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His Majesty's well-beloved; an episode in the life of Mr. Thomas Betterton as told by his friend John Honeywood online

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the Men with whom we wish to communicate live
at some considerable distance from town. We only
wish to approach influential people; but some of
these seldom come to London ; in fact, with the ex-
ception of the Members of a venal Government and
of a few effete Peers as profligate as the King him-
self, but few Men, worthy of the name, do elect to
live in this degenerate City."

His talk was somewhat rambling; perhaps I did
not catch all that he said. After awhile Lord Stour
remarked casually:

" And so You thought of me as your possible

"Was I wrong?" retorted Lord Douglas hotly.

"Nay, my friend," rejoined the other coldly. " I
am honoured by this trust which You would place
in me ; but "

" But You refuse? " broke in Lord Douglas with
bitter reproach.

I imagine that my Lord Stour*s reply must have
been an unsatisfactory one to his Friend, for the


latter uttered an exclamation of supreme impatience.
I heard but little more of their conversation just
then, for the noise in the Street below, which had
been attracting my Attention on and off for some
time, now grew in intensity, and, curious to know
what it portended, I rose from my chair and
leaned out of the window to see what was hap-

From the window, as You know, one gets a view
of the corner of our Street as it debouches into Fleet
Street by the Spread Eagle tavern, and even the
restricted View which I thus had showed me at once
that some kind of rioting was going on. Not riot-
ing of an ordinary kind, for of a truth we who live
in the heart of the City of London are used to its
many cries ; to the " Make way there ! " of the Sedan
Chairman and the " Make room there ! " of the
Drivers of wheel-barrows, all mingling with the
" Stand up there, you blind dog ! " bawled by every
Carman as he tries to squeeze his way through the
throngs in the streets.

No! this time it seemed more than that, and I,
who had seen the crowds which filled the Streets of
London from end to end on the occasion of the
death of the Lord Protector, and had seen the
merry-makers who had made those same streets
impassable when King Charles entered London a
little more than a year ago, I soon realized that the
Crowd which I saw flocking both up and down
Fleet Street was in an ugly mood.

At first I thought that some of those abominable


vagabonds from White friars those whom we call
the Alsatians, and who are in perpetual conflict with
the law had come out in a body from their sink of
iniquity close by and had started one of their
periodical combats with the Sheriffs' Officers; but
soon I recognized some faces familiar to me among
the crowd as they ran past the corner Men,
Women and Boys who, though of a rough and tur-
bulent Character, could in no way be confounded
with the law-breaking Alsatians.

There was, for instance, the Tinker, whom I
knew well by sight. He was running along, knock-
ing his skillets and frying-pans against one another
as he passed, shouting lustily the while. Then there
was a sooty chimney-sweep, whom I knew to be an
honest Man, and the broom Men with their Boys,
and many law-abiding Pedestrians who, fearful of
the crowd, were walking in the traffic way, meekly
giving the wall to the more roisterous throng. They
all seemed to be a part of that same Crowd which
was scampering and hurrying up and down Fleet
Street, shouting and causing a disturbance such as
I do not remember ever having seen before.

I should have liked to have gazed out of the
Window until I had ascertained positively what the
noise was about; but I remembered that my task
was only half-accomplished and that I had at the
least another half-dozen Manifestos to write out.
I was on the point of sitting down once more to
my Work when I heard Lord Douglas Wych-
woode's voice quite close to the screen, saying


anxiously, as if in answer to some remark made by
his friend :

" I trust not My Sister is out in her chair
somewhere in this neighbourhood, and only with
her two Bearers."

Apparently the two Gentlemen's attention had
also been arrested by the tumult. The next moment
Mr. Theophilus Baggs came in, and immediately
they both plied him simultaneously with questions.
" What were those strange cries in the street ? Was
there likely to be a riot? What was the cause of
the tumult? " All of which Mr. Baggs felt himself
unable to answer. In the end, he said that he would
walk down to the corner of the Street and ascertain
what was happening.

Ensconced within the window recess and hidden
from view by the screen, I soon gave up all attempt
at continuing my work. Somehow, the two Gentle-
men's anxiety about the Lady Barbara had com-
municated itself to me. But my thoughts, of course,
were of You. Fortunately for my peace of mind, I
knew that You were safe; at some distance, in fact,
from the scene of the present tumult. Nevertheless,
I had already made up my mind that if the rioting
spread to the neighbouring streets, I would slip out
presently and go as far as Dorset Gardens, where
you were busy at rehearsal, and there wait for you
until you came out of the Theatre, when, if you
were unattended, I could escort you home.

I could not myself have explained why the Noise
outside and the obvious rough temper of the People


should have agitated me as they undoubtedly

Anon, Mr. Baggs returned with a veritable sack-
ful of news.

" There is a great tumult all down the neigh-
bourhood," said he, "because Lady Castlemaine is
even now at the India House drinking tea, and a lot
of rowdy folk have made up their minds to give her
a rough welcome when she comes out. She is not
popular just now, my Lady Castlemaine," Mr.
Baggs continued complacently, as he gave a look of
understanding to Lord Douglas Wychwoode,
" And I fancy that she will experience an un-
pleasant quarter of an hour presently."

" But, surely," protested my Lord Stour, " a
whole mob will not be allowed to attack a defence-
less woman, however unpopular she may be ! "

" Oh, as to that," rejoined Mr. Baggs with an
indifferent shrug of the shoulders, " a London mob
is not like to be squeamish when its temper is
aroused; and just now, when work is scarce and
food very dear, the sight of her Ladyship's gorgeous
liveries are apt to exasperate those who have an
empty stomach."

"But what will they do to her?" urged my
Lord, whose manly feelings were evidently out-
raged at the prospect of seeing any Woman a prey
to an angry rabble.

' That I cannot tell you, my Lord," replied Mr.
Baggs. ' The crowd hath several ways of showing
its displeasure. You know, when a Frenchman or


some other Foreigner shows his face in the Streets
of London, how soon he becomes the butt of passing
missiles. The sweep will leave a sooty imprint upon
his coat; a baker's basket will cover him with dust;
at every hackney-coach stand, some facetious coach-
man will puff the froth of his beer into his face.
Well! you may draw your own conclusions, my
Lord, as to what will happen anon, when my Lady
Castlemaine hath finished drinking her dish of

" But surely no one would treat a Lady so ? " once
more ejaculated my Lord Stour hotly.

" Perhaps not," retorted Mr. Baggs drily. " But
then you, see, my Lord, Lady Castlemaine is ...
Well; she is Lady Castlemaine . . . and at the
corner of our street just now I heard murmurs of
the Pillory or even worse for her "

" But this is monstrous infamous ! "

" And will be well deserved," here broke in Lord
Douglas decisively. " Fie on You, Friend, to worry
over that baggage, whilst we are still in doubt if
my Sister be safe."

" Yes ! " murmured Lord Stour, with a sudden
note of deep solicitude in his voice. " My God ! I
was forgetting ! "

He ran to the window the one next to the recess
where I still remained ensconced threw open the
casement and gazed out even more anxiously than I
had been doing all along. Mr. Baggs in the mean-
while endeavoured to reassure Lord Douglas.

" If," he said, " her Ladyship knows that your


Lordship hath come here to visit me, she may seek
shelter under my humble roof."

"God grant that she may! " rejoined the young
Man fervently.

We all were on tenterhooks, I as much as the
others ; and we all gazed out agitatedly in the direc-
ton of Fleet Street. Then, all at once, my Lord
Stour gave a cry of relief.

" There's the chaise ! " he exclaimed. " It has
just turned the corner of this street. . . . No!
not that way, Douglas ... on your right. . . .
That is Lady Barbara's chaise, is it not? "

"Yes, it is!" ejaculated the other. "Thank
Heaven, her man Pyncheon has had the good
sense to bring her here. Quick, Mr. Notary!" he
added. "The door!"

The next moment a Sedan chair borne by two
men in handsome liveries of blue and silver came
to a halt just below. Already Mr. Baggs had hur-
ried down the stairs. He would, I know, yield to no
one in the privilege of being the first to make the
Lady Barbara welcome in his House. The Excite-
ment and Anxiety were momentarily over, and I
could view quite composedly from above the beauti-
ful Lady Barbara as she stepped out of her Chair, a
little flurried obviously, for she clasped and un-
clasped her cloak with a nervy, trembling hand.

A second or two later, I heard her high-heeled
shoes pattering up the stairs, whilst her Men with
the Chair sought refuge in a quiet tavern higher up
in Chancery Lane.


I would that You, fair Mistress, had seen the
Lady Barbara Wychwoode as I beheld her on that
never-to-be-forgotten afternoon, her Cheeks of a
delicate pallor, her golden Hair slightly disarranged,
her Lips trembling with excitement. You, who are
so inexpressibly beautiful, would have been generous
enough to give ungrudging Admiration to what was
so passing fair.

She was panting a little, for obviously she had
been scared, and clung to her Brother as if for pro-
tection. But I noticed that directly she entered the
room her Eyes encountered those of my Lord Stour,
and that at sight of him a happy smile at once over-
spread and illumined her Face.

" I am so thankful, Douglas, dear," she said,
" that Pyncheon happened to know you were here.
He also knew the way to Mr. Baggs' house, and as
soon as he realized that the crowd in Fleet Street
was no ordinary one, he literally took to his heels
and brought me along here in amazingly quick time.
But, oh ! " she added lightly, " I can tell You that I
was scared. My heart went thumping and I have
not yet recovered my breath."


Her cheeks now had become suffused with a blush
and her blue eyes sparkled, more with excitement
than fear, I imagined. Certain it is that her Beauty
was enhanced thereby. But Lord Douglas, with a
Brother's privilege, shrugged his shoulders and said
with a show of banter :

" Methinks, Babs, dear, that your heart hath
chiefly gone a-thumping because you are surprised
at finding Stour here."

She gave a gay little laugh the laugh of one who
is sure of Love and of Happiness; the same laugh,
dear Mistress, for which I have hearkened of late
in vain from You.

" I only arrived in London this morning," my
Lord Stour explained.

" And hastened to pay your respects to the law
rather than to me," Lady Barbara taunted him

" I would not have ventured to present myself at
this hour," he rejoined. " And, apparently, would
have found the Lady Barbara from home."

" So a beneficent Fairy whispered to You to go
and see Mr. Notary, and thus arranged everything
for the best."

' The beneficent Fairy had her work cut out,
then," Lord Douglas remarked, somewhat im-
patiently, I thought.

" How do you mean ? " she retorted.

" Why," said he, "in order to secure this tryst,
the beneficient Fairy had first to bring me hither as
well as Stour, and Lady Castlemaine to the India


House. Then she had to inflame the temper of a
whole Crowd of Roisterers sufficiently to cause the
worthy Pyncheon to take to his heels, with you in
the chair. In fact, the good Fairy must have been
to endless trouble to arrange this meeting 'twixt
Lady Barbara and her Lover, when but a few hours
later that same meeting would have come about quite

" Nay, then ! " she riposted with perfect good
humour, " let us call it a happy Coincidence, and
say no more about it."

Even then her Brother uttered an angry exclama-
tion. He appeared irritated by the placidity and
good humour of the others. His nerves were evi-
dently on edge, and while my Lord Stour, with the
egoism peculiar to Lovers, became absorbed in
whispering sweet nothings in Lady Barbara's ears,
Lord Douglas took to pacing up and down the Room
like some impatient Animal.

I watched the three of them with ever-growing
interest. Being very sensitive to outward influences,
I was suddenly obsessed with the feeling that
through some means or other these three Persons, so
far above me in station, would somehow become
intermixed with my Life, and that it had suddenly
become my Duty to watch them and to listen to what
they were saying.

I had no desire to pry upon them, of course ; so
I pray You do not misunderstand nor condemn me
for thus remaining hidden behind the screen and for
not betraying my Presence to them all. Certainly my


Lord Stour and Lord Douglas Wychwoode had
known at one time that I was in the Room. They
had seen me installed in the window-recess, with
the treasonable Manifestos which I had been set to
copy. But since then the two Gentlemen had ob-
viously become wholly oblivious of my Presence,
and the Lady Barbara did not of course even know
of my Existence, whilst I did not feel disposed to
reveal myself to any of them just yet.

Lord Douglas, thereafter, was for braving the
Rioters and for returning home. But Lady Bar-
bara and Lord Stour, feeling happy in one another's
Company, were quite content to bide for a time
under Mr. Baggs' sheltering roof.

" You must have patience, Douglas," she said to
her Brother. " I assure you that the Streets are
not safe. Some rowdy Folk have set themselves to
attacking every chair they see and tearing the gold
and silver lace from the Chairmen's liveries. Even
the side-streets are thronged. Pyncheon will tell
you of the difficulty he had in bringing me here."

" But we cannot wait until night! " Lord Douglas
urged impatiently.

"No!" said she. "Only an hour or two. As
soon as the people have seen Lady Castlemaine and
have vented their wrath on her, they will begin to
disperse, chiefly into the neighbouring Taverns, and
then we can slip quietly away."

" Or else," broke in Lord Stour hotly, " surely


the watchmen will come anon and disperse that
rabble ere it vents its spite upon a defenceless

" A defenceless Woman, you call her, my Lord? "
Lady Barbara retorted reproachfully. " She is the
most dangerous Enemy England hath at this
moment ! "

" You are severe, Lady Barbara "

" Severe ! " she exclaimed, with a vehement tone
of resentment. "Ah! you have been absent, my
Lord. You do not know You do not understand !
Over abroad You did not realise the Misery, the
Famine, that is stalking our land. Money that
should be spent on reclaiming our Industries, which
have suffered through twenty years of civil strife,
or in helping the poor to tide over these years of
lean Harvests, is being lavished by an irresponsible
Monarch upon a greedy Wanton, who "


She paused, recalled to herself by the stern voice
of her Brother. She had allowed her Indignation
to master her maidenly reserve. Her cheeks were
aflame now, her lips quivering with Passion. Of a
truth, she was a Woman to be admired, for, unlike
most of her sex, she had profound feelings of
Patriotism and of Charity; she had valour, enthusi-
asm, temperament, and was not ashamed to speak
what was in her mind. I watched my Lord Stour
while she spoke, and saw how deeply he worshipped
her. Now she encountered his Gaze, and heavy
tears came into her Eyes.


" Ah, my Lord," she said gently, " you will see
sadder sights in the Streets of London to-day than
ever you did in the Wars after the fiercest Battles."
Tis no use appealing to him, Babs," Lord
Douglas interposed with obvious exacerbation. " A
moment ago I told him of our Plans. I begged him
to lend us his sword and his hand to strike a blow
at the Profligacy and Wantonness which is sending
England to perdition worse than ever before "

Lady Barbara turned great, reproachful eyes on
my Lord.

" And you refused ? " she whispered.

My Lord looked confused. All at once, I knew
that he was already wavering. A weak Man, per-
haps; he was deeply, desperately enamoured. I
gathered that he had not seen the Lady Barbara for
some months. No doubt his Soul hungered for her
Smiles. He was the sort of Man, methinks, who
would barter everything even Honour for the
Woman he loved. And I do not think that he cared
for much beyond that. His Father, an you remem-
ber, fought on the Parliament side. I do not say
that he was one of the Regicides, but he did not
raise a finger to help or to serve his King. And he
had been a rigid Protestant. All the Stourcliffes of
Stour were that ; and the present Earl's allegiance to
King Charles could only have been very perfunc-
tory. Besides which, this is the age of Conspiracies
and of political Factions. I doubt not but it will be
another twenty years before the Country is really
satisfied with its form of Government. I myself


though God knows I am but a humble Clerk could
wish that this Popish marriage for the King had
not been decided on. We do not want religious fac-
tions warring with one another again.

But all this is beside the mark, nor would I dwell
on it save for my desire to be, above all, just to these
three People who were destined to do the Man I
love best in the world an irreparable injury.

As I said before, I could see that my Lord Stour
was hesitating. Now Lady Barbara invited him to
sit beside her upon the Sofa, and she began talking
to him quietly and earnestly, Lord Douglas only
putting in a word or so now and again. What they
said hath little to do with the portent of my Narra-
tive, nor will I plague You with the telling of it.
Those people are nothing to You ; they have nothing
to do with humble Plebeians like ourselves ; they are
a class apart, and we should never mix ourselves up
with them or their affairs, as Mr. Betterton hath
since learned to his hurt.


While they were talking together, the three of
them, I tried once more to concentrate my mind
upon my work, and finished off another two or three
copies of the treasonable Manifesto.

All this while, you must remember that the noise
and rowdiness in the streets had in no way dimin-
ished. Rather had it grown in intensity. The
people whom I watched from time to time and saw
darting down Chancery Lane or across the corner


of Fleet Street, looked more excited, more bent on
mischief, than before. I had seen a few stones fly-
ing about, and once or twice heard the ominous
crash of broken glass.

Then suddenly there came an immense Cry, which
was not unlike the snarling of hundreds of angry
Beasts. I knew what that meant. My Lady Castle-
maine was either on the point of quitting the India
House or had been otherwise spied by the Populace.
I could no longer restrain my Curiosity. Once more
I cast my papers aside and leaned out of the window.
The shouting and booing had become more and more
ominous. Apparently, too, a company of the City
Watchmen had arrived. They were trying to force
through the throng, and their calls of " Make way
there ! " sounded more and more peremptory. But
what was a handful of Watchmen beside an excited
crowd of Rioters determined to wreak their temper
upon an unpopular bit of baggage? I doubt not but
that His Majesty's Body-guard could alone restore
order now and compass the safety of the Lady.

As I leaned out of the Window I could see stones
and miscellaneous missiles flying in every direction ;
and then suddenly I had a clear vision of a gorgeous
Sedan Chair escorted by a dozen or more City
Watchmen, who were trying to forge a way for it
through the Crowd. They were trying to reach the
corner of our Street, hoping no doubt to turn up
this way and thus effect an escape by way of the
Lower Lincoln's Inn Fields and Drury Lane, while
the Crowd would of necessity be kept back through



the narrowness of the Streets and the intricacies of
the Alleys.

The whole point now was whether the Chairmen
could reach our corner before the Roisterers had
succeeded in beating back the Watchmen, when of
course they meant to tear Lady Castlemaine out of
her chair. Poor, wretched Woman! She must
have been terribly frightened. I know that I my-
self felt woefully agitated. Leaning out toward the
street, I could see Lady Barbara's pretty head at
the next window and my Lord Stour and Lord
Douglas close beside her. They too had forgotten all
about their talk and their plans and Conspiracies,
and were gazing out on the exciting Spectacle with
mixed feelings, I make no doubt. As for me, I feel
quite sure that but for my sense of utter helpless-
ness, I should have rushed out even then and tried
to lend a hand in helping an unfortunate Woman out
of so terrible a Predicament, and I marvelled how
deep must have been the hatred for her, felt by
Gentlemen like my Lord Stour and Lord Douglas
Wychwoode, that their Sense of Chivalry forsook
them so completely at this Hour, that neither of
them attempted to run to her aid or even suggested
that she should find shelter in this House.

As for Mr. Baggs, he was not merely idly curious ;
he was delighted at the idea that my Lady Castle-
maine should be maltreated by the mob; whilst
Mistress Euphrosine's one idea was the hope that
if the Rioters meant to murder the Baggage, they
would not do so outside this door. She and Mr.


Baggs had come running into the Parlour the mo-
ment the rioting reached its height, and of a truth,
dear Mistress, you would have been amused to see
us all at the three front windows of the house
three groups watching the distant and wildly excit-
ing happenings in Fleet Street. There was I at one
window; Mr. and Mrs. Baggs at the other; Lady
Barbara and the two Gallants at the third. And the
ejaculations which came from one set of Watchers
or the other would fill several pages of my narrative.

Mistress Euphrosine was in abject fear. " Oh !
I hope," cried she now and again, " that they won't
come this way. There'll be murder upon our door-

My Lord Stour had just one revulsion of feeling
in favour of the unfortunate Castlemaine. " Come,
Douglas ! " he called at one time. " Let's to her aid.
Remember she is a Woman, after all ! "

But Lady Barbara placed a restraining hand upon
his arm, and Lord Douglas said with a rough laugh :
" I would not lift a finger to defend her. Let the
Devil befriend her, an he list."

And all the while the mob hissed and hooted, and
stones flew like hail all around the Chaise.

" Oh ! they'll murder her ! They'll murder her ! "
called Mistress Euphrosine piously.

" And save honest men a vast deal of trouble
thereby," Mr. Baggs concluded sententiously.

The Watchmen were now forging ahead. With
their sticks and staves they fought their way through
bravely, heading the chair towards our street. But


even so, methought that they stood but little Chance
of saving my Lady Castlemaine in the end. The
Crowd had guessed their purpose already, and were
quite ready to give Chase. The Chairmen with their
heavy burden could be no match against them in a
Race, and the final capture of the unfortunate
Woman was only now a question of time.

Then suddenly I gave a gasp. Of a truth I could
scarce believe in what I saw. Let me try and put
the picture clearly before you, dear Mistress ; for in
truth You would have loved to see it as I did then.
About half a dozen Watchmen had by great exertion
succeeded in turning the corner of our Street. They
were heading towards us with only a comparatively
small knot of roisterers to contend against, and the
panting, struggling Chairmen with the Sedan Chair

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Online LibraryEmmuska Orczy OrczyHis Majesty's well-beloved; an episode in the life of Mr. Thomas Betterton as told by his friend John Honeywood → online text (page 4 of 18)