Peveril of the Peak, by Walter Scott

Chapter 23

The Gordon then his bugle blew,

And said, awa, awa;

The House of Rhodes is all on flame,

I hauld it time to ga’.

OLD BALLAD.

When Julian awaked the next morning, all was still and vacant in the apartment. The rising sun, which shone through the half-closed shutters, showed some relics of the last night’s banquet, which his confused and throbbing head assured him had been carried into a debauch.

Without being much of a boon companion, Julian, like other young men of the time, was not in the habit of shunning wine, which was then used in considerable quantities; and he could not help being surprised, that the few cups he had drunk over night had produced on his frame the effects of excess. He rose up, adjusted his dress, and sought in the apartment for water to perform his morning ablutions, but without success. Wine there was on the table; and beside it one stool stood, and another lay, as if thrown down in the heedless riot of the evening. “Surely,” he thought to himself, “the wine must have been very powerful, which rendered me insensible to the noise my companions must have made ere they finished their carouse.”

With momentary suspicion he examined his weapons, and the packet which he had received from the Countess, and kept in a secret pocket of his upper coat, bound close about his person. All was safe; and the very operation reminded him of the duties which lay before him. He left the apartment where they had supped, and went into another, wretched enough, where, in a truckle-bed, were stretched two bodies, covered with a rug, the heads belonging to which were amicably deposited upon the same truss of hay. The one was the black shock-head of the groom; the other, graced with a long thrum nightcap, showed a grizzled pate, and a grave caricatured countenance, which the hook-nose and lantern-jaws proclaimed to belong to the Gallic minister of good cheer, whose praises he had heard sung forth on the preceding evening. These worthies seemed to have slumbered in the arms of Bacchus as well as of Morpheus, for there were broken flasks on the floor; and their deep snoring alone showed that they were alive.

Bent upon resuming his journey, as duty and expedience alike dictated, Julian next descended the trap-stair, and essayed a door at the bottom of the steps. It was fastened within. He called — no answer was returned. It must be, he thought, the apartment of the revellers, now probably sleeping as soundly as their dependants still slumbered, and as he himself had done a few minutes before. Should he awake them? — To what purpose? They were men with whom accident had involved him against his own will; and situated as he was, he thought it wise to take the earliest opportunity of breaking off from society which was suspicious, and might be perilous. Ruminating thus, he essayed another door, which admitted him to a bedroom, where lay another harmonious slumberer. The mean utensils, pewter measures, empty cans and casks, with which this room was lumbered, proclaimed it that of the host, who slept surrounded by his professional implements of hospitality and stock-intrade.

This discovery relieved Peveril from some delicate embarrassment which he had formerly entertained. He put upon the table a piece of money, sufficient, as he judged, to pay his share of the preceding night’s reckoning; not caring to be indebted for his entertainment to the strangers, whom he was leaving without the formality of an adieu.

His conscience cleared of this gentleman-like scruple, Peveril proceeded with a light heart, though somewhat a dizzy head, to the stable, which he easily recognised among a few other paltry outhouses. His horse, refreshed with rest, and perhaps not unmindful of his services the evening before, neighed as his master entered the stable; and Peveril accepted the sound as an omen of a prosperous journey. He paid the augury with a sieveful of corn; and, while his palfrey profited by his attention, walked into the fresh air to cool his heated blood, and consider what course he should pursue in order to reach the Castle of Martindale before sunset. His acquaintance with the country in general gave him confidence that he could not have greatly deviated from the nearest road; and with his horse in good condition, he conceived he might easily reach Martindale before nightfall.

Having adjusted his route in his mind, he returned into the stable to prepare his steed for the journey, and soon led him into the ruinous courtyard of the inn, bridled, saddled, and ready to be mounted. But as Peveril’s hand was upon the mane, and his left foot in the stirrup, a hand touched his cloak, and the voice of Ganlesse said, “What, Master Peveril, is this your foreign breeding? or have you learned in France to take French leave of your friends?”

Julian started like a guilty thing, although a moment’s reflection assured him that he was neither wrong nor in danger. “I cared not to disturb you,” he said, “although I did come as far as the door of your chamber. I supposed your friend and you might require, after our last night’s revel, rather sleep than ceremony. I left my own bed, though a rough one, with more reluctance than usual; and as my occasions oblige me to be an early traveller, I thought it best to depart without leave-taking. I have left a token for mine host on the table of his apartment.”

“It was unnecessary,” said Ganlesse; “the rascal is already overpaid. — But are you not rather premature in your purpose of departing? My mind tells me that Master Julian Peveril had better proceed with me to London, than turn aside for any purpose whatever. You may see already that I am no ordinary person, but a master-spirit of the time. For the cuckoo I travel with, and whom I indulge in his prodigal follies, he also has his uses. But you are a different cast; and I not only would serve you, but even wish you, to be my own.”

Julian gazed on this singular person when he spoke. We have already said his figure was mean and slight, with very ordinary and unmarked features, unless we were to distinguish the lightnings of a keen grey eye, which corresponded in its careless and prideful glance, with the haughty superiority which the stranger assumed in his conversation. It was not till after a momentary pause that Julian replied, “Can you wonder, sir, that in my circumstances — if they are indeed known to you so well as they seem — I should decline unnecessary confidence on the affairs of moment which have called me hither, or refuse the company of a stranger, who assigns no reason for desiring mine?”

“Be it as you list, young man,” answered Ganlesse; “only remember hereafter, you had a fair offer — it is not every one to whom I would have made it. If we should meet hereafter, on other, and on worse terms, impute it to yourself and not to me.”

“I understand not your threat,” answered Peveril, “If a threat be indeed implied. I have done no evil — I feel no apprehension — and I cannot, in common sense, conceive why I should suffer for refusing my confidence to a stranger, who seems to require that I should submit me blindfold to his guidance.”

“Farewell, then, Sir Julian of the Peak — that may soon be,” said the stranger, removing the hand which he had as yet left carelessly on the horse’s bridle.

“How mean you by that phrase?” said Julian; “and why apply such a title to me?”

The stranger smiled, and only answered, “Here our conference ends. The way is before you. You will find it longer and rougher than that by which I would have guided you.”

So saying, Ganlesse turned his back and walked toward the house. On the threshold he turned about once more, and seeing that Peveril had not yet moved from the spot, he again smiled and beckoned to him; but Julian, recalled by that sign to recollection, spurred his horse and set forward on his journey.

It was not long ere his local acquaintance with the country enabled him to regain the road to Martindale, from which he had diverged on the preceding evening for about two miles. But the roads, or rather the paths, of this wild country, so much satirised by their native poet, Cotton, were so complicated in some places, so difficult to be traced in others, and so unfit for hasty travelling in almost all, that in spite of Julian’s utmost exertions, and though he made no longer delay upon the journey than was necessary to bait his horse at a small hamlet through which he passed at noon, it was nightfall ere he reached an eminence, from which, an hour sooner, the battlements of Martindale Castle would have been visible; and where, when they were hid in night, their situation was indicated by a light constantly maintained in a lofty tower, called the Warder’s Turret; and which domestic beacon had acquired, through all the neighbourhood, the name of Peveril’s Polestar.

This was regularly kindled at curfew toll, and supplied with as much wood and charcoal as maintained the light till sunrise; and at no period was the ceremonial omitted, saving during the space intervening between the death of a Lord of the Castle and his interment. When this last event had taken place, the nightly beacon was rekindled with some ceremony, and continued till fate called the successor to sleep with his fathers. It is not known from which circumstance the practice of maintaining this light originally sprung. Tradition spoke of it doubtfully. Some thought it was the signal of general hospitality, which, in ancient times, guided the wandering knight, or the weary pilgrim, to rest and refreshment. Others spoke of it as a “love-lighted watchfire,” by which the provident anxiety of a former lady of Martindale guided her husband homeward through the terrors of a midnight storm. The less favourable construction of unfriendly neighbours of the dissenting persuasion, ascribed the origin and continuance of this practice to the assuming pride of the family of Peveril, who thereby chose to intimate their ancient suzerainté over the whole country, in the manner of the admiral who carries the lantern in the poop, for the guidance of the fleet. And in the former times, our old friend, Master Solsgrace, dealt from the pulpit many a hard hit against Sir Geoffrey, as he that had raised his horn, and set up his candlestick on high. Certain it is, that all the Peverils, from father to son, had been especially attentive to the maintenance of this custom, as something intimately connected with the dignity of their family; and in the hands of Sir Geoffrey, the observance was not likely to be omitted.

Accordingly, the polar-star of Peveril had continued to beam more or less brightly during all the vicissitudes of the Civil War; and glimmered, however faintly, during the subsequent period of Sir Geoffrey’s depression. But he was often heard to say, and sometimes to swear, that while there was a perch of woodland left to the estate, the old beacon-grate should not lack replenishing. All this his son Julian well knew; and therefore it was with no ordinary feelings of surprise and anxiety, that, looking in the direction of the Castle, he perceived that the light was not visible. He halted — rubbed his eyes — shifted his position — and endeavoured, in vain, to persuade himself that he had mistaken the point from which the polar-star of his house was visible, or that some newly intervening obstacle, the growth of a plantation, perhaps, or the erection of some building, intercepted the light of the beacon. But a moment’s reflection assured him, that from the high and free situation which Martindale Castle bore in reference to the surrounding country, this could not have taken place; and the inference necessarily forced itself upon his mind, that Sir Geoffrey, his father, was either deceased, or that the family must have been disturbed by some strange calamity, under the pressure of which, their wonted custom and solemn usage had been neglected.

Under the influence of undefinable apprehension, young Peveril now struck the spurs into his jaded steed, and forcing him down the broken and steep path, at a pace which set safety at defiance, he arrived at the village of Martindale-Moultrassie, eagerly desirous to ascertain the cause of this ominous eclipse. The street, through which his tired horse paced slow and reluctantly, was now deserted and empty; and scarcely a candle twinkled from a casement, except from the latticed window of the little inn, called the Peveril Arms, from which a broad light shone, and several voices were heard in rude festivity.

Before the door of this inn, the jaded palfrey, guided by the instinct or experience which makes a hackney well acquainted with the outside of a house of entertainment, made so sudden and determined a pause, that, notwithstanding his haste, the rider thought it best to dismount, expecting to be readily supplied with a fresh horse by Roger Raine, the landlord, the ancient dependant of his family. He also wished to relive his anxiety, by inquiring concerning the state of things at the Castle, when he was surprised to hear, bursting from the taproom of the loyal old host, a well-known song of the Commonwealth time, which some puritanical wag had written in reprehension of the Cavaliers, and their dissolute courses, and in which his father came in for a lash of the satirist.

“Ye thought in the world there was no power to tame ye,

So you tippled and drabb’d till the saints overcame ye;

‘Forsooth,’ and ‘Ne’er stir,’ sir, have vanquish’d ‘G— d — n me,’

Which nobody can deny.

There was bluff old Sir Geoffrey loved brandy and mum well,

And to see a beer-glass turned over the thumb well;

But he fled like the wind, before Fairfax and Cromwell,

Which nobody can deny.”

Some strange revolution, Julian was aware, must have taken place, both in the village and in the Castle, ere these sounds of unseemly insult could have been poured forth in the very inn which was decorated with the armorial bearings of his family; and not knowing how far it might be advisable to intrude on these unfriendly revellers, without the power of repelling or chastising their insolence, he led his horse to a back-door, which as he recollected, communicated with the landlord’s apartment, having determined to make private inquiry of him concerning the state of matters at the Castle. He knocked repeatedly, and as often called on Roger Raine with an earnest but stifled voice. At length a female voice replied by the usual inquiry, “Who is there?”

“It is I, Dame Raine — I, Julian Peveril — tell your husband to come to me presently.”

“Alack, and a well-a-day, Master Julian, if it be really you — you are to know my poor goodman has gone where he can come to no one; but, doubtless, we shall all go to him, as Matthew Chamberlain says.”

“He is dead, then?” said Julian. “I am extremely sorry ——”

“Dead six months and more, Master Julian; and let me tell you, it is a long time for a lone woman, as Matt Chamberlain says.”

“Well, do you or your chamberlain undo the door. I want a fresh horse; and I want to know how things are at the Castle.”

“The Castle — lack-a-day! — Chamberlain — Matthew Chamberlain — I say, Matt!”

Matt Chamberlain apparently was at no great distance, for he presently answered her call; and Peveril, as he stood close to the door, could hear them whispering to each other, and distinguish in a great measure what they said. And here it may be noticed, that Dame Raine, accustomed to submit to the authority of old Roger, who vindicated as well the husband’s domestic prerogative, as that of the monarch in the state, had, when left a buxom widow, been so far incommoded by the exercise of her newly acquired independence, that she had recourse, upon all occasions, to the advice of Matt Chamberlain; and as Matt began no longer to go slipshod, and in a red nightcap, but wore Spanish shoes, and a high-crowned beaver (at least of a Sunday), and moreover was called Master Matthew by his fellow-servants, the neighbours in the village argued a speedy change of the name of the sign-post; nay, perhaps, of the very sign itself, for Matthew was a bit of a Puritan, and no friend to Peveril of the Peak.

“Now counsel me, an you be a man, Matt Chamberlain,” said Widow Raine; “for never stir, if here be not Master Julian’s own self, and he wants a horse, and what not, and all as if things were as they wont to be.”

“Why, dame, an ye will walk by my counsel,” said the Chamberlain, “e’en shake him off — let him be jogging while his boots are green. This is no world for folks to scald their fingers in other folks’ broth.”

“And that is well spoken, truly,” answered Dame Raine; “but then look you, Matt, we have eaten their bread, and, as my poor goodman used to say ——”

“Nay, nay, dame, they that walk by the counsel of the dead, shall have none of the living; and so you may do as you list; but if you will walk by mine, drop latch, and draw bolt, and bid him seek quarters farther — that is my counsel.”

“I desire nothing of you, sirrah,” said Peveril, “save but to know how Sir Geoffrey and his lady do?”

“Lack-a-day! — lack-a-day!” in a tone of sympathy, was the only answer he received from the landlady; and the conversation betwixt her and her chamberlain was resumed, but in a tone too low to be overheard.

At length Matt Chamberlain spoke aloud, and with a tone of authority: “We undo no doors at this time of night, for it is against the Justices’ orders, and might cost us our licence; and for the Castle, the road up to it lies before you, and I think you know it as well as we do.”

“And I know you,” said Peveril, remounting his wearied horse, “for an ungrateful churl, whom, on the first opportunity, I will assuredly cudgel to a mummy.”

To this menace Matthew made no reply, and Peveril presently heard him leave the apartment, after a few earnest words betwixt him and his mistress.

Impatient at this delay, and at the evil omen implied in these people’s conversation and deportment, Peveril, after some vain spurring of his horse, which positively refused to move a step farther, dismounted once more, and was about to pursue his journey on foot, notwithstanding the extreme disadvantage under which the high riding-boots of the period laid those who attempted to walk with such encumbrances, when he was stopped by a gentle call from the window.

Her counsellor was no sooner gone, than the good-nature and habitual veneration of the dame for the house of Peveril, and perhaps some fear for her counsellor’s bones, induced her to open the casement, and cry, but in a low and timid tone, “Hist! hist! Master Julian — be you gone?”

“Not yet, dame,” said Julian; “though it seems my stay is unwelcome.”

“Nay, but good young master, it is because men counsel so differently; for here was my poor old Roger Raine would have thought the chimney corner too cold for you; and here is Matt Chamberlain thinks the cold courtyard is warm enough.”

“Never mind that, dame,” said Julian; “do but only tell me what has happened at Martindale Castle? I see the beacon is extinguished.”

“Is it in troth? — ay, like enough — then good Sir Geoffrey has gone to heaven with my old Roger Raine!”

“Sacred Heaven!” exclaimed Peveril; “when was my father taken ill?”

“Never as I knows of,” said the dame; “but, about three hours since, arrived a party at the Castle, with buff-coats and bandoleers, and one of the Parliament’s folks, like in Oliver’s time. My old Roger Raine would have shut the gates of the inn against them, but he is in the churchyard, and Matt says it is against law; and so they came in and refreshed men and horses, and sent for Master Bridgenorth, that is at Moultrassie Hall even now; and so they went up to the Castle, and there was a fray, it is like, as the old Knight was no man to take napping, as poor Roger Raine used to say. Always the officers had the best on’t; and reason there is, since they had the law of their side, as our Matthew says. But since the pole-star of the Castle is out, as your honour says, why, doubtless, the old gentleman is dead.”

“Gracious Heaven! — Dear dame, for love or gold, let me have a horse to make for the Castle!”

“The Castle?” said the dame; “the Roundheads, as my poor Roger called them, will kill you as they have killed your father! Better creep into the woodhouse, and I will send Bett with a blanket and some supper — Or stay — my old Dobbin stands in the little stable beside the hencoop — e’en take him, and make the best of your way out of the country, for there is no safety here for you. Hear what songs some of them are singing at the tap! — so take Dobbin, and do not forget to leave your own horse instead.”

Peveril waited to hear no farther, only, that just as he turned to go off to the stable, the compassionate female was heard to exclaim —“O Lord! what will Matthew Chamberlain say!” but instantly added, “Let him say what he will, I may dispose of what’s my own.”

With the haste of a double-fee’d hostler did Julian exchange the equipments of his jaded brute with poor Dobbin, who stood quietly tugging at his rackful of hay, without dreaming of the business which was that night destined for him. Notwithstanding the darkness of the place, Julian succeeded marvellous quickly in preparing for his journey; and leaving his own horse to find its way to Dobbin’s rack by instinct, he leaped upon his new acquisition, and spurred him sharply against the hill, which rises steeply from the village to the Castle. Dobbin, little accustomed to such exertions, snorted, panted, and trotted as briskly as he could, until at length he brought his rider before the entrance-gate of his father’s ancient seat.

The moon was now rising, but the portal was hidden from its beams, being situated, as we have mentioned elsewhere, in a deep recess betwixt two large flanking towers. Peveril dismounted, turned his horse loose, and advanced to the gate, which, contrary to his expectation, he found open. He entered the large courtyard; and could then perceive that lights yet twinkled in the lower part of the building, although he had not before observed them, owing to the height of the outward walls. The main door, or great hall-gate, as it was called, was, since the partially decayed state of the family, seldom opened, save on occasions of particular ceremony. A smaller postern door served the purpose of ordinary entrance; and to that Julian now repaired. This also was open — a circumstance which would of itself have alarmed him, had he not already had so many causes for apprehension. His heart sunk within him as he turned to the left, through a small outward hall, towards the great parlour, which the family usually occupied as a sitting apartment; and his alarm became still greater, when, on a nearer approach, he heard proceeding from thence the murmur of several voices. He threw the door of the apartment wide; and the sight which was thus displayed, warranted all the evil bodings which he had entertained.

In front of him stood the old Knight, whose arms were strongly secured, over the elbows, by a leathern belt drawn tight round them, and made fast behind; two ruffianly-looking men, apparently his guards, had hold of his doublet. The scabbard-less sword which lay on the floor, and the empty sheath which hung by Sir Geoffrey’s side, showed the stout old Cavalier had not been reduced to this state of bondage without an attempt at resistance. Two or three persons, having their backs turned towards Julian, sat round a table, and appeared engaged in writing — the voices which he had heard were theirs, as they murmured to each other. Lady Peveril — the emblem of death, so pallid was her countenance — stood at the distance of a yard or two from her husband, upon whom her eyes were fixed with an intenseness of gaze, like that of one who looks her last on the object which she loves the best. She was the first to perceive Julian; and she exclaimed, “Merciful Heaven! — my son! — the misery of our house is complete!”

“My son!” echoed Sir Geoffrey, starting from the sullen state of dejection, and swearing a deep oath —“thou art come in the right time, Julian. Strike me one good blow — cleave me that traitorous thief from the crown to the brisket! and that done, I care not what comes next.”

The sight of his father’s situation made the son forget the inequality of the contest which he was about to provoke.

“Villains,” he said, “unhand him!” and rushing on the guards with his drawn sword, compelled them to let go Sir Geoffrey, and stand on their own defence.

Sir Geoffrey, thus far liberated, shouted to his lady. “Undo the belt, dame, and we will have three good blows for it yet — they must fight well that beat both father and son.”

But one of those men who had started up from the writing-table when the fray commenced, prevented Lady Peveril from rendering her husband this assistance; while another easily mastered the hampered Knight, though not without receiving several severe kicks from his heavy boots — his condition permitting him no other mode of defence. A third, who saw that Julian, young, active, and animated with the fury of a son who fights for his parents, was compelling the two guards to give ground, seized on his collar, and attempted to master his sword. Suddenly dropping that weapon, and snatching one of his pistols, Julian fired it at the head of the person by whom he was thus assailed. He did not drop, but, staggering back as if he had received a severe blow, showed Peveril, as he sunk into a chair, the features of old Bridgenorth, blackened with the explosion, which had even set fire to a part of his grey hair. A cry of astonishment escaped from Julian; and in the alarm and horror of the moment, he was easily secured and disarmed by those with whom he had been at first engaged.

“Heed it not, Julian,” said Sir Geoffrey; “heed it not, my brave boy — that shot has balanced all accounts! — but how — what the devil — he lives! — Was your pistol loaded with chaff? or has the foul fiend given him proof against lead?”

There was some reason for Sir Geoffrey’s surprise, since, as he spoke, Major Bridgenorth collected himself — sat up in the chair as one who recovers from a stunning blow — then rose, and wiping with his handkerchief the marks of the explosion from his face, he approached Julian, and said, in the same cold unaltered tone in which he usually expressed himself, “Young man, you have reason to bless God, who has this day saved you from the commission of a great crime.”

“Bless the devil, ye crop-eared knave!” exclaimed Sir Geoffrey; “for nothing less than the father of all fanatics saved your brains from being blown about like the rinsings of Beelzebub’s porridge pot!”

“Sir Geoffrey,” said Major Bridgenorth, “I have already told you, that with you I will hold no argument; for to you I am not accountable for any of my actions.”

“Master Bridgenorth,” said the lady, making a strong effort to speak, and to speak with calmness, “whatever revenge your Christian state of conscience may permit you to take on my husband — I— I, who have some right to experience compassion at your hand, for most sincerely did I compassionate you when the hand of Heaven was heavy on you — I implore you not to involve my son in our common ruin! — Let the destruction of the father and mother, with the ruin of our ancient house, satisfy your resentment for any wrong which you have ever received at my husband’s hand.”

“Hold your peace, housewife,” said the Knight, “you speak like a fool, and meddle with what concerns you not. — Wrong at my hand? The cowardly knave has ever had but even too much right. Had I cudgelled the cur soundly when he first bayed at me, the cowardly mongrel had been now crouching at my feet, instead of flying at my throat. But if I get through this action, as I have got through worse weather, I will pay off old scores, as far as tough crab-tree and cold iron will bear me out.”

“Sir Geoffrey,” replied Bridgenorth, “if the birth you boast of has made you blind to better principles, it might have at least taught you civility. What do you complain of? I am a magistrate; and I execute a warrant, addressed to me by the first authority in that state. I am a creditor also of yours; and law arms me with powers to recover my own property from the hands of an improvident debtor.”

“You a magistrate!” said the Knight; “much such a magistrate as Noll was a monarch. Your heart is up, I warrant, because you have the King’s pardon; and are replaced on the bench, forsooth, to persecute the poor Papist. There was never turmoil in the state, but knaves had their vantage by it — never pot boiled, but the scum was cast uppermost.”

“For God’s sake, my dearest husband,” said Lady Peveril, “cease this wild talk! It can but incense Master Bridgenorth, who might otherwise consider, that in common charity ——”

“Incense him!” said Sir Geoffrey, impatiently interrupting her; “God’s-death, madam, you will drive me mad! Have you lived so long in this world, and yet expect consideration and charity from an old starved wolf like that? And if he had it, do you think that I, or you, madam, as my wife, are subjects for his charity? — Julian, my poor fellow, I am sorry thou hast come so unluckily, since thy petronel was not better loaded — but thy credit is lost for ever as a marksman.”

This angry colloquy passed so rapidly on all sides, that Julian, scarce recovered from the extremity of astonishment with which he was overwhelmed at finding himself suddenly plunged into a situation of such extremity, had no time to consider in what way he could most effectually act for the succour of his parents. To speak to Bridgenorth fair seemed the more prudent course; but to this his pride could hardly stoop; yet he forced himself to say, with as much calmness as he could assume,

“Master Bridgenorth, since you act as a magistrate, I desire to be treated according to the laws of England; and demand to know of what we are accused, and by whose authority we are arrested?”

“Here is another howlet for ye!” exclaimed the impetuous old Knight; “his mother speaks to a Puritan of charity; and thou must talk of law to a round-headed rebel, with a wannion to you! What warrant hath he, think ye, beyond the Parliament’s or the devil’s?”

“Who speaks of the Parliament?” said a person entering, whom Peveril recognised as the official person whom he had before seen at the horse-dealer’s, and who now bustled in with all the conscious dignity of plenary authority — “Who talks of the Parliament?” he exclaimed. “I promise you, enough has been found in this house to convict twenty plotters — Here be arms, and that good store. Bring them in, Captain.”

“The very same,” exclaimed the Captain, approaching, “which I mention in my printed Narrative of Information, lodged before the Honourable House of Commons; they were commissioned from old Vander Huys of Rotterdam, by orders of Don John of Austria, for the service of the Jesuits.”

“Now, by this light,” said Sir Geoffrey, “they are the pikes, musketoons, and pistols, that have been hidden in the garret ever since Naseby fight!”

“And here,” said the Captain’s yoke-fellow, Everett, “are proper priest’s trappings — antiphoners, and missals, and copes, I warrant you — ay, and proper pictures, too, for Papists to mutter and bow over.”

“Now plague on thy snuffling whine,” said Sir Geoffrey; “here is a rascal will swear my grandmother’s old farthingale to be priest’s vestments, and the story book of Owlenspiegel a Popish missal!”

“But how’s this, Master Bridgenorth?” said Topham, addressing the magistrate; “your honour has been as busy as we have; and you have caught another knave while we recovered these toys.”

“I think, sir,” said Julian, “if you look into your warrant, which, if I mistake not, names the persons whom you are directed to arrest, you will find you have not title to apprehend me.”

“Sir,” said the officer, puffing with importance, “I do not know who you are; but I would you were the best man in England, that I might teach you the respect due to the warrant of the House. Sir, there steps not the man within the British seas, but I will arrest him on authority of this bit of parchment; and I do arrest you accordingly. — What do you accuse him of, gentlemen?”

Dangerfield swaggered forward, and peeping under Julian’s hat, “Stop my vital breath,” he exclaimed, “but I have seen you before, my friend, an I could but think where; but my memory is not worth a bean, since I have been obliged to use it so much of late, in the behalf of the poor state. But I do know the fellow; and I have seen him amongst the Papists — I’ll take that on my assured damnation.”

“Why, Captain Dangerfield,” said the Captain’s smoother, but more dangerous associate — “verily, it is the same youth whom we saw at the horse-merchant’s yesterday; and we had matter against him then, only Master Topham did not desire us to bring it out.”

“Ye may bring out what ye will against him now,” said Topham, “for he hath blasphemed the warrant of the House. I think ye said ye saw him somewhere.”

“Ay, verily,” said Everett, “I have seen him amongst the seminary pupils at Saint Omer’s — he was who but he with the regents there.”

“Nay, Master Everett, collect yourself,” said Topham; “for as I think, you said you saw him at a consult of the Jesuits in London.”

“It was I said so, Master Topham,” said the undaunted Dangerfield; “and mine is the tongue that will swear it.”

“Good Master Topham,” said Bridgenorth, “you may suspend farther inquiry at present, as it doth but fatigue and perplex the memory of the King’s witnesses.”

“You are wrong, Master Bridgenorth — clearly wrong. It doth but keep them in wind — only breathes them like greyhounds before a coursing match.”

“Be it so,” said Bridgenorth, with his usual indifference of manner; “but at present this youth must stand committed upon a warrant, which I will presently sign, of having assaulted me while in discharge of my duty as a magistrate, for the rescue of a person legally attached. Did you not hear the report of a pistol?”

“I will swear to it,” said Everett.

“And I,” said Dangerfield. “While we were making search in the cellar, I heard something very like a pistol-shot; but I conceived it to be the drawing of a long-corked bottle of sack, to see whether there were any Popish relics in the inside on’t.”

“A pistol-shot!” exclaimed Topham; “here might have been a second Sir Edmondsbury Godfrey’s matter. — Oh, thou real spawn of the red old dragon! for he too would have resisted the House’s warrant, had we not taken him something at unawares. — Master Bridgenorth, you are a judicious magistrate, and a worthy servant of the state — I would we had many such sound Protestant justices. Shall I have this young fellow away with his parents — what think you? — or will you keep him for re-examination?”

“Master Bridgenorth,” said Lady Peveril, in spite of her husband’s efforts to interrupt her, “for God’s sake, if ever you knew what it was to love one of the many children you have lost, or her who is now left to you, do not pursue your vengeance to the blood of my poor boy! I will forgive you all the rest — all the distress you have wrought — all the yet greater misery with which you threaten us; but do not be extreme with one who never can have offended you! Believe, that if your ears are shut against the cry of a despairing mother, those which are open to the complaint of all who sorrow, will hear my petition and your answer!”

The agony of mind and of voice with which Lady Peveril uttered these words, seemed to thrill through all present, though most of them were but too much inured to such scenes. Every one was silent, when, ceasing to speak, she fixed on Bridgenorth her eyes, glistening with tears, with the eager anxiety of one whose life or death seemed to depend upon the answer to be returned. Even Bridgenorth’s inflexibility seemed to be shaken; and his voice was tremulous, as he answered, “Madam, I would to God I had the present means of relieving your great distress, otherwise than by recommending to you a reliance upon Providence; and that you take heed to your spirit, that it murmur not under this crook in your lot. For me, I am but as a rod in the hand of the strong man, which smites not of itself, but because it is wielded by the arm of him who holds the same.”

“Even as I and my black rod are guided by the Commons of England,” said Master Topham, who seemed marvellously pleased with the illustration.

Julian now thought it time to say something in his own behalf; and he endeavoured to temper it with as much composure as it was possible for him to assume. “Master Bridgenorth,” he said, “I neither dispute your authority, nor this gentleman’s warrant ——”

“You do not?” said Topham. “Oh, ho, master youngster, I thought we should bring you to your senses presently!”

“Then, if you so will it, Master Topham,” said Bridgenorth, “thus it shall be. You shall set out with early day, taking you, towards London, the persons of Sir Geoffrey and Lady Peveril; and that they may travel according to their quality, you will allow them their coach, sufficiently guarded.”

“I will travel with them myself,” said Topham; “for these rough Derbyshire roads are no easy riding; and my very eyes are weary with looking on these bleak hills. In the coach I can sleep as sound as if I were in the House, and Master Bodderbrains on his legs.”

“It will become you so to take your ease, Master Topham,” answered Bridgenorth. “For this youth, I will take him under my charge, and bring him up myself.”

“I may not be answerable for that, worthy Master Bridgenorth,” said Topham, “since he comes within the warrant of the House.”

“Nay, but,” said Bridgenorth, “he is only under custody for an assault, with the purpose of a rescue; and I counsel you against meddling with him, unless you have stronger guard. Sir Geoffrey is now old and broken, but this young fellow is in the flower of his youth, and hath at his beck all the debauched young Cavaliers of the neighbourhood — You will scarce cross the country without a rescue.”

Topham eyed Julian wistfully, as a spider may be supposed to look upon a stray wasp which has got into his web, and which he longs to secure, though he fears the consequences of attempting him.

Julian himself replied, “I know not if this separation be well or ill meant on your part, Master Bridgenorth; but on mine, I am only desirous to share the fate of my parents; and therefore I will give my word of honour to attempt neither rescue nor escape, on condition you do not separate me from them.”

“Do not say so, Julian,” said his mother; “abide with Master Bridgenorth — my mind tells me he cannot mean so ill by us as his rough conduct would now lead us to infer.”

“And I,” said Sir Geoffrey, “know, that between the doors of my father’s house and the gates of hell, there steps not such a villain on the ground! And if I wish my hands ever to be unbound again, it is because I hope for one downright blow at a grey head, that has hatched more treason than the whole Long Parliament.”

“Away with thee,” said the zealous officer; “is Parliament a word for so foul a mouth as thine? — Gentlemen,” he added, turning to Everett and Dangerfield, “you will bear witness to this.”

“To his having reviled the House of Commons — by G— d, that I will!” said Dangerfield; “I will take it on my damnation.”

“And verily,” said Everett, “as he spoke of Parliament generally, he hath contemned the House of Lords also.”

“Why, ye poor insignificant wretches,” said Sir Geoffrey, “whose very life is a lie — and whose bread is perjury — would you pervert my innocent words almost as soon as they have quitted my lips? I tell you the country is well weary of you; and should Englishmen come to their senses, the jail, the pillory, the whipping-post, and the gibbet, will be too good preferment for such base blood-suckers. — And now, Master Bridgenorth, you and they may do your worst; for I will not open my mouth to utter a single word while I am in the company of such knaves.”

“Perhaps, Sir Geoffrey,” answered Bridgenorth, “you would better have consulted your own safety in adopting that resolution a little sooner — the tongue is a little member, but it causes much strife. — You, Master Julian, will please to follow me, and without remonstrance or resistance; for you must be aware that I have the means of compelling.”

Julian was, indeed, but too sensible, that he had no other course but that of submission to superior force; but ere he left the apartment, he kneeled down to receive his father’s blessing, which the old man bestowed not without a tear in his eye, and in the emphatic words, “God bless thee, my boy; and keep thee good and true to Church and King, whatever wind shall bring foul weather!”

His mother was only able to pass her hand over his head, and to implore him, in a low tone of voice, not to be rash or violent in any attempt to render them assistance. “We are innocent,” she said, “my son — we are innocent — and we are in God’s hands. Be the thought our best comfort and protection.”

Bridgenorth now signed to Julian to follow him, which he did, accompanied, or rather conducted, by the two guards who had first disarmed him. When they had passed from the apartment, and were at the door of the outward hall, Bridgenorth asked Julian whether he should consider him as under parole; in which case, he said, he would dispense with all other security but his own promise.

Peveril, who could not help hoping somewhat from the favourable and unresentful manner in which he was treated by one whose life he had so recently attempted, replied, without hesitation, that he would give his parole for twenty-four hours, neither to attempt to escape by force nor by flight.

“It is wisely said,” replied Bridgenorth; “for though you might cause bloodshed, be assured that your utmost efforts could do no service to your parents. — Horses there — horses to the courtyard!”

The trampling of horses was soon heard; and in obedience to Bridgenorth’s signal, and in compliance with his promise, Julian mounted one which was presented to him, and prepared to leave the house of his fathers, in which his parents were now prisoners, and to go, he knew not whither, under the custody of one known to be the ancient enemy of his family. He was rather surprised at observing, that Bridgenorth and he were about to travel without any other attendants.

When they were mounted, and as they rode slowly towards the outer gate of the courtyard, Bridgenorth said to him, “it is not every one who would thus unreservedly commit his safety by travelling at night, and unaided, with the hot-brained youth who so lately attempted his life.”

“Master Bridgenorth,” said Julian, “I might tell you truly, that I knew you not at the time when I directed my weapon against you; but I must also add, that the cause in which I used it, might have rendered me, even had I known you, a slight respecter of your person. At present, I do know you; and have neither malice against your person, nor the liberty of a parent to fight for. Besides, you have my word; and when was a Peveril known to break it?”

“Ay,” replied his companion, “a Peveril — a Peveril of the Peak! — a name which has long sounded like a war-trumpet in the land; but which has now perhaps sounded its last loud note. Look back, young man, on the darksome turrets of your father’s house, which uplift themselves above the sons of their people. Think upon your father, a captive — yourself in some sort a fugitive — your light quenched — your glory abased — your estate wrecked and impoverished. Think that Providence has subjected the destinies of the race of Peveril to one, whom, in their aristocratic pride, they held as a plebeian upstart. Think of this; and when you again boast of your ancestry, remember, that he who raiseth the lowly can also abase the high in heart.”

Julian did indeed gaze for an instant, with a swelling heart, upon the dimly seen turrets of his paternal mansion, on which poured the moonlight, mixed with long shadows of the towers and trees. But while he sadly acknowledged the truth of Bridgenorth’s observation, he felt indignant at his ill-timed triumph. “If fortune had followed worth,” he said, “the Castle of Martindale, and the name of Peveril, had afforded no room for their enemy’s vainglorious boast. But those who have stood high on Fortune’s wheel, must abide by the consequence of its revolutions. This much I will at least say for my father’s house, that it has not stood unhonoured; nor will it fall — if it is to fall — unlamented. Forbear, then, if you are indeed the Christian you call yourself, to exult in the misfortunes of others, or to confide in your own prosperity. If the light of our house be now quenched, God can rekindle it in His own good time.”

Peveril broke off in extreme surprise; for as he spake the last words, the bright red beams of the family beacon began again to glimmer from its wonted watch-tower, checkering the pale moonbeam with a ruddier glow. Bridgenorth also gazed on this unexpected illumination with surprise, and not, as it seemed, without disquietude. “Young man,” he resumed, “it can scarcely be but that Heaven intends to work great things by your hand, so singularly has that augury followed on your words.”

So saying, he put his horse once more in motion; and looking back, from time to time, as if to assure himself that the beacon of the Castle was actually rekindled, he led the way through the well-known paths and alleys, to his own house of Moultrassie, followed by Peveril, who although sensible that the light might be altogether accidental, could not but receive as a good omen an event so intimately connected with the traditions and usages of his family.

They alighted at the hall-door, which was hastily opened by a female; and while the deep tone of Bridgenorth called on the groom to take their horses, the well-known voice of his daughter Alice was heard to exclaim in thanksgiving to God, who had restored her father in safety.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/peveril/chapter23.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29