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RICHARD AND HIS FATHER.
Richard Heywood, as to bodily fashion, was a tall and already powerful youth. The clear brown of his complexion spoke of plentiful sunshine and air. A merry sparkle in the depths of his hazel eyes relieved the shadows of rather notably heavy lids, themselves heavily overbrowed--with a suggestion of character which had not yet asserted itself to those who knew him best. Correspondingly, his nose, although of a Greek type, was more notable for substance than clearness of line or modelling; while his lips had a boyish fulness along with a definiteness of bow-like curve, which manly resolve had not yet begun to compress and straighten out. His chin was at least large enough not to contradict the promise of his face; his shoulders were square, and his chest and limbs well developed: altogether it was at present a fair tabernacle--of whatever sort the indwelling divinity might yet turn out, fashioning it further after his own nature.
His father and he were the only male descendants of an old Monmouthshire family, of neither Welsh nor Norman, but as pure Saxon blood as might be had within the clip of the ocean. Roger, the father, had once only or twice in his lifetime been heard boast, in humorous fashion, that although but a simple squire, he could, on this side the fog of tradition, which nearer or further shrouds all origin, count a longer descent than any of the titled families in the county, not excluding the earl of Worcester himself. His character also would have gone far to support any assertion he might have chosen to make as to the purity of his strain. A notable immobility of nature--his friends called it firmness, his enemies obstinacy; a seeming disregard of what others might think of him; a certain sternness of manner--an unreadiness, as it were, to open his door to the people about him; a searching regard with which he was wont to peruse the face of anyone holding talk with him, when he seemed always to give heed to the looks rather than the words of him who spoke; these peculiarities had combined to produce a certain awe of him in his inferiors, and a dislike, not unavowed, in his equals. With his superiors he came seldom in contact, and to them his behaviour was still more distant and unbending. But, although from these causes he was far from being a favourite in the county, he was a man of such known and acknowledged probity that, until of late, when party spirit ran high and drew almost everybody, whether of consequence or not, to one side or the other, there was nobody who would not have trusted Roger Heywood to the uttermost. Even now, foes as well as friends acknowledged that he was to be depended upon; while his own son looked up to him with a reverence that in some measure overshadowed his affection. Such a character as this had necessarily been slow in formation, and the opinions which had been modified by it and had reacted upon it, had been as unalterably as deliberately adopted. But affairs had approached a crisis between king and parliament before one of his friends knew that there were in his mind any opinions upon them in process of formation--so reserved and monosyllabic had been his share in any conversation upon topics which had for a long time been growing every hour of more and more absorbing interest to all men either of consequence, intelligence, property, or adventure. At last, however, it had become clear, to the great annoyance of not a few amongst his neighbours, that Heywood's leanings were to the parliament. But he had never yet sought to influence his son in regard to the great questions at issue.
His house was one of those ancient dwellings which have grown under the hands to fit the wants of successive generations, and look as if they had never been other than old; two-storied at most, and many-gabled, with marvellous accretions and projections, the haunts of yet more wonderful shadows. There, in a room he called his study, shabby and small, containing a library more notable for quality and selection than size, Richard the next morning sought and found him.
'Father!' he said, entering with some haste after the usual request for admission.
'I am here, my son,' answered Roger, without lifting his eyes from the small folio in which he was reading.
'I want to know, father, whether, when men differ, a man is bound to take a side.'
'Nay, Richard, but a man is bound NOT to take a side save upon reasons well considered and found good.'
'It may be, father, if you had seen fit to send me to Oxford, I should have been better able to judge now.'
'I had my reasons, son Richard. Readier, perhaps, you might have been, but fitter--no. Tell me what points you have in question.'
'That I can hardly say, sir. I only know there are points at issue betwixt king and parliament which men appear to consider of mightiest consequence. Will you tell me, father, why you have never instructed me in these affairs of church and state? I trust it is not because you count me unworthy of your confidence.'
'Far from it, my son. My silence hath respect to thy hearing and to the judgment yet unawakened in thee. Who would lay in the arms of a child that which must crush him to the earth? Years did I take to meditate ere I resolved, and I know not yet if thou hast in thee the power of meditation.'
'At least, father, I could try to understand, if you would unfold your mind.'
'When you know what the matters at issue are, my son,--that is, when you are able to ask me questions worthy of answer, I shall be ready to answer thee, so far as my judgment will reach.'
'I thank you, father, In the meantime I am as one who knocks, and the door is not opened unto him.'
'Rather art thou as one who loiters on the door-step, and lifts up neither ring nor voice.'
'Surely, sir, I must first know the news.'
'Thou hast ears; keep them open. But at least you know, my son, that on the twelfth day of May last my lord of Strafford lost his head.'
'Who took it from him, sir? King or parliament?'
'Even that might be made a question; but I answer, the High Court of Parliament, my son.'
'Was the judgment a right one or a wrong, sir? Did he deserve the doom?'
'Ah, there you put a question indeed! Many men say RIGHT, and many men say WRONG. One man, I doubt me much, was wrong in the share HE bore therein.'
'Who was he, sir?'
'Nay, nay, I will not forestall thine own judgment. But, in good sooth, I might be more ready to speak my mind, were it not that I greatly doubt some of those who cry loudest for liberty. I fear that had they once the power, they would be the first to trample her under foot. Liberty with some men means MY liberty to do, and THINE to suffer. But all in good time, my son! The dawn is nigh.'
'You will tell me at least, father, what is the bone of contention?'
'My son, where there is contention, a bone shall not fail. It is but a leg-bone now; it will be a rib to-morrow, and by and by doubtless it will be the skull itself.'
'If you care for none of these things, sir, will not master Flowerdew have a hard name for you? I know not what it means, but it sounds of the gallows,' said Richard, looking rather doubtful as to how his father might take it.
'Possibly, my son, I care more for the contention than the bone, for while thieves quarrel honest men go their own ways. But what ignorance I have kept thee in, and yet left thee to bear the reproach of a puritan!' said the father, smiling grimly. 'Thou meanest master Flowerdew would call me a Gallio, and thou takest the Roman proconsul for a gallows-bird! Verily thou art not destined to prolong the renown of thy race for letters. I marvel what thy cousin Thomas would say to the darkness of thy ignorance.'
'See what comes of not sending me to Oxford, sir: I know not who is my cousin Thomas.'
'A man both of learning and wisdom, my son, though I fear me his diet is too strong for the stomach of this degenerate age, while the dressing of his dishes is, on the other hand, too cunningly devised for their liking. But it is no marvel thou shouldest be ignorant of him, being as yet no reader of books. Neither is he a close kinsman, being of the Lincolnshire branch of the Heywoods.'
'Now I know whom you mean, sir; but I thought he was a writer of stage plays, and such things as on all sides I hear called foolish, and mummery.'
'There be among those who call themselves the godly, who will endure no mummery but of their own inventing. Cousin Thomas hath written a multitude of plays, but that he studied at Cambridge, and to good purpose, this book, which I was reading when you entered, bears good witness.'
'What is the book, father?'
'Stay, I will read thee a portion. The greater part is of learning rather than wisdom--the gathered opinions of the wise and good concerning things both high and strange; but I will read thee some verses bearing his own mind, which is indeed worthy to be set down with theirs.'
He read that wonderful poem ending the second Book of the Hierarchy, and having finished it looked at his son.
'I do not understand it, sir,' said Richard.
'I did not expect you would,' returned his father. 'Here, take the book, and read for thyself. If light should dawn upon the page, as thou readest, perhaps thou wilt understand what I now say--that I care but little for the bones concerning which king and parliament contend, but I do care that men--thou and I, my son--should be free to walk in any path whereon it may please God to draw us. Take the book, my son, and read again. But read no farther save with caution, for it dealeth with many things wherein old Thomas is too readily satisfied with hearsay for testimony.'
Richard took the small folio and carried it to his own chamber, where he read and partly understood the poem. But he was not ripe enough either in philosophy or religion for such meditations. Having executed his task, for as such he regarded it, he turned to look through the strange mixture of wisdom and credulity composing the volume. One tale after another, of witch, and demon, and magician, firmly believed and honestly recorded by his worthy relative, drew him on, until he sat forgetful of everything but the world of marvels before him--to none of which, however, did he accord a wider credence than sprung from the interest of the moment. He was roused by a noise of quarrel in the farmyard, towards which his window looked, and, laying aside reading, hastened out to learn the cause.
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