His face was long, thin, and hollow-cheeked, with a pair of great thatched eyebrows and deep sunken melancholy eyes, which lit up upon occasion with a sudden quick flash of fiery enthusiasm.
'Joshua Pettigrue is my name, gentlemen,' said he; 'I am an unworthy worker in the Lord's vineyard, testifying with voice and with arm to His holy covenant. These are my faithful flock, whom I am bringing westward that they may be ready for the reaping when it pleases the Almighty to gather them in.'
'And why have you not brought them into some show of order or formation?' asked Saxon. 'They are straggling along the road like a line of geese upon a common when Michaelmas is nigh. Have you no fears? Is it not written that your calamity cometh suddenly--suddenly shall you be broken down without remedy?'
'Aye, friend, but is it not also written, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding!" Mark ye, if I were to draw up my men in military fashion it would invite attention and attack from any of James Stuart's horse who may come our way. It is my desire to bring my flock to the camp and obtain pieces for them before exposing them to so unequal a contest.'
'Truly, sir, it is a wise resolution,' said Saxon grimly, 'for if a troop of horse came down upon these good people the pastor would find himself without his flock.'
'Nay, that could never be!' cried Master Pettigrue with fervour. 'Say rather that pastor, flock, and all would find their way along the thorny track of martyrdom to the new Jerusalem. Know, friend, that I have come from Monmouth in order to conduct these men to his standard. I received from him, or rather from Master Ferguson, instructions to be on the lookout for ye and for several others of the faithful we expect to join us from the East. By what route came ye?'
'Over Salisbury Plain and so through Bruton.'
'And saw ye or met ye any of our people upon the way?'
'None,' Saxon answered. 'We left the Blue Guards at Salisbury, however, and we saw either them or some other horse regiment near this side of the Plain at the village of Mere.'
'Ah, there is a gathering of the eagles,' cried Master Joshua Pettigrue, shaking his head. 'They are men of fine raiment, with war-horses and chariots and trappings, like the Assyrians of old, yet shall the angel of the Lord breathe upon them in the night. Yea, He shall cut them off utterly in His wrath, and they shall be destroyed.'
'Amen! Amen!' cried as many of the peasants as were within earshot.
'They have elevated their horn, Master Pettigrue,' said the grizzly-haired Puritan. 'They have set up their candlestick on high-- the candlestick of a perverse ritual and of an idolatrous service. Shall it not be dashed down by the hands of the righteous?'
'Lo, this same candle waxed big and burned sooty, even as an offence to the nostrils, in the days of our fathers,' cried a burly red-faced man, whose dress proclaimed him to be one of the yeoman class. 'So was it when Old Noll did get his snuffing shears to work upon it. It is a wick which can only be trimmed by the sword of the faithful.' A grim laugh from the whole party proclaimed their appreciation of the pious waggery of their companion.
'Ah, Brother Sandcroft,' cried the pastor, 'there is much sweetness and manna hidden in thy conversation. But the way is long and dreary. Shall we not lighten it by a song of praise? Where is Brother Thistlethwaite, whose voice is as the cymbal, the tabor, and the dulcimer?'
'Lo, most pious Master Pettigrue,' said Saxon, 'I have myself at times ventured to lift up my voice before the Lord.' Without any further apology he broke out in stentorian tones into the following hymn, the refrain of which was caught up by pastor and congregation.
The Lord He is a morion That guards me from all wound; The Lord He is a coat of mail That circles me all round. Who then fears to draw the sword, And fight the battle of the Lord?
The Lord He is the buckler true That swings on my left arm; The Lord He is the plate of proof That shieldeth me from harm. Who then fears to draw the sword, And fight the battle of the Lord?
Who then dreads the violent, Or fears the man of pride? Or shall I flee from two or three If He be by my side? Who then fears to draw the sword, And fight the battle of the Lord!
My faith is like a citadel Girt round with moat and wall, No mine, or sap, or breach, or gap Can ere prevail at all. Who then fears to draw the sword, And fight the battle of the Lord?
Saxon ceased, but the Reverend Joshua Pettigrue waved his long arms and repeated the refrain, which was taken up again and again by the long column of marching peasants.