Charles Dickens.

Bentley's miscellany online

. (page 76 of 89)
Online LibraryCharles DickensBentley's miscellany → online text (page 76 of 89)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

rode slowly up the hill-side by the rectory, and when close to
the house, John halted for a moment to vociferate an adieu
to the Independent minister, and was well pleased to hear a
window suddenly opened, ana to perceive the reverend gentleman
with a nightcap on his head, look out at them. Rating them
for a couple of drunken malignants, and declaring that Satan was
at their heels, and would assuredly trip them up ere they had pro-
ceeded far on their journey, Increase might have favoured them
with a still longer harangue, but that John interrupted him
with a roar of derisive laughter, and pushed on after his com-
panion. John and old Martin then crossed the hill, and, shaping
their course in a northerly direction up the valley as if bound for
Falmer, got round to the Rottingdean road, and so over the down
to the little thicket at the back of the Grange, where Martin dis-
mounted, and John, taking both horses to the stables, called up
the groom and his helpmate, leading them to suppose that their
young master was gone. Not having encountered any one during
the ride, John had persuaded himselr that his return to the stables
was unnoticed, until the incident in the garden made him fear that
his supposition might not be altogether correct. He now naturally
enough concluded, that Increase Micklegift, suspecting an attempt
to dupe him, had stolen down to the Grange to satisfy himself of
the truth. If so, he could have learnt little. The wary measures
taken were sufficient to mislead him. Such was the conclusion
arrived at both by the colonel and John. But they agreed, that
the utmost caution must be observed while they were watched by
an enemy so wily as the preacher.

u It vexes me much to think that I cannot send for a surgeon
to attend upon my son," the colonel said. " There is Master
Ingram of Lewes, a man well skilled in his profession, or Ralph
Hoathleigh of Brightelmstone, or even old Isaac Woodruff of
Rottingdean — any one of them would do; bat I dare not trust
them. Besides, it would excite suspicion if a surgeon were sent

"No need to send for one/your honour/' the old trooper replied.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


" The captain's wounds aTe in a fair way of healing, and his
broken bones have already begun to knit together. He only wants
rest and good nursing to set him tip again, and he is sure of the
latter, with me and gentle Mistress Dulcia to attend upon him."

" Dulcia ! * the colonel exclaimed, looking at him fixedly. " Why
should she come nigh him ? Saidst thou not, erewhile, that it
would be safest not to let the women-folk into the secret lest they

" Ay, marry did I," John rejoined ; " but I did not include
(Mistress Dulcia amongst the tattlers. Heaven forbid ! She is dis-
cretion itself, and would never breathe a word to jeopardise the

" Humph !" the colonel ejaculated. " At all events, she shall
not nurse my son."

"Then I won't answer for his cure," John answered, gruffly.

"Not so loud, I prithee, John. Thou wilt awake liim. By
Heaven, he opes his eyes !"

" Then acquaint him with your resolve."

" What is't, my father?" Clavering cried, from the couch.

" His honour the colonel deems it expedient that during your
confinement to this chamber, you should be solely under my care,
captain; as if you had not had enough of an old trooper's rough
nursing, and stood not in need of gentler care.*

" If I am to be deprived of Dulcia's society, I will not remain
here," Clavering exclaimed, springing from the couch.

"I told your nonour how it woulclbe," John cried, chuckling.

" Thou art in league against me, rascal." the colonel ejaculated,
shaking his hand at him. " And as to tnee, Clavering, thou art
a wilful and undutiful boy. A soldier Bhould have a soldier's
attendance merely. But since thou art so weak and womanish
that none save Etalcia will serve thy turn to watch over thee and
tend thee, even be it as then wilt."

"My father! *

" "Get well as quickly as thou canst, that is all I ask."

" Your honour hath ta'en the best way to ensure that object,"
John observed.

" Hold thy peace !" ihe colonel cried.^ "Within yon closet thou
wilt find all thou needest to perfect his cure: unguents of great
virtue, sovran balsams, cordials, and an elixir prepared for me by
my worthy friend Sir Kenelm Digby, which ought to call back
the vital spark if it were on the eve of departure. Use what
thou wilt; but mark me! if thy patient gets not well speedily,
Til send for Master Ingram."

"Nay, I shall be myself again in less than a week," Clavering
cried. " I am stronger already, and with the prospect of such
attendance "

"Peace, I say!" his father cried. "I have heard reasons

Digitized by VjOOQIC


enow, and have yielded against my better judgment Aid me
to attire myself/' he added to John, "and then I will leave
my son master of the room. Thou wilt have to be groom of the
chamber, as well as head-nurse, John, for none of the household
will come nigh ye, except old Martin Geere. And now, give me
my hose and doublet."

At a somewhat later hour in the morning, though still compara-
tively early, Colonel Maunsel was joined in the library, whither he
Jiad repaired on going down stairs, by Mr. Beard and Dulcia, both
of whom were under the impression that Gavering was gone;
and one of them, at least, was much relieved by finding that
such was not the case.

A bell having been rung for prayers, the greater part of the
household assembled at the summons, and the clergyman read a
portion of the Holy Scriptures to them; after which he knelt
down, and the rest following his example, he offered up an extem-
pore prayer for the preservation from all danger of the lord of the
mansion and his son. All joined fervently in this supplication,
but none more so than Dulcia.

Their devotions ended, the old Cavalier and his guests proceeded
to the hall and partook of breakfast Martin Geere was in attend-
ance at the meal, which was of a substantial character, according to
the habits of the period, and the colonel, when he could do so
without observation, privily despatched him up-stairs with a supply
of eatables for his son. No mystery was made about John Haber-
geon, since his return was known to the household, and the old
trooper could take care of himself in the buttery.

Breakfast over, Dulcia and her father rose to depart, when the
colonel, calling the latter to him, said, in a low tone, " Go up-
stairs, child, to Clavering. Your society will cheer him, and
help to while away the tedious hours of his captivity. You will
find him in my chamber with John Habergeon. Be cautious, and,
above all, arouse not Patty Whinchatfs suspicions."

Dulcia blushingly withdrew, and Colonel Maunsel soon after-
wards got up and repaired to the library.

Meanwhile, Dulcia having retired to her own room, was await-
ing a favourable opportunity to visit the captive, when she was in-
terrupted by the sudden entrance of Patty.

" Oh ! I've seen him — I've seen him !" gasped the handmaiden,
who looked pale and terrified.

^ Seen whom?" Dulcia exclaimed, thinking naturally of Cla-

* Why, Increase Micklegift, to be sure, madam. Who else could
frighten me so much? 1 happened to be in the corridor just
now, when he came up to me — how he got there I can't tell 1 — and
seizing me rudely by the arm, uttered these words in my ear: ' Bid
thy young mistress come to me without delay. I would speak to her

Digitized by VjOOQIC


on a matter which concern* her nearly. I will tarry for her during
the epace of one hour, within the churchyard. If she comes not
within that time, she will ever hereafter rue her negligence. Convey
my message to her at once/ And with this he disappeared. I
am sure, from his looks, he has some evil design. You won't go,
of course, madam ? "

"Yes, I will, Patty," Dulcia replied, after a moment's reflection.
u I have no fear of him. I will go at once, and you shall attend
me. It may be important to others to ascertain his purpose.
Give me my hood, child."

Approving of heryoung mistress's spirit, Patty made no further
remonstrance, and Dulcia having quickly attired herself for the
walk, the two young women left the room, crossed the entrance-hall
without stoppage, passed out at the front porch, and proceeded to-
wards the cnurch.

^ As they advanced, they saw the dark figure of the Independent
divine within the churchyard. Increase Micklegift had an austere
and somewhat ill-favoured countenance, but his features, though
large and harsh, were by no means devoid of intelligence. His
eyes were dark and restless, and his singularly pale complexion
contrasted forcibly with his coal-black hair, which was cropped
close as the skin of a mole. He was attired in the garb of a
Puritan preacher, and wore the tall sugar-loaf hat which ratty had
remarked at the window on the previous night. In age Micklegift
might be about thirty, and his person was tall and thin, but ex-
tremely muscular. On seeing the two damsels approach, he ad- .
vanced slowly to meet them, and making a grave salutation to
Dulcia, said to Patty, "Tarry by the gate, maiden, until thy
mistress shall return to thee."

He then signed to Dulcia to follow him, and walked on in
silence until they turned the angle of the church, and drew near
the entrance-porch, when he stood still. Patty's inquisitive dis-
position might have led her to creep stealthily after them, if she
had not observed a man suddenly spring over the wall on the north
of the churchyard, and make his way cautiously round the tower
of the sacred edifice. Patty suppressed the scream that rose to
her lips on discovering that this individual was John Habergeon.

Having come to a halt, as related, Micklegift said, in a suppli-
catory tone, while a flush overspread his pale features, " Hearken
unto me, maiden. Ever since I set eyes upon thee, my heart hath
yearned towards thee. Thy charms have been a snare unto me, in
which I have fallen. Yet though I have burnt with love for thee,
I have not ventured to declare my passion, for I have perceived
that I am an object of aversion in thy sight."

" Forbear this discourse, sir," Dulcia cried, " or you will drive
me away from you instantly."

" Despise me not, but pity me, maiden," implored the preacher.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


u My love for thee is as a tormenting fire which consumes my very
vitak. It disorders my brain, and drives me to the verge of mad-
ness. Have compassion upon me ! I will be thy slave — anything
ibou wilt have me be — if thou wilt but love me."

" I will hear no more," Dulcia said, turning to depart

" You shall hear me out," Micklegift cried, changing hk tone to
one of menace, and seizing her arm. " Love, like mine, unrequited,
makes a man desperate. Another has possession of your heart;
but he shall not be an obstacle in my path. The malignant Co-
vering Maunsel is concealed in his father's house. I know it. It is
vain to attempt denial with me. The life of 'this traitor to the
Commonwealth is in my power. I can denounce him at any
moment, and I will denounce him, if you continue inflexible."
After a moment's pause, during which he watched the impression
he had made upon her, he went on: "Not only is Clavering
MaunseFs life in my power, but a word from me will consign your
lather to a prison, where he may rot unheeded. 9

"And have you the heart to act thus against those who have
never offended you, inhuman man? Have some pity for them/ 9

" You have no pity for me, damsel. You care not how much I
suffer. Now hear my fixed determination. Either consent to be-
come my wife, or I will use the means of vengeance placed in
my hands."

" Give me till to-morrow for consideration," Dulcia replied.

" I will grant the time you require, on your solemn promise
that you will neither give warning to Clavering, nor mention aught
that has passed between us to your father, or to any other person."

u I give the promise you exact," she rejoined.

u Enough. To-morrow I shall expect your answer— -here, at the
same hour. Till then, farewell !"

Released from his gripe, the terrified damsel instantly made her

"I am bound by no promise, villain," muttered John Haber-
geon, who was ensconced behind the angle of the church tower,
and had heard all that had passed, " and I will take means to
defeat thy black design."



A^ troublesome day was in store for Colonel Maunsel. He
wa* iff the library, seated in an easy-chair, meditating upon the
a Eikon Basilike," when Martin Geere entered, and, with a per-
turbed countenance, informed him that a state-messenger was with-
out, and desired instant speech with him. The visit boded the
colonel no good, but he ordered the man to be admitted. The
messenger, however, did not wait for permission to present him-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


self, but followed close upon Martin. He was a tall, stern-looking
man, having the appearance of a soldier, and carried a long sword
by his aide and a pair of large pistols in hifl belt. He made no
salutation to the colonel, neither did he attempt to remove bis
broad-leaved hat from off* his close-cropped bead.

u What wouldst thou with me, thou unmannerly fellow?" the
old Cavalier demanded, eyeing him with great displeasure.

" Thou hadst best show some respect to my order, though thou
showest none to me," the man coldly rejoined, taking a parchment
from his girdle. " Be it known to thee, Wolston Maunsel, some-
while colonel in the service of the man Charles Stuart, that by
virtue of this order from the Council of State, thou art confined
and restricted, on pain of imprisonment, within a limit of five
miles of thine own awelling."

" How ? " the colonel exclaimed. " Confined within a range of
five miles I "

" The limit is large enough for a dangerous and plotting ma-
lignant like thee," the messenger rejoined. " See thou exceed it
not. But I have yet more to declare unto thee. Forasmuch as
thy son, Clavering Maunsel "

"Ha ! what of him?" the colonel cried, unable to conceal his

" — being charged with high treason against the Commonwealth,
and a warrant having been issued for his apprehension, in order
that he may be brought before a court-martial, in virtue of a com-
mission from his Excellency General Cromwell, this is to give thee
notice, that if thou shalt harbour thy said son Clavering, or lend
him aid so that he escape, and the ends of justice be thereby
defeated, thou thyself, and any of thy house who may act under
thee, will incur the penalties of high treason. Thou art warned,
and a like warning will be delivered to thy whole house."

So saying, the man strode towards the colonel, laid down
the parchment on the table before him, and, turning on his heel,

Colonel Maunsel remained for some time, half stupified, with his
gaze fixed upon the warrant At length he took it up, and after

glancing at it, dashed it down with a burst of passion. His wrath*
owever, gave way to feelings of alarm, when he learnt from old
Martin Geere that, prior to his departure, the state-messenger had
collected the household together, and informed them that if they
aided in concealing their young master, now or hereafter, they
would be severely punished.

" But your honour need have no fear," the faithful old fellow
said. " They all believe the captain is gone; but if they knew
he was hidden in the house, they would endure torture rather than
betray him."

At this juncture Mr. Beard entered the library, and learning
what had occurred, besought his patron not to be cast down, but

Digitized by VjOOQIC


to place his reliance upon that Power which had delivered him
from so many difficulties and dangers.

"It is my son's safety that concerns me most/' the old Cavalier
groaned. " So he escape, I care not what becomes of me. But,
'sdeath ! " he cried, breaking out into flesh fury, " I should never
have desired to quit my own domain, if the tyrannous Council had
not made me a prisoner."

He then paced to and fro within the room for some minutes,
exclaiming, with much bitterness, " By Heaven ! it is intolerable
to be insulted thus in one's own house. O what a land we live in !
Everything seems at sixes and sevens. All honourable usages are
at an end. Respect for age and station is gone. Fanaticism and
hypocrisy usurp the place of religion and virtue, and he is esteemed
the godhest man who can dissemble most, and best put on a sancti-
monious visage and demeanour. Out on the pestilent knaves who
have thus abolished all that was good in the country, and set up
all that is bad — a low-born crew who would grind down all to their
own base level !"

" Yet there are some good men among them, honoured sir," Mr.
Beard observed, " who have been influenced by worthy motives,
and by love of their country, in what they have done."

"I marvel to hear you say so, sir," the old Cavalier re-
joined. " Were the motives worthy of those bloody butchers who
slaughtered their virtuous king? Are their motives worthy who
have overthrown our Established Church, and set up the. Na-
tional Covenant in its stead? Are their motives worthy who per-
secute and despoil, outrage and insult in every way all those who
have shown loyalty and devotion to their king, and zeal for the
country's welfare? Out upon them, I say !"

" I can make every allowance for your warmth, honoured sir, for
you have much to move you to indignation," the good clergyman
said; "but I would not have you blind to the truth. Faults there
have been in high places beyond doubt — grievous faults — else had
not those who filled them been cast down. Deeply must the princes
and mighty ones of the land have sinned, or the Lord would not
have visited them so severely with His displeasure."
* " You seem to have caught the general infection, sir," the old
Cavalier observed, sarcastically, "and speak as by the mouth of
Increase Micklegift."

" I speak according to my conviction, my honoured patron, and
I speak the more boldhr, because I am well assured that it is only
by acknowledgment of our errors, and resolution of amendment for
the future, that we can turn aside Heaven's wrath from against us.
Such men as Cromwell are instruments of divine displeasure."
4 " Name him noy cried the colonel, vehemently ; " or name him
as the arch-hypocrite, the regicide and parricide that he is. Bat
you are right. We must have deeply sinned, or we could not have

Digitized by VjOOQIC


been yielded to the dominion of such as CromwelL O England !
when will thy days of gloom be over?"

" When her offences are expiated," the clergyman rejoined.

"Merry England men were wont to style thee when I was
young/' the colonel said, in a mournful tone; " but merry thou art
no longer. ' Melancholy England were nearer the mark; sour Eng-
land; distracted England; the England of Noll Cromwell and the
saints. Heaven defend me from such a ruler, and such saints!
Hearty, joyous, laughter-loving England thou art not. Men smile
no longer within thy cities. Gaiety is punished as a crime, and places
of pleasant resort are forbidden to thy youth. Upon thy broad
breast sits the night-hag Puritanism, scaring away thy dreams of
happiness, and filling thee with terrors. It is ill with thee, England.
Wrong hath become right within thee — loyalty, treason — religion,
an offence. Heaven grant thee a speedy deliverance from the
wretched thraldom in which thou art placed !"

" I do not despair of England, sir," Mr. Beard remarked.

" Neither do I," the old Cavalier rejoined — " when Noll Crom-
well shall be overthrown, and the monarchy restored. But, till
that consummation arrives, I am much tempted to exile myself
from her shores."

Here Martin Geere presented himself again, and with new terror
imprinted upon his countenance.

11 What's the matter now?" the colonel exclaimed. "I guess
from thy looks that thou bring'st fresh tidings of ill."

" I bring no good news, in sooth," Martin replied. u There are
two men without who crave admittance to your honour — crave,
did I say? — nay, they insolently demand it. One of them is
Thomas Sunne, the Brightelmstone deputy of the Committee for
the Sequestration of Livings. His reverence knows him "

" Too well," Mr. Beard observed.

"The other I take to be a messenger, for he hath a warrant,
and beareth a truncheon of office."

" Ay, and he will use it on thy shoulders, sirrah, if he be kept
longer here," exclaimed a peremptory voice without.

And the next moment two personages stepped into the room.
The foremost of them, who was he that had spoken, was of middle
age, short and stout, and was somewhat showily attired in a blue
doublet and scarlet cloak; the latter garment, however, was
weather-stained, and had lost much of its original brilliancy. His
doublet was embroidered with the badge of tne Goldsmiths' Com-
pany — a leopard's head and a covered cup. His companion was an
elderly man, with a sour, puritanical countenance, clad in sad-
coloured raiments, and wearing a steeple-crowned hat. Neither
of them uncovered their heads on entering the room.

" Ahem I" cried the foremost of the two, clearing his throat to
enable him to speak more emphatically. u It is Wolston Maunsel,
I surmise, before whom I stand?" ;

Digitized by VjOOQIC


"Thou art in the presence of Colonel Maunsel, thou saucy
knave," the old Cavalier haughtily rejoined. " Who, and what
art thou?"

" I am not bound to answer the interrogations of a known ma-
lignant like thee. Nevertheless, I will tell thee that my heathenish
name was Lawrence Creek, but since I have put off the- old man, I
am known as Better Late than Never, a saintly designation, and
one becoming an elder, like myself. I am an emissary unto thee, O
Wolston Maunsel, from the Commissioners of Goldsmiths 1 Hall, in
Foster-lane, London, to whom, as thou knowest, thy forfeiture to
the State hath been assigned, to summon thee to appear before the
said commissioners within ten days to pay two hundred pounds for
thy five-and-twentieth part of the fine which hath been set upon

" My fine hath been folly discharged," the colonel said. " I have
already paid the commissioners five thousand pounds."

" That is no concern of mine," the other rejoined. " Thou must
appear before them to explain matters."

" A pest upon thee !" tne old Cavalier angrily ejaculated. " Thou
art enough to drive a man distraught. I cannot stir hence. I have
just received an order from the Council prohibiting me, on pain of
imprisonment, from going more than five miles from home. Here
is the warrant. Read it, and satisfy thyself."

" It is no concern of mine," the emissary replied, declining to
look at the warrant. " I shall leave the order with thee. Neglect
to obey it at thy periL"

And, as he spoke, he placed a scroll on the table, and drewjback
a few paces, while the second individual stepped forward.

"My business is with thee, Ardingly Beard," this personage
said. " Thou knowest that I have been appointed, together with
my colleague, Thomas Geere of Ovingdean, brother to Martin
Geere, who still continues in the service of the dangerous malig-
nant, Wolston Maunsel "

" I am glad my brother Tom hath had the grace not to present
himself before his honour," Martin remarked.

" Thomas Geere was once one of my flock," Mr. Beard ob-
served, sadly.

"He hath seen the error of his ways," Sunne rejoined. "But,
as I was about to say, thou knowest that he and I have been ap-
pointed by the Committee for the Sequestration of Livings to
collect, gather, and receive the tithes, rents, and profits of the
benefice of the church of Ovingdean, now under sequestration,
and to provide for its care. ITiou knowest also how we have
applied those profits."

" I have some guessy" the clergyman observed. " Partly to your
own use, partly in payment of Increase Micklegift"

"Wholly in payment, of that godly divine," Thomas Sunne
rejoined. "Now give heed to what I say unto thee, Ardingly

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Beard. It is suspected that thou continuest secretly to perform the
rites and services of thy suppressed church. Take heed, therefore.
If the offence be proved against thee, thou shalt pay with thy
body for thy contumacy. A year's imprisonment in Lewes Castle
will teach thee submission."

Online LibraryCharles DickensBentley's miscellany → online text (page 76 of 89)