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´╗┐Title: By England's Aid; or, the Freeing of the Netherlands (1585-1604)
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
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By England's Aid

or The Freeing of the Netherlands (1585-1604)


by G. A. Henty



PREFACE.

MY DEAR LADS,

In my preface to By Pike and Dyke I promised in a future story to deal
with the closing events of the War of Independence in Holland. The
period over which that war extended was so long, and the incidents
were so numerous and varied, that it was impossible to include the
whole within the limit of a single book. The former volume brought
the story of the struggle down to the death of the Prince of Orange
and the capture of Antwerp; the present gives the second phase of
the war, when England, who had long unofficially assisted Holland,
threw herself openly into the struggle, and by her aid mainly
contributed to the successful issue of the war. In the first part
of the struggle the scene lay wholly among the low lands and cities
of Holland and Zeeland, and the war was strictly a defensive one,
waged against overpowering odds. After England threw herself into
the strife it assumed far wider proportions, and the independence
of the Netherlands was mainly secured by the defeat and destruction
of the great Armada, by the capture of Cadiz and the fatal blow
thereby struck at the mercantile prosperity of Spain, and by the
defeat of the Holy League by Henry of Navarre, aided by English
soldiers and English gold. For the facts connected with the
doings of Sir Francis Vere and the British contingent in Holland,
I have depended much upon the excellent work by Mr. Clement Markham
entitled the Fighting Veres. In this full justice is done to the
great English general and his followers, and it is conclusively
shown that some statements to the disparagement of Sir Francis
Vere by Mr. Motley are founded upon a misconception of the facts.
Sir Francis Vere was, in the general opinion of the time, one of
the greatest commanders of the age, and more, perhaps, than any
other man with the exception of the Prince of Orange contributed
to the successful issue of the struggle of Holland to throw off
the yoke of Spain.

Yours sincerely,

G.A. HENTY



CHAPTER I

AN EXCURSION


"And we beseech Thee, O Lord, to give help and succour to Thy servants
the people of Holland, and to deliver them from the cruelties and
persecutions of their wicked oppressors; and grant Thy blessing,
we pray Thee, upon the arms of our soldiers now embarking to aid
them in their extremity."

These were the words with which the Rev. John Vickars, rector of
Hedingham, concluded the family prayers on the morning of December
6th, 1585.

For twenty years the first portion of this prayer had been repeated
daily by him, as it had been in tens of thousands of English
households; for since the people of the Netherlands first rose
against the Spanish yoke the hearts of the Protestants of England
had beat warmly in their cause, and they had by turns been moved
to admiration at the indomitable courage with which the Dutch
struggled for independence against the might of the greatest power
in Europe, and to horror and indignation at the pitiless cruelty
and wholesale massacres by which the Spaniards had striven to stamp
out resistance.

From the first the people of England would gladly have joined
in the fray, and made common cause with their co-religionists;
but the queen and her counsellors had been restrained by weighty
considerations from embarking in such a struggle. At the commencement
of the war the power of Spain overshadowed all Europe. Her infantry
were regarded as irresistible. Italy and Germany were virtually her
dependencies, and England was but a petty power beside her. Since
Agincourt was fought we had taken but little part in wars on the
Continent. The feudal system was extinct; we had neither army nor
military system; and the only Englishmen with the slightest experience
of war were those who had gone abroad to seek their fortunes, and
had fought in the armies of one or other of the continental powers.
Nor were we yet aware of our naval strength. Drake and Hawkins and
the other buccaneers had not yet commenced their private war with
Spain, on what was known as the Spanish Main--the waters of
the West Indian Islands--and no one dreamed that the time was
approaching when England would be able to hold her own against the
strength of Spain on the seas.

Thus, then, whatever the private sentiments of Elizabeth and her
counsellors, they shrank from engaging England in a life and death
struggle with the greatest power of the time; though as the struggle
went on the queen's sympathy with the people of the Netherlands
was more and more openly shown. In 1572 she was present at a parade
of three hundred volunteers who mustered at Greenwich under Thomas
Morgan and Roger Williams for service in the Netherlands. Sir Humphrey
Gilbert, half brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, went out a few months
later with 1500 men, and from that time numbers of English volunteers
continued to cross the seas and join in the struggle against the
Spaniards. Nor were the sympathies of the queen confined to allowing
her subjects to take part in the fighting; for she sent out large
sums of money to the Dutch, and as far as she could, without openly
joining them, gave them her aid.

Spain remonstrated continually against these breaches of neutrality,
while the Dutch on their part constantly implored her to join them
openly; but she continued to give evasive answers to both parties
until the assassination of William of Orange on 10th July, 1584,
sent a thrill of horror through England, and determined the queen
and her advisers to take a more decisive part in the struggle. In the
following June envoys from the States arrived in London, and were
received with great honour, and a treaty between the two countries
was agreed upon. Three months later the queen published a declaration
to her people and to Europe at large, setting forth the terrible
persecutions and cruelties to which "our next neighbours, the people
of the Low Countries," the special allies and friends of England,
had been exposed, and stating her determination to aid them to
recover their liberty. The proclamation concluded: "We mean not
hereby to make particular profit to ourself and our people, only
desiring to obtain, by God's favour, for the Countries, a deliverance
of them from war by the Spaniards and foreigners, with a restitution
of their ancient liberties and government.

Sir Thomas Cecil was sent out at once as governor of Brill, and
Sir Philip Sidney as governor of Flushing, these towns being handed
over to England as guarantees by the Dutch. These two officers,
with bodies of troops to serve as garrisons, took charge of their
respective fortresses in November. Orders were issued for the
raising of an army for service in the Low Countries, and Dudley,
Earl of Leicester, was appointed by the queen to its command.
The decision of the queen was received with enthusiasm in England
as well as in Holland, and although the Earl of Leicester was not
personally popular, volunteers flocked to his standard.

Breakfast at Hedingham Rectory had been set at an earlier hour than
usual on the 6th of December, 1585. There was an unusual stir and
excitement in the village, for young Mr. Francis Vere, cousin of
the Earl of Oxford, lord of Hedingham and of all the surrounding
country, was to start that morning to ride to Colchester, there
to join the Earl of Leicester and his following as a volunteer. As
soon as breakfast was over young Geoffrey and Lionel Vickars, boys
of fourteen and thirteen years old, proceeded to the castle close
by, and there mounted the horses provided for them, and rode with
Francis Vere to Colchester.

Francis, who was at this time twenty-five years old, was accompanied
by his elder brother, John, and his two younger brothers, Robert
and Horace, and by many other friends; and it was a gay train that
cantered down the valley of the Colne to Colchester. That ancient
town was all astir. Gentlemen had ridden in from all the country
seats and manors for many miles round, and the quiet streets were
alive with people. At two o'clock in the afternoon news arrived
that the earl was approaching, and, headed by the bailiffs of the
town in scarlet gowns, the multitude moved out to meet the earl on
the Lexden road. Presently a long train was seen approaching; for
with Leicester were the Earl of Essex, Lords North and Audley, Sir
William Russell, Sir Thomas Shirley, and other volunteers, to the
number of five hundred horse. All were gaily attired and caparisoned,
and the cortege presented a most brilliant appearance. The multitude
cheered lustily, the bailiffs presented an address, and followed by
his own train and by the gentlemen who had assembled to meet him,
the earl rode into the town. He himself took up his abode at the
house of Sir Thomas Lucas, while his followers were distributed
among the houses of the townsfolk. Two hours after the arrival of
the earl, the party from Hedingham took leave of Mr. Francis Vere.

"Goodbye, lads," he said to the young Vickars, "I will keep my
promise, never fear; and if the struggle goes on till you are old
enough to carry arms, I will, if I am still alive, take you under
my leading and teach you the art of war."

Upon the following day the Earl of Leicester and his following rode
to Manningtree, and took boat down the Stour to Harwich, where the
fleet, under Admiral William Borough, was lying. Here they embarked,
and on the 9th of December sailed for Flushing, where they were
joined by another fleet of sixty ships from the Thames.

More than a year passed. The English had fought sturdily in Holland.
Mr. Francis Vere had been with his cousin, Lord Willoughby, who
was in command of Bergen op Zoom, and had taken part in the first
brush with the enemy, when a party of the garrison marched out and
attacked a great convoy of four hundred and fifty wagons going to
Antwerp, killed three hundred of the enemy, took eighty prisoners,
and destroyed all their wagons except twenty-seven, which they
carried into the town. Leicester provisioned the town of Grave,
which was besieged by the Duke of Parma, the Spanish commander
in chief. Axel was captured by surprise, the volunteers swimming
across the moat at night, and throwing open the gates. Doesburg
was captured, and Zutphen besieged.

Parma marched to its relief, and, under cover of a thick fog,
succeeded in getting close at hand before it was known that he
was near. Then the English knights and volunteers, 200 in number,
mounted in hot haste and charged a great Spanish column of 5000
horse and foot. They were led by Sir William Russell, under whom
were Lord Essex, North, Audley, and Willoughby, behind the last
of whom rode Francis Vere. For two hours this little band of horse
fought desperately in the midst of the Spanish cavalry, and forced
them at last to fall back, but were themselves obliged to retreat
when the Spanish infantry came up and opened fire upon them. The
English loss was 34 killed and wounded, while 250 of the Spaniards
were slain, and three of their colours captured. Among the wounded
on the English side was the very noble knight Sir Philip Sidney,
who was shot by a musket ball, and died three weeks afterwards.

The successes of the English during these two years were counterbalanced
by the cowardly surrender of Grave by its governor, and by the
treachery of Sir William Stanley, governor of Deventer, and of Roland
Yorke, who commanded the garrisons of the two forts known as the
Zutphen Sconces. Both these officers turned traitors and delivered
up the posts they commanded to the Spaniards. Their conduct not
only caused great material loss to the allies, but it gave rise
to much bad feeling between the English and Dutch, the latter
complaining that they received but half hearted assistance from
the English.

It was not surprising, however, that Leicester was unable to effect
more with the little force under his command, for it was necessary
not only to raise soldiers, but to invent regulations and discipline.
The Spanish system was adopted, and this, the first English regular
army, was trained and appointed precisely upon the system of the
foe with whom they were fighting. It was no easy task to convert a
body of brave knights and gentlemen and sturdy countrymen into regular
troops, and to give them the advantages conferred by discipline
and order. But the work was rendered the less difficult by the
admixture of the volunteers who had been bravely fighting for ten
years under Morgan, Rowland Williams, John Norris, and others. These
had had a similar experience on their first arrival in Holland.
Several times in their early encounters with the Spaniards the
undisciplined young troops had behaved badly; but they had gained
experience from their reverses, and had proved themselves fully
capable of standing in line even against the splendid pikemen of
Spain.

While the English had been drilling and fighting in Holland things
had gone on quietly at Hedingham. The village stands near the
headwaters of the Colne and Stour, in a rich and beautiful country.
On a rising ground behind it stood the castle of the Veres, which
was approached from the village by a drawbridge across the moat.
There were few more stately piles in England than the seat of
the Earl of Oxford. On one side of the great quadrangle was the
gatehouse and a lofty tower, on another the great hall and chapel
and the kitchens, on a third the suites of apartments of the
officials and retinue. In rear were the stables and granaries, the
butts and tennis court, beyond which was the court of the tournaments.

In the centre of the quadrangle rose the great keep, which still
stands, the finest relic of Norman civil architecture in England.
It possessed great strength, and at the same time was richly
ornamented with carving. The windows, arches, and fireplaces were
decorated with chevron carvings. A beautiful spiral pattern enriched
the doorway and pillars of the staircase leading to galleries cut
in the thickness of the wall, with arched openings looking into the
hall below. The outlook from the keep extended over the parishes of
Castle Hedingham, Sybil Hedingham, Kirby, and Tilbury, all belonging
to the Veres--whose property extended far down the pretty valley
of the Stour--with the stately Hall of Long Melford, the Priory of
Clare, and the little town of Lavenham; indeed, the whole country
was dotted with the farm houses and manors of the Veres. Seven
miles down the valley of the Colne lies the village of Earl's Colne,
with the priory, where ten of the earls of Oxford lie buried with
their wives.

The parish church of Castle Hedingham stood at the end of the little
village street, and the rectory of Mr. Vickars was close by. The
party gathered at morning prayers consisted of Mr. Vickars and his
wife, their two sons, Geoffrey and Lionel, and the maidservants,
Ruth and Alice. The boys, now fourteen and fifteen years old
respectively, were strong grown and sturdy lads, and their father
had long since owned with a sigh that neither of them was likely
to follow his profession and fill the pulpit at Hedingham Church
when he was gone. Nor was this to be wondered at, for lying as it
did at the entrance to the great castle of the Veres, the street of
the little village was constantly full of armed men, and resounded
with the tramp of the horses of richly dressed knights and gay
ladies.

Here came great politicians, who sought the friendship and support
of the powerful earls of Oxford, nobles and knights, their kinsmen
and allies, gentlemen from the wide spreading manors of the family,
stout fighting men who wished to enlist under their banner. At night
the sound of music from the castle told of gay entertainments and
festive dances, while by day parties of knights and ladies with
dogs and falcons sallied out to seek sport over the wide domains.
It could hardly be expected, then, that lads of spirit, brought
up in the midst of sights and sounds like these, should entertain
a thought of settling down to the tranquil life of the church. As
long as they could remember, their minds had been fixed upon being
soldiers, and fighting some day under the banner of the Veres. They
had been a good deal in the castle; for Mr. Vickars had assisted
Arthur Golding, the learned instructor to young Edward Vere, the
17th earl, who was born in 1550, and had succeeded to the title at
the age of twelve, and he had afterwards been tutor to the earl's
cousins, John, Francis, Robert, and Horace, the sons of Geoffrey,
fourth son of the 15th earl. These boys were born in 1558, 1560,
1562, and 1565, and lived with their mother at Kirby Hall, a mile
from the Castle of Hedingham.

The earl was much attached to his old instructor, and when he was
at the castle there was scarce a day but an invitation came down
for Mr. Vickars and his wife to be present either at banquet or
entertainment. The boys were free to come and go as they chose,
and the earl's men-at-arms had orders to afford them all necessary
teaching in the use of weapons.

Mr. Vickars considered it his duty to accept the invitations of
his friend and patron, but he sorely grudged the time so abstracted
from his favourite books. It was, indeed, a relief to him when the
earl, whose love of profusion and luxury made serious inroads even
into the splendid possessions of the Veres, went up to court, and
peace and quietness reigned in the castle. The rector was fonder
of going to Kirby, where John, Geoffrey's eldest son, lived quietly
and soberly, his three younger brothers having, when mere boys,
embraced the profession of arms, placing themselves under the care
of the good soldier Sir William Brownie, who had served for many
years in the Low Countries. They occasionally returned home for
a time, and were pleased to take notice of the sons of their old
tutor, although Geoffrey was six years junior to Horace, the youngest
of the brothers.

The young Vickars had much time to themselves, much more, indeed,
than their mother considered to be good for them. After their
breakfast, which was finished by eight o'clock, their father took
them for an hour and heard the lessons they had prepared the day
before, and gave them instruction in the Latin tongue. Then they
were supposed to study till the bell rang for dinner at twelve; but
there was no one to see that they did so, for their father seldom
came outside his library door, and their mother was busy with her
domestic duties and in dispensing simples to the poor people, who,
now that the monasteries were closed, had no medical aid save that
which they got from the wives of the gentry or ministers, or from
the wise women, of whom there was generally one in every village.

Therefore, after half an hour, or at most an hour, spent in getting
up their tasks, the books would be thrown aside, and the boys
be off, either to the river or up to the castle to practice sword
play with the men-at-arms, or to the butts with their bows, or to
the rabbit warren, where they had leave from the earl to go with
their dogs whenever they pleased. Their long excursions were,
however, generally deferred until after dinner, as they were then
free until suppertime--and even if they did not return after that
hour Mrs. Vickars did not chide them unduly, being an easygoing
woman, and always ready to make excuses for them.

There were plenty of fish in the river; and the boys knew the
pools they loved best, and often returned with their baskets well
filled. There were otters on its banks, too; but, though they
sometimes chased these pretty creatures, Tan and Turk, their two
dogs, knew as well as their masters that they had but small chance
of catching them. Sometimes they would take a boat at the bridge
and drop down the stream for miles, and once or twice had even
gone down to Bricklesey at the mouth of the river. This, however,
was an expedition that they never performed alone, making it each
time in charge of Master Lirriper, who owned a flat barge, and took
produce down to Bricklesey, there to be transhipped into coasters
bound for London. He had a married daughter there, and it was at
her house the boys had slept when they went there; for the journey
down and up again was too long to be performed in a single day.

But this was not the only distant expedition they had made, for they
had once gone down the Stour as far as Harwich with their father
when he was called thither on business. To them Harwich with its
old walls and the houses crowned up within them, and its busy port
with vessels coming in and going out, was most delightful, and they
always talked about that expedition as one of the most pleasant
recollections of their lives.

After breakfast was over on the 1st of May, 1587, and they had
done their lessons with their father, and had worked for an hour
by themselves, the boys put by their books and strolled down the
village to the bridge. There as usual stood their friend Master
Lirriper with his hands deep in his pockets, a place and position
in which he was sure to be found when not away in his barge.

"Good morning, Master Lirriper."

"Good morning, Master Geoffrey and Master Lionel."

"So you are not down the river today?"

"No, sir. I am going tomorrow, and this time I shall be away four
or five days--maybe even a week."

"Shall you?" the boys exclaimed in surprise. "Why, what are you
going to do?"

"I am going round to London in my nephew Joe Chambers' craft."

"Are you really?" Geoffrey exclaimed. "I wish we were going with
you. Don't you think you could take us, Master Lirriper?"

The bargeman looked down into the water and frowned. He was slow
of speech, but as the minutes went on and he did not absolutely
refuse the boys exchanged glances of excitement and hope.

"I dunno how that might be, young sirs," John Lirriper said slowly,
after long cogitation. "I dussay my nephew would have no objection,
but what would parson say about it?"

"Oh, I don't think he would object," Geoffrey said. "If you go up
and ask him, Master Lirriper, and say that you will take care of
us, you know, I don't see why he should say no."

"Like enough you would be ill," John Lirriper said after another
long pause. "It's pretty rough sometimes.

"Oh, we shouldn't mind that," Lionel protested. "We should like to
see the waves and to be in a real ship."

"It's nothing much of a ship," the boatman said. "She is a ketch
of about ten tons and carries three hands."

"Oh, we don't care how small she is if we can only go in her; and
you would be able to show us London, and we might even see the
queen. Oh, do come up with us and ask father, Master Lirriper."

"Perhaps parson wouldn't be pleased, young sirs, and, might say I
was putting wandering thoughts into your heads; and Mistress Vickars
might think it a great liberty on my part."

"Oh, no, she wouldn't, Master Lirriper. Besides, we will say we
asked you."

"But suppose any harm comes to you, what would they say to me then?"

"Oh, there's no fear of any harm coming to us. Besides, in another
year or two we mean to go over to the Low Countries and fight the
Spaniards, and what's a voyage to London to that?"

"Well, I will think about it," John Lirriper said cautiously.

"No, no, Master Lirriper; if you get thinking about it it will
never be done. Do come up with us at once," and each of them got
hold of one of the boatman's arms.

"Well, the parson can but say no," he said, as he suffered himself
to be dragged away. "And I don't say as it isn't reasonable that
you should like to see something of the world, young sirs; but I
don't know how the parson will take it."

Mr. Vickars looked up irritably from his books when the servant
came in and said that Master Lirriper wished to see him.

"What does he want at this hour?" he said. "You know, Ruth, I never
see people before dinner. Any time between that and supper I am at
their service, but it's too bad being disturbed now."

"I told him so, sir; but Master Geoffrey and Master Lionel were
with him, and they said he wanted particular to see you, and they
wanted particular too."

The clergyman sighed as he put his book down.

"If Geoffrey and Lionel have concerned themselves in the matter,
Ruth, I suppose I must see the man; but it's very hard being
disturbed like this. Well, Master Lirriper, what is it?" he asked,
as the boatman accompanied by Geoffrey and Lionel entered the room.
Master Lirriper twirled his hat in his hand. Words did not come
easily to him at the best of times, and this was a business that
demanded thought and care. Long before he had time to fix upon an
appropriate form of words Geoffrey broke in:

"This is what it is, father. Master Lirriper is going down the river
to Bricklesey tomorrow, and then he is going on board his nephew's
ship. She is a ketch, and she carries ten tons, though I don't
know what it is she carries; and she's going to London, and he is
going in her, and he says if you will let him he will take us with
him, and will show us London, and take great care of us. It will
be glorious, father, if you will only let us go."

Mr. Vickars looked blankly as Geoffrey poured out his torrent of
words. His mind was still full of the book he had been reading,
and he hardly took in the meaning of Geoffrey's words.

"Going in a ketch!" he repeated. "Going to catch something, I
suppose you mean? Do you mean he is going fishing?"

"No, father,--going in a ketch. A ketch is a sort of ship, father,
though I don't quite know what sort of ship. What sort of ship is
a ketch, Master Lirriper?"

"A ketch is a two masted craft, Master Geoffrey," John Lirriper
said. "She carries a big mizzen sail."

"There, you see, father," Geoffrey said triumphantly; "she carries
a big mizzen sail. That's what she is, you see; and he is going to
show us London, and will take great care of us if you will let us
go with him."

"Do you mean, Master Lirriper," Mr. Vickars asked slowly, "that
you are going to London in some sort of ship, and want to take my
sons with you?"

"Well, sir, I am going to London, and the young masters seemed to
think that they would like to go with me, if so be you would have
no objection."

"I don't know," Mr. Vickars said, "It is a long passage, Master
Lirriper; and, as I have heard, often a stormy one. I don't think
my wife--"

"Oh, yes, father," Lionel broke in. "If you say yes, mother is sure
to say yes; she always does, you know. And, you see, it will be a
great thing for us to see London. Every one else seems to have seen
London, and I am sure that it would do us good. And we might even
see the queen."

"I think that they would be comfortable, sir," John Lirriper put
in. "You see, my nephew's wife is daughter of a citizen, one Master
Swindon, a ship's chandler, and he said there would be a room there
for me, and they would make me heartily welcome. Now, you see,
sir, the young masters could have that room, and I could very well
sleep on board the ketch; and they would be out of all sort of
mischief there."

"That would be a very good plan certainly, Master Lirriper. Well,
well, I don't know what to say."

"Say yes, father," Geoffrey said as he saw Mr. Vickars glance
anxiously at the book he had left open. "If you say yes, you see
it will be a grand thing for you, our being away for a week with
nothing to disturb you."

"Well, well," Mr. Vickars said, "you must ask your mother. If she
makes no objection, then I suppose you can go," and Mr. Vickars
hastily took up his book again.

The boys ran off to the kitchen, where their mother was superintending
the brewing of some broth for a sick woman down the village.

"Mother!" Geoffrey exclaimed, "Master Lirriper's going to London
in a ketch--a ship with a big mizzen sail, you know--and he
has offered to take us with him and show us London. And father has
said yes, and it's all settled if you have no objection; and of
course you haven't."

"Going to London, Geoffrey!" Mrs. Vickars exclaimed aghast. "I
never heard of such a thing. Why, like enough you will be drowned
on the way and never come back again. Your father must be mad to
think of such a thing."

"Oh, no, mother; I am sure it will do us a lot of good. And we may
see the queen, mother. And as for drowning, why, we can both swim
ever so far. Besides, people don't get drowned going to London. Do
they, Master Lirriper?"

John was standing bashfully at the door of the kitchen. "Well,
not as a rule, Master Geoffrey," he replied. "They comes and they
goes, them that are used to it, maybe a hundred times without
anything happening to them."

"There! You hear that, mother? They come and go hundreds of times.
Oh, I am sure you are not going to say no. That would be too bad
when father has agreed to it. Now, mother, please tell Ruth to run
away at once and get a wallet packed with our things. Of course we
shall want our best clothes; because people dress finely in London,
and it would never do if we saw the queen and we hadn't our best
doublets on, for she would think that we didn't know what was seemly
down at Hedingham."

"Well, my dears, of course if it is all settled--"

"Oh, yes, mother, it is quite all settled."

"Then it's no use my saying anything more about it, but I think
your father might have consulted me before he gave his consent to
your going on such a hazardous journey as this."

"He did want to consult you, mother. But then, you see, he wanted
to consult his books even more, and he knew very well that you
would agree with him; and you know you would too. So please don't
say anything more about it, but let Ruth run upstairs and see to
our things at once.

"There, you see, Master Lirriper, it is all settled. And what time
do you start tomorrow? We will be there half an hour before, anyhow."

"I shall go at seven from the bridge. Then I shall just catch the
turn of the tide and get to Bricklesey in good time."

"I never did see such boys," Mrs. Vickars said when John Lirriper
had gone on his way. "As for your father, I am surprised at him
in countenancing you. You will be running all sorts of risks. You
may be drowned on the way, or killed in a street brawl, or get mixed
up in a plot. There is no saying what may not happen. And here it
is all settled before I have even time to think about it, which is
most inconsiderate of your father."

"Oh, we shall get back again without any harm, mother. And as to
getting killed in a street brawl, Lionel and I can use our hangers
as well as most of them. Besides, nothing of that sort is going
to happen to us. Now, mother, please let Ruth go at once, and tell
her to put up our puce doublets that we had for the jousting at the
castle, and our red hose and our dark green cloth slashed trunks."

"There is plenty of time for that, Geoffrey, as you are not going
until tomorrow. Besides, I can't spare Ruth now, but she shall see
about it after dinner."

There was little sleep for the boys that night. A visit to London had
long been one of their wildest ambitions, and they could scarcely
believe that thus suddenly and without preparation it was about
to take place. Their father had some time before promised that he
would someday make request to one or other of the young Veres to
allow them to ride to London in his suite, but the present seemed
to them an even more delightful plan. There would be the pleasure
of the voyage, and moreover it would be much more lively for them
to be able to see London under the charge of John Lirriper than to
be subject to the ceremonial and restraint that would be enforced
in the household of the Veres. They were, then, at the appointed
place a full hour before the time named, with wallets containing
their clothes, and a basket of provisions that their mother had
prepared for them. Having stowed these away in the little cabin,
they walked up and down impatiently until Master Lirriper himself
appeared.

"You are up betimes, my young masters," the boatman said. "The
church has not yet struck seven o'clock."

"We have been here ever so long, Master Lirriper. We could not sleep
much last night, and got up when it chimed five, being afraid that
we might drop off to sleep and be late."

"Well, we shall not be long before we are off. Here comes my man
Dick, and the tide is just on the turn. The sky looks bright, and
the weather promises well. I will just go round to the cottage and
fetch up my things, and then we shall be ready."

In ten minutes they pushed off from the shore. John and his man got
out long poles shod with iron, and with these set to work to punt
the barge along. Now that they were fairly on their way the boys
quieted down, and took their seats on the sacks of flour with which
the boat was laden, and watched the objects on the bank as the boat
made her way quietly along.

Halstead was the first place passed. This was the largest town near
Hedingham, and was a place of much importance in their eyes. Then
they passed Stanstead Hall and Earl's Colne on their right, Colne
Wake on their left, and Chapel Parish on their right. Then there
was a long stretch without any large villages, until they came in
sight of the bridge above Colchester. A few miles below the town
the river began to widen. The banks were low and flat, and they
were now entering an arm of the sea. Half an hour later the houses
and church of Bricklesey came in sight. Tide was almost low when
they ran on to the mud abreast of the village, but John put on a
pair of high boots and carried the boys ashore one after the other
on his back, and then went up with them to the house where they
were to stop for the night.

Here, although not expected, they were heartily welcomed by John's
daughter.

"If father had told me that you had been coming, Masters Vickars,
I would have had a proper dinner for you; but though he sent word
yesterday morning that he should be over today, he did not say a
word about your coming with them."

"He did not know himself," Geoffrey said; "it was only settled at
ten o'clock yesterday. But do not trouble yourself about the dinner.
In the first place, we are so pleased at going that we don't care
a bit what we eat, and in the second place we had breakfast on
board the boat, and we were both so hungry that I am sure we could
go till supper time without eating if necessary."

"Where are you going, father?" the young woman asked.

"I am going to set about unloading the flour."

"Why, it's only a quarter to twelve, and dinner just ready. The
fish went into the frying pan as you came up from the boat. You
know we generally dine at half past eleven, but we saw you coming
at a distance and put it off. It's no use your starting now."

"Well, I suppose it isn't. And I don't know what the young masters'
appetite may be, but mine is pretty good, I can tell you."

"I never knew it otherwise, father," the woman laughed. "Ah, here
is my Sam. Sam, here's father brought these two young gentlemen.
They are the sons of Mr. Vickars, the parson at Hedingham. They
are going to stop here tonight, and are going with him in the Susan
tomorrow to London."

"Glad to see you, young masters," Sam said. "I have often heard
Ann talk of your good father. I have just been on board the Susan,
for I am sending up a couple of score sides of bacon in her, and
have been giving Joe Chambers, her master, a list of things he is
to get there and bring down for me.

"Now then, girl, bustle about and get dinner on as soon as you can.
We are half an hour late. I am sure the young gentlemen here must
be hungry. There's nothing like being on the water for getting an
appetite."


A few minutes later a great dish of fish, a loaf of bread and some
wooden platters, were placed on the table, and all set to at once.
Forks had not yet come into use, and tablecloths were unknown,
except among the upper classes. The boys found that in spite of
their hearty breakfast their appetites were excellent. The fish were
delicious, the bread was home baked, and the beer from Colchester,
which was already famous for its brewing. When they had finished,
John Lirriper asked them if they would rather see what there was
to be seen in the village, or go off to the ketch. They at once
chose the latter alternative. On going down to the water's edge
they found that the tide had risen sufficiently to enable Dick to
bring the barge alongside the jetty. They were soon on board.

"Which is the Susan, Master Lirriper?"

"That's her lying out there with two others. She is the one lowest
down the stream. We shall just fetch her comfortably."



CHAPTER II

A MEETING IN CHEPE


A row of ten minutes took the boat with Master Lirriper and the
two boys alongside the ketch.

"How are you, Joe Chambers?" Master Lirriper hailed the skipper as
he appeared on the deck of the Susan. "I have brought you two more
passengers for London. They are going there under my charge."

"The more the merrier, Uncle John," the young skipper replied. "There
are none others going this journey, so though our accommodation is
not very extensive, we can put them up comfortably enough if they
don't mind roughing it."

"Oh, we don't mind that," Geoffrey said, as they climbed on board;
"besides, there seems lots of room."

"Not so much as you think," the skipper replied. "She is a roomy
craft is the Susan; but she is pretty nigh all hold, and we are
cramped a little in the fo'castle. Still we can sleep six, and
that's just the number we shall have, for we carry a man and a boy
besides myself. I think your flour will about fill her up, Master
Lirriper. We have a pretty full cargo this time."

"Well, we shall soon see," John Lirriper said. "Are you ready to
take the flour on board at once? Because, if so, we will begin to
discharge."

"Yes, I am quite ready. You told me you were going to bring forty
sacks, and I have left the middle part of the hold empty for them.
Sam Hunter's bacon will stow in on the top of your sacks, and just
fill her up to the beams there, as I reckon. I'll go below and stow
them away as you hand them across."

In an hour the sacks of flour were transferred from the barge to the
hold of the Susan, and the sides of bacon then placed upon them.

"It's a pity we haven't all the rest of the things on board," the
skipper said, "and then we could have started by this evening's tide
instead of waiting till the morning. The wind is fair, and I hate
throwing away a fair wind. There is no saying where it may blow
tomorrow, but I shouldn't be at all surprised if it isn't round
to the south, and that will be foul for us till we get pretty nigh
up into the mouth of the river. However, I gave them till tonight
for getting all their things on board and must therefore wait."

To the boys the Susan appeared quite a large craft, for there
was not water up at Hedingham for vessels of her size; and though
they had seen ships at Harwich, they had never before put foot on
anything larger than Master Lirriper's barge. The Susan was about
forty feet long by twelve feet beam, and drew, as her skipper
informed them, near five feet of water. She was entirely decked.
The cabin in the bows occupied some fourteen feet in length. The
rest was devoted to cargo. They descended into the cabin, which
seemed to them very dark, there being no light save what came down
through the small hatchway. Still it looked snug and comfortable.
There was a fireplace on one side of the ladder by which they had
descended, and on this side there were two bunks, one above the
other. On the other side there were lockers running along the entire
length of the cabin. Two could sleep on these and two on the bunks
above them.

"Now, young masters, you will take those two bunks on the top there.
John Lirriper and I will sleep on the lockers underneath you. The
man and the boy have the two on the other side. I put you on the
top because there is a side board, and you can't fall out if she
rolls, and besides, the bunks are rather wider than the lockers
below. If the wind is fair you won't have much of our company,
because we shall hold on till we moor alongside the wharves of
London; but if it's foul, or there is not enough of it to take us
against tide, we have to anchor on the ebb, and then of course we
turn in."

"How long do you take getting from here to London?"

"Ah, that I can tell you more about when I see what the weather
is like in the morning. With a strong fair wind I have done it in
twenty-four hours, and again with the wind foul it has taken me
nigh a week. Taking one trip with another I should put it at three
days."

"Well, now we will be going ashore," John Lirriper said. "I will
leave my barge alongside till tide turns, for I could not get her
back again to the jetty so long as it is running in strong, so I
will be off again in a couple of hours."

So saying he hauled up the dinghy that was towing behind the barge,
and he and Dick rowed the two boys ashore. Then he walked along
with them to a spot where several craft were hauled up, pointing
out to them the differences in their rig and build, and explained
their purpose, and gave them the names of the principal ropes and
stays.

"Now," he said, "it's getting on for supper time, and it won't do
to keep them waiting, for Ann is sure to have got some cakes made,
and there's nothing puts a woman out more than people not being
in to meals when they have something special ready. After that I
shall go out with Dick and bring the barge ashore. He will load up
her tomorrow, and take her back single handed; which can be done
easy enough in such weather as this, but it is too much for one
man if there is a strong wind blowing and driving her over to the
one side or other of the river."

As John Lirriper had expected, his daughter had prepared a pile of
hot cakes for supper, and her face brightened up when she saw the
party return punctually. The boys had been up early, and had slept
but little the night before, and were not sorry at eight o'clock
to lie down on the bed of freshly cut rushes covered with home spun
sheets, for regular beds of feathers were still but little used in
England. At five o'clock they were astir again, and their hostess
insisted on their eating a manchet of bread with some cheese, washed
down by a stoup of ale, before starting. Dick had the boat at the
jetty ready to row them off, and as soon as they were on board the
Susan preparations were made for a start.

The mainsail was first hoisted, its size greatly surprising the
boys; then the foresail and jib were got up, and lastly the mizzen.
Then the capstan was manned, and the anchor slowly brought on
board, and the sails being sheeted home, the craft began to steal
through the water. The tide was still draining up, and she had not
as yet swung. The wind was light, and, as the skipper had predicted,
was nearly due south. As the ketch made its way out from the mouth
of the river, and the wide expanse of water opened before them, the
boys were filled with delight. They had taken their seats, one on
each side of the skipper, who was at the tiller.

"I suppose you steer by the compass, Master Chambers?" Geoffrey
said. "Which is the compass? I have heard about it, always pointing
to the north."

"It's down below, young sir; I will show it you presently. We steer
by that at night, or when it's foggy; but on a fine day like this
there is no need for it. There are marks put up on all the sands,
and we steer by them. You see, the way the wind is now we can lay
our course for the Whittaker. That's a cruel sand, that is, and
stretches out a long way from a point lying away on the right there.
Once past that we bear away to the southwest, for we are then, so
to speak, fairly in the course of the river. There is many a ship
has been cast away on the Whittaker. Not that it is worse than
other sands. There are scores of them lying in the mouth of the
river, and if it wasn't for the marks there would be no sailing in
or out."

"Who put up the marks?" Lionel asked.

"They are put up by men who make a business of it. There is one
boat of them sails backwards and forwards where the river begins
to narrow above Sheerness, and every ship that goes up or down pays
them something according to her size. Others cruise about with long
poles, putting them in the sands wherever one gets washed away.
They have got different marks on them. A single cross piece, or
two cross pieces, or a circle, or a diamond; so that each sand has
got its own particular mark. These are known to the masters of all
ships that go up and down the river, and so they can tell exactly
where they are, and what course to take. At night they anchor, for
there would be no possibility of finding the way up or down in the
dark. I have heard tell from mariners who have sailed abroad that
there ain't a place anywhere with such dangerous sands as those we
have got here at the mouth of the Thames."

In the first three or four hours' sail Geoffrey and Lionel acquired
much nautical knowledge. They learned the difference between the
mainmast and the mizzen, found that all the strong ropes that kept
the masts erect and stiff were called stays, that the ropes that
hoist sails are called halliards, and that sheets is the name given
to the ropes that restrain the sails at the lower corner, and are
used to haul them in more tightly when sailing close to the wind,
or to ease them off when the wind is favourable. They also learned
that the yards at the head of the main and mizzen sails are called
gaffs, and those at the bottom, booms.

"I think that's about enough for you to remember in one day, young
masters," John Lirriper said. "You bear all that in your mind,
and remember that each halliard and sheet has the name of the sail
to which it is attached, and you will have learnt enough to make
yourself useful, and can lend a hand when the skipper calls out,
`Haul in the jib sheet,' or `Let go the fore halliards.' Now sit
yourselves down again and see what is doing. That beacon you can
just see right ahead marks the end of the Whittaker Spit. When we
get there we shall drop anchor till the tide turns. You see we are
going across it now, but when we round that beacon we shall have it
dead against us, and the wind would be too light to take us against
it even if it were not from the quarter it is. You see there are
two or three other craft brought up there."

"Where have they come from, do you think, Master Lirriper?"

"Well, they may have come out from Burnham, or they may have come
down from London and be going up to Burnham or to Bricklesey when
the tide turns. There is a large ship anchored in the channel beyond
the Whittaker. Of course she is going up when tide begins to flow.
And there are the masts of two vessels right over there. They are
in another channel. Between us and them there is a line of sands
that you will see will show above the water when it gets a bit
lower. That is the main channel, that is; and vessels coming from
the south with a large draught of water generally use that, while
this is the one that is handiest for ships from the north. Small
vessels from the south come in by a channel a good bit beyond those
ships. That is the narrowest of the three; and even light draught
vessels don't use it much unless the wind is favourable, for there
is not much room for them to beat up if the wind is against them."

"What is to beat up, Master Lirriper?"

"Well, you will see about that presently. I don't think we shall
be able to lay our course beyond the Whittaker. To lay our course
means to steer the way we want to go; and if we can't do that we
shall have to beat, and that is tedious work with a light wind like
this."

They dropped anchor off the beacon, and the captain said that this
was the time to take breakfast. The lads already smelt an agreeable
odour arising from the cabin forward, where the boy had been for
some time busily engaged, and soon the whole party were seated on
the lockers in the cabin devouring fried fish.

"Master Chambers," Geoffrey said, "we have got two boiled pullets
in our basket. Had we not better have them for dinner? They were
cooked the evening before we came away, and I should think they
had better be eaten now."

"You had better keep them for yourselves, Master Geoffrey," the
skipper said. "We are accustomed to living on fish, but like enough
you would get tired of it before we got to London."

But this the boys would not hear of, and it was accordingly arranged
that the dinner should be furnished from the contents of the basket.

As soon as tide turned the anchor was hove up and the Susan got under
way again. The boys soon learnt the meaning of the word beating,
and found that it meant sailing backwards and forwards across
the channel, with the wind sometimes on one side of the boat and
sometimes on the other. Geoffrey wanted very much to learn why,
when the wind was so nearly ahead, the boat advanced instead of
drifting backwards or sideways. But this was altogether beyond the
power of either Master Lirriper or Joe Chambers to explain. They
said every one knew that when the sails were full a vessel went in
the direction in which her head pointed. "It's just the same way
with yourself, Master Geoffrey. You see, when you look one way
that's the way you go. When you turn your head and point another
way, of course you go off that way; and it's just the same thing
with the ship."

"I don't think it's the same thing, Master Lirriper," Geoffrey
said puzzled. "In one case the power that makes one go comes from
the inside, and so one can go in any direction one likes; in the
other it comes from outside, and you would think the ship would
have to go any way the wind pushes her. If you stand up and I give
you a push, I push you straight away from me. You don't go sideways
or come forward in the direction of my shoulder, which is what the
ship does."

John Lirriper took off his cap and scratched his head.

"I suppose it is as you say, Master Geoffrey, though I never thought
of it before. There is some reason, no doubt, why the craft moves
up against the wind so long as the sails are full, instead of drifting
away to leeward; though I never heard tell of it, and never heard
anyone ask before. I dare say a learned man could tell why it is;
and if you ask your good father when you go back I would wager he
can explain it. It always seems to me as if a boat have got some
sort of sense, just like a human being or a horse, and when she
knows which way you wants her to go she goes. That's how it seems
to me--ain't it, Joe?"

"Something like that, uncle. Every one knows that a boat's got her
humours, and sometimes she sails better than she does others; and
each boat's got her own fancies. Some does their best when they are
beating, and some are lively in a heavy sea, and seem as if they
enjoy it; and others get sulky, and don't seem to take the trouble
to lift their bows up when a wave meets them; and they groans and
complains if the wind is too hard for them, just like a human being.
When you goes to a new vessel you have got to learn her tricks
and her ways and what she will do, and what she won't do, and just
to humour her as you would a child. I don't say as I think she
is actually alive; but every sailor will tell you that there is
something about her that her builders never put there."

"That's so," John Lirriper agreed. "Look at a boat that is hove
up when her work's done and going to be broke up. Why, anyone can
tell her with half an eye. She looks that forlorn and melancholy
that one's inclined to blubber at the sight of her. She don't look
like that at any other time. When she is hove up she is going to
die, and she knows it."

"But perhaps that's because the paint's off her sides and the ropes
all worn and loose," Geoffrey suggested.

But Master Lirriper waved the suggestion aside as unworthy even of
an answer, and repeated, "She knows it. Anyone can see that with
half an eye."

Geoffrey and Lionel talked the matter over when they were sitting
together on deck apart from the others. It was an age when there
were still many superstitions current in the land. Even the upper
classes believed in witches and warlocks, in charms and spells, in
lucky and unlucky days, in the arts of magic, in the power of the
evil eye; and although to the boys it seemed absurd that a vessel
should have life, they were not prepared altogether to discredit an
idea that was evidently thoroughly believed by those who had been
on board ships all their lives. After talking it over for some time
they determined to submit the question to their father on their
return.

It took them two more tides before they were off Sheerness. The
wind was now more favourable, and having increased somewhat in
strength, the Susan made her way briskly along, heeling over till
the water ran along her scuppers. There was plenty to see now, for
there were many fishing boats at work, some belonging, as Master
Chambers told them, to the Medway, others to the little village of
Leigh, whose church they saw at the top of the hill to their right.
They met, too, several large craft coming down the river, and passed
more than one, for the Susan was a fast boat.

"They would beat us," the skipper said when the boys expressed
their surprise at their passing such large vessels, "if the wind
were stronger or the water rough. We are doing our best, and if the
wind rises I shall have to take in sail; while they could carry all
theirs if it blew twice as hard. Then in a sea, weight and power
tell; a wave that would knock the way almost out of us would hardly
affect them at all."

So well did the Susan go along, that before the tide was much more
than half done they passed the little village of Gravesend on their
left, with the strong fort of Tilbury on the opposite shore, with
its guns pointing on the river, and ready to give a good account
of any Spaniard who should venture to sail up the Thames. Then at
the end of the next reach the hamlet of Grays was passed on the
right; a mile further Greenhithe on the left. Tide was getting
slack now, but the Susan managed to get as far as Purfleet, and
then dropped her anchor.

"This is our last stopping place," Joe Chambers said. "The morning
tide will carry us up to London Bridge."

"Then you will not go on with tonight's tide?" Geoffrey asked.

"No; the river gets narrower every mile, and I do not care to take
the risk of navigating it after dark, especially as there is always
a great deal of shipping moored above Greenwich. Tide will begin
to run up at about five o'clock, and by ten we ought to be safely
moored alongside near London Bridge. So we should not gain a great
deal by going on this evening instead of tomorrow morning, and I
don't suppose you are in a particular hurry."

"Oh, no," Lionel said. "We would much rather go on in the morning,
otherwise we should miss everything by the way; and there is the
Queen's Palace at Greenwich that I want to see above all things."

Within a few minutes of the hour the skipper had named for their
arrival, the Susan was moored alongside some vessels lying off one
of the wharves above the Tower. The boys' astonishment had risen with
every mile of their approach to the city, and they were perfectly
astounded at the amount of shipping that they now beheld. The great
proportion were of course coasters, like themselves, but there were
many large vessels among them, and of these fully half were flying
foreign colours. Here were traders from the Netherlands, with the
flag that the Spaniards had in vain endeavoured to lower, flying
at their mastheads. Here were caravels from Venice and Genoa, laden
with goods from the East. Among the rest Master Chambers pointed out
to the lads the ship in which Sir Francis Drake had circumnavigated
the world, and that in which Captain Stevens had sailed to India,
round the Cape of Good Hope. There were many French vessels also
in the Pool, and indeed almost every flag save that of Spain was
represented. Innumerable wherries darted about among the shipping,
and heavier cargo boats dropped along in more leisurely fashion.
Across the river, a quarter of a mile above the point at which
they were lying, stretched London Bridge, with its narrow arches
and the houses projecting beyond it on their supports of stout
timbers. Beyond, on the right, rising high above the crowded roofs,
was the lofty spire of St. Paul's. The boys were almost awed by
this vast assemblage of buildings. That London was a great city they
had known, but they were not prepared for so immense a difference
between it and the place where they had lived all their lives. Only
with the Tower were they somewhat disappointed. It was very grand
and very extensive, but not so much grander than the stately abode
of the Veres as they had looked for.

"I wouldn't change, if I were the earl, with the queen's majesty,"
Geoffrey said. "Of course it is larger than Hedingham, but not so
beautiful, and it is crowded in by the houses, and has not like our
castle a fair lookout on all sides. Why, there can be no hunting
or hawking near here, and I can't think what the nobles can find
to do all day."

"Now, young sirs," Master Lirriper said, "if you will get your
wallets we will go ashore at once."

The boys were quite bewildered as they stepped ashore by the bustle
and confusion. Brawny porters carrying heavy packages on their
backs pushed along unceremoniously, saying from time to time
in a mechanical sort of way, "By your leave, sir!" but pushing
on and shouldering passersby into the gutter without the smallest
compunction. The narrowness and dinginess of the streets greatly
surprised and disappointed the boys, who found that in these
respects even Harwich compared favourably with the region they
were traversing. Presently, however, after passing through several
lanes and alleys, they emerged into a much broader street, alive
with shops. The people who were walking here were for the most
part well dressed and of quiet demeanour, and there was none of
the rough bustle that had prevailed in the riverside lanes.

"This is Eastchepe," their conductor said; "we have not far to go
now. The street in which my friend dwells lies to the right, between
this and Tower Street. I could have taken you a shorter way there,
but I thought that your impressions of London would not be favourable
did I take you all the way through those ill smelling lanes."

In a quarter of an hour they arrived at their destination, and
entered the shop, which smelt strongly of tar; coils of rope of
all sizes were piled up one upon another by the walls, while on
shelves above them were blocks, lanterns, compasses, and a great
variety of gear of whose use the boys were ignorant. The chandler
was standing at his door.

"I am right glad to see you, Master Lirriper," he said, "and have
been expecting you for the last two or three days. My wife would
have it that some evil must have befallen you; but you know what
women are. They make little allowance for time or tide or distance,
but expect that every one can so arrange his journeys as to arrive
at the very moment when they begin to expect him. But who have you
here with you?"

"These are the sons of the worshipful Mr. Vickars, the rector of
our parish and tutor to the Earl of Oxford and several of the young
Veres, his cousins--a wise gentleman and a kind one, and much
loved among us. He has entrusted his two sons to me that I might
show them somewhat of this city of yours. I said that I was right
sure that you and your good dame would let them occupy the chamber
you intended for me, while I can make good shift on board the
Susan."

"Nay, nay, Master Lirriper; our house is big enough to take in you
and these two young masters, and Dorothy would deem it a slight
indeed upon her hospitality were you not to take up your abode here
too.

"You will be heartily welcome, young sirs, and though such
accommodation as we can give you will not be equal to that which
you are accustomed to, I warrant me that you will find it a pleasant
change after that poky little cabin on board the Susan. I know it
well, for I supply her with stores, and have often wondered how
men could accustom themselves to pass their lives in places where
there is scarce room to turn, to say nothing of the smell of fish
that always hangs about it. But if you will follow me I will take
you up to my good dame, to whose care I must commit you for the
present, as my foreman, John Watkins, is down by the riverside
seeing to the proper delivery of divers stores on board a ship
which sails with the next tide for Holland. My apprentices, too,
are both out, as I must own is their wont. They always make excuses
to slip down to the riverside when there is aught doing, and I am
far too easy with the varlets. So at present, you see, I cannot
long leave my shop."

So saying the chandler preceded them up a wide staircase that led
from a passage behind the shop, and the boys perceived that the
house was far more roomy and comfortable than they had judged from
its outward appearance. Turning to the left when he reached the
top of the stairs the chandler opened a door.

"Dorothy," he said, "here is your kinsman, Master Lirriper, who
has suffered none of the misadventures you have been picturing to
yourself for the last two days, and he has brought with him these
young gentlemen, sons of the rector of Hedingham, to show them
something of London."

"You are welcome, young gentlemen," Dame Dorothy said, "though why
anyone should come to London when he can stay away from it I know
not."

"Why, Dorothy, you are always running down our city, though I know
right well that were I to move down with you to your native Essex
again you would very soon cry out for the pleasures of the town."

"That would I not," she said. "I would be well contented to live
in fresh country air all the rest of my life, though I do not say
that London has not its share of pleasures also, though I care but
little for them."

"Ah, Master Lirriper," her husband said laughing, "you would not
think, to hear her talk, that there is not a feast or a show that
Dorothy would stay away from. She never misses an opportunity, I
warrant you, of showing herself off in her last new kirtle and gown.
But I must be going down; there is no one below, and if a customer
comes and finds the shop empty he will have but a poor idea of me,
and will think that I am away gossiping instead of attending to my
business."

"Are you hungry, young sirs?" the dame asked. "Because if so the
maid shall bring up a manchet of bread and a cup of sack; if not,
our evening meal will be served in the course of an hour."

The boys both said that they were perfectly able to wait until the
meal came; and Geoffrey added, "If you will allow us, mistress, as
doubtless you have private matters to talk of with Master Lirriper,
my brother and I will walk out for an hour to see something of the
town."

"Mind that you lose not your way," Master Lirriper said. "Do not go
beyond Eastchepe, I beg you. There are the shops to look at there,
and the fashions of dress and other matters that will occupy your
attention well enough for that short time. Tomorrow morning I will
myself go with you, and we can then wander further abroad. I have
promised your good father to look after you, you know; and it will
be but a bad beginning if you meet with any untoward adventure upon
this the first day of your arrival here."

"We will not go beyond the limits of Eastchepe; and as to adventures,
I can't see very well how any can befall us."

"Oh, there are plenty of adventures to be met with in London, young
sir; and I shall be well content if on the day when we again embark
on board the Susan none of them have fallen to your share."

The two lads accordingly sallied out and amused themselves greatly
by staring at the goods exhibited in the open shops. They were
less surprised at the richness and variety of the silver work, at
the silks from the East, the costly satins, and other stuffs, than
most boys from the country would have been, for they were accustomed
to the splendour and magnificence displayed by the various noble
guests at the castle, and saw nothing here that surpassed the
brilliant shows made at the jousting and entertainments at Hedingham.

It was the scene that was novel to them: the shouts of the apprentices
inviting attention to their employers' wares, the crowd that filled
the street, consisting for the most part of the citizens themselves,
but varied by nobles and knights of the court, by foreigners from
many lands, by soldiers and men-at-arms from the Tower, by countrymen
and sailors. Their amusement was sometimes turned into anger by
the flippant remarks of the apprentices; these varlets, perceiving
easily enough by the manner of their attire that they were from
the country, were not slow, if their master happened for the moment
to be absent, in indulging in remarks that set Geoffrey and Lionel
into a fever to commit a breach of the peace. The "What do you lack,
masters?" with which they generally addressed passersby would be
exchanged for remarks such as, "Do not trouble the young gentlemen,
Nat. Do you not see they are up in the town looking for some of
their master's calves?" or, "Look you, Philip, here are two rustics
who have come up to town to learn manners."

"I quite see, Geoffrey," Lionel said, taking his brother by the
arm and half dragging him away as he saw that he was clenching his
fist and preparing to avenge summarily one of these insults even
more pointed than usual, "that Master Lirriper was not very far
out, and there is no difficulty in meeting with adventures in the
streets of London. However, we must not give him occasion on this
our first stroll in the streets to say that we cannot be trusted out
of his sight. If we were to try to punish these insolent varlets we
should have them on us like a swarm of bees, and should doubtless
get worsted in the encounter, and might even find ourselves hauled
off to the lockup, and that would be a nice tale for Master Lirriper
to carry back to Hedingham."

"That is true enough, Lionel; but it is not easy to keep one's
temper when one is thus tried. I know not how it is they see so
readily that we are strangers, for surely we have mixed enough with
the earl's family and friends to have rubbed off the awkwardness
that they say is common to country folk; and as to our dress, I
do not see much difference between its fashion and that of other
people. I suppose it is because we look interested in what is going
on, instead of strolling along like those two youths opposite with
our noses in the air, as if we regarded the city and its belongings
as infinitely below our regard. Well, I think we had best be turning
back to Master Swindon's; it will not do to be late for our meal."

"Well, young sirs, what do you think of our shops?" Dame Swindon
asked as they entered.

"The shops are well enough," Geoffrey replied; "but your apprentices
seem to me to be an insolent set of jackanapes, who take strange
liberties with passersby, and who would be all the better for
chastisement. If it hadn't been that Lionel and I did not wish to
become engaged in a brawl, we should have given some of them lessons
in manners."

"They are free in speech," Dame Swindon said, "and are an impudent
set of varlets. They have quick eyes and ready tongues, and are no
respecters of persons save of their masters and of citizens in a
position to lay complaints against them and to secure them punishment.
They hold together greatly, and it is as well that you should not
become engaged in a quarrel with them. At times they have raised
serious tumults, and have even set not only the watch but the
citizens at large at defiance. Strong measures have been several
times taken against them; but they are a powerful body, seeing that
in every shop there are one or more of them, and they can turn out
with their clubs many thousand strong. They have what they call their
privileges, and are as ready to defend them as are the citizens of
London to uphold their liberties. Ordinances have been passed many
times by the fathers of the city, regulating their conduct and the
hours at which they may be abroad and the carrying of clubs and
matters of this kind, but the apprentices seldom regard them, and
if the watch arrest one for a breach of regulations, he raises a
cry, and in two or three minutes a swarm of them collect and rescue
the offender from his hands. Therefore it is seldom that the watch
interferes with them."

"It would almost seem then that the apprentices are in fact the
masters," Geoffrey said.

"Not quite as bad as that," Master Swindon replied. "There are the
rules which they have to obey when at home, and if not they get a
whipping; but it is difficult to keep a hand over them when they
are abroad. After the shops are closed and the supper over they have
from time immemorial the right to go out for two hours' exercise.
They are supposed to go and shoot at the butts; but archery, I
grieve to say, is falling into disrepute, and although many still
go to the butts the practice is no longer universal. But here is
supper."

Few words were spoken during the meal. The foreman and the two
apprentices came up and sat down with the family, and it was not
until these had retired that the conversation was again resumed.

"Where are you going to take them tomorrow, Master Lirriper?"

"Tomorrow we will see the city, the shops in Chepe, the Guildhall,
and St. Paul's, then we shall issue out from Temple Bar and walk
along the Strand through the country to Westminster and see the
great abbey, then perhaps take a boat back. The next day, if the
weather be fine, we will row up to Richmond and see the palace
there, and I hope you will go with us, Mistress Dorothy; it is a
pleasant promenade and a fashionable one, and methinks the river
with its boats is after all the prettiest sight in London."

"Ah, you think there can be nothing pretty without water. That
is all very well for one who is ever afloat, Master Lirriper; but
give me Chepe at high noon with all its bravery of dress, and the
bright shops, and the gallants of the court, and our own citizens
too, who if not quite so gay in colour are proper men, better looking
to my mind than some of the fops with their silver and satins."

"That's right, Dorothy," her husband said; "spoken like the wife
of a citizen."

All these plans were destined to be frustrated. As soon as breakfast
was over the next morning Master Lirriper started with the two
boys, and they had but just entered Chepeside when they saw two
young men approaching.

"Why, Lionel, here is Francis Vere!" Geoffrey exclaimed. "I thought
he was across in Holland with the Earl of Leicester." They doffed
their caps. Captain Vere, for such was now his rank, looked at them
in surprise.

"Why!" he exclaimed, "here are Mr. Vickars' two sons. How came you
here, lads? Have you run away from home to see the wonders of London,
or to list as volunteers for the campaigns against the Dons?"

"I wish we were, Mr. Francis," Geoffrey said. "You promised when
you were at Hedingham a year and a half since that you would some
day take us to the wars with you, and our father, seeing that
neither of us have a mind to enter the church, has quite consented
that we shall become soldiers, the more so as there is a prospect
of fighting for the persecuted Protestants of Holland. And oh,
Mr. Francis, could it be now? You know we daily exercise with arms
at the castle, and we are both strong and sturdy for our age, and
believe me you should not see us flinch before the Spaniards however
many of them there were."

"Tut, tut!" Captain Vere laughed. "Here are young cockerels, Allen;
what think you of these for soldiers to stand against the Spanish
pikemen?"

"There are many of the volunteers who are not very much older than
they are," Captain Allen replied.

"There are two in my company who must be between seventeen and
eighteen."

"Ah! but these boys are three years younger than that."

"Would you not take us as your pages, Mr. Francis?" Lionel urged.
"We would do faithful service, and then when we come of age that
you could enter us as volunteers we should already have learnt a
little of war."

"Well, well, I cannot stop to talk to you now, for I am on my way
to the Tower on business. I am only over from Holland for a day or
two with despatches from the Earl to Her Majesty's Council, and am
lodging at Westminster in a house that faces the abbey. It is one
of my cousin Edward's houses, and you will see the Vere cognizance
over the door. Call there at one hour after noon, and I will have
a talk with you; but do not buoy yourselves up with hopes as to
your going with me." So saying, with a friendly nod of his head
Francis Vere continued his way eastward.

"What think you, Allen?" he asked his comrade as they went along.
"I should like to take the lads with me if I could. Their father,
who is the rector of Hedingham, taught my cousin Edward as well as
my brothers and myself. I saw a good deal of the boys when I was
at home. They are sturdy young fellows, and used to practise daily,
as we did at their age, with the men-at-arms at the castle, and
can use their weapons. A couple of years of apprenticeship would
be good schooling for them. One cannot begin to learn the art of
war too young, and it is because we have all been so ignorant of
it that our volunteers in Holland have not done better."

"I think, Vere, that they are too young yet to be enlisted
as volunteers, although in another two years, perhaps, you might
admit the elder of the two; but I see no reason why, if you are so
inclined, you should not take them with you as pages. Each company
has its pages and boys, and you might take these two for the
special service of yourself and your officers. They would then be
on pretty well the same footing as the five gentlemen volunteers
you have already with you, and would be distinct from the lads who
have entered as pages to the company. I suppose that you have not
yet your full number of boys?"

"No; there are fifteen boys allowed, one to each ten men, and I am
several short of this number, and have already written my brother
John to get six sturdy lads from among our own tenantry and to send
them over in the first ship from Harwich. Yes, I will take these
lads with me. I like their spirit, and we are all fond of their
father, who is a very kindly as well as a learned man."

"I don't suppose he will thank you greatly, Francis," Captain Allen
laughed.

"His goodwife is more likely to be vexed than he is," Captain Vere
said, "for it will give him all the more time for the studies in
which he is wrapped up. Besides, it will be a real service to the
boys. It will shorten their probation as volunteers, and they may
get commissions much earlier than they otherwise would do. We are
all mere children in the art of war; for truly before Roger Morgan
first took out his volunteers to fight for the Dutch there was
scarce a man in England who knew how to range a company in order.
You and I learned somewhat of our business in Poland, and some
of our leaders have also had a few lessons in the art of war in
foreign countries, but most of our officers are altogether new to
the work. However, we have good masters, and I trust these Spaniards
may teach us how to beat them in time; but at present, as I said,
we are all going to school, and the earlier one begins at school
the sooner one learns its lessons. Besides, we must have pages, and
it will be more pleasant for me having lads who belong in a sort
of way of our family, and to whom, if I am disposed, I can talk
of people at home. They are high spirited and full of fun, and I
should like to have them about me. But here we are at the Tower.
We shall not be long, I hope, over the list of arms and munitions
that the earl has sent for. When we have done we will take boat
back to Westminster. Half an hour will take us there, as the tide
will be with us."



CHAPTER III

IN THE LOW COUNTRY


Master Lirriper had stood apart while the boys were conversing with
Francis Vere.

"What do you think, Master Lirriper?" Geoffrey exclaimed as they
joined him. "We have asked Mr. Vere to take us with him as pages
to the war in the Low Country, and though he said we were not to
be hopeful about his reply, I do think he will take us. We are to
go round to Westminster at one o'clock to see him again. What do
you think of that?"

"I don't know what to think, Master Geoffrey. It takes me all by
surprise, and I don't know how I stand in the matter. You see, your
father gave you into my charge, and what could I say to him if I
went back empty handed?"

"But, you see, it is with Francis Vere," Geoffrey said. "If it
had been with anyone else it would be different. But the Veres are
his patrons, and he looks upon the earl, and Mr. Francis and his
brothers, almost as he does on us; and, you know, he has already
consented to our entering the army some day. Besides, he can't
blame you; because, of course, Mr. Vere will write to him himself
and say that he has taken us, and so you can't be blamed in the
matter. My father would know well enough that you could not withstand
the wishes of one of the Veres, who are lords of Hedingham and all
the country round."

"I should withstand them if I thought they were wrong," the boatman
said sturdily, "and if I were sure that your father would object
to your going; but that is what I am not sure. He may think it the
best thing for you to begin early under the protection of Master
Francis, and again he may think you a great deal too young for such
wild work. He has certainly always let you have pretty much your
own way, and has allowed you to come and go as you like, but this
is a different business altogether. I am sorely bested as to what
I ought to do."

"Well, nothing is settled yet, Master Lirriper; and, besides, I
don't see that you can help yourself in the matter, and if Mr. Vere
says he will take us I suppose you can't carry us off by force."

"It is Mistress Vickars that I am thinking of more than your father.
The vicar is an easygoing gentleman, but Mistress Vickars speaks
her mind, and I expect she will be in a terrible taking over it,
and will rate me soundly; though, as you say, I do not see how I can
help myself in the matter. Well now, let us look at the shops and
at the Guildhall, and then we will make our way down to Westminster
as we had proposed to do and see the abbey; by that time it will
be near the hour at which you are to call upon Mr. Vere."

But the sights that the boys had been so longing to see had for
the time lost their interest in their eyes. The idea that it was
possible that Mr. Vere would take them with him to fight against
the cruel oppressors of the Low Country was so absorbing that they
could think of nothing else. Even the wonders of the Guildhall and
St. Paul's received but scant attention, and the armourers' shops,
in which they had a new and lively interest, alone sufficed to
detain them. Even the gibes of the apprentices fell dead upon their
ears. These varlets might laugh, but what would they say if they
knew that they were going to fight the Spaniards? The thought
so altered them that they felt almost a feeling of pity for these
lads, condemned to stay at home and mind their masters' shops.

As to John Lirriper, he was sorely troubled in his mind, and divided
between what he considered his duty to the vicar and his life long
respect and reverence towards the lords of Hedingham. The feudal
system was extinct, but feudal ideas still lingered among the people.
Their lords could no longer summon them to take the field, had no
longer power almost of life and death over them, but they were still
their lords, and regarded with the highest respect and reverence.
The earls of Oxford were, in the eyes of the people of those parts
of Essex where their estates lay, personages of greater importance
than the queen herself, of whose power and attributes they had but
a very dim notion. It was not so very long since people had risen
in rebellion against the queen, but such an idea as that of rising
against their lords had never entered the mind of a single inhabitant
of Hedingham.

However, Master Lirriper came to the conclusion that he was,
as Geoffrey had said, powerless to interfere. If Mr. Francis Vere
decided to take the boys with him, what could he do to prevent it?
He could hardly take them forcibly down to the boat against their
will, and even could he do so their father might not approve, and
doubtless the earl, when he came to hear of it, would be seriously
angry at this act of defiance of his kinsman. Still, he was sure
that he should have a very unpleasant time with Mistress Vickars.
But, as he reassured himself, it was, after all, better to put up
with a woman's scolding than to bear the displeasure of the Earl
of Oxford, who could turn him out of his house, ruin his business,
and drive him from Hedingham. After all, it was natural that these
lads should like to embark on this adventure with Mr. Francis Vere,
and it would doubtless be to their interest to be thus closely
connected with him. At any rate, if it was to be it was, and he,
John Lirriper, could do nothing to prevent it. Having arrived at
this conclusion he decided to make the best of it, and began to
chat cheerfully with the boys.

Precisely at the appointed hour John Lirriper arrived with the two
lads at the entrance to the house facing the abbey. Two or three
servitors, whose doublets were embroidered with the cognizance of
the Veres, were standing in front of the door.

"Why, it is Master Lirriper!" one of them said. "Why, what has
brought you here? I did not know that your trips often extended to
London."

"Nor do they," John Lirriper said. "It was the wind and my nephew's
craft the Susan that brought me to London, and it is the will of
Mr. Francis that these two young gentlemen should meet him here at
one o'clock that has brought me to this door."

"Captain Francis is in; for, you know, he is a captain now, having
been lately appointed to a company in the Earl of Leicester's army.
He returned an hour since, and has but now finished his meal. Do
you wish to go up with these young masters, or shall I conduct them
to him?"

"You had best do that," John Lirriper answered. "I will remain here
below if Captain Francis desires to see me or has any missive to
intrust to me."

The boys followed the servant upstairs, and were shown into a room
where Francis Vere, his cousin the Earl of Oxford, and Captain
Allen were seated at table.

"Well, lads," the earl said, "so you want to follow my cousin
Francis to the wars?"

"That is our wish, my lord, if Captain Francis will be so good as
to take us with him."

"And what will my good tutor your father say to it?" the earl asked
smiling.

"I think, my lord," Geoffrey said boldly, "that if you yourself
will tell my father you think it is for our good, he will say naught
against it."

"Oh, you want to throw the responsibility upon me, and to embroil
me with your father and Mistress Vickars as an abettor of my cousin
Francis in the kidnapping of children? Well, Francis, you had better
explain to them what their duties will be if they go with you.

"You will be my pages," Francis Vere said, "and will perform the
usual duties of pages in good families when in the field. It is
the duty of pages to aid in collecting firewood and forage, and in
all other ways to make themselves useful. You will bear the same
sort of relation to the gentlemen volunteers as they do towards
the officers. They are aspirants for commissions as officers as
you will be to become gentlemen volunteers. You must not think that
your duties will be light, for they will not, and you will have to
bear many discomforts and hardships. But you will be in an altogether
different position from that of the boys who are the pages of the
company. You will, apart from your duties, and bearing in mind
the difference of your age, associate with the officers and the
gentlemen volunteers on terms of equality when nor engaged upon duty.
On duty you will have to render the same strict and unquestionable
obedience that all soldiers pay to those of superior rank. What say
you? Are you still anxious to go? Because, if so, I have decided
to take you."

Geoffrey and Lionel both expressed their thanks in proper terms,
and their earnest desire to accompany Captain Vere, and to behave
in all ways conformably to his orders and instructions.

"Very well, that is settled," Francis Vere said. "The earl is
journeying down to Hedingham tomorrow, and has kindly promised to
take charge of a letter from me to your father, and personally to
assure him that this early embarkation upon military life would
prove greatly to your advantage."

"Supposing that you are not killed by the Spaniards or carried
off by fever," the earl put in; "for although possibly that might
be an advantage to humanity in general, it could scarcely be
considered one to you personally."

"We are ready to take our risk of that, my lord," Geoffrey said;
"and are indeed greatly beholden both to Captain Francis for his
goodness in taking us with him, and to yourself in kindly undertaking
the mission of reconciling our father to our departure."

"You have not told me yet how it is that I find you in London?"
Francis Vere said.

"We only came up for a week, sir, to see the town. We are in charge of
Master Lirriper, who owns a barge on the river, and plies between
Hedingham and Bricklesey, but who was coming up to London in a
craft belonging to his nephew, and who took charge of us. We are
staying at the house of Master Swindon, a citizen and ship chandler."

"Is Master Lirriper below?"

"He is, sir."

"Then in that case he had better go back to the house and bring
your mails here. I shall sail from Deptford the day after tomorrow
with the turn of tide. You had best remain here now. There will be
many things necessary for you to get before you start. I will give
instructions to one of my men-at-arms to go with you to purchase
them."

"I will take their outfit upon myself, Francis," the earl said.
"My steward shall go out with them and see to it. It is the least
I can do when I am abetting you in depriving my old tutor of his
sons."

He touched a bell and a servitor entered. "See that these young
gentlemen are fed and attended to. They will remain here for the
night. Tell Master Dotterell to come hither to me."

The boys bowed deeply and retired.

"It is all settled, Master Lirriper," they said when they reached
the hall below. "We are to sail with Captain Francis the day after
tomorrow, and you will be pleased to hear that the earl himself has
taken charge of the matter, and will see our father and communicate
the news to him."

"That is a comfort indeed," John Lirriper said fervently; "for
I would most as soon have had to tell him that the Susan had gone
down and that you were both drowned, as that I had let you both slip
away to the wars when he had given you into my charge. But if the
earl takes the matter in hand I do not think that even your lady
mother can bear very heavily on me. And now, what is going to be
done?"

"We are to remain here in order that suitable clothes may be
obtained for us by the time we sail. Will you bring down tomorrow
morning our wallets from Master Swindon's, and thank him and his
good dame for their hospitality, and say that we are sorry to leave
them thus suddenly without having an opportunity of thanking them
ourselves? We will write letters tonight to our father and mother,
and give them to you to take with you when you return."

John Lirriper at once took his departure, greatly relieved in mind
to find that the earl himself had taken the responsibility upon his
shoulders, and would break the news long before he himself reached
Hedingham. A few minutes later a servitor conducted the boys to an
apartment where a meal was laid for them; and as soon as this was
over they were joined by the steward, who requested them to set
out with him at once, as there were many things to be done and but
short time for doing them. No difficulty in the way of time was,
however, thrown in the way by the various tradesmen they visited,
these being all perfectly ready to put themselves to inconvenience
to do pleasure to so valuable a patron as the powerful Earl of
Oxford.

Three suits of clothes were ordered for each of them: the one such
as that worn by pages in noble families upon ordinary occasions,
another of a much richer kind for special ceremonies and gaieties,
the third a strong, serviceable suit for use when actually in the
field. Then they were taken to an armourer's where each was provided
with a light morion or head piece, breast plate and back piece,
sword and dagger. A sufficient supply of under garments, boots, and
other necessaries were also purchased; and when all was complete
they returned highly delighted to the house. It was still scarce
five o'clock, and they went across to the abbey and wandered for
some time through its aisles, greatly impressed with its dignity
and beauty now that their own affairs were off their mind.

They returned to the house again, and after supper wrote their
letters to their father and mother, saying that they hoped they
would not be displeased at the step they had taken, and which they
would not have ventured upon had they not already obtained their
father's consent to their entering the army. They knew, of course,
that he had not contemplated their doing so for some little time;
but as so excellent an opportunity had offered, and above all, as
they were going out to fight against the Spaniards for the oppressed
people of the Low Countries, they hoped their parents would approve
of the steps they had taken, not having had time or opportunity to
consult them.

At noon two days later Francis Vere with Captain Allen and the two
boys took their seats in the stern of a skiff manned by six rowers.
In the bow were the servitors of the two officers, and the luggage
was stowed in the extreme stern.

"The tide is getting slack, is it not?" Captain Vere asked the
boatmen.

"Yes, sir; it will not run up much longer. It will be pretty well
slack water by the time we get to the bridge."

Keeping close to the bank the boat proceeded at a rapid pace. Several
times the two young officers stood up and exchanged salutations
with ladies or gentlemen of their acquaintance. As the boatman
had anticipated, tide was slack by the time they arrived at London
Bridge, and they now steered out into the middle of the river.

"Give way, lads," Captain Allen said. "We told the captain we would
not keep him waiting long after high water, and he will be getting
impatient if he does not see us before long."

As they shot past the Susan the boys waved their hands to Master
Lirriper, who, after coming down in the morning and receiving
their letters for their parents, had returned at once to the city
and had taken his place on board the Susan, so as to be able to
tell their father that he had seen the last of them. The distance
between London Bridge and Deptford was traversed in a very short
time. A vessel with her flags flying and her canvas already loosened
was hanging to a buoy some distance out in the stream, and as the
boat came near enough for the captain to distinguish those on board,
the mooring rope was slipped, the head sails flattened in, and the
vessel began to swing round. Before her head was down stream the
boat was alongside. The two officers followed by the boys ascended
the ladder by the side. The luggage was quickly handed up, and the
servitors followed. The sails were sheeted home, and the vessel
began to move rapidly through the water.

The boys had thought the Susan an imposing craft, but they were
surprised, indeed, at the space on board the Dover Castle. In the
stern there was a lofty poop with spacious cabins. Six guns were
ranged along on each side of the deck, and when the sails were
got up they seemed so vast to the boys that they felt a sense of
littleness on board the great craft. They had been relieved to find
that Captain Vere had his own servitor with him; for in talking it
over they had mutually expressed their doubt as to their ability
to render such service as Captain Vere would be accustomed to.

The wind was from the southwest, and the vessel was off Sheerness
before the tide turned. There was, however, no occasion to anchor,
for the wind was strong enough to take them against the flood.

During the voyage they had no duties to perform. The ship's cook
prepared the meals, and the officers' servants waited on them, the
lads taking their meals with the two officers. Their destination
was Bergen op Zoom, a town at the mouth of the Scheldt, of the
garrison of which the companies of both Francis Vere and Captain
Allen formed a part.

As soon as the low coasts of Holland came in sight the boys watched
them with the most lively interest.

"We are passing Sluys now," Captain Vere said. "The land almost
ahead of us is Walcheren; and that spire belongs to Flushing. We
could go outside and up the channel between the island and Beveland,
and then up the Eastern Scheldt to Bergen op Zoom; but instead of
that we shall follow the western channel, which is more direct."

"It is as flat as our Essex coast," Geoffrey remarked.

"Aye, and flatter; for the greater part of the land lies below the
level of the sea, which is only kept out by great dams and dykes.
At times when the rivers are high and the wind keeps back their
waters they burst the dams and spread over a vast extent of country.
The Zuider Zee was so formed in 1170 and 1395, and covers a tract
as large as the whole county of Essex. Twenty-six years later the
river Maas broke its banks and flooded a wide district. Seventy-two
villages were destroyed and 100,000 people lost their life. The
lands have never been recovered; and where a fertile country once
stood is now a mere swamp."

"I shouldn't like living there," Lionel said. "It would be terrible,
every time the rivers are full and the wind blows, to think that
at any moment the banks may burst and the flood come rushing over
you."

"It is all habit," Captain Vere replied; "I don't suppose they
trouble themselves about it. But they are very particular in keeping
their dykes in good repair. The water is one of the great defences
of their country. In the first place there are innumerable streams
to be crossed by an invader, and in the second, they can as a last
resource cut the dykes and flood the country. These Dutchmen, as
far as I have seen of them, are hard working and industrious people,
steady and patient, and resolved to defend their independence to
the last. This they have indeed proved by the wonderful resistance
they have made against the power of Spain. There, you see the ship's
head has been turned and we shall before long be in the channel.
Sluys lies up that channel on the right. It is an important place.
Large vessels can go no further, but are unloaded there and the
cargoes taken to Bruges and thence distributed to many other towns.
They say that in 1468 as many as a hundred and fifty ships a day
arrived at Sluys. That gives you an idea of the trade that the
Netherlands carry on. The commerce of this one town was as great
as is that of London at the present time. But since the troubles
the trade of Sluys has fallen off a good deal."

The ship had to anchor here for two or three hours until the tide
turned, for the wind had fallen very light and they could not make
head against the ebb. As soon as it turned they again proceeded on
their way, dropping quietly up with the tide. The boys climbed up
into the tops, and thence could see a wide extent of country dotted
with villages stretching beyond the banks, which restricted their
view from the decks. In five hours Bergen op Zoom came in sight,
and they presently dropped anchor opposite the town. The boat was
lowered, and the two officers with the lads were rowed ashore. They
were met as they landed by several young officers.

"Welcome back, Vere; welcome, Allen. You have been lucky indeed
in having a few days in England, and getting a view of something
besides this dreary flat country and its sluggish rivers. What is
the last news from London?"

"There is little news enough," Vere replied. "We were only four
days in London, and were busy all the time. And how are things
here? Now that summer is at hand and the country drying the Dons
ought to be bestirring themselves."

"They say that they are doing so," the officer replied. "We have
news that the Duke of Parma is assembling his army at Bruges, where
he is collecting the pick of the Spanish infantry with a number of
Italian regiments which have joined him. He sent off the Marquess
Del Vasto with the Sieur De Hautepenne towards Bois le Duc. General
Count Hohenlohe, who, as you know, we English always call Count
Holland, went off with a large force to meet him, and we heard
only this morning that a battle has been fought, Hautepenne killed,
and the fort of Crevecoeur on the Maas captured. From what I hear,
some of our leaders think that it was a mistake so to scatter our
forces, and if Parma moves forward from Bruges against Sluys, which
is likely enough, we shall be sorely put to it to save the place."

As they were talking they proceeded into the town, and presently
reached the house where Francis Vere had his quarters. The officers
and gentlemen volunteers of his company soon assembled, and Captain
Vere introduced the two boys to them.

"They are young gentlemen of good family," he said, "who will act
as my pages until they are old enough to be enrolled as gentlemen
volunteers. I commend them to your good offices. Their father is
a learned and reverend gentleman who was my tutor, and also tutor
to my cousin, the Earl of Oxford, by whom he is greatly valued.
They are lads of spirit, and have been instructed in the use of
arms at Hedingham as if they had been members of our family. I am
sure, gentlemen volunteers, that you will receive them as friends.
I propose that they shall take their meals with you, but of course
they will lodge here with me and my officers; but as you are in the
next house this will cause no inconvenience. I trust that we shall
not remain here long, but shall soon be on the move. We have now
been here seven months, and it is high time we were doing something.
We didn't bargain to come over here and settle down for life in a
dull Dutch town."

In a few hours the boys found themselves quite at home in their
new quarters. The gentlemen volunteers received them cordially,
and they found that for the present their duties would be extremely
light, consisting chiefly in carrying messages and orders; for as
the officers had all servants of their own, Captain Vere dispensed
with their attendance at meals. There was much to amuse and interest
them in Bergen op Zoom. It reminded them to some extent of Harwich,
with its narrow streets and quaint houses; but the fortifications were
far stronger, and the number of churches struck them as prodigious.
The population differed in no very large degree in dress from that
of England, but the people struck them as being slower and more
deliberate in their motion. The women's costumes differed much more
widely from those to which they were accustomed, and their strange
and varied headdresses, their bright coloured handkerchiefs, and
the amount of gold necklaces and bracelets that they wore, struck
them with surprise.

Their stay in Bergen op Zoom was even shorter than they had
anticipated, for three days after their arrival a boat came with a
letter from Sir William Russell, the governor at Flushing. He said
that he had just received an urgent letter from the Dutch governor
of Sluys, saying that Patina's army was advancing from Bruges towards
the city, and had seized and garrisoned the fort of Blankenburg on
the sea coast to prevent reinforcements arriving from Ostend; he
therefore prayed the governor of Flushing to send off troops and
provisions with all haste to enable him to resist the attack. Sir
William requested that the governor of Bergen op Zoom would at once
embark the greater portion of his force on board ship and send them
to Sluys. He himself was having a vessel filled with grain for the
use of the inhabitants, and was also sending every man he could
spare from Flushing.

In a few minutes all was bustle in the town. The trumpets of the
various companies called the soldiers to arms, and in a very short
time the troops were on their way towards the river. Here several
ships had been requisitioned for the service; and as the companies
marched down they were conducted to the ships to which they were
allotted by the quartermasters.

Geoffrey and Lionel felt no small pride as they marched down with
their troop. They had for the first time donned their steel caps,
breast and back pieces; but this was rather for convenience of
carriage than for any present utility. They had at Captain Vere's
orders left their ordinary clothes behind them, and were now attired
in thick serviceable jerkins, with skirts coming down nearly to
the knee, like those worn by the troops. They marched at the rear
of the company, the other pages, similarly attired, following them.

As soon as the troops were on board ship, sail was made, and the
vessels dropped down the stream. The wind was very light, and it
was not until thirty hours after starting that the little fleet
arrived off Sluys. The town, which was nearly egg shaped, lay close
to the river, which was called the Zwin. At the eastern end, in the
centre of a detached piece of water, stood the castle, connected
with the town by a bridge of boats. The Zwin formed the defence
on the north side while the south and west were covered by a very
wide moat, along the centre of which ran a dyke, dividing it into
two channels. On the west side this moat extended to the Zwin, and
was crossed at the point of junction by the bridge leading to the
west gate.

The walls inclosed a considerable space, containing fields and
gardens. Seven windmills stood on the ramparts. The tower of the
town hall, and those of the churches of Our Lady, St. John, and
the Grey Friars rose high above the town.

The ships from Flushing and Bergen op Zoom sailed up together, and
the 800 men who landed were received with immense enthusiasm by
the inhabitants, who were Protestants, and devoted to the cause
of independence. The English were under the command of Sir Roger
Williams, who had already seen so many years of service in the
Low Countries; and under him were Morgan, Thomas Baskerville, and
Huntley, who had long served with him.

Roger Williams was an admirable man for service of this kind. He
had distinguished himself by many deeds of reckless bravery. He
possessed an inexhaustible fund of confidence and high spirits,
and in his company it was impossible to feel despondent, however
desperate the situation.

The citizens placed their houses at the disposal of their new allies,
handsome quarters were allotted to the officers, and the soldiers
were all housed in private dwellings or the warehouses of the
merchants. The inhabitants had already for some days been working
hard at their defences, and the English at once joined them in their
labours, strengthening the weak portions of the walls, mounting
cannon upon the towers, and preparing in all ways to give a warm
reception to the Spaniards.

Captain Vere, his lieutenant and ensign and his two pages, were
quartered in the house of a wealthy merchant, whose family did all
in their power to make them comfortable. It was a grand old house,
and the boys, accustomed as they were to the splendours of Hedingham
Castle, agreed that the simple merchants of the Low Countries were
far in advance of English nobles in the comforts and conveniences
of their dwellings. The walls of the rooms were all heavily panelled;
rich curtains hung before the casements. The furniture was not only
richly carved, but comfortable. Heavy hangings before the doors
excluded draughts, and in the principal apartments Eastern carpets
covered the floors. The meals were served on spotless white linen.
Rich plates stood on the sideboard, and gold and silver vessels of
rare carved work from Italy glittered in the armoires.

Above all, from top to bottom, the house was scrupulously clean.
Nor a particle of dust dimmed the brightness of the furniture, and
even now, when the city was threatened with siege, the merchant's
wife never relaxed her vigilance over the doings of her maids, who
seemed to the boys to be perpetually engaged in scrubbing, dusting,
and polishing.

"Our mother prides herself on the neatness of her house," Geoffrey
said; "but what would she say, I wonder, were she to see one of
these Dutch households? I fear that the maids would have a hard
time of it afterwards, and our father would be fairly driven out
of his library."

"It is all very well to be clean," Lionel said; "but I think they
carry it too far here. Peace and quietness count for something, and
it doesn't seem to me that Dutchmen, fond of it as they say they
are, know even the meaning of the words as far as their homes are
concerned. Why, it always seems to be cleaning day, and they must
be afraid of going into their own houses with their boots on!"

"Yes, I felt quite like a criminal today," Geoffrey laughed, "when
I came in muddy up to the waist, after working down there by the
sluices. I believe when the Spaniards open fire these people will
be more distracted by the dust caused by falling tiles and chimneys
than by any danger of their lives."

Great difficulties beset the Duke of Parma at the commencement of
the siege. Sluys was built upon the only piece of solid ground in
the district, and it was surrounded by such a labyrinth of canals,
ditches, and swamps, that it was said that it was almost as
difficult to find Sluys as it was to capture it. Consequently, it
was impossible to find ground solid enough for a camp to be pitched
upon, and the first labour was the erection of wooden huts for the
troops upon piles driven into the ground. These huts were protected
from the fire of the defenders by bags of earth brought in boats
from a long distance. The main point selected for the attack was
the western gate; but batteries were also placed to play upon the
castle and the bridge of boats connecting it with the town.

"There is one advantage in their determining to attack us at the
western extremity of the town," John Menyn, the merchant at whose
house Captain Vere and his party were lodging, remarked when his
guest informed him there was no longer any doubt as to the point
at which the Spaniards intended to attack, "for they will not be
able to blow up our walls with mines in that quarter."

"How is that?" Francis Vere asked.

"If you can spare half an hour of your time I will show you," the
merchant said.

"I can spare it now, Von Menyn," Vere replied; "for the information
is important, whatever it may be."

"I will conduct you there at once. There is no time like the
present."

"Shall we follow you, sir?" Geoffrey asked his captain.

"Yes, come along," Vere replied. "The matter is of interest, and
for the life of me I cannot make out what this obstacle can be of
which our host speaks."

They at once set out.

John Menyn led them to a warehouse close to the western wall, and
spoke a few words to its owner, who at once took three lanterns
from the wall and lighted them, handing one to Vere, another to
John Menyn, and taking the other himself; he then unlocked a massive
door. A flight of steps leading apparently to a cellar were visible.
He led the way down, the two men following, and the boys bringing
up the rear. The descent was far deeper than they had expected,
and when they reached the bottom they found themselves in a vast
arched cellar filled with barrels. From this they proceeded into
another, and again into a third.

"What are these great magazines?" Francis Vere asked in surprise.

"They are wine cellars, and there are scores similar to those you
see. Sluys is the centre of the wine trade of Flanders and Holland, and
cellars like these extend right under the wall. All the warehouses
along here have similar cellars. This end of the town was the driest,
and the soil most easily excavated. That is why the magazines for
wines are all clustered here. There is not a foot of ground behind
and under the walls at this end that is not similarly occupied,
and if the Spaniards try to drive mines to blow up the walls, they
will simply break their way into these cellars, where we can meet
them and drive them back again."

"Excellent!" Francis Vere said. "This will relieve us of the work
of countermining, which is always tiresome and dangerous, and would
be specially so here, where we should have to dive under that deep
moat outside your walls. Now we shall only have to keep a few men
on watch in these cellars. They would hear the sound of the Spanish
approaching, and we shall be ready to give them a warm reception
by the time they break in. Are there communications between these
cellars?"

"Yes, for the most part," the wine merchant said. "The cellars are
not entirely the property of us dealers in wine. They are constructed
by men who let them, just as they would let houses. A merchant
in a small way would need but one cellar, while some of us occupy
twenty or more; therefore, there are for the most part communications,
with doors, between the various cellars, so that they can be let
off in accordance with the needs of the hirers."

"Well, I am much obliged to you for telling me of this," Captain
Vere said. "Williams and Morgan will be glad enough to hear that
there is no fear of their being blown suddenly into the air while
defending the walls, and they will see the importance of keeping
a few trusty men on watch in the cellars nearest to the Spaniards.
I shall report the matter to them at once. The difficulty," he
added smiling, "will be to keep the men wakeful, for it seems to
me that the very air is heavy with the fumes of wine."



CHAPTER IV

THE SIEGE OF SLUYS


Until the Spaniards had established their camp, and planted some
of their batteries, there was but little firing. Occasionally the
wall pieces opened upon parties of officers reconnoitring, and a few
shots were fired from time to time to harass the workmen in the
enemy's batteries; but this was done rather to animate the townsmen,
and as a signal to distant friends that so far matters were going
on quietly, than with any hopes of arresting the progress of the
enemy's works. Many sorties were made by the garrison, and fierce
fighting took place, but only a score or two of men from each company
were taken upon these occasions, and the boys were compelled to
remain inactive spectators of the fight.

In these sorties the Spanish works were frequently held for a few
minutes, gabions thrown down, and guns overturned, but after doing
as much damage as they could the assailants had to fall back again
to the town, being unable to resist the masses of pikemen brought
up against them. The boldness of these sorties, and the bravery
displayed by their English allies, greatly raised the spirits of
the townsfolk, who now organized themselves into companies, and
undertook the work of guarding the less exposed portion of the
wall, thus enabling the garrison to keep their whole strength at
the points attacked. The townsmen also laboured steadily in adding
to the defenses; and two companies of women were formed, under female
captains, who took the names of May in the Heart and Catherine the
Rose. These did good service by building a strong fort at one of
the threatened points, and this work was in their honour christened
Fort Venus.

"It is scarcely a compliment to Venus," Geoffrey laughed to his
brother. "These square shouldered and heavily built women do not
at all correspond with my idea of the goddess of love."

"They are strong enough for men," Lionel said. "I shouldn't like
one of those big fat arms to come down upon my head. No, they are
not pretty; but they look jolly and good tempered, and if they were
to fight as hard as they work they ought to do good service."

"There is a good deal of difference between them," Geoffrey said.
"Look at those three dark haired women with neat trim figures. They
do not look as if they belonged to the same race as the others."

"They are not of the same race, lad," Captain Vere, who was standing
close by, said. "The big heavy women are Flemish, the others come, no
doubt, from the Walloon provinces bordering on France. The Walloons
broke off from the rest of the states and joined the Spanish
almost from the first. They were for the most part Catholics, and
had little in common with the people of the Low Country; but there
were, of course, many Protestants among them, and these were forced
to emigrate, for the Spanish allow no Protestants in the country
under their rule. Alva adopted the short and easy plan of murdering
all the Protestants in the towns he took; but the war is now
conducted on rather more humane principles, and the Protestants
have the option given them of changing their faith or leaving the
country.

"In this way, without intending it, the Spaniards have done good
service to Holland, for hundreds of thousands of industrious people
have flocked there for shelter from Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, and
other cities that have fallen into the hands of the Spaniards,
thus greatly raising the population of Holland, and adding to its
power of defence. Besides this, the presence of these exiles, and
the knowledge that a similar fate awaits themselves if they fall
again under the yoke of Spain, nerves the people to resist to
the utmost. Had it not been for the bigotry of the Spanish, and
the abominable cruelties practised by the Inquisition, the States
would never have rebelled; and even after they did so, terms might
easily have been made with them had they not been maddened by the
wholesale massacres perpetrated by Alva. There, do you hear those
women speaking? Their language is French rather than Flemish."

Just as they were speaking a heavy roar of cannon broke out from
the eastern end of the town.

"They have opened fire on the castle!" Vere exclaimed. "Run, lads,
quick! and summon the company to form in the marketplace in front
of our house. We are told off to reinforce the garrison of the
castle in case of attack."

The boys hurried away at the top of their speed. They had the list
of all the houses in which the men of the company were quartered;
and as the heavy roar of cannon had brought every one to their
doors to hear what was going on, the company were in a very short
time assembled.

Francis Vere placed himself at their head, and marched them through
the long streets of the town and out through the wall on to the
bridge of boats. It was the first time the boys had been under
fire; and although they kept a good countenance, they acknowledged
to each other afterwards that they had felt extremely uncomfortable
as they traversed the bridge with the balls whistling over their
heads, and sometimes striking the water close by and sending a
shower of spray over the troops.

They felt easier when they entered the castle and were protected by
its walls. Upon these the men took their station. Those with guns
discharged their pieces against the Spanish artillerymen, the pikemen
assisted the bombardiers to work the cannon, and the officers went
to and fro encouraging the men. The pages of the company had little
to do beyond from time to time carrying cans of wine and water to
the men engaged. Geoffrey and Lionel, finding that their services
were not required by Captain Vere, mounted on to the wall, and
sheltering themselves as well as they could behind the battlements,
looked out at what was going on.

"It doesn't seem to me," Geoffrey said, "that these walls will long
withstand the balls of the Spanish. The battlements are already
knocked down in several places, and I can hear after each shot
strikes the walls the splashing of the brickwork as it falls into
the water. See! there is Tom Carroll struck down with a ball. It's
our duty to carry him away."

They ran along the wall to the fallen soldier. Two other pages came
up, and the four carried him to the top of the steps and then down
into the courtyard, where a Dutch surgeon took charge of him. His
shoulder had been struck by the ball, and the arm hung only by a
shred of flesh. The surgeon shook his head.

"I can do nothing for him," he said. "He cannot live many hours."

Lionel had done his share in carrying the man down but he now turned
sick and faint.

Geoffrey caught him by the arm. "Steady, old boy," he said; "it
is trying at first, but we shall soon get accustomed to it. Here,
take a draught of wine from this flask."

"I am better now," Lionel said, after taking a draught of wine.
"I felt as if I was going to faint, Geoffrey. I don't know why I
should, for I did not feel frightened when we were on the wall."

"Oh, it has nothing to do with fear; it is just the sight of that
poor fellow's blood. There is nothing to be ashamed of in that. Why,
I saw Will Atkins, who was one of the best fighters and singlestick
players in Hedingham, go off in a dead swoon because a man he was
working with crushed his thumb between two heavy stones. Look,
Lionel, what cracks there are in the wall here. I don't think it
will stand long. We had better run up and tell Captain Vere, for
it may come toppling down with some of the men on it."

Captain Vere on hearing the news ran down and examined the wall.

"Yes," he said, "it is evidently going. A good earthwork is worth
a dozen of these walls. They will soon have the castle about our
ears. However, it is of no great importance to us. I saw you lads
just now on the wall; I did not care about ordering you down at
the time; but don't go up again except to help to carry down the
wounded. Make it a rule, my boys, never to shirk your duty, however
great the risk to life may be; but, on the other hand, never risk
your lives unless it is your duty to do so. What is gallantry in the
one case is foolishness in the other. Although you are but pages,
yet it may well be that in such a siege as this you will have many
opportunities of showing that you are of good English stock; but
while I would have you shrink from no danger when there is a need
for you to expose yourselves, I say also that you should in no way
run into danger wantonly."

Several times in the course of the afternoon the boys took their
turn in going up and helping to bring down wounded men. As the time
went on several yawning gaps appeared in the walls. The courtyard
was strewn with fragments of masonry, and the pages were ordered
to keep under shelter of the wall of the castle unless summoned on
duty. Indeed, the courtyard had now become a more dangerous station
than the wall itself; for not only did the cannon shot fly through
the breaches, but fragments of bricks, mortar, and rubbish flew
along with a force that would have been fatal to anything struck.

Some of the pages were big fellows of seventeen or eighteen years
old, who had been serving for some years under Morgan and Williams,
and would soon be transferred into the ranks.

"I like not this sort of fighting," one of them said. "It is all
very well when it comes to push of pike with the Spaniards, but to
remain here like chickens in a coop while they batter away at us
is a game for which I have no fancy. What say you, Master Vickars?"

"Well, it is my first experience, Somers, and I cannot say that
it is agreeable. I do not know whether I should like hand to hand
fighting better; but it seems to me at present that it would be
certainly more agreeable to be doing something than to be sitting
here and listening to the falls of the pieces of masonry and the
whistling of the balls. I don't see that they will be any nearer
when they have knocked this place to pieces. They have no boats,
and if they had, the guns on the city wall would prevent their using
them; besides, when the bridge of boats is removed they could do
nothing if they got here."

Towards evening a council was held, all the principal officers
being present, and it was decided to evacuate the castle. It could
indeed have been held for some days longer, but it was plain it
would at length become untenable; the bridge of boats had already
been struck in several places, and some of the barges composing it
had sunk level with the water. Were it destroyed, the garrison of
the castle would be completely cut off; and as no great advantage
was to be gained by holding the position, for it was evident that
it was upon the other end of the town the main attack was to be
made, it was decided to evacuate it under cover of night. As soon
as it became dark this decision was carried into effect, and for
hours the troops worked steadily, transporting the guns, ammunition,
and stores of all kinds across from the castle to the town.

Already communication with their friends outside had almost ceased,
for the first operation of the enemy had been to block the approach
to Sluys from the sea. Floats had been moored head and stern right
across Zwin, and a battery erected upon each shore to protect them;
but Captains Hart and Allen twice swam down to communicate with
friendly vessels below the obstacle, carrying despatches with them
from the governor to the States General, and from Roger Williams
to the English commanders, urging that no time should be lost in
assembling an army to march to the relief of the town.

Both contained assurances that the garrison would defend the place
to the last extremity, but pointed out that it was only a question
of time, and that the town must fall unless relieved. The Dutch
garrison were 800 strong, and had been joined by as many English.
Parma had at first marched with but 6000 men against the city, but
had very speedily drawn much larger bodies of men towards him, and
had, as Roger Williams states in a letter to the queen sent from
Sluys at an early period of the siege, four regiments of Walloons,
four of Germans, one of Italians, one of Burgundians, fifty-two
companies of Spaniards, twenty-four troops of horse, and forty-eight
guns. This would give a total of at least 17,000 men, and further
reinforcements afterwards arrived.

Against so overwhelming a force as this, it could not be hoped
that the garrison, outnumbered by more than ten to one, could
long maintain themselves, and the Duke of Parma looked for an easy
conquest of the place. By both parties the possession of Sluys was
regarded as a matter of importance out of all proportion to the
size and population of the town; for at that time it was known in
England that the King of Spain was preparing a vast fleet for the
invasion of Britain, and Sluys was the nearest point to our shores
at which a fleet could gather and the forces of Parma embark to
join those coming direct from Spain. The English, therefore, were
determined to maintain the place to the last extremity; and while
Parma had considered its capture as an affair of a few days only,
the little garrison were determined that for weeks at any rate they
would be able to prolong the resistance, feeling sure that before
that time could elapse both the States and England, knowing the
importance of the struggle, would send forces to their relief.

The view taken as to the uselessness of defending the castle was
fully justified, as the Spaniards on the following day removed the
guns that they had employed in battering it, to their works facing
the western gate, and fire was opened next morning. Under cover
of this the Spanish engineers pushed their trenches up to the very
edge of the moat, in spite of several desperate sorties by the
garrison. The boys had been forbidden by Captain Vere to take their
place with the company on the walls.

"In time," he said, "as our force decreases, we shall want every
one capable of handling arms to man the breaches, but at present
we are not in any extremity; and none save those whom duty compels
to be there must come under the fire of the Spaniards, for to do
so would be risking life without gain."

They had, however, made friends with the wine merchant whose cellars
they had visited, and obtained permission from him to visit the
upper storey of his warehouse whenever they chose. From a window
here they were enabled to watch all that was taking place, for the
warehouse was much higher than the walls. It was not in the direct
line of fire of the Spanish batteries, for these were chiefly
concentrated against the wall a little to their right. After heavy
fighting the Spaniards one night, by means of boats from the Zwin,
landed upon the dyke which divided the moat into two channels, and
thus established themselves so close under the ramparts that the
guns could not be brought to bear upon them. They proceeded to
intrench themselves at once upon the dyke.

The governor, Arnold Groenvelt, consulted with the English leaders,
and decided that the enemy must be driven off this dyke immediately,
or that the safety of the city would be gravely imperilled. They
therefore assembled a force of four hundred men, sallied out of the
south gate, where two bastions were erected on the dyke itself, and
then advanced along it to the assault of the Spaniards. The battle
was a desperate one, the English and Dutch were aided by their
comrades on the wall, who shot with guns and arquebuses against
the Spaniards, while the later were similarly assisted by their
friends along the outer edge of the moat, and received constant
reinforcements by boats from their ships.

The odds were too great for the assailants, who were forced at last
to fall back along the dyke to the south gate and to re-enter the
town. It was already five weeks since the English had arrived to
take part in the defence, and the struggle now began upon a great
scale--thirty cannon and eight culverins opening fire upon the
walls. The heaviest fire was on St. James' day, the 25th of July,
when 4000 shots were fired between three in the morning and five
in the afternoon. While this tremendous cannonade was going on,
the boys could not but admire the calmness shown by the population.
Many of the shots, flying over the top of the walls, struck the
houses in the city, and the chimneys, tiles, and masses of masonry
fell in the streets. Nevertheless the people continued their usual
avocations. The shops were all open, though the men employed served
their customers with breast and back pieces buckled on, and their
arms close at hand, so that they could run to the walls at once
to take part in their defence did the Spaniards attempt an assault
upon them. The women stood knitting at their doors, Frau Menyn looked
as sharply after her maids as ever, and washing and scouring went
on without interruption.

"I believe that woman will keep those girls at work after the
Spaniards have entered the city, and until they are thundering
at the door," Lionel said. "Who but a Dutch woman would give a
thought to a few particles of dust on her furniture when an enemy
was cannonading the town?"

"I think she acts wisely after all, Lionel. The fact that everything
goes on as usual here and in other houses takes people's thoughts
off the dangers of the position, and prevents anything like panic
being felt."

The lads spent the greater part of the day at their lookout, and
could see that the wall against which the Spanish fire was directed
was fast crumbling. Looking down upon it, it seemed deserted of
troops, for it would be needlessly exposing the soldiers to death
to place them there while the cannonade continued; but behind the
wall, and in the street leading to it, companies of English and
Dutch soldiers could be seen seated or lying on the ground.

They were leaning our of the dormer window in the high roof watching
the Spanish soldiers in the batteries working their guns, when,
happening to look round, they saw a crossbow protruded from a window
of the warehouse to their right, and a moment afterwards the sharp
twang of the bow was heard. There was nothing unusual in this; for
although firearms were now generally in use the longbow and the
crossbow had not been entirely abandoned, and there were still
archers in the English army, and many still held that the bow was
a far better weapon than the arquebus, sending its shafts well nigh
as far and with a truer aim.

"If that fellow is noticed," Geoffrey said, "we shall have
the Spanish musketeers sending their balls in this direction. The
governor has, I heard Captain Vere say, forbidden shooting from the
warehouses, because he does not wish to attract the Spanish fire
against them. Of course when the wall yields and the breach has to
be defended the warehouses will be held, and as the windows will
command the breach they will be great aids to us then, and it would
be a great disadvantage to us if the Spaniards now were to throw
shells and fireballs into these houses, and so to destroy them
before they make their attack. Nor can much good be gained, for at
this distance a crossbow would scarce carry its bolts beyond the
moat."

"Most likely the man is using the crossbow on purpose to avoid
attracting the attention of the Spaniards, Geoffrey. At this distance
they could not see the crossbow, while a puff of smoke would be
sure to catch their eye."

"There, he has shot again. I did not see the quarrel fall in the
moat. See, one of the Spanish soldiers from that battery is coming
forward. There, he has stooped and picked something up. Hallo! do
you see that? He has just raised his arm; that is a signal, surely."

"It certainly looked like it," Lionel agreed. "It was a sort of
half wave of the hand. That is very strange!"

"Very, Lionel; it looks to me very suspicious. It is quite possible
that a piece of paper may have been tied round the bolt, and that
someone is sending information to the enemy. This ought to be looked
to."

"But what are we to do, Geoffrey? Merely seeing a Spanish soldier
wave his arm is scarcely reason enough for bringing an accusation
against anyone. We are not even sure that he picked up the bolt;
and even if he did, the action might have been a sort of mocking
wave of the hand at the failure of the shooter to send it as far
as the battery."

"It might be, of course, Lionel. No, we have certainly nothing to
go upon that would justify our making a report on the subject, but
quite enough to induce us to keep a watch on this fellow, whoever
he may be. Let us see, to begin with, if he shoots again.

They waited for an hour, but the head of the crossbow was not again
thrust out of the window.

"He may have ceased shooting for either of two reasons," Geoffrey
said. "If he is a true man, because he sees that his bolts do nor
carry far enough to be of any use. If he is a traitor, because he
has gained his object, and knows that his communication has reached
his friends outside. We will go down now and inquire who is the
occupier of the next warehouse."

The merchant himself was not below, for as he did business with
other towns he had had nothing to do since Sluys was cut off from
the surrounded country; but one of his clerks was at work, making
out bills and accounts in his office as if the thunder of the guns
outside was unheard by him. The boys had often spoken to him as
they passed in and out.

"Who occupies the warehouse on the right?" Geoffrey asked him
carelessly.

"William Arnig," he replied. "He is a leading citizen, and one
of the greatest merchants in our trade. His cellars are the most
extensive we have, and he does a great trade in times of peace with
Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, and other towns."

"I suppose he is a Protestant like most of the townspeople?" Geoffrey
remarked.

"No, he is a Catholic; but he is not one who pushes his opinions
strongly, and, he is well disposed to the cause, and a captain in
one of the city bands. The Catholics and Protestants always dwell
quietly together throughout the Low Countries, and would have
no animosities against each other were it nor for the Spaniards.
Formerly, at least, this was the case; but since the persecutions
we have Protestant towns and Catholic towns, the one holding to
the States cause, the other siding with the Spaniards. Why do you
ask?"

"Oh, I hadn't heard the name of your next neighbour, and, was
wondering who he might be."

The boys had now been nearly two months in Holland, and were beginning
to understand the language, which is not difficult to acquire, and
differed then even less than now from the dialect spoken in the
eastern counties of England, between whom and Holland there had
been for many generations much trade and intimate relations.

"What had we better do next, Geoffrey?" Lionel asked as they left
the warehouse.

"I think that in the first place, Lionel, we will take our post at
the window tomorrow, and keep a close watch all day to see whether
this shooting is repeated. If it is, we had better report the matter
to Captain Vere, and leave him to decide what should be done. I do
not see that we could undertake anything alone, and in any case,
you see, it would be a serious matter to lay an accusation against
a prominent citizen who is actually a captain of one of the bands."

Upon the following day they took their post again at the window,
and after some hours watching saw three bolts fired from the next
window. Watching intently, they saw the two first fall into the
moat. They could not see where the other fell; but as there was no
splash in the water, they concluded that it had fallen beyond it,
and in a minute they saw a soldier again advance from the battery,
pick up something at the edge of the water, raise his arm, and
retire. That evening when Captain Vere returned from the ramparts
they informed him of what they had observed.

"Doubtless it is an act of treachery," he said, "and this merchant
is communicating with the enemy. At the same time what you have
seen, although convincing evidence to me, is scarce enough for me
to denounce him. Doubtless he does not write these letters until
he is ready to fire them off, and were he arrested in his house
or on his way to the warehouse we might fail to find proofs of his
guilt, and naught but ill feeling would be caused among his friends.
No, whatever we do we must do cautiously. Have you thought of any
plan by which we might catch him in the act?"

"If two or three men could be introduced into his warehouse,
and concealed in the room from which he fires, they might succeed
in catching him in the act, Captain Vere; but the room may be an
empty one without any place whatever where they could be hidden,
and unless they were actually in the room they would be of little
good, for he would have time, if he heard footsteps, to thrust any
letter he may have written into his mouth, and so destroy it before
it could be seized."

"That is so," Captain Vere agreed. "The matter seems a difficult one,
and yet it is of the greatest importance to hinder communications
with the Spaniards. Tonight all the soldiers who can be spared,
aided by all the citizens able to use mattock and pick, are to set
to work to begin to raise a half moon round the windmill behind
the point they are attacking, so as to have a second line to fall
back upon when the wall gives way, which it will do ere long, for
it is sorely shaken and battered. It is most important to keep this
from the knowledge of the Spaniards. Now, lads, you have shown your
keenness by taking notice of what is going on, see if you cannot
go further, and hit upon some plan of catching this traitor at his
work. If before night we can think of no scheme, I must go to the
governor and tell him frankly that we have suspicions of treachery,
though we cannot prove them, and ask him, in order to prevent the
possibility of our plans being communicated to the enemy, to place
some troops in all the warehouses along that line, so that none
can shoot there from any message to the Spaniards."

Just as Captain Vere finished his supper, the boys came into the
room again.

"We have thought of a plan, sir, that might succeed, although it
would be somewhat difficult. The dormer window from which these
bolts have been fired lies thirty or forty feet away from that from
which we were looking. The roof is so steep that no one could hold
a footing upon it for a moment, nor could a plank be placed upon
which he could walk. The window is about twelve feet from the top
of the roof. We think that one standing on the ledge of our window
might climb on to its top, and once there swing a rope with a stout
grapnel attached to catch on the ridge of the roof; then two or
three men might climb up there and work themselves along, and then
lower themselves down with a rope on to the top of the next window.
They would need to have ropes fastened round their bodies, for the
height is great, and a slip would mean death.

"The one farthest out on the window could lean over when he hears
a noise below him, and when he saw the crossbow thrust from the
window, could by a sudden blow knock it from the fellow's hand,
when it would slide down the roof and fall into the narrow yard
between the warehouse and the walls. Of course some men would be
placed there in readiness to seize it, and others at the door of
the warehouse to arrest the traitor if he ran down."

"I think the plan is a good one, though somewhat difficult of
execution," Captain Vere said. "But this enterprise on the roof
would be a difficult one and dangerous, since as you say a slip
would mean death."

"Lionel and myself, sir, would undertake that with the aid of two
active men to hold the ropes for us. We have both done plenty of
bird nesting in the woods of Hedingham, and are nor likely to turn
giddy."

"I don't think it is necessary for more than one to get down on to
that window," Captain Vere said. "Only one could so place himself
as to look down upon the crossbow. However, you shall divide
the honour of the enterprise between you. You, as the eldest and
strongest, Geoffrey, shall carry out your plan on the roof, while
you, Lionel, shall take post at the door with four men to arrest
the traitor when he leaves. I will select two strong and active
men to accompany you, Geoffrey, and aid you in your attempt; but
mind, before you try to get out of the window and to climb on to
its roof, have a strong rope fastened round your body and held by
the others; then in case of a slip, they can haul you in again. I
will see that the ropes and grapnels are in readiness."

The next morning early Geoffrey proceeded with the two men who had
been selected to accompany him to his usual lookout. Both were
active, wiry men, and entered fully into the spirit of the undertaking
when Geoffrey explained its nature to them. They looked out of the
dormer window at the sharp roof slanting away in front of them and
up to the ridge above.

"I think, Master Vickars," one of them, Roger Browne by name, said,
"that I had best go up first. I served for some years at sea, and
am used to climbing about in dizzy places. It is no easy matter to
get from this window sill astride the roof above us, and moreover
I am more like to heave the grapnel so that it will hook firmly on
to the ridge than you are."

"Very well, Roger. I should be willing to try, but doubtless you
would manage it far better than I should. But before you start we
will fasten the other rope round your body, as Captain Vere directed
me to do. Then in case you slip, or anything gives way with your
weight, we can check you before you slide far down below us."

A rope was accordingly tied round the man's body under his arms.
Taking the grapnel, to which the other rope was attached, he got
out on to the sill. It was not an easy task to climb up on to the
ridge of the dormer window, and it needed all his strength and
activity to accomplish the feat. Once astride of the ridge the rest
was easy. At the first cast he threw the grapnel so that it caught
securely on the top of the roof. After testing it with two or three
pulls he clambered up, leaving the lower end of the rope hanging
by the side of the window. As soon as he had gained this position
Geoffrey, who was to follow him, prepared to start.

According to the instructions Browne had given him he fastened
the end of the rope which was round Browne's body under his own
shoulders, then leaning over and taking a firm hold of the rope to
which the grapnel was attached, he let himself out of the window.
Browne hauled from above at the rope round his body, and he pulled
himself with his hands by that attached to the grapnel, and presently
reached the top.

"I am glad you came first, Roger," he said. "I do not think I could
have ever pulled myself up if you had not assisted me."

He unfastened the rope, and the end was thrown down to the window,
and Job Tredgold, the other man, fastened it round him and was
hauled up as Geoffrey had been.

"We will move along now to that stack of chimneys coming through
the roof four feet below the ridge on the town side," Geoffrey
said. "We can stand down there out of sight of the Spaniards. We
shall be sure to attract attention sitting up here, and might have
some bullets flying round our ears, besides which this fellow's
friends might suspect our object and signal to him in some way. It
is two hours yet to the time when we have twice seen him send his
bolts across the moat."

This was accordingly done, and for an hour and a half they sat down
on the roof with their feet against the stack of chimneys.

"It is time to be moving now," Geoffrey said at last. "I think the
best way will be for me to get by the side of the dormer window
instead of above it. It would be very awkward leaning over there,
and I should not have strength to strike a blow; whereas with
the rope under my arms and my foot on the edge of the sill, which
projects a few inches beyond the side of the window, I could stand
upright and strike a downright blow on the crossbow."

"That would be the best way, I think," Roger Browne agreed; "and
I will come down on to the top of the window and lean over. In the
first place your foot might slip, and as you dangle there by the
rope he might cut it and let you shoot over, or he might lean out
and shoot you as you climb up the roof again; but if I am above
with my pistol in readiness there will be no fear of accidents."



CHAPTER V

AN HEROIC DEFENCE


The plan Roger Browne suggested was carried out. Geoffrey was
first lowered to his place by the side of the window, and bracing
himself against its side with a foot on the sill he managed to
stand upright, leaning against the rope that Job Tredgold held from
above. Job had instructions when Geoffrey lifted his arm to ease
the rope a few inches so as to enable the lad to lean forward. After
two or three attempts Geoffrey got the rope to the exact length
which would enable him to look round the corner and to strike a blow
with his right hand, in which he held a stout club. Roger Browne
then descended by the aid of the other rope, and fastening it round
his body lay down astride of the roof of the window with his head
and shoulders over the end, and his pistol held in readiness.

It seemed an age to Geoffrey before he heard the sound of a footstep
in the loft beside him. He grasped his cudgel firmly and leaned
slightly forward. For ten minutes there was quiet within, and Geoffrey
guessed that the traitor was writing the missive he was about to
send to the enemy; then the footstep approached the window, and a
moment later a crossbow was thrust out. A glance at it sufficed to
show that the bolt was enveloped in a piece of paper wound round it
and secured with a string. Steadying himself as well as he could
Geoffrey struck with all his force down upon the crossbow. The
weapon, loosely held, went clattering down the tiles. There was
an exclamation of surprise and fury from within the window, and at
the same moment Job Tredgold, seeing that Geoffrey's attempt had
been successful, hauled away at the rope and began to drag him
backward up the tiles.

The lad saw a man lean out of the window and look up at him, then
a pistol was levelled; but the report came from above the window,
and not from the threatening weapon. A sharp cry of pain was heard,
as the pistol fell from the man's hand and followed the crossbow
down the roof. A few seconds later Geoffrey was hauled up to the
ridge, where he was at once joined by Roger Browne. Shifting the
ropes they moved along till above the window from which they had
issued. Geoffrey was first lowered down. As soon as he had got
in at the window he undid the rope and Job Tredgold followed him,
while Roger Browne slid down by the rope attached to the grapnel;
then they ran downstairs.

As soon as they sallied out below they saw that Lionel and the
men with him had captured a prisoner; and just as they joined the
party the guard came round from the other side of the warehouse,
bringing with them the crossbow, its bolt, and the pistol. The
prisoner, whose shoulder was broken by Roger Browne's shot, was
at once taken to Captain Vere's quarters. That officer had just
arrived from the walls, knowing the time at which the capture would
probably be made.

"So you have succeeded," he said. "Well done, lads; you have earned
the thanks of all. We will take this man at once to the governor,
who is at present at the town hall."

By the time they issued out quite a crowd had assembled, for the
news that William Von Arnig had been brought a prisoner and wounded
to Captain Vere's quarters had spread rapidly. The crowd increased
as they went along, and Captain Vere and his party had difficulty
in making their way to the town hall, many of the people exclaiming
loudly against this treatment of one of the leading citizens. The
governor was, when they entered, holding council with the English
leader, Sir Roger Williams.

"Why, what is this, Captain Vere?" he asked in surprise as that
officer, accompanied by the two boys and followed by Roger Browne
and Job Tredgold guarding the prisoner, entered.

"I have to accuse this man of treacherously communicating with the
enemy," Francis Vere said.

"What?" Arnold de Groenvelt exclaimed in surprise. "Why, this is
Mynheer Von Arnig, one of our most worshipful citizens! Surely,
Captain Vere, there must be some error here?"

"I will place my evidence before you," Captain Vere said; "and it
will be for you to decide upon it. Master Geoffrey Vickars, please
to inform the governor what you know about this matter."

Geoffrey then stated how he and his brother, being at the upper
window of the warehouse, had on two days in succession seen a
crossbow discharged from a neighbouring window, and had noticed a
Spanish soldier come out of a battery and pick up something which
they believed to be the bolt, and how he and his brother had reported
the circumstances to Captain Vere. That officer then took up the
story, and stated that seeing the evidence was not conclusive, and
it was probable that if an attempt was made to arrest the person,
whomsoever he might be, who had used the crossbow, any evidence
of treasonable design might be destroyed before he was seized, he
had accepted the offer of Master Vickars to climb the roof, lower
himself to the window from which the bolt would be shot, and, if
possible, strike it from the man's hands, so that it would fall
down the roof to the courtyard below, where men were placed to
seize it.

Geoffrey then related how he, with the two soldiers guarding the
prisoner, had scaled the roof and taken a position by the window;
how he had seen the crossbow thrust out, and had struck it from
the hands of the man holding it; how the latter had leaned out,
and would have shot him had not Roger Browne from his post above
the window shot him in the shoulder.

"Here are the crossbow and pistol," Captain Vere said; "and this
is the bolt as it was picked up by my men. You see, sir, there is
a paper fastened round it. I know not its contents, for I judged it
best to leave it as it was found until I placed it in your hands."

The governor cut the string, unrolled the paper and examined it.
It contained a statement as to the state of the wall, with remarks
where it was yielding, and where the enemy had best shoot against
it. It said that the defenders had in the night begun to form a half
moon behind it, and contained a sketch showing the exact position
of the new work.

"Gentlemen, what think you of this?" the governor asked the English
officers.

"There can be no doubt that it is a foul act of treachery," Williams
said, "and the traitor merits death."

"We will not decide upon it ourselves," the governor said. "I will
summon six of the leading citizens, who shall sir as a jury with
us. This is a grave matter, and touches the honour of the citizens
as well as the safety of the town."

In a few minutes the six citizens summoned arrived. The evidence
was again given, and then the prisoner was asked what he had to
say in his defence.

"It is useless for me to deny it," he replied. "I am caught in the
act, and must suffer for it. I have done my duty to the King of
Spain, my sovereign; and I warn you he will take vengeance for my
blood."

"That we must risk," the governor said. "Now, gentlemen, you citizens
of this town now attacked by the Spaniards, and you, sir, who are
in command of the soldiers of the queen of England, have heard the
evidence and the answer the prisoner has made. What is your opinion
thereon? Do you, Sir Roger Williams, being highest in rank and
authority, first give your opinion."

"I find that he is guilty of an act of gross treason and treachery.
For such there is but one punishment--death." And the six citizens
all gave the same decision.

"You are found guilty of this foul crime," the governor said, "and
are sentenced to death. In half an hour you will be hung in the
marketplace, as a punishment to yourself and a warning to other
traitors, if such there be in this town of Sluys. As to you, young
sirs, you have rendered a great service to the town, and have
shown a discernment beyond your years. I thank you in the name of
the city and of its garrison, and also in that of the States, whose
servant I am."

A guard of armed citizens were now called in, the prisoner was handed
to them, and orders given to their officer to carry the sentence
into effect. A statement of the crime of the prisoner, with the
names of those who had acted as his judges, and the sentence, was
then drawn out, signed by the governor, and, ordered by him to be
affixed to the door of the town hall. The two lads, finding that
they were no longer required, hastened back to their quarters,
having no wish to be present at the execution of the unhappy wretch
whose crime they had been the means of detecting.

A few days later considerable portions of the battered wall fell,
and shortly afterwards a breach of two hundred and fifty paces
long was effected, and a bridge of large boats constructed by the
enemy from the dyke to the foot of the rampart.

This was not effected without terrible loss. Hundreds of the bravest
Spanish soldiers and sailors were killed, and three officers who
succeeded each other in command of the attack were badly wounded.
The Spanish had laboured under great difficulties owing to the lack
of earth to push their trenches forward to the edge of the moat,
arising from the surrounding country being flooded. They only
succeeded at last by building wooden machines of bullet proof planks
on wheels, behind each of which four men could work. When all was
prepared the Spaniards advanced to the attack, rushing up the breach
with splendid valour, headed by three of their bravest leaders; but
they were met by the English and Dutch, and again and again hurled
back.

Day and night the fighting continued, the Spaniards occasionally
retiring to allow their artillery to open fire again upon the
shattered ruins. But stoutly as the defenders fought, step by step
the Spaniards won their way forward until they had captured the
breach and the west gate adjoining it, there being nothing now beyond
the hastily constructed inner work between them and the town. The
finest regiment of the whole of the Spanish infantry now advanced
to the assault, but they were met by the defenders--already sadly
diminished in numbers, but firm and undaunted as ever,--and their
pikes and their axes well supplied the place of the fallen walls.

Assault after assault was met and repulsed, Sir Roger Williams,
Thomas Baskerville, and Francis Vere being always in the thick of
the fight. Baskerville was distinguished by the white plumes of
his helmet, Vere by his crimson mantle; and the valour of these
leaders attracted the admiration of the Duke of Parma himself,
who watched the fight from the summit of the tower of the western
gate. Francis Vere was twice wounded, but not disabled. Sir Roger
Williams urged him to retire, but he replied that he would rather
be killed ten times in a breach than once in a house.

Day by day the terrible struggle continued. The Spaniards were
able constantly to bring up fresh troops, but the defenders had
no relief. They were reduced in numbers from 1600 to 700 men, and
yet for eighteen days they maintained the struggle, never once
leaving the breach.

The pages brought their food to them, and when the attacks were
fiercest joined in the defence, fighting as boldly and manfully as
the soldiers themselves. Geoffrey and Lionel kept in close attendance
upon Francis Vere, only leaving him to run back to their quarters
and bring up the meals cooked for him and his two officers by Frau
Menyn and her handmaids. Both kept close to him during the fighting.
They knew that they were no match in strength for the Spanish
pikemen; but they had obtained pistols from the armoury, and with
these they did good service, several times freeing him from some
of his assailants when he was sorely pressed. On one occasion when
Francis Vere was smitten down by a blow from an axe, the boys rushed
forward and kept back his assailants until some of the men of the
company came to his aid.

"You have done me brave service indeed," Captain Vere said to them
when he recovered; for his helmet had defended him from serious
injury, though the force of the blow had felled him. "It was a
happy thought of mine when I decided to bring you with me. This is
not the first time that you have rendered me good service, and I
am sure you will turn our brave and valiant soldiers of the queen."

When each assault ceased the weary soldiers threw themselves down
behind the earthen embankment, and obtained such sleep as they
could before the Spaniards mustered for fresh attack. When, after
eighteen days' terrible fighting, the Duke of Parma saw that even
his best troops were unable to break through the wall of steel, he
desisted from the assault and began the slower process of mining.
The garrison from their lookout beheld the soldiers crossing the
bridge with picks and shovels, and prepared to meet them in this
new style of warfare. Captain Uvedale was appointed to command the
men told off for this duty, and galleries were run from several of
the cellars to meet those of the enemy.

As every man was employed either on the rampart or in mining, many
of the pages were told off to act as watchers in the cellars, and
to listen for the faint sounds that told of the approach of the
enemy's miners. As the young Vickars were in attendance on the
officers, they were exempted from this work; but they frequently
went down into the cellars, both to watch the process of mining by
their own men and to listen to the faint sounds made by the enemy's
workmen. One day they were sitting on two wine kegs, watching four
soldiers at work at the end of a short gallery that had been driven
towards the Spaniards. Suddenly there was an explosion, the miners
were blown backwards, the end of the gallery disappeared, and a
crowd of Walloon soldiers almost immediately afterwards rushed in.

The boys sprang to their feet and were about to fly, when an idea
occurred to Geoffrey. He seized a torch, and, standing by the
side of a barrel placed on end by a large tier, shouted in Dutch,
"Another step forward and I fire the magazine!"

The men in front paused. Through the fumes of smoke they saw dimly
the pile of barrels and a figure standing with a lighted torch
close to one of them. A panic seized them, and believing they had
made their way into a powder magazine, and that in another instant
there would be a terrible explosion, they turned with shouts of "A
magazine! a magazine! Fly, or we are all dead men!"

"Run, Lionel, and get help," Geoffrey said, and in two or three
minutes a number of soldiers ran down into the cellar. The Walloons
were not long before they recovered from their panic. Their officers
knew that the wine cellars of the city were in front of them, and
reassured them as to the character of the barrels they had seen.
They were, however, too late, and a furious conflict took place at
the entrance into the cellar, but the enemy, able only to advance
two or three abreast, failed to force their way in.

Captain Uvedale and Francis Vere were soon on the spot, and when at
last the enemy, unable to force an entrance, fell back, the former
said, "This is just as I feared. You see, the Spaniards drove this
gallery, and ceased to work immediately they heard us approaching
them. We had no idea that they were in front of us, and so they
only had to put a barrel of powder there and fire it as soon as
there was but a foot or two of earth between us and them."

"But how was it," Francis Vere asked, "that when they fired it they
did not at once rush forward? They could have captured the whole
building before we knew what had happened."

"That I cannot tell," Captain Uvedale replied. "The four men at
work must have been either killed or knocked senseless. We shall
know better another time, and will have a strong guard in each
cellar from which our mines are being driven."

"If it please you, Captain Uvedale," Lionel said, "it was my brother
Geoffrey who prevented them from advancing; for indeed several of
them had already entered the cellar, and the gallery behind was
full of them."

"But how did he do that?" Captain Uvedale asked in surprise.

Lionel related the ruse by which Geoffrey had created a panic in
the minds of the Spaniards.

"That was well thought of indeed, and promptly carried out!"
Captain Uvedale exclaimed. "Francis, these pages of yours are truly
promising young fellows. They detected that rascally Dutchman who
was betraying us. I noticed them several times in the thick of
the fray at the breach; and now they have saved the city by their
quickness and presence of mind; for had these Spaniards once got
possession of this warehouse they would have speedily broken a way
along through the whole tier, and could then have poured in upon
us with all their strength."

"That is so, indeed," Francis Vere agreed. "They have assuredly
saved the town, and there is the greatest credit due to them. I
shall be glad, Uvedale, if you will report the matter to our leader.
You are in command of the mining works, and it will come better
from you than from me who is their captain."

Captain Uvedale made his report, and both Sir Roger Williams and
the governor thanked the boys, and especially Geoffrey, for the
great service they had rendered.

Very shortly the galleries were broken into in several other places,
and the battle became now as fierce and continuous down in the
cellars as it had before been on the breach. By the light of torches,
in an atmosphere heavy with the fumes of gunpowder, surrounded by
piled up barrels of wine, the defenders and assailants maintained
a terrible conflict, men staggering up exhausted by their exertion
and by the stifling atmosphere while others took their places below,
and so, night and day, the desperate struggle continued.

All these weeks no serious effort had been made for the relief of
the beleaguered town. Captains Hall and Allen had several times
swum down at night through the bridge of boats with letters from
the governor entreating a speedy succour. The States had sent a
fleet which sailed some distance up the Zwin, but returned without
making the slightest effort to break through the bridge of boats.
The Earl of Leicester had advanced with a considerable force from
Ostend against the fortress of Blankenburg, but had retreated
hastily as soon as Parma despatched a portion of his army against
him; and so the town was left to its fate.

The last letter that the governor despatched said that longer
resistance was impossible. The garrison were reduced to a mere
remnant, and these utterly worn out by constant fighting and the
want of rest. He should ask for fair and honourable terms, but if
these were refused the garrison and the whole male inhabitants in
the city, putting the women and children in the centre, would sally
out and cut their way through, or die fighting in the midst of the
Spaniards. The swimmer who took the letter was drowned, but his
body was washed ashore and the letter taken to the Duke of Parma.

Three days afterwards a fresh force of the enemy embarked in forty
large boats, and were about to land on an unprotected wharf by
the riverside when Arnold de Groenvelt hung out the white flag.
His powder was exhausted and his guns disabled, and the garrison
so reduced that the greater portion of the walls were left wholly
undefended. The Duke of Parma, who was full of admiration at the
extraordinary gallantry of the defenders, and was doubtless also
influenced by the resolution expressed in his letter by the governor,
granted them most honourable terms. The garrison were to march out
with all their baggage and arms, with matches lighted and colours
displayed. They were to proceed to Breskans, and there to embark
for Flushing. The life and property of the inhabitants were to be
respected, and all who did not choose to embrace the Catholic faith
were to be allowed to leave the town peaceably, taking with them
their belongings, and to go wheresoever they pleased.

When the gates were opened the garrison sallied out. The Duke of
Parma had an interview with several of the leaders, and expressed
his high admiration of the valour with which they had fought, and
said that the siege of Sluys had cost him more men than he had lost
in the four principal sieges he had undertaken in the Low Country
put together. On the 4th of August the duke entered Sluys in triumph,
and at once began to make preparations to take part in the great
invasion of England for which Spain was preparing.

After their arrival at Flushing Captains Vere, Uvedale, and others,
who had brought their companies from Bergen op Zoom to aid in the
defence of Sluys, returned to that town.

The Earl of Leicester shortly afterwards resigned his appointment
as general of the army. He had got on but badly with the States
General, and there was from the first no cordial cooperation between
the two armies. The force at his disposal was never strong enough
to do anything against the vastly superior armies of the Duke
of Parma, who was one of the most brilliant generals of his age,
while he was hampered and thwarted by the intrigues and duplicity
of Elizabeth, who was constantly engaged in half hearted negotiations
now with France and now with Spain, and whose capricious temper
was continually overthrowing the best laid plans of her councillors
and paralysing the actions of her commanders. It was nor until
she saw her kingdom threatened by invasion that she placed herself
fairly at the head of the national movement, and inspired her
subjects with her energy and determination.

Geoffrey Vickars had been somewhat severely wounded upon the last
day of the struggle in the cellar, a Spanish officer having beaten
down his guard and cleft through his morion. Lionel was unwounded,
but the fatigue and excitement had told upon him greatly, and soon
after they arrived at Bergen Captain Vere advised both of them to
return home for a few months.

"There is nothing likely to be doing here until the spring. Parma
has a more serious matter in hand. They talk, you know, of invading
England, and after his experience at Sluys I do not think he will
be wasting his force by knocking their head against stone walls.
I should be glad if I could return too, but I have my company to
look after and must remain where I am ordered; but as you are but
volunteers and giving your service at your pleasure, and are not
regularly upon the list of the pages of the company, I can undertake
to grant you leave, and indeed I can see that you both greatly need
rest. You have begun well and have both done good service, and have
been twice thanked by the governor of Sluys and Sir Roger Williams.

"You will do yourselves no good by being shut up through the winter
in this dull town, and as there is a vessel lying by the quay which
is to set sail tomorrow, I think you cannot do better than go in
her. I will give you letters to my cousin and your father saying
how well you have borne yourselves, and how mightily Sir Roger
Williams was pleased with you. In the spring you can rejoin, unless
indeed the Spaniards should land in England, which Heaven forfend,
in which case you will probably prefer to ride under my cousin's
banner at home."

The boys gladly accepted Francis Vere's proposal. It was but three
months since they had set foot in Holland, but they had gone through
a tremendous experience, and the thought of being shut up for eight
or nine months at Bergen op Zoom was by no means a pleasant one.
Both felt worn out and exhausted, and longed for the fresh keen air
of the eastern coast. Therefore the next morning they embarked on
board ship. Captain Vere presented them each with a handsome brace
of pistols in token of his regard, and Captains Uvedale, Baskerville,
and other officers who were intimate friends of Vere's, and had met
them at his quarters, gave them handsome presents in recognition
of the services they had rendered at Sluys.

The ship was bound for Harwich, which was the nearest English port.
Landing there, they took passage by boat to Manningtree and thence
by horse home, where they astounded their father and mother by
their sudden appearance.

"And this is what comes of your soldiering," Mrs. Vickars said
when the first greeting was over. "Here is Geoffrey with plasters
all over the side of his head, and you, Lionel, looking as pale and
thin as if you had gone through a long illness. I told your father
when we heard of your going that you ought to be brought back
and whipped; but the earl talked him over into writing to Captain
Francis to tell him that he approved of this mad brained business,
and a nice affair it has turned out."

"You will not have to complain of our looks, mother, at the end
of a week or two," Geoffrey said. "My wound is healing fast, and
Lionel only needs an extra amount of sleep for a time. You see, for
nearly a month we were never in bed, but just lay down to sleep by
the side of Captain Vere on the top of the ramparts, where we had
been fighting all day.

"It was a gallant defence," Mr. Vickars said, "and all England
is talking of it.  It was wonderful that 800 English and as many
Dutchmen should hold a weak place for two months against full twelve
times their number of Spaniards, led by the Duke of Parma himself,
and there is great honour for all who took part in the defence.
The governor and Sir Roger Williams especially mentioned Francis
Vere as among the bravest and best of their captains, and although
you as pages can have had nought to do with the fighting, you will
have credit as serving under his banner."

"I think, father," Geoffrey said, touching the plasters on his
head, "this looks somewhat as if we had had something to do with
the fighting, and here is a letter for you from Captain Vere which
will give you some information about it."

Mr. Vickars adjusted his horn spectacles on his face and opened
the letter.  It began:  "My dear Master and Friend,--I have had
no means of writing to you since your letter came to me, having
had other matters in mind, and being cut off from all communication
with England.  I was glad to find that you did not take amiss my
carrying off of your sons.  Indeed that action has turned out more
happily than might have been expected, for I own that they were
but young for such rough service.

"However, they have proved themselves valiant young gentlemen.
They fought stoutly by my side during our long tussle with the
Spaniards, and more than once saved my life by ridding me of foes
who would have taken me at a disadvantage.  Once, indeed, when I
was down from a blow on the pate from a Spanish axe, they rushed
forward and kept my assailants at bay until rescue came.  They
discovered a plot between a traitor in the town and the Spaniards,
and succeeded in defeating his plans and bringing him to justice.

"They were also the means of preventing the Spaniards from breaking
into the great wine cellars and capturing the warehouses, and for
each of these services they received the thanks of the Dutch governor
and of Sir Roger Williams, our leader.  Thus, you see, although
so young they have distinguished themselves mightily, and should
aught befall me, there are many among my friends who will gladly
take them under their protection and push them forward.  I have
sent them home for a time to have quiet and rest, which they need
after their exertions, and have done this the more willingly since
there is no chance of fighting for many months to come. I hope that
before the Spaniards again advance against us I may have them by
my side."

"Well, well, this is wonderful," Mrs. Vickars said when her husband
had finished reading the letter. "If they had told me themselves I
should not have believed them, although they have never been given
to the sin of lying; but since it is writ in Master Vere's own hand
it cannot be doubted. And now tell us all about it, boys."

"We will tell you when we have had dinner, mother. This brisk Essex
air has given us both an appetite, and until that is satisfied you
must excuse us telling a long story. Is the earl at the castle,
father? because we have two letters to him from Captain Francis--one,
I believe, touching our affairs, and the other on private
matters. We have also letters from him to his mother and his brother
John, and these we had better send off at once by a messenger, as
also the private letters to the earl."

"That I will take myself," Mr. Vickars said. "I was just going up
to him to speak about my parish affairs when you arrived."

"You had better have your dinner first," Mrs. Vickars said decidedly.
"When you once get with the earl and begin talking you lose all
account of the time, and only last week kept dinner waiting for two
hours. It is half past eleven now, and I will hurry it on so that
it will be ready a few minutes before noon."

"Very well, my dear; but I will go out into the village at once and
find a messenger to despatch to Crepping Hall with the letters to
Dame Elizabeth and John Vere."

The boys' story was not told until after supper, for as soon as
dinner was over Mr. Vickars went up to the castle with the letters
for the earl. The latter, after reading them, told him that his
cousin spoke most highly of his two sons, and said they had been
of great service, even as far as the saving of his life. The earl
told Mr. Vickars to bring the boys up next day to see him in order
that he might learn a full account of the fighting at Sluys, and
that he hoped they would very often come in, and would, while they
were at home, practise daily with his master of arms at the castle.

"I know, Mr. Vickars, that you had hoped that one of them would
enter the church; but you see that their tastes lie not in that
direction, and it is evident that, as in the case of my cousin
Francis, they are cut out for soldiers."

"I am afraid so," Mr. Vickars said; "and must let them have their
own way, for I hold, that none should be forced to follow the
ministry save those whose natural bent lies that way."

"I don't think they have chosen badly," the earl said. "My cousin
Francis bids fair to make a great soldier, and as they start in
life as his pages they will have every chance of getting on, and
I warrant me that Francis will push their fortunes. Perhaps I may
be able to aid them somewhat myself. If aught comes of this vapouring
of the Spaniards, before the boys return to Holland, they shall
ride with me. I am already arming all the tenantry and having them
practised in warlike exercises, and in the spring I shall fit out
two ships at Harwich to join the fleet that will put to sea should
the Spaniards carry out their threats of invading us."



CHAPTER VI

THE LOSS OF THE SUSAN


There were few people in Hedingham more pleased to see the two lads
on their return than John Lirriper, to whom they paid a visit on
the first day they went out.

"I am glad to see you back, young masters; though, to say the truth,
you are not looking nigh so strong and well as you did when I last
parted from you."

"We shall soon be all right again, John. We have had rather a rough
time of it over there in Sluys."

"Ah, so I have heard tell, Master Geoffrey. Your father read out
from the pulpit a letter the earl had received from Captain Francis
telling about the fighting, and it mentioned that you were both
alive and well and had done good service; but it was only a short
letter sent off in haste the day after he and the others had got
out of the town. I was right glad when I heard it, I can tell you,
for there had been nought talked of here but the siege; and though
your lady mother has not said much to me, I always held myself ready
to slip round the corner or into a house when I saw her come down
the street, for I knew well enough what was in her mind. She was
just saying to herself, `John Lirriper, if it hadn't been for you
my two boys would not be in peril now. If aught comes to them, it
will be your doing.' And though it was not my fault, as far as I
could see, for Captain Francis took you off my hands, as it were,
and I had no more to say in the matter than a child, still, there
it was, and right glad was I when I heard that the siege was over
and you were both alive.

"I had a bad time of it, I can tell you, when I first got back,
young sirs, for your mother rated me finely; and though your father
said it was not my fault in any way, she would not listen to him,
but said she had given you into my charge, and that I had no right
to hand you over to any others save with your father's
permission--not if it were to the earl himself,--and for a long time
after she would make as if she didn't see me if she met me in the
street. When my wife was ill about that time she sent down broths
and simples to her, but she sent them by one of the maids, and
never came herself save when she knew I was away in my boat.

"However, the day after the reading of that letter she came in
and said she was sorry she had treated me hardly, and that she had
known at heart all along that it was not altogether my fault, and
asked my pardon as nice as if I had been the earl. Of course I said
there was nothing to ask pardon for, and indeed that I thought it
was only natural she should have blamed me, for that I had often
blamed myself, though not seeing how I could have done otherwise.
However, I was right glad when the matter was made up, for it is
not pleasant for a man when the parson's wife sets herself against
him."

"It was certainly hard upon you, John," Geoffrey said; "but I am sure
our mother does not in any way blame you now. You see, we brought
home letters from Captain Vere, or rather Sir Francis, for he has
been knighted now, and he was good enough to speak very kindly of
what we were able to do in the siege. Mother did not say much, but
I am sure that at heart she is very grateful, for the earl himself
came down to the Rectory and spoke warmly about us, and said that
he should always be our fast friend, because we had given his cousin
some help when he was roughly pressed by the Spaniards. I hope we
shall have another sail with you in a short time, for we are not
going back to the Netherlands at present, as things are likely to
be quiet there now. Although he did not say so, I think Sir Francis
thought that we were over young for such rough work, and would be
more useful in a year's time; for, you see, in these sieges even
pages have to take their share in the fighting, and when it comes
to push of pike with the Spaniards more strength and vigour are needed
than we possess at present. So we are to continue our practice at
arms at the castle, and to take part in the drilling of the companies
the earl is raising in case the Spaniards carry out their threat
of invading England."

Mrs. Vickars offered no objection whatever the first time Geoffrey
asked permission to go down to Bricklesey with John Lirriper.

"I have no objection, Geoffrey; and, indeed, now that you have
chosen your own lives and are pages to Sir Francis Vere, it seems
to me that in matters of this kind you can judge for yourself.
Now that you have taken to soldiering and have borne your part in
a great siege, and have even yourselves fought with the Spaniards,
I deem it that you have got beyond my wing, and must now act in all
small matters as it pleases you; and that since you have already
run great danger of your lives, and may do so again ere long, it
would be folly of me to try to keep you at my apron strings and to
treat you as if you were still children."

So the two lads often accompanied John Lirriper to Bricklesey,
and twice sailed up the river to London and back in Joe Chambers'
smack, these jaunts furnishing a pleasant change to their work of
practising with pike and sword with the men-at-arms at the castle,
or learning the words of command and the work of officers in drilling
the newly raised corps. One day John Lirriper told them that his
nephew was this time going to sail up the Medway to Rochester,
and would be glad to take them with him if they liked it; for they
were by this time prime favourites with the master of the Susan.
Although their mother had told them that they were at liberty to
go as they pleased, they nevertheless always made a point of asking
permission before they went away.

"If the wind is fair we shall not be long away on this trip, mother.
Two days will take us up to Rochester; we shall be a day loading
there, and shall therefore be back on Saturday if the wind serves,
and may even be sooner if the weather is fine and we sail with
the night tides, as likely enough we shall, for the moon is nearly
full, and there will be plenty of light to keep our course free of
the sands."

The permission was readily given. Mrs. Vickars had come to see that
it was useless to worry over small matters, and therefore nodded
cheerfully, and said she would give orders at once for a couple of
chickens to be killed and other provision prepared for their voyage.

"I do not doubt you are going to have a rougher voyage than usual
this time, young masters," John Lirriper said when the boat was
approaching Bricklesey. "The sky looks wild, and I think there is
going to be a break in the weather. However, the Susan is a stout
boat, and my nephew a careful navigator."

"I should like a rough voyage for a change, John," Geoffrey said.
"We have always had still water and light winds on our trips, and
I should like a good blow."

"Well, I think you will have one; though may be it will only come
on thick and wet. Still I think there is wind in those clouds, and
that if it does come it will be from the southeast, in which case
you will have a sharp buffeting. But you will make good passage
enough down to the Nore once you are fairly round the Whittaker."

"Glad to see you, young masters," Joe Chambers said, as the boat
came alongside his craft. "You often grumbled at the light winds,
but unless I am mistaken we shall be carrying double reefs this
journey. What do you think, Uncle John?"

"I have been saying the same, lad; still there is no saying. You
will know more about it in a few hours' time."

It was evening when the boys went on board the Susan, and as soon
as supper was over they lay down, as she was to start at daybreak
the next morning. As soon as they were roused by the creaking of
the blocks and the sound of trampling of feet overhead they went up
on deck. Day had just broken; the sky was overspread by dark clouds.

"There is not much wind after all," Geoffrey said as he looked
round.

"No, it has fallen light during the last two hours," the skipper
replied, "but I expect we shall have plenty before long. However,
we could do with a little more now."

Tide was half out when they started. Joe Chambers had said the night
before that he intended to drop down to the edge of the sands and
there anchor, and to make across them past the Whittaker Beacon
into the channel as soon as there was sufficient water to enable
him to do so. The wind was light, sometimes scarcely sufficient
to belly out the sails and give the boat steerage way, at others
coming in short puffs which heeled her over and made her spring
forward merrily.

Before long the wind fell lighter and lighter, and at last Joe
Chambers ordered the oars to be got out.

"We must get down to the edge of the Buxey," he said, "before the
tide turns, or we shall have it against us, and with this wind we
should never be able to stem it, but should be swept up the Crouch.
At present it is helping us, and with a couple of hours' rowing we
may save it to the Buxey."

The boys helped at the sweeps, and for two hours the creaking of
the oars and the dull flapping of the sail alone broke the silence
of the calm; and the lads were by no means sorry when the skipper
gave the order for the anchor to be dropped.

"I should like to have got about half a mile further," he said;
"but I can see by the landmarks that we are making no way now. The
tide is beginning to suck in."

"How long will it be before we have water enough to cross the Spit?"
Lionel asked as they laid in the oars.

"Well nigh four hours, Master Lionel. Then, even if it keeps a
stark calm like this, we shall be able to get across the sands and
a mile or two up the channel before we meet the tide. There we must
anchor again till the first strength is past, and then if the wind
springs up we can work along at the edge of the sands against it.
There is no tide close in to the sands after the first two hours.
But I still think this is going to turn into wind presently; and
if it does it will be sharp and heavy, I warrant. It's either that
or rain."

The sky grew darker and darker until the water looked almost black
under a leaden canopy.

"I wish we were back into Bricklesey," Joe Chambers said. "I have
been well nigh fifteen years going backwards and forwards here, and
I do not know that ever I saw an awkwarder look about the sky. It
reminds me of what I have heard men who have sailed to the Indies
say they have seen there before a hurricane breaks. If it was
not that we saw the clouds flying fast overhead when we started,
I should have said it was a thick sea fog that had rolled in upon
us. Ah, there is the first drop. I don't care how hard it comes
down so that there is not wind at the tail of it. A squall of wind
before rain is soon over; but when it follows rain you will soon
have your sails close reefed. You had best go below or you will be
wet through in a minute."

The great drops were pattering down on the deck and causing splashes
as of ink on the surface of the oily looking water. Another half
minute it was pouring with such a mighty roar on the deck that the
boys below needed to shout to make each other heard. It lasted but
five minutes, and then stopped as suddenly as it began. The lads
at once returned to the deck.

"So it is all over, Master Chambers."

"Well the first part is over, but that is only a sort of a beginning.
Look at that light under the clouds away to the south of east. That
is where it is coming from, unless I am mistaken. Turn to and get
the mainsail down, lads," for although after dropping anchor the
head sails had been lowered, the main and mizzen were still on her.

The men set to work, and the boys helped to stow the sail and
fasten it with the tiers. Suddenly there was a sharp puff of wind.
It lasted a few seconds only, then Joe Chambers pointed towards
the spot whence a hazy light seemed to come.

"Here it comes," he said. "Do you see that line of white water?
That is a squall and no mistake. I am glad we are not under sail."

There was a sharp, hissing sound as the line of white water
approached them, and then the squall struck them with such force
and fury that the lads instinctively grasped at the shrouds. The
mizzen had brought the craft in a moment head to wind, and Joe
Chambers and the two sailors at once lowered it and stowed it away.

"Only put a couple of tiers on," the skipper shouted. "We may have
to upsail again if this goes on."

The sea got up with great rapidity, and a few minutes after the
squall had struck them the Susan was beginning to pitch heavily. The
wind increased in force, and seemed to scream rather than whistle
in the rigging.

"The sea is getting up fast!" Geoffrey shouted in the skipper's
ear as he took his place close to him.

"It won't be very heavy yet," Joe Chambers replied; "the sands
break its force. But the tide has turned now, and as it makes over
the sand there will be a tremendous sea here in no time; that is
if this wind holds, and it seems to me that it is going to be an
unusual gale altogether."

"How long will it be before we can cross the Spit?"

"We are nor going to cross today, that's certain," the skipper
said. "There will be a sea over those sands that would knock the
life out of the strongest craft that ever floated. No, I shall wait
here for another hour or two if I can, and then slip my cable and
run for the Crouch. It is a narrow channel, and I never care about
going into it after dark until there is water enough for a craft
of our draught over the sands. It ain't night now, but it is well
nigh as dark. There is no making out the bearings of the land, and
we have got to trust to the perches the fishermen put up at the
bends of the channel. However, we have got to try it. Our anchors
would never hold here when the sea gets over the sands, and if they
did they would pull her head under water.

In half an hour a sea had got up that seemed to the boys tremendous.
Dark as it was they could see in various directions tracts of white
water where the waves broke wildly over the sands. The second anchor
had been let go some time before. The two cables were as taut as
iron bars, and the boat was pulling her bow under every sea. Joe
Chambers dropped a lead line overboard and watched it closely.

"We are dragging our anchors," he said. "There is nothing for it
but to run."

He went to the bow, fastened two logs of wood by long lines to
the cables outside the bow, so that he could find and recover the
anchors on his return, then a very small jib was hoisted, and as it
filled two blows with an axe severed the cables inboard. The logs
attached to them were thrown over, and the skipper ran aft and put
up the helm as the boat's head payed off before the wind. As she
did so a wave struck her and threw tons of water on board, filling
her deck nearly up to the rails. It was well Joe had shouted to
the boys to hold on, for had they not done so they would have been
swept overboard.

Another wave struck them before they were fairly round, smashing in
the bulwark and sweeping everything before it, and the boys both
thought that the Susan was sinking under their feet. However she
recovered herself. The water poured our through the broken bulwark,
and the boat rose again on the waves as they swept one after
another down upon her stern. The channel was well marked now, for
the sands on either side were covered with breaking water. Joe
Chambers shouted to the sailors to close reef the mizzen and hoist
it, so that he might have the boat better under control. The wind
was not directly astern but somewhat on the quarter; and small as
was the amount of sail shown, the boat lay over till her lee rail
was at times under water; the following waves yawing her about so
much that it needed the most careful steering to prevent her from
broaching to.

"It seems to me as the wind is northering!" one of the men shouted.

The skipper nodded and slackened out the sheet a bit as the wind
came more astern. He kept his eyes fixed ahead of him, and the men
kept gazing through the gloom.

"There is the perch," one of them shouted presently, "just on her
weather bow!"

The skipper nodded and held on the same course until abreast of the
perch, which was only a forked stick. The men came aft and hauled
in the mizzen sheer. Chambers put up the helm. The mizzen came
across with a jerk, and the sheet was again allowed to run out.
The jib came over with a report like the shot of a cannon, and at
the same moment split into streamers.

"Hoist the foresail!" the skipper shouted, and the men sprang forward
and seized the halliards; but at this moment the wind seemed to
blow with a double fury, and the moment the sail was set it too
split into ribbons.

"Get up another jib!" Joe Chambers shouted, and one of the men
sprang below. In half a minute he reappeared with another sail.

"Up with it quick, Bill. We are drifting bodily down on the sand."

Bill hurried forward. The other hand had hauled in the traveller,
to which the bolt rope of the jib was still attached, and hauling
on this had got the block down and in readiness for fastening on
the new jib. The sheets were hooked on, and then while one hand
ran the sail out with the out haul to the bowsprit end, the other
hoisted with the halliards. By this time the boat was close to the
broken water. As the sail filled her head payed off towards it.
The wind lay her right over, and before she could gather way there
was a tremendous crash. The Susan had struck on the sands. The next
wave lifted her, but as it passed on she came down with a crash
that seemed to shake her in pieces. Joe Chambers relaxed his grasp
of the now useless tiller.

"It is all over," he said to the boys. "Nothing can save her now.
If she had been her own length farther off the sands she would have
gathered way in time. As it is another ten minutes and she will be
in splinters."

She was now lying over until her masthead was but a few feet above
water. The seas were striking her with tremendous force, pouring
a deluge of water over her.

"There is but one chance for you," he went on. "The wind is dead
on the shore, and Foulness lies scarce three miles to leeward."

He went into the cabin and fetched out a small axe fastened in the
companion where it was within reach of the helmsman. Two blows cut
the shrouds of the mizzen, a few vigorous strokes were given to the
foot of the mast, and, as the boat lifted and crashed down again
on the sand, it broke off a few inches above the deck.

"Now, lads, I will lash you loosely to this. You can both swim,
and with what aid it will give you may well reach the shore. There
are scarce three feet of water here, and except where one or two
deeps pass across it there is no more anywhere between this and
the land. It will not be rough very far. Now, be off at once; the
boat will go to pieces before many minutes. I and the two men will
take to the mainmast, but I want to see you off first."

Without hesitation the boys pushed off with the mast. As they did
so a cataract of water poured over the smack upon them, knocking
them for a moment under the surface with its force.

For the next few minutes it was a wild struggle for life. They
found at once that they were powerless to swim in the broken water,
which, as it rushed across the sand, impelled alike by the rising
tide behind it and the force of the wind, hurried them along at a
rapid pace, breaking in short steep waves. They could only cling to
the mast and snatch a breath of air from time to time as it rolled
over and over. Had they not been able to swim they would very
speedily have been drowned; but, accustomed as they were to diving,
they kept their presence of mind, holding their breath when under
water and breathing whenever they were above it with their faces
to the land. It was only so that they could breathe, for the air
was thick with spray, which was swept along with such force by the
wind that it would have drowned the best swimmer who tried to face
it as speedily as if he had been under water.

After what seemed to them an age the waves became somewhat less
violent, though still breaking in a mass of foam. Geoffrey loosed
his hold of the spar and tried to get to his feet. He was knocked
down several times before he succeeded, but when he did so found
that the water was little more than two feet deep, although the
waves rose to his shoulders. The soft mud under his feet rendered
it extremely difficult to stand, and the rope which attached him
to the spar, which was driving before him, added to the difficulty.
He could not overtake the mast, and threw himself down again and
swam to it.

"Get up, Lionel!" he shouted; "we can stand here." But Lionel was
too exhausted to be capable of making the effort. With the greatest
difficulty Geoffrey raised him to his feet and supported him with
his back to the wind.

"Get your breath again!" he shouted. "We are over the worse now and
shall soon be in calmer water. Get your feet well out in front of
you, if you can, and dig your heels into the mud, then you will
act as a buttress to me and help me to keep my feet."

It was two or three minutes before Lionel was able to speak. Even
during this short time they had been carried some distance forward,
for the ground on which they stood seemed to be moving, and the
force of the waves carried them constantly forward.

"Feel better, old fellow?" Geoffrey asked, as he felt Lionel making
an effort to resist the pressure of the water.

"Yes, I am better now," Lionel said.

"Well, we will go on as we are as long as we can; let us just try
to keep our feet and give way to the sea as it rakes us along. The
quicker we go the sooner we shall be in shallower water; but the
tide is rising fast, and unless we go on it will speedily be as
bad here as it was where we started."

As soon as Lionel had sufficiently recovered they again took to
the spar; but now, instead of clasping it with their arms and legs,
they lay with their chest upon it, and used their efforts only to
keep it going before the wind and ride. Once they came to a point
where the sand was but a few inches under water. Here they stood
up for some minutes, and then again proceeded on foot until the
water deepened to their waists.

Their progress was now much more easy, for the high bank had broken
the run of the surf. The water beyond it was much smoother, and
they were able to swim, pushing the spar before them.

"We are in deep water," Geoffrey said presently, dropping his feet.
"It is out of my depth. Chambers said there was a deep channel
across the sands nor far from the island; so in that case the shore
cannot be far away."

In another quarter of an hour the water was again waist deep.
Geoffrey stood up.

"I think I see a dark line ahead, Lionel; we shall soon be there."

Another ten minutes and the water was not above their knees. They
could see the low shore now at a distance of but a few hundred yards
ahead, and untying the ropes under their arms they let the spar
drift on, and waded forward until they reached the land. There was
a long mud bank yet to cross, and exhausted as they were it took
them a long time to do this; but at last they came to a sandy bank
rising sharply some ten feet above the flat. They threw themselves
down on this and lay for half an hour without a word being spoken.

"Now, Lionel," Geoffrey said at last, raising himself to a sitting
position, "we must make an effort to get on and find a shelter.
There are people living in the island. I have heard that they are
a wild set, making their living by the wrecks on these sands and
by smuggling goods without paying dues to the queen. Still, they
will nor refuse us shelter and food, and assuredly there is nothing
on us to tempt them to plunder us."

He rose to his feet and helped Lionel up. Once on the top of the
bank a level country stretched before them. The wind aided their
footsteps, sweeping along with such tremendous force that at times
they had difficulty in keeping their feet. As they went on they came
upon patches of cultivated land, with hedgerows and deep ditches.
Half a mile further they perceived a house. On approaching it
they saw that it was a low structure of some size with several out
buildings. They made their way to it and knocked at the door. They
knocked twice before it was opened, then some bolts were withdrawn.
The door was opened a few inches. A man looked out, and seeing two
lads opened it widely.

"Well, who are you, and what do you want?" he asked roughly.

"We have been wrecked in a storm on the sands. We were sailing from
Bricklesey for Sheerness when the storm caught us."

The man looked at them closely. Their pale faces and evidently
exhausted condition vouched for the truth of their story.

"The house is full," he said gruffly, "and I cannot take in strangers.
You will find some dry hay in that out house, and I will bring you
some food there. When you have eaten and drunk you had best journey
on."

So saying he shut the door in their faces.

"This is strange treatment," Geoffrey said. "I should not have
thought a man would have refused shelter to a dog such a day as
this. What do you say, Lionel, shall we go on?"

"I don't think I can go any further until I have rested, Geoffrey,"
Lionel replied faintly. "Let us lie down in shelter if it is only
for half an hour. After that, if the man brings us some food as he
says, we can go on again."

They went into the shed the man had pointed out. It was half full
of hay.

"Let us take our things off and wring them, Lionel, and give ourselves
a roll in the hay to dry ourselves. We shall soon get warm after
that."

They stripped, wrung the water from their clothes, rolled themselves
in the hay until they felt a glow of returning warmth, and then
put on their clothes again. Scarcely had they done so when the man
came in with a large tankard and two hunks of bread.

"Here," he said, "drink this and then be off. We want no strangers
hanging round here."

At any other time the boys would have refused hospitality so
cheerlessly offered, but they were too weak to resist the temptation.
The tankard contained hot spiced ale, and a sensation of warmth
and comfort stole over them as soon as they had drunk its contents
and eaten a few mouthfuls of bread. The man stood by them while
they ate.

"Are you the only ones saved from the wreck?" he asked.

"I trust that we are not," Geoffrey replied. "The master of the
boat tied us to a mast as soon as she struck, and he and the two
men with him were going to try to get to shore in the same way."

As soon as they had finished they stood up and handed the tankard
to the man.

"I am sorry I must turn you out," he said, as if somewhat ashamed
of his want of courtesy. "Any other day it would be different, but
today I cannot take anyone in."

"I thank you for what you have given us," Geoffrey said. "Can you
tell us which is the way to the ferry?"

"Follow the road and it will take you there. About a couple of
miles. You cannot mistake the way."

Feeling greatly strengthened and refreshed the lads again started.

"This is a curious affair," Geoffrey said, "and I cannot make out
why they should not let us in. However, it does not matter much.
I feel warm all over now, in spite of my wet clothes."

"So do I," Lionel agreed. "Perhaps there were smugglers inside,
or some fugitives from justice hiding there. Anyhow, I am thankful
for that warm ale; it seems to have given me new life altogether."

They had walked a quarter of a mile, when they saw four horsemen
coming on the road. They were closely wrapped up in cloaks, and as
they passed, with their heads bent down to meet the force of the
gale and their broad brimmed hats pulled low down over their eyes,
the boys did nor get even a glimpse of their features.

"I wonder who they can be," Geoffrey said, looking after them. "They
are very well mounted, and look like persons of some degree. What
on earth can they be doing in such a wretched place as this? They
must be going to that house we left, for I noticed the road stopped
there."

"It is curious, Geoffrey, but it is no business of ours."

"I don't know that, Lionel. You know there are all sorts of rumours
about of Papist plots, and conspirators could hardly choose a more
out of the way spot than this to hold their meetings. I should not
be at all surprised if there is some mischief on foot."

Half a mile further three men on foot met them, and these, like
the others, were closely wrapped up to the eyes.

"They have ridden here," Geoffrey said after they had passed. "They
have all high riding boots on; they must have left their horses
on the other side of the ferry. See, there is a village a short
distance ahead. We will go in there and dry our clothes, and have
a substantial meal if we can get it. Then we will talk this business
over."

The village consisted of a dozen houses only, but among them was a
small public house. Several men were sitting by the fire with pots
of ale before them.

"We have been wrecked on the coast, landlord, and have barely escaped
with our lives. We want to dry our clothes and to have what food
you can give us."

"I have plenty of eggs," the landlord said, "and my wife will fry
them for you; but we have no meat in the house. Fish and eggs are
the chief food here. You are lucky in getting ashore, for it is
a terrible gale. It is years since we have had one like it. As to
drying your clothes, that can be managed easy enough. You can go
up into my room and take them off, and I will lend you a couple of
blankets to wrap yourselves in, and you can sit by the fire here
until your things are dry."

A hearty meal of fried eggs and another drink of hot ale completed
the restoration of the boys. Their clothes were speedily dried, for
the landlady had just finished baking her week's batch of bread,
and half an hour in the oven completely dried the clothes. They
were ready almost as soon as the meal was finished. Many questions
were asked them as to the wreck, and the point at which they had
been cast ashore.

"It was but a short distance from a house at the end of this road,"
Geoffrey said. "We went there for shelter, but they would not take
us in, though they gave us some bread and hot ale."

Exclamations of indignation were heard among the men sitting round.

"Ralph Hawker has the name of being a surly man," one said, "but
I should not have thought that he would have turned a shipwrecked
man from his door on such a day as this. They say he is a Papist,
though whether he be or not I cannot say; but he has strange ways,
and there is many a stranger passes the ferry and asks for his
house. However, that is no affair of mine, though I hold there is
no good in secret ways."

"That is so," another said; "but it goes beyond all reason for a
man to refuse shelter to those the sea has cast ashore on such a
day as this."

As soon as they had finished their meal and again dressed themselves,
the lads paid their reckoning and went out. Scarcely had they done
so when two horsemen rode up, and, drawing rein, inquired if they
were going right for the house of one Ralph Hawker.

"It lies about a mile on," Geoffrey said. "You cannot miss the way;
the road ends there."

As he spoke a gust of wind of extra fury blew off one of the
riders' hats. It was stopped by the wall of a house a few yards
away. Geoffrey caught it and handed it to the horseman. With a word
of thanks he pressed it firmly on his head, and the two men rode
on.

"Did you notice that?" Geoffrey asked his brother. "He has a
shaven spot on the top of his head. The man is a Papist priest in
disguise. There is something afoot, Lionel. I vote that we try and
get to the bottom of it."

"I am ready if you think so, Geoffrey. But it is a hazardous
business, you know; for we are unarmed, and there are, we know,
seven or eight of them at any rate.

"We must risk that," Geoffrey said; "besides, we can run if we
cannot fight. Let us have a try whatever comes of it."



CHAPTER VII

A POPISH PLOT


There was no one about, for the wind was blowing with such fury that
few cared to venture out of doors, and the boys therefore started
back along the road by which they had come, without being observed.

"We had better strike off from the road," Geoffrey said, "for some
more of these men may be coming along. Like enough someone will be
on the watch at the house, so we had best make a long detour, and
when we get near it come down on it from the other side. You know
we saw no windows there."

"That is all well enough," Lionel agreed; "but the question is,
how are we to hear what they are saying inside? We are obliged to
shout to catch each others' words now, and there is not the least
chance of our hearing anything through the closed shutters."

"We must wait till we get there, and then see what is to be done,
Lionel. We managed to detect a plot at Sluys, and we may have the
same luck here."

After half an hour's brisk walking they again approached the house
from the side at which they had before come upon it, and where,
as Geoffrey observed, there were no windows; they made their way
cautiously up to it, and then moved quietly round to the side. Here
there were two windows on the ground floor. The shutters were closed,
for glass was unknown except in the houses of the comparatively
wealthy. Its place was taken by oiled paper, and this in bad weather
was protected by outer shutters. Geoffrey stole out a few paces to
look at the window above.

"It is evidently a loft," he said as he rejoined Lionel. "You can
see by the roof that the rooms they live in are entirely upon the
ground floor. If we can get in there we might possibly hear what
is going on below. The rooms are not likely to be ceiled, and there
are sure to be cracks between the planks through which we can see
what is going on below. The noise of the wind is so great there
is little chance of their hearing us. Now, let us look about for
something to help us to climb up."

Lying by an out house close by they found a rough ladder, composed
of a single pole with bits of wood nailed on to it a foot apart.
This they placed up against the door of the loft. They could see
that this was fastened only by a hasp, with a piece of wood put
through the staple. It had been arranged that Geoffrey only should
go up, Lionel removing the pole when he entered, and keeping watch
behind the out house lest anyone should come round the house. Both
had cut heavy sticks as they came along to give them some means
of defence. Lionel stood at the pole, while Geoffrey climbed up,
removed the piece of wood from the staple, and then holding the
hasp to prevent the wind blowing in the door with a crash, entered
the loft. A glance showed him that it extended over the whole of
the house, and that it was entirely empty.

He closed the door behind him, and jammed it with a couple of wedges
of wood he had cut before mounting; then he lay down on the rough
planks and began to crawl along. He saw a gleam of light at the
further end, and felt sure that it proceeded from the room in which
the party were assembled. Although he had little fear of being heard
owing to the din kept up by the wind, he moved along with extreme
care until he reached the spot whence the light proceeded. As he
had anticipated, it was caused by lights in a room below streaming
through the cracks between the rough planking.

Rising on to his knees he looked round, and then crawled to a
crack that appeared much wider than the rest, the boards being more
than half an inch apart. Lying down over it, he was able to obtain
a view of a portion of the room below. He could see a part of a
long table, and looked down upon the heads of five men sitting on
one side of it. He now applied his ear to the crevice. A man was
speaking, and in the intervals between the gusts of wind which
shook the house to its foundation, he could hear what was said.

"It is no use hesitating any longer, the time for action has
arrived--Jezebel must be removed--interests of our holy
religion--little danger in carrying out the plan that has been proposed.
Next time--Windsor--road passes through wood near Datchet--a weak
guard overpowered--two told off to execute--free England from
tyranny--glory and honour throughout Catholic world. England
disorganized and without a head could offer no resistance--as
soon as day fixed--meet at Staines at house of--final details
and share each man is to--done, scatter through country, readiness
for rising--Philip of Spain--"

This was the last sentence Geoffrey caught, for when the speaker
ceased a confused and general talk took place, and he could only
catch a word here and there without meaning or connection. He
therefore drew quietly back to the door of the loft and opened it.
He thought first of jumping straight down, but in that case he
could not have fastened the door behind him. He therefore made a
sign to Lionel, who was anxiously peering round the corner of the
out house. The pole was placed into position, and pulling the door
after him and refastening the latch he made his way down to the
ground, replaced the pole at the place from which they had taken
it, and then retired in the direction from which they had come.

"Well, what have you heard, Geoffrey?" Lionel asked. "Was it worth
the risk you have run?"

"Well worth it, Lionel. I could only hear a little of what was
said, but that was quite enough to show that a plot is on foot to
attack and kill the queen the next time she journeys to Windsor.
The conspirators are to hide in a wood near Datchet."

"You don't say so, Geoffrey. That is important news indeed. What
are we to do next?"

"I have not thought yet," Geoffrey replied. "I should say, though,
our best plan would be to make our way back as quickly as we can
by Burnham and Maldon round to Hedingham. The earl was going up
to London one day this week, we may catch him before he starts; if
not, we must, of course, follow him. But at any rate it is best to
go home, for they will be in a terrible fright, especially if Joe
Chambers or one of the men take the news to Bricklesey of the loss
of the Susan, for it would be quickly carried up to Hedingham by
John Lirriper or one or other of the boatmen. No day seems to be
fixed, and the queen may not be going to Windsor for some little
time, so the loss of a day will not make any difference. As we
have money in our pockets we can hire horse at Burnham to take us
to Maldon, and get others there to carry us home."

An hour's walking took them to the ferry. It was now getting dusk,
and they had come to the conclusion as they walked that it would
be too late to attempt to get on that night beyond Burnham. The
storm was as wild as ever, and although the passage was a narrow
one it was as much as the ferryman could do to row the boat across.

"How far is it from here to Burnham?"

"About four miles; but you won't get to Burnham tonight."

"How is that?" Geoffrey asked.

"You may get as far as the ferry, but you won't get taken over.
There will be a big sea in the Crouch, for the wind is pretty nigh
straight up it; but you will be able to sleep at the inn this side.
In the morning, if the wind has gone down, you can cross; if not,
you will have to go round by the bridge, nigh ten miles higher up."

This was unpleasant news. Not that it made any difference to them
whether they slept on one side of the river or the other, but if
the wind was too strong to admit of a passage in the morning, the
necessity for making a detour would cost them many hours of valuable
time. There was, however, no help for it, and they walked to Criksey
Ferry. The little inn was crowded, for the ferry had been stopped
all day, and many like themselves had been compelled to stop for
a lull in the wind.

Scarcely had they entered when their names were joyously shouted
out, "Ah, Masters Vickars, right glad am I to see you. We feared
that surf had put an end to you. We asked at the ferry, but the man
declared that no strange lads had crossed that day, and we were
fearing we should have a sad tale to send to Hedingham by John
Lirriper."

"We are truly glad to see you, Joe," Geoffrey said, as they warmly
shook Joe Chambers and the two sailors by the hand. "How did you
get ashore?"

"On the mainmast, and pretty nigh drowned we were before we got
there. I suppose the tide must have taken us a bit further up than
it did you. We got here well nigh two hours ago, though we got a
good meal and dried our clothes at a farmhouse."

"We got a meal, too, soon after we landed," Geoffrey said; "but
we did not dry our clothes till we got to a little village. I did
not ask its name. I am awfully sorry, Joe, about the Susan."

"It is a bad job, but it cannot be helped, Master Geoffrey. I
owned a third of her, and two traders at Bricklesey own the other
shares. Still I have no cause to grumble. I have laid by more than
enough in the last four years to buy a share in another boat as
good as she was. You see, a trader ain't like a smack. A trader's
got only hull and sails, while a smack has got her nets beside,
and they cost well nigh as much as the boat. Thankful enough we
are that we have all escaped with our lives; and now I find you
are safe my mind feels at rest over it."

"Do you think it will be calm enough to cross in the morning, Joe?"

"Like enough," the sailor replied; "a gale like this is like to
blow itself out in twenty-four hours. It has been the worst I ever
saw. It is not blowing now quite so hard as it did, and by the
morning I reckon, though there may be a fresh wind, the gale will
be over."

The number of travellers were far too great for the accommodation
of the inn; and with the exception of two or three of the first
arrivals all slept on some hay in one of the barns.

The next morning, although the wind was still strong, the fury
of the gale had abated. The ferryman, however, said the water was
so rough he must wait for a time before they crossed. But when
Geoffrey offered him a reward to put their party on shore at once,
he consented to do so,  Joe Chambers and the two sailors assisting
with the oars; and as the ferry boat was large and strongly built,
they crossed without further inconvenience than the wetting of
their jackets.

Joe Chambers, who knew the town perfectly, at once took them
to a place where they were able to hire a couple of horses, and
on these rode to Maldon, some nine miles away. Here they procured
other horses, and it was not long after midday when they arrived
at Hedingham.

Mrs. Vickars held up her hands in astonishment at their shrunken
garments; but her relief from the anxiety she had felt concerning
what had befallen them during the gale was so great that she was
unable to scold.

"We will tell you all about it, mother, afterwards," Geoffrey
said, as he released himself from her embrace. "We have had a great
adventure, and the Susan has been wrecked. But this is nor the most
important matter. Father, has the earl started yet?"

"He was to have gone this morning, Geoffrey, but the floods are
likely to be out, and the roads will be in such a state that I have
no doubt he has put off his journey."

"It is important that we should see him at once, father. We
have overheard some people plotting against the queen's life, and
measures must be taken at once for her safety. We will run up and
change our things if you will go with us to see him. If you are
there he will see you whatever he is doing, while if we go alone
there might be delay."

Without waiting for an answer the boys ran upstairs and quickly
returned in fresh clothes. Mr. Vickars was waiting for them with
his hat on.

"You are quite sure of what you are saying, Geoffrey?" he observed
as they walked towards the castle. "Remember, that if it should
turn out an error, you are likely to come to sore disgrace instead
of receiving commendation for your interference. Every one has been
talking of plots against the queen for some time, and you may well
have mistaken the purport of what you have heard."

"There is no mistake, father, it is a real conspiracy, though who
are those concerned in it I know not. Lionel and I are nor likely
to raise a false alarm about anything, as you will say yourself
when you hear the story I have to tell the earl."

They had by this time entered the gates of the castle. "The earl
has just finished dinner," one of the attendants replied in answer
to the question of Mr. Vickars.

"Will you tell him that I wish to see him on urgent business?"

In two or three minutes the servant returned and asked the clergyman
to follow him. The earl received him in his private chamber, for
the castle was full with guests.

"Well, dominie, what is it?" he asked. "You want some help, I will
be bound, for somebody ill or in distress. I know pretty well by
this time the meaning of your urgent business."

"It is nothing of that kind today," the clergyman replied; "it is,
in fact, my sons who wish to see your lordship. I do not myself
know the full purport of their story, save that it is something
which touches the safety of the queen."

The earl's expression at once changed.

"Is that so, young sirs? This is a serious matter, you know; it
is a grave thing to bring an accusation against anyone in matters
touching the state."

"I am aware that it is, my lord, and assuredly my brother and I
would not lightly meddle with such matters; but I think that you
will say this is a business that should be attended to. It happened
thus, sir." He then briefly told how, that being out in a ketch
that traded from Bricklesey, they were caught in the gale; that
the vessel was driven on the sands, and they were cast ashore on
a mast.

He then related the inhospitable reception they had met with. "It
seemed strange to us, sir, and contrary to nature, that anyone
should refuse to allow two shipwrecked lads to enter the house for
shelter on such a day; and it seemed well nigh impossible that his
tale of the place being too full to hold us could be true. However,
we started to walk. On our way we met four horsemen going towards
the house, closely muffled up in cloaks."

"There was nothing very strange in that," the earl observed, "in
such weather as we had yesterday."

"Nothing at all, sir; we should not have given the matter one
thought had it not been that the four men were very well mounted,
and, apparently, gentlemen; and it was strange that such should have
business in an out of the way house in Foulness Island. A little
further we met three men on foot. They were also wrapped up
in cloaks; but they wore high riding boots, and had probably left
their horses on the other side of the ferry so as nor to attract
attention. A short time afterwards we met two more horsemen, one
of whom asked us if he was going right for the house we had been
at. As he was speaking a gust of wind blew off his hat. I fetched
it and gave it to him, and as he stooped to put it on I saw that a
tonsure was shaven on the top of his head. The matter had already
seemed strange to us; but the fact that one of this number of men,
all going to a lonely house, was a priest in disguise, seemed so
suspicious that my brother and myself determined to try and get to
the bottom of it."

Geoffrey then related how they had gone back to the house and
effected an entrance into the loft extending over it; how he had
through the cracks in the boards seen a party of men gathered in
one of the lower rooms, and then repeated word for word the scraps
of conversation that he had overheard.

The earl had listened with an expression of amused doubt to the
early portion of the narrative; but when Geoffrey came to the part
where accident had shown to him that one of these men proceeding
towards the house was a disguised priest, his face became serious,
and he listened with deep attention to the rest of the narrative.

"Faith," he said, "this is a serious matter, and you have done
right well in following up your suspicions--and in risking your
lives, for they would assuredly have killed you had they discovered
you. Mr. Vickars, your sons must ride with me to London at once.
The matter is too grave for a moment's delay. I must lay it before
Burleigh at once. A day's delay might be fatal."

He rang a bell standing on the table. As soon as an attendant
answered it he said, "Order three horses to be saddled at once; I
must ride to London with these young gentlemen without delay. Order
Parsons and Nichols to be ready in half an hour to set out with
us.

"Have you had food, young sirs? for it seems you came hither directly
you arrived." Finding that the boys had eaten nothing since they
had left Maldon, he ordered food to be brought them, and begged
them eat it while he explained to the countess and the guests
that sudden business that could not be delayed called him away to
London. Half an hour later he started with the boys, the two servants
following behind. Late that evening they arrived in London. It was
too late to call on Lord Burleigh that night; but early the next
morning the earl took the boys with him to the house of the great
statesman. Leaving them in the antechamber he went in to the inner
apartment, where the minister was at breakfast. Ten minutes later
he came out, and called the boys in.

"The Earl of Oxford has told me your story," Lord Burleigh said.
"Tell it me again, and omit nothing; for things that seem small
are often of consequence in a matter like this."

Geoffrey again repeated his story, giving full details of all that
had taken place from the time of their first reaching the house.

Lord Burleigh then questioned him closely as to whether they had
seen any of the faces of the men, and would recognize them again.

"I saw none from my spying place above, my lord," Geoffrey said.
"I could see only the tops of their heads, and most of them still
kept their hats on; nor did we see them as they passed, with
the exception only of the man I supposed to be a priest. His face
I saw plainly. It was smooth shaven; his complexion was dark, his
eyebrows were thin and straight, his face narrow. I should take
him for a foreigner--either a Spaniard or Italian."

Lord Burleigh made a note of this description.

"Thanks, young sirs," he said. "I shall, of course, take measures
to prevent this plot being carried out, and shall inform her majesty
how bravely you both risked your lives to discover this conspiracy
against her person. The Earl of Oxford informs me that you are
pages of his cousin, Captain Francis Vere, a very brave and valiant
gentleman; and that you bore your part bravely in the siege of
Sluys, but are at present at home to rest after your labours there,
and have permission of Captain Vere to take part in any trouble
that may arise here owing to the action of the Spaniards. I have
now no further occasion for your services, and you can return with
the earl to Hedingham, but your attendance in London will be needed
when we lay hands upon these conspirators."

The same day they rode back to Hedingham, but ten days later were
again summoned to London. The queen had the day before journeyed to
Windsor. Half an hour before she arrived at the wood near Datchet
a strong party of her guard had suddenly surrounded it, and had
found twelve armed men lurking there. These had been arrested and
lodged in the Tower. Three of them were foreigners, the rest members
of Catholic families known to be favourable to the Spanish cause.
Their trial was conducted privately, as it was deemed advisable
that as little should be made as possible of this and other similar
plots against the queen's life that were discovered about this
time.

Geoffrey and Lionel gave their evidence before the council. As the
only man they could have identified was not of the party captured,
their evidence only went to show the motive of this gathering in the
wood near Datchet. The prisoners stoutly maintained that Geoffrey
had misunderstood the conversation he had partly overheard, and
that their design was simply to make the queen a prisoner and force
her to abdicate. Three of the prisoners, who had before been banished
from the country and who had secretly returned, were sentenced to
death; two of the others to imprisonment for a long term of years,
the rest to banishment from England.

After the trial was over Lord Burleigh sent for the boys, and gave
them a very gracious message in the queen's name, together with two
rings in token of her majesty's gratitude. Highly delighted with
these honours they returned to Hedingham, and devoted themselves
even more assiduously than before to exercises in arms, in order
that they might some day prove themselves valiant soldiers of the
queen.



CHAPTER VIII

THE SPANISH ARMADA


The struggle that was at hand between Spain and England had long
been foreseen as inevitable. The one power was the champion of
Roman Catholicism, the other of Protestantism; and yet, although so
much hung upon the result of the encounter, and all Europe looked
on with the most intense interest, both parties entered upon the
struggle without allies, and this entirely from the personal fault
of the sovereigns of the two nations.

Queen Elizabeth, by her constant intrigues, her underhand dealings
with France and Spain, her grasping policy in the Netherlands,
her meanness and parsimony, and the fact that she was ready at any
moment to sacrifice the Netherlands to her own policy, had wholly
alienated the people of the Low Country; for while their own
efforts for defence were paralysed by the constant interference
of Elizabeth, no benefit was obtained from the English army, whose
orders were to stand always on the defensive--the queen's only
anxiety appearing to be to keep her grasp upon the towns that had
been handed over to her as the price of her alliance.

Her own counsellors were driven to their wits' end by her constant
changes of purpose. Her troops were starving and in rags from her
parsimony, the fleet lay dismantled and useless from want of funds,
and except such arming and drilling as took place at the expense of
the nobles, counties, and cities, no preparation whatever was made
to meet the coming storm. Upon the other hand, Philip of Spain,
who might have been at the head of a great Catholic league against
England, had isolated himself by his personal ambitions. Had he
declared himself ready, in the event of his conquest of England, to
place James of Scotland upon the throne, he would have had Scotland
with him, together with the Catholics of England, still a powerful
and important body.

France, too, would have joined him, and the combination against
Elizabeth and the Protestants of England would have been well nigh
irresistible. But this he could not bring himself to do. His dream
was the annexation of England to Spain; and smarting as the English
Catholics were under the execution of Mary of Scotland, their
English spirit revolted against the idea of the rule of Spain,
and the great Catholic nobles hastened, when the moment of danger
arrived, to join in the defence of their country, while Scotland,
seeing no advantage to be gained in the struggle, stood sullenly
aloof, and France gave no aid to a project which was to result,
if successful, in the aggrandizement of her already dangerously
formidable neighbour.

Thus England and Spain stood alone--Philip slowly but steadily
preparing for the great expedition for the conquest of England,
Elizabeth hesitating, doubtful; at one moment gathering seamen and
arming her fleet, a month or two later discharging the sailors and
laying up the ships.

In the spring of 1587 Drake, with six vessels belonging to the crown
and twenty-four equipped by merchants of London and other places,
had seized a moment when Elizabeth's fickle mind had inclined to
warlike measures, and knowing that the mood might last but a day,
had slipped out of Plymouth and sailed for Spain a few hours before
a messenger arrived with a peremptory order from Elizabeth against
entering any Spanish port or offering violence to any Spanish town
or ships. Although caught in a gale in the Channel, Drake held on,
and, reaching Gibraltar on the 16th April, ascertained that Cadiz
was crowded with transports and store ships.

Vice Admiral Burroughs, controller of the navy, who had been specially
appointed to thwart Drake's plans, opposed any action being taken;
but Drake insisted upon attack, and on the 19th the fleet stood in
to Cadiz harbour. Passing through the fire of the batteries, they
sank the only great ship of war in the roads, drove off the Spanish
galleys, and seized the vast fleet of store ships loaded with
wine, corn, and provisions of all sorts for the use of the Armada.
Everything of value that could be conveniently moved was transferred
to the English ships, then the Spanish vessels were set on fire,
their cables cut, and were left to drift in an entangled mass of
flame. Drake took a number of prisoners, and sent a messenger on
shore proposing to exchange them for such English seamen as were
prisoners in Spain.  The reply was there were no English prisoners
in Spain; and as this notoriously untrue, it was agreed in the
fleet that all the Spaniards they might take in the future should
be sold to the Moors, and the money reserved for the redeeming of
such Englishmen as might be in captivity there or elsewhere.

The English fleet then sailed for Cape St. Vincent, picking up on
their way large convoys of store ships all bound for the Tagus,
where the Armada was collecting. These were all burned, and Drake
brought up at Cape St. Vincent, hoping to meet there a portion
of the Armada expected from the Mediterranean. As a harbour was
necessary, he landed, stormed the fort at Faro, and took possession
of the harbour there. The expected enemy did not appear, and Drake
sailed up to the mouth of the Tagus, intending to go into Lisbon
and attack the great Spanish fleet lying there under its admiral,
Santa Cruz. That the force gathered there was enormous Drake well
knew, but relying as much on the goodness of his cause as on the
valour of his sailors, and upon the fact that the enemy would be
too crowded together to fight with advantage, he would have carried
out his plan had not a ship arrived from England with orders
forbidding him to enter the Tagus. However, he lay for some time
at the mouth of the river, destroying every ship that entered
its mouth, and sending in a challenge to Santa Cruz to come out
and fight. The Spanish admiral did not accept it, and Drake then
sailed to Corunna, and there, as at Cadiz, destroyed all the ships
collected in the harbour and then returned to England, having in
the course of a few months inflicted an enormous amount of damage
upon Spain, and having taken the first step to prove that England
was the mistress of the sea.

But while the little band of English had been defending Sluys
against the army of the Duke of Parma, Philip had been continuing
his preparations, filling up the void made by the destruction
wrought by Drake, and preparing an Armada which he might well have
considered to be invincible. Elizabeth was still continuing her
negotiations. She was quite ready to abandon the Netherlands to
Spain if she could but keep the towns she held there, but she could
nor bring herself to hand these over either to the Netherlands or
to Spain. She urged the States to make peace, to which they replied
that they did not wish for peace on such terms as Spain would alone
grant; they could defend themselves for ten years longer if left
alone, they did not ask for further help, and only wanted their
towns restored to them.

Had the Armada started as Philip intended in September, it would have
found England entirely unprepared, for Elizabeth still obstinately
refused to believe in danger, and the few ships that had been
held in commission after Drake's return had been so long neglected
that they could hardly keep the sea without repair; the rest lay
unrigged in the Medway. But the delay gave England fresh time for
preparation. Parma's army was lying in readiness for the invasion
under canvas at Dunkirk, and their commander had received no
information from Spain that the sailing of the Armada was delayed.

The cold, wet, and exposure told terribly upon them, and of the
30,000 who were ready to embark in September not 18,000 were fit
for service at the commencement of the year. The expenses of this
army and of the Armada were so great that Philip was at last driven
to give orders to the Armada to start. But fortune again favoured
England. Had the fleet sailed as ordered on the 30th of January
they would again have found the Channel undefended, for Elizabeth,
in one of her fits of economy, had again dismantled half the fleet
that had been got ready for sea, and sent the sailors to their
homes.

But the execution of Philip's orders was prevented by the sudden
death of Santa Cruz. The Duke of Medina Sidonia was appointed his
successor, but as he knew nothing of the state of the Armada fresh
delays became necessary, and the time was occupied by Elizabeth,
not in preparing for the defence of the country, but in fresh
negotiations for peace. She was ready to make any concessions to
Spain, but Philip was now only amusing himself by deceiving her.
Everything was now prepared for the expedition, and just as the fleet
was ready to start, the negotiations were broken off. But though
Elizabeth's government had made no preparations for the defence
of the country, England herself had not been idle. Throughout the
whole country men had been mustered, officered, and armed, and
100,000 were ready to move as soon as the danger became imminent.

The musters of the Midland counties, 80,000 strong, were to form a
separate army, and were to march at once to a spot between Windsor
and Harrow. The rest were to gather at the point of danger. The
coast companies were to fall back wherever the enemy landed, burning
the corn and driving off the cattle, and avoiding a battle until
the force of the neighbouring counties joined them. Should the
landing take place as was expected in Suffolk, Kent, or Sussex,
it was calculated that between 30,000 and 40,000 men would bar the
way to the invaders before they reached London, while 20,000 men of
the western counties would remain to encounter the Duke of Guise,
who had engaged to bring across an army of Frenchmen to aid the
Spaniards.

Spain, although well aware of the strength of England on the sea,
believed that she would have no difficulty with the raw English
levies; but Parma, who had met the English at Sluys, had learnt to
respect their fighting qualities, and in a letter to Philip gave
the opinion that even if the Armada brought him a reinforcement of
6000 men he would still have an insufficient force for the conquest
of England. He said, "When I shall have landed I must fight battle
after battle. I shall lose men by wounds and disease, I must leave
detachments behind me to keep open my communications, and in a
short time the body of my army will become so weak that not only I
may be unable to advance in the face of the enemy, and time may be
given to the heretics and your majesty's other enemies to interfere,
but there may fall out some notable inconvenience, with the loss
of everything, and I be unable to remedy it."

Unfortunately, the English fleet was far less prepared than the
land forces. The militia had been easily and cheaply extemporized,
but a fleet can only be prepared by long and painful sacrifices.
The entire English navy contained but thirteen ships of over four
hundred tons, and including small cutters and pinnaces there were
but thirty- eight vessels of all sorts and sizes carrying the
queen's flag. Fortunately, Sir John Hawkins was at the head of the
naval administration, and in spite of the parsimony of Elizabeth
had kept the fleet in a good state of repair and equipment. The
merchant navy, although numerous, was equally deficient in vessels
of any size.

Philip had encouraged ship building in Spain by grants from the
crown, allowing four ducats a ton for every ship built of above
three hundred tons burden, and six ducats a ton for every one above
five hundred tons. Thus he had a large supply of great ships to
draw upon in addition to those of the royal navy, while in England
the largest vessels belonging to private owners did not exceed four
hundred tons, and there were not more than two or three vessels of
that size sailing from any port of the country. The total allowance
by the queen for the repair of the whole of the royal navy, wages
of shipwrights, clerks, carpenters, watchmen, cost of timber, and,
all other necessary dockyard expenses, was but 4000 pounds a year.

In December the fleet was ready for sea, together with the contingent
furnished by the liberality and patriotism of the merchants and
citizens of the great ports. But as soon as it was got together
half the crews collected and engaged at so great an expense were
dismissed, the merchant ships released, and England open to invasion,
and had Parma started in the vessels he had prepared, Lord Howard,
who commanded the English navy, could not have fired a shot to have
prevented his crossing.

Well might Sir John Hawkins in his despair at Elizabeth's caprices
exclaim: "We are wasting money, wasting strength, dishonouring
and discrediting ourselves by our uncertain dallying." But though
daily reports came from Spain of the readiness of the Armada to
set sail, Elizabeth, even when she again permitted the navy to be
manned, fettered it by allowing it to be provided with rations for
only a month at a time, and permitting no reserves to be provided
in the victualling stores; while the largest vessels were supplied
with ammunition for only a day and a half's service, and the rest
of the fleet with but enough for one day's service. The council
could do nothing, and Lord Howard's letters prove that the queen,
and she only, was responsible for the miserable state of things
that prevailed.

At last, in May, Lord Howard sailed with the fleet down Channel,
leaving Lord Henry Seymour with three men of war and a squadron of
privateers to watch Dunkirk. At Plymouth the admiral found Drake with
forty ships, all except one raised and sent to sea at the expense
of himself and the gentry and merchants of the west counties. The
weather was wild, as it had been all the winter. Howard with the
great ships lay at anchor in the Sound, rolling heavily, while the
smaller craft went for shelter into the mouth of the river. There
were but eighteen days' provisions on board; fresh supplies promised
did not arrive, and the crews were put on half rations, and eked
these out by catching fish. At last, when the supplies were just
exhausted, the victualling ships arrived, with one month's fresh
rations, and a message that no more would be sent. So villainous
was the quality of the stores that fever broke out in the fleet.

It was not until the end of the month that Elizabeth would even
permit any further preparations to be made, and the supplies took
some time collecting. The crews would have been starved had not
the officers so divided the rations as to make them last six weeks.
The men died in scores from dysentery brought on by the sour and
poisonous beer issued to them, and Howard and Drake ordered wine
and arrow root from the town for the use of the sick, and had to
pay for it from their own pockets.

But at last the Armada was ready for starting. Contingents of
Spanish, Italians, and Portuguese were gathered together with the
faithful from all countries--Jesuits from France; exiled priests,
Irish and English; and many Catholic Scotch, English, and Irish
noblemen and gentlemen. The six squadrons into which the fleet
was divided contained sixty-five large war ships, the smallest of
which was seven hundred tons. Seven were over one thousand, and
the largest, an Italian ship, La Regazona, was thirteen hundred.
All were built high like castles, their upper works musket proof,
their main timbers four or five feet thick, and of a strength it
was supposed no English cannon could pierce.

Next to the big ships, or galleons as they were called, were four
galleasses, each carrying fifty guns and 450 soldiers and sailors,
and rowed by 300 slaves. Besides these were four galleys, fifty-six
great armed merchant ships, the finest Spain possessed, and twenty
caravels or small vessels. Thus the fighting fleet amounted to
129 vessels, carrying in all 2430 cannon. On board was stored an
enormous quantity of provisions for the use of the army after it
landed in England, there being sufficient to feed 40,000 men for
six months.

There were on board 8000 sailors, 19,000 soldiers, 1000 gentlemen
volunteers, 600 priests, servants, and miscellaneous officers, and
2000 galley slaves. This was indeed a tremendous array to meet the
fleet lying off Plymouth, consisting of 29 queen's ships of all
sizes, 10 small vessels belonging to Lord Howard and members of
his family, and 43 privateers between 40 and 400 tons under Drake,
the united crews amounting to something over 9000 men.

The winter had passed pleasantly to Geoffrey and Lionel Vickars;
the earl had taken a great fancy to them, and they had stayed for
some time in London as members of his suite. When the spring came
they had spoken about rejoining Francis Vere in Holland, but the
earl had said that there was little doing there. The enmity excited
by the conduct of Elizabeth prevented any cooperation between the
Dutch and English; and indeed the English force was reduced to
such straits by the refusal of the queen to furnish money for their
pay, or to provide funds for even absolute necessaries, that it
was wholly incapable of taking the field, and large numbers of the
men returned to England.

Had this treatment of her soldiers and sailors at the time when such
peril threatened their country been occasioned by want of funds,
some excuse would have been possible for the conduct of Elizabeth;
but at the time there were large sums lying in the treasury, and
it was parsimony and not incapacity to pay that actuated Elizabeth
in the course she pursued.

As the boys were still uneasy as to the opinion Francis Vere might
form of their continued stay in England, they wrote to him, their
letter being inclosed in one from the earl; but the reply set their
minds at rest--"By all means stay in England," Captain Vere wrote,
"since there is nothing doing here of any note or consequence, nor
likely to be. We are simply idling our time in Bergen op Zoom, and
not one of us but is longing to be at home to bear his part in the
events pending there. It is hard, indeed, to be confined in this
miserable Dutch town while England is in danger. Unfortunately
we are soldiers and must obey orders; but as you are as yet only
volunteers, free to act as you choose, it would be foolish in the
extreme for you to come over to this dull place while there is so
much going on in England. I have written to my cousin, asking him
to introduce you to some of the country gentlemen who have fitted
out a ship for service against the Spaniards, so that you may have
a hand in what is going on."

This the earl had done, and early in May they had journeyed down
to Plymouth on horseback with a party of other gentlemen who were
going on board the Active, a vessel of two hundred and fifty tons
belonging to a gentleman of Devonshire, one Master Audrey Drake,
a relation of Sir Francis Drake. The earl himself was with the
party. He did not intend to go on board, for he was a bad sailor;
and though ready, as he said, to do his share of fighting upon
land, would be only an encumbrance on board a ship.

He went down principally at the request of Cecil and other members
of the council, who, knowing that he was a favourite of the queen,
thought that his representations as to the state of the fleet might
do more than they could do to influence her to send supplies to the
distressed sailors. The earl visited the ships lying in the mouth
of the Tamar, and three times started in a boat to go out to those
in the Sound; but the sea was so rough, and he was so completely
prostrated by sickness, that he had each time to put back. What he
saw, however, on board the ships he visited, and heard from Lord
Howard as to the state of those at sea, was quite sufficient. He
at once expended a considerable amount of money in buying wine and
fresh meat for the sick, and then hurried away to London to lay
before the queen the result of his personal observations, and to
implore her to order provisions to be immediately despatched to
the fleet.

But even the description given by one of her favourites of the
sufferings of the seamen was insufficient to induce the queen to
open her purse strings, and the earl left her in great dudgeon;
and although his private finances had been much straitened by his
extravagance and love of display, he at once chartered a ship,
filled her with provisions, and despatched her to Plymouth.

Mr. Drake and the gentlemen with him took up their abode in the
town until there should be need for them to go on board the Active,
where the accommodation was much cramped, and life by no means
agreeable; and the Vickars therefore escaped sharing the sufferings
of those on board ship.

At the end of May came the news that the Armada had sailed on the
19th, and high hopes were entertained that the period of waiting
had terminated. A storm, however, scattered the great fleet, and
it was not until the 12th of July that they sailed from the Bay of
Ferrol, where they had collected after the storm.

Never was there known a season so boisterous as the summer of
1588, and when off Ushant, in a southwest gale, four galleys were
wrecked on the French coast, and the Santa Anna, a galleon of 800
tons, went down, carrying with her ninety seamen, three hundred
soldiers, and 50,000 ducats in gold.

After two days the storm abated, and the fleet again proceeded.
At daybreak on the 20th the Lizard was in sight, and an English
fishing boat was seen running along their line. Chase was given, but
she soon out sailed her pursuers, and carried the news to Plymouth.
The Armada had already been made out from the coast the night before,
and beacon lights had flashed the news all over England. In every
village and town men were arming and saddling and marching away to
the rendezvous of the various corps.

In Plymouth the news was received with the greatest rejoicing.
Thanks to the care with which the provisions had been husbanded,
and to the manner in which the officers and volunteers had from
their private means supplemented the scanty stores, there was
still a week's provisions on board, and this, it was hoped, would
suffice for their needs. The scanty supply of ammunition was a
greater source of anxiety; but they hoped that fresh supplies would
be forthcoming, now that even the queen could no longer close her
eyes to the urgent necessity of the case.

As soon as the news arrived all the gentlemen in the town flocked
on board the ships, and on the night of the 19th the queen's
ships and some of the privateers went to moorings behind Ram Head,
so that they could make clear to sea; and on the morning when the
Spaniards sighted the Lizard, forty sail were lying ready for action
under the headland.

At three o'clock in the afternoon the lookout men on the hill
reported a line of sails on the western horizon. Two wings were at
first visible, which were gradually united as the topsails of those
in the centre rose above the line of sea. As they arose it could
be seen that the great fleet was sailing, in the form of a huge
crescent, before a gentle wind. A hundred and fifty ships, large
and small, were counted, as a few store ships bound for Flanders
had joined the Armada for protection.

The Active was one of the privateers that had late the evening before
gone out to Ram Head, and just as it was growing dusk the anchors
were got up, and the little fleet sailed out from the shelter of
the land as the Armada swept along.

The Spanish admiral at once ordered the fleet to lie to for the
night, and to prepare for a general action at daybreak, as he knew
from a fisherman he had captured that the English fleet were at
Plymouth. The wind was on shore, but all through the night Howard's
and Drake's ships beat out from the Sound until they took their
places behind the Spanish fleet, whose position they could perfectly
make out by the light of the half moon that rose at two in the
morning.

On board the English fleet all was confidence and hilarity. The
sufferings of the last three months were forgotten. The numbers and
magnitude of the Spanish ships counted as nothing. The sailors of
the west country had met the Spaniards on the Indian seas and proved
their masters, and doubted not for a moment that they should do so
again.

There was scarce a breath of air when day broke, but at eight
o'clock a breeze sprang up from the west, and the Armada made sail
and attempted to close with the English; but the low, sharp English
ships sailed two feet to the one of the floating castles of Spain,
and could sail close to the wind, while the Spanish ships, if they
attempted to close haul their sails, drifted bodily to leeward.
Howard's flagship, the Ark Raleigh, with three other English ships,
opened the engagement by running down along their rear line, firing
into each galleon as they passed, then wearing round and repeating
the manoeuvre. The great San Mateo luffed out from the rest of the
fleet and challenged them to board, but they simply poured their
second broadside into her and passed on.

The excellence of the manoeuvring of the English ships, and the
rapidity and accuracy of their fire, astonished the Spaniards.
Throughout the whole forenoon the action continued; the Spaniards
making efforts to close, but in vain, the English ships keeping
the weather gage and sailing continually backwards and forwards,
pouring in their broadsides. The height and size of the Spanish ships
were against them; and being to leeward they heeled over directly
they came up to the wind to fire a broadside, and their shots for
the most part went far over their assailants, while they themselves
suffered severely from the English fire. Miquel de Oquendo, who
commanded one of the six Spanish squadrons, distinguished himself
by his attempts to close with the English, and by maintaining his
position in the rear of the fleet engaged in constant conflict with
them.

He was a young nobleman of great promise, distinguished alike for
his bravery and chivalrous disposition; but he could do little
while the wind remained in the west and the English held the weather
gage. So far only the ships that had been anchored out under Ram
Head had taken part in the fight, those lying higher up in the
Sound being unable to make their way out. At noon the exertions of
their crews, who had from the preceding evening worked incessantly,
prevailed, and they were now seen coming out from behind the headland
to take part in the struggle. Medina Sidonia signalled to his fleet
to make sail up Channel, Martinez de Ricaldo covering the rear
with the squadron of Biscay. He was vice admiral of the fleet, and
considered to be the best seaman Spain possessed now that Santa
Cruz was dead.

The wind was now rising. Lord Howard sent off a fast boat with
letters to Lord Henry Seymour, telling him how things had gone so
far, and bidding him be prepared for the arrival of the Spanish
fleet in the Downs. As the afternoon went on the wind rose, and a
rolling sea came in from the west. Howard still hung upon the Spanish
rear, firing but seldom in order to save his powder. As evening
fell, the Spanish vessels, huddled closely together, frequently came
into collision with one another, and in one of these the Capitana,
the flagship of the Andalusian division, commanded by Admiral
Pedro de Valdez, had her bowsprit carried away, the foremast fell
overboard, and the ship dropped out of her place.

Two of the galleasses came to her assistance and tried to take her
in tow, but the waves were running so high that the cable broke.
Pedro de Valdez had been commander of the Spanish fleet on the coast
of Holland, and knew the English Channel and the northern shores
of France and Holland well.

The duke therefore despatched boats to bring him off with his
crew, but he refused to leave his charge. Howard, as with his ships
he passed her, believed her to be deserted and went on after the
fleet; but a London vessel kept close to her and exchanged shots
with her all night, until Drake, who had turned aside to chase what
he believed to be a portion of the Spanish fleet that had separated
itself from the rest, but which turned out to be the merchant ships
that had joined it for protection, came up, and the Capitana struck
her flag. Drake took her into Torbay, and there left her in the
care of the Brixham fishermen, and taking with him Valdez and the
other officers sailed away to join Lord Howard. The fishermen, on
searching the ship, found some tons of gunpowder on board her.

Knowing the scarcity of ammunition in the fleet they placed this
on board the Roebuck, the fastest trawler in the harbour, and she
started at once in pursuit of the fleet.

The misfortune to the Capitana was not the only one that befell
the Spaniards. While Oquendo was absent from his galleon a quarrel
arose among the officers, who were furious at the ill result of the
day's fighting. The captain struck the master gunner with a stick;
the latter, a German, rushed below in a rage, thrust a burning fuse
into a powder barrel, and sprang through a porthole into the sea.
The whole of the deck was blown up, with two hundred sailors and
soldiers; but the ship was so strongly built that she survived the
shock, and her mast still stood.

The duke sent boats to learn what had happened. These carried
off the few who remained unhurt, but there was no means of taking
off the wounded. These, however, were treated kindly and sent on
shore when the ship was picked up at daylight by the English, who,
on rifling her, found to their delight that there were still many
powder barrels on board that had escaped the explosion.

The morning broke calm, and the wind, when it came, was from the
east, which gave the Spaniards the advantage of position. The two
fleets lay idle all day three or four miles apart, and the next
morning, as the wind was still from the east, the Spaniards bore
down upon Howard to offer battle.

The English, however, headed out to sea. Encouraged by seeing
their assailants avoid a pitched battle the Spaniards gave chase.
The San Marcos, the fastest sailer in the fleet, left the rest
behind, and when the breeze headed round at noon she was several
miles to windward of her consorts, and the English at once set upon
her. She fought with extreme courage, and defended herself single
handed for an hour and a half, when Oquendo came up to the rescue,
and as the action off Plymouth had almost exhausted his stock
of powder, and the Brixham sloop had not yet come up, Howard was
obliged to draw off.

The action of this day was fought off Portland. During the three
days the British fleet had been to sea they had received almost
hourly reinforcements. From every harbour and fishing port along
the coast from Plymouth to the Isle of Wight vessels of all sizes,
smacks, and boats put off, crowded with noblemen and gentlemen
anxious to take part in the action, and their enthusiasm added to
that of the weary and ill fed sailors. At the end of the third day
the English fleet had increased to a hundred sail, many of which,
however, were of very small burden.



CHAPTER IX

THE ROUT OF THE ARMADA


The fight between the fleets had begun on Sunday morning, and at the
end of the third day the strength of the Armada remained unbroken.
The moral effect had no doubt been great, but the loss of two or
three ships was a trifle to so large a force, and the spirit of
the Spaniards had been raised by the gallant and successful defence
the San Marcos had made on the Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday was
again calm. The magazines of the English ships were empty. Though
express after express had been sent off praying that ammunition
might be sent, none had arrived, and the two fleets lay six miles
apart without action, save that the galleasses came out and skirmished
for a while with the English ships.

That evening, however, a supply of ammunition sufficient for another
day's fighting arrived, and soon after daybreak the English fleet
moved down towards the Armada, and for the first time engaged them
at close quarters. The Ark Raleigh, the Bear, the Elizabeth Jones,
the Lion, and the Victory bore on straight into the centre of the
Spanish galleons, exchanging broadsides with each as they passed.
Oquendo with his vessel was right in the course of the English
flagship, and a collision took place, in which the Ark Raleigh's
rudder was unshipped, and she became unmanageable.

The enemy's vessels closed round her, but she lowered her boats,
and these, in spite of the fire of the enemy, brought her head round
before the wind, and she made her way through her antagonists and
got clear. For several hours the battle continued. The Spanish fire
was so slow, and their ships so unwieldy, that it was rarely they
succeeded in firing a shot into their active foes, while the English
shot tore their way through the massive timbers of the Spanish
vessels, scattering the splinters thickly among the soldiers, who
had been sent below to be out of harm's way; but beyond this, and
inflicting much damage upon masts and spars, the day's fighting
had no actual results. No captures were made by the English.

The Spaniards suffered, but made no sign; nevertheless their
confidence in their powers was shaken. Their ammunition was also
running short, and they had no hope of refilling their magazines
until they effected a junction with Parma. Their admiral that night
wrote to him asking that two shiploads of shot and powder might
be sent to him immediately. "The enemy pursue me," he said; "they
fire upon me most days from morning till nightfall, but they will
not close and grapple. I have given them every opportunity. I
have purposely left ships exposed to tempt them to board, but they
decline to do it; and there is no remedy, for they are swift and we
are slow. They have men and ammunition in abundance." The Spanish
admiral was unaware that the English magazines were even more empty
than his own.

On Friday morning Howard sailed for Dover to take in the supplies
that were so sorely needed. The Earl of Sussex, who was in command
of the castle, gave him all that he had, and the stores taken from
the prizes came up in light vessels and were divided among the
fleet, and in the evening the English fleet again sailed out and
took up its place in the rear of the Armada. On Saturday morning
the weather changed. After six days of calm and sunshine it began
to blow hard from the west, with driving showers. The Spaniards,
having no pilots who knew the coasts, anchored off Calais. The
English fleet, closely watching their movements, brought up two
miles astern.

The Spanish admiral sent off another urgent letter to Parma
at Dunkirk, begging him to send immediately thirty or forty fast
gunboats to keep the English at bay. Parma had received the admiral's
letters, and was perfectly ready to embark his troops, but could
not do this as the admiral expected he would, until the fleet came
up to protect him. The lighters and barges he had constructed for
the passage were only fit to keep the sea in calm weather, and
would have been wholly at the mercy of even a single English ship
of war. He could not, therefore, embark his troops until the duke
arrived. As to the gunboats asked for, he had none with him.

But while the Spanish admiral had grave cause for uneasiness in
the situation in which he found himself, Lord Howard had no greater
reason for satisfaction. In spite of his efforts the enemy's
fleet had arrived at their destination with their strength still
unimpaired, and were in communication with the Duke of Parma's
army. Lord Seymour had come up with a squadron from the mouth of
the Thames, but his ships had but one day's provisions on board,
while Drake and Howard's divisions had all but exhausted their
supplies. The previous day's fighting had used up the ammunition
obtained at Dover. Starvation would drive every English ship from
the sea in another week at the latest. The Channel would then be
open for the passage of Parma's army.

At five o'clock on Sunday evening a council of war was held in Lord
Howard's cabin, and it was determined, that as it was impossible
to attack the Spanish Fleet where they lay at the edge of shallow
water, an attempt must be made to drive them out into the Channel
with fireships. Eight of the private vessels were accordingly taken,
and such combustibles as could be found--pitch, tar, old sails,
empty casks, and other materials--were piled into them. At
midnight the tide set directly from the English fleet towards the
Spaniards, and the fireships, manned by their respective crews,
hoisted sail and drove down towards them.

When near the Armada the crews set fire to the combustibles, and
taking to their boats rowed back to the fleet. At the sight of the
flames bursting up from the eight ships bearing down upon them,
the Spaniards were seized with a panic. The admiral fired a gun as
a signal, and all cut their cables and hoisted sail, and succeeded
in getting out to sea before the fireships arrived. They lay to six
miles from shore, intending to return in the morning and recover
their anchors; but Drake with his division of the fleet, and Seymour
with the squadron from the Thames, weighed their anchors and stood
off after them, while Howard with his division remained off Calais,
where, in the morning, the largest of the four galleasses was seen
aground on Calais Bar. Lord Howard wasted many precious hours in
capturing her before he set off to join Drake and Seymour, who were
thundering against the Spanish fleet. The wind had got up during
the night, and the Spaniards had drifted farther than they expected,
and when morning dawned were scattered over the sea off Gravelines.
Signals were made for them to collect, but before they could do so
Drake and Seymour came up and opened fire within pistol shot. The
English admiral saw at once that, with the wind rising from the
south, if he could drive the unwieldy galleons north they would
be cut off from Dunkirk, and would not be able to beat back again
until there was a change of wind.

All through the morning the English ships poured a continuous
shower of shot into the Spanish vessels, which, huddled together
in a confused mass, were unable to make any return whatever. The
duke and Oquendo, with some of the best sailors among the Fleet,
tried to beat out from the crowd and get room to manoeuvre, but
Drake's ships were too weatherly and too well handled to permit
of this, and they were driven back again into the confused mass,
which was being slowly forced towards the shoals and banks of the
coasts.

Howard came up at noon with his division, and until sunset the fire
was maintained, by which time almost the last cartridge was spent,
and the crews worn our by their incessant labour. They took no
prizes, for they never attempted to board. They saw three great
galleons go down, and three more drift away towards the sands of
Ostend, where they were captured either by the English garrisoned
there or by three vessels sent by Lord Willoughby from Flushing,
under the command of Francis Vere. Had the English ammunition lasted
but a few more hours the whole of the Armada would have been either
driven ashore or sunk; but when the last cartridge had been burned
the assailants drew off to take on board the stores which had,
while the fighting was going on, been brought up by some provision
ships from the Thames.

But the Spaniards were in no condition to benefit by the cessation
of the attack. In spite of the terrible disadvantages under which
they laboured, they had fought with splendid courage. The sides of
the galleons had been riddled with shot, and the splinters caused by
the rending of the massive timbers had done even greater execution
than the iron hail. Being always to leeward, and heeling over
with the wind, the ships had been struck again and again below the
waterline, and many were only kept from sinking by nailing sheets
of lead over the shot holes.

Their guns were, for the most part, dismounted or knocked to pieces.
Several had lost masts, the carnage among the crews was frightful,
and yet not a single ship hauled down her colours. The San Mateo,
which was one of those that grounded between Ostend and Sluys,
fought to the last, and kept Francis Vere's three ships at bay for
two hours, until she was at last carried by boarding.

Left to themselves at the end of the day, the Spaniards gathered
in what order they could, and made sail for the north. On counting
the losses they found that four thousand men had been killed or
drowned, and the number of wounded must have been far greater. The
crews were utterly worn out and exhausted. They had the day before
been kept at work cleaning and refitting, and the fireships had
disturbed them early in the night. During the engagement there had
been no time to serve out food, and the labours of the long struggle
had completely exhausted them. Worst of all, they were utterly
disheartened by the day's fighting. They had been pounded by their
active foes, who fired five shots to their one, and whose vessels
sailed round and round them, while they themselves had inflicted
no damage that they could perceive upon their assailants.

The English admirals had no idea of the extent of the victory they
had won. Howard, who had only come up in the middle of the fight,
believed that they "were still wonderful great and strong," while
even Drake, who saw more clearly how much they had suffered,
only ventured to hope that some days at least would elapse before
they could join hands with Parma. In spite of the small store of
ammunition that had arrived the night before, the English magazines
were almost empty; but they determined to show a good front, and
"give chase as though they wanted nothing."

When the morning dawned the English fleet were still to windward
of the Armada, while to leeward were lines of white foam, where
the sea was breaking on the shoals of Holland. It seemed that the
Armada was lost. At this critical moment the wind suddenly shifted
to the east. This threw the English fleet to leeward, and enabled
the Spaniards to head out from the coast and make for the North
Sea. The Spanish admiral held a council. The sea had gone down,
and they had now a fair wind for Calais; and the question was put
to the sailing masters and captains whether they should return into
the Channel or sail north round Scotland and Ireland, and so return
to Spain. The former was the courageous course, but the spirit of the
Spaniards was broken, and the vote was in favour of what appeared
a way of escape. Therefore, the shattered Fleet bore on its way
north. On board the English fleet a similar council was being held,
and it was determined that Lord Seymour's squadron should return to
guard the Channel, lest Parma should take advantage of the absence
of the fleet to cross from Dunkirk to England, and that Howard and
Drake with their ninety ships should pursue the Spaniards; for it
was not for a moment supposed that the latter had entirely abandoned
their enterprise, and intended to return to Spain without making
another effort to rejoin Parma.

During the week's fighting Geoffrey and Lionel Vickars had taken
such part as they could in the contest; but as there had been
no hand to hand fighting, the position of the volunteers on board
the fleet had been little more than that of spectators. The crews
worked the guns and manoeuvred the sails, and the most the lads
could do was to relieve the ship boys in carrying up powder and
shot, and to take round drink to men serving the guns. When not
otherwise engaged they had watched with intense excitement the
manoeuvres of their own ship and of those near them, as they swept
down towards the great hulls, delivered their broadsides, and then
shot off again before the Spaniards had had time to discharge more
than a gun or two. The sails had been pierced in several places,
but not a single shot had struck the hull of the vessel. In the
last day's fighting, however, the Active became entangled among
several of the Spanish galleons, and being almost becalmed by their
lofty hulls, one of them ran full at her, and rolling heavily in
the sea, seemed as if she would overwhelm her puny antagonist.

Geoffrey was standing at the end of the poop when the mizzen rigging
became entangled in the stern gallery of the Spaniard, and a moment
later the mast snapped off, and as it fell carried him overboard.
For a moment he was half stunned, but caught hold of a piece of
timber shot away from one of the enemy's ships, and clung to it
mechanically. When he recovered and looked round, the Active had
drawn out from between the Spaniards, and the great galleon which
had so nearly sunk her was close beside him.

The sea was in a turmoil; the waves as they set in from the west
being broken up by the rolling of the great ships, and torn by the
hail of shot. The noise was prodigious, from the incessant cannonade
kept up by the English ships and the return of the artillery on
board the Armada, the rending of timber, the heavy crashes as the
great galleons rolled against one another, the shouting on board
the Spanish ships, the creaking of the masts and yards, and the
flapping of the sails.

On trying to strike out, Geoffrey found that as he had been knocked
overboard he had struck his right knee severely against the rail
of the vessel, and was at present unable to use that leg. Fearful
of being run down by one of the great ships, and still more of being
caught between two of them as they rolled, he looked round to try
to get sight of an English ship in the throng. Then, seeing that
he was entirely surrounded by Spaniards, he left the spar and swam
as well as he could to the bow of a great ship close beside him,
and grasping a rope trailing from the bowsprit, managed by its aid
to climb up until he reached the bobstay, across which he seated
himself with his back to the stem. The position was a precarious
one, and after a time he gained the wooden carved work above, and
obtained a seat there just below the bowsprit, and hidden from the
sight of those on deck a few feet above him. As he knew the vessels
were drifting to leeward towards the shoals, he hoped to remain
hidden until the vessel struck, and then to gain the shore.

Presently the shifting of the positions of the ships brought the
vessel on which he was into the outside line. The shots now flew
thickly about, and he could from time to time feel a jar as the
vessel was struck.

So an hour went on. At the end of that time he heard a great shouting
on deck, and the sound of men running to and fro. Happening to look
down he saw that the sea was but a few feet below him, and knew
that the great galleon was sinking. Another quarter of an hour she
was so much lower that he was sure she could nor swim many minutes
longer; and to avoid being drawn down with her he dropped into the
water and swam off. He was but a short distance away when he heard
a loud cry, and glancing over his shoulder saw the ship disappearing.
He swam desperately, but was caught in the suck and carried under;
but there was no great depth of water, and he soon came to the
surface again. The sea was dotted with struggling men and pieces
of wreckage. He swam to one of the latter, and held on until he
saw some boats, which the next Spanish ship had lowered when she
saw her consort disappearing, rowing towards them, and was soon
afterwards hauled into one of them. He had closed his eyes as it
came up, and assumed the appearance of insensibility, and he lay
in the bottom of the boat immovable, until after a time he heard
voices above, and then felt himself being carried up the ladder
and laid down on the deck.

He remained quiet for some rime, thinking over what he had best do.
He was certain that were it known he was English he would at once
be stabbed and thrown overboard, for there was no hope of quarter;
but he was for some time unable to devise any plan by which, even
for a short rime, to conceal his nationality. He only knew a few
words of Spanish, and would be detected the moment he opened his
lips. He thought of leaping up suddenly and jumping overboard;
but his chance of reaching the English ships to windward would be
slight indeed. At last an idea struck him, and sitting up he opened
his eyes and looked round. Several other Spaniards who had been
picked up lay exhausted on the deck near him. A party of soldiers
and sailors close by were working a cannon. The bulwarks were
shot away in many places, dead and dying men lay scattered about,
the decks were everywhere stained with blood, and no one paid any
attention to him until presently the fire began to slacken. Shortly
afterwards a Spanish officer came up and spoke to him.

Geoffrey rose to his feet, rubbed his eyes, yawned, and burst into
an idiotic laugh. The officer spoke again but he paid no attention,
and the Spaniard turned away, believing that the lad had lost his
senses from fear and the horrors of the day.

As night came on he was several times addressed, but always with
the same result. When after dark food and wine were served out,
he seized the portion offered to him, and hurrying away crouched
under the shelter of a gun, and devoured it as if fearing it would
be taken from him again.

When he saw that the sailors were beginning to repair some of the
most necessary ropes and stays that had been shot away, he pushed
his way through them and took his share of the work, laughing
idiotically from time to time. He had, when he saw that the galleon
was sinking, taken off his doublet, the better to be able to swim,
and in his shirt and trunks there was nothing to distinguish him
from a Spaniard, and none suspected that he was other than he seemed
to be--a ship's boy, who had lost his senses from fear. When the
work was done, he threw himself on the deck with the weary sailors.
His hopes were that the battle would be renewed in the morning, and
that either the ship might be captured, or that an English vessel
might pass so close alongside that he might leap over and swim to
her.

Great was his disappointment next day when the sudden change of
wind gave the Spanish fleet the weather gage, and enabled them to
steer away for the north. He joined in the work of the crew, paying
no attention whatever to what was passing around him, or heeding
in the slightest the remarks made to him. Once or twice when an
officer spoke to him sternly he gave a little cry, ran to the side,
and crouched down as if in abject fear. In a very short time no
attention was paid to him, and he was suffered to go about as he
chose, being regarded as a harmless imbecile. He was in hopes that
the next day the Spaniards would change their course and endeavour
to beat back to the Channel, and was at once disappointed and
surprised as they sped on before the southwesterly wind, which
was hourly increasing in force. Some miles behind he could see the
English squadron in pursuit; but these made no attempt to close
up, being well contented to see the Armada sailing away, and being
too straitened in ammunition to wish to bring on an engagement so
long as the Spaniards were following their present course.

The wind blew with ever increasing force; the lightly ballasted
ships made bad weather, rolling deep in the seas, straining heavily,
and leaking badly through the opening seams and the hastily stopped
shot holes. Water was extremely scarce, and at a signal from the
admiral all the horses and mules were thrown overboard in order
to husband the supply. Several of the masts, badly injured by the
English shot, went by the board, and the vessels dropped behind
crippled, to be picked up by the pursuing fleet.

Lord Howard followed as far as the mouth of the Forth; and seeing
that the Spaniards made no effort to enter the estuary, and his
provisions being now well nigh exhausted, he hove the fleet about
and made back for the Channel, leaving two small vessels only to
follow the Armada and watch its course, believing that it would
make for Denmark, refit there, and then return to rejoin Parma.

It was a grievous disappointment to the English to be thus forced
by want of provisions to relinquish the pursuit. Had they been
properly supplied with provisions and ammunition they could have
made an end of the Armada; whereas, they believed that by allowing
them now to escape the whole work would have to be done over again.
They had sore trouble to get back again off the Norfolk coast. The
wind became so furious that the fleet was scattered. A few of the
largest ships reached Margate; others were driven into Harwich,
others with difficulty kept the sea until the storm broke.

It might have been thought that after such service as the fleet
had rendered even Elizabeth might have been generous; but now that
the danger was over, she became more niggardly than ever. No fresh
provisions were supplied for the sick men, and though in the fight
off the Dutch coast only some fifty or sixty had been killed, in
the course of a very short time the crews were so weakened by deaths
and disease that scarce a ship could have put to sea, however urgent
the necessity. Drake and Howard spent every penny they could raise
in buying fresh meat and vegetables, and in procuring some sort of
shelter on shore for the sick. Had the men received the wages due
to them they could have made a shift to have purchased what they
so urgently required; but though the Treasury was full of money,
not a penny was forthcoming until every item of the accounts had
been investigated and squabbled over. Howard was compelled to pay
from his private purse for everything that had been purchased at
Plymouth, Sir John Hawkins was absolutely ruined by the demands
made on him to pay for necessaries supplied to the fleet, and had
the admirals and sailors of the fleet that saved England behaved
like ignominious cowards, their treatment could not have been worse
than that which they received at the hands of their sovereign.

But while the English seamen were dying like sheep from disease
and neglect, their conquered foes were faring no better. They had
breathed freely for the first time when they saw the English fleet
bear up; an examination was made of the provisions that were left,
and the crews were placed on rations of eight ounces of bread,
half a pint of wine, and a pint of water a day. The fleet was still
a great one, for of the hundred and fifty ships which had sailed
from Corunna, a hundred and twenty still held together. The weather
now turned bitterly cold, with fog and mist, squalls and driving
showers; and the vessels, when they reached the north coast of
Scotland, lost sight of each other, and each struggled for herself
in the tempestuous sea.

A week later the weather cleared, and on the 9th of August Geoffrey
looking round at daybreak saw fifteen other ships in sight. Among
these were the galleons of Calderon and Ricaldo, the Rita, San
Marcos, and eleven other vessels. Signals were flying from all of
them, but the sea was so high that it was scarce possible to lower
a boat. That night it again blew hard and the fog closed in, and
in the morning Geoffrey found that the ship he was on, and all
the others, with the exception of that of Calderon, were steering
north; the intention of Ricaldo and De Leyva being to make for the
Orkneys and refit there. Calderon had stood south, and had come
upon Sidonia with fifty ships; and these, bearing well away to the
west of Ireland, finally succeeded for the most part in reaching
Spain, their crews reduced by sickness and want to a mere shadow
of their original strength.

The cold became bitter as De Leyva's ships made their way towards
the Orkneys. The storm was furious, and the sailors, unaccustomed
to the cold and weakened by disease and famine, could no longer
work their ships, and De Leyva was obliged at last to abandon
his intention and make south. One galleon was driven on the Faroe
Islands, a second on the Orkneys, and a third on the Isle of Mull,
where it was attacked by the natives and burned with almost every
one on board. The rest managed to make the west coast of Ireland,
and the hope that they would find shelter in Galway Bay, or the
mouth of the Shannon, began to spring up in the breasts of the
exhausted crews.

The Irish were their co-religionists and allies, and had only been
waiting for news of the success of the Armada to rise in arms against
the English, who had but few troops there. Rumours of disaster had
arrived, and a small frigate had been driven into Tralee Bay. The
fears of the garrison at Tralee Castle overcame their feelings of
humanity, and all on board were put to death. Two galleons put into
Dingle, and landing begged for water; but the natives, deciding
that the Spanish cause was a lost one, refused to give them a drop,
seized the men who had landed in the boats, and the galleons had
to put to sea again.

Another ship of a thousand tons, Our Lady of the Rosary, was driven
into the furious straits between the Blasket Islands and the coast
of Kerry. Of her crew of seven hundred, five hundred had died.
Before she got halfway through she struck among the breakers, and
all the survivors perished save the son of the pilot, who was washed
ashore lashed to a plank. Six others who had reached the mouth of
the Shannon sent their boats ashore for water; but although there
were no English there the Irish feared to supply them, even though
the Spaniards offered any sum of money for a few casks. One of the
ships was abandoned and the others put to sea, only to be dashed
ashore in the same gale that wrecked Our Lady of the Rosary, and
of all their crews only one hundred and fifty men were cast ashore
alive. Along the coast of Connemara, Mayo, and Sligo many other
ships were wrecked. In almost every case the crews who reached the
shore were at once murdered by the native savages for the sake of
their clothes and jewellery.

Geoffrey had suffered as much as the rest of the crew on board
the galleon in which he sailed. All were so absorbed by their own
suffering and misery that none paid any attention to the idiot boy
in their midst. He worked at such work as there was to do: assisted
to haul on the ropes, to throw the dead overboard, and to do what
could be done for the sick and wounded. Like all on board he was
reduced almost to a skeleton, and was scarce able to stand.

As the surviving ships passed Galway Bay, one of them, which was
leaking so badly that she could only have been kept afloat a few
hours in any case, entered it, and brought up opposite the town. Don
Lewis of Cordova, who commanded, sent a party on shore, believing
that in Galway, between which town and Spain there had always been
close connections, they would be well received. They were, however,
at once taken prisoners. An attempt was made to get up the anchors
again, but the crew were too feeble to be able to do so, and the
natives coming out in their boats, all were taken prisoners and sent
on shore. Sir Richard Bingham, the governor of Connaught, arrived
in a few hours, and at once despatched search parties through Clare
and Connemara to bring all Spaniards cast ashore alive to the town,
and sent his son to Mayo to fetch down all who landed there. But
young Bingham's mission proved useless; every Spaniard who had
landed had been murdered by the natives, well nigh three thousand
having been slain by the axes and knives of the savages who professed
to be their co-religionists.

Sir Richard Bingham was regarded as a humane man, but he feared
the consequences should the eleven hundred prisoners collected at
Galway be restored to health and strength. He had but a handful of
troops under him, and had had the greatest difficulty in keeping
down the Irish alone. With eleven hundred Spanish soldiers to aid
them the task would be impossible, and accordingly he gave orders
that all, with the exception of Don Lewis himself, and three or
four other nobles, should be executed. The order was carried out;
Don Lewis, with those spared, was sent under an escort to Dublin,
but the others being too feeble to walk were killed or died on the
way, and Don Lewis himself was the sole survivor out of the crews
of a dozen ships.

De Leyva, the most popular officer in the Armada, had with him in
his ship two hundred and fifty young nobles of the oldest families
in Spain. He was twice wrecked. The first time all reached the
shore in safety, and were protected by O'Niel, who was virtually
the sovereign of the north of Ulster. He treated them kindly for
a time. They then took to sea again, but were finally wrecked off
Dunluce, and all on board save five perished miserably. Over eight
thousand Spaniards died on the Irish coast. Eleven hundred were put
to death by Bingham, three thousand murdered by the Irish, the rest
drowned; and of the whole Armada but fifty-four vessels, carrying
between nine and ten thousand worn out men, reached Spain, and of
the survivors a large proportion afterwards died from the effects
of the sufferings they had endured.



CHAPTER X

THE WAR IN HOLLAND


In the confusion caused by the collision of the Active with the
Spanish galleon no one had noticed the accident which had befallen
Geoffrey Vickars, and his brother's distress was great when, on the
ship getting free from among the Spaniards, he discovered that
Geoffrey was missing. He had been by his side on the poop but
a minute before the mast fell, and had no doubt that he had been
carried overboard by its wreck. That he had survived he had not
the least hope, and when a week later the Active on her way back
towards the Thames was driven into Harwich, he at once landed and
carried the sad news to his parents. England was wild with joy at
its deliverance, but the household at Hedingham was plunged into
deep sorrow.

Weeks passed and then Lionel received a letter from Francis Vere
saying that Parma's army was advancing into Holland, and that as
active work was at hand he had best, if his intentions remained
unchanged, join him without delay.

He started two days later for Harwich, and thence took ship for
Bergen op Zoom. Anchoring at Flushing, he learned that the Duke of
Parma had already sat down in front of Bergen op Zoom, and had on
the 7th attempted to capture Tholen on the opposite side of the
channel, but had been repulsed by the regiment of Count Solms, with
a loss of 400 men. He had then thrown up works against the water
forts, and hot fighting had gone on, the garrison making frequent
sallies upon the besiegers. The water forts still held out, and
the captain therefore determined to continue his voyage into the
town. The ship was fired at by the Spanish batteries, but passed
safely between the water forts and dropped anchor in the port on
the last day of September, Lionel having been absent from Holland
just a year. He landed at once and made his way to the lodgings of
Francis Vere, by whom he was received with great cordiality.

"I was greatly grieved," he said after the first greetings, "to
hear of your brother's death. I felt it as if he had been a near
relative of my own. I had hoped to see you both; and that affair
concerning which my cousin wrote to me, telling me how cleverly
you had discovered a plot against the queen's life, showed me that
you would both be sure to make your way. Your father and mother
must have felt the blow terribly?"

"They have indeed," Lionel said. "I do not think, however, that
they altogether give up hope. They cling to the idea that he may
have been picked up by some Spanish ship and may now be a prisoner
in Spain."

Francis Vere shook his head.

"Of course, I know," Lionel went on, "their hope is altogether
without foundation; for even had Geoffrey gained one of their
ships, he would at once have been thrown overboard. Still I rather
encouraged the idea, for it is better that hope should die out
gradually than be extinguished at a blow; and slight though it
was it enabled my father and mother to bear up better than they
otherwise would have done. Had it not been for that I believe that
my mother would have well nigh sunk beneath it. I was very glad
when I got your letter, for active service will be a distraction to
my sorrow. We have ever been together, Geoffrey and I, and I feel
like one lost without him. You have not had much fighting here, I
think, since I have been away?"

"No, indeed; you have been far more lucky than I have," Francis Vere
said. "With the exception of the fight with the San Mateo I have
been idle ever since I saw you, for not a shot has been fired here,
while you have been taking part in the great fight for the very
existence of our country. It is well that Parma has been wasting
nine months at Dunkirk, for it would have gone hard with us had
he marched hither instead of waiting there for the arrival of the
Armada. Our force here has fallen away to well nigh nothing. The
soldiers could get no pay, and were almost starved; their clothes
were so ragged that it was pitiful to see them. Great numbers have
died, and more gone back to England. As to the Dutch, they are more
occupied in quarrelling with us than in preparing for defence, and
they would right willingly see us go so that we did but deliver
Flushing and Brill and this town back again to them. I was truly
glad when I heard that Parma had broken up his camp at Dunkirk
when the Armada sailed away, and was marching hither. Now that he
has come, it may be that these wretched disputes will come to an
end, and that something like peace and harmony will prevail in our
councils. He could not have done better, as far as we are concerned,
than in coming to knock his head against these walls; for Bergen
is far too strong for him to take, and he will assuredly meet with
no success here such as would counterbalance in any way the blow
that Spanish pride has suffered in the defeat of the Armada. I
think, Lionel, that you have outgrown your pageship, and since you
have been fighting as a gentleman volunteer in Drake's fleet you
had best take the same rank here."

The siege went on but slowly. Vigorous sorties were made, and the
cavalry sometimes sallied out from the gates and made excursions as
far as Wouw, a village three miles away, and took many prisoners.
Among these were two commissaries of ordnance, who were intrusted
to the safe keeping of the Deputy Provost Redhead. They were not
strictly kept, and were allowed to converse with the provost's
friends. One of these, William Grimeston, suspected that one of
the commissaries, who pretended to be an Italian, was really an
English deserter who had gone over with the traitor Stanley; and
in order to see if his suspicions were correct, pretended that he
was dissatisfied with his position and would far rather be fighting
on the other side. The man at once fell into the trap, acknowledged
that he was an Englishman, and said that if Grimeston and Redhead
would but follow his advice they would soon become rich men, for
that if they could arrange to give up one of the forts to Parma
they would be magnificently rewarded.

Redhead and Grimeston pretended to agree, but at once informed Lord
Willoughby, who was in command, of the offer that had been made to
them. They were ordered to continue their negotiations with the
traitor. The latter furnished them with letters to Stanley and
Parma, and with these they made their way out of the town at night
to the Spanish camp. They had an interview with the duke, and
promised to deliver the north water fort over to him, for which
service Redhead was to receive 1200 crowns and Grimeston 700 crowns,
and a commission in Stanley's regiment of traitors.

Stanley himself entertained them in his tent, and Parma presented
them with two gold chains. They then returned to Bergen and related
all that had taken place to Lord Willoughby. The matter was kept
a profound secret in the town, Francis Vere, who was in command of
the north fort, and a few others only being made acquainted with
what was going on.

On the appointed night, 22d of October, Grimeston went out alone,
Redhead's supposed share of the business being to open the gates
of the fort. When Grimeston arrived at Parma's camp he found that
the Spaniards had become suspicious. He was bound and placed in
charge of a Spanish captain, who was ordered to stab him at once
if there was any sign of treachery. It was a dark night; the tide
was out, for the land over which the Spaniards had to advance was
flooded at other times. The attacking column consisted of three
thousand men, including Stanley's regiment; and a number of knights
and nobles accompanied it as volunteers.

As they approached the forts--Grimeston in front closely guarded
by the Spanish captain--it was seen by the assailants that Redhead
had kept his word: the drawbridge across the moat was down and the
portcullis was up. Within the fort Lord Willoughby, Vere, and two
thousand men were waiting for them. When about fifty had crossed the
drawbridge the portcullis was suddenly let fall and the drawbridge
hauled up. As the portcullis thundered down Grimeston tripped up
the surprised Spaniard, and, leaping into the water, managed to
make his way to the foot of the walls. A discharge of musketry and
artillery from the fort killed a hundred and fifty of the attacking
party, while those who had crossed the drawbridge were all either
killed or taken prisoners. But the water in the moat was low. The
Spaniards gallantly waded across and attacked the palisades, but
were repulsed in their endeavour to climb them. While the fight was
going on the water in the moat was rising, and scores were washed
away and drowned as they attempted to return.

Parma continued the siege for some little time, but made no real
attempt to take the place after having been repulsed at the north
fort; and on the 12th of November broke up his camp and returned
to Brussels.

After the siege was over Lord Willoughby knighted twelve of
his principal officers, foremost among whom was Francis Vere, who
was now sent home with despatches by his general, and remained in
England until the end of January, when he was appointed sergeant
major general of the forces, a post of great responsibility and much
honour, by Lord Willoughby, with the full approval of the queen's
government. He was accompanied on his return by his brother Robert.

A month after Sir Francis Vere's return Lord Willoughby left
for England, and the whole burden of operations in the field fell
upon Vere. His first trouble arose from the mutinous conduct of
the garrison of Gertruydenberg. This was an important town on the
banks of the old Maas, and was strongly fortified, one side being
protected by the Maas while the river Douge swept round two other
sides of its walls. Its governor, Count Hohenlohe, had been unpopular,
the troops had received no pay, and there had been a partial mutiny
before the siege of Bergen op Zoom began. This was appeased, by
the appointment of Sir John Wingfield, Lord Willoughby's brother
in law, as its governor.

In the winter the discontent broke out again. The soldiers had been
most unjustly treated by the States, and there were long arrears
of pay, and at first Sir John Wingfield espoused the cause of the
men. Sir Francis Vere tried in vain to arrange matters. The Dutch
authorities would not pay up the arrears, the men would not return
to their duty until they did so, and at last became so exasperated
that they ceased to obey their governor and opened communications
with the enemy. Prince Maurice, who was now three and twenty years
old, and devoted to martial pursuits and the cause of his countrymen,
after consultation with Sir Francis Vere, laid siege to the town
and made a furious assault upon it on the water aide. But the Dutch
troops, although led by Count Solms and Count Philip of Nassau,
were repulsed with great loss. The prince then promised nor only
a pardon, but that the demands of the garrison should be complied
with; but it was too late, and four days later Gertruydenberg was
delivered up by the mutineers to the Duke of Parma, the soldiers
being received into the Spanish service, while Wingfield and the
officers were permitted to retire.

The States were furious, as this was the third city commanded by
Englishmen that had been handed over to the enemy. The bad feeling
excited by the treachery of Sir William Stanley and Roland Yorke
at Deventer and Zutphen had died out after the gallant defence of
the English at Sluys, but now broke out again afresh, and charges
of treachery were brought not only against Wingfield but against
many other English officers, including Sir Francis Vere. The
queen, however, wrote so indignantly to the States that they had
to withdraw their charges against most of the English officers.

In May Lord Willoughby, who was still in London, resigned his command.
A number of old officers of distinction who might have laid claims
to succeed him, among them Sir John Norris, Sir Roger Williams,
Sir Thomas Wilford, Sir William Drury, Sir Thomas Baskerville, and
Sir John Burrough, were withdrawn from the Netherlands to serve in
France or Ireland, and no general in chief or lieutenant general was
appointed, Sir Francis Vere as sergeant major receiving authority
to command all soldiers already in the field or to be sent out during
the absence of the general and lieutenant general. His official
title was Her Majesty's Sergeant Major in the Field. The garrisons
in the towns were under the command of their own governors, and
those could supply troops for service in the field according to
their discretion.

The appointment of so young a man as Sir Francis Vere to a post
demanding not only military ability but great tact and diplomatic
power, was abundant proof of the high estimate formed of him
by the queen and her counsellors. The position was one of extreme
difficulty. He had to keep on good terms with the queen and her
government, with the government of the States, the English agent at
the Hague, Prince Maurice in command of the army of the Netherlands,
the English governors of the towns, and the officers or men of the
force under his own command. Fortunately Barneveldt, who at that
time was the most prominent man in the States, had a high opinion
of Vere. Sir Thomas Bodley, the queen's agent, had much confidence
in him, and acted with him most cordially, and Prince Maurice
entertained a great respect for him, consulted him habitually in
all military matters, and placed him in the position of marshal
of the camp of the army of the Netherlands, in addition to his own
command of the English portion of that army.

Vere's first undertaking was to lead a force of 12,000 men, of
whom half were English, to prevent Count Mansfelt from crossing
the Maas with an army of equal strength. Prince Maurice was present
in person as general in chief. Intrenchments were thrown up and
artillery planted; but just as Mansfelt was preparing to cross his
troops mutinied, and he was obliged to fall back.

In October, with 900 of his own troops and twelve companies of Dutch
horse, Sir Francis Vere succeeded in throwing a convoy of provisions
into the town of Rheinberg, which was besieged by a large force
of the enemy. As soon as he returned the States requested him to
endeavour to throw in another convoy, as Count Mansfelt was marching
to swell the force of the besiegers, and, after his arrival it
would be well nigh impossible to send further aid into the town.
Vere took with him 900 English and 900 Dutch infantry, and 800
Dutch cavalry. The enemy had possession of a fortified country
house called Loo, close to which lay a thick wood traversed only by
a narrow path, with close undergrowth and swampy ground on either
side. The enemy were in great force around Loo, and came out to
attack the expedition as it passed through the wood. Sending the
Dutch troops on first, Vere attacked the enemy vigorously with his
infantry and drove them back to the inclosure of Loo. As soon as
his whole force had crossed the wood, he halted them and ordered
them to form in line of battle facing the wood through which they
had just passed, and from which the enemy were now pouring out in
great force.

In order to give time to his troops to prepare for the action Vere
took half his English infantry and advanced against them. They
moved forward, and a stubborn fight took place between the pikemen.
Vere's horse was killed, and fell on him so that he could not
rise; but the English closed round him, and he was rescued with
no other harm than a bruised leg and several pike thrusts through
his clothes. While the conflict between the pikemen was going on
the English arquebusiers opened fire on the flank of the enemy,
and they began to fall back. Four times they rallied and charged
the English, but were at last broken and scattered through the wood.
The cavalry stationed there left their horses and fled through the
undergrowth. Pressing forward the little English force next fell
upon twenty-four companies of Neapolitan infantry, who were defeated
without difficulty. The four hundred and fifty Englishmen then
joined the main force, which marched triumphantly with their convoy
of provisions into Rheinberg, and the next morning fortunately turning
thick and foggy the force made its way back without interruption
by the enemy.



CHAPTER XI

IN SPAIN


Alone among the survivors of the great Spanish Armada, Geoffrey
Vickars saw the coast of Ireland fade away from sight without a
feeling of satisfaction or relief. His hope had been that the ship
would be wrecked on her progress down the coast. He knew not that
the wild Irish were slaying all whom the sea spared, and that
ignorant as they were of the English tongue, he would undoubtedly
have shared the fate of his Spanish companions. He thought only
of the risk of being drowned, and would have preferred taking this
to the certainty of a captivity perhaps for life in the Spanish
prisons. The part that he had played since he had been picked up
off Gravelines could not be sustained indefinitely. He might as
well spend his life in prison, where at least there would be some
faint hope of being exchanged, as wander about Spain all his life
as an imbecile beggar.

As soon, therefore, as he saw that the perils of the coast of
Ireland were passed, and that the vessel was likely to reach Spain
in safety, he determined that he would on reaching a port disclose
his real identity. There were on board several Scotch and Irish
volunteers, and he decided to throw himself upon the pity of one of
these rather than on that of the Spaniards. He did not think that
in any case his life was in danger. Had he been detected when
first picked up, or during the early part of the voyage, he would
doubtless have been thrown overboard without mercy; but now that
the passions of the combatants had subsided, and that he had been
so long among them, and had, as he believed, won the goodwill of
many by the assistance he had rendered to the sick and wounded, he
thought that there was little fear of his life being taken in cold
blood.

One of the Irish volunteers, Gerald Burke by name, had for a long
time been seriously ill, and Geoffrey had in many small ways shown
him kindness as he lay helpless on the deck, and he determined
finally to confide in him. Although still very weak, Burke was now
convalescent, and was sitting alone by the poop rail gazing upon
the coast of Spain with eager eyes, when Geoffrey, under the pretext
of coiling down a rope, approached him. The young man nodded kindly
to him.

"Our voyage is nearly over, my poor lad," he said in Spanish, "and
your troubles now will be worse than mine. You have given me many
a drink of water from your scanty supply, and I wish that I could
do something for you in return; but I know that you do not even
understand what I say to you."

"Would you give me an opportunity of speaking to you after nightfall,
Mr. Burke," Geoffrey said in English, "when no one will notice us
speaking?"

The Irishman gave a start of astonishment at hearing himself
addressed in English.

"My life is in your hands, sir; pray, do not betray me," Geoffrey
said rapidly as he went on coiling down the rope.

"I will be at this place an hour after nightfall," the young Irishman
replied when he recovered from his surprise. "Your secret will be
safe with me."

At the appointed time Geoffrey returned to the spot. The decks
were now deserted, for a drizzling rain was falling, and all save
those on duty had retired below, happy in the thought that on the
following morning they would be in port.

"Now, tell me who you are," the young Irishman began. "I thought you
were a Spanish sailor, one of those we picked up when the Spanish
galleon next to us foundered."

Geoffrey then told him how he had been knocked off an English ship
by the fall of a mast, had swum to the galleon and taken refuge
beneath her bowsprit until she sank, and how, when picked up and
carried on to the Spanish ship, he feigned to have lost his senses
in order to conceal his ignorance of Spanish.

"I knew," he said, "that were I recognized as English at the time
I should at once be killed, but I thought that if I could conceal
who I was for a time I should simply be sent to the galleys, where
I have heard that there are many English prisoners working."

"I think death would have been preferable to that lot," Mr. Burke
said.

"Yes, sir; but there is always the hope of escape or of exchange.
When you spoke kindly to me this afternoon I partly understood what
you said, for in this long time I have been on board I have come
to understand a little Spanish, and I thought that maybe you would
assist me in some way."

"I would gladly do so, though I regard Englishmen as the enemies
of my country; but in what way can I help you? I could furnish you
with a disguise, but your ignorance of Spanish would lead to your
detection immediately."

"I have been thinking it over, sir, and it seemed to me that
as there will be no objection to my landing tomorrow, thinking as
they do that I have lost my senses, I might join you after you once
got out of the town. I have some money in my waistbelt, and if you
would purchase some clothes for me I might then join you as your
servant as you ride along. At the next town you come to none would
know but that I had been in your service during the voyage, and
there would be nothing strange in you, an Irish gentleman, being
accompanied by an Irish servant who spoke but little Spanish.
I would serve you faithfully, sir, until perhaps some opportunity
might occur for my making my escape to England."

"Yes, I think that might be managed," the young Irishman said. "When
I land tomorrow I will buy some clothes suitable for a serving man.
I do nor know the names of the hotels on shore, so you must watch
me when I land and see where I put up. Come there in the evening at
nine o'clock. I will issue out and give you the bundle of clothes,
and tell you at what hour in the morning I have arranged to start.
I will hire two horses; when they come round to the door, join me
in front of the hotel and busy yourself in packing my trunks on
the baggage mules. When you have done that, mount the second horse
and ride after me; the people who will go with us with the horses
will naturally suppose that you have landed with me. Should any of
our shipmates here see us start, it is not likely that they will
recognize you. If they do so, I need simply say that as you had shown
me such kindness on board ship I had resolved to take you with me
to Madrid in order to see if anything could be done to restore you
to reason. However, it is better that you should keep in the background
as much as possible. I will arrange to start at so early an hour
in the morning that none of those who may land with me from the
ship, and may put up at the same inn, are likely to be about."

The next morning the vessel entered port. They were soon surrounded
by boats full of people inquiring anxiously for news of other ships,
and for friends and acquaintances on board. Presently large boats
were sent off by the authorities, and the disembarkation of the sick
and the helpless began. This indeed included the greater portion
of the survivors, for there were but two or three score on board
who were capable of dragging themselves about, the rest being
completely prostrate by disease, exhaustion, hunger, and thirst.
Geoffrey was about to descend into one of the boats, when the officer
in command said roughly: "Remain on board and do your work, there
is no need for your going into the hospital." One of the ship's
officers, however, explained that the lad had altogether lost his
senses, and was unable either to understand when spoken to or to
reply to questions. Consequently he was permitted to take his place
in the boat.

As soon as he stepped ashore he wandered away among the crowd of
spectators. A woman, observing his wan face and feeble walk, called
him into her house, and set food and wine before him. He made a
hearty meal, but only shook his head when she addressed him, and
laughed childishly and muttered his thanks in Spanish when she
bestowed a dollar upon him as he left. He watched at the port while
boat load after boat load of sick came ashore, until at last one
containing the surviving officers and gentlemen with their baggage
reached the land. Then he kept Gerald Burke in sight until he
entered an inn, followed by two men carrying his baggage. Several
times during the day food and money were offered him, the inhabitants
being full of horror and pity at the sight of the famishing survivors
of the crew of the galleon.

At nine o'clock in the evening Geoffrey took up his station near
the door of the inn. A few minutes later Gerald Burke came out with
a bundle. "Here are the clothes," he said. "I have hired horses for
our journey to Madrid. They will be at the door at six o'clock in
the morning. I have arranged to travel by very short stages, for at
first neither you nor I could sit very long upon a horse; however,
I hope we shall soon gain strength as we go."

Taking the bundle, Geoffrey walked a short distance from the town
and lay down upon the ground under some trees. The night was a warm
one, and after the bitter cold they had suffered during the greater
part of the voyage, it felt almost sultry to him. At daybreak in
the morning he rose, put on the suit of clothes Gerald Burke had
provided, washed his face in a little stream, and proceeded to the
inn. He arrived there just as the clocks were striking six. A few
minutes later two men with two horses and four mules came up to
the door, and shortly afterwards Gerald Burke came our. Geoffrey at
once joined him; the servants of the inn brought out the baggage,
which was fastened by the muleteers on to two of the animals.
Gerald Burke mounted one of the horses and Geoffrey the other, and
at once rode on, the muleteers mounting the other two mules and
following with those carrying the baggage.

"That was well managed," Gerald Burke said as they rode out of the
town. "The muleteers can have no idea that you have but just joined
me, and there is little chance of any of my comrades on board ship
overtaking us, as all intend to stop for a few days to recruit
themselves before going on. If they did they would not be likely to
recognize you in your present attire, or to suspect that my Irish
servant is the crazy boy of the ship."

After riding at an easy pace for two hours, they halted under the
shade of some trees. Fruit, bread, and wine were produced from
a wallet on one of the mules, and they sat down and breakfasted.
After a halt of an hour they rode on until noon, when they again
halted until four in the afternoon, for the sun was extremely hot,
and both Gerald Burke and Geoffrey were so weak they scarce could
sit their horses. Two hours further riding took them to a large
village, where they put up at the inn. Geoffrey now fell into his
place as Mr. Burke's servant--saw to the baggage being taken
inside, and began for the first time to try his tongue at Spanish.
He got on better than he had expected; and as Mr. Burke spoke with
a good deal of foreign accent, it did not seem in any way singular
to the people of the inn that his servant should speak but little
of the language.

Quietly they journeyed on, doing but short distances for the first
three or four days, but as they gained strength pushing on faster,
and by the time they reached Madrid both were completely recovered
from the effects of their voyage. Madrid was in mourning, for there
was scarce a family but had lost relations in the Armada. Mr. Burke
at once took lodgings and installed Geoffrey as his servant. He
had many friends and acquaintances in the city, where he had been
residing for upwards of a year previous to the sailing of the
Armada.

For some weeks Geoffrey went out but little, spending his time in
reading Spanish books and mastering the language as much as possible.
He always conversed in that language with Mr. Burke, and at the
end of six weeks was able to talk Spanish with some fluency. He
now generally accompanied Mr. Burke if he went out, following him
in the streets and standing behind his chair when he dined abroad.
He was much amused at all he saw, making many acquaintances among
the lackeys of Mr. Burke's friends, dining with them downstairs after
the banquets were over, and often meeting them of an evening when
he had nothing to do, and going with them to places of entertainment.

In this way his knowledge of Spanish improved rapidly, and although
he still spoke with an accent he could pass well as one who had
been for some years in the country. He was now perfectly at ease
with the Spanish gentlemen of Mr. Burke's acquaintance. It was
only when Irish and Scotch friends called upon his master that he
feared awkward questions, and upon these occasions he showed himself
as little as possible. When alone with Gerald Burke the latter
always addressed Geoffrey as a friend rather than as a servant, and
made no secret with him as to his position and means. He had been
concerned in a rising in Ireland, and had fled the country, bringing
with him a fair amount of resources. Believing that the Armada was
certain to be crowned with success, and that he should ere long be
restored to his estates in Ireland, he had, upon his first coming
to Spain, spent his money freely. His outfit for the expedition
had made a large inroad upon his store, and his resources were now
nearly at an end.

"What is one to do, Geoffrey? I don't want to take a commission in
Philip's army, though my friends could obtain one for me at once;
but I have no desire to spend the rest of my life in the Netherlands
storming the towns of the Dutch burghers."

"Or rather trying to storm them," Geoffrey said, smiling; "there
have not been many towns taken of late years."

"Nor should I greatly prefer to be campaigning in France," Gerald
went on, paying no attention to the interruption. "I have no love
either for Dutch Calvinists or French Huguenots; but I have no
desire either to be cutting their throats or for them to be cutting
mine. I should like a snug berth under the crown here or at Cadiz,
or at Seville; but I see no chance whatever of my obtaining one.
I cannot take up the trade of a footpad, though disbanded soldiers
turned robbers are common enough in Spain. What is to be done?"

"If I am not mistaken," Geoffrey said with a smile, "your mind is
already made up. It is not quite by accident that you are in the
gardens of the Retiro every evening, and that a few words are always
exchanged with a certain young lady as she passes with her duenna."

"Oh! you have observed that," Gerald Burke replied with a laugh.
"Your eyes are sharper than I gave you credit for, Master Geoffrey.
Yes, that would set me on my legs without doubt, for Donna Inez
is the only daughter and heiress of the Marquis of Ribaldo; but
you see there is a father in the case, and if that father had the
slightest idea that plain Gerald Burke was lifting his eyes to his
daughter it would not be many hours before Gerald Burke had several
inches of steel in his body."

"That I can imagine," Geoffrey said, "since it is, as I learn from
my acquaintances among the lackeys, a matter of common talk that
the marquis intends to marry her to the son of the Duke of Sottomayor."

"Inez hates him," Gerald Burke said. "It is just like my ill luck,
that instead of being drowned as most of the others were, he has
had the luck to get safely back again. However, he is still ill,
and likely to be so for some time. He was not so accustomed to
starving as some of us, and he suffered accordingly. He is down at
his estates near Seville."

"But what do you think of doing?" Geoffrey asked.

"That is just what I am asking you."

"It seems to me, certainly," Geoffrey went on, "that unless you
really mean to run off with the young lady--for I suppose there
is no chance in the world of your marrying her in any other way--it
will be better both for you and her that you should avoid for
the future these meetings in the gardens or elsewhere, and cast your
thoughts in some other direction for the bettering of your fortunes."

"That is most sage advice, Geoffrey," the young Irishman laughed,
"and worthy of my father confessor; but it is not so easy to follow.
In the first place, I must tell you that I do not regard Inez as in
any way a step to fortune, but rather as a step towards a dungeon.
It would be vastly better for us both if she were the daughter of
some poor hidalgo like myself. I could settle down then with her,
and plant vines and make wine, and sell what I don't drink myself.
As it is, I have the chance of being put out of the way if it is
discovered that Inez and I are fond of each other; and in the next
place, if we do marry I shall have to get her safely out of the
kingdom, or else she will have to pass the rest of her life in a
convent, and I the rest of mine in a prison or in the galleys; that
is if I am not killed as soon as caught, which is by far the most
likely result. Obnoxious sons in law do not live long in Spain. So
you see, Geoffrey, the prospect is a bad one altogether; and if it
were not that I dearly love Inez, and that I am sure she will be
unhappy with Philip of Sottomayor, I would give the whole thing
up, and make love to the daughter of some comfortable citizen who
would give me a corner of his house and a seat at his table for
the rest of my days."

"But, seriously--" Geoffrey began.

"Well, seriously, Geoffrey, my intention is to run away with Inez
if it can be managed; but how it is to be managed at present I have
not the faintest idea. To begin with, the daughter of a Spanish
grandee is always kept in a very strong cage closely guarded, and
it needs a very large golden key to open it. Now, as you are aware,
gold is a very scarce commodity with me. Then, after getting her
out, a lavish expenditure would be needed for our flight. We should
have to make our way to the sea coast, to do all sorts of things
to throw dust into the eyes of our pursuers, and to get a passage
to some place beyond the domains of Philip, which means either to
France, England, or the Netherlands. Beyond all this will be the
question of future subsistence until, if ever, the marquis makes up
his mind to forgive his daughter and take her to his heart again,
a contingency, in my opinion, likely to be extremely remote."

"And what does the Lady Inez say to it all?" Geoffrey asked.

"The Lady Inez has had small opportunity of saying anything on the
subject, Geoffrey. Here in Spain there are mighty few opportunities
for courtship. With us at home these matters are easy enough, and
there is no lack of opportunity for pleading your suit and winning
a girl's heart if it is to be won; but here in Spain matters are
altogether different, and an unmarried girl is looked after as
sharply as if she was certain to get into some mischief or other
the instant she had an opportunity. She is never suffered to be
for a moment alone with a man; out of doors or in she has always a
duenna by her side; and as to a private chat, the thing is simply
impossible."

"Then how do you manage to make love?" Geoffrey asked.

"Well, a very little goes a long way in Spain. The manner of a bow,
the wave of a fan, the dropping of a glove or flower, the touch
of a hand in a crowded room--each of these things go as far as
a month's open love making in Ireland."

"Then how did you manage with the duenna so as to be able to speak
to her in the gardens?"

"Well, in the first place, I made myself very attentive to the
duenna; in the second place, the old lady is devout, and you know
Ireland is the land of saints, and I presented her with an amulet
containing a paring of the nail of St. Patrick."

Geoffrey burst into a laugh, in which the Irishman joined.

"Well, if it was not really St. Patrick's," the latter went on,
"it came from Ireland anyhow, which is the next best thing. Then
in the third place, the old lady is very fond of Inez; and although
she is as strict as a dragon, Inez coaxed her into the belief that
there could not be any harm in our exchanging a few words when she
was close by all the time to hear what was said. Now, I think you
know as much as I do about the matter, Geoffrey. You will understand
that a few notes have been exchanged, and that Inez loves me.
Beyond that everything is vague and uncertain, and I have not the
slightest idea what will come of it."

Some weeks passed and nothing was done. The meetings between Gerald
Burke and Inez in the Gardens of the Retiro had ceased a day or two
afterwards, the duenna having positively refused to allow them to
continue, threatening Inez to inform her father of them unless she
gave them up.

Gerald Burke's funds dwindled rapidly, although he and Geoffrey
lived in the very closest way.

"What in the world is to be done, Geoffrey? I have only got twenty
dollars left, which at the outside will pay for our lodgings and
food for another month. For the life of me I cannot see what is to
be done when that is gone, unless we take to the road."

Geoffrey shook his head. "As far as I am concerned," he said, "as
we are at war with Spain, it would be fair if I met a Spanish ship
at sea to capture and plunder it, but I am afraid the laws of war
do not justify private plunder. I should be perfectly ready to go
out and take service in a vineyard, or to earn my living in any
way if it could be managed."

"I would rob a cardinal if I had the chance," Gerald Burke said,
"and if I ever got rich would restore his money four fold and
so obtain absolution; only, unfortunately, I do not see my way to
robbing a cardinal. As to digging in the fields, Geoffrey, I would
rather hang myself at once. I am constitutionally averse to labour,
and if one once took to that sort of thing there would be an end
to everything."

"It is still open to you," Geoffrey said, "to get your friends to
obtain a commission for you."

"I could do that," Gerald said moodily, "but of all things that is
what I should most hate."

"You might make your peace with the English government and get some
of your estates back again."

"That I will not do to feed myself," Gerald Burke said firmly. "I
have thought that if I ever carry off Inez I might for her sake do
so, for I own that now all hope of help from Spain is at an end,
our cause in Ireland is lost, and it is no use going on struggling
against the inevitable; but I am not going to sue the English
government as a beggar for myself. No doubt I could borrow small
sums from Irishmen and Scotchmen here, and hold on for a few months;
but most of them are well nigh as poor as I am myself, and I would
not ask them. Besides, there would be no chance of my repaying them;
and, if I am to rob anyone, I would rather plunder these rich dons
than my own countrymen."

"Of one thing I am resolved," Geoffrey said, "I will not live at
your expense any longer, Gerald. I can speak Spanish very fairly
now, and can either take service in some Spanish family or, as I
said, get work in the field."

Gerald laughed. "My dear Geoffrey, the extra expenses caused by
you last week were, as far as I can calculate, one penny for bread
and as much for fruit; the rest of your living was obtained at the
expense of my friends."

"At any rate," Geoffrey said smiling, "I insist that my money be
now thrown into the common fund. I have offered it several times
before, but you always said we had best keep it for emergency. I
think the emergency has come now, and these ten English pounds in
my belt will enable us to take some step or other. The question is,
what step? They might last us, living as we do, for some three or
four months, but at the end of that time we should be absolutely
penniless; therefore now is the time, while we have still a small
stock in hand, to decide upon something."

"But what are we to decide upon?" Gerald Burke asked helplessly.

"I have been thinking it over a great deal," Geoffrey said, "and
my idea is that we had best go to Cadiz or some other large port.
Although Spain is at war both with England and the Netherlands,
trade still goes on in private ships, and both Dutch and English
vessels carry on commerce with Spain; therefore it seems to me
that there must be merchants in Cadiz who would be ready to give
employment to men capable of speaking and writing both in Spanish
and English, and in my case to a certain extent in Dutch. From
there, too, there might be a chance of getting a passage to England
or Holland. If we found that impossible owing to the vessels being
too carefully searched before sailing, we might at the worst take
passage as sailors on board a Spanish ship bound for the Indies,
and take our chance of escape or capture there or on the voyage.
That, at least, is what I planned for myself."

"I think your idea is a good one, Geoffrey. At any rate to Cadiz we
will go. I don't know about the mercantile business or going as a
sailor, but I could get a commission from the governor there as well
as here in Madrid; but at any rate I will go. Donna Inez was taken
last week by her father to some estates he has somewhere between
Seville and Cadiz, in order, I suppose, that he may be nearer Don
Philip, who is, I hear, at last recovering from his long illness.
I do not know that there is the slightest use in seeing her again,
but I will do so if it be possible; and if by a miracle I could
succeed in carrying her off, Cadiz would be a more likely place to
escape from than anywhere.

"Yes, I know. You think the idea is a mad one, but you have never
been in love yet. When you are you will know that lovers do not
believe in the word `impossible.' At any rate, I mean to give Inez
the chance of determining her own fate. If she is ready to risk
everything rather than marry Don Philip, I am ready to share the
risk whatever it may be."

Accordingly on the following day Gerald Burke disposed of the
greater part of his wardrobe and belongings, purchased two ponies
for a few crowns, and he and Geoffrey, with a solitary suit of
clothes in a wallet fastened behind the saddle, started for their
journey to Cadiz. They mounted outside the city, for Gerald shrank
from meeting any acquaintances upon such a sorry steed as he had
purchased; but once on their way his spirits rose. He laughed and
chatted gaily, and spoke of the future as if all difficulties were
cleared away. The ponies, although rough animals, were strong and
sturdy, and carried their riders at a good pace. Sometimes they
travelled alone, sometimes jogged along with parties whom they
overtook by the way, or who had slept in the same posadas or inns
at which they had put up for the night.

Most of these inns were very rough, and, to Geoffrey, astonishingly
dirty. The food consisted generally of bread and a miscellaneous
olio or stew from a great pot constantly simmering over the fire,
the flavour, whatever it might be, being entirely overpowered
by that of the oil and garlic that were the most marked of its
constituents. Beds were wholly unknown at these places, the guests
simply wrapping themselves in their cloaks and lying down on the
floor, although in a few exceptional cases bundles of rushes were
strewn about to form a common bed.

But the travelling was delightful. It was now late in the autumn,
and when they were once past the dreary district of La Mancha, and
had descended to the rich plains of Cordova, the vintage was in
full progress and the harvest everywhere being garnered in. Their
midday meal consisted of bread and fruit, costing but the smallest
coin, and eaten by the wayside in the shade of a clump of trees.
They heard many tales on their way down of the bands of robbers
who infested the road, but having taken the precaution of having
the doubloons for which they had exchanged Geoffrey's English gold
sewn up in their boots, they had no fear of encountering these gentry,
having nothing to lose save their wallets and the few dollars they
had kept out for the expenses of their journey. The few jewels that
Gerald Burke retained were sewn up in the stuffing of his saddle.

After ten days' travel they reached Seville, where they stayed a
couple of days, and where the wealth and splendour of the buildings
surprised Geoffrey, who had not visited Antwerp or any of the great
commercial centres of the Netherlands.

"It is a strange taste of the Spanish kings," he observed to Gerald
Burke, "to plant their capital at Madrid in the centre of a barren
country, when they might make such a splendid city as this their
capital. I could see no charms whatever in Madrid. The climate
was detestable, with its hot sun and bitter cold winds. Here the
temperature is delightful; the air is soft and balmy, the country
round is a garden, and there is a cathedral worthy of a capital."

"It seems a strange taste," Gerald agreed; "but I believe that
when Madrid was first planted it stood in the midst of extensive
forests, and that it was merely a hunting residence for the king."

"Then, when the forests went I would have gone too," Geoffrey said.
"Madrid has not even a river worthy of the name, and has no single
point to recommend it, as far as I can see, for the capital of a
great empire. If I were a Spaniard I should certainly take up my
residence in Seville."

Upon the following morning they again started, joining, before they
had ridden many miles, a party of three merchants travelling with
their servants to Cadiz. The merchants looked a little suspiciously
at first at the two young men upon their tough steeds; but as soon
as they discovered from their first salutations that they were
foreigners, they became more cordial, and welcomed this accession
of strength to their party, for the carrying of weapons was universal,
and the portion of the road between Seville and Cadiz particularly
unsafe, as it was traversed by so many merchants and wealthy
people. The conversation speedily turned to the disturbed state of
the roads.

"I do not think," one of the merchants said, "that any ordinary
band of robbers would dare attack us," and he looked round with
satisfaction at the six armed servants who rode behind them.

"It all depends," Gerald Burke said, with a sly wink at Geoffrey,
"upon what value the robbers may place upon the valour of your
servants. As a rule serving men are very chary of their skins, and I
should imagine that the robbers must be pretty well aware of that
fact. Most of them are disbanded soldiers or deserters, and I should
say that four of them are more than a match for your six servants.
I would wager that your men would make but a very poor show of it
if it came to fighting."

"But there are our three selves and you two gentlemen," the merchant
said in a tone of disquiet.

"Well," Gerald rejoined, "I own that from your appearance I should
not think, worshipful sir, that fighting was altogether in your line.
Now, my servant, young as he is, has taken part in much fighting
in the Netherlands, and I myself have had some experience with
my sword; but if we were attacked by robbers we should naturally
stand neutral. Having nothing to defend, and having no inclination
whatever to get our throats cut in protecting the property of others,
I think that you will see for yourselves that that is reasonable.
We are soldiers of fortune, ready to venture our lives in a good
service, and for good pay, but mightily disinclined to throw them
away for the mere love of fighting."



CHAPTER XII

RECRUITING THEIR FUNDS


As soon as Gerald Burke began conversing with the merchants,
Geoffrey fell back and took his place among their servants, with
whom he at once entered into conversation. To amuse himself he
continued in the same strain that he had heard Gerald adopt towards
the merchants, and spoke in terms of apprehension of the dangers
of the journey, and of the rough treatment that had befallen those
who had ventured to offer opposition to the robbers. He was not
long in discovering, by the anxious glances they cast round them,
and by the manner of their questions, that some at least of the
party were not to be relied upon in case of an encounter.

He was rather surprised at Gerald remaining so long in company with
the merchants, for their pace was a slow one, as they were followed
by eight heavily laden mules, driven by two muleteers, and it would
have been much pleasanter, he thought, to have trotted on at their
usual pace. About midday, as they were passing along the edge of
a thick wood, a party of men suddenly sprang out and ordered them
to halt. Geoffrey shouted to the men with him to come on, and
drawing his sword dashed forward.

Two of the men only followed him. The others hesitated, until
a shot from a musket knocked off one of their hats, whereupon the
man and his comrades turned their horses' heads and rode off at
full speed. The merchants had drawn their swords, and stood on the
defensive, and Geoffrey on reaching them was surprised to find that
Gerald Burke was sitting quietly on his horse without any apparent
intention of taking part in the fight.

"Put up your sword, Geoffrey," he said calmly; "this affair is no
business of ours. We have nothing to lose, and it is no business
of ours to defend the money bags of these gentlemen."

The robbers, eight in number, now rushed up. One of the merchants,
glancing round, saw that two of their men only had come up to
their assistance. The muleteers, who were probably in league with
the robbers, had fled, leaving their animals standing in the road.
The prospect seemed desperate. One of the merchants was an elderly
man, the others were well on middle age. The mules were laden with
valuable goods, and they had with them a considerable sum of money
for making purchases at Cadiz. It was no time for hesitation.

"We will give you five hundred crowns if you will both aid us to
beat off these robbers."

"It is a bargain," Gerald replied. "Now, Geoffrey, have at these
fellows!"

Leaping from their ponies they ranged themselves by the merchants
just as the robbers attacked them. Had it not been for their aid
the combat would have been a short one; for although determined to
defend their property to the last, the traders had neither strength
nor skill at arms. One was unhorsed at the first blow, and another
wounded; but the two servants, who had also dismounted, fought
sturdily, and Gerald and Geoffrey each disposed of a man before
the robbers, who had not reckoned upon their interference, were
prepared to resist their attack.

The fight did not last many minutes. The traders did their best,
and although by no means formidable opponents, distracted the
attention of the robbers, who were startled by the fall of two of
their party. Geoffrey received a sharp cut on the head, but at the
same moment ran his opponent through the body, while Gerald Burke
cut down the man opposed to him. The other four robbers, seeing
they were now outnumbered, at once took to their heels.

"By St. Jago!" one of the traders said, "you are stout fighters,
young men, and have won your fee well. Methought we should have
lost our lives as well as our goods, and I doubt not we should have
done so had you not ranged yourselves with us. Now, let us bandage
up our wounds, for we have all received more or less hurt."

When the wounds, some of which were serious, were attended to, the
fallen robbers were examined. Three of them were dead; but the man
last cut down by Gerald Burke seemed likely to recover.

"Shall we hang him upon a tree as a warning to these knaves, or
shall we take him with us to the next town and give him in charge
of the authorities there?" one of the traders asked.

"If I were you I would do neither," Gerald said, "but would let him
go free if he will tell you the truth about this attack. It will
be just as well for you to get to the bottom of this affair, and
find out whether it is a chance meeting, or whether any of your
own people have been in league with him."

"That is a good idea," the trader agreed, "and I will carry it
out," and going up to the man, who had now recovered his senses,
he said to him sternly: "We have made up our minds to hang you;
but you may save your life if you will tell us how you came to set
upon us. Speak the truth and you shall go free, otherwise we will
finish with you without delay."

The robber, seeing an unexpected chance of escape from punishment, at
once said that the captain of their band, who was the man Geoffrey
had last run through, came out from Seville the evening before, and
told him that one Juan Campos, with whom he had long had intimate
relations, and who was clerk to a rich trader, had, upon promise that
he should receive one fifth of the booty taken, informed him that
his master with two other merchants was starting on the following
morning for Cadiz with a very valuable lot of goods, and twenty-five
thousand crowns, which they intended to lay out in the purchase of
goods brought by some galleons that had just arrived from the Indies.
He had arranged to bribe his master's two servants to ride away
when they attacked the gang, and also to settle with the muleteers
so that they should take no part in the affair. They had reckoned
that the flight of two of the servants would probably affect the
others, and had therefore expected the rich booty to fall into
their hands without the trouble of striking a blow for it.

"It is well we followed your suggestion," one of the traders said
to Gerald. "I had no suspicion of the honesty of my clerk, and
had we not made this discovery he would doubtless have played me a
similar trick upon some other occasion. I will ride back at once,
friends, for if he hears of the failure of the attack he may take
the alarm and make off with all he can lay his hands upon. Our
venture was to be in common. I will leave it to you to carry it
out, and return and dismiss Campos and the two rascally servants."
The three traders went apart and consulted together. Presently the
eldest of the party returned to the young men.

"We have another five days' journey before us," he said, "and but
two servants upon whom we can place any reliance. We have evidence
of the unsafety of the roads, and, as you have heard, we have a
large sum of money with us. You have already more than earned the
reward I offered you, and my friends have agreed with me that if
you will continue to journey with us as far as Cadiz, and to give
us the aid of your valour should we be again attacked, we will make
the five hundred crowns a thousand. It is a large sum, but we have
well nigh all our fortunes at stake, and we feel that we owe you
our lives as well as the saving of our money."

"We could desire nothing better," Gerald replied, "and will answer
with our lives that your goods and money shall arrive safely at
Cadiz."

The traders then called up their two serving men, and told them
that on their arrival at Cadiz they would present them each with a
hundred crowns for having so stoutly done their duty. The employer
of the treacherous clerk then turned his horse's head and rode back
towards Seville, while the others prepared to proceed on their way.
The two muleteers had now come out from among the bushes, and were
busy refastening the bales on the mules, the ropes having become
loosened in the struggles of the animals while the fight was going
on. The merchants had decided to say nothing to the men as to the
discovery that they were in league with the robbers.

"Half these fellows are in alliance with these bands, which are a
scourge to the country," one of the traders said. "If we were to
inform the authorities at the next town, we should, in the first
place, be blamed for letting the wounded man escape, and secondly
we might be detained for days while investigations are going on.
In this country the next worse thing to being a prisoner is to be
a complainant. Law is a luxury in which the wealthy and idle can
alone afford to indulge."

As soon, therefore, as the baggage was readjusted the party proceeded
on their way.

"What do you think of that, Geoffrey?" Gerald Burke asked as he
rode for a short distance by the side of his supposed servant.

"It is magnificent," Geoffrey replied; "and it seems to me that the
real road to wealth in Spain is to hire yourself out as a guard to
travellers."

"Ah, you would not get much if you made your bargain beforehand.
It is only at a moment of urgent danger that fear will open purse
strings widely. Had we bargained beforehand with these traders we
might have thought ourselves lucky if we had got ten crowns apiece
as the price of our escort to Cadiz, and indeed we should have been
only too glad if last night such an offer had been made to us; but
when a man sees that his property and life are really in danger he
does not stop to haggle, but is content to give a handsome percentage
of what is risked for aid to save the rest."

"Well, thank goodness, our money trouble is at an end," Geoffrey
said; "and it will be a long time before we need have any anxiety
on that score."

"Things certainly look better," Gerald said laughing; "and if Inez
consents to make a runaway match of it with me I sha'n't have to
ask her to pay the expenses."

Cadiz was reached without further adventure. The merchants kept
their agreement honourably, and handed over a heavy bag containing
a thousand crowns to Gerald on their arrival at that city. They
had upon the road inquired of him the nature of his business there.
He had told them that he was at present undecided whether to enter
the army, in which some friends of his had offered to obtain him
a commission, or to join in an adventure to the Indies. They had
told him they were acquainted with several merchants at Cadiz who
traded both with the east and west, and that they would introduce
him to them as a gentleman of spirit and courage, whom they might
employ with advantage upon such ventures; and this promise after
their arrival there they carried out.

"Now, Geoffrey," Gerald said as they sat together that evening at
a comfortable inn, "we must talk over matters here. We have five
hundred crowns apiece, and need not trouble any longer as to how
we are to support life. Your great object, of course, is to get out
of this country somehow, and to make your way back to England. My
first is to see Inez and find out whether she will follow my fortunes
or remain to become some day Marchesa of Sottomayor. If she adopts
the former alternative I have to arrange some plan to carry her off
and to get out of the country, an operation in which I foresee no
little difficulty. Of course if we are caught my life is forfeited,
there is no question about that. The question for us to consider
is how we are to set about to carry out our respective plans."

"We need only consider your plan as far as I can see," Geoffrey
said. "Of course I shall do what I can to assist you, and if you
manage to get off safely with the young lady I shall escape at the
same time."

"Not at all," Burke said; "you have only to wait here quietly
until you see an opportunity. I will go with you tomorrow to the
merchants I was introduced to today, and say that I am going away
for a time and shall be obliged if they will make you useful in any
way until I return. In that way you will have a sort of established
position here, and can wait until you see a chance of smuggling
yourself on board some English or Dutch vessel. Mine is a very
different affair. I may talk lightly of it, but I am perfectly
aware that I run a tremendous risk, and that the chances are very
strongly against me."

"Whatever the chances are," Geoffrey said quietly, "I shall share
them with you. Your kindness has saved me from what at best might
have been imprisonment for life, and not improbably would have been
torture and death at the hands of the Inquisition, and I am certainly
not going to withdraw myself from you now when you are entering
upon what is undoubtedly a very dangerous adventure. If we escape
from Spain we escape together; if not, whatever fate befalls you
I am ready to risk."

"Very well; so be it, Geoffrey," Gerald Burke said, holding out his
hand to him. "If your mind is made up I will not argue the question
with you, and indeed I value your companionship and aid too highly
to try to shake your determination. Let us then at once talk over
what is now our joint enterprise. Ribaldo estate lies about halfway
between this and Seville, and we passed within a few miles of it
as we came hither. The first thing, of course, will be to procure
some sort of disguise in which I can see Inez and have a talk with
her. Now, it seems to me, for I have been thinking the matter over
in every way as we rode, that the only disguise in which this would
be possible would be that of a priest or monk."

Geoffrey laughed aloud. "You would in the first place have to shave
off your moustachios, Gerald, and I fear that even after you had
done so there would be nothing venerable in your appearance; and
whatever the mission with which you might pretend to charge yourself,
your chances of obtaining a private interview with the lady would
be slight."

"I am afraid that I should lack the odour of sanctity, Geoffrey;
but what else can one do? Think it over, man. The way in which you
played the idiot when you were picked out of the water shows that
you are quick at contriving a plan."

"That was a simple business in comparison to this," Geoffrey
replied. "However, you are not pressed for time, and I will think
it over tonight and may light upon some possible scheme, for I own
that at present I have not the least idea how the matter is to be
managed."

As in the morning there were several other travellers taking
breakfast in the same room, the conversation was not renewed until
Gerald Burke strolled out, followed at a respectful distance by
Geoffrey, who still passed as his servant, and reached a quiet spot
on the ramparts. Here Geoffrey joined him, and they stood for some
minutes looking over the sea.

"What a magnificent position for a city!" Geoffrey said at last.
"Standing on this rocky tongue of land jutting out at the entrance
to this splendid bay it ought to be impregnable, since it can only
be attacked on the side facing that sandy isthmus. What a number
of ships are lying up the bay, and what a busy scene it is with the
boats passing and repassing! Though they must be two miles away I
fancy I can hear the shouts of the sailors."

"Yes, it is all very fine," Gerald said; "but I have seen it
several times before. Still, I can make allowances for you. Do you
see that group of small ships a mile beyond the others? Those are
the English and Dutchmen. They are allowed to trade, but as you see
they are kept apart, and there are three war galleys lying close
to them. No one is allowed to land, and every boat going off
is strictly examined, and all those who go on board have to show
their permits from the governor to trade; so, you see, the chance
of getting on board one of them is slight indeed. Higher up the
bay lies Puerto de Santa Maria, where a great trade is carried on,
and much wine shipped; though more comes from Jeres, which lies up
the river. You know we passed through it on our way here.

"Yes, this is a splendid position for trade, and I suppose the
commerce carried on here is larger than in any port in Europe;
though Antwerp ranked as first until the troubles began in the
Netherlands. But this ought to be first. It has all the trade of the
Atlantic seaboard, and standing at the mouth of the Mediterranean
commands that also; while all the wealth of the New World pours in
here. That is great already; there is no saying what it will be in
the future, while some day the trade from the far East should flow
in here also by vessels trading round the south of Africa.

"Cadiz has but one fault: the space on which it stands is too small
for a great city. You see how close the houses stand together,
and how narrow are the streets. It cannot spread without extending
beyond the rock over the sands, and then its strength would be gone,
and it would be open to capture by an enterprising enemy having
command of the sea. There now, having indulged your humour, let
us return to more important matters. Have you thought over what we
were talking about last night?"

"I have certainly thought it over," Geoffrey said; "but I do not
know that thinking has resulted in much. The only plan that occurs
to me as being at all possible is this. You were talking in joke
at Madrid of turning robber. Would it be possible, think you, to
get together a small band of men to aid you in carrying off the
young lady, either from the grounds of her father's house or while
journeying on the road? You could then have your talk with her.
If you find her willing to fly with you, you could leave the men
you have engaged and journey across the country in some sort of
disguise to a port. If she objected, you could conduct her back to
the neighbourhood of the house and allow her to return. There is
one difficulty: you must, of course, be prepared with a priest, so
that you can be married at once if she consents to accompany you."

Gerald Burke was silent for some time. "The scheme seems a possible
one," he said at last; "it is the question of the priest that bothers
me. You know, both in Seville and Cadiz there are Irish colleges,
and at both places there are several priests whom I knew before they
entered the Church, and who would, I am sure, perform the service
for me on any ordinary occasion; but it is a different thing asking
them to take a share in such a business as this, for they would
render themselves liable to all sorts of penalties and punishments
from their superiors. However, the difficulty must be got over
somehow, and at any rate the plan seems to promise better than
anything I had thought of. The first difficulty is how to get the
ruffians for such a business. I cannot go up to the first beetle
browed knave I meet in the street and say to him, 'Are you disposed
to aid me in the abduction of a lady?'"

"No," Geoffrey laughed; "but fortunately you have an intermediary
ready at hand."

"How so?" Gerald exclaimed in surprise. "Why, how on earth can you
have an acquaintance with any ruffians in Cadiz?"

"Not a very intimate acquaintance, Gerald; but if you take the
trouble to go into the courtyard of the inn when we get back you
will see one of those rascally muleteers who went in league with
the robbers who attacked us on the way. He was in conversation when
we came out with a man who breakfasted with us, and was probably
bargaining for a load for his mules back to Seville. I have no
doubt that through him you might put yourself into communication
with half the cutthroats of the town."

"That is a capital idea, Geoffrey, and I will have a talk with the
man as soon as we get back; for if he is not still there, I am sure
to be able to learn from some of the men about the stables where
to find him."

"You must go very carefully to work, Gerald," Geoffrey said. "It
would never do to let any of the fellows know the exact object for
which you engaged them, for they might be sure of getting a far
larger sum from the marquis for divulging your plans to carry off
his daughter than you could afford to pay them for their services."

"I quite see that, and will be careful."

On their return to the inn Gerald Burke at once made inquiries as
to the muleteer, and learned that he would probably return in an
hour to see if a bargain could be made with a trader for the hire
of his mules back to Seville. Gerald waited about until the man
came. "I want to have a talk with you, my friend," he said.

The muleteer looked at him with a suspicious eye. "I am busy," he
said in a surly tone; "I have no time to waste."

"But it would not be wasting it if it were to lead to your putting
a dozen crowns in your pocket."

"Oh, if it is to lead to that, senor, I can spare an hour, for I
don't think that anything is likely to come out of the job I came
here to try to arrange."

"We will walk away to a quieter place," Gerald said. "There are
too many people about here for us to talk comfortably. The ramparts
are but two or three minutes' walk; we can talk there without
interruption."

When they arrived upon the ramparts Gerald commenced the conversation.

"I think you were foolish, my friend, not to have taken us into
your confidence the other day before that little affair. You could
have made an opportunity well enough. We stopped to luncheon; if
you had drawn me aside, and told me frankly that some friends of
yours were about to make an attack upon the traders, and that you
would guarantee that they would make it worth my while--"

"What do you mean by saying my friends, or that I had any knowledge
of the affair beforehand?" the man asked furiously.

"I say so," Gerald replied, "because I had it on excellent authority.
The wounded robber made a clean breast of the whole affair, and of
your share in it, as well as that of the rascally clerk of one of
the traders. If it had not been for me the merchants would have
handed you over to the magistrates at the place where we stopped
that night; but I dissuaded them, upon the ground that they would
have to attend as witnesses against you, and that it was not
worth their while to lose valuable time merely for the pleasure of
seeing you hung. However, all this is beside the question. What I
was saying was, it is a pity you did not say to me frankly: 'Your
presence here is inopportune; but if you will stand apart if any
unexpected affair takes place, you will get say two thousand crowns
out of the twenty-five thousand my friends are going to capture.'
Had you done that, you see, things might have turned out differently."

"I did not know," the muleteer stammered.

"No, you did not know for certain, of course, that I was a soldier
of fortune; but if you had been sharp you might have guessed it.
However, it is too late for that now. Now, what I wanted to ask
you was if you could get me half a dozen of your friends to take
service under me in a little adventure I have to carry out. They
will be well paid, and I do not suppose they will have much trouble
over it."

"And what would you pay me, caballero?" the muleteer asked humbly;
for he had been greatly impressed with the valour displayed by the
young Irishman and his servant in the fray, and thought that he
intended to get together a company for adventures on the road, in
which case he might be able to have some profitable dealings with
him in the future.

"I will give you twenty crowns," Gerald replied; "and considering
that you owe your life to my interposition, I think that you ought
not to haggle about terms."

"The party who attacked us," the muleteer said, "lost their captain
and several of their comrades in that fray, and would I doubt not
gladly enter into your service, seeing that they have received such
proof of your worship's valour."

"Where could I see them?" Gerald asked.

"I think that they will be now in Jeres, if that would suit you,
senor; but if not I could doubtless find a party of men in this
town equally ready for your business."

"Jeres will do very well for me," Gerald said; "I shall be travelling
that way and will put up at the Fonda where we stopped as we came
through. When are you starting?"

"It depends whether I make my bargain with a man at your hotel,"
the muleteer replied; "and this I doubt not I shall do, for with
the twenty crowns your honour is going to give me I shall not stand
out for terms. He is travelling with clothes from Flanders, and if
your worship thought--"

"No," Gerald said. "I do not wish to undertake any adventures of
that sort until I have a band properly organized, and have arranged
hiding places and methods of getting rid of the booty. I will go
back with you to the inn, and if you strike your bargain you can
tell me as you pass out of the gate what evening you will meet me
at Jeres."

On arriving at the inn Gerald lounged at the gate of the courtyard
until the muleteer came out.

"I will meet your worship on the fifth night from this at Jeres."

"Very well; here are five crowns as an earnest on our bargain. If
you carry it out well I shall very likely forget to deduct them
from the twenty I promised you. Do not be surprised if you find me
somewhat changed in appearance when you meet me there."

At the appointed time the muleteer with his train of animals
entered the courtyards of the Fonda at Jeres. Gerald was standing
on the steps of the inn. He had altered the fashion of his hair,
had fastened on large bushy eyebrows which he had obtained from a
skilful perruquier in Cadiz, and a moustache of imposing size turned
up at the tips; he wore high buff leather boots, and there was an
air of military swagger about him, and he was altogether so changed
that at the first glance the muleteer failed to recognize him. As
soon as the mules were unburdened, Gerald found an opportunity of
speaking with him.

"I will go round at once," the man said, "to the place where I shall
certainly obtain news of my friends if they are here. I told your
honour that they might be here, but they may have gone away on
some affair of business, and may be on the road or at Seville. They
always work between this town and Seville."

"I understand that you may not meet them tonight; if not, I will
meet you again in Seville. How long will you be finding out about
them?"

"I shall know in half an hour, senor; if they are not here I shall
be back here in less than an hour, but if I find them I shall
be detained longer in order to talk over with them the offer your
worship makes."

"Very well; in an hour you will find me in the street opposite the
inn. I shall wait there until you come. If all is well make a sign
and I will follow you. Do not mention to them that I have in any
way disguised myself. Our acquaintance was so short that I don't
fancy they had time to examine me closely; and I have my own reasons
of wishing that they should not be acquainted with my ordinary
appearance, and have therefore to some extent disguised myself."

"I will say nothing about it," the muleteer replied. "Your worship
can depend upon my discretion."

"That is right," Gerald said. "We may have future dealings together,
and I can reward handsomely those I find trustworthy and punish
those who in the slightest degree disobey my orders."

In an hour and a half the muleteer returned, made a signal to Gerald
and passed on. The latter joined him at a short distance from the
hotel.

"It is all settled, senor. I found the men much dispirited at the
loss of their captain and comrades; and when I proposed to them
to take service under the caballero who wrought them such mischief
the other day, they jumped at the idea, saying that under such a
valiant leader there was no fear of the failure of any enterprise
they might undertake."

A quarter of an hour's walking took them to a small inn of
villainous appearance in one of the smallest lanes of the town.
Gerald was wrapped from head to foot in his cloak, and only his face
was visible. He had a brace of pistols in his belt, and was followed
at a short distance, unnoticed by the muleteer, by Geoffrey, who
had arranged to keep close to the door of any house he entered, and
was to be in readiness to rush in and take part in the fray if he
heard the sound of firearms within.

Gerald himself had not at first entertained any idea of treachery;
but Geoffrey had pointed out that it was quite possible that
the robbers and the muleteer had but feigned acquiescence in his
proposals in order to get him into their power, and take revenge
for the loss of their captain and comrades, and of the valuable
booty which had so unexpectedly slipped through their fingers owing
to his intervention.

The appearance of the six ruffians gathered in the low room, lighted
by a wretched lamp, was not very assuring, and Gerald kept his hand
on the butt of one of his pistols.

The four robbers who had been engaged in the fray, however, saluted
him respectfully, and the other two members of the band, who had
been absent on other business, followed their example. They had
heard from those present of the extraordinary valour with which
the two travelling companions of the trader had thrown themselves
into the fray, and had alone disposed of their four comrades,
and being without a leader, and greatly disheartened by their ill
luck, they were quite ready to forgive the misfortunes Gerald had
brought upon them, and to accept such a redoubtable swordsman as
their leader.

Gerald began the conversation. "You have heard," he said, "from
our friend here of the offer I make you. I desire a band of six men
on whom I can rely for an adventure which promises large profit.
Don't suppose that I am going to lead you to petty robberies on
the road, in which, as you learned to your cost the other day, one
sometimes gets more hard knocks than profit. Such adventures may
do for petty knaves, but they are not suited to me. The way to
get wealthy is to strike at the rich. My idea is to establish some
place in an out of the way quarter where there is no fear of prying
neighbours, and to carry off and hide there the sons and daughters
of wealthy men and put them to ransom. In the first instance I
am going to undertake a private affair of my own; and as you will
really run no risk in the matter, for I shall separate myself from
you after making my capture, I shall pay you only a earnest money
of twenty crowns each. In future affairs we shall act upon the
principle of shares. I shall take three shares, a friend who works
with me will take two shares, and you shall take one share apiece.
The risk will really be entirely mine, for I shall take charge of
the captives we make at our rendezvous. You, after lending a hand
in the capture, will return here and hold yourself in readiness to
join me, and carry out another capture as soon as I have made all
the necessary arrangements. Thus, if by any chance we are tracked,
I alone and my friend will run the risk of capture and punishment.
In that way we may, in the course of a few months, amass a much
larger booty than we should in a lifetime spent in these wretched
adventures upon travellers.

"Now, it is for you to say whether these terms will suit you, and
whether you are ready to follow my orders and obey me implicitly.
The whole task of making the necessary arrangements, or finding out
the habits of the families one of whose members we intend carrying
off, of bribing nurses or duennas, will be all my business. You
will simply have to meet when you are summoned to aid in the actual
enterprise, and then, when our captive is safely housed, to return
here or scatter where you will and live at ease until again summoned.
The utmost fidelity will be necessary. Large rewards will in many
cases be offered for the discovery of the missing persons, and
one traitor would bring ruin upon us all; therefore it will be
absolutely necessary that you take an oath of fidelity to me, and
swear one and all to punish the traitor with death. Do you agree
to my proposal?"

There was a unanimous exclamation of assent. The plan seemed to
offer probabilities of large booty with a minimum of trouble and
risk. One or two suggested that they should like to join in the
first capture on the same terms as the others, but Gerald at once
pronounced this to be impossible.

"This is my own affair," he said, "and money is not now my object.
As you will only be required to meet at a given hour some evening,
and to carry off a captive who will not be altogether unwilling
to come, there will be little or no risk in the matter, and twenty
crowns will not be bad pay for an evening's work. After that you
will, as I have said, share in the profits of all future captures
we may undertake."

The band all agreed, and at once took solemn oaths of fidelity to
their new leader, and swore to punish by death any one of their
number who should betray the secrets of the body.

"That is well," Gerald said when the oaths had been taken. "It
may be a week before you receive your first summons. Here are five
crowns apiece for your expenses up to that time. Let one of you
be in front of the great church as the clock strikes eight morning
and evening. Do not wait above five minutes; if I am coming I
shall be punctual. In the meantime take counsel among yourselves
as to the best hiding place that can be selected. Between you you
no doubt know every corner and hole in the country. I want a place
which will be at once lonely and far removed from other habitations,
but it must be at the same time moderately comfortable, as the
captives we take must have no reason to complain of their treatment
while in my hands. Think this matter over before I again see you."

Gerald then joined Geoffrey outside, and found that the latter
was beginning to be anxious at his long absence. After a few words
saying that everything had been successfully arranged, the two
friends returned together to their inn.



CHAPTER XIII

THE FESTA AT SEVILLE


"And now, Gerald, that you have made your arrangements for the
second half of the plan, how are you going to set about the first?
because you said that you intended to give Donna Inez the option
of flying with you or remaining with her father."

"So I do still. Before I make any attempt to carry her off I shall
first learn whether she is willing to run the risks."

"But how are you going to set about it? You may be quite sure that
she never goes outside the garden without having her duenna with
her. If there is a chapel close by, doubtless she will go there
once a day; and it seems to me that this would be the best chance
of speaking to her, for I do not see how you can possibly introduce
yourself into the grounds."

"That would be quite out of the question, in daylight at any rate,
Geoffrey. I do not suppose she ever goes beyond the terrace by the
house. But if I could communicate with her she might slip out for
a few minutes after dark, when the old lady happened to be taking
a nap. The question is how to get a letter into her hands."

"I think I might manage that, Gerald. It is not likely that the
duenna ever happened to notice me. I might therefore put on any
sort of disguise as a beggar and take my place on the road as she
goes to chapel, and somehow or other get your note into her hand. I
have heard Spanish girls are very quick at acting upon the smallest
sign, and if I can manage to catch her eye for a moment she may
probably be ingenious enough to afford me an opportunity of passing
the note to her."

"That might be done," Gerald agreed. "We will at once get disguises.
I will dress myself as an old soldier, with one arm in a sling and
a patch over my eye; you dress up in somewhat the same fashion as
a sailor boy. It is about twelve miles from here to Ribaldo's place.
We can walk that easily enough, dress ourselves up within a mile
or two of the place, and then go on and reconnoitre the ground."

"I should advise you to write your note before you start; it may be
that some unexpected opportunity for handing it to her may present
itself."

"I will do that; but let us sally out first and pick up two suits
at some dealer in old clothes. There will be sure to be two or
three of these in the poorer quarter."

The disguises were procured without difficulty, and putting them
in a small wallet they started before noon on their walk. In four
hours they reached the boundary of the Marquis of Ribaldo's estate.
Going into a wood they assumed the disguises, packed their own
clothes in a wallet, and hid this away in a clump of bushes. Then
they again started--Gerald Burke with his arm in a sling and
Geoffrey limping along with the aid of a thick stick he had cut in
the wood.

On arriving at the village, a quarter of a mile from the gates of
the mansion, they went into a small wine shop and called for two
measures of the cheapest wine and a loaf of bread. Here they sat
for some time, listening to the conversation of the peasants who
frequented the wine shop. Sometimes a question was asked of the
wayfarers. Gerald replied, for his companion's Spanish although
fluent was not good enough to pass as that of a native. He replied
to the question as to where they had received their hurts that they
were survivors of the Armada, and grumbled that it was hard indeed
that men who had fought in the Netherlands and had done their duty
to their country should be turned adrift to starve.

"We have enough to pay for our supper and a night's lodging," he
said, "but where we are going to take our meal tomorrow is more
than I can say, unless we can meet with some charitable people."

"If you take your place by the roadside tomorrow morning," one
of the peasants said, "you may obtain charity from Donna Inez de
Ribaldo. She comes every morning to mass here; and they say she has
a kind heart, which is more than men give her father the marquis
the credit of possessing. We have not many poor round here, for at
this time of year all hands are employed in the vineyards, therefore
there is the more chance of your obtaining a little help."

"Thank you; I will take your advice," Gerald said. "I suppose she
is sure to come?"

"She is sure enough; she never misses when she is staying here."

That night the friends slept on a bundle of straw in an outhouse
behind the wine shop, and arranged everything; and upon the following
morning took their seats by the roadside near the village. The
bell of the chapel was already sounding, and in a few minutes they
saw two ladies approaching, followed at a very short distance by
a serving man. They had agreed that the great patch over Gerald's
eye aided by the false moustachios, so completely disguised his
appearance that they need have no fear of his being recognized; and
it was therefore decided he should do the talking. As Donna Inez
came up he commenced calling out: "Have pity, gracious ladies, upon
two broken down soldiers. We have gone through all the dangers and
hardships of the terrible voyage of the great Armada. We served in
the ship San Josef and are now broken down, and have no means of
earning our living."

Gerald had somewhat altered his natural voice while speaking, but
Geoffrey was watching Donna Inez closely, and saw her start when
he began to speak; and when he said they had been on board the San
Josef a flush of colour came across her face.

"We must relieve these poor men," she said to the duenna; "it is
pitiful to see them in such a state."

"We know not that their tale is true," the duenna replied sharply.
"Every beggar in our days pretends to be a broken down soldier."

At this moment Donna Inez happened to glance at Geoffrey, who
raised his hand to his face and permitted a corner of a letter to
be momentarily seen.

"An impostor!" Gerald cried in a loud voice. "To think that I,
suffering from my terrible wounds, should be taken as an impostor,"
and with a hideous yell he tumbled down as if in a fit, and rolled
over and over on the ground towards the duenna.

Seized with alarm at his approach, she turned and ran a few paces
backward. As she did so Geoffrey stepped up to Inez and held out
the note, which she took and concealed instantly in her dress.

"There is nothing to be alarmed at," she cried to the duenna. "The
poor man is doubtless in a fit. Here, my poor fellow, get aid for
your comrade," and taking out her purse she handed a dollar to
Geoffrey, and then joining the duenna proceeded on her way.

Geoffrey knelt beside his prostrate companion and appeared to be
endeavouring to restore him, until the ladies and their servant
were out of sight.

"That was well managed," Gerald Burke said, sitting up as soon as
a turn of the road hid them from view. "Now we shall have our answer
tomorrow. Thank goodness there is no occasion for us to remain any
longer in these garments!"

They went to the wood and resumed their usual attire, and then
walked to a large village some four miles away, and putting up at
the principal inn remained there until early the next morning; then
they walked back to the village they had left on the previous day
and posted themselves in a thicket by the roadside, so that they
could see passersby without being themselves observed.

"My fate will soon be decided now," Gerald said. "Will she wear a
white flower or not?"

"I am pretty sure that she will," Geoffrey said. "She would not
have started and coloured when she recognized your voice if she did
not love you. I do not think you need be under much uneasiness on
that score."

In half an hour the ladies again came along, followed as before
by their servants. Donna Inez wore a bunch of white flowers in her
dress.

"There is my answer," Gerald said. "Thank heaven! she loves me, and
is ready to fly with me, and will steal out some time after dark
to meet me in the garden."

As there was no occasion for him to stay longer, Geoffrey returned
to the village where they slept the night before, and accounted
for his companion's absence by saying that he had been detained
on business and would probably not return until late at night, as
he would not be able to see the person with whom he had affairs
to transact until late. It was past ten o'clock when Gerald Burke
returned.

"It is all arranged, Geoffrey. I hid in the garden close by the
terrace as soon as it became dark. An hour later she came out and
sauntered along the terrace until I softly called her name; then
she came to me. She loves me with all her heart, and is ready to
share my fate whatever it may be. Her father only two days ago had
ordered her to prepare for her marriage with Don Philip, and she
was in despair until she recognized my voice yesterday morning. She
is going with her father to a grand festa at Seville next Wednesday.
They will stop there two nights--the one before the festa and the
one after. I told her that I could not say yet whether I should make
the attempt to carry her off on her journey or after her return
here, as that must depend upon circumstances. At any rate, that
gives us plenty of time to prepare our plans. Tomorrow we will hire
horses and ride to Seville, and I will there arrange with one of
my friends at the Irish College to perform the ceremony. However,
we will talk it all over tomorrow as we ride. I feel as sleepy as
a dog now after the day's excitement."

Upon the road next day they agreed that if possible they would manage
to get Inez away in Seville itself Owing to the large number of
people who would be attracted there to witness the grand procession
and high mass at the cathedral, the streets would be crowded, and
it might be possible for Inez to slip away from those with her.
If this could be managed it would be greatly preferable to the
employment of the men to carry her off by force. Therefore they
agreed that the band should be posted so that the party could be
intercepted on its way back; but that this should be a last resource,
and that if possible Inez should be carried off in Seville itself.

On reaching Seville they put up at an inn. Gerald at once proceeded
to the Irish College. Here he inquired for a young priest, who had
been a near neighbour of his in Ireland and a great friend of his
boyhood. He was, he knew, about to return home. He found that he
was at the moment away from Seville, having gone to supply the place
of a village cure who had been taken suddenly ill. This village
was situated, he was told, some six miles southeast of the town.
It was already late in the afternoon, but time was precious; and
Gerald, hiring a fresh horse, rode out at once to the village. His
friend was delighted to see him, for they had not met since Gerald
passed through Seville on his way to join the Armada at Cadiz, and
the young priest had not heard whether he had escaped the perils
of the voyage.

"It is lucky you have come, Gerald," he said when the first greetings
were over, "for I am going to return to Ireland in a fortnight's
time. I am already appointed to a charge near Cork, and am to sail
in a Bristol ship which is expected in Cadiz about that time. Is
there any chance of my meeting you there?"

"An excellent chance, Denis, though my route is not as clearly
marked out as yours is. I wish to heaven that I could go by the
same ship. And that leads to what I have come to see you about,"
and he then told his friend the service he wished him to render.

"It is rather a serious business, Gerald; and a nice scrape I should
get in if it were found out that I had solemnized the marriage of
a young lady under age without the consent of her father, and that
father a powerful nobleman. However, I am not the man to fail you
at a pinch, and if matters are well managed there is not much risk
of its being found out that I had a hand in it until I am well
away, and once in Ireland no one is likely to make any great fuss
over my having united a runaway pair in Spain. Besides, if you and
the young lady have made up your minds to run away, it is evidently
necessary that you should be married at once; so my conscience is
perfectly clear in the business. And now, what is your plan?"

"The only part of my plan that is settled is to bring her here and
marry her. After that I shall have horses ready, and we will ride
by unfrequented roads to Malaga or some other port and take a
passage in a ship sailing say to Italy, for there is no chance of
getting a vessel hence to England. Once in Italy there will be no
difficulty in getting a passage to England. I have with me a young
Englishman, as staunch a friend as one can need. I need not tell
you all about how I became acquainted with him; but he is as anxious
to get out of Spain as I am, and that is saying no little."

"It seems rather a vague plan, Gerald. There is sure to be a great
hue and cry as soon as the young lady is found to be missing. The
marquis is a man of great influence, and the authorities will use
every effort to enable him to discover her."

"You see, Denis, they will have no reason for supposing that I have
had any hand in the matter, and therefore no special watch will
be set at the ports. The duenna for her own sake is not likely to
say a word about any passages she may have observed between us at
Madrid, and she is unaware that there have been any communications
with her since."

"I suppose you will at once put on disguises, Gerald."

"Yes, that will of course be the first thing."

"If you dress her as a young peasant woman of the better class and
yourself as a small cultivator, I will mention to my servant that
I am expecting my newly married niece and her husband to stay
with me for a few days. The old woman will have no idea that I,
an Irishman, would not have a Spanish niece, and indeed I do not
suppose that she has any idea that I am not a Spaniard. I will open
the church myself and perform the service late in the evening, so
that no one will be aware of what is going on. Of course I can put
up your friend too. Then you can stay quietly here as long as you
like."

"That will do admirably, Denis; but I think we had best go on the
next morning," Gerald said, "although it will be a day or two before
there is anything like an organized pursuit. It will be supposed
that she is in Seville, and inquiries will at first be confined to
that town. If she leaves a note behind saying that she is determined
even to take the veil rather than marry the man her father has
chosen for her, that will cause additional delay. It will be supposed
that she is concealed in the house of some friend, or that she has
sought a refuge in a nunnery, and at any rate there is not likely
to be any search over the country for some days, especially as her
father will naturally be anxious that what he will consider an act
of rebellion on the part of his daughter shall not become publicly
known."

"All this, of course, is if we succeed in getting her clear away
during the fete. If we have to fall back on the other plan I was
talking of and carry her off by force on the way home, the search
will be immediate and general. In that case nothing could be better
than your plan that we should stop here quietly for a few days
with you. They will be searching for a band of robbers and will
not dream of making inquiry for the missing girl in a quiet village
like this."

"Well, we will leave that open, Gerald. I shall let it be known
that you are expected, and whenever you arrive you will be welcome."

As soon as the point was arranged Gerald again mounted his horse
and returned to Seville. There upon the following morning he engaged
a lodging for the three days of the festa in a quiet house in the
outskirts of the town, and they then proceeded to purchase the
various articles necessary for their disguise and that of Inez.
The next morning they started on their return to Jeres. Here Gerald
made arrangements with the band to meet him in a wood on the road
to Cadiz at eight in the morning on the day following the termination
of the festa at Seville. One of the party was to proceed on that day
to the house among the hills they had fixed upon as their hiding
place, and to get provisions and everything requisite for the
reception of their captive. They received another five crowns each,
the remaining fifteen was to be paid them as soon as they arrived
with their captive at the house.

The party remained in ignorance as to the age and sex of the person
they were to carry off, and had little curiosity as to the point,
as they regarded this but a small adventure in comparison to the
lucrative schemes in which they were afterwards to be sharers.

These arrangements made, Gerald and Geoffrey returned to Seville,
and reached that city on the eve of the commencement of the festa,
and took up their abode at the lodging they had hired. On the
following morning they posted themselves in the street by which
the party they expected would arrive. Both were attired in quiet
citizen dress, and Gerald retained his formidable moustachios and
bushy eyebrows.

In two or three hours a coach accompanied by four lackeys on horseback
came up the street, and they saw that it contained the Marquis of
Ribaldo, his daughter, and her duenna. They followed a short distance
behind it until it entered the courtyard of a stately mansion,
which they learnt on inquiry from a passerby belonged to the Duke
of Sottomayor. The streets were already crowded with people in holiday
attire, the church bells were ringing, and flags and decorations
of all kinds waved along the route that was to be followed by the
great procession. The house did not stand on this line, and it
was necessary therefore for its inmates to pass through the crowd
either to the cathedral or to the balcony of the house from which
they might intend to view the procession pass.

Half an hour after the arrival of the coach, the marquis and his
daughter, accompanied by Don Philip de Sottomayor, sallied out,
escorted by six armed lackeys, and took their way towards the
cathedral. They had, however, arrived very late, and the crowd had
already gathered so densely that even the efforts of the lackeys and
the angry commands of the marquis and Don Philip failed to enable
them to make a passage. Very slowly indeed they advanced some
distance into the crowd, but each moment their progress became
slower. Gerald and Geoffrey had fallen in behind them and advanced
with them as they worked themselves in the crowd.

Angry at what they considered the impertinence of the people
for refusing to make way for them, the nobles pressed forward and
engaged in an angry controversy with those in front, who urged,
and truly, that it was simply impossible for them to make way, so
wedged in were they by the people on all sides. The crowd, neither
knowing nor caring who were those who thus wished to take precedence
of the first comers, began to jeer and laugh at the angry nobles,
and when these threatened to use force threatened in return.

As soon as her father had left her side, Gerald, who was immediately
behind Inez, whispered in her ear, "Now is the time, Inez. Go with
my friend; I will occupy the old woman."

"Keep close to me, senora, and pretend that you are ill," Geoffrey
said, to her, and without hesitation Inez turned and followed him,
drawing her mantilla more closely over her face.

"Let us pass, friends," Geoffrey said as he elbowed his way through
those standing behind them, "the lady needs air," and by vigorous
efforts he presently arrived at the outskirts of the crowd,
and struck off with his charge in the direction of their lodging.
"Gerald Burke will follow us as soon as he can get out," he said.
"Everything is prepared for you, senora, and all arrangements made."

"Who are you, sir?" the girl asked. "I do not recall your face,
and yet I seem to have seen it before."

"I am English, senora, and am a friend of Gerald Burke's. When in
Madrid I was disguised as his servant; for as an Englishman and a
heretic it would have gone hard with me had I been detected."

There were but few people in the streets through which they passed,
the whole population having flocked either to the streets through
which the procession was to pass, or to the cathedral or churches
it was to visit on its way. Gerald had told Inez at their interview
that, although he had made arrangements for carrying her off by
force on the journey to or from Seville, he should, if possible, take
advantage of the crowd at the function to draw her away from her
companions. She had, therefore, put on her thickest lace mantilla,
and this now completely covered her face from the view of passersby.
Several times she glanced back.

"Do nor be uneasy about him, senora," Geoffrey said. "He will not
try to extricate himself from the crowd until you are discovered
to be missing, as to do so would be to attract attention. As soon
as your loss is discovered he will make his way out, and will then
come on at the top of his speed to the place whither I am conducting
you, and I expect that we shall find him at the door awaiting us."

A quarter of an hour's walk took them to the lodging, and Inez gave
a little cry of joy as the door was opened to them by Gerald himself.

"The people of the house are all out," he said, after their first
greeting. "In that room you will find a peasant girl's dress. Dress
yourself as quickly as you can; we shall be ready for you in attire
to match. You had best do up your own things into a bundle, which
I will carry. If they were left here they might, when the news of
your being missing gets abroad, afford a clue to the manner of your
escape. I will tell you all about the arrangements we have made as
we go along."

"Have you arranged--" and she hesitated.

"Yes, an Irish priest, who is an old friend of mine, will perform
the ceremony this evening."

A few minutes later two seeming peasants and a peasant girl issued
out from the lodging. The two men carried stout sticks with bundles
slung over them.

"Be careful of that bundle," Inez said, "for there are all my jewels
in it. After what you had said I concealed them all about me. They
are my fortune, you know. Now, tell me how you got on in the crowd."

"I first pushed rather roughly against the duenna, and then made the
most profuse apologies, saying that it was shameful people should
crowd so, and that they ought at once to make way for a lady who
was evidently of high rank. This mollified her, and we talked for
three or four minutes; and in the meantime the row in front, caused
by your father and the lackeys quarrelling with the people, grew
louder and louder. The old lady became much alarmed, and indeed
the crowd swayed about so that she clung to my arm. Suddenly she
thought of you, and turning round gave a scream when she found you
were missing. 'What is the matter?' I asked anxiously. 'The young
lady with me! She was here but an instant ago!' (She had forgotten
you for fully five minutes.) 'What can have become of her?'

"I suggested that no doubt you were close by, but had got separated
from her by the pressure of the crowd. However, she began to
squall so loudly that the marquis looked round. He was already in
a towering rage, and he asked angrily, 'What are you making all this
noise about?' and then looking round exclaimed, 'Where is Inez?'
'She was here a moment since!' the old lady exclaimed, 'and now
she has got separated from me.' Your father looked in vain among
the crowd, and demanded whether anyone had seen you. Someone said
that a lady who was fainting had made her way out five minutes
before. The marquis used some strong language to the old lady, and
then informed Don Philip what had happened, and made his way back
out of the crowd with the aid of the lackeys, and is no doubt
inquiring for you in all the houses near; but, as you may imagine,
I did not wait. I followed close behind them until they were out
of the crowd, and then slipped away, and once round the corner took
to my heels and made my way back, and got in two or three minutes
before you arrived."

The two young men talked almost continuously during their walk to
the village in order to keep up the spirits of Donna Inez, and to
prevent her from thinking of the strangeness of her position and
the perils that lay before them before safety could be obtained.
Only once she spoke of the future.

"Is it true, Gerald, that there are always storms and rain in your
country, and that you never see the sun, for so some of those who
were in the Armada have told me?"

"It rains there sometimes, Inez, I am bound to admit; but it
is often fine, and the sun never burns one up as it does here. I
promise you you will like it, dear, when you once become accustomed
to it."

"I do not think I shall," she said, shaking her head; "I am accustomed
to the sun, you know. But I would rather be with you even in such
an island as they told me of than in Spain with Don Philip."

The village seemed absolutely deserted when they arrived there,
the whole population having gone over to Seville to take part in
the great fete. Father Denis received his fair visitor with the
greatest kindness. "Here, Catherine," he cried to his old servant,
"here are the visitors I told you I expected. It is well that
we have the chambers prepared, and that we killed that capon this
morning."

That evening Gerald Burke and Inez de Ribaldo were married in the
little church, Geoffrey Vickars being the only witness. The next
morning there was a long consultation over their plans. "I could
buy you a cart in the village and a pair of oxen, and you could
drive to Malaga," the priest said, "but there would be a difficulty
about changing your disguises after you had entered the town. I
think that the boldest plan will be the safest one. I should propose
that you should ride as a well to do trader to Malaga, with your
wife behind you on a pillion, and your friend here as your servant.
Lost as your wife was in the crowd at the fete, it will be a long
time before the fact that she has fled will be realized. For a day
or two the search will be conducted secretly, and only when the
house of every friend whom she might have visited has been searched
will the aid of the authorities be called in, and the poorer quarters,
where she might have been carried by two or three ruffians who may
have met her as she emerged in a fainting condition, as is supposed,
from the crowd, be ransacked. I do not imagine that any search will
be made throughout the country round for a week at least, by which
time you will have reached Malaga, and, if you have good fortune,
be on board a ship."

This plan was finally agreed to. Gerald and his friend at once went
over to Seville and purchased the necessary dresses, together with
two strong horses and equipments. It was evening before their return
to the village. Instead of entering it at once they rode on a mile
further, and fastened the horses up in a wood. Gerald would have
left them there alone, but Geoffrey insisted on staying with them
for the night.

"I care nothing about sleeping in the open air, Gerald, and it would
be folly to risk the success of our enterprise upon the chance of
no one happening to come through the wood, and finding the animals
before you return in the morning. We had a hearty meal at Seville,
and I shall do very well until morning."

Gerald and his wife took leave of the friendly priest at daybreak
the next morning, with the hope that they would very shortly meet
in Ireland. They left the village before anyone was stirring.

The peasant clothes had been left behind them. Gerald carried two
valises, the one containing the garments in which Inez had fled,
the other his own attire--Geoffrey having resumed the dress he
had formerly worn as his servant.

On arriving at the wood the party mounted, and at once proceeded on
their journey. Four days' travel took them to Malaga, where they
arrived without any adventure whatever. Once or twice they met
parties of rough looking men; but travelling as they did without
baggage animals, they did not appear promising subjects for robbery,
and the determined appearance of master and man, each armed with
sword and pistols, deterred the fellows from an attempt which
promised more hard knocks than plunder.

After putting up at an inn in Malaga, Gerald went down at once to
the port to inquire for a vessel bound for Italy. There were three
or four such vessels in the harbour, and he had no difficulty in
arranging for a passage to Naples for himself, his wife, and servant.
The vessel was to sail on the following morning, and it was with
a deep feeling of satisfaction and relief that they went on board
her, and an hour later were outside the port.

"It seems marvellous to me," Gerald said, as he looked back upon
the slowly receding town, "that I have managed to carry off my
prize with so little difficulty. I had expected to meet with all
sorts of dangers, and had I been the peaceful trader I looked, our
journey could not be more uneventful."

"Perhaps you are beginning to think that the prize is not so very
valuable after all," Inez said, "since you have won it so easily."

"I have not begun to think so yet," Gerald laughed happily. "At any
rate I shall wait until I get you home before such ideas begin to
occur to me."

"Directly I get to Ireland," Inez said, "I shall write to my father
and tell him that I am married to you, and that I should never
have run away had he not insisted on my marrying a man I hated. I
shall, of course, beg him to forgive me; but I fear he never will."

"We must hope that he will, Inez, and that he will ask you to come
back to Spain sometimes. I do not care for myself, you know, for
as I have told you my estate in Ireland is amply large enough for
my wants; but I shall be glad, for your sake, that you should be
reconciled to him."

Inez shook her head.

"You do not know my father, Gerald. I would never go back to Spain
again--not if he promised to give me his whole fortune. My father
never forgives; and were he to entice me back to Spain, it would be
only to shut me up and to obtain a dispensation from Rome annulling
the marriage, which he would have no difficulty in doing. No, you
have got me, and will have to keep me for good. I shall never return
to Spain, never. Possibly when my father hears from me he may send
me over money to make me think he has forgiven me, and to induce
me some day or other to come back to visit him, and so get me into
his power again; but that, Gerald, he shall never do."



CHAPTER XIV

THE SURPRISE OF BREDA


Lionel Vickars had, by the beginning of 1590, come to speak the
Dutch language well and fluently. Including his first stay in Holland
he had now been there eighteen months, and as he was in constant
communications with the Dutch officers and with the population,
he had constant occasion for speaking Dutch, a language much more
akin to English than any other continental tongue, and indeed so
closely allied to the dialect of the eastern counties of England,
that the fishermen of our eastern ports had in those days little
difficulty in conversing with the Hollanders.

He was one day supping with Sir Francis Vere when Prince Maurice
and several of his officers were also there. The conversation turned
upon the prospects of the campaign of the ensuing spring. Lionel,
of course, took no part in it, but listened attentively to what
was being said and was very pleased to find that the period of
inactivity was drawing to an end, and that their commanders considered
that they had now gathered a force of sufficient strength to assume
the offensive.

"I would," Prince Maurice said, "that we could gain Breda. The
city stands like a great sentinel against every movement towards
Flanders, and enables the Spaniards to penetrate at all times towards
the heart of our country; but I fear that it is altogether beyond
our means. It is one of the strongest cities in the Netherlands,
and my ancestors, who were its lords, little thought that they were
fortifying and strengthening it in order that it might be a thorn
in the side of their country. I would give much, indeed, to be
able to wrest it from the enemy; but I fear it will be long before
we can even hope for that. It could withstand a regular siege by
a well provided army for months; and as to surprise, it is out of
the question, for I hear that the utmost vigilance is unceasingly
maintained."

A few days after this Lionel was talking with Captain de Heraugiere,
who had also been at the supper. He had taken part in the defence
of Sluys and was one of the officers with whom Lionel was most
intimate.

"It would be a rare enterprise to surprise Breda," Captain
de Heraugiere said; "but I fear it is hopeless to think of such a
thing."

"I do not see why it should be," Lionel said. "I was reading when
I was last at home about our wars with the Scotch, and there were
several cases in which very strong places that could not have been
carried by assault were captured suddenly by small parties of men
who disguised themselves as waggoners, and hiding a score or two
of their comrades in a wagon covered with firewood, or sacks of
grain, boldly went up to the gates. When there they cut the traces
of their horses so that the gates could not be closed, or the
portcullis lowered, and then falling upon the guards, kept them at
bay until a force, hidden near the gates, ran up and entered the
town. I see not why a similar enterprise should not be attempted
at Breda."

"Nor do I," Captain Heraugiere said; "the question is how to set
about such a scheme."

"That one could not say without seeing the place," Lionel remarked.
"I should say that a plan of this sort could only be successful
after those who attempted it had made themselves masters of all
particulars of the place and its ways. Everything would depend upon
all going smoothly and without hitches of any kind. If you really
think of undertaking such an adventure, Captain Heraugiere, I
should be very glad to act under you if Sir Francis Vere will give
me leave to do so; but I would suggest that the first step should
be for us to go into Breda in disguise. We might take in a wagon
load of grain for sale, or merely carry on our backs baskets with
country produce, or we could row up in a boat with fish."

"The plan is certainly worth thinking of," Captain Heraugiere said.
"I will turn it over in my mind for a day, and will then talk to
you again. It would be a grand stroke, and there would be great
honour to be obtained; but it will not do for me to go to Prince
Maurice and lay it before him until we have a plan completely worked
out, otherwise we are more likely to meet with ridicule than praise."

The following day Captain Heraugiere called at Lionel's lodgings.
"I have lain awake all night thinking of our scheme," he said,
"and have resolved to carry out at least the first part of it--to
enter Breda and see what are the prospects of success, and the
manner in which the matter had best be set about. I propose that
we two disguise ourselves as fishermen, and going down to the river
between Breda and Willemstad bargain with some fishermen going up
to Breda with their catch for the use of their boat. While they are
selling the fish we can survey the town and see what is the best
method of introducing a force into it. When our plan is completed
we will go to Voorne, whither Prince Maurice starts tomorrow, and
lay the matter before him."

"I will gladly go with you to Breda," Lionel said, "and, as far
as I can, aid you there; but I think that it would be best that
you only should appear in the matter afterwards. I am but a young
volunteer, and it would be well that I did not appear at all in
the matter, which you had best make entirely your own. But I hope,
Captain Heraugiere, that should the prince decide to adopt any plan
you may form, and intrust the matter to you, that you will take me
with you in your following."

"That I will assuredly," Captain Heraugiere said, "and will take care
that if it should turn out successful your share in the enterprise
shall be known."

"When do you think of setting about it?" Lionel asked.

"Instantly. My company is at Voorne, and I should return thither
with the prince today. I will at once go to him and ask for leave
to be absent on urgent affairs for a week. Do you go to Sir Francis
Vere and ask for a similar time. Do not tell him, if you can help
it, the exact nature of your enterprise. But if you cannot obtain
leave otherwise, of course you must do so. I will be back here in
two hours' time. We can then at once get our disguises, and hire
a craft to take us to Willemstad."

Lionel at once went across to the quarters of Sir Francis Vere.

"I have come, Sir Francis, to ask for a week's leave of absence."

"That you can have, Lionel. Where are you going--shooting ducks
on the frozen meres?"

"No, Sir Francis. I am going on a little expedition with Captain
Heraugiere, who has invited me to accompany him. We have an idea in
our heads that may perhaps be altogether useless, but may possibly
bear fruit. In the first case we would say nothing about it, in
the second we will lay it before you on our return."

"Very well," Sir Francis said with a smile. "You showed that you
could think at Sluys, and I hope something may come of this idea
of yours, whatever it may be."

At the appointed time Captain Heraugiere returned, having obtained
leave of absence from the prince. They at once went out into the
town and bought the clothes necessary for their disguise. They
returned with these to their lodgings, and having put them on went
down to the wharf, where they had no difficulty in bargaining with
the master of a small craft to take them to Willemstad, as the
Spaniards had no ships whatever on the water between Rotterdam and
Bergen op Zoom. The boat was to wait three days for them at that
town, and to bring them back to Rotterdam. As there was no reason
for delay they at once went on board and cast off. The distance
was but thirty miles, and just at nightfall they stepped ashore at
the town of Willemstad.

The next morning they had no difficulty in arranging with a fisherman
who was going up to Breda with a cargo of fish to take the place
of two of his boatmen at the oars.

"We want to spend a few hours there," Captain Heraugiere said, "and
will give you five crowns if you will leave two of your men here
and let us take their places."

"That is a bargain," the man said at once; "that is, if you can
row, for we shall scarce take the tide up to the town, and must
keep on rowing to get there before the ebb begins."

"We can row, though perhaps not so well as your own men. You are,
I suppose, in the habit of going there, and are known to the guards
at the port? They are not likely, I should think, to notice that
you haven't got the same crew as usual?"

"There is no fear of that, and if they did I could easily say that
two of my men were unable to accompany me today, and that I have
hired fresh hands in their places."

Two of the men got out. Captain Heraugiere and Lionel Vickars took
their places, and the boat proceeded up the river. The oars were
heavy and clumsy, and the newcomers were by no means sorry when,
after a row of twelve miles, they neared Breda.

"What are the regulations for entering Breda?" Captain Heraugiere
asked as they approached the town.

"There are no particular regulations," the master of the boat said,
"save that on entering the port the boat is searched to see that
it contains nothing but fish. None are allowed to enter the gates
of the town without giving their names, and satisfying the officer
on guard that they have business in the place."

An officer came on board as the boat ran up alongside the quay and
asked a few questions. After assisting in getting the basket of
fish on shore Captain Heraugiere and Lionel sauntered away along
the quay, leaving the fishermen to dispose of their catch to the
townspeople, who had already begun to bargain for them.

The river Mark flowed through the town, supplying its moats with
water. Where it left the town on the western side was the old
castle, with a moat of its own and strong fortified lines. Within
was the quay, with an open place called the fish market leading
to the gates of the new castle. There were 600 Spanish infantry in
the town and 100 in the castle, and 100 cavalry. The governor of
Breda, Edward Lanzavecchia, was absent superintending the erection
of new fortifications at Gertruydenberg, and in his absence the
town was under the command of his son Paolo.

Great vigilance was exercised. All vessels entering port were
strictly examined, and there was a guard house on the quay. Lying
by one of the wharves was a large boat laden with peat, which was
being rapidly unloaded, the peat being sold as soon as landed, as
fuel was very short in the city.

"It seems to me," Lionel said as they stood for a minute looking
on, "that this would be just the thing for us. If we could make an
arrangement with the captain of one of these peat boats we might
hide a number of men in the hold and cover them with peat. A place
might be built large enough, I should think, to hold seventy or
eighty men, and yet be room for a quantity of peat to be stowed
over them."

"A capital idea," Captain Heraugiere said. "The peat comes from
above the town. We must find out where the barges are loaded, and
try to get at one of the captains."

After a short walk through the town they returned to the boat. The
fisherman had already sold out his stock, and was glad at seeing
his passengers return earlier than he expected; but as the guard
was standing by he rated them severely for keeping him waiting so
long, and with a muttered excuse they took their places in the boat
and rowed down the river.

"I want you to put us ashore on the left bank as soon as we are
our of sight of the town," Captain Heraugiere said. "As it will
be heavy work getting your boat back with only two of you, I will
give you a couple of crowns beyond the amount I bargained with you
for."

"That will do well enough," the man said. "We have got the tide
with us, and can drop down at our leisure."

As soon as they were landed they made a wide detour to avoid the
town, and coming down again upon the river above it, followed its
banks for three miles, when they put up at a little inn in the small
village of Leur on its bank. They had scarcely sat down to a meal
when a man came in and called for supper. The landlord placed
another plate at the table near them, and the man at once got into
conversation with them, and they learnt that he was master of a
peat boat that had that morning left Breda empty.

"We were in Breda ourselves this morning," Captain Heraugiere said,
"and saw a peat boat unloading there. There seemed to be a brisk
demand for the fuel."

"Yes; it is a good trade at present," the man said. "There are only
six of us who have permits to enter the port, and it is as much as
we can do to keep the town supplied with fuel; for, you see, at any
moment the river may be frozen up, so the citizens need to keep
a good stock in hand. I ought not to grumble, since I reap the
benefit of the Spanish regulations; but all these restrictions on
trade come mighty hard upon the people of Breda. It was not so in
the old time."

After supper was over Captain Heraugiere ordered a couple of flasks
of spirits, and presently learned from the boatman that his name
was Adrian Van de Berg, and that he had been at one time a servant
in the household of William of Orange. Little by little Captain
Heraugiere felt his way, and soon found that the boatman was an
enthusiastic patriot. He then confided to him that he himself was
an officer in the State's service, and had come to Breda to ascertain
whether there was any possibility of capturing the town by surprise.

"We hit on a plan today," he said, "which promises a chance of
success; but it needs the assistance of one ready to risk his life."

"I am ready to risk my life in any enterprise that has a fair
chance of success," the boatman said, "but I do not see how I can
be of much assistance."

"You can be of the greatest assistance if you will, and will render
the greatest service to your country if you will join in our plan.
What we propose is, that we should construct a shelter of boards
four feet high in the bottom of your boat, leading from your little
cabin aft right up to the bow. In this I calculate we could stow
seventy men; then the peat could be piled over it, and if you
entered the port somewhat late in the afternoon you could manage
that it was not unladen so as to uncover the roof of our shelter
before work ceased for the night. Then we could sally out, overpower
the guard on the quay, make for one of the gates, master the guard
there, and open it to our friends without."

"It is a bold plan and a good one," Van de Berg said, "and I am
ready to run my share of the risk with you. I am so well known in
Breda that they do not search the cargo very closely when I arrive,
and I see no reason why the party hidden below should not escape
observation. I will undertake my share of the business if you
decide to carry it out. I served the prince for fifteen years, and
am ready to serve his son. There are plenty of planks to be obtained
at a place three miles above here, and it would not take many hours
to construct the false deck. If you send a messenger here giving
me two days' notice, it shall be built and the peat stowed on it
by the time you arrive."

It was late at night before the conversation was concluded, and
the next morning Captain Heraugiere and Lionel started on their
return, struck the river some miles below Breda, obtained a passage
over the river in a passing boat late in the afternoon, and, sleeping
at Willemstad, went on board their boat next morning and returned
to Rotterdam. It was arranged that Lionel should say nothing about
their journey until Captain Heraugiere had opened the subject to
Prince Maurice.

"You are back before your time," Sir Francis Vere said when Lionel
reported himself for duty. "Has anything come of this project of
yours, whatever it may be?"

"We hope so, sir, Captain Heraugiere will make his report to Prince
Maurice. He is the leader of the party, and therefore he thought
it best that he should report to Prince Maurice, who, if he thinks
well of it, will of course communicate with you."

The next day a message arrived from Voorne requesting Sir Francis
Vere to proceed thither to discuss with the prince a matter of
importance. He returned after two days' absence, and presently sent
for Lionel.

"This is a rare enterprise that Captain Heraugiere has proposed to
the prince," he said, "and promises well for success. It is to be
kept a profound secret, and a few only will know aught of it until
it is executed. Heraugiere is of course to have command of the party
which is to be hidden in the barge, and is to pick out eighty men
from the garrisons of Gorcum and Lowesteyn. He has begged that you
shall be of the party, as he says that the whole matter was in the
first case suggested to him by you. The rest of the men and officers
will be Dutch."

A fortnight later, on the 22nd of February, Sir Francis Vere on his
return from the Hague, where Prince Maurice now was, told Lionel
that all was arranged. The message had come down from Van de Berg
that the hiding place was constructed. They were to join Heraugiere
the next day.

On the 24th of February the little party starred. Heraugiere had
chosen young, active, and daring men. With him were Captains Logier
and Fervet, and Lieutenant Held. They embarked on board a vessel,
and were landed near the mouth of the Mark, as De Berg was this
time going to carry the peat up the river instead of down, fearing
that the passage of seventy men through the country would attract
attention. The same night Prince Maurice, Sir Francis Vere, Count
Hohenlohe, and other officers sailed to Willemstad, their destination
having been kept a strict secret from all but those engaged in the
enterprise. Six hundred English troops, eight hundred Dutch, and
three hundred cavalry had been drawn from different garrisons, and
were also to land at Willemstad.

When Heraugiere's party arrived at the point agreed on at eleven
o'clock at night, Van de Berg was not there, nor was the barge;
and angry and alarmed at his absence they searched about for him
for hours, and at last found him in the village of Terheyde. He made
the excuse that he had overslept himself, and that he was afraid
the plot had been discovered. As everything depended upon his
cooperation, Heraugiere abstained from the angry reproaches which
the strange conduct of the man had excited; and as it was now
too late to do anything that night, a meeting was arranged for
the following evening, and a message was despatched to the prince
telling him that the expedition was postponed for a day. On their
return, the men all gave free vent to their indignation.

"I have no doubt," Heraugiere said, "that the fellow has turned
coward now that the time has come to face the danger. It is one
thing to talk about a matter as long as it is far distant, but
another to look it in the face when it is close at hand. I do not
believe that he will come tomorrow.

"If he does not he will deserve hanging," Captain Logier said;
"after all the trouble he has given in getting the troops together,
and after bringing the prince himself over."

"It will go very near hanging if not quite," Heraugiere muttered.
"If he thinks that he is going to fool us with impunity, he is
mightily mistaken. If he is a wise man he will start at daybreak,
and get as far away as he can before nightfall if he does not mean
to come."

The next day the party remained in hiding in a barn, and in the
evening again went down to the river. There was a barge lying there
laden high with turf. A general exclamation of satisfaction broke
from all when they saw it. There were two men on it. One landed
and came to meet them.

"Where is Van de Berg?" Captain Heraugiere asked as he came up.

"He is ill and unable to come, but has sent you this letter. My
brother and myself have undertaken the business."

The letter merely said that the writer was too ill to come, but
had sent in his place his two nephews, one or other of whom always
accompanied him, and who could be trusted thoroughly to carry out
the plan. The party at once went on board the vessel, descended
into the little cabin aft, and then passed through a hole made by
the removal of two planks into the hold that had been prepared for
them. Heraugiere remained on deck, and from time to time descended
to inform those below of the progress being made. It was slow
indeed, for a strong wind laden with sleet blew directly down the
river. Huge blocks of ice floated down, and the two boatmen with
their poles had the greatest difficulty in keeping the boat's head
up the stream.

At last the wind so increased that navigation became impossible,
and the barge was made fast against the bank. From Monday night
until Thursday morning the gale continued. Progress was impossible,
and the party cramped up in the hold suffered greatly from hunger
and thirst. On Thursday evening they could sustain it no longer and
landed. They were for a time scarce able to walk, so cramped were
their limbs by their long confinement, and made their way up painfully
to a fortified building called Nordand, standing far from any other
habitations. Here they obtained food and drink, and remained until
eleven at night. One of the boatmen came to them with news that the
wind had changed, and was now blowing in from the sea. They again
took their places on board, but the water was low in the river, and
it was difficult work passing the shallows, and it was not until
Saturday afternoon that they passed the boom below the town and
entered the inner harbour.

An officer of the guard came off in a boat and boarded the barge.
The weather was so bitterly cold that he at once went into the
little cabin and there chatted with the two boatmen. Those in the
hold could hear every word that was said, and they almost held their
breath, for the slightest noise would betray them. After a while
the officer got into his boat again, saying he would send some
men off to warp the vessel into the castle dock, as the fuel was
required by the garrison there. As the barge was making its way
towards the watergate, it struck upon a hidden obstruction in the
river and began to leak rapidly. The situation of those in the hold
was now terrible, for in a few minutes the water rose to their
knees, and the choice seemed to be presented to them of being
drowned like rats there, or leaping overboard, in which case they
would be captured and hung without mercy. The boatmen plied the
pumps vigorously, and in a short time a party of Italian soldiers
arrived from the shore and towed the vessel into the inner harbour,
and made her fast close to the guard house of the castle. A party
of labourers at once came on board and began to unload the turf;
the need of fuel both in the town and castle being great, for the
weather had been for some time bitterly cold.

A fresh danger now arose. The sudden immersion in the icy water
in the close cabin brought on a sudden inclination to sneeze and
cough. Lieutenant Held, finding himself unable to repress his cough,
handed his dagger to Lionel Vickars, who happened to be sitting
next to him, and implored him to stab him to the heart lest his
cough might betray the whole party; but one of the boatmen who was
standing close to the cabin heard the sounds, and bade his companion
go on pumping with as much noise and clatter as possible, while he
himself did the same, telling those standing on the wharf alongside
that the boat was almost full of water. The boatmen behaved with
admirable calmness and coolness, exchanging jokes with acquaintances
on the quay, keeping up a lively talk, asking high prices for their
peat, and engaging in long and animated bargains so as to prevent
the turf from being taken too rapidly ashore.

At last, when but a few layers of turf remained over the roof
of the hold, the elder brother told the men unloading that it was
getting too dark, and he himself was too tired and worn out to
attend to things any longer. He therefore gave the man some money
and told them to go to the nearest public house to drink his health,
and to return the first thing in the morning to finish unloading.
The younger of the two brothers had already left the boat. He made
his way through the town, and started at full speed to carry the
news to Prince Maurice that the barge had arrived safely in the
town, and the attempt would be made at midnight; also of the fact
they had learned from those on the wharf, that the governor had
heard a rumour that a force had landed somewhere on the coast, and
had gone off again to Gertruydenberg in all haste, believing that
some design was on foot against that town. His son Paolo was again
in command of the garrison.

A little before midnight Captain Heraugiere told his comrades that
the hour had arrived, and that only by the most desperate bravery
could they hope to succeed, while death was the certain consequence
of failure. The band were divided into two companies. He himself
with one was to attack the main guard house; the other, under
Fervet, was to seize the arsenal of the fortress. Noiselessly they
stole out from their hiding place, and formed upon the wharf within
the inclosure of the castle. Heraugiere moved straight upon the
guard house. The sentry was secured instantly; but the slight noise
was heard, and the captain of the watch ran out, but was instantly
cut down.

Others came our with torches, but after a brief fight were driven
into the guard house; when all were shot down through the doors
and windows. Captain Ferver and his band had done equally well. The
magazine of the castle was seized, and its defenders slain. Paolo
Lanzavecchia made a sally from the palace with a few of his adherents,
but was wounded and driven back; and the rest of the garrison of
the castle, ignorant of the strength of the force that had thus
risen as it were from the earth upon them, fled panic stricken,
not even pausing to destroy the bridge between the castle and the
town.

Young Paolo Lanzavecchia now began a parley with the assailants;
but while the negotiations were going on Hohenlohe with his cavalry
came up--having been apprised by the boatman that the attempt was
about to be made--battered down the palisade near the watergate,
and entered the castle. A short time afterwards Prince Maurice,
Sir Francis Vere, and other officers arrived with the main body of
the troops. But the fight was over before even Hohenlohe arrived;
forty of the garrison being killed, and not a single man of the
seventy assailants. The burgomaster, finding that the castle had
fallen, and that a strong force had arrived, then sent a trumpeter
to the castle to arrange for the capitulation of the town, which
was settled on the following terms:-- All plundering was commuted
for the payment of two months' pay to every soldier engaged in the
affair. All who chose might leave the city, with full protection
to life and property. Those who were willing to remain were not
to be molested in their consciences or households with regard to
religion.

The news of the capture of Breda was received with immense enthusiasm
throughout Holland. It was the first offensive operation that had
been successfully undertaken, and gave new hope to the patriots.

Parma was furious at the cowardice with which five companies of
foot and one of horse--all picked troops--had fled before the
attack of seventy Hollanders. Three captains were publicly beheaded
in Brussels and a fourth degraded to the ranks, while Lanzavecchia
was deprived of the command of Gertruydenberg.

For some months before the assault upon Breda the army of Holland
had been gaining vastly in strength and organization. Prince Maurice,
aided by his cousin Lewis William, stadholder of Friesland, had been
hard at work getting it into a state of efficiency. Lewis William,
a man of great energy and military talent, saw that the use of
solid masses of men in the field was no longer fitted to a state of
things when the improvements in firearms of all sorts had entirely
changed the condition of war. He therefore reverted to the old
Roman methods, and drilled his soldiers in small bodies; teaching
them to turn and wheel, advance or retreat, and perform all sorts
of manoeuvres with regularity and order. Prince Maurice adopted
the same plan in Holland, and the tactics so introduced proved so
efficient that they were sooner or later adopted by all civilized
nations.

At the time when William of Orange tried to relieve the hard pressed
city of Haarlem, he could with the greatest difficulty muster three
or four thousand men for the purpose. The army of the Netherlands
was now 22,000 strong, of whom 2000 were cavalry. It was well
disciplined, well equipped, and regularly paid, and was soon to
prove that the pains bestowed upon it had not been thrown away.
In the course of eighteen years that had followed the capture of
Brill and the commencement of the struggle with Spain, the wealth
and prosperity of Holland had enormously increased. The Dutch were
masters of the sea coast, the ships of the Zeelanders closed every
avenue to the interior, and while the commerce of Antwerp, Ghent,
Bruges, and the other cities of the provinces that remained in
the hands of the Spaniards was for the time destroyed, and their
population fell off by a half, Holland benefited in proportion.

From all the Spanish provinces men of energy and wealth passed
over in immense numbers to Holland, where they could pursue their
commerce and industries--free from the exactions and cruelty under
which they had for so many years groaned. The result was that the
cities of Holland increased vastly in wealth and population, and
the resources at the disposal of Prince Maurice enormously exceeded
those with which his father had for so many years sustained the
struggle.

For a while after the capture of Breda there was breathing time
in Holland, and Maurice was busy in increasing and improving his
army. Parma was fettered by the imperious commands of Philip, who
had completely crippled him by withdrawing a considerable number of
his troops for service in the war which he was waging with France.
But above all, the destruction of the Armada, and with it of the
naval supremacy of Spain, had changed the situation.

Holland was free to carry on her enterprises by sea, and had free
communication and commerce with her English ally; while communication
between Spain and the Netherlands was difficult. Reinforcements
could no longer be sent by sea, and had to be sent across Europe
from Italy. Parma was worn out by exertions, disappointment, and
annoyance, and his health was seriously failing; while opposed
to him were three young commanders--Maurice, Lewis William, and
Francis Vere--all men of military genius and full of confidence
and energy.



CHAPTER XV

A SLAVE IN BARBARY


The Terifa had left port but a few hours when a strong wind rose
from the north, and rapidly increased in violence until it was
blowing a gale. "Inez is terribly ill," Gerald said when he met
Geoffrey on deck the following morning.

"I believe at the present moment she would face her father and risk
everything if she could but be put on shore."

"I can well imagine that. However, she will think otherwise tomorrow
or next day. I believe these Mediterranean storms do not last long.
There is no fear of six weeks of bad weather such as we had when
we were last afloat together."

"No. I have just been speaking to the captain. He says they generally
blow themselves out in two or three days; but still, even that is
not a pleasant lookout. These vessels are not like your English
craft, which seem to be able to sail almost in the eye of the wind.
They are lubberly craft, and badly handled; and if this gale lasts
for three days we shall be down on the Barbary coast, and I would
rather risk another journey through Spain than get down so near
the country of the Moors."

"I can understand that," Geoffrey agreed. "However, I see there
are some thirty soldiers forward on their way to join one of the
regiments in Naples, so we ought to be able to beat off any corsair
that might come near us."

"Yes; but if we got down on their coast we might be attacked by
half a dozen of them," Gerald said. "However, one need not begin to
worry one's self at present; the gale may abate within a few hours."

At the end of the second day the wind went down suddenly; and
through the night the vessel rolled heavily, for the sea was still
high, and there was not a breath of wind to fill her sails and steady
her. By the morning the sea had gone down, but there was still an
absence of wind.

"We have had a horrible night," Gerald remarked, "but we may think
ourselves fortunate indeed," and he pointed to the south, where
the land was plainly visible at a distance of nine or ten miles.
"If the gale had continued to blow until now we should have been
on shore long before this."

"We are too near to be pleasant," Geoffrey said, "for they can
see us as plainly as we can see the land. It is to be hoped that
a breeze may spring up from the south before long and enable us
to creep off the land. Unless I am greatly mistaken I can see the
masts of some craft or other in a line with those white houses over
there."

"I don't see them," Gerald replied, gazing intently in the direction
in which Geoffrey pointed.

"Let us go up to the top, Gerald; we shall see her hull from there
plainly enough."

On reaching the top Gerald saw at once that his friend's eyes had
not deceived him.

"Yes, there is a vessel there sure enough, Geoffrey. I cannot see
whether she has one or two masts, for her head is in this direction."

"That is not the worst of it," Geoffrey said, shading his eyes and
gazing intently on the distant object. "She is rowing; I can see
the light flash on her oars every stroke. That is a Moorish galley,
and she is coming out towards us."

"I believe you are right," Gerald replied after gazing earnestly
for some time. "Yes, I saw the flash of the oars then distinctly."

They at once descended to the deck and informed the captain of what
they had seen. He hastily mounted to the top.

"There is no mistake about it," he said after looking intently for
a short time; "it is one of the Barbary corsairs, and she is making
out towards us. The holy saints preserve us from these bloodthirsty
infidels."

"The saints will do their work if we do ours," Gerald remarked; "and
we had best do as large a share as possible. What is the number of
your crew, captain?"

"Nineteen men altogether."

"And there are thirty soldiers, and six male passengers in the
cabin," Gerald said; "so we muster fifty-four. That ought to be
enough to beat off the corsair."

On returning to the deck the captain informed the officer in charge of
the troops on board that a Moorish pirate was putting off towards
them, and that unless the wind came to their aid there was no chance
of escaping a conflict with her.

"Then we must fight her, captain," the officer, who was still a
youth, said cheerfully. "I have thirty men, of whom at least half
are veterans. You have four cannon on board, and there are the crew
and passengers.

"Fifty-four in all," Gerald said. "We ought to be able to make a
good fight of it."

Orders were at once given, soldiers and crew were mustered and
informed of the approaching danger.

"We have got to fight, men, and to fight hard," the young officer
said; "for if we are beaten you know the result--either our throats
will be cut or we shall have to row in their galleys for the rest
of our lives. So there is not much choice."

In an hour the corsair was halfway between the coast and the vessel.
By this time every preparation had been made for her reception. Arms
had been distributed among the crew and such of the passengers as
were not already provided, the guns had been cast loose and ammunition
brought up, cauldrons of pitch were ranged along the bulwarks and
fires lighted on slabs of stone placed beneath them. The coppers
in the galley were already boiling.

"Now, captain," the young officer said, "do you and your sailors
work the guns and ladle out the pitch and boiling water, and be in
readiness to catch up their pikes and axes and aid in the defence
if the villains gain a footing on the deck. I and my men and the
passengers will do our best to keep them from climbing up."

The vessel was provided with sweeps, and the captain had in
the first place proposed to man them; but Gerald pointed out that
the corsair would row three feet to their one, and that it was
important that all should be fresh and vigorous when the pirates
came alongside. The idea had consequently been abandoned, and the
vessel lay motionless in the water while the corsair was approaching.
Inez, who felt better now that the motion had subsided, came on
deck as the preparations were being made. Gerald told her of the
danger that was approaching. She turned pale.

"This is dreadful, Gerald, I would rather face death a thousand
times than be captured by the Moors."

"We shall beat them off, dear, never fear. They will not reckon
upon the soldiers we have on board, and will expect an easy prize.
I do not suppose that, apart from the galley slaves, they have more
men on board than we have, and fighting as we do for liberty, each
of us ought to be equal to a couple of these Moorish dogs. When
the conflict begins you must go below."

"I shall not do that," Inez said firmly. "We will share the same
fate whatever it may be, Gerald; and remember that whatever happens
I will not live to be carried captive among them, I will stab myself
to the heart if I see that all is lost."

"You shall come on deck if you will, Inez, when they get close
alongside. I do not suppose there will be many shots fired--they
will be in too great a hurry to board; but as long as they are
shooting you must keep below. After that come up if you will. It
would make a coward of me did I know that a chance shot might strike
you."

"Very well, then, Gerald, to please you I will go down until they
come alongside, then come what will I shall be on deck."

As the general opinion on board was that the corsairs would not
greatly outnumber them, while they would be at a great disadvantage
from the lowness of their vessel in the water, there was a general
feeling of confidence, and the approach of the enemy was watched
with calmness. When half a mile distant two puffs of smoke burst
out from the corsair's bows. A moment later a shot struck the ship,
and another threw up the water close to her stern. The four guns
of the Tarifa had been brought over to the side on which the enemy
was approaching, and these were now discharged. One of the shots
carried away some oars on the starboard side of the galley, another
struck her in the bow. There was a slight confusion on board; two
or three oars were shifted over from the port to the starboard
side, and, she continued her way.

The guns were loaded again, bags of bullets being this time inserted
instead of balls. The corsairs fired once more, but their shots
were unanswered; and with wild yells and shouts they approached
the motionless Spanish vessel.

"She is crowded with men," Gerald remarked to Geoffrey. "She has
far more on board than we reckoned on."

"We have not given them a close volley yet," Geoffrey replied. "If
the guns are well aimed they will make matters equal."

The corsair was little more than her own length away when the captain
gave the order, and the four guns poured their contents upon her
crowded decks. The effect was terrible. The mass of men gathered
in her bow in readiness to board as soon as she touched the Tarifa
were literally swept away. Another half minute she was alongside
the Spaniard, and the Moors with wild shouts of vengeance tried to
clamber on board.

But they had not reckoned upon meeting with more than the ordinary
crew of a merchant ship. The soldiers discharged their arquebuses,
and then with pike and sword opposed an impenetrable barrier to the
assailants, while the sailors from behind ladled over the boiling
pitch and water through intervals purposely left in the line of the
defenders. The conflict lasted but a few minutes. Well nigh half
the Moors had been swept away by the discharge of the cannon, and
the rest, but little superior in numbers to the Spaniards, were
not long before they lost heart, their efforts relaxed, and shouts
arose to the galley slaves to row astern.

"Now, it is our turn!" the young officer cried. "Follow me, my
men; we will teach the dogs a lesson." As he spoke he sprang from
the bulwark down upon the deck of the corsair. Geoffrey, who was
standing next to him, followed his example, as did five or six
soldiers. They were instantly engaged in a hand to hand fight with
the Moors. In the din and confusion they heard not the shouts of
their comrades. After a minute's fierce fighting, Geoffrey, finding
that he and his companions were being pressed back, glanced round
to see why support did not arrive, and saw that there were already
thirty feet of water between the two vessels. He was about to
spring overboard, when the Moors made a desperate rush, his guard
was beaten down, a blow from a Moorish scimitar fell on his head,
and he lost consciousness.

It was a long time before he recovered. The first sound he was
aware of was the creaking of the oars. He lay dreamily listening to
this, and wondering what it meant until the truth suddenly flashed
across him. He opened his eyes and looked round. A heavy weight lay
across his legs, and he saw the young Spanish officer lying dead
there. Several other Spaniards lay close by, while the deck was
strewn with the corpses of the Moors. He understood at once what had
happened. The vessels had drifted apart just as he sprang on board,
cutting off those who had boarded the corsair from all assistance
from their friends, and as soon as they had been overpowered the
galley had started on her return to the port from which she had
come out.

"At any rate," he said to himself, "Gerald and Inez are safe; that
is a comfort, whatever comes of it."

It was not until the corsair dropped anchor near the shore that
the dispirited Moors paid any attention to those by whom their deck
was cumbered. Then the Spaniards were first examined. Four, who
were dead, were at once tossed overboard. Geoffrey and two others
who showed signs of life were left for the present, a bucket of
water being thrown over each to revive them. The Moorish wounded
and the dead were then lowered into boats and taken on shore for
care or burial. Then Geoffrey and the two Spaniards were ordered
to rise.

All three were able to do so with some difficulty, and were rowed
ashore. They were received when they landed by the curses and
execrations of the people of the little town, who would have torn
them to pieces had not their captors marched them to the prison
occupied by the galley slaves when on shore, and left them there.
Most of the galley slaves were far too exhausted by their long row,
and too indifferent to aught but their own sufferings, to pay any
attention to the newcomers. Two or three, however, came up to them
and offered to assist in bandaging their wounds. Their doublets
had already been taken by their captors; but they now tore strips
off their shirts, and with these staunched the bleeding of their
wounds.

"It was lucky for you that five or six of our number were killed by
that discharge of grape you gave us," one of them said, "or they
would have thrown you overboard at once. Although, after all, death
is almost preferable to such a life as ours."

"How long have you been here?" Geoffrey asked.

"I hardly know," the other replied; "one almost loses count of time
here. But it is somewhere about ten years. I am sturdy, you see.
Three years at most is the average of our life in the galleys, though
there are plenty die before as many months have passed. I come of
a hardy race. I am not a Spaniard. I was captured in an attack on
a town in the West Indies, and had three years on board one of your
galleys at Cadiz. Then she was captured by the Moors, and here I
have been ever since."

"Then you must be an Englishman!" Geoffrey exclaimed in that
language.

The man stared at him stupidly for a minute, and then burst into
tears. "I have never thought to hear my own tongue again, lad,"
he said, holding out his hand. "Aye, I am English, and was one
of Hawkins' men. But how come you to be in a Spanish ship? I have
heard our masters say, when talking together, that there is war
now between the English and Spaniards; that is, war at home. There
has always been war out on the Spanish Main, but they know nothing
of that."

"I was made prisoner in a fight we had with the great Spanish Armada
off Gravelines," Geoffrey said.

"We heard a year ago from some Spaniards they captured that a great
fleet was being prepared to conquer England; but no news has come
to us since. We are the only galley here, and as our benches were
full, the prisoners they have taken since were sent off at once to
Algiers or other ports, so we have heard nothing. But I told the
Spaniards that if Drake and Hawkins were in England when their
great fleet got there, they were not likely to have it all their
own way. Tell me all about it, lad. You do nor know how hungry I
am for news from home."

Geoffrey related to the sailor the tale of the overthrow and destruction
of the Armada, which threw him into an ecstasy of satisfaction.

"These fellows," he said, pointing to the other galley slaves,
"have for the last year been telling me that I need not call myself
an Englishman any more, for that England was only a part of Spain
now. I will open their eyes a bit in the morning. But I won't ask
you any more questions now; it is a shame to have made you talk so
much after such a clip as you have had on the head."

Geoffrey turned round on the sand that formed their only bed, and
was soon asleep, the last sound he heard being the chuckling of
his companion over the discomfiture of the Armada.

In the morning the guard came in with a great dish filled with a
sort of porridge of coarsely ground grain, boiled with water. In
a corner of the yard were a number of calabashes, each composed of
half a gourd. The slaves each dipped one of these into the vessel,
and so ate their breakfast. Before beginning Geoffrey went to
a trough, into which a jet of water was constantly falling from a
small pipe, bathed his head and face, and took a long drink.

"We may be thankful," the sailor, who had already told him that
his name was Stephen Boldero, said, "that someone in the old times
laid on that water. If it had not been for that I do not know what
we should have done, and a drink of muddy stuff once or twice a
day is all we should have got. That there pure water is just the
saving of us."

"What are we going to do now?" Geoffrey asked. "Does the galley go
out every day?"

"Bless you, no; sometimes not once a month; only when a sail is made
out in sight, and the wind is light enough to give us the chance
of capturing her. Sometimes we go out on a cruise for a month at a
time; but that is not often. At other times we do the work of the
town, mend the roads, sweep up the filth, repair the quays; do
anything, in fact, that wants doing. The work, except in the galleys,
is not above a man's strength. Some men die under it, because the
Spaniards lose heart and turn sullen, and then down comes the whip
on their backs, and they break their hearts over it; but a man as
does his best, and is cheerful and willing, gets on well enough
except in the galleys.

"That is work that is. There is a chap walks up and down with a
whip, and when they are chasing he lets it fall promiscuous, and
even if you are rowing fit to kill yourself you do not escape it;
but on shore here if you keep up your spirits things ain't altogether
so bad. Now I have got you here to talk to in my own lingo I feel
quite a different man. For although I have been here ten years, and
can jabber in Spanish, I have never got on with these fellows; as
is only natural, seeing that I am an Englishman and know all about
their doings in the Spanish Main, and hate them worse than poison.
Well, our time is up, so I am off. I do nor expect they will make
you work till your wounds are healed a bit."

This supposition turned out correct, and for the next week Geoffrey
was allowed to remain quietly in the yard when the gang went out
to their work. At the end of that time his wound had closed, and
being heartily sick of the monotony of his life, he voluntarily
fell in by the side of Boldero when the gang was called to work.
The overseer was apparently pleased at this evidence of willingness
on the part of the young captive, and said something to him in his
own tongue. This his companion translated as being an order that
he was not to work too hard for the present.

"I am bound to say, mate, that these Moors are, as a rule, much
better masters than the Spaniards. I have tried them both, and I
would rather be in a Moorish galley than a Spanish one by a long
way; except just when they are chasing a ship, and are half wild
with excitement. These Moors are not half bad fellows, while it don't
seem to me that a Spaniard has got a heart in him. Then again, I
do not think they are quite so hard on Englishmen as they are on
Spaniards; for they hate the Spaniards because they drove them out
of their country. Once or twice I have had a talk with the overseer
when he has been in a special good humour, and he knows we hate
the Spaniards as much as they do, and that though they call us
all Christian dogs, our Christianity ain't a bit like that of the
Spaniards. I shall let him know the first chance I have that you
are English too, and I shall ask him to let you always work by the
side of me."

As Stephen Boldero had foretold, Geoffrey did not find his work
on shore oppressively hard. He did his best, and, as he and his
companion always performed a far larger share of work than that
done by any two of the Spaniards, they gained the goodwill of their
overlooker, who, when a fortnight later the principal bey of the
place sent down a request for two slaves to do some rough work in
his garden, selected them for the work.

"Now we will just buckle to, lad," Stephen Boldero said. "This bey
is the captain of the corsair, and he can make things a deal easier
for us if he chooses; so we will not spare ourselves. He had one
of the men up there two years ago, and kept him for some months,
and the fellow found it so hard when he came back here again that
he pined and died off in no time."

A guard took them to the bey's house, which stood on high ground
behind the town. The bey came out to examine the men chosen for
his work.

"I hear," he said, "that you are both English, and hate the Spaniards
as much as we do. Well, if I find you work well, you will be well
treated; if not, you will be sent back at once. Now, come with me,
and I shall show you what you have to do."

The high wall at the back of the garden had been pulled down, and
the bey intended to enlarge the inclosure considerably.

"You are first," he said, "to dig a foundation for the new wall
along that line marked out by stakes. When that is done you will
supply the masons with stone and mortar. When the wall is finished
the new ground will all have to be dug deeply and planted with
shrubs, under the superintendence of my gardener. While you are
working here you will not return to the prison, but will sleep in
that out house in the garden."

"You shall have no reason to complain of our work," Boldero said.
"We Englishmen are no sluggards, and we do not want a man always
looking after us as those lazy Spaniards do."

As soon as they were supplied with tools Geoffrey and his companion
set to work. The trench for the foundations had to be dug three
feet deep; and though the sun blazed fiercely down upon them, they
worked unflinchingly. From time to time the bey's head servant came
down to examine their progress, and occasionally watched them from
among the trees. At noon he bade them lay aside their tools and
come into the shed, and a slave boy brought them out a large dish
of vegetables, with small pieces of meat in it.

"This is something like food," Stephen said as he sat down to it.
"It is ten years since such a mess as this has passed my lips. I
do not wonder that chap fell ill when he got back to prison if this
is the sort of way they fed him here."

That evening the Moorish overseer reported to the bey that the two
slaves had done in the course of the day as much work as six of
the best native labourers could have performed, and that without
his standing over them or paying them any attention whatever. Moved
by the report, the bey himself went down to the end of the garden.

"It is wonderful," he said, stroking his beard. "Truly these
Englishmen are men of sinews. Never have I seen so much work done
by two men in a day. Take care of them, Mahmoud, and see that they
are well fed; the willing servant should be well cared for."

The work went steadily on until the wall was raised, the ground
dug, and the shrubs planted. It was some months before all this
was done, and the two slaves continued to attract the observation
and goodwill of the bey by their steady and cheerful labour. Their
work began soon after sunrise, and continued until noon. Then they
had three hours to themselves to eat their midday meal and doze in
the shed, and then worked again until sunset. The bey often strolled
down to the edge of the trees to watch them, and sometimes even took
guests to admire the way in which these two Englishmen, although
ignorant that any eyes were upon them, performed their work.

His satisfaction was evinced by the abundance of food supplied
them, their meal being frequently supplemented by fruit and other
little luxuries. Severely as they laboured, Geoffrey and his
companion were comparatively happy. Short as was the time that the
former had worked with the gang, he appreciated the liberty he now
enjoyed, and especially congratulated himself upon being spared the
painful life of a galley slave at sea. As to Boldero, the change
from the prison with the companions he hated, its degrading work,
and coarse and scanty food, made a new man of him.

He had been but two-and-twenty when captured by the Spaniards,
and was now in the prime of life and strength. The work, which had
seemed very hard to Geoffrey at first, was to him but as play, while
the companionship of his countryman, his freedom from constant
surveillance, the absence of all care, and the abundance and
excellence of his food, filled him with new life; and the ladies
of the bey's household often sat and listened to the strange songs
that rose from the slaves toiling in the garden.

As the work approached its conclusion Geoffrey and his companion
had many a talk over what would next befall them. There was one
reason only that weighed in favour of the life with the slave gang.
In their present position there was no possibility whatever, so
far as they could discern, of effecting their escape; whereas, as
slaves, should the galley in which they rowed be overpowered by
any ship it attacked, they would obtain their freedom. The chance
of this, however, was remote, as the fast-rowing galleys could
almost always make their escape should the vessel they attacked
prove too strong to be captured.

When the last bed had been levelled and the last shrub planted the
superintendent told them to follow him into the house, as the bey
was desirous of speaking with them. They found him seated on a
divan.

"Christians," he said, "I have watched you while you have been at
work, and truly you have not spared yourselves in my service, but
have laboured for me with all your strength, well and willingly. I
see now that it is true that the people of your nation differ much
from the Spaniards, who are dogs.

"I see that trust is to be placed in you, and were you but true
believers I would appoint you to a position where you could win
credit and honour. As it is, I cannot place you over believers in
the prophet; but neither am I willing that you should return to
the gang from which I took you. I will, therefore, leave you free
to work for yourselves. There are many of my friends who have seen
you labouring, and will give you employment. It will be known in
the place that you are under my protection, and that any who insult
or ill treat you will be severely punished. Should you have any
complaint to make, come freely to me and I will see that justice
is done you.

"This evening a crier will go through the place proclaiming that
the two English galley slaves have been given their freedom by
me, and will henceforth live in the town without molestation from
anyone, carrying on their work and selling their labour like true
believers. The crier will inform the people that the nation to which
you belong is at war with our enemies the Spaniards, and that, save
as to the matter of your religion, you are worthy of being regarded
as friends by all good Moslems. My superintendent will go down with
you in the morning. I have ordered him to hire a little house for
you and furnish it with what is needful, to recommend you to your
neighbours, and to give you a purse of piastres with which to
maintain yourselves until work comes to you."

Stephen Boldero expressed the warmest gratitude, on the part of
his companion and himself, to the bey for his kindness.

"I have done but simple justice," the bey said, "and no thanks are
necessary. Faithful work should have its reward, and as you have
done to me so I do to you."

The next morning as they were leaving, a female slave presented them
with a purse of silver, the gift of the bey's wife and daughters,
who had often derived much pleasure from the songs of the two
captives. The superintendent conducted them to a small hut facing
the sea. It was furnished with the few articles that were, according
to native ideas, necessary for comfort. There were cushions on
the divan of baked clay raised about a foot above the floor, which
served as a sofa during the day and as a bed at night. There was a
small piece of carpet on the floor and a few cooking utensils on a
shelf, and some dishes of burnt clay; and nothing more was required.
There was, however, a small chest, in which, after the superintendent
had left, they found two sets of garments as worn by the natives.

"This is a comfort indeed," Geoffrey said. "My clothes are all in
rags, and as for yours the less we say about them the better. I
shall feel like a new man in these things."

"I shall be glad myself," Stephen agreed, "for the clothes they
give the galley slaves are scarce decent for a Christian man to
wear. My consolation has been that if they had been shocked by our
appearance they would have given us more clothes; but as they did
not mind it there was no reason why I should. Still it would be a
comfort to be clean and decent again."

For the first few days the natives of the place looked askance
at these Christians in their midst, but the bey's orders had been
peremptory that no insults should be offered to them. Two days after
their liberation one of the principal men of the place sent for them
and employed them in digging the foundations for a fountain, and a
deep trench of some hundred yards in length for the pipe bringing
water to it. After that they had many similar jobs, receiving always
the wages paid to regular workmen, and giving great satisfaction by
their steady toil. Sometimes when not otherwise engaged they went
out in boats with fishermen, receiving a portion of the catch in
payment for their labours.

So some months passed away. Very frequently they talked over methods
of escape. The only plan that seemed at all possible was to take a
boat and make out to sea; but they knew that they would be pursued,
and if overtaken would revert to their former life at the galleys,
a change which would be a terrible one indeed after the present
life of freedom and independence. They knew, too, that they might
be days before meeting with a ship, for all traders in the Mediterranean
hugged the northern shores as much as possible in order to avoid the
dreaded corsairs, and there would be a far greater chance of their
being recaptured by one of the Moorish cruisers than of lighting
upon a Christian trader.

"It is a question of chance," Stephen said, "and when the chance
comes we will seize it; but it is no use our giving up a life against
which there is not much to be said, unless some fair prospect of
escape offers itself to us."



CHAPTER XVI

THE ESCAPE


"In one respect," Geoffrey said, as they were talking over their
chance of escape, "I am sorry that the bey has behaved so kindly
to us."

"What is that?" Stephen Boldero asked in surprise.

"Well, I was thinking that were it not for that we might manage
to contrive some plan of escape in concert with the galley slaves,
get them down to the shore here, row off to the galley, overpower
the three or four men who live on board her, and make off with her.
Of course we should have had to accumulate beforehand a quantity
of food and some barrels of water, for I have noticed that when
they go out they always take their stores on board with them, and
bring on shore on their return what has nor been consumed. Still,
I suppose that could be managed. However, it seems to me that our
hands are tied in that direction by the kindness of the bey. After
his conduct to us it would be ungrateful in the extreme for us to
carry off his galley."

"So it would, Geoffrey. Besides I doubt whether the plan would
succeed. You may be sure the Spaniards are as jealous as can be
of the good fortune that we have met with, and were we to propose
such a scheme to them the chances are strongly in favour of one of
them trying to better his own position by denouncing us. I would
only trust them as far as I can see them. No, if we ever do anything
it must be done by ourselves. There is no doubt that if some night
when there is a strong wind blowing from the southeast we were
to get on board one of these fishing boats, hoist a sail, and run
before it, we should not be far off from the coast of Spain before
they started to look for us. But what better should we be there?
We can both talk Spanish well enough, but we could not pass as
Spaniards. Besides, they would find out soon enough that we were
not Catholics, and where should we be then? Either sent to row
in their galleys or clapped into the dungeons of the Inquisition,
and like enough burnt alive at the stake. That would be out of the
frying pan into the fire with vengeance."

"I think we might pass as Spaniards," Geoffrey said; "for there is
a great deal of difference between the dialects of the different
provinces, and confined as you have been for the last ten years with
Spanish sailors you must have caught their way of talking. Still,
I agree with you it will be better to wait for a bit longer for
any chance that may occur rather than risk landing in Spain again,
where even if we passed as natives we should have as hard work to
get our living as we have here, and with no greater chance of making
our way home again."

During the time that they had been captives some three or four
vessels had been brought in by the corsair. The men composing
the crews had been either sold as slaves to Moors or Arabs in the
interior or sent to Algiers, which town lay over a hundred miles
to the east. They were of various nationalities, Spanish, French,
and Italian, as the two friends learned from the talk of the
natives, for they always abstained from going near the point where
the prisoners were landed, as they were powerless to assist the
unfortunate captives in any way, and the sight of their distress
was very painful to them.

One day, however, they learned from the people who were running
down to the shore to see the captives landed from a ship that had
been brought in by the corsair during the night, that there were
two or three women among the captives. This was the first time that
any females had been captured since their arrival at the place, for
women seldom travelled far from their homes in those days, except
the wives of high officials journeying in great ships that were
safe from the attack of the Moorish corsairs.

"Let us go down and see them," Boldero said. "I have not seen the
face of a white woman for nine years."

"I will go if you like," Geoffrey said. "They will not guess that
we are Europeans, for we are burnt as dark as the Moors."

They went down to the landing place. Eight men and two women were
landed from the boat. These were the sole survivors of the crew.

"They are Spaniards," Boldero said. "I pity that poor girl. I
suppose the other woman is her servant."

The girl, who was about sixteen years of age, was very pale, and
had evidently been crying terribly. She did not seem to heed the
cries and threats with which the townspeople as usual assailed the
newly arrived captives, but kept her eyes fixed upon one of the
captives who walked before her.

"That is her father, no doubt," Geoffrey said. "It is probably her
last look at him. Come away, Stephen; I am awfully sorry we came
here. I shall not be able to get that girl's face out of my mind
for I don't know how long."

Without a word they went back to their hut. They had no particular
work that day. Geoffrey went restlessly in and out, sometimes pacing
along the strand, sometimes coming in and throwing himself on the
divan. Stephen Boldero went on quietly mending a net that had been
damaged the night before, saying nothing, but glancing occasionally
with an amused look at his companion's restless movements. Late in
the afternoon Geoffrey burst our suddenly: "Stephen, we must try
and rescue that girl somehow from her fate."

"I supposed that was what it was coming to," Boldero said quietly.
"Well, let me hear all about it. I know you have been thinking it
over ever since morning. What are your ideas?"

"I do not know that I have any ideas beyond getting her and her
father down to a boat and making off."

"Well, you certainly have not done much if you haven't got farther
than that," Stephen said drily. "Now, if you had spent the day
talking it over with me instead of wandering about like one out
of his mind, we should have got a great deal further than that by
this time. However, I have been thinking for you. I know what you
young fellows are. As soon as I saw that girl's face and looked
at you I was dead certain there was an end of peace and quietness,
and that you would be bent upon some plan of getting her off.
It did not need five minutes to show that I was right; and I have
been spending my time thinking, while you have thrown yours away
in fidgeting.

"Well, I think it is worth trying. Of course it will be a vastly
more difficult job getting the girl and her father away than just
taking a boat and sailing off as we have often talked of doing.
Then, on the other hand, it would altogether alter our position
afterwards. By his appearance and hers I have no doubt he is a
well to do trader, perhaps a wealthy one. He walked with his head
upright when the crowd were yelling and cursing, and is evidently
a man of courage and determination. Now, if we had reached the
Spanish coast by ourselves we should have been questioned right
and left, and, as I have said all along, they would soon have found
that we were not Spaniards, for we could not have said where we
came from, or given our past history, or said where our families
lived. But it would be altogether different if we landed with
them. Every one would be interested about them. We should only be
two poor devils of sailors who had escaped with them, and he would
help to pass it off and get us employment; so that the difficulty
that has hitherto prevented us from trying to escape is very greatly
diminished. Now, as to getting them away. Of course she has been
taken up to the bey's, and no doubt he will send her as a present
to the bey of Algiers. I know that is what has been done several
times before when young women have been captured.

"I have been thinking it over, and I do not see a possibility of
getting to speak to her as long as she is at the bey's. I do not
see that it can be done anyhow. She will be indoors most of the
time, and if she should go into the garden there would be other women
with her. Our only plan, as far as I can see at present, would be
to carry her off from her escort on the journey. I do not suppose
she will have more than two, or at most three, mounted men with
her, and we ought to be able to dispose of them. As to her father,
the matter is comparatively easy. We know the ways of the prison,
and I have no doubt we can get him out somehow; only there is the
trouble of the question of time. She has got to be rescued and
brought back and hidden somewhere till nightfall, he has got to be
set free the same evening, and we have to embark early enough to
be well out of sight before daylight; and maybe there will not be
a breath of wind stirring. It is a tough job, Geoffrey, look at it
which way you will."

"It is a tough job," Geoffrey agreed. "I am afraid the escort
would be stronger than you think. A present of this kind to the bey
is regarded as important, and I should say half a dozen horsemen
at least will be sent with her. In that case an attempt at rescue
would be hopeless. We have no arms, and if we had we could not kill
six mounted men; and if even one escaped, our plans would be all
defeated. The question is, would they send her by land? It seems
to me quite as likely that they might send her by water."

"Yes, that is likely enough, Geoffrey. In that case everything would
depend upon the vessel he sent her in. If it is the great galley
there is an end of it; if it is one of their little coasters it
might be managed. We are sure to learn that before long. The bey
might keep her for a fortnight or so, perhaps longer, for her to
recover somewhat from the trouble and get up her good looks again,
so as to add to the value of the present. If she were well and
bright she would be pretty enough for anything. In the meantime we
can arrange our plans for getting her father away. Of course if she
goes with a big escort on horseback, or if she goes in the galley,
there is an end of our plans. I am ready to help you, Geoffrey, if
there is a chance of success; but I am not going to throw away my
life if there is not, and unless she goes down in a coaster there
is an end of the scheme."

"I quite agree to that," Geoffrey replied; "we cannot accomplish
impossibilities."

They learned upon the following day that three of the newly arrived
captives were to take the places of the galley slaves who had
been killed in the capture of the Spanish ship, which had defended
itself stoutly, and that the others were to be sold for work in
the interior.

"It is pretty certain," Boldero said, "that the trader will not be
one of the three chosen for the galley. The work would break him
down in a month. That makes that part of the business easier, for
we can get him away on the journey inland, and hide him up here
until his daughter is sent off."

Geoffrey looked round the bare room.

"Well, I do not say as how we could hide him here," Boldero said
in answer to the look, "but we might hide him somewhere among the
sand hills outside the place, and take him food at night."

"Yes, we might do that," Geoffrey agreed. "That could be managed
easily enough, I should think, for there are clumps of bushes
scattered all over the sand hills half a mile back from the sea.
The trouble will be if we get him here, and find after all that we
cannot rescue his daughter."

"That will make no difference," Boldero said. "In that case we
will make off with him alone. Everything else will go on just the
same. Of course, I should be very sorry not to save the girl; but,
as far as we are concerned, if we save the father it will answer
our purpose."

Geoffrey made no reply. Just at that moment his own future was a
very secondary matter, in comparison, to the rescue of this unhappy
Spanish girl.

Geoffrey and his companion had been in the habit of going up
occasionally to the prison. They had won over the guard by small
presents, and were permitted to go in and out with fruit and other
little luxuries for the galley slaves. They now abstained from
going near the place, in order that no suspicion might fall upon
them after his escape of having had any communication with the
Spanish trader.

Shortly after the arrival of the captives two merchants from the
interior came down, and Geoffrey learned that they had visited the
prison, and had made a bargain with the bey for all the captives
except those transferred to the galley. The two companions had
talked the matter over frequently, and had concluded it was best
that only one of them should be engaged in the adventure, for the
absence of both might be noticed. After some discussion it was
agreed that Geoffrey should undertake the task, and that Boldero
should go alone to the house where they were now at work, and should
mention that his friend was unwell, and was obliged to remain at
home for the day.

As they knew the direction in which the captives would be taken
Geoffrey started before daybreak, and kept steadily along until he
reached a spot where it was probable they would halt for the night.
It was twenty miles away, and there was here a well of water and a
grove of trees. Late in the afternoon he saw the party approaching.
It consisted of the merchants, two armed Arabs, and the five
captives, all of whom were carrying burdens. They were crawling
painfully along, overpowered by the heat of the sun, by the length
of the journey, and by the weight they carried. Several times the
Arabs struck them heavily with their sticks to force them to keep
up.

Geoffrey retired from the other side of the clump of trees, and
lay down in a depression of the sand hills until darkness came on,
when he again entered the grove, and crawling cautiously forward
made his way close up to the party. A fire was blazing, and a meal
had been already cooked and eaten. The traders and the two Arabs
were sitting by the fire; the captives were lying extended on the
ground. Presently, at the command of one of the Arabs, they rose
to their feet and proceeded to collect some more pieces of wood
for the fire. As they returned the light fell on the gray hair of
the man upon whom Geoffrey had noticed that the girl's eyes were
fixed.

He noted the place where he lay down, and had nothing to do now
but to wait until the party were asleep. He felt sure that no guard
would be set, for any attempt on the part of the captives to escape
would be nothing short of madness. There was nowhere for them to
go, and they would simply wander about until they died of hunger
and exhaustion, or until they were recaptured, in which case they
would be almost beaten to death. In an hour's time the traders and
their men lay down by the fire, and all was quiet. Geoffrey crawled
round until he was close to the Spaniard. He waited until he felt
sure that the Arabs were asleep, and then crawled up to him. The
man started as he touched him.

"Silence, senor," Geoffrey whispered in Spanish; "I am a friend,
and have come to rescue you."

"I care not for life; a few days of this work will kill me, and
the sooner the better. I have nothing to live for. They killed my
wife the other day, and my daughter is a captive in their hands.
I thank you, whoever you are, but I will not go."

"We are going to try to save your daughter too," Geoffrey whispered;
"we have a plan for carrying you both off."

The words gave new life to the Spaniard. "In that case, sir, I am
ready. Whoever you are whom God has sent to my aid I will follow
you blindly, whatever comes of it."

Geoffrey crawled away a short distance, followed by the Spaniard.
As soon as they were well beyond the faint light now given out by
the expiring fire they rose to their feet, and gaining the track
took their way on the backward road. As soon as they were fairly
away, Geoffrey explained to the Spaniard who he was, and how he
had undertaken to endeavour to rescue him. The joy and gratitude
of the Spaniard were too deep for words, and he uttered his thanks
in broken tones. When they had walked about a mile Geoffrey halted.

"Sit down here," he said. "I have some meat and fruit here and a
small skin of water. We have a long journey before us, for we must
get near the town you left this morning before daybreak, and you
must eat to keep up your strength."

"I did not think," the Spaniard said, "when we arrived at the well,
that I could have walked another mile had my life depended upon
it. Now I feel a new man, after the fresh hope you have given me.
I no longer feel the pain of my bare feet or the blisters the sun
has raised on my naked back. I am struggling now for more than
life--for my daughter. You shall not find me to fail, sir."

All night they toiled on. The Spaniard kept his promise, and utterly
exhausted as he was, and great as was the pain in his limbs, held
on bravely. With the first dawn of morning they saw the line of
the sea before them. They now turned off from the track, and in
another half hour the Spaniard took shelter in a clump of bushes
in a hollow, while Geoffrey, having left with him the remainder
of the supply of provisions and water, pursued his way and reached
the hut just as the sun was shining in the east, and without having
encountered a single person.

"Well, have you succeeded?" Boldero asked eagerly, as he entered.

"Yes; I have got him away. He is in hiding within a mile of this
place. He kept on like a hero. I was utterly tired myself, and how
he managed to walk the distance after what he had gone through in
the day is more than I can tell. His name is Mendez. He is a trader
in Cadiz, and owns many vessels. He was on his way to Italy, with
his wife and daughter, in one of his own ships, in order to gratify
the desire of his wife to visit the holy places at Rome. She was
killed by a cannon shot during the fight, and his whole heart is
now wrapped up in his daughter. And now, Stephen, I must lie down
and sleep. You will have to go to work alone today again, and can
truly say that I am still unfit for labour."

Four days later it became known in the little town that a messenger
had arrived from the merchant who bought the slaves from the bey,
saying that one of them had made his escape from their first halting
place.

"The dog will doubtless die in the desert," the merchant wrote;
"but if he should find his way down, or you should hear of him as
arriving at any of the villages, I pray you to send him up to me
with a guard. I will so treat him that it will be a lesson to my
other slaves not to follow his example."

Every evening after dark Geoffrey went out with a supply of food
and water to the fugitive. For a week he had no news to give him
as to his daughter; but on the eighth night he said that he and
his companion had that morning been sent by the bey on board the
largest of the coasting vessels in the port, with orders to paint
the cabins and put them in a fit state for the reception of a
personage of importance.

"This is fortunate, indeed," Geoffrey went on. "No doubt she is
intended for the transport of your daughter. Her crew consists of
a captain and five men, but at present they are living ashore; and
as we shall be going backwards and forwards to her, we ought to
have little difficulty in getting on board and hiding away in the
hold before she starts. I think everything promises well for the
success of our scheme."

The bey's superintendent came down the next day to see how matters
were going on on board the vessel. The painting was finished that
evening, and the next day two slaves brought down a quantity of
hangings and cushions, which Geoffrey and his companion assisted
the superintendent to hang up and place in order. Provisions and
water had already been taken on board, and they learnt that the
party who were to sail in her would come off early the next morning.

At midnight Geoffrey, Boldero, and the Spaniard came down to the
little port, embarked in a fisherman's boat moored at the stairs,
and noiselessly rowed off to the vessel. They mounted on to her
deck barefooted. Boldero was the last to leave the boat, giving her
a vigorous push with his foot in the direction of the shore, from
which the vessel was but some forty yards away. They descended
into the hold, where they remained perfectly quiet until the first
light of dawn enabled them to see what they were doing, and then
moved some baskets full of vegetables, and concealed themselves
behind them.

A quarter of an hour later they heard a boat come alongside, and
the voices of the sailors. Then they heard the creaking of cordage
as the sails were let fall in readiness for a start. Half an hour
later another boat came alongside. There was a trampling of feet
on the deck above them, and the bey's voice giving orders. A few
minutes later the anchor was raised, there was more talking on
deck, and then they heard a boat push off, and knew by the rustle
of water against the planks beside them that the vessel was under
way.

The wind was light and the sea perfectly calm, and beyond the
slight murmur of the water, those below would not have known that
the ship was in motion. It was very hot down in the hold, but
fortunately the crew had nor taken the trouble to put on the hatches,
and at times a faint breath of air could be felt below. Geoffrey
and his companion talked occasionally in low tones; but the Spaniard
was so absorbed by his anxiety as to the approaching struggle, and
the thought that he might soon clasp his daughter to his arms, that
he seldom spoke.

No plans could be formed as to the course they were to take, for
they could not tell whether those of the crew off duty would retire
to sleep in the little forecastle or would lie down on deck. Then,
too, they were ignorant as to the number of men who had come on
board with the captive. The overseer had mentioned the day before
that he was going, and it was probable that three or four others
would accompany him. Therefore they had to reckon upon ten opponents.
Their only weapons were three heavy iron bolts, some two feet
long. These Boldero had purchased in exchange for a few fish, when
a prize brought in was broken up as being useless for the purposes
of the Moors.

"What I reckon is," he said, "that you and I ought to be able to
settle two apiece of these fellows before they fairly know what is
happening. The Don ought very well to account for another. So that
only leaves five of them; and five against three are no odds worth
speaking of, especially when the five are woke up by a sudden
attack, and ain't sure how many there are against them. I don't
expect much trouble over the affair."

"I don't want to kill more of the poor fellows than I can help,"
Geoffrey said.

"No more do I; but you see it's got to be either killing or being
killed, and I am perfectly certain which I prefer. Still, as you
say, if the beggars are at all reasonable I ain't for hurting them,
but the first few we have got to hit hard. When we get matters a
little even, we can speak them fair."

The day passed slowly, and in spite of their bent and cramped position
Geoffrey and Stephen Boldero dozed frequently. The Spaniard never
closed an eye. He was quite prepared to take his part in the
struggle; and as he was not yet fifty years of age, his assistance
was not to be despised. But the light hearted carelessness of
his companions, who joked under their breath, and laughed and ate
unconcernedly with a life and death struggle against heavy odds
before them, surprised him much.

As darkness came on the party below became wakeful. Their time was
coming now, and they had no doubt whatever as to the result. Their
most formidable opponents would be the men who had come on board
with the bey's superintendent, as these, no doubt, would be fully
armed. As for the sailors, they might have arms on board, but these
would nor be ready to hand, and it was really only with the guards
they would have to deal.

"I tell you what I think would be a good plan, Stephen," Geoffrey
said suddenly. "You see, there is plenty of spare line down here;
if we wait until they are all asleep we can go round and tie their
legs together, or put ropes round their ankles and fasten them to
ring bolts. If we could manage that without waking them, we might
capture the craft without shedding any blood, and might get them
down into the hold one after the other."

"I think that is a very good plan," Stephen agreed. "I do not like
the thought of knocking sleeping men on the head any more than you
do; and if we are careful, we might get them all tied up before
an alarm is given. There, the anchor has gone down. I thought very
likely they would not sail at night. That is capital. You may be
sure that they will be pretty close inshore, and they probably will
have only one man on watch; and as likely as not even one, for they
will nor dream of any possible danger."

For another two hours the sound of talk on deck went on, but at
last all became perfectly quiet. The party below waited for another
half hour, and then noiselessly ascended the ladder to the deck,
holding in one hand a cudgel, in the other a number of lengths of
line cut about six feet long. Each as he reached the deck lay down
flat. The Spaniard had been told to remain perfectly quiet while
the other two went about their task.

First they crawled aft, for the bey's guards would, they knew,
be sleeping at that end, and working together they tied the legs
of these men without rousing them. The ropes could not be tightly
pulled, as this would at once have disturbed them. They were therefore
fastened somewhat in the fashion of manacles, so that although the
men might rise to their feet they would fall headlong the moment
they tried to walk. In addition other ropes were fastened to these
and taken from one man to another. Then their swords were drawn
from the sheaths and their knives from their sashes.

The operation was a long one, as it had to be conducted with the
greatest care and caution. They then crept back to the hatchway and
told the Spaniard that the most formidable enemies had been made
safe.

"Here are a sword and a knife for you, senor; and now as we are
all armed I consider the ship as good as won, for the sailors are
not likely to make much resistance by themselves. However, we will
secure some of them. The moon will be up in half an hour, and that
will be an advantage to us.

The captain and three of the sailors were soon tied up like the
others. Two men were standing in the bow of the vessel leaning
against the bulwarks, and when the moon rose it could be seen by
their attitude that both were asleep.

"Now, we may as well begin," Geoffrey said. "Let us take those two
fellows in the bow by surprise. Hold a knife to their throats, and
tell them if they utter the least sound we will kill them. Then we
will make them go down into the forecastle and fasten them there."

"I am ready," Stephen said, and they stole forward to the two
sleeping men. They grasped them suddenly by the throat and held a
knife before their eyes, Boldero telling them in a stern whisper
that if they uttered a cry they would be stabbed to the heart.
Paralysed by the sudden attack they did not make the slightest
struggle, but accompanied their unknown assailants to the forecastle
and were there fastened in. Joined now by the Spaniard, Geoffrey
and his companion went aft and roused one of the sleepers there
with a threat similar to that which had silenced the sailors.

He was, however, a man of different stuff He gave a loud shout and
grappled with Boldero, who struck him a heavy blow with his fist in
the face, and this for a moment silenced him; but the alarm being
given, the superintendent and the two men struggled to their feet,
only however to fall prostrate as soon as they tried to walk.

"Lie quiet and keep silence!" Boldero shouted in a threatening
voice.

"You are unarmed and at our mercy. Your feet are bound and you are
perfectly helpless. We do not wish to take your lives, but unless
you are quiet we shall be compelled to do so."

The men had discovered by this time that their arms had gone, and
were utterly disconcerted by the heavy and unexpected fall they
had just had. Feeling that they were indeed at the mercy of their
captors, they lay quiet.

"Now then," Boldero went on, "one at a time. Keep quiet, you rascals
there!" he broke off shouting to the sailors who were rolling and
tumbling on the deck forward, "or I will cut all your throats for
you. Now then, Geoffrey, do you and the senor cut the rope that
fastens that man on the port side to his comrades. March him to
the hatchway and make him go down into the hold. Keep your knives
ready and kill him at once if he offers the slightest resistance."

One by one the superintendent, the three guards, the captain and
sailors were all made to descend into the hold, and the hatches
were put over it and fastened down.

"Now, senor," Geoffrey said, "we can spare you."

The Spaniard hurried to the cabin, opened the door, and called
out his daughter's name. There was a scream of delight within as
Dolores Mendez, who had been awakened by the tumult, recognized her
father's voice, and leaping up from her couch threw herself into
his arms. Geoffrey and his companion now opened the door of the
forecastle and called the two sailors out.

"Now," Boldero said, "if you want to save your lives you have got to
obey our orders. First of all fall to work and get up the anchor,
and then shake out the sails again. I will take the helm, Geoffrey,
and do you keep your eye on these two fellows. There is no fear of
their playing any tricks now that they see they are alone on deck,
but they might, if your back were turned, unfasten the hatches.
However, I do not think we need fear trouble that way, as for aught
they know we may have cut the throats of all the others."

A few minutes later the vessel was moving slowly through the water
with her head to the northwest.

"We must be out of sight of land if we can by the morning," Stephen
said, when Geoffrey two hours later came to take his place at the
helm; "at any rate until we have passed the place we started from.
Once beyond that it does not matter much; but it will be best either
to keep out of sight of land altogether, or else to sail pretty
close to it, so that they can see the boat is one of their own
craft. We can choose which we will do when we see which way the
breeze sets in in the morning."

It came strongly from the south, and they therefore determined to
sail direct for Carthagena.



CHAPTER XVII

A SPANISH MERCHANT


As soon as the sails had been set, and the vessel was under way,
the Spaniard came out from the cabin.

"My daughter is attiring herself, senor," he said to Stephen Boldero,
for Geoffrey was at the time at the helm. "She is longing to see
you, and to thank you for the inestimable services you have rendered
to us both. But for you I should now be dying or dead, my daughter
a slave for life in the palace of the bey. What astonishes us both
is that such noble service should have been rendered to us by two
absolute strangers, and not strangers only, but by Englishmen--a
people with whom Spain is at war--and who assuredly can have
no reason to love us. How came you first to think of interesting
yourself on our behalf?"

"To tell you the truth, senor," Stephen Boldero said bluntly, "it
was the sight of your daughter and not of yourself that made us
resolve to save you if possible, or rather, I should say, made my
friend Geoffrey do so. After ten years in the galleys one's heart
gets pretty rough, and although even I felt a deep pity for your
daughter, I own it would never have entered my mind to risk my
neck in order to save her. But Geoffrey is younger and more easily
touched, and when he saw her as she landed pale and white and grief
stricken, and yet looking as if her own fate touched her less than
the parting from you, my good friend Geoffrey Vickars was well nigh
mad, and declared that in some way or other, and at whatever risk
to ourselves, you must both be saved. In this matter I have been
but a passive instrument in his hands; as indeed it was only right
that I should be, seeing that he is of gentle blood and an esquire
serving under Captain Vere in the army of the queen, while I am
but a rough sailor. What I have done I have done partly because his
heart was in the matter, partly because the adventure promised, if
successful, to restore me to freedom, and partly also, senor, for
the sake of your brave young daughter."

"You are modest, sir," the Spaniard said. "You are one of those
who belittle your own good deeds. I feel indeed more grateful than
I can express to you as well as to your friend."

The merchant's daughter now appeared at the door of the cabin. Her
father took her hand and led her up to Boldero. "This, Dolores,
is one of the two Englishmen who have at the risk of their lives
saved me from death and you from worse than death. Thank him, my
child, and to the end of your life never cease to remember him in
your prayers."

"I am glad to have been of assistance, senora," Boldero said as the
girl began to speak; "but as I have just been telling your father,
I have played but a small part in the business, it is my friend
Don Geoffrey Vickars who has been the leader in the matter. He saw
you as you landed at the boat, and then and there swore to save
you, and all that has been done has been under his direction. It
was he who followed and rescued your father, and I have really had
nothing to do with the affair beyond hiding myself in the hole and
helping to tie up your Moors."

"Ah, sir," the girl said, laying her hands earnestly upon the sailor's
shoulder, "it is useless for you to try to lessen the services you
have rendered us. Think of what I was but an hour since--a captive
with the most horrible of all fates before me, and with the belief
that my father was dying by inches in the hands of some cruel
taskmaster, and now he is beside me and I am free. This has been
done by two strangers, men of a nation which I have been taught to
regard as an enemy. It seems to me that no words that I can speak
could tell you even faintly what I feel, and it is God alone who
can reward you for what you have done."

Leaving Boldero the Spaniard and his daughter went to the stern,
where Geoffrey was standing at the helm.

"My daughter and I have come to thank you, senor, for having saved
us from the worst of fates and restored us to each other. Your
friend tells me that it is to you it is chiefly due that this has
come about, for that you were so moved to pity at the sight of my
daughter when we first landed, that you declared at once that you
would save her from her fate at whatever risk to yourself, and that
since then he has been but following your directions."

"Then if he says that, senor, he belies himself. I was, it is true,
the first to declare that we must save your daughter at any cost
if it were possible to do so; but had I not said so, I doubt not
he would have announced the same resolution. Since then we have
planned everything together; and as he is older and more experienced
than I am, it was upon his opinion that we principally acted. We
had long made up our minds to escape when the opportunity came.
Had it nor been that we were stirred into action by seeing your
daughter in the hands of the Moors, it might have been years before
we decided to run the risks. Therefore if you owe your freedom to
us, to some extent we owe ours to you; and if we have been your
protectors so far, we hope that when we arrive in Spain you will
be our protectors there, for to us Spain is as much an enemy's
country as Barbary."

"That you can assuredly rely upon," the trader replied. "All that
I have is at your disposal."

For an hour they stood talking. Dolores said but little. She had
felt no shyness with the stalwart sailor, but to this youth who had
done her such signal service she felt unable so frankly to express
her feelings of thankfulness.

By morning the coast of Africa was but a faint line on the horizon,
and the ship was headed west. Except when any alteration of the
sails was required, the two Moors who acted as the crew were made
to retire into the forecastle, and were there fastened in, Geoffrey
and Boldero sleeping by turns.

After breakfast the little party gathered round the helm, and at
the request of Juan Mendez, Geoffrey and Stephen both related how
it befell that they had become slaves to the Moors.

"Your adventures are both singular," the trader said when they had
finished. "Yours, Don Geoffrey, are extraordinary. It is marvellous
that you should have been picked up in that terrible fight, and
should have shared in all the perils of that awful voyage back
to Spain without its being ever suspected that you were English.
Once landed in the service as you say of Senor Burke, it is not
so surprising that you should have gone freely about Spain. But
your other adventures are wonderful, and you and your friend were
fortunate indeed in succeeding as you did in carrying off the lady
he loved; and deeply they must have mourned your supposed death
on the deck of the Moorish galley. And now tell me what are your
plans when you arrive in Spain?"

"We have no fixed plans, save that we hope some day to be able to
return home," Geoffrey said. "Stephen here could pass well enough
as a Spaniard when once ashore without being questioned, and his
idea is, if there is no possibility of getting on board an English
or Dutch ship at Cadiz, to ship on board a Spaniard, and to take
his chance of leaving her at some port at which she may touch. As
for myself, although I speak Spanish fluently, my accent would at
once betray me to be a foreigner. But if you will take me into your
house for a time until I can see a chance of escaping, my past need
not be inquired into. You could of course mention, were it asked,
that I was English by birth, but had sailed in the Armada with my
patron, Mr. Burke, and it would be naturally supposed that I was
an exile from England."

"That can certainly be managed," the trader said. "I fear that it
will be difficult to get you on board a ship either of your countrymen
or of the Hollanders; these are most closely watched lest fugitives
from the law or from the Inquisition should escape on board them.
Still, some opportunity may sooner or later occur; and the later
the better pleased shall I be, for it will indeed be a pleasure to
me to have you with me."

In the afternoon Geoffrey said to Stephen, "I have been thinking,
Stephen, about the men in the hold, and I should be glad for them
to return to their homes. If they go with us to Spain they will be
made galley slaves, and this I should not like, especially in the
case of the bey's superintendent. The bey was most kind to us, and
this man himself always spoke in our favour to him, and behaved
well to us. I think, therefore, that out of gratitude to the bey
we should let them go. The wind is fair, and there are, so far as
I can see, no signs of any change of weather. By tomorrow night
the coast of Spain will be in sight. I see no reason, therefore,
why we should not be able to navigate her until we get near the
land, when Mendez can engage the crew of some fishing boat to take
us into a port. If we put them into the boat with plenty of water
and provisions, they will make the coast by morning; and as I
should guess that we must at present be somewhere abreast of the
port from which we started, they will nor be very far from home
when they land."

"I have no objection whatever, Geoffrey. As you say we were not
treated badly, at any rate from the day when the bey had us up to
his house; and after ten years in the galleys, I do not wish my
worst enemies such a fate. We must, of course, be careful how we
get them into the boat."

"There will be three of us with swords and pistols, and they will
be unarmed," Geoffrey said. "We will put the two men now in the
forecastle into the boat first, and let the others come up one by
one and take their places. We will have a talk with the superintendent
first, and give him a message to the bey, saying that we are not
ungrateful for his kindness to us, but that of course we seized
the opportunity that presented itself of making our escape, as he
would himself have done in similar circumstances; nevertheless that
as a proof of our gratitude to him, we for his sake release the
whole party on board, and give them the means of safely returning."

An hour later the boat, pulled by four oars, left the side of the
ship with the crew, the superintendent and guards, and the two
women who had come on board to attend upon Dolores upon the voyage.

The next morning the vessel was within a few miles of the Spanish
coast. An hour later a fishing-boat was hailed, and an arrangement
made with the crew to take the vessel down to Carthagena, which
was, they learned, some fifty miles distant. The wind was now very
light, and it was not until the following day that they entered
the port. As it was at once perceived that the little vessel was
Moorish in rigging and appearance, a boat immediately came alongside
to inquire whence she came.

Juan Mendez had no difficulty in satisfying the officer as to his
identity, he being well known to several traders in the town. His
story of the attack upon his ship by Barbary pirates, its capture,
and his own escape and that of his daughter by the aid of two
Christian captives, excited great interest as soon as it became
known in the town; for it was rare, indeed, that a captive ever
succeeded in making his escape from the hands of the Moors. It
had already been arranged that, in telling his story, the trader
should make as little as possible of his companions' share in the
business, so that public attention should not be attracted towards
them. He himself with Dolores at once disembarked, but his companions
did not come ashore until after nightfall.

Stephen Boldero took a Spanish name, but Geoffrey retained his
own, as the story that he was travelling as servant with Mr. Burke,
a well known Irish gentleman who had accompanied the Armada, was
sufficient to account for his nationality. Under the plea that he
was anxious to return to Cadiz as soon as possible, Senor Mendez
arranged for horses and mules to start the next morning. He had
sent out two trunks of clothes to the ship an hour after he landed,
and the two Englishmen therefore escaped all observation, as they
wandered about for an hour or two after landing, and did not go
to the inn where Mendez was staying until it was time to retire to
bed.

The next morning the party started. The clothes that Geoffrey was
wearing were those suited to an employee in a house of business,
while those of Boldero were such as would be worn by the captain or
mate of a merchant vessel on shore. Both were supplied with arms,
for although the party had nothing to attract the cupidity of
robbers beyond the trunks containing the clothes purchased on the
preceding day, and the small amount of money necessary for their
travel on the road, the country was so infested by bands of robbers
that no one travelled unarmed. The journey to Cadiz was, however,
accomplished without adventure.

The house of Senor Mendez was a large and comfortable one. Upon
the ground floor were his offices and store rooms. He himself and
his family occupied the two next floors, while in those above his
clerks and employees lived. His unexpected return caused great
surprise, and in a few hours a number of acquaintances called to
hear the story of the adventures through which he had passed, and
to condole with him on the loss of his wife. At his own request
Stephen Boldero had been given in charge of the principal clerk,
and a room assigned to him in the upper story.

"I shall be much more comfortable," he said, "among your people,
Don Mendez. I am a rough sailor, and ten years in the galleys don't
improve any manners a man may have had. If I were among your friends
I would be out of place and uncomfortable, and should always have
to be bowing and scraping and exchanging compliments, and besides
they would soon find out that my Spanish was doubtful. I talk a
sailor's slang, but I doubt if I should understand pure Spanish.
Altogether, I should be very uncomfortable, and should make you
uncomfortable, and I would very much rather take my place among
the men that work for you until I can get on board a ship again."

Geoffrey was installed in the portion of the house occupied by the
merchant, and was introduced by him to his friends simply as the
English gentleman who had rescued him and his daughter from the
hands of the Moors, it being incidentally mentioned that he had
sailed in the Armada, and that he had fallen into the hands of the
corsairs in the course of a voyage made with his friend Mr. Burke
to Italy. He at once took his place as a friend and assistant of
the merchant; and as the latter had many dealings with Dutch and
English merchants, Geoffrey was able to be of considerable use to
him in his written communications to the captains of the various
vessels of those nationalities in the port.

"I think," the merchant said to him a fortnight after his arrival
in Cadiz, "that, if it would not go against your conscience, it
would be most advisable that you should accompany me sometimes to
church. Unless you do this, sooner or later suspicion is sure to
be roused, and you know that if you were once suspected of being
a heretic, the Inquisition would lay its hands upon you in no time."

"I have no objection whatever," Geoffrey said. "Were I questioned
I should at once acknowledge that I was a Protestant; but I see
no harm in going to a house of God to say my prayers there, while
others are saying theirs in a different manner. There is no church
of my own religion here, and I can see no harm whatever in doing
as you suggest."

"I am glad to hear that that is your opinion," Senor Mendez said,
"for it is the one point concerning which I was uneasy. I have
ordered a special mass at the church of St. Dominic tomorrow, in
thanksgiving for our safe escape from the hands of the Moors, and
it would be well that you should accompany us there."

"I will do so most willingly," Geoffrey said. "I have returned thanks
many times, but shall be glad to do so again in a house dedicated
to God's service."

Accordingly the next day Geoffrey accompanied Don Mendez and his
daughter to the church of St. Dominic, and as he knelt by them
wondered why men should hate each other because they differed as
to the ways and methods in which they should worship God. From that
time on he occasionally accompanied Senor Mendez to the church,
saying his prayers earnestly in his own fashion, and praying that
he might some day be restored to his home and friends.

He and the merchant had frequently talked over all possible plans
for his escape, but the extreme vigilance of the Spanish authorities
with reference to the English and Dutch trading ships seemed to
preclude any possibility of his being smuggled on board. Every bale
and package was closely examined on the quay before being sent off.
Spanish officials were on board from the arrival to the departure
of each ship, and no communication whatever was allowed between
the shore and these vessels, except in boats belonging to the
authorities, every paper and document passing first through their
hands for examination before being sent on board. The trade carried
on between England, Holland, and Spain at the time when these nations
were engaged in war was a singular one; but it was permitted by
all three countries, because the products of each were urgently
required by the others. It was kept within narrow limits, and
there were frequent angry complaints exchanged between the English
government and that of Holland, when either considered the other
to be going beyond that limit.

Geoffrey admitted to himself that he might again make the attempt
to return to England, by taking passage as before in a ship bound
for Italy, but he knew that Elizabeth was negotiating with Philip
for peace, and thought that he might as well await the result. He
was, indeed, very happy at Cadiz, and shrank from the thought of
leaving it.

Stephen Boldero soon became restless, and at his urgent request Juan
Mendez appointed him second mate on board one of his ships sailing
for the West Indies, his intention being to make his escape if an
opportunity offered; but if not, he preferred a life of activity
to wandering aimlessly about the streets of Cadiz. He was greatly
grieved to part from Geoffrey, and promised that, should he ever
reach England, he would at once journey down to Hedingham, and
report his safety to his father and mother.

"You will do very well here, Master Geoffrey," he said. "You are
quite at home with all the Spaniards, and it will not be very long
before you speak the language so well that, except for your name,
none would take you for a foreigner. You have found work to do, and
are really better off here than you would be starving and fighting
in Holland. Besides," he said with a sly wink, "there are other
attractions for you. Juan Mendez treats you as a son, and the
senorita knows that she owes everything to you. You might do worse
than settle here for life. Like enough you will see me back again
in six months' time, for if I see no chance of slipping off and
reaching one of the islands held by the buccaneers, I shall perforce
return in the ship I go out in."

At parting Senor Mendez bestowed a bag containing five hundred
gold pieces upon Stephen Boldero as a reward for the service he
had rendered him.

Geoffrey missed him greatly. For eighteen months they had been
constantly together, and it was the sailor's companionship and
cheerfulness that had lightened the first days of his captivity;
and had it not been for his advice and support he might now have
been tugging at an oar in the bey's corsair galley. Ever since they
had been at Cadiz he had daily spent an hour or two in his society;
for when work was done they generally went for a walk together on
the fortifications, and talked of England and discussed the possibility
of escape. After his departure he was thrown more than before into
the society of the merchant and his daughter. The feeling that
Dolores had, when he first saw her, excited within him had changed
its character. She was very pretty now that she had recovered her
life and spirits, and she made no secret of the deep feeling of
gratitude she entertained towards him. One day, three months after
Stephen's departure, Senor Mendez, when they were alone together,
broached the subject on which his thoughts had been turned so much
of late.

"Friend Geoffrey," he said, "I think that I am not mistaken in
supposing that you have an affection for Dolores. I have marked
its growth, and although I would naturally have rather bestowed
her upon a countryman, yet I feel that you have a right to her as
having saved her from the horrible fate that would have undoubtedly
befallen her, and that it is not for me, to whom you have restored
her, besides saving my own life, to offer any objection. As to her
feelings, I have no doubt whatever. Were you of my religion and
race, such a match would afford me the greatest happiness. As it
is I regret it only because I feel that some day or other it will
lead to a separation from me. It is natural that you should wish
to return to your own country, and as this war cannot go on for
ever, doubtless in time some opportunity for doing so will arrive.
This I foresee and must submit to, but if there is peace I shall be
able occasionally to visit her in her home in England. I naturally
hope that it will be long before I shall thus lose her. She is my
only child, and I shall give as her dower the half of my business,
and you will join me as an equal partner. When the war is over you
can, if you wish, establish yourself in London, and thence carry
on and enlarge the English and Dutch trade of our house. I may even
myself settle there. I have not thought this over at present, nor
is there any occasion to do so. I am a wealthy man and there is
no need for me to continue in business, and I am not sure when the
time comes I shall not prefer to abandon my country rather than
be separated from my daughter. At any rate for the present I offer
you her hand and a share in my business."

Geoffrey expressed in suitable terms the gratitude and delight he
felt at the offer. It was contrary to Spanish notions that he should
receive from Dolores in private any assurance that the proposal in
which she was so largely concerned was one to which she assented
willingly, but her father at once fetched her in and formally
presented her to Geoffrey as his promised wife, and a month later
the marriage was solemnized at the church of St. Dominic.



CHAPTER XVIII

IVRY


The day after the capture of Breda Sir Francis Vere sent for
Lionel Vickars to his quarters. Prince Maurice and several of his
principal officers were there, and the prince thanked him warmly
for the share he had taken in the capture of the town.

"Captain Heraugiere has told me," he said, "that the invention of
the scheme that has ended so well is due as much to you as to him,
that you accompanied him on the reconnoitring expedition and shared
in the dangers of the party in the barge. I trust Sir Francis Vere
will appoint you to the first ensigncy vacant in his companies, but
should there be likely to be any delay in this I will gladly give
you a commission in one of my own regiments."

"I have forestalled your wish, prince," Sir Francis said, "and
have this morning given orders that his appointment shall be made
out as ensign in one of my companies, but at present I do not
intend him to join. I have been ordered by the queen to send further
aid to help the King of France against the League. I have already
despatched several companies to Brittany, and will now send two
others. I would that my duties permitted me personally to take part
in the enterprise, for the battle of the Netherlands is at present
being fought on the soil of France; but this is impossible. Several
of my friends, however, volunteers and others, will journey with
the two companies, being desirous of fighting under the banner of
Henry of Navarre. Sir Ralph Pimpernel, who is married to a French
Huguenot lady and has connections at the French court, will lead
them. I have spoken to him this morning, and he will gladly allow
my young friend here to accompany him. I think that it is the
highest reward I can give him, to afford him thus an opportunity
of seeing stirring service; for I doubt not that in a very short
time a great battle will be fought. We know that Alva has sent
eighteen hundred of the best cavalry of Flanders to aid the League,
and he is sure to have given orders that they are to be back again
as soon as possible. How do you like the prospect, Lionel?"

Lionel warmly expressed his thanks to Sir Francis Vere for his
kindness, and said that nothing could delight him more than to take
part in such an enterprise.

"I must do something at any rate to prove my gratitude for your
share in the capture of this city," Prince Maurice said; "and will
send you presently two of the best horses of those we have found
in the governor's stables, together with arms and armour suitable
to your rank as an officer of Sir Francis Vere."

Upon the following morning a party of ten knights and gentlemen
including Lionel Vickars, rode to Bergen op Zoom. The two companies,
which were drawn from the garrison of that town, had embarked the
evening before in ships that had come from England to transport
them to France. Sir Ralph Pimpernel and his party at once went on
board, and as soon as their horses were embarked the sails were
hoisted. Four days' voyage took them to the mouth of the Seine,
and they landed at Honfleur on the south bank of the river. There
was a large number of ships in port, for the Protestant princes of
Germany were, as well as England, sending aid to Henry of Navarre,
and numbers of gentlemen and volunteers were flocking to his banners.

For the moment Henry IV represented in the eyes of Europe
the Protestant cause. He was supported by the Huguenots of France
and by some of the Catholic noblemen and gentry. Against him were
arrayed the greater portion of the Catholic nobles, the whole
faction of the Guises and the Holy League, supported by Philip of
Spain.

The party from Holland disembarked at midday on the 9th of March.
Hearing rumours that a battle was expected very shortly to take
place, Sir Ralph Pimpernel started at once with his mounted party
for Dreux, which town was being besieged by Henry, leaving the two
companies of foot to press on at their best speed behind him. The
distance to be ridden was about sixty miles, and late at night
on the 10th they rode into a village eight miles from Dreux. Here
they heard that the Duke of Mayenne, who commanded the force of
the League, was approaching the Seine at Mantes with an army of
ten thousand foot and four thousand horse.

"We must mount at daybreak, gentlemen," Sir Ralph Pimpernel said,
"or the forces of the League will get between us and the king. It
is evident that we have but just arrived in time, and it is well
we did not wait for our footmen."

The next morning they mounted early and rode on to the royal camp
near Dreux. Here Sir Ralph Pimpernel found Marshal Biron, a relation
of his wife, who at once took him to the king.

"You have just arrived in time, Sir Ralph," the king said when
Marshal Biron introduced him, "for tomorrow, or at latest the day
after, we are likely to try our strength with Mayenne. You will find
many of your compatriots here. I can offer you but poor hospitality
at present, but hope to entertain you rarely some day when the good
city of Paris opens its gates to us."

"Thanks, sire," Sir Ralph replied; "but we have come to fight and
not to feast."

"I think I can promise you plenty of that at any rate," the king
said. "You have ten gentlemen with you, I hear, and also that there
are two companies of foot from Holland now on their way up from
Honfleur."

"They landed at noon the day before yesterday, sire, and will
probably be up tomorrow."

"They will be heartily welcome, Sir Ralph. Since Parma has sent so
large a force to help Mayenne it is but right that Holland, which
is relieved of the presence of these troops, should lend me a
helping hand."

Quarters were found for the party in a village near the camp; for
the force was badly provided with tents, the king's resources being
at a very low ebb; he maintained the war, indeed, chiefly by the
loans he received from England and Germany. The next day several
bodies of troops were seen approaching the camp. A quarter of an
hour later the trumpets blew; officers rode about, ordering the
tents to be levelled and the troops to prepare to march. A messenger
from Marshal Biron rode at full speed into the village, where many
of the volunteers from England and Germany, besides the party of
Sir Ralph Pimpernel, were lodged.

"The marshal bids me tell you, gentlemen, that the army moves at once.
Marshal D'Aumont has fallen back from Ivry; Mayenne is advancing.
The siege will be abandoned at present, and we march towards Nonancourt,
where we shall give battle tomorrow if Mayenne is disposed for it."

The camps were struck and the wagons loaded, and the army marched
to St. Andre, a village situated on an elevated plain commanding a
view of all the approaches from the country between the Seine and
Eure.

"This is a fine field for a battle," Sir Ralph said, as the troops
halted on the ground indicated by the camp marshals. "It is splendid
ground for cavalry to act, and it is upon them the brunt of the
fighting will fall. We are a little stronger in foot; for several
companies from Honfleur, our own among them, have come up this
morning, and I hear we muster twelve thousand, which is a thousand
more than they say Mayenne has with him. But then he has four
thousand cavalry to our three thousand; and Parma's regiments of
Spaniards, Walloons, and Italian veterans are far superior troops
to Henry's bands of riders, who are mostly Huguenot noblemen and
gentlemen with their armed retainers, tough and hardy men to fight,
as they have shown themselves on many a field, but without any of
the discipline of Parma's troopers.

"If Parma himself commanded yonder army I should not feel confident
of the result; but Mayenne, though a skilful general, is slow and
cautious, while Henry of Navarre is full of fire and energy, and
brave almost to rashness. We are in muster under the command of
the king himself. He will have eight hundred horse, formed into
six squadrons, behind him, and upon these will, I fancy, come the
chief shock of the battle. He will be covered on each side by the
English and Swiss infantry; in all four thousand strong.

"Marshal Biron will be on the right with five troops of horse and
four regiments of French infantry; while on the left will be the
troops of D'Aumont, Montpensier, Biron the younger, D'Angouleme,
and De Givry, supported in all by two regiments of French infantry,
one of Swiss, and one of German. The marshal showed us the plan of
battle last night in his tent. It is well balanced and devised."

It was late in the evening before the whole of the force had
reached the position and the tents were erected. One of these had
been placed at the disposal of Sir Ralph's party. Sir Ralph and
four of his companions had been followed by their mounted squires,
and these collected firewood, and supplied the horses with forage
from the sacks they carried slung from their saddles, while the
knights and gentlemen themselves polished their arms and armour, so
as to make as brave a show as possible in the ranks of the king's
cavalry.

When they had eaten their supper Lionel Vickars strolled through
the camp, and was amused at the contrast presented by the various
groups. The troops of cavalry of the French nobles were gaily
attired; the tents of the officers large and commodious, with rich
hangings and appointments. The sound of light hearted laughter
came from the groups round the campfires, squires and pages moved
about thickly, and it was evident that comfort, and indeed luxury,
were considered by the commanders as essential even upon a campaign.
The encampments of the German, Swiss, and English infantry were of
far humbler design. The tents of the officers were few in number,
and of the simplest form and make. A considerable portion of the
English infantry had been drawn from Holland, for the little army
there was still the only body of trained troops at Elizabeth's
disposal.

The Swiss and Germans were for the most part mercenaries. Some had
been raised at the expense of the Protestant princes, others were
paid from the sums supplied from England. The great proportion of
the men were hardy veterans who had fought under many banners, and
cared but little for the cause in which they were fighting, provided
they obtained their pay regularly and that the rations were abundant
and of good quality.

The French infantry regiments contained men influenced by a variety
of motives. Some were professional soldiers who had fought in many
a field during the long wars that had for so many years agitated
France, others were the retainers of the nobles who had thrown in
their cause with Henry, while others again were Huguenot peasants
who were fighting, not for pay, but in the cause of their religion.

The cavalry were for the most part composed of men of good family,
relations, connections, or the superior vassals of the nobles who
commanded or officered them. The king's own squadrons were chiefly
composed of Huguenot gentlemen and their mounted retainers; but
with these rode many foreign volunteers like Sir Ralph Pimpernel's
party, attracted to Henry's banner either from a desire to aid the
Protestant cause or to gain military knowledge and fame under so
brave and able a monarch, or simply from the love of excitement
and military ardour.

The camp of this main body of cavalry or "battalia" as the body
on whom the commander of our army chiefly relied for victory was
called, was comparatively still and silent. The Huguenot gentlemen,
after the long years of persecution to which those of their religion
had been exposed, were for the most part poor. Their appointments
were simple, and they fought for conscience' sake, and went into
battle with the stern enthusiasm that afterwards animated Cromwell's
Ironsides.

It was not long before the camp quieted down; for the march had
been a long one, and they would be on their feet by daybreak. The
king himself, attended by Marshals D'Aumont and Biron, had gone
through the whole extent of the camp, seen that all was in order,
that the troops had everywhere received their rations, and that the
officers were acquainted with the orders for the morrow. He stayed
a short time in the camp of each regiment and troop, saying a few
words of encouragement to the soldiers, and laughing and joking
with the officers. He paused a short time and chatted with Sir Ralph
Pimpernel, who, at his request, introduced each of his companions
to him.

Lionel looked with interest and admiration at the man who was
regarded as the champion of Protestantism against Popery, and who
combined in himself a remarkable mixture of qualities seldom found
existing in one person. He was brave to excess and apparently
reckless in action, and yet astute, prudent, and calculating in
council. With a manner frank, open, and winning, he was yet able to
match the craftiest of opponents at their own weapons of scheming
and duplicity. The idol of the Huguenots of France, he was ready to
purchase the crown of France at the price of accepting the Catholic
doctrines, for he saw that it was hopeless for him in the long run
to maintain himself against the hostility of almost all the great
nobles of France, backed by the great proportion of the people and
aided by the pope and the Catholic powers, so long as he remained
a Protestant. But this change of creed was scarcely even foreseen
by those who followed him, and it was the apparent hopelessness
of his cause, and the gallantry with which he maintained it, that
attracted the admiration of Europe.

Henry's capital was at the time garrisoned by the troops of the
pope and Spain. The great nobles of France, who had long maintained
a sort of semi independence of the crown, were all against him,
and were calculating on founding independent kingdoms. He himself
was excommunicated. The League were masters of almost the whole
of France, and were well supplied with funds by the pope and the
Catholic powers while Henry was entirely dependent for money upon
what he could borrow from Queen Elizabeth and the States of Holland.
But no one who listened to the merry laugh of the king as he chatted
with the little group of English gentlemen would have thought that
he was engaged in a desperate and well nigh hopeless struggle, and
that the following day was to be a decisive one as to his future
fortunes.

"Well, gentlemen," he said as he turned his horse to ride away,
"I must ask you to lie down as soon as possible. As long as the
officers are awake and talking the men cannot sleep; and I want
all to have a good night's rest. The enemy's camp is close at hand
and the battle is sure to take place at early dawn."

As the same orders were given everywhere, the camp was quiet early,
and before daylight the troops were called under arms and ranged
in the order appointed for them to fight in.

The army of the League was astir in equally good time. In its
centre was the battalia composed of six hundred splendid cavalry,
all noblemen of France, supported by a column of three hundred Swiss
and two thousand French infantry. On the left were six hundred French
cuirassiers and the eighteen hundred troops of Parma, commanded by
Count Egmont. They were supported by six regiments of French and
Lorrainers, and two thousand Germans. The right wing was composed
of three regiments of Spanish lancers, two troops of Germans, four
hundred cuirassiers, and four regiments of infantry.

When the sun rose and lighted up the contending armies, the difference
between their appearance was very marked. That of the League was
gay with the gilded armour, waving plumes, and silken scarfs of the
French nobles, whose banners fluttered brightly in the air, while
the Walloons and Flemish rivalled their French comrades in the
splendour of their appointments. In the opposite ranks there was
neither gaiety nor show. The Huguenot nobles and gentlemen, who had
for so many years been fighting for life and religion, were clad
in armour dinted in a hundred battlefields; and while the nobles
of the League were confident of victory and loud in demanding
to be led against the foe, Henry of Navarre and his soldiers were
kneeling, praying to the God of battles to enable them to bear
themselves well in the coming fight. Henry of Navarre wore in his
helmet a snow white plume, which he ordered his troops to keep in
view, and to follow wherever they should see it waving, in case
his banner went down.

Artillery still played but a small part in battles on the field
and there were but twelve pieces on the ground, equally divided
between the two armies. These opened the battle, and Count Egmont,
whose cavalry had suffered from the fire of the Huguenot cannon,
ordered a charge, and the splendid cavalry of Parma swept down
upon the right wing of Henry. The cavalry under Marshal Biron were
unable to withstand the shock and were swept before them, and Egmont
rode on right up to the guns and sabred the artillerymen. Almost
at the same moment the German riders under Eric of Brunswick, the
Spanish and French lancers, charged down upon the centre of the
Royal Army. The rout of the right wing shook the cavalry in the
centre. They wavered, and the infantry on their flanks fell back but
the king and his officers rode among them, shouting and entreating
them to stand firm. The ground in their front was soft and checked
the impetuosity of the charge of the Leaguers, and by the time they
reached the ranks of the Huguenots they were broken and disordered,
and could make no impression whatever upon them.

As soon as the charge was repulsed, Henry set his troops in motion,
and the battalia charged down upon the disordered cavalry of the
League. The lancers and cuirassiers were borne down by the impetuosity
of the charge, and Marshal Biron, rallying his troops, followed
the king's white plume into the heart of the battle. Egmont brought
up the cavalry of Flanders to the scene, and was charging at their
head when he fell dead with a musketball through the heart.

Brunswick went down in the fight, and the shattered German and
Walloon horse were completely overthrown and cut to pieces by the
furious charges of the Huguenot cavalry.

At one time the victorious onset was checked by the disappearance
of the king's snow white plumes, and a report ran through the army
that the king was killed. They wavered irresolutely. The enemy,
regaining courage from the cessation of their attacks, were again
advancing, when the king reappeared bareheaded and covered with
dust and blood, but entirely unhurt. He addressed a few cheerful
words to his soldiers, and again led the charge. It was irresistible;
the enemy broke and fled in the wildest confusion hotly pursued by
the royalist cavalry, while the infantry of the League, who had so
far taken no part whatever in the battle, were seized with a panic,
threw away their arms, and sought refuge in the woods in their
rear.

Thus the battle was decided only by the cavalry, the infantry taking
no part in the fight on either side. Eight hundred of the Leaguers
either fell on the battlefield or were drowned in crossing the
river in their rear. The loss of the royalists was but one fourth
in number. Had the king pushed forward upon Paris immediately
after the battle, the city would probably have surrendered without
a blow; and the Huguenot leaders urged this course upon him. Biron
and the other Catholics, however, argued that it was better to
undertake a regular siege, and the king yielded to this advice,
although the bolder course would have been far more in accordance
with his own disposition.

He was probably influenced by a variety of motives. In the first
place his Swiss mercenaries were in a mutinous condition, and
refused to advance a single foot unless they received their arrears
of pay, and this Henry, whose chests were entirely empty, had no
means of providing. In the second place he was at the time secretly
in negotiation with the pope for his conversion, and may have feared
to give so heavy a blow to the Catholic cause as would have been
effected by the capture of Paris following closely after the victory
of Ivry. At any rate he determined upon a regular siege. Moving
forward he seized the towns of Lagny on the Maine, and Corbeil on
the Seine, thus entirely cutting off the food supply of Paris.

Lionel Vickars had borne his part in the charges of the Huguenot
cavalry, but as the company to which he belonged was in the rear
of the battalia, he had no personal encounters with the enemy.

After the advance towards Paris the duties of the cavalry consisted
entirely in scouting the country, sweeping in provisions for their
own army, and preventing supplies from entering Paris. No siege
operations were undertaken, the king relying upon famine alone to
reduce the city. Its population at the time the siege commenced was
estimated at 400,000, and the supply of provisions to be sufficient
for a month. It was calculated therefore that before the League
could bring up another army to its relief, it must fall by famine.

But no allowance had been made for the religious enthusiasm and
devotion to the cause of the League that animated the population
of Paris. Its governor, the Duke of Nemours, brother of Mayenne,
aided by the three Spanish delegates, the Cardinal Gaetano,
and by an army of priests and monks, sustained the spirits of the
population; and though the people starved by thousands, the city
resisted until towards the end of August. In that month the army
of the League, united with twelve thousand foot and three thousand
horse from the Netherlands under Parma himself, advanced to its
assistance; while Maurice of Holland, with a small body of Dutch
troops and reinforcements from England, had strengthened the army
of the king.

The numbers of the two armies were not unequal. Many of the French
nobles had rallied round Henry after his victory, and of his cavalry
four thousand were nobles and their retainers who served at their
own expense, and were eager for a battle. Parma himself had doubts
as to the result of the conflict. He could rely upon the troops he
himself had brought, but had no confidence in those of the League;
and when Henry sent him a formal challenge to a general engagement,
Parma replied that it was his custom to refuse combat when a refusal
seemed advantageous for himself, and to offer battle whenever it
suited his purpose to fight.

For seven days the two armies, each some twenty-five thousand
strong, lay within a mile or two of each other. Then the splendid
cavalry of Parma moved out in order of battle, with banners flying,
and the pennons of the lances fluttering in the wind. The king
was delighted when he saw that the enemy were at last advancing to
the fight. He put his troops at once under arms, but waited until
the plan of the enemy's battle developed itself before making his
dispositions. But while the imposing array of cavalry was attracting
the king's attention, Parma moved off with the main body of his
army, threw a division across the river on a pontoon bridge, and
attacked Lagny on both sides.

When Lagny was first occupied some of Sir Ralph Pimpernel's party
were appointed to take up their quarters there, half a company of
the English, who had come with them from Holland, were also stationed
in the town, the garrison being altogether 1200 strong. Lionel's
horse had received a bullet wound at Ivry and although it carried
him for the next day or two, it was evident that it needed rest
and attention and would be unfit to carry his rider for some time.
Lionel had no liking for the work of driving off the cattle of the
unfortunate land owners and peasants, however necessary it might
be to keep the army supplied with food, and was glad of the excuse
that his wounded horse afforded him for remaining quietly in the
town when his comrades rode our with the troop of cavalry stationed
there. It happened that the officer in command of the little body
of English infantry was taken ill with fever, and Sir Ralph Pimpernel
requested Lionel to take his place. This he was glad to do, as he
was more at home at infantry work than with cavalry. The time went
slowly, but Lionel, who had comfortable quarters in the house of
a citizen, did not find it long. The burgher's family consisted
of his wife and two daughters, and these congratulated themselves
greatly upon having an officer quartered upon them who not only
acted as a protection to them against the insolence of the rough
soldiery, but was courteous and pleasant in his manner, and tried
in every way to show that he regarded himself as a guest and not
a master.

After the first week's stay he requested that instead of having
his meals served to him in a room apart he might take them with
the family. The girls were about Lionel's age, and after the first
constraint wore off he became great friends with them; and although
at first he had difficulty in making himself understood, he readily
picked up a little French, the girls acting as his teachers.

"What do you English do here?" the eldest of them asked him when
six weeks after his arrival they were able to converse fairly in
a mixture of French and Spanish. "Why do you not leave us French
people to fight out our quarrels by ourselves?"

"I should put it the other way," Lionel laughed. "Why don't you
French people fight out your quarrels among yourselves instead of
calling in foreigners to help you? It is because the Guises and the
League have called in the Spaniards to fight on the Catholic side
that the English and Dutch have come to help the Huguenots. We are
fighting the battle of our own religion here, not the battle of
Henry of Navarre."

"I hate these wars of religion," the girl said. "Why can we not
all worship in our own way?"

"Ah, that is what we Protestants want to know, Mademoiselle Claire;
that is just what your people won't allow. Did you not massacre
the Protestants in France on the eve of St. Bartholomew? and have
not the Spaniards been for the last twenty years trying to stamp
out with fire and sword the new religion in the Low Countries? We
only want to be left alone."

"But your queen of England kills the Catholics."

"Not at all," Lionel said warmly; "that is only one of the stories
they spread to excuse their own doings. It is true that Catholics
in England have been put to death, and so have people of the sect
that call themselves Anabaptists; but this has been because they
had been engaged in plots against the queen, and not because of
their religion. The Catholics of England for the most part joined
as heartily as the Protestants in the preparations for the defence of
England in the time of the Armada. For my part, I cannot understand
why people should quarrel with each other because they worship God
in different ways."

"It is all very bad, I am sure," the girl said; "France has been
torn to pieces by these religious wars for years and years. It is
dreadful to think what they must be suffering in Paris now."

"Then why don't they open their gates to King Henry instead of
starving themselves at the orders of the legate of the pope and the
agent of Philip of Spain? I could understand if there was another
French prince whom they wanted as king instead of Henry of Navarre.
We fought for years in England as to whether we would have a king
from the house of York or the house of Lancaster, but when it comes
to choosing between a king of your own race and a king named for
you by Philip of Spain, I can't understand it."

"Never mind, Master Vickars. You know what you are fighting for,
don't you?"

"I do; I am fighting here to aid Holland. Parma is bringing all his
troops to aid the Guise here, and while they are away the Dutch will
take town after town, and will make themselves so strong that when
Parma goes back he will find the nut harder than ever to crack."

"How long will Paris hold out, think you, Master Vickars? They say
that provisions are well nigh spent."

"Judging from the way in which the Dutch towns held on for weeks
and weeks after, as it seemed, all supplies were exhausted, I should
say that if the people of Paris are as ready to suffer rather than
yield as were the Dutch burghers, they may hold on for a long time
yet. It is certain that no provisions can come to them as long as
we hold possession of this town, and so block the river."

"But if the armies of Parma and the League come they may drive you
away, Master Vickars."

"It is quite possible, mademoiselle; we do not pretend to be
invincible, but I think there will be some tough fighting first."

As the weeks went on Lionel Vickars came to be on very intimate
terms with the family. The two maidservants shared in the general
liking for the young officer. He gave no more trouble than if he
were one of the family, and on one or two occasions when disturbances
were caused by the ill conduct of the miscellaneous bands which
constituted the garrison, he brought his half company of English
soldiers at once into the house, and by his resolute attitude
prevented the marauders from entering.

When Parma's army approached Sir Ralph Pimpernel with the cavalry
joined the king, but Lionel shared in the disappointment felt by
all the infantry of the garrison of Lagny that they could take no
share in the great battle that was expected. Their excitement rose
high while the armies lay watching each other. From the position
of the town down by the river neither army was visible from its
walls, and they only learned when occasional messengers rode in
how matters were going on. One morning Lionel was awoke by a loud
knocking at his door. "What is it?" he shouted, as he sat up in
bed.

"It is I--Timothy Short, Master Vickars. The sergeant has sent me
to wake you in all haste. The Spaniards have stolen a march upon
us. They have thrown a bridge across the river somewhere in the
night, and most all their army stands between us and the king while
a division are preparing to besiege the town on the other side."
Lionel was hastily throwing on his clothes and arming himself while
the man was speaking.

"Tell the sergeant," he said, "to get the men under arms. I will
be with him in a few minutes."

When Lionel went out he found that the household was already astir.

"Go not out fasting," his host said. "Take a cup of wine and some
food before you start. You may be some time before you get an
opportunity of eating again if what they say is true."

"Thank you heartily," Lionel replied as he sat down to the table,
on which some food had already been placed; "it is always better
to fight full than fasting."

"Hark you!" the bourgeois said in his ear; "if things go badly with
you make your way here. I have a snug hiding place, and I shall take
refuge there with my family if the Spaniards capture the town. I
have heard of their doings in Holland, and that when they capture
a town they spare neither age nor sex, and slay Catholics as well
as Protestants; therefore I shall take refuge till matters have
quieted down and order is restored. I shall set to work at once
to carry my valuables there, and a goodly store of provisions. My
warehouse man will remain in charge above. He is faithful and can
be trusted, and he will tell the Spaniards that I am a good Catholic,
and lead them to believe that I fled with my family before the
Huguenots entered the town."

"Thank you greatly," Lionel replied; "should the need arise I will
take advantage of your kind offer. But it should not do so. We have
twelve hundred men here, and half that number of citizens have kept
the Spaniards at bay for months before towns no stronger than this
in Holland. We ought to be able to defend ourselves here for weeks,
and the king will assuredly come to our relief in two or three days
at the outside."

Upon Lionel sallying out he found the utmost confusion and disorder
reigning. The commandant was hurriedly assigning to the various
companies composing the garrison their places upon the walls.
Many of the soldiers were exclaiming that they had been betrayed,
and that it were best to make terms with the Spaniards at once.
The difference between the air of a quiet resolution that marked
the conduct of the people and troops at Sluys and the excitement
manifested here struck Lionel unpleasantly. The citizens all
remained in their houses, afraid lest the exultation they felt at
the prospect of deliverance would be so marked as to enrage the
soldiery. Lionel's own company was standing quietly and in good
order in the marketplace, and as soon as he received orders as to
the point that he should occupy on the walls Lionel marched them
away.

In half an hour the Spanish batteries, which had been erected during
the night, opened fire upon several points of the walls. The town
was ill provided with artillery, and the answer was feeble, and
before evening several breaches had been effected, two of the gates
blown in, and the Spaniards, advanced to the assault. Lionel and
his company, with one composed of Huguenot gentlemen and their
retainers and another of Germans defended the gate at which they were
posted with great bravery, and succeeded in repulsing the attacks
of the Spaniards time after time. The latter pressed forward in heavy
column, only to recoil broken and shattered from the archway, which
was filled high with their dead. The defenders had just succeeded
in repulsing the last of these attacks, when some soldiers ran by
shouting "All is lost, the Spaniards have entered the town at three
points!"

The German company at once disbanded and scattered. The Huguenot
noble said to Lionel: "I fear that the news is true; listen to the
shouts and cries in the town behind us. I will march with my men
and see if there is any chance of beating back the Spaniards; if
not it were best to lay down our arms and ask for quarter. Will
you try to hold this gate until I return?"

"I will do so," Lionel said; "but I have only about thirty men left,
and if the Spaniards come on again we cannot hope to repulse them."

"If I am not back in ten minutes it will be because all is lost,"
the Huguenot said; "and you had then best save yourself as you
can."

But long before the ten minutes passed crowds of fugitives ran past,
and Lionel learned that great numbers of the enemy had entered,
and that they were refusing quarter and slaying all they met.

"It is useless to stay here longer to be massacred," he said to his
men. "I should advise you to take refuge in the churches, leaving
your arms behind you as you enter. It is evident that further
resistance is useless, and would only cost us our lives. The Spaniards
are twenty to one, and it is evident that all hope of resistance
is at an end." The men were only too glad to accept the advice, and
throwing down their arms, hurried away. Lionel sheathed his sword,
and with the greatest difficulty made his way through the scene of
wild confusion to the house where he had lodged. The doors of most
of the houses were fast closed and the inhabitants were hurling
down missiles of all kinds from the upper windows upon their
late masters. The triumphant shouts of the Spaniards rose loud in
the air, mingled with despairing cries and the crack of firearms.
Lionel had several narrow escapes from the missiles thrown from the
windows and roofs, but reached the house of the merchant safely.
The door was half opened.

"Thanks be to heaven that you have come. I had well nigh given you
up, and in another minute should have closed the door. The women
are all below, but I waited until the last minute for you."

Barring the door Lionel's host led the way downstairs into a great
cellar, which served as a warehouse, and extended under the whole
house. He made his way through the boxes and bales to the darkest
corner of the great cellar. Here he pulled up a flag and showed
another narrow stair, at the bottom of which a torch was burning.
Bidding Lionel descend he followed him, lowered the flag behind him,
and then led the way along a narrow passage, at the end of which
was a door. Opening it Lionel found himself in an arched chamber.
Two torches were burning, and the merchant's wife and daughters
and the two female domestics were assembled. There was a general
exclamation of gladness as Lionel entered.

"We have been greatly alarmed," the mercer's wife said, "lest you
should not be able to gain the house, Master Vickars; for we heard
that the Spaniards are broken in at several points."

"It was fortunately at the other end of the town to that which I
was stationed," Lionel said; "and I was just in time. You have a
grand hiding place here. It looks like the crypt of a church."

"That is just what it is," the mercer said. "It was the church of
a monastery that stood here a hundred years ago. The monks then
moved into a grander place in Paris, and the monastery and church
which adjoined our house were pulled down and houses erected upon
the site. My grandfather, knowing of the existence of the crypt,
thought that it might afford a rare hiding place in case of danger,
and had the passage driven from his cellar into it. Its existence
could never be suspected; for as our cellar extends over the whole
of our house, as can easily be seen, none would suspect that there
was a hiding place without our walls. There are three or four chambers
as large as this. One of them is stored with all my choicest silks
and velvets, another will serve as a chamber for you and me. I have
enough provisions for a couple of months, and even should they burn
the house down we are safe enough here."



CHAPTER XIX

STEENWYK


Three days passed, and then a slight noise was heard as of the trap
door being raised. Lionel drew his sword.

"It is my servant, no doubt," the merchant said; "he promised to come
and tell me how things went as soon as he could get an opportunity
to come down unobserved. We should hear more noise if it were the
Spaniards." Taking a light he went along the passage, and returned
immediately afterwards followed by his man; the latter had his head
bound up, and carried his arm in a sling. An exclamation of pity
broke from the ladies.

"You are badly hurt, Jacques. What has happened?"

"It is well it is no worse, mistress," he replied. "The Spaniards
are fiends, and behaved as if they were sacking a city of Dutch
Huguenots instead of entering a town inhabited by friends. For an
hour or two they cut and slashed, pillaged and robbed. They came
rushing into the shop, and before I could say a word one ran me
through the shoulder and another laid my head open. It was an hour
or two before I came to my senses. I found the house turned topsy
turvy; everything worth taking had gone, and what was not taken was
damaged. I tied up my head and arm as best I could, and then sat
quiet in a corner till the din outside began to subside. The officers
did their best, I hear, and at last got the men into order. Numbers
of the townsfolk have been killed, and every one of the garrison was
butchered. I tell you, mistress, it is better to have ten Huguenot
armies in possession one after another than one Spanish force, though
the latter come as friends and co-religionists. Well, as soon as
things quieted down the soldiers were divided among the houses of
the townsfolk, and we have a sergeant and ten men quartered above;
but half an hour ago they were called away on some duty, and I took
the opportunity to steal down here."

"Have you told them that we were away, Jacques?"

"No, monsieur; no one has asked me about it. They saw by the
pictures and shrines that you were good Catholics, and after the
first outburst they have left things alone. But if it is not too
dreary for the ladies here, I should advise you to wait for a time
and see how things go before you show yourselves."

"That is my opinion too, Jacques. We can wait here for another two
months if need be. Doubtless, unless the Huguenots show signs of
an intention to attack the town, only a small garrison will be left
here, and it may be that those in our house will be withdrawn."

"Do you think it will be possible for me to make my escape, Jacques?"
Lionel asked.

"I should think so, sir. Ever since the Spaniards entered the town
boats with provisions for Paris have been coming along in great
numbers. From what I hear the soldiers say there is no chance
of a battle at present, for the Huguenot army have drawn off to a
distance, seeing that Paris is revictualled and that there is no
chance of taking it. They say that numbers of the French lords with
the Huguenot army have drawn off and are making for their homes.
At any rate there is no fear of an attack here, and the gates stand
open all day. Numbers of the townsfolk have been to Paris to see
friends there, and I should say that if you had a disguise you
could pass out easily enough."

The question was discussed for some time. Lionel was very anxious
to rejoin the army, and it was finally settled that Jacques should
the next night bring him down a suit of his own clothes, and the
first time the soldiers were all away should fetch him out, accompany
him through the gates of the town, and act as his guide as far as
he could.

The next night Lionel received the clothes. Two days later Jacques
came down early in the morning to say that the soldiers above had
just gone out on duty. Lionel at once assumed his disguise, and
with the heartiest thanks for the great service they had rendered
him took his leave of the kind merchant and his family. Jacques was
charged to accompany him as far as possible, and to set him well
on his way towards the Huguenot army, for Lionel's small knowledge
of French would be detected by the first person who accosted him.
On going out into the street Lionel found that there were many
peasants who had come in to sell fowls, eggs, and vegetables in
the town, and he and Jacques passed without a question through the
gates.

Jacques had, the evening before, ascertained from the soldiers the
position of Parma's army. A long detour had to be made, and it was
two days before they came in sight of the tents of Henry's camp.
They had observed the greatest precautions on their way, and had
only once fallen in with a troop of Parma's cavalry. These had
asked no questions, supposing that Jacques and his companion were
making their way from Paris to visit their friends after the siege,
there being nothing in their attire to attract attention, still
less suspicion. The peasants they met on their way eagerly demanded
news from Paris, but Jacques easily satisfied them by saying that
they had had a terrible time, and that many had died of hunger,
but that now that the river was open again better times had come.
When within a couple of miles of the army Jacques said good-bye to
Lionel, who would have rewarded him handsomely for his guidance,
but Jacques would not accept money.

"You are the master's guest," he said, "and you saved his house
from plunder when your people were in possession. He and my mistress
would never forgive me if I took money from you. I am well content
in having been able to assist so kind a young gentleman."

When Lionel arrived at the camp he soon found his way to Sir Ralph
Pimpernel's tent, where he was received as one from the dead. There
was no difficulty in providing himself again with armour and arms,
for of these there were abundance--the spoils of Ivry--in the
camp. When he was reclothed and rearmed Sir Ralph took him to the
king's tent, and from him Henry learned for the first time the
circumstances that had attended the capture of Lagny.

"And so they put the whole garrison to the sword," the king said
with indignation. "I will make any Spaniards that fall in my hands
pay dearly for it!"

Henry had indeed been completely out generalled by his opponent.
While he had been waiting with his army for a pitched battle Parma
had invested Lagny, and there were no means of relieving it except
by crossing the river in the face of the whole army of the enemy,
an enterprise impossible of execution. As soon as Lagny had fallen
provisions and ammunition were at once poured into Paris, two
thousand boat loads arriving in a single day.

King Henry's army immediately fell to pieces. The cavalry having
neither food nor forage rode off by hundreds every day, and in a
week but two thousand out of his six thousand horse remained with
him. The infantry also, seeing now no hope of receiving their
arrears of pay, disbanded in large numbers, and after an unsuccessful
attempt to carry Paris by a night attack, the king fell back with
the remnant of his force. Corbeil was assaulted and captured by
Parma, and the two great rivers of Paris were now open.

If Parma could have remained with his army in France, the cause
of Henry of Navarre would have been lost. But sickness was making
ravages among his troops. Dissensions broke our between the Spaniards,
Italians, and Netherlanders of his army and their French allies,
who hated the foreigners, though they had come to their assistance.
Lastly, his presence was urgently required in the Netherlands,
where his work was as far from being done as ever. Therefore to the
dismay of the Leaguers he started early in November on his march
back.

No sooner did he retire than the king took the field again,
recaptured Lagny and Corbeil, and recommenced the siege of Paris,
while his cavalry hung upon the rear and flanks of Parma's army and
harassed them continually, until they crossed the frontier, where
the duke found that affairs had not improved during his absence.

Lionel had obtained permission to accompany the force which captured
Lagny, and as soon as they entered the town hurried to the mercer's
house. He found Jacques in possession, and learned that the family
had weeks before left the crypt and reoccupied the house, but had
again taken refuge there when the Huguenots attacked the town. Lionel
at once went below, and was received with delight. He was now able
to repay to some extent the obligations he had received from them,
by protecting them from all interference by the new captors of
the town, from whom the majority of the citizens received harsh
treatment for the part they had taken in attacking the garrison
when the Spaniards first entered.

Prince Maurice's visit to the camp of Henry had been but a short
one; and as soon as Parma had effected the relief of Paris, and
there was no longer a chance of a great battle being fought, he
returned to Holland, followed after the recapture of Lagny by Sir
Ralph Pimpernel and the few survivors of his party, who were all
heartily weary of the long period of inaction that had followed
the victory at Ivry.

They found that during their absence there had been little doing in
the Netherlands, save that Sir Francis Vere, with a small body of
English infantry and cavalry, had stormed some formidable works
the Spaniards had thrown up to prevent relief being given to
Recklinghausen, which they were besieging. He effected the relief
of the town and drove off the besiegers. He then attacked and captured
a fort on the bank of the Rhine, opposite the town of Wesel.

At the end of the year 1590 there were, including the garrisons,
some eight thousand English infantry and cavalry in Holland, and
the year that followed was to see a great change in the nature of
the war. The efforts of Prince Maurice to improve his army were to
bear effect, and with the assistance of his English allies he was
to commence an active offensive war, to astonish his foes by the
rapidity with which he manoeuvred the new fighting machine he had
created, and to commence a new departure in the tactics of war.

In May he took the field, requesting Vere to cooperate with him
in the siege of Zutphen. But Sir Francis determined in the first
place to capture on his own account the Zutphen forts on the opposite
side of the river, since these had been lost by the treachery of
Roland Yorke. He dressed up a score of soldiers, some as peasants,
others as countrywomen, and provided them with baskets of eggs and
other provisions. At daybreak these went down by twos and threes
to the Zutphen ferry, as if waiting to be taken across to the town;
and while waiting for the boat to come across for them, they sat
down near the gate of the fort.

A few minutes later a party of English cavalry were seen riding
rapidly towards the fort. The pretended country people sprang to
their feet, and with cries of alarm ran towards it for shelter.
The gates were thrown open to allow them to enter. As they ran in
they drew out the arms concealed under their clothes and overpowered
the guard. The cavalry dashed up and entered the gate before the
garrison could assemble, and the fort was captured.

Vere at once began to throw up his batteries for the attack upon
the town across the river, and the prince invested the city on
the other side. So diligently did the besiegers work that before a
week had passed after the surprise of the fort the batteries were
completed, thirty-two guns placed in position, and the garrison,
seeing there was no hope of relief, surrendered.

On the very day of taking possession of the town, the allies, leaving
a garrison there, marched against Deventer, seven miles down the
river, and within five days had invested the place, and opened
their batteries upon the weakest part of the town. A breach was
effected, and a storm was ordered. A dispute arose between the
English, Scotch, and Dutch troops as to who should have the honour
of leading the assault. Prince Maurice decided in favour of the
English, in order that they might have an opportunity of wiping
out the stigma on the national honour caused by the betrayal of
Deventer by the traitor Sir William Stanley.

To reach the breach it was necessary to cross a piece of water called
the Haven. Sir Francis Vere led the English across the bridge of
boats which had been thrown over the water; but the bridge was too
short. Some of the troops sprang over and pushed boldly for the
breach, others were pushed over and drowned. Many of those behind
stripped off their armour and swam across the Haven, supported by
some Dutch troops who had been told off to follow the assaulting
party. But at the breach they were met by Van der Berg, the governor,
with seven companies of soldiers, and these fought so courageously
that the assailants were unable to win their way up the breach,
and fell back at last with a loss of two hundred and twenty-five
men killed and wounded.

While the assault was going on, the artillery of the besiegers
continued to play upon other parts of the town, and effected great
damage. On the following night the garrison endeavoured to capture
the bridge across the Haven, but were repulsed with loss, and in
the morning the place surrendered. The success of the patriots was
due in no slight degree to the fact that Parma with the greatest
part of his army was again absent in France, and the besieged towns
had therefore no hope of assistance from without. The States now
determined to seize the opportunity of capturing the towns held by
the Spaniards in Friesland.

The three principal towns in the possession of the Spaniards were
Groningen, Steenwyk, and Coevorden. After capturing several less
important places and forts Prince Maurice advanced against Steenwyk.
But just as he was about to commence the siege he received pressing
letters from the States to hurry south, as Parma was marching with
his whole army to capture the fort of Knodsenburg, which had been
raised in the previous autumn as a preparation for the siege of
the important city of Nymegen.

The Duke of Parma considered that he had ample time to reduce
Knodsenburg before Prince Maurice could return to its assistance.
Two great rivers barred the prince's return, and he would have to
traverse the dangerous district called the Foul Meadow, and the
great quagmire known as the Rouvenian Morass. But Prince Maurice
had now an opportunity of showing the excellence of the army he
had raised and trained. He received the news of Parma's advance on
the 15th of July; two days later he was on the march south, and in
five days had thrown bridges of boats across the two rivers, had
crossed morass and swamp, and appeared in front of the Spanish
army.

One assault had already been delivered by the Spaniards against
Knodsenburg, but this had been repulsed with heavy loss. As soon
as the patriot army approached the neighbourhood, Parma's cavalry
went out to drive in its skirmishers. Vere at once proposed to
Prince Maurice to inflict a sharp blow upon the enemy, and with the
approval of the prince marched with 1200 foot and 500 horse along
the dyke which ran across the low country. Marching to a spot
where a bridge crossed a narrow river he placed half his infantry
in ambush there; the other half a quarter of a mile further back.

Two hundred light cavalry were sent forward to beat up the enemy's
outposts, and then retreat; the rest of the cavalry were posted
in the rear of the infantry. Another dyke ran nearly parallel with
the first, falling into it at some distance in the rear of Vere's
position, and here Prince Maurice stationed himself with a body
of horse and foot to cover Vere's retreat should he be obliged to
fall back. About noon the light cavalry skirmished with the enemy
and fell back, but were not followed. About half an hour later the
scouts brought word that the Spaniards were at hand.

Suddenly and without orders 800 of Maurice's cavalry galloped off
to meet the enemy; but they soon came back again at full speed,
with a strong force of Spanish cavalry in pursuit. Vere's infantry
at once sallied out from their ambush among the trees, poured
their fire into the enemy, and charged them with their pikes. The
Spaniards turned to fly, when Vere's cavalry charged them furiously
and drove them back in headlong rout to their own camp, taking
a great number of prisoners, among them many officers of rank, and
500 horses. Parma finding himself thus suddenly in face of a superior
army, with a rapid river in his rear, fell back across the Waal,
and then proceeded to Spa to recruit his shattered health, leaving
Verdugo, an experienced officer, in command.

Instead of proceeding to besiege Nymegen, Maurice marched away as
suddenly and quickly as before, and captured Hulst, on the borders
of Zeeland and Brabant, a dozen miles only from Antwerp, and then
turning again was, in three days, back at Nymegen, and had placed
sixty-eight pieces of artillery in position. He opened fire on the
20th of October, and the next day the important city of Nymegen
surrendered. This series of brilliant successes greatly raised the
spirits of the Netherlanders, and proportionately depressed those
of the Spaniards and their adherents.

Parma himself was ill from annoyance and disappointment. The army
with which he might have completed the conquest of the Netherlands
had, in opposition to his entreaties and prayers, been frittered
away by Philip's orders in useless expeditions in France, while
the young and active generals of the Dutch and English armies were
snatching town after town from his grasp, and consolidating the
Netherlands, so recently broken up by Spanish strongholds, into a
compact body, whose increasing wealth and importance rendered it
every day a more formidable opponent. It is true that Parma had
saved first Paris and afterwards Rouen for the League, but it was
at the cost of loosening Philip's hold over the most important
outpost of the Spanish dominions.

In the following spring Parma was again forced to march into France
with 20,000 men, and Maurice, as soon as the force started, prepared
to take advantage of its absence. With 6000 foot and 2000 horse
he again appeared at the end of May before Steenwyk. This town was
the key to the province of Drenthe, and one of the safeguards of
Friesland; it was considered one of the strongest fortresses of
the time. Its garrison consisted of sixteen companies of foot and
some cavalry, and 1200 Walloon infantry, commanded by Lewis, the
youngest of the Counts de Berg, a brave lad of eighteen years of
age.

In this siege, for the first time, the spade was used by soldiers
in the field. Hitherto the work had been considered derogatory to
troops, and peasants and miners had been engaged for the work; but
Prince Maurice had taught his soldiers that their duty was to work
as well as fight, and they now proved the value of his teaching.

The besieged made several successful sorties, and Sir Francis Vere
had been severely wounded in the leg. The cannonade effected but
little damage on the strong walls; but the soldiers, working night
and day, drove mines under two of the principal bastions, and
constructed two great chambers there; these were charged, one with
five thousand pounds of powder, the other with half that quantity.
On the 3d of July the mines were sprung. The bastion of the east
gate was blown to pieces and the other bastion greatly injured, but
many of the Dutch troops standing ready for the assault were also
killed by the explosion.

The storming parties, however, rushed forward, and the two bastions
were captured. This left the town at the mercy of the besiegers.
The next day the garrison surrendered, and were permitted to march
away. Three hundred and fifty had been killed, among them young
Count Lewis Van der Berg, and two hundred had been left behind,
severely wounded, in the town. Between five and six hundred of
the besiegers were killed during the course of the siege. The very
day after the surrender of Steenwyk Maurice marched away and laid
siege to Coevorden. This city, which was most strongly fortified,
lay between two great swamps, between which there was a passage of
about half a mile in width.

Another of the Van der Bergs, Count Frederick, commanded the garrison
of a thousand veterans. Verdugo sent to Parma and Mondragon for
aid, but none could be sent to him, and the prince worked at his
fortifications undisturbed. His force was weakened by the withdrawal
of Sir Francis Vere with three of the English regiments, Elizabeth
having sent peremptory orders that this force should follow
those already withdrawn to aid Henry of Navarre in Brittany. Very
unwillingly Vere obeyed, and marched to Doesburg on the Yssel. But
a fortnight after he arrived there, while he was waiting for ships
to transport him to Brittany the news came to him that Verdugo,
having gathered a large force together, was about to attack Prince
Maurice in his camp, and Vere at once started to the prince's aid.

On the night of the 6th of September, Verdugo, with 4000 foot and
1800 cavalry, wearing their shirts outside their armour to enable
them to distinguish each other in the dark, fell upon Maurice's camp.
Fortunately the prince was prepared, having intercepted a letter
from Verdugo to the governor of the town. A desperate battle took
place, but at break of day, while its issue was still uncertain,
Vere, who had marched all night, came up and threw himself into the
battle. His arrival was decisive. Verdugo drew off with a loss of
300 killed, and five days later Coevorden surrendered, and Prince
Maurice's army went into winter quarters.

A few weeks later Parma died, killed by the burden Philip threw
upon him, broken down by the constant disappointment of his hopes
of carrying his work to a successful end, by the incessant interference
of Philip with his plans, and by the anxiety caused by the mutinies
arising from his inability to pay his troops, although he had
borrowed to the utmost on his own possessions, and pawned even his
jewels to keep them from starvation. He was undoubtedly the greatest
commander of his age, and had he been left to carry out his own
plans would have crushed out the last ember of resistance in the
Netherlands and consolidated the power of Spain there.

He was succeeded in his post by the Archduke Albert, but for a time
Ernest Mansfeldt continued to command the army, and to manage the
affairs in the Netherlands. In March, 1593, Prince Maurice appeared
with his army in front of Gertruydenberg. The city itself was
an important one, and its position on the Maas rendered it of the
greatest use to the Spaniards, as through it they were at any moment
enabled to penetrate into the heart of Holland. Gertruydenberg and
Groningen, the capital of Friesland, were now, indeed, the only
important places in the republic that remained in possession of
the Spaniards. Hohenlohe with a portion of the army established
himself to the east of the city, Maurice with its main body to the
west.

Two bridges constructed across the river Douge afforded a means of
communication between two armies, and plank roads were laid across
the swamps for the passage of baggage wagons. Three thousand soldiers
laboured incessantly at the works, which were intended not only to
isolate the city, but to defend the besiegers from any attack that
might be made upon them by a relieving army. The better to protect
themselves, miles of country were laid under water, and palisade
work erected to render the country impregnable by cavalry.

Ernest Mansfeldt did his best to relieve the town. His son, Count
Charles, with five thousand troops, had been sent into France, but
by sweeping up all the garrisons, he moved with a considerable army
towards Gertruydenberg and challenged Maurice to issue out from
his lines to fight him. But the prince had no idea of risking a
certain success upon the issue of a battle.

A hundred pieces of artillery on the batteries played incessantly
on the town, while a blockading squadron of Zeeland ships assisted
in the bombardment, and so terrible was the fire, that when the
town was finally taken only four houses were found to have escaped
injury.

Two commandants of the place were killed one after the other, and
the garrison of a thousand veterans, besides the burgher militia,
was greatly reduced in strength. At last, after ninety days' siege,
the town suddenly fell. Upon the 24th of June three Dutch captains
were relieving guard in the trenches near the great north bastion
of the town, when it occurred to them to scale the wall of the fort
and see what was going on inside. They threw some planks across the
ditch, and taking half a company of soldiers, climbed cautiously
up. They obtained a foothold before the alarm was given. There was
a fierce hand to hand struggle, and sixteen of the party fell, and
nine of the garrison. The rest fled into the city. The Governor
Gysant, rushing to the rescue without staying to put on his armour,
was killed.

Count Solms came from the besieging camp to investigate the sudden
uproar, and to his profound astonishment was met by a deputation
from the city asking for terms of surrender. Prince Maurice soon
afterwards came up, and the terms of capitulation were agreed upon.
The garrison were allowed to retire with side arms and baggage,
and fifty wagons were lent to them to carry off their wounded.

In the following spring Coevorden, which had been invested by
Verdugo, was relieved, and Groningen, the last great city of the
Netherlands in the hands of the Spaniards, was besieged. Mines were
driven under its principal bastion, and when these were sprung,
after sixty-five days' siege, the city was forced to surrender.
Thus for the first time, after years of warfare, Holland, Zeeland,
and Friesland became truly united, and free from the grasp of the
hated invader.

Throughout the last three years of warfare Sir Francis Vere had
proved an able assistant to the prince, and the English troops had
fought bravely side by side with the Dutch; but their contingent
had been but a small one, for the majority of Vere's force had,
like that of the Spaniards, been withdrawn for service in France.
The struggle in that country was nearly at an end. The conversion
of Henry of Navarre for the second time to the Catholic religion
had ranged many Catholics, who had hitherto been opposed to him,
under his banner, while many had fallen away from the ranks of the
League in disgust, when Philip of Spain at last threw off the mask
of disinterestedness, and proposed his nephew the Archduke Ernest
as king of France.

In July, 1595, a serious misfortune befell the allied army. They
had laid siege to Crolle, and had made considerable progress with
the siege, when the Spanish army, under command of Mondragon, the
aged governor of Antwerp, marched to its relief. As the army of
Maurice was inferior in numbers, the States would nor consent to
a general action. The siege was consequently raised; and Mondragon
having attained his object, fell back to a position on the Rhine
at Orsoy, above Rheinberg, whence he could watch the movements of
the allied army encamped on the opposite bank at Bislich, a few
miles below Wesel.

The Spanish army occupied both sides of the river, the wing on the
right bank being protected from attack by the river Lippe, which
falls into the Rhine at Wesel, and by a range of moorland hills
called the Testerburg. The Dutch cavalry saw that the slopes of
this hill were occupied by the Spaniards, but believed that their
force consisted only of a few troops of horse. Young Count Philip
of Nassau proposed that a body of cavalry should swim the Lippe,
and attack and cut them off. Prince Maurice and Sir Francis Vere
gave a very reluctant consent to the enterprise, but finally allowed
him to take a force of five hundred men.

With him were his brothers Ernest and Louis, his nephew Ernest de
Solms, and many other nobles of Holland. Sir Marcellus Bacx was
in command of them. The English contingent was commanded by Sir
Nicholas Parker and Robert Vere. On August 22d they swam the Lippe
and galloped in the direction where they expected to find two
or three troops of Spanish horse; but Mondragon had received news
of their intentions, and they suddenly saw before them half the
Spanish army. Without hesitation the five hundred English and Dutch
horsemen charged desperately into the enemy's ranks, and fought
with extraordinary valour, until, altogether overpowered by numbers,
Philip of Nassau and his nephew Ernest were both mortally wounded
and taken prisoners.

Robert Vere was slain by a lance thrust in the face, and many
other nobles and gentlemen fell. Thus died one of the three brave
brothers, for the youngest, Horace, had also joined the army in 1590.
The survivors of the band under Sir Nicholas Parker and Marcellus
Bacx managed to effect their retreat, covered by a reserve Prince
Maurice had posted on the opposite side of the river.



CHAPTER XX

CADIZ


In March, 1596, Sir Francis Vere returned to Holland. He had during
his absence in England been largely taken into the counsels of Queen
Elizabeth, and it had been decided that the war should be carried
into the enemy's country, and a heavy blow struck at the power
of Spain. Vere had been appointed to an important command in the
proposed expedition, and had now come out charged with the mission
of persuading the States General to cooperate heartily with England,
and to contribute both money and men. There was much discussion
in the States; but they finally agreed to comply with the queen's
wishes, considering that there was no surer way of bringing the
war to a termination than to transport it nearer to the heart of
the enemy.

As soon as the matter was arranged, Sir Francis Vere left the
Hague and went to Middleburg, where the preparations for the Dutch
portion of the expedition were carried out. It consisted of twenty-two
Dutch ships, under Count William of Nassau, and a thousand of
the English troops in the pay of the States. The company commanded
by Lionel Vickars was one of those chosen to accompany the expedition;
and on the 22d of April it started from Flushing and joined the
British fleet assembled at Dover. This was under the command of Lord
Howard as lord admiral, the Earl of Essex as general, Lord Thomas
Howard as vice admiral, and Sir Walter Raleigh as rear admiral.

Sir Francis Vere was lieutenant general and lord marshal. He
was to be the chief adviser of the Earl of Essex, and to have the
command of operations on shore. The ships of war consisted of the
Ark Royal, the Repulse, Mere Honour, War Sprite, Rainbow, Mary Rose,
Dreadnought, Vanguard, Nonpareil, Lion, Swiftsure, Quittance, and
Tremontaine. There were also twelve ships belonging to London, and
the twenty-two Dutch vessels. The fleet, which was largely fitted
out at the private expense of Lord Howard and the Earl of Essex,
sailed from Dover to Plymouth. Sir Francis Vere went by land, and
set to work at the organization of the army.

A month was thus spent, and on the 1st of June the fleet set sail.
It carried 6860 soldiers and 1000 volunteers, and was manned by
nearly 7000 sailors. There had been some dispute as to the relative
ranks of Sir Francis Vere and Sir Walter Raleigh, and it was settled
that Sir Francis should have precedence on shore, and Sir Walter
Raleigh at sea.

All on board the fleet were full of enthusiasm at the enterprise
upon which they were embarked. It was eight years since the
Spanish Armada had sailed to invade England; now an English fleet
was sailing to attack Spain on her own ground. Things had changed
indeed in that time. Spain, which had been deemed invincible, had
suffered many reverses; while England had made great strides in
power, and was now mistress of the seas, on which Spain had formerly
considered herself to be supreme.

A favourable wind from the northeast carried the fleet rapidly
across the Bay of Biscay, and it proceeded on its way, keeping well
out of sight of the coast of Portugal. The three fastest sailers
of the fleet were sent on ahead as soon as they rounded Cape St.
Vincent, with orders to capture all small vessels which might carry
to Cadiz the tidings of the approach of the fleet.

Early on the morning of the 20th June the fleet anchored off the
spit of San Sebastian on the southern side of the city.

Cadiz was defended by the fort of San Sebastian on one side and
that of San Felipe on the other; while the fort of Puntales, on the
long spit of sand connecting the city with the mainland, defended
the channel leading up to Puerto Real, and covered by its guns
the Spanish galleys and ships of war anchored there. Lying off the
town when the English fleet came in sight were forty richly laden
merchant ships about to sail for Mexico, under the convoy of four
great men of war, two Lisbon galleons, two argosies, and three
frigates.

As soon as the English were seen, the merchant ships were ordered
up the channel to Puerto Real, and the men of war and the fleet of
seventeen war galleys were ranged under the guns of Fort Puntales
to prevent the English passing up. It had first been decided to
attempt a landing in the harbour of Galeta, on the south side of
the city; but a heavy sea was setting in, and although the troops
had been got into the boats they were re-embarked, and the fleet
sailed round and anchored at the mouth of the channel leading up
the bay. A council of war was held that night, and it was decided
that the fleet should move up the bay with the tide next morning,
and attack the Spanish fleet.

The next morning at daybreak the ships got up their anchors and
sailed up the channel, each commander vying with the rest in his
eagerness to be first in the fray. They were soon hotly engaged
with the enemy; the fort, men of war, and galleys opening a heavy
fire upon them, to which, anchoring as close as they could get to
the foe, the English ships hotly responded. The galleys were driven
closer in under the shelter of the fire of the fort, and the fire
was kept up without intermission from six o'clock in the morning
until four in the afternoon.

By that time the Spaniards had had enough of it. The galleys slipped
their cables and made sail for a narrow channel across the spit,
covered by the guns of the fort. Three of them were captured by
Sir John Wingfield in the vanguard, but the rest got through the
channel and escaped. The men of war endeavoured to run ashore, but
boarding parties in boats from the Ark Royal and Repulse captured
two of them. The Spaniards set fire to the other two. The argosies
and galleons were also captured. Sir Francis Vere at once took the
command of the land operations. The boats were all lowered, and the
regiments of Essex, Vere, Blount, Gerard, and Clifford told off as
a landing party. They were formed in line. The Earl of Essex and
Sir Francis Vere took their place in a boat in advance of the line,
and were followed by smaller boats crowded with gentlemen volunteers.

They landed between the fort of Puntales and the town. The regiments
of Blount, Gerard, and Clifford were sent to the narrowest part
of the spit to prevent reinforcements being thrown into the place;
while those of Essex and Vere and the gentlemen volunteers turned
towards Cadiz. Each of these parties consisted of about a thousand
men.

The walls of Cadiz were so strong that it had been intended to
land guns from the fleet, raise batteries, and make a breach in the
walls. Vere, however, perceiving some Spanish cavalry and infantry
drawn up outside the walls, suggested to Essex that an attempt should
be made to take the place by surprise. The earl at once agreed to
the plan.

Vere marched the force across to the west side of the spit, his
movements being concealed by the sand hills from the Spanish. Sir
John Wingfield with two hundred men was ordered to march rapidly on
against the enemy, driving in their skirmishers, and then to retreat
hastily when the main body advanced against him. Three hundred men
under Sir Matthew Morgan were posted as supports to Wingfield, and
as soon as the latter's flying force joined them the whole were to
fall upon the Spaniards and in turn chase them back to the walls,
against which the main body under Essex and Vere were to advance.

The orders were ably carried out. The Spaniards in hot chase of
Wingfield found themselves suddenly confronted by Morgan's force,
who fell upon them so furiously that they fled back to the town
closely followed by the English. Some of the fugitives made their
way in at the gates, which were hurriedly closed, while others
climbed up at the bastions, which sloped sufficiently to afford
foothold. Vere's troops from the Netherlands, led by Essex, also
scaled the bastions and then an inner wall behind it. As soon as
they had captured this they rushed through the streets, shooting
and cutting down any who opposed them.

Sir Francis Vere, who had also scaled the ramparts, knew that cities
captured by assaults had often been lost again by the soldiers
scattering. He therefore directed the rest of the troops to burst
open the gate. This was with some difficulty effected, and he then
marched them in good order to the marketplace, where the Spaniards
had rallied and were hotly engaged with Essex. The opposition was
soon beaten down, and those defending the town hall were forced to
surrender. The troops were then marched through the town, and the
garrison driven either into the convent of San Francisco or into
the castle of Felipe. The convent surrendered on the same evening
and the castle on the following day. The loss upon the part of
the assailants was very small, but Sir John Wingfield was mortally
wounded.

The English behaved with the greatest courtesy to their captives,
their conduct presenting an extraordinary contrast to that of
the Spaniards under similar circumstance in the Netherlands. The
women were treated with the greatest courtesy, and five thousand
inhabitants, including women and priests, were allowed to leave
the town with their clothes. The terms were that the city should
pay a ransom of 520,000 ducats, and that some of the chief citizens
should remain as hostages for payment. As soon as the fighting
ceased, Lionel Vickars accompanied Sir Francis Vere through the
streets to set guards, and see that no insult was offered to any
of the inhabitants. As they passed along, the door of one of the
mansions was thrown open. A gentleman hurried out; he paused for a
moment, exclaiming, "Sir Francis Vere!" and then looking at Lionel
rushed forward towards him with a cry of delight. Sir Francis Vere
and Lionel stared in astonishment as the former's name was called;
but at the sound of his own name Lionel fell back a step as if
stupefied, and then with a cry of "Geoffrey!" fell into his brother's
arms.

"It is indeed Geoffrey Vickars!" Sir Francis Vere exclaimed. "Why,
Geoffrey, what miracle is this? We have thought you dead these six
years, and now we find you transmuted into a Spanish don."

"I may look like one, Sir Francis," Geoffrey said as he shook his
old commander's hand, "but I am English to the backbone still. But
my story is too long to tell now. You will be doubtless too busy
tonight to spare time to listen to it, but I pray you to breakfast
with me in the morning, when I will briefly relate to you the outline
of my adventures. Can you spare my brother for tonight, Sir Francis?"

"I would do so were there ten times the work to be got through," Sir
Francis replied. "Assuredly I would not keep asunder for a minute
two brothers who have so long been separated. I will breakfast
with you in the morning and hear this strange story of yours; for
strange it must assuredly be, since it has changed my young page
of the Netherlands into a Spanish hidalgo."

"I am no hidalgo, Sir Francis, but a trader of Cadiz, and I own
that although I have been in some way a prisoner, seeing that I
could not effect my escape, I have not fared badly. Now, Lionel,
come in. I have another surprise for you." Lionel, still confused
and wonder stricken at this apparent resurrection of his brother
from the dead, followed him upstairs. Geoffrey led the way into a
handsomely furnished apartment, where a young lady was sitting with
a boy two years old in her lap.

"Dolores, this is my brother Lionel, of whom you have so often
heard me speak. Lionel, this is my wife and my eldest boy, who is
named after you."

It was some time before Lionel could completely realize the position,
and it was not until Dolores in somewhat broken English bade him
welcome that he found his tongue.

"But I cannot understand it all!" he exclaimed, after responding
to the words of Dolores. "I saw my brother in the middle of the
battle with the Armada. We came into collision with a great galleon,
we lost one of our masts, and I never saw Geoffrey afterwards; and
we all thought that he had either been shot by the musketeers on
the galleon, or had been knocked overboard and killed by the falling
mast."

"I had hoped that long before this you would have heard of my
safety, Lionel, for a sailor friend of mine promised if he reached
England to go down at once to Hedingham to tell them there. He left
the ship he was in out in the West Indies, and I hoped had reached
home safely."

"We have heard nothing, Geoffrey. The man has never come with your
message. But now tell me how you were saved."

"I was knocked over by the mast, Lionel, but as you see I was not
killed. I climbed up into a passing Spanish ship, and concealed
myself in the chains until she was sunk, when I was, with many of
the crew, picked up by the boats of other ships. I pretended to
have lost my senses and my speech, and none suspected that I was
English. The ship I was on board was one of those which succeeded
after terrible hardships in returning to Spain. An Irish gentleman
on board her, to whom I confided my secret, took me as a servant.
After many adventures I sailed with him for Italy, where we hoped
to get a ship for England. On the way we were attacked by Barbary
pirates. We beat them off, but I was taken prisoner. I remained
a captive among them for nearly two years, and then with a fellow
prisoner escaped, together with Dolores and her father, who had
also been captured by the pirates. We reached Spain in safety,
and I have since passed as one of the many exiles from England and
Ireland who have taken refuge here; and Senor Mendez, my wife's
father, was good enough to bestow her hand upon me, partly in
gratitude for the services I had rendered him in his escape, partly
because he saw she would break her heart if he refused."

"You know that is not true, Geoffrey," Dolores interrupted.

"Never mind, Dolores, it is near enough. And with his daughter,"
he continued, "he gave me a share in his business. I have been a
fortunate man indeed, Lionel; but I have always longed for a chance
to return home; until now none has ever offered itself, and I have
grieved continually at the thought that my father and mother and
you were mourning for me as dead. Now you have the outline of my
story; tell me about all at home."

"Our father and mother are both well, Geoffrey, though your
supposed loss was a great blow for them. But is it still home for
you, Geoffrey? Do you really mean to return with us?"

"Of course I do, Lionel. At the time I married I arranged with
Senor Mendez that whenever an opportunity occurred I was to return
home, taking, of course, Dolores with me. She has been learning
English ever since, and although naturally she would rather that
we remained here she is quite prepared to make her home in England.
We have two boys, this youngster, and a baby three months old, so,
you see, you have all at once acquired nephews as well as a brother
and sister. Here is Senor Mendez. This is my brother, senor, the
Lionel after whom I named my boy, though I never dreamed that our
next meeting would take place within the walls of Cadiz."

"You have astounded us, senor," the merchant said courteously.
"We thought that Cadiz was safe from an attack; and though we were
aware you had defeated our fleet we were astonished indeed when
two hours since we heard by the din and firing in the streets that
you had captured the city. Truly you English do not suffer the grass
to grow under your feet. When we woke this morning no one dreamed
of danger, and now in the course of one day you have destroyed our
fleet, captured our town, and have our lives and properties at your
disposal."

"Your lives are in no danger, senor, and all who choose are free
to depart without harm or hindrance. But as to your property--I
don't mean yours, of course, because as Geoffrey's father in law
I am sure that Sir Francis Vere will inflict no fine upon you--but
the city generally will have to pay, I hear, some half million
ducats as ransom.

"That is as nothing," the Spaniard said, "to the loss the city
will suffer in the loss of the forty merchant ships which you will
doubtless capture or burn. Right glad am I that no cargo of mine
is on board any of them, for I do not trade with Mexico; but I am
sure the value of the ships with their cargoes cannot be less than
twenty millions of ducats. This will fall upon the traders of
this town and of Seville. Still, I own that the ransom of half a
million for a city like Cadiz seems to me to be very moderate, and
the tranquillity that already prevails in the town is beyond all
praise. Would that such had been the behaviour of my countrymen in
the Netherlands!"

Don Mendez spoke in a tone of deep depression. Geoffrey made a sign
to his brother to come out on to the balcony, while the merchant
took a seat beside his daughter.

"'Tis best to leave them alone," he said as they looked down into
the street, where the English and their Dutch allies, many of whom
had now landed, were wandering about examining the public buildings
and churches, while the inhabitants looked with timid curiosity
from their windows and balconies at the men who had, as if by magic,
suddenly become their masters. "I can see that the old gentleman is
terribly cut up. Of course, nothing has been said between us yet,
for it was not until we heard the sound of firing in the streets
that anyone thought there was the smallest risk of your capturing
the city. Nevertheless, he must be sure that I shall take this
opportunity of returning home.

"It has always been understood between us that I should do so as
soon as any safe method of making a passage could be discovered;
but after being here with him more than three years he had doubtless
come to believe that such a chance would never come during his
lifetime, and the thought of an early separation from his daughter,
and the break up of our household here, must be painful to him in
the extreme. It has been settled that I should still remain partner
in the firm, and should manage our affairs in England and Holland;
but this will, of course, be a comparatively small business until
peace is restored, and ships are free to come and go on both sides
as they please. But I think it is likely he will himself come to
live with us in England, and that we shall make that the headquarters
of the firm, employing our ships in traffic with Holland, France,
and the Mediterranean until peace is restored with Spain, and having
only an agent here to conduct such business as we may be able to
carry on under the present stringent regulations.

"In point of fact, even if we wound up our affairs and disposed of
our ships, it would matter little to us, for Mendez is a very rich
man, and as Dolores is his only child he has no great motive beyond
the occupation it gives him for continuing in business.

"So you are a captain now, Lionel! Have you had a great deal of
fighting?"

"Not a great deal. The Spaniards have been too much occupied with
their affairs in France to give us much work to do. In Holland I
took part in the adventure that led to the capture of Breda, did
some fighting in France with the army of Henry of Navarre, and have
been concerned in a good many sieges and skirmishes. I do not know
whether you heard of the death of Robert Vere. He came out just
after the business of the Armada, and fell in the fight the other
day near Wesel--a mad business of Count Philip of Nassau. Horace
is serving with his troop. We have recovered all the cities in the
three provinces, and Holland is now virtually rid of the Spaniards.

"Things have greatly changed since the days of Sluys and Bergen op
Zoom. Holland has increased marvellously in strength and wealth. We
have now a splendidly organized army, and should not fear meeting
the Spaniards in the open field if they would but give the chance
to do so in anything like equal numbers. Sir Francis is marshal
of our army here, and is now considered the ablest of our generals;
and he and Prince Maurice have never yet met with a serious disaster.
But how have you escaped the Inquisition here, Geoffrey? I thought
they laid hands on every heretic?"

"So they do," Geoffrey replied; "but you see they have never dreamed
that I was a heretic. The English, Irish, and Scotchmen here, either
serving in the army or living quietly as exiles, are, of course,
all Catholics, and as they suppose me to be one of them, it does not
seem to have entered their minds that I was a Protestant. Since I
have been here I have gone with my wife and father in law to church,
and have said my prayers in my own way while they have said theirs.
I cannot say I have liked it, but as there was no church of my own
it did not go against my conscience to kneel in theirs. I can tell
you that, after being for nearly a couple of years a slave among the
Moors, one thinks less of these distinctions than one used to do.
Had the Inquisition laid hands on me and questioned me, I should
at once have declared myself a Protestant; but as long as I was not
questioned I thought it no harm to go quietly and pay my devotions
in a church, even though there were many things in that church with
which I wholly disagreed.

"Dolores and I have talked the matter over often, and have arrived
at the conclusion long since that there is no such great difference
between us as would lead us to hate each other."

Lionel laughed.

"I suppose we generally see matters as we want to, Geoffrey; but
it will be rather a shock to our good father and mother when you
bring them home a Catholic daughter."

"I daresay when she has once settled in England among us, Lionel,
she will turn round to our views on the subject; not that I should
ever try to convert her, but it will likely enough come of itself.
Of course, she has been brought up with the belief that heretics are
very terrible people. She has naturally grown out of that belief
now, and is ready to admit that there may be good heretics as well
as good Catholics, which is a long step for a Spanish woman to take.
I have no fear but that the rest will come in time. At present I
have most carefully abstained from talking with her on the subject.
When she is once in England I shall be able to talk to her freely
without endangering her life by doing so."

Upon the following morning Sir Francis Vere breakfasted with Geoffrey,
and then he and Lionel heard the full account of his adventures,
and the manner in which it came about that he was found established
as a merchant in Cadiz.

They then talked over the situation. Sir Francis was much vexed
that the lord admiral had not complied with the earnest request the
Earl of Essex had sent him, as soon as he landed, to take prompt
measures for the pursuit and capture of the merchant ships. Instead
of doing this, the admiral, considering the force that had landed
to be dangerously weak, had sent large reinforcements on shore as
soon as the boats came off, and the consequence was that at dawn
that morning masses of smoke rising from the Puerto Real showed
that the Duke of Medina Sidonia had set the merchant ships on fire
rather than that they should fall into the hands of the English.

For a fortnight the captors of Cadiz remained in possession. Senor
Mendez had, upon the day after their entry, discussed the future
with Geoffrey. To the latter's great satisfaction he took it for
granted that his son in law would sail with Dolores and the children
in the English fleet, and he at once entered into arrangements with
him for his undertaking the management of the business of the firm
in England and Holland.

"Had I wound up my affairs I should accompany you at once, for
Dolores is everything to me, and you, Geoffrey, have also a large
share of my affection; but this is impossible. We have at present
all our fifteen ships at sea, and these on their return to port
would be confiscated at once were I to leave. Besides, there are
large transactions open with the merchants at Seville and elsewhere.
Therefore I must, for the present at any rate, remain here. I shall
incur no odium by your departure. It will be supposed that you have
reconciled yourself with your government, and your going home will
therefore seem only natural; and it will be seen that I could not,
however much I were inclined, interfere to prevent the departure
of Dolores and the children with you.

"I propose to send on board your ships the greater portion of my
goods here suitable for your market. This, again, will not excite
bad feelings, as I shall say that you as my partner insisted upon
your right to take your share of our merchandise back to England
with you, leaving me as my portion our fleet of vessels. Therefore
all will go on here as before. I shall gradually reduce my business
and dispose of the ships, transmitting my fortune to a banker in
Brussels, who will be able to send it to England through merchants
in Antwerp, and you can purchase vessels to replace those I sell.

"I calculate that it will take me a year to complete all my
arrangements. After that I shall again sail for Italy, and shall
come to England either by sea or by travelling through Germany,
as circumstances may dictate. On arriving in London I shall know
where to find you, for by that time you will be well known there;
and at any rate the bankers to whom my money is sent will be able
to inform me of your address."

These arrangements were carried out, and at the departure of
the fleet, Geoffrey, with Dolores and the children, sailed in Sir
Francis Vere's ship the Rainbow, Sir Francis having insisted on
giving up his own cabin for the use of Dolores. On leaving Cadiz
the town was fired, and the cathedral, the church of the Jesuits,
the nunneries of Santa Maria and Candelaria, two hundred and ninety
houses, and, greatest loss of all, the library of the Jesuits,
containing invaluable manuscripts respecting the Incas of Peru,
were destroyed.

The destruction of the Spanish fleet, and the enormous loss caused
by the burning of Cadiz and the loss of the rich merchant fleet,
struck a terrible blow at the power and resources of Spain. Her
trade never recovered from its effects, and her prestige suffered
very greatly in the eyes of Europe. Philip never rallied from the
blow to his pride inflicted by this humiliation.

Lionel had at first been almost shocked to find that Geoffrey had
married a Spanish woman and a Catholic; but the charming manner of
Dolores, her evident desire to please, and the deep affection with
which she regarded her husband, soon won his heart. He, Sir Francis
Vere, and the other officers and volunteers on board, vied with
each other in attention to her during the voyage; and Dolores, who
had hitherto been convinced that Geoffrey was a strange exception
to the rule that all Englishmen were rough and savage animals, and
who looked forward with much secret dread to taking up her residence
among them, was quite delighted, and assured Geoffrey she was at
last convinced that all she had heard to the disadvantage of his
countrymen was wholly untrue.

The fleet touched at Plymouth, where the news of the immense
success they had gained was received with great rejoicing; and
after taking in fresh water and stores, they proceeded along the
coast and anchored in the mouth of the Thames. Here the greater part
of the fleet was disbanded, the Rainbow and a few other vessels
sailing up to Greenwich, where the captains and officers were
received with great honour by the queen, and were feasted and made
much of by the city.

The brothers, the day after the ship cast anchor, proceeded to town,
and there hired horses for their journey down into Essex. This was
accomplished in two days, Geoffrey riding with Dolores on a pillion
behind him with her baby in her lap, while young Lionel was on the
saddle before his uncle.

When they approached Hedingham Lionel said, "I had best ride forward
Geoffrey to break the news to them of your coming. Although our
mother has always declared that she would not give up hope that
you would some day be restored to us, they have now really mourned
you as dead."

"Very well, Lionel. It is but a mile or so; I will dismount and
put the boy up in the saddle and walk beside him, and we shall be
in a quarter of an hour after you."

The delight of Mr. and Mrs. Vickars on hearing Geoffrey was alive
and close at hand was so great that the fact he brought home
a Spanish wife, which would under other circumstances have been a
great shock to them, was now scarcely felt, and when the rapturous
greeting with which he was received on his arrival was over, they
welcomed his pretty young wife with a degree of warmth which fully
satisfied him. Her welcome was, of course, in the first place as
Geoffrey's wife, but in a very short time his father and mother
both came to love her for herself, and Dolores very quickly found
herself far happier at Hedingham Rectory than she had thought she
could be away from her native Spain.

The announcement Geoffrey made shortly after his arrival, that he
had altogether abandoned the trade of soldiering, and should in
future make his home in London, trading in conjunction with his
father in law, assisted to reconcile them to his marriage. After
a fortnight's stay at Hedingham Geoffrey went up to London, and
there took a house in the city, purchased several vessels, and
entered upon business, being enabled to take at once a good position
among the merchants of London, thanks to the ample funds with which
he was provided.

Two months later he went down to Essex and brought up Dolores and
the children, and established them in his new abode.

The apprenticeship he had served in trade at Cadiz enabled Geoffrey
to start with confidence in his business. He at once notified all
the correspondents of the firm in the different ports of Europe, that
in future the business carried on by Signor Juan Mendez at Cadiz
would have its headquarters in London, and that the firm would trade
with all ports with the exception of those of Spain. The result
was that before many months had elapsed there were few houses in
London doing a larger trade with the Continent than that of Mendez
and Vickars, under which title they had traded from the time of
Geoffrey's marriage with Dolores.



CHAPTER XXI

THE BATTLE OF NIEUPORT


The year after the capture of Cadiz, Lionel Vickars sailed under
Sir Francis Vere with the expedition designed to attack the fleet
which Philip of Spain had gathered in Ferrol, with the intention,
it was believed, of invading Ireland in retaliation for the disaster
at Cadiz. The expedition met with terrible weather in the Bay of
Biscay, and put back scattered and disabled to Plymouth and Falmouth.
In August they again sailed, but were so battered by another storm
that the expedition against Ferrol was abandoned, and they sailed
to the Azores. There, after a skirmish with the Spaniards, they
scattered among the islands, but missed the great Spanish fleet
laden with silver from the west, and finally returned to England
without having accomplished anything, while they suffered from another
tempest on their way home, and reached Plymouth with difficulty.

Fortunately the same storm scattered and destroyed the great
Spanish fleet at Ferrol, and the weather thus for the second time
saved England from invasion. Late in the autumn, after his return
from the expedition, Sir Francis Vere went over to Holland, and by
his advice Prince Maurice prepared in December to attack a force
of 4000 Spanish infantry and 600 cavalry, which, under the command
of the Count of Varras, had gathered at the village of Turnhout,
twenty miles from Breda.

A force of 5000 foot and 800 horse were secretly assembled at
Gertruydenberg. Sir Francis Vere brought an English regiment, and
personally commanded one of the two troops into which the English
cavalry was divided. Sir Robert Sidney came with 300 of the English
garrison at Flushing, and Sir Alexander Murray with a Scotch
regiment. The expedition started on the 23d of January, 1598, and
after marching twenty-four miles reached the village of Rivels,
three miles from Turnhout, two hours after dark.

The night was bitter cold, and after cooking supper the men wrapt
themselves up in their cloaks, and lay down on the frozen ground
until daybreak. The delay, although necessary, enabled the enemy
to make their escape. The news that the allies had arrived close at
hand reached Count Varras at midnight, and a retreat was at once
ordered. Baggage wagons were packed and despatched, escorted by
the cavalry, and before dawn the whole force was well on its road.
Prince Maurice had set off an hour before daybreak, and on reaching
Turnhout found that the rear guard of the enemy had just left the
village. They had broken down the wooden bridge across the River
Aa, only one plank being left standing, and had stationed a party
to defend it.

Maurice held a hasty council of war. All, with the exception
of Sir Francis Vere and Sir Marcellus Bacx, were against pursuit,
but Maurice took the advice of the minority. Vere with two hundred
Dutch musketeers advanced against the bridge; his musketry fire
drove off the guard, and with a few mounted officers and the two
hundred musketeers he set out in pursuit. He saw that the enemy's
infantry were marching but slowly, and guessed that they were
delayed by the baggage wagons in front.

The country was wooded, and he threw the musketeers among the
trees with orders to keep up a dropping fire, while he himself with
sixteen horsemen followed closely upon the enemy along the road.
Their rear guard kept up a skirmishing fire, slightly wounding
Vere in the leg; but all this caused delay, and it was three hours
before they emerged on an open heath, three miles from the bridge.
Vere placed his musketeers among some woods and inclosed fields
on the left of the heath, and ordered them to keep up a brisk fire
and to show themselves as if advancing to the attack. He himself,
reinforced by some more horsemen who had come up, continued to
follow in the open.

The heath was three miles across, and Vere, constantly skirmishing
with the Spanish infantry, who were formed in four solid squares,
kept watching for the appearance of Maurice and the cavalry. At
length these came in sight. Vere galloped up to the prince, and
urged that a charge should be made at once. The prince assented.
Vere, with the English cavalry, charged down upon the rear of the
squares, while Hohenlohe swept down with the Dutch cavalry upon
their flanks. The Spanish musketeers fired and at once fled, and
the cavalry dashed in among the squares of pikemen and broke them.

Several of the companies of horse galloped on in pursuit of the
enemy's horse and baggage. Vere saw that these would be repulsed,
and formed up the English cavalry to cover their retreat. In a
short time the disordered horse came back at full gallop, pursued
by the Spanish cavalry, but these, seeing Vere's troops ready to
receive them, retreated at once. Count Varras was slain, together
with three hundred of the Spanish infantry. Six hundred prisoners
were taken, and thirty- eight colours fell into the victor's hands.

The success was gained entirely by the eight hundred allied horse,
the infantry never arriving upon the field. The brilliant little
victory, which was one of the first gained by the allies in
the open field, was the cause of great rejoicings. Not only were
the Spaniards no longer invincible, but they had been routed by
a force but one- sixth of their own number, and the battle showed
how greatly the individual prowess of the two peoples had changed
during the progress of the war.

The Archduke Ernest had died in 1595, and had been succeeded by the
Archduke Albert in the government of the Netherlands. He had with
him no generals comparable with Parma, or even with Alva. His troops
had lost their faith in themselves and their contempt for their
foes. Holland was grown rich and prosperous, while the enormous
expenses of carrying on the war both in the Netherlands and in
France, together with the loss of the Armada, the destruction of
the great fleet at Ferrol, and the capture of Cadiz and the ships
there, had exhausted the resources of Spain, and Philip was driven
to make advances for peace to France and England. Henry IV, knowing
that peace with Spain meant an end of the civil war that had so long
exhausted France, at once accepted the terms of Philip, and made
a separate peace, in spite of the remonstrances of the ambassadors
of England and Holland, to both of which countries he owed it in
no small degree that he had been enabled to support himself against
the faction of the Guises backed by the power of Spain.

A fresh treaty was made between England and the Netherlands, Sir
Francis Vere being sent out as special ambassador to negotiate.
England was anxious for peace, but would not desert the Netherlands
if they on their part would relieve her to some extent of the heavy
expenses caused by the war. This the States consented to do, and
the treaty was duly signed on both sides. A few days before its
conclusion Lord Burleigh, who had been Queen Elizabeth's chief
adviser for forty years, died, and within a month of its signature
Philip of Spain, whose schemes he had so long opposed, followed
him to the grave.

On the 6th of the previous May Philip had formally ceded the
Netherlands to his daughter Isabella, between whom and the Archduke
Albert a marriage had been arranged. This took place on the 18th
of April following, shortly after his death. It was celebrated at
Valencia, and at the same time King Philip III was united to Margaret
of Austria.

In the course of 1599 there was severe fighting on the swampy island
between the rivers Waal and Maas, known as the Bommel Waat, and a
fresh attempt at invasion by the Spaniards was repulsed with heavy
loss, Sir Francis Vere and the English troops taking a leading part
in the operations.

The success thus gained decided the States General to undertake
an offensive campaign in the following year. The plan they decided
upon was opposed both by Prince Maurice and Sir Francis Vere as being
altogether too hazardous; but the States, who upon most occasions
were averse to anything like bold action, upon the present occasion
stood firm to their decision. Their plan was to land an army near
Ostend, which was held by the English, and to besiege the town
of Nieuport, west of Ostend, and after that to attack Dunkirk. In
the opinion of the two generals an offensive operation direct from
Holland would have been far preferable, as in case of disaster the
army could fall back upon one of their fortified towns, whereas,
if beaten upon the coast, they might be cut off from Ostend and
entirely destroyed. However, their opinions were overruled, and the
expedition prepared. It consisted of 12,000 infantry, 1600 cavalry,
and 10 guns. It was formed into three divisions. The van, 4500
strong, including 1600 English veterans, was commanded by Sir
Francis Vere; the second division by Count Everard Solms; the rear
division by Count Ernest of Nassau; while Count Louis Gunther of
Nassau was in command of the cavalry. The army embarked at Flushing,
and landed at Philippine, a town at the head of the Braakeman inlet.

There was at the time only a small body of Spaniards in the
neighbourhood, but as soon as the news reached the Archduke Albert
at Brussels he concentrated his army round Ghent. The troops had
for some time been in a mutinous state, but, as was always the case
with them, they returned to their habits of military obedience the
moment danger threatened.

The Dutch army advanced by rapid marches to the neighbourhood of
Ostend, and captured the fort and redoubts which the Spaniards had
raised to prevent its garrison from undertaking offensive operations.

Two thousand men were left to garrison these important positions,
which lay on the line of march which the Spaniards must take coming
from Bruges to Nieuport. The rest of the army then made their way
across the country, intersected with ditches, and upon the following
day arrived before Nieuport and prepared to besiege it. The Dutch
fleet had arrived off the town, and co-operated with the army in
building a bridge across the little river, and preparing for the
siege.

Towards the evening, however, the news arrived from Ostend, nine
miles away, that a large force of the enemy had appeared before one
of the forts just captured. Most of the officers were of opinion
that the Spanish force was not a large one, and that it was a mere
feint to induce the Dutch to abandon the siege of Nieuport and
return to Ostend. Sir Francis Vere maintained that it was the main
body of the archduke's army, and advised Maurice to march back at
once with his whole force to attack the enemy before they had time
to take the forts.

Later on in the evening, however, two of the messengers arrived
with the news that the forts had surrendered. Prince Maurice then,
in opposition to Vere's advice, sent off 2500 infantry, 500 horse,
and 2 guns, under the command of Ernest of Nassau, to prevent the
enemy from crossing the low ground between Ostend and the sand
hills, Vere insisting that the whole army ought to move. It fell
out exactly as he predicted; the detachment met the whole Spanish
army, and broke and fled at the first fire, and thus 2500 men were
lost in addition to the 2000 who had been left to garrison the
forts.

At break of day the army marched down to the creek, and as soon
as the water had ebbed sufficiently waded across and took up their
position among the sand hills on the seashore. The enemy's army
was already in sight, marching along on the narrow strip of land
between the foot of the dunes and the sea. A few hundred yards
towards Ostend the sand hills narrowed, and here Sir Francis Vere
took up his position with his division. He placed a thousand picked
men, consisting of 250 English, 250 of Prince Maurice's guard,
and 500 musketeers, partly upon two sand hills called the East and
West Hill, and partly in the bottom between them, where they were
covered by a low ridge connecting the two hills.

The five hundred musketeers were placed so that their fire swept
the ground on the south, by which alone the enemy's cavalry could
pass on that side. On the other ridge, facing the sea, were seven
hundred English pikemen and musketeers; two hundred and fifty
English and fifty of the guard held the position of East Hill,
which was most exposed to the attack. The rest of the division,
which consisted of six hundred and fifty English and two thousand
Dutch, were placed in readiness to reinforce the advanced party.
Half the cavalry, under Count Louis, were on the right of the dunes,
and the other half, under Marcellus Bacx, on the left by the sea.

The divisions of Count Solms and Count Ernest of Nassau were also
on the seashore in the rear of West Hill. A council of war was held
to decide whether the army should advance to the attack or await
it. Vere advised the latter course, and his advice was adopted.

The archduke's army consisted of ten thousand infantry, sixteen
hundred horse, and six guns. Marshal Zapena was in command, while
the cavalry were led by the Admiral of Arragon. They rested for
two hours before advancing--waiting until the rise of the tide
should render the sands unserviceable for cavalry, their main
reliance being upon their infantry. Their cavalry led the advance,
but the two guns Vere had placed on West Hill plied them so hotly
with shot that they fell back in confusion.

It was now high tide, and there were but thirty yards between
the sea and the sand hills. The Spaniards therefore marched their
infantry into the dunes, while the cavalry prepared to advance between
the sand hills and the cultivated fields inland. The second and
third divisions of Maurice's army also moved away from the shore
inland. They now numbered but three thousand men, as the four
thousand five hundred who had been lost belonged entirely to these
divisions, Sir Francis Vere's division having been left intact.
It was upon the first division that the whole brunt of the battle
fell, they receiving some assistance from the thousand men remaining
under Count Solms that were posted next to them; while the rear
division was never engaged at all.

At half past two o'clock on the afternoon of the 2d of June, 1600,
the battle began. Vere's plan was to hold his advanced position as
long as possible, bring the reserves up as required until he had
worn out the Spaniards, then to send for the other two divisions
and to fall upon them. The company of Lionel Vickars formed part of
the three hundred men stationed on the East Hill, where Vere also
had taken up his position. After an exchange of fire for some
time five hundred picked Spanish infantry rushed across the hollow
between the two armies, and charged the hill. For half an hour a
desperate struggle took place; the Spaniards were then obliged to
fall back behind some low ridges at its foot.

In the meantime the enemy's cavalry had advanced along the grass
grown tract, a hundred and fifty yards wide, between the foot of
the dunes and the cultivated country inland. They were received,
however, by so hot a fire by the five hundred musketeers posted
by Vere in the sand hills on their flank, and by the two cannon
on West Hill, that they fell back upon their infantry just as the
Dutch horse, under Count Louis, advanced to charge them.

Vere sent orders to a hundred Englishmen to move round from the
ridge and to attack the Spaniards who had fallen back from the
attack of East Hill, on their flank, while sixty men charged down
the hill and engaged them in front. The Spaniards broke and fled back
to their main body. Then, being largely reinforced, they advanced
and seized a sandy knoll near West Hill. Here they were attacked
by the English, and after a long and obstinate fight forced to
retire. The whole of the Spanish force now advanced, and tried to
drive the English back from their position on the low ridge across
the bottom connecting the two hills. The seven hundred men were
drawn from the north ridge, and as the fight grew hotter the whole
of the sixteen hundred English were brought up.

Vere sent for reinforcements, but none came up, and for hours the
sixteen hundred Englishmen alone checked the advance of the whole
of the Spanish army. Sir Francis Vere was fighting like a private
soldier in the midst of his troops. He received two balls in the
leg, but still kept his seat and encouraged his men. At last the
little band, receiving no aid or reinforcements from the Dutch,
were forced to fall back. As they did so, Vere's horse fell dead
under him and partly upon him, and it was with great difficulty
that those around him extricated him. On reaching the battery on the
sands Vere found the thousand Dutch of his division, who asserted
that they had received no orders to advance. There were also three
hundred foot under Sir Horace Vere and some cavalry under Captain
Ball. These and Horace's infantry at once charged the Spaniards,
who were pouting out from the sand hills near to the beach, and
drove them back.

The Spaniards had now captured East Hill, and two thousand of
their infantry advanced into the valley beyond, and drove back the
musketeers from the south ridge, and a large force advanced along
the green way; but their movements were slow, for they were worn out
by their long struggle, and the English officers had time to rally
their men again. Horace Vere returned from his charge on the beach,
and other companies rallied and joined him, and charged furiously
down upon the two thousand Spaniards. The whole of the Dutch and
English cavalry also advanced. Solms' thousand men came up and
took part in the action, and the batteries plied the Spaniards with
their shot. The latter had done all they could, and were confounded
by this fresh attack when they had considered the victory as won.
In spite of the efforts of their officers they broke and fled in
all directions. The archduke headed their flight, and never drew
rein until he reached Brussels.

Zapena and the Admiral of Arragon were both taken prisoners, and
about a third of the Spanish army killed and wounded. Of the sixteen
hundred English half were killed or wounded; while the rest of the
Dutch army suffered scarcely any loss--a fact that shows clearly
to whom the honour of the victory belongs. Prince Maurice, in his
letter to the queen, attributed his success entirely to the good
order and directions of Sir Francis Vere. Thus, in a pitched battle
the English troops met and defeated an army of six times their
strength of the veterans of Spain, and showed conclusively that the
English fighting man had in no way deteriorated since the days of
Agincourt, the last great battle they had fought upon the Continent.

The battle at Nieuport may be considered to have set the final
seal upon the independence of Holland. The lesson first taught at
Turnhout had now been impressed with crushing force. The Spaniards
were no longer invincible; they had been twice signally defeated
in an open field by greatly inferior forces. Their prestige was
annihilated; and although a war continued, there was no longer the
slightest chance that the result of the long and bloody struggle
would be reversed, or that Spain would ever again recover her grip
of the lost provinces.

Sir Francis Vere was laid up for some months with his wounds. Among
the officers who fought under him at Nieuport were several whose
names were to become famous for the part they afterwards bore in
the civil struggle in England. Among others were Fairfax, Ogle,
Lambart, and Parker. Among those who received the honour of knighthood
for their behaviour at the battle was Lionel Vickars. He had been
severely wounded in the fight at East Hill, and was sent home to
be cured there. It was some months before he again took the field,
which he did upon the receipt of a letter from Sir Francis Vere,
telling him that the Spaniards were closing in in great force round
Ostend, and that his company was one of those that had been sent
off to aid in the defence of that town.

During his stay in England he had spent some time with Geoffrey in
London. Juan Mendez had now arrived there, and the business carried
on by him and Geoffrey was flourishing greatly. Dolores had much
missed the outdoor life to which she was accustomed, and her father
had bought a large house with a fine garden in Chelsea; and she
and Geoffrey were now installed there with him, Geoffrey going to
and fro from the city by boat. They had now replaced the Spanish
trading vessels by an equal number of English craft; and at the
suggestion of Juan Mendez himself his name now stood second to that
of Geoffrey, for the prejudice against foreigners was still strong
in England.



CHAPTER XXII

OLD FRIENDS


The succession of blows that had been given to the power and commerce
of Spain had immensely benefited the trade of England and Holland.
France, devastated by civil war, had been in no position to take
advantage of the falling off in Spanish commerce, and had indeed
herself suffered enormously by the emigration of tens of thousands
of the most intelligent of her population owing to her persecution
of the Protestants. Her traders and manufacturers largely belonged
to the new religion, and these had carried their industry and knowledge
to England and Holland. Thus the religious bigotry of the kings of
Spain and France had resulted in enormous loss to the trade and
commerce of those countries, and in corresponding advantage to
their Protestant rivals.

Geoffrey Vickars and his partner reaped the full benefit of the
change, and the extensive acquaintance of the Spanish trader with
merchants in all the Mediterranean ports enabled him to turn a
large share of the new current of trade into the hands of Geoffrey
and himself. The capital which he transferred from Spain to England
was very much larger than that employed by the majority of English
merchants, whose wealth had been small indeed in comparison to
that of the merchant princes of the great centres of trade such
as Antwerp, Amsterdam, Genoa, and Cadiz, and Geoffrey Vickars soon
came to be looked upon as one of the leading merchants in the city
of London.

"There can be no doubt, Geoffrey," his brother said as he lay on
a couch in the garden in the early days of his convalescence, and
looked at the river dotted with boats that flowed past it, "the
falling of that mast was a fortunate thing for you. One never can
tell how things will turn our. It would have seemed as if, were
you not drowned at once, your lot would have been either a life's
work in the Spanish galleys, or death in the dungeons of the
Inquisition. Instead of this, here you are a wealthy merchant in
the city, with a charming wife, and a father in law who is, although
a Spaniard, one of the kindest and best men I ever met. All this
time I, who was not knocked over by that mast, have been drilling
recruits, making long marches, and occasionally fighting battles,
and am no richer now than the day when we started together as Francis
Vere's pages. It is true I have received the honour of knighthood,
and that of course I prize much; but I have only my captain's pay
to support my dignity, and as I hardly think Spain will continue
this useless struggle much longer, in which case our army in
Holland will be speedily disbanded, the prospect before me is not
altogether an advantageous one."

"You must marry an heiress, Lionel," Geoffrey laughed. "Surely Sir
Lionel Vickars, one of the heroes of Nieuport, and many another
field, should be able to win the heart of some fair English damsel,
with broad acres as her dower. But seriously, Lionel," he went on,
changing his tone, "if peace come, and with it lack of employment,
the best thing for you will be to join me. Mendez is getting on in
years; and although he is working hard at present, in order, as he
says, to set everything going smoothly and well here, he is looking
forward to taking matters more easily, and to spending his time
in tranquil pleasure with Dolores and her children. Therefore,
whensoever it pleases you, there is a place for you here. We always
contemplated our lines running in the same groove, and I should
be glad that they should do so still. When the time comes we can
discuss what share you shall have of the business; but at any rate
I can promise you that it shall be sufficient to make you a rich
man."

"Thank you, with all my heart, Geoffrey. It may be that some day I
will accept your offer, though I fear you will find me but a sorry
assistant. It seems to me that after twelve years of campaigning
I am little fitted for life as a city merchant."

"I went through plenty of adventure for six years, Lionel, but
my father in law has from the first been well satisfied with my
capacity for business. You are not seven-and-twenty yet. You have
had enough rough campaigning to satisfy anyone, and should be glad
now of an easier and more sober method of life. Well, there is no
occasion to settle anything at present, and I can well understand
that you should prefer remaining in the army until the war comes
to an end. When it does so, we can talk the matter over again; only
be well assured that the offer will be always open to you, and that
I shall be glad indeed to have you with me."

A few days after Lionel left him Geoffrey was passing along
Chepe, when he stopped suddenly, stared hard at a gentleman who
was approaching him, and then rushed towards him with outstretched
hand.

"My dear Gerald!" he exclaimed, "I am glad to see you."

The gentleman started back with an expression of the profoundest
astonishment.

"Is it possible?" he cried. "Is it really Geoffrey Vickars?"

"Myself, and no other, Gerald."

"The saints be praised! Why, I have been thinking of you all these
years as either dead or labouring at an oar in the Moorish galleys.
By what good fortune did you escape? and how is it I find you here,
looking for all the world like a merchant of the city?"

"It is too long a story to tell now, Gerald. Where are you staying?"

"I have lodgings at Westminster, being at present a suitor at
court."

"Is your wife with you?"

"She is. I have left my four children at home in Ireland."

"Then bring her to sup with me this evening. I have a wife to
introduce to yours, and as she is also a Spaniard it will doubtless
be a pleasure to them both."

"You astound me, Geoffrey. However, you shall tell me all about it
this evening, for be assured that we shall come. Inez has so often
talked about you, and lamented the ill fortune that befell you
owing to your ardour."

"At six o'clock, then," Geoffrey said. "I generally dwell with my
father in law at Chelsea, but am just at present at home. My house
is in St. Mary Ave; anyone there will tell you which it is."

That evening the two friends had a long talk together. Geoffrey
learnt that Gerald Burke reached Italy without further adventure,
and thence took ship to Bristol, and so crossed over to Ireland.
On his petition, and solemn promise of good behaviour in future,
he was pardoned and a small portion of his estate restored to him.
He was now in London endeavouring to obtain a remission of the
forfeiture of the rest.

"I may be able to help you in that," Geoffrey said. "Sir Francis
Vere is high in favour at court, and he will, at my prayer, I feel
sure, use his influence in your favour when I tell him how you
acted my friend on my landing in Spain from the Armada."

Geoffrey then gave an account of his various adventures from the
time when he was struck down from the deck of the Barbary corsair
until the present time.

"How was it," he asked when he concluded, "that you did not write
to my parents, Gerald, on your return home? You knew where they
lived."

"I talked the matter over with Inez," Gerald replied, "and we agreed
that it was kinder to them to be silent. Of course they had mourned
you as killed in the fight with the Armada. A year had passed, and
the wound must have somewhat healed. Had I told them that you had
escaped death at that time, had been months with me in Spain, and
had, on your way home, been either killed by the Moors or were a
prisoner in their galleys, it would have opened the wound afresh,
and caused them renewed pain and sorrow."

"No doubt you were right, Gerald, and that it was, as you say, the
kindest thing to leave them in ignorance of my fate."

Upon the next visit Sir Francis Vere paid to England, Geoffrey spoke
to him with regard to Gerald Burke's affairs. Sir Francis took the
matter up warmly, and his influence sufficed in a very short time
to obtain an order for the restoration to Gerald of all his estates.
Inez and Dolores became as fast friends as were their husbands; and
when the Burkes came to England Geoffrey's house was their home.

The meeting with Gerald was followed by a still greater surprise,
for not many days after, when Geoffrey was sitting with his wife
and Don Mendez under the shade of a broad cypress in the garden of
the merchant's house at Chelsea, they saw a servant coming across
towards them, followed by a man in seafaring attire.

"Here is a person who would speak to you, Master Vickars," the
servant said. "I told him it was not your custom to see any here,
and that if he had aught to say he should call at your house in St.
Mary Axe; but he said that he had but just arrived from Hedingham,
and that your honour would excuse his intrusion when you saw him."

"Bring him up; he may be the bearer of a message from my father,"
Geoffrey said; and the servant went back to the man, whom he had
left a short distance off.

"Master Vickars will speak with you."

The sailor approached the party. He stood for a minute before Geoffrey
without speaking. Geoffrey looked at him with some surprise, and
saw that the muscles of his face were twitching, and that he was
much agitated. As he looked at him remembrance suddenly flashed
upon him, and he sprang to his feet. "Stephen Boldero!" he exclaimed.

"Ay, ay, Geoffrey, it is me."

For a time the men stood with their right hands clasped and the
left on each other's shoulders. Tears fell down the sailor's weather
beaten cheeks, and Geoffrey himself was too moved to speak. For
two years they had lived as brothers, had shared each other's toils
and dangers, had talked over their plans and hopes together; and it
was to Stephen that Geoffrey owed it that he was not now a galley
slave in Barbary.

"Old friend, where have you been all this time?" he said at last,
"I had thought you dead, and have grieved sorely for you."

"I have had some narrow escapes," Stephen said; "but you know I am
tough. I am worth a good many dead men yet."

"Delores, Senor Mendez, you both remember Stephen Boldero?" Geoffrey
said, turning to them.

"We have never forgotten you," the Spaniard said, shaking hands with
the sailor, "nor how much we owe to you. I sent out instructions
by every ship that sailed to the Indies that inquiries should be
made for you; and moreover had letters sent by influential friends
to the governors of most of the islands saying that you had done
great service to me and mine, and praying that if you were in any
need or trouble you might be sent back to Cadiz, and that any moneys
you required might be given to you at my charge. But we have heard
nought of you from the day when the news came that you had left
the ship in which you went out."

"I have had a rough time of it these five years," Stephen said.
"But I care not now that I am home again and have found my friend
Geoffrey. I arrived in Bristol but last week, and started for London
on the day I landed, mindful of my promise to let his people know
that he was safe and well, and with some faint hope that the capture
of Cadiz had set him at liberty. I got to Hedingham last night,
and if I had been a prince Mr. Vickars and his dame and Sir Lionel
could not have made more of me. They were fain that I should stop
with them a day or two; but when I heard that you were in London and
had married Senora Dolores, and that Senor Mendez was with you--all
sof which in no way surprised me, for methought I saw it coming
before I left Cadiz--I could not rest, but was up at daylight this
morning. Your brother offered to procure me a horse, but I should
have made bad weather on the craft, and after walking from Bristol
the tramp up to London was nothing. I got to your house in the city
at four; and, finding that you were here, took a boat at once, for
I could not rest until I saw my friend again."

Geoffrey at once took him into the house and set him down to a meal;
and when the party were gathered later on in the sitting room, and
the candles were lighted, Stephen told his story.

"As you will have heard, we made a good voyage to the Indies. We
discharged our cargo, and took in another. I learned that there were
two English ships cruising near San Domingo, and the Dons were in
great fear of them. I thought that my chance lay in joining them,
so when we were at our nearest port to that island I one night
borrowed one of the ship's boats without asking leave, and made
off. I knew the direction in which San Domingo lay, but no more.
My hope was that I should either fall in with our ships at sea, or,
when I made the island, should be able to gather such information
as might guide me to them. When I made the land, after being four
days out, I cruised about till the provisions and water I had put
on board were exhausted, and I could hold out no longer. Then I
made for the island and landed.

"You may be sure I did not make for a port, where I should be
questioned, but ran ashore in a wooded bay that looked as if no
one had ever set foot there before. I dragged the boat up beyond,
as I thought, the reach of the sea, and started to hunt for food
and water. I found enough berries and things to keep me alive,
but not enough to stock my boat for another cruise. A week after
I landed there was a tornado, and when it cleared off and I had
recovered from my fright--for the trees were blown down like
rushes, and I thought my last day was come--I found that the boat
was washed away.

"I was mightily disheartened at this, and after much thinking
made up my mind that there was nought for it but to keep along the
shore until I arrived at a port, and then to give out that I was
a shipwrecked sailor, and either try to get hold of another boat,
or take passage back to Spain and make a fresh start. However, the
next morning, just as I was starting, a number of natives ran out
of the bush and seized me, and carried me away up into the hills.

"It was not pleasant at first, for they lit a big fire and were
going to set me on the top of it, taking me for a Spaniard. Seeing
their intentions, I took to arguing with them, and told them in
Spanish that I was no Spaniard, but an Englishman, and that I had been
a slave to the Spaniards and had escaped. Most of them understood
some Spanish, having themselves been made to work as slaves
in their plantations, and being all runaways from the tyranny of
their masters. They knew, of course, that we were the enemies of
the Spaniards, and had heard of places being sacked and ships taken
by us. But they doubted my story for a long time, till at last
one of them brought a crucifix that had somehow fallen into their
hands, and held it up before me. When I struck it down, as a
good Protestant should do, they saw that I was not of the Spanish
religion, and so loosed my bonds and made much of me.

"They could tell me nothing of the whereabouts of our ships, for
though they had seen vessels at times sail by, the poor creatures
knew nothing of the difference of rig between an English craft
and a Spaniard. I abode with them for two years, and aided them in
their fights whenever the Spaniards sent out parties, which they
did many times, to capture them. They were poor, timorous creatures,
their spirits being altogether broken by the tyranny of the Dons;
but when they saw that I feared them not, and was ready at any time
to match myself against two or, if need be, three of the Spaniards,
they plucked up heart, and in time came to fight so stoutly that the
Spaniards thought it best to leave them alone, seeing that we had
the advantage of knowing every foot of the woods, and were able
to pounce down upon them when they were in straitened places and
forced to fight at great disadvantage.

"I was regarded as a great chief by the natives, and could have
gone on living with them comfortably enough had not my thoughts
been always turning homeward, and a great desire to be among my
own people, from whom I had been so long separated, devoured me.
At last a Spanish ship was driven ashore in a gale; she went to
pieces, and every soul was drowned. When the gale abated the natives
went down to collect the stores driven ashore, and I found on the
beach one of her boats washed up almost uninjured, so nothing would
do but I must sail away in her. The natives tried their hardest to
persuade me to stay with them, but finding that my mind was fixed
beyond recall they gave way and did their best to aid me. The boat
was well stored with provisions; we made a sail for her out of
one belonging to the ship, and I set off, promising them that if
I could not alight upon an English ship I would return to them.

"I had intended to keep my promise, but things turned out otherwise.
I had not been two days at sea when there was another storm, for
at one time of the year they have tornadoes very frequently. I
had nothing to do but to run for it, casting much of my provisions
overboard to lighten the boat, and baling without ceasing to keep
out the water she took in. After running for many hours I was,
somewhere about midnight, cast on shore. I made a shift to save
myself, and in the morning found that I was on a low key. Here I
lived for three weeks. Fortunately there was water in some of the
hollows of the rocks, and as turtles came ashore to lay their eggs
I managed pretty well for a time; but the water dried up, and for
the last week I had nought to drink but the blood of the turtles.

One morning I saw a ship passing not far off; and making a signal
with the mast of the boat that had been washed ashore with me
I attracted their attention. I saw that she was a Spaniard, but
I could not help that, for I had no choice but to hail her. They
took me to Porto Rico and there reported me as a shipwrecked sailor
they had picked up. The governor questioned me closely as to what
vessel I had been lost from, and although I made up a good story
he had his doubts. Fortunately it did not enter his mind that I was
not a Spaniard; but he said he believed I was some bad character
who had been marooned by my comrades for murder or some other crime,
and so put me in prison until he could learn something that would
verify my story.

"After three months I was taken out of prison, but was set to
work on the fortifications, and there for another two years I had
to stop. Then I managed to slip away one day, and, hiding till
nightfall, made my way down through the town to the quays and swam
out to a vessel at anchor. I climbed on board without notice, and
hid myself below, where I lay for two days until she got up sail.
When I judged she was well away from the land I went on deck and
told my story, that I was a shipwrecked sailor who had been forced
by the governor to work at the fortifications. They did not believe
me, saying that I must be some criminal who had escaped from justice,
and the captain said he should give me up at the next port the ship
touched. Fortunately four days afterwards a sail hove in sight and
gave chase, and before it was dark was near enough to fire a gun
and make us heave to, and a quarter of an hour later a boat came
alongside, and I again heard English spoken for the first time
since I had left you at Cadiz.

"It was an English buccaneer, who, being short of water and fresh
vegetables, had chased us, though seeing we were but a petty trader
and not likely to have aught else worth taking on board. They
wondered much when I discovered myself to them and told them who
I was and how I had come there; and when, on their rowing me on
board their ship, I told the captain my story he told me that he
thought I was the greatest liar he had ever met. To be a galley slave
among the Spaniards, a galley slave among the Moors, a consorter
with Indians for two years, and again a prisoner with the Spaniards
for as much more than fell to the lot of any one man, and he, like
the Spanish governor, believed that I was some rascal who had been
marooned, only he thought that it was from an English ship. However,
he said that as I was a stout fellow he would give me another
chance; and when, a fortnight later, we fell in with a great Spanish
galleon and captured her with a great store of prize money after
a hard fight for six hours, the last of which was passed on the
deck of the Spaniard cutting and slashing--for, being laden with
silver, she had a company of troops on board in addition to her
crew--the captain said, that though an astonishing liar there was no
better fellow on board a ship, and, putting it to the crew, they
agreed I had well earned my share of the prize money. When we had
got the silver on board, which was a heavy job I can tell you,
though not an unpleasant one, we put what Spaniards remained alive
into the boats, fired the galleon, and set sail for England, where
we arrived without adventure.

"The silver was divided on the day before we cast anchor, the
owner's share being first set aside, every man his share, and the
officers theirs in proportion. Mine came to over a thousand pounds,
and it needed two strong men to carry the chest up to the office
of the owners, who gave me a receipt for it, which, as soon as I
got, I started for London; and here, as you see, I am."

"And now, what do you propose to do with yourself, Stephen?" Geoffrey
asked.

"I shall first travel down again to Devonshire and see what friends
I have remaining there. I do not expect to find many alive, for
fifteen years make many changes. My father and mother were both
dead before I started, and my uncle, with whom I lived for a time,
is scarce like to be alive now. Still I may find some cousins and
friends I knew as a boy."

"I should think you have had enough of the sea, Stephen, and you
have now ample to live ashore in comfort for the rest of your life."

"Yes, I shall go no more to sea," Stephen said. "Except for this
last stroke of luck fortune has always been against me. What I
should like, Master Geoffrey, most of all, would be to come up and
work under you. I could be of advantage in seeing to the loading
and unloading of vessels and the storage of cargo. As for pay, I
should not want it, having, as you say, enough to live comfortably
upon. Still I should like to be with you."

"And I should like to have you with me, Stephen. Nothing would give
me greater pleasure. If you are still of that mind when you return
from Devonshire we can again talk the matter over, and as our
wishes are both the same way we can have no difficulty in coming
to an agreement."

Stephen Boldero remained for a week in London and then journeyed
down to Devonshire. His idea of entering Geoffrey's service was
never carried out, for after he had been gone two months Geoffrey
received a letter from him saying that one of his cousins, who had
been but a little girl when he went away, had laid her orders upon
him to buy a small estate and settle down there, and that as she
was willing to marry him on no other terms he had nothing to do
but to assent.

Once a year, however, regularly to the end of his life Stephen
Boldero came up to London to stay for a fortnight with Geoffrey,
always coming by road, for he declared that he was convinced if he
set foot on board a ship again she would infallibly be wrecked on
her voyage to London.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE SIEGE OF OSTEND


On the 5th of July, 1601, the Archduke Albert began the siege of
Ostend with 20,000 men and 50 siege guns. Ostend had been completely
rebuilt and fortified eighteen years previously, and was defended
by ramparts, counterscarps, and two broad ditches. The sand hills
between it and the sea were cut through, and the water filled
the ditches and surrounded the town. To the south the country was
intersected by a network of canals. The river Yper Leet came in
at the back of the town, and after mingling with the salt water in
the ditches found its way to the sea through the channels known as
the Old Haven and the Geule, the first on the west, the second on
the east of the town.

On either side of these channels the land rose slightly, enabling the
besiegers to plant their batteries in very advantageous positions.
The garrison at first consisted of but 2000 men under Governor
Vander Nood. The States General considered the defence of Ostend
to be of extreme importance to the cause, and appointed Sir Francis
Vere general of the army in and about Ostend, and sent with him
600 Dutch troops and eight companies of English under the command
of his brother, Sir Horace. This raised the garrison to the strength
of 3600 men. Sir Francis landed with these reinforcements on the
sands opposite the old town, which stood near the seashore between
the Old Haven and the Geule, and was separated from the new town
by a broad channel. He was forced to land here, as the Spanish guns
on the sand hills commanded the entrances of the two channels.

Sixteen thousand of the Spanish troops under the order of the
archduke were encamped to the west of the town, and had 30 of their
siege guns in position there, while 4000 men were stationed on the
east of the town under Count Bucquoy. Ten guns were in position
on that side. Ostend had no natural advantages for defence beyond
the facility of letting the sea into the numerous channels and ditches
which intersected the city, and protected it from any operations
on the south side. On the east the Geule was broad and deep, and
an assault from this side was very difficult. The Old Haven, on
the west side, was fast filling up, and was fordable for four hours
every tide.

This, therefore, was the weak side of the town. The portion
especially exposed to attack was the low sandy flat on which the
old town stood, to the north of Ostend. It was against this point,
separated only from the enemy's position by the shallow Old Haven,
that the Spaniards concentrated their efforts. The defence here
consisted of a work called the Porc Espic, and a bastion in its
rear called the Helmond. Three works lay to the north of the ditch
dividing the old from the new town, while on the opposite side of
this ditch was a fort called the Sand Hill, from which along the
sea face of the town ran strong palisades and bastions.

The three principal bastions were named the Schottenburg, Moses'
Table, and the Flamenburg, the last named defending the entrance to
the Geule on the eastern side. There was a strong wall with three
bastions, the North Bulwark, the East Bulwark or Pekell, and the
Spanish Bulwark at the southeast angle, with an outwork called the
Spanish Half Moon on the other side of the Geule. The south side
was similarly defended by a wall with four strong bastions, while
beyond these at the southwest corner lay a field called the Polder,
extending to the point where the Yper Leer ran into the ditches.

Sir Francis Vere's first step after his arrival was to throw
up three redoubts to strengthen the wall round this field, as had
the enemy taken possession of it they might have set the windmills
upon it to work and have drained out many of the ditches. Having
secured this point he cut a passage to the sea between the Northwest
Bulwark and the Flamenburg Fort, so that shipping might enter the
port without having to ascend the Geule, exposed to the fire of
the Spanish guns. To annoy the enemy and draw them away from the
vital point near the sea, he then stationed 200 men on some rising
ground surrounded by swamps and ditches at some distance to the
south of the city, and from here they were able to open fire on
the enemy's boats coming with supplies from Bruges.

The operation was successful. The Spaniards, finding their line
of communication threatened, advanced in force from their position
by the sea, and their forts opened a heavy fire on the little work
thrown up. Other similar attempts would have been made to harass
the Spaniards and divert them from their main work, had not Sir
Francis Vere been severely wounded in the head on the 4th of August
by a shot from the Spanish batteries, which continued to keep up
a tremendous fire upon the town. So serious was the wound that the
surgeons were of opinion that the only chance of saving his life
was to send him away from the din and turmoil of the siege; and on
the 10th he was taken to Middelburg, where he remained for a month,
returning to Ostend long before his wound was properly healed.

On the 1st of August a batch of recruits had arrived from England,
and on the 8th 1200 more were landed. The fire of the besiegers
was now so heavy that the soldiers were forced to dig underground
quarters to shelter themselves. Sir Horace Vere led out several
sorties; but the besiegers, no longer distracted by the feints
contrived by Sir Horace Vere, succeeded in erecting a battery on
the margin of the Old Haven, and opened fire on the Sand Hill Fort.

On the 19th of September Sir Francis Vere returned to the town, to
the great joy of the garrison. Reinforcements continued to arrive,
and at this time the garrison numbered 4480. There were, too, a
large number of noblemen and gentlemen from England, France, and
Holland, who had come to learn the art of war under the man who was
regarded as the greatest general of the time. All who were willing
to work and learn were heartily welcomed; those who were unwilling
to do so were soon made to feel that a besieged city was no place
for them.

While the fighting was going on the archduke had attempted to
capture the place by treason. He engaged a traitor named Coningsby;
who crossed to England, obtained letters of introduction to Vere,
and then went to Ostend. Thence he sent intelligence to the besiegers
of all that took place in the town, placing his letters at night
in an old boat sunk in the mud on the bank of the Old Haven, a
Spaniard wading across at low tide and fetching them away. He then
attempted to bribe a sergeant to blow up the powder magazine. The
sergeant revealed the plot. Coningsby was seized and confessed
everything, and by an act of extraordinary clemency was only
sentenced to be whipped out of town.

This act of treachery on the part of the archduke justified the
otherwise dishonourable stratagem afterwards played by Vere upon
him. All through October and November the Spaniards were hard at
work advancing their batteries, sinking great baskets filled with
sand in the Old Haven to facilitate the passage of the troops, and
building floating batteries in the Geule. On the night of the 4th
of December they advanced suddenly to the attack. Vere and his
officers leapt from their beds and rushed to the walls, and after
a fierce struggle the besiegers were driven back. Straw was lighted
to enable the musketeers and gunners to fire upon them as they
retreated, and the assault cost them five hundred lives.

On the 12th a hard frost set in, and until Christmas a strong gale
from the southeast blew. No succour could reach the town. The
garrison were dwindling fast, and ammunition falling short. It
required fully 4000 men to guard the walls and forts, while but 2500
remained capable of bearing arms. It was known that the archduke
soon intended to make an assault with his whole force, and Vere
knew that he could scarcely hope to repel it. He called a council
of his chief officers, and asked their opinion whether with the
present numbers all parts of the works could be manned in case of
assault, and if not whether it was advisable to withdraw the guards
from all the outlying positions and to hold only the town.

They were unanimously of opinion that the force was too small to
defend the whole, but Sir Horace Vere and Sir John Ogle alone gave
their advice to abandon the outlying forts rather than endanger the
loss of the town. The other officers were of opinion that all the
works should be held, although they acknowledged that the disposable
force was incapable of doing so. Some days elapsed, and Vere
learned that the Spanish preparations were all complete, and that
they were only waiting for a low tide to attack. Time was everything,
for a change of wind would bring speedy succour, so without taking
council with anyone he sent Sir John Ogle with a drummer to the
side of the Old Haven.

Don Mateo Serrano came forward, and Ogle gave his message, which
was that General Vere wished to have some qualified person to speak
to him. This was reported to the archduke, who agreed that Serrano
and another Spanish officer should go into the town, and that Ogle
and a comrade should come as hostages into the Spanish camp. Sir
John Ogle took his friend Sir Charles Fairfax with him, and Serrano
and Colonel Antonio crossed into Ostend. The two Englishmen were
conducted to the archduke, who asked Sir John Ogle to tell him if
there was any deceit in the matter. Ogle answered if there were
it was more than he knew, for Vere had simply charged him to carry
the message, and that he and Fairfax had merely come as hostages
for the safe return of the Spanish officers.

Ogle was next asked whether he thought the general intended sincerely
or not, and could only reply that he was altogether unacquainted
with the general's purpose.

The next morning Serrano and Antonio returned without having seen
Vere. The pretext on which they had been sent back was that there
was some irregularity in their coming across; but instead of their
being sent back across the Old Haven they were sent across the
Geule, and had to make a long round to regain the archduke's camp.

Thus a day and a night were gained. The next day, towards evening,
the two Spanish officers were admitted into Ostend, and received
very hospitably by Sir Francis. After supper many healths were drunk,
and then Sir Francis informed them to their astonishment that his
proposal was not that he should surrender Ostend, but that the
archduke should raise the siege. But it was now far too late for them
to return, and they went to bed in the general's quarters. During
the two nights thus gained the defenders had worked incessantly in
repairing the palisades facing the point at which the attack would
take place, a work that they had hitherto been unable to perform
owing to the tremendous fire that the Spaniards kept up night and
day upon it.

At break of day five men of war from Zeeland came to anchor off the
town. They brought four hundred men, and provisions and materials
of war of all kinds. They were immediately landed under a heavy
fire from the enemy's batteries on both sides. The firing awoke the
two Spanish envoys, who inquired what was taking place. They were
politely informed by Sir Francis Vere that succour had arrived,
and the negotiations were of course broken off; and they were
accordingly sent back, while Ogle and Fairfax returned to Ostend.

Vere's account of the transaction was that he had simply asked for
two Spanish officers to speak with him. He had offered no terms,
and there was therefore no breach of faith. The commander of a
besieged town, he insisted, is always at liberty to propose a parley,
which the enemy can accept or not as he chooses. At any rate, it
was not for the archduke, who had hired a traitor to corrupt the
garrison, to make a complaint of treachery. Twelve hundred men
were employed for the next eight days in strengthening the works,
Sir Francis being always with them at night, when the water was
low, encouraging them by his presence and example.

Early in January he learned that the enemy were preparing for the
assault, and on the 7th a crushing fire was kept up on the Porc
Espic, Helmond, and Sand Hill forts. The Spaniards had by this
time fired 163,200 cannon shot into the town, and scarcely a whole
house was left standing. Towards evening they were seen bringing
scaling ladders to the opposite bank of the Haven. Two thousand
Italian and Spanish troops had been told off to attack the sand
hill, two thousand were to assault Helmond and the Porc Espic, two
parties of five hundred men each were to attack other works, while
on the east side Count Bucquoy was to deliver a general assault.

The English general watched all these preparations with the
greatest vigilance. At high water he closed the west sluice, which
let the water into the town ditch from the Old Haven, in the rear
of Helmond, in order to retain as much water as possible, and
stationed his troops at the various points most threatened. Sir
Horace Vere and Sir Charles Fairfax, with twelve weak companies,
some of them reduced to ten or twelve men, were stationed on the
sand hill.

Four of the strongest companies garrisoned the Porc Espic; ten weak
companies and nine cannon loaded with musket bullets defended the
Helmond. These posts were commanded by Sergeant Major Carpenter and
Captain Meetkerk; the rest of the force were disposed at the other
threatened points. Sir Francis himself, with Sir Lionel Vickars as
his right hand, took his post on the wall of the old town, between
the sand hill and the Schottenburg, which had been much damaged by
the action of the waves during the gales and by the enemy's shot.
Barrels of ashes, heaps of stones and bricks, hoops bound with
squibs and fireworks, ropes of pitch, hand grenades, and barrels
of nails were collected in readiness to hurl down upon the assailants.

At dusk the besiegers ceased firing, to allow the guns to cool.
Two engineer officers with fifty stout sappers, who each had a rose
noble for every quarter of an hour's work, got on to the breach in
front of the sand hill, and threw up a small breastwork, strengthened
by palisades, across it. An officer crept down towards the Old
Haven, and presently returned with the news that two thousand of
the enemy were wading across, and forming up in battalions on the
Ostend side.

Suddenly a gun boomed out from the archduke's camp as a signal
to Bucquoy, and just as the night had fairly set in the besiegers
rushed to the assault from all points. They were received by a
tremendous fire from the guns of the forts and the muskets of the
soldiers; but, although the effect was serious, they did not hesitate
a moment, but dashed forwards towards the foot of the sand hill and
the wall of the old town, halted for a moment, poured in a volley,
and then rushed into the breach and against the walls. The volley
had been harmless, for Vere had ordered the men to lie flat until it
was given. As the Spaniards climbed up barrels of ashes were emptied
upon them, stones and heavy timbers hurled down, and flaming hoops
cast over their necks. Three times they climbed to the crest of the
sand hill, and as many times gained a footing on the Schottenburg;
but each time they were beaten back with great slaughter. As fiercely
did they attack at the other points, but were everywhere repulsed.

On the east side three strong battalions of the enemy attacked the
outwork across the Geule, known as the Spanish Half Moon. Vere, who
was everywhere supervising the defence, ordered the weak garrison
there to withdraw, and sent a soldier out to give himself up, and
to tell them that the Half Moon was slenderly manned, and to offer
to lead them in. The offer was accepted, and the Spaniards took
possession of the work.

The general's object was to occupy them, and prevent their supporting
their comrades in the western attack. The Half Moon, indeed, was
quite open towards the town. Tide was rising, and a heavy fire was
opened upon the captors of the work from the batteries across the
Geule, and they were driven out with the loss of three hundred men.
At length the assault was repulsed at all points, and the assailants
began to retire across the Old Haven. No sooner did they begin to
ford it than Vere opened the west sluice, and the water in the town
ditch rushed down in a torrent, carrying numbers of the Spaniards
away into the sea.

Altogether, the assault cost the Spaniards two thousand men.
An enormous amount of plunder in arms, gold chains, jewels, and
rich garments were obtained by the defenders from the bodies of
the fallen. The loss of the garrison was only thirty killed and a
hundred wounded.

The repulse of the grand attack upon Ostend by no means put an end
to the siege. Sir Francis Vere, his brother Horace, Sir John Ogle,
and Sir Lionel Vickars left, the general being summoned to assume
command in the field; but the siege continued for two years and a
half longer. Many assaults were repulsed during that time, and the
town only surrendered on the 20th September, 1604, when the sand
hill, which was the key of the whole position, was at last captured
by the Spaniards.

It was but a heap of ruins that they had become possessed of after
their three years' siege, and its capture had not only cost them
an immense number of men and a vast amount of money, but the long
and gallant defence had secured upon a firm basis the independence
of Holland. While the whole available force of Spain had been so
occupied Prince Maurice and his English allies had captured town
after town, and had beaten the enemy whenever they attempted to show
themselves in the open field. They had more than counterbalanced
the loss of Ostend by the recapture of Sluys, and had so lowered
the Spanish pride that not long afterwards a twelve years truce was
concluded, which virtually brought the war to an end, and secured
for ever the independence of Holland.

During the last year or two of the war Sir Francis Vere, worn out
by his fatigues and the countless wounds he had received in the
service of the Netherlands, had resigned his command and retired
to England, being succeeded in his position by Sir Horace. Lionel
Vickars fought no more after he had borne his part in the repulse
of the great assault against Ostend. He had barely recovered from
the effect of the wound he had received at the battle of Nieuport,
and the fatigues and anxiety of the siege, together with the damp
air from the marshes, brought on a serious attack of fever, which
completely prostrated him as soon as the necessity for exertion
had passed. He remained some weeks at the Hague, and then, being
somewhat recovered, returned home.

While throughout all England the greatest enthusiasm had been
aroused by the victory of Nieuport and the repulse of the Spaniards
at Ostend, the feeling was naturally higher in the Vere's county
of Essex than elsewhere. As soon as Lionel Vickars was well enough
to take any share in gaieties he received many invitations to stay
at the great houses of the county, where most of the gentry were
more or less closely connected with the Veres; and before he had
been home many months he married Dorothy Windhurst, one of the
richest heiresses in the county, and a cousin of the Veres. Thus
Geoffrey had, after Juan Mendez retired from taking any active part
in the business, to work alone until his sons were old enough to
join him in the business. As soon as they were able to undertake
its active management, Geoffrey bought an estate near Hedingham,
and there settled down, journeying occasionally to London to see
how the affairs of the house went on, and to give advice to his
sons. Dolores had, two or three years after her arrival in England,
embraced the faith of her husband; and although she complained a
little at times of the English climate, she never once regretted
the step she had taken in leaving her native Spain.





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