A True Hero; A Story of the Days of William Penn, by W.H.G. Kingston.
A very interesting book. It certainly brings home the problems faced by the various Dissenting sects in England in the reign of James the Second, particularly those facing the Quakers.
It tells the story of a Quaker family, who fled from England to seek a new life in America in the late 1600s. It's a short book, and it makes a very good read, or of course a good audiobook. As reviewer I found it most instructive.
A TRUE HERO; A STORY OF THE DAYS OF WILLIAM PENN, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
The Protectorate had come to an end ten years before the period when our story commences; and Charles the Second, restored to the throne of England, had since been employed in outraging all the right feelings of the people over whom he was called to reign, and in lowering the English name, which had been so gloriously raised by the wisdom of Cromwell. The body of that sagacious ruler of a mighty nation had been dragged out of its tomb among the kings in Westminster, and hanged on the gallows-tree at Tyburn; the senseless deed instigated by the petty revenge of his contemptible successor. The mouldering remains of Blake, also, one of the noblest among England's naval heroes, had been taken from its honoured resting-place, and cast into an unknown grave in Saint Margaret's churchyard. Episcopacy had been restored by those who hoped thus to pave the way for the re-introduction of Romanism, with its grinding tyranny and abject superstitions. The "Conventicle Act," prohibiting more than five persons, exclusive of the family, to meet together for religious worship according to any other than the national ritual, had been passed, and was rigidly enforced; the dominant party thus endeavouring to deprive the people of one of the most sacred rights of man,—that of worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience. England's debauched king, secretly a Papist, had sold his country for gold to England's hereditary foe, whose army he had engaged to come and crush the last remnants of national freedom, should his Protestant people dare to resist the monarch's traitorous proceedings. The profligacy and irreligion of the court was widely imitated by all classes, till patriots, watching with gloomy forebodings the downward progress of their country, began to despair of her future fate. Such was the state of things when, on the morning of the 14th of August, 1670, several sedate, grave-looking persons were collected at the north end of Gracechurch Street, in the City of London. Others were coming up from all quarters towards the spot. As the first arrived, they stood gazing towards the door of a building, before which were drawn up a body of bearded, rough soldiers, with buff coats, halberds in hand, and iron caps on their heads. Several of the persons collected, in spite of the armed men at the door, advanced as if about to enter the building.
"You cannot go in there," said the sergeant of the party; "we hold it in the name of the king. Begone about your business, or beware of the consequences!" In vain the grave citizens mildly expostulated. They received similar rough answers. By this time other persons had arrived, while many passers-by stopped to see what was going forward. Among those who came up was a tall young man, whose flowing locks and feathered cap, with richly-laced coat, and silk sash over his shoulder, to which, however, the usual appendage, a sword, was wanting, showed that he was a person of quality and fashion. Yet his countenance wore a grave aspect, which assumed a stern expression as he gazed at the soldiers. He stopped, and spoke to several of those standing round, inquiring apparently what had occurred. About the same time, another man, who seemed to be acquainted with many of the persons in the crowd, was making his way among them. He was considerably more advanced in life than the first-mentioned person, and in figure somewhat shorter and more strongly built. Though dressed as a civilian, he had a military look and air. From an opposite direction two other persons approached the spot, intending, it seemed, to pass by. The one was a man whose grizzly beard and furrowed features showed that he had seen rough service in his time, his dress and general appearance bespeaking the soldier. His companion was a youth of sixteen or seventeen years of age, so like him in countenance that their relationship was evident. From the inquiries they made, they were apparently strangers.
"Canst tell me, friend, what has brought all these people together?" said the elder man to a by-stander.
"Most of these people are 'Friends,' as they call themselves," answered the man addressed, a well-to-do artisan, "or 'Quakers,' as the world calls them, because they bid sinners exceedingly to quake and tremble at the word of the Lord. To my mind they are harmless as to their deeds, though in word they are truly powerful at times. The bishops and church people do not like them because they declare that God can be worshipped in the open air, or in a man's own home, as well as in the grandest cathedral, or 'steeple house,' as they call the church. The Independents are opposed to them, because they deem ministers unnecessary, and trust to the sword of the Spirit rather than to carnal weapons; while the wealthy and noble disdain them, because they refuse to uncover their heads, or to pay undue respect to their fellow-men, however rich or exalted in rank they may be. They have come to hold a meeting in yonder house, where the soldiers are stationed; but as speaking will not open the doors, they will have to go away again disappointed."
"If they are the harmless people you describe, that seems a hard case," observed the stranger. "By what right are they prohibited from thus meeting?"
"I know not if it is by right, but it is by law," answered the artisan. "You have doubtless heard of the 'Conventicle Act,' prohibiting all religious worship, except according to the established ritual. The 'Friends' alone hold it in no respect, and persist in meeting where they have the mind!"
"What! do all the other dissenters of England submit to such a law?" exclaimed the stranger.
"Marry do they," answered the artisan. "They pocket the affront, and conform in public to what is demanded, satisfying their consciences by worshipping together in private. Do you not know that every head of a family is fined a shilling on every Sunday that he neglects to attend the parish church? You can have been but a short time in England not to have heard of this."
"Yes, indeed, my friend. My son and I landed but yesterday from a voyage across the Atlantic; and, except from the master and shipmen on board, we have heard but little of what has taken place in England for some years past."
"Then take my advice, friend," said the artisan. "Make all the inquiries you please, but utter not your opinions, as you were just now doing to me, or you may find yourself accused of I know not what, and clapped into jail, with slight chance of being set free again."
"Thank you, friend," said the stranger; "but will all these people submit to be treated thus by those few soldiers? By my faith, it's more than I would, if I desired to enter yonder house of prayer."
While this conversation was going on, the number of people in front of the Quaker's meeting-house had greatly increased; and though the greater number appeared quietly disposed, there were evidently some hovering about, and others now elbowing their way through the crowd, who were inclined to create an uproar. At this juncture, the young gentleman who has already been described, stepping on one side of the street where the pavement was highest, took off his hat. "Silence, I pray you, dear friends; I would speak a few words," he said, in a rich musical voice. "We came here purposing to enter yonder house, where we might worship God according to the dictates of our consciences, and exhort and strengthen one another; but it seemeth to me that those in authority have resolved to prevent our thus assembling. We are men of peace, and therefore must submit rather than use carnal weapons; and yet, friends, having the gift of speech, and the power of the pen, we must not cease to protest against being thus deprived of the liberty which Englishmen hold so dear."
While the young man was speaking, the stranger and his son had worked their way close to the stout soldier-like man who has been described. The stranger's eye fell on his countenance. He touched his son's shoulder. "An old comrade in arms!" he whispered. "A truer man than Captain William Mead,—trusty Bill Mead, we used to call him,—never drew sword in the cause of liberty. If I can but catch his eye and get a grip of his honest hand, I will ask him who that young man can be,—a brave fellow, whoever he is." In another instant the two old comrades had recognised each other.
"What, Christison! Nicholas Christison! is it thou?" exclaimed Captain Mead, examining the stranger's countenance. "Verily, I thought thou wast no longer in the land of the living; but thou art welcome, heartily welcome. Come with me to my house in Cornhill, at the sign of the 'Spinning Wheel,' and thou shalt tell me where thou hast been wandering all this time; while, may be, we will have a talk of bygone days."
"With all my heart," answered Christison; "but tell me who is that noble youth addressing the people? He seems by his dress and bearing not one likely to utter such sentiments as are now dropping from his mouth!"
"Verily, he is not less noble in deed and word than in look," answered Mead. "He is William Penn, the son of the admiral who fought so well for the Commonwealth, and now serves a master about whom the less we say the better."
"I remember him well; a brave, sagacious man, but one who was ever ready to serve his own interest first, and those of his country afterwards. I should not have expected to find a son of his consorting with Quakers."
"No, verily; as light from darkness, so does the son differ from the father in spiritual matters," answered Mead. "The son has sacrificed all his worldly prospects for the sake of his own soul and for those of his fellow-creatures. In a righteous cause he fears no foes, temporal or spiritual; and is ready to lay down his life, if needs be, for the truth."
"A brave youth he must be, by my troth," observed Christison. "Wenlock, my boy, I pray Heaven you may be like him. I would rather have thee a thorough true-hearted man, than the first noble in the land."
At this moment, Mead, who had been stopped by the crowd from making his way towards the place where William Penn was speaking, saw an opportunity of advancing, and again moved forward, accompanied by his old friend and his son. There was, indeed, a general movement in the crowd, and voices in tones of authority were heard shouting, "Make way there; make way!" The people who uttered these cries were soon recognised as sheriffs' officers. They were advancing towards Penn. Their intention was evident.
"They are about to arrest him," said Mead; "but he has done nothing worthy of bonds."
"No, by my troth he has not," exclaimed Christison; "and I would gladly, even now, strike a blow for the cause of liberty, and rescue him from their power, if they attempt to lay hands on him."
"No, no, friend, put up thy sword," said Mead; "we fight not with carnal weapons. He would not thank you for any such attempt on your part."
By this time the constables had reached Penn, and informed him that he was their prisoner. Two others at the same time came up to where Mead was standing, and arrested him also. It was a sore trial to the old Republican officer to stand by and see his friend carried off to prison.
"By whose authority am I arrested?" asked Penn, turning with an air of dignity to the officers.
One of them immediately produced a document. "See here, young sir," he said in an insulting tone, "This is our warrant! It is signed by the worshipful Lord Mayor, Sir Samuel Starling. I have a notion that neither you nor any of your friends would wish to resist it."
"We resist no lawful authority; but I question how far this warrant is lawful," answered the young Quaker. "Howbeit, if thou and thy companions use force, to force we yield, and must needs accompany thee whithersoever thou conductest us."
"Farewell, old friend," said Mead, shaking Christison by the hand, as the constables were about to lead him off. "I would rather have spent a pleasant evening with thee in my house than have had to pass it in a jail: but yet in a righteous cause all true men should be ready to suffer."
"Indeed so, old comrade; and you know that I am not the man to desert you at a pinch. As we are not to pass the evening together at your house, I will spend it with you in jail. I suppose they will not exclude you from the society of your friends?"
Mead shrugged his shoulders. "It is hard to say how we may be treated, for we Quakers gain but scant courtesy or justice."
These last remarks were made as Mead, with a constable on either side of him, was being led off with William Penn to the Guildhall.
The old Commonwealth officer and his son followed as close behind them as the shouting, jeering mob would allow them; Christison revolving in his mind how he should act best to render assistance to his old friend. At length they arrived at the hall where the Lord Mayor was sitting for the administration of justice.
Captain Christison and his son entered with others who found their way into the court. A short, though somewhat corpulent-looking gentleman, with ferrety eyes and rubicund nose, telling of numerous cups of sack which had gone down between the thick lips below it, occupied the magisterial chair.
"Who are these knaves?" he exclaimed, in a gruff voice, casting a fierce glance at the young William Penn and his companion, Captain Mead. "What! ye varlets, do you come into the presence of the Lord Mayor of London with your hats on? Ho! ho! I know you now," he exclaimed, as an officer handed him a paper, while he turned his eyes especially on Penn. "Let me tell you, if you pay not proper respect to the court, I will have you carried to Bridewell and well whipped, you varlet, though you are the son of a Commonwealth admiral! Do you hear me, sirrah?"
"By my troth," whispered Christison to his son. "I should like to rush in with my sword and stop that foul-speaking varlet's mouth, Lord Mayor of London though he be. And now I look at him, I remember him well, Master Starling, a brawling supporter of the Protector when he was seated firmly at the head of Government. And now see, he is louder still in carrying out the evil designs of this Charles Stuart and his myrmidons." These words, though said in a low voice, were not altogether inaudible to some of the by-standers.
"Beware!" said some one at his elbow.
To this tirade of the Lord Mayor, the young gentleman made no answer. "Do you hear me, sirrah?" he exclaimed again; "I speak to you, William Penn. You and others have unlawfully and tumultuously been assembling and congregating yourselves together for the purpose of creating a disturbance of the peace, to the great terror and annoyance of His Majesty's liege people and subjects, and to the ill example of all others; and you have, in contempt of the law of the land, been preaching to a concourse of people whom you tumultuously assembled for the purpose of instigating them to rebel against His Majesty the king and the authorities of this city of London."
"Verily, thou art misinformed and mistaken, sir," answered the young man, in a calm voice. "I neither created a disturbance, nor did I utter words whereby any disturbance could have been created, while I have ever been a loyal and dutiful subject of King Charles as His Majesty."
"Ho! ho! ho! you have come here to crow high, I warrant you," exclaimed Sir Samuel Starling; "and your companion, Master Mead, will, I warrant, declare himself equally innocent of offence!"
"Thou speakest truly, friend," answered Captain Mead; "I was the cause of no disturbance, as all those present very well know; for no disturbance indeed took place, while my principles forbid me to oppose the authorities that be."
These calm answers only seemed to enrage Sir Samuel Starling, who, heaping further abuse on the prisoners, exclaimed, "Take the varlets off to the 'Black Dog' in Newgate Market; there they shall remain in durance till they are tried for their crimes at the Old Bailey, and we shall then see whether this young cock-of-the-woods will crow as loudly as he now does."
Young Wenlock could with difficulty restrain his father's indignation when he heard this order pronounced by the city magistrate. He however, managed to get him out of the court.
"We will go and see where they are lodged, at all events," said the captain, who at length yielded to his son's expostulation. "Perchance I may render my old friend Mead, and that noble young fellow Penn, some assistance."
In a dirty, ill-ventilated room in a low sponging-house in Newgate Market, known as the "Black Dog," two persons were seated. Cobwebs hung from the windows and the corners of the ceiling, occupied by huge, active spiders, lying in wait for some of the numerous flies which swarmed on the dust-covered panes. On the walls were scrawled numerous designs, executed by the prisoners who had from time to time occupied the room, to while away their hours of durance. The air felt close and sultry, the heat increased by the rays of the sinking sun, which found their way in by the window, through which also entered unpleasant odours ascending from the court-yard below. One of the persons, whose handsome dress contrasted strangely with the appearance of the room, was busy writing at a rickety table. With youth, wealth, talents, a fair fame, the godson of the future monarch of England, he might, had he so willed, have been a peer of he realm, the founder of a noble family. The other, who has been described as Captain Mead, rose from his seat, and walked up and down with somewhat impatient steps. "I am writing to my dear father to tell him the cause of my absence," said young Penn, stopping for a moment. "I fear that his sickness is very serious, and deep is my regret to be kept away from him; yet do I glory in thus suffering for the great and noble principles for which we are striving,—liberty of conscience, liberty of action. What is life worth to man without these? And yet our infatuated countrymen run a great risk of losing both, if they refuse to listen to the voice of warning, and to prepare in time for the threatened danger." Just then a turnkey opened the door, and in an impudent tone of voice said, "Here's a man and a lad come to see Master Mead. There, go in and sit as long as you please, till the hour arrives when all visitors must be turned out."
"Ah! friend Christison and thy fine boy, thou art welcome to this our somewhat sorry abode," said Mead. "I would rather have seen thee at my family board this evening, as I had proposed; but we must submit to the powers that be. I will now make thee known to our friend Master William Penn, whose father thou and I served under in days gone by."
"Ay, marry, I remember him well!" exclaimed Christison. "We were with him when he chased that piratical, malignant Rupert, and well-nigh caught him. Many a rich argosy would have been preserved to the Commonwealth had we succeeded; but the devil favours his children, and the rover got off."
"We will not now speak of those times," said Mead. "I am not surprised to hear thee, old comrade, allude to them thus; but I, now taught better, have laid aside the use of carnal weapons."
"Well, well, I know you will always do as your conscience dictates," said Christison; "and gladly do I shake hands with the son of my old commander."
William Penn rose, and courteously welcomed the visitor, giving a kind smile and a touch on the shoulder to young Wenlock. "Let my presence not interfere with you, friend," he said; "but as thou seest I am busily engaged in writing on matters of importance; thou mayst talk state secrets to each other, and I shall not hear them; so, pray thee, Master Christison, make thyself at home with thy old friend." Saying this, he resumed his seat and continued writing, completely absorbed in his work. Captain Mead warmly thanked his old friend for coming to see him.
"And what is it I hear of you," asked Christison; "that you have joined the followers of George Fox?"
"Verily, I have deserted all worldly systems, and have united with those who believe that the guidance of the Spirit is sufficient to lead us into all truth: the Holy Scriptures being the only fit and outward rule whereby to judge of the truth. I pray thee, old friend, do not strive against that Holy Spirit, a measure of which has surely been given to thee. That is the light and life of the Holy Word which 'in the beginning was with God, and was God.' That it is which will enlighten thy mind, if thou strivest not to quench it."
In a similar strain Mead continued putting forth and explaining to his old friend the doctrine held by the Quakers. He spoke to him of the unity of the Godhead. "We believe," he added, "that their light is one, their life one, their wisdom one, their power one; and that he that knoweth and seeth any one of them knoweth and seeth them all, as our blessed Lord says, 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.' We believe, too, though most wrongfully accused of the contrary, that God the Son is both God and man in wonderful union; that He suffered for our salvation, was raised again for our justification, and ever liveth to make intercession for us. He is that Divine Word that lighteth the souls of all men that come into the world with a spiritual and saving light, as none but the Creator of souls can do. With regard to our worship, we hold that 'God is a Spirit, and desires to be worshipped in spirit and in truth,' not only on one day, but on all days of the week; not only when meeting together, but in the daily concerns of life; and the man who worships not then, will render poor worship when he assembles with his fellow-men at the time he may think fit to set apart for that purpose. As we acknowledge no other Mediator than the Son of God, who came on earth and died for our sins, and, having risen from the grave and ascended into heaven, is now seated at the right hand of God; so we require no person to pray for us, or allow that it is according to God's will that persons should receive payment for praying, exhorting, or preaching, or in any other way spreading God's truth. We believe, too, that the water-baptism, so generally administered, is not according to God's mind; that the baptism spoken of in the Scriptures is that of the Spirit,—the answer of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ; that by one Spirit we are all baptised into one body; while, with regard to the Lord's Supper as it is spoken of, we do indeed deem that the supper of the Lord is needful, but that it is altogether of a spiritual nature. We object altogether to oaths, because our Lord says, 'Swear not at all.' We hold war to be an abomination to God, and contrary to that new commandment given us by Christ, 'That ye love one another, even as I have loved you.' We hold, too, that a civil magistrate has no right to interfere in religious matters, and that though 'Friends' may admonish such members as fall into error, it must be done by the spiritual sword; and as religion is a matter solely between God and man, so no government consisting of fallible men ought to fetter the consciences of those over whom they are placed."
"No, indeed," exclaimed Christison. "To the latter principle I have long held; and it seems to me that there is much sense and truth in the other tenets which you have explained. I, as you know, am a blunt man, not given to book learning; but, in truth, old friend, I should like to hear from you again more at large of these matters."
"There seems every probability that thou wilt know where to find me for some time to come," answered Mead; "and I shall be heartily well-pleased further to explain to you the principles we hold to be the true ones for the guidance of men in this mortal life."
"Father," said young Wenlock, as he and the elder Christison were returning to their lodgings; "I should like to take service with young Master Penn, should he require a secretary. Your old friend, Captain Mead, has also taken my fancy; but yet I feel I would go anywhere with so true-hearted and noble a man as the other."
"You have formed a somewhat hasty judgment, Wenlock," said his father. "We have been but a couple of hours in his society, during which time he spoke but little; and though, I grant you, he is a true gentleman, and would have made a fine soldier, yet his temper and habits may be very different to what you suppose."
"Oh! no, no, father. I know I could trust him; I watched him all the time he was writing. He said he was addressing his father, and I saw his change of countenance; sometimes he was lost in thought, sometimes he seemed to look up to heaven in prayer; and more than once I saw his eyes filled with tears, and a firm, determined look came over his countenance; yet all the time there was nothing stern or forbidding,— all was mild, loving, and kind. I have never seen one I would more willingly serve."
"I hope that you may see him frequently, Wenlock," said his father, "and you may thus have an opportunity of correcting or confirming your judgment. I purpose visiting my old friend Mead whenever I can."
Captain Christison kept to his word. The result of those frequent interviews with the worthy Quaker, as far as Wenlock was concerned, will be shown by-and-by.
The first of September, 1670, the day fixed for the trial of William Penn and Captain Mead, arrived, and the prisoners were placed in the dock to answer the charge brought against them. Christison and his son were at the doors some time before they opened, that they might, without fail, secure a place. "Now most of these people, I warrant, fancy that they have come simply to witness the trial of the son of one of England's brave admirals for misdemeanour. The matter is of far more importance, Wenlock. Master Penn disputes, and so do I, that this 'Conventicle Act' is legal in any way. We hold it to be equally hostile to the people and our Great Charter. Is an edict which abolishes one of the fundamental rights secured to the nation by our ancient Constitution, though passed by Crown and Parliament, to be held as possessing the force of law? If this court cannot show that it is, the question is, will a jury of Englishmen, when the case is made clear to them, venture to convict?"
On entering the hall they found ten justices occupying the bench, Sir Samuel Starling, the Lord Mayor, at their head. As soon as the court opened, the clerk ordered the crier to call over the jury. Having answered to their names, of which the result showed that they had every reason to be proud, they were sworn to try the prisoners at the bar, and find according to the evidence adduced. If Wenlock had been inclined to admire William Penn before, much more so was he now, when, standing up, he replied to the question whether he was guilty or not guilty. Of course he and Mead pleaded not guilty. The court then adjourned. After it had resumed its functions the prisoners were brought up, but were set aside in order that several cases of common felony might be disposed of; this being done for the purpose of insulting Penn and his friend. Little progress having been made in their case, they were remanded to their abominable dungeons in Newgate, and the court adjourned for two days.
Christison and his son arrived in good time when the court again sat, on the 3rd of September. The officers having taken off the hats of the prisoners as they entered, the Lord Mayor abused them for so doing, and bade them put them on again. He then abused the prisoners for wearing their hats, fining them forty marks each for contempt of court. The indictment was again read. It was to the effect that William Penn and William Mead, with other persons, had assembled on the 15th day of August for the purpose of creating a disturbance, according to an agreement between the two; and that William Penn, supported by William Mead, had preached to the people assembled, whereby a great concourse of people remained, in contempt of the king and his law, creating a disturbance of his peace, to the great terror of many of his liege people and subjects.
William Penn, who ably defended himself, proved that the day when he had gone to Gracechurch Street was the fourteenth, and not the fifteenth; that he did not preach to the people; that he had not agreed to meet William Mead there; that William Mead had not spoken to him. Mead also proved that he had not preached; that he had not abetted Penn, and that no riot had taken place.
Contrary to the evidence, the Recorder Jefferies insisted that the prisoners should be brought in "guilty." The jury, however, in spite of the threats held out to them by the Lord Mayor and the Recorder and others, would not agree upon a verdict. The most determined to give an honest one was Master Edward Bushel, whose name deserves to be recorded. On again being compelled to retire, they were absent for some time. When they once more returned, the foreman announced that their verdict was "Guilty of speaking in Gracechurch Street." Again every effort was made to induce them to pronounce a different verdict. A third time they were ordered to retire. Again, in writing, they handed in their verdict, finding William Penn "Guilty of speaking to an assembly in Gracechurch Street," and acquitting William Mead.
The baffled and beaten bench, now losing temper, ordered the jury to be locked up, and the prisoners to be taken back to Newgate. Penn, now addressing them, required the clerk of the peace to record their verdict. "If, after this," he exclaimed, "the jury bring in a different verdict to this, I affirm that they are perjured men. You are Englishmen," he said, turning to the jurors. "Remember your privileges. Give not away your rights!"
The following day was Sunday. They were called up, however, and the clerk again inquired if they were agreed. The foreman replied as before, "Guilty of speaking to an assembly in Gracechurch Street."
"To an unlawful assembly?" exclaimed the Lord Mayor.
"No, my lord," answered the noble Master Bushel. "We give no other verdict than we gave last night."
In vain the Lord Mayor and the Recorder Jefferies threatened as before; the Lord Mayor shouting out, "Gaoler, bring fetters, and shake this pestilent fellow to the ground!"
"Do your will," answered Penn; "I care not for your fetters!"
The Recorder Jefferies now cried out, "By my troth, I could never before understand why the Spaniards suffered the Inquisition among them; and, to my mind, it will never be well with us in England till we have among us something like the Inquisition."
"Boy," whispered Christison to his son, "you heard those words. The knave has a good idea of his master's notions and designs. If the Inquisition,—and I know something of it,—is ever established in this fair England of ours, it must either be quickly driven out again, or our country will be no fit place for honest men."
Once more the jury were locked up, without food, fire, or water; but they were Englishmen to the backbone, and were ready to die in the cause of civil freedom, rather than play traitors to their own convictions.
On Monday the court again sat. Each juror was separately questioned, and one and all pronounced "Not guilty." The Recorder on this fined them forty marks a man, and imprisonment in Newgate till the fines were paid. Penn and Mead were fined in the same way, the Recorder crying out, "Put him out of court! Take him away!"
"'Take him away!'" exclaimed Penn. "Whenever I urge the fundamental laws of England, 'Take him away!' is their answer; but no wonder, since the Spanish Inquisition sits so near the Recorder's heart."
Both prisoners and jurors were carried off to Newgate, refusing to pay the fines: Penn and Mead as a case of conscience; while Bushel advised his fellow-jurors to dispute the matter. The jurors were committed to prison on the 5th of September, and it was not till the 9th of November that the trial came on. Learned counsel were engaged for their defence; Newdegate, one of them, arguing that the judges may try to open the eyes of the jurors, but not to "lead them by the nose." Christison and his son were present. "I had hoped to spend some years in my native land, and renew the friendship I formed in my youth," observed the former; "but I tell thee, Wenlock, if this trial goes against those twelve honest men, I will forswear my country, and go and seek thy fortune and mine in some other land, where knaves do not, as here, 'rule the roost.'" When, however, the twelve judges gave an almost unanimous verdict in favour of the jurymen, Christison agreed that, after all, there were more honest men in the country than he had feared was the case.
To return, however, to William Penn and Mead. They were remanded to Newgate, refusing to pay the fines imposed on them, as a matter of conscience. Without difficulty, Christison and Wenlock obtained admittance to them. "Truly, friends, you are hardly dealt with," said the former, as he shook hands. "We had tyrannical proceedings enough in the time of the first Charles, but it seems to me that we are even worse off now. I would that I could collect a band of honest fellows and rescue you out of this vile den."
"I pray thee, be silent, dear friend," said Mead. "We are here for conscience sake; and our consciences being right towards God, would support us under far greater trial."
"Well, well, I suppose you are right," answered Christison; "but it sorely troubles me to see you here. I came back to England, understanding that the country was enjoying rest, and prospering under the new reign; but it seems to me that the rest is more that of wearied sleep than prosperous tranquillity, and that ere long the people will revive, and will once more draw the sword to reassert their rights."
"I pray not," said Mead; "but I do pray that those principles which I have unfolded to thee, old friend, may be promulgated throughout the length and breadth of England; as it is through them, and them only, that the country can obtain true rest, and prosper as a Christian people would desire."
Two days after this, the prisoners were pacing their cell, talking earnestly on matters seldom discussed within prison walls, when the turnkey entered.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I bring you news such as may perhaps be satisfactory. Your fines have been paid, and you are at liberty to depart from hence. I trust you will not forget the attention and courtesy with which I have treated you!"
"Verily, knave!" exclaimed Mead, laughing as Quakers were not wont to laugh, "thou ought to go to Court and push thy fortune there. I would willingly pay thee for all the attention thou hast shown us, but I fear thou wouldst not be satisfied with the payment. If I give thee more than thy deserts, thou wilt be better pleased. Here, take this groat. Art thou satisfied?"
The turnkey made a wry face, and Mead followed Penn, who had hurried out, anxious to be free from the prison. On the outside they met Christison and Wenlock, with several other friends, waiting for them. Penn hastened to his lodgings to change his dress, requesting Mead to order horses directly, that he might proceed down to his father.
"Come," said Mead to his old comrade; "many days have passed since I gave thee an invitation to my abode; but as I have not since then been a free agent, I could not have received thee as I desired."
Wenlock Christison and his son proceeded up Cornhill a short time after the events which have been described. They were examining the various signs over the shop doors, in search of that which distinguished Master Mead's abode.
"Ah! there it is," said Wenlock; "that must be the 'Spinning Wheel' he told us of."
A demure youth with well-brushed hair was standing at the door, in courteous language inviting passers-by to enter and inspect his master's goods.
"Is this Master Mead's abode, young man?" inquired Captain Christison.
"Verily, friend, it is," answered the shopman. "If thou wilt enter, thou wilt find thy money's worth for any goods thou mayst purchase. Master Mead bringeth good judgment to bear on his purchases, and buys only such goods as those in which he has confidence. Enter, friend; enter, I pray thee."
"Thank you," said Christison; "but I wish to see Master Mead himself."
"If thou wilt enter through this door, thou wilt find him in the upper story with his family," answered the shopman, leading the way; and Christison and Wenlock proceeded upstairs.
Master Mead cordially welcomed his old friend, introducing him to a comely matron whom he spoke of as his wife Martha. "And here is my daughter Mary," he added, pointing to a remarkably pretty and fair-haired girl, who smiled sweetly, and held out her hand to her father's guests. She might have been two or three years younger than Wenlock, though, being well grown, there seemed but little difference in their ages. While their elders were talking, the young people, after a few desultory remarks, found themselves drawn into conversation.
"I hear from my father that thou hast been a great traveller already," said Mary Mead.
"Yes, indeed," answered Wenlock. "I scarcely remember ever remaining more than two or three months in one place. When my mother died, my father left our home in New England, ever after seeking for some spot where he might settle, but finding none, till at length he determined to go back to the old country."
"You can have had but little time for obtaining instruction then?" said Mary, "I thought boys were always sent to school."
"I picked up what I could out of what my father calls the 'big book of life,'" answered Wenlock. "He also gave me such instructions as time and opportunity would allow, though there are many more things I should like to learn. I have, however, read not a few books; I can handle a singlestick as well as many older men, can ride, row, and shoot with arquebuse or crossbow, and I can write letters on various subjects, as I will prove to you, Mistress Mary, if you will allow me, when I again begin my wanderings; for I doubt whether my father will long remain in this big city. He is constantly complaining that the times are out of joint; and although we have been in England but a few weeks, he threatens again speedily to leave it."
"That were a pity," said Mary. "I prefer the green fields, and the woods, and the gay flowers, and the songs of birds, to the narrow streets, the dingy houses, and the cries of London; but yet I opine that happiness comes from within, and that, if the heart is at rest, contentment may be found under all circumstances."
"You are a philosopher," said Wenlock.
"No," answered Mary quietly, "I am a Quakeress, an you please: and our principles afford us that peace and contentment which they of the world know not of."
"I must get you to teach me to be a Quaker, then," said Wenlock. "I have been listening attentively to your father's discourses to mine, and even he, who was so much opposed to such ideas, has greatly been attracted by them; and, to tell you the truth, Mistress Mead, I have made up my mind that they are the best that I have heard of. There may be better, but I know not of them."
"Oh, no, no. There can be no better than such as are to be found in the Book of Life," said Mary. "You must judge of our principles by that, and that alone. If they are not according to that, they are wrong; but if they are according to that, there can be none better."
Wenlock, as he talked to the fair young Quakeress, felt himself every moment becoming more and more a convert to her opinions; and had not his father been present, he would then and there have undoubtedly confessed himself a Quaker.
The young people had found their way, somehow or other, to the bow window at the further end of the room, their elders, meantime, carrying on a conversation by themselves, not altogether of a different character. Mead, aided by his wife, was explaining to Christison, more fully than he had hitherto done, the Quaker doctrines. Could he, a man of the sword, however, acknowledge fighting to be wrong, and henceforth and for ever lay aside the weapons he had handled all his life?
"But surely, friend, if thou dost acknowledge that man is formed in God's image, it must be obvious to thee that to deface His image must be contrary to His law and will. The world is large, and God intends it to be peopled; whereas, by wars, the population ceases to increase, and that happy time when hymns of praise shall ascend from all quarters of the globe is postponed."
Mistress Mead occasionally made some telling remark to the same effect.
"Well, friend Mead, I have listened to all you have advanced," said Christison at length, "and I cannot, as an honest man, fail to acknowledge that you are in the main right. When next I come, I will hear what further arguments you have to adduce; but the truth is, when I determined to return to England, it was with the purpose of taking service in the English army, or in that of some foreign Protestant State, in which I hoped also to obtain employment for my son; whereas, if I turn Quaker, I must, I see, from what you tell me, give up all such ideas, and then how to obtain employment for him or myself I know not. I have no wish to be idle, and as 'a rolling stone gains no moss,' I have laid by but little of this world's wealth for a rainy day, or for my old age."
"Verily, thou must indeed give up all ideas of fighting and blood-shedding," answered Mead. "Yet I see not that thou needst starve. There is no lack of honest employments, if a man will but seek them. 'Thou canst not serve two masters.' Our God is a God of peace. The devil is the god of war; and devilish work is fighting, as I can answer from experience, and so canst thou, old comrade."
Christison sighed. "Well, well, friend," he said, "I feel you are right, and I will think over the matter. And now it is time that I should bid thee farewell. I have a visit to pay to a friend who lives some way on the other side of Temple Bar, and it will be late before we can get back to our lodgings."
Mead did not attempt to detain his friend. The young people started when Wenlock was summoned. They were sorry the visit had so soon come to an end.
"We shall see you again," said Mary, frankly putting out her hand, "and then I will speak to you more of these matters."
Wenlock of course promised that he would very soon come again. Christison and his son took their way along Cheapside, past old Saint Paul's, and proceeded down Ludgate Hill.
"You seemed pleased with young Mistress Mead, Wenlock," said his father.
"Indeed I was," answered Wenlock. "Though so quiet in manner, she has plenty to say. I never felt more inclined to talk in my life. I have promised to pay another visit as soon as I can, and when we go away, to write to her and give her an account of our adventures."
"You seem to have made progress in her good graces, Wenlock," said his father; and as he was a man of the world, it might possibly have occurred to him that when his son should desire a helpmate, fair Mistress Mary might prove a very suitable person. That perfect confidence existed between father and son which induced Wenlock to speak his mind on all occasions and on all subjects. They at length reached their destination, and the old soldier found his friend Lawrence Hargrave at home. In their conversation, which was chiefly on matters political, Wenlock took but little interest, his thoughts indeed being just then occupied chiefly by Mary Mead. He was glad, therefore, when his father announced his intention of returning home. They walked on rapidly, for the night was cold. It was dark also, for the sky was overcast. As they were going along Fleet Street, they heard the sound of horses' hoofs approaching at a somewhat rapid rate. They drew on one side, when a faint cry of "Help! help!" reached their ears.
"Come on, Wenlock," shouted the captain, rushing on. Directly before them they saw the outlines of two horses and several persons apparently struggling on the ground. The sounds of "Help! help!" again reached their ears.
"Here is help to whoever is in the right," cried Christison, drawing his sword.
"I am in the right; the others wish to kill me," said the same voice.
"No, no; he is a prisoner escaping from justice," growled a man in a rough voice.
"It is false! Help! I am the Duke—"
At that moment, a blow was heard, and the speaker was felled to the ground.
"I take the weakest side," cried Christison, attacking the other men, who now, drawing their swords, attempted to defend themselves. The old officer, a dextrous swordsman, disarmed the first, sending his weapon flying to the other side of the street. The next he attacked, giving him a severe wound on the arm. Young Wenlock, who, according to the fashion of the times, also wore a sword, joined in the fray, and made so furious an onset on the third fellow, who was at that moment about to run his weapon into the body of the prostrate man, that he compelled him to draw back. Placing himself across the body, he kept the fellow at bay, till another wound which his father bestowed on his antagonist made him retreat; when, the sound of carriage-wheels being heard in the distance, the three fellows, leaping on their horses, took to flight, leaving Christison and Wenlock masters of the field; the fallen man, only slightly stunned, had been slowly recovering; and when Christison stooped down to help him up, he was able, without much difficulty, to rise to his feet.
"Thanks, my friends, whoever you are," he said. "I observed the brave way in which you attacked my dastardly assailants; and I observed also the gallant manner in which this young gentleman defended me, when one of them would have run me through the body. To him I feel, indeed, that I am indebted for my life."
In a country house near Wanstead, in Essex, one of England's bravest admirals,—Sir William Penn,—lay on a bed of sickness. By his side stood a grave-looking gentleman in a scarlet cloak, and huge ruffles on his wrists.
"Tell me honestly, Master Kennard, whether you deem this sickness unto death?"
"Honestly, Sir William, as you ask me, I confess that you are in a worse state than I have before known you. At all events, it behoves you to make such preparations as you deem important, should you be summoned from the world."
"It is enough; I understand you, my friend," said the admiral, with a smile. "I would rather it were so. I am weary of the world, and am ready to leave it; but there is one who seems but little able to watch over his own interests, and, I fear me much, will be subjected to many persecutions in consequence of the opinions he has of late adopted. I would therefore ask you to indite a letter in my name to our gracious Sovereign and his royal brother, that I may petition them to extend to him those kind offices which they have ever shown to me. The Duke of York is his godfather, as you know; and, whatever may be his faults, he is an honest man, and will fulfil his promises. You will find paper and pen on yonder table. I pray thee perform this kind office for me."
Dr Kennard did as he was requested, and forthwith the letter was despatched by a trusty hand to London. Soon after it had been sent off, a servant announced that Master William Penn had just arrived, and craved permission to see his father. Grief was depicted on the countenance of the young man when he entered his father's chamber. He had just had an interview with his mother, and she had told him that all hopes of the admiral's recovery had been abandoned by his medical attendants. He knew not how his father might receive him. Although, when they last parted, the admiral's feelings had been somewhat softened towards his son, yet he had not even then ceased to blame him for the course he had pursued. Sir William Penn had already received numerous rewards and honours for the services he had rendered to his sovereign, and he had every reason to believe that he would have been raised to the peerage. His son William had, however, refused to accept any title, and he had therefore declined the honour for himself. He was now, however, at the early age of forty-nine, struck by a mortal disease, and he had begun to estimate more truly than heretofore the real value of wealth and worldly honours.
When William entered, he put out his hand.
"I thank Heaven, son William, you have come back to see me ere I quit this troubled scene of life," said the dying admiral. "I once wished to know that my son was to become a peer of the realm, the founder of a great family; but such thoughts have passed away from me. I now confess, William, that you have 'chosen the better part.' Your honour and glory no man can take away from you. In truth, I am weary of this world, and, had I my choice, would not live my days over again, for the snares of life are greater than the fears of death."
The affectionate son expressed his joy at hearing his father speak thus. The admiral smiled.
"Yes," he said, "our thoughts change when we see the portals of death so close to us. With regard to you, William, I am satisfied; but for our unhappy country I cannot cease to mourn. Alas! what fearful profligacy do we see in high places: vice and immorality rampant among all classes; the disrepute into which the monarchy and all connected with it have justly fallen; and the discredit into which our national character has been brought abroad."
William almost wept tears of joy when he described his father's state of mind to his mother. They could now converse freely on important matters. One day, while his son was with the admiral, two letters were brought him.
"Here," he said, "read them, son William, for my eyes are dim."
The young man took the letters.
"Indeed, father, they are such as should satisfy us," he said. "This one is from the king, who seldom puts pen to paper. He promises largely to protect me from all foes, and to watch over my interests. He expresses great regret at hearing of your illness, and wishes for your recovery. The other, from the Duke of York, is to the same effect. He speaks of his friendship to you for many years; and his sincere desire is, to render you all the service in his power. Therefore, with much satisfaction he undertakes the office of my guardian and protector when I am deprived of you. There is a kind tone throughout the epistle, for which I am duly grateful."
William then read both documents to his father, who desired to hear them. Still the admiral's constitution was good, and hopes were entertained that he might recover.
"My children," he said, calling his son and daughters to his bedside, "I have but a few days to live,—I know it. I leave you some worldly wealth, but that may be taken from you. I would leave you my counsel, of which no man can deprive you. There are three rules I would give you, which, if you follow them, will carry you with firmness and comfort through this inconstant world. Now listen to me. Let nothing in this world tempt you to wrong your conscience; so you will keep peace at home, which will be a feast to you in the day of trouble. Secondly, whatever you design to do, lay it justly, and time it seasonably, for that gives security and despatch. Lastly, be not troubled at disappointments, for if they may be recovered, do it; if they cannot, trouble is vain. If you could not have helped it, be content. There is often peace and profit in submitting to Providence; for afflictions make wise. If you could have helped it, let not your trouble exceed your instruction, for another time."
These rules, the admiral's son laid to heart; and, as his after life showed, they were never forgotten. William was greatly rewarded for all he had gone through by hearing his father at length thoroughly approve of his conduct.
"My son, I confess I would rather have you as you are, than among those frivolous and heartless courtiers who beset our sovereign. Their fate must be miserable. They are bringing reproach and ruin upon our country; and albeit, though I wish to die as I have lived, a member of the Church of England, yet I am well-content that you, my son, should be guided by the principles you have adopted; and I feel sure that if you and your friends keep to your plain way of preaching, and also keep to your plain way of living, you will make an end of priests to the end of the world." Almost the last words the admiral uttered were: "Bury me near my mother. Live all in love. Shun all manner of evil. I pray God to bless you; and He will bless you."
The spirit in which the admiral died, greatly softened the poignancy of the grief felt by his wife and son. The funeral procession set forth towards Bristol, where the admiral had desired to be buried, in Redcliffe Church, where a monument, still to be seen, was raised to his memory. William Penn was now the possessor of a handsome fortune inherited from his father. With youth, a fine appearance, fascinating manners, well acquainted with the world, numerous friends at court, and royal guardians pledged to advance his interests, he, notwithstanding, resisted all the allurements which these advantages offered to him, and set forth through the country, travelling from city to city, and village to village, preaching the simple gospel of salvation.
In a picturesque village in Buckinghamshire, called Chalfont, a young gentleman on horseback might have been seen passing up the chief street. There were but few people moving about at that early time of the morning. At length he saw one advancing towards him, who, though dressed in sober costume, had the air of a gentleman.
"Friend," said the young horseman, "canst tell me the abode of Master Isaac Pennington?"
"Ay! verily I can," answered the pedestrian; "and, if I mistake not, he to whom I speak is one who will be heartily welcome. His fame has gone before him in this region, remote as it is from the turmoils of the world. Thou art William Penn; I am Thomas Elwood, a friend of the family. Their abode is the Grange, which they have rebuilt and beautified. Further on, at the end of the street, is the dwelling of one known to all lovers of literature,—John Milton. And here is my cottage, where thou wilt be always welcome."
"Thanks, friend Elwood," said William Penn, dismounting from his horse. "If thou wilt show me the Grange, I will thank thee, and accept at another time thy hospitality."
"I am bound thither myself," said Elwood, "and I shall enjoy thy society on the way."
On reaching the Grange, William Penn found assembled in the breakfast parlour several guests. The lady of the house was Lady Springett, the widow of a Parliamentary officer; she had some years before married Isaac Pennington, both having adopted the Quaker principles. But there was one person present who seemed more especially to attract the young Quaker's attention. She was the daughter of Lady Springett; her name, Gulielma Maria, though addressed always by her family as Guli. William Penn had not been dreaming of love, but he at once felt himself drawn towards her; and before he left the Grange he acknowledged to himself that she had the power of adding greatly to his worldly happiness. Again, however, he went forth on his mission, but he frequently returned to Chalfont, and at length the fair Guli promised to become his wife.
We left Captain Christison and his son just as they had gallantly rescued the stranger who had been set upon by ruffians in one of the principal thoroughfares of London. They had scarcely time to proceed far with him before they met a carriage accompanied by a couple of running footmen.
"O my lord duke! Are you safe? are you safe?" exclaimed the men.
"No thanks to your bravery, varlets," answered the nobleman. "Had it not been for these gentlemen, you would probably have never seen me again alive. And now, gentlemen," he said, turning to the captain and his son, "let me beg you will take a seat in my carriage, that I may convey you to your abode; or, if you will, honour me by coming to my mansion, that I may thank you more particularly for the essential service you have rendered me. I am the Duke of Ormonde. I was seated in my carriage, not dreaming of an attack, when two men suddenly opened the door, dragged me out, and, before my attendants could interfere, one of them, a powerful fellow, hoisted me up on the saddle before him. I struggled, and had just succeeded in bringing him with myself to the ground, when you came up. Why I have been thus assaulted I cannot tell, but I fear that it was in consequence of the animosity of some political opponents."
"Thank you, my lord duke," answered Christison. "We are lodging in the City, and I would not wish to take your grace so far out of your way, nor can we intrude upon you at this hour of the evening; but to-morrow morning we will, with your leave, wait on your grace. We have met before, though perhaps the recollection of the circumstances may not be altogether pleasant. I will not therefore now speak of them, though, as your grace at present sits on the upper end of the seesaw, you may look back on those days without annoyance."
"As you will," said the duke; "but you have not given me your name, and I should wish to recollect one who has rendered me so essential a service."
"Wenlock Christison,—an old soldier, an it please your grace," said the captain, introducing his son at the same time.
"Ah! ah! now I recollect you well, Captain Christison," answered the duke, "and truly I bear you no grudge because you sided with those I considered my foes; but let bygones be bygones, and I shall be very glad to see you again."
Saying this, with the help of his attendants, the duke entered his carriage, shaking hands very warmly with Wenlock. "I owe you a heavy debt, young gentleman," he said, "and one I shall at all times be glad to repay, and yet consider that I have not paid you sufficiently."
"A fortunate meeting," said Captain Christison to his son, as they walked on together. "The Duke of Ormonde is a powerful nobleman, and a truly upright and honest gentleman at the same time. What he promises he will fulfil. It is more than can be said of most of those in King Charles's court. Take my advice, Wenlock. Do not let this opportunity of gaining a good position in the world pass by. I do not suppose that he will offer me anything, but if he does, I shall be inclined to accept it. You see, Wenlock, our finances are far from being in a flourishing condition. I cannot turn to trade like my friend Mead, as I have no knowledge of it. In truth, as our family have always followed the calling of arms, or one of the liberal professions, I am not much disposed to yield to my worthy friend's arguments, and sheathe my sword for ever. I cannot understand why people should not be soldiers, and at the same time honest men and Christians."
"I will have a talk with Mistress Mary Mead on the subject," answered Wenlock, "when next we meet. At the same time I desire to follow your wishes, father."
"I rather suspect that Mistress Mary's bright eyes will weigh somewhat in the balance with her arguments, Master Wenlock," said his father, with a laugh. "However, we will pay our visit to the duke, and if he throws fortune in our way, I see not why we should refuse to clutch it."
The next morning was bright and dry. The captain and his son set off to pay their intended visit to the Duke of Ormonde. Wenlock, in his new slash doublet and hose, with a feather in his cap and a sword by his side, looked a brave young gallant, as in truth he was.
His father gazed at him proudly. "It were a pity," thought the old soldier to himself, "to see the lad turn Quaker, and throw away the brilliant prospects he has of rising in the world. Such a chance as this may never occur to him again; for though I perchance might get him a commission in a troop of horse with myself, yet he would have many hard blows to strike before he could rise to fortune and fame, while a bullet might, long ere he reached them, cut short his career."
On arriving at the Duke of Ormonde's residence, they were at once shown into an ante-chamber, where two or three pages in attendance minutely scrutinised young Wenlock. They suspected, perhaps, from his manner and appearance, that he had come to take service with them. Courtesy, however, prevented them making any inquiries on the subject. After a short time, a gentleman came out of the duke's chamber and invited Captain Christison and his son to enter. His manner was especially respectful, and this evidently raised the visitors in the opinion of the young pages. The duke came forward and shook Captain Christison cordially by the hand. He received Wenlock in a still more kind manner. Then turning to a dignified young man by his side, he said, "Allow me to introduce you to my son Ossory. He desires also to thank you for the service you have rendered his father."
"Indeed I do, gentlemen," said Lord Ossory, coming forward; "and I only hope that this young gentleman will allow me to show my gratitude. Who the villains were from whom you rescued the duke we have been as yet unable to ascertain, but there can be no doubt that their purpose was to murder him; indeed, preparations for hanging some one were found made this morning under the gibbet at Tyburn; and coupling this with a threatening letter received a few days ago by the duke, we suspect that they intended to put him thus ignominiously to death."
Captain Christison made a suitable reply to these remarks of the duke and the earl. "As to myself," he said, "I have been a stranger to England for many years, and came home for the sake of seeing my native land again, and then taking service afloat or on shore, wherever I might find my sword acceptable, and my conscience would allow me."
"I understand you, my friend," said the duke; "and since old foes have shaken hands, and Roundheads and Cavaliers now unite together, I trust that you will not object to accept a company in my regiment. As senior captain, you will have the command; and as you have fought at sea, you will not object, I presume, to serve again on board ship, should a war break out. Lord Ossory, who is in the navy, desires to retain your son about his own person, should the young gentleman like to see something of the world. Otherwise, I should be glad to give him a post in my household."
"You overwhelm us with kindnesses, my lord duke," said Captain Christison. "For myself, nothing would suit me better than what you propose, and I must beg to leave my son to choose for himself. What say you, Wenlock? Do you wish to take time to think on the matter, or will you run the chance of seeing service under the noble Earl of Ossory?"
The worldly ambition of the old soldier, excited by the flattering remarks of the duke, imparted itself to Wenlock. Could he make up his mind to turn draper's assistant in the City, as he had been meditating doing yesterday, while so brilliant a prospect had opened itself up before him? The thought were ridiculous.
"I heartily accept the offer of the Earl of Ossory, my lord duke," he said, with a bow which could not have been surpassed had he been all his life at court. "I could not wish to serve under a more noble and gallant leader."
"I am glad it is so settled," said the Duke. "To be frank with you, Captain Christison, I remember you well, and the good service you did to the cause you advocated. I have not forgotten, either, the courteous way in which you treated me when I fell into your hands on the fatal field of Worcester; and, by my troth, the way the Cavaliers behaved on that occasion made me ashamed of my order and the cause I served. You tell me that you are lodging in the City. You can, however, move here as soon as you please. There are rooms for you both, and places at my table. In truth, after the dastardly attack made upon me last night, I shall be thankful to have two such trusty friends within call, for I know not when I may be again assaulted."
Thus invited, the captain and his son were glad to move that very evening to the duke's house; indeed, the few gold pieces remaining in the old soldier's purse reminded him that he must find some speedy means of replenishing it, or run the risk of having to live upon short commons. The captain had never been a prudent man, and Wenlock little thought what a hole the cost of his suit had made in his father's exchequer.
"And thou art going away on board a warship to fight and slay, and, alack! perchance to be slain," said Mary Mead, whose hand was held by Wenlock Christison. "It is sad to think of such cruel deeds, and sadder still that thou, Wenlock, should engage in such work. I had thought my father had shown thee the sinfulness of warfare, and that I might have said something to the same effect that might have moved thee."
"So you did, Mary; and when I am with you truly I feel inclined to play the woman, and, throwing up all my brilliant prospects, to join myself to your father or Master William Penn, and to go forth as they are wont to do to promulgate their doctrines."
"Nay; but that would not be playing the woman, surely," said Mary, reproachfully. "It is no woman's work they have to go through, although some women are found who boldly go forth even into foreign lands, and, in spite of danger and opposition, are not behind the men in zeal in the good cause."
"I am wrong, Mary, thus to speak. I should greatly have disappointed my father had I refused to serve under the Earl of Ossory; besides which, no other means are open to me of supporting myself. I must, I find, depend upon my sword; for my father now tells me, what I did not before know, that all his means are expended, and that without a profession I should be little better than a beggar."
"Alack! alack!" said poor Mary, and the tears came into her eyes. "For 'they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.' You know, Wenlock, too, that my father would gladly have found employment for you, if you would have accepted it."
This remark came home to Wenlock's heart. It was the truth, and he could not help acknowledging that he had preferred his worldly associates, and the so-called brilliant prospects offered to him by the earl, instead of becoming a haberdasher's apprentice, an humble Quaker, and the husband of the pretty Mary Mead. He still hoped, indeed, to win her. She had acknowledged her love for him, and he had built up many castles in the air of which she was to be the mistress. After serving a few years under Lord Ossory, he expected to rise in rank, and to come home with ample wealth, which would enable him to settle down on shore, and marry her. Master Mead had parted from Captain Christison somewhat coldly. He bade Wenlock farewell with a sigh.
"Thou hast been led to act as thou art doing by thy father, and I cannot blame thee," he said. "I had hoped better things of thee, and I would now pray that thy heart may be turned to the right way."
Mary was very sad after Wenlock had gone. He was frank and artless, good-looking, and of agreeable manners; and believing that he was about to join her sect, she had given her heart to him without reserve. He had come frequently to the house after he had taken service under Lord Ossory, though his duties had of late prevented his visits being as frequent as at first. Several months had thus passed away, his father having in the meantime joined the fleet under the Earl of Sandwich, one of the bravest of England's admirals at that time. He would have taken Wenlock with him, had not Lord Ossory desired that the young man should remain in his service. The morning after parting from Mary, Wenlock accompanied Lord Ossory to Portsmouth. Here a ship of sixty guns, the Resolution, was waiting to receive the earl as her captain.
Not till Wenlock was on board, and sailing out from Spithead past Saint Helen's, had he any notion whither the fleet was bound. He, with several other young men and boys, were occupants of part of the captain's cabin, which was devoted to them.
"You will see some service, Christison," said the earl. "I wish it were of a more worthy character than it is likely to prove. King Charles's exchequer is low, and we have been sent out here to capture a homeward-bound fleet of Dutch merchantmen expected shortly in the Channel. You heard the other day of the Dutch refusing to strike their flag when the Merlin yacht passed through their fleet with Lady Temple on board. Her captain fired in return, and was rewarded with a gold chain on his arrival at home. This is our pretence, a sorry one, I confess, for war."
The Resolution formed one of the fleet under Sir Robert Holmes, consisting altogether of some thirty-six men-of-war. Eight only had, however, been got ready for sea, and with these Sir Robert was about to take a short cruise outside the Isle of Wight, for practising the crews. Scarcely, however, had they lost sight of land before the Resolution, being to the westward, descried a fleet standing up Channel. She communicated the intelligence to the rest of the squadron. They were soon made out to be Dutch. The sea officers, after examining them carefully, declared that there were several men-of-war among them. On their approaching nearer, of this there was no doubt. Sir Robert Holmes, however, followed by the Resolution, stood gallantly towards them, when in addition to the seventy merchantmen expected, six stout men-of-war were perceived. Of the English ships five were frigates. The Dutch, who had timely notice of the intended attack, were prepared for battle, with their decks cleared, divided into three squadrons, each guarded by two men-of-war, and together forming a half-moon. Sir Robert approaching them, ordered them to strike their flags. On their refusing to do so, he fired a broadside into the nearest ship. They, however, lowered their topsails. Again he asked whether they would strike their flags. On their refusing, he again fired; and now the action became general.
Sir Robert especially attacked the ship of the Dutch commodore, while Lord Ossory attacked another commanded by Captain du Bois. For some hours the action continued, but so well did the Dutch defend themselves, that when darkness put an end to the fight, no material advantage had been gained. The next day, however, the English fleet being joined by four more frigates from Portsmouth, again attacked the Dutch. Lord Ossory gallantly boarded Captain du Bois' ship. Wenlock was among the first to dash on to the deck of the enemy. His swordsmanship served him in good stead. Many, however, of his companions were killed around him, and for some time he was left with but few followers on the enemy's deck. Lord Ossory, seeing the danger of his young officer, calling upon his men, led a fresh body of boarder on to the deck of the enemy. In spite however of his valour, they were driven back on board his own ship. Out of the whole Dutch squadron, indeed, when darkness again came on, only one man-of-war and three merchantmen had been captured. With these Sir Robert was compelled to return to port, the Dutchmen making good their escape.
"It was scurvy work," exclaimed Lord Ossory, as the ship came to an anchor. "Such is unfit for gallant gentlemen to engage in. I would rather sheathe my sword, and forswear fighting for the future, than to undertake again such a buccaneering business."
Wenlock, however, had got a taste for sea life. His gallantry in the action had been remarked, and was highly commended. When therefore the Royal James, on board which his father was serving under the Earl of Sandwich, came to an anchor, he begged that he also might join her. Through Lord Ossory's introduction, the admiral received him very courteously, and promised to look after his interests. The captain of the ship, Sir Richard Haddock, also expressed his satisfaction at having him on board.
The Royal James was one of the largest ships in the navy, carrying a hundred guns, and nearly one thousand men, including seamen and soldiers. Captain Christison, now in his element, was delighted to have his son with him, and well-pleased at the credit the young man had gained.
"You will see some real fighting before long, Wenlock," he observed. "Braver men than Lord Sandwich and his captain do not exist, and now this war with the Dutch has broken out we shall not let their fleets alone."
Some time after this, the English fleets, consisting of nearly a hundred sail, under the command of the Duke of York, the Earl of Sandwich being the admiral of the blue squadron, were lying at Spithead. War had been declared against the Dutch, in reality at the instigation of France, whose armies were at the same time pouring into Holland. Early in May, a French fleet of forty-eight ships, under the command of Count d'Estrees, arrived at Portsmouth, and soon afterwards he and the English together put to sea. After cruising about for some time in search of the enemy, they anchored in Sole Bay.
"Wenlock, before many days are over you will have seen a real sea-fight. The very thought of it warms up my old blood," exclaimed his father. "I know you will acquit yourself well; and if the enemy's fleet falls into our hands, as I doubt not it will, we shall have no cause henceforth to complain of want of money in our purses."
Alas! what would Mary Mead, what would her father and William Penn, have said to such sentiments?
The English and French fleets lay in Sole Bay, a brave sight, with flags flying and trumpets sounding from the different ships. Just as day broke on the 28th of May, numerous sail were seen dotting the horizon. On they came. There was no doubt that they were the ships of the Dutch fleet. The Duke of York threw out the signal for action; and the ships setting sail, some of them cutting their cables in their eagerness, stood out of the bay. The French, who were on the outside, were nearest to the Dutch. From the deck of the Royal James, no less than seventy-five large ships were discovered, and forty frigates. The fleet was commanded, as was well known, by the brave Admirals de Ruyter, Banquert, and Van Ghent. The French were first attacked by Admiral Banquert. And now the guns on both sides sent forth their missiles of death,—round shot and chain shot, the latter cutting to pieces the rigging and spars of their antagonists.
"See, Wenlock, those Frenchmen fight well," exclaimed Christison. "We must acquit ourselves in a like gallant way." This was said as the Royal James was standing into action, approaching a large Dutch ship called the Great Holland. "But see! what are they about? They are beating a retreat. Two or three of their ships remain in the enemy's hands. They have no stomach for the fight, that is clear; or, from what I hear, they are playing the game they have long done. It is the old story. They wish the Dutch and us to tear ourselves to pieces, and then they will come in and pick up the fragments."
Meantime, the Duke of York in the Saint Michael was engaged with Admiral de Ruyter, his ship being so severely handled that he had to leave her, and hoist his flag on board the Loyal London.
"Ah! we have enemies enough coming down upon us," exclaimed Christison, as the Royal James, at the head of the blue squadron, became almost surrounded by Dutch ships. The Great Holland was the first to lay her alongside, the Dutchmen, however, in vain endeavouring to board. Admiral Van Ghent next attacked her with a squadron of fire-ships. The brave Earl of Sandwich encouraged his men to resist, in spite of the numerous foes round him. Again and again the Dutchmen from the deck of the Great Holland attempted to carry the Royal James. Each time they were beaten back. Sometimes the earl put himself at the head of his men; at others Christison and his son repelling the boarders. All this time the other Dutch ships kept up a terrific fire on the Royal James. More than once the earl turned his eyes towards the remainder of the English fleet, but none of the ships seemed prepared to come to his assistance. The Englishmen were falling thickly; already many hundreds strewed the deck.
"When a man's destruction has been resolved on, it is easy to bring it about," observed the earl to his captain, Sir Richard Haddock, who stood by his side. "However, neither friends nor foes shall say that Edward Montagu failed in his duty to his country, or ceased to fight till the last." Saying this, he again cheered his men. Never did a crew fight with more fierce desperation than did that of the Royal James. Even the wounded refused to quit their guns, till they dropped at their quarters. A cheer at length arose from their decks. The Great Holland had been beaten off, and was retiring in a disabled state. De Ruyter, his person conspicuous on the deck of his ship, still assailed her however. At length a shot was seen to strike him, and he sank, apparently slain, to the deck.
For a short time the hard-pressed ship of the gallant admiral enjoyed a respite; but by this time she was reduced almost to a wreck, while six hundred of her brave crew lay dead or dying about her decks, with many of her officers, and several gallant gentlemen who had volunteered on board. Night was coming on, the constant flashes from the guns, however, showing the fury with which the fight was continued. Still the earl refused to retire from the combat. Christison and his son had hitherto escaped. "I have seen many fierce battles, Wenlock, but never one like this," said the old officer; "and our fighting is not over to-day. See here come more foes!" As he spoke, several ships were seen bearing down upon the Royal James, and now, opening their fire, they surrounded her with smoke. The four hundred survivors of her crew fought their guns with the same desperation as at first; but in the midst of the smoke a ship, approaching unperceived, grappled closely with her. Directly afterwards there was a cry of fire!
Flames were seen bursting forth from the enemy, now, when too late, known to be a fire-ship. In vain the crew endeavoured to free themselves from her, but the Dutch sent such showers of shot among them that many were killed in the attempt. Wenlock had been keeping near his father, who, for the first time since the commencement of the fight, acknowledged that they were in desperate circumstances. Scarcely had he spoken, when Wenlock heard a sharp cry by his side, and turning round, he saw his father falling to the deck. He lifted him up; but as he gazed in his countenance, he saw that those eyes which had always looked at him with affection were glazing in death.
"Father! father! speak to me," said Wenlock; but there was no answer. He laid him down on the deck. And now on every side the flames were bursting forth through the ports. Already the fore part of the ship was a mass of fire. Just then the brave Sir Richard Haddock received a shot in the thigh. He fell, but again raised himself to his feet: "Lower the boats, lads!" he shouted. "Ere a few minutes are over, no one will be able to live on board our stout ship. Where is the earl?"
"He went to his cabin," answered some one.
"Christison, come with me; we must get him into a boat. I fear he is wounded." Wenlock was obeying his commander, when just at that moment he felt a severe pang, and was conscious that a missile of some sort had passed through his side. In spite of his wound, however, he followed the captain. The earl was seated at the table, with a handkerchief over his eyes.
"My lord, a boat is in readiness, and we have come to conduct you to it," said Sir Richard.
"No, friend, no," answered the earl. "I cannot brook some bitter words spoken to me yesterday by the Duke of York. If my ship is to perish, I will perish with her."
In vain Sir Richard and Wenlock tried to persuade the brave earl to listen to reason. Already the crackling sounds of the flames were heard, and wreaths of smoke came driving into the cabin. Then came a terrific sound. Wenlock scarcely knew what had happened, when he found himself plunged into the water. He was a strong swimmer, and struck out for life. Near him was another man whose features, lighted up by the flames from the burning ship, he recognised as those of Sir Richard Haddock. He swam towards him.
"Leave me, Christison," he said; "I am desperately wounded, and cannot survive this night. You too I saw were wounded, and will have enough to do to save yourself."
"No, no, sir," answered Wenlock; "I see close to us a spar. It will support us till some help arrives. I will tow you towards it if you will float quietly."
Sir Richard did as he was advised, and in a short space of time Wenlock had placed him on the spar. It was not, however, sufficient to support both of them.
Another was seen at a little distance. Securing the captain to the first, Wenlock swam to the other. He had wished to remain by his captain, but by some means he perceived that they were gradually receding from each other. In vain he shouted to the ships nearest to him. The din of battle drowned his voice. First one tall ship, then another, went down. The whole ocean around seemed covered with fragments of wrecks and struggling men. Of the latter, one after the other, however, sunk below the surface. At length he saw several ships approaching him. Again he shouted. It seemed to him that one was about to run over him, and courageous as he was, he gave himself up for lost. Leaving the spar, he swam off, hoping thus to avoid her. She must have been hotly engaged, for her topmasts and all their rigging were hanging over the side. As the ship passed by, he caught hold of the rigging, and drawing himself up, found a firm footing. Though his wound pained him considerably, he still had sufficient strength to climb on board, not knowing as he did so whether he was to find himself among friends or foes.
Almost exhausted, pale as death, the blood flowing from his wound opened by the exertions he had made, Wenlock Christison dropped down on the deck of the stranger, not knowing whether he was to find himself on board an English or Dutch ship. The condition of the ship showed that she had been hotly engaged, for numbers of dead men lay about her blood-stained decks. From their appearance, as the light of the lanterns occasionally glanced on them, Wenlock at once saw that they were Dutch. Dutch was among the languages with which he was acquainted, having met many Hollanders in America.