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   Chapter 1 THE DRURY FAMILY.

Hayslope Grange / A Tale of the Civil War By Emma Leslie Characters: 11754

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


It was a sweet spring day, soft and balmy as summer, and any one looking across the green meadows and smiling uplands of Hayslope, now so full of the promise of early fruitfulness, would have wondered what could make the farm-labourers appear so gloomy, and the women-folk sigh instead of singing at their work, if he knew nothing of what was going on a few miles away.

It was the year 1644, and for two long years civil war had been raging in England, and now two rival Parliaments were sitting, the one presided over by the King meeting at Oxford, while that in London was engaged upon the trial of Archbishop Laud, and levying war against the King, so that it was not to be wondered at that men looked gloomy and sorrowful, for they were dark, sad times for everybody.

Hayslope was a little village on the borders of Essex, but quite out of the high road usually taken by travellers going from London northward, so that when a young man came riding in towards the middle of the day, everybody turned from their work to look at him. They did not make a very close inspection before they raised their hats and cheered; but this greeting, pleasant as it was, scarcely brought a smile to his lips as he rode on up to the principal house in the place-Hayslope Grange. This was a large, rambling, roomy building, half farm-house, half mansion, standing in the midst of an old-fashioned garden, surrounded by fields, and enclosed with a moat. The moat was dry now, and had been for some years, and a permanent bridge of planks had been laid across, leading to the village; Master Drury would not have it filled up. "It might be useful yet," he would say, when his son Harry pressed him to make the alteration.

As the traveller reached the old moss-grown bridge he paused for a minute or two, and looked down at the broad deep trench. "God grant it never may be wanted," he murmured; and then he threw back his long brown curls that clustered round his head, and spurred his horse on at a quicker pace. He was a fine, tall, handsome young man, about twenty-two, with a thoughtful brow that would have made him look almost stern, but for the genial smile that played around his mouth, and the kindly eyes that looked as ready to cry as a girl's at a tale of suffering. Before he was half-way across the fields he was met with the glad cry of, "Harry, Harry, I am so glad you have come home!"

That he was a general favourite at home was evident enough, for his younger sister and brother received him with screams of delight, and his elder sister, Mary, forgot all her stateliness in the warmth of her welcome. Only one of the group walking in the fields failed to run forward to meet him-a fact Harry was not slow to notice.

"So Maud would not come to greet me," he said, holding out his hand when he reached the spot where she was standing. He had sprung from his horse, and left the animal to find his own way to the stable.

The young lady coloured and looked down as Harry stopped before her. "I am very glad to see you," she said.

"But not quite so glad as my sisters here," said Harry.

"I am not your sister," said Maud, hardly knowing what to say.

"Oh, Maud," muttered little Bessie, "Harry is as much your brother as he is mine. Why, you have lived with us all your life, and if your name does happen to be Maud Harcourt instead of Maud Drury, it does not matter. I'm sure you can love Harry just the same."

"Yes, so I can," said Maud, smiling, and feeling greatly relieved by Bessie's little passionate outburst.

But Harry looked rather disappointed still.

"I am afraid my return is not very welcome to you, Maud," he said, as he placed himself at her side to walk towards the house.

"Why?" she said, quickly, in a tone of pain.

"I don't know, only you don't seem glad to see me this time. You did not come to meet me as the others did," replied Harry.

Maud looked down, but did not answer; and indeed there was no opportunity to do so, for Bertram, thinking he had been neglected long enough, pressed forward to his brother's side.

"Have you seen Prince Rupert, Harry?" he asked.

The young man's brow grew dark at the question. "Don't ask about Prince Rupert, Bertie," he said.

"Why not?" exclaimed the boy. "He's a great soldier, come to fight the King's battles against the wicked Parliament men. Do tell me about him?" he added, coaxingly.

"Harry will tell us all by-and-by," said Mary. "You must remember, he has not seen father yet. Let us make haste indoors," she added, turning to Harry, who still kept close to Maud.

But Bertram was determined not to miss hearing of Prince Rupert's valorous deeds, and fearing this account would be given to his father alone, he took his brother's hand, resolving to keep close to him. Prince Rupert's name, however, was not mentioned, and indeed Harry seemed strangely reserved in speaking of public affairs; and, as soon as he could get away, wandered off to a copse-like corner of the garden, where he stayed until he was summoned to prayers, late in the evening.

He looked pale and agitated as he came in. The family were all assembled-his father at the head of the table, with the Bible open before him, and the maid-servants and serving-men at the other end of the room; and Harry felt that every eye was upon him as he took his accustomed place.

After the chapter was read they all knelt down, and then any one might know how deeply and truly Master Drury loved his King, although he rarely spoke of it at any other time. Now, however, the man's whole soul was poured out before God in impassioned pleading for his royal master, while his hatred of the Parliament and those who were leading the rebellion could only find expression in the words of David against his enemies. A deep "Amen" followed, uttered by every one in the room except Harry,-an omission t

hat was noticed by more than one present.

"Harry was asleep," whispered Bessie, who had had some difficulty in keeping her own eyes open.

Maud, to whom this was confided, did not contradict the little girl, but she knew it was not so, and she wondered why Harry had not responded to what everybody must wish for, she thought-at least every true Englishman. No one saw anything of Harry after he left the room that night, and Maud did not see him until the following afternoon. She thought he was offended with her, and that this was the reason he kept away from everybody, and when she saw him leaning on the fence of the farm-yard, she determined to go and speak to him.

"I'm very sorry, Harry, if I have offended you," she said, as she drew near the spot.

Harry started. "Maud, Maud, what shall I do?" he said, impulsively, turning towards her and taking her hand.

Maud was only a year younger than himself, but she could not help feeling alarmed at his words.

"What is the matter?" she said. "Prithee, tell me all about what is troubling you."

But Harry shook his head, and tried to smile away her fears. "I have been wishing to be a chicken, and by my faith I do wish it too," he said.

"Marry, that is an old wish of mine," said Maud, trying to smile, but looking down as the colour stole into her cheeks.

"You wish to be a chicken!" uttered Harry in astonishment. "By my troth, I did not think you were so foolish, Maud."

"And wherefore not, wise sir? since you would nathless enter chickenhood."

But instead of replying in the same gay, bantering tone, Harry sighed deeply, and, still holding her hand, drew her into the field.

"It is quite true, Maud," he said. "I was actually wishing to be a chicken, or anything but what I am-Harry Drury, of Hayslope Grange."

"Prithee, now tell me wherefore you wished this," said Maud.

Harry had always told her his secrets since she first came, a little delicate girl, to live at the Grange.

"Now, marry, I can scarcely do that. But life is such a puzzle-such a tangle-men seem to be put in the wrong places."

"And you think you have one of the wrong places?" said Maud.

Harry nodded. "I am beginning to feel sure of it," he said, sadly.

"Then put yourself in the right place," said Maud, quickly, without in the least knowing to what he referred.

"By my faith, I cannot," he said, huskily.

"Cannot?" she uttered. "Cannot do right? Be truthful and just-true to yourself. Harry, you cannot mean you are afraid to do this?"

She thought she knew what was passing in his mind. He had been away from home for several weeks, in London and in the North, and she thought he longed to serve his King by taking up arms and joining actively in the fray. Her spirit stirred and swelled within her, as she almost wished that she, too, was a man, that she might follow him to the field and fight by his side.

"Harry, you will do it," she said; "you will be brave and true, and tell your father all that is passing in your mind."

Harry looked at her astonished, almost bewildered. "By my troth, Maud, this is more wonderful than anything else," he said.

"Marry, that _I+ should tell you to be true to yourself and your own conscience," said Maud, in a deeply injured tone.

"Nay, but I did not mean to grieve you, dearest Maud," said Harry; "but I did not think-I dared not hope-you would see matters as I do."

"But I do see, that, whatever the cost may be--"

"Maud, the cost will not be half so great as I thought it half an hour since. I have your sympathy," interrupted Harry.

"But is your father _sure+ to oppose your wishes in this?" said Maud.

Harry looked at her in some perplexity. "Can you ask it?" he said, "when he--"

"Yes, I know he refuses to take any public part in--" At this moment Maud was in her turn interrupted by Bessie rushing up to them with the announcement that a visitor had just arrived from London who desired to see Harry.

"It is a friend to whom I have spoken of the things we have been talking about," he said in a lower tone, to Maud; and finding Bessie was inclined to take his place by her side, he left them, and returned at once to the house.

"Has Harry been telling you about Prince Rupert?" asked Bessie, when they were left alone.

"No, dear," answered Maud; and then she relapsed into silence, for her thoughts were busy about Harry, and she wondered why he could be so afraid of mentioning his wish to become a soldier to his father.

Bessie waited a few minutes, and then she said,-"Has Harry told you anything about Prince Rupert, to-day, Maud?"

Maud smiled. "We have so often talked about Prince Rupert, you know, Bessie, that I think we have heard all Harry can tell us about his winning the King's battles for him," she said.

"Marry, but we have not, though," said Bessie, earnestly. "Harry told Bertie this morning that he was a fierce, cruel man, one of the greatest robbers that ever lived; and that he justly deserved the title the King's enemies had given him, 'Prince of Plunderers.'"

Maud looked down at the eager upturned face, feeling somewhat puzzled, but she thought Harry might have heard something that seemed to him very cruel-something that the great Prince had been obliged to do to save the King, perhaps, which yet had roused Harry's anger, feeling so keenly as he did for everybody's distress. At all events, Harry was right, and Prince Rupert was right too, she had no doubt, if things could only be explained; and in this way she contrived to silence Bessie, if she did not convince her; and the little girl went to tell Bertie that Maud did not think his soldier-hero a bad man after all; while Maud pursued her walk through the fields, indulging in very happy thoughts, in spite of the danger she was anticipating for Harry when he should join the King's army.

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