(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Following the death of King Charles I, commissioners of the usurping Oliver Cromwell were sent to destroy the royal residences of England, including the royal lodge of Woodstock, occupied by Sir Henry Lee and his daughter Alice. The old Royalist and his daughter were forced from their home by Cromwell’s soldiers and moved to a nearby hut occupied by the royal lodgekeeper, Joceline Joliffe. They arrived at the hut and found Markham Everard, Sir Henry’s nephew, whose opposite political views so enraged his uncle that the young man left the hut and moved into the lodge. There he composed a letter to Cromwell, in which he asked for the preservation of Woodstock as a personal favor. He sent the letter by his friend, Roger Wildrake. Although Roger was a Royalist, he was a trustworthy friend as well.

Cromwell hated to grant the request, but he hoped to turn it to his own advantage. Young Charles Stuart, heir to the throne, had escaped the Puritans in the company of Albert Lee, Sir Henry’s son. Hoping to capture the Prince, Cromwell ordered his soldiers to leave the lodge because he believed that Albert might try to contact his father and in that way lead the royal fugitive into a trap. Cromwell ordered Wildrake to tell Everard to detain Albert and Charles if they appeared at Woodstock and turn them over to the Puritan troops; but Everard, although he was a member of Cromwell’s party, assured Wildrake that he would not only refuse to betray Charles but would also, if he had an opportunity, help Charles to escape.

Sir Henry and Alice, accompanied by several servants, returned to Woodstock after the departure of the soldiers. Soon young Albert Lee did arrive at the lodge, and with him were the Woodstock chaplain, Dr. Rochecliffe, and a young Scottish page, Louis Kerneguy. The page was actually Charles Stuart in disguise. He had great fun acting the part of a churlish and mischievous page, and Albert and Dr. Rochecliffe worried for his safety, although they realized that Woodstock was probably the safest refuge possible for him at the time. Albert and Rochecliffe were the only two certain of the page’s real identity, but Joliffe, the lodgekeeper, suspected that the page was his monarch. He kept his eyes open for trouble, particularly from the Puritan steward, Tomkins, who had been left at the lodge by Cromwell to act as a spy. Albert also feared that Wildrake would discover the plot, but Rochecliffe assured Albert that Wildrake would not betray the Prince.

The plan was to find a ship to take Charles to safety. While they waited for arrangements to be completed, Charles became interested in Alice Lee, who was in love with Everard. Her love was a hopeless one, however, for her father would not hear of an alliance between his daughter and a Puritan.

One afternoon, when Alice and Kerneguy—for she knew him only as such—were alone, he became angry because she would not pay...

(The entire section is 1192 words.)