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hissing hot from the bereaved mother's heart. “Thou shouldst laugh; for thy father's side hath the victory over 'the rebels,' who dare to want the right king and the true religion. Laugh, girl! Have I not lost a son, the staff of my old age ? Laugh! Thine is the victory!”
"Susan is sorry for you, mother, and has refused all comfort since that sad eve of Sedgemoor," said Mary Grey, in a soft, sad voice.
“The Lord forgive us our sins! We have all need of His tender mercy,” said the woman, looking upwards with a vacant stare.
“Amen," said Mary Grey, bending her head reverently.
“When will Jesus himself see fit to give His suffering people the victory?” went on Mrs. Donnington, in a half-complaining, halfprayerful manner. Then turning suddenly upon her niece, she recommenced her fierce upbraidings.
“Why does she stay here? Why does she not go home? Her proud father is entertaining the victors by this time. The blasphemers crowd his board, reeking with the blood of the people. This is no place for her. We are in danger. There are gibbets at Weston Zoyland. Let her go home.”
“I have no home," said the girl, weeping bitterly. “Would to God I were dead !”
Susan Chedzoy, the fair fugitive of the cloak and hood, uttered this profane wish with a wild energy that startled even Mrs. Donnington, and changed her looks of reproach to pity. Mary Grey stooped to kiss the sorrowing girl, who shrunk from her embrace, and, hiding her face in her small white hands, sobbed with grievous, heart-breaking anguish.
Mrs. Donnington looked from one to the other, as if she expected an explanation of Susan Chedzoy's grief, when suddenly a party of soldiers halted before the window.
“Thwarted, thwarted, ye devil's emissaries !” exclaimed Mrs. Donnington. “Better George should lie on Sedgemoor than fatten a gibbet.”
“ It has pleased God to take from us our earthly defender," said Mary Grey, “our dearest of all that is dear; but He will not desert us wholly."
An officer, ferocious enough for Kirke himself, entered the room whilst Mary was speaking.
“By my soul !” he exclaimed, approaching Mary Grey with vulgar familiarity, "as lovely as Hebe! I would not wish a prettier hostage as pledge of the household's loyalty."
Mary Grey returned the soldier's rude stare with a dignified look, and retreated as he advanced.
“Pardon me, ladies,” he said ; “I am a son of Mars, and therefore a slave to Venus."
Neither Mary Grey's dignified rebuke, nor the woman's tokens of mourning, saved her from the rudeness of the king's officer. As if she had been a mere serving wench in a barrack, he chucked" her under the chin, at the same time requesting his attendants to wait outside the house whilst he cross-examined these very interesting ladies.
Susan Chedzoy had crept within the shade of a tapestried recess whilst this scene was being enacted; but she watched the daring soldier with eyes that became fierce and fixed in the intensity of their gaze.
“ As a king's officer, my sweet lady," said the soldier, with a leer, endeavouring to seize Mary Grey's hand, "on my honour, I will make no search if you will favour me with a private interview."
“Out, vile traitor!" exclaimed Mrs. Donnington; "search, and leave the house ; thy presence is an insult and a reproach to manhood.”
“Hoity, toity, mistress of the wrinkled cheek, thou shalt be soused in a horse-pond for a shrew," said the soldier.
Mrs. Donnington, nevertheless, stood fearlessly between the halftipsy scoundrel and Mary Grey.
"Stand aside, old woman,” said the officer. “At least one may · have a kiss for one's leniency."
"Back, I say, back!” cried Mrs. Donnington, thrusting aside the outstretched hand of the intruder.
“No more of your nonsense,” he said. “Get out of the way, old stupid!”
He thrust Mrs. Donnington aside, and approached Mary with outstretched arms, leering and tossing about his rough head, like a drunken ploughman at a fair. As he advanced, Susan Chedzoy, with cat-like crouching steps, stole from her corner, and all suddenly the officer's sword flashed in her tiny hands.
A cry of hatred from the girl's white lips, a yell of despair from the reeling libertine, and the king's officer lay writhing in the agonies of death at the feet of Mary Grey. Susan Chedzoy stood by, like an avenging angel, with a reeking blade, her eyes fixed upon the dying wretch, her teeth clenched, her whole frame rigid with her mighty effort of retribution.
The officer who thus fell ignominiously by his own sword was that treacherous scoundrel who received the fair messenger in Faversham's camp on the fatal night of Sedgemoor; the loyal but indiscreet girl who was so ill-requited for her loyalty was the unhappy but heroic Susan Chedzoy.
" It often falls in course of common lise
That right is sometimes overborne of wrong ;
That weakens her, and makes her party strong ;
But justice, though her doom she do prolong,
Yet at the last will make her own cause right."-Spenser. “ 'True love can no more be diminished by showers of evil hap, than flowers are marred by timely rains."-Sir P. Sidney.
A Tragic incident, almost the same in every detail as that which is narrated in the previous chapter, did occur in the neighbourhood of Bridgewater during this unsettled period. Colonel Kirke, magnanimous for once, instead of dragging the girl who thus protected another from outrage and insult, presented her with the ruffian's sword, which has been preserved to this day, and is at the present moment in the possession of a female descendant of the heroine who received it from Colonel Kirke. But it is only right to say that this lady had not received the provocation of our Susan Chedzoy.
When the troopers re-entered the room and found their commander slain, they removed the body and conducted the three women before Colonel Kirke. It was hardly expected that they would be indulged even with the formal ceremony of a trial before condemnation. A court martial, however, was summoned. Susan Chedzoy confessed her crime. Mrs. Donnington and Mary Grey were charged with being accessories.
Meanwhile George Donnington, the dead leader of the Silken Banner, was alive, and living in the hope of speedily seeing his love. Bruised and maimed and mutilated, the brave yeoman was within easy distance of Bridgewater, watching for some circumstance that should enable him to assure Mary Grey of his safety. Fortune plays humanity strange tricks. Her vagaries entitle her to all the hard things that the proverbs of all countries hurl against her. What a transformation she had suddenly wrought in the relative positions of George and his dear friends! Mourned as dead, he is living. All he desires is to put his family out of the misery of fear concerning his safety; and they are in greater danger than himself. He is free, however much he is hurt. They are in the hands of the enemy, prisoners, not of war, but charged with murder, and murder of the darkest dye. The death of a king's officer was on their hands. They were in the most awful peril of their lives. It was well poor George remained in ignorance of their danger.
George Donnington's history, since the time when we suddenly missed him at Sedgemoor, may be briefly narrated. He had been left for dead on the field, and had lain for many hours bleeding and insensible, but still grasping the staff to which had been fastened the embroidered silk of the regiment. When he became sensible of his position it was early morning ; the sun was shining brightly, and he was in the midst of a heap of dead. Looking cautiously around, he saw, peeping from the breast of a dead guardsman, a flask, to the contents of which, under Providence, he ascribed his final preservation. His dead enemy had brought his brandy-bottle into the fight. Softened by the sight of the soldier's pale face, and moved by his own desperate plight, George had no scruples to combat in drinking that for which the royal soldier had no more use. Strengthened and refreshed, he began to think about escape ; but finding that he could do nothing more than crawl, he determined to lie quiet until evening.
All day long, amongst that ghastly heap, the wounded hero lay, suffering the pangs of a living death, supported only by his faith in God's providence, his love for Mary Grey, and the dead trooper's brandy. It seemed as if he counted time by months, lying there, fearing the scrutiny of an occasional wanderer on the field, but fearing death the more. Night came at last ; great piles of cloud gathered together at sundown, and took possession of the sky. There was not even a star to relieve the black monotony of the darkness. Through the night George crept along the field, dragging his aching limbs in pain and anguish. At the dawn he made out a friendly cottage at no great distance, and reached it before daybreak. A stack of straw was just being loaded for an adjacent roadside inn. When George's wounds had been hurriedly dressed, he was packed away, with his head and legs in bandages, beneath a couple of whisps of straw at the top of the cart. Successfully concealed at the ale-house for several days, he ventured upon his perilous journey, and on the evening when those three women, his dear friends, were being tried for their lives, he was in a coppice waiting for nightfall, determined to enter Bridgewater before the morning.
It would have gone hard with the prisoners, so dear to George Donnington, had not Colonel Kirke remembered Susan Chedzoy presenting herself at his dead comrade's tent with the news of the contemplated attack by Monmouth. Moreover, the Colonel and his colleagues disliked the dead officer, and they had dined heartily. It was a matter of general surprise, nevertheless, that the prisoners were all discharged.