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It was the constant manner of my father, to have all the keys of the out-doors of his house, which were four, and those linked upon a chain, brought up into his chamber every night, and fetched out from thence in the morning; so that none could come in or go out in the night without his knowledge.
I knowing this, suspected that if I got not out before my father came down, I should be stopped from going out at all that day. Where
fore, the passage from my chamber lying by - his chamber door, I went down softly with
out my shoes, and as soon as the maid had opened the door, I went out, though too early, and walked towards the meeting at Meadle, four long miles off.
I expected to have been talked with about it when I came home, but heard nothing of it, my father resolving to watch me better next time.
This I was aware of, and therefore, on the next first-day I got up early, went down softly, and hid myself in a back room, before the maid was stirring.
When she was up, she went into my father's chamber for the keys; but he bid her leave them till he was up, and he would bring them down himself, which he did, and tarried in the kitchen, through which he expected I
The manner was, that when the common doors were opened, the keys were hung upon a pin in the hall. While therefore
While therefore my father
staid in the kitchen, expecting my coming, I stepping gently out of the room where I was, reached the keys, and opening another door, not often used, slipped out, and so got away.
I thought I had gone off undiscovered. But whether my father saw me through a window, or by what other means he knew of my going, I know not, but I had gone but a little way, before I saw him coming after me.
The sight of him put me to a stand in my mind, whether I should go on or stop. Had it been in any other case, than that of going to a meeting, I could not in any wise have gone a step further. But I considered that the intent of my father's endeavouring to stop me, was tohinder me from obeying the call of my heavenly Father, and to stop me from going to worship him in the assembly of his people; upon this I found it my duty to go on, and observing that my father gained ground upon me, I somewhat mended my pace.
This he observing, mended his pace also, and at length ran.
Whereupon I ran also, and a fair course we had, through a large meadow of his, which lay behind his house and out of sight of the town. He was not, I suppose, then above fifty years of age, and being light of body, and nimble of foot, he held me to it for a while. But afterwards slacking his pace .to take breath, and observing that I had gotten ground of him, he turned back and went home, and, as I afterwards understood, telling my
sister's how I had served him, he said, Nay, if he will take so much pains to go, let him go, if he will. And from that time forward he never attempted to stop me, but left me to my liberty to go when and whither I would, yet kept me at the usual distance, avoiding the sight of me as much as he could, as not able to bear the sight of my hat on, nor willing to contend with me again about it.
Nor was it long after this before I was left not only to myself, but in a manner by myself. For the time appointed for the coronation of the king, which was the twenty-third of the second month, (called April) drawing on, my father, taking my two sisters with him, went up to London sometime before, that they might be there in readiness, and put them . selves into a condition to see that, so great a a solemnity, leaving no body in the house but myself and a couple of servants.
And though this was intended only for a visit on that occasion, yet it proved the breaking of the family; for he bestowed both his daughters there in marriage, and took lodgings for himself; so that afterwards they never returned to settle at Crowell.
Being now at liberty, I walked over to Alesbury, with some other Friends, to visit my dear friend Isaac Penington, who was still a prisoner there. With him I found dear John Whitehead, and between sixty and seventy more; being well nigh all the men Friends that were then in the county of Bucks; many
of them were taken out of their houses by armed men, and sent to prison as I had been, for refusing to swear. Most of these were thrust into an old room, behind the gaol, which had anciently been a malt-house, but was now so decayed, that it was scarce fit for a dog-house. And so open it lay, that the prisoners might have gone out at pleasure. But these were purposely put there, in confidence that they would not go out, that there might be room in the prison for others of other professions and names, whom the gaoler did not trust there.
While this imprisonment lasted, (which was for some months) I went afterwards thither sometimes, to visit my suffering brethren ; and because it was a pretty long way, (some eight or nine lung miles) too far to be walked forward and backward in one day, I sometimes staid a day or two there, and lay in the malthouse among my friends, with whom I delighted to be.
After this imprisonment was over, I went sometimes to Isaac Penington's house at Chalfout, to visit that family and the Friends thereabouts. There was then a meeting, for the most part, twice a week in his house ; but one first-day in four there was a more general meeting, which was thence called the monthly meeting, to which resorted most of the Friends of other adjacent meetings; and to that I usually went, and sometimes made some stay there.
Here I came acquainted with a Friend of London, whose name was Richard Greenaway, by trade a tailor, a very honest man, and one who had received a gift for the ministry.
He, having been formerly in other professions of religion, had then been acquainted with one John Ovy of Watlington, in Oxfordshire, a man of some note among the professors there, and understanding upon enquiry, that I knew him, he had some discourse with me about him. The result thereof was, that he, having an intention then shortly to visit some meetings of Friends in this county, and the adjoining parts of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, invited me to meet him (upon notice given) and to bear him company in that journey, and in the way bring him to John Ovy's house, with whom I was well acquainted ; which I did.
We were kindly received, the man and his wife being very glad to see both their old friend Richard Greenaway, and me also ; whom they had been very well acquainted with formerly, but had never seen me since I was a Quaker.
Here we tarried that night, and in the evening had a little meeting there, with some few of John Ovy's people, amongst whom Richard Greenaway declared the truth, which they attentively heard, and did not oppose, which at that time of day we reckoned was pretty well, for many were apt to cavil.