IN writing of the following relation, wherein injured innocence and oppreſſed virtue does ſo eminently triumph over all the rage and malice, both of men and devils, I ſhall not ftudy to adorn my ſtyle with flowers of rhetoric, but lead thee by the clue of truth into the adorable myſteries of Divine Providence, which are here diſplayed in ſuch a ſeries of wonders as can ſcarce be paralleled. As an introduction to which, I will a little conſider how the divine goodneſs delights to bring light out of darknefs, and makes even the wicked confound themſelves in their own devices, that out of their evil deſigns he may bring good to paſs. For, as Joſeph’s being ſold into Egypt, and there falſely accuſed of adultery, advanced him next to a throne, and turned to the ſhame of his accuſing miſtreſs, and treacherous brethren; (though at the begining, God meant it for good) that he might be inſtrumental to preſerve his father and his houſehold alive, and turned the malice of the Patriarchs into a bleſſing; ſo the miſeries and extraordinary ſufferings of the noble lady whoſe ſtory I am going to recite, were made uſe of by divine Providence, as a mean of the converſion of her huſband, parents and many others, to the true religion; Which, as ſhe has often ſince ſaid, has been a very ample and glorious recompence. But I ſhall not anticipate what with more ſatisfaction you will find in the relation itſelf; which take as follows.
In Britany, one of the fineſt provinces of France, there lately lived Count Alanſon, a perſon of noble extraction, and of an eftate ſuitable to the greatneſs of his birth, and thoſe noble qualities that enriched his mind. Who, being a lover of military actions, was eaſily perſuaded to ſerve the king in the wars, where having an eminent command given him, he behaved himſelf with a bravery that gained him the admiration of his enemies, the love of his friends, and freſh honours of his king, who took particular notice of his great performances. But in the intervals of two or three campaigns, he caſt his eyes upon one Deidamia, a young lady ofnot inferior to himſelf in birth, whoſe beauty and virtue were equally attractive: to her he made his addreſſes, and equality of their birth, and the ſuitableneſs of their diſpoſitions, made his conqueſt the more eaſy; ſo that in a little time they were contracted and married, to their mutual joy and ſatisfaction.
This happy couple, having for a whole winter enjoyed the bleſſing of each others mutual love and endearing affections, without the leaſt umbrage of any enterpoſing cloud that might give any allay to their happineſs; at length the ſpring came on, and the armies gathering together, ſummoned Alanſon from the repoſe he took in the ſoft embraces of his chaſte and loving wife, so the field of war, to act his part again upon that ſtage of honour, where he had already acquired ſo much reputation. But he never ſeemed ſo unwilling to court fame abroad, as now ſince he muſt of neceſſity leave behind him the deareſt part of himſelf; he had many ſtrugglings and combats in his mind, which ſeemed to be divided between love and honour; he was loth to leave his lady, and yet unwilling to have his reputation ſullied: and theſe different paſſions in the mind cauſed ſuch an alteration in his countenance, that it was taken notice of by his lady, who not knowing the cauſe, was the more troubled at it; and therefore, following him one day into the garden, whether he had retired to conſider with himſelf what he had beft to do, ſhe, earneſtly preſſed him to let her know what it was that troubled him; for ſhe had for ſome time, ſhe ſaid, obſerved he was diſquieted, but could not tell at what; and ſhe was fearful ſhe might, though ſhe knew it not, be the occaſion of it; adding, command me in any thing a wife can juſtly do, and I am ail obedience. This tender carriage of his lady added freſh fuel to the fire of his afflictions, and made him ſtill far more unwilling to leave her. Wherefore cauſing her to ſit down by him, he told her. She was indeed the innocent occaſion of his trouble: for her great love and tenderneſs to him had ſo engaged his heart to her in a reciprocal affection, that he knew not how to think of leaving her, though honour called him loudly to the field. His lady, when he talked of leaving her, was hardly kept from ſwooning in his arms, and could not forbear ſaying, What! muſt we part then? Ah, wretched Deidamia! and ſtraightway ſhe fell a weeping: her tears did ſo prevail upon the Count, that love had now obtained an entire victory, and he reſolved to ſtay at home with Deidamia; and therefore entreated her to dry up her tears, and be comforted: for he had now come to a reſolution, rather to undergo ſome hard cenſures for ſtaying at home, than by going to the camp to leave his dear Deidamia diſconſolate.—Theſe kind aſſurances of her huſband gave her that ſatiſaction which ſoon ſhewed itſelf in a chearful countenance; and the endearing expreſſions ſhe gave the Count on that occaſion, made him conclude they were both happy in each other's love.
But behold the inconſtancy of worldly happinefs, and how little we can promiſe ourſelves of it here! we may indeed, both purpoſe and reſolve, but we cannot fecure ourſelves from diſappointments: the footſteps of Divine Providence are often hard to trace. Hence it is that we are told by the inſpired penman, 'That the ways of God are in the deep, and his paths in the great waters, and his footſteps are not known.' And we ſee often, whatever pleaſing proſpect of felicity we have in view, ſome unforſeen occaſion, or ſudden turn of providence, deſtroys it, and in a moment deprives us of that happinefs which we had promiſed to ourſelves for many years: and yet theſe changes, to thoſe that fear the Lord, are ſo diſpoſed and ordered by God's providence, that in the end, they evidently work together for their good. And thus it fell out in the inſtance before us; for whilſt Alanſon and his Deidamia, delighted in each other, and were both happy in their conjugal affection, an accident fell out, that put him under a neceſſity of going to the camp, which was, that a colonel's place in the regiment of Picardy being vacant, a relation of Alanſon's, at court, out of a too officious kindneſs, put the king in mind of the good ſervices of Alanſon, and deſired his Majeſty to bellow that vacancy upon him: to which his Majeſty (being ſenſible of his former bravery and good ſervice) readily conſented, and as ordered his commiſſion to be ſent to him; which was done accordingly. When Alanſon received this commiſſion from the purſuivant who brought it, he gave him a generous reward for his pains; but was not very well pleaſed, either with the new honour his Majeſty had given him, nor with his kinſman's too officious kindneſs in procuring it becauſe it put him under a neceſſity of parting from his lady, which gave him a very ſenſible diſpleaſure: but knowing that by his commiſſion he was engaged too far for a retreat, his care was how to make his Deidamia as eaſy as he could: and therefore, calling her to take a turn with him in the garden, and leading her into an arbour covered with a jeſſamine, he thus began to tell her the unwelcome news that had been brought him. My deareft Deidamia let me conjure you not to be troubled at what I am now going to tell you, but if you will oblige me, do it by ſhewing your reſolution and fortitude of mind; and yet, I cannot but own, that our reſolves, like little heaps of ſand, are quickly brought to nothing; but the decrees of Heaven, like the foundations of the earth, are fixed for ever. It was in this very arbour, my deareſt Deidamia, that I reſolved to ſtay at home with thee, and not return to the campaign in Flanders: and I appeal to him who knows my heart, how firmly I intended; but ſee here, how I am forced againſt my will to break my reſolution; (and with that ſhewed her the commiſſion the king had ſent him to be colonel of the regiment of Picardy) and now you ſee, my Deidamia, the neceſſity that lies upon me to leave you for a time; but though our bodies be divided, we will have one ſoul and love, whilſt Providence denies us to live together. And whilſt I in the field am fighting for my country: you ſhall ſtay here and pray for my ſucceſs: and if it pleaſes God that I return, (which I do not doubt at all, for Heaven I am ſure will hear your fervent prayer) it wil be a new addition to my joy, to lay thoſe laurels I ſhall win in battle, at Deidamia's feet. Poor Deidamia heard theſe heavy news with a ſad heart, but anſwered with piety and prudence worthy of herſelf, that ſince what happened was not of his ſeeking, but what the providence of God had called him to, ſhe thought it was her duty (though she could hardly do it without reluctance) to acquieſce in the divine diſpoſal of human actions, and would endeavour to ſtifle her reſentments, rather than give him any farther trouble. Alanſon being no leſs pleaſed with Deidamia's prudence than her kind affection, which he expreſſed by ſeveral tender things he told her, applied himſelf to the getting ready of his equipage, in order to his departure; and then ſettling the affairs of his family, ordered Antonio his chaplain, who was a Friar of the order of St. Francis, to ſay a ſolemn maſs for his ſucceſs in the field, and the protection of his lady and family in his abſence, recommending his deareſt Deidamia to the care of Antonio his chaplain, and Fronovius his ſtew ard to his houſehold, in theſe words: To your care, in my abſence, I recommend the ſafety and welfare of my beloved lady, the moſt virtuous and loving of wives: and charge you, as you expect to anſwer it to God and me, be obedient to all her commands; comfort and cheriſh her in her ſolitude, and ſee that all my domeſtics pay the like exact reſpects. This and much more, they faithfully promiſed to obſerve. Then giving liberally to each ſervant, and having notice that his equipage was ready, and divers gentlemen on horſeback waiting to accompany him, he took his ſolemn leave of his dear Deidamia, whoſe ſad preſaging heart was overcome with grief to that degree, that ſhe could only freak theſe few prophetic words: Ah, my dear lord, may Heaven prevent my fears! But my pour heart forebodes that this will be a long and fatal parting. To which the Count replied, Do not caſt down thyſelf, dear Deidamia, by the indulging of ſuch melancholy fancies; but aſſure yourſelf, I will haſten my return as much as poſſible, and I will ſend to you as often as I can. And in the mean time, ſhall commit you to the protection of the Almighty, the bleſſed virgin-mother, and all the holy ſaints and angels; and ſealing his affection on her lips with gentle kiſſes, he took his leave of her, and rode away, not thinking he had left an innocent dove to the protection of two ravenons vultures.
It is not much to my purpoſe to tell you, how well he was received at the head of his command by the Duke of Luxemburgh, or what brave exploits his courage carried him through, ſince neither fame, nor the public news from Paris, have been wanting to ſpeak his common dation: I therefore ommit it, (unleſs in ſome paſſages, where it will, in the thread of this amazing relation, be neceſſary to mention ſome particulars) and ſhall continue with the ſorrowful Deidamia, who after his departure ſeemed to have baniſhed all comfort from her breaſt; and all that ſhe found was in her devotions and prayers to Almighty God, for his protection and ſafe return, greatly affecting ſolitude; and as much as ſhe could, avoiding the viſits of divers ladies, who (as they ſaid) came to make her merry, and divert her melancholy, ſhe being very well beloved, both by the nobility and gentry, for her comely carriage, modeſt behaviour, ſweetneſs of temper, and affability.
In the cool of the day the uſually made it her buſineſs, to retire into her garden penſive and alone. it being, by the care and diligence of the gardener, kept and ordered like another paradiſe, ſtored with great variety of choice plants and flowers, adorned with pleaſant fountains, and ſeveral delightful arbours, ſhaded over with intertwining jeſſamine, in which ſhe and her abſent Lord had paſſed ſome joyful as well as ſad hours, and at the remembrance of them would ſadly weep, then pray (according to the cuſtom of the Papiſts, who allow praying to ſaints) to the tutelary ſaints for his protection: and ſo drying up her tears, would walk thence again, taking but little reſt in any place: but one time paſſing by a bed of tulips, ſhe eſpied Bernard her gardener (for ſo he was called) buſy in watering them, and erecting ſuch as declined their drooping heads, occaſioned by the heat of the ſun's too ſcorching beams; ſhe had often in this man obſerved a harmleſs native innocency, accompanied with acute ingenuity; (and indeed a gardener who underſtands his buſineſs as he ought to do, muſt be an ingenious man) and therefore imagined, it might adminiſter to her ſome advantage, to hold diſcourſe with him in what related to the myſteries of gardening, thinking it no undervaluing, though he was her menial ſervant, ſince ſhe had often read, That 'kings, princes, and other great and wife men had voluntarily become of this occupation; that Adam, when governor of all the world, was employed in it by God himſelf;' ſo that coming cloſe to him, whilſt his hands were buſied at his work; the man by his ear, (his back being towards her) being informed of ſomebody's approach, ſuddenly ſtarted up, and, ſeeing his beautiful lady near him, was a little ſurpriſed, and would have retired, to give her the more freedom in her walks, but he prevented him by ſaying, 'Bernard, pray do not let me hinder you in your buſineſs; I come on purpoſe to obſerve your dexterity in gardening; I ſee you mind it with a juſt diligence though your Lord is abſent'. 'Madam', (replied he) 'I beg your Ladyſhip's pardon, in that I tell you, I am no eye-ſervant, as well knowing, I muſt give an account to God, as well as to man, if I am negligent in what I promiſe to perform, and am intraſted with.' Deidamia ſtood ſurpriſed at the man's plain, but ingenuous reply; and changing ſomewhat the manner of her diſcourſe, aſked him divers queſtions about the virtues, natures, qualities, and productions of flowers and plants, &c.; in all which he ſatisfied her to her admiration ; by which, ſhe perceived him better learned in the myſteries of nature, than ſhe expected from cne of his profeſſion. And to be brief, ſhe often held ſuch innocent converſation with him, when at any time ſhe fonnd him buſy in the garden, being much delighted to hear hin diſcourſe, how much of the wiſdom and goodneſs of God might be learned from the works of creation; for he had a particular faculty of ſpiritualizing his employment, and making his buſineſs ſerve like Jacob's ladder, to carry him from earth to heaven. Which ſometimes cauſed her to reflect that this man was ſomething more than he appeared to be, (in which indeed ſhe was not much miſtaken) ſo that entertaining a good opinion of him, ſhe ordered his lodging to be changed for a better; and his coarſe and homely commons to be enlarged, above what was uſual to thoſe of his profeſſion and degree.
But now Antonio the chaplain, however he had appeared like a faint to his maſter, began to ſhew himſelf a devil to his miſtreſs, and too plainly ſhewed his cloven foot; for though above fifty years of age, he had for ſome time, harbourde, luſtful deſires towards the fair and beautiful Deidamia, that he was now reſolved to attempt her chaſtity. And though her virtue and ſpotleſs chaſtity might very well have kept him from purſuing his unclean deſires, yet he flattered himſelf with hopes of obtaining his end, by corrupting the judgement: in which he found himſelf very much miſtaken, as the ſequel will declare. For the Divine Goodneſs had a farther work to do for Deidamia; who being altogether ignorant of what this wretch deſigned againſt her honour, frequented her beloved garden as ſhe uſed to do; and one evening hearing the gardener reading in a lonely arbour, where he thought himſelf ſecure (for he had induſtriouſly concealed his being a Proteftant from any of the family) her curioſity to hear him, made her draw nigh ſo ſoftly, that he could not hear her: he was then reading the firſt chapter of the epiſtle to the Romans, from the 20th to the end of the 23d verſe, viz. 'For the viſible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly ſeen, being underſtood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; ſo that they are without excuſe, becauſe that when they knew God they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their fooliſh hearts were darkened; profeſſing themſelves to be wiſe they became fools, and changed glory of the incorruptible God, into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beaſts, and creeping things.
Having thus far proceeded, he pauſed, and with his eyes lifted up to heaven, gave glory unto God, who had preſerved him blameleſs from theſe offences againſt his Divine Majeſty, which thro' ignorance and ſuperſtition had overſpread the greatest part of Europe. 'O Lord,' continued he, 'I humbly beſeech thee, as I have already ſuffered perſecution for thy name's ſake, and for the ſake of a good conſcience, ſo never let me depart from the ways of thy truth, to change thy incorruptible glory into an image made like corruptible man:' And when he had ſaid this, tears flood in his eyes, and his words were ſucceeded by ſighs.
Deidamia, who had all this while attentively liſtened, found ſomething in her mind that made a ſudden uneaſy alteration, and thought to have gone away undiſcovered; but then again, her zeal for the Romiſh religion, which ſhe thought he had reproached by deteſting image-worſhip, carried her ſo far, that ſhe reſolved to give him a ſharp reprimand, leſt he perſiſting further, until diſcovered by others, might ruin himſelf; though her goodneſs and gentle nature was not for working him any injury by revealing it. But never was man more ſurpriſed, than Bernard when he ſaw her, whom at that time of the day, he little ſuſpected, as not being uſual; yet collecting his ſcattered ſenſes, he aroſe from his ſeat, and withal endeavoured to hide his Bible under his coat, thinking ſhe had been newly come, and might neither have heard him read, nor ſeen his Bible; but ſhe, in a frowning manner, contrary to the wonted ſweetneſs of her temper, commanded him to deliver it to her, that the flames might conceal his fault; and told him, he would not for that time, diſcover his being converſant with a book ſo ſtrictly by the church, prohibited to the Laity; for (continued ſhe) it is enough that we believe as the church believes, without farther diſpute, or puzzling ourſelves with thoſe ſcruples and niceties which in all probability, we may make a falſe conſtruction of, and wreſt even thoſe ſcriptures, that are the rule of our faith, to our own damnation.
This ſmart diſcourſe, and the frowns in the fair Deidamia's countenance, did not in this caſe ſo much daunt Bernard as in another of leſs concern it might have done; but with ſome aſſurance, he replied, 'Ah, Madam! I little thought of being ſurpriſed by you at my devotion, but ſince I am, I cannot grant what you demand; rather you may command my body to the flames, and as a willing martyr I will ſooner go than betray the cauſe of God, in delivering up his holy word to be conſumed, in which are contained all things neceſſary to falvation: and it would be in me an apparent contempt of that ſalvation, should I voluntarily, or thro' fear, caſt it from me. As to your ſaying, madam, that the church has prohibited the Laity the uſe of this ſacred book, eſpecially in a known tongue, I readily grant it; but, O moſt virtuous lady, you little know their policy in that; it is not that they fear or care what miſconſtructions men make of it; but becauſe it is like arrows in the hand of a giant, ſtrong againſt their worldly intereft, plainly diſcovering their errors and groſs idolatries.'-He would have proceeded, but the heat of zeal prompted her haſtily to interrupt him, ſaying, ſurely Bernard, you are diſtracted, or elſe, what is worſe, a heritic: I took you to be wiſer, and more reaſonable, when I diſcourſed with you the other day. 'Truly madam,' replied he, 'as for my being in my right ſenſes, I bleſs Almighty God, he has in his mercy hitherto continued them to me; and for my being a heretic, pardon me, if St. Paul anſwers for me, when he was accuſed before Felix, ſaying, But this I confeſs unto thee, after the way which they call hereſy, ſo worſhip I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets.' Upon this, Deidamia, who by nature was all goodneſs, gentleneſs, and affableneſs, began to moderate her anger, and to conſider a little what he had ſaid, yet her zeal for the religion ſhe profeſſed made her mildly rebuke him, and lay before him the danger he was in, if his opinion was diſcovered; bidding him be cautious and wife in what he did; tho', for her part, he need not fear, but ſhe would lock up what ſhe had diſcovered, in her breaſt, and it ſhould paſs no farther; and ſo departing, left him in ſome confuſion.
Deidamia, retiring to her chamber, began to conſider what had paſſed, and remembered ſhe had often wept in her tender years, when ſhe heard the cruelties the Roman Catholics uſed towards the Hugonots or Proteſtants in France; and diſapproving of their perſecuting fpirit, as not of God, whoſe chief attributes are mercy, tender compaſſion, and forgiveneſs; when, on the contrary, ſhe found thoſe who made religion ſo much their boaſt, ſo very cruel, that, far from the inſtance of our Saviour's refuſing to call for fire from heaven, to conſume theſe that had injuriouſly and deſpitefully uſed him, they made their very worſhip and devotions a ſnare, to bring thoſe under their cruel handlings, who had in no wiſe offended them, but in being ſeparated from them, and moving according to the dictates of their conſcience. She had likewiſe obſerved the harmleſſneſs and inoffenſive manner of living in the perſecuted, and often ſhewed ſome diſlike of the looſeneſs and unchriſtian practices of the perſecutors; ſo that, altho' ſhe had a good opinion of the Romiſh religion, as having been brought up in it from her infancy, yet had ſhe not ſo of many of the profeſſors of it, who apparently derogated from the ways of virtue, and ſeemed to encourage vice.
This wronght ſome labourings in her mind, through the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit; and in her night thoughts more ſeriously reflecting on many things, and particularly on the Gardener's expreſſion out of St. Paul's words to Felix the governor; inferring from thence, That it muſt be the ſincerity of the heart towards God, more than the ſhew, or outward name, or profeſſion of any religion, that renders the perſon acceptable in his fight. In the midſt of theſe cogitations and debates within herſelf, ſhe found ſomething (as it were by an over-ruling power) ſtrongly moved her to a deſire of farther converſing with Bernard, about the fundamentals of his religion; which, by the Popiſh Prieſts, as well in their pulpits, as private converſation, had been repreſented ſo odious, damnable, and to be detefted.
The morning no ſooner ſummoned the Gardener to viſit his flowers and plants, and perform his uſual talk in watering and ordering them, but Deidamia, who had taken little reſt that night, aroſe, and having performed her oriſon, and then refreſhed herſelf with a moderate collation, took an opportunity between that and dinner-time to enter the garden privately, at a door that opened into it from her apartment; and to ſkreen the better what ſhe intended, from prying eyes, took divers turns, and gathered poſies of flowers; then fanning herſelf, as if the heat offended her, and paſſing many winding alleys, overſpread with pleaſant ſhades, ſhe came to the beforementioned arbour, and again ſurpriſed the Gardener in his meditations: the man was not under any conſternation at her coming, but riſing and bowing low, would have departed, out of good manners, to give her the ſole freedom of that pleaſant bower: but ſhe laid her commands on him to ſtay, ſaying, ſhe had conſidered of his former diſcourſe, and had made it her buſineſs to find him out, that he might give her ſome better reaſon for the opinion he held, than yet he had done.
His modeſty and the humble thoughts he conceived of himſelf, would ſcarce give him leave to ſit down, though ſhe often commanded him ſo to do; but at laſt he complied, and then ſhe aſked him, upon what ground and foundation the baſis of his religion was fixed?
Gardener. It is founded on the ſcriptures of the Old and New Teſtaments, which were written by men inſpired by the Holy Ghoſt, and given for our instruction and learning; it is only the word of God that can warrant the truth of any profeſſion in religious matters; and that we Proteſtants (through God's aſſiſtance) labour to conform and live up to.
Deidamia. Ay, but you may be miſtaken in the miſinterpreting the ſcripture, and fall into groſs hereſies, as our church charges you; and therefore has strictly forbid the laity of our communion to meddle with them, leſt, like weapons put into the hands of idoits, or madmen, they injure themſelves and others thereby.
Gar. Ah! lady, ſhall I be free, and deal plainly with you in this point?
Deid. With all my heart; let me hear what you can ſay in anſwer to it.
Gard. All scriptures are given for our learning. God is willing we should know his revealed will, that we may be the better enabled to perform it. St. Paul commends the Bereans, and calls them noble, becauſe they ſearched the ſcriptures, to ſee whether the things they heard were ſo or not; and we have many commands for this; as, Iſa. xxxiv. 16. 'Seek ye out of the book of the Lord and read.' Acts xvii. 11. 'They were more noble, in that they ſearched the ſcriptures daily.' Col. iii. 16. Let the word of Chriſt dwell in you richly.' 2 Tim. iii. 15. 'From a child thou haſt known the holy ſcriptures.' Eph. iv. 17. 'Take the helmet of ſalvation, and the ſword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.' There are many others that I might mention, which are to be found in the ſcriptures; and this not commanded to ſome, but to all that ſeek ſalvation.
Deid. Certainly, if our church had ſeen this fit, they would not have denied it; but being dangerous to ſouls, it ought to be reſtrained.
Gard. It is indeed dangerous to break God's commandments, and to teach men ſo to do, and to make the word of God of none effect by human tradition. We know the woes Chriſt pronounced againſt the Phariſees for theſe things.
Deid. Why, who are guilty of this! The church of Rome, the holy catholic church, as it has in many ages been ſtyled, is not ſurely ſpotted with ſuch crimes.
Gard. I wiſh I could ſay it was not; but it is deeply guilty, as in many other particulars, ſo moſt eminently in this, That it profeſſes, no man is obliged to receive the ſcriptures as the word of God, or to believe any of it, but from the teſtimony of your church; and to awe men to ſuch a belief, threats of damnation are uſed, as well as the magiſtrates' ſwords, and cruel torments by inquiſitions; and, indeed, it is not done without ground: this is done to hinder prying into their groſs idolatries, errors, and ſuperſtition, derogatory to the ſcriptures, and expreſs command of God.
Deid. Sure you are beſide yourſelf: nor can you prove this; but being fallen from the church, do this only in prejudice and ſpite, to lay a ſtain upon its virgin-innocence.
Gard. No; it is apparent from the word of God, and even from reaſon itſelf, in thoſe that will conſider, and are not blinded with ignorance, which your church, in her ſenſe, truly ſtyles the Mother of Devotion.
Deid. Can any ſuch thing he in a church that is infallible and to prove that it is ſo, it is ſaid to be built upon St. Peter: he is the rock ſpoken of, and this rock doth, together with St. Peter, include his ſucceſſors; and the church built on this rock (united to and built upon the Pope) is infallible, for it is ſaid, 'The gates of hell ſhall not prevail againſt it.'
Gard. Pardon me, lady, if I ſay, there is no agreement among the churchmen about this infallible judge; ſome will have it the Pope, ſome a General Council, and others both; none of your writers have yet concluded on it. However theſe words are perverted; for it is more probable, that not St. Peter's perſon, but his doctrine and confeſſion concerning Chrift, is the rock which the church is built. Scripture is the beſt interpreter: it is not Peter, but Chriſt, that is the foundation of the church, as here in my Bible you may ſee, by the xxviiith chap. and 16th verſe of Iſaiah, compared with 1 Peter ii. 6, 7, 8.; which you may pleaſe to read, (which ſhe did.) It is moreover expreſsly ſaid, 1 Cor. iii. 11. 'Other foundations can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jeſus Chriſt.' And this is the more conſiderable, becauſe he ſpeaks against thoſe that made the apoſtles to be the foundation, ſaying, 'I am of Paul, another of Apollos, or Cephas;' and if this is ſpoke of Peter, no more is ſaid of him here, than is ſpoke of all the prophets and apoſtles, Eph. ii. 20. 'Ye are built apon the foundation of the apoſtles and prophets, Jeſus Chriſt himſelf being the chief corner ſtone.'
Deid. Well, I am not much learned in this myſtery, but, pray, What as erroneous can you aſſign in our worſhip, or any other thing the church holds as abſolutely neceſſary?
Gard. The paying divine adoration to angels and ſaints, expreſsly contrary to God's commands, and derogatory to his honour, who alone ought to be worſhipped in heaven and earth; and to worſhip any other, either ſaint or angel, or any creature, is idolatry, and a breach of the ſecond commandment.
Deid. Nay, not too haſtily; we do not worhip the angels and ſaints as God, with the higheſt worship, which is only proper to God; but with an inferior kind of religious worſhip, that they may preſent our ſupplications to him.
Gard. There is no interceſſor or mediator but Chriſt Jeſus, who is appointed to perform that office; James i. 5. 'If any of you lack wiſdom, let him aſk of God,' &c. neither of ſaints nor angels, 'Come to me,' faith our Saviour, and I will in no ways caſt you out.' This free invitation ſhews us, he alone was to receive our petitions, and preſent them to his Father. There is alſo image-worſhip brought cunningly by prieſts to gain worldly advantage; and pretended miracles, to draw the ignorant to pay their devotion more at one place than at another, impoſed on the ignorant for lucre's-ſake. I could ſay much more, but I fear to offend you.
Deid. No, you do not: but let us come nearer to the main controverſy. What think you of tranſubſtantiation? Is not Chriſt corporally preſent in the ſacrament?
Gard. It is a miſrepreſentation of our Saviour's words; for if he had ſo meaned, as the church of Rome holds it. when he broke the bread, he muſt have held himſelf in his own hands, and eaten himſelf, yet ſtill ſit whole and entire at the table; his whole body muſt be in the mouth of every communicant at once, and that body in millions of places at one time, broken and broken, and be ſubject to putrefaction; and therefore the words. 'This is my body,' doth import, This doth ſignify my body:' and upon the fame account our Saviour is called a Door, a Rock, a Vine: Yet to believe he was turned into any of theſe, none can be ſo void of underſtanding. And therefore, when he broke the bread, and gave the cup, he did it only, that when Chriſtian congregations were met on ſolemn occaſions, to celebrate his worſhip, 'they ſhould do it in remembrance of him, until his coming in glory at the laſt day,' as the immediate words explain; and it is abſurd to believe, that the prieſt's uttering a few words over a wafer can make it a God, or that body offered on the croſs.
Deid. You amaze me: but pray, What do you hold about Purgatory? Is there ſuch a place, where ſouls are to endure their purgations after death, that go not immediately to heaven, and by maſſes and prayer may be releaſed from it ſooner or latter?
Gard. It is a tradition lately brought in, and with it hath brought much increaſe of wealth to the church. The word of God allows only heaven for thoſe who shall be made veſſels of mercy; and hell for thoſe whoſe ſins have provoked him to caſt them down to thoſe diſmal regions of ſorrow and eternal woe; no prayers after death being available.
Deid. Theſe notions are as new as ſtrange to me: have you any authentic proof of this?
Gard. Yes, the revealed will of God is ſacred proof beyond all denial: Luke xvi. 23. 'The rich man in hell lift up his eyes, being in torments.' Matth. viil. 11, 12. 'They ſhall ſit down with Abraham, Iſaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, but the other ſhall be caſt unto utter darkneſs, where ſhall be weeping and gnaſhing of teeth.' Mark xvi. 16. 'He that believeth ſhall be ſaved, and he that believeth not, shall be damned.' Here there is no ſuch thing as a Purgatory to be found. 'It is only the blood of Chriſt that purgeth us from our ſins, and from all uncleanneſs of fleſh and ſpirit, to prefent our souls blameleſs and unſpotted to his Father:' By this I underſtand thoſe that die in the Lord, need not our prayers, and thoſe that die in their ſins, no prayers can avail; for in the grave there is no repentance: 'As the tree falls, ſo it must lie; whether it falls towards the north, or towards the ſouth; where it falls, there it muſt lie.' There are only two extremes, north and ſouth, no middle-way, or purgatory for it to fall in.—'And as death leaves us, ſo judgement will aſſuredly find us.'
He would have proceeded; but ſhe ſtopped him, ſaying, Pray how long have you been in this opinion?
Gard Ever ſince God was pleaſed to enlighten me with his grace, to be attentive to his holy word, and to be guided by it.
Deid. Was you ever then of the church of Rome?
Gard. In my younger years I was; but thro' mercy, being made ſenſible by the ſcriptures, of the corruptions and errors of that church, by the aſſiſtance of worthy divines, I hope with St. Paul, 'Nothing ſhall be able to ſeparate me from the love of God, which is in Chriſt Jeſus.' I will not offend your ladyſhip's chaſte ears, with the hiſtory of the debaucheries and wicked lives of divers Popes, and moſt of the clergy; but will pray to heaven to defend you, from either luſt or revenge. And ſince I have by a free confeſſion, put my life in your hands, I humbly ſubmit it to your goodneſs to——
Here again ſhe interrupted him, and demanded, Why the religion he profeſſed was called the Proteſtant Religion?
To which he replied: As for being ſo called, it is to diſtinguiſh it from that of the Romiſh. It came from ſeveral princes and cities in Germany, who, upon the preaching of good men, and their examplary lives, proteſted againſt the uſurpations of the Romiſh church and its errors. That it was no new doctrine; but the truth of primitive Chriſtianity, confeſſed, aſſerted, and purged from the corruptions of popery, taking the revealed will of God for its guide.
At this Deidamia pauſed a while—and then taking his Bible, looked over the ſacred proofs he had turned down in order; and her colour went and came ſo, that he eaſily perceived her mind was labouring under ſome difficulties; and ſo, giving him it again, ſhe went away without ſpeaking one word.
This ſomewhat perplexed the Gardener, fearing ſhe was diſpleaſed with what he had ſaid; but, her ſending for him privately to her chamber the next morning, under the notion of bringing her ſome choice flowers, baniſhed all fear in him; when, they two being only left together, ſhe gently led him into the cloſet, and ſhutting the door to be more private, ſaid, Bernard, (fetching a deep ſigh) your yeſterday's diſcourſe has much broken my laſt night's reſt. I have been meditating on it, and I find abundance of reaſon in what you ſay. You have, as St. Paul ſaid in another caſe, almoſt perſuaded me to be of your perſuaſion.
I wiſh to God, moſt virtuous lady, (replied he) I might be a humble inſtrument in God's hand, to do any thing that may redound to his glory, and the good and welfare of your precious and immortal ſoul, without hazarding your temporal quiet and peace, or expoſing you to any danger; though for a crown of life and immortality, all earthly things are to be deſpiſed: And the holy apoſtle accounts all this world's good but as droſs and dung, in compariſon of enjoying Chriſt Jeſus. Well, ſaid ſhe, this is my aim; and if God enables me, with his aſſiſting grace, I hope, thro' his mercy, to attain it. I have, indeed, continued ſhe, to my grief, obſerved the looſe and profane manner of living of thoſe that profeſs our religion; alledging, That a confeſſion, with abſolution, and ſome other works, will purge them from their ſins, and gain them that bleſſedneſs in the end, which I could never heartily believe they would obtain by them: and ſince I have more ſeriouſly conſidered God's word expreſsly to the contrary, I cannot believe that any thing but ſincere and unfeigned repentance, in the courſe of an unſpotted life, can purchaſe, (through the merits of my Saviour) thoſe glorious and tranſcendant bleſſings that God hath promiſed to poor mortals.—She would have proceeded, but the falling tears ſtopped her utterance; and Bernard had an inward rejoicing to ſee her brought to this paſs. Whereupon he comforted her with good advice, and the cordials of God's mercies and promiſes. In brief, he had made her ſenſible of the errors ſhe had been brought up in, and then opened, from point to point, the cheat of pretended miracles and relics; the impoſing on people with pardon and indulgence to get money; the whoredoms, murders, and inceſts of many popes, cardinals, and prelates of the Romiſh church; their unreaſonableneſs in prohibiting prieſts' marriage, which is immediately appointed by God; and the allowing them by canons and decrees, the embraces of concubines or to commit adultery, expreſsly contrary to the command of the Almighty: Foraſmuch as he has exprefsly ſaid, 'Thoſe that do theſe things ſhall not inherit eternal life.'—He would have proceeded; but, hearing the ſound of feet coming up ſtairs, ſhe haſtened him down a backway, with ſo much precipitation, that he left his Bible behind him: which ſhe, luckily ſeeing, locked up in a scrutoir.
I have told you before, that father Antonio the prieſt, forgetting his function, duty and diſtance, gave way to his unruly and lawleſs paſſion, and was then blundering up ſtairs to find her in private, having almoſt fluſtered himſelf with wine, on purpoſe, either to be more confident in his wicked deſign, to tell her the ſtory of his nauſeous love, or rather luſt; or that, if he was reproved, he might have ſome ſlender excuſe for his impertinency, and lay (as too many do) the blame of their folly on that which is rather an aggravation of their crime, i. e. their drunkenneſs; and ſo furpriſed, however, he came, that putting his noſe over the upper ſtep, juſt as the Gardener poſted out at the private door, he had a glimpſe of the back parts of his garments, as it afterwards appeared; but, at that time, be took no notice of any ſuch thing. , seeing Antonio coming towards her in a very pleaſant humour, demanded, with a modeſt decency, What occaſion brought him hither to diſturb her retirement?
Ah! (ſaid the impudent prieſt, who could not long keep down his boiling paſfion) 'Your two fair eyes, ſweet lady, like loadſtones have drawn me to you that beauteous tempting face of yours, has made me forgot myſelf, with my duty to my Lord, and the truſt he repoſed in me.' Why! certainly, (said Deidamia, calling in patience, to bridle her paſſion) you are beſide yourſelf, Antonio.—What mean you by this kind of diſcourſe? 'If I am beſide myſelf, (replied he, almoſt crying) your fair ſelf is the cauſe of it: whoſe beauty, like arrows, has wounded my heart, and ſickened my brain; I wiſh I had never ſeen ſuch an amiableneſs in womankind: but, ſince I have been ſo unfortunate as to be your fettered captive, take ſome compaſſion on me, and eaſe my sufferings.' What ſufferings? (replied Deidamia frowning) or what can be the ſenſe of all this looſe ſtuff? 'Why then,' (replied he,) 'To be ſerious: In plain terms, I love you, and that ſo paſſionately, unleſs you condeſcend to make me ſuitable returns, I ſhall have no peace nor quiet; but muſt be miſerable and wretched eternally.' Then (ſaid ſhe) be you ſo; what have you ſeen of any looſe unbecoming behaviour in me, that you thould dare to ſpeak thus to me? This, like a thunder-bolt, ſtruck him mute; ſmoothing her brows, and growing a little calmer, (ſhe ſaid,) Come, come Antonio, I took you for another man; you profeſs ſanctity, and admoniſh others to lead a holy life: Is this pretention real, or, is it only feigned, to try my virtue? 'I proteſt, (ſaid he, holding up both his hands) it is real, and I cannot help it.' Why, (ſaid ſhe,) would you commit ſo great a wickedneſs, if you might, and make yourſelf guilty of a crime ſo heinous? 'Ah! lady, (replied he,) if that be all, I can abſolve you by the power given me by the See of Rome: Conſent, and let me enjoy you, your penance ſhall be always eaſy, will get a diſpenſation for your marriage vows from the Pope, with pardon, indulgences, or any thing for ſins paſt, and thoſe that are to come: Nay, I will do any thing, ſo I do not fall under your diſpleaſure: Let me alone for the reſt.' And—
This inſolence, ſo much diſpleaſed the virtuous lady, that she could hear no more, nor bear it any longer, but commanded him out of her preſence: yet, could not be rid of him, till ſhe threatened to call up the reſt of her ſervants: Whereupon he went muttering away, and, for two days after, as much as poſſible he could, ſhunned coming into her preſence, which much pleaſed her; for ſhe could not behold him, but with horror and deteſtation.
This attempt, however, in one ſenſe, (thro' the over-ruling providence and goodneſs of God, who is wonderful in counſel, and excellent in working, and can make the greateſt wickedneſs of his creatures, ſerve the purpoſes of his own glory,) worked to her advantage; for ſhe believed now all true which the Gardener had told her, about the wicked debauched lives of the Romiſh clergy, ſince this villainous prieſt had not ſcrupled to proffer the Pope's pardon for no leſs than adultery, and that before it was committed; by which means or encouragement, ſhe plainly ſaw, it muſt conſequently be, that they frequently tempted eaſy and ignorant people to the commiſſion of many ſins: Therefore, she reſolved to leave theſe blind guides, and take the word of God for her leader and inſtructor; forbearing to come to confeſſion, or to hear maſs, ſometimes upon pretence of indiſpoſition, and at other times, purpoſely, by going abroad, at the uſual times of either, and holding ſome other conferences with the Gardener; which (as to particulars) for brevity's ſake, I muſt of neceſſity paſs over.
She found in herſelf a ſtrange averſion to the religion ſhe had been brought up in; and having procured a Bible in the French tongue, took ſuch delight in reading it, that whenever ſhe had time to retire, it was not out of her hand: yet ſhe kept this as ſecret as poſſible; and not being ready at it herſelf, got the Gardener to turn her down ſuch proofs, as were the ſtrongeſt arguments againſt the errors of Popery, where the abominations of the myſtical Babylon were pointed at: This he joyfully did, and gave praiſe to God, who had made him inſtrumental in ſo good a work; though he was not ignorant his life was liable to pay for it, if it was diſcovered. She likewiſe laid aſide her beads and crucifix, converſed no more with roſaries, or the legends of pretended ſaints; and, though ſhe found ſome temptations and fears at the beginning, yet, frequently praying to God, ſhe overcame Satan's wiles, and found abundance of joy and comfort enlightening her ſoul; ſo that ſhe could not forbear breaking out into raptures of praiſe and thankſgiving, for the wonderful change, (by ſo ſtrange and unexpected means) wrought in her ſoul.
Whilſt this virtuous lady and the Gardener held their private correſpondence, in diſcourſing of the things of God, and encouraging and and exhorting each other to perſeverance and ſtedfaſtneſs in the truth, Antonio and Fronovius, equally burning with luſtful deſire to enjoy the tender beauties of the fair Deidamia, were plotting and contriving how their lawleſs deſigns might beſt be brought about (though each plotted by himſelf, for as yet they were ignorant of each others paſſion. The villainous prieſt (as you have already heard) had been repulſed, with indignation by the chaſte lady, which inwardly tormented him, and brought him almoſt to his wit's end; but the other (Fronovius) had made no trial of her virtue, and wanted a favourable opportunity to do it: and therefore, he thinks, meditates, and caſts many things in his mind, till at laſt, his paſſion emboldening him, he was reſolved to break the ice with a letter, and, if ſhe took no notice of that to ſecond it with a perſonal addreſs: But, how he ſhould do this with privacy and ſafety, he was at a ſtand for a time; for he feared to truſt any body to deliver it, left his criminal love ſhould take air; and to deliver it himſelf, would look too daſtardly, as if he was not capable, or, at leaſt, durſt not ſpeak for himſelf; however, in a little while, he met with a fit opportunity; for Deidamia accidentally dropping her handkerchief, as ſhe paſſed through a large gallery that led to her apartment, he carefully took it up, and folding up his letter in it, which he had ready ſealed by him, he gave it to her gentlewoman to give it to her lady, telling her he found it in the long gallery. The gentlewoman knowing the handkerchief to be her lady's, immediately carried it to her, who received it from her, without knowing any thing of a letter being in it; and afterwards accidentally taking the handkerchief out of her pocket, the letter dropped out upon the ground, which ſhe taking up, and looking upon the ſuperſcription, was extremely ſurpriſed, to find it directed to herſelf; and, haſtily opening it, was much more ſo, to find the contents thereof as followeth:
" PARDON me, moſt lovely Deidamia, if your beauty makes me forget the ſtation I am in, and emboldens me to own a paſſion I have laboured in vain to hide. To be brief: Dear Lady I am ſo captivated by your charms and ſingular perfections, that I am conſtrained to ſay, I love you infinitely above all mortal creatures; and ſince it appears to me unreaſonable, that any one man ſhould monopolize ſo ineſtimable a treaſure, give me leave to hope, and do not ſuffer me to languiſh and die, but render the balm of your kindneſs, to cure the wounds which your bright eyes have made in your otherwiſe wretched ſervant,
The reading of this letter filled her with bluſhes, anger, and amazement, at the unparalleled boldneſs and villainy of the author of it, and at firſt ſhe was reſolved to commit it to the flames, or to tear it to pieces; but upon ſecond thoughts, ſhe laid it up in her cloſet, where ſhe vexed and fretted herſelf, that ſhe was left thus anong ſuch ungrateful wretches, that dared ſo much to ſuſpect her virtues, and meaſure them by their own wicked and filthy inclinations, as to preſume ſhe would defile her marriage-bed; being more grieved for this diſcovery than the former; for ſhe knew the prieſt had ſomething of the libertine in him; but this man ſhe had held to be honeſt and virtuouſly inclined till now, and to him ſhe thought to have diſcovered Antonio's folly, if he perſiſted in it, that by ſhame and reproofs he might have reclaimed him. But now, the ſcarce knew who to truſt; and could not therefore but tremble, at the apprehenſions of ſome violence that might be offered her from thoſe luſtful miſcreants, whoſe fight now very much diſpleaſed her. She thought once or twice of diſplacing them; but found their authority in the family was ſo great, that in her Lord's abſence, ſhe could not do it: whereupon ſhe fell on her knees to implore God's mercy and protection, commending herſelf wholly to his care and providence, and begging of him to be her guardian and protector.
Though Deidamia's mind, on thoſe ſurpriſing attempts of her honour, was variouſly toſſed, till, at laſt, ſhe came to a ſettled reſolution, prudently to conceal what had paſſed, at leaſt, till her Lord came home, for fear of ſcandal and diſturbance: yet Fronovius might well read in her countenance, whenever he came into her preſence, that ſhe had read his letter, and how ſhe reſented it, which made him ſtruggle to overcome his paſſion, but in vain: For like oil thrown on fire, the oppoſition his lewd deſires met with, made him burn the fiercer; ſo that he reſolved to find all opportunity to throw himſelf at her feet, and diſcover his paſſion to her by word of mouth; and, whilſt he waited for a convenient time and place to do it, he perceived the Gardener often to go in, and out very chearful, as highly pleaſed and contented; and tho' he only carried her fruits and flowers, yet his frantic paſſion and jealouſy made hin believe there was ſomething more in it. Antonio the prieſt had alſo obſerved the like, and had much the ſame ſentiments, which emboldened them the more to perſiſt in their wicked and unclean deſires, and to continue to perſecute the chaſte lady with their deteſted proffers of lawleſs love; concluding, That if one of ſo low a rank could be in favour, they, in time, could not miſs of obtaining what they fought; and, ſo blinded with paſſion, and purſuing what they aimed at, (though, as has been ſaid, unknown to each other.) they kept a watchful eye over the actions of Deidamia; whoſe mind was taken up in contemplating the divine perfections of Him, who is fairer than the children of men, being every day more confirmed in the truth of her religion, bleſſing and praiſing God, that by ſo wonderful and unexpected a mean, had brought her out of darkneſs and errors, into the marvellous light of His truth, and engaged her heart to embrace and entertain it above her chief joy; partly looking on the trouble ſhe had from Antonio and Fronovius, thoſe brethren in iniquity, as temptations or trials to confirm her the more, by overcoming them, in the doctrine ſhe had ſo lately embraced; in which ſhe firmly reſolved to perſevere againſt all temptations whatever.
But whilſt theſe things paſſed, Fronovius had received no other anſwer to his letter, but Deidamia's angry and much changed countenance towards him, which he would not take for an abſolute repulſe; and therefore was reſolved to have her poſitive anſwer. To obtain which, as Deidamia was one morning leaning upon the window in her chamber, and looking into the garden, he ſtole ſoftly up ſtairs, and was got into her chamber. juſt behind her, before ſhe heard him, when ſuddenly turning about, and ſeeing him in a dejected poſture, ſhe was very much ſurpriſed, and trembled at the sight, whilſt he, by many words, endeavoured to ſhew the greatneſs of his paſſion; but having ſomewhat recollected her ſpirits, ſhe with an angry countenance, ſpake to him thus: 'Why! how now Fronovius, what buſineſs have you here, thus to ſteal into my chamber unawares? This is ſuch an affront, a piece of impudence and rudeneſs, as better becomes a thief than the ſteward of my houſhold and yet the filthy errand that you come on, is far more criminal than your coming. What have you ever ſeen of lightneſs in my carriage, that ſhould make you thus audacious, or give you the leaſt hope to ſucceed in your unlawful and wicked deſires? I command you to be gone: and know, that if you perſiſt in your impudence and folly, I will ſpeedily take thoſe methods that ſhall iſſue in your deſerved ſhame and confuſion.'
He would have replied, but ſhe forthwith went out of her chamber, and would not hear him.
This abſolute denial and ſevere reprimand, filled Fronovius with confuſion and almoſt made him hopeleſs; but, after ſome reflection, he ſtrongly fancied that the oppoſition be met with, proceeded not from the lady's virtue, but from the great inclination ſhe had to ſome rival, who enjoyed thoſe favours which he had been purſuing; and he ſuppoſed the Gardener to be the man, becauſe he had received ſome particular marks of her favour, ſince the departure of the Count Alanſon. Being thus perfuaded, he was reſolved, if it were poſſible, to make a plain diſcovery: and to this end, he planted himſelf privately one evening, near the back-ſtairs that led out of the garden into Deidamia's apartment; (for that way he thought this ſuppoſed rival muſt come;) and indeed, he had not waited long, before a perſon came by, and went up thoſe ſtairs, whom he ſoftly followed to the ſtair's-foot: the darkneſs of the night hindered him from diſcerning who the perſon was that went by him; but he doubted not but it was the Gardener: and having liſtened at the bottom of the ſtairs, hearing no door open, nor any key to turn, he imagined the door was left open on purpoſe, and therefore reſolved to go up himſelf, and ſurpriſe them in the very act of their unlawful love. He had no ſooner reſolved thus, but he heard ſomebody come ſoftly down ſtairs: As ſoon as the perſon came to the bottom of the ſtairs, Fronovius bcldly ſeized on him, and demanded what buſineſs he had there at that late time of night; but, was extremely ſurpriſed to meet with, inſtead of Bernard the Gardener, Antonio the Prieſt, who then Fronovius thought had been with Deidama. Upon which, ſpeaking big words to Antonio, and threatening to kill him, for the diſhonour he had done his Lord, in violating his bed; the poor Prieſt, (who was almoſt dead with fear, and extremely confounded at this accident) trembling, told Fronovius, that, if he would save his life, he would ingenuouſly tell him all he knew: which, Fronovius promiſing, Antonio told him the ſtory of his love-addreſſes, violent paſſion, and the repulſes he met with. That however, being jealous of the Gardener, and not finding him in his lodging, (for it ſeems Deidamia had newly appointed him another, unknown to Antonio) ſuſpected he might be with his lady, where deſiring to detect him, and bring him to puniſhment, he had undertaken to come at this unſeaſonable time; but the doors being faſt locked, and after a long liſtening, hearing no ſtir nor whiſpering; was returning back again, to watch a more favourable opportunity, that he might not, on slight ground, or, uncertainty, ſay ſuch a thing to their charge.
Fronovius finding the prieſt had been repulſed and reproved, as well as he, and that his thoughts were the ſame with his, as to the ſuſpected rival, having huſhed his preſent fears, and declared to him, though ſomewhat darkly, his own affections, &c. They went to Antonio's chamber, where they entered into a combination ſo helliſh and malicious, that it brought many woes and miſeries, both to the virtuous Deidamia, and the Gardener; till by the mercy of God, to the ſhame and confuſion of the contrivers, they were turned to bleſſings, to rejoice the injured, and to clear their innocence, after many inexpreſſible ſufferings.
Whilſt theſe wicked men were thus plotting to revenge their repulſes, Deidamia was thoughtful of her ſafety: Sometimes ſhe determined to write to Alanſon, to remember his promiſe, and haſten his return; but then ſhe concluded, that, though his preſence might reform theſe diſorders, to deſert his command upon any private occaſion, would derogate from his honour: and then ſhe conſidered, that ſhe could not hide from him, the religion ſhe had embraced ſince his departure, for ſhe could not diſſemble, if ſhe was taxed with it; and though his company was dear to her, yet the enjoyment of the other, was more precious and preferable; and that, in compariſon of the love of Chriſt, all the love of the world was but of little value: At another time, ſhe thought of retiring to her parents; but this ſhe fancied would be diſpleaſing to her Lord, that in his abſence, ſhe ſhould leave the government of his family, which he had truſted to her care at his departure; theſe things ſeriouſly weighed, ſhe reſolved to remain at home thinking time would cure the wild diſorders that were in the minds of thoſe two wicked ſervants.
After this laſt reſolve, ſhe retired to her cloſet; where ſhe had not been long ere tho Gardener came to preſent her with a paper he had drawn up, by her order, of the fundamental points of the Proteſtant religion, in oppoſition to Popery; one being compared with the other, and tried by ſcripture and the fathers of the primitive times. She accepted this paper very kindly, promiſing to look it over at leaſure, as a matter ſhe had much deſired to be informed in. Whereupon he retired to his labour in the garden, whilſt a bribed ſpy, (their enemies had ſet on the watch,) was running to give information of the Gardener's being with the lady. Fronovius was out of the way, Antonio haſted as faſt as he could, and ſoftly opening the ſpringlock, impudently entered the chamber, drawing the curtains of her bed, in hopes of finding what she looked for there; but miſſng his purpoſe, he stole to the ſide of her cloſet, directed thither by her voice; for the pious lady was fallen on her knees, and fervently pouring out her ſoul to God, in theſe words:
" O Moſt bleſſed God! who art the Father of mercies, and the God of all conſolation. I bleſs and praiſe thy holy name, that thou haſt enlightened the eyes of my underſtanding with the knowledge of thy bleſſed truth, and that thou haſt delivered me from the darkneſs and ignorance, and theſe antichriſtian errors, wherein I have lived ſince my childhood, and haſt revealed the ſaving knowledge of thy will unto me, as it is contained in thy bleſſed word, the holy Scriptures: O ſtrengthen my heart in the profeſſion of thy truth! and grant that I may never return back again to the Popiſh idolatry and ſuperſtition, not be under the conduct of thoſe blind guides any more, whatever ſufferings and trials I may be liable to, or may undergo on that account."
Theſe pious breathings of her ſoul, Antonio, to this great amazement, heard, and knew not what to think, whether he ſhould diſcover himſelf, or retire; but, at laſt, wickedly supoſing the fear ſhe would conceive, leſt he ſhould diſcover what ſhe had uttered, againſt the Romiſh Religion; or that, as he concluded ſhe was an Hugonot, as they call Proteſtants might induce her to comply with his luſt, he preſented himſelf before her, rudely opening the cloſet door, ere ſhe had time to riſe from her knees. This continued impudence of his, much troubled her ſpirits; whereupon, riſing haſtily ſhe forcibly pulled the door, after ſhe had given him a thruſt back, and locked herſelf in. However, it unhappily fell out, that, in this diſorder not taking that care, which at another time ſhe would have done, the paper which the Gardener had newly brougbt her, with her haſty ſhutting the door, dropped out of her coat, and unperceived by her, was ſhut out of the cloſet which Antonio took carefully up, and put in his pocket, telling her, though the door was ſhut againſt him, he had heard how ſhe had a poſtatized from her religion, and how wickedly ſhe had ſpoken of the holy Roman Catholic Church, and, what miſchief he could do her, he ſhould diſcover it; yet, for the love he bore her, if ſhe would yield to eaſe his paſſion, I ſhould be buried in eternal oblivion; but if ſhe refuſed, he had now got an opportunity to ruin her.
The pious lady (whoſe ſervant devotions this wretch had interrupted) bridled, as much as human frailty could do, her paſſion, commanded him, in mild terms, to be gone, and not wound her chaſte ears with his hated diſcourſe. Against the injury he threatened, ſhe truſted in God for protection, who is a ſtrong tower for the ſafety of all thoſe that fly to him; and in doubted not, when ſhe had an opportunity to make her Lord ſenſible of it, he would, through the favour of Almighty God, concur with her in her opinion.
Antonio, finding himſelf diſappointed in his main expectation, and thoroughly nettled with this anſwer, particularly the concluſion of it, went away, threatening and muttering to himſelf, and in the anti-chamber met Fronovius, who, upon later notice, was haſtening to him; to whom he told all he had ſeen and heard. This made them conſult to take new meaſures; and, in concluſion, reſolved her chaſtity, or life, ſhould be ſacrificed to their revenge. This was no ſooner concluded on, but Antonio remembered that paper he had taken up; and, taking it out of his pocket, knew it to be the Gardener's hand, and, at firſt, ſuppoſed it to be a love-letter, that might diſcover the intrigue between him and his lady, was highly pleaſed; but he had ſcarce read it half over, ere he found ſuch weighty arguments againſt the church of Rome, levelled ſo directly againſt her tottering foundation, as not only puzzled his underſtanding, but made him ſtorm at a ſtrange rate; whereupon Fronovius took it out of his hand, and read the reſt, and in the cloſe, theſe words, viz. Virtuous lady, theſe arguments, pro et contra, I ſubmit to your great wiſdom, being very joyful, in having, under God, been a poor inſtrument in enlighteniug your underſtanding to diſcern truth from falſehood.
This left them no longer in doubt, who the party was, that (as they termed it) had induced her to apoſtatize, and become an heretic, and, for this, conſequently, to enjoy favours ſhe denied to them; whereupon they vowed a bloody revenge. But fearing that the love Alanſon bore her, would not be effaced by the change of her religion, eſpecially when he ſhould come to underſtand their criminal paſſion for her, and practices againſt her, they reſolved to make her parents bear the blame of that ſtupenduous wickedneſs, which they themſelves deſigned to be the actors of: for they knew that her parents were extraordinary begotted to the Romiſh church; and ſo were the likelieſt to deal with in this matter. Whereupon Antonio immediately poſted to them, and deſiring a private conference with the father and mother, after many hypocritical ſhews of ſorrow for the diſgrace that would befal the family, he declared, how his lady (ſince his lord had been abſent) had been perverted from the Catholic Religion by a Hugonot, a heritic Gardener, a fugitive wretch, that had been taken in, ſome years ago, upon charity. He urged, what diſhonour it would be to their family, the danger incurred by the king's edicts, and, laſtly, the loſe of her ſoul, if ſhe was not timely recovered and brought to the right fold, from whence ſhe had perverſely ſtrayed. Then he began to magnify the pious care and pains he had taken to keep her in the right way, and to prevent her falling into ſuch an unpardonable ſin; but that the devil had been too hard for his induſtry and labours, thro' God's high ſufferance, to bring ſome great judgement on her, for her haughtineſs and contempt, &c.
This being delivered in a tone very moving and paſſionate, ſeemed altogether in pity to Deidamia, made her father ſigh, and the old lady burſt out in tears, wringing their hands, and bewailing the miſeries of their aged years, in this (as they then termed it) worſt of misfortunes that could befal them; that the ouly branch of their family, that ſhould convey it to poſterity all had made herſelf a caft-away; for ſo, in their paſſionate mood, they expreſſed her to be. Antonio was glad to ſee them thus wrought upon; and the ſtorm of their firſt grief ſpending itſelf, being allayed by falling tears, they began to conſult more maturely, how this misfortune might be reverſed; and, after many things were debated, Antonio's device of lodging her in a nunnery, (where ſhe might be reſtrained from heretic books, as he ſaid, and the company of any ſeducers, and alſo be infructed by virtuous nuns, till her Lord came home, and determined what might farther be done in it) was approved.
What was to be done with the Gardener, was the thing to be conſulted; whether to make him away ſecretly, or deliver him up to juſtice; the prieſt was for the former, but the parents conſciences were tender in that, and could not conſent to ſuch wickedneſs; but Antonio alledged, that the whole buſineſs would be made public, if he were delivered up to juſtice, and their daughter would be brought in as criminal; and, perhaps, for her obſtinacy, her lord might loſe his honours and preferments at court. This made them conſider farther, and, at laſt, leave it to the wicked prieſt, or thoſe he ſhould appoint, to do as he or they pleaſed. They would have born him company to Alanſon's houſe, to ſee what their perſuaſions might do; but he urged, it would only be a means to diſcover the matter; that it would be beſt for them to come and moderate things when the Count came home, of which he would give them the firſt notice; ſince, at prefent, what was to be done, required ſecrecy: that in the mean time, ſhe be provided for as became her quality; and, that ſuch a place as he mentioned, with time and company, were the beſt cure to juſtle thoſe wild notions out of her head: Upon which they only ſent her a letter, and reſolved not to go themſelves: So Antonio returned, well ſatisfied, to his wicked companion.
Deidamia, (who was ignorant of this,) miſſing her paper, and not doubting which way it went, taking more care for Bernard the Gardener than herſelf, thought by it he would be diſcovered; wherefore ſhe ſent for him, gave him a handful of gold, and commanded him to shift for himſelf; telling him what had paſſed, and the danger he was in. This command he ſeemed exceeding loth to obey, and with tears in his eyes, proteſted, that for the ſake of his religion, and in her defence againſt any injury or violence, he was willing to expoſe his life; but she urged ſo many things to haſten his departure, that he promiſed to do it: and ſo they (with ſhedding many tears) took a long farewel of each other.
Bernard was preparing to depart, as Antonio returned with his orders.; whereupon Fronovius clapped him up in a dungeon, and that night hired two ruffians to carry him to the ſea-clifts, and throw him thence head-long; and thither they carried him in a ſack, on a horſe, gagged and bound; but finding a veſſel, thruft into a creek, very near the clifts, one of them enquired, and found it belonged to a French plantation in the West Indies: Whereupon they took the method of Joſeph's brethren with the lſhmaelites to make the beſt purchaſe of him, rather than deſtroy him and loſe it; ſo he that came to enquire, demanded of the maſter, If he wanted a luſty ſervant? He told him, Yes; then he returned, and took the Gardener out of the ſack, ungagged and unbound him, and told him, That though he deſerved to die, for perverting his lady to hereſy, yet they had compaſſion upon him, and would only ſend him to do penance, for a ſlave in the Weſt Indies, and bid him accept of it thankfully, and without muttering; and thereupon they delivered him to the maſter of the veſſel, of whom they received twelve crowns. After which they returned, and gave an account that they had thrown him, with a great ſtone about his neck, from a fifty-foot clift into the ſea; and for it, received the reward promiſed them. Nor was Bernard unwilling to go with his new maſter, finding providence had changed the death that was deſigned him, only into ſlavery, from whence he might hope in time to be releaſed. But his care was greater for Deidamia than himſelf; for he had been uſed to misfortune, and inured to ſeveral hardſhips. And, her grief was no leſs that ſhe found herſelf conſtrained, (as ſhe ſuppoſed, for his ſafety,) ſo abruptly to part with the man that had been an inſtrument in the filling her heart ſo full of heavenly conſolations; and had not laid her commands on him to write to her, or otherwiſe to give ſecret notice of his abiding place, (that ſhe might have had farther converſe with him, and be more ſtrengthened by him in the profeſſion of that truth he had inſtructed her in, and which ſhe was reſolved to abide by,) till ſhe found means to reſtore him to his place again.
Whilſt ſhe was penſive on theſe thoughts Antonio having (as I before told you) get a letter from her parents to her, wherein they laid their commands on her, till her Lord's return; 'As ſhe tendered the favour of Almighty God, their bleſſing, and her own honour and ſafety, to be ruled and guided in all things by her ſpiritual paſtor:' (So, being ignorant of his villainy, they termed this wicked prieſt.) 'And, whatever he perſuaded her to, for the good of her ſoul and bodily preſervation, readily to comply with; to whoſe care and integrity, next to the heavenly protection, they heartily recommended her, till her Lord and husband came home:' This was ſigned by both of them. And, Antonio having conſulted Fronovius about it, they both came boldly to her apartment, when they kuew ſhe was in private, and preſented it to her; 'Charging her to obey it, as ſhe tendered her ſafety.' She no ſooner looked on it, but, aſking them ſo many queſtions, that, by Antonio's replies, ſhe was not inſenſible they had traduced her to her parents; and, after ſome juſt reproaches, told them, 'It ſhould not be long, before ſhe would go and plead her own cauſe; and, doubted not ſo to juſtify her proceeding to her parents, that the black villainy of her baſe and treacherons accufers, ſhould be unable to ſully the brightneſs of her innocence.' This, at firſt, ſtartled them; but, being fully reſolved to proceed in their wicked deſigns, they plainly told her, 'She was at their diſpoſal, and that they had orders to carry her to a nunnery, where ſhe ſhould be honourably uſed; but debarred from the deſtructive principles ſhe had lately imbibed, till her and their Lord returned, to take the matter into his own hands, and determine how he pleaſed to diſpoſe of her.'
This inſufferable impudence of theſe luſtful wretches, ſtirred up her zeal to ſo much holy and deteſtation of what they propoſed, that ſhe, in a great paſſion, proteſted to 'Die a thouſand deaths, if it were poſſible, and, by the moſt exquiſite torments their helliſh malice could invent, rather than to be incloſed within the walls of a nunnery; which ſhe was satisfied was no other than a ſink of ſin, and plauſible colour for lewdneſs and debauchery.' But they, without replying, offering to force her from the cloſet; ſhe oppoſed her ſtrength againſt their rudeneſs: But Fronovius, who was the ſteward and governor of the family, had ſo ordered the matter, that thoſe that immediately waited upon her, were then out of hearing; ſo that, without any other interruption, than what her contending gave them, they hurried her into a cloſe chamber in the remoteſt part of the houſe, where they locked her in, and went to conſult farther, how they ſhould ſecretly convey her from thence; whilſt ſhe, (who expected, after ſuch treatment, nothing but a violation of her chaſtity, would much rather have embraced death, and counted it a favour,) was pouring out her ſoul to God, and imploring his help in this needful time of her trouble, and begging of him to ſtrengthen her faith; 'till, on a ſudden, to allay the trouble and afflictions of her mind, ſuch beams of joy and comfort darted into her ſoul, that ſhe allured herſelf, 'That that merciful God, whoſe gracious protection ſhe had been ſeeking, would work out deliverence for her in due time.'
Theſe conſpirators, by this time, had come to a reſult to rid themſelves, as they thought, for ever, from the fears they were in of their villainous practices being diſcovered, which was this:
Fronovius counterfeited a letter in Alanſon's hand, ſo very exactly, that if himſelf had ſeen it, he might have been puzzled to diſtinguiſh it from his own; and having gotten two ruffians ready, one dreſſed in the habit of an officer, and the other like a ſervant attending him, Antonio and his companion in wickedneſs went to her with it, and falling on their knees, with ſome forced tears, humbly implored her pardon for the indignities they had offered to her; beſeeching her to be their good lady, notwithſtanding their follies, and they would never in the like nature offend, nor do any thing to diſoblige her; with many other proteſtations, and much feigned ſorrow for their rudeneſs and deſigns upon her chaſtity, entreating her not to diſcover it to her Lord.
Whilst Deidamia was wondering what that ſudden alteration, in thoſe who had lately ſo rudely treated her, might mean, Fronovius delivered her the letter; in which ſhe read theſe words:
"My dear Deidamia,
THOUGH I know, that the news which theſe lines will acquaint you with, cannot be acceptable to you, yet I conjure you, by our mutual affections, that you ſuffer not yourſelf to be diſturbed, but hear what I ſhall tell you, with that patience and ſerenity of mind which becomes you; as knowing it is our duty, in all things that happen to us, to ſubmit to the Divine Will. Know then, my lovely Deidamia, that, in a late encounter with a party of the enemies, I happened to be wounded by a chance ſhot, which my ſurgeon tells me is mortal; and that it may be ſo, and deſiring, above all things here below, to have a ſight of your dear ſelf, before I depart out of the world, I have ſent the bearer, Monſ. Durell, one of my captains, to conduct you to me forth with, who is a perſon of that worth and honour, that you may truſt yourſelf with him without the trouble of any attendants, but what he brings with him; becauſe I would have you come as ſpeedily as may be; which is, at preſent, all from him, who is, both in life and death,
Your ever faithful huſband,
July 12, 1639.
At the reading of this ſhe trembled, looked pale, and ſhed abundance of tears, being in the greateſt diſorder and confuſion imaginable; entreating inſtantly to ſee the party that brought it; promiſing (on their renewing their intreaties) not to diſcover their wickedneſs, if, by their future demeanor, they made an amendment for what had paſſed; and they, thereupon, ſolemnly promiſed, and led her down into the hall, where the pretended captain and his ſervant bowed very low to her; and being beforehand inſtructed, anſwered all her queſtions ſo cunningly, that ſhe verily believed the letter to have come from her Lord, and that all he ſaid was true: deſiring them to refreſh themſelves, whilſt ſhe fitted herſelf with other apparel, and took ſome jewels, gold, &c. along with her. Which done, and being about four in the evening, the innocent dove committed herſelf into the talons of theſe bloody vultures, mounted behind the ſuppoſed captain, who had his inſtructions not to let her ſee the next morning dawn. Antonio and Fronovius pretended much ſorrow at her departure; but inwardly rejoiced, that, by this ſtratagem, they could get her eaſily into the trap, without noiſe and diſturbance; which had they gone about to do by force, her cries might have brought reſcue, and prevented their villainous purpoſes. The curſed prieſt indeed, would have firſt raviſhed her by himſelf and his companion, and then murdered her at home; but the other, conſidering that it would be difficult to diſpoſe of the body, contrived this way: But I muſt leave them for ſome time, hugging themſelves in their ſecurity, and follow the deceived innocent.
The bloody cut-throats having got the prize, by her too much credulity, into their poſſeſſion, took all the by-ways they could, croſſing the country, and holding her in diſcourſe with many things relating to the war, and ſo ſpun out the time, till the fun was near ſetting, when, coming into a valley between two vaſt woods, in a place much unfrequented, they rode into one of them, at a turning of a narrow way, where the ſuppoſed captain ſtopped; and the ruffian that rode ſingle, alighted, and ſuddenly pulled Deidamia from behind him; who, at ſo unexpected a rudeneſs, trembled, and began to ſuſpect the treachery; nor was the other ſlow in diſmounting, when both carried her farther into the wood. Upon this, with piteous ſhrieks and cries, ſhe demanded the cauſe of ſuch violence; but, without replying, the villain who had carried her, drawing his ſword, directed it for the fatal thruſt, deſigning inſtantly to pierce her heart; whilſt, on her knees, ſhe was imploring their pity and compaſſion, and entreating to know in what ſhe had offended, to make them ſo void of humanity towards a diſtreſſed lady, whom they had betrayed into that ſolitary place; being convinced, that her Lord had given no ſuch commands: No, replied they, That is true, nor do we know him; But Antonio and Fronovius have, and we muſt obey them: beſides, you are a heretic and ought not to live.
Deidamia now finding ſhe was betrayed by her wicked ſervants, into the hands of theſe mercileſs villains, and ſeeing nothing but preſent death, before her eyes, ſhe poured out her ſoul to God in vehement petitions, for favour from his hands; and, that, if he ſaw fit, ſhe ſhould live no longer here, that he would receive her into life eternal; and that rather, if it were required, ſhe might ſeal her profeſſion of the reformed religion, in which ſhe had found ſo much heavenly conſolation, with her deareſt blood, than be prevailed with to recant it. But thou, O Lord! ſaid ſhe, who delivereſt Daniel from the fury of the lions, and the three children from devouring flames, canſt, if thou wilt, in this extremity, deliver me from theſe blood-thirſty men, whom I have in no manner injured: But, be it as thou pleaſeſt; ſo that my departing ſoul, when it leaves this mortal body, may find ſhelter in the arms of thy mercy. The villains, who, all this while had eyed her, and ſaw her lovely in her tears, troubled not themſelves about her religion, for their buſineſs was to murder her; and, therefore, the pretended captain ſaid, 'Lady, our time is ſhort, this inſtant you muſt die; therefore ſettle your mind for the fatal ſtroke' To this ſhe made no reply, but continuing on her knees, with eyes uplifted to heaven, ſighs and tears being the language of her ſoul, his impious hand was about to give the fatal thruſt; but the other catched hold of his arm and ſtopped his ſwords and, after that, they whiſpered; but, ſhe knew not what they ſaid, till their farther attempt revealed it.
They had no ſooner done conferring notes, but they violently forced her on her back, and prepared to raviſh her first, and then put her to death: Her cries were upon this redoubled, and ſhe begged death rather than the loſs of her chaſtity: opening her boſom, and tempting their ſwords to pierce it. But her beauty, in this ſorrowful condition, was ſo charming in their luſtful eyes, that they were inexorable to her cries and prayers. O! had Alanſon been but there, with what vengeance, at this piteous fight, would his ſword have been drawn to their deſtrutction and her reſcue; but, he being ignorant of the wounds his dear lady was about to receive, Heaven interpoſed for her reſcue: For the villains fell at diſcord, who ſhould firſt enjoy her; and the conteſt grew ſo hot, that they diſputed it with their ſwords; and, in the duel, the pretended captain (moſt forward in the miſchief) was run through the body; and with a ghaſtly groan, yielded up his wicked ſoul into the hands of death. The other being ſorely wounded, and fainting, through loſs of blood, gave Deidamia time to fly farther into the woods; wandering ſo far, that, night covering every thing with darkneſs, ſhe thought, ſhe might now reſt a little to recover breath, and ſo ſat down upon the ground. Though the dangers ſhe had ſo lately eſcaped from wicked men, and thoſe that ſhe now feared from wild beaſts, would not for a long time, ſuffer her to cloſe her eyes: however, ſhe ceaſed not, with earneſt prayers and ſupplications, to recommend herſelf to God, and implore his aid and protection; who, by the late wonderful deliverance he had given her, had ſufficiently ſhewn her, how able he is to ſave to the utmoſt, even in the midſt of the greateſt dangers. The conſideration whereof, was a mighty allay to her preſent ſorrows, in the midſt of that forlorn condition to which ſhe was reduced; ſo that, a little ſupported thereby, they at laſt, fell into a ſound ſleep; having no other pillow than a turf of graſs, nor covering, than the canopy of heaven. The morning being come, Deidamia again returned thanks to God, both for her late deliverance, and her laſt night's preſervation: earneſtly begging of him, That as he had graciouſly begun to deliver her, ſo he would, in his own good time, complete it to his own glory and her good; and that, though at preſent her afflictions were not joyous but grievous, yet, thro' God's over-ruling providence, they might afterwards bring forth for her the peaceable fruits of righteouſneſs, humbly deſiring, ſhe might be kept from harbouring hard thoughts of God, or of his truth and ways, which ſhe had ſo lately embraced, notwithſtanding any ſufferings ſhe had, or might meet withal upon that account. And having thus recommended herſelf to God, the reſolved, if it were poſſible, to get out of that deſolate, pathleſs, and ſolitary place; but the more ſhe thought to extricate herſelf, the more ſhe found herſelf entangled and without hopes of getting out. The fruits, that at that time of the year grew upon the trees, ſupplied her with food; and the little purling ſtreams, that iſſued from ſome ſprings in the wood, ſupplied her with drink; ſo that finding it impoſſible to get away, ſhe was content to tarry there, till the providence of God ſhould find out ſome way of deliverance for her; being ſatisfied in this, that the comforts of converſation, and other conveniences that ſhe uſed to have, were abundantly made up in the communion ſhe enjoyed with God; whoſe bleſſed preſence, as ſhe has ſince confeſſed, did more than recompence for all her outward wants:—In the poſſeſſion of which happineſs we will leave her for a time, and look back to ſee what became of the ſurviving ruffian.
His companion (as we have already heard) was killed in their conteſt, about which ſhould enjoy, or rather raviſh Deidamia firſt; and he that ſurvived, fainted away thro' loſs of blood, which (as we have already related) made way for Deidamia's eſcape: But he recovering, in ſome little time, found means to ſtop its effuſion; and then miſſing of Deidamia, he made what ſearch he could for her, not ſo much to ſatisfy his luſt, (which his loſs of blood had pretty much allayed,) as to take away her life, that, in time to come, ſhe might not be an evidence of his wickedneſs; but not finding her after all his ſearch, he buried his companion, and returned to thoſe that had ſet him to work: telling them, 'That Deidamia, when ſhe found ſhe muſt die, by a ſurprize, had ſnatched away his companion's ſword, and slain him, with it, by an unlooked for thruſt: But that myſelf had quickly revenge it by her own death; and had buried them both in a deep pit, to avoid diſcovery.' This they believed, and gave him what they bad promiſed, being mightily pleaſed, that now they were, as they thought, at leaſt out of danger.
Whilſt theſe things were thus acted, Deidamia's parents were exceeding troubled, even to that degree, that their ſleep departed from them; and thoſe little ſlumbers that they ſometimes got, were interrupted with ſtrange and unaccountable dreams, which were alſo attended with an unuſual melancholy, of which they could give no account. This made them reſolve to enquire after Deidamia, of whom they had heard nothing ſince the permiſſion they gave to Antonio to carry her to a nunnery.
But Fronovius and Antonio had been ſo cunning, to prevent their diſcovery of the villainy, that, for a ſum of money, they engaged a certain abbeſs of Antonio's acquaintance, to acknowledge, (when there ſhould be occaſion,) That Deidamia had been brought thither; but, that ſhe had made her eſcape from thence, ſo that ſhe knew not what was become of her, nor could give any account of the reaſon of it, but only by a note which ſhe left behind her in her chamber; which note Fronovius, who, as we have already ſaid, had a notable faculty at the counterfeiting of hands, had writ in a hand ſo like Deidamia's, that it could not be diſtinguiſhed. They had alſo given the abbeſs a ladder of ropes, by which it was pretended ſhe had made her eſcape. Fronovius and Antonio, having ſo well laid their deſign with the Abbeſs, kept poſſeſſion of Alanſon's houſe, without fear or controul. And, therefore, when Deidamia's parents came thither to enquire after their daughter, they received them with much ſeeming courteſy, and kindneſs; and Fronovius told them, That though it wad unhappily fallen out, that their lady, had heen perverted to hereſy ſince the departure of the Count her huſband; yet he had taken that care of the family, in his Lord's abſence, which was conſiſtant with his duty; and that, as to his lady, the orders they had been pleaſed to give to Antonio, to ſend her to a nunnery, had been punctually obſerved; and, he hoped, by that means, againſt the coming home of their Lord, ſhe might be again reconciled unto her mother-church; out of which there is no ſalvation.' Though this diſcourſe of Fronovius' was very plauſible, yet the parents of Deidamia were not at all ſatisfied with it, but deſired to ſee and diſcourſe with her in the nunnery were ſhe was; which Fronovius ſeemed ready to aſſent to, and with Antonio, offered their ſervice to accompany them thither; telling them, they had given a ſtrict charge to the Abbeſs, to prevent any heretics from coming to her, that none might be admitted to ſpeak with her but themſelves, or by their immediate order.
The parents, being for the preſent ſatisfied with this anſwer, lay there that night, big with the hopes they had of ſeeing their daughter the next day; which being come, they went with Antonio and Fronovius to the nunnery, but, were extremely ſurpriſed, when they came thither, to hear the Abbeſs ſay, that the young lady bad been too hard for her, and, notwithſtanding all her care and diligence, had found a way to make her eſcape but the day before, and then led them into the garden, ſhewing them the ladder of ropes by which ſhe got over the wall; and then taking them into a room, that ſhe called her chamber, gave them the note which Fronovius left with her, aſking her parents if they knew that hand; they haſtily opened it, and thought verily it had been of Deidamia's writing; and, then reading, found it to contain theſe words:
" HAving been forced to this place againſt my mind and conſcience, let none be
troubled, that I have found means to ſet myſelf at liberty, and am gone to him, who, no doubt, will right me of the injury done me by my treacherous ſervants.
Her parents, upon reading this letter, believing it to be true, burſt forth into tears for the loſs of their daughter. not knowing now in what part of the country to ſeek for her: the only hope they had, was, that ſhe was gone into Flanders to her huſband: to which opinion, Fronovius and Antonio both perſuaded them, from that exprſſion in the note, I am gone to him that will right my injuries. Upon which, giving Fronovius a charge, to be a faithful ſteward in his Lord's abſence, they returned to their own houſe; where they writ the following letter to the Count, and ſent it by an expreſs to Flanders.
To the Count De Alanson, Colonel of the
Regiment of Picardy.
IT is not without inexpreſſible grief that we write theſe lines, which bring you the ſad tidings of the greateſt affliction, that ever befel you; and which without the Divine aid, you will find it very hard to bear; but I hope heaven will ſupport you under it. It is, in brief, the loſs of Deidamia. I do not mean by death, for had heaven ordained it ſo, that would have been far more eligible: But, alas! ſhe is loſt both to herſelf and all of us; and, ſhe is, ſince your departure, perverted to hereſy and turned an obſtinate Hugonot; which whilſt we endeavoured to reclaim her from, by conſenting, upon the advice of your Chaplain, father Antonio, that ſhe ſhould be put into a nunnery, ſhe is eſcaped from thence no one knows whither. The thoughts thereof have filled the hearts of myſelf and wife, with ſuch inexpreſſible grief and ſorrow as hath rendered us altogether unconſolable. Our only remaining hope is, that ſhe may be gone to you; and that if you have not already, you may yet hear of her in a few days; for ſhe left behind her in her chamber, at the nunnery of St. Bridget's, whether Fronovius and Antonio conducted her, the following note:"
" HAving been forced to this place againſt troubled that I have found means to ſet myſelf at liberty; and am gone to him, who, no doubt, will right me of the injury done me by my treacherous ſervants.DEIDAMIA."
"It is this note alone that gives us ground to hope that you may ſee her again; and, I pray God, it may fall out accordingly. And, when ever this loſt ſheep ſhall be found again, I doubt you will lay her in your boſom, according to the example of our great Shepherd; and, by your wonted love and tenderneſs towards her, endeavour to reſtore her again to the true fold and church of Chriſt; to whoſe protection I commit you, and ſo farewell.J. Montaign."
The Count Alanſon was ſo tranſported with grief at the reading of this letter, that for ſome time he remained ſpeechleſs. His trouble was too great to vent itſelſ in words; ſtill waters being always the deepeſt: but ſoon after, his ſorrow gave itſelf vent in the moſt paſſionate and feeling complaints; and then, calling for pen and ink, he writ the following letter to his father.
Alanson to Sieur Montaign.
I Received your letter, the contents whereof have brought that grief and ſorrow to my heart that will continue there for ever, unleſs the fight of my deareft Deidamia removes it. Her being turned Hugonot, is not that which gives me much trouble; it rather makes me think there is ſomething of good in thoſe opinions, or elſe, ſo much goodneſs and virtue as that of Deidamia's could never have embraced them. Had you but let her alone in my houſe, I had been happy ſtill; but your endeavouring to reclaim her has been the ruin of us both: I am ſo tranſported with grief and anger, that I know not what to write; nor would I write at all, but come away immediately, were it not for the hopes you gave me from the note, found in the chamber of my deareſt Deidamia, That ſhe was gone to him that would ſoon right ner injuries, and that can be none but myſelf. Might I but recover her again, ſhe ſhould not be miſtaken in her thoughts. It is in hopes of her coming, that I am content to ſtay here a litle longer: for it is Deidamia alone can make me happy. Farewel.ALANSON."
The meſſenger being returned with Alanſon's letter, it adniniſtered freſh grief to Deidamia's parents. For they thereby found, that by their too eaſily yielding to Antonio's deſigns, they had not only loſt their daughter, but the affections of their ſon-in-law.—In this ſtate we will now leave them, and make Deidamia a viſit in her ſorrowful ſolitude.
Deidamia being in that lonely place, each day removed her habitation, until, at laſt, ſhe found a cave to ſecure herſelf from the injuries of the weather; and it was a quiet reſting-place for her in the night ſeaſon, for by ſhutting up the mouth of the cave, ſhe covered herſelf from all danger; which ſhe looked upon, and thanked God for, as a great mercy; and living upon the fruits that grow in the wood, (as I ſaid before) ſhe ſpent her time wholly in prayer and meditation; and though her diet and lodging were extremely changed, yet her health was both continued and increaſed; and ſhe found that promiſe made good unto her, As thy day is, so ſhall thy ſtrength be.
She had now lived almoſt four months in this ſolitude; and, the winter approaching, began to make the woods uncomfortable, and the cold extremely nipping: ſo that Deidamia was forced often to walk apace to get her a heat. One day, as ſhe had walked farther than ordinary, ſhe diſcovered ſome kind of an obſcure path ſhe had not ſeen before; and, tho' ſhe knew not whither it would lead her, ſhe was reſolved to follow the tract She travelled ſo far that day, that it was in vain for her to think of returning to her beloved cave, where the had lain ſo many nights; and therefore, making the beſt ſhift that ſhe could, ſhe ſat down upon the ground, and recommending recommending herſelf to the Almighty's protection, compoſed herſelf to reſt. The next morning ſhe aroſe as ſoon as it was light, and travelling forward, perceived her path to be like that of the juſt, which the wiſe man tells us, ſhines more and more unto the perfect day. And, ſhe was encouraged to go on, becauſe ſhe fancied ſhe heard the barking of dogs; and, after travelling a little farther, ſhe was well aſſured it was a real thing and not a fancy only; and therefore ſhe purſued her journey the more eagerly: The ſun had not come to his meridian, when ſhe heard an unuſual ruſhing among the buſhes, and ſtanding ſtill to know what it might mean, ſhe perceived a grave old man, with two dogs following him, come from among the trees. They were both alike ſurpriſed at the interview; for the old man, having never ſeen any human creature in that place before, could not but be amazed to ſee a woman coming from the midſt of the wood; and therefore addreſſing himſelf to her, he enquired by what misfortune ſhe came thither? entreating her not to be afraid, for ſhe ſhould receive no harm from him. Deidamia, upon this, looking earneſtly upon him, and perceiving his carriage and demeanour to be what became the gravity of his years, ſhe told him, 'She was indeed in a wild place, and knew not the way out again.' To this, the old man replied, 'If ſhe would go with him to his homely cottage, his wife would conduct her out of the wood.' Deidamia preſently accepted of his kindneſs and went with him. And after they had gone about the ſpace of a mile, they came to his houſe, where the good old woman (who was ſomewhat ſurpriſed to ſee her huſband bring a ſtranger along with him) roſe up, and received her very courteouſly, deſiring her to ſit down, and refreſh herſelf with ſuch homely fare as their cottage afforded, which ſhe did; and then aſked her farther how ſhe came into that place. Deidamia deſired they would aſk her no queſtions, for the relation of her ſtory would but renew her grief; only, this much ſhe would let them know, that her being there alive was the effects of God's providence in delivering her from wicked and blood-thirſty men, that ſought to take away her life. Upon which, perceiving her to be full of grief, they aſked her no more queſtions, but finding her very weary, they led her into a homely, but clean apartment, to repoſe herſelf upon the bed. Deidamia was mighty, thoughtful what this aged couple might be and, whether or no, for her apparel's ſake, and that gold, and thoſe jewels ſhe had about her, ſhe might not fall into as great a danger, as that ſhe had formerly eſcaped, and though ſhe was, at firſt glad of their company, ſhe could have wiſhed herſelf in her beloved cave again. But her fears were quickly over, when, by a French Bible, and other books ſhe found in her room, and, by the hearty prayers of the good old man at night, ſhe perceived they were Hugonots; who, had fled into that ſolitary retirement, for the ſake of their religion. This made her be much more free with them, bleſſing God for his providence in bringing her thither; and reſolving to continue there till ſhe could meet with an opportunity to return home into the arms of her deareſt Alanſon: and the old couple, having underſtood her hiſtory more fully, by their pity and commiſeration, made her abode with them more eaſy; and the communion ſhe had with them, in the things of another world, weaned her from this in a great meaſure. So that here ſhe took up her abode, and continued with them not only that winter, but the year following, until ſhe was found out by her beloved Alanſon; to whom it is time that we now return.
The Count Alanſon having tarried at the camp a whole month, after the receiving of his father-in-law's letter, in expectation of ſeeing his deareft Deidemia, began now to be impatient of tarrying any longer; and indeed, during all that time, he was ſo much changed in his carriage, humour, and converſation, that all thoſe, with whom he uſed to converſe in the camp, took notice of it, he having abandoned himſelf to an extreme melancholy; therefore deſiring of the king to go home, both for the recovery of his health, and for ſettling ſome affairs in his family, he eaſily obtained it; and ſoon after, though with a heavy heart, arrived there: where his firſt buſineſs was to enquire after Deidamia; but none of the ſervants could give any account of her, but Fronovius and Antonio, who gave him the ſame account that had been ſent him by his father-in-law: after which he ſternly aſked them, 'How they durſt diſpoſe of their lady and miſtreſs, contrary to her will, without his conſent or knowledge?' telling them, 'He feared, by the note ſhe had written, it was their treachery that was the occafion of her loſs; which, if he could be but confirmed in, he would take care they ſhould receive a puniſhment, ſuitable to the greatneſs of their crimes.' At which Fronovius and Antonio began to tremble, and make the beſt excuſes for themſelves they could; alledging the conſent of her parents for what they did. But that did not at all ſatisfy Alanſon, who ſoon diſcharged them from his ſervice, and reſolved to travel in ſearch of Deidamia, though he knew not which way to bend his courſe: But after many a tedious journey, enquiring amongſt thoſe who were favourers of Hugonots, he could hear no tidings of her; ſo that, full of grief and ſorrow, he led a retired melancholy life in his own houſe, abſenting himſelf from all company, and mourning like a turtle that had loſt her mate, though his friends, by all means poſſible, endeavoured to comfort him; perſuading him to ſurceaſe his grief, for that it was probable, Deidamia by ſome misfortune or other was dead; and therefore they adviſed him to think of a ſecond marriage, as that which would reſtore his former gaiety, and make him forget Deidamia. But the more they endeavoured to perſuade him, the more he was reſolved to the contrary; and therefore, to avoid their continued importunities, he fixed his reſolution once more to travel in queſt of her; which accordingly he did, but without ſucceſs; and therefore he reſolved to return again to his own houſe, and there ſpend the remainder of his days in ſolitude.
But as he was returning home, in his way, he met with a vaſt concourſe of people, and demanding the occaſion of it, he was told a criminal was going to be broken on the wheel, for a murder he had committed; upon which, curioſity led him to ſee the execution; and getting pretty near, the malefactor caſt his eyes upon him, and ſtraightway knew him to be Alanſon, the huſband of Deidamia; and being ſmitten with remorſe of conſcience, he beckoned Alanſon to come near, and humbly begged his pardon for the wrong he had done him. At this Alanſon, both ſtarted and fell a trembling, fearing it was for her murder the criminal was to die: but coming nearer, the malefactor aſked him, 'If he had heard any news of his lady?' and then, in tears confeſſed, 'That himſelf and another had been hired to murder her, to which end, they carried her into a great wood, (which he named to him) but, by a miraculous providence, ſhe escaped out of their hands; that afterwards he had reported to thoſe that ſet him to work, that he had actually murdered her: for which he received the reward, but which way ſhe eſcaped, he knew not; and that this was about two years ſince.' The Count urged him to tell the names of thoſe that had ſo hired him; but he ſaid, 'He had ſworn upon the holy ſacrament of the altar never to diſcloſe them: and that he ſcared damnation if he ſhould: Only, ſaid he, this I may ſay, without breaking my oath, they were two perſons in whom you have put a great deal of confidence.' And then ſolemnly atteſted, 'That what he ſaid was the truth;' and ſoon after was executed.
This dying criminal's confeſſion confirmed Alanſon, that Deidamia had been treacherouſly carried thither, either from his houſe or the nunnery; and he no longer doubted that Fronovius and Antonio were the perſons that had hired villains to murder her; and therefore, tho' they had been removed from his ſervice ſome time, yet he was reſolved to purſue them, in order to bring them to juſtice: but firſt he intended to make a freſh ſearch after Deidamia, the criminal having given him an account where ſhe eſcaped from them; and therefore he thought, if ſhe was ſtill alive, ſhe might be ſomewhere in the vicinity of the wood: towards that, therefore he bended his courſe, and being arrived in ſight thereof, and ſeeing how vaſt it was, he perceived it would be a difficult thing to find her, even though ſhe was there; yet, at his entering in, he conceived ſome hopes in his mind, that he ſhould not looſe his labour. Whereupon alighting, and giving his horſe to his ſervant, (who had attended him in all his melancholy travels) and charging him to attend there till he came back, he went into the wood alone, and found himſelf entangled amongst thickets, briars, and buſhes: yet ſtill he went on, ſearching every cave and ſolitary place, often calling out, Deidamia! till darkneſs coming on, made him think of returning to his man; but he found he was gone too far to retreat back in time, and therefore reſolved to go forward: and being, no doubt, guided by providence, he happened upon that cave where Deidamia had ſo often be bewailed his abſence, and mourned her own ſolitary ſtate; and there he reſted his weary and tired body for that night, reſolving to purſue his ſearch the next morning; which being come, juſt as he was going out of the cave, he perceived ſomething ſparkle very brightly on the ground, which he took up; and looking on it in the open light, he found it to be a locket of diamonds which he had formerly given Deidamia, and unwittingly had dropt there. The finding of this, filled him with ſome tranſports of joy, as looking upon it as an earneſt of his good ſucceſs in finding the owner: thereupon he often repeated her name very loud, but could receive no anſwer but by ſome broken echoes, and therefore went on he knew not whither; but being directed by the ſame providence that had conducted her to the cave, when he had wandered ſo far that he was almoſt hopeleſs, he was ſuddenly ſet upon by two whiſſling curs, which upon offering to draw his ſword, ran away barking from him; which he purſuing, came in a little time, to a path, where he could diſcern the footſteps of human creatures, which very much revived his hopes, and encouraged him ſtill to go on. He had not gone far, before he diſcerned ſmoke to iſſue from a ſmall cottage; to which, as he approached nearer and nearer, he was again ſaluted by the furious barking of thoſe dogs whom he had before purſued. This was the cottage where Deidamia reſided; who, upon the barking of the dogs, looking out to ſee what was the matter, eſpied Alanſon coming towards her, and (the idea of his image being continually in her breaſt) ſhe no ſooner ſaw, but knew him, and, running into his arms in an exceſs of joy, was only able to cry out, Ah! my dear Lord Alanſon:' but exceſs of joy proves ſometimes fatal; and it had like to have done ſo to Deidamia, for ſhe immediately ſwooned away in his arms. The dogs ſtill continuing their barking, which alſo cauſed the good old woman of the cottage, to ſee what the cauſe was. She was extremely ſurpriſed to ſee a genteel ſtranger there, and Deidamia fainting in his arms; however, ſhe made what haſte ſhe could, to endeavour her recovery, deſiring Alanſon to bring her into the houſe, which he inmediately did, telling the good woman, that he was Deidamia's huſband, which ſhe (being very well acquainted with Deidamia's ſtory) was very glad to hear. It was a conſiderable time, before Deidamia could be brought to herſelf; which ſo much afflicted the Count, that he was almoſt ready to faint away himſelf. But his lady being again recovered, Alanſon, with a thouſand kiſſes and endearing expreſſions, aſſured her of the truth, reality, and conſtancy of his affections towards her; whilſt ſhe, on the other hand, ſeemed to be the moſt ſatisfied creature in the world, in that ſhe had once more ſeen her deareſt Lord Alanſon; deſiring him not to be troubled at her fainting away, ſince it was only occaſioned by the exceſs of joy ſhe conceived in ſeeing him again; and that death itſelf would have been eaſy to her upon ſo happy an occaſion; and eſpecially dying in his arms.
Whilſt in this manner they were expreſſing the ardency of their affections to each other, the good man of the houſe came home, and being told by his wife, that Deidamia's huſband was there, he was overjoyed; and courteouſly ſaluted Alanſon, telling him, 'He was ſure, he was a welcome man there to them all; but eſpecially to Deidamia, who had long mourned his abſence.' Alanſon kindly thanked him, and told him, he ſhould ever honour him as the refuge and preſerver of his dear lady. And, after ſuch civilities on each ſide paſſed, the good woman ſet before him, ſuch homely refreſhment as ſhe had prepared, on the table: Alanſon ate but little, Deidamia's preſence being more to him than all the dainties in the world; yet perceiving with what coarſe fare his lady had been there contented, he praiſed her humility, and wondered at her virtue. Dinner being ended, Alanſon was concerned for his ſervant, whom he had left in the entrance of the wood, and would have gone back to him; but the good old man would by no means let him, telling him he would go himſelf, becauſe he better knew the way, and could more eaſily find it; and ſo, taking his dogs along with him, he went accordingly: the man having waited at the entrance of the wood, from the time that his maſter went into it, till the next morning, and hearing nothing of him, leaving his horſes in the fields adjoining to the wood, reſolved to find him out; and having got a good way, he met the old gentleman, who was coming to him; and enquiring of him for for his maſter, whom he deſcribed; he told him, he had both ſeen, and was come from him, to conduct him where he was, and that he had found his lady; at this, the ſervant was very gład, and joyfully went along with him. After the old gentleman was gone for the ſervant, the Count and his lady went into the woods, and there ſhe gave him a particular account of all her ſorrows and ſufferings ſince his departing from her, and the reaſon of her ſtaying where ſhe was; viz. The old gentleman not daring to go out of the wood with her, he being a proſcribed perſon; and to go without him, was to endanger her own life; beſides, ſhe knew not how Antonio might have ordered matters, having the pretence of hereſy to lay to her charge; and that, hearing nothing of him in all this time, ſhe thought his affections might have been eſtranged from her. But Alanſon aſſured her of the contrary, telling her, he could not but wonder at the unparalleled villainy of Fronovius and Antonio, and that he had turned them out of his ſervice, ſoon after he came home from the camp. After which, the old gentleman and Alanſon's ſervant, being (as before related) arrived at the cottage, the evening was far ſpent; and ſo they all betook themſelves to reſt.
The next morning, Alanſon was preparing for his return home; but, before they went, their aged landlord would need have them ſtay and and dine; and, in diſcourſe, told him, He was once a tenant of his father's; but, by cruel edicts, was forced not only to leave that farm, but his paternal inheritance; ſuffering the ſpoils and loſs of all, for the ſake of Chriſt and a good conſcience; and in this ſolitary retirement, had enjoyed more true peace and ſatisfaction, than in all the pleaſure of his forepaſt life. The Count then aſked him his name? which he told him was De la Mont; upon which he preſently knew and embraced him, ſaying, 'That tho' himſelf was of the Romiſh perſuaſion, yet he had often pitied his ſufferings; adding, That it was given out, he died in priſon.' The pious Deidamia, from this diſcourſe, took an occaſion to ſay, 'Ah!, my deareſt Lord, you ſee what a cruel and mercileſs religion it is that you profeſs, and which, through the goodneſs of God, I have lately departed from.' 'I am not ſurpriſed (ſaid Alanſon) at that, which you ſay: for I was informed in Flanders, that you had changed your religion.' 'I wiſh to God (replied Deidamia) that yourſelf my deareſt Lord, was likewiſe made a partaker of the ſame happy change.' Upon this, Monſ. De la Mont put in, and laid down ſuch weighty reaſons for the truth of the reformed religion, and againſt the errors of the church of Rome, that it encouraged Deidamia farther to go on, and ſhew the viciouſneſs and debauchery of the Romiſh clergy, their bloody principles, and perſecuting ſpirit; ſo that Alanſon was forced to confeſs, that what was alledged againſt their practices was true; but as to their principles (abating that of perſecution) he believed they might be miſtaken: Upon which Deidamia replied, 'I am glad, my dear Lord, to ſind you are againſt perſecution; I hope then you will be willing I ſhall enjoy the liberty of my conſcience, the only happineſs I have had in this ſolitary retirement, and that you will never go about to compel me to go to maſs, which I will rather chuſe to die than do.' To this Alanſon replied, 'That he was no ſuch bigot, as to think that thoſe that ſincerely worſhipped God, according to the beſt of their underſtanding, as he was confident Deidamia did, might not be accepted of him: though of an opinion different from himſelf: And as to compel her to go to maſs, if by arguments he could not perſuade her to it, he ſolemnly promiſed, he never would uſe any other means.'
And being now ready to depart, Alanſon offered La Mont ſtore of gold for their kindneſs to his lady, while ſhe had been with them; which he abſolutely refuſed, ſaying, 'Her converſation had been ſo agreeable, that they were the perſons who had been obliged.' So that, leave being taken, and La Mont praying, that God would go along with them, and make their way proſperous, they parted: and coming out of the wood, the ſervant readily found the horſes; and Deidamia getting up behind her Lord, they made the beſt of their way towards Alanſon's houſe; where they were received with the rejoicing of their acquaintance, and much more of her parents, to whom, in a day or two, they made a viſit; Deidamia being received by them as one riſen from the dead. And the ſtory of their daughter's troubles being all related to them, they could not but admire the providence of God in preſerving her, and wonder at the monſtrous wickedneſs of Fronovius and Antonio, who, upon their hearing of the confeſſion of the dying criminal, had withdrawn themſelves their former reſidences. And Antonio (the better to eſcape deſerved puniſhment for his luſtful attempts upon Deidamia's chaſtity) went privately to the biſhop of Rheims, and told him that Count Alinſon's lady was depraved with hereſy; in which ſhe was ſo much countenanced by her Lord, that himſelf for endeavouring to reclaim her, was turned out of the family, and cut off from all intereſt in it, and therefore came humbly to beg his protection, againſt ſo powerful an adverſary; ſince what he had done, was only out of zeal to promote the catholic religion. The biſhop received him into his protection, and writ a ſharp letter to the Count about it; who having received it, believed it was done by the inſtigation of Antonio whom he heard he had entertained; and being troubled that ſo great a villain ſhould find any countenance from the biſhop, he wrote back again to know the names of thoſe that had ſo injuriouſly informed him againſt his lady; but the biſhop would not gratify him ſo far in his deſires This made the Count return him a ſecond letter, written in a more angry ſtyle, declaring, 'That, if he could not have juſtice from him, the king himſelf ſhould be acquainted with it, and by him he would ſeek redreſs.' This ſo nettled the biſhop, that he ſent examiners to his lady to interrogate her about her religion; of which the Count having ſome intimation, ſent her to her parents, who being extremely troubled at theſe freſh misfortunes, and mightily ſcandalized at the villainy of Antonio, and the biſhop's protecting him from juſtice, grew thereupon very cold in the profeſſion of the Popiſh religion; which ſo furiouſly perſecuted innocence and virtue, and countenanced the greateſt wickedneſs: This the pious Deidamia wiſely improved, and ſo effectually wrought with them, by her warm and zealcus diſcourſes, that through the operation of God's holy Spirit aſſiſting her, they were both brought over to the embracing of the truth.
The biſhop's examiners being diſappointed, returned back without their errand; upon which the biſhop threatened to excommunicate both Alanſon and his family, and was ſoon after as good as his word. Upon this Alanſon poſts away to the king, who was then at Marley, where he complained of the injury done him by the biſhop of Rheims, both in excommunicating him, and protecting a villainous criminal from juſtice. But it ſeems the biſhop had been before-hand with him, and made his complaint firſt. For the king received him very coldly: and told him, the biſhop of Rheims was a good man, and he left his buſineſs wholly to him. On which Alanſon returned home much diſcontented, and found that in his abſence freſh ſearch had been made in his houſe for his lady, though without ſucceſs. Then he went to the biſhop himſelf, and boldly charged him, with entertain ing a wicked perſon to the prejudice of his honour; telling him who he was, and declared his crimes, deſiring he might be brought forth, and his lady ſhould appear. But the biſhop refuſing this, and telling him, his lady was accuſed of hereſy, and be of countenancing it. The Count in a kind of holy anger, told him, 'That religion could not be of God, which encouraged villainy, and ſought the deſtruction of them that were virtuous.' At this the biſhop ſtormed, and told him, 'That he ſhould be anſwered in another manner.' And ſoon after, he had ſecret notice from court, 'That upon a freſh complaint of the biſhop's, both he and his lady were proſcribed as Hugonots; and that, notwithſtanding his friends' interceſſion and his own former merits, his places were taken away, and his eſtate ordered to be ſeized, as a terror to others.' Alanſon, finding himſelf unable to withſtand this ſtorm, packed up the richeſt of his effects, and privately ſent them to his wife's father, where ſhe was all this while concealed, and then followed after himſelf: Where, having declared the great injuſtice he had met withal, contrary to all religion, honour, honeſty and conſcience, he then told his relations, he was reſolved, by God's help, to embrace that religion, for which he had been a ſufferer, before he was a profeſſor; 'For that religion could not be of God, that did ſo evidently ſet up the kingdom of the devil.' At which they all rejoiced, and Deidamia more eſpecially; who paſſionately embracing him, ſaid, 'Her father and mother were of the ſame mind with him:' At which, Alanſon was the more encouraged. But, lest their adverſaries ſhould come thither to ſearch for them, they withdrew into a ſmall village, and lived obſcurely, while La Mont could hear of a convenient veſſel to tranſport them into a country, where they might enjoy more liberty.
You have before heard how Bernard the Gardener, was ſold to the maſter of a ſhip, belonging to one of the French plantations in the Weſt Indies; before we conclude, we will briefly ſhew how God's providence watched over him for good alſo. In his voyage at ſea, they met with ſo extraordinary a ſtorm, that all expected preſent death; but Bernard was very calm, putting up his ſervant prayer to Almighty God, was followed by a very great ſerenity and calmneſs. This made the maſter have a reſpect for him, and oftentimes diſcourſe with him; his behaviour being always ſober, and his diſcourſe ſavoury. The maſter having made his voyage, ſold Bernard for a ſlave, and having ſtaid there about two months, returned again to France; but the diſcourfes and behaviour of Bernard, had made ſo deep an impreſſion in his mind, that he was greatly troubled for having ſold him; inſomuch that he could not reſt, until he had taken a ſolemn reſolution, the next voyage he made, to bring him back; and accordingly, the next year making another voyage thither, he made it his buſineſs to enquire after him; and, having found him, aſked if he was willing to have his liberty, and return to his own country: Bernard replied, he never was in love with ſlavery; but was contented under it, whilſt God's providence ordered it ſo; but, if he might have his liberty, he would chuſe it rather. Whereupon the maſter paid his ranſom and brought him back to France; nor was he a loſer by it; for, as a recompence for his kindneſs, it pleaſed God to make Bernard an inſtrument, to open his eyes, and bring him to the acknowledgement of the truth. Bernard being got again into his own country, made it his whole buſineſs to enquire after the welfare of Alanſon's family, and, being told of the ſufferings that had lately befallen them, he was extremely grieved; though at the ſame time, he could not but rejoice, that they ſuffered in ſo good a cauſe. And, ſpeaking of them to ſome of his old Chriſtian friends, he was told by one of them, that both the Count and his lady lived obſcurely and in diſguiſe in the neighbouring village, and that, if he had a mind to ſee them, he would give him a note to the gentleman of the houſe, upon which he ſhould have admittance to them; or otherwiſe, they would not be ſpoken with by any one. Bernard gladly accepted of his friend's kindneſs, and ſtraightway went to the houſe, and delivered the gentleman the note; the purport of which was this, 'That he had known the bearer many years, for a faithful fried and brother, and that he had been formerly a ſervant of the Count Alanſon's, and had a great deſire to ſee his lady, which he might ſafely let him do.'
Upon reading this note, the gentleman deſired him to come in, and ſent up one of his ſervants to acquaint Deidamia, there was one below deſired to ſpeak with her; upon which Bernard was preſently called up.
Deidamia was mightily ſurpriſed to ſee Bernard, whom ſhe thought ſhe would never have ſeen more, and very much rejoiced at it; introducing him to her Lord, and afterwards to her parents, who all made very much of him, and were glad to ſee him. And, having communicated the various providences of God to one another, ſince they had been parted, they all bleſſed the Lord for his goodneſs and for his wonderful works to the children of men; and afterwards conſulted how to procure a veſſel to convey them out of danger.
Bernard gave them an account, that the maſter of the veſſel which brought him back to France, was alſo converted, and that now his veſſel lay ready to ſail for Denmark; and he was ſure he would be glad to ſerve them. To this they all agreed; and thereupon Bernard went immediately to the maſter of the ſhip, who readily conſented to carry them, and ordered their goods to be brought preſently, and themſelves to come aboard at midnight; at which time, Bernard conducted them to the ſhip, and then went aboard with them, in quality of their ſervant; and ſoon after, the wind ſerving, they ſet ſail for Denmark; where, being arrived, and tarrying a few days, they hired a Dutch veſſel to carry them to Rotterdam; and from thence they went by boat to Utrecht; which being a pieaſant place, end a very good air, they reſolved to ſettle there.
Thus, courteous reader, thou haſt heard a brief, but true relation of the mercy and goodneſs of God to that noble family, which is the ſubject of this narrative and he that reads it ſeriouſly thro'-out, will find cauſe to make the ſame obſervations that David did of old; 'Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace;' which the apoſtle St. James farther examplifies in his epiſtle; 'You have heard of the patience of Job, and have ſeen the end of the Lord, how he is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.' Here you have ſeen the great diſtreſs of Deidamia; and here you have ſeen the goodneſs of God in her deliverance. Here you have ſeen the Count Alanſon, rifled of all his eſtates and poſſeſſions; and here you have ſeen how God has graciouſly made it up: in giving him that faith which is far more precious than the gold which periſheth. But, I cannot conclude, without giving yon an account of the judgement of God upon Fronovius and Antonio, that others may fear and give glory to God.
Fronovius, after the ſeizure of Alanſon's eſtate, and his departure into Holland, returned into thoſe parts; but, finding himſelf hated by all men for his villainy, he retired into Normandy; where, ſoliciting, his landlord's daughter to yield to his luſt, and ſhe refuſing it, he took an opportunity to raviſh her; for which he was hanged without the gates of Roan.
And, as for Antonio, tho' he eſcaped the juſtice of man, he could not eſcape the judgement of God; for, falling diſtracted a little time after, he confeſſed it was God's judgement upon him, for the miſchief he had wrought againſt his lord Alanſon, and his virtuous lady; ſaying, 'They had taken a way to be ſaved, but he was ſure to be damned;' and ſo daſhing out his own brains againſt a wall, he died miſerably. Both of them verifying the words of the inſpired penman; 'Is not deſtruction to the wicked, and a ſtrange puniſhment to the workers of iniquity?'