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As he spoke the military preacher abandoned his leafy screen, and stalking forward, stood unexpected. ly before the old cavalier, who stared at him as if he had thought that his expressions had actually raised a devil.
“ Who art thou ?” at length said Sir Henry, in a raised and angry voice, while his daughter clung to his arm in terror, little confident that her father's pacific resolutions would abide the shock of this unwelcome apparition.
“I am one,” replied the soldier, “who neither fear nor shame to call myself a poor day-labourer in the great work of England-umph !-Ay, a simple and sincere upholder of the good old cause.”
“ And what the devil do you seek here?” said the old knight, fiercely.
“ The welcome due to the steward of the Lords Commissioners," answered the soldier.
“ Welcome art thou as salt would be to sore eyes," said the cavalier ;“ but who be your Commissioners, man ?”
The soldier with little courtesy held out a scroll, which Sir Henry took from him betwixt his finger and thumb, as if it were a letter from a pest-house ; and held it at as much distance from his eyes, as his purpose of reading it would permit. He then read aloud, and as he named the parties one by one, he added a short commentary on each name, addressed, indeed, to Alice, but in such a tone that showed he cared not for its being heard by the soldier. "
" Desborough-the ploughman Desborough-as grovelling a clown as is in England-a fellow that would be best at home, like an ancient Scythian, under the tilt of a waggon-d-n him. Harrison--a bloody-minded, ranting enthusiast, who read the Bi. ble to such purpose, that he never lacked a text to justify a murder--d-n him too. Bletson-a trueblue commonwealth's man, one of Harrrison's Rota Club, with his noddle full of new-fangled notions
about government, the clearest object of which is to establish the tail upon the head ; a fellow who leaves you the statutes and laws of old England, to prate of Rome and Greece-sees the Areopagus in Westminster-Hall, and takes old Noll for a Roman ConsulAdad, he is like to prove a dictator amongst them instead. Never mind ; d--n Bletson too."
“ Friend,” said the soldier, “I would willingly be civil, but it consists not with my duty to hear these godly men, in whose service I am, spoken of after this irreverent and unbecoming fashion. And albeit I know that you malignants think you have a right to make free with that damnation, which you seem to use as your own portion, yet it is superfluous to invoke it against others, who have better hopes in their thoughts, and better words in their mouths.”
“ Thou art but a canting varlet,” replied the knight; “and yet thou art right in some sense--for it is superfluous to curse men who already are damned as black as the smoke of hell itself.”
"I prithee forbear," continued the soldier, “for manners' sake if not for conscience-grisly oaths suit ill with gray beards.”
Nay, that is truth, if the devil spoke it,” said the knight; “ and I thank Heaven I can follow good counsel, though old Nick gives it. And so, friend, touching these same Coinmisioners, bear them this message ; that Sir Henry Lee is keeper of Woodstock Park, with right of waif and stray, vert and venison, as complete as any of them have to their estate-that is, if they possess any estate but what they have gained by plundering honest men. Nevertheless, he will give place to those who have made their might their right, and will not expose the lives of good and true men, where the odds are so much against them. And he protests that he makes this surrender, neither as acknowledging of these so termed Commissioners, nor as for his own individual part fearing their force, but purely to avoid the loss of
English blood, of which so much hath been spilt in these late times.”
" It is well spoken," said the steward of the Commissioners ; " and therefore, I pray you, let us walk together into the house, that thou may'st deliver up unto me the vessels, and gold and silver ornaments, belonging unto the Egyptian Pharaoh who committed them to thy keeping.”
6 What vessels ?" exclaimed the fiery old knight; “ and belonging to whom ? Unbaptized dog, speak civil of the Martyr in my presence, or I will do a deed misbecoming of me on that caitiff corpse of thine.”- And shaking his daughter from his right arm, the old man laid his hand on his rapier.
His antagonist, on the contrary, kept his temper completely, and waving his hand to add impression to his speech, he said, with a calmness which aggravated Sir Henry's wrath, “ Nay, good friend, I prithee be still, and brawl not-it becomes not gray hairs and feeble arms to rail and rant like drunkards. Put me not to use the carnal weapon in mine own defence, but listen to the voice of reason. See'st thou not that the Lord hath decided this great controversy in favour of us and ours, against thee and thine? Wherefore, render up thy stewardship peacefully, and deliver up to me the chattles of the Man, Charles Stuart.”
“ Patience is a good nag, but she will bolt," said the knight, unable longer to rein in his wrath. He plucked his sheathed rapier from his side, struck the soldier a severe blow with it, and instantly drawing it, and throwing the scabbard over the trees, placed himself in a posture of defence, with his sword's point within a half a yard of the steward's body. The latter stepped back with activity, throw his long cloak from his shoulders, and drawing his long tuck, stood upon his guard. The swords clashed smartly toge. ther, while Alice, in her terror, screamed wildly for assistance. But the combat was of short duration, The old cavalier had attacked a man as cunning of fence as he himself, or a little more so, and possessing all the strength and activity of which time had deprived Sir Henry, and the calmness which the other had lost in his passion. They had scarce exchanged three passes ere the sword of the knight flew up in the air, as if it had gone in search of the scabbard ; and burning with shame and anger, Sir Henry stood disarmed, at the mercy of his antagonist. The republican showed no purpose of abusing his victory ; nor did he, either during the combat, or after the victory was won, in any respect alter the sour and grave composure which reigned upon his countenance -a combat of life and death seemed to him a thing as familiar, and as little to be feared, as an ordinary bout with foils.
“ Thou art delivered unto my hands," he said, " and by the law of arms I might smite thee under the fifth rib, even as Asahel was struck dead by Abner, the son of Nun, as he followed the chase on the hill of Ammah, that lieth before Giah, in the way of the wilderness of Gibeon ; but far be it from me to spill thy remaining drops of blood. True it is thou art the captive of my sword and of my spear ; nevertheless, seeing that there may be a turning from thine evil ways, and a returning to those which are good, if the Lord enlarge thy date for repentance and amendment, wherefore should it be shortened by a poor sinful mortal, who is, speaking truly, but thy fel. low-worm ?”
Sir Henry Lee remained still confused, and una. ble to answer, when there arrived a fourth person, whom the cries of Alice had summoned to the spot. This was Joceline Joliffe, one of the under-keepers of the walk, who, seeing how matters stood, brandished his quarter-staff, a weapon from which he never parted, and having made it describe the figure of eight in a flourish through the air, would have brought it down with vengeance upon the head of the steward, had not Sir Henry interposed.
We must trail bats now, Joceline-our time of shouldering them is passed. It skills not striving against the hill the devil rules the roast, and makes our slaves our tutors.”
At this moment another auxiliary rushed out of the thicket to the knight's assistance. It was the large wolf-dog, in strength a mastiff, in form and almost in fleetness a greyhound, which we have already mentioned. Bevis was the noblest of the kind which ever pulled down a stag, tawny-coloured like a lion, with a black muzzle and black feet, just edged with a line of white round the toes. He was as tractable as he was strong and bold. Just as he was about to rush upon the soldier, the words “ Peace, Bevis !" from Sir Henry, converted the lion into a lamb, and, instead of pulling the soldier down, he walked round and round, and snuffed, as if using all his sagacity to discover who the stranger could be, towards whom, though of so questionable an appearance, he was enjoined forbearance. Apparently he was satisfied, for he laid aside his doubtful and threatening demonstra. tions, lowered his ears, smoothed down his bristles, and wagged his tail.
Sir Henry, who had great respect for the sagacity of his favourite, said in a low voice to Alice, “ Bevis is of thy opinion, and counsels submission. There is the finger of Heaven in this to punish the pride, ever the fault of our house.-Friend," he continued, addressing the soldier, “ thou hast given the finishing-touch to a lesson, which ten years of constant misfortune have been unable fully to teach me. Thou hast distinctly shown me the folly of thinking that a good cause can strengthen a weak arm. God forgive me for the thought, but I could almost turn infidel, and belieye that Heaven's blessing goes ever with the longest sword ; but it will not be always thus, God knows his time.-Reach me my Toledo, Joceline, yonder it lies; and the scabbard, see where it hangs on the tree. Do not pull at my cloak, Alice,