Woodstock, by Walter Scott

Chapter the Twenty-Fifth.

Stay — for the King has thrown his warder down.

RICHARD II.

The combatants, whom we left engaged at the end of the last chapter, made mutual passes at each other with apparently equal skill and courage. Charles had been too often in action, and too long a party as well as a victim to civil war, to find any thing new or surprising in being obliged to defend himself with his own hands; and Everard had been distinguished, as well for his personal bravery, as for the other properties of a commander. But the arrival of a third party prevented the tragic conclusion of a combat, in which the success of either party must have given him much cause for regretting his victory.

It was the old knight himself, who arrived, mounted upon a forest pony, for the war and sequestration had left him no steed of a more dignified description. He thrust himself between the combatants, and commanded them on their lives to hold. So soon as a glance from one to the other had ascertained to him whom he had to deal with, he demanded, “Whether the devils of Woodstock, whom folk talked about, had got possession of them both, that they were tilting at each other within the verge of the royal liberties? Let me tell both of you,” he said, “that while old Henry Lee is at Woodstock, the immunities of the Park shall be maintained as much as if the King were still on the throne. None shall fight duellos here, excepting the stags in their season. Put up, both of you, or I shall lug out as thirdsman, and prove perhaps the worst devil of the three! — As Will says —

‘I’ll so maul you and your toasting-irons,

That you shall think the devil has come from hell.’”

The combatants desisted from their encounter, but stood looking at each other sullenly, as men do in such a situation, each unwilling to seem to desire peace more than the other, and averse therefore to be the first to sheathe his sword.

“Return your weapons, gentlemen, upon the spot,” said the knight yet more peremptorily, “one and both of you, or you will have something to do with me, I promise you. You may be thankful times are changed. I have known them such, that your insolence might have cost each of you your right hand, if not redeemed with a round sum of money. Nephew, if you do not mean to alienate me for ever, I command you to put up. — Master Kerneguy, you are my guest. I request of you not to do me the insult of remaining with your sword drawn, where it is my duty to see peace observed.”

“I obey you, Sir Henry,” said the King, sheathing his rapier —“I hardly indeed know wherefore I was assaulted by this gentleman. I assure you, none respects the King’s person or privileges more than myself — though the devotion is somewhat out of fashion.”

“We may find a place to meet, sir,” replied Everard, “where neither the royal person nor privileges can be offended.”

“Faith, very hardly, sir,” said Charles, unable to suppress the rising jest —“I mean, the King has so few followers, that the loss of the least of them might be some small damage to him; but, risking all that, I will meet you wherever there is fair field for a poor cavalier to get off in safety, if he has the luck in fight.”

Sir Henry Lee’s first idea had been fixed upon the insult offered to the royal demesne; he now began to turn them towards the safety of his kinsman, and of the young royalist, as he deemed him. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I must insist on this business being put to a final end. Nephew Markham, is this your return for my condescension in coming back to Woodstock on your warrant, that you should take an opportunity to cut the throat of my guest?”

“If you knew his purpose as well as I do,”— said Markham, and then paused, conscious that he might only incense his uncle without convincing him, as any thing he might say of Kerneguy’s addresses to Alice was likely to be imputed to his own jealous suspicions — he looked on the ground, therefore, and was silent.

“And you, Master Kerneguy,” said Sir Henry, “can you give me any reason why you seek to take the life of this young man, in whom, though unhappily forgetful of his loyalty and duty, I must yet take some interest, as my nephew by affinity?”

“I was not aware the gentleman enjoyed that honour, which certainly would have protected him from my sword,” answered Kerneguy. “But the quarrel is his; nor can I tell any reason why he fixed it upon me, unless it were the difference of our political opinions.”

“You know the contrary,” said Everard; “you know that I told you you were safe from me as a fugitive royalist — and your last words showed you were at no loss to guess my connexion with Sir Henry. That, indeed, is of little consequence. I should debase myself did I use the relationship as a means of protection from you, or any one.”

As they thus disputed, neither choosing to approach the real cause of quarrel, Sir Henry looked from one to the other, with a peace-making conscience, exclaiming —

“‘Why, what an intricate impeach is this?

I think you both have drunk of Circe’s cup.’

“Come, my young masters, allow an old man to mediate between you. I am not shortsighted in such matters — The mother of mischief is no bigger than a gnat’s wing; and I have known fifty instances in my own day, when, as Will says —

‘Gallants have been confronted hardily,

In single opposition, hand to hand.’

in which, after the field was fought, no one could remember the cause of quarrel. — Tush! a small thing will do it — the taking of the wall — or the gentle rub of the shoulder in passing each other, or a hasty word, or a misconceived gesture — Come, forget your cause of quarrel, be what it will — you have had your breathing, and though you put up your rapiers unbloodied, that was no default of yours, but by command of your elder, and one who had right to use authority. In Malta, where the duello is punctiliously well understood, the persons engaged in a single combat are bound to halt on the command of a knight, or priest, or lady, and the quarrel so interrupted is held as honourably terminated, and may not be revived. — Nephew, it is, I think, impossible that you can nourish spleen against this young gentleman for having fought for his king. Hear my honest proposal, Markham — You know I bear no malice, though I have some reason to be offended with you — Give the young man your hand in friendship, and we will back to the Lodge, all three together, and drink a cup of sack in token of reconciliation.”

Markham Everard found himself unable to resist this approach towards kindness on his uncle’s part. He suspected, indeed, what was partly the truth, that it was not entirely from reviving good-will, but also, that his uncle thought, by such attention, to secure his neutrality at least, if not his assistance, for the safety of the fugitive royalist. He was sensible that he was placed in an awkward predicament; and that he might incur the suspicions of his own party, for holding intercourse even with a near relation, who harboured such guests. But, on the other hand, he thought his services to the Commonwealth had been of sufficient importance to outweigh whatever envy might urge on that topic. Indeed, although the Civil War had divided families much, and in many various ways, yet when it seemed ended by the triumph of the republicans, the rage of political hatred began to relent, and the ancient ties of kindred and friendship regained at least a part of their former influence. Many reunions were formed; and those who, like Everard, adhered to the conquering party, often exerted themselves for the protection of their deserted relatives.

As these things rushed through his mind, accompanied with the prospect of a renewed intercourse with Alice Lee, by means of which he might be at hand to protect her against every chance, either of injury or insult, he held out his hand to the supposed Scottish page, saying at the same time, “That, for his part, he was very ready to forget the cause of quarrel, or rather, to consider it as arising out of a misapprehension, and to offer Master Kerneguy such friendship as might exist between honourable men, who had embraced different sides in politics.”

Unable to overcome the feeling of personal dignity, which prudence recommended him to forget, Louis Kerneguy in return bowed low, but without accepting Everard’s proffered hand.

“He had no occasion,” he said, “to make any exertions to forget the cause of quarrel, for he had never been able to comprehend it; but as he had not shunned the gentleman’s resentment, so he was now willing to embrace and return any degree of his favour, with which he might be pleased to honour him.”

Everard withdrew his hand with a smile, and bowed in return to the salutation of the page, whose stiff reception of his advances he imputed to the proud pettish disposition of a Scotch boy, trained up in extravagant ideas of family consequence and personal importance, which his acquaintance with the world had not yet been sufficient to dispel.

Sir Henry Lee, delighted with the termination of the quarrel, which he supposed to be in deep deference to his own authority, and not displeased with the opportunity of renewing some acquaintance with his nephew, who had, notwithstanding his political demerits, a warmer interest in his affections than he was, perhaps, himself aware of, said, in a tone of consolation, “Never be mortified, young gentlemen. I protest it went to my heart to part you, when I saw you stretching yourselves so handsomely, and in fair love of honour, without any malicious or blood-thirsty thoughts. I promise you, had it not been for my duty as Ranger here, and sworn to the office, I would rather have been your umpire than your hinderance. — But a finished quarrel is a forgotten quarrel; and your tilting should have no further consequence excepting the appetite it may have given you.”

So saying, he urged forward his pony, and moved in triumph towards the Lodge by the nearest alley. His feet almost touching the ground, the ball of his toe just resting in the stirrup — the forepart of the thigh brought round to the saddle — the heels turned outwards, and sunk as much as possible — his body precisely erect — the reins properly and systematically divided in his left hand, his right holding a riding-rod diagonally pointed towards the horse’s left ear — he seemed a champion of the manege, fit to have reined Bucephalus himself. His youthful companions, who attended on either hand like equerries, could scarcely suppress a smile at the completely adjusted and systematic posture of the rider, contrasted with the wild and diminutive appearance of the pony, with its shaggy coat, and long tail and mane, and its keen eyes sparkling like red coals from amongst the mass of hair which fell over its small countenance. If the reader has the Duke of Newcastle’s book on horsemanship, (splendida moles!) he may have some idea of the figure of the good knight, if he can conceive such a figure as one of the cavaliers there represented, seated, in all the graces of his art, on a Welsh or Exmoor pony, in its native savage state, without grooming or discipline of any kind; the ridicule being greatly enhanced by the disproportion of size betwixt the animal and its rider.

Perhaps the knight saw their wonder, for the first words he said after they left the ground were, “Pixie, though small, is mettlesome, gentlemen,” (here he contrived that Pixie should himself corroborate the assertion, by executing a gambade,)—“he is diminutive, but full of spirit; — indeed, save that I am somewhat too large for an elfin horseman,” (the knight was upwards of six feet high,) “I should remind myself, when I mount him, of the Fairy King, as described by Mike Drayton:—

Himself he on an ear-wig set,

Yet scarce upon his back could get,

So oft and high he did curvet,

Ere he himself did settle.

He made him stop, and turn, and bound,

To gallop, and to trot the round.

He scarce could stand on any ground,

He was so full of mettle.’”

“My old friend, Pixie,” said Everard, stroking the pony’s neck, “I am glad that he has survived all these bustling days — Pixie must be above twenty years old, Sir Henry?”

“Above twenty years, certainly. Yes, nephew Markham, war is a whirlwind in a plantation, which only spares what is least worth leaving. Old Pixie and his old master have survived many a tall fellow, and many a great horse — neither of them good for much themselves. Yet, as Will says, an old man can do somewhat. So Pixie and I still survive.”

So saying, he again contrived that Pixie should show some remnants of activity.

“Still survive?” said the young Scot, completing the sentence which the good knight had left unfinished —“ay, still survive,

‘To witch the world with noble horsemanship.’”

Everard coloured, for he felt the irony; but not so his uncle, whose simple vanity never permitted him to doubt the sincerity of the compliment.

“Are you advised of that?” he said. “In King James’s time, indeed, I have appeared in the tilt-yard, and there you might have said —

‘You saw young Harry with his beaver up.’

“As to seeing old Harry, why”— Here the knight paused, and looked as a bashful man in labour of a pun —“As to old Harry — why, you might as well see the devil. You take me, Master Kerneguy — the devil, you know, is my namesake — ha — ha — ha! — Cousin Everard, I hope your precision is not startled by an innocent jest?”

He was so delighted with the applause of both his companions, that he recited the whole of the celebrated passage referred to, and concluded with defying the present age, bundle all its wits, Donne, Cowley, Waller, and the rest of them together, to produce a poet of a tenth part of the genius of old Will.

“Why, we are said to have one of his descendants among us — Sir William D’Avenant,” said Louis Kerneguy; “and many think him as clever a fellow.”

“What!” exclaimed Sir Henry —“Will D’Avenant, whom I knew in the North, an officer under Newcastle, when the Marquis lay before Hull? — why, he was an honest cavalier, and wrote good doggrel enough; but how came he a-kin to Will Shakspeare, I trow?”

“Why,” replied the young Scot, “by the surer side of the house, and after the old fashion, if D’Avenant speaks truth. It seems that his mother was a good-looking, laughing, buxom mistress of an inn between Stratford and London, at which Will Shakspeare often quartered as he went down to his native town; and that out of friendship and gossipred, as we say in Scotland, Will Shakspeare became godfather to Will D’Avenant; and not contented with this spiritual affinity, the younger Will is for establishing some claim to a natural one, alleging that his mother was a great admirer of wit, and there were no bounds to her complaisance for men of genius.”

“Out upon the hound!” said Colonel Everard; “would he purchase the reputation of descending from poet, or from prince, at the expense of his mother’s good fame? — his nose ought to be slit.”

“That would be difficult,” answered the disguised Prince, recollecting the peculiarity of the bard’s countenance. 4

“Will D’Avenant the son of Will Shakspeare?” said the knight, who had not yet recovered his surprise at the enormity of the pretension; “why, it reminds me of a verse in the Puppet-show of Phaeton, where the hero complains to his mother —

‘Besides, by all the village boys I am sham’d,

You the Sun’s son, you rascal, you be d — d!’

“I never heard such unblushing assurance in my life! — Will D’Avenant the son of the brightest and best poet that ever was, is, or will be? — But I crave your pardon, nephew — You, I believe, love no stage plays.”

“Nay, I am not altogether so precise as you would make me, uncle. I have loved them perhaps too well in my time, and now I condemn them not altogether, or in gross, though I approve not their excesses and extravagances. — I cannot, even in Shakspeare, but see many things both scandalous to decency and prejudicial to good manners — many things which tend to ridicule virtue, or to recommend vice — at least to mitigate the hideousness of its features. I cannot think these fine poems are an useful study, and especially for the youth of either sex, in which bloodshed is pointed out as the chief occupation of the men, and intrigue as the sole employment of the women.”

In making these observations, Everard was simple enough to think that he was only giving his uncle an opportunity of defending a favourite opinion, without offending him by a contradiction, which was so limited and mitigated. But here, as on other occasions, he forgot how obstinate his uncle was in his views, whether of religion, policy, or taste, and that it would be as easy to convert him to the Presbyterian form of government, or engage him to take the abjuration oath, as to shake his belief in Shakspeare. There was another peculiarity in the good knight’s mode of arguing, which Everard, being himself of a plain and downright character, and one whose religious tenets were in some degree unfavourable to the suppressions and simulations often used in society, could never perfectly understand. Sir Henry, sensible of his natural heat of temper, was wont scrupulously to guard against it, and would for some time, when in fact much offended, conduct a debate with all the external appearance of composure, till the violence of his feelings would rise so high as to overcome and bear away the artificial barriers opposed to it, and rush down upon the adversary with accumulating wrath. It thus frequently happened, that, like a wily old general, he retreated in the face of his disputant in good order and by degrees, with so moderate a degree of resistance, as to draw on his antagonist’s pursuit to the spot, where, at length, making a sudden and unexpected attack, with horse, foot, and artillery at once, he seldom failed to confound the enemy, though he might not overthrow him.

It was on this principle, therefore, that, hearing Everard’s last observation, he disguised his angry feelings, and answered, with a tone where politeness was called in to keep guard upon passion, “That undoubtedly the Presbyterian gentry had given, through the whole of these unhappy times, such proofs of an humble, unaspiring, and unambitious desire of the public good, as entitled them to general credit for the sincerity of those very strong scruples which they entertained against works, in which the noblest, sentiments of religion and virtue — sentiments which might convert hardened sinners, and be placed with propriety in the mouths of dying saints and martyrs — happened, from the rudeness and coarse taste of the times, to be mixed with some broad jests, and similar matter, which lay not much in the way, excepting of those who painfully sought such stuff out, that they might use it in vilifying what was in itself deserving of the highest applause. But what he wished especially to know from his nephew was, whether any of those gifted men, who had expelled the learned scholars and deep divines of the Church of England from the pulpit, and now flourished in their stead, received any inspiration from the muses, (if he might use so profane a term without offence to Colonel Everard,) or whether they were not as sottishly and brutally averse from elegant letters, as they were from humanity and common sense?”

Colonel Everard might have guessed, by the ironical tone in which this speech was delivered, what storm was mustering within his uncle’s bosom — nay, he might have conjectured the state of the old knight’s feelings from his emphasis on the word Colonel, by which epithet, as that which most connected his nephew with the party he hated, he never distinguished Everard, unless when his wrath was rising; while, on the contrary, when disposed to be on good terms with him, he usually called him Kinsman, or Nephew Markham. Indeed, it was under a partial sense that this was the case, and in the hope to see his cousin Alice, that the Colonel forbore making any answer to the harangue of his uncle, which had concluded just as the old knight had alighted at the door of the Lodge, and was entering the hall, followed by his two attendants.

Phoebe at the same time made her appearance in the hall, and received orders to bring some “beverage” for the gentlemen. The Hebe of Woodstock failed not to recognise and welcome Everard by an almost imperceptible curtsy; but she did not serve her interest, as she designed, when she asked the knight, as a question of course, whether he commanded the attendance of Mistress Alice. A stern No, was the decided reply; and the ill-timed interference seemed to increase his previous irritation against Everard for his depreciation of Shakspeare. “I would insist,” said Sir Henry, resuming the obnoxious subject, “were it fit for a poor disbanded cavalier to use such a phrase towards a commander of the conquering army — upon, knowing whether the convulsion which has sent us saints and prophets without end, has not also afforded us a poet with enough both of gifts and grace to outshine poor old Will, the oracle and idol of us blinded and carnal cavaliers.”

“Surely, sir,” replied Colonel Everard; “I know verses written by a friend of the Commonwealth, and those, too, of a dramatic character, which, weighed in an impartial scale, might equal even the poetry of Shakspeare, and which are free from the fustian and indelicacy with which that great bard was sometimes content to feed the coarse appetites of his barbarous audience.”

“Indeed!” said the knight, keeping down his wrath with difficulty. “I should like to be acquainted with this master-piece of poetry! — May we ask the name of this distinguished person?”

“It must be Vicars, or Withers, at least,” said the feigned page.

“No, sir,” replied Everard, “nor Drummond of Hawthornden, nor Lord Stirling neither. And yet the verses will vindicate what I say, if you will make allowance for indifferent recitation, for I am better accustomed to speak to a battalion than to those who love the muses. The speaker is a lady benighted, who, having lost her way in a pathless forest, at first expresses herself agitated by the supernatural fears to which her situation gave rise.”

“A play, too, and written by a roundhead author!” said Sir Henry in surprise.

“A dramatic production at least,” replied his nephew; and began to recite simply, but with feeling, the lines now so well known, but which had then obtained no celebrity, the fame of the author resting upon the basis rather of his polemical and political publications, than on the poetry doomed in after days to support the eternal structure of his immortality.

‘These thoughts may startle, but will not, astound

The virtuous mind, that ever walks attended

By a strong-siding champion, Conscience.’”

“My own opinion, nephew Markham, my own opinion,” said Sir Henry, with a burst of admiration; “better expressed, but just what I said when the scoundrelly roundheads pretended to see ghosts at Woodstock — Go on, I prithee.”

Everard proceeded:—

“‘O welcome pure-eyed Faith, white-handed Hope,

Thou hovering angel, girt with golden wings,

And thou unblemish’d form of Chastity!

I see ye visibly, and now believe

That he the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill

Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,

Would send a glistering guardian, if need were,

To keep my life and honour unassail’d. —

Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud.

Turn forth her silver lining on the night?’”

“The rest has escaped me,” said the reciter; “and I marvel I have been able to remember so much.”

Sir Henry Lee, who had expected some effusion very different from those classical and beautiful lines, soon changed the scornful expression of his countenance, relaxed his contorted upper lip, and, stroking down his beard with his left hand, rested the forefinger of the right upon his eyebrow, in sign of profound attention. After Everard had ceased speaking, the old man signed as at the end of a strain of sweet music. He then spoke in a gentler manner than formerly.

“Cousin Markham,” he said, “these verses flow sweetly, and sound in my ears like the well-touched warbling of a lute. But thou knowest I am somewhat slow of apprehending the full meaning of that which I hear for the first time. Repeat me these verses again, slowly and deliberately; for I always love to hear poetry twice, the first time for sound, and the latter time for sense.”

Thus encouraged, Everard recited again the lines with more hardihood and better effect; the knight distinctly understanding, and from his looks and motions, highly applauding them.

“Yes!” he broke out, when Everard was again silent —“Yes, I do call that poetry — though it were even written by a Presbyterian, or an Anabaptist either. Ay, there were good and righteous people to be found even amongst the offending towns which were destroyed by fire. And certainly I have heard, though with little credence (begging your pardon, cousin. Everard,) that there are men among you who have seen the error of their ways in rebelling against the best and kindest of masters, and bringing it to that pass that he was murdered by a gang yet fiercer than themselves. Ay, doubtless, the gentleness of spirit, and the purity of mind, which dictated those beautiful lines, has long ago taught a man so amiable to say, I have sinned, I have sinned. Yes, I doubt not so sweet a harp has been broken, even in remorse, for the crimes he was witness to; and now he sits drooping for the shame and sorrow of England — all his noble rhymes, as Will says,

‘Like sweet bells jangled out of tune and harsh.’

Dost thou not think so, Master Kerneguy?”

“Not I, Sir Henry,” answered the page, somewhat maliciously.

“What, dost not believe the author of these lines must needs be of the better file, and leaning to our persuasion?”

“I think, Sir Henry, that the poetry qualifies the author to write a play on the subject of Dame Potiphar and her recusant lover; and as for his calling — that last metaphor of the cloud in a black coat or cloak, with silver lining, would have dubbed him a tailor with me, only that I happen to know that he is a schoolmaster by profession, and by political opinions qualified to be Poet Laureate to Cromwell; for what Colonel Everard has repeated with such unction, is the production of no less celebrated a person than John Milton.”

“John Milton!” exclaimed Sir Henry in astonishment —“What! John Milton, the blasphemous and bloody-minded author of the Defensio Populi Anglicani! — the advocate of the infernal High Court of Fiends; the creature and parasite of that grand impostor, that loathsome hypocrite, that detestable monster, that prodigy of the universe, that disgrace of mankind, that landscape of iniquity, that sink of sin, and that compendium of baseness, Oliver Cromwell!”

“Even the same John Milton,” answered Charles; “schoolmaster to little boys, and tailor to the clouds, which he furnishes with suits of black, lined with silver, at no other expense than that of common sense.”

“Markham Everard,” said the old knight, “I will never forgive thee — never, never. Thou hast made me speak words of praise respecting one whose offal should fatten the region-kites. Speak not to me, sir, but begone! Am I, your kinsman and benefactor, a fit person to be juggled out of my commendation and eulogy, and brought to bedaub such a whitened sepulchre as the sophist Milton?”

“I profess,” said Everard, “this is hard measure, Sir Henry. You pressed me — you defied me, to produce poetry as good as Shakspeare’s. I only thought of the verses, not of the politics of Milton.”

“Oh yes, sir,” replied Sir Henry; “we well know your power of making distinctions; you could make war against the King’s prerogative, without having the least design against his person. Oh Heaven forbid! But Heaven will hear and judge you. Set down the beverage, Phoebe”—(this was added by way of parenthesis to Phoebe, who entered with refreshment)—“Colonel Everard is not thirsty — You have wiped your mouths, and said you have done no evil. But though you have deceived man, yet God you cannot deceive. And you shall wipe no lips in Woodstock, either after meat or drink, I promise you.”

Charged thus at once with the faults imputed to his whole religious sect and political party, Everard felt too late of what imprudence he had been guilty in giving the opening, by disputing his uncle’s taste in dramatic poetry. He endeavoured to explain — to apologise.

“I mistook your purpose, honoured sir, and thought you really desired to know something of our literature; and in repeating what you deemed not unworthy your hearing, I profess I thought I was doing you pleasure, instead of stirring your indignation.”

“O ay!” returned the knight, with unmitigated rigour of resentment — “profess — profess — Ay, that is the new phrase of asseveration, instead of the profane adjuration of courtiers and cavaliers — Oh, sir, profess less and practise more — and so good day to you. Master Kerneguy, you will find beverage in my apartment.”

While Phoebe stood gaping in admiration at the sudden quarrel which had arisen, Colonel Everard’s vexation and resentment was not a little increased by the nonchalance of the young Scotsman, who, with his hands thrust into his pockets, (with a courtly affectation of the time,) had thrown himself into one of the antique chairs, and, though habitually too polite to laugh aloud, and possessing that art of internal laughter by which men of the world learn to indulge their mirth without incurring quarrels, or giving direct offence, was at no particular pains to conceal that he was exceedingly amused by the result of the Colonel’s visit to Woodstock. Colonel Everard’s patience, however, had reached bounds which it was very likely to surpass; for, though differing widely in politics, there was a resemblance betwixt the temper of the uncle and nephew.

“Damnation” exclaimed the Colonel, in a tone which became a puritan as little as did the exclamation itself.

“Amen!” said Louis Kerneguy, but in a tone so soft and gentle, that the ejaculation seemed rather to escape him than to be designedly uttered. “Sir!” said Everard, striding towards him in that sort of humour, when a man, full of resentment, would not unwillingly find an object on which to discharge it.

Plait-il?” said the page, in the most equable tone, looking up in his face with the most unconscious innocence.

“I wish to know, sir,” retorted Everard, “the meaning of that which you said just now?”

“Only a pouring out of the spirit, worthy sir,” returned Kerneguy —“a small skiff dispatched to Heaven on my own account, to keep company with your holy petition just now expressed.”

“Sir, I have known a merry gentleman’s bones broke for such a smile as you wear just now,” replied Everard.

“There, look you now” answered the malicious page, who could not weigh even the thoughts of his safety against the enjoyment of his jest —“If you had stuck to your professions, worthy sir, you must have choked by this time; but your round execration bolted like a cork from a bottle of cider, and now allows your wrath to come foaming out after it, in the honest unbaptized language of common ruffians.”

“For Heaven’s sake, Master Girnegy,” said Phoebe, “forbear giving the Colonel these bitter words! And do you, good Colonel Markham, scorn to take offence at his hands — he is but a boy.”

“If the Colonel or you choose, Mistress Phoebe, you shall find me a man — I think the gentleman can say something to the purpose already. — Probably he may recommend to you the part of the Lady in Comus; and I only hope his own admiration of John Milton will not induce him to undertake the part of Samson Agonistes, and blow up this old house with execration, or pull it down in wrath about our ears.”

“Young man,” said the Colonel, still in towering passion, “if you respect my principles for nothing else, be grateful to the protection which, but for them, you would not easily attain.”

“Nay, then,” said the attendant, “I must fetch those who have more influence with you than I have,” and away tripped Phoebe; while Kerneguy answered Everard in the same provoking tone of calm indifference — “Before you menace me with a thing so formidable as your resentment, you ought to be certain whether I may not be compelled by circumstances to deny you the opportunity you seem to point at.”

At this moment Alice, summoned no doubt by her attendant, entered the hall hastily.

“Master Kerneguy,” she said, “my father requests to see you in Victor Lee’s apartment.”

Kerneguy arose and bowed, but seemed determined to remain till Everard’s departure, so as to prevent any explanation betwixt the cousins. “Markham,” said Alice, hurriedly —“Cousin Everard — I have but a moment to remain here — for God’s sake, do you instantly begone! — be cautious and patient — but do not tarry here — my father is fearfully incensed.”

“I have had my uncle’s word for that, madam,” replied Everard, “as well as his injunction to depart, which I will obey without delay. I was not aware that you would have seconded so harsh an order quite so willingly; but I go, madam, sensible I leave those behind whose company is more agreeable.”

“Unjust — ungenerous — ungrateful!” said Alice; but fearful her words might reach ears for which they were not designed, she spoke them in a voice so feeble, that her cousin, for whom they were intended, lost the consolation they were calculated to convey.

He bowed coldly to Alice, as taking leave, and said, with an air of that constrained courtesy which sometimes covers, among men of condition, the most deadly hatred, “I believe, Master Kerneguy, that I must make it convenient at present to suppress my own peculiar opinions on the matter which we have hinted at in our conversation, in which case I will send a gentleman, who, I hope, may be able to conquer yours.”

The supposed Scotsman made him a stately, and at the same time a condescending bow, said he should expect the honour of his commands, offered his hand to Mistress Alice, to conduct her back to her father’s apartment, and took a triumphant leave of his rival.

Everard, on the other hand, stung beyond his patience, and, from the grace and composed assurance of the youth’s carriage, still conceiving him to be either Wilmot, or some of his compeers in rank and profligacy, returned to the town of Woodstock, determined not to be outbearded, even though he should seek redress by means which his principles forbade him to consider as justifiable.

4 D’Avenant actually wanted the nose, the foundation of many a jest of the day.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/woodstock/chapter25.html

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