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From the time when the conversation recorded had in some measure dispelled the fog between them, Roger and Richard Heywood drew rapidly nearer to each other. The father had been but waiting until his son should begin to ask him questions, for watchfulness of himself and others had taught him how useless information is to those who have not first desired it, how poor in influence, how soon forgotten; and now that the fitting condition had presented itself, he was ready: with less of reserve than in the relation between them was common amongst the puritans, he began to pour his very soul into that of his son. All his influence went with that party which, holding that the natural flow of the reformation of the church from popery had stagnated in episcopacy, consisted chiefly of those who, in demanding the overthrow of that form of church government, sought to substitute for it what they called presbyterianism; but Mr. Heywood belonged to another division of it which, although less influential at present, was destined to come by and by to the front, in the strength of the conviction that to stop with presbyterianism was merely to change the name of the swamp--a party whose distinctive and animating spirit was the love of freedom, which indeed, degenerating into a passion among its inferior members, broke out, upon occasion, in the wildest vagaries of speech and doctrine, but on the other hand justified itself in its leaders, chief amongst whom were Milton and Cromwell, inasmuch as they accorded to the consciences of others the freedom they demanded for their own--the love of liberty with them not meaning merely the love of enjoying freedom, but that respect for the thing itself which renders a man incapable of violating it in another.
Roger Heywood was, in fact, already a pupil of Milton, whose anonymous pamphlet of 'Reformation touching Church Discipline' had already reached him, and opened with him the way for all his following works.
Richard, with whom my story has really to do, but for the understanding of whom it is necessary that the character and mental position of his father should in some measure be set forth, proved an apt pupil, and was soon possessed with such a passion for justice and liberty, as embodied in the political doctrines now presented for his acceptance, that it was impossible for him to understand how any honest man could be of a different mind. No youth, indeed, of simple and noble nature, as yet unmarred by any dominant phase of selfishness, could have failed to catch fire from the enthusiasm of such a father, an enthusiasm glowing yet restrained, wherein party spirit had a less share than principle--which, in relation to such a time, is to say much. Richard's heart swelled within him at the vistas of grandeur opened by his father's words, and swelled yet higher when he read to him passages from the pamphlet to which I have referred. It seemed to him, as to most young people under mental excitement, that he had but to tell the facts of the case to draw all men to his side, enlisting them in the army destined to sweep every form of tyranny, and especially spiritual usurpation and arrogance, from the face of the earth.
Being one who took everybody at the spoken word, Richard never thought of seeking Dorothy again at their former place of meeting. Nor, in the new enthusiasm born in him, did his thoughts for a good many days turn to her so often, or dwell so much upon her, as to cause any keen sense of their separation. The flood of new thoughts and feelings had transported him beyond the ignorant present. In truth, also, he was a little angry with Dorothy for showing a foolish preference for the church party, so plainly in the wrong was it! And what could SHE know about the question by his indifference to which she had been so scandalised, but to which he had been indifferent only until rightly informed thereon! If he had ever given her just cause to think him childish, certainly she should never apply the word to him again! If he could but see her, he would soon convince her--indeed he MUST see her--for the truth was not his to keep, but to share! It was his duty to acquaint her with the fact that the parliament was the army of God, fighting the great red dragon, one of whose seven heads was prelacy, the horn upon it the king, and Laud its crown. He wanted a stroll--he would take the path through the woods and the shrubbery to the old sun-dial. She would not be there, of course, but he would walk up the pleached alley and call at the house.
Reasoning thus within himself one day, he rose and went. But, as he approached the wood, Dorothy's great mastiff, which she had reared from a pup with her own hand, came leaping out to welcome him, and he was prepared to find her not far off.
When he entered the yew-circle, there she stood leaning on the dial, as if, like old Time, she too had gone to sleep there, and was dreaming ancient dreams over again. She did not move at the first sounds of his approach; and when at length, as he stood silent by her side, she lifted her head, but without looking at him, he saw the traces of tears on her cheeks. The heart of the youth smote him.
'Weeping, Dorothy?' he said.
'Yes,' she answered simply.
'I trust I am not the cause of your trouble, Dorothy?'
'You!' returned the girl quickly, and the colour rushed to her pale cheeks. 'No, indeed. How should you trouble me? My mother is ill.'
Considering his age, Richard was not much given to vanity, and it was something better that prevented him from feeling pleased at being thus exonerated: she looked so sweet and sad that the love which new interests had placed in abeyance returned in full tide. Even when a child, he had scarcely ever seen her in tears; it was to him a new aspect of her being.
'Dear Dorothy!' he said, 'I am very much grieved to learn this of your beautiful mother.'
'She IS beautiful,' responded the girl, and her voice was softer than he had ever heard it before; 'but she will die, and I shall be left alone.'
'No, Dorothy! that you shall never be,' exclaimed Richard, with a confidence bordering on presumption.
'Master Herbert is with her now,' resumed Dorothy, heedless of his words.
'You do not mean her life is even now in danger?' said Richard, in a tone of sudden awe.
'I hope not, but, indeed, I cannot tell. I left master Herbert comforting her with the assurance that she was taken away from the evil to come. "And I trust, madam," the dear old man went on to say, "that my departure will not long be delayed, for darkness will cover the earth, and gross darkness the people." Those were his very words.'
'Nay, nay!' said Richard, hastily; 'the good man is deceived; the people that sit in darkness shall see a great light.'
The girl looked at him with strange interrogation.
'Do not be angry, sweet Dorothy,' Richard went on. 'Old men may mistake as well as youths. As for the realm of England, the sun of righteousness will speedily arise thereon, for the dawn draws nigh; and master Herbert may be just as far deceived concerning your mother's condition, for she has been but sickly for a long time, and yet has survived many winters.'
Dorothy looked at him still, and was silent. At length she spoke, and her words came slowly and with weight.
'And what prophet's mantle, if I may make so bold, has fallen upon Richard Heywood, that the word in his mouth should outweigh that of an aged servant of the church? Can it be that the great light of which he speaks is Richard Heywood himself?'
'As master Herbert is a good man and a servant of God,' said Richard, coldly, stung by her sarcasm, but not choosing to reply to it, 'his word weighs mightily; but as a servant of the church his word is no weightier than my father's, who is also a minister of the true tabernacle, that wherein all who are kings over themselves are priests unto God--though truly he pretends to no prophecy beyond the understanding of the signs of the times.'
Dorothy saw that a wonderful change, such as had been incredible upon any but the witness of her own eyes and ears, had passed on her old playmate. He was in truth a boy no longer. Their relative position was no more what she had been of late accustomed to consider it. But with the change a gulf had begun to yawn between them.
'Alas, Richard!' she said, mistaking what he meant by the signs of the times, 'those who arrogate the gift of the Holy Ghost, while their sole inspiration is the presumption of their own hearts and an overweening contempt of authority, may well mistake signs of their own causing for signs from heaven. I but repeat the very words of good master Herbert.'
'I thought such swelling words hardly sounded like your own, Dorothy. But tell me, why should the persuasion of man or woman hang upon the words of a fellow-mortal? Is not the gift of the Spirit free to each who asks it? And are we not told that each must be fully persuaded in his own mind?'
'Nay, Richard, now I have thee! Hang you not by the word of your father, who is one, and despise the authority of the true church, which is many?'
'The true church were indeed an authority, but where shall we find it? Anyhow, the true church is one thing, and prelatical episcopacy another. But I have yet to learn what authority even the true church could have over a man's conscience.'
'You need to be reminded, Richard, that the Lord of the church gave power to his apostles to bind or loose.'
'I do not need to be so reminded, Dorothy, but I do not need to be shown first that that power was over men's consciences; and second, that it was transmitted to others by the apostles waiving the question as to the doubtful ordination of English prelates.'
Fire flashed from Dorothy's eyes.
'Richard Heywood,' she said, 'the demon of spiritual pride has already entered into you, and blown you up with a self-sufficiency which I never saw in you before, or I would never, never have companied with you, as I am now ashamed to think I have done so long, even to the danger of my soul's health.'
'In that case I may comfort myself, mistress Dorothy Vaughan,' said Richard, 'that you will no longer count me a boy! But do you then no longer desire that I should take one part OR the other and show myself a man? Am I man enough yet for the woman thou art, Dorothy? --But, Dorothy,' he added, with sudden change of tone, for she had in anger turned to leave him, 'I love you dearly, and I am truly sorry if I have spoken so as to offend you. I came hither eager to share with you the great things I have learned since you left me with just contempt a fortnight ago.'
'Then it is I whose foolish words have cast you into the seat of the scorner! Alas! alas! my poor Richard! Never, never more, while you thus rebel against authority and revile sacred things, will I hold counsel with you.'
And again she turned to go.
'Dorothy!' cried the youth, turning pale with agony to find on the brink of what an abyss of loss his zeal had set him, 'wilt thou, then, never speak to me more, and I love thee as the daylight?'
'Never more till thou repent and turn. I will but give thee one piece of counsel, and then leave thee--if for ever, that rests with thee. There has lately appeared, like the frog out of the mouth of the dragon, a certain tractate or treatise, small in bulk, but large with the wind of evil doctrine. Doubtless it will reach your father's house ere long, if it be not, as is more likely, already there, for it is the vile work of one they call a puritan, though where even the writer can vainly imagine the purity of such work to lie, let the pamphlet itself raise the question. Read the evil thing--or, I will not say read it, but glance the eye over it. It is styled "Animadversions upon--." Truly, I cannot recall the long-drawn title. It is filled, even as a toad with poison, so full of evil and scurrilous sayings against good men, rating and abusing them as the very off-scouring of the earth, that you cannot yet be so far gone in evil as not to be reclaimed by seeing whither such men and their inspiration would lead you. Farewell, Richard.'
With the words, and without a look, Dorothy, who had been standing sideways in act to go, swept up the pleached alley, her step so stately and her head so high that Richard, slowly as she walked away, dared not follow her, but stood 'like one forbid.' When she had vanished, and the light shone in full at the far end, he gave a great sigh and turned away, and the old dial was forsaken.
The scrap of title Dorothy had given was enough to enable Richard to recognise the pamphlet as one a copy of which his father had received only a few days before, and over the reading of which they had again and again laughed unrestrainedly. As he walked home he sought in vain to recall anything in it deserving of such reprobation as Dorothy had branded it withal. Had it been written on the other side no search would have been necessary, for party spirit (from which how could such a youth be free, when the greatest men of his time were deeply tainted?), while it blinds the eyes in one direction, makes them doubly keen in another. As it was, the abuse in the pamphlet referred to, appeared to him only warrantable indignation; and, the arrogance of an imperfect love leading him to utter desertion of his newly-adopted principles, he scorned as presumptuous that exercise of her own judgment on the part of Dorothy which had led to their separation, bitterly resenting the change in his playmate, who, now an angry woman, had decreed his degradation from the commonest privileges of friendship, until such time as he should abjure his convictions, become a renegade to the truth, and abandon the hope of resulting freedom which the strife of parties held out--an act of tyranny the reflection upon which raised such a swelling in his throat as he had never felt but once before, when a favourite foal got staked in trying to clear a fence. Having neither friend nor sister to whom to confess that he was in trouble--have confided it he could not in any case, seeing it involved blame of the woman his love for whom now first, when on the point of losing her for ever, threatened to overmaster him--he wandered to the stables, which he found empty of men and nearly so of horses, half-involuntarily sought the stall of the mare his father had given him on his last birthday, laid his head on the neck bent round to greet him, and sighed a sore response to her soft, low, tremulous whinny.
As he stood thus, overcome by the bitter sense of wrong from the one he loved best in the world, something darkened the stable-door, and a voice he knew reached his ear. Mistaking the head she saw across an empty stall for that of one of the farm-servants, Goody Rees was calling aloud to know if he wanted a charm for the toothache.
Richard looked up.
'And what may your charm be, mistress Rees?' he asked.
'Aha! is it thou, young master?' returned the woman. 'Thou wilt marvel to see me about the place so soon again, but verily desired to know how that godly man, Faithful Stopchase, found himself after his fall.'
'Nay, mistress Rees, make no apology for coming amongst thy friends. I warrant thee against further rudeness of man or beast. I have taken them to task, and truly I will break his head who wags tongue against thee. As for Stopchase, he does well enough in all except owing thee thanks which he declines to pay. But for thy charm, good mistress Rees, what is it--tell me ?'
She took a step inside the door, sent her small eyes peering first into every corner her sight could reach, and then said:
'Are we alone--we two, master Richard?'
'There's a cat in the next stall, mistress: if she can hear, she can't speak.'
'Don't be too sure of that, master Richard. Be there no one else?'
'Not a body; soul there may be--who knows?'
'I know there is none. I will tell thee my charm, or what else I may that thou would wish to know; for he is a true gentleman who will help a woman because she is a woman, be she as old and ugly as Goody Rees herself. Hearken, my pretty sir: it is the tooth of a corpse, drawn after he hath lain a se'en-night in the mould: wilt buy, my master? Or did not I see thee now asking comfort from thy horse for the--'
She paused a moment, peered narrowly at him from under lowered eyebrows, and went on:
'--heartache, eh, master Richard? Old eyes can see through velvet doublets.'
'All the world knows yours can see farther than other people's,' returned Richard. 'Heaven knows whence they have their sharpness. But suppose it were a heartache now, have you got e'er a charm to cure that?'
'The best of all charms, my young master, is a kiss from the maiden; and what would thou give me for the spell that should set her by thy side at the old dial, under a warm harvest moon, all the long hours 'twixt midnight and the crowing of the black cock--eh, my master? What wilt thou give me?'
'Not a brass farthing, if she came not of her own good will,' murmured Richard, turning towards his mare. 'But come, mistress Rees, you know you couldn't do it, even if you were the black witch the neighbours would have you--though I, for my part, will not hear a word against you--never since you set my poor old dog upon his legs again--though to be sure he will die one of these days, and that no one can help--dogs have such short lives, poor fools!'
'Thou knows not what old mother Rees can do. Tell me, young master, did she ever say and not do--eh, now?'
'You said you would cure my dog, and you did,' answered Richard.
'And I say now, if thou will, I will set thee and her together by the old dial to-morrow night, and it shall be a warm and moonlit night on purpose for ye, an ye will.'
'It were to no good purpose, mistress Rees, for we parted this day--and that for ever, I much fear me,' said Richard with a deep sigh, but getting some little comfort even out of a witch's sympathy.
'Tut, tut, tut! Lovers' quarrels! Who knows not what they mean? Crying and kissing--crying and kissing--that's what they mean. Come now--what did thou and she quarrel about?'
The old woman, if not a witch, at least looked very like one, with her two hands resting on the wide round ledge of her farthingale, her head thrown back, and from under her peaked hat that pointed away behind, her two greenish eyes peering with a half-coaxing, yet sharp and probing gaze into those of the youth.
But how could he make a confidante of one like her? What could she understand of such questions as had raised the wall of partition betwixt him and Dorothy? Unwilling to offend her, however, he hesitated to give her offer a plain refusal, and turning away in silence, affected to have caught sight of something suspicious about his mare's near hock.
'I see, I see!' said the old woman grimly, but not ill-naturedly, and nodded her head, so that her hat described great arcs across the sky; 'thou art ashamed to confess that thou lovest thy father's whims more than thy lady's favours. Well, well! Such lovers are hardly for my trouble!'
But here came the voice of Mr. Heywood, calling his groom. She started, glanced around her as if seeking a covert, then peered from the door, and glided noiselessly out.
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