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"From Eddystone to Berwick bounds, From Lynn to Milford Bay, That time of slumber was as Bright and busy as the day; For swift to east and swift to west The fiery herald sped, High on St. Michael's Mount it shone: It shone on Beachy Head." MACAULAY.
Doctor Woodford and his niece had not long reached their own door when the clatter of a horse's hoofs was heard, and Charles Archfield was seen, waving his hat and shouting 'Hurrah!' before he came near enough to speak,
"Good news, I see!" said the Doctor.
"Good news indeed! Not guilty! Express rode from Westminster Hall with the news at ten o'clock this morning. All acquitted. Expresses could hardly get away for the hurrahing of the people. Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" cried the young man, throwing up his hat, while Doctor Woodford, taking off his own, gave graver, deeper thanks that justice was yet in England, that these noble and honoured confessors were safe, and that the King had been saved from further injustice and violence to the Church.
"We are to have a bonfire on Portsdown hill," added Charles. "They will be all round the country, in the Island, and everywhere. My father is rid one way to spread the tidings, and give orders. I'm going on into Portsmouth, to see after tar barrels. You'll be there, sir, and you, Anne?" There was a moment's hesitation after the day's encounters, but he added, "My mother is going, and my little Madam, and Lucy. They will call for you in the coach if you will be at Ryder's cottage at nine o'clock. It will not be dark enough to light up till ten, so there will be time to get a noble pile ready. Come, Anne, 'tis Lucy's last chance of seeing you--so strange as you have made yourself of late."
This plea decided Anne, who had been on the point of declaring that she should have an excellent view from the top of the keep. However, not only did she long to see Lucy again, but the enthusiasm was contagious, and there was an attraction in the centre of popular rejoicing that drew both her and her uncle, nor could there be a doubt of her being sufficiently protected when among the Archfield ladies. So the arrangement was accepted, and then there was the cry--
"Hark! the Havant bells! Ay! and the Cosham! Portsmouth is pealing out. That's Alverstoke. They know it there. A salute! Another."
"Scarce loyal from the King's ships," said the Doctor, smiling.
"Nay, 'tis only loyalty to rejoice that the King can't make a fool of himself. So my father says," rejoined Charles.
And that seemed to be the mood of all England. When Anne and her uncle set forth in the summer sunset light the great hill above them was dark with the multitudes thronging around the huge pyre rising in the midst. They rested for some minutes at the cottage indicated before the arrival of Sir Philip, who rode up accompanying the coach in which his three ladies were seated, and which was quite large enough to receive Dr. Woodford and Mistress Anne. Charles was in the throng, in the midst of most of the younger gentlemen of the neighbourhood, and a good many of the naval and military officers, directing the arrangement of the pile.
What a scene it was, as seen even from the windows of the coach where the ladies remained, for the multitude of sailors, soldiers, town and village people, though all unanimous, were far too tumultuous for them to venture beyond their open door, especially as little Mrs. Archfield was very far from well, and nothing but her eagerness for amusement could have brought her hither, and of course she could not be left. Probably she knew as little of the real bearings of the case or the cause of rejoicing as did the boys who pervaded everything with their squibs, and were only restrained from firing them in the faces of the horses by wholesome fear of the big whips of the coachman and outriders who stood at the horses' heads.
It was hardly yet dark when the match was put to the shavings, and to the sound of the loud 'Hurrahs!' and cries of 'Long live the Bishops!' 'Down with the Pope!' the flame kindled, crackled, and leapt up, while a responsive fire was seen on St. Catherine's Down in the Isle of Wight, and northward, eastward, westward, on every available point, each new light greeted by fresh acclamations, as it shone out against the summer night sky, while the ships in the harbour showed their lights, reflected in the sea, as the sky grew darker. Then came a procession of sailors and other rough folk, bearing between poles a chair with a stuffed figure with a kind of tiara, followed by others with scarlet hats and capes, and with reiterated shouts of 'Down with the Pope!' these were hurled into the fire with deafening hurrahs, their more gorgeous trappings being cleverly twitched off at the last moment, as part of the properties for the 5th of November.
Little Mrs. Archfield clapped her hands and screamed with delight as each fresh blaze shot up, and chattered with all her might, sometimes about some lace and perfumes which she wanted Anne to procure for her in London at the sign of the Flower Pot, sometimes grumbling at her husband having gone off to the midst of the party closest to the fire, "Just like Mr. Archfield, always leaving her to herself," but generally very well amused, especially when a group of gentlemen, officers, and county neighbours gathered round the open door talking to the ladies within.
Peregrine was there with his hands in his pockets, and a queer ironical smile writhing his features. He was asked if his father and brother were present.
"Not my father," he replied. "He has a logical mind. Martha is up here with her guardian, and I am keeping out of her way, and my brother is full in the thick of the fray. A bonfire is a bonfire to most folks, were it to roast their grandsire!"
"Oh, fie, Mr. Oakshott, how you do talk!" laughed Mrs. Archfield.
"Nay, but you rejoice in the escape of the good Bishops," put in Lucy.
"For what?" asked Peregrine. "For refusing to say live and let live?"
"Not against letting live, but against saying so unconstitutionally, my young friend," said Dr. Woodford, "or tyrannising over our consciences."
Generally Peregrine was more respectful to Dr. Woodford than to any one else; but there seemed to be a reckless bitterness about him on that night, and he said, "I marvel with what face those same Eight Reverend Seigniors will preach against the French King."
"Sir," thrust in Sedley Archfield, "I am not to hear opprobrious epithets applied to the Bishops."
"What was the opprobrium?" lazily demanded Peregrine, and in spite of his unpopularity, the laugh was with him. Sedley grew more angry.
"You likened them to the French King--"
"The most splendid monarch in Europe," said Peregrine coolly.
"A Frenchman!" quoth one of the young squires with withering contempt.
"He has that ill fortune, sir," said Peregrine. "Mayhap he would be sensible of the disadvantage, if he evened himself with some of my reasonable countrymen."
"Do you mean that for an insult, sir?" exclaimed Sedley Archfield, striding forward.
"As you please," said Peregrine. "To me it had the sound of compliment."
"Oh la! they'll fight," cried Mrs. Archfield. "Don't let them! Where's the Doctor? Where's Sir Philip?"
"Hush, my dear," said Lady Archfield; "these gentlemen would not fall out close to us."
Dr. Woodford was out of sight, having been drawn into controversy with a fellow-clergyman on the limits of toleration. Anne looked anxiously for him, but with provoking coolness Peregrine presently said, "There's no crowd near, and if you will step out, the fires on the farther hills are to be seen well from the knoll hard by."
He spoke chiefly to Anne, but even if she had not a kind of shrinking from trusting herself with him in this strange wild scene, she would have been prevented by Mrs. Archfield's eager cry--
"Oh, I'll come, let me come! I'm so weary of sitting here. Thank you, Master Oakshott."
Lady Archfield's remonstrance was lost as Peregrine helped the little lady out, and there was nothing for it but to follow her, as close as might be, as she hung on her cavalier's arm chattering, and now and then giving little screams of delight or alarm. Lady Archfield and her daughter each was instantly squired, but Mistress Woodford, a nobody, was left to keep as near them as she could, and gaze at the sparks of light of the beacons in the distance, thinking how changed the morrow would be to her.
Presently a figure approached, and Charles Archfield's voice said, "Is that you, Anne? Did I hear my wife's voice?"
"Yes, she is there."
"And with that imp of evil! I would his own folk had him!" muttered Charles, dashing forward with "How now, madam? you were not to leave the coach!"
She laughed exultingly. "Ha, sir! see what comes of leaving me to better cavaliers, while you run after your fire! I should have seen nothing but for Master Oakshott."
"Come with me now," said Charles; "you ought not to be standing here in the dew."
"Ha, ha! what a jealous master," she said; but she put her arm into his, saying with a courtesy, "Thank you, Master Oakshott, lords must be obeyed. I should have been still buried in the old coach but for you."
Peregrine fell back to Anne. "That blaze is at St. Helen's," he began. "That--what! will you not wait a moment?"
"No, no! They will want to be going home."
"And have you forgotten that it is only just over Midsummer? This is the week of my third seventh--the moment for change. O Anne! make it a change for the better. Say the word, and the die will be cast. All is ready! Come!"
He tried to take her hand, but the vehemence of his words, spoken under his breath, terrified her, and with a hasty "No, no! you know not what you talk of," she hastened after her friends, and was glad to find herself in the safe haven of the interior of the coach.
Ere long they drove down the hill, and at the place of parting were set down, the last words in Anne's ears being Mrs. Archfield's injunctions not to forget the orange flower-water at the sign of the Flower Pot, drowning Lucy's tearful farewells.
As they walked away in the moonlight a figure was seen in the distance.
"Is that Peregrine Oakshott?" asked the Doctor. "That young man is in a desperate mood, ready to put a quarrel on any one. I hope no harm will come of it."
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