The King must not be prayed for

All our neighbourhood was surprised that the Doones had not ere now attacked, and probably made an end of us. For we lay almost at their mercy now, having only Sergeant Bloxham, and three men, to protect us, Captain Stickles having been ordered southwards with all his force; except such as might be needful for collecting toll, and watching the imports at Lynmouth, and thence to Porlock. The Sergeant, having now imbibed a taste for writing reports (though his first great effort had done him no good, and only offended Stickles), reported weekly from Plover’s Barrows, whenever he could find a messenger. And though we fed not Sergeant Bloxham at our own table, with the best we had (as in the case of Stickles, who represented His Majesty), yet we treated him so well, that he reported very highly of us, as loyal and true-hearted lieges, and most devoted to our lord the King. And indeed he could scarcely have done less, when Lizzie wrote great part of his reports, and furbished up the rest to such a pitch of lustre, that Lord Clarendon himself need scarce have been ashamed of them. And though this cost a great deal of ale, and even of strong waters (for Lizzie would have it the duty of a critic to stand treat to the author), and though it was otherwise a plague, as giving the maid such airs of patronage, and such pretence to politics; yet there was no stopping it, without the risk of mortal offence to both writer and reviewer. Our mother also, while disapproving Lizzie’s long stay in the saddle-room on a Friday night and a Saturday, and insisting that Betty should be there, was nevertheless as proud as need be, that the King should read our Eliza’ s writings—at least so the innocent soul believed—and we all looked forward to something great as the fruit of all this history. And something great did come of it, though not as we expected; for these reports, or as many of them as were ever opened, stood us in good stead the next year, when we were accused of harbouring and comforting guilty rebels.

Now the reason why the Doones did not attack us was that they were preparing to meet another and more powerful assault upon their fortress; being assured that their repulse of King’s troops could not be looked over when brought before the authorities. And no doubt they were right; for although the conflicts in the Government during that summer and autumn had delayed the matter yet positive orders had been issued that these outlaws and malefactors should at any price be brought to justice; when the sudden death of King Charles the Second threw all things into confusion, and all minds into a panic.

We heard of it first in church, on Sunday, the eighth day of February, 1684-5, from a cousin of John Fry, who had ridden over on purpose from Porlock. He came in just before the anthem, splashed and heated from his ride, so that every one

turned and looked at him. He wanted to create a stir (knowing how much would be made of him), and he took the best way to do it. For he let the anthem go by very quietly—or rather I should say very pleasingly, for our choir was exceeding proud of itself, and I sang bass twice as loud as a bull, to beat the clerk with the clarionet—and then just as Parson Bowden, with a look of pride at his minstrels, was kneeling down to begin the prayer for the King’s Most Excellent Majesty (for he never read the litany, except upon Easter Sunday), up jumps young Sam Fry, and shouts,—

‘I forbid that there prai-er.’

‘What!’ cried the parson, rising slowly, and looking for some one to shut the door: ‘have we a rebel in the congregation?’ For the parson was growing short-sighted now, and knew not Sam Fry at that distance.

‘No,’ replied Sam, not a whit abashed by the staring of all the parish; ‘no rebel, parson; but a man who mislaiketh popery and murder. That there prai-er be a prai-er for the dead.’

‘Nay,’ cried the parson, now recognising and knowing him to be our John’s first cousin, ‘you do not mean to say, Sam, that His Gracious Majesty is dead!’

‘Dead as a sto-un: poisoned by they Papishers.’ And Sam rubbed his hands with enjoyment, at the effect he had produced.

‘Remember where you are, Sam,’ said Parson Bowden solemnly; ‘when did this most sad thing happen? The King is the head of the Church, Sam Fry; when did he leave her?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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