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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



[Illustration: GEOFFREY AND LIONEL SAVE FRANCIS VERE'S LIFE]



PREFACE.


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.

                                   G. A. HENTY.



CONTENTS


CHAP.

    I. AN EXCURSION
   II. A MEETING IN CHEPE
  III. IN THE LOW COUNTRY
   IV. THE SIEGE OP SLUYS
    V. AN HEROIC DEFENCE
   VI. THE LOSS OF THE "SUSAN"
  VII. A POPISH PLOT
 VIII. THE SPANISH ARMADA
   IX. THE ROUT OF THE ARMADA
    X. THE WAR IN HOLLAND
   XI. IN SPAIN
  XII. RECRUITING THEIR FUNDS
 XIII. THE FESTA AT SEVILLE
  XIV. THE SURPRISE OF BREDA
   XV. A SLAVE IN BARBARY
  XVI. THE ESCAPE
 XVII. A SPANISH MERCHANT
XVIII. IVRY
  XIX. STEENWYK
   XX. CADIZ
  XXI. THE BATTLE OF NIEUPORT
 XXII. OLD FRIENDS
XXIII. THE SIEGE OF OSTEND



  ILLUSTRATIONS


  Geoffrey And Lionel Save Francis Vere's Life
  The Four Pages Carry Down The Wounded Soldier
  The Next Few Minutes It Was A Wild Struggle For Life
  Geoffrey Carried Overboard By The Falling Mast
  Geoffrey Gives Inez Her Lover's Note
  Geoffrey Falls Into The Hands Of The Corsairs
  Crossing The Bridge Of Boats Over The Haven
  Vere's Horse Shot Under Him At The Fight Before Ostend

       *       *       *       *       *

Plan of Sluys and the Castle, to illustrate the Siege of 1587

Plan of Breda and its Defences, illustrating its surprise and capture
in 1590

Map of Cadiz and Harbour at the time of its capture in 1596, showing
the position of the English and Spanish Ships

Plan of Ostend and its Defences, showing the lines of the attacking
forces during the siege of 1601-4



BY ENGLAND'S AID

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 6th December, 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 bucaneers 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 cortège 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.

"Good-bye, 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 waggons going to Antwerp, killed
three hundred of the enemy, took eighty prisoners, and destroyed all
their waggons 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 Lords 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 country men 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 head waters
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 gate-house 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 farmhouses
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 maid-servants, 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 Browne, 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 practise 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 supper-time, and even if
they did not return after that hour Mrs. Vickars did not chide them
unduly, being an easy-going 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
[Footnote: Now Brightlingsea.] 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 crowded 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 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 to-day?"

"No, sir. I am going to-morrow, 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 dus-say 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 to-morrow, 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. Vicars 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. Vicars 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 to-morrow? 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
to-morrow. 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 some
day 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 to-night, and are going with him in the _Susan_ to-morrow 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 table-cloths 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
to-morrow, 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 to-night 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 dingy 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 got something special ready. After that I shall go out
with Dick and bring the barge ashore. He will load her up to-morrow,
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 south-west, 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 daresay 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 broken 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 to-night'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 to-morrow 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
mast-heads. 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 look-out 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 passers-by
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 river-side 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 river-side 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. To-morrow 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 passers-by 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 upon us
like a swarm of bees, and should doubtless get worsted in the
encounter, and might even find ourselves hauled off to the lock-up, 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 passers-by, 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 to-morrow, Master Lirriper?"

"To-morrow 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, 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 Chepe-side 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 to the 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 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 to 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 easy-going 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 not 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 to-morrow, 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 to-morrow 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
to-morrow, 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 to-morrow 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 to-night 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 headpiece, breast-plate and backpiece, 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 south-west, 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 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 Hood 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 motions. The women's costumes differed much more widely from
those to which they were accustomed, and their strange and varied
head-dresses, 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 Parma'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
quarter-masters. 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 plate 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. Not 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 to-day," 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 defences; 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 market-place 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.

[Illustration: THE FOUR PAGES CARRY DOWN THE WOUNDED SOLDIER]

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
court-yard, 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 single-stick 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 court-yard 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
court-yard 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. Boats 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
latter 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 look-out, 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 out 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 long-bow and the cross-bow 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 fire-balls into these
houses, and so to destroy them before they make their attack. Nor can
much good be gained, for at this distance a cross-bow would scarce
carry its bolts beyond the moat."

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

"There, he has shot again. I did not see the quarrell 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 cross-bow 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 not 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 towns-people?" 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 not 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 to-morrow, 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. To-night all the soldiers who can be spared, aided by
all the citizens able to use matlock 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 therefrom 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 cross-bow 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 not 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 cross-bow. 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 look-out. 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 cross-bow."

"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
cross-bow 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 cross-bow. 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 cross-bow 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 cross-bow, 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 cross-bow
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 cross-bow, 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 court-yard
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 cross-bow 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 cross-bow 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 sit 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
market-place, 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 out
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 look-out 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 am 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
hardly 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
river-side 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 not 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
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 heads 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 to-morrow, 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 hand, 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
those 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 Cropping 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 I 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 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 south-east, 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 not going to cross to-day, 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 bows 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 out 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 sheet. 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."

[Illustration: "THE NEXT FEW MINUTES IT WAS A WILD STRUGGLE FOR LIFE"]

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 takes 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 tide. 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 not 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 not 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 to-day
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
not 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 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 horses
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 to-night."

"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 not 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 not likely to raise
a false alarm about nothing, 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 to-day," 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 not 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 this
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 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 ante-chamber 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 recognise 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 they
were left to drift 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 was 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 not 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, 30,000 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 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 co-operation 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 out 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 south-west 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 look-out 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 Earn 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
Matteo_ 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 Earn 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 port-hole 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 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
fire-ships. 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
fire-ships, 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 fire-ships 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 bear 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 out 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 water-line, 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 Matteo_, 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 fire-ships 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.

[Illustration: GEOFFREY CARRIED OVERBOARD BY THE FALLING MAST]

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 not 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 time, 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
time, 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 south-westerly
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 half-way 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 Matteo_ 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 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 side. But the Dutch troops, although led by Count Solms
and Count Philip of Nassau, were repulsed with great loss. The prince
then promised not 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 Mansfeldt 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 Mansfeldt 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 Mansfeldt 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 good-will 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 to-morrow, 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 to-morrow I will buy some clothes suitable for a serving-man. I do
not 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 out. 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 mid-day
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 rough 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 to-morrow to the merchants I was
introduced to to-day, 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 half-way 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
to-night 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 sea-board, 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 court-yard of the inn when we get back you will see one
of those rascally muleteers who were 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, señor, 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, cabbalero?" 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, señor;
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 court-yard
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 court-yards 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 to-night; 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, señor; 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 very closely; and I have my own reasons for
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, señor. 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 cabbalero 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 an
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 hoard
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 to-morrow 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.

[Illustration: GEOFFREY GIVES INEZ HER LOVER'S NOTE]

"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
to-morrow. 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
passers-by 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. To-morrow 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 to-morrow 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 curé
who had been taken suddenly ill. This village was situated, he was
told, some six miles south-east 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 fête. 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 passer-by 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 a 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, señora, 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, señora, 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, señora, 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 wore 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 passers-by. Several times she glanced back.

"Do not be uneasy about him, señora," 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
fête. 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 fête, 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 communication
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.

[Illustration: BREDA 1590.]

"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 Heraugière,
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
Heraugière 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 waggon 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 Heraugière 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 Heraugière, 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 waggon-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 Heraugière 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 Heraugière 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 to-morrow, 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 Heraugière, 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 Heraugière 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 to-day. 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. What, are you going shooting ducks on the
frozen meres?"

"No, Sir Francis. I am going on a little expedition with Captain
Heraugière, 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 Heraugière 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 Heraugière 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 to-day, and that I have hired
fresh hands in their places."

Two of the men got out. Captain Heraugière and Lionel Vickars took
their places, and the boat proceeded up the river. The oars were heavy
and clumsy, and the new-comers were by no means sorry when, after a row
of twelve miles, they neared Breda.

"What are the regulations for entering Breda?" Captain Heraugière 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 Heraugière 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 Heraugière 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 out of
sight of the town," Captain Heraugière 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 Heraugière 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 Heraugière 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 Heraugière
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 to-day," 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 Heraugière 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 Heraugière 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 Heraugière will make his report to Prince
Maurice. He is the leader of the party, and therefore we 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 Heraugière 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. Heraugière 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 Heraugière the next day.

On the 24th of February the little party started. Heraugière 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 Heraugière'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 co-operation, Heraugière
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," Heraugière 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
to-morrow."

"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," Heraugière 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 night-fall 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 Heraugière 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. Heraugière
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 at 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 water-gate, 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 men 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 Heraugière 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 guardhouse; 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. Heraugière 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 out with torches, but after a brief fight were driven into
the guard-house; when all were shot down through the doors and windows.
Captain Fervet 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 water-gate, 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 the
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 _Tarifa_ 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 to-morrow
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 look-out. 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 half-way 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."

[Illustration: GEOFFREY FALLS INTO THE HANDS OF THE CORSAIRS]

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 new-comers. 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 not 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 eat 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 not 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 good-will 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 good-will
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 mid-day meal and dose 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 boy'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
cleanly 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 for 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 of
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 not 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 south-east 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 out 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
her 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, señor," 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 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 to-day 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 not 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 eat 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 not 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 not even one, for they will not 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, señor; 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 señor 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, señor," 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 ought 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 north-west.

"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,
señor," 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, señor," 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 tough,
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, señor, for the sake of your brave young daughter."

"Ah, 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, señora," 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 task-master, 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, señor, 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, señor, 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 every thing
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 not 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 Señor 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 to-morrow 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 not 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 a 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, Señor Mendez arranged
for horses and mules to start the next morning. He had sent off 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 employé 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 Señor 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 employés 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," Señor 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 to-morrow, 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 Señor 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 señorita 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
bucaneers, I shall perforce return in the ship I go out in."

At parting Señor 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, Señor
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 Heraugière 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 mid-day 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 foot-men."

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 to-morrow, 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 to-morrow."

"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 to-morrow if Mayenne is disposed for it."

The camps were struck and the waggons loaded, and the army marched to
St. André, 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 to 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'Angoulême, 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 up 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 camp-fires, 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
battle-fields; 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 musket-ball 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 a 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 battle-field or were drowned in crossing the river in their
rear. The loss of the royalists was but one-fourth that 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 Marne, 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 a 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 landowners
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 out 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 rapidly 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 Guises 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 maid-servants 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 warehouseman 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 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 market-place, 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 wore 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 at 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 run 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 goodbye 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 out 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 co-operate 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.

[Illustration: CROSSING THE BRIDGE OF BOATS OVER THE HAVEN.]

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 waggons. 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 waggons
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 not 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 co-operate 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 6360 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 north-east 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.

[Illustration]

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 Pun tales, 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 vieing 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 places 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 market-place, 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 to-night 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 to-night, 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 of 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 Señor 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 Señor
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, señor, 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, señor," 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, señor, 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 rejoicings; 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
waggons 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 waggons 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 sea-shore. 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 sea-shore 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 pouring out from the sand-hills near to
the beach, and drove them back.

[Illustration: Vere's horse shot under him at the fight before Ostend.]

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's 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 out. 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 Axe; 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."

"Inez, Señor 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 Señora Dolores,
and that Señor Mendez was with you--all of 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 bucaneer, 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, was 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 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 sea-shore 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.

[Illustration: OSTEND 1601.]

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. These
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 south-east 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 south-west
corner lay a field called the Polder, extending to the point where the
Yper-Leet 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 North-west 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 Francis,
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 south-east 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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