The boy is — hark ye, sirrah — what’s your name? —
Oh, Jacob — ay, I recollect — the same.
The affectionate relatives were united as those who, meeting under great adversity, feel still the happiness of sharing it in common. They embraced again and again, and gave way to those expansions of the heart, which at once express and relieve the pressure of mental agitation. At length the tide of emotion began to subside; and Sir Henry, still holding his recovered son by the hand, resumed the command of his feelings which he usually practised.
“So you have seen the last of our battles, Albert,” he said, “and the King’s colours have fallen for ever before the rebels.”
“It is but even so,” said the young man —“the last cast of the die was thrown, and, alas! lost at Worcester; and Cromwell’s fortune carried it there, as it has wherever he has shown himself.”
“Well — it can but be for a time — it can but be for a time,” answered his father; “the devil is potent, they say, in raising and gratifying favourites, but he can grant but short leases. — And the King — the King, Albert — the King — in my ear — close, close!”
“Our last news were confident that he had escaped from Bristol.”
“Thank God for that — thank God for that!” said the knight. “Where didst thou leave him?”
“Our men were almost all cut to pieces at the bridge,” Albert replied; “but I followed his Majesty with about five hundred other officers and gentlemen, who were resolved to die around him, until as our numbers and appearance drew the whole pursuit after us, it pleased his Majesty to dismiss us, with many thanks and words of comfort to us in general, and some kind expressions to most of us in especial. He sent his royal greeting to you, sir, in particular, and said more than becomes me to repeat.”
“Nay, I will hear it every word, boy,” said Sir Henry; “is not the certainty that thou hast discharged thy duty, and that King Charles owns it, enough to console me for all we have lost and suffered, and wouldst thou stint me of it from a false shamefacedness? — I will have it out of thee, were it drawn from thee with cords!”
“It shall need no such compulsion,” said the young man —“It was his Majesty’s pleasure to bid me tell Sir Henry Lee, in his name, that if his son could not go before his father in the race of loyalty, he was at least following him closely, and would soon move side by side.”
“Said he so?” answered the knight —“Old Victor Lee will look down with pride on thee, Albert! — But I forget — you must be weary and hungry.”
“Even so,” said Albert; “but these are things which of late I have been in the habit of enduring for safety’s sake.”
“Joceline! — what ho, Joceline!”
The under-keeper entered, and received orders to get supper prepared directly.
“My son and Dr. Rochecliffe are half starving,” said the knight. “And there is a lad, too, below,” said Joceline; “a page, he says, of Colonel Albert’s, whose belly rings cupboard too, and that to no common tune; for I think he could eat a horse, as the Yorkshireman says, behind the saddle. He had better eat at the sideboard; for he has devoured a whole loaf of bread and butter, as fast as Phoebe could cut it, and it has not staid his stomach for a minute — and truly I think you had better keep him under your own eyes, for the steward beneath might ask him troublesome questions if he went below — And then he is impatient, as all your gentlemen pages are, and is saucy among the women.”
“Whom is it he talks of? — what page hast thou got, Albert, that bears himself so ill?” said Sir Henry.
“The son of a dear friend, a noble lord of Scotland, who followed the great Montrose’s banner — afterwards joined the King in Scotland, and came with him as far as Worcester. He was wounded the day before the battle, and conjured me to take this youth under my charge, which I did, something unwillingly; but I could not refuse a father, perhaps on his death-bed, pleading for the safety of an only son.”
“Thou hadst deserved an halter, hadst thou hesitated” said Sir Henry; “the smallest tree can always give some shelter — and it pleases me to think the old stock of Lee is not so totally prostrate, but it may yet be a refuge for the distressed. Fetch the youth in; — he is of noble blood, and these are no times of ceremony — he shall sit with us at the same table, page though he be; and if you have not schooled him handsomely in his manners, he may not be the worse of some lessons from me.”
“You will excuse his national drawling accent, sir?” said Albert, “though I know you like it not.”
“I have small cause, Albert,” answered the knight —“small cause. — Who stirred up these disunions? — the Scots. Who strengthened the hands of Parliament, when their cause was well nigh ruined? — the Scots again. Who delivered up the King, their countryman, who had flung himself upon. their protection? — the Scots again. But this lad’s father, you say, has fought on the part of the noble Montrose; and such a man as the great Marquis may make amends for the degeneracy of a whole nation.”
“Nay, father,” said Albert, “and I must add, that though this lad is uncouth and wayward, and, as you will see, something wilful, yet the King has not a more zealous friend in England; and, when occasion offered, he fought stoutly, too, in his defence — I marvel he comes not.”
“He hath taken the bath” said Joceline, “and nothing less would serve than that he should have it immediately — the supper, he said, might be got ready in the meantime; and he commands all about him as if he were in his father’s old castle, where he might have called long enough, I warrant, without any one to hear him.”
“Indeed?” said Sir Henry, “this must be a forward chick of the game, to crow so early. — What is his name?”
“His name? — it escapes me every hour, it is so hard a one,” said Albert —“Kerneguy is his name — Louis Kerneguy; his father was Lord Killstewers, of Kincardineshire.”
“Kerneguy, and Killstewers, and Kin — what d’ye call it? — Truly,” said the knight, “these northern men’s names and titles smack of their origin — they sound like a north-west wind, rumbling and roaring among heather and rocks.”
“It is but the asperities of the Celtic and Saxon dialects,” said Dr. Rochecliffe, “which, according to Verstegan, still linger in those northern parts of the island. — But peace — here comes supper, and Master Louis Kerneguy.”
Supper entered accordingly, borne in by Joceline and Phoebe, and after it, leaning on a huge knotty stick, and having his nose in the air like a questing hound — for his attention was apparently more fixed on the good provisions that went before him, than any thing else — came Master Kerneguy, and seated himself, without much ceremony, at the lower end of the table.
He was a tall, rawboned lad, with a shock head of hair, fiery red, like many of his country, while the harshness of his national features was increased by the contrast of his complexion, turned almost black by the exposure to all sorts of weather, which, in that skulking and rambling mode of life, the fugitive royalists had been obliged to encounter. His address was by no means prepossessing, being a mixture of awkwardness and forwardness, and showing in a remarkable degree, how a want of easy address may be consistent with an admirable stock of assurance. His face intimated having received some recent scratches, and the care of Dr. Rochecliffe had decorated it with a number of patches, which even enhanced its natural plainness. Yet the eyes were brilliant and expressive, and, amid his ugliness — for it amounted to that degree of irregularity — the face was not deficient in some lines which expressed both sagacity and resolution.
The dress of Albert himself was far beneath his quality, as the son of Sir Henry Lee, and commander of a regiment in the royal service; but that of his page was still more dilapidated. A disastrous green jerkin, which had been changed to a hundred hues by sun and rain, so that the original could scarce be discovered, huge clouterly shoes, leathern breeches — such as were worn by hedgers — coarse grey worsted stockings, were the attire of the honourable youth, whose limping gait, while it added to the ungainliness of his manner, showed, at the same time, the extent of his sufferings. His appearance bordered so much upon what is vulgarly called the queer, that even with Alice it would have excited some sense of ridicule, had not compassion been predominant.
The grace was said, and the young squire of Ditchley, as well as Dr. Rochecliffe, made an excellent figure at a meal, the like of which, in quality and abundance, did not seem to have lately fallen to their share. But their feats were child’s-play to those of the Scottish youth. Far from betraying any symptoms of the bread and butter with which he had attempted to close the orifice of his stomach, his appetite appeared to have been sharpened by a nine-days’ fast; and the knight was disposed to think that the very genius of famine himself, come forth from his native regions of the north, was in the act of honouring him with a visit, while, as if afraid of losing a moment’s exertion, Master Kerneguy never looked either to right or left, or spoke a single word to any at table.
“I am glad to see that you have brought a good appetite for our country fare, young gentleman,” said Sir Henry.
“Bread of gude, sir!” said the page, “an ye’ll find flesh, I’se find appetite conforming, ony day o’ the year. But the truth is, sir, that the appeteezement has been coming on for three days or four, and the meat in this southland of yours has been scarce, and hard to come by; so, sir, I’m making up for lost time, as the piper of Sligo said, when he eat a hail side o’ mutton.”
“You have been country-bred, young man,” said the knight, who, like others of his time, held the reins of discipline rather tight over the rising generation; “at least, to judge from the youths of Scotland whom I have seen at his late Majesty’s court in former days; they had less appetite, and more — more”— As he sought the qualifying phrase, which might supply the place of “good manners,” his guest closed the sentence in his own way —“And more meat, it may be — the better luck theirs.”
Sir Henry stared and was silent. His son seemed to think it time to interpose —“My dear father,” he said, “think how many years have run since the Thirty-eight, when the Scottish troubles first began, and I am sure that you will not wonder that, while the Barons of Scotland have been, for one cause or other, perpetually in the field, the education of their children at home must have been much neglected, and that young men of my friend’s age know better how to use a broadsword, or to toss a pike, than the decent ceremonials of society.”
“The reason is a sufficient one,” said the knight, “and, since thou sayest thy follower Kernigo can fight, we’ll not let him lack victuals, a God’s name. — See, he looks angrily still at yonder cold loin of mutton — for God’s sake put it all on his plate!”
“I can bide the bit and the buffet,” said the honourable Master Kerneguy —“a hungry tike ne’er minds a blaud with a rough bane.”
“Now, God ha’e mercy, Albert, but if this be the son of a Scots peer,” said Sir Henry to his son, in a low tone of voice, “I would not be the English ploughman who would change manners with him for his ancient blood, and his nobility, and his estate to boot, an he has one. — He has eaten, as I am a Christian, near four pounds of solid butcher’s meat, and with the grace of a wolf tugging at the carcass of a dead horse. — Oh, he is about to drink at last — Soh! — he wipes his mouth, though — and dips his fingers in the ewer — and dries them, I profess, with the napkin! — there is some grace in him, after all.”
“Here is wussing all your vera gude healths!” said the youth of quality, and took a draught in proportion to the solids which he had sent before; he then flung his knife and fork awkwardly on the trencher, which he pushed back towards the centre of the table, extended his feet beneath it till they rested on their heels, folded his arms on his well-replenished stomach, and, lolling back in his chair, looked much as if he was about to whistle himself asleep.
“Soh!” said the knight —“the honourable Master Kernigo hath laid down his arms. — Withdraw these things, and give us our glasses — Fill them around, Joceline; and if the devil or the whole Parliament were within hearing, let them hear Henry Lee of Ditchley drink a health to King Charles, and confusion to his enemies!”
“Amen!” said a voice from behind the door.
All the company looked at each other in astonishment, at a response so little expected. It was followed by a solemn and peculiar tap, such as a kind of freemasonry had introduced among royalists, and by which they were accustomed to make themselves and their principles known to each other, when they met by accident.
“There is no danger,” said Albert, knowing the sign —“it is a friend; — yet I wish he had been at a greater distance just now.”
“And why, my son, should you wish the absence of one true man, who may, perhaps, wish to share our abundance, on one of those rare occasions when we have superfluity at our disposal? — Go, Joceline, see who knocks — and, if a safe man, admit him.”
“And if otherwise,” said Joceline, “methinks I shall be able to prevent his troubling the good company.”
“No violence, Joceline, on your life,” said Albert Lee; and Alice echoed, “For God’s sake, no violence!”
“No unnecessary violence at least,” said the good knight; “for if the time demands it, I will have it seen that I am master of my own house.” Joceline Joliffe nodded assent to all parties, and went on tiptoe to exchange one or two other mysterious symbols and knocks, ere he opened the door. It, may be here remarked, that this species of secret association, with its signals of union, existed among the more dissolute and desperate class of cavaliers, men habituated to the dissipated life which they had been accustomed to in an ill-disciplined army, where everything like order and regularity was too apt to be accounted a badge of puritanism. These were the “roaring boys” who met in hedge alehouses, and when they had by any chance obtained a little money or a little credit, determined to create a counter-revolution by declaring their sittings permanent, and proclaimed, in the words of one of their choicest ditties —
“We’ll drink till we bring
In triumph back the king.”
The leaders and gentry, of a higher description and more regular morals, did not indeed partake such excesses, but they still kept their eye upon a class of persons, who, from courage and desperation, were capable of serving on an advantageous occasion the fallen cause of royalty; and recorded the lodges and blind taverns at which they met, as wholesale merchants know the houses of call of the mechanics whom they may have occasion to employ, and can tell where they may find them when need requires it. It is scarce necessary to add, that among the lower class, and sometimes even among the higher, there were men found capable of betraying the projects and conspiracies of their associates, whether well or indifferently combined, to the governors of the state. Cromwell, in particular, had gained some correspondents of this kind of the highest rank, and of the most undoubted character, among the royalists, who, if they made scruple of impeaching or betraying individuals who confided in them, had no hesitation in giving the government such general information as served to enable him to disappoint the purposes of any plot or conspiracy.
To return to our story. In much shorter time than we have spent in reminding the reader of these historical particulars, Joliffe had made his mystic communication; and being duly answered as by one of the initiated, he undid the door, and there entered our old friend Roger Wildrake, round-head in dress, as his safety and dependence on Colonel Everard compelled him to be, but that dress worn in a most cavalier-like manner, and forming a stronger contrast than usual with the demeanour and language of the wearer, to which it was never very congenial.
His puritanic hat, the emblem of that of Ralpho in the prints to Hudibras, or, as he called it, his felt umbrella, was set most knowingly on one side of the head, as if it had been a Spanish hat and feather; his straight square-caped sad-coloured cloak was flung gaily upon one shoulder, as if it had been of three-plied taffeta, lined with crimson silk; and he paraded his huge calf-skin boots, as if they had been silken hose and Spanish leather shoes, with roses on the instep. In short, the airs which he gave himself, of a most thorough-paced wild gallant and cavalier, joined to a glistening of self-satisfaction in his eye, and an inimitable swagger in his gait, which completely announced his thoughtless, conceited, and reckless character, formed a most ridiculous contrast to his gravity of attire.
It could not, on the other hand, be denied, that in spite of the touch of ridicule which attached to his character, and the loose morality which he had learned in the dissipation of town pleasures, and afterwards in the disorderly life of a soldier, Wildrake had points about him both to make him feared and respected. He was handsome, even in spite of his air of debauched effrontery; a man of the most decided courage, though his vaunting rendered it sometimes doubtful; and entertained a sincere sense of his political principles, such as they were, though he was often so imprudent in asserting and boasting of them, as, joined with his dependence on Colonel Everard, induced prudent men to doubt his sincerity.
Such as he was, however, he entered the parlour of Victor Lee, where his presence was any thing but desirable to the parties present, with a jaunty step, and a consciousness of deserving the best possible reception. This assurance was greatly aided by circumstances which rendered it obvious, that if the jocund cavalier had limited himself to one draught of liquor that evening, in terms of his vow of temperance, it must have been a very deep and long one.
“Save ye, gentlemen, save ye. — Save you, good Sir Henry Lee, though I have scarce the honour to be known to you. — Save you, worthy doctor, and a speedy resurrection to the fallen Church of England.”
“You are welcome, sir,” said Sir Henry Lee, whose feelings of hospitality, and of the fraternal reception due to a royalist sufferer, induced him to tolerate this intrusion more than he might have done otherwise. “If you have fought or suffered for the King, sir, it is an excuse for joining us, and commanding our services in any thing in our power — although at present we are a family-party. — But I think I saw you in waiting upon Master Markham Everard, who calls himself Colonel Everard. — If your message is from him, you may wish to see me in private?”
“Not at all, Sir Henry, not at all. — It is true, as my ill hap will have it, that being on the stormy side of the hedge — like all honest men — you understand me, Sir Henry — I am glad, as it were, to gain something from my old friend and comrade’s countenance — not by truckling or disowning my principles, sir — I defy such practises; — but, in short, by doing him any kindness in my power when he is pleased to call on me. So I came down here with a message from him to the old roundheaded son of a —— (I beg the young lady’s pardon, from the crown of her head down to the very toes of her slipper)— And so, sir, chancing as I was stumbling out in the dark, I heard you give a toast, sir, which warmed my heart, sir, and ever will, sir, till death chills it; — and so I made bold to let you know there was an honest man within hearing.”
Such was the self-introduction of Master Wildrake, to which the knight replied, by asking him to sit down, and take a glass of sack to his Majesty’s glorious restoration. Wildrake, at this hint, squeezed in without ceremony beside the young Scotsman, and not only pledged his landlord’s toast, but seconded its import, by volunteering a verse or two of his favourite loyal ditty — “The King shall enjoy his own again.” The heartiness which he threw into his song opened still farther the heart of the old knight, though Albert and Alice looked at each other with looks resentful of the intrusion, and desirous to put an end to it. The honourable Master Kerneguy either possessed that happy indifference of temper which does not deign to notice such circumstances, or he was able to assume the appearance of it to perfection, as he sat sipping sack, and cracking walnuts, without testifying the least sense that an addition had been made to the party. Wildrake, who liked the liquor and the company, showed no unwillingness to repay his landlord, by being at the expense of the conversation.
“You talk of fighting and suffering, Sir Henry Lee. Lord help us, we have all had our share. All the world knows what Sir Henry Lee has done from Edgefield downwards, wherever a loyal sword was drawn, or a loyal flag fluttered. Ah, God help us! I have done something too. My name is Roger Wildrake of Squattlesea-mere, Lincoln; not that you are ever like to have heard it before, but I was captain in Lunsford’s light-horse, and afterwards with Goring. I was a child-eater, sir — a babe-bolter.”
“I have heard of your regiment’s exploits, sir; and perhaps you may find I have seen some of them, if we should spend ten minutes together. And I think I have heard of your name too. I beg to drink your health, Captain Wildrake of Squattlesea-mere, Lincolnshire.”
“Sir Henry, I drink yours in this pint bumper, and upon my knee; and I would do as much for that young gentleman”—(looking at Albert)—“and the squire of the green cassock too, holding it for green, as the colours are not to my eyes altogether clear and distinguishable.”
It was a remarkable part of what is called by theatrical folk the by-play of this scene, that Albert was conversing apart with Dr. Rochecliffe in whispers, even more than the divine seemed desirous of encouraging; yet, to whatever their private conversation referred, it did not deprive the young Colonel of the power of listening to what was going forward in the party at large, and interfering from time to time, like a watch-dog, who can distinguish the slightest alarm, even when employed in the engrossing process of taking his food.
“Captain Wildrake,” said Albert, “we have no objection — I mean, my friend and I— to be communicative on proper occasions; but you, sir, who are so old a sufferer, must needs know, that at such casual meetings as this, men do not mention their names unless they are specially wanted. It is a point of conscience, sir, to be able to say, if your principal, Captain Everard or Colonel Everard, if he be a Colonel, should examine you upon oath, I did not know who the persons were whom I heard drink such and such toasts.”
“Faith, I have a better way of it, worthy sir,” answered Wildrake; “I never can, for the life of me, remember that there were any such and such toasts drunk at all. It’s a strange gift of forgetfulness I have.”
“Well, sir,” replied the younger Lee; “but we, who have unhappily more tenacious memories, would willingly abide by the more general rule.”
“Oh, sir,” answered Wildrake, “with all my heart. I intrude on no man’s confidence, d — n me — and I only spoke for civility’s sake, having the purpose of drinking your health in a good fashion”—(Then he broke forth into melody)—
“‘Then let the health go round, a-round, a-round, a-round,
Then let the health go round;
For though your stocking be of silk,
Your knee shall kiss the ground, a-ground, a-ground, a-ground,
Your knee shall kiss the ground.’”
“Urge it no farther,” said Sir Henry, addressing his son; “Master Wildrake is one of the old school — one of the tantivy boys; and we must bear a little, for if they drink hard they fought well. I will never forget how a party came up and rescued us clerks of Oxford, as they called the regiment I belonged to, out of a cursed embroglio during the attack on Brentford. I tell you we were enclosed with the cockneys’ pikes both front and rear, and we should have come off but ill had not Lunford’s light-horse, the babe-eaters, as they called them, charged up to the pike’s point, and brought us off.”
“I am glad you thought on that, Sir Henry,” said Wildrake; “and do you remember what the officer of Lunsford’s said?”
“I think I do,” said Sir Henry, smiling.
“Well, then, did not he call out, when the women were coming down, howling like sirens as they were —‘Have none of you a plump child that you could give us to break our fast upon?’”
“Truth itself!” said the knight; “and a great fat woman stepped forward with a baby, and offered it to the supposed cannibal.”
All at the table, Master Kerneguy excepted, who seemed to think that good food of any kind required no apology, held up their hands in token of amazement.
“Ay,” said Wildrake, “the — a-hem! — I crave the lady’s pardon again, from tip of top-knot to hem of farthingale — but the cursed creature proved to be a parish nurse, who had been paid for the child half a year in advance. Gad, I took the babe out of the bitch-wolf’s hand; and I have contrived, though God knows I have lived in a skeldering sort of way myself, to breed up bold Breakfast, as I call him, ever since. It was paying dear for a jest, though.”
“Sir, I honour you for your humanity,” said the old knight —“Sir, I thank you for your courage — Sir, I am glad to see you here,” said the good knight, his eyes watering almost to overflowing. “So you were the wild officer who cut us out of the toils; Oh, sir, had you but stopped when I called on you, and allowed us to clear the streets of Brentford with our musketeers, we would have been at London Stone that day! But your good will was the same.”
“Ay, truly was it,” said Wildrake, who now sat triumphant and glorious in his easy-chair; “and here is to all the brave hearts, sir, that fought and fell in that same storm of Brentford. We drove all before us like chaff, till the shops, where they sold strong waters, and other temptations, brought us up. Gad, sir, we, the babe-eaters, had too many acquaintances in Brentford, and our stout Prince Rupert was ever better at making way than drawing off. Gad, sir, for my own poor share, I did but go into the house of a poor widow lady, who maintained a charge of daughters, and whom I had known of old, to get my horse fed, a morsel of meat, and so forth, when these cockney-pikes of the artillery ground, as you very well call them, rallied, and came in with their armed heads, as boldly as so many Cotswold rams. I sprang down stairs, got to my horse — but, egad, I fancy all my troop had widows and orphan maidens to comfort as well as I, for only five of us got together. We cut our way through successfully; and Gad, gentlemen, I carried my little Breakfast on the pommel before me; and there was such a hollowing and screeching, as if the whole town thought I was to kill, roast, and eat the poor child, so soon as I got to quarters. But devil a cockney charged up to my bonny bay, poor lass, to rescue little cake-bread; they only cried haro, and out upon me.”
“Alas, alas!” said the knight, “we made ourselves seem worse than we were; and we were too bad to deserve God’s blessing even in a good cause. But it is needless to look back; we did not deserve victories when God gave them, for we never improved them like good soldiers, or like Christian men; and so we gave these canting scoundrels the advantage of us, for they assumed, out of mere hypocrisy, the discipline and orderly behaviour which we, who drew our swords in a better cause, ought to have practised out of true principle. But here is my hand, Captain. I have often wished to see the honest fellow who charged up so smartly in our behalf, and I reverence you for the care you took of the poor child. I am glad this dilapidated place has still some hospitality to offer you, although we cannot treat you to roasted babes or stewed sucklings — eh, Captain?”
“Truth, Sir Henry, the scandal was sore against us on that score. I remember Lacy, who was an old play-actor, and a lieutenant in ours, made drollery on it in a play which was sometimes acted at Oxford, when our hearts were something up, called, I think, the Old Troop.”
So saying, and feeling more familiar as his merits were known, he hitched his chair up against that of the Scottish lad, who was seated next him, and who, in shifting his place, was awkward enough to disturb, in his turn, Alice Lee, who sate opposite, and, a little offended, or at least embarrassed, drew her chair away from the table.
“I crave pardon,” said the honourable Master Kerneguy; “but, sir,” to Master Wildrake, “ye hae e’en garr’d me hurt the young lady’s shank.”
“I crave your pardon, sir, and much more that of the fair lady, as is reasonable; though, rat me, sir, if it was I set your chair a-trundling in that way. Zooks, sir, I have brought with me no plague, nor pestilence, nor other infectious disorder, that ye should have started away as if I had been a leper, and discomposed the lady, which I would have prevented with my life, sir. Sir, if ye be northern born, as your tongue bespeaks, egad, it was I ran the risk in drawing near you; so there was small reason for you to bolt.”
“Master Wildrake,” said Albert, interfering, “this young gentleman is a stranger as well as you, under protection of Sir Henry’s hospitality, and it cannot be agreeable for my father to see disputes arise among his guests. You may mistake the young gentleman’s quality from his present appearance — this is the Honourable Master Louis Kerneguy, sir, son of my Lord Killstewers of Kincardineshire, one who has fought for the King, young as he is.”
“No dispute shall rise through me, sir — none through me,” said Wildrake; “your exposition sufficeth, sir. — Master Louis Girnigo, son of my Lord Kilsteer, in Gringardenshire, I am your humble slave, sir, and drink your health, in token that I honour you, and all true Scots who draw their Andrew Ferraras on the right side, sir.”
“I’se beholden to you, and thank you, sir,” said the young man, with some haughtiness of manner, which hardly corresponded with his rusticity; “and I wuss your health in a ceevil way.”
Most judicious persons would have here dropped the conversation; but it was one of Wildrake’s marked peculiarities, that he could never let matters stand when they were well. He continued to plague the shy, proud, and awkward lad with his observations. “You speak your national dialect pretty strongly, Master Girnigo,” said he, “but I think not quite the language of the gallants that I have known among the Scottish cavaliers — I knew, for example, some of the Gordons, and others of good repute, who always put an f for wh, as faat for what, fan for when, and the like.”
Albert Lee here interposed, and said that the provinces of Scotland, like those of England, had their different modes of pronunciation.
“You are very right, sir,” said Wildrake. “I reckon myself, now, a pretty good speaker of their cursed jargon — no offence, young gentleman; and yet, when I took a turn with some of Montrose’s folk, in the South Highlands, as they call their beastly wildernesses, (no offence again,) I chanced to be by myself, and to lose my way, when I said to a shepherd-fellow, making my mouth as wide, and my voice as broad as I could, whore am I ganging till? — confound me if the fellow could answer me, unless, indeed, he was sulky, as the bumpkins will be now and then to the gentlemen of the sword.”
This was familiarly spoken, and though partly addressed to Albert, was still more directed to his immediate neighbour, the young Scotsman, who seemed, from bashfulness, or some other reason, rather shy of his intimacy. To one or two personal touches from Wildrake’s elbow, administered during his last speech, by way of a practical appeal to him in particular, he only answered, “Misunderstandings were to be expected when men converse in national deealects.”
Wildrake, now considerably drunker than he ought to have been in civil company, caught up the phrase and repeated it:—“Misunderstanding, sir — Misunderstanding, sir? — I do not know how I am to construe that, sir; but to judge from the information of these scratches on your honourable visnomy, I should augur that you had been of late at misunderstanding with the cat, sir.”
“You are mistaken, then, friend, for it was with the dowg,” answered the Scotsman, dryly, and cast a look towards Albert.
“We had some trouble with the watch-dogs in entering so late in the evening,” said Albert, in explanation, “and this youth had a fall among some rubbish, by which he came by these scratches.”
“And now, dear Sir Henry,” said Dr. Rochecliffe, “allow us to remind you of your gout, and our long journey. I do it the rather that my good friend your son has been, during the whole time of supper, putting questions to me aside, which had much better be reserved till tomorrow — May we therefore ask permission to retire to our night’s rest?”
“These private committees in a merry meeting,” said Wildrake, “are a solecism in breeding. They always put me in mind of the cursed committees at Westminster. — But shall we roost before we rouse the night-owl with a catch?”
“Aha, canst thou quote Shakspeare?” said Sir Henry, pleased at discovering a new good quality in his acquaintance, whose military services were otherwise but just able to counterbalance the intrusive freedom of his conversation. “In the name of merry Will,” he continued — “whom I never saw, though I have seen many of his comrades, as Alleyn, Hemmings, and so on — we will have a single catch, and one rouse about, and then to bed.”
After the usual discussion about the choice of the song, and the parts which each was to bear, they united their voices in trolling a loyal glee, which was popular among the party at the time, and in fact believed to be composed by no less a person than Dr. Rochecliffe himself.
GLEE FOR KING CHARLES.
Bring the bowl which you boast,
Fill it up to the brim;
’Tis to him we love most,
And to all who love him.
Brave gallants, stand up.
And avauant, ye base carles!
Were there death in the cup,
Here’s a health to King Charles!
Though he wanders through dangers,
Dependent ‘on strangers,
Estranged from his own;
Though ’tis under our breath,
Amidst forfeits and perils,
Here’s to honour and faith,
And a health to King Charles!
Let such honours abound
As the time can afford.
The knee on the ground,
And the hand on the sword;
But the time shall come round.
When, ‘mid Lords, Dukes, and Earls,
The loud trumpets shall sound
Here’s a health to King Charles!
After this display of loyalty, and a final libation, the party took leave of each other for the night. Sir Henry offered his old acquaintance Wildrake a bed for the evening, who weighed the matter somewhat in this fashion: “Why, to speak truth, my patron will expect me at the borough — but then he is used to my staying out of doors a-nights. Then there’s the Devil, that they say haunts Woodstock; but with the blessing of this reverend Doctor, I defy him and all his works — I saw him not when I slept here twice before, and I am sure if he was absent then, he has not come back with Sir Henry Lee and his family. So I accept your courtesy, Sir Henry, and I thank you, as a cavalier of Lunsford should thank one of the fighting clerks of Oxon. God bless the King! I care not who hears it, and confusion to Noll and his red nose!” Off he went accordingly with a bottle-swagger, guided by Joceline, to whom Albert, in the meantime, had whispered, to be sure to quarter him far enough from the rest of the family.
Young Lee then saluted his sister, and, with the formality of those times, asked and received his father’s blessing with an affectionate embrace. His page seemed desirous to imitate one part of his example, but was repelled by Alice, who only replied to his offered salute with a curtsy. He next bowed his head in an awkward fashion to her father, who wished him a good night. “I am glad to see, young man,” he said, “that you have at least learned the reverence due to age. It should always be paid, sir; because in doing so you render that honour to others which you will expect yourself to receive when you approach the close of your life. More will I speak with you at leisure, on your duties as a page, which office in former days used to be the very school of chivalry; whereas of late, by the disorderly times, it has become little better than a school of wild and disordered license; which made rare Ben Jonson exclaim”—
“Nay, father,” said Albert, interposing, “you must consider this day’s fatigue, and the poor lad is almost asleep on his legs — tomorrow he will listen with more profit to your kind admonitions. — And you, Louis, remember at least one part of your duty — take the candles and light us — here Joceline comes to show us the way. Once more, good night, good Dr. Rochecliffe — good night, all.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00