No, sir--I will not pledge--I'm one of those Who think good wine needs neither bush nor preface To make it welcome. If you doubt my word, Fill the quart-cup, and see if I will choke on't. --OLD PLAY.
There was a serious gravity of expression in the disclamation with which Major Bridgenorth replied to the thanks tendered to him by Lady Peveril, for the supply of provisions which had reached her Castle so opportunely. He seemed first not to be aware what she alluded to; and, when she explained the circumstance, he protested so seriously that he had no share in the benefit conferred, that Lady Peveril was compelled to believe him, the rather that, being a man of plain downright character, affecting no refined delicacy of sentiment, and practising almost a quaker-like sincerity of expression, it would have been much contrary to his general character to have made such a disavowal, unless it were founded in truth.
"My present visit to you, madam," said he, "had indeed some reference to the festivity of to-morrow." Lady Peveril listened, but as her visitor seemed to find some difficulty in expressing himself, she was compelled to ask an explanation. "Madam," said the Major, "you are not perhaps entirely ignorant that the more tender-conscienced among us have scruples at certain practices, so general amongst your people at times of rejoicing, that you may be said to insist upon them as articles of faith, or at least greatly to resent their omission."
"I trust, Master Bridgenorth," said the Lady Peveril, not fully comprehending the drift of his discourse, "that we shall, as your entertainers, carefully avoid all allusions or reproaches founded on past misunderstanding."
"We would expect no less, madam, from your candour and courtesy," said Bridgenorth; "but I perceive you do not fully understand me. To be plain, then, I allude to the fashion of drinking healths, and pledging each other in draughts of strong liquor, which most among us consider as a superfluous and sinful provoking of each other to debauchery, and the excessive use of strong drink; and which, besides, if derived, as learned divines have supposed, from the custom of the blinded Pagans, who made libations and invoked idols when they drank, may be justly said to have something in it heathenish, and allied to demon-worship."
The lady had already hastily considered all the topics which were likely to introduce discord into the proposed festivity; but this very ridiculous, yet fatal discrepancy, betwixt the manners of the parties on convivial occasions, had entirely escaped her. She endeavoured to soothe the objecting party, whose brows were knit like one who had fixed an opinion by which he was determined to abide.
"I grant," she said, "my good neighbour, that this custom is at least idle, and may be prejudicial if it leads to excess in the use of liquor, which is apt enough to take place without such conversation. But I think, when it hath not this consequence, it is a thing indifferent, affords a unanimous mode of expressing our good wishes to our friends, and our loyal duty to our sovereign; and, without meaning to put any force upon the inclination of those who believe otherwise, I cannot see how I can deny my guests and friends the privilege of drinking a health to the King, or to my husband, after the old English fashion."
"My lady," said the Major, "if the age of fashion were to command it, Popery is one of the oldest English fashions that I have heard of; but it is our happiness that we are not benighted like our fathers, and therefore we must act according to the light that is in us, and not after their darkness. I had myself the honour to attend the Lord- Keeper Whitelocke, when, at the table of the Chamberlain of the kingdom of Sweden, he did positively refuse to pledge the health of his Queen, Christina, thereby giving great offence, and putting in peril the whole purpose of that voyage; which it is not to be thought so wise a man would have done, but that he held such compliance a thing not merely indifferent, but rather sinful and damnable."
"With all respect to Whitelocke," said the Lady Peveril, "I continue of my own opinion, though, Heaven knows, I am no friend to riot or wassail. I would fain accommodate myself to your scruples, and will discourage all other pledges; but surely those of the King and of Peveril of the Peak may be permitted?"
"I dare not," answered Bridgenorth, "lay even the ninety-ninth part of a grain of incense upon an altar erected to Satan."
"How, sir!" said the lady; "do you bring Satan into comparison with our master King Charles, and with my noble lord and husband?"
"Pardon me, madam," answered Bridgenorth, "I have no such thoughts-- indeed they would ill become me. I do wish the King's health and Sir Geoffrey's devoutly, and I will pray for both. But I see not what good it should do their health if I should prejudice my own by quaffing pledges out of quart flagons."
"Since we cannot agree upon this matter," said Lady Peveril, "we must find some resource by which to offend those of neither party. Suppose you winked at our friends drinking these pledges, and we should connive at your sitting still?"
But neither would this composition satisfy Bridgenorth, who was of opinion, as he expressed himself, that it would be holding a candle to Beelzebub. In fact, his temper, naturally stubborn, was at present rendered much more so by a previous conference with his preacher, who, though a very good man in the main, was particularly and illiberally tenacious of the petty distinctions which his sect adopted; and while he thought with considerable apprehension on the accession of power which Popery, Prelacy, and Peveril of the Peak, were like to acquire by the late Revolution, became naturally anxious to put his flock on their guard, and prevent their being kidnapped by the wolf. He disliked extremely that Major Bridgenorth, indisputably the head of the Presbyterian interest in that neighbourhood, should have given his only daughter to be, as he termed it, nursed by a Canaanitish woman; and he told him plainly that he liked not this going to feast in the high places with the uncircumcised in heart, and looked on the whole conviviality only as a making-merry in the house of Tirzah.
Upon receiving this rebuke from his pastor, Bridgenorth began to suspect he might have been partly wrong in the readiness which, in his first ardour of gratitude, he had shown to enter into intimate intercourse with the Castle of Martindale; but he was too proud to avow this to the preacher, and it was not till after a considerable debate betwixt them, that it was mutually agreed their presence at the entertainment should depend upon the condition, that no healths or pledges should be given in their presence. Bridgenorth, therefore, as the delegate and representative of his party, was bound to stand firm against all entreaty, and the lady became greatly embarrassed. She now regretted sincerely that her well-intended invitation had ever been given, for she foresaw that its rejection was to awaken all former subjects of quarrel, and perhaps to lead to new violences amongst people who had not many years since been engaged in civil war. To yield up the disputed point to the Presbyterians, would have been to offend the Cavalier party, and Sir Geoffrey in particular, in the most mortal degree; for they made it as firm a point of honour to give healths, and compel others to pledge them, as the Puritans made it a deep article of religion to refuse both. At length the lady changed the discourse, introduced that of Major Bridgenorth's child, caused it to be sent for, and put into his arms. The mother's stratagem took effect; for, though the parliamentary major stood firm, the father, as in the case of the Governor of Tilbury, was softened, and he agreed that his friends should accept a compromise. This was, that the major himself, the reverend divine, and such of their friends as held strict Puritan tenets, should form a separate party in the Large Parlour, while the Hall should be occupied by the jovial Cavaliers; and that each party should regulate their potations after their own conscience, or after their own fashion.
Major Bridgenorth himself seemed greatly relieved after this important matter had been settled. He had held it matter of conscience to be stubborn in maintaining his own opinion, but was heartily glad when he escaped from the apparently inevitable necessity of affronting Lady Peveril by the refusal of her invitation. He remained longer than usual, and spoke and smiled more than was his custom. His first care on his return was to announce to the clergyman and his congregation the compromise which he had made, and this not as a matter for deliberation, but one upon which he had already resolved; and such was his authority among them, that though the preacher longed to pronounce a separation of the parties, and to exclaim--"To your tents, O Israel!" he did not see the chance of being seconded by so many, as would make it worth while to disturb the unanimous acquiescence in their delegate's proposal.
Nevertheless, each party being put upon the alert by the consequences of Major Bridgenorth's embassy, so many points of doubt and delicate discussion were started in succession, that the Lady Peveril, the only person, perhaps, who was desirous of achieving an effectual reconciliation between them, incurred, in reward for her good intentions, the censure of both factions, and had much reason to regret her well-meant project of bringing the Capulets and Montagues of Derbyshire together on the same occasion of public festivity.
As it was now settled that the guests were to form two different parties, it became not only a subject of dispute betwixt themselves, which should be first admitted within the Castle of Martindale, but matter of serious apprehension to Lady Peveril and Major Bridgenorth, lest, if they were to approach by the same avenue and entrance, a quarrel might take place betwixt them, and proceed to extremities, even before they reached the place of entertainment. The lady believed she had discovered an admirable expedient for preventing the possibility of such interference, by directing that the Cavaliers should be admitted by the principal entrance, while the Roundheads should enter the Castle through a great breach which had been made in the course of the siege, and across which there had been made a sort of by-path to drive the cattle down to their pasture in the wood. By this contrivance the Lady Peveril imagined she had altogether avoided the various risks which might occur from two such parties encountering each other, and disputing for precedence. Several other circumstances of less importance were adjusted at the same time, and apparently so much to the satisfaction of the Presbyterian teacher, that, in a long lecture on the subject of the Marriage Garment, he was at the pains to explain to his hearers, that outward apparel was not alone meant by that scriptural expression, but also a suitable frame of mind for enjoyment of peaceful festivity; and therefore he exhorted the brethren, that whatever might be the errors of the poor blinded malignants, with whom they were in some sort to eat and drink upon the morrow they ought not on this occasion to show any evil will against them, lest they should therein become troublers of the peace of Israel.
Honest Doctor Dummerar, the elected Episcopal Vicar of Martindale /cum/ Moultrassie, preached to the Cavaliers on the same subject. He had served the cure before the breaking out of the rebellion, and was in high favour with Sir Geoffrey, not merely on account of his sound orthodoxy and deep learning, but his exquisite skill in playing at bowls, and his facetious conversation over a pipe and tankard of October. For these latter accomplishments, the Doctor had the honour to be recorded by old Century White amongst the roll of lewd, incompetent, profligate clergymen of the Church of England, whom he denounced to God and man, on account chiefly of the heinous sin of playing at games of skill and chance, and of occasionally joining in the social meetings of their parishioners. When the King's party began to lose ground, Doctor Dummerar left his vicarage, and, betaking himself to the camp, showed upon several occasions, when acting as chaplain to Sir Geoffrey Peveril's regiment, that his portly bodily presence included a stout and masculine heart. When all was lost, and he himself, with most other loyal divines, was deprived of his living, he made such shift as he could; now lurking in the garrets of old friends in the University, who shared with him, and such as him, the slender means of livelihood which the evil times had left them; and now lying hid in the houses of the oppressed and sequestered gentry, who respected at once his character and sufferings. When the Restoration took place, Doctor Dummerar emerged from some one of his hiding-places, and hied him to Martindale Castle, to enjoy the triumph inseparable from this happy change.
His appearance at the Castle in his full clerical dress, and the warm reception which he received from the neighbouring gentry, added not a little to the alarm which was gradually extending itself through the party which were so lately the uppermost. It is true, Doctor Dummerar framed (honest worthy man) no extravagant views of elevation or preferment; but the probability of his being replaced in the living, from which he had been expelled under very flimsy pretences, inferred a severe blow to the Presbyterian divine, who could not be considered otherwise than as an intruder. The interest of the two preachers, therefore, as well as the sentiments of their flocks, were at direct variance; and here was another fatal objection in the way of Lady Peveril's scheme of a general and comprehensive healing ordinance.
Nevertheless, as we have already hinted, Doctor Dummerar behaved as handsomely upon the occasion as the Presbyterian incumbent had done. It is true, that in a sermon which he preached in the Castle hall to several of the most distinguished Cavalier families, besides a world of boys from the village, who went to see the novel circumstance of a parson in a cassock and surplice, he went at great length into the foulness of the various crimes committed by the rebellious party during the late evil times, and greatly magnified the merciful and peaceful nature of the honourable Lady of the Manor, who condescended to look upon, or receive into her house in the way of friendship and hospitality, men holding the principles which had led to the murder of the King--the slaying and despoiling his loyal subjects--and the plundering and breaking down of the Church of God. But then he wiped all this handsomely up again, with the observation, that since it was the will of their gracious and newly-restored Sovereign, and the pleasure of the worshipful Lady Peveril, that this contumacious and rebellious race should be, for a time, forborne by their faithful subjects, it would be highly proper that all the loyal liegemen should, for the present, eschew subjects of dissension or quarrel with these sons of Shimei; which lesson of patience he enforced by the comfortable assurance, that they could not long abstain from their old rebellious practices; in which case, the Royalists would stand exculpated before God and man, in extirpating them from the face of the earth.
The close observers of the remarkable passages of the times from which we draw the events of our history, have left it upon record, that these two several sermons, much contrary, doubtless, to the intention of the worthy divines by whom they were delivered, had a greater effect in exasperating, than in composing, the disputes betwixt the two factions. Under such evil auspices, and with corresponding forebodings on the mind of Lady Peveril, the day of festivity at length arrived.
By different routes, and forming each a sort of procession, as if the adherents of each party were desirous of exhibiting its strength and numbers, the two several factions approached Martindale Castle; and so distinct did they appear in dress, aspect, and manners, that it seemed as if the revellers of a bridal party, and the sad attendants upon a funeral solemnity, were moving towards the same point from different quarters.
The puritanical party was by far the fewer in numbers, for which two excellent reasons might be given. In the first place, they had enjoyed power for several years, and, of course, became unpopular among the common people, never at any time attached to those, who, being in the immediate possession of authority, are often obliged to employ it in controlling their humours. Besides, the country people of England had, and still have, an animated attachment to field sports, and a natural unrestrained joviality of disposition, which rendered them impatient under the severe discipline of the fanatical preachers; while they were not less naturally discontented with the military despotism of Cromwell's Major-Generals. Secondly, the people were fickle as usual, and the return of the King had novelty in it, and was therefore popular. The side of the Puritans was also deserted at this period by a numerous class of more thinking and prudential persons, who never forsook them till they became unfortunate. These sagacious personages were called in that age the Waiters upon Providence, and deemed it a high delinquency towards Heaven if they afforded countenance to any cause longer than it was favoured by fortune.
But, though thus forsaken by the fickle and the selfish, a solemn enthusiasm, a stern and determined depth of principle, a confidence in the sincerity of their own motives, and the manly English pride which inclined them to cling to their former opinions, like the traveller in the fable to his cloak, the more strongly that the tempest blew around them, detained in the ranks of the Puritans many, who, if no longer formidable from numbers, were still so from their character. They consisted chiefly of the middling gentry, with others whom industry or successful speculations in commerce or in mining had raised into eminence--the persons who feel most umbrage from the overshadowing aristocracy, and are usually the most vehement in defence of what they hold to be their rights. Their dress was in general studiously simple and unostentatious, or only remarkable by the contradictory affectation of extreme simplicity or carelessness. The dark colour of their cloaks, varying from absolute black to what was called sad- coloured--their steeple-crowned hats, with their broad shadowy brims-- their long swords, suspended by a simple strap around the loins, without shoulder-belt, sword-knot, plate, buckles, or any of the other decorations with which the Cavaliers loved to adorn their trusty rapiers,--the shortness of their hair, which made their ears appear of disproportioned size,--above all, the stern and gloomy gravity of their looks, announced their belonging to that class of enthusiasts, who, resolute and undismayed, had cast down the former fabric of government, and who now regarded with somewhat more than suspicion, that which had been so unexpectedly substituted in its stead. There was gloom in their countenances; but it was not that of dejection, far less of despair. They looked like veterans after a defeat, which may have checked their career and wounded their pride, but has left their courage undiminished.
The melancholy, now become habitual, which overcast Major Bridgenorth's countenance, well qualified him to act as the chief of the group who now advanced from the village. When they reached the point by which they were first to turn aside into the wood which surrounded the Castle, they felt a momentary impression of degradation, as if they were yielding the high road to their old and oft-defeated enemies the Cavaliers. When they began to ascend the winding path, which had been the daily passage of the cattle, the opening of the wooded glade gave them a view of the Castle ditch, half choked with the rubbish of the breach, and of the breach itself, which was made at the angle of a large square flanking-tower, one-half of which had been battered into ruins, while the other fragment remained in a state strangely shattered and precarious, and seemed to be tottering above the huge aperture in the wall. A stern still smile was exchanged among the Puritans, as the sight reminded them of the victories of former days. Holdfast Clegg, a millwright of Derby, who had been himself active at the siege, pointed to the breach, and said, with a grim smile to Mr. Solsgrace, "I little thought, that when my own hand helped to level the cannon which Oliver pointed against yon tower, we should have been obliged to climb like foxes up the very walls which we won by our bow and by our spear. Methought these malignants had then enough of shutting their gates and making high their horn against us."
"Be patient, my brother," said Solsgrace; "be patient, and let not thy soul be disquieted. We enter not this high place dishonourably, seeing we ascend by the gate which the Lord opened to the godly."
The words of the pastor were like a spark to gunpowder. The countenances of the mournful retinue suddenly expanded, and, accepting what had fallen from him as an omen and a light from heaven how they were to interpret their present situation, they uplifted, with one consent, one of the triumphant songs in which the Israelites celebrated the victories which had been vouchsafed to them over the heathen inhabitants of the Promised Land:--
"Let God arise, and then His foes Shall turn themselves to flight, His enemies for fear shall run, And scatter out of sight;
And as wax melts before the fire, And wind blows smoke away, So in the presence of the Lord, The wicked shall decay.
God's army twenty thousand is, Of angels bright and strong, The Lord also in Sinai Is present them among.
Thou didst, O Lord, ascend on high, And captive led'st them all, Who, in times past, Thy chosen flock In bondage did enthral."
When the loud and sonorous swell of the psalm-tune, multiplied by all the echoes of the cliffs and ruinous halls, came full upon their ear, as if to warn them how little they were to reckon upon the depression of their adversaries, at first it was answered with a scornful laugh, raised to as much height as the scoffers' lungs would permit, in order that it might carry to the psalmodists the contempt of their auditors; but this was a forced exertion of party spleen. There is something in melancholy feelings more natural to an imperfect and suffering state than in those of gaiety, and when they are brought into collision, the former seldom fail to triumph. If a funeral-train and wedding- procession were to meet unexpectedly, it will readily be allowed that the mirth of the last would be speedily merged in the gloom of the others. But the Cavaliers, moreover, had sympathies of a different kind. The psalm-tune, which now came rolling on their ear, had been heard too often, and upon too many occasions had preceded victory gained over the malignants, to permit them, even in their triumph, to hear it without emotion. There was a sort of pause, of which the party themselves seemed rather ashamed, until the silence was broken by the stout old knight, Sir Jasper Cranbourne, whose gallantry was so universally acknowledged, that he could afford, if we may use such an expression, to confess emotions, which men whose courage was in any respect liable to suspicion, would have thought it imprudent to acknowledge.
"Adad," said the old Knight, "may I never taste claret again, if that is not the very tune with which the prick-eared villains began their onset at Wiggan Lane, where they trowled us down like so many ninepins! Faith, neighbours, to say truth, and shame the devil, I did not like the sound of it above half."
"If I thought the round-headed rogues did it in scorn of us," said Dick Wildblood of the Dale, "I would cudgel their psalmody out of their peasantly throats with this very truncheon;" a motion which, being seconded by old Roger Raine, the drunken tapster of the Peveril Arms in the village, might have brought on a general battle, but that Sir Jasper forbade the feud.
"We'll have no ranting, Dick," said the old Knight to the young Franklin; "adad, man, we'll have none, for three reasons: first, because it would be ungentle to Lady Peveril; then, because it is against the King's peace; and, lastly, Dick, because if we did set on the psalm-singing knaves, thou mightest come by the worst, my boy, as has chanced to thee before."
"Who, I! Sir Jasper?" answered Dick--"I come by the worst!--I'll be d--d if it ever happened but in that accursed lane, where we had no more flank, front, or rear, than if we had been so many herrings in a barrel."
"That was the reason, I fancy," answered Sir Jasper, "that you, to mend the matter, scrambled into the hedge, and stuck there, horse and man, till I beat thee through it with my leading-staff; and then, instead of charging to the front, you went right-about, and away as fast as your feet would carry you."
This reminiscence produced a laugh at Dick's expense, who was known, or at least suspected, to have more tongue in his head than mettle in his bosom. And this sort of rallying on the part of the Knight having fortunately abated the resentment which had begun to awaken in the breasts of the royalist cavalcade, farther cause for offence was removed, by the sudden ceasing of the sounds which they had been disposed to interpret into those of premeditated insult.
This was owing to the arrival of the Puritans at the bottom of the large and wide breach, which had been formerly made in the wall of the Castle by their victorious cannon. The sight of its gaping heaps of rubbish, and disjointed masses of building, up which slowly winded a narrow and steep path, such as is made amongst ancient ruins by the rare passage of those who occasionally visit them, was calculated, when contrasted with the grey and solid massiveness of the towers and curtains which yet stood uninjured, to remind them of their victory over the stronghold of their enemies, and how they had bound nobles and princes with fetters of iron.
But feelings more suitable to the purpose of their visit to Martindale Castle, were awakened in the bosoms even of these stern sectaries, when the Lady of the Castle, still in the very prime of beauty and of womanhood, appeared at the top of the breach with her principal female attendants, to receive her guests with the honour and courtesy becoming her invitation. She had laid aside the black dress which had been her sole attire for several years, and was arrayed with a splendour not unbecoming her high descent and quality. Jewels, indeed, she had none; but her long and dark hair was surmounted with a chaplet made of oak leaves, interspersed with lilies; the former being the emblem of the King's preservation in the Royal Oak, and the latter of his happy Restoration. What rendered her presence still more interesting to those who looked on her, was the presence of the two children whom she held in either hand; one of whom was well known to them all to be the child of their leader, Major Bridgenorth, who had been restored to life and health by the almost maternal care of the Lady Peveril.
If even the inferior persons of the party felt the healing influence of her presence, thus accompanied, poor Bridgenorth was almost overwhelmed with it. The strictness of his cast and manners permitted him not to sink on his knee, and kiss the hand which held his little orphan; but the deepness of his obeisance--the faltering tremor of his voice--and the glistening of his eye, showed a grateful respect for the lady whom he addressed, deeper and more reverential than could have been expressed even by Persian prostration. A few courteous and mild words, expressive of the pleasure she found in once more seeing her neighbours as her friends--a few kind inquiries, addressed to the principal individuals among her guests, concerning their families and connections, completed her triumph over angry thoughts and dangerous recollections, and disposed men's bosoms to sympathise with the purposes of the meeting.
Even Solsgrace himself, although imagining himself bound by his office and duty to watch over and counteract the wiles of the "Amalekitish woman," did not escape the sympathetic infection; being so much struck with the marks of peace and good-will exhibited by Lady Peveril, that he immediately raised the psalm--
"O what a happy thing it is, And joyful, for to see Brethren to dwell together in Friendship and unity!"
The minister's silence was followed by all the various sounds which announce the onset of a hungry company on a well-furnished table; and at the same time gave the lady an opportunity to leave the apartment, and look to the accommodation of her other company. She felt, indeed, that it was high time to do so; and that the royalist guests might be disposed to misapprehend, or even to resent, the prior attentions which she had thought it prudent to offer to the Puritans.
These apprehensions were not altogether ill-founded. It was in vain that the steward had displayed the royal standard, with its proud motto of -Tandem Triumphans-, on one of the great towers which flanked the main entrance of the Castle; while, from the other, floated the banner of Peveril of the Peak, under which many of those who now approached had fought during all the vicissitudes of civil war. It was in vain he repeated his clamorous "Welcome, noble Cavaliers! welcome, generous gentlemen!" There was a slight murmur amongst them, that their welcome ought to have come from the mouth of the Colonel's lady --not from that of a menial. Sir Jasper Cranbourne, who had sense as well as spirit and courage, and who was aware of his fair cousin's motives, having been indeed consulted by her upon all the arrangements which she had adopted, saw matters were in such a state that no time ought to be lost in conducting the guests to the banqueting apartment, where a fortunate diversion from all these topics of rising discontent might be made, at the expense of the good cheer of all sorts, which the lady's care had so liberally provided.
The stratagem of the old soldier succeeded in its utmost extent. He assumed the great oaken-chair usually occupied by the steward at his audits; and Dr. Dummerar having pronounced a brief Latin benediction (which was not the less esteemed by the hearers that none of them understood it), Sir Jasper exhorted the company to wet their appetites to the dinner by a brimming cup to his Majesty's health, filled as high and as deep as their goblets would permit. In a moment all was bustle, with the clank of wine-cups and of flagons. In another moment the guests were on their feet like so many statues, all hushed as death, but with eyes glancing with expectation, and hands outstretched, which displayed their loyal brimmers. The voice of Sir Jasper, clear, sonorous, and emphatic, as the sound of his war- trumpet, announced the health of the restored Monarch, hastily echoed back by the assemblage, impatient to render it due homage. Another brief pause was filled by the draining of their cups, and the mustering breath to join in a shout so loud, that not only the rafters of the old hall trembled while they echoed it back, but the garlands of oaken boughs and flowers with which they were decorated, waved wildly, and rustled as if agitated by a sudden whirlwind. This rite observed, the company proceeded to assail the good cheer with which the table groaned, animated as they were to the attack both by mirth and melody, for they were attended by all the minstrels of the district, who, like the Episcopal clergy, had been put to silence during the reign of the self-entitled saints of the Commonwealth. The social occupation of good eating and drinking, the exchange of pledges betwixt old neighbours who had been fellow-soldiers in the moment of resistance--fellow-sufferers in the time of depression and subjugation, and were now partners in the same general subject of congratulation, soon wiped from their memory the trifling cause of complaint, which in the minds of some had darkened the festivity of the day; so that when the Lady Peveril walked into the hall, accompanied as before with the children and her female attendants, she was welcomed with the acclamations due to the mistress of the banquet and of the Castle--the dame of the noble Knight, who had led most of them to battle with an undaunted and persevering valour, which was worthy of better success.
Her address to them was brief and matronly, yet spoken with so much feeling as found its way to every bosom. She apologised for the lateness of her personal welcome, by reminding them that there were then present in Martindale Castle that day, persons whom recent happy events had converted from enemies into friends, but on whom the latter character was so recently imposed, that she dared not neglect with them any point of ceremonial. But those whom she now addressed, were the best, the dearest the most faithful friends of her husband's house, to whom and to their valour Peveril had not only owed those successes, which had given them and him fame during the late unhappy times, but to whose courage she in particular had owed the preservation of their leader's life, even when it could not avert defeat. A word or two of heartfelt authority, completed all which she had boldness to add, and, bowing gracefully round her, she lifted a cup to her lips as if to welcome her guests.
There still remained, and especially amongst the old Cavaliers of the period, some glimmering of that spirit which inspired Froissart, when he declares that a knight hath double courage at need, when animated by the looks and words of a beautiful and virtuous woman. It was not until the reign which was commencing at the moment we are treating of, that the unbounded licence of the age, introducing a general course of profligacy, degraded the female sex into mere servants of pleasure, and, in so doing, deprived society of that noble tone of feeling towards the sex, which, considered as a spur to "raise the clear spirit," is superior to every other impulse, save those of religion and of patriotism. The beams of the ancient hall of Martindale Castle instantly rang with a shout louder and shriller than that at which they had so lately trembled, and the names of the Knight of the Peak and his lady were proclaimed amid waving of caps and hats, and universal wishes for their health and happiness.
Under these auspices the Lady Peveril glided from the hall, and left free space for the revelry of the evening.
That of the Cavaliers may be easily conceived, since it had the usual accompaniments of singing, jesting, quaffing of healths, and playing of tunes, which have in almost every age and quarter of the world been the accompaniments of festive cheer. The enjoyments of the Puritans were of a different and less noisy character. They neither sung, jested, heard music, nor drank healths; and yet they seemed not the less, in their own phrase, to enjoy the creature-comforts, which the frailty of humanity rendered grateful to their outward man. Old Whitaker even protested, that, though much the smaller party in point of numbers, they discussed nearly as much sack and claret as his own more jovial associates. But those who considered the steward's prejudices, were inclined to think, that, in order to produce such a result, he must have thrown in his own by-drinkings--no inconsiderable item--to the sum total of the Presbyterian potations.
Without adopting such a partial and scandalous report, we shall only say, that on this occasion, as on most others, the rareness of indulgence promoted the sense of enjoyment, and that those who made abstinence, or at least moderation, a point of religious principle, enjoyed their social meeting the better that such opportunities rarely presented themselves. If they did not actually drink each other's healths, they at least showed, by looking and nodding to each other as they raised their glasses, that they all were sharing the same festive gratification of the appetite, and felt it enhanced, because it was at the same time enjoyed by their friends and neighbours. Religion, as it was the principal topic of their thoughts, became also the chief subject of their conversation, and as they sat together in small separate knots, they discussed doctrinal and metaphysical points of belief, balanced the merits of various preachers, compared the creeds of contending sects, and fortified by scriptural quotations those which they favoured. Some contests arose in the course of these debates, which might have proceeded farther than was seemly, but for the cautious interference of Major Bridgenorth. He suppressed also, in the very bud, a dispute betwixt Gaffer Hodgeson of Charnelycot and the Reverend Mr. Solsgrace, upon the tender subject of lay-preaching and lay-ministering; nor did he think it altogether prudent or decent to indulge the wishes of some of the warmer enthusiasts of the party, who felt disposed to make the rest partakers of their gifts in extemporaneous prayer and exposition. These were absurdities that belonged to the time, which, however, the Major had sense enough to perceive were unfitted, whether the offspring of hypocrisy or enthusiasm, for the present time and place.
The Major was also instrumental in breaking up the party at an early and decorous hour, so that they left the Castle long before their rivals, the Cavaliers, had reached the springtide of their merriment; an arrangement which afforded the greatest satisfaction to the lady, who dreaded the consequences which might not improbably have taken place, had both parties met at the same period and point of retreat.
It was near midnight ere the greater part of the Cavaliers, meaning such as were able to effect their departure without assistance, withdrew to the village of Martindale Moultrassie, with the benefit of the broad moon to prevent the chance of accidents. Their shouts, and the burden of their roaring chorus of--
"The King shall enjoy his own again!"were heard with no small pleasure by the lady, heartily glad that the riot of the day was over without the occurrence of any unpleasing accident. The rejoicing was not, however, entirely ended; for the elevated Cavaliers, finding some of the villagers still on foot around a bonfire on the street, struck merrily in with them--sent to Roger Raine of the Peveril Arms, the loyal publican whom we have already mentioned, for two tubs of merry stingo (as it was termed), and lent their own powerful assistance at the /dusting/ it off to the health of the King and the loyal General Monk. Their shouts for a long time disturbed, and even alarmed, the little village; but no enthusiasm is able to withstand for ever the natural consequences of late hours, and potations pottle-deep. The tumult of the exulting Royalists at last sunk into silence, and the moon and the owl were left in undisturbed sovereignty over the old tower of the village church, which, rising white above a circle of knotty oaks, was tenanted by the bird, and silvered by the planet.
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