stepped quickly after her; but the door was already barred; and
when he knocked and called to her, the hoarse croak of the raven was
the sole reply. He rapped more loudly,--still the same voice of ill
omen replied; but as he persisted, and said words to re-assure her,
the door was slowly opened, and the withered tenant of the pit
appeared.

“Is it you, young master?” said Margery; “and are you alone, and is
there no hunter with you?”

“There is no one with me,” he replied: “the hunters have gone over the
river.”

“That’s well, that’s well, master: a hunting day, if the game takes
this way, is ever an ill day with me. They that be cowards alone, are
bold in merry company; and I have had a whip on my old shoulders, and
the dogs hounded on me before now, if any thing crossed their sport.
Three years ago, last fall, when his best hound, Bevis, was killed in
the hollow yonder, nothing would serve the turn of Sir Charles but to
float my poor old carcass across the river, and to weigh me against
the church Bible! But he hath had many a sleepless night for that; and
bold as he looks by day, the ticking of a death-watch will keep him
shivering in his bed.”

“What do you mean, Margery? The folk may well think you a witch for
words such as these.”

“Why, I mean,” said the old woman wilfully and spitefully, “that I
never wished ill to any one, but ill came upon ’em.”

“Had I thought this of you yesterday, I should have been slow to ask
any one to give you house room; but you are God’s creature, and have
been crossed with ill usage; and when you find yourself beneath the
roof of a Christian, safe from all enemies, your heart will melt, and
you will taste God’s peace yourself, and wish it to others. I have
found a good man, that lives in Croft’s Alley in Coventry, and he will
give you a chamber and a chimney corner, and kind words, and a stout
arm to protect you; and when we get you safe there your thoughts will
be quiet.”

“Hout-tout! what talk ye about Alley and a chimney corner? haven’t I
my own ingle, and my own ways, and my own company? What voice more
pleasant to me than those I heard when I was young, and hear still?
What’ll take better care of me than that old bird? Few there be that
don’t shun to pass close by this hut; and they that come to it step
swiftly back again. I was told, with a curse, that I might not live
any where else, many years ago; and here I shall stop till my old
bones crumble.”

“Why, mother, why, you might starve here if you were taken ill, and
none to help you.”

“Well, death is but death, let it come how it will.”

“But hunger is a bad death; and besides, are you not in constant
danger of being taken up, and losing your life for a witch? Why, this
bird that you keep, and your words and ways, will surely bring you to
the stake one of these days.”

“Let the day come, if it is to come; and as to dying of hunger, where,
think you, do the foxes die? and where do the birds of the air die?
Why, they that escape the hounds die in their holes; and they that the
bird-bolt misses find a dying place in some nest or corner. Go your
way, young master! I am no tame rabbit, to be kept in a town hutch,
and tormented by children. I don’t want to be led to church, and hear
the parson’s jabber about my old soul.”

“Do not utter such wickedness, unhappy woman. It were charity to think
you crazed, and take you into safe keeping against your will.”

At this the old woman gave a shriek of passion, fitful as that of a
thwarted child, and then, suddenly overcome by fear, fell upon her
aged knees, and lifted and joined her withered hands, and implored
Cuthbert, with wild earnestness, never to have her moved.

“Look you, young master, winter and summer, here I have watched and
waked these many years. It’s a small matter of meal that makes my
porridge;--some give it for pity, and some give it for fear. There’s
no lack of rotten sticks to keep me warm: yonder spring is never dry;
and it’s free I am to go and to come, and nothing here to flout or to
fret me: the deer and the kine take no count of me--the pretty
creatures don’t fear me; and it’s not all the world calling me witch
that will make them. That place is best we think best. Oh, for the
love of God, master, let me alone--let me rot where I am.”

Cuthbert’s mind was in an agony of prayer; but his tongue clave to the
roof of his mouth. He would have said much; but he could speak
nothing. He gave her alms; and telling her that he would do nothing
against her will--nothing to make her unhappy, but that he would come
and see her again--he raised her from her knees, and went upon his way
homewards.

“My father would not thus have left her,” was his first thought. “He
would have found some way to break into her heart. Strange
world--strange thing this human life! This old solitary miserable has
been wrapped in swaddling clothes, even as others--has been suckled at
a human breast--has grasped, with tiny hand, a father’s finger--and
been kissed, and muched; and now, she has survived all kindred--lost
all defence of strength or money--hath none of wisdom, and because her
back is crooked, and nose and chin have come well nigh together, she
has been hunted from her kind, and dwells apart. As God is love,--and
that he is I cannot doubt and live,--this is a mystery! It’s a skein
so much entangled that my poor wit can not unwind it.”

Muttering to himself these wayward fancies, he hurried back to
Milverton as to his heart’s home. There he could see sunlight upon the
earth, and feel warm in the comfort of it. Nor in his then mood was he
sorry that the guest chambers would be full: he wished a day of
cheerful cups, and pleasant voices, and music. Thus absorbed, he
reached the mill, and passed it as swiftly as in the morning.

“There he goes,” said the old miller, speaking to his daughter, who
was spreading out some linen to bleach--“There he goes, as shy as a
hare, and as fast as if he were making for his form. I never gets a
bit of chat with him. He’s not much for company.”

“Why, father,” replied the girl, coming upon the pathway, “he’s a
scholar, you know, and that’s the fashion of them, you know.”

“Well, it’s a bad fashion to go poking about the woods as lonesome as
a stray mule; no good comes of those crazy fashions. I like an open
face, and an open hand, and a free tongue.”

“Eh! he can talk fast enough, I’ll warrant me, if he had a sweetheart
to talk to.”

“He talk to a sweetheart! She must be a poor silly body that would
listen. There are merry men and merry hearts enough in old England for
the lasses to choose from, without giving ear to such as he.”

“Well, they give him kind words at the Hall,--and they say he’s always
more for good than harm; and I find him pleasant spoken enough when he
comes to angle in the mill-pool.”

“There it is! I can never make him say a dozen words, black or white;
now Parson Mullins will chat free for an hour on, and tosses you off a
pot of ale with good words and good will. Why, he and I have smoked
many a pipe together; and he’s a clerk, and a rare scholar too. He
doesn’t give you ignorant stuff o’ Sundays; but Latin, and Greek, and
all the best that he has learned at college. That’s the man for my
money.”

“Well, father, for the matter o’ that, I like to know what folk are
saying; and it might be gipsy language for all you or I are the
wiser.”

“I know where you got that lesson, Miss Pert; that’s what the old
Puritan pedlar said the other day,--rot him! he shall take seat on the
old wive’s ducking-stool if he comes this way again.”

“I am sure he was a quiet civil man; and you have not had a better
piece of linen, or a cheaper, than he sold us, this many a year.”

“Hang his linen, and him too!” rejoined the sturdy old miller. “I
didn’t like the cut of his black head;” and with that he passed into
the mill, and the girl went towards the dwelling.

While this dialogue was passing, Cuthbert Noble was rapidly ascending
the path, which rose gently over a swelling field of luxuriant grass,
to Milverton. Certainly there was much about Cuthbert to excuse the
prejudice of the miller. He was of low stature, with a long visage and
grave aspect; and there was a peculiar expression of his eye, which
disturbed or repelled those who saw him for a first time, or who saw
him not at his ease; but to those whom, upon a nearer acquaintance,
he liked, his dark eye beamed with light; the expression about his
mouth was humane and gentle; his voice was low, and rather tremulous
before strangers; he never laughed, and seldom smiled, save with his
eyes, which gave quick and lively response to whatever pleased him.
Though, in his first manhood, he was not without a knowledge of life
and of the human heart, for his reading had been extensive; and he had
that felicity of apprehension, by which the lessons of books are most
happily caught, and most easily applied to the heart’s daily wants.
Moreover, he had all those graces of persuasion by which a pupil is
best won upon and encouraged to climb the steep hill of fame. More
happily placed he could not have been than in the family of Sir Oliver
Heywood, but for one circumstance--he was too happy. A fear lay
beating in his bosom. He dared not confess to himself the strange, yet
deep, sentiments of admiration with which he regarded the daughter of
the worthy knight. He would fain persuade himself that it was nothing
but an emotion of gratitude to Mistress Katharine for that generous
courtesy which would not suffer a scholar of gentle birth to want such
attention and respect as she might delicately pay to him. Here,
however, his wisdom was at fault. In vain had books taught him the
misery of misplaced affections. He was launching out upon an unknown
sea that has no shore.



CHAP. VI.

    Some snakes must hiss, because they’re born with stings.


The table in Milverton Hall was already surrounded by the hungry
guests; and a substantial old English breakfast, well suited to the
appetites and the digestion of active and manly hunters, was spread
before them. They were so busied over the cold joints and the venison
pasties, or with the amber ale that foamed in silver tankards, as
scarcely to notice the entrance of a latecomer, and therefore Cuthbert
slipped into a vacant place at the bottom of the table, without other
greeting than the good-humoured nod of a ruddy-looking young parson
seated opposite, as he raised a tankard to his lips. There was little
talk, save a few words about the sport, until having fairly finished
their meal, the chairs were backed a little from the huge oaken table;
the serving men lifted off the large dishes, still weighty with good
fare, removed the trenchers, and having carried round the basin and
ewer, large silver cups, filled with canary wine, prepared, after the
fashion of the time, with sugar and with certain herbs, so as to make
a delicious beverage in warm weather, were placed upon the table. The
short grace “Benedicto benedicatur” having been uttered by George
Juxon, the youthful rector alluded to, Sir Oliver took the massive cup
which stood before himself, and intimating to Juxon to follow his
example with the other, he rose, and giving for a toast, “His most
gracious Majesty King Charles,” took a small draught of it, and passed
the cup to the noble looking gentleman who had been sitting on his
right hand, and was then standing by his side. The toast passed round
with an audible “God bless him!” from every guest, after the example
of the loyal host.

“Ah, Sir Philip,” observed the worthy knight to the noble stranger
near him, “we have fallen upon evil times; and it is grievous to think
that there should be one house in all England where the health of his
most sacred Majesty may no longer be duly drunk, as is becoming in
all good and true subjects.”

“Yet, I fear,” replied Sir Philip Arundel, “there are many in which
the King’s health is no longer a standing toast: unquestionably
republican feelings and principles have made great progress among the
burgher classes generally, and have infected not a few above them.”

“It is those sour-faced, canting rogues, the prick-eared,
psalm-singing Puritans, that are doing all the mischief,” said Sir
Charles Lambert: “we want their ears, after the Turkish fashion,
cropped by sacksful.”

“But it is not calling them names, or cutting off their ears,” said
George Juxon, “that will put them down; neither will all the water in
your horse-ponds quench the fire in any of their bosoms.”

“Very likely; but there is nothing like trying what will stop them;
and as sure as ever I catch any of the hypocritical rogues praying and
singing near our parish they shall have a bellyful of muddy water, and
a back-load of smart blows with whip or cudgel.”

There was an expression of most irrepressible disgust on the
countenance of Cuthbert Noble as Sir Charles uttered this brutal
speech; which Sir Charles observing, he turned quickly to Sir Oliver,
and added, “These are times in which we should look well to all our
housemates, for fear we should be fostering some of these godly
knaves, who cover their false hearts with closed lips and demure
faces, and may corrupt our children and our servants.”

“You mean me,” said Cuthbert, starting on his feet with an energy
which startled every one at table, and took Sir Charles so totally by
surprise that he turned pale and livid, and seemed at a loss for
words.

“Sir Oliver,” pursued the youthful tutor in a glow of indignation that
overspread his cheeks, and made his eyes glance fire, “I have long and
often endured the contemptuous and studied insults of your haughty
kinsman on his visits here; and while they were only directed against
me as a poor scholar and a dependant, it was well:--happy in your
favour, and in the attachment and respect of the gentle young master,
who is my pupil, I could afford to look down upon the dwarfish stature
of so mean a mind; but when he would thus----”

Before it was possible to arrest him, Sir Charles, who sat upon the
same side of the table, had run behind him, and, ere he could turn,
inflicted a deep wound in his back with a large hunting-knife. The
young student fell, bathed in his blood, upon the floor; and all the
household, already brought near to the door by the loudness of the
voices, rushed into the hall. Nothing was more affecting than to see
the terrified agony and loud sobs of the noble boy Arthur, who stood
over his fainting tutor with tears, and would neither be comforted nor
removed.

George Juxon had instantly seized Sir Charles with an iron grasp. Sir
Oliver was troubled, and scarce knew how to act; while Sir Philip
Arundel, the most self-possessed of the party, desired the attendants
to send swiftly to Warwick for a surgeon, and suggested to Sir Oliver
that the aggressor should be committed to his charge, and that he
would take him to his own home, and be responsible for his appearance
to answer for the crime which he had just committed, when the charge
should be preferred against him in due order. But George Juxon
required that he should remain in custody at Milverton until it was
ascertained whether the stab inflicted on Cuthbert might not prove
fatal.

The ladies of Milverton, who were absent, walking in the grounds, were
happily spared this painful scene. To the exclamations of wonder,
regret, and even condolence, with which Sir Charles was addressed by
some others of the party, he answered nothing, but stood with lips
closely compressed in sullen scorn and in a dogged silence.

Juxon unhanded him, after Sir Philip promised that he should for the
present be kept close guarded, and gave all his attention to Cuthbert,
who was borne slowly and carefully up into his chamber, and his wound
there bound up with a temporary dressing by Juxon himself, till proper
assistance should arrive. This done, he left him for a while in the
care of the servants, while he went down to aid in composing Sir
Oliver and the ladies of the family.

This young clergyman, who was a distant connection of the good bishop
of the same name, the treasurer at that time of the King, was a good
specimen of a particular class of richly beneficed clergy, not
uncommon in his day. He was a ripe scholar, a kind, orthodox
churchman, and a manly country gentleman. His habits were those of his
time: they grew out of the circumstances of that period and the state
of society in all country places; and he had seen his own pious and
dignified relative hunt his own pack of beagles, without a thought
that he was doing any thing more than taking a vigorous exercise,
beneficial alike to the health of his body and his mind.

Juxon was among, but above, sportsmen. He had a wealthy rectory, and
lived hospitably with his equals, and charitably towards the poor. In
the discharge of his parochial duties, he was sensible and serious: he
valued books, and he had a due appreciation of genius.

He had been of the hunting party this morning, and was thus a guest
at Milverton, where he had long occasionally visited, and where, upon
a former day, he had chanced to have rather a long and free
conversation with Cuthbert, and, albeit widely different in their
habits, had found common ground of interest in the subjects on which
they talked, and they had parted well pleased with each other. Had
they touched on politics, indeed, they would have differed; for Juxon
was a most stanch supporter of the court party: through evil report
and good report he stuck close to the crown; he wrote for it, spoke
for it, and was ready to lay down his life in the defence of it; but
he was of too large a mind to wonder at the opinions of those opposed
to the government of the King; nor was he blind either to those abuses
of the prerogative which had first awakened a spirit of resistance in
men of undoubted worth and patriotism, nor to the grievous folly of
those deplorable counsels, whereby the King had been induced or
encouraged to force upon the proud and resolute Scots the discipline
of a church to which they disclaimed allegiance.

Again, he was of a generous spirit, detested persecution in any thing,
especially in religion and matters of conscience, and had felt, with
the Lord Falkland, in all the earlier stages of the present quarrel.
Nevertheless, a decided and sincere attachment to the monarchy, an
unshaken respect for the personal qualities of the King, and a
devotion to the forms and to the spirit of that church in which he was
baptized, suckled, and educated,--a devotion quite distinct from, and
independent of, any feeling of self-interest, as an incumbent,--caused
him to resolve upon his own course in the coming troubles with a
cheerful firmness.

These sentiments, if the conversation in the hall had not been so
suddenly put an end to, would there have been elicited. He had not
approved the outbreak and burst of indignation with which the
sensitive and excited Cuthbert had so energetically appropriated the
indirect, but mischievous, speech with which Sir Charles Lambert had
sought to sow a suspicion of his tutor’s integrity in the bosom of Sir
Oliver; but he with his whole soul detested and abhorred the cowardly
and bloody ferocity with which the haughty and maddened barbarian had
resented the contemptuous expression of Cuthbert. There sprung up in
his heart at that moment a warmth of interest for the youth, which
never afterwards, in fortunes the most dark and divided, entirely died
away. But to return to the actual present. He saw the ladies, who had
but just returned from a walk to the vineyard, in company with Sir
Oliver, in a remote corner of the garden, and immediately joined them.

They were, as might be expected, very greatly troubled at the cruel
occurrence, and pale with natural anxiety. Indeed there was an
expression of concern upon the countenance of Mistress Katharine, so
very deep, so profoundly sad, that even amid the sorrowful
perplexities of the moment it glanced across the mind of Juxon, that,
in one or other of the parties in this business, her own heart was
most closely interested, and he thought that he had never before seen
human beauty with such a divine aspect. At the readily adopted
suggestion of Katharine, her aunt Alice would have proceeded
instantly to the chamber of the sufferer, to render him any service in
her power; but Juxon requested of her not to do so, and recommended
that the ladies should keep themselves quiet and apart until the
surgeon arrived, and the gentlemen now in the mansion should have
departed. Observing, too, the extreme perplexity of Sir Oliver, who
had been and still was exceedingly agitated by this strange event, he
entreated him to remain with them, and to keep himself calm and quiet
for the present; assuring him that every thing which he could suppose
him to wish in the present distress should be properly done, and that
he would certainly not leave Milverton himself while he could hope to
render the slightest service to Sir Oliver in this difficulty. There
was an earnestness of manner about Juxon, and at the same time such a
quiet tone of internal confidence in the resources of his own
judgment, that they all submitted to his guidance; and Sir Oliver was
greatly comforted and strengthened by the thought that so wise and
judicious a friend was near him in his necessity.

The boy Arthur was watching and walking forwards on the Warwick road,
as if his doing so could hasten the coming of assistance, and was in
all that confusion of the troubled spirits which keeps the young heart
throbbing with fear.

In the library Sir Charles Lambert sat with folded arms and a lowering
brow, while Sir Philip Arundel stood, looking from the window with a
countenance simply expressive of cold annoyance.

Of the half dozen gentlemen, who were still grouped in the hall, one,
after observing, that “All’s well that ends well,--and, perhaps, after
all, the young man’s hurt might not prove dangerous, and that he
always hoped for the best,”--stole his hand across quietly to the wine
cup, and took a very copious draught; another remarked, that he must
say “the young man was very irritating;” a third wanted to know what
was the use of their remaining there, and said he wanted to go home;
while a fourth said, “One was a brute, and the other a fool: that he
cared nothing for one, and knew nothing of the other.”

But two gentlemen of a more thoughtful cast walked the hall in low and
serious discourse, apprehensive by their words that the injury would
prove fatal to Cuthbert; and resolving that so fierce an action as
that of Sir Charles should not pass unpunished. These were friends and
neighbours of George Juxon; and expressed themselves well pleased
that, for the sake of Sir Oliver and his family, so useful and kind a
person chanced to be at Milverton under the present circumstances.

At last the long expected surgeon arrived with the messenger who had
been sent for him, both having used all diligent expedition. He was
introduced into the chamber of the patient by Juxon, and immediately
proceeded to examine the wound. At the first sight he shook his head,
and said to himself, in a very quick, low tone of voice, “The wonder
is, that he is yet alive;” but on questioning Cuthbert as to his
feelings, and finding some of the expected symptoms absent, and on
very carefully applying the probe, he cheerfully exclaimed, “There is
good hope of you, young master: there is no man living could pass a
sword where this blade has passed without injuring a vital part, if he
were to try; but a good angel hath had the guiding of this one. If it
please God to bless my skill, you shall do well; but it will be a slow
case, and a tedious time before you will be fairly on your legs
again.”

“God’s will be done,” said Cuthbert, “for life or for death.”

“If that is your mind,” rejoined the surgeon, “my care will be well
helped, and your cure the easier.”

After cleaning and dressing the wound, and giving particular
directions as to diet broths, and writing a prescription for the
necessary medicines to produce composure and sleep, he took his
departure, promising an early visit on the morrow.

The favourable opinion thus given of Cuthbert’s wound was quickly made
known throughout the mansion, and received as welcome by all;
operating upon each according to their personal characters, and to the
interest which they had felt in the issue of the violent deed which
had stained the hospitable hall of Milverton. Sir Charles Lambert,
indeed, but for the inconvenience and danger to himself, would have
preferred the more tragical event. As it was, when Sir Philip Arundel
returned from the gallery to the library, to announce to him that
Cuthbert was considered in no present danger, he uttered no word
beyond his wish instantly to return home.

“You are surely thankful,” said Sir Philip, “that this unpleasant
affair has ended so much better than was feared. If you will not go
and say so to the bleeding youth, which perhaps might just now too
much disturb him, you will at least offer some words of atonement to
your elderly relative, Sir Oliver, for the outrage done under his
roof, and to a youth under his protection; a deed to be only excused
by pleading that your anger transported you into a paroxysm of
madness.”

“I shall go home,” said Sir Charles: “are you ready?”

“I will never, sir, again cross your threshold: you are no English
knight--you are not even a man. I shall send orders to my grooms to
follow me on my road home.”

These words were swallowed by the same man who would have taken a life
that same morning for a look of contempt; and with a white cheek, on
which passion literally trembled, Sir Charles hurried to the
court-yard, called for his horse, mounted, and dashing spurs into his
sides, rode violently away--hatred in his own heart, and contempt
pursuing him. In succession all the guests took their departure,
except George Juxon, whom Sir Oliver requested to continue with him
till the morrow; and who, more for the sake of the patient than of the
family, assented. He was not sorry that Sir Charles had departed in
the manner and in the temper described, nor did he care now to have
his person secured; for his offence, though grave as it yet stood, was
not of a nature that in those days subjected to imprisonment any one
who could find bail for his future appearance: and in the present case
it was clear that Cuthbert would never prosecute a relation (albeit
base and unworthy), yet a relation of Sir Oliver Heywood.

The good knight, though a kind man, a fond father, and an easy master,
having walked through life upon a path of velvet as smooth as his own
lawn, was sadly discomposed by this visitation of care; and the very
trouble and irregularity that was caused by it was felt by the old
gentleman in many ways that he dared not confess to others, and was
ashamed to acknowledge to himself. A great weight, indeed, was taken
from his mind by the assurance of Cuthbert’s safety; for he was
humane, and he liked the youth: but he had private reasons for a deep
regret at the conduct of Sir Charles Lambert, and the interruption to
their intercourse which would of necessity ensue, and almost wished
that he had parted with his young tutor immediately after that
discovery of his political leanings which he had himself not many
days ago so frankly made.

However, what had now befallen Cuthbert beneath Sir Oliver’s own roof,
and by the hand of his own relative, gave him new and increased claims
upon the knight’s protection and kindness, and there could be no
further thought of their separating now till a distant period. The day
wore rapidly away, and by the hour of supper some appearance of order
was again restored to a mansion, in which every thing usually
proceeded with the regularity of clockwork.

An intermitted dinner was an occurrence of which there was no previous
memory or record in the recollection of the oldest servant on the
establishment. Among the minor circumstances, and not the least
affecting to the manly mind of Juxon, was a little dialogue which he
overheard between the little girl Lily and the boy Arthur, the child
being unable to comprehend the fact of one man cutting another man
with a knife on purpose to hurt him. The true nature of the atrocious
action of course no one cared to explain to the little innocent: but
she had learned from the servants that Master Cuthbert was run through
with a knife by Sir Charles Lambert; and she had come to cousin
Arthur, in a grave and pretty wonder, to know what they could mean.

The next day, being the birthday of Sir Oliver, was that on which the
masque in preparation was to have been represented before a party of
the neighbouring gentry, who had been specially invited to celebrate
that annual feast in the good old hall of Milverton. Of so pleasant a
holyday there could now be no further thought; and the May-day
festival which was to follow the day after, though of course the
villagers would have their dance according to the immemorial custom,
would lose half its gaiety and spirit by the absence of the family
from the manor house, and especially of the gentle and sweet Mistress
Katharine, whose words and ways had won for her all the hearts in
Milverton, and for miles round.

It was an evening memorable in the life of Juxon, that in which he
first sat down at table with the small family circle of the
Heywoods;--in which he looked upon the majestic forehead of
Katharine,--marked the gentle fire of her dark eyes, and the
expression of all that is sweet and engaging in humanity about a mouth
where her noble qualities were most fairly written.

After the grave and laudable custom of those good old times, the
evening service from the Book of Common Prayer was invariably read to
the assembled households of the country gentlemen. The office of
reading prayers was usually in the absence of a clergyman performed by
Sir Oliver himself as the priest of his own family, or at times he
deputed Cuthbert to supply his place. The duty this evening was
performed by Juxon in a solemn, feeling, impressive manner; and when
it was concluded, and the family retired, he hastened to the chamber
of Cuthbert, and finding that the composing draught had taken kind
effect, and that he was dropping off into a comforting sleep, withdrew
again with as soft a step as he had entered, and, exhausted with the
fatigues and the painful excitements of the day’s adventures, he
repaired to his own room, and thankfully lay down to rest. As he was
extinguishing the lamp, his eye read the posy on the wall; and he
could not but feel a sweet pleasure to be reposing in such a mansion,
and with such a family:--

    “Would’st have a friend, would’st know what friend is best?
    Have God thy friend, who passeth all the rest.”



CHAP. VII.

    Love is a kind of superstition,
    Which fears the idol which itself hath framed.
                              SIR THOMAS OVERBURY.


Cuthbert was awakened at midnight by pain:--the glimmer of the night
lamp in the little room adjoining cast a dim light into the chamber
where he lay; and the breathing of the aged female servant, who sat
there in watch, told him that she had been overcome by sleep. He cared
not to disturb her, and made an effort to reach the cup of water on
the little table by his side, but he found that he was no longer equal
to the slightest exertion--he could not even change his posture. He
endured his thirst, and tried to collect his thoughts, and gather up
all that had passed in the hall, but he could not: he was dizzy with
the sense of having been pushed to the very brink of eternity, and
snatched back again. A gleam shone upon the portrait of Luther which
hung opposite. “Though he slay me yet will I trust him,” was now his
own whispered act of confidence in God, and he lay passive, silent,
and hopeful. Not only was he heavily oppressed with bodily anguish,
but his mind, after undue excitement, and proportionate depression and
exhaustion, had sunk into a state of torpor. At the moment when Sir
Charles Lambert made the insidious speech to Sir Oliver, which
Cuthbert truly discerned to be aimed at his suspected principles, and
still more basely at a supposed line of conduct which he had far too
high a sense of integrity to pursue.

At that moment it seemed to him as if it was but fair and honourable
to make open avowal of his true sentiments; but in the same quick
glance of the mind he saw the first bitter and inevitable consequence.
He must quit Milverton immediately, and for ever. Sir Oliver could no
longer have retained in his family a man openly admiring the cause
and the course of that party in the kingdom which opposed the crown.

The collision in his mind of this fear of separation from so much that
he loved, and of the honest impulse to do what was right, begat a
momentary desperation; and thus it was, that he rose upon that
occasion with so unbecoming a want of calmness, and that he was about
to preface his statement by exhibiting his unmeasured scorn for the
base assailant of his character, but the too sure destroyer of his
present happiness.

By the strange and bloody interruption of his purpose, the avowal of
his political opinions was checked: his expression of contempt for Sir
Charles had found utterance, and had been followed by a consequence,
carrying with it, indeed, a severe rod of rebuke to himself for his
rashness, but punishment in a tenfold degree more insupportable to his
proud and brutal enemy; and, as a crowning consolation to Cuthbert,
his sojourn beneath the blessed roof of Milverton was at least, for
very many weeks to come, perfectly secure. He had felt no sorrow when
he heard the surgeon pronounce his case as one that would be
tedious--and that it must be long before he could be safely moved.

He would have had a stronger reason for joy and thankfulness, could he
have known that he had been the cause of producing such a developement
of the fierce and cruel temper of Sir Charles Lambert as saved
Katharine Heywood, if not from actually accepting him as a husband, to
which she would never have consented, at least from all the present
persecution of his attentions, as well as from all expression of the
blind but yet obstinate wishes of her otherwise indulgent father.

As Katharine lay wakeful on her pillow, believing and hoping that the
life of Cuthbert would be spared, and no permanent injury would affect
his future health or usefulness, she could not regret the occurrence
of the morning.

Certainly she would have died rather than have gone to the altar with
Sir Charles, but she would have remained continually exposed to his
selfish addresses; and this match having been the favourite plan of
her father from her earliest girlhood would have been perpetually
urged upon her by him in those many indirect and distressing ways in
which affectionate and obedient children are sometimes long and
ungenerously tormented by covetous or ambitious parents.

One thing, when she first heard of the catastrophe, found a brief
admission into her mind, and till she was made fully acquainted both
by her father and by Juxon of all that had passed, and of the words
which had been uttered at the time, was not entirely dismissed. This
was no less than a fear, faint, indeed, and most reluctantly viewed as
possible, that the quarrel might have arisen out of some feelings on
both sides connected with herself. Nothing was farther removed from
the true dignity of her noble character than the desire of making an
impression upon any one; and it would have very seriously pained her,
if those kind attentions, by which she had sought to make Cuthbert at
home in the family, should have given birth in his breast to any
warmer sentiment than that of respectful friendship.

Her humility and her modesty were so genuine that she was quite
unconscious of her own personal attractions, and, though alive to the
beauty of many of her female friends, she regarded it as a quality so
inferior, and secondary in its power of interesting the heart, or
winning the homage of the mind, as to give little advantage to its
possessor in the daily intercourse of society. This opinion being in
her sincere and rooted, her charms were worn with a grace and ease so
natural, that her influence over all who came within their sweet and
magic circle was irresistible.

This being her character, it was a great relief to her to be persuaded
that there was not the slightest ground for the apprehensions, which
she had slowly admitted. She was now surprised at herself for having
entertained them even for a moment. She saw in the conduct of Cuthbert
nothing more than a burst of human pride irritated into violence by
the haughty insults of a worthless superior. Thus all her suspicions
of the truth were lulled to sleep; and to alleviate the sufferings of
Cuthbert during his confinement, and to cheer his convalescence when
the hour of it should arrive, was to her plain judgment a simple and a
pleasing duty.

Sir Oliver himself passed a weary and feverish night,--all things
seemed out of joint: one of his most favourite schemes was
broken,--and his prospects of a peaceful and indolent old age, under
the shadow of his own trees, were somewhat shaken. The trumpet of war
had not, indeed, as yet sounded in the heart of England, though
English blood had been already spilled freely on the borders. The few
tall yeomen, with their goodly steeds, sent by himself to join the
King’s forces in the north, had marched fast and far only to meet an
early end, and to swell the loss and the discredit of the ridiculous
expedition against the Scots. With Sir Charles Lambert for a
son-in-law, he would have felt better able to meet and take share in
the coming troubles; and he reflected on the difficulties before him
with dismay. Of battle or of death he had no fear,--though at his time
of life, and with his habits, it was small service beyond that of a
ready example of devotion which he could render in a camp; but when he
thought of Katharine, and of Arthur in his boyhood, and of his aged
sister, his household presented but a defenceless aspect. However,
after the scene of yesterday, he could not ever directly encourage any
future addresses of Sir Charles to his daughter; and it could not but
suggest itself plainly to his own mind, as a gentlemen of a true
English spirit, as far as personal bravery was concerned, that little
dependence could be placed upon the courage or firmness of a man
capable of the cruel and dastardly assault which he had yesterday
witnessed. He had yet to learn the moral energies and the latent
heroism of his noble daughter, and to discover the strength and the
wisdom of a woman’s mind, when the love of father and of country guide
it in the path of duty and of honour. Some time was to elapse before
the days of trial; and, indulging that love of ease which was habitual
to him, he strove to stifle or put away from him the unwelcome
conviction that come they must, and could not be averted. Therefore
it was with no common sense of comfort, that, when he came forth into
the gallery the next morning, he found Katharine, and his sister, and
Arthur, already there, waiting to receive him with the kisses of fond
congratulation, and saw his own portrait and that of his departed
wife, who had been to him as an angel gently leading him for good, and
ever watchful to guard him from error, framed, as it were, with choice
and dewy flowers. He gazed at the portrait of his wife and then at
Katharine, alternately, and was melted into a gush of grateful
tenderness. All fears, difficulties, and troubles seemed to vanish in
a present feeling of thankfulness and delight. He went instantly on to
the chamber of Cuthbert: Juxon had been there from an early hour, and
the surgeon was engaged at the moment in dressing his wound.

The sight of the amiable young man, lying pale and helpless, bandaged
and in pain, greatly moved Sir Oliver. He took Cuthbert by the hand,
and spoke to him in that warm and feeling language of condolence which
is balm to a sufferer’s mind. The benevolent surgeon took a lively
interest in his patient, and spoke most confidently of effecting a
complete cure,--although he repeated, that the case would prove very
tedious, and many weeks must elapse before he could be permitted, or
indeed be able, to quit the recumbent posture. He gave directions that
he should be kept particularly quiet in his actual state, and not be
spoken with or disturbed throughout the day, except to give him
necessary refreshment or medicine.

At the earnest invitation of Sir Oliver, Juxon consented to remain at
Milverton till the evening. The day passed pleasantly away. The worthy
knight recovered his usual spirits; Mistress Alice her composure; and
Katharine Heywood, having much secret content and thankfulness at
heart, looked like some gracious angel of peace and goodness.

It was a day of bliss to Juxon:--one never forgotten, but marked white
for ever. He was one of those men who felt a reverence and tenderness
for woman; and, whenever he addressed them, his eyes, his voice, his
whole manner plainly manifested respect. He expected in the female
character gentleness, purity, and charity; and yet, by some strange
inconsistency, he shunned the society of women, was seldom to be seen
in those gay and glittering circles where they shone, and where he
might have been soon disenchanted of his cherished illusions.

His residence in a sequestered parish in the country afforded him few
opportunities of visiting where ladies were to be met; and being fond
of all sports and manly exercises, and so ripe a scholar as to find
study and the chase a pleasant relief to each other, he had not as yet
been careful to seek opportunities of increasing his female
acquaintance.

Whatever there was of silent and maidenly reserve in sweet Katharine
herself towards common strangers, and upon ordinary occasions,
vanished at a time like this, in the presence of so manly, so modest,
and so frank a man as George Juxon. As the family sat that day at
table, not a shade of embarrassment was visible in any of the
party:--Sir Oliver was in high good humour; the boy Arthur looked at
their guest with those honest eyes which, in boyhood, fear not to
show either like or dislike; and the little girl Lily, permitted that
day to dine in the hall, sat without shyness opposite to Juxon, and
shunned not his smile or his word of notice.

The day wore on:--he walked with the ladies upon the verdant and
velvet paths in the flower garden,--he paced the terrace with Sir
Oliver,--and his presence was felt by them all as a strength and a
comfort.

The shade upon the dial had stole silently, but swiftly, forwards, and
touched upon seven in the evening, when he ran up to the chamber of
Cuthbert to press his hand at parting; and having afterwards said his
farewell to the ladies on the lawn, he descended to the court-yard,
accompanied by Sir Oliver and the boy Arthur, mounted the gallant roan
gelding upon which he had hunted his way down on the morning of
yesterday, and again shaking the hand of his host, and accepting a
warm invitation to repeat his visit soon and often, George Juxon rode
out of the gates at Milverton with a very new and strange feeling.

The free animal, on which he rode, was impatiently checked as often as
it broke from the measured walk at which it was now the pleasure of
his master to travel homewards; and, whatever might be the cause, he
was not allowed to perform in less than two hours a distance to be
very easily accomplished within one. The reverie of Juxon was unbroken
during the whole ride. The evening was mild, and the hedgerows were
green, and the air was perfumed here with the scent of violets, there
with the fragrance of cottage gardens or blushing orchards, and upon
the woody or open parts of the road with the rich incense of the
fresh-blown May.

The news of Sir Charles Lambert’s violence had reached his parsonage
before him; and in the stone porch his old housekeeper met him as soon
as he had dismounted, with as much anxiety as if he had narrowly
escaped murder himself. The good old body, with that genuine
philanthropy of feeling which is as natural as their breathing to
kindly natures, learned the safety of Cuthbert, whom she had never
seen or heard of before, with a lively expression of motherly joy;
and Juxon was roused to remember how very narrowly the youth had
missed an early and melancholy fate. Truth to say, so much of pleasure
had grown up within these two days from the very circumstances arising
out of the assault on Cuthbert, for her young master now to dwell on,
and there seemed to open before him so pleasant a prospect in future
intercourse with the family at Milverton, that, perhaps, he hardly
felt enough for the present sufferings of the unfortunate patient.

His thoughts, however, were soon diverted from Milverton, and from
himself, by the entrance of his old gardener, to say the May-crown,
which was kept in the summer-house, had been taken away, and that he
had found a written paper on the shelf where it stood. This the old
man handed to his master, saying he could not read it, but guessed it
boded no good for the coming holyday, and that he had been gathering
flowers to dress out the old May-pole to little purpose. George Juxon
took the paper, upon which, in a stiff, quaint hand, were written
these lines:--

    “This head in a crown, and that without ears,
    Is the pleasure of prelates, of courtiers, and peers.
    Dance, revel, and sing, ye butterflies gay;
    The time is at hand you shall weep, fast, and pray.
    One holdeth the war-dogs, all ready to slip;
    Pleasure’s cup shall be spilled, and dashed from the lip.
    To me is committed this message of woe:
    The tears of the proud ones unpitied shall flow.”

He no sooner read it, than, quitting his supper, he went out into the
village to ascertain if any copy of it had been left at any other
place; and found, to his vexation, that one had been fastened to the
May-pole, and had been taken down and read to half the people.
Determined, however, that the customary sports should be neither
hindered nor damped, he took home with him the village carpenter, set
fairly to work, and in two hours, by the aid of lath, and pasteboard,
and Dutch gilding, they finished off a crown far more splendid than
the one stolen; and he wrote underneath it, with prompt good humour,--

    “The preacher hath said it--For all things a time--
    For fasting, for feasting, for dancing, for rhyme:--
    No rhymes without reason shall hinder our pleasure;
    We’ll crown the old May-pole, and tread the old measure.”

This done, he again thought of Cuthbert’s bed of suffering, and
remembered him in his prayers. This little cross occurrence in his
parish neither drove away his own sleep for a second nor delayed on
the morrow the sports of his parishioners. Here, as in many other
places, the popular and wise course of the minister preserved a good
and happy understanding among the people. There is no social state
more truly desirable than that of a well-ordered village population,
where the miseries of the lane and the alley cannot reach; labour is
performed in the open air; festivals are days of thanksgiving, danced
through upon a green sward, to the nodding heads of merry musicians;
and they see no crowns but such as are woven with roses for their
May-queen, and know no sceptre but a white wand wreathed about with
fragrant flowers.



CHAP. VIII.

    Though their voices lower be,
    Streams have, too, their melody;
    Night and day they warbling run,
    Never pause, but still sing on.
                      GEORGE HICKES.


For three summer months Cuthbert Noble was confined to a couch; and
though latterly he was led forth into the garden, and suffered to lie
down on a bench in the shade, yet his confinement had been lonely as
well as tedious. No kindness on the part of any of the family was
wanting: whatever could be thought of for his convenience and comfort
was provided. While he was obliged to keep his own chamber, he was
visited daily by Sir Oliver; Mistress Alice and Katharine looked in
upon him together, and inquired gently concerning his pain; the boy
Arthur would often forego his play in the garden, or his practice in
archery, to sit and read to him; and not a week passed without a
friendly and cheerful visit from George Juxon. Nevertheless, he was
evidently dejected; and while he was grateful for all these
attentions, nothing, it was observed, could effectually rouse his
spirits to cheerfulness, although he repaid, by anxious words and
quiet smiles, the least service which was done him. About the trouble
which he unavoidably gave the servants, who, for their parts, were
ever ready to oblige him, he was scrupulous even to anxiety. He seemed
to pine after liberty--and would sit, for hours together, lost in deep
thought, or in vacant sadness. It so happened that the clergyman of
Milverton, whose manners were coarse, and whose morals were low, did
not visit at the Hall. Although originally appointed by Sir Oliver, at
the request of a friend, who, acquainted with his family, had taken
little care to inquire more particularly into his character, he had
early quarrelled with his patron, and preferred the freedom of an ale
bench to the restraints of good society. This was unfortunate for
Cuthbert; as a learned and religious clergyman, residing in the
village, and intimate at the hall, might have kept him straight in
the plain path of the true churchman. Now, though Juxon, had he been
aware of all that was passing in the mind of Cuthbert, might have been
truly serviceable in disabusing him of some strong prejudices, yet, as
he presumed him to be a true son of the church, the subject was seldom
named.

He came to cheer and amuse him if he could; and the very atmosphere of
Milverton Hall was that of purity and delight to George Juxon. His
summer months presented a strange contrast to those of Cuthbert. He
gave up his buck-hunting in the afternoons: he could not abide the
rude and noisy companions of that sport of which he had been always so
fond; and now he might be seen, day after day, in the guise of an
angler, on the grassy margin of a silver stream, or, not unfrequently,
stretched at his length beneath a shady tree near the bank, or sitting
under a high honeysuckle hedge; and if he were not chewing his own
sweet fancies, some book in his hand, of good old-fashioned poetry, to
aid his pleasant meditations. George Juxon was now a lover--without
melancholy, I do not say,--but only with so much of it as is ever
welcome to a lover’s mood, and gives a dignity to his passion.
Nevertheless, his hope was unavowed; nor was he in haste: a long
courtship was the fashion of those days; and a mistress seemed raised
in the fancy of her admirer, by the thought that she must be slowly
approached, and would be slowly won.

His family, his private fortune, his present provision in the church,
and his future prospects from the favour of the bishop, were such,
that Sir Oliver could not object to him as a suitor for his daughter,
though he might give the preference to another; and certainly, with
her father, the title of a baronet would have outweighed that of a
dean. However, these circumstances could only encourage him in his
more sanguine moments, for Juxon was a modest man; and when he called
up the image of Katharine in his walks, and thought upon a certain
majesty in her countenance, and how serene and unmoved she was, how
unsuspicious of the admiration which she excited, he could not but
fear that she might prove indifferent to the suit of one so plain and
unvarnished as himself, and that she would never entertain his
addresses. Therefore it was that he nursed his love in secret, and
patiently restrained all expression of particular regard for Mistress
Katharine in his present visits to Milverton. How pleasant, in the
mean time, were all those visits; how swiftly he rode through lane and
wood, across field or common, as he went from home on those permitted
errands of friendship; and at what a slow and lingering pace would he
return from the gracious presence of this lady of his love!

He had often heard it rumoured that Sir Charles Lambert was thought to
be the accepted son-in-law of Sir Oliver; but this he had always
doubted from the very first moment of his introduction at Milverton;
and he felt that Katharine could never have endured his attentions. By
these, however, she could now be troubled no farther; for Sir Charles,
being deeply mortified and ashamed of the frantic violence which he
had committed at his last visit, had left his home suddenly for
London, and was solacing himself, for the contemptuous affront which
he had received from Sir Philip Arundel, in the congenial atmosphere
of bear gardens and cock pits. Nor had he forgotten how roughly he was
handled by George Juxon, whom he at once feared for his courage, and
hated for his virtues.

However, he was no longer a visiter at Milverton; his sisters, indeed,
still rode over from the Grange occasionally to pass a day with
Katharine, and twice Juxon was of the party at table.

To most eyes he would have appeared the admirer rather of these ladies
than of Mistress Katharine; for Old Beech rectory was only four miles
from Bolton Grange: and though he seldom accepted the invitations of
Sir Charles, yet he met them often in hunting or hawking parties, and
was apparently a very great favourite with them both. Sophy and Jane
Lambert were both pretty: the one, with the rosy cheeks of health and
laughing blue eyes; the other, brown and freckled, with an arch look
that seemed to detect those secrets which men, and women too, most
anxiously conceal, with a provoking and unerring sagacity.

These good-tempered and warm-hearted girls had been at first sadly
afflicted about their brother’s conduct; but this last care concerning
him was now six weeks old, and had been dismissed from their minds. He
was, to their great contentment, now absent, and their tongues were
again loosened to playfulness.

As the party sat at dinner in Milverton Hall one day, about the middle
of June, and as Juxon was carving a capon, that he might help Mistress
Alice to a delicate wing,--

“Prithee, Master Juxon,” said Jane Lambert with a very roguish
expression of the eye, “did you not hear our merry voices on Wednesday
evening as we killed a buck under Walton coppice? and did you not see
us lift our velvet caps to you? and did you shut your ears to the
pleasant horn? or were you charmed to sleep by the fairies under that
broad beech tree in the Bird Meadow? or were you saying your prayers?
or were you reading Master Ford’s Lover’s Melancholy? or were you
thinking of our Lady St. Katharine here at Milverton?”

Juxon was so confused at this last question that he put the wing of
the capon into the sauce boat instead of on the trencher of Mistress
Alice, and said, with a stammer and a blush,--

“Really, Mistress Jane, you are too bad; but I know that you dearly
love a joke upon anglers: you are always jeering poor Moxon.”

“O do not mind her,” said Katharine Heywood, coming to his relief:
“she is privileged to say what she pleases, without meaning what she
says; and my poor name always serves to point a fancy, if she wants
one: if she were not so young and so pretty, she might be taken up for
a false fortune-teller, and a dealer in witchcraft.”

“Cousin Kate, if I am a fortune-teller, I am a true one; and if a
witch, you know I am a white one, and work marvellous cures. Shall I
tell your fortune? and shall I name the name of a true knight in a far
country?”

A glance from the noble eyes of Katharine, which no one perceived but
Jane Lambert, rebuked her into silence; and trying, though awkwardly,
to laugh off the liberty which she had evidently taken with the
feelings of Katharine, she sent her trencher for some venison, and
said no more.

Sir Oliver, too, fastening upon the simple fact of Juxon having turned
a fisherman, began rallying him for having made so bad an exchange, as
to leave the merry and social sport of hunting for the dull and
solitary exercise of angling.

“It is true,” said the knight, “I have myself been forced to give up
the jolly buck hunt; but, life of me, I could never take up with a rod
and line in the place of it. I do wonder, when I see a man mope about
the meadows, and stand, it may be, for hours, under the same willow,
by the broken bank of a sluggish river, that it doth not end in his
hanging himself for very weariness of the flat world.”

“And yet,” quoth Juxon, “fishing hath its pleasures, ay, and its sport
too; but if the angler catch nothing, still he hath a wholesome walk
in the pure air; and if he go abroad early, and listeneth to the
matins of the heaven-loving lark, he shall not want sweeter music
than the cry of hounds, and the blasts of hunting horns.”

“By my faith, Master Juxon, you are bewitched; but whether by old
Margery or by the sparkling eyes of Jane I say not; by Margery,
methinks; for the faint heart of an angler will never win such a
sprightly lady of the woods as our Jane.”

“Nay, nay, Sir Oliver, when a man is bewitched, and by love, too, as
Mistress Jane will have it, his thoughts must be too roving and
unquiet to sit still upon a mossy bank watching for the trembling of a
quill.”

“Ay, ay; but he may sit quiet enough, and not watch any thing but his
own fancies. I do verily think that thou must be touched with some
strange care, to let thy brave gelding race it round his pasture for
the madness of his desire to follow the chase, at sound of which he
neigheth for his rider, and thou sitting the while like some poor
scholar alone upon a tree stump.”

“At the least I find one blessing rests on anglers--where they walk,
the grace of humility doth grow, lowly as the daisy, and plentiful as
the meadow sweet.”

“I think,” said Katharine, “that Master Juxon has good right to walk
the valley with his rod, without being thus rated for his pleasure;
and if he useth to find good thoughts in all he meeteth by the river
side in summer evenings it is more than hunters do in the forest.”

“Marry, Kate, it is to get rid of thought that men go a-hunting. I
tell thee that cares and sorrows, and wrongs and vexations, cannot
keep pace with a bold hunter; self is forgotten; all is life, and joy,
and wild delight. Troth I have lost mind and heart since the merry
days when I hunted.”

“I am of thy mind, Sir Oliver,” said Juxon, “and the falling leaf of
October, and the chill gloom of November skies, can never cloud the
heart of a hunter; but when woods are green, and sunbeams warm, and
birds are singing, methinks the yelp of a hound is unseasonable
music.”

“Well,” said Jane, “all I know is, that you seldom missed an
afternoon last summer; and if it was an early hunting day and a stag
turned out in the morning, in spite of the green trees and the
warbling larks, Master Juxon was never last in the field; but I will
rate you no more: for, may-be, you are afraid of the Puritans, and do
study _Master Stubbes’s Anatomie of Abuses_, and will give up the
wicked ways of Esau, and turn shepherd--gentle shepherd, shall it be,
or good?”

“Lady,” said Juxon, gravely, “there are good men among the Puritans;”
and seeing her colour a little at his tone, he added, with a smile,
“and good anglers too; but, in truth, you have hit me hard: for there
are good men, who are no Puritans, who think that the sport of hunting
is not seemly in a parson, especially in times like these.”

“Puritans or no Puritans,” said Sir Oliver, “I hope you don’t mind the
muddy race that croak these black lessons of duty. I do not know
whether they be fools or knaves; but they would preach us into walking
tomb-stones, each showing its _memento mori_.”

“Beyond all question,” replied Juxon, “they are wrong in many things;
and push their severity against things innocent and pernicious with
little or no distinction, with a strained application of Scripture
prohibitions, and with a profound ignorance of human nature; and they
seem only to discern God in clouds, and to hear him in the thunder.
But there are men of great and stern virtues among them; and, it may
be, of gentler hearts and gentler views than we give them credit for.”

“I don’t believe a word of it. They are fanatics in religion, and
knavish traitors in their politics: you think of them with more
charity than I do, and it is a false charity, Master Juxon. There was
one of my own name and kin among them: he turned republican, forsooth;
old England, forsooth, had no liberty; our good church was a harlot,
and all the rest of it; and he would seek true freedom in the forests
and swamps of New England; and away he went with wife and daughters,
and a son, whom he had made as great a fool as himself. A youth, sir,
that bearded me with his treason at my own table. I sent him packing
at midnight, sir, and would not let him sleep the night under my roof;
and, in good truth, he was as ready to go as I to bid him; and now he
and his father are felling trees in America for aught I know, or care,
indeed.”

Katharine Heywood proposed to her aunt and the Lamberts that they
should go into the Lime Walk, and Juxon would have turned the
conversation; but Sir Oliver, with the images of his absent cousins
before him, went on venting his feelings, as if in soliloquy. “The son
of a clergyman, too, sir, a younger brother of mine, long dead, and he
himself having been the faithful servant of a king, well accounted of
for valour and discretion in the camp of the great Gustavus, where he
commanded a regiment of musketeers. He to turn against kings and good
order! He that punished a fault against discipline like a sin against
Heaven, and taught his son that obedience was the first duty of a
soldier, to come home, with his brave boy to his own country, and
teach him to flout at the majesty of the crown! Troth, sir, the king
was quit of bad subjects, and I of troublesome relations, when they
took ship for the Plantations. I wish all that are as fantastic in
their notions would follow them.” At the close of this burst, the old
gentleman took a cup of wine with an eagerness that sought relief, and
a trembling hand, that betrayed how deeply he was agitated by angry
feelings.

Juxon, very unwilling to hear him further on so painful a subject,
asked permission of the knight to go and visit Cuthbert Noble for half
an hour, and promised to join him afterwards in the bowling green for
their customary rubber. As he passed out of the hall, a serving man
was coming in with Sir Oliver’s pipe and tobacco-box; and leaving the
strange weed to perform its calming office, Juxon, happy to escape,
ran up stairs to the chamber of Cuthbert.

The surgeon was seated by his side; and from the conversation, which,
although they concealed not the subject or the tenour of it at the
entrance of Juxon, they soon dropped, it was evident to him that they
had a mutual understanding in matters of religion and politics, and
were both of them friendly to the cause of the parliament. It had so
chanced that, during the whole of his confinement, Cuthbert had, in
the person of the surgeon who attended him, been daily in contact with
a mind very deeply imbued with serious and severe principles. By this
man Cuthbert’s heart had been probed to the quick; and, under his
influence, combining with a strong predisposition in itself, was made
sad and heavy.



CHAP. IX.

    Passions are likened best to floods and streames;
    The shallow murmur, but the deepe are dumb.
                                             RALEIGH.


When, at the proposal of Mistress Katharine, the ladies left the hall,
they proceeded to the Lime Walk: here they separated, Aunt Alice
taking Sophia Lambert aside to show her a late addition to her aviary,
and Katharine leading forward Jane towards the fish-pond, where, upon
a low bench, placed under the broad arm of a noble cedar, they sat
down quietly in the shade.

Under all the disadvantages of a most neglected education, and a
rusticity of manner very near to rudeness, Jane Lambert had some rare
and valuable qualities, which greatly endeared her to those who took
the pains to discover them. This Katharine had done. As for the last
three years she had been thrown much into the society of the
Lamberts, owing to their residence at Bolton Grange, and the frequent,
but yet unavoidable, visits of Sir Charles, she had studied all their
characters thoroughly; and the result of her observation satisfied
her, that in Jane there was at the bottom a fund of sterling worth,
high courage, and genuine affection. Her attainments were few and very
imperfect; but she had a vigorous and a healthy intellect, which
digested well the best and most generous sentiments of the few books
which she was careful to read. Not a tenant or cotter upon the estate
of her brother but had a look of honest love for Mistress Jane; and
the falconers and foresters were proud of a bright lady who knew their
craft so well, and had so true an eye for the slot of a deer or for
the dim-seen quarry. If any poor man had a favour to ask of Sir
Charles, it was through her, as the ready advocate of all who needed
help or implored mercy, that the petition was preferred. Her
admiration and love for Katharine Heywood were unbounded: she looked
up to her as a model of exalted excellence, and with that affection
which partakes of reverence; not that this was of a nature to check
or chill the natural display of fondness in their ordinary
intercourse; but at times the power of the loftier sentiment over her
was so great, that her exuberant and unguarded levity would be in a
moment abashed and driven away by one look from Katharine. Thus it had
been to-day at table; and now, as they sat, she pressed her hand upon
the shoulder of Katharine, and leaned her cheek upon it, and said
feelingly,--

“Dearest cousin Kate, why did you look so very sad and so very grave
to-day? I was only joking; do not be angry with me, my sweet coz: I
shall fret if I think you have been really angry.” Katherine bent her
face and kissed the presented cheek.

“Was I ever angry with you, Jane?” she asked. “You know that I never
was; but it is true that you often make me very anxious for you, and
sometimes quite sad, by your ill-timed and thoughtless gaiety.
Consider a little more the consequences of idle words, and their
effect on strangers.”

“Well, my dear, I will: but there is no harm done, for I do not look
upon Juxon as a stranger; and he is so sensible, and so good-tempered,
that he will never take any speech by the wrong handle, and so honest
and straightforward, that he will never look under it for a hidden
meaning.”

“But yet, Jane, even Juxon will think it odd, that while the victim of
your brother’s passionate frenzy still lies on a couch helpless with
his wound, and while your brother, who has narrowly escaped committing
the heaviest of crimes, has absented himself for very shame, his
sister should sport, as if nothing had happened, and be as playful in
her words as a girl without care.”

“Do you think so? I should be sorry for that: but you know that I do
not love my brother; and Cuthbert is safe from all danger, and out of
all pain; and you are well, cousin, and not the sadder for this
accident, if I know your heart as well as I love your happiness; and
why then should I not appear cheerful, when, in truth, I am so. I
should be vexed, indeed, if Juxon thought the worse of me; for he is
one whose good opinion is worth having; but as for that of the world,
I care not a jot about it.”

“There you are wrong, dear Jane: the opinion of the world may, and
must be, in some things, despised, but the rule of its established
proprieties and gentle observances can never be transgressed, without
bringing some heavy penalty on the offender.”

“I do not love the world so well, dear Katharine, as to care for
either its frowns or its favours; and I looked not for an advocate of
its cold maxims and its deceitful forms in you--let it see me as I
am.”

“There is your error, Jane: it cannot, it will not, it cares not to
take the trouble to see you as you are; it looks only at your
_seeming_; and though to be is better than to seem, and many seem fine
gold that are but base metal, yet no one can despise the judgment of
the world without rashness and without danger. They who place
themselves above the opinion of the world, and the best rules of
society, cast off a useful and an appointed restraint in the
discipline of life.”

“Sweet coz, I love to hear you lecture, but you will never make me
wise: I was born under a common star, and reared with foresters:--look
as I like, and speak as I think.”

“Ah, dear Jane, you will some day learn to govern your bright looks,
and to keep your sweetest thoughts locked closely in your heart.
Wisdom herself, and, perhaps, though God forbid, sorrow will be your
teacher.”

The serene eyes of the majestic Katharine were clouded, for a passing
moment, with such a sadness as a compassionate angel might have worn;
and she pressed Jane tenderly to her breast.

“Promise me,” she said, “dearest cousin, promise me faithfully that
you never again hint even to any human being, the idle fancy that hung
this morning on your lips, or the name you would have connected with
it.”

“The promise has been already made in my own mind: your look was
enough to make me wish the light word unspoken, and the tongue that
uttered it blistered for a month to come. You are the only one at
table who could have understood my allusion. I am certain that the
most distant thought of my meaning could not enter the mind of your
father or your aunt.”

“This, I believe, and it is well it should not: the bare suspicion,
harboured in his mind, would make him miserable for life, and embitter
his last moments with unworthy fears. I know his nature well: much as
he loves me, and confides in me, to pacify his anger, and quiet his
jealous apprehensions, would be, even for me, an impossible
achievement; and yet he knows, or should know, that I am an English
daughter.”

“How is it, Katharine, that you command all hearts? that not a man
approaches you but he is at once, as by some sweet force, compelled to
love you? and yet it is no wonder: there cannot be on earth another
Katharine.”

“Cousin, this is idle and wicked talk; you must not use such vain and
sinful words: would you could see me as I see myself, when, prostrate
in weakness, I implore and find strength where alone it is to be
obtained; but you cannot understand me yet.”

“Nay, Katharine, do not rebuke me so sharply for simple truths: why
Charles himself is so tamed and altered for the day whenever he
returns from Milverton, that I have sometimes been selfish enough to
wish to see you his, in the hope that I might find a brother changed
in nature; but no, dear Kate, I love you too well ever seriously to
dwell on such a desire.”

“Jane, do not, prithee, do not pursue this foolish fancy further.”

“It is not fancy: can I not see? have I not eyes, and the perceptions
and sympathies of woman? I tell you, the poor woe-begone scholar, that
lies lonely on his couch above there, did look upon you as good men
look up to the blue heavens.”

“Cousin, I will not stay another moment with you if your discourse is
not changed to some better tone than these weak and unwomanly
delusions of your idle brain do give it.”

“As you will, blessed coz, I say no more; but one need not be very
deeply read in love-craft to prophesy that one of these fine days the
worthy young rector of Old Beech will tell you that himself which I
may not tell you for him.”

“Jane,” said Katharine, as she slowly rose, and they moved back
towards the Lime Walk, “you are not, my dear girl, serious, I hope, in
this last surmise: you are not in earnest: it would greatly perplex
and trouble me if I thought you were, and had good reason: about
Cuthbert I am sure that you are altogether mistaken.”

“No, Katharine; I am a poor unfashioned creature, with little
knowledge of the world, and little skill in books, or fair
accomplishments: but this one gift I have,--I can read the human
countenance, and see written thereon the thoughts of the heart, the
play of the secret passions, the inclinations of the inner will, in
characters plain to my faithful eye, and plainly I repeat my
conviction that both these men do love you. The one will give you no
trouble: his flame will burn within his melancholy heart, like a lamp
glimmering in a tomb; but the other will make open avowal of what he
is proud to feel, and will surely be courageous enough to confess: now
do not look so pale and grave, but thank me for the timely caution.
Kiss me, sweet coz; my sister is calling for me, and we must go.” The
tall and queen-like Katharine folded her young cousin to her heart;
and Jane felt a tear fall heavy on her cheek as they embraced and
parted.

Katharine had one of those fine and stately forms which the sculptor
of ancient times would have chosen to copy with his happiest skill, as
the incarnation of wisdom. Her features were Roman; her dark hazel
eyes were long and even, and there shone in them a soft, chaste fire;
her mouth was pensive; but though the expression of her countenance
was ever serious, yet was it human, gentle, and she would more fitly
have represented the melancholy vestal, than the calm, passionless
Minerva. She returned leisurely to her favourite cedar, and seated
herself in that sad repose of the mind into which even the strongest
and most virtuous will sometimes allow themselves to sink, as a short
relief from the internal conflict. It was clear to her that Jane had
penetrated that one secret, which she would hardly confess to herself,
and which she could have wished had been altogether confined to her
own bosom, and that one other, from which she felt resolutely and for
ever divided. It was strange that the open-hearted girl had never
mentioned it before; it was well that she had only now hinted it so
vaguely as to leave it impenetrably veiled to others; it was well,
too, that she had thus early arrested the danger of all further
discovery, and obtained from the fond and faithful Jane that promise
of secrecy, on which she could safely rely. Still it was disturbing to
her pure and noble spirit, that even this sweet girl should be privy
to her heart’s great trial. However, Jane would understand her future
silence on the subject, and well knew that those confidences, which
the weaker order of women are ever ready to pour into the ear of the
female friend, would never pass her lips. She held them too sacred,
and she had that dignity of soul which in a sorrow of that peculiar
nature is all-sufficient to itself. Could Cuthbert from his couch of
patient suffering, or George Juxon from his solitary rides and walks,
have looked in upon the heart of Katharine, and seen the image, which
often rose before her mind’s eye, and as often as it did so was felt
to be a cherished one, the former would have striven against his weak
idolatry yet more resolutely than he already did, and the manly Juxon
would have given to the wind his vain hopes, and would have forborne
to distress her with the language of a suitor.

Katharine did not return to the mansion till long after all the guests
had departed.

It was the hour of supper; but she pleaded headache, retired to her
chamber, and seated herself at the window to watch the dying day.
There was a universal calm in nature; every leaf was still: there was
a holy hush around; colours of a blessed hue streaked the far western
sky; they grew faint, they faded, and the grey gloom of a summer’s
night rested upon all things. She was roused from a long reverie of
sweet though solemn fancies by the entrance of her maid with a lamp,
and in a few minutes afterwards she was joined by her aunt Alice.

There was never in any nature more of the milk of human kindness than
in Mistress Alice:--her own disappointments had subdued her vivacity,
without souring her temper, or freezing her manners. Forgetful of
herself, she lived for and in the happiness of others, and her niece
Katharine was to her as a daughter;--not that she exercised any thing
like a mother’s control; Katharine had so ripe an understanding, and
so mature a judgment, that Mistress Alice leaned upon her mind as
though it were that of a sister or a bosom friend, to whose opinion
she was pleased to defer her own.

She loved Sir Oliver with a true affection, but she was not blind to
the faults of his character. She knew him to be impatient of
contradiction, full of strong prejudices, easy and indolent--the being
of habit and of custom--but violent when thwarted, and selfish when
opposed. Nevertheless a kind brother, a fond father, a liberal master,
and a most loyal subject. It always deeply grieved her when she heard
him speak harshly of her nephew Edward Heywood, and his son Francis,
for they were the offspring of an unfortunate brother, to whom she had
been very closely attached from her childhood.

“This has been a trying day to me as well as to you, Katharine,” she
said when they were left together. “I think my poor brother allows
himself to be more troubled about public matters than is good for him;
and I wish that he would avoid the mention of your unhappy cousins in
connection with those subjects--however wrong they may be, they have
cares and troubles enough for pity, rather than hard words and ill
wishes.”

Katharine looked steadily at her aunt when she began to speak, and was
rather startled at her opening words; but as she proceeded, discerning
clearly it was only a sympathy in common with her own that she
invited, replied, quietly, that “it was indeed very painful to see the
good temper of her dear father giving way so early in times like
these, which were only the beginning of troubles; but consider,
dearest aunt, he has passed all his life in pleasure and ease--my
blessed mother made his peace her study; and, though she could never
win him to her own happiest views of the only bliss, her whole life
was a transcript of those gentle and charitable sentiments which were
the secret springs of all her actions. He reposed upon her character,
and found a tranquillity, of which he shared the comfort, but which
lived not within his own breast.”

“Well, Katharine, I am sure you follow in your mother’s path, and as
far as daughter may, you supply her vacant place in his esteem and
reverence. He loves you not as parent loves a child. You are his
daughter, but you are also, in all seemly matters, his cherished
adviser:--I have often noted it, my dear, with joy.”

“Do not humble me so sadly--my mother’s path!--alas! I am far from
it--far out of the way, when I think of her exalted hopes, her
self-denying life, and her settled peace; and when I look within, I am
ashamed, and may well tremble at the comparison:--but yet I cherish
the memory of her bright example; and the words you have just spoken
shall rouse me to do all by my father, which if her sainted spirit
could look down upon us she would herself approve. I know the duty of
a daughter, and I know how much the happiness and the honour of a
father may be promoted by her due performance of it. You have well
shown me the better way. For my father, and to my father, I will
devote my life, and cast self and all softer wishes behind me. When
the first rough steps of difficulty are passed, the noble qualities of
my father will all be seen:--bless you, Aunt Alice, for your sweet
counsel.”

“My dear Katharine, you are not wont to be thus excited: your calmness
and your even dignity have ever been beyond your age: I meant simply
what I said, and designed not, by any hint, to stimulate you to any
course of conduct beyond that which I have always observed you to
pursue:--you are not well--you think too much of what may
happen--troubles are fast travellers, and need not be met half
way--you are not well.”

“I believe you are right--I cannot be well--the day has been
oppressively hot--and my temples throb with pain.”

Mistress Alice taking from the dressing table a curious shaped bottle
of eastern porcelain, which contained elder-flower water, sat down
tenderly by Katharine, and bathed her temples with gentle care. The
noble girl leaned back upon her chair, silent, passive, grateful:--no
sob escaped her; no nervous tears were allowed to fall; but to a
keener eye than that of her benevolent aunt a slight quiver on the
lip, and a heaving of the folds above her bosom, quicker than the
wont, might have told that very deep and painful emotions were
struggling in her full heart.

Mistress Alice would not leave her till she saw her quietly put to
bed, when, giving her the kiss of peace and good night as her pale
cheek lay upon the pillow, she took her lamp, and went softly out of
the chamber.

Restored to solitude and silence, Katharine sent her sweet thoughts
and prayerful wishes to that distant land, where, upon the narrow
clearing of some tall and ancient forest, in their canvass booth or
rude hut, after a day of new and unaccustomed toils, her self-exiled
but heroic cousins reposed: the picture of their labours was to her
mind primitive and sacred--and all the images presented to her fancy
were peaceful.



CHAP. X.

    Can warres, and jarres, and fierce contention,
    Swoln hatred, and consuming envie, spring
    From piety?
                                       HENRY MORE.


The good parson of Cheddar was never informed of the severe misfortune
of his son till all danger was long past, and his convalescence was
advanced to such a point that he could assure his parents he should
soon be perfectly restored to health and to his wonted activity and
strength.

Noble and his wife were both deeply affected at the thought of all
which Cuthbert must have suffered, and at the considerate care which
he had manifested for their feelings. His letter was brief, and his
relation of the conduct of Sir Charles Lambert was given in such a
calm and quiet tone that it was plain he had learned the hard lesson
to forgive an enemy. Yet it contained some expressions which troubled
his father with the too sure presage of that course which Cuthbert was
about to follow.

He intended, it said, to leave Milverton at Michaelmas, and should
recommend that Arthur, who was sufficiently forward in his studies,
should be then entered at the University. “I shall not,” it added,
“accompany the dear boy to Oxford; indeed, with my sentiments, it
would be alike unjust to Sir Oliver and to the youth himself to retain
my present office in this family. Where a tutor is called upon to
conceal his opinions and suppress his feelings (on the most important
and the most sublime subjects which affect the present interests of
society and the everlasting happiness of man), in his daily
intercourse with his pupil, both parties are very seriously injured.”

It was particularly remarked by his mother that, in this letter, while
Cuthbert acknowledged, in general terms of warmth, the kindness with
which he had been treated throughout his illness by the whole family
at Milverton, and while he mentioned the friendliness of Juxon, of
whom they had never previously heard, and dwelt still more on his deep
obligations to Master Randal, the surgeon, he never even named
Mistress Katharine, of whom he had spoken with such a romantic warmth
in his former correspondence.

“My dear,” said Noble, “Cuthbert has been on the brink of the grave,
and his mind is full of all that has been solemn and awakening in that
awful experience; but it is not a good sign that he has avoided all
detail of that experience to us. I doubt not that his piety has been
deepened, but I am not without a fear that his head is taken up with
new notions, both of doctrine and of duty, and that he was unwilling
to open them out to us. However, if by any path he has advanced to a
nearer and more affecting view of his Redeemer than that to which he
has hitherto attained, let us rejoice and thank God. He has all along
been deficient in that simplicity of view which begets humility,
peace, and joy:--he refines too much on every subject which is
presented to his mind; muses when he should act; speculates when he
should pray; and is lost in the cold and unsubstantial clouds which
veil the mountain, when he might stand upon the serene summit in the
warm light of the Sun of righteousness.

“It was ever thus with him. In childhood we neglected to subdue his
will, and we shall suffer, and he himself will suffer for our fond but
mistaken indulgence.”

“I am sure, dear, that he was always affectionate and dutiful, and
always will be.”

“Nay, Constance, that does not follow. He will always love us, I am
well persuaded; but whether he will remain obedient to our wishes in
those trying scenes which may sooner or later be presented to our eyes
is very doubtful.”

“Well, Noble, it will be time enough to think of that when the trial
comes:--happen what may, I feel certain that all will be safe and
happy where you are. God ever takes good care of his own; and I always
feel that there is a blessing and a guard round about our dwelling,
for your dear sake.”

“Wife, how can you talk so weakly. What is there in two worms of the
earth, like you and me, that should procure for us an exemption from
calamity?--but this is unprofitable talking--sufficient unto the day
is the evil thereof--to enjoy is to obey--and the voice of
thanksgiving is melody. Let us bless God for past mercies, and bless
him by trust for all future goodness.”

Their conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of Peter, to
say that Master Daws, the sour precisian, who, it may be remembered,
would have before prevented the customary sports and pleasures on the
festival of the Mayday, was at the gate, and wanted to see Parson
Noble, for a few minutes, on very urgent business.

To rise and go out and ask him into his study with all courtesy was,
of course, the duty of Noble, both as a brother minister and a
Christian gentleman; but it was with no doubt as to the nature and
object of his visit that he did so, and with a desire to bring their
interview to as early a close as might consist with common civility.

The contrast of the two parsons as they entered the study, and as
Master Daws seated himself in the tall chair which Noble drew forward
for him with a quick and rather, indeed, an impatient motion, was
comic in the extreme, and would have greatly diverted any of Noble’s
old college cronies, as it would, of a truth, the good vicar himself,
could he have looked on, and been spared the vexation of playing as a
principal in the dull performance.

Master Daws was a tall, gaunt, bony personage, of a stature exceeding
six feet by nearly two inches: he presented a rigid outline of sharp
angles from his cheek bones to his pointed and protuberant ankles. His
features were coarse; his complexion muddy; his eyes round and dull;
his forehead low; and there was an expression of bad temper about the
corners of his mouth. His black hair was cut close, and he had thin
weak eye-brows.

He seated himself with a slow solemnity of manner; placed his tall
greasy cane erect between his knees, and folded his clumsy hands upon
the top of it; turned up the whites of his eyes in a pretended
ejaculation; and in a drawling tone delivered himself of his
hypocritical errand as follows:--

“My dear brother in the Lord--thou art esteemed a master in
Israel--thou hast a name to live. I would fain hope that thou art not
a willing partaker of the sins of thy people; but verily they stink in
the nostrils of all true Christians, who are thy neighbours. We have
conferred together--we are sore grieved--we are ashamed for thy
sake--and I am come to reason with thee alone concerning the
abominations which are daily committed in thy parish, lest thou perish
and thy people with thee.”

The good parson listened to this strange address without anger,
without wonder, and without reply. The graceful ease of his composed
attitude of attention,--the clear light of his kind intelligent
eyes,--his high pale intellectual forehead,--his frame slender, and a
little bent with the weight of advancing years, and the thin white
hairs scattered on his temples,--would have made the sincere but
deluded fanatic hesitate to proceed, or would have melted his
remonstrance into all that was gentle and affectionate in expression.
On the conscious, the interested, and the incensed hypocrite, however,
his calmness had the opposite effect; and Master Daws, with a most
stern tyranny of tongue, in language clumsily misquoted from the
sacred books of the prophets, and grossly misapplied, went forward to
denounce the wrath of Heaven against the poor rustics of Cheddar and
their aged pastor. This speech we would rather leave to the
imagination of such readers as may be familiar with the incongruous
and disgusting jargon in which the sour zealots and the gloomy
sectarians, who were then daily extending their severe notions,
uttered their iron anathemas against the innocent gaieties of life. At
the close of his very offensive harangue, he drew forth from his
pocket a small volume in black letter, and presented it to the good
vicar with these words:--

“Brother, I have been perhaps too warm; but the fire burned within me,
and it is accounted the first duty of a servant to be faithful. It is
my zeal for the Lord;--and herewith, in love and compassion to thy
poor blinded people, and in pity to thy soul, I do present to thee for
thy private reading, and for the instruction of thy benighted mind,
this book, which is _The Anatomie of Abuses: containing a Discoverie
or briefe Summarie of such notable Vices and Corruptions as now raigne
in many Christian Countreyes of the Worlde: but especially in the
Countrey of Ailgna: together with most fearfull Examples of God’s
Judgements executed upon the Wicked for the same, as well in Ailgna of
late, as in other Places elsewhere. Very godly, to be read of all true
Christians every where; but most chiefly to be regarded in England.
Made Dialogue-wise by Phillip Stubbes._ This wordy title-page, placing
his spectacles upon his nose, he read slowly with a nasal whine, which
the compression of the ill constructed spectacles he wore not a little
assisted.”

“Neighbour Daws,” said Noble patiently, “I do not need thy service in
this matter, seeing I have on my own shelves the book of Master
Phillip Stubbes; and I deny not that it contains some godly maxims and
sound precepts, and it may have done some good by its ridicule of
many vanities, and its condemnation of many sins and abuses: but I
think he distinguishes not between things innocent and hurtful, and
tears up many pleasant flowers of God’s giving, under the dark fancy
that they are poisonous weeds;--for the rest that thou hast spoken
thyself concerning the little flock and fold over which the providence
of God hath made me the humble and willing shepherd, I will not call
thee unmannerly and uncharitable. I have heard thee with pain, though
with patience; and, while I give thee full credit for sincerity in thy
opinions, desire not to hear them further, now or ever again.”

As thus he spoke, he rose, and indicated by that action his wish that
the interview should not be prolonged. Daws also, with a horrible
smile upon his hideous face, in which was to be discerned all the mad
irritation of a mean person, who felt himself despised, and for the
moment baffled in producing alarm, raised himself slowly from his
seat, and answered,--“Satan, the prince of hell, is lord over thy
village and thy people--and he has blinded thy aged eyes, and sealed
thy dumb mouth:--verily the Lord shall visit for these things, and
that speedily;”--so saying, he stalked out with uplifted eyes, and as
he passed the threshold stamped the dust from his feet with a
vindictive action, and departed. “I wish that Cuthbert could have
witnessed this scene,” said Noble, as he saw the ruthless and envious
bigot pass forth out of the wicket, and stride angrily across the
church-yard; “but the wish is vain.”

Upon inquiring of Peter, he learned that, on the preceding evening,
this morose personage had found a dozen children playing round a small
bonfire, in a glen about half a mile from the village, and
celebrating, as a game of play, the festival of St. John’s eve,--the
observance of which had in the present reign been discontinued. The
joyous urchins, alike innocent of pagan or popish idolatry, were
dancing about the flames, and tossing flowers into the rivulet, which
flowed past the spot where they had kindled them, when Daws, who had
his secret designs in many a walk which he took to the neighbourhood
of Cheddar, came suddenly upon them, and driving them off with
execrations and blows, kicked the half burned sticks into the
water:--the little fearless sinners, however, making a swift and
active retreat up a rock, where they felt secure from pursuit,
revenged themselves by shouts and laughter; and in this the little
fellow who had witnessed the ludicrous fall and flight of this same
Daws on May morning, and who had been again recognised by him this
evening, led the merry chorus of impudent little rebels with
conspicuous glee.

Although Noble listened to this news with a smile, the severe and
mischievous spirit evinced during his interview with Daws, both in
language, tone, and manner, gave him more uneasiness than he chose to
impart to his wife, to whom he related much of what had passed between
them in a light and jocular vein. But, alone, he could not but be
impressed with the conviction, that a curate of this harsh and
malevolent character was a very uncomfortable and unsafe neighbour,
and might hereafter prove dangerous.

However, he had now plainly paid his last visit in the quality of
brother clergyman; and, if he was ever to come in that of enemy and
accuser, he could only do so under the restraining guidance of that
mighty, merciful, and mysterious Providence, which ordereth all things
wisely and well.

The good pastor was ill qualified to counteract the intrigues, or to
contend with the violence, of parties. He was a quietist, an optimist,
a dweller at home, enjoying to-day, and taking little anxious thought
for the morrow. His hours were divided between his parish, his study,
and his garden.

Old Blount, the most honest and hospitable of English franklins, was
the only neighbour with whom he could associate upon a footing of
mutual intercourse: but there was not a threshold in the village which
he did not often cross with some friendly inquiry or cheerful words
upon his lip; not a child, that would not rather run to than from him;
and the cottage curs were too familiar with his step and voice to do
more than raise and turn their heads as they lay watching at the
doors, when Noble passed by.

His chief recreation was the weekly visit to Wells. As regularly as
the appointed day came round, the worthy parson mounted his old white
mare, with her well stuffed saddle, rejoicing, in a seat covered with
cloth of a pale sky blue, much faded, and he was carried at a
meditative jogtrot to the fair and ancient city.

Here, at the house of his friend, he would refresh his spirits by
listening to (and sometimes joining in the rich performance of) the
best madrigals of the never surpassed composers of that day, and
taking his part in most pleasant and tuneful exercises on the viol and
the lute.

The troublous aspect of the times had of late somewhat altered the
character of these meetings; and the two holyday hours were now for
the most part, if not entirely, consumed in grave and anxious
consultations on public affairs. The severe spirit of the church
reformers of that period frowned upon every semblance of pleasure: to
them the song of harvest, the dance of the village green, and the
merry catch round the winter hearth, were things sinful and forbidden,
and the peal of the solemn organ in the house of prayer and praise
was hated as an abomination.

Yet they might have read in Scripture, in the very words of holy men
of God, that “the ear of the Lord listeneth to the song of the reaper,
and the joy of harvest; and that he delights not to turn the dance of
the vintage into mourning, nor to make the young cease from their
music:” but because the good provisions of God are daily abused by the
many, who consider not the gracious Giver of them, therefore they
would have the bread of all steeped in tears, and eaten with the
bitter herbs of mourning. Of a truth, in some degree every Christian
man, and minister more especially, must be a mourner, and is: but the
spirit would fail and faint if it might not also taste the rich
consolations of a hallowed joy; and if, amid the labours, the toils,
and the mean cares of the daily pilgrimage, man might not stoop to
gather the flower at his feet, or pause to listen to the feathered
choristers of God’s own temple, it would be to refuse and put away,
with a sullen unthankfulness, the comforts which the Father of mercies
has provided.

Of such enjoyments Noble was most fearlessly fond. To him the world of
nature was a vast and richly illuminated volume; on the various
pictures of which he could pore for ever, with all the wonder, and
with all the rapture, of childhood:--“his Father made them all”--that
was his feeling. The arrows of trouble and disappointment fell blunted
from a bosom, the shield of which was a God seen, acknowledged, and
felt, in all things visible, as the very essence of love.



CHAP. XI.

    He makes the infirmity of his temper pass for revelations.
                                                       BUTLER.


The summer months at Milverton rolled swiftly on, Cuthbert slowly, but
perfectly, regained his strength; and, early in August, he was once
more able to walk abroad and to take exercise on horseback; but his
vivacity and animation did not return with his health: he was no
longer the cheerful and entertaining companion at table, or in the
intervals of leisure. Sir Oliver found him a dull restraint, and
wearied of his presence: even his pupil, who was truly attached to
him, and was still, in the hours of study, delighted with his
preceptor, felt the sad and depressing change; and if it had not been
for the frequent visits of George Juxon, would have been disappointed
of many of those joyous and manly exercises which Juxon delighted to
encourage, and in which he excelled. The only diversions by which
Cuthbert could now be attracted were fencing, and the use of the broad
sword: but he practised them without a smile; and there was an
earnestness of attention and a seriousness of effort about him,
whenever he took a lesson from Juxon, which drove away smiles and
jokes. His stamp was angry; the glance of his eye rapid and piercing;
and after six weeks of occasional practice, when Juxon told him he
would soon be a strong and complete swordsman, the grave scholar, so
quiet and gentle in all his ways and words on common occasions,
hastily and vehemently exclaimed, “Thank God.”

“For what?” asked his good-tempered instructor, “for what do you thank
God so warmly?”

“It matters not, it matters not,” replied Cuthbert, hastily; “time
will show.”

Juxon put down his sword, and, looking him earnestly in the face,
asked him if he was well?

“What a strange question! quite well.”

“No, Master Cuthbert, it is not always that a man is well who calls
himself so, or even who thinks himself to be so. We are alone; we are
friends; tell me what has thus moved you; tell me what it is that has
so changed and saddened you; what are the dark purposes which lie hid
in your bosom?”

“Methinks this question is yet more strange. I have no purposes that
be not honest; none that will not bear the light of open day; but,
yet, I may not care to trouble others or myself by babbling of them.”

“Does the blow still rankle in your bosom, Cuthbert? Have you
retracted the pardon uttered on your bed? And do you mean to seek out
Sir Charles, and make him do battle for your revenge?”

“Master Juxon, that is not well asked: such purpose would be dark,
indeed: was not my pardon spoken before God, and at the grave’s mouth?
No; I forgave him as I hope to be forgiven; nay, in that it was a stab
which sought my life I forgave it more readily than I could have done
a blow; that, indeed, such slaves we are of pride, that might have
rankled still.”

“True--I had forgotten--and my words have wronged you; but, Cuthbert,
whatever are your purposes, they do not make you happy. I met you the
other day riding much faster than is your wont, and your countenance
was clouded, and your teeth were set, as if in hottest anger, and you
would not stop, but only muttered a good morrow as you passed swiftly
by. What do all these things mean?”

“They mean that I am sick at heart for England; sick for the meek
man’s wrongs. I had just then met an aged countryman, his furrowed
cheek newly branded, for a churchyard brawl: I questioned him closely,
and found him a sufferer for conscience’ sake, falsely accused and
persecuted by a godless parson of his parish.”

“Cuthbert, did the countryman tell truth? Did he name the parish and
the parson?”

“He did; I know them well: in Oxfordshire was this outrage done, and
the crime is not three months old.”

“Well, here is a case of wrong to be made known and to be redressed.
Scandals there must be, even in the most sacred offices, when they are
held by mere men. Some are cruel, and some are wanton by nature, and
to punish these we have our judges and our bishops.”

“Yes we have--and the same who ruled the decisions of the
Star-chamber. The wrong redressed! it would be smiled at; and if it
were punished, what then? There’s nothing but the grave-worm can take
away the brand from the old man’s cheek: his grandchildren will put
their little fingers on the mark and ask the story of it, and he will
tell them what he told me, and more. It is a hard world, Juxon.”

“And always was, and always will be. Legislation is a coarse thing:
some innocent will always suffer with the guilty.”

“The guilty! is liberty of conscience guilt? Look you, Master Juxon,
there are good men and true ready to stand up for that liberty.”

“And for a little more, perhaps: your secret is out; so, instead of
our sword-play being mere exercise for pastime, after college fashion,
I have been teaching the noble science of defence to a stout
Parliamentarian, to an enemy of mother church.”

“Nay; no enemy to any persons or any institutions, but to the
oppressor every where, and to oppression every where, by whatever
titles or names they may be disguised.”

“You confess, then, that you wish an appeal to the sword.”

“I say not so; but if it come, as it may, and as in my present
judgment it surely will, I shall be well pleased that my fingers have
been taught to fight; for I would not be wanting in the day of
battle.”

“I have heard you, Cuthbert, speak words of Christ’s religion since
your late illness, which I have thought of so sweet and heavenly a
temper, as might well engage all men to follow the truth in love.
Surely the weapons of a Christian’s warfare are not carnal.”

“I tell you, the fat heart of the oppressor is proof against all
other, and they that govern with the headsman’s axe must look to be
wounded by the patriot’s sword.”

“Stop, Cuthbert, we’ll say no more on this subject--you are standing
upon a precipice--the gulf beneath is treason.”

“Not against Heaven, Juxon; and it is a poor thing to me to be judged
by my fellow man.”

“Yes, Cuthbert, against Heaven. Your father will say so.”

“Never; though it is true that my father is old and timid, and he
would bear the errors of the crown in charity and in hope, rather than
see them openly opposed by arms.”

“And you would punish them in the field of battle?”

“And gain a victory over the crown for the greater honour and more
golden purity of the crown itself!”

“Are you so weak, Cuthbert, as to think that a crown, beaten from a
king’s head by the sword, and lying soiled by the dust of a fall, can
ever be replaced on the same brows with honour?--No! but among the
successful rebels, some stern spirit would be found to wipe it and put
it on; whose sceptre would have no peaceful globe surmounted by a
dove; but would rather be a naked sword crimsoned to the hilt with
blood.”

“Never, never:--you, like many good and generous persons, are the
creature of prejudice and of circumstance; you do not see, and you
will not believe, that the temple of true freedom needs only to be
opened, and all the virtuous and the holy will flock there to worship
in peace, and they will guard it alike from the rude tyrant and from
the slavish rabble.”

“Cuthbert, you dream, and will awake some day in bitterness of soul.
But if these be your sentiments--if thoughts like these fill your mind
and colour your gloomy fancies--no wonder that your looks are sad.”

“My fancies are not gloomy. They are solemn. I am not sad, but I am
serious. In visions of the night, I have seen this earth
regenerate--its people walking in peace--holiness on the bells of the
horses. I have heard the voice of thanksgiving and the song of praise.
I have listened for sighs, and looked for tears, but there were none.
I have asked about their happiness, and they have told me, ‘In this
region there is no one to hurt or to destroy:--we do not teach every
man his neighbour, for from the least to the greatest we all know
God.’ Such have been my revelations; and I have been called, and
chosen by name, to join that sacred band, which is to awaken a
slumbering and captive people, and lead them forward to prepare the
way for that monarchy of truth and universal love which is even now
about to descend and bless mankind. The spear shall be broken, the
sword turned into a ploughshare, and the sovereign Lord of all shall
stand a second time upon the earth, and proclaim his promised reign of
holiness and peace.”

Juxon listened to this rhapsody with awe and pain; and not without an
effort to shake the strong delusion, which was evidently taking a fast
hold upon the mind of Cuthbert.

“My dear friend,” he said, laying his hand gently upon his arm, “I
confess that you greatly alarm me. Consider that, for the first two
months after your wound, you were very weak in body; you were often
obliged to have recourse to opiates to procure rest; and you was not
in a state to examine the impressions made on your mind, and to
separate illusion from reality. There is nothing wonderful in these
phantasma having floated past your mind’s eye: it is with sounds as
with sights; the music of a dream is often clear and ravishing to the
mind’s ear; and our name may be thus, to our sleeping fancy, very
distinctly called and connected with some message or charge of solemn
import spoken as by a voice from Heaven. Or, it may be, Cuthbert, that
the enemy of your soul, knowing that you can only be led aside from
the path of duty and peace by the fair semblance of true religion and
freedom, hath assumed these angel shapes to lure you to your ruin.

“I can understand the plain and manly language of a Hampden, but this
I cannot. It is unhealthy; it is the false fire of the fanatic. Rouse
your intellect, and turn away from these notions, or you will be
entangled and overcome: strangle the serpent while you have strength
to do so.”

Cuthbert replied only by the grave smile of one so firmly persuaded
of the truth of his own convictions as rather to pity than resent the
very unwelcome effort to disturb them. However, he now communicated to
Juxon that, in another month (it being then the end of September), he
should accompany his pupil to enter at Oxford, and should there leave
him, and proceed himself to join a friend in London. This arrangement,
he observed, would enable him to reach the capital about the time when
the new parliament was to assemble; for it had been just resolved by
the King, in his great council of peers held at York, that a
parliament should be called to sit on the third of November following.

George Juxon was truly concerned to find that Cuthbert was so far gone
in his views, that to reclaim him seemed hopeless; but there were so
many amiable and engaging points in his character, that he could not
allow any one chance of recovering him from a course which he truly
thought would distress his father and destroy his own peace of mind,
altogether neglected.

He was aware that Cuthbert maintained a scrupulous silence on the
subjects on which he had just spoken in his intercourse with the
family; but he had often observed that, whatever was the matter of
discourse at table, or elsewhere, the opinion of Mistress Katharine
had great weight with him. He determined, therefore, to make a full
disclosure to her of the state of Cuthbert’s mind, and to engage her
good offices to dissipate, if possible, the cloud of illusions which
obscured or dazzled his present judgment. He was, however, obliged to
defer this step by the sudden arrival of Sophia and Jane Lambert; the
latter of whom instantly joined Sir Oliver and the ladies in the
gallery, to communicate the arrival of their brother at the Grange,
and his intention of again presenting himself at Milverton that
evening, to express his sorrow to Sir Oliver for what had passed in
the spring, and to acknowledge duly the frank and Christian
forgiveness of Cuthbert Noble.

Juxon learned from Sophia Lambert that Sir Charles having met with Sir
Philip Arundel at some place of public amusement, had demanded
satisfaction of him for the insulting words which Sir Philip had
addressed to him on the evening when they last parted at Milverton;
that they had retired to an adjoining tavern with their friends; and
Sir Philip having been wounded, the quarrel was amicably adjusted, and
the parties shook hands.

By this duel, Sir Charles at once succeeded in stopping the mouth of
one who would have reported the occurrence at Milverton more to his
disadvantage and shame than it was yet considered among his London
acquaintance, and knew that he should in some degree recover his lost
ground with Sir Oliver and his neighbours in Warwickshire. For the
credit of their family the sisters were naturally desirous of this;
and, therefore, they had preceded their brother with cheerfulness, and
with an earnest anxiety to secure him a good reception. Jane, indeed,
well knew the feelings of Katharine Heywood, and loved her happiness
far before that of Sir Charles; but still he was a brother, and the
head of their house; and though she secretly determined to divert his
attentions and his hopes from Katharine, she wished that the two
families should resume their old footing of neighbourhood and
frequent intercourse.

The various projects devised by the kind heart of Jane Lambert were
always most readily aided by an acute and contriving mind.

She had already rendered Katharine a most important service in the
matter of George Juxon’s suit, which she had put an end to before any
declaration of it distressing to the fair and noble object of it had
been made.

The modesty, the good sense, and the manliness of Juxon, enabled him,
with very little assistance from the delicate though playful
management of Jane Lambert, to discern the painful truth. He plainly
saw that Katharine Heywood was not at all disposed to favour, or even
entertain, his pretensions as a lover; and he made a worthy and
successful effort to stifle in his breast the sentiment, which she had
inspired, that he might still enjoy the privilege of visiting at
Milverton as an intimate, and might attain to the happy and soothing
distinction of being her true and faithful friend:--this consolation
was already granted to his manly heart. Katharine saw and valued his
sterling qualities; and to no one in the whole circle of her
acquaintance were her manners more open, cordial, and confiding than
to George Juxon.

It was a curious thing, that evening, to see with what a shy,
embarrassed air the noble Cuthbert, noble even in his errors, received
the silken, though forced and momentary, submission of the man, whose
savage anger had well nigh deprived him of life. No looker on,
ignorant of their peculiar relation to each other, at the first
interview, could have remotely guessed it from the manner or bearing
of either.

The cheek of Sir Charles was indeed coloured by a deep, though
transient, stain of crimson, as he made his obeisance to Mistress
Katharine, and took her slowly extended hand,--but with Sir Oliver he
was quite at his ease immediately; not so, however, with Juxon, whose
presence a little disconcerted him throughout the evening.

As the weather was, for the season, very open and mild, and as there
was a fine moon, it was soon arranged by Sir Oliver, that the party
from the Grange should sup at Milverton, and ride home by moonlight.
To Sir Oliver the reconciliation was most satisfactory; and as he saw
Cuthbert sitting at the table, as strong and healthy as before the
misfortune, and as he considered the name of Sir Charles completely
white-washed in society, by his duel with Sir Philip Arundel, he
dismissed all further thought about the ferocious crime which he
committed. It was now passed without the sad consequences which might
have followed--it was forgiven--it was already dwindling into very
insignificant proportions--and was soon to be altogether forgotten.

After the pleasant customs of that time, when supper was ended, the
music books were introduced--the viol and lute were brought;--and an
hour, or more, was delightfully spent to the health and refreshment of
mind and body, in that familiar concert, where each person was
expected to sing the appointed part at first sight. Among the
permitted pleasures of our existence, those derived from the gift of
sweet sounds, and from the divine art of musical composition, may be
classed among the purest and most refined.

They sung a few of the best madrigals of Orlando Gibbons, and Bird’s
rich harmony--“My Mind to me a Kingdom is;”--and they closed with a
flowing glee for five voices, from Gibbons, entitled “The Silver
Swan.” The summer parlour in which they sung had been found so warm
that the casements were half open, and the moonlight streamed in,
scarcely overpowered by the lamp, which stood upon the table, and but
dimly illuminated the oaken wainscot and ceiling. Except a whispered
word, to the one sitting next, on the richness of Bird’s harmonies, or
on the delicate and sweet style of Orlando Gibbons, a long and silent
pause followed the evening’s performance, and they seemed to be
enjoying again in memory what they had just made vocal. Suddenly there
stole upon them from among the trees, at a short distance, a simple
and soft melody of a most tender expression. It was the music of a
pipe or reed, but such as none of the party had ever heard before. The
tones were various,--now full and clear; now faint and exquisite; now
died away into a charmed stillness; now, again, they were heard slow,
chaste, and solemn, as if the burden of the air were some sacred hymn.
At last, after ravishing the ears of the astonished party, who stood
at the window, or leaned upon their chairs with mute attention, by
breathing forth airs of strange harmony, which none could distinctly
recognise, the invisible minstrel closed the magical prelude, in
heavenly and melancholy notes of surpassing sweetness, with the
favourite air of “Now, O now,” by the famous Dowland, the well known
friend of the immortal William Shakspeare. Not one of the party
observed the sudden paleness and deep agitation of Katharine, while
the sweet notes of this beautiful air were sounding in their ravished
ears. All were silent, and most of them absorbed in still attention;
and Katharine sat back in the shadow of the apartment, so that her
countenance was hid.

“Methinks it is a spirit,” said Jane Lambert, with a smile.

“Nay, if it be,” observed Mistress Alice, “it is a good one, and has
been gently bred.--I am sure I felt quite sorry when the last air
ceased; and as for poor Master Cuthbert, I never saw any man so
affected by music before.--Do you not observe it, Katharine?”

“I cannot wonder, because I know that Dowland is a great favourite
with him; and that air, played as it was, might affect a person less
easily moved than Master Cuthbert.”

“Well, Kate,” said Sir Oliver, “after all, it is but some piping
stroller, perhaps, that is trudging it to Coventry fair; but, what
with moonshine and fancy, you are making an Orpheus of the
vagabond,--and I dare to say he would be well pleased to pipe a good
fat hen out of the fowl house.”

“Really, Sir Oliver,” said Jane Lambert, “you old gentlemen are very
provoking:--you have a way of knocking down all castles in the air
with a crab-stick; and if we do now and then get lifted off plain
ground, you bring us down again with a vengeance. Now, even I, who am
not very romantic, was painting to myself some disconsolate bard of
noble presence, wandering about in sad banishment from the lady of
his love, and solacing his despair with the melody of this pipe, given
him, I am sure, by a magician.”

“Whoever he is,” said Juxon, who with young Arthur had leaped from the
window and ran to the wood, coming to the open casement a few minutes
after, “he has certainly got the ring of Gyges; for there is not man
or animal in that open beechery; and if any one had run forth we must
have seen them in the close behind.”

“It may be, Juxon, he is perched in a tree, like your true
nightingale,” said Sir Oliver.

“Nay, we looked up into the branches carefully, but could discern
nothing: the birds at roost, though, had raised their heads from
beneath their wings, to listen to the strange chorister. In faith, he
is no common shepherd in clouted shoon, but a rare minstrel, such as
poets feign Apollo. Hush! listen again.”

Again, after a playful prelude, the invisible musician performed the
sweet air to which the song of Ariel in the Tempest was always sung.

“Marry, Master Juxon,” said Jane, “the precious songster mocks your
pains, and gives you fair challenge to renew your hunt; but I think
you might gather the night dew till cock-crow before you would find
him.”

Every one seemed spell-bound till the air was done, and Jane Lambert
spoke; but Juxon and Arthur now ran again to the beechery, and in a
few minutes returned without better success than before.

“Well,” said Jane Lambert, “we shall soon find out who it is that this
dainty spirit is come to honour; for if it be Sophy or me, we shall
have him flying with us on a bat’s back all the way to the Grange; and
if it be you, dear Kate, you will have more music than sleep
to-night.”

Katharine was spared all reply by Sir Oliver gravely saying, “that he
remembered when he was a boy that beechery was said to be haunted, and
that whenever the white lady appeared it boded evil to the family at
Milverton.” This old Philip had already mentioned to the servants, who
stood grouped at the gate of the court-yard on the right, but none of
whom had dared to venture down to the spot whence the music came,
though they had seen all which passed.

Master Cuthbert ventured to observe, that the music was not like the
wailing of a ghost, which came as a forerunner of grief; nor was it of
such solemnity, that a spirit from heaven could take delight in it:
and he doubted not that the minstrel was plain flesh and blood; that
he had, probably, been arrested by the sounds of their little concert,
had amused himself by responding to them with his own pleasant
instrument, and had practised cleverly upon their curiosity by the
nimbleness with which he had evaded their search. But Sir Oliver shook
his head at this natural explanation of the mystery; and the Lamberts
and Juxon, after putting their lips to a stirrup cup of spiced wine,
took leave of their host, and the trampling of their horses soon died
away in the distance.



CHAP. XII.

    Why, alas! and are you he?
    Be not yet those fancies changed?
                              SIDNEY.


To Katharine there had been no mystery: she could not doubt that the
invisible minstrel was her cousin Francis, and that he was again too
near for her peace or his own.

Yet such is the sweet treachery of a loving heart, that she could not
be sad to know, that one so dearly, though so hopelessly, attached to
her, was perhaps within sight of the very window of her apartment, and
standing upon some spot where they had formerly walked together in
joy. Though resolved not to grant him more than one interview, and to
dissuade him from seeking any future opportunities of intercourse, she
could not but admit a natural feeling of delight, that she should
once more, though but for a few brief moments, look upon him, and
listen to his well remembered voice. In the solitude of her chamber
she found that relief and freedom of thought which her spirit needed:
her wakeful night was passed in reviewing former, and in shaping out
future scenes; but of this last exercise of the mind she soon grew
weary, for doubt hung over all her future prospects. It was about two
hours after midnight, and the house was quite still, when Katharine,
in a frame of mind that ill agreed with sleep and peace, arose, and
wrapped in her night robe leaned from the casement of her chamber, and
gazed out upon the fields and woods, and caught the sheen of the river
as it glided beneath the holy moon. The scene was calm, the air
serene, and her anxious spirit was soothed by contemplation. She
remained long at the window; and as she was retiring turned her eyes
to the left, where, beyond the Lime Walk, she could see the black
shade of her favourite cedar near the fish-pond. In the moonlight near
it she discerned the figure of a man walking slowly upon the grass.
Her heart beat quick in her bosom; she leaned her brow against the
wall: that surely was Francis. A projection of the building threw such
a shadow over her window, that her figure could not be seen, and
therefore she again looked forth and cast her eyes towards the cedar.
The figure near paced slowly backwards and forwards, occasionally
pausing for a minute or more, as if gazing at the house. Certainly it
was Francis. Forbidden all access to the mansion by the angry
prejudices of Sir Oliver, he had recourse to music to tell her of his
return. They had often watched the moonbeams together from the terrace
below; they had often been sheltered together beneath the broad arms
of that very cedar in the heats of noon, till, suddenly, as by
surprise, they loved and after shunned each other, from the sad
knowledge that the barriers to their union were many, were cold, and
were impassable. As all these after-thoughts crossed her noble mind,
she suffered herself to look upon her cousin where he kept his lonely
vigil, with that deep interest which must ever be inseparable from
that being in whose heart we know that our image is enshrined and
cherished.

When the morning star shone brightly out the figure of Francis
suddenly disappeared. Katharine now withdrew from the casement; and,
exhausted by the various emotions, which had filled and troubled her
anxious bosom with apprehension and with delight, she threw herself on
her bed without taking off her robe, and slept so very long and
profoundly, that when she awoke she found Mistress Alice seated by her
side, with a look of affectionate alarm upon her kind face, and her
maid frightened and in tears. It was already high noon. Katharine,
however, knew nothing of the lapse of time; and imagining she might be
an hour later than usual, was raising herself up with some expression
about her strange fit of sleepiness, when her aunt put her hand gently
upon her, and bade her lie down again. “When Master Randal has seen
you, my dear,” she said, “you shall be undressed, and have your bed
made, and be put to rest properly and with comfort. He is below, and
has been here this half hour, but he wished that your slumber should
not be broken.”

But the effort to rise had already shown Katharine the unwelcome
truth--she was in a high fever:--her head ached, her lips were
parched, her mouth was dry, her skin was burning.

The good doctor was instantly summoned; and having examined her case
with very careful attention, directed that she should be confined to
her bed, and that her chamber should be kept dark and still.

“It was a violent fever,” he said, “which would probably, in another
stage, take an intermittent form;” but evidently, from the doctor’s
manner, it was a case of danger, demanding great watchfulness and
skilful treatment.

Promising Mistress Alice that his visits should be as frequent as
possible, he returned to Warwick at speed, accompanied by a servant,
who was to bring back the medicines prescribed.

The trouble of Sir Oliver almost amounted to terror. His mind was by
no means superior to those fears which vulgar errors impose; and as,
in addition to the strange music of the evening before, he had that
very morning seen a hare cross the high road just before his horse’s
feet, he augured no less a calamity than a fatal end to the sudden
illness of his beloved daughter.

Cuthbert Noble, however, rose to the occasion; and though it is
certain that no individual in the family felt a more tender affection
and concern for Katharine Heywood than he did, yet he was enabled, by
a wise sympathy, to compose the fears and animate the hopes of Sir
Oliver, and indeed of an entire household; for a despondency fell upon
all, which the most comfortable arguments of plain reason and sound
religion did but imperfectly remove.

For three days the life of Katharine Heywood was, in truth, in very
imminent danger, and the fever was of that malignant nature which
defied all ordinary treatment: but as the doctor was a man of great
decision and boldness in his practice, and, at the same time, one who
committed all events with humility and simplicity to the will of God,
he fought bravely with the disease; and after the third night of
patient watching and vigorous experiments, he subdued it so far that
he could announce to Sir Oliver the safety of his daughter. The crisis
was passed; but her weakness was great, and her recovery very gradual.
For the first three days of her attack she was almost without
consciousness; but though her head became light, and her mind was
confused, she uttered nothing in her wanderings which attracted the
particular notice of Mistress Alice, or any of her attendants, or in
the least betrayed the secret of her heart.

Meanwhile Francis Heywood, in ignorance of the sad condition of his
cousin Katharine, endured all the agony of a suspicion that he was at
once neglected and scorned by her who had been the vision of his
lonely hours of labour in a remote plantation, and who, as the very
star of his destiny, had led him back again to the land in which she
dwelt, as a land of promise. Liberty was his watchword; and it is true
that when letters spoke so confidently of a civil war as inevitable,
he obtained his father’s permission to return to England, that he
might join his patriotic countrymen in their contention for the rights
of civil and religious liberty. Nor was this a mere pretext for escape
from the tame drudgery of colonial life,--the cause of freedom was
sacred in his sight, and was precious to his heart. He came to draw
the sword, and bare his bosom in the battle. He had a life to offer on
the altar of duty, and he joyously brought the willing sacrifice; but
yet there lay at the bottom of his heart one bright, one good hope. He
might be lifted, by the fortunes of this war, to renown, to rank, to
fortune; he might survive all its chances; he might see peace and
happiness restored:--the present relations between himself and his
wealthy uncle might be greatly altered; the old prejudices against him
might at last give way, and the crowning reward of all his honours and
his fortunes might be the hand of Katharine. This was his dream by
day--this was his dream by night:--like some chaste and solemn star,
seen brightly shining in solitary and calm glory at the extremity of a
narrow and gloomy valley, darkened by the shadows of lofty mountains,
so the majestic loveliness of his cousin Katharine, irradiated by all
her virtues, shone out beyond the cloudy path of blood and peril, as
the blissful end and rest of all his labours.

He had not passed a night of such rapture since he last parted from
his cousin as that on which he reached Milverton, and the whole of
which he mused away within sight of the mansion that contained the
noble object of his attachment.

Although he was fully persuaded that he should be recognised by
Katharine as the wandering musician, yet he was in doubt whether she
would afford him an immediate opportunity of meeting her alone;
therefore he prepared an earnest appeal to her, in characters which,
though enigmatical to others, would, he well knew, be readily
understood by herself. The moon shone that night with so clear a
brightness, that he had no sort of difficulty in executing his design.
He made a slight fancy sketch, on a small piece of paper, of a setting
sun; he introduced the cedar in the fore-ground, and in one corner he
wrote, in a small hand, the Italian word “implora:” on the back of
this paper he faintly sketched a dial-plate, the shadow touching the
figure of seven in the evening. He placed this between the leaves of a
copy of Spenser’s “Fairy Queen,” which he found upon the seat, and
which he remembered to have been the garden companion of his fair
cousin in former days. When, on the following evening, the sun had
set, and the silver light of the moon touched all objects with the
hues of peace, Francis repaired to the appointed spot with eager
steps, and in confident hope that he should once more behold her for
whom he had all that tender reverence which angelic purity could alone
inspire. He seated himself beneath the well-known tree, and saw with
pleasure that the book had been taken away. Katharine, then, had
received his “implora,” and she would not--she could not--disappoint
him, and deny his prayer. The long delay of her coming perplexed him;
and, after an hour of anxious waiting, every succeeding minute was
insupportably slow, and weighty with sadness. He left and resumed his
seat with restless discomposure; he paced the neighbouring bank; he
went into the Lime Walk, to watch for the first glimpse of her distant
form; at last, as he was approaching the cedar tree, with his eyes
bent on the ground, he for the first time observed a fragment of paper
lying near the trunk:--he took it up--it was a part of his note; it
had been torn in halves, and trodden in the dust; it was divided at
the very word “implora.” The change of his feeling was, for the
moment, terrible. All that he had read or heard of the pride, the
caprice, and inconstancy of woman, rushed upon his memory to
strengthen his black suspicions, and inflame his sudden indignation.
But this rage was very soon exhausted, and was succeeded by a sorrow
weak as that of infants. He did not weep,--but a few hot tears slowly
gathered at long intervals, and fell heavily on the earth. And then he
railed upon himself, and defended her neglect of him.

“It was that accursed music: she ever scorned such fanciful and
romantic folly:--how dared I to expect that she, whose words and ways
are open as the clear sunshine of noon, should come in the shadows of
evening, with silent footsteps, to a secret meeting with such an
outcast as me--one who may not ring the bell of his kinsman’s gate
with better hope than that of rude dismissal? It is all well,
Katharine, and yet I loved you loyally, and still will love you: of
that privilege none can rob me. Like yon planet above me, you are a
common blessing, for which the comforted pilgrim in this thorny
wilderness glances his eye upward to the bounteous heavens, and thanks
his God.”

Another, but a gloomier, vigil in the grounds of Milverton was thus
passed by Francis; and again, when the dawn approached, he withdrew,
and retired to a small hostelry in the suburbs of Warwick, where for
his better concealment he had taken up his lodging. Here, however,
some relief, if such it could be called, was awaiting him; for as he
lay reposing on his bed, tired, yet unable to sleep, he overheard the
following dialogue between his hostess and a passer by:--

“Hast thou heard the bad news from Milverton, dame?” said the latter.

“No; I have not seen my girl a week come to-morrow.”

“Eh, dear, don’t you be frighted for your Ruth, but they’ve got the
fever there quite bad. Master Randal, the ’pothecary, was over there
three times yesterday, and all last night.”

“Lord, goody, what shall I do? I must go: my poor dear child is so
delicate for taking of fever, she will be sure to catch it. Who is it
that ha got it? is it the old gentleman, or Mistress Alice?”

“No, God be merciful to her, ’t is that dear, kind, blessed young
lady, Mistress Katharine; and they are all in a great take on about
her; for they say that the very night before she was took bad, her
poor dear mother’s ghost was seen on the terrace by moonlight, and
sung beautiful, and for all every body was so frighted, yet they say
it was like as if an angel had come down out of heaven; and they say,
it is a sure sign that Mistress Katharine will die, and go happy.”

There is nothing more strange than the peculiar character of the
selfishness of love--but it is ever the same. Francis felt a deep, a
true, an anxious concern for the illness of Katharine: he was keenly
afflicted with self-reproach at the thought that she might perhaps
have been so disturbed by his sudden and strange announcement of his
return as to have been made nervous and unwell. But this sorrow, ay,
and the very apprehension of her death, (which feeling, however, he
did not share,) would have been more endurable than the thought that
he was forgotten, neglected, and scorned by one whom his soul held
dear. However, he was, in his own judgment, persuaded that her
illness, and all the circumstances attending it, were much exaggerated
by those superstitious fears of the household, for which he could
himself so very easily account. Descending, therefore, from his
chamber, while the old gossips were continuing their talk, he took
occasion, as soon as her neighbour had passed on, to urge his hostess
to lose no time in going to inquire after her daughter; observing that
he had often heard of the family at Milverton, and could not but feel
a hope that the lady of whom they spoke would soon recover.

“Precious angel,” said the old woman: “I don’t know why we should wish
it, I am sure, except it be for the sake of others; for there was
never a body fitter for heaven than that dear young lady.”

It was with keen anguish that, upon the return of his poor hostess in
the afternoon, he learned that the life of Katharine was really in
danger. At sunset he took his cloak, and passed the night in a
position near the wood, from whence he could command the curtained
window of the sufferer, and watch the dim light within, and those
gloomy shadows which, as nurse or attendant slowly crossed the
chamber, occasionally obscured it.

His was a mind in which hope was ever anticipating enjoyment, or fear
meeting and realising the dreaded misfortune. Now, therefore, with the
lamp of a sick room burning faint before him, and with scenery around
all silvery and spiritual, lying hushed and calm in a silence solemn
as the grave, and yet sweet and peaceful as that of heaven, he
resigned himself to the belief that Katharine was dying, or, rather,
was departing to the abode of blessed spirits. He grew reconciled to
the thought. No clouds of terror darkened it; and, as her pale image
arose distinctly before his mind’s eye, he became elevated with the
sentiment of her sure and celestial happiness; and there was a feeling
of ecstasy in the idea that he might cherish his love for her, as a
sacred thing, for ever.

Again, on the following night, he lay enfolded in his cloak, or leaned
against a distant tree, or paced like a sentinel his lonely round,
with his eyes fixed on the light in Katharine’s chamber, and his
meditations were sweet. But how tenderly he had been rocked in the
cradle of sorrow, and how willingly he had allowed the true state of
his own heart to be hidden from himself by fancied consolations, was
evident, when, on returning from his watch upon the third morning, he
learned from his hostess that the doctor had come home very early,
and said, that the dear lady was out of danger. He had just command
enough over his feelings not to betray to her that he took a private
and deep interest in her intelligence; but, rushing up to his room,
his hopes, his fears, his grief, his joy, his gratitude, gushed forth
from his pent-up bosom in a flood of silent tears. He wept upon his
knees.



CHAP. XIII.

    What man was he talked with you?
           _Much Ado about Nothing._


It was not till the crisis of danger was already past that the illness
of Katharine became known at Bolton Grange, or at Old Beech.

Jane Lambert was no sooner apprised of it than she hastened to her
friend, and insisted, with all the devotion and tenderness of a
sister, on being permitted to divide with Mistress Alice the duties of
her present charge.

Katharine loved Jane, and was comforted to have her seated near her,
and was soothed by her affection: it was evident, however, to the
latter, that something weighed heavily upon the spirits of her friend,
and that the feelings of hope and the clear promise of recovery, did
not impart to her all the gratitude and cheerfulness which might be
naturally expected in the pleasant dawn of convalescence.

She had not been many days at Milverton when an incident occurred
which discovered the cause of her anxiety.

As Jane was looking from the window in the afternoon, and remarking to
Katharine on the beautiful effect of the low autumn lights, she
observed the figure of a man with folded arms leaning near a tree in
the beechery, and she playfully exclaimed, “That must certainly be the
musical ghost, which played so sweetly, and brought us all such bad
luck, and frightened every body in Milverton House but your dear self,
and the grave Master Cuthbert:--how I should like to have the
treacherous creature caught.”

“Dear lady,” said Katharine’s maid, “how can you talk so boldly?--why
nobody can catch a spirit. It is only air.”

“I have a notion, good lass,” replied Jane, “that it is very proper
flesh and blood, and if I were a man, and not a maid, would try my
speed with it, and bring it to parley. I should like to hear the
voice of it, or see its face, and tell it of all the mischief it has
done.”

“Well-a-day! what a heart you have, lady! There is not one in the
kitchen but stout Richard would venture that; and though he could not
find any thing the other day when he followed it, he’s obstinate as a
mule, and says it’s no ghost, but a young gallant that’s under hiding
at my mother’s, in Warwick Liberties; but there is nobody thinks with
him at Milverton.”

“Well, then, I am of Richard’s way of thinking, in part:--it is a tall
man; but whether young, and whether under hiding, I know not.”

“Why, there is a gentleman under hiding at my mother’s, sure enough,
and one that knows my lady, as she says, and was quite glad when he
heard that she first began to mend.”

“Ruth,” said Katharine, raising her head from the pillow, “if you will
go and make me some fresh barley water, I think I shall like it better
than this fever drink.” The wish was no sooner expressed than her maid
vanished to do her bidding, and Katharine and her friend Jane were
left by themselves.

“Jane,” said the invalid, “come and sit by me: I have something to
tell you, and I have to ask of you a very strange favour. I desired to
relieve my heart of its burden, but have hitherto delayed it. You
know, Jane, that I love you, and that I have confidence in your
attachment to me; but if it were not for my present helplessness,
which compels me to engage your service as a true friend, whose good
sense and firm principles I can safely trust, the subject which I am
about to speak of would never have passed my lips even to you. The
gentleman of whom they speak is my cousin Francis. He it was who so
perplexed and alarmed the family with his mysterious music, and who
still, I fear, haunts the same spot in silence and anxiety.”

“Your cousin Francis!--why, dear Kate, I thought he was in America!”

“And I myself thought so until the night when he made his return known
to me in tones which I could not mistake, and the meaning of which I
but too well understood.”

“I have been long aware, Katharine, that he loved you.”

“You have, I believe, already discerned it. Alas! it is true--fatally
for his own happiness and for mine;--but, Jane, have you courage for
the task which I would impose upon you?”

“Yes, Kate: you can ask me nothing too hard for me, if I can only feel
that I do what may comfort you.”

“Well, Jane, you must contrive to see my cousin Francis; to deliver to
him a note from me with your own hands, and to urge his immediate
departure from this neighbourhood. Now, love, bring me those small
tablets and paper, and support me while I write the few words which I
would say.”

It was a sight for pity to see that noble damsel, her back propped by
pillows, and the arm of her young friend tenderly supporting her,
trace in silence and with a nervous hand the few lines which were to
banish from the neighbourhood of Milverton her worthy and devoted
lover.

The task was soon done; and with the care as of a mother Jane Lambert
again arranged the pillows for the aching head of Katharine; and the
pale sufferer sunk back exhausted into the recumbent posture, and
heaved a sigh so sad, that the eyes of Jane filled with thick tears.
She averted her head to wipe them away, that they might not distress
her friend, and putting the unsealed billet in her bosom, left the
chamber with a thoughtful step, to do her very delicate and difficult
office. She went to her own room, and taking a dark mantle with a
hood, such as was the common church-going and street costume of women
of the respectable middle classes of that period, she threw it across
her arm, and walked through the Lime Walk, and by the fish ponds, to a
small gate at the farther end of the grounds, by which she could gain
a footpath that led across the fields to Warwick. She had no sooner
passed the gate than she put on her cloak, and passing the hood over
her head, that she might muffle and conceal her features, if she met
any one, she proceeded towards the city. It was about four o’clock in
the afternoon, and the sky was lowering and cloudy. She was anxious
about her strange mission, and settling in her mind what she should do
when she reached the hostelry, whither she was now bending her steps,
and how she should contrive the interview with Francis, when the sound
of steps very closely following suddenly startled her: the very object
of her search had overtaken her, and was already at her side. At
first, however, she was not aware of this, although the circumstance
of this passenger being muffled, as closely as herself, awakened her
suspicions of the truth, and forbade the alarm she would otherwise
have felt at finding herself in a very lonely part of the pathway in
such company. He did not stop when he overtook her, but went a few
steps onward, as if to re-assure her before he ventured to speak. He
crossed a stile and walked some paces without turning his head, till
she had also crossed it; when loitering a little, till she was close
to him, he stepped aside from the path, and gently put a question that
very directly introduced them to each other, and gave Jane the ready
opportunity of delivering her note, and fulfilling the further wishes
of her dear Katharine.

“You are from Milverton House, as I think, damsel?”

“Even so, master,” replied Jane.

“Is the noble young mistress better to-day?”

“I thank God she is; but it will be long ere she be quite well again.”

“She is out of all pain, I hope?”

“Yes, she hath no bodily pain, save that which arises from weakness;
and for such pain of mind as disquiets her it may be, in great part,
removed by yourself, Master Francis.”

Thus saying, she threw back her hood, and Francis, who had before
discovered his own features, recognised those of Jane Lambert. “I bear
you a note from your cousin Katharine,” she added, as he started at
her utterance of his name. She drew it forth from her bosom, and
placed it in his hand. He turned from her that he might read it
without observation; but Jane could see by his action that he kissed
it, and pressed it to his heart. With a glance it was perused, and
then again and again; and with a bent head and staggering step he
moved a few paces from Jane, and spoke in tones of anguish to himself
words which she could not distinguish. At last, collecting himself, he
returned towards the fair messenger of his Katharine, with a manly
composure, and said, “Tell my beloved cousin that I will obey; that
her wish is as a law to me: how could she dream that I would suffer
the words of any one to outweigh her own?--but, she tells me that you
are her devoted and faithful friend, and that to you I may safely
intrust the object of my return, and the news of my father. There is,
indeed, one subject on which she forbids me to speak even to herself;
therefore my answer may be brief enough. My father is well:--all her
kinsfolk in the Plantations are well, and free, and happy. For the
object of my sudden return--it is the love of my country--a love that
will not accept a divided heart; and yet the other love that lay
enshrined beside it, was pure, was noble, was worthy such alliance,
has filled my thoughts by day, has blessed the visions of my lonely
nights. Tell Katharine she hath used me hardly--no, no, do not tell
her that--not hardly--say that she bids me do something I cannot do--I
am not of her order--forget her I never can--she is with me wherever I
go--in all things that I do I think of her--and still must, if I
would have fair and noble thoughts to bear me company.”

“Such things, Master Francis, I may not carry to her ear. There is
about her a reserve so maidenly and grave, she would chide her own
messenger for proving so unfaithful;--but I may tell her that your
father is well; that loyalty hath brought you home; and that you will
quit these parts instantly--for that it is, methinks, she most
earnestly requests of you.”

“Even so: on that she is most urgent--cruel Katharine.”

“Say, rather, wise, dutiful, loyal Katharine.”

“Loyal, loyal!--that is a word of many imports. I, too, am loyal, and
will learn to love the word:--mind you tell her that I am loyal.”

“Can I truly tell her so?”

“Yes, truly:--but enough of this, fair girl,--go back to her who sent
thee--wait, you are her friend--you nurse her--come, let me look into
thine eyes--give me thy hand--on my knees I kiss it--her cheek is
pale--I know it is--it must be--go touch it with thy hand, and offer
there the chaste cold homage of my sorrow. You see that I am sad,
lady--go--bless you--you are weeping:--how is this, girl?--be not so
childish--a friend of Katharine’s should not be weak--I, you see, am
calm and strong--my hand does not tremble--and these eyes are
dry--methinks my heart is frozen--tell her so.”

Jane Lambert stood fixed as a statue while he thus spoke; and as she
watched him walking fast away, she felt, for the first time in her
life, what it must be to have a lover, and to be the supreme object of
such a man’s affection. Her cheek was stained with tears--her face
flushed with agitation--her whole air disordered and absent. She
followed with her eyes the tall figure of Francis, till a turn in the
pathway hid him from her view, and then walked slowly back to
Milverton.

In the very first field she met George Juxon, and it was evident to
her, from his manner, as he stopped and spoke to her, that he must
have witnessed, at least, the close of her interview with Francis.
There was a surprise in his look, and something of embarrassment, as
he shook her by the hand, and asked if she was well; but he did not
seem to expect any particular reply, nor indeed did he offer to return
with her to the house, though she was but too conscious that her
faintness and discomposure might have naturally invited such an
attention. Observing, coldly, that he had some business at a builder’s
yard in Warwick, but that he should return to sup and sleep at
Milverton, he leisurely pursued his path to the city.

Jane’s heart gave way to the multitude of troublous and perplexing
thoughts which now beset her; and leaning near a friendly tree, she
found a momentary relief in a passionate flood of warm tears.

Her trial was strange. The feelings which had been excited were
altogether new to her; and the effect of the interview with
Katharine’s devoted cousin, combined with the cross and perplexing
incident of her meeting with Juxon so immediately after, as to make it
certain that he had seen her part from Francis Heywood, had very
naturally overcome the ordinary courage and the cheerful composure of
her character.

She had witnessed, in the agitated Francis, the emotions of love. The
sentiment, which thus shook him, she had never yet inspired--she had
never felt for any one. Such love had been to her the poet’s fable;
but it would never again be so deemed of by her;--and something that
made her heart throb and ache within her told truly the want of that
heart, and unsealed a fountain of affection ready to overflow upon any
being in whom she might be fortunate enough to find the noble
qualities of a manly heart, and the gentle ways and genuine fervours
of an ardent lover.

It was a cruel thought that she must now be subject to suspicions, if
not of lightness, yet of a secret attachment and stolen interviews
with the object of it. Nor was the oppression of this thought at all
weakened by the reflection that George Juxon, the very man whose good
opinion she most valued, had seen her in a situation, and under
circumstances, which he could not by any possibility interpret truly,
and which her duty to Katharine forbade her to explain, however
deeply her own character or happiness might suffer. In one short hour
she had gathered an experience that filled her with wonder, and had
incurred a suspicion that subjected her to censure and threatened her
with misery. The consciousness of innocence could not restore to her
the respect of Juxon, nor exempt her from the severe penalties with
which the levity and imprudence of the thoughtless of her own sex are
ever silently visited by the other, when some painful discovery of a
woman’s guile chills and revolts them.

However in her case, the judgment of Juxon had not been harsh; but, of
course, when he saw a man upon his knees before her--when he
considered the loneliness of their place of interview--the cloaks
evidently worn for disguise--and the agitated and discomposed
appearance of Jane Lambert--he, at once, decided that she was
betrothed to a lover, whom for fear or for shame she dared not openly
avow.

He had truly liked Jane, for her spirit, her sense, and, above all,
for her devotion to Katharine Heywood; and his liking might soon have
grown to a manly love,--but the flow of his admiration was now
suddenly checked and frozen, and he whistled “Woman’s a Riddle” all
the way to Warwick and back again.



CHAP. XIV.

    O how full of briars is this working-day world!
                                  _As you Like it._


As soon as the affectionate Jane had entirely recovered her
self-possession, she left her chamber, and repaired to Katharine. It
was the dark evening hour of autumn, and there was no light in the
room of the invalid but that emitted from the glowing embers on the
hearth. Jane seated herself by the bedside, and, taking the hand of
Katharine, gently pressed it, and said,--

“My dear Kate, I have done all that you wished; and I have sped well.”

“You have, then, seen Francis?”

“Yes; I put your note into his own hands. He was much affected; but he
promised obedience to your wishes at once.”

Katharine gave a sigh, and turned her face to the wall. There was a
short pause of silence before Jane proceeded:--

“He bade me tell you that his father and your kinsfolk in America are
well; and that the immediate object of his return is the love of his
country.”

“Ah, Jane! I know what that means. I remember too well all the warm
and bitter words that passed between my father and his on that
subject. Would he had stayed in the peaceful Plantations! The ocean
between us was not a wider separation than the gulf that divides party
from party at home; besides, Jane, he is deluded: they will play upon
his generous nature,--they will make a traitor of him. Rebellion is as
the sin of witchcraft. Would he had stayed abroad!”

“I must not forget, Katharine, to tell you that he strictly charged me
to say that he was loyal. ‘It is a word,’ said he, ‘of many
imports:’--mind you tell her that I am loyal.’--No, dear Katharine,
his is no traitor’s heart: he may be on the wrong side of the
quarrel, but he is the King’s true subject at the bottom.”

“Hush! Jane; whisper not these dangerous words,--there is deceit in
them. The soul’s enemy finds each of us treacherous enough in will,
and crooked enough in judgment, without the weak and indulgent folly
of our friends. Be true to me,--be English, Jane:--I love you passing
well.”

Jane kissed her pale cheek; and there was another pause. At last
Katharine said, in a very low voice,--

“How was Cousin Francis looking? Is he in health?”

“His complexion is more brown, and he has less colour than formerly;
his countenance, too, is very grave--almost sad; yet there is a steady
fire in his eyes; and he is as graceful and as strong as ever. But for
his late care and watching, I should say he was better in health than
when he left Milverton for America.”

“He was not hurt at my note, I hope,--was he, Jane? Speak truly.”

“Not hurt; but disappointed, certainly. However, he is noble and
sensible, and saw that it was right.”

“You think so.”

“I am sure of it, by his manner.”

“Do you think he will go away directly?”

“Yes; perhaps he is already gone. I could see in the firm and resolute
step with which he walked away from me that his decision was taken.”

“Then it was not at the hostelry that you saw him? Where did you meet
him?”

Jane now detailed, in part, the circumstances of their interview, as
already related; suppressing all mention of the passionate words and
gestures of Francis, and any notice of her having been seen in his
company by Juxon. It had been the first intention of Jane to proceed
to the house of Ruth’s mother, on whose protection she could depend,
and to wait there till Francis, who she doubted not was the lodger
spoken of, should return thither; for, before Jane left Milverton
House, Francis had already disappeared from the Beechery. It would be
easy to invent some plausible excuse to Ruth’s mother for her visit
to Warwick; and, having contrived her interview with Francis as if by
accident, to return to Milverton, if belated till dusk, under the old
woman’s escort. But this plan was rendered unnecessary by the
circumstance of Francis overtaking Jane upon her way to the city.

“My dear affectionate girl,” said Katharine to her sweet friend, “how
much, how very much, I thank you:--kiss me, dear, and leave me to
compose myself, if I can, to sleep.”

But sleep was impossible in her frame of mind at that moment:--it was
solitude she needed, that she might meditate and weep alone. However,
there was a high sound principle ever at work in her bosom; so that a
little solitary and prayerful reflection never failed to restore the
calmness of her mind, and the strength of her resolutions.

The spirit of Jane Lambert was of another sort; and, restored to the
privacy of her own chamber, she gave a free vent to the sorrow and
anxiety which she had so courageously suppressed before Katharine.

When she descended to the hall to supper, and all the party were
assembled, she remarked or fancied that George Juxon expressly avoided
seating himself near her; and, after asking her one or two questions
about the progress of Katharine’s recovery, he addressed her no more.

Her pride was a little wounded to observe that he was in high and
careless spirits, and became quite the life of the table. Cuthbert,
too, was, for him, unusually cheerful. Sir Oliver seemed in great good
humour; and the boy Arthur was radiant with delightful and joyous
anticipations of the new world, which an entrance at Oxford would open
before him. Literary and characteristic anecdotes of distinguished and
eccentric scholars of both universities, in times past as well as
present, enlivened the social meal; and though but a very thin
partition separated the subjects of university discipline from those
of church polity and state government, neither were introduced that
evening.

Jane thought that she had never before discerned so clearly the fine
qualities of Juxon;--his sound but charitable judgment, his accurate
memory, the kindliness of his nature, and the playfulness of his
stories, at once charmed and depressed her. She wished to leave the
table; yet still she lingered on, listening and irresolute; and the
proposal to retire was first made by Mistress Alice.

An avowed contempt for the opinion of the many is not inconsistent
with a very earnest and anxious regard for the judgment of the few
whom we chance to admire and esteem. The dear, high-spirited girl, who
thought herself above the censure of the world, and indifferent to its
voice, was now, though clear from the slightest reproach of
conscience, agonised with apprehensions lest she should have forfeited
the respect of George Juxon. When, at a later hour, the household was
assembled for the evening service, and the prayers were reverently
read by Juxon, her heart beat in her bosom so quick and loud as to be
audible to Cuthbert Noble, who kneeled near her. As soon as they rose,
he regarded her with a look of such compassionate inquiry, that Jane,
fearing he was about to question her concerning her health, and not
daring to trust herself with a reply, abruptly left the apartment.

Juxon had himself observed her flushed cheek and her disturbed
manners, and began to entertain very serious alarm for her. How far
his duty as a friend, and, above all, as a Christian minister,
authorised him to seek acquaintance with the nature and extent of
those secret engagements of Jane Lambert, which he could not but fear,
from her evident agitation, were at variance with plain principle and
prudence, it was not easy for him to resolve. He truly liked her
frank, generous, and inartificial character. He knew full well that in
her brother she had neither a kind, a careful, or a wise guardian. It
was surely wrong to stand upon the brink of a whirlpool, and see any
one drawn down to ruin, whom it was in our power, if not to save, at
least to admonish of the danger. His mind instantly reverted to the
noble Katharine as the proper channel through which his manly and
benevolent warnings might be safely conveyed with delicacy and
effect. But many days might yet elapse ere the opportunity of a
conversation with Katharine might occur; for she was confined not only
to her chamber, but to her bed. Should he venture to hint his fears to
herself? Yes: if she was the character he yet hoped to find her, it
would be taken well; if not, it would matter very little in what light
she viewed his disinterested service.

On the following morning, soon after breakfast, he saw Jane Lambert by
herself in the Lime Walk, and he joined her.

She looked surprised and embarrassed; and he was not without a fear
that his presence at that moment was inconvenient and irksome, and
very possibly prevented her going forth to an interview with her lover
in the very same fields where he had met her the evening before.

However, from the very fear he took courage; and, after the common
salutations and usual words about the garden and the weather had
passed, he broke the subject thus:--

“Mistress Jane, you are too little acquainted with the world for your
own happiness, or rather, for your security,--may a friend say this
without offending you?”

“A friend may say any thing to me, Master Juxon, that a damsel may not
blush to hear.”

“I understand you--I must say no more--and yet I meant you well.”

“But good intentions do often tread upon the foot just where it is
most tender.”

“Well, lady, enough: I will spare your maiden blushes; only remember,
of our sex, that he doth always act most openly who is most loyal.”

“Loyal! Master Juxon, what mean you? Did you then so far forget
yourself as to follow and trace out the gentleman whom you last
evening stood watching as he parted from me?--I do not understand
you.”

“Mistress Jane, you should have known me better;--so far from watching
your interview with the strange gentleman with whom I saw you, it was
to avoid intrusion that I waited in the adjoining close till you
parted from him, and would have gone back again altogether, but for
the great circuit and the business which I had in Warwick.”

“You saw us part, then?”

“Yes, to my wonder, and to my sorrow that my eyes had caught an action
meant only for your own. Lady, forgive the word; but at lovers’ oaths
forget not that Cupid laughs:--may Jane Lambert never be won by any
suitor who does not openly woo her!”

“Amen to your kind wish, Master Juxon--so be it:--I know what you
think, and am sorry, but I cannot help it;--however, you are not my
father confessor, nor do I ever wish to have one.”

“True, lady; but though not your confessor, I am your friend, your
true and bold friend, or I should never have dared to utter what I
have done. I can have no object in these hints but your best and
highest interest: that which I have noticed to yourself I shall never
mention to any other, except, perhaps, to Katharine Heywood, from
whose lips whatever falls is wise and noble.”

“O! not to her--name not this idle matter to her. Promise me, Juxon,
that you will not breathe a syllable about it to her. I shall be more
unhappy if you do than I am already.”

“Alas! you are then unhappy, and would shun the best help and
consolation which friendship would provide for you. No, this I cannot
promise; on the contrary, I am only confirmed in the propriety of my
intention.”

“Well, I implore you again, and earnestly, not to speak upon this
subject to Katharine. As you value my peace of mind, be silent upon it
to all: there is a mystery about it I may not unfold. I know that
appearances are against me: I am sorry for your hard thoughts, but I
must bear them. I could wish to explain these cross circumstances to
you, but am not free to do so without violating a sacred duty. Promise
me that you will meet my wish.” Thus saying, she put her hand upon his
arm, and looked into his face with wet and beseeching eyes. “Juxon,
you have always been plain and true, and friendly to me; and though I
and my perplexities ill deserve your interest or care, promise me
that you will not name them to dear Katharine.”

For a moment Juxon was affected by the wild earnestness of her manner;
and he thought he had never seen more heart or feeling in the
expression of a human countenance than in the flushed face of Jane
Lambert.

“Well, Mistress Jane, you are so urgent, that I must promise to obey
your will; but it grieves me to see you thus sadly troubled. May God
help you, and guide you, and guard you, and keep you from evil, that
it may not grieve you! Your secret is safe with me.”

“And shall I lose your friendship?”

“No, lady, never: would only that it may have worth sufficient in your
eyes to be used aright!”

“Believe me, I shall never forget it, and I will never do aught to
forfeit such a treasure;”--so saying, she hurried away, with tears in
her eyes, and left him absorbed in a state of feeling which cannot be
described.

The more he thought of what he had witnessed the evening before, and
the more he considered the conversation which had just passed, the
more satisfied he was that Jane Lambert was secretly betrothed to some
one whom she dared not openly acknowledge as her lover. It was also
plain, that, for some powerful reason, she had not confided the secret
of this attachment even to Katharine, who was her bosom friend. He had
comfort in remembering that nothing could be more respectful than the
action of the stranger, when he kissed her hand at parting; and
combining this with her own honest looks and proud though mysterious
expressions, he was satisfied that, up to the present moment, she had
taken no irrevocable step. There was, moreover, a warm strength in her
last words, that assured him his friendly cautions were not thrown
away, and that his motives were not misinterpreted. Upon the whole, he
was justified, to his own mind, in what he had done; and his thoughts
rested upon the character of Jane with greater interest than it had
ever before excited in him.

“How very generous and devoted would be the love of such a girl,”
said he to himself: “what a proud spirit, what an affectionate heart,
she has; what a fire there is in her fine eyes--I never before saw her
look half so beautiful:--it is clear that they have been lighted up by
love:--well, God grant that the man of her choice may be worthy of
it!”

He now sauntered slowly back to the house; and entering the library,
found Cuthbert Noble sitting alone, and making extracts from an old
folio volume.

“You see,” said the young tutor, “I am making preparations for my
departure from Milverton; but thus I may innocently suck honey from
the hives of Sir Oliver, without robbing him, or those who come after
him, of the smallest portion of such sweets as they contain.”

“And what may be your study?” said Juxon, as he came up to the table,
and looked over him.

“A curious work,” replied Cuthbert, “containing the most remarkable
pieces of John Huss, together with his life--imprinted in the last
century at Augsburg.”

“Friend Cuthbert, you are too constant in these serious and solemn
studies and speculations.”

“Master Juxon,” answered the pale youth, “they are every thing or they
are nothing.”

“Verily, for my part I think divine truth is as clear and glorious as
the sun in the firmament; and to warm ourselves, and to walk in the
light of it, is better wisdom than to read so many commentaries and
discourses upon it.”

“May we not sometimes lie indolently warming ourselves by a fire of
our own, and fancy it as comfortable as basking in the sun? Walking in
the light is no such easy matter; and in my case I find that the
words, and, above all, the examples, of those who have earnestly
contended for the truth, as so many outstretched and helping hands to
assist me in climbing the hill.”

“What hill?”

“The high hill, Master Juxon, where the reformers and martyrs of past
times have left the print of their blessed footsteps.”

“Cuthbert, I see that you are in earnest, that you are sincere; but
you are on a road beset by enemies, to the full as dangerous as those
on any other. Pride may be waiting to assail you,--spiritual pride,
the worst of all enemies: you want to do something; you would unlock
heaven’s gates by some great performance:--remember its arches are so
low that none can enter them who crawl not on their knees:--the little
child’s is the appointed stature for all believers.”

“That, indeed, is true--it is a solemn truth; but there are beasts to
be fought with, Juxon, and the stern combat is at hand. It is upon
this I think by day, on this I dream by night.”

“So much the worse: you are commanded, in many senses, to ‘take no
thought for the morrow;’ and in none is it more your duty to obey the
precept than in waiting the events of the coming day in quietness and
in confidence: you conjure up shadows that you may fight with them.”

“Nay, but you wrong my judgment:--to you they may so seem; but my eye
can see the black and dismal realities beyond, which reflect these
shadows.”

“Well, Cuthbert, it is vain to talk with you on these subjects:--on
all others you are so clear and reasonable, that I shall always
remember our intercourse with pleasure. I hear that there is a new
arrangement, and that you do not wait to accompany Arthur to Oxford;
but that you leave Milverton next week, therefore, very probably, I
shall not see you again till your departure. Farewell, friend: my best
and warmest wishes for your happiness will always accompany you. I
shall ever be happy to hear of or from you, and be delighted to meet
you again.”

With these words he put out his hand to Cuthbert, who grasped it
eagerly, and struggled for a reply in vain.

The parting had taken him totally by surprise:--the thought of all
Juxon’s friendly and kind services, of all his frank and endearing
qualities, came up, with a rush before his fancy, and choked his
utterance. The strong pressure of Cuthbert’s hand, and the slowness
with which he released that of Juxon, told the latter all that he
would have said; and, as the door closed behind his departing friend,
Cuthbert sank back into his seat, and, resting his head with hidden
face upon the table, remained for several minutes silent and
motionless.



CHAP. XV.

    Religious contention is the devil’s harvest.

     _Old Proverb._


To every member of the family at Milverton House Cuthbert had said
farewell, when he retired to his chamber on the night before the
morning fixed for his departure. He had taken leave of Mistress
Katharine, in the presence of her aunt Alice and Jane Lambert, with a
grave self-command which had surprised himself; and, as he left her
room, he lifted his heart to Heaven in thanksgiving for the help of
that strength which he had so earnestly implored in the privacy of his
closet.

But when he was alone for the last wakeful vigil in the apartment in
which he had passed so many a sleepless night the image of Katharine
looked in upon his solitude, and, for a time, re-asserted all its
power over his heart.

He had just parted, and, probably for ever, with her who had been to
him, for many months, the angel of the scene. These months, though now
short as hours to look back upon, had gathered into their brief and
silvery revolutions much of that soft and essential happiness of his
affections which he knew could never return again. Nevertheless, it
was not in the power of separation or of hopelessness to destroy the
memory of that sweet season of his youth; and he was content to accept
that as all the bliss of its kind which the fortunes of his life and
the new aims of his being, would permit him to enjoy.

“Here, and for ever,” said Cuthbert, speaking to himself aloud, “I
forswear the weaknesses of love: life has rugged paths that are better
trod by single men;--such a path is now shaping for me and for many.
In the labour of establishing a people’s rights I shall find a sense
of peace; and when the call of duty is obeyed, contentment is the
golden fruit with which conscience herself presents us.”

There is no process of the mind more common than that by which a man,
while sore at heart by the thought of some desirable but unattainable
good, turns away from the painful consideration of his own sorrows,
and erects himself into the zealous friend of suffering humanity, and
the ardent reformer of social evils.

What curious springs in the world’s clockwork are sorrow and
disappointment! How many wheels are set in motion by their secret
action, and what different results from those at which men aim are
produced by their conduct! Here they strike for freedom, and elevate a
despot--there they trample for the oppressor, and, lo! a seed of armed
patriots is sown beneath their horse’s feet.

The idea of seeking the society of those among his friends whose minds
were full of the stirring themes now daily suggested by political
events was hailed as a relief and a consolation.

Absorbed in musings, Cuthbert watched away the night, and obtained
only a short and broken slumber towards the morning.

It has been before observed, that to the language of love from the
lips of Cuthbert Mistress Katharine never would have listened, and
could not have responded.

Katharine Heywood had only done what thousands have done before her,
and are continually doing in the intercourse of life. She had
manifested her own sweet nature in a ready and gentle appreciation of
those qualities in the shy and humble student, which, wherever they
are found, are worthy of regard.

Indeed, during the residence of Cuthbert at Milverton, as the tutor to
her cousin, she had largely shared the benefit of his instructions. He
had imparted new pleasures to her mind, had purified her taste,
enlarged her conceptions, and elevated her thoughts.

These services she had repaid, in the character of mistress of her
father’s mansion, by studiously throwing the grace of her protection
over the retiring scholar; but the smile of a queenly woman is a
perilous shelter, and does oftentimes blight the happiness of those
whom it was most innocently designed to cheer and to defend.

It had been arranged that Cuthbert should depart before eight in the
morning. By that hour his horse was already saddled in the stable,
and the boy Arthur was in the stable-yard watching minutely all the
preparations for the journey. The strapping on of the vallise, and of
the holsters especially moved him on the present occasion, although he
had seen the very same thing done a hundred times for others without
curiosity or disquiet. What from the liveliness of his fancy, and the
affectionateness of his disposition, the images of lonely ways and
evil robbers made him fetch his breath quicker than usual. The good
tempered groom, perceiving this by the youth’s questions, began to
allay his fears by saying, that “nobody would ever let or hinder a
poor scholar like Master Cuthbert, and, besides that, God took care of
all good persons; so there was no ill chance for such an one, but that
he would go and come as safe as the King’s own majesty;” which was the
simple groom’s notion of the most perfect security on earth.

Meanwhile Cuthbert himself was taking a last melancholy gaze at the
gallery, the hall, the summer and winter parlour, and the various
objects of interest which they contained. The pictures, the books, the
organ, the virginals, the lute, were all most intimately associated in
his mind with her, whom to have seen and known was of itself a
blessing.

In vain the grey-haired butler, Philip, pressed him to partake of
breakfast, and cautioned him against a weary way and an empty stomach.
He pecked like a sick bird at the substantial venison pasty, and
sipped at the warm tankard with a word the while now to the old
domestic, and now to young Arthur, who had come in, and sat opposite
him, in that vacant and natural sorrow which belongs to the broken
moments of such a parting.

At last Cuthbert descended the hall steps, which were full of the
warm-hearted servants; and, pressing the hand of his affectionate
pupil, mounted his horse and rode away.

The day was cold and wet: nothing could be more gloomy or comfortless
than his long and lonely ride. He met only one train of pack-horses,
and a few single travellers on horseback, throughout the day. He
baited his animal at a wayside alehouse, where he found nobody but a
cross old woman and a deaf hostler; and it was not till the dusk of
evening that he reached the town of Aylesbury, where he proposed
sleeping.

Within five miles of this place he was overtaken by a gentleman on
horseback, who fell into conversation with him; and who, being like
himself on a journey to town, offered to join company with him that
night at the inn.

Although it would have been far more agreeable to Cuthbert to have
proceeded alone, yet the appearance of the stranger was so
prepossessing, and his manners were so frank and courteous, that it
was not possible to shake off his company without rudeness. Moreover,
his speech had already shown him to be a man of gentle breeding, and
that Cambridge had once reckoned him among her students,--so they rode
forward together.

At the entrance of the town, hard by one of the first houses in the
street, sat a cobbler working and singing in his hutch. The companion
of Cuthbert here pulled his bridle; and, turning his beast’s nose
almost into it, called out, in a loud jolly tone, “Ho, Crispin! canst
tell me the way to the church?”

“No,” said the cobbler, throwing up an indifferent glance, and then
stooping again over his last.

“Art deaf, or hast lost thy wits, old surly?” said the traveller: “you
know what a church is, don’t you?”

“I know what it is not,” replied the old cobbler bluntly, without
looking off his work.

“What is it not, sirrah?”

“It is not a great stone building standing alone in the middle of a
town,” said the cobbler raising his head, and looking his interrogator
full in the face.

“Thou hast more wit than good humour, knave,” said our Cavalier.

“And thou words than good breeding,” retorted the sturdy artisan.

“I see the stocks of this place are little used, or you should try how
they fitted. You have not much fear, methinks, of the wooden collar.
Didst ever see a pillory?”

“I have, and a godly man in it; and I shall not soon forget the
sight. Are you answered, my court bird?”

“You are a prick-eared knave; and, if I were not tired and hungry, you
should smart for your saucy answers.”

By this time a neighbour or two stood forth from the adjoining houses;
and the horseman, turning to the nearest, said, “Prithee, friend,
canst thou tell me the way to the Boar’s Head, which is next to the
church, as I think?”

“It is so, true enough,” answered the man, “and well placed, to my
thought; for thou wilt be sure to find the parson on the bench of it,
or it may be in the skittle yard wrangling with cheating Bob, and
staggering at his own cast:--ride straight on--you can’t miss it.”

“A pretty nest of godly rogues I have got into,” said the traveller:
“there will be an iron gag for your foul mouths soon.” With this he
struck spurs into his steed: the beast broke into a smart
canter,--that of Cuthbert started in like manner; and they were
instantly carried beyond the jeers and the loud laughter of the
humorous old cobbler and his neighbours. Of this little scene
Cuthbert had been the silent spectator; indeed the dialogue was so
short, and so rapidly spoken, that there was no room for any question
or remark of his;--and his companion having observed a silver crest
upon the holsters of Cuthbert, did not doubt that he was a church and
king man,--especially as there had not dropped from him a single
expression which savoured of the Puritan.

Mine host of the Boar’s Head, a big and portly personage with bloated
cheeks, received our weary guests with a cheerful welcome; and led the
way to a large travellers’ parlour, where, in an ample fire-place,
huge logs were blazing on the hearth. The seats on either side were
already occupied by guests, before whom, on small three-legged tables,
their repasts were smoking.

At one of these sat two persons, whose appearance was that of military
men:--the younger of the two was very handsome, and of a commanding
figure. No sooner did the gentleman in Cuthbert’s company approach the
fire than this martial youth rose, and addressing him by the name of
Fleming, shook him cordially by the hand. The ear of Cuthbert did not
catch the name by which, promptly responding to the recognition,
Fleming replied, nor did he learn it throughout the evening. However,
another small table was immediately drawn near, and covered. Eggs,
sausages, and broiled bones were served up hastily; and, after
Cuthbert and his companion had satisfied the keen appetites which they
had gotten by a long journey in cold rain and on miry roads, a large
jug of burnt claret was placed before them; and the following
conversation between the two acquaintances was listened to by Cuthbert
in silent astonishment:--

“Well, Frank, you have not forgotten old times, I hope. I trust that
we shall teach the volunteer gentry how to handle a sword after the
fashion of the old Swedish troopers before long:--they made sorry work
of it in the north last year; and for my part I was half ashamed to
ride among such a rabble!”

“What made you go at all then?” said the youthful soldier.

“Why, to say truth, Frank, I found my life in the country very dull,
and my old father’s hunting companions as heavy as lead; and I
heartily wished myself back in Germany, where I might hear a trumpet
once more:--so when I heard that the King was going against the Scots
away I posted to court, and waited upon his Majesty, and got a
commission.”

“I hope, Fleming, you made yourself master of the quarrel before you
offered your services.”

“Look you, Frank, I remember you was always as grave as a judge about
war, and examined sides, and would know the rights of all that was
done. That was never my way. I left Cambridge at nineteen, and went to
the camp of Gustavus, as eager and as blind as a young colt; and so
again now:--wherever the King’s standard flies all must be right;
besides, I hate these pricked-eared Puritans, and yon Scotch psalm
singers that wo’n’t use the Prayer Book.”

“It seems, however, that they can use the broad sword, and with good
effect, if accounts speak true.”

“There you have me,” rejoined the cheerful and light-hearted
campaigner,--“there you have me. I never felt shame as a soldier till
this Scotch campaign. Our tall fellows always turned their backs
first, and retreated true runaway fashion:--you could never make them
fire their pistols, and wheel off orderly; and it was well for them
that they had raw Scots troopers at their tails instead of
Pappenheim’s cuirassiers.”

“It is clear enough that you must have run too,” said the young
soldier, laughing, “or you would not be here to tell the story.”

“To be sure I did,--but not without leaving the mark of my sword in
the cheek of a stout Scotsman that pressed me a little too close and
unmannerly. However, live and learn is a wise saying. When the King
fairly raises a proper army, instead of a set of footmen and servants,
commanded by courtiers and parsons, there will be warmer sport than we
had in the north.”

“It will be sorry and grave sport, methinks, comrade, when Englishmen
stand up against Englishmen, and little pleasure to see an old
fellow-soldier in the ranks opposite.”

“Odd’s life, I shall never see you enact rebel.”

“Rebel is a rough word:--suppose we change the subject.”

The conversation was now continued on various indifferent matters till
the hour for rest. Cuthbert himself made but few observations, and was
strangely exercised in his mind by contemplating the characters before
him. In addition to those already named, there was one other traveller
at a table by himself, who had partaken of no better fare than a bowl
of oatmeal porridge, and who sat intent over a small closely printed
book, without once opening his lips, and seldom even raising his eyes.
The companion of Cuthbert often looked contemptuously askance at him,
and indulged in many a fling against the Puritans; but the silent
stranger either did not or would not hear these rude jests, and, as
they met with no encouragement from any one present, they fell flat
and powerless. At length the time of going to bed came; and the host
appeared to conduct his guests to their chambers. Our host, having a
quick eye to the quality of the parties, placed the Cavalier captain
in his best chamber; the two military-looking men in the next; and the
pale stranger in a small cold garret with Cuthbert.

As soon as the door was closed behind them, and the foot of the
landlord was heard descending the stairs, the stranger approached
Cuthbert and invited him to join in prayer.

“To me,” said the stranger, with a face of the most earnest gravity,
“to me is committed that rare and precious gift, the discerning of
spirits: I see thou art a God-fearing youth:--as soon as thou didst
enter the parlour I smelled the perfume of the angelic nature; even as
also the sulphur and the brimstone of Tophet in the three sons of
Belial, who are gone to lie down under the power of Beelzebub, and to
sleep with evil spirits for company.”

“Friend,” said Cuthbert, “I do not understand you: it is not my custom
to join in prayer with an unknown stranger; there is thy bed, and
here is mine:--let us lie down upon them in peace, and commune with
our own hearts and be still.”

“Verily,” rejoined the stranger, “thou art afraid:--it is no
wonder:--thou art but a mere babe of grace, and thine eyes do see but
dimly the glories of my high calling;--but I tell thee thou art a
chosen vessel of the Lord,--and even now I feel my bowels moved
towards thee, and the spirit of prayer is upon me, and I must wrestle
with the powers of darkness to deliver thy poor soul from the snare of
the fowler. This is my command,--and even now I am appointed unto thee
for an angel of defence, and the fight is begun.”

The stranger now threw himself upon his knees, and poured forth a
long, rambling and blasphemous petition,--the words of which made
Cuthbert shudder.

However, as he had been already told that there was no other chamber
or bed vacant, and as he was greatly fatigued, he lay down to sleep,
silently commending himself to the care of God, and endeavouring to
substitute a feeling of pity for the deep disgust with which this
crazy chamber-fellow inspired him.

The last sounds of which he was conscious before his heavy eyes became
sealed in forgetfulness were groanings from the adjoining bed--nor did
he awake in the morning till it was broad daylight. He looked
around--the chamber was empty;--at this he felt thankful: and,
supposing that his last odd companion had travelled forward at an
earlier hour, he arose, and proceeded to dress himself; but he
instantly discovered that his purse was gone. He went forth on the
stairs, and called loudly for the landlord. It was some time before he
made his appearance; and when he did so, he listened to the tale with
hard indifference, and coarse incredulity.

“Ah! that’s an old story, my devil’s scholar, but it wo’n’t go down
with me:--you shan’t budge from the Boar’s Head till you pay your
shot, I can tell you; and your nag shall go to the market cross before
I let you ride off without paying for provender.”

Cuthbert’s fury was roused to the uttermost; but his hot words were
only laughed at by the rosy Boniface, who soon left him. He slipped on
his clothes with all haste, and came down into the guest parlour,
where the Cavalier and the two military men were already seated at
breakfast by a cheerful fire. He stated his case before them all with
the warm earnestness of truth. The Cavalier picked his teeth and
whistled; but the younger of the other two seemed very much to
sympathise in the embarrassment of Cuthbert, which in fact was more
serious than he himself apprehended; for mine host came presently into
the parlour to say, that his horse and his vallise were taken away by
his chamber-fellow before dawn.

“It was all a made up thing,” said the landlord in a storm of passion.
“I saw they were a couple of hypocritical rogues, and packed ’em
together for safety’s sake--’twould only be thief rob thief, I
knew:--but it’s my belief they take the horse turn by turn, and steal
in company; for yon old one has left half a bottle of strong waters
and the leg of a cold goose at his bed-foot:--come, young knave,” he
added, attempting to take Francis by the collar, “come with me afore
the justice. He’ll find thee a lodging in our cage.”

With a force to which indignation gave strength, Cuthbert threw back
the fat bully against the wall, and turning to the Cavalier, who had
rode with him part of his yesterday’s journey,--

“You may remember, sir,” he said, “that when you joined me, I told you
that I came from the neighbourhood of Warwick, and was on my journey
to London. I told you, moreover, that I was a member of the University
of Cambridge:--the silver crest on my holsters was the crest of Sir
Oliver Heywood of Milverton, in whose house I have resided for this
year past, as tutor to his nephew’s son. The animal, in fact, is Sir
Oliver’s property, and was kindly lent me for the journey:--if you
will answer for me to this landlord, and give me a crown piece to
travel on with, I will faithfully repay you when I reach town. My
name, sir, is Cuthbert Noble, son of Mr. Noble, rector of Cheddar, in
Somerset.”

“A pack of stuff, good master,” said the angry landlord to the
Cavalier,--“don’t you be made a fool of; don’t be bamboozled by a
smooth trumped up cock and a bull story like this: if the horse is Sir
Oliver Heywood’s, they have stolen it, and change riders on the road
to Smithfield, where they will turn it into a purse of nobles before
night. Marry, I’ll go for constables, and, as you are honest gentlemen
and true, hold the knave fast in your keeping till I come back again.”
Before, however, he could leave the room, as much to his astonishment
and shame as to the surprise and relief of Cuthbert, the younger of
the two travellers, whom his companion the Cavalier had last night
claimed acquaintance with, came forward in a very open and cordial
manner, and assured Cuthbert of his readiness to assist him.

“I am connected,” said the noble looking youth, “with the family at
Milverton, nor is the name of Master Cuthbert Noble unknown to me. My
purse is at your service; and I shall be glad of your company on the
road. Though I have no horse to offer you, post-horses can be easily
procured at every stage.”

Thus was Cuthbert at once released from a perplexity, and introduced
to the friendship of Francis Heywood.



CHAP. XVI.

    The great vicissitude of things amongst men is the vicissitude
    of sects and religions; for those orbs rule in men’s minds most.
                                                              BACON.


On the third of November, 1640, the fatal Long Parliament began. On
the 12th, the Earl of Strafford was impeached of treason, and
committed to the Black Rod. The Lords denied him bail and council; and
he was, in a few days more, commanded into close imprisonment in the
Tower. One hundred thousand pounds were now voted to the Scots, and
borrowed of the city of London. Ship money was soon questioned by the
Parliament, and voted an illegal tax; and, in fine, all grievances and
abuses were loudly proclaimed, and resolutely brought forward, by
intrepid and patriotic men; of whom the best and noblest did certainly
never contemplate, at that time, the sad and humiliating close of the
labours and the authority of that memorable and august assembly.
August, of a truth, that assembly may be called, in which a Hampden
and a Falkland stood, at after moments, opposed in debate; and in
which, in the following year, the grand remonstrance of the Commons
was the subject of grave deliberation for thirty hours, and was only
carried, at last, by a majority of nine voices.

But to return to our story. It may be supposed that Cuthbert Noble was
no indifferent or unmoved spectator of the great public events which
every day brought forth in the winter of 1640. With his serious and
peculiar notions, the questions that affected liberty of conscience
and church reform were those which most deeply interested him; and
when, upon the morning of the 23d of November, Prynne and Burton
entered triumphantly into Westminster, followed by many thousands of
the people, Cuthbert was foremost in the crowd; and not a zealot among
them was more wildly excited than himself.

Laughter and tears succeeded to each other, as those around expressed
their rude sympathy;--now in remarks quaint and comical--now in pious
commiseration, or in the stern tones of indignant and just anger.

“Which is old Prynne?” said one.--“That’s he,” said his neighbour,
“with his black head clipped close, looking, for all the world, like a
skull-cap.”--“See how the old boy grins.”--“He’s no beauty.”--“Hurrah!
hurrah!”--“Can you hear, old boy?”--“I wonder if a man can hear
without his ears.”--“To be sure a’ can, all the better.”--“Well, he
can’t have the ear-ache no more.”--“Don’t talk so unfeeling.”--“Look,
poor dear good man, he is as white as a sheet.”--“That is prison and
hunger.”--“This is your bishops’ work--od rot ’em--their turn shall
come.”

With such vulgarities were mixed the solemn tones and pious
expressions of many a sincere Christian, giving utterance to praise
and thanksgiving for the deliverance of these persecuted men; while,
here and there, a strong voice would be heard, above the crowd,
denouncing the tyranny of the church and the crown in coarse language,
in which the Establishment was likened to the whore of Babylon,--and
the Archbishop of Canterbury was pointed out to the vengeance of the
rabble.

Such language would, in a moment of calm reflection, have been utterly
revolting to the feelings of Cuthbert. He would have shut his ears to
the base and bloody cry, and hurried away from the wretches who gave
it utterance, as from the company of sinners, whose feet were already
planted in the paths of wickedness, and were swift to shed blood. But
now, though such fierce cries gave a jar to his better dispositions
and nobler nature, they were regarded as the natural ebullitions of an
irritated mob; and he stood among them as a partaker of their guilt by
the sanction of his presence.

Nothing is so blind--nothing is so deaf--nothing can stoop so low--as
party spirit;--and at no period of English history was this more fully
exemplified than at that of which we are now speaking. The Cavaliers,
on their side, were not without the support of a rabble of their own;
and by these, the slang of the tavern, the bear garden, and the
brothel, was exhausted to furnish epithets of scorn, contempt, and
ridicule, by which they might insult their fanatical opponents.

To the mental eye of Cuthbert the two victims of a severe and
intolerant hierarchy stood out in large and disproportionate
grandeur,--filling all the foreground of the picture upon which he now
gazed to the exclusion of all other objects.

He saw them bearing the evident marks of torture and degradation on
their mutilated forms. They had been thus treated, according to his
notion, for a mere error in judgment--they were sufferers for
conscience-sake:--his heart grew hot within him,--and he would have
called down fire from heaven on the heads of their oppressors.

He accompanied the crowd all through Westminster; and, in the
eagerness of his excited mood, pressed in once close to the horse of
Prynne, that he might utter a “God save you, master!” to the stern
Puritan, face to face.

There was a keen twinkle of triumph in the little eyes of the sour
precisian, which showed that he felt his day of revenge would soon
come, and that it would be his turn to play inquisitor towards his
late haughty oppressor.

However, he would have been more than human had he been superior to
such an infirmity, after sustaining injuries so great.

It happened on the day of this public entry of Prynne and Burton that
Cuthbert was alone in the quarter of Westminster; and having remained
a long time gazing on the show, he went into a tavern in a narrow
street behind the Abbey to refresh.

After satisfying his hunger over a fine joint of roast beef in company
with a grave looking lawyer, who sat opposite him at the same table,
with a roll of parchments and papers by his side, the man of law
proposed a cup of canary to the health of Masters Prynne and Burton,
in which he was readily seconded by Cuthbert.

“Ah,” said the stranger bitterly, “this is a different kind of
procession to the fool’s mummery which they made us play seven years
ago, before the wanton queen and her dancing French gentlemen.”

“What! you mean the mask of the inns of court, on Candlemas-day, seven
years ago?” asked Cuthbert.

“Just so: that was got up to tickle the court party, and trample down
Prynne and his book; but tables are turning.”

“Well, though I think they were very tyrannical about Prynne, I did
not like his book; and never saw any harm in a mask or an interlude.”

“Why, to judge by your looks, you could only have been a boy when that
mask was given, and perhaps you did not see it.”

“That is true; but I read the account of it that was printed, and
surely it was a brave and glorious show; and, methinks, there were
some witty hints given his Majesty in the anti-masks, which he might
be the wiser for.”

“The man Charles Stuart,” said the stranger, “will never be the better
for hints.”

It was the first time that Cuthbert had ever heard from any lips so
irreverent a mention of the King, and he coloured and was silent.

“I say he will never be the better for hints,--though it is true that
some of them were broad enough, and too humorous for offence; but you
have forgotten that there was one anti-mask got up by the serviles to
insult the poor. If it may not have a sneer of ridicule for poverty
and misfortune, the pleasure of the proud wanteth its best relish.”

“I do not understand you,” said Cuthbert; “of what speak you, master?”

“Of that which has been played in joke, and shall come to pass in
earnest. Little they thought, with their gibes and their mockery, that
they were but foreshowing events, which the turn of the wheel is even
now bringing to pass. I do remember all their gilded chariots and rich
apparel, and gay liveries; and in the midst of that costly show, there
rode an anti-mask of cripples and beggars, clothed in rags, and
mounted on sorry lean jades, gotten out of dust carts, with dirty
urchins snapping tongs and shovels before them for music,--and thus
was the noble music, and thus were the gallant horses, and the velvets
and silks and spangled habits, made more pleasing to the painted court
Jezebels by the pitiful contrast. Shall not the Lord visit for these
things?” he added, raising his voice, and changing the tone of it to a
solemn sternness: “Yea, verily, he shall visit:--in his hand there is
a cup,--and the dregs thereof shall be drunk out by the
oppressors,--and the sword shall go through the land, and it shall be
drunk with blood.”

The severe inference thus forced by the speaker from a trifling
circumstance, of which the joyous projectors of the interlude thought
perhaps very differently, and which might have been so turned by a
playful mind, as a caricature against the foreign musicians, then so
much about court; or, again, by a thoughtful mind, as a memento of
those dark realities of human misery which invite and demand
compassion. This inference was at once received by Cuthbert as just.
It touched a chord in his heart that immediately responded, and he was
played upon as a lute by his companion; till, at last, the latter
opening a roll of parchment requested him to put down his name as a
subscriber to the necessities of a few godly and persecuted men now
suffering imprisonment for the great cause of liberty of conscience,
and whose families were quite destitute.

From his slender purse Cuthbert instantly took the few crowns it
contained, and only reserving sufficient money to pay for his dinner,
shook his new acquaintance heartily by the hand, and set forth on his
way to the city, where he lodged, with a heart glowing with the love
of God, of his country, and of mankind. His evil angel had only to
appear clothed like an angel of light, and Cuthbert would follow,
nothing doubting, whithersoever he was led. The false fire, which
glimmered over the dangerous quagmire of gloomy fanaticism, was
mistaken by Cuthbert for light from Heaven; and by the frequent
perusal of controversies on religion, and a constant attendance on the
private ministries of those fierce zealots, who were urging forward
the overthrow of the Established Church, he became at length totally
bewildered. It was in vain that Francis Heywood exposed to him the
hypocrisy and inconsistency of some of those wolves in sheep’s
clothing by whom he was now continually surrounded, to the neglect of
Heywood’s own society and that of the higher and better order of the
Parliamentarian supporters. He listened with pity to remonstrances
which he considered as proceeding from a man of the world, and a
deceived soul wandering in darkness; nevertheless his affectionate
disposition survived the strength of his reason. He looked up to and
loved Francis Heywood as a model of what the natural man might attain
to; and as in their political views they were altogether agreed, they
very often met. The ardent Francis might indeed have well doubted of
the soundness of a political creed which numbered among its supporters
such diversified and crazy characters as those whom he saw daily
embrace it: but although he was not able to endure their sanctimonious
professions, and morose manners, he viewed them as instruments
necessary to the present warfare of principles; and, having returned
from America on purpose to stand up for the popular rights, he
remained steadfastly at his post, watching with intense interest the
proceedings of parliament, and eager for the moment when those
services, which he came to offer, might be required in the field.

In one particular the lives of Francis Heywood and of Cuthbert Noble
during the two following years corresponded well. Never were those
hard duties which self-denial enjoins, practised with a more resolute
and cheerful virtue. The means of both were slender; and they
supported themselves by the exercise of their respective talents with
credit and success.

Cuthbert attended daily in the families of two or three merchants of
the Puritan party as classical tutor to their boys; while Francis
Heywood, reserving with great care the sum necessary to purchase a
good charger, and military equipments, whenever he might need them,
maintained his current expenses by the drawing of maps, plans, and
views illustrative of the late campaigns of Gustavus Adolphus, and of
the actual warfare in Germany which was then carrying on. These
drawings found a sufficient sale, among the curious in such matters,
to remunerate the light labour of producing them; and though the
printseller, who purchased them from Francis, told him that gentlemen,
very capable of advancing his interests, had made inquiries after him,
yet he was forbidden by Francis to disclose his residence, or to
answer any questions about him. His leisure from this easy occupation
was employed in useful studies or in manly exercises. He daily
frequented a school of arms, not for instruction, indeed, for he was a
master of all weapons, but for health and diversion; and for the same
end he went often to the grand manège in the quarter of the court;
where he was so great a favourite with the chevalier, who taught the
graces of horsemanship, that he was asked as a kindness to exercise
the most spirited and beautiful animals of his stud in the open
country:--an offer which, from the delight he took in the amusement of
schooling a young and high bred horse, he very often accepted.

Francis Heywood was not unknown to many families with whom his father
had been intimate; and by some of them, notwithstanding his fortunes
and his politics, and by others on account of them, he was invited to
several houses, where he might have enjoyed all the pleasures and the
refinements of social life; but he very rarely accepted their
invitations, not merely from mistaken pride, but from a disrelish of
scenes which would always so strongly and painfully suggest to him the
happy intercourse he had once enjoyed in that domestic circle, of
which his adored Katharine was at once the charm and the idol.

Upon this sweet memory, in lonely hours of leisure, his mind would
feed, and he would discourse of it, not indeed in words, but in the
soft breathings of his lute; till, suddenly, by the strong effort of a
manly will, he would tear himself from the dangerous indulgence, and
sit closely down to his writing desk, that he might complete the
minute journal of public events which he kept for his father, and
despatched, as opportunities offered, to New England.

To the review of these grave subjects he brought a generous spirit;
and it was not without an occasional pang that he related the progress
and triumph of the cause to which he was sincerely attached.

He could not but exult to see the principles of government openly
examined, and the just rights and liberties of the people clearly
defined.

He looked with veneration upon the labours of the Commons; and he
watched with jealousy the advisers of the crown, and the sycophants
about the court. He saw many abuses rectified, many grievances
redressed. He saw the iniquitous Star Chamber and the High Commission
Court abolished,--and a noble security against a return of
misgovernment and tyranny in the famous bill for a triennial
parliament.

This last measure, the main pillar of the new constitution, was
received by the whole nation with rejoicings; and when it passed
solemn thanks were presented to his Majesty by both houses of
parliament. But the sincerity of the court party and the moderation of
the reformers were alike suspicious. The passions, the prejudices,
and the interests of conflicting parties had been too rudely aroused
by discussion to subside without an explosive collision; and it was
evident to Francis that the struggle between the prerogatives of the
crown and the privileges of parliament would never terminate without
an appeal to arms.

He shuddered to see the scaffold stained with the blood of Strafford;
and though he was among those who clamoured against the minister, he
profoundly commiserated the man, as the abandoned victim of his
party,--and in his heart he despised Charles for signing the
death-warrant of his favourite.



CHAP. XVII.

    There let the pealing organ blow,
    To the full-voiced quire below,
    In service high and anthems clear,
    As may with sweetness through mine ear
    Dissolve me into ecstasies,
    And bring all heaven before mine eyes.
                                   MILTON.


The affliction of the good parson of Cheddar at the strange and
painful conduct of his son Cuthbert was heavy to bear. However, from a
sense of duty to his weaker partner, he made great efforts to preserve
his wonted serenity and composure in her presence; but when alone he
was bowed down in the dust.

Nothing could possibly present a greater contrast to the tone of
religious profession which was, at this period, obtaining a wide
reception among men than that in which old Noble lay prostrate in his
closet before his God.

He had ever been a meek and cheerful Christian; but there were depths
of humiliation which he had not as yet fathomed; and he would have
fainted at the waves of trouble, which his prescient eye saw rolling
onward, if he had not felt the hand, which led him down into the deep,
was that of a heavenly Father, if he had not heard a voice that
whispered in his ear, “_It is I, be not afraid_.”

In vain did he exhaust his heart in sound, pious, and affectionate
remonstrances, meditated and penned in the spirit of prayer, that he
might recall his dear and wandering child to the bosom of the church,
or, at all events, so far recover him from gross delusions as to see
him join that upright and devout portion of the community, which,
though differing from the discipline of the church, maintained a pure
and practical doctrine.

In vain did he press the return of Cuthbert to Cheddar, by every
argument which parental love could suggest.

The letters of Noble and his wife were replied to in the words of
love; but the fruit of his new persuasion was an obstinate self-will;
and while he implored them, at great length, to consider his views,
and urged the danger of despising them, he evinced to others, what was
not perhaps suspected by himself, a degree of spiritual pride only to
be exceeded by the strength of his delusion.

He had adopted the notions of those fanatics who were styled
Fifth-monarchy Men, and who ranged themselves where, indeed, any sect,
however extravagant, might have found a place, under the banner of the
Independents.

It was some consolation to these troubled parents to hear from the
Philips’s, their relations, and also from other friends, that the life
and the conduct of Cuthbert were, as regarded all moral and social
duties, a credit to any theory, and such as became the pure precepts
of the Gospel.

His intellect was clear upon every other subject, except on that
which, if it be rashly touched, seems to be guarded by invisible
angels, who put forth their hands and smite the daring intruder with
madness. “Oppression,” saith the preacher, “will make a wise man
mad;”--a truth abundantly proved by the events, which, leading first
to a secret and salutary reform, ended at last in a bloody revolution
and an iron rule.

It may be added, that he who seeketh to meddle with the hidden
mysteries of unfulfilled prophecy is often smitten with blindness and
confusion for his presumption. Thus it was with Cuthbert:--sensible,
amiable, and affectionate in all the relations of life, he was now the
subject of a monomania, and turned a deaf ear to the voice of truth
and wisdom, though it spoke with all the authority and all the
earnestness of a father.

These were not times in which a minister could leave his parish for a
distant journey, nor, indeed, was it at all likely that the presence
of his parents would have effected that change in the sentiments or
the course of Cuthbert, which their admirable and Christian letters
had failed to produce.

Time wore on gloomily enough, even in the peaceful parsonage at
Cheddar. Many a time as old Noble paced his garden amid sunbeams and
flowers, praising that “mercy which endureth for ever,” his
thanksgivings ended in tears and lamentations, not for his domestic
troubles, but for the great evils which he feared and expected would
befall the church and the nation.

Laud was already paying the penalty of his mistaken, but certainly
conscientious, severity, in a prison, from whence it might be plainly
foretold he would at length be conducted to the block. The bishops’
votes in parliament were taken away, and the deans and chapters were
already voted against in the Commons, although their spoliation had
not yet taken place, neither were the cathedral services as yet
discontinued. As regularly, therefore, as the Thursday came round,
Noble, if not prevented by a special call of duty at home, made his
weekly visit to the fair city of Wells; where he in the first instance
always bent his steps to the cathedral, and joined the congregation
assembled for morning service.

It was on a saint’s day, in the summer of 1641, that, as usual, he
proceeded to that venerable and glorious temple, and took his seat in
the vacant stall which it was his wont to occupy. Directly opposite he
observed a tall uncouth man of harsh features and a sour countenance,
sitting very upright, and glancing a severe and restless eye at the
organ, the first tones of which were pealing through the long aisles,
as the dean, the prebends, and other officers of the choir, preceded
by the vergers with their maces, slowly entered, and reverently took
their seats.

The service began, and was conducted with that solemn decency, and
with those clear fine chants, which dispose most hearts to a subdued
feeling of intense devotion.

There is a something in sacred music which does wonderfully compose
the mind, and cleanse it of all earthly-rooted cares. Upon the
stranger above mentioned, however, it produced no such effect. He sat
erect, cold, and contemptuous: he put aside the Book of Common Prayer
with a rude thrust; and taking a small volume from his pocket opened
it with ostentatious gravity, and, not joining in the worship that he
witnessed, either by response, gesture, or any conformity of posture
with those around him, sat, now casting his eyes on the page of his
book, now severely around, and now raising them to Heaven after a
manner that left nothing but the jaundiced whites visible.

This strange conduct disturbed, irritated, or amused the observers,
according to the impression that was made upon them. Some of the
prebends and vicars choral looked red and angry. The dean was greatly
distressed, and knew not what to do. At first he called the verger,
with a design to remove the intruder; but, upon second thoughts, he
feared that a yet greater interruption and indecency might take place
if such a course was attempted, he therefore commanded his feelings
with as much dignity as he could. But his grave frowns were totally
without power upon the youthful choristers, whose laughter would have
been loud and audible, but for the thick folds of the surplice with
which they stuffed their rebellious and aching jaws.

Noble himself was mournfully agitated, and prayed in the spirit with
that deep and melancholy fervour which hath no outward expression but
the abased eyes.

By degrees, the congregation recovered their composure, and never was
an anthem performed with more earnest solemnity, or a sweetness more
touching to the inmost soul, than the “_Ne Irascaris_,” the “Be not
Wroth,” or “Bow thine Ear” of the famous composer Bird. At the words
“Sion, thy Sion is wasted and brought low,” which are set to a tender
and solemn passage, and are sung very soft and slow, the effect was
sublime. Moved by the deep pathos of the expression, the cheeks of
Noble, as of a few others present, were bathed in tears.

But the stranger remained in his seat without rising, and perused his
book with a kind of resolved and insulting inattention to it all.

The service was not permitted to close without this mysterious
personage marking his contempt of it yet farther, by rising suddenly,
while all the congregation were on their knees, and stalking slowly
down the middle of the aisle with a loud and measured stamp of his
great thick boots.

He wore by his side a long heavy-looking sword, and had certainly the
air of a man who could use it, if he chose, with little fear and no
favour.

Noble joined the clergy in the chapter-room directly after the morning
prayers were ended, and there learned that there had been a riot the
night before in the streets, excited by some mischievous emissary from
London; and that some of the rabble had burned a bishop in effigy, in
the close just under the windows of the dean. It seemed, however, that
this outrage had been committed by a band of low persons, who had come
up from Bristol to attend a fair, and had brought with them sundry
printed papers and ribald songs to distribute in the lanes and alleys
of the city: the object of which was to bring the church and clergy
into public contempt.

However, it so happens that, for the most part, the inhabitants of a
cathedral town take a great pride in the edifice itself, whatever may
be their indifference to religion. Those magnificent structures are
the first wonders upon which the eyes of the human beings, born and
suckled beneath their shadow, are taught to gaze. They are noble and
solemn features in the scene of early life; and are printed so
indelibly on the mind, that, let the native of a cathedral city wander
where he will, the recollection of the venerable temple goes with him,
associated, in his memory, with his birthplace, his holydays, his
truant hours, with the merry music of festival bells, with the pride
of having often seen strangers and travellers, both of high and low
degree, walk about its walls, and linger in its spacious aisles, with
pleasure and admiration.

Therefore a party among the common people was easily roused to take up
sticks and stones against the insulting mischief-makers, who were thus
at last driven away from the city with great tumult.

It was the very day following this riot that the offensive adventure
in the cathedral, which we have just related, occurred. As no doubt
existed in the minds of the clergy assembled in the chapter-room that
the extraordinary person, who had just committed so gross and indecent
an outrage in a place of public worship, was, in some measure,
connected with the disturbance of the preceding day, they resolved to
make an immediate complaint to the Mayor of Wells, that the obnoxious
individual might be taken up, and committed to prison, or otherwise
punished for his offence.

Some little time had been lost in their consultations; and they came
forth from the cathedral in a body, with the intention of despatching
two of the prebends, already deputed for that purpose, to wait upon
the mayor, when, to their surprise and mortification, they saw the
object of their anger approaching them on horseback. As he drew near,
it was evident that the opportunity of arresting him was already lost.
He rode a very powerful young horse of generous breed and fine
action--and he sat upon him as on a throne.

“Look ye,” said he, as he drew up close to the astonished
group,--“Look ye, Scribes and Pharisees! hypocrites!--ye love
greetings in the market-place--take mine:--the time is come to set
your houses in order--even now the decree is gone forth--the sword is
now sharpening that shall pass through the land:--it glitters, look
ye.” So saying, with a grim smile he drew the blade of his own half
out of the scabbard, and let it fall again with a forcible rattle.

The dean, who was a bold and athletic man, disregarding this fierce
action, made an active effort to seize the bridle of the Puritan’s
steed; but the wary rider with a jerk of the reins threw up the
animal’s head, and at the same moment touching his flank with the spur
made him give a plunge forward that scattered the frightened priests a
few yards on either side. Nevertheless, the dean remonstrated in very
angry terms against his insulting abuse; as did others, who were, like
himself, courageous. They did not, however, succeed either in stopping
the fanatic or in driving him away:--a small mob was gathering in the
cathedral yard, and the fiery zealot continued his address.

“What mean ye, ye priests of Baal, by your silks, and your satins, and
your hoods, and your scarfs, and your square caps, and your surplices,
and all your fooleries? what mean your boy choristers that bleat like
young kids, and your men choristers that bellow like oxen? what means
your grunting organ? Is it thus you worship God, as though he were an
idol and an abomination, and his temple like that of the heathen? It
should be a house of prayer, and ye have made it a den of thieves, and
all its services vain and lewd mummeries. I cry, Fie upon you!--Wo,
wo, wo!--Ye shall see me again when the blast of the trumpet soundeth,
and mine eye shall not pity. I will smite, I will not spare you. Have
ye not preached blasphemies? have ye not broken and polluted the holy
Sabbath with your sports and your harlotries? have ye not shed the
blood of God-fearing men? yea, verily. Now hear my warning:--come out
of her, come out of her, my people. There are among you, even among
your priests, some whom the Lord hath chosen:--yet again I call to
you, Come out of her, come out of Babylon, that ye perish not with
her. To me is appointed this cry:--every where I must lift up my voice
thus, till the day of vengeance come. Wo shall be the portion of those
who hear me not!”

An insane delight gleamed in his dark eyes, a convulsive energy
distorted his features, and seemed to affect and agitate his whole
form. The crowd drew closer to him: the resolute dean beckoning them
forward, again advanced with the intention of seizing him, when he
suddenly gave his horse the head; and touching the high spirited beast
with both spurs, he was borne out of their sight at a few rapid
bounds, and was very soon beyond all danger of pursuit.

Several of the mob ran round the corner after him jeering and
cheering; but the clergy went their ways, by twos and threes, and
talked over the uncomfortable though diseased words of the fanatic
with much gravity and discomposure.

Many painful extravagancies of a fanatic character had been already
committed in various parts of the country; and in London many
scandalous scenes had been enacted, expressive of a contempt for the
Established Church and her ministers.

The prelates and dignitaries were the especial marks of popular
hatred; but, hitherto, nothing approaching to the indecency and
outrage above recorded had occurred in the neighbourhood and under the
eye of Noble.

Again he could have wished Cuthbert to have been present, as he had
formerly wished that he could have witnessed the unmannerly and
unchristian bearing of Master Daws, the morose and designing curate,
whose interview with Noble we have in a former part of this story
related.

“Surely,” thought the mild man of peace,--“Surely such things would
open his eyes to the spirit that is abroad, and to the aim and end of
these violent men, who would purify our venerable church as with fire,
and wash away her few stains with the blood and the tears of her
faithful children.”

After partaking of a dinner, with little appetite, in the house of his
friend, where the party assembled formed but a sad society, and where
the time passed in the discussion of more grave and anxious matters
than those upon which they were commonly engaged in these innocent
weekly meetings, the worthy parson mounted his old mare, and rode back
slowly to Cheddar. His thoughts were so profoundly and mournfully
absorbed by reflections on the very startling occurrences of the
morning, that he saw not the clouds which were gathering overhead,
until he was awakened to observe them by a sudden and loud clap of
thunder. The sunshine was suddenly obscured by a deep gloom. A few
heavy rain drops fell upon him, and were soon followed by a thick and
rushing deluge of such rain as falls in summer tempests. The sky was
covered with a mass of clouds black as a funeral pall. Every moment
flashes of angry lightning passed across it in vivid and arrowy forms;
while thunder followed, peal after peal rolling in quick and troubled
succession. Noble had just entered the defile or pass by which Cheddar
is approached; and as the narrow road lies in the bottom of a chasm,
on either side of which the rocks rise many hundred feet with a
terrific grandeur, the horrid gloom--the lurid and ghastly
lights--and the prolonged echoes with which the roar of the thunder
was borne from crag to crag--gave a tenfold awfulness to the storm,
and sublimely shadowed forth the power of Jehovah.

Amid this war of elements the meek parson felt almost happy:--his
frightened beast had stopped beneath a rock that inclined somewhat
over the road, though not sufficiently to afford any shelter from the
rain. He was drenched to the skin himself, and as he could not urge
his animal forward he dismounted; but the wet and the delay were
forgotten, were disregarded. There are moments of communion with the
Deity, which, when they are accorded to his feeble children, cause
their spirits to be rapt in seraphic love. The adoration that is born
of a faith trembling yet holding fast is the sublimest human
worship:--“the firmest thing in this inferior world is a believing
soul.” And he that can lift up his voice with the Psalmist, and, amid
the horrors of a tempest, can say, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; and
all that is within me praise his holy name,” hath, as it were, a
sublime foretaste of that great and terrible day of the Lord, when the
Christian shall witness the final and everlasting triumph of his
Redeemer over sin and death,--and shall behold his salvation draw
nigh.



CHAP. XVIII.

    With that the mighty thunder dropt away
    From God’s unwary arm, now milder grown,
    And melted into tears.
                             GILES FLETCHER.


In such a spirit Noble endured the pelting of the storm, and listened
to the rolling of the thunder, and gazed upon the dread illumination
which flashed at intervals on the desolate and dreary rocks around
him. The fury of this summer tempest was soon exhausted:--the
exceeding blackness of the clouds gave place to a lighter, though a
sunless, sky; the claps of thunder were few and distant, and the
lightning became a faint and harmless coruscation. The rain was thin
and transparent; and Noble continued his way on foot, followed by his
old mare, whose docility was that of an aged dog. They had not
proceeded above two hundred yards when the mare gave a sudden start,
and ran up a heap of loose stones on the right of the road. On the
left of it, at the foot of a tremendous precipice, Noble descried the
object which had alarmed her, and which, but for her fright, he should
have passed without notice. A man lay upon the ground bleeding. Noble
immediately crossed to the spot, and stooping down, he recognised the
person of the stern fanatic, whose conduct at Wells has been related
in the foregoing chapter. He was insensible, but did not, upon
examination, appear to have sustained any injury more serious than a
severe and stunning bruise; as well as a cut on the forehead from a
sharp flint. From the prints of his horse’s feet, it seemed evident,
at first, that he had been thrown where he then lay, and had fainted;
but on looking again, Noble observed that his pockets were turned
inside out, and that his sword and cartridge belt were gone; for he
remembered in the morning to have remarked his arms very particularly,
and to have been struck by the circumstance of a man of his rigid
ungraceful figure sitting so admirably on horseback, and managing the
young animal which he rode with such a light and easy hand. Moreover,
he now saw that the impressions of the horse’s hoofs had been made
before the rain had fallen. His first care was to endeavour to restore
the sufferer from his swoon. This he soon effected by chafing the body
to restore circulation, and by applying to the nostrils a pungent
preparation, which he always carried about with him, as a preservative
from infection, when his duties called him to visit the sick beds of
those who were afflicted with any disease considered pestilential.
When Noble had satisfied himself that the unfortunate man was a little
recovered by the returning consciousness in his eyes, and the
regularity of his breathing, he went after his mare. She had not
strayed far, and he soon brought her back, and after a while he had
the satisfaction to observe that the wounded traveller was able to
move and sit up. He now persuaded and assisted him to get upon the
patient beast, and supporting him in the saddle with his hand, moved
off slowly towards Cheddar. Half a mile on they met plain Peter, who
had come out to look for his master, and was wondering and
uncomfortable at the unusual lateness of his return.

The sight explained itself; and the honest domestic expressing some
sorrow for the sufferer, but more for his master, took his place on
the other side of the mare, and aided Noble in the task of supporting
the stranger, who was so weak and exhausted that he could hardly be
held upon the saddle by their joint exertions for the rest of the
road.

Although not a syllable had been uttered by the object of their care,
that was intelligible to either, and although Noble had not mentioned
a word about having seen him at Wells, still Peter had an instinctive
dislike to the man’s features and his dress--from both of which he
pronounced him a Puritan. He went so far as to provoke an angry rebuke
from his master for opposing the benevolent resolution of the latter
to take him to his own house.

“Surely,” said Peter, “a pallet at the Jolly Woodman will serve his
turn:--he’ll be well enough taken care of by Dame Crowther: why bring
him home to trouble and frighten my good mistress, and to make a fuss,
and a dirt, and a sick house of the parsonage?”

“Peter,” said Noble, “how would you like to be dealt by if you had
fallen among thieves, and lay bruised and bleeding, and without a
friend or a penny?”

“Why, I should think an inn good enough for me; and so it is writ in
the Bible.”

“Peter you are hard--and know not what spirit you are of--and speak
foolishly.”

“Ah! well I mind what you said once about that parable, and how you
told us that had the good Samaritan’s house been over against the inn
he would have taken him in at his own gate;--but somehow I don’t like
this fancy of yours--it will be a bad job:--when his saintship is
warmed by your fire, mayhap he will turn out a serpent.”

“Never use that word lightly, Peter. I have often forbade you to
trifle with it--duties are ours, events are God’s. I shall certainly
take this man in.” Having thus decided, they went forward to the
parsonage in silence. Mistress Noble came out eagerly as soon as they
appeared. Her mind was soon quieted on the surprise which the sight of
the wounded stranger caused her, and her kind and hospitable heart
acquiesced instantly to the proposal of her good husband.

The sufferer was at once carefully put to bed; and Noble, as by his
own bright fire he put on the warm dry vestments which he found ready
for him in his study, revolved the singular incidents of the eventful
day with wonder, gratitude, and a calm confiding faith.

He could not but reflect thankfully on his own escape from the
misfortune which had befallen the temporary inmate of his dwelling.
For want of a better booty, doubtless he would have been assaulted
himself by the robbers who had fallen upon the Puritan; and, had he
not been preceded by this traveller on the road, or had he left Wells
at an earlier hour, he might have suffered in his room, or shared his
fate.

Again, how strange that a daring enthusiast, who had that very morning
violated the sanctity of the cathedral, and had insulted the
ministers of the church in their decent performance of public and
solemn worship, should, before the setting of the sun which had
witnessed his impiety, be laid in the dust, and left dependent upon
one who had been revolted by his fierce conduct for the mercies of
help and protection.

“To-morrow,” said Noble to his wife, as he related to her all the
circumstances which had taken place at Wells, “when our guest is in a
reasonable and repenting mood, I may, perhaps, speak a word in season
that shall serve to deliver him from the chains of that cruel and
bigoted spirit of persecution by which he is held. God preserve our
Cuthbert from the hateful errors of men like these! It has been well
observed, that though the fanatic cannot be seduced by the love of any
sinful pleasures, yet that he can be readily persuaded to walk in
blood by the lust of a power which he deceives himself in thinking he
should assuredly use to the glory of the King of heaven, and the
benefit of the faithful people of God. When will Christians learn
that the kingdom of the Messiah is not of this world?”

They had not retired for the night, when their worthy neighbour
Blount, the franklin, who had but just returned from Glastonbury, came
in to learn the particulars of what had occurred at Wells, and to tell
the bad news which he had heard at Glastonbury that morning.

“The devil is busy enough, Master Noble,” said the old man as he
entered: “there is a little party of vinegar-faced rogues coming to
the Bald Raven at Axbridge to-morrow, who call themselves ‘a
Corresponding Committee for informing and aiding the Grand Committee
of Religion and that for scandalous Ministers;’ and they tell me that
that sour hypocrite Daws is as busy as a bee among them already. But
what is this I hear about one of these godly rogues having been half
murdered under the cliff and lying in your house?”

Noble told him all the circumstances; and Peter, who had lingered a
little at the parlour door, said, “Ay, I can see by Master Blount’s
eyebrows he don’t think it were a wise job to take this round-headed
madman in here. Why he’s talking a pack of wild stuff enough to
frighten the maidens out of their wits.”

On hearing this, Noble, accompanied by Blount, went up stairs to the
chamber of their inmate, and found him sitting upright in his bed, and
parleying with some visionary appearance, after a wild but most
earnest manner.

As soon as they entered the room, he turned towards them and sniffed
repeatedly, then gravely said, “Two good spirits and one bad--verily I
am not forsaken--two to one against thee, Beelzebub--look gentle
spirits--look upon the wall--there goes a coach drawn by lions and
tigers--there goes Everard the conjurer in boots and spurs--here is
the great fiery dragon--who hath taken away my trusty sword?--where is
my horse?--a horse is a vain thing to save a man--see how it
grows--the dragon--the great red dragon--taller--taller--it fills the
room--save Lord, or I perish.”

To these wild, incoherent expressions, produced by the strange images
which flitted before his troubled fancy, succeeded a profuse
perspiration, and they persuaded him to lie down under the blankets,
that he might obtain the full benefit of such a relief.

He did so, and they could now only hear whispered murmurs, and humble
tones, as of a person praying with tears. Noble himself was not
unaffected by this scene; and even Blount admitted, that, if it were
not for the mischief they did, some of these enthusiasts were rather
to be pitied than punished. “Now here,” said he, “is a case, where
they should shave the head and lock up the poor creature in an
hospital; but the worst matter is, they go about like mad dogs, biting
all the folk they meet--and so they must e’en be dealt with in like
manner.”

“You are not far wrong, neighbour, in judging many of them crazy; but
there are cunning men behind to urge them on: and there certainly are
many excellent and pious persons, who, as they stand on the same side
in this sad quarrel, give a credit to the cause of these levellers in
church and state which they otherwise would want; and, notwithstanding
the actions and utterances of the unknown individual before us, I
cannot look upon him without interest and pity.”

An umph from old Peter, with a request that his master would go to bed
himself, and leave him to take care of the stranger, ended the
conversation: Blount went away,--and Noble to his own chamber.

At an early hour on the following morning two odd-looking servants, in
sad-coloured suits, mounted and armed, presented themselves at the
gate of the vicarage, and inquired “if their master was not there, as
from what they had heard at the blacksmith’s shed they thought that
the gentleman, who had been robbed and wounded beneath the rocks, and
was now lying sick in that house, could be no other.”

“I don’t think you are far wrong,” said Peter, as he cocked his eye
askew at their long lean faces and their plain liveries of a colour
like the cinders in the ash heap. “Like master like man, they say;
though it’s little I thought that the poor crazy body up stairs had a
serving-man to truss up his points for him.--What do ye call your
master?”

“The right worshipful and godly Sir Roger Zouch, an approved voice, a
faithful witness, a preacher of the truth, a trier of spirits, a man
of war--bold as a lion for his God.”

“Why, then, by my troth,” said Peter, “thy master is here for a
certainty, and lieth with a cracked skull in our blue room; and is now
telling my good master how he fought last night with beasts from
Ephesus, who is listening to him, poor simple kind soul as he is, with
as much patience as if it was all sense and gospel.”

“Out upon thee, thou vile churl! talkest thou so of one of Zion’s
champions? None of thy gibes and jeers, or it may be thine own crown
will feel the weight of my cudgel.” So saying, the elder of the two
domestics alighted, and not waiting to be conducted, strode past Peter
with a rude thrust, and entered the house.

“A plague o’ thee!” grumbled Peter: “two can play at quarter staff, as
I’ll show thee;” and following him into the passage, he slammed the
door behind him, and left the other servant alone with the two horses
before the wicket. This last, however, tarrying for no invitation,
proceeded deliberately to the stable, and finding it open, introduced
his tired beasts to the astonished old mare; took off bridles and
saddles; and, plentifully supplying the rack and manger with hay and
oats, entered the parson’s kitchen, and taking a seat by the dresser
demanded of the frightened maids the creature comforts of breakfast.

Old Peter, who had just been witnessing the meeting of master and man
above stairs, and whose cross temper had given way to a humour that
had been tickled by the quaint scene and the ludicrous speeches, came
shaking with laughter into the kitchen; but the tired and hungry groom
was in no laughing mood, and soon upset this grinning philosophy by a
smart stroke of his whip across his shoulders.

In a moment the old man caught up a broomstick to return the blow;
and, though very unequal, either in strength or youth, was standing up
manfully against the assault, when the cook, whose spirit was roused
by Peter’s danger, dipped her mop in a pail of foul water, and
thrusting it into the groom’s face, drove him into the yard with dirty
cheeks and blinded eyes. The cry of “murder” having been in the mean
time screamed forth at the top of her voice by the other maiden, the
kitchen was instantly filled with every person in the house; for even
Sir Roger Zouch himself, albeit in no seemly garb for appearing in
public, descended close after Noble, and stood up in the midst of them
rather like a ghost newly risen from the grave than true flesh and
blood,--though the stain of the last was indeed sufficiently visible
beneath the folds of the bandage about his head.

“How now!” said Sir Roger, in a voice rather more stentorian than
might have been expected from the plight in which he had been put to
bed the night before, and in a tone of authority as if he had been in
his own mansion and with only his own household--“How now! brawlings
and fightings: who is the striker, Gabriel Goldworthy?” but before
this slow elder had screwed his mouth up to reply, Peter answered in
his own blunt fashion, and the cook, in a shrill voice, chanted an
echo to his complaint. Meantime the culprit groom, with a foul face,
stood at the yard door as white as a stone with passion, while Sir
Roger thus rejoined:--

“Verily, thou art a trouble to me, Abel, and makest me a reproach
among the people wheresoever I go: it was only last week, at the
hostel of the Pied Bull in Tewksbury, thou didst raise a brawl about
thy victuals at the buttery hatch: thou makest a god of thy belly.
Remember that man liveth not by bread alone:--a good soldier must
endure hardness, and never strike but in battle, and then home. I fear
that thou art sensual, and it were not for thy godly grand-mother, and
this, thy God-fearing uncle Gabriel, the man of my right hand, I would
send thee back to thy ditching and delving.”

Abel muttered out that the children of Belial were making a mock of
his master, and that he struck Peter in pure zeal for Sir Roger’s
honour; this Gabriel affirmed of his own knowledge to be true, and Sir
Roger was pacified: but an opportunity of preaching, so favourable as
it seemed to his weak judgment, was not to be neglected; he therefore
proceeded to deliver a long rambling discourse on prophecy; and
directed his looks and words with all the persuasive expression that
he could possibly command towards the distressed parson and his good
wife. He flattered himself that he had brought salvation to that
house, and that all which had befallen him was in the order of
Providence to that end. He had taken for his text, “Come out of her,
my people;” and these words were repeated at the close of every
passage, with all the varieties of intonation that his voice admitted.
All efforts to induce him to stop or return up stairs till he had
finished this wearisome preachment were vain. He stood half an hour
with naked feet upon the kitchen stones, and was listened to even by
Peter with a wonder so great, and with so painful a sense of his
craziness, as forbade even a smile. He closed by so earnestly invoking
peace on that house, and enjoining the exhibition of a quiet and an
orderly spirit so forcibly upon the offending Abel, that during the
rest of the day nothing disturbed the household.

The hardy old Puritan nothing the worse for this exercise of his
lungs, and very little so for the bruise and cut in his encounter with
the robbers the evening before, took his seat at Noble’s dinner table
at noon, and seemed very sensible of the truly Christian hospitality
of his host.

As arguments or any appeals to reason would so evidently be thrown
away upon a man under the prejudices and delusions of Sir Roger Zouch,
Noble dexterously avoided inflaming the mind of his guest with a
discussion on grave matters, and led him to speak on other topics. He
found that he had travelled a great deal, and had in his youth served
in the Low Countries. Upon these subjects he conversed rationally and
pleasantly enough; and, as they walked after their meal into the
garden, he showed an acquaintance with plants and flowers, and a
knowledge of the various methods of laying out a garden, which in so
stern a fanatic would seem strange; but what is there so variable, so
inconstant, as man?--he is “some twenty several men in every hour;”
not that either the dinner or the walk in the garden passed over
without sundry efforts to spiritualise and improve the subjects which
those occasions offered. In the garden especially, after talking a
while like any other rational and well informed gentleman, he suddenly
broke out in a rhapsody about the approaching millennium, and the
personal reign of the Messiah upon this earth. His politics were
violent; but in this they differed not from many able and patriotic
men of the time. Against the church, however, his wrath evidently
burned, and he affected to disbelieve the possibility of so pious a
minister, as Noble plainly was, being sincerely resolved to remain in
her communion. Upon this point, however, Noble was too bold and too
honest to conceal his resolutions.

It so happened that the next morning, before Sir Roger Zouch left the
parsonage of Cheddar, there came to Noble a summons to attend the
Committee of Inquiry into Church Matters, of which old Blount had
warned the worthy parson on the evening of his return from Wells. Of
this Noble informed his guest, and asked him if, as he saw the name of
Zouch among the commissioners, it was any relation of his? The knight
replied in the affirmative, and told Noble not to trouble himself to
attend; for that as he was himself going to Axbridge he would make
known to the committee his wish that no molestation might be given
him. To this Noble would by no means consent, till he had received a
solemn promise from Sir Roger that he would not represent him as less
opposed to their proceedings against the church than he truly was, or
less attached to that sacred institution which they sought to destroy.

Thus was the trial of Noble for another brief season deferred, and the
malicious designs and interested hopes of the meddling and
hypocritical Daws were for the present disappointed. However, the gold
was yet to be put into the fire at the appointed time.

All these circumstances were related by Noble in a letter to his son
Cuthbert, exactly as they occurred, with very little comment, and
thus, as he rightly judged, they would make a forcible impression on
his mind. They did so: a due consideration of them delivered him from
some of his own delusions, and opened his eyes to those of a few of
his companions; and though he was not at all more separated from the
Non-conformists, yet he attached himself to the most sober among
them.



CHAP. XIX.

    In thee, faire mansion, let it rest,
    Yet know, with what thou art possest;
    Thou entertaining in thy brest
    But such a mind, mak’st God thy guest.
                               BEN JONSON.


What time the primroses were beginning to spread palely over the green
and sunny banks in the neighbourhood of Milverton House, in the spring
of 1642, the grimed armourers of England were busy in their smoky
workshops; and there was no hall in the land, whether private or
civic, in which the arms were not taken down from the walls and put in
order. Every where notes of preparation were heard, and eyes of
settled resolve might be seen.

The House of Commons had petitioned the King for the militia, and they
were already active in raising men. Sir Oliver Heywood, refusing to
act in this matter, resigned his office of magistrate and justice of
the peace, and took a decided part for the King. But although he had
good will to the royal cause, and spoke his sentiments loudly and
bitterly, although he was ready to make some personal exertions and
some pecuniary sacrifices for his party, he was, as has been observed
before, an indolent, self-indulgent old gentleman, a lover of ease and
of his own way; methodical in all his habits, and obstinate in all his
prejudices. The frequent visits of those hard and active men of
business, who were employed to forward the royal cause by negotiating
with all the Cavalier gentry for supplies of men and money, before the
commission of array was actually issued, disturbed him sadly, and his
temper became very irritable. Sir Charles Lambert had been long
re-established in his good graces, and to the deep sorrow of Katharine
had become once more a constant guest at Milverton. It is true that a
great improvement had apparently taken place in his outward conduct,
but Katharine disliked, mistrusted, feared him. She saw that he again
entertained hopes of accomplishing his purposes upon her weak father,
and of thus obtaining possession of her hand in marriage. It was an
inconceivable mystery to her that any human being should desire to be
united to another, when aware that his very touch was evaded with a
shudder, and that from his gaze the face was averted with loathing.

Some changes had taken place at the Hall within the last year, which
had glided away with the swiftness of a shadow. In the January
immediately preceding the season of which we are now writing, Mistress
Alice had been summoned by that call, which, sooner or later, all must
obey, and laid in a peaceful grave:--the snows that fell upon it were
not more pure and spotless than had been her kind and innocent life,
and her dissolution had been as gentle and as soft as their quick and
silent melting.

The family and household were still in their mourning for her; and had
any stranger gazed upon Katharine Heywood, as in her sad robes of
black she paced the terrace alone with slow and thoughtful steps, he
would have wept for sympathy, and deemed her one of those silent
mourners for the dead who refuse to be comforted, and cherish the
sweet memory of a vanished image; but it was far otherwise,--her
griefs were those of doubt and apprehension about the living. If ever
a glance of the mind looked after the departed Alice, it did so with
affection and complacency; with a calm joy that she was taken from the
evil to come, and with an envy of her quiet tomb. But such movements
of impatience at the difficulties of her path and the dreariness of
that waste which lay before her in her appointed pilgrimage were never
of any long continuance. She knew them to be wicked, and she knew them
to be vain: she wore divine and secret armour, and she neither fled
nor fainted in her hours of trial. The occasional, though less
frequent, visits of George Juxon were a great relief to her,--and Jane
Lambert continued to be her constant friend and beloved companion.
Over the character of Jane there had come a change, which, though at
times it was viewed with serious anxiety by Katharine, did upon the
whole suit far better with those habits of her own soul which care
had begotten.

Jane Lambert’s eyes, which were used to be lighted up with bright and
joyous expression, and a certain lively and winning archness, did now
often fill with unbidden tears, or were fixed gravely upon vacancy.

One day, as the friends were walking together in a silent mood, the
hand of Katharine resting gently upon the shoulder of Jane, and their
steps slow as those of vestals in their groves, Juxon came suddenly
upon them in their path; and so deep was the abstraction of both, that
he was not seen of either till they met closely.

“I am sorry,” he observed, “to break the spell by which you are both
bound, but I could not turn back, for I have business with Sir Oliver;
however, it was to all seeming a spell so black and melancholy that
perhaps it is better broken.”

“It is a good omen for us that it is broken by you, Master Juxon, for
you are always a prophet of good, and misfortune never makes choice of
such a messenger,” said Katharine, with an effort at cheerfulness.
Jane, too, suddenly recollecting herself, endeavoured to put on a
careless smile, of welcome, but the effort failed her, and she burst
into a flood of tears.

Juxon, distressed and affected by the sight, made no reply to
Katharine, but stood rivetted to the spot, hesitating whether he
should proceed towards the house, and leave Jane to recover herself
under the care of her friend, or whether he should remain to render
what service he could, by diverting and calming a sorrow, the secret
cause of which he fancied that he knew.

Meanwhile, Katharine pressed Jane to her heart, and, covering her from
observation, as though she were a child, said, “This is the natural
effect of a night without sleep, and a nervous headache: it will do
her good; you need not stay with us; we shall do very well, and Jane
will be all the brighter for it at supper. You will find my father in
the vineyard.”

Jane, however, in part relieved by these tears, quickly raised her
head, and, with one of her most natural smiles dimpling her wet
cheeks, said, “Pray do not let me drive you away: this is just
nothing at all but what my old nurse used to call the mopes and the
megrims: there, it is all over; that’s one advantage we women have
over you lords of the creation; that is, such of us as are not
heroines, which I shall never be for one: we may now and then have a
good cry; and, take my word for it, it is a fine cure for all
nonsenses,--another favourite noun plural of my dear old nurse when I
was little and naughty.” This flash of affected gaiety did only light
up her features, however, for a passing moment, and ere her few words
were uttered an air of extreme depression returned upon her.

“Nay, Mistress Jane,” said Juxon, “these are no child’s tears, neither
are they fantastical like the melancholy of your fine lady: the
fountain of them is deeper than any of these; you are unhappy. Here,
before your noble friend, I must say that I have seen this for a long
time: for more than a year I have witnessed with deep pain your
altered manners and your failing health. Tell her the sad cause of
your trouble; pour out your heart to her; she will safely advise and
surely comfort you.”

“Really, Master Juxon,” replied Jane, “you are a very strange person;
and when you take a fancy into your head you are like good Sir Oliver,
and truth would not drive it out again, though spoken by an angel,
therefore a poor silly girl like me may not make the attempt.”

“For that matter, lady, you can look and speak persuasively as ever
angel did: where do you hide your wings?”

“Wings!--well, really now, if I were a court lady instead of a rustic,
and had that magic mirror that hides all freckles, and gives every
body that looks into it the face of a beauty, that fine compliment
would win my heart; but as it is, I must e’en be content to walk the
earth on two serviceable feet; on which I shall very soon run from
your words and looks, if you do not speak about a more entertaining
subject than me and my megrims.”

The gravity of her eyes contradicted the gaiety of her lips, as she
thus spoke; and the unuttered wish in the deep recesses of her heart
was, “Oh that I had the wings of a dove, that I might flee away, and
be at rest!”

Juxon looked upon her, for a moment, with a tender manly expression of
countenance, in which were blended respectful pity and warm
admiration; then turning to Katharine, he changed the subject, and
diverted all further attention from Jane by telling the former upon
what matter he was seeking Sir Oliver.

“I have just received a letter,” said he, “from Oxford, from that fine
youth Arthur: it is both conceived and expressed in a spirit worthy
the days of chivalry and of a man of mature age. He desires me to urge
upon Sir Oliver his brave request, which is, that he may be permitted
to come down instantly and take the field with whatever men Sir Oliver
can raise for the King’s service. He says that it is useless to compel
him to remain at the University and pursue his studies in the present
distracted state of public affairs, and that his age is not younger
than that at which many a person renowned in history has appeared in
arms for his country. The reason, it seems, of his preferring this
request through me is, that he has been sharply reprimanded by Sir
Oliver for even thinking of it; for he has already decided to place
all the horsemen which he can raise under Sir Charles Lambert. Arthur
truly observes, that as the infirmities of Sir Oliver now forbid his
going to camp himself, it is right that a representative of his name
should ride at the head of his tenants and yeomen; and that, although
too young for a responsible charge, he can at least share their
danger, and set a good example of devotion to the King’s service. That
he is quite willing to be under the command of Sir Charles Lambert;
but that, if his present wish is refused, he will, at the risk of the
worthy knight’s displeasure, join the banner of the lords Falkland or
Carnarvon as a simple volunteer.”

To this statement Katharine listened with a generous admiration of the
gallant boy, and a hearty approval of his conduct; moreover, she felt
that, by this arrangement, she should have a young protector, not only
for the family, but whom she could depend upon as a shield from the
dreaded importunities of Sir Charles, and whose presence would take
away one of her father’s excuses for urging upon her an abhorred
connection. Of Arthur’s conduct and character she felt sure: he looked
up to her with the reverence of a son and the affection of a brother;
and though her heart beat with a regretted fondness for another
Heywood, a cousin separated from her by fate and fortune, towards this
youth Arthur she entertained the composed and quiet affection of a
young mother or an elder sister; therefore she rejoiced at the
prospect of his return to Milverton, and promised to say every thing
to her father which could move him to consent to this proposal.

Juxon now left the ladies, and walked on at a faster pace towards the
house.

As soon as he was out of hearing, Katharine took Jane by the hand, and
looking steadfastly into her face, said,--

“My dear, dear friend, it is the privilege of friendship, and it is
the enjoined duty of Christians, to weep with those that weep:--Juxon
is right--you are unhappy--some secret sorrow is devouring your
inward peace--reveal it to me.”

“Nay, Katharine, urge me not:--every heart knoweth its own
bitterness--to every one is appointed some inward cross, which is
better borne in silence.”

“Yet the sympathy of a friend is as a balm to the wounded spirit--a
balm, Jane, which you have often poured gently and sweetly into mine,
to the refreshment of my soul and the comfort of my aching
heart;--besides, Jane, we must not let our private and inward griefs
prey upon and consume our vital strength at a period like the
present:--great trials are coming upon us, and severe duties will soon
demand all our energies.”

“I know it, beloved Katharine,--and by your side I can meet them all.
You are to me, all things: I have nothing on earth but you to whom I
can cling: the stream of my heart would run to waste if it might not
flow forth on you.”

“Hush! beloved,--hush!--these words are vain,”--and pointing to the
blue sky and the fleecy clouds above them, Katharine silently
conveyed to Jane her soft reproof and gentle admonition.

“I know all that you would say to me,” answered the mournful girl;
“but, when all is said, how much of our present being must ever remain
a mystery--sunbeams shine upon our heads, and violets spring beneath
our feet--and yet, Kate, the world which this God of love hath created
is a scene of misery--you know it is. What have you ever done that
your brow should be clouded with sorrow, and your cheek blanched by
care----”

“Stop, Jane; for your life, not another word like this:--‘they build
too low who build below the sky:’--a curse is on this earth--a
recorded curse--we may not, must not, cannot make a heaven of it:--it
is our school, our place of discipline--the infancy of our
existence:--what have any of us done, or what can any of us do, that
so many countless blessings should be poured upon us? that we should
be invited and taught to acquaint ourselves with that Holy One, by
whom came truth, pardon, and peace--through whom we may win an
entrance to that heavenly city, where ‘all tears shall be wiped from
all faces?’”

A light of hope beamed in her serious eyes as thus she spoke, and Jane
beheld it with reverence. The friends walked slowly back towards the
house--there was a long pause in their discourse. It was broken by
Jane asking, “You surely admit, dear cousin, that there is a vast
difference in the fortunes and the trials of mankind?”

“The seeming difference is vast, but not perhaps the real:--we see
only the outward aspect of suffering and of prosperity--but the cup of
life is mixed.”

“Surely to many, who are prosperous and happy, few trials are
appointed:--they are pleasant in their lives, and honoured in their
deaths; they appear even upon earth to be the favourites of Heaven.”

“If truly such, my love, their portion in this life will be little
thought of; for they will know that in the bosom of Abraham the
Lazarus of this world has his high place of honour as of comfort, and
that the fashion of this world passeth away; nay, before the great
change comes, one turn of the wheel may bring the loftiest fortunes to
the dust, and crush them beneath it; even now, do we not see and hear
the preparations of war?”

“There, again, Katharine,--how can we reconcile with the power of a
God of love the existence of so dark and terrible a curse as war?”

“It is but one of many forms of death.”

“But the miseries in its violent and bloody path----”

“Are not so great as those of pestilence, or famine, or the
hurricane.”

“Well, Katharine, why pestilence, or famine, or hurricane?--_why
death?_--and _whence sin?_”

“Jane, we know not now--we shall know hereafter; let us not perplex
ourselves with doubts and inquiries which none can solve; the origin
of evil lies hidden from our eyes; it is a deep thing--enough for us
that the Divine champion hath triumphed over sin--hath plucked the
sting from death--and victory from the grave:--in and through him we
may all be conquerors.”

“And can they so conquer if they be not followers of the Lamb?--and
may the followers of the Lamb fight and shed each other’s blood in
battle?”

“It is sad, very sad,” rejoined Katharine, with a shudder of her whole
frame: “it seems a stern necessity in the condition of all the
kingdoms of this world that they should be defended by the sword. Good
men, great men, the holiest servants of Heaven have wielded earthly
arms, and the weapons of death:--with his sword and with his bow the
father of the faithful led his own household to the combat,--and the
virtues of the warrior are the chosen illustrations of those required
in the secret conflicts of the Christian.”

“I know it, Katharine--and that to the spirit of Christian children
there must be joined the courage of sacred warriors. Alas! for me--my
heart faints within me--my mind is confused:--I wish I were a man, for
then, in the excitement of these struggles, I could escape those of
the closet.”

“To suffer, Jane, requires a more enduring courage than to act; and in
patient suffering the high constancy of woman’s mind hath ever shone
most purely:--for the wives of England bitter trials are coming--ours
will be light to theirs; and yours, dear girl, as you well know, less
heavy than even mine.”

“Katharine, you do not know my trial, or you would not speak
thus:--not a faithful and suffering wife in all England but I shall
envy her the sweetness of her sufferings: it is in storms that we
cling most closely to what we love.”

“True, fond girl, but remember that they may also divide us from what
we love. Still there is a sweet truth in your melancholy words: I
think you would be happy united to such a man as Juxon. He is
evidently much attached to you; and I think you are not indifferent to
him.”

“Cousin, he is worthy of a better fortune. He never can be mine.”

“What is the meaning of that strong emphasis? Is, then, the secret of
your sorrow a concealed attachment to another?”

“Katharine, you see not clearly in this matter; I am pitied by Juxon,
not loved.”

“I know not, dear Jane, for what he should pity you; but pity is akin
to love.”

“And also to contempt:--Juxon despises me: yes, the pity of one so
generous and noble hearted is heavy to bear.”

“Impossible! he knows your sterling worth; he knows that you could not
do what was wrong: you utter many things that are idle; but I have
heard him warmly express his regard for your frank character; his
faith in your high principles, and his fear that you judged others by
yourself, and might in the trials of life prove too confiding towards
others.”

“Have you, indeed, Kate? what, lately?”

“Yes; not many days ago.”

“Well, this is comfort; for I love him passing well:--keep my secret,
Katharine; you know not how faithfully I have kept yours.” As Jane
Lambert thus spoke, she took the hand of her fair cousin and pressed
it against her beating heart. Katharine drew it away with a sudden
agitation, and placing it on her pale forehead seemed to muse awhile:
her eyes wore the expression of one that was wildly busy over the
mysterious tablets of her memory; at last, fixing them on Jane with a
troubled gaze, “I have it,” she said: “a light flashes on me; the
interview with Francis: it was observed by some one; it was known to
Juxon, and you have borne----”

“Nothing that I would not bear again for the love of Katharine, and
for her peace of mind.”

“Noblest of beings, alas! how am I punished for having thus employed
you! why did you not tell me all? May God forgive me! I never can
forgive myself.”

“Talk not thus,” said Jane, rushing into her arms. “This moment richly
repays whatever I have suffered: that which I may now safely relate to
you you could not have borne at the time, nor should I tell it even
now, if it were not that I know you will be seeking some explanations
from Juxon.”

The generous girl now gave a minute narration of all that had passed
between herself and Francis at their interview. She told how very
deeply she had been affected by the devotion with which he spoke of
Katharine, and by those looks and gestures which revealed the
constancy and the ardour of his love: the action so passionate towards
her, upon whom his mind’s eye was inwardly resting, with which Francis
had parted from herself, was not forgotten. The circumstance of her
immediately after meeting with Juxon, and the scene which passed
between them, were described with the like fidelity.

A paleness as of marble overspread the face of Katharine; her eyes
assumed a vacant regard; her hand became cold, and from her moving
lips no sound was audible. She stood a while like one suddenly turned
to stone; and Jane, expecting her every instant to swoon away,
supported her in trembling terror. It seemed an age of agony to Jane,
though the trance did not last more than three awful minutes. The
eyelids of Katharine closed; tears glittered on the long dark lashes;
warmth and consciousness returned. She slowly opened her eyes; and,
fixing them on Jane with an affection no words could convey, suffered
herself to be led back in unbroken silence to the mansion.



CHAP. XX.

    ’Tis _jest_ to tell a people that they’re free:
    _Who_ or _how many_ shall their _masters_ be
    Is the sole doubt.
                                            COWLEY.


Before the walls of Hull, in Yorkshire, King Charles was first made
sensible that the powers and the prerogatives of the crown were
already usurped by the Parliament. Sir John Hotham shut the gates of
the city, and refused to admit the small force by which the King was
attended.

The governor stood upon the wall, and the King, who had appointed him
to that office of trust, sat upon his horse beneath, and heard a
sickening protestation of loyalty to his person, while the guards, to
whom he intrusted its defence, were treated as the enemies of his
throne and kingdom. Here began that artful distinction, whereby the
Parliamentarians professed to keep garrisons and raise soldiers in
the name of the King, while they opposed his wishes and resisted his
authority.

They had already taken from the King the power of the militia; and
having compelled him to throw himself on the support of the private
gentry, the flame of civil war was soon kindled.

At the time when his Majesty was thus repulsed by Sir John Hotham, he
was surrounded by a small company of gallant gentlemen, who had formed
themselves into a body guard; and he found himself, in a province
remote from his capital, without a regiment, without money to raise
one, and without a single garrison or company of soldiers in all
England receiving his pay or acknowledging the royal orders: the navy,
the ordnance, stores, magazines, and the revenue, were in the keeping
of the Parliament. His sole dependence was on the loyalty, the
courage, and the resources of the country gentlemen of England.

The midland counties were for the most part subjected to the influence
of the Parliament, and lay too near the city of London to resist or
even dispute the commands of that powerful assembly.

This body was no sooner apprised of the conduct of Hotham, and
informed that he had been proclaimed a traitor by the King, than they
openly justified the conduct of that governor, and soon after publicly
voted “that the King intended to levy war against the Parliament.”
This declaration was followed by active preparations for war on both
sides; but the advantages for commencing it were greatly on the side
of the Parliament; and the gentry in the west, and more especially in
the northern counties, were, at first, disheartened by the evident
distraction of the King’s counsel, and the gloomy aspect of his
affairs.

Therefore, in Yorkshire, though many promises were given, few troops
were raised; and if Shropshire and Wales had not been animated by a
more lively hope, and a warmer zeal, no royal army could ever have
appeared in the field.

Meanwhile the levies for the Parliament were very successful, and men
came in as fast as they could be received and armed. In addition to
these volunteers, the rustics drawn for the militia were compelled to
join their corps, and were put under the training of such officers as
could be found.

In July, the Parliament voted the Earl of Essex their general of foot,
and appointed the Earl of Bedford the commander of their horse; and
early in August declared themselves necessitated to take arms and to
commence hostilities.

These vigorous measures inspired their partisans throughout the
kingdom with a resolute spirit, and in London not a voice was openly
lifted up for the King.

As early as the month of May, Francis Heywood had procured his
services to be accepted as captain of a troop of horse under Sir John
Balfour, and was by him immediately appointed an instructor or
sergeant-major[A] of cavalry.

    [A] The titles of Sergeant-Major, and Sergeant-Major-General, at
    that period, correspond with Adjutant-Major and Adjutant-General
    of our times.

At such a moment, the zeal of Cuthbert Noble would not suffer him to
remain behind, while so many were taking arms for the great, and, as
he thought, holy cause, of liberty. He did not find it difficult,
through the favour of a friend, to obtain the grade of lieutenant in a
company of foot; and he set forth on a fine morning in June to join a
regiment then assembled in quarters at the town of St. Albans, in
Hertfordshire, for training.

His finances did not admit of more than a very humble
equipment,--accordingly he was mounted on a low shambling pony, across
which he had also placed the saddle bags containing his better gear,
his Bible, and two or three violent pamphlets of the day against
prelacy and the divine right of kings.

Notwithstanding the heat of his opinions, and his hearty concurrence
in the measures of the Parliament, Cuthbert, in his lonely hours, was
of that serious and solemn temper of mind, that he could not but
reflect on the step he was now taking with more than his wonted
gravity.

That his present course would be distressing to his father he well
knew; but he silenced this whisper of his better angel with the
consideration that his father was old, timid, and averse to change,
rather from early prejudices and associations than from the light of
conscience and the use of right reason.

Again, with that obliquity of mind with which men who are in fact
taking their own way wish to think it that appointed by Providence, he
ran over all the texts of Scripture then in the mouths of the
Roundheads, as justifying their appeal to arms, and silenced all the
lingering remonstrances that yet struggled in his bosom with those
inapplicable words of Holy Writ, “He that loveth father or mother more
than me is not worthy of me.”

Having thus, by forcibly wresting a quotation from Scripture, served
his immediate purpose, and given freedom and tranquillity to his
spirit, he suffered his imagination to dress out the duties of
military life in all their most sacred glory. The language of the Old
Testament, and that of the profane authors with which he was familiar,
were called up in a strange confusion to gild the prospect before
him,--and now a song of triumph from his Bible, now a quotation from
Homer, was sounding on his lips, and ere he was aware was kindling a
vain and unholy ambition:--a secret and impious persuasion of the
favour and approval of Heaven filled him with a swelling anticipation
of coming victories and high rewards. He resolved that the virtues of
the Spartan or the Roman soldier should in his person be combined with
the ardour and the holiness of the most chosen warriors of Israel.

He saw not the lean and sorry nag beneath him; he thought not of those
weary marches which he should have to make afoot, when the miserable
jade on which he was now sitting astride his saddle bags should be
stumbling along stony or miry ways in a train of baggage horses; but
he pictured out a future in which he should ride among the princes of
the people, and in marches of triumph.

From this dream of his fancy he was suddenly and very effectually
awakened by feeling the animal, which he was riding, sink under him
with an uneasy motion; and, before he could possibly prevent it, he
found the water of a considerable stream, which he was then fording,
above his knees, and his saddle bags thoroughly soaked through. The
beast had his own notions of enjoyment as well as his dreamy rider;
and, as the day was hot, the road was dusty, and his burden
sufficiently oppressive, had taken this very seasonable refreshment.

Nature suddenly asserted her power over the precise young Puritan;
and, to the scandal of all his late professions, he gave vent to his
wrath in certain violent and unseemly phrases which would not have
disgraced the most accomplished swearer among the wild Cavaliers of
that time. These oaths were but the accompaniments of sundry hard
blows with a cudgel, kickings with the heel, and jerks of the rein, by
dint of which the nag, unable to rebuke him for his injustice, was
compelled to rise and go forward. The accident was in itself
sufficiently provoking; and the irritation of Cuthbert was increased
by encountering on the bank an old beggar with a wooden leg, who,
tossing his staff pike fashion, loudly asked his alms for an old
crippled soldier done up in the wars; and, thrusting his tongue in
his cheek, eyed his foolish plight with a merry satisfaction, which he
could not conceal.

“Out upon thee!” said Cuthbert, “for an old drunken impostor:--such
fellows as you tippling bawlers of ballads are the curse of the
land;--go scrape your cracked fiddle for sots on the ale bench, and
don’t trouble honest men on their road.”

“The lie in thy throat, thou prick-eared canting Roundhead!” replied
the old soldier:--“thou foul-mouthed hypocrite! is it for thou to rate
sinners after rattling out oaths like a shameless brawler in a bear
garden? I am a cleaner spoken man than thou, blessings on him who
taught me, and more honest than to play traitor to my king:--God bless
his gracious Majesty! I wish him no better luck than that all the
Roundheads, militia, and train-bands, horse and foot, were just such a
set of raw awkward spoonies as yourself.”

While he was yet speaking, Cuthbert’s jade, as if moved by the very
spirit of mischief, shook her ears and was down in the middle of the
loose dusty road, without better warning than before; for the
attention of Cuthbert being quite taken up by his anger with the old
soldier, he was again too late to prevent it. The dust plentifully
adhered to his legs, thighs, and saddle bags. He instantly dismounted
in a rage, kicked the beast up again, drove it forward, and, turning
short round upon the old man, in a fury, said,--

“If it were not for your age and grey hairs, you insolent old
vagabond, I would rap your pate smartly with my cudgel.”

“That were easier spoken than done,” rejoined the old man, holding his
quarter staff lightly in a defensive posture.

A little dog, which accompanied the old man, perceiving by these
actions, and by the loudness of their speech, that the stranger was
quarrelling with his master, flew at Cuthbert with a sharp and angry
bark, than which perhaps nothing does more inflame the rising choler;
he, therefore, struck at the little animal furiously, and the end of
his cudgel inflicted on it a sharp stroke, which sent it howling and
yelping behind its master.

The old soldier, without a moment’s loss of time, resented this injury
by so heavy and well placed a blow on the head of Cuthbert, that his
steeple-crowned hat was knocked off; and had it not been defended
within by the strong bars of iron with which it had been recently
fitted for the wars, he would have gotten a severe bruise.

“He that touches my dog touches me,” said the old man: “I am sorry
that I did not make thee feel it.” The quarter staff of the beggar
had, by his stumbling and over-reaching himself, flown out of his
hand, and his old rabbit-skin cap had fallen upon the ground:--a fine
polished head thinly strewn with grey hairs lay bare and
exposed.--“There, you may crack it if you will now,” he added, raising
the ineffectual defence of his arm.

“I am a man,” said Cuthbert, “and not a brute: I would not strike thee
for all my hot words; but I have been beside myself with passion. May
God forgive me for my great offence against him--and do you forgive
me for the hard things I said to you, and the stroke I gave your dog.”

So speaking, he picked up the old man’s quarter staff and his cap, and
gave them into his hands; at the same time taking a piece of silver
out of his pocket, he tendered it with a look of good will--but the
soldier would not take it.

“It would do me no good,” said he: “I should have no luck with it, and
could never relish the bread or beer it bought me.”

“Then lay it out in dog’s meat, friend: thy poor cur will have
forgotten my rude blow before thou hast forgiven my uncomfortable
words:--you wo’n’t go to sleep in ill will with me, I hope.”

“No, I shan’t do that,” rejoined the aged beggar,--“the good old
parson of Cheddar taught me better than that,--and I minds what he
said as if it were yesterday--God bless him!--church and king for
ever, say I.--I wo’n’t have your money.”

Surprized and startled by this strange and unexpected mention of his
father, Cuthbert drew from the old man the whole story of his
adventure at Cheddar, and his interview with Noble.

He listened with deep emotion to the narrative, and recognised in all
the circumstances the internal evidence of its truth, from its exact
correspondence with the character of his father’s mind and heart, and
those large and tolerant notions which he had always taught and
carried out into practice.

“I know that good parson well,” said Cuthbert, “and love him like a
father.”

“Do you indeed?--then I’ll take your money, and give you hearty thanks
for it.--But I say, young master, if you knows the parson of Cheddar
so well, it’s my belief your taking the wrong road:--a man can’t serve
two masters--without you do call God and the king two; and he that
serves God first, and king the next after, must always be right, as I
have heard say from the time I was the height of this quarter staff.”

Cuthbert gave him two pieces, and walked on in a humbled and in no
satisfied frame of mind.

His poor beast, like a patient packhorse, was quietly browsing by the
road-side at no great distance, and Cuthbert drove it before him, not
caring to mount again till the sun and air had dried his wet breeches
and hose.

The pettiness of the mortification which had moved him to such
ungovernable anger was now lost in the most gloomy reflections on the
sin of having so greatly dishonoured the commandments of God by
cursing and swearing. Though naturally of a warm temper, he had never
been at all addicted to the odious use of vulgar oaths, and for awhile
he began to doubt the sincerity of his faith, and to imagine that the
whole work of religion must be entered upon as a new thing.

Again, the very strange circumstance of his father’s image being
brought before him in a manner so unexpected, by a way-side beggar,
and the lesson of charity, and the solemn monition to turn back from
the party which he had chosen, conveyed by so lowly an instrument,
perplexed his reason and staggered his resolution.

But the die was cast, the step was taken, and it was impossible for
him, even if willing, to recede without disgrace. He ran over in his
mind all the wrongs and the oppressions which had been committed in
the name and with the sanction of the King. He recalled the sufferings
of Prynne and his companions. He remembered the tyrannical imposition
of ship money; the noble resistance to that measure by Hampden, now
himself in arms; the violence towards the Scots; the articles
exhibited against the five members; and, more than all, he considered
that, if the King should conquer in the impending struggle, the
despotic rule of the crown would be established more firmly than ever;
the hateful tribunal of the Star Chamber would be again erected;
prelacy, armed with new powers, would rear its mitre on the ruins of
religious liberty; and all those abuses in church and state, which had
called forth the famous Remonstrance of the Commons, and the Petition
of Rights founded on it, would most certainly be restored.

As these considerations passed through the mind of Cuthbert, he felt
shame that he could for a moment have doubted the righteousness of the
cause in which he had embarked. What was the little incident, which
had so discomposed and ruffled him, when it was stripped naked? His
nag had lain down in the water, and he had got a wetting. He should
have laughed it off, and so he would have done but for wounded pride.
He was conscious of the poverty of his equipment, and yet more so of
his unmilitary appearance;--that the witness of his accident should
mock him, and be an old soldier to boot, was more than he could bear.
He finally resolved all that had passed into a hellish temptation of
the evil one to divert him from the path of Christian duty; and thus
comforting himself, and speaking peace to his heart, with a very
slight repentance for his plain transgression of God’s law, he
recovered his serenity. He now mounted his nag, and cheerfully pursued
his way till the fine massive tower of St. Alban’s Abbey reminded him
that he was near the place of his destination. He stopped under a
shady tree a little off the road; brushed off the marks of his foolish
misadventure; adjusted his dress; buckled the belt of his rapier more
tightly, and rode into the town with a wish that he might escape
present observation, and get soon housed. But it so chanced that in
the narrow entrance of the very first street in St. Alban’s Cuthbert
met the whole garrison marching forth to exercise. The leading rank of
musketeers, forming the advanced guard, filled the width of the street
from house to house on either side of the way; therefore he was forced
to stop, and placing his pony close to the wall that he might prove as
small an obstacle as possible, saw the whole force pass him, and
attracted the attention of them all. At any other time, and under
other circumstances, he would have gazed upon the military show with a
natural pleasure, and as it was, he looked upon them with much
curiosity; but his position was very uncomfortable; and he felt small
as they filed by with a strong and measured tread, keeping time to a
few loud drums and piercing fifes.

Several divisions of foot, composed of musketeers and pikemen in equal
proportions, and each led by a mounted officer, and with their
appointed number of captains, lieutenants, and sergeants, followed
each other in succession; but there was a great difference in their
equipment and bearing.

The three leading divisions, amounting to nearly nine hundred
effective men, were a fine sample of the very best infantry which had
as yet been formed under the orders of the Parliament. Their clothing
was of a coarse red cloth: the belts and bandaliers of those who were
armed with muskets were of buff leather; and a girdle of double buff,
eight inches broad, was worn under the skirts of the doublet. The
musketeers also wore black steeple-crowned hats, with small but strong
bars of iron fastened under the felt. In addition to their muskets and
rests, they were all provided with a good stiff tuck, not very long,
so fixed in the belt as not to swing or incommode them.

The pikemen were furnished with good pikes, eighteen feet in length,
with small steel heads, and good stiff tucks like those of the
musketeers. They had also for defensive armour iron head pieces, with
back and breast pieces of the same quality, pistol-proof, and each man
was provided with a good long buff glove for the left hand; they also
wore the broad buff girdle; the musketeers had bands about their hats
of a considerable width, finished in front with a rose of orange
cloth, but they had no feathers or plumes; and there was a steadiness
and severity in their whole aspect which commanded admiration. It was
one of the first regiments embodied, composed principally of a better
order of volunteers, and commanded by a very strict and experienced
officer. From these men Cuthbert had nothing to suffer: they were
silent in their ranks; and merely glanced at him as they passed with
looks of gloomy or proud indifference; but the regiment that followed
was a raw levy of militiamen just raised: they had arms, indeed, and
were divided already into musketeers and pikemen, like those who
preceded them; but their clothing and equipment was very incomplete,
and few of the pikemen had either back or breast pieces. Of these,
numbers had been drawn, reluctantly, from the neighbouring villages,
to supply the quota of men required by the militia act, and were
enrolled with the mockery of an oath, by which they were sworn in, to
fight “_for the King against the King_,”--a distinction which of
course the greater part of them could not understand. They only wanted
to be left alone, and suffered to follow their ploughs in peace. Most
of them had some excuse to offer in the Shire Hall, and some story to
tell why they should not go for soldiers. This man had aged parents to
support; another had a family of children; and that man had just
married a wife. Others, who were not provided with such good excuses,
feigned deafness, bad eyes, lame shoulders, weak ankle bones, fits,
rheumatic pains, or some other disqualification, to escape the irksome
duties of praying and fighting under Puritan commanders. Many kissed
their own thumbs instead of the Bible when they took their oaths of
service, meaning to desert the first opportunity that offered; still
there were numbers of idle rustics who came when they were called out,
and did as they were bid, without further question; and these, in
spite of their officers and sergeants, and Puritan comrades, contrived
their own amusements, and laughed at the grave preachments which
forbade them.

As a file of these young swains passed Cuthbert, one struck the end of
a lighted match under his pony’s tail; and to the astonishment of
Cuthbert, and the disturbance of the whole division following, the
poor animal, hitherto as lazy and patient as a laden donkey, began
kicking with such sudden activity and vigour, that the rider had some
difficulty in keeping his seat. However, though inwardly vexed,
Cuthbert stuck close to the saddle, and putting a good face on the
vexatious incident disarmed the laughter which was at first generally
excited by joining in it himself, till a humane sergeant plucked away
the burning cause of the animal’s pain and terror,--and the frightened
beast stood still, trembling and in a bath of sweat. Until this
moment Cuthbert was at a loss to know what had so alarmed his pony;
but he now alighted and made a complaint about what had been done to
an officer that was passing.

The grave personage whom he addressed said, with a sly
smile,--“Verily, friend, thy little garron was in the way, and I
counsel thee to patience in this matter:--there is no harm done, and
verily thou didst stick to thy saddle like a sergeant-major of
cavalry.”

Without waiting for any rejoinder, the officer marched on; and no
sooner had the infantry defiled, than the shrill tones of a few
trumpets announced the advance of four troops of horse. As these fine
men walked their powerful animals along the street, they cast down
looks of contempt upon poor Cuthbert and his little hack; and he could
not but feel that he had never as yet rightly conceived what were the
naked realities of soldiership. There were far more unpleasant and
painful experiences to come than the petty mortifications of this his
first contact with troops. However, he had a wise, generous, and noble
friend to instruct and arm his mind in the path on which he had
entered; and his spirit was now in its first moment of weakness and
need sustained and comforted by his appearance.

Immediately in the rear of this body of horse rode an officer
admirably mounted and equipped, and beneath his polished helmet
Cuthbert instantly recognised Francis Heywood. By this old campaigner
his position was seen and understood at a glance. He stopped, shook
hands with him heartily, and desiring him to find out his quarter at
the house of a brewer in the next street, bade him give his baggage
pony in charge to his batman, and occupy his apartment till the
exercise should be over.

This was so great a lift and recovery to the sinking spirits of
Cuthbert that he had no sooner put up his pony than he turned back and
followed the troops to the plain where they were drawn out.

It was a fine sight to the unaccustomed eye to watch the evolutions of
the musketeers and the pikemen, as the former advanced to skirmish and
cover the movements of the more solid body, and again as they rapidly
retired, and, kneeling down in front of the close array of pikemen,
awaited under the protection of their long pikes to receive the charge
of cavalry, and repulse it with a close and steady fire.

The sunbeams glittered on the steel heads of the tall pikes, and were
reflected in a blaze from the breast and back pieces and the iron head
pieces of the dragoons and the pikemen. The rolling of the drums, and
the blasts of trumpets, gave animation to the movements of the various
divisions; and as the dragoons and musketeers were furnished with a
few rounds of blank or practice cartridge in their bandaliers, the
mimic show of battle or the rehearsal of a scene of death was with the
more select divisions very complete.

The words of command were given and repeated in loud firm tones; and
there was no lack with some of these stout Puritan commanders of
oaths, peculiar, indeed, to themselves, but as earnest and as
blasphemous as those of any profane swearer in the royal army. For
instance, to the dismay of Cuthbert, he heard a voice of thunder
directed against a dull but godly lieutenant of the very regiment
which he was come to join with such a mild rebuke as, “The Lord
deliver thee to Satan, Master Whitefoot, for a blockhead: dost thou
not know thy right hand from thy left?”--“Face to the left, man,” was
the concluding roar, “and slope thy partisan.”

However, though our young Puritan lieutenant was a little astounded at
the chance of being soon subject to such rude addresses, he had good
sense enough to feel that men ought to know their right hands from
their left, and that it must be very provoking to a commanding
officer, and very perplexing and dangerous for others as well as
themselves, if they did not; but he was, nevertheless, a little
startled and shocked at so violent and sinful a misapplication of
Scripture.

However, he considered that the repulsive infirmities of the few ought
not to outweigh the solid piety and the devoted patriotism of the
great leaders of the Parliamentarian levies; and wisely resolving
always to remember his right hand from his left, he joined Francis
after the exercise of the day was over, and passed an evening in his
society with a more deep and rational delight in it than he had ever
before experienced during their previous intercourse.

Francis gave him so much sensible advice in trifles, as well as in
matters of moment, at his entrance on this new and strange course of
life, that when Cuthbert lay down to rest all his difficulties seemed
to have vanished. He had been introduced by Francis to the commander
of the regiment he was to join, and to several other officers of horse
as well as foot; and he soon discerned that there was as great a
variety of character and of manners in this host of the Lord as in
armies assuming a less presumptuous title.


                       END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.


                               LONDON:
                     Printed by A. SPOTTISWOODE,
                         New-Street-Square.





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