the wing, and it may be a long while yet be- | escape. One of my men, a cowardly vagabond, fore I shall be able to take repose.

asserted that he had seen her, and had even “You seem to long for it.”

been wounded by her female companion on at“To tell you the truth, I am tired of this tempting to arrest them. I did not make any rough life. You know that I prefer science further inquiries concerning them, and, from and the muses to any thing else. War, how- regard for you, desisted from pursuing them. ever just the cause for which it is waged, is I should be very glad if the lady succeeded in always a very melancholy business. I have re-making her escape. I will let you keep the cently seen all its horrors in Wales."

diary, as it may be exceedingly interesting for " In Wales ? ” asked Milton, eagerly.

“I have fought there many a hard fight, and Milton received with profound emotion at destroyed many a fine castle. It is true, I only the hands of his friend the pages which redid my duty, but I did it with a bleeding heart. minded him of the noble lady, and of bis own The most painful duty imposed upon me was youth. He thanked him by informing him of the destruction of Golden Grove. The garrison Cromwell's warning. defended the castle with the most heroic intre- “I know that he is not partial to me," said pidity, and after the proprietor" had fallen, his Overton, with a sombre smile. “He is jealous wife offered us a most unexpected resistance. of my influence, and afraid of the frankness I should have liked to spare her, but it was be- with which I criticise his measures. I am a yond my power. Nothing remained for me but republican, and consider a republic our only to take the castle by storm. On this melan- salvation. According to his habit, the general choly occasion I discovered accidentally that tried to ascertain my opinions, and I did not the distinguished lady must have formerly been conceal them from him.” on intimate terms with you.”

“But you do not believe that he intends to “Her name was Alice Carbury,” said Mil- restore the monarchy and recall the Stuarts ? " ton, deeply moved.

“He will assuredly not recall the Stuarts, “ Alice Carbury. Carbury was the name of but I should not like to pledge my word that her husband, and she herself was the daughter he does not intend to convert our present govof the Earl of Bridgewater, formerly Lord Pres- ernment again into a monarchy. The general ident of Wales. I penetrated into the castle seems intent on becoming the tyrant of Engand passed several days there. The rooms of "land; but before he is able to attain his ends, the lady had been ransacked; my soldiers bad I and my comrades will oppose him and frusdestroyed the furniture, torn off the hangings, trate his plans.” and broken open the cabinets. This diary, So saying, Overton took leave of Milton. wbich I found there, attracted my attention. I The poet held in his hands the diary, the first opened it, and saw your name on almost every

trace of his beloved friend with which he had page; this excited my curiosity, and I kept it met after so many years. A feeling of awe in order to give it to you."

prevented him from opening it immediately, “But what became of the lady?” inquired and he hesitated whether he had a right to the poet, anxiously.

penetrate into the secrets of this noble female “Unfortunately, I am unable to give you heart. At last, it was not his curiosity that any satisfactory information on this point, al triumphed, but the tender interest which he though all that I ascertained about it leads me took in Lady Alice's fate.

In reading the to the belief that she succeeded in making her I diary, he felt anew that he once possessed and


forfeited in her the supreme happiness of his “They are traitresses, for I have recognized life. What purity of heart, what innocence them despite their disguise. They know me and cultivation of mind met him in her every too, and that not to-day for the first time. line! He followed, with profound emotion, the Many a year has elapsed since we first met in noble woman's struggle between duty and love, Haywood Forest. Is it not so, Lady Alice ?" until at last her heart turned entirely to her On hearing this name, Milton trembled with husband, and felt for Milton only a purified joyous surprise. friendship, the sweet though melancholy mem- “ These two ladies are under my protecories of a blissful past. Every word he read tion,” he said, with dignified firmness. “I bore witness to her noble heart, her profound will be their bondsman, and that you may mind, and her simple and gentle faith.

know who I am, I will mention my name and Milton was seized with the deepest grief, and official position.” his tears moistened the precious leaves, the “That is unnecessary,” replied Billy Green, only token of the fair friend of his youth, the with his wonted impudence. “ We are old only woman whom he had truly loved. He acquaintances, Mr. Milton, and I hope to meet thought of her with mournful longing, and a you and your protégées before long." deep sigh escaped his breast.

So saying, the vagabond left them.

The meeting of Milton and the lady be had loved so dearly was highly affecting. Alice's eyes filled with tears when she held out her

hand to him. CHAPTER II.

“Little did I think that such a meeting was in store for us,” she said, profoundly moved.

“I am proscribed, a widow, persecuted by the One day when Milton, according to his officers of justice, or rather the minions of a habit, was taking a walk in the environs of victorious party. My poor brother, the husLondon, he beheld two women and a child; band of my companion, is imprisoned in the they were plainly, almost poorly dressed, and Tower, and looking for his impending execuhotly pursued by a man who was about to tion. Life has no value for me, and but for overtake them. They tried to accelerate their this child I should long ago have surrendered steps, but the pursuer was already so close to myself voluntarily to my judges.” them that he needed only to stretch out his “I deeply deplore the mournful fate which hand in order to catch them, when one of the has befallen you, and of which I have not rewomen uttered a loud cry.

mained wholly ignorant. I hope, however, to “Save us !” she cried, in an anxious voice, be able to alleviate your sufferings, as I have which seemed well known to Milton.

influential friends, and I myself am now holdMeanwhile the man had also come up. ing an office in which I may be useful to you.

“What do you want of these women ?” For the present, pray accompany me to my asked the poet.

house, where you shall stay until I have pro“Is that any of your business? I need not vided a safe asylum for you." give you an account of what I am doing. Milton succeeded by his influence in obThese women must follow me; I arrest them taining a pardon for Alice; and she was alin the name of the commonwealth."

lowed to remain in London, as no danger was “And by what right ? ”

apprehended from a woman. Even a portion





[ocr errors]

of her fortune was restored to her, so that from English history and from the Bible. Up she was sufficiently protected from want. to this time I have not felt inclined to write Lucy, however, was unable to obtain a pardon them, because I shrank from being compared for her husband. Thomas remained impris- with that immortal genius. For this reason I oned in the Tower, and a delay of his execu- really prefer an epic, with which I have been tion was all that Milton could obtain by his engrossed for some time past." intercession in bis behalf. Alice passed her “Would you inform me of the subject of days henceforth in quiet retirement, mourning this poem ? Pardon my curiosity, to which I her heroic husband, and devoting herself ex- may assuredly give the nobler name of sincere clusively to the education of her child. The sympathy." only friend with whom she held intercourse “I will not conceal any thing from you. was Milton, whom she now calmly saw coming During my sojourn in Italy several years ago, and going. Notwithstanding their political I attended at Florence the performance of a and religious differences, she was still affec- play which, despite many imperfections and tionately attached to him. Without timidly faults, made a deep impression upon me. The avoiding an exchange of their views, both took subject was the fall of man. I was powerfully pains to meet on the neutral ground of art and struck at the time with the simple grandeur poetry rather than in the arena of the wild of that revelation. The subject seemed to me struggle of parties. Each respected the sublime, and worthy to claim the earnest efother's convictions; the royalist and the re- forts of a poetical mind, and it gave rise to publican exercised mutual forbearance, a mild innumerable conceptions in my imagination. toleration. So far as Milton was concerned, I saw the wonders of Paradise, that garden of this intercourse exerted an extraordinary influ- God, with its magnificent trees and golden ence over his creative power as a poet, for fruits, with its fragrant flowers and shady Alice sought almost insensibly to lead him groves. There lived Adam and Eve in undisback to his original vocation. In her eyes turbed peace, in pure innocence, until the serhis political labors were an aberration from pent came and beguiled Eve to eat of the the sublime task Nature had imposed upon fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and him.

evil. Thus Adam and his guilty wife were “You owe yet to me, or rather to the world, driven out of Paradise; death and sin clung a more extensive work,” said she once, half to the heels of the sinners. The history both seriously, half jestingly. “But since you have of mankind and of every individual is conbeen appointed foreign secretary to the Coun- tained in that sacred tradition. Is not ancil of State, you have bidden farewell to the other Adam born in every man, and another poor muses.

Eve in every woman ? Have we not all a "You are mistaken, dear friend. Notwith-lost paradise to weep over ? ” standing my manifold occupations, I do not “Entitle your epic Paradise Lost,” said lack leisure to think at least of divine poetry. Alice, with a mournful smile. “You are right. I have conceived a great many plans; but I Who has not a lost paradise to weep over ? have not yet made up my mind whether to The innocence of childhood; the dreams of imitate the example of Shakespeare, or follow youth; our hopes and expectations, which are the sublime models of Homer, Virgil, and so often disappointed; the enthusiasm and Tasso. I have already elaborated in my head ardor which prematurely succumb to stern several tragedies, the subjects of which I took | reality; the still and calm peace, which is

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

drowned by the noisy clash of arms; the lofty should bring about a counter-revolution. One faith, which doubts and sneers try to under- man only was able to neutralize its baneful mine; love, with its divine transports, which effects, and that man was Milton. He was pass away so swiftly; our most beautiful called upon to write a reply to the book. On ideals: all are the lost paradises of poor hu- assuming this task, he did not conceal from manity.”

himself the painful consequences which would “But, above all things," replied Milton, “I arise from it for him. He was to attack an intend to give prominence to the great and unfortunate man, who was pitied by a vast eternal struggles between the good and evil majority of the people even in his grave, and, powers, between heaven and hell. Before my as it were, act as an intellectual executioner eyes stands the form of the fallen angel, who toward the beheaded corpse; he was to exrebelled, first of all, against the Creator; I be- pose himself to the hatred and resentment of hold him, still beautiful, with hypocritical fea- the royalists, who, in their blind vindictivetures and seductive form, not denying his di- ness, did not shrink from assassination, as vine origin even after his fall. Again and was afterwards proved in many instances. again he rises against the sway of the Eternal; But all these considerations exercised a less and again and again he must acknowledge his painful effect upon him than the thought of impotence, for heaven and its angels always his relations to Alice. His fair friend wortriumph over him."

shipped Charles I., and had made the greatest The poet thus laid the outlines of his im- sacrifices for bim. Was he to lose again, by mortal epic before Alice, who listened to him his own fault, her who had just been restored in an ecstasy of delight; and he left her with to him ? the promise to carry out his plan as soon as “I cannot refuse to fulfil my duty," he said possible; but the time for him to do so had to her, on informing her of the commission not yet come.

which had been intrusted to him. “I am alSoon afterward, Milton received from the most afraid of losing thereby your friendship, Council of State a mission with which he was my most precious boon; and yet I cannot act obliged to comply. A few days after the otherwise." king's execution, there had been published in Obey your convictions,” replied Alice, reEngland a book entitled “Eikon Basilike,” or spectfully. “You are a republican, and I am « The Portraiture of His Most Sacred Ma- a friend of the king; but this must not prejesty.” It was ascribed to Charles I., and vent us from holding intercourse on the same contained the feelings, sentiments, meditations, terms as heretofore. No one can regret more impressions, and struggles, in short, the whole intensely than I that you have entered this soul of the unfortunate monarch, and a his- path, and thrown your talents into the scale tory of his sufferings and trials, which caused of the enemy; but these party struggles shall him to appear in the light of a sainted martyr. not deprive me of my old and well-tried friend. The book created the most extraordinary I honor and esteem you as a man, even though sensation. The partisans of the king raised I can never share your political views.” their heads again, and every reader of the "I esteem you only the more highly," rebook was seized with compassion and admira- plied Milton, deeply moved by the lofty sentition. In spite of its prohibition by the gov-ments of the noble lady. ernment, it was rapidly circulated throughout Both thus set a glorious example of tolerathe country, and Parliament trembled lest it I tion. Amid the general discord, they remained

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


as devoted friends as ever. Pure humanity tri- “But your adversaries and enemies may umphed in them over the hatred of the hostile ascribe the loss of your eyesight to Divine parties. However, before Milton left Alice, visitation, and deride you for it.” she fixed her eyes upon him with an expres- “Let them do so, let them make me the sion of tender anxiety. Incessant toils had sport of their sneers. They shall soon find undermined bis health, and especially injured that, so far from receiving my lot with repentbis eyesight. It is true, his eyes seemed as ance and despair, I strenuously adhere to my lustrous as ever, but he himself bad noticed principles, neither fearful nor sensible of the that their strength had been failing for some wrath of God, but recognizing in this, as in all time past, and had often complained of this important events of my life, His paternal goodevil to his compassionate friend. When he ness and mercy.

The consciousness of my was now about to leave Alice, she was sur- rectitude will always sustain me, and I would prised at his being almost unable to see the not exchange it for all the riches of this world. door, and groping his way to it. She hastened If the cause of justice and truth requires me after him in dismay, and conducted him into to give up my eyesight, I am willing and proud the street.

to make the sacrifice. Nay, if it were neces“Your health really makes me uneasy,” she sary for me to sacrifice my life for this purpose, said to him, compassionately. “You must I should not shrink from death. Between my take better care of yourself, and, above all duty and my eyesight I cannot hesitate a mothings, give the necessary repose to your eyes. ment.” For this reason, if for no other, I should like Animated with this spirit, Milton disreyou to desist from writing that treatise." garded Alice's warnings, and took in hand a

“How can I? I must not delay writing it.” | work which involved him in a number of vio

“ Consider that you may lose your eyesight. | lent controversies and proved most injurious Oh, I cannot bear the thought of your becom- to his health. Above all things, he took pains ing blind!”

to refute the general belief that the king was “I am not afraid of blindness, nor of the the author of "Eikon Basilike," and tried to terrors of night, which are threatening me; for prove, in a very ingenious manner, that it to me beams the faith in a kind Providence, must be the production of another writer; a the sympathy, and tenderness of my friends, supposition which seemed to be verified some and, before all else, the conviction that I am years afterward, when the authorship was doing my duty. These stars twinkle brightly claimed by Dr. Gauden. Milton accomplished in the darkness which will perchance surround his task amid incessant sufferings, and opme before long. "Man doth not live by bread posed a true portrait of the king to the false alone, but by every word that proceedeth out | image traced by Dr. Gauden, although he of the mouth of God;' why shall I not, there could not avoid introducing many an odious fore, content myself with the knowledge that trait, and oftentimes used his pencil in too my eyesight is not my only light, but that the merciless a manner. At all events, his porguidance of God will illuminate me sufficiently ? traiture of the king did not conceal the failings So long as He Himself looks forward to the and imperfections of Charles's character from future for me, so long as He takes care of me, the public gaze, and aroused the intense rage as He has done all my lifetime, I will gladly of the whole royalist party against him. Old let my eyes keep Sabbath, as such seems to be and new adversaries arose against bim; the His will.”

celebrated Salmasius, a professor of Leyden,

« VorigeDoorgaan »