Woodstock, by Walter Scott

Chapter the Sixteenth.

And yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger.

At whose approach ghosts, wandering here and there,

Troop home to churchyard.

MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.

With the fresh air and the rising of morning, every feeling of the preceding night had passed away from Colonel Everard’s mind, excepting wonder how the effects which he had witnessed could be produced. He examined the whole room, sounding bolt, floor, and wainscot with his knuckles and cane, but was unable to discern any secret passages; while the door, secured by a strong cross-bolt, and the lock besides, remained as firm as when he had fastened it on the preceding evening. The apparition resembling Victor Lee next called his attention. Ridiculous stories had been often circulated, of this figure, or one exactly resembling it, having been met with by night among the waste apartments and corridors of the old palace; and Markham Everard had often heard such in his childhood. He was angry to recollect his own deficiency of courage, and the thrill which he felt on the preceding night, when by confederacy, doubtless, such an object was placed before his eyes.

“Surely,” he said, “this fit of childish folly could not make me miss my aim — more likely that the bullet had been withdrawn clandestinely from the pistol.”

He examined that which was undischarged — he found the bullet in it. He investigated the apartment opposite to the point at which he had fired, and, at five feet from the floor in a direct line between the bed-side and the place where the appearance had been seen, a pistol-ball had recently buried itself in the wainscot. He had little doubt, therefore, that he had fired in a just direction; and indeed to have arrived at the place where it was lodged, the bullet must have passed through the appearance at which he aimed, and proceeded point blank to the wall beyond. This was mysterious, and induced him to doubt whether the art of witchcraft or conjuration had not been called in to assist the machinations of those daring conspirators, who, being themselves mortal, might, nevertheless, according to the universal creed of the times, have invoked and obtained assistance from the inhabitants of another world.

His next investigation respected the picture of Victor Lee itself. He examined it minutely as he stood on the floor before it, and compared its pale, shadowy, faintly-traced outlines, its faded colours, the stern repose of the eye, and death-like pallidness of the countenance, with its different aspect on the preceding night, when illuminated by the artificial light which fell full upon it, while it left every other part of the room in comparative darkness. The features seemed then to have an unnatural glow, while the rising and falling of the flame in the chimney gave the head and limbs something which resembled the appearance of actual motion. Now, seen by day, it was a mere picture of the hard and ancient school of Holbein; last night, it seemed for the moment something more. Determined to get to the bottom of this contrivance if possible, Everard, by the assistance of a table and chair, examined the portrait still more closely, and endeavoured to ascertain the existence of any private spring, by which it might be slipt aside — a contrivance not unfrequent in ancient buildings, which usually abounded with means of access and escape, communicated to none but the lords of the castle, or their immediate confidants. But the panel on which Victor Lee was painted was firmly fixed in the wainscoting of the apartment, of which it made a part, and the Colonel satisfied himself that it could not have been used for the purpose which he had suspected.

He next aroused his faithful squire, Wildrake, who, notwithstanding his deep share of the “blessedness of sleep,” had scarce even yet got rid of the effects of the grace-cup of the preceding evening. “It was the reward,” according to his own view of the matter, “of his temperance; one single draught having made him sleep more late and more sound than a matter of half-a-dozen, or from thence to a dozen pulls, would have done, when he was guilty of the enormity of rere-suppers, 2 and of drinking deep after them.”

“Had your temperate draught,” said Everard, “been but a thought more strongly seasoned, Wildrake, thou hadst slept so sound that the last trump only could have waked thee.”

“And then,” answered Wildrake, “I should have waked with a headache, Mark; for I see my modest sip has not exempted me from that epilogue. — But let us go forth, and see how the night, which we have passed so strangely, has been spent by the rest of them. I suspect they are all right willing to evacuate Woodstock, unless they have either rested better than we, or at least been more lucky in lodgings.”

“In that case, I will dispatch thee down to Joceline’s hut, to negotiate the re-entrance of Sir Henry Lee and his family into their old apartments, where, my interest with the General being joined with the indifferent repute of the place itself, I think they have little chance of being disturbed either by the present, or by any new Commissioners.”

“But how are they to defend themselves against the fiends, my gallant Colonel?” said Wildrake. “Methinks had I an interest in yonder pretty girl, such as thou dost boast, I should be loth to expose her to the terrors of a residence at Woodstock, where these devils — I beg their pardon, for I suppose they hear every word we say — these merry goblins — make such gay work from twilight till morning.”

“My dear Wildrake,” said the Colonel, “I, as well as you, believe it possible that our speech may be overheard; but I care not, and will speak my mind plainly. I trust Sir Henry and Alice are not engaged in this silly plot; I cannot reconcile it with the pride of the one, the modesty of the other, nor the good sense of both, that any motive could engage them in so strange a conjunction. But the fiends are all of your own political persuasion, Wildrake, all true-blue cavaliers; and I am convinced, that Sir Henry and Alice Lee, though they be unconnected with them, have not the slightest cause to be apprehensive of their goblin machinations. Besides, Sir Henry and Joceline must know every corner about the place: it will be far more difficult to play off any ghostly machinery upon him than upon strangers. But let us to our toilet, and when water and brush have done their work, we will enquire — what is next to be done.”

“Nay, that wretched puritan’s garb of mine is hardly worth brushing,” said Wildrake; “and but for this hundred-weight of rusty iron, with which thou hast bedizened me, I look more like a bankrupt Quaker than anything else. But I’ll make you as spruce as ever was a canting rogue of your party.”

So saying, and humming at the same time the cavalier tune —

“Though for a time we see Whitehall

With cobwebs hung around the wall,

Yet Heaven shall make amends for all.

When the King shall enjoy his own again.”—

“Thou forgettest who are without,” said Colonel Everard.

“No — I remember who are within,” replied his friend. “I only sing to my merry goblins, who will like me all the better for it. Tush, man, the devils are my bonos socios, and when I see them, I will warrant they prove such roaring boys as I knew when I served under Lunford and Goring, fellows with long nails that nothing escaped, bottomless stomachs, that nothing filled — mad for pillaging, ranting, drinking, and fighting — sleeping rough on the trenches, and dying stubbornly in their boots. Ah! those merry days are gone. Well, it is the fashion to make a grave face on’t among cavaliers, and specially the parsons that have lost their tithe-pigs; but I was fitted for the element of the time, and never did or can desire merrier days than I had during that same barbarous, bloody, and unnatural rebellion.”

“Thou wert ever a wild sea-bird, Roger, even according to your name; liking the gale better than the calm, the boisterous ocean better than the smooth lake, and your rough, wild struggle against the wind, than daily food, ease and quiet.”

“Pshaw! a fig for your smooth lake, and your old woman to feed me with brewer’s grains, and the poor drake obliged to come swattering whenever she whistles! Everard, I like to feel the wind rustle against my pinions — now diving, now on the crest of the wave, now in ocean, now in sky — that is the wild-drake’s joy, my grave one! And in the Civil War so it went with us — down in one county, up in another, beaten today, victorious tomorrow — now starving in some barren leaguer — now revelling in a Presbyterian’s pantry — his cellars, his plate-chest, his old judicial thumb-ring, his pretty serving-wench, all at command!”

“Hush, friend,” said Everard; “remember I hold that persuasion.” “More the pity, Mark, more the pity,” said Wildrake; “but, as you say, it is needless talking of it. Let us e’en go and see how your Presbyterian pastor, Mr. Holdenough, has fared, and whether he has proved more able to foil the foul Fiend than have you his disciple and auditor.”

They left the apartment accordingly, and were overwhelmed with the various incoherent accounts of sentinels and others, all of whom had seen or heard something extraordinary in the course of the night. It is needless to describe particularly the various rumours which each contributed to the common stock, with the greater alacrity that in such cases there seems always to be a sort of disgrace in not having seen or suffered as much as others.

The most moderate of the narrators only talked of sounds like the mewing of a cat, or the growling of a dog, especially the squeaking of a pig. They heard also as if it had been nails driven and saws used, and the clashing of fetters, and the rustling of silk gowns, and the notes of music, and in short all sorts of sounds which have nothing to do with each other. Others swore they had smelt savours of various kinds, chiefly bituminous, indicating a Satanic derivation; others did not indeed swear, but protested, to visions of men in armour, horses without heads, asses with horns, and cows with six legs, not to mention black figures, whose cloven hoofs gave plain information what realm they belonged to.

But these strongly-attested cases of nocturnal disturbances among the sentinels had been so general as to prevent alarm and succour on any particular point, so that those who were on duty called in vain on the corps-degarde, who were trembling on their own post; and an alert enemy might have done complete execution on the whole garrison. But amid this general alerte, no violence appeared to be meant, and annoyance, not injury, seemed to have been the goblins’ object, excepting in the case of one poor fellow, a trooper, who had followed Harrison in half his battles, and now was sentinel in that very vestibule upon which Everard had recommended them to mount a guard. He had presented his carabine at something which came suddenly upon him, when it was wrested out of his hands, and he himself knocked down with the butt-end of it. His broken head, and the drenched bedding of Desborough, upon whom a tub of ditch-water had been emptied during his sleep, were the only pieces of real evidence to attest the disturbances of the night.

The reports from Harrison’s apartment were, as delivered by the grave Master Tomkins, that truly the General had passed the night undisturbed, though there was still upon him a deep sleep, and a folding of the hands to slumber; from which Everard argued that the machinators had esteemed Harrison’s part of the reckoning sufficiently paid off on the preceding evening.

He then proceeded to the apartment doubly garrisoned by the worshipful Desborough, and the philosophical Bletson. They were both up and dressing themselves; the former open-mouthed in his feeling of fear and suffering. Indeed, no sooner had Everard entered, than the ducked and dismayed Colonel made a dismal complaint of the way he had spent the night, and murmured not a little against his worshipful kinsman for imposing a task upon him which inferred so much annoyance.

“Could not his Excellency, my kinsman Noll,” he said, “have given his poor relative and brother-inlaw a sop somewhere else than out of this Woodstock, which seems to be the devil’s own porridge-pot? I cannot sup broth with the devil; I have no long spoon — not I. Could he not have quartered me in some quiet corner, and given this haunted place to some of his preachers and prayers, who know the Bible as well as the muster-roll? whereas I know the four hoofs of a clean-going nag, or the points of a team of oxen, better than all the books of Moses. But I will give it over, at once and for ever; hopes of earthly gain shall never make me run the risk of being carried away bodily by the devil, besides being set upon my head one whole night, and soused with ditch-water the next — No, no; I am too wise for that.”

Master Bletson had a different part to act. He complained of no personal annoyances; on the contrary, he declared he should have slept as well as ever he did in his life but for the abominable disturbances around him, of men calling to arms every half hour, when so much as a cat trotted by one of their posts — He would rather, he said, “have slept among a whole sabaoth of witches, if such creatures could be found.”

“Then you think there are no such things as apparitions, Master Bletson?” said Everard. “I used to be sceptical on the subject; but, on my life, to-night has been a strange one.”

“Dreams, dreams, dreams, my simple Colonel,” said Bletson, though, his pale face and shaking limbs belied the assumed courage with which he spoke. “Old Chaucer, sir, hath told us the real moral on’t — He was an old frequenter of the forest of Woodstock, here”—

“Chaser?” said Desborough; “some huntsman, belike, by his name. Does he walk, like Hearne at Windsor?”

“Chaucer,” said Bletson, “my dear Desborough, is one of those wonderful fellows, as Colonel Everard knows, who live many a hundred years after they are buried, and whose words haunt our ears after their bones are long mouldered in the dust.”

“Ay, ay! well,” answered Desborough, to whom this description of the old poet was unintelligible —“I for one desire his room rather than his company; one of your conjurors, I warrant him. But what says he to the matter?”

“Only a slight spell, which I will take the freedom to repeat to Colonel Everard,” said Bletson; “but which would be as bad as Greek to thee, Desborough. Old Geoffrey lays the whole blame of our nocturnal disturbance on superfluity of humours,

‘Which causen folk to dred in their dreams

Of arrowes, and of fire with red gleams,

Right as the humour of melancholy

Causeth many a man in sleep to cry

For fear of great bulls and bears black,

And others that black devils will them take.’”

While he was thus declaiming, Everard observed a book sticking out from beneath the pillow of the bed lately occupied by the honourable member.

“Is that Chaucer?” he said, making to the volume; “I would like to look at the passage”—

“Chaucer?” said Bletson, hastening to interfere; “no — that is Lucretius, my darling Lucretius. I cannot let you see it; I have some private marks.”

But by this time Everard had the book in his hand. “Lucretius?” he said; “no, Master Bletson, this is not Lucretius, but a fitter comforter in dread or in danger — Why should you be ashamed of it? Only, Bletson, instead of resting your head, if you can but anchor your heart upon this volume, it may serve you in better stead than Lucretius or Chaucer either.”

“Why, what book is it?” said Bletson, his pale cheek colouring with the shame of detection. “Oh! the Bible!” throwing it down contemptuously; “some book of my fellow Gibeon’s; these Jews have been always superstitious — ever since Juvenal’s time, thou knowest —

“‘Qualiacunque voles Judaei somnia vendunt.’

“He left me the old book for a spell, I warrant you; for ’tis a well-meaning fool.”

“He would scarce have left the New Testament as well as the Old,” said Everard. “Come, my dear Bletson, do not be ashamed of the wisest thing you ever did in your life, supposing you took your Bible in an hour of apprehension, with a view to profit by the contents.”

Bletson’s vanity was so much galled that it overcame his constitutional cowardice. His little thin fingers quivered for eagerness, his neck and cheeks were as red as scarlet, and his articulation was as thick and vehement as — in short, as if he had been no philosopher.

“Master Everard,” he said, “you are a man of the sword, sir; and, sir, you seem to suppose yourself entitled to say whatever comes into your mind with respect to civilians, sir. But I would have you remember, sir, that there are bounds beyond which human patience may be urged, sir — and jests which no man of honour will endure, sir — and therefore I expect an apology for your present language, Colonel Everard, and this unmannerly jesting, sir — or you may chance to hear from me in a way that will not please you.”

Everard could not help smiling at this explosion of valour, engendered by irritated self-love.

“Look you, Master Bletson,” he said, “I have been a soldier, that is true, but I was never a bloody-minded one; and, as a Christian, I am unwilling to enlarge the kingdom of darkness by sending a new vassal thither before his time. If Heaven gives you time to repent, I see no reason why my hand should deprive you of it, which, were we to have a rencontre, would be your fate in the thrust of a sword, or the pulling of a trigger — I therefore prefer to apologise; and I call Desborough, if he has recovered his wits, to bear evidence that I do apologise for having suspected you, who are completely the slave of your own vanity, of any tendency, however slight, towards grace or good sense. And I farther apologise for the time that I have wasted in endeavouring to wash an Ethiopian white, or in recommending rational enquiry to a self-willed atheist.”

Bletson, overjoyed at the turn the matter had taken — for the defiance was scarce out of his mouth ere he began to tremble for the consequences — answered with great eagerness and servility of manner — “Nay, dearest Colonel, say no more of it — an apology is all that is necessary among men of honour — it neither leaves dishonour with him who asks it, nor infers degradation on him who makes it.”

“Not such an apology as I have made, I trust,” said the Colonel.

“No, no — not in the least,” answered Bletson — “one apology serves me just as well as another, and Desborough will bear witness you have made one, and that is all there can be said on the subject.”

“Master Desborough and you,” rejoined the Colonel, “will take care how the matter is reported, I dare say; and I only recommend to both, that, if mentioned at all, it may be told correctly.”

“Nay, nay, we will not mention it at all,” said Bletson, “we will forget it from this moment. Only, never suppose me capable of superstitious weakness. Had I been afraid of an apparent and real danger — why such fear is natural to man — and I will not deny that the mood of mind may have happened to me as well as to others. But to be thought capable of resorting to spells, and sleeping with books under my pillow to secure myself against ghosts — on my word, it was enough to provoke one to quarrel, for the moment, with his very best friend. — And now, Colonel, what is to be done, and how is our duty to be executed at this accursed place? If I should get such a wetting as Desborough’s, why I should die of catarrh, though you see it hurts him no more than a bucket of water thrown over a post-horse. You are, I presume, a brother in our commission — how are you of opinion we should proceed?”

“Why, in good time here comes Harrison,” said Everard, “and I will lay my commission from the Lord-General before you all; which, as you see, Colonel Desborough, commands you to desist from acting on your present authority, and intimates his pleasure accordingly, that you withdraw from this place.”

Desborough took the paper and examined the signature. —“It is Noll’s signature sure enough,” said he, dropping his under jaw; “only, every time of late he has made the Oliver as large as a giant, while the Cromwell creeps after like a dwarf, as if the surname were like to disappear one of these days altogether. But is his Excellency, our kinsman, Noll Cromwell (since he has the surname yet) so unreasonable as to think his relations and friends are to be set upon their heads till they have the crick in their neck — drenched as if they had been plunged in a horse-pond — frightened, day and night, by all sort of devils, witches, and fairies, and get not a penny of smart-money? Adzooks, (forgive me for swearing,) if that’s the case I had better home to my farm, and mind team and herd, than dangle after such a thankless person, though I have wived his sister. She was poor enough when I took her, for as high as Noll holds his head now.”

“It is not my purpose,” said Bletson, “to stir debate in this honourable meeting; and no one will doubt the veneration and attachment which I bear to our noble General, whom the current of events, and his own matchless qualities of courage and constancy, have raised so high in these deplorable days. — If I were to term him a direct and immediate emanation of the ANIMUS MUNDI itself — something which Nature had produced in her proudest hour, while exerting herself, as is her law, for the preservation of the creatures to whom she has given existence — should scarce exhaust the ideas which I entertain of him. Always protesting that I am by no means to be held as admitting, but merely as granting for the sake of argument, the possible existence of that species of emanation, or exhalation, from the ANIMUS MUNDI, of which I have made mention. I appeal to you, Colonel Desborough, who are his Excellency’s relation — to you, Colonel Everard, who hold the dearer title of his friend, whether I have overrated my zeal in his behalf?”

Everard bowed at this pause, but Desborough gave a more complete authentication. “Nay, I can bear witness to that. I have seen when you were willing to tie his points or brush his cloak, or the like — and to be treated thus ungratefully — and gudgeoned of the opportunities which had been given you”—

“It is not for that,” said Bletson, waving his hand gracefully. “You do me wrong, Master Desborough — you do indeed, kind sir — although I know you meant it not — No, sir — no partial consideration of private interest prevailed on me to undertake this charge. It was conferred on me by the Parliament of England, in whose name this war commenced, and by the Council of State, who are the conservators of England’s liberty. And the chance and serene hope of serving the country, the confidence that I— and you, Master Desborough — and you, worthy General Harrison — superior, as I am, to all selfish considerations — to which I am sure you also, good Colonel Everard, would be superior, had you been named in this Commission, as I would to Heaven you had — I say, the hope of serving the country, with the aid of such respectable associates, one and all of them — as well as you, Colonel Everard, supposing you to have been of the number, induced me to accept of this opportunity, whereby I might, gratuitously, with your assistance, render so much advantage to our dear mother the Commonwealth of England. — Such was my hope — my trust — my confidence. And now comes my Lord-General’s warrant to dissolve the authority by which we are entitled to act. Gentlemen, I ask this honourable meeting, (with all respect to his Excellency,) whether his Commission be paramount to that from which he himself directly holds his commission? No one will say so. I ask whether he has climbed into the seat from which the late Man descended, or hath a great seal, or means to proceed by prerogative in such a case? I cannot see reason to believe it, and therefore I must resist such doctrine. I am in your judgment, my brave and honourable colleagues; but, touching my own poor opinion, I feel myself under the unhappy necessity of proceeding in our commission, as if the interruption had not taken place; with this addition, that the Board of Sequestrators should sit, by day, at this same Lodge of Woodstock, but that, to reconcile the minds of weak brethren, who may be afflicted by superstitious rumours, as well as to avoid any practice on our persons by the malignants, who, I am convinced, are busy in this neighbourhood, we should remove our sittings after sunset to the George Inn, in the neighbouring borough.”

“Good Master Bletson,” replied Colonel Everard, “it is not for me to reply to you; but you may know in what characters this army of England and their General write their authority. I fear me the annotation on this precept of the General, will be expressed by the march of a troop of horse from Oxford to see it executed. I believe there are orders out for that effect; and you know by late experience, that the soldier will obey his General equally against King and Parliament.”

“That obedience is conditional,” said Harrison, starting fiercely up. “Know’st thou not, Markham Everard, that I have followed the man Cromwell as close as the bull-dog follows his master? — and so I will yet; — but I am no spaniel, either to be beaten, or to have the food I have earned snatched from me, as if I were a vile cur, whose wages are a whipping, and free leave to wear my own skin. I looked, amongst the three of us, that we might honestly, and piously, and with advantage to the Commonwealth, have gained out of this commission three, or it may be five thousand pounds. And does Cromwell imagine I will part with it for a rough word? No man goeth a warfare on his own charges. He that serves the altar must live by the altar — and the saints must have means to provide them with good harness and fresh horses against the unsealing and the pouring forth. Does Cromwell think I am so much of a tame tiger as to permit him to rend from me at pleasure the miserable dole he hath thrown me? Of a surety I will resist; and the men who are here, being chiefly of my own regiment — men who wait, and who expect, with lamps burning and loins girded, and each one his weapon bound upon his thigh, will aid me to make this house good against every assault — ay, even against Cromwell himself, until the latter coming — Selah! Selah!”—

“And I,” said Desborough, “will levy troops and protect your out-quarters, not choosing at present to close myself up in garrison”—

“And I,” said Bletson, “will do my part, and hie me to town and lay the matter before Parliament, arising in my place for that effect.”

Everard was little moved by all these threats. The only formidable one, indeed, was that of Harrison, whose enthusiasm, joined with his courage, and obstinacy, and character among the fanatics of his own principles, made him a dangerous enemy. Before trying any arguments with the refractory Major-General, Everard endeavoured to moderate his feelings, and threw something in about the late disturbances.

“Talk not to me of supernatural disturbances, young man — talk not to me of enemies in the body or out of the body. Am I not the champion chosen and commissioned to encounter and to conquer the great Dragon, and the Beast which cometh out of the sea? Am I not to command the left wing, and two regiments of the centre, when the Saints shall encounter with the countless legions of Grog and Magog? I tell thee that my name is written on the sea of glass mingled with fire, and that I will keep this place of Woodstock against all mortal men, and against all devils, whether in field or chamber, in the forest or in the meadow, even till the Saints reign in the fulness of their glory.”

Everard saw it was then time to produce two or three lines under Cromwell’s hand, which he had received from the General, subsequently to the communication through Wildrake. The information they contained was calculated to allay the disappointment of the Commissioners. This document assigned as the reason of superseding the Woodstock Commission, that he should probably propose to the Parliament to require the assistance of General Harrison, Colonel Desborough, and Master Bletson, the honourable member for Littlefaith, in a much greater matter, namely, the disposing of the royal property, and disparking of the King’s forest at Windsor. So soon as this idea was started, all parties pricked up their ears; and their drooping, and gloomy, and vindictive looks began to give place to courteous smiles, and to a cheerfulness, which laughed in their eyes, and turned their mustaches upwards.

Colonel Desborough acquitted his right honourable and excellent cousin and kinsman of all species of unkindness; Master Bletson discovered, that the interest of the state was trebly concerned in the good administration of Windsor more than in that of Woodstock. As for Harrison, he exclaimed, without disguise or hesitation, that the gleaning of the grapes of Windsor was better than the vintage of Woodstock. Thus speaking, the glance of his dark eye expressed as much triumph in the proposed earthly advantage, as if it had not been, according to his vain persuasion, to be shortly exchanged for his share in the general reign of the Millennium. His delight, in short, resembled the joy of an eagle, who preys upon a lamb in the evening with not the less relish, because she descries in the distant landscape an hundred thousand men about to join battle with daybreak, and to give her an endless feast on the hearts and lifeblood of the valiant. Yet though all agreed that they would be obedient to the General’s pleasure in this matter, Bletson proposed, as a precautionary measure, in which all agreed, that they should take up their abode for some time in the town of Woodstock, to wait for their new commissions respecting Windsor; and this upon the prudential consideration, that it was best not to slip one knot until another was first tied.

Each Commissioner, therefore, wrote to Oliver individually, stating, in his own way, the depth and height, length and breadth, of his attachment to him. Each expressed himself resolved to obey the General’s injunctions to the uttermost; but with the same scrupulous devotion to the Parliament, each found himself at a loss how to lay down the commission intrusted to them by that body, and therefore felt bound in conscience to take up his residence at the borough of Woodstock, that he might not seem to abandon the charge committed to them, until they should be called to administrate the weightier matter of Windsor, to which they expressed their willingness instantly to devote themselves, according to his Excellency’s pleasure.

This was the general style of their letters, varied by the characteristic flourishes of the writers. Desborough, for example, said something about the religious duty of providing for one’s own household, only he blundered the text. Bletson wrote long and big words about the political obligation incumbent on every member of the community, on every person, to sacrifice his time and talents to the service of his country; while Harrison talked of the littleness of present affairs, in comparison of the approaching tremendous change of all things beneath the sun. But although the garnishing of the various epistles was different, the result came to the same, that they were determined at least to keep sight of Woodstock, until they were well assured of some better and more profitable commission.

Everard also wrote a letter in the most grateful terms to Cromwell, which would probably have been less warm had he known more distinctly than his follower chose to tell him, the expectation under which the wily General had granted his request. He acquainted his Excellency with his purpose of continuing at Woodstock, partly to assure himself of the motions of the three Commissioners, and to watch whether they did not again enter upon the execution of the trust, which they had for the present renounced — and partly to see that some extraordinary circumstances, which had taken place in the Lodge, and which would doubtless transpire, were not followed by any explosion to the disturbance of the public peace. He knew (as he expressed himself) that his Excellency was so much the friend of order, that he would rather disturbances or insurrections were prevented than punished; and he conjured the General to repose confidence in his exertions for the public service by every mode within his power; not aware, it will be observed, in what peculiar sense his general pledge might be interpreted.

These letters being made up into a packet, were forwarded to Windsor by a trooper, detached on that errand.

2 Rere-suppers (quasi arriere) belonged to a species of luxury introduced in the jolly days of King James’s extravagance, and continued through the subsequent reign. The supper took place at an early hour, six or seven o’clock at latest — the rere-supper was a postliminary banquet, a hors d’oeuvre, which made its appearance at ten or eleven, and served as an apology for prolonging the entertainment till midnight.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/woodstock/chapter16.html

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