THE COMPANY OF THE ROSE.
“Alway be merry if thou may,
But waste not thy good alway:
Have hat of floures fresh as May,
Chapelet of roses of Whitsonday
For sich array ne costneth but lyte.”
Romaunt of the Rose.
him that is no coward
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me.”
First Part of King Henry VI.
Early next morning I was returning, a rosebud in my hand, from the neglected garden to the east of the house, when I spied my father coming towards me along the terraces, and at once felt my ears redden.
“Good morning, lad!” he hailed. “But where is mine?”
I turned back in silence and picked a bud for him. “So,” said I, “’twas you, sir, after all, that wrote the advertisement?”
“Hey?” he answered. “I? Certainly not. I noted it and sent you the news-sheet in half a hope that you had been the advertiser.”
“You were mistaken, sir.”
He halted and rubbed his chin. “Then who the devil can he be, I wonder? Well, we shall discover.”
“You ride to Falmouth this morning?”
“We have an army to collect,” he answered, gripping me not unkindly by the shoulder.
We rode into Falmouth side by side in silence, Billy Priske following by my father’s command, and each with a red rose pinned to the flap of his hat. Upon the way we talked, mainly of the Trappist Brothers, and of Dom Basilio, who (it seemed) had at one time been an agent of the British legation at Florence, and in particular had carried my father’s reports and instructions to and fro between Corsica and that city, avoiding the vigilance of the Genoese.
“A subtle fellow,” was my father’s judgment, “and, as I gave him credit, in the matter of conscience as null as Cellini himself: the last man in the world to turn religious. But the longer you live the more cause will you find to wonder at the divine spirit which bloweth where it listeth. Take these Methodists, who are to preach in Falmouth to-day. I have seen Wesley, and stood once for an hour listening to him. For aught I could discover he had no great eloquence. He said little that his audience might not have heard any Sunday in their own churches. His voice was hoarse from overwork, and his manner by no means winning. Yet I saw many notorious ruffians sobbing about him like children: some even throwing themselves on the ground and writhing, like the demoniacs of Scripture. The secret was, he spoke with authority: and the secret again was a certain kingly neglect of trifles—he appeared not to see those signs by which other men judge their neighbours or themselves to be past help. Or take these Trappists: Dom Basilio tells me that more than half of them are ex-soldiers and rough at that. To be sure I can understand why, having once turned religious, an old soldier runs to the Trappist rule. He has been bred under discipline, and has to rely on discipline. ’Tis what he understands, and the harder he gets it the more good he feels himself getting—”