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Vol. VI. PHILADELPHIA, FEBRUARY, 1850. No. 2.
TALES OF THE PURITANS.
BY PBOFlllOl ALDKN.
"I Am too young and inexperienced to aspire to so important a command, and I would rather serve under Cromwell than command the finest regiment in England."
"I once saw Captain Cromwell in company with Mr. Hampden. It would not surprise me to hear you speak thus in relation to the latter."
"I would not say aught in disparagement of Mr. Hampden, who is all that a bleeding country believes him to be; but there is that in Cromwell, plain and unimposing as he appears, which fits him, above all others, to wield the destinies of England. Were the conduct of our armies entrusted to him, I should speedily hope to be at liberty to lead a life of peace with the best and fairest maiden in England."
"I pray you spare your compliments for a more fitting time.—Are you led by a sense of duty to peril your life in this struggle?"
"I can truly say that I am, and yet, I know not but that the example of Hampden and Cromwell, and the desire of winning a name, which Alice may not be displeased to bear, may influence me unduly."
"What is the value of a name, however widely read, if it be written in a tracery of Wood? If your duty summon you to the post of danger, there is no friend worthy the name, who will not bid you God speed, though the heart may ache in view of the dangers and sufferings to be encountered." As she thus spoke, a tear trembled in her eye.
"Let us hope for the best," said Hollis. "Mr. Hampden saith we are immortal, till our
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work is done. When God calls men to defend his truth, and to rescue the ark of Liberty from Philistine hands, those who know how to lay hold of omnipotence, and are sustained by an immortal hope, should not draw back. I rejoice that you are willing that I should take part in this great work."
"I cannot say that I am willing, but I should be unworthy of your regard could I say aught against it."
Time paused not in his flight. Hollis departed with the assurance that he possessed the wealth of a virgin heart.
Sir Herrert Elliston, the uncle of Alice, was the eldest son of Sir Arthur Elliston, who ranked among the wealthiest knights of England. He was a staunch defender of the church and king, and lent his support to many of those acts of intolerance and wrong which had placed the people of England in martial array. The widely different views and practice of his younger brother led to an estrangement, and to an almost total cessation of intercourse, till Alice drew near to womanhood. Sir Herbert then made advances which the Christian spirit of his brother would not allow him to repel. Alice paid occasional visits to her uncle, who would fain have made her a permanent member of his family. To his proposal to that effect she would not listen. Not the prospect of inheriting his wealth, nor visions of gay winters in London, nor the chances of ■ an alliance with some noble family, could induce her to consider, for a moment, the idea of exchanging the dwelling of her father for the stately halls of her uncle.
During the summer preceding the occurrence of the events above related, she had passed several weeks at Elliston Hall. There, in company with many others, she met George Hollis.
Some negotiations on the part of his father with Sir Herbert, relating to certain contiguous estates in Lancashire, rendered it necessary for him to pass a week under the same roof with Alice. He noticed her surpassing beauty, and was often obliged, by a sense of propriety, to turn away his admiring gaze; but no feeling of positive interest was awakened till her uncle chanced, in sport, to call her a Puritan rebel. Hollis noticed her blush of acknowledgment, and the sparkle of her confessing eye.
Alice, from the first, had observed the difference between Hollis and the other frequenters of her uncle's board. The wine-cup never touched his lip. He spoke only on topics of interest, when his speech gave indications of an earnest and fearless soul.
After the incident above related, when they met alone they conferred together on the topics which swelled, almost to bursting, the Puritan heart of England. On the day of his departure from Elliston Hall, he read to her certain productions of a Puritan bard, who began to feel conscious of possessing power to produce something that posterity would not willingly let die.
As he gazed upon her countenance radiant with the divine emotions awakened by the inspired bard, he could scarce refrain from casting himself at her feet, and declaring the intense affection which, in so brief a period, had arisen in his heart. When, therefore, the master spirit of England called him to the field, it was not strange that he sought to make known to her his feelings, and to secure her sympathy and prayers.
Alice had not yet recovered from the agitation occasioned by the advent and departure of the student-soldier, when a company of troopers, whose language and bearing made it evident that they were in the service of his blessed Majesty, surrounded the dwelling, and making a violent entrance, seized the aged father, and dragged him away, unheeding the tears and supplications of his wife and daughter.
The blow fell with stunning violence upon the gentle mother. For weeks Alice watched alone by her sick bed. So silent and secret had been the movement of the captors, that the abduction of Mr. Elliston was unknown to his friends. Hence his daughter watched and wept unaided, when there were many hearts that would have beat in sympathy, and many hands that would have furnished aid.
Alice felt that she must rely upon her own resources, and the support of heaven. Calmly she breasted the cold waters, which rose higher and higher, threatening to overwhelm and bury her in their depths. Friend and lover were far away. Her father was in the hand of his cruel foes,—her mother was dying all unconscious of the sorrows of her devoted child.
The dreaded hour arrived. The mother bade her daughter farewell. Before the warmth of life had departed Sir Herbert arrived, bringing intelligence that her father was no more. He had been with him in his dying hour, and his tears showed that he was not without affection for his brother, and sympathy for his orphan child. At her request he went for Mr. Baxter, and listened with attention to the prayers and exhortations of that man of God.
When the remains of the deceased had been committed to the tomb, it was plainly necessary for Alice to return with her uncle to his home. Nothing relating to her comfort was neglected; yet, between herself and those who were wont to meet there, a great gulf was fixed. She mast not mention the dearest of earthly names. She mast often hear contempt cast upon those whom she regarded as the choicest ones. She could hope for no communication with Hollis until peace was restored to England.
Ysars rolled on. The armies of the King were destroyed by the powerful arm of Cromwell. The King is a prisoner to those who once owned him as their lord. He is at length called to an account for his crimes, and his head is laid upon the block. Terror fills the hearts of all who had sustained his pause.
Alice was sitting in her library, musing on the strange and sad events that had recently taken place, and striving to subdue her impatience for the coming of the hour that should bring to her presence the heart to which alone she looked for sympathy. Suddenly her uncle entered, bearing marks of excessive agitation. "My child," said he, "we are ruined. I shall no longer have a roof to shelter you. I shall soon be driven from the home of my ancestors."
"How so? Has the war been renewed, and is this part of the country to be the scene of bloodshed?"
"The successful rebels have resolved to confiscate the estates of all who have remained faithful to their sovereign."
"Is it possible?" said Alice. Sir Herbert 1 placed before her an ordinance of Parliament, and an advertisement of forfeited estates. Among them was Elliston Hall.
Tears ran silently down her cheeks as she read the document. Sir Herbert wept aloud.
"There is one near the Lord-General," said she timidly, "who, if applied to, could perhaps avert the storm."
"Never," said Sir Herbert, drying his eyes; .' I will never ask a favour of a rebel."
After a long silence, Alice struggled to say: "Will you permit me to do it?"
"No, no, none of my name shall stoop so far, were it to save me from the block. Let them do their worst."
That very night, ere Alice had laid her aching head upon her pillow, a messenger arrived, and placed a packet in her trembling hand. She broke the seal. It was a deed of sale from the commissioners charged with executing the ordinance of Parliament. It made over Elliston Hall to George Hollis. Another document conveyed it to Sir Herbert Elliston, "in consideration of kindness shown to Miss Alice Elliston." This last was in the handwriting, and bore the signature of Hollis.
Was it not strange that there was no word addressed to her? Surely he would come in person soon. She placed the documents in the hands of her uncle. He received them in silence, and never alluded to the subject again.
Days, weeks, months, and years rolled on, and George Hollis came not to claim his betrothed. Peace was restored, and under the vigorous rule of the Protector, prosperity returned to England throughout all her borders. A ministry such as England had never seen proclaimed a pure gospel, and Puritanism was everywhere in the ascendant. In all this Alice would have rejoiced, but for the sadness that oppressed her in consequence of the absence of all tidings of him for whose sake alone life had charms. Had the toils of war or the possession of honours caused him to forget one whose favour he had once declared was dearer to him than all the world? She looked into her own heart, and seeing there the impossibility of change, concluded that he could not fail to be true.
At length the conviction fastened itself upon her mind that he was no longer among the living. She would receive assurance of the fact, and then lie down and die. "Uncle," said she, "you have friends in London. Write to them that they make inquiries and inform you, if George Hollis be still alive."
There was something so firm and earnest in her manner, that Sir Herbert could not hesitate to follow her injunctions—for it was an injunction rather than a request.
In due time replies to Sir Herbert's letters were received. For a long time Hollis had not been seen in London, and no inquiries could elicit any information respecting him. "He is dead," said Alice. "He has gone to a better world, where I shall soon join him."
The expression of grief that settled upon her countenance was so intense, that her friends shrunk from all attempts at consolation. She retired to her chamber, feeling that she should soon exchange it for the sepulchre.
Brown October again returned. Late in the evening a carriage drove rapidly to Elliston Hall, and two gentlemen alighted, and were shown into the presence of Sir Herbert.
"I should know you, sir," said he with knightly courtesy to the elder. "It is Mr. Baxter."
"Your recollection does not deceive you," said Baxter, who was now bending under the weight of increasing years and infirmities; "we have met before. This gentleman is the son of Colonel Hollis."
"He is welcome," said Sir Herbert, with
unexpected cordiality. "Alice believes you dead, and in consequence is scarcely—"
"May I see her without delay ?" said Hollis, unable to control his emotions. Sir Herbert led the way in silence to the library, in which Alice passed the greater portion of her time. He rapped on the door, and when a voice scarcely above a whisper, was heard within, ho made Hollis a sign to enter, and hurried away weeping like a child.
Alice was unable to rise, but extended her thin hand to welcome him, while a smile once more appeared upon her lips.
"I fully believed you were dead," said she, after they had for a long time wept in silence.
"You never believed me false?" "Never for a moment." Some hours later, Hollis returned to hie friends below. He found Sir Herbert highly pleased with Mr. Baxter—it was on account of his opposition to Cromwell, and his loyalty to the Stuarts.
"Well, my daughter," said Sir Herbert, as they were seated the next morning at the breakfasttable, "when will you be able to go with us to the church?"
Alice blushed, but made no objection to the proposition of Hollis, that their visit thither should take place on the morrow.
Mr. Baxter went with them, and scrupled not to use, to the great joy of Sir Herbert, who gave away the bride, a portion of the liturgy of the late established church.
The day after their marriage they set out for Hollis Hall, leaving Baxter as the guest of Sir Herbert. They travelled by easy stages, and when Alice had reached her new home, the bloom had, in some measure, returned to her cheek.
Very soon after she had become familiar with her new abode, the Protector laid aside, for a day, the cares of state, and paid a visit to his friend. He felt at home under the roof of Hollis, and his character appeared in its native simplicity, earnestness, and elevation. His conversation was chiefly respecting the Church of God, and the interests of the Protestant world. When he bado his friends farewell, it was with many pious counsels, and a fervent prayer for their prosperity.
"What think you of his highness?" said Hollis to his wife.
"A prince of heaven's own making," was the reply.
"One whose commands, having for their object the good of Christendom, were to be implicitly obeyed, though paleness was thereby cast upon the check of the loveliest woman in England?"
Alice was silent, but her expressive countenance did not indicate a negative reply.