Woodstock, by Walter Scott

Chapter the Seventeenth.

We do that in our zeal,

Our calmer moments are afraid to answer.

ANONYMOUS.

While the Commissioners were preparing to remove themselves from the Lodge to the inn at the borough of Woodstock, with all that state and bustle which attend the movements of great persons, and especially of such to whom greatness is not entirely familiar, Everard held some colloquy with the Presbyterian clergyman, Master Holdenough, who had issued from the apartment which he had occupied, as it were in defiance of the spirits by whom the mansion was supposed to be disturbed, and whose pale cheek, and pensive brow, gave token that he had not passed the night more comfortably than the other inmates of the Lodge of Woodstock. Colonel Everard having offered to procure the reverend gentleman some refreshment, received this reply:—“This day shall I not taste food, saving that which we are assured of as sufficient for our sustenance, where it is promised that our bread shall be given us, and our water shall be sure. Not that I fast, in the papistical opinion that it adds to those merits, which are but an accumulation of filthy rags; but because I hold it needful that no grosser sustenance should this day cloud my understanding, or render less pure and vivid the thanks I owe to Heaven for a most wonderful preservation.”

“Master Holdenough,” said Everard, “you are, I know, both a good man and a bold one, and I saw you last night courageously go upon your sacred duty, when soldiers, and tried ones, seemed considerably alarmed.”

“Too courageous — too venturous” was Master Holdenough’s reply, the boldness of whose aspect seemed completely to have died away. “We are frail creatures, Master Everard, and frailest when we think ourselves strongest. Oh, Colonel Everard,” he added, after a pause, and as if the confidence was partly involuntary, “I have seen that which I shall never survive!”

“You surprise me, reverend sir,” said Everard; —“may I request you will speak more plainly? I have heard some stories of this wild night, nay, have witnessed strange things myself; but, methinks, I would be much interested in knowing the nature of your disturbance.”

“Sir,” said the clergyman, “you are a discreet gentleman; and though I would not willingly that these heretics, schismatics, Brownists, Muggletonians, Anabaptists, and so forth, had such an opportunity of triumph, as my defeat in this matter would have afforded them, yet with you, who have been ever a faithful follower of our Church, and are pledged to the good cause by the great National League and Covenant, surely I would be more open. Sit we down, therefore, and let me call for a glass of pure water, for as yet I feel some bodily faltering; though, I thank Heaven, I am in mind resolute and composed as a merely mortal man may after such a vision. — They say, worthy Colonel, that looking on such things foretells, or causes, speedy death — I know not if it be true; but if so, I only depart like the tired sentinel when his officer releases him from his post; and glad shall I be to close these wearied eyes against the sight, and shut these harassed ears against the croaking, as of frogs, of Antinomians, and Pelagians, and Socinians, and Arminians, and Arians, and Nullifidians, which have come up into our England, like those filthy reptiles into the house of Pharaoh.”

Here one of the servants who had been summoned, entered with a cup of water, gazing at the same time in the face of the clergyman, as if his stupid grey eyes were endeavouring to read what tragic tale was written on his brow; and shaking his empty skull as he left the room, with the air of one who was proud of having discovered that all was not exactly right, though he could not so well guess what was wrong.

Colonel Everard invited the good man to take some refreshment more genial than the pure element, but he declined: “I am in some sort a champion” he said; “and though I have been foiled in the late controversy with the Enemy, still I have my trumpet to give the alarm, and my sharp sword to smite withal; therefore, like the Nazarites of old, I will eat nothing that cometh of the vine, neither drink wine nor strong drink, until these my days of combat shall have passed away.”

Kindly and respectfully the Colonel anew pressed Master Holdenough to communicate the events that had befallen him on the preceding night; and the good clergyman proceeded as follows, with that little characteristic touch of vanity in his narrative, which naturally arose out of the part he had played in the world, and the influence which he had exercised over the minds of others. “I was a young man at the University of Cambridge,” he said, “when I was particularly bound in friendship to a fellow-student, perhaps because we were esteemed (though it is vain to mention it) the most hopeful scholars at our college; and so equally advanced, that it was difficult, perhaps, to say which was the greater proficient in his studies. Only our tutor, Master Purefoy, used to say, that if my comrade had the advantage of me in gifts, I had the better of him in grace; for he was attached to the profane learning of the classics, always unprofitable, often impious and impure; and I had light enough to turn my studies into the sacred tongues. Also we differed in our opinions touching the Church of England, for he held Arminian opinions, with Laud, and those who would connect our ecclesiastical establishment with the civil, and make the Church dependent on the breath of an earthly man. In fine, he favoured Prelacy both in essentials and ceremonial; and although, we parted with tears and embraces, it was to follow very different courses. He obtained a living, and became a great controversial writer in behalf of the Bishops and of the Court. I also, as is well known to you, to the best of my poor abilities, sharpened my pen in the cause of the poor oppressed people, whose tender consciences rejected the rites and ceremonies more befitting a papistical than a reformed Church, and which, according to the blinded policy of the Court, were enforced by pains and penalties. Then came the Civil War, and I— called thereunto by my conscience, and nothing fearing or suspecting what miserable consequences have chanced through the rise of these Independents — consented to lend my countenance and labour to the great work, by becoming chaplain to Colonel Harrison’s regiment. Not that I mingled with carnal weapons in the field — which Heaven forbid that a minister of the altar should — but I preached, exhorted, and, in time of need, was a surgeon, as well to the wounds of the body as of the soul. Now, it fell, towards the end of the war, that a party of malignants had seized on a strong house in the shire of Shrewsbury, situated on a small island advanced into a lake, and accessible only by a small and narrow causeway. From thence they made excursions, and vexed the country; and high time it was to suppress them, so that a part of our regiment went to reduce them; and I was requested to go, for they were few in number to take in so strong a place, and the Colonel judged that my exhortations would make them do valiantly. And so, contrary to my wont, I went forth with them, even to the field, where there was valiant fighting on both sides. Nevertheless, the malignants shooting their wall-pieces at us, had so much the advantage, that, after bursting their gates with a salvo of our cannon, Colonel Harrison ordered his men to advance on the causeway, and try to carry the place by storm. Nonetheless, although our men did valiantly, advancing in good order, yet being galled on every side by the fire, they at length fell into disorder, and were retreating with much loss, Harrison himself valiantly bringing up the rear, and defending them as he could against the enemy, who sallied forth in pursuit of them, to smite them hip and thigh. Now, Colonel Everard, I am a man of a quick and vehement temper by nature, though better teaching than the old law hath made me mild and patient as you now see me. I could not bear to see our Israelites flying before the Philistines, so I rushed upon the causeway, with the Bible in one hand, and a halberd, which I had caught up, in the other, and turned back the foremost fugitives, by threatening to strike them down, pointing out to them at the same time a priest in his cassock, as they call it, who was among the malignants, and asking them whether they would not do as much for a true servant of Heaven, as the uncircumcised would for a priest of Baal. My words and strokes prevailed; they turned at once, and shouting out, Down with Baal and his worshippers! they charged the malignants so unexpectedly home, that they not only drove them back into their house of garrison, but entered it with them, as the phrase is, pell-mell. I also was there, partly hurried on by the crowd, partly to prevail on our enraged soldiers to give quarter; for it grieved my heart to see Christians and Englishmen hashed down with swords and gunstocks, like curs in the street, when there is an alarm of mad-dogs. In this way, the soldiers fighting and slaughtering, and I calling to them to stay their hand, we gained the very roof of the building, which was in part leaded, and to which, as a last tower of refuge, those of the cavaliers, who yet escaped, had retired. I was myself, I may say, forced up the narrow winding staircase by our soldiers, who rushed on like dogs of chase upon their prey; and when extricated from the passage, I found myself in the midst of a horrid scene. The scattered defenders were, some resisting with the fury of despair; some on their knees, imploring for compassion in words and tones to break a man’s heart when he thinks on them; some were calling on God for mercy; and it was time, for man had none. They were stricken down, thrust through, flung from the battlements into the lake; and the wild cries of the victors, mingled with the groans, shrieks, and clamours, of the vanquished, made a sound so horrible, that only death can erase it from my memory. And the men who butchered their fellow-creatures thus, were neither pagans from distant savage lands, nor ruffians, the refuse and offscourings of our own people. They were in calm blood reasonable, nay, religious men, maintaining a fair repute both heavenward and earthward. Oh, Master Everard, your trade of war should be feared and avoided, since it converts such men into wolves towards their fellow creatures.”

“It is a stern necessity,” said Everard, looking down, “and as such alone is justifiable. But proceed, reverend sir; I see not how this storm, an incident but e’en too frequent on both sides during the late war, connects with the affair of last night.”

“You shall hear anon,” said Mr. Holdenough; then paused as one who makes an effort to compose himself before continuing a relation, the tenor of which agitated him with much violence. “In this infernal tumult,” he resumed — “for surely nothing on earth could so much resemble hell, as when men go thus loose in mortal malice on their fellow-creatures — I saw the same priest whom I had distinguished on the causeway, with one or two other malignants, pressed into a corner by the assailants, and defending themselves to the last, as those who had no hope. — I saw him — I knew him — Oh, Colonel Everard!”

He grasped Everard’s hand with his own left hand, and pressed the palm of his right to his face and forehead, sobbing aloud.

“It was your college companion?” said Everard, anticipating the catastrophe.

“Mine ancient — mine only friend — with whom I had spent the happy days of youth! — I rushed forward — I struggled — I entreated. — But my eagerness left me neither voice nor language — all was drowned in the wretched cry which I had myself raised — Down with the priest of Baal! Slay Mattan — slay him were he between the altars! — Forced over the battlements, but struggling for life, I could see him cling to one of those projections which were formed to carry the water from the leads, but they hacked at his arms and hands. I heard the heavy fall into the bottomless abyss below. Excuse me — I cannot go on.”

“He may have escaped.”

“Oh! no, no, no — the tower was four stories in height. Even those who threw themselves into the lake from the lower windows, to escape by swimming, had no safety; for mounted troopers on the shore caught the same bloodthirsty humour which had seized the storming party, galloped around the margin of the lake, and shot those who were struggling for life in the water, or cut them down as they strove to get to land. They were all cut off and destroyed. — Oh! may the blood shed on that day remain silent! — Oh! that the earth may receive it in her recesses! — Oh! that it may be mingled for ever with the dark waters of that lake, so that it may never cry for vengeance against those whose anger was fierce, and who slaughtered in their wrath! — And, oh! may the erring man be forgiven who came into their assembly, and lent his voice to encourage their, cruelty! — Oh! Albany, my brother, my brother, I have lamented for thee even as David for Jonathan!” 3

The good man sobbed aloud, and so much did Colonel Everard sympathize with his emotions, that he forebore to press him upon the subject of his own curiosity until the full tide of remorseful passion had for the time abated. It was, however, fierce and agitating, the more so, perhaps, that indulgence in strong mental feeling of any kind was foreign to the severe and ascetic character of the man, and was therefore the more overpowering when it had at once surmounted all restraints. Large tears flowed down the trembling features of his thin, and usually stern, or at least austere countenance; he eagerly returned the compression of Everard’s hand, as if thankful for the sympathy which the caress implied.

Presently after, Master Holdenough wiped his eyes, withdrew his hand gently from that of Everard, shaking it kindly as they parted, and proceeded with more composure: “Forgive me this burst of passionate feeling, worthy Colonel. I am conscious it little becomes a man of my cloth, who should be the bearer of consolation to others, to give way in mine own person to an extremity of grief, weak at least, if indeed it is not sinful; for what are we, that we should weep and murmur touching that which is permitted? But Albany was to me as a brother. The happiest days of my life, ere my call to mingle myself in the strife of the land had awakened me to my duties, were spent in his company. I— but I will make the rest of my story short.”— Here he drew his chair close to that of Everard, and spoke in a solemn and mysterious tone of voice, almost lowered to a whisper —“I saw him last night.”

“Saw him — saw whom?” said Everard. “Can you mean the person whom”—

“Whom I saw so ruthlessly slaughtered,” said the clergyman —“My ancient college friend — Joseph Albany.”

“Master Holdenough, your cloth and your character alike must prevent your jesting on such a subject as this.”

“Jesting!” answered Holdenough; “I would as soon jest on my death-bed — as soon jest upon the Bible.”

“But you must have been deceived,” answered Everard, hastily; “this tragical story necessarily often returns to your mind, and in moments when the imagination overcomes the evidence of the outward senses, your fancy must have presented to you an unreal appearance. Nothing more likely, when the mind is on the stretch after something supernatural, than that the imagination should supply the place with a chimera, while the over-excited feelings render it difficult to dispel the delusion.”

“Colonel Everard,” replied Holdenough, with austerity, “in discharge of my duty I must not fear the face of man; and, therefore, I tell you plainly, as I have done before with more observance, that when you bring your carnal learning and judgment, as it is but too much your nature to do, to investigate the hidden things of another world, you might as well measure with the palm of your hand the waters of the Isis. Indeed, good sir, you err in this, and give men too much pretence to confound your honourable name with witch-advocates, free-thinkers, and atheists, even with such as this man Bletson, who, if the discipline of the church had its hand strengthened, as it was in the beginning of the great conflict, would have been long ere now cast out of the pale, and delivered over to the punishment of the flesh, that his spirit might, if possible, be yet saved.”

“You mistake, Master Holdenough,” said Colonel Everard; “I do not deny the existence of such preternatural visitations, because I cannot, and dare not, raise the voice of my own opinion against the testimony of ages, supported by such learned men as yourself. Nevertheless, though I grant the possibility of such things, I have scarce yet heard of an instance in my days so well fortified by evidence, that I could at once and distinctly say, This must have happened by supernatural agency, and not otherwise.”

“Hear, then, what I have to tell,” said the divine, “on the faith of a man, a Christian, and, what is more, a servant of our Holy Church; and, therefore, though unworthy, an elder and a teacher among Christians. I had taken my post yester evening in the half-furnished apartment, wherein hangs a huge mirror, which might have served Goliath of Gath to have admired himself in, when clothed from head to foot in his brazen armour. I the rather chose this place, because they informed me it was the nearest habitable room to the gallery in which they say you had been yourself assailed that evening by the Evil One. — Was it so, I pray you?”

“By some one with no good intentions I was assailed in that apartment. So far,” said Colonel Everard, “you were correctly informed.”

“Well, I chose my post as well as I might, even as a resolved general approaches his camp, and casts up his mound as nearly as he can to the besieged city. And, of a truth, Colonel Everard, if I felt some sensation of bodily fear — for even Elias, and the prophets, who commanded the elements, had a portion in our frail nature, much more such a poor sinful being as myself — yet was my hope and my courage high; and I thought of the texts which I might use, not in the wicked sense of periapts, or spells, as the blinded papists employ them, together with the sign of the cross and other fruitless forms, but as nourishing and supporting that true trust and confidence in the blessed promises, being the true shield of faith wherewith the fiery darts of Satan may be withstood and quenched. And thus armed and prepared, I sate me down to read, at the same time to write, that I might compel my mind to attend to those subjects which became the situation in which I was placed, as preventing any unlicensed excursions of the fancy, and leaving no room for my imagination to brood over idle fears. So I methodised, and wrote down what I thought meet for the time, and peradventure some hungry souls may yet profit by the food which I then prepared.”

“It was wisely and worthily done, good and reverend sir,” replied Colonel Everard. “I pray you to proceed.”

“While I was thus employed, sir, and had been upon the matter for about three hours, not yielding to weariness, a strange thrilling came over my senses, and the large and old-fashioned apartment seemed to wax larger, more gloomy, and more cavernous, while the air of the night grew more cold and chill. I know not if it was that the fire began to decay, or whether there cometh before such things as were then about to happen, a breath and atmosphere, as it were, of terror, as Job saith in a well-known passage, ‘Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made my bones to shake;’ and there was a tingling noise in my ears, and a dizziness in my brain, so that I felt like those who call for aid when there is no danger, and was even prompted to flee, when I saw no one to pursue. It was then that something seemed to pass behind me, casting a reflection on the great mirror before which I had placed my writing-table, and which I saw by assistance of the large standing light which was then in front of the glass. And I looked up, and I saw in the glass distinctly the appearance of a man — as sure as these words issue from my mouth, it was no other than the same Joseph Albany — the companion of my youth — he whom I had seen precipitated down the battlements of Clidesbrough Castle into the deep lake below!”

“What did you do?”

“It suddenly rushed on my mind,” said the divine, “that the stoical philosopher Athenodorus had eluded the horrors of such a vision by patiently pursuing his studies; and it shot at the same time across my mind, that I, a Christian divine, and a Steward of the Mysteries, had less reason to fear evil, and better matter on which to employ my thoughts, than was possessed by a Heathen, who was blinded even by his own wisdom. So, instead of betraying any alarm, or even turning my head around, I pursued my writing, but with a beating heart, I admit, and with a throbbing hand.”

“If you could write at all,” said the Colonel, “with such an impression on your mind, you may take the head of the English army for dauntless resolution.”

“Our courage is not our own, Colonel,” said the divine, “and not as ours should it be vaunted of. And again, when you speak of this strange vision as an impression on my fancy, and not a reality obvious to my senses, let me tell you once more, your worldly wisdom is but foolishness touching the things that are not worldly.”

“Did you not look again upon the mirror?” said the Colonel.

“I did, when I had copied out the comfortable text, ‘Thou shalt tread down Satan under thy feet.’”

“And what did you then see?”

“The reflection of the same Joseph Albany,” said Holdenough, “passing slowly as from behind my chair — the same in member and lineament that I had known him in his youth, excepting that his cheek had the marks of the more advanced age at which he died, and was very pale.”

“What did you then?”

“I turned from the glass, and plainly saw the figure which had made the reflection in the mirror retreating towards the door, not fast, nor slow, but with a gliding steady pace. It turned again when near the door, and again showed me its pale, ghastly countenance, before it disappeared. But how it left the room, whether by the door, or otherwise, my spirits were too much hurried to remark exactly; nor have I been able, by any effort of recollection, distinctly to remember.”

“This is a strange, and, as coming from you, a most excellently well-attested apparition,” answered Everard. “And yet, Master Holdenough, if the other world has been actually displayed, as you apprehend, and I will not dispute the possibility, assure yourself there are also wicked men concerned in these machinations. I myself have undergone some rencontres with visitants who possessed bodily strength, and wore, I am sure, earthly weapons.”

“Oh! doubtless, doubtless,” replied Master Holdenough; “Beelzebub loves to charge with horse and foot mingled, as was the fashion of the old Scottish general, Davie Leslie. He has his devils in the body as well as his devils disembodied, and uses the one to support and back the other.”

“It may be as you say, reverend sir,” answered the Colonel. —“But what do you advise in this case?”

“For that I must consult with my brethren,” said the divine; “and if there be but left in our borders five ministers of the true kirk, we will charge Satan in full body, and you shall see whether we have not power over him to resist till he shall flee from us. But failing that ghostly armament against these strange and unearthly enemies, truly I would recommend, that as a house of witchcraft and abomination, this polluted den of ancient tyranny and prostitution should be totally consumed by fire, lest Satan, establishing his head-quarters so much to his mind, should find a garrison and a fastness from which he might sally forth to infest the whole neighbourhood. Certain it is, that I would recommend to no Christian soul to inhabit the mansion; and, if deserted, it would become a place for wizards to play their pranks, and witches to establish their Sabbath, and those who, like Demas, go about after the wealth of this world, seeking for gold and silver to practise spells and charms to the prejudice of the souls of the covetous. Trust me, therefore, it were better that it were spoiled and broken down, not leaving one stone upon another.”

“I say nay to that, my good friend,” said the Colonel; “for the Lord-General hath permitted, by his license, my mother’s brother, Sir Henry Lee, and his family, to return into the house of his fathers, being indeed the only roof under which he hath any chance of obtaining shelter for his grey hairs.”

“And was this done by your advice, Markham Everard?” said the divine austerely.

“Certainly it was,” returned the Colonel. —“And wherefore should I not exert mine influence to obtain a place of refuge for the brother of my mother?”

“Now, as sure as thy soul liveth,” answered the presbyter, “I had believed this from no tongue but thine own. Tell me, was it not this very Sir Henry Lee, who, by the force of his buffcoats and his greenjerkins, enforced the Papist Laie’s order to remove the altar to the eastern end of the church at Woodstock? — and did not he swear by his beard, that he would hang in the very street of Woodstock whoever should deny to drink the King’s health? — and is not his hand red with the blood of the saints? — and hath there been a ruffler in the field for prelacy and high prerogative more unmitigable or fiercer?”

“All this may have been as you say, good Master Holdenough,” answered the Colonel; “but my uncle is now old and feeble, and hath scarce a single follower remaining, and his daughter is a being whom to look upon would make the sternest weep for pity; a being who”—

“Who is dearer to Everard,” said Holdenough, “than his good name, his faith to his friends, his duty to his religion; — this is no time to speak with sugared lips. The paths in which you tread are dangerous. You are striving to raise the papistical candlestick which Heaven in its justice removed out of its place — to bring back to this hall of sorceries those very sinners who are bewitched with them. I will not permit the land to be abused by their witchcrafts. — They shall not come hither.”

He spoke this with vehemence, and striking his stick against the ground; and the Colonel, very much dissatisfied, began to express himself haughtily in return. “You had better consider your power to accomplish your threats, Master Holdenough,” he said, “before you urge them so peremptorily.”

“And have I not the power to bind and to loose?” said the clergyman.

“It is a power little available, save over those of your own Church,” said Everard, with a tone something contemptuous.

“Take heed — take heed,” said the divine, who, though an excellent, was, as we have elsewhere seen, an irritable man. —“Do not insult me; but think honourably of the messenger, for the sake of Him whose commission he carries. — Do not, I say, defy me — I am bound to discharge my duty, were it to the displeasing of my twin brother.”

“I can see nought your office has to do in the matter,” said Colonel Everard; “and I, on my side, give you warning not to attempt to meddle beyond your commission.”

“Right — you hold me already to be as submissive as one of your grenadiers,” replied the clergyman, his acute features trembling with a sense of indignity, so as even to agitate his grey hair; “but beware, sir, I am not so powerless as you suppose. I will invoke every true Christian in Woodstock to gird up his loins, and resist the restoration of prelacy, oppression, and malignancy within our borders. I will stir up the wrath of the righteous against the oppressor — the Ishmaelite — the Edomite — and against his race, and against those who support him and encourage him to rear up his horn. I will call aloud, and spare not, and arouse the many whose love hath waxed cold, and the multitude who care for none of these things. There shall be a remnant to listen to me; and I will take the stick of Joseph, which was in the hand of Ephraim, and go down to cleanse this place of witches and sorcerers, and of enchantments, and will cry and exhort, saying — Will you plead for Baal? — will you serve him? Nay, take the prophets of Baal — let not a man escape!”

“Master Holdenough, Master Holdenough,” said Colonel Everard, with much impatience, “by the tale yourself told me, you have exhorted upon that text once too often already.”

The old man struck his palm forcibly against his forehead, and fell back into a chair as these words were uttered, as suddenly, and as much without power of resistance, as if the Colonel had fired a pistol through his head. Instantly regretting the reproach which he had suffered to escape him in his impatience, Everard hastened to apologise, and to offer every conciliatory excuse, however inconsistent, which occurred to him on the moment. But the old man was too deeply affected — he rejected his hand, lent no ear to what he said, and finally started up, saying sternly, “You have abused my confidence, sir — abused it vilely, to turn it into my own reproach: had I been a man of the sword, you dared not — But enjoy your triumph, sir, over an old man, and your father’s friend — strike at the wound his imprudent confidence showed you.”

“Nay, my worthy and excellent friend,” said the Colonel —

“Friend!” answered the old man, starting up —“We are foes, sir — foes now, and for ever!”

So saying, and starting from the seat into which he had rather fallen than thrown himself, he ran out of the room with a precipitation of step which he was apt to use upon occasions of irritable feeling, and which was certainly more eager than dignified, especially as he muttered while he ran, and seemed as if he were keeping up his own passion, by recounting over and over the offence which he had received.

“So!” said Colonel Everard, “and there was not strife enough between mine uncle and the people of Woodstock already, but I must needs increase it, by chafing this irritable and quick-tempered old man, eager as I knew him to be in his ideas of church-government, and stiff in his prejudices respecting all who dissent from him! The mob of Woodstock will rise; for though he would not get a score of them to stand by him in any honest or intelligible purpose, yet let him cry havoc and destruction, and I will warrant he has followers enow. And my uncle is equally wild and unpersuadable. For the value of all the estate he ever had, he would not allow a score of troopers to be quartered in the house for defence; and if he be alone, or has but Joceline to stand by him, he will be as sure to fire upon those who come to attack the Lodge, as if he had a hundred men in garrison; and then what can chance but danger and bloodshed?”

This progress of melancholy anticipation was interrupted by the return of Master Holdenough, who, hurrying into the room, with the same precipitate pace at which he had left it, ran straight up to the Colonel, and said, “Take my hand, Markham — take my hand hastily; for the old Adam is whispering at my heart, that it is a disgrace to hold it extended so long.”

“Most heartily do I receive your hand, my venerable friend,” said Everard, “and I trust in sign of renewed amity.”

“Surely, surely,”— said the divine, shaking his hand kindly; “thou hast, it is true, spoken bitterly, but thou hast spoken truth in good time; and I think — though your words were severe — with a good and kindly purpose. Verily, and of a truth, it were sinful in me again to be hasty in provoking violence, remembering that which you have upbraided me with”—

“Forgive me, good Master Holdenough,” said Colonel Everard, “it was a hasty word; I meant not in serious earnest to upbraid.”

“Peace, I pray you, peace,” said the divine; “I say, the allusion to that which you have most justly upbraided me with — though the charge aroused the gall of the old man within me, the inward tempter being ever on the watch to bring us to his lure — ought, instead of being resented, to have been acknowledged by me as a favour, for so are the wounds of a friend termed faithful. And surely I, who have by one unhappy exhortation to battle and strife sent the living to the dead — and I fear brought back even the dead among the living — should now study peace and good will, and reconciliation of difference, leaving punishment to the Great Being whose laws are broken, and vengeance to Him who hath said, I will repay it.”

The old man’s mortified features lighted up with a humble confidence as he made this acknowledgment; and Colonel Everard, who knew the constitutional infirmities, and the early prejudices of professional consequence and exclusive party opinion, which he must have subdued ere arriving at such a tone of candour, hastened to express his admiration of his Christian charity, mingled with reproaches on himself for having so deeply injured his feelings.

“Think not of it — think not of it, excellent young man,” said Holdenough; “we have both erred — I in suffering my zeal to outrun my charity, you perhaps in pressing hard on an old and peevish man, who had so lately poured out his sufferings into your friendly bosom. Be it all forgotten. Let your friends, if they are not deterred by what has happened at this manor of Woodstock, resume their habitation as soon as they will. If they can protect themselves against the powers of the air, believe me, that if I can prevent it by aught in my power, they shall have no annoyance from earthly neighbours; and assure yourself, good sir, that my voice is still worth something with the worthy Mayor, and the good Aldermen, and the better sort of housekeepers up yonder in the town, although the lower classes are blown about with every wind of doctrine. And yet farther, be assured, Colonel, that should your mother’s brother, or any of his family, learn that they have taken up a rash bargain in returning to this unhappy and unhallowed house, or should they find any qualms in their own hearts and consciences which require a ghostly comforter, Nehemiah Holdenough will be as much at their command by night or day, as if they had been bred up within the holy pale of the Church in which he is an unworthy minister; and neither the awe of what is fearful to be seen within these walls, nor his knowledge of their blinded and carnal state, as bred up under a prelatic dispensation, shall prevent him doing what lies in his poor abilities for their protection and edification.”

“I feel all the force of your kindness, reverend sir,” said Colonel Everard, “but I do not think it likely that my uncle will give you trouble on either score. He is a man much accustomed to be his own protector in temporal danger, and in spiritual doubts to trust to his own prayers and those of his Church.”

“I trust I have not been superfluous in offering mine assistance,” said the old man, something jealous that his proffered spiritual aid had been held rather intrusive. “I ask pardon if that is the case, I humbly ask pardon — I would not willingly be superfluous.”

The Colonel hastened to appease this new alarm of the watchful jealousy of his consequence, which, joined with a natural heat of temper which he could not always subdue, were the good man’s only faults.

They had regained their former friendly footing, when Roger Wildrake returned from the hut of Joceline, and whispered his master that his embassy had been successful. The Colonel then addressed the divine, and informed him, that as the Commissioners had already given up Woodstock, and as his uncle, Sir Henry Lee, proposed to return to the Lodge about noon, he would, if his reverence pleased, attend him up to the borough.

“Will you not tarry,” said the reverend man, with something like inquisitive apprehension in his voice, “to welcome your relatives upon their return to this their house?”

“No, my good friend,” said Colonel Everard; “the part which I have taken in these unhappy broils, perhaps also the mode of worship in which I have been educated, have so prejudiced me in mine uncle’s opinion, that I must be for some time a stranger to his house and family.”

“Indeed! I rejoice to hear it with all my heart and soul,” said the divine. “Excuse my frankness — I do indeed rejoice; I had thought — no matter what I had thought; I would not again give offence. But truly though the maiden hath a pleasant feature, and he, as all men say, is in human things unexceptionable, yet — but I give you pain — in sooth, I will say no more unless you ask my sincere and unprejudiced advice, which you shall command, but which I will not press on you superfluously. Wend we to the borough together — the pleasant solitude of the forest may dispose us to open our hearts to each other.”

They did walk up to the little town in company, and somewhat to Master Holdenough’s surprise, the Colonel, though they talked on various subjects, did not request of him any ghostly advice on the subject of his love to his fair cousin, while, greatly beyond the expectation of the soldier, the clergyman kept his word, and in his own phrase, was not so superfluous as to offer upon so delicate a point his unasked counsel.

3 Michael Hudson, the plain-dealing chaplain of King Charles I., resembled, in his loyalty to that unfortunate monarch, the fictitious character of Dr. Rochecliffe; and the circumstances of his death were copied in the narrative of the Presbyterian’s account of the slaughter of his school-fellow; — he was chosen by Charles I., along with John Ashburnham, as his guide and attendant, when he adopted the ill-advised resolution of surrendering his person to the Scots army.

He was taken prisoner by the Parliament, remained long in their custody, and was treated with great severity. He made his escape for about a year in 1647; was retaken, and again escaped in 1648. and heading an insurrection of cavaliers, seized on a strong moated house in Lincolnshire, called Woodford House. He gained the place without resistance; and there are among Peck’s Desiderata Curiosa several accounts of his death, among which we shall transcribe that of Bishop Kenneth, as the most correct, and concise:—“I have been on the spot,” saith his Lordship, “and made all possible enquiries, and find that the relation given by Mr. Wood may be a little rectified and supplied.

“Mr. Hudson and his party did not fly to Woodford, but had quietly taken possession of it, and held it for a garrison, with a good party of horse, who made a stout defence, and frequent sallies, against a party of the Parliament at Stamford, till the colonel commanding them sent a stronger detachment, under a captain, his own kinsman, who was shot from the house, upon which the colonel himself came up to renew the attack, and to demand surrender, and brought them to capitulate upon terms of safe quarter. But the colonel, in base revenge, commanded that they should not spare that rogue Hudson. Upon which, Hudson fought his way up to the leads; and when he saw they were pushing in upon him, threw himself over the battlements (another account says, he caught hold of a spout or outstone,) and hung by the hands, as intending to fall into the moat beneath, till they cut off his wrists and let him drop, and then ran down to hunt him in the water, where they found him paddling with his stumps, and barbarously knocked him on the head.”— Peck’s Desiderata Curiosa, Book ix.

Other accounts mention he was refused the poor charity of coming to die on land, by one Egborough, servant to Mr. Spinks, the intruder into the parsonage. A man called Walker, a chandler or grocer, cut out the tongue of the unfortunate divine, and showed it as a trophy through the country. But it was remarked, with vindictive satisfaction, that Egborough was killed by the bursting of his own gun; and that Walker, obliged to abandon his trade through poverty, became a scorned mendicant.

For some time a grave was not vouchsafed to the remains of this brave and loyal divine, till one of the other party said, “Since he is dead, let him be buried.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/woodstock/chapter17.html

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