Woodstock; or, The Cavalier
Sir Walter Scott
Part 10 out of 11
royalists. In a word, if any use was to be made of the chance which
fortune afforded of securing the most formidable claimant of the supreme
power, which he already aimed at, no farther time was to be lost. He at
length gave orders to Pearson to get the men under arms; he directed him
concerning the mode of forming them, and that they should march with the
utmost possible silence; or as it was given out in the orders, "Even as
Gideon marched in silence when he went down against the camp of the
Midianites, with only Phurah his servant. Peradventure," continued this
strange document, "we too may learn of what yonder Midianites have
A single patrol, followed by a corporal and five steady, experienced
soldiers, formed the advanced guard of the party; then followed the main
body. A rear-guard of ten men guarded Everard and the minister. Cromwell
required the attendance of the former, as it might be necessary to
examine him, or confront him with others; and he carried Master
Holdenough with him, because he might escape if left behind, and perhaps
raise some tumult in the village. The Presbyterians, though they not
only concurred with, but led the way in the civil war, were at its
conclusion highly dissatisfied with the ascendency of the military
sectaries, and not to be trusted as cordial agents in anything where
their interest was concerned. The infantry being disposed of as we have
noticed, marched off from the left of their line, Cromwell and Pearson,
both on foot, keeping at the head of the centre, or main body of the
detachment. They were all armed with petronels, short guns similar to
the modern carabine, and, like them, used by horsemen. They marched in
the most profound silence and with the utmost regularity, the whole body
moving like one man.
About one hundred yards behind the rearmost of the dismounted party,
came the troopers who remained on horseback; and it seemed as if even
the irrational animals were sensible to Cromwell's orders, for the
horses did not neigh, and even appeared to place their feet on the earth
cautiously, and with less noise than usual.
Their leader, full of anxious thoughts, never spoke, save to enforce by
whispers his caution respecting silence, while the men, surprised and
delighted to find themselves under the command of their renowned
General, and destined, doubtless, for some secret service of high
import, used the utmost precaution in attending to his reiterated
They marched down the street of the little borough in the order we have
mentioned. Few of the townsmen were abroad; and one or two, who had
protracted the orgies of the evening to that unusual hour, were too
happy to escape the notice of a strong party of soldiers, who often
acted in the character of police, to inquire about their purpose for
being under arms so late, or the route which they were pursuing.
The external gate of the Chase had, ever since the party had arrived at
Woodstock, been strictly guarded by three file of troopers, to cut off
all communication between the Lodge and the town. Spitfire, Wildrake's
emissary, who had often been a-bird-nesting, or on similar mischievous
excursions in the forest, had evaded these men's vigilance by climbing
over a breach, with which he was well acquainted, in a different part of
Between this party and the advanced guard of Cromwell's detachment, a
whispered challenge was exchanged, according to the rules of discipline.
The infantry entered the Park, and were followed by the cavalry, who
were directed to avoid the hard road, and ride as much as possible upon
the turf which bordered on the avenue. Here, too, an additional
precaution was used, a file or two of foot soldiers being detached to
search the woods on either hand, and make prisoner, or, in the event of
resistance, put to death, any whom they might find lurking there, under
what pretence soever.
Meanwhile, the weather began to show itself as propitious to Cromwell,
as he had found most incidents in the course of his successful career.
The grey mist, which had hitherto obscured everything, and rendered
marching in the wood embarrassing and difficult, had now given way to
the moon, which, after many efforts, at length forced her way through
the vapour, and hung her dim dull cresset in the heavens, which she
enlightened, as the dying lamp of an anchorite does the cell in which he
reposes. The party were in sight of the front of the palace, when
Holdenough whispered to Everard, as they walked near each other--"See ye
not, yonder flutters the mysterious light in the turret of the
incontinent Rosamond? This night will try whether the devil of the
Sectaries or the devil of the Malignants shall prove the stronger. O,
sing jubilee, for the kingdom of Satan is divided against itself!"
Here the divine was interrupted by a non-commissioned officer, who came
hastily, yet with noiseless steps, to say, in a low stern whisper--
"Silence, prisoner in the rear--silence on pain of death."
A moment afterwards the whole party stopped their march, the word halt
being passed from one to another, and instantly obeyed.
The cause of this interruption was the hasty return of one of the
flanking party to the main body, bringing news to Cromwell that they had
seen a light in the wood at some distance on the left.
"What can it be?" said Cromwell, his low stern voice, even in a whisper,
making itself distinctly heard. "Does it move, or is it stationary?"
"So far as we can judge, it moveth not," answered the trooper.
"Strange--there is no cottage near the spot where it is seen."
"So please your Excellency, it may be a device of Sathan," said Corporal
Humgudgeon, snuffing through his nose; "he is mighty powerful in these
parts of late."
"So please your idiocy, thou art an ass," said Cromwell; but, instantly
recollecting that the corporal had been one of the adjutators or
tribunes of the common soldiers, and was therefore to be treated with
suitable respect, he said, "Nevertheless, if it be the device of Satan,
please it the Lord we will resist him, and the foul slave shall fly from
us.--Pearson," he said, resuming his soldierlike brevity, "take four
file, and see what is yonder--No--the knaves may shrink from thee. Go
thou straight to the Lodge--invest it in the way we agreed, so that a
bird shall not escape out of it--form an outward and an inward ring of
sentinels, but give no alarm until I come. Should any attempt to escape,
KILL them."--He spoke that command with terrible emphasis.--"Kill them
on the spot," he repeated, "be they who or what they will. Better so
than trouble the Commonwealth with prisoners."
Pearson heard, and proceeded to obey his commander's orders.
Meanwhile, the future Protector disposed the small force which remained
with him in such a manner that they should approach from different
points at once the light which excited his suspicions, and gave them
orders to creep as near to it as they could, taking care not to lose
each other's support, and to be ready to rush in at the same moment,
when he should give the sign, which was to be a loud whistle. Anxious to
ascertain the truth with his own eyes, Cromwell, who had by instinct all
the habits of military foresight, which, in others, are the result of
professional education and long experience, advanced upon the object of
his curiosity. He skulked from tree to tree with the light step and
prowling sagacity of an Indian bush-fighter; and before any of his men
had approached so near as to descry them, he saw, by the lantern which
was placed on the ground, two men, who had been engaged in digging what
seemed to be an ill-made grave. Near them lay extended something wrapped
in a deer's hide, which greatly resembled the dead body of a man. They
spoke together in a low voice, yet so that their dangerous auditor could
perfectly overhear what they said.
"It is done at last," said one; "the worst and hardest labour I ever did
in my life. I believe there is no luck about me left. My very arms feel
as if they did not belong to me; and, strange to tell, toil as hard as I
would, I could not gather warmth in my limbs."
"I have warmed me enough," said Rochecliffe, breathing short with
"But the cold lies at my heart," said Joceline; "I scarce hope ever to
be warm again. It is strange, and a charm seems to be on us. Here have
we been nigh two hours in doing what Diggon the sexton would have done
to better purpose in half a one."
"We are wretched spadesmen enough," answered Dr. Rochecliffe. "Every man
to his tools--thou to thy bugle-horn, and I to my papers in cipher.--But
do not be discouraged; it is the frost on the ground, and the number of
roots, which rendered our task difficult. And now, all due rites done to
this unhappy man, and having read over him the service of the Church,
_valeat quantum_, let us lay him decently in this place of last repose;
there will be small lack of him above ground. So cheer up thy heart,
man, like a soldier as thou art; we have read the service over his body;
and should times permit it, we will have him removed to consecrated
ground, though he is all unworthy of such favour. Here, help me to lay
him in the earth; we will drag briers and thorns over the spot, when we
have shovelled dust upon dust; and do thou think of this chance more
manfully; and remember, thy secret is in thine own keeping."
"I cannot answer for that," said Joceline. "Methinks the very night
winds among the leaves will tell of what we have been doing--methinks
the trees themselves will say, 'there is a dead corpse lies among our
roots.' Witnesses are soon found when blood hath been spilled."
"They are so, and that right early," exclaimed Cromwell, starting from
the thicket, laying hold on Joceline, and putting a pistol to his head.
At any other period of his life, the forester would, even against the
odds of numbers, have made a desperate resistance; but the horror he had
felt at the slaughter of an old companion, although in defence of his
own life, together with fatigue and surprise, had altogether unmanned
him, and he was seized as easily as a sheep is secured by the butcher.
Dr. Rochecliffe offered some resistance, but was presently secured by
the soldiers who pressed around him.
"Look, some of you," said Cromwell, "what corpse this is upon whom these
lewd sons of Belial have done a murder--Corporal Grace-be-here
Humgudgeon, see if thou knowest the face."
"I profess I do, even as I should do mine own in a mirror," snuffled the
corporal, after looking on the countenance of the dead man by the help
of the lantern. "Of a verity it is our trusty brother in the faith,
"Tomkins!" exclaimed Cromwell, springing forward and satisfying himself
with a glance at the features of the corpse--"Tomkins!--and murdered, as
the fracture of the temple intimates!--dogs that ye are, confess the
truth--You have murdered him because you have discovered his treachery--
I should say his true spirit towards the Commonwealth of England, and
his hatred of those complots in which you would have engaged his honest
"Ay," said Grace-be-here Humgudgeon, "and then to misuse his dead body
with your papistical doctrines, as if you had crammed cold porridge into
its cold mouth. I pray thee, General, let these men's bonds be made
"Forbear, corporal," said Cromwell; "our time presses.--Friend, to
you,--whom I believe to be Doctor Anthony Rochecliffe by name and
surname, I have to give the choice of being hanged at daybreak
to-morrow, or making atonement for the murder of one of the Lord's
people, by telling what thou knowest of the secrets which are in yonder
"Truly, sir," replied Rochecliffe, "you found me but in my duty as a
clergyman, interring the dead; and respecting answering your questions,
I am determined myself, and do advise my fellow-sufferer on this
"Remove him," said Cromwell; "I know his stiffneckedness of old, though
I have made him plough in my furrow, when he thought he was turning up
his own swathe--Remove him to the rear, and bring hither the other
fellow.--Come thou here--this way--closer--closer.--Corporal
Grace-be-here, do thou keep thy hand upon the belt with which he is
bound. We must take care of our life for the sake of this distracted
country, though, lack-a-day, for its own proper worth we could peril it
for a pin's point.--Now, mark me, fellow, choose betwixt buying thy life
by a full confession, or being tucked presently up to one of these old
oaks--How likest thou that?"
"Truly, master," answered the under-keeper, affecting more rusticity
than was natural to him, (for his frequent intercourse with Sir Henry
Lee had partly softened and polished his manners,) "I think the oak is
like to bear a lusty acorn--that is all."
"Dally not with me, friend," continued Oliver; "I profess to thee in
sincerity I am no trifler. What guests have you seen at yonder house
called the Lodge?"
"Many a brave guest in my day, I'se warrant ye, master," said Joceline.
"Ah, to see how the chimneys used to smoke some twelve years back! Ah,
sir, a sniff of it would have dined a poor man."
"Out, rascal!" said the General, "dost thou jeer me? Tell me at once
what guests have been of late in the Lodge--and look thee, friend, be
assured, that in rendering me this satisfaction, thou shalt not only
rescue thy neck from the halter, but render also an acceptable service
to the State, and one which I will see fittingly rewarded. For, truly, I
am not of those who would have the rain fall only on the proud and
stately plants, but rather would, so far as my poor wishes and prayers
are concerned, that it should also fall upon the lowly and humble grass
and corn, that the heart of the husbandman may be rejoiced, and that as
the cedar of Lebanon waxes in its height, in its boughs, and in its
roots, so may the humble and lowly hyssop that groweth upon the walls
flourish, and--and, truly--Understand'st thou me, knave?"
"Not entirely, if it please your honour," said Joceline; "but it sounds
as if you were preaching a sermon, and has a marvellous twang of
doctrine with it."
"Then, in one word--thou knowest there is one Louis Kerneguy, or
Carnego, or some such name, in hiding at the Lodge yonder?"
"Nay, sir," replied the under-keeper, "there have been many coming and
going since Worcester-field; and how should I know who they are?--my
service is out of doors, I trow."
"A thousand pounds," said Cromwell, "do I tell down to thee, if thou
canst place that boy in my power."
"A thousand pounds is a marvellous matter, sir," said Joceline; "but I
have more blood on my hand than I like already. I know not how the price
of life may thrive--and, 'scape or hang, I have no mind to try."
"Away with him to the rear," said the General; "and let him not speak
with his yoke-fellow yonder--Fool that I am, to waste time in expecting
to get milk from mules.--Move on towards the Lodge."
They moved with the same silence as formerly, notwithstanding the
difficulties which they encountered from being unacquainted with the
road and its various intricacies. At length they were challenged, in a
low voice, by one of their own sentinels, two concentric circles of whom
had been placed around the Lodge, so close to each other, as to preclude
the possibility of an individual escaping from within. The outer guard
was maintained partly by horse upon the roads and open lawn, and where
the ground was broken and bushy, by infantry. The inner circle was
guarded by foot soldiers only. The whole were in the highest degree
alert, expecting some interesting and important consequences from the
unusual expedition on which they were engaged.
"Any news, Pearson?" said the General to his aide-de-camp, who came
instantly to report to his superior.
He received for answer, "None."
Cromwell led his officer forward just opposite to the door of the Lodge,
and there paused betwixt the circles of guards, so that their
conversation could not be overheard.
He then pursued his enquiry, demanding, "Were there any lights--any
appearances of stirring--any attempt at sally--any preparation for
"All as silent as the valley of the shadow of death--Even as the vale of
"Pshaw! tell me not of Jehosaphat, Pearson," said Cromwell. "These words
are good for others, but not for thee. Speak plainly, and like a blunt
soldier as thou art. Each man hath his own mode of speech; and
bluntness, not sanctity, is thine."
"Well then, nothing has been stirring," said Pearson.--"Yet
"Peradventure not me," said Cromwell, "or thou wilt tempt me to knock
thy teeth out. I ever distrust a man when he speaks after another
fashion from his own."
"Zounds! let me speak to an end," answered Pearson, "and I will speak in
what language your Excellency will."
"Thy zounds, friend," said Oliver, "showeth little of grace, but much of
sincerity. Go to then--thou knowest I love and trust thee. Hast thou
kept close watch? It behoves us to know that, before giving the alarm."
"On my soul," said Pearson, "I have watched as closely as a cat at a
mouse-hole. It is beyond possibility that any thing could have eluded
our vigilance, or even stirred within the house, without our being aware
"'Tis well," said Cromwell; "thy services shall not be forgotten,
Pearson. Thou canst not preach and pray, but thou canst obey thine
orders, Gilbert Pearson, and that may make amends."
"I thank your Excellency," replied Pearson; "but I beg leave to chime in
with the humours of the times. A poor fellow hath no right to hold
He paused, expecting Cromwell's orders what next was to be done, and,
indeed, not a little surprised that the General's active and prompt
spirit had suffered him during a moment so critical to cast away a
thought upon a circumstance so trivial as his officer's peculiar mode of
expressing himself. He wondered still more, when, by a brighter gleam of
moonshine than he had yet enjoyed, he observed that Cromwell was
standing motionless, his hands supported upon his sword, which he had
taken out of the belt, and his stern brows bent on the ground. He waited
for some time impatiently, yet afraid to interfere, lest he should
awaken this unwonted fit of ill-timed melancholy into anger and
impatience. He listened to the muttering sounds which escaped from the
half-opening lips of his principal, in which the words, "hard
necessity," which occurred more than once, were all of which the sense
could be distinguished. "My Lord-General," at length he said, "time
"Peace, busy fiend, and urge me not!" said Cromwell. "Think'st thou,
like other fools, that I have made a paction with the devil for success,
and am bound to do my work within an appointed hour, lest the spell
should lose its force?"
"I only think, my Lord-General," said Pearson, "that Fortune has put
into your coffer what you have long desired to make prize of, and that
Cromwell sighed deeply as he answered, "Ah, Pearson, in this troubled
world, a man, who is called like me to work great things in Israel, had
need to be, as the poets feign, a thing made of hardened metal,
immovable to feelings of human charities, impassible, resistless.
Pearson, the world will hereafter, perchance, think of me as being such
a one as I have described, 'an iron man, and made of iron mould.'--Yet
they will wrong my memory--my heart is flesh, and my blood is mild as
that of others. When I was a sportsman, I have wept for the gallant
heron that was struck down, by my hawk, and sorrowed for the hare which
lay screaming under the jaws of my greyhound; and canst thou think it a
light thing to me, that, the blood of this lad's father lying in some
measure upon my head, I should now put in peril that of the son? They
are of the kindly race of English sovereigns, and, doubtless, are adored
like to demigods by those of their own party. I am called Parricide,
Blood-thirsty Usurper, already, for shedding the blood of one man, that
the plague might be stayed--or as Achan was slain that Israel might
thereafter stand against the face of their enemies. Nevertheless, who
has spoke unto me graciously since that high deed? Those who acted in
the matter with me are willing that I should be the scape-goat of the
atonement--those who looked on and helped not, bear themselves now as if
they had been borne down by violence; and while I looked that they
should shout applause on me, because of the victory of Worcester,
whereof the Lord had made me the poor instrument, they look aside to
say, 'Ha! ha! the King-killer, the Parricide--soon shall his place be
made desolate.'--Truly it is a great thing, Gilbert Pearson, to be
lifted above the multitude; but when one feeleth that his exaltation is
rather hailed with hate and scorn than with love and reverence--in
sooth, it is still a hard matter for a mild, tender-conscienced, infirm
spirit to bear--and God be my witness, that, rather than do this new
deed, I would shed my own best heart's-blood in a pitched field, twenty
against one." Here he fell into a flood of tears, which he sometimes was
wont to do. This extremity of emotion was of a singular character. It
was not actually the result of penitence, and far less that of absolute
hypocrisy, but arose merely from the temperature of that remarkable man,
whose deep policy, and ardent enthusiasm, were intermingled with a
strain of hypochondriacal passion, which often led him to exhibit scenes
of this sort, though seldom, as now, when he was called to the execution
of great undertakings.
Pearson, well acquainted as he was with the peculiarities of his
General, was baffled and confounded by this fit of hesitation and
contrition, by which his enterprising spirit appeared to be so suddenly
paralysed. After a moment's silence, he said, with some dryness of
manner, "If this be the case, it is a pity your Excellency came hither.
Corporal Humgudgeon and I, the greatest saint and greatest sinner in
your army, had done the deed, and divided the guilt and the honour
"Ha!" said Cromwell, as if touched to the quick, "wouldst thou take the
prey from the lion?"
"If the lion behaves like a village cur," said Pearson boldly, "who now
barks and seems as if he would tear all to pieces, and now flies from a
raised stick or a stone, I know not why I should fear him. If Lambert
had been here, there had been less speaking and more action."
"Lambert! What of Lambert?" said Cromwell, very sharply.
"Only," said Pearson, "that I long since hesitated whether I should
follow your Excellency or him--and I begin to be uncertain whether I
have made the best choice, that's all."
"Lambert!" exclaimed Cromwell impatiently, yet softening his voice lest
he should be overheard descanting on the character of his rival,--"What
is Lambert?--a tulip-fancying fellow, whom nature intended for a Dutch
gardener at Delft or Rotterdam. Ungrateful as thou art, what could
Lambert have done for thee?"
"He would not," answered Pearson, "have stood here hesitating before a
locked door, when fortune presented the means of securing, by one blow,
his own fortune, and that of all who followed him."
"Thou art right, Gilbert Pearson," said Cromwell, grasping his officer's
hand, and strongly pressing it. "Be the half of this bold accompt thine,
whether the reckoning be on earth or heaven."
"Be the whole of it mine hereafter," said Pearson hardily, "so your
Excellency have the advantage of it upon earth. Step back to the rear
till I force the door--there may be danger, if despair induce them to
make a desperate sally."
"And if they do sally, is there one of my Ironsides who fears fire or
steel less than myself?" said the General. "Let ten of the most
determined men follow us, two with halberts, two with petronels, the
others with pistols--Let all their arms be loaded, and fire without
hesitation, if there is any attempt to resist or to sally forth--Let
Corporal Humgudgeon be with them, and do thou remain here, and watch
against escape, as thou wouldst watch for thy salvation."
The General then struck at the door with the hilt of his sword--at first
with a single blow or two, then with a reverberation of strokes that
made the ancient building ring again. This noisy summons was repeated
once or twice without producing the least effect.
"What can this mean?" said Cromwell; "they cannot surely have fled, and
left the house empty."
"No," replied Pearson, "I will ensure you against that; but your
Excellency strikes so fiercely, you allow no time for an answer. Hark! I
hear the baying of a hound, and the voice of a man who is quieting
him--Shall we break in at once, or hold parley?"
"I will speak to them first," said Cromwell.--"Hollo! who is within
"Who is it enquires?" answered Sir Henry Lee from the interior; "or what
want you here at this dead hour?"
"We come by warrant of the Commonwealth of England," said the General.
"I must see your warrant ere I undo either bolt or latch," replied the
knight; "we are enough of us to make good the castle: neither I nor my
fellows will deliver it up but upon good quarter and conditions; and we
will not treat for these save in fair daylight."
"Since you will not yield to our right, you must try our might," replied
Cromwell. "Look to yourselves within; the door will be in the midst of
you in five minutes."
"Look to yourselves without," replied the stout-hearted Sir Henry; "we
will pour our shot upon you, if you attempt the least violence."
But, alas! while he assumed this bold language, his whole garrison
consisted of two poor terrified women; for his son, in conformity with
the plan which they had fixed upon, had withdrawn from the hall into the
secret recesses of the palace.
"What can they be doing now, sir?" said Phoebe, hearing a noise as it
were of a carpenter turning screw-nails, mixed with a low buzz of men
"They are fixing a petard," said the knight, with great composure. "I
have noted thee for a clever wench, Phoebe, and I will explain it to
thee: 'Tis a metal pot, shaped much like one of the roguish knaves' own
sugarloaf hats, supposing it had narrower brims--it is charged with some
few pounds of fine gunpowder. Then"--
"Gracious! we shall be all blown up!" exclaimed Phoebe,--the word
gunpowder being the only one which she understood in the knight's
"Not a bit, foolish girl. Pack old Dame Jellicot into the embrasure of
yonder window," said the knight, "on that side of the door, and we will
ensconce ourselves on this, and we shall have time to finish my
explanation, for they have bungling engineers. We had a clever French
fellow at Newark would have done the job in the firing of a pistol."
They had scarce got into the place of security when the knight proceeded
with his description.--"The petard being formed, as I tell you, is
secured with a thick and strong piece of plank, termed the madrier, and
the whole being suspended, or rather secured against the gate to be
forced--But thou mindest me not?"
"How can I, Sir Henry," she said, "within reach of such a thing as you
speak of?--O Lord! I shall go mad with very terror--we shall be
crushed--blown up--in a few minutes!"
"We are secure from the explosion," replied the knight, gravely, "which
will operate chiefly in a forward direction into the middle of the
chamber; and from any fragments that may fly laterally, we are
sufficiently guarded by this deep embrasure."
"But they will slay us when they enter," said Phoebe.
"They will give thee fair quarter, wench," said Sir Henry; "and if I do
not bestow a brace of balls on that rogue engineer, it is because I
would not incur the penalty inflicted by martial law, which condemns to
the edge of the sword all persons who attempt to defend an untenable
post. Not that I think the rigour of the law could reach Dame Jellicot
or thyself, Phoebe, considering that you carry no arms. If Alice had
been here she might indeed have done somewhat, for she can use a
Phoebe might have appealed to her own deeds of that day, as more allied
to feats of mêlée and battle, than any which her young lady ever acted;
but she was in an agony of inexpressible terror, expecting, from the
knight's account of the petard, some dreadful catastrophe, of what
nature she did not justly understand, notwithstanding his liberal
communication on the subject.
"They are strangely awkward at it," said Sir Henry; "little Boutirlin
would have blown the house up before now.--Ah! he is a fellow would take
the earth like a rabbit--if he had been here, never may I stir but he
would have countermined them ere now, and
--''Tis sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard.'
as our immortal Shakspeare has it."
"Oh, Lord, the poor mad old gentleman," thought Phoebe--"Oh, sir, had
you not better leave alone playbooks, and think of your end?" uttered
she aloud, in sheer terror and vexation of spirit.
"If I had not made up my mind to that many days since," answered the
knight, "I had not now met this hour with a free bosom--
'As gentle and as jocund as to rest,
Go I to death--truth hath a quiet breast.'"
As he spoke, a broad glare of light flashed from without, through the
windows of the hall, and betwixt the strong iron stanchions with which
they were secured--a broad discoloured light it was, which shed a red
and dusky illumination on the old armour and weapons, as if it had been
the reflection of a conflagration. Phoebe screamed aloud, and, forgetful
of reverence in the moment of passion, clung close to the knight's cloak
and arm, while Dame Jellicot, from her solitary niche, having the use of
her eyes, though bereft of her hearing, yelled like an owl when the moon
breaks out suddenly.
"Take care, good Phoebe," said the knight; "you will prevent my using my
weapon if you hang upon me thus.--The bungling fools cannot fix their
petard without the use of torches! Now let me take the advantage of this
interval.--Remember what I told thee, and how to put off time."
"Oh, Lord--ay, sir," said Phoebe, "I will say any thing, Oh, Lord, that
it were but over!--Ah! ah!"--(two prolonged screams)--"I hear something
hissing like a serpent."
"It is the fusee, as we martialists call it," replied the knight; "that
is, Phoebe, the match which fires the petard, and which is longer or
shorter, according to the distance."
Here the knight's discourse was cut short by a dreadful explosion,
which, as he had foretold, shattered the door, strong as it was, to
pieces, and brought down the glass clattering from the windows with all
the painted heroes and heroines, who had been recorded on that fragile
place of memory for centuries. The women shrieked incessantly, and were
answered by the bellowing of Bevis, though shut up at a distance from
the scene of action. The knight, shaking Phoebe from him with
difficulty, advanced into the hall to meet those who rushed in, with
torches lighted and weapons prepared.
"Death to all who resist--life to those who surrender!" exclaimed
Cromwell, stamping with his foot. "Who commands this garrison?"
"Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley," answered the old knight, stepping forward;
"who, having no other garrison than two weak women, is compelled to
submit to what he would willingly have resisted."
"Disarm the inveterate and malignant rebel," cried Oliver. "Art thou not
ashamed, sir, to detain me before the door of a house which you had no
force to defend? Wearest thou so white a beard, and knowest thou not,
that to refuse surrendering an indefensible post, by the martial law,
"My beard and I," said Sir Henry, "have settled that matter between us,
and agree right cordially. It is better to run the risk of being hanged,
like honest men, than to give up our trust like cowards and traitors."
"Ha! say'st thou?" said Cromwell; "thou hast powerful motives, I doubt
not, for running thy head into a noose. But I will speak with thee by
and by.--Ho! Pearson, Gilbert Pearson, take this scroll--Take the elder
woman with thee--Let her guide you to the various places therein
mentioned--Search every room therein set down, and arrest, or slay upon
the slightest resistance, whomsoever you find there. Then note those
places marked as commanding points for cutting off intercourse through
the mansion--the landing-places of the great staircase, the great
gallery, and so forth. Use the woman civilly. The plan annexed to the
scroll will point out the posts, even if she prove stupid or refractory.
Meanwhile, the corporal, with a party, will bring the old man and the
girl there to some apartment--the parlour, I think, called Victor Lee's,
will do as well as another.--We will then be out of this stifling smell
So saying, and without requiring any farther assistance or guidance, he
walked towards the apartment he had named. Sir Henry had his own
feelings, when he saw the unhesitating decision with which the General
led the way, and which seemed to intimate a more complete acquaintance
with the various localities of Woodstock than was consistent with his
own present design, to engage the Commonwealth party in a fruitless
search through the intricacies of the Lodge.
"I will now ask thee a few questions, old man," said the General, when
they had arrived in the room; "and I warn thee, that hope of pardon for
thy many and persevering efforts against the Commonwealth, can be no
otherwise merited than by the most direct answers to the questions I am
about to ask."
Sir Henry bowed. He would have spoken, but he felt his temper rising
high, and became afraid it might be exhausted before the part he had
settled to play, in order to afford the King time for his escape, should
be brought to an end.
"What household have you had here, Sir Henry Lee, within these few
days--what guests--what visitors? We know that your means of
house-keeping are not so profuse as usual, so the catalogue cannot be
burdensome to your memory."
"Far from it," replied the knight, with unusual command of temper, "my
daughter, and latterly my son, have been my guests; and I have had these
females, and one Joceline Joliffe, to attend upon us."
"I do not ask after the regular members of your household, but after
those who have been within your gates, either as guests, or as malignant
fugitives taking shelter."
"There may have been more of both kinds, sir, than I, if it please your
valour, am able to answer for," replied the knight. "I remember my
kinsman Everard was here one morning--Also, I bethink me, a follower of
his, called Wildrake."
"Did you not also receive a young cavalier, called Louis Garnegey?" said
"I remember no such name, were I to hang for it," said the knight.
"Kerneguy, or some such word," said the General; "we will not quarrel
for a sound."
"A Scotch lad, called Louis Kerneguy, was a guest of mine," said Sir
Henry, "and left me this morning for Dorsetshire."
"So late!" exclaimed Cromwell, stamping with his foot--"How fate
contrives to baffle us, even when she seems most favourable!--What
direction did he take, old man?" continued Cromwell--"what horse did he
ride--who went with him?"
"My son went with him," replied the knight; "he brought him here as the
son of a Scottish lord.--I pray you, sir, to be finished with these
questions; for although I owe thee, as Will Shakspeare says,
Respect for thy great place, and let the devil
Be sometimes honoured for his burning throne,--
yet I feel my patience wearing thin."
Cromwell here whispered to the corporal, who in turn uttered orders to
two soldiers, who left the room. "Place the knight aside; we will now
examine the servant damsel," said the General.--"Dost them know," said
he to Phoebe, "of the presence of one Louis Kerneguy, calling himself a
Scotch page, who came here a few days since?"
"Surely, sir," she replied, "I cannot easily forget him; and I warrant
no well-looking wench that comes into his way will be like to forget him
"Aha," said Cromwell, "sayst thou so? truly I believe the woman will
prove the truer witness.--When did he leave this house?"
"Nay, I know nothing of his movements, not I," said Phoebe; "I am only
glad to keep out of his way. But if he have actually gone hence, I am
sure he was here some two hours since, for he crossed me in the lower
passage, between the hall and the kitchen."
"How did you know it was he?" demanded Cromwell.
"By a rude enough token," said Phoebe.--"La, sir, you do ask such
questions!" she added, hanging down her head.
Humgudgeon here interfered, taking upon himself the freedom of a
co-adjutor. "Verily," he said, "if what the damsel is called to speak
upon hath aught unseemly, I crave your Excellency's permission to
withdraw, not desiring that my nightly meditations may be disturbed with
tales of such a nature."
"Nay, your honour," said Phoebe, "I scorn the old man's words, in the
way of seemliness or unseemliness either. Master Louis did but snatch a
kiss, that is the truth of it, if it must be told."
Here Humgudgeon groaned deeply, while his Excellency avoided laughing
with some difficulty. "Thou hast given excellent tokens, Phoebe," he
said; "and if they be true, as I think they seem to be, thou shalt not
lack thy reward.--And here comes our spy from the stables."
"There are not the least signs," said the trooper, "that horses have
been in the stables for a month--there is no litter in the stalls, no
hay in the racks, the corn-bins are empty, and the mangers are full of
"Ay, ay," said the old knight, "I have seen when I kept twenty good
horses in these stalls, with many a groom and stable-boy to attend
"In the meanwhile," said Cromwell, "their present state tells little for
the truth of your own story, that there were horses to-day, on which
this Kerneguy and your son fled from justice."
"I did not say that the horses were kept there," said the knight. "I
have horses and stables elsewhere."
"Fie, fie, for shame, for shame!" said the General; "can a white-bearded
man, I ask it once more, be a false witness?"
"Faith, sir," said Sir Henry Lee, "it is a thriving trade, and I wonder
not that you who live on it are so severe in prosecuting interlopers.
But it is the times, and those who rule the times, that make grey-beards
"Thou art facetious friend, as well as daring in thy malignity," said
Cromwell; "but credit me, I will cry quittance with you ere I am done.
Whereunto lead these doors?"
"To bedrooms," answered the knight.
"Bedrooms! only to bedrooms?" said the Republican General, in a voice
which indicated such was the internal occupation of his thoughts, that
he had not fully understood the answer.
"Lord, sir," said the knight, "why should you make it so strange? I say
these doors lead to bedrooms--to places where honest men sleep, and
rogues lie awake."
"You are running up a farther account, Sir Henry," said the General;
"but we will balance it once and for all."
During the whole of the scene, Cromwell, whatever might be the internal
uncertainty of his mind, maintained the most strict temperance in
language and manner, just as if he had no farther interest in what was
passing, than as a military man employed in discharging the duty
enjoined him by his superiors. But the restraint upon his passion
"The torrent's smoothness ere it dash below."
But mortal pleasure, what art thou in truth?
The torrent's smoothness ere it dash, below.
CAMPBELL'S _Gertrude of Wyoming_.]
The course of his resolution was hurried on even more forcibly, because
no violence of expression attended or announced its current. He threw
himself into a chair, with a countenance that indicated no indecision of
mind, but a determination which awaited only the signal for action.
Meanwhile the knight, as if resolved in nothing to forego the privileges
of his rank and place, sat himself down in turn, and putting on his hat,
which lay on a table, regarded the General with a calm look of fearless
indifference. The soldiers stood around, some holding the torches, which
illuminated the apartment with a lurid and sombre glare of light, the
others resting upon their weapons. Phoebe, with her hands folded, her
eyes turned upwards till the pupils were scarce visible, and every shade
of colour banished from her ruddy cheek, stood like one in immediate
apprehension of the sentence of death being pronounced, and instant
Heavy steps were at last heard, and Pearson and some of the soldiers
returned. This seemed to be what Cromwell waited for. He started up, and
asked hastily, "Any news, Pearson? any prisoners--any malignants slain
in thy defence?"
"None, so please your Excellency," said the officer.
"And are thy sentinels all carefully placed, as Tomkins' scroll gave
direction, and with fitting orders?"
"With the most deliberate care," said Pearson.
"Art thou very sure," said Cromwell, pulling him a little to one side,
"that this is all well and duly cared for? Bethink thee, that when we
engage ourselves in the private communications, all will be lost should
the party we look for have the means of dodging us by an escape into the
more open rooms, and from thence perhaps into the forest."
"My Lord-General," answered Pearson, "if placing the guards on the
places pointed out in this scroll be sufficient, with the strictest
orders to stop, and, if necessary, to stab or shoot, whoever crosses
their post, such orders are given to men who will not fail to execute
them. If more is necessary, your Excellency has only to speak."
"No--no--no, Pearson," said the General, "thou hast done well.--This
night over, and let it end but as we hope, thy reward shall not be
wanting.--And now to business.--Sir Henry Lee, undo me the secret spring
of yonder picture of your ancestor. Nay, spare yourself the trouble and
guilt of falsehood or equivocation, and, I say, undo me that spring
"When I acknowledge you for my master, and wear your livery, I may obey
your commands," answered the knight; "even then I would need first to
"Wench," said Cromwell, addressing Phoebe, "go thou undo the spring--you
could do it fast enough when you aided at the gambols of the demons of
Woodstock, and terrified even Mark Everard, who, I judged, had more
"Oh Lord, sir, what shall I do?" said Phoebe, looking to the knight;
"they know all about it. What shall I do?"
"For thy life, hold out to the last, wench! Every minute is worth a
"Ha! heard you that, Pearson?" said Cromwell to the officer; then,
stamping with his foot, he added, "Undo the spring, or I will else use
levers and wrenching-irons--Or, ha! another petard were well bestowed--
Call the engineer."
"O Lord, sir," cried Phoebe, "I shall never live another peter--I will
open the spring."
"Do as thou wilt," said Sir Henry; "it shall profit them but little."
Whether from real agitation, or from a desire to gain time, Phoebe was
some minutes ere she could get the spring to open; it was indeed secured
with art, and the machinery on which it acted was concealed in the frame
of the portrait. The whole, when fastened, appeared quite motionless,
and betrayed, as when examined by Colonel Everard, no external mark of
its being possible to remove it. It was now withdrawn, however, and
showed a narrow recess, with steps which ascended on one side into the
thickness of the wall. Cromwell was now like a greyhound slipped from
the leash with the prey in full view.--"Up," he cried, "Pearson, thou
art swifter than I--Up thou next, corporal." With more agility than
could have been expected from his person or years, which were past the
meridian of life, and exclaiming, "Before, those with the torches!" he
followed the party, like an eager huntsman in the rear of his hounds, to
encourage at once and direct them, as they penetrated into the labyrinth
described by Dr. Rochecliffe in the "Wonders of Woodstock."
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FOURTH.
The King, therefore, for his defence
Against the furious Queen,
At Woodstock builded such a bower,
As never yet was seen.
Most curiously that bower was built,
Of stone and timber strong;
An hundred and fifty doors
Did to this bower belong;
And they so cunningly contrived,
With turnings round about,
That none but with a clew of thread
Could enter in or out.
BALLAD OF FAIR ROSAMOND.
The tradition of the country, as well as some historical evidence,
confirmed the opinion that there existed, within the old Royal Lodge at
Woodstock, a labyrinth, or connected series of subterranean passages,
built chiefly by Henry II., for the security of his mistress, Rosamond
Clifford, from the jealousy of his Queen, the celebrated Eleanor. Dr.
Rochecliffe, indeed, in one of those fits of contradiction with which
antiquaries are sometimes seized, was bold enough to dispute the alleged
purpose of the perplexed maze of rooms and passages, with which the
walls of the ancient palace were perforated; but the fact was
undeniable, that in raising the fabric some Norman architect had exerted
the utmost of the complicated art, which they have often shown
elsewhere, in creating secret passages, and chambers of retreat and
concealment. There were stairs, which were ascended merely, as it
seemed, for the purpose of descending again--passages, which, after
turning and winding for a considerable way, returned to the place where
they set out--there were trapdoors and hatchways, panels and
portcullises. Although Oliver was assisted by a sort of ground-plan,
made out and transmitted by Joseph Tomkins, whose former employment in
Dr. Rochecliffe's service had made him fully acquainted with the place,
it was found imperfect; and, moreover, the most serious obstacles to
their progress occurred in the shape of strong doors, party-walls, and
iron-grates--so that the party blundered on in the dark, uncertain
whether they were not going farther from, rather than approaching, the
extremity of the labyrinth. They were obliged to send for mechanics,
with sledge-hammers and other instruments, to force one or two of those
doors, which resisted all other means of undoing them. Labouring along
in these dusky passages, where, from time to time, they were like to be
choked by the dust which their acts of violence excited, the soldiers
were obliged to be relieved oftener than once, and the bulky Corporal
Grace-be-here himself puffed and blew like a grampus that has got into
shoal water. Cromwell alone continued, with unabated zeal, to push on
his researches--to encourage the soldiers, by the exhortations which
they best understood, against fainting for lack of faith--and to secure,
by sentinels at proper places, possession of the ground which they had
already explored. His acute and observing eye detected, with a sneering
smile, the cordage and machinery by which the bed of poor Desborough had
been inverted, and several remains of the various disguises, as well as
private modes of access, by which Desborough, Bletson, and Harrison, had
been previously imposed upon. He pointed them out to Pearson, with no
farther comment than was implied in the exclamation, "The simple fools!"
But his assistants began to lose heart and be discouraged, and required
all his spirit to raise theirs. He then called their attention to voices
which they seemed to hear before them, and urged these as evidence that
they were moving on the track of some enemy of the Commonwealth, who,
for the execution of his malignant plots, had retreated into these
The spirits of the men became at last downcast, notwithstanding all this
encouragement. They spoke to each other in whispers, of the devils of
Woodstock, who might be all the while decoying them forward to a room
said to exist in the Palace, where the floor, revolving on an axis,
precipitated those who entered into a bottomless abyss. Humgudgeon
hinted, that he had consulted the Scripture that morning by way of lot,
and his fortune had been to alight on the passage, "Eutychus fell down
from the third loft." The energy and authority of Cromwell, however, and
the refreshment of some food and strong waters, reconciled them to
pursuing their task.
Nevertheless, with all their unwearied exertions, morning dawned on the
search before they had reached Dr. Rochecliffe's sitting apartment, into
which, after all, they obtained entrance by a mode much more difficult
than that which the Doctor himself employed. But here their ingenuity
was long at fault. From the miscellaneous articles that were strewed
around, and the preparations made for food and lodging, it seemed they
had gained the very citadel of the labyrinth; but though various
passages opened from it, they all terminated in places with which they
were already acquainted, or communicated with the other parts of the
house, where their own sentinels assured them none had passed. Cromwell
remained long in deep uncertainty. Meantime he directed Pearson to take
charge of the ciphers, and more important papers which lay on the table.
"Though there is little there," he said, "that I have not already known,
by means of Trusty Tomkins--Honest Joseph--for an artful and
thorough-paced agent, the like of thee is not left in England."
After a considerable pause, during which he sounded with the pommel of
his sword almost every stone in the building, and every plank on the
floor, the General gave orders to bring the old knight and Dr.
Rochecliffe to the spot, trusting that he might work out of them some
explanation of the secrets of this apartment.
"So please your Excellency, to let me deal with him," said Pearson, who
was a true soldier of fortune, and had been a buccaneer in the West
Indies, "I think that, by a whipcord twitched tight round their
forehead, and twisted about with a pistol-but, I could make either the
truth start from their lips, or the eyes from their head."
"Out upon thee, Pearson!" said Cromwell, with abhorrence; "we have no
warrant for such cruelty, neither as Englishmen nor Christians. We may
slay malignants as we crush noxious animals, but to torture them is a
deadly sin; for it is written, 'He made them to be pitied of those who
carried them captive.' Nay, I recall the order even for their
examination, trusting that wisdom will be granted us without it, to
discover their most secret devices."
There was a pause accordingly, during which an idea seized upon
Cromwell's imagination--"Bring me hither," he said, "yonder stool;" and
placing it beneath one of the windows, of which there were two so high
in the wall as not to be accessible from the floor, he clambered up into
the entrance of the window, which was six or seven feet deep,
corresponding with the thickness of the wall. "Come up hither, Pearson,"
said the General; "but ere thou comest, double the guard at the foot of
the turret called Love's Ladder, and bid them bring up the other
petard--So now, come thou hither."
The inferior officer, however brave in the field, was one of those whom
a great height strikes with giddiness and sickness. He shrunk back from
the view of the precipice, on the verge of which Cromwell was standing
with complete indifference, till the General, catching the hand of his
follower, pulled him forward as far as he would advance. "I think," said
the General, "I have found the clew, but by this light it is no easy
one! See you, we stand in the portal near the top of Rosamond's Tower;
and yon turret, which rises opposite to our feet, is that which is
called Love's Ladder, from which the drawbridge reached that admitted
the profligate Norman tyrant to the bower of his mistress."
"True, my lord, but the drawbridge is gone," said Pearson.
"Ay, Pearson," replied the General; "but an active man might spring from
the spot we stand upon to the battlements of yonder turret."
"I do not think so, my lord," said Pearson.
"What?" said Cromwell; "not if the avenger of blood were behind you,
with his slaughter-weapon in his hand?"
"The fear of instant death might do much," answered Pearson; "but when I
look at that sheer depth on either side, and at the empty chasm between
us and yonder turret, which is, I warrant you, twelve feet distant, I
confess the truth, nothing short of the most imminent danger should
induce me to try. Pah--the thought makes my head grow giddy!--I tremble
to see your Highness stand there, balancing yourself as if you meditated
a spring into the empty air. I repeat, I would scarce stand so near the
verge as does your Highness, for the rescue of my life."
"Ah, base and degenerate spirit!" said the General; "soul of mud and
clay, wouldst thou not do it, and much more, for the possession of
empire!--that is, peradventure," continued he, changing his tone as one
who has said too much, "shouldst thou be called on to do this, that
thereby becoming a great man in the tribes of Israel, thou mightest
redeem the captivity of Jerusalem--ay, and it may be, work some great
work for the afflicted people of this land?"
"Your Highness may feel such calls," said the officer; "but they are not
for poor Gilbert Pearson, your faithful follower. You made a jest of me
yesterday, when I tried to speak your language; and I am no more able to
fulfil your designs than to use your mode of speech."
"But, Pearson," said Cromwell, "thou hast thrice, yea, four times,
called me your Highness."
"Did I, my lord? I was not sensible of it. I crave your pardon," said
"Nay," said Oliver, "there was no offence. I do indeed stand high, and I
may perchance stand higher--though, alas, it were fitter for a simple
soul like me to return to my plough and my husbandry. Nevertheless, I
will not wrestle against the Supreme will, should I be called on to do
yet more in that worthy cause. For surely he who hath been to our
British Israel as a shield of help, and a sword of excellency, making
her enemies be found liars unto her, will not give over the flock to
those foolish shepherds of Westminster, who shear the sheep and feed
them not, and who are in very deed hirelings, not shepherds."
"I trust to see your lordship quoit them all down stairs," answered
Pearson. "But may I ask why we pursue this discourse even now, until we
have secured the common enemy?"
"I will tarry no jot of time," said the General; "fence the
communication of Love's Ladder, as it is called, below, as I take it for
almost certain, that the party whom we have driven from fastness to
fastness during the night, has at length sprung to the top of yonder
battlements from the place where we now stand. Finding the turret is
guarded below, the place he has chosen for his security will prove a
rat-trap, from whence there is no returning."
"There is a cask of gunpowder in this cabinet," said Pearson; "were it
not better, my lord, to mine the tower, if he will not render himself,
and send the whole turret with its contents one hundred feet in the
"Ah, silly man," said Cromwell, striking him familiarly on the shoulder;
"if thou hadst done this without telling me, it had been good service.
But we will first summon the turret, and then think whether the petard
will serve our turn--it is but mining at last.--Blow a summons there,
The trumpets rang at his bidding, till the old walls echoed from every
recess and vaulted archway. Cromwell, as if he cared not to look upon
the person whom he expected to appear, drew back, like a necromancer
afraid of the spectre which he has evoked.
"He has come to the battlement," said Pearson to his General.
"In what dress or appearance?" answered Cromwell, from within the
"A grey riding-suit, passmented with silver, russet walking-boots, a cut
band, a grey hat and plume, black hair."
"It is he, it is he!" said Cromwell; "and another crowning mercy is
Meantime, Pearson and young Lee exchanged defiance from their respective
"Surrender," said the former, "or we blow you up in your fastness."
"I am come of too high a race to surrender to rebels," said Albert,
assuming the air with which, in such a condition, a king might have
spoken. "I bear you to witness," cried Cromwell, exultingly, "he hath
refused quarter. Of a surety, his blood be on his head.--One of you
bring down the barrel of powder. As he loves to soar high, we will add
what can be taken from the soldiers' bandoliers.--Come with me, Pearson;
thou understandest this gear.--Corporal Grace-be-here, stand thou fast
on the platform of the window where Captain Pearson and I stood but even
now, and bend the point of thy partisan against any who shall attempt to
pass. Thou art as strong as a bull; and I will back thee against despair
"But," said the corporal, mounting reluctantly, "the place is as the
pinnacle of the Temple; and it is written, that Eutychus fell down from
the third loft and was taken up dead."
"Because he slept upon his post," answered Cromwell readily. "Beware
thou of carelessness, and thus thy feet shall be kept from stumbling.--
You four soldiers, remain here to support the corporal, if it be
necessary; and you, as well as the corporal, will draw into the vaulted
passage the minute the trumpets sound a retreat. It is as strong as a
casemate, and you may lie there safe from the effects of the mine. Thou,
Zerubbabel Robins, I know wilt be their lance-prisade." [Footnote:
"Lance-prisade," or "lance-brisade," a private appointed to a small
command--a sort of temporary corporal.]
Robins bowed, and the General departed to join those who were without.
As he reached the door of the hall, the petard was heard to explode, and
he saw that it had succeeded; for the soldiers rushed, brandishing their
swords and pistols, in at the postern of the turret, whose gate had been
successfully forced. A thrill of exultation, but not unmingled with
horror shot across the veins of the ambitious soldier.
"Now--now!" he cried; "they are dealing with him!"
His expectations were deceived. Pearson and the others returned
disappointed, and reported they had been stopt by a strong trap-door of
grated iron, extended over the narrow stair; and they could see there
was an obstacle of the same kind some ten feet higher. To remove it by
force, while a desperate and well armed man had the advantage of the
steps above them, might cost many lives. "Which, lack-a-day," said the
General, "it is our duty to be tender of. What dost thou advise, Gilbert
"We must use powder, my lord," answered Pearson, who saw his master was
too modest to reserve to himself the whole merit of the proceeding--
"There may be a chamber easily and conveniently formed under the foot of
the stair. We have a sausage, by good luck, to form the train--and so"--
"Ah!" said Cromwell, "I know thou canst manage such gear well--But,
Gilbert, I go to visit the posts, and give them orders to retire to a
safe distance when the retreat is sounded. You will allow them five
minutes for this purpose."
"Three is enough for any knave of them all," said Pearson. "They will be
lame indeed, that require more on such a service.--I ask but one, though
I fire the train myself."
"Take heed," said Cromwell, "that the poor soul be listened to, if he
asks quarter. It may be, he may repent him of his hard-heartedness and
call for mercy."
"And mercy he shall have," answered Pearson, "provided he calls loud
enough to make me hear him; for the explosion of that damned petard has
made me as deaf as the devil's dam."
"Hush, Gilbert, hush!" said Cromwell; "you offend in your language."
"Zooks, sir, I must speak either in your way, or in my own," said
Pearson, "unless I am to be dumb as well as deaf!--Away with you, my
lord, to visit the posts; and you will presently hear me make some noise
in the world."
Cromwell smiled gently at his aide-de-camp's petulance, patted him on
the shoulder, and called him a mad fellow, walked a little way, then
turned back to whisper, "What thou dost, do quickly;" then returned
again towards the outer circle of guards, turning his head from time to
time, as if to assure himself that the corporal, to whom he had
intrusted the duty, still kept guard with his advanced weapon upon the
terrific chasm between Rosamond's Tower and the corresponding turret.
Seeing him standing on his post, the General muttered between his
mustaches, "The fellow hath the strength and courage of a bear; and
yonder is a post where one shall do more to keep back than an hundred in
making way." He cast a last look on the gigantic figure, who stood in
that airy position, like some Gothic statue, the weapon half levelled
against the opposite turret, with the but rested against his right foot,
his steel cap and burnished corslet glittering in the rising sun.
Cromwell then passed on to give the necessary orders, that such
sentinels as might be endangered at their present posts by the effect of
the mine, should withdraw at the sound of the trumpet to the places
which he pointed out to them. Never, on any occasion of his life, did he
display more calmness and presence of mind. He was kind, nay, facetious,
with the soldiers, who adored him; and yet he resembled the volcano
before the eruption commences--all peaceful and quiet without, while an
hundred contradictory passions were raging in his bosom.
Corporal Humgudgeon, meanwhile, remained steady upon his post; yet,
though as determined a soldier as ever fought among the redoubted
regiment of Ironsides, and possessed of no small share of that exalted
fanaticism which lent so keen an edge to the natural courage of those
stern religionists, the veteran felt his present situation to be highly
uncomfortable. Within a pike's length of him arose a turret, which was
about to be dispersed in massive fragments through the air; and he felt
small confidence in the length of time which might be allowed for his
escape from such a dangerous vicinity. The duty of constant vigilance
upon his post, was partly divided by this natural feeling, which induced
him from time to time to bend his eyes on the miners below, instead of
keeping them riveted on the opposite turret.
At length the interest of the scene arose to the uttermost. After
entering and returning from the turret, and coming out again more than
once, in the course of about twenty minutes Pearson issued, as it might
be supposed, for the last time, carrying in his hand, and uncoiling, as
he went along, the sausage, or linen bag, (so called from its
appearance,) which, strongly sewed together, and crammed with gunpowder,
was to serve as a train betwixt the mine to be sprung, and the point
occupied by the engineer who was to give fire. He was in the act of
finally adjusting it, when the attention of the corporal on the tower
became irresistibly and exclusively riveted upon the preparations for
the explosion. But while he watched the aide-de-camp drawing his pistol
to give fire, and the trumpeter handling his instrument as waiting the
order to sound the retreat, fate rushed on the unhappy sentinel in a way
he least expected.
Young, active, bold, and completely possessed of his presence of mind,
Albert Lee, who had been from the loopholes a watchful observer of every
measure which had been taken by his besiegers, had resolved to make one
desperate effort for self-preservation. While the head of the sentinel
on the opposite platform was turned from him, and bent rather downwards,
he suddenly sprung across the chasm, though the space on which he
lighted was scarce wide enough for two persons, threw the surprised
soldier from his precarious stand, and jumped himself down into the
chamber. The gigantic trooper went sheer down twenty feet, struck
against a projecting battlement, which launched the wretched man
outwards, and then fell on the earth with such tremendous force, that
the head, which first touched the ground, dinted a hole in the soil of
six inches in depth, and was crushed like an eggshell. Scarce knowing
what had happened, yet startled and confounded at the descent of this
heavy body, which fell at no great distance from him, Pearson snapt his
pistol at the train, no previous warning given; the powder caught, and
the mine exploded. Had it been strongly charged with powder, many of
those without might have suffered; but the explosion was only powerful
enough to blow out, in a lateral direction, a part of the wall just
above the foundation, sufficient, however, to destroy the equipoise of
the building. Then, amid a cloud of smoke, which began gradually to
encircle the turret like a shroud, arising slowly from its base to its
summit, it was seen to stagger and shake by all who had courage to look
steadily at a sight so dreadful. Slowly, at first, the building inclined
outwards, then rushed precipitately to its base, and fell to the ground
in huge fragments, the strength of its resistance showing the excellence
of the mason-work. The engineer, so soon as he had fired the train, fled
in such alarm that he wellnigh ran against his General, who was
advancing towards him, while a huge stone from the summit of the
building, flying farther than the rest, lighted within a yard of them.
"Thou hast been over hasty, Pearson," said Cromwell, with the greatest
composure possible--"hath no one fallen in that same tower of Siloe?"
"Some one fell," said Pearson, still in great agitation, "and yonder
lies his body half-buried in the rubbish."
With a quick and resolute step Cromwell approached the spot, and
exclaimed, "Pearson, thou hast ruined me--the young Man hath
escaped.--This is our own sentinel--plague on the idiot! Let him rot
beneath the ruins which crushed him!"
A cry now resounded from the platform of Rosamond's Tower, which
appeared yet taller than formerly, deprived of the neighbouring turret,
which emulated though it did not attain to its height,--"A prisoner,
noble General--a prisoner--the fox whom we have chased all night is now
in the snare--the Lord hath delivered him into the hand of his
"Look you keep him in safe custody," exclaimed Cromwell, "and bring him
presently down to the apartment from which the secret passages have
their principal entrance."
"Your Excellency shall be obeyed."
The proceedings of Albert Lee, to which these exclamations related, had
been unfortunate. He had dashed from the platform, as we have related,
the gigantic strength of the soldier opposed to him, and had instantly
jumped down into Rochecliffe's chamber. But the soldiers stationed there
threw themselves upon him, and after a struggle, which was hopelessly
maintained against such advantage of numbers, had thrown the young
cavalier to the ground, two of them, drawn down by his strenuous
exertions, falling across him. At the same moment a sharp and severe
report was heard, which, like a clap of thunder in the immediate
vicinity, shook all around them, till the strong and solid tower
tottered like the masts of a stately vessel when about to part by the
board. In a few seconds, this was followed by another sullen sound, at
first low, and deep, but augmenting like the roar of a cataract, as it
descends, reeling, bellowing, and rushing, as if to astound both heaven
and earth. So awful, indeed, was the sound of the neighbour tower as it
fell, that both the captive, and those who struggled with him, continued
for a minute or two passive in each other's grasp.
Albert was the first who recovered consciousness and activity. He shook
off those who lay above him, and made a desperate effort to gain his
feet, in which he partly succeeded. But as he had to deal with men
accustomed to every species of danger, and whose energies were recovered
nearly as soon as his own, he was completely secured, and his arms held
down. Loyal and faithful to his trust, and resolved to sustain to the
last the character which he had assumed, he exclaimed, as his struggles
were finally overpowered, "Rebel villains! would you slay your king?"
"Ha, heard you that?" cried one of the soldiers to the lance-prisade,
who commanded the party. "Shall I not strike this son of a wicked father
under the fifth rib, even as the tyrant of Moab was smitten by Ehud with
a dagger of a cubit's length?"
But Robins answered, "Be it far from us, Merciful Strickalthrow, to slay
in cold blood the captive of our bow and of our spear. Me thinks, since
the storm of Tredagh [Footnote: Tredagh, or Drogheda, was taken by
Cromwell in 1649, by storm, and the governor and the whole garrison put
to the sword.] we have shed enough of blood--therefore, on your lives do
him no evil; but take from him his arms, and let us bring him before the
chosen Instrument, even our General, that he may do with him what is
meet in his eyes."
By this time the soldier, whose exultation had made him the first to
communicate the intelligence from the battlements to Cromwell, returned,
and brought commands corresponding to the orders of their temporary
officer; and Albert Lee, disarmed and bound, was conducted as a captive
into the apartment which derived its name from the victories of his
ancestor, and placed in the presence of General Cromwell.
Running over in his mind the time which had elapsed since the departure
Charles till the siege, if it may be termed so, had terminated in his
own capture, Albert had every reason to hope that his Royal Master must
have had time to accomplish his escape. Yet he determined to maintain to
the last a deceit which might for a time insure the King's safety. The
difference betwixt them could not, he thought, be instantly discovered,
begrimed as he was with dust and smoke, and with blood issuing from some
scratches received in the scuffle.
In this evil plight, but bearing himself with such dignity as was
adapted to the princely character, Albert was ushered into the apartment
of Victor Lee, where, in his father's own chair, reclined the triumphant
enemy of the cause to which the house of Lee had been hereditarily
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FIFTH.
A barren title hast thou bought too dear,
Why didst thou tell me that thou wert a king?
HENRY IV. PART I.
Oliver Cromwell arose from his seat as the two veteran soldiers,
Zerubbabel Robins and Merciful Strickalthrow, introduced into the
apartment the prisoner, whom they held by the arms, and fixed his stern
hazel eye on Albert long before he could give vent to the ideas which
were swelling in his bosom. Exultation was the most predominant.
"Art not thou," he at length said, "that Egyptian which, before these
days, madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness many
thousand men, who were murderers!--Ha, youth, I have hunted thee from
Stirling to Worcester, from Worcester to Woodstock, and we have met at
"I would," replied Albert, speaking in the character which he had
assumed, "that we had met where I could have shown thee the difference
betwixt a rightful King and an ambitious Usurper!"
"Go to, young man," said Cromwell; "say rather the difference between a
judge raised up for the redemption of England, and the son of those
Kings whom the Lord in his anger permitted to reign over her. But we
will not waste useless words. God knows that it is not of our will that
we are called to such high matters, being as humble in our thoughts as
we are of ourselves; and in our unassisted nature frail and foolish; and
unable to render a reason but for the better spirit within us, which is
not of us.--Thou art weary, young man, and thy nature requires rest and
refection, being doubtless dealt with delicately, as one who hath fed on
the fat, and drunk of the sweet, and who hath been clothed in purple and
Here the General suddenly stopt, and then abruptly exclaimed--"But is
this--Ay! whom have we here? These are not the locks of the swarthy lad
Charles Stewart?--A cheat! a cheat!"
Albert hastily cast his eyes on a mirror which stood in the room, and
perceived that a dark peruke, found among Dr. Rochecliffe's
miscellaneous wardrobe, had been disordered in the scuffle with the
soldiery, and that his own light-brown hair was escaping from beneath
"Who is this?" said Cromwell, stamping with fury--"Pluck the disguise
The soldiers did so; and bringing him at the same time towards the
light, the deception could not be maintained for a moment longer with
any possibility of success. Cromwell came up to him with his teeth set,
and grinding against each other as he spoke, his hands clenched, and
trembling with emotion, and speaking with a voice low-pitched, bitterly
and deeply emphatic, such as might have preceded a stab with his dagger.
"Thy name, young man?"
He was answered calmly and firmly, while the countenance of the speaker
wore a cast of triumph, and even contempt.
"Albert Lee of Ditchley, a faithful subject of King Charles."
"I might have guessed it," said Cromwell.--"Ay, and to King Charles
shalt thou go as soon as it is noon on the dial.--Pearson," he
continued, "let him be carried to the others; and let them be executed
at twelve exactly."
"All, sir?" said Pearson, surprised; for Cromwell, though he at times
made formidable examples, was, in general, by no means sanguinary.
"_All_"--repeated Cromwell, fixing his eye on young Lee. "Yes, young
sir, your conduct has devoted to death thy father, thy kinsman, and the
stranger that was in thine household. Such wreck hast thou brought on
thy father's house."
"My father, too--my aged father!" said Albert, looking upward, and
endeavouring to raise his hands in the same direction, which was
prevented by his bonds. "The Lord's will be done!"
"All this havoc can be saved, if," said the General, "thou wilt answer
one question--Where is the young Charles Stewart, who was called King of
"Under Heaven's protection, and safe from thy power," was the firm and
unhesitating answer of the young royalist.
"Away with him to prison!" said Cromwell; "and from thence to execution
with the rest of them, as malignants taken in the fact. Let a
courtmartial sit on them presently."
"One word," said young Lee, as they led him from the room. "Stop, stop,"
said Cromwell, with the agitation of renewed hope--"let him be heard."
"You love texts of Scripture," said Albert--"Let this be the subject of
your next homily--'Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?'"
"Away with him," said the General; "let him die the death.--I have said
As Cromwell spoke these words, his aide-de-camp observed that he became
"Your Excellency is overtoiled in the public service," said Pearson; "a
course of the stag in the evening will refresh you. The old knight hath
a noble hound here, if we can but get him to hunt without his master,
which may be hard, as he is faithful, and"--
"Hang him up!" said Cromwell.
"What--whom--hang the noble dog? Your Excellency was wont to love a good
"It matters not," said Cromwell; "let him be killed. Is it not written,
that they slew in the valley of Achor, not only the accursed Achan, with
his sons and his daughters, but also his oxen and asses, and his sheep,
and every live thing belonging unto him? And even thus shall we do to
the malignant family of Lee, who have aided Sisera in his flight, when
Israel might have been delivered of his trouble for ever. But send out
couriers and patrols--Follow, pursue, watch in every direction--Let my
horse be ready at the door in five minutes, or bring me the first thou
It seemed to Pearson that this was something wildly spoken, and that the
cold perspiration was standing upon the General's brow as he said it. He
therefore again pressed the necessity of repose, and it would appear
that nature seconded strongly the representation. Cromwell arose, and
made a step or two towards the door of the apartment; but stopped,
staggered, and, after a pause, sate down in a chair. "Truly, friend
Pearson," he said, "this weary carcass of ours is an impediment to us,
even in our most necessary business, and I am fitter to sleep than to
watch, which is not my wont. Place guards, therefore, till we repose
ourselves for an hour or two. Send out in every direction, and spare not
for horses' flesh. Wake me if the court-martial require instruction, and
forget not to see the sentence punctually executed on the Lees, and
those who were arrested with them."
As Cromwell spoke thus, he arose and half-opened a bedroom door, when
Pearson again craved pardon for asking if he had rightly understood his
Excellency, that all the prisoners were to be executed.
"Have I not said it?" answered Cromwell, displeasedly. "Is it because
thou art a man of blood, and hast ever been, that thou dost affect these
scruples to show thyself tenderhearted at my expense? I tell thee, that
if there lack one in the full tale of execution, thine own life shall
pay the forfeit."
So saying, he entered the apartment, followed by the groom of his
chamber, who attended upon Pearson's summons.
When his General had retired, Pearson remained in great perplexity what
he ought to do; and that from no scruples of conscience, but from
uncertainty whether he might not err either in postponing, or in too
hastily and too literally executing, the instructions he had received.
In the meantime, Strickalthrow and Robins had returned, after lodging
Albert in prison, to the room where Pearson was still musing on his
General's commands. Both these men were adjutators in their army, and
old soldiers, whom Cromwell was accustomed to treat with great
familiarity; so that Robins had no hesitation to ask Captain Pearson,
"Whether he meant to execute the commands of the General, even to the
Pearson shook his head with an air of doubt, but added, "There was no
"Be assured," said the old man, "that if thou dost this folly, thou wilt
cause Israel to sin, and that the General will not be pleased with your
service. Thou knowest, and none better than thou, that Oliver, although
he be like unto David the son of Jesse, in faith, and wisdom, and
courage, yet there are times when the evil spirit cometh upon him as it
did upon Saul, and he uttereth commands which he will not thank any one
Pearson was too good a politician to assent directly to a proposition
which he could not deny--he only shook his head once more, and said that
it was easy for those to talk who were not responsible, but the
soldier's duty was to obey his orders, and not to judge of them.
"Very righteous truth," said Merciful Strickalthrow, a grim old
Scotchman; "I marvel where our brother Zerubbabel caught up this
softness of heart?"
"Why, I do but wish," said Zerubbabel, "that four or five human
creatures may draw the breath of God's air for a few hours more; there
can be small harm done by delaying the execution,--and the General will
have some time for reflection."
"Ay," said Captain Pearson, "but I in my service must be more pointedly
obsequious, than thou in thy plainness art bound to be, friend
"Then shall the coarse frieze cassock of the private soldier help the
golden gaberdine of the captain to bear out the blast," said Zerubbabel.
"Ay, indeed, I can show you warrant why we be aidful to each other in
doing acts of kindness and long-suffering, seeing the best of us are
poor sinful creatures, who might suffer, being called to a brief
"Of a verity you surprise me, brother Zerubbabel," said Strickalthrow;
"that thou, being an old and experienced soldier, whose head hath grown
grey in battle, shouldst give such advice to a young officer. Is not the
General's commission to take away the wicked from the land, and to root
out the Amalekite, and the Jebusite, and the Perizzite, and the Hittite,
and the Girgashite, and the Amorite? and are not these men justly to be
compared to the five kings, who took shelter in the cave of Makedah, who
were delivered into the hands of Joshua the son of Nun? and he caused
his captains and his soldiers to come near and tread on their necks--and
then he smote them, and he slew them, and then he hanged them on five
trees, even till evening--And thou, Gilbert Pearson by name, be not
withheld from the duty which is appointed to thee, but do even as has
been commanded by him who is raised up to judge and to deliver Israel;
for it is written, 'cursed is he who holdeth back his sword from the
Thus wrangled the two military theologians, while Pearson, much more
solicitous to anticipate the wishes of Oliver than to know the will of
Heaven, listened to them with great indecision and perplexity.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SIXTH.
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 [Footnote: A half-penny] to a million, but we trine to the
nubbing cheat [Footnote: Hang on the gallows] to-morrow.--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
"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
'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.'"
[Footnote: Such a song, or something very like it, may be found in
Ramsay's Tea-table Miscellany, among the wild slips of minstrelsy which
are there collected.]
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
"And is it so indeed?" said Holdenough, "and have I recovered mine old
"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
"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
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.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SEVENTH.
Most gracious prince, good Cannyng cried,
Leave vengeance to our God,
And lay the iron rule aside,
Be thine the olive rod.
BALLAD OF SIR CHARLES BAWDIN.
The hour appointed for execution had been long past, and it was about
five in the evening when the Protector summoned Pearson to his presence.
He went with fear and reluctance, uncertain how he might be received.
After remaining about a quarter of an hour, the aide-de-camp returned to
Victor Lee's parlour, where he found the old soldier, Zerubbabel Robins,
in attendance for his return.
"How is Oliver?" said the old man, anxiously.
"Why, well," answered Pearson, "and hath asked no questions of the
execution, but many concerning the reports we have been able to make
regarding the flight of the young Man, and is much moved at thinking he
must now be beyond pursuit. Also I gave him certain papers belonging to
the malignant Doctor Rochecliffe."
"Then will I venture upon him," said the adjutator; "so give me a napkin
that I may look like a sewer, and fetch up the food which I directed
should be in readiness."
Two troopers attended accordingly with a ration of beef, such as was
distributed to the private soldiers, and dressed after their fashion--a
pewter pot of ale, a trencher with salt, black pepper, and a loaf of
ammunition bread. "Come with me," he said to Pearson, "and fear
not--Noll loves an innocent jest." He boldly entered the General's
sleeping apartment, and said aloud, "Arise, thou that art called to be a
judge in Israel--let there be no more folding of the hands to sleep. Lo,
I come as a sign to thee; wherefore arise, eat, drink, and let thy heart
be glad within thee; for thou shalt eat with joy the food of him that
laboureth in the trenches, seeing that since thou wert commander over
the host, the poor sentinel hath had such provisions as I have now
placed for thine own refreshment."
"Truly, brother Zerubbabel," said Cromwell, accustomed to such acts of
enthusiasm among his followers, "we would wish that it were so; neither
is it our desire to sleep soft, nor feed more highly than the meanest
that ranks under our banners. Verily, thou hast chosen well for my
refreshment, and the smell of the food is savoury in my nostrils."
He arose from the bed, on which he had lain down half dressed, and
wrapping his cloak around him, sate down by the bedside, and partook
heartily of the plain food which was prepared for him. While he was
eating, Cromwell commanded Pearson to finish his report--"You need not
desist for the presence of a worthy soldier, whose spirit is as my
"Nay, but," interrupted Robins, "you are to know that Gilbert Pearson
hath not fully executed thy commands, touching a part of those
malignants, all of whom should have died at noon."
"What execution--what malignants?" said Cromwell, laying down his knife
"Those in the prison here at Woodstock," answered Zerubbabel, "whom your
Excellency commanded should be executed at noon, as taken in the fact of
rebellion against the Commonwealth."
"Wretch!" said Cromwell, starting up and addressing Pearson, "thou hast
not touched Mark Everard, in whom there was no guilt, for he was
deceived by him who passed between us--neither hast thou put forth thy
hand on the pragmatic Presbyterian minister, to have all those of their
classes cry sacrilege, and alienate them from us for ever?"
"If your Excellency wish them to live, they live--their life and death
are in the power of a word," said Pearson.
"Enfranchise them; I must gain the Presbyterian interest over to us if I
"Rochecliffe, the arch-plotter," said Pearson, "I thought to have
"Barbarous man," said Cromwell, "alike ungrateful and impolitic--wouldst
thou have destroyed our decoy-duck? This doctor is but like a well, a
shallow one indeed, but something deeper than the springs which
discharge their secret tribute into his keeping; then come I with a
pump, and suck it all up to the open air. Enlarge him, and let him have
money if he wants it. I know his haunts; he can go nowhere but our eye
will be upon him.--But you look at each other darkly, as if you had more
to say than you durst. I trust you have not done to death Sir Henry
"No. Yet the man," replied Pearson, "is a confirmed malignant, and"--
"Ay, but he is also a noble relic of the ancient English Gentleman,"
said the General. "I would I knew how to win the favour of that race.
But we, Pearson, whose royal robes are the armour which we wear on our
bodies, and whose leading staves are our sceptres, are too newly set up
to draw the respect of the proud malignants, who cannot brook to submit
to less than royal lineage. Yet what can they see in the longest kingly
line in Europe, save that it runs back to a successful soldier? I grudge
that one man should be honoured and followed, because he is the
descendant of a victorious commander, while less honour and allegiance
is paid to another, who, in personal qualities, and in success, might
emulate the founder of his rival's dynasty. Well, Sir Henry Lee lives,
and shall live for me. His son, indeed, hath deserved the death which he
has doubtless sustained."
"My lord," stammered Pearson, "since your Excellency has found I am
right in suspending your order in so many instances, I trust you will
not blame me in this also--I thought it best to await more special
"Thou art in a mighty merciful humour this morning, Pearson," said
Cromwell, not entirely satisfied.
"If your Excellency please, the halter is ready, and so is the
"Nay, if such a bloody fellow as thou hast spared him, it would ill
become me to destroy him," said the General. "But then, here is among
Rochecliffe's papers the engagement of twenty desperadoes to take us
off--some example ought to be made."
"My lord," said Zerubbabel, "consider now how often this young man,
Albert Lee, hath been near you, nay, probably, quite close to your
Excellency, in these dark passages which he knew, and we did not. Had he
been of an assassin's nature, it would have cost him but a pistol-shot,
and the light of Israel was extinguished. Nay, in the unavoidable
confusion which must have ensued, the sentinels quitting their posts, he
might have had a fair chance of escape."
"Enough Zerubbabel; he lives," said the General. "He shall remain in
custody for some time, however, and be then banished from England. The
other two are safe, of course; for you would not dream of considering
such paltry fellows as fit victims for my revenge."
"One fellow, the under-keeper, called Joliffe, deserves death, however,"
said Pearson, "since he has frankly admitted that he slew honest Joseph
"He deserves a reward for saving us a labour," said Cromwell; "that
Tomkins was a most double-hearted villain. I have found evidence among
these papers here, that if we had lost the fight at Worcester, we should
have had reason to regret that we had ever trusted Master Tomkins--it
was only our success which anticipated his treachery--write us down
debtor, not creditor, to Joceline, an you call him so, and to his
"There remains the sacrilegious and graceless cavalier who attempted
your Excellency's life last night," said Pearson.
"Nay," said the General, "that were stooping too low for revenge. His
sword had no more power than had he thrusted with a tobacco-pipe. Eagles
stoop not at mallards, or wild-drakes either."
"Yet, sir," said Pearson, "the fellow should be punished as a libeller.
The quantity of foul and pestilential abuse which we found in his
pockets makes me loth he should go altogether free--Please to look at
"A most vile hand," said Oliver, as he looked at a sheet or two of our
friend Wildrake's poetical miscellanies--"The very handwriting seems to
be drunk, and the very poetry not sober--What have we here?
'When I was a young lad,
My fortune was bad--
If e'er I do well, 'tis a wonder'--
Why, what trash is this?--and then again--
'Now a plague on the poll
Of old politic Noll!
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