Obrazy na stronie

As he rode on, immersed in these unpleasant contemplations, and considerably lessened in his own esteem by what had happened, Wildrake, who rode by his side, and was no friend to long silence, began to enter into conversation. “ I have been thinking, Mark," said he, “ that if you and I had been called to the bar—as, by the by, has been in danger of happening to me in more senses than one—I say, had we become barristers, I would have had the better oiled tongue of the two-the fairer art of persuasion.”

Perhaps so,” replied Everard, “ though I never heard thee use any, save to induce an usurer to lend thee money, or a taverner to abate a reckoning."

“ And yet this day, or rather night, I could have, as I think, made a conquest which

baffled you."

“ Indeed ?" said the Colonel, becoming attentive.

Why, look you,” said Wildrake, “ it was a main object with you to induce Mistress Alice Lee-By Heaven, she is an exquisite creature-I approve of your taste, MarkI say, you desire to persuade her, and the stout old Trojan her father, to consent to return to the Lodge, and live there quietly, and under connivance, like gentlefolk, instead of lodging in a hut hardly fit to harbour a Tom of Bedlam.”

“ Thou art right; such, indeed, was a great part of my object in this visit,” answered Everard.

“ But perhaps you also expected to visit there yourself, and so keep watch over pretty Mistress Lee-eh?”

“I never entertained so selfish a thought,” said Everard; “and if this nocturnal disturbance at the mansion were explained and ended, I would instantly take my departure.”

“ Your friend Noll would expect something more from you,” said Wildrake; “he would expect, in case the knight's reputation for loyalty should draw any of our poor exiles and wanderers about the Lodge, that you should be on the watch and ready to snap them. In a word, as far as I can understand his long-winded speeches, he would have Woodstock a trap, your uncle and his pretty daughter the bait of toasted-cheesecraving your Chloe's pardon for the comparison-you the spring-fall which should bar their escape, his Lordship himself being the great grimalkin to whom they are to be given over to be devoured.”

“ Dared Cromwell mention this to thee in express terms ?” said Everard, pulling up his borse, and stopping in the midst of the road.

“ Nay, not in express terms, which I do not believe he ever used in his life ; you might as well expect a drunken man to go straight forward ; but he insinuated as much to me, and indicated that you might deserve well of him—Gadzo, the damnable proposal sticks in my throat-by betraying our noble and rightful King, [here he pulled off his hat,] whom God grant in health and wealth long to reign, as the worthy clergyman says, though I fear just now his Majesty is both sick and sorry, and never a penny in his pouch to boot.”

“ This tallies with what Alice hinted," said Everard; “ but how could she know it ? didst thou give her any hint of such a thing ?”

“I!” replied the cavalier, “ I, who never saw Mistress Alice in my life till to-night, and then only for an instant-zooks, man, how is that possible ?”

“ True,” replied Everard, and seemed lost in thought. At length he spoke—“ I should call Cromwell to account for his bad opinion of me; for, even though not seriously expressed, but, as I am convinced it was, with the sole view of proving you, and perhaps myself, it was, nevertheless, a misconstruction to be resented.”

“I'll carry a cartel for you, with all my heart and soul,” said Wildrake; " and turn out with his godliness's second, with as good will as I ever drank a glass of sack."

“ Pshaw,” replied Everard, “ those in his high place fight no single combats. But

tell me, Roger Wildrake, didst thou thyself think me capable of the falsehood and treachery implied in such a message ?"

“ I !” exclaimed Wildrake. “ Markham Everard, you have been my early friend, my constant benefactor. When Colchester was reduced, you saved me from the gallows, and since that thou hast twenty times saved me from starving. But, by Heaven, if I thought you capable of such villany as your General recommended, -by yonder blue sky, and all the works of creation which it bends over, I would stab you


my own hand !”

“ Death,” replied Everard, “ I should indeed deserve, but not from you, perhaps; but fortunately, I cannot, if I would, be guilty of the treachery you would punish. Know that I had this day secret notice, and from Cromwell himself, that the young Man has escaped by sea from Bristol.”

Now, God Almighty be blessed, who protected him through so many dangers !" exclaimed Wildrake. “ Huzza!-Up hearts, cavaliers !-Hey for cavaliers!-God bless King Charles !-Moon and stars, catch my hat!”—and he threw it up as high as he could into the air. The celestial bodies which he invoked did not receive the present dispatched to them; but, as in the case of Sir Henry Lee's scabbard, an old gnarled oak became a second time the receptacle of a waif and stray of loyal enthusiasm. Wildrake looked rather foolish at the circumstance, and his friend took the opportunity of admonishing him. “ Art thou not ashamed to bear thee so like a schoolboy ?” Why,"

,” said Wildrake, “I have but sent a Puritan's hat upon a loyal errand. I laugh to think how many of the schoolboys thou talk’st of will be cheated into climbing the pollard next year, expecting to find the nest of some unknown bird in yonder unmeasured margin of felt.”

“ Hush now, for God's sake, and let us speak calmly,” said Everard. 6 Charles has escaped, and I am glad of it. I would willingly have seen him on his father's throne by composition, but not by the force of the Scottish army, and the incensed and vengeful royalists."

“ Master Markham Everard,” began the cavalier, interrupting him—

“ Nay, hush, dear Wildrake,” said Everard; “let us not dispute a point on which we cannot agree, and give me leave to go on.—I say, since the young Man has escaped, Cromwell's offensive and injurious stipulation falls to the ground; and I see not why my uncle and his family should not again enter their own house, under the same terms of connivance as many other royalists. What may be incumbent on me is different, nor can I determine my course until I have an interview with the General, which, as I think, will end in his confessing that he threw in this offensive proposal to sound us both. It is much in his manner; for he is blunt, and never sees or feels the punctilious honour which the gallants of the day stretch to such delicacy."

“ I'll acquit him of having any punctilio about him,” said Wildrake, “either touching honour or honesty. Now, to come back to where we started. Supposing you were not to reside in person at the Lodge, and to forbear even visiting there, unless on invitation, when such a thing can be brought about, I tell you frankly, I think your uncle and his daughter might be induced to come back to the Lodge, and reside there as usual. At least the clergyman, that worthy old cock, gave me to hope as much."

“ He had been hasty in bestowing his confidence,” said Everard.

“ True,” replied Wildrake; “he confided in me at once; for he instantly saw my regard for the Church. I thank Heaven I never passed a clergyman in his canonicals without pulling my hat off-(and thou knowest, the most desperate duel I ever fought was with young Grayless of the Inner Temple, for taking the wall of the Reverend Dr. Bunce)-Ah, I can gain a chaplain's ear instantly. Gadzooks, they know whom they have to trust to in such a one as I.”

“ Dost thou think, then,” said Colonel Everard, “ or rather does this clergyman think, that if they were secure of intrusion from me, the family would return to the Lodge, supposing the intruding Commissioners gone, and this nocturnal disturbance explained and ended ?"

“ The old Knight,” answered Wildrake, “ may be wrought upon by the Doctor to return, if he is secure against intrusion. As for disturbances, the stout old boy, so far as I can learn in two minutes' conversation, laughs at all this turmoil as the work of mere imagination, the consequence of the remorse of their own evil consciences; and says that goblin or devil was never heard of at Woodstock, until it became the residence of such men as they, who have now usurped the possession.”

“ There is more than imagination in it,” said Everard. “I have personal reason to know there is some conspiracy carrying on, to render the house untenable by the Commissioners. I acquit my uncle of accession to such a silly trick; but I must see it ended ere I can agree to his and my cousin's residing where such a confederacy exists; for they are likely to be considered as the contrivers of such pranks, be the actual agent who he may.”

“With reference to your better acquaintance with the gentleman, Everard, I should rather suspect the old father of Puritans (I beg your pardon again) has something to do with the business; and if so, Lucifer will never look near the true old Knight's beard, nor abide a glance of yonder maiden's innocent blue eyes. I will uphold them as safe as pure gold in a miser's chest.”

“ Sawest thou aught thyself, which makes thee think thus ?”

“ Not a quill of the devil's pinion saw I,” replied Wildrake. “ He supposes himself too secure of an old cavalier, who must steal, hang, or drown, in the long run, so he gives himself no trouble to look after the assured booty. But I heard the serving-fellows prate of what they had seen and heard ; and though their tales were confused enough, yet if there was any truth among them at all, I should say the devil must have been in the dance.—But, holla ! here comes some one upon us. Stand, friend—who art thou ?”

“ A poor day-labourer in the great work of England-Joseph Tomkins by nameSecretary to a godly and well-endowed leader in this poor Christian army of England, called General Harrison."

“ What news, Master Tomkins ?” said Everard ; " and why are you on the road at this late hour?"

“I speak to the worthy Colonel Everard, as I judge?" said Tomkins; "and truly I am glad of meeting your honour. Heaven knows, I need such assistance as yours.Oh, worthy Master Everard !—Here has been a sounding of trumpets, and a breaking of vials, and a pouring forth, and”

“ Prithee, tell me in brief, what is the matter—where is thy master-and, in a word, what has happened ?"

“My master is close by, parading it in the little meadow, beside the hugeous oak, which is called by the name of the late Man; ride but two steps forward, and you may see him walking swistly to and fro, advancing all the while the naked weapon.”

Upon proceeding as directed, but with as little noise as possible, they descried a man, whom of course they concluded must be Harrison, walking to and fro beneath the King's oak, as a sentinel under arms, but with more wildness of demeanour. The tramp of the horses did not escape his ear; and they heard him call out, as if at the head of the brigade—“ Lower pikes against cavalry !-Here comes Prince Rupert-Stand fast, and you shall turn them aside, as a bull would toss a cur-dog.–Lower your pikes still, my hearts, the end secured against your foot-down on your right knee, front rank-spare not for the spoiling of your blue aprons.—Ha—Zerobabel—ay, that is the word!”

“ In the name of Heaven, about whom or what is he talking !” said Everard ; “wherefore does he go about with his weapon drawn?”


Truly, sir, when aught disturbs my master, General Harrison, he is something rapt in the spirit, and conceives that he is commanding a reserve of pikes at the great battle of Armageddon -and for his weapon, alack, worthy sir, wherefore should he keep Sheffield steel in calves' leather, when there are fiends to be combated-incarnate fiends on earth, and raging infernal fiends under the earth ?”

“ This is intolerable,” said Everard. “ Listen to me, Tomkins. Thou art not now in the pulpit, and I desire none of thy preaching language. I know thou canst speak intelligibly when thou art so minded. Remember, I may serve or harm thee; and as you hope or fear any thing on my part, answer straight-forward—What has happened to drive out thy master to the wild wood at this time of night?”

“Forsooth, worthy and honoured sir, I will speak with the precision I may. True it is, and of verity, that the breath of man, which is in his nostrils, goeth forth and returneth ".

“ Hark you, sir,” said Colonel Everard, “take care where you ramble in your correspondence with me. You have heard how at the great battle of Dunbar in Scotland, the General himself held a pistol to the head of Lieutenant Hewcreed, threatening to shoot him through the brain if he did not give up holding forth, and put his squadron in line to the front. Take care, sir.”

Verily, the lieutenant then charged with an even and unbroken order,” said Tomkins, “and bore a thousand plaids and bonnets over the beach before him into the

Neither shall I pretermit or postpone your honour's commands, but speedily obey them, and that without delay.”

“ Go to, fellow; thou knowest what I would have,” said Everard; “speak at onceI know thou canst if thou wilt. Trusty Tomkins is better known than he thinks for."

“ Worthy sir," said Tomkins, in a much less periphrastic style, “ I will obey your worship as far as the spirit will permit. Truly, it was not an hour since, when my worshipful master being at table with Master Bibbet and myself, not to mention the worshipful Master Bletson and Colonel Desborough, and behold there was a violent knocking at the gate, as of one in haste. Now, of a certainty, so much had our household been harassed with witches and spirits, and other objects of sound and sight, that the sentinels could not be brought to abide upon their posts without doors, and it was only by a provision of beef and strong liquors that we were able to maintain a guard of three men in the hall, who nevertheless ventured not to open the door, lest they should be surprised with some of the goblins wherewith their imaginations were overwhelmed. And they heard the knocking, which increased until it seemed that the door was wellnigh about to be beaten down. Worthy Master Bibbet was a little overcome with liquor, (as is his fashion, good man, about this time of the evening,) not that he is in the least given to ebriety, but simply, that since the Scottish campaign he hath had a perpetual ague, which obliges him so to nourish his frame against the damps of the night; wherefore, as it is well known to your honour that I discharge the office of a faithful servant, as well to Major-General Harrison, and the other Commissioners, as to my just and lawful master, Colonel Desborough”

“I know all that. —And now that thou art trusted by both, I pray to Heaven thou mayst merit the trust,” said Colonel Everard.

“ And devoutly do I pray,” said Tomkins, “that your worshipful prayers may be answered with favour; for certainly to be, and to be called and entitled, Honest Joe, and Trusty Tomkins, is to me more than ever would be an Earl's title, were such things to be granted anew in this regenerated government."

“Well, go on-go on-or if thou dalliest much longer, I will make bold to dispute the article of your honesty. I like short tales, sir, and doubt what is told with a long unnecessary train of words."

Well, good sir, be not hasty. As I said before, the doors rattled till you would have thought the knocking was reiterated in every room of the Palace. The bell rung out for company, though we could not find that any one tolled the clapper, and the guards let off their firelocks, merely because they knew not what better to do. So, Master Bibbet being, as I said, unsusceptible of his duty, I went down with my poor rapier to the door, and demanded who was there; and I was answered in a voice, which, I must say, was much like another voice, that it was one wanting Major-General Harrison. So, as it was then late, I answered mildly, that General Harrison was betaking himself to his rest, and that any who wished to speak to him must return on the morrow morning, for that after nightfall the door of the Palace, being in the room of a garrison, would be opened to no one. So, the voice replied, and bid me open directly, without which he would blow the folding leaves of the door into the middle of the hall. And therewithal the noise recommenced, that we thought the house would have fallen ; and I was in some measure constrained to open the door, even like a besieged garrison which can hold out no longer."

“ By my honour, and it was stoutly done of you, I must say,” said Wildrake, who had been listening with much interest. “I am a bold dare-devil enough, yet when I had two inches of oak plank between the actual fiend and me, hang him that would demolish the barrier between us, say I-I would as soon, when aboard, bore a hole in the ship, and let in the waves ; for you know we always compare the devil to the deep sea.”

“Prithee, peace, Wildrake,” said Everard, “and let him go on with his history.Well, and what saw'st thou when the door was opened ?—the great Devil with his horns and claws thou wilt say, no doubt.”

“ No, sir, I will say nothing but what is true. When I undid the door, one man stood there, and he, to seeming, a man of no extraordinary appearance. He was wrapped in a taffeta cloak of a scarlet colour, and with a red lining. He seemed as if he might have been in his time a very handsome man, but there was something of paleness and sorrow in his face-a long love-lock and long hair he wore, even after the abomination of the cavaliers, and the unloveliness, as learned Master Prynne well termed it, of lovelocks-a jewel in his ear-a blue scarf over his shoulder, like a military commander for the King, and a hat with a white plume, bearing a peculiar hatband.”

“ Some unhappy officer of cavaliers, of whom so many are in hiding, and seeking shelter through the country,” briefly replied Everard.

“ True, worthy sir-right as a judicious exposition. But there was something about this man (if he was a man) whom I, for one, could not look upon without trembling; nor the musketeers, who were in the hall, without betraying much alarm, and swallowing, as they themselves will aver, the very bullets which they had in their mouths for loading their carabines and muskets. Nay, the wolf and deer-dogs, that are the fiercest of their kind, fled from this visitor, and crept into holes and corners, moaning and wailing in a low and broken tone. He came into the middle of the hall, and still he seemed no more than an ordinary man, only somewhat fantastically dressed, in a doublet of black velvet pinked upon scarlet satin under his cloak, a jewel in his ear, with large roses in his shoes, and a kerchief in his hand, which he sometimes pressed against his left side."

“ Gracious Heavens !” said Wildrake, coming close up to Everard, and whispering in his ear, with accents which terror rendered tremulous, (a mood of mind most unusual to the daring man, who seemed now overcome by it)—“ it must have been poor Dick Robison the player, in the very dress in which I have seen him play Philaster-ay, and drunk a jolly bottle with him after it at the Mermaid! I remember how many frolics we had together, and all his little fantastic fashions. He served for his old master, Charles, in Mohun's troop, and was murdered by this butcher's dog, as I have heard, after surrender, at the battle of Naseby-field.”

“ Hush! I have heard of the deed,” said Everard; “for God's sake hear the man to an end.—Did this visitor speak to thee, my


« PoprzedniaDalej »