The course of human life is changeful still,
As is the fickle wind and wandering rill;
Or, like the light dance which the wild-breeze weaves
Amidst the fated race of fallen leaves;
Which now its breath bears down, now tosses high,
Beats to the earth, or wafts to middle sky.
Such, and so varied, the precarious play
Of fate with man, frail tenant of a day!
Whilst, overcome with fatigue, and worn out by anxiety, Julian Peveril slumbered as a prisoner in the house of his hereditary enemy, Fortune was preparing his release by one of those sudden frolics with which she loves to confound the calculations and expectancies of humanity; and as she fixes on strange agents for such purposes, she condescended to employ on the present occasion, no less a personage than Mistress Deborah Debbitch.
Instigated, doubtless, by the pristine reminiscences of former times, no sooner had that most prudent and considerate dame found herself in the vicinity of the scenes of her earlier days, than she bethought herself of a visit to the ancient house-keeper of Martindale Castle, Dame Ellesmere by name, who, long retired from active service, resided at the keeper’s lodge, in the west thicket, with her nephew, Lance Outram, subsisting upon the savings of her better days, and on a small pension allowed by Sir Geoffrey to her age and faithful services.
Now Dame Ellesmere and Mistress Deborah had not by any means been formerly on so friendly a footing, as this haste to visit her might be supposed to intimate. But years had taught Deborah to forget and forgive; or perhaps she had no special objection, under cover of a visit to Dame Ellesmere, to take the chance of seeing what changes time had made on her old admirer the keeper. Both inhabitants were in the cottage when, after having seen her master set forth on his expedition to the Castle, Mistress Debbitch, dressed in her very best gown, footed it through gutter, and over stile, and by pathway green, to knock at their door, and to lift the hatch at the hospitable invitation which bade her come in.
Dame Ellesmere’s eyes were so often dim, that, even with the aid of spectacles, she failed to recognise, in the portly and mature personage who entered their cottage, the tight well-made lass, who, presuming on her good looks and flippant tongue, had so often provoked her by insubordination; and her former lover, the redoubted Lance, not being conscious that ale had given rotundity to his own figure, which was formerly so slight and active, and that brandy had transferred to his nose the colour which had once occupied his cheeks, was unable to discover that Deborah’s French cap, composed of sarsenet and Brussels lace, shaded the features which had so often procured him a rebuke from Dr. Dummerar, for suffering his eyes, during the time of prayers, to wander to the maid-servants’ bench.
In brief, the blushing visitor was compelled to make herself known; and when known, was received by aunt and nephew with the most sincere cordiality.
The home-brewed was produced; and, in lieu of more vulgar food, a few slices of venison presently hissed in the frying pan, giving strong room for inference that Lance Outram, in his capacity of keeper, neglected not his own cottage when he supplied the larder at the Castle. A modest sip of the excellent Derbyshire ale, and a taste of the highly-seasoned hash, soon placed Deborah entirely at home with her old acquaintance.
Having put all necessary questions, and received all suitable answers, respecting the state of the neighbourhood, and such of her own friends as continued to reside there, the conversation began rather to flag, until Deborah found the art of again re-newing its interest, by communicating to her friends the dismal intelligence that they must soon look for deadly bad news from the Castle; for that her present master, Major Bridgenorth, had been summoned, by some great people from London, to assist in taking her old master, Sir Geoffrey; and that all Master Bridgenorth’s servants, and several other persons whom she named, friends and adherents of the same interest, had assembled a force to surprise the Castle; and that as Sir Geoffrey was now so old, and gouty withal, it could not be expected he should make the defence he was wont; and then he was known to be so stout-hearted, that it was not to be supposed that he would yield up without stroke of sword; and then if he was killed, as he was like to be, amongst them that liked never a bone of his body, and now had him at their mercy, why, in that case, she, Dame Deborah, would look upon Lady Peveril as little better than a dead woman; and undoubtedly there would be a general mourning through all that country, where they had such great kin; and silks were likely to rise on it, as Master Lutestring, the mercer of Chesterfield, was like to feel in his purse bottom. But for her part, let matters wag how they would, an if Master Julian Peveril was to come to his own, she could give as near a guess as e’er another who was likely to be Lady at Martindale.
The text of this lecture, or, in other words, the fact that Bridgenorth was gone with a party to attack Sir Geoffrey Peveril in his own Castle of Martindale, sounded so stunningly strange in the ears of those old retainers of his family, that they had no power either to attend to Mistress Deborah’s inferences, or to interrupt the velocity of speech with which she poured them forth. And when at length she made a breathless pause, all that poor Dame Ellesmere could reply, was the emphatic question, “Bridgenorth brave Peveril of the Peak! — Is the woman mad?”
“Come, come, dame,” said Deborah, “woman me no more than I woman you. I have not been called Mistress at the head of the table for so many years, to be woman’d here by you. And for the news, it is as true as that you are sitting there in a white hood, who will wear a black one ere long.”
“Lance Outram,” said the old woman, “make out, if thou be’st a man, and listen about if aught stirs up at the Castle.”
“If there should,” said Outram, “I am even too long here;” and he caught up his crossbow, and one or two arrows, and rushed out of the cottage.
“Well-a-day!” said Mistress Deborah, “see if my news have not frightened away Lance Outram too, whom they used to say nothing could start. But do not take on so, dame; for I dare say if the Castle and the lands pass to my new master, Major Bridgenorth, as it is like they will — for I have heard that he has powerful debts over the estate — you shall have my good word with him, and I promise you he is no bad man; something precise about preaching and praying, and about the dress which one should wear, which, I must own, beseems not a gentleman, as, to be sure, every woman knows best what becomes her. But for you, dame, that wear a prayer-book at your girdle, with your housewife-case, and never change the fashion of your white hood, I dare say he will not grudge you the little matter you need, and are not able to win.”
“Out, sordid jade!” exclaimed Dame Ellesmere, her very flesh quivering betwixt apprehension and anger, “and hold your peace this instant, or I will find those that shall flay the very hide from thee with dog-whips. Hast thou ate thy noble master’s bread, not only to betray his trust, and fly from his service, but wouldst thou come here, like an ill-omened bird as thou art, to triumph over his downfall?”
“Nay, dame,” said Deborah, over whom the violence of the old woman had obtained a certain predominance; “it is not I that say it — only the warrant of the Parliament folks.”
“I thought we had done with their warrants ever since the blessed twenty-ninth of May,” said the old housekeeper of Martindale Castle; “but this I tell thee, sweetheart, that I have seen such warrants crammed, at the sword’s point, down the throats of them that brought them; and so shall this be, if there is one true man left to drink of the Dove.”
As she spoke, Lance Outram re-entered the cottage. “Naunt,” he said in dismay, “I doubt it is true what she says. The beacon tower is as black as my belt. No Pole-star of Peveril. What does that betoken?”
“Death, ruin, and captivity,” exclaimed old Ellesmere. “Make for the Castle, thou knave. Thrust in thy great body. Strike for the house that bred thee and fed thee; and if thou art buried under the ruins, thou diest a man’s death.”
“Nay, naunt, I shall not be slack,” answered Outram. “But here come folks that I warrant can tell us more on’t.”
One or two of the female servants, who had fled from the Castle during the alarm, now rushed in with various reports of the case; but all agreeing that a body of armed men were in possession of the Castle, and that Major Bridgenorth had taken young Master Julian prisoner, and conveyed him down to Moultrassie Hall, with his feet tied under the belly of the nag — a shameful sight to be seen — and he so well born and so handsome.
Lance scratched his head; and though feeling the duty incumbent upon him as a faithful servant, which was indeed specially dinned into him by the cries and exclamations of his aunt, he seemed not a little dubious how to conduct himself. “I would to God, naunt,” he said at last, “that old Whitaker were alive now, with his long stories about Marston Moor and Edge Hill, that made us all yawn our jaws off their hinges, in spite of broiled rashers and double beer! When a man is missed, he is moaned, as they say; and I would rather than a broad piece he had been here to have sorted this matter, for it is clean out of my way as a woodsman, that have no skill of war. But dang it, if old Sir Geoffrey go to the wall without a knock for it! — Here you, Nell”—(speaking to one of the fugitive maidens from the Castle)— “but, no — you have not the heart of a cat, and are afraid of your own shadow by moonlight — But, Cis, you are a stout-hearted wench, and know a buck from a bullfinch. Hark thee, Cis, as you would wish to be married, get up to the Castle again, and get thee in-thou best knowest where — for thou hast oft gotten out of postern to a dance or junketing, to my knowledge — Get thee back to the Castle, as ye hope to be married — See my lady — they cannot hinder thee of that — my lady has a head worth twenty of ours — If I am to gather force, light up the beacon for a signal; and spare not a tar barrel on’t. Thou mayst do it safe enough. I warrant the Roundheads busy with drink and plunder. — And, hark thee, say to my lady I am gone down to the miners’ houses at Bonadventure. The rogues were mutinying for their wages but yesterday; they will be all ready for good or bad. Let her send orders down to me; or do you come yourself, your legs are long enough.”
“Whether they are or not, Master Lance (and you know nothing of the matter), they shall do your errand to-night, for love of the old knight and his lady.”
So Cisly Sellok, a kind of Derbyshire Camilla, who had won the smock at the foot-race at Ashbourne, sprung forward towards the Castle with a speed which few could have equalled.
“There goes a mettled wench,” said Lance; “and now, naunt, give me the old broadsword — it is above the bed-head — and my wood-knife; and I shall do well enough.”
“And what is to become of me?” bleated the unfortunate Mistress Deborah Debbitch.
“You must remain here with my aunt, Mistress Deb; and, for old acquaintance’ sake, she will take care no harm befalls you; but take heed how you attempt to break bounds.”
So saying, and pondering in his own mind the task which he had undertaken, the hardy forester strode down the moonlight glade, scarcely hearing the blessings and cautions which Dame Ellesmere kept showering after him. His thoughts were not altogether warlike. “What a tight ankle the jade hath! — she trips it like a doe in summer over dew. Well, but here are the huts — Let us to this gear. — Are ye all asleep, you dammers, sinkers, and drift-drivers? turn out, ye subterranean badgers. Here is your master, Sir Geoffrey, dead, for aught ye know or care. Do not you see the beacon is unlit, and you sit there like so many asses?”
“Why,” answered one of the miners, who now began to come out of their huts —
“An he be dead,
He will eat no more bread.”
“And you are like to eat none neither,” said Lance; “for the works will be presently stopped, and all of you turned off.”
“Well, and what of it, Master Lance? As good play for nought as work for nought. Here is four weeks we have scarce seen the colour of Sir Geoffrey’s coin; and you ask us to care whether he be dead or in life? For you, that goes about, trotting upon your horse, and doing for work what all men do for pleasure, it may be well enough; but it is another matter to be leaving God’s light, and burrowing all day and night in darkness, like a toad in a hole — that’s not to be done for nought, I trow; and if Sir Geoffrey is dead, his soul will suffer for’t; and if he’s alive, we’ll have him in the Barmoot Court.”
“Hark ye, gaffer,” said Lance, “and take notice, my mates, all of you,” for a considerable number of these rude and subterranean people had now assembled to hear the discussion —“Has Sir Geoffrey, think you, ever put a penny in his pouch out of this same Bonadventure mine?”
“I cannot say as I think he has,” answered old Ditchley, the party who maintained the controversy.
“Answer on your conscience, though it be but a leaden one. Do not you know that he hath lost a good penny?”
“Why, I believe he may,” said Gaffer Ditchley. “What then! — lose today, win tomorrow — the miner must eat in the meantime.”
“True; but what will you eat when Master Bridgenorth gets the land, that will not hear of a mine being wrought on his own ground? Will he work on at dead loss, think ye?” demanded trusty Lance.
“Bridgenorth? — he of Moultrassie Hall, that stopped the great Felicity Work, on which his father laid out, some say, ten thousand pounds, and never got in a penny? Why, what has he to do with Sir Geoffrey’s property down here at Bonadventure? It was never his, I trow.”
“Nay, what do I know?” answered Lance, who saw the impression he had made. “Law and debt will give him half Derbyshire, I think, unless you stand by old Sir Geoffrey.”
“But if Sir Geoffrey be dead,” said Ditchley cautiously, “what good will our standing by do to him?”
“I did not say he was dead, but only as bad as dead; in the hands of the Roundheads — a prisoner up yonder, at his own Castle,” said Lance; “and will have his head cut off, like the good Earl of Derby’s at Bolton-le-Moors.”
“Nay, then, comrades,” said Gaffer Ditchley, “an it be as Master Lance says, I think we should bear a hand for stout old Sir Geoffrey, against a low-born mean-spirited fellow like Bridgenorth, who shut up a shaft had cost thousands, without getting a penny profit on’t. So hurra for Sir Geoffrey, and down with the Rump! But hold ye a blink — hold”—(and the waving of his hand stopped the commencing cheer)— “Hark ye, Master Lance, it must be all over, for the beacon is as black as night; and you know yourself that marks the Lord’s death.”
“It will kindle again in an instant,” said Lance; internally adding, “I pray to God it may! — It will kindle in an instant — lack of fuel, and the confusion of the family.”
“Ay, like enow, like enow,” said Ditchley; “but I winna budge till I see it blazing.”
“Why then, there a-goes!” said Lance. “Thank thee, Cis — thank thee, my good wench. — Believe your own eyes, my lads, if you will not believe me; and now hurra for Peveril of the Peak — the King and his friends — and down with Rumps and Roundheads!”
The sudden rekindling of the beacon had all the effect which Lance could have desired upon the minds of his rude and ignorant hearers, who, in their superstitious humour, had strongly associated the Polar-star of Peveril with the fortunes of the family. Once moved, according to the national character of their countrymen, they soon became enthusiastic; and Lance found himself at the head of thirty stout fellows and upwards, armed with their pick-axes, and ready to execute whatever task he should impose on them.
Trusting to enter the Castle by the postern, which had served to accommodate himself and other domestics upon an emergency, his only anxiety was to keep his march silent; and he earnestly recommended to his followers to reserve their shouts for the moment of the attack. They had not advanced far on their road to the Castle, when Cisly Sellok met them so breathless with haste, that the poor girl was obliged to throw herself into Master Lance’s arms.
“Stand up, my mettled wench,” said he, giving her a sly kiss at the same time, “and let us know what is going on up at the Castle.”
“My lady bids you, as you would serve God and your master, not to come up to the Castle, which can but make bloodshed; for she says Sir Geoffrey is lawfully in hand, and that he must bide the issue; and that he is innocent of what he is charged with, and is going up to speak for himself before King and Council, and she goes up with him. And besides, they have found out the postern, the Roundhead rogues; for two of them saw me when I went out of door, and chased me; but I showed them a fair pair of heels.”
“As ever dashed dew from the cowslip,” said Lance. “But what the foul fiend is to be done? for if they have secured the postern, I know not how the dickens we can get in.”
“All is fastened with bolt and staple, and guarded with gun and pistol, at the Castle,” quoth Cisly; “and so sharp are they, that they nigh caught me coming with my lady’s message, as I told you. But my lady says, if you could deliver her son, Master Julian, from Bridgenorth, that she would hold it good service.”
“What!” said Lance, “is young master at the Castle? I taught him to shoot his first shaft. But how to get in!”
“He was at the Castle in the midst of the ruffle, but old Bridgenorth has carried him down prisoner to the hall,” answered Cisly. “There was never faith nor courtesy in an old Puritan who never had pipe and tabor in his house since it was built.”
“Or who stopped a promising mine,” said Ditchley, “to save a few thousand pounds, when he might have made himself as rich as Lord of Chatsworth, and fed a hundred good fellows all the whilst.”
“Why, then,” said Lance, “since you are all of a mind, we will go draw the cover for the old badger; and I promise you that the Hall is not like one of your real houses of quality where the walls are as thick as whinstone-dikes, but foolish brick-work, that your pick-axes will work through as if it were cheese. Huzza once more for Peveril of the Peak! down with Bridgenorth, and all upstart cuckoldly Roundheads!”
Having indulged the throats of his followers with one buxom huzza, Lance commanded them to cease their clamours, and proceeded to conduct them, by such paths as seemed the least likely to be watched, to the courtyard of Moultrassie Hall. On the road they were joined by several stout yeoman farmers, either followers of the Peveril family, or friends to the High Church and Cavalier party; most of whom, alarmed by the news which began to fly fast through the neighbourhood, were armed with sword and pistol.
Lance Outram halted his party, at the distance, as he himself described it, of a flight-shot from the house, and advanced, alone, and in silence, to reconnoitre; and having previously commanded Ditchley and his subterranean allies to come to his assistance whenever he should whistle, he crept cautiously forward, and soon found that those whom he came to surprise, true to the discipline which had gained their party such decided superiority during the Civil War, had posted a sentinel, who paced through the courtyard, piously chanting a psalm-tune, while his arms, crossed on his bosom, supported a gun of formidable length.
“Now, a true solder,” said Lance Outram to himself, “would put a stop to thy snivelling ditty, by making a broad arrow quiver in your heart, and no great alarm given. But, dang it, I have not the right spirit for a soldier — I cannot fight a man till my blood’s up; and for shooting him from behind a wall it is cruelly like to stalking a deer. I’ll e’en face him, and try what to make of him.”
With this doughty resolution, and taking no farther care to conceal himself, he entered the courtyard boldly, and was making forward to the front door of the hall, as a matter of course. But the old Cromwellian, who was on guard, had not so learned his duty. “Who goes there? — Stand, friend — stand; or, verily, I will shoot thee to death!” were challenges which followed each other quick, the last being enforced by the levelling and presenting the said long-barrelled gun with which he was armed.
“Why, what a murrain!” answered Lance. “Is it your fashion to go a-shooting at this time o’ night? Why, this is but a time for bat — fowling.”
“Nay, but hark thee, friend,” said the experienced sentinel, “I am none of those who do this work negligently. Thou canst not snare me with thy crafty speech, though thou wouldst make it to sound simple in mine ear. Of a verity I will shoot, unless thou tell thy name and business.”
“Name!” said Lance; “why, what a dickens should it be but Robin Round — honest Robin of Redham; and for business, an you must needs know, I come on a message from some Parliament man, up yonder at the Castle, with letters for worshipful Master Bridgenorth of Moultrassie Hall; and this be the place, as I think; though why ye be marching up and down at his door, like the sign of a Red Man, with your old firelock there, I cannot so well guess.”
“Give me the letters, my friend,” said the sentinel, to whom this explanation seemed very natural and probable, “and I will cause them forthwith to be delivered into his worship’s own hand.”
Rummaging in his pockets, as if to pull out the letters which never existed, Master Lance approached within the sentinel’s piece, and, before he was aware, suddenly seized him by the collar, whistled sharp and shrill, and exerting his skill as a wrestler, for which he had been distinguished in his youth, he stretched his antagonist on his back — the musket for which they struggled going off in the fall.
The miners rushed into the courtyard at Lance’s signal; and hopeless any longer of prosecuting his design in silence, Lance commanded two of them to secure the prisoner, and the rest to cheer loudly, and attack the door of the house. Instantly the courtyard of the mansion rang with the cry of “Peveril of the Peak for ever!” with all the abuse which the Royalists had invented to cast upon the Roundheads, during so many years of contention; and at the same time, while some assailed the door with their mining implements, others directed their attack against the angle, where a kind of porch joined to the main front of the building; and there, in some degree protected by the projection of the wall, and of a balcony which overhung the porch, wrought in more security, as well as with more effect, than the others; for the doors being of oak, thickly studded with nails, offered a more effectual resistance to violence than the brick-work.
The noise of this hubbub on the outside, soon excited wild alarm and tumult within. Lights flew from window to window, and voices were heard demanding the cause of the attack; to which the party cries of those who were in the courtyard afforded a sufficient, or at least the only answer, which was vouchsafed. At length the window of a projecting staircase opened, and the voice of Bridgenorth himself demanded authoritatively what the tumult meant, and commanded the rioters to desist, upon their own proper and immediate peril.
“We want our young master, you canting old thief,” was the reply; “and if we have him not instantly, the topmost stone of your house shall lie as low as the foundation.”
“We shall try that presently,” said Bridgenorth; “for if there is another blow struck against the walls of my peaceful house, I will fire my carabine among you, and your blood be upon your own head. I have a score of friends, well armed with musket and pistol, to defend my house; and we have both the means and heart, with Heaven’s assistance, to repay any violence you can offer.”
“Master Bridgenorth,” replied Lance, who, though no soldier, was sportsman enough to comprehend the advantage which those under cover, and using firearms, must necessarily have over his party, exposed to their aim, in a great measure, and without means of answering their fire — “Master Bridgenorth, let us crave parley with you, and fair conditions. We desire to do you no evil, but will have back our young master; it is enough that you have got our old one and his lady. It is foul chasing to kill hart, hind, and fawn; and we will give you some light on the subject in an instant.”
This speech was followed by a great crash amongst the lower windows of the house, according to a new species of attack which had been suggested by some of the assailants.
“I would take the honest fellow’s word, and let young Peveril go,” said one of the garrison, who, carelessly yawning, approached on the inside of the post at which Bridgenorth had stationed himself.
“Are you mad?” said Bridgenorth; “or do you think me poor enough in spirit to give up the advantages I now possess over the family of Peveril, for the awe of a parcel of boors, whom the first discharge will scatter like chaff before the whirlwind?”
“Nay,” answered the speaker, who was the same individual that had struck Julian by his resemblance to the man who called himself Ganlesse, “I love a dire revenge, but we shall buy it somewhat too dear if these rascals set the house on fire, as they are like to do, while you are parleying from the window. They have thrown torches or firebrands into the hall; and it is all our friends can do to keep the flame from catching the wainscoting, which is old and dry.”
“Now, may Heaven judge thee for thy lightness of spirit,” answered Bridgenorth; “one would think mischief was so properly thy element, that to thee it was indifferent whether friend or foe was the sufferer.”
So saying, he ran hastily downstairs towards the hall, into which, through broken casements, and betwixt the iron bars, which prevented human entrance, the assailants had thrust lighted straw, sufficient to excite much smoke and some fire, and to throw the defenders of the house into great confusion; insomuch, that of several shots fired hastily from the windows, little or no damage followed to the besiegers, who, getting warm on the onset, answered the hostile charges with loud shouts of “Peveril for ever!” and had already made a practicable breach through the brick-wall of the tenement, through which Lance, Ditchley, and several of the most adventurous among their followers, made their way into the hall.
The complete capture of the house remained, however, as far off as ever. The defenders mixed with much coolness and skill that solemn and deep spirit of enthusiasm which sets life at less than nothing, in comparison to real or supposed duty. From the half-open doors which led into the hall, they maintained a fire which began to grow fatal. One miner was shot dead; three or four were wounded; and Lance scarce knew whether he should draw his forces from the house, and leave it a prey to the flames, or, making a desperate attack on the posts occupied by the defenders, try to obtain unmolested possession of the place. At this moment, his course of conduct was determined by an unexpected occurrence, of which it is necessary to trace the cause.
Julian Peveril had been, like other inhabitants of Moultrassie Hall on that momentous night, awakened by the report of the sentinel’s musket, followed by the shouts of his father’s vassals and followers; of which he collected enough to guess that Bridgenorth’s house was attacked with a view to his liberation. Very doubtful of the issue of such an attempt, dizzy with the slumber from which he had been so suddenly awakened, and confounded with the rapid succession of events to which he had been lately a witness, he speedily put on a part of his clothes, and hastened to the window of his apartment. From this he could see nothing to relieve his anxiety, for it looked towards a quarter different from that on which the attack was made. He attempted his door; it was locked on the outside; and his perplexity and anxiety became extreme, when suddenly the lock was turned, and in an underdress, hastily assumed in the moment of alarm, her hair streaming on her shoulders, her eyes gleaming betwixt fear and resolution, Alice Bridgenorth rushed into his apartment, and seized his hand with the fervent exclamation, “Julian, save my father!”
The light which she bore in her hand served to show those features which could rarely have been viewed by any one without emotion, but which bore an expression irresistible to a lover.
“Alice,” he said, “what means this? What is the danger? Where is your father?”
“Do not stay to question,” she answered; “but if you would save him, follow me!”
At the same time she led the way, with great speed, half-way down the turret stair case which led to his room, thence turning through a side door, along a long gallery, to a larger and wider stair, at the bottom of which stood her father, surrounded by four or five of his friends, scarce discernible through the smoke of the fire which began to take hold in the hall, as well as that which arose from the repeated discharge of their own firearms.
Julian saw there was not a moment to be lost, if he meant to be a successful mediator. He rushed through Bridgenorth’s party ere they were aware of his approach, and throwing himself amongst the assailants who occupied the hall in considerable numbers, he assured them of his personal safety, and conjured them to depart.
“Not without a few more slices at the Rump, master,” answered Lance. “I am principally glad to see you safe and well; but here is Joe Rimegap shot as dead as a buck in season, and more of us are hurt; and we’ll have revenge, and roast the Puritans like apples for lambswool!”
“Then you shall roast me along with them,” said Julian; “for I vow to God, I will not leave the hall, being bound by parole of honour to abide with Major Bridgenorth till lawfully dismissed.”
“Now out on you, an you were ten times a Peveril!” said Ditchley; “to give so many honest fellows loss and labour on your behalf, and to show them no kinder countenance. — I say, beat up the fire, and burn all together!”
“Nay, nay; but peace, my masters, and hearken to reason,” said Julian; “we are all here in evil condition, and you will only make it worse by contention. Do you help to put out this same fire, which will else cost us all dear. Keep yourselves under arms. Let Master Bridgenorth and me settle some grounds of accommodation, and I trust all will be favourably made up on both sides; and if not, you shall have my consent and countenance to fight it out; and come on it what will, I will never forget this night’s good service.”
He then drew Ditchley and Lance Outram aside, while the rest stood suspended at his appearance and words, and expressing the utmost thanks and gratitude for what they had already done, urged them, as the greatest favour which they could do towards him and his father’s house, to permit him to negotiate the terms of his emancipation from thraldom; at the same time forcing on Ditchley five or six gold pieces, that the brave lads of Bonadventure might drink his health; whilst to Lance he expressed the warmest sense of his active kindness, but protested he could only consider it as good service to his house, if he was allowed to manage the matter after his own fashion.
“Why,” answered Lance, “I am well out on it, Master Julian; for it is matter beyond my mastery. All that I stand to is, that I will see you safe out of this same Moultrassie Hall; for our old Naunt Ellesmere will else give me but cold comfort when I come home. Truth is, I began unwillingly; but when I saw the poor fellow Joe shot beside me, why, I thought we should have some amends. But I put it all in your Honour’s hands.”
During this colloquy both parties had been amicably employed in extinguishing the fire, which might otherwise have been fatal to all. It required a general effort to get it under; and both parties agreed on the necessary labour, with as much unanimity, as if the water they brought in leathern buckets from the well to throw upon the fire, had some effect in slaking their mutual hostility.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00