Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Micah Clarke - His Statement as made to his three grandchildren Joseph, - Gervas and Reuben During the Hard Winter of 1734
Author: Doyle, Arthur Conan
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Micah Clarke - His Statement as made to his three grandchildren Joseph, - Gervas and Reuben During the Hard Winter of 1734" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



MICAH CLARKE

HIS STATEMENT AS MADE TO HIS THREE GRANDCHILDREN JOSEPH, GERVAS, AND
REUBEN DURING THE HARD WINTER OF 1734


By Arthur Conan Doyle



CONTENTS


CHAPTER.

I. OF CORNET JOSEPH CLARKE OF THE IRONSIDES.

II. OF MY GOING TO SCHOOL AND OF MY COMING THENCE.

III. OF TWO FRIENDS OF MY YOUTH.

IV. OF THE STRANGE FISH THAT WE CAUGHT AT SPITHEAD.

V. OF THE MAN WITH THE DROOPING LIDS.

VI. OF THE LETTER THAT CAME FROM THE LOWLANDS.

VII. OF THE HORSEMAN WHO RODE FROM THE WEST.

VIII. OF OUR START FOR THE WARS.

IX. OF A PASSAGE OF ARMS AT THE BLUE BOAR.

X. OF OUR PERILOUS ADVENTURE ON THE PLAIN.

XI. OF THE LONELY MAN AND THE GOLD CHEST.

XII. OF CERTAIN PASSAGES UPON THE MOOR.

XIII. OF SIR GERVAS JEROME, KNIGHT BANNERET OF THE COUNTY OF SURREY.

XIV. OF THE STIFF-LEGGED PARSON AND HIS FLOCK.

XV. OF OUR BRUSH WITH THE KING’S DRAGOONS.

XVI. OF OUR COMING TO TAUNTON.

XVII. OF THE GATHERING IN THE MARKET-SQUARE.

XVIII. OF MASTER STEPHEN TIMEWELL, MAYOR OF TAUNTON.

XIX. OF A BRAWL IN THE NIGHT.

XX. OF THE MUSTER OF THE MEN OF THE WEST.

XXI. OF MY HAND-GRIPS WITH THE BRANDENBURGER.

XXII. OF THE NEWS FROM HAVANT.

XXIII. OF THE SNARE ON THE WESTON ROAD.

XXIV. OF THE WELCOME THAT MET ME AT BADMINTON.

XXV. OF STRANGE DOINGS IN THE BOTELER DUNGEON.

XXVI. OF THE STRIFE IN THE COUNCIL.

XXVII OF THE AFFAIR NEAR KEYNSHAM BRIDGE.

XXVIII OF THE FIGHT IN WELLS CATHEDRAL.

XXIX. OF THE GREAT CRY FROM THE LONELY HOUSE.

XXX OF THE SWORDSMAN WITH THE BROWN JACKET.

XXXI. OF THE MAID OF THE MARSH AND THE BUBBLE WHICH ROSE FROM THE
          BOG.

XXXII. OF THE ONFALL AT SEDGEMOOR.

XXXIII. OF MY PERILOUS ADVENTURE AT THE MILL.

XXXIV. OF THE COMING OF SOLOMON SPRENT.

XXXV. OF THE DEVIL IN WIG AND GOWN.

XXXVI. OF THE END OF IT ALL.

          APPENDIX



Chapter I. Of Cornet Joseph Clarke of the Ironsides

It may be, my dear grandchildren, that at one time or another I
have told you nearly all the incidents which have occurred during my
adventurous life. To your father and to your mother, at least, I know
that none of them are unfamiliar. Yet when I consider that time wears
on, and that a grey head is apt to contain a failing memory, I am
prompted to use these long winter evenings in putting it all before
you from the beginning, that you may have it as one clear story in your
minds, and pass it on as such to those who come after you. For now that
the house of Brunswick is firmly established upon the throne and that
peace prevails in the land, it will become less easy for you every
year to understand how men felt when Englishmen were in arms against
Englishmen, and when he who should have been the shield and the
protector of his subjects had no thought but to force upon them what
they most abhorred and detested.

My story is one which you may well treasure up in your memories, and
tell again to others, for it is not likely that in this whole county of
Hampshire, or even perhaps in all England, there is another left alive
who is so well able to speak from his own knowledge of these events,
or who has played a more forward part in them. All that I know I shall
endeavour soberly and in due order to put before you. I shall try to
make these dead men quicken into life for your behoof, and to call back
out of the mists of the past those scenes which were brisk enough in
the acting, though they read so dully and so heavily in the pages of the
worthy men who have set themselves to record them. Perchance my words,
too, might, in the ears of strangers, seem to be but an old man’s
gossip. To you, however, who know that these eyes which are looking at
you looked also at the things which I describe, and that this hand has
struck in for a good cause, it will, I know, be different. Bear in mind
as you listen that it was your quarrel as well as our own in which
we fought, and that if now you grow up to be free men in a free land,
privileged to think or to pray as your consciences shall direct, you may
thank God that you are reaping the harvest which your fathers sowed in
blood and suffering when the Stuarts were on the throne.

I was born then in the year 1664, at Havant, which is a flourishing
village a few miles from Portsmouth off the main London road, and there
it was that I spent the greater part of my youth. It is now as it was
then, a pleasant, healthy spot, with a hundred or more brick cottages
scattered along in a single irregular street, each with its little
garden in front, and maybe a fruit tree or two at the back. In the
middle of the village stood the old church with the square tower, and
the great sun-dial like a wrinkle upon its grey weather-blotched face.
On the outskirts the Presbyterians had their chapel; but when the Act of
Uniformity was passed, their good minister, Master Breckinridge, whose
discourses had often crowded his rude benches while the comfortable pews
of the church were empty, was cast into gaol, and his flock dispersed.
As to the Independents, of whom my father was one, they also were under
the ban of the law, but they attended conventicle at Emsworth, whither
we would trudge, rain or shine, on every Sabbath morning. These meetings
were broken up more than once, but the congregation was composed of such
harmless folk, so well beloved and respected by their neighbours, that
the peace officers came after a time to ignore them, and to let them
worship in their own fashion. There were Papists, too, amongst us, who
were compelled to go as far as Portsmouth for their Mass. Thus, you see,
small as was our village, we were a fair miniature of the whole country,
for we had our sects and our factions, which were all the more bitter
for being confined in so narrow a compass.

My father, Joseph Clarke, was better known over the countryside by the
name of Ironside Joe, for he had served in his youth in the Yaxley
troop of Oliver Cromwell’s famous regiment of horse, and had preached
so lustily and fought so stoutly that old Noll himself called him out
of the ranks after the fight at Dunbar, and raised him to a cornetcy.
It chanced, however, that having some little time later fallen into an
argument with one of his troopers concerning the mystery of the Trinity,
the man, who was a half-crazy zealot, smote my father across the face, a
favour which he returned by a thrust from his broadsword, which sent his
adversary to test in person the truth of his beliefs. In most armies
it would have been conceded that my father was within his rights
in punishing promptly so rank an act of mutiny, but the soldiers of
Cromwell had so high a notion of their own importance and privileges,
that they resented this summary justice upon their companion. A
court-martial sat upon my father, and it is likely that he would have
been offered up as a sacrifice to appease the angry soldiery, had not
the Lord Protector interfered, and limited the punishment to dismissal
from the army. Cornet Clarke was accordingly stripped of his buff
coat and steel cap, and wandered down to Havant, where he settled into
business as a leather merchant and tanner, thereby depriving Parliament
of as trusty a soldier as ever drew blade in its service. Finding
that he prospered in trade, he took as wife Mary Shepstone, a young
Churchwoman, and I, Micah Clarke, was the first pledge of their union.

My father, as I remember him first, was tall and straight, with a great
spread of shoulder and a mighty chest. His face was craggy and stern,
with large harsh features, shaggy over-hanging brows, high-bridged
fleshy nose, and a full-lipped mouth which tightened and set when he
was angry. His grey eyes were piercing and soldier-like, yet I have seen
them lighten up into a kindly and merry twinkle. His voice was the most
tremendous and awe-inspiring that I have ever listened to. I can well
believe what I have heard, that when he chanted the Hundredth Psalm as
he rode down among the blue bonnets at Dunbar, the sound of him rose
above the blare of trumpets and the crash of guns, like the deep roll of
a breaking wave. Yet though he possessed every quality which was
needed to raise him to distinction as an officer, he had thrown off his
military habits when he returned to civil life. As he prospered and grew
rich he might well have worn a sword, but instead he would ever bear a
small copy of the Scriptures bound to his girdle, where other men hung
their weapons. He was sober and measured in his speech, and it was
seldom, even in the bosom of his own family, that he would speak of the
scenes which he had taken part in, or of the great men, Fleetwood and
Harrison, Blake and Ireton, Desborough and Lambert, some of whom had
been simple troopers like himself when the troubles broke out. He was
frugal in his eating, backward in drinking, and allowed himself no
pleasures save three pipes a day of Oronooko tobacco, which he kept ever
in a brown jar by the great wooden chair on the left-hand side of the
mantelshelf.

Yet for all his self-restraint the old leaven would at times begin to
work in him, and bring on fits of what his enemies would call fanaticism
and his friends piety, though it must be confessed that this piety
was prone to take a fierce and fiery shape. As I look back, one or two
instances of that stand out so hard and clear in my recollection that
they might be scenes which I had seen of late in the playhouse, instead
of memories of my childhood more than threescore years ago, when the
second Charles was on the throne.

The first of these occurred when I was so young that I can remember
neither what went before nor what immediately after it. It stuck in my
infant mind when other things slipped through it. We were all in the
house one sultry summer evening, when there came a rattle of kettledrums
and a clatter of hoofs, which brought my mother and my father to the
door, she with me in her arms that I might have the better view. It was
a regiment of horse on their way from Chichester to Portsmouth, with
colours flying and band playing, making the bravest show that ever my
youthful eyes had rested upon. With what wonder and admiration did I
gaze at the sleek prancing steeds, the steel morions, the plumed hats
of the officers, the scarfs and bandoliers. Never, I thought, had such
a gallant company assembled, and I clapped my hands and cried out in my
delight. My father smiled gravely, and took me from my mother’s arms.
‘Nay, lad,’ he said, ‘thou art a soldier’s son, and should have more
judgment than to commend such a rabble as this. Canst thou not, child as
thou art, see that their arms are ill-found, their stirrup-irons rusted,
and their ranks without order or cohesion? Neither have they thrown out
a troop in advance, as should even in times of peace be done, and their
rear is straggling from here to Bedhampton. Yea,’ he continued, suddenly
shaking his long arm at the troopers, and calling out to them, ‘ye are
corn ripe for the sickle and waiting only for the reapers!’ Several of
them reined up at this sudden out-flame. ‘Hit the crop-eared rascal over
the pate, Jack!’ cried one to another, wheeling his horse round; but
there was that in my father’s face which caused him to fall back into
the ranks again with his purpose unfulfilled. The regiment jingled on
down the road, and my mother laid her thin hands upon my father’s arm,
and lulled with her pretty coaxing ways the sleeping devil which had
stirred within him.

On another occasion which I can remember, about my seventh or eighth
year, his wrath burst out with more dangerous effect. I was playing
about him as he worked in the tanning-yard one spring afternoon, when
in through the open doorway strutted two stately gentlemen, with
gold facings to their coats and smart cockades at the side of their
three-cornered hats. They were, as I afterwards understood, officers of
the fleet who were passing through Havant, and seeing us at work in the
yard, designed to ask us some question as to their route. The younger of
the pair accosted my father and began his speech by a great clatter of
words which were all High Dutch to me, though I now see that they were a
string of such oaths as are common in the mouth of a sailor; though why
the very men who are in most danger of appearing before the Almighty
should go out of their way to insult Him, hath ever been a mystery to
me. My father in a rough stern voice bade him speak with more reverence
of sacred things, on which the pair of them gave tongue together,
swearing tenfold worse than before, and calling my father a canting
rogue and a smug-faced Presbytery Jack. What more they might have said I
know not, for my father picked up the great roller wherewith he smoothed
the leather, and dashing at them he brought it down on the side of one
of their heads with such a swashing blow, that had it not been for his
stiff hat the man would never have uttered oath again. As it was, he
dropped like a log upon the stones of the yard, while his companion
whipped out his rapier and made a vicious thrust; but my father, who was
as active as he was strong, sprung aside, and bringing his cudgel down
upon the outstretched arm of the officer, cracked it like the stem of
a tobacco-pipe. This affair made no little stir, for it occurred at
the time when those arch-liars, Oates, Bedloe, and Carstairs, were
disturbing the public mind by their rumours of plots, and a rising of
some sort was expected throughout the country. Within a few days all
Hampshire was ringing with an account of the malcontent tanner of
Havant, who had broken the head and the arm of two of his Majesty’s
servants. An inquiry showed, however, that there was no treasonable
meaning in the matter, and the officers having confessed that the first
words came from them, the Justices contented themselves with imposing a
fine upon my father, and binding him over to keep the peace for a period
of six months.

I tell you these incidents that you may have an idea of the fierce and
earnest religion which filled not only your own ancestor, but most of
those men who were trained in the parliamentary armies. In many ways
they were more like those fanatic Saracens, who believe in conversion by
the sword, than the followers of a Christian creed. Yet they have this
great merit, that their own lives were for the most part clean and
commendable, for they rigidly adhered themselves to those laws which
they would gladly have forced at the sword’s point upon others. It is
true that among so many there were some whose piety was a shell for
their ambition, and others who practised in secret what they denounced
in public, but no cause however good is free from such hypocritical
parasites. That the greater part of the saints, as they termed
themselves, were men of sober and God-fearing lives, may be shown by the
fact that, after the disbanding of the army of the Commonwealth, the old
soldiers flocked into trade throughout the country, and made their mark
wherever they went by their industry and worth. There is many a wealthy
business house now in England which can trace its rise to the thrift and
honesty of some simple pikeman of Ireton or Cromwell.

But that I may help you to understand the character of your
great-grandfather, I shall give an incident which shows how fervent and
real were the emotions which prompted the violent moods which I have
described. I was about twelve at the time, my brothers Hosea and Ephraim
were respectively nine and seven, while little Ruth could scarce have
been more than four. It chanced that a few days before a wandering
preacher of the Independents had put up at our house, and his religious
ministrations had left my father moody and excitable. One night I had
gone to bed as usual, and was sound asleep with my two brothers beside
me, when we were roused and ordered to come downstairs. Huddling on our
clothes we followed him into the kitchen, where my mother was sitting
pale and scared with Ruth upon her knee.

‘Gather round me, my children,’ he said, in a deep reverent voice, ‘that
we may all appear before the throne together. The kingdom of the Lord is
at hand-oh, be ye ready to receive Him! This very night, my loved ones,
ye shall see Him in His splendour, with the angels and the archangels in
their might and their glory. At the third hour shall He come-that very
third hour which is now drawing upon us.’

‘Dear Joe,’ said my mother, in soothing tones, ‘thou art scaring thyself
and the children to no avail. If the Son of Man be indeed coming, what
matters it whether we be abed or afoot?’

‘Peace, woman,’ he answered sternly; ‘has He not said that He will come
like a thief in the night, and that it is for us to await Him? Join
with me, then, in prayerful outpourings that we may be found as those in
bridal array. Let us offer up thanks that He has graciously vouchsafed
to warn us through the words of His servant. Oh, great Lord, look down
upon this small flock and lead it to the sheep fold! Mix not the
little wheat with the great world of chaff. Oh, merciful Father! look
graciously upon my wife, and forgive her the sin of Erastianism, she
being but a woman and little fitted to cast off the bonds of antichrist
wherein she was born. And these too, my little ones, Micah and Hosea,
Ephraim and Ruth, all named after Thy faithful servants of old, oh let
them stand upon Thy right hand this night!’ Thus he prayed on in a wild
rush of burning, pleading words, writhing prostrate upon the floor
in the vehemence of his supplication, while we, poor trembling mites,
huddled round our mother’s skirts and gazed with terror at the contorted
figure seen by the dim light of the simple oil lamp. On a sudden the
clang of the new church clock told that the hour had come. My father
sprang from the floor, and rushing to the casement, stared up with wild
expectant eyes at the starry heavens. Whether he conjured up some vision
in his excited brain, or whether the rush of feeling on finding that his
expectations were in vain, was too much for him, it is certain that
he threw his long arms upwards, uttered a hoarse scream, and tumbled
backwards with foaming lips and twitching limbs upon the ground. For an
hour or more my poor mother and I did what we could to soothe him, while
the children whimpered in a corner, until at last he staggered slowly to
his feet, and in brief broken words ordered us to our rooms. From that
time I have never heard him allude to the matter, nor did he ever give
us any reason why he should so confidently have expected the second
coming upon that particular night. I have learned since, however,
that the preacher who visited us was what was called in those days a
fifth-monarchy man, and that this particular sect was very liable to
these premonitions. I have no doubt that something which he had said had
put the thought into my father’s head, and that the fiery nature of the
man had done the rest.

So much for your great-grandfather, Ironside Joe. I have preferred to
put these passages before you, for on the principle that actions speak
louder than words, I find that in describing a man’s character it is
better to give examples of his ways than to speak in broad and general
terms. Had I said that he was fierce in ins religion and subject to
strange fits of piety, the words might have made little impression
upon you; but when I tell you of his attack upon the officers in the
tanning-yard, and his summoning us down in the dead of the night to
await the second coming, you can judge for yourselves the lengths to
which his belief would carry him. For the rest, he was an excellent man
of business, fair and even generous in his dealings, respected by all
and loved by few, for his nature was too self-contained to admit of much
affection. To us he was a stern and rigid father, punishing us heavily
for whatever he regarded as amiss in our conduct. He bad a store of such
proverbs as ‘Give a child its will and a whelp its fill, and neither
will strive,’ or ‘Children are certain cares and uncertain comforts,’
wherewith he would temper my mother’s more kindly impulses. He could not
bear that we should play trick-track upon the green, or dance with the
other children upon the Saturday night.

As to my mother, dear soul, it was her calm, peaceful influence which
kept my father within bounds, and softened his austere rule. Seldom
indeed, even in his darkest moods, did the touch of her gentle hand and
the sound of her voice fail to soothe his fiery spirit. She came of a
Church stock, and held to her religion with a quiet grip which was proof
against every attempt to turn her from it. I imagine that at one time
her husband had argued much with her upon Arminianism and the sin of
simony, but finding his exhortations useless, he had abandoned the
subject save on very rare occasions. In spite of her Episcopacy,
however, she remained a staunch Whig, and never allowed her loyalty to
the throne to cloud her judgment as to the doings of the monarch who sat
upon it.

Women were good housekeepers fitly years ago, but she was conspicuous
among the best. To see her spotless cuffs and snowy kirtle one would
scarce credit how hard she laboured. It was only the well ordered house
and the dustless rooms which proclaimed her constant industry. She
made salves and eyewaters, powders and confects, cordials and persico,
orangeflower water and cherry brandy, each in its due season, and all of
the best. She was wise, too, in herbs and simples. The villagers and the
farm labourers would rather any day have her advice upon their ailments
than that of Dr. Jackson of Purbrook, who never mixed a draught under
a silver crown. Over the whole countryside there was no woman more
deservedly respected and more esteemed both by those above her and by
those beneath.

Such were my parents as I remember them in my childhood. As to myself, I
shall let my story explain the growth of my own nature. My brothers and
my sister were all brownfaced, sturdy little country children, with no
very marked traits save a love of mischief controlled by the fear of
their father. These, with Martha the serving-maid, formed our whole
household during those boyish years when the pliant soul of the child
is hardening into the settled character of the man. How these influences
affected me I shall leave for a future sitting, and if I weary you by
recording them, you must remember that I am telling these things rather
for your profit than for your amusement; that it may assist you in your
journey through life to know how another has picked out the path before
you.



Chapter II. Of my going to school and of my coming thence.


With the home influences which I have described, it may be readily
imagined that my young mind turned very much upon the subject of
religion, the more so as my father and mother took different views upon
it. The old Puritan soldier held that the bible alone contained all
things essential to salvation, and that though it might be advisable
that those who were gifted with wisdom or eloquence should expound the
Scriptures to their brethren, it was by no means necessary, but rather
hurtful and degrading, that any organised body of ministers or of
bishops should claim special prerogatives, or take the place of
mediators between the creature and the Creator. For the wealthy
dignitaries of the Church, rolling in their carriages to their
cathedrals, in order to preach the doctrines of their Master, who wore
His sandals out in tramping over the countryside, he professed the most
bitter contempt; nor was he more lenient to those poorer members of the
clergy who winked at the vices of their patrons that they might secure
a seat at their table, and who would sit through a long evening of
profanity rather than bid good-bye to the cheesecakes and the wine
flask. That such men represented religious truth was abhorrent to
his mind, nor would he even give his adhesion to that form of church
government dear to the Presbyterians, where a general council of the
ministers directed the affairs of their church. Every man was, in his
opinion, equal in the eyes of the Almighty, and none had a right to
claim any precedence over his neighbour in matters of religion. The book
was written for all, and all were equally able to read it, provided that
their minds were enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

My mother, on the other hand, held that the very essence of a church
was that it should have a hierarchy and a graduated government within
itself, with the king at the apex, the archbishops beneath him, the
bishops under their control, and so down through the ministry to the
common folk. Such was, in her opinion, the Church as established in the
beginning, and no religion without these characteristics could lay any
claim to being the true one. Ritual was to her of as great importance
as morality, and if every tradesman and farmer were allowed to invent
prayers, and change the service as the fancy seized him, it would be
impossible to preserve the purity of the Christian creed. She agreed
that religion was based upon the Bible, but the Bible was a book which
contained much that was obscure, and unless that obscurity were
cleared away by a duly elected and consecrated servant of God, a
lineal descendant of the Disciples, all human wisdom might not serve to
interpret it aright. That was my mother’s position, and neither argument
nor entreaty could move her from it. The only question of belief on
which my two parents were equally ardent was their mutual dislike
and distrust of the Roman Catholic forms of worship, and in this the
Churchwoman was every whit as decided as the fanatical Independent.

It may seem strange to you in these days of tolerance, that the
adherents of this venerable creed should have met with such universal
ill-will from successive generations of Englishmen. We recognise now
that there are no more useful or loyal citizens in the state than our
Catholic brethren, and Mr. Alexander Pope or any other leading Papist is
no more looked down upon for his religion than was Mr. William Penn
for his Quakerism in the reign of King James. We can scarce credit how
noblemen like Lord Stafford, ecclesiastics like Archbishop Plunkett,
and commoners like Langhorne and Pickering, were dragged to death on
the testimony of the vilest of the vile, without a voice being raised in
their behalf; or how it could be considered a patriotic act on the part
of an English Protestant to carry a flail loaded with lead beneath his
cloak as a menace against his harmless neighbours who differed from
him on points of doctrine. It was a long madness which has now happily
passed off, or at least shows itself in a milder and rarer form.

Foolish as it appears to us, there were some solid reasons to account
for it. You have read doubtless how, a century before I was born, the
great kingdom of Spain waxed and prospered. Her ships covered every
sea. Her troops were victorious wherever they appeared. In letters, in
learning, in all the arts of war and peace they were the foremost nation
in Europe. You have heard also of the ill-blood which existed between
this great nation and ourselves; how our adventurers harried their
possessions across the Atlantic, while they retorted by burning such
of our seamen as they could catch by their devilish Inquisition, and by
threatening our coasts both from Cadiz and from their provinces in the
Netherlands. At last so hot became the quarrel that the other nations
stood off, as I have seen the folk clear a space for the sword-players
at Hockley-in-the-Hole, so that the Spanish giant and tough little
England were left face to face to fight the matter out. Throughout all
that business it was as the emissary of the Pope, and as the avenger of
the dishonoured Roman Church, that King Philip professed to come. It
is true that Lord Howard and many another gentleman of the old religion
fought stoutly against the Dons, but the people could never forget that
the reformed faith had been the flag under which they had conquered, and
that the blessing of the Pontiff had rested with their opponents. Then
came the cruel and foolish attempt of Mary to force upon them a creed
for which they had no sympathy, and at the heels of it another great
Roman Catholic power menaced our liberty from the Continent. The growing
strength of France promoted a corresponding distrust of Papistry in
England, which reached a head when, at about the time of which I write,
Louis XIV. threatened us with invasion at the very moment when, by
the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he showed his intolerant spirit
towards the faith which we held dear. The narrow Protestantism of
England was less a religious sentiment than a patriotic reply to
the aggressive bigotry of her enemies. Our Catholic countrymen were
unpopular, not so much because they believed in Transubstantiation, as
because they were unjustly suspected of sympathising with the Emperor or
with the King of France. Now that our military successes have secured us
against all fear of attack, we have happily lost that bitter religious
hatred but for which Oates and Dangerfield would have lied in vain.

In the days when I was young, special causes had inflamed this dislike
and made it all the more bitter because there was a spice of fear
mingled with it. As long as the Catholics were only an obscure faction
they might be ignored, but when, towards the close of the reign of the
second Charles, it appeared to be absolutely certain that a Catholic
dynasty was about to fill the throne, and that Catholicism was to be the
court religion and the stepping-stone to preferment, it was felt that
a day of vengeance might be at hand for those who had trampled upon
it when it was defenceless. There was alarm and uneasiness amongst all
classes. The Church of England, which depends upon the monarch as an
arch depends upon the keystone; the nobility, whose estates and coffers
had been enriched by the plunder of the abbeys; the mob, whose ideas of
Papistry were mixed up with thumbscrews and Fox’s Martyrology, were all
equally disturbed. Nor was the prospect a hopeful one for their cause.
Charles was a very lukewarm Protestant, and indeed showed upon his
deathbed that he was no Protestant at all. There was no longer any
chance of his having legitimate offspring. The Duke of York, his younger
brother, was therefore heir to the throne, and he was known to be an
austere and narrow Papist, while his spouse, Mary of Modena, was
as bigoted as himself. Should they have children, there could be
no question but that they would be brought up in the faith of their
parents, and that a line of Catholic monarchs would occupy the throne
of England. To the Church, as represented by my mother, and to
Nonconformity, in the person of my father, this was an equally
intolerable prospect.

I have been telling you all this old history because you will find, as
I go on, that this state of things caused in the end such a seething and
fermenting throughout the nation that even I, a simple village lad, was
dragged into the whirl and had my whole life influenced by it. If I did
not make the course of events clear to you, you would hardly understand
the influences which had such an effect upon my whole history. In the
meantime, I wish you to remember that when King James II. ascended the
throne he did so amid a sullen silence on the part of a large class of
his subjects, and that both my father and my mother were among those who
were zealous for a Protestant succession.

My childhood was, as I have already said, a gloomy one. Now and again
when there chanced to be a fair at Portsdown Hill, or when a passing
raree showman set up his booth in the village, my dear mother would
slip a penny or two from her housekeeping money into my hand, and with
a warning finger upon her lip would send me off to see the sights. These
treats were, however, rare events, and made such a mark upon my mind,
that when I was sixteen years of age I could have checked off upon my
fingers all that I had ever seen. There was William Harker the strong
man, who lifted Farmer Alcott’s roan mare; and there was Tubby Lawson
the dwarf, who could fit himself into a pickle jar--these two I well
remember from the wonder wherewith they struck my youthful soul. Then
there was the show of the playing dolls, and that of the enchanted
island and Mynheer Munster from the Lowlands, who could turn himself
round upon a tight-rope while playing most sweetly upon a virginal.
Last, but far the best in my estimation, was the grand play at the
Portsdown Fair, entitled ‘The true and ancient story of Maudlin, the
merchant’s daughter of Bristol, and of her lover Antonio. How they were
cast away on the shores of Barbary, where the mermaids are seen floating
upon the sea and singing in the rocks, foretelling their danger.’ This
little piece gave me keener pleasure than ever in after years I received
from the grandest comedies of Mr. Congreve and of Mr. Dryden, though
acted by Kynaston, Betterton, and the whole strength of the King’s own
company. At Chichester once I remember that I paid a penny to see the
left shoe of the youngest sister of Potiphar’s wife, but as it looked
much like any other old shoe, and was just about the size to have fitted
the show-woman, I have often feared that my penny fell into the hands of
rogues.

There were other shows, however, which I might see for nothing, and yet
were more real and every whit as interesting as any for which I
paid. Now and again upon a holiday I was permitted to walk down to
Portsmouth--once I was even taken in front of my father upon his pad
nag, and there I wandered with him through the streets with wondering
eyes, marvelling over the strange sights around me. The walls and the
moats, the gates and the sentinels, the long High Street with the great
government buildings, and the constant rattle of drums and blare of
trumpets; they made my little heart beat quicker beneath my sagathy
stuff jacket. Here was the house in which some thirty years before the
proud Duke of Buckingham had been struck down by the assassin’s dagger.
There, too, was the Governor’s dwelling, and I remember that even as I
looked he came riding up to it, red-faced and choleric, with a nose such
as a Governor should have, and his breast all slashed with gold. ‘Is he
not a fine man?’ I said, looking up at my father. He laughed and drew
his hat down over his brows. ‘It is the first time that I have seen Sir
Ralph Lingard’s face,’ said he, ‘but I saw his back at Preston fight.
Ah, lad, proud as he looks, if he did but see old Noll coming in through
the door he would not think it beneath him to climb out through the
window!’ The clank of steel or the sight of a buff-coat would always
serve to stir up the old Roundhead bitterness in my father’s breast.

But there were other sights in Portsmouth besides the red-coats and
their Governor. The yard was the second in the kingdom, after Chatham,
and there was ever some new war-ship ready upon the slips. Then there
was a squadron of King’s ships, and sometimes the whole fleet at
Spithead, when the streets would be full of sailors, with their faces as
brown as mahogany and pigtails as stiff and hard as their cutlasses. To
watch their rolling gait, and to hear their strange, quaint talk,
and their tales of the Dutch wars, was a rare treat to me; and I have
sometimes when I was alone fastened myself on to a group of them, and
passed the day in wandering from tavern to tavern. It chanced one day,
however, that one of them insisted upon my sharing his glass of Canary
wine, and afterwards out of roguishness persuaded me to take a second,
with the result that I was sent home speechless in the carrier’s cart,
and was never again allowed to go into Portsmouth alone. My father was
less shocked at the incident than I should have expected, and reminded
my mother that Noah had been overtaken in a similar manner. He also
narrated how a certain field-chaplain Grant, of Desborough’s regiment,
having after a hot and dusty day drunk sundry flagons of mum, had
thereafter sung certain ungodly songs, and danced in a manner unbecoming
to his sacred profession. Also, how he had afterwards explained that
such backslidings were not to be regarded us faults of the individual,
but rather as actual obsessions of the evil one, who contrived in this
manner to give scandal to the faithful, and selected the most godly for
his evil purpose. This ingenious defence of the field-chaplain was the
saving of my back, for my father, who was a believer in Solomon’s axiom,
had a stout ash stick and a strong arm for whatever seemed to him to be
a falling away from the true path.

From the day that I first learned my letters from the horn-book at my
mother’s knee I was always hungry to increase my knowledge, and never a
piece of print came in my way that I did not eagerly master. My father
pushed the sectarian hatred of learning to such a length that he was
averse to having any worldly books within his doors. (Note A, Appendix)
I was dependent therefore for my supply upon one or two of my friends in
the village, who lent me a volume at a time from their small libraries.
These I would carry inside my shirt, and would only dare to produce when
I could slip away into the fields, and lie hid among the long grass, or
at night when the rushlight was still burning, and my father’s snoring
assured me that there was no danger of his detecting me. In this way
I worked up from Don Bellianis of Greece and the ‘Seven Champions,’
through Tarleton’s ‘Jests’ and other such books, until I could take
pleasure in the poetry of Waller and of Herrick, or in the plays of
Massinger and Shakespeare. How sweet were the hours when I could lay
aside all thought of freewill and of predestination, to lie with my
heels in the air among the scented clover, and listen to old Chaucer
telling the sweet story of Grisel the patient, or to weep for the chaste
Desdemona, and mourn over the untimely end of her gallant spouse. There
were times as I rose up with my mind full of the noble poetry, and
glanced over the fair slope of the countryside, with the gleaming sea
beyond it, and the purple outline of the Isle of Wight upon the horizon;
when it would be borne in upon me that the Being who created all this,
and who gave man the power of pouring out these beautiful thoughts, was
not the possession of one sect or another, or of this nation or that,
but was the kindly Father of every one of the little children whom
He had let loose on this fair playground. It grieved me then, and it
grieves me now, that a man of such sincerity and lofty purpose as your
great grandfather should have been so tied down by iron doctrines, and
should imagine his Creator to be so niggard of His mercy as to withhold
it from nine-and-ninety in the hundred. Well, a man is as he is trained,
and if my father bore a narrow mind upon his broad shoulders, he has at
least the credit that he was ready to do and to suffer all things
for what he conceived to be the truth. If you, my dears, have more
enlightened views, take heed that they bring you to lead a more
enlightened life.

When I was fourteen years of age, a yellow-haired, brown-faced lad, I
was packed off to a small private school at Petersfield, and there I
remained for a year, returning home for the last Saturday in each month.
I took with me only a scanty outfit of schoolbooks, with Lilly’s ‘Latin
Grammar,’ and Rosse’s ‘View of all the Religions in the World from the
Creation down to our own Times,’ which was shoved into my hands by my
good mother as a parting present. With this small stock of letters I
might have fared badly, had it not happened that my master, Mr. Thomas
Chillingfoot, had himself a good library, and took a pleasure in
lending his books to any of his scholars who showed a desire to improve
themselves. Under this good old man’s care I not only picked up some
smattering of Latin and Greek, but I found means to read good English
translations of many of the classics, and to acquire a knowledge of the
history of my own and other countries. I was rapidly growing in mind as
well as in body, when my school career was cut short by no less an event
than my summary and ignominious expulsion. How this unlooked-for ending
to my studies came about I must now set before you.

Petersfield had always been a great stronghold of the Church, having
hardly a Nonconformist within its bounds. The reason of this was that
most of the house property was owned by zealous Churchmen, who refused
to allow any one who differed from the Established Church to settle
there. The Vicar, whose name was Pinfold, possessed in this manner great
power in the town, and as he was a man with a high inflamed countenance
and a pompous manner, he inspired no little awe among the quiet
inhabitants. I can see him now with his beaked nose, his rounded
waistcoat, and his bandy legs, which looked as if they had given way
beneath the load of learning which they were compelled to carry. Walking
slowly with right hand stiffly extended, tapping the pavement at every
step with his metal-headed stick, he would pause as each person passed
him, and wait to see that he was given the salute which he thought due
to his dignity. This courtesy he never dreamed of returning, save in
the case of some of his richer parishioners; but if by chance it were
omitted, he would hurry after the culprit, and, shaking his stick in his
face, insist upon his doffing his cap to him. We youngsters, if we met
him on our walks, would scuttle by him like a brood of chickens passing
an old turkey cock, and even our worthy master showed a disposition to
turn down a side-street when the portly figure of the Vicar was seen
rolling in our direction. This proud priest made a point of knowing the
history of every one within his parish, and having learnt that I was the
son of an Independent, he spoke severely to Mr. Chillingfoot upon the
indiscretion which he had shown in admitting me to his school. Indeed,
nothing but my mother’s good name for orthodoxy prevented him from
insisting upon my dismissal.

At the other end of the village there was a large day-school. A constant
feud prevailed between the scholars who attended it and the lads who
studied under our master. No one could tell how the war broke out, but
for many years there had been a standing quarrel between the two, which
resulted in skirmishes, sallies, and ambuscades, with now and then a
pitched battle. No great harm was done in these encounters, for the
weapons were usually snowballs in winter and pine-cones or clods of
earth in the summer. Even when the contest got closer and we came to
fisticuffs, a few bruises and a little blood was the worst that could
come of it. Our opponents were more numerous than we, but we had the
advantage of being always together and of having a secure asylum upon
which to retreat, while they, living in scattered houses all over the
parish, had no common rallying-point. A stream, crossed by two bridges,
ran through the centre of the town, and this was the boundary which
separated our territories from those of our enemies. The boy who crossed
the bridge found himself in hostile country.

It chanced that in the first conflict which occurred after my arrival at
the school I distinguished myself by singling out the most redoubtable
of our foemen, and smiting him such a blow that he was knocked helpless
and was carried off by our party as a prisoner. This feat of arms
established my good name as a warrior, so I came at last to be regarded
as the leader of our forces, and to be looked up to by bigger boys than
myself. This promotion tickled my fancy so much, that I set to work to
prove that I deserved it by devising fresh and ingenious schemes for the
defeat of our enemies.

One winter’s evening news reached us that our rivals were about to make
a raid upon us under cover of night, and that they proposed coming by
the little used plank bridge, so as to escape our notice. This bridge
lay almost out of the town, and consisted of a single broad piece of
wood without a rail, erected for the good of the town clerk, who lived,
just opposite to it. We proposed to hide ourselves amongst the bushes on
our side of the stream, and make an unexpected attack upon the invaders
as they crossed. As we started, however, I bethought me of an ingenious
stratagem which I had read of as being practised in the German wars, and
having expounded it to the great delight of my companions, we took Mr.
Chillingfoot’s saw, and set off for the seat of action.

On reaching the bridge all was quiet and still. It was quite dark and
very cold, for Christmas was approaching. There were no signs of our
opponents. We exchanged a few whispers as to who should do the daring
deed, but as the others shrank from it, and as I was too proud to
propose what I dare not execute, I gripped the saw, and sitting
astraddle upon the plank set to work upon the very centre of it.

My purpose was to weaken it in such a way that, though it would bear the
weight of one, it would collapse when the main body of our foemen were
upon it, and so precipitate them into the ice-cold stream. The water was
but a couple of feet deep at the place, so that there was nothing for
them but a fright and a ducking. So cool a reception ought to deter
them from ever invading us again, and confirm my reputation as a daring
leader. Reuben Lockarby, my lieutenant, son of old John Lockarby of the
Wheatsheaf, marshalled our forces behind the hedgerow, whilst I sawed
vigorously at the plank until I had nearly severed it across. I had no
compunction about the destruction of the bridge, for I knew enough of
carpentry to see that a skilful joiner could in an hour’s work make
it stronger than ever by putting a prop beneath the point where I had
divided it. When at last I felt by the yielding of the plank that I had
done enough, and that the least strain would snap it, I crawled quietly
off, and taking up my position with my schoolfellows, awaited the coming
of the enemy.

I had scarce concealed myself when we heard the steps of some one
approaching down the footpath which led to the bridge. We crouched
behind the cover, convinced that the sound must come from some scout
whom our foemen had sent on in front--a big boy evidently, for his step
was heavy and slow, with a clinking noise mingling with it, of which we
could make nothing. Nearer came the sound and nearer, until a shadowy
figure loomed out of the darkness upon the other side, and after pausing
and peering for a moment, came straight for the bridge. It was only as
he was setting foot upon the plank and beginning gingerly to pick his
way across it, that we discerned the outlines of the familiar form, and
realised the dreadful truth that the stranger whom we had taken for the
advance guard of our enemy was in truth none other than Vicar Pinfold,
and that it was the rhythmic pat of his stick which we heard mingling
with his footfalls. Fascinated by the sight, we lay bereft of all power
to warn him--a line of staring eyeballs. One step, two steps, three
steps did the haughty Churchman take, when there was a rending crack,
and he vanished with a mighty splash into the swift-flowing stream. He
must have fallen upon his back, for we could see the curved outline
of his portly figure standing out above the surface as he struggled
desperately to regain his feet. At last he managed to get erect, and
came spluttering for the bank with such a mixture of godly ejaculations
and of profane oaths that, even in our terror, we could not keep from
laughter. Rising from under his feet like a covey of wild-fowl, we
scurried off across the fields and so back to the school, where, as you
may imagine, we said nothing to our good master of what had occurred.

The matter was too serious, however, to be hushed up. The sudden chill
set up some manner of disturbance in the bottle of sack which the Vicar
had just been drinking with the town clerk, and an attack of gout set in
which laid him on his back for a fortnight. Meanwhile an examination of
the bridge had shown that it had been sawn across, and an inquiry traced
the matter to Mr. Chillingfoot’s boarders. To save a wholesale expulsion
of the school from the town, I was forced to acknowledge myself as both
the inventor and perpetrator of the deed. Chillingfoot was entirely in
the power of the Vicar, so he was forced to read me a long homily
in public--which he balanced by an affectionate leave-taking in
private--and to expel me solemnly from the school. I never saw my old
master again, for he died not many years afterwards; but I hear that his
second son William is still carrying on the business, which is larger
and more prosperous than of old. His eldest son turned Quaker and went
out to Penn’s settlement, where he is reported to have been slain by the
savages.

This adventure shocked my dear mother, but it found great favour in the
eyes of my father, who laughed until the whole village resounded
with his stentorian merriment. It reminded him, he said, of a similar
stratagem executed at Market Drayton by that God-fearing soldier Colonel
Pride, whereby a captain and three troopers of Lunsford’s own regiment
of horse had been drowned, and many others precipitated into a river, to
the great glory of the true Church and to the satisfaction of the
chosen people. Even of the Church folk many were secretly glad at the
misfortune which had overtaken the Vicar, for his pretensions and his
pride had made him hated throughout the district.

By this time I had grown into a sturdy, broad-shouldered lad, and every
month added to my strength and my stature. When I was sixteen I could
carry a bag of wheat or a cask of beer against any man in the village,
and I could throw the fifteen-pound putting-stone to a distance of
thirty-six feet, which was four feet further than could Ted Dawson, the
blacksmith. Once when my father was unable to carry a bale of skins out
of the yard, I whipped it up and bare it away upon my shoulders. The
old man would often look gravely at me from under his heavy thatched
eyebrows, and shake his grizzled head as he sat in his arm-chair puffing
his pipe. ‘You grow too big for the nest, lad,’ he would say. ‘I doubt
some of these days you’ll find your wings and away!’ In my heart I
longed that the time would come, for I was weary of the quiet life of
the village, and was anxious to see the great world of which I had heard
and read so much. I could not look southward without my spirit stirring
within me as my eyes fell upon those dark waves, the white crests of
which are like a fluttering signal ever waving to an English youth and
beckoning him to some unknown but glorious goal.



Chapter III. Of Two Friends of my Youth


I fear, my children, that you will think that the prologue is over long
for the play; but the foundations must be laid before the building is
erected, and a statement of this sort is a sorry and a barren thing
unless you have a knowledge of the folk concerned. Be patient, then,
while I speak to you of the old friends of my youth, some of whom you
may hear more of hereafter, while others remained behind in the country
hamlet, and yet left traces of our early intercourse upon my character
which might still be discerned there.

Foremost for good amongst all whom I knew was Zachary Palmer, the
village carpenter, a man whose aged and labour-warped body contained the
simplest and purest of spirits. Yet his simplicity was by no means the
result of ignorance, for from the teachings of Plato to those of Hobbes
there were few systems ever thought out by man which he had not studied
and weighed. Books were far dearer in my boyhood than they are now,
and carpenters were less well paid, but old Palmer had neither wife nor
child, and spent little on food or raiment. Thus it came about that on
the shelf over his bed he had a more choice collection of books--few as
they were in number--than the squire or the parson, and these books he
had read until he not only understood them himself, but could impart
them to others.

This white-bearded and venerable village philosopher would sit by his
cabin door upon a summer evening, and was never so pleased as when
some of the young fellows would slip away from their bowls and their
quoit-playing in order to lie in the grass at his feet, and ask him
questions about the great men of old, their words and their deeds. But
of all the youths I and Reuben Lockarby, the innkeeper’s son, were his
two favourites, for we would come the earliest and stop the latest to
hear the old man talk. No father could have loved his children better
than he did us, and he would spare no pains to get at our callow
thoughts, and to throw light upon whatever perplexed or troubled us.
Like all growing things, we had run our heads against the problem of
the universe. We had peeped and pryed with our boyish eyes into those
profound depths in which the keenest-sighted of the human race had seen
no bottom. Yet when we looked around us in our own village world, and
saw the bitterness and rancour which pervaded every sect, we could not
but think that a tree which bore such fruit must have something amiss
with it. This was one of the thoughts unspoken to our parents which
we carried to good old Zachary, and on which he had much to say which
cheered and comforted us.

‘These janglings and wranglings,’ said he, ‘are but on the surface,
and spring from the infinite variety of the human mind, which will ever
adapt a creed to suit its own turn of thought. It is the solid core that
underlies every Christian creed which is of importance. Could you
but live among the Romans or the Greeks, in the days before this new
doctrine was preached, you would then know the change that it has
wrought in the world. How this or that text should be construed is a
matter of no moment, however warm men may get over it. What is of the
very greatest moment is, that every man should have a good and solid
reason for living a simple, cleanly life. This the Christian creed has
given us.’

‘I would not have you be virtuous out of fear,’ he said upon another
occasion. ‘The experience of a long life has taught me, however, that
sin is always punished in this world, whatever may come in the next.
There is always some penalty in health, in comfort, or in peace of
mind to be paid for every wrong. It is with nations as it is with
individuals. A book of history is a book of sermons. See how the
luxurious Babylonians were destroyed by the frugal Persians, and how
these same Persians when they learned the vices of prosperity were put
to the sword by the Greeks. Read on and mark how the sensual Greeks were
trodden down by the more robust and hardier Romans, and finally how the
Romans, having lost their manly virtues, were subdued by the nations
of the north. Vice and destruction came ever hand in hand. Thus did
Providence use each in turn as a scourge wherewith to chastise the
follies of the other. These things do not come by chance. They are part
of a great system which is at work in your own lives. The longer you
live the more you will see that sin and sadness are never far apart, and
that no true prosperity can exist away from virtue.’

A very different teacher was the sea-dog Solomon Sprent, who lived in
the second last cottage on the left-hand side of the main street of the
village. He was one of the old tarpaulin breed, who had fought under
the red cross ensign against Frenchman, Don, Dutchman, and Moor, until a
round shot carried off his foot and put an end to his battles for ever.
In person he was thin, and hard, and brown, as lithe and active as a
cat, with a short body and very long arms, each ending in a great hand
which was ever half closed as though shutting on a rope. From head to
foot he was covered with the most marvellous tattooings, done in blue,
red, and green, beginning with the Creation upon his neck and winding up
with the Ascension upon his left ankle. Never have I seen such a walking
work of art. He was wont to say that had he been owned and his body cast
up upon some savage land, the natives might have learned the whole of
the blessed gospel from a contemplation of his carcass. Yet with sorrow
I must say that the seaman’s religion appeared to have all worked into
his skin, so that very little was left for inner use. It had broken out
upon the surface, like the spotted fever, but his system was clear of
it elsewhere. He could swear in eleven languages and three-and-twenty
dialects, nor did he ever let his great powers rust for want of
practice. He would swear when he was happy or when he was sad, when he
was angry or when he was loving, but this swearing was so mere a trick
of speech, without malice or bitterness, that even my father could
hardly deal harshly with the sinner. As time passed, however, the old
man grew more sober and more thoughtful, until in his latter days he
went back to the simple beliefs of his childhood, and learned to fight
the devil with the same steady courage with which he had faced the
enemies of his country.

Old Solomon was a never-failing source of amusement and of interest to
my friend Lockarby and myself. On gala days he would have us in to dine
with him, when he would regale us with lobscouse and salmagundi, or
perhaps with an outland dish, a pillaw or olla podrida, or fish broiled
after the fashion of the Azores, for he had a famous trick of cooking,
and could produce the delicacies of all nations. And all the time that
we were with him he would tell us the most marvellous stories of Rupert,
under whom he served; how he would shout from the poop to his squadron
to wheel to the right, or to charge, or to halt, as the case might be,
as if he were still with his regiment of horse. Of Blake, too, he had
many stories to tell. But even the name of Blake was not so dear to our
old sailor as was that of Sir Christopher Mings. Solomon had at one time
been his coxswain, and could talk by the hour of those gallant deeds
which had distinguished him from the day that he entered the navy as a
cabin boy until he fell upon his own quarter-deck, a full admiral of the
red, and was borne by his weeping ship’s company to his grave in Chatham
churchyard. ‘If so be as there’s a jasper sea up aloft,’ said the old
seaman, ‘I’ll wager that Sir Christopher will see that the English flag
has proper respect paid to it upon it, and that we are not fooled by
foreigners. I’ve served under him in this world, and I ask nothing
better than to be his coxswain in the next--if so be as he should chance
to have a vacancy for such.’ These remembrances would always end in the
brewing of an extra bowl of punch, and the drinking of a solemn bumper
to the memory of the departed hero.

Stirring as were Solomon Sprent’s accounts of his old commanders, their
effect upon us was not so great as when, about his second or third
glass, the floodgates of his memory would be opened, and he would pour
out long tales of the lands which he had visited, and the peoples which
he had seen. Leaning forward in our seats with our chins resting upon
our hands, we two youngsters would sit for hours, with our eyes fixed
upon the old adventurer, drinking in his words, while he, pleased at the
interest which he excited, would puff slowly at his pipe and reel off
story after story of what he had seen or done. In those days, my dears,
there was no Defoe to tell us the wonders of the world, no _Spectator_
to lie upon our breakfast table, no Gulliver to satisfy our love of
adventure by telling us of such adventures as never were. Not once in
a month did a common newsletter fall into our hands. Personal hazards,
therefore, were of more value then than they are now, and the talk of a
man like old Solomon was a library in itself. To us it was all real. His
husky tones and ill-chosen words were as the voice of an angel, and our
eager minds filled in the details and supplied all that was wanting in
his narratives. In one evening we have engaged a Sallee rover off the
Pillars of Hercules; we have coasted down the shores of the African
continent, and seen the great breakers of the Spanish Main foaming upon
the yellow sand; we have passed the black ivory merchants with their
human cargoes; we have faced the terrible storms which blow ever around
the Cape de Boa Esperanza; and finally, we have sailed away out over the
great ocean beyond, amid the palm-clad coral islands, with the knowledge
that the realms of Prester John lie somewhere behind the golden haze
which shimmers upon the horizon. After such a flight as that we would
feel, as we came back to the Hampshire village and the dull realities
of country life, like wild birds who had been snared by the fowler and
clapped into narrow cages. Then it was that the words of my father, ‘You
will find your wings some day and fly away,’ would come back to me, and
set up such a restlessness as all the wise words of Zachary Palmer could
not allay.


Chapter IV. Of the Strange Fish that we Caught at Spithead

One evening in the month of May 1685, about the end of the first week
of the month, my friend Reuben Lockarby and I borrowed Ned Marley’s
pleasure boat, and went a-fishing out of Langston Bay. At that time I
was close on one-and-twenty years of age, while my companion was one
year younger. A great intimacy had sprung up between us, founded on
mutual esteem, for he being a little undergrown man was proud of my
strength and stature, while my melancholy and somewhat heavy spirit took
a pleasure in the energy and joviality which never deserted him, and
in the wit which gleamed as bright and as innocent as summer lightning
through all that he said. In person he was short and broad, round-faced,
ruddy-cheeked, and in truth a little inclined to be fat, though he would
never confess to more than a pleasing plumpness, which was held, he
said, to be the acme of manly beauty amongst the ancients. The stern
test of common danger and mutual hardship entitle me to say that no
man could have desired a stauncher or more trusty comrade. As he was
destined to be with me in the sequel, it was but fitting that he should
have been at my side on that May evening which was the starting-point of
our adventures.

We pulled out beyond the Warner Sands to a place half-way between them
and the Nab, where we usually found bass in plenty. There we cast the
heavy stone which served us as an anchor overboard, and proceeded to
set our lines. The sun sinking slowly behind a fog-bank had slashed the
whole western sky with scarlet streaks, against which the wooded slopes
of the Isle of Wight stood out vaporous and purple. A fresh breeze was
blowing from the south-east, flecking the long green waves with crests
of foam, and filling our eyes and lips with the smack of the salt spray.
Over near St. Helen’s Point a King’s ship was making her way down the
channel, while a single large brig was tacking about a quarter of a mile
or less from where we lay. So near were we that we could catch a glimpse
of the figures upon her deck as she heeled over to the breeze, and could
bear the creaking of her yards and the flapping of her weather-stained
canvas as she prepared to go about.

‘Look ye, Micah,’ said my companion, looking up from his fishing-line.
‘That is a most weak-minded ship--a ship which will make no way in the
world. See how she hangs in the wind, neither keeping on her course nor
tacking. She is a trimmer of the seas--the Lord Halifax of the ocean.’

‘Why, there is something amiss with her,’ I replied, staring across with
hand-shaded eyes. ‘She yaws about as though there were no one at the
helm. Her main-yard goes aback! Now it is forward again! The folk on her
deck seem to me to be either fighting or dancing. Up with the anchor,
Reuben, and let us pull to her.’

‘Up with the anchor and let us get out of her way,’ he answered, still
gazing at the stranger. ‘Why will you ever run that meddlesome head of
yours into danger’s way? She flies Dutch colours, but who can say whence
she really comes? A pretty thing if we were snapped up by a buccaneer
and sold in the Plantations!’

‘A buccaneer in the Solent!’ cried I derisively. ‘We shall be seeing the
black flag in Emsworth Creek next. But hark! What is that?’

The crack of a musket sounded from aboard the brig. Then came a moment’s
silence and another musket shot rang out, followed by a chorus of shouts
and cries. Simultaneously the yards swung round into position, the sails
caught the breeze once more, and the vessel darted away on a course
which would take her past Bembridge Point out to the English Channel. As
she flew along her helm was put hard down, a puff of smoke shot out
from her quarter, and a cannon ball came hopping and splashing over
the waves, passing within a hundred yards of where we lay. With this
farewell greeting she came up into the wind again and continued her
course to the southward.

‘Heart o’ grace!’ ejaculated Reuben in loose lipped astonishment. ‘The
murdering villains!’

‘I would to the Lord that King’s ship would snap them up!’ cried I
savagely, for the attack was so unprovoked that it stirred my bile.
‘What could the rogues have meant? They are surely drunk or mad!’

‘Pull at the anchor, man, pull at the anchor!’ my companion shouted,
springing up from the seat. ‘I understand it! Pull at the anchor!’

‘What then?’ I asked, helping him to haul the great stone up, hand over
hand, until it came dripping over the side.

‘They were not firing at us, lad. They were aiming at some one in the
water between us and them. Pull, Micah! Put your back into it! Some poor
fellow may he drowning.’

‘Why, I declare!’ said I, looking over my shoulder as I rowed, ‘there
is his head upon the crest of a wave. Easy, or we shall be over him! Two
more strokes and be ready to seize him! Keep up, friend! There’s help at
hand!’

‘Take help to those who need help’ said a voice out of the sea. ‘Zounds,
man, keep a guard on your oar! I fear a pat from it very much more than
I do the water.’

These words were delivered in so calm and self-possessed a tone that all
concern for the swimmer was set at rest. Drawing in our oars we faced
round to have a look at him. The drift of the boat had brought us so
close that he could have grasped the gunwale had he been so minded.

‘Sapperment!’ he cried in a peevish voice; ‘to think of my brother Nonus
serving me such a trick! What would our blessed mother have said could
she have seen it? My whole kit gone, to say nothing of my venture in
the voyage! And now I have kicked off a pair of new jack boots that
cost sixteen rix-dollars at Vanseddar’s at Amsterdam. I can’t swim in
jack-boots, nor can I walk without them.’

‘Won’t you come in out of the wet, sir?’ asked Reuben, who could scarce
keep serious at the stranger’s appearance and address. A pair of long
arms shot out of the water, and in a moment, with a lithe, snake-like
motion, the man wound himself into the boat and coiled his great length
upon the stern-sheets. Very lanky he was and very thin, with a craggy
hard face, clean-shaven and sunburned, with a thousand little wrinkles
intersecting it in every direction. He had lost his hat, and his short
wiry hair, slightly flecked with grey, stood up in a bristle all over
his head. It was hard to guess at his age, but he could scarce have been
under his fiftieth year, though the ease with which he had boarded our
boat proved that his strength and energy were unimpaired. Of all his
characteristics, however, nothing attracted my attention so much as his
eyes, which were almost covered by their drooping lids, and yet looked
out through the thin slits which remained with marvellous brightness and
keenness. A passing glance might give the idea that he was languid and
half asleep, but a closer one would reveal those glittering, shifting
lines of light, and warn the prudent man not to trust too much to his
first impressions.

‘I could swim to Portsmouth,’ he remarked, rummaging in the pockets of
his sodden jacket; ‘I could swim well-nigh anywhere. I once swam from
Gran on the Danube to Buda, while a hundred thousand Janissaries
danced with rage on the nether bank. I did, by the keys of St. Peter!
Wessenburg’s Pandours would tell you whether Decimus Saxon could
swim. Take my advice, young men, and always carry your tobacco in a
water-tight metal box.’

As he spoke he drew a flat box from his pocket, and several wooden
tubes, which he screwed together to form a long pipe. This he stuffed
with tobacco, and having lit it by means of a flint and steel with a
piece of touch-paper from the inside of his box, he curled his legs
under him in Eastern fashion, and settled down to enjoy a smoke. There
was something so peculiar about the whole incident, and so preposterous
about the man’s appearance and actions, that we both broke into a roar
of laughter, which lasted until for very exhaustion we were compelled
to stop. He neither joined in our merriment nor expressed offence at
it, but continued to suck away at his long wooden tube with a perfectly
stolid and impassive face, save that the half-covered eyes glinted
rapidly backwards and forwards from one to the other of us.

‘You will excuse our laughter, sir,’ I said at last; ‘my friend and I
are unused to such adventures, and are merry at the happy ending of it.
May we ask whom it is that we have picked up?’

‘Decimus Saxon is my name,’ the stranger answered; ‘I am the tenth child
of a worthy father, as the Latin implies. There are but nine betwixt me
and an inheritance. Who knows? Small-pox might do it, or the plague!’

‘We heard a shot aboard of the brig,’ said Reuben.

‘That was my brother Nonus shooting at me,’ the stranger observed,
shaking his head sadly.

‘But there was a second shot.’

‘Ah, that was me shooting at my brother Nonus.’

‘Good lack!’ I cried. ‘I trust that thou hast done him no hurt.’

‘But a flesh wound, at the most,’ he answered. ‘I thought it best to
come away, however, lest the affair grow into a quarrel. I am sure that
it was he who trained the nine-pounder on me when I was in the water.
It came near enough to part my hair. He was always a good shot with a
falconet or a mortar-piece. He could not have been hurt, however, to get
down from the poop to the main-deck in the time.’

There was a pause after this, while the stranger drew a long knife from
his belt, and cleaned out his pipe with it. Reuben and I took up our
oars, and having pulled up our tangled fishing-lines, which had been
streaming behind the boat, we proceeded to pull in towards the land.

‘The question now is,’ said the stranger, ‘where we are to go to?’

‘We are going down Langston Bay,’ I answered.

‘Oh, we are, are we?’ he cried, in a mocking voice; ‘you are sure of it
eh? You are certain we are not going to France? We have a mast and sail
there, I see, and water in the beaker. All we want are a few fish,
which I hear are plentiful in these waters, and we might make a push for
Barfleur.’

‘We are going down Langston Bay,’ I repeated coldly.

‘You see might is right upon the waters,’ he explained, with a smile
which broke his whole face up into crinkles. ‘I am an old soldier, a
tough fighting man, and you are two raw lads. I have a knife, and you
are unarmed. D’ye see the line of argument? The question now is, Where
are we to go?’

I faced round upon him with the oar in my hand. ‘You boasted that you
could swim to Portsmouth,’ said I, ‘and so you shall. Into the water
with you, you sea-viper, or I’ll push you in as sure as my name is Micah
Clarke.’

‘Throw your knife down, or I’ll drive the boat hook through you,’ cried
Reuben, pushing it forward to within a few inches of the man’s throat.

‘Sink me, but this is most commendable!’ he said, sheathing his weapon,
and laughing softly to himself. ‘I love to draw spirit out of the young
fellows. I am the steel, d’ye see, which knocks the valour out of your
flint. A notable simile, and one in every way worthy of that most witty
of mankind, Samuel Butler. This,’ he continued, tapping a protuberance
which I had remarked over his chest, ‘is not a natural deformity, but is
a copy of that inestimable “Hudibras,” which combines the light touch
of Horace with the broader mirth of Catullus. Heh! what think you of the
criticism?’

‘Give up that knife,’ said I sternly.

‘Certainly,’ he replied, handing it over to me with a polite bow. ‘Is
there any other reasonable matter in which I can oblige ye? I will
give up anything to do ye pleasure-save only my good name and soldierly
repute, or this same copy of “Hudibras,” which, together with a Latin
treatise upon the usages of war, written by a Fleming and printed in
Liege in the Lowlands, I do ever bear in my bosom.’

I sat down beside him with the knife in my hand. ‘You pull both oars,’
I said to Reuben; ‘I’ll keep guard over the fellow and see that he plays
us no trick. I believe that you are right, and that he is nothing better
than a pirate. He shall be given over to the justices when we get to
Havant.’

I thought that our passenger’s coolness deserted him for a moment, and
that a look of annoyance passed over his face.

‘Wait a bit!’ he said; ‘your name, I gather is Clarke, and your home is
Havant. Are you a kinsman of Joseph Clarke, the old Roundhead of that
town?’

‘He is my father,’ I answered.

‘Hark to that, now!’ he cried, with a throb of laughter; ‘I have a
trick of falling on my feet. Look at this, lad! Look at this!’ He drew
a packet of letters from his inside pocket, wrapped in a bit of tarred
cloth, and opening it he picked one out and placed it upon my knee.
‘Read!’ said he, pointing at it with his long thin finger.

It was inscribed in large plain characters, ‘To Joseph Clarke, leather
merchant of Havant, by the hand of Master Decimus Saxon, part-owner of
the ship _Providence_, from Amsterdam to Portsmouth.’ At each side it
was sealed with a massive red seal, and was additionally secured with a
broad band of silk.

‘I have three-and-twenty of them to deliver in the neighbourhood,’ he
remarked. ‘That shows what folk think of Decimus Saxon. Three-and-twenty
lives and liberties are in my hands. Ah, lad, invoices and bills of
lading are not done up in that fashion. It is not a cargo of Flemish
skins that is coming for the old man. The skins have good English hearts
in them; ay, and English swords in their fists to strike out for freedom
and for conscience. I risk my life in carrying this letter to your
father; and you, his son, threaten to hand me over to the justices! For
shame! For shame! I blush for you!’

‘I don’t know what you are hinting at,’ I answered. ‘You must speak
plainer if I am to understand you.’

‘Can we trust him?’ he asked, jerking his head in the direction of
Reuben.

‘As myself.’

‘How very charming!’ said he, with something between a smile and
a sneer. ‘David and Jonathan--or, to be more classical and less
scriptural, Damon and Pythias--eh?’ These papers, then, are from the
faithful abroad, the exiles in Holland, ye understand, who are thinking
of making a move and of coming over to see King James in his own country
with their swords strapped on their thighs. The letters are to those
from whom they expect sympathy, and notify when and where they will make
a landing. Now, my dear lad, you will perceive that instead of my being
in your power, you are so completely in mine that it needs but a word
from me to destroy your whole family. Decimus Saxon is staunch, though,
and that word shall never be spoken.’

‘If all this be true,’ said I, ‘and if your mission is indeed as you
have said, why did you even now propose to make for France?’

‘Aptly asked, and yet the answer is clear enough,’ he replied; ‘sweet
and ingenuous as are your faces, I could not read upon them that ye
would prove to be Whigs and friends of the good old cause. Ye might have
taken me to where excisemen or others would have wanted to pry and peep,
and so endangered my commission. Better a voyage to France in an open
boat than that.’

‘I will take you to my father,’ said I, after a few moments’ thought.
‘You can deliver your letter and make good your story to him. If you
are indeed a true man, you will meet with a warm welcome; but should you
prove, as I shrewdly suspect, to be a rogue, you need expect no mercy.’

‘Bless the youngster! he speaks like the Lord High Chancellor of
England! What is it the old man says?

          “He could not ope
           His mouth, but out there fell a trope.”

But it should be a threat, which is the ware in which you are fond of
dealing.

          “He could not let
           A minute pass without a threat.”

How’s that, eh? Waller himself could not have capped the couplet
neater.’

All this time Reuben had been swinging away at his oars, and we had made
our way into Langston Bay, down the sheltered waters of which we were
rapidly shooting. Sitting in the sheets, I turned over in my mind
all that this waif had said. I had glanced over his shoulder at the
addresses of some of the letters--Steadman of Basingstoke, Wintle
of Alresford, Fortescue of Bognor, all well-known leaders of the
Dissenters. If they were what he represented them to be, it was no
exaggeration to say that he held the fortunes and fates of these men
entirely in his hands. Government would be only too glad to have a valid
reason for striking hard at the men whom they feared. On the whole it
was well to tread carefully in the matter, so I restored our prisoner’s
knife to him, and treated him with increased consideration. It was
well-nigh dark when we beached the boat, and entirely so before we
reached Havant, which was fortunate, as the bootless and hatless state
of our dripping companion could not have failed to set tongues wagging,
and perhaps to excite the inquiries of the authorities. As it was, we
scarce met a soul before reaching my father’s door.



Chapter V. Of the Man with the Drooping Lids

My mother and my father were sitting in their high-backed chairs on
either side of the empty fireplace when we arrived, he smoking his
evening pipe of Oronooko, and she working at her embroidery. The moment
that I opened the door the man whom I had brought stepped briskly in,
and bowing to the old people began to make glib excuses for the lateness
of his visit, and to explain the manner in which we had picked him up. I
could not help smiling at the utter amazement expressed upon my mother’s
face as she gazed at him, for the loss of his jack-boots exposed a pair
of interminable spindle-shanks which were in ludicrous contrast to the
baggy low country knee-breeches which surmounted them. His tunic was
made of coarse sad-coloured kersey stuff with flat new gilded brass
buttons, beneath which was a whitish callamanca vest edged with silver.
Round the neck of his coat was a broad white collar after the Dutch
fashion, out of which his long scraggy throat shot upwards with his
round head and bristle of hair balanced upon the top of it, like the
turnip on a stick at which we used to throw at the fairs. In this guise
he stood blinking and winking in the glare of light, and pattering out
his excuses with as many bows and scrapes as Sir Peter Witling in the
play. I was in the act of following him into the room, when Reuben
plucked at my sleeve to detain me.

‘Nay, I won’t come in with you, Micah,’ said he; ‘there’s mischief
likely to come of all this. My father may grumble over his beer jugs,
but he’s a Churchman and a Tantivy for all that. I’d best keep out of
it.’

‘You are right,’ I answered. ‘There is no need for you to meddle in the
business. Be mum as to all that you have heard.’

‘Mum as a mouse,’ said he, and pressing my hand turned away into the
darkness. When I returned to the sitting-room I found that my mother had
hurried into the kitchen, where the crackling of sticks showed that she
was busy in building a fire. Decimus Saxon was seated at the edge of
the iron-bound oak chest at the side of my father, and was watching him
keenly with his little twinkling eyes, while the old man was fixing
his horn glasses and breaking the seals of the packet which his strange
visitor had just handed to him.

I saw that when my father looked at the signature at the end of the
long, closely written letter he gave a whiff of surprise and sat
motionless for a moment or so staring at it. Then he turned to the
commencement and read it very carefully through, after which he turned
it over and read it again. Clearly it brought no unwelcome news, for his
eyes sparkled with joy when he looked up from his reading, and more than
once he laughed aloud. Finally he asked the man Saxon how it had come
into his possession, and whether he was aware of the contents.

‘Why, as to that,’ said the messenger, ‘it was handed to me by no less
a person than Dicky Rumbold himself, and in the presence of others whom
it’s not for me to name. As to the contents, your own sense will tell
you that I would scarce risk my neck by bearing a message without I
knew what the message was. I am no chicken at the trade, sir. Cartels,
_pronunciamientos_, challenges, flags of truce, and proposals for
waffenstillstands, as the Deutschers call it--they’ve all gone through
my hands, and never one, gone awry.’

‘Indeed!’ quoth my father. ‘You are yourself one of the faithful?’

‘I trust that I am one of those who are on the narrow and thorny track,’
said he, speaking through his nose, as was the habit of the extreme
sectaries.

‘A track upon which no prelate can guide us,’ said my father.

‘Where man is nought and the Lord is all,’ rejoined Saxon.

‘Good! good!’ cried my father. ‘Micah, you shall take this worthy man
to my room, and see that he hath dry linen, and my second-best suit of
Utrecht velvet. It may serve until his own are dried. My boots, too,
may perchance be useful--my riding ones of untanned leather. A hat with
silver braiding hangs above them in the cupboard. See that he lacks for
nothing which the house can furnish. Supper will be ready when he hath
changed his attire. I beg that you will go at once, good Master Saxon,
lest you take a chill.’

‘There is but one thing that we have omitted,’ said our visitor,
solemnly rising up from his chair and clasping his long nervous hands
together. ‘Let us delay no longer to send up a word of praise to the
Almighty for His manifold blessings, and for the mercy wherewith He
plucked me and my letters out of the deep, even as Jonah was saved from
the violence of the wicked ones who hurled him overboard, and it may be
fired falconets at him, though we are not so informed in Holy Writ. Let
us pray, my friends!’ Then in a high-toned chanting voice he offered up
a long prayer of thanksgiving, winding up with a petition for grace and
enlightenment for the house and all its inmates. Having concluded by a
sonorous amen, he at last suffered himself to be led upstairs; while
my mother, who had slipped in and listened with much edification to his
words, hurried away to prepare him a bumper of green usquebaugh with ten
drops of Daffy’s Elixir therein, which was her sovereign recipe against
the effects of a soaking. There was no event in life, from a christening
to a marriage, but had some appropriate food or drink in my mother’s
vocabulary, and no ailment for which she had not some pleasant cure in
her well-stocked cupboards.

Master Decimus Saxon in my father’s black Utrecht velvet and untanned
riding boots looked a very different man to the bedraggled castaway who
had crawled like a conger eel into our fishing-boat. It seemed as if he
had cast off his manner with his raiment, for he behaved to my mother
during supper with an air of demure gallantry which sat upon him better
than the pert and flippant carriage which he had shown towards us in the
boat. Truth to say, if he was now more reserved, there was a very good
reason for it, for he played such havoc amongst the eatables that there
was little time for talk. At last, after passing from the round of cold
beef to a capon pasty, and topping up with a two-pound perch, washed
down by a great jug of ale, he smiled upon us all and told us that his
fleshly necessities were satisfied for the nonce. ‘It is my rule,’ he
remarked, ‘to obey the wise precept which advises a man to rise from
table feeling that he could yet eat as much as he has partaken of.’

‘I gather from your words, sir, that you have yourself seen hard
service,’ my father remarked when the board had been cleared and my
mother had retired for the night.

‘I am an old fighting man,’ our visitor answered, screwing his pipe
together, ‘a lean old dog of the hold-fast breed. This body of mine
bears the mark of many a cut and slash received for the most part in
the service of the Protestant faith, though some few were caught for the
sake of Christendom in general when warring against the Turk. There is
blood of mine, sir, Spotted all over the map of Europe. Some of it, I
confess, was spilled in no public cause, but for the protection of mine
own honour in the private duello or holmgang, as it was called among the
nations of the north. It is necessary that a cavaliero of fortune, being
for the greater part a stranger in a strange land, should be somewhat
nice in matters of the sort, since he stands, as it were, as the
representative of his country, whose good name should be more dear to
him than his own.’

‘Your weapon on such occasions was, I suppose, the sword?’ my father
asked, shifting uneasily in his seat, as he would do when his old
instincts were waking up.

‘Broadsword, rapier, Toledo, spontoon, battle-axe, pike or half-pike,
morgenstiern, and halbert. I speak with all due modesty, but with
backsword, sword and dagger, sword and buckler, single falchion, case of
falchions, or any other such exercise, I will hold mine own against any
man that ever wore neat’s leather, save only my elder brother Quartus.’

‘By my faith,’ said my father with his eyes shining, ‘were I twenty
years younger I should have at you! My backsword play hath been thought
well of by stout men of war. God forgive me that my heart should still
turn to such vanities.’

‘I have heard godly men speak well of it,’ remarked Saxon. ‘Master
Richard Rumbold himself spake of your deeds of arms to the Duke of
Argyle. Was there not a Scotsman, one Storr or Stour?’

‘Ay, ay! Storr of Drumlithie. I cut him nigh to the saddle-bow in a
skirmish on the eve of Dunbar. So Dicky Rumbold had not forgotten it,
eh? He was a hard one both at praying and at fighting. We have ridden
knee to knee in the field, and we have sought truth together in the
chamber. So, Dick will be in harness once again! He could not be still
if a blow were to be struck for the trampled faith. If the tide of war
set in this direction, I too--who knows? who knows?’

‘And here is a stout man-at-arms,’ said Saxon, passing his hand down my
arm.’ He hath thew and sinew, and can use proud words too upon occasion,
as I have good cause to know, even in our short acquaintance. Might it
not be that he too should strike in this quarrel?’

‘We shall discuss it,’ my father answered, looking thoughtfully at me
from under his heavy brows. ‘But I pray you, friend Saxon, to give us
some further account upon these matters. My son Micah, as I understand,
hath picked you out of the waves. How came you there?’

Decimus Saxon puffed at his pipe for a minute or more in silence, as one
who is marshalling facts each in its due order.

‘It came about in this wise,’ he said at last. ‘When John of Poland
chased the Turk from the gates of Vienna, peace broke out in the
Principalities, and many a wandering cavaliero like myself found his
occupation gone. There was no war waging save only some petty Italian
skirmish, in which a soldier could scarce expect to reap either dollars
or repute, so I wandered across the Continent, much cast down at the
strange peace which prevailed in every quarter. At last, however, on
reaching the Lowlands, I chanced to hear that the _Providence_, owned
and commanded by my two brothers, Nonus and Quartus, was about to start
from Amsterdam for an adventure to the Guinea coast. I proposed to them
that I should join them, and was accordingly taken into partnership on
condition that I paid one-third of the cost of the cargo. While waiting
at the port I chanced to come across some of the exiles, who, having
heard of my devotion to the Protestant cause, brought me to the Duke and
to Master Rumbold, who committed these letters to my charge. This makes
it clear how they came into my possession.’

‘But not how you and they came into the water,’ my father suggested.

‘Why, that was but the veriest chance,’ the adventurer answered with
some little confusion of manner. ‘It was the _fortuna belli_, or more
properly _pacis_. I had asked my brothers to put into Portsmouth that I
might get rid of these letters, on which they replied in a boorish and
unmannerly fashion that they were still waiting for the thousand guineas
which represented my share of the venture. To this I answered with
brotherly familiarity that it was a small thing, and should be paid
for out of the profits of our enterprise. Their reply was I that I had
promised to pay the money down, and that money down they must have. I
then proceeded to prove, both by the Aristotelian and by the Platonic
or deductive method, that having no guineas in my possession it was
impossible for me to produce a thousand of them, at the same time
pointing out that the association of an honest man in the business was
in itself an ample return for the money, since their own reputations had
been somewhat blown on. I further offered in the same frank and friendly
spirit to meet either of them with sword or with pistol, a proposal
which should have satisfied any honour-loving Cavaliero. Their base
mercantile souls prompted them, however, to catch up two muskets, one of
which Nonus discharged at me, and it is likely that Quartus would have
followed suit had I not plucked the gun from his hand and unloaded it to
prevent further mischief. In unloading it I fear that one of the slugs
blew a hole in brother Nonus. Seeing that there was a chance of further
disagreements aboard the vessel, I at once decided to leave her, in
doing which I was forced to kick off my beautiful jack-boots, which were
said by Vanseddars himself to be he finest pair that ever went out of
his shop, square-toed, double-soled--alas! alas!’

‘Strange that you should have been picked up by the son of the very man
to whom you had a letter.’

‘The working of Providence,’ Saxon answered. ‘I have two-and-twenty
other letters which must all be delivered by hand. If you will permit me
to use your house for a while, I shall make it my headquarters.’

‘Use it as though it were your own,’ said my father.

‘Your most grateful servant, sir,’ he cried, jumping up and bowing
with his hand over his heart. ‘This is indeed a haven of rest after the
ungodly and profane company of my brothers. Shall we then put up a hymn,
and retire from the business of the day?’

My father willingly agreed, and we sang ‘Oh, happy land!’ after which
our visitor followed me to his room, bearing with him the unfinished
bottle of usquebaugh which my mother had left on the table. He took it
with him, he explained, as a precaution against Persian ague, contracted
while battling against the Ottoman, and liable to recur at strange
moments. I left him in our best spare bedroom, and returned to my
father, who was still seated, heavy with thought, in his old corner.

‘What think you of my find, Dad?’ I asked.

‘A man of parts and of piety,’ he answered; ‘but in truth he has brought
me news so much after my heart, that he could not be unwelcome were he
the Pope of Rome.’

‘What news, then?’

‘This, this!’ he cried joyously, plucking the letter out of his bosom.
‘I will read it to you, lad. Nay, perhaps I had best sleep the night
upon it, and read it to-morrow when our heads are clearer. May the Lord
guide my path, and confound the tyrant! Pray for light, boy, for my life
and yours may be equally at stake.’



Chapter VI. Of the Letter that came from the Lowlands

In the morning I was up betimes, and went forthwith, after the country
fashion, to our quest’s room to see if there was aught in which I could
serve him. On pushing at his door, I found that it was fastened, which
surprised me the more as I knew that there was neither key nor bolt upon
the inside. On my pressing against it, however, it began to yield, and
I could then see that a heavy chest which was used to stand near the
window had been pulled round in order to shut out any intrusion. This
precaution, taken under my father’s roof, as though he were in a den of
thieves, angered me, and I gave a butt with my shoulder which cleared
the box out of the way, and enabled me to enter the room.

The man Saxon was sitting up in bed, staring about him as though he
were not very certain for the moment where he was. He had tied a white
kerchief round his head by way of night bonnet, and his hard-visaged,
clean-shaven face, looking out through this, together with his bony
figure, gave him some resemblance to a gigantic old woman. The bottle
of usquebaugh stood empty by his bedside. Clearly his fears had been
realised, and he had had an attack of the Persian ague.

‘Ah, my young friend!’ he said at last. ‘Is it, then, the custom of this
part of the country to carry your visitor’s rooms by storm or escalado
in the early hours of the morning?’

‘Is it the custom,’ I answered sternly, ‘to barricade up your door when
you are sleeping under the roof-tree of an honest man? What did you
fear, that you should take such a precaution?’

‘Nay, you are indeed a spitfire,’ he replied, sinking back upon the
pillow, and drawing the clothes round him, ‘a feuerkopf as the Germans
call it, or sometimes tollkopf, which in its literal significance
meaneth a fool’s head. Your father was, as I have heard, a strong and a
fierce man when the blood of youth ran in his veins; but you, I should
judge, are in no way behind him. Know, then, that the bearer of papers
of import, _documenta preciosa sed periculosa_, is bound to leave
nought to chance, but to guard in every way the charge which hath been
committed to him. True it is that I am in the house of an honest man,
but I know not who may come or who may go during the hours of the night.
Indeed, for the matter of that--but enough is said. I shall be with you
anon.’

‘Your clothes are dry and are ready for you,’ I remarked.

‘Enough! enough!’ he answered. ‘I have no quarrel with the suit which
your father has lent me. It may be that I have been used to better, but
they will serve my turn. The camp is not the court.’

It was evident to me that my father’s suit was infinitely better, both
in texture and material, than that which our visitor had brought
with him. As he had withdrawn his head, however, entirely beneath the
bedclothes, there was nothing more to be said, so I descended to the
lower room, where I found toy father busily engaged fastening a new
buckle to his sword-belt while my mother and the maid were preparing the
morning meal.

‘Come into the yard with me, Micah,’ quoth my father; ‘I would have
a word with you.’ The workmen had not yet come to their work, so we
strolled out into the sweet morning air, and seated ourselves on the low
stone bankment on which the skins are dressed.

‘I have been out here this morning trying my hand at the broadsword
exercise, ‘said he; ‘I find that I am as quick as ever on a thrust, but
my cuts are sadly stiff. I might be of use at a pinch, but, alas! I
am not the same swordsman who led the left troop of the finest horse
regiment that ever followed a kettledrum. The Lord hath given, and the
Lord hath taken away! Yet, if I am old and worn, there is the fruit of
my loins to stand in my place and to wield the same sword in the same
cause. You shall go in my place, Micah.’

‘Go! Go whither?’

‘Hush, lad, and listen! Let not your mother know too much, for the
hearts of women are soft. When Abraham offered up his eldest born, I
trow that he said little to Sarah on the matter. Here is the letter.
Know you who this Dicky Rumbold is?’

‘Surely I have heard you speak of him as an old companion of yours.’

‘The same--a staunch man and true. So faithful was he--faithful even to
slaying--that when the army of the righteous dispersed, he did not lay
aside his zeal with his buff-coat. He took to business as a maltster at
Hoddesdon, and in his house was planned the famous Rye House Plot, in
which so many good men were involved.’

‘Was it not a foul assassination plot?’ I asked.

‘Nay, nay, be not led away by terms! It is a vile invention of the
malignants that these men planned assassination. What they would do they
purposed doing in broad daylight, thirty of them against fifty of the
Royal Guard, when Charles and James passed on their way to Newmarket. If
the royal brothers got pistol-bullet or sword-stab, it would be in open
fight, and at the risk of their attackers. It was give and take, and no
murder.’

He paused and looked inquiringly at me; but I could not truthfully
say that I was satisfied, for an attack upon the lives of unarmed and
unsuspecting men, even though surrounded by a bodyguard, could not, to
my mind, be justified.

‘When the plot failed,’ my father continued, ‘Rumbold had to fly for his
life, but he succeeded in giving his pursuers the slip and in making his
way to the Lowlands. There he found that many enemies of the Government
had gathered together. Repeated messages from England, especially from
the western counties and from London, assured them that if they would
but attempt an invasion they might rely upon help both in men and in
money. They were, however, at fault for some time for want of a leader
of sufficient weight to carry through so large a project; but now
at last they have one, who is the best that could have been singled
out--none other than the well-beloved Protestant chieftain James, Duke
of Monnmouth, son of Charles II.’

‘Illegitimate son,’ I remarked.

‘That may or may not be. There are those who say that Lucy Walters was
a lawful wife. Bastard or no, he holds the sound principles of the true
Church, and he is beloved by the people. Let him appear in the West, and
soldiers will rise up like the flowers in the spring time.’

He paused, and led me away to the farther end of the yard, for the
workmen had begun to arrive and to cluster round the dipping trough.

‘Monmouth is coming over,’ he continued, ‘and he expects every brave
Protestant man to rally to his standard. The Duke of Argyle is to
command a separate expedition, which will set the Highlands of Scotland
in a blaze. Between them they hope to bring the persecutor of the
faithful on his knees. But I hear the voice of the man Saxon, and I must
not let him say that I have treated him in a churlish fashion. Here is
the letter, lad. Read it with care, and remember that when brave men are
striving for their rights it is fitting that one of the old rebel house
of Clarke should be among them.’

I took the letter, and wandering off into the fields, I settled myself
under a convenient tree, and set myself to read it. This yellow sheet
which I now hold in my hand is the very one which was brought by Decimus
Saxon, and read by me that bright May morning under the hawthorn shade.
I give it to you as it stands;


‘To my friend and companion in the cause of the Lord, Joseph
Clarke.--Know, friend, that aid and delivery is coming upon Israel,
and that the wicked king and those who uphold him shall be smitten and
entirely cast down, until their place in the land shall know them no
more. Hasten, then, to testify to thy own faith, that in the day of
trouble ye be not found wanting.

‘It has chanced from time to time that many of the suffering Church,
both from our own land and from among the Scots, have assembled in this
good Lutheran town of Amsterdam, until enough are gathered together to
take a good work in hand. For amongst our own folk there are my
Lord Grey of Wark, Wade, Dare of Taunton, Ayloffe, Holmes, Hollis,
Goodenough, and others whom thou shalt know. Of the Scots there are the
Duke of Argyle, who has suffered sorely for the Covenant, Sir Patrick
Hume, Fletcher of Saltoun, Sir John Cochrane, Dr. Ferguson, Major
Elphinstone, and others. To these we would fain have added Locke and old
Hal Ludlow, but they are, as those of the Laodicean Church, neither cold
nor warm.

‘It has now come to pass, however, that Monmouth, who has long lived in
dalliance with the Midianitish woman known by the name of Wentworth, has
at last turned him to higher things, and has consented to make a bid for
the crown. It was found that the Scots preferred to follow a chieftain
of their own, and it has therefore been determined that Argyle--M’Callum
More, as the breechless savages of Inverary call him--shall command a
separate expedition landing upon the western coast of Scotland. There
he hopes to raise five thousand Campbells, and to be joined by all the
Covenanters and Western Whigs, men who would make troops of the old
breed had they but God-fearing officers with an experience of the chance
of fields and the usages of war. With such a following he should be able
to hold Glasgow, and to draw away the King’s force to the north. Ayloffe
and I go with Argyle. It is likely that our feet may be upon Scottish
ground before thy eyes read these words.

‘The stronger expedition starts with Monmouth, and lands at a fitting
place in the West, where we are assured that we have many friends. I
cannot name the spot lest this letter miscarry, but thou shalt hear
anon. I have written to all good men along the coast, bidding them to
be prepared to support the rising. The King is weak, and hated by the
greater part of his subjects. It doth but need one good stroke to bring
his crown in the dust. Monmouth will start in a few weeks, when his
equipment is finished and the weather favourable. If thou canst come,
mine old comrade, I know well that thou wilt need no bidding of mine to
bring thee to our banner. Should perchance a peaceful life and waning
strength forbid thy attendance, I trust that thou wilt wrestle for us
in prayer, even as the holy prophet of old; and perchance, since I hear
that thou hast prospered according to the things of this world, thou
mayst be able to fit out a pikeman or two, or to send a gift towards the
military chest, which will be none too plentifully lined. We trust
not to gold, but to steel and to our own good cause, yet gold will be
welcome none the less. Should we fall, we fall like men and Christians.
Should we succeed, we shall see how the perjured James, the persecutor
of the saints with the heart like a nether millstone, the man who smiled
when the thumbs of the faithful were wrenched out of their sockets at
Edinburgh--we shall see how manfully he can bear adversity when it falls
to his lot. May the hand of the Almighty be over us!

‘I know little of the bearer of this, save that he professes to be of
the elect. Shouldst thou go to Monmouth’s camp, see that thou take him
with thee, for I hear that he hath had good experience in the German,
Swedish, and Otttoman wars.--Yours in the faith of Christ, Richard
Rumbold.

‘Present my services to thy spouse. Let her read Timothy chapter two,
ninth to fifteenth verses.’


This long letter I read very carefully, and then putting it in my pocket
returned indoors to my breakfast. My father looked at me, as I entered,
with questioning eyes, but I had no answer to return him, for my own
mind was clouded and uncertain.

That day Decimus Saxon left us, intending to make a round of the country
and to deliver his letters, but promising to be back again ere long. We
had a small mishap ere he went, for as we were talking of his journey
my brother Hosea must needs start playing with my father’s powder-flask,
which in some way went off with a sudden fluff, spattering the walls
with fragments of metal. So unexpected and loud was the explosion,
that both my father and I sprang to our feet; but Saxon, whose back
was turned to my brother, sat four-square in his chair without a glance
behind him or a shade of change in his rugged face. As luck would have
it, no one was injured, not even Hosea, but the incident made me think
more highly of our new acquaintance. As he started off down the village
street, his long stringy figure and strange gnarled visage, with my
father’s silver-braided hat cocked over his eye, attracted rather
more attention than I cared to see, considering the importance of the
missives which he bore, and the certainty of their discovery should he
be arrested as a masterless man. Fortunately, however, the curiosity
of the country folk did but lead them to cluster round their doors and
windows, staring open-eyed, while he, pleased at the attention which
he excited, strode along with his head in the air and a cudgel of
mine twirling in his hand. He had left golden opinions behind him. My
father’s good wishes had been won by his piety and by the sacrifices
which he claimed to have made for the faith. My mother he had taught how
wimples are worn amongst the Serbs, and had also demonstrated to her a
new method of curing marigolds in use in some parts of Lithuania. For
myself, I confess that I retained a vague distrust of the man, and
was determined to avoid putting faith in him more than was needful. At
present, however, we had no choice hut to treat him as an ambassador
from friends.

And I? What was I to do? Should I follow my father’s wishes, and draw
my maiden sword on behalf of the insurgents, or should I stand aside and
see how events shaped themselves? It was more fitting that I should
go than he. But, on the other hand, I was no keen religious zealot.
Papistry, Church, Dissent, I believed that there was good in all of
them, but that not one was worth the spilling of human blood. James
might be a perjurer and a villain, but he was, as far as I could see,
the rightful king of England, and no tales of secret marriages or black
boxes could alter the fact that his rival was apparently an illegitimate
son, and as such ineligible to the throne. Who could say what evil act
upon the part of a monarch justified his people in setting him aside?
Who was the judge in such a case? Yet, on the other hand, the man had
notoriously broken his own pledges, and that surely should absolve
his subjects from their allegiance. It was a weighty question for a
country-bred lad to have to settle, and yet settled it must be, and that
speedily. I took up my hat and wandered away down the village street,
turning the matter over in my head.

But it was no easy thing for me to think seriously of anything in the
hamlet; for I was in some way, my dear children, though I say it myself,
a favourite with the young and with the old, so that I could not walk
ten paces without some greeting or address. There were my own brothers
trailing behind me, Baker Mitford’s children tugging at my skirts, and
the millwright’s two little maidens one on either hand. Then, when I had
persuaded these young rompers to leave me, out came Dame Fullarton the
widow, with a sad tale about how her grindstone had fallen out of its
frame, and neither she nor her household could lift it in again. That
matter I set straight and proceeded on my way; but I could not pass the
sign of the Wheatsheaf without John Lockarby, Reuben’s father, plunging
out at me and insisting upon my coming in with him for a morning cup.

‘The best glass of mead in the countryside, and brewed under my own
roof,’ said he proudly, as he poured it into the flagon. ‘Why, bless
you, master Micah, a man with a frame like yours wants store o’ good
malt to keep it up wi’.’

‘And malt like this is worthy of a good frame to contain it,’ quoth
Reuben, who was at work among the flasks.

‘What think ye, Micah?’ said the landlord. ‘There was the Squire o’
Milton over here yester morning wi’ Johnny Ferneley o’ the Bank side,
and they will have it that there’s a man in Fareham who could wrestle
you, the best of three, and find your own grip, for a good round stake.’

‘Tut! tut!’ I answered; ‘you would have me like a prize mastiff, showing
my teeth to the whole countryside. What matter if the man can throw me,
or I him?’

‘What matter? Why, the honour of Havant,’ quoth he. ‘Is that no matter?
But you are right,’ he continued, draining off his horn. ‘What is all
this village life with its small successes to such as you? You are as
much out of your place as a vintage wine at a harvest supper. The whole
of broad England, and not the streets of Havant, is the fit stage for
a man of your kidney. What have you to do with the beating of skins and
the tanning of leather?’

‘My father would have you go forth as a knight-errant, Micah,’ said
Reuben, laughing. ‘You might chance to get your own skin beaten and your
own leather tanned.’

‘Who ever knew so long a tongue in so short a body?’ cried the
innkeeper. ‘But in good sooth, Master Micah, I am in sober earnest when
I say that you are indeed wasting the years of your youth, when life is
sparkling and clear, and that you will regret it when you have come to
the flat and flavourless dregs of old age.’

‘There spoke the brewer,’ said Reuben; ‘but indeed, Micah, my father is
right, for all that he hath such a hops-and-water manner of putting it.’

‘I will think over it,’ I answered, and with a nod to the kindly couple
proceeded on my way.

Zachariah Palmer was planing a plank as I passed. Looking up he bade me
good-morrow.

‘I have a book for you, lad,’ he said.

‘I have but now finished the “Comus,”’ I answered, for he had lent me
John Milton’s poem. ‘But what is this new book, daddy?’

‘It is by the learned Locke, and treateth of states and statecraft. It
is but a small thing, but if wisdom could show in the scales it would
weigh down many a library. You shall have it when I have finished it,
to-morrow mayhap or the day after. A good man is Master Locke. Is he not
at this moment a wanderer in the Lowlands, rather than bow his knee to
what his conscience approved not of?’

‘There are many good men among the exiles, are there not?’ said I.

‘The pick of the country,’ he answered. ‘Ill fares the land that drives
the highest and bravest of its citizens away from it. The day is coming,
I fear, when every man will have to choose betwixt his beliefs and his
freedom. I am an old man, Micah boy, but I may live long enough to see
strange things in this once Protestant kingdom.’

‘But if these exiles had their way,’ I objected, ‘they would place
Monmouth upon the throne, and so unjustly alter the succession.’

‘Nay, nay,’ old Zachary answered, laying down his plane. ‘If they use
Monmouth’s name, it is but to strengthen their cause, and to show that
they have a leader of repute. Were James driven from the throne, the
Commons of England in Parliament assembled would be called upon to
name his successor. There are men at Monmouth’s back who would not stir
unless this were so.’

‘Then, daddy,’ said I, ‘since I can trust you, and since you will tell
me what you do really think, would it be well, if Monmouth’s standard be
raised, that I should join it?’

The carpenter stroked his white beard and pondered for a while. ‘It is a
pregnant question,’ he said at last, ‘and yet methinks that there is but
one answer to it, especially for your father’s son. Should an end be put
to James’s rule, it is not too late to preserve the nation in its old
faith; but if the disease is allowed to spread, it may be that even the
tyrant’s removal would not prevent his evil seed from sprouting. I hold,
therefore, that should the exiles make such an attempt, it is the duty
of every man who values liberty of conscience to rally round them. And
you, my son, the pride of the village, what better use could you make
of your strength than to devote it to helping to relieve your country
of this insupportable yoke? It is treasonable and dangerous
counsel--counsel which might lead to a short shrift and a bloody
death--but, as the Lord liveth, if you were child of mine I should say
the same.’

So spoke the old carpenter with a voice which trembled with earnestness,
and went to work upon his plank once more, while I, with a few words of
gratitude, went on my way pondering over what he had said to me. I had
not gone far, however, before the hoarse voice of Solomon Sprent broke
in upon my meditations.

‘Hoy there! Ahoy!’ he bellowed, though his mouth was but a few yards
from my ear. ‘Would ye come across my hawse without slacking weigh? Clew
up, d’ye see, clew up!’

‘Why, Captain,’ I said, ‘I did not see you. I was lost in thought.’

‘All adrift and without look-outs,’ quoth he, pushing his way through
the break in the garden hedge. ‘Odd’s niggars, man! friends are not
so plentiful, d’ye see, that ye need pass ‘em by without a dip o’ the
ensign. So help me, if I had had a barker I’d have fired a shot across
your bows.’

‘No offence, Captain,’ said I, for the veteran appeared to be nettled;
‘I have much to think of this morning.’

‘And so have I, mate,’ he answered, in a softer voice. ‘What think ye of
my rig, eh?’ He turned himself slowly round in the sunlight as he spoke,
and I perceived that he was dressed with unusual care. He had a blue
suit of broadcloth trimmed with eight rows of buttons, and breeches of
the same material with great bunches of ribbon at the knee. His vest
was of lighter blue picked out with anchors in silver, and edged with
a finger’s-breadth of lace. His boot was so wide that he might have had
his foot in a bucket, and he wore a cutlass at his side suspended from a
buff belt, which passed over his right shoulder.

‘I’ve had a new coat o’ paint all over,’ said he, with a wink.
‘Carramba! the old ship is water-tight yet. What would ye say, now, were
I about to sling my hawser over a little scow, and take her in tow?’

‘A cow!’ I cried.

‘A cow! what d’ye take me for? A wench, man, and as tight a little craft
as ever sailed into the port of wedlock.’

‘I have heard no better news for many a long day,’ said I; ‘I did not
even know that you were betrothed. When thou is the wedding to be?’

‘Go slow, friend--go slow, and heave your lead-line! You have got out
of your channel, and are in shoal water. I never said as how I was
betrothed.’

‘What then?’ I asked.

‘I am getting up anchor now, to run down to her and summon her. Look
ye, lad,’ he continued, plucking off his cap and scratching his
ragged locks; ‘I’ve had to do wi’ wenches enow from the Levant to the
Antilles--wenches such as a sailorman meets, who are all paint and
pocket. It’s but the heaving of a hand grenade, and they strike their
colours. This is a craft of another guess build, and unless I steer wi’
care she may put one in between wind and water before I so much as
know that I am engaged. What think ye, heh? Should I lay myself boldly
alongside, d’ye see, and ply her with small arms, or should I work
myself clear and try a long range action? I am none of your slippery,
grease-tongued, long-shore lawyers, but if so be as she’s willing for a
mate, I’ll stand by her in wind and weather while my planks hold out.’

‘I can scarce give advice in such a case,’ said I, ‘for my experience is
less than yours. I should say though that you had best speak to her from
your heart, in plain sailor language.’

‘Aye, aye, she can take it or leave it. Phoebe Dawson it is, the sister
of the blacksmith. Let us work back and have a drop of the right Nants
before we go. I have an anker newly come, which never paid the King a
groat.’

‘Nay, you had best leave it alone,’ I answered.

‘Say you so? Well, mayhap you are right. Throw off your moorings, then,
and clap on sail, for we must go.’

‘But I am not concerned,’ said I.

‘Not concerned! Not--’ he was too much overcome to go on, and could
but look at me with a face full of reproach. ‘I thought better of you,
Micah. Would you let this crazy old hulk go into action, and not stand
by to fire a broadside?’

‘What would you have me do then?’

‘Why, I would have you help me as the occasion may arise. If I start
to board her, I would have you work across the bows so as to rake
her. Should I range, up on the larboard quarter, do you lie, on the
starboard. If I get crippled, do you draw her fire until I refit. What,
man, you would not desert me!’

The old seaman’s tropes and maritime conceits were not always
intelligible to me, but it was clear that he had set his heart upon my
accompanying him, which I was equally determined not to do. At last
by much reasoning I made him understand that my presence would be more
hindrance than help, and would probably be fatal to his chances of
success.

‘Well, well,’ he grumbled at last, ‘I’ve been concerned in no such
expedition before. An’ it be the custom for single ships to engage, I’ll
stand to it alone. You shall come with me as consort, though, and stand
to and fro in the offing, or sink me if I stir a step.’

My mind was full of my father’s plans and of the courses which lay
before me. There seemed to be no choice, however, as old Solomon was
in dead earnest, but to lay the matter aside for the moment and see the
upshot of this adventure.

‘Mind, Solomon,’ said I, ‘I don’t cross the threshold.’

‘Aye, aye, mate. You can please yourself. We have to beat up against the
wind all the way. She’s on the look-out, for I hailed her yesternight,
and let her know as how I should bear down on her about seven bells of
the morning watch.’

I was thinking as we trudged down the road that Phoebe would need to be
learned in sea terms to make out the old man’s meaning, when he pulled
up short and clapped his hands to his pockets.

‘Zounds!’ he cried, ‘I have forgot to bring a pistol.’

‘In Heaven’s name!’ I said in amazement, ‘what could you want with a
pistol?’

‘Why, to make signals with,’ said he. ‘Odds me that I should have forgot
it! How is one’s consort to know what is going forward when the flagship
carries no artillery? Had the lass been kind I should have fired one
gun, that you might know it.’

‘Why,’ I answered, ‘if you come not out I shall judge that all is well.
If things go amiss I shall see you soon.’

‘Aye--or stay! I’ll hoist a white jack at the port-hole. A white jack
means that she hath hauled down her colours. Nombre de Dios, when I
was a powder-boy in the old ship _Lion_, the day that we engaged the
_Spiritus Sanctus_ of two tier o’ guns--the first time that ever I heard
the screech of ball--my heart never thumped as it does now. What say ye
if we run back with a fair wind and broach that anker of Nants?’

‘Nay, stand to it, man,’ said I; for by this time, we had come to the
ivy-clad cottage behind which was the village smithy. ‘What, Solomon!
an English seaman never feared a foe, either with petticoats or without
them.’

‘No, curse me if he did!’ quoth Solomon, squaring his shoulders, ‘never
a one, Don, Devil, or Dutchman; so here goes for her!’ So saying he made
his way into the cottage, leaving me standing by the garden wicket, half
amused and half annoyed at this interruption to my musings.

As it proved, the sailor had no very great difficulty with his suit, and
soon managed to capture his prize, to use his own language. I heard from
the garden the growling of his gruff voice, and a good deal of shrill
laughter ending in a small squeak, which meant, I suppose, that he was
coming to close quarters. Then there was silence for a little while, and
at last I saw a white kerchief waving from the window, and perceived,
moreover, that it was Phoebe herself who was fluttering it. Well, she
was a smart, kindly-hearted lass, and I was glad in my heart that the
old seaman should have such a one to look after him.

Here, then, was one good friend settled down finally for life. Another
warned me that I was wasting my best years in the hamlet. A third, the
most respected of all, advised me openly to throw in my lot with the
insurgents, should the occasion arise. If I refused, I should have
the shame of seeing my aged father setting off for the wars, whilst
I lingered at home. And why should I refuse? Had it not long been the
secret wish of my heart to see something of the great world, and what
fairer chance could present itself? My wishes, my friend’s advice, and
my father’s hopes all pointed in the one direction.

‘Father,’ said I, when I returned home, ‘I am ready to go where you
will.’

‘May the Lord be glorified!’ he cried solemnly. ‘May He watch over
your young life, and keep your heart steadfast to the cause which is
assuredly His!’

And so, my dear grandsons, the great resolution was taken, and I found
myself committed to one side in the national quarrel.



Chapter VII. Of the Horseman who rode from the West

My father set to work forthwith preparing for our equipment, furnishing
Saxon out as well as myself on the most liberal scale, for he was
determined that the wealth of his age should be as devoted to the cause
as was the strength of his youth. These arrangements had to be carried
out with the most extreme caution, for there were many Prelatists in
the village, and in the present disturbed state of the public mind any
activity on the part of so well known a man would have at once attracted
attention. So carefully did the wary old soldier manage matters,
however, that we soon found ourselves in a position to start at an
hour’s notice, without any of our neighbours being a whit the wiser.

His first move was to purchase through an agent two suitable horses at
Chichester fair, which were conveyed to the stables of a trusty Whig
farmer living near Portchester, who was ordered to keep them until
they were called for. Of these animals one was a mottled grey, of great
mettle and power, standing seventeen and a half hands high, and well up
to my weight, for in those days, my dears, I had not laid on flesh, and
weighed a little under sixteen stone for all my height and strength.
A critic might have said that Covenant, for so I named my steed, was a
trifle heavy about the head and neck, but I found him a trusty, willing
brute, with great power and endurance. Saxon, who when fully accoutred
could scarce have weighed more than twelve stone, had a light bay
Spanish jennet, of great speed and spirit. This mare he named Chloe,
‘after a godly maiden of his acquaintance,’ though, as my father
remarked, there was a somewhat ungodly and heathenish smack about the
appellation. These horses and their harness were bought and held ready
without my father appearing in the matter in any way.

This important point having been settled, there was the further question
of arms to be discussed, which gave rise to much weighty controversy
between Decimus Saxon and my father, each citing many instances from
their own experiences where the presence or absence of some taslet
or arm-guard had been of the deepest import to the wearer. Your
great-grandfather had set his heart upon my wearing the breastplate
which still bore the dints of the Scottish spears at Dunbar, but on
trying it on we found it was too small for me. I confess that this was a
surprise, for when I looked back at the awe with which I had regarded
my father’s huge proportions, it was marvellous to me to have
this convincing proof that I had outgrown him. By ripping down the
side-leather and piercing holes through which a lace could be passed, my
mother managed to arrange it so that I could wear it without discomfort.
A pair of taslets or thigh-pieces, with guards for the upper arm and
gauntlets, were all borrowed from the old Parliamentary equipment,
together with the heavy straight sword and pair of horse pistols which
formed the usual weapons of a cavalier. My father had chosen me a
head-piece in Portsmouth, fluted, with good barrets, padded inside with
soft leather, very light and yet very strong. When fully equipped,
both Saxon and my father agreed that I had all that was requisite for
a well-appointed soldier. Saxon had purchased a buff-coat, a steel cap,
and a pair of jack-boots, so that with the rapier and pistols which my
father had presented him with, he was ready to take the field at any
time.

There would, we hoped, be no great difficulty in our reaching Monmouth’s
forces when the hour came. In those troublous times the main roads were
so infested by highwaymen and footpads, that it was usual for travellers
to carry weapons and even armour for their protection. There was no
reason therefore why our appearance should excite suspicion. Should
questions be asked, Saxon had a long story prepared, to the effect that
we were travelling to join Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort, to whose
household we belonged. This invention he explained to me, with many
points of corroboration which I was to furnish, but when I said
positively that I should rather be hanged as a rebel than speak a
falsehood, he looked at me open-eyed, and shook his head as one much
shocked. A few weeks of campaigning, he said, would soon cure me of my
squeamishness. For himself, no more truthful child had ever carried a
horn-book, but he had learned to lie upon the Danube, and looked upon
it as a necessary part of the soldier’s upbringing. ‘For what are all
stratagems, ambuscades, and outfalls but lying upon a large scale?’ he
argued. ‘What is an adroit commander but one who hath a facility for
disguising the truth? When, at the battle of Senlac, William the Norman
ordered his men to feign flight in order that they might break his
enemy’s array, a wile much practised both by the Scythians of old and by
the Croats of our own day, pray what is it but the acting of a lie? Or
when Hannibal, having tied torches to the horns of great droves of oxen,
caused the Roman Consuls to imagine that his army was in retreat, was it
not a deception or infraction of the truth?--a point well brought out
by a soldier of repute in the treatise “An in bello dolo uti liceat;
an apud hostes falsiloquio uti liceat.” And so if, after these great
models, I in order to gain mine ends do announce that we are bound to
Beaufort when we are in truth making for Monmouth, is it not in accord
with the usages of war and the customs of great commanders?’ All which
specious argument I made no attempt to answer, beyond repeating that he
might avail himself of the usage, but that he must not look to me for
corroboration. On the other hand, I promised to hold my speech and to
say nothing which might hamper him, with which pledge he was forced to
be contented.

And now at last, my patient listeners, I shall be able to carry you out
of the humble life of the village, and to cease my gossip of the men who
were old when I was young, and who are now lying this many a year in
the Bedhampton churchyard. You shall come with me now, and you shall see
England as it was in those days, and you shall hear of how we set forth
to the wars, and of all the adventures which overtook us. And if what
I tell you should ever chance to differ from what you have read in the
book of Mr. Coke or of Mr. Oldmixon, or of any one else who has set
these matters down in print, do ye bear in mind that I am telling of
what I saw with these very eyes, and that I have helped to make history,
which is a higher thing than to write it.

It was, then, towards nightfall upon the twelfth day of June 1685 that
the news reached our part of the country that Monmouth had landed the
day before at Lyme, a small seaport on the boundary between Dorsetshire
and Devonshire. A great beacon blaze upon Portsdown Hill was the first
news that we had of it, and then came a rattling and a drumming
from Portsmouth, where the troops were assembled under arms. Mounted
messengers clattered through the village street with their heads low on
their horses’ necks, for the great tidings must be carried to London,
that the Governor of Portsmouth might know how to act. (Note B,
Appendix.) We were standing at our doorway in the gloaming, watching
the coming and the going, and the line of beacon fires which were
lengthening away to the eastward, when a little man galloped up to the
door and pulled his panting horse up.

‘Is Joseph Clarke here?’ he asked.

‘I am he,’ said my father.

‘Are these men true?’ he whispered, pointing with his whip at Saxon and
myself. ‘Then the trysting-place is Taunton. Pass it on to all whom ye
know. Give my horse a bait and a drink, I beg of ye, for I must get on
my way.’

My young brother Hosea looked to the tired creature, while we brought
the rider inside and drew him a stoup of beer. A wiry, sharp-faced man
he was, with a birth-mark upon his temple. His face and clothes were
caked with dust, and his limbs were so stiff from the saddle that he
could scarce put one foot before another.

‘One horse hath died under me,’ he said, ‘and this can scarce last
another twenty miles. I must be in London by morning, for we hope that
Danvers and Wildman may be able to raise the city. Yester-evening I left
Monmouth’s camp. His blue flag floats over Lyme.’

‘What force hath he?’ my father asked anxiously.

‘He hath but brought over leaders. The force must come from you folk at
home. He has with him Lord Grey of Wark, with Wade, the German Buyse,
and eighty or a hundred more. Alas! that two who came are already lost
to us. It is an evil, evil omen.’

‘What is amiss, then?’

‘Dare, the goldsmith of Taunton, hath been slain by Fletcher of Saltoun
in some child’s quarrel about a horse. The peasants cried out for the
blood of the Scot, and he was forced to fly aboard the ships. A sad
mishap it is, for he was a skilful leader and a veteran soldier.’

‘Aye, aye,’ cried Saxon impatiently, ‘there will be some more skilful
leaders and veteran soldiers in the West presently to take his place.
But if he knew the usages of war, how came it that he should fight upon
a private quarrel at such a time?’ He drew a flat brown book from
his bosom, and ran his long thin finger down the table of contents.
‘Subisectio nona’--‘here is the very case set forth, “An in hello
publico provocatus ad duellum privatae amicitiae causa declinare
possit,” in which the learned Fleming layeth it down that a man’s
private honour must give way to the good of the cause. Did it not happen
in my own case that, on the eve of the raising of the Anlagerung of
Vienna, we stranger officers having been invited to the tent of the
General, it chanced that a red-headed Irisher, one O’Daffy, an ancient
in the regiment of Pappenheimer, did claim precedence of me on the
ground of superiority of blood? On this I drew my glove across his face,
not, mark ye, in anger, but as showing that I differed in some degree
from his opinion. At which dissent he did at once offer to sustain his
contention, but I, having read this subsection to him, did make it clear
to him that we could not in honour settle the point until the Turk was
chased from the city. So after the onfall--’

‘Nay, sir, I may hear the narrative some future day,’ said the
messenger, staggering to his feet. ‘I hope to find a relay at
Chichester, and time presses. Work for the cause now, or be slaves for
ever. Farewell!’ He clambered into his saddle, and we heard the clatter
of his hoofs dying away down the London road.

‘The time hath come for you to go, Micah,’ said my father solemnly.’
Nay, wife, do not weep, but rather hearten the lad on his way by a
blithe word and a merry face. I need not tell you to fight manfully
and fearlessly in this quarrel. Should the tide of war set in this
direction, you may find your old father riding by your side. Let us now
bow down and implore the favour of the Almighty upon this expedition.’

We all knelt down in the low-roofed, heavy-raftered room while the old
man offered up an earnest, strenuous prayer for our success. Even now,
as I speak to ye, that group rises up before mine eyes. I see once
again your ancestor’s stern, rugged face, with his brows knitted and
his corded hands writhed together in the fervour of his supplication. My
mother kneels beside him with the tears trickling down her sweet, placid
face, stifling her sobs lest the sound of them make my leave-taking more
bitter. The children are in the sleeping-room upstairs, and we hear the
patter of their bare feet upon the floor. The man Saxon sprawls across
one of the oaken chairs, half kneeling, half reclining, with his long
legs trailing out behind, and his face buried in his hands. All round
in the flickering light of the hanging lamp I see the objects which have
been so familiar to me from childhood--the settle by the fireplace,
the high-back stiff-elbowed chairs, the stuffed fox above the door, the
picture of Christian viewing the Promised Land from the summit of the
Delectable Mountains--all small trifles in themselves, but making up
among them the marvellous thing we call home, the all-powerful lodestone
which draws the wanderer’s heart from the farther end of the earth.
Should I ever see it again save in my dreams--I, who was leaving this
sheltered cove to plunge into the heart of the storm?

The prayer finished, we all rose with the exception of Saxon, who
remained with his face buried in his hands for a minute or so before
starting to his feet. I shrewdly suspect that he had been fast asleep,
though he explained that he had paused to offer up an additional
supplication. My father placed his hands upon my head and invoked the
blessing of Heaven upon me. He then drew my companion aside, and I
heard the jingling of coin, from which I judge that he was giving him
something wherewith to start upon his travels. My mother clasped me to
her heart, and slipped a small square of paper into my hand, saying that
I was to look at it at my leisure, and that I should make her happy if
I would but conform to the instructions contained in it. This I promised
to do, and tearing myself away I set off down the darkened village
street, with my long-limbed companion striding by my side.

It was close upon one in the morning, and all the country folk had been
long abed. Passing the Wheatsheaf and the house of old Solomon, I could
not but wonder what they would think of my martial garb were they afoot.
I had scarce time to form the same thought before Zachary Palmer’s
cottage when his door flew open, and the carpenter came running out with
his white hair streaming in the fresh night breeze.

‘I have been awaiting you, Micah,’ he cried. ‘I had heard that Monmouth
was up, and I knew that you would not lose a night ere starting. God
bless you, lad, God bless you! Strong of arm and soft of heart, tender
to the weak and stern to the oppressor, you have the prayers and the
love of all who know you.’ I pressed his extended hands, and the last
I saw of my native hamlet was the shadowy figure of the carpenter as he
waved his good wishes to me through the darkness.

We made our way across the fields to the house of Whittier, the Whig
farmer, where Saxon got into his war harness. We found our horses ready
saddled and bridled, for my father had at the first alarm sent a message
across that we should need them. By two in the morning we were breasting
Portsdown Hill, armed, mounted, and fairly started on our journey to the
rebel camp.


Chapter VIII. Of our Start for the Wars

All along the ridge of Portsdown Hill we had the lights of Portsmouth
and of the harbour ships twinkling beneath us on the left, while on
the right the Forest of Bere was ablaze with the signal fires which
proclaimed the landing of the invader. One great beacon throbbed upon
the summit of Butser, while beyond that, as far as eye could reach,
twinkling sparks of light showed how the tidings were being carried
north into Berkshire and eastward into Sussex. Of these fires, some were
composed of faggots piled into heaps, and others of tar barrels set upon
poles. We passed one of these last just opposite to Portchester, and the
watchers around it, hearing the tramp of our horses and the clank of
our arms, set up a loud huzza, thinking doubtless that we were King’s
officers bound for the West.

Master Decimus Saxon had flung to the winds the precise demeanour which
he had assumed in the presence of my father, and rattled away with many
a jest and scrap of rhyme or song as we galloped through the darkness.

‘Gadzooks!’ said he frankly, ‘it is good to be able to speak freely
without being expected to tag every sentence with a hallelujah or an
amen.’

‘You were ever the leader in those pious exercises,’ I remarked drily.

‘Aye, indeed. You have nicked it there! If a thing must be done, then
take a lead in it, whatever it may be. A plaguy good precept, which has
stood me in excellent stead before now. I cannot bear in mind whether I
told you how I was at one time taken prisoner by the Turks and conveyed
to Stamboul. There were a hundred of us or more, but the others either
perished under the bastinado, or are to this day chained to an oar in
the Imperial Ottoman galleys, where they are like to remain until they
die under the lash, or until some Venetian or Genoese bullet finds its
way into their wretched carcasses. I alone came off with my freedom.’

‘And pray, how did you make your escape?’ I asked.

‘By the use of the wit wherewith Providence hath endowed me,’ he
answered complacently; ‘for, seeing that their accursed religion is the
blind side of these infidels, I did set myself to work upon it. To this
end I observed the fashion in which our guard performed their morning
and evening exercises, and having transformed my doublet into a praying
cloth, I did imitate them, save only that I prayed at greater length and
with more fervour.’

‘What!’ I cried in horror. ‘You did pretend to be a Mussulman?’

‘Nay, there was no pretence. I became a Mussulman. That, however,
betwixt ourselves, as it might not stand me in very good stead with some
Reverend Aminadab Fount-of-Grace in the rebel camp, who is no admirer of
Mahmoud.’

I was so astounded at the impudence of this confession, coming from the
mouth of one who had been leading the exercises of a pious Christian
family, that I was fairly bereft of speech. Decimus Saxon whistled a few
bars of a sprightly tune, and then continued--

‘My perseverance in these exercises soon led to my being singled out
from among the other prisoners, until I so prevailed upon my gaolers
that the doors were opened for me, and I was allowed out on condition
of presenting myself at the prison gates once a day. What use, think ye,
did I make of my freedom?’

‘Nay, you are capable of anything,’ said I.

‘I set off forthwith to their chief mosque--that of St. Sophia. When the
doors opened and the muezzin called, I was ever the first to hurry into
devotions and the last to leave them. Did I see a Mussulman strike his
head upon the pavement, I would strike mine twice. Did I see him bend
and bow, I was ready to prostrate myself. In this way ere long the piety
of the converted Giaour became the talk of the city, and I was provided
with a hut in which to make my sacred meditations. Here I might have
done well, and indeed I had well-nigh made up my mind to set up as
a prophet and write an extra chapter to the Koran, when some foolish
trifle made the faithful suspicious of my honesty. It was but some
nonsense of a wench being found in my hut by some who came to consult
me upon a point of faith, but it was enough to set their heathen tongues
wagging; so I thought it wisest to give them the slip in a Levantine
coaster and leave the Koran uncompleted. It is perhaps as well, for it
would be a sore trial to have to give up Christian women and pork, for
their garlic-breathing houris and accursed kybobs of sheep’s flesh.’

We had passed through Fareham and Botley during this conversation, and
were now making our way down the Bishopstoke road. The soil changes
about here from chalk to sand, so that our horses’ hoofs did but make
a dull subdued rattle, which was no bar to our talk--or rather to my
companion’s, for I did little more than listen. In truth, my mind was so
full of anticipations of what was before us, and of thoughts of the
home behind, that I was in no humour for sprightly chatter. The sky was
somewhat clouded, but the moon glinted out between the rifts, showing
us the long road which wound away in front of us. On either side were
scattered houses with gardens sloping down toward the road. The heavy,
sickly scent of strawberries was in the air.

‘Hast ever slain a man in anger?’ asked Saxon, as we galloped along.

‘Never,’ I answered.

‘Ha! You will find that when you hear the clink of steel against steel,
and see your foeman’s eyes, you will straightway forget all rules,
maxims, and precepts of the fence which your father or others may have
taught you.’

‘I have learned little of the sort,’ said I. My father did but teach
me to strike an honest downright blow. This sword can shear through a
square inch of iron bar.’

‘Scanderbeg’s sword must have Scanderbeg’s arm,’ he remarked. ‘I
have observed that it is a fine piece of steel. One of the real old
text-compellers and psalm-expounders which the faithful drew in the days
of yore, when they would:

          “Prove their religion orthodox,
           By Apostolic blows and knocks.”

You have not fenced much, then?’

‘Scarce at all,’ said I.

‘It is as well. With an old and tried swordsman like myself, knowledge
of the use of his weapon is everything; but with a young Hotspur of your
temper, strength and energy go for much. I have oft remarked that those
who are most skilled at the shooting of the popinjay, the cleaving of
the Turk’s head, and other such sports, are ever laggards in the field.
Had the popinjay a crossbow as well, and an arrow on the string, or
had the Turk a fist as well as a head, our young gallant’s nerves would
scarce be as steady over the business. I make no doubt, Master Clarke,
that we shall make trusty comrades. What saith old Butler?

          “Never did trusty squire with knight,
           Or knight with squire ere jump more right.”

I have scarce dared to quote “Hudibras” for these weeks past, lest I
should set the Covenant fermenting in the old man’s veins.’

‘If we are indeed to be comrades,’ said I sternly, ‘you must learn to
speak with more reverence and less flippancy of my father, who would
assuredly never have harboured you had he heard the tale which you have
told me even now.’

‘Belike not,’ the adventurer answered, chuckling to himself. ‘It is a
long stride from a mosque to a conventicle. But be not so hot-headed,
my friend. You lack that repose of character which will come to you,
no doubt, in your more mature years. What, man! within five minutes of
seeing me you would have smitten me on the head with an oar, and ever
since you have been like a bandog at my heels, ready to hark if I do but
set my foot over what you regard as the straight line. Remember that you
go now among men who fight on small occasion of quarrel. A word awry may
mean a rapier thrust.’

‘Do you bear the same in mind,’ I answered hotly; ‘my temper is
peaceful, but covert threats and veiled menace I shall not abide.’

‘Odd’s mercy!’ he cried. ‘I see that you will start carving me anon, and
take me to Monmouth’s camp in sections. Nay, nay, we shall have fighting
enow without falling out among ourselves. What houses are those on the
left?’

‘The village of Swathling,’ I replied. ‘The lights of Bishopstoke lie to
the right, in the hollow.’

‘Then we are fifteen miles on our way, and methinks there is already
some faint flush of dawn in the east. Hullo, what have we here? Beds
must be scarce if folks sleep on the highways.’

A dark blur which I had remarked upon the roadway in front of us had
resolved itself as we approached into the figure of a man, stretched
at full length, with his face downwards, and his head resting upon his
crossed arms.

‘Some reveler, mayhap, from the village inn,’ I remarked.

‘There’s blood in the air,’ said Saxon, raising up his beak-like nose
like a vulture which scents carrion. ‘Methinks he sleeps the sleep which
knows no waking.’

He sprang down from his saddle, and turned the figure over upon his
back. The cold pale light of the early dawn shimmering upon his staring
eyes and colourless face showed that the old soldier’s instinct was
correct, and that he had indeed drawn his last breath.

‘Here’s a pretty piece of work,’ said Saxon, kneeling by the dead man’s
side and passing his hands over his pockets. ‘Footpads, doubtless. Not a
stiver in his pockets, nor as much as a sleeve-link to help pay for the
burial.’

‘How was he slain!’ I asked in horror, looking down at the poor vacant
face, the empty house from which the tenant had departed.

‘A stab from behind and a tap on the head from the butt of a pistol.
He cannot have been dead long, and yet every groat is gone. A man of
position, too, I should judge from his dress--broadcloth coat by the
feel, satin breeches, and silver buckles on his shoes. The rogues must
have had some plunder with him. Could we but run across them, Clarke, it
would be a great and grand thing.’

‘It would indeed,’ said I heartily. ‘What greater privilege than to
execute justice upon such cowardly murderers!’

‘Pooh! pooh!’ he cried. ‘Justice is a slippery dame, and hath a
two-edged sword in her hand. We may have enough of justice in our
character as rebels to give us a surfeit of it. I would fain overtake
these robbers that we may relieve them of their _spolia opima_, together
with any other wealth which they may have unlawfully amassed. My learned
friend the Fleming layeth it down that it is no robbery to rob a robber.
But where shall we conceal this body?’

‘Wherefore should we conceal it?’ I asked.

‘Why, man, unused to war or the precautions of a warrior, you must yet
see that should this body be found here, there will be a hue and cry
through the country, and that strangers like ourselves will be arrested
on suspicion. Should we clear ourselves, which is no very easy matter,
the justice will at least want to know whence we come and whither we
go, which may lead to inquiries that may bode us little good. I shall
therefore take the liberty, mine unknown and silent friend, of dragging
you into yon bushes, where for a day or two at least you are like to lie
unobserved, and so bring no harm upon honest men.’

‘For God’s sake do not treat it so unkindly,’ I cried, springing down
from my horse and laying my hand upon my companion’s arm. ‘There is no
need to trail it in so unseemly a fashion. If it must be moved hence, I
shall carry it with all due reverence. ‘So saying, I picked the body up
in my arms, and bearing it to a wayside clump of yellow gorse bushes, I
laid it solemnly down and drew the branches over it to conceal it.

‘You have the thews of an ox and the heart of a woman, ‘muttered my
companion. ‘By the Mass, that old white-headed psalm-singer was right;
for if my memory serves me, he said words to that effect. A few handfuls
of dust will hide the stains. Now we may jog upon our way without any
fear of being called upon to answer for another man’s sins. Let me but
get my girth tightened and we may soon be out of danger’s way.’

‘I have had to do,’ said Saxon, as we rode onwards, ‘with many gentry
of this sort, with Albanian brigands, the banditti of Piedmont, the
Lanzknechte and Freiritter of the Rhine, Algerine picaroons, and other
such folk. Yet I cannot call to mind one who hath ever been able to
retire in his old age on a sufficient competence. It is but a precarious
trade, and must end sooner or later in a dance on nothing in a tight
cravat, with some kind friend tugging at your legs to ease you of any
breath that you might have left.’

‘Nor does that end all,’ I remarked.

‘No. There is Tophet behind and the flames of hell. So our good friends
the parsons tell us. Well, if a man is to make no money in this world,
be hanged at the end of it, and finally burn for ever, he hath assuredly
wandered on to a thorny track. If, on the other hand, one could always
lay one’s hands on a well-lined purse, as those rogues have done
to-night, one might be content to risk something in the world to come.’

‘But what can the well-filled purse do for them?’ said I. ‘What will
the few score pieces which these bloodthirsty wretches have filched from
this poor creature avail them when their own hour of death comes round?’

‘True,’ said Saxon dryly; ‘they may, however, prove useful in the
meantime. This you say is Bishopstoke. What are the lights over yonder?’

‘They come, I think, from Bishop’s Waltham,’ I answered.

‘We must press on, for I would fain be in Salisbury before it is broad
day. There we shall put our horses up until evening and have some rest,
for there is nothing gained by man or beast coming jaded to the wars.
All this day the western roads will be crowded with couriers, and mayhap
patrolled by cavalry as well, so that we cannot show our faces upon it
without a risk of being stopped and examined. Now if we lie by all day,
and push on at dusk, keeping off the main road and making our way across
Salisbury Plain and the Somersetshire downs, we shall be less likely to
come to harm.’

‘But what if Monmouth be engaged before we come up to him?’ I asked.

‘Then we shall have missed a chance of getting our throats cut. Why,
man, supposing that he has been routed and entirely dispersed, would
it not be a merry conceit for us to appear upon the scene as two loyal
yeomen, who had ridden all the way from Hampshire to strike in against
the King’s enemies? We might chance to get some reward in money or in
land for our zeal. Nay, frown not, for I was but jesting. Breathe our
horses by walking them up this hill. My jennet is as fresh as when we
started, but those great limbs of thine are telling upon the grey.’

The patch of light in the east had increased and broadened, and the sky
was mottled with little pink feathers of cloud. As we passed over
the low hills by Chandler’s Ford and Romsey we could see the smoke of
Southampton to the south-east, and the broad dark expanse of the New
Forest with the haze of morning hanging over it. A few horsemen passed
us, pricking along, too much engrossed in their own errand to inquire
ours. A couple of carts and a long string of pack-horses, laden
principally with bales of wool, came straggling along a byroad, and
the drivers waved their broad hats to us and wished us God-speed. At
Dunbridge the folk were just stirring, and paused in taking down the
cottage shutters to come to the garden railings and watch us pass. As we
entered Dean, the great red sun pushed its rosy rim over the edge of the
horizon, and the air was filled with the buzz of insects and the sweet
scent of the morning. We dismounted at this latter village, and had a
cup of ale while resting and watering the horses. The landlord could
tell us nothing about the insurgents, and indeed seemed to care very
little about the matter one way or the other. ‘As long as brandy pays a
duty of six shillings and eightpence a gallon, and freight and leakage
comes to half a crown, while I am expected to sell it at twelve
shillings, it matters little to me who is King of England. Give me a
king that will prevent the hop-blight and I am his man.’ Those were the
landlord’s politics, and I dare say a good many more were of his way of
thinking.

From Dean to Salisbury is all straight road with moor, morass, and
fenland on either side, broken only by the single hamlet of Aldersbury,
just over the Wiltshire border. Our horses, refreshed by the short rest,
stepped out gallantly, and the brisk motion, with the sunlight and the
beauty of the morning, combined to raise our spirits and cheer us after
the depression of the long ride through the darkness, and the incident
of the murdered traveller. Wild duck, widgeon, and snipe flapped up from
either side of the road at the sound of the horses’ hoofs, and once a
herd of red deer sprang to their feet from among the ferns and scampered
away in the direction of the forest. Once, too, when passing a dense
clump of trees, we saw a shadowy white creature half hidden by the
trunks, which must, I fancy, have been one of those wild cattle of
which I have heard the peasants speak, who dwell in the recesses of
the southern woods, and are so fierce and intractable that none dare
approach them. The breadth of the view, the keenness of the air, and the
novelty of the sense of having great work to do, all combined to send a
flush of life through my veins such as the quiet village existence
had never been able to give. My more experienced companion felt the
influence too, for he lifted up a cracked voice and broke into a droning
chant, which he assured me was an Eastern ode which had been taught him
by the second sister of the Hospodar of Wallachia.

‘Anent Monmouth,’ he remarked, coming back suddenly to the realities of
our position. ‘It is unlikely that he can take the field for some days,
though much depends upon his striking a blow soon, and so raising the
courage of his followers before the King’s troops can come down upon
him. He has, mark ye, not only his troops to find, but their weapons,
which is like to prove a more difficult matter. Suppose he can raise
five thousand men--and he cannot stir with less--he will not have one
musket in five, so the rest must do as they can with pikes and bills, or
such other rude arms as they can find. All this takes time, and though
there may be skirmishes, there can scarce be any engagement of import
before we arrive.’

‘He will have been landed three or four days ere we reach him,’ said I.

‘Hardly time for him with his small staff of officers to enrol his men
and divide them into regiments. I scarce expect to find him at Taunton,
though we were so directed. Hast ever heard whether there are any rich
Papists in those parts?’

‘I know not,’ I replied.

‘If so there might be plate chests and silver chargers, to say nothing
of my lady’s jewels and other such trifles to reward a faithful soldier.
What would war be without plunder! A bottle without the wine--a shell
without the oyster. See the house yonder that peeps through the trees.
I warrant there is a store of all good things under that roof, which you
and I might have for the asking, did we but ask with our swords in our
grip. You are my witness that your father did give and not lend me this
horse.’

‘Why say you that, then?’

‘Lest he claim a half of whatever booty I may chance to gain. What saith
my learned Fleming under the heading “an qui militi equum praebuit,
praedae ab eo captae particeps esse debeat?” which signifieth “whether
he who lendeth a horse hath a claim on the plunder of him who borroweth
it.” In this discourse he cites a case wherein a Spanish commander
having lent a steed to one of his captains, and the said captain having
captured the general of the enemy, the commander did sue him for a
half share of the twenty thousand crowns which formed the ransom of the
prisoner. A like case is noted by the famous Petrinus Bellus in his book
“De Re Militari,” much read by leaders of repute.’ (Note C. Appendix.)

‘I can promise you,’ I answered, ‘that no such claim shall ever be made
by my father upon you. See yonder, over the brow of the hill, how the
sun shines upon the high cathedral tower, which points upwards with its
great stone finger to the road that every man must travel.’

‘There is good store of silver and plate in these same churches,’ quoth
my companion. ‘I remember that at Leipsic, when I was serving my first
campaign, I got a candlestick, which I was forced to sell to a Jew
broker for a fourth of its value; yet even at his price it sufficed to
fill my haversack with broad pieces.’

It chanced that Saxon’s mare had gained a stride or two upon mine whilst
he spoke, so that I was able to get a good view of him without turning
my head. I had scarce had light during our ride to see how his harness
sat upon him, but now I was amazed on looking at him to mark the change
which it had wrought in the man. In his civil dress his lankiness and
length of limb gave him an awkward appearance, but on horse-back, with
his lean, gaunt face looking out from his steel cap, his breastplate
and buff jacket filling out his figure, and his high boots of untanned
leather reaching to the centre of his thighs, he looked the veteran
man-at-arms which he purported to be. The ease with which he sat his
horse, the high, bold expression upon his face, and the great length of
his arms, all marked him as one who could give a good account of himself
in a fray. In his words alone I could have placed little trust, but
there was that in his bearing which assured even a novice like myself
that he was indeed a trained man of war.

‘That is the Avon which glitters amongst the trees,’ I remarked. ‘We are
about three miles from Salisbury town.’

‘It is a noble spire,’ said he, glancing at the great stone spire in
front of us. ‘The men of old would seem to have spent all their days in
piling stones upon stones. And yet we read of tough battles and shrewd
blows struck, showing that they had some time for soldierly relaxation,
and were not always at this mason work.’

‘The Church was rich in those days,’ I answered, shaking my bridle, for
Covenant was beginning to show signs of laziness. ‘But here comes one
who might perhaps tell us something of the war.’

A horseman who bore traces of having ridden long and hard was rapidly
approaching us. Both rider and steed were grey with dust and splashed
with mire, yet he galloped with loosened rein and bent body, as one to
whom every extra stride is of value.

‘What ho, friend!’ cried Saxon, reining his mare across the road so as
to bar the man’s passage. ‘What news from the West?’

‘I must not tarry,’ the messenger gasped, slackening his speed for an
instant. ‘I bear papers of import from Gregory Alford, Mayor of Lyme, to
Ins Majesty’s Council. The rebels make great head, and gather together
like bees in the swarming time. There are some thousands in arms
already, and all Devonshire is on the move. The rebel horse under Lord
Grey hath been beaten back from Bridport by the red militia of Dorset,
but every prickeared Whig from the Channel to the Severn is making his
way to Monmouth.’ With this brief summary of the news he pushed his way
past us and clattered on in a cloud of dust upon his mission.

‘The broth is fairly on the fire, then,’ quoth Decimus Saxon, as we rode
onwards. ‘Now that skins have been slit the rebels may draw their swords
and fling away their scabbards, for it’s either victory for them or
their quarters will be dangling in every market town of the county. Heh,
lad? we throw a main for a brave stake.’

‘Marked ye that Lord Grey had met with a check,’ said I.

‘Pshaw! it is of no import. A cavalry skirmish at the most, for it is
impossible that Monmouth could have brought his main forces to Bridport;
nor would he if he could, for it is out of his track. It was one of
those three-shots-and-a-gallop affrays, where each side runs away and
each claims the victory. But here we are in the streets of Salisbury.
Now leave the talking to me, or your wrong-headed truthfulness may lay
us by the heels before our time.’

Passing down the broad High Street we dismounted in front of the Blue
Boar inn, and handed our tired horses over to the ostler, to whom
Saxon, in a loud voice, and with many rough military oaths, gave strict
injunctions as to their treatment. He then clanked into the inn parlour,
and throwing himself into one chair with his feet upon another, he
summoned the landlord up before him, and explained our needs in a tone
and manner which should give him a due sense of our quality.

‘Of your best, and at once,’ quoth he. ‘Have your largest double-couched
chamber ready with your softest lavender-scented sheets, for we have had
a weary ride and must rest. And hark ye, landlord, no palming off your
stale, musty goods as fresh, or of your washy French wines for the true
Hainault vintage. I would have you to understand that my friend here and
I are men who meet with some consideration in the world, though we
care not to speak our names to every underling. Deserve well of us,
therefore, or it may be the worse for you.’

This speech, combined with my companion’s haughty manner and fierce
face, had such an effect upon the landlord that he straightway sent
us in the breakfast which had been prepared for three officers of the
Blues, who were waiting for it in the next apartment. This kept them
fasting for another half-hour, and we could hear their oaths and
complaints through the partition while we were devouring their capon and
venison pie. Having eaten a hearty meal and washed it down with a bottle
of Burgundy we sought our room, and throwing our tired limbs upon the
bed, were soon in a deep slumber.



Chapter IX. Of a Passage of Arms at the Blue Boar

I had slept several hours when I was suddenly aroused by a prodigious
crash, followed by the clash of arms and shrill cries from the lower
floor. Springing to my feet I found that the bed upon which my comrade
had lain was vacant, and that the door of the apartment was opened. As
the uproar still continued, and as I seemed to discern his voice in the
midst of it, I caught up my sword, and without waiting to put on either
head-piece, steel-breast, or arm-plates, I hurried to the scene of the
commotion.

The hall and passage were filled with silly maids and staring drawers,
attracted, like myself, by the uproar. Through these I pushed my way
into the apartment where we had breakfasted in the morning, which was
a scene of the wildest disorder. The round table in the centre had
been tilted over upon its side, and three broken bottles of wine, with
apples, pears, nuts, and the fragments of the dishes containing them,
were littered over the floor. A couple of packs of cards and a dice-box
lay amongst the scattered feast. Close by the door stood Decimus Saxon,
with his drawn rapier in his hand and a second one beneath his feet,
while facing him there was a young officer in a blue uniform, whose face
was reddened with shame and anger, and who looked wildly about the room
as though in search of some weapon to replace that of which he had been
deprived. He might have served Cibber or Gibbons as a model for a statue
of impotent rage. Two other officers dressed in the same blue uniform
stood by their comrade, and as I observed that they had laid their hands
upon the hilts of their swords, I took my place by Saxon’s side, and
stood ready to strike in should the occasion arise.

‘What would the maitre d’armes say--the maitre d’escrime?’ cried my
companion. ‘Methinks he should lose his place for not teaching you to
make a better show. Out on him! Is this the way that he teaches the
officers of his Majesty’s guard to use their weapons?’

‘This raillery, sir,’ said the elder of the three, a squat, brown,
heavy-faced man, ‘is not undeserved, and yet might perchance be
dispensed with. I am free to say that our friend attacked you somewhat
hastily, and that a little more deference should have been shown by so
young a soldier to a cavalier of your experience.’

The other officer, who was a fine-looking, noble-featured man, expressed
himself in much the same manner. ‘If this apology will serve,’ said he,
‘I am prepared to join in it. If, however, more is required, I shall be
happy to take the quarrel upon myself.’

‘Nay, nay, take your bradawl!’ Saxon answered good-humouredly, kicking
the sword towards his youthful opponent. ‘But, mark you! when you would
lunge, direct your point upwards rather than down, for otherwise you
must throw your wrist open to your antagonist, who can scarce fail to
disarm you. In quarte, tierce, or saccoon the same holds good.’

The youth sheathed his sword, but was so overcome by his own easy defeat
and the contemptuous way in which his opponent had dismissed him, that
he turned and hurried out of the room. Meanwhile Decimus Saxon and the
two officers set to work getting the table upon its legs and restoring
the room to some sort of order, in which I did what I could to assist
them.

‘I held three queens for the first time to-day,’ grumbled the soldier of
fortune. ‘I was about to declare them when this young bantam flew at my
throat. He hath likewise been the cause of our losing three flasks of
most excellent muscadine. When he hath drunk as much bad wine as I have
been forced to do, he will not be so hasty in wasting the good.’

‘He is a hot-headed youngster,’ the older officer replied, ‘and a little
solitary reflection added to the lesson which you have taught him may
bring him profit. As for the muscadine, that loss will soon be repaired,
the more gladly as your friend here will help us to drink it.’

‘I was roused by the crash of weapons,’ said I, ‘and I scarce know now
what has occurred.’

‘Why, a mere tavern brawl, which your friend’s skill and judgment
prevented from becoming serious. I prythee take the rush-bottomed chair,
and do you, Jack, order the wine. If our comrade hath spilled the last
it is for us to furnish this, and the best the cellars contain. We have
been having a hand at basset, which Mr. Saxon here playeth as skilfully
as he wields the small-sword. It chanced that the luck ran against young
Horsford, which doubtless made him prone to be quick in taking offence.
Your friend in conversation, when discoursing of his experiences in
foreign countries, remarked that the French household troops were to
his mind brought to a higher state of discipline than any of our own
regiments, on which Horsford fired up, and after a hot word or two they
found themselves, as you have seen, at drawn bilbo. The boy hath seen no
service, and is therefore over-eager to give proof of his valour.’

‘Wherein,’ said the tall officer, ‘he showed a want of thought towards
me, for had the words been offensive it was for me, who am a senior
captain and brevet-major, to take it up, and not for a slip of a cornet,
who scarce knows enough to put his troop through the exercise.’

‘You say right, Ogilvy,’ said the other, resuming his seat by the table
and wiping the cards which had been splashed by the wine.’ Had the
comparison been made by an officer of Louis’s guard for the purpose
of contumely and braggadocio, it would then indeed have become us to
venture a passado. But when spoken by an Englishman of ripe experience
it becomes a matter of instructive criticism, which should profit rather
than annoy.’

‘True, Ambrose,’ the other answered. ‘Without such criticism a force
would become stagnant, and could never hope to keep level with those
continental armies, which are ever striving amongst themselves for
increased efficacy.’

So pleased was I at these sensible remarks on the part of the strangers,
that I was right glad to have the opportunity of making their closer
acquaintance over a flask of excellent wine. My father’s prejudices
had led me to believe that a King’s officer was ever a compound of the
coxcomb and the bully, but I found on testing it that this idea, like
most others which a man takes upon trust, had very little foundation
upon truth. As a matter of fact, had they been dressed in less warlike
garb and deprived of their swords and jack-boots, they would have passed
as particularly mild-mannered men, for their conversation ran in the
learned channels, and they discussed Boyle’s researches in chemistry and
the ponderation of air with much gravity and show of knowledge. At
the same time, their brisk bearing and manly carriage showed that in
cultivating the scholar they hail not sacrificed the soldier.

‘May I ask, sir,’ said one of them, addressing Saxon, ‘whether in
your wide experiences you have ever met with any of those sages and
philosophers who have conferred such honour and fame upon France and
Germany?’

My companion looked ill at ease, as one who feels that he has been taken
off his ground. ‘There was indeed one such at Nurnberg,’ he answered,
‘one Gervinus or Gervanus, who, the folk said, could turn an ingot of
iron into an ingot of gold as easily as I turn this tobacco into ashes.
Old Pappenheimer shut him up with a ton of metal, and threatened to put
the thumbikins upon him unless he changed it into gold pieces. I can
vouch for it that there was not a yellow boy there, for I was captain of
the guard and searched the whole dungeon through. To my sorrow I say it,
for I had myself added a small iron brazier to the heap, thinking that
if there should be any such change it would be as well that I should
have some small share in the experiment.’

‘Alchemy, transmutation of metals, and the like have been set aside by
true science,’ remarked the taller officer. ‘Even old Sir Thomas Browne
of Norwich, who is ever ready to plead the cause of the ancients, can
find nothing to say in favour of it. From Trismegistus downwards through
Albertus Magnus, Aquinas, Raymond Lullius, Basil Valentine, Paracelsus,
and the rest, there is not one who has left more than a cloud of words
behind him.’

‘Nor did the rogue I mention,’ said Saxon. ‘There was another,
Van Helstatt, who was a man of learning, and cast horoscopes in
consideration of some small fee or honorarium. I have never met so wise
a man, for he would talk of the planets and constellations as though he
kept them all in his own backyard. He made no more of a comet than if it
were a mouldy china orange, and he explained their nature to us, saying
that they were but common stars which had had a hole knocked in them, so
that their insides or viscera protruded. He was indeed a philosopher!’

‘And did you ever put his skill to the test?’ asked one of the officers,
with a smile.

‘Not I, forsooth, for I have ever kept myself clear of black magic or
diablerie of the sort. My comrade Pierce Scotton, who was an Oberst
in the Imperial cavalry brigade, did pay him a rose noble to have his
future expounded. If I remember aright, the stars said that he was
over-fond of wine and women--he had a wicked eye and a nose like a
carbuncle. ‘They foretold also that he would attain a marshal’s baton
and die at a ripe age, which might well have come true had he not been
unhorsed a month later at Ober-Graustock, and slain by the hoofs of his
own troop. Neither the planets nor even the experienced farrier of
the regiment could have told that the brute would have foundered so
completely.’

The officers laughed heartily at my companion’s views, and rose from
their chairs, for the bottle was empty and the evening beginning to
draw in. ‘We have work to do here,’ said the one addressed as Ogilvy.
‘Besides, we must find this foolish boy of ours, and tell him that it is
no disgrace to be disarmed by so expert a swordsman. We have to prepare
the quarters for the regiment, who will be up to join Churchill’s
forces not later than to-night. Ye are yourselves bound for the West, I
understand?’

‘We belong to the Duke of Beaufort’s household,’ said Saxon.

‘Indeed! I thought ye might belong to Portman’s yellow regiment of
militia. I trust that the Duke will muster every man he can, and make
play until the royal forces come up.’

‘How many will Churchill bring?’ asked my companion carelessly.

‘Eight hundred horse at the most, but my Lord Feversham will follow
after with close on four thousand foot.’

‘We may meet on the field of battle, if not before,’ said I, and we bade
our friendly enemies a very cordial adieu.

‘A skilful equivoque that last of yours, Master Micah,’ quoth Decimus
Saxon, ‘though smacking of double dealing in a truth-lover like
yourself. If we meet them in battle I trust that it may be with
chevaux-de-frise of pikes and morgenstierns before us, and a litter of
caltrops in front of them, for Monmouth has no cavalry that could stand
for a moment against the Royal Guards.’

‘How came you to make their acquaintance?’ I asked.

‘I slept a few hours, but I have learned in camps to do with little
rest. Finding you in sound slumber, and hearing the rattle of the
dice-box below, I came softly down and found means to join their
party--whereby I am a richer man by fifteen guineas, and might have
had more had that young fool not lugged out at me, or had the talk not
turned afterwards upon such unseemly subjects as the laws of chemistry
and the like. Prythee, what have the Horse Guards Blue to do with the
laws of chemistry? Wessenburg of the Pandours would, even at his own
mess table, suffer much free talk--more perhaps than fits in with the
dignity of a leader. Had his officers ventured upon such matter as
this, however, there would have been a drum-head court-martial, or a
cashiering at the least.’

Without stopping to dispute either Master Saxon’s judgment or that of
Wessenburg of the Pandours, I proposed that we should order an evening
meal, and should employ the remaining hour or two of daylight in looking
over the city. The principal sight is of course the noble cathedral,
which is built in such exact proportion that one would fail to
understand its great size did one not actually enter it and pace round
the long dim aisles. So solemn were its sweeping arches and the long
shafts of coloured light which shone through the stained-glass windows,
throwing strange shadows amongst the pillars, that even my companion,
albeit not readily impressed, was silent and subdued. It was a great
prayer in stone.

On our way back to the inn we passed the town lock-up, with a railed
space in front of it, in which three great black-muzzled bloodhounds
were stalking about, with fierce crimsoned eyes and red tongues lolling
out of their mouths. They were used, a bystander told us, for the
hunting down of criminals upon Salisbury Plain, which had been a refuge
for rogues and thieves, until this means had been adopted for following
them to their hiding-places. It was well-nigh dark before we returned to
the hostel, and entirely so by the time that we had eaten our suppers,
paid our reckoning, and got ready for the road.

Before we set off I bethought me of the paper which my mother had
slipped into my hand on parting, and drawing it from my pouch I read
it by the rushlight in our chamber. It still bore the splotches of the
tears which she had dropped on it, poor soul, and ran in this wise:--

‘Instructions from Mistress Mary Clarke to her son Micah, on the twelfth
day of June in the year of our Lord sixteen hundred and eighty-five.

‘On occasion of his going forth, like David of old, to do battle
with the Goliath of Papistry, which hath overshadowed and thrown into
disrepute that true and reverent regard for ritual which should exist in
the real Church of England, as ordained by law.

‘Let these points be observed by him, namely, to wit:

‘1. Change your hosen when the occasion serves. You have two pairs in
your saddle-bag, and can buy more, for the wool work is good in the
West.

‘2. A hare’s foot suspended round the neck driveth away colic.

‘3. Say the Lord’s Prayer night and morning. Also read the scriptures,
especially Job, the Psalms, and the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

‘4. Daffy’s elixir possesses extraordinary powers in purifying the blood
and working off all phlegms, humours, vapours, or rheums. The dose is
five drops. A small phial of it will be found in the barrel of your left
pistol, with wadding around it lest it come to harm.

‘5. Ten golden pieces are sewn into the hem of your under doublet. Touch
them not, save as a last resource.

‘6. Fight stoutly for the Lord, and yet I pray you, Micah, be not too
forward in battle, but let others do their turn also.

Press not into the heart of the fray, and yet flinch not from the
standard of the Protestant faith.

‘And oh, Micah, my own bright boy, come back safe to your mother, or my
very heart will break!

‘And the deponent will ever pray.’


The sudden gush of tenderness in the last few lines made the tears
spring to my eyes, and yet I could scarce forbear from smiling at the
whole composition, for my dear mother had little time to cultivate the
graces of style, and it was evidently her thought that in order to make
her instructions binding it was needful to express them in some sort of
legal form. I had little time to think over her advice, however, for I
had scarce finished reading it before the voice of Decimus Saxon, and
the clink of the horses’ hoofs upon the cobble-stones of the yard,
informed me that all was ready for our departure.



Chapter X. Of our Perilous Adventure on the Plain

We were not half a mile from the town before the roll of kettledrums and
the blare of bugles swelling up musically through the darkness announced
the arrival of the regiment of horse which our friends at the inn had
been expecting.

‘It is as well, perhaps,’ said Saxon, ‘that we gave them the slip,
for that young springald might have smelled a rat and played us some
ill-turn. Have you chanced to see my silken kerchief?’

‘Not I,’ I answered.

‘Nay, then, it must have fallen from my bosom during our ruffle. I
can ill afford to leave it, for I travel light in such matters. Eight
hundred men, quoth the major, and three thousand to follow. Should I
meet this same Oglethorpe or Ogilvy when the little business is over,
I shall read him a lesson on thinking less of chemistry and more of
the need of preserving military precautions. It is well always to be
courteous to strangers and to give them information, but it is well also
that the information should be false.’

‘As his may have been,’ I suggested.

‘Nay, nay, the words came too glibly from his tongue. So ho, Chloe, so
ho! She is full of oats and would fain gallop, but it is so plaguy dark
that we can scarce see where we are going.’

We had been trotting down the broad high-road shimmering vaguely white
in the gloom, with the shadowy trees dancing past us on either side,
scarce outlined against the dark background of cloud. We were now coming
upon the eastern edge of the great plain, which extends forty miles one
way and twenty the other, over the greater part of Wiltshire and past
the boundaries of Somersetshire. The main road to the West skirts this
wilderness, but we had agreed to follow a less important track,
which would lead us to our goal, though in a more tedious manner. Its
insignificance would, we hoped, prevent it from being guarded by the
King’s horse. We had come to the point where this byroad branches off
from the main highway when we heard the clatter of horses’ hoofs behind
us.

‘Here comes some one who is not afraid to gallop,’ I remarked.

‘Halt here in the shadow!’ cried Saxon, in a short, quick whisper. ‘Have
your blade loose in the scabbard. He must have a set errand who rides so
fast o’ nights.’

Looking down the road we could make out through the darkness a shadowy
blur which soon resolved itself into man and horse. The rider was
well-nigh abreast of us before he was aware of our presence, when he
pulled up his steed in a strange, awkward fashion, and faced round in
our direction.

‘Is Micah Clarke there?’ he said, in a voice which was strangely
familiar to my ears.

‘I am Micah Clarke,’ said I.

‘And I am Reuben Lockarby,’ cried our pursuer, in a mock heroic voice.
‘Ah, Micah lad, I’d embrace you were it not that I should assuredly fall
out of the saddle if I attempted it, and perchance drag you along. That
sudden pull up well-nigh landed me on the roadway. I have been sliding
off and clambering on ever since I bade goodbye to Havant. Sure, such a
horse for slipping from under one was never bestridden by man.’

‘Good Heavens, Reuben!’ I cried in amazement, ‘what brings you all this
way from home?’

‘The very same cause which brings you, Micah, and also Don Decimo Saxon,
late of the Solent, whom methinks I see in the shadow behind you. How
fares it, oh illustrious one?’

‘It is you, then, young cock of the woods!’ growled Saxon, in no very
overjoyed voice.

‘No less a person,’ said Reuben. ‘And now, my gay cavalieros, round with
your horses and trot on your way, for there is no time to be lost. We
ought all to be at Taunton to-morrow.’

‘But, my dear Reuben,’ said I, ‘it cannot be that you are coming with us
to join Monmouth. What would your father say? This is no holiday jaunt,
but one that may have a sad and stern ending. At the best, victory can
only come through much bloodshed and danger. At the worst, we are as
like to wind up upon a scaffold as not.’

‘Forwards, lads, forwards!’ cried he, spurring on his horse, ‘it is all
arranged and settled. I am about to offer my august person, together
with a sword which I borrowed and a horse which I stole, to his most
Protestant highness, James, Duke of Monmouth.’

‘But how comes it all?’ I asked, as we rode on together. ‘It warms my
very heart to see you, but you were never concerned either in religion
or in politics. Whence, then, this sudden resolution?’

‘Well, truth to tell,’ he replied, ‘I am neither a king’s man nor a
duke’s man, nor would I give a button which sat upon the throne. I do
not suppose that either one or the other would increase the custom of
the Wheatsheaf, or want Reuben Lockarby for a councillor. I am a Micah
Clarke man, though, from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet;
and if he rides to the wars, may the plague strike me if I don’t stick
to his elbow!’ He raised his hand excitedly as he spoke, and instantly
losing his balance, he shot into a dense clump of bushes by the roadside
whence his legs flapped helplessly in the darkness.

‘That makes the tenth,’ said he, scrambling out and clambering into
his saddle once more. ‘My father used to tell me not to sit a horse too
closely. “A gentle rise and fall,” said the old man. Egad, there is more
fall than rise, and it is anything but gentle.’

‘Odd’s truth!’ exclaimed Saxon. ‘How in the name of all the saints in
the calendar do you expect to keep your seat in the presence of an enemy
if you lose it on a peaceful high-road?’

‘I can but try, my illustrious,’ he answered, rearranging his ruffled
clothing. ‘Perchance the sudden and unexpected character of my movements
may disconcert the said enemy.’

‘Well, well, there may be more truth in that than you are aware of,’
quoth Saxon, riding upon Lockarby’s bridle arm, so that there was scarce
room for him to fall between us. ‘I had sooner fight a man like that
young fool at the inn, who knew a little of the use of his weapon, than
one like Micah here, or yourself, who know nothing. You can tell what
the one is after, but the other will invent a system of his own which
will serve his turn for the nonce. Ober-hauptmann Muller was reckoned to
be the finest player at the small-sword in the Kaiser’s army, and could
for a wager snick any button from an opponent’s vest without cutting the
cloth. Yet was he slain in an encounter with Fahnfuhrer Zollner, who was
a cornet in our own Pandour corps, and who knew as much of the rapier as
you do of horsemanship. For the rapier, be it understood, is designed
to thrust and not to cut, so that no man wielding it ever thinks of
guarding a side-stroke. But Zollner, being a long-armed man, smote his
antagonist across the face with his weapon as though it had been a
cane, and then, ere he had time to recover himself, fairly pinked him.
Doubtless if the matter were to do again, the Oberhauptmann would have
got his thrust in sooner, but as it was, no explanation or excuse could
get over the fact that the man was dead.’

‘If want of knowledge maketh a dangerous swordsman,’ quoth Reuben, ‘then
am I even more deadly than the unpronounceable gentleman whom you have
mentioned. To continue my story, however, which I broke off in order to
step down from my horse, I found out early in the morning that ye were
gone, and Zachary Palmer was able to tell me whither. I made up my mind,
therefore, that I would out into the world also. To this end I borrowed
a sword from Solomon Sprent, and my father having gone to Gosport,
I helped myself to the best nag in his stables--for I have too much
respect for the old man to allow one of his flesh and blood to go
ill-provided to the wars. All day I have ridden, since early morning,
being twice stopped on suspicion of being ill-affected, but having the
good luck to get away each time. I knew that I was close at your heels,
for I found them searching for you at the Salisbury Inn.’

Decimus whistled. ‘Searching for us?’ said he.

‘Yes. It seems that they had some notion that ye were not what ye
professed to be, so the inn was surrounded as I passed, but none knew
which road ye had taken.’

‘Said I not so?’ cried Saxon. ‘That young viper hath stirred up the
regiment against us. We must push on, for they may send a party on our
track.’

‘We are off the main road now, ‘I remarked; ‘even should they pursue us,
they would be unlikely to follow this side track.’

‘Yet it would be wise to show them a clean pair of heels,’ said Saxon,
spurring his mare into a gallop. Lockarby and I followed his example,
and we all three rode swiftly along the rough moorland track.

We passed through scattered belts of pinewood, where the wild cat howled
and the owl screeched, and across broad stretches of fenland and moor,
where the silence was only broken by the booming cry of the bittern or
the fluttering of wild duck far above our heads. The road was in parts
overgrown with brambles, and was so deeply rutted and so studded with
sharp and dangerous hollows, that our horses came more than once upon
their knees. In one place the wooden bridge which led over a stream had
broken down, and no attempt had been made to repair it, so that we were
compelled to ride our horses girth deep through the torrent. At first
some scattered lights had shown that we were in the neighbourhood of
human habitations, but these became fewer as we advanced, until the last
died away and we found ourselves upon the desolate moor which stretched
away in unbroken solitude to the shadowy horizon. The moon had broken
through the clouds and now shone hazily through wreaths of mist,
throwing a dim light over the wild scene, and enabling us to keep to
the track, which was not fenced in in any way and could scarce be
distinguished from the plain around it.

We had slackened our pace under the impression that all fear of pursuit
was at an end, and Reuben was amazing us by an account of the excitement
which had been caused in Havant by our disappearance, when through the
stillness of the night a dull, muffled rat-tat-tat struck upon my ear.
At the same moment Saxon sprang from his horse and listened intently
with sidelong head.

‘Boot and saddle!’ he cried, springing into his seat again. ‘They are
after us as sure as fate. A dozen troopers by the sound. We must shake
them off, or goodbye to Monmouth.’

‘Give them their heads,’ I answered, and striking spurs into our steeds,
we thundered on through the darkness. Covenant and Chloe were as fresh
as could be wished, and soon settled down into a long springy gallop.
Our friend’s horse however, had been travelling all day, and its
long-drawn, laboured breathing showed that it could not hold out for
long. Through the clatter of our horses’ hoofs I could still from time
to time hear the ominous murmur from behind us.

‘This will never do, Reuben,’ said I anxiously, as the weary creature
stumbled, and the rider came perilously near to shooting over its head.

‘The old horse is nearly foundered,’ he answered ruefully. ‘We are off
the road now, and the rough ground is too much for her.’

‘Yes, we are off the track,’ cried Saxon over his shoulder--for he led
us by a few paces. ‘Bear in mind that the Bluecoats have been on the
march all day, so that their horses may also be blown. How in Himmel
came they to know which road we took?’

As if in answer to his ejaculation, there rose out of the still night
behind us a single, clear, bell-like note, swelling and increasing in
volume until it seemed to fill the whole air with its harmony.

‘A bloodhound!’ cried Saxon.

A second sharper, keener note, ending in an unmistakable howl, answered
the first.

‘Another of them,’ said he. ‘They have loosed the brutes that we saw
near the Cathedral. Gad! we little thought when we peered over the rails
at them, a few hours ago, that they would so soon be on our own track.
Keep a firm knee and a steady seat, for a slip now would be your last.’

‘Holy mother!’ cried Reuben, ‘I had steeled myself to die in battle--but
to be dogsmeat! It is something outside the contract.’

‘They hold them in leash,’ said Saxon, between his teeth, ‘else they
would outstrip the horses and be lost in the darkness.

Could we but come on running water we might put them off our track.’

‘My horse cannot hold on at this pace for more than a very few minutes,’
Reuben cried. ‘If I break down, do ye go on, for ye must remember
that they are upon your track and not mine. They have found cause for
suspicion of the two strangers of the inn, but none of me.’

‘Nay, Reuben, we shall stand or fall together,’ said I sadly, for at
every step his horse grew more and more feeble. ‘In this darkness they
will make little distinction between persons.’

‘Keep a good heart,’ shouted the old soldier, who was now leading us by
twenty yards or more. ‘We can hear them because the wind blows from that
way, but it’s odds whether they have heard us. Methinks they slacken in
their pursuit.’

‘The sound of their horses has indeed grown fainter,’ said I joyfully.

‘So faint that I can hear it no longer,’ my companion cried.

We reined up our panting steeds and strained our ears, but not a
sound could we hear save the gentle murmur of the breeze amongst the
whin-bushes, and the melancholy cry of the night-jar. Behind us the
broad rolling plain, half light and half shadow, stretched away to
the dim horizon without sign of life or movement. ‘We have either
outstripped them completely, or else they have given up the chase,’ said
I. ‘What ails the horses that they should tremble and snort?’

‘My poor beast is nearly done for,’ Reuben remarked, leaning forward and
passing his hand down the creature’s reeking neck.

‘For all that we cannot rest,’ said Saxon. ‘We may not be out of danger
yet. Another mile or two may shake us clear. But I like it not.’

‘Like not what?’

‘These horses and their terrors. The beasts can at times both see and
hear more than we, as I could show by divers examples drawn from mine
own experience on the Danube and in the Palatinate, were the time and
place more fitting. Let us on, then, before we rest.’

The weary horses responded bravely to the call, and struggled onwards
over the broken ground for a considerable time. At last we were thinking
of pulling up in good earnest, and of congratulating ourselves upon
having tired out our pursuers, when of a sudden the bell-like baying
broke upon our ears far louder than it had been before--so loud, indeed,
that it was evident that the dogs were close upon our heels.

‘The accursed hounds!’ cried Saxon, putting spurs to his horse and
shooting ahead of us; ‘I feared as much. They have freed them from the
leash. There is no escape from the devils, but we can choose the spot
where we shall make our stand.’

‘Come on, Reuben,’ I shouted. ‘We have only to reckon with the dogs now.
Their masters have let them loose, and turned back for Salisbury.’

‘Pray heaven they break their necks before they get there!’ he cried.
‘They set dogs on us as though we were rats in a cock-pit. Yet they call
England a Christian country! It’s no use, Micah. Poor Dido can’t stir
another step.’

As he spoke, the sharp fierce bay of the hounds rose again, clear and
stern on the night air, swelling up from a low hoarse growl to a high
angry yelp. There seemed to be a ring of exultation in their wild cry,
as though they knew that their quarry was almost run to earth.

‘Not another step!’ said Reuben Lockarby, pulling up and drawing his
sword. ‘If I must fight, I shall fight here.’

‘There could be no better place,’ I replied. Two great jagged rocks rose
before us, jutting abruptly out of the ground, and leaving a space of
twelve or fifteen feet between them. Through this gap we rode, and
I shouted loudly for Saxon to join us. His horse, however, had been
steadily gaining upon ours, and at the renewed alarm had darted off
again, so that he was already some hundred yards from us. It was useless
to summon him, even could he hear our voices, for the hounds would be
upon us before he could return.

‘Never heed him,’ I said hurriedly. ‘Do you rein your steed behind
that rock, and I behind this. They will serve to break the force of the
attack. Dismount not, but strike down, and strike hard.’

On either side in the shadow of the rock we waited in silence for our
terrible pursuers. Looking back at it, my dear children, I cannot but
think that it was a great trial on such young soldiers as Reuben and
myself to be put, on the first occasion of drawing our swords, into such
a position. For I have found, and others have confirmed my opinion,
that of all dangers that a man is called upon to face, that arising from
savage and determined animals is the most unnerving. For with men there
is ever the chance that some trait of weakness or of want of courage may
give you an advantage over them, but with fierce beasts there is no such
hope. We knew that the creatures to whom we were opposed could never
be turned from our throats while there was breath in their bodies. One
feels in one’s heart, too, that the combat is an unequal one, for your
life is precious at least to your friends, while their lives, what are
they? All this and a great deal more passed swiftly through our minds
as we sat with drawn swords, soothing our trembling horses as best we
might, and waiting for the coming of the hounds.

Nor had we long to wait. Another long, deep, thunderous bay sounded
in our ears, followed by a profound silence, broken only by the quick
shivering breathing of the horses. Then suddenly, and noiselessly, a
great tawny brute, with its black muzzle to the earth, and its overhung
cheeks napping on either side, sprang into the band of moonlight between
the rocks, and on into the shadow beyond. It never paused or swerved for
an instant, but pursued its course straight onwards without a glance
to right or to left. Close behind it came a second, and behind that a
third, all of enormous size, and looking even larger and more terrible
than they were in the dim shifting light. Like the first, they took no
notice of our presence, but bounded on along the trail left by Decimus
Saxon.

The first and second I let pass, for I hardly realised that they so
completely overlooked us. When the third, however, sprang out into the
moonlight, I drew my right-hand pistol from its holster, and resting
its long barrel across my left forearm, I fired at it as it passed. The
bullet struck the mark, for the brute gave a fierce howl of rage and
pain, but true to the scent it never turned or swerved. Lockarby fired
also as it disappeared among the brushwood, but with no apparent effect.
So swiftly and so noiselessly did the great hounds pass, that they might
have been grim silent spirits of the night, the phantom dogs of Herne
the hunter, but for that one fierce yelp which followed my shot.

‘What brutes!’ my companion ejaculated; ‘what shall we do, Micah?’

‘They have clearly been laid on Saxon’s trail,’ said I. ‘We must follow
them up, or they will be too many for him. Can you hear anything of our
pursuers?’

‘Nothing.’

‘They have given up the chase, then, and let the dogs loose as a last
resource. Doubtless the creatures are trained to return to the town. But
we must push on, Reuben, if we are to help our companion.’

‘One more spurt, then, little Dido,’ cried Reuben; ‘can you muster
strength for one more? Nay, I have not the heart to put spurs to you. If
you can do it, I know you will.’

The brave mare snorted, as though she understood her riders words, and
stretched her weary limbs into a gallop. So stoutly did she answer the
appeal that, though I pressed Covenant to his topmost speed, she was
never more than a few strides behind him.

‘He took this direction,’ said I, peering anxiously out into the
darkness. ‘He can scarce have gone far, for he spoke of making a stand.
Or, perhaps, finding that we are not with him, he may trust to the speed
of his horse.’

‘What chance hath a horse of outstripping these brutes?’ Reuben
answered. ‘They must run him to earth, and he knows it. Hullo! what have
we here?’

A dark dim form lay stretched in the moonlight in front of us. It was
the dead body of a hound--the one evidently at which I had fired.

‘There is one of them disposed of, ‘I cried joyously; ‘we have but two
to settle with now.’

‘As I spoke we heard the crack of two pistol-shots some little distance
to the left. Heading our steeds in that direction, we pressed on at the
top of our speed. Presently out of the darkness in front of us there
arose such a roaring and a yelping as sent the hearts into our mouths.
It was not a single cry, such as the hounds had uttered when they were
on the scent, but a continuous deep-mouthed uproar, so fierce and so
prolonged, that we could not doubt that they had come to the end of
their run.

‘Pray God that they have not got him down!’ cried Reuben, in a faltering
voice.

The same thought had crossed my own mind, for I have heard a similar
though lesser din come from a pack of otter hounds when they had
overtaken their prey and were tearing it to pieces. Sick at heart, I
drew my sword with the determination that, if we were too late to save
our companion, we should at least revenge him upon the four-footed
fiends. Bursting through a thick belt of scrub and tangled gorse bushes,
we came upon a scene so unlike what we had expected that we pulled up
our horses in astonishment.

A circular clearing lay in front of us, brightly illuminated by the
silvery moonshine. In the centre of this rose a giant stone, one
of those high dark columns which are found all over the plain, and
especially in the parts round Stonehenge. It could not have been less
than fifteen feet in height, and had doubtless been originally straight,
but wind and weather, or the crumbling of the soil, had gradually
suffered it to tilt over until it inclined at such an angle that an
active man might clamber up to the summit. On the top of this ancient
stone, cross-legged and motionless, like some strange carved idol of
former days, sat Decimus Saxon, puffing sedately at the long pipe which
was ever his comfort in moments of difficulty. Beneath him, at the base
of the monolith, as our learned men call them, the two great bloodhounds
were rearing and springing, clambering over each other’s backs in their
frenzied and futile eagerness to reach the impassive figure perched
above them, while they gave vent to their rage and disappointment in the
hideous uproar which had suggested such terrible thoughts to our mind.

We had little time, however, to gaze at this strange scene, for upon our
appearance the hounds abandoned their helpless attempts to reach Saxon,
and flew, with a fierce snarl of satisfaction, at Reuben and myself.
One great brute, with flaring eyes and yawning mouth, his white fangs
glistening in the moonlight, sprang at my horse’s neck; but I met him
fair with a single sweeping cut, which shore away his muzzle, and left
him wallowing and writhing in a pool of blood. Reuben, meanwhile, had
spurred his horse forward to meet his assailant; but the poor tired
steed flinched at the sight of the fierce hound, and pulled up suddenly,
with the result that her rider rolled headlong into the very jaws of the
animal. It might have gone ill with Reuben had he been left to his own
resources. At the most he could only have kept the cruel teeth from
his throat for a very few moments; but seeing the mischance, I drew my
remaining pistol, and springing from my horse, discharged it full into
the creature’s flank while it struggled with my friend. With a last
yell of rage and pain it brought its fierce jaws together in one wild
impotent snap, and then sank slowly over upon its side, while Reuben
crawled from beneath it, scared and bruised, but none the worse
otherwise for his perilous adventure.

‘I owe you one for that, Micah,’ he said gratefully. ‘I may live to do
as much for you.’

‘And I owe ye both one,’ said Saxon, who had scrambled down from his
place of refuge. ‘I pay my debts, too, whether for good or evil. I might
have stayed up there until I had eaten my jack-boots, for all the chance
I had of ever getting down again. Sancta Maria! but that was a shrewd
blow of yours, Clarke! The brute’s head flew in halves like a rotten
pumpkin. No wonder that they stuck to my track, for I have left both my
spare girth and my kerchief behind me, which would serve to put them on
Chloe’s scent as well as mine own.’

‘And where is Chloe?’ I asked, wiping my sword.

‘Chloe had to look out for herself. I found the brutes gaining on me,
you see, and I let drive at them with my barkers; but with a horse
flying at twenty mile an hour, what chance is there for a single slug
finding its way home?’ Things looked black then, for I had no time to
reload, and the rapier, though the king of weapons in the duello, is
scarce strong enough to rely upon on an occasion like this. As luck
would have it, just as I was fairly puzzled, what should I come across
but this handy stone, which the good priests of old did erect, as far as
I can see, for no other purpose than to provide worthy cavalieros with
an escape from such ignoble and scurvy enemies. I had no time to spare
in clambering up it, for I had to tear my heel out of the mouth of the
foremost of them, and might have been dragged down by it had he not
found my spur too tough a morsel for his chewing. But surely one of my
bullets must have readied its mark.’ Lighting the touch-paper in his
tobacco-box, he passed it over the body of the hound which had attacked
me, and then of the other.

‘Why, this one is riddled like a sieve,’ he cried. ‘What do you load
your petronels with, good Master Clarke?’

‘With two leaden slugs.’

‘Yet two leaden slugs have made a score of holes at the least! And of
all things in this world, here is the neck of a bottle stuck in the
brute’s hide!’

‘Good heavens!’ I exclaimed. ‘I remember. My dear mother packed a bottle
of Daffy’s elixir in the barrel of my pistol.’

‘And you have shot it into the bloodhound!’ roared Reuben. ‘Ho! ho! When
they hear that tale at the tap of the Wheatsheaf, there will be some
throats dry with laughter. Saved my life by shooting a dog with a bottle
of Daffy’s elixir!’

‘And a bullet as well, Reuben, though I dare warrant the gossips will
soon contrive to leave that detail out. It is a mercy the pistol did not
burst. But what do you propose to do now, Master Saxon?’

‘Why, to recover my mare if it can anywise be done,’ said the
adventurer.’ Though on this vast moor, in the dark, she will be as
difficult to find as a Scotsman’s breeches or a flavourless line in
“Hudibras.”’

‘And Reuben Lockarby’s steed can go no further,’ I remarked. ‘But do
mine eyes deceive me, or is there a glimmer of light over yonder?’

‘A Will-o’-the-wisp,’ said Saxon.

          “An _ignis fatuus_ that bewitches,
           And leads men into pools and ditches.”

Yet I confess that it burns steady and clear, as though it came from
lamp, candle, rushlight, lanthorn, or other human agency.’

‘Where there is light there is life,’ cried Reuben. ‘Let us make for it,
and see what chance of shelter we may find there.’

‘It cannot come from our dragoon friends,’ remarked Decimus. ‘A murrain
on them! how came they to guess our true character; or was it on the
score of some insult to the regiment that that young Fahnfuhrer has set
them on our track? If I have him at my sword’s point again, he shall
not come off so free. Well, do ye lead your horses, and we shall explore
this light, since no better course is open to us.’

Picking our way across the moor, we directed our course for the bright
point which twinkled in the distance; and as we advanced we hazarded
a thousand conjectures as to whence it could come. If it were a human
dwelling, what sort of being could it be who, not content with living in
the heart of this wilderness, had chosen a spot so far removed from the
ordinary tracks which crossed it? The roadway was miles behind us, and
it was probable that no one save those driven by such a necessity as
that which had overtaken us would ever find themselves in that desolate
region. No hermit could have desired an abode more completely isolated
from all communion with his kind.

As we approached we saw that the light did indeed come from a small
cottage, which was built in a hollow, so as to be invisible from any
quarter save that from which we approached it. In front of this humble
dwelling a small patch of ground had been cleared of shrub, and in the
centre of this little piece of sward our missing steed stood grazing at
her leisure upon the scanty herbage. The same light which had attracted
us had doubtless caught her eye, and drawn her towards it by hopes of
oats and of water. With a grunt of satisfaction Saxon resumed possession
of his lost property, and leading her by the bridle, approached the door
of the solitary cottage.



Chapter XI. Of the Lonely Man and the Gold Chest

The strong yellow glare which had attracted us across the moor found its
way out through a single narrow slit alongside the door which served the
purpose of a rude window. As we advanced towards it the light changed
suddenly to red, and that again to green, throwing a ghastly pallor over
our faces, and especially heightening the cadaverous effect of Saxon’s
austere features. At the same time we became aware of a most subtle
and noxious odour which poisoned the air all round the cottage.
This combination of portents in so lonely a spot worked upon the old
man-at-arms’ superstitious feelings to such an extent that he paused
and looked back at us inquiringly. Both Reuben and I were determined,
however, to carry the adventure through, so he contented himself with
falling a little behind us, and pattering to himself some exorcism
appropriate to the occasion. Walking up to the door, I rapped upon it
with the hilt of my sword and announced that we were weary travellers
who were seeking a night’s shelter.

The first result of my appeal was a sound as of some one bustling
rapidly about, with the clinking of metal and noise of the turning of
locks. This died away into a hush, and I was about to knock once more
when a crackling voice greeted us from the other side of the door.

‘There is little shelter here, gentlemen, and less provisions,’ it said.
‘It is but six miles to Amesbury, where at the Cecil Arms ye shall find,
I doubt not, all that is needful for man and for beast.’

‘Nay, nay, mine invisible friend,’ quoth Saxon, who was much reassured
by the sound of a human voice, ‘this is surely but a scurvy reception.
One of our horses is completely foundered, and none of them are in
very good plight, so that we could no more make for the Cecil Arms at
Amesbury than for the Gruner Mann at Lubeck. I prythee, therefore, that
you will allow us to pass the remainder of the night under your roof.’

At this appeal there was much creaking of locks and rasping of bolts,
which ended in the door swinging slowly open, and disclosing the person
who had addressed us.

By the strong light which shone out from behind him we could see that
he was a man of venerable aspect, with snow-white hair and a countenance
which bespoke a thoughtful and yet fiery nature. The high pensive brow
and flowing beard smacked of the philosopher, but the keen sparkling
eye, the curved aquiline nose, and the lithe upright figure which the
weight of years had been unable to bend, were all suggestive of the
soldier. His lofty bearing, and his rich though severe costume of black
velvet, were at strange variance with the humble nature of the abode
which he had chosen for his dwelling-place.

‘Ho!’ said he, looking keenly at us. ‘Two of ye unused to war, and the
other an old soldier. Ye have been pursued, I see!’

‘How did you know that, then?’ asked Decimus Saxon.

‘Ah, my friend, I too have served in my time. My eyes are not so old but
that they can tell when horses have been spurred to the utmost, nor is
it difficult to see that this young giant’s sword hath been employed in
something less innocent than toasting bacon. Your story, however, can
keep. Every true soldier thinks first of his horse, so I pray that you
will tether yours without, since I have neither ostler nor serving man
to whom I may entrust them.’

The strange dwelling into which we presently entered had been prolonged
into the side of the little hill against which it had been built, so
as to form a very long narrow hall. The ends of this great room, as we
entered, were wrapped in shadow, but in the centre was a bright glare
from a brazier full of coals, over which a brass pipkin was suspended.
Beside the fire a long wooden table was plentifully covered with curved
glass flasks, basins, tubings, and other instruments of which I knew
neither the name nor the purpose. A long row of bottles containing
various coloured liquids and powders were arranged along a shelf, whilst
above it another shelf bore a goodly array of brown volumes. For the
rest there was a second rough-hewn table, a pair of cupboards, three or
four wooden settles, and several large screens pinned to the walls
and covered all over with figures and symbols, of which I could make
nothing. The vile smell which had greeted us outside was very much worse
within the chamber, and arose apparently from the fumes of the boiling,
bubbling contents of the brazen pot.

‘Ye behold in me,’ said our host, bowing courteously to us, ‘the last of
an ancient family. I am Sir Jacob Clancing of Snellaby Hall.’

‘Smellaby it should be, methinks,’ whispered Reuben, in a voice which
fortunately did not reach the ears of the old knight.

‘I pray that ye be seated,’ he continued, ‘and that ye lay aside your
plates and headpieces, and remove your boots. Consider this to be your
inn, and behave as freely. Ye will hold me excused if for a moment I
turn my attention from you to this operation on which I am engaged,
which will not brook delay.’

Saxon began forthwith to undo his buckles and to pull off his harness,
while Reuben, throwing himself into a chair, appeared to be too weary
to do more than unfasten his sword-belt. For my own part, I was glad
to throw off my gear, but I kept my attention all the while upon the
movements of our host, whose graceful manners and learned appearance had
aroused my curiosity and admiration.

He approached the evil-smelling pot, and stirred it up with a face
which indicated so much anxiety that it was clear that he had pushed his
courtesy to us so far as to risk the ruin of some important experiment.
Dipping his ladle into the compound, he scooped some up, and then poured
it slowly back into the vessel, showing a yellow turbid fluid. The
appearance of it evidently reassured him, for the look of anxiety
cleared away from his features, and he uttered an exclamation of relief.
Taking a handful of a whitish powder from a trencher at his side he
threw it into the pipkin, the contents of which began immediately to
seethe and froth over into the fire, causing the flames to assume
the strange greenish hue which we had observed before entering. This
treatment had the effect of clearing the fluid, for the chemist was
enabled to pour off into a bottle a quantity of perfectly watery
transparent liquid, while a brownish sediment remained in the vessel,
and was emptied out upon a sheet of paper. This done, Sir Jacob Clancing
pushed aside all his bottles, and turned towards us with a smiling face
and a lighter air.

‘We shall see what my poor larder can furnish forth,’ said he.
‘Meanwhile, this odour may be offensive to your untrained nostrils, so
we shall away with it. He threw a few grains of some balsamic resin
into the brazier, which at once filled the chamber with a most agreeable
perfume. He then laid a white cloth upon the table, and taking from a
cupboard a dish of cold trout and a large meat pasty, he placed them
upon it, and invited us to draw up our settles and set to work.

‘I would that I had more toothsome fare to offer ye,’ said he. ‘Were
we at Snellaby Hall, ye should not be put off in this scurvy fashion, I
promise ye. This may serve, however, for hungry men, and I can still
lay my hands upon a brace of bottles of the old Alicant.’ So saying, he
brought a pair of flasks out from a recess, and having seen us served
and our glasses filled, he seated himself in a high-backed oaken chair
and presided with old-fashioned courtesy over our feast. As we supped, I
explained to him what our errand was, and narrated the adventures of the
night, without making mention of our destination.

‘You are bound for Monmouth’s camp,’ he said quietly, when I had
finished, looking me full in the face with his keen dark eyes. ‘I know
it, but ye need not fear lest I betray you, even were it in my power.
What chance, think ye, hath the Duke against the King’s forces?’

‘As much chance as a farmyard fowl against a spurred gamecock, did he
rely only on those whom he hath with him,’ Saxon answered. ‘He hath
reason to think, however, that all England is like a powder magazine,
and he hopes to be the spark to set it alight.’

The old man shook his head sadly. ‘The King hath great resources,’ he
remarked. ‘Where is Monmouth to get his trained soldiers?’

‘There is the militia,’ I suggested.

‘And there are many of the old parliamentary breed, who are not too far
gone to strike a blow for their belief,’ said Saxon. ‘Do you but get
half-a-dozen broad-brimmed, snuffle-nosed preachers into a camp, and the
whole Presbytery tribe will swarm round them like flies on a honey-pot.
No recruiting sergeants will ever raise such an army as did Noll’s
preachers in the eastern counties, where the promise of a seat by the
throne was thought of more value than a ten-pound bounty. I would I
could pay mine own debts with these same promises.’

‘I should judge from your speech, sir,’ our host observed, ‘that you are
not one of the sectaries. How comes it, then, that you are throwing the
weight of your sword and your experience into the weaker scale?’

‘For the very reason that it is the weaker scale,’ said the soldier of
fortune. ‘I should gladly have gone with my brother to the Guinea coast
and had no say in the matter one way or the other, beyond delivering
letters and such trifles. Since I must be doing something, I choose to
fight for Protestantism and Monmouth. It is nothing to me whether James
Stuart or James Walters sits upon the throne, but the court and army of
the King are already made up. Now, since Monmouth hath both courtiers
and soldiers to find, it may well happen that he may be glad of my
services and reward them with honourable preferment.’

‘Your logic is sound,’ said our host, ‘save only that you have omitted
the very great chance which you will incur of losing your head if the
Duke’s party are borne down by the odds against them.’

‘A man cannot throw a main without putting a stake on the board,’ said
Saxon.

‘And you, young sir,’ the old man asked, ‘what has caused you to take a
hand in so dangerous a game?’

‘I come of a Roundhead stock,’ I answered, ‘and my folk have always
fought for the liberty of the people and the humbling of tyranny. I come
in the place of my father.’

‘And you, sir?’ our questioner continued, looking at Reuben.

‘I have come to see something of the world, and to be with my friend and
companion here,’ he replied.

‘And I have stronger reasons than any of ye,’ Sir Jacob cried, ‘for
appearing in arms against any man who bears the name of Stuart. Had I
not a mission here which cannot be neglected, I might myself be tempted
to hie westward with ye, and put these grey hairs of mine once more into
the rough clasp of a steel headpiece. For where now is the noble castle
of Snellaby, and where those glades and woods amidst which the Clancings
have grown up, and lived and died, ere ever Norman William set his
foot on English soil? A man of trade--a man who, by the sweat of his
half-starved workers, had laid by ill-gotten wealth, is now the owner
of all that fair property. Should I, the last of the Clancings, show
my face upon it, I might be handed over to the village beadle as a
trespasser, or scourged off it perhaps by the bowstrings of insolent
huntsmen.’

‘And how comes so sudden a reverse of fortune?’ I asked.

‘Fill up your glasses!’ cried the old man, suiting the action to the
word. ‘Here’s a toast for you! Perdition to all faithless princes!
How came it about, ye ask? Why, when the troubles came upon the first
Charles, I stood by him as though he had been mine own brother. At
Edgehill, at Naseby, in twenty skirmishes and battles, I fought stoutly
in his cause, maintaining a troop of horse at my own expense, formed
from among my own gardeners, grooms, and attendants. Then the military
chest ran low, and money must be had to carry on the contest. My silver
chargers and candlesticks were thrown into the melting-pot, as were
those of many another cavalier. They went in metal and they came out
as troopers and pikemen. So we tided over a few months until again the
purse was empty, and again we filled it amongst us. This time it was the
home farm and the oak trees that went. Then came Marston Moor, and every
penny and man was needed to repair that great disaster. I flinched not,
but gave everything. This boiler of soap, a prudent, fat-cheeked man,
had kept himself free from civil broils, and had long had a covetous eye
upon the castle. It was his ambition, poor worm, to be a gentleman, as
though a gabled roof and a crumbling house could ever make him that. I
let him have his way, however, and threw the sum received, every guinea
of it, into the King’s coffers. And so I held out until the final ruin
of Worcester, when I covered the retreat of the young prince, and may
indeed say that save in the Isle of Man I was the last Royalist who
upheld the authority of the crown. The Commonwealth had set a price upon
my head as a dangerous malignant, so I was forced to take my passage in
a Harwich ketch, and arrived in the Lowlands with nothing save my sword
and a few broad pieces in my pocket.’

‘A cavalier might do well even then,’ remarked Saxon. ‘There are ever
wars in Germany where a man is worth his hire. When the North Germans
are not in arms against the Swedes or French, the South Germans are sure
to be having a turn with the janissaries.’

‘I did indeed take arms for a time in the employ of the United
Provinces, by which means I came face to face once more with mine old
foes, the Roundheads. Oliver had lent Reynolds’s brigade to the French,
and right glad was Louis to have the service of such seasoned troops.
‘Fore God, I stood on the counterscarp at Dunkirk, and I found myself,
when I should have been helping the defence, actually cheering on the
attack. My very heart rose when I saw the bull-dog fellows clambering up
the breach with their pikes at the trail, and never quavering in their
psalm-tune, though the bullets sung around them as thick as bees in the
hiving time. And when they did come to close hugs with the Flemings, I
tell you they set up such a rough cry of soldierly joy that my pride
in them as Englishmen overtopped my hatred of them as foes. However, my
soldiering was of no great duration, for peace was soon declared, and
I then pursued the study of chemistry, for which I had a strong turn,
first with Vorhaager of Leyden, and later with De Huy of Strasburg,
though I fear that these weighty names are but sounds to your ears.’

‘Truly,’ said Saxon, ‘there seemeth to be some fatal attraction in this
same chemistry, for we met two officers of the Blue Guards in Salisbury,
who, though they were stout soldierly men in other respects, had also a
weakness in that direction.’

‘Ha!’ cried Sir Jacob, with interest. ‘To what school did they belong?’

‘Nay, I know nothing of the matter,’ Saxon answered, ‘save that they
denied that Gervinus of Nurnberg, whom I guarded in prison, or any other
man, could transmute metals.’

‘For Gervinus I cannot answer,’ said our host, ‘but for the possibility
of it I can pledge my knightly word. However, of that anon. The time
came at last when the second Charles was invited back to his throne,
and all of us, from Jeffrey Hudson, the court dwarf, up to my Lord
Clarendon, were in high feather at the hope of regaining our own once
more. For my own claim, I let it stand for some time, thinking that it
would be a more graceful act for the King to help a poor cavalier who
had ruined himself for the sake of his family without solicitation on
his part. I waited and waited, but no word came, so at last I betook
myself to the levee and was duly presented to him. “Ah,” said he,
greeting me with the cordiality which he could assume so well, “you
are, if I mistake not, Sir Jasper Killigrew?” “Nay, your Majesty,”
 I answered, “I am Sir Jacob Clancing, formerly of Snellaby Hall, in
Staffordshire;” and with that I reminded him of Worcester fight and of
many passages which had occurred to us in common. “Od’s fish!” he cried,
“how could I be so forgetful! And how are all at Snellaby?” I then
explained to him that the Hall had passed out of my hands, and told him
in a few words the state to which I had been reduced. His face clouded
over and his manner chilled to me at once. “They are all on to me for
money and for places,” he said, “and truly the Commons are so niggardly
to me that I can scarce be generous to others. However, Sir Jacob, we
shall see what can be done for thee,” and with that he dismissed me.
That same night the secretary of my Lord Clarendon came to me, and
announced with much form and show that, in consideration of my long
devotion and the losses which I had sustained, the King was graciously
pleased to make me a lottery cavalier.’

‘And pray, sir, what is a lottery cavalier?’ I asked.

‘It is nothing else than a licensed keeper of a gambling-house. This
was his reward to me. I was to be allowed to have a den in the piazza
of Covent Garden, and there to decoy the young sparks of the town and
fleece them at ombre. To restore my own fortunes I was to ruin others.
My honour, my family, my reputation, they were all to weigh for
nothing so long as I had the means of bubbling a few fools out of their
guineas.’

‘I have heard that some of the lottery cavaliers did well,’ remarked
Saxon reflectively.

‘Well or ill, it way no employment for me. I waited upon the King and
implored that his bounty would take another form. His only reply was
that for one so poor I was strangely fastidious. For weeks I hung about
the court--I and other poor cavaliers like myself, watching the royal
brothers squandering upon their gaming and their harlots sums which
would have restored us to our patrimonies. I have seen Charles put upon
one turn of a card as much as would have satisfied the most exacting of
us. In the parks of St. James, or in the Gallery at Whitehall, I still
endeavoured to keep myself before his eyes, in the hope that some
provision would be made for me. At last I received a second message from
him. It was that unless I could dress more in the mode he could dispense
with my attendance. That was his message to the old broken soldier who
had sacrificed health, wealth, position, everything in the service of
his father and himself.’

‘Shameful!’ we cried, all three.

‘Can you wonder, then, that I cursed the whole Stuart race,
false-hearted, lecherous, and cruel? For the Hall, I could buy it back
to-morrow if I chose, but why should I do so when I have no heir?’

‘Ho, you have prospered then!’ said Decimus Saxon, with one of his
shrewd sidelong looks. ‘Perhaps you have yourself found out how to
convert pots and pans into gold in the way you have spoken of. But that
cannot be, for I see iron and brass in this room which would hardly
remain there could you convert it to gold.’

‘Gold has its uses, and iron has its uses,’ said Sir Jacob oracularly.
‘The one can never supplant the other.’

‘Yet these officers,’ I remarked, ‘did declare to us that it was but a
superstition of the vulgar.’

‘Then these officers did show that their knowledge was less than their
prejudice. Alexander Setonius, a Scot, was first of the moderns to
achieve it. In the month of March 1602 he did change a bar of lead into
gold in the house of a certain Hansen, at Rotterdam, who hath testified
to it. He then not only repeated the same process before three learned
men sent by the Kaiser Rudolph, but he taught Johann Wolfgang Dienheim
of Freibourg, and Gustenhofer of Strasburg, which latter taught it to my
own illustrious master--’

‘Who in turn taught it to you,’ cried Saxon triumphantly. ‘I have no
great store of metal with me, good sir, but there are my head-piece,
back and breast-plate, taslets and thigh-pieces, together with my
sword, spurs, and the buckles of my harness. I pray you to use your most
excellent and praiseworthy art upon these, and I will promise within a
few days to bring round a mass of metal which shall be more worthy of
your skill.’

‘Nay, nay,’ said the alchemist, smiling and shaking his head. ‘It can
indeed be done, but only slowly and in order, small pieces at a time,
and with much expenditure of work and patience. For a man to enrich
himself at it he must labour hard and long; yet in the end I will not
deny that he may compass it. And now, since the flasks are empty and
your young comrade is nodding in his chair, it will perhaps be as well
for you to spend as much of the night as is left in repose.’ He drew
several blankets and rugs from a corner and scattered them over the
floor. ‘It is a soldier’s couch,’ he remarked; ‘but ye may sleep on
worse before ye put Monmouth on the English throne. For myself, it is
my custom to sleep in an inside chamber, which is hollowed out of the
hill.’ With a few last words and precautions for our comfort he withdrew
with the lamp, passing through a door which had escaped our notice at
the further end of the apartment.

Reuben, having had no rest since he left Havant, had already dropped
upon the rugs, and was fast asleep, with a saddle for a pillow. Saxon
and I sat for a few minutes longer by the light of the burning brazier.

‘One might do worse than take to this same chemical business,’ my
companion remarked, knocking the ashes out of his pipe. ‘See you yon
iron-bound chest in the corner?’

‘What of it?’

‘It is two thirds full of gold, which this worthy gentleman hath
manufactured.’

‘How know you that?’ I asked incredulously.

‘When you did strike the door panel with the hilt of your sword, as
though you would drive it in, you may have heard some scuttling about,
and the turning of a lock. Well, thanks to my inches, I was able to look
through yon slit in the wall, and I saw our friend throw something into
the chest with a chink, and then lock it. It was but a glance at the
contents, yet I could swear that that dull yellow light could come from
no metal but gold. Let us see if it be indeed locked.’ Rising from his
seat he walked over to the box and pulled vigorously at the lid.

‘Forbear, Saxon, forbear!’ I cried angrily. ‘What would our host say,
should he come upon you?’

‘Nay, then, he should not keep such things beneath his roof. With a
chisel or a dagger now, this might be prized open.’

‘By Heaven!’ I whispered, ‘if you should attempt it I shall lay you on
your back.’

‘Well, well, young Anak! it was but a passing fancy to see the treasure
again. Now, if he were but well favoured to the King, this would be
fair prize of war. Marked ye not that he claimed to have been the last
Royalist who drew sword in England? and he confessed that he had been
proscribed as a malignant. Your father, godly as he is, would have
little compunction in despoiling such an Amalekite. Besides, bethink
you, he can make more as easily as your good mother maketh cranberry
dumplings.’

‘Enough said!’ I answered sternly. ‘It will not bear discussion. Get ye
to your couch, lest I summon our host and tell him what manner of man he
hath entertained.’

With many grumbles Saxon consented at last to curl his long limbs up
upon a mat, whilst I lay by his side and remained awake until the mellow
light of morning streamed through the chinks between the ill-covered
rafters. Truth to tell, I feared to sleep, lest the freebooting habits
of the soldier of fortune should be too strong for him, and he should
disgrace us in the eyes of our kindly and generous entertainer. At last,
however, his long-drawn breathing assured me that he was asleep, and I
was able to settle down to a few hours of welcome rest.



Chapter XII. Of certain Passages upon the Moor

In the morning, after a breakfast furnished by the remains of our
supper, we looked to our horses and prepared for our departure. Ere we
could mount, however, our kindly host came running out to us with a load
of armour in his arms.

‘Come hither,’ said he, beckoning to Reuben. ‘It is not meet, lad, that
you should go bare-breasted against the enemy when your comrades are
girt with steel. I have here mine own old breastplate and head-piece,
which should, methinks, fit you, for if you have more flesh than I, I am
a larger framework of a man. Ah, said I not so! Were’t measured for you
by Silas Thomson, the court armourer, it could not grip better. Now
on with the head-piece. A close fit again. You are now a cavalier whom
Monmouth or any other leader might be proud to see ride beneath his
banner.’

Both helmet and body-plates were of the finest Milan steel, richly
inlaid with silver and with gold, and carved all over in rare and
curious devices. So stern and soldierly was the effect, that the
ruddy, kindly visage of our friend staring out of such a panoply had an
ill-matched and somewhat ludicrous appearance.

‘Nay, nay,’ cried the old cavalier, seeing a smile upon our features,
‘it is but right that so precious a jewel as a faithful heart should
have a fitting casket to protect it.’

‘I am truly beholden to you, sir,’ said Reuben; ‘I can scarce find words
to express my thanks. Holy mother! I have a mind to ride straight back
to Havant, to show them how stout a man-at-arms hath been reared amongst
them.’

‘It is steel of proof,’ Sir Jacob remarked; ‘a pistol-bullet might
glance from it. And you,’ he continued, turning to me, ‘here is a small
gift by which you shall remember this meeting. I did observe that you
did cast a wistful eye upon my bookshelf. It is Plutarch’s lives of the
ancient worthies, done into English by the ingenious Mr. Latimer. Carry
this volume with you, and shape your life after the example of the giant
men whose deeds are here set forth. In your saddle-bag I place a small
but weighty packet, which I desire you to hand over to Monmouth upon
the day of your arrival in his camp. As to you, sir,’ addressing Decimus
Saxon, ‘here is a slug of virgin gold for you, which may fashion into a
pin or such like ornament. You may wear it with a quiet conscience, for
it is fairly given to you and not filched from your entertainer whilst
he slept.’

Saxon and I shot a sharp glance of surprise at each other at this
speech, which showed that our words of the night before were not unknown
to him. Sir Jacob, however, showed no signs of anger, but proceeded to
point out our road and to advise us as to our journey.

‘You must follow this sheep-track until you come on another and broader
pathway which makes for the West,’ said he. ‘It is little used, and
there is small chance of your falling in with any of your enemies upon
it. This path will lead you between the villages of Fovant and Hindon,
and soon to Mere, which is no great distance from Bruton, upon the
Somersetshire border.’

Thanking our venerable host for his great kindness towards us we gave
rein to our horses, and left him once more to the strange solitary
existence in which we had found him. So artfully had the site of
his cottage been chosen, that when we looked back to give him a last
greeting both he and his dwelling had disappeared already from our view,
nor could we, among the many mounds and hollows, determine where the
cottage lay which had given us such welcome shelter. In front of us and
on either side the great uneven dun-coloured plain stretched away to the
horizon, without a break in its barren gorse-covered surface. Over the
whole expanse there was no sign of life, save for an occasional rabbit
which whisked into its burrow on hearing our approach, or a few thin and
hungry sheep, who could scarce sustain life by feeding on the coarse and
wiry grass which sprang from the unfruitful soil.

The pathway was so narrow that only one of us could ride upon it at a
time, but we presently abandoned it altogether, using it simply as a
guide, and galloping along side by side over the rolling plain. We were
all silent, Reuben meditating upon his new corslet, as I could see from
his frequent glances at it; while Saxon, with his eyes half closed, was
brooding over some matter of his own. For my own part, my thoughts ran
upon the ignominy of the old soldier’s designs upon the gold chest, and
the additional shame which rose from the knowledge that our host had in
some way divined his intention. No good could come of an alliance with a
man so devoid of all feelings of honour or of gratitude. So strongly did
I feel upon it that I at last broke the silence by pointing to a
cross path, which turned away from the one which we were pursuing, and
recommending him to follow it, since he had proved that he was no fit
company for honest men.

‘By the living rood!’ he cried, laying his hand upon the hilt of his
rapier,’ have you taken leave of your senses? These are words such as no
honourable cavaliero can abide.’

‘They are none the less words of truth,’ I answered.

His blade flashed out in an instant, while his mare bounded twice her
length under the sharp dig of his spurs.

‘We have here,’ he cried, reining her round, with his fierce lean face
all of a quiver with passion, ‘an excellent level stretch on which to
discuss the matter. Out with your bilbo and maintain your words.’

‘I shall not stir a hair’s-breadth to attack you,’ I answered. ‘Why
should I, when I bear you no ill-will? If you come against me, however,
I will assuredly beat you out of your saddle, for all your tricky sword
play.’ I drew my broadsword as I spoke, and stood upon my guard, for I
guessed that with so old a soldier the onset would be sharp and sudden.

‘By all the saints in heaven!’ cried Reuben, ‘which ever of ye strikes
first at the other I’ll snap this pistol at his head. None of your
jokes, Don Decimo, for by the Lord I’ll let drive at you if you were my
own mother’s son. Put up your sword, for the trigger falls easy, and my
finger is a twitching.’

‘Curse you for a spoil-sport!’ growled Saxon, sulkily sheathing his
weapon. ‘Nay, Clarke,’ he added, after a few moments of reflection,
‘this is but child’s play, that two camarados with a purpose in view
should fall out over such a trifle. I, who am old enough to be your
father, should have known better than to have drawn upon you, for a
boy’s tongue wags on impulse and without due thought. Do but say that
you have said more than you meant.’

‘My way of saying it may have been over plain and rough,’ I answered,
for I saw that he did but want a little salve where my short words had
galled him. ‘At the same time, our ways differ from your ways, and that
difference must be mended, or you can be no true comrade of ours.’

‘All right, Master Morality,’ quoth he, ‘I must e’en unlearn some of the
tricks of my trade. Od’s feet, man, if ye object to me, what the henker
would ye think of some whom I have known? However, let that pass. It
is time that we were at the wars, for our good swords will not bide in
their scabbards.

          “The trenchant blade, Toledo trusty,
           For want of fighting was grown rusty,
           And ate into itself for lack
           Of somebody to hew and hack.”

You cannot think a thought but old Samuel hath been before you.’

‘Surely we shall be at the end of this dreary plain presently,’ Reuben
cried. ‘Its insipid flatness is enough to set the best of friends by the
ears. We might be in the deserts of Libya instead of his most graceless
Majesty’s county of Wiltshire.’

‘There is smoke over yonder, upon the side of that hill,’ said Saxon,
pointing to the southward.

‘Methinks I see one straight line of houses there,’ I observed, shading
my eyes with my hand. ‘But it is distant, and the shimmer of the sun
disturbs the sight.’

‘It must be the hamlet of Hindon,’ said Reuben. ‘Oh, the heat of this
steel coat! I wonder if it were very un-soldierly to slip it off and tie
it about Dido’s neck. I shall be baked alive else, like a crab in its
shell. How say you, illustrious, is it contravened by any of those
thirty-nine articles of war which you bear about in your bosom?’

‘The bearing of the weight of your harness, young man,’ Saxon answered
gravely, ‘is one of the exercises of war, and as such only attainable by
such practice as you are now undergoing. You have many things to learn,
and one of them is not to present petronels too readily at folk’s heads
when you are on horseback. The jerk of your charger’s movement even now
might have drawn your trigger, and so deprived Monmouth of an old and
tried soldier.’

‘There would be much weight in your contention,’ my friend answered,
‘were it not that I now bethink me that I had forgot to recharge my
pistol since discharging it at that great yellow beast yesternight.’

Decimus Saxon shook his head sadly. ‘I doubt we shall never make a
soldier of you,’ he remarked. ‘You fall from your horse if the brute
does bit change his step, you show a levity which will not jump with the
gravity of the true soldado, you present empty petronels as a menace,
and finally, you crave permission to tie your armour--armour which the
Cid himself might be proud to wear--around the neck of your horse. Yet
you have heart and mettle, I believe, else you would not be here.’

‘Gracias, Signor!’ cried Reuben, with a bow which nearly unhorsed him;
‘the last remark makes up for all the rest, else had I been forced to
cross blades with you, to maintain my soldierly repute.’

‘Touching that same incident last night,’ said Saxon, ‘of the chest
filled, as I surmise, with gold, which I was inclined to take as lawful
plunder, I am now ready to admit that I may have shown an undue haste
and precipitance, considering that the old man treated us fairly.’

‘Say no more of it,’ I answered, ‘if you will but guard against such
impulses for the future.’

‘They do not properly come from me,’ he replied, ‘but from Will
Spotterbridge, who was a man of no character at all.’

‘And how comes he to be mixed up in the matter?’ I asked curiously.

‘Why, marry, in this wise. My father married the daughter of this same
Will Spotterbridge, and so weakened a good old stock by an unhealthy
strain. Will was a rake-hell of Fleet Street in the days of James, a
chosen light of Alsatia, the home of bullies and of brawlers. His blood
hath through his daughter been transmitted to the ten of us, though I
rejoice to say that I, being the tenth, it had by that time lost much
of its virulence, and indeed amounts to little more than a proper pride,
and a laudable desire to prosper.’

‘How, then, has it affected the race?’ I asked.

‘Why,’ he answered, ‘the Saxons of old were a round-faced, contented
generation, with their ledgers in their hands for six days and their
bibles on the seventh. If my father did but drink a cup of small beer
more than his wont, or did break out upon provocation into any fond
oath, as “Od’s niggers!” or “Heart alive!” he would mourn over it as
though it were the seven deadly sins. Was this a man, think ye, in the
ordinary course of nature to beget ten long lanky children, nine of
whom might have been first cousins of Lucifer, and foster-brothers of
Beelzebub?’

‘It was hard upon him,’ remarked Reuben.

‘On him! Nay, the hardship was all with us. If he with his eyes
open chose to marry the daughter of an incarnate devil like Will
Spotterbridge, because she chanced to be powdered and patched to his
liking, what reason hath he for complaint? It is we, who have the blood
of this Hector of the taverns grafted upon our own good honest stream,
who have most reason to lift up our voices.’

‘Faith, by the same chain of reasoning,’ said Reuben, ‘one of my
ancestors must have married a woman with a plaguy dry throat, for both
my father and I are much troubled with the complaint.’

‘You have assuredly inherited a plaguy pert tongue,’ growled Saxon.
‘From what I have told you, you will see that our whole life is a
conflict between our natural Saxon virtue and the ungodly impulses of
the Spotterbridge taint. That of which you have had cause to complain
yesternight is but an example of the evil to which I am subjected.’

‘And your brothers and sisters?’ I asked; ‘how hath this circumstance
affected them?’ The road was bleak and long, so that the old soldier’s
gossip was a welcome break to the tedium of the journey.

‘They have all succumbed,’ said Saxon, with a groan. ‘Alas, alas! they
were a goodly company could they have turned their talents to better
uses. Prima was our eldest born. She did well until she attained
womanhood. Secundus was a stout seaman, and owned his own vessel when
he was yet a young man. It was remarked, however, that he started on a
voyage in a schooner and came back in a brig, which gave rise to some
inquiry. It may be, as he said, that he found it drifting about in the
North Sea, and abandoned his own vessel in favour of it, but they hung
him before he could prove it. Tertia ran away with a north-country
drover, and hath been on the run ever since. Quartus and Nonus have been
long engaged in busying themselves over the rescue of the black folk
from their own benighted and heathen country, conveying them over by the
shipload to the plantations, where they may learn the beauties of the
Christian religion. They are, however, men of violent temper and profane
speech, who cherish no affection for their younger brother. Quintus was
a lad of promise, but he found a hogshead of rumbo which was thrown up
from a wreck, and he died soon afterwards. Sextus might have done well,
for he became clerk to Johnny Tranter the attorney; but he was of an
enterprising turn, and he shifted the whole business, papers, cash, and
all to the Lowlands, to the no small inconvenience of his employer, who
hath never been able to lay hands either on one or the other from that
day to this. Septimus died young. As to Octavius, Will Spotterbridge
broke out early in him, and he was slain in a quarrel over some dice,
which were said by his enemies to be so weighted that the six must ever
come upwards. Let this moving recital be a warning to ye, if ye are
fools enough to saddle yourselves with a wife, to see that she hath
no vice in her, for a fair face is a sorry make-weight against a foul
mind.’

Reuben and I could not but laugh over this frank family confession,
which our companion delivered without a sign of shame or embarrassment.
‘Ye have paid a heavy price for your father’s want of discretion,’ I
remarked. ‘But what in the name of fate is this upon our left?’

‘A gibbet, by the look of it,’ said Saxon, peering across at the gaunt
framework of wood, which rose up from a little knoll. ‘Let us ride past
it, for it is little out of our way. They are rare things in England,
though by my faith there were more gallows than milestones when Turenne
was in the Palatinate. What between the spies and traitors who were bred
by the war, the rascally Schwartzritter and Lanzknechte, the Bohemian
vagabonds, and an occasional countryman who was put out of the way lest
he do something amiss, there was never such a brave time for the crows.’

As we approached this lonely gibbet we saw that a dried-up wisp of a
thing which could hardly be recognised as having once been a human being
was dangling from the centre of it. This wretched relic of mortality
was secured to the cross-bar by an iron chain, and flapped drearily
backwards and forwards in the summer breeze. We had pulled up our
horses, and were gazing in silence at this sign-post of death, when what
had seemed to us to be a bundle of rags thrown down at the foot of the
gallows began suddenly to move, and turned towards us the wizened face
of an aged woman, so marked with evil passions and so malignant in its
expression that it inspired us with even more horror than the unclean
thing which dangled above her head.

‘Gott in Himmel!’ cried Saxon, ‘it is ever thus! A gibbet draws witches
as a magnet draws needles. All the hexerei of the country side will sit
round one, like cats round a milk-pail. Beware of her! she hath the evil
eye!’

‘Poor soul! It is the evil stomach that she hath,’ said Reuben, walking
his horse up to her. ‘Whoever saw such a bag of bones! I warrant that
she is pining away for want of a crust of bread.’

The creature whined, and thrust out two skinny claws to grab the piece
of silver which our friend had thrown down to her. Her fierce dark
eyes and beak-like nose, with the gaunt bones over which the yellow
parchment-like skin was stretched tightly, gave her a fear-inspiring
aspect, like some foul bird of prey, or one of those vampires of whom
the story-tellers write.

‘What use is money in the wilderness?’ I remarked; ‘she cannot feed
herself upon a silver piece.’

She tied the coin hurriedly into the corner of her rags, as though she
feared that I might try to wrest it from her. ‘It will buy bread,’ she
croaked.

‘But who is there to sell it, good mistress?’ I asked.

‘They sell it at Fovant, and they sell it at Hindon,’ she answered. ‘I
bide here o’ days, but I travel at night.’

‘I warrant she does, and on a broomstick,’ quoth Saxon; ‘but tell us,
mother, who is it who hangs above your head?’

‘It is he who slew my youngest born,’ cried the old woman, casting a
malignant look at the mummy above her, and shaking a clenched hand at it
which was hardly more fleshy than its own. ‘It is he who slew my bonny
boy. Out here upon the wide moor he met him, and he took his young life
from him when no kind hand was near to stop the blow. On that ground
there my lad’s blood was shed, and from that watering hath grown this
goodly gallows-tree with its fine ripe fruit upon it. And here, come
rain, come shine, shall I, his mother, sit while two bones hang together
of the man who slow my heart’s darling.’ She nestled down in her rags
as she spoke, and leaning her chin upon her hands stared up with an
intensity of hatred at the hideous remnant.

‘Come away, Reuben,’ I cried, for the sight was enough to make one
loathe one’s kind. ‘She is a ghoul, not a woman.’

‘Pah! it gives one a foul taste in the mouth,’ quoth Saxon. ‘Who is for
a fresh gallop over the Downs? Away with care and carrion!

          “Sir John got on his bonny brown steed,
           To Monmouth for to ride--a.
           A brave buff coat upon his back,
           A broadsword by his side--a.
           Ha, ha, young man, we rebels can
           Pull down King James’s pride--a!”

Hark away, lads, with a loose rein and a bloody heel!’

We spurred our steeds and galloped from the unholy spot as fast as our
brave beasts could carry us. To all of us the air had a purer flavour
and the heath a sweeter scent by contrast with the grim couple whom we
had left behind us. What a sweet world would this be, my children, were
it not for man and his cruel ways!

When we at last pulled up we had set some three or four miles between
the gibbet and ourselves. Right over against us, on the side of a gentle
slope, stood a bright little village, with a red-roofed church rising up
from amidst a clump of trees. To our eyes, after the dull sward of the
plain, it was a glad sight to see the green spread of the branches and
the pleasant gardens which girt the hamlet round. All morning we had
seen no sight of a human being, save the old hag upon the moor and a few
peat-cutters in the distance. Our belts, too, were beginning to be loose
upon us, and the remembrance of our breakfast more faint.

‘This,’ said I, ‘must be the village of Mere, which we were to pass
before coming to Bruton. We shall soon be over the Somersetshire
border.’

‘I trust that we shall soon be over a dish of beefsteaks,’ groaned
Reuben. ‘I am well-nigh famished. So fair a village must needs have a
passable inn, though I have not seen one yet upon my travels which would
compare with the old Wheatsheaf.’

‘Neither inn nor dinner for us just yet,’ said Saxon. ‘Look yonder to
the north, and tell me what you see.’

On the extreme horizon there was visible a long line of gleaming,
glittering points, which shone and sparkled like a string of diamonds.
These brilliant specks were all in rapid motion, and yet kept their
positions to each other.

‘What is it, then?’ we both cried.

‘Horse upon the march,’ quoth Saxon. ‘It may be our friends of
Salisbury, who have made a long day’s journey; or, as I am inclined
to think, it may be some other body of the King’s horse. They are far
distant, and what we see is but the sun shining on their casques; yet
they are bound for this very village, if I mistake not. It would be
wisest to avoid entering it, lest the rustics set them upon our track.
Let us skirt it and push on for Bruton, where we may spare time for bite
and sup.’

‘Alas, alas! for our dinners!’ cried Reuben ruefully. ‘I have fallen
away until my body rattles about, inside this shell of armour, like a
pea in a pod. However, lads, it is all for the Protestant faith.’

‘One more good stretch to Bruton, and we may rest in peace,’ said Saxon.
‘It is ill dining when a dragoon may be served up as a grace after meat.
Our horses are still fresh, and we should be there in little over an
hour.’

We pushed on our way accordingly, passing at a safe distance from Mere,
which is the village where the second Charles did conceal himself after
the battle of Worcester. The road beyond was much crowded by peasants,
who were making their way out of Somersetshire, and by farmers’ waggons,
which were taking loads of food to the West, ready to turn a few guineas
either from the King’s men or from the rebels. We questioned many as to
the news from the war, but though we were now on the outskirts of the
disturbed country, we could gain no clear account of how matters stood,
save that all agreed that the rising was on the increase. The country
through which we rode was a beautiful one, consisting of low swelling
hills, well tilled and watered by numerous streamlets. Crossing over the
river Brue by a good stone bridge, we at last reached the small country
town for which we had been making, which lies embowered in the midst of
a broad expanse of fertile meadows, orchards, and sheep-walks. From the
rising ground by the town we looked back over the plain without seeing
any traces of the troopers. We learned, too, from an old woman of the
place, that though a troop of the Wiltshire Yeomanry had passed through
the day before, there were no soldiers quartered at present in the
neighbourhood. Thus assured we rode boldly into the town, and soon found
our way to the principal inn. I have some dim remembrance of an
ancient church upon an eminence, and of a quaint stone cross within the
market-place, but assuredly, of all the recollections which I retain of
Bruton there is none so pleasing as that of the buxom landlady’s face,
and of the steaming dishes which she lost no time in setting before us.



Chapter XIII. Of Sir Gervas Jerome, Knight Banneret of the County of
Surrey

The inn was very full of company, being occupied not only by many
Government agents and couriers on their way to and from the seat of
the rising, but also by all the local gossips, who gathered there to
exchange news and consume Dame Hobson the landlady’s home-brewed. In
spite, however, of this stress of custom and the consequent uproar, the
hostess conducted us into her own private room, where we could consume
her excellent cheer in peace and quietness. This favour was due, I
think, to a little sly manoeuvring and a few whispered words from Saxon,
who amongst other accomplishments which he had picked up during his
chequered career had a pleasing knack of establishing friendly relations
with the fair sex, irrespective of age, size, or character. Gentle
and simple, Church and Dissent, Whig and Tory, if they did but wear a
petticoat our comrade never failed, in spite of his fifty years, to make
his way into their good graces by the help of his voluble tongue mid
assured manner.

‘We are your grateful servants, mistress,’ said he, when the smoking
joint and the batter pudding had been placed upon the table. ‘We have
robbed you of your room. Will you not honour us so far as to sit down
with us and share our repast?’

‘Nay, kind sir,’ said the portly dame, much flattered by the proposal;
‘it is not for me to sit with gentles like yourselves.’

‘Beauty has a claim which persons of quality, and above all cavalieros
of the sword, are the first to acknowledge,’ cried Saxon, with his
little twinkling eyes fixed in admiration upon her buxom countenance.
‘Nay, by my troth, you shall not leave us. I shall lock the door first.
If you will not eat, you shall at least drink a cup of Alicant with me.’

‘Nay, sir, it is too much honour,’ cried Dame Hobson, with a simper. ‘I
shall go down into the cellars and bring a flask of the best.’

‘Nay, by my manhood, you shall not,’ said Saxon, springing up from his
seat. ‘What are all these infernal lazy drawers here for if you are to
descend to menial offices?’ Handing the widow to a chair he clanked away
into the tap-room, where we heard him swearing at the men-servants, and
cursing them for a droning set of rascals who had taken advantage of
the angelic goodness of their mistress and her incomparable sweetness of
temper.

‘Here is the wine, fair mistress,’ said he, returning presently with a
bottle in either hand. ‘Let me fill your glass. Ha! it flows clear and
yellow like a prime vintage. These rogues can stir their limbs when they
find that there is a man to command them.’

‘Would that there were ever such,’ said the widow meaningly, with a
languishing look at our companion. ‘Here is to you, sir--and to ye, too,
young sirs,’ she added, sipping at her wine. ‘May there be a speedy end
to the insurrection, for I judge, from your gallant equipment, that ye
be serving the King.’

‘His business takes us to the West,’ said Reuben, ‘and we have every
reason to hope that there will be a speedy end to the insurrection.’

‘Aye, aye, though blood will be shed first,’ she said, shaking her head.
‘They tell me that the rebels are as many as seven thousand, and that
they swear to give an’ take no quarter, the murderous villains! Alas!
how any gentleman can fall to such bloody work when he might have a
clean honourable occupation, such as innkeeping or the like, is more
than my poor mind can understand. There is a sad difference betwixt the
man who lieth on the cold ground, not knowing how long it may be before
he is three feet deep in it, and he who passeth his nights upon a warm
feather bed, with mayhap a cellar beneath it stocked with even such
wines as we are now drinking.’ She again looked hard at Saxon as she
spoke, while Reuben and I nudged each other beneath the table.

‘This business hath doubtless increased your trade, fair mistress,’
quoth Saxon.

‘Aye, and in the way that payeth best,’ said she. ‘The few kilderkins of
beer which are drunk by the common folk make little difference one way
or the other. But now, when we have lieutenants of counties, officers,
mayors, and gentry spurring it for very life down the highways, I have
sold more of my rare old wines in three days than ever I did before in
a calendar month. It is not ale, or strong waters, I promise you, that
those gentles drink, but Priniac, Languedoc, Tent, Muscadine, Chiante,
and Tokay--never a flask under the half-guinea.’

‘So indeed!’ quoth Saxon thoughtfully. ‘A snug home and a steady
income.’

‘Would that my poor Peter had lived to share it with me,’ said Dame
Hobson, laying down her glass, and rubbing her eyes with a corner of
her kerchief. ‘He was a good man, poor soul, though in very truth and
between friends he did at last become as broad and as thick as one of
his own puncheons. All well, the heart is the thing! Marry come up! if a
woman were ever to wait until her own fancy came her way, there would be
more maids than mothers in the land.’

‘Prythee, good dame, how runs your own fancy?’ asked Reuben
mischievously.

‘Not in the direction of fat, young man,’ she answered smartly, with a
merry glance at our plump companion.

‘She has hit you there, Reuben,’ said I.

‘I would have no pert young springald,’ she continued, ‘but one who hath
knowledge of the world, and ripe experience. Tall he should be, and of
sinewy build, free of speech that he might lighten the weary hours, and
help entertain the gentles when they crack a flagon of wine. Of business
habits he must be, too, forsooth, for is there not a busy hostel and two
hundred good pounds a year to pass through his fingers? If Jane Hobson
is to be led to the altar again it must be by such a man as this.’

Saxon had listened with much attention to the widow’s words, and had
just opened his mouth to make some reply to her when a clattering and
bustle outside announced the arrival of some traveller. Our
hostess drank off her wine and pricked up her ears, but when a loud
authoritative voice was heard in the passage, demanding a private room
and a draught of sack, her call to duty overcame her private concerns,
and she bustled off with a few words of apology to take the measure of
the new-comer.

‘Body o’ me, lads!’ quoth Decimus Saxon the moment that she disappeared,
‘ye can see how the land lies. I have half a mind to let Monmouth carve
his own road, and to pitch my tent in this quiet English township.’

‘Your tent, indeed!’ cried Reuben; ‘it is a brave tent that is furnished
with cellars of such wine as we are drinking. And as to the quiet, my
illustrious, if you take up your residence here I’ll warrant that the
quiet soon comes to an end.’

‘You have seen the woman,’ said Saxon, with his brow all in a wrinkle
with thought. ‘She hath much to commend her. A man must look to himself.
Two hundred pounds a year are not to be picked off the roadside every
June morning. It is not princely, but it is something for an old soldier
of fortune who hath been in the wars for five-and-thirty years, and
foresees the time when his limbs will grow stiff in his harness. What
sayeth our learned Fleming--“an mulier--” but what in the name of the
devil have we here?’

Our companion’s ejaculation was called forth by a noise as of a slight
scuffle outside the door, with a smothered ‘Oh, sir!’ and ‘What will the
maids think?’ The contest was terminated by the door being opened, and
Dame Hobson re-entering the room with her face in a glow, and a slim
young man dressed in the height of fashion at her heels.

‘I am sure, good gentlemen,’ said she, ‘that ye will not object to this
young nobleman drinking his wine in the same room with ye, since all the
others are filled with the townsfolk and commonalty.’

‘Faith! I must needs be mine own usher,’ said the stranger, sticking his
gold-laced cap under his left arm and laying his hand upon his heart,
while he bowed until his forehead nearly struck the edge of the table.
‘Your very humble servant, gentlemen, Sir Gervas Jerome, knight banneret
of his Majesty’s county of Surrey, and at one time custos rotulorum of
the district of Beacham Ford.’

‘Welcome, sir,’ quoth Reuben, with a merry twinkle in his eye. ‘You have
before you Don Decimo Saxon of the Spanish nobility, together with Sir
Micah Clarke and Sir Reuben Lockarby, both of his Majesty’s county of
Hampshire.’

‘Proud and glad to meet ye, gentlemen!’ cried the newcomer, with a
flourish. ‘But what is this upon the table? Alicant? Fie, fie, it is a
drink for boys. Let us have some good sack with plenty of body in it.
Claret for youth, say I, sack for maturity, and strong waters in old
age. Fly, my sweetest, move those dainty feet of thine, for egad! my
throat is like leather. Od’s ‘oons, I drank deep last night, and yet
it is clear that I could not have drunk enough, for I was as dry as a
concordance when I awoke.’

Saxon sat silently at the table, looking so viciously at the stranger
out of his half-closed glittering eyes that I feared that we should
have another such brawl as occurred at Salisbury, with perhaps a more
unpleasant ending. Finally, however, his ill-humour at the gallant’s
free and easy attention to our hostess spent itself in a few muttered
oaths, and he lit his long pipe, the never-failing remedy of a ruffled
spirit. As to Reuben and myself, we watched our new companion half in
wonder and half in amusement, for his appearance and manners were novel
enough to raise the interest of inexperienced youngsters like ourselves.

I have said that he was dressed in the height of fashion, and such
indeed was the impression which a glance would give. His face was thin
and aristocratic, with a well-marked nose, delicate features, and gay
careless expression. Some little paleness of the cheeks and darkness
under the eyes, the result of hard travel or dissipation, did but add a
chastening grace to his appearance. His white periwig, velvet and silver
riding coat, lavender vest and red satin knee-breeches were all of the
best style and cut, but when looked at closely, each and all of these
articles of attire bore evidence of having seen better days. Beside the
dust and stains of travel, there was a shininess or a fading of colour
here and there which scarce accorded with the costliness of their
material or the bearing of their wearer. His long riding-boots had a
gaping seam in the side of one of them, whilst his toe was pushing
its way through the end of the other. For the rest, he wore a handsome
silver-hilted rapier at his side, and had a frilled cambric shirt
somewhat the worse for wear and open at the front, as was the mode with
the gallants of those days. All the time he was speaking he mumbled a
toothpick, which together with his constant habit of pronouncing his
o’s as a’s made his conversation sound strange to our ears. (Note D
Appendix) Whilst we were noting these peculiarities he was reclining
upon Dame Hobson’s best taffatta-covered settee, tranquilly combing his
wig with a delicate ivory comb which he had taken from a small satin bag
which hung upon the right of his sword-belt.

‘Lard preserve us from country inns!’ he remarked. ‘What with the boors
that swarm in every chamber, and the want of mirrors, and jasmine water,
and other necessaries, blister me if one has not to do one’s toilet
in the common room. ‘Oons! I’d as soon travel in the land of the Great
Mogul!’

‘When you shall come to be my age, young sir,’ Saxon answered, ‘you may
know better than to decry a comfortable country hostel.’

‘Very like, sir, very like!’ the gallant answered, with a careless
laugh. ‘For all that, being mine own age, I feel the wilds of Wiltshire
and the inns of Bruton to be a sorry change after the Mall, and the fare
of Pontack’s or the Coca Tree. Ah, Lud! here comes the sack! Open it, my
pretty Hebe, and send a drawer with fresh glasses, for these gentlemen
must do me the honour of drinking with me. A pinch of snuff, sirs? Aye,
ye may well look hard at the box. A pretty little thing, sirs, from a
certain lady of title, who shall be nameless; though, if I were to say
that her title begins with a D and her name with a C, a gentleman of the
Court might hazard a guess.’

Our hostess, having brought fresh glasses, withdrew, and Decimus
Saxon soon found an opportunity for following her. Sir Gervas Jerome
continued, however, to chatter freely to Reuben and myself over
the wine, rattling along as gaily and airily as though we were old
acquaintances.

‘Sink me, if I have not frighted your comrade away!’ he remarked, ‘Or is
it possible that he hath gone on the slot of the plump widow? Methought
he looked in no very good temper when I kissed her at the door. Yet it
is a civility which I seldom refuse to anything which wears a cap. Your
friend’s appearance smacked more of Mars than of Venus, though, indeed,
those who worship the god are wont to be on good terms with the goddess.
A hardy old soldier, I should judge, from his feature and attire.’

‘One who hath seen much service abroad,’ I answered.

‘Ha! ye are lucky to ride to the wars in the company of so accomplished
a cavalier. For I presume that it is to the wars that ye are riding,
since ye are all so armed and accoutred.’

‘We are indeed bound for the West,’ I replied, with some reserve, for in
Saxon’s absence I did not care to be too loose-tongued.

‘And in what capacity?’ he persisted. ‘Will ye risk your crowns in
defence of King James’s one, or will ye strike in, hit or miss, with
these rogues of Devon and Somerset? Stop my vital breath, if I would not
as soon side with the clown as with the crown, with all due respect to
your own principles!’

‘You are a daring man,’ said I, ‘if you air your opinions thus in every
inn parlour. Dost not know that a word of what you have said, whispered
to the nearest justice of the peace, might mean your liberty, if not
your life?’

‘I don’t care the rind of a rotten orange for life or liberty either,’
cried our acquaintance, snapping his finger and thumb. ‘Burn me if
it wouldn’t be a new sensation to bandy words with some heavy-chopped
country justice, with the Popish plot still stuck in his gizzard, and
be thereafter consigned to a dungeon, like the hero in John Dryden’s
latest. I have been round-housed many a time by the watch in the old
Hawkubite days; but this would be a more dramatic matter, with high
treason, block, and axe all looming in the background.’

‘And rack and pincers for a prologue,’ said Reuben. ‘This ambition is
the strangest that I have ever heard tell of.’

‘Anything for a change,’ cried Sir Gervas, filling up a bumper. ‘Here’s
to the maid that’s next our heart, and here’s to the heart that loves
the maids! War, wine, and women, ‘twould be a dull world without them.
But you have not answered my question.’

‘Why truly, sir,’ said I, ‘frank as you have been with us, I can scarce
be equally so with you, without the permission of the gentleman who has
just left the room. He is the leader of our party. Pleasant as our short
intercourse has been, these are parlous times, and hasty confidences are
apt to lead to repentance.’

‘A Daniel come to judgment!’ cried our new acquaintance. ‘What ancient,
ancient words from so young a head! You are, I’ll warrant, five years
younger than a scatterbrain like myself, and yet you talk like the seven
wise men of Greece. Wilt take me as a valet?’

‘A valet!’ I exclaimed.

‘Aye, a valet, a man-servant. I have been waited upon so long that it is
my turn to wait now, and I would not wish a more likely master. By the
Lard! I must, in applying for a place, give an account of my character
and a list of my accomplishments. So my rascals ever did with me, though
in good truth I seldom listened to their recital. Honesty--there I
score a trick. Sober--Ananias himself could scarce say that I am
that. Trustworthy--indifferently so. Steady--hum! about as much so
as Garraway’s weathercock. Hang it, man, I am choke full of good
resolutions, but a sparkling glass or a roguish eye will deflect me, as
the mariners say of the compass. So much for my weaknesses. Now let me
see what qualifications I can produce. A steady nerve, save only when I
have my morning qualms, and a cheerful heart; I score two on that. I
can dance saraband, minuet, or corranto; fence, ride, and sing French
chansons. Good Lard! who ever heard a valet urge such accomplishments? I
can play the best game of piquet in London. So said Sir George Etherege
when I won a cool thousand off him at the Groom Parter. But that won’t
advance me much, either. What is there, then, to commend me? Why, marry,
I can brew a bowl of punch, and I can broil a devilled fowl. It is not
much, but I can do it well.’

‘Truly, good sir,’ I said, with a smile, ‘neither of these
accomplishments is like to prove of much use to us on our present
errand. You do, however, but jest, no doubt, when you talk of descending
to such a position.’

‘Not a whit! not a whit!’ he replied earnestly. ‘“To such base uses do
we come,” as Will Shakespeare has it. If you would be able to say that
you have in your service Sir Gervas Jerome, knight banneret, and sole
owner of Beacham Ford Park, with a rent-roll of four thousand good
pounds a year, he is now up for sale, and will be knocked down to the
bidder who pleases him best. Say but the word, and we’ll have another
flagon of sack to clinch the bargain.’

‘But,’ said I, ‘if you are indeed owner of this fair property, why
should you descend to so menial an occupation?’

‘The Jews, the Jews, oh most astute and yet most slow-witted master! The
ten tribes have been upon me, and I have been harried and wasted, bound,
ravished, and despoiled. Never was Agag, king of Amalek, more completely
in the hands of the chosen, and the sole difference is that they have
hewed into pieces mine estate instead of myself.’

‘Have you lost all, then?’ Reuben asked, open-eyed.

‘Why no--not all--by no means all!’ he answered, with a merry laugh; ‘I
have a gold Jacobus and a guinea or two in my purse. ‘Twill serve for
a flask or so yet. There is my silver-hilted rapier, my rings, my gold
snuff-box, and my watch by Tompion at the sign of the Three Crowns.
It was never bought under a hundred, I’ll warrant. Then there are such
relics of grandeur as you see upon my person, though they begin to
look as frail and worn as a waiting-woman’s virtue. In this bag, too,
I retain the means for preserving that niceness and elegance of person
which made me, though I say it, as well groomed a man as ever set foot
in St. James’s Park. Here are French scissors, eyebrow brush, toothpick
case, patch-box, powder-bag, comb, puff, and my pair of red-heeled
shoes. What could a man wish for more? These, with a dry throat, a
cheerful heart, and a ready hand, are my whole stock in trade.’

Reuben and I could not forbear from laughing at the curious inventory of
articles which Sir Gervas had saved from the wreck of his fortunes. He
upon seeing our mirth was so tickled at his own misfortunes, that he
laughed in a high treble key until the whole house resounded with his
merriment. ‘By the Mass,’ he cried at last, ‘I have never had so much
honest amusement out of my prosperity as hath been caused in me by my
downfall. Fill up your glasses!’

‘We have still some distance to travel this evening, and must not drink
more,’ I observed, for prudence told me that it was dangerous work for
two sober country lads to keep pace with an experienced toper.

‘So!’ said he in surprise. ‘I should have thought that would be a
“raison de plus,” as the French say. But I wish your long-legged friend
would come back, even if he were intent upon slitting my weazand for my
attention to the widow. He is not a man to flinch from his liquor, I’ll
warrant. Curse this Wiltshire dust that clings to my periwig!’

‘Until my comrade returns, Sir Gervas,’ said I, ‘you might, since the
subject does not appear to be a painful one to you, let us know how
these evil times, which you bear with such philosophy, came upon you.’

‘The old story!’ he answered, flicking away a few grains of snuff with
his deeply-laced cambric handkerchief. ‘The old, old story! My father, a
good, easy country baronet, finding the family purse somewhat full, must
needs carry me up to town to make a man of me. There as a young lad I
was presented at Court, and being a slim active youngster with a pert
tongue and assured manner, I caught the notice of the Queen, who made
me one of her pages of honour. This post I held until I grew out of
it, when I withdrew from town, but egad! I found I must get back to it
again, for Beacham Ford Park was as dull as a monastery after the life
which I had been living. In town I stayed then with such boon companions
as Tommy Lawson, my Lord Halifax, Sir Jasper Lemarck, little Geordie
Chichester, aye, and old Sidney Godolphin of the Treasury; for with all
his staid ways and long-winded budgets he could drain a cup with the
best of us, and was as keen on a main of cocks as on a committee of ways
and means. Well, it was rare sport while it lasted, and sink me if
I wouldn’t do the same again if I had my time once more. It is like
sliding down a greased plank though, for at first a man goes slow
enough, and thinks he can pull himself up, but presently he goes faster
and faster, until he comes with a crash on to the rocks of ruin at the
bottom.’

‘And did you run through four thousand pounds a year?’ I exclaimed.

‘Od’s bodikins, man, you speak as if this paltry sum were all the
wealth of the Indies. Why, from Ormonde or Buckingham, with their twenty
thousand, down to ranting Dicky Talbot, there was not one of my set who
could not have bought me out. Yet I must have my coach and four, my town
house, my liveried servants, and my stable full of horses. To be in the
mode I must have my poet, and throw him a handful of guineas for his
dedication. Well, poor devil, he is one who will miss me. I warrant his
heart was as heavy as his verses when he found me gone, though perchance
he has turned a few guineas by this time by writing a satire upon me.
It would have a ready sale among my friends. Gad’s life! I wonder how
my levees get on, and whom all my suitors have fastened on to now. There
they were morning after morning, the French pimp, the English bully, the
needy man o’ letters, the neglected inventor--I never thought to have
got rid of them, but indeed I have shaken them off very effectually now.
When the honey-pot is broken it is farewell to the flies.’

‘And your noble friends?’ I asked. ‘Did none of them stand by you in
your adversity?’

‘Well, well, I have nought to complain of!’ exclaimed Sir Gervas. ‘They
were brave-hearted boys for the most part. I might have had their names
on my bills as long as their fingers could hold a pen, but slit me if I
like bleeding my own companions. They might have found a place for me,
too, had I consented to play second-fiddle where I had been used to lead
the band. I’ faith, I care not what I turn my hand to amongst strangers,
but I would fain leave my memory sweet in town.’

‘As to what you proposed, of serving us as a valet,’ said I, ‘it is not
to be thought of. We are, in spite of my friend’s waggishness, but two
plain blunt countrymen, and have no more need of a valet than one of
those poets which you have spoken of. On the other hand, if you should
care to attach yourself to our party, we shall take you where you
will see service which shall be more to your taste than the curling of
periwigs or the brushing of eyebrows.’

‘Nay, nay, my friend. Speak not with unseemly levity of the mysteries
of the toilet,’ he cried. ‘Ye would yourselves be none the worse for
a touch of mine ivory comb, and a closer acquaintance with the famous
skin-purifying wash of Murphy which I am myself in the habit of using.’

‘I am beholden to you, sir,’ said Reuben, ‘but the famous spring water
wash by Providence is quite good enough for the purpose.’

‘And Dame Nature hath placed a wig of her own upon me,’ I added, ‘which
I should be very loth to change.’

‘Goths! Perfect Goths!’ cried the exquisite, throwing up his white
hands. ‘But here comes a heavy tread and the clink of armour in the
passage. ‘Tis our friend the knight of the wrathful countenance, if I
mistake not.’

It was indeed Saxon, who strode into the room to tell us that our horses
were at the door, and that all was ready for our departure. Taking
him aside I explained to him in a whisper what had passed between the
stranger and ourselves, with the circumstances which had led me to
suggest that he should join our party. The old soldier frowned at the
news.

‘What have we to do with such a coxcomb?’ he said. ‘We have hard fare
and harder blows before us. He is not fit for the work.’

‘You said yourself that Monmouth will be weak in horse,’ I answered.
‘Here is a well-appointed cavalier, who is to all appearance a desperate
man and ready for anything. Why should we not enrol him?’

‘I fear,’ said Saxon, ‘that his body may prove to be like the bran of
a fine cushion, of value only for what it has around it. However, it is
perhaps for the best. The handle to his name may make him welcome in the
camp, for from what I hear there is some dissatisfaction at the way in
which the gentry stand aloof from the enterprise.’

‘I had feared,’ I remarked, still speaking in a whisper, ‘that we were
about to lose one of our party instead of gaining one in this Bruton
inn.’

‘I have thought better of it,’ he answered, with a smile. ‘Nay, I’ll
tell you of it anon. Well, Sir Gervas Jerome,’ he added aloud, turning
to our new associate, ‘I hear that you are coming with us. For a day you
must be content to follow without question or remark. Is that agreed!’

‘With all my heart,’ cried Sir Gervas.

‘Then here’s a bumper to our better acquaintance,’ cried Saxon, raising
his glass.

‘I pledge ye all,’ quoth the gallant. ‘Here’s to a fair fight, and may
the best men win.’

‘Donnerblitz, man!’ said Saxon. ‘I believe there’s mettle in you for all
your gay plumes. I do conceive a liking for you. Give me your hand!’

The soldier of fortune’s great brown grip enclosed the delicate hand
of our new friend in a pledge of comradeship. Then, having paid our
reckoning and bade a cordial adieu to Dame Hobson, who glanced methought
somewhat reproachfully or expectantly at Saxon, we sprang on our steeds
and continued our journey amidst a crowd of staring villagers, who
huzzaed lustily as we rode out from amongst them.



Chapter XIV. Of the Stiff-legged Parson and his Flock

Our road lay through Castle Carey and Somerton, which are small towns
lying in the midst of a most beautiful pastoral country, well wooded and
watered by many streams. The valleys along the centre of which the road
lies are rich and luxuriant, sheltered from the winds by long rolling
hills, which are themselves highly cultivated. Here and there we passed
the ivy-clad turret of an old castle or the peaked gables of a rambling
country house, protruding from amongst the trees and marking the country
seat of some family of repute. More than once, when these mansions were
not far from the road, we were able to perceive the unrepaired dints and
fractures on the walls received during the stormy period of the civil
troubles. Fairfax it seems had been down that way, and had left abundant
traces of his visit. I have no doubt that my father would have had much
to say of these signs of Puritan wrath had he been riding at our side.

The road was crowded with peasants who were travelling in two strong
currents, the one setting from east to west, and the other from west to
east. The latter consisted principally of aged people and of children,
who were being sent out of harm’s way to reside in the less disturbed
counties until the troubles should be over. Many of these poor folk were
pushing barrows in front of them, in which a few bedclothes and some
cracked utensils represented the whole of their worldly goods. Others
more prosperous had small carts, drawn by the wild shaggy colts which
are bred on the Somerset moors. What with the spirit of the half-tamed
beasts and the feebleness of the drivers, accidents were not uncommon,
and we passed several unhappy groups who had been tumbled with their
property into a ditch, or who were standing in anxious debate round a
cracked shaft or a broken axle.

The countrymen who were making for the West were upon the other hand
men in the prime of life, with little or no baggage. Their brown faces,
heavy boots, and smockfrocks proclaimed most of them to be mere hinds,
though here and there we overtook men who, by their top-boots and
corduroys, may have been small farmers or yeomen. These fellows walked
in gangs, and were armed for the most part with stout oak cudgels,
which were carried as an aid to their journey, but which in the hands of
powerful men might become formidable weapons. From time to time one
of these travellers would strike up a psalm tune, when all the others
within earshot would join in, until the melody rippled away down the
road. As we passed some scowled angrily at us, while others whispered
together and shook their heads, in evident doubt as to our character and
aims. Now and again among the people we marked the tall broad-brimmed
hat and Geneva mantle which were the badges of the Puritan clergy.

‘We are in Monmouth’s country at last,’ said Saxon to me, for Reuben
Lockarby and Sir Gervas Jerome had ridden on ahead. ‘This is the raw
material which we shall have to lick into soldiership.’

‘And no bad material either,’ I replied, taking note of the sturdy
figures and bold hearty faces of the men. ‘Think ye that they are bound
for Monmouth’s camp, then?’

‘Aye, are they. See you yon long-limbed parson on the left--him with the
pent-house hat. Markest thou not the stiffness wherewith he moves his
left leg!’

‘Why, yes; he is travel-worn doubtless.’

‘Ho! ho!’ laughed my companion. ‘I have seen such a stiffness before
now. The man hath a straight sword within he leg of his breeches. A
regular Parliamentary tuck, I’ll warrant. When he is on safe ground he
will produce it, aye, and use it too, but until he is out of all danger
of falling in with the King’s horse he is shy of strapping it to his
belt. He is one of the old breed by his cut, who:

          “Call fire and sword and desolation,
           A godly thorough reformation.”

Old Samuel hath them to a penstroke! There is another ahead of him
there, with the head of a scythe inside his smock. Can you not see the
outline? I warrant there is not one of the rascals but hath a pike-head
or sickle-blade concealed somewhere about him. I begin to feel the
breath of war once more, and to grow younger with it. Hark ye, lad! I am
glad that I did not tarry at the inn.’

‘You seemed to be in two minds about it,’ said I.

‘Aye, aye. She was a fine woman, and the quarters were comfortable. I do
not gainsay it. But marriage, d’ye see, is a citadel that it is plaguy
easy to find one’s way into, but once in old Tilly himself could not
bring one out again with credit, I have known such a device on the
Danube, where at the first onfall the Mamelukes have abandoned the
breach for the very purpose of ensnaring the Imperial troops in the
narrow streets beyond, from which few ever returned. Old birds are not
caught with such wiles. I did succeed in gaining the ear of one of the
gossips, and asking him what he could tell me of the good dame and her
inn. It seemeth that she is somewhat of a shrew upon occasion, and that
her tongue had more to do with her husband’s death than the dropsy which
the leech put it down to. Again, a new inn hath been started in the
village, which is well-managed, and is like to draw the custom from
her. It is, too, as you have said, a dull sleepy spot. All these reasons
weighed with me, and I decided that it would be best to raise my siege
of the widow, and to retreat whilst I could yet do so with the credit
and honours of war.’

‘’Tis best so,’ said I; ‘you could not have settled down to a life of
toping and ease. But our new comrade, what think you of him?’

‘Faith!’ Saxon answered, ‘we shall extend into a troop of horse if we
add to our number every gallant who is in want of a job. As to this Sir
Gervas, however, I think, as I said at the inn, that he hath more mettle
in him than one would judge at first sight. These young sprigs of the
gentry will always fight, but I doubt if he is hardened enough or
hath constancy enough for such a campaign as this is like to be. His
appearance, too, will be against him in the eyes of the saints; and
though Monmouth is a man of easy virtue, the saints are like to have the
chief voice in his councils. Now do but look at him as he reins up that
showy grey stallion and gazes back at us. Mark his riding-hat tilted
over his eye, his open bosom, his whip dangling from his button-hole,
his hand on his hip, and as many oaths in his mouth as there are ribbons
to his doublet. Above all, mark the air with which he looks down upon
the peasants beside him. He will have to change his style if he is to
fight by the side of the fanatics. But hark! I am much mistaken if they
have not already got themselves into trouble.’

Our friends had pulled up their horses to await our coming. They had
scarce halted, however, before the stream of peasants who had been
moving along abreast of them slackened their pace, and gathered round
them with a deep ominous murmur and threatening gestures. Other
rustics, seeing that there was something afoot, hurried up to help their
companions. Saxon and I put spurs to our horses, and pushing through the
throng, which was becoming every instant larger and more menacing, made
our way to the aid of our friends, who were hemmed in on every side by
the rabble. Reuben had laid his hand upon the hilt of his sword, while
Sir Gervas was placidly chewing his toothpick and looking down at the
angry mob with an air of amused contempt.

‘A flask or two of scent amongst them would not be amiss,’ he remarked;
‘I would I had a casting bottle.’

‘Stand on your guard, but do not draw,’ cried Saxon. ‘What the henker
hath come over the chaw-bacons? They mean mischief. How now, friends,
why this uproar?’

This question instead of allaying the tumult appeared to make it tenfold
worse. All round us twenty deep were savage faces and angry eyes,
with the glint here and there of a weapon half drawn from its place of
concealment. The uproar, which had been a mere hoarse growl, began to
take shape and form. ‘Down with the Papists!’ was the cry. ‘Down with
the Prelatists!’ ‘Smite the Erastian butchers!’ ‘Smite the Philistine
horsemen!’ ‘Down with them!’

A stone or two had already whistled past our ears, and we had been
forced in self-defence to draw our swords, when the tall minister whom
we had already observed shoved his way through the crowd, and by dint of
his lofty stature and commanding voice prevailed upon them to be silent.

‘How say ye,’ he asked, turning upon us, ‘fight ye for Baal or for the
Lord? He who is not with us is against us.’

‘Which is the side of Baal, most reverend sir, and which of the Lord?’
asked Sir Gervas Jerome. ‘Methinks if you were to speak plain English
instead of Hebrew we might come to an understanding sooner.’

‘This is no time for light words,’ the minister cried, with a flush of
anger upon his face. ‘If ye would keep your skins whole, tell me, are ye
for the bloody usurper James Stuart, or are ye for his most Protestant
Majesty King Monmouth?’

‘What! He hath come to the title already!’ exclaimed Saxon. ‘Know then
that we are four unworthy vessels upon our way to offer our services to
the Protestant cause.’

‘He lies, good Master Pettigrue, he lies most foully,’ shouted a burly
fellow from the edge of the crowd. ‘Who ever saw a good Protestant in
such a Punchinello dress as yonder? Is not Amalekite written upon his
raiment? Is he not attired as becometh the bridegroom of the harlot of
Rome? Why then should we not smite him?’

‘I thank you, my worthy friend,’ said Sir Gervas, whose attire had moved
this champion’s wrath. ‘If I were nearer I should give you some return
for the notice which you have taken of me.’

‘What proof have we that ye are not in the pay of the usurper, and on
your way to oppress the faithful?’ asked the Puritan divine.

‘I tell you, man,’ said Saxon impatiently, ‘that we have travelled all
the way from Hampshire to fight against James Stuart. We will ride with
ye to Monmouth’s camp, and what better proof could ye desire than that?’

‘It may be that ye do but seek an opportunity of escaping from our
bondage,’ the minister observed, after conferring with one or two of the
leading peasants. ‘It is our opinion, therefore, that before coming
with us ye must deliver unto us your swords, pistols, and other carnal
weapons.’

‘Nay, good sir, that cannot be,’ our leader answered. ‘A cavalier may
not with honour surrender his blade or his liberty in the manner ye
demand. Keep close to my bridle-arm, Clarke, and strike home at any
rogue who lays hands on you.’

A hum of anger rose from the crowd, and a score of sticks and
scythe-blades were raised against us, when the minister again interposed
and silenced his noisy following.

‘Did I hear aright?’ he asked. ‘Is your name Clarke?’

‘It is,’ I answered.

‘Your Christian name?’

‘Micah.’

‘Living at?’

‘Havant.’

The clergyman conferred for a few moments with a grizzly-bearded,
harsh-faced man dressed in black buckram who stood at his elbow.

‘If you are really Micah Clarke of Havant,’ quoth he, ‘you will be able
to tell us the name of an old soldier, skilled in the German wars, who
was to have come with ye to the camp of the faithful.’

‘Why, this is he,’ I answered; ‘Decimus Saxon is his name.’

‘Aye, aye, Master Pettigrue,’ cried the old man. ‘The very name given by
Dicky Rumbold. He said that either the old Roundhead Clarke or his son
would go with him. But who are these?’

‘This is Master Reuben Lockarby, also of Havant, and Sir Gervas Jerome
of Surrey,’ I replied. ‘They are both here as volunteers desiring to
serve under the Duke of Monmouth.’

‘Right glad I am to see ye, then,’ said the stalwart minister heartily.
‘Friends, I can answer for these gentlemen that they favour the honest
folk and the old cause.’

At these words the rage of the mob turned in an instant into the most
extravagant adulation and delight. They crowded round us, patting our
riding-boots, pulling at the skirts of our dress, pressing our hands and
calling down blessings upon our heads, until their pastor succeeded
at last in rescuing us from their attentions and in persuading them to
resume their journey. We walked our horses in the midst of them whilst
the clergyman strode along betwixt Saxon and myself. He was, as Reuben
remarked, well fitted to be an intermediary between us, for he was
taller though not so broad as I was, and broader though not so tall as
the adventurer. His face was long, thin, and hollow-cheeked, with a pair
of great thatched eyebrows and deep sunken melancholy eyes, which lit up
upon occasion with a sudden quick flash of fiery enthusiasm.

‘Joshua Pettigrue is my name, gentlemen,’ said he; ‘I am an unworthy
worker in the Lord’s vineyard, testifying with voice and with arm to His
holy covenant. These are my faithful flock, whom I am bringing westward
that they may be ready for the reaping when it pleases the Almighty to
gather them in.’

‘And why have you not brought them into some show of order or
formation?’ asked Saxon. ‘They are straggling along the road like a line
of geese upon a common when Michaelmas is nigh. Have you no fears? Is
it not written that your calamity cometh suddenly--suddenly shall you be
broken down without remedy?’

‘Aye, friend, but is it not also written, “Trust in the Lord with all
thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding!” Mark ye, if I
were to draw up my men in military fashion it would invite attention and
attack from any of James Stuart’s horse who may come our way. It is my
desire to bring my flock to the camp and obtain pieces for them before
exposing them to so unequal a contest.’

‘Truly, sir, it is a wise resolution,’ said Saxon grimly, ‘for if a
troop of horse came down upon these good people the pastor would find
himself without his flock.’

‘Nay, that could never be!’ cried Master Pettigrue with fervour. ‘Say
rather that pastor, flock, and all would find their way along the thorny
track of martyrdom to the new Jerusalem. Know, friend, that I have come
from Monmouth in order to conduct these men to his standard. I received
from him, or rather from Master Ferguson, instructions to be on the
lookout for ye and for several others of the faithful we expect to join
us from the East. By what route came ye?’

‘Over Salisbury Plain and so through Bruton.’

‘And saw ye or met ye any of our people upon the way?’

‘None,’ Saxon answered. ‘We left the Blue Guards at Salisbury, however,
and we saw either them or some other horse regiment near this side of
the Plain at the village of Mere.’

‘Ah, there is a gathering of the eagles,’ cried Master Joshua Pettigrue,
shaking his head. ‘They are men of fine raiment, with war-horses and
chariots and trappings, like the Assyrians of old, yet shall the angel
of the Lord breathe upon them in the night. Yea, He shall cut them off
utterly in His wrath, and they shall be destroyed.’

‘Amen! Amen!’ cried as many of the peasants as were within earshot.

‘They have elevated their horn, Master Pettigrue,’ said the
grizzly-haired Puritan. ‘They have set up their candlestick on high--the
candlestick of a perverse ritual and of an idolatrous service. Shall it
not be dashed down by the hands of the righteous?’

‘Lo, this same candle waxed big and burned sooty, even as an offence to
the nostrils, in the days of our fathers,’ cried a burly red-faced man,
whose dress proclaimed him to be one of the yeoman class. ‘So was it
when Old Noll did get his snuffing shears to work upon it. It is a wick
which can only be trimmed by the sword of the faithful.’ A grim laugh
from the whole party proclaimed their appreciation of the pious waggery
of their companion.

‘Ah, Brother Sandcroft,’ cried the pastor, ‘there is much sweetness and
manna hidden in thy conversation. But the way is long and dreary. Shall
we not lighten it by a song of praise? Where is Brother Thistlethwaite,
whose voice is as the cymbal, the tabor, and the dulcimer?’

‘Lo, most pious Master Pettigrue,’ said Saxon, ‘I have myself at times
ventured to lift up my voice before the Lord.’ Without any further
apology he broke out in stentorian tones into the following hymn, the
refrain of which was caught up by pastor and congregation.

          The Lord He is a morion
           That guards me from all wound;
          The Lord He is a coat of mail
           That circles me all round.
          Who then fears to draw the sword,
           And fight the battle of the Lord?

          The Lord He is the buckler true
           That swings on my left arm;
          The Lord He is the plate of proof
           That shieldeth me from harm.
          Who then fears to draw the sword,
           And fight the battle of the Lord?

          Who then dreads the violent,
           Or fears the man of pride?
          Or shall I flee from two or three
           If He be by my side?
          Who then fears to draw the sword,
           And fight the battle of the Lord!

          My faith is like a citadel
           Girt round with moat and wall,
          No mine, or sap, or breach, or gap
           Can ere prevail at all.
          Who then fears to draw the sword,
           And fight the battle of the Lord?

Saxon ceased, but the Reverend Joshua Pettigrue waved his long arms and
repeated the refrain, which was taken up again and again by the long
column of marching peasants.

‘It is a godly hymn,’ said our companion, who had, to my disgust and
to the evident astonishment of Reuben and Sir Gervas, resumed the
snuffling, whining voice which he had used in the presence of my father.
‘It hath availed much on the field of battle.’

‘Truly,’ returned the clergyman, ‘if your comrades are of as sweet
a savour as yourself, ye will be worth a brigade of pikes to the
faithful,’ a sentiment which raised a murmur of assent from the Puritans
around. ‘Since, sir,’ he continued, ‘you have had much experience in the
wiles of war, I shall be glad to hand over to you the command of this
small body of the faithful, until such time as we reach the army.’

‘It is time, too, in good faith, that ye had a soldier at your head,’
Decimus Saxon answered quietly. ‘My eyes deceive me strangely if I
do not see the gleam of sword and cuirass upon the brow of yonder
declivity. Methinks our pious exercises have brought the enemy upon us.’



Chapter XV. Of our Brush with the King’s Dragoons

Some little distance from us a branch road ran into that along which we
and our motley assemblage of companions-in-arms were travelling. This
road curved down the side of a well-wooded hill, and then over the level
for a quarter of a mile or so before opening on the other. Just at the
brow of the rising ground there stood a thick bristle of trees, amid the
trunks of which there came and went a bright shimmer of sparkling steel,
which proclaimed the presence of armed men. Farther back, where the road
took a sudden turn and ran along the ridge of the hill, several horsemen
could be plainly seen outlined against the evening sky. So peaceful,
however, was the long sweep of countryside, mellowed by the golden light
of the setting sun, with a score of village steeples and manor-houses
peeping out from amongst the woods, that it was hard to think that the
thundercloud of war was really lowering over that fair valley, and that
at any instant the lightning might break from it.

The country folk, however, appeared to have no difficulty at all in
understanding the danger to which they were exposed. The fugitives from
the West gave a yell of consternation, and ran wildly down the road or
whipped up their beasts of burden in the endeavour to place as safe a
distance as possible between themselves and the threatened attack. The
chorus of shrill cries and shouts, with the cracking of whips, creaking
of wheels, and the occasional crash when some cart load of goods came to
grief, made up a most deafening uproar, above which our leader’s voice
resounded in sharp, eager exhortation and command. When, however, the
loud brazen shriek from a bugle broke from the wood, and the head of
a troop of horse began to descend the slope, the panic became greater
still, and it was difficult for us to preserve any order at all amidst
the wild rush of the terrified fugitives.

‘Stop that cart, Clarke,’ cried Saxon vehemently, pointing with his
sword to an old waggon, piled high with furniture and bedding, which was
lumbering along drawn by two raw-boned colts. At the same moment I saw
him drive his horse into the crowd and catch at the reins of another
similar one.

Giving Covenant’s bridle a shake I was soon abreast of the cart which
he had indicated, and managed to bring the furious young horses to a
stand-still.

‘Bring it up!’ cried our leader, working with the coolness which only a
long apprenticeship to war can give. ‘Now, friends, cut the traces!’
A dozen knives were at work in a moment, and the kicking, struggling
animals scampered off, leaving their burdens behind them. Saxon sprang
off his horse and set the example in dragging the waggon across the
roadway, while some of the peasants, under the direction of Reuben
Lockarby and of Master Joshua Pettigrue, arranged a couple of other
carts to block the way fifty yards further down. The latter precaution
was to guard against the chance of the royal horse riding through
the fields and attacking us from behind. So speedily was the scheme
conceived and carried out, that within a very few minutes of the first
alarm we found ourselves protected front and rear by a lofty barricade,
while within this improvised fortress was a garrison of a hundred and
fifty men.

‘What firearms have we amongst us?’ asked Saxon hurriedly.

‘A dozen pistols at the most,’ replied the elderly Puritan, who was
addressed by his companions as Hope-above Williams. ‘John Rodway,
the coachman, hath his blunderbuss. There are also two godly men from
Hungerford, who are keepers of game, and who have brought their pieces
with them.’

‘They are here, sir,’ cried another, pointing to two stout, bearded
fellows, who were ramming charges into their long-barrelled muskets.
‘Their names are Wat and Nat Millman.’

‘Two who can hit their mark are worth a battalion who shoot wide,’ our
leader remarked, ‘Get under the waggon, my friends, and rest your pieces
upon the spokes. Never draw trigger until the sons of Belial are within
three pikes’ length of ye.’

‘My brother and I,’ quoth one of them, ‘can hit a running doe at two
hundred paces. Our lives are in the hands of the Lord, but two, at
least, of these hired butchers we shall send before us.’

‘As gladly as ever we slew stoat or wild-cat,’ cried the other, slipping
under the waggon. ‘We are keeping the Lord’s preserves now, brother Wat,
and truly these are some of the vermin that infest them.’

‘Let all who have pistols line the waggon,’ said Saxon, tying his mare
to the hedge--an example which we all followed. ‘Clarke, do you take
charge upon the right with Sir Gervas, while Lockarby assists Master
Pettigrue upon the left. Ye others shall stand behind with stones.
Should they break through our barricades, slash at the horses with your
scythes. Once down, the riders are no match for ye.’

A low sullen murmur of determined resolution rose from the peasants,
mingled with pious ejaculations and little scraps of hymn or of prayer.
They had all produced from under their smocks rustic weapons of some
sort. Ten or twelve had petronels, which, from their antique look and
rusty condition, threatened to be more dangerous to their possessors
than to the enemy. Others had sickles, scythe-blades, flails,
half-pikes, or hammers, while the remainder carried long knives and
oaken clubs. Simple as were these weapons, history has proved that in
the hands of men who are deeply stirred by religious fanaticism they are
by no means to be despised. One had but to look at the stern, set faces
of our followers, and the gleam of exultation and expectancy which shone
from their eyes, to see that they were not the men to quail, either from
superior numbers or equipment.

‘By the Mass!’ whispered Sir Gervas, ‘it is magnificent! An hour of this
is worth a year in the Mall. The old Puritan bull is fairly at bay. Let
us see what sort of sport the bull-pups make in the baiting of him! I’ll
lay five pieces to four on the chaw-bacons!’

‘Nay, it’s no matter for idle betting,’ said I shortly, for his
light-hearted chatter annoyed me at so solemn a moment.

‘Five to four on the soldiers, then!’ he persisted. ‘It is too good a
match not to have a stake on it one way or the other.’

‘Our lives are the stake,’ said I.

‘Faith, I had forgot it!’ he replied, still mumbling his toothpick. ‘“To
be or not to be?” as Will of Stratford says. Kynaston was great on the
passage. But here is the bell that rings the curtain up.’

Whilst we had been making our dispositions the troop of horse--for there
appeared to be but one--had trotted down the cross-road, and had drawn
up across the main highway. They numbered, as far as I could judge,
about ninety troopers, and it was evident from their three-cornered
hats, steel plates, red sleeves, and bandoliers, that they were dragoons
of the regular army. The main body halted a quarter of a mile from us,
while three officers rode to the front and held a short consultation,
which ended in one of them setting spurs to his horse and cantering down
in our direction. A bugler followed a few paces behind him, waving a
white kerchief and blowing an occasional blast upon his trumpet.

‘Here comes an envoy,’ cried Saxon, who was standing up in the waggon.
‘Now, my brethren, we have neither kettle-drum nor tinkling brass, but
we have the instrument wherewith Providence hath endowed us. Let us show
the redcoats that we know how to use it.

          “Who then dreads the violent,
           Or fears the man of pride?
           Or shall I flee from two or three
           If He be by my side?”’

Seven score voices broke in, in a hoarse roar, upon the chorus--

          ‘Who then fears to draw the sword,
           And fight the battle of the Lord?’

I could well believe at that moment that the Spartans had found the lame
singer Tyrtaeus the most successful of their generals, for the sound of
their own voices increased the confidence of the country folk, while the
martial words of the old hymn roused the dogged spirit in their breasts.
So high did their courage run that they broke off their song with a
loud warlike shout, waving their weapons above their heads, and ready I
verily believe to march out from their barricades and make straight for
the horsemen. In the midst of this clamour and turmoil the young dragoon
officer, a handsome, olive-faced lad, rode fearlessly up to the barrier,
and pulling up his beautiful roan steed, held up his hand with an
imperious gesture which demanded silence.

‘Who is the leader of this conventicle?’ he asked.

‘Address your message to me, sir,’ said our leader from the top of
the waggon, ‘but understand that your white flag will only protect you
whilst you use such language as may come from one courteous adversary to
another. Say your say or retire.’

‘Courtesy and honour,’ said the officer, with a sneer, ‘are not extended
to rebels who are in arms against their lawful sovereign. If you are the
leader of this rabble, I warn you if they are not dispersed within five
minutes by this watch’--he pulled out an elegant gold time-piece--‘we
shall ride down upon them and cut them to pieces.’

‘The Lord can protect His own,’ Saxon answered, amid a fierce hum of
approval from the crowd. ‘Is this all thy message?’

‘It is all, and you will find it enough, you Presbyterian traitor,’
cried the dragoon cornet. ‘Listen to me, misguided fools,’ he continued,
standing up upon his stirrups and speaking to the peasants at the
other side of the waggon. ‘What chance have ye with your whittles and
cheese-scrapers? Ye may yet save your skins if ye will but deliver up
your leaders, throw down what ye are pleased to call your arms, and
trust to the King’s mercy.’

‘This exceedeth the limitations of your privileges,’ said Saxon, drawing
a pistol from his belt and cocking it. ‘If you say another word to
seduce these people from their allegiance, I fire.’

‘Hope not to benefit Monmouth,’ cried the young officer, disregarding
the threat, and still addressing his words to the peasants. ‘The whole
royal army is drawing round him and--’

‘Have a care!’ shouted our leader, in a deep harsh voice.

‘His head within a month shall roll upon the scaffold.’

‘But you shall never live to see it,’ said Saxon, and stooping over
he fired straight at the cornet’s head. At the flash of the pistol the
trumpeter wheeled round and galloped for his life, while the roan horse
turned and followed with its master still seated firmly in the saddle.

‘Verily you have missed the Midianite!’ cried Hope-above Williams.

‘He is dead,’ said our leader, pouring a fresh charge into his pistol.
‘It is the law of war, Clarke,’ he added, looking round at me. ‘He hath
chosen to break it, and must pay forfeit.’

As he spoke I saw the young officer lean gradually over in his saddle,
until, when about half-way back to his friends, he lost his balance and
fell heavily in the roadway, turning over two or three times with
the force of his fall, and lying at last still and motionless, a
dust-coloured heap. A loud yell of rage broke from the troopers at
the sight, which was answered by a shout of defiance from the Puritan
peasantry.

‘Down on your faces!’ cried Saxon; ‘they are about to fire.’

The crackle of musketry and a storm of bullets, pinging on the hard
ground, or cutting twigs from the hedges on either side of us, lent
emphasis to our leader’s order. Many of the peasants crouched behind the
feather beds and tables which had been pulled out of the cart. Some lay
in the waggon itself, and some sheltered themselves behind or underneath
it. Others again lined the ditches on either side or lay flat upon the
roadway, while a few showed their belief in the workings of Providence
by standing upright without flinching from the bullets. Amongst these
latter were Saxon and Sir Gervas, the former to set an example to his
raw troops, and the latter out of pure laziness and indifference.
Reuben and I sat together in the ditch, and I can assure you, my dear
grandchildren, that we felt very much inclined to bob our heads when we
heard the bullets piping all around them. If any soldier ever told you
that he did not the first time that he was under fire, then that soldier
is not a man to trust. After sitting rigid and silent, however, as if
we had both stiff necks, for a very few minutes, the feeling passed
completely away, and from that day to this it has never returned to me.
You see familiarity breeds contempt with bullets as with other things,
and though it is no easy matter to come to like them, like the King of
Sweden or my Lord Cutts, it is not so very hard to become indifferent to
them.

The cornet’s death did not remain long unavenged. A little old man with
a sickle, who had been standing near Sir Gervas, gave a sudden sharp
cry, and springing up into the air with a loud ‘Glory to God!’ fell flat
upon his face dead. A bullet had struck him just over the right eye.
Almost at the same moment one of the peasants in the waggon was shot
through the chest, and sat up coughing blood all over the wheel. I saw
Master Joshua Pettigrue catch him in his long arms, and settle some
bedding under his head, so that he lay breathing heavily and pattering
forth prayers. The minister showed himself a man that day, for amid the
fierce carbine fire he walked boldly up and down, with a drawn rapier in
his left hand--for he was a left-handed man--and his Bible in the other.
‘This is what you are dying for, dear brothers,’ he cried continually,
holding the brown volume up in the air; ‘are ye not ready to die for
this?’ And every time he asked the question a low eager murmur of assent
rose from the ditches, the waggon, and the road.

‘They aim like yokels at a Wappenschaw,’ said Saxon, seating himself
on the side of the waggon. ‘Like all young soldiers they fire too high.
When I was an adjutant it was my custom to press down the barrels of the
muskets until my eye told me that they were level. These rogues think
that they have done their part if they do but let the gun off, though
they are as like to hit the plovers above us as ourselves.’

‘Five of the faithful have fallen,’ said Hope-above Williams. ‘Shall we
not sally forth and do battle with the children of Antichrist? Are we to
lie here like so many popinjays at a fair for the troopers to practise
upon?’

‘There is a stone barn over yonder on the hill-side,’ I remarked. ‘If
we who have horses, and a few others, were to keep the dragoons in
play, the people might be able to reach it, and so be sheltered from the
fire.’

‘At least let my brother and me have a shot or two back at them,’ cried
one of the marksmen beside the wheel.

To all our entreaties and suggestions, however, our leader only replied
by a shake of the head, and continued to swing his long legs over the
side of the waggon with his eyes fixed intently upon the horsemen, many
of whom had dismounted and were leaning their carbines over the cruppers
of their chargers.

‘This cannot go on, sir,’ said the pastor, in a low earnest voice; ‘two
more men have just been hit.’

‘If fifty more men are hit we must wait until they charge,’ Saxon
answered. ‘What would you do, man? If you leave this shelter you will
be cut off and utterly destroyed. When you have seen as much of war as
I have done, you will learn to put up quietly with what is not to be
avoided. I remember on such another occasion when the rearguard or
nachhut of the Imperial troops was followed by Croats, who were in
the pay of the Grand Turk, I lost half my company before the mercenary
renegades came to close fighting. Ha, my brave boys, they are mounting!
We shall not have to wait long now.’

The dragoons were indeed climbing into their saddles again, and forming
across the road, with the evident intention of charging down upon us.
At the same time about thirty men detached themselves from the main body
and trotted away into the fields upon our right. Saxon growled a hearty
oath under his breath as he observed them.

‘They have some knowledge of warfare after all,’ said he. ‘They mean to
charge us flank and front. Master Joshua, see that your scythesmen
line the quickset hedge upon the right. Stand well up, my brothers, and
flinch not from the horses. You men with the sickles, lie in the ditch
there, and cut at the legs of the brutes. A line of stone throwers
behind that. A heavy stone is as sure as a bullet at close quarters. If
ye would see your wives and children again, make that hedge good against
the horsemen. Now for the front attack. Let the men who carry petronels
come into the waggon. Two of yours, Clarke, and two of yours, Lockarby.
I can spare one also. That makes five. Now here are ten others of a sort
and three muskets. Twenty shots in all. Have you no pistols, Sir Gervas?

‘No, but I can get a pair,’ said our companion, and springing upon his
horse he forced his way through the ditch, past the barrier, and so down
the road in the direction of the dragoons.

The movement was so sudden and so unexpected that there was a dead
silence for a few seconds, which was broken by a general howl of hatred
and execration from the peasants. ‘Shoot upon him! Shoot down the false
Amalekite!’ they shrieked. ‘He hath gone to join his kind! He hath
delivered us up into the hands of the enemy! Judas! Judas!’ As to the
horsemen, who were still forming up for a charge and waiting for the
flanking party to get into position, they sat still and silent, not
knowing what to make of the gaily-dressed cavalier who was speeding
towards them.

We were not left long in doubt, however. He had no sooner reached the
spot where the cornet had fallen than he sprang from his horse and
helped himself to the dead man’s pistols, and to the belt which
contained his powder and ball. Mounting at his leisure, amid a shower of
bullets which puffed up the white dust all around him, he rode onwards
towards the dragoons and discharged one of his pistols at them. Wheeling
round he politely raised his cap, and galloped back to us, none the
worse for his adventure, though a ball had grazed his horse’s fetlock
and another had left a hole in the skirt of his riding-coat. The
peasants raised a shout of jubilation as he rode in, and from that day
forward our friend was permitted to wear his gay trappings and to bear
himself as he would, without being suspected of having mounted the
livery of Satan or of being wanting in zeal for the cause of the saints.

‘They are coming,’ cried Saxon. ‘Let no man draw trigger until he sees
me shoot. If any does, I shall send a bullet through him, though it was
my last shot and the troopers were amongst us.’

As our leader uttered this threat and looked grimly round upon us with
an evident intention of executing it, a shrill blare of a bugle burst
from the horsemen in front of us, and was answered by those upon our
flank. At the signal both bodies set spurs to their horses and dashed
down upon us at the top of their speed. Those in the field were delayed
for a few moments, and thrown into some disorder, by finding that the
ground immediately in front of them was soft and boggy, but having
made their way through it they re-formed upon the other side and rode
gallantly at the hedge. Our own opponents, having a clear course before
them, never slackened for an instant, but came thundering down with a
jingling of harness and a tempest of oaths upon our rude barricades.

Ah, my children! when a man in his age tries to describe such things as
these, and to make others see what he has seen, it is only then that he
understands what a small stock of language a plain man keeps by him for
his ordinary use in the world, and how unfit it is to meet any call
upon it. For though at this very moment I can myself see that white
Somersetshire road, with the wild whirling charge of the horsemen, the
red angry faces of the men, and the gaping nostrils of the horses all
wreathed and framed in clouds of dust, I cannot hope to make it clear
to your young eyes, which never have looked, and, I trust, never shall
look, upon such a scene. When, too, I think of the sound, a mere rattle
and jingle at first, but growing in strength and volume with every step,
until it came upon us with a thunderous rush and roar which gave the
impression of irresistible power, I feel that that too is beyond the
power of my feeble words to express. To inexperienced soldiers like
ourselves it seemed impossible that our frail defence and our feeble
weapons could check for an instant the impetus and weight of the
dragoons. To right and left I saw white set faces, open-eyed and rigid,
unflinching, with a stubbornness which rose less from hope than from
despair. All round rose exclamations and prayers. ‘Lord, save Thy
people!’ ‘Mercy, Lord, mercy!’ ‘Be with us this day!’ ‘Receive our
souls, O merciful Father!’ Saxon lay across the waggon with his eyes
glinting like diamonds and his petronel presented at the full length
of his rigid arm. Following his example we all took aim as steadily as
possible at the first rank of the enemy. Our only hope of safety lay
in making that one discharge so deadly that our opponents should be too
much shaken to continue their attack.

Would the man never fire? They could not be more than ten paces from us.
I could see the buckles of the men’s plates and the powder charges in
their bandoliers. One more stride yet, and at last our leader’s pistol
flashed and we poured in a close volley, supported by a shower of heavy
stones from the sturdy peasants behind. I could hear them splintering
against casque and cuirass like hail upon a casement. The cloud of smoke
veiling for an instant the line of galloping steeds and gallant riders
drifted slowly aside to show a very different scene. A dozen men and
horses were rolling in one wild blood-spurting heap, the unwounded
falling over those whom our balls and stones had brought down.
Struggling, snorting chargers, iron-shod feet, staggering figures rising
and falling, wild, hatless, bewildered men half stunned by a fall, and
not knowing which way to turn--that was the foreground of the picture,
while behind them the remainder of the troop were riding furiously back,
wounded and hale, all driven by the one desire of getting to a place of
safety where they might rally their shattered formation. A great shout
of praise and thanksgiving rose from the delighted peasants, and
surging over the barricade they struck down or secured the few uninjured
troopers who had boon unable or unwilling to join their companions in
their flight. The carbines, swords, and bandoliers were eagerly pounced
upon by the victors, some of whom had served in the militia, and knew
well how to handle the weapons which they had won.

The victory, however, was by no means completed. The flanking squadron
had ridden boldly at the hedge, and a dozen or more had forced their way
through, in spite of the showers of stones and the desperate thrusts of
the pikemen and scythemen. Once amongst the peasants, the long swords
and the armour of the dragoons gave them a great advantage, and though
the sickles brought several of the horses to the ground the soldiers
continued to lay about them freely, and to beat back the fierce but
ill-armed resistance of their opponents. A dragoon sergeant, a man of
great resolution and of prodigious strength, appeared to be the leader
of the party, and encouraged his followers both by word and example.
A stab from a half-pike brought his horse to the ground, but he
sprang from the saddle as it fell, and avenged its death by a sweeping
back-handed cut from his broadsword. Waving his hat in his left hand he
continued to rally his men, and to strike down every Puritan who came
against him, until a blow from a hatchet brought him on his knees and
a flail stroke broke his sword close by the hilt. At the fall of their
leader his comrades turned and fled through the hedge, but the gallant
fellow, wounded and bleeding, still showed fight, and would assuredly
have been knocked upon the head for his pains had I not picked him up
and thrown him into the waggon, where he had the good sense to lie quiet
until the skirmish was at an end. Of the dozen who broke through, not
more than four escaped, and several others lay dead or wounded upon the
other side of the hedge, impaled by scythe-blades or knocked off
their horses by stones. Altogether nine of the dragoons were slain
and fourteen wounded, while we retained seven unscathed prisoners, ten
horses fit for service, and a score or so of carbines, with good store
of match, powder, and ball. The remainder of the troop fired a
single, straggling, irregular volley, and then galloped away down the
cross-road, disappearing amongst the trees from which they had emerged.

All this, however, had not been accomplished without severe loss upon
our side. Three men had been killed and six wounded, one of them
very seriously, by the musketry fire. Five had been cut down when
the flanking party broke their way in, and only one of these could be
expected to recover. In addition to this, one man had lost his life
through the bursting of an ancient petronel, and another had his arm
broken by the kick of a horse. Our total losses, therefore, were eight
killed and the same wounded, which could not but be regarded as a very
moderate number when we consider the fierceness of the skirmish, and the
superiority of our enemy both in discipline and in equipment.

So elated were the peasants by their victory, that those who had secured
horses were clamorous to be allowed to follow the dragoons, the more so
as Sir Gervas Jerome and Reuben were both eager to lead them. Decimus
Saxon refused, however, to listen to any such scheme, nor did he show
more favour to the Reverend Joshua Pettigrue’s proposal, that he should
in his capacity as pastor mount immediately upon the waggon, and improve
the occasion by a few words of healing and unction.

‘It is true, good Master Pettigrue, that we owe much praise and much
outpouring, and much sweet and holy contending, for this blessing which
hath come upon Israel,’ said he, ‘but the time hath not yet arrived.
There is an hour for prayer and an hour for labour. Hark ye, friend’--to
one of the prisoners--‘to what regiment do you belong?’

‘It is not for me to reply to your questions,’ the man answered sulkily.

Nay, then, we’ll try if a string round your scalp and a few twists of a
drumstick will make you find your tongue,’ said Saxon, pushing his face
up to that of the prisoner, and staring into his eyes with so savage an
expression that the man shrank away affrighted.

‘It is a troop of the second dragoon regiment,’ he said.

‘Where is the regiment itself?’

‘We left it on the Ilchester and Langport road.’

‘You hear,’ said our leader. ‘We have not a moment to spare, or we may
have the whole crew about our ears. Put our dead and wounded in the
carts, and we can harness two of these chargers to them. We shall not be
in safety until we are in Taunton town.’

Even Master Joshua saw that the matter was too pressing to permit of
any spiritual exercises. The wounded men were lifted into the waggon and
laid upon the bedding, while our dead were placed in the cart which had
defended our rear. The peasants who owned these, far from making any
objection to this disposal of their property, assisted us in every way,
tightening girths and buckling traces. Within an hour of the ending of
the skirmish we found ourselves pursuing our way once more, and looking
back through the twilight at the scattered black dots upon the white
road, where the bodies of the dragoons marked the scene of our victory.



Chapter XVI. Of our Coming to Taunton

The purple shadows of evening had fallen over the countryside, and the
sun had sunk behind the distant Quantock and Brendon Hills, as our rude
column of rustic infantry plodded through Curry Rivell, Wrantage, and
Henlade. At every wayside cottage and red-tiled farmhouse the people
swarmed out us we passed, with jugs full of milk or beer, shaking hands
with our yokels, and pressing food and drink upon them. In the little
villages old and young came buzzing to greet us, and cheered long and
loud for King Monmouth and the Protestant cause. The stay-at-homes were
mostly elderly folks and children, but here and there a young labourer,
whom hesitation or duties had kept back, was so carried away by our
martial appearance, and by the visible trophies of our victory, that he
snatched up a weapon and joined our ranks.

The skirmish had reduced our numbers, but it had done much to turn our
rabble of peasants into a real military force. The leadership of Saxon,
and his stern, short words of praise or of censure had done even more.
The men kept some sort of formation, and stepped together briskly in a
compact body. The old soldier and I rode at the head of the column, with
Master Pettigrue still walking between us. Then came the cartful of
our dead, whom we were carrying with us to insure their decent burial.
Behind this walked two score of scythe and sickle men, with their rude
weapons over their shoulders, preceding the waggon in which the wounded
were carried. This was followed by the main body of the peasants,
and the rear was brought up by ten or twelve men under the command of
Lockarby and Sir Gervas, mounted upon captured chargers, and wearing the
breastplates, swords, and carbines of the dragoons.

I observed that Saxon rode with his chin upon his shoulder, casting
continual uneasy glances behind him, and halting at every piece of
rising ground to make sure that there were no pursuers at our heels. It
was not until, after many weary miles of marching, the lights of Taunton
could be seen twinkling far off in the valley beneath us that he at last
heaved a deep sigh of relief, and expressed his belief that all danger
was over.

‘I am not prone to be fearful upon small occasion,’ he remarked, ‘but
hampered as we are with wounded men and prisoners, it might have puzzled
Petrinus himself to know what we should have done had the cavalry
overtaken us. I can now, Master Pettigrue, smoke my pipe in peace,
without pricking up my ears at every chance rumble of a wheel or shout
of a village roisterer.’

‘Even had they pursued us,’ said the minister stoutly, ‘as long as the
hand of the Lord shall shield us, why should we fear them?’

‘Aye, aye!’ Saxon answered impatiently, ‘but the devil prevaileth at
times. Were not the chosen people themselves overthrown and led into
captivity? How say you, Clarke?’

‘One such skirmish is enough for a day,’ I remarked. ‘Faith! if instead
of charging us they had continued that carbine fire, we must either have
come forth or been shot where we lay.’

‘For that reason I forbade our friends with the muskets to answer it,’
said Saxon. ‘Our silence led them to think that we had but a pistol or
two among us, and so brought them to charge us. Thus our volley became
the more terrifying since it was unexpected. I’ll wager there was not a
man amongst them who did not feel that he had been led into a trap. Mark
you how the rogues wheeled and fled with one accord, as though it had
been part of their daily drill!’

‘The peasants stood to it like men,’ I remarked.

‘There is nothing like a tincture of Calvinism for stiffening a line of
battle,’ said Saxon. ‘Look at the Swede when he is at home. What more
honest, simple-hearted fellow could you find, with no single soldierly
virtue, save that he could put away more spruce beer than you would care
to pay for. Yet if you do but cram him with a few strong, homely texts,
place a pike in his hand, and give him a Gustavus to lead him, there is
no infantry in the world that can stand against him. On the other hand,
I have seen young Turks, untrained to arms, strike in on behalf of the
Koran as lustily as these brave fellows behind us did for the Bible
which Master Pettigrue held up in front of them.’

‘I trust, sir,’ said the minister gravely, ‘that you do not, by
these remarks, intend to institute any comparison between our sacred
scriptures and the writings of the impostor Mahomet, or to infer that
there is any similarity between the devil-inspired fury of the infidel
Saracens and the Christian fortitude of the struggling faithful!’

‘By no means,’ Saxon answered, grinning at me over the minister’s head.
‘I was but showing how closely the Evil One can imitate the workings of
the Spirit.’

‘Too true, Master Saxon, too true!’ the clergyman answered sadly. ‘Amid
the conflict and discord it is hard to pick out the true path. But
I marvel much that amidst the snares and temptations that beset a
soldier’s life you have kept yourself unsullied, with your heart still
set upon the true faith.’

‘It was through no strength of mine own,’ said Saxon piously.

‘In very truth, such men as you are much needed in Monmouth’s army,’
Master Joshua exclaimed. ‘They have there several, as I understand, from
Holland, Brandenburg, and Scotland, who have been trained in arms, but
who care so little for the cause which we uphold that they curse and
swear in a manner that affrights the peasants, and threatens to call
down a judgment upon the army. Others there are who cling close to the
true faith, and have been born again among the righteous; but alas! they
have had no experience of camps and fields. Our blessed Master can work
by means of weak instruments, yet the fact remains that a man may be
a chosen light in a pulpit, and yet be of little avail in an onslaught
such as we have seen this day. I can myself arrange my discourse to the
satisfaction of my flock, so that they grieve when the sand is run out;
(Note E. Appendix) but I am aware that this power would stand me in
little stead when it came to the raising of barricades and the use of
carnal weapons. In this way it comes about, in the army of the faithful,
that those who are fit to lead are hateful to the people, while those to
whose words the people will hearken know little of war. Now we have this
day seen that you are ready of head and of hand, of much experience of
battle, and yet of demure and sober life, full of yearnings after the
word, and strivings against Apollyon. I therefore repeat that you shall
be as a very Joshua amongst them, or as a Samson, destined to tear
down the twin pillars of Prelacy and Popery, so as to bury this corrupt
government in its fall.’

Decimus Saxon’s only reply to this eulogy was one of those groans which
were supposed, among the zealots, to be the symbol of intense inner
conflict and emotion. So austere and holy was his expression, so solemn
his demeanour, and so frequent the upturnings of his eyes, clasping
of his hands, and other signs which marked the extreme sectary, that
I could not but marvel at the depths and completeness of the hypocrisy
which had cast so complete a cloak over his rapacious self. For very
mischief’s sake I could not refrain from reminding him that there was
one at least who valued his professions at their real value.

‘Have you told the worthy minister,’ said I, ‘of your captivity amongst
the Mussulmans, and of the noble way in which you did uphold the
Christian faith at Stamboul?’

‘Nay,’ cried our companion, ‘I would fain hear the tale. I marvel much
that one so faithful and unbending as thyself was ever let loose by the
unclean and bloodthirsty followers of Mahomet.’

‘It does not become me to tell the tale,’ Saxon answered with great
presence of mind, casting at the same time a most venomous sidelong
glance at me. ‘It is for my comrades in misfortune and not for me to
describe what I endured for the faith. I have little doubt, Master
Pettigrue, that you would have done as much had you been there. The town
of Taunton lies very quiet beneath us, and there are few lights for so
early an hour, seeing that it has not yet gone ten. It is clear that
Monmouth’s forces have not reached it yet, else had there been some show
of camp-fires in the valley; for though it is warm enough to lie out in
the open, the men must have fires to cook their victual.’

‘The army could scarce have come so far,’ said the pastor. ‘They have,
I hear, been much delayed by the want of arms and by the need of
discipline. Bethink ye, it was on the eleventh day of the month that
Monmouth landed at Lyme, and it is now but the night of the fourteenth.
There was much to be done in the time.’

‘Four whole days!’ growled the old soldier. ‘Yet I expected no better,
seeing that they have, so far as I can hear, no tried soldiers amongst
them. By my sword, Tilly or Wallenstein would not have taken four days
to come from Lyme to Taunton, though all James Stuart’s cavalry barred
the way. Great enterprises are not pushed through in this halting
fashion. The blow should be sharp and sudden. But tell me, worthy sir,
all that you know about the matter, for we have heard little upon the
road save rumour and surmise. Was there not some fashion of onfall at
Bridport?’

‘There was indeed some shedding of blood at that place. The first two
days were consumed, as I understand, in the enrolling of the faithful
and the search for arms wherewith to equip them. You may well shake your
head, for the hours were precious. At last five hundred men were broken
into some sort of order, and marched along the coast under command of
Lord Grey of Wark and Wade the lawyer. At Bridport they were opposed
by the red Dorset militia and part of Portman’s yellow coats. If all
be true that is said, neither side had much to boast of. Grey and his
cavalry never tightened bridle until they were back in Lyme once more,
though it is said their flight had more to do with the hard mouths
of their horses than with the soft hearts of the riders. Wade and his
footmen did bravely, and had the best of it against the King’s troops.
There was much outcry against Grey in the camp, but Monmouth can
scarce afford to be severe upon the only nobleman who hath joined his
standard.’

‘Pshaw!’ cried Saxon peevishly. ‘There was no great stock of noblemen in
Cromwell’s army, I trow, and yet they held their own against the King,
who had as many lords by him as there are haws in a thicket. If ye have
the people on your side, why should ye crave for these bewigged fine
gentlemen, whose white hands and delicate rapiers are of as much service
as so many ladies’ bodkins?’

‘Faith!’ said I, ‘if all the fops are as careless for their lives as our
friend Sir Gervas, I could wish no better comrades in the field.’

‘In good sooth, yes!’ cried Master Pettigrue heartily. ‘What though he
be clothed in a Joseph’s coat of many colours, and hath strange turns
of speech! No man could have fought more stoutly or shown a bolder front
against the enemies of Israel. Surely the youth hath good in his heart,
and will become a seat of grace and a vessel of the Spirit, though
at present he be entangled in the net of worldly follies and carnal
vanities.’

‘It is to be hoped so,’ quoth Saxon devoutly. ‘And what else can you
tell us of the revolt, worthy sir?’

‘Very little, save that the peasants have flocked in in such numbers
that many have had to be turned away for want of arms. Every tithing-man
in Somersetshire is searching for axes and scythes. There is not
a blacksmith but is at his forge from morn to night at work upon
pike-heads. There are six thousand men of a sort in the camp, but
not one in five carries a musket. They have advanced, I hear, upon
Axminster, where they must meet the Duke of Albemarle, who hath set out
from Exeter with four thousand of the train bands.’

‘Then we shall be too late, after all,’ I exclaimed.

‘You will have enough of battles before Monmouth exchanges his
riding-hat for a crown, and his laced roquelaure for the royal purple,’
quoth Saxon. ‘Should our worthy friend here be correctly informed and
such an engagement take place, it will but be the prologue to the play.
When Feversham and Churchill come up with the King’s own troops, it is
then that Monmouth takes the last spring, that lands him either on the
throne or the scaffold.’

Whilst this conversation had been proceeding we had been walking our
horses down the winding track which leads along the eastern slope of
Taunton Deane. For some time past we had been able to see in the valley
beneath us the lights of Taunton town and the long silver strip of
the river Tone. The moon was shining brightly in a cloudless heaven,
throwing a still and peaceful radiance over the fairest and richest of
English valleys. Lordly manorial houses, pinnacled towers, clusters of
nestling thatch-roofed cottages, broad silent stretches of cornland,
dark groves with the glint of lamp-lit windows shining from their
recesses--it all lay around us like the shadowy, voiceless landscapes
which stretch before us in our dreams. So calm and so beautiful was the
scene that we reined up our horses at the bend of the pathway, the tired
and footsore peasants came to a halt, while even the wounded raised
themselves in the waggon in order to feast their eyes upon this land of
promise. Suddenly, in the stillness, a strong fervent voice was heard
calling upon the source of all life to guard and preserve that which
He had created. It was Joshua Pettigrue, who had flung himself upon his
knees, and who, while asking for future guidance, was returning thanks
for the safe deliverance which his flock had experienced from the many
perils which had beset them upon their journey. I would, my children,
that I had one of those magic crystals of which we have read, that I
might show you that scene. The dark figures of the horsemen, the grave,
earnest bearing of the rustics as they knelt in prayer or leaned upon
their rude weapons, the half-cowed, half-sneering expression of the
captive dragoons, the line of white pain-drawn faces that peeped
over the side of the waggon, and the chorus of groans, cries, and
ejaculations which broke in upon the steady earnest voice of the pastor.
Above us the brilliant heavens, beneath us the beautiful sloping valley,
stretching away in the white moonlight as far as the eye could reach.
Could I but paint such a scene with the brush of a Verrio or Laguerre, I
should have no need to describe it in these halting and feeble words.

Master Pettigrue had concluded his thanksgiving, and was in the act of
rising to his feet, when the musical peal of a bell rose up from the
sleeping town before us. For a minute or more it rose and fell in its
sweet clear cadence. Then a second with a deeper, harsher note joined
in, and then a third, until he air was filled with the merry jangling.
At the same time a buzz of shouting or huzzaing could be heard, which
increased and spread until it swelled into a mighty uproar. Lights
flashed in the windows, drums beat, and the whole place was astir. These
sudden signs of rejoicing coming at the heels of the minister’s prayer
were seized upon as a happy omen by the superstitious peasants, who set
up a glad cry, and pushing onwards were soon within the outskirts of the
town.

The footpaths and causeway were black with throngs of the townsfolk,
men, women, and children, many of whom were bearing torches and
lanthorns, all flocking in the same direction. Following them we found
ourselves in the market-place, where crowds of apprentice lads were
piling up faggots for a bonfire, while others were broaching two or
three great puncheons of ale. The cause of this sudden outbreak of
rejoicing was, we learned, that news had just come in that Albemarle’s
Devonshire militia had partly deserted and partly been defeated at
Axminster that very morning. On hearing of our own successful skirmish
the joy of the people became more tumultuous than ever. They rushed in
amongst us, pouring blessings on our heads, in their strange burring
west-country speech, and embracing our horses as well as ourselves.
Preparations were soon made for our weary companions. A long empty wool
warehouse, thickly littered with straw, was put at their disposal, with
a tub of ale and a plentiful supply of cold meats and wheaten bread.
For our own part we made our way down East Street through the clamorous
hand-shaking crowd to the White Hart Inn, where after a hasty meal we
were right glad to seek our couches. Late into the night, however, our
slumbers were disturbed by the rejoicings of the mob, who, having burned
the effigies of Lord Sunderland and of Gregory Alford, Mayor of Lyme,
continued to sing west-country songs and Puritan hymns into the small
hours of the morning.



Chapter XVII. Of the Gathering in the Market-square

The fair town in which we now found ourselves was, although Monmouth
had not yet reached it, the real centre of the rebellion. It was a
prosperous place, with a great woollen and kersey trade, which gave
occupation to as many as seven thousand inhabitants. It stood high,
therefore, amongst English boroughs, being inferior only to Bristol,
Norwich, Bath, Exeter, York, Worcester, and Nottingham amongst the
country towns. Taunton had long been famous not only for its own
resources and for the spirit of its inhabitants, but also for the
beautiful and highly cultivated country which spread around it, and gave
rise to a gallant breed of yeomen. From time immemorial the town had
been a rallying-point for the party of liberty, and for many years it
had leaned to the side of Republicanism in politics and of Puritanism
in religion. No place in the kingdom had fought more stoutly for
the Parliament, and though it had been twice besieged by Goring, the
burghers, headed by the brave Robert Blake, had fought so desperately,
that the Royalists had been compelled each time to retire discomfited.
On the second occasion the garrison had been reduced to dog’s-flesh and
horse-flesh, but no word of surrender had come either from them or
their heroic commander, who was the same Blake under whom the old seaman
Solomon Sprent had fought against the Dutch. After the Restoration the
Privy Council had shown their recollection of the part played by the
Somersetshire town, by issuing a special order that the battlements
which fenced round the maiden stronghold should be destroyed. Thus,
at the time of which I speak, nothing but a line of ruins and a few
unsightly mounds represented the massive line of wall which had been
so bravely defended by the last generation of townsmen. There were not
wanting, however, many other relics of those stormy times. The houses on
the outskirts were still scarred and splintered from the effects of
the bombs and grenades of the Cavaliers. Indeed, the whole town bore a
grimly martial appearance, as though she were a veteran among boroughs
who had served in the past, and was not averse to seeing the flash of
guns and hearing the screech of shot once more.

Charles’s Council might destroy the battlements which his soldiers had
been unable to take, but no royal edict could do away with the resolute
spirit and strong opinions of the burghers. Many of them, born and bred
amidst the clash of civil strife, had been fired from their infancy by
the tales of the old war, and by reminiscences of the great assault when
Lunsford’s babe-eaters were hurled down the main breach by the strong
arms of their fathers. In this way there was bred in Taunton a fiercer
and more soldierly spirit than is usual in an English country town, and
this flame was fanned by the unwearied ministerings of a chosen band
of Nonconformist clergymen, amongst whom Joseph Alleine was the most
conspicuous. No better focus for a revolt could have been chosen, for
no city valued so highly those liberties and that creed which was in
jeopardy.

A large body of the burghers had already set out to join the rebel army,
but a good number had remained behind to guard the city, and these were
reinforced by gangs of peasants, like the one to which we had attached
ourselves, who had trooped in from the surrounding country, and now
divided their time between listening to their favourite preachers and
learning to step in line and to handle their weapons. In yard, street,
and market-square there was marching and drilling, night, morning, and
noon. As we rode out after breakfast the whole town was ringing with the
shouting of orders and the clatter of arms. Our own friends of yesterday
marched into the market-place at the moment we entered it, and no sooner
did they catch sight of us than they plucked off their hats and cheered
lustily, nor would they desist until we cantered over to them and took
our places at their head.

‘They have vowed that none other should lead them,’ said the minister,
standing by Saxon’s stirrup.

‘I could not wish to lead stouter fellows,’ said he. ‘Let them deploy
into double line in front of the town-hall. So, so, smartly there, rear
rank!’ he shouted, facing his horse towards them. ‘Now swing round into
position. Keep your ground, left flank, and let the others pivot upon
you. So--as hard and as straight as an Andrea Ferrara. I prythee,
friend, do not carry your pike as though it were a hoe, though I trust
you will do some weeding in the Lord’s vineyard with it. And you, sir,
your musquetoon should be sloped upon your shoulder, and not borne under
your arm like a dandy’s cane. Did ever an unhappy soldier find himself
called upon to make order among so motley a crew! Even my good friend
the Fleming cannot so avail here, nor does Petrinus, in his “De re
militari,” lay down any injunctions as to the method of drilling a man
who is armed with a sickle or a scythe.’

‘Shoulder scythe, port scythe, present scythe--mow!’ whispered Reuben to
Sir Gervas, and the pair began to laugh, heedless of the angry frowns of
Saxon.

‘Let us divide them,’ he said, ‘into three companies of eighty men. Or
stay--how many musketeers have we in all? Five-and-fifty. Let them stand
forward, and form the first line or company. Sir Gervas Jerome, you have
officered the militia of your county, and have doubtless some knowledge
of the manual exercise. If I am commandant of this force I hand over the
captaincy of this company to you. It shall be the first line in battle,
a position which I know you will not be averse to.’

‘Gad, they’ll have to powder their heads,’ said Sir Gervas, with
decision.

‘You shall have the entire ordering of them,’ Saxon answered. ‘Let the
first company take six paces to the front--so! Now let the pikemen stand
out. Eighty-seven, a serviceable company! Lockarby, do you take these
men in hand, and never forget that the German wars have proved that the
best of horse has no more chance against steady pikemen than the waves
against a crag. Take the captaincy of the second company, and ride at
their head.’

‘Faith! If they don’t fight better than their captain rides,’ whispered
Reuben, ‘it will be an evil business. I trust they will be firmer in the
field than I am in the saddle.’

‘The third company of scythesmen I commit to your charge, Captain Micah
Clarke,’ continued Saxon. ‘Good Master Joshua Pettigrue will be our
field-chaplain. Shall not his voice and his presence be to us as
manna in the wilderness, and as springs of water in dry places? The
under-officers I see that you have yourselves chosen, and your captains
shall have power to add to the number from those who smite boldly and
spare not. Now one thing I have to say to you, and I speak it that all
may hear, and that none may hereafter complain that the rules he serves
under were not made clear to him. For I tell you now that when the
evening bugle calls, and the helm and pike are laid aside, I am as you
and you as I, fellow-workers in the same field, and drinkers from the
same wells of life. Lo, I will pray with you, or preach with you, or
hearken with you, or expound to you, or do aught that may become a
brother pilgrim upon the weary road. But hark you, friends! when we are
in arms and the good work is to be done, on the march, in the field, or
on parade, then let your bearing be strict, soldierly, and scrupulous,
quick to hear and alert to obey, for I shall have no sluggards or
laggards, and if there be any such my hand shall be heavy upon them,
yea, even to the cutting of them off. I say there shall be no mercy for
such,’ here he paused and surveyed his force with a set face and his
eyelids drawn low over his glinting, shifting eyes. ‘If, then,’ he
continued, ‘there is any man among you who fears to serve under a hard
discipline, let him stand forth now, and let him betake him to some
easier leader, for I say to you that whilst I command this corps,
Saxon’s regiment of Wiltshire foot shall be worthy to testify in this
great and soul-raising cause.’

The Colonel stopped and sat silent upon his mare. The long lines of
rustic faces looked up, some stolidly, some admiringly, some with an
expression of fear at his stern, gaunt face and baneful eyes. None
moved, however, so he continued.

‘Worthy Master Timewell, the Mayor of this fair town of Taunton, who
has been a tower of strength to the faithful during these long and
spirit-trying times, is about to inspect us when the others shall have
assembled. Captains, to your companies then! Close up there on the
musqueteers, with three paces between each line. Scythesmen, take ground
to your left. Let the under-officers stand on the flanks and rear. So!
‘tis smartly done for a first venture, though a good adjutant with a
prugel after the Imperial fashion might find work to do.’

Whilst we were thus rapidly and effectively organising ourselves into a
regiment, other bodies of peasantry more or less disciplined had marched
into the market-square, and had taken up their position there. Those
on our right had come from Frome and Radstock, in the north of
Somersetshire, and were a mere rabble armed with flails, hammers, and
other such weapons, with no common sign of order or cohesion save the
green boughs which waved in their hat-bands. The body upon our left, who
bore a banner amongst them announcing that they were men of Dorset, were
fewer in number but better equipped, having a front rank, like our own,
entirely armed with muskets.

The good townsmen of Taunton, with their wives and their daughters,
had meanwhile been assembling on the balconies and at the windows which
overlooked the square, whence they might have a view of the pageant. The
grave, square-bearded, broadclothed burghers, and their portly dames in
velvet and three-piled taffeta, looked down from every post of vantage,
while here and there a pretty, timid face peeping out from a Puritan
coif made good the old claim, that Taunton excelled in beautiful women
as well as in gallant men. The side-walks were crowded with the commoner
folk--old white-bearded wool-workers, stern-faced matrons, country
lasses with their shawls over their heads, and swarms of children, who
cried out with their treble voices for King Monmouth and the Protestant
succession.

‘By my faith!’ said Sir Gervas, reining back his steed until he was
abreast of me, ‘our square-toed friends need not be in such post-haste
to get to heaven when they have so many angels among them on earth.
Gad’s wounds, are they not beautiful? Never a patch or a diamond amongst
them, and yet what would not our faded belles of the Mall or the Piazza
give for their innocence and freshness?’

‘Nay, for Heaven’s sake do not smile and bow at them,’ said I. ‘These
courtesies may pass in London, but they may be misunderstood among
simple Somerset maidens and their hot-headed, hard-handed kinsfolk.’

I had hardly spoken before the folding-doors of the town-hall were
thrown open, and a procession of the city fathers emerged into the
market-place. Two trumpeters in parti-coloured jerkins preceded them,
who blew a flourish upon their instruments as they advanced. Behind came
the aldermen and councilmen, grave and reverend elders, clad in their
sweeping gowns of black silk, trimmed and tippeted with costly furs.
In rear of these walked a pursy little red-faced man, the town clerk,
bearing a staff of office in his hand, while the line of dignitaries
was closed by the tall and stately figure of Stephen Timewell, Mayor of
Taunton.

There was much in this magistrate’s appearance to attract attention, for
all the characteristics of the Puritan party to which he belonged were
embodied and exaggerated in his person. Of great height he was and very
thin, with a long-drawn, heavy eyelidded expression, which spoke of
fasts and vigils. The bent shoulders and the head sunk upon the breast
proclaimed the advances of age, but his bright steel-grey eyes and the
animation of his eager face showed how the enthusiasm of religion
could rise superior to bodily weakness. A peaked, straggling grey beard
descended half-way to his waist, and his long snow-white hairs fluttered
out from under a velvet skull-cap. The latter was drawn tightly down
upon his head, so as to make his ears protrude in an unnatural manner
on either side, a custom which had earned for his party the title of
‘prickeared,’ so often applied to them by their opponents. His attire
was of studious plainness and sombre in colour, consisting of his black
mantle, dark velvet breeches, and silk hosen, with velvet bows upon his
shoes instead of the silver buckles then in vogue. A broad chain of gold
around his neck formed the badge of his office. In front of him strutted
the fat red-vested town clerk, one hand upon his hip, the other extended
and bearing his wand of office, looking pompously to right and left,
and occasionally bowing as though the plaudits were entirely on his own
behalf. This little man had tied a huge broadsword to his girdle, which
clanked along the cobble stones when he walked and occasionally inserted
itself between his legs, when he would gravely cock his foot over it
again and walk on without any abatement of his dignity. At last, finding
these interruptions become rather too frequent, he depressed the hilt of
his great sword in order to elevate the point, and so strutted onwards
like a bantam cock with a tingle straight feather in its tail.

Having passed round the front and rear of the various bodies, and
inspected them with a minuteness and attention which showed that his
years had not dulled his soldier’s faculties, the Mayor faced round with
the evident intention of addressing us. His clerk instantly darted in
front of him, and waving his arms began to shout ‘Silence, good people!
Silence for his most worshipful the Mayor of Taunton! Silence for
the worthy Master Stephen Timewell!’ until in the midst of his
gesticulations and cries he got entangled once more with his overgrown
weapon, and went sprawling on his hands and knees in the kennel.

‘Silence yourself, Master Tetheridge,’ said the chief magistrate
severely. ‘If your sword and your tongue were both clipped, it would be
as well for yourself and us. Shall I not speak a few words in season
to these good people but you must interrupt with your discordant
bellowings?’

The busybody gathered himself together and slunk behind the group of
councilmen, while the Mayor slowly ascended the steps of the market
cross. From this position he addressed us, speaking in a high piping
voice which gathered strength as he proceeded, until it was audible at
the remotest corners of the square.

‘Friends in the faith,’ he said, ‘I thank the Lord that I have been
spared in my old age to look down upon this goodly assembly. For we of
Taunton have ever kept the flame of the Covenant burning amongst us,
obscured it may be at times by time-servers and Laodiceans, but none the
less burning in the hearts of our people. All round us, however,
there was a worse than Egyptian darkness, where Popery and Prelacy,
Arminianism, Erastianism, and Simony might rage and riot unchecked and
unconfined. But what do I see now? Do I see the faithful cowering
in their hiding-places and straining their ears for the sound of the
horsehoof’s of their oppressors? Do I see a time-serving generation,
with lies on their lips and truth buried in their hearts? No! I see
before me godly men, not from this fair city only, but from the broad
country round, and from Dorset, and from Wiltshire, and some even as I
hear from Hampshire, all ready and eager to do mighty work in the cause
of the Lord. And when I see these faithful men, and when I think that
every broad piece in the strong boxes of my townsmen is ready to support
them, and when I know that the persecuted remnant throughout the country
is wrestling hard in prayer for us, then a voice speaks within me and
tells me that we shall tear down the idols of Dagon, and build up in
this England of ours such a temple of the true faith that not Popery,
nor Prelacy, nor idolatry, nor any other device of the Evil One shall
ever prevail against it.’

A deep irrepressible hum of approval burst from the close ranks of
the insurgent infantry, with a clang of arms as musquetoon or pike was
grounded upon the stone pavement.

Saxon half-turned his fierce face, raising an impatient hand, and the
hoarse murmur died away among our men, though our less-disciplined
companions to right and left continued to wave their green boughs and to
clatter their arms. The Taunton men opposite stood grim and silent, but
their set faces and bent brows showed that their townsman’s oratory had
stirred the deep fanatic spirit which distinguished them.

‘In my hands,’ continued the Mayor, drawing a roll of paper from his
bosom, ‘is the proclamation which our royal leader hath sent in advance
of him. In his great goodness and self-abnegation he had, in his early
declaration given forth at Lyme, declared that he should leave the
choice of a monarch to the Commons of England, but having found that
his enemies did most scandalously and basely make use of this his
self-denial, and did assert that he had so little confidence in his own
cause that he dared not take publicly the title which is due to him, he
hath determined that this should have an end. Know, therefore, that it
is hereby proclaimed that James, Duke of Monmouth, is now and henceforth
rightful King of England; that James Stuart, the Papist and fratricide,
is a wicked usurper, upon whose head, dead or alive, a price of five
thousand guineas is affixed; and that the assembly now sitting at
Westminster, and calling itself the Commons of England, is an illegal
assembly, and its acts are null and void in the sight of the law. God
bless King Monmouth and the Protestant religion!’

The trumpeters struck up a flourish and the people huzzaed, but the
Mayor raised his thin white hands as a signal for silence. ‘A messenger
hath reached me this morning from the King,’ he continued. ‘He sends a
greeting to all his faithful Protestant subjects, and having halted at
Axminster to rest after his victory, he will advance presently and be
with ye in two days at the latest.

‘Ye will grieve to hear that good Alderman Rider was struck down in the
thick of the fray. He hath died like a man and a Christian, leaving all
his worldly goods, together with his cloth-works and household property,
to the carrying on of the war. Of the other slain there are not more
than ten of Taunton birth. Two gallant young brothers have been cut off,
Oliver and Ephraim Hollis, whose poor mother--’

‘Grieve not for me, good Master Timewell,’ cried a female voice from the
crowd. ‘I have three others as stout, who shall all be offered in the
same quarrel.’

‘You are a worthy woman, Mistress Hollis,’ the Mayor answered, ‘and your
children shall not be lost to you. The next name upon my list is Jesse
Trefail, then come Joseph Millar, and Aminadab Holt--’

An elderly musqueteer in the first line of the Taunton foot pulled his
hat down over his brows and cried out in a loud steady voice, ‘The Lord
hath given and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the
Lord.’

‘It is your only son, Master Holt,’ said the Mayor, ‘but the Lord also
sacrificed His only Son that you and I might drink the waters of eternal
life. The others are Path of Light Regan, James Fletcher, Salvation
Smith, and Robert Johnstone.’

The old Puritan gravely rolled up his papers, and having stood for a
few moments with his hands folded across his breast in silent prayer, he
descended from the market cross, and moved off, followed by the aldermen
and councilmen. The crowd began likewise to disperse in sedate and sober
fashion, with grave earnest faces and downcast eyes. A large number of
the countryfolk, however, more curious or less devout than the citizens,
gathered round our regiment to see the men who had beaten off the
dragoons.

‘See the mon wi’ a face like a gerfalcon,’ cried one, pointing to Saxon;
‘’tis he that slew the Philistine officer yestreen, an’ brought the
faithful off victorious.’

‘Mark ye yon other one,’ cried an old dame, ‘him wi’ the white face an’
the clothes like a prince. He’s one o’ the Quality, what’s come a’ the
way froe Lunnon to testify to the Protestant creed. He’s a main pious
gentleman, he is, an’ if he had bided in the wicked city they’d ha’ had
his head off, like they did the good Lord Roossell, or put him in chains
wi’ the worthy Maister Baxter.’

‘Marry come up, gossip,’ cried a third. ‘The girt mun on the grey horse
is the soldier for me. He has the smooth cheeks o’ a wench, an’ limbs
like Goliath o’ Gath. I’ll war’nt he could pick up my old gaffer Jones
an’ awa’ wi’ him at his saddle-bow, as easy as Towser does a rotten! But
here’s good Maister Tetheridge, the clerk, and on great business too,
for he’s a mun that spares ne time ne trooble in the great cause.’

‘Room, good people, room! ‘cried the little clerk, bustling up with an
air of authority. ‘Hinder not the high officials of the Corporation in
the discharge of their functions. Neither should ye hamper the flanks
of fighting men, seeing that you thereby prevent that deploying and
extending of the line which is now advocated by many high commanders.
I prythee, who commands this cohort, or legion rather, seeing that you
have auxiliary horse attached to it?’

‘’Tis a regiment, sirrah,’ said Saxon sternly. ‘Colonel Saxon’s regiment
of Wiltshire foot, which I have the honour to command.’

‘I beg your Colonelship’s pardon, ‘cried the clerk nervously, edging
away from the swarthy-faced soldier. ‘I have heard speak of your
Colonelship, and of your doings in the German wars. I have myself
trailed a pike in my youth and have broken a head or two, aye, and a
heart or two also, when I wore buff and bandolier.’

‘Discharge your message,’ said our Colonel shortly.

‘’Tis from his most worshipful the Mayor, and is addressed to yourself
and to your captains, who are doubtless these tall cavaliers whom I see
on either side of me. Pretty fellows, by my faith! but you and I know
well, Colonel, that a little trick of fence will set the smallest of us
on a level with the brawniest. Now I warrant that you and I, being
old soldiers, could, back to back, make it good against these three
gallants.’

‘Speak, fellow,’ snarled Saxon, and reaching out a long sinewy arm he
seized the loquacious clerk by the lappet of his gown, and shook him
until his long sword clattered again.

‘How, Colonel, how?’ cried Master Tetheridge, while his vest seemed to
acquire a deeper tint from the sudden pallor of his face. ‘Would you
lay an angry hand upon the Mayor’s representative? I wear a bilbo by my
side, as you can see. I am also somewhat quick and choleric, and warn
you therefore not to do aught which I might perchance construe into a
personal slight. As to my message, it was that his most worshipful
the Mayor did desire to have word with you and your captains in the
town-hall.’

‘We shall be there anon,’ said Saxon, and turning to the regiment he set
himself to explain some of the simpler movements and exercises, teaching
his officers as well as his men, for though Sir Gervas knew something of
the manual, Lockarby and I brought little but our good-will to the task.
When the order to dismiss was at last given, our companies marched back
to their barracks in the wool warehouse, while we handed over our horses
to the grooms from the White Hart, and set off to pay our respects to
the Mayor.



Chapter XVIII. Of Master Stephen Timewell, Mayor of Taunton

Within the town-hall all was bustle and turmoil. At one side behind a
low table covered with green baize sat two scriveners with great rolls
of paper in front of them. A long line of citizens passed slowly before
them, each in turn putting down a roll or bag of coins which was duly
noted by the receivers. A square iron-bound chest stood by their side,
into which the money was thrown, and we noted as we passed that it was
half full of gold pieces. We could not but mark that many of the givers
were men whose threadbare doublets and pinched faces showed that the
wealth which they were dashing down so readily must have been hoarded up
for such a purpose, at the cost of scanty fare and hard living. Most of
them accompanied their gift by a few words of prayer, or by some pithy
text anent the treasure which rusteth not, or the lending to the Lord.
The town clerk stood by the table giving forth the vouchers for each
sum, and the constant clack of his tongue filled the hall, as he read
aloud the names and amounts, with his own remarks between.

‘Abraham Willis,’ he shouted as we entered; ‘put him down twenty-six
pounds and ten shillings. You shall receive ten per centum upon this
earth, Master Willis, and I warrant that it shall not be forgotten
hereafter. John Standish, two pounds. William Simons, two guineas.
Stand-fast Healing, forty-five pounds. That is a rare blow which you
have struck into the ribs of Prelacy, good Master Healing. Solomon
Warren, five guineas. James White, five shillings--the widow’s mite,
James! Thomas Bakewell, ten pounds. Nay, Master Bakewell, surely out of
three farms on the banks of Tone, and grazing land in the fattest part
of Athelney, you can spare more than this for the good cause. We shall
doubtless see you again. Alderman Smithson, ninety pounds. Aha! There is
a slap for the scarlet woman! A few more such and her throne shall be a
ducking-stool. We shall break her down, worthy Master Smithson, even as
Jehu, the son of Nimshi, broke down the house of Baal.’ So he babbled on
with praise, precept, and rebuke, though the grave and solemn burghers
took little notice of his empty clamour.

At the other side of the hall were several long wooden drinking-troughs,
which were used for the storing of pikes and scythes. Special messengers
and tithing-men had been sent out to scour the country for arms, who,
as they returned, placed their prizes here under the care of the
armourer-general. Besides the common weapons of the peasants there was a
puncheon half full of pistols and petronels, together with a good number
of muskets, screw-guns, snaphances, birding-pieces, and carbines, with
a dozen bell-mouthed brass blunderbusses, and a few old-fashioned
wall-pieces, such as sakers and culverins taken from the manor-houses of
the county. From the walls and the lumber-rooms of these old dwellings
many other arms had been brought to light which were doubtless esteemed
as things of price by our forefathers, but which would seem strange to
your eyes in these days, when a musket may be fired once in every two
minutes, and will carry a ball to a distance of four hundred paces.
There were halberds, battle-axes, morning stars, brown bills, maces, and
ancient coats of chain mail, which might even now save a man from sword
stroke or pike thrust.

In the midst of the coming and the going stood Master Timewell, the
Mayor, ordering all things like a skilful and provident commander. I
could understand the trust and love which his townsmen had for him, as
I watched him labouring with all the wisdom of an old man and the
blithesomeness of a young one. He was hard at work as we approached in
trying the lock of a falconet; but perceiving us, he came forward and
saluted us with much kindliness.

‘I have heard much of ye,’ said he; ‘how ye caused the faithful to
gather to a head, and so beat off the horsemen of the usurper. It will
not be the last time, I trust, that ye shall see their backs. I hear,
Colonel Saxon, that ye have seen much service abroad.’

‘I have been the humble tool of Providence in much good work,’
said Saxon, with a bow. ‘I have fought with the Swedes against the
Brandenburgers, and again with the Brandenburgers against the Swedes, my
time and conditions with the latter having been duly carried out. I
have afterwards in the Bavarian service fought against Swedes and
Brandenburgers combined, besides having undergone the great wars on the
Danube against the Turk, and two campaigns with the Messieurs in the
Palatinate, which latter might be better termed holiday-making than
fighting.’

‘A soldierly record in very truth,’ cried the Mayor, stroking his white
beard. ‘I hear that you are also powerfully borne onwards in prayer and
song. You are, I perceive, one of the old breed of ‘44, Colonel--the men
who were in the saddle all day, and on their knees half the night. When
shall we see the like of them again? A few such broken wrecks as I are
left, with the fire of our youth all burned out and nought left but the
ashes of lethargy and lukewarmness.’

‘Nay, nay,’ said Saxon, ‘your position and present business will scarce
jump with the modesty of your words. But here are young men who will
find the fire if their elders bring the brains. This is Captain Micah
Clarke, and Captain Lockarby, and Captain the Honourable Sir Gervas
Jerome, who have all come far to draw their swords for the downtrodden
faith.’

‘Taunton welcomes ye, young sirs,’ said the Mayor, looking a
trifle askance, as I thought, at the baronet, who had drawn out his
pocket-mirror, and was engaged in the brushing of his eyebrows. ‘I trust
that during your stay in this town ye will all four take up your abode
with me. ‘Tis a homely roof and simple fare, but a soldier’s wants are
few. And now, Colonel, I would fain have your advice as to these three
drakes, whether if rehooped they may be deemed fit for service; and also
as to these demi-cannons, which were used in the old Parliamentary days,
and may yet have a word to say in the people’s cause.’

The old soldier and the Puritan instantly plunged into a deep
and learned disquisition upon the merits of wall-pieces, drakes,
demi-culverins, sakers, minions, mortar-pieces, falcons, and
pattereroes, concerning all which pieces of ordnance Saxon had strong
opinions to offer, fortified by many personal hazards and experiences.
He then dwelt upon the merits of fire-arrows and fire-pikes in the
attack or defence of places of strength, and had finally begun to
descant upon sconces, ‘directis lateribus,’ and upon works, semilunar,
rectilineal, horizontal, or orbicular, with so many references to his
Imperial Majesty’s lines at Gran, that it seemed that his discourse
would never find an end. We slipped away at last, leaving him still
discussing the effects produced by the Austrian grenadoes upon a
Bavarian brigade of pikes at the battle of Ober-Graustock.

‘Curse me if I like accepting this old fellow’s offer,’ said Sir Gervas,
in an undertone. ‘I have heard of these Puritan households. Much grace
to little sack, and texts flying about as hard and as jagged as flint
stones. To bed at sundown, and a sermon ready if ye do but look kindly
at the waiting-wench or hum the refrain of a ditty.’

‘His home may be larger, but it could scarce be stricter than that of my
own father,’ I remarked.

‘I’ll warrant that,’ cried Reuben. ‘When we have been a morris-dancing,
or having a Saturday night game of “kiss-in-the-ring,” or
“parson-has-lost-his-coat,” I have seen Ironside Joe stride past us, and
cast a glance at us which hath frozen the smile upon our lips. I warrant
that he would have aided Colonel Pride to shoot the bears and hack down
the maypoles.’

‘’Twere fratricide for such a man to shoot a bear,’ quoth Sir Gervas,
‘with all respect, friend Clarke, for your honoured progenitor.’

‘No more than for you to shoot at a popinjay,’ I answered, laughing;
‘but as to the Mayor’s offer, we can but go to meat with him now, and
should it prove irksome it will be easy for you to plead some excuse,
and so get honourably quit of it. But bear in mind, Sir Gervas, that
such households are in very truth different to any with which you are
acquainted, so curb your tongue or offence may come of it. Should I cry
“hem!” or cough, it will be a sign to you that you had best beware.’

‘Agreed, young Solomon!’ cried he. ‘It is, indeed, well to have a pilot
like yourself who knows these godly waters. For my own part, I should
never know how near I was to the shoals. But our friends have finished
the battle of Ober what’s its name, and are coming towards us. I trust,
worthy Mr. Mayor, that your difficulties have been resolved?’

‘They are, sir,’ replied the Puritan. ‘I have been much edified by your
Colonel’s discourse, and I have little doubt that by serving under him
ye will profit much by his ripe experience.’

‘Very like, sir, very like,’ said Sir Gervas carelessly.

‘But it is nigh one o’clock,’ the Mayor continued, ‘our frail flesh
cries aloud for meat and drink. I beg that ye will do me the favour to
accompany me to my humble dwelling, where we shall find the household
board already dressed.’

With these words he led the way out of the hall and paced slowly down
Fore Street, the people falling back to right and to left as he passed,
and raising their caps to do him reverence. Here and there, as he
pointed out to us, arrangements had been made for barring the road with
strong chains to prevent any sudden rush of cavalry. In places, too, at
the corner of a house, a hole had been knocked in the masonry through
which peeped the dark muzzle of a carronade or wall-piece. These
precautions were the more necessary as several bodies of the Royal
Horse, besides the one which we had repulsed, were known to be within
the Deane, and the town, deprived of its ramparts, was open to an
incursion from any daring commander.

The chief magistrate’s house was a squat square-faced stone building
within a court which opened on to East Street. The peaked oak door,
spangled with broad iron nails, had a gloomy and surly aspect, but
the hall within was lightful and airy, with a bright polished cedar
planking, and high panelling of some dark-grained wood which gave forth
a pleasant smell as of violets. A broad night of steps rose up from the
farther end of the hall, down which as we entered a young sweet-faced
maid came tripping, with an old dame behind her, who bore in her hands a
pile of fresh napery. At the sight of us the elder one retreated up the
stairs again, whilst the younger came flying down three steps at a
time, threw her arms round the old Mayor’s neck, and kissed him fondly,
looking hard into his face the while, as a mother gazes into that of a
child with whom she fears that aught may have gone amiss.

‘Weary again, daddy, weary again,’ she said, shaking her head anxiously,
with a small white hand upon each of his shoulders. ‘Indeed, and indeed,
thy spirit is greater than thy strength.’

‘Nay, nay, lass,’ said he, passing his hand fondly over her rich brown
hair. The workman must toil until the hour of rest is rung. This,
gentlemen, is my granddaughter Ruth, the sole relic of my family and the
light of mine old age. The whole grove hath been cut down, and only the
oldest oak and the youngest sapling left. These cavaliers, little one,
have come from afar to serve the cause, and they have done us the honour
to accept of our poor hospitality.’

‘Ye are come in good time, gentlemen,’ she answered, looking us straight
in the eyes with a kindly smile as a sister might greet her brothers.
‘The household is gathered round the table and the meal is ready.’

‘But not more ready than we,’ cried the stout old burgher. ‘Do thou
conduct our guests to their places, whilst I seek my room and doff these
robes of office, with my chain and tippet, ere I break my fast.’

Following our fair guide we passed into a very large and lofty room, the
walls of which were wainscoted with carved oak, and hung at either end
with tapestry. The floor was tesselated after the French fashion, and
plentifully strewn with skins and rugs. At one end of the apartment
stood a great white marble fireplace, like a small room in itself,
fitted up, as was the ancient custom, with an iron stand in the centre,
and with broad stone benches in the recess on either side. Lines of
hooks above the chimneypiece had been used, as I surmise, to support
arms, for the wealthy merchants of England were wont to keep enough in
their houses to at least equip their apprentices and craftsmen. They
had now, however, been removed, nor was there any token of the troublous
times save a single heap of pikes and halberds piled together in a
corner.

Down the centre of this room there ran a long and massive table, which
was surrounded by thirty or forty people, the greater part of whom were
men. They were on their feet as we entered, and a grave-faced man at the
farther end was drawling forth an interminable grace, which began as a
thanksgiving for food, but wandered away into questions of Church and
State, and finally ended in a supplication for Israel now in arms to do
battle for the Lord. While this was proceeding we stood in a group
by the door with our caps doffed, and spent our time in observing the
company more closely than we could have done with courtesy had their
eyes not been cast down and their thoughts elsewhere.

They were of all ages, from greybeards down to lads scarce out of their
teens, all with the same solemn and austere expression of countenance,
and clad in the same homely and sombre garb. Save their wide white
collars and cuffs, not a string of any colour lessened the sad severity
of their attire. Their black coats and doublets were cut straight and
close, and their cordovan leather shoes, which in the days of our youth
were usually the seat of some little ornament, were uniformly square
toed and tied with sad-coloured ribbon. Most of them wore plain
sword-belts of untanned hide, but the weapons themselves, with their
broad felt hats and black cloaks, were laid under the benches or placed
upon the settles which lined the walls. They stood with their hands
clasped and their heads bent, listening to the untimely address, and
occasionally by some groan or exclamation testifying that the preacher’s
words had moved them.

The overgrown grace came at last to an end, when the company sat
silently down, and proceeded without pause or ceremony to attack the
great joints which smoked before them. Our young hostess led us to the
end of the table, where a high carded chair with a black cushion upon it
marked the position of the master of the house. Mistress Timewell seated
herself upon the right of the Mayor’s place, with Sir Gervas beside her,
while the post of honour upon the left was assigned to Saxon. On my left
sat Lockarby, whose eyes I observed had been fixed in undisguised and
all-absorbing admiration upon the Puritan maiden from the first moment
that he had seen her. The table was of no great breadth, so that we
could talk across in spite of the clatter of plates and dishes, the
bustle of servants, and the deep murmur of voices.

‘This is my father’s household,’ said our hostess, addressing herself to
Saxon. ‘There is not one of them who is not in his employ. He hath many
apprentices in the wool trade. We sit down forty to meat every day in
the year.’

‘And to right good fare, too,’ quoth Saxon, glancing down the table.
‘Salmon, ribs of beef, loin of mutton, veal, pasties--what could man
wish for more? Plenty of good home-brewed, too, to wash it down. If
worthy Master Timewell can arrange that the army be victualled after the
same fashion, I for one shell be beholden to him. A cup of dirty water
and a charred morsel cooked on a ramrod over the camp fire are like to
take the place of these toothsome dainties.’

‘Is it not best to have faith?’ said the Puritan maiden. ‘Shall not the
Almighty feed His soldiers even as Elisha was fed in the wilderness and
Hagar in the desert?’

‘Aye,’ exclaimed a lanky-haired, swarthy young man who sat upon the
right of Sir Gervas, ‘he will provide for us, even as the stream of
water gushed forth out of dry places, even as the quails and the manna
lay thick upon barren soil.’

‘So I trust, young sir,’ quoth Saxon, ‘but we must none the less arrange
a victual-train, with a staff of wains, duly numbered, and an intendant
over each, after the German fashion. Such things should not be left to
chance.’

Pretty Mistress Timewell glanced up with a half startled look at this
remark, as though shocked at the want of faith implied in it. Her
thoughts might have taken the form of words had not her father entered
the room at the moment, the whole company rising and bowing to him as he
advanced to his seat.

‘Be seated, friends,’ said he, with a wave of his hand; ‘we are a homely
folk, Colonel Saxon, and the old-time virtue of respect for our elders
has not entirely forsaken us. I trust, Ruth,’ he continued, ‘that thou
hast seen to the wants of our guests.’

We all protested that we had never received such attention and
hospitality.

‘’Tis well, ‘tis well,’ said the good wool-worker. ‘But your plates are
clear and your glasses empty. William, look to it! A good workman
is ever a good trencherman. If a ‘prentice of mine cannot clean his
platter, I know that I shall get little from him with carder and teazel.
Thew and sinew need building up. A slice from that round of beef,
William! Touching that same battle of Ober-Graustock, Colonel, what part
was played in the fray by that regiment of Pandour horse, in which, as I
understand, thou didst hold a commission?’

This was a question on which, as may be imagined, Saxon had much to say,
and the pair were soon involved in a heated discussion, in which the
experiences of Roundway Down and Marston Moor were balanced against the
results of a score of unpronounceable fights in the Styrian Alps and
along the Danube. Stephen Timewell in his lusty youth had led first
a troop and then a regiment through the wars of the Parliament, from
Chalgrove Field to the final battle at Worcester, so that his warlike
passages, though less varied and extensive than those of our companion,
were enough to enable him to form and hold strong opinions. These were
in the main the same as those of the soldier of fortune, but when their
ideas differed upon any point, there arose forthwith such a cross-fire
of military jargon, such speech of estacados and palisados, such
comparisons of light horse and heavy, of pikemen and musqueteers,
of Lanzknechte, Leaguers, and on-falls, that the unused ear became
bewildered with the babble. At last, on some question of fortification,
the Mayor drew his outworks with the spoons and knives, on which Saxon
opened his parallels with lines of bread, and pushing them rapidly
up with traverses and covered ways, he established himself upon the
re-entering angle of the Mayor’s redoubt. This opened up a fresh
question as to counter-mines, with the result that the dispute raged
with renewed vigour.

Whilst this friendly strife was proceeding between the elders, Sir
Gervas Jerome and Mistress Ruth had fallen into conversation at the
other side of the table. I have seldom seen, my dear children, so
beautiful a face as that of this Puritan damsel; and it was beautiful
with that sort of modest and maidenly comeliness where the features
derive their sweetness from the sweet soul which shines through them.
The perfectly-moulded body appeared to be but the outer expression of
the perfect spirit within. Her dark-brown hair swept back from a broad
and white forehead, which surmounted a pair of well-marked eyebrows and
large blue thoughtful eyes. The whole cast of her features was gentle
and dove-like, yet there was a firmness in the mouth and delicate
prominence of the chin which might indicate that in times of trouble and
danger the little maid would prove to be no unworthy descendant of the
Roundhead soldier and Puritan magistrate. I doubt not that where more
loud-tongued and assertive dames might be cowed, the Mayor’s soft-voiced
daughter would begin to cast off her gentler disposition, and to show
the stronger nature which underlay it. It amused me much to listen to
the efforts which Sir Gervas made to converse with her, for the damsel
and he lived so entirely in two different worlds, that it took all his
gallantry and ready wit to keep on ground which would be intelligible to
her.

‘No doubt you spend much of your time in reading, Mistress Ruth,’ he
remarked. ‘It puzzles me to think what else you can do so far from
town?’

‘Town!’ said she in surprise. ‘What is Taunton but a town?’

‘Heaven forbid that I should deny it,’ replied Sir Gervas, ‘more
especially in the presence of so many worthy burghers, who have the name
of being somewhat jealous of the honour of their native city. Yet the
fact remains, fair mistress, that the town of London so far transcends
all other towns that it is called, even as I called it just now, _the_
town.’

‘Is it so very large, then?’ she cried, with pretty wonder. ‘But new
louses are building in Taunton, outside the old walls, and beyond
Shuttern, and some even at the other side of the river. Perhaps in time
it may be as large.’

‘If all the folks in Taunton were to be added to London,’ said Sir
Gervas, ‘no one there would observe that there had been any increase.’

‘Nay, there you are laughing at me. That is against all reason,’ cried
the country maiden.

‘Your grandfather will bear out my words,’ said Sir Gervas. ‘But to
return to your reading, I’ll warrant that there is not a page of
Scudery and her “Grand Cyrus” which you have not read. You are familiar,
doubtless, with every sentiment in Cowley, or Waller, or Dryden?’

‘Who are these?’ she asked. ‘At what church do they preach?’

‘Faith!’ cried the baronet, with a laugh, ‘honest John preaches at the
church of Will Unwin, commonly known as Will’s, where many a time it
is two in the morning before he comes to the end of his sermon. But why
this question? Do you think that no one may put pen to paper unless they
have also a right to wear a gown and climb up to a pulpit? I had thought
that all of your sex had read Dryden. Pray, what are your own favourite
books?’

‘There is Alleine’s “Alarm to the Unconverted,”’ said she. ‘It is a
stirring work, and one which hath wrought much good. Hast thou not found
it to fructify within thee?’

‘I have not read the book you name,’ Sir Gervas confessed.

‘Not read it?’ she cried, with raised eyebrows. ‘Truly I had thought
that every one had read the “Alarm.” What dost thou think, then, of
“Faithful Contendings”?’

‘I have not read it.’

‘Or of Baxter’s Sermons?’ she asked.

‘I have not read them.’

‘Of Bull’s “Spirit Cordial,” then?’

‘I have not read it.’

Mistress Ruth Timewell stared at him in undisguised wonder. ‘You may
think me ill-bred to say it, sir,’ she remarked, ‘but I cannot but
marvel where you have been, or what you have done all your life. Why,
the very children in the street have read these books.’

‘In truth, such works come little in our way in London,’ Sir Gervas
answered. ‘A play of George Etherege’s, or a jingle of Sir John
Suckling’s is lighter, though mayhap less wholesome food for the mind.
A man in London may keep pace with the world of letters without
much reading, for what with the gossip of the coffee-houses and the
news-letters that fall in his way, and the babble of poets or wits
at the assemblies, with mayhap an evening or two in the week at the
playhouse, with Vanbrugh or Farquhar, one can never part company for
long with the muses. Then, after the play, if a man is in no humour for
a turn of luck at the green table at the Groom Porter’s, he may stroll
down to the Coca Tree if he be a Tory, or to St. James’s if he be a
Whig, and it is ten to one if the talk turn not upon the turning of
alcaics, or the contest between blank verse or rhyme. Then one may,
after an arriere supper, drop into Will’s or Slaughter’s and find Old
John, with Tickell and Congreve and the rest of them, hard at work
on the dramatic unities, or poetical justice, or some such matter. I
confess that my own tastes lay little in that line, for about that hour
I was likely to be worse employed with wine-flask, dice-box, or--’

‘Hem! hem!’ cried I warningly, for several of the Puritans were
listening with faces which expressed anything but approval.

‘What you say of London is of much interest to me,’ said the Puritan
maiden, ‘though these names and places have little meaning to my
ignorant ears. You did speak, however, of the playhouse. Surely no
worthy man goes near those sinks of iniquity, the baited traps of the
Evil One? Has not the good and sanctified Master Bull declared from
the pulpit that they are the gathering-place of the froward, the chosen
haunts of the perverse Assyrians, as dangerous to the soul as any
of those Papal steeple-houses wherein the creature is sacrilegiously
confounded with the Creator?’

‘Well and truly spoken, Mistress Timewell,’ cried the lean young
Puritan upon the right, who had been an attentive listener to the whole
conversation. ‘There is more evil in such houses than even in the cities
of the plain. I doubt not that the wrath of the Lord will descend
upon them, and destroy them, and wreck them utterly, together with the
dissolute men and abandoned women who frequent them.’

‘Your strong opinions, friend,’ said Sir Gervas quietly, ‘are borne out
doubtless by your full knowledge of the subject. How often, prythee,
have you been in these playhouses which you are so ready to decry?’

‘I thank the Lord that I have never been so far tempted from the
straight path as to set foot within one,’ the Puritan answered, ‘nor
have I ever been in that great sewer which is called London. I trust,
however, that I with others of the faithful may find our way thither
with our tucks at our sides ere this business is finished, when we shall
not be content, I’ll warrant, with shutting these homes of vice, as
Cromwell did, but we shall not leave one stone upon another, and shall
sow the spot with salt, that it may be a hissing and a byword amongst
the people.’

‘You are right, John Derrick,’ said the Mayor, who had overheard the
latter part of his remarks. ‘Yet methinks that a lower tone and a more
backward manner would become you better when you are speaking with your
master’s guests. Touching these same playhouses, Colonel, when we have
carried the upper hand this time, we shall not allow the old tares to
check the new wheat. We know what fruit these places have borne in the
days of Charles, the Gwynnes, the Palmers, and the whole base crew of
foul lecherous parasites. Have you ever been in London, Captain Clarke?’

‘Nay, sir; I am country born and bred.’

‘The better man you,’ said our host. ‘I have been there twice. The first
time was in the days of the Rump, when Lambert brought in his division
to overawe the Commons. I was then quartered at the sign of the Four
Crosses in Southwark, then kept by a worthy man, one John Dolman, with
whom I had much edifying speech concerning predestination. All was
quiet and sober then, I promise you, and you might have walked from
Westminster to the Tower in the dead of the night without hearing aught
save the murmur of prayer and the chanting of hymns. Not a ruffler or
a wench was in the streets after dark, nor any one save staid citizens
upon their business, or the halberdiers of the watch. The second visit
which I made was over this business of the levelling of the ramparts,
when I and neighbour Foster, the glover, were sent at the head of a
deputation from this town to the Privy Council of Charles. Who could
have credited that a few years would have made such a change? Every evil
thing that had been stamped underground had spawned and festered until
its vermin brood flooded the streets, and the godly wore themselves
driven to shun the light of day. Apollyon had indeed triumphed for a
while. A quiet man could not walk the highways without being elbowed
into the kennel by swaggering swashbucklers, or accosted by painted
hussies. Padders and michers, laced cloaks, jingling spurs, slashed
boots, tall plumes, bullies and pimps, oaths and blasphemies--I promise
you hell was waxing fat. Even in the solitude of one’s coach one was not
free from the robber.’

‘How that, sir?’ asked Reuben.

‘Why marry, in this wise. As I was the sufferer I have the best right
to tell the tale. Ye must know that after our reception--which was
cold enough, for we were about as welcome to the Privy Council as the
hearth-tax man is to the village housewife--we were asked, more as
I guess from derision than from courtesy, to the evening levee at
Buckingham Palace. We would both fain have been excused from going but
we feared that our refusal might give undue offence, and so hinder the
success of our mission. My homespun garments ware somewhat rough for
such an occasion, yet I determined to appear in them, with the addition
of a new black baize waistcoat faced with silk, and a good periwig, for
which I gave three pounds ten shillings in the Haymarket.’

The young Puritan opposite turned up his eyes and murmured something
about ‘sacrificing to Dagon,’ which fortunately for him was inaudible to
the high-spirited old man.

‘It was but a worldly vanity,’ quoth the Mayor; ‘for, with all
deference, Sir Gervas Jerome, a man’s own hair arranged with some taste,
and with perhaps a sprinkling of powder, is to my mind the fittest
ornament to his head. It is the contents and not the case which
availeth. Having donned this frippery, good Master Foster and I hired
a calash and drove to the Palace. We were deep in grave and, I trust,
profitable converse speeding through the endless streets, when of a
sudden I felt a sharp tug at my head, and my hat fluttered down on to my
knees. I raised my hands, and lo! they came upon my bare pate. The wig
had vanished. We were rolling down Fleet Street at the moment, and there
was no one in the calash save neighbour Foster, who sat as astounded as
I. We looked high and low, on the seats and beneath them, but not a sign
of the periwig was there. It was gone utterly and without a trace.’

‘Whither then?’ we asked with one voice.

‘That was the question which we set ourselves to solve. For a moment I
do assure ye that we bethought us that it might be a judgment upon us
for our attention to such carnal follies. Then it crossed my mind
that it might be the doing of some malicious sprite, as the Drummer of
Tedworth, or those who occasioned the disturbances no very long time
since at the old Gast House at Little Burton here in Somersetshire.
(Note F. Appendix.) With this thought we hallooed to the coachman, and
told him what had occurred to us. The fellow came down from his
perch, and having heard our story, he burst straightway into much foul
language, and walking round to the back of his calash, showed us that
a slit had been made in the leather wherewith it was fashioned. Through
this the thief had thrust his hand and had drawn my wig through the
hole, resting the while on the crossbar of the coach. It was no uncommon
thing, he said, and the wig-snatchers were a numerous body who waited
beside the peruke-maker’s shops, and when they saw a customer come forth
with a purchase which was worth their pains they would follow him, and,
should he chance to drive, deprive him of it in this fashion. Be that as
it may, I never saw my wig again, and had to purchase another before I
could venture into the royal presence.’

‘A strange adventure truly,’ exclaimed Saxon. ‘How fared it with you for
the remainder of the evening?’

‘But scurvily, for Charles’s face, which was black enough at all
times, was blackest of all to us; nor was his brother the Papist more
complaisant. They had but brought us there that they might dazzle us
with their glitter and gee-gaws, in order that we might bear a fine
report of them back to the West with us. There were supple-backed
courtiers, and strutting nobles, and hussies with their shoulders bare,
who should for all their high birth have been sent to Bridewell as
readily as any poor girl who ever walked at the cart’s tail. Then there
were the gentlemen of the chamber, with cinnamon and plum-coloured
coats, and a brave show of gold lace and silk and ostrich feather.
Neighbour Foster and I felt as two crows might do who have wandered
among the peacocks. Yet we bare in mind in whose image we were
fashioned, and we carried ourselves, I trust, as independent English
burghers. His Grace of Buckingham had his flout at us, and Rochester
sneered, and the women simpered; but we stood four square, my friend
and I, discussing, as I well remember, the most precious doctrines of
election and reprobation, without giving much heed either to those who
mocked us, or to the gamesters upon our left, or to the dancers upon
our right. So we stood throughout the evening, until, finding that they
could get little sport from us, my Lord Clarendon, the Chancellor, gave
us the word to retire, which we did at our leisure after saluting the
King and the company.’

‘Nay, that I should never have done!’ cried the young Puritan, who had
listened intently to his elder’s narrative. ‘Would it not have been
more fitting to have raised up your hands and called down vengeance upon
them, as the holy man of old did upon the wicked cities?’

‘More fitting, quotha!’ said the Mayor impatiently. ‘It is most fitting
that youth should be silent until his opinion is asked on such matters.
God’s wrath comes with leaden feet, but it strikes with iron hands. In
His own good time He has judged when the cup of these men’s iniquities
is overflowing. It is not for us to instruct Him. Curses have, as the
wise man said, a habit of coming home to roost. Bear that in mind,
Master John Derrick, and be not too liberal with them.’

The young apprentice, for such he was, bowed his head sullenly to the
rebuke, whilst the Mayor, after a short pause, resumed his story.

‘Being a fine night,’ said he, ‘we chose to walk back to our lodgings;
but never shall I forget the wicked scenes wherewith we were encountered
on the way. Good Master Bunyan, of Elstow, might have added some
pages to his account of Vanity Fair had he been with us. The women,
be-patched, be-ruddled, and brazen; the men swaggering, roistering,
cursing--the brawling, the drabbing, and the drunkenness! It was a fit
kingdom to be ruled over by such a court. At last we had made our way to
more quiet streets, and were hoping that our adventures were at an end,
when of a sudden there came a rush of half-drunken cavaliers from a side
street, who set upon the passers-by with their swords, as though we had
fallen into an ambuscade of savages in some Paynim country. They were,
as I surmise, of the same breed as those of whom the excellent John
Milton wrote: “The sons of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.” Alas!
my memory is not what it was, for at one time I could say by rote whole
books of that noble and godly poem.’

‘And, pray, how fared ye with these rufflers, sir?’ I asked.

‘They beset us, and some few other honest citizens who were wending
their ways homewards, and waving their naked swords they called upon us
to lay down our arms and pay homage. “To whom?” I asked. They pointed
to one of their number who was more gaudily dressed and somewhat
drunker than the rest. “This is our most sovereign liege,” they cried.
“Sovereign over whom?” I asked. “Over the Tityre Tus,” they answered.
“Oh, most barbarous and cuckoldy citizen, do you not recognise that you
have fallen into the hands of that most noble order?” “This is not your
real monarch,” said I, “for he is down beneath us chained in the pit,
where some day he will gather his dutiful subjects around him.” “Lo, he
hath spoken treason!” they cried, on which, without much more ado, they
set upon us with sword and dagger. Neighbour Foster and I placed our
backs against a wall, and with our cloaks round our left arms we made
play with our tucks, and managed to put in one or two of the old Wigan
Lane raspers. In particular, friend Foster pinked the King in such wise
that his Majesty ran howling down the street like a gored bull-pup. We
were beset by numbers, however, and might have ended our mission then
and there had not the watch appeared upon the scene, struck up our
weapons with their halberds, and so arrested the whole party. Whilst the
fray lasted the burghers from the adjoining houses were pouring water
upon us, as though we were cats on the tiles, which, though it did
not cool our ardour in the fight, left us in a scurvy and unsavoury
condition. In this guise we were dragged to the round-house, where we
spent the night amidst bullies, thieves, and orange wenches, to whom I
am proud to say that both neighbour Foster and myself spoke some words
of joy and comfort. In the morning we were released, and forthwith shook
the dust of London from our feet; nor do I ever wish to return thither,
unless it be at the head of our Somersetshire regiments, to see King
Monmouth don the crown which he had wrested in fair fight from the
Popish perverter.’

As Master Stephen Timewell ended his tale a general shuffling and rising
announced the conclusion of the meal. The company filed slowly out in
order of seniority, all wearing the same gloomy and earnest expression,
with grave gait and downcast eyes. These Puritan ways were, it is true,
familiar to me from childhood, yet I had never before seen a large
household conforming to them, or marked their effect upon so many young
men.

‘You shall bide behind for a while,’ said the Mayor, as we were about
to follow the others. ‘William, do you bring a flask of the old green
sealed sack. These creature comforts I do not produce before my lads,
for beef and honest malt is the fittest food for such. On occasion,
however, I am of Paul’s opinion, that a flagon of wine among friends is
no bad thing for mind or for body. You can away now, sweetheart, if you
have aught to engage you.’

‘Do you go out again?’ asked Mistress Ruth.

‘Presently, to the town-hall. The survey of arms is not yet complete.’

‘I shall have your robes ready, and also the rooms of our guests,’ she
answered, and so, with a bright smile to us, tripped away upon her duty.

‘I would that I could order our town as that maiden orders this house,’
said the Mayor. ‘There is not a want that is not supplied before it is
felt. She reads my thoughts and acts upon them ere my lips have time to
form them. If I have still strength to spend in the public service, it
is because my private life is full of restful peace. Do not fear the
sack, sirs. It cometh from Brooke and Hellier’s of Abchurch Lane, and
may be relied upon.’

‘Which showeth that one good thing cometh out of London,’ remarked Sir
Gervas.

‘Aye, truly,’ said the old man, smiling. ‘But what think ye of my young
men, sir? They must needs be of a very different class to any with
whom you are acquainted, if, as I understand, you have frequented court
circles.’

‘Why, marry, they are good enough young men, no doubt,’ Sir Gervas
answered lightly. ‘Methinks, however, that there is a want of sap about
them. It is not blood, but sour buttermilk that flows in their veins.’

‘Nay, nay,’ the Mayor responded warmly. ‘There you do them an injustice.
Their passions and feelings are under control, as the skilful rider
keeps his horse in hand; but they are as surely there as is the speed
and endurance of the animal. Did you observe the godly youth who sat
upon your right, whom I had occasion to reprove more than once for
over-zeal? He is a fit example of how a man may take the upper hand of
his feelings, and keep them in control.’

‘And how has he done so?’ I asked.

‘Why, between friends,’ quoth the Mayor, ‘it was but last Lady-day that
he asked the hand of my granddaughter Ruth in marriage. His time is
nearly served, and his father, Sam Derrick, is an honourable craftsman,
so that the match would have been no unfitting one. The maiden turned
against him, however--young girls will have their fancies--and the
matter came to an end. Yet here he dwells under the same roof-tree, at
her elbow from morn to night, with never a sign of that passion which
can scarce have died out so soon. Twice my wool warehouse hath been
nigh burned to the ground since then, and twice he hath headed those who
fought the flames. There are not many whose suit hath been rejected who
would bear themselves in so resigned and patient a fashion.’

‘I am prepared to find that your judgment is the correct one,’ said Sir
Gervas Jerome. ‘I have learned to distrust too hasty dislikes, and bear
in mind that couplet of John Dryden--

          “Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow.
           He who would search for pearls must dive below.”’

‘Or worthy Dr. Samuel Butler,’ said Saxon, ‘who, in his immortal poem of
“Hudibras,” says--

          “The fool can only see the skin:
           The wise man tries to peep within.”’

‘I wonder, Colonel Saxon,’ said our host severely, ‘that you should
speak favourably of that licentious poem, which is composed, as I have
heard, for the sole purpose of casting ridicule upon the godly. I should
as soon have expected to hear you praise the wicked and foolish work of
Hobbes, with his mischievous thesis, “A Deo rex, a rege lex.”’

‘It is true that I contemn and despise the use which Butler hath made of
his satire,’ said Saxon adroitly; ‘yet I may admire the satire itself,
just as one may admire a damascened blade without approving of the
quarrel in which it is drawn.’

‘These distinctions are, I fear, too subtle for my old brain,’ said the
stout old Puritan. ‘This England of ours is divided into two camps, that
of God and that of Antichrist. He who is not with us is against us, nor
shall any who serve under the devil’s banner have anything from me save
my scorn and the sharp edge of my sword.’

‘Well, well,’ said Saxon, filling up his glass, ‘I am no Laodicean or
time-server. The cause shall not find me wanting with tongue or with
sword.’

‘Of that I am well convinced, my worthy friend,’ the Mayor answered,
‘and if I have spoken over sharply you will hold me excused. But I
regret to have evil tidings to announce to you. I have not told the
commonalty lest it cast them down, but I know that adversity will be
but the whetstone to give your ardour a finer edge. Argyle’s rising has
failed, and he and his companions are prisoners in the hands of the man
who never knew what pity was.’

We all started in our chairs at this, and looked at one another aghast,
save only Sir Gervas Jerome, whose natural serenity was, I am well
convinced, proof against any disturbance. For you may remember, my
children, that I stated when I first took it in hand to narrate to you
these passages of my life, that the hopes of Monmouth’s party rested
very much upon the raid which Argyle and the Scottish exiles had
made upon Ayrshire, where it was hoped that they would create such a
disturbance as would divert a good share of King James’s forces, and so
make our march to London less difficult. This was the more confidently
expected since Argyle’s own estates lay upon that side of Scotland,
where he could raise five thousand swordsmen among his own clansmen.
The western counties abounded, too, in fierce zealots who were ready to
assert the cause of the Covenant, and who had proved themselves in many
a skirmish to be valiant warriors. With the help of the Highlanders and
of the Covenanters it seemed certain that Argyle would be able to hold
his own, the more so since he took with him to Scotland the English
Puritan Rumbold, and many others skilled in warfare. This sudden news
of his total defeat and downfall was therefore a heavy blow, since it
turned the whole forces of the Government upon ourselves.

‘Have you the news from a trusty source?’ asked Decimus Saxon, after a
long silence.

‘It is beyond all doubt or question,’ Master Stephen Timewell answered.
‘Yet I can well understand your surprise, for the Duke had trusty
councillors with him. There was Sir Patrick Hume of Polwarth--’

‘All talk and no fight,’ said Saxon.

‘And Richard Rumbold.’

‘All fight and no talk,’ quoth our companion. ‘He should, methinks, have
rendered a better account of himself.’

‘Then there was Major Elphinstone.’

‘A bragging fool!’ cried Saxon.’

‘And Sir John Cochrane.’

‘A captious, long-tongued, short-witted sluggard,’ said the soldier of
fortune. ‘The expedition was doomed from the first with such men at
its head. Yet I had thought that could they have done nought else, they
might at least have flung themselves into the mountain country, where
these bare-legged caterans could have held their own amid their native
clouds and mists. All taken, you say! It is a lesson and a warning
to us. I tell you that unless Monmouth infuses more energy into his
councils, and thrusts straight for the heart instead of fencing and
foining at the extremities, we shall find ourselves as Argyle and
Rumbold. What mean these two days wasted at Axminster at a time when
every hour is of import? Is he, every time that he brushes a party
of militia aside, to stop forty-eight hours and chant “Te Deums” when
Churchill and Feversham are, as I know, pushing for the West with every
available man, and the Dutch grenadiers are swarming over like rats into
a granary?’

‘You are very right, Colonel Saxon,’ the Mayor answered. ‘And I trust
that when the King comes here we may stir him up to more prompt action.
He has much need of more soldierly advisers, for since Fletcher hath
gone there is hardly a man about him who hath been trained to arms.’

‘Well,’ said Saxon moodily, ‘now that Argyle hath gone under we are face
to face with James, with nothing but our own good swords to trust to.’

‘To them and to the justice of our cause. How like ye the news, young
sirs? Has the wine lost its smack on account of it? Are ye disposed to
flinch from the standard of the Lord?’

‘For my own part I shall see the matter through,’ said I.

‘And I shall bide where Micah Clarke bides,’ quoth Reuben Lockarby.

‘And to me,’ said Sir Gervas, ‘it is a matter of indifference, so long
as I am in good company and there is something stirring.’

‘In that case,’ said the Mayor, ‘we had best each turn to his own work,
and have all ready for the King’s arrival. Until then I trust that ye
will honour my humble roof.’

‘I fear that I cannot accept your kindness,’ Saxon answered. ‘When I am
in harness I come and go early and late. I shall therefore take up my
quarters in the inn, which is not very well furnished with victual,
and yet can supply me with the simple fare, which with a black Jack of
October and a pipe of Trinidado is all I require.’

As Saxon was firm in this resolution the Mayor forbore to press it upon
him, but my two friends gladly joined with me in accepting the worthy
wool-worker’s offer, and took up our quarters for the time under his
hospitable roof.



Chapter XIX. Of a Brawl in the Night

Decimus Saxon refused to avail himself of Master Timewell’s house and
table for the reason, as I afterwards learned, that, the Mayor being a
firm Presbyterian, he thought it might stand him in ill stead with the
Independents and other zealots were he to allow too great an intimacy
to spring up between them. Indeed, my dears, from this time onward this
cunning man framed his whole life and actions in such a way as to make
friends of the sectaries, and to cause them to look upon him as their
leader. For he had a firm belief that in all such outbreaks as that in
which we were engaged, the most extreme party is sure in the end to gain
the upper hand. ‘Fanatics,’ he said to me one day, ‘mean fervour, and
fervour means hard work, and hard work means power.’ That was the centre
point of all his plotting and scheming.

And first of all he set himself to show how excellent a soldier he was,
and he spared neither time nor work to make this apparent. From morn
till midday, and from afternoon till night, we drilled and drilled until
in very truth the shouting of the orders and the clatter of the arms
became wearisome to our ears. The good burghers may well have
thought that Colonel Saxon’s Wiltshire foot were as much part of the
market-place as the town cross or the parish stocks. There was much to
be done in very little time, so much that many would have thought it
hopeless to attempt it. Not only was there the general muster of the
regiment, but we had each to practise our own companies in their several
drills, and to learn as best we could the names and the wants of the
men. Yet our work was made easier to us by the assurance that it was not
thrown away, for at every gathering our bumpkins stood more erect,
and handled their weapons more deftly. From cock-crow to sun-down the
streets resounded with ‘Poise your muskets! Order your muskets! Rest
your muskets! Handle your primers!’ and all the other orders of the old
manual exercise.

As we became more soldierly we increased in numbers, for our smart
appearance drew the pick of the new-comers into our ranks. My own
company swelled until it had to be divided, and others enlarged in
proportion. The baronet’s musqueteers mustered a full hundred, skilled
for the most part in the use of the gun. Altogether we sprang from
three hundred to four hundred and fifty, and our drill improved until we
received praise from all sides on the state of our men.

Late in the evening I was riding slowly back to the house of Master
Timewell when Reuben clattered after me, and besought me to turn back
with him to see a noteworthy sight. Though feeling little in the mood
for such things, I turned Covenant and rode with him down the length of
High Street, and into the suburb which is known as Shuttern, where my
companion pulled up at a bare barn-like building, and bade me look in
through the window.

The interior, which consisted of a single great hall, the empty
warehouse in which wool had used to be stored, was all alight with lamps
and candles. A great throng of men, whom I recognised as belonging to
my own company, or that of my companion, lay about on either side, some
smoking, some praying, and some burnishing their arms. Down the middle a
line of benches had been drawn up, on which there were seated astraddle
the whole hundred of the baronet’s musqueteers, each engaged in plaiting
into a queue the hair of the man who sat in front of him. A boy walked
up and down with a pot of grease, by the aid of which with some whipcord
the work was going forward merrily. Sir Gervas himself with a great
flour dredger sat perched upon a bale of wool at the head of the line,
and as quickly as any queue was finished he examined it through his
quizzing glass, and if it found favour in his eyes, daintily powdered it
from his dredger, with as much care and reverence as though it were some
service of the Church. No cook seasoning a dish could have added
his spices with more nicety of judgment than our friend displayed in
whitening the pates of his company. Glancing up from his labours he saw
our two smiling faces looking in at him through the window, but his work
was too engrossing to allow him to leave it, and we rode off at last
without having speech with him.

By this time the town was very quiet and still, for the folk in those
parts were early bed-goers, save when some special occasion kept them
afoot. We rode slowly together through the silent streets, our horses’
hoofs ringing out sharp against the cobble stones, talking about such
light matters as engage the mind of youth. The moon was shining very
brightly above us, silvering the broad streets, and casting a fretwork
of shadows from the peaks and pinnacles of the churches. At Master
Timewell’s courtyard I sprang from my saddle, but Reuben, attracted by
the peace and beauty of the scene, rode onwards with the intention of
going as far as the town gate.

I was still at work upon my girth buckles, undoing my harness, when of
a sudden there came from the street a shouting and a rushing, with the
clinking of blades, and my comrade’s voice calling upon me for help.
Drawing my sword I ran out. Some little way down there was a clear
space, white with the moonshine, in the centre of which I caught a
glimpse of the sturdy figure of my friend springing about with an
activity for which I had never given him credit, and exchanging sword
thrusts with three or four men who were pressing him closely. On the
ground there lay a dark figure, and behind the struggling group Reuben’s
mare reared and plunged in sympathy with her master’s peril. As I rushed
down, shouting and waving my sword, the assailants took flight down
a side street, save one, a tall sinewy swordsman, who rushed in upon
Reuben, stabbing furiously at him, and cursing him the while for a
spoil-sport. To my horror I saw, as I ran, the fellow’s blade slip
inside my friend’s guard, who threw up his arms and fell prostrate,
while the other with a final thrust dashed off down one of the narrow
winding lanes which lead from East Street to the banks of the Tone.

‘For Heaven’s sake where are you hurt?’ I cried, throwing myself upon my
knees beside his prostrate body. ‘Where is your injury, Reuben?’

‘In the wind, mostly,’ quoth he, blowing like a smithy bellows;
‘likewise on the back of my pate. Give me your hand, I pray.’

‘And are you indeed scathless?’ I cried, with a great lightening of
the heart as I helped him to his feet. ‘I thought that the villain had
stabbed you.’

‘As well stab a Warsash crab with a bodkin,’ said he. ‘Thanks to good
Sir Jacob Clancing, once of Snellaby Hall and now of Salisbury Plain,
their rapiers did no more than scratch my plate of proof. But how is it
with the maid?’

‘The maid?’ said I.

‘Aye, it was to save her that I drew. She was beset by these night
walkers. See, she rises! They threw her down when I set upon them.’

‘How is it with you, Mistress?’ I asked; for the prostrate figure
had arisen and taken the form of a woman, young and graceful to all
appearance, with her face muffled in a mantle. ‘I trust that you have
met with no hurt.’

‘None, sir,’ she answered, in a low, sweet voice, ‘but that I have
escaped is due to the ready valour of your friend, and the guiding
wisdom of Him who confutes the plots of the wicked. Doubtless a true man
would have rendered this help to any damsel in distress, and yet it may
add to your satisfaction to know that she whom you have served is no
stranger to you.’ With these words she dropped her mantle and turned her
face towards us in the moonlight.

‘Good lack! it is Mistress Timewell!’ I cried, in amazement.

‘Let us homewards,’ she said, in firm, quick tones. ‘The neighbours are
alarmed, and there will be a rabble collected anon. Let us escape from
the babblement.’

Windows had indeed begun to clatter up in every direction, and loud
voices to demand what was amiss. Far away down the street we could
see the glint of lanthorns swinging to and fro as the watch hurried
thitherwards. We slipped along in the shadow, however, and found
ourselves safe within the Mayor’s courtyard without let or hindrance.

‘I trust, sir, that you have really met with no hurt,’ said the maiden
to my companion.

Reuben had said not a word since she had uncovered her face, and bore
the face of a man who finds himself in some pleasant dream and is vexed
only by the fear lest he wake up from it. ‘Nay, I am not hurt,’ he
answered, ‘but I would that you could tell us who these roving blades
may be, and where they may be found.’

‘Nay, nay,’ said she, with uplifted finger, ‘you shall not follow the
matter further. As to the men, I cannot say with certainty who they
may have been. I had gone forth to visit Dame Clatworthy, who hath the
tertian ague, and they did beset me on my return. Perchance they are
some who are not of my grandfather’s way of thinking in affairs of
State, and who struck at him through me. But ye have both been so kind
that ye will not refuse me one other favour which I shall ask ye?’

We protested that we could not, with our hands upon our sword-hilts.

‘Nay, keep them for the Lord’s quarrel,’ said she, smiling at the
action. ‘All that I ask is that ye will say nothing if this matter to my
grandsire. He is choleric, and a little matter doth set him in a flame,
so old as he is. I would not have his mind turned from the public needs
to a private trifle of this sort. Have I your promises?’

‘Mine,’ said I, bowing.

‘And mine,’ said Lockarby.

‘Thanks, good friends. Alack! I have dropped my gauntlet in the street.
But it is of no import. I thank God that no harm has come to any one. My
thanks once more, and may pleasant dreams await ye.’ She sprang up the
steps and was gone in an instant.

Reuben and I unharnessed our horses and saw them cared for in silence.
We then entered the house and ascended to our chambers, still without a
word. Outside his room door my friend paused.

‘I have heard that long man’s voice before, Micah,’ said he.

‘And so have I,’ I answered. ‘The old man must beware of his ‘prentices.
I have half a mind to go back for the little maiden’s gauntlet.’

A merry twinkle shot through the cloud which hid gathered on Reuben’s
brow. He opened his left hand and showed me the doe-skin glove crumpled
up in his palm.

‘I would not barter it for all the gold in her grandsire’s coffers,’
said he, with a sudden outflame, and then half-laughing, half-blushing
at his own heat, he whisked in and left me to my thoughts.

And so I learned for the first time, my dears, that my good comrade had
been struck by the little god’s arrows. When a man’s years number one
score, love springs up in him, as the gourd grew in the Scriptures, in a
single night. I have told my story ill if I have not made you understand
that my friend was a frank, warm-hearted lad of impulse, whose reason
seldom stood sentry over his inclinations. Such a man can no more draw
away from a winning maid than the needle can shun the magnet. He loves
as the mavis sings or the kitten plays. Now, a slow-witted, heavy fellow
like myself, in whose veins the blood has always flowed somewhat coolly
and temperately, may go into love as a horse goes into a shelving
stream, step by step, but a man like Reuben is kicking his heels upon
the bank one moment, and is over ears in the deepest pool the nest.

Heaven only knows what match it was that had set the tow alight. I can
but say that from that day on my comrade was sad and cloudy one hour,
gay and blithesome the next. His even flow of good spirits had deserted
him, and he became as dismal as a moulting chicken, which has ever
seemed to me to be one of the strangest outcomes of what poets have
called the joyous state of love. But, indeed, pain and pleasure are so
very nearly akin in this world, that it is as if they were tethered
in neighbouring stalls, and a kick would at any time bring down the
partition. Here is a man who is as full of sighs as a grenade is of
powder, his face is sad, his brow is downcast, his wits are wandering;
yet if you remark to him that it is an ill thing that he should be
in this state, he will answer you, as like as not, that he would not
exchange it for all the powers and principalities. Tears to him are
golden, and laughter is but base coin. Well, my dears, it is useless
for me to expound to you that which I cannot myself understand. If, as I
have heard, it is impossible to get the thumb-marks of any two men to
be alike, how can we expect their inmost thoughts and feelings to tally?
Yet this I can say with all truth, that when I asked your grandmother’s
hand I did not demean myself as if I were chief mourner at a funeral.
She will bear me out that I walked up to her with a smile upon my face,
though mayhap there was a little flutter at my heart, and I took her
hand and I said--but, lack-a-day, whither have I wandered? What has all
this to do with Taunton town and the rising of 1685?

On the night of Wednesday, June 17, we learned that the King, as
Monmouth was called throughout the West, was lying less than ten miles
off with his forces, and that he would make his entry into the loyal
town of Taunton the next morning. Every effort was made, as ye may well
guess, to give him a welcome which should be worthy of the most Whiggish
and Protestant town in England. An arch of evergreens had already
been built up at the western gate, bearing the motto, ‘Welcome to King
Monmouth!’ and another spanned the entrance to the market-place from the
upper window of the White Hart Inn, with ‘Hail to the Protestant Chief!’
in great scarlet letters. A third, if I remember right, bridged the
entrance to the Castle yard, but the motto on it has escaped me. The
cloth and wool industry is, as I have told you, the staple trade of
the town, and the merchants had no mercy on their wares, but used them
freely to beautify the streets. Rich tapestries, glossy velvets, and
costly brocades fluttered from the windows or lined the balconies. East
Street, High Street, and Fore Street were draped from garret to basement
with rare and beautiful fabrics, while gay flags hung from the roofs
on either side, or fluttered in long festoons from house to house.
The royal banner of England floated from the lofty tower of St. Mary
Magdalene, while the blue ensign of Monmouth waved from the sister
turret of St. James. Late into the night there was planing and
hammering, working and devising, until when the sun rose upon Thursday,
June 18, it shone on as brave a show of bunting and evergreen as ever
graced a town. Taunton had changed as by magic from a city into a flower
garden.

Master Stephen Timewell had busied himself in these preparations, but he
had borne in mind at the same time that the most welcome sight which
he could present to Monmouth’s eyes was the large body of armed men who
were prepared to follow his fortunes. There were sixteen hundred in the
town, two hundred of which were horse, mostly well armed and equipped.
These were disposed in such a way that the King should pass them in his
progress. The townsmen lined the market-place three deep from the
Castle gate to the entrance to the High Street; from thence to Shuttern,
Dorsetshire, and Frome peasants were drawn up on either side of the
street; while our own regiment was stationed at the western gate. With
arms well burnished, serried ranks, and fresh sprigs of green in every
bonnet, no leader could desire a better addition to his army. When
all were in their places, and the burghers and their wives had arrayed
themselves in their holiday gear, with gladsome faces and baskets of
new-cut flowers, all was ready for the royal visitor’s reception.

‘My orders are,’ said Saxon, riding up to us as we sat our horses reside
our companions, ‘that I and my captains should fall in with the King’s
escort as he passes, and so accompany him to the market-place. Your men
shall present arms, and shall then stand their ground until we return.’

We all three drew our swords and saluted.

‘If ye will come with me, gentlemen, and take position to the right of
the gate here,’ said he, ‘I may be able to tell ye something of these
folk as they pass. Thirty years of war in many climes should give me the
master craftsman’s right to expound to his apprentices.’

We all very gladly followed his advice, and passed out through the gate,
which was now nothing more than a broad gap amongst the mounds which
marked the lines of the old walls. ‘There is no sign of them yet,’ I
remarked, as we pulled up upon a convenient hillock. ‘I suppose that
they must come by this road which winds through the valley before us.’

‘There are two sorts of bad general,’ quoth Saxon, ‘the man who is too
fast and the man who is too slow. His Majesty’s advisers will never be
accused of the former failing, whatever other mistakes they may fall
into. There was old Marshal Grunberg, with whom I did twenty-six months’
soldiering in Bohemia. He would fly through the country pell-mell,
horse, foot, and artillery, as if the devil were at his heels. He might
make fifty blunders, but the enemy had never time to take advantage. I
call to mind a raid which we made into Silesia, when, after two days or
so of mountain roads, his Oberhauptmann of the staff told him that it
was impossible for the artillery to keep up. “Lass es hinter!” says he.
So the guns were left, and by the evening of the next day the foot were
dead-beat. “They cannot walk another mile!” says the Oberhauptmann.
“Lassen Sie hinter!” says he. So on we went with the horse--I was in his
Pandour regiment, worse luck! But after a skirmish or two, what with the
roads and what with the enemy, our horses were foundered and useless.
“The horses are used up!” says the Oberhauptmann. “Lassen Sie hinter!”
 he cries; and I warrant that he would have pushed on to Prague with his
staff, had they allowed him. “General Hinterlassen” we called him after
that.’

‘A dashing commander, too,’ cried Sir Gervas. ‘I would fain have served
under him.’

‘Aye, and he had a way of knocking his recruits into shape which would
scarce be relished by our good friends here in the west country,’ said
Saxon. ‘I remember that after the leaguer of Salzburg, when we had taken
the castle or fortalice of that name, we were joined by some thousand
untrained foot, which had been raised in Dalmatia in the Emperor’s
employ. As they approached our lines with waving of hands and blowing of
bugles, old Marshal Hinterlassen discharged a volley of all the cannon
upon the walls at them, killing three score and striking great panic
into the others. “The rogues must get used to standing fire sooner
or later,” said he, “so they may as well commence their education at
once.”’

‘He was a rough schoolmaster,’ I remarked. ‘He might have left that part
of the drill to the enemy.’

‘Yet his soldiers loved him,’ said Saxon. ‘He was not a man, when a city
had been forced, to inquire into every squawk of a woman, or give ear to
every burgess who chanced to find his strong-box a trifle the lighter.
But as to the slow commanders, I have known none to equal Brigadier
Baumgarten, also of the Imperial service. He would break up his
winter-quarters and sit down before some place of strength, where he
would raise a sconce here, and sink a sap there, until his soldiers were
sick of the very sight of the place. So he would play with it, as a cat
with a mouse, until at last it was about to open its gates, when,
as like as not, he would raise the leaguer and march back into his
winter-quarters. I served two campaigns under him without honour, sack,
plunder, or emolument, save a beggarly stipend of three gulden a day,
paid in clipped money, six months in arrear. But mark ye the folk upon
yonder tower! They are waving their kerchiefs as though something were
visible to them.’

‘I can see nothing,’ I answered, shading my eyes and gazing down the
tree-sprinkled valley which rose slowly in green uplands to the grassy
Blackdown hills.

‘Those on the housetops are waving and pointing,’ said Reuben. ‘Methinks
I can myself see the flash of steel among yonder woods.’

‘There it is,’ cried Saxon, extending his gauntleted hand, ‘on the
western bank of the Tone, hard by the wooden bridge. Follow my finger,
Clarke, and see if you cannot distinguish it.’

‘Yes, truly,’ I exclaimed, ‘I see a bright shimmer coming and going. And
there to the left, where the road curves over the hill, mark you that
dense mass of men! Ha! the head of the column begins to emerge from the
trees.’

There was not a cloud in the sky, but the great heat had caused a haze
to overlie the valley, gathering thickly along the winding course of
the river, and hanging in little sprays and feathers over the woodlands
which clothe its banks. Through this filmy vapour there broke from time
to time fierce sparkles of brilliant light as the sun’s rays fell upon
breastplate or headpiece. Now and again the gentle summer breeze
wafted up sudden pulses of martial music to our ears, with the blare of
trumpets and the long deep snarl of the drums. As we gazed, the van of
the army began to roll out from the cover of the trees and to darken the
white dusty roads. The long line slowly extended itself, writhing out of
the forest land like a dark snake with sparkling scales, until the whole
rebel army--horse, foot, and ordnance--were visible beneath us. The
gleam of the weapons, the waving of numerous banners, the plumes of the
leaders, and the deep columns of marching men, made up a picture which
stirred the very hearts of the citizens, who, from the housetops and
from the ruinous summit of the dismantled walls, were enabled to gaze
down upon the champions of their faith. If the mere sight of a passing
regiment will cause a thrill in your bosoms, you can fancy how it is
when the soldiers upon whom you look are in actual arms for your own
dearest and most cherished interests, and have just come out victorious
from a bloody struggle. If every other man’s hand was against us, these
at least were on our side, and our hearts went out to them as to friends
and brothers. Of all the ties that unite men in this world, that of a
common danger is the strongest.

It all appeared to be most warlike and most imposing to my inexperienced
eyes, and I thought as I looked at the long array that our cause was as
good as won. To my surprise, however, Saxon pished and pshawed under his
breath, until at last, unable to contain his impatience, he broke out in
hot discontent.

‘Do but look at that vanguard as they breast the slope,’ he cried.
‘Where is the advance party, or Vorreiter, as the Germans call them?
Where, too, is the space which should be left between the fore-guard and
the main battle? By the sword of Scanderbeg, they remind me more of a
drove of pilgrims, as I have seen them approaching the shrine of St.
Sebaldus of Nurnberg with their banners and streamers. There in
the centre, amid that cavalcade of cavaliers, rides our new monarch
doubtless. Pity he hath not a man by him who can put this swarm of
peasants into something like campaign order. Now do but look at those
four pieces of ordnance trailing along like lame sheep behind the flock.
Caracco, I would that I were a young King’s officer with a troop of
light horse on the ridge yonder! My faith, how I should sweep down yon
cross road like a kestrel on a brood of young plover! Then heh for cut
and thrust, down with the skulking cannoniers, a carbine fire to cover
us, round with the horses, and away go the rebel guns in a cloud of
dust! How’s that, Sir Gervas?’

‘Good sport, Colonel,’ said the baronet, with a touch of colour in his
white cheeks. ‘I warrant that you did keep your Pandours on the trot.’

‘Aye, the rogues had to work or hang--one or t’other. But methinks our
friends here are scarce as numerous as reported. I reckon them to be a
thousand horse, and mayhap five thousand two hundred foot. I have been
thought a good tally-man on such occasions. With fifteen hundred in the
town that would bring us to close on eight thousand men, which is no
great force to invade a kingdom and dispute a crown.’

‘If the West can give eight thousand, how many can all the counties of
England afford?’ I asked. ‘Is not that the fairer way to look at it?’

‘Monmouth’s popularity lies mostly in the West,’ Saxon answered. ‘It
was the memory of that which prompted him to raise his standard in these
counties.’

‘His standards, rather,’ quoth Reuben. ‘Why, it looks as though they had
hung their linen up to dry all down the line.’

‘True! They have more ensigns than ever I saw with so small a force,’
Saxon answered, rising in his stirrups. ‘One or two are blue, and the
rest, as far as I can see for the sun shining upon them, are white, with
some motto or device.’

Whilst we had been conversing, the body of horse which formed the
vanguard of the Protestant army had approached within a quarter of a
mile or less of the town, when a loud, clear bugle-call brought them to
a halt. In each successive regiment or squadron the signal was repeated,
so that the sound passed swiftly down the long array until it died away
in the distance. As the coil of men formed up upon the white road, with
just a tremulous shifting motion along the curved and undulating line,
its likeness to a giant serpent occurred again to my mind.

‘I could fancy it a great boa,’ I remarked, ‘which was drawing its coils
round the town.’

‘A rattlesnake, rather,’ said Reuben, pointing to the guns in the rear.
‘It keeps all its noise in its tail.’

‘Here comes its head, if I mistake not,’ quoth Saxon. ‘It were best
perhaps that we stand at the side of the gate.’

As he spoke a group of gaily dressed cavaliers broke away from the main
body and rode straight for the town. Their leader was a tall, slim,
elegant young man, who sat his horse with the grace of a skilled rider,
and who was remarkable amongst those around him for the gallantry of his
bearing and the richness of his trappings. As he galloped towards the
gate a roar of welcome burst from the assembled multitude, which was
taken up and prolonged by the crowds behind, who, though unable to see
what was going forward, gathered from the shouting that the King was
approaching.



Chapter XX. Of the Muster of the Men of the West

Monmouth was at that time in his thirty-sixth year, and was remarkable
for those superficial graces which please the multitude and fit a man to
lead in a popular cause. He was young, well-spoken, witty, and skilled
in all martial and manly exercises. On his progress in the West he had
not thought it beneath him to kiss the village maidens, to offer prizes
at the rural sports, and to run races in his boots against the fleetest
of the barefooted countrymen. (Note G., Appendix) His nature was vain
and prodigal, but he excelled in that showy magnificence and careless
generosity which wins the hearts of the people. Both on the Continent
and at Bothwell Bridge, in Scotland, he had led armies with success, and
his kindness and mercy to the Covenanters after his victory had caused
him to be as much esteemed amongst the Whigs as Dalzell and Claverhouse
were hated. As he reined up his beautiful black horse at the gate of the
city, and raised his plumed montero cap to the shouting crowd, the grace
and dignity of his bearing were such as might befit the knight-errant
in a Romance who is fighting at long odds for a crown which a tyrant has
filched from him.

He was reckoned well-favoured, but I cannot say that I found him so. His
face was, I thought, too long and white for comeliness, yet his features
were high and noble, with well-marked nose and clear, searching eyes. In
his mouth might perchance be noticed some trace of that weakness which
marred his character, though the expression was sweet and amiable. He
wore a dark purple roquelaure riding-jacket, faced and lapelled with
gold lace, through the open front of which shone a silver breastplate.
A velvet suit of a lighter shade than the jacket, a pair of high yellow
Cordovan boots, with a gold-hilted rapier on one side, and a poniard
of Parma on the other, each hung from the morocco-leather sword-belt,
completed his attire. A broad collar of Mechlin lace flowed over his
shoulders, while wristbands of the same costly material dangled from his
sleeves. Again and again he raised his cap and bent to the saddle-bow in
response to the storm of cheering. ‘A Monmouth! A Monmouth!’ cried
the people; ‘Hail to the Protestant chief!’ ‘Long live the noble King
Monmouth!’ while from every window, and roof, and balcony fluttering
kerchief or waving hat brightened the joyous scene. The rebel van caught
fire at the sight and raised a great deep-chested shout, which was taken
up again and again by the rest of the army, until the whole countryside
was sonorous.

In the meanwhile the city elders, headed by our friend the Mayor,
advanced from the gate in all the dignity of silk and fur to pay homage
to the King. Sinking upon one knee by Monmouth’s stirrup, he kissed the
hand which was graciously extended to him.

‘Nay, good Master Mayor,’ said the King, in a clear, strong voice, ‘it
is for my enemies to sink before me, and not for my friends. Prythee,
what is this scroll which you do unroll?’

‘It is an address of welcome and of allegiance, your Majesty, from your
loyal town of Taunton.’

‘I need no such address,’ said King Monmouth, looking round. ‘It is
written all around me in fairer characters than ever found themselves
upon parchment. My good friends have made me feel that I was welcome
without the aid of clerk or scrivener. Your name, good Master Mayor, is
Stephen Timewell, as I understand?’

‘The same, your Majesty.’

‘Too curt a name for so trusty a man,’ said the King, drawing his sword
and touching him upon the shoulder with it. ‘I shall make it longer by
three letters. Rise up, Sir Stephen, and may I find that there are many
other knights in my dominions as loyal and as stout.’

Amidst the huzzahs which broke out afresh at this honour done to the
town, the Mayor withdrew with the councilmen to the left side of the
gate, whilst Monmouth with his staff gathered upon the right. At a
signal a trumpeter blew a fanfare, the drums struck up a point of war,
and the insurgent army, with serried ranks and waving banners, resumed
its advance upon the town. As it approached, Saxon pointed out to us the
various leaders and men of note who surrounded the King, giving us their
names and some few words as to their characters.

‘That is Lord Grey of Wark,’ said he; ‘the little middle-aged lean man
at the King’s bridle arm. He hath been in the Tower once for treason.
‘Twas he who fled with the Lady Henrietta Berkeley, his wife’s sister. A
fine leader truly for a godly cause! The man upon his left, with the
red swollen face and the white feather in his cap, is Colonel Holmes.
I trust that he will never show the white feather save on his head. The
other upon the high chestnut horse is a lawyer, though, by my soul, he
is a better man at ordering a battalion than at drawing a bill of costs.
He is the republican Wade who led the foot at the skirmish at Bridport,
and brought them off with safety. The tall heavy-faced soldier in the
steel bonnet is Anthony Buyse, the Brandenburger, a soldado of fortune,
and a man of high heart, as are most of his countrymen. I have fought
both with him and against him ere now.’

‘Mark ye the long thin man behind him?’ cried Reuben. ‘He hath drawn his
sword, and waves it over his head. ‘Tis a strange time and place for the
broadsword exercise. He is surely mad.’

‘Perhaps you are not far amiss,’ said Saxon. ‘Yet, by my hilt, were it
not for that man there would be no Protestant army advancing upon us
down yonder road. ‘Tis he who by dangling the crown before Monmouth’s
eyes beguiled him away from his snug retreat in Brabant. There is not
one of these men whom he hath not tempted into this affair by some bait
or other. With Grey it was a dukedom, with Wade the woolsack, with Buyse
the plunder of Cheapside. Every one hath his own motive, but the clues
to them all are in the hands of yonder crazy fanatic, who makes the
puppets dance as he will. He hath plotted more, lied more, and suffered
less than any Whig in the party.’

‘It must be that Dr. Robert Ferguson of whom I have heard my father
speak,’ said I.

‘You are right. ‘Tis he. I have but seen him once in Amsterdam, and yet
I know him by his shock wig and crooked shoulders. It is whispered
that of late his overweening conceit hath unseated his reason. See, the
German places his hand upon his shoulder and persuades him to sheathe
his weapon. King Monmouth glances round too, and smiles as though he
were the Court buffoon with a Geneva cloak instead of the motley. But
the van is upon us. To your companies, and mind that ye raise your
swords to the salute while the colours of each troop go by.’

Whilst our companion had been talking, the whole Protestant army had
been streaming towards the town, and the head of the fore-guard was
abreast with the gateway. Four troops of horse led the way, badly
equipped and mounted, with ropes instead of bridles, and in some cases
squares of sacking in place of saddles. The men were armed for the most
part with sword and pistol, while a few had the buff-coats, plates, and
headpieces taken at Axminster, still stained sometimes with the blood of
the last wearer. In the midst of them rode a banner-bearer, who carried
a great square ensign hung upon a pole, which was supported upon a
socket let into the side of the girth. Upon it was printed in golden
letters the legend, ‘Pro libertate et religione nostra.’ These
horse-soldiers were made up of yeomen’s and farmers’ sons, unused to
discipline, and having a high regard for themselves as volunteers, which
caused them to cavil and argue over every order. For this cause, though
not wanting in natural courage, they did little service during the war,
and were a hindrance rather than a help to the army.

Behind the horse came the foot, walking six abreast, divided into
companies of varying size, each company bearing a banner which gave the
name of the town or village from which it had been raised. This manner
of arranging the troops had been chosen because it had been found to be
impossible to separate men who were akin and neighbours to each other.
They would fight, they said, side by side, or they would not fight at
all. For my own part, I think that it is no bad plan, for when it comes
to push of pike, a man stands all the faster when he knows that he
hath old and tried friends on either side of him. Many of these country
places I came to know afterwards from the talk of the men, and many
others I have travelled through, so that the names upon the banners have
come to have a real meaning with me. Homer hath, I remember, a chapter
or book wherein he records the names of all the Grecian chiefs and
whence they came, and how many men they brought to the common muster. It
is pity that there is not some Western Homer who could record the names
of these brave peasants and artisans, and recount what each did or
suffered in upholding a noble though disastrous cause. Their places of
birth at least shall not be lost as far as mine own feeble memory can
carry me.

The first foot regiment, if so rudely formed a band could be so called,
consisted of men of the sea, fishers and coastmen, clad in the
heavy blue jerkins and rude garb of their class. They were bronzed,
weather-beaten tarpaulins, with hard mahogany faces, variously armed
with birding pieces, cutlasses, or pistols. I have a notion that it
was not the first time that those weapons had been turned against
King James’s servants, for the Somerset and Devon coasts were famous
breeding-places for smugglers, and many a saucy lugger was doubtless
lying up in creek or in bay whilst her crew had gone a-soldiering to
Taunton. As to discipline, they had no notion of it, but rolled along in
true blue-water style, with many a shout and halloo to each other or to
the crowd. From Star Point to Portland Roads there would be few nets
for many weeks to come, and fish would swim the narrow seas which should
have been heaped on Lyme Cobb or exposed for sale in Plymouth market.
Each group, or band, of these men of the sea bore with it its own
banner, that of Lyme in the front, followed by Topsham, Colyford,
Bridport, Sidmouth, Otterton, Abbotsbury, and Charmouth, all southern
towns, which are on or near the coast. So they trooped past us, rough
and careless, with caps cocked, and the reek of their tobacco rising
up from them like the steam from a tired horse. In number they may have
been four hundred or thereabouts.

The peasants of Rockbere, with flail and scythe, led the next column,
followed by the banner of Honiton, which was supported by two hundred
stout lacemakers from the banks of the Otter. These men showed by the
colour of their faces that their work kept them within four walls, yet
they excelled their peasant companions in their alert and soldierly
bearing. Indeed, with all the troops, we observed that, though the
countrymen were the stouter and heartier, the craftsmen were the most
ready to catch the air and spirit of the camp. Behind the men of Honiton
came the Puritan clothworkers of Wellington, with their mayor upon
a white horse beside their standard-bearer, and a band of twenty
instruments before him. Grim-visaged, thoughtful, sober men, they were
for the most part clad in grey suits and wearing broad-brimmed hats.
‘For God and faith’ was the motto of a streamer which floated from
amongst them. The clothworkers formed three strong companies, and the
whole regiment may have numbered close on six hundred men.

The third regiment was headed by five hundred foot from Taunton, men
of peaceful and industrious life, but deeply imbued with those great
principles of civil and religious liberty which were three years later
to carry all before them in England. As they passed the gates they were
greeted by a thunderous welcome from their townsmen upon the walls and
at the windows. Their steady, solid ranks, and broad, honest burgher
faces, seemed to me to smack of discipline and of work well done. Behind
them came the musters of Winterbourne, Ilminster, Chard, Yeovil, and
Collumpton, a hundred or more pikesmen to each, bringing the tally of
the regiment to a thousand men.

A squadron of horse trotted by, closely followed by the fourth regiment,
bearing in its van the standards of Beaminster, Crewkerne, Langport,
and Chidiock, all quiet Somersetshire villages, which had sent out their
manhood to strike a blow for the old cause. Puritan ministers, with
their steeple hats and Geneva gowns, once black, but now white with
dust, marched sturdily along beside their flocks. Then came a strong
company of wild half-armed shepherds from the great plains which extend
from the Blackdowns on the south to the Mendips on the north--very
different fellows, I promise you, from the Corydons and Strephons of
Master Waller or Master Dryden, who have depicted the shepherd as ever
shedding tears of love, and tootling upon a plaintive pipe. I fear that
Chloe or Phyllis would have met with rough wooing at the hands of these
Western savages. Behind them were musqueteers from Dorchester, pikemen
from Newton Poppleford, and a body of stout infantry from among the
serge workers of Ottery St. Mary. This fourth regiment numbered rather
better than eight hundred, but was inferior in arms and in discipline to
that which preceded it.

The fifth regiment was headed by a column of fen men from the dreary
marches which stretch round Athelney. These men, in their sad and sordid
dwellings, had retained the same free and bold spirit which had made
them in past days the last resource of the good King Alfred and the
protectors of the Western shires from the inroads of the Danes, who
were never able to force their way into their watery strongholds. Two
companies of them, towsy-headed and bare-legged, but loud in hymn and
prayer, had come out from their fastnesses to help the Protestant cause.
At their heels came the woodmen and lumberers of Bishop’s Lidiard, big,
sturdy men in green jerkins, and the white-smocked villagers of Huish
Champflower. The rear of the regiment was formed by four hundred men in
scarlet coats, with white cross-belts and well-burnished muskets.
These were deserters from the Devonshire Militia, who had marched with
Albemarle from Exeter, and who had come over to Monmouth on the field
at Axminster. These kept together in a body, but there were many other
militiamen, both in red and in yellow coats, amongst the various bodies
which I have set forth. This regiment may have numbered seven hundred
men.

The sixth and last column of foot was headed by a body of peasants
bearing ‘Minehead’ upon their banner, and the ensign of the three
wool-bales and the sailing ship, which is the sign of that ancient
borough. They had come for the most part from the wild country which
lies to the north of Dunster Castle and skirts the shores of the Bristol
Channel. Behind them were the poachers and huntsmen of Porlock Quay, who
had left the red deer of Exmoor to graze in peace whilst they followed
a nobler quarry. They were followed by men from Dulverton, men from
Milverton, men from Wiveliscombe and the sunny slopes of the Quantocks,
swart, fierce men from the bleak moors of Dunkerry Beacon, and tall,
stalwart pony rearers and graziers from Bampton. The banners of
Bridgewater, of Shepton Mallet, and of Nether Stowey swept past us, with
that of the fishers of Clovelly and the quarrymen of the Blackdowns. In
the rear were three companies of strange men, giants in stature, though
somewhat bowed with labour, with long tangled beards, and unkempt hair
hanging over their eyes. These were the miners from the Mendip hills and
from the Oare and Bagworthy valleys, rough, half-savage men, whose eyes
rolled up at the velvets and brocades of the shouting citizens, or fixed
themselves upon their smiling dames with a fierce intensity which scared
the peaceful burghers. So the long line rolled in until three squadrons
of horse and four small cannon, with the blue-coated Dutch cannoniers as
stiff as their own ramrods, brought up the rear. A long train of carts
and of waggons which had followed the army were led into the fields
outside the walls and there quartered.

When the last soldier had passed through the Shuttern Gate, Monmouth and
his leaders rode slowly in, the Mayor walking by the King’s charger.
As we saluted they all faced round to us, and I saw a quick flush of
surprise and pleasure come over Monmouth’s pale face as he noted our
close lines and soldierly bearing.

‘By my faith, gentlemen,’ he said, glancing round at his staff, ‘our
worthy friend the Mayor must have inherited Cadmus’s dragon teeth. Where
raised ye this pretty crop, Sir Stephen? How came ye to bring them
to such perfection too, even, I declare, to the hair powder of the
grenadiers?’

‘I have fifteen hundred in the town,’ the old wool-worker answered
proudly; ‘though some are scarce as disciplined.

These men come from Wiltshire, and the officers from Hampshire. As to
their order, the credit is due not to me, but to the old soldier Colonel
Decimus Saxon, whom they have chosen as their commander, as well as to
the captains who serve under him.’

‘My thanks are due to you, Colonel,’ said the King, turning to Saxon,
who bowed and sank the point of his sword to the earth, ‘and to you
also, gentlemen. I shall not forget the warm loyalty which brought you
from Hampshire in so short a time. Would that I could find the same
virtue in higher places! But, Colonel Saxon, you have, I gather, seen
much service abroad. What think you of the army which hath just passed
before you?’

‘If it please your Majesty,’ Saxon answered, ‘it is like so much
uncarded wool, which is rough enough in itself, and yet may in time come
to be woven into a noble garment.’

‘Hem! There is not much leisure for the weaving,’ said Monmouth. ‘But
they fight well. You should have seen them fall on at Axminster! We hope
to see you and to hear your views at the council table. But how is this?
Have I not seen this gentleman’s face before?’

‘It is the Honourable Sir Gervas Jerome of the county of Surrey,’ quoth
Saxon.

‘Your Majesty may have seen me at St. James’s,’ said the baronet,
raising his hat, ‘or in the balcony at Whitehall. I was much at Court
during the latter years of the late king.’

‘Yes, yes. I remember the name as well as the face,’ cried Monmouth.
‘You see, gentlemen,’ he continued, turning to his staff, ‘the courtiers
begin to come in at last. Were you not the man who did fight Sir Thomas
Killigrew behind Dunkirk House? I thought as much. Will you not attach
yourself to my personal attendants?’

‘If it please your Majesty,’ Sir Gervas answered, ‘I am of opinion
that I could do your royal cause better service at the head of my
musqueteers.’

‘So be it! So be it!’ said King Monmouth. Setting spurs to his horse, he
raised his hat in response to the cheers of the troops and cantered down
the High Street under a rain of flowers, which showered from roof and
window upon him, his staff, and his escort. We had joined in his train,
as commanded, so that we came in for our share of this merry crossfire.
One rose as it fluttered down was caught by Reuben, who, I observed,
pressed it to his lips, and then pushed it inside his breastplate.
Glancing up, I caught sight, of the smiling face of our host’s daughter
peeping down at us from a casement.

‘Well caught, Reuben!’ I whispered. ‘At trick-track or trap and ball you
were ever our best player.’

‘Ah, Micah,’ said he, ‘I bless the day that ever I followed you to the
wars. I would not change places with Monmouth this day.’

‘Has it gone so far then!’ I exclaimed. ‘Why, lad, I thought that you
were but opening your trenches, and you speak as though you had carried
the city.’

‘Perhaps I am over-hopeful,’ he cried, turning from hot to cold, as a
man doth when he is in love, or hath the tertian ague, or other bodily
trouble. ‘God knows that I am little worthy of her, and yet--’

‘Set not your heart too firmly upon that which may prove to be beyond
your reach,’ said I. ‘The old man is rich, and will look higher.’

‘I would he were poor!’ sighed Reuben, with all the selfishness of a
lover. ‘If this war last I may win myself some honour or title. Who
knows? Others have done it, and why not I!’

‘Of our three from Havant,’ I remarked, ‘one is spurred onwards by
ambition, and one by love. Now, what am I to do who care neither for
high office nor for the face of a maid? What is to carry me into the
fight?’

‘Our motives come and go, but yours is ever with you,’ said Reuben.
‘Honour and duty are the two stars, Micah, by which you have ever
steered your course.’

‘Faith, Mistress Ruth has taught you to make pretty speeches,’ said I,
‘but methinks she ought to be here amid the beauty of Taunton.’

As I spoke we were riding into the market-place, which was now crowded
with our troops. Round the cross were grouped a score of maidens clad in
white muslin dresses with blue scarfs around their waists. As the King
approached, these little maids, with much pretty nervousness, advanced
to meet him, and handed him a banner which they had worked for him, and
also a dainty gold-clasped Bible. Monmouth handed the flag to one of his
captains, but he raised the book above his head, exclaiming that he
had come there to defend the truths contained within it, at which the
cheerings and acclamations broke forth with redoubled vigour. It had
been expected that he might address the people from the cross, but he
contented himself with waiting while the heralds proclaimed his titles
to the Crown, when he gave the word to disperse, and the troops marched
off to the different centres where food had been provided for them. The
King and his chief officers took up their quarters in the Castle, while
the Mayor and richer burgesses found bed and board for the rest. As to
the common soldiers, many were billeted among the townsfolk, many others
encamped in the streets and Castle grounds, while the remainder took up
their dwelling among the waggons in the fields outside the city, where
they lit up great fires, and had sheep roasting and beer flowing as
merrily as though a march on London were but a holiday outing.



Chapter XXI. Of my Hand-grips with the Brandenburger

King Monmouth had called a council meeting for the evening, and summoned
Colonel Decimus Saxon to attend it, with whom I went, bearing with me
the small package which Sir Jacob Clancing had given over to my keeping.
On arriving at the Castle we found that the King had not yet come out
from his chamber, but we were shown into the great hall to await him, a
fine room with lofty windows and a noble ceiling of carved woodwork. At
the further end the royal arms had been erected without the bar sinister
which Monmouth had formerly worn. Here were assembled the principal
chiefs of the army, with many of the inferior commanders, town officers,
and others who had petitions to offer. Lord Grey of Wark stood silently
by the window, looking out over the countryside with a gloomy face. Wade
and Holmes shook their heads and whispered in a corner. Ferguson strode
about with his wig awry, shouting out exhortations and prayers in a
broad Scottish accent. A few of the more gaily dressed gathered round
the empty fireplace, and listened to a tale from one of their number
which appeared to be shrouded in many oaths, and which was greeted with
shouts of laughter. In another corner a numerous group of zealots, clad
in black or russet gowns, with broad white bands and hanging mantles,
stood round some favourite preacher, and discussed in an undertone
Calvinistic philosophy and its relation to statecraft. A few plain
homely soldiers, who were neither sectaries nor courtiers, wandered up
and down, or stared out through the windows at the busy encampment upon
the Castle Green. To one of these, remarkable for his great size and
breadth of shoulder, Saxon led me, and touching him on the sleeve, he
held out his hand as to an old friend. ‘Mein Gott!’ cried the German
soldier of fortune, for it was the same man whom my companion had
pointed out in the morning, ‘I thought it was you, Saxon, when I saw you
by the gate, though you are even thinner than of old. How a man could
suck up so much good Bavarian beer as you have done, and yet make so
little flesh upon it, is more than I can verstehen. How have all things
gone with you?’

‘As of old,’ said Saxon. ‘More blows than thalers, and greater need of
a surgeon than of a strong-box. When did I see you last, friend? Was
it not at the onfall at Nurnberg, when I led the right and you the left
wing of the heavy horse?’

‘Nay,’ said Buyse. ‘I have met you in the way of business since then.
Have you forgot the skirmish on the Rhine bank, when you did flash your
snapphahn at me? Sapperment! Had some rascally schelm not stabbed my
horse I should have swept your head off as a boy cuts thistles mit a
stick.’

‘Aye, aye,’ Saxon answered composedly, ‘I had forgot it. You were taken,
if I remember aright, but did afterwards brain the sentry with your
fetters, and swam the Rhine under the fire of a regiment. Yet, I think
that we did offer you the same terms that you were having with the
others.’

‘Some such base offer was indeed made me,’ said the German sternly. ‘To
which I answered that, though I sold my sword, I did not sell my honour.
It is well that cavaliers of fortune should show that an engagement is
with them--how do ye say it?--unbreakable until the war is over. Then by
all means let him change his paymaster. Warum nicht?’

‘True, friend, true!’ replied Saxon. ‘These beggarly Italians and Swiss
have made such a trade of the matter, and sold themselves so freely,
body and soul, to the longest purse, that it is well that we should be
nice upon points of honour. But you remember the old hand-grip which no
man in the Palatinate could exchange with you? Here is my captain, Micah
Clarke. Let him see how warm a North German welcome may be.’

The Brandenburger showed his white teeth in a grin as he held out his
broad brown hand to me. The instant that mine was enclosed in it he
suddenly bent his whole strength upon it, and squeezed my fingers
together until the blood tingled in the nails, and the whole hand was
limp and powerless.

‘Donnerwetter!’ he cried, laughing heartily at my start of pain and
surprise. ‘It is a rough Prussian game, and the English lads have not
much stomach for it.’

‘Truly, sir,’ said I, ‘it is the first time that I have seen the
pastime, and I would fain practise it under so able a master.’

‘What, another!’ he cried. ‘Why, you must be still pringling from the
first. Nay, if you will I shall not refuse you, though I fear it may
weaken your hold upon your sword-hilt.’

He held out his hand as he spoke, and I grasped it firmly, thumb to
thumb, keeping my elbow high so as to bear all my force upon it. His own
trick was, as I observed, to gain command of the other hand by a great
output of strength at the onset. This I prevented by myself putting out
all my power. For a minute or more we stood motionless, gazing into each
other’s faces. Then I saw a bead of sweat trickle down his forehead, and
I knew that he was beaten. Slowly his grip relaxed, and his hand grew
limp and slack while my own tightened ever upon it, until he was forced
in a surly, muttering voice to request that I should unhand him.

‘Teufel und hexerei!’ he cried, wiping away the blood which oozed from
under his nails, ‘I might as well put my fingers in a rat-trap. You
are the first man that ever yet exchanged fair hand-grips with Anthony
Buyse.’

‘We breed brawn in England as well as in Brandenburg,’ said Saxon, who
was shaking with laughter over the German soldier’s discomfiture. ‘Why,
I have seen that lad pick up a full-size sergeant of dragoons and throw
him into a cart as though he had been a clod of earth.’

‘Strong he is,’ grumbled Buyse, still wringing his injured hand, ‘strong
as old Gotz mit de iron grip. But what good is strength alone in the
handling of a weapon? It is not the force of a blow, but the way in
which it is geschlagen, that makes the effect. Your sword now is heavier
than mine, by the look of it, and yet my blade would bite deeper. Eh? Is
not that a more soldierly sport than kinderspiel such as hand-grasping
and the like?’

‘He is a modest youth,’ said Saxon. ‘Yet I would match his stroke
against yours.’

‘For what?’ snarled the German.

‘For as much wine as we can take at a sitting.

‘No small amount, either,’ said Buyse; ‘a brace of gallons at the least.
Well, be it so. Do you accept the contest?’

‘I shall do what I may,’ I answered, ‘though I can scarce hope to strike
as heavy a blow as so old and tried a soldier.’

‘Henker take your compliments,’ he cried gruffly. ‘It was with sweet
words that you did coax my fingers into that fool-catcher of yours. Now,
here is my old headpiece of Spanish steel. It has, as you can see, one
or two dints of blows, and a fresh one will not hurt it. I place it here
upon this oaken stool high enough to be within fair sword-sweep. Have at
it, Junker, and let us see if you can leave your mark upon it!’

‘Do you strike first, sir,’ said I, ‘since the challenge is yours.’

‘I must bruise my own headpiece to regain my soldierly credit,’ he
grumbled. ‘Well, well, it has stood a cut or two in its day.’ Drawing
his broadsword, he waved back the crowd who had gathered around us,
while he swung the great weapon with tremendous force round his head,
and brought it down with a full, clean sweep on to the smooth cap of
steel. The headpiece sprang high into the air and then clattered down
upon the oaken floor with a long, deep line bitten into the solid metal.

‘Well struck!’ ‘A brave stroke!’ cried the spectators. ‘It is proof
steel thrice welded, and warranted to turn a sword-blade,’ one remarked,
raising up the helmet to examine it, and then replacing it upon the
stool.

‘I have seen my father cut through proof steel with this very sword,’
said I, drawing the fifty-year-old weapon. ‘He put rather more of his
weight into it than you have done. I have heard him say that a good
stroke should come from the back and loins rather than from the mere
muscles of the arm.’

‘It is not a lecture we want, but a beispiel or example,’ sneered the
German. ‘It is with your stroke that we have to do, and not with the
teaching of your father.’

‘My stroke,’ said I, ‘is in accordance with his teaching;’ and,
whistling round the sword, I brought it down with all my might and
strength upon the German’s helmet. The good old Commonwealth blade shore
through the plate of steel, cut the stool asunder, and buried its point
two inches deep in the oaken floor. ‘It is but a trick,’ I explained. ‘I
have practised it in the winter evenings at home.’

‘It is not a trick that I should care to have played upon me,’ said Lord
Grey, amid a general murmur of applause and surprise. ‘Od’s bud, man,
you have lived two centuries too late. What would not your thews have
been worth before gunpowder put all men upon a level!’

‘Wunderbar!’ growled Buyse, ‘wunderbar! I am past my prime, young sir,
and may well resign the palm of strength to you. It was a right noble
stroke. It hath cost me a runlet or two of canary, and a good old
helmet; but I grudge it not, for it was fairly done. I am thankful
that my head was not darin. Saxon, here, used to show us some brave
schwertspielerei, but he hath not the weight for such smashing blows as
this.’

‘My eye is still true and my hand firm, though both are perhaps a trifle
the worse for want of use,’ said Saxon, only too glad at the chance
of drawing the eyes of the chiefs upon him. ‘At backsword, sword and
dagger, sword and buckler, single falchion and case of falchions, mine
old challenge still holds good against any comer, save only my brother
Quartus, who plays as well as I do, but hath an extra half-inch in reach
which gives him the vantage.’

‘I studied sword-play under Signor Contarini of Paris,’ said Lord Grey.
‘Who was your master?’

‘I have studied, my lord, under Signer Stern Necessity of Europe,’ quoth
Saxon. ‘For five-and-thirty years my life has depended from day to day
upon being able to cover myself with this slip of steel. Here is a
small trick which showeth some nicety of eye: to throw this ring to the
ceiling and catch it upon a rapier point. It seems simple, perchance,
and yet is only to be attained by some practice.’

‘Simple!’ cried Wade the lawyer, a square-faced, bold-eyed man. ‘Why,
the ring is but the girth of your little finger. A man might do it once
by good luck, but none could ensure it.’

‘I will lay a guinea a thrust on it,’ said Saxon; and tossing the little
gold circlet up into the air, he flashed out his rapier and made a pass
at it. The ring rasped down the steel blade and tinkled against the
hilt, fairly impaled. By a sharp motion of the wrist he shot it up
to the ceiling again, where it struck a carved rafter and altered its
course; but again, with a quick step forward, he got beneath it and
received it on his sword-point. ‘Surely there is some cavalier present
who is as apt at the trick as I am,’ he said, replacing the ring upon
his finger.

‘I think, Colonel, that I could venture upon it,’ said a voice; and
looking round, we found that Monmouth had entered the room and was
standing quietly on the outskirts of the throng, unperceived in
the general interest which our contention had excited. ‘Nay, nay,
gentlemen,’ he continued pleasantly, as we uncovered and bowed with
some little embarrassment; ‘how could my faithful followers be better
employed than by breathing themselves in a little sword-play? I prythee
lend me your rapier, Colonel.’ He drew a diamond ring from his finger,
and spinning it up into the air, he transfixed it as deftly as Saxon
had done. ‘I practised the trick at The Hague, where, by my faith, I had
only too many hours to devote to such trifles. But how come these steel
links and splinters of wood to be littered over the floor?’

‘A son of Anak hath appaired amang us,’ said Ferguson, turning his
face, all scarred and reddened with the king’s evil, in my direction. ‘A
Goliath o’ Gath, wha hath a stroke like untae a weaver’s beam. Hath he
no the smooth face o’ a bairn and the thews’ o’ Behemoth?’

‘A shrewd blow indeed,’ King Monmouth remarked, picking up half the
stool. ‘How is our champion named?’

‘He is my captain, your Majesty,’ Saxon answered, resheathing the sword
which the King had handed to him; ‘Micah Clarke, a man of Hampshire
birth.’

‘They breed a good old English stock in those parts,’ said Monmouth;
‘but how comes it that you are here, sir? I summoned this meeting for my
own immediate household, and for the colonels of the regiments. If every
captain is to be admitted into our councils, we must hold our meetings
on the Castle Green, for no apartment could contain us.’

‘I ventured to come here, your Majesty,’ I replied, ‘because on my way
hither I received a commission, which was that I should deliver this
small but weighty package into your hands. I therefore thought it my
duty to lose no time in fulfilling my errand.’

‘What is in it?’ he asked.

‘I know not,’ I answered.

Doctor Ferguson whispered a few words into the King’s ear, who laughed
and held out his hand for the packet.

‘Tut! tut!’ said he. ‘The days of the Borgias and the Medicis are over,
Doctor. Besides, the lad is no Italian conspirator, but hath honest blue
eyes and flaxen hair as Nature’s certificate to his character. This
is passing heavy--an ingot of lead, by the feel. Lend me your dagger,
Colonel Holmes. It is stitched round with packthread. Ha! it is a bar
of gold--solid virgin gold by all that is wonderful. Take charge of it,
Wade, and see that it is added to the common fund. This little piece
of metal may furnish ten pikemen. What have we here? A letter and an
enclosure. “To James, Duke of Monmouth”--hum! It was written before we
assumed our royal state. “Sir Jacob Glancing, late of Snellaby Hall,
sends greeting and a pledge of affection. Carry out the good work.
A hundred more such ingots await you when you have crossed Salisbury
Plain.” Bravely promised, Sir Jacob! I would that you had sent them.
Well, gentlemen, ye see how support and tokens of goodwill come pouring
in upon us. Is not the tide upon the turn? Can the usurper hope to hold
his own? Will his men stand by him? Within a month or less I shall see
ye all gathered round me at Westminster, and no duty will then be
so pleasing to me as to see that ye are all, from the highest to the
lowest, rewarded for your loyalty to your monarch in this the hour of
his darkness and his danger.’

A murmur of thanks rose up from the courtiers at this gracious speech,
but the German plucked at Saxon’s sleeve and whispered, ‘He hath his
warm fit upon him. You shall see him cold anon.’

‘Fifteen hundred men have joined me here where I did but expect a
thousand at the most,’ the King continued. ‘If we had high hopes when
we landed at Lyme Cobb with eighty at our back, what should we think now
when we find ourselves in the chief city of Somerset with eight thousand
brave men around us? ‘Tis but one other affair like that at Axminster,
and my uncle’s power will go down like a house of cards. But gather
round the table, gentlemen, and we shall discuss matters in due form.’

‘There is yet a scrap of paper which you have not read, sire,’ said
Wade, picking up a little slip which had been enclosed in the note.

‘It is a rhyming catch or the posy of a ring,’ said Monmouth, glancing
at it. ‘What are we to make of this?

          “When thy star is in trine,
           Between darkness and shine,
           Duke Monmouth, Duke Monmouth,
           Beware of the Rhine!”

Thy star in trine! What tomfoolery is this?’

‘If it please your Majesty,’ said I, ‘I have reason to believe that the
man who sent you this message is one of those who are deeply skilled
in the arts of divination, and who pretend from the motions of the
celestial bodies to foretell the fates of men.’

‘This gentleman is right, sir,’ remarked Lord Grey. ‘“Thy star in trine”
 is an astrological term, which signifieth when your natal planet shall
be in a certain quarter of the heavens. The verse is of the nature of a
prophecy. The Chaldeans and Egyptians of old are said to have attained
much skill in the art, but I confess that I have no great opinion of
those latter-day prophets who busy themselves in answering the foolish
questions of every housewife.’

          ‘And tell by Venus and the moon,
           Who stole a thimble or a spoon.’
muttered Saxon, quoting from his favourite poem.

‘Why, here are our Colonels catching the rhyming complaint,’ said the
King, laughing. ‘We shall be dropping the sword and taking to the harp
anon, as Alfred did in these very parts. Or I shall become a king of
bards and trouveurs, like good King Rene of Provence. But, gentlemen,
if this be indeed a prophecy, it should, methinks, bode well for our
enterprise. It is true that I am warned against the Rhine, but there is
little prospect of our fighting this quarrel upon its banks.’

‘Worse luck!’ murmured the German, under his breath.

‘We may, therefore, thank this Sir Jacob and his giant messenger for
his forecast as well as for his gold. But here comes the worthy Mayor of
Taunton, the oldest of our councillors and the youngest of our knights.
Captain Clarke, I desire you to stand at the inside of the door and to
prevent intrusion. What passes amongst us will, I am well convinced, be
safe in your keeping.’

I bowed and took up my post as ordered, while the council-men and
commanders gathered round the great oaken table which ran down the
centre of the hall. The mellow evening light was streaming through the
three western windows, while the distant babble of the soldiers upon the
Castle Green sounded like the sleepy drone of insects. Monmouth paced
with quick uneasy steps up and down the further end of the room until
all were seated, when he turned towards them and addressed them.

‘You will have surmised, gentlemen,’ he said, ‘that I have called you
together to-day that I might have the benefit of your collective wisdom
in determining what our next steps should be. We have now marched some
forty miles into our kingdom, and we have met wherever we have gone with
the warm welcome which we expected. Close upon eight thousand men follow
our standards, and as many more have been turned away for want of
arms. We have twice met the enemy, with the effect that we have armed
ourselves with their muskets and field-pieces. From first to last there
hath been nothing which has not prospered with us. We must look to it
that the future be as successful as the past. To insure this I have
called ye together, and I now ask ye to give me your opinions of our
situation, leaving me after I have listened to your views to form our
plan of action. There are statesmen among ye, and there are soldiers
among ye, and there are godly men among ye who may chance to get a flash
of light when statesman and soldier are in the dark. Speak fearlessly,
then, and let me know what is in your minds.’

From my central post by the door I could see the lines of faces on
either side of the board, the solemn close-shaven Puritans, sunburned
soldiers, and white-wigged moustachioed courtiers. My eyes rested
particularly upon Ferguson’s scorbutic features, Saxon’s hard aquiline
profile, the German’s burly face, and the peaky thoughtful countenance
of the Lord of Wark.

‘If naebody else will gie an opeenion,’ cried the fanatical Doctor,
‘I’ll een speak mysel’ as led by the inward voice. For have I no worked
in the cause and slaved in it, much enduring and suffering mony things
at the honds o’ the froward, whereby my ain speerit hath plentifully
fructified? Have I no been bruised as in a wine-press, and cast oot wi’
hissing and scorning into waste places?’

‘We know your merits and your sufferings, Doctor,’ said the King. ‘The
question before us is as to our course of action.’

‘Was there no a voice heard in the East?’ cried the old Whig. ‘Was there
no a soond as o’ a great crying, the crying for a broken covenant and a
sinful generation? Whence came the cry? Wha’s was the voice? Was it no
that o’ the man Robert Ferguson, wha raised himsel’ up against the great
ones in the land, and wouldna be appeased?’

‘Aye, aye, Doctor,’ said Monmouth impatiently. ‘Speak to the point, or
give place to another.’

‘I shall mak’ mysel’ clear, your Majesty. Have we no heard that Argyle
is cutten off? And why was he cutten off? Because he hadna due faith
in the workings o’ the Almighty, and must needs reject the help o’ the
children o’ light in favour o’ the bare-legged spawn o’ Prelacy, wha are
half Pagan, half Popish. Had he walked in the path o’ the Lord he wudna
be lying in the Tolbooth o’ Edinburgh wi’ the tow or the axe before
him. Why did he no gird up his loins and march straight onwards wi’
the banner o’ light, instead o’ dallying here and biding there like a
half-hairted Didymus? And the same or waur will fa’ upon us if we dinna
march on intae the land and plant our ensigns afore the wicked toun o’
London--the toun where the Lord’s wark is tae be done, and the tares tae
be separated frae the wheat, and piled up for the burning.’

‘Your advice, in short, is that we march on!’ said Monmouth.

‘That we march on, your Majesty, and that we prepare oorselves tae be
the vessels o’ grace, and forbear frae polluting the cause o’ the Gospel
by wearing the livery o’ the devil’--here he glared at a gaily attired
cavalier at the other side of the table--‘or by the playing o’ cairds,
the singing o’ profane songs and the swearing o’ oaths, all which are
nichtly done by members o’ this army, wi’ the effect o’ giving much
scandal tae God’s ain folk.’

A hum of assent and approval rose up from the more Puritan members of
the council at this expression of opinion, while the courtiers glanced
at each other and curled their lips in derision. Monmouth took two or
three turns and then called for another opinion.

‘You, Lord Grey,’ he said, ‘are a soldier and a man of experience. What
is your advice? Should we halt here or push forward towards London?’

‘To advance to the East would, in my humble judgment, be fatal to us,’
Grey answered, speaking slowly, with the manner of a man who has thought
long and deeply before delivering an opinion. ‘James Stuart is strong
in horse, and we have none. We can hold our own amongst hedgerows or in
broken country, but what chance could we have in the middle of Salisbury
Plain? With the dragoons round us we should be like a flock of sheep
amid a pack of wolves. Again, every step which we take towards London
removes us from our natural vantage ground, and from the fertile country
which supplies our necessities, while it strengthens our enemy by
shortening the distance he has to convey his troops and his victuals.
Unless, therefore, we hear of some great outbreak elsewhere, or of some
general movement in London in our favour, we would do best to hold our
ground and wait an attack.’

‘You argue shrewdly and well, my Lord Grey,’ said the King. ‘But how
long are we to wait for this outbreak which never comes, and for this
support which is ever promised and never provided? We have now been
seven long days in England, and during that time of all the House of
Commons no single man hath come over to us, and of the lords none gave
my Lord Grey, who was himself an exile. Not a baron or an earl, and only
one baronet, hath taken up arms for me. Where are the men whom Danvers
and Wildman promised me from London? Where are the brisk boys of the
City who were said to be longing for me? Where are the breakings out
from Berwick to Portland which they foretold? Not a man hath moved
save only these good peasants. I have been deluded, ensnared,
trapped--trapped by vile agents who have led me into the shambles.’ He
paced up and down, wringing his hands and biting his lips, with despair
stamped upon his face. I observed that Buyse smiled and whispered
something to Saxon--a hint, I suppose, that this was the cold fit of
which he spoke.

‘Tell me, Colonel Buyse,’ said the King, mastering his emotion by a
strong effort. ‘Do you, as a soldier, agree with my Lord Grey?’

‘Ask Saxon, your Majesty,’ the German answered. ‘My opinion in a
Raths-Versammlung is, I have observed, ever the same as his.’

‘Then we turn to you, Colonel Saxon,’ said Monmouth. ‘We have in this
council a party who are in favour of an advance and a party who wish
to stand their ground. Their weight and numbers are, methinks, nearly
equal. If you had the casting vote how would you decide?’ All eyes were
bent upon our leader, for his martial bearing, and the respect shown to
him by the veteran Buyse, made it likely that his opinion might really
turn the scale. He sat for a few moments in silence with his hands
before his face.

‘I will give my opinion, your Majesty,’ he said at last. ‘Feversham and
Churchill are making for Salisbury with three thousand foot, and they
have pushed on eight hundred of the Blue Guards, and two or three
dragoon regiments. We should, therefore, as Lord Grey says, have to
fight on Salisbury Plain, and our foot armed with a medley of weapons
could scarce make head against their horse. All is possible to the Lord,
as Dr. Ferguson wisely says. We are as grains of dust in the hollow of
His hand. Yet He hath given us brains wherewith to choose the better
course, and if we neglect it we must suffer the consequence of our
folly.’

Ferguson laughed contemptuously, and breathed out a prayer, but many of
the other Puritans nodded their heads to acknowledge that this was not
an unreasonable view to take of it.

‘On the other hand, sire,’ Saxon continued, ‘it appears to me that to
remain here is equally impossible. Your Majesty’s friends throughout
England would lose all heart if the army lay motionless and struck no
blow. The rustics would flock off to their wives and homes. Such an
example is catching. I have seen a great army thaw away like an icicle
in the sunshine. Once gone, it is no easy matter to collect them again.
To keep them we must employ them. Never let them have an idle minute.
Drill them. March them. Exercise them. Work them. Preach to them. Make
them obey God and their Colonel. This cannot be done in snug quarters.
They must travel. We cannot hope to end this business until we get
to London. London, then, must be our goal. But there are many ways of
reaching it. You have, sire, as I have heard, many friends at Bristol
and in the Midlands. If I might advise, I should say let us march round
in that direction. Every day that passes will serve to swell your forces
and improve your troops, while all will feel something is astirring.
Should we take Bristol--and I hear that the works are not very
strong--it would give us a very good command of shipping, and a rare
centre from which to act. If all goes well with us, we could make
our way to London through Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. In the
meantime I might suggest that a day of fast and humiliation be called to
bring down a blessing on the cause.’

This address, skilfully compounded of worldly wisdom and of spiritual
zeal, won the applause of the whole council, and especially that of King
Monmouth, whose melancholy vanished as if by magic.

‘By my faith, Colonel,’ said he, ‘you make it all as clear as day.
Of course, if we make ourselves strong in the West, and my uncle is
threatened with disaffection elsewhere, he will have no chance to hold
out against us. Should he wish to fight us upon our own ground, he must
needs drain his troops from north, south, and east, which is not to be
thought of. We may very well march to London by way of Bristol.’

‘I think that the advice is good,’ Lord Grey observed; ‘but I should
like to ask Colonel Saxon what warrant he hath for saying that Churchill
and Feversham are on their way, with three thousand regular foot and
several regiments of horse?’

‘The word of an officer of the Blues with whom I conversed at
Salisbury,’ Saxon answered. ‘He confided in me, believing me to be one
of the Duke of Beaufort’s household. As to the horse, one party pursued
us on Salisbury Plain with bloodhounds, and another attacked us not
twenty miles from here and lost a score of troopers and a cornet.’

‘We heard something of the brush,’ said the King. ‘It was bravely done.
But if these men are so close we have no great time for preparation.’

‘Their foot cannot be here before a week,’ said the Mayor. ‘By that time
we might be behind the walls of Bristol.’

‘There is one point which might be urged,’ observed Wade the lawyer. ‘We
have, as your Majesty most truly says, met with heavy discouragement in
the fact that no noblemen and few commoners of repute have declared for
us. The reason is, I opine, that each doth wait for his neighbour to
make a move. Should one or two come over the others would soon follow.
How, then, are we to bring a duke or two to our standards?’

‘There’s the question, Master Wade,’ said Monmouth, shaking his head
despondently.

‘I think that it might be done,’ continued the Whig lawyer. ‘Mere
proclamations addressed to the commonalty will not catch these gold
fish. They are not to be angled for with a naked hook. I should
recommend that some form of summons or writ be served upon each of them,
calling upon them to appear in our camp within a certain date under pain
of high treason.’

‘There spake the legal mind,’ quoth King Monmouth, with a laugh. ‘But
you have omitted to tell us how the said writ or summons is to be
conveyed to these same delinquents.’

‘There is the Duke of Beaufort,’ continued Wade, disregarding the King’s
objection. ‘He is President of Wales, and he is, as your Majesty knows,
lieutenant of four English counties. His influence overshadows the whole
West. He hath two hundred horses in his stables at Badminton, and a
thousand men, as I have heard, sit down at his tables every day. Why
should not a special effort be made to gain over such a one, the more so
as we intend to march in his direction?’

‘Henry, Duke of Beaufort, is unfortunately already in arms against his
sovereign,’ said Monmouth gloomily.

‘He is, sire, but he may be induced to turn in your favour the weapon
which he hath raised against you. He is a Protestant. He is said to be a
Whig. Why should we not send a message to him? Flatter his pride. Appeal
to his religion. Coax and threaten him. Who knows? He may have private
grievances of which we know nothing, and may be ripe for such a move.’

‘Your counsel is good, Wade,’ said Lord Grey, ‘but methinks his Majesty
hath asked a pertinent question. Your messenger would, I fear, find
himself swinging upon one of the Badminton oaks if the Duke desired to
show his loyalty to James Stuart. Where are we to find a man who is wary
enough and bold enough for such a mission, without risking one of our
leaders, who could be ill-spared at such a time?’

‘It is true,’ said the King. ‘It were better not to venture it at all
than to do it in a clumsy and halting fashion. Beaufort would think that
it was a plot not to gain him over, but to throw discredit upon him. But
what means our giant at the door by signing to us?’

‘If it please your Majesty,’ I asked, ‘have I permission to speak?’

‘We would fain hear you, Captain,’ he answered graciously. ‘If your
understanding is in any degree correspondent to your strength, your
opinion should be of weight.’

‘Then, your Majesty,’ said I, ‘I would offer myself as a fitting
messenger in this matter. My father bid me spare neither life nor limb
in this quarrel, and if this honourable council thinks that the Duke
may be gained over, I am ready to guarantee that the message shall be
conveyed to him if man and horse can do it.’

‘I’ll warrant that no better herald could be found,’ cried Saxon. ‘The
lad hath a cool head and a staunch heart.’

‘Then, young sir, we shall accept your loyal and gallant offer,’ said
Monmouth. ‘Are ye all agreed, gentlemen, upon the point?’ A murmur of
assent rose from the company.

‘You shall draw up the paper, Wade. Offer him money, a seniority amongst
the dukes, the perpetual Presidentship of Wales--what you will, if you
can but shake him. If not, sequestration, exile, and everlasting infamy.
And, hark ye! you can enclose a copy of the papers drawn up by Van
Brunow, which prove the marriage of my mother, together with the
attestations of the witnesses. Have them ready by to-morrow at daybreak,
when the messenger may start.’ (Note H, Appendix.)

‘They shall be ready, your Majesty,’ said Wade.

‘In that case, gentlemen,’ continued King Monmouth, ‘I may now dismiss
ye to your posts. Should anything fresh arise I shall summon ye again,
that I may profit by your wisdom. Here we shall stay, if Sir Stephen
Timewell will have us, until the men are refreshed and the recruits
enrolled. We shall then make our way Bristolwards, and see what luck
awaits us in the North. If Beaufort comes over all will be well.
Farewell, my kind friends! I need not tell ye to be diligent and
faithful.’

The council rose at the King’s salutation, and bowing to him they began
to file out of the Castle hall. Several of the members clustered round
me with hints for my journey or suggestions as to my conduct.

‘He is a proud, froward man,’ said one. ‘Speak humbly to him or he will
never hearken to your message, but will order you to be scourged out of
his presence.’

‘Nay, nay!’ cried another. ‘He is hot, but he loves a man that is a
man. Speak boldly and honestly to him, and he is more like to listen to
reason.’

‘Speak as the Lord shall direct you,’ said a Puritan. ‘It is His message
which you bear as well as the King’s.’

‘Entice him out alone upon some excuse,’ said Buyse, ‘then up and away
mit him upon your crupper. Hagelsturm! that would be a proper game.’

‘Leave him alone,’ cried Saxon. ‘The lad hath as much sense as any of
ye. He will see which way the cat jumps. Come, friend, let us make our
way back to our men.’

‘I am sorry, indeed, to lose you,’ he said, as we threaded our way
through the throng of peasants and soldiers upon the Castle Green. ‘Your
company will miss you sorely. Lockarby must see to the two. If all goes
well you should be back in three or four days. I need not tell you that
there is a real danger. If the Duke wishes to prove to James that
he would not allow himself to be tampered with, he can only do it by
punishing the messenger, which as lieutenant of a county he hath power
to do in times of civil commotion. He is a hard man if all reports be
true. On the other hand, if you should chance to succeed it may lay the
foundations of your fortunes and be the means of saving Monmouth. He
needs help, by the Lord Harry! Never have I seen such a rabble as this
army of his. Buyse says that they fought lustily at this ruffle at
Axminster, but he is of one mind with me, that a few whiffs of shot and
cavalry charges would scatter them over the countryside. Have you any
message to leave?’

‘None, save my love to my mother,’ said I.

‘It is well. Should you fall in any unfair way, I shall not forget his
Grace of Beaufort, and the next of his gentlemen who comes in my way
shall hang as high as Haman. And now you had best make for your chamber,
and have as good a slumber as you may, since to-morrow at cock-crow
begins your new mission.’



Chapter XXII. Of the News from Havant

Having given my orders that Covenant should be saddled and bridled by
daybreak, I had gone to my room and was preparing for a long night’s
rest, when Sir Gervas, who slept in the same apartment, came dancing in
with a bundle of papers waving over his head.

‘Three guesses, Clarke!’ he cried. ‘What would you most desire?’

‘Letters from Havant,’ said I eagerly.

‘Right,’ he answered, throwing them into my lap. ‘Three of them, and not
a woman’s hand among them. Sink me, if I can understand what you have
been doing all your life.

          “How can youthful heart resign
           Lovely woman, sparkling wine?”

But you are so lost in your news that you have not observed my
transformation.’

‘Why, wherever did you get these?’ I asked in astonishment, for he
was attired in a delicate plum-coloured suit with gold buttons and
trimmings, set off by silken hosen and Spanish leather shoes with roses
on the instep.

‘It smacks more of the court than of the camp,’ quoth Sir Gervas,
rubbing his hands and glancing down at himself with some satisfaction.
‘I am also revictualled in the matter of ratafia and orange-flower
water, together with two new wigs, a bob and a court, a pound of the
Imperial snuff from the sign of the Black Man, a box of De Crepigny’s
hair powder, my foxskin muff, and several other necessaries. But I
hinder you in your reading.’

‘I have seen enough to tell me that all is well at home,’ I answered,
glancing over my father’s letter. ‘But how came these things?’

‘Some horsemen have come in from Petersfield, bearing them with them. As
to my little box, which a fair friend of mine in town packed for me,
it was to be forwarded to Bristol, where I am now supposed to be, and
should be were it not for my good fortune in meeting your party. It
chanced to find its way, however, to the Bruton inn, and the good woman
there, whom I had conciliated, found means to send it after me. It is a
good rule to go upon, Clarke, in this earthly pilgrimage, always to
kiss the landlady. It may seem a small thing, and yet life is made up
of small things. I have few fixed principles, I fear, but two there are
which I can say from my heart that I never transgress. I always carry a
corkscrew, and I never forget to kiss the landlady.’

‘From what I have seen of you,’ said I, laughing, ‘I could be warranty
that those two duties are ever fulfilled.’

‘I have letters, too,’ said he, sitting on the side of the bed and
turning over a sheaf of papers. ‘“Your broken-hearted Araminta.” Hum!
The wench cannot know that I am ruined or her heart would speedily be
restored. What’s this? A challenge to match my bird Julius against my
Lord Dorchester’s cockerel for a hundred guineas. Faith! I am too busy
backing the Monmouth rooster for the champion stakes. Another asking me
to chase the stag at Epping. Zounds! had I not cleared off I should
have been run down myself, with a pack of bandog bailiffs at my heels.
A dunning letter from my clothier. He can afford to lose this bill.
He hath had many a long one out of me. An offer of three thousand from
little Dicky Chichester. No, no, Dicky, it won’t do. A gentleman can’t
live upon his friends. None the less grateful. How now? From Mrs.
Butterworth! No money for three weeks! Bailiffs in the house! Now, curse
me, if this is not too bad!’

‘What is the matter?’ I asked, glancing up from my own letters. The
baronet’s pale face had taken a tinge of red, and he was striding
furiously up and down the bedroom with a letter crumpled up in his hand.

‘It is a burning shame, Clarke,’ he cried. ‘Hang it, she shall have my
watch. It is by Tompion, of the sign of the Three Crowns in Paul’s
Yard, and cost a hundred when new. It should keep her for a few months.
Mortimer shall measure swords with me for this. I shall write villain
upon him with my rapier’s point.’

‘I have never seen you ruffled before,’ said I.

‘No,’ he answered, laughing. ‘Many have lived with me for years and
would give me a certificate for temper. But this is too much. Sir Edward
Mortimer is my mother’s younger brother, Clarke, but he is not many
years older than myself. A proper, strait-laced, soft-voiced lad he has
ever been, and, as a consequence, he throve in the world, and joined
land to land after the scriptural fashion. I had befriended him from my
purse in the old days, but he soon came to be a richer man than I, for
all that he gained he kept, whereas all I got--well, it went off like
the smoke of the pipe which you are lighting. When I found that all was
up with me I received from Mortimer an advance, which was sufficient to
take me according to my wish over to Virginia, together with a horse and
a personal outfit. There was some chance, Clarke, of the Jerome acres
going to him should aught befall me, so that he was not averse to
helping me off to a land of fevers and scalping knives. Nay, never shake
your head, my dear country lad, you little know the wiles of the world.’

‘Give him credit for the best until the worst is proved,’ said I,
sitting up in bed smoking, with my letters littered about in front of
me.

‘The worst _is_ proved,’ said Sir Gervas, with a darkening face. ‘I
have, as I said, done Mortimer some turns which he might remember,
though it did not become me to remind him of them. This Mistress
Butterworth is mine old wet-nurse, and it hath been the custom of the
family to provide for her. I could not bear the thought that in the ruin
of my fortune she should lose the paltry guinea or so a week which stood
between her and hunger. My only request to Mortimer, therefore, made on
the score of old friendship, was that he should continue this pittance,
I promising that should I prosper I would return whatever he should
disburse. The mean-hearted villain wrung my hand and swore that it
should be so. How vile a thing is human nature, Clarke! For the sake of
this paltry sum he, a rich man, hath broken his pledge, and left this
poor woman to starve. But he shall answer to me for it. He thinks that
I am on the Atlantic. If I march back to London with these brave boys
I shall disturb the tenor of his sainted existence. Meanwhile I shall
trust to sun-dials, and off goes my watch to Mother Butterworth. Bless
her ample bosoms! I have tried many liquors, but I dare bet that the
first was the most healthy. But how of your own letters? You have been
frowning and smiling like an April day.’

‘There is one from my father, with a few words attached from my mother,’
said I. ‘The second is from an old friend of mine, Zachariah Palmer, the
village carpenter. The third is from Solomon Sprent, a retired seaman,
for whom I have an affection and respect.’

‘You have a rare trio of newsmen. I would I knew your father, Clarke, he
must, from what you say, be a stout bit of British oak. I spoke even now
of your knowing little of the world, but indeed it may be that in your
village you can see mankind without the varnish, and so come to learn
more of the good of human nature. Varnish or none, the bad will ever
peep through. Now this carpenter and seaman show themselves no doubt for
what they are. A man might know my friends of the court for a lifetime,
and never come upon their real selves, nor would it perhaps repay the
search when you had come across it. Sink me, but I wax philosophical,
which is the old refuge of the ruined man. Give me a tub, and I shall
set up in the Piazza of Covent Garden, and be the Diogenes of London. I
would not be wealthy again, Micah! How goes the old lilt?--

          “Our money shall never indite us
           Or drag us to Goldsmith Hall,
           No pirates or wrecks can affright us.
           We that have no estates
           Fear no plunder or rates,
           Nor care to lock gates.
           He that lies on the ground cannot fall!”

That last would make a good motto for an almshouse.’

‘You will have Sir Stephen up,’ said I warningly, for he was carolling
away at the pitch of his lungs.

‘Never fear! He and his ‘prentices were all at the broad-sword exercise
in the hall as I came by. It is worth something to see the old fellow
stamp, and swing his sword, and cry, “Ha!” on the down-cut. Mistress
Ruth and friend Lockarby are in the tapestried room, she spinning and he
reading aloud one of those entertaining volumes which she would have me
read. Methinks she hath taken his conversion in hand, which may end in
his converting her from a maid into a wife. And so you go to the Duke of
Beaufort! Well, I would that I could travel with you, but Saxon will not
hear of it, and my musqueteers must be my first care. God send you safe
back! Where is my jasmine powder and the patch-box? Read me your letters
if there be aught in them of interest. I have been splitting a flask
with our gallant Colonel at his inn, and he hath told me enough of your
home at Havant to make me wish to know more.’

‘This one is somewhat grave,’ said I.

‘Nay, I am in the humour for grave things. Have at it, if it contain the
whole Platonic philosophy.’

‘’Tis from the venerable carpenter who hath for many years been my
adviser and friend. He is one who is religious without being sectarian,
philosophic without being a partisan, and loving without being weak.’

‘A paragon, truly!’ exclaimed Sir Gervas, who was busy with his eyebrow
brush.

‘This is what he saith,’ I continued, and proceeded to read the very
letter which I now read to you.

‘“Having heard from your father, my dear lad, that there was some chance
of being able to send a letter to you, I have written this, and am
now sending it under the charge of the worthy John Packingham, of
Chichester, who is bound for the West. I trust that you are now safe
with Monmouth’s army, and that you have received honourable appointment
therein. I doubt not that you will find among your comrades some who
are extreme sectaries, and others who are scoffers and disbelievers.
Be advised by me, friend, and avoid both the one and the other. For the
zealot is a man who not only defends his own right of worship, wherein
he hath justice, but wishes to impose upon the consciences of others,
by which he falls into the very error against which he fights. The mere
brainless scoffer is, on the other hand, lower than the beast of
the field, since he lacks the animal’s self-respect and humble
resignation.”’

‘My faith!’ cried the Baronet, ‘the old gentleman hath a rough side to
his tongue.’

‘“Let us take religion upon its broadest base, for the truth must be
broader than aught which we can conceive. The presence of a table doth
prove the existence of a carpenter, and so the presence of a universe
proves the existence of a universe Maker, call Him by what name
you will. So far the ground is very firm beneath us, without either
inspiration, teaching, or any aid whatever. Since, then, there _must_ be
a world Maker, let us judge of His nature by His work. We cannot observe
the glories of the firmament, its infinite extent, its beauty, and the
Divine skill wherewith every plant and animal hath its wants cared for,
without seeing that He is full of wisdom, intelligence, and power. We
are still, you will perceive, upon solid ground, without having to call
to our aid aught save pure reason.”’

‘“Having got so far, let us inquire to what end the universe was made,
and we put upon it. The teaching of all nature shows that it must be to
the end of improvement and upward growth, the increase in real virtue,
in knowledge, and in wisdom. Nature is a silent preacher which holds
forth upon week-days as on Sabbaths. We see the acorn grow into the oak,
the egg into the bird, the maggot into the butterfly. Shall we doubt,
then, that the human soul, the most precious of all things, is also
upon the upward path? And how can the soul progress save through the
cultivation of virtue and self-mastery? What other way is there? There
is none. We may say with confidence, then, that we are placed here to
increase in knowledge and in virtue.”’

‘“This is the core of all religion, and this much needs no faith in
the acceptance. It is as true and as capable of proof as one of those
exercises of Euclid which we have gone over together. On this common
ground men have raised many different buildings. Christianity, the creed
of Mahomet, the creed of the Easterns, have all the same essence. The
difference lies in the forms and the details. Let us hold to our own
Christian creed, the beautiful, often-professed, and seldom-practised
doctrine of love, but let us not despise our fellow-men, for we are all
branches from the common root of truth.”’

‘“Man comes out of darkness into light. He tarries awhile and then
passes into darkness again. Micah, lad, the days are passing, mine as
well as thine. Let them not be wasted. They are few in number. What says
Petrarch?’ To him that enters, life seems infinite; to him that
departs, nothing.’ Let every day, every hour, be spent in furthering the
Creator’s end--in getting out whatever power for good there is in you.
What is pain, or work, or trouble? The cloud that passes over the sun.
But the result of work well done is everything. It is eternal. It lives
and waxes stronger through the centuries. Pause not for rest. The rest
will come when the hour of work is past.”’

‘“May God protect and guard you! There is no great news. The Portsmouth
garrison hath marched to the West. Sir John Lawson, the magistrate, hath
been down here threatening your father and others, but he can do little
for want of proofs. Church and Dissent are at each other’s throats as
ever. Truly the stern law of Moses is more enduring than the sweet words
of Christ. Adieu, my dear lad! All good wishes from your grey-headed
friend, ZACHARIAH PALMER.”’

‘Od’s fish!’ cried Sir Gervas, as I folded up the letter, ‘I have heard
Stillingfleet and Tenison, but I never listened to a better sermon. This
is a bishop disguised as a carpenter. The crozier would suit his hand
better than the plane. But how of our seaman friend? Is he a tarpaulin
theologian--a divine among the tarry-breeks?’

‘Solomon Sprent is a very different man, though good enough in his way,’
said I. ‘But you shall judge him from his letter.’

‘“Master Clarke. Sir,--When last we was in company I had run in under
the batteries on cutting-out service, while you did stand on and off in
the channel and wait signals. Having stopped to refit and to overhaul my
prize, which proved to be in proper trim alow and aloft--“’

‘What the devil doth he mean?’ asked Sir Gervas.

‘It is a maid of whom he talks--Phoebe Dawson, the sister of the
blacksmith. He hath scarce put foot on land for nigh forty years, and
can as a consequence only speak in this sea jargon, though he fancies
that he uses as pure King’s English as any man in Hampshire.’

‘Proceed, then,’ quoth the Baronet.

‘“Having also read her the articles of war, I explained to her the
conditions under which we were to sail in company on life’s voyage,
namely:”’

‘“First. She to obey signals without question as soon as received.”’

‘“Second. She to steer by my reckoning.”’

‘“Third. She to stand by me as true consort in foul weather, battle, or
shipwreck.”’

‘“Fourth. She to run under my guns if assailed by picaroons,
privateeros, or garda-costas.”’

‘“Fifth. Me to keep her in due repair, dry-dock her at intervals,
and see that she hath her allowance of coats of paint, streamers, and
bunting, as befits a saucy pleasure boat.”’

‘“Sixth. Me to take no other craft in tow, and if any be now attached,
to cut their hawsers.”’

‘“Seventh. Me to revictual her day by day.”’

‘“Eighth. Should she chance to spring a leak, or be blown on her beam
ends by the winds of misfortune, to stand by her and see her pumped out
or righted.”’

‘“Ninth. To fly the Protestant ensign at the peak during life’s voyage,
and to lay our course for the great harbour, in the hope that moorings
and ground to swing may be found for two British-built crafts when laid
up for eternity.”’

‘“‘Twas close on eight-bells before these articles were signed and
sealed. When I headed after you I could not so much as catch a glimpse
of your topsail. Soon after I heard as you had gone a-soldiering,
together with that lean, rakish, long-sparred, picaroon-like craft which
I have seen of late in the village. I take it unkind of you that you
have not so much as dipped ensign to me on leaving. But perchance
the tide was favourable, and you could not tarry. Had I not been
jury-rigged, with one of my spars shot away, I should have dearly loved
to have strapped on my hanger and come with you to smell gunpowder once
more. I would do it now, timber-toe and all, were it not for my consort,
who might claim it as a breach of the articles, and so sheer off. I must
follow the light on her poop until we are fairly joined.”’

‘“Farewell, mate! In action, take an old sailor’s advice. Keep the
weather-gauge and board! Tell that to your admiral on the day of battle.
Whisper it in his ear. Say to him, ‘Keep the weather-gauge and board!’
Tell him also to strike quick, strike hard, and keep on striking. That’s
the word of Christopher Mings, and a better man has not been launched,
though he did climb in through the hawse-pipe.--Yours to command,
SOLOMON SPRENT.”’

Sir Gervas had been chuckling to himself during the reading of this
epistle, but at the last part we both broke out a-laughing.

‘Land or sea, he will have it that battles are fought in ships,’
said the Baronet. ‘You should have had that sage piece of advice for
Monmouth’s council to-day. Should he ever ask your opinion it must be,
“Keep the weather-gauge and board!”’

‘I must to sleep,’ said I, laying aside my pipe. ‘I should be on the
road by daybreak.’

‘Nay, I prythee, complete your kindness by letting me have a glimpse of
your respected parent, the Roundhead.’

‘’Tis but a few lines,’ I answered. ‘He was ever short of speech. But
if they interest you, you shall hear them. “I am sending this by a godly
man, my dear son, to say that I trust that you are bearing yourself as
becomes you. In all danger and difficulty trust not to yourself, but
ask help from on high. If you are in authority, teach your men to sing
psalms when they fall on, as is the good old custom. In action give
point rather than edge. A thrust must beat a cut. Your mother and the
others send their affection to you. Sir John Lawson hath been down
here like a ravening wolf, but could find no proof against me. John
Marchbank, of Bedhampton, is cast into prison. Truly Antichrist reigns
in the land, but the kingdom of light is at hand. Strike lustily for
truth and conscience.--Your loving father, JOSEPH CLARKE.”’

‘“Postscriptum (from my mother).--I trust that you will remember what I
have said concerning your hosen and also the broad linen collars, which
you will find in the bag. It is little over a week since you left, yet
it seems a year. When cold or wet, take ten drops of Daffy’s elixir in a
small glass of strong waters. Should your feet chafe, rub tallow on the
inside of your boots. Commend me to Master Saxon and to Master Lockarby,
if he be with you. His father was mad at his going, for he hath a great
brewing going forward, and none to mind the mash-tub. Ruth hath baked a
cake, but the oven hath played her false, and it is lumpy in the inside.
A thousand kisses, dear heart, from your loving mother, M. C.”’

‘A right sensible couple,’ quoth Sir Gervas, who, having completed his
toilet, had betaken him to his couch. ‘I now begin to understand your
manufacture, Clarke. I see the threads that are used in the weaving of
you. Your father looks to your spiritual wants. Your mother concerns
herself with the material. Yet the old carpenter’s preaching is,
methinks, more to your taste. You are a rank latitudinarian, man. Sir
Stephen would cry fie upon you, and Joshua Pettigrue abjure you! Well,
out with the light, for we should both be stirring at cock-crow. That is
our religion at present.’

‘Early Christians,’ I suggested, and we both laughed as we settled down
to sleep.



Chapter XXIII. Of the Snare on the Weston Road

Just after sunrise I was awoke by one of the Mayor’s servants, who
brought word that the Honourable Master Wade was awaiting me downstairs.
Having dressed and descended, I found him seated by the table in the
sitting-room with papers and wafer-box, sealing up the missive which I
was to carry. He was a small, worn, grey-faced man, very erect in his
bearing and sudden in his speech, with more of the soldier than of the
lawyer in his appearance.

‘So,’ said he, pressing his seal above the fastening of the string, ‘I
see that your horse is ready for you outside. You had best make your way
round by Nether Stowey and the Bristol Channel, for we have heard that
the enemy’s horse guard the roads on the far side of Wells. Here is your
packet.’

I bowed and placed it in the inside of my tunic.

‘It is a written order as suggested in the council. The Duke’s reply may
be written, or it may be by word of mouth. In either case guard it well.
This packet contains also a copy of the depositions of the clergyman at
The Hague, and of the other witnesses who saw Charles of England marry
Lucy Walters, the mother of his Majesty. Your mission is one of such
importance that the whole success of our enterprise may turn upon it.
See that you serve the paper upon Beaufort in person, and not through
any intermediary, or it might not stand in a court of law.’

I promised to do so if possible.

‘I should advise you also,’ he continued, ‘to carry sword and pistol as
a protection against the chance dangers of the road, but to discard your
head-piece and steel-front as giving you too warlike an aspect for a
peaceful messenger.’

‘I had already come to that resolve,’ said I.

‘There is nothing more to be said, Captain,’ said the lawyer, giving me
his hand. ‘May all good fortune go with you. Keep a still tongue and a
quick ear. Watch keenly how all things go. Mark whose face is gloomy and
whose content. The Duke may be at Bristol, but you had best make for his
seat at Badminton. Our sign of the day is Tewkesbury.’

Thanking my instructor for his advice I went out and mounted Covenant,
who pawed and champed at his bit in his delight at getting started
once more. Few of the townsmen were stirring, though here and there
a night-bonneted head stared out at me through a casement. I took the
precaution of walking the horse very quietly until we were some distance
from the house, for I had told Reuben nothing of my intended journey,
and I was convinced that if he knew of it neither discipline, nor even
his new ties of love, would prevent him from coming with me. Covenant’s
iron-shod feet rang sharply, in spite of my care, upon the cobblestones,
but looking back I saw that the blinds of my faithful friend’s room
were undrawn, and that all seemed quiet in the house. I shook my bridle,
therefore, and rode at a brisk trot through the silent streets, which
were still strewn with faded flowers and gay with streamers. At the
north gate a guard of half a company was stationed, who let me pass upon
hearing the word. Once beyond the old walls I found myself out on the
country side, with my face to the north and a clear road in front of me.

It was a blithesome morning. The sun was rising over the distant hills,
and heaven and earth were ruddy and golden. The trees in the wayside
orchards were full of swarms of birds, who chattered and sang until the
air was full of their piping. There was lightsomeness and gladness in
every breath. The wistful-eyed red Somerset kine stood along by the
hedgerows, casting great shadows down the fields and gazing at me as
I passed. Farm horses leaned over wooden gates, and snorted a word of
greeting to their glossy-coated brother. A great herd of snowy-fleeced
sheep streamed towards us over the hillside and frisked and gambolled in
the sunshine. All was innocent life, from the lark which sang on high
to the little shrew-mouse which ran amongst the ripening corn, or the
martin which dashed away at the sound of my approach. All alive and all
innocent. What are we to think, my dear children, when we see the beasts
of the field full of kindness and virtue and gratitude? Where is this
superiority of which we talk?

From the high ground to the north I looked back upon the sleeping town,
with the broad edging of tents and waggons, which showed how suddenly
its population had outgrown it. The Royal Standard still fluttered
from the tower of St. Mary Magdalene, while close by its beautiful
brother-turret of St. James bore aloft the blue flag of Monmouth. As
I gazed the quick petulant roll of a drum rose up on the still morning
air, with the clear ringing call of the bugles summoning the troops from
their slumbers. Beyond the town, and on either side of it, stretched a
glorious view of the Somersetshire downs, rolling away to the distant
sea, with town and hamlet, castle turret and church tower, wooded coombe
and stretch of grain-land--as fair a scene as the eye could wish to rest
upon. As I wheeled my horse and sped upon my way I felt, my dears, that
this was a land worth fighting for, and that a man’s life was a small
thing if he could but aid, in however trifling a degree, in working out
its freedom and its happiness. At a little village over the hill I fell
in with an outpost of horse, the commander of which rode some distance
with me, and set me on my road to Nether Stowey. It seemed strange to
my Hampshire eyes to note that the earth is all red in these parts--very
different to the chalk and gravel of Havant. The cows, too, are mostly
red. The cottages are built neither of brick nor of wood, but of some
form of plaster, which they call cob, which is strong and smooth so
long as no water comes near it. They shelter the walls from the rain,
therefore, by great overhanging thatches. There is scarcely a steeple in
the whole country-side, which also seems strange to a man from any other
part of England. Every church hath a square tower, with pinnacles upon
the top, and they are mostly very large, with fine peals of bells.

My course ran along by the foot of the beautiful Quantock Hills, where
heavy-wooded coombes are scattered over the broad heathery downs, deep
with bracken and whortle-bushes. On either side of the track steep
winding glens sloped downwards, lined with yellow gorse, which blazed
out from the deep-red soil like a flame from embers. Peat-coloured
streams splashed down these valleys and over the road, through which
Covenant ploughed fetlock deep, and shied to see the broad-backed trout
darting from between his fore feet.

All day I rode through this beautiful country, meeting few folk, for
I kept away from the main roads. A few shepherds and farmers, a
long-legged clergyman, a packman with his mule, and a horseman with a
great bag, whom I took to be a buyer of hair, are all that I can recall.
A black jack of ale and the heel of a loaf at a wayside inn were all my
refreshments. Near Combwich, Covenant cast a shoe, and two hours were
wasted before I found a smithy in the town and had the matter set right.
It was not until evening that I at last came out upon the banks of the
Bristol Channel, at a place called Shurton Bars, where the muddy Parret
makes its way into the sea. At this point the channel is so broad that
the Welsh mountains can scarcely be distinguished. The shore is flat
and black and oozy, flecked over with white patches of sea-birds, but
further to the east there rises a line of hills, very wild and rugged,
rising in places into steep precipices. These cliffs run out into the
sea, and numerous little harbours and bays are formed in their broken
surface, which are dry half the day, but can float a good-sized boat at
half-tide. The road wound over these bleak and rocky hills, which are
sparsely inhabited by a wild race of fishermen, or shepherds, who came
to their cabin doors on hearing the clatter of my horse’s hoofs, and
shot some rough West-country jest at me as I passed. As the night drew
in the country became bleaker and more deserted. An occasional light
twinkling in the distance from some lonely hillside cottage was the only
sign of the presence of man. The rough track still skirted the sea, and
high as it was, the spray from the breakers drifted across it. The salt
prinkled on my lips, and the air was filled with the hoarse roar of the
surge and the thin piping of curlews, who flitted past in the darkness
like white, shadowy, sad-voiced creatures from some other world. The
wind blew in short, quick, angry puffs from the westward, and far out on
the black waters a single glimmer of light rising and falling, tossing
up, and then sinking out of sight, showed how fierce a sea had risen in
the channel.

Riding through the gloaming in this strange wild scenery my mind
naturally turned towards the past. I thought of my father and my mother,
of the old carpenter and of Solomon Sprent. Then I pondered over Decimus
Saxon, his many-faced character having in it so much to be admired and
so much to be abhorred. Did I like him or no? It was more than I could
say. From him I wandered off to my faithful Reuben, and to his love
passage with the pretty Puritan, which in turn brought me to Sir Gervas
and the wreck of his fortunes. My mind then wandered to the state of the
army and the prospects of the rising, which led me to my present mission
with its perils and its difficulties. Having turned over all these
things in my mind I began to doze upon my horse’s back, overcome by the
fatigue of the journey and the drowsy lullaby of the waves. I had just
fallen into a dream in which I saw Reuben Lockarby crowned King of
England by Mistress Ruth Timewell, while Decimus Saxon endeavoured to
shoot him with a bottle of Daffy’s elixir, when in an instant,
without warning, I was dashed violently from my horse, and left lying
half-conscious on the stony track.

So stunned and shaken was I by the sudden fall, that though I had a dim
knowledge of shadowy figures bending over me, and of hoarse laughter
sounding in my ears, I could not tell for a few minutes where I was nor
what had befallen me. When at last I did make an attempt to recover my
feet I found that a loop of rope had been slipped round my arms and my
legs so as to secure them. With a hard struggle I got one hand free, and
dashed it in the face of one of the men who were holding me down; but
the whole gang of a dozen or more set upon me at once, and while some
thumped and kicked at me, others tied a fresh cord round my elbows, and
deftly fastened it in such a way as to pinion me completely. Finding
that in my weak and dazed state all efforts were of no avail, I lay
sullen and watchful, taking no heed of the random blows which were still
showered upon me. So dark was it that I could neither see the faces of
my attackers, nor form any guess as to who they might be, or how they
had hurled me from my saddle. The champing and stamping of a horse hard
by showed me that Covenant was a prisoner as well as his master.

‘Dutch Pete’s got as much as he can carry,’ said a rough, harsh voice.
‘He lies on the track as limp as a conger.’

‘Ah, poor Pete!’ muttered another. ‘He’ll never deal a card or drain a
glass of the right Cognac again.’

‘There you lie, mine goot vriend,’ said the injured man, in weak,
quavering tones. ‘And I will prove that you lie if you have a flaschen
in your pocket.’

‘If Pete were dead and buried,’ the first speaker said, ‘a word about
strong waters would bring him to. Give him a sup from your bottle,
Dicon.’

There was a great gurgling and sucking in the darkness, followed by a
gasp from the drinker. ‘Gott sei gelobt,’ he exclaimed in a stronger
voice, ‘I have seen more stars than ever were made. Had my kopf not
been well hooped he would have knocked it in like an ill-staved cask. He
shlags like the kick of a horse.’

As he spoke the edge of the moon peeped over a cliff and threw a flood
of cold clear light upon the scene. Looking up I saw that a strong rope
had been tied across the road from one tree trunk to another about eight
feet above the ground. This could not be seen by me, even had I been
fully awake, in the dusk; but catching me across the breast as Covenant
trotted under it, it had swept me off and dashed me with great force to
the ground. Either the fall or the blows which I had received had cut me
badly, for I could feel the blood trickling in a warm stream past my
ear and down my neck. I made no attempt to move, however, but waited in
silence to find out who these men were into whose hands I had fallen.
My one fear was lest my letters should be taken away from me, and my
mission rendered of no avail. That in this, my first trust, I should be
disarmed without a blow and lose the papers which had been confided to
me, was a chance which made me flush and tingle with shame at the very
thought.

The gang who had seized me were rough-bearded fellows in fur caps and
fustian jackets, with buff belts round their waists, from which hung
short straight whinyards. Their dark sun-dried faces and their great
boots marked them as fishermen or seamen, as might be guessed from their
rude sailor speech. A pair knelt on either side with their hands upon
my arms, a third stood behind with a cocked pistol pointed at my head,
while the others, seven or eight in number, were helping to his feet the
man whom I had struck, who was bleeding freely from a cut over the eye.

‘Take the horse up to Daddy Mycroft’s,’ said a stout, black-bearded man,
who seemed to be their leader. ‘It is no mere dragooner hack,(Note
I. Appendix) but a comely, full-blooded brute, which will fetch sixty
pieces at the least. Your share of that, Peter, will buy salve and
plaster for your cut.’

‘Ha, houndsfoot!’ cried the Dutchman, shaking his fist at me. ‘You
would strike Peter, would you? You would draw Peter’s blood, would you?
Tausend Teufel, man! if you and I were together upon the hillside we
should see vich vas the petter man.’

‘Slack your jaw tackle, Pete,’ growled one of his comrades. ‘This fellow
is a limb of Satan for sure, and doth follow a calling that none but a
mean, snivelling, baseborn son of a gun would take to. Yet I warrant,
from the look of him, that he could truss you like a woodcock if he had
his great hands upon you. And you would howl for help as you did last
Martinmas, when you did mistake Cooper Dick’s wife for a gauger.’

‘Truss me, would he? Todt und Holle!’ cried the other, whom the blow
and the brandy had driven to madness. ‘We shall see. Take that, thou
deyvil’s spawn, take that!’ He ran at me, and kicked me as hard as he
could with his heavy sea-boots.

Some of the gang laughed, but the man who had spoken before gave
the Dutchman a shove that sent him whirling. ‘None of that,’ he said
sternly. ‘We’ll have British fair-play on British soil, and none of your
cursed longshore tricks. I won’t stand by and see an Englishman
kicked, d’ye see, by a tub-bellied, round-starned, schnapps-swilling,
chicken-hearted son of an Amsterdam lust-vrouw. Hang him, if the skipper
likes. That’s all above board, but by thunder, if it’s a fight that you
will have, touch that man again.’

‘All right, Dicon,’ said their leader soothingly. ‘We all know that
Pete’s not a fighting man, but he’s the best cooper on the coast, eh,
Pete? There is not his equal at staving, hooping, and bumping. He’ll
take a plank of wood and turn it into a keg while another man would be
thinking of it.’

‘Oh, you remember that, Captain Murgatroyd,’ said the Dutchman sulkily.
‘But you see me knocked about and shlagged, and bullied, and called
names, and what help have I? So help me, when the _Maria_ is in the
Texel next, I’ll take to my old trade, I will, and never set foot on her
again.’

‘No fear,’ the Captain answered, laughing. ‘While the _Maria_ brings in
five thousand good pieces a year, and can show her heels to any cutter
on the coast, there is no fear of greedy Pete losing his share of her.
Why, man, at this rate you may have a lust-haus of your own in a year or
two, with a trimmed lawn, and the trees all clipped like peacocks, and
the flowers in pattern, and a canal by the door, and a great bouncing
house-wife just like any Burgomeister. There’s many such a fortune been
made out of Mechlin and Cognac.’

‘Aye, and there’s many a broken kopf got over Mechlin and Cognac,’
grumbled my enemy. ‘Donner! There are other things beside lust-houses
and flower-beds. There are lee-shores and nor’-westers, beaks and
preventives.’

‘And there’s where the smart seaman has the pull over the herring buss,
or the skulking coaster that works from Christmas to Christmas with all
the danger and none of the little pickings. But enough said! Up with the
prisoner, and let us get him safely into the bilboes.’

I was raised to my feet and half carried, half dragged along in the
midst of the gang. My horse had already been led away in the opposite
direction. Our course lay off the road, down a very rocky and rugged
ravine which sloped away towards the sea. There seemed to be no trace of
a path, and I could only stumble along over rocks and bushes as best I
might in my fettered and crippled state. The blood, however, had
dried over my wounds, and the cool sea breeze playing upon my forehead
refreshed me, and helped me to take a clearer view of my position.

It was plain from their talk that these men were smugglers. As such,
they were not likely to have any great love for the Government, or
desire to uphold King James in any way. On the contrary, their goodwill
would probably be with Monmouth, for had I not seen the day before a
whole regiment of foot in his army, raised from among the coaster folk?
On the other hand, their greed might be stronger than their loyalty, and
might lead them to hand me over to justice in the hope of reward. On the
whole it would be best, I thought, to say nothing of my mission, and to
keep my papers secret as long as possible.

But I could not but wonder, as I was dragged along, what had led these
men to lie in wait for me as they had done. The road along which I had
travelled was a lonely one, and yet a fair number of travellers bound
from the West through Weston to Bristol must use it. The gang could
not lie in perpetual guard over it. Why had they set a trap on this
particular night, then? The smugglers were a lawless and desperate body,
but they did not, as a rule, descend to foot-paddery or robbery. As long
as no one interfered with them they were seldom the first to break the
peace. Then, why had they lain in wait for me, who had never injured
them? Could it possibly be that I had been betrayed? I was still turning
over these questions in my mind when we all came to a halt, and the
Captain blew a shrill note on a whistle which hung round his neck.

The place where we found ourselves was the darkest and most rugged spot
in the whole wild gorge. On either side great cliffs shot up, which
arched over our heads, with a fringe of ferns and bracken on either lip,
so that the dark sky and the few twinkling stars were well-nigh hid.
Great black rocks loomed vaguely out in the shadowy light, while in
front a high tangle of what seemed to be brushwood barred our road. At a
second whistle, however, a glint of light was seen through the branches,
and the whole mass was swung to one side as though it moved upon a
hinge. Beyond it a dark winding passage opened into the side of the
hill, down which we went with our backs bowed, for the rock ceiling was
of no great height. On every side of us sounded the throbbing of the
sea.

Passing through the entrance, which must have been dug with great labour
through the solid rock, we came out into a lofty and roomy cave, lit
up by a fire at one end, and by several torches. By their smoky yellow
glare I could see that the roof was, at least, fifty feet above us, and
was hung by long lime-crystals, which sparkled and gleamed with great
brightness. The floor of the cave was formed of fine sand, as soft and
velvety as a Wilton carpet, sloping down in a way which showed that the
cave must at its mouth open upon the sea, which was confirmed by the
booming and splashing of the waves, and by the fresh salt air which
filled the whole cavern. No water could be seen, however, as a sharp
turn cut off our view of the outlet.

In this rock-girt space, which may have been sixty paces long and
thirty across, there were gathered great piles of casks, kegs and cases;
muskets, cutlasses, staves, cudgels, and straw were littered about upon
the floor. At one end a high wood fire blazed merrily, casting strange
shadows along the walls, and sparkling like a thousand diamonds among
the crystals on the roof. The smoke was carried away through a great
cleft in the rocks. Seated on boxes, or stretched on the sand round the
fire, there were seven or eight more of the band, who sprang to their
feet and ran eagerly towards us as we entered.

Have ye got him?’ they cried. ‘Did he indeed come? Had he attendants?’

‘He is here, and he is alone,’ the Captain answered. ‘Our hawser fetched
him off his horse as neatly as ever a gull was netted by a cragsman.
What have ye done in our absence, Silas!’

‘We have the packs ready for carriage,’ said the man addressed, a
sturdy, weather-beaten seaman of middle age. ‘The silk and lace are done
in these squares covered over with sacking. The one I have marked “yarn”
 and the other “jute”--a thousand of Mechlin to a hundred of the shiny.
They will sling over a mule’s back. Brandy, schnapps, Schiedam, and
Hamburg Goldwasser are all set out in due order. The ‘baccy is in the
flat cases over by the Black Drop there. A plaguey job we had carrying
it all out, but here it is ship-shape at last, and the lugger floats
like a skimming dish, with scarce ballast enough to stand up to a
five-knot breeze.’

‘Any signs of the _Fairy Queen_?’ asked the smuggler.

‘None. Long John is down at the water’s edge looking out for her
flash-light. This wind should bring her up if she has rounded
Combe-Martin Point. There was a sail about ten miles to the
east-nor’-east at sundown. She might have been a Bristol schooner, or
she might have been a King’s fly-boat.’

‘A King’s crawl-boat,’ said Captain Murgatroyd, with a sneer. ‘We cannot
hang the gauger until Venables brings up the _Fairy Queen_, for after
all it was one of his hands that was snackled. Let him do his own dirty
work.’

‘Tausend Blitzen!’ cried the ruffian Dutchman, ‘would it not be a kindly
grass to Captain Venables to chuck the gauger down the Black Drop ere he
come? He may have such another job to do for us some day.’

‘Zounds, man, are you in command or am I?’ said the leader angrily.
‘Bring the prisoner forward to the fire! Now, hark ye, dog of a
land-shark; you are as surely a dead man as though you were laid out
with the tapers burning. See here’--he lifted a torch, and showed by
its red light a great crack in the floor across the far end of the
cave--‘you can judge of the Black Drop’s depth!’ he said, raising an
empty keg and tossing it over into the yawning gulf. For ten seconds
we stood silent before a dull distant clatter told that it had at last
reached the bottom.

‘It will carry him half-way to hell before the breath leaves him,’ said
one.

‘It’s an easier death than the Devizes gallows!’ cried a second.

‘Nay, he shall have the gallows first!’ a third shouted. ‘It is but his
burial that we are arranging.’

‘He hath not opened his mouth since we took him,’ said the man who was
called Dicon. ‘Is he a mute, then? Find your tongue, my fine fellow, and
let us hear what your name is. It would have been well for you if you
had been born dumb, so that you could not have sworn our comrade’s life
away.’

‘I have been waiting for a civil question after all this brawling and
brabbling,’ said I. ‘My name is Micah Clarke. Now, pray inform me who ye
may be, and by what warrant ye stop peaceful travellers upon the public
highway?’

‘This is our warrant,’ Murgatroyd answered, touching the hilt of his
cutlass. ‘As to who we are, ye know that well enough. Your name is
not Clarke, but Westhouse, or Waterhouse, and you are the same cursed
exciseman who snackled our poor comrade, Cooper Dick, and swore away his
life at Ilchester.’

‘I swear that you are mistaken,’ I replied. ‘I have never in my life
been in these parts before.’

‘Fine words! Fine words!’ cried another smuggler. ‘Gauger or no, you
must jump for it, since you know the secret of our cave.’

‘Your secret is safe with me,’ I answered. ‘But if ye wish to murder me,
I shall meet my fate as a soldier should. I should have chosen to die on
the field of battle, rather than to lie at the mercy of such a pack of
water-rats in their burrow.’

‘My faith!’ said Murgatroyd. ‘This is too tall talk for a gauger. He
bears himself like a soldier, too. It is possible that in snaring the
owl we have caught the falcon. Yet we had certain token that he would
come this way, and on such another horse.’

‘Call up Long John,’ suggested the Dutchman. ‘I vould not give a plug of
Trinidado for the Schelm’s word. Long John was with Cooper Dick when he
was taken.’

‘Aye,’ growled the mate Silas. ‘He got a wipe over the arm from the
gauger’s whinyard. He’ll know his face, if any will.’

‘Call him, then,’ said Murgatroyd, and presently a long, loose-limbed
seaman came up from the mouth of the cave, where he had been on watch.
He wore a red kerchief round his forehead, and a blue jerkin, the sleeve
of which he slowly rolled up as he came nigh.

‘Where is Gauger Westhouse?’ he cried; ‘he has left his mark on my arm.
Rat me, if the scar is healed yet. The sun is on our side of the wall
now, gauger. But hullo, mates! Who be this that ye have clapped into
irons? This is not our man!’

‘Not our man!’ they cried, with a volley of curses.

‘Why, this fellow would make two of the gauger, and leave enough over
to fashion a magistrate’s clerk. Ye may hang him to make sure, but still
he’s not the man.’

‘Yes, hang him!’ said Dutch Pete. ‘Sapperment! is our cave to be the
talk of all the country? Vere is the pretty _Maria_ to go then, vid her
silks and her satins, her kegs and her cases’? Are we to risk our
cave for the sake of this fellow? Besides, has he not schlagged my
kopf--schlagged your cooper’s kopf--as if he had hit me mit mine own
mallet? Is that not vorth a hemp cravat?’

‘Worth a jorum of rumbo,’ cried Dicon. ‘By your leave, Captain, I would
say that we are not a gang of padders and michers, but a crew of honest
seamen, who harm none but those who harm us. Exciseman Westhouse hath
slain Cooper Dick, and it is just that he should die for it; but as to
taking this young soldier’s life, I’d as soon think of scuttling the
saucy _Maria_, or of mounting the Jolly Roger at her peak.’

What answer would have been given to this speech I cannot tell, for
at that moment a shrill whistle resounded outside the cave, and two
smugglers appeared bearing between them the body of a man. It hung so
limp that I thought at first that he might be dead, but when they threw
him on the sand he moved, and at last sat up like one who is but half
awoken from a swoon. He was a square dogged-faced fellow, with a long
white scar down his cheek, and a close-fitting blue coat with brass
buttons.

‘It’s Gauger Westhouse!’ cried a chorus of voices. ‘Yes, it is Gauger
Westhouse,’ said the man calmly, giving his neck a wriggle as though he
were in pain. ‘I represent the King’s law, and in its name I arrest ye
all, and declare all the contraband goods which I see around me to be
confiscate and forfeited, according to the second section of the first
clause of the statute upon illegal dealing. If there are any honest men
in this company, they will assist me in the execution of my duty.’ He
staggered to his feet as he spoke, but his spirit was greater than his
strength, and he sank back upon the sand amid a roar of laughter from
the rough seamen.

‘We found him lying on the road when we came from Daddy Mycroft’s,’ said
one of the new-comers, who were the same men who had led away my horse.
‘He must have passed just after you left, and the rope caught him under
the chin and threw him a dozen paces. We saw the revenue button on his
coat, so we brought him down. Body o’ me, but he kicked and plunged for
all that he was three-quarters stunned.’

‘Have ye slacked the hawser?’ the Captain asked.

‘We cast one end loose and let it hang.’

‘’Tis well. We must keep him for Captain Venables. But now, as to our
other prisoner: we must overhaul him and examine his papers, for so many
craft are sailing under false colours that we must needs be careful.
Hark ye, Mister Soldier! What brings you to these parts, and what king
do you serve? for I hear there’s a mutiny broke out, and two skippers
claim equal rating in the old British ship.’

‘I am serving under King Monmouth,’ I answered, seeing that the proposed
search must end in the finding of my papers.

‘Under King Monmouth!’ cried the smuggler. ‘Nay, friend, that rings
somewhat false. The good King hath, I hear, too much need of his friends
in the south to let an able soldier go wandering along the sea coast
like a Cornish wrecker in a sou’-wester.’

‘I bear despatches,’ said I, ‘from the King’s own hand to Henry Duke
of Beaufort, at his castle at Badminton. Ye can find them in my inner
pocket, but I pray ye not to break the seal, lest it bring discredit
upon my mission.’

‘Sir,’ cried the gauger, raising himself upon his elbow, ‘I do hereby
arrest you on the charge of being a traitor, a promoter of treason, a
vagrant, and a masterless man within the meaning of the fourth statute
of the Act. As an officer of the law I call upon you to submit to my
warrant.’

‘Brace up his jaw with your scarf, Jim,’ said Murgatroyd. ‘When Venables
comes he will soon find a way to check his gab. Yes,’ he continued,
looking at the back of my papers, ‘it is marked, as you say, “From James
the Second of England, known lately as the Duke of Monmouth, to Henry
Duke of Beaufort, President of Wales, by the hand of Captain Micah
Clarke, of Saxon’s regiment of Wiltshire foot.” Cast off the lashings,
Dicon. So, Captain, you are a free man once more, and I grieve that we
should have unwittingly harmed you. We are good Lutherans to a man, and
would rather speed you than hinder you on this mission.’

‘Could we not indeed help him on his way!’ said the mate Silas. ‘For
myself, I don’t fear a wet jacket or a tarry hand for the cause, and
I doubt not ye are all of my way of thinking. Now with this breeze we
could run up to Bristol and drop the Captain by morning, which would
save him from being snapped up by any land-sharks on the road.’

‘Aye, aye,’ cried Long John. ‘The King’s horse are out beyond Weston,
but he could give them the slip if he had the _Maria_ under him.’

‘Well,’ said Murgatroyd, ‘we could get back by three long tacks.
Venables will need a day or so to get his goods ashore. If we are to
sail back in company we shall have time on our hands. How would the plan
suit you, Captain?’

‘My horse!’ I objected.

‘It need not stop us. I can rig up a handy horse-stall with my spare
spars and the grating. The wind has died down. The lugger could be
brought to Dead Man’s Edge, and the horse led down to it. Run up to
Daddy’s, Jim; and you, Silas, see to the boat. Here is some cold junk
and biscuit--seaman’s fare, Captain--and a glass o’ the real Jamaica to
wash it down an’ thy stomach be not too dainty for rough living.’

I seated myself on a barrel by the fire, and stretched my limbs, which
were cramped and stiffened by their confinement, while one of the seamen
bathed the cut on my head with a wet kerchief, and another laid out some
food on a case in front of me. The rest of the gang had trooped away to
the mouth of the cave to prepare the lugger, save only two or three who
stood on guard round the ill-fated gauger. He lay with his back resting
against the wall of the cave, and his arms crossed over his breast,
glancing round from time to time at the smugglers with menacing eyes, as
a staunch old hound might gaze at a pack of wolves who had overmatched
him. I was turning it over in my own mind whether aught could be done to
help him, when Murgatroyd came over, and dipping a tin pannikin into the
open rum tub, drained it to the success of my mission.

‘I shall send Silas Bolitho with you,’ said he, ‘while I bide here to
meet Venables, who commands my consort. If there is aught that I can do
to repay you for your ill usage--’

‘There is but one thing, Captain,’ I broke in eagerly. ‘It is as much,
or more, for your own sake than mine that I ask it. Do not allow this
unhappy man to be murdered.’

Murgatroyd’s face flushed with anger. ‘You are a plain speaker, Captain
Clarke,’ said he. ‘This is no murder. It is justice. What harm do we
here? There is not an old housewife over the whole countryside who does
not bless us. Where is she to buy her souchong, or her strong waters,
except from us! We charge little, and force our goods on no one. We are
peaceful traders. Yet this man and his fellows are ever yelping at our
heels, like so many dogfish on a cod bank. We have been harried, and
chivied, and shot at until we are driven into such dens as this. A month
ago, four of our men were bearing a keg up the hillside to Farmer Black,
who hath dealt with us these five years back. Of a sudden, down came
half a score of horse, led by this gauger, hacked and slashed with their
broad-swords, cut Long John’s arm open, and took Cooper Dick prisoner.
Dick was haled to Ilchester Gaol, and hung up after the assizes like
a stoat on a gamekeeper’s door. This night we had news that this very
gauger was coming this way, little knowing that we should be on the
look-out for him. Is it a wonder that we should lay a trap for him, and
that, having caught him, we should give him the same justice as he gave
our comrades?’

‘He is but a servant, I argued. ‘He hath not made the law. It is his
duty to enforce it. It is with the law itself that your quarrel is.’

‘You are right,’ said the smuggler gloomily. ‘It is with Judge Moorcroft
that we have our chief account to square. He may pass this road upon his
circuit. Heaven send he does! But we shall hang the gauger too. He knows
our cave now, and it would be madness to let him go.’

I saw that it was useless to argue longer, so I contented myself with
dropping my pocket-knife on the sand within reach of the prisoner, in
the hope that it might prove to be of some service to him. His guards
were laughing and joking together, and giving little heed to their
charge, but the gauger was keen enough, for I saw his hand close over
it.

I had walked and smoked for an hour or more, when Silas the mate
appeared, and said that the lugger was ready and the horse aboard.
Bidding Murgatroyd farewell, I ventured a few more words in favour of
the gauger, which were received with a frown and an angry shake of the
head. A boat was drawn up on the sand, inside the cave, at the water’s
edge. Into this I stepped, as directed, with my sword and pistols, which
had been given back to me, while the crew pushed her off and sprang in
as she glided into deep water.

I could see by the dim light of the single torch which Murgatroyd held
upon the margin, that the roof of the cave sloped sheer down upon us as
we sculled slowly out towards the entrance. So low did it come at last
that there was only a space of a few feet between it and the water, and
we had to bend our heads to avoid the rocks above us. The boatmen gave
two strong strokes, and we shot out from under the overhanging ledge,
and found ourselves in the open with the stars shining murkily above
us, and the moon showing herself dimly and cloudily through a gathering
haze. Right in front of us was a dark blur, which, as we pulled towards
it, took the outline of a large lugger rising and falling with the pulse
of the sea. Her tall thin spars and delicate network of cordage towered
above us as we glided under the counter, while the creaking of blocks
and rattle of ropes showed that she was all ready to glide off upon her
journey. Lightly and daintily she rode upon the waters, like some giant
seafowl, spreading one white pinion after another in preparation for
her flight. The boatmen ran us alongside and steadied the dinghy while I
climbed over the bulwarks on to the deck.

She was a roomy vessel, very broad in the beam, with a graceful curve in
her bows, and masts which were taller than any that I had seen on such
a boat on the Solent. She was decked over in front, but very deep in the
after part, with ropes fixed all round the sides to secure kegs when the
hold should be full. In the midst of this after-deck the mariners had
built a strong stall, in which my good steed was standing, with a bucket
full of oats in front of him. My old friend shoved his nose against my
face as I came aboard, and neighed his pleasure at finding his master
once more. We were still exchanging caresses when the grizzled head of
Silas Bolitho the mate popped out of the cabin hatchway.

‘We are fairly on our way now, Captain Clarke,’ said he. ‘The breeze
has fallen away to nothing, as you can see, and we may be some time in
running down to our port. Are you not aweary?’

‘I am a little tired,’ I confessed. ‘My head is throbbing from the crack
I got when that hawser of yours dashed me from my saddle.’

‘An hour or two of sleep will make you as fresh as a Mother Carey’s
chicken,’ said the smuggler. ‘Your horse is well cared for, and you can
leave him without fear. I will set a man to tend him, though, truth to
say, the rogues know more about studding-sails and halliards than they
do of steeds and their requirements. Yet no harm can come to him, so you
had best come down and turn in.’

I descended the steep stairs which led down into the low-roofed cabin of
the lugger. On either side a recess in the wall had been fitted up as a
couch.

‘This is your bed,’ said he, pointing to one of them. ‘We shall call
you if there be aught to report.’ I needed no second invitation, but
flinging myself down without undressing, I sank in a few minutes into
a dreamless sleep, which neither the gentle motion of the boat nor the
clank of feet above my head could break off.



Chapter XXIV. Of the Welcome that met me at Badminton

When I opened my eyes I had some ado to recall where I was, but on
sitting up it was brought home to me by my head striking the low ceiling
with a sharp rap. On the other side of the cabin Silas Bolitho was
stretched at full length with a red woollen nightcap upon his head, fast
asleep and snoring. In the centre of the cabin hung a swing-table,
much worn, and stained all over with the marks of countless glasses
and pannikins. A wooden bench, screwed to the floor, completed the
furniture, with the exception of a stand of muskets along one side.
Above and below the berths in which we lay were rows of lockers, in
which, doubtless, some of the more choice laces and silks were stowed.
The vessel was rising and falling with a gentle motion, but from the
flapping of canvas I judged that there was little wind. Slipping quietly
from my couch, so as not to wake the mate, I stole upon deck.

We were, I found, not only becalmed, but hemmed in by a dense fog-bank
which rolled in thick, choking wreaths all round us, and hid the very
water beneath us. We might have been a ship of the air riding upon
a white cloud-bank. Now and anon a little puff of breeze caught the
foresail and bellied it out for a moment, only to let it flap back
against the mast, limp and slack, once more. A sunbeam would at times
break through the dense cloud, and would spangle the dead grey wall with
a streak of rainbow colour, but the haze would gather in again and shut
off the bright invader. Covenant was staring right and left with great
questioning eyes. The crew were gathered along the bulwarks and smoking
their pipes while they peered out into the dense fog.

‘God den, Captain,’ said Dicon, touching his fur cap. ‘We have had a
rare run while the breeze lasted, and the mate reckoned before he turned
in that we were not many miles from Bristol town.’

‘In that case, my good fellow,’ I answered, ‘ye can set me ashore, for I
have not far to go.’

‘We must e’en wait till the fog lifts,’ said Long John. ‘There’s only
one place along here, d’ye see, where we can land cargoes unquestioned.
When it clears we shall turn her head for it, but until we can take our
bearings it is anxious work wi’ the sands under our lee.’

‘Keep a look-out there, Tom Baldock!’ cried Dicon to a man in the bows.
‘We are in the track of every Bristol ship, and though there’s so little
wind, a high-sparred craft might catch a breeze which we miss.’

‘Sh!’ said Long John suddenly, holding up his hand in warning. ‘Sh!’

We listened with all our ears, but there was no sound, save the gentle
wash of the unseen waves against our sides.

‘Call the mate!’ whispered the seaman. ‘There’s a craft close by us. I
heard the rattle of a rope upon her deck.’

Silas Bolitho was up in an instant, and we all stood straining our ears,
and peering through the dense fog-bank. We had well-nigh made up our
minds that it was a false alarm, and the mate was turning back in no
very good humour, when a clear loud bell sounded seven times quite
close to us, followed by a shrill whistle and a confused shouting and
stamping.

‘It’s a King’s ship,’ growled the mate. ‘That’s seven bells, and the
bo’sun is turning out the watch below.’

‘It was on our quarter,’ whispered one.

‘Nay, I think it was on our larboard bow,’ said another.

The mate held up his hand, and we all listened for some fresh sign
of the whereabouts of our scurvy neighbour. The wind had freshened a
little, and we were slipping through the water at four or five knots
an hour. Of a sudden a hoarse voice was heard roaring at our very side.
‘’Bout ship!’ it shouted. ‘Bear a hand on the lee-braces, there! Stand
by the halliards! Bear a hand, ye lazy rogues, or I’ll be among ye with
my cane, with a wannion to ye!’

‘It is a King’s ship, sure enough, and she lies just there,’ said Long
John, pointing out over the quarter. ‘Merchant adventurers have
civil tongues. It’s your blue-coated, gold-braided, swivel-eyed,
quarter-deckers that talk of canes. Ha! did I not tell ye!’

As he spoke, the white screen of vapour rolled up like the curtain in
a playhouse, and uncovered a stately war-ship, lying so close that we
could have thrown a biscuit aboard. Her long, lean, black hull rose
and fell with a slow, graceful rhythm, while her beautiful spars and
snow-white sails shot aloft until they were lost in the wreaths of fog
which still hung around her. Nine bright brass cannons peeped out at us
from her portholes. Above the line of hammocks, which hung like carded
wool along her bulwarks, we could see the heads of the seamen staring
down at us, and pointing us out to each other. On the high poop stood an
elderly officer with cocked hat and trim white wig, who at once whipped
up his glass and gazed at us through it.

‘Ahoy, there!’ he shouted, leaning over the taffrail. ‘What lugger is
that?’

‘The _Lucy_,’ answered the mate, ‘bound from Porlock Quay to Bristol
with hides and tallow. Stand ready to tack!’ he added in a lower voice,
‘the fog is coming down again.’

‘Ye have one of the hides with the horse still in it,’ cried the
officer. ‘Run down under our counter. We must have a closer look at ye.’

‘Aye, aye, sir!’ said the mate, and putting his helm hard down the boom
swung across, and the _Maria_ darted off like a scared seabird into the
fog. Looking back there was nothing but a dim loom to show where we had
left the great vessel. We could hear, however, the hoarse shouting of
orders and the bustle of men.

‘Look out for squalls, lads!’ cried the mate. ‘He’ll let us have it
now.’

He had scarcely spoken before there were half-a-dozen throbs of flame in
the mist behind, and as many balls sung among our rigging. One cut away
the end of the yard, and left it dangling; another grazed the bowsprit,
and sent a puff of white splinters into the air.

‘Warm work, Captain, eh?’ said old Silas, rubbing his hands. ‘Zounds,
they shoot better in the dark than ever they did in the light. There
have been more shots fired at this lugger than she could carry wore she
loaded with them. And yet they never so much as knocked the paint off
her before. There they go again!’

A fresh discharge burst from the man-of-war, but this time they had lost
all trace of us, and were firing by guess.

‘That is their last bark, sir,’ said Dicon.

‘No fear. They’ll blaze away for the rest of the day,’ growled another
of the smugglers. ‘Why, Lor’ bless ye, it’s good exercise for the crew,
and the ‘munition is the King’s, so it don’t cost nobody a groat.’

‘It’s well the breeze freshened,’ said Long John. ‘I heard the creak o’
davits just after the first discharge. She was lowering her boats, or
I’m a Dutchman.’

‘The petter for you if you vas, you seven-foot stock-fish,’ cried my
enemy the cooper, whose aspect was not improved by a great strip of
plaster over his eye. ‘You might have learned something petter than to
pull on a rope, or to swab decks like a vrouw all your life.’

‘I’ll set you adrift in one of your own barrels, you skin of lard,’ said
the seaman. ‘How often are we to trounce you before we knock the sauce
out of you?’

‘The fog lifts a little towards the land,’ Silas remarked. ‘Methinks I
see the loom of St. Austin’s Point. It rises there upon the starboard
bow.’

‘There it is, sure enough, sir!’ cried one of the seamen, pointing to a
dark cape which cut into the mist.

‘Steer for the three-fathom creek then,’ said the mate. ‘When we are on
the other side of the point, Captain Clarke, we shall be able to land
your horse and yourself. You will then be within a few hours’ ride of
your destination.’

I led the old seaman aside, and having thanked him for the kindness
which he had shown me, I spoke to him of the gauger, and implored him to
use his influence to save the man.

‘It rests with Captain Venables,’ said he gloomily. ‘If we let him go
what becomes of our cave?’

‘Is there no way of insuring his silence?’ I asked. ‘Well, we might ship
him to the Plantations,’ said the mate. ‘We could take him to the Texel
with us, and get Captain Donders or some other to give him a lift across
the western ocean.’

‘Do so,’ said I, ‘and I shall take care that King Monmouth shall hear of
the help which ye have given his messenger.’

‘Well, we shall be there in a brace of shakes,’ he remarked. ‘Let us go
below and load your ground tier, for there is nothing like starting well
trimmed with plenty of ballast in the hold.’

Following the sailor’s advice I went down with him and enjoyed a rude
but plentiful meal. By the time that we had finished, the lugger had
been run into a narrow creek, with shelving sandy banks on either side.
The district was wild and marshy, with few signs of any inhabitants.
With much coaxing and pushing Covenant was induced to take to the water,
and swam easily ashore, while I followed in the smuggler’s dinghy. A
few words of rough, kindly leave-taking were shouted after me; I saw the
dinghy return, and the beautiful craft glided out to sea and faded away
once more into the mists which still hung over the face of the waters.

Truly Providence works in strange ways, my children, and until a
man comes to the autumn of his days he can scarce say what hath been
ill-luck and what hath been good. For of all the seeming misfortunes
which have befallen me during my wandering life, there is not one which
I have not come to look upon as a blessing. And if you once take this
into your hearts, it is a mighty help in enabling you to meet all
troubles with a stiff lip; for why should a man grieve when he hath not
yet determined whether what hath chanced may not prove to be a cause of
rejoicing. Now here ye will perceive that I began by being dashed upon
a stony road, beaten, kicked, and finally well-nigh put to death in
mistake for another. Yet it ended in my being safely carried to my
journey’s end, whereas, had I gone by land, it is more than likely that
I should have been cut off at Weston; for, as I heard afterwards, a
troop of horse were making themselves very active in those parts by
blocking the roads and seizing all who came that way.

Being now alone, my first care was to bathe my face and hands in a
stream which ran down to the sea, and to wipe away any trace of my
adventures of the night before. My cut was but a small one, and was
concealed by my hair. Having reduced myself to some sort of order I next
rubbed down my horse as best I could, and rearranged his girth and his
saddle. I then led him by the bridle to the top of a sandhill hard by,
whence I might gain some idea as to my position.

The fog lay thick upon the Channel, but all inland was very clear and
bright. Along the coast the country was dreary and marshy, but at the
other side a goodly extent of fertile plain lay before me, well tilled
and cared for. A range of lofty hills, which I guessed to be the
Mendips, bordered the whole skyline, and further north there lay a
second chain in the blue distance. The glittering Avon wound its way
over the country-side like a silver snake in a flower-bed. Close to its
mouth, and not more than two leagues from where I stood, rose the spires
and towers of stately Bristol, the Queen of the West, which was and
still may be the second city in the kingdom. The forests of masts which
shot up like a pinegrove above the roofs of the houses bore witness to
the great trade both with Ireland and with the Plantations which had
built up so flourishing a city.

As I knew that the Duke’s seat was miles on the Gloucestershire side of
the city, and as I feared lest I might be arrested and examined should I
attempt to pass the gates, I struck inland with intent to ride round the
walls and so avoid the peril. The path which I followed led me into a
country lane, which in turn opened into a broad highway crowded with
travellers, both on horseback and on foot. As the troublous times
required that a man should journey with his arms, there was naught in
my outfit to excite remark, and I was able to jog on among the other
horsemen without question or suspicion. From their appearance they were,
I judged, country farmers or squires for the most part, who were riding
into Bristol to hear the news, and to store away their things of price
in a place of safety.

‘By your leave, zur!’ said a burly, heavy-faced man in a velveteen
jacket, riding up upon my bridle-arm. ‘Can you tell me whether his Grace
of Beaufort is in Bristol or at his house o’ Badminton?’

I answered that I could not tell, but that I was myself bound for his
presence.

‘He was in Bristol yestreen a-drilling o’ the train-bands,’ said the
stranger; ‘but, indeed, his Grace be that loyal, and works that hard for
his Majesty’s cause, that he’s a’ ower the county, and it is but chance
work for to try and to catch him. But if you are about to zeek him,
whither shall you go?’

‘I will to Badminton,’ I answered, ‘and await him there. Can you tell me
the way?’

‘What! Not know the way to Badminton!’ he cried, with a blank stare of
wonder. ‘Whoy, I thought all the warld knew that. You’re not fra Wales
or the border counties, zur, that be very clear.’

‘I am a Hampshire man,’ said I. ‘I have come some distance to see the
Duke.’

‘Aye, so I should think!’ he cried, laughing loudly. ‘If you doan’t know
the way to Badminton you doan’t know much! But I’ll go with you, danged
if I doan’t, and I’ll show you your road, and run my chance o’ finding
the Duke there. What be your name?’

‘Micah Clarke is my name.’

‘And Vairmer Brown is mine--John Brown by the register, but better
knowed as the Vairmer. Tak’ this turn to the right off the high-road.
Now we can trot our beasts and not be smothered in other folk’s dust.
And what be you going to Beaufort for?’

‘On private matters which will not brook discussion,’ I answered.

‘Lor’, now! Affairs o’ State belike,’ said he, with a whistle. ‘Well, a
still tongue saves many a neck. I’m a cautious man myself, and these be
times when I wouldna whisper some o’ my thoughts--no, not into the ears
o’ my old brown mare here--for fear I’d see her some day standing over
against me in the witness-box.’

‘They seem very busy over there,’ I remarked, for we were now in full
sight of the walls of Bristol, where gangs of men were working hard with
pick and shovel improving the defences.

‘Aye, they be busy sure enough, makin’ ready in case the rebels come
this road. Cromwell and his tawnies found it a rasper in my vather’s
time, and Monmouth is like to do the same.’

‘It hath a strong garrison, too,’ said I, bethinking me of Saxon’s
advice at Salisbury. ‘I see two or three regiments out yonder on the
bare open space.’

‘They have four thousand foot and a thousand horse,’ the farmer
answered. ‘But the foot are only train-bands, and there’s no trusting
them after Axminster. They say up here that the rebels run to nigh
twenty thousand, and that they give no quarter. Well, if we must have
civil war, I hope it may be hot and sudden, not spun out for a dozen
years like the last one. If our throats are to be cut, let it be with a
shairp knife, and not with a blunt hedge shears.’

‘What say you to a stoup of cider?’ I asked, for we were passing an
ivy-clad inn, with ‘The Beaufort Arms’ printed upon the sign.

‘With all my heart, lad,’ my companion answered. ‘Ho, there! two pints
of the old hard-brewed! That will serve to wash the dust down. The real
Beaufort Arms is up yonder at Badminton, for at the buttery hatch one
may call for what one will in reason and never put hand to pocket.’

‘You speak of the house as though you knew it well,’ said I.

‘And who should know it better?’ asked the sturdy farmer, wiping his
lips, as we resumed our journey. ‘Why, it seems but yesterday that I
played hide-and-seek wi’ my brothers in the old Boteler Castle, that
stood where the new house o’ Badminton, or Acton Turville, as some calls
it, now stands. The Duke hath built it but a few years, and, indeed, his
Dukedom itself is scarce older. There are some who think that he would
have done better to stick by the old name that his forebears bore.’

‘What manner of man is the Duke?’ I asked.

‘Hot and hasty, like all of his blood. Yet when he hath time to think,
and hath cooled down, he is just in the main. Your horse hath been in
the water this morning, vriend.’

‘Yes,’ said I shortly, ‘he hath had a bath.’

‘I am going to his Grace on the business of a horse,’ quoth my
companion. ‘His officers have pressed my piebald four-year-old, and
taken it without a “With your leave,” or “By your leave,” for the use of
the King. I would have them know that there is something higher than
the Duke, or even than the King. There is the English law, which will
preserve a man’s goods and his chattels. I would do aught in reason for
King James’s service, but my piebald four-year-old is too much.’

‘I fear that the needs of the public service will override your
objection,’ said I.

‘Why it is enough to make a man a Whig,’ he cried. ‘Even the Roundheads
always paid their vair penny for every pennyworth they had, though they
wanted a vair pennyworth for each penny. I have heard my father say that
trade was never so brisk as in ‘forty-six, when they were down this way.
Old Noll had a noose of hemp ready for horse-stealers, were they for
King or for Parliament. But here comes his Grace’s carriage, if I
mistake not.’

As he spoke a great heavy yellow coach, drawn by six cream-coloured
Flemish mares, dashed down the road, and came swiftly towards us. Two
mounted lackeys galloped in front, and two others all in light blue and
silver liveries rode on either side.

‘His Grace is not within, else there had been an escort behind,’ said
the farmer, as we reined our horses aside to let the carriage pass. As
they swept by he shouted out a question as to whether the Duke was at
Badminton, and received a nod from the stately bewigged coachman in
reply.

‘We are in luck to catch him,’ said Farmer Brown. ‘He’s as hard to find
these days as a crake in a wheatfield. We should be there in an hour
or less. I must thank you that I did not take a fruitless journey into
Bristol. What did you say your errand was?’

I was again compelled to assure him that the matter was not one of which
I could speak with a stranger, on which he appeared to be huffed, and
rode for some miles without opening his mouth. Groves of trees lined the
road on either side, and the sweet smell of pines was in our nostrils.
Far away the musical pealing of a bell rose and fell on the hot, close
summer air. The shelter of the branches was pleasant, for the sun was
very strong, blazing down out of a cloudless heaven, and raising a haze
from the fields and valleys.

‘’Tis the bell from Chipping Sodbury,’ said my companion at last, wiping
his ruddy face. ‘That’s Sodbury Church yonder over the brow of the hill,
and here on the right is the entrance of Badminton Park.’

High iron gates, with the leopard and griffin, which are the supporters
of the Beaufort arms, fixed on the pillars which flanked them, opened
into a beautiful domain of lawn and grass land with clumps of trees
scattered over it, and broad sheets of water, thick with wild fowl. At
every turn as we rode up the winding avenue some new beauty caught our
eyes, all of which were pointed out and expounded by Farmer Brown, who
seemed to take as much pride in the place as though it belonged to him.
Here it was a rockery where a thousand bright-coloured stones shone out
through the ferns and creepers which had been trained over them. There
it was a pretty prattling brook, the channel of which had been turned so
as to make it come foaming down over a steep ledge of rocks. Or perhaps
it was some statue of nymph or sylvan god, or some artfully built
arbour overgrown with roses or honeysuckle. I have never seen grounds
so tastefully laid out, and it was done, as all good work in art must
be done, by following Nature so closely that it only differed from her
handiwork in its profusion in so narrow a compass. A few years later our
healthy English taste was spoiled by the pedant gardening of the Dutch
with their straight flat ponds, and their trees all clipped and in a
line like vegetable grenadiers. In truth, I think that the Prince of
Orange and Sir William Temple had much to answer for in working this
change, but things have now come round again, I understand, and we have
ceased to be wiser than Nature in our pleasure-grounds.

As we drew near the house we came on a large extent of level sward on
which a troop of horse were exercising, who were raised, as my companion
informed me, entirely from the Duke’s own personal attendants. Passing
them we rode through a grove of rare trees and came out on a broad space
of gravel which lay in front of the house. The building itself was of
great extent, built after the new Italian fashion, rather for comfort
than for defence; but on one wing there remained, as my companion
pointed out, a portion of the old keep and battlements of the feudal
castle of the Botelers, looking as out of place as a farthingale of
Queen Elizabeth joined to a court dress fresh from Paris. The main
doorway was led up to by lines of columns and a broad flight of marble
steps, on which stood a group of footmen and grooms, who took our horses
when we dismounted. A grey-haired steward or major-domo inquired our
business, and on learning that we wished to see the Duke in person, he
told us that his Grace would give audience to strangers in the afternoon
at half after three by the clock. In the meantime he said that the
guests’ dinner had just been laid in the hall, and it was his master’s
wish that none who came to Badminton should depart hungry. My companion
and I were but too glad to accept the steward’s invitation, so having
visited the bath-room and attended to the needs of the toilet, we
followed a footman, who ushered us into a great room where the company
had already assembled.

The guests may have numbered fifty or sixty, old and young, gentle and
simple, of the most varied types and appearance. I observed that many
of them cast haughty and inquiring glances round them, in the pauses
between the dishes, as though each marvelled how he came to be a member
of so motley a crew. Their only common feature appeared to be the
devotion which they showed to the platter and the wine flagon. There was
little talking, for there were few who knew their neighbours. Some were
soldiers who had come to offer their swords and their services to
the King’s lieutenant; others were merchants from Bristol, with some
proposal or suggestion anent the safety of their property. There
were two or three officials of the city, who had come out to receive
instructions as to its defence, while here and there I marked the child
of Israel, who had found his way there in the hope that in times of
trouble he might find high interest and noble borrowers. Horse-dealers,
saddlers, armourers, surgeons, and clergymen completed the company,
who were waited upon by a staff of powdered and liveried servants, who
brought and removed the dishes with the silence and deftness of long
training.

The room was a contrast to the bare plainness of Sir Stephen Timewell’s
dining-hall at Taunton, for it was richly panelled and highly decorated
all round. The floor was formed of black and white marble, set in
squares, and the walls were of polished oak, and bore a long line of
paintings of the Somerset family, from John of Gaunt downwards. The
ceiling, too, was tastefully painted with flowers and nymphs, so that a
man’s neck was stiff ere he had done admiring it. At the further end of
the hall yawned a great fireplace of white marble, with the lions and
lilies of the Somerset arms carved in oak above it, and a long gilt
scroll bearing the family motto, “Mutare vel timere sperno.” The massive
tables at which we sat were loaded with silver chargers and candelabra,
and bright with the rich plate for which Badminton was famous. I could
not but think that, if Saxon could clap eyes upon it, he would not be
long in urging that the war be carried on in this direction.

After dinner we were all shown into a small ante-chamber, set round with
velvet settees, where we were to wait till the Duke was ready to see us.
In the centre of this room there stood several cases, glass-topped and
lined with silk, wherein were little steel and iron rods, with brass
tubes and divers other things, very bright and ingenious, though I
could not devise for what end they had been put together. A
gentleman-in-waiting came round with paper and ink-horn, making notes
of our names and of our business. Him I asked whether it might not be
possible for me to have an entirely private audience.

‘His Grace never sees in private,’ he replied. ‘He has ever his chosen
councillors and officers in attendance.’

‘But the business is one which is only fit for his own ear,’ I urged.

‘His Grace holds that there is no business fit only for his own ear,’
said the gentleman. ‘You must arrange matters as best you can when
you are shown in to him. I will promise, however, that your request be
carried to him, though I warn you that it cannot be granted.’

I thanked him for his good offices, and turned away with the farmer to
look at the strange little engines within the cases.

‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘I have never seen aught that was like it.’

‘It is the work of the mad Marquis of Worcester,’ quoth he. ‘He was the
Duke’s grandfather. He was ever making and devising such toys, but they
were never of any service to himself or to others. Now, look ye here!
This wi’ the wheels were called the water-engine, and it was his crazy
thought that, by heating the water in that ere kettle, ye might make the
wheels go round, and thereby travel along iron bars quicker nor a
horse could run. ‘Oons! I’d match my old brown mare against all such
contrivances to the end o’ time. But to our places, for the Duke is
coming.’

We had scarce taken our seats with the other suitors, when the
folding-doors were flung open, and a stout, thick, short man of fifty,
or thereabouts, came bustling into the room, and strode down it between
two lines of bowing clients. He had large projecting blue eyes, with
great pouches of skin beneath them, and a yellow, sallow visage. At his
heels walked a dozen officers and men of rank, with flowing wigs and
clanking swords. They had hardly passed through the opposite door into
the Duke’s own room, when the gentleman with the list called out a name,
and the guests began one after the other to file into the great man’s
presence.

‘Methinks his Grace is in no very gentle temper,’ quoth Farmer Brown.
‘Did you not mark how he gnawed his nether lip as he passed?’

‘He seemed a quiet gentleman enough,’ I answered. ‘It would try Job
himself to see all these folk of an afternoon.’

‘Hark at that!’ he whispered, raising his finger. As he spoke the
sound of the Duke’s voice in a storm of wrath was heard from the inner
chamber, and a little sharp-faced man came out and flew through the
ante-chamber as though fright had turned his head.

‘He is an armourer of Bristol,’ whispered one of my neighbours. ‘It is
likely that the Duke cannot come to terms with him over a contract.’

‘Nay,’ said another. ‘He supplied Sir Marmaduke Hyson’s troop with
sabres, and it is said that the blades will bend as though they were
lead. Once used they can never be fitted back into the scabbard again.’

‘The tall man who goes in now is an inventor,’ quoth the first. ‘He hath
the secret of some very grievous fire, such as hath been used by the
Greeks against the Turks in the Levant, which he desires to sell for the
better fortifying of Bristol.’

The Greek fire seemed to be in no great request with the Duke, for the
inventor came out presently with his face as red as though it had been
touched by his own compound. The next upon the list was my honest friend
the farmer. The angry tones which greeted him promised badly for the
fate of the four-year-old, but a lull ensued, and the farmer came out
and resumed his seat, rubbing his great red hands with satisfaction.

‘Ecod!’ he whispered. ‘He was plaguy hot at first, but he soon came
round, and he hath promised that if I pay for the hire of a dragooner as
long as the war shall last I shall have back the piebald.’

I had been sitting all this time wondering how in the world I was
to conduct my business amid the swarm of suppliants and the crowd of
officers who were attending the Duke. Had there been any likelihood
of my gaining audience with him in any other way I should gladly have
adopted it, but all my endeavours to that end had been useless. Unless I
took this occasion I might never come face to face with him at all.
But how could he give due thought or discussion to such a matter
before others? What chance was there of his weighing it as it should be
weighed? Even if his feelings inclined him that way, he dared not show
any sign of wavering when so many eyes were upon him. I was tempted to
feign some other reason for my coming, and trust to fortune to give me
some more favourable chance for handing him my papers. But then that
chance might never arrive, and time was pressing. It was said that he
would return to Bristol next morning. On the whole, it seemed best that
I should make the fittest use I could of my present position in the hope
that the Duke’s own discretion and self-command might, when he saw the
address upon my despatches, lead to a more private interview.

I had just come to this resolution when my name was read out, on which I
rose and advanced into the inner chamber. It was a small but lofty room,
hung in blue silk with a broad gold cornice. In the centre was a square
table littered over with piles of papers, and behind this sat his Grace
with full-bottomed wig rolling down to his shoulders, very stately and
imposing. He had the same subtle air of the court which I had observed
both in Monmouth and in Sir Gervas, which, with his high bold features
and large piercing eyes, marked him as a leader of men. His private
scrivener sat beside him, taking notes of his directions, while the
others stood behind in a half circle, or took snuff together in the deep
recess of the window.

‘Make a note of Smithson’s order,’ he said, as I entered. ‘A hundred
pots and as many fronts and backs to be ready by Tuesday; also six score
snaphances for the musqueteers, and two hundred extra spades for the
workers. Mark that the order be declared null and void unless fulfilled
within the time appointed.’

‘It is so marked, your Grace.’

‘Captain Micah Clarke,’ said the Duke, reading from the list in front of
him. ‘What is your wish, Captain?’

‘One which it would be better if I could deliver privately to your
Grace,’ I answered.

‘Ah, you are he who desired private audience? Well, Captain, these are
my council and they are as myself. So we may look upon ourselves as
alone. What I may hear they may hear. Zounds, man, never stammer and
boggle, but out with it!’

My request had roused the interest of the company, and those who were in
the window came over to the table. Nothing could have been worse for the
success of my mission, and yet there was no help for it but to deliver
my despatches. I can say with a clear conscience, without any vainglory,
that I had no fears for myself. The doing of my duty was the one thought
in my mind. And here I may say once for all, my dear children, that I am
speaking of myself all through this statement with the same freedom
as though it were another man. In very truth the strong active lad of
one-and-twenty _was_ another man from the grey-headed old fellow who
sits in the chimney corner and can do naught better than tell old tales
to the youngsters. Shallow water gives a great splash, and so a braggart
has ever been contemptible in my eyes. I trust, therefore, that ye will
never think that your grandad is singing his own praises, or setting
himself up as better than his neighbours. I do but lay the facts, as far
as I can recall them, before ye with all freedom and with all truth.

My short delay and hesitation had sent a hot flush of anger into the
Duke’s face, so I drew the packet of papers from my inner pocket and
handed them to him with a respectful bow. As his eyes fell upon the
superscription, he gave a sudden start of surprise and agitation, making
a motion as though to hide them in his bosom. If this were his impulse
he overcame it, and sat lost in thought for a minute or more with the
papers in his hand. Then with a quick toss of the head, like a man who
hath formed his resolution, he broke the seals and cast his eyes over
the contents, which he then threw down upon the table with a bitter
laugh.

‘What think ye, gentlemen!’ he cried, looking round with scornful eyes;
‘what think ye this private message hath proved to be? It is a letter
from the traitor Monmouth, calling upon me to resign the allegiance of
my natural sovereign and to draw my sword in his behalf! If I do this
I am to have his gracious favour and protection. If not, I incur
sequestration, banishment, and ruin. He thinks Beaufort’s loyalty is
to be bought like a packman’s ware, or bullied out of him by ruffling
words. The descendant of John of Gaunt is to render fealty to the brat
of a wandering playwoman!’

Several of the company sprang to their feet, and a general buzz of
surprise and anger greeted the Duke’s words. He sat with bent brows,
beating his foot against the ground, and turning over the papers upon
the table.

‘What hath raised his hopes to such mad heights?’ he cried. ‘How doth
he presume to send such a missive to one of my quality? Is it because he
hath seen the backs of a parcel of rascally militiamen, and because
he hath drawn a few hundred chawbacons from the plough’s tail to his
standard, that he ventures to hold such language to the President of
Wales? But ye will be my witnesses as to the spirit in which I received
it?’

‘We can preserve your Grace from all danger of slander on that point,’
said an elderly officer, while a murmur of assent from the others
greeted the remark.

‘And you!’ cried Beaufort, raising his voice and turning his flashing
eyes upon me; ‘who are you that dare to bring such a message to
Badminton? You had surely taken leave of your senses ere you did set out
upon such an errand!’

‘I am in the hands of God here as elsewhere,’ I answered, with some
flash of my father’s fatalism. ‘I have done what I promised to do, and
the rest is no concern of mine.’

‘You shall find it a very close concern of thine,’ he shouted, springing
from his chair and pacing up and down the room; ‘so close as to put an
end to all thy other concerns in this life. Call in the halberdiers from
the outer hall! Now, fellow, what have you to say for yourself?’

‘There is naught to be said,’ I answered.

‘But something to be done,’ he retorted in a fury. ‘Seize this man and
secure his hands!’

Four halberdiers who had answered the summons closed in upon me and laid
hands on me. Resistance would have been folly, for I had no wish to harm
the men in the doing of their duty. I had come to take my chance, and
if that chance should prove to be death, as seemed likely enough at
present, it must be met as a thing foreseen. I thought of those old-time
lines which Master Chillingfoot, of Petersfield, had ever held up to our
admiration--

          Non civium ardor prava jubentium
          Non vultus instantis tyranni
          Mente quatit solida.

Here was the ‘vultus instantis tyranni,’ in this stout, be-wigged,
lace-covered, yellow-faced man in front of me. I had obeyed the poet in
so far that my courage had not been shaken. I confess that this spinning
dust-heap of a world has never had such attractions for me that it would
be a pang to leave it. Never, at least, until my marriage--and that, you
will find, alters your thoughts about the value of your life, and many
other of your thoughts as well. This being so, I stood erect, with my
eyes fixed upon the angry nobleman, while his soldiers were putting the
gyves about my wrists.



Chapter XXV. Of Strange Doings in the Boteler Dungeon

‘Take down this fellow’s statement,’ said the Duke to his scrivener.
‘Now, sirrah, it may not be known to you that his gracious Majesty the
King hath conferred plenary powers upon me during these troubled times,
and that I have his warrant to deal with all traitors without either
jury or judge. You do bear a commission, I understand, in the rebellious
body which is here described as Saxon’s regiment of Wiltshire Foot?
Speak the truth for your neck’s sake.’

‘I will speak the truth for the sake of something higher than that, your
Grace,’ I answered. ‘I command a company in that regiment.’

‘And who is this Saxon?’

‘I will answer all that I may concerning myself,’ said I, ‘but not a
word which may reflect upon others.’

‘Ha!’ he roared, hot with anger. ‘Our pretty gentleman must needs stand
upon the niceties of honour after taking up arms against his King. I
tell you, sir, that your honour is in such a parlous state already that
you may well throw it over and look to your safety. The sun is sinking
in the west. Ere it set your life, too, may have set for ever.’

‘I am the keeper of my own honour, your Grace,’ I answered. ‘As to my
life, I should not be standing here this moment if I had any great dread
of losing it. It is right that I should tell you that my Colonel hath
sworn to exact a return for any evil that may befall me, on you or any
of your household who may come into his power. This I say, not as a
threat, but as a warning, for I know him to be a man who is like to be
as good as his word.’

‘Your Colonel, as you call him, may find it hard enough to save himself
soon,’ the Duke answered with a sneer. ‘How many men hath Monmouth with
him?’

I smiled and shook my head.

‘How shall we make this traitor find his tongue?’ he asked furiously,
turning to his council.

‘I should clap on the thumbikins,’ said one fierce-faced old soldier.

‘I have known a lighted match between the fingers work wonders,’ another
suggested. ‘Sir Thomas Dalzell hath in the Scottish war been able to
win over several of that most stubborn and hardened race, the Western
Covenanters, by such persuasion.’

‘Sir Thomas Dalzell,’ said a grey-haired gentleman, clad in black
velvet, ‘hath studied the art of war among the Muscovites, in their
barbarous and bloody encounters with the Turks. God forbid that we
Christians of England should seek our examples among the skin-clad
idolaters of a savage country.’

‘Sir William would like to see war carried out on truly courteous
principles,’ said the first speaker. ‘A battle should be like a stately
minuet, with no loss of dignity or of etiquette.’

‘Sir,’ the other answered hotly, ‘I have been in battles when you were
in your baby-linen, and I handled a battoon when you could scarce shake
a rattle. In leaguer or onfall a soldier’s work is sharp and stern, but
I say that the use of torture, which the law of England hath abolished,
should also be laid aside by the law of nations.’

‘Enough, gentlemen, enough!’ cried the Duke, seeing that the dispute was
like to wax warm. ‘Your opinion, Sir William, hath much weight with us,
and yours also, Colonel Hearn. We shall discuss this at greater length
in privacy. Halberdiers, remove the prisoner, and let a clergyman be
sent to look to his spiritual needs!’

‘Shall we take him to the strong room, your Grace?’ asked the Captain of
the guard.

‘No, to the old Boteler dungeon,’ he replied; and I heard the next name
upon the list called out, while I was led through a side door with a
guard in front and behind me. We passed through endless passages and
corridors, with heavy stop and clank of arms, until we reached the
ancient wing. Here, in the corner turret, was a small, bare room, mouldy
and damp, with a high, arched roof, and a single long slit in the outer
wall to admit light. A small wooden couch and a rude chair formed
the whole of the furniture. Into this I was shown by the Captain, who
stationed a guard at the door, and then came in after me and loosened
my wrists. He was a sad-faced man, with solemn sunken eyes and a
dreary expression, which matched ill with his bright trappings and gay
sword-knot.

‘Keep your heart up, friend,’ said he, in a hollow voice. ‘It is but a
choke and a struggle. A day or two since we had the same job to do, and
the man scarcely groaned. Old Spender, the Duke’s marshal, hath as sure
a trick of tying and as good judgment in arranging a drop as hath Dun
of Tyburn. Be of good heart, therefore, for you shall not fall into the
hands of a bungler.’

‘I would that I could let Monmouth know that his letters were
delivered,’ I exclaimed, seating myself on the side of the bed.

‘I’ faith, they were delivered. Had you been the penny postman of Mr.
Robert Murray, of whom we heard so much in London last spring, you could
not have handed it in more directly. Why did you not talk the Duke fair?
He is a gracious nobleman, and kind of heart, save when he is thwarted
or angered. Some little talk as to the rebels’ numbers and dispositions
might have saved you.’

‘I wonder that you, as a soldier, should speak or think of such a
thing,’ said I coldly.

‘Well, well! Your neck is your own. If it please you to take a leap into
nothing it were pity to thwart you. But his Grace commanded that you
should have the chaplain. I must away to him.’

‘I prythee do not bring him,’ said I. ‘I am one of a dissenting stock,
and I see that there is a Bible in yonder recess. No man can aid me in
making my peace with God.’

‘It is well,’ he answered, ‘for Dean Hewby hath come over from
Chippenham, and he is discoursing with our good chaplain on the need of
self-denial, moistening his throat the while with a flask of the prime
Tokay. At dinner I heard him put up thanks for what he was to receive,
and in the same breath ask the butler how he dared to serve a deacon
of the Church with a pullet without truffle dressing. But, perhaps, you
would desire Dean Hewby’s spiritual help? No? Well, what I can do for
you in reason shall be done, since you will not be long upon our hands.
Above all, keep a cheery heart.’

He left the cell, but presently unlocked the door and pushed his dismal
face round the corner. ‘I am Captain Sinclair, of the Duke’s household,’
he said, ‘should you have occasion to ask for me. You had best have
spiritual help, for I do assure you that there hath been something worse
than either warder or prisoner in this cell.’

‘What then?’ I asked.

‘Why, marry, nothing less than the Devil,’ he answered, coming in and
closing the door. ‘It was in this way,’ he went on, sinking his voice:
‘Two years agone Hector Marot, the highwayman, was shut up in this very
Boteler dungeon. I was myself on guard in the corridor that night, and
saw the prisoner at ten o’clock sitting on that bed even as you are now.
At twelve I had occasion to look in, as my custom is, with the hope
of cheering his lonely hours, when lo, he was gone! Yes, you may well
stare. Mine eyes had never been off the door, and you can judge what
chance there was of his getting through the windows. Walls and floor are
both solid stone, which might be solid rock for the thickness. When
I entered there was a plaguy smell of brimstone, and the flame of my
lanthorn burned blue. Nay, it is no smiling matter. If the Devil did not
run away with Hector Marot, pray who did? for sure I am that no angel of
grace could come to him as to Peter of old. Perchance the Evil One may
desire a second bird out of the same cage, and so I tell you this that
you may be on your guard against his assaults.’

‘Nay, I fear him not,’ I answered.

‘It is well,’ croaked the Captain. ‘Be not cast down!’ His head
vanished, and the key turned in the creaking lock. So thick were the
walls that I could hear no sound after the door was closed. Save for
the sighing of the wind in the branches of the trees outside the narrow
window, all was as silent as the grave within the dungeon.

Thus left to myself I tried to follow Captain Sinclair’s advice as to
the keeping up of my heart, though his talk was far from being of a
cheering nature. In my young days, more particularly among the sectaries
with whom I had been brought most in contact, a belief in the occasional
appearance of the Prince of Darkness, and his interference in bodily
form with the affairs of men, was widespread and unquestioning.
Philosophers in their own quiet chambers may argue learnedly on the
absurdity of such things, but in a dim-lit dungeon, cut off from the
world, with the grey gloaming creeping down, and one’s own fate hanging
in the balance, it becomes a very different matter. The escape, if the
Captain’s story were true, appeared to border upon the miraculous. I
examined the walls of the cell very carefully. They were formed of great
square stones cunningly fitted together. The thin slit or window was
cut through the centre of a single large block. All over, as high as
the hand could reach, the face of the walls was covered with letters and
legends cut by many generations of captives. The floor was composed of
old foot-worn slabs, firmly cemented together. The closest search failed
to show any hole or cranny where a rat could have escaped, far less a
man.

It is a very strange thing, my dears, to sit down in cold blood, and
think that the chances are that within a few hours your pulses will
have given their last throb, and your soul have sped away upon its final
errand. Strange and very awesome! The man who rideth down into the
press of the battle with his jaw set and his grip tight upon reign and
sword-hilt cannot feel this, for the human mind is such that one emotion
will ever push out another. Neither can the man who draws slow and
catching breaths upon the bed of deadly sickness be said to have
experience of it, for the mind weakened with disease can but submit
without examining too closely that which it submits to. When, however,
a young and hale man sits alone in quiet, and sees present death hanging
over him, he hath such food for thought that, should he survive and live
to be grey-headed, his whole life will be marked and altered by those
solemn hours, as a stream is changed in its course by some rough bank
against which it hath struck. Every little fault and blemish stands
out clear in the presence of death, as the dust specks appear when the
sunbeam shines into the darkened room. I noted them then, and I have, I
trust, noted them ever since.

I was seated with my head bowed upon my breast, deeply buried in this
solemn train of thoughts, when I was startled by hearing a sharp click,
such as a man might give who wished to attract attention. I sprang to my
feet and gazed round in the gathering gloom without being able to tell
whence it came. I had well-nigh persuaded myself that my senses had
deceived me, when the sound was repeated louder than before, and casting
my eyes upwards I saw a face peering in at me through the slit, or part
of a face rather, for I could but see the eye and corner of the cheek.
Standing on my chair I made out that it was none other than the farmer
who had been my companion upon the road.

‘Hush, lad!’ he whispered, with a warning forefinger pushed through the
narrow crack. ‘Speak low, or the guard may chance to hear. What can I do
for you?’

‘How did you come to know where I was?’ I asked in astonishment.

‘Whoy, mun,’ he answered, ‘I know as much of this ‘ere house as Beaufort
does himsel’. Afore Badminton was built, me and my brothers has spent
many a day in climbing over the old Boteler tower. It’s not the first
time that I have spoke through this window. But, quick; what can I do
for you?’

‘I am much beholden to you, sir,’ I answered, ‘but I fear that there is
no help which you can give me, unless, indeed, you could convey news to
my friends in the army of what hath befallen me.’

‘I might do that,’ whispered Farmer Brown. ‘Hark ye in your ear, lad,
what I never breathed to man yet. Mine own conscience pricks me at times
over this bolstering up of a Papist to rule over a Protestant nation.
Let like rule like, say I. At the ‘lections I rode to Sudbury, and I
put in my vote for Maister Evans, of Turnford, who was in favour o’ the
Exclusionists. Sure enough, if that same Bill had been carried, the Duke
would be sitting on his father’s throne. The law would have said yes.
Now, it says nay. A wonderful thing is the law with its yea, yea, and
nay, nay, like Barclay, the Quaker man, that came down here in a leather
suit, and ca’d the parson a steepleman. There’s the law. It’s no use
shootin’ at it, or passin’ pikes through it, no, nor chargin’ at it wi’
a troop of horse. If it begins by saying “nay” it will say “nay” to the
end of the chapter. Ye might as well fight wi’ the book o’ Genesis. Let
Monmouth get the law changed, and it will do more for him than all the
dukes in England. For all that he’s a Protestant, and I would do what I
might to serve him.’

‘There is a Captain Lockarby, who is serving in Colonel Saxon’s
regiment, in Monmouth’s army,’ said I. ‘Should things go wrong with me,
I would take it as a great kindness if you would bear him my love, and
ask him to break it gently, by word or by letter, to those at Havant.
If I were sure that this would be done, it would be a great ease to my
mind.’

‘It shall be done, lad,’ said the good farmer. ‘I shall send my best man
and fleetest horse this very night, that they may know the straits in
which you are. I have a file here if it would help you.’

‘Nay,’ I answered, ‘human aid can do little to help me here.’

‘There used to be a hole in the roof. Look up and see if you can see
aught of it.’

‘It arches high above my head,’ I answered, looking upwards; ‘but there
is no sign of any opening.’

‘There was one,’ he repeated. ‘My brother Roger hath swung himself down
wi’ a rope. In the old time the prisoners were put in so, like Joseph
into the pit. The door is but a new thing.’

‘Hole or no hole, it cannot help me,’ I answered. ‘I have no means
of climbing to it. Do not wait longer, kind friend, or you may find
yourself in trouble.’

‘Good-bye then, my brave heart,’ he whispered, and the honest grey eye
and corner of ruddy cheek disappeared from the casement. Many a time
during the course of the long evening I glanced up with some wild hope
that he might return, and every creak of the branches outside brought me
on to the chair, but it was the last that I saw of Farmer Brown.

This kindly visit, short as it was, relieved my mind greatly, for I had
a trusty man’s word that, come what might, my friends should, at least,
have some news of my fate. It was now quite dark, and I was pacing up
and down the little chamber, when the key turned in the door, and the
Captain entered with a rushlight and a great bowl of bread and milk.

‘Here is your supper, friend,’ said he. ‘Take it down, appetite or no,
for it will give you strength to play the man at the time ye wot of.
They say it was beautiful to see my Lord Russell die upon Tower Hill. Be
of good cheer! Folk may say as much of you. His Grace is in a terrible
way. He walketh up and down, and biteth his lip, and clencheth his hands
like one who can scarce contain his wrath. It may not be against you,
but I know not what else can have angered him.’

I made no answer to this Job’s comforter, so he presently left me,
placing the bowl upon the chair, with the rushlight beside it. I
finished the food, and feeling the better for it, stretched myself upon
the couch, and fell into a heavy and dreamless sleep. This may have
lasted three or four hours, when I was suddenly awoken by a sound like
the creaking of hinges. Sitting up on the pallet I gazed around me. The
rushlight had burned out and the cell was impenetrably dark. A greyish
glimmer at one end showed dimly the position of the aperture, but all
else was thick and black. I strained my ears, but no further sound fell
upon them. Yet I was certain that I had not been deceived, and that the
noise which had aroused me was within my very chamber. I rose and felt
my way slowly round the room, passing my hand over the walls and door.
Then I paced backwards and forwards to test the flooring. Neither around
me nor beneath me was there any change. Whence did the sound come from,
then? I sat down upon the side of the bed and waited patiently in the
hope of hearing it once again.

Presently it was repeated, a low groaning and creaking as though a door
or shutter long disused was being slowly and stealthily opened. At the
same time a dull yellow light streamed down from above, issuing from a
thin slit in the centre of the arched roof above me. Slowly as I watched
it this slit widened and extended as if a sliding panel were being
pulled out, until a good-sized hole was left, through which I saw a
head, looking down at me, outlined against the misty light behind it.
The knotted end of a rope was passed through this aperture, and came
dangling down to the dungeon floor. It was a good stout piece of hemp,
strong enough to bear the weight of a heavy man, and I found, upon
pulling at it, that it was firmly secured above. Clearly it was the
desire of my unknown benefactor that I should ascend by it, so I went
up hand over hand, and after some difficulty in squeezing my shoulders
through the hole I succeeded in reaching the room above. While I was
still rubbing my eyes after the sudden change from darkness into light,
the rope was swiftly whisked up and the sliding shutter closed once
more. To those who were not in the secret there was nothing to throw
light upon my disappearance.

I found myself in the presence of a stout short man clad in a rude
jerkin and leather breeches, which gave him somewhat the appearance of a
groom. He wore a broad felt hat drawn down very low over his eyes, while
the lower part of his face was swathed round with a broad cravat. In his
hand he bore a horn lanthorn, by the light of which I saw that the
room in which we were was of the same size as the dungeon beneath, and
differed from it only in having a broad casement which looked out upon
the park. There was no furniture in the chamber, but a great beam ran
across it, to which the rope had been fastened by which I ascended.

‘Speak low, friend,’ said the stranger. ‘The walls are thick and the
doors are close, yet I would not have your guardians know by what means
you have been spirited away.’

‘Truly, sir,’ I answered, ‘I can scarce credit that it is other than a
dream. It is wondrous that my dungeon should be so easily broken into,
and more wondrous still that I should find a friend who would be willing
to risk so much for my sake.’

‘Look there!’ quoth he, holding down his lanthorn so as to cast its
light on the part of the floor where the panel was fitted. Can you not
see how old and crumbled is the stone-work which surrounds it? This
opening in the roof is as old as the dungeon itself, and older far
than the door by which you were led into it. For this was one of those
bottle-shaped cells or oubliettes which hard men of old devised for the
safe keeping of their captives. Once lowered through this hole into the
stone-girt pit a man might eat his heart out, for his fate was sealed.
Yet you see that the very device which once hindered escape has now
brought freedom within your reach.’

‘Thanks to your clemency, your Grace,’ I answered, looking keenly at my
companion.

‘Now out on these disguises!’ he cried, peevishly pushing back the
broad-edged hat and disclosing, as I expected, the features of the Duke.
‘Even a blunt soldier lad can see through my attempts at concealment.
I fear, Captain, that I should make a bad plotter, for my nature is as
open--well, as thine is. I cannot better the simile.’

‘Your Grace’s voice once heard is not easily forgot,’ said I.

‘Especially when it talks of hemp and dungeons,’ he answered, with a
smile. ‘But if I clapped you into prison, you must confess that I have
made you amends by pulling you out again at the end of my line, like a
minnow out of a bottle. But how came you to deliver such papers in the
presence of my council?’

‘I did what I could to deliver them in private,’ said I. ‘I sent you a
message to that effect.’

‘It is true,’ he answered; ‘but such messages come in to me from every
soldier who wishes to sell his sword, and every inventor who hath a long
tongue and a short purse. How could I tell that the matter was of real
import?’

‘I feared to let the chance slip lest it might never return,’ said I. ‘I
hear that your Grace hath little leisure during these times.’

‘I cannot blame you,’ he answered, pacing up and down the room. ‘But it
was untoward. I might have hid the despatches, yet it would have roused
suspicions. Your errand would have leaked out. There are many who envy
my lofty fortunes, and who would seize upon a chance of injuring me with
King James. Sunderland or Somers would either of them blow the least
rumour into a flame which might prove unquenchable. There was naught for
it, therefore, but to show the papers and to turn a harsh face on the
messenger. The most venomous tongue could not find fault in my conduct.
What course would you have advised under such circumstances?’ ‘The most
direct,’ I answered. ‘Aye, aye, Sir. Honesty. Public men have, however,
to pick their steps as best they may, for the straight path would lead
too often to the cliff-edge. The Tower would be too scanty for its
guests were we all to wear our hearts upon our sleeves. But to you in
this privacy I can tell my real thoughts without fear of betrayal or
misconstruction. On paper I will not write one word. Your memory must
be the sheet which bears my answer to Monmouth. And first of all, erase
from it all that you have heard me say in the council-room. Let it be as
though it never were spoken. Is that done?’

‘I understand that it did not really represent your Grace’s thoughts.’

‘Very far from it, Captain. But prythee tell me what expectation of
success is there among the rebels themselves? You must have heard your
Colonel and others discuss the question, or noted by their bearing which
way their thoughts lay. Have they good hopes of holding out against the
King’s troops?’

‘They have met with naught but success hitherto,’ I answered.

‘Against the militia. But they will find it another thing when they have
trained troops to deal with. And yet--and yet!--One thing I know, that
any defeat of Feversham’s army would cause a general rising throughout
the country. On the other hand, the King’s party are active. Every
post brings news of some fresh levy. Albemarle still holds the militia
together in the west. The Earl of Pembroke is in arms in Wiltshire.
Lord Lumley is moving from the east with the Sussex forces. The Earl of
Abingdon is up in Oxfordshire. At the university the caps and gowns are
all turning into head-pieces and steel fronts. James’s Dutch regiments
have sailed from Amsterdam. Yet Monmouth hath gained two fights, and why
not a third? They are troubled waters--troubled waters!’ The Duke paced
backwards and forwards with brows drawn down, muttering all this to
himself rather than to me, and shaking his head like one in the sorest
perplexity.

‘I would have you tell Monmouth,’ he said at last, ‘that I thank him for
the papers which he hath sent me, and that I will duly read and weigh
them. Tell him also that I wish him well in his enterprise, and would
help him were it not that I am hemmed in by those who watch me closely,
and who would denounce me were I to show my true thoughts. Tell him
that, should he move his army into these parts, I may then openly
declare myself; but to do so now would be to ruin the fortunes of my
house, without in any way helping him. Can you bear him that message?’

‘I shall do so, your Grace.

‘Tell me,’ he asked, ‘how doth Monmouth bear himself in this
enterprise?’

‘Like a wise and gallant leader,’ I answered.

‘Strange,’ he murmured; ‘it was ever the jest at court that he had
scarce energy or constancy enough to finish a game at ball, but would
ever throw his racquet down ere the winning point was scored. His plans
were like a weather-vane, altered by every breeze. He was constant
only in his inconstancy. It is true that he led the King’s troops in
Scotland, but all men knew that Claverhouse and Dalzell were the real
conquerors at Bothwell Bridge. Methinks he resembles that Brutus in
Roman history who feigned weakness of mind as a cover to his ambitions.’

The Duke was once again conversing with himself rather than with me, so
that I made no remark, save to observe that Monmouth had won the hearts
of the lower people.

‘There lies his strength,’ said Beaufort. ‘The blood of his mother runs
in his veins. He doth not think it beneath him to shake the dirty paw
of Jerry the tinker, or to run a race against a bumpkin on the village
green. Well, events have shown that he hath been right. These same
bumpkins have stood by him when nobler friends have held aloof. I would
I could see into the future. But you have my message, Captain, and
I trust that, if you change it in the delivery, it will be in the
direction of greater warmth and kindliness. It is time now that you
depart, for within three hours the guard is changed, and your escape
will be discovered.’

‘But how depart?’ I asked.

‘Through here,’ he answered, pushing open the casement, and sliding the
rope along the beam in that direction. ‘The rope may be a foot or two
short, but you have extra inches to make matters even. When you have
reached the ground, take the gravel path which turns to the right, and
follow it until it leads you to the high trees which skirt the park. The
seventh of these hath a bough which shoots over the boundary wall. Climb
along the bough, drop over upon the other side, and you will find my
own valet waiting with your horse. Up with you, and ride, haste, haste,
post-haste, for the south. By morn you should be well out of danger’s
way.’

‘My sword?’ I asked.

‘All your property is there. Tell Monmouth what I have said, and let him
know that I have used you as kindly as was possible.’

‘But what will your Grace’s council say when they find that I am gone?’
I asked.

‘Pshaw, man! Never fret about that! I will off to Bristol at daybreak,
and give my council enough to think of without their having time to
devote to your fate. The soldiers will but have another instance of
the working of the Father of Evil, who hath long been thought to have a
weakness for that cell beneath us. Faith, if all we hear be true, there
have been horrors enough acted there to call up every devil out of the
pit. But time presses. Gently through the casement! So! Remember the
message.’

‘Adieu, your Grace!’ I answered, and seizing the rope slipped rapidly
and noiselessly to the ground, upon which he drew it up and closed the
casement. As I looked round, my eye fell upon the dark narrow slit which
opened into my cell, and through which honest Farmer Brown had held
converse with me. Half-an-hour ago I had been stretched upon the prison
pallet without a hope or a thought of escape. Now I was out in the open
with no hand to stay me, breathing the air of freedom with the prison
and the gallows cast off from me, as the waking man casts off his evil
dreams. Such changes shake a man’s soul, my children. The heart that can
steel itself against death is softened by the assurance of safety. So
I have known a worthy trader bear up manfully when convinced that his
fortunes had been engulfed in the ocean, but lose all philosophy on
finding that the alarm was false, and that they had come safely through
the danger. For my own part, believing as I do that there is nothing of
chance in the affairs of this world, I felt that I had been exposed to
this trial in order to dispose me to serious thought, and that I had
been saved that I might put those thoughts into effect. As an earnest of
my endeavour to do so I knelt down on the green sward, in the shadow of
the Boteler turret, and I prayed that I might come to be of use on
the earth, and that I might be helped to rise above my own wants and
interests, to aid forward whatever of good or noble might be stirring in
my days. It is well-nigh fifty years, my dears, since I bowed my spirit
before the Great Unknown in the moon-tinted park of Badminton, but I
can truly say that from that day to this the aims which I laid down
for myself have served me as a compass over the dark waters of life--a
compass which I may perchance not always follow--for flesh is weak and
frail, but which hath, at least, been ever present, that I might turn to
it in seasons of doubt and of danger.

The path to the right led through groves and past carp ponds for a mile
or more, until I reached the line of trees which skirted the boundary
wall. Not a living thing did I see upon my way, save a herd of
fallow-deer, which scudded away like swift shadows through the
shimmering moonshine. Looking back, the high turrets and gables of the
Boteler wing stood out dark and threatening against the starlit sky.
Having reached the seventh tree, I clambered along the projecting bough
which shot over the park wall, and dropped down upon the other side,
where I found my good old dapple-grey awaiting me in the charge of a
groom. Springing to my saddle, I strapped my sword once more to my side,
and galloped off as fast as the four willing feet could carry me on my
return journey.

All that night I rode hard without drawing bridle, through sleeping
hamlets, by moon-bathed farmhouses, past shining stealthy rivers, and
over birch-clad hills. When the eastern sky deepened from pink into
scarlet, and the great sun pushed his rim over the blue north Somerset
hills, I was already far upon my journey. It was a Sabbath morning, and
from every village rose the sweet tinkling and calling of the bells.
I bore no dangerous papers with me now, and might therefore be more
careless as to my route. At one point I was questioned by a keen-eyed
toll-keeper as to whence I came, but my reply that I was riding direct
from his Grace of Beaufort put an end to his suspicions. Further down,
near Axbridge, I overtook a grazier who was jogging into Wells upon his
sleek cob. With him I rode for some time, and learned that the whole
of North Somerset, as well as south, was now in open revolt, and that
Wells, Shepton Mallet, and Glastonbury were held by armed volunteers
for King Monmouth. The royal forces had all retired west, or east, until
help should come. As I rode through the villages I marked the blue flag
upon the church towers, and the rustics drilling upon the green, without
any sign of trooper or dragoon to uphold the authority of the Stuarts.

My road lay through Shepton Mallet, Piper’s Inn, Bridgewater, and North
Petherton, until in the cool of the evening I pulled up my weary horse
at the Cross Hands, and saw the towers of Taunton in the valley beneath
me. A flagon of beer for the rider, and a sieveful of oats for the
steed, put fresh mettle into both of us, and we were jogging on our way
once more, when there came galloping down the side of the hill about
forty cavaliers, as hard as their horses could carry them. So wild was
their riding that I pulled up, uncertain whether they were friend or
foe, until, as they came whirling towards me, I recognised that the two
officers who rode in front of them were none other than Reuben Lockarby
and Sir Gervas Jerome. At the sight of me they flung up their hands, and
Reuben shot on to his horse’s neck, where he sat for a moment astride of
the mane, until the brute tossed him back into the saddle.

‘It’s Micah! It’s Micah!’ he gasped, with his mouth open, and the tears
hopping down his honest face.

‘Od’s pitlikins, man, how did you come here?’ asked Sir Gervas, poking
me with his forefinger as though to see if I were really of flesh and
blood. ‘We were leading a forlorn of horse into Beaufort’s country to
beat him up, and to burn his fine house about his ears if you had come
to harm. There has just come a groom from some farmer in those parts who
hath brought us news that you were under sentence of death, on which I
came away with my wig half frizzled, and found that friend Lockarby had
leave from Lord Grey to go north with these troopers. But how have you
fared?’

‘Well and ill,’ I answered, wringing their kindly hands. ‘I had not
thought last night to see another sun rise, and yet ye see that I am
here, sound in life and limb. But all these things will take some time
in the telling.’

‘Aye, and King Monmouth will be on thorns to see you. Right about, my
lads, and back for the camp. Never was errand so rapidly and happily
finished as this of ours. It would have fared ill with Badminton had you
been hurt.’

The troopers turned their horses and trotted slowly back to Taunton,
while I rode behind them between my two faithful friends, hearing from
them all that had occurred in my absence, and telling my own adventures
in return. The night had fallen ere we rode through the gates, where I
handed Covenant over to the Mayor’s groom, and went direct to the castle
to deliver an account of my mission.



Chapter XXVI. Of the Strife in the Council

King Monmouth’s council was assembled at the time of my coming, and my
entrance caused the utmost surprise and joy, as they had just heard news
of my sore danger. Even the royal presence could not prevent several
members, among whom were the old Mayor and the two soldiers of fortune,
from springing to their feet and shaking me warmly by the hand. Monmouth
himself said a few gracious words, and requested that I should be seated
at the board with the others.

‘You have earned the right to be of our council,’ said he; ‘and lest
there should be a jealousy amongst other captains that you should come
among us, I do hereby confer upon you the special title of Scout-master,
which, though it entail few if any duties in the present state of our
force, will yet give you precedence over your fellows. We had heard that
your greeting from Beaufort was of the roughest, and that you were in
sore straits in his dungeons. But you have happily come yourself on the
very heels of him who bore the tidings. Tell us then from the beginning
how things have fared with you.’

I should have wished to have limited my story to Beaufort and his
message, but as the council seemed to be intent upon hearing a full
account of my journey, I told in as short and simple speech as I
could the various passages which had befallen me--the ambuscado of
the smugglers, the cave, the capture of the gauger, the journey in the
lugger, the acquaintance with Farmer Brown, my being cast into prison,
with the manner of my release and the message wherewith I had been
commissioned. To all of this the council hearkened with the uttermost
attention, while a muttered oath ever and anon from a courtier or a
groan and prayer from a Puritan showed how keenly they followed the
various phases of my fortunes. Above all, they gave the greatest heed
to Beaufort’s words, and stopped me more than once when I appeared to be
passing over any saying or event before they had due time to weigh
it. When I at last finished they all sat speechless, looking into each
other’s faces and waiting for an expression of opinion.

‘On my word,’ said Monmouth at last, ‘this is a young Ulysses, though
his Odyssey doth but take three days in the acting. Scudery might not be
so dull were she to take a hint from these smugglers’ caves and sliding
panels. How say you, Grey?’

‘He hath indeed had his share of adventure,’ the nobleman answered, ‘and
hath also performed his mission like a fearless and zealous messenger.
You say that Beaufort gave you nought in writing?’

‘Not a word, my lord,’ I replied.

‘And his private message was that he wished us well, and would join us
if we were in his country?’

‘That was the effect, my lord.’

‘Yet in his council, as I understand, he did utter bitter things against
us, putting affronts upon the King, and making light of his just claims
upon the fealty of his nobility?’

‘He did,’ I answered.

‘He would fain stand upon both sides of the hedge at once,’ said King
Monmouth. ‘Such a man is very like to find himself on neither side, but
in the very heart of the briars. It may be as well, however, that we
should move his way, so as to give him the chance of declaring himself.’

‘In any case, as your Majesty remembers,’ said Saxon, ‘we had determined
to march Bristolwards and attempt the town.’

‘The works are being strengthened,’ said I, ‘and there are five thousand
of the Gloucestershire train-bands assembled within. I saw the labourers
at work upon the ramparts as I passed.’

‘If we gain Beaufort we shall gain the town,’ quoth Sir Stephen
Timewell. ‘There are already a strong body of godly and honest folk
therein, who would rejoice to see a Protestant army within their gates.
Should we have to beleaguer it we may count upon some help from within.’

‘Hegel und blitzen!’ exclaimed the German soldier, with an impatience
which even the presence of the King could not keep in bounds; ‘how can
we talk of sieges and leaguers when we have not a breaching-piece in the
army?’

‘The Lard will find us the breaching-pieces,’ cried Ferguson, in his
strange, nasal voice. ‘Did the Lard no breach the too’ers o’ Jericho
withoot the aid o’ gunpooder? Did the Lard no raise up the man Robert
Ferguson and presairve him through five-and-thairty indictments and
twa-and-twenty proclamations o’ the godless? What is there He canna do?
Hosannah! Hosannah!’

‘The Doctor is right,’ said a square-faced, leather-skinned English
Independent. ‘We talk too much o’ carnal means and worldly chances,
without leaning upon that heavenly goodwill which should be to us as a
staff on stony and broken paths. Yes, gentlemen,’ he continued, raising
his voice and glancing across the table at some of the courtiers, ‘ye
may sneer at words of piety, but I say that it is you and those like you
who will bring down God’s anger upon this army.’

‘And I say so too,’ cried another sectary fiercely.

‘And I,’ ‘And I,’ shouted several, with Saxon, I think, among them.

‘Is it your wish, your Majesty, that we should be insulted at your very
council board?’ cried one of the courtiers, springing to his feet with
a flushed face. ‘How long are we to be subject to this insolence because
we have the religion of a gentleman, and prefer to practise it in the
privacy of our hearts rather than at the street corners with these
pharisees?’

‘Speak not against God’s saints,’ cried a Puritan, in a loud stern
voice. ‘There is a voice within me which tells me that it were better to
strike thee dead--yea, even in the presence of the King--than to allow
thee to revile those who have been born again.’

Several had sprung to their feet on either side. Hands were laid upon
sword-hilts, and glances as stern and as deadly as rapier thrusts were
flashing backwards and forwards; but the more neutral and reasonable
members of the council succeeded in restoring peace, and in persuading
the angry disputants to resume their seats.

‘How now, gentlemen?’ cried the King, his face dark with anger, when
silence was at last restored. ‘Is this the extent of my authority that
ye should babble and brawl as though my council-chamber were a Fleet
Street pot-house? Is this your respect for my person? I tell ye that I
would forfeit my just claims for ever, and return to Holland, or devote
my sword to the cause of Christianity against the Turk, rather than
submit to such indignity. If any man he proved to have stirred up strife
amongst the soldiers or commonalty on the score of religion I shall
know how to deal with him. Let each preach to his own, but let him not
interfere with the flock of his neighbour. As to you, Mr. Bramwell,
and you, Mr. Joyce, and you also, Sir Henry Nuttall, we shall hold ye
excused from attending these meetings until ye have further notice from
us. Ye may now separate, each to your quarters, and to-morrow morning
we shall, with the blessing of God, start for the north to see what luck
may await our enterprise in those parts.’

The King bowed as a sign that the formal meeting was over, and taking
Lord Grey aside, he conversed with him anxiously in a recess. The
courtiers, who numbered in their party several English and foreign
gentlemen, who had come over together with some Devonshire and Somerset
country squires, swaggered out of the room in a body, with much clinking
of spurs and clanking of swords. The Puritans drew gravely together and
followed after them, walking not with demure and downcast looks, as was
their common use, but with grim faces and knitted brows, as the Jews of
old may have appeared when, ‘To your tents, O Israel!’ was still ringing
in their ears.

Indeed, religious dissension and sectarian heat were in the very air.
Outside, on the Castle Green, the voices of preachers rose up like the
drone of insects. Every waggon or barrel or chance provision case had
been converted into a pulpit, each with its own orator and little knot
of eager hearkeners. Here was a russet-coated Taunton volunteer in
jackboots and bandolier, holding forth on the justification by works.
Further on a grenadier of the militia, with blazing red coat and white
cross-belt, was deep in the mystery of the Trinity. In one or two
places, where the rude pulpits were too near to each other, the sermons
had changed into a hot discussion between the two preachers, in which
the audience took part by hums or groans, each applauding the champion
whose creed was most in accordance with his own. Through this wild
scene, made more striking by the ruddy flickering glare of the
camp-fires, I picked my way with a weight at my heart, for I felt how
vain it must be to hope for success where such division reigned, Saxon
looked on, however, with glistening eyes, and rubbed his hands with
satisfaction.

‘The leaven is working,’ quoth he. ‘Something will come of all this
ferment.’

‘I see not what can come of it save disorder and weakness,’ I answered.

‘Good soldiers will come of it, lad,’ said he. ‘They are all sharpening
themselves, each after his own fashion, on the whetstone of religion.
This arguing breedeth fanatics, and fanatics are the stuff out of which
conquerors are fashioned. Have you not heard how Old Noll’s army divided
into Presbyterians, Independents, Ranters, Anabaptists, Fifth Monarchy
men, Brownists, and a score of other sects, out of whose strife rose the
finest regiments that ever formed line upon a field of battle?

          “Such as do build their faith upon
           The holy text of sword and gun.”

You know old Samuel’s couplet. I tell you, I would rather see them thus
employed than at their drill, for all their wrangling and jangling.’

‘But how of this split in the council?’ I asked.

‘Ah, that is indeed a graver matter. All creeds may be welded together,
but the Puritan and the scoffer are like oil and water. Yet the Puritan
is the oil, for he will be ever atop. These courtiers do but stand for
themselves, while the others are backed up by the pith and marrow of the
army. It is well that we are afoot to-morrow. The King’s troops are, I
hear, pouring across Salisbury Plain, but their ordnance and stores are
delaying them, for they know well that they must bring all they need,
since they can expect little from the goodwill of the country folk. Ah,
friend Buyse, wie geht es?’

‘Ganz gut,’ said the big German, looming up before us through the
darkness. ‘But, sapperment, what a cawing and croaking, like a rookery
at sunset! You English are a strange people--yes, donnerwetter, a very
strange people! There are no two of you who think alike upon any subject
under Himmel! The Cavalier will have his gay coat and his loose word.
The Puritan will cut your throat rather than give up his sad-coloured
dress and his Bible. “King James!” cry some, “King Monmouth!” say the
peasants. “King Jesus!” says the Fifth Monarchy man. “No King at all!”
 cry Master Wade and a few others who are for a Commonwealth. Since I
set foot on the Helderenbergh at Amsterdam, my head hath been in a whirl
with trying to understand what it is that ye desire, for before I have
got to the end of one man’s tale, and begin to see a little through the
finsterniss, another will come with another story, and I am in as evil a
case as ever. But, my young Hercules, I am right glad to see you back
in safety. I am half in fear to give you my hand now, after your recent
treatment of it. I trust that you are none the worse for the danger that
you have gone through.’

‘Mine eyelids are in truth a little heavy,’ I answered. ‘Save for an
hour or two aboard the lugger, and about as long on a prison couch, I
have not closed eye since I left the camp.’

‘We shall fall in at the second bugle call, about eight of the clock,’
said Saxon. ‘We shall leave you, therefore, that you may restore
yourself after your fatigues. ‘With a parting nod the two old soldiers
strode off together down the crowded Fore Street, while I made the best
of my way back to the Mayor’s hospitable dwelling, where I had to repeat
my story all over again to the assembled household before I was at last
suffered to seek my room.



Chapter XXVII. Of the Affair near Keynsham Bridge

Monday, June 21, 1685, broke very dark and windy, with dull clouds
moving heavily across the sky and a constant sputter of rain. Yet a
little after daybreak Monmouth’s bugles were blowing in every quarter
of the town, from Tone Bridge to Shuttern, and by the hour appointed the
regiments had mustered, the roll had been called, and the vanguard was
marching briskly out through the eastern gate. It went forth in the same
order as it entered, our own regiment and the Taunton burghers bringing
up the rear. Mayor Timewell and Saxon had the ordering of this part of
the army between them, and being men who had seen much service, they
drew the ordnance into a less hazardous position, and placed a strong
guard of horse, a cannon’s shot in the rear, to meet any attempt of the
Royal dragoons.

It was remarked on all sides that the army had improved in order and
discipline during the three days’ halt, owing perchance to the example
of our own unceasing drill and soldierly bearing. In numbers it had
increased to nigh eight thousand, and the men were well fed and light
of heart. With sturdy close-locked ranks they splashed their way through
mud and puddle, with many a rough country joke and many a lusty stave
from song or hymn. Sir Gervas rode at the head of his musqueteers, whose
befloured tails hung limp and lank with the water dripping from
them. Lockarby’s pikemen and my own company of scythesmen were mostly
labourers from the country, who were hardened against all weathers, and
plodded patiently along with the rain-drops glistening upon their ruddy
faces. In front were the Taunton foot; behind, the lumbering train of
baggage waggons, with the horse in the rear of them. So the long line
wound its way over the hills.

At the summit, where the road begins to dip down upon the other side, a
halt was called to enable the regiments to close up, and we looked back
at the fair town which many of us were never to see again. From the dark
walls and house roofs we could still mark the flapping and flutter of
white kerchiefs from those whom we left behind. Reuben sat his horse
beside me, with his spare shirt streaming in the wind and his great
pikemen all agrin behind him, though his thoughts and his eyes were
too far away to note them. As we gazed, a long thin quiver of sunshine
slipped out between two cloud banks and gilded the summit of the
Magdalene tower, with the Royal standard which still waved from it. The
incident was hailed as a happy augury, and a great shout spread from
rank to rank at the sight of it, with a waving of hats and a clattering
of weapons. Then the bugles blew a fanfare, the drums struck up a point
of war, Reuben thrust his shirt into his haversack, and on we marched
through mud and slush, with the dreary clouds bending low over us, and
buttressed by the no less dreary hills on either side. A seeker for
omens might have said that the heavens were weeping over our ill-fated
venture.

All day we trudged along roads which were quagmires, over our ankles
in mud, until in the evening we made our way to Bridgewater, where we
gained some recruits, and also some hundred pounds for our military
chest, for it was a well-to-do place, with a thriving coast trade
carried on down the River Parret. After a night in snug quarters we set
off again in even worse weather than before. The country in these parts
is a quagmire in the driest season, but the heavy rains had caused the
fens to overflow, and turned them into broad lakes on either side of the
road. This may have been to some degree in our favour, as shielding us
from the raids of the King’s cavalry, but it made our march very
slow. All day it was splashing and swashing through mud and mire, the
rain-drops shining on the gun-barrels and dripping from the heavy-footed
horses. Past the swollen Parret, through Eastover, by the peaceful
village of Bawdrip, and over Polden Hill we made our way, until the
bugles sounded a halt under the groves of Ashcot, and a rude meal was
served out to the men. Then on again, through the pitiless rain, past
the wooded park of Piper’s Inn, through Walton, where the floods were
threatening the cottages, past the orchards of Street, and so in the
dusk of the evening into the grey old town of Glastonbury, where the
good folk did their best by the warmth of their welcome to atone for the
bitterness of the weather.

The next morning was wet still and inclement, so the army made a short
march to Wells, which is a good-sized town, well laid out, with a fine
cathedral, which hath a great number of figures carved in stone and
placed in niches on the outer side, like that which we saw at Salisbury.
The townsfolk were strong for the Protestant cause, and the army was so
well received that their victual cost little from the military chest. On
this march we first began to come into touch with the Royal horse. More
than once when the rain mist cleared we saw the gleam of arms upon the
low hills which overlook the road, and our scouts came in with reports
of strong bodies of dragoons on either flank. At one time they massed
heavily upon our rear, as though planning a descent upon the baggage.
Saxon, however, planted a regiment of pikes on either side, so that they
broke up again and glinted off over the hills.

From Wells we marched upon the twenty-fourth to Shepton Mallet, with the
ominous sabres and helmets still twinkling behind and on either side of
us.

That evening we were at Keynsham Bridge, less than two leagues from
Bristol as the crow flies, and some of our horse forded the river and
pushed on almost to the walls.

By morning the rain clouds had at last cleared, so Reuben and I rode
slowly up one of the sloping green hills which rose behind the camp, in
the hope of gaining some sight of the enemy. Our men we left littered
about upon the grass, trying to light fires with the damp sticks, or
laying out their clothes to dry in the sunshine. A strange-looking band
they were, coated and splashed with mud from head to heel, their hats
all limp and draggled, their arms rusted, and their boots so worn that
many walked barefoot, and others had swathed their kerchiefs round
their feet. Yet their short spell of soldiering had changed them
from honest-faced yokels into fierce-eyed, half-shaven, gaunt-cheeked
fellows, who could carry arms or port pikes as though they had done
nought else since childhood.

The plight of the officers was no better than that of the men, nor
should an officer, my dears, when he is upon service, ever demean
himself by partaking of any comfort which all cannot share with him. Let
him lie by a soldier’s fire and eat a soldier’s fare, or let him hence,
for he is a hindrance and a stumbling-block. Our clothes were pulp, our
steel fronts red with rust, and our chargers as stained and splashed as
though they had rolled in the mire. Our very swords and pistols were in
such a plight that we could scarce draw the one or snap the other. Sir
Gervas alone succeeded in keeping his attire and his person as neat and
as dainty as ever. What he did in the watches of the night, and how he
gained his sleep, hath ever been a mystery to me, for day after day
he turned out at the bugle call, washed, scented, brushed, with wig
in order, and clothes from which every speck of mud had been carefully
removed. At his saddle-bow he bore with him the great flour dredger
which we saw him use at Taunton, and his honest musqueteers had their
heads duly dusted every morning, though in an hour their tails would
be as brown as nature made them, while the flour would be trickling in
little milky streams down their broad backs, or forming in cakes upon
the skirts of their coats. It was a long contest between the weather and
the Baronet, but our comrade proved the victor.

‘There was a time when I was called plump Reuben,’ quoth my friend, as
we rode together up the winding track. ‘What with too little that is
solid and too much that is liquid I am like to be skeleton Reuben ere I
see Havant again. I am as full of rain-water as my father’s casks are of
October. I would, Micah, that you would wring me out and hang me to dry
upon one of these bushes.’

‘If we are wet, King James’s men must be wetter,’ said I, ‘for at least
we have had such shelter as there was.’

‘It is poor comfort when you are starved to know that another is in
the same plight. I give you my word, Micah, I took in one hole of my
sword-belt on Monday, two on Tuesday, one yesterday, and one to-day. I
tell you, I am thawing like an icicle in the sun.’

‘If you should chance to dwindle to nought,’ said I, laughing, ‘what
account are we to give of you in Taunton? Since you have donned armour
and taken to winning the hearts of fair maidens, you have outstripped us
all in importance, and become a man of weight and substance.’

‘I had more substance and weight ere I began trailing over the
countryside like a Hambledon packman,’ quoth he. ‘But in very truth and
with all gravity, Micah, it is a strange thing to feel that the whole
world for you, your hopes, your ambitions, your all, are gathered into
so small a compass that a hood might cover it, and two little pattens
support it. I feel as if she were my own higher self, my loftier
part, and that I, should I be torn from her, would remain for ever an
incomplete and half-formed being. With her, I ask nothing else. Without
her, all else is nothing.’

‘But have you spoken to the old man?’ I asked. ‘Are you indeed
betrothed?’

‘I have spoken to him,’ my friend answered, ‘but he was so busy in
filling ammunition cases that I could not gain his attention. When I
tried once more he was counting the spare pikes in the Castle armoury
with a tally and an ink-horn. I told him that I had come to crave his
granddaughter’s hand, on which he turned to me and asked, “which hand?”
 with so blank a stare that it was clear that his mind was elsewhere. On
the third trial, though, the day that you did come back from Badminton,
I did at last prefer my request, but he flashed out at me that this was
no time for such fooleries, and he bade me wait until King Monmouth was
on the throne, when I might ask him again. I warrant that he did not
call such things fooleries fifty years ago, when he went a-courting
himself.’

‘At least he did not refuse you,’ said I. ‘It is as good as a promise
that; should the cause be successful, you shall be so too.’

‘By my faith,’ cried Reuben, ‘if a man could by his own single blade
bring that about, there is none who hath so strong an interest in it as
I. No, not Monmouth himself! The apprentice Derrick hath for a long time
raised his eyes to his master’s daughter, and the old man was ready to
have him as a son, so much was he taken by his godliness and zeal. Yet I
have learned from a side-wind that he is but a debauched and low-living
man, though he covers his pleasures with a mask of piety. I thought as
you did think that he was at the head of the roisterers who tried to
bear Mistress Ruth away, though, i’ faith, I can scarce think harshly
of them, since they did me the greatest service that ever men did yet.
Meanwhile I have taken occasion, ere we left Wells two nights ago, to
speak to Master Derrick on the matter, and to warn him as he loved his
life to plan no treachery against her.

‘And how took he this mild intimation?’ I asked.

‘As a rat takes a rat trap. Snarled out some few words of godly hatred,
and so slunk away.’

‘On my life, lad,’ said I, ‘you have been having as many adventures in
your own way as I in mine. But here we are upon the hill-top, with as
fair an outlook as man could wish to have.’

Just beneath us ran the Avon, curving in long bends through the
woodlands, with the gleam of the sun striking back from it here and
there, as though a row of baby suns had been set upon a silver string.
On the further side the peaceful, many-hued country, rising and falling
in a swell of cornfields and orchards, swept away to break in a fringe
of forest upon the distant Malverns. On our right were the green hills
near Bath and on our left the rugged Mendips, with queenly Bristol
crouching behind her forts, and the grey channel behind flecked with
snow-white sails. At our very feet lay Keynsham Bridge, and our army
spotted in dark patches over the green fields, the smoke of their fires
and the babble of their voices floating up in the still summer air.

A road ran along the Somersetshire bank of the Avon, and down this two
troops of our horse were advancing, with intent to establish outposts
upon our eastern flank. As they jangled past in somewhat loose order,
their course lay through a pine-wood, into which the road takes a sharp
bend. We were gazing down at the scene when, like lightning from a
cloud, a troop of the Horse Guards wheeled out into the open, and
breaking from trot to canter, and from canter to gallop, dashed down in
a whirlwind of blue and steel upon our unprepared squadrons. A crackle
of hastily unslung carbines broke from the leading ranks, but in an
instant the Guards burst through them and plunged on into the second
troop. For a space the gallant rustics held their own, and the dense
mass of men and horses swayed backwards and forwards, with the swirling
sword-blades playing above them in flashes of angry light. Then blue
coats began to break from among the russet, the fight rolled wildly back
for a hundred paces, the dense throng was split asunder, and the Royal
Guards came pouring through the rent, and swerved off to right and left
through hedges and over ditches, stabbing and hacking at the fleeing
horsemen. The whole scene, with the stamping horses, tossing manes,
shouts of triumph or despair, gasping of hard-drawn breath and musical
clink and clatter of steel, was to us upon the hill like some wild
vision, so swiftly did it come and so swiftly go. A sharp, stern
bugle-call summoned the Blues back into the road, where they formed up
and trotted slowly away before fresh squadrons could come up from the
camp. The sun gleamed and the river rippled as ever, and there was
nothing save the long litter of men and horses to mark the course of the
hell blast which had broken so suddenly upon us.

As the Blues retired we observed that a single officer brought up the
rear, riding very slowly, as though it went much against his mood to
turn his back even to an army. The space betwixt the troop and him was
steadily growing greater, yet he made no effort to quicken his pace,
but jogged quietly on, looking back from time to time to see if he were
followed. The same thought sprang into my comrade’s mind and my own at
the same instant, and we read it in each other’s faces.

‘This path,’ cried he eagerly. ‘It brings us out beyond the grove, and
is in the hollow all the way.’

‘Lead the horses until we get on better ground,’ I answered. ‘We may
just cut him off if we are lucky.’

There was no time for another word, for we hurried off down the uneven
track, sliding and slipping on the rain-soaked turf. Springing into our
saddles we dashed down the gorge, through the grove, and so out on to
the road in time to see the troop disappear in the distance, and to meet
the solitary officer face to face.

He was a sun-burned, high-featured man, with black mustachios, mounted
on a great raw-boned chestnut charger. As we broke out on to the road he
pulled up to have a good look at us. Then, having fully made up his mind
as to our hostile intent, he drew his sword, plucked a pistol out of his
holster with his left hand, and gripping the bridle between his teeth,
dug his spurs into his horse’s flanks and charged down upon us at the
top of his speed. As we dashed at him, Reuben on his bridle arm and I
on the other, he cut fiercely at me, and at the same moment fired at my
companion. The ball grazed Reuben’s cheek, leaving a red weal behind it
like a lash from a whip, and blackening his face with the powder. His
cut, however, fell short, and throwing my arm round his waist as the two
horses dashed past each other, I plucked him from the saddle and drew
him face upwards across my saddlebow. Brave Covenant lumbered on with
his double burden, and before the Guards had learned that they had lost
their officer, we had brought him safe, in spite of his struggles and
writhings, to within sight of Monmouth’s camp.

‘A narrow shave, friend,’ quoth Reuben, with his hand to his cheek. ‘He
hath tattooed my face with powder until I shall be taken for Solomon
Sprent’s younger brother.’

‘Thank God that you are unhurt,’ said I. ‘See, our horse are advancing
along the upper road. Lord Grey himself rides at their head. We had best
take our prisoner into camp, since we can do nought here.’

‘For Christ’s sake, either slay me or set me down!’ he cried. ‘I cannot
bear to be carried in this plight, like a half-weaned infant, through
your campful of grinning yokels.’

‘I would not make sport of a brave man,’ I answered. ‘If you will give
your word to stay with us, you shall walk between us.’

‘Willingly,’ said he, scrambling down and arranging his ruffled attire.
‘By my faith, sirs, ye have taught me a lesson not to think too meanly
of mine enemies. I should have ridden with my troop had I thought that
there was a chance of falling in with outposts or videttes.’

‘We were upon the hill before we cut you off,’ quoth Reuben. ‘Had that
pistol ball been a thought straighter, it is I that should have been
truly the cut-off one. Zounds, Micah! I was grumbling even now that I
had fallen away, but had my cheek been as round as of old the slug had
been through it.’

‘Where have I seen you before?’ asked our captive, bending his dark
eyes upon me. ‘Aye, I have it! It was in the inn at Salisbury, where
my light-headed comrade Horsford did draw upon an old soldier who was
riding with you. Mine own name is Ogilvy--Major Ogilvy of the Horse
Guards Blue. I was right glad that ye did come off safely from the
hounds. Some word had come of your errand after your departure, so this
same Horsford with the Mayor and one or two other Tantivies, whose zeal
methinks outran their humanity, slipped the dogs upon your trail.’

‘I remember you well,’ I answered. ‘You will find Colonel Decimus Saxon,
my former companion, in the camp. No doubt you will be shortly exchanged
for some prisoner of ours.’

‘Much more likely to have my throat cut,’ said he, with a smile. ‘I
fear that Feversham in his present temper will scarce pause to make
prisoners, and Monmouth may be tempted to pay him back in his own
coin. Yet it is the fortune of war, and I should pay for my want of all
soldierly caution. Truth to tell, my mind was far from battles and ruses
at the moment, for it had wandered away to aqua-regia and its action
upon the metals, until your appearance brought me back to soldiership.’

‘The horse are out of sight,’ said Reuben, looking backwards, ‘ours as
well as theirs. Yet I see a clump of men over yonder at the other side
of the Avon, and there on the hillside can you not see the gleam of
steel?’

‘There are foot there,’ I answered, puckering my eyes. ‘It seems to me
that I can discern four or five regiments and as many colours of horse.
King Monmouth should know of this with all speed.’

‘He does know of it,’ said Reuben. ‘Yonder he stands under the trees
with his council about him. See, one of them rides this way!’

A trooper had indeed detached himself from the group and galloped
towards us. ‘If you are Captain Clarke, sir,’ he said, with a salute,
‘the King orders you to join his council.’

‘Then I leave the Major in your keeping, Reuben,’ I cried. ‘See that
he hath what our means allow.’ So saying I spurred my horse, and soon
joined the group who were gathered round the King. There were Grey,
Wade, Buyse, Ferguson, Saxon, Hollis, and a score more, all looking very
grave, and peering down the valley with their glasses. Monmouth himself
had dismounted, and was leaning against the trunk of a tree, with his
arms folded upon his breast, and a look of white despair upon his face.
Behind the tree a lackey paced up and down leading his glossy black
charger, who pranced and tossed his lordly mane, a very king among
horses.

‘You see, friends,’ said Monmouth, turning lack-lustre eyes from one
leader to another, ‘Providence would seem to be against us. Some new
mishap is ever at our heels.’

‘Not Providence, your Majesty, but our own negligence,’ cried Saxon
boldly. ‘Had we advanced on Bristol last night, we might have been on
the right side of the ramparts by now.’

‘But we had no thought that the enemy’s foot was so near!’ exclaimed
Wade.

‘I told ye what would come of it, and so did Oberst Buyse and the worthy
Mayor of Taunton,’ Saxon answered. ‘However, there is nought to be
gained by mourning over a broken pipkin. We must e’en piece it together
as best we may.’

‘Let us advance on Bristol, and put oor trust in the Highest,’ quoth
Ferguson. ‘If it be His mighty will that we should tak’ it, then
shall we enter into it, yea, though drakes and sakers lay as thick as
cobblestanes in the streets.’

‘Aye! aye! On to Bristol! God with us!’ cried several of the Puritans
excitedly.

‘But it is madness--dummheit--utter foolishness,’ Buyse broke in hotly.
‘You have the chance and you will not take it. Now the chance is gone
and you are all eager to go. Here is an army of, as near as I can judge,
five thousand men on the right side of the river. We are on the wrong
side, and yet you talk of crossing and making a beleaguering of Bristol
without breaching-pieces or spades, and with this force in our rear.
Will the town make terms when they can see from their ramparts the van
of the army which comes to help them? Or does it assist us in fighting
the army to have a strong town beside us, from which horse and foot can
make an outfall upon our flank? I say again that it is madness.’

What the German soldier said was so clearly the truth that even the
fanatics were silenced. Away in the east the long shimmering lines
of steel, and the patches of scarlet upon the green hillside, were
arguments which the most thoughtless could not overlook.

‘What would you advise, then?’ asked Monmouth moodily, tapping his
jewelled riding-whip against his high boots.

‘To cross the river and come to hand-grips with them ere they can
get help from the town,’ the burly German answered bluntly. ‘I cannot
understand what we are here for if it be not to fight. If we win, the
town must fall. If we lose, We have had a bold stroke for it, and can do
no more.’

‘Is that your opinion, too, Colonel Saxon?’ the King asked.

‘Assuredly, your Majesty, if we can fight to advantage. We can scarce
do that, however, by crossing the river on a single narrow bridge in
the face of such a force. I should advise that we destroy this Keynsham
Bridge, and march down this southern bank in the hope of forcing a fight
in a position which we may choose.’

‘We have not yet summoned Bath,’ said Wade. ‘Let us do as Colonel Saxon
proposes, and let us in the meantime march in that direction and send a
trumpet to the governor.’

‘There is yet another plan,’ quoth Sir Stephen Timewell, ‘which is to
hasten to Gloucester, to cross the Severn there, and so march through
Worcestershire into Shropshire and Cheshire. Your Majesty has many
friends in those parts.’

Monmouth paced up and down with his hand to his forehead like one
distrait. ‘What am I to do,’ he cried at last, ‘in the midst of all this
conflicting advice, when I know that not only my own success, but the
lives of these poor faithful peasants and craftsmen depend upon my
resolution?’

‘With all humbleness, your Majesty,’ said Lord Grey, who had just
returned with the horse, ‘I should suggest, since there are only a few
troops of their cavalry on this side of the Avon, that we blow up the
bridge and move onwards to Bath, whence we can pass into Wiltshire,
which we know to be friendly.’

‘So be it!’ cried the King, with the reckless air of one who accepts
a plan, not because it is the best, but because he feels that all are
equally hopeless. ‘What think you, gentlemen?’ he added, with a bitter
smile. ‘I have heard news from London this morning, that my uncle has
clapped two hundred merchants and others who are suspected of being true
to their creed into the Tower and the Fleet. He will have one half of
the nation mounting guard over the other half ere long.’

‘Or the whole, your Majesty, mounting guard over him,’ suggested Wade.
‘He may himself see the Traitor’s Gate some of these mornings.’

‘Ha, ha! Think ye so? think ye so!’ cried Monmouth, rubbing his hands
and brightening into a smile. ‘Well, mayhap you have nicked the truth.
Who knows? Henry’s cause seemed a losing one until Bosworth Field
settled the contention. To your charges, gentlemen. We shall march in
half-an-hour. Colonel Saxon and you, Sir Stephen, shall cover the rear
and guard the baggage--a service of honour with this fringe of horse
upon our skirts.’

The council broke up forthwith, every man riding off to his own
regiment. The whole camp was in a stir, bugles blowing and drums
rattling, until in a very short time the army was drawn up in order, and
the forlorn of cavalry had already started along the road which leads to
Bath. Five hundred horse with the Devonshire militiamen were in the van.
After them in order came the sailor regiment, the North Somerset men,
the first Taunton regiment of burghers, the Mendip and Bagworthy miners,
the lace and wool-workers of Honiton, Wellington, and Ottery St. Mary;
the woodmen, the graziers, the marsh-men, and the men from the Quantock
district. Behind were the guns and the baggage, with our own brigade and
four colours of horse as a rearguard. On our march we could see the red
coats of Feversham keeping pace with us upon the other side of the Avon.
A large body of his horse and dragoons had forded the stream and hovered
upon our skirts, but Saxon and Sir Stephen covered the baggage so
skilfully, and faced round so fiercely with such a snarl of musketry
whenever they came too nigh, that they never ventured to charge home.



Chapter XXVIII. Of the Fight in Wells Cathedral

I am fairly tied to the chariot-wheels of history now, my dear children,
and must follow on with name and place and date, whether my tale suffer
by it or no. With such a drama as this afoot it were impertinent to
speak of myself, save in so far as I saw or heard what may make these
old scenes more vivid to you. It is no pleasant matter for me to dwell
upon, yet, convinced as I am that there is no such thing as chance
either in the great or the little things of this world, I am very sure
that the sacrifices of these brave men were not thrown away, and that
their strivings were not as profitless as might at first sight appear.
If the perfidious race of Stuart is not now seated upon the throne, and
if religion in England is still a thing of free growth, we may, to my
thinking, thank these Somerset yokels for it, who first showed how small
a thing would shake the throne of an unpopular monarch. Monmouth’s
army was but the vanguard of that which marched throe years later into
London, when James and his cruel ministers were flying as outcasts over
the face of the earth.

On the night of June 27, or rather early in the morning of June 28, we
reached the town of Frome, very wet and miserable, for the rain had come
on again, and all the roads were quagmires. From this next day we pushed
on once more to Wells, where we spent the night and the whole of the
next day, to give the men time to get their clothes dry, and to recover
themselves after their privations.

In the forenoon a parade of our Wiltshire regiment was held in the
Cathedral Close, when Monmouth praised it, as it well deserved, for the
soldierly progress made in so short a time.

As we returned to our quarters after dismissing our men we came upon a
great throng of the rough Bagworthy and Oare miners, who were assembled
in the open space in front of the Cathedral, listening to one of their
own number, who was addressing them from a cart. The wild and frenzied
gestures of the man showed us that he was one of those extreme sectaries
whose religion runs perilously near to madness. The hums and groans
which rose from the crowd proved, however, that his fiery words were
well suited to his hearers, so we halted on the verge of the multitude
and hearkened to his address. A red-bearded, fierce-faced man he was,
with tangled shaggy hair tumbling over his gleaming eyes, and a hoarse
voice which resounded over the whole square.

‘What shall we not do for the Lord?’ he cried; ‘what shall we not do for
the Holy of Holies? Why is it that His hand is heavy upon us? Why is it
that we have not freed this land, even as Judith freed Bethulia? Behold,
we have looked for peace but no good came, and for a time of health, and
behold trouble! Why is this, I say? Truly, brothers, it is because we
have slighted the Lord, because we have not been wholehearted towards
Him. Lo! we have praised Him with our breath, but in our deeds we have
been cold towards Him. Ye know well that Prelacy is an accursed thing--a
hissing and an abomination in the eyes of the Almighty! Yet what have
we, His servants, wrought for Him in this matter? Have we not seen
Prelatist churches, churches of form and of show, where the creature is
confounded with the Creator--have we not seen them, I say, and have we
not forborne to sweep them away, and so lent our sanction to them? There
is the sin of a lukewarm and back-sliding generation! There is the cause
why the Lord should look coldly upon His people! Lo! at Shepton and at
Frome we have left such churches behind us. At Glastonbury, too, we have
spared those wicked walls which were reared by idolatrous hands of old.
Woe unto ye, if, after having put your hands to God’s plough, ye turn
back from the work! See there!’ he howled, facing round to the beautiful
Cathedral, ‘what means this great heap of stones? Is it not an altar of
Baal? Is it not built for man-worship rather than God-worship? Is it not
there that the man Ken, tricked out in his foolish rochet and baubles,
may preach his soulless and lying doctrines, which are but the old dish
of Popery served up under a new cover? And shall we suffer this thing?
Shall we, the chosen children of the Great One, allow this plague-spot
to remain? Can we expect the Almighty to help us when we will not
stretch out a hand to help Him? We have left the other temples of
Prelacy behind us. Shall we leave this one, too, my brothers?’

‘No, no!’ yelled the crowd, tossing and swaying.

‘Shall we pluck it down, then, until no one stone is left upon another?’

‘Yes, yes!’ they shouted.

‘Now, at once?’

‘Yes, yes!’

‘Then to work!’ he cried, and springing from the cart he rushed towards
the Cathedral, with the whole mob of wild fanatics at his heels. Some
crowded in, shouting and yelling, through the open doors, while others
swarmed up the pillars and pedestals of the front, hacking at the
sculptured ornaments, and tugging at the grey old images which filled
every niche.

‘This must be stopped,’ said Saxon curtly. ‘We cannot afford to insult
and estray the whole Church of England to please a few hot-headed
ranters. The pillage of this Cathedral would do our cause more harm than
a pitched battle lost. Do you bring up your company, Sir Gervas, and we
shall do what we can to hold them in check until they come.’

‘Hi, Masterton!’ cried the Baronet, spying one of his under-officers
among the crowd who were looking on, neither assisting nor opposing the
rioters. ‘Do you hasten to the quarters, and tell Barker to bring up the
company with their matches burning. I may be of use here.’

‘Ha, here is Buyse!’ cried Saxon joyously, as the huge German ploughed
his way through the crowd. ‘And Lord Grey, too! We must save the
Cathedral, my lord! They would sack and burn it.’

‘This way, gentlemen,’ cried an old grey-haired man, running out towards
us with hands outspread, and a bunch of keys clanking at his girdle. ‘Oh
hasten, gentlemen, if ye can indeed prevail over these lawless men! They
have pulled down Saint Peter, and they will have Paul down too unless
help comes. There will not be an apostle left. The east window is
broken. They have brought a hogshead of beer, and are broaching it
upon the high altar. Oh, alas, alas! That such things should be in a
Christian land!’ He sobbed aloud and stamped about in a very frenzy of
grief.

‘It is the verger, sirs,’ said one of the townsfolk. ‘He hath grown grey
in the Cathedral.’

‘This way to the vestry door, my lords and gentlemen,’ cried the old
man, pushing a way strenuously through the crowd. ‘Now, lack-a-day, the
sainted Paul hath gone too!’

As he spoke a splintering crash from inside the Cathedral announced some
fresh outrage on the part of the zealots. Our guide hastened on with
renewed speed, until he came to a low oaken door heavily arched, which
he unlocked with much rasping of wards and creaking of hinges. Through
this we sidled as best we might, and hurried after the old man down a
stone-flagged corridor, which led through a wicket into the Cathedral
close by the high altar.

The great building was full of the rioters, who were rushing hither and
thither, destroying and breaking everything which they could lay their
hands on. A good number of these were genuine zealots, the followers of
the preacher whom we had listened to outside. Others, however, were on
the face of them mere rogues and thieves, such as gather round every
army upon the march. While the former were tearing down images from the
walls, or hurling the books of common prayer through the stained-glass
windows, the others were rooting up the massive brass candlesticks,
and carrying away everything which promised to be of value. One ragged
fellow was in the pulpit, tearing off the crimson velvet and hurling it
down among the crowd. Another had upset the reading-desk, and was busily
engaged in wrenching off the brazen fastenings. In the centre of
the side aisle a small group had a rope round the neck of Mark the
Evangelist, and were dragging lustily upon it, until, even as we
entered, the statue, after tottering for a few moments, came crashing
down upon the marble floor. The shouts which greeted every fresh
outrage, with the splintering of woodwork, the smashing of windows, and
the clatter of falling masonry, made up a most deafening uproar, which
was increased by the droning of the organ, until some of the rioters
silenced it by slitting up the bellows.

What more immediately concerned ourselves was the scene which was being
enacted just in front of us at the high altar. A barrel of beer had been
placed upon it, and a dozen ruffians gathered round it, one of whom with
many ribald jests had climbed up, and was engaged in knocking in the
top of the cask with a hatchet. As we entered he had just succeeded in
broaching it, and the brown mead was foaming over, while the mob with
roars of laughter were passing up their dippers and pannikins. The
German soldier rapped out a rough jagged oath at this spectacle, and
shouldering his way through the roisterers he sprang upon the altar.
The ringleader was bending over his cask, black-jack in hand, when the
soldier’s iron grip fell upon his collar, and in a moment his heels were
flapping in the air, and his head three feet deep in the cask, while the
beer splashed and foamed in every direction. With a mighty heave Buyse
picked up the barrel with the half-drowned miner inside, and hurled it
clattering down the broad marble steps which led from the body of the
church. At the same time, with the aid of a dozen of our men who had
followed us into the Cathedral, we drove back the fellow’s comrades, and
thrust them out beyond the rails which divided the choir from the nave.

Our inroad had the effect of checking the riot, but it simply did so by
turning the fury of the zealots from the walls and windows to ourselves.
Images, stone-work, and wood-carvings were all abandoned, and the whole
swarm came rushing up with a hoarse buzz of rage, all discipline and
order completely lost in their religious frenzy. ‘Smite the Prelatists!’
they howled. ‘Down with the friends of Antichrist! Cut them off even at
the horns of the altar! Down with them!’ On either side they massed, a
wild, half-demented crowd, some with arms and some without, but filled
to a man with the very spirit of murder.

‘This is a civil war within a civil war,’ said Lord Grey, with a quiet
smile. ‘We had best draw, gentlemen, and defend the gap in the rails, if
we may hold it good until help arrives.’ He flashed out his rapier as
he spoke, and took his stand on the top of the steps, with Saxon and Sir
Gervas upon one side of him, Buyse, Reuben, and myself upon the other.
There was only room for six to wield their weapons with effect, so our
scanty band of followers scattered themselves along the line of the
rails, which were luckily so high and strong as to make an escalado
difficult in the face of any opposition.

The riot had now changed into open mutiny among these marshmen and
miners. Pikes, scythes, and knives glimmered through the dim light,
while their wild cries re-echoed from the high arched roof like the
howling of a pack of wolves. ‘Go forward, my brothers,’ cried the
fanatic preacher, who had been the cause of the outbreak--‘go forward
against them! What though they be in high places! There is One who
is higher than they. Shall we shrink from His work because of a naked
sword? Shall we suffer the Prelatist altar to be preserved by these sons
of Amalek? On, on! In the name of the Lord!’

‘In the name of the Lord!’ cried the crowd, with a sort of hissing gasp,
like one who is about to plunge into an icy bath. ‘In the name of the
Lord!’ From either side they came on, gathering speed and volume, until
at last with a wild cry they surged right down upon our sword-points.

I can say nothing of what took place to right or left of me during the
ruffle, for indeed there were so many pressing upon us, and the fight
was so hot, that it was all that each of us could do to hold our own.
The very number of our assailants was in our favour, by hampering their
sword-arms. One burly miner cut fiercely at me with his scythe, but
missing me he swung half round with the force of the blow, and I passed
my sword through his body before he could recover himself. It was the
first time that I had ever slain a man in anger, my dear children, and
I shall never forget his white startled face as he looked over his
shoulder at me ere he fell. Another closed in with me before I could get
my weapon disengaged, but I struck him out with my left hand, and then
brought the flat of my sword upon his head, laying him senseless
upon the pavement. God knows, I did not wish to take the lives of the
misguided and ignorant zealots, but our own were at stake. A marshman,
looking more like a shaggy wild beast than a human being, darted under
my weapon and caught me round the knees, while another brought a flail
down upon my head-piece, from which it glanced on to my shoulder. A
third thrust at me with a pike, and pricked me on the thigh, but I shore
his weapon in two with one blow, and split his head with the next. The
man with the flail gave back at sight of this, and a kick freed me from
the unarmed ape-like creature at my feet, so that I found myself clear
of my assailants, and none the worse for my encounter, save for a touch
on the leg and some stiffness of the neck and shoulder.

Looking round I found that my comrades had also beaten off those who
were opposed to them. Saxon was holding his bloody rapier in his left
hand, while the blood was trickling from a slight wound upon his right.
Two miners lay across each other in front of him, but at the feet of
Sir Gervas Jerome no fewer than four bodies were piled together. He had
plucked out his snuff-box as I glanced at him, and was offering it with
a bow and a flourish to Lord Grey, as unconcernedly as though he were
back once more in his London coffee-house. Buyse leaned upon his long
broadsword, and looked gloomily at a headless trunk in front of him,
which I recognised from the dress as being that of the preacher. As to
Reuben, he was unhurt himself, but in sore distress over my own trifling
scar, though I assured the faithful lad that it was a less thing than
many a tear from branch or thorn which we had had when blackberrying
together.

The fanatics, though driven back, were not men to be content with a
single repulse. They had lost ten of their number, including their
leader, without being able to break our line, but the failure only
served to increase their fury. For a minute or so they gathered panting
in the aisle. Then with a mad yell they dashed in once more, and made a
desperate effort to cut a way through to the altar. It was a fiercer and
more prolonged struggle than before. One of our followers was stabbed to
the heart over the rails, and fell without a groan. Another was stunned
by a mass of masonry hurled at him by a giant cragsman. Reuben was
felled by a club, and would have been dragged out and hacked to pieces
had I not stood over him and beaten off his assailants. Sir Gervas was
borne off his legs by the rush, but lay like a wounded wildcat, striking
out furiously at everything which came within his reach. Buyse and
Saxon, back to back, stood firm amidst the seething, rushing crowd,
cutting down every man within sweep of their swords. Yet in such a
struggle numbers must in the end prevail, and I confess that I for one
had begun to have fears for the upshot of our contest, when the heavy
tramp of disciplined feet rang through the Cathedral, and the Baronet’s
musqueteers came at a quick run up the central aisle. The fanatics did
not await their charge, but darted off over benches and pews, followed
by our allies, who were furious on seeing their beloved Captain upon the
ground. There was a wild minute or two, with confused shuffling of feet,
stabs, groans, and the clatter of musket butts on the marble floor. Of
the rioters some were slain, but the greater part threw down their arms
and were arrested at the command of Lord Grey, while a strong guard was
placed at the gates to prevent any fresh outburst of sectarian fury.

When at last the Cathedral was cleared and order restored, we had time
to look around us and to reckon our own injuries. In all my wanderings,
and the many wars in which I afterwards fought--wars compared to which
this affair of Monmouth’s was but the merest skirmish--I have never seen
a stranger or more impressive scene. In the dim, solemn light the pile
of bodies in front of the rails, with their twisted limbs and white-set
faces, had a most sad and ghost-like aspect. The evening light, shining
through one of the few unbroken stained-glass windows, cast great
splotches of vivid crimson and of sickly green upon the heap of
motionless figures. A few wounded men sat about in the front pews or lay
upon the steps moaning for water. Of our own small company not one had
escaped unscathed. Three of our followers had been slain outright, while
a fourth was lying stunned from a blow. Buyse and Sir Gervas were much
bruised. Saxon was cut on the right arm. Reuben had been felled by a
bludgeon stroke, and would certainly have been slain but for the fine
temper of Sir Jacob Clancing’s breastplate, which had turned a fierce
pike-thrust. As to myself it is scarce worth the mention, but my head
sang for some hours like a good wife’s kettle, and my boot was full of
blood, which may have been a blessing in disguise, for Sneckson, our
Havant barber, was ever dinning into my ears how much the better I
should be for a phlebotomy.

In the meantime all the troops had assembled and the mutiny been swiftly
stamped out. There were doubtless many among the Puritans who had no
love for the Prelatists, but none save the most crack-brained fanatics
could fail to see that the sacking of the Cathedral would set the
whole Church of England in arms, and ruin the cause for which they were
fighting. As it was, much damage had been done; for whilst the gang
within had been smashing all which they could lay their hands upon,
others outside had chipped off cornices and gargoyles, and had even
dragged the lead covering from the roof and hurled it down in great
sheets to their companions beneath. This last led to some profit, for
the army had no great store of ammunition, so the lead was gathered up
by Monmouth’s orders and recast into bullets. The prisoners were held
in custody for a time, but it was deemed unwise to punish them, so that
they were finally pardoned and dismissed from the army.

A parade of our whole force was held in the fields outside the town upon
the second day of our stay at Wells, the weather having at last become
warm and sunny. The foot was then found to muster six regiments of nine
hundred men, or five thousand four hundred in all. Of these fifteen
hundred were musqueteers, two thousand were pikemen, and the rest were
scythesmen or peasants with flails and hammers. A few bodies, such as
our own or those from Taunton, might fairly lay claim to be soldiers,
but the most of them were still labourers and craftsmen with weapons
in their hands. Yet, ill-armed and ill-drilled as they were, they were
still strong robust Englishmen, full of native courage and of religious
zeal. The light and fickle Monmouth began to take heart once more at the
sight of their sturdy bearing, and at the sound of their hearty cheers.
I heard him as I sat my horse beside his staff speak exultantly to those
around him, and ask whether these fine fellows could possibly be beaten
by mercenary half-hearted hirelings.

‘What say you, Wade!’ he cried. ‘Are we never to see a smile on that sad
face of yours? Do you not see a woolsack in store for you as you look
upon these brave fellows?’

‘God forbid that I should say a word to damp your Majesty’s ardour,’ the
lawyer answered; ‘yet I cannot but remember that there was a time when
your Majesty, at the head of these same hirelings, did drive men as
brave as these in headlong rout from Bothwell Bridge.’

‘True, true!’ said the King, passing his hand over his forehead--a
favourite motion when he was worried and annoyed. ‘They were bold men,
the western Covenanters, yet they could not stand against the rush of
our battalions. But they had had no training, whereas these can fight in
line and fire a platoon as well as one would wish to see.’

‘If we hadna a gun nor a patronal among us,’ said Ferguson, ‘if we hadna
sae muckle as a sword, but just oor ain honds, yet would the Lard gie us
the victory, if it seemed good in His a’ seeing een.’

‘All battles are but chance work, your Majesty,’ remarked Saxon, whose
sword-arm was bound round with his kerchief. ‘Some lucky turn, some slip
or chance which none can foresee, is ever likely to turn the scale. I
have lost when I have looked to win, and I have won when I have looked
to lose. It is an uncertain game, and one never knows the finish till
the last card is played.’

‘Not till the stakes are drawn,’ said Buyse, in his deep guttural voice.
‘There is many a leader that wins what you call the trick, and yet loses
the game.’

‘The trick being the battle and the game the campaign,’ quoth the King,
with a smile. ‘Our German friend is a master of camp-fire metaphors. But
methinks our poor horses are in a sorry state. What would cousin William
over at The Hague, with his spruce guards, think of such a show as
this?’

During this talk the long column of foot had tramped past, still bearing
the banners which they had brought with them to the wars, though much
the worse for wind and weather. Monmouth’s remarks had been drawn forth
by the aspect of the ten troops of horse which followed. The chargers
had been sadly worn by the continued work and constant rain, while the
riders, having allowed their caps and fronts to get coated with rust,
appeared to be in as bad a plight as their steeds. It was clear to the
least experienced of us that if we were to hold our own it was upon
our foot that we must rely. On the tops of the low hills all round the
frequent shimmer of arms, glancing here and there when the sun’s rays
struck upon them, showed how strong our enemies were in the very point
in which we were so weak. Yet in the main this Wells review was cheering
to us, as showing that the men kept in good heart, and that there was no
ill-feeling at the rough handling of the zealots upon the day before.

The enemy’s horse hovered about us during these days, but the foot had
been delayed through the heavy weather and the swollen streams. On the
last day of June we marched out of Wells, and made our way across flat
sedgy plains and over the low Polden Hills to Bridgewater, where we
found some few recruits awaiting us. Here Monmouth had some thoughts
of making a stand, and even set to work raising earthworks, but it was
pointed out to him that, even could he hold the town, there was not more
than a few days’ provisions within it, while the country round had been
already swept so bare that little more could be expected from it. The
works were therefore abandoned, and, fairly driven to bay, without a
loophole of escape left, we awaited the approach of the enemy.



Chapter XXIX. Of the Great Cry from the Lonely House

And so our weary marching and counter-marching came at last to an end,
and we found ourselves with our backs fairly against the wall, and the
whole strength of the Government turned against us. Not a word came
to us of a rising or movement in our favour in any part of England.
Everywhere the Dissenters were cast into prison and the Church dominant.
From north and east and west the militia of the counties was on its
march against us. In London six regiments of Dutch troops had arrived as
a loan from the Prince of Orange. Others were said to be on their way.
The City had enrolled ten thousand men. Everywhere there was mustering
and marching to succour the flower of the English army, which was
already in Somersetshire. And all for the purpose of crushing some five
or six thousand clodhoppers and fishermen, half-armed and penniless, who
were ready to throw their lives away for a man and for an idea.

But this idea, my dear children, was a noble one, and one which a man
might very well sacrifice all for, and yet feel that all was well spent.
For though these poor peasants, in their dumb, blundering fashion, would
have found it hard to give all their reasons in words, yet in the inmost
heart of them they knew and felt that it was England’s cause which they
were fighting for, and that they were upholding their country’s true
self against those who would alter the old systems under which she had
led the nations. Three more years made all this very plain, and showed
that our simple unlettered followers had seen and judged the signs of
the times more correctly than those who called themselves their betters.
There are, to my thinking, stages of human progress for which the Church
of Rome is admirably suited. Where the mind of a nation is young, it may
be best that it should not concern itself with spiritual affairs, but
should lean upon the old staff of custom and authority. But England had
cast off her swaddling-clothes, and was a nursery of strong, thinking
men, who would bow to no authority save that which their reason and
conscience approved. It was hopeless, useless, foolish, to try to drive
such men back into a creed which they had outgrown. Such an attempt was,
however, being made, backed by all the weight of a bigoted king with a
powerful and wealthy Church as his ally. In three years the nation would
understand it, and the King would be flying from his angry people; but
at present, sunk in a torpor after the long civil wars and the corrupt
reign of Charles, they failed to see what was at stake, and turned
against those who would warn them, as a hasty man turns on the messenger
who is the bearer of evil tidings. Is it not strange, my dears, how
quickly a mere shadowy thought comes to take living form, and grow into
a very tragic reality? At one end of the chain is a king brooding over a
point of doctrine; at the other are six thousand desperate men, chivied
and chased from shire to shire, standing to bay at last amid the bleak
Bridgewater marshes, with their hearts as bitter and as hopeless as
those of hunted beasts of prey. A king’s theology is a dangerous thing
for his subjects.

But if the idea for which these poor men fought was a worthy one, what
shall we say of the man who had been chosen as the champion of their
cause? Alas, that such men should have had such a leader! Swinging from
the heights of confidence to the depths of despair, choosing his future
council of state one day and proposing to fly from the army on the
next, he appeared from the start to be possessed by the very spirit
of fickleness. Yet he had borne a fair name before this enterprise. In
Scotland he had won golden opinions, not only for his success, but for
the moderation and mercy with which he treated the vanquished. On the
Continent he had commanded an English brigade in a way that earned
praise from old soldiers of Louis and the Empire. Yet now, when his own
head and his own fortunes were at stake, he was feeble, irresolute, and
cowardly. In my father’s phrase, ‘all the virtue had gone out of him.’
I declare when I have seen him riding among his troops, with his head
bowed upon his breast and a face like a mute at a burying, casting an
air of gloom and of despair all round him, I have felt that, even in
case of success, such a man could never wear the crown of the Tudors and
the Plantagenets, but that some stronger hand, were it that of one of
his own generals, would wrest it from him.

I will do Monmouth the justice to say that from the time when it was at
last decided to fight--for the very good reason that no other course was
open--he showed up in a more soldierly and manlier spirit. For the first
few days in July no means were neglected to hearten our troops and to
nerve them for the coming battle. From morning to night we were at work,
teaching our foot how to form up in dense groups to meet the charge of
horse, and how to depend upon each other, and look to their officers for
orders. At night the streets of the little town from the Castle Field
to the Parret Bridge resounded with the praying and the preaching. There
was no need for the officers to quell irregularities, for the troops
punished them amongst themselves. One man who came out on the streets
hot with wine was well-nigh hanged by his companions, who finally cast
him out of the town as being unworthy to fight in what they looked
upon as a sacred quarrel. As to their courage, there was no occasion to
quicken that, for they were as fearless as lions, and the only danger
was lest their fiery daring should lead them into foolhardiness. Their
desire was to hurl themselves upon the enemy like a horde of Moslem
fanatics, and it was no easy matter to drill such hot-headed fellows
into the steadiness and caution which war demands.

Provisions ran low upon the third day of our stay in Bridgewater, which
was due to our having exhausted that part of the country before, and
also to the vigilance of the Royal Horse, who scoured the district round
and cut off our supplies. Lord Grey determined, therefore, to send
out two troops of horse under cover of night, to do what they could to
refill the larder. The command of the small expedition was given over
to Major Martin Hooker, an old Lifeguardsman of rough speech and curt
manners, who had done good service in drilling the headstrong farmers
and yeomen into some sort of order. Sir Gervas Jerome and I asked leave
from Lord Grey to join the foray--a favour which was readily granted,
since there was little stirring in the town.

It was about eleven o’clock on a moonless night that we sallied out
of Bridgewater, intending to explore the country in the direction of
Boroughbridge and Athelney. We had word that there was no large body
of the enemy in that quarter, and it was a fertile district where
good store of supplies might be hoped for. We took with us four empty
waggons, to carry whatever we might have the luck to find. Our commander
arranged that one troop should ride before these and one behind, while a
small advance party, under the charge of Sir Gervas, kept some hundreds
of paces in front. In this order we clattered out of the town just as
the late bugles were blowing, and swept away down the quiet shadowy
roads, bringing anxious peering faces to the casements of the wayside
cottages as we whirled past in the darkness.

That ride comes very clearly before me as I think of it. The dark loom
of the club-headed willows flitting by us, the moaning of the breeze
among the withies, the vague, blurred figures of the troopers, the dull
thud of the hoofs, and the jingling of scabbard against stirrup--eye and
ear can both conjure up those old-time memories. The Baronet and I rode
in front, knee against knee, and his light-hearted chatter of life in
town, with his little snatches of verse or song from Cowley or Waller,
were a very balm of Gilead to my sombre and somewhat heavy spirit.

‘Life is indeed life on such a night as this,’ quoth he, as we breathed
in the fresh country air with the reeks of crops and of kine. ‘Rabbit
me! but you are to be envied, Clarke, for having been born and bred in
the country! What pleasures has the town to offer compared to the free
gifts of nature, provided always that there be a perruquier’s and
a snuff merchant’s, and a scent vendor’s, and one or two tolerable
outfitters within reach? With these and a good coffee-house and a
playhouse, I think I could make shift to lead a simple pastoral life for
some months.’

‘In the country,’ said I, laughing, ‘we have ever the feeling that the
true life of mankind, with the growth of knowledge and wisdom, are being
wrought out in the towns.’

‘Ventre Saint-Gris! It was little knowledge or wisdom that I acquired
there,’ he answered. ‘Truth to tell, I have lived more and learned more
during these few weeks that we have been sliding about in the rain with
our ragged lads, than ever I did when I was page of the court, with the
ball of fortune at my feet. It is a sorry thing for a man’s mind to have
nothing higher to dwell upon than the turning of a compliment or the
dancing of a corranto. Zounds, lad! I have your friend the carpenter to
thank for much. As he says in his letter, unless a man can get the good
that is in him out, he is of loss value in the world than one of those
fowls that we hear cackling, for they at least fulfill their mission, if
it be only to lay eggs. Ged, it is a new creed for me to be preaching!’

‘But,’ said I, ‘when you were a wealthy man you must have been of
service to some one, for how could one spend so much money and yet none
be the better?’

‘You dear bucolic Micah!’ he cried, with a gay laugh. ‘You will ever
speak of my poor fortune with bated breath and in an awestruck voice, as
though it were the wealth of the Indies. You cannot think, lad, how easy
it is for a money-bag to take unto itself wings and fly. It is true that
the man who spends it doth not consume the money, but passes it on to
some one who profits thereby. Yet the fault lies in the fact that it was
to the wrong folk that we passed our money, thereby breeding a useless
and debauched class at the expense of honest callings. Od’s fish, lad!
when I think of the swarms of needy beggars, the lecherous pimps, the
nose-slitting bullies, the toadies and the flatterers who were reared by
us, I feel that in hatching such a poisonous brood our money hath done
what no money can undo. Have I not seen them thirty deep of a morning
when I have held my levee, cringing up to my bedside--’

‘Your bedside!’ I exclaimed.

‘Aye! it was the mode to receive in bed, attired in laced cambric
shirt and periwig, though afterwards it was permitted to sit up in your
chamber, but dressed _a la negligence_, in gown and slippers. The mode
is a terrible tyrant, Clarke, though its arm may not extend as far as
Havant. The idle man of the town must have some rule of life, so he
becomes a slave to the law of the fashions. No man in London was more
subject to it than myself. I was regular in my irregularities, and
orderly in my disorders. At eleven o’clock to the stroke, up came my
valet with the morning cup of hippocras, an excellent thing for the
qualms, and some slight refection, as the breast of an ortolan or wing
of a widgeon. Then came the levee, twenty, thirty, or forty of the class
I have spoken of, though now and then perhaps there might be some honest
case of want among them, some needy man-of-letters in quest of a guinea,
or pupil-less pedant with much ancient learning in his head and very
little modern coinage in his pocket. It was not only that I had some
power of mine own, but I was known to have the ear of my Lord Halifax,
Sidney Godolphin, Lawrence Hyde, and others whose will might make or mar
a man. Mark you those lights upon the left! Would it not be well to see
if there is not something to be had there?’

‘Hooker hath orders to proceed to a certain farm,’ I answered. ‘This we
could take upon our return should we still have space. We shall be back
here before morning.’

‘We must get supplies, if I have to ride back to Surrey for them,’ said
he. ‘Rat me, if I dare look my musqueteers in the face again unless I
bring them something to toast upon the end of their ramrods! They had
little more savoury than their own bullets to put in their mouths when
I left them. But I was speaking of old days in London. Our time was
well filled. Should a man of quality incline to sport there was ever
something to attract him. He might see sword-playing at Hockley, or
cocking at Shoe Lane, or baiting at Southwark, or shooting at Tothill
Fields. Again, he might walk in the physic gardens of St. James’s, or go
down the river with the ebb tide to the cherry orchards at Rotherhithe,
or drive to Islington to drink the cream, or, above all, walk in the
Park, which is most modish for a gentleman who dresses in the fashion.
You see, Clarke, that we were active in our idleness, and that there was
no lack of employment. Then as evening came on there were the playhouses
to draw us, Dorset Gardens, Lincoln’s Inn, Drury Lane, and the
Queen’s--among the four there was ever some amusement to be found.’

‘There, at least, your time was well employed,’ said I; ‘you could
not hearken to the grand thoughts or lofty words of Shakespeare or of
Massinger without feeling some image of them in your own soul.’

Sir Gervas chuckled quietly. ‘You are as fresh to me, Micah, as this
sweet country air,’ said he. ‘Know, thou dear babe, that it was not to
see the play that we frequented the playhouse.’

‘Then why, in Heaven’s name?’ I asked.

‘To see each other,’ he answered. ‘It was the mode, I assure you, for a
man of fashion to stand with his back turned to the stage from the
rise of the curtain to the fall of it. There were the orange wenches to
quiz--plaguey sharp of tongue the hussies are, too--and there were the
vizards of the pit, whose little black masks did invite inquiry, and
there were the beauties of the town and the toasts of the Court,
all fair mark for our quizzing-glasses. Play, indeed! S’bud, we had
something better to do than to listen to alexandrines or weigh the
merits of hexameters! ‘Tis true that if La Jeune were dancing, or if
Mrs. Bracegirdle or Mrs. Oldfield came upon the boards, we would hum
and clap, but it was the fine woman that we applauded rather than the
actress.’

‘And when the play was over you went doubtless to supper and so to bed?’

‘To supper, certainly. Sometimes to the Rhenish House, sometimes to
Pontack’s in Abchurch Lane. Every one had his own taste in that matter.
Then there were dice and cards at the Groom Porter’s or under the arches
at Covent Garden, piquet, passage, hazard, primero--what you choose.
After that you could find all the world at the coffee-houses, where an
arriere supper was often served with devilled bones and prunes, to drive
the fumes of wine from the head. Zounds, Micah! If the Jews should relax
their pressure, or if this war brings us any luck, you shall come to
town with me and shall see all these things for yourself.’

‘Truth to tell, it doth not tempt me much,’ I answered. ‘Slow and solemn
I am by nature, and in such scenes as you have described I should feel a
very death’s head at a banquet.’

Sir Gervas was about to reply, when of a sudden out of the silence
of the night there rose a long-drawn piercing scream, which thrilled
through every nerve of our bodies. I have never heard such a wail of
despair. We pulled up our horses, as did the troopers behind us, and
strained our ears for some sign as to whence the sound proceeded, for
some were of opinion that it came from our right and some from our left.
The main body with the waggons had come up, and we all listened intently
for any return of the terrible cry. Presently it broke upon us again,
wild, shrill, and agonised: the scream of a woman in mortal distress.

‘Tis over there, Major Hooker,’ cried Sir Gervas, standing up in his
stirrups and peering through the darkness. ‘There is a house about two
fields off. I can see some glimmer, as from a window with the blind
drawn.’

‘Shall we not make for it at once?’ I asked impatiently, for our
commander sat stolidly upon his horse as though by no means sure what
course he should pursue.

‘I am here, Captain Clarke,’ said he, ‘to convey supplies to the army,
and I am by no means justified in turning from my course to pursue other
adventures.’

‘Death, man! there is a woman in distress,’ cried Sir Gervas. ‘Why,
Major, you would not ride past and let her call in vain for help? Hark,
there she is again!’ As he spoke the wild scream rang out once more from
the lonely house.

‘Nay, I can abide this no longer,’ I cried, my blood boiling in my
veins; ‘do you go on your errand, Major Hooker, and my friend and I
shall leave you here. We shall know how to justify our action to the
King. Come, Sir Gervas!’

‘Mark ye, this is flat mutiny, Captain Clarke,’ said Hooker; ‘you are
under my orders, and should you desert me you do so at your peril.’

‘In such a case I care not a groat for thy orders,’ I answered hotly.
Turning Covenant I spurred down a narrow, deeply-rutted lane which
led towards the house, followed by Sir Gervas and two or three of the
troopers. At the same moment I heard a sharp word of command from Hooker
and the creaking of wheels, showing that he had indeed abandoned us and
proceeded on his mission.

‘He is right,’ quoth the Baronet, as we rode down the lane; ‘Saxon or
any other old soldier would commend his discipline.’

‘There are things which are higher than discipline,’ I muttered.
‘I could not pass on and leave this poor soul in her distress. But
see--what have we here?’

A dark mass loomed in front of us, which proved as we approached to be
four horses fastened by their bridles to the hedge.

‘Cavalry horses, Captain Clarke!’ cried one of the troopers who had
sprung down to examine them. ‘They have the Government saddle and
holsters. Here is a wooden gate which opens on a pathway leading to the
house.’

‘We had best dismount, then,’ said Sir Gervas, jumping down and tying
his horse beside the others. ‘Do you, lads, stay by the horses, and if
we call for ye come to our aid. Sergeant Holloway, you can come with us.
Bring your pistols with you!’



Chapter XXX. Of the Swordsman with the Brown Jacket

The sergeant, who was a great raw-boned west-countryman, pushed the gate
open, and we were advancing up the winding pathway, when a stream of
yellow light flooded out from a suddenly opened door, and we saw a dark
squat figure dart through it into the inside of the house. At the same
moment there rose up a babel of sounds, followed by two pistol shots,
and a roaring, gasping hubbub, with clash of swords and storm of oaths.
At this sudden uproar we all three ran at our topmost speed up the
pathway and peered in through the open door, where we saw a scene such
as I shall never forget while this old memory of mine can conjure up any
picture of the past.

The room was large and lofty, with long rows of hams and salted meats
dangling from the smoke-browned rafters, as is usual in Somersetshire
farmhouses. A high black clock ticked in a corner, and a rude table,
with plates and dishes laid out as for a meal, stood in the centre.
Right in front of the door a great fire of wood faggots was blazing, and
before this, to our unutterable horror, there hung a man head downwards,
suspended by a rope which was knotted round his ankles, and which,
passing over a hook in a beam, had been made fast to a ring in the
floor. The struggles of this unhappy man had caused the rope to whirl
round, so that he was spinning in front of the blaze like a joint
of meat. Across the threshold lay a woman, the one whose cries had
attracted us, but her rigid face and twisted body showed that our
aid had come too late to save her from the fate which she had seen
impending. Close by her two swarthy dragoons in the glaring red coats of
the Royal army lay stretched across each other upon the floor, dark and
scowling even in death. In the centre of the room two other dragoons
were cutting and stabbing with their broad-swords at a thick, short,
heavy-shouldered man, clad in coarse brown kersey stuff, who sprang
about among the chairs and round the table with a long basket-hilted
rapier in his hand, parrying or dodging their blows with wonderful
adroitness, and every now and then putting in a thrust in return.
Hard pressed as he was, his set resolute face, firm mouth, and bright
well-opened eyes spoke of a bold spirit within, while the blood which
dripped from the sleeve of one of his opponents proved that the contest
was not so unequal as it might appear. Even as we gazed he sprang back
to avoid a fierce rush of the furious soldiers, and by a quick sharp
side stroke he severed the rope by which the victim was hung. The body
fell with a heavy thud upon the brick floor, while the little swordsman
danced off in a moment into another quarter of the room, still stopping
or avoiding with the utmost ease and skill the shower of blows which
rained upon him.

This strange scene held us spell-bound for a few seconds, but there was
no time for delay, for a slip or trip would prove fatal to the gallant
stranger. Rushing into the chamber, sword in hand, we fell upon the
dragoons, who, outnumbered as they were, backed into a corner and struck
out fiercely, knowing that they need expect no mercy after the devil’s
work in which they had been engaged. Holloway, our sergeant of horse,
springing furiously in, laid himself open to a thrust which stretched
him dead upon the ground. Before the dragoon could disengage his weapon,
Sir Gervas cut him down, while at the same moment the stranger got past
the guard of his antagonist, and wounded him mortally in the throat.
Of the four red-coats not one escaped alive, while the bodies of our
sergeant and of the old couple who had been the first victims increased
the horror of the scene.

‘Poor Holloway is gone,’ said I, placing my hand over his heart. ‘Who
ever saw such a shambles? I feel sick and ill.’

‘Here is eau-de-vie, if I mistake not,’ cried the stranger, clambering
up on a chair and reaching a bottle from the shelf. ‘Good, too, by the
smell. Take a sup, for you are as white as a new-bleached sheet.’

‘Honest warfare I can abide, but scenes like this make my blood run
cold,’ I answered, taking a gulp from the flask. I was a very young
soldier then, my dears, but I confess that to the end of my campaigns
any form of cruelty had the same effect upon me. I give you my word that
when I went to London last fall the sight of an overworked, raw-backed
cart-horse straining with its load, and flogged for not doing that which
it could not do, gave me greater qualms than did the field of Sedgemoor,
or that greater day when ten thousand of the flower of France lay
stretched before the earthworks of Landen.

‘The woman is dead,’ said Sir Gervas, ‘and the man is also, I fear, past
recovery. He is not burned, but suffers, I should judge, poor devil!
from the rush of blood to the head.’

‘If that be all it may well be cured, ‘remarked the stranger; and taking
a small knife from his pocket, he rolled up the old man’s sleeve and
opened one of his veins. At first only a few sluggish black drops oozed
from the wound, but presently the blood began to flow more freely, and
the injured man showed signs of returning sense.

‘He will live,’ said the little swordsman, putting his lancet back in
his pocket. ‘And now, who may you be to whom I owe this interference
which shortened the affair, though mayhap the result would have been the
same had you left us to settle it amongst ourselves?’

‘We are from Monmouth’s army,’ I answered. ‘He lies at Bridgewater, and
we are scouting and seeking supplies.’

‘And who are you?’ asked Sir Gervas. ‘And how came you into this
ruffle? S’bud, you are a game little rooster to fight four such great
cockerels!’

‘My name is Hector Marot,’ the man answered, cleaning out his empty
pistols and very carefully reloading them. ‘As to who I am, it is a
matter of small moment. Suffice it that I have helped to lessen Kirk’s
horse by four of his rogues. Mark their faces, so dusky and sun-dried
even in death. These men have learned warfare fighting against the
heathen in Africa, and now they practise on poor harmless English folk
the devil’s tricks which they have picked up amongst the savages. The
Lord help Monmouth’s men should they be beaten! These vermin are more to
be feared than hangman’s cord or headsman’s axe.’

‘But how did you chance upon the spot at the very nick of time?’ I
asked.

‘Why, marry, I was jogging down the road on my mare when I heard the
clatter of hoofs behind me, and concealing myself in a field, as a
prudent man would while the country is in its present state, I saw these
four rogues gallop past. They made their way up to the farmhouse
here, and presently from cries and other tokens I knew what manner of
hell-fire business they had on hand. On that I left my mare in the field
and ran up, when I saw them through the casement, tricing the good man
up in front of his fire to make him confess where his wealth lay hidden,
though indeed it is my own belief that neither he nor any other farmer
in these parts hath any wealth left to hide, after two armies have been
quartered in turn upon them. Finding that his mouth remained closed,
they ran him up, as you saw, and would assuredly have toasted him like a
snipe, had I not stepped in and winged two of them with my barkers. The
others set upon me, but I pinked one through the forearm, and should
doubtless have given a good account of both of them but for your
incoming.’

‘Right gallantly done!’ I exclaimed. ‘But where have I heard your name
before, Mr. Hector Marot?’

‘Nay,’ he answered, with a sharp, sidelong look, ‘I cannot tell that.’

‘It is familiar to mine ear,’ said I.

He shrugged his broad shoulders, and continued to look to the priming
of his pistols, with a half-defiant and half-uneasy expression. He was
a very sturdy, deep-chested man, with a stern, square-jawed face, and a
white seam across his bronzed forehead as from a slash with a knife. He
wore a gold-edged riding-cap, a jacket of brown sad-coloured stuff much
stained by the weather, a pair of high rusty jack-boots, and a small
bob-wig.

Sir Gervas, who had been staring very hard at the man, suddenly gave a
start, and slapped his hand against his leg.

‘Of course!’ he cried. ‘Sink me, if I could remember where I had seen
your face, but now it comes back to me very clearly.’

The man glanced doggedly from under his bent brows at each of us
in turn. ‘It seems that I have fallen among acquaintances,’ he said
gruffly; ‘yet I have no memory of ye. Methinks, young sirs, that your
fancy doth play ye false.’

‘Not a whit,’ the Baronet answered quietly, and, bending forward, he
whispered a few words into the man’s ear, which caused him to spring
from his seat and take a couple of quick strides forward, as though to
escape from the house.

‘Nay, nay!’ cried Sir Gervas, springing between him and the door, ‘you
shall not run away from us. Pshaw, man! never lay your hand upon your
sword. We have had bloody work enough for one night. Besides, we would
not harm you.’

‘What mean ye, then? What would ye have?’ he asked, glancing about like
some fierce wild beast in a trap.

‘I have a most kindly feeling to you, man, after this night’s work,’
cried Sir Gervas. ‘What is it to me how ye pick up a living, as long as
you are a true man at heart? Let me perish if I ever forget a face which
I have once seen, and your bonne mine, with the trade-mark upon your
forehead, is especially hard to overlook.’

‘Suppose I be the same? What then?’ the man asked sullenly.

‘There is no suppose in the matter. I could swear to you. But I would
not, lad--not if I caught you red-handed. You must know, Clarke, since
there is none to overhear us, that in the old days I was a Justice of
the Peace in Surrey, and that our friend here was brought up before me
on a charge of riding somewhat late o’ night, and of being plaguey short
with travellers. You will understand me. He was referred to assizes, but
got away in the meanwhile, and so saved his neck. Right glad I am of
it, for you will agree with me that he is too proper a man to give a
tight-rope dance at Tyburn.’

‘And I remember well now where I have heard your name,’ said I. ‘Were
you not a captive in the Duke of Beaufort’s prison at Badminton, and did
you not succeed in escaping from the old Boteler dungeon?’

‘Nay, gentlemen,’ he replied, seating himself on the edge of the table,
and carelessly swinging his legs, ‘since ye know so much it would be
folly for me to attempt to deceive ye. I am indeed the same Hector Marot
who hath made his name a terror on the great Western road, and who hath
seen the inside of more prisons than any man in the south. With truth,
however, I can say that though I have been ten years upon the roads, I
have never yet taken a groat from the poor, or injured any man who did
not wish to injure me. On the contrary, I have often risked life and
limb to save those who were in trouble.’

‘We can bear you out in that,’ I answered, ‘for if these four red-coat
devils have paid the price of their crimes, it is your doing rather than
ours.’

‘Nay, I can take little credit for that,’ our new acquaintance answered.
‘Indeed, I had other scores to settle with Colonel Kirke’s horse, and
was but too glad to have this breather with them.’

Whilst we were talking the men whom we had left with the horses had come
up, together with some of the neighbouring farmers and cottagers, who
were aghast at the scene of slaughter, and much troubled in their minds
over the vengeance which might be exacted by the Royal troops next day.

‘For Christ’s zake, zur,’ cried one of them, an old ruddy-faced
countryman, ‘move the bodies o’ these soldier rogues into the road, and
let it zeem as how they have perished in a chance fight wi’ your own
troopers loike. Should it be known as they have met their end within
a varmhouse, there will not be a thatch left unlighted over t’ whole
country side; as it is, us can scarce keep these murthering Tangiers
devils from oor throats.’

‘His request is in reason,’ said the highwayman bluntly. ‘We have no
right to have our fun, and then go our way leaving others to pay the
score.’

‘Well, hark ye,’ said Sir Gervas, turning to the group of frightened
rustics. ‘I’ll strike a bargain with ye over the matter. We have come
out for supplies, and can scarce go back empty-handed. If ye will among
ye provide us with a cart, filling it with such breadstuffs and greens
as ye may, with a dozen bullocks as well, we shall not only screen ye in
this matter, but I shall promise payment at fair market rates if ye will
come to the Protestant camp for the money.’

‘I’ll spare the bullocks,’ quoth the old man whom we had rescued, who
was now sufficiently recovered to sit up. ‘Zince my poor dame is foully
murthered it matters little to me what becomes o’ the stock. I shall
zee her laid in Durston graveyard, and shall then vollow you to t’ camp,
where I shall die happy if I can but rid the earth o’ one more o’ these
incarnate devils.’

‘You say well, gaffer!’ cried Hector Marot; ‘you show the true spirit.
Methinks I see an old birding-piece on yonder hooks, which, with a brace
of slugs in it and a bold man behind it, might bring down one of these
fine birds for all their gay feathers.’

‘Her’s been a true mate to me for more’n thirty year,’ said the old man,
the tears coursing down his wrinkled cheeks. ‘Thirty zeed-toimes and
thirty harvests we’ve worked together. But this is a zeed-toime which
shall have a harvest o’ blood if my right hand can compass it.’

‘If you go to t’ wars, Gaffer Swain, we’ll look to your homestead,’
said the farmer who had spoken before. ‘As to t’ greenstuffs as this
gentleman asks for he shall have not one wainload but three, if he will
but gi’ us half-an-hour to fill them up. If he does not tak them t’
others will, so we had raither that they go to the good cause. Here,
Miles, do you wak the labourers, and zee that they throw the potato
store wi’ the spinach and the dried meats into the waggons wi’ all
speed.’

‘Then we had best set about our part of the contract,’ said Hector
Marot. With the aid of our troopers he carried out the four dragoons and
our dead sergeant, and laid them on the ground some way down the lane,
leading the horses all round and between their bodies, so as to trample
the earth, and bear out the idea of a cavalry skirmish. While this was
doing, some of the labourers had washed down the brick floor of the
kitchen and removed all traces of the tragedy. The murdered woman had
been carried up to her own chamber, so that nothing was left to recall
what had occurred, save the unhappy farmer, who sat moodily in the same
place, with his chin resting upon his stringy work-worn hands, staring
out in front of him with a stony, empty gaze, unconscious apparently of
all that was going on around him.

The loading of the waggons had been quickly accomplished, and the little
drove of oxen gathered from a neighbouring field. We were just starting
upon our return journey when a young countryman rode up, with the news
that a troop of the Royal Horse were between the camp and ourselves.
This was grave tidings, for we were but seven all told, and our pace was
necessarily slow whilst we were hampered with the supplies.

‘How about Hooker?’ I suggested. ‘Should we not send after him and give
him warning?’

‘I’ll goo at once,’ said the countryman. ‘I’m bound to zee him if he be
on the Athelney road.’ So saying he set spurs to his horse and galloped
off through the darkness.

‘While we have such volunteer scouts as this,’ I remarked, ‘it is easy
to see which side the country folk have in their hearts. Hooker hath
still the better part of two troops with him, so surely he can hold his
own. But how are we to make our way back?’

‘Zounds, Clarke! let us extemporise a fortress,’ suggested Sir Gervas.
‘We could hold this farmhouse against all comers until Hooker returns,
and then join our forces to his. Now would our redoubtable Colonel be in
his glory, to have a chance of devising cross-fires, and flanking-fires,
with all the other refinements of a well-conducted leaguer.’

‘Nay,’ I answered, ‘after leaving Major Hooker in a somewhat cavalier
fashion, it would be a bitter thing to have to ask his help now that
there is danger.’

‘Ho, ho!’ cried the Baronet. ‘It does not take a very deep lead-line
to come to the bottom of your stoical philosophy, friend Micah. For all
your cold-blooded stolidity you are keen enough where pride or honour is
concerned. Shall we then ride onwards, and chance it? I’ll lay an even
crown that we never as much as see a red coat.’

‘If you will take my advice, gentlemen,’ said the highwayman, trotting
up upon a beautiful bay mare, ‘I should say that your best course is to
allow me to act as guide to you as far as the camp. It will be strange
if I cannot find roads which shall baffle these blundering soldiers.’

‘A very wise and seasonable proposition,’ cried Sir Gervas. ‘Master
Marot, a pinch from my snuff-box, which is ever a covenant of friendship
with its owner. Adslidikins, man! though our acquaintance at present
is limited to my having nearly hanged you on one occasion, yet I have
a kindly feeling towards you, though I wish you had some more savoury
trade.’

‘So do many who ride o’ night,’ Marot answered, with a chuckle. ‘But we
had best start, for the east is whitening, and it will be daylight ere
we come to Bridgewater.’

Leaving the ill-omened farmhouse behind us we set off with all military
precautions, Marot riding with me some distance in front, while two of
the troopers covered the rear. It was still very dark, though a thin
grey line on the horizon showed that the dawn was not far off. In spite
of the gloom, however, our new acquaintance guided us without a moment’s
halt or hesitation through a network of lanes and bypaths, across fields
and over bogs, where the waggons were sometimes up to their axles in
bog, and sometimes were groaning and straining over rocks and stones. So
frequent were our turnings, and so often did we change the direction of
our advance, that I feared more than once that our guide was at fault;
yet, when at last the first rays of the sun brightened the landscape we
saw the steeple of Bridgewater parish church shooting up right in front
of us.

‘Zounds, man! you must have something of the cat in you to pick your way
so in the dark,’ cried Sir Gervas, riding up to us. ‘I am right glad to
see the town, for my poor waggons have been creaking and straining until
my ears are weary with listening for the snap of the axle-bar. Master
Marot, we owe you something for this.’

‘Is this your own particular district?’ I asked, ‘or have you a like
knowledge of every part of the south?’

‘My range,’ said he, lighting his short, black pipe, ‘is from Kent to
Cornwall, though never north of the Thames or Bristol Channel. Through
that district there is no road which is not familiar to me, nor as much
as a break in the hedge which I could not find in blackest midnight. It
is my calling. But the trade is not what it was. If I had a son I should
not bring him up to it. It hath been spoiled by the armed guards to
the mail-coaches, and by the accursed goldsmiths, who have opened their
banks and so taken the hard money into their strong boxes, giving out
instead slips of paper, which are as useless to us as an old newsletter.
I give ye my word that only a week gone last Friday I stopped a grazier
coming from Blandford fair, and I took seven hundred guineas off him in
these paper cheques, as they call them--enough, had it been in gold, to
have lasted me for a three month rouse. Truly the country is coming to a
pretty pass when such trash as that is allowed to take the place of the
King’s coinage.’

‘Why should you persevere in such a trade?’ said I. ‘Your own knowledge
must tell you that it can only lead to ruin and the gallows. Have you
ever known one who has thriven at it?’

‘That have I,’ he answered readily. ‘There was Kingston Jones, who
worked Hounslow for many a year. He took ten thousand yellow boys on
one job, and, like a wise man, he vowed never to risk his neck again.
He went into Cheshire, with some tale of having newly arrived from the
Indies, bought an estate, and is now a flourishing country gentleman of
good repute, and a Justice of the Peace into the bargain. Zounds, man!
to see him on the bench, condemning some poor devil for stealing a dozen
eggs, is as good as a comedy in the playhouse.’

‘Nay! but,’ I persisted, ‘you are a man, judging from what we have seen
of your courage and skill in the use of your weapons, who would gain
speedy preferment in any army. Surely it were better to use your gifts
to the gaining of honour and credit, than to make them a stepping-stone
to disgrace and the gallows?’

‘For the gallows I care not a clipped shilling,’ the highwayman
answered, sending up thick blue curls of smoke into the morning air. ‘We
have all to pay nature’s debt, and whether I do it in my boots or on a
feather bed, in one year or in ten, matters as little to me as to any
soldier among you. As to disgrace, it is a matter of opinion. I see
no shame myself in taking a toll upon the wealth of the rich, since I
freely expose my own skin in the doing of it.’

‘There is a right and there is a wrong,’ I answered, ‘which no words
can do away with, and it is a dangerous and unprofitable trick to juggle
with them.’

‘Besides, even if what you have said were true as to property,’ Sir
Gervas remarked, ‘it would not hold you excused for that recklessness of
human life which your trade begets.’

‘Nay! it is but hunting, save that your quarry may at any time turn
round upon you, and become in turn the hunter. It is, as you say, a
dangerous game, but two can play at it, and each has an equal chance.
There is no loading of the dice, or throwing of fulhams. Now it was but
a few days back that, riding down the high-road, I perceived three jolly
farmers at full gallop across the fields with a leash of dogs yelping in
front of them, and all in pursuit of one little harmless bunny. It was
a bare and unpeopled countryside on the border of Exmoor, so I bethought
me that I could not employ my leisure better than by chasing the
chasers. Odd’s wouns! it was a proper hunt. Away went my gentlemen,
whooping like madmen, with their coat skirts flapping in the breeze,
chivying on the dogs, and having a rare morning’s sport. They never
marked the quiet horseman who rode behind them, and who without a
“yoick!” or “hark-a-way!” was relishing his chase with the loudest of
them. It needed but a posse of peace officers at my heels to make up a
brave string of us, catch-who-catch-can, like the game the lads play on
the village green.’

‘And what came of it?’ I asked, for our new acquaintance was laughing
silently to himself.

‘Well, my three friends ran down their hare, and pulled out their
flasks, as men who had done a good stroke of work. They were still
hobnobbing and laughing over the slaughtered bunny, and one had
dismounted to cut off its ears as the prize of their chase, when I came
up at a hand-gallop. “Good-morrow, gentlemen,” said I, “we have had rare
sport.” They looked at me blankly enough, I promise you, and one of
them asked me what the devil I did there, and how I dared to join in a
private sport. “Nay, I was not chasing your hare, gentlemen,” said I.
“What then, fellow?” asked one of them. “Why, marry, I was chasing you,”
 I answered, “and a better run I have not had for years.” With that I
lugged out my persuaders, and made the thing clear in a few words, and
I’ll warrant you would have laughed could you have seen their faces as
they slowly dragged the fat leather purses from their fobs. Seventy-one
pounds was my prize that morning, which was better worth riding for than
a hare’s ears.’

‘Did they not raise the country on your track?’ I asked.

‘Nay! When Brown Alice is given her head she flies faster than the news.
Rumour spreads quick, but the good mare’s stride is quicker still.’

‘And here we are within our own outposts,’ quoth Sir Gervas. ‘Now, mine
honest friend--for honest you have been to us, whatever others may
say of you--will you not come with us, and strike in for a good cause?
Zounds, man! you have many an ill deed to atone for, I’ll warrant.
Why not add one good one to your account, by risking your life for the
reformed faith?’

‘Not I,’ the highwayman answered, reining up his horse. ‘My own skin is
nothing, but why should I risk my mare in such a fool’s quarrel? Should
she come to harm in the ruffle, where could I get such another? Besides,
it matters nothing to her whether Papist or Protestant sits on the
throne of England--does it, my beauty?’

‘But you might chance to gain preferment,’ I said. ‘Our Colonel, Decimus
Saxon, is one who loves a good swordsman, and his word hath power with
King Monmouth and the council.’

‘Nay, nay!’ cried Hector Marot gruffly. ‘Let every man stick to his own
trade. Kirke’s Horse I am ever ready to have a brush with, for a party
of them hung old blind Jim Houston of Milverton, who was a friend of
mine. I have sent seven of the red-handed rogues to their last account
for it, and might work through the whole regiment had I time. But I will
not fight against King James, nor will I risk the mare, so let me hear
no more of it. And now I must leave ye, for I have much to do. Farewell
to you!’

‘Farewell, farewell!’ we cried, pressing his brown horny hands; ‘our
thanks to you for your guidance.’ Raising his hat, he shook his bridle
and galloped off down the road in a rolling cloud of dust.

‘Rat me, if I ever say a word against the thieves again!’ said Sir
Gervas. ‘I never saw a man wield sword more deftly in my life, and he
must be a rare hand with a pistol to bring those two tall fellows down
with two shots. But look over there, Clarke! Can you not see bodies of
red-coats?’

‘Surely I can,’ I answered, gazing out over the broad, reedy,
dead-coloured plain, which extended from the other side of the winding
Parret to the distant Polden Hills. ‘I can see them over yonder in the
direction of Westonzoyland, as bright as the poppies among corn.’

‘There are more upon the left, near Chedzoy,’ quoth Sir Gervas. ‘One,
two, three, and one yonder, and two others behind--six regiments of foot
in all. Methinks I see the breastplates of horse over there, and some
sign of ordnance too. Faith! Monmouth must fight now, if he ever hopes
to feel the gold rim upon his temples. The whole of King James’s army
hath closed upon him.’

‘We must get back to our command, then,’ I answered. ‘If I mistake not,
I see the flutter of our standards in the market-place.’ We spurred our
weary steeds forward, and made our way with our little party and the
supplies which we had collected, until we found ourselves back in
our quarters, where we were hailed by the lusty cheers of our hungry
comrades. Before noon the drove of bullocks had been changed into joints
and steaks, while our green stuff and other victuals had helped to
furnish the last dinner which many of our men were ever destined to eat.
Major Hooker came in shortly after with a good store of provisions, but
in no very good case, for he had had a skirmish with the dragoons, and
had lost eight or ten of his men. He bore a complaint straightway to the
council concerning the manner in which we had deserted him; but great
events were coming fast upon us now, and there was small time to inquire
into petty matters of discipline. For myself, I freely confess, looking
back on it, that as a soldier he was entirely in the right, and that
from a strict military point of view our conduct was not to be excused.
Yet I trust, my dears, even now, when years have weighed me down, that
the scream of a woman in distress would be a signal which would draw me
to her aid while these old limbs could bear me. For the duty which
we owe to the weak overrides all other duties and is superior to all
circumstances, and I for one cannot see why the coat of the soldier
should harden the heart of the man.



Chapter XXXI. Of the Maid of the Marsh and the Bubble which rose from
the Bog

All Bridgewater was in a ferment as we rode in, for King James’s forces
were within four miles, on the Sedgemoor Plain, and it was likely that
they would push on at once and storm the town. Some rude works had been
thrown up on the Eastover side, behind which two brigades were drawn
up in arms, while the rest of the army was held in reserve in the
market-place and Castle Field. Towards afternoon, however, parties of
our horse and peasants from the fen country came in with the news that
there was no fear of an assault being attempted. The Royal troops had
quartered themselves snugly in the little villages of the neighbourhood,
and having levied contributions of cider and of beer from the farmers,
they showed no sign of any wish to advance.

The town was full of women, the wives, mothers, and sisters of our
peasants, who had come in from far and near to see their loved ones once
more. Fleet Street or Cheapside upon a busy day are not more crowded
than were the narrow streets and lanes of the Somersetshire town.
Jack-booted, buff-coated troopers; scarlet militiamen; brown,
stern-faced Tauntonians; serge-clad pikemen; wild, ragged miners;
smockfrocked yokels; reckless, weather-tanned seamen; gaunt cragsmen
from the northern coast--all pushed and jostled each other in a thick,
many-coloured crowd. Everywhere among them were the country women,
straw-bonneted and loud-tongued, weeping, embracing, and exhorting.
Here and there amid the motley dresses and gleam of arms moved the dark,
sombre figure of a Puritan minister, with sweeping sad-coloured mantle
and penthouse hat, scattering abroad short fiery ejaculations and stern
pithy texts of the old fighting order, which warmed the men’s blood like
liquor. Ever and anon a sharp, fierce shout would rise from the people,
like the yelp of a high-spirited hound which is straining at its leash
and hot to be at the throat of its enemy.

Our regiment had been taken off duty whenever it was clear that
Feversham did not mean to advance, and they were now busy upon the
victuals which our night-foray had furnished. It was a Sunday, fresh and
warm, with a clear, unclouded sky, and a gentle breeze, sweet with the
smack of the country. All day the bells of the neighbouring villages
rang out their alarm, pealing their music over the sunlit countryside.
The upper windows and red-tiled roofs of the houses were crowded with
pale-faced women and children, who peered out to eastward, where the
splotches of crimson upon the dun-coloured moor marked the position of
our enemies.

At four o’clock Monmouth held a last council of war upon the square
tower out of which springs the steeple of Bridgewater parish church,
whence a good view can be obtained of all the country round. Since my
ride to Beaufort I had always been honoured with a summons to attend, in
spite of my humble rank in the army. There were some thirty councillors
in all, as many as the space would hold, soldiers and courtiers,
Cavaliers and Puritans, all drawn together now by the bond of a common
danger. Indeed, the near approach of a crisis in their fortunes had
broken down much of the distinction of manner which had served to
separate them. The sectary had lost something of his austerity and
become flushed and eager at the prospect of battle, while the giddy man
of fashion was hushed into unwonted gravity as he considered the danger
of his position. Their old feuds were forgotten as they gathered on the
parapet and gazed with set faces at the thick columns of smoke which
rose along the sky-line.

King Monmouth stood among his chiefs, pale and haggard, with the
dishevelled, unkempt look of a man whose distress of mind has made him
forgetful of the care of his person. He held a pair of ivory glasses,
and as he raised them to his eyes his thin white hands shook and
twitched until it was grievous to watch him. Lord Grey handed his own
glasses to Saxon, who leaned his elbows upon the rough stone breastwork
and stared long and earnestly at the enemy.

‘They are the very men I have myself led,’ said Monmouth at last, in a
low voice, as though uttering his thoughts aloud. ‘Over yonder at the
right I see Dumbarton’s foot. I know these men well. They will fight.
Had we them with us all would be well.’

‘Nay, your Majesty,’ Lord Grey answered with spirit, ‘you do your brave
followers an injustice. They, too, will fight to the last drop of their
blood in your quarrel.’

‘Look down at them!’ said Monmouth sadly, pointing at the swarming
streets beneath us. ‘Braver hearts never beat in English breasts, yet do
but mark how they brabble and clamour like clowns on a Saturday night.
Compare them with the stern, orderly array of the trained battalions.
Alas! that I should have dragged these honest souls from their little
homes to fight so hopeless a battle!’

‘Hark at that!’ cried Wade. ‘They do not think it hopeless, nor do we.’
As he spoke a wild shout rose from the dense crowd beneath, who were
listening to a preacher who was holding forth from a window.

‘It is worthy Doctor Ferguson,’ said Sir Stephen Timewell, who had
just come up. ‘He is as one inspired, powerfully borne onwards in his
discourse. Verily he is even as one of the prophets of old. He has
chosen for his text, “The Lord God of gods he knoweth and Israel he
shall know. If it be in rebellion or if in transgression against the
Lord, save us not this day.”’

‘Amen, amen!’ cried several of the Puritan soldiers devoutly, while
another hoarse burst of shouting from below, with the clashing of
scythe-blades and the clatter of arms, showed how deeply the people were
moved by the burning words of the fanatic.

‘They do indeed seem to be hot for battle,’ said Monmouth, with a more
sprightly look. ‘It may be that one who has commanded regular troops, as
I have done, is prone to lay too much weight upon the difference which
discipline and training make. These brave lads seem high of heart. What
think you of the enemy’s dispositions, Colonel Saxon?’

‘By my faith, I think very little of them, your Majesty,’ Saxon answered
bluntly. ‘I have seen armies drawn up in array in many different parts
of the world and under many commanders. I have likewise read the section
which treats of the matter in the “De re militari” of Petrinus Bellus,
and in the works of a Fleming of repute, yet I have neither seen nor
heard anything which can commend the arrangements which we see before
us.’

‘How call you the hamlet on the left--that with the square ivy-clad
church tower?’ asked Monmouth, turning to the Mayor of Bridgewater,
a small, anxious-faced man, who was evidently far from easy at the
prominence which his office had brought upon him.

‘Westonzoyland, your Honour--that is, your Grace--I mean, your Majesty,’
he stammered. ‘The other, two miles farther off, is Middlezoy, and away
to the left, just on the far side of the rhine, is Chedzoy.’

‘The rhine, sir! What do you mean?’ asked the King, starting violently,
and turning so fiercely upon the timid burgher, that he lost the little
balance of wits which was left to him.

‘Why, the rhine, your Grace, your Majesty,’ he quavered. ‘The rhine,
which, as your Majesty’s Grace cannot but perceive, is what the country
folk call the rhine.’

‘It is a name, your Majesty, for the deep and broad ditches which drain
off the water from the great morass of Sedgemoor,’ said Sir Stephen
Timewell.

Monmouth turned white to his very lips, and several of the council
exchanged significant glances, recalling the strange prophetic jingle
which I had been the means of bringing to the camp. The silence was
broken, however, by an old Cromwellian Major named Hollis, who had been
drawing upon paper the position of the villages in which the enemy was
quartered.

‘If it please your Majesty, there is something in their order which
recalls to my mind that of the army of the Scots upon the occasion
of the battle of Dunbar. Cromwell lay in Dunbar even as we lie in
Bridgewater. The ground around, which was boggy and treacherous, was
held by the enemy. There was not a man in the army who would not own
that, had old Leslie held his position, we should, as far as human
wisdom could see, have had to betake us to our ships, leave our stores
and ordnance, and so make the best of our way to Newcastle. He moved,
however, through the blessing of Providence, in such a manner that a
quagmire intervened between his right wing and the rest of his army, on
which Cromwell fell upon that wing in the early dawn, and dashed it
to pieces, with such effect that the whole army fled, and we had the
execution of them to the very gates of Leith. Seven thousand Scots lost
their lives, but not more than a hundred or so of the honest folk.
Now, your Majesty will see through your glass that a mile of bogland
intervenes between these villages, and that the nearest one, Chedzoy, as
I think they call it, might be approached without ourselves entering the
morass. Very sure I am that were the Lord-General with us now he would
counsel us to venture some such attack.’

‘It is a bold thing with raw peasants to attack old soldiers,’ quoth Sir
Stephen Timewell. ‘Yet if it is to be done, I know well that there is
not a man born within sound of the bells of St. Mary Magdalene who will
flinch from it.’

‘You say well, Sir Stephen,’ said Monmouth. ‘At Dunbar Cromwell had
veterans at his back, and was opposed to troops who had small experience
of war.’

‘Yet there is much good sense in what Major Hollis has said,’ remarked
Lord Grey. ‘We must either fall on, or be gradually girt round and
starved out. That being so, why not take advantage at once of the chance
which Feversham’s ignorance or carelessness hath given us? To-morrow, if
Churchill can prevail over his chief, I have little doubt that we
shall find their camp rearranged, and so have cause to regret our lost
opportunity.’

‘Their horse lie at Westonzoyland,’ said Wade. ‘The sun is so fierce now
that we can scarce see for its glare and the haze which rises up from
the marshes. Yet a little while ago I could make out through my glasses
the long lines of horses picketed on the moor beyond the village.
Behind, in Middlezoy, are two thousand militia, while in Chedzoy, where
our attack would fall, there are five regiments of regular foot.’

‘If we could break those all would be well,’ cried Monmouth. ‘What is
your advice, Colonel Buyse?’

‘My advice is ever the same,’ the German answered. ‘We are here to
fight, and the sooner we get to work at it the better.’

‘And yours, Colonel Saxon? Do you agree with the opinion of your
friend?’

‘I think with Major Hollis, your Majesty, that Feversham by his
dispositions hath laid himself open to attack, and that we should take
advantage of it forthwith. Yet, considering that trained men and a
numerous horse have great advantage by daylight, I should be in favour
of a camisado or night onfall.’

‘The same thought was in my mind,’ said Grey. ‘Our friends here know
every inch of the ground, and could guide us to Chedzoy as surely in the
darkness as in the day.’

‘I have heard,’ said Saxon, ‘that much beer and cider, with wine and
strong waters, have found their way into their camp. If this be so
we may give them a rouse while their heads are still buzzing with the
liquor, when they shall scarce know whether it is ourselves or the blue
devils which have come upon them.’

A general chorus of approval from the whole council showed that the
prospect of at last coming to an engagement was welcome, after the weary
marchings and delays of the last few weeks.

‘Has any cavalier anything to say against this plan?’ asked the King.

We all looked from one to the other, but though many faces were doubtful
or desponding, none had a word to say against the night attack, for it
was clear that our action in any case must be hazardous, and this had at
least the merit of promising a better chance of success than any other.
Yet, my dears, I dare say the boldest of us felt a sinking at the heart
as we looked at our downcast, sad-faced leader, and asked ourselves
whether this was a likely man to bring so desperate an enterprise to a
success.

‘If all are agreed,’ said he, ‘let our word be “Soho,” and let us come
upon them as soon after midnight as may be. What remains to be settled
as to the order of battle may be left for the meantime. You will now,
gentlemen, return to your regiments, and you will remember that be the
upshot of this what it may, whether Monmouth be the crowned King of
England or a hunted fugitive, his heart, while it can still beat, will
ever bear in memory the brave friends who stood at his side in the hour
of his trouble.’

At this simple and kindly speech a flush of devotion, mingled in my
own case at least with a heart-whole pity for the poor, weak gentleman,
swept over us. We pressed round him with our hands upon the hilts of our
swords, swearing that we would stand by him, though all the world stood
between him and his rights. Even the rigid and impassive Puritans were
moved to a show of loyalty; while the courtiers, carried away by zeal,
drew their rapiers and shouted until the crowd beneath caught the
enthusiasm, and the air was full of the cheering. The light returned
to Monmouth’s eye and the colour to his cheek as he listened to the
clamour. For a moment at least he looked like the King which he aspired
to be.

‘My thanks to ye, dear friends and subjects,’ he cried. ‘The issue rests
with the Almighty, but what men can do will, I know well, be done by you
this night. If Monmouth cannot have all England, six feet of her shall
at least be his. Meanwhile, to your regiments, and may God defend the
right!’

‘May God defend the right! cried the council solemnly, and separated,
leaving the King with Grey to make the final dispositions for the
attack.

‘These popinjays of the Court are ready enough to wave their rapiers
and shout when there are four good miles between them and the foe,’
said Saxon, as we made our way through the crowd. ‘I fear that they will
scarce be as forward when there is a line of musqueteers to be faced,
and a brigade of horse perhaps charging down upon their flank. But here
comes friend Lockarby, with news written upon his face.’

‘I have a report to make, Colonel,’ said Reuben, hurrying breathlessly
up to us. ‘You may remember that I and my company were placed on guard
this day at the eastern gates?’

Saxon nodded.

‘Being desirous of seeing all that I could of the enemy, I clambered up
a lofty tree which stands just without the town. From this post, by the
aid of a glass, I was able to make out their lines and camp. Whilst I
was gazing I chanced to observe a man slinking along under cover of the
birch-trees half-way between their lines and the town. Watching him, I
found that he was indeed moving in our direction. Presently he came so
near that I was able to distinguish who it was--for it was one whom I
know--but instead of entering the town by my gate he walked round under
cover of the peat cuttings, and so made his way doubtless to some other
entrance. He is a man, however, who I have reason to believe has no true
love for the cause, and it is my belief that he hath been to the
Royal camp with news of our doings, and hath now come back for further
information.’

‘Aye!’ said Saxon, raising his eyebrows. ‘And what is the man’s name?’

‘His name is Derrick, one time chief apprentice to Master Timewell at
Taunton, and now an officer in the Taunton foot.’

‘What, the young springald who had his eye upon pretty Mistress Ruth!
Now, out on love, if it is to turn a true man into a traitor! But
methought he was one of the elect? I have heard him hold forth to the
pikemen. How comes it that one of his kidney should lend help to the
Prelatist cause?’

‘Love again,’ quoth I. ‘This same love is a pretty flower when it grows
unchecked, but a sorry weed if thwarted.’

‘He hath an ill-feeling towards many in the camp,’ said Reuben, ‘and he
would ruin the army to avenge himself on them, as a rogue might sink
a ship in the hope of drowning one enemy. Sir Stephen himself hath
incurred his hatred for refusing to force his daughter into accepting
his suit. He has now returned into the camp, and I have reported the
matter to you, that you may judge whether it would not be well to send
a file of pikemen and lay him by the heels lest he play the spy once
more.’

‘Perhaps it would be best so,’ Saxon answered, full of thought, ‘and yet
no doubt the fellow would have some tale prepared which would outweigh
our mere suspicions. Could we not take him in the very act?’

A thought slipped into my head. I had observed from the tower that there
was a single lonely cottage about a third of the way to the enemy’s
camp, standing by the road at a place where there were marshes on either
side. Any one journeying that way must pass it. If Derrick tried to
carry our plans to Feversham he might be cut off at this point by a
party placed to lie in wait for him.

‘Most excellent!’ Saxon exclaimed, when I had explained the project. ‘My
learned Fleming himself could not have devised a better rusus belli. Do
ye convey as many files as ye may think fit to this point, and I shall
see that Master Derrick is primed up with some fresh news for my Lord
Feversham.’

‘Nay, a body of troops marching out would set tongues wagging,’ said
Reuben. ‘Why should not Micah and I go ourselves?’

‘That would indeed be better.’ Saxon answered. ‘But ye must pledge your
words, come what may, to be back at sundown, for your companies must
stand to arms an hour before the advance.’

We both gladly gave the desired promise; and having learned for certain
that Derrick had indeed returned to the camp, Saxon undertook to let
drop in his presence some words as to the plans for the night, while we
set off at once for our post. Our horses we left behind, and slipping
out through the eastern gate we made our way over bog and moor,
concealing ourselves as best we could, until we came out upon the lonely
roadway, and found ourselves in front of the house.

It was a plain, whitewashed, thatch-roofed cottage, with a small board
above the door, whereon was written a notice that the occupier sold milk
and butter. No smoke reeked up from the chimney, and the shutters of the
window were closed, from which we gathered that the folk who owned it
had fled away from their perilous position. On either side the marsh
extended, reedy and shallow at the edge, but deeper at a distance, with
a bright green scum which covered its treacherous surface. We knocked
at the weather-blotched door, but receiving, as we expected, no reply,
I presently put my shoulder against it and forced the staple from its
fastenings.

There was but a single chamber within, with a straight ladder in the
corner, leading through a square hole in the ceiling to the sleeping
chamber under the roof. Three or four chairs and stools were scattered
over the earthen floor, and at the side a deal table with the broad
brown milk basins upon it. Green blotches upon the wall and a sinking
in of one side of the cottage showed the effect of its damp, marsh-girt
position.

To our surprise it had still one inmate within its walls. In the centre
of the room, facing the door as we entered, stood a little bright,
golden-haired maid, five or six years of age. She was clad in a clean
white smock, with trim leather belt and shining buckle about her waist.
Two plump little legs with socks and leathern boots peeped out from
under the dress, stoutly planted with right foot in advance as one who
was bent upon holding her ground. Her tiny head was thrown back, and her
large blue eyes were full of mingled wonder and defiance. As we entered
the little witch flapped her kerchief at us, and shooed as though we
were two of the intrusive fowl whom she was wont to chevy out of the
house. Reuben and I stood on the threshold, uncertain, and awkward, like
a pair of overgrown school lads, looking down at this fairy queen whose
realms we had invaded, in two minds whether to beat a retreat or to
appease her wrath by soft and coaxing words.

‘Go ‘way!’ she cried, still waving her hands and shaking her kerchief.
‘Go ‘way! Granny told me to tell any one that came to go ‘way!’

‘But if they would not go away, little mistress,’ asked Reuben, ‘what
were you to do then?’

‘I was to drive them ‘way,’ she answered, advancing boldly against us
with many flaps. ‘You bad man!’ she continued, flashing out at me, ‘you
have broken granny’s bolt.’

‘Nay, I’ll mend it again,’ I answered penitently, and catching up
a stone I soon fastened the injured staple. ‘There, mistress, your
granddam will never tell the difference.’

‘Ye must go ‘way all the same,’ she persisted; ‘this is granny’s house,
not yours.’

What were we to do with this resolute little dame of the marshes? That
we should stay in the house was a crying need, for there was no other
cover or shelter among the dreary bogs where we could hide ourselves.
Yet she was bent upon driving us out with a decision and fearlessness
which might have put Monmouth to shame.

‘You sell milk,’ said Reuben. ‘We are tired and thirsty, so we have come
to have a horn of it.’

‘Nay,’ she cried, breaking into smiles, ‘will ye pay me just as the folk
pay granny? Oh, heart alive! but that will be fine!’ She skipped up
on to a stool and filled a pair of deep mugs from the basins upon the
table. ‘A penny, please!’ said she.

It was strange to see the little wife hide the coin away in her smock,
with pride and joy in her innocent face at this rare stroke of business
which she had done for her absent granny. We bore our milk away to the
window, and having loosed the shutters we seated ourselves so as to have
an outlook down the road.

‘For the Lord’s sake, drink slow!’ whispered Reuben, under his breath.
‘We must keep on swilling milk or she will want to turn us out.’

‘We have paid toll now,’ I answered; ‘surely she will let us bide.’

‘If you have done you must go ‘way,’ she said firmly.

‘Were ever two men-at-arms so tyrannised over by a little dolly such as
this!’ said I, laughing. ‘Nay, little one, we shall compound with you by
paying you this shilling, which will buy all your milk. We can stay here
and drink it at our ease.’

‘Jinny, the cow, is just across the marsh,’ quoth she. ‘It is nigh
milking time, and I shall fetch her round if ye wish more.’

‘Now, God forbid!’ cried Reuben. ‘It will end in our having to buy the
cow. Where is your granny, little maid?’

‘She hath gone into the town,’ the child answered. ‘There are bad men
with red coats and guns coming to steal and to fight, but granny will
soon make them go ‘way. Granny has gone to set it all right.’

‘We are fighting against the men with the red coats, my chuck,’ said
I; ‘we shall take care of your house with you, and let no one steal
anything.’

‘Nay, then ye may stay,’ quoth she, climbing up upon my knee as grave as
a sparrow upon a bough. ‘What a great boy you are!’

‘And why not a man?’ I asked.

‘Because you have no beard upon your face. Why, granny hath more hair
upon her chin than you. Besides, only boys drink milk. Men drink cider.’

‘Then if I am a boy I shall be your sweetheart,’ said I.

‘Nay, indeed!’ she cried, with a toss of her golden locks. ‘I have no
mind to wed for a while, but Giles Martin of Gommatch is my sweetheart.
What a pretty shining tin smock you have, and what a great sword! Why
should people have these things to harm each other with when they are in
truth all brothers?’

‘Why are they all brothers, little mistress?’ asked Reuben.

‘Because granny says that they are all the children of the great
Father,’ she answered. ‘If they have all one father they must be
brothers, mustn’t they?’

‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, Micah,’ quoth Reuben, staring
out of the window.

‘You are a rare little marsh flower,’ I said, as she clambered up to
grasp at my steel cap. ‘Is it not strange to think, Reuben, that there
should be thousands of Christian men upon either side of us, athirst
for each other’s lives, and here between them is a blue-eyed cherub who
lisps out the blessed philosophy which would send us all to our homes
with softened hearts and hale bodies?’

‘A day of this child would sicken me for over of soldiering,’ Reuben
answered. ‘The cavalier and the butcher become too near of kin, as I
listen to her.’

‘Perhaps both are equally needful,’ said I, shrugging my shoulders. ‘We
have put our hands to the plough. But methinks I see the man for whom we
wait coming down under the shadow of yonder line of pollard willows.’

‘It is he, sure enough,’ cried Reuben, peeping through the diamond-paned
window.

‘Then, little one, you must sit here,’ said I, raising her up from my
knee and placing her on a chair in a corner. ‘You must be a brave lass
and sit still, whatever may chance. Will you do so?’

She pursed up her rosy lips and nodded her head.

‘He comes on apace, Micah,’ quoth my comrade, who was still standing
by the casement. ‘Is he not like some treacherous fox or other beast of
prey?’

There was indeed something in his lean, black-clothed figure and swift
furtive movements which was like some cruel and cunning animal. He stole
along under shadow of the stunted trees and withies, with bent body and
gliding gait, so that from Bridgewater it would be no easy matter for
the most keen-sighted to see him. Indeed, he was so far from the town
that he might safely have come out from his concealment and struck
across the moor, but the deep morass on either side prevented him from
leaving the road until he had passed the cottage.

As he came abreast of our ambush we both sprang out from the open door
and barred his way. I have heard the Independent minister at Emsworth
give an account of Satan’s appearance, but if the worthy man had been
with us that day, he need not have drawn upon his fancy. The man’s dark
face whitened into a sickly and mottled pallor, while he drew back with
a long sharp intaking of the breath and a venomous flash from his black
eyes, glancing swiftly from right to left for some means of escape. For
an instant his hand shot towards his sword-hilt, but his reason told him
that he could scarce expect to fight his way past us. Then he glanced
round, but any retreat would lead him back to the men whom he had
betrayed. So he stood sullen and stolid, with heavy, downcast face and
shifting, restless eye, the very type and symbol of treachery.

‘We have waited some time for you, Master John Derrick,’ said I. ‘You
must now return with us to the town.’

‘On what grounds do you arrest me?’ he asked, in hoarse, broken tones.
‘Where is your warranty? Who hath given you a commission to molest
travellers upon the King’s highway?’

‘I have my Colonel’s commission,’ I answered shortly. ‘You have been
once already to Feversham’s camp this morning.’

‘It is a lie,’ he snarled fiercely. ‘I do but take a stroll to enjoy the
air.’

‘It is the truth,’ said Reuben. ‘I saw you myself on your return. Let us
see that paper which peeps from your doublet.’

‘We all know why you should set this trap for me,’ Derrick cried
bitterly. ‘You have set evil reports afloat against me, lest I stand in
your light with the Mayor’s daughter. What are you that you should dare
to raise your eyes to her! A mere vagrant and masterless man, coming
none know whence. Why should you aspire to pluck the flower which has
grown up amongst us? What had you to do with her or with us? Answer me!’

‘It is not a matter which I shall discuss, save at a more fitting time
and place,’ Reuben answered quietly. ‘Do you give over your sword and
come back with us. For my part, I promise to do what I can to save your
life. Should we win this night, your poor efforts can do little to harm
us. Should we lose, there may be few of us left to harm.’

‘I thank you for your kindly protection,’ he replied, in the same white,
cold, bitter manner, unbuckling his sword as he spoke, and walking
slowly up to my companion. ‘You can take this as a gift to Mistress
Ruth,’ he said, presenting the weapon in his left hand, ‘and this!’ he
added, plucking a knife from his belt and burying it in my poor friend’s
side.

It was done in an instant--so suddenly that I had neither time to spring
between, nor to grasp his intention before the wounded man sank gasping
on the ground, and the knife tinkled upon the pathway at my feet. The
villain set up a shrill cry of triumph, and bounding back in time to
avoid the savage sword thrust which I made at him, he turned and fled
down the road at the top of his speed. He was a far lighter man than I,
and more scantily clad, yet I had, from my long wind and length of limb,
been the best runner of my district, and he soon learned by the sound of
my feet that he had no chance of shaking me off. Twice he doubled as a
hare does when the hound is upon him, and twice my sword passed within a
foot of him, for in very truth I had no more thought of mercy than if
he had been a poisonous snake who had fastened his fangs into my friend
before my eyes. I never dreamed of giving nor did he of claiming it.
At last, hearing my steps close upon him and my breathing at his
very shoulder, he sprang wildly through the reeds and dashed into the
treacherous morass. Ankle-deep, knee-deep, thigh-deep, waist-deep, we
struggled and staggered, I still gaining upon him, until I was within
arm’s-reach of him, and had whirled up my sword to strike. It had been
ordained, however, my dear children, that he should die not the death of
a man, but that of the reptile which he was, for even as I closed upon
him he sank of a sudden with a gurgling sound, and the green marsh scum
met above his head. No ripple was there and no splash to mark the spot.
It was sudden and silent, as though some strange monster of the marshes
had seized him and dragged him down into the depths. As I stood with
upraised sword still gazing upon the spot, one single great bubble rose
and burst upon the surface, and then all was still once more, and the
dreary fens lay stretched before me, the very home of death and of
desolation. I know not whether he had indeed come upon some sudden pit
which had engulfed him, or whether in his despair he had cast himself
down of set purpose. I do but know that there in the great Sedgemoor
morass are buried the bones of the traitor and the spy.

I made my way as best I could through the oozy clinging mud to the
margin, and hastened back to where Reuben was lying. Bending over him
I found that the knife had pierced through the side leather which
connected his back and front plates, and that the blood was not only
pouring out of the wound, but was trickling from the corner of his
mouth. With trembling fingers I undid the straps and buckles, loosened
the armour, and pressed my kerchief to his side to staunch the flow.

‘I trust that you have not slain him, Micah,’ he said of a sudden,
opening his eyes.

‘A higher power than ours has judged him, Reuben,’ I answered.

‘Poor devil! He has had much to embitter him,’ he murmured, and
straightway fainted again. As I knelt over him, marking the lad’s white
face and laboured breathing, and bethought me of his simple, kindly
nature and of the affection which I had done so little to deserve, I am
not ashamed to say, my dears, albeit I am a man somewhat backward in my
emotions, that my tears were mingled with his blood.

As it chanced, Decimus Saxon had found time to ascend the church tower
for the purpose of watching us through his glass and seeing how we
fared. Noting that there was something amiss, he had hurried down for
a skilled chirurgeon, whom he brought out to us under an escort of
scythesmen. I was still kneeling by my senseless friend, doing what an
ignorant man might to assist him, when the party arrived and helped me
to bear him into the cottage, out of the glare of the sun. The minutes
were as hours while the man of physic with a grave face examined and
probed the wound.

‘It will scarce prove fatal,’ he said at last, and I could have embraced
him for the words. ‘The blade has glanced on a rib, though the lung is
slightly torn. We shall hear him back with us to the town.’

‘You hear what he says,’ said Saxon kindly. ‘He is a man whose opinion
is of weight--

          “A skilful leach is better far,
           Than half a hundred men of war.”

Cheer up, man! You are as white as though it were your blood and not his
which was drained away. Where is Derrick?’

‘Drowned in the marshes,’ I answered.

‘’Tis well! It will save us six feet of good hemp. But our position here
is somewhat exposed, since the Royal Horse might make a dash at us. Who
is this little maid who sits so white and still in the corner.’

‘’Tis the guardian of the house. Her granny has left her here.’

‘You had better come with us. There may be rough work here ere all is
over.’

‘Nay, I must wait for granny,’ she answered, with the tears running down
her cheeks.

‘But how if I take you to granny, little one,’ said I. ‘We cannot
leave you here. ‘I held out my arms, and the child sprang into them and
nestled up against my bosom, sobbing as though her heart would break.
‘Take me away,’ she cried; ‘I’se frightened.’

I soothed the little trembling thing as best I might, and bore her off
with me upon my shoulder. The scythesmen had passed the handles of their
long weapons through the sleeves of their jerkins in such a way as to
form a couch or litter, upon which poor Reuben was laid. A slight dash
of colour had come back to his cheeks in answer to some cordial given
him by the chirurgeon, and he nodded and smiled at Saxon. Thus, pacing
slowly, we returned to Bridgewater, where Reuben was carried to our
quarters, and I bore the little maid of the marshes to kind townsfolk,
who promised to restore her to her home when the troubles were over.



Chapter XXXII. Of the Onfall at Sedgemoor

However pressing our own private griefs and needs, we had little time
now to dwell upon them, for the moment was at hand which was to decide
for the time not only our own fates, but that of the Protestant cause
in England. None of us made light of the danger. Nothing less than a
miracle could preserve us from defeat, and most of us were of opinion
that the days of the miracles were past. Others, however, thought
otherwise. I believe that many of our Puritans, had they seen the
heavens open that night, and the armies of the Seraphim and the Cherubim
descending to our aid, would have looked upon it as by no means a
wonderful or unexpected occurrence.

The whole town was loud with the preaching. Every troop or company had
its own chosen orator, and sometimes more than one, who held forth
and expounded. From barrels, from waggons, from windows, and even from
housetops, they addressed the crowds beneath; nor was their eloquence
in vain. Hoarse, fierce shouts rose up from the streets, with broken
prayers and ejaculations. Men were drunk with religion as with wine.
Their faces were flushed, their speech thick, their gestures wild. Sir
Stephen and Saxon smiled at each other as they watched them, for they
knew, as old soldiers, that of all causes which make a man valiant in
deed and careless of life, this religious fit is the strongest and the
most enduring.

In the evening I found time to look in upon my wounded friend, and found
him propped up with cushions upon his couch, breathing with some pain,
but as bright and merry as ever. Our prisoner, Major Ogilvy, who had
conceived a warm affection for us, sat by his side and read aloud to him
out of an old book of plays.

‘This wound hath come at an evil moment,’ said Reuben impatiently.
‘Is it not too much that a little prick like this should send my men
captainless into battle, after all our marching and drilling? I have
been present at the grace, and am cut off from the dinner.’

‘Your company hath been joined to mine,’ I answered, ‘though, indeed,
the honest fellows are cast down at not having their own captain. Has
the physician been to see you?’

‘He has left even now,’ said Major Ogilvy. ‘He pronounces our friend to
be doing right well, but hath warned me against allowing him to talk.’

‘Hark to that, lad!’ said I, shaking my finger at him. ‘If I hear a word
from you I go. You will escape a rough waking this night, Major. What
think you of our chance?’

‘I have thought little of your chance from the first,’ he replied
frankly. ‘Monmouth is like a ruined gamester, who is now putting his
last piece upon the board. He cannot win much, and he may lose all.’

‘Nay, that is a hard saying,’ said I. ‘A success might set the whole of
the Midlands in arms.’

‘England is not ripe for it,’ the Major answered, with a shake of his
head. ‘It is true that it has no fancy either for Papistry or for a
Papist King, but we know that it is but a passing evil, since the next
in succession, the Prince of Orange, is a Protestant. Why, then, should
we risk so many evils to bring that about which time and patience must,
perforce, accomplish between them? Besides, the man whom ye support has
shown that he is unworthy of confidence. Did he not in his declaration
promise to leave the choice of a monarch to the Commons? And yet, in
less than a week, he proclaimed himself at Taunton Market Cross! Who
could believe one who has so little regard for truth?’

‘Treason, Major, rank treason,’ I answered, laughing. ‘Yet if we could
order a leader as one does a coat we might, perchance, have chosen
one of a stronger texture. We are in arms not for him, but for the old
liberties and rights of Englishmen. Have you seen Sir Gervas?’

Major Ogilvy, and even Reuben, burst out laughing. ‘You will find him
in the room above,’ said our prisoner. ‘Never did a famous toast prepare
herself for a court ball as he is preparing for his battle. If the
King’s troops take him they will assuredly think that they have the
Duke. He hath been in here to consult us as to his patches, hosen, and I
know not what beside. You had best go up to him.’

‘Adieu, then, Reuben!’ I said, grasping his hand in mine.

‘Adieu, Micah! God shield you from harm,’ said he.

‘Can I speak to you aside, Major?’ I whispered. ‘I think,’ I went on,
as he followed me into the passage, ‘that you will not say that your
captivity hath been made very harsh for you. May I ask, therefore, that
you will keep an eye upon my friend should we be indeed defeated this
night? No doubt if Feversham gains the upper hand there will be bloody
work. The hale can look after themselves, but he is helpless, and will
need a friend.’

The Major pressed my hand. ‘I swear to God,’ he said, ‘that no harm
shall befall him.’

‘You have taken a load from my heart,’ I answered; ‘I know that I leave
him in safety. ‘I can now ride to battle with an easy mind.’ With a
friendly smile the soldier returned to the sick-room, whilst I ascended
the stair and entered the quarters of Sir Gervas Jerome.

He was standing before a table which was littered all over with pots,
brushes, boxes, and a score of the like trifles, which he had either
bought or borrowed for the occasion. A large hand-mirror was balanced
against the wall, with rush-lights on either side of it. In front of
this, with a most solemn and serious expression upon his pale, handsome
face, the Baronet was arranging and re-arranging a white berdash cravat.
His riding-boots were brightly polished, and the broken seam repaired.
His sword-sheath, breastplate, and trappings were clear and bright.
He wore his gayest and newest suit, and above all he had donned a most
noble and impressive full-bottomed periwig, which drooped down to his
shoulders, as white as powder could make it. From his dainty riding-hat
to his shining spur there was no speck or stain upon him--a sad set-off
to my own state, plastered as I was with a thick crust of the Sedgemoor
mud, and disordered from having ridden and worked for two days without
rest or repose.

‘Split me, but you have come in good time!’ he exclaimed, as I entered.
‘I have even now sent down for a flask of canary. Ah, and here it
comes!’ as a maid from the inn tripped upstairs with the bottle and
glasses. ‘Here is a gold piece, my pretty dear, the very last that I
have in the whole world. It is the only survivor of a goodly family. Pay
mine host for the wine, little one, and keep the change for thyself, to
buy ribbons for the next holiday. Now, curse me if I can get this cravat
to fit unwrinkled!’

‘There is nought amiss with it,’ I answered. ‘How can such trifles
occupy you at such a time?’

‘Trifles!’ he cried angrily. ‘Trifles! Well, there, it boots not to
argue with you. Your bucolic mind would never rise to the subtle import
which may lie in such matters--the rest of mind which it is to have
them right, and the plaguey uneasiness when aught is wrong. It comes,
doubtless, from training, and it may be that I have it more than others
of my class. I feel as a cat who would lick all day to take the least
speck from her fur. Is not the patch over the eyebrow happily chosen?
Nay, you cannot even offer an opinion; I would as soon ask friend Marot,
the knight of the pistol. Fill up your glass!’

‘Your company awaits you by the church,’ I remarked; ‘I saw them as I
passed.’

‘How looked they?’ he asked. ‘Were they powdered and clean?’

‘Nay, I had little leisure to observe. I saw that they were cutting
their matches and arranging their priming.’

‘I would that they had all snaphances,’ he answered, sprinkling himself
with scented water; ‘the matchlocks are slow and cumbersome. Have you
had wine enough?’

‘I will take no more,’ I answered.

‘Then mayhap the Major may care to finish it. It is not often I ask help
with a bottle, but I would keep my head cool this night. Let us go down
and see to our men.’

It was ten o’clock when we descended into the street. The hubbub of
the preachers and the shouting of the people had died away, for the
regiments had fallen into their places, and stood silent and stern,
with the faint light from the lamps and windows playing over their dark
serried ranks. A cool, clear moon shone down upon us from amidst fleecy
clouds, which drifted ever and anon across her face. Away in the north
tremulous rays of light flickered up into the heavens, coming and going
like long, quivering fingers. They were the northern lights, a sight
rarely seen in the southland counties. It is little wonder that, coming
at such a time, the fanatics should have pointed to them as signals
from another world, and should have compared them to that pillar of fire
which guided Israel through the dangers of the desert. The footpaths and
the windows were crowded with women and children, who broke into shrill
cries of fear or of wonder as the strange light waxed and waned.

‘It is half after ten by St. Mary’s clock,’ said Saxon, as we rode up to
the regiment. ‘Have we nothing to give the men?’

‘There is a hogshead of Zoyland cider in the yard of yonder inn,’ said
Sir Gervas. ‘Here, Dawson, do you take those gold sleeve links and give
them to mine host in exchange. Broach the barrel, and let each man have
his horn full. Sink me, if they shall fight with nought but cold water
in them.’

‘They will feel the need of it ere morning,’ said Saxon, as a score
of pikemen hastened off to the inn. ‘The marsh air is chilling to the
blood.’

‘I feel cold already, and Covenant is stamping with it,’ said I. ‘Might
we not, if we have time upon our hands, canter our horses down the
line?’

‘Of a surety,’ Saxon answered gladly, ‘we could not do better;’ so
shaking our bridles we rode off, our horses’ hoofs striking fire from
the flint-paved streets as we passed.

Behind the horse, in a long line which stretched from the Eastover gate,
across the bridge, along the High Street, up the Cornhill, and so past
the church to the Pig Cross, stood our foot, silent and grim, save when
some woman’s voice from the windows called forth a deep, short answer
from the ranks. The fitful light gleamed on scythes-blade or gun-barrel,
and showed up the lines of rugged, hard set faces, some of mere children
with never a hair upon their cheeks, others of old men whose grey beards
swept down to their cross-belts, but all bearing the same stamp of a
dogged courage and a fierce self-contained resolution. Here were still
the fisher folk of the south. Here, too, were the fierce men from the
Mendips, the wild hunters from Porlock Quay and Minehead, the poachers
of Exmoor, the shaggy marshmen of Axbridge, the mountain men from the
Quantocks, the serge and wool-workers of Devonshire, the graziers of
Bampton, the red-coats from the Militia, the stout burghers of Taunton,
and then, as the very bone and sinew of all, the brave smockfrocked
peasants of the plains, who had turned up their jackets to the elbow,
and exposed their brown and corded arms, as was their wont when good
work had to be done. As I speak to you, dear children, fifty years
rolls by like a mist in the morning, and I am riding once more down
the winding street, and see again the serried ranks of my gallant
companions. Brave hearts! They showed to all time how little training it
takes to turn an Englishman into a soldier, and what manner of men are
bred in those quiet, peaceful hamlets which dot the sunny slopes of the
Somerset and Devon downs. If ever it should be that England should
be struck upon her knees, if those who fight her battles should have
deserted her, and she should find herself unarmed in the presence of her
enemy, let her take heart and remember that every village in the realm
is a barrack, and that her real standing army is the hardy courage and
simple virtue which stand ever in the breast of the humblest of her
peasants.

As we rode down the long line a buzz of greeting and welcome rose now
and again from the ranks as they recognised through the gloom Saxon’s
tall, gaunt figure. The clock was on the stroke of eleven as we returned
to our own men, and at that very moment King Monmouth rode out from the
inn where he was quartered, and trotted with his staff down the High
Street. All cheering had been forbidden, but waving caps and brandished
arms spoke the ardour of his devoted followers. No bugle was to sound
the march, but as each received the word the one in its rear followed
its movements. The clatter and shuffle of hundreds of moving feet came
nearer and nearer, until the Frome men in front of us began to march,
and we found ourselves fairly started upon the last journey which many
of us were ever to take in this world.

Our road lay across the Parret, through Eastover, and so along the
winding track past the spot where Derrick met his fate, and the lonely
cottage of the little maid. At the other side of this the road becomes
a mere pathway over the plain. A dense haze lay over the moor, gathering
thickly in the hollows, and veiling both the town which we had left and
the villages which we were approaching. Now and again it would lift
for a few moments, and then I could see in the moonlight the long black
writhing line of the army, with the shimmer of steel playing over it,
and the rude white standards flapping in the night breeze. Far on the
right a great fire was blazing--some farmhouse, doubtless, which the
Tangiers devils had made spoil of. Very slow our march was, and very
careful, for the plain was, as Sir Stephen Timewell had told us, cut
across by great ditches or rhines, which could not be passed save at
some few places. These ditches were cut for the purpose of draining the
marshes, and were many feet deep of water and of mud, so that even
the horse could not cross them. The bridges were narrow, and some time
passed before the army could get over. At last, however, the two main
ones, the Black Ditch and the Langmoor Rhine, were safely traversed and
a halt was called while the foot was formed in line, for we had reason
to believe that no other force lay between the Royal camp and ourselves.
So far our enterprise had succeeded admirably. We were within half a
mile of the camp without mistake or accident, and none of the enemy’s
scouts had shown sign of their presence. Clearly they held us in such
contempt that it had never occurred to them that we might open the
attack. If ever a general deserved a beating it was Feversham that
night. As he drew up upon the moor the clock of Chedzoy struck one.

‘Is it not glorious?’ whispered Sir Gervas, as we reined up upon the
further side of the Langmoor Rhine. ‘What is there on earth to compare
with the excitement of this?’

‘You speak as though it wore a cocking-match or a bull-baiting, ‘I
answered, with some little coldness. ‘It is a solemn and a sad occasion.
Win who will, English blood must soak the soil of England this night.’

‘The more room for those who are left,’ said he lightly. ‘Mark over
yonder the glow of their camp-fires amidst the fog. What was it that
your seaman friend did recommend? Get the weather-gauge of them and
board--eh? Have you told that to the Colonel?’

‘Nay, this is no time for quips and cranks,’ I answered gravely; ‘the
chances are that few of us will ever see to-morrow’s sun rise.’

‘I have no great curiosity to see it,’ he remarked, with a laugh. ‘It
will be much as yesterday’s. Zounds! though I have never risen to see
one in my life, I have looked on many a hundred ere I went to bed.’

‘I have told friend Reuben such few things as I should desire to be done
in case I should fall,’ said I. ‘It has eased my mind much to know that
I leave behind some word of farewell, and little remembrance to all whom
I have known. Is there no service of the sort which I can do for you?’

‘Hum!’ said he, musing. ‘If I go under, you can tell Araminta--nay, let
the poor wench alone! Why should I send her messages which may plague
her! Should you be in town, little Tommy Chichester would be glad to
hear of the fun which we have had in Somerset. You will find him at the
Coca Tree every day of the week between two and four of the clock. There
is Mother Butterworth, too, whom I might commend to your notice. She
was the queen of wet-nurses, but alas! cruel time hath dried up her
business, and she hath need of some little nursing herself.’

‘If I live and you should fall, I shall do what may be done for her,’
said I. ‘Have you aught else to say?’

‘Only that Hacker of Paul’s Yard is the best for vests,’ he answered.
‘It is a small piece of knowledge, yet like most other knowledge it hath
been bought and paid for. One other thing! I have a trinket or two left
which might serve as a gift for the pretty Puritan maid, should our
friend lead her to the altar. Od’s my life, but she will make him read
some queer books! How now, Colonel, why are we stuck out on the moor
like a row of herons among the sedges?’

‘They are ordering the line for the attack,’ said Saxon, who had ridden
up during our conversation. ‘Donnerblitz! Who ever saw a camp so
exposed to an onfall? Oh for twelve hundred good horse--for an hour of
Wessenburg’s Pandours! Would I not trample them down until their camp
was like a field of young corn after a hail-storm!’

‘May not our horse advance?’ I asked.

The old soldier gave a deep snort of disdain. ‘If this fight is to be
won it must be by our foot,’ said he; ‘what can we hope for from such
cavalry? Keep your men well in hand, for we may have to bear the brunt
of the King’s dragoons. A flank attack would fall upon us, for we are in
the post of honour.’

‘There are troops to the right of us,’ I answered, peering through the
darkness.

‘Aye! the Taunton burghers and the Frome peasants. Our brigade covers
the right flank. Next us are the Mendip miners, nor could I wish for
better comrades, if their zeal do not outrun their discretion. They are
on their knees in the mud at this moment.’

‘They will fight none the worse for that,’ I remarked; ‘but surely the
troops are advancing!’

‘Aye, aye!’ cried Saxon joyously, plucking out his sword, and tying
his handkerchief round the handle to strengthen his grip. ‘The hour has
come! Forwards!’

Very slowly and silently we crept on through the dense fog, our feet
splashing and slipping in the sodden soil. With all the care which
we could take, the advance of so great a number of men could not be
conducted without a deep sonorous sound from the thousands of marching
feet. Ahead of us were splotches of ruddy light twinkling through the
fog which marked the Royal watch-fires. Immediately in front in a dense
column our own horse moved forwards. Of a sudden out of the darkness
there came a sharp challenge and a shout, with the discharge of a
carbine and the sound of galloping hoofs. Away down the line we heard
a ripple of shots. The first line of outposts had been reached. At the
alarm our horse charged forward with a huzza, and we followed them as
fast as our men could run. We had crossed two or three hundred yards of
moor, and could hear the blowing of the Royal bugles quite close to us,
when our horse came to a sudden halt, and our whole advance was at a
standstill.

‘Sancta Maria!’ cried Saxon, dashing forward with the rest of us to find
out the cause of the delay. ‘We must on at any cost! A halt now will
ruin our camisado.’

‘Forwards, forwards!’ cried Sir Gervas and I, waving our swords.

‘It is no use, gentlemen,’ cried a cornet of horse, wringing his hands;
‘we are undone and betrayed. There is a broad ditch without a ford in
front of us, full twenty feet across!’

‘Give me room for my horse, and I shall show ye the way across!’ cried
the Baronet, backing his steed. ‘Now, lads, who’s for a jump?’

‘Nay, sir, for God’s sake!’ said a trooper, laying his hand upon his
bridle. ‘Sergeant Sexton hath sprung in even now, and horse and man have
gone to the bottom!’

‘Let us see it, then!’ cried Saxon, pushing his way through the crowd
of horsemen. We followed close at his heels, until we found ourselves on
the borders of the vast trench which impeded our advance.

To this day I have never been able to make up my mind whether it was
by chance or by treachery on the part of our guides that this fosse was
overlooked until we stumbled upon it in the dark. There are some who say
that the Bussex Rhine, as it is called, is not either deep or broad,
and was, therefore, unmentioned by the moorsmen, but that the recent
constant rains had swollen it to an extent never before known. Others
say that the guides had been deceived by the fog, and taken a wrong
course, whereas, had we followed another track, we might have been able
to come upon the camp without crossing the ditch. However that may be,
it is certain that we found it stretching in front of us, broad, black,
and forbidding, full twenty feet from bank to bank, with the cap of the
ill-fated sergeant just visible in the centre as a mute warning to all
who might attempt to ford it.

‘There must be a passage somewhere,’ cried Saxon furiously. ‘Every
moment is worth a troop of horse to them. Where is my Lord Grey? Hath
the guide met with his deserts?’

‘Major Hollis hath hurled the guide into the ditch,’ the young cornet
answered. ‘My Lord Grey hath ridden along the bank seeking for a ford.’

I caught a pike out of a footman’s hand, and probed into the black
oozy mud, standing myself up to the waist in it, and holding Covenant’s
bridle in my left hand. Nowhere could I touch bottom or find any hope of
solid foothold.

‘Here, fellow!’ cried Saxon, seizing a trooper by the arm. ‘Make for
the rear! Gallop as though the devil were behind you! Bring up a pair
of ammunition waggons, and we shall see whether we cannot bridge this
infernal puddle.’

‘If a few of us could make a lodgment upon the other side we might make
it good until help came,’ said Sir Gervas, as the horseman galloped off
upon his mission.

All down the rebel line a fierce low roar of disappointment and rage
showed that the whole army had met the same obstacle which hindered
our attack. On the other side of the ditch the drums beat, the bugles
screamed, and the shouts and oaths of the officers could be heard as
they marshalled their men. Glancing lights in Chedzoy, Westonzoyland,
and the other hamlets to left and right, showed how fast the alarm
was extending. Decimus Saxon rode up and down the edge of the fosse,
pattering forth foreign oaths, grinding his teeth in his fury, and
rising now and again in his stirrups to shake his gauntleted hands at
the enemy.

‘For whom are ye?’ shouted a hoarse voice out of the haze.

‘For the King!’ roared the peasants in answer.

‘For which King?’ cried the voice.

‘For King Monmouth!’

‘Let them have it, lads!’ and instantly a storm of musket bullets
whistled and sung about our ears. As the sheet of flame sprang out of
the darkness the maddened, half-broken horses dashed wildly away across
the plain, resisting the efforts of the riders to pull them up. There
are some, indeed, who say that those efforts were not very strong, and
that our troopers, disheartened at the check at the ditch, were not
sorry to show their heels to the enemy. As to my Lord Grey, I can say
truly that I saw him in the dim light among the flying squadrons, doing
all that a brave cavalier could do to bring them to a stand. Away they
went, however, thundering through the ranks of the foot and out over the
moor, leaving their companions to bear the whole brunt of the battle.

‘On to your faces, men!’ shouted Saxon, in a voice which rose high above
the crash of the musketry and the cries of the wounded. The pikemen and
scythesmen threw themselves down at his command, while the musqueteers
knelt in front of them, loading and firing, with nothing to aim at save
the burning matches of the enemy’s pieces, which could be seen twinkling
through the darkness. All along, both to the right and the left, a
rolling fire had broken out, coming in short, quick volleys from the
soldiers, and in a continuous confused rattle from the peasants. On the
further wing our four guns had been brought into play, and we could hear
their dull growling in the distance.

‘Sing, brothers, sing!’ cried our stout-hearted chaplain, Master Joshua
Pettigrue, bustling backwards and forwards among the prostrate ranks.
‘Let us call upon the Lord in our day of trial!’ The men raised a loud
hymn of praise, which swelled into a great chorus as it was taken up by
the Taunton burghers upon our right and the miners upon our left. At
the sound the soldiers on the other side raised a fierce huzza, and the
whole air was full of clamour.

Our musqueteers had been brought to the very edge of the Bussex Rhine,
and the Royal troops had also advanced as far as they were able, so that
there were not five pikes’-lengths between the lines. Yet that short
distance was so impassable that, save for the more deadly fire, a
quarter of a mile might have divided us. So near were we that the
burning wads from the enemy’s muskets flew in flakes of fire over
our heads, and we felt upon our faces the hot, quick flush of their
discharges. Yet though the air was alive with bullets, the aim of the
soldiers was too high for our kneeling ranks, and very few of the men
were struck. For our part, we did what we could to keep the barrels of
our muskets from inclining upwards. Saxon, Sir Gervas, and I walked
our horses up and down without ceasing, pushing them level with our
sword-blades, and calling on the men to aim steadily and slowly. The
groans and cries from the other side of the ditch showed that some, at
least, of our bullets had not been fired in vain.

‘We hold our own in this quarter,’ said I to Saxon. ‘It seems to me that
their fire slackens.’

‘It is their horse that I fear,’ he answered. ‘They can avoid the ditch,
since they come from the hamlets on the flank. They may be upon us at
any time.’

‘Hullo, sir!’ shouted Sir Gervas, reining up his steed upon the very
brink of the ditch, and raising his cap in salute to a mounted officer
upon the other side. ‘Can you tell me if we have the honour to be
opposed to the foot guards?’

‘We are Dumbarton’s regiment, sir,’ cried the other. ‘We shall give ye
good cause to remember having met us.’

‘We shall be across presently to make your further acquaintance,’ Sir
Gervas answered, and at the same moment rolled, horse and all, into the
ditch, amid a roar of exultation from the soldiers. Half-a-dozen of his
musqueteers sprang instantly, waist deep, into the mud, and dragged our
friend out of danger, but the charger, which had been shot through the
heart, sank without a struggle.

‘There is no harm!’ cried the Baronet, springing to his feet, ‘I would
rather fight on foot like my brave musqueteers.’ The men broke out
a-cheering at his words, and the fire on both sides became hotter
than ever. It was a marvel to me, and to many more, to see these brave
peasants with their mouths full of bullets, loading, priming, and firing
as steadily as though they had been at it all their lives, and holding
their own against a veteran regiment which has proved itself in other
fields to be second to none in the army of England.

The grey light of morning was stealing over the moor, and still the
fight was undecided. The fog hung about us in feathery streaks, and
the smoke from our guns drifted across in a dun-coloured cloud, through
which the long lines of red coats upon the other side of the rhine
loomed up like a battalion of giants. My eyes ached and my lips prinkled
with the smack of the powder. On every side of me men were falling fast,
for the increased light had improved the aim of the soldiers. Our good
chaplain, in the very midst of a psalm, had uttered a great shout
of praise and thanksgiving, and so passed on to join those of his
parishioners who were scattered round him upon the moor. Hope-above
Williams and Keeper Milson, under-officers, and among the stoutest
men in the company, were both down, the one dead and the other sorely
wounded, but still ramming down charges, and spitting bullets into his
gun-barrel. The two Stukeleys of Somerton, twins, and lads of great
promise, lay silently with grey faces turned to the grey sky, united in
death as they had been in birth. Everywhere the dead lay thick amid the
living. Yet no man flinched from his place, and Saxon still walked
his horse among them with words of hope and praise, while his stern,
deep-lined face and tall sinewy figure were a very beacon of hope to
the simple rustics. Such of my scythesmen as could handle a musket were
thrown forward into the fighting line, and furnished with the arms and
pouches of those who had fallen.

Ever and anon as the light waxed I could note through the rifts in the
smoke and the fog how the fight was progressing in other parts of the
field. On the right the heath was brown with the Taunton and Frome
men, who, like ourselves, were lying down to avoid the fire. Along the
borders of the Bussex Rhine a deep fringe of their musqueteers were
exchanging murderous volleys, almost muzzle to muzzle, with the
left wing of the same regiment with which we were engaged, which was
supported by a second regiment in broad white facings, which I believe
to have belonged to the Wiltshire Militia. On either bank of the black
trench a thick line of dead, brown on the one side, and scarlet on the
other, served as a screen to their companions, who sheltered themselves
behind them and rested their musket-barrels upon their prostrate bodies.
To the left amongst the withies lay five hundred Mendip and Bagworthy
miners, singing lustily, but so ill-armed that they had scarce one gun
among ten wherewith to reply to the fire which was poured into them.
They could not advance, and they would not retreat, so they sheltered
themselves as best they might, and waited patiently until their leaders
might decide what was to be done. Further down for half a mile or more
the long rolling cloud of smoke, with petulant flashes of flame spurting
out through it, showed that every one of our raw regiments was bearing
its part manfully. The cannon on the left had ceased firing. The Dutch
gunners had left the Islanders to settle their own quarrels, and were
scampering back to Bridgewater, leaving their silent pieces to the Royal
Horse.

The battle was in this state when there rose a cry of ‘The King, the
King!’ and Monmouth rode through our ranks, bare-headed and wild-eyed,
with Buyse, Wade, and a dozen more beside him. They pulled up within a
spear’s-length of me, and Saxon, spurring forward to meet them, raised
his sword to the salute. I could not but mark the contrast between
the calm, grave face of the veteran, composed yet alert, and the half
frantic bearing of the man whom we were compelled to look upon as our
leader.

‘How think ye, Colonel Saxon?’ he cried wildly. ‘How goes the fight? Is
all well with ye? What an error, alas! what an error! Shall we draw off,
eh? How say you?’

‘We hold our own here, your Majesty,’ Saxon answered. ‘Methinks had we
something after the nature of palisados or stockados, after the Swedish
fashion, we might even make it good against the horse.’

‘Ah, the horse!’ cried the unhappy Monmouth. ‘If we get over this, my
Lord Grey shall answer for it. They ran like a flock of sheep. What
leader could do anything with such troops? Oh, lack-a-day, lack-a-day!
Shall we not advance?’

‘There is no reason to advance, your Majesty, now that the surprise has
failed,’ said Saxon. ‘I had sent for carts to bridge over the trench,
according to the plan which is commended in the treatise, “De vallis et
fossis,” but they are useless now. We can but fight it out as we are.’

‘To throw troops across would be to sacrifice them,’ said Wade. ‘We have
lost heavily, Colonel Saxon, but I think from the look of yonder bank
that ye have given a good account of the red-coats.’

‘Stand firm! For God’s sake, stand firm!’ cried Monmouth distractedly.
‘The horse have fled, and the cannoniers also. Oh! what can I do with
such men? What shall I do? Alas, alas!’ He set spurs to his horse and
galloped off down the line, still ringing his hands and uttering his
dismal wailings. Oh, my children, how small, how very small a thing is
death when weighed in the balance with dishonour! Had this man but borne
his fate silently, as did the meanest footman who followed his banners,
how proud and glad would we have been to have discoursed of him, our
princely leader. But let him rest. The fears and agitations and petty
fond emotions, which showed upon him as the breeze shows upon the water,
are all stilled now for many a long year. Let us think of the kind heart
and forget the feeble spirit.

As his escort trooped after him, the great German man-at-arms separated
from them and turned back to us. ‘I am weary of trotting up and down
like a lust-ritter at a fair,’ said he. ‘If I bide with ye I am like to
have my share of any fighting which is going. So, steady, mein Liebchen.
That ball grazed her tail, but she is too old a soldier to wince at
trifles. Hullo, friend, where is your horse?’

‘At the bottom of the ditch,’ said Sir Gervas, scraping the mud off his
dress with his sword-blade. ‘’Tis now half-past two,’ he continued,
‘and we have been at this child’s-play for an hour and more. With a line
regiment, too! It is not what I had looked forward to!’

‘You shall have something to console you anon,’ cried the German, with
his eyes shining. ‘Mein Gott! Is it not splendid? Look to it, friend
Saxon, look to it!’

It was no light matter which had so roused the soldier’s admiration. Out
of the haze which still lay thick upon our right there twinkled here and
there a bright gleam of silvery light, while a dull, thundering noise
broke upon our ears like that of the surf upon a rocky shore. More and
more frequent came the fitful flashes of steel, louder and yet louder
grew the hoarse gathering tumult, until of a sudden the fog was rent,
and the long lines of the Royal cavalry broke out from it, wave after
wave, rich in scarlet and blue and gold, as grand a sight as ever the
eye rested upon. There was something in the smooth, steady sweep of so
great a body of horsemen which gave the feeling of irresistible power.
Rank after rank, and line after line, with waving standards, tossing
manes, and gleaming steel, they poured onwards, an army in themselves,
with either flank still shrouded in the mist. As they thundered along,
knee to knee and bridle to bridle, there came from them such a gust of
deep-chested oaths with the jangle of harness, the clash of steel, and
the measured beat of multitudinous hoofs, that no man who hath not stood
up against such a whirlwind, with nothing but a seven-foot pike in his
hand, can know how hard it is to face it with a steady lip and a firm
grip.

But wonderful as was the sight, there was, as ye may guess, my
dears, little time for us to gaze upon it. Saxon and the German flung
themselves among the pikemen and did all that men could do to thicken
their array. Sir Gervas and I did the same with the scythesmen, who had
been trained to form a triple front after the German fashion, one rank
kneeling, one stooping, and one standing erect, with weapons advanced.
Close to us the Taunton men had hardened into a dark sullen ring,
bristling with steel, in the centre of which might be seen and heard
their venerable Mayor, his long beard fluttering in the breeze, and his
strident voice clanging over the field. Louder and louder grew the roar
of the horse. ‘Steady, my brave lads,’ cried Saxon, in trumpet tones.
‘Dig the pike-butt into the earth! Best it on the right foot! Give not
an inch! Steady!’ A great shout went up from either side, and then the
living wave broke over us.

What hope is there to describe such a scene as that--the crashing of
wood, the sharp gasping cries, the snorting of horses, the jar when the
push of pike met with the sweep of sword! Who can hope to make
another see that of which he himself carries away so vague and dim an
impression? One who has acted in such a scene gathers no general sense
of the whole combat, such as might be gained by a mere onlooker, but
he has stamped for ever upon his mind just the few incidents which may
chance to occur before his own eyes. Thus my memories are confined to a
swirl of smoke with steel caps and fierce, eager faces breaking through
it, with the red gaping nostrils of horses and their pawing fore-feet
as they recoiled from the hedge of steel. I see, too, a young beardless
lad, an officer of dragoons, crawling on hands and knees under the
scythes, and I hear his groan as one of the peasants pinned him to the
ground. I see a bearded, broad-faced trooper riding a grey horse just
outside the fringe of the scythes, seeking for some entrance, and
screaming the while with rage. Small things imprint themselves upon a
man’s notice at such a time. I even marked the man’s strong white teeth
and pink gums. At the same time I see a white-faced, thin-lipped man
leaning far forward over his horse’s neck and driving at me with his
sword point, cursing the while as only a dragoon can curse. All these
images start up as I think of that fierce rally, during which I hacked
and cut and thrust at man and horse without a thought of parry or
of guard. All round rose a fierce babel of shouts and cries, godly
ejaculations from the peasants and oaths from the horsemen, with Saxon’s
voice above all imploring his pikemen to stand firm. Then the cloud
of horse-men recoiled, circling off over the plain, and the shout of
triumph from my comrades, and an open snuff-box thrust out in front of
me, proclaimed that we had seen the back of as stout a squadron as ever
followed a kettledrum.

But if we could claim it as a victory, the army in general could scarce
say as much. None but the very pick of the troops could stand against
the flood of heavy horses and steel-clad men. The Frome peasants were
gone, swept utterly from the field. Many had been driven by pure weight
and pressure into the fatal mud which had checked our advance. Many
others, sorely cut and slashed, lay in ghastly heaps all over the ground
which they had held. A few by joining our ranks had saved themselves
from the fate of their companions. Further off the men of Taunton still
stood fast, though in sadly diminished numbers. A long ridge of horses
and cavaliers in front of them showed how stern had been the attack and
how fierce the resistance. On our left the wild miners had been broken
at the first rush, but had fought so savagely, throwing themselves upon
the ground and stabbing upwards at the stomachs of the horses, that they
had at last beaten off the dragoons. The Devonshire militiamen, however,
had been scattered, and shared the fate of the men of Frome. During the
whole of the struggle the foot upon the further bank of the Bussex Rhine
were pouring in a hail of bullets, which our musqueteers, having to
defend themselves against the horse, were unable to reply to.

It needed no great amount of soldierly experience to see that the battle
was lost, and that Monmouth’s cause was doomed. It was broad daylight
now, though the sun had not yet risen. Our cavalry was gone, our
ordnance was silent, our line was pierced in many places, and more than
one of our regiments had been destroyed. On the right flank the Horse
Guards Blue, the Tangiers Horse, and two dragoon regiments were forming
up for a fresh attack. On the left the foot-guards had bridged the ditch
and were fighting hand to hand with the men from North Somerset. In
front a steady fire was being poured into us, to which our reply was
feeble and uncertain, for the powder carts had gone astray in the dark,
and many were calling hoarsely for ammunition, while others were loading
with pebbles instead of ball. Add to this that the regiments which still
held their ground had all been badly shaken by the charge, and had lost
a third of their number. Yet the brave clowns sent up cheer after cheer,
and shouted words of encouragement and homely jests to each other,
as though a battle were but some rough game which must as a matter of
course be played out while there was a player left to join in it.

‘Is Captain Clarke there?’ cried Decimus Saxon, riding up with his
sword-arm flecked with blood. ‘Ride over to Sir Stephen Timewell and
tell him to join his men to ours. Apart we shall be broken--together we
may stand another charge.’

Setting spurs to Covenant I rode over to our companions and delivered
the message. Sir Stephen, who had been struck by a petronel bullet,
and wore a crimsoned kerchief bound round his snow-white head, saw
the wisdom of the advice, and moved his townsmen as directed. His
musqueteers being better provided with powder than ours did good service
by keeping down for a time the deadly fire from across the fosse.

‘Who would have thought it of him?’ cried Sir Stephen, with flashing
eyes, as Buyse and Saxon rode out to meet him. ‘What think ye now of our
noble monarch, our champion of the Protestant cause?’

‘He is no very great Krieger,’ said Buyse. ‘Yet perhaps it may be from
want of habit as much as from want of courage.’

‘Courage!’ cried the old Mayor, in a voice of scorn. ‘Look over yonder
and behold your King.’ He pointed out over the moor with a finger
which shook as much from anger as from age. There, far away, showing
up against the dark peat-coloured soil, rode a gaily-dressed cavalier,
followed by a knot of attendants, galloping as fast as his horse would
carry him from the field of battle. There was no mistaking the fugitive.
It was the recreant Monmouth.

‘Hush!’ cried Saxon, as we all gave a cry of horror and execration;
‘do not dishearten our brave lads! Cowardice is catching and will run
through an army like the putrid fever.’

‘Der Feigherzige!’ cried Buyse, grinding his teeth. ‘And the brave
country folk! It is too much.’

‘Stand to your pikes, men!’ roared Saxon, in a voice of thunder, and
we had scarce time to form our square and throw ourselves inside of it,
before the whirlwind of horse was upon us once more. When the Taunton
men had joined us a weak spot had been left in our ranks, and through
this in an instant the Blue Guards smashed their way, pouring through
the opening, and cutting fiercely to right and left. The burghers on the
one side and our own men on the other replied by savage stabs from their
pikes and scythes, which emptied many a saddle, but while the struggle
was at its hottest the King’s cannon opened for the first time with a
deafening roar upon the other side of the rhine, and a storm of balls
ploughed their way through our dense ranks, leaving furrows of dead
and wounded behind them. At the same moment a great cry of ‘Powder! For
Christ’s sake, powder!’ arose from the musqueteers whose last charge had
been fired. Again the cannon roared, and again our men were mowed down
as though Death himself with his scythe were amongst us. At last our
ranks were breaking. In the very centre of the pikemen steel caps were
gleaming, and broadswords rising and falling. The whole body was swept
back two hundred paces or more, struggling furiously the while, and
was there mixed with other like bodies which had been dashed out of all
semblance of military order, and yet refused to fly. Men of Devon, of
Dorset, of Wiltshire, and of Somerset, trodden down by horse, slashed by
dragoons, dropping by scores under the rain of bullets, still fought on
with a dogged, desperate courage for a ruined cause and a man who
had deserted them. Everywhere as I glanced around me were set faces,
clenched teeth, yells of rage and defiance, but never a sound of fear
or of submission. Some clambered up upon the cruppers of the riders and
dragged them backwards from their saddles. Others lay upon their faces
and hamstrung the chargers with their scythe-blades, stabbing the
horsemen before they could disengage themselves. Again and again the
guards crashed through them from side to side, and yet the shattered
ranks closed up behind them and continued the long-drawn struggle. So
hopeless was it and so pitiable that I could have found it in my heart
to wish that they would break and fly, were it not that on the broad
moor there was no refuge which they could make for. And all this time,
while they struggled and fought, blackened with powder and parched with
thirst, spilling their blood as though it were water, the man who called
himself their King was spurring over the countryside with a loose rein
and a quaking heart, his thoughts centred upon saving his own neck, come
what might to his gallant followers.

Large numbers of the foot fought to the death, neither giving nor
receiving quarter; but at last, scattered, broken, and without
ammunition, the main body of the peasants dispersed and fled across the
moor, closely followed by the horse. Saxon, Buyse, and I had done all
that we could to rally them once more, and had cut down some of the
foremost of the pursuers, when my eye fell suddenly upon Sir Gervas,
standing hatless with a few of his musqueteers in the midst of a swarm
of dragoons. Spurring our horses we cut a way to his rescue, and laid
our swords about us until we had cleared off his assailants for the
moment.

‘Jump up behind me!’ I cried. ‘We can make good our escape.’

He looked up smiling and shook his head. ‘I stay with my company,’ said
he.

‘Your company!’ Saxon cried. ‘Why, man, you are mad! Your company is cut
off to the last man.’

‘That’s what I mean,’ he answered, flicking some dirt from his cravat.
‘Don’t ye mind! Look out for yourselves. Goodbye, Clarke! Present my
compliments to--’ The dragoons charged down upon us again. We were all
borne backwards, fighting desperately, and when we could look round the
Baronet was gone for ever. We heard afterwards that the King’s troops
found upon the field a body which they mistook for that of Monmouth, on
account of the effeminate grace of the features and the richness of the
attire. No doubt it was that of our undaunted friend, Sir Gervas Jerome,
a name which shall ever be dear to my heart. When, ten years afterwards,
we heard much of the gallantry of the young courtiers of the household
of the French King, and of the sprightly courage with which they fought
against us in the Lowlands at Steinkirk and elsewhere, I have always
thought, from my recollection of Sir Gervas, that I knew what manner of
men they were.

And now it was every man for himself. In no part of the field did
the insurgents continue to resist. The first rays of the sun shining
slantwise across the great dreary plain lit up the long line of the
scarlet battalions, and glittered upon the cruel swords which rose and
fell among the struggling drove of resistless fugitives. The German had
become separated from us in the tumult, and we knew not whether he lived
or was slain, though long afterwards we learned that he made good his
escape, only to be captured with the ill-fated Duke of Monmouth. Grey,
Wade, Ferguson, and others had contrived also to save themselves, while
Stephen Timewell lay in the midst of a stern ring of his hard-faced
burghers, dying as he had lived, a gallant Puritan Englishman. All this
we learned afterwards. At present we rode for our lives across the moor,
followed by a few scattered bodies of horse, who soon abandoned their
pursuit in order to fasten upon some more easy prey.

We were passing a small clump of alder bushes when a loud manly voice
raised in prayer attracted our attention. Pushing aside the branches, we
came upon a man, seated with his back up against a great stone, cutting
at his own arm with a broad-bladed knife, and giving forth the Lord’s
prayer the while, without a pause or a quiver in his tone. As he glanced
up from his terrible task we both recognised him as one Hollis, whom I
have mentioned as having been with Cromwell at Dunbar. His arm had
been half severed by a cannon-ball, and he was quietly completing the
separation in order to free himself from the dangling and useless limb.
Even Saxon, used as he was to all the forms and incidents of war, stared
open-eyed and aghast at this strange surgery; but the man, with a short
nod of recognition, went grimly forward with his task, until, even as
we gazed, he separated the last shred which held it, and lay over with
blanched lips which still murmured the prayer. (1) We could do little
to help him, and, indeed, might by our halt attract his pursuers to his
hiding-place; so, throwing him down my flask half filled with water, we
hastened on upon our way. Oh, war, my children, what a terrible thing it
is! How are men cozened and cheated by the rare trappings and prancing
steeds, by the empty terms of honour and of glory, until they forget
in the outward tinsel and show the real ghastly horror of the accursed
thing! Think not of the dazzling squadrons, nor of the spirit-stirring
blare of the trumpets, but think of that lonely man under the shadow of
the alders, and of what he was doing in a Christian age and a Christian
land. Surely I, who have grown grey in harness, and who have seen as
many fields as I have years of my life, should be the last to preach
upon this subject, and yet I can clearly see that, in honesty, men must
either give up war, or else they must confess that the words of the
Redeemer are too lofty for them, and that there is no longer any use in
pretending that His teaching can be reduced to practice. I have seen a
Christian minister blessing a cannon which had just been founded, and
another blessing a war-ship as it glided from the slips. They,
the so-called representatives of Christ, blessed these engines of
destruction which cruel man has devised to destroy and tear his
fellow-worms. What would we say if we read in Holy Writ of our Lord
having blessed the battering-rams and the catapults of the legions?
Would we think that it was in agreement with His teaching? But there!
As long as the heads of the Church wander away so far from the spirit of
its teaching as to live in palaces and drive in carriages, what wonder
if, with such examples before them, the lower clergy overstep at times
the lines laid down by their great Master?

Looking back from the summit of the low hills which lie to the westward
of the moor, we could see the cloud of horse-men streaming over the
bridge of the Parret and into the town of Bridgewater, with the helpless
drove of fugitives still flying in front of them. We had pulled up our
horses, and were looking sadly and silently back at the fatal plain,
when the thud of hoofs fell upon our ears, and, turning round, we found
two horsemen in the dress of the guards riding towards us. They had made
a circuit to cut us off, for they were riding straight for us with drawn
swords and eager gestures.

‘More slaughter,’ I said wearily. ‘Why will they force us to it?’

Saxon glanced keenly from beneath his drooping lids at the approaching
horsemen, and a grim smile wreathed his face in a thousand lines and
wrinkles.

‘It is our friend who set the hounds upon our track at Salisbury,’ he
said. ‘This is a happy meeting. I have a score to settle with him.’

It was, indeed, the hot-headed young comet whom we had met at the outset
of our adventures. Some evil chance had led him to recognise the tall
figure of my companion as we rode from the field, and to follow him, in
the hope of obtaining revenge for the humiliation which he had met with
at his hands. The other was a lance-corporal, a man of square soldierly
build, riding a heavy black horse with a white blaze upon its forehead.

Saxon rode slowly towards the officer, while the trooper and I fixed our
eyes upon each other.

‘Well, boy,’ I heard my companion say, ‘I trust that you have learned to
fence since we met last.’

The young guardsman gave a snarl of rage at the taunt, and an instant
afterwards the clink of their sword-blades showed that they had met.
For my own part I dared not spare a glance upon them, for my opponent
attacked me with such fury that it was all that I could do to keep him
off. No pistol was drawn upon either side. It was an honest contest of
steel against steel. So constant were the corporal’s thrusts, now at my
face, now at my body, that I had never an opening for one of the heavy
cuts which might have ended the matter. Our horses spun round each
other, biting and pawing, while we thrust and parried, until at last,
coming together knee to knee, we found ourselves within sword-point, and
grasped each other by the throat. He plucked a dagger from his belt and
struck it into my left arm, but I dealt him a blow with my gauntleted
hand, which smote him off his horse and stretched him speechless upon
the plain. Almost at the same moment the cornet dropped from his horse,
wounded in several places. Saxon sprang from his saddle, and picking the
soldier’s dagger from the ground, would have finished them both had I
not jumped down also and restrained him. He flashed round upon me with
so savage a face that I could see that the wild-beast nature within him
was fairly roused.

‘What hast thou to do?’ he snarled. ‘Let go!’

‘Nay, nay! Blood enough hath been shed,’ said I. ‘Let them lie.’

‘What mercy would they have had upon us?’ he cried passionately,
struggling to get his wrist free. ‘They have lost, and must pay
forfeit.’

‘Not in cold blood,’ I said firmly. ‘I shall not abide it.’

‘Indeed, your lordship,’ he sneered, with the devil peeping out through
his eyes. With a violent wrench he freed himself from my grasp, and
springing back, picked up the sword which he had dropped.

‘What then?’ I asked, standing on my guard astride of the wounded man.

He stood for a minute or more looking at me from under his heavy-hung
brows, with his whole face writhing with passion. Every instant I
expected that he would fly at me, but at last, with a gulp in his
throat, he sheathed his rapier with a sharp clang, and sprang back into
the saddle.

‘We part here,’ he said coldly. ‘I have twice been on the verge of
slaying you, and the third time might be too much for my patience. You
are no fit companion for a cavalier of fortune. Join the clergy, lad; it
is your vocation.’

‘Is this Decimus Saxon who speaks, or is it Will Spotterbridge?’ I
asked, remembering his jest concerning his ancestry, but no answering
smile came upon his rugged face. Gathering up his bridle in his left
hand, he shot one last malignant glance at the bleeding officer, and
galloped off along one of the tracks which lead to the southward. I
stood gazing after him, but he never sent so much as a hand-wave back,
riding on with a rigid neck until he vanished in a dip in the moor.

‘There goes one friend,’ thought I sadly, ‘and all forsooth because I
will not stand by and see a helpless man’s throat cut. Another friend is
dead on the field. A third, the oldest and dearest of all, lies wounded
at Bridgewater, at the mercy of a brutal soldiery. If I return to my
home I do but bring trouble and danger to those whom I love. Whither
shall I turn?’ For some minutes I stood irresolute beside the prostrate
guardsmen, while Covenant strolled slowly along cropping the scanty
herbage, and turning his dark full eyes towards me from time to time, as
though to assure me that one friend at least was steadfast. Northward I
looked at the Polden Hills, southwards, at the Blackdowns, westward
at the long blue range of the Quantocks, and eastward at the broad fen
country; but nowhere could I see any hope of safety. Truth to say, I
felt sick at heart and cared little for the time whether I escaped or
no.

A muttered oath followed by a groan roused me from my meditations.
The corporal was sitting up rubbing his head with a look of stupid
astonishment upon his face, as though he were not very sure either of
where he was or how he came there. The officer, too, had opened his
eyes and shown other signs of returning consciousness. His wounds were
clearly of no very serious nature. There was no danger of their pursuing
me even should they wish to do so, for their horses had trotted off to
join the numerous other riderless steeds who were wandering all over the
moorlands. I mounted, therefore, and rode slowly away, saving my good
charger as much as possible, for the morning’s work had already told
somewhat heavily upon him.

There were many scattered bodies of horse riding hither and thither over
the marshes, but I was able to avoid them, and trotted onwards, keeping
to the waste country until I found myself eight or ten miles from the
battlefield. The few cottages and houses which I passed wore deserted,
and many of them bore signs of having been plundered. Not a peasant was
to be seen. The evil fame of Kirke’s lambs had chased away all those who
had not actually taken arms. At last, after riding for three hours, I
bethought me that I was far enough from the main line of pursuit to
be free from danger, so I chose out a sheltered spot where a clump of
bushes overhung a little brook. There, seated upon a bank of velvet
moss, I rested my weary limbs, and tried to wash the stains of battle
from my person.

It was only now when I could look quietly at my own attire that it was
brought home to me how terrible the encounter must have been in which
I had been engaged, and how wonderful it was that I had come off so
scatheless. Of the blows which I had struck in the fight I had faint
remembrance, yet they must have been many and terrible, for my sword
edge was as jagged and turned as though I had hacked for an hour at an
iron bar. From head to foot I was splashed and crimsoned with blood,
partly my own, but mostly that of others. My headpiece was dinted with
blows. A petronel bullet had glanced off my front plate, striking it
at an angle, and had left a broad groove across it. Two or three other
cracks and stars showed where the good sheet of proof steel had saved
me. My left arm was stiff and well-nigh powerless from the corporal’s
stab, but on stripping off my doublet and examining the place, I found
that though there had been much bleeding the wound was on the outer side
of the bone, and was therefore of no great import. A kerchief dipped in
water and bound tightly round it eased the smart and stanched the blood.
Beyond this scratch I had no injuries, though from my own efforts I felt
as stiff and sore all over as though I had been well cudgelled, and the
slight wound got in Wells Cathedral had reopened and was bleeding. With
a little patience and cold water, however, I was able to dress it and to
tie myself up as well as any chirurgeon in the kingdom.

Having seen to my injuries I had now to attend to my appearance, for
in truth I might have stood for one of those gory giants with whom the
worthy Don Bellianis of Greece and other stout champions were wont to
contend. No woman or child but would have fled at the sight of me, for
I was as red as the parish butcher when Martinmas is nigh. A good wash,
however, in the brook soon removed those traces of war, and I was
able to get the marks off my breastplate and boots. In the case of my
clothes, however, it was so hopeless to clean them that I gave it up in
despair. My good old horse had been never so much as grazed by steel or
bullet, so that with a little watering and tending he was soon as fresh
as ever, and we turned our backs on the streamlet a better-favoured pair
than we had approached it.

It was now going on to mid-day, and I began to feel very hungry, for I
had tasted nothing since the evening before. Two or three houses stood
in a cluster upon the moor, but the blackened walls and scorched thatch
showed that it was hopeless to expect anything from them. Once or twice
I spied folk in the fields or on the roadway; but at sight of an armed
horseman they ran for their lives, diving into the brushwood like wild
animals. At one place, where a high oak tree marked the meeting of three
roads, two bodies dangling from one of the branches showed that the
fears of the villagers were based upon experience. These poor men had in
all likelihood been hanged because the amount of their little hoardings
had not come up to the expectations of their plunderers; or because,
having given all to one band of robbers, they had nothing with which
to appease the next. At last, when I was fairly weary of my fruitless
search for food, I espied a windmill standing upon a green hill at
the other side of some fields. Judging from its appearance that it had
escaped the general pillage, I took the pathway which branched away to
it from the high-road. (Note J, Appendix)

1. The incident is historically true, and may serve to show what sort of
men they were who had learned their soldiering under Cromwell.



Chapter XXXIII. Of my Perilous Adventure at the Mill

At the base of the mill there stood a shed which was evidently used to
stall the horses which brought the farmers’ grain. Some grass was heaped
up inside it, so I loosened Covenant’s girths and left him to have a
hearty meal. The mill itself appeared to be silent and empty. I climbed
the steep wood ladder, and pushing the door open, walked into a round
stone-flagged room, from which a second ladder led to the loft above. On
one side of this chamber was a long wooden box, and all round the walls
were ranged rows of sacks full of flour. In the fireplace stood a pile
of faggots ready for lighting, so with the aid of my tinder-box I soon
had a cheerful blaze. Taking a large handful of flour from the nearest
bag I moistened it with water from a pitcher, and having rolled it out
into a flat cake, proceeded to bake it, smiling the while to think of
what my mother would say to such rough cookery. Very sure I am that
Patrick Lamb himself, whose book, the ‘Complete Court Cook,’ was ever in
the dear soul’s left hand while she stirred and basted with her right,
could not have turned out a dish which was more to my taste at the
moment, for I had not even patience to wait for the browning of it, but
snapped it up and devoured it half hot. I then rolled a second one, and
having placed it before the fire, and drawn my pipe from my pocket,
I set myself to smoke, waiting with all the philosophy which I could
muster until it should be ready.

I was lost in thought, brooding sadly over the blow which the news would
be to my father, when I was startled by a loud sneeze, which sounded as
though it were delivered in my very ear. I started to my feet and gazed
all round me, but there was nothing save the solid wall behind and the
empty chamber before. I had almost come to persuade myself that I had
been the creature of some delusion, when again a crashing sneeze, louder
and more prolonged than the last, broke upon the silence. Could some one
be hid in one of the bags? Drawing my sword I walked round pricking the
great flour sacks, but without being able to find cause for the sound. I
was still marvelling over the matter when a most extraordinary chorus of
gasps, snorts, and whistles broke out, with cries of ‘Oh, holy mother!’
‘Blessed Redeemer!’ and other such exclamations. This time there could
be no doubt as to whence the uproar came. Rushing up to the great chest
upon which I had been seated, I threw back the heavy lid and gazed in.

It was more than half full of flour, in the midst of which was
floundering some creature, which was so coated and caked with the white
powder, that it would have been hard to say that it was human were
it not for the pitiable cries which it was uttering. Stooping down I
dragged the man from his hiding-place, when he dropped upon his knees
upon the floor and yelled for mercy, raising such a cloud of dust from
every wriggle of his body that I began to cough and to sneeze. As the
skin of powder began to scale off from him, I saw to my surprise that he
was no miller or peasant, but was a man-at-arms, with a huge sword girt
to his side, looking at present not unlike a frosted icicle, and a
great steel-faced breastplate. His steel cap had remained behind in the
flour-bin, and his bright red hair, the only touch of colour about him,
stood straight up in the air with terror, as he implored me to spare his
life. Thinking that there was something familiar about his voice, I drew
my hand across his face, which set him yelling as though I had slain
him. There was no mistaking the heavy cheeks and the little greedy
eyes. It was none other than Master Tetheridge, the noisy town-clerk of
Taunton.

But how much changed from the town-clerk whom we had seen strutting, in
all the pomp and bravery of his office, before the good Mayor on the day
of our coming to Somersetshire! Where now was the ruddy colour like a
pippin in September? Where was the assured manner and the manly port? As
he knelt his great jack-boots clicked together with apprehension, and he
poured forth in a piping voice, like that of a Lincoln’s Inn mumper, a
string of pleadings, excuses, and entreaties, as though I were Feversham
in person, and was about to order him to instant execution.

‘I am but a poor scrivener man, your serene Highness,’ he bawled.
‘Indeed, I am a most unhappy clerk, your Honour, who has been driven
into these courses by the tyranny of those above him. A more loyal man,
your Grace, never wore neat’s leather, but when the mayor says “Yes,”
 can the clerk say “No”? Spare me, your lordship; spare a most penitent
wretch, whose only prayer is that he may be allowed to serve King James
to the last drop of his blood!’

‘Do you renounce the Duke of Monmouth?’ I asked, in a stern voice.

‘I do--from my heart!’ said he fervently.

‘Then prepare to die!’ I roared, whipping out my sword, ‘for I am one of
his officers.’

At the sight of the steel the wretched clerk gave a perfect bellow of
terror, and falling upon his face he wriggled and twisted, until looking
up he perceived that I was laughing. On that he crawled up on to his
knees once more, and from that to his feet, glancing at me askance, as
though by no means assured of my intentions.

‘You must remember me, Master Tetheridge,’ I said. ‘I am Captain Clarke,
of Saxon’s regiment of Wiltshire foot. I am surprised, indeed, that you
should have fallen away from that allegiance to which you did not only
swear yourself, but did administer the oath to so many others.’

‘Not a whit, Captain, not a whit!’ he answered, resuming his old
bantam-cock manner as soon as he saw that there was no danger. ‘I am
upon oath as true and as leal a man as ever I was.’

‘That I can fully believe,’ I answered.

‘I did but dissimulate,’ he continued, brushing the flour from his
person. ‘I did but practise that cunning of the serpent which should
in every warrior accompany the courage of the lion. You have read your
Homer, doubtless. Eh? I too have had a touch of the humanities. I am no
mere rough soldier, however stoutly I can hold mine own at sword-play.
Master Ulysses is my type, even as thine, I take it, is Master Ajax.’

‘Methinks that Master Jack-in-the-box would fit you better,’ said I.
‘Wilt have a half of this cake? How came you in the flour-bin?’

‘Why, marry, in this wise,’ he answered, with his mouth full of dough.
‘It was a wile or ruse, after the fashion of the greatest commanders,
who have always been famous for concealing their movements, and lurking
where they were least expected. For when the fight was lost, and I had
cut and hacked until my arm was weary and my edge blunted, I found that
I was left alone alive of all the Taunton men. Were we on the field you
could see where I had stood by the ring of slain which would be found
within the sweep of my sword-arm. Finding that all was lost and that our
rogues were fled, I mounted our worthy Mayor’s charger, seeing that the
gallant gentleman had no further need for it, and rode slowly from the
field. I promise you that there was that in my eye and bearing which
prevented their horse from making too close a pursuit of me. One trooper
did indeed throw himself across my path, but mine old back-handed cut
was too much for him. Alas, I have much upon my conscience? I have made
both widows and orphans. Why will they brave me when--God of mercy, what
is that?’

‘’Tis but my horse in the stall below,’ I answered.

‘I thought it was the dragoons,’ quoth the clerk, wiping away the drops
which had started out upon his brow. ‘You and I would have gone forth
and smitten them.’

‘Or climbed into the flour-bin,’ said I.

‘I have not yet made clear to you how I came there,’ he continued.
‘Having ridden, then, some leagues from the field, and noting this
windmill, it did occur to me that a stout man might single-handed make
it good against a troop of horse. We have no great love of flight, we
Tetheridges. It may be mere empty pride, and yet the feeling runs strong
in the family. We have a fighting strain in us ever since my kinsman
followed Ireton’s army as a sutler. I pulled up, therefore, and had
dismounted to take my observations, when my brute of a charger gave
the bridle a twitch, jerked itself free, and was off in an instant over
hedges and ditches. I had, therefore, only my good sword left to trust
to. I climbed up the ladder, and was engaged in planning how the defence
could best be conducted, when I heard the clank of hoofs, and on the
top of it you did ascend from below. I retired at once into ambush, from
which I should assuredly have made a sudden outfall or sally, had the
flour not so choked my breathing that I felt as though I had a two-pound
loaf stuck in my gizzard. For myself, I am glad that it has so come
about, for in my blind wrath I might unwittingly have done you an
injury. Hearing the clank of your sword as you did come up the ladder,
I did opine that you were one of King James’s minions, the captain,
perchance, of some troop in the fields below.’

‘All very clear and explicit, Master Tetheridge,’ said I, re-lighting
my pipe. ‘No doubt your demeanour when I did draw you from your
hiding-place was also a mere cloak for your valour. But enough of that.
It is to the future that we have to look. What are your intentions?’

‘To remain with you, Captain,’ said he.

‘Nay, that you shall not,’ I answered; ‘I have no great fancy for your
companionship. Your overflowing valour may bring me into ruffles which I
had otherwise avoided.’

‘Nay, nay! I shall moderate my spirit,’ he cried. ‘In such troublous
times you will find yourself none the worse for the company of a tried
fighting man.’

‘Tried and found wanting,’ said I, weary of the man’s braggart talk. ‘I
tell you I will go alone.’

‘Nay, you need not be so hot about it,’ he exclaimed, shrinking away
from me. ‘In any case, we had best stay here until nightfall, when we
may make our way to the coast.’

‘That is the first mark of sense that you have shown,’ said I. ‘The
King’s horse will find enough to do with the Zoyland cider and the
Bridgewater ale. If we can pass through, I have friends on the north
coast who would give us a lift in their lugger as far as Holland.
This help I will not refuse to give you, since you are my fellow in
misfortune. I would that Saxon had stayed with me! I fear he will be
taken!’

‘If you mean Colonel Saxon,’ said the clerk, ‘I think that he also is
one who hath much guile as well as valour. A stern, fierce soldier
he was, as I know well, having fought back to back with him for forty
minutes by the clock, against a troop of Sarsfield’s horse. Plain of
speech he was, and perhaps a trifle inconsiderate of the honour of a
cavalier, but in the field it would have been well for the army had they
had more such commanders.’

‘You say truly,’ I answered; ‘but now that we have refreshed ourselves
it is time that we bethought us of taking some rest, since we may have
far to travel this night. I would that I could lay my hand upon a flagon
of ale.’

‘I would gladly drink to our further acquaintanceship in the same,’
said my companion, ‘but as to the matter of slumber that may be readily
arranged. If you ascend that ladder you will find in the loft a litter
of empty sacks, upon which you can repose. For myself, I will stay down
here for a while and cook myself another cake.’

‘Do you remain on watch for two hours and then arouse me,’ I replied.
‘I shall then keep guard whilst you sleep.’ He touched the hilt of his
sword as a sign that he would be true to his post, so not without some
misgivings I climbed up into the loft, and throwing myself upon the
rude couch was soon in a deep and dreamless slumber, lulled by the low,
mournful groaning and creaking of the sails.

I was awoken by steps beside me, and found that the little clerk had
come up the ladder and was bending over me. I asked him if the time had
come for me to rouse, on which he answered in a strange quavering voice
that I had yet an hour, and that he had come up to see if there was any
service which he could render me. I was too weary to take much note
of his slinking manner and pallid cheeks, so thanking him for his
attention, I turned over and was soon asleep once more.

My next waking was a rougher and a sterner one. There came a sudden
rush of heavy feet up the ladder, and a dozen red-coats swarmed into the
room. Springing on to my feet I put out my hand for the sword which I
had laid all ready by my side, but the trusty weapon had gone. It had
been stolen whilst I slumbered. Unarmed and taken at a vantage, I was
struck down and pinioned in a moment. One held a pistol to my head, and
swore that he would blow my brains out if I stirred, while the others
wound a coil of rope round my body and arms, until Samson himself could
scarce have got free. Feeling that my struggles were of no possible
avail, I lay silent and waited for whatever was to come. Neither now nor
at any time, dear children, have I laid great store upon my life, but
far less then than now, for each of you are tiny tendrils which bind me
to this world. Yet, when I think of the other dear ones who are waiting
for me on the further shore, I do not think that even now death would
seem an evil thing in my eyes. What a hopeless and empty thing would
life be without it!

Having lashed my arms, the soldiers dragged me down the ladder, as
though I had been a truss of hay, into the room beneath, which was
also crowded with troopers. In one corner was the wretched scrivener,
a picture of abject terror, with chattering teeth and trembling knees,
only prevented from falling upon the floor by the grasp of a stalwart
corporal. In front of him stood two officers, one a little hard brown
man with dark twinkling eyes and an alert manner, the other tall and
slender, with a long golden moustache, which drooped down half-way to
his shoulders. The former had my sword in his hand, and they were both
examining the blade curiously.

‘It is a good bit of steel, Dick,’ said one, putting the point against
the stone floor, and pressing down until he touched it with the handle.
‘See, with what a snap it rebounds! No maker’s name, but the date 1638
is stamped upon the pommel. Where did you get it, fellow?’ he asked,
fixing his keen gaze upon my face.

‘It was my father’s before me,’ I answered.

‘Then I trust that he drew it in a better quarrel than his son hath
done,’ said the taller officer, with a sneer.

‘In as good, though not in a better,’ I returned. ‘That sword hath
always been drawn for the rights and liberties of Englishmen, and
against the tyranny of kings and the bigotry of priests.’

‘What a tag for a playhouse, Dick,’ cried the officer. ‘How doth it
run? “The bigotry of kings and the tyranny of priests.” Why, if well
delivered by Betterton close up to the footlights, with one hand upon
his heart and the other pointing to the sky, I warrant the pit would
rise at it.’

‘Very like,’ said the other, twirling his moustache. ‘But we have no
time for fine speeches now. What are we to do with the little one?’

‘Hang him,’ the other answered carelessly.

‘No, no, your most gracious honours,’ howled Master Tetheridge, suddenly
writhing out of the corporal’s grip and flinging himself upon the
floor at their feet. ‘Did I not tell ye where ye could find one of the
stoutest soldiers of the rebel army? Did not I guide ye to him? Did not
I even creep up and remove his sword lest any of the King’s subjects
be slain in the taking of him? Surely, surely, ye would not use me so
scurvily when I have done ye these services? Have I not made good my
words? Is he not as I described him, a giant in stature and of wondrous
strength? The whole army will bear me out in it, that he was worth any
two in single fight. I have given him over to ye. Surely ye will let me
go!’

‘Very well delivered--plaguily so!’ quoth the little officer, clapping
the palm of one hand softly against the back of the other. ‘The emphasis
was just, and the enunciation clear. A little further back towards the
wings, corporal, if you please. Thank you! Now, Dick, it is your cue.’

‘Nay, John, you are too absurd!’ cried the other impatiently. ‘The mask
and the buskins are well enough in their place, but you look upon the
play as a reality and upon the reality as but a play. What this reptile
hath said is true. We must keep faith with him if we wish that others of
the country folk should give up the fugitives. There is no help for it!’

‘For myself I believe in Jeddart law,’ his companion answered. ‘I
would hang the man first and then discuss the question of our promise.
However, pink me if I will obtrude my opinion on any man!’

‘Nay, it cannot be,’ the taller said. ‘Corporal, do you take him down.
Henderson will go with you. Take from him that plate and sword, which
his mother would wear with as good a grace. And hark ye, corporal, a few
touches of thy stirrup leathers across his fat shoulders might not be
amiss, as helping him to remember the King’s dragoons.’

My treacherous companion was dragged off, struggling and yelping, and
presently a series of piercing howls, growing fainter and fainter as he
fled before his tormentors, announced that the hint had been taken. The
two officers rushed to the little window of the mill and roared with
laughter, while the troopers, peeping furtively over their shoulders,
could not restrain themselves from joining in their mirth, from which I
gathered that Master Tetheridge, as, spurred on by fear, he hurled his
fat body through hedges and into ditches, was a somewhat comical sight.

‘And now for the other,’ said the little officer, turning away from the
window and wiping the tears of laughter from his face. ‘That beam over
yonder would serve our purpose. Where is Hangman Broderick, the Jack
Ketch of the Royals?’

‘Here I am, sir,’ responded a sullen, heavy-faced trooper, shuffling
forward; ‘I have a rope here with a noose.’

‘Throw it over the beam, then. What is amiss with your hand, you clumsy
rogue, that you should wear linen round it?’

‘May it please you, sir,’ the man answered, ‘it was all through an
ungrateful, prick-eared Presbyterian knave whom I hung at Gommatch. I
had done all that could be done for him. Had he been at Tyburn he could
scarce have met with more attention. Yet when I did put my hand to his
neck to see that all was as it should be, he did fix me with his teeth,
and hath gnawed a great piece from my thumb.’

‘I am sorry for you,’ said the officer. ‘You know, no doubt, that the
human bite under such circumstances is as deadly as that of the mad dog,
so that you may find yourself snapping and barking one of these fine
mornings. Nay, turn not pale! I have heard you preach patience and
courage to your victims. You are not afraid of death?’

‘Not of any Christian death, your Honour. Yet, ten shillings a week is
scarce enough to pay a man for an end like that!’

‘Nay, it is all a lottery,’ remarked the Captain cheerily. ‘I have heard
that in these cases a man is so drawn up that his heels do beat a tattoo
against the back of his head. But, mayhap, it is not as painful as it
would appear. Meanwhile, do you proceed to do your office.’

Three or four troopers caught me by the arms, but I shook them off as
best I might, and walked with, as I trust, a steady step and a cheerful
face under the beam, which was a great smoke-blackened rafter passing
from one side of the chamber to the other. The rope was thrown over
this, and the noose placed round my neck with trembling fingers by the
hangman, who took particular care to keep beyond the range of my teeth.
Half-a-dozen dragoons seized the further end of the coil, and stood
ready to swing me into eternity. Through all my adventurous life I have
never been so close upon the threshold of death as at that moment, and
yet I declare to you that, terrible as my position was, I could think
of nothing but the tattoo marks upon old Solomon Sprent’s arm, and the
cunning fashion in which he had interwoven the red and the blue. Yet I
was keenly alive to all that was going on around me. The scene of the
bleak stone-floored room, the single narrow window, the two lounging
elegant officers, the pile of arms in the corner, and even the texture
of the coarse red serge and the patterns of the great brass buttons upon
the sleeve of the man who held me, are all stamped clearly upon my mind.

‘We must do our work with order,’ remarked the taller Captain, taking a
note-book from his pocket. ‘Colonel Sarsfield may desire some details.
Let me see! This is the seventeenth, is it not?’

‘Four at the farm and five at the cross-roads,’ the other answered,
counting upon his fingers. ‘Then there was the one whom we shot in the
hedge, and the wounded one who nearly saved himself by dying, and the
two in the grove under the hill. I can remember no more, save those who
were strung up in ‘Bridgewater immediately after the action.’

‘It is well to do it in an orderly fashion,’ quoth the other, scribbling
in his book. ‘It is very well for Kirke and his men, who are half Moors
themselves, to hang and to slaughter without discrimination or ceremony,
but we should set them a better example. What is your name, sirrah?’

‘My name is Captain Micah Clarke,’ I answered.

The two officers looked at each other, and the smaller one gave a long
whistle. ‘It is the very man!’ said he. ‘This comes of asking questions!
Rat me, if I had not misgivings that it might prove to be so. They said
that he was large of limb.’

‘Tell me, sirrah, have you ever known one Major Ogilvy of the Horse
Guards Blue?’ asked the Captain.

‘Seeing that I had the honour of taking him prisoner,’ I replied, ‘and
seeing also that he hath shared soldier’s fare and quarters with me ever
since, I think I may fairly say that I do know him.’

‘Cast loose the cord!’ said the officer, and the hangman reluctantly
slipped the cord over my head once more. ‘Young man, you are surely
reserved for something great, for you will never be nearer your grave
until you do actually step into it. This Major Ogilvy hath made great
interest both for you and for a wounded comrade of yours who lies at
Bridgewater. Your name hath been given to the commanders of horse, with
orders to bring you in unscathed should you be taken. Yet it is but fair
to tell you that though the Major’s good word may save you from martial
law, it will stand you in small stead before a civil judge, before whom
ye must in the end take your trial.’

‘I desire to share the same lot and fortune as has befallen my
companions-in-arms,’ I answered.

‘Nay, that is but a sullen way to take your deliverance,’ cried the
smaller officer. ‘The situation is as flat as sutler’s beer. Otway would
have made a bettor thing of it. Can you not rise to the occasion? Where
is she?’

‘She! Who?’ I asked.

‘She. The she. The woman. Your wife, sweetheart, betrothed, what you
will.’

‘There is none such,’ I answered.

‘There now! What can be done in a case like that?’ cried he
despairingly. ‘She should have rushed in from the wings and thrown
herself upon your bosom. I have seen such a situation earn three rounds
from the pit. There is good material spoiling here for want of some one
to work it up.’

‘We have something else to work up, Jack,’ exclaimed his companion
impatiently. ‘Sergeant Gredder, do you with two troopers conduct the
prisoner to Gommatch Church. It is time that we were once more upon our
way, for in a few hours the darkness will hinder the pursuit.’

At the word of command the troopers descended into the field where their
horses were picketed, and were speedily on the march once more, the tall
Captain leading them, and the stage-struck cornet bringing up the
rear. The sergeant to whose care I had been committed--a great
square-shouldered, dark-browed man--ordered my own horse to be brought
out, and helped me to mount it. He removed the pistols from the
holsters, however, and hung them with my sword at his own saddle-bow.

‘Shall I tie his feet under the horse’s belly?’ asked one of the
dragoons.

‘Nay, the lad hath an honest face,’ the sergeant answered. ‘If he
promises to be quiet we shall cast free his arms.’

‘I have no desire to escape,’ said I.

‘Then untie the rope. A brave man in misfortune hath ever my goodwill,
strike me dumb else! Sergeant Gredder is my name, formerly of Mackay’s
and now of the Royals--as hard-worked and badly-paid a man as any in
his Majesty’s service. Right wheel, and down the pathway! Do ye ride
on either side, and I behind! Our carbines are primed, friend, so stand
true to your promise!’

‘Nay, you can rely upon it,’ I answered.

‘Your little comrade did play you a scurvy trick,’ said the sergeant,
‘for seeing us ride down the road he did make across to us, and
bargained with the Captain that his life should be spared, on condition
that he should deliver into our hands what he described as one of the
stoutest soldiers in the rebel army. Truly you have thews and sinews
enough, though you are surely too young to have seen much service.’

‘This hath been my first campaign,’ I answered.

‘And is like to be your last,’ he remarked, with soldierly frankness. ‘I
hear that the Privy Council intend to make such an example as will take
the heart out of the Whigs for twenty years to come. They have a lawyer
coming from London whose wig is more to be feared than our helmets. He
will slay more men in a day than a troop of horse in a ten-mile chase.
Faith! I would sooner they took this butcher-work into their own hands.
See those bodies on yonder tree. It is an evil season when such acorns
grow upon English oaks.’

‘It is an evil season,’ said I, ‘when men who call themselves Christians
inflict such vengeance upon poor simple peasants, who have done no more
than their conscience urged them. That the leaders and officers should
suffer is but fair. They stood to win in case of success, and should pay
forfeit now that they have lost. But it goes to my heart to see those
poor godly country folk so treated.’

‘Aye, there is truth in that,’ said the sergeant. ‘Now if it were some
of these snuffle-nosed preachers, the old lank-haired bell-wethers who
have led their flocks to the devil, it would be another thing. Why
can they not conform to the Church, and be plagued to them? It is good
enough for the King, so surely it is good enough for them; or are their
souls so delicate that they cannot satisfy themselves with that on which
every honest Englishman thrives? The main road to Heaven is too common
for them. They must needs have each a by-path of their own, and cry out
against all who will not follow it.’

‘Why,’ said I, ‘there are pious men of all creeds. If a man lead a life
of virtue, what matter what he believes?

‘Let a man keep his virtue in his heart,’ quoth Sergeant Gredder. ‘Let
him pack it deep in the knapsack of his soul. I suspect godliness
which shows upon the surface, the snuffling talk, the rolling eyes, the
groaning and the hawking. It is like the forged money, which can be told
by its being more bright and more showy than the real.’

‘An apt comparison!’ said I. ‘But how comes it, sergeant, that you have
given attention to these matters? Unless they are much belied, the Royal
Dragoons find other things to think of.’

‘I was one of Mackay’s foot,’ he answered shortly. ‘I have heard of
him,’ said I. ‘A man, I believe, both of parts and of piety.’

‘That, indeed, he is,’ cried Sergeant Gredder warmly. ‘He is a man stern
and soldierly to the outer eye, but with the heart of a saint within
him. I promise you there was little need of the strapado in his
regiment, for there was not a man who did not fear the look of sorrow in
his Colonel’s eyes far more than he did the provost-marshal.’

During the whole of our long ride I found the worthy sergeant a true
follower of the excellent Colonel Mackay, for he proved to be a man of
more than ordinary intelligence, and of serious and thoughtful habit.
As to the two troopers, they rode on either side of me as silent as
statues; for the common dragoons of those days could but talk of wine
and women, and were helpless and speechless when aught else was to the
fore. When we at last rode into the little village of Gommatch, which
overlooks the plain of Sedgemoor, it was with regret on each side that I
bade my guardian adieu. As a parting favour I begged him to take charge
of Covenant for me, promising to pay a certain sum by the month for his
keep, and commissioning him to retain the horse for his own use should I
fail to claim him within the year. It was a load off my mind when I saw
my trusty companion led away, staring back at me with questioning eyes,
as though unable to understand the separation. Come what might, I knew
now that, he was in the keeping of a good man who would see that no harm
befell him.



Chapter XXXIV. Of the Coming of Solomon Sprent

The church of Gommatch was a small ivy-clad building with a square
Norman tower, standing in the centre of the hamlet of that name. Its
great oaken doors, studded with iron, and high narrow windows, fitted
it well for the use to which it was now turned. Two companies of
Dumbarton’s Foot had been quartered in the village, with a portly Major
at their head, to whom I was handed over by Sergeant Gredder, with some
account of my capture, and of the reasons which had prevented my summary
execution.

Night was now drawing in, but a few dim lamps, hung here and there upon
the walls, cast an uncertain, flickering light over the scene. A hundred
or more prisoners were scattered about upon the stone floor, many of
them wounded, and some evidently dying. The hale had gathered in silent,
subdued groups round their stricken friends, and were doing what they
could to lessen their sufferings. Some had even removed the greater part
of their clothing in order to furnish head-rests and pallets for the
wounded. Here and there in the shadows dark kneeling figures might be
seen, and the measured sound of their prayers rang through the aisles,
with a groan now and again, or a choking gasp as some poor sufferer
battled for breath. The dim, yellow light streaming over the earnest
pain-drawn faces, and the tattered mud-coloured figures, would have made
it a fitting study for any of those Low Country painters whose pictures
I saw long afterwards at The Hague.

On Thursday morning, the third day after the battle, we were all
conveyed into Bridgewater, where we were confined for the remainder
of the week in St. Mary’s Church, the very one from the tower of which
Monmouth and his commanders had inspected Feversham’s position. The more
we heard of the fight from the soldiers and others, the more clear it
became that, but for the most unfortunate accidents, there was every
chance that our night attack might have succeeded. There was scarcely a
fault which a General could commit which Feversham had not been guilty
of. He had thought too lightly of his enemy, and left his camp entirely
open to a surprise. When the firing broke out he sprang from his couch,
but failing to find his wig, he had groped about his tent while the
battle was being decided, and only came out when it was well-nigh over.
All were agreed that had it not been for the chance of the Bussex Rhine
having been overlooked by our guides and scouts, we should have been
among the tents before the men could have been called to arms. Only
this and the fiery energy of John Churchill, the second in command,
afterwards better known under a higher name, both to French and to
English history, prevented the Royal army from meeting with a reverse
which might have altered the result of the campaign.(Note K, Appendix.)
Should ye hear or read, then, my dear children, that Monmouth’s rising
was easily put down, or that it was hopeless from the first, remember
that I, who was concerned in it, say confidently that it really trembled
in the balance, and that this handful of resolute peasants with their
pikes and their scythes were within an ace of altering the whole
course of English history. The ferocity of the Privy Council, after the
rebellion was quelled, arose from their knowledge of how very close it
had been to success.

I do not wish to say too much of the cruelty and barbarity of the
victors, for it is not good for your childish ears to hear of such
doings. The sluggard Feversham and the brutal Kirke have earned
themselves a name in the West, which is second only to that of the arch
villain who came after them. As for their victims, when they had hanged
and quartered and done their wicked worst upon them, at least they left
their names in their own little villages, to be treasured up and handed
from generation to generation, as brave men and true who had died for a
noble cause. Go now to Milverton, or to Wiveliscombe, or to Minehead, or
to Colyford, or to any village through the whole breadth and length of
Somersetshire, and you will find that they have not forgotten what
they proudly call their martyrs. But where now is Kirke and where is
Feversham? Their names are preserved, it is true, but preserved in a
county’s hatred. Who can fail to see now that these men in punishing
others brought a far heavier punishment upon themselves? Their sin hath
indeed found them out.

They did all that wicked and callous-hearted men could do, knowing well
that such deeds were acceptable to the cold-blooded, bigoted hypocrite
who sat upon the throne. They worked to win his favour, and they won it.
Men were hanged and cut down and hanged again. Every cross-road in the
country was ghastly with gibbets. There was not an insult or a contumely
which might make the pangs of death more unendurable, which was not
heaped upon these long-suffering men; yet it is proudly recounted in
their native shire that of all the host of victims there was not one who
did not meet his end with a firm lip, protesting that if the thing were
to do again he was ready to do it.

At the end of a week or two news came of the fugitives. Monmouth, it
seems, had been captured by Portman’s yellow coats when trying to make
his way to the New Forest, whence he hoped to escape to the Continent.
He was dragged, gaunt, unshaven, and trembling, out of a bean-field in
which he had taken refuge, and was carried to Ringwood, in Hampshire.
Strange rumours reached us concerning his behaviour--rumours which came
to our ears through the coarse jests of our guards. Some said that he
had gone on his knees to the yokels who had seized him. Others that he
had written to the King offering to do anything, even to throw over the
Protestant cause, to save his head from the scaffold.(Note L, Appendix.)
We laughed at these stories at the time, and set them down as inventions
of our enemies. It seemed too impossible that at a time when his
supporters were so sternly and so loyally standing true to him, he,
their leader, with the eyes of all men upon him, should be showing less
courage than every little drummer-boy displays, who trips along at the
head of his regiment upon the field of battle. Alas! time showed that
the stories were indeed true, and that there was no depth of infamy to
which this unhappy man would not descend, in the hope of prolonging
for a few years that existence which had proved a curse to so many who
trusted him.

Of Saxon no news had come, good or bad, which encouraged me to hope that
he had found a hiding-place for himself. Reuben was still confined to
his couch by his wound, and was under the care and protection of
Major Ogilvy. The good gentleman came to see me more than once, and
endeavoured to add to my comfort, until I made him understand that it
pained me to find myself upon a different footing to the brave fellows
with whom I had shared the perils of the campaign. One great favour he
did me in writing to my father, and informing him that I was well and
in no pressing danger. In reply to this letter I had a stout Christian
answer from the old man, bidding me to be of good courage, and quoting
largely from a sermon on patience by the Reverend Josiah Seaton of
Petersfield. My mother, he said, was in deep distress at my position,
but was held up by her confidence in the decrees of Providence. He
enclosed a draft for Major Ogilvy, commissioning him to use it in
whatever way I should suggest. This money, together with the small hoard
which my mother had sewed into my collar, proved to be invaluable, for
when the gaol fever broke out amongst us I was able to get fitting food
for the sick, and also to pay for the services of physicians, so that
the disease was stamped out ere it had time to spread.

Early in August we were brought from Bridgewater to Taunton, where we
were thrown with hundreds of others into the same wool storehouse where
our regiment had been quartered in the early days of the campaign. We
gained little by the change, save that we found that our new guards
were somewhat more satiated with cruelty than our old ones, and were
therefore less exacting upon their prisoners. Not only were friends
allowed in occasionally to see us, but books and papers could be
obtained by the aid of a small present to the sergeant on duty. We were
able, therefore, to spend our time with some degree of comfort during
the month or more which passed before our trial.

One evening I was standing listlessly with my back against the wall,
looking up at a thin slit of blue sky which showed itself through the
narrow window, and fancying myself back in the meadows of Havant once
more, when a voice fell upon my ear which did, indeed, recall me to my
Hampshire home. Those deep, husky tones, rising at times into an angry
roar, could belong to none other than my old friend the seaman. I
approached the door from which the uproar came, and all doubt vanished
as I listened to the conversation.

‘Won’t let me pass, won’t ye?’ he was shouting. ‘Let me tell you
I’ve held on my course when better men than you have asked me to veil
topsails. I tell you I have the admiral’s permit, and I won’t clew up
for a bit of a red-painted cock-boat; so move from athwart my hawse, or
I may chance to run you down.’

‘We don’t know nothing about admirals here,’ said the sergeant of the
guard. ‘The time for seeing prisoners is over for the day, and if you do
not take your ill-favoured body out of this I may try the weight o’ my
halberd on your back.’

‘I have taken blows and given them ere you were ever thought of, you
land-swab,’ roared old Solomon. ‘I was yardarm and yardarm with De
Ruyter when you were learning to suck milk; but, old as I am, I would
have you know that I am not condemned yet, and that I am fit to exchange
broadsides with any lobster-tailed piccaroon that ever was triced up to
a triangle and had the King’s diamonds cut in his back. If I tack back
to Major Ogilvy and signal him the way that I have been welcomed, he’ll
make your hide redder than ever your coat was.’

‘Major Ogilvy!’ exclaimed the sergeant, in a more respectful voice. ‘If
you had said that your permit was from Major Ogilvy it would have been
another thing, but you did rave of admirals and commodores, and God
knows what other outlandish talk!’

‘Shame on your parents that they should have reared you with so slight
a knowledge o’ the King’s English!’ grumbled Solomon. ‘In truth, friend,
it is a marvel to me why sailor men should be able to show a lead to
those on shore in the matter of lingo. For out of seven hundred men in
the ship _Worcester_--the same that sank in the Bay of Funchal--there
was not so much as a powder-boy but could understand every word that I
said, whereas on shore there is many a great jolterhead, like thyself,
who might be a Portugee for all the English that he knows, and who
stares at me like a pig in a hurricane if I do lint ask him what he
makes the reckoning, or how many bells have gone.’

‘Whom is it that you would see?’ asked the sergeant gruffly. ‘You have a
most infernally long tongue.’

‘Aye, and a rough one, too, when I have fools to deal with,’ returned
the seaman. ‘If I had you in my watch, lad, for a three years’ cruise, I
would make a man of you yet.’

‘Pass the old man through!’ cried the sergeant furiously, and the sailor
came stumping in, with his bronzed face all screwed up and twisted,
partly with amusement at his victory over the sergeant, and partly from
a great chunk of tobacco which he was wont to stow within his cheek.
Having glanced round without perceiving me, he put his hands to his
mouth and bellowed out my name, with a string of ‘Ahoys!’ which rang
through the building.

‘Here I am, Solomon,’ said I, touching him on the shoulder.

‘God bless you, lad! God bless you!’ he cried, wringing my hand. ‘I
could not see you, for my port eye is as foggy as the Newfoundland
banks, and has been ever since Long Sue Williams of the Point hove a
quart pot at it in the Tiger inn nigh thirty year agone. How are you?
All sound, alow and aloft?’

‘As well as might be,’ I answered. ‘I have little to complain of.’

‘None of your standing rigging shot away!’ said he. ‘No spars crippled?
No shots between wind and water, eh? You have not been hulled, nor
raked, nor laid aboard of?’

‘None of these things,’ said I, laughing.

‘Faith! you are leaner than of old, and have aged ten years in two
months. You did go forth as smart and trim a fighting ship as over
answered helm, and now you are like the same ship when the battle and
the storm have taken the gloss from her sides and torn the love-pennants
from her peak. Yet am I right glad to see you sound in wind and limb.’

‘I have looked upon sights,’ said I, ‘which might well add ten years to
a man’s age.’

‘Aye, aye!’ he answered, with a hollow groan, shaking his head from side
to side. ‘It is a most accursed affair. Yet, bad as the tempest is, the
calm will ever come afterwards if you will but ride it out with your
anchor placed deep in Providence. Ah, lad, that is good holding ground!
But if I know you aright, your grief is more for these poor wretches
around you than for yourself.’

‘It is, indeed, a sore sight to see them suffer so patiently and
uncomplainingly,’ I answered, ‘and for such a man, too!’

‘Aye, the chicken-livered swab!’ growled the seaman, grinding his teeth.

‘How are my mother and my father,’ I asked, ‘and how came you so far
from home?’

‘Nay, I should have grounded on my beef bones had I waited longer at my
moorings. I cut my cable, therefore, and, making a northerly tack as far
as Salisbury, I run down with a fair wind. Thy father hath set his face
hard, and goes about his work as usual, though much troubled by the
Justices, who have twice had him up to Winchester for examination, but
have found his papers all right and no charge to be brought against him.
Your mother, poor soul, hath little time to mope or to pipe her eye, for
she hath such a sense of duty that, were the ship to founder under her,
it is a plate galleon to a china orange that she would stand fast in the
caboose curing marigolds or rolling pastry. They have taken to prayer
as some would to rum, and warm their hearts with it when the wind of
misfortune blows chill. They were right glad that I should come down to
you, and I gave them the word of a sailor that I would get you out of
the bilboes if it might anyhow be done.’

‘Get me out, Solomon!’ said I; ‘nay, that may be put outside the
question. How could you get me out?’

‘There are many ways,’ he answered, sinking his voice to a whisper, and
nodding his grizzled head as one who talks upon what has cost him much
time and thought. ‘There is scuttling.’

‘Scuttling?’

‘Aye, lad! When I was quartermaster of the galley _Providence_ in the
second Dutch war, we were caught betwixt a lee shore and Van Tromp’s
squadron, so that after fighting until our sticks were shot away and our
scuppers were arun with blood, we were carried by boarding and sent as
prisoners to the Texel. We were stowed away in irons in the afterhold,
amongst the bilge water and the rats, with hatches battened down and
guards atop, but even then they could not keep us, for the irons got
adrift, and Will Adams, the carpenter’s mate, picked a hole in the seams
so that the vessel nearly foundered, and in the confusion we fell upon
the prize crew, and, using our fetters as cudgels, regained possession
of the vessel. But you smile, as though there were little hopes from any
such plan!’

‘If this wool-house were the galley _Providence_ and Taunton Deane were
the Bay of Biscay, it might be attempted,’ I said.

‘I have indeed got out o’ the channel,’ he answered, with a wrinkled
brow. ‘There is, however, another most excellent plan which I have
conceived, which is to blow up the building.’

‘To blow it up!’ I cried.

‘Aye! A brace of kegs and a slow match would do it any dark night. Then
where would be these walls which now shut ye in?’

‘Where would be the folk that are now inside them!’ I asked. ‘Would you
not blow them up as well?’

‘Plague take it, I had forgot that,’ cried Solomon. ‘Nay, then, I leave
it with you. What have you to propose? Do but give your sailing orders,
and, with or without a consort, you will find that I will steer by them
as long as this old hulk can answer to her helm.’

‘Then my advice is, my dear old friend,’ said I, ‘that you leave matters
to take their course, and hie back to Havant with a message from me to
those who know me, telling them to be of good cheer, and to hope for the
best. Neither you nor any other man can help me now, for I have thrown
in my lot with these poor folk, and I would not leave them if I could.
Do what you can to cheer my mother’s heart, and commend me to Zachary
Palmer. Your visit hath been a joy to me, and your return will be the
same to them. You can serve me better so than by biding here.’

‘Sink me if I like going back without a blow struck,’ he growled. ‘Yet
if it is your will there is an end of the matter. Tell me, lad. Has
that lank-sparred, slab-sided, herring-gutted friend of yours played
you false? for if he has, by the eternal, old as I am, my hanger shall
scrape acquaintance with the longshore tuck which hangs at his girdle. I
know where he hath laid himself up, moored stem and stern, all snug and
shipshape, waiting for the turn of the tide.’

‘What, Saxon!’ I cried. ‘Do you indeed know where he is? For God’s sake
speak low, for it would mean a commission and five hundred good pounds
to any one of these soldiers could he lay hands upon him.’

‘They are scarce like to do that,’ said Solomon. ‘On my journey hither I
chanced to put into port at a place called Bruton, where there is an
inn that will compare with most, and the skipper is a wench with a glib
tongue and a merry eye. I was drinking a glass of spiced ale, as is my
custom about six bells of the middle watch, when I chanced to notice a
great lanky carter, who was loading up a waggon in the yard with a cargo
o’ beer casks. Looking closer it seemed to me that the man’s nose,
like the beak of a goshawk, and his glinting eyes with the lids only
half-reefed, were known to me, but when I overheard him swearing to
himself in good High Dutch, then his figurehead came back to me in
a moment. I put out into the yard, and touched him on the shoulder.
Zounds, lad! you should have seen him spring back and spit at me like
a wildcat with every hair of his head in a bristle. He whipped a knife
from under his smock, for he thought, doubtless, that I was about to
earn the reward by handing him over to the red-coats. I told him that
his secret was safe with me, and I asked him if he had heard that you
were laid by the heels. He answered that he knew it, and that he would
be answerable that no harm befell you, though in truth it seemed to me
that he had his hands full in trimming his own sails, without acting as
pilot to another. However, there I left him, and there I shall find him
again if so be as he has done you an injury.’

‘Nay,’ I answered, ‘I am right glad that he has found this refuge.
We did separate upon a difference of opinion, but I have no cause
to complain of him. In many ways he hath shown me both kindness and
goodwill.’

‘He is as crafty as a purser’s clerk,’ quoth Solomon. ‘I have seen
Reuben Lockarby, who sends his love to you. He is still kept in his bunk
from his wound, but he meets with good treatment. Major Ogilvy tells me
that he has made such interest for him that there is every chance that
he will gain his discharge, the more particularly since he was not
present at the battle. Your own chance of pardon would, he thinks, be
greater if you had fought less stoutly, but you have marked yourself
as a dangerous man, more especially as you have the love of many of the
common folk among the rebels.’

The good old seaman stayed with me until late in the night, listening to
my adventures, and narrating in return the simple gossip of the village,
which is of more interest to the absent wanderer than the rise and fall
of empires. Before he left he drew a great handful of silver pieces
from his pouch, and went round amongst the prisoners, listening to their
wants, and doing what he could with rough sailor talk and dropping coins
to lighten their troubles. There is a language in the kindly eye and
the honest brow which all men may understand; and though the seaman’s
speeches might have been in Greek, for all that they conveyed to the
Somersetshire peasants, yet they crowded round him as he departed and
called blessings upon his head. I felt as though he had brought a whiff
of his own pure ocean breezes into our close and noisome prison, and
left us the sweeter and the healthier.

Late in August the judges started from London upon that wicked journey
which blighted the lives and the homes of so many, and hath left a
memory in the counties through which they passed which shall never fade
while a father can speak to a son. We heard reports of them from day to
day, for the guards took pleasure in detailing them with many coarse and
foul jests, that we might know what was in store for us, and lose none
of what they called the pleasures of anticipation. At Winchester the
sainted and honoured Lady Alice Lisle was sentenced by Chief Justice
Jeffreys to be burned alive, and the exertions and prayers of her
friends could scarce prevail upon him to allow her the small boon of
the axe instead of the faggot. Her graceful head was hewn from her
body amidst the groans and the cries of a weeping multitude in the
market-place of the town. At Dorchester the slaughter was wholesale.
Three hundred were condemned to death, and seventy-four were actually
executed, until the most loyal and Tory of the country squires had to
complain of the universal presence of the dangling bodies. Thence the
judges proceeded to Exeter and thence to Taunton, which they reached in
the first week of September, more like furious and ravenous beasts which
have tasted blood and cannot quench their cravings for slaughter, than
just-minded men, trained to distinguish the various degrees of guilt, or
to pick out the innocent and screen him from injustice. A rare field
was open for their cruelty, for in Taunton alone there lay a thousand
hapless prisoners, many of whom were so little trained to express their
thoughts, and so hampered by the strange dialect in which they spoke,
that they might have been born dumb for all the chance they had of
making either judge or counsel understand the pleadings which they
wished to lay before them.

It was on a Monday evening that the Lord Chief Justice made his entry.
From one of the windows of the room in which we were confined I saw him
pass. First rode the dragoons with their standards and kettledrums, then
the javelin-men with their halberds, and behind them the line of coaches
full of the high dignitaries of the law. Last of all, drawn by six
long-tailed Flemish mares, came a great open coach, thickly crusted
with gold, in which, reclining amidst velvet cushions, sat the infamous
Judge, wrapped in a cloak of crimson plush with a heavy white periwig
upon his head, which was so long that it dropped down over his
shoulders. They say that he wore scarlet in order to strike terror into
the hearts of the people, and that his courts were for the same reason
draped in the colour of blood. As for himself, it hath ever been the
custom, since his wickedness hath come to be known to all men, to
picture him as a man whose expression and features were as monstrous and
as hideous as was the mind behind them. This is by no means the case.
On the contrary, he was a man who, in his younger days, must have been
remarkable for his extreme beauty.(1) He was not, it is true, very old,
as years go, when I saw him, but debauchery and low living had left
their traces upon his countenance, without, however entirely destroying
the regularity and the beauty of his features. He was dark, more like a
Spaniard than an Englishman, with black eyes and olive complexion. His
expression was lofty and noble, but his temper was so easily aflame that
the slightest cross or annoyance would set him raving like a madman,
with blazing eyes and foaming mouth. I have seen him myself with the
froth upon his lips and his whole face twitching with passion, like
one who hath the falling sickness. Yet his other emotions were under as
little control, for I have heard say that a very little would cause him
to sob and to weep, more especially when he had himself been slighted by
those who were above him. He was, I believe, a man who had great powers
either for good or for evil, but by pandering to the darker side of
his nature and neglecting the other, he brought himself to be as near
a fiend as it is possible for a man to be. It must indeed have been an
evil government where so vile and foul-mouthed a wretch was chosen out
to hold the scales of justice. As he drove past, a Tory gentleman
riding by the side of his coach drew his attention to the faces of
the prisoners looking out at him. He glanced up at them with a quick,
malicious gleam of his white teeth, then settled down again amongst the
cushions. I observed that as he passed not a hat was raised among the
crowd, and that even the rude soldiers appeared to look upon him half
in terror, half in disgust, as a lion might look upon some foul,
blood-sucking bat which battened upon the prey which he had himself
struck down.

(1) The painting of Jeffreys in the National Portrait Gallery more
than bears out Micah Clarke’s remarks. He is the handsomest man in the
collection.



Chapter XXXV. Of the Devil in Wig and Gown

There was no delay in the work of slaughter. That very night the great
gallows was erected outside the White Hart inn. Hour after hour we could
hear the blows of mallets and the sawing of beams, mingled with the
shoutings and the ribald choruses of the Chief Justice’s suite, who were
carousing with the officers of the Tangiers regiment in the front room,
which overlooked the gibbet. Amongst the prisoners the night was passed
in prayer and meditation, the stout-hearted holding forth to their
weaker brethren, and exhorting them to play the man, and to go to
their death in a fashion which should be an example to true Protestants
throughout the world. The Puritan divines had been mostly strung up
off-hand immediately after the battle, but a few were left to sustain
the courage of their flocks, and to show them the way upon the scaffold.
Never have I seen anything so admirable as the cool and cheerful bravery
wherewith these poor clowns faced their fate. Their courage on the
battlefield paled before that which they showed in the shambles of the
law. So amid the low murmur of prayer and appeals for mercy to God from
tongues which never yet asked mercy from man, the morning broke, the
last morning which many of us were to spend upon earth.

The court should have opened at nine, but my Lord Chief Justice was
indisposed, having sat up somewhat late with Colonel Kirke. It was
nearly eleven before the trumpeters and criers announced that he had
taken his seat. One by one my fellow-prisoners were called out by name,
the more prominent being chosen first. They went out from amongst us
amid hand-shakings and blessings, but we saw and heard no more of them,
save that a sudden fierce rattle of kettledrums would rise up now and
again, which was, as our guards told us, to drown any dying words which
might fall from the sufferers and bear fruit in the breasts of those who
heard them. With firm steps and smiling faces the roll of martyrs went
forth to their fate during the whole of that long autumn day, until the
rough soldiers of the guard stood silent and awed in the presence of
a courage which they could not but recognise as higher and nobler than
their own. Folk may call it a trial that they received, and a trial it
really was, but not in the sense that we Englishmen use it. It was but
being haled before a Judge, and insulted before being dragged to the
gibbet. The court-house was the thorny path which led to the scaffold.
What use to put a witness up, when he was shouted down, cursed at,
and threatened by the Chief Justice, who bellowed and swore until the
frightened burghers in Fore Street could hear him? I have heard from
those who were there that day that he raved like a demoniac, and that
his black eyes shone with a vivid vindictive brightness which was scarce
human. The jury shrank from him as from a venomous thing when he
turned his baleful glance upon them. At times, as I have been told, his
sternness gave place to a still more terrible merriment, and he would
lean back in his seat of justice and laugh until the tears hopped down
upon his ermine. Nearly a hundred were either executed or condemned to
death upon that opening day.

I had expected to be amongst the first of those called, and no doubt I
should have been so but for the exertions of Major Ogilvy. As it was,
the second day passed, but I still found myself overlooked. On the
third and fourth days the slaughter was slackened, not on account of
any awakening grace on the part of the Judge, but because the great Tory
landowners, and the chief supporters of the Government, had still some
bowels of compassion, which revolted at this butchery of defenceless
men. Had it not been for the influence which these gentlemen brought
to bear upon the Judge, I have no doubt at all that Jeffreys would have
hung the whole eleven hundred prisoners then confined in Taunton. As
it was, two hundred and fifty fell victims to this accursed monster’s
thirst for human blood.

On the eighth day of the assizes there were but fifty of us left in
the wool warehouse. For the last few days prisoners had been tried
in batches of ten and twenty, but now the whole of us were taken in
a drove, under escort, to the court-house, where as many as could be
squeezed in were ranged in the dock, while the rest were penned, like
calves in the market, in the body of the hall. The Judge reclined in a
high chair, with a scarlet dais above him, while two other Judges, in
less elevated seats, were stationed on either side of him. On the right
hand was the jury-box, containing twelve carefully picked men--Tories
of the old school--firm upholders of the doctrines of non-resistance and
the divine right of kings. Much care had been taken by the Crown in
the choice of these men, and there was not one of them but would have
sentenced his own father had there been so much as a suspicion that he
leaned to Presbyterianism or to Whiggery. Just under the Judge was a
broad table, covered with green cloth and strewn with papers. On
the right hand of this were a long array of Crown lawyers, grim,
ferret-faced men, each with a sheaf of papers in his hands, which they
sniffed through again and again, as though they were so many bloodhounds
picking up the trail along which they were to hunt us down. On the other
side of the table sat a single fresh-faced young man, in silk gown and
wig, with a nervous, shuffling manner. This was the barrister, Master
Helstrop, whom the Crown in its clemency had allowed us for our defence,
lest any should be bold enough to say that we had not had every fairness
in our trial. The remainder of the court was filled with the servants
of the Justices’ retinue and the soldiers of the garrison, who used the
place as their common lounge, looking on the whole thing as a mighty
cheap form of sport, and roaring with laughter at the rude banter and
coarse pleasantries of his Lordship.

The clerk having gabbled through the usual form that we, the prisoners
at the bar, having shaken off the fear of God, had unlawfully and
traitorously assembled, and so onwards, the Lord Justice proceeded to
take matters into his own hands, as was his wont.

‘I trust that we shall come well out of this!’ he broke out. ‘I
trust that no judgment will fall upon this building! Was ever so much
wickedness fitted into one court-house before? Who ever saw such an
array of villainous faces? Ah, rogues, I see a rope ready for every
one of ye! Art not afraid of judgment? Art not afraid of hell-fire? You
grey-bearded rascal in the corner, how comes it that you have not had
more of the grace of God in you than to take up arms against your most
gracious and loving sovereign?’

‘I have followed the guidance of my conscience, my Lord,’ said the
venerable cloth-worker of Wellington, to whom he spoke.

‘Ha, your conscience!’ howled Jeffreys. ‘A ranter with a conscience!
Where has your conscience been these two months back, you villain and
rogue? Your conscience will stand you in little stead, sirrah, when
you are dancing on nothing with a rope round your neck. Was ever such
wickedness? Who ever heard such effrontery? And you, you great hulking
rebel, have you not grace enough to cast your eyes down, but must needs
look justice in the face as though you were an honest man? Are you not
afeared, sirrah? Do you not see death close upon you?’

‘I have seen that before now, my Lord, and I was not afeared,’ I
answered.

‘Generation of vipers!’ he cried, throwing up his hands. ‘The best of
fathers! The kindest of kings! See that my words are placed upon the
record, clerk! The most indulgent of parents! But wayward children
must, with all kindness, be flogged into obedience. Here he broke into
a savage grin. ‘The King will save your own natural parents all further
care on your account. If they had wished to keep ye, they should have
brought ye up in better principles. Rogues, we shall be merciful to
ye--oh, merciful, merciful! How many are here, recorder?’

‘Fifty and one, my Lord.’

‘Oh, sink of villainy! Fifty and one as arrant knaves as ever lay on
a hurdle! Oh, what a mass of corruption have we here! Who defends the
villains?’

‘I defend the prisoners, your Lordship,’ replied the young lawyer.

‘Master Helstrop, Master Helstrop!’ cried Jeffreys, shaking his great
wig until the powder flew out of it; ‘you are in all these dirty cases,
Master Helstrop. You might find yourself in a parlous condition, Master
Helstrop. I think sometimes that I see you yourself in the dock, Master
Helstrop. You may yourself soon need the help of a gentleman of the long
robe, Master Helstrop. Oh, have a care! Have a care!’

‘The brief is from the Crown, your Lordship,’ the lawyer answered, in a
quavering voice.

‘Must I be answered back, then!’ roared Jeffreys, his black eyes blazing
with the rage of a demon. ‘Am I to be insulted in my own court? Is every
five-groat piece of a pleader, because he chance to have a wig and a
gown, to browbeat the Lord Justice, and to fly in the face of the ruling
of the Court? Oh, Master Helstrop, I fear that I shall live to see some
evil come upon you!’

‘I crave your Lordship’s pardon!’ cried the faint-hearted barrister,
with his face the colour of his brief.

‘Keep a guard upon your words and upon your actions?’ Jeffreys answered,
in a menacing voice. ‘See that you are not too zealous in the cause
of the scum of the earth. How now, then? What do these one and fifty
villains desire to say for themselves? What is their lie? Gentlemen of
the jury, I beg that ye will take particular notice of the cut-throat
faces of these men. ‘Tis well that Colonel Kirke hath afforded the Court
a sufficient guard, for neither justice nor the Church is safe at their
hands.’

‘Forty of them desire to plead guilty to the charge of taking up arms
against the King,’ replied our barrister.

‘Ah!’ roared the Judge. ‘Was ever such unparalleled impudence? Was there
ever such brazen effrontery? Guilty, quotha! Have they expressed their
repentance for this sin against a most kind and long-suffering monarch!
Put down those words on the record, clerk!’

‘They have refused to express repentance, your Lordship!’ replied the
counsel for the defence.

‘Oh, the parricides! Oh, the shameless rogues!’ cried the Judge. ‘Put
the forty together on this side of the enclosure. Oh, gentlemen, have ye
ever seen such a concentration of vice? See how baseness and wickedness
can stand with head erect! Oh, hardened monsters! But the other eleven.
How can they expect us to believe this transparent falsehood--this
palpable device? How can they foist it upon the Court?’

‘My Lord, their defence hath not yet been advanced!’ stammered Master
Helstrop.

‘I can sniff a lie before it is uttered,’ roared the Judge, by no means
abashed. ‘I can read it as quick as ye can think it. Come, come, the
Court’s time is precious. Put forward a defence, or seat yourself, and
let judgment be passed.’

‘These men, my Lord,’ said the counsel, who was trembling until the
parchment rattled in his hand. ‘These eleven men, my Lord--’

‘Eleven devils, my Lord,’ interrupted Jeffreys.

‘They are innocent peasants, my Lord, who love God and the King, and
have in no wise mingled themselves in this recent business. They have
been dragged from their homes, my Lord, not because there was suspicion
against them, but because they could not satisfy the greed of certain
common soldiers who were balked of plunder in--’

‘Oh, shame, shame!’ cried Jeffreys, in a voice of thunder. ‘Oh,
threefold shame, Master Helstrop! Are you not content with bolstering
up rebels, but you must go out of your way to slander the King’s troops?
What is this world coming to? What, in a word, is the defence of these
rogues?’

‘An alibi, your Lordship.’

‘Ha! The common plea of every scoundrel. Have they witnesses?’

‘We have here a list of forty witnesses, your Lordship. They are waiting
below, many of them having come great distances, and with much toil and
trouble.’

‘Who are they? What are they?’ cried Jeffreys.

‘They are country folk, your Lordship. Cottagers and farmers, the
neighbours of these poor men, who knew them well, and can speak as to
their doings.’

‘Cottagers and farmers!’ the Judge shouted. ‘Why, then, they are drawn
from the very class from which these men come. Would you have us believe
the oath of those who are themselves Whigs, Presbyterians, Somersetshire
ranters, the pothouse companions of the men whom we are trying? I
warrant they have arranged it all snugly over their beer--snugly,
snugly, the rogues!’

‘Will you not hear the witnesses, your Lordship?’ cried our counsel,
shamed into some little sense of manhood by this outrage.

‘Not a word from them, sirrah,’ said Jeffreys. ‘It is a question whether
my duty towards my kind master the King--write down “kind master,”
 clerk--doth not warrant me in placing all your witnesses in the dock as
the aiders and abettors of treason.’

‘If it please your Lordship,’ cried one of the prisoners, ‘I have for
witnesses Mr. Johnson, of Nether Stowey, who is a good Tory, and also
Mr. Shepperton, the clergyman.’

‘The more shame to them to appear in such a cause,’ replied Jeffreys.
‘What are we to say, gentlemen of the jury, when we see county gentry
and the clergy of the Established Church supporting treason and
rebellion in this fashion? Surely the last days are at hand! You are a
most malignant and dangerous Whig to have so far drawn them from their
duty.’

‘But hear me, my Lord!’ cried one of the prisoners.

‘Hear you, you bellowing calf!’ shouted the Judge. ‘We can hear naught
else. Do you think that you are back in your conventicle, that you
should dare to raise your voice in such a fashion? Hear you, quotha! We
shall hear you at the end of a rope, ere many days.’

‘We scarce think, your Lordship,’ said one of the Crown lawyers,
springing to his feet amid a great rustling of papers, ‘we scarce think
that it is necessary for the Crown to state any case. We have already
heard the whole tale of this most damnable and execrable attempt many
times over. The men in the dock before your Lordship have for the most
part confessed to their guilt, and of those who hold out there is not
one who has given us any reason to believe that he is innocent of
the foul crime laid to his charge. The gentlemen of the long robe are
therefore unanimously of opinion that the jury may at once be required
to pronounce a single verdict upon the whole of the prisoners.’

‘Which is--?’ asked Jeffreys, glancing round at the foreman--

‘Guilty, your Lordship,’ said he, with a grin, while his brother jurymen
nodded their heads and laughed to one another.

‘Of course, of course! guilty as Judas Iscariot!’ cried the Judge,
looking down with exultant eyes at the throng of peasants and burghers
before him. ‘Move them a little forwards, ushers, that I may see them
to more advantage. Oh, ye cunning ones! Are ye not taken? Are ye not
compassed around? Where now can ye fly? Do ye not see hell opening
at your feet? Eh? Are ye not afraid? Oh, short, short shall be your
shrift!’ The very devil seemed to be in the man, for as he spoke he
writhed with unholy laughter, and drummed his hand upon the red cushion
in front of him. I glanced round at my companions, but their faces were
all as though they had been chiselled out of marble. If he had hoped to
see a moist eye or a quivering lip, the satisfaction was denied him.

‘Had I my way,’ said he, ‘there is not one of ye but should swing for
it. Aye, and if I had my way, some of those whose stomachs are too nice
for this work, and who profess to serve the King with their lips while
they intercede for his worst enemies, should themselves have cause to
remember Taunton assizes. Oh, most ungrateful rebels! Have ye not
heard how your most soft-hearted and compassionate monarch, the best of
men--put it down in the record, clerk--on the intercession of that great
and charitable statesman, Lord Sunderland--mark it down, clerk--hath
had pity on ye? Hath it not melted ye? Hath it not made ye loathe
yourselves? I declare, when I think of it’--here, with a sudden catching
of the breath, he burst out a-sobbing, the tears running down his
cheeks--‘when I think of it, the Christian forbearance, the ineffable
mercy, it doth bring forcibly to my mind that great Judge before whom
all of us--even I--shall one day have to render an account. Shall I
repeat it, clerk, or have you it down?’

‘I have it down, your Lordship.’

‘Then write “sobs” in the margin. ‘Tis well that the King should
know our opinion on such matters. Know, then, you most traitorous and
unnatural rebels, that this good father whom ye have spurned has stepped
in between yourselves and the laws which ye have offended. At his
command we withhold from ye the chastisement which ye have merited.
If ye can indeed pray, and if your soul-cursing conventicles have not
driven all grace out of ye, drop on your knees and offer up thanks when
I tell ye that he hath ordained that ye shall all have a free pardon.’
Here the Judge rose from his seat as though about to descend from the
tribunal, and we gazed upon each other in the utmost astonishment at
this most unlooked-for end to the trial. The soldiers and lawyers were
equally amazed, while a hum of joy and applause rose up from the few
country folk who had dared to venture within the accursed precincts.

‘This pardon, however,’ continued Jeffreys, turning round with a
malicious smile upon his face, ‘is coupled with certain conditions and
limitations. Ye shall all be removed from here to Poole, in chains,
where ye shall find a vessel awaiting ye. With others ye shall be stowed
away in the hold of the said vessel, and conveyed at the King’s expense
to the Plantations, there to be sold as slaves. God send ye masters who
will know by the free use of wood and leather to soften your stubborn
thoughts and incline your mind to better things.’ He was again about to
withdraw, when one of the Crown lawyers whispered something across to
him.

‘Well thought of, coz,’ cried the Judge. ‘I had forgot. Bring back the
prisoners, ushers! Perhaps ye think that by the Plantations I mean his
Majesty’s American dominions. Unhappily, there are too many of your
breed in that part already. Ye would fall among friends who might
strengthen ye in your evil courses, and so risk your salvation. To send
ye there would be to add one brand to another and yet hope to put
out the fire. By the Plantations, therefore, I mean Barbadoes and the
Indies, where ye shall live with the other slaves, whose skins may be
blacker than yours, but I dare warrant that their souls are more white.’
With this concluding speech the trial ended, and we were led back
through the crowded streets to the prison from which we had been
brought. On either side of the street, as we passed, we could see
the limbs of former companions dangling in the wind, and their heads
grinning at us from the tops of poles and pikes. No savage country in
the heart of heathen Africa could have presented a more dreadful sight
than did the old English town of Taunton when Jeffreys and Kirke had
the ordering of it. There was death in the air, and the townsfolk crept
silently about, scarcely daring to wear black for those whom they had
loved and lost, lest it should be twisted into an act of treason.

We were scarce back in the wool-house once more when a file of
guards with a sergeant entered, escorting a long, pale-faced man with
protruding teeth, whose bright blue coat and white silk breeches,
gold-headed sword, and glancing shoe-buckles, proclaimed him to be one
of those London exquisites whom interest or curiosity had brought down
to the scene of the rebellion. He tripped along upon his tiptoes like a
French dancing-master, waving his scented kerchief in front of his
thin high nose, and inhaling aromatic salts from a blue phial which he
carried in his left hand.

‘By the Lard!’ he cried, ‘but the stench of these filthy wretches is
enough to stap one’s breath. It is, by the Lard! Smite my vitals if
I would venture among them if I were not a very rake hell. Is there a
danger of prison fever, sergeant? Heh?’

‘They are all sound as roaches, your honour,’ said the under-officer,
touching his cap.

‘Heh, heh!’ cried the exquisite, with a shrill treble laugh. ‘It is
not often ye have a visit from a person of quality, I’ll warrant. It
is business, sergeant, business! “Auri sacra fames”--you remember what
Virgilius Maro says, sergeant?’

‘Never heard the gentleman speak, sir--at least not to my knowledge,
sir,’ said the sergeant.

‘Heh, heh! Never heard him speak, heh? That will do for Slaughter’s,
sergeant. That will set them all in a titter at Slaughter’s. Pink my
soul! but when I venture on a story the folk complain that they can’t
get served, for the drawers laugh until there is no work to be got out
of them. Oh, lay me bleeding, but these are a filthy and most ungodly
crew! Let the musqueteers stand close, sergeant, lest they fly at me.’

‘We shall see to that, your honour.’

‘I have a grant of a dozen of them, and Captain Pogram hath offered me
twelve pounds a head. But they must be brawny rogues--strong and brawny,
for the voyage kills many, sergeant, and the climate doth also tell upon
them. Now here is one whom I must have. Yes, in very truth he is a
young man, and hath much life in him and much strength. Tick him off,
sergeant, tick him off!’

‘His name is Clarke,’ said the soldier. ‘I have marked him down.’

‘If this is the clerk I would I had a parson to match him,’ cried the
fop, sniffing at his bottle. ‘Do you see the pleasantry, sergeant. Heh,
heh! Does your sluggish mind rise to the occasion? Strike me purple, but
I am in excellent fettle! There is yonder man with the brown face, you
can mark him down. And the young man beside him, also. Tick him off. Ha,
he waves his hand towards me! Stand firm, sergeant! Where are my salts?
What is it, man, what is it?’

‘If it plaize your han’r,’ said the young peasant, ‘if so be as you
have chose me to be of a pairty, I trust that you will allow my vaither
yander to go with us also.’

‘Pshaw, pshaw!’ cried the fop, ‘you are beyond reason, you are indeed!
Who ever heard of such a thing? Honour forbids it! How could I foist
an old man upon mine honest friend, Captain Pogram. Fie, fie! Split
me asunder if he would not say that I had choused him! There is yonder
lusty fellow with the red head, sergeant! The blacks will think he is
a-fire. Those, and these six stout yokels, will make up my dozen.’

‘You have indeed the pick of them,’ said the sergeant.

‘Aye, sink me, but I have a quick eye for horse, man, or woman! I’ll
pick the best of a batch with most. Twelve twelves, close on a hundred
and fifty pieces, sergeant, and all for a few words, my friend, all for
a few words. I did but send my wife, a demmed handsome woman, mark you,
and dresses in the mode, to my good friend the secretary to ask for some
rebels. “How many?” says he. “A dozen will do,” says she. It was all
done in a penstroke. What a cursed fool she was not to have asked for a
hundred! But what is this, sergeant, what is this?’

A small, brisk, pippin-faced fellow in a riding-coat and high boots had
come clanking into the wool-house with much assurance and authority,
with a great old-fashioned sword trailing behind him, and a riding-whip
switching in his hand.

‘Morning, sergeant!’ said he, in a loud, overbearing voice. ‘You may
have heard my name? I am Master John Wooton, of Langmere House, near
Dulverton, who bestirred himself so for the King, and hath been termed
by Mr. Godolphin, in the House of Commons, one of the local pillars of
the State. Those were his words. Fine, were they not? Pillars, mark ye,
the conceit being that the State was, as it were, a palace or a temple,
and the loyal men so many pillars, amongst whom I also was one. I am a
local pillar. I have received a Royal permit, sergeant, to choose from
amongst your prisoners ten sturdy rogues whom I may sell as a reward
to me for my exertions. Draw them up, therefore, that I may make my
choice!’

‘Then, sir, we are upon the same errand,’ quoth the Londoner, bowing
with his hand over his heart, until his sword seemed to point straight
up to the ceiling. ‘The Honourable George Dawnish, at your service! Your
very humble and devoted servant, sir! Yours to command in any or
all ways. It is a real joy and privilege to me, sir, to make your
distinguished acquaintance. Hem!’

The country squire appeared to be somewhat taken aback at this shower
of London compliments. ‘Ahem, sir! Yes, sir!’ said he, bobbing his head.
‘Glad to see you, sir! Most damnably so! But these men, sergeant? Time
presses, for to-morrow is Shepton market, and I would fain see my old
twenty-score boar once more before he is sold. There is a beefy one.
I’ll have him.’

‘Ged, I’ve forestalled you,’ cried the courtier. ‘Sink me, but it gives
me real pain. He is mine.’

‘Then this,’ said the other, pointing with his whip.

‘He is mine, too. Heh, heh, heh! Strike me stiff, but this is too
funny!’

‘Od’s wounds! How many are yours!’ cried the Dulverton squire.

‘A dozen. Heh, heh! A round dozen. All those who stand upon this side.
Pink me, but I have got the best of you there! The early bird--you know
the old saw!’

‘It is a disgrace,’ the squire cried hotly. ‘A shame and a disgrace. We
must needs fight for the King and risk our skins, and then when all is
done, down come a drove of lacqueys in waiting, and snap up the pickings
before their betters are served.’

‘Lacqueys in waiting, sir!’ shrieked the exquisite. ‘S’death, sir! This
toucheth mine honour very nearly! I have seen blood flow, yes, sir, and
wounds gape on less provocation. Retract, sir, retract!’

‘Away, you clothes-pole!’ cried the other contemptuously. ‘You are come
like the other birds of carrion when the fight is o’er. Have you been
named in full Parliament? Are you a local pillar? Away, away, you
tailor’s dummy!’

‘You insolent clodhopper!’ cried the fop. ‘You most foul-mouthed
bumpkin! The only local pillar that you have ever deserved to make
acquaintance with is the whipping-post. Ha, sergeant, he lays his
hand upon his sword! Stop him, sergeant, stop him, or I may do him an
injury.’

‘Nay, gentlemen,’ cried the under officer. ‘This quarrel must not
continue here. We must have no brawling within the prison. Yet there is
a level turf without, and as fine elbow-room as a gentleman could wish
for a breather.’

This proposal did not appear to commend itself to either of the angry
gentlemen, who proceeded to exchange the length of their swords, and to
promise that each should hear from the other before sunset. Our owner,
as I may call him, the fop, took his departure at last, and the country
squire having chosen the next ton swaggered off, cursing the courtiers,
the Londoners, the sergeant, the prisoners, and above all, the
ingratitude of the Government which had made him so small a return
for his exertions. This was but the first of many such scenes, for the
Government, in endeavouring to satisfy the claims of its supporters, had
promised many more than there were prisoners. I am grieved to say that
I have seen not only men, but even my own countrywomen, and ladies of
title to boot, wringing their hands and bewailing themselves because
they were unable to get any of the poor Somersetshire folk to sell as
slaves. Indeed, it was only with difficulty that they could be made
to see that their claim upon Government did not give them the right of
seizing any burgher or peasant who might come in their way, and shipping
him right off for the Plantations.

Well, my dear grandchildren, from night to night through this long and
weary winter I have taken you back with me into the past, and made you
see scenes the players in which are all beneath the turf, save
that perhaps here and there some greybeard like myself may have a
recollection of them. I understand that you, Joseph, have every morning
set down upon paper that which I have narrated the night before. It is
as well that you should do so, for your own children and your children’s
children may find it of interest, and even perhaps take a pride in
hearing that their ancestors played a part in such scenes. But now
the spring is coming, and the green is bare of snow, so that there are
better things for you to do than to sit listening to the stories of
a garrulous old man. Nay, nay, you shake your heads, but indeed those
young limbs want exercising and strengthening and knitting together,
which can never come from sitting toasting round the blaze. Besides, my
story draws quickly to an end now, for I had never intended to tell you
more than the events connected with the Western rising. If the closing
part hath been of the dreariest, and if all doth not wind up with
the ringing of bells and the joining of hands, like the tales in the
chap-books, you must blame history and not me. For Truth is a stern
mistress, and when one hath once started off with her one must follow
on after the jade, though she lead in flat defiance of all the rules and
conditions which would fain turn that tangled wilderness the world into
the trim Dutch garden of the story-tellers.

Three days after our trial we were drawn up in North Street in front
of the Castle with others from the other prisons who were to share our
fate. We were placed four abreast, with a rope connecting each rank,
and of these ranks I counted fifty, which would bring our total to two
hundred. On each side of us rode dragoons, and in front and behind were
companies of musqueteers to prevent any attempt at rescue or escape.
In this order we set off upon the tenth day of September, amidst the
weeping and wailing of the townsfolk, many of whom saw their sons or
brothers marching off into exile without their being able to exchange a
last word or embrace with them. Some of these poor folk, doddering old
men and wrinkled, decrepit women, toiled for miles after us down the
high-road, until the rearguard of foot faced round upon them, and drove
them away with curses and blows from their ramrods.

That day we made our way through Yeovil and Sherborne, and on the morrow
proceeded over the North Downs as far as Blandford, where we were penned
together like cattle and left for the night. On the third day we
resumed our march through Wimbourne and a line of pretty Dorsetshire
villages--the last English villages which most of us were destined to
see for many a long year to come. Late in the afternoon the spars and
rigging of the shipping in Poole Harbour rose up before us, and in
another hour we had descended the steep and craggy path which leads to
the town. Here we were drawn up upon the quay opposite the broad-decked,
heavy-sparred brig which was destined to carry us into slavery. Through
all this march we met with the greatest kindness from the common people,
who flocked out from their cottages with fruit and with milk, which
they divided amongst us. At other places, at, the risk of their lives,
Dissenting ministers came forth and stood by the wayside, blessing us as
we passed, in spite of the rough jeers and oaths of the soldiers.

We were marched aboard and led below by the mate of the vessel, a tall
red-faced seaman with ear-rings in his ears, while the captain stood on
the poop with his legs apart and a pipe in his mouth, checking us off
one by one by means of a list which he held in his hand. As he looked
at the sturdy build and rustic health of the peasants, which even their
long confinement had been unable to break down, his eyes glistened, and
he rubbed his big red hands together with delight.

‘Show them down, Jem!’ he kept shouting to the mate. ‘Stow them safe,
Jem! There’s lodgings for a duchess down there, s’help me, there’s
lodgings for a duchess! Pack ‘em away!’

One by one we passed before the delighted captain, and down the steep
ladder which led into the hold. Here we were led along a narrow passage,
on either side of which opened the stalls which were prepared for us. As
each man came opposite to the one set aside for him he was thrown into
it by the brawny mate, and fastened down with anklets of iron by the
seaman armourer in attendance. It was dark before we were all secured,
but the captain came round with a lanthorn to satisfy himself that all
his property was really safe. I could hear the mate and him reckoning
the value of each prisoner, and counting what he would fetch in the
Barbadoes market.

‘Have you served out their fodder, Jem?’ he asked, flashing his light
into each stall in turn. ‘Have you seen that they had their rations?’

‘A rye bread loaf and a pint o’ water,’ answered the mate.

‘Fit for a duchess, s’help me!’ cried the captain. ‘Look to this one,
Jem. He is a lusty rogue. Look to his great hands. He might work for
years in the rice-swamps ere the land crabs have the picking of him.’

‘Aye, we’ll have smart bidding amid the settlers for this lot. ‘Cod,
captain, but you have made a bargain of it! Od’s bud! you have done
these London fools to some purpose.’

‘What is this?’ roared the captain. ‘Here is one who hath not touched
his allowance. How now, sirrah, art too dainty in the stomach to eat
what your betters have eaten before you?’

‘I have no hairt for food, zur,’ the prisoner answered.

‘What, you must have your whims and fancies! You must pick and you must
choose! I tell you, sirrah, that you are mine, body and soul! Twelve
good pieces I paid for you, and now, forsooth, I am to be told that you
will not eat! Turn to it at this instant, you saucy rogue, or I shall
have you triced to the triangles!’

‘Here is another,’ said the mate, ‘who sits ever with his head sunk upon
his breast without spirit or life.’

‘Mutinous, obstinate dog!’ cried the captain. ‘What ails you then? Why
have you a face like an underwriter in a tempest?’

‘If it plaize you, zur,’ the prisoner answered, ‘Oi do but think o’ m’
ould mother at Wellington, and woonder who will kape her now that Oi’m
gone!’

‘And what is that to me?’ shouted the brutal seaman. ‘How can you arrive
at your journey’s end sound and hearty if you sit like a sick fowl upon
a perch? Laugh, man, and be merry, or I will give you something to weep
for. Out on you, you chicken-hearted swab, to sulk and fret like a babe
new weaned! Have you not all that heart could desire? Give him a touch
with the rope’s-end, Jem, if ever you do observe him fretting. It is but
to spite us that he doth it.’

‘If it please your honour,’ said a seaman, coming hurriedly down from
the deck, ‘there is a stranger upon the poop who will have speech with
your honour.’

‘What manner of man, sirrah?’

‘Surely he is a person of quality, your honour. He is as free wi’ his
words as though he were the captain o’ the ship. The boatswain did but
jog against him, and he swore so woundily at him and stared at him so,
wi’ een like a tiger-cat, that Job Harrison says we have shipped the
devil himsel.’ The men don’t like the look of him, your honour!’

‘Who the plague can this spark be?’ said the skipper. ‘Go on deck, Jem,
and tell him that I am counting my live stock, and that I shall be with
him anon.’

‘Nay, your honour! There will trouble come of it unless you come up. He
swears that he will not bear to be put off, and that he must see you on
the instant.’

‘Curse his blood, whoever he be!’ growled the seaman. ‘Every cock on
his own dunghill. What doth the rogue mean? Were he the Lord High Privy
Seal, I would have him to know that I am lord of my own quarter-deck!’
So saying, with many snorts of indignation, the mate and the captain
withdrew together up the ladder, banging the heavy hatchways down as
they passed through.

A single oil-lamp swinging from a beam in the centre of the gangway
which led between the rows of cells was the only light which was
vouchsafed us. By its yellow, murky glimmer we could dimly see the great
wooden ribs of the vessel, arching up on either side of us, and crossed
by the huge beams which held the deck. A grievous stench from foul bilge
water poisoned the close, heavy air. Every now and then, with a squeak
and a clutter, a rat would dart across the little zone of light and
vanish in the gloom upon the further side. Heavy breathing all round
me showed that my companions, wearied out by their journey and their
sufferings, had dropped into a slumber. From time to time one could hear
the dismal clank of fetters, and the start and incatching of the breath,
as some poor peasant, fresh from dreams of his humble homestead amid the
groves of the Mendips, awoke of a sudden to see the great wooden coffin
around him, and to breathe the venomous air of the prison ship.

I lay long awake full of thought both for myself and for the poor souls
around me. At last, however, the measured swash of the water against
the side of the vessel and the slight rise and fall had lulled me into
a sleep, from which I was suddenly aroused by the flashing of a light
in my eyes. Sitting up, I found several sailors gathered about me, and
a tall man with a black cloak swathed round him swinging a lanthorn over
me.

‘That is the man,’ he said.

‘Come, mate, you are to come on deck!’ said the seaman armourer. With a
few blows from his hammer he knocked the irons from my feet.

‘Follow me!’ said the tall stranger, and led the way up the hatchway
ladder. It was heavenly to come out into the pure air once more. The
stars were shining brightly overhead. A fresh breeze blew from the
shore, and hummed a pleasant tune among the cordage. Close beside us
the lights of the town gleamed yellow and cheery. Beyond, the moon was
peeping over the Bournemouth hills.

‘This way, sir,’ said the sailor, ‘right aft into the cabin, sir.’

Still following my guide, I found myself in the low cabin of the brig.
A square shining table stood in the centre, with a bright swinging
lamp above it. At the further end in the glare of the light sat the
captain--his face shining with greed and expectation. On the table stood
a small pile of gold pieces, a rum-flask, glasses, a tobacco-box, and
two long pipes.

‘My compliments to you, Captain Clarke,’ said the skipper, bobbing his
round bristling head. ‘An honest seaman’s compliments to you. It seems
that we are not to be shipmates this voyage, after all.’

‘Captain Micah Clarke must do a voyage of his own,’ said the stranger.

At the sound of his voice I sprang round in amazement. ‘Good Heavens!’ I
cried, ‘Saxon!’

‘You have nicked it,’ said he, throwing down his mantle and showing the
well-known face and figure of the soldier of fortune. ‘Zounds, man! if
you can pick me out of the Solent, I suppose that I may pick you out of
this accursed rat-trap in which I find you. Tie and tie, as we say at
the green table. In truth, I was huffed with you when last we parted,
but I have had you in my mind for all that.’

‘A seat and a glass, Captain Clarke,’ cried the skipper. ‘Od’s bud! I
should think that you would be glad to raise your little finger and wet
your whistle after what you have gone through.’

I seated myself by the table with my brain in a whirl. ‘This is more
than I can fathom,’ said I. ‘What is the meaning of it, and how comes it
about?’

‘For my own part, the meaning is as clear as the glass of my binnacle,’
quoth the seaman. ‘Your good friend Colonel Saxon, as I understand his
name to be, has offered me as much as I could hope to gain by selling
you in the Indies. Sink it, I may be rough and ready, but my heart is in
the right place! Aye, aye! I would not maroon a man if I could set him
free. But we have all to look for ourselves, and trade is dull.’

‘Then I am free!’ said I.

‘You are free,’ he answered. ‘There is your purchase-money upon the
table. You can go where you will, save only upon the land of England,
where you are still an outlaw under sentence.’

‘How have you done this, Saxon?’ I asked. ‘Are you not afraid for
yourself?’

‘Ho, ho!’ laughed the old soldier. ‘I am a free man, my lad! I hold my
pardon, and care not a maravedi for spy or informer. Who should I meet
but Colonel Kirke a day or so back. Yes, lad! I met him in the street,
and I cocked my hat in his face. The villain laid his hand upon his
hilt, and I should have out bilbo and sent his soul to hell had they not
come between us. I care not the ashes of this pipe for Jeffreys or any
other of them. I can snap this finger and thumb at them, so! They would
rather see Decimus Saxon’s back than his face, I promise ye!’

‘But how comes this about?’ I asked.

‘Why, marry, it is no mystery. Cunning old birds are not to be caught
with chaff. When I left you I made for a certain inn where I could count
upon finding a friend. There I lay by for a while, en cachette, as the
Messieurs call it, while I could work out the plan that was in my head.
Donner wetter! but I got a fright from that old seaman friend of yours,
who should be sold as a picture, for he is of little use as a man. Well,
I bethought me early in the affair of your visit to Badminton, and of
the Duke of B. We shall mention no names, but you can follow my meaning.
To him I sent a messenger, to the effect that I purposed to purchase my
own pardon by letting out all that I knew concerning his double dealing
with the rebels. The message was carried to him secretly, and his
answer was that I should meet him at a certain spot by night. I sent my
messenger instead of myself, and he was found in the morning stiff and
stark, with more holes in his doublet than ever the tailor made. On
this I sent again, raising my demands, and insisting upon a speedy
settlement. He asked my conditions. I replied, a free pardon and a
command for myself. For you, money enough to land you safely in some
foreign country where you can pursue the noble profession of arms. I got
them both, though it was like drawing teeth from his head. His name hath
much power at Court just now, and the King can refuse him nothing. I
have my pardon and a command of troops in New England. For you I have
two hundred pieces, of which thirty have been paid in ransom to the
captain, while twenty are due to me for my disbursements over the
matter. In this bag you will find the odd hundred and fifty, of which
you will pay fifteen to the fishermen who have promised to see you safe
to Flushing.’

I was, as you may readily believe, my dear children, bewildered by this
sudden and most unlooked-for turn which events had taken. When Saxon had
ceased to speak I sat as one stunned, trying to realise what he had said
to me. There came a thought into my head, however, which chilled the
glow of hope and of happiness which had sprung up in me at the thought
of recovering my freedom. My presence had been a support and a comfort
to my unhappy companions. Would it not be a cruel thing to leave them in
their distress? There was not one of them who did not look to me in his
trouble, and to the best of my poor power I had befriended and consoled
them. How could I desert them now?

‘I am much beholden to you, Saxon,’ I said at last, speaking slowly and
with some difficulty, for the words were hard to utter. ‘But I fear that
your pains have been thrown away. These poor country folk have none to
look after or assist them. They are as simple as babes, and as little
fitted to be landed in a strange country. I cannot find it in my heart
to leave them!’

Saxon burst out laughing, and leaned back in his seat with his long legs
stretched straight out and his hands in his breeches pockets.

‘This is too much!’ he said at last. ‘I saw many difficulties in my way,
yet I did not foresee this one. You are in very truth the most contrary
man that ever stood in neat’s leather. You have ever some outlandish
reason for jibbing and shying like a hot-blooded, half-broken colt. Yet
I think that I can overcome these strange scruples of yours by a little
persuasion.’

‘As to the prisoners, Captain Clarke,’ said the seaman, ‘I’ll be as good
as a father to them. S’help me, I will, on the word of an honest sailor!
If you should choose to lay out a trifle of twenty pieces upon their
comfort, I shall see that their food is such as mayhap many of them
never got at their own tables. They shall come on deck, too, in watches,
and have an hour or two o’ fresh air in the day. I can’t say fairer!’

‘A word or two with you on deck!’ said Saxon. He walked out of the cabin
and I followed him to the far end of the poop, where we stood leaning
against the bulwarks. One by one the lights had gone out in the town,
until the black ocean beat against a blacker shore.

‘You need not have any fear of the future of the prisoners,’ he said,
in a low whisper. ‘They are not bound for the Barbadoes, nor will this
skinflint of a captain have the selling of them, for all that he is so
cocksure. If he can bring his own skin out of the business, it will be
more than I expect. He hath a man aboard his ship who would think no
more of giving him a tilt over the side than I should.’

‘What mean you, Saxon?’ I cried.

‘Hast ever heard of a man named Marot?’

‘Hector Marot! Yes, surely I knew him well. A highwayman he was, but a
mighty stout man with a kind heart beneath a thief’s jacket.’

‘The same. He is as you say a stout man and a resolute swordsman, though
from what I have seen of his play he is weak in stoccado, and perhaps
somewhat too much attached to the edge, and doth not give prominence
enough to the point, in which respect he neglects the advice and
teaching of the most noteworthy fencers in Europe. Well, well, folk
differ on this as on every other subject! Yet it seems to me that I
would sooner be carried off the field after using my weapon secundum
artem, than walk off unscathed after breaking the laws d’escrime.
Quarte, tierce, and saccoon, say I, and the devil take your estramacons
and passados!’

‘But what of Marot?’ I asked impatiently.

‘He is aboard,’ said Saxon. ‘It appears that he was much disturbed in
his mind over the cruelties which were inflicted on the country folk
after the battle at Bridgewater. Being a man of a somewhat stern and
fierce turn of mind, his disapproval did vent itself in actions rather
than words. Soldiers were found here and there over the countryside
pistolled or stabbed, and no trace left of their assailant. A dozen or
more were cut off in this way, and soon it came to be whispered about
that Marot the highwayman was the man that did it, and the chase became
hot at his heels.’

‘Well, and what then?’ I asked, for Saxon had stopped to light his pipe
at the same old metal tinder-box which he had used when first I met
him. When I picture Saxon to myself it is usually of that moment that I
think, when the red glow beat upon his hard, eager, hawk-like face, and
showed up the thousand little seams and wrinkles which time and care had
imprinted upon his brown, weather-beaten skin. Sometimes in my dreams
that face in the darkness comes back to me, and his half-closed eyelids
and shifting, blinky eyes are turned towards me in his sidelong fashion,
until I find myself sitting up and holding out my hand into empty space,
half expecting to feel another thin sinewy hand close round it. A bad
man he was in many ways, my dears, cunning and wily, with little scruple
or conscience; and yet so strange a thing is human nature, and so
difficult is it for us to control our feelings, that my heart warms when
I think of him, and that fifty years have increased rather than weakened
the kindliness which I hear to him.

‘I had heard,’ quoth he, puffing slowly at his pipe, ‘that Marot was a
man of this kidney, and also that he was so compassed round that he was
in peril of capture. I sought him out, therefore, and held council with
him. His mare, it seems, had been slain by some chance shot, and as he
was much attached to the brute, the accident made him more savage and
more dangerous than ever. He had no heart, he said, to continue in his
old trade. Indeed, he was ripe for anything--the very stuff out of which
useful tools are made. I found that in his youth he had had a training
for the sea. When I heard that, I saw my way in the snap of a petronel.’

‘What then?’ I asked. ‘I am still in the dark.’

‘Nay, it is surely plain enough to you now. Marot’s end was to baffle
his pursuers and to benefit the exiles. How could he do this better than
by engaging as a seaman aboard this brig, the _Dorothy Fox_, and sailing
away from England in her? There are but thirty of a crew. Below hatches
are close on two hundred men, who, simple as they may be, are, as you
and I know, second to none in the cut-and-thrust work, without order or
discipline, which will be needed in such an affair. Marot has but to go
down amongst them some dark night, knock off their anklets, and fit them
up with a few stanchions or cudgels. Ho, ho, Micah! what think you? The
planters may dig their plantations themselves for all the help they are
like to get from West countrymen this bout.’

‘It is, indeed, a well-conceived plan,’ said I. ‘It is a pity, Saxon,
that your ready wit and quick invention hath not had a fair field. You
are, us I know well, as fit to command armies and to order campaigns as
any man that ever bore a truncheon.’

‘Mark ye there!’ whispered Saxon, grasping me by the arm. ‘See where
the moonlight falls beside the hatchway! Do you not see that short squat
seaman who stands alone, lost in thought, with his head sunk upon his
breast? It is Marot! I tell you that if I were Captain Pogram I would
rather have the devil himself, horns, hoofs, and tail, for my first
mate and bunk companion, than have that man aboard my ship. You need not
concern yourself about the prisoners, Micah. Their future is decided.’

‘Then, Saxon,’ I answered, ‘it only remains for me to thank you, and to
accept the means of safety which you have placed within my reach.’

‘Spoken like a man,’ said he; ‘is there aught which I may do for thee in
England? though, by the Mass, I may not be here very long myself, for,
as I understand, I am to be entrusted with the command of an expedition
that is fitting out against the Indians, who have ravaged the
plantations of our settlers. It will be good to get to some profitable
employment, for such a war, without either fighting or plunder, I have
never seen. I give you my word that I have scarce fingered silver since
the beginning of it. I would not for the sacking of London go through
with it again.’

‘There is a friend whom Sir Gervas Jerome did commend to my care,’ I
remarked; ‘I have, however, already taken measures to have his wishes
carried out. There is naught else save to assure all in Havant that a
King who hath battened upon his subjects, as this one of ours hath done,
is not one who is like to keep his seat very long upon the throne of
England. When he falls I shall return, and perhaps it may be sooner than
folk think.’

‘These doings in the West have indeed stirred up much ill-feeling all
over the country,’ said my companion. ‘On all hands I hear that there is
more hatred of the King and of his ministers than before the outbreak.
What ho, Captain Pogram, this way! We have settled the matter, and my
friend is willing to go.’

‘I thought he would tack round,’ the captain said, staggering towards us
with a gait which showed that he had made the rum bottle his companion
since we had left him. ‘S’help me, I was sure of it! Though, by the
Mass, I don’t wonder that he thought twice before leaving the _Dorothy
Fox_, for she is fitted up fit for a duchess, s’help me! Where is your
boat?’

‘Alongside,’ replied Saxon; ‘my friend joins with me in hoping that you,
Captain Pogram, will have a pleasant and profitable voyage.’

‘I am cursedly beholden to him,’ said the captain, with a flourish of
his three-cornered hat.

‘Also that you will reach Barbadoes in safety.’

‘Little doubt of that!’ quoth the captain.

‘And that you will dispose of your wares in a manner which will repay
you for your charity and humanity.’

‘Nay, these are handsome words,’ cried the captain. ‘Sir, I am your
debtor.’

A fishing-boat was lying alongside the brig. By the murky light of the
poop lanterns I could see the figures upon her deck, and the great brown
sail all ready for hoisting. I climbed the bulwark and set my foot upon
the rope-ladder which led down to her.

‘Good-bye, Decimus!’ said I.

‘Good-bye, my lad! You have your pieces all safe?’

‘I have them.’

‘Then I have one other present to make you. It was brought to me by a
sergeant of the Royal Horse. It is that, Micah, on which you must now
depend for food, lodging, raiment, and all which you would have. It
is that to which a brave man can always look for his living. It is the
knife wherewith you can open the world’s oyster. See, lad, it is your
sword!’

‘The old sword! My father’s sword!’ I cried in delight, as Saxon drew
from under his mantle and handed to me the discoloured, old-fashioned
leathern sheath with the heavy brass hilt which I knew so well.

‘You are now,’ said he, ‘one of the old and honourable guild of soldiers
of fortune. While the Turk is still snarling at the gates of Vienna
there will ever be work for strong arms and brave hearts. You will find
that among these wandering, fighting men, drawn from all climes and
nations, the name of Englishman stands high. Well I know that it will
stand none the lower for your having joined the brotherhood. I would
that I could come with you, but I am promised pay and position which it
would be ill to set aside. Farewell, lad, and may fortune go with you!’

I pressed the rough soldier’s horny hand, and descended into the
fishing-boat. The rope that held us was cast off, the sail mounted up,
and the boat shot out across the bay. Onward she went and on, through
the gathering gloom--a gloom as dark and impenetrable as the future
towards which my life’s bark was driving. Soon the long rise and fall
told us that we were over the harbour bar and out in the open channel.
On the land, scattered twinkling lights at long stretches marked the
line of the coast. As I gazed backwards a cloud trailed off from the
moon, and I saw the hard lines of the brig’s rigging stand out against
the white cold disk. By the shrouds stood the veteran, holding to a
rope with one hand, and waving the other in farewell and encouragement.
Another groat cloud blurred out the light, and that lean sinewy figure
with its long extended arm was the last which I saw for a weary time of
the dear country where I was born and bred.



Chapter XXXVI. Of the End of it All

And so, my dear children, I come to the end of the history of a
failure--a brave failure and a noble one, but a failure none the less.
In three more years England was to come to herself, to tear the fetters
from her free limbs, and to send James and his poisonous brood flying
from her shores even as I was flying then. We had made the error of
being before our time. Yet there came days when folk thought kindly of
the lads who had fought so stoutly in the West, and when their limbs,
gathered from many a hangman’s pit and waste place, were borne amid the
silent sorrow of a nation to the pretty country burial-grounds where
they would have chosen to lie. There, within the sound of the bell which
from infancy had called them to prayer, beneath the turf over which they
had wandered, under the shadow of those Mendip and Quantock Hills which
they loved so well, these brave hearts lie still and peaceful, like
tired children in the bosom of their mother. Requiescant-requiescant in
pace!

Not another word about myself, dear children. This narrative doth
already bristle with I’s, as though it were an Argus which is a flash
of wit, though I doubt if ye will understand it. I set myself to tell ye
the tale of the war in the West, and that tale ye have heard, nor will
I be coaxed or cajoled into one word further. Ah! ye know well how
garrulous the old man is, and that if you could but get to Flushing with
him he would take ye to the wars of the Empire, to William’s Court, and
to the second invasion of the West, which had a better outcome than the
first. But not an inch further will I budge. On to the green, ye young
rogues! Have ye not other limbs to exercise besides your ears, that ye
should be so fond of squatting round grandad’s chair? If I am spared to
next winter, and if the rheumatiz keeps away, it is like that I may take
up once more the broken thread of my story.

Of the others I can only tell ye what I know. Some slipped out of my
ken entirely. Of others I have heard vague and incomplete accounts.
The leaders of the insurrection got off much more lightly than their
followers, for they found that the passion of greed was even stronger
than the passion of cruelty. Grey, Buyse, Wade, and others bought
themselves free at the price of all their possessions. Ferguson escaped.
Monmouth was executed on Tower Hill, and showed in his last moments
some faint traces of that spirit which spurted up now and again from his
feeble nature, like the momentary flash of an expiring fire.

My father and my mother lived to see the Protestant religion regain its
place once more, and to see England become the champion of the reformed
faith upon the Continent. Three years later I found them in Havant much
as I had left them, save that there were more silver hairs amongst the
brown braided tresses of my mother, and that my father’s great shoulders
were a trifle bowed and his brow furrowed with the lines of care. Hand
in hand they passed onwards down life’s journey, the Puritan and the
Church woman, and I have never despaired of the healing of religious
feud in England since I have seen how easy it is for two folks to retain
the strongest belief in their own creeds, and yet to bear the heartiest
love and respect for the professor of another. The days may come when
the Church and the Chapel may be as a younger and an elder brother,
each working to one end, and each joying in the other’s success. Let
the contest between them be not with pike and pistol, not with court and
prison; but let the strife be which shall lead the higher life, which
shall take the broader view, which shall boast the happiest and best
cared-for poor. Then their rivalry shall be not a curse, but a blessing
to this land of England.

Reuben Lockarby was ill for many months, but when he at last recovered
he found a pardon awaiting him through the interest of Major Ogilvy.
After a time, when the troubles were all blown over, he married the
daughter of Mayor Timewell, and he still lives in Taunton, a well-to-do
and prosperous citizen. Thirty years ago there was a little Micah
Lockarby, and now I am told that there is another, the son of the first,
who promises to be as arrant a little Roundhead as ever marched to the
tuck of drum.

Of Saxon I have heard more than once. So skilfully did he use his hold
over the Duke of Beaufort, that he was appointed through his interest to
the command of an expedition which had been sent to chastise the savages
of Virginia, who had wrought great cruelties upon the settlers. There
he did so out-ambush their ambushes, and out-trick their most cunning
warriors, that he hath left a great name among them, and is still
remembered there by an Indian word which signifieth ‘The long-legged
wily one with the eye of a rat.’ Having at last driven the tribes far
into the wilderness he was presented with a tract of country for his
services, where he settled down. There he married, and spent the rest of
his days in rearing tobacco and in teaching the principles of war to a
long line of gaunt and slab-sided children. They tell me that a great
nation of exceeding strength and of wondrous size promises some day to
rise up on the other side of the water. If this should indeed come to
pass, it may perhaps happen that these young Saxons or their children
may have a hand in the building of it. God grant that they may never
let their hearts harden to the little isle of the sea, which is and must
ever be the cradle of their race.

Solomon Sprent married and lived for many years as happily as his
friends could wish. I had a letter from him when I was abroad, in which
he said that though his consort and he had started alone on the voyage
of wedlock, they were now accompanied by a jolly-boat and a gig. One
winter’s night when the snow was on the ground he sent down for my
father, who hurried up to his house. He found the old man sitting up in
bed, with his flask of rumbo within reach, his tobacco-box beside him,
and a great brown Bible balanced against his updrawn knees. He was
breathing heavily, and was in sore distress.

‘I’ve strained a plank, and have nine feet in the well,’ said he. ‘It
comes in quicker than I can put it out. In truth, friend, I have not
been seaworthy this many a day, and it is time that I was condemned and
broken up.’

My father shook his head sadly as he marked his dusky face and laboured
breathing. ‘How of your soul?’ he asked.

‘Aye!’ said Solomon, ‘that’s a cargo that we carry under our hatches,
though we can’t see it, and had no hand in the stowing of it. I’ve been
overhauling the sailing orders here, and the ten articles of war, but I
can’t find that I’ve gone so far out of my course that I may not hope to
come into the channel again.’

‘Trust not in yourself, but in Christ,’ said my father.

‘He is the pilot, in course,’ replied the old seaman. ‘When I had a
pilot aboard o’ my ship, however, it was my way always to keep my own
weather eye open, d’ye see, and so I’ll do now. The pilot don’t think
none the worse of ye for it. So I’ll throw my own lead line, though I
hear as how there are no soundings in the ocean of God’s mercy. Say,
friend, d’ye think this very body, this same hull o’ mine, will rise
again?’

‘So we are taught,’ my father answered.

‘I’d know it anywhere from the tattoo marks,’ said Solomon. ‘They was
done when I was with Sir Christopher in the West Indies, and I’d be
sorry to part with them. For myself, d’ye see, I’ve never borne ill-will
to any one, not even to the Dutch lubbers, though I fought three wars
wi’ them, and they carried off one of my spars, and be hanged to them!
If I’ve let daylight into a few of them, d’ye see, it’s all in good
part and by way of duty. I’ve drunk my share--enough to sweeten my
bilge-water--but there are few that have seen me cranky in the
upper rigging or refusing to answer to my helm. I never drew pay or
prize-money that my mate in distress was not welcome to the half of it.
As to the Polls, the less said the better. I’ve been a true consort
to my Phoebe since she agreed to look to me for signals. Those are my
papers, all clear and aboveboard. If I’m summoned aft this very night by
the great Lord High Admiral of all, I ain’t afeared that He’ll clap me
into the bilboes, for though I’m only a poor sailor man, I’ve got His
promise in this here book, and I’m not afraid of His going back from
it.’

My father sat with the old man for some hours and did all that he could
to comfort and assist him, for it was clear that he was sinking rapidly.
When he at last left him, with his faithful wife beside him, he grasped
the brown but wasted hand which lay above the clothes.

‘I’ll see you again soon,’ he said.

‘Yes. In the latitude of heaven,’ replied the dying seaman. His
foreboding was right, for in the early hours of the morning his wife,
bending over him, saw a bright smile upon his tanned, weather-beaten
face. Raising himself upon his pillow he touched his forelock, as is
the habit of sailor-men, and so sank slowly and peacefully back into the
long sleep which wakes when the night has ceased to be.

You will ask me doubtless what became of Hector Marot and of the strange
shipload which had set sail from Poole Harbour. There was never a word
heard of them again, unless indeed a story which was spread some months
afterwards by Captain Elias Hopkins, of the Bristol ship _Caroline_, may
be taken as bearing upon their fate. For Captain Hopkins relates that,
being on his homeward voyage from our settlements, he chanced to meet
with thick fogs and a head wind in the neighbourhood of the great cod
banks. One night as he was beating about, with the weather so thick that
he could scarce see the truck of his own mast, a most strange passage
befell him. For as he and others stood upon the deck, they heard to
their astonishment the sound of many voices joined in a great chorus,
which was at first faint and distant, but which presently waxed and
increased until it appeared to pass within a stone-throw of his vessel,
when it slowly died away once more and was lost in the distance. There
were some among the crew who set the matter down as the doing of the
evil one, but, as Captain Elias Hopkins was wont to remark, it was a
strange thing that the foul fiend should choose West-country hymns for
his nightly exercise, and stranger still that the dwellers in the pit
should sing with a strong Somersetshire burr. For myself, I have little
doubt that it was indeed the _Dorothy Fox_ which had swept past in the
fog, and that the prisoners, having won their freedom, were celebrating
their delivery in true Puritan style. Whether they were driven on to the
rocky coast of Labrador, or whether they found a home in some desolate
land whence no kingly cruelty could harry them, is what must remain for
ever unknown.

Zachariah Palmer lived for many years, a venerable and honoured old man,
before he, too, was called to his fathers. A sweet and simple village
philosopher he was, with a child’s heart in his aged breast. The very
thought of him is to me as the smell of violets; for if in my views of
life and in my hopes of the future I differ somewhat from the hard and
gloomy teaching of my father, I know that I owe it to the wise words
and kindly training of the carpenter. If, as he was himself wont to
say, deeds are everything in this world and dogma is nothing, then his
sinless, blameless life might be a pattern to you and to all. May the
dust lie light upon him!

One word of another friend--the last mentioned, but not the least
valued. When Dutch William had been ten years upon the English throne
there was still to be seen in the field by my father’s house a tall,
strong-boned horse, whose grey skin was flecked with dashes of white.
And it was ever observed that, should the soldiers be passing from
Portsmouth, or should the clank of trumpet or the rattle of drum break
upon his ear, he would arch his old neck, throw out his grey-streaked
tail, and raise his stiff knees in a pompous and pedantic canter. The
country folk would stop to watch these antics of the old horse, and then
the chances are that one of them would tell the rest how that charger
had borne one of their own village lads to the wars, and how, when the
rider had to fly the country, a kindly sergeant in the King’s troops
had brought the steed as a remembrance of him to his father at home. So
Covenant passed the last years of his life, a veteran among steeds, well
fed and cared for, and much given, mayhap, to telling in equine language
to all the poor, silly country steeds the wonderful passages which had
befallen him in the West.



APPENDIX


Note A.--Hatred of Learning among the Puritans.

In spite of the presence in their ranks of such ripe scholars as John
Milton, Colonel Hutchinson, and others, there was among the Independents
and Anabaptists a profound distrust of learning, which is commented upon
by writers of all shades of politics. Dr. South in his sermons remarks
that ‘All learning was cried down, so that with them the best preachers
were such as could not read, and the best divines such as could not
write. In all their preachments they so highly pretended to the Spirit,
that some of them could hardly spell a letter. To be blind with them was
a proper qualification of a spiritual guide, and to be book-learned, as
they called it, and to be irreligious, were almost convertible terms.
None save tradesmen and mechanics were allowed to have the Spirit, and
those only were accounted like St. Paul who could work with their hands,
and were able to make a pulpit before preaching in it.’

In the collection of loyal ballads reprinted in 1731, the Royalist bard
harps upon the same characteristic:

          ‘We’ll down with universities
            Where learning is professed,
           Because they practise and maintain
            The language of the beast.
           We’ll drive the doctors out of doors,
            And parts, whate’er they be,
           We’ll cry all parts and learning down,
            And heigh, then up go we!’


Note B.--On the Speed of Couriers.

It is difficult for us in these days of steam and electricity to realise
how long it took to despatch a message in the seventeenth century, even
when the occasion was most pressing. Thus, Monmouth landed at Lyme on
the morning of Thursday, the 11th of June. Gregory Alford, the Tory
mayor of Lyme, instantly fled to Honiton, whence he despatched a
messenger to the Privy Council. Yet it was five o’clock in the morning
of Saturday, the 13th, before the news reached London, though the
distance is but 156 miles.


Note C.--On the Claims of the Lender of a Horse.

The difficulty touched upon by Decimus Saxon, as to the claim of the
lender of a horse upon the booty gained by the rider, is one frequently
discussed by writers of that date upon the usages of war. One
distinguished authority says: Praefectus turmae equitum Hispanorum, cum
proelio tuba caneret, unum ex equitibus suae turmae obvium habuit; qui
questus est quod paucis ante diebus equum suum in certamine amiserat,
propter quod non poterat imminenti proelio interesse; unde jussit
Praefectus ut unum ex suis equis conscenderet et ipsum comitaretur.
Miles, equo conscenso, inter fugandum hostes, incidit in ipsum ducem
hostilis exercitus, quem cepit et consignavit Duci exercitus Hispani,
qui a captivo vicena aureorum millia est consequutus. Dicebat Praefectus
partem pretii hujus redemptionis sibi debere, quod miles equo suo
dimicaverat, qui alias proelio interesse non potuit. Petrinus Bellus
affirmat se, cum esset Bruxellis in curia Hispaniarum Regis de hac
quaestione consultum, et censuisse, pro Praefecto facere aequitatem quae
praecipue respicitur inter milites, quorum controversiae ex aequo et
bono dirimendae sunt; unde ultra conventa quis obligatur ad id quod
alterum alteri prasstare oportet.’ The case, it appears, ultimately went
against the horse-lending praefect.


Note D.--On the Pronunciation of Exquisites.

The substitution of the a for the o was a common affectation in
the speech of the fops of the period, as may be found in Vanbrugh’s
_Relapse_. The notorious Titus Oates, in his efforts to be in the mode,
pushed this trick to excess, and his cries of ‘Oh Lard! Oh Lard!’ were
familiar sounds in Westminster Hall at the time when the Salamanca
doctor was at the flood of his fortune.


Note E.--Hour-glasses in Pulpits.

In those days it was customary to have an hour-glass stationed in
a frame of iron at the side of the pulpit, and visible to the whole
congregation. It was turned up as soon as the text was announced, and a
minister earned a name as a lazy preacher if he did not hold out until
the sand had ceased to run. If, on the other hand, he exceeded that
limit, his audience would signify by gapes and yawns that they had
had as much spiritual food as they could digest. Sir Roger L’Estrange
(_Fables_, Part II. Fab. 262) tells of a notorious spin-text who, having
exhausted his glass and being half-way through a second one, was at
last arrested in his career by a valiant sexton, who rose and departed,
remarking as he did so, ‘Pray, sir, be pleased when you have done to
leave the key under the door.’


Note F.--Disturbances at the old Gast House of Little Burton.

The circumstances referred to by the Mayor of Taunton in his allusion
to the Drummer of Tedsworth are probably too well known to require
elucidation. The haunting of the old Gast House at Burton would,
however, be fresh at that time in the minds of Somersetshire folk,
occurring as it did in 1677. Some short account from documents of that
date may be of interest.

‘The first night that I was there, with Hugh Mellmore and Edward Smith,
they heard as it were the washing of water over their heads. Then,
taking the candle and going up the stairs, there was a wet cloth thrown
at them, but it fell on the stairs. They, going up further, there was
another thrown as before. And when they were come up into the chamber
there stood a bowl of water, looking white, as though soap had been used
in it. The bowl just before was in the kitchen, and could not be carried
up but through the room where they were. The next thing was a terrible
noise, like a clap of thunder, and shortly afterwards they heard a great
scratching about the bedstead, and after that great knocking with a
hammer against the bed’s-head, so that the two maids that were in bed
cried out for help. Then they ran up the stairs, and there lay the
hammer on the bed, and on the bed’s-head there were near a thousand
prints of the hammer. The maids said that they were scratched and
pinched with a hand which had exceeding long nails.

‘The second night that James Sherring and Thomas Hillary were there,
James Sherring sat down in the chimney to fill a pipe of tobacco. He
used the tongs to lift a coal to light his pipe, and by-and-by the tongs
were drawn up the stairs and were cast upon the bed. The same night one
of the maids left her shoes by the fire, and they were carried up into
the chamber, and the old man’s brought down and set in their places.
As they were going upstairs there were many things thrown at them which
were just before in the low room, and when they went down the stairs the
old man’s breeches were thrown down after them.

‘On another night a saddle did come into the house from a pin in the
entry, and did hop about the place from table to table. It was very
troublesome to them, until they broke it into small pieces and threw
it out into the roadway. So for some weeks the haunting continued,
with rappings, scratching, movements of heavy articles, and many other
strange things, as are attested by all who were in the village, until at
last they ceased as suddenly as they had begun.’


Note G.--Monmouth’s Progress in the West.

During his triumphal progress through the western shires, some years
before the rebellion, Monmouth first ventured to exhibit upon his
escutcheon the lions of England and the lilies of France, without the
baton sinister. A still more ominous sign was that he ventured to touch
for the king’s evil. The appended letter, extracted from the collection
of tracts in the British Museum, may be of interest as first-hand
evidence of the occasional efficacy of that curious ceremony.

‘His Grace the Duke of Monmouth honoured in his progress in the West of
England, in an account of an extraordinary cure of the king’s evil.

‘Given in a letter from Crewkhorn, in Somerset, from the minister of the
parish and many others.

‘We, whose names are underwritten, do certify the miraculous cure of
a girl of this town, about twenty, by name Elizabeth Parcet, a poor
widow’s daughter, who hath languished under sad affliction from that
distemper of the king’s evil termed the joint evil, being said to be
the worst evil. For about ten or twelve years’ time she had in her right
hand four running wounds, one on the inside, three on the back of her
hand, as well as two more in the same arm, one above her hand-wrist,
the other above the bending of her arm. She had betwixt her arm-pits a
swollen bunch, which the doctors said fed those six running wounds. She
had the same distemper also on her left eye, so she was almost blind.
Her mother, despairing of preserving her sight, and being not of ability
to send her to London to be touched by the king, being miserably poor,
having many poor children, and this girl not being able to work, her
mother, desirous to have her daughter cured, sent to the chirurgeons for
help, who tampered with it for some time, but could do no good. She
went likewise ten or eleven miles to a seventh son, but all in vain. No
visible hopes remained, and she expected nothing but the grave.

‘But now, in this the girl’s great extremity, God, the great physician,
dictates to her, then languishing in her miserable, hopeless condition,
what course to take and what to do for a cure, which was to go and touch
the Duke of Monmouth. The girl told her mother that, if she could
but touch the Duke she would be well. The mother reproved her for her
foolish conceit, but the girl did often persuade her mother to go to
Lackington to the Duke, who then lay with Mr. Speaks. “Certainly,” said
she, “I should be well if I could touch him.” The mother slighted these
pressing requests, but the more she slighted and reproved, the more
earnest the girl was for it. A few days after, the girl having noticed
that Sir John Sydenham intended to treat the Duke at White Lodge in
Henton Park, this girl with many of her neighbours went to the said
park. She being there timely waited the Duke’s coming. When first she
observed the Duke she pressed in among a crowd of people and caught
him by the hand, his glove being on, and she likewise having a glove to
cover her wounds. She not being herewith satisfied at the first attempt
of touching his glove only, but her mind was she must touch some part
of his bare skin, she, weighing his coming forth, intended a second
attempt. The poor girl, thus between hope and fear, waited his motion.
On a sudden there was news of the Duke’s coming on, which she to be
prepared rent off her glove, that was clung to the sores, in such haste
that she broke her glove, and brought away not only the sores but the
skin. The Duke’s glove, as Providence would have it, the upper part hung
down, so that his hand-wrist was bare. She pressed on, and caught him
by the bare hand-wrist with her running hand, crying, “God bless your
highness!” and the Duke said “God bless you!” The girl, not a little
transported at her good success, came and assured her friends that she
would now be well. She came home to her mother in great joy, and told
her that she had touched the Duke’s hand. The mother, hearing what she
had done, reproved her sharply for her boldness, asked how she durst
do such a thing, and threatened to beat her for it. She cried out, “Oh,
mother, I shall be well again, and healed of my wounds!” And as God
Almighty would have it, to the wonder and admiration of all, the six
wounds were speedily dried up, the eye became perfectly well, and the
girl was in good health. All which has been discovered to us by the
mother and daughter, and by neighbours that know her.

‘Henry Clark, minister; Captain James Bale, &c &c. Whoever doubts the
truth of this relation may see the original under the hands of the
persons mentioned at the Amsterdam Coffee House, Bartholomew Lane, Royal
Exchange.’

In spite of the uncouth verbiage of the old narrative, there is a touch
of human pathos about it which makes it worthy of reproduction.


Note H.--Monmouth’s Contention of Legitimacy.

Sir Patrick Hume, relating a talk with Monmouth before his expedition,
says: ‘I urged if he considered himself as lawful son of King Charles,
late deceased. He said he did. I asked him if he were able to make out
and prove the marriage of his mother to King Charles, and whether he
intended to lay claim to the crown. He answered that he had been able
lately to prove the marriage, and if some persons are not lately dead,
of which he would inform himself, he would yet be able to prove it.
As for his claiming the crown, he intended not to do it unless it were
advised to be done by those who should concern themselves and join for
the delivery of the nations.’

It may be remarked that in Monmouth’s commission to be general, dated
April 1668, he is styled ‘our most entirely beloved and natural son.’
Again, in a commission for the government of Hull, April 1673, he is
‘our well-beloved natural son.’


Note I.--Dragooners and Chargers.

The dragoons, being really mounted infantry, were provided with very
inferior animals to the real cavalry. From a letter of Cromwell’s
[‘Squire Correspondence,’ April 3, 1643), it will be seen that a
dragooner was worth twenty pieces, while a charger could not be obtained
under sixty.

Note J.--Battle of Sedgemoor.

A curious little sidelight upon the battle is afforded by the two
following letters exhibited to the Royal Archaeological Institute by the
Rev. C. W. Bingham.

‘To Mrs. Chaffin at Chettle House.’

‘Monday, about ye forenoon, July 6, 1685.’

‘My dearest creature,--This morning about one o’clock the rebbells fell
upon us whilest we were in our tents in King’s Sedgemoor, with their
whole army.... We have killed and taken at least 1000 of them. They are
fled into Bridgewater. It is said that we have taken all their cannon,
but sure it is that most are, if all be not. A coat with stars on ‘t is
taken. ‘’Tis run through the back. By some ‘tis thought that the Duke
rebbell had it on and is killed, but most doe think that a servant wore
it. I wish he were called, that the wars may be ended. It’s thought
he’ll never be able to make his men fight again. I thank God I am very
well without the least hurt, soe are our Dorsetshire friends. Prythee
let Biddy know this by the first opportunity. I am thyne onely deare,
TOSSEY.’

BRIDGEWATER: July 7, 1685.

‘We have totally routed the enemies of God and the King, and can’t hear
of fifty men together of the whole rebel army. We pick them up every
houre in cornfields and ditches. Williams, the late Duke’s valet de
chambre, is taken, who gives a very ingenious account of the whole
affair, which is too long to write. The last word that he said to him
was at the time when his army fled, that he was undone and must shift
for himself. We think to march with the General this day to Wells, on
his way homeward. At present he is 3 miles off at the camp, soe I can’t
certainly tell whether he intends for Wells. I shall be home certainly
on Saturday at farthest. I believe my deare Nan would for 500 pounds
that her Tossey had served the King to the end of the war.

I am thyne, my deare childe, for ever.’


Note K.--Lord Grey and the Horse at Sedgemoor.

It is only fair to state that Ferguson is held by many to have been
as doughty a soldier as he was zealous in religion. His own account of
Sedgemoor is interesting, as showing what was thought by those who were
actually engaged on the causes of their failure.

‘Now besides these two troops, whose officers though they had no great
skill yet had courage enough to have done something honourably, had they
not for want of a guide met with the aforesaid obstruction, there was
no one of all the rest of our troops that ever advanced to charge or
approached as near to the enemy as to give or receive a wound. Mr.
Hacker, one of our captains, came no sooner within view of their camp
than he villainously fired a pistol to give them notice of our approach,
and then forsook his charge and rode oft with all the speed he could, to
take the benefit of a proclamation emitted by the King, offering pardon
to all such as should return home within such a time. And this he
pleaded at his tryal, but was answered by Jeffreys “that he above all
other men deserved to be hanged, and that for his treachery to Monmouth
as well as his treason to the King.” And though no other of our officers
acted so villainously, yet they were useless and unserviceable, as never
once attempting to charge, nor so much as keeping their men in a body.
And I dare affirm that if our horse had never fired a pistol, but only
stood in a posture to have given jealousy and apprehension to the enemy,
our foot alone would have carried the day and been triumphant. But our
horse standing scattered and disunited, and flying upon every approach
of a squadron of theirs, commanded by Oglethorpe, gave that body of
their cavalry an advantage, after they had hovered up and down in the
field without thinking it necessary to attack those whom their own fears
had dispersed, to fall in at last in the rear of our battalions, and to
wrest that victory out of their hands which they were grasping at, and
stood almost possessed of. Nor was that party of their horse above
three hundred at most, whereas we had more than enough had they had any
courage, and been commanded by a gallant man, to have attacked them
with ease both in front and flank. These things I can declare with
more certainty, because I was a doleful spectator of them; for having
contrary to my custom left attending upon the Duke, who advanced with
the foot, I betook myself to the horse, because the first of that
morning’s action was expected from them, which was to break in and
disorder the enemy’s camp. Against the time that our battalions should
come up, I endeavoured whatsoever I was capable of performing, for I
not only struck at several troopers who had forsaken their station, but
upbraided divers of the captains for being wanting in their duty. But I
spoke with great warmth to my Lord Grey, and conjured him to charge, and
not suffer the victory, which our foot had in a manner taken hold of,
to be ravished from us. But instead of hearkening, he not only as an
unworthy man and cowardly poltroon deserted that part of the field and
forsook his command, but rode with the utmost speed to the Duke, telling
him that all was lost and it was more than time to shift for himself.
Wherebye, as an addition to all the mischief he had been the occasion
of before, he drew the easy and unfortunate gentleman to leave the
battalions while they were courageously disputing on which side the
victory should fall. And this fell most unhappily out, while a certain
person was endeavouring to find out the Duke to have begged of him to
come and charge at the head of his own troops. However, this I dare
affirm, that if the Duke had been but master of two hundred horse,
well mounted, completely armed, personally valiant, and commanded
by experienced officers, they would have been victorious. This is
acknowledged by our enemies, who have often confessed they were ready
to fly through the impressions made upon them by our foot, and must have
been beaten had our horse done their part, and not tamely looked on
till their cavalry retrieved the day by falling into the rear of our
battalions. Nor was the fault in the private men, who had courage
to have followed their leaders, but it was in those who led them,
particularly my Lord Grey, in whom, if cowardice may be called
treachery, we may safely charge him with betraying our cause.’

Extract from MS. of Dr. Ferguson, quoted in ‘Ferguson the Plotter,’ an
interesting work by his immediate descendant, an advocate of Edinburgh.


Note L.--Monmouth’s Attitude after Capture.

The following letter, written by Monmouth to the Queen from the Tower,
is indicative of his abject state of mind.

‘Madam,--I would not take the boldness of writing to your Majesty till
I had shown the King how I do abhor the thing that I have done, and how
much I desire to live to serve him. I hope, madam, by what I have said
to the King to-day will satisfy how sincere I am, and how much I detest
all those people who have brought me to this. Having done this, madam,
I thought I was in a fitt condition to beg your intercession, which I am
sure you never refuse to the distressed, and I am sure, madam, that I
am an object of your pity, having been cousened and cheated into this
horrid business. Did I wish, madam, to live for living sake I would
never give you this trouble, but it is to have life to serve the
King, which I am able to doe, and will doe beyond what I can express.
Therefore, madam, upon such an account as I may take the boldness to
press you and beg of you to intersaid for me, for I am sure, madam, the
King will hearken to you. Your prairs can never be refused, especially
when it is begging for a life only to serve the King. I hope, madam, by
the King’s generosity and goodness, and your intercession, I may hope
for my life which if I have shall be ever employed in showing to your
Majesty all the sense immaginable of gratitude, and in serving of the
King like a true subject. And ever be your Majesty’s most dutiful and
obedient servant, MONMOUTH.’

THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Micah Clarke - His Statement as made to his three grandchildren Joseph, - Gervas and Reuben During the Hard Winter of 1734" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home