Annie E. Keeling.

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[Illustration: A noisy rabblement of people came running up]




ANDREW GOLDING: A Tale of the Great Plague.

By

ANNIE E. KEELING




CONTENTS.


CHAP.

INTRODUCTION. - HOW I, LUCIA DACRE, CAME TO WRITE THIS HISTORY

I. HOW WE WERE VISITED BY TWO OF OUR KINSFOLK, OUR FATHER BEING DEAD;
AND HOW THEY BEHAVED THEMSELVES TOWARD US

II. HOW WE JOURNEYED UP TO YORKSHIRE; AND HOW WE WERE WELCOMED THERE

III. HOW MR. TRUELOCKE PREACHED HIS LAST SERMON IN WEST FAZEBY

IV. HOW HARRY TRUELOCKE LEFT US FOR THE SEA

V. HOW ANDREW MADE ONE ENEMY, AND WAS LIKE TO HAVE ANOTHER

VI. HOW MR. TRUELOCKE AND MRS. GOLDING LEFT US

VII. HOW ANDREW CAME TO THE GRANGE BY NIGHT

VIII. HOW A STRANGE MESSENGER BROUGHT US NEWS OF ANDREW

IX. HOW WE WENT UP TO LONDON, AND FOUND NO FRIENDS THERE

X. HOW WE DWELT IN A HOUSE THAI' WAS NOT OUR OWN

XI. HOW THERE CAME NEW GUESTS INTO THE HOUSE

XII. HOW WE SAILED FOR FRANCE IN THE 'MARIE-ROYALE'

CONCLUSION. - HOW LUCIA DWELLS IN ENGLAND, AND ALTHEA OTHERWHERE




INTRODUCTION.


HOW I, LUCIA DACRE, CAME TO WRITE THIS HISTORY, AT THE TIME THAT I WITH
MY SISTER WAS LODGED IN A DESERTED HOUSE IN LONDON, WHEN THE GREAT
PLAGUE WAS AT ITS HEIGHT; WHICH WAS IN THE MONTHS OF JULY AND AUGUST,
ANNO SIXTEEN HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FIVE.

Now that my sister and myself are in such a strange melancholy case, and
I enforced to spend many hours daily in idleness, I find the time hang
very heavy; for I cannot, like Althea, entertain any longer the hopes
that brought us hither. She continues daily to make great exertions in
pursuing them, but does not often admit my help; and, being afraid that
I may fall into mere desperation, I have bethought me how to amuse some
hours daily by setting down the manner of our present troubles and the
beginnings that led to them. May I live to write of their happy end! but
my fears are very great, and almost forbid me to pray thus.

Having thus resolved how to beguile the heavy time, I began spying about
for paper and pens and ink; and finding in a kind of lumber room a great
many sheets of coarse paper, I stitched them together; then with much
trembling I peeped into the study of the late poor master of the house,
and there found a bundle of quills and some ink; and, leaving money in
his desk to the full value of the things I took, I carried my
writing-tools into the great front parlour, and set myself to the work.

Now while I sat considering how to begin, Althea comes softly behind me,
and, looking over my shoulder, asks me what I would be at; and when I
told her, 'What, child,' says she, 'art going to turn historian? Thy
spirits are more settled than mine, if thou canst sit quietly down to
such work, with sights like these daily before thine eyes,' pointing
with her hand to the window. Now I had pulled the table into a corner
well out of sight from the street, wishing not to be discerned; for as
yet but one knows of our being hidden in this house, and we would fain
keep it a secret still. But rising and following with my eyes her
pointing hand, I could behold a sight common enough, but too dismal to
be looked on without fresh apprehension each time: in the middle of the
street, which is quite grown with grass, a horse and cart standing, no
driver in sight near it, and the cart as we too well knew being that
which goes round daily to take away such as die of the Plague, though as
it then stood we could not discern if any dead person lay in it.

'It is waiting for our neighbour next door,' says Althea. 'As I stood by
an open casement up-stairs I plainly heard the family bemoaning
themselves because the master is dead; I heard also how they are
devising to get away unobserved in the early morning, and escape to some
place of safety in the country. How sayest thou, Lucy? were it not well
for thee to go also in their company?'

'Never I, while you stay here,' I answered.

'It repents me often,' she said, 'that I discovered to you my design of
coming up hither. I would you were safe at home again.'

'I have no home, but where you are,' said I.

'Poor faithful little heart!' she says, sighing. 'Well, get on with thy
history-writing; I must go forth presently, when all is quiet again;
and when I return thou shalt show me what thou hast written. Tell the
tale orderly, Lucy; begin at the beginning with "Once upon a time there
lived two sisters; the elder was a fool, but the younger one loved
her"' - and before I could say a word she had slipt away.

I sat awhile, too much disquieted to write, listening against my will
for the heavy sounds that told how the dead man next door was being
carried forth and laid in the cart; but the thing lumbered away at last,
its cracked bell tinkling dolefully; and I found courage to take to my
work.

But to begin at the beginning is not so easy, especially for one so
unskilful with her pen as I. And who shall say what are the beginnings
of the things that befall us? Perhaps they lie far off, long before our
little life itself began.




CHAPTER I.


HOW WE WERE VISITED BY TWO OF OUR KINSFOLK, OUR FATHER BEING DEAD; AND
HOW THEY BEHAVED THEMSELVES TOWARD US.

Think, however, that the troubles that now lie upon us might not have
been ours had not our father died when he did, which was the cause of
our being taken into the house of our mother's sister, Mrs. Margaret
Golding; - a happy thing we then thought it, that she would receive us,
for we were in great straits; - so I will begin my history at that sad
period.

Our father, William Dacre, was indeed a gentleman, born to a competent
estate, and married into an honest stock and to some fortune, but his
fair prospects were all blighted and our mother's money well-nigh wasted
before he died. To his great loss, he stood steadily for the king
against the Parliament all through the late Rebellion, as he would ever
call it; and, our mother's people being very stiff on the other side,
and she dying while we were little children, we were sundered from them
while our father lived. He took such care of us as he could, striving to
breed us up like gentlewomen; sometimes we lived with him in London
lodgings, sometimes were left at his manor-house of Milthorpe; but the
last two years of his life were very uneasy to him and to us.

For when the young king, Charles the Second, was brought in again, five
years agone, our father was drawn up to Court by some I will not name,
who tempted him with hopes of preferments and rewards to recompense his
loyalty. He wasted his means much through the ill counsel of these false
friends, but obtained no fruit of their promises, and at last he died
suddenly; whether broken-hearted or not I leave to the judgment of God,
and to the consciences of the men who for their own ends had betrayed
him into those vain expectations. At that time Althea was barely
nineteen, and I a little past sixteen; we had no brother nor other
sister.

We were then at Milthorpe; and thither our father was brought to be
buried. That was a black time for us. Though lately we had been kept
apart from our father, we loved him dearly, and we knew of no other
friend and protector. And when the funeral was over we could not tell
which way to turn; for we found our father's land must needs pass to the
next male heir, Mr. John Dacre, our distant cousin. He, I know not how,
had contrived to thrive where our father had decayed, and had gotten a
good share of favour at the new Court.

My memory offers things past to me as if in separate pictures, this and
that accident that befell us showing much more clear and bright than
things quite as important which lie between. I remember but dimly all
the sad time of our father's death and burial, the grief I myself felt,
and all the bustle and stir about us, making those days cloudy to me;
but all the more plainly I remember a certain day that followed the
funeral, when Althea and I were sitting together in a little parlour
where we had been wont to sew, - I weeping on her neck, and she trying to
turn my thoughts from my grief with planning how we two should
live, - when, the door opening, some one came briskly in who called us by
our names.

'What, Althea! what, Lucy! All in the dumps, and not a word to say to
your mother's own sister?' and, in great surprise, we looked up on our
aunt, whom we had seen but once since our mother died, when we were
quite little. She was looking kindly on us; her eyes were quick, black,
and sparkling, but had something very tender in them at that moment. I
noticed directly how plain she was as to her clothes, wearing a common
country-made riding-suit, all of black, and how her shape was a little
too plump for her low stature, while her comely face was tanned quite
brown with the sun; but methought the kind look she bent on us was even
sweeter because of her homely aspect. So I got up and ran to her,
holding out both my hands; but she took me into her arms, and kissed me
lovingly, saying, -

'Poor lamb! poor fatherless, motherless lamb! thou shalt feel no lack of
a mother while I live.'

Then, holding me in one arm, she stretched out the other hand to Althea,
who had come up more slowly, and she said, -

'And you too, my fair lady-niece; I have room in my heart for the two of
you, if you will come in;' on which the water stood in Althea's eyes,
and she took our aunt's hand and kissed it, saying, -

'God reward you, madam, for your goodness to us desolate orphans! I
receive it most thankfully.'

'That's well,' quoth our aunt cordially. And she proceeded to tell us
how, when she got the news of our father's death, she made haste to come
down to Milthorpe. 'Not that I hoped,' said she, 'to be here in time for
the burying; but it was borne in on my mind there should be a friend of
our side of the house to stand by you. Is Mr. Dacre here?'

'He came down to the funeral,' said Althea, 'and hath spoken to us on
some small business matters; but he has been constantly out of the
house, riding about the estate, and so we have seen little of him.'

As she said this the door opened again, and our cousin, the new master
of Milthorpe, entered. I had scarce noted his looks, being drowned in my
grief at the time when, as Althea said, he had talked with us on
business, accounting to us for some moneys, the poor wreck of our
fortunes, which had been lodged in his hands; but I now thought what a
grand gentleman he looked in his rich mourning suit; and indeed he was
of a very graceful appearance, and smiled on us most courtly. He held
his plumed hat in his hand, and, bowing low to our aunt, -

'I am much honoured,' said he, 'that Mrs. Golding should grace my poor
house with her presence before I have had time to sue for it. Will it
please you, ladies, to step into the dining-parlour and sit down with me
to a homely refection I have ordered to be spread there? I must return
to-day to town; so if Mrs. Golding will bestow half an hour of her time
on me to talk over some needful matters, I shall take it as a favour.'

Mrs. Golding bent her head to him, saying, 'At your pleasure, sir;' and
we followed to the dining-room, where we found what I should have called
a plentiful dinner, but Mr. Dacre kept excusing its meanness at every
dish he offered us. This was very grating to Althea, seeming a
reflection both on our ways at Milthorpe and on our poor old faithful
servants; and Mrs. Golding liked it no better. I saw her turning very
red; and at last she said bluntly, -

'The dinner is all very well, and I think Margery cook needs not so many
excuses; so will you please leave speaking of meats and drinks, and turn
to the needful matters you spoke of instead?'

'I might have chosen,' says Mr. Dacre, 'to talk to you in private first
about those things; but perhaps it's as well my fair cousins should hear
at once what I have to say. I am a married man, as you know, Mrs.
Golding; and my wife loves the town, and cannot endure to hear of a
country life. I have no hope she will ever live at the Manor here. But I
will not let it; and I shall want it kept in good order against my
coming down, which will be frequent. So if my cousin, Mistress Althea,
likes to remain here as housekeeper, she will be very welcome.'

'And what do you think of paying her for her services?' said our aunt.

Mr. Dacre lifted his eyebrows, and looked at her as if much surprised.
'She would have meat and lodging free,' said he, 'and servants to do her
bidding. Also, if she can make anything by keeping of a dairy, or of
fowls, or selling of fruit from the gardens, or such like devices of
country dames, I shall ask no account of her gains; and if her
management pleases me, I shall find a broad piece for her from time to
time, I doubt not; so she may do very well.'

'And is her sister, Mistress Lucia, to dwell in your house and receive
your bounty also?' said Mrs. Golding.

'That made no part of my plans,' said he, smiling and bowing. 'I shall
hardly need two housekeepers here.'

'Then it may chance you must look otherwhere for your one housekeeper,'
said Mrs. Golding. 'What sayest, Althea? Wilt be parted from thy sister
that thou mayest have the honour of keeping house for so liberal a
kinsman and master? or wilt go with Lucy and me to my farm, at West
Fazeby, where you two shall be to me as daughters? for I am a childless
widow, and will gladly cherish you young things. The choice lies before
you, Althea.'

Althea was now red as any rose; and the tears' that had been in her eyes
seemed turned to sparks of fire. She rose from the table and made a deep
curtsey to Mr. Dacre.

'I am exceeding grateful for your preference of me,' she said; 'but
seeing I am only a young maid, and inexpert in the management of a
house, I must beg to refuse your princely offer' - she spoke with
infinite scorn - 'and betake myself instead to the home Mrs. Golding will
give me, where I may improve myself, and become fitter in time, both in
years and skill, for some such post as you would now prefer me to.' She
stopped and panted, being quite out of breath.

Mr. Dacre did but lift his eyebrows again and say, 'As you will,
madam,' and then begged she would sit down and finish eating; but she
remained standing, and looked pitifully at Mrs. Golding; on which our
aunt rose also, and I doing the same, -

'You go to town to-day, I think you said?' questioned Mrs. Golding; 'we
will therefore take our leave of you now, not to importune you further.
My nieces and I will endeavour to be gone from here to-morrow, so please
you to endure their presence in their father's house until then; for you
must think it will ask a few hours for them to remove their apparel and
other goods.'

'Assuredly, madam; they have full liberty,' said Mr. Dacre, rising and
bowing, and, for a wonder, looking a little abashed.

'And I think it were well we lost no time,' continued our aunt.

So we took our leave of him gladly enough, and I think he was full as
glad to have us go; and we went back to the little parlour.

'I guessed what sort of kindness John Dacre would show you,' said our
aunt, looking at us with a smile. 'Your father, my sweet maidens, of
whom you have a heavy loss indeed, was of a much nobler nature than
this his kinsman; and it's doubtless for that reason that one of them
has thriven in the bad air where the other could not thrive, but
perished;' and then came tears into her lively black eyes, and she was
fain to sit down and weep awhile, in which we bore her company.

Then Althea wiped her eyes, and said, with a trembling voice, -

'I cannot think, however, why our cousin should make so strange a
proffer to me - one so unfitting for a well-taught maiden to accept.'

'He made it that you might refuse it, child,' said our aunt. 'Now he can
truly say he was willing to do somewhat for you, and that you would none
of it, but thought scorn of his goodwill. It hath ever been his way to
get much credit for little goodness. Well, Lucy, child, what art
thinking of?'

'I was thinking,' stammered I, surprised with her question, - 'I was
thinking that the day is not so far spent but we could get away from
Milthorpe before night. I wish not to sleep under Mr. Dacre's roof
again.'

'That might be managed,' said Mrs. Golding; 'I left my horses and my men
at the little inn in your village, where I had some thought of sleeping
myself. And yet it's but a little inn; nor should I care to turn Andrew
out of his lodging even to please thee, pretty Lucy. No, child; put thy
hand to some work and thy pride in thy pocket, and submit even to spend
one night in the house of an unkind kinsman. He will not be in it, thou
knowest; see where he rides out of the gate.'

So I looked and saw Mr. Dacre riding off, a very grand gentleman on his
tall black horse, with his men, also well mounted, following him.

'He will be in town before nightfall,' quoth Mrs. Golding.

It did not seem so insupportable to stay one more night in our old home,
now its new master had left it; but I was in haste to be gone for all
that, and Althea too; so we fell to work with great eagerness, gathering
all our own possessions together and packing them for removal; while
Mrs. Golding helped us with her hands and her counsel; and so well we
worked that the sun had not gone down before we had all in readiness for
our departure in the early morning; for it was the height of summer, and
the days therefore long. Then Mrs. Golding would have us take her into
the garden and show us what used to be our mother's favourite walks and
alcoves; there was a good prospect of the house from one of them, and
she stood some time regarding it.

'It's a stately place,' said she, - 'a very noble house indeed, and a
fair garden too. Your mother had a pride in it once, I know; and there
was a time when it would have grieved her sore to think how her children
should leave it. But what signifies that to her now? - a happy, glorified
spirit, who may scorn the transitory riches and joys of this poor world,
which are far outvalued by one ray shining on us from the Father of
Lights. At His right hand are pleasures for evermore.'

Althea and I looked on each other surprised, for we had then heard
little of that kind of talk; and, our aunt espying it, -

'Ah, children,' she said, 'I have learnt a new language since I saw you,
and I see you know it not; but your mother could speak it before I
could. I think thou art most like her, Lucy; there is more of your poor
father about Althea.'

I looked at Althea and thought Mrs. Golding was not much mistaken; for
if I were to write my sister's description, it would need but the change
of a word or two to make it pass for a portrait of my father. Like him,
she is tall and slender and well-shaped; her complexion pale and clear,
her hair almost black, very thick, softer than the finest silk, and
curling in loose rings at the ends; her brows and eyelashes black also,
but her eyes a blue-grey, appearing black when she is much moved or in
deep thought; and she moves with admirable grace, showing a kind of
nobleness in all her carriage. Myself am of low stature, and of shape
nothing like so slender; indeed one hath told me I am dark and round as
a blackheart cherry; so I could well think that at Mrs. Golding's years
I should be very like her, though perhaps less comely.

Mrs. Golding was still comparing us with each other and speaking of our
parents, when I was aware of a tall man coming up to the garden gate;
and my aunt, turning as she heard the latch clink, cried, -

'Ah, here is Andrew! he will have come to have my orders for the night;
I think we may welcome him in, nieces.' So she stepped to him, and
taking him by the hand led him to us. 'This,' quoth she, 'is my
husband's nephew and mine, but he is something more - he is my steward
and my heir. I hold him for my son; I were but a lost woman without him.
He would not hear of my coming to Milthorpe with no company but that of
my serving-men, but must needs be my conductor himself; so precious a
jewel as I was sure to be lost in the hedges otherwise;' and she laughed
cordially. 'And, Andrew, these are two poor fatherless girls, Althea and
Lucia Dacre by name; fatherless, I say, but not motherless, for I am
their mother from this day forth, and so they are your sisters; see you
use them kindly.'

Andrew coloured up to his hair, and bowed to us, with some confused
words about the honour of being as a brother to such gentle ladies; then
he turned to her and they talked of our morrow's journey, and how our
mails should be conveyed; and Mrs. Golding, telling him she would sleep
at the Manor, bade him be early at the gate with horses for us; 'for we
have many a mile to go,' she said to us; 'and make what speed we may, we
shall be a day or two on the road.'

And Althea spoke very prettily to Mr. Golding, praying him to sup with
us; but he excused himself, still in a confused and disturbed way, and
went away.

While he stood and talked I was able to take note of his aspect, and I
thought he looked a very homely youth indeed, after Mr. Dacre, though he
was taller and of a better shape, and I believe a better face too;
though burnt with the sun, and ruddy like a country-man, he had
well-cut features and a full mild eye, with a right pleasant smile. But
his garb was so ordinary, being of some dark cloth, and cut very
plainly, and his hat with no feather in it, that though I had little
cause to love Mr. Dacre, yet I wished our new friend was more like him
outwardly, and thought I should then have been prouder to ride in his
company. And Mrs. Golding praising him to us, and saying how good he
was, and wise beyond his years, I thought it was pity such good people
as he and she did not go handsomer; so little I knew of what belonged to
goodness.




CHAPTER II.


HOW WE JOURNEYED UP TO YORKSHIRE; AND HOW WE WERE WELCOMED THERE.

Though I remember so plainly what passed on our last day in Milthorpe
Manor-house, I am not very clear about our journey up to Yorkshire,
which was tedious enough. We kept to the king's highway, and yet were
sometimes put in much fear of thieves, but happily we fell in with none;
the only notable thing that befell us was in leaving a little market
town, I cannot call to mind its name, where we had stopped to dine. We
had ridden but a little way forth of the town when we heard a great din
of shouting and hooting behind us, which made us women afraid; and
presently a noisy rabblement of people came running up. They were
chiefly of the baser sort, both men and women, some very ragged, and
some red-faced and half tipsy; one or two gentlemen in laced coats rode
among them. I thought at first they had some spite at us, but it proved
not so. We drew to the wayside to let them pass, and they went by, very
disorderly, yelling and swearing, the women not less than the men,
pushing and hauling some poor creature dragged along in their midst. I
looked earnestly to see who it might be, and presently discerned the
person - a tall thin man, in a kind of loose garment girded about him,
and I think it was made of some hempen stuff, a kind of sacking. This
man was very pale, with longish dark hair hanging about his face, which,
as I say, was pale indeed, but not dismayed; I think he even smiled when
one struck him on the head, and another, pushing him, bade him, with a
curse, go faster. I saw the blood trickling a little from the blow that
had alighted on his head, as they hurried him past.

Andrew, who saw all this as well as I did, looked full of horror. He
caught one of the hindmost of the rabble by the sleeve and asked him
harshly, 'What has this man done, and whither are you taking him?' At
which the man, turning towards us his red, jovial face, replies, -

'It's a mad Quaker, that took upon him this noon to stand up in our
market-place, it being market day and every one mighty busy, and he
tells us all to our face we were a set of cheating rogues, that he had
marked our doings and seen how bad they were, and that he had a
commission from God to bid us repent and amend, or a sudden dreadful
judgment should fall on us. Didst ever hear of such a fool?'

'And what more did he,' says Andrew, 'to make you handle him so
roughly?' at which the man stared and said, -

'Nay, what more needed there? Matters are come to a pretty pass if free
Englishmen, who are pleased to cheat and be cheated according to the
fashion of this world, mayn't do so neighbourly and kindly without some
canting rogue starting up to control them. We bade him hold his peace
for a mad ass, but he would not. So we judged his frenzy to be something


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Online LibraryAnnie E. KeelingAndrew Golding A Tale of the Great Plague → online text (page 1 of 8)