Alfred John Church.

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Mistress Cicely. Of her face and aspect I have written before; and
these were such, indeed, as would strike all beholders; but of the
inner beauty and fairness of her soul, I have said nothing, nor,
indeed, can now say enough. She ordered her father's household with
such nice care as not the most experienced matron could have excelled,
and yet had barely ended her seventeenth year; nay, but for the help
of a little maid and a lad that hewed the wood and fetched the water,
she did all the service of the house; yet, for all this, I never saw
her with so much as a pin awry, nor any flush upon her cheeks, though
she might be newly come from cooking the dinner. And for all these
cares, yet time never failed her to minister to the sick when any
needed her help; no, nor to nourish her own mind with the reading of
wholesome authors. She was not ignorant of Latin, which her father had
taught her in company with her brother, but to this, since he went to
the war, she had paid but little heed; but with our English writers
she had such acquaintance as made me, being indeed somewhat rude in
these matters, wholly ashamed. 'Twas of her that I learnt to read the
_Canterbury Pilgrims_ of Geoffrey Chaucer, and the poems of Lord
Surrey, and the incomparable Sir Philip Sidney's romance of _Arcadia_.
Of William Shakespeare his plays I knew already somewhat, but with her
and her father much increased my knowledge, for of an evening we would
read one or another, dividing the characters among ourselves. But I
must confess that it was not her notable housekeeping, nor her
charitable disposition, nor her learning in authors ancient and
modern, that I chiefly admired in her; no, nor her beauty only, that I
may be but just to myself; but herself, that was a compound, most
sweetly mixed of all; for gracious ways, and a delicate courtesy, and
a most modest discretion of voice and look set off and displayed, if I
may so speak of that which did always rather seek to hide itself, the
singular virtues of her mind and body. I do believe what divines teach
of the corruption of human nature, yet I must confess that I have seen
women, of whom Cicely Ellgood was one, my mother another, and my
sister Dorothy a third, in whom I never discovered that which could
rightly be called corrupt. Faults they had, I doubt not, though in
Cicely and my mother I never perceived any such (for Dorothy had a
quick temper, but only in too hot anger against wrong-doing); but that
they sinned - if I must need receive it, I receive it of faith, not of
understanding.

I do not know whether Master Ellgood perceived how I was affected
towards his daughter, for that I was greatly enamoured of her scarcely
needs telling; but on the seventh day, or thereabouts, after my first
descending from my chamber, he called me to his private parlour,
saying that he desired to have some talk with me.

"Master Dashwood," he said; "'tis well that host and guest, if their
chance acquaintance has any likelihood to become more durable, should
know something of each other. Hear, therefore, my story; it may be
that, having heard it, you may choose that we should part. I was - nay,
I do protest that I still am - a priest of the Church of England; but I
have been for these many years deprived of my office; and the cause
was this, which you shall now hear. May be you have not heard of the
_Book of Sports_. It made trouble enough in its days, but like enough
has now been forgotten for stress of graver matters.

It had this for its title: _Concerning Lawful Sports to be used on
Sundays after Divine Service_. In it was commanded that dancing and
archery, and May games, and Whitsun ales, and Church feasts, should be
held lawful; but bull-baiting and bear-baiting and interludes
forbidden. At its first publishing it made but little stir; this was
some thirty years since, in the days of King James I. But when Dr.
Laud, that was then Archbishop of Canterbury, put it forth again some
twelve years since, and strictly commanded all the Bishops of his
province that they should enforce it on all ministers, no little
trouble arose. Against Dr. Laud I would say nothing, but he was one
that suffered not his words to fall to the ground. There went out,
therefore, a strict commandment that every minister should read the
book on the eighteenth of October following - being St. Luke's
day - publicly in the church, after morning prayer. Some of the bishops
took little heed of the matter; but my Lord of Norwich, in whose
diocese I held a cure, was exceeding hot about it. To be brief, I read
it not. Now I hold not with them who mislike these games altogether.
If the Jews danced and shot with the bow, why not Christian men? And
as for the Whitsun ales and the Church feasts and the like, that they
work mischief I deny not; but 'tis chiefly because honest and sober
folk keep too much aloof from them, and leave them to the looser sort.
Nor am I altogether resolved in mind whether such things be unlawful
on the Sunday. To forbid them savours of Sabbath worship; yet to
permit them does not tend to edifying. May be you will ask why then
did I not read the book, as was enjoined upon me? Because I held that
the civil power was intruding into things with which it had no
concern, the which intrusion every true minister of God must resist to
the loss of all things, and, if need be, even to the death. Howbeit I
will not weary you with my reasons, which, indeed, that I may be
altogether honest, I found not many to comprehend. To the one party I
seemed a rebel, because I obeyed not my ordinary, and to the other a
profane person, because I condemned not the sports. Let my reasons,
therefore, be. 'Tis enough for my present purpose to say that I could
not in my conscience obey. Well, the Archbishop being advised by my
Lord of Norwich, sends for me to Lambeth. As soon as I came into his
library, where he sat with a chaplain on either hand, he burst out on
me: 'Well, sir, I hear that you read not the book on the day
appointed. Is it so?' 'Suffer me, your Grace - - ' I said; but before I
could end my sentence he cried out, 'Answer me "yea" or "nay."' 'I
read it not,' said I, being myself also, it must be confessed, a
little touched by his heat. 'Then,' he cried, in a loud voice, 'I
suspend you for ever from your office and benefice till you shall read
it.' Thereat I saw one of the chaplains whisper into his ear. Hereupon
he moderated somewhat his voice, and said, 'Have you any defence?' I
had written down my reasons, and now began to read them. They were, as
I have said already, that the book was a civil declaration, such as
could not lawfully be enforced by any court ecclesiastical. But when I
had read barely a page he brake in upon me: 'Hold! 'tis enough; I will
hear no more. Whosoever shall make such a defence, it shall be burned
before his face, and he laid by the heels in prison. Hear now; I
admonish you hereby, personally and judicially, that you read this
Declaration within three weeks, under pain of being suspended _ab
officio et beneficio_.' As I turned to go I saw that the chaplain
whispered in his ear again. Then the Archbishop said, 'Tarry a moment,
Master Ellgood, and sit down' - for hitherto I had been standing - 'I
would have a word with you.' And this he said in a voice more gentle
by far than he had before used. Afterwards I heard that the chaplain
had whispered to him about a little book that I had written of St.
Cyprian and the Bishop of Rome, in which matter the Archbishop was
much concerned. 'Have you studied the Fathers, Master Ellgood?' And
when I confessed that I had some knowledge of them, he held me in talk
about sundry matters which were then much talked of, of which the
chief was the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome. This converse held us
till noon, when the Archbishop would have me dine with him, and,
dinner ended, we played at bowls, the day being fine, though it was
already November; and I throwing my bowls well - for I have always
loved the game - his Grace said, ''Tis not now the first time that you
have thrown a bowl, Master Ellgood, so that you mislike not all
sport.' This he spake right pleasantly, and when I went away he gave
me his blessing, and said, 'I doubt not, Master Ellgood, but that we
shall agree;' and so parted from me in all friendship. Of a truth, I
would fain have done his pleasure, if only conscience had suffered me;
but I must needs wrap me in my virtue, if I may somewhat misquote
Horace; nor could I consent that the sun of his Grace's favour should
cause me to cast off that which the blast of his wrath had not rent
from me. I stood, therefore, by my denial, and so was first
excommunicated, and afterwards, still persisting, deprived of my
benefice. Ah, my son! 'twas a hard time with me and mine; nor has it
always been an easy thing with me to be in charity with all men. They
drave me forth from my house in February, when the snow was lying deep
upon the ground; and for two days we had no shelter for our heads but
a barn. The Bishop's people stripped me of all that I had, but 'twas
not of my lord's knowledge, and I had not so much as a piece of silver
in my pocket, nor did any man dare to take me into his house, though
some brought me food by stealth. My wife was stricken of so deadly a
chill that she fell into a wasting sickness and died some three months
after. She had taken some of her underclothing to keep our children
the warmer; but this I knew not till after. Perchance it was better
that I knew not; it had been a hard thing to choose between mother and
children. But why do I weary you with my troubles? Suffice it to say
that for two years I could scarce keep body and soul together. A
trifle I earned translating for the booksellers, and the dedication of
two little treatises that I wrote fetched me a few guineas; but I had
received better wages by following the plough, had but my hands been
hard enough. Some of my brethren in the ministry also helped,
especially Dr. Thomas Fuller, that was vicar of Broadwinsor, and some
money I had from the Archbishop himself, but this I knew not till
after his death. God forgive me for thinking too hardly of him! At the
end of the two years, a certain kinsman that, living, had never
favoured me, dying without a will, I inherited this house, with some
two hundred acres of land, part of which I have farmed as best I
could, and part have let. Perchance you would ask why, they that
persecuted me having fallen from power, I have had no favour from them
that succeeded to their place? The cause is soon said. I am no
Puritan; I hold neither with Presbyterian nor with Independent, but
think that bishops are the true rulers of the Church, though I myself
have had scant favour from them. The Covenant I cannot subscribe, nor
can I satisfy the Committees that the Parliament has appointed for the
examining of the clergy. An I could, I would not intrude myself into a
benefice from which some godly man has been driven out because he was
faithful to his King. But enough of myself. If you can bear with one
who can neither run with the hare nor hunt with the hounds, well; I
shall rejoice from my heart; but if not, we can at the least part in
Christian charity."

I should have found it hard to part with sweet Cicely's father had he
been Hugh Peters himself, who was the loudest and fiercest of all the
Parliament preachers. But who could refuse the hand of fellowship to
such an one as William Ellgood? He was one of those whose consciences
are too fine set for this world. Whoever was uppermost, there would be
ever some thing at which he would have some scruple. He had fared just
as ill, nay worse, had he lived a hundred years before. Then he had
been condemned under the Six Articles, and fallen under the
displeasure of the counsellors of King Edward, and been in danger of
the fire at Smithfield, and been deprived of his benefice under Queen
Elizabeth. Verily he was no vicar of Bray that would be vicar still
whoever should rule the roost. The more I knew him the more I loved
him, yet I could but see that were all men such as he, life itself
would be a thing impossible. Pure he was, and single-minded and
steadfast, but could see but one thing at a time; and everything, be
it ever so small, was an article of faith to him, for which he had
gone cheerfully to the death; and I soon learnt to see so much, not
only in his talk, in which he afterwards was quite free with me, but
in his face, which, for all its angelical sweetness, had a certain set
look which I have noted in the fiercest sectaries. But William Ellgood
was one that had for others a charity without bounds, and was stern
only upon himself.

Two or three days after Master Ellgood opened to me a trouble that he
had about his son. "He is a good lad," he said to me, "my son John,
but he does not see eye to eye with me in matters of Church and State.
There is work enough for them who stand aside from both parties in
these days, and this I would have had him do, but he was not content,
but must needs take service with the Parliament. He was with my Lord
Essex's army, and is promoted, I believe, to be a captain; but the
whole matter is a sore trouble to me."

"Well, Master Ellgood," said I, "I had been better pleased had he
stood for the King; but that one who hath the strength to strike a
blow should stand aside and not deal it for one side or the other, is
not to be looked for."

"Say you so?" said he; "there are but few that have one mind with me
in this matter. I must e'en be content to be alone."

I sojourned six weeks with Master Ellgood and then departed, though,
as need scarce be said, very loath to go, but I heard that his son
John, the war being now well nigh at an end, was like to return home,
and I could not reconcile it to myself to see him, when he had lately
borne arms against the King. I spake no word to Mistress Cicely before
I went, for who was I - a poor scholar that had followed the losing
side - to entangle her with promises? But there are vows that pass
without words. Such an one I made in my own heart. As for her, I knew
nothing certain, and lovers will find their hopes in slight tokens;
yet such a hope I found; and it sent me away with a lighter heart than
I had ever looked to have again.




CHAPTER XIII.

OF MY COMING BACK TO OXFORD.


Coming back to Oxford about the beginning of the month September, I
found all things in a very disheartened condition. For, indeed, little
now remained to the King. The strong city of Bristol the Prince Rupert
had surrendered to the Lord General, having but a few days before
affirmed in a letter to the King that he could hold the place for four
months unless he should be constrained otherwise by mutiny in the
garrison. The King, indeed, was ill-served by this same Prince, of
whom it may be said that he was over bold where he needed to be
cautious, and that where boldness was most required he showed no small
lack of constancy. About the same time also there came news of the
defeat of my Lord Montrose, at Philiphaugh. From him the King had
hoped great things; and, indeed he had had for a time singular great
success; but his army was such that success was no less fatal to it
than defeat, the savage people from the Highlands, who were its
mainstay, retiring, after their custom, to the mountains, where they
dwelt, when they had gathered a sufficiency of plunder. As for the
King himself, he was then at Newark, to which place he had fled, with
but a small following, from Chester, where, seeking to relieve the
city from siege, he had been defeated with great loss. But about the
beginning of November (for it was, I remember about the day of our
_Gaudeamus_ - that is to say, the first day of November) he came back
to Oxford, and there tarried for the rest of the winter.

And now it was needful to prepare all things for the worst. First,
then, because it could not be hoped but that the city of Oxford would
be soon besieged (a thing which, though many times threatened, had
never yet been done), it seemed good to make perfect the
fortifications. There came forth, therefore, a proclamation from his
Majesty's Privy Council that all the inhabitants of Oxford, being
above the age of sixteen, should upon four several days, named
therein, work upon the fortifications behind Christ Church (at which
place their defect was greatest). And it was ordered that if any
person from age, or infirmity, or other occupation, should fail so to
work, he should either find one suitable person to labour in his
stead, or should pay a contribution of one shilling for the day; and
for each servant the householder employing him was to pay the sum of
sixpence. Having but few shillings in my purse, and being curious
withal to see the matter, which was indeed a new thing in England, I
elected to work rather than to pay. And, indeed it was a strange sight
to see the multitude gathered together. Some came for very zeal, as if
they could not be content but they must show how zealous they were for
the King, and some for meanness or poverty came rather to labour with
their own hands than to pay. So far as I could see there was but
little work done, and this from lack of skill in part, and in part
from want of heart. I verily believe that a hundred stout fellows
paid, not by the hours of their working, but by the work that they
should do, had accomplished much more than the mixed multitude
gathered together that day.

[Illustration: _The Gateway of Christ Church, Oxford._]

The fortifications, however, be they as strong as they might, could
defend the city but for a short time only, and, indeed, had their
chief use in this, that the garrison and inhabitants, being safe from
sudden assault, might through them obtain for themselves better terms
of surrender. It was necessary, therefore, to provide, so far as might
be possible, against the time when the city should be surrendered into
the hands of our enemies. Of this provision one chief matter was the
hiding away of such things as were apt to suffer damage from their
hatred or ignorance. Now there had come from time to time grievous
reports of the cruel damage done by the soldiers of the Parliament in
various cathedrals and churches throughout the realm wherever they had
fallen into their power. Especially had they shown themselves zealous
against what in their fanatic language they were wont to call
idolatry, not only breaking down statues that they espied on walls or
on tombs, but also figures, whether of Christ or of holy men that were
painted on windows. And it was known that they were especially zealous
against such figures or images when they savoured of Popery, as ran
the phrase which was greatly in favour in these times. Such things
then it seemed expedient to hide. Therefore at Christ Church, in the
Cathedral, the Dean, than whom there was no one more stiff for the
King, had a certain window, which is especially prized in that
Society, put away in a safe place, and another set up in its place. On
this window was represented Dr. Robert King, last Abbot of Oseney and
first Bishop of Oxford, in his bishop's robes, having a mitre on his
head and holding a crosier in his right hand. 'Twas most handsomely
painted with colours, so fine and so harmoniously blended as no man in
these days seems to have the wit to do. I hope that it may remain
hidden so long as these present hardships may endure, and be found
when they shall have passed away, as I do not doubt that they will. At
Magdalen College, also, the painted glass of the great eastern window
in the chapel was taken out of its place, and put away in like manner,
for the safe restoration of which I here set down the same hope.

[Illustration: _The last Abbot of Oseney._]

On the fourteenth day of March in the year following (that is to say,
the year 1646) an army of Sir Ralph Hopton, that still held out for
the King in Cornwall (and 'twas in the West that his Majesty's cause
was ever the strongest, whereas it was weakest in the East)
surrendered itself, being reduced to such straits as left no hope of
escape, much less of victory. This was heard in Oxford, by a messenger
from the general of the enemy, who was so courteous as to give us the
news, not the less readily perhaps, that it was not like to be
welcome. On the very same day, that is the twenty-second day of March
(for the matter in Cornwall, having befallen on the fourteenth, had
taken so long to travel to us) came tidings of a great misfortune that
had befallen his Majesty nearer at hand. For Sir Jacob Astley, coming
from Worcester to Oxford with about three thousand men, mostly horse,
that he had gathered, was fallen upon by one Colonel Morgan at
Stow-on-the-Wold, and routed, being himself taken prisoner. This we
heard from one of Sir Jacob's own riders, who escaped, or, I should
rather suppose, was suffered to escape, that he might bring the ill
news to the King. And, indeed, 'twas the very last stroke that overset
the tottering edifice of his fortunes, as was sufficiently evident
from what the good knight, being taken to the aforesaid Colonel
Morgan, is reported to have said: "Now you have done your work, and
may go to play, unless you choose to fall out among yourselves." Of
this same valiant soldier is told another thing which seems to me well
worthy to be here set down, that at the battle of Edgehill, before he
charged, he made this prayer: "O Lord! Thou knowest how busy I must be
this day. If I forget Thee, do not Thou forget me." And having said so
much, he rose from his knees, and cried with a cheerful voice, "March
on, boys."

And now, a siege being imminent, the King departed from Oxford. Of his
going but very few knew beforehand, but I heard afterwards from one
that was present that he went at midnight on the twenty-seventh day of
April, being disguised as a servant, even to having his hair cut in
Puritan fashion, and riding with a portmanteau behind him. He had but
two companions, Dr. Hudson, that was a parson, but not less a soldier,
and a certain Master Ashburnham, whose servant he feigned himself to
be. And if few knew of his purpose of going, the place whither he
should go he knew not himself. At the first he rode towards London, to
which, indeed, he approached so near that he came as far as
Harrow-on-the-Hill being minded, it was said, to enter the City and
throw himself on the mercy of the Parliament. But, departing from this
purpose, if, indeed, he ever entertained it, he rode northward to
Newark, where the Scots' army lay, hoping that they might protect him,
of which hope he was, indeed, grievously disappointed, the Scots
giving him up to his enemies. 'Twas said that they sold him; and it is
certain that at the time of his being surrendered, it was agreed that
the Scots should have four hundred thousand pounds, being, as they
said, arrears of their wages, paid to them. Yet, as they came into
England to make war, together with the Parliament, against the King,
this charge, methinks, is too harsh, for being by profession enemies,
why should they behave to him as friends? Nevertheless it had been
more seemly if no mention had been made at the time of the wages.

And now at Oxford the end came nearer and nearer. We made a dam at St.
Clement's Bridge (which is by Magdalen College), and so laid the
country that is to the south side of the city under water. But
elsewhere the lines of the enemy were drawn all about us. This was the
beginning of May. Of fighting there was but little; on this, being, as
I conceived, bound by my oath, I did not so much as look. But I could
not choose but hear the cannonading which went forward with but little
rest. Our men would fire, it was said, so many as two hundred shots in
the day, doing, however, but small damage, so that it seemed as if
they had it in their mind to spend their powder rather than to do
execution. And I take it that they suffered more damage than they
gave, the enemy having more marks, and these also more manifest, at
which to make his aim. About the ending of the month of May comes an
order from the King that the city should be surrendered.

Meanwhile I, as I have said, turned away not only my hands, but also,
as far as it was possible, my eyes and my thoughts from war,
conceiving that I should so acknowledge the great kindness of my Lord
Fairfax. Here, therefore, I may not unfittingly set down somewhat
about the thing with which I now concerned myself. Before my going to
join company with my father before the battle at Naseby, being about
to finish my second year of residing, I performed my first exercises,
that is to say, I answered, as the Academical phrase has it, _in


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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchWith the King at Oxford → online text (page 8 of 14)