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


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 interested. 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 hall. "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 straps. "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.

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