Alfred John Church.

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standing with his hand on thy collar as John Talboys is standing now,
ay, and another thing, that is lacking here, a gallows hard by?"

The stranger joined his hands like one that made supplication, and
cast a look behind him as if he expected to see the gallows tree

"Nay," said my father, "I cannot harm thee an I would. Thou knowest, I
doubt not, that we are three of the party that had the worst of
yesterday's fight, and one of them wounded to the death. But thou wast
full of promises that day thou wottest of. Hast a mind to redeem them

"What can I do for you, honoured sir?" the man answered, and I, who
was looking hard at him, thought that he looked somewhat less of a
knave that he did at the first.

"Tell us, then," said my father, "dost thou know of any family of
charitable folk where a wounded man may bestow himself for a few days
till he die? Thy pedlar's trade takes thee everywhere, and, whatever
thy own ways, of which I will not judge, thou canst discern doubtless
between the good and the bad."

The man stood musing awhile, then he said to himself:

"Ah! I have it. Master Ellgood is the man, an his house be not too
far. This Master Ellgood," he went on, turning to my father, "is a
minister that was dispossessed of his place; why I know not, for I do
not understand such matters; but all the country side is full of his
goodness. He asks no questions of those whom he helps; 'tis enough
that they are in need. I know him and his household well, though they
be but poor customers to me - a white kerchief now and then, or a bit
of grey silk, or some yards of stout sad-coloured stuff, for the young
madam's dress - cheap things all of them that do not pay for the
carrying. But they that buy much have for the most part little to
give; and Master Ellgood's folk, I doubt not, will serve thy turn
better than any other in these parts. But 'tis a longish way from
here, a matter of a mile and a half or more. The house stands in a
wood; it had been the abode of an old curmudgeon that had never a
penny to spare for pedlar or poor man; 'twas a good day for the
countryside when it came with a fair estate round it to Master
Ellgood. None that needed help have ever failed to have it of his

"We will cast ourselves on the good man's charity," said my father. "I
see in this matter the guiding of God (for 'tis not, I am assured,
mere chance that sent this stranger here to-day), and we cannot do
better than follow it. But how shall I make the journey?"

"That," said John Talboys, who never took his eyes from the pedlar, as
if he expected him to break out into some villainy, "may easily be
done; we will make a litter, and Master Philip and I will carry you."

And this we did, the pedlar, who had cunning fingers of his own,
helping. When the litter was finished, the man said, "An it please you
I will be your guide, for the way is one that a stranger may readily
miss; and I can take my turn of the carrying also. Only let me dispose
my pack first in a safe place."

And he ran up out of the hollow more nimbly than I should have thought
it possible for one of his years.

When he returned, which was in the space of a quarter of an hour or
thereabouts, we went on our way. 'Twas indeed a way from which it
would have been easy to go astray, so many turns it had. At last in
about an hour's time, for our burden caused us to travel but slowly,
we came to the house. It stood by the side of a green lane that ran
through a wood, seeming to be but rarely used by horse or man. In
front was a garden, passing fair with flowers, pinks and
sweet-williams and a host of others; the house itself too was covered
to the very eaves of the roof with roses and honeysuckle. And behind,
though this I saw not at the time but only came to know afterwards,
was the fairest spot that ever I saw. First there was a level space of
grass, so smooth and green and well kept that our fairest lawns in
Oxford could scarce compare with it. 'Twas bounded on the right hand
by a low wall, grown over with ivy, and beyond this wall was a bank
sloping down to as clear and fair a brook as ever babbled in man's
ear. On the left hand of the green was another wall, some six feet
high, with fruit trees of sundry kinds trained upon it. Beyond the
green was a kitchen garden, as neatly ordered with all manner of
fruits and herbs as can be conceived, and behind this again a wood
sloping upwards to a height of three hundred feet and more, with the
brook aforesaid leaping down through it and making, as I found
afterwards, the fairest pools that can be imagined.

We rested the litter in the wood when first we came in sight of the
house, and I went on alone to speak with the minister. 'Twas still
early, scarce seven of the clock, if I remember, and the good man was
pacing to and fro in the garden before his house, with a book in his
hand, from which he read aloud as he walked. I could hear that it was
the book of Common Prayer. He was a man of taller stature than the
common, but that stooped forward somewhat, and slender as a youth. I
judged him then, seeing him for the first time, to have been about
sixty-five years of age, but learned afterwards that I had reckoned to
him ten years too many. Trouble had made him old before his time, at
the least, in look, for in some matters he was, as will be seen, one
of them that are ever young. There was such a sweetness in his face as
passed all skill of writer's pen or painter's brush to picture; his
eyes large and grey; his forehead broad, and wrinkled with many lines;
his cheeks somewhat thin and tinged with a faint colour that would not
have ill-beseemed a maiden's face; his lips small but full, though not
over-full (over-full lips, I have noted, seem to show a passionate
temper, and over-thin, a cruel); his hair, white as silver, fell
almost to his shoulders. He looked, I do remember to have thought, as
might an angel that had grown old. For dress he wore a cassock, tied
about his middle with a woollen band of very rusty brown, and grey
hose, and shoes with black buckles. On his head was a skull cap of
black velvet, no less worn than the cassock.

I waited till he should see me, which, so diligently did he read his
book, he did not till he paced up and down some five or six times. But
when he had ended his reading of the Psalms for the morning - for it
was with them that he was engaged - he looked up, saying aloud at the
same time the last words of the seventy-second Psalm,[5] "Thou leddest
Thy people like sheep by the hand of Moses and Aaron;" and he added,
"O Lord, by whom wilt Thou lead them now? for leading they sorely
want!" Thereupon his eye fell on me, and I must confess that the good
man started somewhat at the sight of me. Nor was this to be wondered
at, for I had all the stains of battle upon me, even my face being
splashed with blood. But this was but for a moment; he said, "Can I
serve you, sir?" and when I had taken off my hat, "Nay, be covered."
Then I set forth the whole matter to him, telling him of my father's
estate, and of myself, and at the last showing him Sir Thomas
Fairfax's paper, that he might feel the more secure in giving shelter
to one that was not of the winning side. "Nay, my son," said the good
man, when I showed him this last, "I need no authority to shelter the
sick and wounded. For that the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew[6] is
authority sufficient. Yet this paper will be useful for the present
distress, and save, may be, some strife and argument."

[5] The last of the Psalms appointed for morning service on
the fifteenth day of the month.

[6] The parable of the Judge, the sheep, and the goats.

Then he called aloud, "Cicely!" whereat there came running out of the
cottage a maid of some seventeen years. She was of the middle height,
or somewhat more, of a fair complexion, somewhat pale, but not with
the paleness of one that is troubled with sickness, her eyes of as
sweet a blue as I have ever seen in a woman's face, her forehead low
and somewhat broad, and her hair, that was most smoothly ordered,
without any of the tricks that young maids will sometimes affect, of a
singular bright chestnut colour. That I noted all these things at this
first seeing of her, I cannot affirm, though I do believe that I did;
but of this I am assured, that I deemed her at first sight to be, as
indeed she was, of as sweet and virginal an aspect as ever woman had.

"Cicely," said the old man, "get ready the guest chamber, with all
speed. 'Tis for a gentleman that has been sore wounded." Then, turning
to me, "You had best go at once and bring your father. All things will
be ready ere you come again."

So I hastened back to where I had left my father and John Talboys. And
we two carried him to the cottage, and bestowed him, the old man and
his daughter helping, in the guest room, which was as clean and sweet
a chamber as ever I saw, though but humbly furnished. And Master
Ellgood - for that was the old man's name - dressed his wound, having,
as it appeared, no little knowledge of these matters.

"To find the bullet," he said, "passes my little skill, and yet it
should be found. Haply we can get Master Parker from Leicester, that
is the most learned surgeon in these parts. Meanwhile we will give
your father such ease and comfort as we may."

I was for going without delay to Leicester, but Master Ellgood would
not suffer it. "I know so much," said he, "of surgery, that I am
assured that in your father's present state no man, be he the
skilfullest surgeon alive, could search for and take out the bullet.
Besides this, you had best not venture yourself at this present time
at Leicester. I hear that the King's army took it with circumstances
of no small barbarity, and I doubt whether even the Lord General's
safe-conduct will avail you."

With this I was constrained to be content; but six days after Master
Ellgood judged it well that the surgeon should be sent for, if
perchance he might be able to come, of which, indeed, there was great
doubt. Therefore, having borrowed a horse from one of the neighbours,
and, indeed, it was no small favour in those days to lend a horse, and
taking with me also a letter from Master Ellgood, I rode to Leicester.
John Talboys had been earnest to go in my place. "Nay," said our host,
"you are a soldier, and can no more hide your soldiership than you can
make yourself invisible. And 'tis likely that there are some in
Leicester who know your face, and haply the weight of your arm,
whereas Master Philip here has been diligent at his books for many
months past, and has the air of a scholar."

On the twenty-first day of June, therefore, being just one fortnight
after the battle, I went to Leicester. The town was in a terrible
confusion, having suffered two captures in the course of fourteen
days. Many of the townsmen had fled; indeed, few were left save of the
poorer sort, so that there was scarce a shop open in the place. Some
were shut up, but some were still as they had been left by the
soldiers that plundered them (for the town had been most cruelly
sacked by the King's men), and there was scarce a window in the town
that was not broken.

By great good fortune I found Master Parker, newly returned to his
house, and about to sit down to his dinner. When I told him my errand,
he cried out upon me: "What! ride a matter of twenty miles to see one
wounded man? 'Tis manifestly impossible. Why, boy, there are two
hundred wounded men within a call of this room, and some of them as
curious cases as anyone could ask to see. I could fill my day three
times over, and not stir a hundred yards hence."

Hearing him speak thus, I bethought me of Master Ellgood's letter, and
showed it to him.

"Nay," said he, "why did you not bring this out before? There is no
man whom I honour more than Thomas Ellgood, and I would ride a hundred
miles to serve him. He has a pretty knowledge of physic and surgery,
too, for a lay person, and perceives, too, which is a rare thing in
such a case, where his knowledge ends. And now let us think how this
business may be best managed. I must even make two days out of one, if
the one be not long enough. We will set out about ten of the clock
to-night, and so I shall be here for my day's work to-morrow. And now,
sir, you must dine with me."

This I did gladly enough. Dinner ended, said Master Parker: "Divert
yourself with these books. Here is Galen, and Pliny the elder, an
industrious gatherer of facts, but over-credulous. Or, if you like
something lighter, here are some poems by Mr. John Milton, a great
friend, they tell me, of the Lord General, and here are the plays of
William Shakespeare, if the saints permit me to make mention of things
so profane. I would counsel you not to stir abroad, for if anyone
should chance to remember you there might be some trouble."

Nevertheless I ventured forth, being as is the wont of young men, wise
in my own conceit, and save that some boys cried after me, my hair
being somewhat longer than is the fashion among the puritanical folk,
suffered no harm. Nay, I had some pleasant talk with an honest
soldier[7] that I met upon the wall. He seemed, by his accent, which
was such as they use in the eastern parts of England, to be but of
lowly birth; but yet his talk was full of wit and fine fancy. No
gentleman, were he the finest scholar in Oxford, could have spoken
better. I repent me that I did not ask his name.

[7] Perhaps this common soldier was John Bunyan, who was
probably in Leicester at this time.

At ten of the clock that night we set forth, and came to Master
Ellgood's house without any misadventure. Hearing that my father was
awake, and, indeed, he rarely slept but an hour or so at one time,
Master Parker would see him at once. He examined the shoulder and arm
with great carefulness; and when he had made an end, my father said,
"And now, sir, tell me how it is with me."

"It might have been worse," said he.

"Ay," answered my father, "if the bullet had entered some six inches
more to the right it had made a shorter work with me. But whether that
had been worse, who can say? save, perhaps, that a man may well have
some days wherein to prepare himself. But speak out, sir; I have not
faced Death so many times in the field that I should fear him in the

"'Tis not," said the surgeon, "in human skill to make a cure in this

"So be it," answered my father, "if such is the will of God. But tell
me, sir, how long I have to live."

"Some five days I should say," the surgeon made answer.

"God reward you, sir," said my father, "for your trouble; and now, my
good friends, and you, son Philip, leave me alone. When a man hears
such tidings as this, though, indeed, they be nothing more than I
looked for, he would fain think over them in solitude."

So we left him. About two hours after dawn the good surgeon set forth
on his way back to Leicester. Looking in at my father about the same
time, I saw that he was sleeping peacefully; and, indeed, he did not
awake till seven of the clock, which had not happened before since his
coming to the house.



When my father awoke I asked him, "Shall I go for my mother and

He answered me: "Had I desired to see them - nay, but I do desire to
see them with a great longing," and his eyes were filled with tears, a
thing that I had never seen before in him; "had it been well that they
should come, son Philip, I had sent you for them so soon as I was
brought to this place. I knew when first that bullet struck me that it
carried a billet of death, nor have I ever looked for any other end,
though a man will hope even against hope, nor do I pretend to be
stronger and wiser than others. But as for your mother and your sister
coming hither, 'tis clearly impossible. They would need a regiment of
horse to escort them safely, for the country was never so disturbed.
No, my son, when I bade your mother farewell at Oxford, it was
understood between us that whatever might befall me, she and our dear
Dorothy should tarry at home. And, indeed, this was part of the cost
that she and I counted when I took up arms for the King. God comfort
her in her widowhood, and you and Dorothy render her double love and
duty. And now I would settle my worldly affairs, that I may give the
rest of my time to God."

After this he made a codicil to his will, to which Master Ellgood and
John Talboys set their hands as witnesses. Also he bade me write down
what he desired to be done with sundry possessions that he had,
desiring that certain friends should have something to keep in memory
of him. And he gave me many messages for kinsfolk and acquaintance,
and much counsel for myself, of which the chief was that while I had
the opportunity - "for how long you may have it," said he, "I know
not" - I should be diligent with my books, and that in due time, if I
felt any drawing thereto, I should seek for orders at the hands of a
Bishop. But of these things, as being matters of private concern, I
will here write no more.

The rest of his time, which was indeed but two days, the wound
mortifying and so bringing him to his end sooner than any had thought,
he spent in meditation and religious exercises. Master Ellgood, who
was a priest, though, as will be set forth more at length hereafter,
he had long been excluded from his office, was most diligent in
praying and reading the Scriptures with him; and on the morning of his
death, which was the festival of St. John the Baptist, delivered to
him the blessed sacrament, all that were in the house communicating
with him. My father's strength held out just so long that he could
join, though but in a low voice, to the very end of the service. Nor
did he speak again afterwards, till he came to the very last, but lay
with his eyes shut, yet conscious of himself, as I knew because he
pressed my hand as I sat by him. About two hours after noon it seemed
to me that he had departed, for I could not see his breast move, nor
feel the vein in his wrist. But it was not so, for when Cicely held a
mirror to his mouth, the breath was to be seen upon it, though but
very faint. In this state he lay for the space of three hours or
there-abouts; but about five of the clock, there came a flush upon his
cheeks, and he opened his eyes, which were as bright as ever I saw
them, and looked at me, and said in a clear voice, smiling the while:
"I have seen her, and it is well." And having said this he passed
away. And here I should say that at this very hour my mother sitting
in her chamber, having just come back from evensong in St. Peter's
Church, saw my father, as plain as ever she had seen him in life,
standing by the window; and that he smiled upon her very sweetly and
pleasantly. "I seemed to know," she said afterwards, "that it was not
he in the flesh, for I did not make to go to him or speak to him; but
yet I was in no wise afraid, but sat looking at him with such love and
gladness in my heart as I had never felt before. And in a short space
of time, for it seemed to me, but 'twas, as afterwards I found from
comparing of time, about half of an hour, he vanished out of my

My father was buried in the churchyard of Naseby, Master Ellgood
saying over him the service provided in the Prayer Book. The minister
of Naseby, a good man, but somewhat timid withal, had not dared to use
it, but our host had no such fear. "None," said he, "will hinder me or
call me to account." And so it was, I may note, that, having the whole
by heart from beginning to end, he used no book. Maybe, had he had a
book in his hand, some that were present might have made objection;
but when he said it as if extempore, not only did none murmur, but all
seemed edified. 'Tis a strange thing, and yet of a piece with many
other things in life, that a man may say unharmed, yea, and commended,
that which to read would put him in peril of liberty or life.

I, coming back from the burying, was wetted through by a great storm
of rain, and, neglecting to change my clothes, was the next day taken
with a great cold and fever, other things, I doubt not, as care and
trouble of mind, making the sickness worse. And, indeed, 'twas so sore
(this they told me after, but at the time I knew nothing, but only
raved of fighting and of disputing in the school at Oxford), that for
some days I was like to follow my father. So I lay betwixt life and
death till it was about the middle of the month of July; and then
partly through Master Ellgood's skill in physic (especially in the use
of simples of which he had a considerable knowledge), and more through
the good nursing of Mistress Cicely and of John Talboys, I began to

One morning when the danger was past, says John Talboys to me, "'Tis
time, sir, that I thought of departing hence. You need me no more, and
I must shift for myself. My soldiering is over for three years to
come; but I reckon that a stout pair of hands will not lack
employment. I can ply a sickle and drive a furrow as well as most men;
and there are those in Oxfordshire who know it and will give me good

So I gave him two gold pieces (having had ten given me by my father).
He was loath to take them, but I pressed them on him, as being my
father's gift to him, as indeed they were. Also I wrote a letter of
many sheets to my mother, which I gave into his keeping, he promising
to deliver it into her hands with all possible speed. So he departed;
nor have I ever seen him again, but I hear that he prospers, keeping
an inn at Cassington, in the county of Berks, and having also a farm.
He is as brave and honest a fellow as ever bestrode a horse.

After I began to mend I saw no more of Mistress Cicely, though I could
hear her singing about the house, for she had a very sweet and tunable
voice. There waited on me a very decent widow woman from the village,
that was reckoned a notable nurse in these parts; such doubtless she
was, for I never lacked anything, but had all things served at the due
time. But she had a heavy hand, and a croaking voice, and was of a
singular doleful temper. She would sit by the hour and talk to me of
those whom she had nursed in times past, and if she mentioned one that
had died she would say like enough, "He very greatly favoured you,
sir," or "He had the same complexion as you, and I have noted that it
often goes with a consumption," or "He was of very tall stature, and
your tall men fail very suddenly." I was myself tall. As for her
readiness to believe all kinds of marvels, 'twas such as I never saw
surpassed. There was scarce a house in the country but she knew of
some ghost that walked in it, and if there was no ghost of a man, then
there was one of a dog or a cat; and as for witches, there was not a
village but had two or three. And when I doubted, she had
circumstances at hand to prove what she said. "Did not Thomas Clark at
Erpington Mill speak roughly to Alice Viner, the Erpington witch, for
picking wood in his coppice, and Alice cursed him, and said that he
should never die in his bed, and the miller, coming home from market
the very next Tuesday, fell from his horse and was killed?" "But was
the miller in liquor, think you?" I said. "Yes," said she, "and had
come home in liquor every market day for thirty years and more, and
had come to no harm till he fell out with Alice." That witches may be,
I do not doubt, for does not Scripture say, "Thou shalt not suffer a
witch to live;" but that many poor women have an ill-name for
witchcraft, ay, and worse than an ill-name, that have no worse faults
than a shrewish temper and a bitter tongue, I do not doubt. With such
doleful tales did Margery Marriott - for that was the good woman's
name - entertain me; and though Master Ellgood would come and sit with
me, I was right glad, when the fever having left me and, in a great
measure, the weakness also that followed it, I was quit of her

It was about the end of July when I left my chamber; there then
followed so delightful a time as had never before come to me in my
whole life. First, the skies smiled upon me, for the summer having
been hitherto somewhat wet and stormy, there now began a season of the
most serene weather that can be imagined; and next, the place was most
sweet and pleasant, a very home of peace, and Master Ellgood showed me
such courtesy and kindness as could not be surpassed; and lastly, to
use the figure which the rhetoricians call a climax, I had sometimes
at least, though not as often as I would, the companionship of

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchWith the King at Oxford → online text (page 7 of 14)