My tongue pads slowly under this new language,
And starts and stumbles at these uncouth phrases.
They may be great in worth and weight, but hang
Upon the native glibness of my language
Like Saul’s plate-armour on the shepherd boy,
Encumbering and not arming him.
As Markham Everard pursued his way towards the Lodge, through one of the long sweeping glades which traversed the forest, varying in breadth, till the trees were now so close that the boughs made darkness over his head, then receding farther to let in glimpses of the moon, and anon opening yet wider into little meadows, or savannahs, on which the moonbeams lay in silvery silence; as he thus proceeded on his lonely course, the various effects produced by that delicious light on the oaks, whose dark leaves, gnarled branches, and massive trunks it gilded, more or less partially, might have drawn the attention of a poet or a painter.
But if Everard thought of anything saving the painful scene in which he had just played his part, and of which the result seemed the destruction of all his hopes, it was of the necessary guard to be observed in his night-walk. The times were dangerous and unsettled; the roads full of disbanded soldiers, and especially of royalists, who made their political opinions a pretext for disturbing the country with marauding parties and robberies. Deer-stealers also, who are ever a desperate banditti, had of late infested Woodstock Chase. In short, the dangers of the place and period were such, that Markham Everard wore his loaded pistols at his belt, and carried his drawn sword under his arm, that he might be prepared for whatever peril should cross his path.
He heard the bells of Woodstock Church ring curfew, just as he was crossing one of the little meadows we have described, and they ceased as he entered an overshadowed and twilight part of the path beyond. It was there that he heard some one whistling; and, as the sound became clearer, it was plain the person was advancing towards him. This could hardly be a friend; for the party to which he belonged rejected, generally speaking, all music, unless psalmody. “If a man is merry, let him sing psalms,” was a text which they were pleased to interpret as literally and to as little purpose as they did some others; yet it was too continued a sound to be a signal amongst night-walkers, and too light and cheerful to argue any purpose of concealment on the part of the traveller, who presently exchanged his whistling for singing, and trolled forth the following stanza to a jolly tune, with which the old cavaliers were wont to wake the night owl:
Hey for cavaliers! Ho for cavaliers!
Pray for cavaliers!
Rub a dub — rub a dub!
Have at old Beelzebub —
Oliver smokes for fear.
“I should know that voice,” said Everard, uncocking the pistol which he had drawn from his belt, but continuing to hold it in his hand. Then came another fragment:
Hash them — slash them —
All to pieces dash them.
“So ho!” cried Markham, “who goes there, and for whom?”
“For Church and King,” answered a voice, which presently added, “No, d — n me — I mean against Church and King, and for the people that are uppermost — I forget which they are.”
“Roger Wildrake, as I guess?” said Everard.
“The same — Gentleman; of Squattlesea-mere, in the moist county of Lincoln.”
“Wildrake!” said Markham —“Wildgoose you should be called. You have been moistening your own throat to some purpose, and using it to gabble tunes very suitable to the times, to be sure!”
“Faith, the tune’s a pretty tune enough, Mark, only out of fashion a little — the more’s the pity.”
“What could I expect,” said Everard, “but to meet some ranting, drunken cavalier, as desperate and dangerous as night and sack usually make them? What if I had rewarded your melody by a ball in the gullet?”
“Why, there would have been a piper paid — that’s all,” said Wildrake. “But wherefore come you this way now? I was about to seek you at the hut.”
“I have been obliged to leave it — I will tell you the cause hereafter,” replied Markham.
“What! the old play-hunting cavalier was cross, or Chloe was unkind?”
“Jest not, Wildrake — it is all over with me,” said Everard.
“The devil it is,” exclaimed Wildrake, “and you take it thus quietly! — Zounds! let us back together — I’ll plead your cause for you — I know how to tickle up an old knight and a pretty maiden — Let me alone for putting you rectus in curia, you canting rogue. — D— n me, Sir Henry Lee, says I, your nephew is a piece of a Puritan — it won’t deny — but I’ll uphold him a gentleman and a pretty fellow, for all that. — Madam, says I, you may think your cousin looks like a psalm-singing weaver, in that bare felt, and with that rascally brown cloak; that band, which looks like a baby’s clout, and those loose boots, which have a whole calf-skin in each of them — but let him wear on the one side of his head a castor, with a plume befitting his quality; give him a good Toledo by his side, with a broidered belt and an inlaid hilt, instead of the ton of iron contained in that basket-hilted black Andrew Ferrara; put a few smart words in his mouth — and, blood and wounds! madam, says I—”
“Prithee, truce with this nonsense, Wildrake,” said Everard, “and tell me if you are sober enough to hear a few words of sober reason?”
“Pshaw! man, I did but crack a brace of quarts with yonder puritanic, roundheaded soldiers, up yonder at the town; and rat me but I passed myself for the best man of the party; twanged my nose, and turned up my eyes, as I took my can — Pah! the very wine tasted of hypocrisy. I think the rogue corporal smoked something at last — as for the common fellows, never stir, but they asked me to say grace over another quart.”
“This is just what I wished to speak with you about, Wildrake,” said Markham —“You hold me, I am sure, for your friend?”
“True as steel. — Chums at College and at Lincoln’s Inn — we have been Nisus and Euryalus, Theseus and Pirithous, Orestes and Pylades; and, to sum up the whole with a puritanic touch, David and Jonathan, all in one breath. Not even politics, the wedge that rends families and friendships asunder, as iron rives oak, have been able to split us.”
“True,” answered Markham: “and when you followed the King to Nottingham, and I enrolled under Essex, we swore, at our parting, that whichever side was victorious, he of us who adhered to it, should protect his less fortunate comrade.”
“Surely, man, surely; and have you not protected me accordingly? Did you not save me from hanging? and am I not indebted to you for the bread I eat?”
“I have but done that which, had the times been otherwise, you, my dear Wildrake, would, I am sure, have done for me. But, as I said, that is just what I wished to speak to you about. Why render the task of protecting you more difficult than it must necessarily be at any rate? Why thrust thyself into the company of soldiers, or such like, where thou art sure to be warmed into betraying thyself? Why come hollowing and whooping out cavalier ditties, like a drunken trooper of Prince Rupert, or one of Wilmot’s swaggering body-guards?”
“Because I may have been both one and t’other in my day, for aught that you know,” replied Wildrake. “But, oddsfish! is it necessary I should always be reminding you, that our obligation of mutual protection, our league of offensive and defensive, as I may call it, was to be carried into effect without reference to the politics or religion of the party protected, or the least obligation on him to conform to those of his friend?”
“True,” said Everard; “but with this most necessary qualification, that the party should submit to such outward conformity to the times as should make it more easy and safe for his friend to be of service to him. Now, you are perpetually breaking forth, to the hazard of your own safety and my credit.”
“I tell you, Mark, and I would tell your namesake the apostle, that you are hard on me. You have practised sobriety and hypocrisy from your hanging sleeves till your Geneva cassock — from the cradle to this day — and it is a thing of nature to you; and you are surprised that a rough, rattling, honest fellow, accustomed to speak truth all his life, and especially when he found it at the bottom of a flask, cannot be so perfect a prig as thyself — Zooks! there is no equality betwixt us — A trained diver might as well, because he can retain his breath for ten minutes without inconvenience, upbraid a poor devil for being like to burst in twenty seconds, at the bottom of ten fathoms water — And, after all, considering the guise is so new to me, I think I bear myself indifferently well — try me!”
“Are there any more news from Worcester fight?” asked Everard, in a tone so serious that it imposed on his companion, who replied in his genuine character —
“Worse! — d — n me, worse an hundred times than reported — totally broken. Noll hath certainly sold himself to the devil, and his lease will have an end one day — that is all our present comfort.”
“What! and would this be your answer to the first red-coat who asked the question?” said Everard. “Methinks you would find a speedy passport to the next corps de garde.”
“Nay, nay,” answered Wildrake, “I thought you asked me in your own person. — Lack-a-day! a great mercy — a glorifying mercy — a crowning mercy — a vouchsafing — an uplifting — I profess the malignants are scattered from Dan to Beersheba — smitten, hip and thigh, even until the going down of the sun!”
“Hear you aught of Colonel Thornhaugh’s wounds?”
“He is dead,” answered Wildrake, “that’s one comfort — the roundheaded rascal! — Nay, hold! it was but a trip of the tongue — I meant, the sweet godly youth.”
“And hear you aught of the young man, King of Scotland, as they call him?” said Everard.
“Nothing but that he is hunted like a partridge on the mountains. May God deliver him, and confound his enemies! — Zoons, Mark Everard, I can fool it no longer. Do you not remember, that at the Lincoln’s-Inn gambols — though you did not mingle much in them, I think — I used always to play as well as any of them when it came to the action, but they could never get me to rehearse conformably. It’s the same at this day. I hear your voice, and I answer to it in the true tone of my heart; but when I am in the company of your snuffling friends, you have seen me act my part indifferent well.”
“But indifferent, indeed,” replied Everard; “however, there is little call on you to do aught, save to be modest and silent. Speak little, and lay aside, if you can, your big oaths and swaggering looks — set your hat even on your brows.”
“Ay, that is the curse! I have been always noted for the jaunty manner in which I wear my castor — Hard when a man’s merits become his enemies!”
“You must remember you are my clerk.”
“Secretary,” answered Wildrake: “let it be secretary, if you love me.”
“It must be clerk, and nothing else — plain clerk — and remember to be civil and obedient,” replied Everard.
“But you should not lay on your commands with so much ostentatious superiority, Master Markham Everard. Remember, I am your senior of three years’ standing. Confound me, if I know how to take it!”
“Was ever such a fantastic wrong-head! — For my sake, if not for thine own, bend thy freakish folly to listen to reason. Think that I have incurred both risk and shame on thy account.”
“Nay, thou art a right good fellow, Mark,” replied the cavalier; “and for thy sake I will do much — but remember to cough, and cry hem! when thou seest me like to break bounds. And now, tell me whither we are bound for the night.”
“To Woodstock Lodge, to look after my uncle’s property,” answered Markham Everard: “I am informed that soldiers have taken possession — Yet how could that be if thou foundest the party drinking in Woodstock?”
“There was a kind of commissary or steward, or some such rogue, had gone down to the Lodge,” replied Wildrake; “I had a peep at him.”
“Indeed!” replied Everard.
“Ay, verily,” said Wildrake, “to speak your own language. Why, as I passed through the park in quest of you, scarce half an hour since, I saw a light in the Lodge — Step this way, you will see it yourself.”
“In the north-west angle?” returned Everard. “It is from a window in what they call Victor Lee’s apartment.”
“Well,” resumed Wildrake, “I had been long one of Lundsford’s lads, and well used to patrolling duty — So, rat me, says I, if I leave a light in my rear, without knowing what it means. Besides, Mark, thou hadst said so much to me of thy pretty cousin, I thought I might as well have a peep, if I could.”
“Thoughtless, incorrigible man! to what dangers do you expose yourself and your friends, in mere wantonness! — But go on.”
“By this fair moonshine, I believe thou art jealous, Mark Everard!” replied his gay companion; “there is no occasion; for, in any case, I, who was to see the lady, was steeled by honour against the charms of my friend’s Chloe — Then the lady was not to see me, so could make no comparisons to thy disadvantage, thou knowest — Lastly, as it fell out, neither of us saw the other at all.”
“Of that I am well aware. Mrs. Alice left the Lodge long before sunset, and never returned. What didst thou see to introduce with such preface?”
“Nay, no great matter,” replied Wildrake; “only getting upon a sort of buttress, (for I can climb like any cat that ever mewed in any gutter,) and holding on by the vines and creepers which grew around, I obtained a station where I could see into the inside of that same parlour thou spokest of just now.”
“And what saw’st thou there?” once more demanded Everard.
“Nay, no great matter, as I said before,” replied the cavalier; “for in these times it is no new thing to see churls carousing in royal or noble chambers. I saw two rascallions engaged in emptying a solemn stoup of strong waters, and dispatching a huge venison pasty, which greasy mess, for their convenience, they had placed on a lady’s work-table — One of them was trying an air on a lute.”
“The profane villains!” exclaimed Everard, “it was Alice’s.”
“Well said, comrade — I am glad your phlegm can be moved. I did but throw in these incidents of the lute and the table, to try if it was possible to get a spark of human spirit out of you, besanctified as you are.”
“What like were the men?” said young Everard.
“The one a slouch-hatted, long-cloaked, sour-faced fanatic, like the rest of you, whom I took to be the steward or commissary I heard spoken of in the town; the other was a short sturdy fellow, with a wood-knife at his girdle, and a long quarterstaff lying beside him — a black-haired knave, with white teeth and a merry countenance — one of the under-rangers or bow-bearers of these walks, I fancy.”
“They must have been Desborough’s favourite, trusty Tomkins,” said Everard, “and Joceline Joliffe, the keeper. Tomkins is Desborough’s right hand — an Independent, and hath pourings forth, as he calls them. Some think that his gifts have the better of his grace. I have heard of his abusing opportunities.”
“They were improving them when I saw them,” replied Wildrake, “and made the bottle smoke for it — when, as the devil would have it, a stone, which had been dislodged from the crumbling buttress, gave way under my weight. A clumsy fellow like thee would have been so long thinking what was to be done, that he must needs have followed it before he could make up his mind; but I, Mark, I hopped like a squirrel to an ivy twig, and stood fast — was wellnigh shot, though, for the noise alarmed them both. They looked to the oriel, and saw me on the outside; the fanatic fellow took out a pistol — as they have always such texts in readiness hanging beside the little clasped Bible, thou know’st — the keeper seized his hunting-pole — I treated them both to a roar and a grin — thou must know I can grimace like a baboon — I learned the trick from a French player, who could twist his jaws into a pair of nut-crackers — and therewithal I dropped myself sweetly on the grass, and ran off so trippingly, keeping the dark side of the wall as long as I could, that I am wellnigh persuaded they thought I was their kinsman, the devil, come among them uncalled. They were abominably startled.”
“Thou art most fearfully rash, Wildrake,” said his companion; “we are now bound for the house — what if they should remember thee?”
“Why, it is no treason, is it? No one has paid for peeping since Tom of Coventry’s days; and if he came in for a reckoning, belike it was for a better treat than mine. But trust me, they will no more know me, than a man who had only seen your friend Noll at a conventicle of saints, would know the same Oliver on horseback, and charging with his lobster-tailed squadron; or the same Noll cracking a jest and a bottle with wicked Waller the poet.”
“Hush! not a word of Oliver, as thou dost value thyself and me. It is ill jesting with the rock you may split on. — But here is the gate — we will disturb these honest gentlemen’s recreations.”
As he spoke, he applied the large and ponderous knocker to the hall-door. “Rat-tat-tat-too!” said Wildrake; “there is a fine alarm to you cuckolds and round-heads.” He then half-mimicked, half-sung the march so called:—
“Cuckolds, come dig, cuckolds, come dig;
Round about cuckolds, come dance to my jig!”
“By Heaven! this passes Midsummer frenzy,” said Everard, turning angrily to him.
“Not a bit, not a bit,” replied Wildrake; “it is but a slight expectoration, just like what one makes before beginning a long speech. I will be grave for an hour together, now I have got that point of war out of my head.”
As he spoke, steps were heard in the hall, and the wicket of the great door was partly opened, but secured with a chain in case of accidents. The visage of Tomkins, and that of Joceline beneath it, appeared at the chink, illuminated by the lamp which the latter held in his hand, and Tomkins demanded the meaning of this alarm.
“I demand instant admittance!” said Everard. “Joliffe, you know me well?”
“I do, sir,” replied Joceline, “and could admit you with all my heart; but, alas! sir, you see I am not key-keeper — Here is the gentleman whose warrant I must walk by — The Lord help me, seeing times are such as they be!”
“And when that gentleman, who I think may be Master Desborough’s valet”—
“His honour’s unworthy secretary, an it please you,” interposed Tomkins; while Wildrake whispered in Everard’s ear; “I will be no longer secretary. Mark, thou wert quite right — the clerk must be the more gentlemanly calling.”
“And if you are Master Desborough’s secretary, I presume you know me and my condition well enough,” said Everard, addressing the Independent, “not to hesitate to admit me and my attendant to a night’s quarters in the Lodge?”
“Surely not, surely not,” said the Independent —“that is, if your worship thinks you would be better accommodated here than up at the house of entertainment in the town, which men unprofitably call Saint George’s Inn. There is but confined accommodation here, your honour — and we have been frayed out of our lives already by the visitation of Satan — albeit his fiery dart is now quenched.”
“This may be all well in its place, Sir Secretary,” said Everard; “and you may find a corner for it when you are next tempted to play the preacher. But I will take it for no apology for keeping me here in the cold harvest wind; and if not presently received, and suitably too, I will report you to your master for insolence in your office.”
The secretary of Desborough did not dare offer farther opposition; for it is well known that Desborough himself only held his consequence as a kinsman of Cromwell; and the Lord-General, who was well nigh paramount already, was known to be strongly favourable both to the elder and younger Everard. It is true, they were Presbyterians and he an Independent; and that though sharing those feelings of correct morality and more devoted religious feeling, by which, with few exceptions, the Parliamentarian party were distinguished, the Everards were not disposed to carry these attributes to the extreme of enthusiasm, practised by so many others at the time. Yet it was well known that whatever might be Cromwell’s own religious creed, he was not uniformly bounded by it in the choice of his favourites, but extended his countenance to those who could serve him, even, although, according to the phrase of the time, they came out of the darkness of Egypt. The character of the elder Everard stood very high for wisdom and sagacity; besides, being of a good family and competent fortune, his adherence would lend a dignity to any side he might espouse. Then his son had been a distinguished and successful soldier, remarkable for the discipline he maintained among his men, the bravery which he showed in the time of action, and the humanity with which he was always ready to qualify the consequences of victory. Such men were not to be neglected, when many signs combined to show that the parties in the state, who had successfully accomplished the deposition and death of the King, were speedily to quarrel among themselves about the division of the spoils. The two Everards were therefore much courted by Cromwell, and their influence with him was supposed to be so great, that trusty Master Secretary Tomkins cared not to expose himself to risk, by contending with Colonel Everard for such a trifle as a night’s lodging.
Joceline was active on his side — more lights were obtained — more wood thrown on the fire — and the two newly-arrived strangers were introduced into Victor Lee’s parlour, as it was called, from the picture over the chimney-piece, which we have already described. It was several minutes ere Colonel Everard could recover his general stoicism of deportment, so strongly was he impressed by finding himself in the apartment, under whose roof he had passed so many of the happiest hours of his life. There was the cabinet, which he had seen opened with such feelings of delight when Sir Henry Lee deigned to give him instructions in fishing, and to exhibit hooks and lines, together with all the materials for making the artificial fly, then little known. There hung the ancient family picture, which, from some odd mysterious expressions of his uncle relating to it, had become to his boyhood, nay, his early youth, a subject of curiosity and of fear. He remembered how, when left alone in the apartment, the searching eye of the old warrior seemed always bent upon his, in whatever part of the room he placed himself, and how his childish imagination was perturbed at a phenomenon, for which he could not account.
With these came a thousand dearer and warmer recollections of his early attachment to his pretty cousin Alice, when he assisted her at her lessons, brought water for her flowers, or accompanied her while she sung; and he remembered that while her father looked at them with a good-humoured and careless smile, he had once heard him mutter, “And if it should turn out so — why, it might be best for both,” and the theories of happiness he had reared on these words. All these visions had been dispelled by the trumpet of war, which called Sir Henry Lee and himself to opposite sides; and the transactions of this very day had shown, that even Everard’s success as a soldier and a statesman seemed absolutely to prohibit the chance of their being revived.
He was waked out of this unpleasing reverie by the approach of Joceline, who, being possibly a seasoned toper, had made the additional arrangements with more expedition and accuracy, than could have been expected from a person engaged as he had been since night-fall.
He now wished to know the Colonel’s directions for the night.
“Would he eat anything?”
“Did his honour choose to accept Sir Henry Lee’s bed, which was ready prepared?”
“That of Mistress Alice Lee should be prepared for the Secretary.”
“On pain of thine ears — No,” replied Everard.
“Where then was the worthy Secretary to be quartered?”
“In the dog-kennel, if you list,” replied Colonel Everard; “but,” added he, stepping to the sleeping apartment of Alice, which opened from the parlour, locking it, and taking out the key, “no one shall profane this chamber.”
“Had his honour any other commands for the night?”
“None, save to clear the apartment of yonder man. My clerk will remain with me — I have orders which must be written out. — Yet stay — Thou gavest my letter this morning to Mistress Alice?”
“Tell me, good Joceline, what she said when she received it?”
“She seemed much concerned, sir; and indeed I think that she wept a little — but indeed she seemed very much distressed.”
“And what message did she send to me?”
“None, may it please your honour — She began to say, ‘Tell my cousin Everard that I will communicate my uncle’s kind purpose to my father, if I can get fitting opportunity — but that I greatly fear’— and there checked herself, as it were, and said, ‘I will write to my cousin; and as it may be late ere I have an opportunity of speaking with my father, do thou come for my answer after service.’— So I went to church myself, to while away the time; but when I returned to the Chase, I found this man had summoned my master to surrender, and, right or wrong, I must put him in possession of the Lodge. I would fain have given your honour a hint that the old knight and my young mistress were like to take you on the form, but I could not mend the matter.”
“Thou hast done well, good fellow, and I will remember thee. — And now, my masters,” he said, advancing to the brace of clerks or secretaries, who had in the meanwhile sate quietly down beside the stone bottle, and made up acquaintance over a glass of its contents —“Let me remind you, that the night wears late.”
“There is something cries tinkle, tinkle, in the bottle yet,” said Wildrake, in reply.
“Hem! hem! hem!” coughed the Colonel of the Parliament service; and if his lips did not curse his companion’s imprudence, I will not answer for what arose in his heart — “Well!” he said, observing that Wildrake had filled his own glass and Tomkins’s, “take that parting glass and begone.”
“Would you not be pleased to hear first,” said Wildrake, “how this honest gentleman saw the devil to-night look through a pane of yonder window, and how he thinks he had a mighty strong resemblance to your worship’s humble slave and varlet scribbler? Would you but hear this, sir, and just sip a glass of this very recommendable strong waters?”
“I will drink none, sir,” said Colonel Everard sternly; “and I have to tell you, that you have drunken a glass too much already. — Mr. Tomkins, sir, I wish you good night.”
“A word in season at parting,” said Tomkins, standing up behind the long leathern back of a chair, hemming and snuffling as if preparing for an exhortation.
“Excuse me, sir,” replied Markham Everard sternly; “you are not now sufficiently yourself to guide the devotion of others.”
“Woe be to them that reject!” said the Secretary of the Commissioners, stalking out of the room — the rest was lost in shutting the door, or suppressed for fear of offence.
“And now, fool Wildrake, begone to thy bed — yonder it lies,” pointing to the knight’s apartment.
“What, thou hast secured the lady’s for thyself? I saw thee put the key in thy pocket.”
“I would not — indeed I could not sleep in that apartment — I can sleep nowhere — but I will watch in this arm-chair. — I have made him place wood for repairing the fire. — Good now, go to bed thyself, and sleep off thy liquor.”
“Liquor! — I laugh thee to scorn, Mark — thou art a milksop, and the son of a milksop, and know’st not what a good fellow can do in the way of crushing an honest cup.”
“The whole vices of his faction are in this poor fellow individually,” said the Colonel to himself, eyeing his protegé askance, as the other retreated into the bedroom, with no very steady pace —“He is reckless, intemperate, dissolute; — and if I cannot get him safely shipped for France, he will certainly be both his own ruin and mine. — Yet, withal, he is kind, brave, and generous, and would have kept the faith with me which he now expects from me; and in what consists the merit of our truth, if we observe not our plighted word when we have promised, to our hurt? I will take the liberty, however, to secure myself against farther interruption on his part.”
So saying, he locked the door of communication betwixt the sleeping-room, to which the cavalier had retreated, and the parlour; — and then, after pacing the floor thoughtfully, returned to his seat, trimmed the lamp, and drew out a number of letters. —“I will read these over once more,” he said, “that, if possible, the thought of public affairs may expel this keen sense of personal sorrow. Gracious Providence, where is this to end! We have sacrificed the peace of our families, the warmest wishes of our young hearts, to right the country in which we were born, and to free her from oppression; yet it appears, that every step we have made towards liberty, has but brought us in view of new and more terrific perils, as he who travels in a mountainous region, is by every step which elevates him higher, placed in a situation of more imminent hazard.”
He read long and attentively, various tedious and embarrassed letters, in which the writers, placing before him the glory of God, and the freedom and liberties of England, as their supreme ends, could not, by all the ambagitory expressions they made use of, prevent the shrewd eye of Markham Everard from seeing, that self-interest and views of ambition, were the principal moving springs at the bottom of their plots.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00