Give Sir Nicholas Threlkeld praise;
Hear it, good man, old in days,
Thou tree of succour and of rest
To this young bird that was distress’d;
Beneath thy branches he did stay;
And he was free to sport and play,
When falcons were abroad for prey.
The fugitive Prince slept, in spite of danger, with the profound repose which youth and fatigue inspire. But the young cavalier, his guide and guard, spent a more restless night, starting from time to time, and listening; anxious, notwithstanding Dr. Rochecliffe’s assurances, to procure yet more particular knowledge concerning the state of things around them, than he had been yet able to collect.
He rose early after daybreak; but although he moved with as little noise as was possible, the slumbers of the hunted Prince were easily disturbed. He started up in his bed, and asked if there was any alarm.
“None, please your Majesty,” replied Lee; “only, thinking on the questions your Majesty was asking last night, and the various chances there are of your Majesty’s safety being endangered from unforeseen accidents, I thought of going thus early, both to communicate with Dr. Rochecliffe, and to keep such a look-out as befits the place, where are lodged for the time the Fortunes of England. I fear I must request of your Majesty, for your own gracious security, that you have the goodness to condescend to secure the door with your own hand after I go out.”
“Oh, talk not to Majesty, for Heaven’s sake, dear Albert!” answered the poor King, endeavouring in vain to put on a part of his clothes, in order to traverse the room. —“When a King’s doublet and hose are so ragged that he can no more find his way into them than he could have travelled through the forest of Deane without a guide, good faith, there should be an end of Majesty, until it chances to be better accommodated. Besides, there is the chance of these big words bolting out at unawares, when there are ears to hear them whom we might think dangerous.”
“Your commands shall be obeyed,” said Lee, who had now succeeded in opening the door; from which he took his departure, leaving the King, who had hustled along the floor for that purpose, with his dress wofully ill arranged, to make it fast again behind him, and begging him in no case to open to any one, unless he or Rochecliffe were of the party who summoned him.
Albert then set out in quest of Dr. Rochecliffe’s apartment, which was only known to himself and the faithful Joliffe, and had at different times accommodated that steady churchman with a place of concealment, when, from his bold and busy temper, which led him into the most extensive and hazardous machinations on the King’s behalf, he had been strictly sought after by the opposite party. Of late, the inquest after him had died entirely away, as he had prudently withdrawn himself from the scene of his intrigues. Since the loss of the battle of Worcester, he had been afloat again, and more active than ever; and had, by friends and correspondents, and especially the Bishop of — — been the means of directing the King’s flight towards Woodstock, although it was not until the very day of his arrival that he could promise him a safe reception at that ancient mansion.
Albert Lee, though he revered both the undaunted spirit and ready resources of the bustling and intriguing churchman, felt he had not been enabled by him to answer some of Charles’s questions yesternight, in a way so distinct as one trusted with the King’s safety ought to have done; and it was now his object to make himself personally acquainted, if possible, with the various bearings of so weighty a matter, as became a man on whom so much of the responsibility was likely to descend.
Even his local knowledge was scarce adequate to find the Doctor’s secret apartment, had he not traced his way after a genial flavour of roasted game through divers blind passages, and up and down certain very useless stairs, through cupboards and hatchways, and so forth, to a species of sanctum sanctorum, where Joceline Joliffe was ministering to the good Doctor a solemn breakfast of wild-fowl, with a cup of small beer stirred with a sprig of rosemary, which Dr. Rochecliffe preferred to all strong potations. Beside him sat Bevis on his tail, slobbering and looking amiable, moved by the rare smell of the breakfast, which had quite overcome his native dignity of disposition.
The chamber in which the Doctor had established himself was a little octangular room, with walls of great thickness, within which were fabricated various issues, leading in different directions, and communicating with different parts of the building. Around him were packages with arms, and near him one small barrel, as it seemed, of gunpowder; many papers in different parcels, and several keys for correspondence in cipher; two or three scrolls covered with hieroglyphics were also beside him, which Albert took for plans of nativity; and various models of machinery, in which Dr. Rochecliffe was an adept. There were also tools of various kinds, masks, cloaks, and a dark lantern, and a number of other indescribable trinkets belonging to the trade of a daring plotter in dangerous times. Last, there was a casket with gold and silver coin of different countries, which was left carelessly open, as if it were the least of Dr. Rochecliffe’s concern, although his habits in general announced narrow circumstances, if not actual poverty. Close by the divine’s plate lay a Bible and Prayer-book, with some proof sheets, as they are technically called, seemingly fresh from the press. There was also within the reach of his hand a dirk, or Scottish poniard, a powder-horn, and a musketoon, or blunderbuss, with a pair of handsome pocket-pistols. In the midst of this miscellaneous collection, the Doctor sat eating his breakfast with great appetite, as little dismayed by the various implements of danger around him, as a workman is when accustomed to the perils of a gunpowder manufactory.
“So, young gentleman,” he said, getting up and extending his hand, “are you come to breakfast with me in good fellowship, or to spoil my meal this morning, as you did my supper last night, by asking untimely questions?”
“I will pick a bone with you with all my heart,” said Albert; “and if you please, Doctor, I would ask some questions which seem not quite untimely.”
So saying he sat down, and assisted the Doctor in giving a very satisfactory account of a brace of wild-ducks and a leash of teal. Bevis, who maintained his place with great patience and insinuation, had his share of a collop, which was also placed on the well-furnished board; for, like most high-bred dogs, he declined eating waterfowl.
“Come hither then, Albert Lee,” said the Doctor, laying down his knife and fork, and plucking the towel from his throat, so soon as Joceline was withdrawn; “thou art still the same lad thou wert when I was thy tutor — never satisfied with having got a grammar rule, but always persecuting me with questions why the rule stood so, and not otherwise — over-curious after information which thou couldst not comprehend, as Bevis slobbered and whined for the duck-wing, which he could not eat.”
“I hope you will find me more reasonable, Doctor,” answered Albert; “and at the same time, that you will recollect I am not now sub ferula, but am placed in circumstances where I am not at liberty to act upon the ipse dixit of any man, unless my own judgment be convinced. I shall deserve richly to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, should any misfortune happen by my misgovernment in this business.”
“And it is therefore, Albert, that I would have thee trust the whole to me, without interfering. Thou sayest, forsooth, thou art not sub ferula; but recollect that while you have been fighting in the field, I have been plotting in the study — that I know all the combinations of the King’s friends, ay, and all the motions of his enemies, as well as a spider knows every mesh of his web. Think of my experience, man. Not a cavalier in the land but has heard of Rochecliffe, the Plotter. I have been a main limb in every thing that has been attempted since forty-two — penned declarations, conducted correspondence, communicated with chiefs, recruited followers, commissioned arms, levied money, appointed rendezvouses. I was in the Western Riding; and before that, in the City Petition, and in Sir John Owen’s stir in Wales; in short, almost in every plot for the King, since Tomkins and Challoner’s matter.”
“But were not all these plots unsuccessful?” said Albert; “and were not Tomkins and Challoner hanged, Doctor?”
“Yes, my young friend,” answered the Doctor, gravely, “as many others have been with whom I have acted; but only because they did not follow my advice implicitly. You never heard that I was hanged myself?”
“The time may come, Doctor,” said Albert; “The pitcher goes oft to the well. — The proverb, as my father would say, is somewhat musty. But I, too, have some confidence in my own judgment; and, much as I honour the Church, I cannot altogether subscribe to passive obedience. I will tell you in one word what points I must have explanation on; and it will remain with you to give it, or to return a message to the King that you will not explain your plan; in which case, if he acts by my advice, he will leave Woodstock, and resume his purpose of getting to the coast without delay.”
“Well, then,” said the Doctor, “thou suspicious monster, make thy demands, and, if they be such as I can answer without betraying confidence, I will reply to them.”
“In the first place, then, what is all this story about ghosts, and witch-crafts, and apparitions? and do you consider it as safe for his Majesty to stay in a house subject to such visitations, real or pretended?”
“You must be satisfied with my answer in verbo sacerdotis — the circumstances you allude to will not give the least annoyance to Woodstock during the King’s residence. I cannot explain farther; but for this I will be bound, at the risk of my neck.”
“Then,” said Lee, “we must take Dr. Rochecliffe’s bail that the devil will keep the peace towards our Sovereign Lord the King — good. Now there lurked about this house the greater part of yesterday, and perhaps slept here, a fellow called Tomkins — a bitter Independent, and a secretary, or clerk, or something or other, to the regicide dog Desborough. The man is well known — a wild ranter in religious opinions, but in private affairs far-sighted, cunning, and interested even as any rogue of them all.”
“Be assured we will avail ourselves of his crazy fanaticism to mislead his wicked cunning; — a child may lead a hog, if it has wit to fasten a cord to the ring in its nose,” replied the Doctor.
“You may be deceived,” said Albert; “the age has many such as this fellow, whose views of the spiritual and temporal world are so different, that they resemble the eyes of a squinting man; one of which, oblique and distorted, sees nothing but the end of his nose, while the other, instead of partaking the same defect, views strongly, sharply, and acutely, whatever is subjected to its scrutiny.”
“But we will put a patch on the better eye,” said the Doctor, “and he shall only be allowed to speculate with the imperfect optic. You must know, this fellow has always seen the greatest number, and the most hideous apparitions; he has not the courage of a cat in such matters, though stout enough when he hath temporal antagonists before him. I have placed him under the charge of Joceline Joliffe, who, betwixt plying him with sack and ghost-stories, would make him incapable of knowing what was done, if you were to proclaim the King in his presence.”
“But why keep such a fellow here at all?”
“Oh, sir, content you; — he lies leaguer, as a sort of ambassador for his worthy masters, and we are secure from any intrusion so long as they get all the news of Woodstock from Trusty Tomkins.”
“I know Joceline’s honesty well,” said Albert; “and if he can assure me that he will keep a watch over this fellow, I will so far trust in him. He does not know the depth of the stake, ’tis true, but that my life is concerned will be quite enough to keep him vigilant. — Well, then, I proceed:— What if Markham Everard comes down on us?”
“We have his word to the contrary,” answered Rochecliffe —“his word of honour, transmitted by his friend:— Do you think it likely he will break it?”
“I hold him incapable of doing so,” answered Albert; “and, besides, I think Markham would make no bad use of any thing which might come to his knowledge — Yet God forbid we should be under the necessity of trusting any who ever wore the Parliament’s colours in a matter of such dear concernment!”
“Amen!” said the Doctor. —“Are your doubts silenced now?”
“I still have an objection,” said Albert, “to yonder impudent rakehelly fellow, styling himself a cavalier, who rushed himself on our company last night, and gained my father’s heart by a story of the storm of Brentford, which I dare say the rogue never saw.”
“You mistake him, dear Albert,” replied Rochecliffe —“Roger Wildrake, although till of late I only knew him by name, is a gentleman, was bred at the Inns of Court, and spent his estate in the King’s service.”
“Or rather in the devil’s service,” said Albert. “It is such fellows as he, who, sunk from the license of their military habits into idle debauched ruffians, infest the land with riots and robberies, brawl in hedge alehouses and cellars where strong waters are sold at midnight, and, with their deep oaths, their hot loyalty, and their drunken valour, make decent men abominate the very name of cavalier.”
“Alas!” said the Doctor, “it is but too true; but what can you expect? When the higher and more qualified classes are broken down and mingled undistinguishably with the lower orders, they are apt to lose the most valuable marks of their quality in the general confusion of morals and manners — just as a handful of silver medals will become defaced and discoloured if jumbled about among the vulgar copper coin. Even the prime medal of all, which we royalists would so willingly wear next our very hearts, has not, perhaps, entirely escaped some deterioration — But let other tongues than mine speak on that subject.”
Albert Lee paused deeply after having heard these communications on the part of Rochecliffe. “Doctor,” he said, “it is generally agreed, even by some who think you may occasionally have been a little over busy in putting men upon dangerous actions”—
“May God forgive them who entertain so false an opinion of me,” said the Doctor.
—“That, nevertheless, you have done and suffered more in the King’s behalf than any man of your function.”
“They do me but justice there,” said Dr. Rochecliffe —“absolute justice.”
“I am therefore disposed to abide by your opinion, if, all things considered, you think it safe that we should remain at Woodstock.”
“That is not the question,” answered the divine.
“And what is the question, then?” replied the young soldier.
“Whether any safer course can be pointed out. I grieve to say, that the question must be comparative, as to the point of option. Absolute safety is — alas the while! — out of the question on all sides. Now, I say Woodstock is, fenced and guarded as at present, by far the most preferable place of concealment.”
“Enough,” replied Albert; “I give up to you the question, as to a person whose knowledge of such important affairs, not to mention your age and experience, is more intimate and extensive than mine can be.”
“You do well,” answered Rochecliffe; “and if others had acted with the like distrust of their own knowledge, and confidence in competent persons, it had been better for the age. This makes Understanding bar himself up within his fortalice, and Wit betake himself to his high tower.” (Here he looked around his cell with an air of self-complacence.) “The wise man forseeth the tempest, and hideth himself.”
“Doctor,” said Albert, “let our foresight serve others far more precious than either of us. Let me ask you, if you have well considered whether our precious charge should remain in society with the family, or betake himself to some of the more hidden corners of the house?”
“Hum!” said the Doctor, with an air of deep reflection —“I think he will be safest as Louis Kerneguy, keeping himself close beside you”—
“I fear it will be necessary,” added Albert, “that I scout abroad a little, and show myself in some distant part of the country, lest, coming here in quest of me, they should find higher game.”
“Pray do not interrupt me — Keeping himself close beside you or your father, in or near to Victor Lee’s apartment, from which you are aware he can make a ready escape, should danger approach. This occurs to me as best for the present — I hope to hear of the vessel today — tomorrow at farthest.”
Albert Lee bid the active but opiniated man good morrow; admiring how this species of intrigue had become a sort of element in which the Doctor seemed to enjoy himself, notwithstanding all that the poet has said concerning the horrors which intervene betwixt the conception and execution of a conspiracy.
In returning from Dr. Rochecliffe’s sanctuary, he met with Joceline, who was anxiously seeking him. “The young Scotch gentleman,” he said, in a mysterious manner, “has arisen from bed, and, hearing me pass, he called me into his apartment.”
“Well,” replied Albert, “I will see him presently.”
“And he asked me for fresh linen and clothes. Now, sir, he is like a man who is quite accustomed to be obeyed, so I gave him a suit which happened to be in a wardrobe in the west tower, and some of your linen to conform; and when he was dressed, he commanded me to show him to the presence of Sir Henry Lee and my young lady. I would have said something, sir, about waiting till you came back, but he pulled me goodnaturedly by the hair, (as, indeed, he has a rare humour of his own,) and told me, he was guest to Master Albert Lee, and not his prisoner; so, sir, though I thought you might be displeased with me for giving him the means of stirring abroad, and perhaps being seen by those who should not see him, what could I say?”
“You are a sensible fellow, Joceline, and comprehend always what is recommended to you. This youth will not be controlled, I fear, by either of us; but we must look the closer after his safety. You keep your watch over that prying fellow the steward?”
“Trust him to my care — on that side have no fear. But ah, sir! I would we had the young Scot in his old clothes again, for the riding-suit of yours which he now wears hath set him off in other-guess fashion.”
From the manner in which the faithful dependent expressed himself, Albert saw that he suspected who the Scottish page in reality was; yet he did not think it proper to acknowledge to him a fact of such importance, secure as he was equally of his fidelity, whether explicitly trusted to the full extent, or left to his own conjectures. Full of anxious thought, he went to the apartment of Victor Lee, in which Joliffe told him he would find the party assembled. The sound of laughter, as he laid his hand on the lock of the door, almost made him start, so singularly did it jar with the doubtful and melancholy reflections which engaged his own mind. He entered, and found his father in high good-humour, laughing and conversing freely with his young charge, whose appearance was, indeed, so much changed to the better in externals, that it seemed scarce possible a night’s rest, a toilet, and a suit of decent clothes, could have done so much in his favour in so short a time. It could not, however, be imputed to the mere alteration of dress, although that, no doubt, had its effect. There was nothing splendid in that which Louis Kerneguy (we continue to call him by his assumed name) now wore. It was merely a riding-suit of grey cloth, with some silver lace, in the fashion of a country gentleman of the time. But it happened to fit him very well, and to become his very dark complexion, especially as he now held up his head, and used the manners, not only of a well-behaved but of a highly-accomplished gentleman. When he moved, his clumsy and awkward limp was exchanged for a sort of shuffle, which, as it might be the consequence of a wound in those perilous times, had rather an interesting than an ungainly effect. At least it was as genteel an expression that the party had been overhard travelled, as the most polite pedestrian could propose to himself.
The features of the Wanderer were harsh as ever, but his red shock peruke, for such it proved, was laid aside, his sable elf-locks were trained, by a little of Joceline’s assistance, into curls, and his fine black eyes shone from among the shade of these curls, and corresponded with the animated, though not handsome, character of the whole head. In his conversation, he had laid aside all the coarseness of dialect which he had so strongly affected on the preceding evening; and although he continued to speak a little Scotch, for the support of his character as a young gentleman of that nation, yet it was not in a degree which rendered his speech either uncouth or unintelligible, but merely afforded a certain Doric tinge essential to the personage he represented. No person on earth could better understand the society in which he moved; exile had made him acquainted with life in all its shades and varieties; — his spirits, if not uniform, were elastic — he had that species of Epicurean philosophy, which, even in the most extreme difficulties and dangers, can, in an interval of ease, however brief, avail itself of the enjoyments of the moment — he was, in short, in youth and misfortune, as afterwards in his regal condition, a good-humoured but hard-hearted voluptuary — wise, save where his passions intervened — beneficent, save when prodigality had deprived him of the means, or prejudice of the wish, to confer benefits — his faults such as might often have drawn down hatred, but that they were mingled with so much urbanity, that the injured person felt it impossible to retain the full sense of his wrongs.
Albert Lee found the party, consisting of his father, sister, and the supposed page, seated by the breakfast-table, at which he also took his place. He was a pensive and anxious beholder of what passed, while the page, who had already completely gained the heart of the good old cavalier, by mimicking the manner in which the Scottish divines preached in favour of Ma gude Lord Marquis of Argyle and the Solemn League and Covenant, was now endeavouring to interest the fair Alice by such anecdotes, partly of warlike and perilous adventure, as possessed the same degree of interest for the female ear which they have had ever since Desdemona’s days. But it was not only of dangers by land and sea that the disguised page spoke; but much more, and much oftener, on foreign revels, banquets, balls, where the pride of France, of Spain, or of the Low Countries, was exhibited in the eyes of their most eminent beauties. Alice being a very young girl, who, in consequence of the Civil War, had been almost entirely educated in the country, and often in great seclusion, it was certainly no wonder that she should listen with willing ears, and a ready smile, to what the young gentleman, their guest, and her brother’s protege, told with so much gaiety, and mingled with such a shade of dangerous adventure, and occasionally of serious reflection, as prevented the discourse from being regarded as merely light and frivolous.
In a word, Sir Henry Lee laughed, Alice smiled from time to time, and all were satisfied but Albert, who would himself, however, have been scarce able to allege a sufficient reason for his depression of spirits. The materials of breakfast were at last removed, under the active superintendence of the neat-handed Phoebe, who looked over her shoulder, and lingered more than once, to listen to the fluent discourse of their new guest, whom, on the preceding evening, she had, while in attendance at supper, accounted one of the most stupid inmates to whom the gates of Woodstock had been opened since the times of Fair Rosamond.
Louis Kerneguy then, when they were left only four in the chamber, without the interruption of domestics, and the successive bustle occasioned by the discussion and removal of the morning meal, became apparently sensible, that his friend and ostensible patron Albert ought not altogether to be suffered to drop to leeward in the conversation, while he was himself successfully engaging the attention of those members of his family to whom he had become so recently known. He went behind his chair, therefore, and, leaning on the back, said with a good-humoured tone, which made his purpose entirely intelligible —
“Either my good friend, guide, and patron, has heard worse news this morning than he cares to tell us, or he must have stumbled over my tattered jerkin and leathern hose, and acquired, by contact, the whole mass of stupidity which I threw off last night with those most dolorous garments. Cheer up, my dear Colonel Albert, if your affectionate page may presume to say so — you are in company with those whose society, dear to strangers, must be doubly so to you. Oddsfish, man, cheer up! I have seen you gay on a biscuit and a mouthful of water-cresses — don’t let your heart fail you on Rhenish wine and venison.”
“Dear Louis,” said Albert, rousing himself into exertion, and somewhat ashamed of his own silence, “I have slept worse, and been astir earlier than you.”
“Be it so,” said his father; “yet I hold it no good excuse for your sullen silence. Albert, you have met your sister and me, so long separated from you, so anxious on your behalf, almost like mere strangers, and yet you are returned safe to us, and you find us well.”
“Returned indeed — but for safety, my dear father, that word must be a stranger to us Worcester folk for some time. However, it is not my own safety about which I am anxious.”
“About whose, then, should you be anxious? — All accounts agree that the King is safe out of the dogs’ jaws.”
“Not without some danger, though,” muttered Louis, thinking of his encounter with Bevis on the preceding evening.
“No, not without danger, indeed,” echoed the knight; “but, as old Will says —
‘There’s such divinity doth hedge a king,
That treason dares not peep at what it would.’
“No, no — thank God, that’s cared for; our Hope and Fortune is escaped, so all news affirm, escaped from Bristol — if I thought otherwise, Albert, I should be as sad as you are. For the rest of it, I have lurked a month in this house when discovery would have been death, and that is no longer since than after Lord Holland and the Duke of Buckingham’s rising at Kingston; and hang me, if I thought once of twisting my brow into such a tragic fold as yours, but cocked my hat at misfortune as a cavalier should.”
“If I might put in a word,” said Louis, “it would be to assure Colonel Albert Lee that I verily believe the King would think his own hap, wherever he may be, much the worse that his best subjects were seized with dejection on his account.”
“You answer boldly on the King’s part, young man,” said Sir Henry.
“Oh, my father was meikle about the King’s hand,” answered Louis, recollecting his present character.
“No wonder, then,” said Sir Henry, “that you have so soon recovered your good spirits and good breeding, when you heard of his Majesty’s escape. Why, you are no more like the lad we saw last night, than the best hunter I ever had was like a dray-horse.”
“Oh, there is much in rest, and food, and grooming,” answered Louis. “You would hardly know the tired jade you dismounted from last night, when she is brought out prancing and neighing the next morning, rested, refreshed, and ready to start again — especially if the brute hath some good blood, for such pick up unco fast.”
“Well, then, but since thy father was a courtier, and thou hast learned, I think, something of the trade, tell us a little, Master Kerneguy, of him we love most to hear about — the King; we are all safe and secret, you need not be afraid. He was a hopeful youth; I trust his flourishing blossom now gives promise of fruit?”
As the knight spoke, Louis bent his eyes on the ground, and seemed at first uncertain what to answer. But, admirable at extricating himself from such dilemmas, he replied, “that he really could not presume to speak on such a subject in the presence of his patron, Colonel Albert Lee, who must be a much better judge of the character of King Charles than he could pretend to be.”
Albert was accordingly next assailed by the Knight, seconded by Alice, for some account of his Majesty’s character.
“I will speak but according to facts,” said Albert; “and then I must be acquitted of partiality. If the King had not possessed enterprise and military skill, he never would have attempted the expedition to Worcester; — had he not had personal courage, he had not so long disputed the battle that Cromwell almost judged it lost. That he possesses prudence and patience, must be argued from the circumstances attending his flight; and that he has the love of his subjects is evident, since, necessarily known to many, he has been betrayed by none.”
“For shame, Albert!” replied his sister; “is that the way a good cavalier doles out the character of his Prince, applying an instance at every concession, like a pedlar measuring linen with his rod? — Out upon you! — no wonder you were beaten, if you fought as coldly for your King as you now talk for him.”
“I did my best to trace a likeness from what I have seen and known of the original, sister Alice,” replied her brother. —“If you would have a fancy portrait, you must get an artist of more imagination than I have to draw it for you.”
“I will be that artist myself” said Alice; “and, in my portrait, our Monarch shall show all that he ought to be, having such high pretensions — all that he must be, being so loftily descended — all that I am sure he is, and that every loyal heart in the kingdom ought to believe him.”
“Well said, Alice,” quoth the old knight —“Look thou upon this picture, and on this! — Here is our young friend shall judge. I wager my best nag — that is, I would wager him had I one left — that Alice proves the better painter of the two. — My son’s brain is still misty, I think, since his defeat — he has not got the smoke of Worcester out of it. Plague on thee! — a young man, and cast down for one beating? Had you been banged twenty times like me, it had been time to look grave. — But come, Alice, forward; the colours are mixed on your pallet — forward with something that shall show like one of Vandyck’s living portraits, placed beside the dull dry presentation there of our ancestor Victor Lee.”
Alice, it must be observed, had been educated by her father in the notions of high and even exaggerated loyalty, which characterized the cavaliers, and she was really an enthusiast in the royal cause. But, besides, she was in good spirits at her brother’s happy return, and wished to prolong the gay humour in which her father had of late scarcely ever indulged.
“Well, then,” she said, “though I am no Apelles, I will try to paint an Alexander, such as I hope, and am determined to believe, exists in the person of our exiled sovereign, soon I trust to be restored. And I will not go farther than his own family. He shall have all the chivalrous courage, all the warlike skill, of Henry of France, his grandfather, in order to place him on the throne; all his benevolence, love of his people, patience even of unpleasing advice, sacrifice of his own wishes and pleasures to the commonweal, that, seated there, he may be blest while living, and so long remembered when dead, that for ages after it shall be thought sacrilege to breathe an aspersion against the throne which he had occupied! Long after he is dead, while there remains an old man who has seen him, were the condition of that survivor no higher than a groom or a menial, his age shall be provided for at the public charge, and his grey hairs regarded with more distinction than an earl’s coronet, because he remembers the Second Charles, the monarch of every heart in England!”
While Alice spoke, she was hardly conscious of the presence of any one save her father and brother; for the page withdrew himself somewhat from the circle, and there was nothing to remind her of him. She gave the reins, therefore, to her enthusiasm; and as the tears glittered in her eye, and her beautiful features became animated, she seemed like a descended cherub proclaiming the virtues of a patriot monarch. The person chiefly interested in her description held himself back, as we have said, and concealed his own features, yet so as to preserve a full view of the beautiful speaker.
Albert Lee, conscious in whose presence this eulogium was pronounced, was much embarrassed; but his father, all whose feelings were flattered by the panegyric, was in rapture.
“So much for the King, Alice,” he said, “and now for the Man.”
“For the man,” replied Alice, in the same tone, “need I wish him more than the paternal virtues of his unhappy father, of whom his worst enemies have recorded, that if moral virtues and religious faith were to be selected as the qualities which merited a crown, no man could plead the possession of them in a higher or more indisputable degree. Temperate, wise, and frugal, yet munificent in rewarding merit — a friend to letters and the muses, but a severe discourager of the misuse of such gifts — a worthy gentleman — a kind master — the best friend, the best father, the best Christian”— Her voice began to falter, and her father’s handkerchief was already at his eyes.
“He was, girl, he was!” exclaimed Sir Henry; “but no more on’t, I charge ye — no more on’t — enough; let his son but possess his virtues, with better advisers, and better fortunes, and he will be all that England, in her warmest wishes, could desire.”
There was a pause after this; for Alice felt as if she had spoken too frankly and too zealously for her sex and youth. Sir Henry was occupied in melancholy recollections on the fate of his late sovereign, while Kerneguy and his supposed patron felt embarrassed, perhaps from a consciousness that the real Charles fell far short of his ideal character, as designed in such glowing colours. In some cases, exaggerated or unappropriate praise becomes the most severe satire.
But such reflections were not of a nature to be long willingly cherished by the person to whom they might have been of great advantage. He assumed a tone of raillery, which is, perhaps, the readiest mode of escaping from the feelings of self-reproof. “Every cavalier,” he said, “should bend his knee to thank Mistress Alice Lee for having made such a flattering portrait of the King their master, by laying under contribution for his benefit the virtues of all his ancestors; only there was one point he would not have expected a female painter to have passed over in silence. When she made him, in right of his grandfather and father, a muster of royal and individual excellences, why could she not have endowed him at the same time with his mother’s personal charms? Why should not the son of Henrietta Maria, the finest woman of her day, add the recommendations of a handsome face and figure to his internal qualities? He had the same hereditary title to good looks as to mental qualifications; and the picture, with such an addition, would be perfect in its way — and God send it might be a resemblance.”
“I understand you, Master Kerneguy,” said Alice; “but I am no fairy, to bestow, as those do in the nursery tales, gifts which Providence has denied. I am woman enough to have made enquiries on the subject, and I know the general report is, that the King, to have been the son of such handsome parents, is unusually hard-favoured.”
“Good God, sister!” said Albert, starting impatiently from his seat. “Why, you yourself told me so,” said Alice, surprised at the emotion he testified; “and you said”—
“This is intolerable,” muttered Albert; “I must out to speak with Joceline without delay — Louis,” (with an imploring look to Kerneguy,) “you will surely come with me?”
“I would with all my heart,” said Kerneguy, smiling maliciously; “but you see how I suffer still from lameness. — Nay, nay, Albert,” he whispered, resisting young Lee’s attempt to prevail on him to leave the room, “can you suppose I am fool enough to be hurt by this? — on the contrary, I have a desire of profiting by it.”
“May God grant it!” said Lee to himself, as he left the room —“it will be the first lecture you ever profited by; and the devil confound the plots and plotters who made me bring you to this place!” So saying, he carried his discontent forth into the Park.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00