Chapter 9


When Richard reached home and recounted the escape he had had, an imprecation, the first he had ever heard him utter, broke from his father's lips. With the indiscrimination of party spirit, he looked upon the warder's insolence and attempted robbery as the spirit and behaviour of his master, the earl being in fact as little capable of such conduct as Mr. Heywood himself. Immediately after their early breakfast the next morning, he led his son to a chamber in the roof, of the very existence of which he had been ignorant, and there discovered to him good store of such armour of both kinds as was then in use, which for some years past he had been quietly collecting in view of the time--which, in the light of the last rumour, seemed to have at length arrived--when strength would have to decide the antagonism of opposed claims. Probably also it was in view of this time, seen from afar in silent approach, that, from the very moment when he took his education into his own hands, he had paid thorough attention to Richard's bodily as well as mental accomplishment, encouraging him in all manly sports, such as wrestling, boxing, and riding to hounds, with the more martial training of sword-exercises, with and without the target, and shooting with the carbine and the new-fashioned flint-lock pistols. The rest of the morning Richard spent in choosing a headpiece, and mail plates for breast, back, neck, shoulders, arms, and thighs. The next thing was to set the village tailor at work upon a coat of that thick strong leather, dressed soft and pliant, which they called buff, to wear under his armour. After that came the proper equipment of Lady, and that of the twenty men whom his father expected to provide from amongst his own tenants, and for whom he had already a full provision of clothing and armour; they had to be determined on, conferred with, and fitted, one by one, so as to avoid drawing attention to the proceeding. Hence both Mr. Heywood and Richard had enough to do, and the more that Faithful Stopchase, on whom was their chief dependence, had not yet recovered sufficiently from the effects of his fall to be equal to the same exertion as formerly--of which he was the more impatient that he firmly believed he had been a special object of Satanic assault, because of the present value of his counsels, and the coming weight of his deeds on the side of the well-affected. Thus occupied, the weeks passed into months. During this time Richard called again and again upon Dorothy, ostensibly to inquire after her mother. Only once, however, did she appear, when she gave him to understand she was so fully occupied, that, although obliged by his attention, he must not expect to see her again. 'But I will be honest, Richard,' she added, 'and let you know plainly that, were it otherwise in respect of my mother, I yet should not see you, for you and I have parted company, and are already so far asunder on different roads that I must bid you farewell at once while yet we can hear each other speak.' There was no anger, only a cold sadness in her tone and manner, while her bearing was stately as towards one with whom she had never had intimacy. Even her sadness seemed to Richard to have respect to the hopeless condition of her mother's health, and not at all to the changed relation between him and her. 'I trust, at least, mistress Dorothy,' he said, with some bitterness, 'you will grant me the justice that what I do, I do with a good conscience. After all that has been betwixt us I ask for no more.' 'What more could the best of men ask for?' 'I, who am far from making any claim to rank with such--' 'I am glad to know it,' interjected Dorothy. '--am yet capable of hoping that an eye at once keener and kinder than yours may see conscience at the very root of the actions which you, Dorothy, will doubtless most condemn.' Was this the boy she had despised for indifference? 'Was it conscience drove you to sprain my cousin Rowland's knee?' she asked. Richard was silent for a moment. The sting was too cruel. 'Pray hesitate not to say so, if such be your conviction,' added Dorothy. 'No,' replied Richard, recovering himself. 'I trust it is not such a serious matter as you say; but any how it was not conscience but jealousy and anger that drove me to that wrong.' 'Did you see the action such at the time?' 'No, surely; else I would not have been guilty of that for which I am truly sorry now.' 'Then, perhaps, the day will come when, looking back on what you do now, you will regard it with the like disapprobation.--God grant it may!' she added, with a deep sigh. 'That can hardly be, mistress Dorothy. I am, in the matters to which you refer, under the influence of no passion, no jealousy, no self- seeking, no--' 'Perhaps a deeper search might discover in you each and all of the bosom-sins you so stoutly abjure,' interrupted Dorothy. 'But it is needless for you to defend yourself to me; I am not your judge.' 'So much the better for me!' returned Richard; 'I should else have an unjust as well as severe one. I, on my part, hope the day may come when you will find something to repent of in such harshness towards an old friend whom you choose to think in the wrong.' 'Richard Heywood, God is my witness it is no choice of mine. I have no choice: what else is there to think? I know well enough what you and your father are about. But there is nothing save my own conscience and my mother's love I would not part with to be able to believe you honourably right in your own eyes--not in mine--God forbid! That can never be--not until fair is foul and foul is fair.' So saying, she held out her hand. 'God be between thee and me, Dorothy!' said Richard, with solemnity, as he took it in his. He spoke with a voice that seemed to him far away and not his own. Until now he had never realized the idea of a final separation between him and Dorothy; and even now, he could hardly believe she was in earnest, but felt, rather, like a child whose nurse threatens to forsake him on the dark road, and who begins to weep only from the pitiful imagination of the thing, and not any actual fear of her carrying the threat into execution. The idea of retaining her love by ceasing to act on his convictions--the very possibility of it--had never crossed the horizon of his thoughts. Had it come to him as the merest intellectual notion, he would have perceived at once, of such a loyal stock did he come, and so loyal had he himself been to truth all his days, that to act upon her convictions instead of his own would have been to widen a gulf at least measurable, to one infinite and impassable. She withdrew the hand which had solemnly pressed his, and left the room. For a moment he stood gazing after her. Even in that moment, the vague fear that she would not come again grew to a plain conviction, and forcibly repressing the misery that rose in bodily presence from his heart to his throat, he left the house, hurried down the pleached alley to the old sun-dial, threw himself on the grass under the yews, and wept and longed for war. But war was not to be just yet. Autumn withered and sank into winter. The rain came down on the stubble, and the red cattle waded through red mire to and from their pasture; the skies grew pale above, and the earth grew bare beneath; the winds grew sharp and seemed unfriendly; the brooks ran foaming to the rivers, and the rivers ran roaring to the ocean. Then the earth dried a little, and the frost came, and swelled and hardened it; the snow fell and lay, vanished and came again. But even out of the depth of winter, quivered airs and hints of spring, until at last the mighty weakling was born. And all this time rumour beat the alarum of war, and men were growing harder and more determined on both sides--some from self-opinion, some from party spirit, some from prejudice, antipathy, animosity, some from sense of duty, mingled more and less with the alloys of impulse and advantage. But he who was most earnest on the one side was least aware that he who was most earnest on the other was honest as himself. To confess uprightness in one of the opposite party, seemed to most men to involve treachery to their own; or if they were driven to the confession, it was too often followed with an attempt at discrediting the noblest of human qualities. The hearts of the two young people fared very much as the earth under the altered skies of winter, and behaved much as the divided nation. A sense of wrong endured kept both from feeling at first the full sorrow of their separation; and by the time that the tide of memory had flowed back and covered the rock of offence, they had got a little used to the dulness of a day from which its brightest hour had been blotted. Dorothy learned very soon to think of Richard as a prodigal brother beyond seas, and when they chanced to meet, which was but seldom, he was to her as a sad ghost in a dream. To Richard, on the other hand, she looked a lovely but scarce worshipful celestial, with merely might enough to hold his heart, swelling with a sense of wrong, in her hand, and squeeze it very hard. His consolation was that he suffered for the truth's sake, for to decline action upon such insight as he had had, was a thing as impossible as to alter the relations between the parts of a sphere. Dorothy longed for peace, and the return of the wandering chickens of the church to the shelter of her wings, to be led by her about the paled yard of obedience, picking up the barley of righteousness; Richard longed for the trumpet-blast of Liberty to call her sons together--to a war whose battles should never cease until men were free to worship God after the light he had lighted within them, and the dragon of priestly authority should breathe out his last fiery breath, no more to drive the feebler brethren to seek refuge in the house of hypocrisy. At home Dorothy was under few influences except those of her mother, and, through his letters, of Mr. Matthew Herbert. Upon the former a lovely spiritual repose had long since descended. Her anxieties were only for her daughter, her hopes only for the world beyond the grave. The latter was a man of peace, who, having found in the ordinances of his church everything to aid and nothing to retard his spiritual development, had no conception of the nature of the puritanical opposition to its government and rites. Through neither could Dorothy come to any true idea of the questions which agitated the politics of both church and state. To her, the king was a kind of demigod, and every priest a fountain of truth. Her religion was the sedate and dutiful acceptance of obedient innocence, a thing of small account indeed where it is rooted only in sentiment and customary preference, but of inestimable value in such cases as hers, where action followed upon acceptance. Richard, again, was under the quickening masterdom of a well-stored, active mind, a strong will, a judgment that sought to keep its balance even, and whose descended scale never rebounded, a conscience which, through all the mists of human judgment, eyed ever the blotted glimmer of some light beyond; and all these elements of power were gathered in his own father, in whom the customary sternness of the puritan parent had at length blossomed in confidence, a phase of love which, to such a mind as Richard's, was even more enchanting than tenderness. To be trusted by such a father, to feel his mind and soul present with him, acknowledging him a fit associate in great hopes and noble aims, was surely and ought to be, whatever the sentimentalist may say, some comfort for any sorrow a youth is capable of, such being in general only too lightly remediable. I wonder if any mere youth ever suffered, from a disappointment in love, half the sense of cureless pain which, with one protracted pang, gnaws at the heart of the avaricious old man who has dropt a sovereign into his draw-well. But the relation of Dorothy and Richard, although ordinary in outward appearance, was of no common kind; and while these two thus fell apart from each other in their outer life, each judging the other insensible to the call of highest rectitude, neither of them knew how much his or her heart was confident of the other's integrity. In respect of them, the lovely simile, in Christabel, of the parted cliffs, may be carried a little farther, for, under the dreary sea flowing between them, the rock was one still. Such a faith may sometimes, perhaps often does, lie in the heart like a seed buried beyond the reach of the sun, thoroughly alive though giving no sign: to grow too soon might be to die. Things had indeed gone farther with Dorothy and Richard, but the lobes of their loves had never been fairly exposed to the sun and wind ere the swollen clods of winter again covered them. Once, in the cold noon of a lovely day of frost, when the lightest step crackled with the breaking of multitudinous crystals, when the trees were fringed with furry white, and the old spider-webs glimmered like filigrane of fairy silver, they met on a lonely country-road. The sun shone red through depths of half-frozen vapour, and tinged the whiteness of death with a faint warmth of feeling and hope. Along the rough lane Richard walked reading what looked like a letter, but was a copy his father had procured of a poem still only in manuscript--the Lycidas of Milton. In the glow to which the alternating hot and cold winds of enthusiasm and bereavement had fanned the fiery particle within him, Richard was not only able to understand and enjoy the thought of which the poem was built, but was borne aloft on its sad yet hopeful melodies as upon wings of an upsoaring seraph. The flow of his feeling suddenly broken by an almost fierce desire to share with Dorothy the tenderness of the magic music of the stately monody, and then, ere the answering waves of her emotion had subsided, to whisper to her that the marvellous spell came from the heart of the same wonderful man from whose brain had issued, like Pallas from Jove's,-- what?--Animadversions upon the Remonstrants Defence against Smectymnus, the pamphlet which had so roused all the abhorrence her nature was capable of--he lifted his head and saw her but a few paces from him. Dorothy caught a glimpse of a countenance radiant with feeling, and eyes flashing through a watery film of delight; her own eyes fell; she said, 'Good morning, Richard!' and passed him without deflecting an inch. The bird of song folded its wings and called in its shining; the sun lost half his red beams; the sprinkled seed pearls vanished, and ashes covered the earth; he folded the paper, laid it in the breast of his doublet, and walked home through the glittering meadows with a fresh hurt in his heart. Dorothy's time and thoughts were all but occupied with the nursing of her mother, who, contrary to the expectation of her friends, outlived the winter, and revived as the spring drew on. She read much to her. Some of the best books had drifted into the house and settled there, but, although English printing was now nearly two centuries old, they were not many. We must not therefore imagine, however, that the two ladies were ill supplied with spiritual pabulum. There are few houses of the present day in which, though there be ten times as many books, there is so much strong food; if there was any lack, it was rather of diluents. Amongst those she read were Queen Elizabeth's Homilies, Hooker's Politie, Donne's Sermons, and George Herbert's Temple, to the dying lady only less dear than her New Testament. But even with this last, it was only through sympathy with her mother that Dorothy could come into any contact. The gems of the mind, which alone could catch and reflect such light, lay as yet under the soil, and much ploughing and breaking of the clods was needful ere they could come largely to the surface. But happily for Dorothy, there were amongst the books a few of those precious little quartos of Shakspere, the first three books of the Faerie Queene, and the Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, then much read, if we may judge from the fact that, although it was not published till after the death of Sidney, the eighth edition of it had now been nearly ten years in lady Vaughan's possession. Then there was in the drawing-room an old spinnet, sadly out of tune, on which she would yet, in spite of the occasional jar and shudder of respondent nerves, now and then play at a sitting all the little music she had learned, and with whose help she had sometimes even tried to find out an air for words that had taken her fancy. Also, she had the house to look after, the live stock to see to, her dog to play with and teach, a few sad thoughts and memories to discipline, a call now and then from a neighbour, or a longer visit from some old friend of her mother's to receive, and the few cottagers on all that was left of the estate of Wyfern to care for; so that her time was tolerably filled up, and she felt little need of anything more to occupy at least her hours and days. Meanwhile, through all nature's changes, through calm and tempest, rain and snow, through dull refusing winter, and the first passing visits of open-handed spring, the hearts of men were awaiting the outburst of the thunder, the blue peaks of whose cloud-built cells had long been visible on the horizon of the future. Every now and then they would start and listen, and ask each other was it the first growl of the storm, or but the rumbling of the wheels of the government. To the dwellers in Raglan Castle it seemed at least a stormy sign--of which the news reached them in the dull November weather--that the parliament had set a guard upon Worcester House in the Strand, and searched it for persons suspected of high treason--lord Herbert, doubtless, first of all, the direction and strength of whose political drift, suspicious from the first because of his religious persuasion, could hardly be any longer doubtful to the most liberal of its members. The news of the terrible insurrection of the catholics in Ireland followed. Richard kept his armour bright, his mare in good fettle, himself and his men in thorough exercise, read and talked with his father, and waited, sometimes with patience, sometimes without. At length, in the early spring, the king withdrew to York, and a body-guard of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood gathered around him. Richard renewed the flints of his carbine and pistols. In April, the king, refused entrance into the town of Hull, proclaimed the governor a traitor. The parliament declared the proclamation a breach of its privileges. Richard got new girths. The summer passed in various disputes. Towards its close the governor of Portsmouth declined to act upon a commission to organize the new levies of the parliament, and administered instead thereof an oath of allegiance to the garrison and inhabitants. Thereupon the place was besieged by Essex; the king proclaimed him a traitor, and the parliament retorted by declaring the royal proclamation a libel. Richard had his mare new-shod. On a certain day in August, the royal standard, with the motto, 'Give to Caesar his due,' was set up at Nottingham. Richard mounted his mare, and taking leave of his father, led Stopchase and nineteen men more, all fairly mounted, to offer his services to the parliament, as represented by the earl of Essex.