صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

a

a

[ocr errors]

sentiment. Hey, Colonel, the evening wears, and the Mayor will think me unmannerly to tarry so long, for Pelbam and I must to horse early to-morrow."

Sir Harry rose, yet lingered, as if reluctant to bid his friend good-night. Then he turned and wrung the Colonel's hand, say. ing, “ I will write to you on the earliest opportunity; we need to have faithful couriers at this time. Farewell, my friend, we rely much on your help and countenance in the work here ; and Mistress Alice, we ask your prayers and good wishes that the right may prevail.” He slowly left the room, looking almost sad, fol. lowed by Will, who was to accompany him to the Mayor's house, Simon walking before them with a lantern.

After they were gone the Colonel sat down before the fire, and seemed so lost in thought that Alice did not like to disturb him. She watched him for a long time, wondering what made him knit bis brows and heave such deep sighs. At last he said, in a stern voice, clenching his hand, “ It must be done, at whatever cost, then the king will hear reason. He must die!" Alice could bear it no longer. In a moment she was by his side, with her arms round his neck, asking in a scared whisper, “ Who must die, dear father?" The Colonel started, and looked absently in her face. "I did not know you were there, little daughter; I thought you had gone to bed."

“Why, dear father, it is only just eight o'clock. And 'tis well I am up to smooth out these great wrinkles in your forehead. You can't think how troubled you looked just now. I was frightened."

“Were you, sweetheart ? " said he, half smiling. Then clasping her round, and drawing her head to rest on his shoulder, he ex. claimed, earnestly, “I pray God, my Alice, that in doing your duty you will never have to grieve your father's heart.”

She lifted her head in surprise. “Oh, father, how could I? It would always please you to see me do my duty."

“Yes, yes, child; of course. I was only thinking of something."

“If I did wrong you would be grieved; but even then I think you would love me, and be

sorry

for
me, shouldn't

you,

father?" "I should, my darling. Nothing, I believe, could turn my heart against you, if not for your sake, for your mother's, wbile you looked at me with her eyes." " What made

you think of such a thing ?” asked Alice, after a pause.

“If I tell you," said the Colonel, “it must never be repeated to anyone."

The promise was given, and he continued.—"Sir Harry is in a very difficult position, and has to decide between duty to his country and duty to his father. Which should you do, Alice, if you had to choose ?"

[ocr errors]

She looked up at him. Could she ever bear to see him suffer ? But then there rose up recollections of stories she had read of brave people who had forgotten all for their country. Her head sunk on his shoulder again. One way must be better than the other; and after I had asked God to show me the right one, I should ask you, father, to forgive me if it crossed your will, and seemed to make me undutiful."

“Hum! You have got out of your difficulty.”

“Only an imaginary difficulty, father. But tell me, please, how so good and clever a man as Sir Harry Vane could have fallen into such trouble."

You know something of Lord Strafford's proceedings, and how he advises the King to dispense with a Parliament, and rule us and raise money by means of a foreign army-in fact, to overthrow all the good laws, and take from us all the privileges obtained with so much labour and suffering by our forefathers ? ”

“Yes,” said Alice, sorrowfully,

“Well, until this enemy to our liberties is removed from his present post-until he ceases to urge the King to do what will bring ruin on the country, and, in the end, ruin the King himself—we shall bave no rest. In truth, we shall have none while he lives ; for the King is pledged to defend him, and stand by him in any case of need. He must die.”

“But, father, couldn't they banish him?" asked Alice.

“ It would not answer, my child. He could hatch conspiracies abroad, and perhaps raise foreign armies to support arbitrary measures at home. He must die.

He must die. But there is great difficulty in convicting him ; he has many powerful friends who will think to

; please the king by defending his favourite. But now Vane tells me that he has evidence enough in his own possession to condemn him.”

"I see now," said Alice,“ how he will displease his father. Old Sir Harry Vane is a great friend of the earl's.”

“ Not so much of the earl's, as a devoted servant of Charles. Vane says that in looking over some of his father's papers he chanced to find the notes of a Cabinet Council that will convict the earl of treason to his country. But while this is a great matter of satisfaction to our party, Sir Harry feels it a great trial to himself, and fears he shall mortally offend his father. Had it not been for Mr. Pym, who pressed him to remember the danger threatening his native land, he could never have suffered the matter to be revealed. Poor Vane! he said to me, woefully—'Heaven knows I have had to cross my father's wishes and hopes too many times already, and this will be my utter ruin in his good opinion. He is very sorry, as you would be, little Alice. But not a word of what I have said ; it will be known soon enough.”

And so the little maiden came to know a secret, to possess which the proud earl and his friends would have given a fortune. When it was at length revealed, it filled them with fear and rage.

CHAPTER VIII.- ALICE'S DIARY. MR. PYM PROPOSES TO “ SWEEP THE House." 1640. December 1st.—Life is changed to me. I should hardly know the careless, dreaming Alice, that used to roam about the house and think all day of fine romantic doings, and of a golden future such as poets fancy.

I seemed to meet that Alice yesterday as I turned over my wardrobe, and unfolded the gowns that Janet so despised. My father says that now I am really a woman, I must pay attention to my dress, and remember that I have to support the dignity of our house in the female line. It is at times a sore vexation, and Lucy does not spare me since she heard my father commend the change. And now he says I must prepare for this visit to Winestead, where we shall meet the gentlefolks, and he will not have me go in old-fashioned clothes. Lucy is in great spirits, remodeling my mother's beautiful dresses, and telling father that I shall want many new ones. His pride in me would lead him to any extravagance; but I am Lucy's mistress, and will not spend money so foolishly. I am sick of it all, and should dread the thought of Christmas, but that it brings Andrew home.

There is little heart in the country for merry-making; yet everyone is preparing to honour the blessed time. Some are full of hope, thinking that the new Parliament will heal all the wounds that Liberty has received; others say that they are too deep to be soon cured. All look serious, and each has a different opinion from his neighbour. When will it all end? I wish we were in London to hear more news; it is so slow travelling north. Who would have thought, a year ago, that I should be fretting myself about the doings of great statesmen? Yet I would not return to the past. No, child Alice! I am better than you were. You had a happy life, but I have a happier and deeper; your soul was only half awake, with folded wings, but I have learnt to take long flights. I have felt the touch of realities, having met care, and sorrow, and even death, face to face. Yet I am more glad than you ever were. If I do not laugh so often, nor sing so gaily, yet low down in my heart a little rill of joy leaps laughing along; for I know a secret, child Alice, that you never knew. I dare not tell you, lest I lose any of its sweetness, or brush off the bloom.

[ocr errors]

Ah! well, I need not boast, old self. I can tell you nothing so wonderful and grand as the truth you learned long ago-that Christ died for Alice Lister. 'Twas in your day,

Methought I heard one calling Child!'

And I replied, 'My Lord !'" You solved the great mystery of life, and I can only take further steps in the journey you begun.

December 2nd.—I sighed for news. To-day they have come, and one part of them has nearly frozen over that little rill that murmured so cheerily in my heart.

But first came public news, in remembering which I must try to forget that I have any cause for sorrow of my own. What a hard lesson this! Yet my father practises it daily.

Sir Harry Vane wrote, as he promised, and I was permitted to read the letter myself. He says that the members have come together with a quicker memory of their injuries, and a greater perception of their own power; and on the day of assembling this was visible in the countenances of most there. He adds that Mr. Pym is very decided, and told Mr. Hyde roundly that “they must not only sweep the house clean below, but must pull down the cobwebs which hung on the tops, that they might not breed dust, and so make a foul house hereafter. That they had now an opportunity to make their country happy by removing all grievances and pulling up the causes of them by the roots if all men would do their duties.”

If all men were as brave as Mr. Pym, and as simple in heart, this might soon be, but so many will try to advance themselves and let slip this opportunity. Sir Harry speaks of Mr. Marten as being a steadfast patriot, though some of their party do not think him likely to remain constant to anything but his gaieties. It must be the same Mr. Marten of whom Master Ralph spoke, as being such a huge favourite with the ladies, and full of drollery.

Sir Harry says that the further they go into the business, the worse things look, and Sir Benjamin Rudyard declared in the House that the King's admirers had “rung a very doleful, deadly knell over the whole kingdom.” There is one pleasant morsel in the letter, telling of the rejoicings in London on the 28th day of November, when Master Pryone and his two friends entered the city, being set free from imprisonment. The people met them in great multitudes, strewing the way with flowers, and wearing bays and rosemary in their hats. The Parliament has restored their liberty and given them riches, but nothing can make amends for the dreadful pains they endured, by order of Archbishop Laud; nothing can cover up the horrible mutilations that make me sick to think on. This cannot be the religion of Jesus ; as one said, “What do these priests think will become of themselves, when the Master of the house shall come and find them thus beating their fellow servants?" We are a sinful nation, oh, Lord !

With all this sadness, I did not forget that my father's birthday fell on the third day of this month, and to divert my mind, bethought me of making a pasty for tomorrow's dinner. Janet said I had best go and rest in the parlour, or take a walk with Dorothy; but I had rested all the morning since I talked to the poor people who came for medicine and broken meat, so did not heed her advice. While very busy in the buttery, Ann Marvel put her head in at the door and cried, “Oh! here you are, Alice. Janet said I had better come another time; but I found out you were somewhere in the house, so I determined to seek you. She is crosser than ever. She said you were busy ; 'why, you are only making a pasty; can't I

stay?"

a

I said she might, if she would not come too near me and soil her dress with the flour.

“I never saw you cook anything before, Alice," said she.

Lucy, who was present, took upon herself to remark that Mistress Alice could make pasties before she was Ann's age, though she bad no need to make them unless she had a mind.

“I never should have a mind,” said Ann; “but mother says I must begin to learn. And now, let me tell you, Alice, what I came for-I have a letter from Andrew."

I gave her a look to be silent before Lucy, which she was quick enough to understand ; and so she only asked if I should soon be ready.

I bade her wait a while, which tried her patience sorely, and I saw she had got something unpleasant to tell ; 80 to humour her, and content myself, I bade the cook finish work, and took Ann to the library. “What is it, dear?" said I, sitting on the rug beside

p her.

The child began to cry. "Only think, Alice, he is not coming home for Christmas."

I could fain have kept her company in tears, but drove them back for another time, and said, “ Your brother is not ill, is he?"

“No," she replied, sobbing," he is well; but Master Wakefield is very ill, and his old father entreats Andrew to stay with them, and Andrew says they have all been so kind to him, that he cannot refuse the old man's request. So instead of coming home, he must stay down in the south of England. I know Andrew is sorry, but that does not make it any better, for he says it is bad weather for travelling, that he cannot come home now until Easter. Ob! I

all day!” The child wept so, I could do nought but kiss her wet cheeks, and pray her to refrain. “But why need Master Wakefield have fallen

could cry

« السابقةمتابعة »