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Hayslope Grange / A Tale of the Civil War By Emma Leslie Characters: 11831

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Gilbert Clayton, Harry's friend, was a stranger to the rest of the family; but Master Drury no sooner heard of his arrival than he invited him to stay as long as he pleased, or as long as his business would permit; and this was so warmly seconded by Harry, that young Clayton could not but remain. He was the more willing to do this, as he had been ordered by the doctors to leave London and reside in the country before joining the army again, for he had received a dangerous wound the previous summer in the battle of Chalgrove, where his kinsman, the brave and pious John Hampden, was mortally wounded. It was by talking of John Hampden that Harry first became acquainted with Gilbert Clayton, and now he wanted to hear more of him and the gentle Sir Bevil Granville, who had so bravely led on his pikemen at the battle of Lansdowne.

The talks about these heroes generally took place in the most quiet part of the garden; for Gilbert Clayton, knowing his host's political opinions differed from his own, was too courteous to bring forward the subject before him and his family. Master Drury himself rarely talked of public matters with any one, and loved his books and the quiet of his study too well to take any active part in such affairs; and he said he could help the King's cause more by his prayers than anything else; so the two young men were left to amuse themselves as they pleased, and by a sort of tacit understanding, these conversations were never carried on in the presence of Mary or Maud.

Master Drury's household was managed by his sister, an elderly lady, who looked after children and servants with the greatest watchfulness, lest a moment of their time should be wasted. It was the rule of the household that as soon as breakfast was over Mistress Mabel should take her place in the high-backed chair at the head of the table in the "keeping room," or general sitting-room, and with Bessie and Bertram on each side of her, at their lessons, a huge basket of work was brought to her side by one of the maids, and Mary and Maud were each set to work, making or mending garments for the family. Fancy-work was never heard of in those days, and Mistress Mabel would not have allowed any to be brought forward in her presence, if it had been. Sometimes, as a rare treat, when the lessons were well learned, a book was fetched from the library, not a story-book-that would have been a waste of time, according to this lady's rule-but a learned treatise on some abstruse science, which generally set Bessie and Bertram yawning, so that the reading was not much of a treat to them. Talking was not allowed from any one until the children's lessons were learned, and not greatly indulged in then. Later in the day, after the dairy had been visited and the kitchen inspected, the spinning-wheels were brought out, and the maids, who had finished their household and dairy work, were set down to spin.

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Harry had escaped from his aunt's dominion now, but his idle life was a great eyesore to her, so that she took care no one else should share it. Under these circumstances it is easy to understand that, without at all intending it, a sort of suppression of what was really going on between the two young men took place when they were with the rest of the family. That Gilbert Clayton was as staunch a Cavalier as themselves was taken for granted; while he thought they fully understood his principles and the cause he was engaged in, and believed it was from refinement of feeling that the matter was never referred to in his presence.

That he was helping his friend to see that the cause of the Parliament was a just, honest cause, and one that must be espoused if civil and religious liberty were ever to be secured for England, he knew full well; but in doing this he believed he was only doing his duty, since Harry had come to him first to talk about these matters.

So the days and weeks went quietly on at Hayslope Grange, and the pure country air had so invigorated Gilbert Clayton that he began to talk of returning to London, to make preparations for joining Lord Kimbolton's army. Maud had heard that he was a soldier, and fully expected Harry would speak to his father, and go to London with his friend.

She felt rather jealous of young Clayton, if the truth must be told, for he quite monopolised Harry's society, so there had been no opportunity of resuming the conversation that his arrival had interrupted, or she might have discovered the mistake she had made. Hearing nothing of this, and the day for Clayton's departure being fixed, she determined to seek some opportunity of speaking to Harry. She was a noble, unselfish girl, and though she knew his going would cost her the bitterest pang she had ever felt, and be followed probably by weeks and months of anxious suspense and dread, she would not hold him back-nay, she would urge him to go at the call of duty, though all the sunshine of her life would depart when he went; for months might pass before she heard of him again, and he might be wounded, dying, or dead, and the tidings never reach Hayslope Grange.

News travelled slowly in those days, and in the unsettled state of affairs could not always be relied upon; but tidings reached Hayslope just now that the Parliament had seized the Archbishop of Canterbury, and his trial was now going on, the charges against him being that he had tried to subvert civil and religious liberty in England, had been the author of illegal and tyrannical proceedings in the court of Star Chamber, and had suppressed godly ministers and godly preaching.

But to the family at Hayslope Grange these charges were as nothing compared to the guilt the Parliament had incurred in seizing an anointed prelate.

Master Drury lifted up his hands in silent horror when he heard it, and Mistress Mabel burst into tears. The sight of their stern aunt cryin

g seemed to make more impression upon Bessie and Bertram than the fate of the archbishop.

"Was he very wicked?" asked Bessie.

This was enough to drive back Mistress Mabel's tears. "Wicked!" she repeated, in anger. "Never let me hear you ask such a question about one of the Lord's anointed, Bessie, unless you would share in the sin of those who have laid violent hands upon him."

"It is sacrilege," uttered Master Drury, slowly and solemnly.

Mistress Mabel, who did not often talk, found her tongue now, and used it too, denouncing in the strongest terms the doings of the Parliament. "What is to be the end of this evil generation, that worketh such wickedness?" she said at last; and then, as if answering the query, went on, "The land shall be desolate, and all the people perish." Bessie and Bertram looked frightened. "What does that mean?" whispered the little girl; "won't the people in the village have anything to eat, because they are cruel to the archbishop?"

It was almost the first time any one at the Grange had thought of their poor neighbours, and the burden they were silently bearing under these great changes. Taxes were high, food was scarce, and many of the men had joined the King's army; but none of the Drurys had thought of these things except Harry, and it was the little scraps of news he heard in the village that first led him to doubt whether the royal cause were the just one.

He and Gilbert Clayton were absent when the news concerning the archbishop first reached Hayslope; but when they returned in the evening Harry knew that something had happened, by the look of anxious trouble on his father's face, and the querulous restlessness of his aunt.

"What is the matter, Mary?" he asked, in an anxious whisper.

But Mary only held up her finger warningly. "The servants are coming in," she murmured; and at the same moment Mistress Mabel placed the Bible in front of the high-backed chair at the head of the table, and Master Drury slowly took his seat.

Prayers for the King, Gilbert and Harry could both join in; for they hoped God would change his heart, and teach him that it was most unkingly to break his promises again and again, as he had done. But to-night it seemed that Master Drury could think of nothing but of the evil-doing of the Parliament in bringing the archbishop to trial; and he prayed that all their plans might be frustrated, the King brought back to his throne, and the archbishop restored to his charge; while those who had troubled them might be visited with dire calamities and afflictions.

His prayer was not concluded when Harry started from his knees and said, in a hoarse voice, "Stop, my father, I pray you; you know not for what you are asking."

All turned to look at him in silent, speechless wonder-all but Gilbert Clayton, who rose from his knees and laid his hand upon Harry's shoulder. "Come away," he whispered.

But Harry would not stir. "My father must not pray thus," he said, loud enough for any one to hear.

Master Drury and the rest slowly rose from their knees.

"Harry, my boy, you are ill," said the gentleman, in a tone of compassion.

"Prithee, now tell me where you have been racing all the day, to get your head so disordered," said Mistress Mabel; and she despatched Mary to her store closet for some herb tea for Harry to take at once.

"I don't want the herb tea, aunt," said Harry, in a clear, calm voice. "I am quite well; the sun has not affected my head, and I know quite well what I am about."

Aunt Mabel looked incredulous; but his father, losing the fear of illness, sat down in his chair, a dim feeling of a sorer trouble than this coming over him as he looked at Harry. "Sit down," he said, in a tone of command to the rest, who stood just as they had risen from their knees-"sit down and listen to the reason my son has to give for interrupting our godly exercise this evening." And he looked towards Harry as if waiting for his answer.

The young man instinctively drew a step nearer to Maud, as if mutely asking her sympathy and support; but she was looking down upon the oaken floor, utterly unable to comprehend what Harry could mean by this strange proceeding.

Harry seemed to feel that he had acted unwisely in yielding to his impulse; and he said, slowly, "Prithee, father, let me tell it to yourself alone."

"By my faith, that cannot be now, Harry," said Master Drury, energetically. "We have all been hindered in our devotions by your froward speech, and each has an equal right to hear your reason for it."

The men and maid-servants gathered at the end of the room pitied poor Harry in his confusion, and would have retreated, trusting to have their curiosity gratified afterwards by the tell-tale tongue of Bessie or Bertram; but Mistress Mabel's eye was upon them, and they knew they dared not go away.

Harry's face changed from an ashy whiteness to crimson as his father spoke, and then he went pale again as he said, "My father, do not force me to speak out now; let me go to your study, and I will tell you all that has been passing in my mind of late."

But Master Drury was inexorable when once he had made up his mind. "My son, we are waiting," was all he said in reply to Harry's entreaty.

Harry drew himself up, and casting a hasty glance at Maud's bowed figure, he said, "Father, I have resolved to cast in my lot with the patriots who are striving to rescue this country from the grasp of tyrants; they are not the evil-doers you think them. It is the King and archbishop and their advisers who are traitors, not the Parliament, or the brave, true men who are fighting for it."

He might have been hurried into saying much more, but at this moment Maud fell to the ground with a piercing shriek; and at the same instant Gilbert Clayton seized Harry's arm and dragged him from the room.

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