The sentence of death on the King I had looked for, but that it would indeed be executed I could not believe. But when I said so much to John Ellgood I found that he thought otherwise. "Philip," said he, "I have seen more of these men ...
Author: Alfred John Church
Publisher: Library of Alexandria
Category: Adventure stories
My father was the son of a gentleman of Oxfordshire that had a small estate near to the town of Eynsham, in that county. The monks of Eynsham Priory had the land afore-time; and 'twas said that here, as elsewhere, there was a curse upon such as held for their own uses that which had been dedicated to God's service. How this may be I know not, though there are notable instances—as, to wit, the Russells—in which no visible curse has fallen on the holders of such goods; but it is certain that my father's forbears wasted their estate grievously. Being but the third son, he had scarce, in any case, tarried at home; but, matters being as they were, the emptiness of the family purse drove him out betimes into the world. Being of good birth and breeding he got, without much ado, a place about the Court, which was not, however, much to his liking. I have heard him say—and this, though, as will be seen hereafter, he was a great lover of monarchy—that, between a weak king and villainous courtiers, Whitehall was no place for an honest gentleman. Robert Carr, that was afterwards Earl of Somerset, he liked little, and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, he liked yet less, being, as he was wont to say, by so much a greater villain than Somerset as a duke is greater than an earl. He was right glad, therefore, to leave the "sunshine of the Royal presence;" for so did men speak of the Court in the hyperbolical language of those times, even for so dismal and outlandish a part as Ireland. But I know not whether he did not wish himself back, for of Ireland he would never afterwards speak with any measure of patience, declaring that he knew not which were the worse, the greediness and cruelty of the English conquerors, or the savagery and unreason of the native people. Here he tarried for some three or four years, having, indeed, had bestowed upon him an estate, which, for its boundaries, at least, was of considerable magnitude, but from which he received nothing but trouble. Who hath it now I know not; and, indeed, he charged me to have nought to do with it, saying—for I remember his very words—"If they will give thee the whole island in fee, say them nay, for it is fit for nothing but to be drowned under the sea." Yet his next venture was not one whit happier, as will be readily concluded, when I say that he took service with Sir Walter Raleigh, whom he chanced to fall in with at Cork, at which place Sir Walter touched on his way to the Indies in search of gold. Gold got they none, but of hard blows not a few, and of pains and sickness still more. My father was with the boats that sailed up the river Orinoco, and caught in his arms, I have heard him say, Walter Raleigh the younger, when this last was slain by a bullet from a Spanish arquebuse. From this voyage he came back beggared in and purse not a little broken in health; to the end of his days indeed he suffered much at times from the fever that he contracted in those parts. The year following that wherein Raleigh was beheaded, came what seemed at the first sight good news, namely, that the Bohemians had bestowed the crown of their country upon the Elector of Bavaria, husband to the Princess Elizabeth, the king's daughter. Thereupon there arose such a tumult of joy throughout the country as the oldest man living scarce remembered to have heard before. There was nothing too good to be hoped for as about to come from this promotion. Indeed, I have heard my father say that he was himself present when the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Abbott) preached a sermon wherein he declared that this event was foretold in Scripture, naming even the chapter and verse, which were, if I remember right, in the Book of the Revelation. My father was carried away with the rest, and having, as may well be thought, a special gift for choosing for his own that which should be the losing side, forthwith took service with the Elector, to whom King James, though scarce approving of the cause, sent at this time auxiliaries to the number of four thousand. In this army my father had a captain's commission, with pay to the amount of four shillings by the day—handsome wages, only that he never received of them so much as a doit. Nor did the campaign recompense the defect of gains by any excess of glory. It was, indeed, as barren of laurels as of gold; and my father, who, being favourably known of old time by the Princess, was appointed to command the guard of the Elector, arrived in his Highness's company at the Hague without a penny in his pocket, and scarce a coat to his back.