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With the King at Oxford by  Alfred J. Church


 

 

OF MY GOING TO LONDON

[224] IN the latter part of the month of September I went for a while to Enstone, and having set things in order concerning the autumn sowings of corn and other matters which need to be looked to at that season of the year, and having also found by recommendation of John Vickers an honest man who should serve my brother as bailiff, I returned to Naseby about the first day of November.

Two or three days thereafter, as I sat in Master Ellgood's study reading Master Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity  (for I was preparing myself, so far as time and other circumstances permitted, for the taking of Holy Orders), comes Cicely knocking at the door and, opening it before ever I could speak, cries, "O Philip see, John has come," and therewith brings in a fair youth, some two years older than herself, [225] as I judged, and save that he had some four inches more of stature, of a singular likeness to her; and straightway on seeing him the doubt that had ever been in my mind whether I had ever before encountered him was resolved, for I perceived in a moment of time that the youth was the same that had yielded himself prisoner to my father at Copredy Bridge. As for him, he had no remembrance of me, at which indeed I did not wonder, considering what he had suffered that day. I doubted at the first whether I should make myself known to him, thinking, not without good reason, that he had no cause to love me. But the better thought prevailed that I should be honest before all things, nor endure to have some secret hanging, as it were, over my head and ever ready to fall; and indeed I had made confession to Cicely of my savagery in this matter and had received absolution from her. So I said:

"Master Ellgood, we have met before."

And when he regarded me steadfastly, yet without any sign of knowing me, I said, "Do you remember one Dashwood at Copredy Bridge?"

[226] "Ay," said he, "as gallant a gentleman as ever sat on horseback. He saved me when I was in no small peril of my life, and gave me as courteous treatment as prisoner ever had, and settled for me my exchange, so that my captivity had scarce begun when it was ended. I hope that he is in good health and prosperity. But you are not he; you must be younger by a score of years at the least."

"He was my father," said I, "and I would fain shelter myself under his name, for, as for me, you have small cause to thank me."

And I made my confession to him. When I had finished he stretched out his right hand to me with a great laugh, saying:

"Why make such ado? There was no harm done. And if you had made an end of me I do not know that anyone would have been the loser, save, as they pleased to think, my good father and Cicely here; and, indeed, I had not lived to see such evil days as these. Know you the last tidings?"

"No," said I; "I have heard nothing, save that the Lieutenant-General Cromwell has trodden the King's friends under foot everywhere. [227] But in truth I have been thinking of other things."

Thereat I blushed, which is a foolish trick that I have, and Cicely also blushed for company. Then John Ellgood, looking from one to another, saw something of what was between us. I know not that any man has at the first a particular kindness to him whom his sister favours (which is indeed a mighty ungrateful thing, for the lover has always a singular affection for his mistress's brothers), but being a good lad and of a kind heart he said nothing, only I thought that I heard him say to himself, "Is this a time—," and so brake off. "Well," he said, after he had been silent awhile, "listen to me. Four years ago we were enemies, now, I doubt not, we are friends." (This I was mightily glad to hear, fearing what might befall my love for Cicely.) "I fought for the Parliament—thinking that they had the better cause against the King, and I yet believe, though here, doubtless, you agree not with me, that I was in the right. But 'tis otherwise with me now; and, indeed, 'tis not now the Parliament, but the Army, that reigns, and the Lieutenant- [228] General Cromwell and his fellows seek not the redressing of wrongs and securing of liberties, but the setting up of a new rule; and because they know in their hearts that this cannot be firmly established so long as the King stands in the way, though he be a prisoner and helpless, therefore they are minded to bring him to judgment for what they are pleased to call his treasons against this nation, and having so brought him—'tis almost too horrible to say, yea, even to think—to put him to death."

Since then this thing has been done, and done with approval from some that are undoubtedly pious and learned persons (though I doubt not that the greater part of the nation abhorred the act), so that it has become in a way familiar, but then (I speak of myself and of many others) it had not been so much as thought of. That the King might suffer much at the hand of his enemies; that he might even be slain by some wicked or fanatic persons, as kings before him—Richard, the second of the name, to wit, and Henry the Sixth—had been slain by secret violence, I had deemed to be probable; but that he should be brought to [229] trial with accustomed forms of law and justice, and having been so brought, should be publicly and in the face of day put to death, seemed too horrible to be believed. There had never happened such a thing before, save only—and let no one judge it to be profane that this was the first thought of many—save only when our Lord Himself was condemned by Pilate and crucified.

"It cannot be," I said; "no men could dare to be so impiously wicked."

"Nay," said he, "'tis but too true. But they shall not have their way without hindrance, for, besides many that have been the King's friends from the beginning, there are some who, as I myself, were against him at the first, and so feel the more bound, as having contributed to his present low estate, to help him in his present necessity. But we will talk more of these things when my father shall return."

Master Ellgood had ridden to Harborough that day on some business that he had.

He being returned after supper, Cicely also being present, John Ellgood set forth to him what I have written down above, and this also, [230] that there were many of the same way of thinking with himself, and that they purposed to assemble in London so that they might be in readiness against whatever might happen, watching above all things for some occasion to save the King out of the hands of his enemies. When he had ended Master EIlgood the elder said:

"I had hoped that you had done with strife. Yet I would not say a word to keep you back. I hold not, indeed, with them who say that a king can do no wrong, and that we be bound to yield him obedience in all things without question. That we may lawfully restrain him by force from breaking down our liberties I do heartily believe, but I am persuaded that we cannot rightfully bring him to judgment; for, indeed, what authority is there that is competent for such things? And, again, shall there be no end to the shedding of blood? If this, indeed, be done 'twill do more damage to true liberty than the King's victory had done. Therefore, John, I bid you God's speed on your errand; and you, too, Philip, if you are minded to go with him."

[231] Thereat I, sitting, as was my wont, by Cicely, and holding her hand in mine, felt it tighten upon mine; and looking at her, I saw her flush and grow pale, as was her wont when she was much moved.

"Nor would I stay you," she whispered, "though I, too, had hoped that all these things were finished and done with."

It was concluded, therefore, that night that we should go; but that there was no present need to depart. But it was needful that I should go for awhile to my brother at Enstone, and this without delay, and returned to Master Ellgood's home about the twentieth of November. Then again eight days after we set out for London and came thither on the second day of December, and found a lodging with my kinsman Rushworth, of whom I have written in the relation of my school days. The next day, being Sunday, we worshipped at the chapel of the Savoy, where Dr. Thomas Fuller preached the sermon; a most learned, witty, and eloquent discourse, and marvellously bold—the condition of the kingdom, wherein the King's enemies were supreme, being considered. His [232] text was 1 Samuel xv. 22. "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft;"  which he enforced with much plainness of speech, so that I marvelled that he was neither presently hindered from speaking nor afterwards visited. But the good Doctor is no respecter of persons, for did he not, being appointed preacher by the Parliament, discourse before them on these words (spoken by Mephibosheth to David concerning Ziba); "Yea let him take all, so that my lord the King come again in peace,"  to their no small discontent?

The day following we went to the House of Commons, being bestowed by favour of one of the ushers under one of the galleries. 'Tis a noble chamber, and the circumstances of the assembly, the Speaker, for example, with his mace, majestic; but itself, methinks, scarce a match in dignity for its surroundings, the members sitting for the most part as if they cared nought for that which was being done, so loudly did they talk with each other and laugh; but if one of greater note rose to speak there was straightway silence. As for us, we listened with all our ears, and that for many hours, for [233] the House, meeting at ten of the clock in the forenoon, prolonged its sitting till nine of the clock in the morning of the day following, nor did we, save for refreshment's sake for a few minutes, leave our place. It was a marvellous strange scene, for sometimes it would seem as if all the House were asleep, some one speaking of whom none took any heed; then again there would be almost a tumult, angry crying out and stamping with the feet, so that one had almost thought the members ready to fly at each other's throats. And above the great torches flared, making a mighty smoke and heat, so that though the air outside was cold and frosty, within the heat was like to suffocate. At the last, all being wearied out (and some of the older sort had been long asleep), the House came to a division, the question being one that touched the late conferences with the King, and the resolution to be determined being this: "That the King's concessions to the Parliament are sufficient grounds for settling the peace of the kingdom." And this resolution was carried by the majority of voices, the Ayes being one hundred and twenty, and the Noes fifty.

[234] Thereupon we went to our lodging with great joy, and found Master Rushworth waiting for us, who somewhat dashed our spirits.

"Ah!" said he, "'twould be well if the Parliament were our masters; but 'tis not so. The power is not in Mr. Speaker's mace, but in the Lord General's sword, or, rather, for 'tis said that the Lord General's day is past, with Master Cromwell and his colonels. I little thought that I should ever desire more power for the Parliament; yet so I do, for verily the Army will be a worse master."

The next day we were again early at the House, and Master Usher, who seemed to have some knowledge beforehand of what should happen, put us in a place in the lobby. We noted coming in that the guards of the Houses had been changed; for, whereas on the day before there had stood about the doors and passages the City Trainbands, very gaily accoutred, with their clothes and arms bearing no stain of war, there were now in their place two regiments of soldiers, that were manifestly veterans of many campaigns.

And now we, standing behind in the shadow, [235] for we did not desire to be espied, see some soldiers by the place of entering into the House of Commons, one of them, who seemed to be in command, having a paper in his hand.

"Mark you that man," whispered the Usher in my ear; "'tis Colonel Pride. Be sure that he has not come for nought."

And indeed it was so, for so soon as a member came to the door the said Colonel would turn round; now to a gentleman that stood by his side (whom I understood to be my Lord Grey of Groby), and now to one of the doorkeepers, and would ask his name, and if he were on the list, then he seized upon him and delivered him to one of the soldiers, who led him off. All save one departed quietly; and he, whom I knew to be Master William Prynne, one of the visitors that had come from the Parliament to Oxford, made as if he would have drawn his sword; thereupon the Colonel called for a guard of soldiers (and indeed both the Court of Requests and the stairs, and the lobby were filled with them), at the sight of whom Master Prynne yielded himself quietly. We saw thus seized by Colonel Pride and his soldiers forty and one [236] members. Thus we were persuaded that nothing was to be hoped in the King's favour from the Parliament, were their will ever so good. Thereafter, indeed, all that had been zealous for a reconciliation being, as the extreme men were pleased to say, purged from the House, it voted nothing but what was agreeable to the will of the Army.

I shall not here set down in particular how we employed ourselves during the month that now followed, not knowing but what this writing may fall into unfriendly hands, for though I am not careful to conceal my own opinions and actions, I should be loath to entangle others in my dangers. Let it suffice then to say that we busied ourselves in devising means by which we might deliver the King out of the hands of his enemies, and that in so doing we both found help where we looked not for it, and found it not where we had most expected it. For some that were imagined to be the King's enemies were now earnest on his behalf, and some that professed themselves to be his friends were lukewarm, ay, and worse. Meanwhile we were diligent in attending at the debates of the [237] Commons' House, though, indeed, there was but little debating when a man might lose his liberty for any freedom of speech; and so watched without ceasing for what turn matters should take.


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