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aLLt-. L4o ,
^^Ht' ,. Q1"rb. 1
IN TAUNTON TOWN.
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TIE YOUNG PIONEERS; or, With La Salle on the Mississippi.
IN TAUNTON TOWN. A Story of the Days of the Rebellion of James, Duke of Monmoult
SHUT IN. A Tale of the Wonderful Siege of Antwerp in the Year 1585.
THE LOST TREASURE OF TREVLYN. A Story of the Days of the Gunpowder Plot.
IN THE DAYS OF CHIVALRY. A Tale of the Times of the Black Prince.
LOYAL HEARTS AND TRUE. A Story of the Days of Queen Elizabeth.
THE CHURCH AND TIE KING. A Tale of England in the Days of Henry VIII.
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DOMINIQUE'S VENGEANCE. A Story of France and Florida.
THE SIGN OF THE RED CROSS. A Tale of Old London.
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EVIl. MAY-DAY. A Story of 117.
IN THE WARS OF THE ROSES.
THE LORD OF DYNEVOR. A Tale of the Times of Edward the First.
THE SECRET CHAMBER AT CHAD.
T. NELSON AND SONS, London, Edinburgh, and New York.
IN TAU NTON
' 1 i '
SJAMES- DUK- ---NMOu
aMES, DUKE OF MON MOUTH.
T. NELSON &. SO-TS
L.ONDON1 EDINVUnTrRll NEWT rI-ORL
In Taunton Town
A Story of the
Rebellion of James Duke of Monmouth
Author of "lt the Days of Chivalry," The Church and the King"
The Lord of Dynevor," S/lht In
T. NELSON AND SONS
London, Edinburgh, and New York
I. THE SNOWE FAMILY, ....
II. MY CAREER IS SETTLED,
III. MY NEW HOME, ...
IV. MY NEW LIFE, .
V. I GET AMONGST FINE FOLK,
VI. VISCOUNT VERE, ....
VII. A WINTER OF PLOTS, ..
VIII. LE ROI EST MORT," ....
IX. THE MUTTERING OF THE STORM
X. MY RIDE TO LYME,
XI. OUR DELIVERER, ....
BACK TO TAUNTON,
THE REVOLT OF TAUNTON,
A GLORIOUS DAY, ....
TIE MAIDS OF TAUNTON,
':THE TAUNTON KING,"
ON THE WAR-PATII,
IN PERIL IN A STRANGE CITY,
A BAPTISM OF BLOOD,
, .... .... 146
XXI. BACK AT B)
XXII. FATAL SEDG
XXIII. TERRIBLE D
XXIV. THE PRISON
XXV. JUST IN TI
XXVI. THE TERRIB
CXVII. THE JUDGE'
XXVIII. PEACE AFTER
XXIX. MY LORD A
RIDGEWATER, .... .... .... 348
EMOOR, .... .. .... .... 364
AYS, .... .... ... .... 381
ER OF THE CASTLE, .... .... 398
IE, .... .... .... .... 413
ILE JUDGE, .. .... .... 430
S SENTENCES, .... .... .... 447
:R STORM, ... ... .... 463
ND MY LADY, .... .... .... 478
S SCENE, .... .... .... .... 490
IN TAUNTON TOWN.
THE SNO WE FAMILY.
I CERTAINLY never thought when I was young that I
should live to write a book Scarce do I know how
it betides that I have the courage to make so bold, now
that I am well stricken in years, and that my hair has
grown grey. To be sure (if I may say so without laying
myself open to the charge of boasting, a thing abhorrent
to me), I have always been reckoned something of a
scholar, notwithstanding that I was born a farmer's son,
and that my father would have been proud could he but
have set his name on paper, as men of his station begin to
do now-a-days, and think little of it. But times have
changed since I was a boy-perhaps for the better,
perhaps for the worse; who knows ? Anyhow, there is
more of learning in the world, for sure, though whether
more of honesty let others be the judge !
And now, how and when am I to begin my tale?
Sitting over the fire and recalling stirring scenes of
THE SNO WVE FAMJIL Y
bygone days, it seems simple enough to record in writing
my memories of those times when we good folks of the
West Country thought we had found a deliverer who
would break from the neck of England the yoke of the
hated Papist tyranny which was being laid upon us (at
least so we all feared and believed) by one whose name
is yet spoken in these parts with a curse. But when one
sits to a table with quill and ink-horn beside one, then it
does not appear so simple a task; and inasmuch as I have
no skill in such matters as the writing of chronicles, I
must e'en go to work my own fashion, and if that fashion
be a poor one, must ask pardon of all such as may have
the patience or complaisance to read my poor story.
Well, then, it seems that the first thing to do is to state
who I am, and how it came about that I was so mixed up
with that brief period of history which has left such in-
delible marks in the hearts of the people of our fair West
Country. The former is quickly and easily explained; the
latter will be unfolded as this narrative proceeds.
My father was one Joseph Snowe, a farmer of some
substance, and the eldest of three brothers. He was a
man of some importance, being the owner of Five Gable
Farm at Shorthorne; and Shorthorne-as I suppose all
men know-lies midway betwixt Taunton and Bridge-
water, two notable fair towns of our fertile and pleasant
county of Somerset.
There was an old saw spoken anent the Snowe family
which said that the men thereof who were not farmers and
tillers of the soil were brewers of malt liquor and the
THE SNOVWE FAIL K
keepers of hostelries. Nor would it become me to deny
with too much eagerness the truth of this saying, seeing
that I myself have been master of an inn these many
years, and that I have brothers who both till the soil and
sell and make malt liquor.
But to return to my father and his two brothers. Five
Gable Farm had belonged to the Snowes as far back as we
cared to ask questions. It had passed from father to son
for many generations; and since I was the youngest of six
brothers, there seemed little likelihood of its passing to
alien hands for many a day to come.
My father's name was Joseph-as became the eldest
of the house; for Joseph was a great name in the Snowe
family. Next to him came Uncle John, of whom I shall
have much to say in these pages; and last of the three,
Uncle Robert, who was a good deal younger than the
other pair, two sisters having been born in between.
Now Uncle John was a big man, as big as father him-
self, with a loud voice and a right jovial manner. I doubt
not that he found this jovial address a great source of in-
come to him; for he kept the inn of the Three Cups in gay
Taunton Town, and travellers who paused at his door to
ask the way or quaff a cup of mead on horseback seldom
rode onwards after having had speech of mine host-unless
much pressed for time-but dismounted to taste the good
cheer of the house, and more often than not remained until
the morrow beneath the friendly shelter of the roof-tree.
I was to learn all about this in good sooth, as will shortly
be made clear to all.
THE SNO IVE FAMILY Y
Uncle Robert had followed the example of Uncle John,
or had perhaps been guided in his choice by the old adage
of which I have spoken; for he too became master of an
inn in Bridgewater, by name the Cross Keys. It was not
such a flourishing or important house as the Three Cups
in Taunton, nevertheless it was a comfortable and well-
liked place of rest; and the name of Snowe went far in
the district as a warranty for good cheer and fair charges.
Now it will readily be seen that it was a great matter
of advantage to my father to have two brothers within
easy distance of the farm, both in the innkeeping line of
business. All our spare produce was sent to one inn or
the other, bought readily at fair prices, and often bespoken
for months beforehand. We prided ourselves on the breed
of our sheep, the quality of our beef, the excellence of our
smoked hams; and the fame of all these things made us
well known both in Taunton and in Bridgewater, so that
private persons from the neighbourhood would come crav-
ing of mother to spare them of our produce, and these
earnings of hers came in the course of a year to a tidy
little sum of money.
But I must not wander on in this fashion, or I shall
scarce get my story told as I have promised. And to
pave the way for the tale I am to tell, I must needs talk
for a while about myself, even though this may savour
somewhat of self-conceit and vanity. Not that I have
any cause to be vain of my outward man, as I will incon-
tinently show, for I have been malformed and somewhat of
a hunchback all my life; and if the word I have used is
THE SNO WE FAMILY Y
somewhat too strong, at least it is the one I most often
heard employed towards me when first I mixed with other
lads in Taunton Town. And I may not deny that I had
and always have had a stoop of the neck, and that one of
my shoulders is higher than the other, whilst my stature
has always been notably less than that of any of the men
of my name and race.
Now this would be very surprising in a family noted
for its tall and comely sons and daughters, had it not
been for the lamentable fact that in my tender infancy
I was overlooked by a witch, or in some sort bewitched,
so that from that day forward I began to grow crooked,
and never attained the grace or stature which my brothers
and sisters inherited as a natural right.
And this misfortune befell me in this wise.
I was but a babe in arms, I think I was nigh upon a
year old, and as fine and comely a child (so at least my
mother will have it) as one need wish to see. She had
been out to visit a neighbour, and was returning across
the moor as the dusk was drawing on; and as ill-luck
would have it, her way led her close to the hut where
there lived a witch, who went by the name of Mother
Whale-though whether this were truly her name, or
whether witches have rightly any names at all, I have not
knowledge to say. Be that as it may, Mother Whale was
so called by all the country side; and young maids resorted
to her to have their fortunes told, whilst the village swains
who dared as much would purchase from her small bottles
in which she had brewed love potions to win them their
THE SNO WE FAMILY
sweethearts, or magic draughts to make them strong in
feats of courage or skill. She had worked many notable
cures on cattle and pigs, as well as on human beings, by
her charms and simples, and was held in much repute.
Nevertheless men feared her not a little also, because that
she was without doubt possessed of the evil eye; and when
she chose to overlook a man or his possessions, as sure
as the sun shone in the sky some grievous harm would
happen to him or to them, as had been proved times with-
out number-so all the folks of the place said.
My mother felt a great fear when she found herself
nigh to this lonely hut so near the day's end, for she had
an idea that witches who were fairly friendly and well
disposed by day became full of evil purposes at night
(which may or may not be true-I pass no opinion on the
matter), and she was hurrying by in a great fright, when
suddenly the form of the old woman rose from the very
ground at her feet.
I have heard my mother tell the story many and many
a time; and she always maintains that there was nothing
to conceal the old woman-not so much as a mound or a
tuft of grass-and that she must have sprung out of
the bowels of the earth, for there she suddenly was, stand-
ing full in front of her; and my mother being already
somewhat scared, fell now into such a terrible fright that
she dropped me upon a heap of sharp-pointed stones close
by (when I ask her if the old woman might not have been
concealed behind this heap of stones, she always grows
irritable, and tells me not to cavil at her words), and fled
THE SNOW FAMILY Y
for her very life. But inasmuch as the power of a
mother's love is a notable thing, and will run many a risk
sooner than leave a helpless babe in peril, so it befell that
my mother turned back after a while, and even dared to go
boldly up to the very hut itself in search of her offspring.
The door of the hut stood open as she approached, and
by the light of the turf fire she could see what passed
within, and a sight was revealed to her which made her
heart stand still and curdled the very blood in her veins.
For the old woman had actually got me laid across her lap,
and was rubbing my back, which was sorely cut and
bruised by the stones, with some preparation of her own;
and when my mother appeared to claim her child, she
looked her over with a glance which made the poor
creature shake in her shoes, and chid her severely for
dropping a tender babe and fleeing without so much as a
My mother declares that from that day forward she
always knew that harm would come of it; that the witch
had overlooked either her or me. And in truth from that
time I grew puny and peaked, and when I began to walk
(which was not till long after a child should do so)
it was easy to see that something was wrong with me.
All the place knew that I had been bewitched, and held
Mother Whale responsible, and respected and feared hei
the more for it; but for my part I often wonder whether
it was not the fall upon the stones, for Mother Whale was
always very good to me, and in my lonely childhood I
found in her one of my chiefest friends.
THE SNO WE FAM/IL Y.
For my childhood was lonely. I could not work on the
farm like my brothers. I was sickly and weak until I
grew to be ten or twelve years old. My back would ache
for almost nothing, and I was so little use that I was
always pushed on one side, or bidden to run indoors out
of the way. My sisters were kind to me, and would find
me little light household tasks; but the manhood in me
revolted from doing woman's work," and I suppose that
is why I became what the neighbours used to call a
scholar,-which convinced them almost more than any-
thing else that I had indeed been bewitched.
I could write a long history of the joys opened out
before me when once I had mastered the mysteries of
reading, and could cull from the row of ancient books
upon the shelf in the parlour the treasures they contained.
But this would be but tedious reading for others. The
Bible was in itself a perfect storehouse of information, and
my mother encouraged me to read it, thinking that it
might prove an antidote to the. poison of witchcraft
which she always believed was working within me. And
there were certain godly pamphlets written by persecuted
men of past days, showing forth the evils of Popery, and
claiming for men the rights which Protestants have since
won for themselves: these I was permitted and encouraged
to read, and also Fox's Book of Martyrs," which had a
gruesome fascination for me, the more so as it was illus-
trated with many a horrid picture of some martyr endur-
ing punishment or death. I was brought up in the
fervent conviction that all Papists would like to serve, us
THE SNO IE FAMILY Y.
good Protestants as these martyrs were being served in my
pictures; and not unnaturally I grew up with a pious
horror of the very name of Popery, and shivered from
head to foot when I heard whispers of the Popish inclina-
tions of the King, and the unconcealed Popery of the
Duke of York, who was like to be his successor-unless,
indeed, the Duke of Monmouth should turn out to be the
King's legitimate son, when all danger of a Papist on the
throne would cease at once.
Without therefore pausing to speak of the other books
in which I delighted more than in all these godly writings
put together-to wit, the immortal dramas of the great
bard William Shakespeare, and that marvellous conception
of Mr. John Milton's, Paradise Lost "-I will pursue the
theme just suggested, that of the Protestant Succession, as
men began to call it, meaning the hopes and aspirations of
the people of the country, that if the King died without
issue by his Queen, some way might be found for placing
the Duke of Monmouth upon the throne instead of the
dark Duke of York, whom men both feared and hated.
Now it is needless to say much respecting the parentage
of the Duke of Monmouth, for all the world knows that
he was the son of Lucy Walters, a woman of whom little
good can be written, and that the King was always sup-
posed to be his father, and indeed gave to him a father's
affection; so much so that men hoped he would seek to
pass an Act of Parliament excluding the Duke of York
from the succession, on account of his religion, and ap-
pointing the Duke of Monmouth to succeed him.
THE SNO WE FAMILY
This hope was the more fervent in the minds of the
people because there were many who declared that the
Duke was born in lawful wedlock, and that there was in
existence a black box containing all the needful proofs
of this fact. We in the West Country believed in that
black box almost as in an article of faith, and every news-
letter that came to Taunton Town was eagerly opened and
scanned in hopes of finding in it some precious hint with
regard to this matter.
But my own interest in the handsome and dashing
young Duke was of a more personal and particular nature
than could have been the case simply from reading books
and leaflets and pamphlets, or even from hearing through
our uncles on their visits the talk of the towns.
And it came about in this wise.
I have said before that I was but a puny and sickly
child, and that until I grew to be ten years old I had but
little health. This was indeed my melancholy condition;
for in addition to my crooked spine and lack of muscle, I
suffered from time to time from that obscure and painful
malady which used to be known as "King's Evil," and
which was not to be cured by any leech or physician, but
only by the touch of the King's hand, or the hand of his
lawful successor. Some indeed declared that a seventh
son could sometimes cure it by touching; but though I
was taken more than once to such, I received no good from
the touch. It was the seventh son of a seventh son in
whom the power was said to lie, and some held that it lay
also in the hand of a man who had been hanged; but my
THE SNO WE FA MIL Y
mother would never let me try that touch, and so I went
on enduring the evil until the day of which I am about to
I had an aunt in the town of Ilminster, one Betsy Mar-
well by name, my mother's sister, and a widow of some
substance. She having heard of me and my malady, sent
one day when I was about ten years old, and bid my
mother let me pay a visit to her, for that she knew a great
collector of herbs and simples who had had wonderful suc-
cess in curing all manner of maladies that baffled the skill
of the leeches; and she would keep me in her house and
doctor me with his preparations, and send me home, she
fondly hoped, in better and sounder health than I had
when I came.
I remember well even now that first visit I ever paid
away from my own home, and the excitements of dwelling
in a town, and of sitting at table in a parlour with a carpet
laid down in the middle, and eating with a fork instead of
a wooden spoon as I had always done at home. I remem-
ber the grave face and the long beard of the man who
came to look at me, and who bid me take many baths
with sundry simples thrown in, and use certain ointments
of his preparation, and who said that in time I should be
sound and whole again.
I abode with my aunt two whole months, and it was
during that time that the wonderful thing happened to me
of which I am now about to write.
I had not been long at Ilminster before the whole town
was thrown into joyful excitement by the news that the
THE S.NO WE FAMILY.
Duke of Monmouth was about to make a progress through
the county, staying in the houses of such of the gentry as
had accommodation sufficient to receive him and his suite,
and allowing himself to be seen by the people, and ap-
proached by all who desired it. I soon heard that the
house of Mr. Speke-White Lackington by name-was to
be one of the places visited. I knew Mr. Speke by name
right well-he and his son-in-law, Mr. Trenchard, being
looked upon in our county as men of great virtue, and
stanch to the Protestant cause, as in very truth they
were, and suffered for it much; and I knew by this time
that White Lackington House was but the distance of a
mile or so from Ilminster, and I thought it would go hard
but that I would make shift to see the Duke when he was
there, if I were still with my aunt.
Indeed when the time drew near there was no difficulty
about this, for all the world was agog about the Duke,
and preparations were being made to admit all those who
desired to see him to the park of White Lackington upon
a certain day; whilst my aunt Betsy was as eager as any
to see the hero, and before the day arrived she drew me
to her side and spoke to me very earnestly.
First she examined my wounds, and shook her head
over them. To be sure they were better than when I
came to her, and some were fast disappearing; but she was
not satisfied with the progress I had made, and she said to
me with grave emphasis,-
Dicon "-my name, I should say, was Richard, but I
was never called anything but Dicon for many a long year
THE SNO WE FAMILY.
of my life-" Dicon, to-morrow, if by any hap you can
make shift to do so, get near to his Grace the Duke, and
pray of him to lay his hand upon you and touch you for
the King's Evil. If he be, as I hold him, the rightful son
of our gracious King, his touch will be a cure for you such
as none other can help you to. If you can only make
shift yourself to touch him in the throng, it will perchance
be enough. But let not this chance slip unused. Provi-
dence, it may be, hath sent it. Let the people but know
him for the true heir to the throne, and not all the Dukes
of York ever yet born shall keep him from his own when
the right time comes "
Whereby it may be seen that my aunt was a woman of
spirit, as indeed she proved herself to be in days to come.
Upon the morrow we, in common with half the good
folks of Ilminster, set forth for White Lackington to see
the Duke at our ease. He had ridden into Ilminster the
previous day, to attend divine service in the church; but
although I had been well-nigh squeezed to death in the
press, I had not succeeded in obtaining so much as a sight
of him. But to-day there would be no such crowding and
crushing. The wide park land gave space for us to move
at ease, and all would be able to look upon the face of one
whom they loved, perhaps with scarce sufficient cause.
How we huzzahed and shouted, and tossed our caps into
the air, when the party from the great house moved across
the sunny gardens and came toward us! For my part, I
had a most excellent view, for I climbed into the fork of
the huge chestnut tree which is one of the notable objects
THE SNOWE FAMILY Y
of interest at White Lackington, and from my perch up
there I beheld the Duke, was able to scan his handsome
features, to see the smiles that lighted his face, and almost
to'hear the gracious words he addressed to the people who
crowded round him as he moved.
Fortune favoured me that day; for as the throng about
him increased, the Duke took up his position beneath the
great chestnut tree, and I was able to command a fine
view of everything that went on.
I was greatly charmed by the gracious manner of the
Duke, by his kindness to all who approached, and by the
friendly way in which he addressed even the humblest who
succeeded in reaching him. I was wondering whether my
courage would permit me to drop myself suddenly at his
feet and ask the boon my aunt had desired, when my
way was paved in a curious fashion. A woman suddenly
forced her way through the crowd, threw herself on her
knees before the Duke, touched his hand, and as suddenly
disappeared in the throng, before the Duke had time to
speak a single word or ask the meaning of her approach.
Marry, but that is Elizabeth Parcet," said one of those
who stood by; "the poor soul suffers terribly from the
King's Evil. Doubtless she has touched your Grace with
a view to cure herself of her malady."
Now hearing those words, and marking the look upon
the Duke's face, I tarried no longer, but without pausing
to think what I was doing or what I should say, I hastily
let myself down from my exalted position, and fell on my
knees before the Duke.
THE SNO IVE FAMILY Y.
Touch me, even me also, your Grace!" I cried, clasp-
ing my hands together. "I too am a sufferer from that
dread malady, and I would fain be made whole."
Immediately I felt a hand laid kindly upon me, and
my face and hands were touched by long white fingers
such as I had seldom seen in all my life before.
There, boy," said a kindly voice which I knew to be
the Duke's. "May thy wish be given thee, and thyself
healed of thy malady."
Bowing and blushing, overcome with confusion now
that the thing was done, I made my way out of the
crowd, scarce daring to utter the words of fervent thanks
which rose to my lips.
As I went home in triumph that day, I knew within
myself that I was healed, and so I told my aunt and the
kind old man who had given me his simples and herbs,
and who listened to my eager tale with a smile on his lips.
"Ay, lad; ay, lad," he said, nodding his head till his long
beard waved to and fro, "I doubt not that thou wilt be
cured. Yet cease not for a while to use my ointment and
simples. They cannot harm thee, and may give thee
strength and health yet."
I promised I would do so, and I kept my word, for that
our father had always bidden us do. But it was the touch
of the Duke's hand that cured me of my malady; that
I never doubted at that time, since within a week of
receiving it all my wounds were healed, and at once I
began to gain such strength and power and vigour as I
had not known since the day of my accident. Herbs and
THE SNO WE FAMILY Y
simples may have a value of their own-I would not take
upon myself to deny it; but I was cured of the King's
Evil by other means than that, and went to my home
rejoicing when the time came that I had no further need
for my good aunt's care or skill.
She shed many tears at parting with me, and bid me
not forget her, and come and see her again some day.
This I promised I would do when occasion served, and I
kept my word, as this tale will show. But we little
guessed how and under what circumstances the next visit
would be paid, nor how large a part the gay young Duke
who had touched me for my cure would play in my
At home I was received with wonder and joy. Of
course my parents knew nothing of my adventure at
White Lackington, for we did not write letters to absent
friends, as men are beginning to do now. But when
seated at the well-spread supper-table I told them of what
had befallen me, they listened with open eyes and mouths
agape, and my father, bringing his hand heavily down
upon the table, cried,-
That settles the question. The black box could do no
more. The Duke of Monmouth is our rightful King.
Hurrah for the Protestant Duke! Down with the Papists
and with the Popish Duke of York !"
And we all echoed these words with acclamation. Our
hearts were from that day forward centred in the Duke.
All this happened in the year 1680, when I was just
ten years of age.
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
OF the next two years of my life I need say little.
They passed in a fashion that to me was pleasant
and easy enough.
I have before explained that I had been a sickly child,
and was on this account spared from those duties about
the farm which were required of my brothers; and I have
said something with regard to my acquirements in the
matter of reading, which were then somewhat more rare
than they are like to become as time goes on. My father
had a small library of books which had been bequeathed
to him by a distant kinsman, who could have known but
little of his tastes, and in these books I revelled with a
delight past the power of expression. Whilst at my aunt
Betsy's house in Ilminster, I had also acquired the rudi-
ments of the art of writing and the casting up of accounts
and the keeping of books; and when I returned home, I
had no mind to let these things slip from my memory.
Nor was there any need for this, since my father showed
no disposition to make use of me upon the farm, having
indeed the full belief that I had been bewitched, and that
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
I should bring him ill-luck with the beasts if I went
Nor was the belief in my possession of unlawful powers
lessened by an incident which I will forthwith relate,
although, truth to tell, I cannot explain it, nor do I think
it to be any proof that there is aught amiss with me, or
ever was. I believe that dumb beasts may be governed by
motives of caprice, even as human beings are, and that they
can take likes and dislikes and act upon them as stub-
bornly as their masters.
My father was a breeder and owner of forest ponies,
and once in the year they were collected from the moors,
where they used to run wild during a great part of the
year. The foals were branded, the numbers of the yearlings
and two-year-olds counted, and such amongst the rest as
were old enough and strong enough for work were taken
up and broken in, and sold in the neighbourhood at the
various fairs to such as were wanting the like.
Now it chanced that one of the ponies thus driven in
and kept for breaking, soon after my return from Ilminster,
was a particularly handsome animal. He had a coat as
black as the raven's wing, and eyes as large and soft as
those of a deer; when he galloped round and round the
field in which he was placed, he seemed scarce to touch
the ground, and his pace was such that none could come
anigh him save by artfulness or coaxing. And he would
not suffer so much as a halter to be put upon him, but
tossed his head and was off like a lightning flash, and
cared not whom he overthrew and maimed as he wrested
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
himself away; so that two of our men had been sorely
hurt by him, and the rest began to say that handsome as
he was, and valuable as he would prove could we but get
the mastery over him, yet he had plainly been bewitched,
and was possessed of a devil of malice and wickedness, and
to try to tame him would be but labour thrown away.
In good sooth, before long people came so to fear him that
my father had perforce to say reluctantly that he was past
breaking, and must either be sent back to the moor to run
wild all his days, or be shot to rid him of the evil fiend
Now when I heard them talk thus I was grieved to the
heart, for I greatly admired the beautiful creature, and
had more than once stolen into the field when none else
had been by, and had coaxed him to come and eat out of
my hand, sometimes giving him a bit of bread or a morsel
of sugar that I had reserved from mine own breakfast or
midday meal, and which he came to look for now as his
right. He would rub his nose upon my shoulder, and
seemed to like the feel of my hands caressing his ears and
his neck. It seemed to me that I could even make shift
to put a halter upon him if I tried; but I had never dared
to do so hitherto, lest they should say I was spoiling him-
it being always thought that I knew nothing of the ways
of beasts or how to manage them.
Nevertheless it was allowed by all that I could ride.
Not being gifted with the strength of the others for walk-
ing, I had been suffered to ride one of the forest ponies
from the time I was little more than an infant. I could
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
ride barebacked across country without a qualm of fear,
and I had little doubt that if once I could make a spring
and place myself upon the back of this unruly pony, I
should be able to master him forthwith.
Well, to make a long story short, and to avoid the
appearance of praising myself, I will only say that when
all others had given him up, I went to the refractory colt
and used my methods upon him. There was no magic in
these; that I will swear if need be. But I made the crea-
ture fond of me by gentle caresses and endearing words,
and when I was sure of his affection I was able to do what
I would with him. He scarcely resented the halter when
it was put upon him; and though the first time he felt the
bit between his teeth he tossed his head and his eyes grew
red and angry, yet a few kind words and caresses recon-
ciled him even to this; and he made no plunge or unruly
demonstration when I gently clambered upon his back for
the first time, talking all the while and praising him for
his docility. I think he looked upon it as another form of
caress, and he held his tail and head high as he set to trot
with his burden around the field, his long elastic stride
seeming to scorn the earth he trod on, and sending thrills
of delight through his rider; for methought it was like
the action of one of those winged steeds from Phoebus'
chariot, of which I had read in one of my books.
Erelong Blackbird-for so I came to call him from his
colour and his easy pace, which always made me think of
flying-would carry me whithersoever I wished, and would
follow me about the farm like a dog. I always looked to
MY' CAREER IS SETTLED.
him myself within the stable, feeding him with my own
hands, and bringing him water in the pail from the clearest
spring. Indeed not one of the men cared to approach him,
even though he was presently cured of his trick of giving
a sly kick to any who passed by. But there was a look in
his eye (so at least they said; I never saw it) which be-
spoke the devil within; and some of the men looked
askance even at me, and would whisper, when they saw
me tending and caressing my favourite, that it was plain
there was a pair of us. Even my father did not quite like
it, though he made me a present of Blackbird, and was
always rather proud of the conquest I had made.
Certainly the possession of this light-footed steed all
mine own (and he would suffer none else to mount him
even when he had grown tame within stable walls, so
that I had the exclusive use of him and all his great
strength) added not a little to my happiness and health
during the two years which followed my visit to Ilminster.
With my books and some food in a wallet at my back, I
would start off with the first freshness of the morning, and
ride to one of those favourite solitary haunts of which
Blackbird and I came to have many. Then turning him
loose-for he would always come at a call or a whistle,
and indeed seldom strayed far away, having come to guard
me almost as a dog guards his master-I would set to
study might and main at those arts of caligraphy and cal-
culation which I was so wishful to acquire. Moreover, I
would also declaim aloud from one of my books, reading
out the words loud, and striving to give each its due weight
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
and meaning, as my aunt Betsy had taught me to do when
she made me rdad to her. And never was boy happier
than I all through the long days of summer and the mild
sunshiny ones of spring and autumn. I was so hardy by
this time that only severe cold drove me within doors; and
there was always a warm corner in the ingle nook where
I could sit at ease. As for my sisters, when they had time
to do so, they were glad enough for me to read to them
out of my immortal Shakespeare, explaining as well as
I could the meaning of all I read, and awakening by
degrees within them so great a respect for my learning
that I found myself at last in the way of being quite
famous in our parish.
This fame of mine gained for me another advantage,
which was the interest taken in me by our parson, who
came sometimes to overlook my self-imposed tasks, and
who of his own accord taught me the axioms and some of
the lore of Euclid, and set my brain all in a ferment to
puzzle out the propositions in the little brown volume he
lent me. I never, however, became a mathematician of
any note, since these studies were destined to be speedily
interrupted; but much of the last winter spent at home
was given to the scrawling of lines and circles upon the
hearth-stone with a fragment of charcoal, and my brain
certainly grew in those days, and I was conscious of a
widening of my mental horizon such as it is impossible to
explain in words.
But soon a great change came into my life.
It was a beautiful mild day in May. I had been out
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
with Blackbird as usual, and riding homewards in time for
the supper, I saw our uncle John from Taunton standing
in the yard with father.
Our uncle John was a favourite with us all, and I was
well pleased to see him. He had always news to tell of
what was going on in the world, and I had begun to desire
to know more of this than was possible in our quiet life
upon the farm. So I threw myself off Blackbird's back
with haste and ran up with my greeting.
Hey, Dicon lad, but thou hast mended wonderful for
the better since I saw thee last !" cried Uncle John. We
shall make a man of thee yet, I take it, hunchback or no.
What has come to thee, lad ? "
"I was touched for the King's Evil by our gracious
Duke," I answered with enthusiasm, "and since I have
been whole from that malady, I have grown in strength
and soundness every way. Tell me of the Duke, mine
uncle. Where is he? what does he ? and how goes it with
him ? Will he be King after his father ? When will the
black box be opened and the truth anent him be brought
to light ?"
My uncle smiled as though he knew more than he would
say, but he put his finger to his lips as if to impose caution.
Hist, boy, it is not well to wear the heart always on
the sleeve. The days we live in are something too full of
peril. There be wheels within wheels and plots within
plots of which we simple country folks know little.
Walk warily, and wait till the right moment comes; that
is what men in these days have to do."
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
I was disappointed at the caution of the answer; never-
theless my uncle did tell us something of the movements
of the Duke during the past year. He had made another
"progress through Cheshire and the more northern por-
tion of the kingdom, and this progress had been very
jealously regarded by the court party. The Duke of York
was always the enemy of Monmouth, as was perhaps
natural, and the King, who loved them both, had often
an evil time of it between them. Sometimes Monmouth
seemed in the ascendant, sometimes his black-browed
uncle; and the plots and machinations of scheming
courtiers and ambitious statesmen were without end. I
grew bewildered even trying to follow Uncle John's talk
about all these fine nobles, whose names I scarcely knew.
But when he pulled out from his capacious pocket two or
three old "news-letters," as they were then called, and
asked if I could read them, I soon became absorbed in the
contents to the exclusion of all besides; for anything new
to read was as an elixir to me. And when our father and
uncle were smoking their pipes, and mother and the girls
washing up and putting away, I began reading loud to
them the most interesting bits of news that I could find,
quite unaware that Uncle John had ceased to talk with
father, and was staring at me open-eyed.
At last he broke into speech.
By the Lord Harry," he exclaimed (a favourite ex-
pletive of his), "the boy reads like a parson Where did
he learn it all ?"
He has always been a scholar," answered mother, with
MAY CAREER IS SETTLED.
some pride; "that is what I say to them that pity his
crooked back. He has a better head than the best of
them. He will be a fine scholar in time.-Dicon, go get thy
writing-book, and show thine uncle what thou canst do."
Aunt Betsy had given me a neat book full of blank
paper, and I had taken pains to write my best themes
and most lengthy calculations and cipherings into it. I
showed it to my uncle with some pride; and as he turned
the leaves I saw him look astonished, impressed, and almost
triumphant, and I wondered not a little what could be in
"Why, boy," he cried, looking up at me at last, "canst
add up rows of figures like that, and bring the right total
at the end ?"
"I trow I can, uncle," I replied with some confidence;
for by this time I knew that I could trust myself to get
the right answer however long the sum might be. "Set
me down a sum and I will show you. I can reckon in my
head too, and I seldom make an error."
Well, not to be tedious in telling all this-for I find it
hard to know just how much to say and how much to
leave unsaid in this history-it appeared at length that
our uncle's inn in Taunton was becoming so well patronized
by all sorts and conditions of men, that he knew not how
to find time to keep his books as well as to entertain his
guests; and since neither his wife nor his daughter had
any skill with the pen, he was looking about him for
somebody whom he could trust to relieve him of those
laborious duties of book-keeping which he had hitherto
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
managed to overtake himself, though at the cost of much
time and labour.
Seeing my aptitude at figures, and hearing my fluency
at reading aloud, he had been seized with the idea that I
should be valuable to him.
Many and many a time had he wanted the weekly
news-letter read aloud to his customers and guests in an
evening; but there was no one with skill enough to make
it intelligible thus read. He could read to himself, but
had no courage to declaim it to others. Then if only
he could have my pen at command during the evening, he
could enter easily and rapidly into his books the outgoings
of the day, and have bills made out when need was with-
out trouble to himself. Like many men of his class, he
had a marvellous memory for figures, and could keep a
whole day's reckoning in his head without effort; but the
trouble of writing it down afterwards was great, and to
be spared that labour he would give much.
Then he was proud that any nephew of his should
possess such talents as I did, and he roundly declared to
my father that it would be a sin and a shame to keep
such a boy at a farm, where he could learn nothing but
what he could teach himself. In Taunton there was a
free school to which he would send me by day, to learn all
I could there with boys of my own age; whilst in the
evening I should aid him with his books, and read the
news-letter to such as desired to hear it, or amuse the
guests of the better sort by declaiming to them some of
those scenes from Shakespeare or Milton which I had now
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
by heart, and which my mother made me recite to my
uncle to show how clever I was.
It may well be guessed how excited I was whilst this
matter was being discussed over my head. Of course no
question was asked of me as to my own disposition in the
matter. It was a thing for my father and mother to
decide as they would; and when my mother argued my
lack of health and strength of body, my uncle laughed at
her, and said I was full strong enough for him; whilst my
father remarked that schooling for a few years would be a
grand thing for me, since I should never make a farmer,
lived I all my life on the farm, but that in Taunton Town
I might rise by my wits to some post such as that of clerk,
or schoolmaster, or even parson, and it might be a fine
thing for me in the end.
Uncle John was very liberal in his offer to my parents.
He said he would feed and clothe me, give me a groat
from time to time for myself, and send me regularly to
school for the first year at least, and probably for two
years, till I had learned as much as was needful, and then
they would see what my future career should be. Uncle
John had no son to succeed him in the business, only a
daughter, who was likely to wed a son of Mr. Hucker the
serge-maker, and that son was more like to take to serge-
making than to inn-keeping. A hint was given that if I
did well and grew to be a help and comfort to my uncle,
I might look even to be his successor in the business.
Certainly that would be a grand opening for one who had
always been looked upon as likely to do badly in life; and
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
before the talk had lasted an hour, it was settled, to my
great satisfaction, that I was to return with my uncle to
Taunton, and remain in his house as an inmate for at least
How eagerly I made my few simple preparations for
leaving home; and how I counted the hours until I and
my uncle were to start off for his home in the town!
Ever since my stay in Ilminster I had greatly desired a
town life. I loved my home in a fashion, but it did not
satisfy the cravings of my nature. I felt shut up and out
of reach of news there. I missed the heart-beat of a great
nation, of which I had been dimly conscious when at my
aunt's house during the excitement of the Duke's progress,
when so many stirring matters had been discussed daily.
I was sure that stirring times were coming upon us. I
gathered it from my uncle's words, as well as from certain
statements made in the news-letter which I had read. I
was conscious that there were things of great moment
going on in the world of which we country folk knew
nothing. I wanted to know more-to be in the thick of
the tumult and the strife. Little knew I how fully
my aspirations would be fulfilled during my residence in
Taunton, and how fearful would be the scenes upon which
I was destined to look in days to come!
I was up with the lark upon the following morning;
and whilst I was attending to Blackbird and diligently
grooming off from his sleek sides the last remnants of his
winter coat, my uncle came in at the door and stood look-
ing at me with an air of approval.
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
So you know how to groom a horse as well as how to
read a book ?" he said. "That is a pretty pony you have
there. I never saw a better made animal. He will be a
fine fellow to go, I take it; and a rare weight-carrier, if
my eye does not deceive me. How old is he ?"
Five this spring, and he can go like the wind. He's
been broken these two years; but he will not let any ride
him save me. Uncle, may I take him with me to
Taunton ? If he goes not with me, he must be turned
loose to forget all his breaking, and be a wild thing again;
for he will not suffer any rider on his back save me only."
Uncle John made me tell all the story of Blackbird's
refractory youth and of my success with him, and at the
end gave a cordial assent to my request to take my favour-
ite with me.
To be sure, boy, to be sure. You will want something
to ride even in the town. There is many an errand I
shall send you now which I have had to do myself
hitherto. You know something of fat beasts and milch
cows, I take it, else you are scarce your father's son; and
if you know not how to drive a bargain yet, Uncle John
will soon teach you!"
At that we both laughed, and I felt already as though
raised to man's estate by being thus addressed by my uncle.
The taking of Blackbird to Taunton Town made my
departure from home a matter of much less regret to me;
for the distance being less than seven miles, and Blackbird
making nothing of my weight or of that distance, I could
when occasion served pay ready visits to my father's house,
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
notwithstanding the fact that the road was in evil plight,
as was the fashion with roads then (a matter which time
has seen considerably amended, and may amend even more
as coaches seem to grow more and more in favour), and
highwaymen made travelling ofttimes dangerous, even for
such as owned but small worldly wealth.
How well I remember our start on that bright May
morning! Blackbird seemed to partake of my joy, and
held his head proudly, whisked his long tail to and fro,
and arched his neck and looked so proud and gay withal
that my uncle kept regarding him with approving eyes,
and more than once remarked, Thou shouldst teach him
to turn a lady's palfrey, nephew Dicon, and he would put
a pretty penny in thy pocket !"
But I thought I preferred the feel of my eager steed
between my knees to any gold in my purse. Blackbird
and I had been comrades and friends too long for the
thought of parting with him to have any attractions for
me. I patted his glossy neck, and was glad his exclusive
preference for me would brook no other rider. As we
galloped across the moorland that day, making wide circuits
from the road in our exuberance of spirit, and returning
to join my uncle's sober roadster when we had had our fill
of motion and fresh air, he would give an approving nod
and say, Fine pony that; and you know how to ride, boy.
When you go a-wooing it had better be on horseback.
.Pity one can't sell the steed! he would fetch a pretty
price. We'll see, we'll see! Maybe he will learn sense
in the air of a town."
AlY CAREER IS SETTLED.
I had once spent a night at my uncle John's inn, on the
occasion of my journey to Ilminster. Although living so
near to Taunton as we did, I had never been in the way
of going thither. My mother loved not towns and their
ways; and though I had liberty to scour the country round
at will on Blackbird, I was always bidden to keep to the
open country, and never to extend my excursions to either
of the towns within reach of us. So that after we had
passed Volis Cross and descended the hill, the country was
almost strange to me, and I eagerly demanded the name of
every house and hamlet we passed, until my attention was
completely absorbed by our entrance into Taunton itself.
That fine town, which will always be the queen of towns
to me, was looking its best and gayest upon that brilliant
May evening. The clocks were chiming six as we rode
across the bridge into North Street, and it seemed to me
that there must be something going on; for the town was
plainly en fete-the streets decked with garlands, and the
people saluting each other with the gayest of gay greet-
ings, as though all hearts were in tune for merriment.
What is it ? what does it mean ? I asked of my uncle;
and he looked surprised at the question as he replied,-
"Why, boy, dost live so nigh to Taunton and not know
that to-morrow is the eleventh day of May ? "
I certainly knew that, for I had a calendar of mine own,
and studied it with care; but why Taunton should be so
joyful on that account I did not know, and my puzzled
face said as much.
Why, boy," he said again, "thee such a scholar, and
MY CAREER IS SETTLED.
not to know how the good folks of Taunton suffered and
starved when holding the town for the Parliament against
that villain Goring, who sought to win it back to its
allegiance to a traitor King ? Hast never read that page
of history, nor how it was relieved on the eleventh day of
May? Well, that is why we keep the day with garlands
and songs and rejoicings, as thou wilt see to-morrow.
Marry, they say that the King likes it not well, and our
Mayor looks sourly on our sports, and threatens us with
penalties if we are thus disloyal to the monarchy. But
the people will e'en go their own way. The King has done
his part to gain their ill-will, as doubtless thou wilt learn
in good time. Where are our stately walls that once held
at bay the thousands of a false King's troops ? Where are
many of the noble buildings and commodious houses which
once adorned the Eastreech and East Street ? He has
worked his will on them. He has destroyed and ravaged at
pleasure. But the mind and the heart and the will of the
citizens are not his. If he takes away our charter (which
he did, though we have it again now), he wins not the love
of the people. We give him loyal and liege service, but
we do not give him love and trust."
My uncle's face was rather grim as he spoke thus, and
I understood that I had come to a place where the divine
right of kings, in which I had believed until now, was not
greatly regarded. The story of the nation had not formed
one of my studies. I knew little enough of the events of
the past century, albeit my father had lived through the
great civil war, and had seen some fighting, though holding
MY CAREER IS SETTLED. 41
aloof from it himself. I had not thought much of any-
thing save the position of the Duke of Monmouth, and the
hope that he would one day be King. As I rode through
the streets of Taunton and saw the decorations being put
up for the morrow, I felt indeed that a new life was open-
ing before me, and that I was now to learn many things
which hitherto had been but names to me.
MY NEW HOME.
"The eleventh of May was a joyful day,
When Taunton got relief;
Which turned our sorrow into joy,
And eased us of our grief.
" The Taunton men were valiant then
In keeping of the town,
While many of those who were our foes
Lay gasping on the ground.
" When Colonel Massey, of the same,
Did understand aright,
Hie, like a man of courage bold,
Prepared himself to fight.
"With that our soldiers one and all
Cast up their caps, and cried,
'What need we fear what man can do,
Since God is on our side?'
"Long time did Goring lie encamped
Against fair Taunton Town;
He made a vow to starve us out,
And batter our castle down.
"Within our castle did remain
(A garrison so strong)
Those likely lads which did unto
Our Parliament belong.
"Before daylight appeared in view,
The news to them was come
That Goring and his cursed crew
Were all dispersed and gone.
MY NE W HOME.
"But who can tell what joy was there,
And what content of mind
Was put into the hearts of those
Who'd been so long confined?
"Our bread was fourteenpence per pound,
And all things sold full dear;
Which made our soldiers make short meals.
And pinch themselves full near.
Our beer was eighteenpence per quart
(As for a truth was told),
And butter eighteenpence per pound
To Christians there was sold.
"The Cavaliers dispersed with fear,
And forced were to run,
On the eleventh of May, by break of day,
Ere rising of the sun."
IT was with the words of this song, chanted by a number
of voices in the street below, that I was awakened
upon the first morning of my residence in my new home.
I had slept profoundly, despite the excitements of my
arrival; and when I awoke suddenly, roused by the sound
of this unfamiliar chant, it took me some moments to re-
collect where I was, and to convince myself that I was not
dreaming still. The moment that memory returned to me
I sprang out of bed, and putting my head out of the open
window, tried to obtain a view of the singers below.
But this I was unable to do, as I might have known had
I taken pains to consider. My room was high up in the
quaint old inn, which even in my youth was accounted an
old house. It looked upon the court-yard behind, where
the stables lay, and where hostlers were already passing to
and fro. I remembered well that I had observed this last
night, and that I had also remarked with satisfaction how
MY NE TW HOME.
my window was provided with a little wooden balcony, of
which the house had many. It was in an angle of the
building above the stables, and not in the main block of
the house where the guests were lodged. Near at hand,
and at right angles, rose the walls of another house, which
I could see was not a part of the inn. It did not look so
old, and it was more like a gentleman's private residence,
I thought. All the windows were close curtained, and I
could not gather anything as to the character of its inhab-
itants. It seemed passing strange to me then that houses
should be thus locked together; and I was calculating with
what ease I could make shift by the aid of a water-pipe
to get in at the window of this house were it left open,
and possess myself of anything the room contained, when
the sound of an impatient neigh from the yard below
warned me that time was getting on, and that Blackbird
was probably still unfed (for I had warned the men not to
go to him at first, save in my presence), and that he was
asking for his breakfast as plainly as though he could utter
I, too, was in a great hurry to be up and doing, and to
see some of the wonders of the town of which I was in
future to be a resident. In a few moments I was dressed
(words of the song below still floating up to me clearly
enough, and getting fixed in my memory, as all words with
rhyme and rhythm have a trick of doing), and was ready
to try to find my way down the curious stairways and
along the intricate passages I had traversed last night
under the guidance of my cousin Meg. It was not so easy
M Y NE W HOME.
as I expected, but as yet nobody in that part of the house
was stirring. It was still very early, for all that the sun
was shining brightly; and I had Blackbird fed, and was
ready and eager to be out in the streets before there was
any sign of my uncle or aunt to be seen.
However, my impatience was too great to be stayed
by any thought of a rebuke later, and plunging under the
archway which led from the street to the yard, I found
myself in the open space where East Street and Fore Street
join, and looked about me with a lively curiosity, wondering
where I should go and what I should do.
The singers were no longer in sight; they had passed on,
and the wide streets were almost empty. But as I stood
looking admiringly about me, a boy of about my own age
came swinging along with a parcel under his arm, whistling
the very tune I had heard set to the words I have just
I looked curiously at him, and he returned my glance
with interest. No doubt he was familiar with most of the
faces of the towns-folk in these parts, and wondered who I
was. Perhaps my crooked back attracted his notice, but I
did not think of that then, and noting that he half paused
as though not unwilling to speak, I wished him good-
morning, and he returned the salutation.
There was something so bright and friendly in his smile
as he did so that I found courage to say, "Are you going
somewhere ? May I go with you ?"
Why, yes, if you like," he answered readily. "I am
going to my work. I am apprenticed to Master Simpson
MY NEW HOME.
of High Street. If you know aught of Taunton, doubtless
you have heard of him."
"But I do not. I only came hither yester-e'en with
mine uncle. I am nephew to John Snowe of the Three
Cups yonder. I am to dwell with him, and go to the Free
School here. I would fain know all I can of Taunton
Town. It is a right fair city. I like it well."
"And you have come on a good day!" cried my new
friend, with brightening eyes. "To-night, so soon as the
sun be down, we shall light a great bonfire in Paul's Fields,
and all the town will be there to see. Ah! I would I had
lived in the days when Taunton Town held for the Parlia-
ment against King Charles! But it may be even yet that
we may some of us live to see fine doings and hard fight-
ing; for if the King dies before his brother, and the Papist
Duke of York sits upon the throne-"
The lad paused as if struck by the magnitude of the
thought within him, and I glanced round to be sure we
were not overheard, and asked with keen interest, "Well,
and what then ?"
Why, then, methinks there would be hard blows struck
for the rightful heir, the young Duke of Monmouth,"
answered the boy, with sparkling eyes. "All Taunton and
the West Country would rise for him, as they rose for the
rights of the nation against the King's father. The pol-
troons of London may lick the dust before a Papist usurper,
but not we of the free West Country We will know the
reason why before we bow to a Papist, be he never so
much the King's brother! "
MY NEW HOME.
The boldness of this boy astonished me greatly, and also
his evident comprehension of the burning questions of the
day, with which I myself was but imperfectly acquainted.
My heart always warmed within me at any mention of the
Duke of Monmouth, and I eagerly plunged into the story
of my own miraculous cure at the hands of his Grace-a
tale to which my companion listened with kindling eyes.
Marry, but thou shalt come with me and tell it to my
master !" he said, as I ended. If proof were lacking, there
it is; for none save a lawful King or his lawful heir can
cure the King's Evil. There will be a ready welcome for
thee at Master Simpson's. He is one that is bound heart
and soul to the cause of the Duke."
"And what is thy name ?" I asked, as I willingly
allowed myself to be led whither my comrade would.
"Will Wiseman is my name, and I be apprenticed to
Master Simpson, as I have said. I dwell beneath his roof;
but yester-eve I visited my aunt in the North Street, and
tarried with her till dawn. Thou sayest thou art nephew
to Master Snowe of the Three Cups ? He is a good man,
one of our Capital Burgesses; and we take it he would be
stanch to the good cause if the time should come for men
to declare themselves."
I was considerably impressed by Will's way of talking.
It was as though he were living in a world of which I
knew almost nothing; as though he were looking forward
to something definite and expected, whilst to me the
future was absolutely blank and vague. I felt my igno-
rance so great that I did not know so much as how to
MY NE TW HOME.
frame questions; but I was saved the trouble of doing this
partly from the eager talk of my companion, partly from
our speedy arrival at our destination. For soon after we
had passed the bend in High Street, where it turns sharp
to the right toward Shuttern, Will paused before a door
with a right goodly sign hanging above it; and after
obtaining entrance, began quickly taking down the shut-
ters, in which office I gave him what assistance I could, so
that soon the bright light of morning was streaming into
the interior of the shop.
So soon as this was the case I stood open-mouthed in
admiration and wonder, for I had never seen so goodly a
shop in all my life before. Master Simpson must be a
man of much substance-so much I could see at a glance
-and his wares were beautiful to the eye and delicate to
the touch. There were bales of costly silk set in a mighty
pyramid in one place; and cloths and lawns, and the good
serge manufactured in Taunton Town, disposed with a
simple eye to effect, in due order along shelves and in the
large window. And besides all these things, there was an
inner shop, visible through an archway, in which I saw a
sight that made my mouth water; for there were shelves,
guarded by wire doors, in which hundreds of books were
arranged in tempting order-books new and books old-a
sight that drew me like a magnet, so that I forgot Will
and his work, forgot the strangeness of the house and my
lack of manners, and went straight to the book-cases and
began reading the names of the volumes one by one, speak-
ing them half aloud without knowing it.
MY NE TV HOME.
I was aroused by feeling a strong hand laid upon my
shoulder, and by the sound of a friendly voice in my ear.
"Hey, but we have a scholar here, in good sooth So
thou art nephew to good Master Snowe, Will tells me; and
hast been touched for King's Evil by our gracious Duke ?
Now, boy, tell me all about that, and how the cure was
made, and I will give thee a book for thy pains; for it
may be that this cure of thine shall be a notable thing in
the annals of the day that be coming."
The speaker was plainly the master of the house and
shop. He was soberly habited, as became his condition in
life; but he had a strong face as well as a strong hand
and voice, and I felt drawn towards him I scarce knew
why, and told him my tale very gladly, with the story of
my own brief and uneventful life to boot.
He listened with attention, nodding his head the while.
Heaven forgive me if I did amiss. I had no thought to
deceive him or others, but I spoke no word of the man of
herbs and potions, nor of the ointments I had been using
for my wounds ere ever the Duke's hand touched me. In
good sooth, I had scarce ever thought of him and his
simples since. Never for a moment did I believe that
these had had anything to do with my cure. It is only
long since, when I have heard from others how in nature
there be such marvellous cures for human ills to be found
by those who have skill and faith to seek them aright, that
I have wondered if perchance it was the herb baths and
ointments, and not the touch of the Duke's white hand,
that made me whole and sound. But in those days no
MY NE W HOME.
such thought ever came to me. I had well-nigh forgotten
the kind old man with his long beard, and of him I spoke
no word; only telling how weak and ill I was and had
been from childhood, and how soon after I had besought
the Duke to touch me I became sound and whole, and
had no return of the Evil, which none but such a one as
he could cure.
Master Simpson heard me with great satisfaction, and
kept his word right generously, making me the proud and
happy possessor of a small copy of Esop's Fables," with
the Latin on one side of the page and the English on the
other-a treasure that in those days was even more costly
than it has become now, and which in spite of its shabby
binding was looked upon as of exceeding worth.
Thou hadst better learn the Latin tongue, an thou hast
the chance at the Free School," said Master Simpson.
Learning is a grand thing, and will be a mighty power
in the days to come. Learn all thou canst, boy, when
thou art young. The time may come when thou wilt not
have the leisure; make the most of that leisure now."
I was well disposed to carry out that sage advice, being
greedy after knowledge, and I almost longed to run away
then and there to study my book, and see if I could make
out aught of the strange Latin words. Even the posses-
sion of such a book made me feel almost a scholar. But I
could not refuse the invitation of Master Simpson to come
and take breakfast with him, albeit my uncle and aunt
might well be wondering what had become of me. But,
as I reflected, the hostlers would tell him I had risen and
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gone abroad, and upon this festive holiday I did not think
I should be chidden for my early walk.
Behind the shop was a pleasant parlour, and behind that
again a kitchen, from whence a savoury odour proceeded.
It gave one an appetite even to scent it, and I was nothing
loath to follow the mercer into that same kitchen, where a
goodly fire burned on the hearth, and a merry-faced young
maiden was flitting about setting trenchers on the table,
and humming a gay ditty the while. She made a rever-
ence as we came in, and her father (for she was none other
than the master's daughter) gave her a blessing; after
which he turned him to a portly dame who was taking a
steaming pot from the fire, and bid her good-morn, telling
her my name and state, and how I was come to Taunton
to make a scholar of myself.
From the likeness which showed itself between the pair
before me, I felt assured that they must be brother and
sister, as was indeed the case. Master Simpson was a
widower, but his sister kept house for him, and played a
mother's part to the young Eliza, who gave her almost a
daughter's love. It was pleasant to see so much affection
between those of a household, for at home, albeit we all
loved each other well, it was not our fashion to show it;
wherefore it seemed pretty to me to watch the sly caresses
which Eliza would bestow upon her father, or the way in
which Mistress Susan's glance softened when she addressed
herself to the maid.
Will Wiseman and a young man who served in the shop,
but who spoke no word and gave himself only to making
MY NEW HOME.
a right royal meal, sat at table with us, though somewhat
apart; and ever and anon Will would put in a word when
his master turned to him with a question. He plainly
heard and gave heed to everything that passed, with a
keen intelligence that was shown in the glance of his eye
and in the ready way in which his words came when he
had occasion to speak. I took a great liking to Will from
the first moment of our acquaintance, and everything I
noted about him increased the good-will I bore him.
We had a merry meal, and I told the story of my cure
yet once again that day. Lizzie's eyes brightened at
the tale (Eliza was always called Lizzie both at home and
abroad, since it appeared that there were many Elizas in
the town, and confusion apt to arise), and she clasped her
hands together and cried,-
"Faith, but Miss Blake will greatly rejoice to hear this !
I will tell her forthwith, and I warrant me I shall be high
in favour all the day for the same story. Good Dicon,
thou wilt be a rare favourite in Taunton Town an thou
dost uphold here the rights of our well-loved Duke !"
Hist, lassie !" answered her father, yet smiling never-
theless. "It behoves us to talk with care even in Taunton
Town. Let not such words be heard by the Rev. Mr. Axe,
nor still less by Mr. Blewer. The Duke hath his foes as
well as his friends within the town. We must not hurt
a good cause by over-zeal ere the right moment comes."
Lizzie laughed, and asked with a pretty, saucy air who
would trouble to take note of the words of such an obscure
maiden as herself; and then she looked at the clock and
MY NE W HOME.
sprang up, and said she must even go, or she should be late,
and Miss Blake would chide. And I then learned that Miss
Blake was the mistress of the school where this maiden
went daily for instruction, and moreover that it stood
adjoining my uncle's inn, and must indeed be the house I
had been wondering about in looking from my windows on
awakening this very morning.
So on understanding this much, I sprang up and asked
leave to escort pretty Lizzie to her school; and soon we
were walking along the garlanded streets, and she was
telling me how greatly Miss Blake and Mrs. Musgrave
loved the Duke, and how dear his cause was to the hearts
of the people of Taunton. I also learned that Miss Blake
and Mrs. Musgrave were two ladies of virtue and learning,
and that they had each kept a school for girls in the be-
ginning, but had now joined these two seminaries into one.
Miss Blake took the younger maidens, and Mrs. Musgrave
the elder ones; and my companion chattered so fast about
her companions, telling me their names, ages, and accom-
plishments with such fluency, that I was quite bewildered;
and the only item of information which I retained in my
head was that there was one, Mary Mead, a youthful
heiress, some years older than any of her companions, who
had been educated by Mrs. Musgrave, and still remained in
her charge, although since she was now of marriageable
age it was likely that her condition in life would speedily
We parted the best of friends at the door of the semi-
nary, where some other maidens were assembling, who
MY NE W HOME.
looked curiously upon me as I took off my cap and made
my best bow to them all. The door of the school was
a few paces round the corner, and the house was of fine
proportions. I well understood as I looked at it-Lizzie
and her companions having now disappeared within-how
it was that my room over our stable buildings approached
so nigh to it. I felt a good deal of interest in the close
vicinity of these bright-faced town maidens, who seemed
so different from the country girls I had lived amongst
hitherto. Not that I would disparage mine own sisters
and their friends; but there were a brightness and ease of
manner and readiness of wit amongst these damsels which
dazzled and captivated me, and which I had never seen
When I got back to the inn, I found breakfast well-nigh
done; but I received no chiding for my absence, especially
when I said whither I had been and with whom. Master
Simpson was plainly a notable man of good repute in
Taunton, and a friend of mine uncle's to boot. My uncle,
too, was pleased at the gift of the book which I had re-
ceived, arguing that Master Simpson must have thought
well of my scholarship. I read him two or three of the
fables; whereat he laughed not a little, and bid me hold
myself in readiness to amuse his guests therewith on an-
I was not to go to school till the following week, and
to-day I had leave to wander whither I would, to see what
I could and what I most desired, and enjoy the merry-
making of the town.
MY NET W HOME.
My cousin Meg, a fine buxom lass of nigh upon twenty
summers, was all agog to go with me; and I was proud
enough to have such a companion. So after I had helped
her with her dishes and so forth, being skilled in many
feminine tasks through helping my mother at home when
she and the girls were pressed, she donned her holiday
gown and gayest hood-and well she became them both,
as I failed not to tell her-and I put on my best clothes,
which seemed to me fine enough even if somewhat lacking
in the grace and fashion I saw in some of the towns-folk
of the better sort; and forth we sallied to see the sights of
the town, and to enjoy any revelry that might be going.
The best of the merry-making would be towards evening,
when the shops would close, and the apprentices and shop-
men be free to join; but even now there was plenty to see
and to admire. The fine proportions of the streets and
public buildings filled me with a great wonder; and when
we dived down a passage past Huish's Almshouse, and
came out in front of St. Mary's Church, I stood still and
silent in speechless admiration, marvelling at its wondrous
beauty and lofty dignity, and asking of myself whether
St. Paul's itself in fair London town could be as goodly
It so chanced that service was going on, and nothing
would serve me but that I must go in and hear what
it was like. Meg was willing enough to gratify me: for
from being bred a dissenter, like the majority of the towns-
folk, she attended the services of the dissenting flock in
Paul's Meeting Sunday by Sunday; and the offices of the
MY NE W HOME.
Establishment, which she was wont to hear stigmatized as
" Popish," were quite unfamiliar to her, and had therefore
a certain fascination.
There were two clergymen taking part in the service;
and when we were in the street again, Meg said to me
(interrupting my raptures about the architectural beauties
of the place),-
He with the grey hair peeping from beneath his wig
is Mr. Axe. He is much beloved in Taunton, although
men say that he is an enemy to the Duke of Monmouth,
and tells men freely that he can never be lawful King, but
that if the King dies childless, as seems like, we must sub-
mit to see the Duke of York upon the throne-a thing
which is abhorrent to the minds of many. Yet in spite of
this he is loved and trusted. But the other, Mr. Blewer,
is hated and feared. I scarce know why we all think so
ill of him, but he hath a cruel face and an evil eye; and
some say that he is the bitter foe of all who follow not the
teachings of the Established Church, whilst there be others
who'call him a Papist at heart, and say that when the
Duke of York is King (if ever such a day comes, which
Heaven forbid !) he will show what manner of man he is,
and evil will fall upon many in Taunton through him."
"He has a bad face and a cruel mouth," I answered,
having studied his face with a sense of reluctant fascination
for which I could not account as I knelt in the church.
Could it have been that some presentiment of his cruelty
stole over me even then? I know not how that may be,
but I do know that though my hair is now grey, and
MY NE W HOME.
though I have lived beyond the allotted span of man's
days, I cannot even now think of that miscreant without
a tingling of the blood in my veins such as I seldom ex-
perience for aught besides.
That day was a notable one in my life, although it seems
like a dream now. I looked upon the outside of many a
noble building-St. James's Church; Paul's Meeting, which
I was to worship in for a time; the Castle; the Free
School, which I was to know right well erelong; and the
Almshouses, which had been erected by the charitable in
bygone years for the benefit of the aged poor.
The town was all bedecked with flags and garlands, and
the bands of singers went about chanting their ditties,
receiving rewards from many of the richer and more pros-
perous of the towns-folk, as well as the humbler, who were
all so devoted to the cause of what they termed "liberty
In the evening there was a grand bonfire in Paul's Field,
and another in Priory Fields at the other extremity of the
Will Wiseman arid I joined forces, and rushed from one
to the other, getting an excellent view of both; and we
danced around the fire with the best of them, and hooted
for the Duke of York and the Pope, and shouted for the
King and the Duke of Monmouth, until at last we had no
voice left wherewith to shout more. When the embers
burned low, and the sheriff's officer came to bid the people
disperse, we went reluctantly home with the crowd, talking
in friendly whispers of the glorious days that perhaps were
58 MY NEW HOME
coming, when we should be able to show the metal of
which we were made, and almost ready to wish for the
excitements and horrors of another civil war, if only we
might bear a share in its glory and its danger.
We had heard so many stories from the bystanders who
did remember those days, that our blood was fired, and we
ardently longed for a repetition of such exciting events.
Well, we were destined to see something of bloodshed
before many years had passed over our heads, and one of
us was to shed his blood-as he sincerely longed at that
moment to do, but whether in the fashion that came about
it is not for me to say here.
And so ended my first eventful day in Taunton Town.
MY NE W LIFE.
IF I were to begin to set down in order all the many
things that happened to me without and within the
town of Taunton during the early days of my residence
there, I should go far to fill a volume ere ever I had
reached the matters of which it is my intention more
particularly to speak.
So I must strive after all the brevity of a skilled master
of the craft of penmanship and story-telling, and seek to
skim the cream from the surface of events, without weary-
ing the reader with overmuch detail.
Let me say, in the first place, that I was very happy in
my new life. I was kindly treated by my relatives. I
made myself useful to my uncle in many ways, and I was
a favourite with his guests, who delighted to hear the news
of the day read to them whilst they smoked their pipes at
ease, and who were all ready to talk with me when the
reading was over, one telling me one bit of public gossip,
and another another, till my mind was quite a storehouse
of information, and I was able to talk upon almost any
subject with the air of one who knew something about it.
The reputation for cleverness and knowledge which I
MY NE W LIFE.
soon gained (though in good sooth it was less knowledge
than a good memory that I possessed) gave me a small
standing of mine own in the place, and I had quite a brisk
little business erelong, in writing letters for those who
could not do it for themselves, and getting them passed on
by trusty hands, by means of some of the many visitors
who passed to and fro between our town and other places.
My uncle let me keep for myself all such moneys as I
gained in this fashion, and so I was able to take home to
my mother and sisters presents which made them open
their eyes wide in amaze, on the occasions when I mounted
Blackbird and rode over to my former home. I was
looked upon now as a person of some importance; and
although only a lad of thirteen summers, I felt as if I
should soon arrive at man's estate.
I had something to suffer at the Free School from the
gibes and the envy of the other boys, who liked not to be
surpassed at their books by the hunchback clown "-such
was their name for me for a time-and who paid me
many an ill turn and played off many a malicious trick,
until at last they wearied of it, or I gradually grew into
favour, I scarce knew which, and I was let alone to go
mine own way. But in spite of all this I was happy in
my school hours, for I was learning every day something
new; and if the boys misliked me, the masters took good
heed of me and favoured my thirst after knowledge, so
that I was able to study with zeal and success, and'to win
the praise of Mr. Axe, who would come from time to time
to hear the boys recite, or to ask them questions from
MY NEW LIFE.
Scripture or secular history, and who never left without a
word of kindness for me.
I came to revere and love Mr. Axe right well. He was
not truly the Vicar of beauteous St. Mary's Church. The
Vicar, in very sooth, was one Mr. Hart, who was (so it was
told me) also Canon of Bristol and Prebendary of Wells,
so that he had but scant time to think of his duties here.
Mr. Axe, however, supplied all that was lacking, and was
greatly beloved by us-as much beloved as Mr. Blewer
was mistrusted and feared: for we would cross the
street to avoid coming within the radius of his basilisk
glance; and I for one never saw him without the feeling
that he would prove a cruel foe ere we had seen the last
Now I had scarce been a month at my uncle's house
before a great excitement befell us, and a great fear fell
upon many of our towns-folk; for it was rumoured that
this thing would lose the Duke of Monmouth his head, and
that even if his life were spared he would have to fly the
country, and be no more seen in this land.
And the reason for this rumour, which filled all Somer-
setshire with sorrow, was the discovery of a vile plot
against the life of the King and that of the Duke of York,
which wicked and slanderous tongues were eager to charge
upon the virtuous and high-minded Duke of Monmouth.
Well do I remember the day when first the news of
this infamous plot, which came to be called the Rye House
Plot, reached the good citizens of Taunton.
It was upon a Sunday morning, and I, together with my
MY NE W LIFE.
uncle and aunt and his daughter Meg, had started forth for
Paul's Meeting, which we always attended for morning
service, when we noted that the people in the streets had
an air of gravity and anxiety which was not usual, and
that all seemed to be asking questions on6 of another,
although none seemed to be ready with an answer.
Now generally we were the first to hear any news that
might reach the town, because that travellers were wont
to put up at the Three Cups rather than at the other
hostelries, which were less beliked than our house. But
to-day there had been none arrival, and my uncle stopped
to ask the first acquaintance he encountered what was the
meaning of the general discomposure.
Now it chanced that this acquaintance was none other
than Heywood Dare-" Old Dare," as he was often called,
less perhaps from his actual years than because he had a
son who was also a notable man in his way, and who
had a part to play in the days that were coming.
Now old Dare had a story of his own, and was a great
man in Taunton. He was by trade a goldsmith, and a
man of substance to boot; but it was not his wealth that
had gained for him the repute in which he was held, but
his courage and devotion to the cause of liberty and justice.
It was one of the grievances of the times that the King
would not permit Parliament to sit sometimes for long
years together. Men whispered that he received great
sums of money from France, which enabled him to dispense
with the summoning of his own loyal subjects to grant
supplies. However that may be, the people were grieved
MY NEW LIFE.
and wroth that their assembly was not called and per-
mitted to sit, as they claimed that it had the right to do;
and petitions from townships were constantly sent up to
his Majesty imploring him to call together his Parliament,
until the King grew greatly incensed, issued proclamations
forbidding the presentation of these petitions, and threaten-
ing with severe penalties those who went about "getting
hands," as it was termed, to put to these documents. In-
deed many barbarous severities had been put in practice
against those who still strove to collect names for such
papers; and curious enough were such documents when
they were drawn up, for three-fourths of those who "set
hand to them could not write their names, but could only
make a mark which was to stand instead of it.
Now some four years back Old Dare had got up a
notable petition, and it had been signed or marked by half
Taunton, and by Bridgewater and Ilminster and many
another fair town. The sturdy old goldsmith pursued his
way to London with it. It was his intention to deliver it
to the King with his own hand; and this intention he
carried out, meeting the King hard by the Houses of
Parliament, and presenting his paper on bended knee.
The King took it unsuspecting-for it was a bold man
who would venture to place one of the abhorred petitions in
the royal hands; but on unfolding it he became instantly
aware of its nature, and turning sharply upon the offender,
he asked him how he dared to do such a thing. "Sire,"
replied the intrepid goldsmith, my name is Dare And
forasmuch as there is always something noble in fear-
MY NE W LIFE.
less courage, and that his Majesty is not without nobility
of soul, no hurt was done to the bold petitioner, albeit no
good that I ever heard of came from his petition.
Well then, to return to my present tale, it was Old Dare
whom we encountered in the street to-day; and when my
uncle asked what the coil was all about, he shook his head
"I cannot say with knowledge; but a messenger rode
post-haste to the house of the Mayor but now, and it was
plain, by the stains of travel on him and his horse, that
they had been hard pushed to reach the place. It is some-
thing of note, I take it, and something of evil, I fear."
He lowered his voice and said in my uncle's ear (yet I
heard every word, being very keen of hearing), "I fear me
it will prove to be some plot to ruin the Duke and his
Council of Six. It may be that they have been something
rash and forward. I fear me we shall hear bad news ere
the day is out."
I knew well what was meant by the Council of Six.
The Duke of Monmouth had some faithful friends, lovers
of liberty and constitutional rule-my Lord of Russell and
Mr. Algernon Sydney being of the number-who met to-
gether often to discuss what might be done for a country
beginning once again to groan beneath the yoke of an
arbitrary exercise of the power of the Crown. Represen-
tations had been made to the King, it was said, to
summon Parliament, and give to the people their lawful
voice in the government; but this having proved of none
avail, it had been whispered that these men had spoken
M"Y NE W LIFE.
of another Great Revolution, such as had cost the King's
father his head; and of course such talk was accounted
rank treason in those days, and was like to cost many a
man his life.
Now we of the West Country in general, and of Taunton
Town in particular, knew very well that if any rising or
tumult took place, it would be like enough to be in our
neighbourhood; and that, even if we kept ourselves tran-
quil, we might get the credit of being turbulent, and have
our rights infringed, even if our charter were not taken
from us, as it had been early in the King's reign, although
restored seventeen years later. Also, we all of us pinned
our chiefest hopes of constitutional government and the
Protestant religion on the hoped-for succession of the
Duke of Monmouth; and if he were to be implicated in a
plot which should cost him liberty or life, our hopes would
receive a crushing blow, and nothing lie before us but the
succession of a bigoted Papist and a man of known cruelty
Small wonder was it, therefore, that our faces were
grave, and that we all looked anxiously at our minister,
Mr. Vincent, as he mounted the pulpit a little after the
usual time, and looked seriously upon our upturned faces.
He made no attempt at a regular sermon that day, but
after giving thanks for the merciful preservation of his
gracious Majesty the King from a recent and great danger,
he proceeded to tell us that a plot had been laid against
the King's life and that of the Duke of York, and how it
was currently rumoured that the Duke of Monmouth and
MY NEW LIFE.
his friends were concerned in the matter. Arrests had
been made of certain persons, and the Duke had fled and
Mr. Vincent also told us, with great seriousness, that
rumour had already been forward to declare that an in-
surrection had commenced, with Taunton as its centre; and
counselled us, as we valued the peace of the realm and our
own safety, to avoid any cause of offence, and to remain
perfectly quiet and tranquil. The time might come in the
future when it would be a righteous thing to rise up and
strike a blow for the liberty and the faith of the country,
but certainly that day had not yet come. The King upon
the throne was the rightful one; his rule was on the
whole fair and just. There was no quarrel with him.
Nothing would so injure the righteous cause as a revolt
against law and order; nothing would so greatly hurt
the cause of the young Duke of Monmouth. We must
show discretion and wisdom at this time, that none might
have cause to look with suspicion upon us.
This wise counsel from one who was a pillar of strength
amongst us was not without due effect. We looked at one
another and resolved to abide by Mr. Vincent's counsel.
We knew that our Mayor was a bitter enemy to all dis-
senters, and would fasten upon us an indictment of dis-
affection if we gave the smallest ground. Indeed he took
instant action upon hearing of the plot, and called some
bands of the militia into the town; and I verily believe
that it was with his consent, if not at his instigation, that
a deed was done in the town which made us who called
MY NE W LIFE.
ourselves dissenters tingle with rage and feel almost ready
to raise the very tumult of which we were altogether
innocent in fact.
Now the thing of which I speak was nothing less than
the demolishing of the great chapel called Paul's Meeting,
of which I have spoken, and in which hundreds of citizens
met to worship Sunday by Sunday. And this thing was
done, to the great shame of those concerned in it, just
when the excitement which I have mentioned prevailed,
notwithstanding that Mr. Vincent and Mr. Burgess, both
of whom preached to us there, were godly men, and
taught us submission to lawful rulers, and spoke no evil
The first I knew of this was one evening just before
our house generally closed for the night-it was summer
then, and not dark till ten of the clock-when Will Wise-
man came rushing into the yard, all bursting with excite-
ment, and crying out to me in panting gasps,-
"Dicon, Dicon, come and see! come and see! They
are pulling our meeting-house to pieces, and say they will
make such a bonfire of our pews and pulpit as shall light
to bed every dissenter in the county! Come and see!
come and see! I would not go myself till I had told
Will Wiseman was certain to be in the forefront of
everything; but I had no mind to be left behind. Forth-
with we both rushed out from the yard, and soon the noise
of a great tumult fell upon our ears. In the streets men
were gathered together with dark faces and threatening
MfY NE W LIFE.
mien, some talking angrily against the dissenters, who, it
was declared, had been guilty of plotting against the King's
life, but many more holding a stern silence and regarding
their enemies with silent hostility; whilst hoarse cries and
shouts rent the air, and grew louder and more distinct as
we drew near to Paul's Meeting.
Once within sight of the building, we saw that it was
lighted up from within; and unable to come near to the
door for the surging mob around it, we climbed up to one
of the windows and looked in.
What a sight it was There were a hundred men inside,
I should think, armed with hammers and saws and other
tools and weapons; and these were all engaged in hammer-
ing, sawing, breaking down, and demolishing the whole of
the woodwork in the chapel; and as fast as some pew, or
great piece of panelling, or any large fragment of pulpit or
gallery was broken off, other men would rush forward and
drag it forth from the door, to carry it away into Paul's
Fields, where it was plain that the great bonfire was to be
made. And all the while they worked, they shouted out
threats against their fellow-townsmen, calling out, "Down
with all traitors! Down with the King's enemies! We
will have nothing but the Church and the King!"
Yet many of the fellows now working like furies and
shouting out these words had attended many a service in
Paul's Meeting, and were friendly enough towards us,
albeit perhaps not men of much personal godliness. But
they were carried away by the excitement of the moment,
and by the coward fear of getting into trouble with the
MY NE W LIFE.
Mayor should they show any lack of zeal. Men all over
the kingdom were trembling just now in apprehension of
arrest; for informers were going about the country, and
many a lowly as well as many a noble and high personage
was flung into prison on the most trivial charge. To join
hands in reviling the dissenters and calling down blessings
upon the King and the Church seemed the safest way of
propitiating the authorities at such a moment; and this
was what our towns-folk were now doing, by demolishing
our chapel, and showing their zeal towards the Court
It was all very exciting; and though my heart and Will's
swelled with indignation, we could not help watching till
the whole of the building was stripped. Then we followed
in the wake of the shouting crowd, and soon saw a great
pillar of fire rising up from the midst of the assembled
throng. As the great mountain of flame rose higher
and higher, and waved its crown of smoke and sparks up
to the roof of heaven as it seemed, the crowd yelled and
shouted and danced around the pyre, bawling out every
kind of folly that came into their heads; whilst outside
the yelling ring, and a little distance away, stood the stern-
faced men who had been wont to worship there, together
with the ministers who had occupied the pulpit, and they
looked on in silence, and gathered sometimes in groups
together. Will Wiseman, who had the faculty of hearing
what everybody said without seeming to listen, whispered
to me, They are saying that they will still meet for preach-
ing and prayer whatever is done to their meeting-house."
MY NE W LIFE.
And so indeed it proved, although the Mayor looked
stern and dark, and sometimes uttered hints that sounded
almost like a threat against conventicless," as he termed
them. Indeed he made himself so heartily misliked amongst
the towns-folk, that but for the authority and protection
bestowed by his office, I think some mischief would have
been done him. But though a time of exceeding excitement
prevailed for many weeks, there was no rising in the
country; and by-and-by we were made glad by the tidings
that there had been a reconciliation betwixt the Duke of
Monmouth and the King, although Lord William Russell
and Mr. Algernon Sydney ended their lives upon the
Not that these men had any complicity in the murder
plot against the King's life. They had souls far above the
treachery and meanness of assassination. But the lesser
and more villanous plot of minor conspirators was grafted
upon the larger and wider-reaching intentions of these
champions of liberty and of rule by constitutional rather
than autocratic methods, and they were judged guilty
of treason, and were doomed to death. Some said that
the Duke of Monmouth had been led by promises of
restoration to favour to bear witness against his friends.
How that may be I will not say. At this time all Taunton
was indignant at the aspersion cast upon the fair fame of
the gallant young Duke, and the story was indignantly
discredited, and by no one more hotly than by me. Now
when my blood is cool, and I have grown wiser and have
heard more of those days, I cannot be so sure of the
MY NE W LIFE.
innocence of the Duke as I felt then. Men are sorely
tempted sometimes, and fall into sin almost ere they are
aware of it. Human nature is weak, and a man may
have many faults and many weaknesses and yet be the
idol of the people for many a long day.
It was at this time that I grew better acquainted with
several of the families in Taunton. I was in great request
when the weekly news-letter came to my uncle's house-
he had one of his own as well as that which was brought
to the Mayor; for, as I have said, the Mayor was a bitter
enemy to the dissenting portion of the towns-folk, and that
was a very large section, as the well-filled building, Paul's
Meeting, bore witness Sunday by Sunday.
Foremost amongst my friends I still reckoned Master
Simpson and his family. Will Wiseman was my chosen
comrade on all occasions, and Lizzie was the object of my
boyish gallantry, and I continued to think her the prettiest
and most charming maid in all Taunton Town.
But I must not omit to mention others who had a part
to play in the drama that was slowly approaching. Of
these I must mention the Herring family, father and
mother, with three daughters, Anne, Susan, and Grace, all
of whom attended Miss Blake's school; and Master John
Hucker, a notable serge-maker, with his daughter Eliza;
and the Hewling family, than which none other was more
greatly beloved and esteemed in the whole of the town.
Mistress Hannah Hewling was mistress of this happy
household. She was a spinster of some thirty years of
age, and she played a mother's part to two virtuous and
MY NE W LIFE.
handsome young men, who were at the time of which I am
now writing aged twenty and seventeen years respectively.
This family had another home in London, where their
parents lived, but owned this house property in Taunton,
too, where these two brothers and their sister lived in the
greatest amity and peace. The Hewlings were gentry,
and people of substance, yet so friendly and kindly disposed
towards their towns-folk that we all regarded them as
friends. They would stop to speak a friendly word to any
one of us in the street, and many were the evenings when
they would invite some amongst us to their hospitable
house. Sometimes there would be music to enliven us
after supper-for Mistress Hannah played both harp and
spinnet right sweetly, whilst Master Benjamin discoursed
eloquent music on the flute, and Master William could
draw strains from his violin that brought tears to the eyes
of the listeners before they well knew it-or failing music,
some one would read aloud from a godly book, or from
some history of past days, and the elder members of the
party would be invited to discuss the subject, whilst the
rest of us listened in respectful silence, and framed our own
opinions on what we heard.
It was in this way that I came to understand much of
the questions of the day from the standpoint of those who
believed the Duke of Monmouth to be the champion not
of freedom and constitutional rule alone, but also of the
Protestant religion. The things we read about the awful
cruelty and treachery of those who were tainted by the
curse of Popery often made our blood run cold within us;
MY NEW LIFE.
and when it became increasingly certain that the Duke of
York was Papist up to the neck, and would throw off all
disguise when once he ascended the throne, it was scarce
to be marvelled at that we should fix our eyes upon one
who might rise up to be a champion and deliverer, and
save us from the oppression of a tyrant and bigot.
I was heart and soul with all men who held this view,
but I noted often that my uncle would sit mute whilst such
talk was going on, and that he was always slow to com-
mit himself to any open opinion. And once when I had
grown too excited to hold my peace any longer, and had
openly spoken out some of the thoughts that were burn-
ing within me, he had taken me to task afterwards, not
sternly indeed, but somewhat seriously, and had warned
me that I had better learn the art of holding my tongue,
and watching the turn of the tide before I launched my
bark upon untried waters.
But, uncle," I exclaimed eagerly, surely you are for
"I am for the rightful King of the realm, whoever he
be," was the cautious answer. "It is not given to us to
choose our monarch. God sets Kings upon the throne, and
bids us submit ourselves to the powers that be. That is
my principle, and will be my practice; albeit I should
greatly prefer to serve a King of the true faith."
I was puzzled by this way of stating the matter, for it
was not after such cautious fashion that the greater part
of our friends talked; but I began to note as time went
by that my uncle was more cautious in many of his ways
JMY NE W LIFE.
than were others, and that he made some small changes in
his methods and habits.
After the Rye House Plot there was great excitement
in the country, and greater efforts than ever were made to
force men to attend public worship in the churches of the
Establishment instead of in meeting-houses of their own.
Many such meeting-houses and chapels were wrecked (like
our own) in various places, and the flocks scattered, so
that they could no longer hear their favourite doctrines
preached by their favourite ministers, but must either
absent themselves from public worship or go to church
with the orthodox.
Now in St. Mary's Church there was held a grand serv-
ice of thanksgiving for the safety of the King and the
Duke of York, and the Mayor and Burgesses all attended
in civic pomp. My uncle went, of course, in his capacity
of one of the Capital Burgesses; but rather to our sur-
prise, he desired that all of us should be present; and from
that day forward he regularly attended the parish church,
taking his wife and daughter and other members of his
household. He gave as his reason for this, that it was
right to obey the wishes of the ruling sovereign in so far
as it was possible to do so without violation of the con-
science, and that so long as good Mr. Axe filled the pulpit
of St. Mary's, he could go and hear him with edification
I was quite of that opinion myself, used to the order
and liturgy of the church, and finding the long extempore
prayers at Paul's Meeting less to my liking than the col-
MY NE W LIFE.
lects set down in the prayer-book. I was glad to go to
church; but I was a little puzzled by my uncle's sudden
zeal for submission and orthodoxy. He said nothing -that
our friends could cavil at, and was hearty and warm to-
wards them as ever; but he seemed to desire to be "all
things to all men "-a line of conduct which I was far too
young and hot-headed to understand the use of.
But I must not omit to mention, in dealing with my
early experiences of Taunton, the school next door, and the
two kindly gentlewomen who conducted it.
Meg had once been a scholar there, and kept very
friendly relations with her mistresses. My aunt, too, was
very kindly disposed towards them, and would often send
me in with some small delicacy for their supper; and by-
and-by I used to be admitted to the parlour where the
ladies sat, and was sometimes bidden to take a seat and
to tell them some of the gossip of the town. For these
gentlewomen seldom stirred abroad themselves, and all
their exercise was taken in the old garden behind the
house, where the pupils walked or played for an hour in
the middle of the day when the weather permitted. As I
grew to be better acquainted with them, I was asked some-
times to read awhile whilst they plied their needles; and
this reading became such a pleasure to them that by the
time the first winter of my stay in Taunton arrived, I
went in about once a week to read the news-letter after
it had been exhausted at the inn, and to tell them all I
had gleaned from travellers or from the talk of the towns-
folk upon it.
MY NE W LIFE.
It was these readings which introduced me first to the
notice of fair Mistress Mary Mead, of whom I had heard
upon the very first day of my sojourn in the town, but of
whom I had had no thought till I was months afterwards
brought into her presence.
And I think it behoves me here to explain somewhat of
the history of fair Mistress Mary; for these pages will
have a good deal to say of her, and it may be well that it
should be fully understood what manner of person she was.
Her grandfather had been one of Cromwell's generals-
a man stanch to the side of the Parliament; and he had
fallen at the siege of Taunton, of which mention has been
made. His son, Mistress Mary's father, had been enriched
by the spoils of the Cavaliers in their misfortunes, and had
amassed a considerable fortune. This daughter was his
only child, and his wife, who was said to be of a noble
royalist family, died in giving her birth. Sir Thomas
Mead-for he had won his spurs of knighthood-died
when his child was ten years old, leaving her to the
guardianship of his friend the Earl of Lonsdale. Sir
Thomas had trimmed his sails with the times, and had
welcomed the King back from exile at the Restoration; but
it was always supposed that he had not changed his views
to any notable extent, and that his daughter had been
brought up to glory in the doughty deeds of her grandsire,
and to hate and abhor all undue exercise of royal pre-
rogative, and all indications of Popery.
The girl had been brought up for convenience at the
school where the better towns-folk sent their daughters,
MY NEW LIFE. 77
Sir Thomas not having yet learned to hold his head higher
than the compeers of his father. When the child was left
an orphan, Lord Lonsdale had summoned her to his house,
and it was supposed that she would remain beneath her
guardian's roof until she married; but some four years
later she was suddenly sent back to the care of Miss Blake
and Mrs. Musgrave, not exactly on the footing of the rest
of the scholars, but to remain in their charge as a mem-
ber of their household, and to observe the same secluded
life as they did themselves.
Various surmises were afloat with regard to this sudden
and unusual arrangement. Some declared that Mistress
Mary's faithful attachment to her instructors (which was
an admitted fact in all quarters) had led to this step, and
that it was her own earnest pleadings which had caused
her to be sent back. Others affirmed that her guardian
was alarmed and displeased by her independence of mind
and by her revolutionary tenets, and had sent her away in
disgrace; but that theory was rather quashed by the im-
probability of Lord Lonsdale's choosing Miss Blake's school
as the asylum for a refractory maiden, since both the
heads of the establishment were known to be much of the
same way of thinking. The third whisper was that Lord
Lonsdale's son, the gallant and dashing Viscount Vere, had
shown such unmistakable signs of falling in love with his
father's ward, that Lord Lonsdale in a great fright (for he
had other views of a more ambitious nature for his son)
had sent Mary away in haste, choosing a place where she
was known to have friends and to be happy, and hoping
MY NEW LIFE.
she would shortly relieve him of all embarrassment by
selecting a husband for herself. But if this was the case,
his choice of a place had hardly been a happy one; for
Mistress Mary led a life of almost nun-like retirement, and
had already been four years with her former mistresses
without showing any signs of entering into bonds of wed-
I had heard all these tales and surmises respecting her
before ever I was favoured by the sight of her fair sweet
face and graceful form. But she came to be present
often at the readings, and I learned to think her more
exquisitely beautiful every time I saw her. There was a
charm in the steady dark grey eyes, the delicate mobile
features, and the easy grace of her every movement, which
my poor pen has no power to describe. Her voice was low
and sweet, the sweetest I have ever heard, and the rare
laugh was like music. Surely had I been a man, and a
comely and gallant one to boot, I should straightway have
fallen in love with sweet Mistress Mary Mead. And I
ceased to marvel at the stories of Viscount Vere; for even
as a child she must have been passing fair, and how could
he help loving what was so gracious and so good ?
But I had no suspicion in those early days what I
should be called upon to do for Mistress Mary Mead, nor
how great a part I should play in her life's story.
I GET AMONGST FINE FOLK.
I HAVE been something remiss all this while in saying
no word about my faithful four-footed friend Black-
bird, who had accompanied me to Taunton, and who re-
mained as constant in his attachment to me there as he
had done at home, notwithstanding all the blandishments
and the praise he received from the hostlers at the inn, and
from the travellers and servants who chanced to note him
in the stable. I could have sold him again and again for
a good round sum had I been so minded, and had he not
been so persistent in suffering none other rider than myself
to mount him. Not that I was ever tempted to part with
my comrade; for I was in no need of money, and I found
continual pleasure in the journeys of exploration around
Taunton which I made on Blackbird's back. I came in
time to be well acquainted with the whole of the surround-
ing country; and very rich and beautiful country it was, as
all men know who are acquainted with our "Queen of the
West," the name given by Taunton men to their beloved
city. And in due time the possession of Blackbird, and
my reputation for riding, brought me employment of
which I had never dreamed before.
I GET AMONGST FINE FOLK.
I have spoken of beautiful Mistress Mary Mead, whom I
came to regard with a great admiration and reverence.
She was like a star in the firmament of my sky-far, far
above me, and yet on whose loveliness I was ofttimes
permitted to gaze, and who would sometimes give me a
kindly smile or a gentle word of praise, which set all my
pulses hammering and the blood tingling in my veins.
But there was better than this in store for me as the
dark cold winter days passed by, and the spring sunshine
began to coax forth the shy flowers in the meadows, and
to woo the swelling buds to show their tender tints of
green and gold.
Sweet Mistress Mary had been looking somewhat pale
and fragile during the inclement winter, and when the
first heat of coming spring filled the air, it seemed to
make her languid rather than brisk; so the leech who was
called in to see her said that she must take the air with-
out the fatigue of walking, and, in fine, prescribed horse-
exercise for her.
Now in mine uncle's stable was a fair grey palfrey which
he had bought for her good looks, and which carried a
lady as carefully and softly as it is given to steed to do.
As soon then as I heard what was spoken anent Mistress
Mary, I set to work to groom and tend Lady Jane (for
so the palfrey was called by us) till her coat shone like
satin, and all the long hair of winter was groomed away.
Then I led her round to Mistress Mary to show her how
fair a steed she was; and no sooner had she seen her than
the wish to mount her and ride out into the open country
I GET AMONGST FINE FOLK.
lanes arose within her heart, and the blood mantled in her
fair cheek, and already the medicine seemed like to work.
Now hanging upon Mistress Mary's hand, as she came
to see Lady Jane, was a younger maiden whose face was
well known to me by this time, and whose rank in life was
equal to that of Mistress Mary, and much above that of
those scholars of Miss Blake's who came to her from the
town. Belike it was this that made these twain consort
much together, as I heard from Lizzie that they did. The
laughing maid with chestnut curls and dancing blue eyes
was one Mistress Mary Bridges from Bishop's Hull, a
goodly house lying west of Taunton about a mile away or
something over. Mistress Mary was the only girl out of
a fine family of boys. Perchance she was like to grow
somewhat too much of a boy herself, for it was whispered
that she could handle a carbine and shoot straight to the
mark, and that she was as bold and fearless as a young
lion; so it may be that for this same cause she was sent
to Miss Blake's school, to be educated with Mistress Mary
Mead, who was known for an accomplished and right
gentle lady. During the inclement months of the winter,
the younger Mistress Mary had dwelt beneath the roof of
Miss Blake's house; but I had heard that with the ap-
proach of summer she would ride in and out on her pal-
frey. And the words that I heard her speak showed me
that this was like enow to be true.
"Ah, Mary," she cried, with her rosy face all aglow,
"now we will have right good times together, thou and I.
We will go riding forth whither we will, when I have
I GET AMONGST FINE FOLK.
my pony in good John Snowe's stable. I will show
thee mine own home, and all the beauteous glades and
woods of which I have told thee. We will ride hither and
thither, and be free as air! I have been but as a caged
bird all these weeks. Now we will spread our wings and
fare forth together and see the world. I will be Rosalind,
and thou shalt be Celia! I will protect thee, and we will
live the life of the forest together !" And she laughed so
joyous a laugh that I could scarce forbear to join, albeit I
knew my place, and strove to look unconcerned.
For a few days I heard no more of the matter, and
then my uncle suddenly told me that he had promised I
should attend the two Mistresses Mary three days in the
week upon their rides, and that I must curtail my studies
somewhat in order to be able to do this. Some attendant
they must needs have, and to my great satisfaction and
happiness I was told the Mistress Mary Mead herself had
said that she would prefer Dicon Snowe to any other.
Now, although I say it, I think the maidens had made
wise choice, for I doubt me if any other could so well have
shown them the country round Taunton as Blackbird and
I. Moreover, knowing what would be wanted by the
courageous and high-spirited ladies, I went out often early
upon Lady Jane, and taught her the tricks of leaping,
creeping through hedges, and overcoming obstacles that
Blackbird was famous for; and since Mistress Mary
Bridges' pony was as daring and eager as herself, there
was little that we could not accomplish together when our
minds were set upon it.
I GET AMONGST FINE FOLK.
I knew my place, I hope, and I was careful to speak no
word to my ladies save such as became their servant; but
as we grew acquainted one with another, they would often
draw me into their talk, in that way which the really
high-born have no fear of doing, and discuss with me many
matters in which I was more versed than they. And this
I say without boasting of any learning; for what the
ladies desired greatly to learn was news of those things
that were going on in the world about them, of which little
reached them, whilst I was always hearing stories from the
travellers who passed by; and though some told one tale
and some another, so that it was not easy to sift the grain
of truth from the chaff of falsehood, yet one felt to know
something as time went on, and I could tell my ladies
many a tale which made them hang upon my lips as
though I spoke words of magic charm.
And ever and again would our talk come back to the
Duke of Monmouth, and the chance of his succeeding to
Mistress Mary Bridges came of a race that belonged to
what men called the Court party." At home she heard no
good spoken of the Duke of Monmouth, and told us that
her father had many times said with authority that there
was no truth whatsoever in the story of the black box;
that many men believed the Duke of Monmouth to be the
son of Colonel Robert Sydney, and not of the King at all;
that her father always declared him to be much more like
"handsome Sydney," as he was called, than like the King;
and that it would be vile sin and shame to England if any
I GET AMONGST FINE FOLK
attempt were made to place upon the throne a man upon
whose birth there rested such a stain and slur. His
mother, as all the world knew, had been a vile woman, and
the son was like to be little better than his mother. These
things had young Mistress Mary heard her father say
when he was speaking to his wife and others of this
matter, and the daughter had been brought up to look
upon the succession of the Duke as a silly fable, which
would never come to aught save empty talk.
Her winter's residence in Taunton, however, had done
something to shake this conviction. Her ardent and ro-
mantic nature had caught some of the fire of Mistress
Mary Mead's silent but intense love and enthusiasm for the
Duke; and when I told of my own adventure, spoke of
his kindly ways to the people, his gentleness to me, and
the miraculous cure he had worked upon me, she was still
more shaken in her former beliefs, and looking from one to
another of us would say meditatively,
"Ah! I wonder which is the truth ? I would fain be-
lieve him the King's lawful son. That treacherous black-
browed Duke of York will be a terrible tyrant. I would
it were any one else to succeed the King! But my father
says we must never do evil that good may come; and to
support an usurper would be that, even should he make the
best King afterwards that the world has ever known!"
But then Mistress Mary Mead's soft eyes would light
up with a glow of wondrous beauty, and she would say
"But he is no usurper; he is the lawful heir to the
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throne, and some day all men will know it! God will
fight for the righteous cause, and the truth will be made
clear as the noonday. I know it, I know it! my heart
tells it me !" And such a look would come into her face
that all we could do was to gaze at her as though she had
been an inspired prophetess; and the other Mary would
throw her arms about her and cry,-
"Now, when thou lookest thus, I cannot but believe
every word thou sayest. I could believe that the angels
had revealed these things unto thee in vision."
And truly I could almost believe the same; for never
saw I more perfect trust and confidence than in the lovely
face of Mistress Mary, and I knew that she was one of
those who would gladly lay down her life if need be in
what she held to be a righteous cause.
Now, though I must not linger too long over the story of
these pleasant rides, I must not omit to mention that more
than once as we sallied forth into the lanes and woods we
encountered a very gay and dashing young gallant, who
(unless my fancy deceived me) looked long and earnestly
at Mistress Mary, with a strange fixedness in his eyes, as
though he saw something in her aspect that touched him
nearly. And this thing happened more than once, till at
last I began to wonder whether our comings and goings
were marked and noted by this same gallant, and whether
he put himself of set purpose in our path.
The first time or two when it happened I doubt if either
of my ladies heeded the passing rider. But there came
a day when we met him in a very straight and narrow
I GET AMONGST FINE FOLI.
way, and had to pass him in single file; and then it was
that a strange thing happened. Young Mistress Mary had
gone in front, and Mistress Mary Bridges followed her-
I keeping, as behoved my position, somewhat in the rear.
As Mistress Mary passed by this horseman, who had drawn
rein and pulled his steed well-nigh into the hedge to let
the ladies go by, I saw him put forth a hand and lay it
for a moment on the neck of her palfrey, whilst I was
certain that I heard these words pronounced in a very low
tone, Mary, sweetheart, hast thou forgotten me ?"
I saw her start, and turn her head towards him who had
thus addressed her; and albeit it was little of her face I
could see, yet even that little had flushed, as I saw well,
a vivid and beautiful crimson. She seemed to pause for
a moment, as if without knowing it, and I think she spoke
a soft word, though what it was I could not hear. But I
saw his eyes lighten, and his hand seek hers for a moment,
and again I heard him say as they passed each other by,
"I will be faithful, I will be true."
Now all this greatly aroused and interested me; for
Mistress Mary Mead was in very sooth the queen of my
heart, and that she should be beloved by so fair and gallant
a gentleman seemed to me most right and fitting. I knew
not this dashing young lord (for such I rightly judged him
to be), but I looked at him well as I passed by, and thought
that his face was a right goodly and honest one, and that
if any man deserved the love of my sweet lady, it would
be one such as he. Methought he gave me a quick and
earnest glance as he rode by, but he said no word, nor did
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he address either me or Mistress Mary when he met us on
other occasions. Yet methinks there is a language of the
eyes which is often more eloquent than that of the tongue,
and I noted that the bloom returned with wondrous speed
to Mistress Mary's pale cheeks, and that the languor and
weakness from which she had been suffering grew less day
The gay spring-tide flew by as upon wings, and the hot
dry summer followed. There had been something of a
drought the previous year, and again this summer there
was great lack of rain, and some of the crops suffered,
although others did well, and all men rejoiced in the brave
sunshine and the way in which the hay was got in and
the corn grew and ripened.
With these summer days, too, came the holidays at the
schools. I had no more studies to prepare for my tutors
and masters; nor had I any rides to take with my ladies,
for Miss Blake's house was empty. Mistress Mary Mead
had gone to spend the vacation with her friend at Bishop's
Hull, and I might have felt my time hang heavy, missing
their kindly notice of me, had it not been that another call
was made upon my time, and one which brought me into
contact with one in whom I had come to have a great
I was standing idly in the court-yard one day, watching
the comings and goings of various travellers, and exchang-
ing a word now and again with one whom I knew, when
all of a sudden I woke up to a sense of keen interest and
excitement; for into the yard rode the gallant young gentle-
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man whom we had so often encountered in our rides, and
I at once went up and held his stirrup for him to dis-
mount, asking him how we could serve him.
He looked hard at me, and I saw that he knew me in-
Can I have speech with John Snowe ? ".he asked; and
I at once said that my uncle was within, and would attend
him in person. But he still remained standing beside his
horse regarding me steadily; and before he moved away
towards the inn, he remarked with would-be carelessness of
manner, "I have not seen thee abroad of late with thy
No, my lord," I answered-for I had made up my mind
he could be nothing less-" the ladies be gone away for
a while. They will not return till the summer has waned."
I thought he looked sorrowful, but he said no more, and
turned towards the inn, bidding me hold his horse till his
return, as he should not be long over his errand. I was
curious to know what that errand could be, and to know
the name and rank of the gallant gentleman. I was sure
to find out that from mine uncle, who knew every one, high
and low, in these parts; but my curiosity was gratified
sooner than I looked for, for within five minutes I heard
my uncle's voice calling to me to come in.
Leaving the horse with one of the hostlers, I ran to obey
the summons, and found myself in the best parlour, where
the stranger was half seated upon the table, tapping his
riding-boot with his cane as he talked, my uncle stand-
ing respectfully before him, his cap in his hand. This
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confirmed my impressions as to the rank of the visitor;
for my uncle by no means capped to every chance traveller,
even of the better sort.
"This is the lad of whom your lordship has heard,
Dicon Snowe, my brother's son," said my uncle as I
appeared. "If he will suit your noble father's purpose,
and if it be not for too long a time, we will make shift to
spare him, albeit his place here will not be easy to fill."
"You shall not be the loser by it, good John," said the
young gallant with a laugh; and I saw that his eyes lighted
up with surprise at my entrance, and I thought that his
face looked pleased.
He did not, however, speak openly to me, only giving
me a friendly nod as he said something about the morrow "
to my uncle; and only when he was gone and we had seen
him ride gaily past the windows did I venture to ask my
kinsman, Who is he ? and wherefore has he come ? What
is it that he wants of me ?"
That is young Lord Vere-Viscount Vere, if you will-
eldest son and heir to Lord Lonsdale of Court House, West
Monkton. Doubtless you have been near the place some-
times when riding forth with the ladies."
No," I answered, Mistress Mary would never ride that
way; but I have seen the house when I have been alone,
albeit I knew not who lived in it. Is it not Lord Lonsdale
who is guardian to Mistress Mary Mead ?"
Ay; and some say his son was so smitten by her girlish
charms, that to keep mischief from following she was sent
to Miss Blake, and the Viscount to London and thence to
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foreign shores, whence he has but lately returned. But
the business that brought him here was to obtain for his
father, my Lord of Lonsdale, the assistance of a reader,
who can beguile his leisure and write his despatches, whilst
he recovers from an inflammation of the eyes which is keep-
ing him a prisoner in his room. His secretary is away
upon some mission, and his lordship has been doing all
himself of late; but his eyes have suddenly become greatly
inflamed and painful, so that he is unable to use them. It
has been told him that I had here a youth who was an ex-
cellent reader and ready likewise with the pen, and he has
sent to ask for him to be sent to Court House for a while.
And so I must e'en make shift to spare thee, boy; for one
must give favourable answer when a lord is the suer."
I gathered from what I had heard that it was something
more than courtesy which prompted my uncle to part with
me; but I was not disposed to fall foul of his motives,
seeing that I was greatly the gainer thereby. For, like all
young things, I was greedy of change, and thought that it
would be a fine thing to belong for a time to my Lord of
Lonsdale's household-to sit with him in his library and
read to him and pen his despatches. I felt an inch taller
as I went from my uncle's presence to make my simple
preparations for leaving on the morrow. I had been not
a little fascinated by the beauty and manly grace of the
Viscount, and the thought that he was the secret lover of
sweet Mistress Mary Mead gave him an added charm in
my eyes. Perhaps I should be able to help those two to
a happy termination to their courtship. Did not the mouse
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in the fable loose the bonds of the lion ? And surely I
might be able to do as much as that!
On the next morning I set forth in great spirits, riding
Blackbird, and carrying a change of apparel in my saddle-
bag. I knew Court House well, for I had often seen its
chimneys and gables from mine own home, from which it
lay not so very far away by miles, but divided therefrom
by a stretch of swampy land, so that there was no good
way of approaching it. I did not even remember who lived
there, though I must surely have heard. For until I came
to dwell in Taunton, I took but small interest in the affairs
of the neighbourhood, save those of the neighbours and
friends amongst whom we lived.
But I was interested enough as I rode up and passed
under the archway to the stables and inferior offices of the
house and made known my errand there. I thought the
men looked rather disdainfully at my crooked back and
small stature, but whether they would have been rude or
not I cannot say, for the Viscount chanced to pass that
way, sallying out to see to a favourite horse that was lame;
and seeing me he nodded in his friendly fashion, and call-
ing to an indoor servant, he bid him conduct me to the
Earl without further ado.
So I was taken through one long passage and up a flight
of stairs, and along yet another and a longer passage, and
through a door into a hall of such vast and noble pro-
portions that I would fain have lingered to look at it,
only I was constrained to follow my guide, who turned
down a long corridor lighted by tall narrow windows high
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up in the wall, and hung with many a fine picture the
likes of which I had never seen before, until he paused at
a massive door sunk in a niche in the wall, and almost im-
mediately I found myself entering a room almost as large
as a church, with windows filled with lozenges of stained
glass bearing heraldic devices, and with cases of books the
very sight of which made my mouth water and my fingers
tingle in the longing desire to know what was within them.
At the far end of this room, beside a bureau heaped with
books and papers, sat a stately gentleman, soberly but
richly clad, and wearing over his eyes a shade to exclude
the light. He held a paper-cutter like a dagger in his
hands, with which he seemed to have been impatiently toy-
ing, and as soon as ever the servant had retired after ex-
plaining his errand, he pointed imperiously to a wooden
chair near to the table, and said, "Sit there, Dicon Snowe,
and read to me these letters one by one. Pause not unless
I bid thee. And read thy best and clearest."
I obeyed in some fear and trembling, for I found it a
very different thing to read out written matter to a lord
from having to read the print of book or news-letter to my
uncle's guests, or even to Miss Blake and Mrs. Musgrave.
However, I knew that I should only do worse by letting
myself think of this, and by getting frightened at my posi-
tion; so I went to my task with what courage I could
muster, and soon found the work so interesting that I forgot
all about Lord Lonsdale's rank, and was as much at home
in my task as though I had been in my uncle's parlour.
I may say without vanity that I pleased my master. I
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found this out by degrees as I pursued my avocations
under his directions. There was always a good deal of
reading and writing of despatches to be done in the morn-
ings, and sometimes gentlemen would come in and talk
with the Earl, whilst I sat silent over my task or waited
idle for orders. I saw Sir William Portman frequently,
the owner of Orchard Portman, and also of a fine timbered
house in the town; and Sir Ralph Bridges, the father of
Mistress Mary, came sometimes and talked long and ear-
nestly with the Earl.
I could not hear a great deal of their talk from where
I sat in my recess, and often I had writing to do which
engrossed my attention; but I gathered that the health of
the King was beginning to give anxiety to the Court, that
the question of the succession was becoming an increasingly
burning one, and that the power and influence of the Duke
of Monmouth were steadily waning.
This was regarded as very satisfactory by the friends of
the Earl, as I very well saw, although my own heart used
to grow heavy within me as I heard their talk. The Duke
was not in England now. He had fled to Holland, and
was sometimes heard of there, sometimes in Brussels. It was
said that he was planning a secret visit to England, to get
speech with the King and seek to regain his favour. All
believed the King to be greatly attached to him, and feared
the result of a personal interview. But all were equally
convinced that Charles would never pass over his brother
and rightful heir, or seek to pass any measure putting
Monmouth into the succession. These men of the Court
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Party seemed quite secure on this head; but the unpopular-
ity of the Duke of York in the country, and the strange
influence which Monmouth possessed over the hearts of the
people, were sources of danger which they could not ignore.
I heard the matter discussed in all its bearings, and felt
every day to enter into a better understanding of the case;
but all this did not shake my loyalty and love for the Duke
one whit, though it opened my eyes to the knowledge that
he would have a harder battle for his crown (thus I put it
to myself) than I had hitherto believed.
In the after-part of the day I generally read other things
to the Earl: history, poetry, learned writings of great men
whose names I had never heard-nothing came amiss to
Lord Lonsdale, who was a very learned man; and he was
exceedingly kind in pausing from time to time to make
some explanation which rendered the theme under discussion
more intelligible to me. Of course I never paused to ask
a question, but if he stopped to ask if I understood what I
was reading (as he sometimes did), then I had to answer no,
and he would give me a brief but masterly summary of the
matter, and permit me then to ask a question if I did not
understand. So I came to have a great love and reverence
for the Earl, and to feel my mental horizon growing wider
round me every day. I was well treated by the servants
of the house, with whom I consorted at other times; and
above all I began to feel an intense and growing admiration
and love for young Lord Vere, who took much notice of
me as the days went by, but of whom I will more fully
speak in another chapter.
T may be that what I have now to relate will have
something of a presumptuous sound, seeing that I
was a lad of humble birth, and that my lord the Viscount
was heir to a noble name and estate. Nevertheless truth
is truth, be it never so strange, and there be laws of the
heart which follow not the laws of custom and use. Nor
was it anything strange that my heart should go forth to
one so handsome, so noble, so kind of nature, so brave and
gallant as the youthful Viscount, Lord Lonsdale's son; but
it always seems passing strange to me when I think how
he made of me a friend and comrade-me, a crook-
backed lad of but fourteen years when first we became
acquaint, the son of a farmer, and nephew to an inn-
keeper-one who might never dare to speak such a word as
"friendship in connection with such an one as my Lord
Vere. Yet so it turned out, and friends we became; and
I may e'en write the word down without shame, albeit in
all humility, since to this very day he speaks of me as
friend, and loves to talk over with me those stirring ad-
ventures in which we both bore a part, as you shall hear.
How this strange friendship came about it now behoves
me to relate.
I was, as I have explained, installed for a time in Lord
Lonsdale's household, intrusted with the office of reading
to him, and of writing such of his letters as he desired.
My duties, however, did not occupy the whole of my time,
and I had many hours of leisure to call mine own.
It was, I think, upon the third day of my stay, and I
had found my way to the stables to look at Blackbird, and
to ask whether it would be deemed right for me to take
him out for exercise, when Lord Vere came into the yard,
and seeing me there, cried out in his free and friendly
fashion, "Well met, Dicon; let us ride forth together.
I have somewhat to say to thee; and that pony of thine
looks wild for a gallop."
So before a quarter of an hour had passed we were
riding through the great gateway-I following in the wake
of the Viscount, as was just and right, but feeling greatly
honoured by being permitted thus to attend him.
I would fain describe my gallant young lord, only I
fear that my poor pen lacks the skill to bring him before
the eye of the reader. It is easy to speak of handsome,
well-cut features, stamped with that high-bred look that is
the birthright of so many of our noble families, of sunny
blue eyes, delicately-arched brows, and a figure full of
grace and power, and skilled in all martial exercises. But
these words sound cold and poor, and do little towards con-
juring up the picture of youthful grace and manhood that
was presented in those days by young Lord Vere. There
was a brightness about him which was like nothing so
much as the golden halo round the head of a pictured
saint. He seemed to carry sunshine and light with him.
It shone in his eyes, it sparkled in his smile, it brought
light and happiness to the faces of those with whom he
spoke. I have lived long in the world now, and have seen
many men and women whom I have had good cause to
love, admire, and revere; but none amongst these has ever
possessed that gracious and brilliant charm of the Viscount.
Never have I felt my heart so stolen away and enslaved as
it was by him. I know what the love is of man to maid,
and how it makes all the world new, and makes a heaven
of this earth; but even this love and glamour is not quite
like that which filled my boyhood's heart when young Lord
Vere rode beside me and made of me his friend. I always
think when in Holy Writ I hear how the soul of David
was knit unto the soul of Jonathan, and of how the love
of Jonathan and David is spoken of as a love "passing the
love of women," that I understand the import of these
beautiful words better perhaps than other men may be
able to do.
I felt the beginnings of this glamour as I rode after
Lord Vere through the stately park and watched the sun-
light playing in his golden curls and lighting up the bright
tints of his riding coat and vest. The Viscount's hair was
so thick and abundant, and curled with such a natural
grace, that he wore no wig, like the greater part of the
gentry in those days; and for my part I think that nothing
could have so well become him as did his own bright hair,
although I have heard envious gallants, who would fain
have copied him an they had known how, sneer at his
"maid's face" and floating love-locks.
We had scarce passed beyond the view of the house
when Lord Vere reined in his horse and signed to me
to come up beside him; and then with one quick glance
round, as though to assure himself that there were none
to overhear, he said in eager accents, "Diconi lad, I have
wanted speech of thee for a purpose. I prithee tell me all
thou knowest about sweet Mistress Mary Mead."
I was not greatly surprised at the question, albeit it had
come somewhat soon and suddenly. Nor was I loath to
speak of Mistress Mary; and I told my young lord all
that I knew of her-how I was favoured sometimes to read
to her with others in Miss Blake's parlour, and how I had
been made her attendant since she had been bidden to take
exercise on her palfrey with young Mistress Mary Bridges.
He listened eagerly, ever and anon putting some quick
question anent her health or the fashion in which she
occupied herself; and when I had told him all that I
could, he looked thoughtful for a moment, and then said,
"Boy, dost thou think her happy ?"
Truth to tell, I had never seriously considered this ques-
tion. Mistress Mary seemed to me as a thing apart, so
greatly above my world that I did not judge of her as I
should of others nearer to myself; but having had the
thought suggested, I pondered awhile upon it, and then I
"Methinks, perhaps, that she is as one who feels a
VISCOUNT VERE. 99
shadow resting upon her life. She is ofttimes pensive.
She but seldom laughs, and her smile is sad as well as
sweet. I could think of her as one who has some secret
trouble which she is nursing; but I do not speak with
knowledge, my lord, only as my heart prompts me, think-
ing of her and what I have noted when in her gentle
Now although I could not doubt that the Viscount
greatly loved Mistress Mary, yet methought his face
lighted as if with joy to hear that she was ofttimes sad.
And if at first I was surprised at this, I quickly began
to understand better the reason for this joy.
He rode on for a few minutes in silence, one expression
chasing another over his face; and at last looking ear-
nestly at me, as though he would read my very soul, he
"Dicon, I must speak to some one, else my heart will
break for very impatience of these bonds of silence. Boy,
I like thee. There is that in thy face which draws me to
thee. Canst thou be discreet ? canst thou keep a secret ?
and wilt thou be true to me if I tell thee more perhaps
of myself than any man knoweth as yet ?"
My heart bounded within me at these words. Al-
ready it was enslaved by the charm of this young noble.
Even though I had been but three days in his father's
house, I had heard nothing but praise of him, and had
come already to regard him as a bright particular star.
To be taken into his confidence was a favour so far above
my merits and so far removed from anything I had