ANDREW GOLDING: A Tale of the Great Plague.
ANNIE E. KEELING
INTRODUCTION.—HOW I, LUCIA DACRE, CAME TO WRITE THIS HISTORY
I. HOW WE WERE VISITED BY TWO OF OUR KINSFOLK, OUR FATHER BEING DEAD; AND HOW THEY BEHAVED THEMSELVES TOWARD US
II. HOW WE JOURNEYED UP TO YORKSHIRE; AND HOW WE WERE WELCOMED THERE
III. HOW MR. TRUELOCKE PREACHED HIS LAST SERMON IN WEST FAZEBY
IV. HOW HARRY TRUELOCKE LEFT US FOR THE SEA
V. HOW ANDREW MADE ONE ENEMY, AND WAS LIKE TO HAVE ANOTHER
VI. HOW MR. TRUELOCKE AND MRS. GOLDING LEFT US
VII. HOW ANDREW CAME TO THE GRANGE BY NIGHT
VIII. HOW A STRANGE MESSENGER BROUGHT US NEWS OF ANDREW
IX. HOW WE WENT UP TO LONDON, AND FOUND NO FRIENDS THERE
X. HOW WE DWELT IN A HOUSE THAI' WAS NOT OUR OWN
XI. HOW THERE CAME NEW GUESTS INTO THE HOUSE
XII. HOW WE SAILED FOR FRANCE IN THE 'MARIE-ROYALE'
CONCLUSION.—HOW LUCIA DWELLS IN ENGLAND, AND ALTHEA OTHERWHERE
HOW I, LUCIA DACRE, CAME TO WRITE THIS HISTORY, AT THE TIME THAT I WITH MY SISTER WAS LODGED IN A DESERTED HOUSE IN LONDON, WHEN THE GREAT PLAGUE WAS AT ITS HEIGHT; WHICH WAS IN THE MONTHS OF JULY AND AUGUST, ANNO SIXTEEN HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FIVE.
Now that my sister and myself are in such a strange melancholy case, and I enforced to spend many hours daily in idleness, I find the time hang very heavy; for I cannot, like Althea, entertain any longer the hopes that brought us hither. She continues daily to make great exertions in pursuing them, but does not often admit my help; and, being afraid that I may fall into mere desperation, I have bethought me how to amuse some hours daily by setting down the manner of our present troubles and the beginnings that led to them. May I live to write of their happy end! but my fears are very great, and almost forbid me to pray thus.
Having thus resolved how to beguile the heavy time, I began spying about for paper and pens and ink; and finding in a kind of lumber room a great many sheets of coarse paper, I stitched them together; then with much trembling I peeped into the study of the late poor master of the house, and there found a bundle of quills and some ink; and, leaving money in his desk to the full value of the things I took, I carried my writing-tools into the great front parlour, and set myself to the work.
Now while I sat considering how to begin, Althea comes softly behind me, and, looking over my shoulder, asks me what I would be at; and when I told her, 'What, child,' says she, 'art going to turn historian? Thy spirits are more settled than mine, if thou canst sit quietly down to such work, with sights like these daily before thine eyes,' pointing with her hand to the window. Now I had pulled the table into a corner well out of sight from the street, wishing not to be discerned; for as yet but one knows of our being hidden in this house, and we would fain keep it a secret still. But rising and following with my eyes her pointing hand, I could behold a sight common enough, but too dismal to be looked on without fresh apprehension each time: in the middle of the street, which is quite grown with grass, a horse and cart standing, no driver in sight near it, and the cart as we too well knew being that which goes round daily to take away such as die of the Plague, though as it then stood we could not discern if any dead person lay in it.
'It is waiting for our neighbour next door,' says Althea. 'As I stood by an open casement up-stairs I plainly heard the family bemoaning themselves because the master is dead; I heard also how they are devising to get away unobserved in the early morning, and escape to some place of safety in the country. How sayest thou, Lucy? were it not well for thee to go also in their company?'
'Never I, while you stay here,' I answered.
'It repents me often,' she said, 'that I discovered to you my design of coming up hither. I would you were safe at home again.'
'I have no home, but where you are,' said I.
'Poor faithful little heart!' she says, sighing. 'Well, get on with thy history-writing; I must go forth presently, when all is quiet again; and when I return thou shalt show me what thou hast written. Tell the tale orderly, Lucy; begin at the beginning with "Once upon a time there lived two sisters; the elder was a fool, but the younger one loved her"'—and before I could say a word she had slipt away.
I sat awhile, too much disquieted to write, listening against my will for the heavy sounds that told how the dead man next door was being carried forth and laid in the cart; but the thing lumbered away at last, its cracked bell tinkling dolefully; and I found courage to take to my work.
But to begin at the beginning is not so easy, especially for one so unskilful with her pen as I. And who shall say what are the beginnings of the things that befall us? Perhaps they lie far off, long before our little life itself began.
HOW WE WERE VISITED BY TWO OF OUR KINSFOLK, OUR FATHER BEING DEAD; AND HOW THEY BEHAVED THEMSELVES TOWARD US.
Think, however, that the troubles that now lie upon us might not have been ours had not our father died when he did, which was the cause of our being taken into the house of our mother's sister, Mrs. Margaret Golding;—a happy thing we then thought it, that she would receive us, for we were in great straits;—so I will begin my history at that sad period.
Our father, William Dacre, was indeed a gentleman, born to a competent estate, and married into an honest stock and to some fortune, but his fair prospects were all blighted and our mother's money well-nigh wasted before he died. To his great loss, he stood steadily for the king against the Parliament all through the late Rebellion, as he would ever call it; and, our mother's people being very stiff on the other side, and she dying while we were little children, we were sundered from them while our father lived. He took such care of us as he could, striving to breed us up like gentlewomen; sometimes we lived with him in London lodgings, sometimes were left at his manor-house of Milthorpe; but the last two years of his life were very uneasy to him and to us.
For when the young king, Charles the Second, was brought in again, five years agone, our father was drawn up to Court by some I will not name, who tempted him with hopes of preferments and rewards to recompense his loyalty. He wasted his means much through the ill counsel of these false friends, but obtained no fruit of their promises, and at last he died suddenly; whether broken-hearted or not I leave to the judgment of God, and to the consciences of the men who for their own ends had betrayed him into those vain expectations. At that time Althea was barely nineteen, and I a little past sixteen; we had no brother nor other sister.
We were then at Milthorpe; and thither our father was brought to be buried. That was a black time for us. Though lately we had been kept apart from our father, we loved him dearly, and we knew of no other friend and protector. And when the funeral was over we could not tell which way to turn; for we found our father's land must needs pass to the next male heir, Mr. John Dacre, our distant cousin. He, I know not how, had contrived to thrive where our father had decayed, and had gotten a good share of favour at the new Court.
My memory offers things past to me as if in separate pictures, this and that accident that befell us showing much more clear and bright than things quite as important which lie between. I remember but dimly all the sad time of our father's death and burial, the grief I myself felt, and all the bustle and stir about us, making those days cloudy to me; but all the more plainly I remember a certain day that followed the funeral, when Althea and I were sitting together in a little parlour where we had been wont to sew,—I weeping on her neck, and she trying to turn my thoughts from my grief with planning how we two should live,—when, the door opening, some one came briskly in who called us by our names.
'What, Althea! what, Lucy! All in the dumps, and not a word to say to your mother's own sister?' and, in great surprise, we looked up on our aunt, whom we had seen but once since our mother died, when we were quite little. She was looking kindly on us; her eyes were quick, black, and sparkling, but had something very tender in them at that moment. I noticed directly how plain she was as to her clothes, wearing a common country-made riding-suit, all of black, and how her shape was a little too plump for her low stature, while her comely face was tanned quite brown with the sun; but methought the kind look she bent on us was even sweeter because of her homely aspect. So I got up and ran to her, holding out both my hands; but she took me into her arms, and kissed me lovingly, saying,—
'Poor lamb! poor fatherless, motherless lamb! thou shalt feel no lack of a mother while I live.'
Then, holding me in one arm, she stretched out the other hand to Althea, who had come up more slowly, and she said,—
'And you too, my fair lady-niece; I have room in my heart for the two of you, if you will come in;' on which the water stood in Althea's eyes, and she took our aunt's hand and kissed it, saying,—
'God reward you, madam, for your goodness to us desolate orphans! I receive it most thankfully.'
'That's well,' quoth our aunt cordially. And she proceeded to tell us how, when she got the news of our father's death, she made haste to come down to Milthorpe. 'Not that I hoped,' said she, 'to be here in time for the burying; but it was borne in on my mind there should be a friend of our side of the house to stand by you. Is Mr. Dacre here?'
'He came down to the funeral,' said Althea, 'and hath spoken to us on some small business matters; but he has been constantly out of the house, riding about the estate, and so we have seen little of him.'
As she said this the door opened again, and our cousin, the new master of Milthorpe, entered. I had scarce noted his looks, being drowned in my grief at the time when, as Althea said, he had talked with us on business, accounting to us for some moneys, the poor wreck of our fortunes, which had been lodged in his hands; but I now thought what a grand gentleman he looked in his rich mourning suit; and indeed he was of a very graceful appearance, and smiled on us most courtly. He held his plumed hat in his hand, and, bowing low to our aunt,—
'I am much honoured,' said he, 'that Mrs. Golding should grace my poor house with her presence before I have had time to sue for it. Will it please you, ladies, to step into the dining-parlour and sit down with me to a homely refection I have ordered to be spread there? I must return to-day to town; so if Mrs. Golding will bestow half an hour of her time on me to talk over some needful matters, I shall take it as a favour.'
Mrs. Golding bent her head to him, saying, 'At your pleasure, sir;' and we followed to the dining-room, where we found what I should have called a plentiful dinner, but Mr. Dacre kept excusing its meanness at every dish he offered us. This was very grating to Althea, seeming a reflection both on our ways at Milthorpe and on our poor old faithful servants; and Mrs. Golding liked it no better. I saw her turning very red; and at last she said bluntly,—
'The dinner is all very well, and I think Margery cook needs not so many excuses; so will you please leave speaking of meats and drinks, and turn to the needful matters you spoke of instead?'
'I might have chosen,' says Mr. Dacre, 'to talk to you in private first about those things; but perhaps it's as well my fair cousins should hear at once what I have to say. I am a married man, as you know, Mrs. Golding; and my wife loves the town, and cannot endure to hear of a country life. I have no hope she will ever live at the Manor here. But I will not let it; and I shall want it kept in good order against my coming down, which will be frequent. So if my cousin, Mistress Althea, likes to remain here as housekeeper, she will be very welcome.'
'And what do you think of paying her for her services?' said our aunt.
Mr. Dacre lifted his eyebrows, and looked at her as if much surprised. 'She would have meat and lodging free,' said he, 'and servants to do her bidding. Also, if she can make anything by keeping of a dairy, or of fowls, or selling of fruit from the gardens, or such like devices of country dames, I shall ask no account of her gains; and if her management pleases me, I shall find a broad piece for her from time to time, I doubt not; so she may do very well.'
'And is her sister, Mistress Lucia, to dwell in your house and receive your bounty also?' said Mrs. Golding.
'That made no part of my plans,' said he, smiling and bowing. 'I shall hardly need two housekeepers here.'
'Then it may chance you must look otherwhere for your one housekeeper,' said Mrs. Golding. 'What sayest, Althea? Wilt be parted from thy sister that thou mayest have the honour of keeping house for so liberal a kinsman and master? or wilt go with Lucy and me to my farm, at West Fazeby, where you two shall be to me as daughters? for I am a childless widow, and will gladly cherish you young things. The choice lies before you, Althea.'
Althea was now red as any rose; and the tears' that had been in her eyes seemed turned to sparks of fire. She rose from the table and made a deep curtsey to Mr. Dacre.
'I am exceeding grateful for your preference of me,' she said; 'but seeing I am only a young maid, and inexpert in the management of a house, I must beg to refuse your princely offer'—she spoke with infinite scorn—'and betake myself instead to the home Mrs. Golding will give me, where I may improve myself, and become fitter in time, both in years and skill, for some such post as you would now prefer me to.' She stopped and panted, being quite out of breath.
Mr. Dacre did but lift his eyebrows again and say, 'As you will, madam,' and then begged she would sit down and finish eating; but she remained standing, and looked pitifully at Mrs. Golding; on which our aunt rose also, and I doing the same,—
'You go to town to-day, I think you said?' questioned Mrs. Golding; 'we will therefore take our leave of you now, not to importune you further. My nieces and I will endeavour to be gone from here to-morrow, so please you to endure their presence in their father's house until then; for you must think it will ask a few hours for them to remove their apparel and other goods.'
'Assuredly, madam; they have full liberty,' said Mr. Dacre, rising and bowing, and, for a wonder, looking a little abashed.
'And I think it were well we lost no time,' continued our aunt.
So we took our leave of him gladly enough, and I think he was full as glad to have us go; and we went back to the little parlour.
'I guessed what sort of kindness John Dacre would show you,' said our aunt, looking at us with a smile. 'Your father, my sweet maidens, of whom you have a heavy loss indeed, was of a much nobler nature than this his kinsman; and it's doubtless for that reason that one of them has thriven in the bad air where the other could not thrive, but perished;' and then came tears into her lively black eyes, and she was fain to sit down and weep awhile, in which we bore her company.
Then Althea wiped her eyes, and said, with a trembling voice,—
'I cannot think, however, why our cousin should make so strange a proffer to me—one so unfitting for a well-taught maiden to accept.'
'He made it that you might refuse it, child,' said our aunt. 'Now he can truly say he was willing to do somewhat for you, and that you would none of it, but thought scorn of his goodwill. It hath ever been his way to get much credit for little goodness. Well, Lucy, child, what art thinking of?'
'I was thinking,' stammered I, surprised with her question,—'I was thinking that the day is not so far spent but we could get away from Milthorpe before night. I wish not to sleep under Mr. Dacre's roof again.'
'That might be managed,' said Mrs. Golding; 'I left my horses and my men at the little inn in your village, where I had some thought of sleeping myself. And yet it's but a little inn; nor should I care to turn Andrew out of his lodging even to please thee, pretty Lucy. No, child; put thy hand to some work and thy pride in thy pocket, and submit even to spend one night in the house of an unkind kinsman. He will not be in it, thou knowest; see where he rides out of the gate.'
So I looked and saw Mr. Dacre riding off, a very grand gentleman on his tall black horse, with his men, also well mounted, following him.
'He will be in town before nightfall,' quoth Mrs. Golding.
It did not seem so insupportable to stay one more night in our old home, now its new master had left it; but I was in haste to be gone for all that, and Althea too; so we fell to work with great eagerness, gathering all our own possessions together and packing them for removal; while Mrs. Golding helped us with her hands and her counsel; and so well we worked that the sun had not gone down before we had all in readiness for our departure in the early morning; for it was the height of summer, and the days therefore long. Then Mrs. Golding would have us take her into the garden and show us what used to be our mother's favourite walks and alcoves; there was a good prospect of the house from one of them, and she stood some time regarding it.
'It's a stately place,' said she,—'a very noble house indeed, and a fair garden too. Your mother had a pride in it once, I know; and there was a time when it would have grieved her sore to think how her children should leave it. But what signifies that to her now?—a happy, glorified spirit, who may scorn the transitory riches and joys of this poor world, which are far outvalued by one ray shining on us from the Father of Lights. At His right hand are pleasures for evermore.'
Althea and I looked on each other surprised, for we had then heard little of that kind of talk; and, our aunt espying it,—
'Ah, children,' she said, 'I have learnt a new language since I saw you, and I see you know it not; but your mother could speak it before I could. I think thou art most like her, Lucy; there is more of your poor father about Althea.'
I looked at Althea and thought Mrs. Golding was not much mistaken; for if I were to write my sister's description, it would need but the change of a word or two to make it pass for a portrait of my father. Like him, she is tall and slender and well-shaped; her complexion pale and clear, her hair almost black, very thick, softer than the finest silk, and curling in loose rings at the ends; her brows and eyelashes black also, but her eyes a blue-grey, appearing black when she is much moved or in deep thought; and she moves with admirable grace, showing a kind of nobleness in all her carriage. Myself am of low stature, and of shape nothing like so slender; indeed one hath told me I am dark and round as a blackheart cherry; so I could well think that at Mrs. Golding's years I should be very like her, though perhaps less comely.
Mrs. Golding was still comparing us with each other and speaking of our parents, when I was aware of a tall man coming up to the garden gate; and my aunt, turning as she heard the latch clink, cried,—
'Ah, here is Andrew! he will have come to have my orders for the night; I think we may welcome him in, nieces.' So she stepped to him, and taking him by the hand led him to us. 'This,' quoth she, 'is my husband's nephew and mine, but he is something more—he is my steward and my heir. I hold him for my son; I were but a lost woman without him. He would not hear of my coming to Milthorpe with no company but that of my serving-men, but must needs be my conductor himself; so precious a jewel as I was sure to be lost in the hedges otherwise;' and she laughed cordially. 'And, Andrew, these are two poor fatherless girls, Althea and Lucia Dacre by name; fatherless, I say, but not motherless, for I am their mother from this day forth, and so they are your sisters; see you use them kindly.'
Andrew coloured up to his hair, and bowed to us, with some confused words about the honour of being as a brother to such gentle ladies; then he turned to her and they talked of our morrow's journey, and how our mails should be conveyed; and Mrs. Golding, telling him she would sleep at the Manor, bade him be early at the gate with horses for us; 'for we have many a mile to go,' she said to us; 'and make what speed we may, we shall be a day or two on the road.'
And Althea spoke very prettily to Mr. Golding, praying him to sup with us; but he excused himself, still in a confused and disturbed way, and went away.
While he stood and talked I was able to take note of his aspect, and I thought he looked a very homely youth indeed, after Mr. Dacre, though he was taller and of a better shape, and I believe a better face too; though burnt with the sun, and ruddy like a country-man, he had well-cut features and a full mild eye, with a right pleasant smile. But his garb was so ordinary, being of some dark cloth, and cut very plainly, and his hat with no feather in it, that though I had little cause to love Mr. Dacre, yet I wished our new friend was more like him outwardly, and thought I should then have been prouder to ride in his company. And Mrs. Golding praising him to us, and saying how good he was, and wise beyond his years, I thought it was pity such good people as he and she did not go handsomer; so little I knew of what belonged to goodness.
HOW WE JOURNEYED UP TO YORKSHIRE; AND HOW WE WERE WELCOMED THERE.
Though I remember so plainly what passed on our last day in Milthorpe Manor-house, I am not very clear about our journey up to Yorkshire, which was tedious enough. We kept to the king's highway, and yet were sometimes put in much fear of thieves, but happily we fell in with none; the only notable thing that befell us was in leaving a little market town, I cannot call to mind its name, where we had stopped to dine. We had ridden but a little way forth of the town when we heard a great din of shouting and hooting behind us, which made us women afraid; and presently a noisy rabblement of people came running up. They were chiefly of the baser sort, both men and women, some very ragged, and some red-faced and half tipsy; one or two gentlemen in laced coats rode among them. I thought at first they had some spite at us, but it proved not so. We drew to the wayside to let them pass, and they went by, very disorderly, yelling and swearing, the women not less than the men, pushing and hauling some poor creature dragged along in their midst. I looked earnestly to see who it might be, and presently discerned the person—a tall thin man, in a kind of loose garment girded about him, and I think it was made of some hempen stuff, a kind of sacking. This man was very pale, with longish dark hair hanging about his face, which, as I say, was pale indeed, but not dismayed; I think he even smiled when one struck him on the head, and another, pushing him, bade him, with a curse, go faster. I saw the blood trickling a little from the blow that had alighted on his head, as they hurried him past.
Andrew, who saw all this as well as I did, looked full of horror. He caught one of the hindmost of the rabble by the sleeve and asked him harshly, 'What has this man done, and whither are you taking him?' At which the man, turning towards us his red, jovial face, replies,—
'It's a mad Quaker, that took upon him this noon to stand up in our market-place, it being market day and every one mighty busy, and he tells us all to our face we were a set of cheating rogues, that he had marked our doings and seen how bad they were, and that he had a commission from God to bid us repent and amend, or a sudden dreadful judgment should fall on us. Didst ever hear of such a fool?'
'And what more did he,' says Andrew, 'to make you handle him so roughly?' at which the man stared and said,—
'Nay, what more needed there? Matters are come to a pretty pass if free Englishmen, who are pleased to cheat and be cheated according to the fashion of this world, mayn't do so neighbourly and kindly without some canting rogue starting up to control them. We bade him hold his peace for a mad ass, but he would not. So we judged his frenzy to be something too hot, and that a cold bath were good to cure it; and Squire, riding up and seeing the bustle we were in, offered us his own duck-pond for the ducking of our preacher. Stay me no longer! I shall lose the best sport;' and Andrew snatching at him again to make him stay, he broke from him and ran as hard as he could after the crowd, that was now got some way from us.
'You hear and see this, Mrs. Golding?' says Andrew, turning to her, his mild countenance grown dark with anger. 'There may be murder done yet, let me ride after and see what I can do to hinder it;' and setting spurs to his horse he galloped off after the rabble. We saw him pressing in among them, riding close up to the chief horseman, talking earnestly to him; then we saw no more of them, they going round the turn of the road; and Mrs. Golding, half frowning, half smiling, says,—
'It's ever so with Andrew! he cannot see mischief a-foot but he is all afire to stop it. I like it in the lad, but I wish yon poor fanatic had been content to stay at home and mind his own business, instead of crossing us so unluckily here.' She looked anxiously.
Presently Andrew comes back to us, riding pretty quickly, and Mrs. Golding called to him,—
'Now, my lad, hast not gone on a fool's errand this time also?' but he said smiling,—
'That is as you take it, good mother. Yon Squire has some humanity in him, and some wit; for when I began vehemently to urge how sinful were the murdering of yon poor man, he smiled and let me know his proffer of the duck-pond was but to get the man out of the hands of his ill-wishers, for he meant to draw the Quaker within his gates and then have them shut as if by mistake on the rabble, who were already growing aweary with the length of the way, and so were dropping off by twos and threes.'
'So thou hast had thy labour for thy pains?' says Mrs. Golding, smiling as one well pleased.
'Not altogether,' said Andrew, 'for the Squire wills us to turn into the byway here, and keep from the high road awhile, lest we meet the baser rascals coming back, in all their fury and disappointment.'
'Good counsel,' said Mrs. Golding; 'we will take it.' And so we kept to that byway for a mile or so; and it was rough uneasy riding, though a pretty green lane enough.
Althea said to me half aside, 'We had had none of these discomforts, if we had ridden as we were wont with our father, in a good coach like gentlewomen, and not a-horseback in the country fashion;' the first discontented word she had said, and Mrs. Golding hearing it,—
'Child,' said she, 'I cannot away with these coaches, they are proud lazy inventions, and nothing like so wholesome as this our old country fashion of travelling;' at which Althea blushed and said nothing more, and Mrs. Golding began pleasantly to chide Andrew for his hazarding of our safety as he had done, which had put Althea into these discontents; and he hung his head, smiling, and had not a word to say for himself. I should scarce have remembered this accident, or Andrew's behaviour on it, had it not been for things that befell after.
I was heartily weary of journeying by the time we got to West Fazeby; the way was long, the manner of travelling new to me, I had not so much as slept at an inn before, our former home being no great distance from town; and my company was not such as to shorten the way, for Aunt Golding was the only frank and cheerful-spoken person in our party, Althea behaving, as I told her, like an enchanted princess in a fairy tale, so melancholy, proud, and silent, and Andrew being so dashed with her stately ways that the poor youth was not less tongue-tied than she. So I was glad indeed when we rode out of York one fine morning, and Mrs. Golding told us we must reach her house before the day was out; in which she said no more than truth.
She having always talked of it as a poor farmhouse, our surprise was not little when we saw it at last. It stands a little away from the village; it is no great house, but is a right fair one to my thinking, built of red brick, with a great deal of wood, handsomely carved, about the gables and the porch; it is much grown with ivy, at which our aunt would often rail, but I think for all that she loved it, seeing it makes the house green and pleasant even in winter. And at the back, looking into the gardens and orchards, was a pleasant porch, a very large one, grown with roses as well as ivy, wherein Althea and I have spent many a happy hour in summer-time, sitting there with our needlework or our lutes. I can see it in fancy, and would very fain be in it, looking on our lily beds and green walks and arbours, instead of these hot and dreary streets. But it's too likely I shall never see West Fazeby or any other pleasant place on earth again.
A good comely man and woman, plainly habited like serving folks, came forth to greet Mrs. Golding, and she commended us to them much as she had done to Andrew, saying to us, 'These are Matthew Standfast and his wife Grace; good, kind souls, who look well to my house when I cannot do it. And how doth little Patience?' she went on to ask Dame Standfast; 'and have you seen aught of Mr. Truelocke while I have been gone?' and so chatting she led us into the hall, where we found a table ready covered, and the little Patience Standfast ready to attend us at it, a pretty child, fair-haired and blue-eyed, very civil and modest. We were not long in finding that she and her parents, with a serving-man or two, made all my aunt's household; and that she did very much work with her own hands, and would expect the like of us; a thing which displeased Althea not a little, but she said nothing of it, only to me, when we were got to our own chamber.
'And it is an odd thing,' she continued, when I did not reply, 'that Mrs. Golding should sit and should take her meals in the open hall, when there are one or two fair parlours more fitting for her occupation.'
'But the hall is a pleasant place,' I said; and indeed it was so to me, I hardly know why, being a very plain apartment, with a checkered pavement of blue and white stones, and furnished only with bright oaken tables and settles, and a great chair or two; also the great fireplace was well garnished with green boughs and flowers, it being summer. I looked all about it that evening as we sat in it chatting with our aunt, and was thinking I should always like it, plain as it was, when I was aware of two persons coming into the porch, one walking feebly like an old man, and one stepping firmly and strongly; and Mrs. Golding, springing up, ran forward to greet them, saying,—
'Welcome! welcome, good Mr. Truelocke! this is a greater kindness than I had hoped for;' so she drew into the light of our candles a reverend old gentleman, clad in a black gown; he had white hair hanging about his face, and in his hand a stout staff on which he leaned as he walked. There came at his side a young, strongly-framed man, in a seaman's habit, who, I thought, looked something like him, having the same strong features, but a clear, merry blue eye and brown curling hair; he was very watchful over the old gentleman, who seemed to move feebly. Our aunt greeted him kindly by the name of 'Master Harry,' and said, 'It's good of you to bring your father up so soon to welcome me,' whereon the young man smiled and said,—
'Nay, it is he that hath brought me; there was no holding him when he had heard of your return. I would gladly have kept him within doors, fearing the night damps for him;' and our aunt laughed also, and said to us,—
'Come, Althea, come, Lucy, and speak to my best friend, who was a good friend to your mother also; it is the parson of this parish, Mr. Truelocke, and this his son Harry, newly come home from the seas;' so we came up and greeted the old gentleman reverently, and his son as kindly as we might; and Mrs. Golding put Mr. Truelocke into a great armed chair, and sat looking at him with vast contentment. He looked at her and smiled a wonderfully sweet smile.
'Had you brought these young maids home a month or two later, Mrs. Golding,' says he, 'you could not truly tell them I was the parson of this parish or of any other. But we'll let that pass;' and turning to us he began to speak to us kindly and fatherly, pitying our afflictions, and bidding us praise and thank God, who had raised up so good a friend to help us. I was glad to hear his words, though they brought the tears into mine eyes; but our aunt sat impatiently, and presently broke in on his discourse, saying,—
'What mean you, sir, by telling me in a month or two you will be no parson of this parish? is there anything new?'
'Nothing, but the falling of a full-ripe fruit, that began to blossom two years agone,' says the old gentleman cheerfully; 'it hath been long a-ripening, 'twas time it should fall.'
'Give me none of your parables, good friend; I want plain speech,' cries our aunt; and Master Harry said bluntly,—
'Madam, it's all along of the new Act for Uniformity which was printed and set forth this last May. You were too full at that time of your apprehensions for these young ladies to be curious to read that mischievous Act; but, since it touches my father nearly, he mastered its meaning with great pains, and has thought of little else for many days; and the upshot of all this is, that next Bartholomew-tide he will go forth, like Abraham of old, to wander he knows not whither;' at which words Mrs. Golding sighed deeply, and sat as one amazed.
'It is even so, my kind friend,' said Mr. Truelocke, smiling.
'Well, I can't tell what you may think here of the matter,' went on Master Harry; 'but in my conscience, I think my father's conscience something too tender.'
'You speak like a man of this world, Harry,' says Andrew, who had come in, and was looking at the young man with frowning brows and angry eyes.
'How else would you have me speak?' says Harry. 'I am but a plain sailor, and I pretend not to know any world but this work-a-day world that I have to get my bread in. I leave the new worlds in the moon, or beyond it, to poets and madmen; and I'll tell you my mind of the matter, if you will hear me.
He stopped, and Mrs. Golding said, 'Speak your mind, Master Harry, it's ever an honest mind, and full of goodwill.'
'I will venture then,' said he, 'and do you bear with me, Andrew, and father too. I take it the Church of this country is a good ship that has to sail whither her owners will. A while since they were all for steering her straight to the Presbyterian port; now that voyage likes them not, and they would have her make for Prelacy. It's pity that the good ship has owners of such inconstant minds; but why should not the crew obey orders, and sail the ship as they are bid?'
'Wrong, all wrong, all wrong, Harry, my boy,' said the old man, with a groan; 'thou hast no spiritual sense of these things. How dare Christ's liegemen take their orders from the carnal rulers of this or any other country? Have I not seen the government of England change like the moon, ay, and more strangely? and shall I follow the changing moon as doth the faithless sea, ebbing and flowing in my zeal for truth like the tide? Nay verily! what was God's truth in Oliver's days is the truth of God still; and I will cleave to it.'
As I gazed at the old man's face, pale and wrinkled and awful, I thought that so might have looked the prophet Moses when he brake the tables of the Law. Mr. Truelocke's deepset dark eyes flashed fire under his long white eyebrows, which themselves seemed to stir and to rise and fall, as he spoke with great passion, and he struck his staff against the floor.
Althea was looking from one to another, something puzzled; presently her silver voice broke the silence that had fallen upon us; she said, 'All that you say is so dark to me, it makes me feel like a fool for my lack of comprehension; will you, madam, tell me in a few words what it is that troubles you and Mr. Truelocke?'
'It's our new masters, dear heart, who have been making of new laws,' said Mrs. Golding; and Andrew added instantly,—
'Our pastors, madam, must consent to renounce the Covenant, and must use the Common Prayer-Book as newly set forth by authority of King Charles the Second and his Parliament; or they must leave to preach and to pray in the churches called of England, and must renounce their livings too; and this by the twenty-fourth of August next, which the Papists and such-like cattle call St. Bartholomew's Day. That is the story in little of the doings which afflict our good mother and our reverend friend.'
'It's a dry short setting forth of the matter, friend Andrew,' said the old man.
'But is it a true one?' asked Althea.
'Yea,' said he, 'too true, this is the new law; but I shall, as I think, follow after the footsteps of godly Mr. Baxter; he hath already ceased preaching, that his weaker brethren, such as I, may be in no manner of doubt as to what he thinketh. I shall not change my mind twice, once having seen the great error of my early prelatical opinions,—as your good aunt knoweth I have seen it.'
'Well,' said Mrs. Golding, sighing heavily, 'we will pray you may have illumination from above. I cannot tell how we shall do, bereft of our father in Christ. But I dare not urge any man against his conscience. And now am I ashamed that you have been so long within my doors and I have yet set nothing before you. Lucy, Althea, come help me;' and she bustled about, and presently with our help had set a dish of strawberries and cream, with nuts and cakes and wine, before our guests. Mr. Truelocke ate but little, which grieved my aunt; and he would drink nothing but spring water. But Harry was gay enough for two. We could get him to touch nothing until he had both of us girls served, he saying we were greater strangers than he. And since I chose to eat nuts, he would do the same, and would crack all mine for me. He had a clever way of doing this with his hands only, which were small, but like iron for strength; I made a cup of my hands that he might pour the sweet kernels into it, and so doing we scattered some on the floor, and both dropt on our knees to pick them up, when I, being nimbler than he, had them all snatched up before he could touch one; then we both laughed heartily. I was startled to hear myself laughing, and looked at Althea; and she seemed to be regarding me with scorn as if she despised me perfectly, so I checked my laughing and sat down quite crestfallen.
Then Harry, sitting by me, half whispered, 'Now, sweet madam, if you did but know what music a heart-free laugh is to mine ears, you would not stop yours in the middle. I have no quarrel with my father's nor your aunt's piety, but there's too little laughing in it.'
'It's not piety that checks me now,' I said; 'do not credit me with more than I have; but a new-made orphan like me might well feel it something heartless to be very mirthful.'
'That's it, is it?' said he, looking comically from me to Althea, and then at me again. 'Now tell me, sweet lady, if you know any good reason why mirth should be a thing forbid to those who have had a cruel loss? If in the middle of a winter voyage, when the stormy winds do blow, we mariners should have one fair sunshine day, we don't spend it in bemoaning the black days that went before and the black days that will come after.'
'And what has that to do with me and my griefs?' asked I.
'Only this,' said he, 'that you should not be less wise than a sailor lad; think no shame to be glad when your heart bids you, whatever sorrows lie before or behind you. And I'll keep you in countenance, whenever I see your fair mournful sister reproving your gaiety with her eyes; but you must do the same by me with my father and your aunt. Is it a bargain? strike hands on it!'
He held out his hand, and I put mine into it—I could not help it; though I stole a look at Althea, but her attention was drawn away by Andrew, who was half timidly urging her to eat some more of Mrs. Golding's dainties; she would not, however; and presently Mr. Truelocke, who had been talking apart with Mrs. Golding, got up and would be going; so when he and Harry were withdrawn, we all went shortly to our beds, being very weary; and for my part I felt that I was in a new world I could not half understand; but there seemed some pleasant things in it.
I liked it better still as the days ran on. Country life at West Fazeby was more to my mind than ever it had been at Milthorpe. There we were waited on dutifully by kind old servants, and might not soil our fingers by any coarse work. Here I was taken into the dairy and the still-room, and instructed in their mysteries, and in many another useful household art; I might feed the pigeons and the other pretty feathered folk in the barnyard, and I got no reproof for my coarse tastes when I was found learning from Grace Standfast how to milk a cow, and making acquaintance with young foals and calves. There were prettier works too; gathering and making conserve of roses, and sharing in the pleasant harvest of the strawberry beds and the cherry orchard, or tossing of hay in the meadows. I will not deny that all these things were more pleasant to me that year than they have ever been since; partly because I was so new to them, and partly because Harry Truelocke often took part in them also. My merry and kind playfellow, I wonder if you have yet any heart for such simple pleasures? or if, in the midst of miseries and perils, you can still jest and laugh?
Althea went with me and shared in these occupations, except in the haymaking and the milking; but she did so with a grave and serious air, seeming to give her whole mind to the work, as if it were a task she had to learn, whereas I thought it but a delightful pastime that I loved in spite of its being profitable.
Mrs. Golding took no note, as it seemed, of Althea's sad and steadfast ways; but Andrew marked them, I could see, though, being daily busy with out-door matters and cares of our aunt's estate, he was but little in our company. When he was with us, he surrounded Althea with a careful, watchful kindness, treating her so reverently as if she were some sacred thing, and indeed never venturing to say much to her unless she spoke first; all which she never appeared to notice.
Now it is a strange thing that in this pretty peaceful time the stormiest day and the fruitfullest of future mischiefs should have been a certain Lord's Day, only a week or two after our coming. It was from Mr. Truelocke that I learnt to say 'the Lord's Day,' Sunday, said he, being a heathenish, idolatrous word, nor would he allow of the fashion of calling the day of rest 'the Sabbath.' 'We keep not holy,' said he, 'the seventh-day Sabbath of the people of Israel, but the first day made holy for us by the resurrection of our Lord;' and I saying idly to him, out of the poet Shakespeare, whom my father loved,—
'What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet,'—
he looked sternly, almost angrily on me, and said, 'Madam, what have ends of stage-plays, and the idle talk of a lovesick girl about her lover's name and the names of flowers,—I say, what have these vanities to do with a glorious divine thing like the Christian's Day of Rest? And believe me, there is much in names, too much in names. What a spell to conjure with is the name of King! and the name of Priest may make wild work in our poor England yet.'
I was dumb when he reproved me thus; and thinking of it after, I began to have some glimmering why this good man should resolve to give up his all, rather than use a Prayer-Book he deemed not according to right doctrine, since he was so earnest about the right name for one holy day. I found it to be a strong point with him, some of his flock murmuring at him about it, and saying how could we appeal to the Fourth Commandment if our holy day might not be called the Sabbath? But he cared not for their words; no, nor for king, nor for Parliament, compared with what he deemed right.
I used to wonder if his heart would have been so stout had he had wife and children to care for; but he had been many years widowed, and Harry, his only child, had carved his own way in the world, being now part owner of the ship he sailed himself.
But by whatever name folks called it, the Lord's Day in West Fazeby was then a sweet, religious, holy day, and I loved it. Alas, to think of the changes wicked men have made!
HOW MR. TRUELOCKE PREACHED HIS LAST SERMON IN WEST FAZEBY.
On that Lord's Day of which I spoke, the weather was fair and bright when we went to worship in the church where Mr. Truelocke still ministered. Week after week more people came to hear him, for the time was growing short, and he was much loved; so this day the church was thronged, and we had some ado to get to our own places. As I said, the day was fair enough when we set forth, a little too hot, indeed; but we had not been long at our prayers before there came a gloom and a darkness, making the church full of shadows; and I saw the sky through the windows of a strange greenish and coppery colour.
We were singing the hymn before the sermon, when I was aware of a tall man in a whitish garment standing directly below the pulpit, still as a stone; it seemed to me I had seen him once before. When the singing was done, and we were all in readiness to hear the sermon, this man suddenly stood up on the bench, so that even in the dusky light every one could see his tall white figure, and, looking up to Mr. Truelocke in the pulpit, he said,—
'May I have liberty to speak a few words to this people?'
'You have liberty,' said Mr. Truelocke; then, folding his arms on the desk, he leaned forward and looked very intently on the man, who had turned himself to face the people. They were all rustling and stirring in their places, very uneasy at the interruption. He stretched out his arms in the form of a cross, and began to speak in a full and rich voice, very musical, with strange changes in it; and always the sky grew darker in the great window behind him while he spoke.
'Friends,' said he, 'I have listened earnestly to your singing; and now I am constrained to speak to you and tell you the words you sang were very unsuitable to your state. For the words were those of holy, humble souls, who are athirst after God; and how many of you be there that could truly answer Yea, if one should ask whether you are come here because you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Is it not true that the best of you only take delight in the preaching of the man who stands in yon pulpit, because it is to you as a very lovely song of one that can play on a pleasant instrument? but you hear his words, and do them not. And there be some of you that only come here to display your gay apparel, caring not how foul you are within, if you are but fair without; and some of you appear here weekly, because it is a decent and seemly thing to be here, and you desire the praise of men, though you care not for pleasing God. Your religious worships and ways are vain, for they are made up only of speaking and singing other men's words, which are not yours, nor do ye mean them truly. You were better to sit in humble silence before God, waiting till His Spirit, that enlighteneth every man, should speak in secret to your spirit.
'And I have a word to thee, Emanuel Truelocke,' he continued, suddenly turning, lifting his long right arm and pointing his long finger towards Mr. Truelocke, whose pale countenance, framed in his long white hair, could still be seen looking quietly at him. 'I desire to speak to thee in love, and show thee the secret of thy ill success in thy ministerings to this worldly people, who have not the excellent spirit that I gladly acknowledge in thyself. The canker of gold has been on these ministerings of thine, for thou hast yearly taken hire for them; and therefore it is that so many of these people are cold and sickly in divine things. But the Lord hath had mercy on thee, and will take away from thee the mammon whereby thou hast been deceived; and for thy sake I rejoice in thy coming downfall'—
Here there began a mighty hubbub in the place. Men stood up on benches, shaking their sticks and clenched fists against the speaker; women cried, 'Shame on him! pull him down! have him away!' and many rushed upon him, struck him, dragged him down, and would soon have trampled him under their feet, but Mr. Truelocke spoke with a voice that rang like a trumpet, and said,—
'Do the man no harm; for shame, my brethren! Did not I tell him he had liberty to speak? Make me not a liar by your violence!' and then I saw several men, Andrew and Harry being foremost, raising up the stranger, for he had been felled to his knees pushing off those who were striking him, and leading him forth of the church. Then a mighty flash of lightning glared through the building, and a great peal of thunder roared and echoed after it, and the rain rushing down like a torrent drove and beat against the windows. The stranger, who had been got to the door, now turned round, crying,—
'Hearken, O people, to the voice of the Lord bearing witness against your madness!' with which words he vanished, friendly hands pulling him out of sight against his will.
A great silence seemed at once to fall upon the people, while the storm blazed and thundered on; and in the midst of it Mr. Truelocke began his discourse.
'My brethren,' said he, 'I did not think to have been so cruelly put to shame as I have been by you this day. Long have I toiled to make you follow His righteousness, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; long have I trusted that you were indeed partakers of that Spirit whose fruits are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness. Alas! what longsuffering, what peace, what gentleness have you shown to-day? Ye have well-nigh done a man to death in the very house of God, and before the eyes of me your pastor. I stand rebuked here, a teacher whose teaching is proved useless and fruitless. From this day forth I will preach to you no more, but will lay down, a little before the law takes it from me, the office I have so ill discharged. Now hearken to me once more, and once only; and let not my last sermon prove so idle as those I have preached to you before.'
With this preamble, which struck every one into awe, he began to preach with an uncommon fervour, as one who was all on fire to have men turn from their sins, and to close with the offers of God's mercy while yet it was time; and this earnestness of his, and a certain passionate tenderness in his looks and tones, something more than ordinary, would not let us forget the resolve he had expressed. His text was, 'How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?' and having enlarged on it with such piercing eloquence as I have spoken of, and come to an end of his discourse, he made a little pause, and then said,—
'Little as I like to mingle any private matters of mine own with the message I stand here to deliver, I had determined, when I should come before you for the last time, to say something of the reasons why I cannot comply with what our rulers require of us. I will not depart from that determination because a strange cause has moved me to lay down mine office some few days sooner than law requires.' He stopped a moment, looking troubled; then he resumed: 'Not my own humour, nor the pride of a vain consistency, holds me back from compliance. I have sought in prayer, and in study, and in discourse with my brethren, for light on this matter; but in my mind is something still unsatisfied that bids me persevere in my fixed opinion, so long adopted; I can do no other. Therefore, submitting patiently to leave my church and my flock, I pray your pardon for any fault I make in this resolution; of God's pardon I am assured.'
Having said thus, he bowed his fatherly head, praying inwardly, and all the congregation wept and prayed with him, though many of them afterwards showed themselves highly displeased with the way he had taken of rebuking their violence; also great efforts were used to make him break his resolve of preaching there no more, it wanting more than a week or two of the appointed day in August when he must needs desist; but he would not yield to do more than pray publicly; and the pulpit was for a season supplied by other men.
I am wandering away, however, from that day and its doings, of which I have not finished the account. While Mr. Truelocke was preaching, the storm drew off and died away in distant mutterings, so that it was in a very great stillness that he spoke his last words. However, the rain was still falling, though without violence, when we came out of the church; so we waited awhile in the porch till the clouds had rolled away, many others who did not love a wetting doing the same as we, and there was much talking.
None of our party said aught, till Mrs. Bonithorne, one of the wealthiest farmers' wives in the parish, turned herself to Aunt Golding, saying,—
'Heard you ever anything so strange, neighbour, as yon awful thunder-clap coming close on the malicious words of the brawling Quaker? He ought to have quaked and trembled indeed at the voice of Heaven rebuking his madness.'
'But that he did not, mistress,' said I, something too pertly, I fear; 'for he bade the people hearken to the voice of God bearing witness against them.'
'Did he so?' cried she; 'the more was his impudence to wrest the heavenly sign in his favour. But what make you then of the passing away of the storm when Mr. Truelocke began to preach, and of the sweet calm that had fallen on all things when he ended? was that a witness in favour of Quaker madness?'
'Nay, I make nothing of it,' said I; and Aunt Golding added,—
'You would not interpret it as a sign of approval granted to Mr. Truelocke for his hasty resolve never to preach to us again? For my part, I hope he will be persuaded otherwise.'
'Truly I hope so,' said Dame Bonithorne, her ruddy colour deepening; 'for it's too cruel an affront he puts on us poor people;' and I know not how much more she might have said, but for Harry Truelocke, who now came up to the porch, and, beckoning Aunt Golding forth, whispered to her how Andrew had carried the Quaker to the Grange, and now desired her presence; at which we all set forth together, the rain having ceased; and on the road Harry tells us, what sore disquieted Aunt Golding, that the man had only come to West Fazeby on Andrew's account.
'It seems,' said he, 'you met him on your road hither, when he was in the hands of some base fellows that had a mind to maul him—do you remember such a matter?' and Aunt Golding saying how she remembered it very well, Harry went on to say that the man, having noted Andrew's willingness to serve him, had ever since 'had a concern on his mind for the good youth,'—that was his phrase,—and had been led to our village, and to the very church, being assured he would see Andrew there. 'It's a strange, mad story,' quoth Harry.
Althea had given earnest heed to this tale, and now she asked, 'And what says Master Andrew to such wild talk? I suppose he will use the poor deluded wretch gently and kindly, that's his nature; but sure he will scorn his ravings?'
'I cannot tell what Andrew may think in his heart,' says Harry moodily; 'but he uses the man as if he thought him a saint or a martyr, or both. I wish harm may not come of this day's doings;' and he fell into a gloomy silence.
I had never seen him look so nearly angry before. We were now got to the Parsonage, and Harry arousing himself to take leave of us, our aunt says to him,—
'I shall ask you to do me a great good turn, by bringing your father to sup with us at the Grange. I would have him reason peaceably with yon poor distraught man, and convince him of his folly; so he may do a service to my Andrew also, if he has indeed a leaning to such delusions.'
'Well, madam, I will do it for you,' said Harry; 'but there is only one other person in the world to please whom I would bring my father into such odd company as yon man's;' and he went in, looking but half pleased; and as we took our way to the Grange I was musing who that other person might be Harry was so fain to please.
When we got into the hall we saw Andrew sitting there and talking with the stranger, who was now clothed like any other man. His face had been bruised and his hair torn by the violence of the people; but, for all these disfigurements, I, looking earnestly at him, could see he was the very one the sight of whose ill-usage had so moved Andrew on our journey; there was the same composed look, and the same strange inward light in his eye.
He rose when he saw Aunt Golding come in, saluting her with the words, 'Peace be to thee!' on which she, gravely smiling, said,—
'You did not bring peace with you to our place of worship, sir; but I trust no one will break your peace in my house, where you are welcome to rest and refresh you this day.'
'No man can break my peace,' said he, 'my soul being ever at rest in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.'
'That's a good resting-place indeed,' said our aunt. 'Will you tell me by what name I am to call you while you stay here? I think no one in our village knows who you are.'
'Not every one can know my name, but they that have the Light,' said the man; 'and the world can never know it.'
'But sure, man, you have a name of your own by which the world does know you,' said our aunt a little impatiently.
'I wish not to deny it,' he replied; 'therefore fret not thyself, good friend,—my worldly name is James Westrop. And I will tell thee what thou askest not, that my errand hither is to this young man, Andrew Golding. I have now told him my message, so I am free to depart; and if thou likest not of my talk or my ways, I refuse not to leave thy house and protection this hour.'
'But I will not have you go,' said she, 'till you are refreshed and rested. And, in good time, here comes the Vicar, whom I have desired to sup with us and to reason with you. You will not refuse his company? He scorns not yours.'
'I will not refuse it,' said Westrop gravely; and Mr. Truelocke coming in at that moment with Harry, we all went presently to table.
I marvelled greatly during the meal at Mr. Truelocke's courtesy, so kindly did he speak to the Quaker; and he strove to excuse to him the mad behaviour of the people, ascribing it to their regard for their ancient pastor, now about to leave them. 'I pray you,' he said, 'to pardon them for my sake.'
'Friend,' said James Westrop, 'I had pardoned them before they offended. But thou art deceived if thou thinkest it was love to thee which moved them. They could not endure my word, because their own spirits were foul. My word was to them as the shining of a candle into a dark, dirty place, and the sight of their foulness made them mad against me. But in thee I perceive purity of intention; and I will gladly reason with thee of the things of the Spirit, according to this good woman's desire.'
So after supper Aunt Golding showed the Quaker and Mr. Truelocke into a parlour, and herself with Andrew went in to hear their reasonings; but Althea whispered me, and said, 'Let us go and walk in the garden; I cannot stay and hear the man's insolent talk.' So we stepped out, and began to pace up and down one of the walks, the moon being just risen, and the evening very sweet and calm—a pleasant change it was after the heats and storms of that afternoon's work. Presently Harry joined us, and said at once, 'Well, sweet ladies, so you have no mind to turn Quakers?'
'As soon shall this rose turn nettle,' said Althea, plucking a white rose off a bush and giving it to him. 'Keep it, I pray you; and when you find it will sting you to touch it, then conclude Althea Dacre has turned Quaker.'
'Give me your rose too, Mistress Lucia,' said Harry.
So I gathered one, and put it in his hand; but I felt obliged to say,—
'I cannot speak so confidently as my sister; I know nothing of these people and their doctrines.'
'You see their doings,' said Althea indignantly; 'that should be enough. Mr. Truelocke, Lucia and I were bred up true Churchwomen, and so I will continue to my dying day. I love not all these sects that spring up like weeds in the ruined places of the Church; I am for those who are building up her walls again, and making them stronger.'
'And is this your mind too, Mistress Lucia?' says Harry. 'I fear me, if it is, you will not approve my good father either;' at which Althea went red and went pale, for she had not thought how her words might hit Mr. Truelocke; but since she did not speak, I said,—
'Being so ignorant about these things, I don't like to say much, except that I hate these new harsh laws,—axes, I think them, lopping off from our Church her true, faithful members as if they were diseased limbs. I fear me the poor trunk that is left will be like a headless, handless corpse without them.'
'Well, God mend all!' said Harry, drawing a long breath. 'For my part, all I know is, that I would these great folks who rule us now had let my father end his days in peace, without pestering him about surplices and Prayer-Books and the sign of the cross, all which he holds for rank Papistry, I suppose; and I cannot wish him to lie, even about such foolish trifles as these things appear to me. But what profits wishing?'
'Very little,' said Althea, sighing softly. 'I might wish too, all in vain, that I had not spoken with such needless warmth even now;' and she began entreating him to believe she had meant no disrespect to his father; but he cut her short, assuring her he knew it already.
'My father is not in all your thoughts,' said he; 'but he is seldom out of mine. I am ever longing to see him settled in some peaceful shelter before I go to sea;' and he looked more downcast than I had ever seen him.
We were got into the orchard now, winding in and out among the trees, and Althea went musing by herself; but I could not help lingering beside Harry, to say some comfortable words about how all folks loved Mr. Truelocke, my aunt especially, and I knew it was in her mind to have the old gentleman make his home at the Grange with her, if he only would.
'Ay,' says Harry; 'that's a larger "if" than you wot of, sweet Lucy. But would it please you, as well as Mrs. Golding, to have the old man living under this roof?' and I answered hastily,—
'Nothing could like me better than to have so kind and fatherly a man dwelling with us, not to say that his holiness and piety would bring down Heaven's blessing on any house that sheltered him; and I promise you,' I went on, 'that I, for my part, would show him all a daughter's love and duty,'—'and so will Althea,'—I would fain have added, had not Harry cut my speech short, saying,—
'That's a charming word on your lips when you speak of my father—the word of daughter. I hope you consider what it may mean to me.'
'Sure,' I said, 'I am very willing to take you for my brother, if that is what you aim at.'
'No, no, Lucy,' said he; 'I wish not to be your brother. I refuse altogether to let you think of me as such; but I have nothing to say against Mistress Althea as a sister. Think well of my words, will you?' and, taking my hand, he put it to his lips. And it was not the first time, in truth, that such a courtesy had been shown me; but with a fine gentleman it seems such a matter of course. It was not so with the frank and blunt sailor, who had had a kind of Puritan bringing-up too; so I suppose that was the reason it made me tremble so strangely, or perhaps the look on his face was the cause. I was therefore not sorry to see Althea coming up to us again.
'We had better keep nearer the house; their conference may be over, and Mrs. Golding will not know where to find us,' she said; so we turned back, and all three paced up and down the terrace under the windows for a while, then we went into the hall, and sat there awaiting the end of the disputation.
At last we saw Mr. Truelocke, Mrs. Golding. James Westrop, and Andrew, all issuing forth together, and all but one seeming mightily disturbed. Mr. Truelocke looked stern and sad, and Mrs. Golding had been weeping; Andrew gazed on the Quaker with much anxiety, but with such reverence as if he saw in him an angel of God. As for James Westrop, there was no change in him, only his usual composure seemed a little exalted, if I may so phrase it. He walked straight to the hall door, Andrew keeping by him. There he made a stand, and, raising his hands as if in blessing,—
'Peace be to this house!' he said; 'I have been well entreated in it, though it approves me not. Friend Andrew, thou and I will meet again; but now follow me not. I may not sleep under this roof, having many miles to go before the sun rises;' and with that he turned and walked out of the door, which he shut after him; and Andrew, who had stopped at his word, came slowly back to us. Althea now rose from her place and went towards him; her eyes were very bright, and there was unusual colour in her cheeks; indeed she seemed carried quite out of herself, yet she kept her queenly look and gait withal.
'Mr. Golding, said she, putting her hands on his arm, 'what means that man by his farewell to you? Sure you are not befooled and led away by his deceiving words to believe such madness as he speaks?'
Andrew started at her touch, like a man waking from a dream. He then looked seriously at her, and said,—
'Madam, I cannot say yet how much I believe of yon good man's doctrine; but I will not rest till I know more of it. If I find it to be as heavenly true as it hath seemed to me this day, not all the joys and glories of the world should hold me back from embracing it; at which Althea, letting her hands fall from his arm, stood as if she were turned into stone, her eyes remaining fixed on him sorrowfully. I suppose he could not endure that look; for he turned away sharply and went out of the hall.
'I feared this,' said Mr. Truelocke. He looked quite weary and spent. 'These men have a strange eloquence; and I cannot wonder that such youths as our Andrew should think their words are indeed set off by some superior Power,—the more, since none can deny that they preach what they practise. I would I could have imbued all my hearers with a like burning sincerity.'
This was nearly all I heard about that long conference of theirs; for after some more lamentations over its ill result, which, Harry whispered me, they might have expected, Mr. Truelocke departed with his son, and Aunt Golding remained so troubled that I did not like to question her about what had passed. But all the more was I curious to know what the man's doctrine was; and on the first fair occasion I found, I began to ask Andrew to describe it to me. Poor youth! he was mightily pleased with my inquiry, thinking, doubtless, that it sprang from a real thirst for truth like his own; and to the best of his power he complied with my wish. I found he had not been altogether ignorant of this new teaching for some months back.
'We English Christians,' said he, 'have fallen into many hurtful snares by our lack of faith in God's great gift of the Holy Spirit, the mighty boon which the risen Saviour promised to His followers, and which truly came according to His word. I have often wondered,' said he, 'that we all profess and say, as often as we repeat the Creed, "I believe in the Holy Ghost," yet we act and think as if we believed not in Him.' And from this point he went on to tell me how George Fox, first of all, and many others after him, had been going about the country endeavouring to make people alive to the high privilege they had so long slighted, to their own exceeding hurt; 'also,' said he, 'these men, in obedience to the inward Voice that instructs them, strive to bring people off from their formal man-made religions to the primitive purity of Christ's religion, which consists not in rites and ceremonies, repeating of forms of prayer, singing of hymns, and ringing of bells, but in a holy and harmless life;' and he quoted many things out of the Sermon on the Mount, 'which,' said he, 'the common run of Christians never dream of obeying; but the poor Friends practise them most strictly.'
All this was most alluring to Andrew, for, as I have often noticed, he detested nothing so much as false professions, and a show of goodness where none was. I asked him curiously why the Friends behaved themselves in such strange fashion in public places and churches; when he answered me by referring to the bold speeches of ancient prophets in rebuke of sin, and asked me if I could think that a man might now-a-days refuse to carry God's message to sinners because it might bring him into bodily peril? 'It were far worse,' said he, 'to disobey the Divine Voice, that still small Voice that is heard by the restful soul, than to endure a little pain at men's hands, or even the death of the body.' Well, I could not wonder that he was charmed with such teachings, for while I listened to him my own heart was moved strangely; but it evermore ended with my resolving to keep to the opinions of my aunt and Mr. Truelocke; I thought they were both too good to be far mistaken. But Andrew now began to be often away from home, and he made no secret that he went to meet with Westrop and other Friends, from whom he often had letters also. He was never at West Fazeby on the Lord's Day; and Aunt Golding and Althea also showed themselves mightily afflicted thereat.
HOW HARRY TRUELOCKE LEFT US FOR THE SEA.
And now came fast upon us that black day, the twenty-fourth of August, 1662, when such numbers of faithful ministers were stript of their offices and livings because they would not go against their consciences; and our own Mr. Truelocke among them. I think he was more stiffly set than ever in his opinion of the unlawfulness of conformity, since he had that talk with James Westrop; at least Aunt Golding thought so. But on other points he showed himself mild and persuadable, so that there was nothing like the difficulty Harry and all of us had looked for in winning him to come and dwell at the Grange, for a season at least; and he agreed to make the change before the fatal day should come.
So we had all a busy time of it that last week, in getting his many books and his simple household stuff removed from the Parsonage house, and in bestowing them suitably at the Grange, where Aunt Golding had prepared two fair rooms for his particular use. And however bad the occasion for our doing this work, some of us found pleasure in it.
I must own I myself always loved a busy, bustling time, when there seemed a little more to be done in each day than we could crowd into it; which was our case now, wheat harvest having begun. And I was gladder than common of the stir and the bustle, for it helped to stupefy and dull a pain there was at my heart whenever the thought crossed me how soon Harry would be gone. He was to depart on a long voyage to the East Indies, and would indeed have sailed already but for his loving care about his father, which made him resolute to tarry until he saw the old gentleman in a manner provided for.
Some perverse whimsy of mine had made me careful never to be left alone in Harry's company since that talk with him by moonlight in the orchard. It's no wonder that I so perfectly recollect all the sayings and doings of that day, for it was a fateful day indeed to some of our little company. But the things that dwelt most constantly in my memory, to the shutting out of weightier matters, were Harry's looks and words on my saying I would be as a daughter to Mr. Truelocke. There was small need to bid me think well of them; I thought of them whether I would or no, all the while telling myself that I was a poor fool for brooding over such airy trifles; that I had not known aught of Harry, nor he of me, six months before; and that I deserved whipping for fancying he could mean anything serious. And so, between a kind of fear and a good deal of pride, I tried, as I have said, to avoid any private talk with him; and I succeeded pretty well. But Harry's blunt, plain-spoken ways overmatched me after all.
The first evening after Mr. Truelocke had come to the Grange—I cannot say, after we had him settled there, for he was mightily unsettled—he was not able to rest in the room we had fitted for his study, and so came to sit among us in the hall, seeming to please himself with watching our occupations, as he sat in his great chair. Andrew was writing somewhat at his desk; Althea had some sewing; and I was having a lesson from Aunt Golding in the right use of the little flax-wheel; for I had taken an extraordinary fancy for spinning, and our aunt encouraged me in it, and took pains to teach me, saying I was an apt scholar. Thus we were busied when Harry came in and sat down among us.
'You all look peaceful and content, methinks,' quoth he. 'I wish I were a skilful painter, then might I make a picture of this pretty scene to carry with me and cheer my heart in distant seas. But since I cannot do that, I must try for some other comfort to take away with me.'
Here he stopt, and Aunt Golding said kindly, 'What is in my power to do for you, Master Harry, I will do as freely as your father could.'
'Thanks, madam,' said Harry; 'there's much you and my father can do for me; I know only one other person who can do more. Father, I looked for you in your study even now; but I am not sorry to find you here instead, hardly any one here but has some interest in my business with you. I want your consent and Mrs. Golding's to my seeking Mistress Lucy here for my wife.'
I heard the words plainly, and I suppose their sense reached me; but if they had been so many blows of an axe upon my head they could not have left me more stupid. So I sat helpless, hearing Aunt Golding cry out,—
'Here is hasty work, indeed! do you speak seriously, Master Harry?'
'Never more seriously,' said he; 'if they were the last words I should speak I could not mean them more truly and heartily. And I hope you have a good answer for me.'
'I don't say no,' she replied; 'but there are others to be consulted beside me.'
So Harry, looking at Mr. Truelocke, said, 'Father, call your thoughts off from your unkind Mother Church, and bestow some of them on your dutiful son. Will you give me your sanction and your blessing, if I can win this lady to say she will be mine?'
'I can never refuse thee my blessing, Harry, and that thou knowest,' said the old man. 'But it's fitting that I should think of the lady too, and bid her consider what she does.'
He turned to me, which troubled me greatly, and, looking sadly and kindly at me, said,—
'If you take this boy of mine, madam,' said he, 'you take the son of a poor, despised, aged man, who can give you and him nothing but a father's blessing, coupled with his burdensome infirmity to care for and tend, till death remove it;' words which loosed my tongue straightway to say I should deem such an office a pride and honour.
'That is not all,' said Mr. Truelocke. 'Harry hath chosen to embrace a dangerous wandering way of life, neither very glorious nor very profitable. And his bride will have to spend many a sad lonely hour, while her husband is tossing on the seas, and she sitting trembling at home, deprived of his protection and doubtful of his fate.'
'That's a very odd way of recommending my suit, father,' said Harry, a little uneasily.
'Nay, I have not done my recommendation,' replied Mr. Truelocke; 'let me say all. You should further consider, Mistress Lucy, that this son of mine is so light of spirit and careless of speech, that some will say he has no constancy of disposition. I will not so far slander him, for I know him better; but this I must say, for it is truth, that he has not yet that confirmed and settled piety I should desire in the husband of mine own daughter, if I had one. Now I have laid before you all the disadvantages of the match, it is for you to say if you will have it.'
I wonder if ever a love-suit was so urged before? It made me heartily angry to hear poor Harry so disparaged to his face, and to see him sit so downcast, a cloud of angry colour mounting to his very forehead. I suppose pity for him killed all my bashfulness, for I stood up, and said passionately, I thought no worse of a man for having the bold adventurous nature which loved seafaring; that was a noble trade, I said, and our mariners the very flower of England; and as for light spirit and merry speech, they were but flowers covering a rock, for steadfast as a rock was the heart under that gay show.
'And if you speak of piety,' I wound up, 'I am sure Harry hath as much of it as I have, at least; he has some faith, some love, and so I hope have I; but we will help each other up to better things; and here is my hand on it if he will take it.' With that I held out my hand to him, and he sprang up and grasped it in both his, looking exultingly at his father; it was a pleasure to see how his face had changed all in a moment. Mr. Truelocke smiled, but he shook his head too, saying,—
'Well, children, I blame you not. The Lord will surely teach you and lead you, it may be in ways you will not like; for it is on my mind that you both have much to learn and much to suffer before your marriage day shall dawn.'
And now Aunt Golding, who loved Harry, and never could endure to have him crossed, began to laugh outright.
'I will own,' she said, 'I thought you very unmerciful to your good son, Mr. Truelocke, while you continued to run him down so shamefully; but now I see you took the right way to advance his cause. It's wonderful what a spice of contradiction will do with a woman! Lucy, you would never have made this bold, open confession without some such provocation'—words which abashed me much, for they were true.
And now, no one present having a word more to say against it, Harry and I exchanged rings; and Mr. Truelocke in a few pathetic words besought Heaven's blessing on our contract. I do believe Harry would not have been sorry could he have called me wife before he went away; but, every one frowning on this fancy of his when he distantly hinted it, he did not urge it; and truly the time was too short.
I was a little afraid of Althea, lest she should think I had every way demeaned myself; but she never has owned that she thought so.
'These things go by destiny, little Lucy,' she said once. 'I am not strong enough to control fate, and certainly you are not; so why should I blame you? Were not all our follies written in the stars when we were born?' I could not tell then what to make of her mocking words, knowing how she despised what people call astrology.
As for Andrew, he could talk cheerfully of nothing at this time; and the hopefullest word he could find for Harry and me was that though in these evil days there could be no love-thoughts or marriage-thoughts for such as him, he would not say they were forbidden to others; and he wished us all the happiness we could get; poor cold words; but Harry said 'twas wonderful Andrew could say as much on any worldly matter.
This was the manner of our betrothing; and, were it not for Harry's ring still shining on my finger, and also for the odd unusual fashion of the whole thing, which is what I never could have dreamt, I should be sadly apt to think of it as a dream too pleasant to be true.
For within a day or two Harry had left us and gone to Hull, from which port he sailed. I have never seen him since; also it is now a full twelve-month since any letter from him reached us. Yet I cannot believe he is dead; and if he is living, I know he is true; and living or dead, I have a strong persuasion that my little ruby ring, which was my mother's once, is on his finger still.
But many a time have I thought on Mr. Truelocke's words, how we both should have much to learn and much to suffer before our marriage day. I think the words be true.
HOW ANDREW MADE ONE ENEMY, AND WAS LIKE TO HAVE ANOTHER.
And now my happy time was over; its story is all told so far; and I must write of darker days that came after.
The living of West Fazeby, left vacant because of Mr. Truelocke's sturdiness in his opinion, did not wait long for an incumbent, but was quickly bestowed on a Mr. Lambert; a man not troubled with awkward scruples, for he had been a strong Presbyterian under the Commonwealth, and now was become as strong a Churchman; but an honest man as the world goes now, and not hard-hearted. He had another better living where he resided; so our parish was served by his curate, a Mr. Poole, a young man of shallow capacity and but little learning. Mr. Truelocke, however, went to hear him preach;—a strange sight it was to see so reverend, saintly, and able a minister sitting humbly as a listener, while that weak-headed lad spoke from the pulpit;—and he said the youth preached true doctrine; so he continued going to hear him, and encouraged our household to do the like, which they all did, except Andrew. That Mr. Truelocke himself did not join in the new formal prayers was not noticed, his presence at sermon-time seeming to give mighty satisfaction to Mr. Poole, who would often walk up to the Grange of a Lord's Day evening, to ask Mr. Truelocke's opinion of his handling of a text, and would even beg to hear his exposition of the same; when several of our neighbours would also come in and listen thankfully to their old pastor's words; neither we nor they dreaming that such practices could be deemed unlawful, as they soon were, being stigmatized as conventicles, and heavily punished. But this did not happen in Mr. Poole's time.
There were other things much less agreeable to us under the new order of things. A monstrous new Maypole was set up on the village green, by command of a gentleman very powerful in the parish, whom I shall soon have to name, and we were told the old heathen May-games would be observed at the right season,—as indeed they were when the time came; meantime the one or two taverns in West Fazeby began to stand open on a Sunday, and were much more frequented than they used to be, men who had formerly been very careful to shun them now going to them boldly in open day; which plainly discovered their former decent carriage to have been a hollow show. Althea and I chanced one day to be passing the Royal Oak, as the chief inn of the village had been new christened, just as there reeled out of it a young gentleman whom every one had deemed a most hopeful pious youth, Mr. Truelocke in particular having a great opinion of him, though I never liked his demure looks for my part, nor his stiff way of dressing himself. He was called Ralph Lacy, and was son and heir to old Mr. Lacy of Lacy Manor, a worthy old gentleman, though somewhat austere, who was lately dead; which I suppose partly accounted for the mighty change in his son, who was now clad in silk and velvet, scarlet and gold; and, as I have said, could not walk too straight at that moment.
He stood still, leering foolishly on us, just in our way; I could not bear to look at him, and would have slipt on one side; but Althea looked sternly at him, and said bitterly,—
'Shame on you, Ralph Lacy! You mourn for your father in a very vile manner; a swine could do no worse.'
'Ah, sweet Mistress Dacre,' said he, 'do you think then the grim, sour-visaged saints are reigning still? Nay, their day is over! we have a right good fellow for a king now, and this shall be Merry England again, I can tell thee.' (He was growing more familiar at every word.) 'I will soon show thee what the ways are at Whitehall now;' and he was coming much nearer to her than was pleasant, when Andrew, who came up with us at that moment, flung him out of our path with such goodwill that Master Lacy measured his length on the ground; and there we left him lying. Althea thanked Andrew warmly and cordially; but Andrew, who had been all glowing with just wrath at first, seemed to shrink into himself at her praise.
'It was a temptation,' he said, 'and I have fallen. I could have taken you out of yon fool's way without laying a finger on him.'
'It's something of a disgrace indeed to have touched the beast—an oaken staff had been fitter than your hand,' she replied. 'Merry England, quotha! drunken England, I suppose he meant.'
'There is too much indeed of the unclean spirit of riot abroad now,' answered Andrew; 'but it is not with violent hands that we can cast it out. I sinfully forgot our Lord's word, "Resist not evil;"' and nothing could brighten him, though Althea did her best all the way home.
There came the day when I rued Andrew's angry action as much as he did, though not for the same reason. Ralph Lacy was not too drunk to be unaware who had flung him aside into the dust; he never forgave it; and his hand was plainly seen afterwards in the troubles that came upon us. Another man also contributed something to them, though more innocently.
Mr. Poole now came very much about us, and would often talk about the good family he belonged to and his hopes of speedy preferment; and another favourite topic of his was the gay suits he had worn in his secular days; he would dwell very fondly on the cut and trimmings of these clothes. I think nothing misliked him in his profession but the gravity of dress required from a clerical person; and I was often tempted to ask, had his father been a tailor? He made the most of his sober apparel, and loved to show a white, smooth, fat hand, with a fine diamond on one finger; but he was unhappy in an insignificant person and a foolish face, both of them something fatter than is graceful.
I do not know what first made me guess that all his boastings and paradings were intended to advance him in Althea's good graces; but she refused to believe me when I said so.
'Poor harmless wretch!' said she; 'he is but practising with me; he would fain perfect himself in the airs and graces of a thriving wooer, before laying siege in earnest to some fair lady, with the heavy purse, that I lack, at her girdle.'
'That's a far-fetched fancy indeed,' said I. 'Why should he single you out alone for such practisings?'
'Well,' quoth Althea idly, 'he may deem me the fittest person to rehearse with, seeing I have at least the breeding of a gentlewoman, and am contracted to no one else. He will think that if his ways and words please me, they may answer with richer women of my sort as well.'
'But sure they do not please you!' I cried; 'nor should you let him think they do; 'tis not fair usage.'
'Nay, he diverts me hugely,' said she; 'and I need diversion, for my heart is heavy as lead, Lucy;'—all at once there were tears in her eyes;—'if I can forget my griefs while I watch a mannikin bowing and grimacing before me, don't grudge me the poor pastime. I assure thee, child, there's nothing more in it;' and with that she left me hastily.
I was used to think Althea much wiser than myself, but the evening of the very day when we had this talk proved that in this matter her judgment was more at fault than mine. For about sunset Mr. Poole came up to the Grange, which was a rare thing for him to do, seeing he did not love to be abroad when it was dark. He seemed mightily puffed up about something; and, not being one of those who can keep their own counsel long, he soon imparted to Althea and me, whom he found sitting by the parlour fire, how his promotion now seemed very near. There was a living of which he had long had hopes to get the reversion; and the actual incumbent was fallen sick of a strange fever, with little prospect of recovery.
'And you are troubled because of the poor man's grievous case,' says Althea demurely. 'I guessed something was disturbing you. It's melancholy news indeed, Mr. Poole, for one would guess by it that the place must be unhealthy, so it may be your luck to sicken in like manner when it is your turn to live there.'
I thought Althea cruel thus to tease the poor man, imputing to him a tender concern for the sufferer of which he had never dreamed; besides, he was chicken-hearted about contagious disorders, and that she knew. I pitied him then, but found it hard to forbear laughing, his aspect was so comical; therefore I feigned an errand out of the room, and, having stayed away long enough to compose my countenance, I returned to the parlour, where I found poor Mr. Poole on his knees to Althea, urging his suit for her hand with a great deal more passion than one could have expected in him. 'Twas in vain she spoke of her orphanhood and poverty, and told him he should look higher; and at last she had to speak sharply, and say, however she might esteem the honour he would do her, wife of his she would never be; 'so quit that unbecoming posture at my feet,' she added; on which he rose indeed, but said half-frantically,—
'Give me at least, madam; the comfort of hearing you say you are heart-free, that you love none other better than you do me;' on which first her eyes flashed angry fire, and then changed and softened, her whole face and even her neck going rosy-red, and she said almost kindly,—
'I will give you no such assurance, sir, to hold you in vain hopes; but I wish you a happier fate than marriage with me might prove.' With that she was gone from the room, like a shadow; and Mr. Poole and I were left foolishly staring at each other. Presently he said hoarsely,—
'Who is it that your sister loves, madam? for whom does she disdain me? Sure,' he went on, with growing heat, 'it cannot be your cousin—he that is infected with the Quaker heresy! say it is not he, madam.'
Well, I was tempted to lie, and say it was not our cousin; for Andrew was nothing akin to us; but I resisted the tempter, and said I could say nothing, but that I was heartily sorry,—'and I am sure, so is my sister,' I said, 'that you should have fixed your affections so unluckily.' Then I told him Andrew had no thoughts of marriage with Althea or any one; and I reminded him of the many rich and fair women who would be sure to look kindly on him; at which he smiled again, and presently went away in no unfriendly mood. So I acquit him of meaning the harm which he afterwards did us, poor youth, with his prattling tongue. He did not wait long for his promotion, the poor man whom he hoped to succeed dying indeed of the fever that had seized him; so we lost our curate. But it seems he prated to his patron about the fair young lady he had hoped should share his preferment, lamenting her silliness in preferring a moonstruck Quaker youth; also he complained of Mrs. Golding for not discouraging such follies, and he even deplored Mr. Truelocke's obstinate heresies as to church discipline.
I think even he had held his peace, if he had known into how greedy an ear he poured these tales. This patron of his, one Sir Edward Fane, had much land and not a little power in our parish, though he resided in another neighbourhood; he was a bitter hater of all Nonconformists, and in especial of the Quakers; men said this was because of some encounter he had had with Fox himself, by whose sharp tongue and ready wit our gentleman was put to open shame, where he had hoped to make himself sport out of Quaker enthusiasm. However that might be, it was commonly said this Sir Edward loved Quaker-baiting, as it was called, beyond all other of the cruel, inhuman sports, the bull-baitings and bear-baitings, in which too many men of condition now take pleasure; and it was not long before we found a powerful enemy was raised up against our harmless friends.
'Twas a wonder to me that any would lift a hand against them; Mr. Truelocke being so venerable and so peaceable a man, and Andrew of life so irreproachable. Also, since the youth had cast in his lot with the Friends, he had shown a singular zeal in good works. He sought out those who were in distress or necessity, and laboured to make their hard lot easy, not merely giving them alms, but comforting them as a loving brother might do; and such as had fallen into want through folly or sin he toiled hard to lift up again, and to put them into an honest way of living. By this means some few were led to embrace his way of religion, it is true; and what wonder? My wonder was that so many were vilely ungrateful to him, at which he never showed any vexation. 'We are bidden,' he said, 'to do good to the unthankful and the evil,' which seemed enough for him.
But it being contrary to his conscience to attend the church, I suppose all his other graces did but lay him more open to injury, and we were soon warned of mischief hatching against us and him, and that by one from whom we never expected it.
HOW MR. TRUELOCKE AND MRS. GOLDING LEFT US.
Mr. Poole being gone, there came in his place as curate an oldish man, grey-haired and meagre; a great adorer of Archbishop Laud and of King Charles the First, 'the Royal Martyr,' as he would say; but for all his half Popish notions, he was blameless, nay, austere in his life; and he had thriven so ill in the gay new world of London, that he deemed it great good luck to have the curate's place at West Fazeby.
We had half feared that this poor Mr. Stokes would feel bound in conscience to torment and harass Mr. Truelocke into conformity; so when he came to the Grange one day, very earnest to see Aunt Golding and the former Vicar, and that in private, we were on thorns while he stayed; and when we heard the door shut after him, we hurried to our aunt, asking what his errand had been.
She answered us not directly, but, gazing after Mr. Stokes, whom Mr. Truelocke was conducting out through the garden, 'Well, my girls,' said she, 'if the tree may be known by its fruits, yon is a right honest man and a true Christian;' and she went on to say how he had only come to warn her and hers of evil that was designed against them. 'I fear,' she said, smiling, 'the good man's conscience pulled him two ways; yet his heart has proved wiser than his head. I am right glad now that Andrew is away, though I was vexed before; yet I knew his was a charitable journey.'
Then she told us of new crueller devices intended against the Friends, and, indeed, against all Nonconforming folks. 'And there be some,' she said, 'who have spoken very evil things of us here at the Grange. I warrant you it will not be long that we shall be suffered to have family worship if our labouring men share in it as they are used to do; nor can Mr. Truelocke so much as expound a Psalm to us and them, but it shall straight be said we hold a conventicle here.'
'Surely,' says Althea, very pale, 'the gentlemen who now rule the country are too proud-spirited, too noble, to intermeddle with such matters; what is it to them how we say our prayers in our own houses? Abroad, there may be need of a decent face of uniformity, and some open outrageous follies may require to be put down strongly'—She stopped, and Aunt Golding said,—
'Ah, child, thou little knowest. I have not yet heard of any outrageous follies that our poor Andrew has run into; yet I am told, and I fear it's true, that if he were to show his face openly in West Fazeby to-morrow, his next lodging might be in York Castle, where he should lie in the foulest den they could find for him, and have the worst company to boot. Nor will it be very safe here for our good Mr. Truelocke, who now talks of taking his journey to certain worthy kinsfolk of his that are farmers in the Dale country, there he may live in a peaceful obscurity; but his chief aim is to avoid bringing troubles on our house.'
It struck me cruelly to think of Harry's father leaving us, but I had no time to dwell on the thought, for now Althea sank down at my feet, helpless and senseless like one who was dead indeed; and much ado we had to bring her out of her swoon, which was very long, and she very feeble when she was recovered from it. We got her to her room, and persuaded her to lie down and sleep; and when we came away, Aunt Golding turns to me with a puzzled look, saying,—
'What means this, Lucy? I never thought your sister one of those fine ladies who swoon for every trifle;—what is it, think you?'
'Andrew,' says I, 'and the image of his danger; you made a frightful picture of it, dear madam, do you know?'
'Ah, set a thief to catch a thief!' says Aunt Golding, and I felt glad to hear her laugh once more; 'my love-passages are of too ancient a date to serve me, it seems, but yours are fresh and new, my Lucy. But what of Andrew? is Althea dear to him?'