By H. K.
Chapter II. Chepe.
To those who have experience in human nature, it will not be a marvel to learn that within a twelvemonth from the evening recorded in the last chapter, Benjamin Harris, the young protesting printer, wedded the spinster, Patience Chiswell, and that, notwithstanding she had no present portion beyond her wedding-clothes, one of Master Guy’s bibles, a copy of pious songs from Mistress Lucy, a candle-cup from her godmother, and a fine cornice of oak-leaves, grapes, fauns, and satyrs from Master Chiswell’s own skilled, painstaking hand, “almost too fine a piece of furniture for this wilderness world,” Harris declared; but he smiled, and was ready to admire also when he saw his Patience’s young matron face looking up with wonder and delight at the luscious clusters heads.
To those who have been happy in reading the pages of pure and high hearts, neither will it seem strange to be told that, as Harris expressed it, Patience having been accommodating enough to take a lively fancy and a trustful liking to his grim visage, this Patience, woman-like, rapidly imbibed the young printer’s lofty sentiments, became the most devoted of his disciples, and echoed his psalm of life, only diversified by her delicate womanly chords and subtle variations.
Patience’s candid affectionate heart, unsophisticated in its errors and vanities, was the good ground, and in it, as privileged to represent his master, Benjamin Harris dropped the good seed which was to bring forth an hundredfold. Master Chiswell took no part with the aggrieved Nonconformists, he was a Court servant, and a State and Church man, employed under noble patronage along with Stone, and Le Secur, and Penellia, and was so just, so timid and time-serving, as to be delivered up against his better nature to any of Sir Roger’s bluster. But Master Chiswell “was not to say rich,” and he had many daughters at his elbow, and really the national councils were still so precarious as to render a stout, faithful husband of any colour which might turn up not a castaway.
Nor was it a contradiction in this case that Harris, rigid in duty, stern towards himself, proved notably indulgent to Patience, to the verge of uxoriousness, even perversely protecting and petting her, almost vexing her by obstinately refusing to allow her to share his troubles, and insisting upon taking upon himself all the toil, all the risk, all the weariness. You see Harris was deeply conscious that his lot was likely to be clouded; he was aware, to a certain extent, of the tinge of gloom in his own temper, and the harshness which injuries had sealed, and double sealed, on his sect.
He did not try to check these tendencies as far as he himself was concerned, but he was, with some excuse, perhaps, morbidly anxious to spare Patience — once he understood and valued her, and could not resist making her his own. The young, healthy, spirited, genial tempered, unbroken wife, was a bright being indeed to the struggling, saddened husband — the new sunshine of his existence, whose warmth, radiance, and gladness should be preserved at all hazards, except that of sin. There was cowardice bound up with Harris’s love and temporising with his proselytism.
So Harris fell into an error; was nervously, sedulously attentive to his wife’s comfort and pleasure, treated her to no “wholesome neglect,” guarded her from all rough but invigorating shocks, denied her reasonable work, fatigue, and disappointment; put very considerable force upon his natural disposition and education to procure for her flowers, cakes, and even a subdued kind of finery, and to bear her company in entertainments at Master Chiswell’s, Mrs. Lucy’s, and other relatives and friends and neighbours, most of them totally distasteful to him, and all more or less burdensome, taken as a task, and fulfilled without a chance of exemption.
In all this Harris showed himself what he was, a noble and self-denying heart with a remarkable aptitude for getting rid of narrow prejudices and acerbities, when they came in collision with the charities and tendernesses of his daily life; but he did not display much worldly wisdom, or a Petruchio’s bold, shrewd blitheness in compassing and confounding female weaknesses.
Patience, like every child of Adam similarly situated, was ungrateful for his folly, refused to be governed by this half and half system, could not be gay, because Harris ordained it, secretly resisted the artificial atmosphere provided for her, and hankered in her inmost soul after that of which he had first given her a taste, self-abnegation, endurance, effort; she grew pensive, formal, restless, without being permitted to betray her state of mind; took refuge in the solemn mysteries which float about all recently awakened souls, and can be grasped at any moment; and, oh! grievous mystery in itself, loving her husband and loved by him, was breaking from all near communion or true partnership with him.
Now, this would not have happened had Patience been older, wiser, and more apparently on her husband’s level; but while there was substantial equality between them, it was far down below the husband’s studious thoughtfulness, and the wife’s book ignorance and girlish buoyance; and once she was seized with an admiration of his excellence, she conceived an awe of him which his elaborate forbearance and somewhat painful fondness was building up, mountains high, to a degree that would crush him one day with its unfamiliarity and its slavishness. There can be no perfection of regard, or liberty of affection without mutual sincerity and confidence, and mutual blame as well as mutual praise, and mutual vexation as well as triumph — no, not while we are here below.
Thus the first year of the Harrises’ married life was not the blended jubilee and fast which it might have been. It was at first monotonous sunshine, and then, inconsistent as it sounds, a tinge of frost crept into that persistent tranquillity, and Benjamin Harris had occasional cruel visions that for all his efforts and all his pains, he was not enough for his chief earthly treasure; and she was no longer the same unquestioning, unexacting, sympathetic mistress he had courted and wedded. Foolish man! that could not be. Why not have the substitute?
But he would not, not he! permit her to help him in the business, in the catalogues, the manuscripts, the ledger, like John Dunton’s useful, estimable Elizabeth, notwithstanding Patience was as neat-handed, as intelligent, as industrious, and quite as solicitous for her husband’s interest, and she, too, would have been a priceless assistant. Patience’s eyes filled with tears of envy — poor, energetic, earnest woman — when she saw what others were permitted to accomplish, what she might never attempt, where she would never signalise herself, so as to be more worthy of him. She would have so liked to help him in the duties he had taught her, to go halves in the dangers, for it was no trite to propagate their faith under these fines and imprisonments, Rumsey and West witnesses, and Jeffrey judgments.
But he would not even tell her when he was implicated with the commissioners, and forbade her to read the scurrilous personal abuse of the “Observator,” which sometimes fired even him, though he had jestingly dubbed his ordinary indifference the true Patience in contradistinction to her im-Patience of slander and wrong to the cause. Why, he would not even venture her with household work, and cramped himself, poor as he was, and always poorer, that he might not stint her in domestic service, or deny her any former custom.
First drawn out, and then set aside, Patience in despair, took to reading rabidly violent reformers, latter-day prophets, and high-flown Mrs. Rowes (there were extraordinary mental appetites and diseases developed by these occasions), hurried on to become wilful, opinionative and hovering on dangerous delusions; and, from long absence of opposition, resented doggedly when Benjamin Harris would have at last firmly, with alarm and reprehension, forced her back from these dark, rugged paths. This dreaming woman commencing to frown in bitterness, was scarcely the little lass, humble in her flippancy, of the Mercers’ Gardens, Benjamin Harris’s old delight.
The summer sun was again shining on this heady, fermenting, unstable London, where men had once protested against a Star Chamber, and were now submitting to be ruled without the shadow of a parliament by a feather-headed, not brainless, but heartless king. Russell and Sydney had not yet died for love of the law and league with traitors; it was still many months before that fit which glazed the merry, roving eye for ever, ere James’s sullen stupidity and conscientious wrong-doing could effect the vital change which only dire obstinacy and strong belief in a delusion can perfect and perpetrate.
But hardship to spare was riding rough-handed in the kingdom; wild, old soldiers of Cromwell’s, weary of inactivity, weak, failing tradesmen, basest rogues, had but to swear roundly to convict honest men of licence and libel, if not of treason. Sentences quoted by hearsay from a sermon, were enough to condemn a preacher. A simple report that a Scottish gentleman had stirred on the wrong side in the affair of Bothwell Brig, was an apology for the Boot; and truly the Duke of York in the Edinburgh Parliament House “was born under no pardoning planet,” and Judge Jeffreys on a London bench did not fail him. Good reason that Essex, once “cast” and laid in the Tower, gave way to one of his deep fits of the spleen; that good Leighton died mourning the depravity alike of his king, his country, and his church; that a plantation in Carolina was eagerly talked of by both English and Scottish Nonconformists.
Patience Harris sat in the window of her sitting-room, with her hymns and her songs unpractised, her embroidery faded and entangled; her copies of sweet, cool, wholesome Izaak Walton, and John Evelyn, and Samuel Daniel, and George Herbert, ay, and even some of the best verses of Master Waller and Master Dryden, which Benjamin had loved to read to her and have her read to him, neglected for the curses of some maddened man; irking herself, harrowing herself with miseries, which she could neither fathom nor relieve, as she would drink wormwood-water for her health in place of succory-water for her solace — there was Patience, dark and abstracted as Benjamin Harris least liked to see her, as it pricked him to the heart to find her.
Patience had seen little of her husband for the last few days: he was unusually engrossed with business, and had been obliged to depart on a little journey without informing her of its import, although he had come in and embraced her affectionately in his riding-coat, with a blush on his cheek and a stammer on his tongue.
Afterwards he had sent her a little note dated from his coffee-house, urging her, in place of living lonesome, to pay a visit to Mistress Lucy Soule, who was prepared to receive her and amuse her with the last new prints and women’s recipes; because her worthy father with whom she was aware he was so unhappy as to have a dryness, was not at present, as far as he had sounded him, disposed to accept his daughter’s company for a week or so, with the entire contentment and thankfulness which he regarded as the due of his honoured wife, to whom he was forced to bid a brief but reluctant farewell.
Patience was not greatly enlightened or charmed by this communication of her husband, clearly as it indicated his concern for her. It was an annoyance, a provocation. In the first place, she would have much rather been trusted to keep house in Gracechurch Street; in the second, she would have preferred feeling an intruder on her own family circle to rendering herself a dependent on Mrs. Lucy’s notice. In the last there was already sprouting between the elder and younger ladies one of those civil perennial grudges which the wisest husbands will obliviously overlook. It was all very well for Mrs. Lucy to patronise her young acquaintance, Patience Chiswell, and Patience liked the sweet tempered, affected great lady immensely; but Mrs. Benjamin Harris judged Mrs. Lucy too self-satisfied, learned, and affable, and did not admire her trade connection with Benjamin, who had no consultations or arguments for his wife, only admiration and courtship.
Still do not credit that Patience was very sulky or actually rebellious: she obeyed the injudicious mandate, entering her hackney chair and forwarding her bundles and boxes the moment a messenger arrived for her. Mrs. Lucy deputed a journeyman to pass her onwards, because she could not come and carry her off herself by reason of her dear old mother having had some spasms on hearing of the difficulties of a friend. But wherefore Mrs. Lucy despatched a chair when she knew that Patience hated it, in spite of that old progress from the Mercers’ Gardens, and greatly preferred a walk through the streets, unless to imply a doubt of her prudence, or to despise her inclinations, Patience could not conceive.
Patience bore as long as she was able the aggravation of Mrs. Lucy’s pointed, tolerably fantastic attentions, and her mother’s doting way of staring at her, and shaking her head, and being told over and over again, “Please, madam, it is young Mrs. Benjamin Harris, who knows nothing of older folks’ cares and pains, and whom dear Mr. Harris has entrusted to us to be looked after and kept cheerful.” While the Soules had her all to themselves, and saw no other private company.
At last, something impelled Patience to be naughty and independent; and getting up early one morning, she stole a march upon Mrs. Lucy — who was a little of a slug-a-bed — ere she betook herself to her gay back shop (front shops were the public libraries), and her dainty desk. Patience broke her fast with a porringer of sops, left a message that she had gone abroad to see her own people, and would be back before nightfall, and started all alone for Lombard Street.
Really Patience was so perverse, that she felt excited and elated by the rare sense of solitude, and the flavour of adventure and danger as she walked away in her hat and mantle, without the mask, which the court ladies adopted largely for no creditable purpose, if all tales were true, but with the old decent muffler, in remembrance of her husband’s scruples, drawn over her round chin and up to the arched mouth, which ought never to have been drawn hard and still.
There seemed already many people abroad, and they were hurrying to Chepe, as Patience could catch, to witness some aggravated instance of exposure and contumely by command of the lords or magistrates of the city. But Patience was so far her old self for the moment, that instead of pondering the severity of these usages and the shameless venality of the one in question, and racking her head and heart hopelessly in abasing herself for the unrighteousness in power, she was more tempted to buy from the buxom country girl, calling the “Cherry, cherry, ripe” of Herrick, or the brown water-cress boy, who might have made up his dark green bunches by a flowing stream, peaceful as the Lea, with a lord of the manor attached as Cotton, and a lady well chosen as the sister of Bishop Ken.
Patience entered Lombard Street in good spirits, passed rapidly through her father’s shop, with its sculptured models, like the figure-heads of ships, its huge carved testers and waved canopies, and entered suddenly into the Chiswells’ back parlour, threading its heavy oak-chairs and treading lightly its tesselated floor in the style of the master of the house, and dispensing with a foot-cloth.
Patience’s sisters were in the kitchen helping to cook the mid-day dinner, or putting the sleeping rooms in order, or even painting some of the simpler screens which her father furnished; her brothers were at school, or in the working booths, or abroad attending to orders, but her father and mother sat here at leisure engaged in close conversation. They both stopped and stared, Patience fancied because she had not been home recently, or in relation to an ill-judged interference which Chiswell had taken upon him to make in Harris’s concerns — his dealings with the Dissenters, his unbending ways to Churchmen and courtiers.
However, Patience took the silence and amazement at her appearance rather ill now, and the blood had rushed to her cheeks when, to her consternation and bewilderment, her mother commenced to cry and wring her hands, and disorder her caul and ruff and stiff skirts; and little round-eyed Master Chiswell arose so abruptly, that he burst half the trusses of his points, which he had just tied awry, and addressed her in the most perturbed, incoherent, aggrieved fashion:—
“Daughter Harris, you may bear me witness I did not press an alliance with this fellow Harris, it was your own free choice, and I think, having made it, it is your duty to abide by the same, not implicating your poor friends and connections, and causing detriment and destruction to the innocent. Howsoever, I will protect you from bodily injury,” he added, in the tone of a man put upon and compelled to be public-spirited, ”that is, if I can manage it, and if need be; for your wrong-headed good man did aver that he would shelter you from all blame, and that you should incur no harm.
»For that matter, though it be a sore disgrace, and like enough to stick to him, and ruin his business, and even to imperil my credit — fool that he was, not to do all to avoid it! — there are no orders given for mutilation, and he may have hope, which he scarce deserves, to reach his own house again in safety this very night.”
“Oh, Patience, Patience, my girl! to remember you might have wedded the wood-merchant adown in Surrey, and been respected and exalted. And I declare how well you did look in your peagreen open gown, with your love-knots and your top-knot, before that villain rendered you grave and thin with his homilies and his treason,” reflected Mrs. Chiswell.
“I do not understand you,” answered Patience. “Master Harris hath done no ill (that I should even him to ill!) that I wot of. It is certain I would have wedded none but he. He is but gone from home on business, if that be the accident at which your words aim.”
“Oh, the misguided child! the infatuated, misguided child!” cried both shallow persons, who were sometimes cunning, sometimes impulsive, but whose instinct it was to effervesce with whatever information they contained. “Do you not know?” —” Have you not heard?” (Talking each other down in their eagerness to divulge the count which affected her peace.)
“Benjamin Harris has been arraigned before the justices for a libel on the Test Act, published within his premises.” (He had but received the officers in the shop, when he stepped up and took leave of her in a common way.) “He had the audacity to tell the bench that, though he had not put one objectionable word in type, he expected nothing in his favour, because Pilkington, the Lord Mayor, was fined so heavily for no other reason than that he refused to congratulate the Duke, and Ward was accused of perjury merely because he could not call to mind the form of words in which Pilkington declined the ceremony.
Then Harris and his cousin Janeways were sentenced to the Fleet, where it would be a miracle if they did not contract the gaol-fever, and poison a whole city ward when they came out. Where was their regard for the public in that? And, to-day, they were to stand in pillory in Chepe for four mortal hours, to the shame of all who had anything to do with them; and it was cause enough to daughter Harris to have been seen in Lombard Street that morning for Master Chiswell himself to be suspected, seized, and set in the stocks, when the family business and court interest — grossly damaged already —would go to sticks and staves, and they would all perish.”
“And your poor dear sisters unmatched, Patience,” represented her mother, piteously and reproachfully. ”Sirs! how their fortunes maybe wrecked by such association at this time.”
“Better unsuited and dashed in their hopes, though they have to work their fingers to the bone, than buckled to enthusiasts and fanatics!” roared Chiswell, virulently.
Patience had stood dumb, becoming very white and very cold, but with her grey eyes lightening and clearing. When she began to speak, she had to answer them on various allegations.
“No shame to any one, father! Benjamin Harris is not framed of the stuff which creates infamy. No fear of you, father. No one will dream that Benjamin Harris hath borrowed your countenance. Nay, now, you will forgive me if I am rude. I will not stop to injure my sisters, mother — particularly when Benjamin calls me elsewhere.” And she moved to depart.
The old couple urged Patience for an explanation of her views. They meant to keep her in the end, since, in her unheard-of, foolish ignorance, by walking abroad and calling upon them, she had already exposed herself and compromised her father and mother.
They were not hard and cruel, this court carver and gilder and his wife, only comprehensibly worldly and selfish, and caring much more, as in nature bound, for the well-being of their home-birds than for their flown and expatriated nursling. When they did let Patience go, it was in the agitation of a trying day, in their distress at their supposed share in the crime and its shameful results; on her assurance that she would travel straight where Harris might wish her to take refuge, and in their conviction that she was in her right reason, and even in possession of a composed spint which would not only enable her to dispose of herself as was fitting, but would induce her to assert her independence and prove too much for them if they endeavoured to coerce her against her will.
“It was cruel in him,” said Patience, as she traversed the streets again with all the speed she could summon at her imperious bidding; “it was cruel in him ever to conceal his pains, and suffer me to grow peevish, but now that he has done me this wrong I will conquer him.”
She went the direct road to Chepe, pushing her way among the mob — always increasing, and always more fired with expectation and perilous excitement — until there in the thoroughfare rose the stage pressed against by the van of the rabble, and enchoruscd by a roar of senseless approbation.
There rose the framework, and there, seated in arm-chairs, with their necks fastened in the iron collars, sat Harris and Janeways (in their respectable suits unsoiled by the squalor of the gaol they had quitted, their plain bauds giving them the air of divines, their high-crowned hats, their belts with the scabbards of their rapiers worn to defend them from bullies and cut-throats hired by his Grace of Monmouth — he who wore the purple on the death of a foreign prince — to slit the nose of so humble a rascal as a prayer) to be gazed at, hooted, pelted with filth and rough enough missiles, till their persecutors were weary; and above the whole the simple, beautiful, grand, blue summer sky contrasting with the jumble of buildings and people, the tumult, the noise, the dust of the outrageous scene below.
There, with those dark, serene, sagacious faces, whose power we study in many a brown picture, their trimmed but ample beards, their hair divided in the middle, and allowed only to fall back in a wave from the broad brows, the brave men sat undaunted in their penance — fools gaped at them, thoughtless, licentious men mocked at them, enemies reviled them, but their firmness did not falter.
Roundheads, Fifth-monarchy men, sour-faced hypocrites, psalm-singing knaves, bitter Whigs — they dubbed them freely. Lazy Dorset, who was only animated when drunk, and the jester Sedley, whose unnatural vileness had nearly raised a riot in these streets one night of late, and whose sense of family honour was the sole ray of light that lingered round a far-fallen star, with other distinguished gentlemen in their white silk hose, their perukes, and their pouncet-boxes, stayed their morning’s course, grinned, swore, betted, flipped showers of groats, bird-shot, snuff, and bits of sweet biscuit (with which, after his Majesty’s example, they coaxed, tormented, and satiated the little spaniels at their heels) in the direction of those stubborn prisoners, stimulating another appetite of the not over-fed or disinterested mob, few of them Andrew Marvells, and rendered confusion worse confounded.
“Give us back our may-poles! Leave alone our merry footings on the grass, unless you want to rouse us until you swing at Tyburn!”
“What! do you think we’ll resign our fiddles and routs, our honest round oaths for your canting, snivelling prayers?”
“Better not burn your drawn-down mouths with our Christmas plum-porridge!” jeeringly, vociferated the lusty, carnal mob.
“What! my men,” remonstrated Harris, bending down to them, and speaking in his clear, distinct voice, melodious in its gravity, “we wanted to give you bread from heaven.”
“Shut his mouth; gag him, lop him; the whining, lying, Praise-the-Lord or Praise-the Devil!” burst in scarlet, foaming fury from a large, swollen, towering figure on the outskirts.
That was the famous Tory-editor, Sir Roger, notorious for his shrewdness, his unscrupulousness, his want of scholarship and style, and his indecent triumph over his brow-beaten foes. Dorset and Sedley, and their trains, turn and aim their sneers and their flouts at their unphilosophical, unmagnanimous, hot, coarse friend; but the main body of the assembly do not swerve from the rogues in pillory, but deride them, insult them, cast contumely upon them, till these resolved brains begin to reel, and these stout hearts to sicken at the utter baseness of their humiliation.
“Let me in; I know one of the prisoners. I pray you suffer me to pass forward,” said Patience, in her modest, middle-class apparel, with her young, open, feeling, refined gentlewoman’s face; and she spoke on till she was hoarse, never giving way to exhaustion, though nearly carried off her feet, or to keen sorrow and burning indignation at that spectacle.
Yet, as they say the sight of the dead, recalls vividly the time and circumstances when the departed was first met, blotting out, as it were the daily associations, and the infinite changes of intervening years, so the chance of beholding Benjamin Harris, all unknown to him, thus elevated into a public gazing stock, with the same June air around them, brought back to her mind in one flash, not her kind, careful husband, but the comely, strong young printer, to whom Mrs. Lucy introduced her long ago in the Mercers’ Gardens, who looked so often at her as they walked on the soft turf, through the bowery trees, in the balmy evening air, and who to satisfy his conscience or her imagined horrors, would walk all the way through the streets by her chair, until he bowed over her hand at her father’s door in Lombard Street.
Happily for Patience, with the half-careless good-humour, which, thank heaven, is wont to temper the brutality of all but inflamed and possessed crowds, the apprentices, linkmen, small tradesmen, curious or sorry women, as well as the more substantial and honourable representatives of the community, after venting sundry scurrilous jests on the persistence with which the women stuck to the conventicles, and the Puritans, were inclined to admit her claims, and hustled her on to the very front of the platform. Still Harris, who was somewhat of an absent man at best, and who was relieving himself by looking up into the cloudless air, did not observe her, and his presence intervened between Patience and the scope of Janeways’ vision.
“I pray you, sir, suffer me to mount beside the prisoners; put me up with them; I am one of them,” declared Patience, to the officer.
Now these officers, who were some of them relics of the Protector’s servants, had no great stomach for such a duty as they were in the act of performing. They could not help respecting the manly, orderly, upright charges that fell to their lot, and with whom they might have come in contact before in very different relative positions. They would occasionally presume to be lenient in their offices—witness the captain of the prison in Bedford’s licensing John Bunyan to stand with his blind daughter in his hand in the court or street selling laces to the passers-by, for the support of his destitute family.
Patience’s request was out of order, and, at the same time, a moderately kindly man, of a little more than official principle, saw a respectable, delicate young woman in a sad strait, liable to be trodden under foot, or perhaps, in her present grief to be spirited away and misused by the reckless and abandoned.
“It was not mooted by the magistrates, howsoever, there is no statute against it,” and so gruffly in his perplexity, but far from barbarously, the officer assisted Patience to ascend the scaffolding to a station behind her husband’s chair, confronting the concourse.
Then Harris discovered her — the young girl, his much cherished wife, standing by his side in the disgrace of the pillory.
“Good Lord!” he cried, driven from his moderation of speech, “how came you here, Patience? Why did Mrs. Lucy permit you to stray? Oh! Lord, this is indeed anguish.”
But she looked him in the face, only panting with her toil, and, while a bright red colour swept over the paleness of her fatigue, uttered something that sounded like a sigh of relief, and said, with a little echo of exultation, ” I have found you out, Benjamin.”
He stared in wonder and doubt.
“It will kill you. Oh! how can I save you?” Patience reasoned with him. “Hush, Benjamin, do not be faithless. I thank God I found you out.”
Then Benjamin Harris understood his wife, and was comforted for his trial, and blessed her with a mighty blessing. Sir Roger named the woman by a foul epithet, and demanded that she should be expelled from her post, and there were signs of contention among the by-standers. Harris’s lips quivered.
“She is my wife,” he said, appealingly. “Brethren, you have accused me of other thefts. Answer me this question: Have I taken from you one of your wives?”
“No, master, you are guiltless there,” admitted a straightforward voice, whose owner was not very widely removed from righteousness. “Whatever scurvy tricks you’ve played us, we own you yield that game to the debauched cavaliers.”
“No credit to you, your own is good enough,” another growled out—an irrestrainable compliment.
Harris heard it, and a smile that showed sweet, glimmered over the care on his face. From that moment no farther opposition was attempted to Patience’s intrusion; and it was observable, that though railing was still vented, it was now delivered only by the sheerly senseless and abusive railers; and all flights of gross and offensive material were either fearfully intermitted or cautiously directed wide of the pair.
Crude and coarse as the mass of the spectators were, they began to be conscious of an element they had not calculated upon in their show, and which it was very doubtful whether the King’s or the Duke’s theatre could have afforded them in equal vividness and purity: the man in his prime, and the slight woman held up on an eminence before them, witnesses to the constancy of their opinions and the strength and sacredness of the tie which bound them.
Sir Roger, with a curse, strode away to some fresh oppression; the courtiers became silent in contemplation, yawned, and prepared to go in search of a lighter diversion, but, with their marvellous versatility, one or two of these professed reprobates, ere they departed, lifted their hats without a jest to the loyalty on that scaffold.
“They have confiscated our goods, too, dear Patience, beyond what I can ever hope to retrieve,” Harris informed her, wiling away the tedious ordeal by passing discourse, “and I have thoughts of sailing to the Americas, where a man may pursue his calling in peace, and peradventure in prosperity. I was minded to leave you in England till I was settled; but look not on me so wistfully, I will carry you with me now, though we should lie on the deck or in the forest, and build our hut with our own hands, for I have found you out :” and Patience raised her head, as if he had clothed her with honour.
No, reader, this heroism was not without parallel, when Russell kissed his children about to be fatherless without breaking down, and his fond, faithful wife took her last embrace, keeping back every tear, and silencing every sob, that she might not disturb his equanimity.
As the time wore past, the declining sun shot a beam through the houses, which dazzled Harris’s eyes; he could not shift his position, and being in a degree spent in body and mind, and exhausted with previous confinement and abstinence, he could not resist wincing and looking faint as he encountered this last drop in his cup.
Patience undid her muffler, advanced a step, and flung it skilfully across the balustrade, so as to succeed in screening her husband’s face. The officer interposed; he durst not see the least interference with the framework of the blessed pillory, no, not with a rib or spar of its skeleton; but his resistance was greeted with such a hum of dissent and murmur of anger, that he relinquished his purpose, and did not detach the kerchief.
Nay, when the prisoners were at length released from their so-called ignominy, and formally set at liberty, with a command to shut their presses, as the apostles were bidden close their mouths, and Harris was detected, with his wife under his arm, hieing home as fast as his cramps would admit to Gracechurch Street, actually a brief cheer greeted their tingling ears, so irrational as well as uncouth was the old burden they had borne.
(To be continued.)