Alfred John Church.

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could not take for all his endeavours, which he continued from three
of the clock in the afternoon till nightfall; and though his men took
the ford that was below and a mill adjoining thereto, and held them
that day and the next also, not being supported by their fellows, they
were compelled to retire. 'Tis beyond doubt, however, that the victory
rested with the King; for though when the battle was finished each
party held the same ground that it had at the first, yet the enemy
lost many times more both in killed and prisoners. Nor must it be
forgotten, as showing what the rebels themselves did think of the
matter, that whereas Sir William Waller on the day of the battle had
eight thousand men with him, fourteen days afterward there remained
with him not half that number.

The next day the cornet of horse whom my father had taken prisoner was
exchanged. It was his good fortune that on our side also there had
been taken an officer of the same degree. He was a lad of sixteen or
thereabouts, somewhat weakly of body, though of a very high spirit,
and was carried by his horse, which he could not by any means
restrain, into the midst of the enemy. As for the colonels and others
of high degree, they had to wait, there not being any of ours who
could be exchanged against them. We had some talk with the lad while
we lay encamped that night on the field of battle, but he held back
and would say but little. But this much I gathered from him, that he
had gone to the wars without the consent of his father. At the same
time he was very hot about certain wrongs which his father had
suffered from the King or the King's Ministers, though what they were
he did not more particularly set forth. He told me that he came from
Northamptonshire, and that his father had purposed to send him to
Lincoln College, in which this county, as belonging to the diocese of
Oxford, has with others a certain preference.

On the last day of June I returned to Oxford, my father remaining with
the King, who was minded to march westward.




CHAPTER VIII.

OF THE PLAGUE AT OXFORD AND OTHER MATTERS.


The members of Lincoln College were for the most part inclined to the
Parliament, though the King had also some friends among them. The
chief of these was one Master Webberley, a Fellow, a man of a
litigious and disputatious temper, whom his Majesty's cause doubtless
pleased the better that it pleased not the greater part of his
society. But 'twould be ungracious in me to speak ill of him, not only
because he always showed me much kindness, but because he was content,
as will be seen hereafter, to suffer for his opinions. As for Doctor
Hood, the Rector, he was, as I have said, somewhat of a weathercock,
turning always according to the wind that blew. Now, on my coming back
to my chamber, he was mighty pleasant to me (chancing to meet me in
the new quadrangle) and told me that the College was proud to have one
who could use both his sword and pen, and other fine things of the
same kind, which there is no need to report. 'Twas fair weather then
with the King's cause, but 'twas clouded over very soon, and Master
Rector's countenance changed therewith. It was not four days
afterwards that he passed me, taking no heed of my reverence which
before he had most courteously acknowledged. Then thought I with
myself, "Doubtless, there is ill news from the King." And so it was,
as I heard within the space of half-an-hour, viz., that the Prince
Rupert and my Lord Newcastle (but my Lord Newcastle was in no ways to
blame, as I have heard) had suffered a most grievous defeat at Marston
Moor, near to the City of York, at which defeat well nigh the whole of
the north country was lost to the King. From that day I had small
favour from Master Rector. But with this I concerned myself but
little.

During the vacation, that is about the space of three months and more,
from July to October, I applied myself diligently to my books, though
I did not neglect my military exercises; in them I was by this time
somewhat proficient. Indeed, as having done actual service in war I
had an officer's place amongst the troop which was raised by the
University for the King, and myself taught the rudiments of the
military art to the new comers. And, indeed, there was but little
recreation other than soldiering. There was much playing, indeed, with
cards and dice in the guard-houses, but such things were never to my
taste, nor indeed had I the gold pieces which are a man's best
introduction to such places. But as for the sport that was followed
outside the walls, fishing and fowling, to wit, and the like
enjoyments, it was hardly to be got. It was as like as not that he who
went forth hoping to catch something should himself be caught. I do
not call to mind indeed that I had any sport, save only fives play
with a certain Edward Wood, second son of Mistress Wood, of whom, as I
have written above, my father rented a house in Oxford. The said
Edward Wood was a portionist, or, as it is sometimes named, a
postmaster, of Merton College, and we were wont to use the fives play
in the garden, that lies on the south side of the chapel of the said
College. At the west end of this garden the wall has been built up
higher than ordinary to serve this purpose, and the grass has been
exchanged for stone. Sometimes one or other of the young courtiers
would join us at our play. I know not whether I had pleasanter times
than in this fives court. Edward Wood did not tarry long at Merton
College, being promoted to a scholarship at Trinity College, but I was
privileged to use the place till the very end of my sojourn in Oxford.

[Illustration: _Merton College Chapel. Fives-play in the Garden._]

At the beginning of the next term there fell upon the City of Oxford a
dreadful calamity, that is to say, a fire, so great as had not been
known within the memory of living man. It is said, indeed, that,
considering the shortness of the time wherein it burned, it exceeded
in damage all fires that had before been in England. It began on
Sunday, the eighth day of October, about two of the clock in the
afternoon in a little poor house on the south side of Thames Street
(which leads from the North Gate to the East Bridge). The wind blew
from the north, and being very high greatly increased the damage, so
that much of the city that was built to the south of Thames Street was
consumed. On the other hand it is to be remembered that no hall, or
college, or church, or magazine for ammunition or victuals, was
consumed. As for the cause of this conflagration, there was much
diversity of opinion. It was to be expected that it should be laid to
the account of the Parliament soldiers, of whom there was a body at
Abingdon town, not more than three miles distant from Oxford. Indeed,
one of their officers, a Major Burne by name, had, it was said,
threatened this very thing against the city. He was reported to have
cried out, "If I cannot burn all Oxford, yet will I burn so much as I
can." It was allowed also that the fire burst out in many places at
once, and it could not therefore have been caused by an accident. Also
the time of its breaking out was noted, which was two of the clock in
the afternoon, when many of the citizens were at church, and so unable
to attend to the speedy putting out of the flames. For myself I take
little heed of these things, which would in any case have been said.
On the other hand it is certain that the fire in the house in Thames
Street came from a footsoldier roasting a pig which he had stolen. Of
the buildings that were consumed the most important were a
printing-office and a house which had been newly set apart for the
keeping of wills.

The next year - to speak of calamities which befell the city - when the
summer began to draw on, there befell a great sickness of the plague.
It may be said that during the whole time, from the King's first
coming to Oxford to the surrender of the city, the distemper never
altogether departed, seeming to sleep during the cold weather, but
waking again and raging, now less, now more, when the spring returned.
Nor was this to be wondered at. For it was with Oxford as it was with
the City of Athens in the Peloponnesian War, of which Thucydides has
written. 'Twas grievously overcrowded; for there lodged therein the
King and his Court and officers of the Government and the army, to the
number, not always, indeed, but sometimes, of ten thousand and more,
and many traders that came thither for the sake of trading, buying,
and selling, and not a few of the King's party that sought shelter
within the walls, as indeed did my mother and sister. Of scholars,
indeed there were but few, the University being then changed into a
garrison town. Nevertheless, the number of souls in the city must have
been doubled and more; and these also confined within a very narrow
space, for it was not possible to live without the walls for fear of
the enemy.

About April, therefore, in this year (which is the year 1645), the
plague beginning to increase, the Councillor of the city issued a
proclamation concerning it. If any house was suspected of the plague
it was commanded to be shut up, and all the persons within it
commanded to be kept in the house till orders should be given for
opening of it again. Also the house was to be marked with a red cross,
and "THE LORD HAVE MERCY UPON US" writ in capital letters. And to each
house so shut up there was appointed a watchman to see that none went
in or out, and to fetch such necessaries as they might have need of.
These watchmen carried a white staff, and took an oath that they would
perform their duty faithfully. It was not an office to be desired, but
if a man was elected thereto he had no choice but to take it. But the
most dreadful thing in this visitation was the order that was kept
concerning the burial of the dead. There went carts about ('tis a most
surprising thing that they who drove the carts and they who fetched
the dead bodies out of the houses, for the most part, escaped the
disease), after ten of the clock at night, and carried away the
corpses of such as had died during the day. Nor was it permitted that
these should be buried in the churchyards of the city, but great pits
were dug in such places as could be found that were farthest removed
from the habitations of man. There were the dead heaped together,
without coffin, ay, and often without shroud, and after a service,
which a chaplain would make as short and say as speedily as he could,
so left. I know not whether the war brought any worse horror than
this.

In the colleges none, I think, were affected, none certainly perished.
But in those parts of the town that lie by the river where the poorer
sort do dwell many died. Yet the mortality was never so great that
there prevailed any great and general terror. The ministers of
religion also, and the physicians, of whom there was then in Oxford a
greater number than ordinary, did not desert their places; and it is
always, I have heard, to be noted that where these are steadfast to
their duty, they infect others, if I may so speak, with their courage,
to the great advantage of the whole state. But whether they that were
stricken by this sickness profited much by the help of the physicians
is somewhat to be doubted. I have it from one who has had much
experience of the plague, both here and in foreign parts, especially
among the Turks, where it is to be found almost every year, that the
course of the distemper is such that at its first coming the aid of
the physicians can recover none, or at the best very few; and that
when its first violence is spent, 'tis an even chance with them; and
that afterwards, 'tis but very few that die under their hands. It is
certainly true that they would use a great variety of remedies, from
which may be gathered that such as prospered under their hands were
saved by Nature rather than by art. Of these remedies one was sold
much among the people, but the men of science made but small account
of it. It was said to have been given to King Henry VIII. by a very
learned physician of his time. For curiosity's sake I have here
written it down.

_A handful of elder leaves; a handful of red bramble leaves.
Stamp and strain them through a fine cloth with a quart of white
wine; then take a quantity of ginger. Mingle these together, and
take a spoonful of the mixture, and you shall be safe for
twenty-four days._

This then was the prophylactic; but the remedy was this:

_The water of Scabius, a spoonful; the water of Betany, a
spoonful; of fine treacle, a quantity. This shall put out the
venom, by the grace of God._

The last clause does save it, to my mind. "The grace of God" can give
potency to plain water. Indeed, I know not whether there be anything
that is to be preferred to this. So at least some of the wise men will
have it.

There needed not indeed either fire or plague to make all hearts dull
and cheerless; all, I should say, that were well disposed to the King,
for he had enemies even here. Of all the gaiety and show that had
adorned the city after his Majesty's first coming there was but little
left. The Queen and her ladies had departed to Exeter, in which city
was born, in this same year, the Princess Henrietta. Of the nobles and
gentlemen that had come with the King, or flowed to him afterwards,
many were dead, for his Majesty was most unfortunate in the loss of
friends; many had been taken prisoners, and they that remained were
sadly shorn of their means. Hence it was but the name and shadow of a
Court that surrounded the King; of its pomp and glory, its splendour
and riches, nothing was left. To the colleges little remained save
that which could not be alienated. Their plate they had given up to
the King's service, and it was now melted into money which had long
since been spent; in some places the very libraries were dissipated.
As for learning, its voice was well nigh silenced. The very schools
had passed from their original use, and were filled with stores of
ammunition and arms. Over everything there hung the cloud of
ill-fortune and ill-success. 'Twas a University to which none came to
learn (I do suppose that from the time at which I came to Oxford till
the surrender of the city there were matriculated, that is to say,
entered the University, scarce two score), and a Court that lacked
both power and magnificence, and a camp from which had departed all
hope of victory.

When this year (I speak of the year academical, which runs from
October to July) was drawing to an end there happened great events,
great both for the nation and for me, of which I will now proceed to
write.




CHAPTER IX.

BEFORE NASEBY.


Sitting in my chamber in the month of June, in the year 1645 - I
remember that it was St. Barnabas' Day, and that Master Chalfont, who
was Sub-Rector of Lincoln College, had preached that morning at St.
Mary's Church - comes a knock at my outer door, which I had shut,
fearing hindrances to my study; for in those days there was scarce a
place in the whole kingdom less given to study than Oxford. At the
first I heeded it not; for what would it have profited, having shut
the door, to open it on the first occasion? But when the knocking grew
more urgent I called through the door, "Who knocks?" to which came an
answer in a voice that I seemed to know, "Open, Master Philip, 'tis an
urgent matter." When I heard this "Master Philip," I understood that
the voice was of John Talboys, that was a trooper in my father's
regiment, and born, too, of a family that had been servants, ay, and
friends, to ours for many generations, and was in great trust with
him. So I opened the door in no small trepidation; but when I saw the
good fellow's face I knew that it was no ill-tidings that he brought.
"What news, John, from the army? How fares it with my father?"

"Your father was well when I left him yesterday morning: but take this
letter; it will tell you more than any words of mine."

So I took the letter, which was written on a scrap of paper about the
bigness of a mulberry leaf, for the convenience of hiding if occasion
arose; or, it might be, of swallowing, if the hiding could not be
otherwise contrived. It ran thus:

_"My dear son Philip, - It irks me much to draw you away yet
again from your studies, yet it is, to my mind, a plain necessity
so to do. Hear now the cause, which I will put as shortly as it is
possible, lest, haply, this writing should fall under less
friendly eyes than yours. 'Tis plain to me, from signs that I see,
that a great battle will be fought within a few days, by which the
King's cause shall be made or marred; and I hold that every man
who can strike a blow for his sacred Majesty, and is not kept away
by some necessity, should be here to do his duty. Of myself I
speak not, save only that I would fain have you with me. Do all
your diligence, then, to come. John Talboys, the bearer of this
epistle, and not unknown to you, will be your guide. God keep
you._

_"Your loving Father,

"Philip Dashwood._

_"Writ at Daintree, in the county of Northampton, the tenth day
of June, at four of the clock before noon."_

"Well, John," I said, when I had read this letter, "What say you to
all this? But stay" - for when I looked at him I saw that he was pale
and weary, and, had he been less stalwart and strong, almost like to
faint - "speak not till I fetch you somewhat."

With that I ran out of College and fetched in a flagon of ale and a
manchet of bread, with some cheese, from the _Maidenhead_ tavern,
for the buttery was not yet open, it being not yet noon. It was
against law to fetch such things from without, and I was commonly
law-abiding, but the need was urgent. Therefore, I hesitated not to
transgress, and to hide my transgression also under my academic
habiliments, the scholars' gown having full sleeves that are not
ill-contrived on occasion to conceal a flagon or the like.

I perceived John's eyes glitter when he saw the meat and drink; and
when he had taken a deep draught of the ale, and a few mouthfuls of
the bread, he said:

"This is right welcome, Master Philip. I have not had bit nor sup
since I left the King's army at Daintree yesterday morning about five
of the clock, save only a crust of bread which a good parson gave me
at Banbury yesterday evening. The good man had nothing better for
himself, for the Parliament men had stripped him bare. I know not when
I have tasted better ale than this."

But this was John's fancy, bred, I take it, of his long fasting. It
was but poor drink, and nothing to be compared with that of our own
buttery.

"And now, sir," he went on, "for business. My good master, the
Colonel, wants you to bear him company. He read me the letter after he
had written it, so that if there came occasion to destroy the paper I
might give its substance by word of mouth. It is not the easiest thing
in the world to make our way hence to the King; but I have a good hope
that we shall. I know every by-road and hiding-place in the country,
and 'tis hard if I contrive not to give the slip to these crop-eared
psalm-singing gentry. I must needs give my horse a rest, and you will
need some time for your making yourself ready. What say you to ten of
the clock this night for our setting out? We shall pass the worst of
the country while it is still dark."

"But tell me, John," I said; "is it going well with the King?"

"'Tis not," he answered, "for a common man to speak; but, as you ask,
I will say that I like not the aspect of affairs. We have men, though
not so many as they; the gentlefolk are mostly with us, but the
commonalty are greatly against us. But 'tis counsel that we chiefly
lack. The Prince Rupert is in great authority; and as he has lost us
already one battle, so, I misdoubt me, he will lose us another. And I
hear of one Cromwell, a brewer by trade, they say, that is a mighty
dangerous enemy. It was he that turned the battle against the King at
Marston Moor, and, if I err not, we shall hear of him again. And now I
will get some sleep, if I can, and at ten of the clock to-night, at
the North Gate, I shall reckon to see you."

I had little preparation to make. Leave of absence from the Rector I
judged it better to take rather than to ask. My good beast Spot was, I
knew, at my service when I should need him, for it had been so
arranged, and my accoutrements I kept, not in my chamber at College,
but at the tavern where Spot was stabled. So, after I had seen that my
horse and arms should be ready for me at the time appointed, I had
little else to do than make my farewells to my friends. First I went
to Master Webberley, who was, as I have said, well affected to the
King, and told him my purpose. Of this he greatly approved, and gave
me his blessing, and, as a token of his good will, a flask of sherry
sack. We agreed that when inquiry of my absence should be made, he
should answer that I had been called away by an urgent demand from my
father that would not brook delay. It fell out by great good-luck that
for the day there was none other Fellow within the College but Master
Webberley, the others having gone to see an estate that the College
possesses near to this city. Nor did I go back to the College after
taking leave of him, fearing lest some one should stay me and ask
questions, but passed the remainder of the day with my mother and
sister. My dear mother was sorely divided between two desires; for
while she would gladly have kept me with her, she did also greatly
wish that I should be with my father, believing that we should be
safer together. Yet, though she was convinced of this, and, indeed,
reckoned the chance higher than it deserved, yet it troubled her much
to think that we should both be running into the same danger at the
same time. Her poor heart was sadly distracted this way and that. This
is the unhappiness of women that they have ever a choice, though,
indeed, it is a choice but in name only, between evils of which they
cannot say which is the more to be dreaded or the worse to bear. My
mother gave me many messages, and would have laden me and my horse
beyond all possibility of moving with good things, an I had not
refused them. She seemed to think that I had a waggon at the least to
follow me, carrying what I might want. I remember her great concern
when I told her that I should sleep on the ground in my cloak. She was
urgent with me that I should take a mattress with me, and would have
given me one off her own bed. I had no small difficulty to persuade
her that the thing was impossible. After that I was content to tell
her something less than the whole truth about our life in the camp;
for she followed me beyond the door, bidding me never to put on clean
linen that had not been first aired at the fire.

It favoured us much that the night was dark as could well be at
midsummer, with such a roaring of the wind, which was more than
commonly stormy for that season of the year, that the noise of our
horses' hoofs could scarcely have been heard at twenty yards'
distance. We journeyed, too, by green lanes and by-ways, which John
Talboys knew marvellously well, rather than by high roads.
Nevertheless, we did not draw rein, save for a few minutes' breathing
space, till we came to Brackley, which is a small market town in the
county of Northampton, lying south by west of Banbury. We halted about
half-a-mile short of the town, where was a farmhouse that had been
deserted during the present troubles. We bestowed ourselves and our
horses in a barn, and laid ourselves down to sleep, Talboys first
taking some whiffs of tobacco, a herb in which he professes to find
much comfort. "Trouble not yourself, Master Philip," he said, before
he slept, "to wake over early; for we must be content to pass the day
here, and that without company, if we would not fall into the hands of
our enemies." I verily believe that it was noon before I awoke; for I
was much wearied by my ride, having been pent up in the city for
nearly a twelvemonth, and my legs never once across a horse's back.

I had just roused myself, and was looking about me, half-dazed, as a
man will sometimes be with a long slumber, when I heard a whistle, to
which straightway John whistles an answer. Thereupon an old man
thrusts his head in at the door, and presently follows with his whole
body. He was a parson, a man, I should say, of sixty or thereabouts,
his hair quite white, his face ruddy, with as merry a look in his eyes
as ever man had. He had a priest's cloak on him, which he threw off so


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