« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
He now determined to make one bold effort to regain his kingdom, and to march at once into England. It was a hazardous step, and one which brought him into a great deal of danger, and led to a variety of wild adventures, amusing to those who read of them now, but very unpleasant to himself, and to the companions who suffered with him then.
A battle took place between the armies of Charles and Cromwell at Worcester. The royalist party was completely defeated; the soldiers were either killed, or scattered, or taken prisoners; and Charles himself was obliged to escape for his life, and to conceal himself as he best could from the pursuit of his enemies. At first, he had the company of a party of his friends, forty or fifty in number, but he soon found it would be best to dismiss them, to avoid detection; so they departed, and Charles was left alone. It was melancholy indeed for a young king, for such he was, thus to have to wander from place to place, like a fugitive and a beggar, with nothing to call his own, in a country over which his father and his grandfather had once ruled, and which of right now belonged to him! At last, following some directions which had been given him, Charles reached a place called Boscobel, on the borders of Staffordshire, and came to a lonely house in which lived a farmer named
Penderell. This farmer was a kind-hearted man, and a firın friend to the cause of royalty; for though death was threatened to any who should dare to conceal the king, and a reward was promised to any who would deliver him up, Penderell cordially received the wanderer, offered him food, and shelter, and protection, and did all in his power to conceal him safely. Charles was now dressed in peasant's clothes, a hatchet was put into his hand, and he went, with the farmer and his family, into the forest, and was there employed like them in cutting wood. So he spent his days; and at night,
; tired and weary, he was glad to lie down on a little straw.
But notwithstanding all this care to conceal himself, Charles was sometimes in continual danger of being discovered. One day, he heard that his enemies were actually in the neighbourhood, and in pursuit of him. He instantly hastened to the forest, climbed up into an oak-tree, and contrived to hide himself among the leaves and branches. He had not been there long, when a troop of soldiers passed by. They came so near that he could even hear what they said. They were talking about himself, wondering where he could be, and hoping they should find out the place where he was concealed, and seize him as their prisoner.
What moment that was for
Charles ! However the soldiers rode by, never dreaming that the king could be hidden in a tree, and hurried on to seek him elsewhere.
This oak was distinguished, in after years, as “the royal oak ;” it was carefully preserved, and the people of the country round always looked at it with affection, as having preserved the life and liberty of their young king. You remember, that this remarkable adventure is still commemorated by the custom of wearing oak-apples on the 29th of May, which was the day on which Charles II, after a great many more hardships and difficulties, was restored to the English throne.
At last, it became necessary for Charles to leave his hiding-place at Boscobel, and to seek for some other place of refuge. It was proposed, that he should go, with his friend Lord Wilmot, to a zealous royalist named Colonel Lane, who lived near, and that then they should proceed to Bristol, where a ship might be found to bear him safely to France, out of the reach of his enemies. So Charles set off for Colonel Lane's house, accompanied by his friends the Penderells. This journey, though not long, was a very uncomfortable one to Charles; for the heavy countryman's boots which were provided for him to walk in, hurt his feet, and made every step painful to him. However, they reached their destination safely,
and then Charles took leave of his faithful protectors, and consigned himself to the care of Colonel Lane. But now, the tedious journey
. to Bristol was to be undertaken; and how was it to be accomplished, -with so many miles to be travelled over, in constant danger of discovery? A plan was soon contrived. Colonel Lane procured a pass (such things were necessary in those times) for his sister, that she might travel to Bristol to visit a relation, and Charles was to ride before her as her servant. This plan succeeded, and they arrived at Bristol without any particular adventures by the way, and then went to the house of a Mrs. Norton. Mrs. Lane, the good Colonel's sister, pretended that she had brought with her, as a servant, a sick lad, who must be kept quiet, and she begged that he might be indulged with a private room. This was granted; and Charles retired to his chamber, hoping that he should be suffered to remain there undiscovered ; but he soon found, to his great terror, that he had been already recognized by the butler, a man named Pope. All that Charles could do, was earnestly to beg him to keep his secret.
The butler promised he would not betray him, and happily be proved faithful, But now a new difficulty arose.
There was no vessel going from Bristol, either to France or Spain, for some weeks. No time, however,
was to be lost;if Charles could not sail from Bristol, it would be necessary to try his success at some other port; and so a second long journey was undertaken into Dorsetshire. He then entrusted himself to the care of Colonel Windham, a firm and faithful friend of the royal cause. Before Windham received Charles into his house, he mentioned his intention to his wife and mother, for he knew well that he could rely on their prudence and fidelity. The old lady had lost three sons and a grandson, fighting for Charles I; and when she heard who the expected guest was to be, she rejoiced at the thought of being, in her old age, instrumental in protecting the son of her late king, for whose sake so many of her family had sacrificed their lives. So Charles arrived at Colonel Windham's house, and was received with the greatest respect and affection. Windham had indeed another strong motive for showing kindness to the king, besides that of loyalty. In protecting Charles, he was obeying a charge which he had received many years before from his dying father. “My children,” the old man had said to his five sons a few days before his death, “ We have hitherto seen serene and quiet times, under our last three sovereigns, but I must now warn you to prepare for clouds and storms. Factions arise on every side, and threaten the tranquillity of your native country.