But let us now, like soldiers on the watch,
Put the soul’s armour on, alike prepared
For all a soldier’s warfare brings.
The reader will recollect, that when Rochecliffe and Joceline were made prisoners, the party which escorted them had two other captives in their train, Colonel Everard, namely, and the Rev. Nehemiah Holdenough. When Cromwell had obtained entrance into Woodstock, and commenced his search after the fugitive Prince, the prisoners were placed in what had been an old guardroom, and which was by its strength well calculated to serve for a prison, and a guard was placed over them by Pearson. No light was allowed, save that of a glimmering fire of charcoal. The prisoners remained separated from each other, Colonel Everard conversing with Nehemiah Holdenough, at a distance from Dr. Rochecliffe, Sir Henry Lee, and Joceline. The party was soon after augmented by Wildrake, who was brought down to the Lodge, and thrust in with so little ceremony, that, his arms being bound, he had very nearly fallen on his nose in the middle of the prison.
“I thank you, my good friend,” he said, looking back to the door, which they who had pushed him in were securing —“Point de ceremonie — no apology for tumbling, so we light in good company. — Save ye, save ye, gentlemen all — What, á la mort, and nothing stirring to keep the spirits up, and make a night on’t? — the last we shall have, I take it; for a make 10 to a million, but we trine to the nubbing cheat [Footnote: Hang on the gallows] tomorrow. — Patron — noble patron, how goes it? This was but a scurvy trick of Noll so far as you were concerned: as for me, why I might have deserved something of the kind at his hand.”
“Prithee, Wildrake, sit down,” said Everard; “thou art drunk — disturb us not.”
“Drunk? I drunk?” cried Wildrake, “I have been splicing the mainbrace, as Jack says at Wapping — have been tasting Noll’s brandy in a bumper to the King’s health, and another to his Excellency’s confusion, and another to the d — n of Parliament — and it may be one or two more, but all to devilish good toasts. But I’m not drunk.”
“Prithee, friend, be not profane,” said Nehemiah Holdenough.
“What, my little Presbyterian Parson, my slender Mass-John? thou shalt say amen to this world instantly”— said Wildrake; “I have had a weary time in’t for one. — Ha, noble Sir Henry, I kiss your hand — I tell thee, knight, the point of my Toledo was near Cromwell’s heart last night, as ever a button on the breast of his doublet. Rat him, he wears secret armour. — He a soldier! Had it not been for a cursed steel shirt, I would have spitted him like a lark. — Ha, Doctor Rochecliffe! — thou knowest I can wield my weapon.”
“Yes,” replied the Doctor, “and you know I can use mine.”
“I prithee be quiet, Master Wildrake,” said Sir Henry.
“Nay, good knight,” answered Wildrake, “be somewhat more cordial with a comrade in distress. This is a different scene from the Brentford storming-party. The jade Fortune has been a very step-mother to me. I will sing you a song I made on my own ill-luck.”
“At this moment, Captain Wildrake, we are not in a fitting mood for singing,” said Sir Henry, civilly and gravely.
“Nay, it will aid your devotions — Egad, it sounds like a penitential psalm.
‘When I was a young lad,
My fortune was bad,
If ere I do well ’tis a wonder.
I spent all my means
Amid sharpers and queans;
Then I got a commission to plunder.
I have stockings ’tis true,
But the devil a shoe,
I am forced to wear boots in all weather,
Be d —— d the hoot sole,
Curse on the spur-roll.
Confounded be the upper-leather.’” 11
The door opened as Wildrake finished this stanza at the top of his voice, and in rushed a sentinel, who, greeting him by the title of a “blasphemous bellowing bull of Bashan,” bestowed a severe blow, with his ramrod, on the shoulders of the songster, whose bonds permitted him no means of returning the compliment.
“Your humble servant again, sir,” said Wildrake, shrugging his shoulders — “sorry I have no means of showing my gratitude. I am bound over to keep the peace, like Captain Bobadil — Ha, knight, did you hear my bones clatter? that blow came twankingly off — the fellow might inflict the bastinado, were it in presence of the Grand Seignior — he has no taste for music, knight — is no way moved by the ‘concord of sweet sounds.’ I will warrant him fit for treason, stratagem, and spoil — Eh? — all down in the mouth — well — I’ll go to sleep to-night on a bench, as I’ve done many a night, and I will be ready to be hanged decently in the morning, which never happened to me before in all my life —
When I was a young lad,
My fortune was bad —’
Pshaw! This is not the tune it goes to.” Here he fell fast asleep, and sooner or later all his companions in misfortune followed his example.
The benches intended for the repose of the soldiers of the guard, afforded the prisoners convenience enough to lie down, though their slumbers, it may be believed, were neither sound nor undisturbed. But when daylight was but a little while broken, the explosion of gunpowder which took place, and the subsequent fall of the turret to which the mine was applied, would have awakened the Seven Sleepers, or Morpheus himself. The smoke, penetrating through the windows, left them at no loss for the cause of the din.
“There went my gunpowder,” said Rochecliffe, “which has, I trust, blown up as many rebel villains as it might have been the means of destroying otherwise in a fair field. It must have caught fire by chance.”
“By chance? — No,” said Sir Henry; “depend on it, my bold Albert has fired the train, and that in yonder blast Cromwell was flying towards the heaven whose battlements he will never reach — Ah, my brave boy! and perhaps thou art thyself sacrificed, like a youthful Samson among the rebellious Philistines. — But I will not be long behind thee, Albert.”
Everard hastened to the door, hoping to obtain from the guard, to whom his name and rank might be known, some explanation of the noise, which seemed to announce some dreadful catastrophe.
But Nehemiah Holdenough, whose rest had been broken by the trumpet which gave signal for the explosion, appeared in the very acme of horror —“It is the trumpet of the Archangel!” he cried — “it is the crushing of this world of elements — it is the summons to the Judgment-seat! The dead are obeying the call — they are with us — they are amongst us — they arise in their bodily frames — they come to summon us!”
As he spoke his eyes were riveted upon Dr. Rochecliffe, who stood directly opposite to him. In rising hastily, the cap which he commonly wore, according to a custom then usual both among clergymen and gownmen of a civil profession, had escaped from his head, and carried with it the large silk patch which he probably wore for the purpose of disguise; for the cheek which was disclosed was unscarred, and the eye as good as that which was usually uncovered.
Colonel Everard returning from the door, endeavoured in vain to make Master Holdenough comprehend what he learned from the guard without, that the explosion had involved only the death of one of Cromwell’s soldiers. The Presbyterian divine continued to stare wildly at him of the Episcopal persuasion.
But Dr. Rochecliffe heard and understood the news brought by Colonel Everard, and, relieved from the instant anxiety which had kept him stationary, he advanced towards the retiring Calvinist, extending his hand in the most friendly manner.
“Avoid thee — Avoid thee!” said Holdenough, “the living may not join hands with the dead.”
“But I,” said Rochecliffe, “am as much alive as you are.”
“Thou alive! — thou! Joseph Albany, whom my own eyes saw precipitated from the battlements of Clidesthrow Castle?”
“Ay,” answered the Doctor, “but you did not see me swim ashore on a marsh covered with sedges — fugit ad salices — after a manner which I will explain to you another time.”
Holdenough touched his hand with doubt and uncertainty. “Thou art indeed warm and alive,” he said, “and yet after so many blows, and a fall so tremendous — thou canst not be my Joseph Albany.”
“I am Joseph Albany Rochecliffe,” said the Doctor, “become so in virtue of my mother’s little estate, which fines and confiscations have made an end of.”
“And is it so indeed?” said Holdenough, “and have I recovered mine old chum?”
“Even so,” replied Rochecliffe, “by the same token I appeared to you in the Mirror Chamber — Thou wert so bold, Nehemiah, that our whole scheme would have been shipwrecked, had I not appeared to thee in the shape of a departed friend. Yet, believe me, it went against my heart to do it.”
“Ah, fie on thee, fie on thee,” said Holdenough, throwing himself into his arms, and clasping him to his bosom, “thou wert ever a naughty wag. How couldst thou play me such a trick? — Ah, Albany, dost thou remember Dr. Purefoy and Caius College?”
“Marry, do I,” said the Doctor, thrusting his arm through the Presbyterian divine’s, and guiding him to a seat apart from the other prisoners, who witnessed this scene with much surprise. “Remember Caius College?” said Rochecliffe; “ay, and the good ale we drank, and our parties to mother Huffcap’s.”
“Vanity of vanities,” said Holdenough, smiling kindly at the same time, and still holding his recovered friend’s arm enclosed and hand-locked in his.
“But the breaking the Principal’s orchard, so cleanly done,” said the Doctor; “it was the first plot I ever framed, and much work I had to prevail on thee to go into it.”
“Oh, name not that iniquity,” said Nehemiah, “since I may well say, as the pious Master Baxter, that these boyish offences have had their punishment in later years, inasmuch as that inordinate appetite for fruit hath produced stomachic affections under which I yet labour.”
“True, true, dear Nehemiah,” said Rochecliffe, “but care not for them — a dram of brandy will correct it all. Mr. Baxter was,” he was about to say “an ass,” but checked himself, and only filled up the sentence with “a good man, I dare say, but over scrupulous.”
So they sat down together the best of friends, and for half an hour talked with mutual delight over old college stories. By degrees they got on the politics of the day; and though then they unclasped their hands, and there occurred between them such expressions as, “Nay, my dear brother,” and, “there I must needs differ,” and, “on this point I crave leave to think;” yet a hue and cry against the Independents and other sectarists being started, they followed like brethren in full hollo, and it was hard to guess which was most forward. Unhappily, in the course of this amicable intercourse, something was mentioned about the bishopric of Titus, which at once involved them in the doctrinal question of Church Government. Then, alas! the floodgates were opened, and they showered on each other Greek and Hebrew texts, while their eyes kindled, their cheeks glowed, their hands became clenched, and they looked more like fierce polemics about to rend each other’s eyes out, than Christian divines.
Roger Wildrake, by making himself an auditor of the debate, contrived to augment its violence. He took, of course, a most decided part in a question, the merits of which were totally unknown to him. Somewhat overawed by Holdenough’s ready oratory and learning, the cavalier watched with a face of anxiety the countenance of Dr. Rochecliffe; but when he saw the proud eye and steady bearing of the Episcopal champion, and heard him answer Greek with Greek, and Hebrew with Hebrew, Wildrake backed his arguments as he closed them, with a stout rap upon the bench, and an exulting laugh in the face of the antagonist. It was with some difficulty that Sir Henry and Colonel Everard, having at length and reluctantly interfered, prevailed on the two alienated friends to adjourn their dispute, removing at the same time to a distance, and regarding each other with looks in which old friendship appeared to have totally given way to mutual animosity.
But while they sat lowering on each other, and longing to renew a contest in which each claimed the victory, Pearson entered the prison, and in a low and troubled voice, desired the persons whom it contained to prepare for instant death.
Sir Henry Lee received the doom with the stern composure which he had hitherto displayed. Colonel Everard attempted the interposition of a strong and resentful appeal to the Parliament, against the judgment of the court-martial and the General. But Pearson declined to receive or transmit any such remonstrance, and with a dejected look and mien of melancholy presage, renewed his exhortation to them to prepare for the hour of noon, and withdrew from the prison.
The operation of this intelligence on the two clerical disputants was more remarkable. They gazed for a moment on each other with eyes in which repentant kindness and a feeling of generous shame quenched every lingering feeling of resentment, and joined in the mutual exclamation — “My brother — my brother, I have sinned, I have sinned in offending thee!” they rushed into each other’s arms, shed tears as they demanded each other’s forgiveness, and, like two warriors, who sacrifice a personal quarrel to discharge their duty against the common enemy, they recalled nobler ideas of their sacred character, and assuming the part which best became them on an occasion so melancholy, began to exhort those around them to meet the doom that had been announced, with the firmness and dignity which Christianity alone can give.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00