For Faith and Freedom
Early in foreign fields he won renown
With Kings and States allied to Israel's crown;
In peace the thoughts of war he could remove,
And seemed as he were only born for love.
Whate'er he did was done with so much ease,
In him alone 'twas natural to please;
His motions all accompanied with grace,
And Paradise was opened in his face.
Now I have to tell of what happened to me – the most insignificant person in the whole crowd. It chanced that as the Duke came near the spot beside the Cross where we were standing, the press in front obliged him to stop. He looked about him while he waited, smiling still and bowing to the people. Presently his eyes fell upon me, and he whispered a gentleman who rode beside him, yet a little in the rear. This gentleman laughed and dismounted. What was my confusion when he advanced towards me and spoke to me!
'Madam,' he said, calling me 'Madam!' 'His Grace would say one word to you, with permission of your friends.'
'Go with this gentleman, child,' said Sir Christopher, laughing. Everybody laughs – I know not why – when a girl is led out to be kissed.
'Fair White Rose of Somerset,' said his Grace – twas the most musical voice in the world, and the softest. 'Fair White Rose' – he repeated the words – 'let me be assured of the welcome of Ilchester by a kiss from your sweet lips, which I will return in token of my gratitude.'
All the people who heard these words shouted as if they would burst themselves asunder. And the gentleman who had led me forth lifted me so that my foot rested on the Duke's boot, while his Grace laid his arm tenderly round my waist, and kissed me twice.
'Sweet child,' he said, 'what is thy name?'
'By your Grace's leave,' I said, the words being very strange, 'my name is Alice. I am the daughter of Dr. Comfort Eykin, an ejected minister. I have come with Sir Christopher Challis, who stands yonder.'
'Sir Christopher!' said the Duke, as if surprised. 'Let me shake hands with Sir Christopher. I take it kindly, Sir Christopher, that you have so far honoured me.' So he gave the old man, who stepped forward bareheaded, his hand, still holding me by the waist. 'I pray that we may meet again, Sir Christopher, and that before long.' Then he drew a gold ring, set with an emerald, from his forefinger, and placed it upon mine, 'God grant it bring thee luck, sweet child,' he said, and kissed me again, and then suffered me to be lifted down. And you may be sure that it was with red cheeks that I took my place among my friends. Yet Sir Christopher was pleased at the notice taken of him by the Duke, and my father was not displeased at the part I had been made to play.
When the Duke had ridden through the town, many of the people followed after, as far as White Lackington, which is close to Ilminster. So many were they that they took down a great piece of the park paling to admit them all; and there, under a Spanish chestnut-tree, the Duke drank to the health of all the people.
At Ilminster, whither he rode a few days later; at Chard, a Ford Abbey, at Colyton, and at Exeter – wherever he went he was received with the same shouts and acclamations. It is no wonder therefore, that he should believe, a few years later, that those people would follow him when he drew the sword for the Protestant religion.
One thing is certain – that in the West of England, from the progress of Monmouth to the Rebellion, there was uneasiness, with an anxious looking forward to troubled times. The people of Taunton kept as a day of holiday and thanksgiving the anniversary of the raising of Charles's siege. When the Mayor, in 1683, tried to stop the celebration, they nearly stoned him to death. After this, Sir George Jeffreys, afterwards Lord Jeffreys, who took the spring circuit in 1684, was called upon to report on the loyalty of the West Country. He reported that the gentry were loyal and well disposed. But he knew not the mind of the weavers and spinners of the country.
It was this progress; the sight of the Duke's sweet face; his flattery of me, and his soft words, and the ring he gave me, which made me from that moment such a partisan of his cause as only a woman can be. Women cannot fight, but they can encourage those who do; and they can not only ardently desire, but they can despise and contemn those who think otherwise. I cannot say that it was I who persuaded our boys five years later to join the Duke; but I can truly say that I did and said all that a woman can; that I rejoiced when they did so; and that I should never have forgiven Robin had he joined the forces of the Papist King.
WITH THE ELDERS
So we went home again, all well pleased, and I holding the Duke's ring tight, I promise you. It was a most beautiful ring when I came to look at it; a great emerald was in the midst of it, with little pearls and emeralds set alternately around it. Never was such a grand gift to so humble a person. I tied it to a black ribbon, and put it in the box which held my clothes. But sometimes I could not forbear the pleasure of wearing it round my neck secretly; not for the joy of possessing the ring, so much as for remembering the lovely face and the gracious words of the giver.
At that time I was in my sixteenth year, but well-grown for my age. Like my father, I was above the common stature and taller than most. We continued for more than four years longer to live without the company of the boys, which caused me to be much in the society of my elders, and as much at the Manor House and the Rectory as at home. At the former place, Sir Christopher loved to have me with him all day long, if my mother would suffer it; when he walked abroad, I must walk with him; when he walked in his garden I must be at his side. When he awoke after his afternoon sleep, he liked to see me sitting ready to talk to him. I must play to him and sing to him; or I must bring out the backgammon board; or I must read the last letters from Robin and Humphrey. Life is dull for an old man whose friends are mostly dead, unless he have the company of the young. So David, in his old age, took to himself a young wife. I have sometimes thought that he would have done better to have comforted his heart with the play and prattle of his grandchildren – of whom, I suppose, there must have been many families.
Now, as I was so much with his Honour, I had much talk with him upon things on which wise and ancient men do not often converse with girls, and I was often present when he discoursed with my father or with his son-in-law, the Rector, on high and serious matters. It was a time of great anxiety and uncertainty. There were great Pope burnings in the country; and when some were put in pillory for riot at these bonfires not a hand was lifted against them. They had one at Sherborne on November 17, the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's Coronation day, instead of November 5, Guy Faux Day. Boys went about the streets asking for halfpence and singing —
Up with the ladder,
And down with the rope;
Give us a penny
To burn the old Pope.
There were riots in Taunton, where the High Church party burned the pulpit of a meeting-house; people went about openly saying that the Roundheads would soon come back again. From Robin we heard of the Popish plot, and the flight of the Duke of York, and afterwards of Monmouth's disgrace and exile. At all the market towns where men gathered together they talked of these things, and many whispered together: a thing which Sir Christopher loved not, because it spoke of conspiracies and secret plots, whereas he was all for bold declaration of conscience.
In short, it was an anxious time, and everybody understood that serious things would happen should the King die. There were not wanting, besides, omens of coming ills – if you accept such things as omens or warnings. To Taunton (afterwards the town most affected by the Rebellion) a plain warning was vouchsafed by the rumbling and thundering and shaking of the earth itself, so that dishes were knocked down and cups broken, and plaster shaken off the walls of houses. And once (this did I myself see with my own eyes) the sun rose with four other suns for companions – a most terrifying sight, though Mr. Boscorel, who spoke learnedly on omens, had an explanation of this miracle, which he said was due to natural causes alone. And at Ile Brewers there was a monstrous birth of two girls with but one body from the breast downwards; their names were Aquila and Priscilla; but I believe they lived but a short time.
I needs must tell of Mr. Boscorel, because he was a man the like of whom I have never since beheld. I believe there can be few men such as he was, who could so readily exchange the world of heat and argument for the calm and dispassionate air of art and music. Even religion (if I may venture to say so) seemed of less importance to him than painting and sculpture. I have said that he taught me to play upon the spinnet. Now that Humphrey was gone, he desired my company every day, in order, he pretended, that I might grow perfect in my performance, but in reality because he was lonely at the Rectory, and found pleasure in my company. We played together – he upon the violoncello and I upon the spinnet – such music as he chose. It was sometimes grave and solemn music, such as Lulli's 'Miserere' or his 'De Profundis'; sometimes it was some part of a Roman Catholic Mass: then was my soul uplifted and wafted heavenwards by the chords, which seemed prayer and praise fit for the angels to harp before the throne. Sometimes it was music which spoke of human passions, when I would be, in like manner, carried out of myself. My master would watch not only my execution, commenting or correcting, but he would also watch the effect of the music upon my mind.
'We are ourselves,' he said, 'like unto the instruments upon which we play. For as one kind of instrument, as the drum, produces but one note; and another, as the cymbals, but a clashing which is in itself discordant, but made effective in a band; so others are, like the most delicate and sensitive violins – those of Cremona – capable of producing the finest music that the soul of man hath ever devised. It is by such music, child, that some of us mount unto heaven. As for me, indeed, I daily feel more and more that music leadeth the soul upward, and that, as regards the disputations on the Word of God, the letter indeed killeth, but the spirit which music helpeth us to feel – the spirit, I say, giveth life.' He sighed, and drew his bow gently across the first string of his violoncello. ''Tis a time of angry argument. The Word of God is thrown from one to the other as a pebble is shot from a sling. It wearies me. In this room, among these books of music, my soul finds rest, and the spiritual part of me is lifted heavenwards. Humphrey and you, my dear, alone can comprehend this saying. Thou hast a mind like his, to feel and understand what music means. Listen!' Here he executed a piece of music at which the tears rose to my eyes. 'That is from the Romish Mass which we are taught ignorantly to despise. My child, I am, indeed, no Catholic, and I hold that ours is the purer Church; yet, in losing the Mass, we have lost the great music with which the Catholics sustain their souls. Some of our anthems, truly, are good; but what is a single anthem, finished in ten minutes, compared with a grand Mass which lasts three hours?'
Then he had portfolios filled with engravings, which he would bring forth and contemplate with a kind of rapture, discoursing upon the engraver's art and its difficulties, so that I should not, as is the case with ignorant persons, suppose that these things were produced without much training and skill. He had also boxes full of coins, medals, and transparent gems carved most delicately with heathen gods and goddesses, shepherds and swains, after the ancient fashion, unclothed and unashamed. On these things he would gaze with admiration which he tried to teach me, but could not succeed, because I cannot believe that we may without blame look upon such figures. Nevertheless, they were most beautiful, the hands and faces and the very hair so delicately and exquisitely carved that you could hardly believe it possible. And he talked solemnly and scholarly of these gauds, as if they were things which peculiarly deserved the attention of wise and learned men. Nay, he would be even lifted out of himself in considering them.
'Child,' he said, 'we know not, and we cannot even guess, the wonders of art that in heaven we shall learn to accomplish' – as if carving and painting were the occupation of angels! – 'or the miracles of beauty and of dexterity that we shall be able to design and execute. Here, the hand is clumsy and the brain is dull; we cannot rise above ourselves; we are blind to the beauty with which the Lord hath filled the earth for the solace of human creatures. Nay; we are not even tender with the beauty that we see and love. We suffer maidens sweet as the dreams of poets to waste their beauty unpraised and unsung. I am old, child, or I would praise thee in immortal verse. Much I fear that thou wilt grow old without the praise of sweet numbers. Well; there is no doubt more lasting beauty of face and figure hereafter to joy the souls of the elect. And thou wilt make his happiness for one man on earth. Pray Heaven, sweet child, that he look also to thine!'
He would say such things with so grand an air, speaking as if his words should command respect, and with so kindly an eye and a soft smile, while he gently stroked the side of his nose, which was long, that I was always carried away with the authority of it, and not till after I left him did I begin to perceive that my father would certainly never allow that the elect should occupy themselves with the frivolous pursuits of painting and the fine arts, but only with the playing of their harps and the singing of praises. It was this consideration which caused him to consent that his daughter should learn the spinnet. I did not tell him (God forgive me for the deceit, if there was any!) that we sometimes played music written for the Mass; nor did I repeat what Mr. Boscorel said concerning art and the flinging about of the Word of God, because my father was wholly occupied in controversy, and his principal, if not his only, weapon was the Word of God.
Another pleasure which we had was to follow Humphrey in his travels by the aid of his letters and a 'Mappa Mundi,' or atlas, which the Rector possessed. Then I remember when we heard that the boys were about to ride together through France, from Montpellier to Leyden in Holland, we had on the table the great map of France. There were many drawings, coats-of-arms, and other pretty things on the map.
'It is now,' said Mr. Boscorel, finding out the place he wanted, and keeping his forefinger upon it, 'nearly thirty years since I made the grand tour, being then governor to the young Lord Silchester, who afterwards died of the Plague in London. Else had I been now a Bishop, who am forgotten in this little place. The boys will ride, I take it, by the same road which we took: first, because it is the high road and the safest; next, because it is the best provided with inns and resting places; and, lastly, because it passes through the best part of his Most Christian Majesty's dominions, and carries the traveller through his finest and most stately cities. From Montpellier they will ride – follow my finger, child! – to Nismes. Before the Revocation it was a great place for those of the Reformed Religion, and a populous town. Here they will not fail to visit the Roman temple which still stands. It is not, indeed, such a noble monument as one may see in Rome; but it is in good preservation, and a fair example of the later style. They will also visit the great amphitheatre, which should be cleared of the mean houses which are now built up within it, and so exposed in all its vastness to the admiration of the world. After seeing these things they will direct their way across a desolate piece of country to Avignon, passing on the way the ancient Roman aqueduct called the Pont de Gard. At Avignon they will admire the many churches and the walls, and will not fail to visit the palace of the Popes during the Great Schism. Thence they will ride northwards, unless they wish first to see the Roman remains at Arles. Thence will they proceed up the Valley of the Rhone, through many stately towns, till they come to Lyons, where, doubtless, they will sojourn for a few days. Next, they will journey through the rich country of Burgundy, and from the ancient town of Dijon will reach Paris through the city of Fontainebleau. On the way they will see many noble houses and castles, with rich towns and splendid churches. In no country are there more splendid churches, built in the Gothic style, which we have now forgotten. Some of them, alas! have been defaced in the wars (so-called of Religion), where, as happened also to us, the delicate carved work, the scrolls and flowers and statues were destroyed, and the painted windows broken. Alas! that men should refuse to suffer Art to become the minister and handmaid of Religion! Yet in the first and most glorious temple, in which the glory of the Lord was visibly present, there were carved and graven lilies, with lions, oxen, chariots, cherubim, palm-trees and pomegranates.'
He closed his atlas and sat down.
'Child,' he said, meditating, 'for a scholar, in his youth, there is no pleasure comparable with the pleasure of travelling in strange countries, among the monuments of ancient days. My own son did never, to my sorrow, desire the pleasant paths of learning, and did never show any love for the arts, in which I have always taken so great delight. He desireth rather the companionship of men; he loveth to drink and sing; and he nourisheth a huge ambition. 'Tis best that we are not all alike. Humphrey should have been my son. Forget not, my child, that he hath desired to be remembered to thee in every letter which he hath written.'
If the Rector spoke much of Humphrey, Madam made amends by talking continually of Robin, and of the great things that he would do when he returned home. Justice of the Peace, that he would certainly be made; Captain first and afterwards Colonel in the Somerset Militia, that also should he be; Knight of the Shire, if he were ambitious – but that I knew he would never be; High Sheriff of the County, if his slender means permitted – for the estate was not worth more than five or six hundred pounds a year. Perhaps he would marry an heiress: it would be greatly to the advantage of the family if an heiress were to come into it with broad acres of her own; but she was not a woman who would seek to control her son in the matter of his affections, and if he chose a girl with no fortune to her back, if she was a good girl and pious, Madam would never say him nay. And he would soon return. The boy had been at Oxford and next in London, learning law, such as Justices require. He was now with Humphrey at the University of Leyden, doubtless learning more law.
'My dear,' said Madam, 'we want him home. His grandfather groweth old, though still, thank God! in the full possession of his faculties. Yet a young man's presence is needed. I trust and pray that he will return as he went, innocent, in spite of the many temptations of the wicked city. And, oh! child – what if he should have lost his heart to some designing city hussy!'
He came – as you shall hear immediately – Robin came home. Would to God that he had waited, if only for a single month! Had he not come all our afflictions would have been spared us! Had he not come that good old man, Sir Christopher – but it is vain to imagine what might have been. We are in the hands of the Lord; nothing that happens to us is permitted but by Him, and for some wise purpose was Sir Christopher in his old age – alas! why should I anticipate what I have to narrate?
LE ROY EST MORT
In February of the year 1685, King Charles II. died.
Sir Christopher himself brought us the news from Sherborne, whither he had gone, as was his wont, to the weekly ordinary. He clattered up the lane on his cob, and halted at our gate.
'Call thy father, child. Give you good day, Madam Eykin. Will your husband leave his books and come forth for a moment? Tell him I have news.'
My father rose and obeyed. His gown was in rags; his feet were clad in cloth shoon, which I worked for him; his cheek was wasted; but his eye was keen. He was lean and tall; his hair was as white as Sir Christopher's, though he was full twenty years younger.
'Friend and gossip,' said Sir Christopher, 'the King is dead.'
'Is Charles Stuart dead?' my father replied. 'He cumbered the earth too long. For five-and-twenty years hath he persecuted the saints. Also he hath burnt incense after the abomination of the heathen. Let his lot be as the lot of Ahaz.'
'Nay; he is buried by this time. His brother the Duke of York hath been proclaimed King.'
'James the Papist. It is as though Manasseh should succeed to Ahaz. And after him Jehoiakim.'
'Yet the bells will ring and we shall pray for the King; and wise men, friend Eykin, will do well to keep silence.'
'There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence. It may be that the time is at hand when a godly man must stretch forth his hand to tear down the Scarlet Woman, though she slay him in the attempt.'