Text - "Roger Willoughby. A Story of the Times of Benbow" William H. G. Kingston

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Its owner had nothing
else to depend on, so that he was unable to repair the house or to make
improvements on the land. The King on his Restoration had promised to
give him a lucrative post as soon as he could find one suited to his
talents, but year after year passed by, and he received no appointment;
at length he went up to London-a journey not easily performed in those
days,-and after waiting for a considerable time, through the interest
of an old friend he obtained an interview with the Merry Monarch.

"Gadzooks, man!" exclaimed the King, when he saw him, "I remember you
well,-a loyal, sturdy supporter of our cause. We have had so many
loyal gentlemen applying for posts that we fear all have been filled up,
but depend on it we will not forget you. Go back to Eversden, and wait
with such patience as may be vouchsafed you. In due course of time you
will receive notice of the appointment to which we shall have the
satisfaction of naming you."

Colonel Tregellen took his leave and returned to Eversden, but he was
too old a soldier to have his hopes raised high, and from that time to
the present he had received no further communication on the subject-
indeed, he had reason to believe that the King had forgotten all about
him. Though he did not in consequence of this waver in his loyalty, it
did not increase his affection for the King, and made him criticise the
monarch's proceeding with more minuteness than might otherwise have been
the case. He had ever been a firm Protestant, and he had become still
more attached to the Reformed principles, and more enlightened, from the
example set him by his wife, and also from the instruction he received
from her. He was sufficiently acquainted with political affairs to know
that the King was more than suspected of leaning to Romanism, while the
Duke of York-the heir to the throne-was a professed Romanist. His
love, therefore, for the family for whom he had fought and expended his
fortune had greatly waned of late years, and he therefore agreed more
nearly with the opinions of his brother-in-law than formerly. This
change of sentiment permitted him willingly to receive young
Battiscombe, who was of a Puritan family, at his house, though at one
time he would not have admitted him within his doors. He also lived on
friendly terms with other neighbours holding the same opinion as the
owner of Langton Hall. Still, the Colonel did not altogether abandon
his Cavalier habits and notions, which, without intending it perhaps, he
instilled into the mind of his young nephew, who, although his father
had been a supporter of Cromwell, was ready enough to acknowledge
Charles as the rightful king of England. He and Stephen often had
discussions on the subject, but as neither held his opinions with much
obstinacy, they never fell out on the matter, and generally ended with a
laugh, each asserting that he had the beat of the argument. Stephen, if
not a bigoted Puritan, was a strong Protestant, and never failed to
express his dread of the consequences should James come to the throne.

Stephen Battiscombe was the second son of Mr Battiscombe of Langton
Park, who had several other sons and daughters. He had been an officer
in General Monk's army, and had consequently retained his paternal
estates, although he had been compelled to part with some of his broad
acres in order to secure the remainder. Stephen had been for the last
year or two a constant visitor at Eversden, he and Roger having formed a
friendship; it may be that he came oftener than he otherwise might have
done for the sake of enjoying the society of Mistress Alice, whom he
greatly admired.

The early dinner being concluded, and the viands removed, the ladies
retired to pursue their usual avocations, while the Colonel, with Mr
Willoughby and Master Holden, sat still at the table, not so much to
indulge in potations, though a flagon of wine and glasses stood before
them, as to discuss certain parochial questions in which they were

The first matter to be discussed had scarcely been broached when the
Colonel, whose quick ears had detected the sound of horses' hoofs in the
court-yard, exclaimed, "Hark! here come visitors. I pray you, Master
Holden, go and see who they are, and, should they have travelled far,
and require food, bid the cook make ready a sufficiency; whether they be
old friends or strangers, we must not show a want of hospitality if they
come expecting to find it at Eversden." The curate, ever accustomed to
obey his patron's directions, rose and hastened to the door. Not long
after he had gone, Tobias Platt, the Colonel's serving-man, who
performed the duties of butler, valet, and general factotum, entered the

"Master Thomas Handscombe, cloth-merchant of London, who has just come
down from thence, craves to see Mr Roger Willoughby," he said.

"Do you know him?" asked the Colonel of his brother-in-law.

"Yes, an old and worthy friend," answered Mr Willoughby, rising from
his seat.

"Let him be admitted, and assure him of a welcome," said the Colonel,
turning to Tobias Platt, who hurried out of the hall, while Mr
Willoughby followed him somewhat more leisurely. He found his old
friend, a middle-aged man of grave exterior, in travel-stained cloak,
broad-brimmed beaver, just dismounting from a strongly-built nag, to
whose saddle were attached a pair of huge holsters in front, and a
valise behind. He was accompanied by two attendants, each of whose
animals carried considerably heavier burdens, apparently merchandise,
more or less of cloth and other articles, firmly secured by leathern

"I am glad to see you again, Master Handscombe," exclaimed Mr
Willoughby, warmly pressing the hand of his old friend; "although I am
no longer master of this mansion, I can bid you welcome, for my good
brother-in-law, Colonel Tregellen, desires that all my friends should be
his friends; but you will remember that he is an old Cavalier, and that
there are certain subjects it were better not to touch on."

"I mix too much with all classes of men not to be on my guard," answered
the merchant, as he accompanied Mr Willoughby into the house, when
Tobias Platt came forward to take his dusty cloak and beaver, and then
followed Mr Willoughby into the hall, where the Colonel received him as
his brother-in-law's friend.

"You will be glad to shake off more of the dust of your journey while a
repast is preparing," observed the Colonel. "The servant will provide
you with water and other necessaries."

The guest gladly accepted the offer. Mr Willoughby himself accompanied
him to the room, that they might have an opportunity of conversing in
private, which they might not afterwards obtain. Madam Pauline and
Alice, on hearing from Master Holden of the arrival of a stranger from
London, returned to the hall, where all the party were soon again
assembled. Master Handscombe, though a man of grave deportment, had no
objection to hear himself speak.

"When did you leave London?" was one of the first questions very
naturally put by the Colonel to his guest.

"Just seven days ago, good sir," answered Mr Handscombe. "Having sent
all my goods with my two servant-men by the stage-wagon, I took my place
by the light coach which now runs from London to the West. There were
six of us inside, who, till the moment we met, were not aware of each
other's existence, though, before we parted, we had become as intimate
as a litter of puppies. Pretty close stowing it was too-yet,
considering the jolting, bumping, and rolling, that was an advantage.
Oftentimes I feared that the coach would go over altogether into the
ditch, when I was thankful that there was not any one outside except the
coachman and guard, who are in a manner born to it, to break their
necks. Still, notwithstanding all impediments, we accomplished thirty
miles a day; that is fast going, you will allow, compared to the
stage-wagon or other ancient means of conveyance. Once only we were
stopped by highwaymen, but the guard's blunderbuss disposed of one of
them, and an old officer, who was fortunately for us one of the
passengers, though his legs were of the longest, shot another, and the
rest, fearing that the Major's pistols would settle a third of their
gang, rode off, leaving us to proceed unmolested.