This a love-meeting? See the maiden mourns,
And the sad suitor bends his looks on earth.
There’s more hath pass’d between them than belongs
To Love’s sweet sorrows.
As he approached the monument of Goddard Crovan, Julian cast many an anxious glance to see whether any object visible beside the huge grey stone should apprise him, whether he was anticipated, at the appointed place of rendezvous, by her who had named it. Nor was it long before the flutter of a mantle, which the breeze slightly waved, and the motion necessary to replace it upon the wearer’s shoulders, made him aware that Alice had already reached their place of meeting. One instant set the palfrey at liberty, with slackened girths and loosened reins, to pick its own way through the dell at will; another placed Julian Peveril by the side of Alice Bridgenorth.
That Alice should extend her hand to her lover, as with the ardour of a young greyhound he bounded over the obstacles of the rugged path, was as natural as that Julian, seizing on the hand so kindly stretched out, should devour it with kisses, and, for a moment or two, without reprehension; while the other hand, which should have aided in the liberation of its fellow, served to hide the blushes of the fair owner. But Alice, young as she was, and attached to Julian by such long habits of kindly intimacy, still knew well how to subdue the tendency of her own treacherous affections.
“This is not right,” she said, extricating her hand from Julian’s grasp, “this is not right, Julian. If I have been too rash in admitting such a meeting as the present, it is not you that should make me sensible of my folly.”
Julian Peveril’s mind had been early illuminated with that touch of romantic fire which deprives passion of selfishness, and confers on it the high and refined tone of generous and disinterested devotion. He let go the hand of Alice with as much respect as he could have paid to that of a princess; and when she seated herself upon a rocky fragment, over which nature had stretched a cushion of moss and lichen, interspersed with wild flowers, backed with a bush of copsewood, he took his place beside her, indeed, but at such distance as to intimate the duty of an attendant, who was there only to hear and to obey. Alice Bridgenorth became more assured as she observed the power which she possessed over her lover; and the self-command which Peveril exhibited, which other damsels in her situation might have judged inconsistent with intensity of passion, she appreciated more justly, as a proof of his respectful and disinterested sincerity. She recovered, in addressing him, the tone of confidence which rather belonged to the scenes of their early acquaintance, than to those which had passed betwixt them since Peveril had disclosed his affection, and thereby had brought restraint upon their intercourse.
“Julian,” she said, “your visit of yesterday — your most ill-timed visit, has distressed me much. It has misled my father — it has endangered you. At all risks, I resolved that you should know this, and blame me not if I have taken a bold and imprudent step in desiring this solitary interview, since you are aware how little poor Deborah is to be trusted.”
“Can you fear misconstruction from me, Alice?” replied Peveril warmly; “from me, whom you have thus highly favoured — thus deeply obliged?”
“Cease your protestations, Julian,” answered the maiden; “they do but make me the more sensible that I have acted over boldly. But I did for the best. — I could not see you whom I have known so long — you, who say you regard me with partiality ——”
“Say that I regard you with partiality!” interrupted Peveril in his turn. “Ah, Alice, with a cold and doubtful phrase you have used to express the most devoted, the most sincere affection!”
“Well, then,” said Alice sadly, “we will not quarrel about words; but do not again interrupt me. — I could not, I say, see you, who, I believe, regard me with sincere though vain and fruitless attachment, rush blindfold into a snare, deceived and seduced by those very feelings towards me.”
“I understand you not, Alice,” said Peveril; “nor can I see any danger to which I am at present exposed. The sentiments which your father has expressed towards me, are of a nature irreconcilable with hostile purposes. If he is not offended with the bold wishes I may have formed — and his whole behaviour shows the contrary — I know not a man on earth from whom I have less cause to apprehend any danger or ill-will.”
“My father,” said Alice, “means well by his country, and well by you; yet I sometimes fear he may rather injure than serve his good cause; and still more do I dread, that in attempting to engage you as an auxiliary, he may forget those ties which ought to bind you, and I am sure which will bind you, to a different line of conduct from his own.”
“You lead me into still deeper darkness, Alice,” answered Peveril. “That your father’s especial line of politics differs widely from mine, I know well; but how many instances have occurred, even during the bloody scenes of civil warfare, of good and worthy men laying the prejudice of party affections aside, and regarding each other with respect, and even with friendly attachment, without being false to principle on either side?”
“It may be so,” said Alice; “but such is not the league which my father desires to form with you, and that to which he hopes your misplaced partiality towards his daughter may afford a motive for your forming with him.”
“And what is it,” said Peveril, “which I would refuse, with such a prospect before me?”
“Treachery and dishonour!” replied Alice; “whatever would render you unworthy of the poor boon at which you aim — ay, were it more worthless than I confess it to be.”
“Would your father,” said Peveril, as he unwillingly received the impression which Alice designed to convey — “would he, whose views of duty are so strict and severe — would he wish to involve me in aught, to which such harsh epithets as treachery and dishonour can be applied with the lightest shadow of truth?”
“Do not mistake me, Julian,” replied the maiden; “my father is incapable of requesting aught of you that is not to his thinking just and honourable; nay, he conceives that he only claims from you a debt, which is due as a creature to the Creator, and as a man to your fellow-men.”
“So guarded, where can be the danger of our intercourse?” replied Julian. “If he be resolved to require, and I determined to accede to, nothing save what flows from conviction, what have I to fear, Alice? And how is my intercourse with your father dangerous? Believe not so; his speech has already made impression on me in some particulars, and he listened with candour and patience to the objections which I made occasionally. You do Master Bridgenorth less than justice in confounding him with the unreasonable bigots in policy and religion, who can listen to no argument but what favours their own prepossessions.”
“Julian,” replied Alice; “it is you who misjudge my father’s powers, and his purpose with respect to you, and who overrate your own powers of resistance. I am but a girl, but I have been taught by circumstances to think for myself, and to consider the character of those around me. My father’s views in ecclesiastical and civil policy are as dear to him as the life which he cherishes only to advance them. They have been, with little alteration, his companions through life. They brought him at one period into prosperity, and when they suited not the times, he suffered for having held them. They have become not only a part, but the very dearest part, of his existence. If he shows them not to you at first, in the flexible strength which they have acquired over his mind, do not believe that they are the less powerful. He who desires to make converts, must begin by degrees. But that he should sacrifice to an inexperienced young man, whose ruling motive he will term a childish passion, any part of those treasured principles which he has maintained through good repute and bad repute — Oh, do not dream of such an impossibility! If you meet at all, you must be the wax, he the seal — you must receive, he must bestow, an absolute impression.”
“That,” said Peveril, “were unreasonable. I will frankly avow to you, Alice, that I am not a sworn bigot to the opinions entertained by my father, much as I respect his person. I could wish that our Cavaliers, or whatsoever they are pleased to call themselves, would have some more charity towards those who differ from them in Church and State. But to hope that I would surrender the principles in which I have lived, were to suppose me capable of deserting my benefactress, and breaking the hearts of my parents.”
“Even so I judged of you,” answered Alice; “and therefore I asked this interview, to conjure that you will break off all intercourse with our family — return to your parents — or, what will be much safer, visit the continent once more, and abide till God send better days to England, for these are black with many a storm.”
“And can you bid me go, Alice?” said the young man, taking her unresisting hand; “can you bid me go, and yet own an interest in my fate? — Can you bid me, for fear of dangers, which, as a man, as a gentleman, and a loyal one, I am bound to show my face to, meanly abandon my parents, my friends, my country — suffer the existence of evils which I might aid to prevent — forego the prospect of doing such little good as might be in my power — fall from an active and honourable station, into the condition of a fugitive and time-server — Can you bid me do all this, Alice? Can you bid me do all this, and, in the same breath, bid farewell for ever to you and happiness? — It is impossible — I cannot surrender at once my love and my honour.”
“There is no remedy,” said Alice, but she could not suppress a sigh while she said so —“there is no remedy — none whatever. What we might have been to each other, placed in more favourable circumstances, it avails not to think of now; and, circumstanced as we are, with open war about to break out betwixt our parents and friends, we can be but well-wishers — cold and distant well-wishers, who must part on this spot, and at this hour, never meet again.”
“No, by Heaven!” said Peveril, animated at the same time by his own feelings, and by the sight of the emotions which his companion in vain endeavoured to suppress — “No, by Heaven!” he exclaimed, “we part not — Alice, we part not. If I am to leave my native land, you shall be my companion in my exile. What have you to lose? — Whom have you to abandon? — Your father? — The good old cause, as it is termed, is dearer to him than a thousand daughters; and setting him aside, what tie is there between you and this barren isle — between my Alice and any spot of the British dominions, where her Julian does not sit by her?”
“O Julian,” answered the maiden, “why make my duty more painful by visionary projects, which you ought not to name, or I to listen to? Your parents — my father — it cannot be!”
“Fear not for my parents, Alice,” replied Julian, and pressing close to his companion’s side, he ventured to throw his arm around her; “they love me, and they will soon learn to love, in Alice, the only being on earth who could have rendered their son happy. And for your own father, when State and Church intrigues allow him to bestow a thought upon you, will he not think that your happiness, your security, is better cared for when you are my wife, than were you to continue under the mercenary charge of yonder foolish woman? What could his pride desire better for you, than the establishment which will one day be mine? Come then, Alice, and since you condemn me to banishment — since you deny me a share in those stirring achievements which are about to agitate England — come! do you — for you only can — do you reconcile me to exile and inaction, and give happiness to one, who, for your sake, is willing to resign honour.”
“It cannot — it cannot be,” said Alice, faltering as she uttered her negative. “And yet,” she said, “how many in my place — left alone and unprotected, as I am — But I must not — I must not — for your sake, Julian, I must not.”
“Say not for my sake you must not, Alice,” said Peveril eagerly; “this is adding insult to cruelty. If you will do aught for my sake, you will say yes; or you will suffer this dear head to drop on my shoulder — the slightest sign — the moving of an eyelid, shall signify consent. All shall be prepared within an hour; within another the priest shall unite us; and within a third, we leave the isle behind us, and seek our fortunes on the continent.” But while he spoke, in joyful anticipation of the consent which he implored, Alice found means to collect together her resolution, which, staggered by the eagerness of her lover, the impulse of her own affections, and the singularity of her situation — seeming, in her case, to justify what would have been most blamable in another — had more than half abandoned her.
The result of a moment’s deliberation was fatal to Julian’s proposal. She extricated herself from the arm which had pressed her to his side — arose, and repelling his attempts to approach or detain her, said, with a simplicity not unmingled with dignity, “Julian, I always knew I risked much in inviting you to this meeting; but I did not guess that I could have been so cruel to both to you and to myself, as to suffer you to discover what you have today seen too plainly — that I love you better than you love me. But since you do know it, I will show you that Alice’s love is disinterested — She will not bring an ignoble name into your ancient house. If hereafter, in your line, there should arise some who may think the claims of the hierarchy too exorbitant, the powers of the crown too extensive, men shall not say these ideas were derived from Alice Bridgenorth, their whig granddame.”
“Can you speak thus, Alice?” said her lover. “Can you use such expressions? and are you not sensible that they show plainly it is your own pride, not regard for me, that makes you resist the happiness of both?”
“Not so, Julian; not so,” answered Alice, with tears in her eyes; “it is the command of duty to us both — of duty, which we cannot transgress, without risking our happiness here and hereafter. Think what I, the cause of all, should feel, when your father frowns, your mother weeps, your noble friends stand aloof, and you, even you yourself, shall have made the painful discovery, that you have incurred the contempt and resentment of all to satisfy a boyish passion; and that the poor beauty, once sufficient to mislead you, is gradually declining under the influence of grief and vexation. This I will not risk. I see distinctly it is best we should here break off and part; and I thank God, who gives me light enough to perceive, and strength enough to withstand, your folly as well as my own. Farewell, then, Julian; but first take the solemn advice which I called you hither to impart to you:— Shun my father — you cannot walk in his paths, and be true to gratitude and to honour. What he doth from pure and honourable motives, you cannot aid him in, except upon the suggestion of a silly and interested passion, at variance with all the engagements you have formed at coming into life.”
“Once more, Alice,” answered Julian, “I understand you not. If a course of action is good, it needs no vindication from the actor’s motives — if bad, it can derive none.”
“You cannot blind me with your sophistry, Julian,” replied Alice Bridgenorth, “any more than you can overpower me with your passion. Had the patriarch destined his son to death upon any less ground than faith and humble obedience to a divine commandment, he had meditated a murder and not a sacrifice. In our late bloody and lamentable wars, how many drew swords on either side, from the purest and most honourable motives? How many from the culpable suggestions of ambition, self-seeking, and love of plunder? Yet while they marched in the same ranks, and spurred their horses at the same trumpet-sound, the memory of the former is dear to us as patriots or loyalists — that of those who acted on mean or unworthy promptings, is either execrated or forgotten. Once more, I warn you, avoid my father — leave this island, which will be soon agitated by strange incidents — while you stay, be on your guard — distrust everything — be jealous of every one, even of those to whom it may seem almost impossible, from circumstances, to attach a shadow of suspicion — trust not the very stones of the most secret apartment in Holm-Peel, for that which hath wings shall carry the matter.”
Here Alice broke off suddenly, and with a faint shriek; for, stepping from behind the stunted copse which had concealed him, her father stood unexpectedly before them.
The reader cannot have forgotten that this was the second time in which the stolen interviews of the lovers had been interrupted by the unexpected apparition of Major Bridgenorth. On this second occasion his countenance exhibited anger mixed with solemnity, like that of the spirit to a ghost-seer, whom he upbraids with having neglected a charge imposed at their first meeting. Even his anger, however, produced no more violent emotion than a cold sternness of manner in his speech and action. “I thank you, Alice,” he said to his daughter, “for the pains you have taken to traverse my designs towards this young man, and towards yourself. I thank you for the hints you have thrown out before my appearance, the suddenness of which alone has prevented you from carrying your confidence to a pitch which would have placed my life and that of others at the discretion of a boy, who, when the cause of God and his country is laid before him, has not leisure to think of them, so much is he occupied with such a baby-face as thine.” Alice, pale as death, continued motionless, with her eyes fixed on the ground, without attempting the slightest reply to the ironical reproaches of her father.
“And you,” continued Major Bridgenorth, turning from his daughter to her lover — “you sir, have well repaid the liberal confidence which I placed in you with so little reserve. You I have to thank also for some lessons, which may teach me to rest satisfied with the churl’s blood which nature has poured into my veins, and with the rude nurture which my father allotted to me.”
“I understand you not, sir,” replied Julian Peveril, who, feeling the necessity of saying something, could not, at the moment, find anything more fitting to say.
“Yes, sir, I thank you,” said Major Bridgenorth, in the same cold sarcastic tone, “for having shown me that breach of hospitality, infringement of good faith, and such like peccadilloes, are not utterly foreign to the mind and conduct of the heir of a knightly house of twenty descents. It is a great lesson to me, sir: for hitherto I had thought with the vulgar, that gentle manners went with gentle blood. But perhaps courtesy is too chivalrous a quality to be wasted in intercourse with a round-headed fanatic like myself.”
“Major Bridgenorth,” said Julian, “whatever has happened in this interview which may have displeased you, has been the result of feelings suddenly and strongly animated by the crisis of the moment — nothing was premeditated.”
“Not even your meeting, I suppose?” replied Bridgenorth, in the same cold tone. “You, sir, wandered hither from Holm-Peel — my daughter strolled forth from the Black Fort; and chance, doubtless, assigned you a meeting by the stone of Goddard Crovan? — Young man, disgrace yourself by no more apologies — they are worse than useless. — And you, maiden, who, in your fear of losing your lover, could verge on betraying what might have cost a father his life — begone to your home. I will talk with you at more leisure, and teach you practically those duties which you seem to have forgotten.”
“On my honour, sir,” said Julian, “your daughter is guiltless of all that can offend you; she resisted every offer which the headstrong violence of my passion urged me to press upon her.”
“And, in brief,” said Bridgenorth, “I am not to believe that you met in this remote place of rendezvous by Alice’s special appointment?”
Peveril knew not what to reply, and Bridgenorth again signed with his hand to his daughter to withdraw.
“I obey you, father,” said Alice, who had by this time recovered from the extremity of her surprise — “I obey you; but Heaven is my witness that you do me more than injustice in suspecting me capable of betraying your secrets, even had it been necessary to save my own life or that of Julian. That you are walking in a dangerous path I well know; but you do it with your eyes open, and are actuated by motives of which you can estimate the worth and value. My sole wish was, that this young man should not enter blindfold on the same perils; and I had a right to warn him, since the feelings by which he is hoodwinked had a direct reference to me.”
“’Tis well, minion,” said Bridgenorth, “you have spoken your say. Retire, and let me complete the conference which you have so considerately commenced.”
“I go, sir,” said Alice. —“Julian, to you my last words are, and I would speak them with my last breath — Farewell, and caution!”
She turned from them, disappeared among the underwood, and was seen no more.
“A true specimen of womankind,” said her father, looking after her, “who would give the cause of nations up, rather than endanger a hair of her lover’s head. — You, Master Peveril, doubtless, hold her opinion, that the best love is a safe love!”
“Were danger alone in my way,” said Peveril, much surprised at the softened tone in which Bridgenorth made this observation, “there are few things which I would not face to — to — deserve your good opinion.”
“Or rather to win my daughter’s hand,” said Bridgenorth. “Well, young man, one thing has pleased me in your conduct, though of much I have my reasons to complain — one thing has pleased me. You have surmounted that bounding wall of aristocratical pride, in which your father, and, I suppose, his fathers, remained imprisoned, as in the precincts of a feudal fortress — you have leaped over this barrier, and shown yourself not unwilling to ally yourself with a family whom your father spurns as low-born and ignoble.”
However favourable this speech sounded towards success in his suit, it so broadly stated the consequences of that success so far as his parents were concerned, that Julian felt it in the last degree difficult to reply. At length, perceiving that Major Bridgenorth seemed resolved quietly to await his answer, he mustered up courage to say, “The feelings which I entertain towards your daughter, Master Bridgenorth, are of a nature to supersede many other considerations, to which in any other case, I should feel it my duty to give the most reverential attention. I will not disguise from you, that my father’s prejudices against such a match would be very strong; but I devoutly believe they would disappear when he came to know the merit of Alice Bridgenorth, and to be sensible that she only could make his son happy.”
“In the meanwhile, you are desirous to complete the union which you propose without the knowledge of your parents, and take the chance of their being hereafter reconciled to it? So I understand, from the proposal which you made but lately to my daughter.”
The turns of human nature, and of human passion, are so irregular and uncertain, that although Julian had but a few minutes before urged to Alice a private marriage, and an elopement to the continent, as a measure upon which the whole happiness of his life depended, the proposal seemed not to him half so delightful when stated by the calm, cold, dictatorial accents of her father. It sounded no longer like the dictates of ardent passion, throwing all other considerations aside, but as a distinct surrender of the dignity of his house to one who seemed to consider their relative situation as the triumph of Bridgenorth over Peveril. He was mute for a moment, in the vain attempt to shape his answer so as at once to intimate acquiescence in what Bridgenorth stated, and a vindication of his own regard for his parents, and for the honour of his house.
This delay gave rise to suspicion, and Bridgenorth’s eye gleamed, and his lip quivered while he gave vent to it. “Hark ye, young man — deal openly with me in this matter, if you would not have me think you the execrable villain who would have seduced an unhappy girl, under promises which he never designed to fulfil. Let me but suspect this, and you shall see, on the spot, how far your pride and your pedigree will preserve you against the just vengeance of a father.”
“You do me wrong,” said Peveril —“you do me infinite wrong, Major Bridgenorth, I am incapable of the infamy which you allude to. The proposal I made to your daughter was as sincere as ever was offered by man to woman. I only hesitated, because you think it necessary to examine me so very closely; and to possess yourself of all my purposes and sentiments, in their fullest extent, without explaining to me the tendency of your own.”
“Your proposal, then, shapes itself thus,” said Bridgenorth:—“You are willing to lead my only child into exile from her native country, to give her a claim to kindness and protection from your family, which you know will be disregarded, on condition I consent to bestow her hand on you, with a fortune sufficient to have matched your ancestors, when they had most reason to boast of their wealth. This, young man, seems no equal bargain. And yet,” he continued, after a momentary pause, “so little do I value the goods of this world, that it might not be utterly beyond thy power to reconcile me to the match which you have proposed to me, however unequal it may appear.”
“Show me but the means which can propitiate your favour, Major Bridgenorth,” said Peveril — “for I will not doubt that they will be consistent with my honour and duty — and you shall soon see how eagerly I will obey your directions, or submit to your conditions.”
“They are summed in few words,” answered Bridgenorth. “Be an honest man, and the friend of your country.”
“No one has ever doubted,” replied Peveril, “that I am both.”
“Pardon me,” replied the Major; “no one has, as yet, seen you show yourself either. Interrupt me not — I question not your will to be both; but you have hitherto neither had the light nor the opportunity necessary for the display of your principles, or the service of your country. You have lived when an apathy of mind, succeeding to the agitations of the Civil War, had made men indifferent to state affairs, and more willing to cultivate their own ease, than to stand in the gap when the Lord was pleading with Israel. But we are Englishmen; and with us such unnatural lethargy cannot continue long. Already, many of those who most desired the return of Charles Stewart, regard him as a King whom Heaven, importuned by our entreaties, gave to us in His anger. His unlimited licence — and example so readily followed by the young and the gay around him — has disgusted the minds of all sober and thinking men. I had not now held conference with you in this intimate fashion, were I not aware that you, Master Julian, were free from such stain of the times. Heaven, that rendered the King’s course of license fruitful, had denied issue to his bed of wedlock; and in the gloomy and stern character of his bigoted successor, we already see what sort of monarch shall succeed to the crown of England. This is a critical period, at which it necessarily becomes the duty of all men to step forward, each in his degree, and aid in rescuing the country which gave us birth.” Peveril remembered the warning which he had received from Alice, and bent his eyes on the ground, without returning any reply. “How is it, young man,” continued Bridgenorth, after a pause —“so young as thou art, and bound by no ties of kindred profligacy with the enemies of your country, you can be already hardened to the claims she may form on you at this crisis?”
“It were easy to answer you generally, Major Bridgenorth,” replied Peveril —“It were easy to say that my country cannot make a claim on me which I will not promptly answer at the risk of lands and life. But in dealing thus generally, we should but deceive each other. What is the nature of this call? By whom is it to be sounded? And what are to be the results? for I think you have already seen enough of the evils of civil war, to be wary of again awakening its terrors in a peaceful and happy country.”
“They that are drenched with poisonous narcotics,” said the Major, “must be awakened by their physicians, though it were with the sound of the trumpet. Better that men should die bravely, with their arms in their hands, like free-born Englishmen, than that they should slide into the bloodless but dishonoured grave which slavery opens for its vassals — But it is not of war that I was about to speak,” he added, assuming a milder tone. “The evils of which England now complains, are such as can be remedied by the wholesome administration of her own laws, even in the state in which they are still suffered to exist. Have these laws not a right to the support of every individual who lives under them? Have they not a right to yours?”
As he seemed to pause for an answer, Peveril replied, “I have to learn, Major Bridgenorth, how the laws of England have become so far weakened as to require such support as mine. When that is made plain to me, no man will more willingly discharge the duty of a faithful liegeman to the law as well as the King. But the laws of England are under the guardianship of upright and learned judges, and of a gracious monarch.”
“And of a House of Commons,” interrupted Bridgenorth, “no longer doting upon restored monarchy, but awakened, as with a peal of thunder, to the perilous state of our religion, and of our freedom. I appeal to your own conscience, Julian Peveril, whether this awakening hath not been in time, since you yourself know, and none better than you, the secret but rapid strides which Rome has made to erect her Dagon of idolatry within our Protestant land.”
Here Julian seeing, or thinking he saw, the drift of Bridgenorth’s suspicions, hastened to exculpate himself from the thought of favouring the Roman Catholic religion. “It is true,” he said, “I have been educated in a family where that faith is professed by one honoured individual, and that I have since travelled in Popish countries; but even for these very reasons I have seen Popery too closely to be friendly to its tenets. The bigotry of the laymen — the persevering arts of the priesthood — the perpetual intrigue for the extension of the forms without the spirit of religion — the usurpation of that Church over the consciences of men — and her impious pretensions to infallibility, are as inconsistent to my mind as they can seem to yours, with common-sense, rational liberty, freedom of conscience, and pure religion.”
“Spoken like the son of your excellent mother,” said Bridgenorth, grasping his hand; “for whose sake I have consented to endure so much from your house unrequited, even when the means of requital were in my own hand.”
“It was indeed from the instructions of that excellent parent,” said Peveril, “that I was enabled, in my early youth, to resist and repel the insidious attacks made upon my religious faith by the Catholic priests into whose company I was necessarily thrown. Like her, I trust to live and die in the faith of the reformed Church of England.”
“The Church of England!” said Bridgenorth, dropping his young friend’s hand, but presently resuming it —“Alas! that Church, as now constituted, usurps scarcely less than Rome herself upon men’s consciences and liberties; yet, out of the weakness of this half-reformed Church, may God be pleased to work out deliverance to England, and praise to Himself. I must not forget, that one whose services have been in the cause incalculable, wears the garb of an English priest, and hath had Episcopal ordination. It is not for us to challenge the instrument, so that our escape is achieved from the net of the fowler. Enough, that I find thee not as yet enlightened with the purer doctrine, but prepared to profit by it when the spark shall reach thee. Enough, in especial, that I find thee willing to uplift thy testimony to cry aloud and spare not, against the errors and arts of the Church of Rome. But remember, what thou hast now said, thou wilt soon be called upon to justify, in a manner the most solemn — the most awful.”
“What I have said,” replied Julian Peveril, “being the unbiassed sentiments of my heart, shall, upon no proper occasion, want the support of my open avowal; and I think it strange you should doubt me so far.”
“I doubt thee not, my young friend,” said Bridgenorth; “and I trust to see that name rank high amongst those by whom the prey shall be rent from the mighty. At present, thy prejudices occupy thy mind like the strong keeper of the house mentioned in Scripture. But there shall come a stronger than he, and make forcible entry, displaying on the battlements that sign of faith in which alone there is found salvation. — Watch, hope, and pray, that the hour may come.”
There was a pause in the conversation, which was first broken by Peveril. “You have spoken to me in riddles, Major Bridgenorth; and I have asked you for no explanation. Listen to a caution on my part, given with the most sincere good-will. Take a hint from me, and believe it, though it is darkly expressed. You are here — at least are believed to be here — on an errand dangerous to the Lord of the island. That danger will be retorted on yourself, if you make Man long your place of residence. Be warned, and depart in time.”
“And leave my daughter to the guardianship of Julian Peveril! Runs not your counsel so, young man?” answered Bridgenorth. “Trust my safety, Julian, to my own prudence. I have been accustomed to guide myself through worse dangers than now environ me. But I thank you for your caution, which I am willing to believe was at least partly disinterested.”
“We do not, then, part in anger?” said Peveril.
“Not in anger, my son,” said Bridgenorth, “but in love and strong affection. For my daughter, thou must forbear every thought of seeing her, save through me. I accept not thy suit, neither do I reject it; only this I intimate to you, that he who would be my son, must first show himself the true and loving child of his oppressed and deluded country. Farewell; do not answer me now, thou art yet in the gall of bitterness, and it may be that strife (which I desire not) should fall between us. Thou shalt hear of me sooner than thou thinkest for.”
He shook Peveril heartily by the hand, and again bid him farewell, leaving him under the confused and mingled impression of pleasure, doubt, and wonder. Not a little surprised to find himself so far in the good graces of Alice’s father, that his suit was even favoured with a sort of negative encouragement, he could not help suspecting, as well from the language of the daughter as of the father, that Bridgenorth was desirous, as the price of his favour, that he should adopt some line of conduct inconsistent with the principles in which he had been educated.
“You need not fear, Alice,” he said in his heart; “not even your hand would I purchase by aught which resembled unworthy or truckling compliance with tenets which my heart disowns; and well I know, were I mean enough to do so, even the authority of thy father were insufficient to compel thee to the ratification of so mean a bargain. But let me hope better things. Bridgenorth, though strong-minded and sagacious, is haunted by the fears of Popery, which are the bugbears of his sect. My residence in the family of the Countess of Derby is more than enough to inspire him with suspicions of my faith, from which, thank Heaven, I can vindicate myself with truth and a good conscience.”
So thinking, he again adjusted the girths of his palfrey, replaced the bit which he had slipped out of its mouth, that it might feed at liberty, and mounting, pursued his way back to the Castle of Holm-Peel, where he could not help fearing that something extraordinary might have happened in his absence.
But the old pile soon rose before him, serene, and sternly still, amid the sleeping ocean. The banner, which indicated that the Lord of Man held residence within its ruinous precincts, hung motionless by the ensign-staff. The sentinels walked to and fro on their posts, and hummed or whistled their Manx airs. Leaving his faithful companion, Fairy, in the village as before, Julian entered the Castle, and found all within in the same state of quietness and good order which external appearances had announced.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13