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Title: Martin Hyde, the Duke's Messenger
Author: Masefield, John
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 "Martin Hyde, the Duke's Messenger" ***

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MARTIN HYDE

THE DUKE’S MESSENGER

by John Masefield



CONTENTS

     I.    I LEAVE HOME
     II.   I LEAVE HOME AGAIN
     III.  I LEAVE HOME A THIRD TIME
     IV.   I LEAVE HOME FOR THE LAST TIME
     V.    I GO TO SEA
     VI.   THE SEA! THE SEA!
     VII.  LAND RATS AND WATER RATS
     VIII. I MEET MY FRIEND
     IX.   I SEE MORE OF MY FRIEND
     X.    SOUNDS IN THE NIGHT
     XI.   AURELIA
     XII.  BRAVE CAPTAIN BARLOW
     XIII. IT BREEZES UP
     XIV.  A DRINK OF SHERBET
     XV.   THE ROAD TO LYME
     XVI.  THE LANDING
     XVII. A VOICE AT DAWN
     XVIII. I SPEAK WITH AURELIA
     XIX.  I MEET THE CLUB MEN
     XX.   THE SQUIRE’S HOUSE
     XXI.  MY FRIEND AURELIA AND HER UNCLE
     XXII. THE PRIEST’S HOLE
     XXIII. FREE
     XXIV  THE END



MARTIN HYDE

THE DUKE’S MESSENGER

by

John Masefield



CHAPTER I. I LEAVE HOME

I was born at Oulton, in Suffolk, in the year 1672. I know not the
day of my birth, but it was in March, a day or two after the Dutch war
began. I know this, because my father, who was the clergyman at Oulton,
once told me that in the night of my birth a horseman called upon him,
at the rectory, to ask the way to Lowestoft. He was riding from London
with letters for the Admiral, he said; but had missed his way somewhere
beyond Beccles. He was mud from head to foot (it had been a wet March)
but he would not stay to dry himself. He reined in at the door, just as
I was born, as though he were some ghost, bringing my life in his saddle
bags. Then he shook up his horse, through the mud, towards Lowestoft, so
that the splashing of the horse’s hoofs must have been the first sound
heard by me. The Admiral was gone when he reached Lowestoft, poor man,
so all his trouble was wasted. War wastes more energy, I suppose, than
any other form of folly. I know that on the East Coast, during all the
years of my childhood, this Dutch war wasted the energies of thousands.
The villages had to drill men, each village according to its size, to
make an army in case the Dutch should land. Long after the war was over,
they drilled thus. I remember them on the field outside the church,
drilling after Sunday service, firing at a stump of a tree. Once some
wag rang the alarm-bell at night, to fetch them out of their beds. Then
there were the smugglers; they, too, were caused by the war. After the
fighting there was a bitter feeling against the Dutch. Dutch goods were
taxed heavily (spice, I remember, was made very dear thus) to pay for
the war. The smugglers began then to land their goods secretly, all
along the coast, so that they might avoid the payment of the duty. The
farmers were their friends; for they liked to have their gin cheap.
Indeed, they used to say that in an agueish place like the fens, gin was
a necessity, if one would avoid fever. Often, at night, in the winter,
when I was walking home from Lowestoft school, I would see the farmers
riding to the rendezvous in the dark, with their horses’ hoofs all
wrapped up in sacks, to make no noise.

I lived for twelve years at Oulton. I learned how to handle a boat
there, how to swim, how to skate, how to find the eggs of the many wild
fowl in the reeds. In those days the Broad country was a very wild land,
half of it swamp. My father gave me a coracle on my tenth birthday. In
this little boat I used to explore the country for many miles, pushing
up creeks among the reeds, then watching, in the pools (far out of the
world it seemed) for ruffs or wild duck. I was a hardy boy, much older
than my years, like so many only children. I used to go away, sometimes,
for two or three days together, with my friend John Halmer, Captain
Halmer’s son, taking some bread, with a blanket or two, as my ship’s
stores. We used to paddle far up the Waveney to an island hidden in
reeds. We were the only persons who knew of that island. We were like
little kings there. We built a rough sort of tent-hut there every
summer. Then we would pass the time there deliciously, now bathing, now
fishing, but always living on what we caught. John, who was a wild lad,
much older than I, used to go among the gipsies in their great winter
camp at Oulton. He learned many strange tricks from them. He was a good
camp-companion. I think that the last two years of my life at Oulton
were the happiest years of my life. I have never cared for dry or hilly
countries since. Wherever I have been in the world, I have always longed
for the Broads, where the rivers wander among reeds for miles, losing
themselves in thickets of reeds. I have always thought tenderly of the
flat land, where windmills or churches are the only landmarks, standing
up above the mist, in the loneliness of the fens. But when I was nearly
thirteen years old (just after the death of Charles the Second) my
father died, leaving me an orphan. My uncle, Gabriel Hyde, a man about
town, was my only relative. The vicar of Lowestoft wrote to him, on my
behalf. A fortnight later (the ways were always very foul in the winter)
my uncle’s man came to fetch me to London. There was a sale of my
father’s furniture. His books were sent off to his college at Cambridge
by the Lowestoft carrier. Then the valet took me by wherry to Norwich,
where we caught a weekly coach to town. That was the last time I ever
sailed on the Waveney as a boy, that journey to Norwich. When I next saw
the Broads, I was a man of thirty-five. I remember how strangely small
the country seemed to me when I saw it after my wanderings. But this is
away from my tale. All that I remember of the coach-ride was my arrival
late at night at the London inn, a dark house full of smells, from which
the valet led me to my uncle’s house.

I lay awake, that first night, much puzzled by the noise, fearing that
London would be all streets, a dismal place. When I fell asleep, I was
waked continually by chiming bells. In the morning, early, I was roused
by the musical calling made by milkmen on their rounds, with that
morning’s milk for sale. At breakfast my uncle told me not to go into
the street without Ephraim, his man; for without a guide, he said, I
should get lost. He warned me that there were people in London who made
a living by seizing children (“kidnapping” or “trepanning” them, as it
was called) to sell to merchant-captains bound for the plantations. “So
be very careful, Martin,” he said. “Do not talk to strangers.” He went
for his morning walk after this, telling me that I might run out to play
in the garden.

I went out of doors feeling that London must be a very terrible place,
if the folk there went about counting all who met them as possible
enemies. I was homesick for the Broads, where everybody, even bad men,
like the worst of the smugglers, was friendly to me. I hated all this
noisy city, so full of dirty jumbled houses. I longed to be in my
coracle on the Waveney, paddling along among the reeds, chucking pebbles
at the water-rats. But when I went out into the garden I found that even
London held something for me, not so good as the Broads, perhaps, but
pleasant in its way.

Now before I go further, I must tell you that my uncle’s house was one
of the old houses in Billingsgate. It stood in a narrow, crowded lane,
at the western end of Thames Street, close to the river. Few of the
houses thereabouts were old; for the fire of London had nearly destroyed
that part of the city, but my uncle’s house, with a few more in the
same lane, being built of brick, had escaped. The bricks of some of the
houses were scorched black. I remember, also, at the corner house, three
doors from my uncle’s house, the melted end of a water pipe, hanging
from the roof like a long leaden icicle, just as it had run from the
heat eighteen years before. I used to long for that icicle: it would
have made such fine bullets for my sling. I have said that Fish Lane,
where my uncle lived, was narrow. It was very narrow. The upper stories
of the houses opposite could be touched from my bed-room window with an
eight-foot fishing rod. If one leaned well out, one could see right into
their upper rooms. You could even hear the people talking in them.

At the back of the house there was a garden of potherbs. It sloped down
to the river-bank, where there were stairs to the water. The stairs
were covered in, so as to form a boat-house, in which (as I learned
afterwards) my uncle’s skiffs were kept. You may be sure that I lost
no time in getting down to the water, after I had breakfasted with my
uncle, on the morning after my arrival.

A low stone parapet, topped by iron rails, shut off the garden from the
beach. Just beyond the parapet, within slingshot, as I soon proved, was
the famous Pool of London, full of ships of all sorts, some with flags
flying. The mild spring sun (it was early in April) made the sight
glorious. There must have been a hundred ships there, all marshalled in
ranks, at double-moorings, head to flood. Boats full of merchandise were
pulling to the wharves by the Custom House. Men were working aloft on
the yards, bending or unbending sails. In some ships the sails hung
loose, drying in the sun. In others, the men were singing out as they
walked round the capstan, hoisting goods from the hold. One of the ships
close to me was a beautiful little Spanish schooner, with her name La
Reina in big gold letters on her transom. She was evidently one of those
very fast fruit boats, from the Canary Islands, of which I had heard the
seamen at Oulton speak. She was discharging oranges into a lighter, when
I first saw her. The sweet, heavy smell of the bruised peels scented the
river for many yards.

I was looking at this schooner, wishing that I could pass an hour in her
hold, among those delicious boxes, when a bearded man came on deck from
her cabin. He looked at the shore, straight at myself as I thought,
raising his hand swiftly as though to beckon me to him. A boat pushed
out instantly, in answer to the hand, from the garden next to the one
in which I stood. The waterman, pulling to the schooner, talked with the
man for a moment, evidently settling the amount of his fare. After the
haggling, my gentleman climbed into the boat by a little rope-ladder at
the stern. Then the boatman pulled away upstream, going on the last of
the flood, within twenty yards of where I stood.

I had watched them idly, attracted, in the beginning, by that sudden
raising of the hand. But as they passed me, there came a sudden puff
of wind, strong enough to flurry the water into wrinkles. It lifted the
gentleman’s hat, so that he saved it only by a violent snatch which
made the boat rock. As he jammed the hat down he broke or displaced some
string or clip near his ears. At any rate his beard came adrift on the
side nearest to me. The man was wearing a false beard. He remedied the
matter at once, very cleverly, so that I may have been the only witness;
but I saw that the boatman was in the man’s secret, whatever it was. He
pulled hard on his starboard oar, bringing the boat partly across the
current, thus screening him from everybody except the workers in the
ships. It must have seemed to all who saw him that he was merely pulling
to another arch of London Bridge.

I was not sure of the man’s face. It seemed handsome; that was all that
I could say of it. But I was fascinated by the mystery. I wondered
why he was wearing a false beard. I wondered what he was doing in the
schooner. I imagined all sorts of romantic plots in which he was taking
part. I watched his boat go through the Bridge with the feeling that
I was sharing in all sorts of adventures already. There was a fall of
water at the Bridge which made the river dangerous there even on a flood
tide. I could see that the waves there would be quite enough for such a
boat without the most tender handling. I watched to see how they would
pass through. Both men stood up, facing forwards, each taking an oar.
They worked her through, out of sight, in a very clever fashion; which
set me wondering again what this handsome gentleman might be, who worked
a boat so well.

I hung about at the end of the garden until dinner time, hoping that
they would return. I watched every boat which came downstream, finding
a great pleasure in the watermen’s skill, for indeed the water at the
Bridge was frightful; only a strong nerve could venture on it. But the
boat did not come back, though one or two other boats brought people, or
goods, to the stairs of the garden beside me. I could not see into the
garden; that party wall was too high.

I did not go indoors again till Ephraim came to fetch me, saying that it
was time I washed my hands for dinner. I went to my room; but instead
of washing my hands, I leaned out of the window to watch a dancing bear
which was sidling about in the lane, just below, while his keeper made
a noise on the panpipes. A little crowd of idlers was gathered round the
bear. Some of them were laughing at the bear, some at his keeper. I saw
two boys sneaking about among the company; they were evil-looking
little ruffians, with that hard look in the eyes which always marks the
thoroughly wicked. As I watched, one of them slipped his hand into
a man’s pocket, then withdrew it, passing something swiftly to his
companion, who walked unconcernedly away. I ran out of doors at once, to
the man who had been robbed.

“Sir,” I said, when he had drawn away from the little crowd. “Have you
not been robbed of something?”

He turned to look down on me, searching his pockets with both hands. It
gave me a start to see him, for he was the bearded man who had passed
me in the boat that morning. You may be sure that I took a good note of
him. He was a handsome, melancholy-looking man, with a beard designed to
make him look fairer than he really was.

“Robbed of something?” he repeated in a quiet voice. “Yes, I have been
robbed of something.” It seemed to me that he turned pale, when he found
that he had been robbed. “Did you see it?” he asked. “Don’t point. Just
describe him to me. No. Don’t look round, boy. Tell me without looking
round.”

“Sir,” I said, “do you see two little boys moving about among the people
there?”

“Yes,” he said.

“It’s the boy with the bit of broken pipe in his hat who has the,
whatever it was, sir, I’m sure. I saw it all.”

“I see,” he said. “That’s the coveter. Let this be a warning to you,
boy, never to stop in a crowd to watch these street-performers. Where
were you, when you saw it?”

“Up above there, sir. In that house.”

“In Mr. Hyde’s house. Do you live there?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Since when? Not for long, surely?”

“No, sir. Only since yesterday. I’m Mr. Hyde’s nephew.”

“Ah! Indeed. And that is your room up there?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where do you come from then? You’ve not been in town before. What is
your father?”

“My father’s dead, sir. I come from Oulton. My father was rector there.”

“Ah,” he said quietly. “Now give this penny to the bear-ward.”

While I was giving the penny to the keeper, the strange man edged among
the lookers-on, apparently watching the bear’s antics, till he was just
behind the pickpocket’s accomplice. Watching his time, he seized the boy
from behind by both wrists.

“This boy’s a pickpocket,” he cried aloud. “Stop that other boy. He’s an
accomplice.” The other boy, who had just taken a purse, started to
run, letting the booty drop. A boatman who was going towards the river,
tripped him up with an oar so that he fell heavily. He lay still where
he had fallen (all the wind was knocked out of him) so that he was
easily secured. The boy who had been seized by the bearded man made no
attempt to get away. He was too firmly held. Both boys were then marched
off to the nearest constable where (after a strict search), they were
locked into a cellar till the morrow. The crowd deserted the bear-ward
when the cry of pickpockets was raised. They followed my mysterious
friend to the constable’s house, hoping, no doubt, that they would be
able to crowd in to hear the constable bully the boys as he searched
them. One or two, who pretended to have missed things, managed to get
in. The bearded man told me to come in, as he said that I should be
needed as a witness. The others were driven out into the street, where,
I suppose, their monkey-minds soon found other game, a horse fallen
down, or a drunken woman in the gutter, to divert their idleness. Such
sights seem to attract a London crowd at once.

The boys were strictly searched by the constable. The booty from their
pockets was turned out upon the table.

“Now, sir,” said the constable to the bearded man, after he had made a
note of my story. “What is it they ‘ad of you, sir?”

“A shagreen leather pocket-book,” said the man. “There it is.”

“This one?” said the constable.

“Yes.”

“Oh,” said the constable, opening the clasps, so that he could examine
the writing on the leaves. “What’s inside?”

“A lot of figures,” said the man. “Sums. Problems in arithmetic.”

“Right,” said the constable, handing over the book.

“Here you are, sir. What name, sir?”

“Edward Jermyn.”

“Edward German,” the constable repeated.

“Where d’ you live, sir?”

“At Mr. Scott’s in Fish Lane.”

“Right, sir,” said the constable, writing down the address, “You must
appear tomorrow at ten before Mr. Garry, the magistrate. You, too, young
master, to give your evidence.”

At this the boys burst out crying, begging us not to appear, using all
those deceptive arts which the London thieves practise from childhood.
I, who was new to the world’s deceits, was touched to the marrow by
their seeming misery. The constable roughly silenced them. “I know you,”
 he said. “I had my eye on you two ever since Christmas. Now you’ll go
abroad to do a bit of honest work, instead of nickin’ pockets. Stow your
blubbering now, or I’ll give you Mogador Jack.” He produced “Mogador
Jack,” a supple shark’s backbone, from behind the door. The tears
stopped on the instant.

After this, the bearded man showed me the way back to Fish Lane, where
Ephraim, who was at the door, looking out for me, gave me a shrewd
scolding, for venturing out without a guide.

Mr. Jermyn silenced him by giving him a shilling. The next day, Mr.
Jermyn took me to the magistrate’s house, where the two thieves were
formally committed for trial. Mr. Jermyn told me that they would
probably be transported for seven years, on conviction at the
Assizes; but that, as they were young, the honest work abroad, in the
plantations, might be the saving of them. “So do not be so sad, Mr.
Martin,” he said. “You do not know how good a thing you did when you
looked out of the window yesterday. Do you know, by the way, how much my
book is worth?”

“No, sir,” I said.

“Well. It’s worth more than the King’s crown,” he said.

“But I thought it was only sums, sir.”

“Yes,” he said, with a strange smile. “But some sums have to do with a
great deal of money. Now I want you to think tonight of something to the
value of twenty pounds or so. I want to give you something as a reward
for your smartness. Don’t decide at once. Think it over. Here we are at
our homes, you see. We live just opposite to each other.”

We were standing at this moment in the narrow lane at my uncle’s door.
As he spoke, he raised his hand in a farewell salute with that dignity
of gesture which was in all his movements. On the instant, to my
surprise, the door of the house opposite opened slowly, till it was
about half open. No one opened it, as I could see; it swung back of
itself. After my friend had stepped across the threshold it swung to
with a click in the same mysterious way. It was as though it had a
knowledge of Mr. Jermyn’s mind, as though the raised hand had had a
magical power over it. When I went indoors to my uncle’s house I was
excited. I felt that I was in the presence of something romantic,
something mysterious. I liked Mr. Jermyn. He had been very kind. But
I kept wondering why he wore a false beard, why his door opened so
mysteriously, why he valued a book of sums above the worth of a King’s
crown. As for his offer of a present, I did not like it, though he had
not given me time to say as much. I remembered how indignant the Oulton
wherrymen had been when a gentleman offered them money for saving his
daughter’s life. I had seen the man robbed, what else could I have done?
I could have done no less than tell him. I resolved that I would refuse
the gift when next I saw him.

At dinner that day, I was full of Mr. Jermyn, much to my uncle’s
annoyance.

“Who is this Mr. Jermyn, Martin?” he asked. “I don’t know him. Is he a
gentleman?”

“Yes, uncle.”

“Do you know him, Ephraim?”

“No, sir. I know him by sight, sir. Gentleman who lives over the way,
Mr. Hyde.”

“That’s Mr. Scott’s, though.”

“No, sir. Mr. Jermyn’s been there ever since February.”

“But the house is empty.”

“The lower floor is furnished, sir.”

“Do you know anything of him? Do you know his man?”

“They say he’s in the fruit way, sir. In the Spanish trade. His men are
Spaniards. They do say he’s not quite to be trusted.”

“Who says this?” my uncle asked.

“I don’t like to mention names, sir,” Ephraim said.

“Quite right. Quite right. But what do they say?”

“Very queer things goes on in that ‘ouse,” said Ephraim. “I don’t ‘ardly
like to say. But they think ‘e raises the devil, sir. Awful noises goes
on there. I seen some things myself there, as I don’t like to talk of.
Well. I saw a black bird as big as a man stand flapping in the window.
Then I seen eyes glaring out at the door. They give the ‘ouse a bad
name, sir; everyone.”

“H’m,” said my uncle. “What’s he like, Martin, this Mr. Jermyn?”

“A tall man, with a beard,” I answered. I thought it wrong to mention
that I knew the beard to be false. “He’s always stroking the bridge of
his nose with his hand.”

“Ha,” my uncle said, as though recognizing the trait. “But with a beard,
you tell me?”

“Yes, sir. With a beard.”

“H’m,” he answered, musing, “I must have a look at this Mr. Jermyn.
Remember, Martin, you’re to have nothing more to do with him, till I
know a little more of what he is. You understand?”

“Yes, uncle.”

“One cannot be too careful in this town. I won’t allow you in the
streets, Martin. No matter who has his pockets picked. I told you that
before.”

“Please, uncle, may I go on the river, then, if I’m not to go into the
street? I’m used to boats.”

“Yes. You may do that. But you’re not to go on board the ships, mind.”

“Beg pardon, sir,” Ephraim put in. “The fall at the Bridge is very
risky, sir.”

“It is?” said my uncle, testily. “Then of course you can’t go in a boat,
Martin. You must play in the garden, or read.”



CHAPTER II. I LEAVE HOME AGAIN

I thought Ephraim a pig for putting in that word about the fall. Though
I had only known Ephraim for a few days I disliked him perhaps as much
as he disliked me. He was angry (I could feel it) at having a boy in the
house, after many years of quiet alone with my uncle. I know that when
he had occasion to speak to me, he always went away muttering about my
being a charity brat who ought to be in the poor-house. Still, like most
servants, he vented most of his malice indirectly, as in this hint of
his about the river. I rose up from the dinner-table full of rebellion.
I would go on the river, I said to myself, fall or no fall. I would see
more of Mr. Jermyn, too. I would find out what went on in that house. I
would find out everything. In all this, of course, I was very wrong,
but having made sure that I was being treated unjustly I felt that I was
only doing right in rebelling. So after waiting till Ephraim was in the
pantry, washing up the dinner-things with the housemaid, I slipped down
the garden to the boat-house. The door was padlocked, as I had feared;
but with an old hammer-head I managed to pry off the staple. I felt like
a burglar when the lock came off in my hand. I felt that I was acting
deceitfully. Then the thought of Ephraim came over me, making me
rebellious to my finger-tips. I would go on the river, I said to myself,
I would go aboard all the ships in the Pool. I would show them all that
I could handle a boat anywhere. So in a moment my good angel was beaten.
I was in the boat-house, prying at the staple of the outer door, like
the young rogue that I was. Well, I paid a heavy price for that day of
disobedience. It was the most dearly bought day’s row I ever heard of.

It took me a few moments to open the outer door. Then, with a thrill of
pleasure, such as only those who love the water can fed, I thrust out
into the river, on to the last of the ebb, then fast ebbing. The fall
under the bridge at that state of the tide was truly terrifying. It
roared so loudly that I could hear nothing else. It boiled about the
bridge piers so fiercely that I was scared to see it. I had seen the sea
in storm; but then one does not put to sea in a storm. This waterfall
tumbled daily, even in a calm. I shuddered to think of small boats,
caught in the current above it, being drawn down, slowly at first, then
with a whirl, till all was whelmed in the tumble below the arches. I saw
how hatefully the back wash seemed to saunter back to the fall along the
banks. I thought that if I was not careful I might be caught in the back
wash, drawn slowly along it by the undertow, till the cataract sank
me. As I watched the fall, fascinated, yet scared by it, there came
a shooting rush, with shouts of triumph. A four-oared wherry with two
passengers shot through the arch over the worst of the water into the
quiet of the midstream. They waved to me, evidently very pleased with
their exploit. That set me wondering whether the water were really as
bad as it looked. My first feat was to back up cautiously almost to the
fall, till my boat was dancing so vigorously that I was spattered all
over. Standing up in the boat there, I could see the oily water, like a
great arched snake’s back, swirl past the arch towards me, bubbleless,
almost without a ripple, till it showed all its teeth at once in
breaking down. The piers of the arches jutted far out below the fall,
like pointed islands. I was about to try to climb on the top of one
from the boat, a piece of madness which would probably have ended in my
death, but some boys in one of the houses on the bridge began to pelt
me with pebbles, so that I had to sheer off. I pulled down among the
shipping, examining every vessel in the Pool. Then I pulled down the
stream, with the ebb, as far as Wapping, where I was much shocked by
the sight of the pirates’ gallows, with seven dead men hung in chains
together there, for taking the ship Delight, so a waterman told me, on
the Guinea Coast, the year before. I left my boat at Wapping Stairs,
while I went into a pastry-cook’s shop to buy cake; for I was now
hungry. The pastry-cook was also a vintner. His tables were pretty well
crowded with men, mostly seafaring men, who were drinking wine together,
talking of politics. I knew nothing whatever about politics, but hearing
the Duke of Monmouth named I pricked up my ears to listen. My father had
told me, in his last illness, when the news of the death of Charles the
Second reached us, that trouble would come to England through this Duke,
because, he said, “he will never agree with King James.” Many people
(the Duke himself being one of them) believed that this James Scott,
Duke of Monmouth, was the son of a very beautiful woman by Charles the
Second, who (so the tale went) had married her in his wanderings abroad,
while Cromwell ruled in England here. I myself shall ever believe this
story. I am quite sure, now, in my own mind, that Monmouth was our
rightful King. I have heard accounts of this marriage of Charles the
Second from people who were with him in his wanderings. When Charles the
Second died (being poisoned, some said, by his brother James, who wished
to seize the throne while Monmouth was abroad, unable to claim his
rights) James succeeded to the crown. At the time of which I write he
had been King for about two months. I did not know anything about his
merits as a King; but hearing the name of Monmouth I felt sure, from the
first, that I should hear more of what my father had told me.

One of the seamen, a sour-looking, pale-faced man, was saying that
Holland was full of talk that the Duke was coming over, to try for the
Kingdom. Another said that it wasn’t the Duke of Monmouth but the Duke
of Argyle that was coming, to try, not for England, but for Scotland. A
third said that all this was talk, for how could a single man, without
twenty friends in the world, get through a cruising fleet? “How could he
do anything, even if he did land?”

“Ah,” said another man. “They say that the West is ready to rally around
him. That’s what they say.”

“Well,” said the first, raising his cup. “Here’s to King James, I say.
England’s had enough of civil troubles.” The other men drank the toast
with applause. It is curious to remember how cautious people were in
those troublous days. One could never be sure of your friend’s true
opinion. It was a time when there were so many spies abroad that
everybody was suspicious of his neighbour. I am sure that a good half
of that company was disloyal; yet they drank that toast, stamping their
feet, as though they would have shed their blood for King James with all
the pleasure in life. “Are you for King James, young waterman?” said one
of the men to me. “Yes,” I said, “I am for the rightful King.” At this
they all laughed. One of the men said that if there were many like me
the Duke of Monmouth might spare himself the trouble of coming over.

I finished my cake quietly, after that. Then, as the tide was not yet
making, to help me back up the river, I wandered into Wapping fields,
where a gang of beggars camped. They were a dirtier, more troublesome
company than the worst of the Oulton gipsies. They crowded round me,
whining about their miseries, with the fawning smiles of professional
beggars. There were children among them who lied about their wants as
glibly as their parents lied. The Oulton beggars had taught me to refuse
such people, as being, nearly always, knaves; so I said that I had
nothing for them. I felt the hands of these thieves lightly feeling the
outsides of my pockets for something worth taking. One of them with
a sudden thrust upon me snatched my handkerchief. He tossed it to a
friend. As he started to run from me, a young man with an evil, weak
face pushed me backwards with a violent shove. I staggered back, from
the push, to fall over a boy who had crouched behind me there, ready to
upset me. When I got up, rather shaken from my fall, the dirty gang
was scattering to its burrow; for they lived, like beasts, in holes
scratched in the ground, thatched over with sacks or old clothes.
I hurried back toward Wapping in the hope of finding a constable to
recover my handkerchief for me. The constable (when I found him) refused
to stir until I made it worth his while. Sixpence was his fee, he said,
but he was sure that a handsome young gentleman like myself would not
grudge a sixpence to recover a handkerchief. On searching for my purse
(in which I had about two shillings) I found that that had gone, too,
“nicked” by these thieves. I told the Constable that my purse had been
stolen.

“Oh,” he said. “How much was in it?” I told him.

“Could you describe the man who took it?”

“No.” I said. “I did not see the man take it.”

“Then how do you know that anybody took it?”

Of course I did not know that anybody had taken it but thought it highly
probable. “That won’t do here,” he said, settling down in his chair to
his tobacco. “I’ll look into it. If I hear of it, why, next time you
come here, you shall have it.”

“But my handkerchief,” I said.

“Sixpence is my fee,” the brute answered. “Do you want to rob a poor man
of his earnings? Why, what a rogue you must be, young master.” I tried
to move him to recover my handkerchief, but without success. At last,
growing weary of the sound of my pipe, as he said, he rounded on me.

“If you don’t run away ‘ome,” he said, “I’ll commit you for a nuisance.
Think I’m goin’ to be bothered by yer. Be off, now.”

At that, I set off down to the river. There I found two dirty little
boys in my uncle’s boat, busy with the dipper, trying to fill her with
water. I boxed the ears of one of them, when the other, coming behind
me, hit me over the head with the stretcher. I turned sharply, giving
him a punch which made his nose bleed. The other, seeing his chance
(my back being turned) promptly soused me with the dipper. I saw that I
would have to settle one of them at a time, so, paying no attention
to the dipper, I followed up my blow on the nose with one or two more,
which drove the stretcher-boy out of the boat. The other was a harder
lad; who would, perhaps, have beaten me, had not a waterman on the
stairs taken my part. He took my enemy by the ear. “Get out of that,” he
said, giving him a kick. “If I catch you messing boats again, I’ll give
you Mogador Jack.” I pushed off from the stairs then, glad to get away
with both oars. My enemies, running along the banks, flung stones at
me as long as I was in range. If I had had my sling with me, would have
warmed their legs for them. When was out of range of their shot, I laid
in my oars, so that I could bail. The boys had poured about six inches
of water into the boat. If the plug had been less tightly hammered in,
they would no doubt have sunk her at her painter by pulling it out. Then
should have been indeed in difficulty. It took me about twenty minutes
to bail the boat clear. As I bailed her, I thought that Londoners must
be the most unpleasant people in the world, since, already, in two days,
I had met so many knaves. It did not occur to me at the time that I was
a young knave, too, to be out in a stolen boat, against orders. I never
once thought how well I had been served for my disobedience.

I had an uncomfortable journey upstream, for I was very wet from my
sousing. I loitered at the Tower to watch the garrison drilling with the
big guns. Then I loitered about among the ships, reading their names, or
even climbing their gangways to look at their decks. I lingered a long
time at the schooner La Reina, partly because she was much the prettiest
ship in the Pool, but partly because I was beginning to dread Ephraim.
I wondered whether Mr. Jermyn was on board of her. I was half tempted to
climb aboard to find out. I clambered partly up her gangway, so that I
could peer over the rail. To my surprise, I found that her hatches were
battened down as in ships ready for the sea. Her cargo of oranges, that
had smelt so sweetly, must have been a blind, for no ship, discharging
cargo the day before, could be loaded, ready for sea, within twenty-four
hours. Indeed, she was in excellent trim. She was not too light to put
to sea. No doubt, I said to myself, she has taken in ballast to equal
the weight of oranges sent ashore. But I knew just enough of ships to
know that there was some mystery in the business. The schooner could not
be the plain fruit-trader for which men took her. As I looked over her
rail, noting this, I said to myself that “here is another mystery with
which Mr. Jermyn has to do.” I felt a thrill of excitement go through
me. I was touching mysterious adventure at half a dozen different
points. I felt inclined to creep to the hatchway of the little cabin, to
listen there if any plots were being hatched. It was getting duskish by
this time, it must have been nearly seven o’clock. Two men came up the
cabin hatch together. One of them was Mr. Jermyn, the other a shorter
fellow, to whom Mr. Jermyn seemed extremely respectful. I wished not to
be seen, so I ducked down nimbly into my boat, drawing her forward by
a guess-warp, till I could row without being heard by them. I heard Mr.
Jermyn calling to a waterman; so very swiftly I paddled behind other
ships in the tier, without being observed. Then I paddled back to my
uncle’s boat-house, the door of which, to my horror, was firmly fastened
against me.



CHAPTER III. I LEAVE HOME A THIRD TIME

I must have made some little noise at the door, trying to get in. At any
rate, Ephraim, who was waiting for such a signal, came forward with a
churlish glee to rate me.

“So you’re come back, Mr. Martin,” he said. “These are nice carryings-on
for a young gentleman.” I thought that I might as well be hanged for a
sheep as for a lamb. Ephraim’s tone jarred me, so I told him to shut up,
as I didn’t want any of his jaw. This rather staggered him, so I told
him further to open the boat-house, instead of standing like a stock,
as I wanted to moor the boat. He opened the door for me, glowering at me
moodily. “Mr. Hyde shall know of this,” he said when all was secured. He
caught me by the arm to drag me out of the boat-house; so I, expecting
this, rapped him shrewdly with the stretcher on the elbow. I thought for
a moment that he would beat me. I could see his face very fierce in the
dusk. I heard his teeth gritting. Then fear of my uncle restrained him.
All that he said was, “If I ‘ad my way I’d ‘ave it out of you for this.
A good sound whippin’s what you want.”

“Is it?” I asked contemptuously. “Lock the door.”

Ephraim left me in the sitting-room while he made his report to my
uncle. It was not a long report. He returned in a few minutes to say
that I was to be locked into my room without supper. “Mr. ‘Ide is in a
fine taking,” he said. “Per’aps ‘e’ll knock some of your pride out
of you.” I made no answer, but let him march me to my room, to the
execution of the sentence. “There,” he said, through the door, as he
turned the key on me. “Per’aps that’ll bring you to your senses.”

“Ephraim the stiff-neck!” I answered loudly; “Old Ephraim Stiff-neck!
Stiff-neck!”

“Ah,” he answered, clumping down the corridor. He was thinking how small
I should sing when, in the morning, he gave me the option of apologizing
to him, or going without breakfast.

It was pretty dark by this time. Fish Lane was as quiet as a country
road. No one was stirring there. I thought that, as my uncle would
shortly go to supper, I might soon venture out by the window, high up
as it was, to buy myself some food in the town. I liked the notion; but
when I came to look down from the window it seemed a giddy height from
the pavement. Going down would be easy; but getting back would be quite
another matter. Thinking it over, I remembered that I had seen a short
gardener’s ladder hooked to the garden wall. If I could make a rope, by
which to let myself down, I could, I thought, make use of this ladder
to get back by, for it would cover nearly half the height to my window
sill, a full thirty feet from the ground. If, by standing on the upper
rungs, could reach within five yards of the window, I knew that I should
be able to scramble up so far by a rope. There was no difficulty about a
rope. I had a good eighteen yards of choice stout rope there in the room
with me, the lashings of my two trunks. I was about to pay this out into
the lane, when I thought that would be far more effective if I fashioned
a ladder for myself, using the two trunk lashings as the uprights. This
was a glorious thought. I tied the lashings together behind the wooden
bed-post which was to be my support in midair. Then I rummaged out a
hank of sailor’s spunyarn, a kind of very strong tarred string, with
which to make my steps, or rungs, did not do this very well, for I was
working in the dark, but you may be sure that I made those steps with
all my strength, since my bones were to depend upon them. I ran short of
spunyarn before I had finished, so my last three steps were made of the
fire-irons. They made a good finish to the whole; for, being heavy, they
kept the ladder steady. At least thought that they would keep the ladder
steady, in the innocence of my heart.

I was so excited, when I finished the tying of the tongs, that I almost
forgot to take some money from the little store which I kept locked up
in my trunk. A shilling would be ample, I thought; but I took rather
more than that, so as to be on the safe side. I took the precaution,
before leaving, of bolting my door from the inside, lest Ephraim should
visit me in my absence.

Then, having tested all my knots, I paid out my ladder from the window.
No one was within sight along the lane. Downstairs they were at supper,
for I heard the dining-room bell ring. Very cautiously I swung myself
over the window ledge on my adventure. Now a rope ladder is an unsteady
thing at the best of times; but when I swung myself on to this one it
jumped about like a wild colt, banging the fire-irons against the wall,
making noise enough to raise the town. I had to climb down it on the
inner side, or I should have had Ephraim out to see what the matter was.
Even so, my heart was in my mouth, with fright, as I stepped on to the
pavement. After making sure that no one saw, I hooked up the lower ends
of my ladder as far as I could reach, so that a passer-by might run less
chance of seeing them. Then I scuttled off to the delights of Eastcheap,
thinking what glorious sport I could have with this ladder in time to
come. I thought of the moonlight adventures on the river, skulking along
in my boat, like a pirate on a night attack. I thought how, perhaps, I
should overhear gangs of highwaymen making their plans, or robbers in
their dens, carousing after a victory. It seemed to me that London might
be a wonderful place, to one with such a means of getting out at night.

I ate a good supper at a cook-shop, sauntered about the streets for
awhile, then sauntered slowly home, after buying a tinder box, with
which to light my candies. I found my ladder dangling unnoticed, so I
nimbly climbed to my room, pulling it up after me, like the savages in
Polynesia. I lit my candles, intending to read; but I found that I was
far too well inclined to mischief to pay much heed to my book. Casting
about for something to do, I thought that I would open a little locked
door which led to some (apparently disused) room beyond my own. I had
some difficulty in breaking the lock of this door; but a naughty boy is
generally very patient. I opened it at last, with some misgivings as to
what my uncle might say on the morrow, though with the feeling that I
was a sort of conspirator, or, shall we say, a man haunting a house,
playing ghost, coming at night to his secret chamber. I was disappointed
with the room. Like my own room, it was nothing more than a long, bare
attic. It had a false floor, like many houses of the time, but there was
no thought of concealment here. Half a dozen of the long flooring planks
were stored in a stack against the wall, so that anyone could see what
lay in the hollow below. There was nothing romantic there. A long array
of docketed, ticketed bundles of receipts filled more than half the
space. I suppose that nearly every bill which my uncle had ever paid lay
there, gathering dust. The rest of the space was filled with Ephraim’s
dirty old account books, jumbled higgledy-piggledy with collections of
printed, unbound sermons, such as used to be sold forty years before, in
the great Puritan time. I examined a few of the sermons, hoping to find
some lighter fare among them. I examined also a few of the old account
books, in the same hope. Other rubbish lay scattered in the corners
of the room; old mouse-eaten saddle-bags mostly. There were one or two
empty baskets, which had once been lined with silk. In one of them, I
can’t think why, there was an old empty, dusty powder-horn, the only
thing in that room at all to my taste. I stuck it into my belt with a
scrap of spunyarn, feeling that it made me a wonderful piratical figure.
If I had had a lantern I should have been a very king there.

As I sat among the rubbish there, with my pistol (a sailmaker’s fid) in
my belt, it occurred to me that I would sit up till everyone had gone
to bed. Then, at eleven or twelve o’clock, I would, I thought, creep
downstairs, to explore all over the house, down even to the cellars. It
shocked me when I remembered that I was locked in. I dared not pick the
lock of that door. My scheme (after all) would have to wait for another
night, when the difficulties would be less. That scheme of mine has
waited until the present time. Though I never thought it, that was the
last hour I was to spend in my uncle’s house. I walked past it, only the
other day, thinking how strange my life has been, feeling sad, too, that
I should never know to what room a door at the end of the upper passage
led. Well, I never shall know, now. I was a wild, disobedient young
rogue. Read on.

When I decided not to pick the lock of my door I thought of the
mysterious Mr. Jermyn as an alternative excitement. I crept to my window
to look out at the house, watching it with a sort of terrified pleasure,
half expecting to see a ghost flapping his wings, outside the window.

I was surprised to see that the window of the upper floor (which I knew
to be uninhabited) was open. I watched it, (it was just opposite) hoping
that something would happen. Presently two men came quickly up the lane
from the river. As they neared the house they seemed to me to shuffle in
their walk rather more than vas necessary. It must have been a signal,
for, as they came opposite the door, I saw it swing back upon its
hinges, as it had swung that morning, with Mr. Jermyn. Both men entered
the house swiftly, just as the city churches, one after the other,
chimed half-past nine o’clock. Almost directly afterwards I got the
start of my life. I was looking into the dark upper room across the
lane, expecting nothing, when suddenly, out of the darkness, so terribly
that I was scared beyond screaming, two large red eyes glowed, over
a mouth that trembled in fire. I started back in my seat, sick with
fright, but I could not take my eyes away. I watched that horrid thing,
with my hair stiffening on my head. Then in the room below it, the
luminous figure of an owl gleamed out. That was not the worst, either. I
heard that savage, “chacking” noise which brown owls make when they are
perched. This great gleaming owl, five times greater than any earthly
owl, was making that chacking noise, as though it would soon spread its
wings, to swoop on some such wretched mouse as myself. I could see its
eyes roll. I thought I saw the feathers stiffen on its breast. Then,
as the sweat rolled down my face, both the horrible things vanished as
suddenly as they had appeared. They were gone for more than a minute,
then they appeared again, only to disappear a second time. They were
exactly alike at each appearance. Soon my horror left me, for I saw that
the things disappeared at regular intervals. I found that I could time
each reappearance by counting ninety slowly from the instant the things
vanished. That calmed me. “I believe they’re only clock-work,” I said to
myself. A moment later I saw Mr. Jermyn’s head in sharp outline against
the brightness of the owl. He seemed to be fixing something with his
hand. It made me burst into a cackle of laughter, to find how easily
I had been scared. “Why, it’s only clock-work,” I said aloud. “They’re
carved turnips with candles inside them, fixed to a revolving pole, like
those we used to play with at Oulton, on the 5th of November.” My fear
was gone in an instant. I thought to myself how fine it would be if I
could get into that house, to stop the works, in revenge for the scare
they had given me. I wondered how I could do that.



CHAPTER IV. I LEAVE HOME FOR THE LAST TIME

I was thoroughly ripe for mischief of any kind; my scare had driven away
all desire for sleep. I looked at the window, wondering if it would be
best to go down my ladder again, to get the ladder in the garden. I
was about to do thus, when I remembered the planks in the box-room. How
splendid it would be, I thought, if I could get a couple of those long
planks across the lane as a sort of bridge. They were strong, thick
planks not likely to sag in the middle if I could only get them across.
Getting them across was the difficulty; for though I was strong for my
age, I found the first plank very contrary. After blowing out my candles
I fixed one end of the board under my heavy four-post bed, pointing the
other end out through the window, slanting upwards. Straddling across
it, I very gingerly edged it out, a hand’s breadth at a time, till I had
some ten feet wagging about in the air over the lane. It was as much as
I could do unaided, to aim the thing. It seemed to have a wild, contrary
kind of life in it. Once or twice I came near to dropping it into the
lane, which would have been the end of everything. When I got it across,
the end caught on the window ledge for about ten perilous minutes.

I was quite tired out before I got it properly across with two feet of
the end in the other house. I did not at all look forward to the job
of getting it back again after my trip. One plank was hardly safe, I
thought; so I slid a second over it, without much trouble. It seemed
firm enough then for anybody, no matter how heavy. So carefully I
straddled across it, hopping forward a little at a time, as though I
were playing leap-frog. When once I had started, I was much too nervous
to go back. My head was strong enough. I was well used to being high up
in trees. But the danger of this adventure made me dizzy. At every hop
the two planks clacked together. I could feel the upper plank shaking
out behind me a little to one side of the other. Then a tired waterman
shambled slowly up from the river, carrying his oars. He passed
underneath me, while I was in mid-air. It was lucky for me, I thought,
that few people when walking look above their own heads. He passed on
without seeing me. I waited up aloft till he had gone, feeling my head
grow dizzier at each second. I was, I trust, truly thankful when I was
able to dive down over the window-sill into the strange house. When I
had rested for a moment, I felt that it was not so difficult after all.
“Going back,” I said to myself, “will be much less ticklish.” Turning
my head, I saw the eyes of the devil-face glaring at me. They smelt very
strongly of kitchen tallow.

I was not in the least frightened. I crept cautiously along the floor,
on tip-toe, to examine the contrivance. A hollow shaft of light wood,
a sort of big wooden pipe, led down through the floor, probably to the
ground-floor or basement, much as a mast goes down through a ship’s
decks into the hold. It was slowly revolving, being worked by some
simple, not very strong mill-contrivance downstairs. A shelf had been
fixed up inside the pipe. On the shelf (as I could see by looking in)
was a tallow candle in a sconce. Two oval bits of red glass, let into
the wood, made the eyes of this lantern-devil. The mouth was a smear of
some gleaming stuff, evidently some chemical. This was all the monster
which had frightened me. The clacking noise was made by the machine
which moved it round. As for the owl, that was probably painted with the
same chemical. People were more superstitious then than now. I have no
doubt that an ignorant person like Ephraim, who had lived all his life
in London, had been scared out of his wits by this machine. Like most
ignorant people, he probably reckoned the thing as devilish, merely
because he did not understand it. One or two neighbours, a housemaid
or so, perhaps, had seen it, too. On the strength of their reports the
house had gotten a bad name. The two unoccupied floors had failed to
get tenants, while Mr. Jermyn, the contriver of the whole, had been left
alone, as no doubt he had planned. I thought that Londoners must be a
very foolish people to be so easily misled. Now that I am older, I see
that Londoners often live in very narrow grooves. They are apt to be
frightened at anything to which they have not been accustomed; unless,
of course, it is a war, when they can scream about themselves so loudly
that they forget that they are screaming.

I examined the machine critically, by its own candle, which I removed
for the purpose. I meant to fix up one very like it in Ephraim’s
bed-room as soon as I found an opportunity. Then I looked about the
room for some other toy, feeling in a fine state of excitement with
the success of my adventure. The room was quite bare. But for this
ghost-machine, there was nothing which could interest me, except a
curious drawing, done with a burnt stick on the plaster of the wall,
of a man-of-war under sail. After examining this drawing, I listened
carefully at the door lest my faint footsteps should have roused someone
below. I could hear no one stirring; the house was silent. “I must be
careful,” I said to myself. “They all may have gone to bed.” Understand,
I did not know then what I was doing. I was merely a wrong-headed boy,
up to a prank, begun in a moment of rebellion. When I paused in the
landing, outside the ghost-room, shading the candle with my hand, I was
not aware that I was doing wrong. I was only thinking how fine it would
be to find out about Mr. Jermyn, before crawling back, over the plank,
to my bed. I wanted to steal about these deserted floors, like a
conspirator; then, having, perhaps, found out about the mystery, to go
back home. It did not enter my head that I might be shot as a burglar.
My original intention, you must remember, had only been to stop the
works of the ghost. It was later on that my intention became criminal,
instead of merely boyish, or, in other words, crack-brained. As to
stopping the ghost, I could not stop the revolving pipe. I could do no
more than take away the light from the ghost-face. As for the owl on the
lower floor, when I came to it, could not do so much, for it was a great
big picture on board, done in some shining paint. I had nothing with
which I could smear it over, nor could I reach the head. As for stopping
the machine, that I dared not attempt to do, lest I should bring someone
up to me, from the works, wherever they were. Standing by the ghost of
the owl, hearing the chack-chack of the machine at intervals below me,
I became aware of voices in the room downstairs. When the chack-chack
stopped, I could hear men talking. I could hear what they said, for they
were talking in the ordinary tone of conversation. There was an open
space as it happened, all around the great pipe, where it passed through
the floor. I could peep through this into the room below, getting a
good sight of what was going on. It was very wicked of me, for there is
nothing quite so contemptible as an eavesdropper, but I could not resist
the temptation to look down. When once I had looked down I am ashamed to
say that I listened to what the men were saying. But first of all, I put
out my candle, lest anyone looking up should see the light through the
open space.

At the head of the table, there was a very handsome man, dressed all in
black, as though in mourning. His beauty was so great that afterwards
it passed into a proverb. Later in the year, when I saw this gentleman
nearly every day, I noticed that people (even those who did not know who
he was) would look after him when he passed them. I will say only this
about his handsomeness. It was a bodily kind of beauty, of colour
rather than of form; there was not much character in it. Had he lived,
I daresay he would have become ugly like the rest of his family, none of
whom, except his great-great-grandmother, was accounted much for looks.

Next to this handsome man, on the right, sat Mr. Jermyn, looking fifteen
years younger without his false beard. Then came a very black-looking
man, with a face all eyebrows. Then a soldier in uniform. Then a little,
wiry man, who jumped about as though excited--I could only see him when
he jumped: he had an unpleasant, saturnine face, which frightened me.
That, as far as I could see, was the whole company. When I first began
to listen, the man in uniform was speaking to the handsome man at the
head of the table. I knew at once, when he said Your Majesty, that he
was talking to James, the Duke of Monmouth, of whom I had heard that
afternoon.

“No, your Majesty,” he said. “No, your Majesty,” he repeated, “I can’t
answer for the army. If things had been different in February” (he
meant, “if you had been in England when Charles II died”) “there would
have been another King in England. As it is, I’m against a rising.”

“Don’t you think his Majesty could succeed by raising an army in the
West?” said Mr. Jermyn. “The present usurper (he meant James II) is a
great coward. The West is ripe to rebel. Any strong demonstration
there would paralyse him. Besides, the army wouldn’t fire on their own
countrymen. We’d enough of that in the Civil War. What do you think of a
Western rising?”

The soldier smiled. “Ah no,” he said. “No, your Majesty. Whatever you
do, Sire, don’t do it with untrained men. A rising in the West would
only put you at the head of a mob. A regiment of steady trained men in
good discipline can destroy any mob in twenty minutes. No, your Majesty.
No. Don’t try. it, Sire.”

“Then what do you advise, Lane?” said the Duke.

“I would say wait, your Majesty. Wait till the usurper, the poisoner,
commits himself with the Papists. When he’s made himself thoroughly
unpopular throughout the country, then sound a few regiments. It’s only
a matter of a year or two. If you’ll wait for a year or two you’ll see
yourself invited over. Besides, a sudden rising in the West must fail,
sir. Your Majesty would be in between two great garrisons, Bristol and
Portsmouth. We can’t be sure that either would be true to us.”

“Yes,” the Duke answered. “Yes, Lane. But as I plan it, the army will
be tempted north. Argyle will make a strong feint in Scotland, with the
great clans, just when the Western gentry declare for us.”

“I take it,” Lane answered, “that Argyle has sounded the clans. He
knows, I suppose, what force of drilled men will rally to him. You know
nothing, sir, about the West. You know that many men are for you; but
you know not how many nor how good. You will need mounted men, sir,
if you are to dash down upon London with any speed. You cannot raise
cavalry in a week. All that you will get in the West will be squireens,
or dashing young farmers, both kinds unaccustomed to being ordered; both
kinds totally unfitted for war.”

“Yes,” said the saturnine little man. “But a rising in the West would
have this natural effect. Argyle will draw troops to the north, as his
Majesty has explained. Very well, then. Let Devon declare for the King,
the business will be done. The usurper will not dare to send the few
troops left to him out of the capital, lest the town should rise on
him.”

“Very true. True. A good point,” said the man with the eyebrows.

“I think that disposes of your argument, Lane,” said the Duke, with a
smile.

“It’s a supposition, sir, against a certainty. I’ve told you of a
military danger. Falk, there, only tells you of a bare, military
possibility.”

“But it’s as certain as anything can be,” said the man with the
eyebrows. “You can see. That’s just what must happen.”

“It is what may happen if you wait for a year or two, your Majesty,”
 Lane replied. “But a newly crowned King is always popular. I doubt if
you will find public opinion so much on your side, your Majesty. No for
a year or two, till he’s made himself disliked. They’ve settled down
now to this usurper. They’ll resent an interruption. The trades-men will
resent an interruption.”

“I think you over-rate the difficulties, Lane,” said Mr. Jermyn.

“Yes,” said the Duke, “I’m a great believer in putting a matter to the
test. Much must necessarily be left to chance. If we wait, we may not
find public opinion turning against our enemies. We may even lose the
good opinion of the West by waiting. Besides, by waiting, Lane, we
should lose the extraordinary: help of Argyle’s diversion in the north.”

“Yes,” the others said in chorus. “We mustn’t lose that. A rising this
early summer, when the roads are good. A rising as soon as Argyle is
ready.”

“Well, your Majesty,” said Lane, shaking his head. “I see you’re
resolved. You shall not find me backward when the time comes, for all my
doubts at this meeting. To your Majesty’s happy success.” They all drank
the toast; but I noticed that Mr. Lane looked melancholy, as though he
foresaw something of what actually happened in that terrible June.

“Very good,” said the Duke, “I thank you, gentlemen. Now, Jermyn. We
two shall have to be off to the Low Countries in another half hour. How
about messengers to the West? You, Lane, are tied here to your regiment.
Falk, how about you, Falk?”

“No, your Majesty,” said Falk. “There’s danger in sending me. I’m
suspected. I’m known to be in your interests.”

“You, then, Candlish,” said the Duke to the man with the eyebrows.

“Not me, Sire,” said Candlish. “I can’t disguise myself. I’m stamped by
nature for the paths of virtue.”

“It would be a good thing,” said Falk, “if we could get some Western
carrier.”

“The Western carriers are all watched,” Lane replied. “They are
followed, wherever they go, as on as they arrive at their inns here.”

“Haven’t you found some more gipsies, Falk?” Candlish asked. “The last
gipsy we had was very good.”

“He was caught by a press-gang,” said Falk, “Gipsies aren’t to be
trusted, though. They would sell us at once if they had the chance.
Ramon was an exception.”

Mr. Jermyn had risen at the Duke’s last speech as though to put on
his coat, ready to leave the house.. The Duke was listening to the
conversation, making ‘idle sketches, as he listened, on the paper before
him, I think I hardly realised, as I craned over the open space, that
I had been listening to a conversation which would have condemned all
present to death for treason. I repeated to myself, in a dazed sort of
way, that the West was ready to rise. “King James is an usurper,” I said
softly. “These men are going to rebel against him. There’s going to be
a civil war in England about it.” I had hardly repeated this to myself,
when it came over me with a shock that I was in terrible personal
danger. The men were just leaving the house. They would probably look
up, on leaving, to see what sort of a night it was. They would see my
wonderful bridge. It would be all over with me then. I was so I could
hardly stand up. I took a few cautious steps towards the door, saying
to myself that I would never again be disobedient if I might escape this
once. I was at the door, just about to open it, when I heard a step upon
the landing just outside, coming towards me. I gave up hope then; but I
had just sense enough to step to my left, so that, when the door should
open (if the stranger entered) it might, possibly, screen me from him.
Then I heard the Duke’s voice from down below calling to Mr. Jermyn.

“Jermyn,” he called. “Bring down my books, will you. They’re on my bed.
What are you doing up there?”

“Just seeing to the ghosts, your Majesty. I won’t keep you waiting.”

“I’ll come, too,” he answered. “I’d like to see your ghosts again.” Then
I heard Mr. Jermyn loitering at the stair-head while the Duke left the
council-room. My hair was rising on my scalp; there was cold sweat on my
forehead; it was as much as I could do to keep my teeth from chattering.
I heard the Duke’s feet upon the stairs; there were eleven stairs,
I counted them. Presently I heard him say, “Now, Jermyn.” Then came
Jermyn’s answer of “This way, your Majesty.” He flung the door wide
open, so that the Duke might enter. The two men passed into the room to
examine the horrible owl. The Duke chuckled as the machine moved round
to him. “How bright he keeps,” he said. “Yes,” Jermyn answered. “He
won’t need painting for a long while yet.” “No,” the Duke answered, “I
hear, Jermyn, he’s given you a most uncanny reputation.” “Yes,” said
Jermyn, “the house has a bad name. What in the world is this?”
 In walking round the owl his foot had struck upon the unlucky tin
candle-sconce which I had brought from the room above. “Sounds like
a tin candle-stick,” said the Duke. “Yes,” said Mr. Jermyn, groping.
“That’s what it is. Now how in the world did it get here? It’s the
candle-stick from the dragon’s head in the room above.” “Are you sure,
Jermyn?” the Duke asked, in a voice which showed that he was agitated.
“Yes, sir. Quite sure. But no one’s been up there.” “There must be
a spy,” said the Duke. The two voices spoke together for a moment in
whispers. I could not hear what they said; but a moment later I heard
the rasping, clinking noise of two swords being drawn. “Come out of
that,” said Mr. Jermyn’s voice. I felt that I was discovered; but I
dared not stir from my covert. I heard the two men walking swiftly to
the door. A hand plucked it from in front of me. I shrank back into the
wall, covering my eyes with my hands, so that I should not see the two
long sword-blades pointing at my throat. “Make no sound. Make no sound,
now,” said the Duke, pressing his sword-point on my chest, so that I
could feel it thrust hard upon me, as though it needed very little force
to send it through. I made no sound.

“Who are you?” said Mr. Jermyn, backing to the opening in the floor.
“Kill him if he moves, sir. Candlish, Candlish. Bring a light. Bring a
light. We’ve caught a moth.”

I tried to swallow, but my throat seemed choked with dust. I heard the
people downstairs bustling out of the room with candles. I tried to
speak; but I could not. I was too much scared. I stood pressed hard
against the wall, with the Duke’s sword-point still in place.

“Bring it in here, Candlish,” said Mr. Jermyn. There came a clattering
noise from the window. Mr. Jermyn had released some heavy rolled up
curtain-blinds, which covered the whole window. There was no chance,
now, of being seen from the street, or from my uncle’s house. Candlish
entered carrying a candle.

The others followed at his heels.

“A boy. Eh?” he said.

“What do you do here?” the Duke asked, staring hard at me.

“He’s frightened out of his wits, sir,” said Lane. “We aren’t going to
hurt you, boy, if you’ll only tell the truth.”

“Why,” said Mr. Jermyn. “It’s Martin Hyde, nephew to old Hyde across the
way.”

“But he’s overheard us,” put in Falk. “He’s overheard us.”

“Come on downstairs. Bring him with you,” said the Duke. Lane took me by
one arm. Mr. Jermyn took me by the other. They marched me downstairs to
the council-room.

“Here, boy,” said Candlish, not unkindly. “Drink this wine.” He made
me swallow a glass of Burgundy, which certainly did me a great deal of
good. I was able to speak after drinking it.

“Now, Mr. Hyde,” said Mr. Jermyn. “How do you come to be in this house?”

“Take your time, boy,” said Lane.

“He’s not a London boy?” said the Duke to Mr. Jermyn.

“No, sir,” he answered in a whisper. “Just come here from the country.”

“Please, your Majesty,” I began.

“So you’re a young rebel,” said the Duke. “That shows he overheard us,”
 said Falk.

“Let him alone, Falk,” the Duke said.

“He’ll tell the truth. No use in frightening him.”

“Please, your Majesty,” I said again, “I was locked up in my room for
taking my uncle’s boat this afternoon.” One of two of them smiled when I
said this: it gave me confidence.

“But how did you get into this house?” Mr. Jermyn asked.

“Please, sir,” I answered, “I saw your upper window open. So I laid a
couple of planks across the lane from my window. Then I just straddled
across, sir.”

“Are you used to burglary, may I ask?” said the Duke.

“No, your Majesty. But I saw the ghosts. I wanted to see how they were
made.”

“Well. That’s one for you, Jermyn,” said Lane. “Your ghosts haven’t
frightened this one.”

“Sir,” I answered. “They frightened me horribly. I wanted to be revenged
for that. But after a bit I was sure they were only clockwork. I wanted
to stop them. I did stop the devil upstairs, sir.”

“So you stopped the devil upstairs,” the Duke said. “What did you do
then?”

“I came down to this room, sir. I looked at the owl. But I couldn’t
see how to stop the owl, sir. I saw you all sitting round the room. I’m
afraid I listened, sir.”

“That was not a gentlemanly thing to do,” said Lane. “Was it now?”

“No, sir.”

“You understood all that was said. Eh, boy?” said Candlish.

“Yes, sir. I understood it all.”

“Well, young man,” said Falk. “You’ll be sorry you did.”

“Be quiet, Falk,” said the Duke. “No one shall bully the boy. What’s
your name, boy?”

“Martin Hyde, sir.”

“A very smart lad too, sir,” said Jermyn. “He saved my book of cipher
correspondence yesterday. We should have been in trouble if that had got
into the wrong hands.”

“You understand,” said the Duke, “that what you have heard might get us
all, perhaps many more besides ourselves, into very terrible danger if
repeated?”

“Yes, your Majesty, I understand,” I answered. “Lock him into the
pantry, Jermyn,” said the Duke, “while we decide what to do with him. Go
with Mr. Jermyn, boy. We sha’n’t hurt you. Don’t be frightened. Give him
some oranges, Jermyn.”



CHAPTER V. I GO TO SEA

Mr. Jermyn led me to the pantry (a little room on the ground floor),
where he placed a plate of oranges before me.

“See how many you can eat,” he said. “But don’t try to burgle yourself
free. This is a strong room.” He locked the heavy door, leaving me alone
with a well-filled pantry, which seemed to be without a window. A little
iron grating near the ceiling served as a ventilator. There was no
chance of getting out through that. The door was plated with iron. The
floor was of concrete. I was a prisoner now in good earnest. I was
no longer frightened; but I had had such scares that night that I had
little stomach for the fruit. I was only anxious to be allowed to go
back to my bed. I heard a dull noise in the upper part of the house,
followed by the falling of a plank. “There goes my bridge,” I thought.
“Are they going to be so mean as to call my uncle out of bed, to show
him what I’ve been doing?” I thought that perhaps they would do this, as
my uncle (for all that I knew) might be in their plot. “Well,” I said to
myself, “I shall get a good thrashing. Perhaps that brute Ephraim will
be told to thrash me. But thrashing or no, I’ve had enough of going out
at night. I’ll ask my uncle not to thrash me, but to put me into the
Navy. I should love that. I know that I shall never get on in London.”
 This sudden plan of the Navy, about which I had never before thought,
seemed to me to be a good way of getting out of my deserts. I felt sure
that my uncle would be charmed to be rid of me; while I knew very well
that boys of that generation often entered the Navy, in the care of
the captains, as naval cadets (or, as they were then called, “captain’s
servants”) at the ages of eight or nine. I wondered why the debate
lasted so long. Naturally, in that gloomy little prison, lit by a single
tallow candle, with all my anxieties heavy on my mind, the time passed
slowly. But they were so long in making up their minds that it seemed
as though they had forgotten me. I began to remember horrible tales of
people shut up in secret rooms until they starved to death, or till the
rats ate them. I remembered the tale of the nun being walled up in a
vault of her convent, brick by brick, till the last brick shut off the
last glimmer of the bricklayer’s lantern, till the last layer of mortar
made for her the last sound she would hear, the patting clink of the
trowel on the brick, before it was all horrible dark silence for ever.
I wondered how many people had been silenced in that way. I wondered how
long I should live, if that was what these men decided.

My fears were ended by the opening of the door. “Come on,” said Mr.
Lane. “This way,” He led me back to the council-room, where all the
conspirators sat at their places by the table. I noticed that Mr. Jermyn
(cloaked now, as for travel) was wearing his false beard again.

“Mr. Hyde,” the Duke said. “I understand that you are well disposed to
my cause.”

“Yes, your Majesty,” I answered; though indeed I only followed what my
father had told me. I had no real knowledge about it, one way or the
other. I knew only what others had told me. Still, in this instance, as
far as I have been able to judge by what I learned long afterwards,
I was right. The Duke had truly a claim to the throne; he was also a
better man than that disgraceful king who took his place.

“Very well, Mr. Hyde,” the Duke answered. “Have you any objections to
entering my service?”

I was not very sure of what he meant; it came rather suddenly upon me,
so I stammered, without replying.

“His Majesty means, would you like to join our party?” said Mr. Lane.
“To be one of us. To serve him abroad.”

I was flushed with pleasure at the thought of going abroad, among a
company of conspirators. I had no knowledge of what the consequences
might be, except that I should escape a sound whipping from my uncle or
from Ephraim. I did not like the thought of living on in London, with
the prospect of entering a merchant’s office at the end of my boyhood.
I thought that in the Duke’s service I should soon become a general, so
that I might return to my uncle, very splendidly dressed, to show him
how well I had managed my own life for myself. I thought that life was
always like that to the adventurous man. Besides I hoped that I should
escape school, the very thought of which I hated. Looking at the matter
in that secret council-room, it seemed so very attractive. It seemed to
give me a pathway of escape, whichever way I looked at it, from all that
I most disliked.

“Yes, your Majesty,” I said, “I should very much like to enter your
service.”

“You understand, Hyde,” said Mr. Jermyn, “that we are engaged in a very
dangerous work. It is so dangerous that we should not be justified in
allowing you to go free after what you have heard tonight. But its very
danger makes it necessary that we should tell you something of what your
work under his Majesty will be, before you decide finally to throw in
your lot with us. It is one thing to be a prisoner among us, Hyde;
but quite another to be what is called a rebel, engaged in treasonable
practices against a ruling King.”

“Still,” said Lane, “don’t think that your imprisonment with us would be
unpleasant. If you would rather not join us, you have only to say so.
We shall then send you over to Holland, where you will, no doubt,
find plenty of boats with which to amuse yourself. You will be kept in
Holland till a certain much-wished event takes place, about the middle
of June. After that you will be brought back here to your uncle who, by
that time, will have forgiven you.”

“That’s a very pretty ladder you made,” said the Duke. “You’ve evidently
lived among sailors.”

“Among fishermen mostly, your Majesty,” I said “My father was rector in
the Broads country.” I knew from his remark that someone had been across
to my uncle’s house to remove all traces of my bridge. My ladder, I
knew, would now be dangling from my window, to show by which way I had
escaped.

“We want you, Hyde,” Mr. Jermyn said. “That is--we shall want you in
the event of your joining us, to be our messenger to the West. You will
travel continually from Holland to the West of England, generally to the
country near Taunton, but sometimes to Exeter, sometimes still further
to the West. You will carry letters sewn into the flap of your leather
travelling satchel. You will travel alone by your own name, giving out,
in case any one should ask you, that you are going to one of certain
people, whose names will be given to you. There will be no danger to
yourself; for the persons to whom you will be sent are not suspected;
indeed one of them is a clergyman. We think that a boy will have less
difficulty in getting about the country in its present state than any
man, provided, of course, that you travel by different routes on each
journey. If, however, by some extraordinary chance, you should be caught
with these letters in your wallet, we shall take steps to bring you off;
for we have a good deal of power, in one way or another, by which we
get things done. Still, it may well fall out, Hyde, in spite of all
our care, that you will come into the hands of men with whom we have no
influence. If you should, (remember, it is quite possible) you will be
transported to serve in one of the Virginian or West Indian plantations.
That will be the end of you as far as we are concerned. We shan’t
be able to help you then. If you think the cause is right, join us,
provided that you do not think the risks too great.”

“If all goes well,” said the Duke, “if the summer should prove
prosperous, I may be able to reward a faithful servant, even if he is
only a boy.”

“I will serve your Majesty gladly,” I answered. “I should like to join
your service.”

“Very well then, Jermyn,” he said, rising swiftly on his way to the
door; “bring him on board at once.”

“We’re off to Holland tonight, in the schooner there,” said Mr. Jermyn.
“So put these biscuits in your pocket. Give him another glass of wine,
Falk. Now, then. Good-bye, Lane. Good-bye everybody.”

“Good-bye,” they said. “Good-bye, boy.” In another minute we were in
the narrow road, within earshot of the tumbling water, going down to the
stairs at the lane end, to take boat. The last that I saw of my uncle’s
house was the white of my ladder ropes, swinging about against the
darkness of the bricks.

“Remember, Hyde,” said Mr. Jermyn in a low voice, “that his Majesty is
always plain Mr. Scott. Remember that. Remember, too, that you are never
to speak to him unless he speaks to you. But you won’t have much to do
with him. Were you ever at sea, before?”

“No, sir. Only about the Broads in a coracle.”

“You’ll find it very interesting, then. If you’re not seasick. Here we
are at the boat. Now, jump in. Get into the bows.”

“Mr. Scott” was already snug under a boat-cloak in the sternsheets. As
soon as we had stepped in, the boatman shoved off. The boat rippled the
water into a gleaming track as she gathered way. We were off. I was on
my way to Holland. I was a conspirator, travelling with a King. There
ahead of me was the fine hull of the schooner La Reina, waiting to carry
us to all sorts of adventure, none of them (as I planned them then) so
strange, or so terrible, as those which happened to me. As we drew up
alongside her, I heard the clack-clack of the sailors heaving at the
windlass. They were getting up the anchor, so that we might sail from
this horrible city to all the wonderful romance which awaited me, as I
thought, beyond, in the great world. Five minutes after I had stepped
upon her deck we were gliding down on the ebb, bound for Holland.

“Hyde,” said Mr. Jermyn, as we drew past the battery on the Tower
platform, “do you see the high ground, beyond the towers there?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

“Do you know what that is?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s Tower Hill,” he answered, “where traitors, I mean conspirators
like you or me, are beheaded. Do you know what that means?”

“Yes, sir,” I replied. “To have your head cut off.”

“Yes,” he said. “With all that hill black with people. The scaffold hung
with black making a sort of platform in the middle. Then soldiers, with
drums, all round. You put your head over a block, so that your neck
rests on the wood. Then the executioner comes at you with an axe. Then
your head is shown to the people. ‘This is the head of a traitor.’ We
may all end in that way, on that little hill there. You must be very
careful how you carry the letters, Hyde.”

After this hint, he showed me a hammock in the schooner’s ‘tweendecks,
telling me that I should soon be accustomed to that kind of bed. “It is
a little awkward at first,” he said, “especially the getting in part;
but, when once snugly in, it is the most comfortable kind of bed in the
world.” After undressing by the light of a huge ship’s lantern, which
Mr. Jermyn called a battle-lantern, I turned into my hammock, rather
glad to be alone. Now that I was pledged to this conspiracy business,
with some knowledge of what it might lead to, I half wished myself well
out of it. The ‘tweendecks was much less comfortable than the bedroom
which I had left so gaily such a very little time before. I had
exchanged a good prison for a bad one. The smell of oranges, so near to
the hold in which they were stored, was overpowering, mixed, as it was,
with the horrible ship-smell of decaying water (known as bilge-water)
which flopped about at each roll a few feet below me. My hammock was
slung in a draught from the main hatchway. People came down the hatchway
during the night to fetch coils of rope or tackles. Tired as I was, I
slept very badly that first night on board ship. The schooner seemed to
be full of queer, unrelated movements. The noise of the water slipping
past was like somebody talking. The striking of the bells kept me from
sleeping. I did not get to sleep till well into the middle watch (about
two in the morning) after which I slept brokenly until a rough voice
bawled in my ear to get up out of that, as it was time to wash down.

I put my clothes on hurriedly, wondering where I should find a basin
in which to wash myself. I could see none in the ‘tweendecks; but I
supposed that there would be some in the cabins, which opened off the
‘tweendecks on each side. Now a ‘tweendecks (I may as well tell you
here) is nothing more than a deck of a ship below the upper deck. If
some of my readers have never been in a ship, let them try to imagine
themselves descending from the upper deck--where all the masts stand--by
a ladder fixed in a square opening known as a hatchway. About six feet
down this ladder is the ‘tweendecks, a long narrow room, with a ceiling
so low that unless you bend, you bump your head against the beams.

If you will imagine a long narrow room, only six feet high, you will
know what a ‘tweendecks is like. Only in a real ‘tween-decks it is
always rather dark, for the windows (if you care to call them so) are
thick glass bull’s-eyes which let in very little light. A glare of light
comes down the hatchways. Away from the hatchways a few battle-lanterns
are hung, to keep up some pretence of light in the darkest corners. At
one end of this long narrow room in La Reina a wooden partition, running
right across from side to side, made a biggish chamber called “the
cabin,” where the officers took their meals. A little further along the
room, one on each side of it, were two tiny partitioned cabins, about
seven feet square, in which the officers slept, two in each cabin one
above the other, in shelf-beds, or bunks. My hammock had been slung
between these cabins, a little forward of them. When I turned out, I
saw that the rest of the ‘tweendecks was piled with stores of all kinds,
lashed down firmly to ringbolts. Right forward, in the darkness of the
ship’s bows, I saw other hammocks where the sailors slept.

I was wondering what I was to do about washing, when the rough man who
had called me a few minutes before came down to ask me why I was not up
on deck. I said that I was wondering where I could wash myself.

“Wash yourself,” he said. “You haven’t made yourself dirty yet. You
don’t wash at sea till your work’s done for the day. Why, haven’t you
lashed your hammock yet?”

“Please, sir,” I said, “I don’t know how.”

“Well, for once,” he said, “I’ll show you how. Tomorrow you’ll do it for
yourself.”

“There,” he said, when he had lashed up the hammock, by what seemed to
me to be art-magic, “don’t you say you don’t know how to lash a ‘ammick.
I’ve showed you once. Now shove it in the rack there. Up on deck with
you.”

I ran up the ladder to the deck, thinking that this was not at all the
kind of service which I had expected. When I got to the deck I felt
happier; for it was a lovely bright morning. The schooner was under all
sail, tearing along at what seemed to me to be great speed. We were
out at sea now. England lay behind us, some miles away. I could see the
windows gleaming in a little town on the shore. Ships were in sight,
with rollers of foam whitening under them. Gulls dipped after fish. The
clouds drove past. A fishing boat piled with fish was labouring up to
London, her sails dark with spray. On the deck of the schooner some
barefooted sailors were filling the wash-deck tubs at a hand-pump. One
man was at work high aloft on the topsail yard, sitting across the yard
with his legs dangling down, keeping his seat (as I thought) by balance.
I found the scene so delightful that I gazed at it like a boy in a
trance, was still staring, when the surly boor who had called me (he was
the schooner’s mate it seemed) came up behind me.

“Well,” he said, in the rough, bullying speech of a sailor, “do ye see
it?”

“See what, sir?”

“What you’re looking at.”

“Yes, sir,” I answered.

“Then you got no butter in your eyes, then. Why ain’t you at work?”

“What am I to do, sir?”

“Do,” he said. “Ain’t you Mr. Scott’s servant?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then get a bucket of fresh water out of the cask there. Take this
scrubber. You’ll find some soap in the locker there. Now scrub out the
cabin as quick as you know how.”

He showed me down to the cabin. It was a dingy, dirty little room about
twelve feet square over all, but made, in reality, much smaller by the
lockers which ran along each side.

It was lighted by two large wooden ports, known as “chase ports,”
 through which the chase guns or “stern-chasers pointed. Only one gun (a
long three pounder on a swivel) was mounted; for guns take up a lot of
room. With two guns in that little cabin there would not have been room
enough to swing a cat. You need six feet for the proper swinging of a
cat, so a man-of-war boatswain told me. The cat meant is the cat of nine
tails with which they used to flog seamen. To flog properly one needs a
good swing, so my friend said.

“There you are,” said the mate of the schooner. “Now down on your knees.
Scrub the floor here. See you get it mucho blanco.”

He left me feeling much ashamed at having to work like a common ship’s
boy, instead of like a prince’s page, which is what I had thought
myself. Like many middle-class English boys I had been brought up to
look on manual work as degrading. I was filled with shame at having
to scrub this dirty deck. I, who, only yesterday, had lorded it over
Ephraim, as though I were a superior being. You boys who go to good
schools try to learn a little humbleness. You may think your parents
very fine gentlefolk; but in the world, outside a narrow class, the
having gentle parents will not help one much. It may be that you, for
all your birth, have neither the instincts nor the intellect to preserve
the gentility your parents made for you. You are no gentleman till
you have proved it. Your right level may be the level of the betting
publican, or of the sneak-thief, or of things even lower than these. It
is nothing to be proud of that your parents are rich enough to keep your
hands clean of joyless, killing toil, at an age when many better men
are old in slavery. Try to be thankful for it; not proud. Leisure is
the most sacred thing life has. A wise man would give his left hand for
leisure. You that have it given to you by the mercy of gentle birth,
regard it as a trust; make noble use of it. Many great men waste half
their energies in the struggle for that which you regard, poor fools, as
your right, as something to brag of.

I had never scrubbed a floor in my life; but I had seen it done, without
taking much account of the art in it. I set to work, feeling more
degraded each moment, as the hardness of the deck began to make my knees
sore. When I had done about half of the cabin (in a lazy, neglectful
way, leaving patches unscrubbed, only just wetted over, so as to seem
clean to a chance observer) I thought that I would do no more; but wait
till Mr. Jermyn came to me. I would tell him that I wished to go home,
that I was not going to be a common sailor, but a trusted messenger,
with a lot more to the same tune, meaning, really, that I hated this job
of washing decks like poison. I dare say, if the truth were known, the
sudden change in my fortunes had made me a little homesick. But even so,
I was skulking work which had been given to me. What was worse, I was
being dishonest. For I was pretending to do the work, even when I took
least trouble with it. At last I took it into my head to wet the whole
floor with water, meaning to do no more to it. While I was doing this
the mate came into the cabin.

“Look here,” he said. “I’ve been watching you. You ain’t working. You’re
skulking. You ain’t trying to wash that deck. You’re making believe,
thinking I won’t know any different. Don’t answer me. I know what you’re
doing. Now then. You go over every bit of that deck which you’ve just
slopped at. Do it over. I’m going to stand here till it’s done.”

It was in my mind to be rebellious; but this man did not look like a
good man to rebel from. He was a big grim sailor with a length of rope
in his hand. He called it his “manrope.” “You see my manrope,” he said.
“His name’s Mogador Jack. He likes little skulks like you.” Afterwards
I learned that a manrope is the rope rail at a ship’s gangway, or
(sometimes) a length of rope in the gangway-side for boatmen to catch as
they came alongside the ship. I did not like the look of Mogador Jack,
so I went at my scrubbing with all my strength, keeping my thoughts
to myself. My knees felt very sore. My back ached with the continual
bending down. I had had no food that morning, either, that was another
thing. “Spell, oh,” said the man at last. “Straighten your back a bit.
Empty your bucket over the side. No. Not through the sternport. Carry
in on deck. Empty it there. Then fill it again. Lively, too. It’ll be
breakfast time before you’ve done. You’ve got to have this cabin ready
by eight bells.”

I will not tell you how I finished the deck. I will say only this, that
at the end I began to take a sort of pride or pleasure in making the
planks white. Afterwards, I always found that there is this pleasure in
manual work. There is always pleasure of a sort in doing anything
that is not very easy. “There,” the mate said. “Now lay the table for
breakfast. You’ll find the things in them lockers. Lay for three places.
Don’t break the ship’s crockery while you’re doing it.”



CHAPTER VI. THE SEA! THE SEA!

He left me, then, as he had to watch the men on deck. I felt, when he
went on deck, that the morning had been a nightmare; but now I was to be
flunkey well as slave, a new humiliation. I did not think how many times
I had humiliated others by letting them do such things for me. I had
done so all my life without a thought. Now, forsooth, I was at the point
of tears at having to do it for others, even though one of the others
was my rightful King. Grubbing about among the lockers, I found a canvas
table-cloth, which had once been part of a sail. I spread this cloth
with the breakfast gear, imitating the arrangements made at home at
Oulton. The mate came down some minutes after I had finished. He caught
me sitting down on the top of the lockers, looking out at the ships
through the open port.

“Here,” he said roughly. “You’ve got to learn manners, or I’ll have to
teach you. Remember this once for all, my son. No one sits in the cabin
except a captain or a passenger. You’ll take your cap off to the cabin
door before I’ve done with you. Nor you don’t sit down till your work’s
done. That’s another thing. Why ain’t you at work?”

“Please, sir,” I said, “I’ve laid the table. What else am I to do?”

“Do,” he said. “Give the windows a rub. Then clean your hands, ready to
wait at table. No. Hold on. Have you called Mr. Scott yet?”

“No, sir. I didn’t know I had to.”

“My,” he answered. “Have you any sense at all? Go call them. No. Get
their hot water first at the galley.”

I suppose I stared at him; for I did not know that this would be a
duty of mine. “Here. Don’t look at me like that,” he said. “You make
me forget myself.” He went to the locker, in which he rummaged till he
produced a big copper kettle. “Here’s the hot water can,” he said. “Nip
with it to the galley, before the cook puts his fire out. On deck, boy.
Don’t you know where the galley is?”

I did not know where the galley was in this particular ship. I thought
that it would probably be below decks, round a space of brick floor to
prevent fire. But as the mate said “on deck” I ran on deck at once. I
ran on deck, up the hatch, so vigorously, that I charged into a seaman
who was carrying a can of slush, or melted salt fat used in the greasing
of ropes. I butted into him, spattering the slush all over him, besides
making a filthy mess of grease on the deck, then newly cleansed. The
seaman, who was the boatswain or second mate, boxed my ears with a
couple of cuffs which made my head sing. “You young hound,” he said,
“Cubbadar when your chief passes.” I went forward to the galley, crying
as if my heart would break, not only at the pain of the blows, which
stung me horribly, but at the misery of my life in this new service,
that had seemed so grand only seven or eight hours before. At the galley
door was the cook, a morose little Londoner with earrings in his ears.
“Miaow, Miaow,” he said, pretending to mimic my sobs. “Why haven’t you
come for this ‘ot water before? ‘Ere ‘ave I been keepin’ my fire lit
while you been enjoyin’ a stuffin’ loaf down in that there cabin.” I was
too miserable to answer him. I just held out my kettle, thinking that
he would fill it for me. “Wot are you ‘oldin’ out the kettle for?”
 he asked. “Think I’m goin’ to do yer dirty work? Fill it at the ‘ob
yourself.” I filled it as he bade me, choking down my tears. When I had
filled it, I hurried back to the ‘tweendecks, hoping to hide my misery
down in the semi-darkness there. I did not pass the second mate on my
way back; but I passed some of the seamen, to whom a boy in tears was
fair game. One asked me what I meant by coming aft all salt, like a head
sea, making the deck wet after he’d squeegeed it down. Another told me
to wait till the second mate caught me. “I’d be sorry then,” he said,
“that ever I spilt the slush;” with other sea-jests, all of them pretty
brutal. It is said that if a strange rook comes to a rookery the other
rooks peck it to death, or at any rate drive it away. I know not if this
be true of rooks (I know that sparrows will attack owls or canaries,
whenever they have a chance), but it is true enough of human beings. We
all hate the new-comer, we are all suspicious of him, as of a possible
enemy. The seamen did to me what school-boys do to the new boy. I did
not know then that there is no mercy for one sensitive enough to take
such “jests” to heart. At sea, the rough, ready tom-fool boy is the
boy to thrive. Such an one might have spilt all the slush in the ship,
without getting so much as a cuff. I was a merry boy enough, but I was
sad when I made my first appearance. The sailors saw me crying. If I
had only had the wit to dodge the bosun’s blows, the matter of the slush
would have been turned off with a laugh, since he only struck me in the
irritation of the moment. He would have enjoyed chasing me round the
deck. If I had only come up merrily that is what would have happened. As
it was I came up sad, with the result that I got my ears boxed, which,
of course, made me too wretched to put the cook in a good temper; a
cause of much woe to me later. The seamen who saw me crying at once put
me down as a cry-baby, which I really was not; so that, for the rest of
my time in the ship I was cruelly misjudged. I hope that my readers will
remember how little a thing may make a great difference in a person’s
life. I hope that they will also remember how easy it is to misjudge
a person. It will be well for them if, as I trust, they may never
experience how terrible it feels to be misjudged.

After I had called the two gentlemen, I gave the glass bull’s-eyes in
the swing ports a rub with a cloth. I was at work in this way when the
two gentlemen entered. Mr. Jermyn smiled to see me with my coat off,
rubbing at the glass. He also wished me good morning, which Mr. Scott
failed to do. Mr. Scott took no notice of me one way or the other;
but sat down at the locker, asking when breakfast would be ready. “Get
breakfast, boy,” Mr. Jermyn said. At that I put my glass-rag into the
locker. I hurried off to the galley to bring the breakfast, not knowing
rightly whether it would be there or in another place. The cook, surly
brute, made a lot of offensive remarks to me, to which I made no answer.
He was glad to have someone to bully, for he had the common man’s love
of power, with all his hatred of anything more polished than himself.
I took the breakfast aft to the cabin, where, by this time, the ship’s
captain was seated. I placed the dish before Mr. Jermyn.

“Why haven’t you washed your hands, boy?” he asked, looking at my hands.

“Please, sir, I haven’t had time.”

“Wash them now, then. Don’t come to wait at table with hands like that
again. I didn’t think you were a dirty boy.”

I was not a dirty boy; but, having been at work since before six that
morning, I had had no chance of washing myself. I could not answer;
but the injustice of Mr. Jermyn’s words gave me some of the most bitter
misery which I have known. For brutal, thoughtless injustice, it is
difficult to beat the merchant ship. I stole away to wash myself, very
glad of the chance to get away from the cabin. When I was ready, it was
time to clear the breakfast things to the galley, to wash them with the
cook. Luckily, I had overheard Mr. Jermyn say “how well this cook can
devil kidneys.” I repeated this to the cook, who was pleased to hear it.
It made him rather more kind in his manner to me. He did not know who
Mr. Scott really was. He asked me a lot of questions about what I knew
of Mr. Scott. I replied that I’d heard that he was a Spanish merchant, a
friend of Mr. Jermyn’s. As for Mr. Jermyn, he knew’ an uncle of mine. I
had helped him to recover his pocket-book; that was all that I knew of
him; that was why he had given me my present post as servant. More I
dared not say; for I remembered the Duke’s sharp sword on my chest. We
talked thus, as we washed the dishes; the cook in a sweeter mood (having
had his morning dram of brandy); I, myself, trying hard to win him to a
good opinion of me. I asked him if I might clean his copper for him;
it was in a sad state of dirt. “You’ll have work enough ‘ere, boy,” he
said, tartly, “without you running round for more. You mind your own
business.” After this little snap at my head (no thought of thanks
occurred to him) he prepared breakfast for us, out of the remains of the
cabin breakfast. I was much cheered by the prospect of food, for nearly
three hours of hard work had given me an appetite. At a word from the
cook, I brought out two little stools from under the bunk. Then I placed
the “bread-barge,” or wooden bowl of ship’s biscuits, ready for our
meal, beside our two plates.

Breakfast was just about to begin, when my enemy, the boatswain,
appeared at the galley door. “Here, cook,” he said, “where’s that
limb of a boy? Oh, you’re there, are you? Feeding your face. Get a
three-cornered scraper right now. You’ll scrape up that slush you
spilled, before you eat so much as a reefer’s nut.” I had to go on deck
again for another hour, while I scraped up the slush, which was, surely,
spilled as much by himself as by me, since he was not looking where he
was going any more than I was. I got no breakfast. For after the grease
was cleaned I was sent to black the gentlemen’s boots; then to make up
their beds; then to scrub their cabin clean. After all this, being faint
with hunger, I took a ship’s biscuit from the locker in the cabin to eat
as I worked. I did not know it; but this biscuit was what is known as
“captain’s bread,” a whiter (but less pleasant) kind of ship’s biscuit,
baked for officers. As I was eating it (I was polishing the cabin
door-knobs at the time) the captain came down for a dram of brandy. He
saw what I was eating. At once he read me a lecture, calling me a greedy
young thief. Let me not eat another cabin biscuit, he said, or he’d do
to me what they always did to thieves:--drag them under the ship from
one side to another, so that the barnacles would cut them (as he said)
into Spanish sennet-work. When I answered him, he lost his temper, in
sailor fashion, saying that if I said another word he’d make me sick
that ever I learned to speak.

I will not go into the details of the rest of that first day’s misery.
I was kept hard at work for the whole time of daylight, often at work
beyond my strength, always at work quite strange to me. Nobody in the
ship, except perhaps the mate, troubled to show me how to do these
strange tasks; but all swore at me for not doing them rightly. What
I felt most keenly was the injustice of their verdicts upon me. I was
being condemned by them as a dirty, snivelling, lying, thieving young
hound. They took a savage pleasure in telling me how I should come to
dance on air at Cuckold’s Haven, or, in other words, to the gallows, if
I went on as I had begun. Whereas (but for my dishonest moment in the
morning) I had worked like a slave since dawn under every possible
disadvantage which hasty men could place in my way. After serving the
cabin supper that night I was free to go to my hammock. There was not
much to be glad for, except the rest after so much work. I went with
a glad heart, for I was tired out. The wind had drawn to the east,
freshening as it came ahead, so that there was no chance of our reaching
our destination for some days. I had the prospect of similar daily
slavery in the schooner at least till our arrival. My nights would be my
only pleasant hours till then. The noise of the waves breaking on board
the schooner kept me awake during the night, tired as I was. It is a
dreadful noise, when heard for the first time. I did not then know what
a mass of water can come aboard a ship without doing much harm. So, when
the head of a wave, rushing across the deck, came with a swish down the
hatch to wash the ‘tweendecks I started up in my hammock, pretty well
startled. I soon learned that all was well, for I heard the sailors
laughing in their rough, swearing fashion as they piled a tarpaulin over
the open hatch-mouth. A moment later, eight bells were struck. Some of
the sailors having finished their watch, came down into the ‘tweendecks
to rest. Two of them stepped very quietly to the chest below my
hammock, where they sat down to play cards, by the light of the nearest
battle-lantern. If they had made a noise I should probably have fallen
asleep again in a few minutes; for what would one rough noise have been
among all the noise on deck? But they kept very quiet, talking in
low voices as they called the cards, rapping gently on the chest-lid,
opening the lantern gently to get lights for their pipes. Their
quietness was like the stealthy approach of an enemy, it kept a restless
man awake, just as the snapping of twigs in a forest will keep an Indian
awake, while he will sleep soundly when trees are falling. I kept awake,
too, in spite of myself (or half awake), wishing that the men would go,
but fearing to speak to them. At last, fearing that I should never get
to sleep at all, I looked over the edge of the hammock intending to
ask them to go. I saw then that one of them was my enemy the boatswain,
while the other was the ship’s carpenter, who had eaten supper in the
galley with me, at the cook’s invitation. As these were, in a sense,
officers, I dared not open my mouth to them, so I lay down again, hoping
that either they would go soon, or that they would let me get to sleep
before the morning. As I lay there, I overheard their talk. I could not
help it. I could hear every word spoken by them. I did not want their
talk, goodness knows, but as I could not help it, I listened.

“Heigho,” said the boatswain, yawning. “I sha’n’t have much to spend on
Hollands when I get there. Them rubbers at bowls in London have pretty
near cleaned my purse out.”

“Ah, come off,” said the carpenter. “You can always get rid of a coil of
rope to someone, on the sly, you boatswains can. A coil of rope comes to
a few guilders. Eh, mynheer?”

“I sold too many coils off this hooker,” said the boatswain. “I run the
ship short.”

“Who sleeps in the hammock there?” the carpenter asked.

“The loblolly boy for the cabin,” the boatswain answered. “Young clumsy
hound. I clumped his fat chops for him this morning.”

“Mr. Jermyn’s boy?” said the carpenter, sinking his voice. “There’s
something queer about that Mr. Jermyn. ‘E wears a false beard. That Mr.
Scott isn’t all what he pretends neither.”

“I don’t see how that can be,” the boatswain said, “I wish I’d a drink
of something. I’m as dry as foul block.”

“There’d be more’n a dram to us two, if Mr. Scott was what I think,”
 said the carpenter. “I’m going to keep my eye on that gang.”

“Keep your eye on the moon,” said the boatswain.

“I tell you what’d raise drinks pretty quick.”

“What would?”

“That loblolly boy would.”

“Eh?” said the carpenter. “Go easy, Joe. He may be awake.”

“Not he,” said the boatswain, carelessly glancing into my hammock, where
I lay like all the Seven Sleepers condensed. “Not he. Snoring young
hound. Do him good to raise drinks for the crowd.”

“Eh,” said the carpenter, a quieter, more cautious scoundrel than the
other (therefore much more dangerous). “How would a boy like that?” He
left his sentence unfinished.

“Sell him to one of these Dutch East India merchants,” said the
boatswain. “There’s always one or two of them in the Canal, bound for
Java. A likely young lad like that would fetch twenty pounds from a
Dutch skipper. A white boy would sell for forty in the East. Even if we
only got ten, there’d be pretty drinking while it lasted.”

This evidently made an impression on the carpenter, for he did not
answer at once. “Yes,” he said presently. “But a lad like that’s got
good friends. He don’t talk like you or I, Joe.”

“Friends in your eye,” said the other. “What’s a lad with good friends
doing as loblolly boy?”

“Run away,” the carpenter said. “Besides, Mr. Jermyn isn’t likely to let
the lad loose in Haarlem.”

“He might. We could keep a watch,” the boatswain answered. “If he goes
ashore, we could tip off Longshore Jack to keep an eye on him. Jack gets
good chances, working the town.”

“Yes,” said the other. “I mean to put Longshore Jack on to this Mr.
Jermyn. If I aren’t foul of the buoy there’s money in Mr. Jermyn. More
than in East Indian slaves.”

“Oh,” the boatswain answered, carelessly, “I don’t bother about my
betters, myself. What d’ye think to get from Mr. Jermyn?”

The carpenter made no answer; but lighted his pipe at the lantern,
evidently turning over some scheme in his mind. After that, the talk
ran on other topics, some of which I could not understand. It was mostly
about the Gold Coast, about a place called Whydah, where there was
good trading for negroes, so the boatswain said. He had been there in
a Bristol brig, under Captain Travers, collecting trade, i.e. negro
slaves. At Whydah they had made King Jellybags so drunk with “Samboe”
 (whatever Samboe was) that they had carried him off to sea, with his
whole court. “The blacks was mad after,” he said, “the next ship’s crew
that put in there was all set on the beach. I seed their bones after.
All picked clean. But old King Jellybags fetched thirty pound in Port
Royal, duty free.” He seemed to think that this story was something
laugh at.

I strained my ears to hear more of what they said. I could catch nothing
more relating to myself. Nothing more was said about me. They told each
other stories about the African shore, where the schooners anchored in
the creeks, among the swamp-smells, in search of slaves or gold dust.
They told tales of Tortuga, where the pirates lived together in a town,
whenever they were at home after a cruise. “Rum is cheaper than water
there,” the bo’sun said. “A sloop comes off once a month with stores
from Port Royal. Its happy days, being in Tortuga.” Presently the two
men crept aft to the empty cabin to steal the captain’s brandy. Soon
afterwards they passed forward to their hammocks.

When they had gone, I lay awake, wondering I was to avoid this terrible
danger of being sold to the Dutch East India merchants. I wondered
who Longshore Jack might be. I feared that the carpenter suspected our
party. I kept repeating his words, “There’s money in Mr. Jermyn,” till
at last, through sheer weariness, I fell asleep. In the morning, as
cleared away breakfast, from the cabin-table, I told Mr. Jermyn all
that I had heard. The Duke seemed agitated. He kept referring to an
astronomical book which told him how his ruling planets stood. “Yes,”
 he kept saying, “I’ve no very favourable stars till July. I don’t like
this, Jermyn.” Mr. Jermyn smoked a pipe of tobacco (a practise rare
among gentlemen at that time) while he thought of what could be done. At
last he spoke.

“I know what we’ll do, sir. We’ll sell this man as carpenter to the
Dutch East India man. We’ll give the two of them a sleeping draught in
their drink. We’ll get rid of them both together.”

“It sounds very cruel,” said the Duke.

“Yes,” said Mr. Jermyn, “it is cruel. But who knows what the sly man
may not pick up? We’re playing akes, we two. We’ve got many enemies. One
word of what this man suspects may bring a whole pack of spies upon us.
Besides, if the spies get hold of this boy we shall have some trouble.”

“The boy’s done very well,” said the Duke.

“He’s got a talent for overhearing,” Mr. Jermyn answered. “Well, Martin
Hyde. How do you like your work?”

“Sir,” I answered, “I don’t like it at all.”

“Well,” he said, “we shall be in the Canal to-night, now the wind has
changed. Hold out till then, think, sir,” he said, turning to the Duke,
“the boy has done really very creditably. The work is not at all the
work for one of his condition.”

The Duke rewarded me with his languid beautiful smile.

“Who lives will see,” he said. “A King never forgets a faithful
servant.”

The phrase seemed queer on the lips of that man’s father’s son; but I
bowed very low, for I felt that I was already a captain of a man-of-war,
with a big blazing decoration on my heart. Well, who lives, sees. I
lived to see a lot of strange things in that King’s service.



CHAPTER VII. LAND RATS AND WATER RATS

I will say no more about our passage except that we were three days at
sea. Then, when I woke one morning, I found that we were fast moored to
a gay little wharf, paved with clean white cobbles, on the north side of
the canal. Strange, outlandish figures, in immense blue baggy trousers,
clattered past in wooden shoes. A few Dutch galliots lay moored ahead of
us, with long scarlet pennons on their mastheads. On the other side of
the canal was a huge East Indiaman, with her lower yards cockbilled,
loading all three hatches at once. It was a beautiful morning. The sun
was so bright that all the scene had thrice its natural beauty. The
clean neat trimness of the town, the water slapping past in the canal,
the ships with their flags, the Sunday trim of the schooner, all filled
me with delight, lit up, as they were, by the April sun. I looked about
me at my ease, for the deck was deserted. Even the never-sleeping mate
was resting, now that we were in port. While I looked, a man sidled
along the wharf from a warehouse towards me. He looked at the schooner
in a way which convinced me that he was not a sailor. Then, sheltering
behind a bollard, he lighted his pipe.

He was a short, active, wiry man, with a sharp, thin face, disfigured by
a green patch over his right eye. He looked to me to have a horsey look,
as though were a groom or coachman. After lighting his pipe, he advanced
to a point abreast of the schooner’s gang-way, from which he could look
down upon her, as she lay with her deck a foot or two below the level of
the wharf.

“Chips aboard?” he asked, meaning, “Is the carpenter on board?”

“Yes,” I said. “Will you come aboard?”

He did not answer, but looked about the ship, as though making notes of
everything. Presently he turned to me.

“You’re new,” he said. “Are you Mr. Jermyn’s boy?” I told him that I
was.

“How is Mr. Jermyn keeping?” he asked. “Is that cough of his better?”
 This made me feel that probably the man knew Mr. Jermyn. “Yes,” I said.
“He’s got no cough, now.” “He’d a bad one last time he was here,” the
man answered. For a while he kept silent. He seemed to me to be puzzling
out the relative heights of our masts. Suddenly he turned to me, with
a very natural air. “How’s Mr. Scott’s business going?” he asked. “You
know, eh? You know what I mean?” I was taken off my guard. I’m afraid
I hesitated, though I knew that the man’s sharp eyes noted every little
change on my face. Then, in the most natural way, the man reassured me.
“You know,” he said. “What demand for oranges in London?” I was thankful
that he had not meant the other business. I said with a good deal too
much of eagerness that there was, I believed, a big demand for oranges.
“Yes,” he said, “I suppose so many young boys makes a brisk demand.” I
was uneasy at the man’s manner. He seemed to be pumping me, but he had
such a natural easy way, under the pale mask of his face, that I could
not be sure if he were in the secret or not. I was on my guard now,
ready for any question, as I thought, but eager for an excuse to get
away from this man before I betrayed any trust. “Nice ship,” he said
easily. “Did you join her in Spain?” “No,” I answered. “In London.” “In
London?” he said. “I thought you’d something of a Spanish look.” “No,” I
said. “I’m English. Did you want the carpenter, sir?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I do. But no hurry. No hurry, lad.” Here he pulled
out a watch, which he wound up, staring vacantly about the decks as he
did so. “Tell me, boy,” he said gently. “Is Lane come over with you?” To
tell the truth, it flashed across my mind, when he pulled out his watch,
that he was making me unready for a difficult question. I was not a very
bright boy; but I had this sudden prompting or instinct, which set me on
my guard. No one is more difficult to pump than a boy who is ready for
his questioner, so I stared at him. “Lane?” I said, “Lane? Do you mean
the bo’sun?”

“No,” he said. “The Colonel. You know? Eh?”

“No.” I said. “I don’t know.”

“Oh well,” he answered. “It’s all one. I suppose he’s not come over.” At
this moment the mate came on deck with the carpenter, carrying a model
ship which they had been making together in their spare time. They
nodded to the stranger, who gave them a curt “How do?” as though they
had parted from him only the night before. The mate growled at me for
wasting time on deck when I should be at work. He sent me down to my
usual job of getting the cabin ready for the breakfast of the gentlemen.
As I passed down the hatchway, I heard the carpenter say to the
stranger, “Well. So what’s the news with Jack?” It flashed into my mind
that this man might be his friend, the “Longshore Jack” who was to keep
an eye upon me as well as upon Mr. Jermyn. It gave me a most horrid
qualm to think this. The man was so sly, so calm, so guarded, that the
thought of him being on the look-out for me, to sell me to the Dutch
captains, almost scared me out of my wits. The mate brought him to the
cabin as I was laying the table. “This is the cabin,” he was saying,
“where the gentlemen messes. That’s our stern-chaser, the gun there.”

“Oh,” said the stranger, looking about him like one who has never seen
a ship before. “But where do they sleep? Do they sleep on the sofa (he
meant the lockers), there?”

“Why, no,” said the mate. “They sleep in the little cabins yonder. But
we musn’t stay down here now. I’m not supposed to use this cabin. I
mustn’t let the captain see me.” So they went on deck again, leaving me
alone. When the gentlemen came in to breakfast, I had to go on deck for
the dishes. As I passed to the galley, I noticed the stranger talking to
the carpenter by the main-rigging. They gave me a meaning look, which
I did not at all relish. Then, as I stood in the galley, while the cook
dished up, I noticed that the stranger raised his hand to a tall, lanky,
ill-favoured man who was loafing about on the wharf, carrying a large
black package. This man came right up to the edge of the wharf, directly
he saw the stranger’s signal. It made me uneasy somehow. I was in a
thoroughly anxious mood, longing to confide in some one, even in the
crusty cook, yet fearing to open my mouth to any one, even to Mr.
Jermyn, to whom I dared not speak with the captain present in the room.
Well, I had my work to do, so I kept my thoughts to myself. I took the
dishes down below to the cabin, where, after removing the covers, I
waited on the gentlemen.

“Martin,” said Mr. Jermyn. “This skylight over our heads makes rather a
draught. We can’t have it open in the morning for breakfast.

“Did you open it?” the captain asked. “What made you open it?”

“Please, sir, I didn’t open it.”

“Then shut it,” said the captain. “Go on deck. The catch is fast
outside.”

I ran very nimbly on deck to shut the skylight, but the catch was very
stiff; it took me some few moments to undo. I noticed, as I worked at
it, that the deck was empty, except for the lanky man with the package,
who was now forward, apparently undoing his package on the forehatch. I
thought that he was a sort of pedlar or bumboatman, come to sell onions,
soft bread, or cheap jewellery to the sailors. The carpenter’s head
showed for an instant at the galley-door, He was looking forward at the
pedlar. The hands were all down below in the forecastle, eating their
breakfast. The other stranger seemed to have gone. I could not see him
about the deck. At last the skylight came down with a clatter, leaving
me free to go below again. As I went down the hatchway, into the
‘tweendecks gloom, I saw a figure apparently at work among the ship’s
stores lashed to the deck there. I could not see who it was; it was
too dark for that but the thing seemed strange to me. I guessed that
it might be my enemy the boatswain, so I passed aft to the cabin on the
other side.

Soon after that, it might be ten minutes after, while the gentlemen were
talking lazily about going ashore, we heard loud shouts on deck.

“What’s that?” said the captain, starting up from his chair.

“Sounds like fire,” said Mr. Jermyn.

“Fire forward,” said the captain, turning very white. “There’s five tons
of powder forward.”

“What?” cried the Duke.

At that instant we heard the boatswain roaring to the men to come on
deck. “Aft for the hose there, Bill,” we heard. Feet rushed aft along
the deck, helter-skelter. Some one shoved the skylight open with a
violent heave. Looking up, we saw the carpenter’s head. He looked as
scared as a man can be.

“On deck,” he cried. “We’re all in a blaze forward. The lamp in the
bo’sun’s locker. Quick.”

“Just over the powder,” the captain said, rushing out.

“Quick, sir,” said Jermyn to the Duke. “We may blow up at any moment.”

“No,” said the Duke, rising leisurely. “Not with these stars.
Impossible.”

All the same, the two men followed the captain in pretty quick time. Mr.
Jermyn rushed the Duke out by the arm. I was rushing out, too, when I
saw the Duke’s hat lying on the lockers. I darted at it, for I knew
that he would want it, with the result that my heel slipped on a copper
nail-head, which had been worn down even with the deck till it was
smooth as glass. Down I came, bang, with a jolt which shook me almost
sick. I rose up, stupid with the shock, so wretched with the present
pain that the fire seemed a little matter to me. Indeed, I did not
understand the risk. I did not know how a fire so far forward could
affect the cabin.

A couple of minutes must have passed before I picked up the hat from
where it lay. As I hurried through the ‘tweendecks some slight noise
or movement made me turn my head. Looking to my right. I saw the horsey
man, the stranger, rummaging quickly in the lockers of the Duke’s cabin,
As I looked, I saw him snatch up something like a pocketbook or pocket
case, with a hasty “Ah” of approval. At the same moment, he saw me
watching him.

“Where’s Mr. Scott?” he cried, darting out on me. “We may all blow up in
another moment.”

“He’s on deck,” I said. “Hasn’t he gone on deck?”

“On deck?” said the man. “Then on deck with you, too.” He pushed me
up the hatch before him. “Quick,” he cried. “Quick. There’s Mr. Scott
forward. Get him on to the wharf.

He gave me a hasty shove forward, to where the whole company was working
in a cloud of smoke, passing buckets from hand to hand. A crowd of
Dutchmen had gathered on the wharf. Everybody was shouting. The scene
was confused like a bad dream. I caught sight of the pedlar man at the
gangway as the stranger thrust me forward. In the twinkling of an eye
the stranger passed something to him with the quick thrust known as the
thieves’ pass. I saw it, for all my confusion. I knew in an instant that
he had stolen something. The pedlar person was an accomplice. As likely
as not the fire was a diversion. I rushed at the gangway. The pedlar was
moving quickly away with his hands in his pockets. It all happened in
a moment. As I rushed at the gangway, with some wild notion of stopping
the pedlar, the horsey man caught me by the collar.

“What,” he said, in a loud voice. “Trying to desert, are you? You come
forward where the danger is.” He ran me forward. He was as strong as a
bull.

“Mr. Jermyn,” I cried. “Mr. Jermyn. This man’s a thief.”

The man twisted my collar on to my throat till I choked. “Quiet, you,”
 he hissed.

Then Mr. Jermyn dropped his bucket to attend to me.

“A thief,” I gasped. “A thief.” Mr. Jermyn sprang aft, with his eyes on
the man’s eyes. The stranger flung me into Mr. Jermyn’s way, with all
the sweep of his arm. As I went staggering into the fore-bitts (for
Mr. Jermyn dodged me) the man took a quick side step up the rail to the
wharf. I steadied myself. Mr. Jermyn, failing to catch the man before
he was off the ship, rushed below to see what was lost. The crowd
of workers seemed to dissolve suddenly. The men surged all about me,
swearing. The fire was out. Remember, all this happened in thirty
seconds, from the passing of the stolen goods to the stranger’s letting
go my throat. The very instant that I found my feet against the bitts, I
jumped off the ship on to the wharf. There was the stranger running down
the wharf to the right, full tilt. There was the lanky pedlar slouching
quickly away as though he were going on an errand, with his black box
full of groceries.

“That’s the man, Mr. Scott,” I cried. “He’s got it.”

The captain (who, I believe, was a naval officer in the Duke’s secret)
was up on the wharf in an instant. I followed him, though the carpenter
clutched at me as I scrambled up. I kicked out behind like a donkey. I
didn’t kick him, but some one thrust the carpenter aside in the hurry
so that I was free. In another seconds I was past the captain, running
after the pedlar, who started to run at a good speed, dropping his box
with a clatter. Half a dozen joined in the pursuit. The captain had his
sword out. They raised such a noise behind me that I thought the whole
crew was at my heels. The pedlar kept glancing behind; he knew very
little about running. He doubled from street to street, like a man at
his wits’ ends. I could see that he was blown. When he entered into that
conspiracy, he had counted on the horsey man diverting suspicion from
him. Suddenly, after twisting round a corner, he darted through a swing
door into a stone-paved court, surrounded by brick walls. I was at his
heels at the moment or I should have lost him there. I darted through
the swing door after him. I went full sprawl over his body on the other
side. He had, quite used up, collapsed there.



CHAPTER VIII. I MEET MY FRIEND

“Give it me,” I said. “Give it me, Longshore Jack. Before they catch
us.” To my horror, I saw that the creature was a woman in a man’s
clothes. She took me for one of her gang. She was too much frightened to
think things out. “I thought you were one of the other lot,” she gasped,
as she handed me a pocketbook.

“Didn’t he get the letters, too?” I asked at a venture. “No,” she said,
sitting up, now, panting, to take a good look at me. I stared at her for
a moment. I, myself, was out of breath.

“They’re going,” I said, hearing the noise of the pursuit passing away
in the check. “I’ll just spy out the land.” I opened the door till it
was an inch or two ajar, so that I could see what was going on outside.
“They’re gone,” I said again, still keeping up the pretence of being on
her side. As I said it, I glanced back to fix her features on my memory.
She had a pale, resolute face with fierce eyes, which seemed fierce from
pain, not from any cruelty of nature. It was a pleasant face, as far as
one could judge of a face made up to resemble a dirty pedlar’s face.

Seeing my look, she seemed to watch me curiously, raising herself up,
till she stood unsteadily by the wall. “When did you come in?” she said,
meaning, I suppose, when did I join the gang.

“Last week,” I answered, swinging the door a little further open.
Footsteps were coming rapidly along the road. I heard excited voices, I
made sure that it was the search party going back to the schooner.

“Digame, muchacho,” she said in Spanish. It must have been some sort of
pass-word among them. Seeing by my face that I did not understand she
repeated the words softly. Then at that very instant she was on me like
a tigress with a knife. I slipped to one side instinctively. I suppose
I half saw her as the knife went home. She grabbed at the pocket-book,
which I swung away from her hand. The knife went deep into the door,
with a drive which must have jarred her to the shoulder. “Give it me,”
 she gasped, snatching at me like a fury. I dodged to one side, up the
court, horribly scared. She followed, raving like a mad thing, quite
ghastly white under her paint, wholly forgetful that she was acting a
man’s part. When once we were dodging I grew calmer. I led her to the
end of the court, then ducked. She charged in, blindly, against the
wall, while I raced to the door, very pleased with my success. I did not
hear her follow me, so, when I got to the door, I looked back. Just at
that instant, there came a smart report. The creature had fired at me
with a pistol; the bullet sent a dozen chips of brick into my face. I
went through the door just as the shot from the second barrel thudded
into the lintel. Going through hurriedly I ran into Mr. Jermyn, as he
came round the corner with the captain. “I’ve got it,” I said. “Look
out. She’s in there.”

“Who?” they said. “The thief? A woman?” They did not stay, but thrust
through the door.

Mr. Jermyn dragged me through with them. “You say you’ve got it,
Martin?”

“Yes,” I answered, handing him the book. “Here it is.”

“That’s a mercy,” he said. “Now then, where’s the thief?”

I had been out of the court, I suppose thirty seconds; it cannot have
been more. Yet, when I went back with those two men, the woman had gone,
as though she had never been there. “She’s over the wall,” cried the
captain, running up the court. But when we looked over the wall there
was no trace of her, except some slight scratches upon the brick, where
her toes had rested. On the other side of the wall was a tulip bed full
of rows of late flowering tulips, not yet out. There was no footmark on
the earth. Plainly she had not jumped down on the other side. “Check,”
 said captain. “Is she in one of the houses?”

But the houses on the left side of the court (on the other side the
court had no houses, only brick walls seven feet high) were all old,
barred in, deserted mansions, with padlocks on the doors. She could not
possibly have entered one of those.

“They’re old plague-houses,” said Mr. Jermyn.

“They’ve been deserted twenty years now, since the great sickness.”

“Yes?” said the captain, carelessly. “But where can she have got to?”

“Well. It beats me,” Mr. Jermyn replied. “But perhaps she ran along the
wall to the end, then jumped down into the lane. That’s the only thing
she could have done. By the way, boy, you were shot at. Were you hit?”

“No,” I answered. “But I got jolly near it. The bullet went just by me.”

“Ah,” he said. “Take this. You’ll have to be armed in future.”

He handed me a beautiful little double-barrelled pocket pistol. “Be
careful,” he said. “It’s loaded. Put it in your pocket. You musn’t be
seen carrying arms here. That would never do.”

“Boy,” said the captain. “D’ye think you could shin up that water-spout,
so as to look over the parapet there, on to the leads of the houses?”

“Yes,” I said. “I think I could, from the top of the wall.”

“Why,” Mr. Jermyn said. “She couldn’t have got up there.”

“An active woman might,” the captain said. “You see, the water-spout is
only six feet long from the wall to the eaves. There’s good footing on
the brackets. It’s three quick steps. Then one vigorous heave over the
parapet. There you are, snug as a purser’s billet, out of sight.”

“No woman could have done it,” Mr. Jermyn said. “Besides, look here. We
can’t go further in the matter. We’ve recovered the book. We must get
back to the ship.”

So the scheme of climbing up the water pipe came to nothing. We walked
off together wondering where the woman had got to. Long afterwards I
learned that she heard all that we said by the wall there. While we
talked, she was busy reloading her pistol, waiting. At the door of the
court we paused to pull out her knife from where it stuck. It was a not
very large dagger-knife, with a small woman’s grip, inlaid with silver,
but bound at the guard with gold clasps. The end of the handle was also
bound with gold. The edge of the broad, cutting blade curved to a long
sharp point. The back was straight. On the blade was an inscription in
Spanish, “Veneer o Morir” (“To conquer or die”), with the maker’s name,
Luis Socartes, Toledo, surrounded by a little twirligig. I have it in
my hand as I write. I value it more than anything in my possession. It
serves to remind me of a very remarkable woman.

“There, Martin,” said Mr. Jermyn. “There’s a curiosity for you. Get one
of the seamen to make a sheath for it. Then you can wear it at your back
on your belt like a sailor.”

As we walked back to the ship, I told Mr. Jermyn all that I had seen of
the morning’s adventure. He said that the whole, as far as he could make
it out, had been a carefully laid plot of some of James the Second’s
spies. He treated me as an equal now. He seemed to think that I had
saved the Duke from a very dreadful danger. The horsey man, he said, was
evidently a trusted secret agent, who must have made friends with the
carpenter on some earlier visit of the schooner. He had planned his raid
on the Duke’s papers very cleverly. He had arrived on board when no one
was about. He had bribed the carpenter (so we conjectured, piecing the
evidence together) to shout fire, when we were busy at breakfast. Then,
when all was ready, this woman, whoever she was, had gone forward to
the bo’sun’s locker, where she had set fire to half a dozen of those
fumigating chemical candles which she had brought in her box. The
candles at once sputtered out immense volumes of evil smelling smoke.
The carpenter, watching his time, raised the alarm of fire, while the
horsey man, hidden below, waited till all were on deck to force the
spring-locks on the Duke’s cabin-door. When once he had got inside the
cabin, he had worked with feverish speed, emptying all the drawers,
ripping up the mattress, even upsetting the books from the bookshelf,
all in about two minutes. Luckily the Duke kept nearly all his secret
papers about his person. The pocket-book was the only important
exception. This, a very secret list of all the Western gentry ready to
rise, was locked in a casket in a locked drawer.

“It shows you,” said Mr. Jermyn, “how well worked, that he did all this
in so little time. If you hadn’t fallen on the nail, Martin, our friends
in the West would have fared badly. It was very clever of you to bring
us out of the danger.” When we got back aboard the schooner, we found,
as we had expected, that the men in league with the horsey man had
deserted. Neither carpenter nor boatswain was to be found. Both had
bolted off in pursuit of the horsey man at the moment of alarm, leaving
their chests behind them. I suppose they thought that the plot had
succeeded. I dare say, too, that the horsey man, who was evidently well
known to them both, had given them orders to desert in the confusion,
so that he might suck their brains at leisure elsewhere. Altogether,
the morning’s work from breakfast time till ten was as full of moving
incident as a quiet person’s life. I have never had a more exciting two
hours. When I sat down to my own breakfast (which I ate in the cabin
among the gentlemen) I seemed to have grown five years older. All three
men made much of me. They brought out all sorts of sweetmeats for me,
saying I had saved them from disaster. The Duke was especially kind.
“Why, Jermyn,” he said, “we thought we’d found a clever messenger; but
we’ve found a guardian angel.” He gave me a belt made of green Spanish
leather, with a wonderfully wrought steel clasp. “Here,” he said. “Wear
this, Martin. Here’s a holster on it for your pistol. These pouches
hold cartridges. Then this sheath at the back will hold your dagger, the
spoils of war.”

“There,” said the captain. “Now I’ll give you something else to fit you
out. I’ll give you a pocket flask. What’s more, I’ll teach you how to
make cartridges. We’ll make a stock this morning.”

While he was speaking, the mate came down to tell us how sorry he was
that it was through him that the horsey man was shown over the ship. “He
told me he’d important letters for Mr. Scott,” he said, “so I thought it
was only right to show him about, while you was dressing. The carpenter
came to me. ‘This gentleman’s got letters for Mr. Scott,’ he said. So
I was just taken in. He was such a smooth spoken chap. After I got to
know, I could ‘a’ bit my head off.” They spoke kindly to the man, who
was evidently distressed at his mistake. They told him to give orders
for a watchman to walk the gangway all day long in future, which to me
sounded like locking the stable door too late. After that, I learned how
to make pistol cartridges until the company prepared to go ashore.
The chests of the deserters were locked up in the lazaret, or store
cupboard, so that if the men came aboard again they might not take away
their things.

“Before we start,” the Duke said, “I must just say this. We know, from
this morning’s work, that the spies of the English court know much more
than we supposed. We may count it as certain that this ship is being
watched at this moment. Now, we must put them off the scent, because I
must see Argyle without their knowledge. It is not much good putting to
sea again, as a blind, for they can’t help knowing that we are here
to see Argyle. They have only to watch Argyle’s house to see us enter,
sooner or later. I suggest this as a blind. We ought to ride far out
into the country to Zaandam, say, by way of Amsterdam. That’s about
twenty miles. Meanwhile Argyle shall come aboard here. The schooner
shall take him up to Egmont; he’ll get there this afternoon. He must
come aboard disguised though. At Zaandam, we three will separate, Jermyn
will personate me, remaining in Zaandam. The boy shall carry letters in
a hurry to Hoorn; dummy letters, of course. While I shall creep off to
meet Argyle--somewhere else. If we start in a hurry they won’t have
time to organize a pursuit. There are probably only a few secret agents
waiting for us here. What do you say?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Jermyn. “I myself should say this. Send the boy on at
once to Egmont with a note to Stendhal the merchant there. They won’t
suspect the boy. They won’t bother to follow him, probably. Tell
Stendhal to send Out a galliot to take Argyle off the schooner while
at sea. The galliot can land Argyle somewhere on the coast. That would
puzzle them rarely. She can then ply to England, or elsewhere, so that
her men won’t have a chance of talking. As for the schooner, she can
proceed north to anchor at the Texel till further orders. At the same
time, we could ride south to Noordwyk; find a barge there going north.
Hide in her cabin till she arrives, say, at Alkmaar. Meet Argyle
somewhere near there. Then remain hidden till it is time to move. We can
set all the balls moving, by sticking up a few bills in the towns.”
 I did not know what he meant by this. Afterwards I learned that the
conspirators took their instructions from advertisements for servants,
or of things lost, which were stuck up in public places. To the
initiated, these bills, seemingly innocent, gave warning of the Duke’s
plan. Very few people in Holland (not more than thirty I believe)
were in the secret of his expedition. Most of these thirty knew other
loyalists, to whom, when the time came, they gave the word. When the
time came we were only about eighty men all told. That is not a large
force, is it, for the invasion of a populous kingdom?

They talked it out for a little while, making improvements on Mr.
Jermyn’s plan. They had a map by them during some of the time. Before
they made their decision, they turned me out of the cabin, so that I
know not to this day what the Duke did during the next few days. I know
only this, that he disappeared from his enemies, so completely that the
spies were baffled. Not only James’s spies, that is nothing: but the
spies of William of Orange were baffled. They knew no more of his
whereabouts than I knew. They had to write home that he had gone, they
could not guess where; but possibly to Scotland to sound the clans. All
that I know of his doings during the next week is this. After about half
an hour of debate, the captain went ashore to one of the famous inns in
the town. From this inn, he despatched, one by one, at brief intervals,
three horses, each to a different inn along the Egmont highway. He gave
instructions to the ostlers who rode them to wait outside the inns named
till the gentlemen called for them. He got the third horse off, in this
quiet way, at the end of about an hour. I believe that he then sent
a printed book (with certain words in it underlined, so as to form a
message) by the hand of a little girl, to the Duke of Argyle’s lodging.
I have heard that it was a book on the training of horses to do tricks.
There was probably some cipher message in it, as well as the underlined
message. Whatever it was, it gave the Duke his instructions.



CHAPTER IX. I SEE MORE OF MY FRIEND

After waiting for about an hour in the schooner, I was sent ashore with
a bottle-basket, with very precise instructions in what I was to do. I
was to follow the road towards Haarlem, till I came to the inn near the
turning of the Egmont highway. There I was to leave my bottle-basket,
asking (or, rather, handing over a written request) for it to be filled
with bottles of the very best gin. After paying for this, I was to
direct it to be sent aboard the schooner by the ostler (who was waiting
at the door with a horse) the last of those ordered by the captain. I
was then to walk the horse along the Egmont road, till I saw or heard
an open carriage coming behind. Then I was to trot, keeping ahead of the
carriage, but not far from it, till I was past the third tavern. After
that, if I was not recalled by those in the carriage, I was free to
quicken up my pace. I was then to ride straight ahead, till I got to
Egmont, a twenty mile ride to the north. There I was to deliver up my
horse at the Zwolle-Haus inn, before enquiring for M. Stendhal, the
East India merchant. To him I was to give a letter, which for safety was
rolled into a blank cartridge in my little pistol cartridge box. After
that, I was to stay at M. Stendhal’s house, keeping out of harm’s way,
till I received further orders from my masters.

You may be sure that I thought myself a fine figure of gallantry as I
stepped out with my bottle-basket. I was a King’s secret agent. I had
a King’s letter hidden about my person. I was armed with fine weapons,
which I longed to be using. I had been under fire for my King’s sake.
I was also still tingling with my King’s praise. It was a warm, sunny
April day; that was another thing to fill me with gladness. Soon I
should be mounted on a nag, riding out in a strange land, on a secret
mission, with a pocket full of special service money. Whatever I had
felt in the few days of the sea-passage was all forgotten now. I did
not even worry about not knowing the language. It would keep me from
loitering to chatter. My schoolboy French would probably be enough for
all purposes if I vent astray. I was “to avoid chance acquaintances,
particularly if they spoke English.” That was my last order. Repeating
it to myself I walked on briskly.

I had not gone more than three hundred yards upon my way, when a lady,
very richly dressed, cantered slowly past me on a fine bay mare. She was
followed by a gentleman in scarlet, riding on a little black Arab. They
had not gone a hundred yards past me when the Arab picked up a stone.
The man dismounted to pick it out, while the lady rode back to hold the
horse, which was a ticklish job, since he was as fresh as a colt. He
went squirming about like an eel. The man had no hook to pick the stone
with; nor could he get it out by his fingers. I could hear him growling
under his breath in some strange language, while the horse sidled about
as wicked as he could be.

As I approached, the horse grew so troublesome that the man decided to
take him back to the town, to have the stone pulled there. He was just
starting to lead him back when I came up with them. He asked me some
question in a tongue which I did not know. He probably asked me if I had
a hook. I shook my head. The lady said something to him in French, which
made him laugh. Then he began to lead back the horse towards the town.
The lady, after waving her hand to him, started to ride slowly forward
in front of me. Like most ladies at that time she wore a little black
velvet domino mask over her eyes. All people could ride in those days;
but I remember it occurred to me that this lady rode beautifully. So
many women look like meal-sacks in the saddle. This one rode as though
she were a part of the horse.

She kept about twenty yards ahead of me till I sighted the inn, where an
ostler was walking the little nag which I was to ride. She halted at the
inn-door, looking back towards the town for her companion. Then, without
calling to anybody, she dismounted, flinging her mare’s reins over a
hook in the wall. She went into the inn boldly, drawing her whip through
her left hand. When I entered the inn-door a moment later, she was
talking in Dutch to the landlord, who was bowing to her as though she
were a great lady.

I handed over my bottle-basket, with the letter, to a woman who served
the customers at the drinking bar. Then, as I was going out to take my
horse, the lady spoke to me in broken English.

“Walk my horse, so he not take cold,” she said. It was in the twilight
of the passage from the door, so that I could not see her very clearly,
but the voice was certainly like the voice of the woman who had fired
at me in the courtyard. Or was I right? That voice was on my nerves. It
seemed to be the voice of all the strangers in the town. I looked up at
her quickly. She was masked; yet the grey eyes seemed to gleam beyond
the velvet, much as that woman’s eyes had gleamed. Her mouth; her chin;
the general poise of her body, all convinced me. She was the woman who
had carried away the book from Longshore Jack. I was quite sure of it.
I pretended not to understand her. I dropped my eyes, without stopping;
she flicked me lightly with her whip to draw my attention.

“Walk my horse,” she said again, with a little petulance in her voice. I
saw no way out of it. If I refused, she would guess (if she did not
know already) that I was not there only for bottles of gin. “Oui,
mademoiselle,” I said. “Oui. Merci.” So out I went to where the mare
stood. She followed me to the door to see me take the mare. There was no
escape; she was going to delay me at the door till the man returned. I
patted the lovely creature’s neck. I was very well used to horses, for
in the Broad Country a man must ride almost as much as he must row. But
I was not so taken up with this mare that I did not take good stock of
the lady, who, for her part, watched me pretty narrowly, as though she
meant never to forget me. I began to walk the beast in the road in
front of the inn, wondering how in the world I was to get out of the
difficulty before the Duke’s carriage arrived. There was the woman
watching me, with a satirical smile. She was evidently enjoying the
sight of my crestfallen face.

Now in my misery a wild thought occurred to me. I began to time my
walking of the mare so that I was walking towards Sandfoort, while the
other horse-boy was walking with my nag towards Egmont on the other side
of the inn. I had read that in desperate cases the desperate remedy is
the only measure to be tried. While I was walking away from the inn I
drew the dagger, the spoils of war. I drew it very gently as though I
were merely buttoning my waistcoat. Then with one swift cut I drew it
nine-tenths through the girth. I did nothing more for that turn, though
I only bided my time. After a turn or two more, the other horse-boy was
called up to the inn by the lady to receive a drink of beer. No doubt
she was going to question him (as he drank) about the reason for his
being there. He walked up leisurely, full of smiles at the beer, leaving
his nag fast to a hook in the wall some dozen yards from the door.
This was a better chance than I had hoped for; so drawing my dagger,
I resolved to put things to the test. I ripped the reins off the mare
close to the bit. Then with a loud shout followed by a whack in the
flank, I frightened that lovely mare right into them, almost into the
inn-door. Before they knew what had happened I was at my own horse’s
head swiftly casting off the reins from the hook. Before they had turned
to pursue me, I was in the saddle, going at a quick trot towards Egmont,
while the mare was charging down the road behind me, with her saddle
under her belly, giving her the fright of her life.

An awful thought came to me. “Supposing the lady is not the English spy,
what an awful thing I have done. Even if she be, what right have I to
cut her horse’s harness? They may put me in prison for it. Besides, what
an ass I have been. If she is what I think, she will know now that I
am her enemy, engaged on very special service.” Looking back at the
inn-door, I saw a party of people gesticulating in the road. A man was
shouting to me. Others seemed to be laughing. Then, to my great joy,
round the turn of the road came an open carriage with two horses, going
at a good pace. There came my masters. All was well. I chuckled to
myself as I thought of the lady’s face, when these two passed her,
leaving her without means of following them. When we were well out of
sight of the inn, I rode back to the carriage to report, wondering how
they would receive my news. They received it with displeasure, saying
that I had disobeyed my orders, not only in acting as I had done; but in
coming back to tell them. They bade me ride on at once to Egmont, before
I was arrested for cutting the lady’s harness. As for their own plans,
whatever they were, my action altered them. I do not know what they did.
I know that I turned away with a flea in my ear from the Duke’s reproof.
I remember not very much of my ride to Egmont, except that I seemed to
ride most of the time among sand-dunes. I glanced back anxiously to see
if I was being pursued; but no one followed. I rode on at the steady
lope, losing sight of the carriage, passing by dune after dune, rising
windmill after windmill, to drop them behind me as I rode. In that low
country, I had the gleam of the sea to my left hand, with the sails of
ships passing by me. The wind freshened as I rode, till at last my left
cheek felt the continual stinging of the sand grains, whirled up by the
wind from the bents. Where the sea-beach broadened, I rode on the sands.
The miles dropped past quickly enough, though I rode only at the lope,
not daring to hurry my horse. I kept this my pace even when going
through villages, where the people in their strange Dutch clothes
hurried out to stare at me as I bucketed by. I passed by acre after acre
of bulb-fields, mostly tulip-fields, now beginning to be full of colour.
Once, for ten minutes, I rode by a broad canal, where a barge with a
scarlet transom drove along under sail, spreading the ripples, keeping
alongside me. The helmsman, who was smoking a pipe as he eyed the luff
of his sail, waved his hand to me, as I loped along beside him. You
would not believe it; but he was one of the Oulton fishermen, a man
whom I had known for years. I had seen that tan-sailed barge many, many
times, rushing up the Waveney from Somer Leyton, with that same quiet
figure at her helm. I would have loved to have called out “Oh, Hendry.
How are you? Fancy seeing you here.” But I dared not betray myself; nor
did Hendry recognize me. After the road swung away from the canal, I
watched that barge as long as she remained in sight, thinking that while
she was there I had a little bit of Oulton by me.

At last, far away I saw the church of Egmont, rising out of a flat
land (not unlike the Broad land) on which sails were passing in a misty
distance. I rose in my stirrups with a holloa; for now, I thought, I was
near my journey’s end. I clapped my horse’s neck, promising him an apple
for his supper. Then, glancing back, I looked out over the land. The
Oulton barge was far away now, a patch of dark sail drawing itself
slowly across the sky. Out to sea a great ship seemed to stand still
upon the skyline. But directly behind me, perhaps a mile away, perhaps
two miles, clearly visible on the white straight ribbon of road, a clump
of gallopers advanced, quartering across the road towards me. There may
have been twenty of them all told; some of them seemed to ride in ranks
like soldiers. I made no doubt when I caught sight of them that they
were coming after me, about that matter of the lady’s harness. My first
impulse was to pull up, so that Old Blunderbore, as I had christened my
horse, might get his breath. But I decided not to stop, as I knew how
dangerous a thing it is to stop a horse in his pace after he has settled
down to it, had still three miles to go to shelter. If I could
manage the three miles all would be well. But could manage them? Old
Blunderbore had taken the eighteen miles we had come together very
easily. Now I was thankful that I had not pressed him in the early part
of the ride. But Egmont seemed a long, long way from me. I dared not
begin to gallop so far from shelter. I went loping on as before, with my
heart in my mouth, feeling like one pursued in a nightmare.

As I looked around, to see these gallopers coming on, while I was still
lollopping forward, I felt that I was tied by the legs, unable to move.
Each instant made it more difficult for me to keep from shaking up my
horse. Continual promptings flashed into my mind, urging me to bolt down
somewhere among the dunes. These plans I set aside as worthless; for a
boy would soon have been caught among those desolate sandhills. There
was no real hiding among them. You could see any person among them from
a mile away. I kept on ahead, longing for that wonderful minute when I
could hurry my horse, in the wild rush to Egmont town, the final wild
rush, on the nag’s last strength, with my pursuers, now going their
fastest, trailing away behind, as their beasts foundered. The air came
singing past. I heard behind me the patter of the turf sent flying by
Old Blunderbore’s hoofs. The excitement of the ride took vigorous hold
on me. I felt on glancing back that I should do it, that I should carry
my message, that the Dutchman should see my mettle, before they stopped
me. They were coming up fast on horses still pretty fresh. I would show
them, I said to myself, what a boy can do on a spent horse.

Old Blunderbore lollopped on. I clapped him on the neck. “Come up, boy!
Up!” I cried. “Egmont--Egmont! Come on, Old Blunderbore!” The good old
fellow shook his head up with a whinny. He could see Egmont. He could
smell the good corn perhaps. I banged him with my cap on the shoulder.
“Up, boy!” I cried. I felt that even if I died, even if I was shot
there, as I sailed along with my King’s orders, I should have tasted
life in that wild gallop.

A countryman carrying a sack put down his load to stare at me, for
now, with only a mile to go, I was going a brave gait, as fast as Old
Blunderbore could manage. I saw the man put up his hands in pretended
terror. The next instant he was far behind, wondering no doubt why the
charging squadron beyond were galloping after a boy. Now we were rushing
at our full speed, with half a mile, a quarter of a mile, two hundred
yards to the town gates. Carts drew to one side, hearing the clatter. I
shouted to drive away the children. Poultry scattered as though the king
of the foxes was abroad. After me came the thundering clatter of the
pursuit. I could hear distant shouts. The nearest man there was a
quarter of a mile away. A man started out to catch my rein, thinking
that my horse had run away with me. I banged him in the face with my cap
as I swung past him. In another second, as it seemed, I was pulled up
inside the gates.

As far as I remember,--but it is all rather blurred now,--the place
where I pulled up was a sort of public square. I swung myself off Old
Blunderbore just outside a tavern. An ostler ran up to me at once to
hold him. So I gave him a silver piece what it was worth I did not know,
saying firmly “Zwolle-Haus. Go on. Zwolle-Haus.”

The ostler smiled as he repeated Zwolle-Haus, pointing to the tavern
itself, which, by good luck, was the very house.

“M. Stendhal,” I said. “Where is M. Stendhal? Mynheer Stendhal? Mynheer
Stendhal Haus?”

The ostler repeated, “Stendhal? Stendhal? Ah, ja. Stendhal. Da.” He
pointed down a narrow street which led, as I could see, to a canal
wharf.

I thanked him in English, giving him another silver piece. Then off I
went, tottering on my toes with the strangeness of walking after so long
a ride. I was not out of the wood yet, by a long way. At every second,
as I hurried on, I expected to hear cries of my pursuers, as they
charged down the narrow street after me. I tried to run, but my legs
felt so funny, it was like running in a dream. I just felt that I was
walking on pillows, instead of legs. Luckily that little narrow street
was only fifty yards long. It was with a great gasp of relief that I
got to the end of it. When I could turn to my right out of sight of the
square I felt that I was saved. I had been but a minute ahead of the
pursuers outside on the open. Directly after my entrance, some cart or
waggon went out of the town, filling the narrow gateway full, so that my
enemies were forced to pull up. This gave me a fair start, without which
I could hardly have won clear. If it had not been for that lucky waggon,
who knows what would have happened?

As it was, I tottered along with drawn pistol to the door of a great
house (luckily for me the only house), which fronted the canal. I must
have seemed a queer object, coming in from my ride like that, in a
peaceful Dutch town. If I had chanced upon a magistrate I suppose I
should have been locked up; but luck was with me on that day. I chanced
only on Mynheer Stendhal as he sat smoking among his tulips in the front
of his mansion. He jumped up with a “God bless me!” when he saw me.

“Mynheer Stendhal?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said in good English. “What is it, boy?”

“Take me in quick,” I said. “They’re after me.”



CHAPTER X. SOUNDS IN THE NIGHT

In another minute, after Mr. Stendhal had read my note, I was skinning
off my clothes in an upper bedroom. Within three minutes I was dressed
like a Dutch boy, in huge baggy striped trousers belonging to Stendhal’s
son. In four minutes the swift Mr. Stendhal had walked me across the
wharf in sabots to one of the galliots in the canal, which he ordered
under way at once, to pick up Argyle at sea. So that when my pursuers
rode up to Mr. Stendhal’s door in search of me, I was a dirty little
Dutch boy casting off a stern-hawser from a ring bolt. They seemed to
storm at Mr. Stendhal; but I don’t know what they said; he acted the
part of surprised indignation to the life. When I looked my last on Mr.
Stendhal he was at the door, begging a search party to enter to see for
themselves that I was not hidden there. The galliot got under way, at
that moment, with a good deal of crying out from her sailors. As she
swung away into the canal, I saw the handsome lady idly looking on. She
was waiting at the door with the other riders. She was the only
woman there. To show her that I was a skilled seaman I cast off the
stern-hawser nimbly, then dropped on to the deck like one bred to the
trade. A moment later I was aloft, casting loose the gaff-topsail. From
that fine height as the barge began to move I saw the horsemen turning
away foiled. I saw the lady’s leathered hat, making a little dash of
green among the drab of the riding coats. Then an outhouse hid them all
from sight. I was in a sea-going barge, bound out, under all sail,
along a waterway lined with old reeds, all blowing down with a rattling
shiver.

Now I am not going to tell you much more of my Holland experiences. I
was in that barge for about one whole fortnight, during which I think I
saw the greater part of the Dutch canals. We picked up Argyle at sea on
the first day. After that we went to Amsterdam with a cargo of hides.
Then we wandered about at the wind’s will, thinking that it might puzzle
people, if any one should have stumbled on the right scent. All that
fortnight was a long delightful picnic to me. The barge was so like an
Oulton wherry that I was at home in her. I knew what to do, it was not
like being in the schooner. When we were lying up by a wharf, I used
to spend my spare hours in fishing, or in flinging fiat pebbles from
a cleft-stick at the water-rats. When we were under sail I used to sit
aloft in the cross-trees, looking out at the distant sea. At night,
after a supper of strong soup, we all turned in to our bunks in the tiny
cabin, from the scuttle of which I could see a little patch of sky full
of stars.

A boy lives very much in the present. I do not think that I thought much
of the Duke’s service, nor of our venture for the crown. If I thought
at all of our adventures, I thought of the handsome woman with the grey,
fierce eyes. In a way, I hoped that might have another tussle with her,
not because I liked adventure, no sane creature does, but because I
thought of her with liking. I felt that she would be such a brave, witty
person to have for a friend. I felt sad somehow at the thought of not
seeing her again. She was quite young, not more than twenty, if her
looks did not belie her. I used to wonder how it was that she had come
to be a secret agent. I believed that the sharp-faced horsey man had
somehow driven her to it against her will. Thinking of her at night,
before I fell asleep, I used to long to help her. It is curious, but I
always thought tenderly of this woman, even though she had twice tried
to kill me. A man’s bad angel is only his good angel a little warped.

On the second of May, though I did not know it then, Argyle set sail for
Scotland, to raise the clans for a foray across the Border. On the same
day I was summoned from my quarters in the barge to take up my King’s
service. Late one evening, when it was almost dark night, Mr. Jermyn
halted at the wharf-side to call me from my supper. “Mount behind me,
Martin,” he said softly, peering down the hatch. “It’s time, now.”
 I thought he must mean that it was time to invade England. You must
remember that I knew little of the rights of the case, except that the
Duke’s cause was the one favoured by my father, dead such a little while
before. Yet when I heard that sudden summons, it went through me with a
shock that now this England was to be the scene of a bloody civil war,
father fighting son, brother against brother. I would rather have been
anywhere at that moment than where I was, hearing that order. Still, I
had put my hand to the plough. There was no drawing back. I rose up
with my eyes full of tears to say good-bye to the kind Dutch bargemen.
I never saw them again. In a moment I was up the wharf, scrambling into
the big double saddle behind Mr. Jermyn. Before my eyes were accustomed
to the darkness we were trotting off into the night I knew not whither.

“Martin,” said Mr. Jermyn, half turning in his saddle, “talk in a low
voice. There may be spies anywhere.”

“Yes, sir,” I answered, meekly. For a while after that we were silent; I
was waiting for him to tell me more.

“Martin,” he said at length, “we’re going to send you to England, with a
message.”

“Yes, sir?” I answered.

“You understand that there’s danger, boy?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Life is full of danger. But for his King a Christian man must be
content to run risks. You aren’t afraid, Martin?”

“No, sir,” I answered bravely. I was afraid, all the same. I doubt if
any boy my age would have felt very brave, riding in the night like
that, with danger of spies all about.

“That’s right, Martin,” he said kindly. “That’s the kind of boy I
thought you.” Again we were quiet, till at last he said:

“You’re going in a barquentine to Dartmouth. Can you remember Blick of
Kingswear?”

“Blick of Kingswear,” I repeated. “Yes, sir.”

“He’s the man you’re to go to.”

“Yes, sir. What am I to tell him?”

“Tell him this, Martin. Listen carefully. This, now. King Golden Cap.
After Six One.”

“King Golden Cap. After Six One,” I repeated. “Blick of Kingswear. King
Golden Cap. After Six One.”

“That’s right,” he said. “Repeat it over. Don’t forget a word of it.
But I know you’re too careful a lad to do that.” There was no fear of my
forgetting it. I think that message is burned in into my brain under the
skull-bones.

“There’ll be cipher messages, too, Martin. They’re also for Mr. Blick.
You’ll carry a little leather satchel, with letters sewn into the flap.
You’ll carry stockings in the satchel. Or school-books. You are Mr.
Blick’s sister’s son, left an orphan in Holland. You’ll be in mourning.
Your mother died of low-fever, remember, coming over to collect a
debt from her factor. Your mother was an Oulton fish-boat owner. Pay
attention now. I’m going to cross-examine you in your past history.”

As we rode on into the gloom, in the still, flat, misty land, which
gleamed out at whiles with water dykes, he cross-examined me in detail,
in several different ways, just as a magistrate would have done it. I
was soon letter-perfect about my mother. I knew Mr. Blick’s past history
as well as I knew my own.

“Martin,” said Mr. Jermyn suddenly. “Do you hear anything?”

“Yes, sir,” I answered. “I think I do, sir.”

“What is it you hear, Martin?”

“I think I hear a horse’s hoofs, sir.”

“Behind us?”

“Yes, sir. A long way behind.”

“Hold on then, boy. I’m going to pull up.”

We halted for an instant in the midst of a wide fiat desert, the
loneliest place on God’s earth. For an instant in the stillness we
heard the trot trot of a horse’s hoofs. Then the unseen rider behind us
halted, too, as though uncertain how to ride, with our hoofs silent.

“There,” said Mr. Jermyn. “You see. Now we’ll make him go on again.”
 He shook the horse into his trot again, talking to him in a little low
voice that shook with excitement. Sure enough, after a moment the trot
sounded out behind us. It was as though our wraiths were riding behind
us, following us home. “I’ll make sure,” said Mr. Jermyn, pulling up
again.

“You’re a cunning dog,” he said gently. “You heard that?” Indeed, it
sounded uncanny. The unseen rider had feared to pull up, guessing that
we had guessed his intentions. Instead of pulling up he did a much more
ominous thing, he slowed his pace perceptibly. We could hear the change
in the beat of the horse-hoofs. “Cunning lad,” said Mr. Jermyn. “I’ve
a good mind to shoot that man, Martin. He’s following us. Pity it’s so
dark. One can never be sure in the dark like this. But I don’t know. I’d
like to see who it is.”

We trotted on again at our usual pace. Presently, something occurred
to me. Mr. Jermyn, I said; “would you like me to see who it is? I could
slip off as we go. I could lie down flat so that he would pass against
the sky. Then you could come back for me.”

He did not like the scheme at first. He said that it would be too dark
for me to see anybody; but that when we were nearer to the town it might
be done. So we rode on at our quick trot for a couple of more, hearing
always behind us a faint beat of
upon the road, like the echo of our own hoofs. After a time they stopped
suddenly, nor did we hear them again.

“D’you know what he’s done, Martin?” said Mr. Jermyn.

“No, sir,” I answered.

“He’s muffled his horse’s hoofs with duffle shoes. A sort of thick felt
slippers. He was in too great a hurry to do that before. There are the
lights of the town.”

“Shall I get down, sir?”

“If you can without my pulling up. Don’t speak. But lay your head on the
road. You’ll hear the horse, then, if I’m right.”

“Then I’ll lie still,” I said, “to see if I can see who it is.”

“Yes. But make no sign. He may shoot. He may take you for a footpad.
I’ll ride back to you in a minute.”

He slowed down the horse so that I could slip off unheard on to the turf
by the roadside. When he had gone a little distance, I laid my ear to
the road. Sure enough, the noise of the other horse was faint but plain
in the distance, coming along on the road, avoiding the turf. The turf
vas trenched in many drains, so as to make dangerous riding at night. I
lay down flat on the turf, with my pistol in my hand. I was excited; but
I remember that I enjoyed it. I felt so like an ancient Briton lying in
wait for his enemy. I tried to guess the distance of this strange horse
from me. It is always difficult to judge either distance or location by
sound, when the wind is blowing. The horse hoofs sounded about a quarter
of a mile away. I know not how far they really were. Very soon I could
see the black moving mass coming quietly along the road. The duffle
hoof-wraps made a dull plodding noise near at hand. Nearer the unknown
rider came, suspecting nothing. I could see him bent forward, peering
out ahead. I could even take stock of him, dark though it was. He was a
not very tall man, wearing a full Spanish riding cloak. It seemed to me
that he checked his horse’s speed somewhere in the thirty yards before
he passed me. Then, just as he passed, just as I had a full view of him,
blackly outlined against the stars, his horse shied violently at me, on
to the other side of the road. The rider swung him about on the instant
to make him face the danger. I could see him staring down at me, as he
bent forward to pat his horse’s neck. I bent my head down so that my
face was hidden in the grass.

The stranger did not see me. I am quite sure that he did not see me. He
turned his horse back along the road for a few snorting paces. Then with
a sounding slap on his shoulder he drove him at a fast pace along the
turf towards me. I heard the brute whinny. He was uneasy; he was trying
to shy; he was twisting away, trying to avoid the strange thing which
lay there. I hid my head no longer. I saw the horse above me. I saw the
rider glaring down. He was going to ride over me. I saw his face, a grey
blur under his hat. The horse seemed to be right on top of me. I started
up to my feet with a cry. The horse shied into the road, with a violence
which made the rider rock. Then, throwing up his head, he bolted towards
the town, half mad with the scare. Fifty yards down the road he tore
past Mr. Jermyn, who was trotting back to pick me up. We heard the
frantic hoofs pass away into the night, growing louder as the duffle
wraps were kicked off. Perhaps you have noticed how the very sound of
the gallop of a scared horse conveys fear. That is what we felt, we two
conspirators, as we talked together, hearing that clattering alarm-note
die away.

“Martin,” said Mr. Jermyn. “That was a woman. She chuckled as she
galloped past me.”

“Are you sure, sir?” I asked, half-hoping that he might be right. I
felt my heart leap at the thought of being in another adventure with the
lady.

“Yes,” he said, “I’m quite sure. Now we must be quick, so as to give
her no time in the town.” When I had mounted, we forced the horse to a
gallop till we were within a quarter of a mile of the walls, where we
pulled up at a cross-roads.

“Get down, Martin,” he said. “We must enter the town by different roads.
Turn off here to the right. Then take the next two turns to the left,
which will bring you into the square. I shall meet you there. Take your
time. There’s no hurry.”

About ten minutes later, I was stopped in a dark quiet alley by a hand
on the back of my neck. I saw no one. I heard no noise of breathing. In
the pitch blackness of the night the hand arrested me. It was like my
spine suddenly stiffening to a rod of ice. “Quiet,” said a strange voice
before I could scream. “Off with those Dutch clothes. Put on these. Off
with those sabots.” I was in a suit of English clothes in less than a
minute. “Boots,” the voice said in my ear. “Pull them on.” They were
long leather knee-boots, supple from careful greasing. In one of them I
felt something hard. My heart leapt as I felt it.

It was a long Italian stiletto. I felt myself a seaman indeed, nay,
more than a seaman, a secret agent, with a pair of such boots upon me,
“heeled,” as the sailors call it, with such a weapon. “Go straight on,”
 said the voice.

As I started to go straight on, there was a sort of rustling behind me.
Some black figure seemed to vanish from me. Whoever the man was that had
brought me the clothes, he had vanished, just as an Indian will vanish
into grass six inches high. Thinking over my strange adventures, I
think that that changing of my clothes in the night was almost the most
strange of all. It was so eerie, that he should be there at all, a part
of Mr. Jermyn’s plan, fitting into it exactly, though undreamed of by
me. Would indeed that all Mr. Jermyn’s plans had carried through so
well. But it was not to be. One ought not to grumble.

A few steps farther on, I came to a public square, on one side of which
(quite close to where I stood) was a wharf, crowded with shipping. I had
hardly expected the sea to be so near, somehow, but seeing it like that
I naturally stopped to look for the ship which was to carry me. The only
barquentine among the ships lay apart from the others, pointing towards
the harbour entrance. She seemed to be a fine big vessel, as far as
I could judge in that light. I lingered there for some few minutes,
looking at the ships, wondering why it was that Mr. Jermyn had not met
me. I was nervous about it. My nerves were tense from all the excitement
of the night. One cannot stand much excitement for long. I had had
enough excitement that night to last me through the week. As I stood
looking at the ships, I began to feel a horror of the wharf-side. I felt
as though the very stones of the place were my enemies, lying in wait
for me. I cannot explain the feeling more clearly than that. It was due
probably to the loneliness of the great empty square, dark as a tomb.
Then, expecting Mr. Jermyn, but failing to meet with him, was another
cause for dread. I thought, in my nervousness, that I should be in a
fine pickle if any enemies made away with Mr. Jermyn, leaving me alone,
in a strange land, with only a few silver pieces in my pocket. Still,
Mr. Jermyn was long in coming. My anxiety was almost more than I could
bear.

At last, growing fearful that I had somehow missed him at the mouth of
the dark alley, I walked slowly back in my tracks, wishing that I had a
thicker jacket, since it was beginning to rain rather smartly. There was
a great sort of inn on the side of the square to which I walked. It had
lights on the second floor. The great windows of that story opened on
to balconies, in what is, I believe, the Spanish way of building. I
remember feeling bitterly how cheery the warm lights looked, inside
there, where the people were. I stood underneath the balcony out of the
rain, looking out sharply towards the alley, expecting at each instant
to see Mr. Jermyn. Still he did not come. I dared not move from where I
was lest I should miss him. I racked my brains to try to remember if I
had obeyed orders exactly. I wondered whether I had come to the right
square. I began to imagine all kinds of evil things which might have
happened to him. Perhaps that secret fiend of a woman had been too many
for him. Perhaps some other secret service people had waylaid him as
he entered the town. Perhaps he was even then in bonds in some cellar,
being examined for letters by some of the usurper’s men.



CHAPTER XI. AURELIA

While I was fretting myself into a state of hysteria, the catch of one
of the great window-doors above me was pushed back. Someone came out on
the balcony just over my head. It was a woman, evidently in some great
distress, for she was sobbing bitterly. I thought it mean to stand there
hearing her cry, so I moved away. As I walked off, the window opened
again. A big heavy-looted man came out.

“Stop crying, Aurelia,” the voice said. “Here’s the stuff. Put it in
your pocket.”

“I can’t,” the woman answered. “I can’t.”

I stopped moving away when I heard that voice. It was the voice of the
Longshore Jack woman who had had those adventures with me. I should have
known her voice anywhere, even choked as it then was with sobs. It was a
good voice, of a pleasant quality, but with a quick, authoritative ring.

“I can’t,” she said. “I can’t, Father.”

“Put it in your pocket,” her father said. “No rubbish of that sort. You
must.”

“It would kill me. I couldn’t,” she answered. “I should hate myself
forever.”

“No more of that to me,” said the cold, hard voice with quiet passion.
“Your silly scruples aren’t going to outweigh a nation’s need. There it
is in your pocket. Be careful you don’t use too much. If you fail again,
remember, you’ll earn your own living. Oh, you bungler! When I think
of--”

“I’m no bungler. You know it,” she answered passionately. “I planned
everything. You silly men never backed me up. Who was it guessed right
this time? I suppose you think you’d have come here without my help?
That’s like a man.”

“Don’t stand there rousing the town, Aurelia,” the man said. “Come in out
of the rain at once. Get yourself ready to start.”

As the window banged to behind them, a figure loomed up out of the
night--two figures, more. I sprang to one side; but they were too quick
for me. Someone flung an old flour-sack over my head. Before I was ready
to struggle I was lying flat on the pavement, with a man upon my chest.

“It’s him,” said a voice. “You young rip, where are the letters?”

“What letters?” I said, struggling, choking against the folds of the
sack.

“Rip up his boots,” said another. “Dig him with a knife if he won’t
answer.”

“Bring him in to the Colonel,” said the first.

“I’ve got no letters,” I said.

“Lift him up quick,” said the man who had suggested the knife. “In with
him. Here’s the watch.”

“Quick, boys,” the leader said. “We mustn’t be caught at this game.”

Steps sounded somewhere in the square. Hearing them, I squealed with all
my strength, hoping that somebody would come.

“Choke him,” said one of the men.

I gave one more loud squeal before they jammed the sack on my mouth.
To my joy, the feet broke into a run. They were the feet of the watch,
coming to my rescue.

“Up with him,” said the leader among my captors. “Quick, in to the
Colonel with him.”

“No, no! Drop it. I’m off. Here’s the watch,” cried the other hurriedly.

They let me drop on to the pavement after half lifting me. In five
seconds more they were scattering to shelter. As I rose to my feet,
flinging off the flour-sack, I found myself in the midst of the city
watch, about a dozen men, all armed, whose leader carried a lantern.
The windows of the great inn were open; people were thronging on to the
balcony to see what the matter was; citizens came to their house-doors.
At that moment, Mr. Jermyn appeared. The captain of the guard was asking
questions in Dutch. The guardsmen were peering at my face in the lantern
light.

Mr. Jermyn questioned me quickly as to what had happened. He interpreted
my tale to the guard. I was his servant, he told them. I had been
attacked by unknown robbers, some of whom, at least, were English. One
of them had tried to stifle me with a flour-sack, which, on examination
under the lantern, proved to be the sack of Robert Harling, Corn-miller,
Eastry. Goodness knows how it came to be there; for ship’s flour travels
in cask. Mr. Jermyn gave an address, where we could be found if any of
the villains were caught; but he added that it was useless to expect
me to identify any of them, since the attack had been made in the dark,
with the victim securely blindfolded. He gave the leader of the men some
money. The guard moved away to look for the culprits (long before in
hiding, one would think), while Mr. Jermyn took me away with him.

As we went, I looked up at the inn balcony, from which several heads
looked down upon us. Behind them, in the lighted room, in profile, in
full view, was the lady of the fierce eyes. I knew her at once, in spite
of the grey Spanish (man’s) hat she wore, slouched over her face. She
was all swathed in a Spanish riding cloak. One took her for a handsome
young man. But I knew that she was my enemy. I knew her name now, too;
Aurelia. She was looking down at me, or rather at us, for she could not
have made out our faces. Her face was sad. She seemed uninterested;
she had, perhaps, enough sorrow of her own at that moment, without
the anxieties of others. A big, burly, hulking, handsome person of the
swaggering sort which used to enter the army in those days, left the
balcony hurriedly. I saw him at the window, speaking earnestly to her,
pointing to the square, in which, already, the darkness hid us. I saw
the listlessness fall from her. She seemed to waken up into intense life
in an instant. She walked with a swift decision peculiar to her
away from the window, leaving the hulking fellow, an elderly,
dissolute-looking man, with the wild puffy eyes of the drinker, to pick
his teeth in full view of the square.

When we left watching our enemies, Mr. Jermyn bade me walk on tiptoe. We
scurried away across the square diagonally, pausing twice to listen for
pursuers. No one seemed to be following. There was not much sense in
following; for the guard was busy searching for suspicious persons. We
heard them challenging passers-by, with a rattle of their halberds
on the stones, to make their answers prompt. We were safe enough from
persecution for the time. We went down a dark street into a dark alley.
From the alley we entered a courtyard, the sides of which were vast
houses. We entered one of these houses. The door seemed to open in the
mysterious way which had puzzled me so much in Fish Lane. Mr. Jermyn
smiled when I asked him how this was done. “Go on in, boy,” he said.
“There are many queer things in lives like ours.” He gave me a shove
across the threshold, while the door closed itself silently behind us.

He took me into a room which was not unlike a marine store of the better
sort. There were many sailor things (all of the very best quality) lying
in neat heaps on long oak shelves against the walls. In the middle of
the room a table was laid for dinner.

Mr. Jermyn made me eat a hearty meal before starting, which I did. As
I ate, he fidgeted about among some lockers at my back. Presently, as I
began to sip some wine which he had poured out for me, he put something
over my shoulders.

“Here,” he said, “this is the satchel, Martin. Keep the straps drawn
tight always. Don’t take it off till you give it into Mr. Blick’s hands.
His own hands, remember. Don’t take it off even at night. When you lie
down, lash it around your neck with spun-yarn.” All this I promised most
faithfully to do. “But,” I said, examining the satchel, which was like
an ordinary small old weather-beaten satchel for carrying books, “where
are the letters, sir?”

“Sewn into the double,” he answered. “You wouldn’t be able to sew so
neatly as that. Would you, now?”

“Oh, yes, I should, sir,” I replied. “I am a pretty good hand with a
sail-needle. The Oulton fishermen used to teach me the stitches. I can
do herring-bone stitch. I can even put a cringle into a sail.”

“You’re the eighth wonder of the world, I think,” Mr. Jermyn said. “But
choose, now. Choose a kit for yourself. You won’t get a chance to change
your clothes till you get to Mr. Blick’s if you don’t take some from
here. So just look round the room here. Take whatever you want.”

I felt myself to have been fairly well equipped by the stranger who had
made me change my clothes in the alley. But I knew how cold the Channel
may be even in June; so I chose out two changes of thick underwear.
Weapons I had no need for, with the armory already in my belt; but a
heavy tarred jacket with an ear-flap collar was likely to be useful, so
I chose that instead. It was not more than ten sizes too large for me;
that did not matter; at sea one tries to keep warm; appearances are not
much regarded. Last of all, when I had packed my satchel, I noticed
a sailor’s canvas “housewife” very well stored with buttons, etc. I
noticed that it held what is called a “palm,” that is, the leather
hand-guard used by sail-makers for pushing the needle through sail
cloth. It occurred to me, vaguely, that such a “housewife” would be
useful, in case my clothes got torn, so I stuffed it into my satchel
with the other things. I saw that it contained a few small sail-needles
(of the kind so excellent as egg-borers) as well as some of the strong
fine sail-twine, each thread of which will support a weight of fifty
pounds. I put the housewife into my store with a vague feeling of being
rich in the world’s goods, with such a little treasury of necessaries; I
had really no thought of what that chance impulse was to do for me.

“Are you ready?” Mr. Jermyn asked.

“Yes, sir. Quite ready.”

“Take this blank drawing-book,” he said, handing me a small pocket-book,
in which a pencil was stuck. “Make a practice of drawing what you see.
Draw the ships. Make sketches of the coast. You will find that such
drawings will give you great pleasure when you come to be old. They will
help you, too, in impressing an object on your mind. Drawing thus will
give you a sense of the extraordinary wonder of the universe. It will
teach you a lot of things. Now let’s be off. It’s time we were on
board.”

When we went out of the house we were joined by three or four seamen who
carried cases of bottles (probably gin bottles). We struck off towards
the ship together at a brisk pace, singing one of those quick-time songs
with choruses to which the sailors sometimes work. The song they sang
was that very jolly one called “Leave her, Johnny.” They made such a
noise with the chorus of this ditty that Mr. Jermyn was able to refresh
my memory in the message to be given to Mr. Blick.

The rain had ceased before we started. When we came into the square, we
saw that cressets, or big flaming port-fires, had been placed along
the wharf, to give light to some seamen who were rolling casks to the
barquentine. A little crowd of idlers had gathered about the workers to
watch them at their job; there may have been so many as twenty people
there. They stood in a pretty strong, but very unsteady light, by which
I could take stock of them. I looked carefully among them for the figure
of a young man in a grey Spanish hat; but he was certainly not there.
The barquentine had her sails loosed, but not hoisted. Some boats were
in the canal ahead, ready to tow her out. She had also laid out a
hawser, by which to heave herself out with her capstan. I could see at
a glance that she was at the point of sailing. As we came up the
plank-gangway which led to her deck we were delayed for a moment by a
seaman who was getting a cask aboard.

“Beg pardon, sir,” he said to Mr. Jermyn. “I won’t keep you waiting
long. This cask’s about as heavy as nitre.”

“What ‘a’ you got in that cask, Dick?” said the boatswain, who kept a
tally at the gangway.

“Nitre or bullets, I guess,” said Dick, struggling to get the cask on to
the gang plank. “It’s as heavy as it knows how.”

“Give Dick a hand there,” the boatswain ordered. A seaman who was
standing somewhere behind me came forward, jogging my elbow as he
passed. In a minute or two they had the cask aboard.

“It’s red lead,” said the boatswain, examining the marks upon it. “Sling
it down into the ‘tweendecks.”

After this little diversion, I was free to go down the gangway with
Mr. Jermyn. The captain received us in the cabin. He seemed to know my
“uncle Blick,” as he called him, very well indeed. I somehow didn’t like
the looks of the man; he had a bluff air; but it seemed to sit ill
upon him. He reminded me of the sort of farmer who stands well with his
parson or squire, while he tyrannizes over his labourers with all the
calculating cowardly cruelty of the mean mind. I did not take to Captain
Barlow, for all his affected joviality.

However, the ship was sailing. They showed me the little trim cabin
which was to be mine for the voyage. Mr. Jermyn ran ashore up the
gangway, after shaking me by the hand. He called to me over his shoulder
to remember him very kindly to my uncle. A moment later, as the hawsers
were cast off, the little crowd on the wharf called out “Three cheers
for the Gara barquentine,” which the Gara’s crew acknowledged with three
cheers for Pierhead, in the sailor fashion. We were moving slowly under
the influence of the oared boats ahead of us, when a seaman at the
forward capstan began to sing the solo part of an old capstan chanty.
The men broke in upon him with the chorus, which rang out, in its sweet
clearness, making echoes in the city. I ran to the capstan to heave with
them, so that I, too, might sing. I was at the capstan there, heaving
round with the best of them, until we were standing out to sea, beyond
the last of the fairway lights, with our sails trimmed to the
strong northerly wind. After that, being tired with so many crowded
excitements, which had given me a life’s adventures since supper-time, I
went below to my bunk, to turn in.

I took off my satchel, intending to tie it round my neck after I had
undressed. Some inequality in the strap against my fingers made me hold
it to the cabin lamp to examine it more closely. To my horror, I saw
that the strap had been nearly cut through in five places. If it had not
been of double leather with an inner lining of flexible wire, any one
of those cuts would have cut the thong clean in two. Then a brisk twitch
would have left the satchel at the cutter’s mercy. It gave me a lively
sense of the craft of our enemies, to see those cuts in the leather. I
had felt nothing. I had suspected nothing. Only once, for that instant
on the wharf, when we stopped to let Dick get his barrel aboard, had
they had a chance to come about me. Yet in that instant of time they had
suspected that that satchel contained letters. They had made their bold
attempt to make away with it. They had slashed this leather in five
places with a knife as sharp as a razor. But had it been on the wharf,
that this was done? I began to wonder if it could have been on the
wharf. Might it not have been done when I was at the capstan, heaving
round on the bar? I thought not. I must have noticed a seaman doing such
a thing. It would have been impossible for any one to have cut the strap
there; for the capstan was always revolving. The man next to me on the
bar never took his hands from the lever, of that I was certain. The men
on the bar behind me could not have reached me. Even if they had reached
me the mate must have noticed it. I knew that sailors were often clever
thieves; but I did not believe that they could have been so clever under
the mate’s eye. If it had not been done at the capstan it could not have
been done since I came aboard; for there had been no other opportunity.
I was quite convinced, after a moment’s thought, that it had been done
on the wharf before I came aboard. Then I wondered if it had been done
by common shore thieves, or “nickers,” who are always present in our
big seaport towns, ready to steal whenever they get a chance. But I was
rather against this possibility; for my mind just then was much too full
of Aurelia’s party. I saw their hands in it. It would have needed very
strong evidence to convince me that they were not at the bottom of this
last attack, as they had doubtless been in the attack under the inn
balcony.

Thinking of their cunning with some dismay, I went to my door to secure
it. I was in my stockinged feet at the moment, as I had kicked my
boots off on coming into the cabin. My step, therefore, must have been
noiseless. Opening the door smartly, half-conscious of some slight noise
on the far side, I almost ran into Captain Barlow, who was standing
without. He showed a momentary confusion, I thought, at seeing me thus
suddenly. It was a bad sign. To me, in my excited nervous state, it was
a very bad sign. It convinced me that he had been standing there, trying
to spy upon me through the keyhole, with what purpose I could guess only
too well. His face changed to a jovial grin in an instant; but I felt
that he was searching my face narrowly for some sign of suspicion.

“I was just coming in to see if you wanted anything,” he said.

“No. Nothing, thanks,” I answered. “But what time’s breakfast, sir?”

“Oh, the boy’ll call you,” he answered. “Is that your school satchel?
Hey? What you carry your books in? Let’s see it?”

“Oh,” I said, as lightly as I could, feeling that he was getting on
ticklish ground. “I’ve not unpacked it yet. It’s got all my things in
it.”

By this time he was well within my cabin. “Why,” he said, “this strap’s
almost cut in two. Does your master let you bring your satchel to school
in that state? How did it come to be cut like that? Hey?”

I made some confused remark about its having always been in that state;
as it was an old satchel which my father used for a shooting-bag. I had
never known boys to carry books in a satchel. That kind of school was
unknown to me.

“Well,” he said, fingering the strap affectionately, as though he was
going to lift it off my head, “you let me take it away with me. I’ve got
men in this ship, who can mend a cut leather strap as neat as you’ve no
idea of. They’d sew up a cut like them so as you’d hardly know it had
been cut.”

I really feared that he would have the bag away from me by main force.
But I rallied all my forces to save it. “I’m lagged now,” I said. “I
haven’t undone my things. I’ll give it to you in the morning.”

It seemed to me that he looked at me rather hard when I said this; but
he evidently thought “What can it matter? Tomorrow will serve just as
well.” So he just gave a little laugh. “Right,” he said. “You turn in
now. Give it to me in the morning. Good night, boy.”

“Good night,” I said, as he left the cabin, adding, under my breath,
“Good riddance, too. You won’t find quite so much when you come to
examine this bag by daylight.” After he had gone--but not at once, as I
wished not to make him suspicious,--I locked my cabin-door. Then I hung
my tarred sea-coat on the door-hook, so that the flap entirely covered
the keyhole. There were bolts on the door, but the upper one alone could
be pushed home. With this in its place felt secure from spies. Yet not
too secure. I was not certain that the bulkheads were without crannies
from which I could be watched. The crack by the door-hinge might, for
all I knew, give a very good view of the inside of the cabin. Thinking
that I might still be under observation I decided to put off what I had
to do until the very early morning, so I undressed myself for bed. I
took care to put out the light before turning in, so that I might not
be seen lashing the satchel round my neck with a length of spunyarn. I
slept with my head upon it.



CHAPTER XII. BRAVE CAPTAIN BARLOW

Very early the next morning, at about half-past four, a little before
sunrise, I woke up with a start, wondering where I was. Looking through
my little scuttle port, I could see the flashing of bright waves,
which sometimes dowsed my window with a shower of drops. The ship
was apparently making about three knots an hour, under all her sails.
Directly I woke, I turned out of my bunk to do what I had to do. After
dressing, I took my sail-making tools from my housewife. I had resolved
to cut the letters from their hiding-place so that I might make them
up into tiny rolls, small enough to hide in my pistol cartridges. Very
carefully I cut the threads which bound the leather flaps of the satchel
together. I worked standing up, with the satchel in my bunk. I could
hardly have been seen from any point. In a few moments the letters were
in my hands. They were small sheets of paper, each about four inches
square. They were nine in number, all different. They were covered with
a neat cipher very different from the not very neat, not quite formed
hand of the Duke himself. What the cipher was, I did not know. It was
one of the many figure ciphers then in use. I learned long afterwards
that the figures which frequently occurred in them stood for King
James II. Such as they were, those cipher letters made a good deal of
difference to many thousands of people then living contentedly at home.

As soon as I had removed them, I rolled them up very carefully into
pistol cartridges from which I drew the charges. I was just going to
throw away the powder, when I thought, “No, I’ll put the powder back.
It’ll make the fraud more difficult to detect.” So I put the powder back
with great care. Then I searched my mind for something with which to
seal up the cartridge wads over the powder. I could think of nothing at
all, till I remembered the tar-seams at my feet. I dug up a fragment of
tar-seam from the dark corners of the cabin under my bunk. Then I lit my
lamp with my little pocket tinder-box, so that I could heat the tar as I
needed it. It took me a long time to finish the cartridges properly; but
I flatter myself that I made neat jobs of them. I was trained to neat
habits by my father. The Oulton seamen had given me a taste for doing
clever neat work, such as plaits or pointing, so that I was not such a
bungler at delicate handicraft as most boys of my age. I even took the
trouble to hide the tar marks on my wads by smearing wetted gunpowder
all over them. When I had hidden all the letters, I wrote out a few
pencilled notes upon leaves neatly cut from my pocket-book. I wrote a
varying arrangement of ciphers on each leaf, in the neatest hand I could
command. I always made neat figures; but as I had not touched a pen for
nearly a month, I was out of practice. Still, I did very creditably. I
am quite sure that my neat ciphers gave the usurper James a very trying
week of continual study. I daresay the whole privy council puzzled over
those notes of mine. I felt very pleased with them when they were done.

I had not much more than a half-hour left to me when I finished writing
them out. The ship’s bells told me that it was seven o’clock. Cabin
breakfast, as I knew very well, would be at eight. I could expect to
be called at half past seven. I put the two flaps of the satchel evenly
together, removing all traces of the thread used in the earlier sewing.
Then I very trimly sewed the two flaps with my sail-needle, using all
my strength to make secure stitches. I used some brown soap in the
wash-stand as thread wax, to make the sewing more easy. “There,” I
thought, “no one will suspect that this was sewn by a boy.” When I had
finished, I thought of dirtying the twine to make the work look old; but
I decided to let well alone. I might so easily betray my hand by trying
to do too much. The slight trace of the soap made the work look old
enough. But I took very great care to remove all traces of my work
in the cabin. The little scraps of thread which I had cut out of the
satchel I ate, as I could see no safer means of getting rid of them. I
cannot say that they disagreed with me, though they were not very easy
to get down. My palm, being a common sea-implement, not likely to
seem strange in a ship’s cabin, I hid in a locker below my bunk. My
sail-needles I thrust at first into the linings of the pockets of my
tarred sea-coat. On second thoughts, I drove them into the mattress of
my bunk. My hank of twine I dropped on deck later, when I went out to
breakfast. Having covered all traces of my morning’s work, I washed with
a light heart. When some one came to my cabin-door to call me, I cried
out that I would be out in a minute.

When the breakfast bell rang, I walked aft to the great cabin, with my
satchel over my shoulder. The captain asked me how I had slept; so
I said that I had slept like a top, until a few minutes before I was
called.

“That’s the way with you young fellows,” he said. “When you come to be
my age you won’t be able to do that.” Presently, as we were sitting down
to breakfast, he began his attack upon the satchel. “You still got your
satchel, I see,” he said. “Do you carry it about with you always? Or are
you pretending to be a military man with a knapsack?”

I looked a little uncomfortable at this; but not from the reason which
flashed through his mind. I said that I liked carrying it about, as it
served instead of a side coat-pocket, which was perfectly true.

“By the way,” he said; “you must let me take that beloved satchel after
breakfast, so that I can get the strap sewn up for you.”

It came into my mind to look blank at this. I stammered as I said that I
didn’t mind the straps being cut, because there was a wire heart to the
leather which would hold till we got to England, when I could put on a
new strap for myself.

“Oh, nonsense,” he said, serving out some of the cold bacon from the
dish in front of him. “Nonsense. What would your uncle say if you landed
slovenly like that? Besides, now you’re at sea you’re a sailor. Sailors
don’t wear things like that at meals any more than they wear their
hats.”

After this, I saw that there was no further chance of retaining the
satchel, so I took it from my neck, but grudgingly, as though I hated
doing so. I heard no more about it till after breakfast, when he made a
sudden playful pounce upon it, as it lay upon the chair beside me, at an
instant when I was quite unprepared to save it.

“Aha,” he cried, waving his booty. “Now then. Now.”

I knew that he would expect a passionate outcry from me, nor did I
spare it; because I meant him to think that I knew the satchel contained
precious matters.

“No, no,” I cried. “Let me have it. I don’t want it mended.”

“What?” he said. “Not want it mended? It must be mended.”

At this I made a sort of playful rush to get it. He dodged away from me,
laughing. I attacked again, playing my part admirably, as I thought,
but taking care not to overdo it. At last, as though fearing to show too
great an anxiety about the thing, I allowed him to keep it. I asked him
if he would be able to sew the leather over the wire heart.

“Why, yes,” he said. I could see that he smiled. He was thinking that I
had stopped struggling in order to show him that I set no real value on
the satchel. He was thinking that he saw through my cunning.

“Might I see you sew it up?” I said. “I should like to learn how to sew
up leather.”

He thought that this was another sign of there being letters in the
satchel, this wish of mine to be present when the sewing was done.

“Why, yes,” he said. “I’ll do it here. You shall do it yourself if you
like. I will teach you.” So saying, he tossed me an orange from his
pocket. “Eat that,” he said, “while I go on deck to take the sights.”

He left the cabin, swinging the satchel carelessly in his left hand. I
thought to myself that I had better play anxiety; so, putting the orange
on the table, I followed him into the ‘tweendecks, halting at the door,
as though in fear about the satchel’s fate. Looking back, he saw me
there. My presence confirmed him in his belief that he had got my
treasure. He waved to me. “Back in a minute,” he said. “Stay in the
cabin till I come back. There’s a story-book in the locker.”

I turned back into the cabin in a halting, irresolute way which no doubt
deceived him as my other movements had deceived him. When I had shut the
door, I went to the locker for the story-book.

Now the story-book, when I found it, was not a story-book, but a little
thick book of Christian sermons by various good bishops. I read one of
them through, to try, but I did not understand it. Then I put the book
down with the sudden thought: “This Captain Barlow cannot read. He
thinks that these sermons are stories. Now who is it in this ship to
whom the letters will be shown? Or can there be no one here? Is he going
to steal the letters to submit them to somebody ashore?”

I was pretty sure that there was somebody shut up in the ship who was
concerned in the theft with Barlow. I cannot tell what made me so sure.
I had deceived the captain so easily that I despised him. I did not give
him credit for any intelligence whatsoever. Perhaps that was the reason.
Then it came over me with a cold wave of dismay that perhaps the woman
Aurelia was on board, hidden somewhere, but active for mischief. I
remembered that scrap of conversation from the inn-balcony. I wondered
if that secret mission mentioned then was to concern me in any way. What
was it, I wondered, that was put into her pocket by her father as she
stood crying there, just above me? If she were on board, then I must
indeed look to myself, for she was probably too cunning a creature to
be deceived by my forgeries. The very thought of having her in the ship
with me was uncomfortable. I felt that I must find some more subtle
hiding-place for my letters than I had found hitherto. I may have
idealized the woman, in my alarm, into a miracle of shrewdness. At
any rate I knew that she would be a much more dangerous opponent than
Captain Barlow, the jocular donkey who allowed himself to be fooled by
a schoolboy who was in his power. I knew, too, that she would probably
search me other letters, whether my ciphered blinds deceived her or not.
She was not one so easily satisfied as a merchant skipper; besides, she
had now two scores against me, as well as excellent reason to think me a
sharp young man.

Presently, after half an hour’s absence, the captain came back with the
satchel, evidently very pleased with himself. He seemed to find pleasure
in the sight of my pretended distress. “Why,” he said, with a grin;
“you’ve not eaten your orange.”

“No, sir,” I said, “I’m not very hungry just after breakfast.”

“Why, then,” he answered, “you must keep it for your dinner. Look how
nice I’ve mended your strap for you.”

“Thank you very much, sir,” I said. “But thought that you were going to
do it here. You were going to teach me how to do it.”

“Well, it’s done now, isn’t it?” he replied. “It’s done pretty good,
too. I’ll teach you how to sew some other time. I suppose they don’t
learn you that, where you go to school?”

“No, sir,” I said, “they don’t.”

“Ah,” he said, picking up the book. “You’re a great one for your book, I
see. There’s very good reading in a book like that.”

“Yes,” I said, looking at the mended strap. “There is. How very neatly
you’ve mended the strap, sir. Thank you very much.”

He looked at me with a look which said, very plainly, “You’ve got a fine
nerve, my lad, to pretend in that way.”

I could see from his manner during the next few minutes that he wished
to keep me from examining the satchel flap. No doubt he thought that I
was on tenter-hooks all the time, to look to see if the precious letters
had been disturbed. At last, in a very easy way, after slinging the
strap round my shoulder, I pulled out my handkerchief, intending to put
it into the satchel as into an extra pocket.

“I’m going up on deck, sir,” I said. “May I take the book with me?”

As he said that I might, I swiftly opened the satchel, to pop the book
in. I could feel that he watched my face mighty narrowly all the time.
No doubt I looked guilty enough to convince him of his cleverness. I had
no more than a second’s peep at the flap, but that was quite enough to
show me that it had been tampered with. I had finished off my work that
morning with an even neatness. The bold Captain Barlow had left two ends
of thread sticking out from the place where he had ended his stitch.
Besides, my thread had been soaped, to make it work more easily. The
thread in the flap now was plainly not soaped; it was fibrous to the
touch, not sleeked down, as mine had been.

When I went on deck, I found the ship driving fast down Channel, making
an excellent passage. I took up my place by the mizzen-rigging, near
which there were no seamen at work, so that I could puzzle out a new
hiding-place for my letters. I noticed, as I stood there, that some men
were getting a boat over the side. It seemed a queer thing to be doing
in the Channel, so far from the port to which we were bound; but I did
not pay much attention to it at the time, as I was very anxious. I was
wondering what in the world I could do with the pistol cartridges which
I had made that morning. I feared Aurelia. For all that I could tell she
was looking at me as I stood there, guessing, from my face, that I had
other letters upon me. It did not occur to me that my anxiety might be
taken for grief at having the satchel searched. At last it came into
my head that Aurelia, if she were in the ship, would follow up that
morning’s work promptly, before I could devise a fresh hiding-place.
At any rate I felt pretty sure that I should not be much out of that
observation until the night. It came into my head that the next attack
would be upon my boots; for in those days secret agents frequently hid
their papers above a false boot-sole, or stitched them into the double
leather where the beckets, or handles, joined the leg of the boot at the
rim.

Sure enough, I had not been very long on deck when the ship’s boy
appeared before me. He was an abject looking lad, like most ship’s boys.
I suppose no one would become a ship’s boy until he had proved himself
unfit for life anywhere else. Personally, I had rather be a desert
savage than a ship’s boy. My experience on La Reina was enough to sicken
me of such a life forever. This barquentine’s boy came up to me, as I
have said.

“Sir,” he said, “can I take away your boots to black, please?”

“No,” I answered, “my boots don’t want blacking. I grease them myself.”

“Please, sir,” he said, “do let me take them away, sir.”

“No,” I said. “I grease them myself, thank you.” I thought that this
would end the business; but no such matter.

“Please, sir,” he said, “I wish you would let me take them away. The
captain’ll wale me if I don’t. He gave me orders, sir.”

“Don’t call me ‘sir,’” I said. “I’ll see the captain myself.”

I walked quickly to the companion-way, below which (listening to us,
like the creature he was) sat the captain, carving the end of a stick.

“Please, sir,” I said, “I’ve already greased my boots this morning. I
always grease them.” (I had only had them about twelve hours.) “If I
blacked them they’d get so dry that they would crack.”

“All right. All right, boy,” he answered. “I forgot you wore
soft-leather boots. They’re the kind they buy up to make salt beef of at
the Navy Yard.” He grinned in my face, as though he were pleased; but
a few minutes later, when I had gone forward, I heard him thrashing the
wretched boy, because he had failed to get the boots from me for him.

I soon found that I was pretty closely watched. If I went forward to the
fo’c’s’le, I found myself dogged by the ship’s boy, who was blubbering
from his whipping, poor lad, as though his heart would break. In between
his sobs, he tried to tell me the use of everything forward, which was
trying to me, as I knew more than he knew. If I went aft, the mate would
come rolling up, to ask me if I could hear the dog-fish bark yet. If I
went below the captain got on to my tracks at once. He was by far the
worst of the three: the other two were only obeying his orders. I went
into my cabin hoping to get rid of him there; but no, it was no use.
In he came, too, with the excuse that he wished to see if I had enough
clothes on my bunk. It was more worrying than words can tell. All the
time I wondered whether he would end by knocking me senseless so that
he might search my boots at his ease. I had the fear of that strongly on
me. I was tempted, yet feared, to drive him from me by threatening him
with my pistol. His constant dogging of me was intolerable. But had I
threatened him, he would have had an excuse for maltreating me. My
duty was to save the letters, not to worry about my own inconveniences.
Often, since then, I have suffered agonies of remorse at not giving up
the letters meekly. Had I done so, I might, who knows, have saved some
two thousand lives. Well. We are all agents of a power greater than
ourselves. Though I was, it may be, doing wrong then, I was doing wrong
unwittingly. Had things happened only a little differently, my wrong
would have turned out a glorious right. The name of Martin Hyde would
have been in the history books. He watched me narrowly as I took off
my waistcoat (pretending to be too hot), nor did he forget to eye
the waistcoat. “See here,” he said. “Do you know how a sailor folds a
waistcoat? Give it to me now. I’ll show you.” He snatched it from my
hands with that rudeness which, in a boorish nature, passes for fun; he
only wished to feel it over so that if any letter were sewn within it he
might hear the paper crackle. The sailor’s way of folding a waistcoat,
as shown by him then, was just the way which bent all the cloth in
folds. He seemed to be much disgusted at hearing no crackling as he
folded it. I could have laughed outright at his woeful face, had I been
less anxious. Had he been worth his salt as a spy he would have lulled
all my suspicions to sleep before beginning to search for letters.
Instead of that he went to work as crudely as a common footpad..



CHAPTER XIII. IT BREEZES UP

After I had taken off my waistcoat, I went out into the ‘tweendecks,
then into the grand cabin, then into the space below the booms. He
followed me everywhere, keeping me under observation, till I was tempted
to tell him where the letters were, so as to have a little peace. At
first he kept telling me stories, or making bad jokes; but very soon
he grew weary of pretending; he became surly. At this point I asked him
which was his cabin. He glowered at me for asking such a question, but
he pointed it out to me. It was a cabin no larger than my own, on
the opposite (that is the port) side of the ‘tweendecks. I took the
opportunity (it was a bold stroke, evidently displeasing to him) of
looking in; for to tell the truth I had a suspicion that he slept in the
grand cabin, on the top of the locker. I thought that the stateroom
had another inmate. When I looked into it I expected to find myself in
Aurelia’s presence. I did not want to see her; but I wished very eagerly
to know if she were in the ship or not. The stateroom was empty, but the
bunk, which had been slept in, was not yet made up.

I do not know how much longer he would have dogged me about the ship.
To my great joy he was called from me by the mate, who cried down
the hatchway, bidding him come up at once, as there was “something in
sight.” Captain Barlow evidently wanted me to come on deck with him;
but I was resolute. I said I would stop below to have another try at his
stories. He went on deck surlily, saying something about “You wait,”
 or “You whelp,” I could not catch his exact words. He turned at the
hatchway to see where I had gone. I had expected this move, so when
he looked, he saw me entering the grand cabin, just as I had said. I
watched him through the crack in the hinge; for I fully expected him to
return suddenly. As he did not return on the instant, I darted into my
own cabin just long enough to drop the letter cartridges into an old tin
slush-pot which was stowed in the locker below the bunk. I had noted it
in the early morning when I had done my sewing. I pressed the cartridges
into the slush, till they were all hidden. In another instant of time
the pot was back in the locker among the other oddments while I was
back in the cabin hard at work at my sermons. I was conscious that
the captain glanced through the skylight at me. No doubt what he saw
reassured him. For the moment I felt perfectly safe.

About half an hour later, I heard a great noise of hauling on deck,
followed by the threshing of our sails, as though they had suddenly come
aback. I knew enough of the sea to know that if we were tacking there
would be other orders, while, if the helmsman had let the ship come
aback by accident I should have heard the officers rating him. I heard
neither nor orders; something else was happening. A glance out of the
stern windows showed me that the ship was no longer under way. She was
not moving through the water. It struck me that I had better go on deck
to see what was the matter. When I reached the deck I found that
the barquentine was hove-to (that is, held motionless by a certain
arrangement of the sails) about half a mile from a small full-rigged
ship which had hove-to likewise. The barquentine’s boat was rapidly
pulling towards this full-rigged ship, with Captain Barlow sitting
in the stern-sheets. The ship was a man-of-war; for she flew the St.
George’s banner, as well as a pennant. Her guns were pointing through
her ports, eight bright brass guns to a broadside. She was waiting
there, heaving in huge stately heaves, for Captain Barlow’s message.

Now I had had alarms enough since I entered the Duke’s service; but I
confess this sight of the man-of-war daunted me worse than any of them.
I knew that Captain Barlow had stopped her, so that he might hand over
my letters to her captain; that was easily guessed The next question
was, would the captain insist on taking the messenger to be examined in
person. It was that which scared me worst. I had heard frightful tales
about political prisoners. They were shut up in the Tower dungeons,
away below the level of the Thames. They were examined there by masked
magistrates who wrung the truth from them by the “bootikins,” which
squeezed the feet, or by the thumbscrews, which twisted the thumbs. My
feet seemed to grow red-hot when I thought of that horror. I knew only
too well that my youth would not save me. James the Second was never
moved by pity towards a beaten enemy. I watched the arrival of the boat
at the ship’s side, with the perspiration running down my face. I began
to understand, now, what was meant by the words high treason. I saw all
the majesty of the English Navy, all the law, all the noble polity of
England, arrayed to judge a boy to death, for a five minutes’ prank.
They would drag me on a hurdle to Tyburn, as soon as torture had made me
tell my tale.

But enough of my state of mind. I saw Captain Barlow go up the ship’s
gangway, where an officer no doubt received him. Very soon afterwards he
came down the gangway again, half followed by some one who seemed to
be ordering him. His boat then shoved off for the barquentine. The
man-of-war got under way again by swinging her great mainyard smartly
about. The smother at her bows gleamed whiter at the very instant, as
she gathered way. It was a blessed sight to me, after my suspense, I
assure you; but I did not understand it till later. I learned later
on that Captain Barlow was one of a kind of men very common in those
troublous times. He was hedging, or trimming. He was quite willing to
make money by selling the Duke’s plans to the King; but he had the sense
to see that the Duke’s party might succeed, in which case the King’s
favour would not be worth much. So his treason to the Duke stopped short
of the betrayal of men attached in any way to the Monmouth party. He
would betray letters, when he could lay his hands on them unobserved;
but he was not going to become an open enemy to the Duke until he knew
that the Duke’s was the losing side; then he would betray men fast
enough. Until then, he would receive the trust of both factions, in
order to betray a portion of the confidence received from them.

The day dragged by for me somehow, uncomfortably, under the captain’s
eye. It was one of the longest days I have ever known. It sickened me
utterly of the life of adventure to which I now seemed pledged. I vowed
that if I had the chance I would write to my uncle from Mr. Blick’s
house, begging to be received back. That seemed to be the only way of
escape possible to me. It did not seem hopeful; but it gave me some
solace to think of it. I longed to be free from these terrors. You
don’t know what an adventurous life is. I will tell you. It is a life of
sordid unquiet, pursued without plan, like the life of an animal. Have
you seen a dog trying to cross a busy street? There is the adventurer.
Or the rabbit on the cliff, in his state of continual panic; he, too,
lives the adventurous life. What does the world owe to the adventurer?
But there. I become impatient. One patient hero in his garret is worth
all these silly fireworks put together.

One thing more happened on that day. The breeze freshened all the
afternoon till by bedtime it blew what is called a fresh gale. Captain
Barlow drove his ship till she shook to her centre, not because he liked
(like many sailors) to show his vessel’s paces; but because he sat at
his bottle too long after dinner. He was half drunk by supper time, too
drunk to take the sail off her, so we drove on down Channel, trusting to
the goodness of the gear. There would have been a pretty smash-up if we
had had to alter our course hurriedly. As it was we were jumping like a
young colt, in a welter of foam, with two men at the tiller, besides a
gang on the tackles. I never knew any ship to bound about so wildly. I
passed the evening after supper on deck, enjoying the splendour of that
savage leaping rush down Channel, yet just a little nervous at the sight
of our spars buckling under the strain. The captain was drunk before
dark; we could hear him banging the table with his bottle. The mate, who
was on the poop with me, kept glancing from the spars to the skylight;
he was getting frightened at the gait we were going. “Young man,” he
said, “d’ye know the sailor’s catechism?”

“No, sir,” I answered. “Well,” he said, “it’s short but sweet, like a
ration of rum. What is the complete duty of a sailorman? You don’t know?
It’s this. OBEY ORDERS, IF YOU BREAK OWNERS. My orders are not to take
off sail till Mr. drunken Barlow sees fit. You’ll see a few happenings
aloft just now if he don’t see fit soon.” Just at that instant she gave
a lurch which sent one of the helmsmen flying. The mate leaped to his
place with an angry exclamation. “Another man to the helm,” he cried.
“You, boy. Run below. Tell the captain she’ll be dismasted in another
five minutes.” He was in the right of it. A blind man could have told
that the ship was being over-driven. I ran down, as eager as the mate to
put an end to the danger.

When I went below, I found the captain in my cabin, rummaging
everywhere. He had flung out the contents of the lockers, my bedclothes,
everything, in a jumble on the deck, which, in a drunken aimless way he
was examining by the light of a couple of dip candles, stuck to the edge
of the bunk. It was not a time to mind about that. “Sir,” I said, “the
ship is sinking. Come on deck, sir; take the sail off. The mate says the
ship is sinking.”

“Eh,” said the captain furiously. “You young spy. I command this ship.
What’s the sail got to do with you?” He glared at me in drunken anger.

“You young whelp,” he cried, grabbing me by the collar. “Where are your
letters? Eh? Where’ve you hid your letters?”

At that instant, there came a more violent gust in the fierceness of
wind which drove us. The ship gave a “yank;” there is no other word to
express the frightful shock of her movement. She lay down on her lee
beam ends with a crash of breaking crockery. Casks broke loose in the
hold; gear fell from aloft; the captain was flung under me against the
ship’s side. The deck beneath us sloped up like a roof. In the roar
of water rushing down the hatch I remember thinking that the Day of
Judgment was come. Yells on deck mingled with all the uproar; I heard
something thud like a sledge-hammer on the ship’s side. The captain
picked himself up holding his head, which was all one gore of blood from
the crack against the ship’s side. “Beam ends,” he said stupidly. “Beam
ends. Yes. Yes.” He was dazed; he did not know what he said; but some
sort of sailor’s instinct told him that he was wanted on deck. At any
rate he went out, pulling himself up the steep deck with a cleverness
which I had not expected. He left me clutching the ledge of the bunk,
staring up at the door away above me, while the wreck of my belongings
banged about at my feet. I thought it was all over with the ship; but I
was not scared at the prospect of death; only a little sickish from
the shock of that sudden sweeping over. I found a fascination in the
horrible open door, the black oblong hole in the air through which the
captain had passed. I waited for the sea to pour down it. I expected
to see a clear mass of water with fish in it; something quite calm,
something beautiful, not the noisy horror of the sea outside. I suppose
I waited like that for a full minute before the roar of the squall grew
less. Then I told myself that I must go on deck; that the danger would
be less, looking it in the face, than down there in the cabin. It
was not pleasant to go on deck, any more than it is pleasant to go
downstairs at two in the morning to look for burglars, but it was better
to be moving than staying still. I clenched my fist upon the only dip
which remained alight (the other was somewhere in the jumble under my
feet). Then, catching hold of the door-hook I pulled myself up to the
door, where I steadied myself for a moment. While I stood there I had
a horrible feeling of the ship having died under my feet. She had been
leaping so gallantly only five minutes before. Now she lay with her
heart broken, while the seas beat her with great thumps.

Two battle-lanterns lit the after ‘tweendecks. There was a great heap
of staved in casks, slopping about in an inch or two of water, all along
that side, thrown there by the smash. I could hear the men yelling on
deck. Captain Barlow was swearing in loud shouts. I could hear all this
in the lull of the squall. I heard more than that, as I stood listening.
I heard the faint crying out of a woman’s voice from the steward’s
pantry (next door to the captain’s cabin) on the opposite side, across
the steep, tipped up slippery decks. At first I thought it must be
the poor cat; but as the wind passed, letting me hear more clearly, I
recognized that it was a woman’s voice, crying out there in the darkness
with a note of pain. I did not think of Aurelia. She never entered my
head. All that I thought was “Poor creature! What a place for a woman!”
 The ship was jerking, you might almost call it gasping, as the seas
struck her; it was no easy job to climb along that roof-slope of the
deck with nothing to hold on by. I got across somehow, partly by luck,
partly by fingernails. I even managed to open the pantry door, which was
another difficulty, as it opened inwards, into the cabin. As I opened
it, a suck of wind blew out my light. There I was in the dark, with a
hurt woman, in a ship which for all I knew, might sink with all hands
in twenty seconds. It is queer; I didn’t mind the ship sinking. What I
disliked was being in the dark with an unknown somebody who whimpered.

“Are you much hurt?” I asked. “Hold on a minute. I’ll strike a light.”
 I shut myself into the cabin, so as to keep out the draught. My feet
kicked among the steward’s crockery. It was as dark in that cubby-hole
as in a grave. The unknown person, probably fearing me, thinking me some
rough drunken sailor, was crying out now more in terror than in pain.
She was begging me not to hurt her. I probably frightened her a good
deal by not replying. The tinder box took up all my attention for a
good couple of minutes. A tinder box is not a thing to get light by
hurriedly. You try some day, to see how quickly you can light a candle
by one. When I got the candle lit, I thought of the battle-lanterns
swinging outside all the time. I might have saved myself all that
trouble by using a little common sense. Well. Wait till you stand as I
stood, with your heart in your boots, down in a pit of death, you’ll see
how much common sense will remain in your fine brains.

When the flame took hold of the wick, so that I could look about me, I
saw the lady Aurelia lying among the smashed up gear to leeward. She had
been lying down, reading in a sort of bunk which had been rigged up for
her on the locker-top. The shock had flung her clean out of the bunk
on to the deck. At the same moment an avalanche of gear had fetched to
leeward. A cask had rolled on to her left hand, pinning her down to
the deck, while a box of bottles had cut the back of her head. A more
complete picture of misery you could not hope to see. There was all
the ill-smelling jumble of steward’s gear, tumbled in a heap of smash,
soaking in the oil from the fallen lamp. There was a good deal of blood
about. Aurelia was lying in all the debris half covered with salted fish
from one of the capsized casks. They looked like huge leaves. She seemed
to have been buried under them, like a babe in the wood. She grew calm
when she saw me. “There are candles under the bunk,” she said. “Light
two or three. Tell me what has happened.”

I did not answer till I had lighted three or four more candles. “The
ship’s on her beam ends,” I said. “It’s the captain’s fault. But never
mind that. I must get you out. Are you badly hurt, do you think?”

“I’m all right,” she said with a gasp. “But it’s being pinned in here. I
thought I was going to be pinned down while I was being drowned.”

“Shut your eyes, please,” I said. “Bite your lip. It’ll hurt, I’m
afraid, getting this cask off your hand. Are you ready. Now.” I did it
as gently as I could; but it made me turn all cold to think of the hand
under all that weight.

“Can you withdraw your hand, now?” I asked, tilting the cask as far up
as I could.

“No,” she said. “Look out. I’ll roll out.” In another two seconds she
was sitting up among the crockery with her face deathly white against
the bulkhead; she had fainted. There was a water-carafe on a bracket up
above my head. I splashed her face with water from it till she rallied.
She came to herself with a little hysterical laugh, at the very instant
when something giving way aloft let the ship right herself again. “Hold
on a minute,” I said. “Take this water. Now drink a little. I’ll be back
in a moment.” The ship was rolling drunkenly in the trough of the sea;
but I made a nimble rush to the cabin, where the captain’s cruet of
brandy bottles still swung from a hook in the beams. I ran back to her
with a bottle of brandy. There were a few unbroken mugs in the pantry,
so I gave her a drink of brandy, which brought the colour back to her
cheeks. While she sat there, in the mess of gear which slid about as the
ship rolled, I got a good big jug of water from the scuttle-butt in the
‘tweendecks. I nipped on deck with it to ask the mate for some balsam,
an excellent cure for cuts which most sailors carry to sea with them.
There was mess enough on deck in all conscience. I found the foretopmast
gone over the side, in a tangle of torn rope at which all hands were
furiously hacking. The mate was on the fo’c’sle hacking at some gear
with a tomahawk. I did not see the captain.

“Mr. mate,” I cried. “I want some balsam, quick.”

“Get out of this,” he shouted. “Get out of this. I can’t attend to your
hurts. Don’t come bothering here.”

“It’s for the lady,” I said, “the lady down below.”

“In my chest. Look in my chest till,” he said. “Now stand dear. I’ve
trouble enough without ladies in the case. Are you all clear, you, aft
there?”

“All gone here, sir,” the men shouted back. “Shall we sling a bowline
over the foot?”

“No,” he shouted. “Look out. She’s going.”

For just a second I saw the mass of spar all tangled up with sail rise
up on a wave as it drifted past. I found myself wondering why we had all
been in the shadow of death only a couple of minutes before. There was
no thought of danger now. I ran below for the balsam, which I found
without difficulty.



CHAPTER XIV. A DRINK OF SHERBET

I took what handkerchiefs I could find into the pantry with me. “There’s
no danger,” I said. “The ship’s all right. How are you now? Let me give
you some more brandy.” I gave her a little more brandy; then I helped
her on to the top of the locker. Pouring out some water into the basin I
bathed the cut on her head. It was a clean long cut which would probably
have gone through the bone had not her hair been so thick. I dressed it
as well as I could with balsam, then bound it tightly up with a white
handkerchief. The hand was a good deal more, difficult to manage; it
was nastily crushed; though no bones were broken. The wrist was so much
swollen that I had to cut open the sleeve of her man’s riding jacket.
Then I bathed the hand with cold water mixed with vinegar (which I had
heard was cooling) till I felt that the time had come to bandage it, so
that the patient might lie down to rest. She had been much shaken by her
fall. I don’t think it ever once occurred to me to think of her as my
enemy. I felt too much pity for her, being hurt, like that. “Look here,”
 I said. “You’ll have to wear that arm in a sling. I’ll bandage it up for
you nicely.” She bore my surgery like the hero she was; it didn’t look
very wonderful when it was done; but she said that the pain was a good
deal soothed. That was not the end though. I had to change cabins
with her, since I could not let a hurt woman sleep in that bunk in the
pantry; she might so easily be flung from it a second time. So I shifted
her things into my cabin, where I made all tidy for her. As for the
precious slush can, I stowed that carefully away, at the back of some
lumber in one of the pantry lockers, where it would not be found.
Altogether, it took me about twenty minutes to make everything ready,
by which time the little accident on deck had been forgotten, except by
those who had to do the work of sending up a new topmast; a job which
kept all hands busy all night. The ship was making a steady three knots.
under her reduced sail when I helped Aurelia across to her new room.
There was no more thought of danger.

As I paused at the cabin door, to ask if there was anything more which I
could do for her, the lady turned to me.

“What is your name?” she asked. I am ashamed to say that I hesitated,
being half inclined to give her a false name; for my time of secret
service had given me a thorough distrust of pretty nearly everybody. She
noticed my hesitation. “As a friend to another friend,” she added. “Life
isn’t all the King’s service.”

“My name is Martin Hyde,” I said.

“Mine is Aurelia,” she replied, “Aurelia Carew. Will you remember that?”
 I told her that I should certainly remember that. “We seem to have met
before,” she said, “more than once.”

“Yes,” I answered, smiling. She, too, smiled, but she quickly became
grave again.

“Mr. Martin Hyde,” she said, with a little catch in her voice, “we two
are in opposite camps. But I don’t know. After this, it’s difficult.
I warn you.” Here she stopped, quite unable to go on. “I can’t,” she
continued, more to herself than to me, “I can’t. They oughtn’t to have
put this on me. They oughtn’t. They oughtn’t.” She laid her unhurt hand
on my shoulder for a moment. “Let me warn you,” she said earnestly,
“that you’re in danger.”

“In danger from you?” I asked.

“Don’t ask me more,” she said, “I hate myself for telling you even that.
Oh, it’s terrible to have to do it. Go now. Don’t ask me more. But I had
to warn you. But I can’t do it myself.” I did not know what to make of
this; but I gathered that her task (whatever it was) from which she had
shrunk so bitterly in the Dutch town only the night before, was now to
be deputed to another, probably to the captain, perhaps to the Dartmouth
justices. I did not like the thought; but I thanked her for warning me,
it was generous of her to warn me. I took out the dagger with which she
had tried to stab me. “You said we were in opposite camps, Miss Carew,”
 I said. “But I wouldn’t like to keep this. I mean I wouldn’t like to
think that we were enemies, really.” I daresay I said other foolish
things as well, at the same time.

“Yes, keep it,” she said. “I couldn’t bear to have it again. But be
warned. Don’t trust me. While we’re in opposite camps you be warned. For
I’m your enemy, then, when you least expect it.”

Nothing much happened the next day until the evening, by which time
we were off the Isle of Wight. With the aid of the mate, I doctored
Aurelia’s hand again; that was the only memorable event of the day. In
the evening, the captain (who had been moody from his drunkenness of
the night before) asked me to sing to him in the great cabin. I was
surprised at the request; but I knew a few ballads, so I sang them to
him. While I was singing, Aurelia entered the cabin; she sat down on
one of the lockers below the great window. She looked very white, in the
gloom there. She did not speak to me; but sat there restlessly, coughing
in a dry hacking way, as though one of her ribs had been broken in the
fall. I lowered my voice when I noticed this, as I was afraid that
my singing might annoy her; I thought that she was suffering from her
wound. The captain told me to pipe up; as he couldn’t hear what my
words were. I asked Aurelia if my singing worried her; but instead of
answering she left the cabin for a few minutes. When she came back, she
sat with her face in her hand, seemingly in great pain. I sang all the
ballads known to me. When I had finished, the captain grunted a note of
approval. “Well,” he said, “so there’s your ballads. That’s your treat.
Now you shall have mine.” A little gong hung in the cabin. He banged
upon it to summon his boy, who came in trembling, as he always did,
expecting to be beaten before he went out. “Bring in a jug of cool
water,” he said. “Then fetch them limes I bought.” As the boy went
out, the captain turned to me with a grin. “Did you ever drink Turk’s
sherbet?” he said.

“No,” I answered. “I’ve never even heard of it. What is it?”

“Why,” he said, “it’s a drink the heathen Turks make out of citron. A
powder which fizzes. I got some of it last autumn when I made a voyage
to Scanderoon. It’s been too cold ever since to want to drink any, as
it’s a summer drink mostly. Now you shall have some.” He took down some
tumblers from the rack in which they stood. “Here’s glasses,” he said.
“Now the sherbet is in this bottle here.” He produced a pint glass
bottle from one of the lockers. It was stopped with a wooden plug,
carved in the likeness of a Turk’s head. It was about three parts full
of a whitish powder. A label on the side of the bottle gave directions
for its preparation.

When the boy returned with his tray, the captain squeezed the juice of
half a lime into each of the three tumblers. “That’s the first thing,”
 he said. “Lime juice. Now the water.” He poured water into each glass,
till they were nearly full. “White of egg is said to make it better,”
 he said to me. “But at sea I guess we must do without that. Now then.
You’re the singer, so you drink first. Be ready to drink it while it
fizzes; for then it’s at its best. Are you ready?” I was quite ready, so
the captain filled his spoon with the soft white powder. Glancing round
at Aurelia I saw that she had covered her eyes with her hand. “Won’t
Miss Carew drink first?” I asked.

“I don’t want any,” she said in a low voice. Before I could speak
another word the captain had poured his heaped spoonful of powder into
my glass. “Stir it up, boy,” he cried. “Down with it while it fizzes.”
 Aurelia rose to her feet, catching her breath sharply.

I remember a pleasant taste, as though all of the fruits of the world
had been crushed together into a syrup; then a mist surged all about me,
the cabin became darker, the captain seemed to grow vast, till his body
filled the room. My legs melted from me. I was one little wavering
flame blowing about on great waves. Something was hard upon my head.
The captain’s hand (I could feel) was lifting my eyelid. I heard him say
“That’s got him.” Instantly a choir of voices began to chant “That’s got
him,” in roaring, tumultuous bursts of music. Then the music became, as
it were, present, but inaudible; there were waves of sound all round me,
but my ears were deafened to them. I had been put out of action by some
very powerful drug, I remember no more of that evening’s entertainment.
I was utterly unconscious.

I came to, very sick, some time in the night. I was in the bunk in the
pantry; but far too helpless in my misery to rise, or to take an account
of time. I lay half-conscious till the morning, when I fell into a deep
sleep, which lasted, I may say, till the evening; for I did not feel
sufficiently awake to get up until about half-past five. When I did
get up, I felt so tottery that I could hardly keep my feet. Someone, I
supposed that it was Aurelia, had placed a metal brandy flask, with a
paper roll containing hard-boiled eggs, on my wash-hand-stand. I took a
gulp of the brandy. In the midst of my sickness I remember the shame of
it; the shame of being drugged by those two; for I knew that I had been
drugged; the shame of having given up like that, at the moment when I
had the cards in my hand; all the cards. I was locked into the
pantry; all my clothes were gone. I found myself dressed in a sailor’s
serge-shirt. All my other property had vanished. I remember crying as
I shook at the door to open it; it was too strong for me, in my weak
state. As I wrestled with the door, I heard the dry rattling out of the
cable. We had come to anchor; we were in Dartmouth; perhaps in a few
minutes I should be going ashore. Looking through the port-hole, I saw
a great steep hill rising up from the water, with houses clinging to its
side, like barnacles on the side of a rock. I could see people walking
on the wharf. I could see a banner blowing out from a flagstaff.

A few more gulps of brandy brought me to myself I was safe anyhow;
my cartridges had not been found. I dropped them one by one into the
metal-flask. Whatever happened, no one would look for them there. Then
I banged at the door again, trying to make people hear. Nobody paid
any attention to me; I might have spared myself the trouble. Long
afterwards, I learned that I was detained while Captain Barlow spoke to
a magistrate about me, asking if I might be “questioned,” that is, put
to the thumbscrews, till it could be learned whether I carried a verbal
message to my uncle, Mr. Blick. The magistrate to whom he first applied
was one of the Monmouth faction as it happened, so my thumbs escaped;
but I had a narrow escape later, as you shall hear. About an hour after
the ship came to anchor, the cabin-door was opened by a sailor, who
flung in an armful of clothes to me, without speaking a word. They were
mostly not my own clothes; the boots were not mine; my own boots, I
guessed, had been cut to pieces in the letter-hunt. All the clothes
which were mine had had the seams ripped up. All my cartridges had been
taken. About half of my money was gone. The only things untouched were
the weapons in the belt. I laughed to myself to think how little reward
they had had for all their baseness. They had stooped to the methods of
the lowest kind of thieves, yet they had failed. They had not found my
letters. My joy was not very real; I was too wretched for that. Looking
back at it all long after, I think that the hardest thing to bear was
Aurelia’s share in the work. I had not thought that Aurelia would join
in tricking me in that way. But while I thought bitterly of her deceit,
I thought of her tears on the balcony in the Dutch city. After all, she
had been driven into it by that big bully of a man. I forgave her when I
thought of him; he was the cause of it all. A brute he must have been to
force her into such an action. Presently the mate came down with orders
to me to leave the ship at once. I asked him for my own clothes; but he
told me sharply to be thankful for what I had, since I’d done no work
to earn them; by work he meant the brainless manual work done by people
like himself. So going on deck I called a boatman, who for twopence put
me ashore on the Kingswear side of the river. He gave me full directions
for finding Mr. Blick’s house, telling me that in another five minutes I
should come to it, if I followed my nose. As I started from the
landing place I looked back at the barquentine, where I had had so
many adventures. She was lying at anchor at a little distance from the
Dartmouth landing place, making a fair show, under her flag, in spite of
her jury foretopmast. As I looked, the boatman jogged my elbow, pointing
across the river to the strip of road which edges the stream. “A young
lady waving to you,” he said. Sure enough a lady was waving to me. I
supposed that it was Aurelia, asking pardon, trying to show me that we
parted friends. I would not wave at first; I was surly; but after
about a minute I waved my hat to her. Then I set off up the road to Mr.
Blick’s. Ten minutes later, I was in Mr. Blick’s house, telling him all
that I have now told you.

Mr. Blick kept me in his house for a day or two less than four weeks,
when business took him to Exeter. I went with him; for he gave out that
he was taking me to school there, as his dead sister had wished. His
real reason was to pass the word through the country that King Monmouth
was coming. He was one of the few men in full knowledge of the Duke’s
plans; but as we went about from town to town, spreading the word among
the faithful, I saw that the Duke was expected by vast numbers of the
country folk. Our clients were not much among the gentry; they hung by
themselves, as, in this country, they always will, in times of popular
stir. But among the poorer people, such as small farmers, or common
labouring men, we were looked for as men sent from on high. At more than
one little quiet village, when we went into the inn-parlour, we saw the
men looking at us, half frightened, half expectant, as though we, being
strangers, must needs have news of the King for whom they longed. Often
some publican or maltster would tell us that Gyle (their name for the
unfortunate Argyle, then a defeated man in Scotland, if not already put
to death for his rebellion) was taken, looking at us carefully as he
spoke, for fear lest we should be of the wrong side. Then, if we seemed
sympathetic, he would tell us how perhaps another would have better luck
elsewhere. After that, we would tell our news. It was dangerous work,
though, carrying that message across the country. In many of the towns
we found guards of the Devon red regiment of militia. I am quite sure
that if Mr. Blick had not had me by his side, as an excellent excuse
for travelling to Exeter, he would have been lodged in gaol as a
suspicious character. The soldiers had arrested many travellers already;
the gaols were full. King James’s great man in those parts, the Earl of
Albemarle, knew very well that something was in the air; but as he was a
great lord the hearts of the poor were hidden from him. He had no
guess of what was planning. In a way, the Duke’s affairs were very well
planned. The eastern end of Devon, all Somerset, with the western end of
Dorset, were all ripe to rise, directly he appeared. They knew that he
was coming; they were prepared to join him; they knew at about what time
he would come, at about a fortnight from hay-harvest. Already, quite
unknown to the authorities, we had men picked out to carry the news
of the landing to different parts of the country. So far, I think, the
Duke’s affairs were well planned. But though we had all this enthusiasm
in three counties, besides promises of similar risings in London, we
were in no real case to take the field. Our adherents, however numerous,
however brave, were only a mob, when all is said; they were not an army.
The Duke thought that the regular army, or at least some regiments of
it, would desert to him, as happened some years later, when the great
Prince William did what my master attempted. But my master forgot that
he had neither the arms nor the officers to make his faction a likely
body for regular troops to join.



CHAPTER XV. THE ROAD TO LYME

We spread the tidings as far as Exeter, where Mr. Blick made some
pretence of handing me over to a schoolmaster, one Hubble, a red-faced,
cheery clergyman, one of the most ardent rebels on our side. Indeed, the
clergymen everywhere supported us, as defenders of the Protestant faith,
which that dastard James would have destroyed. Mr. Hubble made some
excuse for not taking me in at the instant; but gave us letters of
introduction to people in towns further on, so that we could pass the
militia without difficulty, to give the news in western Dorset. So after
waiting for a little while in Exeter, gathering all the news we could of
the whereabouts of the troops of militia, we pushed on eastward, by way
of Sidmouth, to the big town of Dorchester. As we came east, we found
the militia very much more suspicious than they had been on the western
side of Exeter. At every little town we found a strong guard so placed
that no one could enter without passing under the captain’s eye. We were
brought before militia captains some two or three times a day. Sometimes
we were searched; sometimes, if the captain happened to be drunk, we
were bullied with threats of the gaol. Mr. Blick in these cases always
insisted on being brought before the magistrate, to whom he would tell
a fine indignant tale, saying what a shame it was that he could not
take his orphan nephew peaceably to school, without being suspected of
complicity in a rebellion. He would then show Mr. Hubble’s letters,
or some other papers signed by the Dartmouth magistrates. These always
cleared our characters, so that we were allowed to proceed; but I did
not like the way in which our descriptions were taken. Once on our
journey, shortly after we had left Sidmouth, where the soldiers had been
very suspicious, we turned out of the highway to leave word at a town
called Seaton. We spread the watchword at several villages near the
sea, before we came to Seaton, so that we were rather late in arriving.
Thinking no wrong, we put up at one of the inns in Seaton, intending to
pass the night there. We were at supper in our inn, when some yeomanry
rode up to the door, to ask the landlord if an elderly man had passed
that way with a boy. The landlord, who was a good deal scared by the
soldiers, showed the captain in to us at once. We were quite as much
scared to see him as the landlord had been. The captain of the soldiers
was the very man who had given us such a searching examination in
Sidmouth that morning.

“Well,” he said to Mr. Blick, “I thought you were going to Dorchester.
What brings you here?” “Sir,” said Mr. Blick, “we’ve been so much
interrupted by soldiers that we hoped to travel away from the
main-roads.”

“Well, sir,” said the captain, “I’ve had you watched. Since you left
Sidmouth, you’ve been into every inn upon the road, listening to a lot
of seditious talk about Argyle. That’s not my point, though. You gave
out to me that you were going to Dorchester. Instead of that you slink
off the Dorchester road at the first opportunity. You will have to
explain yourself to my superiors. You’re under arrest.”

“Sir,” said Mr. Blick, “I am sorry that you should think ill of me. We
will gladly come with you to answer for our conduct to the authorities.
But while the horses are being saddled, perhaps you will join us at
supper. Landlord, bring a couple of bottles more. The captain sups with
us.”

But though the captain drank his couple of bottles of port, he did not
become any gentler with us. As soon as supper was over we had to ride on
again, with the troopers all round us.

“Sir,” said Mr. Blick, “may I ask you where we are going with you?”

“Axminster,” said the captain.

“Well. That’s on my way,” said Mr. Blick.

“It’ll probably end your way, for some time,” said the captain.

“I’m perfectly willing to abide by the decision of the authorities,” Mr.
Blick answered calmly. “But what is the meaning of all these soldiers
everywhere? I’ve asked the people; but nobody seems able to give a
straight answer.”

“I think you know what the soldiers mean well enough,” answered the
captain. “If you hadn’t known you wouldn’t have turned out of the
highway.”

At about midnight we reached Axminster. We were taken before a couple
of officers who sat at work by candlelight over a mass of papers, in
an upper chamber of an inn. They had a wild air of having been without
sleep for some time. Their muddy riding boots were drying in front of
the fire. They had a map of the countryside before them, all stuck about
with little flags, some red, some yellow, to show where the different
troops of militia were stationed. After saluting these officers,
the captain made his report about us, saying that we were suspicious
persons, who had started from Sialmouth, towards Dorchester. He had
waited to receive word from the troops stationed along the highway of
our arrival at various points upon the road; but, failing to hear about
us, he had searched for us, with the result that he had found us at
Seaton, some miles out of our way. The officers questioned us closely
about our plans, making notes of what we said. They kept referring to a
book of letters, as though to verify what we said. Mr. Blick’s answers
made them take a favourable view of us; but they told him in a friendly
way that the officer had done right to arrest us. They complimented
the captain on his zeal. Meanwhile, they said, since we were going to
Dorchester, we could not object to going with a military escort. A troop
of cavalry was to start in a couple of hours; we could go with that.

We were in Dorchester for a few days, always under the eye of the
soldiers. It was a bustling, suspicious time full of false alarms. Mr.
Blick told me that the message “King Golden Cap. After six one,” meant
that the Duke was to be expected off Golden Cap, a cliff a few miles
from Lyme Regis, any day after the first of the sixth month. He was
on tenter-hooks to be in Lyme to greet him on his arrival; but this he
could not hope to do. We were watched too carefully to be able to get
away to a place upon the sea-coast. We had to be very careful how we
sent our secret message abroad into the country. I have never known a
time so full of alarms. People would ride in to the town at night with
word that Monmouth was landed, or that there was fighting all along the
coast, or that King James was dead. The drums would beat; the cavalry
would come out clattering. People would be crying out. The loyal would
come to their doorsteps ready to fly further inland. Every night, if
one lay awake, one could hear the noise of spades in back gardens where
misers were burying their money. Then, every day, one would see the
troopers coming in, generally two at a time, with a suspected man led by
a cord knotted to his two thumbs. Dorchester gaol was full of suspected
people, who were kept in prison indefinitely, without trial, in very
great discomfort. King James was afraid, he did not really know of what,
so he took measures not so much to prevent trouble as to avenge his own
fear. Mr. Blick used to send me to the prison every morning with loaves
of fresh bread for the prisoners.

At last, after midnight, in the night of the 11th of June, a memorable
day for the West, riders came in with news which destroyed the night’s
rest of the town. Monmouth had landed at Lyme the evening before, after
sailing about in sight of the town all day. That was news indeed. It
made a strange uproar in the streets. The trumpets blew from every
inn-door to summons the billeted soldiers. Officers ran about bawling
for their sergeants; the sergeants hurried about with lanterns, rousing
the men from where they slept. All the streets were full of cavalry men
trying to form in the crowd. At last, when they were formed, a trumpet
sounded, making everyone keep silence. Then in the stillness an officer
shouted out an order, which no one, save a soldier, could understand.
Instantly the kettle-drums began to pound; the swords jingled; the
horses whinnied, tossing up their heads. The soldiers trotted off
smartly towards Bridport, leaving the town strangely quiet, strangely
scared, to discuss the great news from Lyme.

I was watching the crowd at my bed-room window when the horsemen trotted
off. While I stood looking at them, Mr. Blick ran upstairs, bidding me
to come down at once, as now there was a chance to get to Lyme. “Come
quick,” he said. “The troops are gone. We must follow on their tracks.
It’ll be too late later in the morning.” In less than twenty minutes we
were trotting after the soldiers at a good pace, passing some scores
of men on foot who were hurrying, as they said, to see the battle. Mr.
Blick wore a sword which clattered as he rode. The people hearing the
noise thought that he was an officer, perhaps a colonel, riding with his
servant. Many of the men asked him where the battle was to be, whether
it would begin before daylight, whether Monmouth was come with the
French, all sorts of questions, to which we answered at random. In the
light summer night we had a fair view of things. When we dismounted to
lead our horses up or down the steep hills of that road, the straggling
sight-seers came all round us as we walked, to hear what we had to tell.
We could see their faces all about us, strange in the dusk, like ghosts,
not like real men. At the top of one hill, Mr. Blick warned them to look
out for themselves. He told them that before morning the highway would
be patrolled by troops who would take them in charge as suspicious
characters trying to join Monmouth, which actually happened the next day
when the militia officers realized that war had begun. His words scared
off a number of them; but many kept on as they were going, to see the
great battle, which, they said, would begin as soon as it was light.

When the sun began to peep, we turned off the highway in order to avoid
Bridport, which we passed a little after dawn. A few miles further on
we felt that we could turn into the road again as we were safe from
the militia at that distance. Then, feeling happy at the thought of
the coming contest, which, we felt sure, would be won by our side,
we pressed our tired nags over the brook towards the steep hill which
separates Charmouth from Lyme.

It was early morning, about five o’clock, when we came to Charmouth;
but the little town was as busy as though it were noon on fair-day. The
street was crowded. People were coming in from all the countryside. A
man was haranguing the crowd from a horseless waggon drawn up at an inn.
The horses had no doubt been pressed into Monmouth’s service some hours
before. I should think that there must have been three hundred people
listening to the orator. Men, already half drunk, with green boughs in
their hats, were marching about the town in uneven companies, armed
with clubs torn from the hedges. Weeping women followed them, trying to
persuade their sons or husbands to come home. Other men were bringing
out horses from private stables. People were singing. One man, leaning
out of a window, kept on firing his pistol as fast as he could load.
Waving men cheered from the hill above. The men in the town cheered
back. There was a great deal of noisy joking everywhere. They cheered us
as we rode through them, telling us that Monmouth had arms for all. One
poor woman begged Mr. Blick to tell her man to come home, as without him
the children would all starve. The crowd groaned at her; but Mr. Blick
stopped them, calling the husband, who was in a sad state of drunken
vainglory, to leave the ranks in which he tried to march. “We don’t want
fathers of families,” he cried. “We want these tight young bachelors.
They’re the boys.” Indeed, the tight young bachelors felt that this was
the case, so the woman got her man again; lucky she was to get him. As
far as I could judge, the crowd imagined us to be great officers; at
any rate our coming drew away the listeners from the waggon. They came
flocking to our heels as though we were the Duke himself. A drummer beat
up a quickstep; the crowd surged forward. We marched across the fields
to Lyme, five hundred strong. One of the men, plucking a sprig of
hawthorn from the hedge, asked me to wear it in my hat as the Duke’s
badge, which I did. He called me “Captain.” “Captain,” he said. “We had
a brush with them already, this morning, along the road here. Two on ‘em
were killed. They didn’t stay for no more.” So fighting had begun then,
the civil war had taken its first fruits of life. There could be no more
shillyshallying; we had put our hands to a big business. In spite of
the noise of the march, my spirits were rather dashed by the thought
of those two men, lying dead somewhere on the road behind us, killed by
their own countrymen.

We are said to be a sober people; but none of those who saw Lyme that
morning would have had much opinion of our sobriety. Charmouth had been
disorderly; Lyme was uproarious. Outside the town, in one of the fields
above the church, we were stopped by a guard of men who all wore white
scarves on their arms, as well as green sprays in their hats. They
stopped us, apparently, because their captain wished to exercise them
in military customs. They were evidently raw to the use of arms. They
handled their muskets like spades. “Be you for Monmouth, masters?” they
asked us, grinning. When we said that we were, this very unmilitary
guard told us to pass on. “Her’ve got arms for all,” they said. “The
word be ‘Fear nothing but God.’” Some of them joked with friends among
our party. They waved their muskets to us.



CHAPTER XVI. THE LANDING

Inside the town, there was great confusion. Riotous men were foraging,
that is, plundering from private houses, pretending that they did so at
the Duke’s orders. The streets were full of people, nearly all of them
men, the green boughs in their hats. On the beach two long lines of
men with green scarves on their arms were being drilled by an officer.
Horses were picketed in a long line up the main street; they were
mostly very poor cart-stock, ill-provided, as I learned afterwards,
with harness. Men were bringing hay to them from whatever haystack was
nearest. From time to time, there came a loud booming of guns, above
the ringing of the church bells. Three ships in the bay, one of them
La Reina, were firing salutes as they hoisted their colours. It was all
like a very noisy fair or coronation day. It had little appearance of an
armed invasion. We found the Duke busy with Mr. Jermyn enlisting men in
a field above the town.

“That’s not Mr. Jermyn. That’s Lord Grey,” Mr. Blick said, on hearing me
exclaim. “Mr. Jermyn’s only the name he goes by. He’s my Lord now, you
must remember.”

Just then the Duke caught sight of us riding up. He took us for local
gentry, coming in to volunteer. He came smiling to welcome us. It must
have been a shrewd disappointment to him to find that we were not what
he thought. All his hopes were in the gentry, poor man. By the time we
were on our feet with our hats off he had turned his back upon us
as though to speak to Lord Grey, but really, I believe, to hide his
chagrin. When he turned to us again both of them welcomed us, saying
that there was work enough for all, in enlisting men, making out
billets, etc. So without more ado we gave our horses to the ostlers at
an inn. Mr. Blick at once began to blarney the standers-by into joining,
while I, sitting at a little table, in the open air, wrote out copies of
a letter addressed to the local gentry. My copies were carried from Lyme
by messengers that afternoon but, alas for my master, they did not bring
many gentry to us.

Now while I was writing at the table, under the great flapping standard,
with the Duke, in his purple coat, walking about in front of me, I had a
pretty full view of the crowd which ringed us in. We were circled about
by a crowd of gaping admirers; from whom, every minute, Mr. Blick, or
the Duke, or Lord Grey, would select a sheepish grinning man to serve
under our colours. Among the crowd I noticed a little old lame man with
a long white beard. He was a puppet-man, who was making the people laugh
by dancing his puppets almost under the Duke’s nose. As he jerked the
puppet-strings, he played continually on his pan-pipes the ribald tune
of “Hey, boys, up go we,” then very popular. The Duke spoke to him once;
but he did not answer, only bowed very low, with his hat off, which made
the people think him an idiot or a jester. They laughed heartily at him.
After a bit, it occurred to me that this old puppet-shaker always crept
into the ring (with his hat off to receive alms) whenever the Duke spoke
aside to Lord Grey, or to some other officer. I watched him narrowly to
make sure, because something in his manner made me suspect that he was
trying to catch what our leaders said to each other. I tried to recall
where I had seen the old man; for I had seen him before. He had been at
Exeter on the day we set out for Sidmouth, so much I remembered clearly;
but looking at him carefully, with my head full of memories of faces,
it seemed to me that he had been at Dorchester also. Surely an old man,
lame in the left leg like this man, had gone down a narrow lane in
front of me in Dorchester. I had not thought of it in Dorchester; but I
thought of it now, with a feeling that it was strange to meet again thus
in Lyme. I took good stock of the man, wondering if he were a spy.
He was a dirty old man enough. His dirty fingers poked through ragged
mittens. His cheeks were all swathed up in a woollen comforter. I made
the mistake of looking at him so hard that I made him look at me. Seeing
that I was staring at him, with a face full of suspicion, he walked
boldly up to me, holding out his hat for my charity. We stared at
each other, while he blew a blast on his pan-pipes, at which everybody
laughed.

“Come, come, boy,” said Lord Grey to me, “we want those letters done.
Never mind about the puppets. Here, old man” (giving him a penny), “you
take yourself off now. Or are you going to enlist?”

The people laughed again at this, while the old man, after a flourish of
his hat to me, piped up lively quickstep, called “Jockeys to the Fair.”

He disappeared after this. I did not see him again until our troubles
began, later in the morning. I was finishing off the last of my letters,
when some of our scouts rode in to make a grave report to the Duke. They
had ridden in pretty hard, their horses were lathered all over. They
themselves were in an internal lather; for they had just had their first
sight of war. They had come into touch (so they declared) with the
whole of Albemarle’s militia, marching out to attack them. On being
questioned, it turned out that they had heard this from an excited
labourer who had run to them with the news, as they stood guard in
a roadside field a few miles out of Lyme. They themselves had seen
nothing, but the news seemed so probable that the Duke acted on it. He
sent me off at once with a message to a clever, handsome gentleman who
was in charge of the cavalry in the street. It was in giving the message
that I saw the old man again. He was them limping up the street on the
Sidmouth road, going fast, in spite of his lameness. I gave my message
to the captain, who commanded his trumpeter to call to arms. The
trumpeter blew nobly; but the sight of the confusion afterwards showed
me how little raw troops can be trusted. There was a hasty scramble for
horses rather than a setting forth. Some men quarreled over weapons;
others wrestled with harness; others ran about wildly, asking what was
happening, was it to be a battle, what did blowing on the trumpet mean?
Some few, thinking the worst, got wisdom in those few moments. They took
horses from the ranks, but instead of forming up with the regiments,
they galloped off home, having had enough of soldiering at the first
order. The foot behaved rather better, knowing, perhaps, that if they
fought they would be behind hedges, in some sort of shelter. Even so,
they seemed a raw lot of clumsy bumpkins as they marched up. Many of
them were in ploughmen’s smock-frocks; hardly any of them had any
sense of handling their guns. They had drums with them, which beat up
a quickstep, giving each man of them a high sense of his importance,
especially if he had been drinking. People in the roadway cheered them,
until they heard that there was to be a battle. Those who were coming in
to join us found it a reason for hesitation.

After a lot of confusion, the army drew out of Lyme along the Sidmouth
road, followed by a host of sightseers. Some of the best mounted rode
on ahead at a trot, under the handsome man, Mr. Fletcher, who was their
captain. I followed on with the foot-soldiers, who marched extremely
slowly. They halted at their own discretion; nor did they seem to
understand that orders given were to be obeyed. What they liked, poor
fellows, was to see the women admiring them. The march up the hill
out of Lyme was a long exhibition of vanity, the women waving their
handkerchiefs, the men putting on all sorts of airs, jetting like
gamecocks. When we got up to the top of the hill, I saw the old lame
puppet-man, sitting on the edge of the wild, unenclosed, gorse-covered
common-land which stretches away towards the town of Axminster. He was
watching us with deep interest. Our men were spreading out into line
upon this common. The horse was ranging on, bobbing about, far ahead.
The foot were looking about eagerly as they got out of the ranks in
which they had marched; but they could see no trace of any enemy.
I caught sight of the Duke four hundred yards away, a little figure
sitting alone on his horse, in front of half a dozen others. They were
all scanning the country, all the way round. Presently I called out that
I saw the enemy. Half a dozen cavalry were riding up a combe far off.
But they were our own men, not the militia. They were some of our scouts
riding off as “feelers” to spy out Albemarle’s position. All the time
that we were up there on the hill, the little old man portered about
among the men, now listening to what they had to say, now asking the
soldiers to look at his pretty puppets. When the returning scouts
brought word that no troops were near us, so that we were free to march
back again, he was still there, packing up his puppets in tarred canvas,
as though about to march off to the next market-town. We marched past
him, as he sat in the heather. I passed quite close to him, staring at
him hard, for to tell the truth he was on my mind. I was suspicious of
him. He took off his hat to me, with a smile; but he did not speak. Then
my troops swung round, down the hill, leaving him alone there, watching
the men pass.

Other things put him out of my mind during the afternoon. I was kept
busy writing orders to scouts; for we were sending out scouts in every
direction, partly to protect us from surprise, partly to direct new
recruits to our headquarters. Mr. Blick, who knew the ground dictated
the letters, helped by Mr. Fletcher, who studied a big map with great
attention; I was writing all that afternoon. Lyme grew noisier during
the day, as the recruits became more drunk. Many steady men turned away
from us when they saw our disorder. I myself had been brought up to
abhor drunkenness. I found the state of drunken uproar very terrible. I
feared that such an army would never achieve any great deed. I thought
that such sin would be punished. Our soldiers were not behaving like
knights sworn to a good cause; but like boors at a fair. That day we
lost our only good officer, Mr. Fletcher.

I have spoken of this gentleman. He was in command of the horse under
Lord Grey. He was a much better soldier than my Lord; a better officer,
too; a better man. Now in the day’s confusion, with everything topsy
turvy, the Duke’s messenger, “Old Dare,” rode into Lyme from Taunton,
where he had galloped the day before to spread the news of our arrival.
This Dare was a quick-tempered, not very clever, popular man with a
great deal of influence in the countryside. On his way back to us from
Taunton, someone lent, or gave, him a very fine horse. It may have been
meant as a gift to the Duke; I do not know. Anyhow Old Dare rode in on
this horse with letters from Taunton, which he handed to Mr. Fletcher to
give to the Duke. Fletcher, our cavalry commander, had as yet no horse;
so seeing the splendid charger on which Old Dare rode, he ordered Old
Dare to give it up to him. He was the real commander of the army, with
a military right, if no real right, to take what horse he liked from
any subordinate officer. But Old Dare, like so many of our men, had no
knowledge of what soldier’s discipline meant. He saw, in Fletcher, a
gentleman with whom he had lived as an equal for the last fortnight. He
was not going to give up his horse like that; not he. Fletcher (speaking
sharply) told him to obey without further words, at which Dare in a
sudden flush of temper struck him with his riding switch. Fletcher
was not a patient man. He could not let an act of gross mutiny pass
unpunished, nor would he suffer an insult. He shot Dare dead upon
the spot, in full view of some hundreds of us. It was all done in an
instant. There was Dare lying dead, never to stir again. There was
Fletcher, our only soldier, with a smoking pistol in his hand, thinking
that he had taught the army a lesson in obedience. There was the
army all about him, flocking round in a swarm, not looking at it as a
military punishment but as a savage murder, for which he deserved to be
hanged. Then the Duke hastened up to make things quiet, before the army
avenged their friend. He drew Fletcher aside, though the people murmured
at him for speaking to a murderer. He was unnerved by Fletcher’s act. He
had no great vitality. Sudden crises such as this unnerved him, by
using up his forces. A crisis of this kind (a small thing in a great
rebellion) was often enough to keep his brain from considering other,
more important, more burning questions concerning the entire army. The
end of this business was as unhappy as its beginning. Fletcher, our only
soldier, was sent aboard the frigate in which the Duke had sailed from
Holland. When the tide served, she set sail with him for Corunna in
Spain. With him she carried all our hopes of success, together with a
quantity of stores which would have been of use later in the expedition.
As I left the Cobb, or pier, which makes Lyme harbour, I saw the little
lame puppet-man turning away from the beach with a company of men who
wore our green boughs. For a few steps I hurried towards him, so that I
might overhear what he was saying; I made so sure that he was a spy. Mr.
Blick, to whom I told my fears, bade me not to worry myself. “Why, boy,”
 he said, “there are five hundred spies in Lyme; but they can’t hurt us.
Before they can get off to tell our enemies all about us there won’t
be any enemies left. We shall be marching at once. We shall drive
everything before us.” He spoke with such confidence that I believed
him; yet the old man troubled me, for all that. When you see a face
continually, at a time when you are excited, you connect the face with
your excitement; it troubles your nerves.

The day wore by with all the unreality of a day of confusion. I was kept
at work until the light was gone; then served at the Duke’s table while
he supped, then snatched a hurried supper while he talked with his
officers. After supper, I had to go from billet to billet, looking for
people whom the officers wished to see. Something very important was in
the air. The discussion in the inn’s great room was the first serious
council of the war. About eleven o’clock, Lord Grey came out of the
room, telling me to follow him. We went out into the street, where
presently our men began to fall in, four or five abreast, about a
hundred ranks of them. A few cavalry came, too, but not enough, I heard
Lord Grey say, not enough to do any good with. In spite of all the
efforts of those who loved us (by efforts I mean the robbing of
farm-stables) we were very short of horses. Those which we had were not
good; they were cart, not saddle-horses, unused to the noise of guns.
Still, such as they were, they formed up in the street ahead of the
foot. The force took a long time to form; for the men kept saying that
they had forgotten something, their powder-horn, their cartridges, their
guns, even. Then they had to run back to their billets to fetch whatever
it was, while those who remained behind, puzzled at the movement so late
at night, when they wished to sleep, began to get nervous. They began to
ask where it was that we were going, was it to Axminster, or to Bridport.



CHAPTER XVII. A VOICE AT DAWN

Word was passed about that we were going to surprise the militia at
Bridport at dawn. We were told to keep quiet on the march, after passing
Charmouth, as the night was so still that we should be heard far off. We
did not know how near the Bridport outposts might come to us under cover
of the night. “You come with us, Martin,” said Lord Grey: “Take a horse.
If we win Bridport you’ll have to gallop back with the news.” I was
made a little nervous by the thought of going into battle so soon; but
gulping down my fears I mounted a marsh-mare which stood near the inn
door. I hoped sincerely that no militia bullet would find any part of
either of us. Then the drums began to play us out of the town with their
morning roll. A fife whined out, going down to our marrows with its
shrillness. Lights showed at the windows. We saw dark heads framed in
yellow patches. People called to us. In the door of the great inn stood
Monmouth; his face seemed very white in the glare of the torches. He
raised his hand to us as we passed him. The last thing I noticed of the
town, for I rode in the rear with Lord Grey, were the ranks passing the
lamp on the town hall. They came up to it in waves, their cloaks showing
in glimmer for an instant. Then they passed on into the night, sliding
forwards slowly with a steady roll, like the moving of waves to the
shore.

We were a long time riding; so long that the dawn was on us by the time
we were within shot of the enemy. I don’t remember very much about the
ride, except that it was unreal, very unreal; for the mists came down,
blotting the world from us, so that we rode in a swirl of cold grey,
amid a noise of dropping. When we got to the top of the long hill after
Chideock I was bidden halt at a cross-roads, with a waggon full of
ammunition, while the force moved on to the attack. The hills were
showing up clearly above the mist; but the valley lay like a sea, a
great grey formless level, like some world of the ghosts. The troops
passed down in it, moving pretty briskly, lest the mist should lift
before they were in position. Most of them knew the country, so that
they could well walk confidently; but their quickness had something
nervous in it, as though they were ill at ease. Very soon they were out
of sight, out of hearing, swallowed up in the fog.

I waited a long time (as it seemed) up there at the cross-roads. After a
long wait I rode a little down the hill, from sheer anxiety. I pulled
up in a bank of cloud, through which I could see dimly, in the growing
light, for about a dozen yards. I was leaning well forward, listening
for the sound of shooting, when something made me look down. Someone
was standing at my side, slipping something into my pocket. It gave me a
start. I clutched at the person. It was the old lame puppet-man who
had been at Lyme the day before. “Latter for ee,” he said in a whisper.
“Read en, unless you’m a fool.” His hand pressed lightly on my bridle
hand for an instant; then he ducked sideways swiftly into the wilderness
of ferny gorse at the side of the road, where I could not hope to
follow him, even if the mist had not hidden him. Something in the voice,
something in the lightness of the touch startled me into the knowledge.
As he ducked, it came over me that this old man was Aurelia disguised,
come to spy upon us, but bent, also, on giving me a warning, some little
kind word of advice, at the beginning of my lord’s war. I ought to have
recognized her before. I had been blind. She had been under my eyes the
whole day, yet I had never once suspected, no one, of all that army, had
suspected. She had been disguised by a master-hand. She had played her
part like a great actress. It was terrible to think of the risk she was
running. One man’s suspicion, in a time of war, would have been enough
to give her to a horrible death. I tried to follow her into the jungle
into which she had vanished; but my horse would not face the furze. I
tried hard to see her, but it was no use; the tangle was too thick; she
had gone. I called out to her softly; but I got no answer; only, at some
little distance away, I heard a twig snap under a passer’s foot.

In a momentary clearing of the mist, I pulled out my letter. It was
written in a fine, firm hand, with signature. It was a short, purposeful
letter, which kept sharply to the point. It only contained two lines.
“Your Duke’s cause is hopeless. He has no possible chance. Take the
Axminster road to safety.” That was the whole letter. It gave me a
feeling of uneasiness; but it did not tempt me to desert. I thought that
if I deserted I might very well be tortured into betraying all that I
knew of the Duke’s plans, while I doubted very much whether the Duke’s
body-servant would find mercy from the merciless, frightened King. What
was I to do, even if I escaped from the King’s party? I was too young
for any employment worthy of my station in life. I had neither the
strength nor the skill for manual labour. Who would employ a boy of my
age on a farm or in a factory? All that I could hope would be to get
away to sea, to a life which I had already found loathsome. As to going
back to my uncle’s house, I doubt if I would have gone, even had I had
the certainty of getting to it safely. When a boy has once taken to an
adventurous life, nothing but very ill health will drive him back to
home-life. Yet there was the thought of Aurelia. Somehow the thought
of her was a stronger temptation than any fear of defeat. I would have
liked to have seen that old enemy of mine again.

I was thinking over the letter, wondering what would come to the Duke’s
cause, when the valley below me began to ring with firing. A heavy
fire had begun there. It thundered in a long roll, which died down,
momentarily, into single sputterings through which one could hear
shouting. About twenty minutes after the beginning of the shots, when
all the party on the hill-top were edging nearer to the battle, taking
a few steps at a time, on tenter-hooks to be engaged, we heard a great
gallop of horses’ hoofs coming to us at full tilt. At first we
were scared by this, for the noise was tremendous, too great, we
inexperienced soldiers thought, to be caused by our little troop of
cavalry. We thought that it was the Bridport militia charging down on
us, after destroying our friends. The mist by this time was all blowing
clear, though wisps of it clung along the hedgerows in unreal rolling
folds. The day above was breaking in the sultry blue summer dimness. We
could see, I suppose, for a quarter of a mile, straight down the road.

We had swung round, facing towards Lyme, when the noise of the hoofs
first came to us. When the turn of the road showed us a squad of cavalry
coming to us at the charge, led by half a dozen riderless horses, we
waited for no more. We spurred up our nags in a panic, till we, too,
were going full tilt for Lyme, shouting out as we went any nonsense
which came to our heads. We were in a panic fear; I believe that the
horses in some way felt it too. We galloped back to Chideock as though
we were chased by witches, while the gun-firing at Bridport steadily
grew less, till at last it stopped altogether. At Chideock, some of the
cavalry came up with us. They were our own men, our own troop of horse,
not an enemy after all. The riderless horses were a few of the militia
charges which had been seized from a cavalry outpost to the west of the
town. We had bolted from our own crazy terror. But we were not the only
fleers. Our cavalry had bolted first, at the first volley outside the
town. It is unjust to say that they were afraid. Lord Grey was not a
coward; our men had stout hearts enough; but they had not reckoned
on the horses. The first discharge of guns scared the horses almost
frantic. They swung about out of action in a couple of seconds. Another
volley made them all bolt. It was when they were bolting that the men
began to grow alarmed. Fear is a contagious thing; it seems to pass
from spirit to spirit, like a flame along a powder train, till perhaps
a whole army feels it. Our horsemen pulled up among us in Chideock in
as bad a scare as you ever saw; it was twenty minutes before they dared
walk back to find out what had happened to the foot at Bridport, after
their retreat.

Our foot came back very angry with the horse. They had fired away a lot
of powder to very little purpose, before orders reached them, bidding
them retire. They had not wished to retire; but at last they had done
so sullenly, vowing to duck Lord Grey for deserting them. We had
taken about a dozen horses without harness, instead of the two hundred
equipped chargers which we had promised ourselves.

We had killed a few of the militia, so everybody said; but in the
confusion of the powder-smoke who could say how many? They were certain
that none of our own men had been killed; but in a force so newly
raised, who could say for certain which were our own men? As a matter
of fact several of our men had been taken by the royalists, which is as
much as to say that they had been killed. Altogether the affair had
been a hopeless failure from the very beginning. The foot had learned to
despise the horse. The horses had learned to be afraid of gun-fire. The
cavalrymen had learned to despise Lord Grey. The militia had learned to
despise us. The only valuable lesson that our men had learned was that
a battle was not so terrible a thing. You knelt down, fired your gun,
shouted, borrowed your neighbour’s drinking bottle, took a long swig,
then fired again, with more shouting, till somebody clapped you on the
shoulder with orders to come away. But this lesson, precious as it was
did not console our men for their beating. They were cross with the long
night-march as well as with Lord Grey’s desertion. We dragged our
way back to Lyme very slowly, losing a good fifty of our number by
desertion. They slipped away home, after falling out of the ranks to
rest. They had had enough of fighting for the Duke; they were off home.
The officers were strict at first, trying to stop these desertions; but
the temper of the men was so bad that at last they gave it up, hoping
that some at least would stay. That was another evil consequence of
fighting for the crown with an undisciplined mob; they could sustain
defeat as ill as they could use victory. We did not trail into Lyme
until after noon; for we marched like snails, fearing that the militia
would follow us. When we got into camp, the men flung their arms from
them, careless of the officer’s orders. All that they wanted was sleep
(we had eaten a late breakfast at Charmouth), they were not going to
do any more soldier’s foolery of drill, or sentry-go. As for Lord Grey,
whom everybody called a coward, the Duke could not cashier him, because
he was the best officer remaining to us. Poor Fletcher, who might have
made something of our cavalry, was by this time far away at sea. The
other officers had shown their incapacity that morning. For my own part,
I chose out a snug billet on a hearthrug in the George Inn, where I
slept very soundly for several hours. While I slept, the Duke held a
melancholy council to debate what could be done.

They say that he ought to have marched that morning to Exeter, where
Lord Albemarle’s militia (all of them ripe for rebellion) would have
joined him.

Exeter or Bristol, one or the other, would have been a fine plume in
his cap, a strong, fortified town, full of arms, where he could have
established himself firmly. I do not know why he decided against
marching to Exeter. He may have had bad reports of troops being on the
road waiting for him; or he may have thought that his friends (who
were plentiful on the Bristol road) would rally to him as soon as he
appeared. He was deceived by those protesting gentry, his friends, who
had welcomed him so warmly only a few months before. He thought that all
the countryside was ready to join him. He had been deceived, as perhaps
a cleverer man would have been deceived, by the warmth of his welcome
on his earlier visit. An Englishman is always polite to a Duke when he
meets him in a friendly gathering. But when the Duke says, “Lend me all
your ready money, together with your horses, or rather give them to me,
since I am the King,” his politeness leaves him; he gets away to London
to warn the police as fast as his horse will take him. Thus it was with
the Duke’s friends scattered about along the main-road from Lyme to
Bristol.

I know not who persuaded the Duke to march; probably it was Grey; it may
have been Venner; it may have been a momentary mad resolution caused
by a glass of wine. They say that he was solemn about it, as though he
expected to fail. Perhaps he would have gone back to Holland if the ship
had been still in the harbour, but of course she had gone away. He would
not go in La Reina; for she was sluggish from barnacles, having been
long un-careened. The Channel at this time was full of ships looking for
him; how he escaped them when he sailed from Holland I cannot think. He
hesitated for a long time, poor man, before deciding; no man could have
acted more like a Stuart, at such a time. When the decision was made he
gave word to start early on the following morning. But this I did not
know till one A.M, when Lord Grey routed me out from my berth on the
hearth-rug, so that I might go from house to house, calling up our
officers.

I suppose that all our officers were out of bed by two o’clock, yet
it took them eight hours to get their men together, into some sort of
order. We were hardly ready for the road at ten A.M. when the drums
beat up to play us out of the town. As I was the Duke’s servant, I was
allowed to ride by my master; I daresay people thought that I was the
young Prince. We marched up the hill gaily, with a multitude flocking
all about us, but there were many of that crowd who looked doubtfully
at my master’s sad face, thinking that he looked over-melancholy for a
conquering king.

We marched out of Lyme into a valley, through a sort of suburb called
Uplyme. After that we marched steadily up hill, a long climb of two
miles, having a great view of the countryside on our left hand. Our
right was shut from us by a wooded hill. It was a warm, sunny June day:
the grass just ripe for hay harvest; the country at its best; everything
at its full flower, so that you wondered at the world’s abundance. We
sent out scouts, when we were about a mile from Lyme; but when we were
at the top of the hill we could see for ourselves, without putting
scouts abroad. We could see horsemen on the high ground away to the
left, two or three hundred of them. Besides these there were some
companies of foot drawn up in good order in the fields outside
Axminster, at some distance from the town. When this army caught sight
of us, it began to file off towards the town, as though to dispute it
with us, so our advanced guard pushed on to drive them out of it.
The sight of so many men in order, was a very moving one. To see them
advance their colours, to see the light on the shifting steel, to hear
the low beating hum of the feet was stirring to the heart. Word ran
along the line that there was going to be a battle. Our foot left the
road, so as to spread out into line in the open, where they could take
up positions behind hedges. I was sent back to the rear at this instant,
to order up the ammunition waggons, so that I missed some part of the
operations; but I shall never forget how confidently our men spread out;
they marched as though they were going into the fields for partridges.
The drums began again, to hearten them, but there was no need for drums
in that company; they began to sing of their own accord, making a noise
which drowned the drums altogether. I gave my orders to the ammunition
waggons, which were blocked in a jumble of sightseers, camp-followers,
etc., etc., so that they could hardly move. The drivers got me to charge
my horse through the mob to make a path, which I did, with a good deal
of pain to myself, for the people thus thrust aside struck at me. The
drivers struck out at them in return; we had a little fight of our own,
while Axminster was being won.



CHAPTER XVIII. I SPEAK WITH AURELIA

The next thing which I remember was coming out of the mob with the
waggons just behind me, going at a smart pace to a position on the
army’s right. The road was pretty full of all sorts of people; but as
we shouted for them to clear the way, they made a lane for us. I saw the
Duke’s little clump of staff-officers on a pitch of rising ground, but
there was no firing; only a noise of many voices singing. Just as we
were about to turn off the road into the fields behind our right wing,
I saw the little old lame puppet-man sitting on a donkey by the ditch
at the side of the road. I shouted to the drivers to pass on, which they
did, at full tilt, while I drew rein by the old man’s side. “Aurelia,” I
said, “this is no place for you. Do get away from here before they find
you out.”

“Why,” she said, very calmly, in the broad burring man’s voice which
she imitated so exactly. “I be come ‘ere to find you out. You’m going to
your death, boy. You get out of this ‘ere army afore you’re took. I
tell ee thy Duke be a doomed man. Look at en’s face. Why, boy, there be
eleven thousand soldiers a-marching to put er down. You’ve only a got
a quarter of that lot. Come out of en, boy. Do-an’t ee be led wrong.” I
was touched by her kind thought for me; she was risking her life for
me for the second time, but in the hurry of the moment I could not put
words together to thank her.

“Aurelia,” I said, “I can’t talk to you now. Only get out of this. Don’t
stay here. I’m all right.”

“No, Martin,” she said, in her ordinary voice, “you’re not all right.
Come out of this. Slip away tonight to Newenham Abbey. It be over there,
not more than a couple of miles. Oh, come, come. I can’t bear to see you
going away to certain death. I KNOW that this force cannot win.”

“Yes, Aurelia,” I answered. “But I’m not going to be a hang-back for all
that. I’m not going to be a coward. You risk a horrible death, only to
tell me not to do the same. You wouldn’t give up a cause you believed
in, merely because it was dangerous. I’ll stick by my master, Aurelia.
Don’t try to tempt me.”

She would have said more; she would perhaps have persuaded me from my
heroics, had not the guns begun firing. That broke the spell with a
vengeance; nothing could be done after that. I shook up my horse, hardly
pausing to say “God bless you.” In another minute she was out of sight,
while I was cantering off to the extreme right wing with the Duke’s
orders to his officers to cut in on the road to Chard. As I rode along,
behind the scattered line of our men, I could see the rolls of smoke
from the firing on the left. The men on the right were not firing, but
being raw troops they were edging little by little towards the firing,
in which I do not doubt they longed to be, for the sake of the noise.
They say now that the Duke threw away this battle at Axminster. He could
have cut Albemarle’s troops to pieces had he chosen to do so. They made
a pretty bold front till we were within gunfire of them, when they all
scattered off to the town pell-mell. While they were in the town, we
could have cut them off from the Chard road, which would have penned
them in while we worked round to seize the bridges. After that, one
brisk assault would have made the whole batch of them surrender. Some of
our officers galloped from our right wing (where I was) to see how the
land lay, before leading off their men as I had brought them word. A
few of them fired their pistols, when they came to the road, which was
enough to make the right wing double forward to support them without
orders. In a minute about a thousand of us were running fast after our
officers, while the Duke’s aides charged down to stop us. He had decided
not to fight, probably thinking that it would do his cause no good by
killing a lot of his subjects so early in his reign. We know now that
had he made one bold attack that morning, the whole of Albemarle’s
force, with the exception of a few officers, would have declared for
him. In other words we should have added to our army about a thousand
drilled armed men who knew the country through which we were to pass.
By not fighting, we discouraged our own army, who grumbled bitterly when
they found their second battle as ineffectual as the fight at Bridport.

I remember next that I saw the whole of Albemarle’s troops flying for
their lives along the Chard road, flinging away their weapons as they
ran. They had the start of us; but a resolute captain could have brought
them to a stand, by pushing forward his cavalry. However “a bridge of
gold to a flying foe” is a good saying. We let them go. When our cavalry
advanced (to keep them on the move, not to fight with them) they passed
the time in collecting what the militia had flung away; about four
thousand pounds’ worth of soldiers’ stores, chiefly uniforms. I went
forward with the horse on that occasion. I picked up altogether about a
dozen muskets, which I gave to some of our men who were armed only with
clubs. Then I rode back to report myself ready for service to my master,
who was getting ready for camp, thinking that his men had done enough
for one day.

It was a sad waste of time. A rough camp was formed. We went no further
for that time. About half a precious day was wasted, which might have
brought us nearly to Taunton under a resolute man, sworn to conquer.
Some of our men went out to forage, which they did pretty roughly. It
was theft with violence, coloured over by some little touch of law.
The farmers who were unpopular thereabouts had their cattle driven off;
their ricks carted off; their horses stolen; their hen-roosts destroyed.
We were like an army of locusts, eating up everything as we passed. Our
promises to pay, when the King came to his own, were really additional
insult; for the people robbed knew only too well how Stuart kings kept
their promises. One strange thing I saw that night. The men who were
cooking their newly stolen beef at the camp-fires kept crying out for
camp-kettles in which to boil the joints. We had no camp-kettles; but an
old man came forward to the Duke’s quarters to ask if he might show the
men how to cook their meat without kettles. The Duke at once commanded
him to show us how this might be done. Like most useful inventions, it
was very simple. It was one of those things which are forgotten as life
becomes civilised, but for want of which one may perish when one returns
to barbarity, as in war. The old man began by placing stout poles
in tripods over the camp-fires, lashing them firmly at the top with
faggot-binders. Then he took the hide of one of the slaughtered cattle,
gathering it up at the corners, so as to form a sort of bag. He cut some
long narrow strips from the hide of the legs, with which to tie the four
corners together. Then he lashed the four corners to the tripod, so that
the bag hung over the fire.

“There,” he said. “There is your kettle. Now put water into en. Boil
thy victuals in er. That be a soldier’s camp-kettle. You can carry your
kettle on your beef till you be ready for en.”

Indeed, it proved to be a very good kind of a kettle after one got
used to the nastiness of it, though the smell of burning hair from the
kettles was disgusting. To this day, I have only to singe a few hairs
in a candle to bring back to my mind’s eye that first day in camp at
Axminster, the hill, the valley ringed in by combes, the noise of the
horses, the sputtering of the fires of green wood, the many men passing
about aimlessly, wondering at the ease of a soldier’s life after the
labour of spring ploughing. It was a wonderful sight, that first camp
of ours; but the men for the most part grumbled at not fighting; they
wanted to be pushing on, to seize the city of Bristol, instead of
camping there. How did they know, they said, that the weather would
keep fine? How were we to march with all our ten baggage waggons if the
weather turned wet, so that the roads became muddy? The roads in those
parts became deep quagmires in rainy weather. A light farmer’s market
cart might go in up to the axles after a day’s steady rain. To march
through such roads would break the men’s hearts quicker than any
quantity of fighting, however disastrous. Thus they grumbled about the
camp-fires, while I bustled over the Duke’s dinner, in the intervals of
running errands for the colonel.

That evening, after the summer dusk had come, but before the army had
settled to sleep, I heard an old man, one of our cavalrymen, talking to
another trooper. “Ah,” he said, “I was fighting in the old wars under
Oliver. I’ve seen wars enough. You mark my words, boy, this army won’t
do much. We’ve not got enough men, for one thing. We could have had
fourteen thousand or more if he’d thought to bring muskets for en. We’ve
not got cavalry, that’s another thing. When us do come face to face with
all the King’s men us shall be sore put to it for want of a few trusty
horses. Horsemen be the very backbones of armies in the field. Then,
boy, we not got any captains, that’s worst of all. The Duke’s no
captain. If he’d been a captain her’d have fought this morning. Them
others aren’t captains neither, none of them. Besides, what are they
doing sitting down in camp like this when we ought to be marching?
Us ought to be marching. Marching all night, never setting down once,
marching in two armies, one to Exeter, one to Bristol. Us’d ‘ave the two
towns by late tomorrow night if us was under old Oliver. It’ll take us
a week to get to Bristol at this rate. By that time it will be full of
troops, as well as secured by ships. As for us, by that time we shall
have troops all round us, not to speak of club-men.”

“Ah,” said the younger man. “What be club-men, gaffer?”

“You’ll know soon enough what club-men are,” the old man answered, “if
there’s any more of this drunken dirty robbery I saw this afternoon.
Those thieves who stole the farmer’s cattle would have been shot in
Oliver’s time. They’d have cast lots on a drum in sight of all on us,
drawn up. The men who got the low numbers would have been shot. The
captains would have pistolled them where they stood. If this robbing
goes on, all the farmers will club together to defend themselves, making
a sort of second army for us to fight against. That is what club-men
means. It’s not a nice thing to fight in a country where there are
club-men all round you. No, boy. So what with all this, boy, I be going
to creep out of this ‘ere army. I do-an’t like the look of things, nor
I do-an’t like the way things are done. If you take a old man’s advice
you’ll come too.”

“Noa,” said the honest oaf, “I be agoin’ to vight. I be a-goin’ to
London town to be a girt sol-dier.”

“Ah,” said the old man, shortly, “you be a vule, Tummas. Wish ee good
day, maister.” Then the old man turned sharply on his heel to leave the
camp, which he did easily enough, for he knew several of the sentries.
Even if he had not known them, it would have made little difference,
because our sentries were so lax that the camp was always swarming with
strangers. Women came to see their husbands or sweethearts. Boys came
out of love of mischief. Men came out of curiosity, or out of some wish
to see things before they decided which side to take. Our captains were
never sure at night how many of their men would turn up at muster the
next morning.

After the old man had deserted, I sat down on the high ground above the
camp, in the earthen battery where our four little guns were mounted. I
was oppressed with a sad feeling that we were all marching to death. The
old man’s words, “we shall have troops all round us,” rang in my head,
till I could have cried. My mind was full of terrible imaginings. I
saw our army penned up in a little narrow valley where the roads were
quagmires, so that our guns were stuck in the mud, our horses up to
their knees, our men floundering. On the hills all round us I saw
the King’s armies, fifty thousand strong, marching to music under the
colours, firing, then wheeling, forming with a glint of pikes, bringing
up guns at a gallop, shooting us down, while we in the mud tried to
form. I knew that the end of it all would be a little clump of men round
the Duke, gathered together on a hillock, holding out to the last. The
men would be dropping as the shot struck them. The wounded would waver,
letting their pike-points drop. Then’ there would come a whirling of
cavalry, horses’ eyes in the smoke, bright iron horse-shoes gleaming,
swords crashing down on us, an eddy of battle which would end in a hush
as the last of us died. I saw all these pictures in my brain, as clearly
as one sees in a dream. You must not wonder that I looked over the misty
fields towards Newenham Abbey with a sort of longing to be there, well
out of all the war. It was only a mile from me. I could slip away so
easily. I was not bound to stay where I was, to share in the misery
caused by my leader’s want of skill. Then I remembered how my father had
believed in the right of the Duke’s cause. He would have counselled me
to stay, I thought. It seemed to me, in the dusk of the night, that my
father was by me, urging me to stay. The thought was very blessed; it
cleared away all my troubles as though they had not been. I decided
to look no more towards Newenham; but to go on by the Duke’s side to
whatever fortune the wars might bring us. Somehow, the feeling that my
father was by me, made me sure that we were marching to victory. I went
to my quarters comforted, sure of sleeping contentedly.

Like the rest of us, I had to sleep in the open, without any more
shelter than a horse-cloth. Even the Duke was without a tent that night.
He slept in camp with us, to set an example to his men, though he might
well have gone to some house in the town. I liked the notion of sleeping
out in the open. In fine warm summer weather, when the dew is not too
heavy, it is pleasant, until a little before the dawn, when one feels
uneasy, for some reason, as though an enemy were coming. Perhaps our
savage ancestors, the earliest ancient Britons, who lived in hill-camps,
high up, with their cattle round them, expected the attacks of their
enemies always at a little before the dawn; so that, in time, the
entire race learned to be wakeful then, lest the enemy should catch the
slumberers, with flint-axe heads in the skull. It may be that to this
day we feel the fear felt by so many generations of our ancestors. On
this first night in camp, I found that many of the men were sleeping
uneasily, for they did not know the secret of sleeping in the open. They
did not know that to sleep comfortably in the open one must dig a little
hole in the ground, about as big as a porridge bowl, to receive one’s
hipbone. If you do this, you sleep at ease, feeling nothing of the
hardness of the bed. If you fail to do it, you wake all bruised, after a
wretched night’s tumbling; you ache all the next day.

After grubbing up a hollow with my knife, I swathed myself in my blanket
with a saddle for pillow. I watched the stars for a while, as they
drifted slowly over me. The horses stamped, shaking their picket-ropes.
The sentries walked their rounds, or came to the camp-fires to call
their reliefs. The night was full of strange noises. The presence of so
many sleeping men was strange. It was very beautiful, very solemn. It
gave one a kind of awe to think that thus so many famous armies had
slept before the battles of the world, before Pharsalia, before Chalons,
before Hastings. Presently the murmuring became so slight that I fell
asleep, forgetting everything, only turning uneasily from time to time,
to keep the cool night wind from blowing on my cheeks so as to wake me.

It must have been two in the morning when I was wakened by some armed
men, evidently our sentries, who rolled me over without ceremony.

“Wake up, young master,” they said, grinning. “You’m wanted. You be to
get up to go a errand. You be a soldier now. You does your sleeping in
peace-times when you be a soldier,” I sat up blinking my eyes, in the
early light, thinking how nice t’other forty winks would be.

“Heigho,” I yawned. “All right. I’m awake. What is it? What’s the
matter?”

“Lord Grey be a wanting you, young master,” said one of the men. “Down
there, where them horses be in the road.” I picked myself up at that,
wishing for a basin of water into which I might shove my head.

“Yes, yes,” I said. “Thank you. I’ll go down.” I left my blanket where
it was, as I expected to be back in a few minutes. I walked down hill
out of the camp to the road where the horses stood; there were four
horses, two of them mounted. The mounted men were regular country
bumpkins, with green sprays in their hats, like the rest of our men; but
their horses were pretty good, much better than most of those we had.
One of them was a stocky old cob, which was no doubt to be mine.
The other was a beast with handsome harness for Lord Grey. “Alas,” I
thought. “No more sleep for me. I’ve got to ride. I wonder where we are
going.” The men touched their hats to me; for as I was in the Duke’s
retinue I was much respected. Some of them no doubt thought I was a
princeling or little lord.

“Where are we going?” I asked the troopers.

“Going scouting out towards Colyton yonder, sir,” said one of them. “Us
be to pick up his Lordship in the town.”



CHAPTER XIX. I MEET THE CLUB MEN

I wondered when I was to get breakfast; but I knew Lord Grey well enough
to know that he was not a man to go willingly without food for more than
a few hours at a time. Breakfast I should have presently, nor would it
be skin-boiled beef, smelling of singed hair. So I mounted my cob with
a good will. The first trooper rode by my side, the other waited for a
moment to examine the feet of Lord Grey’s charger. He trotted after
us, leading the riderless horse, some fifty yards behind us. We trotted
smartly through Axminster, where we set the dogs barking. People sprang
from their beds when they heard us, fearing that we were an army coming
to fight. We cantered out of the town over the river, heading towards a
hilly country, which had few houses upon it. I looked back after leaving
Axminster, to see if Lord Grey wanted me. He had mounted his horse
somewhere in the town; but he was now a couple of hundred yards behind
us, riding’ with a third man, whom I judged to be Colonel Foukes, by his
broad white regimental scarf. After we had gone a few miles, we came to
a cross-roads where my guide bade me halt to wait for orders. The others
had pulled up, too. I could see Lord Grey examining a map, while his
horse sidled about across the road. The trooper who had been riding with
him, joined us after a while, telling us to take the road to our right,
which would take us, he said, towards Taunton. We were to keep our eyes
skinned, he said, for any sign of armed men coming on the high-road from
Honiton, so as to threaten our left flank. The gentlemen were going to
scout towards the sea. At eight o’clock, if we had seen no trace of any
armed force coming, we were to make for Chard, where we should find the
Duke’s army. We were to examine the roads for any signs of troops having
passed recently towards Taunton. We were to enquire of the country
people, if troops were abroad in that countryside, what troops they
might be, how led, how equipped, etc. If we came across any men anxious
to join the Duke we were to send them on to Chard or Ilminster, on the
easterly road to Taunton. We were to ride without our green boughs, he
said; so before starting on our road we flung them into the ditches.
Lord Grey waved his hand to us, as he turned away with his friend. We
took off our hats in reply, hardly in a soldierly salute; then we set
off at a walk along the Taunton road. It is a lonely road leading up to
the hills, a straight Roman road, better than any roads laid in England
at that time; but a road which strikes horror into one, the country
through which it runs is so bleak.

By about six o’clock (according to one of the troopers, who judged by
the height of the sun) we were in a clump of firs high up on a hill,
looking over a vast piece of eastern Devon. We had scouted pretty
closely all round Honiton, examining the country people, without hearing
of any troops. We were now looking out for some gleam upon a road, some
rising of dust over a hedge, some scattering of birds even, any sign
of men advancing, which might be examined more closely. The morning was
bright; but the valleys had mist upon them, which would soon turn to the
quivering blue June heat-haze. The land lay below us, spread out in huge
folds; the fields, all different colours, looked like the counties on a
map; we could see the sea, we could see the gleam of a little river. We
could see Axminster far to the east of us; but the marching army was out
of sight, somewhere on the Chard high-road. After scanning pretty well
all around us, I caught sight of moving figures on the top of one of the
combes to south of us. We all looked hard at the place, trying to make
out more of them. They were nearly a mile from us. They seemed to be
standing there as sentries. At first we thought that they must be people
with Lord Grey; but as we could see no horses we decided that they could
not be. One of the men said that as far as he’d heard tell like,
the combe on which they stood was what they call a camp, where soldiers
lived in the old time. He didn’t know much more about it; but he said
that he thought we ought to examine it, like, before riding on to some
inn where we could breakfast.

The other man seemed to think so, too; but when we came to talk over
the best way of doing our espials, we were puzzled. We should be seen at
once if we went to them directly. We might be suspected if we approached
them on horseback. If the men went, they might be detained, because, for
all that we knew, the combe might be full of militia. So I said I had
better go, since no one would suspect a boy. To this the men raised a
good many objections, looking at each other suspiciously, plainly asking
questions with their raised eyebrows. I thought at the time that they
were afraid of sending me into a possible danger, because I was a
servant attached to the Duke’s person. However, when I said that I would
go on foot, taking all precautions, they agreed grudgingly to let me go.

I crept along towards this combe on foot, as though I were going bird’s
nesting. I beat along by the hedges, keeping out of sight behind them,
till I was actually on the combe’s north slope, climbing up to the old
earthwork on the top. I took care to climb the slope at a place where
there was no sentry, which was, of course, not only the steepest bit of
the hill but covered with gorse clumps, through which I could scarcely
thrust my way. Up towards the top the gorse was less plentiful; there
were immense foxgloves, ferns, little marshy tufts where rushes grew,
little spots of wet bright green moss. Yellow-hammers drawled their
pretty tripping notes to me, not starting away, even when I passed close
to them. All the beauty of June was on the earth that day; the beauty of
everything in that intense blue haze was wonderful.

The top of the combe was very steep, steeper than any of the ascent,
because it had been built up like an outer wall by the savages who once
lived there with their cattle. I could see just the bare steep wall
of the rampart standing up in a dull green line of short-grassed turf
against the sky, now burning with the intense blue of summer. One hard
quick scramble, with my fingernails dug into the ground, brought my head
to the top of the rampart, beyond which I could see nothing but
great ferns, a forest of great ferns, already four or five feet high,
stretching away below, into the cup of the camp or citadel. I did not
dare to stand up, lest I should be seen. I burrowed my way among the
ferns over the wall into the hollow, worming my way towards the edge of
the fern clump so that I could see. In a minute, I was gazing through
the fern-stems into the camp itself; it was a curious sight.

About fifty people (some of them women) were sitting about a hollow
in the ground, which I guessed to be a sort of smokeless fireplace or
earth-oven. Everywhere else, all over the hollow of the camp, which
must have been a full three hundred yards across, were various kinds of
farm-stock, mostly cattle, though there were many picketed horses, too.
At first I thought that I had climbed into a camp of gipsies, which gave
me a scare; for gipsies then were a wild lot, whom wise folk avoided.
Then, as I glanced about, I saw a sentry standing not thirty yards from
me, but well above me, on the rampart top. He was no gipsy he was an
ordinary farmer’s lad, with the walk of a ploughman. His sleeves, which
were rolled back, showed me a sun-burnt pair of arms, such as no gipsy
ever had. What puzzled me about him was his heavy double-barrelled
pistol, which he carried in his right hand, with something of a military
cock, yet as though awed by it. He was not over sure of that same
pistol. I could see that he confounded it in some way with art-magic.

Then I remembered what the old soldier had said the night before about
club men. This camp must be a camp of club men, I thought. They had come
there to protect their stock from the rapine of our vile pillagers, who
had spread such terror amongst the farmers the day before. Perched up
on the combe, with sentries always on the look-out, they could see the
Duke’s raiders long before they came within gunshot. If an armed force
had tried to rush the camp, after learning that the beasts were shut up
within it (which, by the way, no man could possibly suspect until he
saw them from the rampart top), the few defenders clubbed together there
could have kept them out without difficulty; for there was only one
narrow entrance to the camp, so constructed that any one entering by it
could be shot at from three sides, if not from all four. I looked about
me carefully from my hiding-place, till I decided that I could get a
better view from another part of the fern clump. I began to wriggle
through the thick, sweet-scented stalks, towards the heart of the camp,
going with infinite care, so as not to break down the fern into a path.
I hoped to make no more stir among the fern-tops than would be made by
one of the many pigs scattering about in the enclosure.

While I was crawling along in this way, I suddenly heard a curious
noise from an intensely thick part of the fern in front of me. It was a
clinking noise, followed by a sort of dry rasping, as though a very big
person were gritting his teeth very hard. It stopped suddenly, but soon
began again. I thought that it must be some one mending harness with
a file, or perhaps some old sheep or cow, with the remnants of a bell
about her neck, licking a stone for salt. As was in an adventure,
I thought that I would see it out to the end; for I was enjoying my
morning. In spite of the want of breakfast I felt very like a red Indian
or a pirate, creeping through the jungle to the sack of a treasure
train. So I wormed on towards the noise. As I came near to it, I went
more cautiously, because in one of the pauses of the noise, I heard a
muttered curse, which told me that the unseen noise-maker was a man. If
I had been wise I should have stopped there; for I had learned all that
I came out to learn. But I was excited now. I wished to see everything,
before creeping away unseen to make my report. Perhaps I wished to see
something which had nothing to do with the club men, a private main
of cocks, say, or a dog, or bull-baiting, carried on with some of the
squire’s creatures, but without his knowledge. I had a half wish that I
might have something of the kind to report; because in my heart I longed
to say nothing to any of the Duke’s party which might lead to the ruin
of these poor people who were trying so hard to protect their property.

A few feet further on, I was wishing most heartily that I had never
left my room in London. It was like this. In the very heart of the fern
clump, where the ferns were tallest, a little spring bubbled out of
the ground, at the rate, I suppose, of a pint of water in a minute. The
ferns grew immensely thick there; but someone had thinned out a few of
the roots from the ground, leaving the uprooted plant with the ferns
still living, to form a rough kind of thatch above a piece of earth big
enough for a man’s body. In the scented shade of this thatch, with
the side of his face turned towards me, a big, rough, bearded man sat,
filing away some bright steel irons which were riveted on his ankles. He
swore continually in a low whisper as he worked, not even pausing in his
curses when he spat on to the hollow scraped in the irons by his file.
He was the fiercest looking savage of a man I have ever seen. His face
had a look of stern, gloomy cruelty which I shall never forget. His
general appearance was terrible; for he had a face burnt almost black by
the sun (some of it may have been mud) with a nasty white scar running
irregularly all down his left cheek, along the throat to the shoulder.
He was not what you might call naked, a naked man, such as I have seen
since in the hot countries, would have looked a nobleman beside him. He
wore a pair of dirty linen knickerbockers, all frayed into ribbons at
the knees, a pair of strong hide slippers bound to his ankles by strips
of leather, a part of a filthy red shirt without sleeves, a hat stolen
from a scarecrow, nothing else whatever, except the mud of many days’
gathering. His shirt was torn all down the back in a great slit which
he had tried to secure by what the sailors call “Bristol buttons,” i.e.
pieces of string. The red flannel hung from him so as to show his back,
all criss-crossed with flogging scars. I knew at once from the irons
that he was a criminal escaped from gaol; but the criss-crossed scars
taught me that he was a criminal of the most terrible kind, probably one
who had shipped into the Navy to avoid hanging.

I took in a view of him before he saw me. His image was stamped on my
brain in less than ten seconds. In the eleventh second, I was lying on
my back in the gloom of the fern-growth, with this great ruffian on my
chest, squeezing me by my windpipe. I cannot say that he spoke to me. It
was not speech. It was the snarling wild beast gurgle which passes for
speech in the slums of our great cities, as though all the filth of a
low nature were choking in the throat at once. He was on me too quickly
for me to cry out. I could only lie still, cackling for breath, while
the fierce face glowered down on me. I understood him to say that he
would have my windpipe out if I said a word. I suppose he saw that I was
only a very frightened boy; for his clutch upon me relaxed, after a few
awful, gasping moments. When he loosed his hold, his great hand pawed
over my throat till he had me by the scruff of the neck. He drew me over
towards the spring, as one would draw a puppy. Then, still crouching in
the fern, he hurried me to a single stunted sloe-bush which grew there.
“Go down, you,” he said, giving me a shove towards the bush. “Down th’
‘ole.”

Just behind the sloe-bush, under a fringe of immense ferns, was an
opening in the earth, about eighteen inches high, by two feet across.
It was like a large rabbit or fox earth, except that the mouth of it was
not worn bare. I did not like the thought of going down th’ ‘ole; but
with this great griping fist on my nape there was not much sense in
saying so. I wormed my way in, helped on by prods from the file. It was
a melancholy moment when my head passed beyond the last filtering of
light into the tomb’s blackness, where not even insects lived. After a
moment of scrambling I found that the passage was big enough for me to
go on all fours. It was a dry passage, too, which seemed strange to me;
but on reaching out with my hand I felt that the walls were lined with
well laid stones, unmortared. The roof above me was also of stone. You
may wonder why I did not shoot this ruffian with my pistol. You boys
think that if you had a pistol you would shoot any one who threatened
you. You would not. When the moment comes, it is not so easily disposed
of. Besides, a filthy, cursing pirate on your throat checks your natural
calm most strangely.

The passage led into the swell of the rampart for about twenty yards,
where it opened into a dimly lighted chamber about four feet high. A
little blink of light came through a rabbit hole, at the end of which
I saw a spray of gorse with the sunlight on it. I could see by the dim
light that the chamber was built of unmortared stones, very cleverly
laid. The floor of it was greasier than the passage had been, but still
it was not damp. On one side it had a bed of heather stalks, on the
other there was something dark which felt like cold meat. The man came
grunting in behind me, clinking his leg-irons. After groping about in a
corner of the room he lighted a stinking rushlight by means of a tinder
box.



CHAPTER XX. THE SQUIRE’S HOUSE

“There,” he said, not unkindly, “there’s a nice little ‘ome for yer. Now
you, tell me wot you were doing spying on me. First of all, ‘ave you
any money?” He did not wait for me to answer, but dug his hands into my
pockets at once, taking every penny I had, except a few shillings
which were hidden in my belt. He did not see my belt, as I had taken to
wearing it next my skin, since I began to follow the wars. I feared from
the greed which showed in all his movements that he vas going to strip
me; but he did not do so, thinking, no doubt, that none of my clothes
would fit his body.

“Well,” he said, in his snarling beast voice, “wot’s up ‘ere, with all
these folk brought their beasts ‘ere?”

I told him that the Duke had come co fight for the crown of England,
with the result, as I supposed, that the country people dared not trust
their live-stock at home, for fear of having them pillaged. He seemed
pleased at the news; but being an utter wild beast, far less civilized
than the lowest savage ever known to me, he showed his pleasure by
hoping that the rich (whom he cursed fluently) might have their heads
pulled off in the war, while as for the poor (the farmers close by us)
he hoped that they might lose every beast they owned. “Do ‘era good,”
 he said. “Now,” he went on, “are you come spying ‘ere along of the
farmers?”

“No,” I said, “I am a servant of the Duke’s, riding out to look for the
militia.”

“Ah,” he said. “Are yer, cocky? ‘Ow’m I to know that?”

“Well,” I said, “Look at my hands. Are they the hands of a farmer?”

“No,” he said. “No, Mister stuck-up flunkey, they ain’t. I s’pose yet
proud of yet ‘ands. I’ll ‘ave yer wait at table on me.” He seemed to
like the notion: for he repeated it many times, while he dug out hunks
of cold ham with his file, from the meat which I had felt as I crawled
in

   “‘Ow proud I dig
     A’unk a cold pig”

he sang, as he gulped the pieces down. It was partly a nightmare, partly
very funny. I was not sure if he was mad, probably he was mad, but being
down in the burrow there, in the half darkness, hearing that song, made
me feel that I was mad; it was all a very terrible joke; perhaps madness
affects people like that. At last I spoke to him again.

“Sir,” I said, “I’ve been up since two this morning. Give me a hunk of
cold pig, too. I’m half-starved.”

“‘Elp yourself, can’t yer?” he snarled. “Oo’m I to wait on yer?” Then,
very cunningly, he put in, “‘Ave you got a knife on yer?”

“No,” I said cautiously, “I’ve got no knife,” which was a lie; I did not
wish my knife to go the same way as the money. He gave me some cold
pig, very excellent ham it was, too, for which I was very thankful. He
watched my greediness with satisfaction. I ate heartily when I saw that
my confident way with him had made him more tender towards me.

“Yes,” he snorted. “Per’aps you ain’t been lying to me after all. Now
‘ow long will these blokes be up the ‘ill ‘ere?” I did not know that;
but I supposed that they would go home directly the Duke’s army had got
as far, say, as Taunton. “But,” I added, “the Duke may be beaten. If
he’s beaten, all this part will be full of troops beating every bush for
the rebels.” He swore at this; but his curses were only designed to hide
his terror.

“Could a fellow get to sea,” he said in a whining tone. “Could a poor
fellow in trouble slip away to sea, now, at one of these seaport towns?
Boy, I been livin’ like a wild beast all the way from Bristol, this two
months. I didn’t kill the feller; not dead. The knife only went into ‘im
a very little way, not more’n a inch. I was raised near ‘ere at a farm.
So I knowed of this ‘ere burrow. I got ‘ere two days ago, pretty near
dead. Now I been penned up from the sea by these farmers comin’ ‘ere,
doin’ swottin’ sentry-go all round me. I tell yer, I’ll cut up sour, if
they pen me in, now I’m so near got away. I been with Avery. They call
Avery a pirate. They said I was a pirate. It’s ‘anging if they ketch
me. Do yer think I could get away to Lyme or some place, to get took
into a ship?” I told him, no; because I knew from what Lord Grey had
told me, that the Channel was full of men-of-war searching every
ship which hove in sight; besides, he did not look to me to be a very
promising hand for a captain to take aboard.

“All the same,” he said, “I got to risk it. You say there may be troops
coming?”

“As for that,” I answered, “the troops may be here at any moment from
Exeter or Honiton. They’ve arrested hundreds of people everywhere
around. You’d better stay in the burrow here.” He did not pay much
attention to what I said. He cursed violently, as though he were a
bag-pipe full of foul words being slowly squeezed by some player. At
last he crawled to the passage, foaming out incoherently that he would
show them, he would, let them just wait.

“You stay ‘ere,” he said. “If I find you follerin’ me, I’ll mash your ‘ed
into that much slobber.” He showed me a short piece of rope which he had
twisted, sailor fashion, so as to form a handle for a jagged piece of
flint, which, as I could see, had been used on some one or something
quite recently.

“Mogador Jack,” he said, “‘e don’t like people follerin’ ‘im.” With that
he left me alone in the burrow, wondering, now that it was over, why he
had not killed me. He left me quite stunned; his sudden coming into my
life had been so strange. It was unreal, like a dream, to have been
in an ancient Briton’s burial-chamber with a mad old pirate who had
committed murder. But now that he had gone, I was eager to go, too, if
it could be managed. I would not stay there till the brute came back, in
spite of that flint club. After waiting some little time, during which,
I felt sure, he was waiting for me at the door of the burrow, I took
out my pistol. I examined the charge to see that all was well; then very
cautiously, I began to crawl up the passage, with my pistol in my hand.

I waited for some minutes near the door, trying to convince myself by
the lie of the shadows outside that he was crouched there, ready for me.
But it seemed safe. I could see no shadow at all except the tremulous
fern-shadows. At last I took off my coat as a blind. I flung it through
the doorway, with some force, to see if it would draw him from his
hiding. Nothing happened. The ruffian did not pounce upon it. I took
a few long breaths to hearten me; it was now or never. I shut my eyes,
praying that the first two blows might miss my head, so that I should
have time to fire. Then, on my back, with my pistol raised over my head,
I forced myself out with every muscle in my body. I leaped to my feet on
the instant, quickly glancing round for the madman, swinging my pistol
about with my finger hard on the trigger. He was not there, after all.
I might have spared myself the trouble. I was alone there in the fern,
within earshot of a murmur of voices, talking excitedly. I was not going
to spy into any more secrets. I was going to get out of that camp cost
what it might. I made one rush through the fern in the direction of the
rampart, shoving the stalks aside, as a bull knocks through jungle in
Campeachy. In thirty steps I was clear of the fern, charging slap into a
group of people who were giving brandy to the sentry, whom I had passed
but a little while before. He was bleeding from a broken wound on his
pretty hard Saxon skull. He was not badly hurt, for he was swearing
lustily; but he had been stunned just long enough for my pirate man to
strip him. He was dressed now in a pair of leather gaiters, all the rest
of his things had been taken, the pistol with them, I saw all this at
a glance, as I charged in among them. I took it all in, guessing in one
swift gleam of comprehension, exactly what had happened there, as my
pirate made his rush for freedom. There was no time to ask if my guess
were right or not.

“Out of my way,” I shouted, shoving my pistol towards the nearest of the
group. “Out of my way, or I shall fire.” They made way for me. I charged
down hill by the way I had come. Some one cried “Stop en.” Another
shouted “Shoot en, maister.” There came a great bang of a gun over my
head. But I was going down hill like a rabbit, into the gorse, into the
bracken, into the close cover of the heath. Glancing back, I saw a dozen
excited people rushing down the rampart after me. Some flung stones;
some ran to catch horses to chase me. But I had the start of them. I was
down the hill, over the hedge, in the lane, in no time. There, a hundred
yards away, I saw my friends the troopers leading my cob. I shouted to
them. They heard me. They came up to me at a gallop. In ten seconds more
we were sailing away together.

“You been getting into scrapes, master,” said one of the troopers. “You
doan’t want to meddle with the folk in these parts.”

“No,” said the other, with a touch of insolence in his voice. “So your
master may find, one of these fine days.” Being mindful of the Duke’s
honour, I told the man to mind his own business, which he said he meant
to do, without asking my opinion. After that we rode on together a
little heated, till we were out of sight of the combe, where I had had
such a startling adventure.

After another hour of riding, we pulled up at the garden gate of an old
grey handsome house which stood at some distance from the road. I asked
one of the troopers who lived in this house. He said that it was an old
Abbey, which belonged to Squire; but that we were to leave word there
of the Duke’s movements, “for Squire be very ‘tached to the Protestants;
besides he’ll give us a breakfast. Sure to.” We left our horses at the
gate while we walked up to the house. A pretty girl, who seemed to know
one of the men, told us to come in, while she got breakfast for us.
“Squire,” she said, “would be glad to hear what was going on; for he was
that given up to the soldiers we couldn’t hardly believe.” We were
shown down a long flagged corridor to a little cool room which looked as
though it had once been the abbot’s cell. It had a window in it, looking
out upon a garden in full flower, a little rose garden, covered with
those lovely bushes of old English red single roses, the most beautiful
flower in the world. The window was large, but the space of it was
broken up by stone piers, so that no pane of glass was more than six
inches wide. I mention this now, because of what happened later. There
was not much furniture in the room; but what there was was very good.
There was an old Dutch pewter jug, full of sweet-williams, on the
table. On the wall’ there was a picture of a Spanish gentleman on a
cream-coloured, fat handsome little horse. Together they looked very
like Don Quixote out for a ride with his squire. The two troopers left
me in this room, while they went off to the kitchen. Presently the
servant came in again, bringing me a noble dish of breakfast, a pigeon
pie, a ham, a jar of preserved quince, a honeycomb, a great household
loaf, newly baked, a big quart jug full of small beer. I made a very
honest meal. After eating, I examined the room. There was tapestry over
one part of the wall. It concealed a little low door which led to what
had once been the abbot’s fishpond, now a roofed-in bath-house, where
one could plunge into eight feet or so of (bitterly cold) spring water.
This bath-house was some steps lower than the little dining room. It
was lighted by a skylight directly over the bath. It had no other window
whatever. After examining the bath, wishing that I had known of it
before eating, I went back to the dining room, where the servant was
clearing away the food.

“I hope you enjoyed your breakfast, sir,” she said.

“Yes, thank you, very much indeed,” I answered.

“Squire will be down d’reckly, sir,” she said. “If you will please to
make yourself at home.” I made myself at home, as she desired, while
she, after a few minutes, took away the soiled plates, leaving all the
other things on the side-board, ready for dinner. I noticed that she
smiled in a rather strange way as she drew to the door behind her.

I loitered away about half an hour, waiting for the squire to come. As
he did not come, I turned over the books on the shelves, mostly volumes
of plays, the Spanish Tragedy, the Laws of Candy, Love Lies a Bleeding,
etc., four plays to a volume in buckram covers. I was just getting
tired of All for Love, when I heard a footstep in the passage outside.
I thought that I would ask the passenger, whoever it might be, for
how much longer the squire would keep me waiting. I was anxious about
getting back to the army. It was dangerous to straggle too far from the
Duke’s camps when unbeaten armies followed on both his wings. So I went
to the door to learn my fate at once. To my great surprise I found that
I could not open it. It was locked on the outside. The great heavy
iron lock had been turned upon me. I was a prisoner in the room there.
Thinking that it had been done carelessly, I beat upon the door to
attract the man who passed down the passage, calling to him to turn the
key for me so that I might get out. The footsteps did not pause. They
passed on, down the corridor, as though the man were deaf. After that
a fury came upon me. I beat upon the door for five minutes on end, till
the house must have rung with the clatter; but no one paid any attention
to me, only, far away, I heard a woman giggling, in an interval when I
had paused for breath. The door was a heavy, thick oak door, bound with
iron. The lock was a bar of steel at least two inches thick; there was
no chance of getting it open. Even firing into the lock with my little
pistol would not have helped me; it would only have jammed the tongue of
steel in its bed. I soon saw the folly of trying to get out by the door;
so I turned to the window, which was more difficult still, or, if not
more difficult, more tantalizing, since it showed me the free garden
into which one little jump would suffice to carry me. But the closely
placed piers of stone made it impossible for me to get through the
window. It was no use trying to do so. I should only have stuck fast,
midway. I began at once to pick out the mortar of the pier stones with
my knife point. It was hopeless work, though, for the old monks had used
some cement a good deal harder than the stones which it bound together.
I could only dig away a little dust from its surface. That way also was
barred to me. Then I went down to the bathing-chamber, hoping that there
would be some way of escape for me there. I hoped that the escape pipe
of the bath might be a great stone conduit leading to a fish-pond in
the garden. It was nothing of the sort. It was a little miserable leaden
pipe. I beat all round the walls, praying for some secret door, but
there was nothing of any use to me, only a little iron ventilator high
up, big enough to take my head, but nothing more. As for the skylight
over the bath, it was beyond my reach, high up. For the moment I could
see no means of getting to it. I went back to the dining room to give
another useless pounding to the door. My head was full of miserable
forebodings; but as yet I suspected merely that I had been caught by
some sudden advance of militia. Or perhaps the squire had laid plans
to get information from one who knew the Duke. Perhaps I had been lured
away specially by one hungry for the King’s good opinion. Or could it be
Aurelia? Whatever it was, I was trapped, that was the terrible thing. I
was shut up there till my enemy, whoever it was, chose to deal with me.
I was in arms against the ruling King of England; everybody’s hand would
be against me, unless my own hands helped me before my enemies came.
My first thought was to get the table down the steps, to make a bridge
across the bath, from which I could reach the skylight. This I could not
do at first; for being much flustered, I did not put the table-leaves
down. Until I knocked them down in my hurry they kept me from dragging
the table from the dining room. When I got it at last into the
bath-room, I found that it would not stretch across the water: the legs
were too close together, as I might have seen had I kept my wits about
me. I could think of no other way of getting out.

I went back disheartened to the dining room, dragging my coat behind
me. The first thing which I saw was a letter addressed to me in a hand
already known to me. The letter lay on the floor on the space once
covered by the table. As it had not been there when I dragged the table
downstairs, someone must have entered the room while I was away. I
opened the letter in a good deal of flurry. It ran as follows:

“Dear Martin Hyde:--As you will not take a sincere friend’s advice, you
have to make the best of a sincere adviser’s friendship. You did me a
great service. Let me do you one. I hope to keep you an amused prisoner
until your captain is a beaten man. By about three weeks from this 26th
of June we shall hope to have made you so much our friend that you will
not think of leaving us. May I make a compact with you? Please do not
shoot me with that pistol of yours when I bring you some supper tonight.
That is one part of it. The other is this. Let us be friends. We know
all about you. I have even talked to Ephraim about you. So let us make
it up. We have been two little spit fires. At any rate you have. Let us
be friends. What sorts of books do you like to read? I shall bring you
some story-books about ghosts, or about red Indians. Which do you like
best? I like red Indians myself. I suppose you, being a man, like ghosts
best. Your sincere friend Aurelia Carew. Who by the by thinks it best
to warn you that you had not better try to get up the chimney, as it is
barred across. She hopes that the table did not fall into the bath.”



CHAPTER XXI. MY FRIEND AURELIA AND HER UNCLE

It was a friendly letter, which relieved me a good deal from my
anxieties; but what I could not bear was the thought that the Duke would
think me a deserter. I made up my mind that I would get away from that
house at the first opportunity, so as to rejoin the Duke, to whom I felt
myself pledged. But in the meantime, until I could get away, I resolved
to make the best of my imprisonment. I was nettled by Aurelia’s tone of
superiority. I would show her, as I had shown her before, that my wits
were just as nimble as hers. A few minutes after the letter had been
read, she held a parley with me through the keyhole.

“Mr. Martin Hyde. Are you going to shoot me?”

“No, Miss Carew, though I think you deserve it.”

“You won’t try to get away if I open the door?”

“I mean to get away as soon as ever I get half a chance.”

“I’ve got three men with me at the door here.”

“Oh. Very well. But you just wait till I get a chance.”

“Don’t be so bloodthirsty, Mr. Martin Hyde. Now, I’m coming in to talk
with you. No pistols, mind. Not one.”

“I’ve promised I won’t shoot. You might believe a fellow. But I mean to
get away, remember. Just to show you.”

She opened the door after that, a brown, merry Aurelia, behind whom I
could see three men, ready to stop any rush. They closed the door behind
her after she had entered.

“Well,” she said, smiling. “Will you not shake hands with me, Martin
Hyde?”

“Yes,” I said, “I will shake hands. But you played a very mean trick, I
think. There.”

“You mustn’t think me mean,” she answered. “I don’t like mean people.
Now promise me one thing. You say you are going to run away from us. You
won’t run away from me when I am with you, will you?”

“No,” I said, after thinking this over, to see if it could be twisted
into any sort of trap, likely to stop my escape. “I will not. Not while
I am with you.”

“That’s right,” she said. “We can go out together, then. Now you’ve
promised, suppose we go out into the garden.”

We went into the garden together, talking of every subject under the sun
but the subject nearest to our hearts at the moment. I would not speak
of her capture of me; she would not speak of the Duke’s march towards
Taunton. There was some constraint whenever we came near those subjects.
She was a very merry, charming companion; but the effect of her talk
that morning was to make me angry at being trapped by her. I looked over
the countryside for guiding points in case I should be able to get away.
Axminster lay to the southeast, distant about six miles; so much I could
reckon from the course of our morning’s ride. I could not see Axminster
for I was shut from it by rolling combes, pretty high, which made a
narrow valley for the river. To the west the combes were very high,
strung along towards Taunton in heaps. Due east, as I suspected, quite
near to us, was Chard, where by this time the Duke must have been
taking up his position. Taunton I judged (from a mile-stone which we had
passed) to be not much more than a dozen miles from where I was. I have
always had a pretty keen sense of position. I do not get lost. Even in
the lonely parts of the world I have never been lost. I can figure out
the way home by a sort of instinct helped by a glimpse at the sun. When
I go over a hill I have a sort of picture-memory of what lies behind,
to help me home again, however tortuous my path is on the other side. So
the few glimpses which I could get of the surrounding country were real
helps to me. I made more use of them than Aurelia suspected.

We were much together that day. Certainly she did her best to make my
imprisonment happy. In the evening she was kinder; we were more at ease
together; I was able to speak freely to her.

“Aurelia,” I said, “you risked your life twice to warn me.”

“That’s not quite true, Martin,” she said. “I am a government spy,
trusted with many people’s lives. I had other work to do than to warn a
naughty boy who wanted to see what the ghosts were.” I was startled at
her knowing so much about me; she laughed.

“Well,” she said, “I like you for it. I should have wanted to see them
myself. But the ghost-makers are scattered far enough now.”

“All the same, Aurelia,” I said, “I thank you for what you did for me. I
wish I could do something in return.” She laughed.

“Well,” she said, “you were very kind in the ship. You were a good enemy
to me then. Weren’t you?”

“Yes,” I said, “I beat you properly on the ship. I carried the Duke’s
letters in my pistol cartridges, where you never suspected them. The
letters which were in the satchel I forged myself after I got on board.
If you’d not been a silly you’d have seen that they were forged.”

“So that was why,” she said. “Those letters gave everybody more anxious
work than you’ve any notion of. Oh, Martin, though, I helped to drug you
to get those letters. It was terrible. Terrible. Will you ever forgive
me?”

“Why, yes, Aurelia,” I said. “After all, it was done for your King. Just
as I mean to run away from here to serve mine. All is fair in the King’s
service. Let us shake hands on that.” We shook hands heartily, looking
into each other’s eyes.

“By the way,” I said, “where did you get to that day in Holland, when I
got the letters from you?”

“Ah,” she answered, “you made me like a wildcat that day. I nearly
killed you, twice. You remember that low parapet on the roof? I was
behind that, waiting for you with a loaded pistol. You were all very
near your deaths that morning. In the King’s service, of course.
For just a minute, I thought that you would climb up to examine that
parapet. What a crazy lot you all were not to know at once that I was
there! Where else could I have been?”

“Well,” I answered, “I beat you in the ride, didn’t I? You thought
yourself awfully clever about that horse at the inn. Well, I beat
you there. I beat you in the race. I beat you with my letters to the
Dutchman. I beat you over those forgeries.”

“Yes, indeed,” she said. “I can beat all the men in your Duke’s service.
Every one. Even clever Colonel Lane. Even Fletcher of Saltoun. But a
boy is so unexpected, there’s no beating a boy, except with a good
birch rod. You beat me so often, Martin, that I think you can afford to
forgive me for tricking you once in bringing you here.”

“I shall beat you in that, too, Miss Carew,” I said; “for I mean to get
away from you as soon as I can.”

“So you say,” she said. “But we have club men walking all round this
house all night, as well as sentries by day, guarding the stock.
Your gang of marauders will find a rough welcome if they come for
refreshments here.”

Even as she spoke, there came a sudden crash of fire-arms from the
meadows outside the garden. About a dozen men came hurrying out of the
house with weapons in their hands, among them a big, fierce-looking
handsome man, who drew his sword as he ran.

“That is my uncle, Travers Carew,” said Aurelia. “He owns this property.
He wants to meet you.” There came another splutter of fire-arms from the
meadows. “Come,” she said. “We’ll see what it is. It is the Duke’s men
come pillaging.”

We ran through a gate in the wall into an apple-orchard, where the Carew
men were already dodging among the trees towards the enemy. There was
a good deal of shouting, but the tide of battle, as they call it, the
noise of shots, the trampling of horses, had already set away to the
left, where the enemy were retreating, with news, as I heard later, that
the militia held the Abbey in force. The Carew men came back in a few
minutes with a prisoner. He had been captured while holding the horses
of two friends, who had dismounted to drive off some of the Carew
cattle. He said that the attack had been made by a party of twenty of
the Duke’s horse, sent out to bring in food for the march. They had
scattered at the first discharge of fire-arms, which had frightened them
horribly, for they had not expected any opposition. The frightened men
never drew rein till they galloped their exhausted horses into Chard
camp, where they gave another touch of dejection to the melancholy Duke.
As for the prisoner, he was sent off under guard to Honiton gaol; I
don’t know what became of him. He was one of more than three thousand
who came to death or misery in that war. They said that he was a young
farmer, in a small way, from somewhere out beyond Chideock. The war
had been a kind of high-spirited frolic for him; he had entered into it
thoughtlessly, in the belief that it would be a sort of pleasant ride to
London, with his expenses paid. Now he was ended. When he rode out with
bound hands from the Carew house that evening, between two armed riders,
he rode out of life. He never saw Chideock again, except in the grey
light of dawn, after a long ride upon a hurdle, going to be hanged
outside his home. Or perhaps he was bundled into one of the terrible
convict ships bound for Barbadoes, with other rebels, to die of
small-pox on the way, or under the whip in the plantations.

After this little brush, with its pitiful accompaniment, which filled
me full of a blind anger against the royal party, so much stronger, yet
with so much less right than ours, I was taken in to see Sir Travers
Carew. He had just sent off the prisoner to Honkon, much as he would
have brushed a fly from his hand. He had that satisfaction with himself,
that feeling of having supported the right, which comes to all those who
do cruel things in the name of that code of unjust cruelty, the criminal
law. He looked at me with rather a grim smile, which made me squirm.

“So,” he said, “this is the young rebel, is it? Do you know that I could
send you off to Honiton gaol with that poor fellow there?” This made my
heart die; but something prompted me to put a good face on it.

“Sir,” I said, “I have done what my father thought right. I don’t wish
to be treated better than any other prisoner. Send me to Honiton, sir.”

“No,” he said, looking at me kindly. “I shall not send you to Honiton.
You are not in arms against the King’s peace, nor did you come over from
Holland with the Duke. I can’t send you to Honiton. Besides, I knew your
father, Martin. I was at college with him. He was a good friend of
mine, poor fellow. No, sir, I shall keep you here till the Duke’s crazy
attempt is knocked on the head. I think I can find something better for
you to do than that fussy old maid, your uncle, could. But, remember,
sir. You have a reputation for being a slippery young eel. I shall take
particular pains to keep you from slipping out of my hands. But I do not
wish to use force to your father’s son. Will you give me your word not
to try to escape?”

“No,” I answered, sullenly. “I won’t. I mean to get away directly I
can.”

“Come,” he said kindly, “we tricked you rather nastily. But do you
suppose, Martin, that your father, if he were here, would encourage your
present resolutions? The Duke is coming (nearly unprepared) to bring a
lot of silly yokels into collision with fully trained soldiers ten times
more numerous. If the countryside, the gentry, the educated, intelligent
men, were ready for the Duke, or believed in his cause, they would join
him. They do not join him. His only adherents are the idle, ignorant,
ill-conditioned rogues of this county, who will neither fight nor obey,
when it comes to the pinch. I do not love the present King, Martin, but
he is a better man than this Duke. The Duke will never make a king. He
may be very fit for court-life; but there is not an ounce of king in
him. If the Duke succeeds, in a year or two he will show himself so
foolish that we shall have to send for the Prince of Orange, who is a
man of real, strong wisdom. We count on that same prince to deliver us
from James, when the time is ripe. It is not ripe, yet. I am telling you
bitter, stern truth, Martin. Now then. Let me have your promise not to
continue in the service of this doomed princeling, your master. Eh? What
shall it be?”

“No,” I said, “that’s desertion.”

“Not at all,” he answered. “It is a custom of war. Come now. As a
prisoner of war, give me your parole.”

“You said just now that I was not a prisoner of war,” I answered.

“Very well, then,” he said. “I am a magistrate. I commit you add
suspected person. Hart! Hart!” (Here he called in a man-servant.) “Just
see that this young sprig keeps out of mischief. Think it over, Mr.
Martin. Think it over.”

In a couple of minutes I was back in my prison cells, locked in for the
night, with neither lamp nor candle. A cot had been made up for me in a
corner of the room. Supper was laid for me on the table, which had been
brought back to its place. There was nothing for it but to grope to bed
in the twilight, wondering how soon I could get away to what I still
believed to be a righteous cause in which my father wished me to fight.
I slept soundly after my day of adventure. I dreamed that I rode into
London behind the Duke, amid all the glory of victory, with the people
flinging flowers at us. But dreams go by contraries, the wise women say.

I was a full fortnight, or a little more, a prisoner in that house.
They treated me very kindly. Aurelia was like an elder sister. Old Sir
Travers used to jest at my being a rebel. But I was a prisoner, shut
in, watched, kept close. The kindness jarred upon me. It was treating
me like a child, when I was no longer a child. I had for some wild weeks
been doing things which few men have the chance of doing. Perhaps, if I
had confided all that I felt to Aurelia, she would have cleared away my
troubles, made me see that the Duke’s cause was wrong, that my father
would wish his son well out of civil broils, however just, that I had
better give the promise that they asked from me. But I never confided
really fully in her. I moped a good deal, much worried in my mind. I
began to get a lot of unworthy fancies into my head, silly fancies,
which an honest talk would have scattered at once. I began to think from
their silence about the Duke’s doings that his affairs were prospering,
that he was conquering, or had conquered, that I was being held by this
loyalist family as a hostage. It was silly of me; but although in many
ways I was a skilled man of affairs, I had only the brain of a child, I
could not see the absurdity of what I came to believe. It worried me so
much that at the end of my imprisonment I became very feverish; really
ill from anxiety, as prisoners often are. I refused food for the latter
part of one day, hoping to frighten my captors. They did not notice it,
so I had my pains for nothing.

I went to bed very early; but I could not sleep. I fidgeted about till
I was unusually wakeful. Then I got out of bed to try if there was a
way of escape by the old-fashioned chimney, barred across as it was,
at intervals, by strong old iron bars. I had never thought the chimney
possible, having examined it before, when I first came to that house;
but my fever made me think all things possible; so up I got, hoping that
I should have light enough to work by.



CHAPTER XXII. THE PRIEST’S HOLE

It was too dark to do much that night, but I spent an hour in picking
mortar from the bricks into which the lowest iron bar had been let.
After a brief sleep I woke in the first of the light (at about one
o’clock) ready to go at it again. My fever was hot upon me. I don’t
think that I was quite sane that day; but all my reason seemed to burn
up into one bright point, escape, escape at all costs, then, at the
instant. I must tell you that the chimney, like most old chimneys, was
big enough for a big boy to scramble up, in order to sweep it. For some
reason, the owners of the house had barred the chimney across so that
this could not be done. They swept it, probably, in the effective
old-fashioned way by shooting a blank charge of powder from a
blunderbuss straight up the opening. The first two iron bars were so
placed that it was only necessary to remove one to make room for my
body. Further up there were others, more close together. The fire had
not been lighted for many years; there was no soot in the passage. There
was a jackdaw’s nest high up. I could see the old jackdaw looking down
at me. Up above her head was a little square of sky. I did not doubt
that when I got to the top I should be able to scramble out of that
square on to the leads, then down by a water-spout, evading the
sentries, over the garden wall to freedom. After half an hour of mortar
picking I got one end of the lowest iron bar out of its socket. Then I
picked out the mortar from the other end, working the bar about like a
lever, to grind the fulcrum into dust. Soon I had the bar so loose that
I was able to thrust it to one side, leaving a passage big enough for my
body.

I was very happy when this was done. I went back to the room to make up
a packet of food to take with me. This I thrust into an inner pocket,
before launching out up the hole. When I had cleaned up the mess of
mortar, I started up the chimney, carefully replacing the bar behind
me. Soon I was seven or eight feet above the room, trying to get at the
upper bars. I was scrambling about for a foothold, when I noticed, to
my left, an iron bar or handle, well concealed from below by projecting
bricks. I seized hold of it with my left hand, very glad of the support
it offered, when, with a dull grating noise, it slid downwards under my
weight, drawing with it the iron panel to which it was clamped. I had
come upon a secret chamber in the chimney; there at my side was an
opening big enough for a man’s body. I was pretty well startled by it,
not only by the suddenness of the discovery, but from the fear I had
lest it should lead to some inhabited room, where my journey would be
brought to an end. I peered into it well, before I ventured to enter.
It was a little low room, about five feet square, lit by two loopholes,
which were concealed from outside by the great growth of ivy on the side
of the house. I clambered into it with pleasure, keeping as quiet as I
could. It was a dirty little room, with part of its floor rotten from
rain which had beaten in through the loopholes. It had not been used for
a great while. The pallet bed against the wall was covered with rotten
rags, dry as tinder. There were traces of food, who could say how
ancient, in a dish by the bed. There was a little crucifix, with a
broken neck-chain, lying close to the platter. Some priest who had used
this priest-hole years before had left it there in his hurry; I wondered
how. Something of the awe which had been upon him then seemed to linger
in the place. Many men had lain with beating hearts in that room; the
room seemed to remember. I have never been in a place which made one’s
heart move like that room. Well. The priest’s fears were dead as the
priest by this time. Nothing but the wreck of his dinner, perhaps the
last he ever ate, remained to tell of him, beside the broken symbol of
his belief. I shut-to the little panel-door by which I had entered, so
that I might not have the horrible fancy that the old priest’s shaven
head was peering up the chimney at me, to see what I was doing in his
old room, long since given over to the birds.

As I expected, there was a way of escape from the hiding-place. A big
stone in the wall seemed to project unnecessarily; the last comer to
that room had shut the door carelessly; otherwise I might never have
found it. Seeing the projecting stone, I took it for a clue feeling all
round it, till I found that underneath it there was a groove for finger
tips. The stone was nothing more than a large, cunningly fashioned
drawer, which pulled out, showing a passage leading down, down, along
narrow winding steps, just broad enough for one man to creep down at a
time. The stairs were more awesome than the room, for they were dark. I
could not see where they led; but I meant to go through this adventure,
now that I had begun it. So down I crept cautiously, clinging to the
wall, feeling with my feet as I went, lest there should be no step,
suddenly, but a black pit, far down, into which a man might fall
headlong, on to who knows what horrors. I counted the steps. I thought
that they would never end. There were thirty-seven altogether. They
brought me to a dark sort of room, with damp earth for its floor, upon
which water slowly dropped from some unseen stalactite. I judged that
I must be somewhere under the bath-chamber, not more than ten feet from
the abbot’s old fish-pond. If there was a way out I felt that it must
be to my left, under the garden; not to my right, which would lead back
under the body of the house.

Very cautiously I felt along to my left, till I found that there was
indeed a passage; but one so low that I had to stoop to get along it. A
few steps further brought me with a shock against a wall, a sad surprise
to me, for I thought that I was on the road to safety. When I recovered
from my fear I felt along the wall till I found that the passage
zigzagged like a badger’s earth. It turned once sharply to the right,
going up a couple of steps, then again sharply to the left, going up a
few more steps, then again to the right up one step more, to a broader
open stretch, lit by one or two tiny chinks, more cheering to me than
you can imagine. I guessed that I was passing at last under the garden,
having gone right below the house’s foundations. The chinks of light
seemed to me to come from holes worn in the roof by rabbits or rats.
They were pleasant things to see after all that groping in the blackness
of night. On I went cautiously, feeling my way before me, till suddenly
I stopped dead, frightened terribly, for close to me, almost within
touch as it seemed, some men were talking to each other. They were
evidently sitting just above my head, in the cool morning, watching
for me to come through my window, as I suppose. They were some of Sir
Travers’s sentries. A moment’s thought told me that I had little to
fear from them, if I moved quietly in my burrow. However, as my walk was
often noisy, through stumblings on stones, I waited till they moved off,
which was not for some minutes. One of the men was asking the other what
was the truth about the Duke.

“Why,” his mate answered, “they say as he got beat back coming towards
London. They say he be going to Bridgewater, now, to make it a castle,
like; or perhaps he be a coming to Taunton. They say he have only a mob,
like, left to en, what with all this rain. But I do-an’t know. He be
very like to come here agen; so as us’ll have to watch for our stock.”

“Ah?” said the first. “They did say as there was soldiers come to
Evilminster. So as to shut en off, like. I seed fires out that way,
myself, like camp-fires, afore it grew light. They do say the soldiers
be all for the Duke.”

“Yes,” the other answered, “he be very like to win if it come to a
battle. He’d a got on to London, I dare-say, if the roads had but been
dry.”

“What do ee say to a bit of tobaccy, master?” said the first, after a
pause.

“Why, very well,” said the other. At this instant, without any warning,
something in the wall of my passage gave way, some bit of rotten mortar
which held up a stone, or something of the sort. At any rate, a stone
fell out, with a little rush of rotten plaster, making a good deal of
noise, though of course it seemed more to me than to the men outside.

“What ever in the world was that?” said one of them.

“I dunno,” said the other. “It seemed to come from down below somewhere,
under the earth, like. Do you think as it could be a rabbit?”

“It did sound like a stone falling out of a wall,” came the answer. “I
dunno. Where could it a come from?”

They seemed to search about for some trace of a rabbit; but not finding
any, they listened for another stone to fall.

“I tell you what I think,” said the first man. “I believe as there be
underground passages all over these here gardens. Some of them walks
sound just as hollow as logs if you do stamp on ‘em. There was very
queer doings here in the old monks’ time; very queer. Some day I mean to
grub about a bit, master. For my old grandmother used always to say as
the monks buried a lot of treasure hereabouts in the old time.”

“Ah?” said the other. “Then shall us get a spade quiet like, to see if
it be beneath.” The other hesitated, while my heart sank. I very nearly
went back to my prison, thinking that all was over.

“No,” said his comrade. “Us’ll ask Sir Travers first. He do-an’t like
people grubbing about. Some of his forefathers as they call them weren’t
very good, I do hear, neither. He do-an’t want none of their little
games brought to light, like.”

After this, the men moved off, to some other part of their beat. I went
on along the passage quickly, till suddenly I fell with a crash down
three or four steps into a dirty puddle, knocking my head as I fell. I
could see no glimmer of light from this place; but I groped my way out,
up a few more steps further on into a smaller, dirtier passage than the
one which I had just left. After this I had to crawl like a badger in
his earth, with my back brushing against the roof, over many masses of
broken brickwork most rough to the palms of my hands. All of a sudden
I smelt a pleasant stable-smell. I heard the rattle of a halter drawn
across manger bars. I heard a horse paw upon the ground quite close to
me. A dim, but regular chink of light showed in front of me, level with
my head as crawled. Peering through it, I saw that I was looking into a
stable, almost level with the floor; the passage had come to an end.

By getting my fingers into the crack through which I peered, I found
that I could swing round some half a dozen stones, which were mortared
together, so as to form a revolving door. It worked with difficulty,
as though no one had passed through by that way for many years; but
it worked for me, after a little hard pushing. I scrambled through the
narrow opening into a roomy old stable, where some cart-horses peered
at me with wonder, as I rose to my feet. After getting out, I shut to
my door behind me, so firmly that I could not open it again; there must
have been some spring or catch which I could not set to work. Two steps
more took me out of the horses’ stalls into the space behind, where, on
a mass of hay, lay a carter, fast asleep, with the door-key in his hand.
By his side lay a pitchfork. He was keeping guard there, prepared to
resist Monmouth’s pillagers.

He slept so heavily that I was tempted to take the key from his hand.
Twice I made little half steps forward to take it; but each time
something in the man’s look daunted me. He was a surly-looking man who,
if roused suddenly, in a locked stable, might lay about him without
waiting to see who roused him. He stirred in his sleep as I drew near
him for the second time; so I gave up the key as a bad job. The loft
seemed to be my only chance; as there was only this one big locked
double door upon the lower floor, I clambered up the steep ladder to the
loft, hoping that my luck there might be better, but resolved, if the
worst came, to hide there in the hay until the carter took the horses to
work, leaving the doors open.

I had hardly set my foot upon the loft floor, when one of the horses,
hearing some noise outside, or being moved by some evil spirit, whinnied
loudly, rattling his halter. The noise was enough to arouse an army. It
startled the carter from his bed. I heard him leap to his feet with an
oath; I heard him pad round the stable, talking to the horses in turn; I
heard him unlock the door to see what was stirring. I stood stock-still
in my tracks, not daring to stir towards the cover of the hay at the
farther end of the loft. I heard him walk slowly, grunting heavily,
to the foot of the ladder, where he stopped to listen for any further
signal. If he had come up he must have caught me. I could not have
escaped. But though he seemed suspicious he did not venture further. He
walked slowly back to his bed, grunting discontentedly. In a few minutes
he was sound asleep again; for farming people sleep like sailors, as
though sleep were a sort of spirit muffling them suddenly in a thick
felt blanket. After he had gone off to sleep, I took off my boots, in
order to put them on under my stockings, for the greater quiet which
that muffling gives to the tread. Then I peered about the loft for a way
of escape.

There were big double doors to this upper loft, through which the hay
could be passed from a waggon standing near the wall. These doors were
padlocked on the inside; there was no opening them; the staples were
much too firm for me to remove without a crowbar. The other openings in
the walls were mere loophole slits, about four feet long but only a few
inches broad. There were enough of these to make the place light. By
their light I could see that there was no way of escape for me except
by the main door. I was almost despairing of escape from this prison of
mine, when I saw that the loft had a hayshoot, leading downwards. When
I saw it I fondly hoped that it led to some outer stable or cart-shed,
separated from that in which the carter slept. A glance down its smooth
shaft showed me that it led to the main stable. I could see the heads
of the meditative horses, bent over the empty mangers exactly as if they
were saying grace. Beyond them I saw the boots of the carter dangling
over the edge of the trusses of hay on which he slept. I stepped back
from this shaft quickly because I thought that I might be seen from
below. My foot went into the nest of a sitting hen, right on to the
creature’s back. Up she started, giving me such a fright that I nearly
screamed. She flew with a cackling shriek which set all the blackbirds
chippering in the countryside. Round the loft she scattered, calling
her hideous noise. Up jumped the carter, down came his pitchfork with
a thud. His great boots clattered over the stable to the ladder. Clump,
clump, he came upstairs, with his pitchfork prongs gleaming over his
head like lanceheads. I saw his head show over the opening of the loft.
There was not a second to lose. His back of course was still towards me,
as the ladder was mercifully nailed to the wall. Before he turned I slid
over the mouth of the shaft down into the hayrack of the old brute who
had whinnied. I lit softly; but I certainly shocked that old mare’s
feelings. In a second, before she had time to kick, I was outside her
stall, darting across the stable to the key, which lay on the truss of
hay, mercifully left there by its guardian. In another second the lock
had turned. I was outside, in the glorious open fields again. Swiftly
but silently I drew the key out of the lock. One second more sufficed
to lock that door from without. The carter was a prisoner there, locked
safely in with his horses. I was free. The key was in my pocket. Yonder
lay the great combes which hid Taunton from me. I waved my hat towards
them; then, with a wild joyous rush, I scrambled behind the cover of the
nearest hedge, along which I ran hard for nearly a quarter of a mile.

I stopped for a few minutes to rest among some ferns, while I debated
how to proceed. I changed the arrangement of my stockings; I also dusted
my very dirty clothes, all filthy from that horrid passage underground.
“Now,” I said to myself, “there must be many ways to Taunton. One way,
I know, leads along this valley, past Chard there, where the houses are.
The other way must lie across these combes, high up. Which way shall I
choose, I wonder?” A moment’s thought showed me that the combes would
be unfrequented, while the valley road, being the easy road, which (as I
knew) the Duke’s army had chosen, would no doubt be full of people, some
of them (perhaps) the King’s soldiers, coming up from Bridport. If I
went by that road my pursuers would soon hear of me, even if I managed
to get past the watchers on the road. On the other hand, Aurelia would
probably know that I should choose the combe road. Still, even if she
sent out mounted men, she would find me hard to track, since the combes
were lonely, so lonely that for hours together you can walk there
without meeting anybody. There would be plentiful cover among the combes
in case I wished to lie low. Besides, I had a famous start, a five
hours’ start; for I should not be missed until eight o’clock. It could
not then have been much more than half-past two. In five hours an active
boy, even if he knew not the road, might put some half a dozen miles
behind him. I say only half a dozen miles, because the roads were the
roughest of rough mud-tracks, still soft from the rains. As I did not
know the way, I knew that I might count on going wrong, taking wrong
turns, etc. As I wished to avoid people, I counted on travelling most
of the way across country, trusting to luck to find my way among the
fields. So that, although in five hours I should travel perhaps ten or
twelve miles, I could not count on getting more than six miles towards
Taunton.



CHAPTER XXIII. FREE

For the first hour or two, as no one would be about so early, I thought
it safe to use the road. I put my best foot foremost, going up the great
steep combe, with Chard at my back.

The road was one of the loneliest I have ever trodden. It went winding
up among barren-looking combes which seemed little better than waste
land. There were few houses, so few that sometimes, on a bit of rising
ground, when the road lifted clear of the hedges, one had to look about
to see any dwelling of men. There was little cultivation, either. It was
nearly all waste, or scanty pasture. A few cows cropped by the wayside
near the lonely cottages. A few sheep wandered among the ferns. It was
a very desolate land to lie within so few miles of England’s richest
valleys. I walked through it hurriedly, for I wished to get far from my
prison before my escape was discovered. No one was there to see me;
the lie of the valley below gave me my direction, roughly, but closely
enough. After about an hour of steady, fairly good walking, I pulled up
by a little tiny brook for breakfast. I ate quickly, then hurried on,
for I dared not waste time. I turned out of the narrow cart-tracks into
what seemed to be a highroad.

I dipped down a hollow, past a pond where geese were feeding, then
turned to a stiff steep hill, which never seemed to end for miles. The
country grew lonelier at every step; there were no houses there; only
a few rabbits tamely playing in the outskirts of the coverts. A jay
screamed in the clump of trees at the hill-top; it seemed the proper
kind of voice for a waste like that. Still further on, I sat down to
rest at the brink of the great descent, which led, as I guessed, as I
could almost see, to the plain where Taunton lay, waiting for the Duke’s
army to garrison her. There were thick woods to my right at this point,
making cover so dense that no hounds would have tried to break through
it, no matter how strong a scent might lead them. It was here, as I sat
for a few minutes to rest, that a strange thing happened.

I was sitting at the moment with my back to the wood, looking over
the desolate country towards a tiny cottage far off on the side of the
combe. A big dog-fox came out of the cover from behind me, so quietly
that I did not hear him. He trotted past me in the road; I do not think
that he saw me till he was just opposite. Then he stopped to examine me,
as though he had never seen such a thing before. He was puzzled by me,
but he soon decided that I was not worth bothering about, for he made
no stay. He padded slowly on towards Chard, evidently well-pleased with
himself. Suddenly he stopped dead, with one pad lifted, a living image
of alert tension. He was alarmed by something coming along the road by
which I had come. He turned his head slightly, as though to make sure
with his best ear. Then with a single beautiful lollopping bound he
was over the hedge to safety, going in that exquisite curving rhythm of
movement which the fox has above all English animals. For a second, I
wondered what it was that had startled him. Then, with a quickness of
wit which would have done credit to an older mind, I realized that there
was danger coming on the road towards me, danger of men or of dogs,
since nothing else in this country frightens a fox. It flashed in upon
me that I must get out of sight at once; before that danger hove in view
of me. I gave a quick rush over the fence into the tangle, through which
I drove my way till I was snug in an open space under some yew trees,
surrounded on all sides by brambles. I shinned up one of the great yew
trees, till I could command a sight of the road, while lying hidden
myself in the profuse darkness of the foliage. Here I drew out my
pistol, ready for what might come. I suppose I had not been in my
hiding-place for more than thirty seconds, when over the brow of the
hill came Sir Travers Carew, at a full gallop, cheering on a couple of
hounds, who were hot on my scent. Aurelia rode after him, on her famous
chestnut mare. Behind her galloped two men, whom I had not seen before.
In an instant, they were swooped down to the place where the dog-fox had
passed. The hounds gave tongue when they smelt the rank scent of their
proper game; they were unused to boy-hunting. They did not hesitate an
instant, but swung off as wild as puppies over the hedge, after the fox.
The horsemen paused for a second, surprised at the sudden sharp turn;
but they followed the hounds’ lead, popping over the fence most nimbly,
not waiting to look for my tracks in the banks of the hedge. They
streamed away after the fox, to whom I wished strong legs. I knew that
with two young hounds they would never catch him, but I hoped that he
would give them a good run before the sun killed the scent. I looked
at the sun, now gloriously bright over all the world, putting a bluish
glitter on to the shaking oak leaves of the wood. How came it that they
had discovered my flight so soon since it could not be more than six
o’clock, if as much? I wondered if it had been the old carter, who had
never really seen me. It might have been the old carter; but doubtless
he drummed for a good while on the door of the stable before anybody
heard him. Or it might have been one of the garden sentries. One of the
sentries might well have peeped in at the window of my room to make sure
that I was up to no pranks. He could have seen from the window that my
bed was empty. If he had noticed that, he could have unlocked my door to
make sure, after which it would not have taken more than a few minutes
to start after me. I learned afterwards that the sentry had alarmed the
house at a little before five o’clock. The carter, being only half-awake
when he came after me, suspected nothing till the other farm-hands came
for the horses, at about six o’clock, when, the key being gone, he had
to break the lock, vowing that the rattens had took his key from him in
the night. My disappearance puzzled everybody, because I had hidden my
tracks so carefully that no one noticed at first how the chimney bars
had been loosened. No one in that house knew of the secret room, so that
the general impression was that I had either squeezed myself through the
window, or blown myself out through the keyhole by art-magic. The hounds
had been laid along the road to Chard, with the result that they had hit
my trail after a few minutes of casting about.

Now that they were after me, I did not know what to do. I dared not
go on towards Taunton; for who knew how soon the squire would find his
error, by viewing the fox? He was too old a huntsman not to cast back
to where he had left the road, as soon as he learned that his hounds
had changed foxes. I concluded that I had better stay where I was,
throughout that day, carefully hidden in the yew-tree. In the evening
I might venture further if the coast seemed clear. It was easy to make
such a resolution; but not so easy to keep to it; for fifteen hours is a
long time for a boy to wait. I stayed quiet for some hours, but I heard
no more of my hunters. I learned later that they had gone from me, in
a wide circuit, to cut round upon the Taunton roads, so as to intercept
me, or to cause me to be intercepted in case I passed by those ways.
The hounds gave up after chasing the fox for three miles. The old squire
thought that they stopped because the sun had destroyed the scent. With
a little help from an animal I had beaten Aurelia once more. When I grew
weary of sitting up in the yew tree, clambered down, intending to push
on through the wood until I came to the end of it. It was mighty
thick cover to push through for the first half mile; then I came to a
cart-track, made by wood-cutters, which I followed till it took me out
of the wood into a wild kind of sheep-pasture. It was now fully nine
in the evening, but the country was so desolate it might have been
undiscovered land. I might have been its first settler, newly come there
from the seas. It taught me something of the terrors of war that day’s
wandering towards Taunton. I realized all the men of these parts had
wandered away after the Duke, for the sake of the excitement, after
living lonely up there in the wilds. Their wives had followed the army
also. The while population (scanty as it was) had moved off to look for
something more stirring than had hitherto come to them. I wandered
on slowly, taking my time, getting my direction fairly clear from the
glimpses which I sometimes caught of the line of the highway. At a
little after noon I ate the last of my victuals near a spring. I rested
after my dinner, then pushed on again, till I had won to a little
spinney only four miles from Taunton, where my legs began to fail under
me.

I crept into the spinney, wondering if it contained some good shelter in
which I could sleep for the night. I found a sort of dry, high pitched
bank, with the grass all worn off it, which I thought would serve my
turn, if the rain held off. As for supper, I determined to shoot a
rabbit with my pistol. For drink, there was a plenty of small brooks
within half a mile of the little enclosure. After I had chosen my camp,
I was not very satisfied with it. The cover near by was none too thick.
So I moved off to another part where the bushes grew more closely
together. As I was walking leisurely along, I smelt a smell of something
cooking, I heard voices, I heard something clink, as though two tin cups
were being jangled. Before I could draw back, a man thrust through the
undergrowth, challenging me with a pistol. Two other men followed him,
talking in low, angry tones. They came all round me with very murderous
looks. They were the filthiest looking scarecrows ever seen out of a
wheat-field.

“Why,” said one of them, lowering his pistol, “it be the Duke’s young
man, as we seed at Lyme.” They became more friendly at that; but still
they seemed uneasy, not very sure of my intentions.

“Where is the Duke?” I asked after a long awkward pause. “Is he at
Taunton?” They looked from one to the other with strange looks which I
did not understand.

“The Duke be at Bridgewater,” said one of them in a curious tone. “What
be you doing away from the Duke?”

“Why,” I said, “I was taken prisoner. I escaped this morning.”

“Yes?” they said with some show of eagerness. “Be there many soldiers
hereaway, after us?”

“No. Not many,” I said. “Are you coming from the Duke?”

“Yes,” said one of them, “we left en at Bridgewater. We have been having
enough of fighting for the crown. We been marching in mud up to our
knees. We been fighting behind hedges. We been retreating for the last
week. So now us be going home, if us can get there. Glad if we never
sees a fight again.”

“Well,” I said, “I must get to the Duke if I can. How far is it to
Bridgewater?”

“Matter of fifteen mile,” they said, after a short debate. “You’ll never
get there tonight. Nor perhaps tomorrow, since we hear the soldiers be a
coming.”

“I’ll get some of the way tonight,” I said; but my heart sank at the
thought; for I was tired out.

“No, young master,” said one of the men kindly, “you stop with us for
tonight. Come to supper with us. Us ‘ave rabbits on the fire.” Their
fortnight of war had given them a touch of that comradeship which
camp-life always gives. They took me with them to their camp-fire, where
they fed me on a wonderful mess of rabbits boiled with herbs. The men
had bread. One of them had cider. Our feast there was most pleasant; or
would have been, had not the talk of these deserters been so melancholy.
They were flying to their homes like hunted animals, after a fortnight
of misery which had altered their faces forever. They had been
in battle; they had retreated through mud; they had seen all the
ill-fortune of war. They did all that they could to keep me from my
purpose; but I had made up my mind to rejoin my master; I was not to be
moved. Before settling down to sleep for the night I helped the men to
set wires for rabbits, an art which I had not understood till then,
but highly useful to a lad so fated to adventurous living as myself. We
slept in various parts of the spinney, wherever there was good shelter;
but we were all so full of jangling nerves that our sleep was most
uneasy. We woke very early, visited our wires, then breakfasted heartily
on the night’s take. The men insisted on giving me a day’s provision
to take with me, which I took, though grudgingly, for they had none too
much for themselves, poor fellows. Just before we parted I wrote a note
to Sir Travers, on a leaf of my pocketbook. “Dear Sir Travers,” I wrote,
“These men are well-known to me as honest subjects. They have had great
troubles on their road. I hope that you will help them to get home.
Please remember me very kindly to your niece.” After folding this
very neatly I gave the precious piece of impudence to one of the men.
“There,” I said, “if you are stopped, insist on being carried before Sir
Travers. He knows me. I am sure that he will help you as far as he
can.” For this the men thanked me humbly. I learned, too, that it was of
service to them. It saved them all from arrest later in the same day.

Having bidden my hosts farewell, I wandered on, keeping pretty well in
cover. I saw a patrol of the King’s dragoons in one of the roads near
which I walked. The nets were fast closing in on my master: there were
soldiers coming upon him from every quarter save the west, which was
blocked too, as it happened, by ships of war in the Channel. This
particular patrol of dragoons caught sight of me. I saw a soldier
looking over a gate at me; but as I was only a boy, seemingly out for
birdsnests, he did not challenge me, so that by noon I was safe in
Taunton. I have no clear memory of Taunton, except that it was full of
people, mostly women. There were little crowds in the streets, little
crowds of women, surrounding muddy, tired men who had come in from the
Duke. People were going about in a hurried, aimless way which showed
that they were scared. Many houses were shut up. Many men were working
on the city walls, trying to make the place defensible. If ever a town
had the fear of death upon it that town was Taunton, then. As far as I
could make out it was not the actual war that it feared; though that
it feared pretty strongly, as the looks on the women’s faces showed. It
feared that the Duke’s army would come back to camp there, to eat them
all up, every penny, every blade of corn, like an army of locusts.
Sometimes, while I was there, men galloped in with news, generally
false, like most warmews, but eagerly sought for by those who even now
saw their husbands shot dead in ranks by the fierce red-coats under
their drunken Dutch general. Sometimes the news was that the army was
pressing in to cut off the Duke from Taunton; that the dragoons were
shooting people on the road; that they were going to root out the whole
population without mercy. At another time news came that Monmouth was
marching in to music, determined to hold Taunton till the town was a
heap of cinders. Then one, bloody with his spurred horse’s gore, cried
aloud that the King was dead, shot in the heart by one of his brother’s
servants. Then another came calling all to prayer. All this uproar
caused a hurrying from one crowd to another. Here a man preached
fervently to a crowd of enthusiasts. Here men ran from a prayer-meeting
to crowd about a messenger. Bells jangled from the churches; the noise
of the picks never ceased in the trenches; the taverns were full; the
streets swarmed; the public places were now thronged, now suddenly
empty. Here came the aldermen in their robes, scared faces among the
scarlet, followed by a mob praying for news, asking in frenzy for
something certain, however terrible. There several in a body clamoured
at a citizen’s door in the like fever of doubt. There was enough agony
of mind in Taunton that day to furnish out any company of tragedians.
We English, an emotional people by nature, are best when the blow has
fallen. We bear neither doubt nor rapture wisely. Our strength is shown
in troublous times in which other people give way to despair.



CHAPTER XXIV. THE END

Among all the confusion, I learned certainly from some deserters that
the Duke was at Bridgewater, waiting till his men had rested, before
trying to break through to the north, to his friends in Chester. He had
won a bad name for himself among his friends. Nobody praised him. The
Taunton people, who had given him such a splendid welcome ten days
before, now cursed him for having failed; they knew too well what sort
of punishment was sure to fall upon them, directly the fighting came to
an end. Somehow all their despairing talk failed to frighten me. I was
not scared by all the signs of panic in the streets. I was too young to
understand fully; but besides that I was buoyed up by the belief that
I had done a fine thing in escaping from prison in order to serve the
cause dear to my heart. My heart told me that I was going to a glorious
victory in the right cause. I cannot explain it. I felt my father in my
heart urging me to go forward. I would not have drawn back for all the
King’s captains in a company riding out against me together. I felt that
these people were behaving absurdly; they should keep a brave patient
face against their troubles. Tomorrow or the next day would see us in
triumph, beating our enemies back to London, to the usurper’s den in
Whitehall.

It drew towards sunset before I had found a means to get to Bridgewater.
The innkeepers who in times of peace sent daily carriers thither, with
whom a man could travel in comfort for a few pence, had now either lost
their horses, or feared to risk them. No carriers had gone either to
Bridgewater or to Bristol since the Duke marched in on the fourth day
of his journey; nor had the carriers come in as usual from those places;
the business of the town was at a standstill. I asked at several inns,
but that was the account given to me. There was no safety on the roads.
The country was overrun by thieves, who stole horses in the name of the
Duke or of the King; nothing was safe anywhere. The general hope of the
people was for Monmouth to be beaten soon, or to be victorious soon.
They had lost quite enough by him; they wanted the rebellion over.

At last, just when I had begun to think the thing hopeless, I found an
honest Quaker about to ride to Bridgewater with a basket of Bibles for
the Duke’s men. He did not ask me what my business at Bridgewater
might be; but he knew that no one would want to go there at such a time
without good cause. “Well,” he said, “if you can ride small, you shall
ride behind me, but it will be slow riding, as the horse will be heavily
laden.” He was going to start at eight o’clock, so as to travel
all night, when the marauders, whether deserters from the Duke or
ill-conditioned country people, were always less busy. I had time to
get some supper for myself in the tavern-bar before starting. Just as
we were about to ride off together, when we were in the saddle, waiting
only till some carts rolled past the yard-door, I had a fright, for
there, coming into the inn yard, was one of the troopers who had
beguiled me from the Duke’s army that day at Axminster. I had no doubt
that he was going from inn to inn, asking for news of me. We began to
move through the yard as he came towards us; the clack of the horse’s
feet upon the cobbles made him look up; but though he stared at me hard,
he did so with an occupied mind; he was in such a brown study (as it is
called) that he never recognized me. A minute later, we were riding out
of town past the trench-labourers, my heart going pit-a-pat from the
excitement of my narrow escape. I dared not ask the Quaker to go fast,
lest he should worm my story from me, but for the first three miles I
assure you I found it hard not to prod that old nag with my knife to
make him quicken his two mile an hour crawl. Often during the first
hours of the ride I heard horses coming after us at a gallop. It was
all fancy; we were left to our own devices. My pursuers, I found,
afterwards, were misled by the lies of the landlord at the inn we had
left. We were being searched for in Taunton all that fatal night, by
half a dozen of the Carew servants.

Bridgewater had not gone to bed when we got there. The people were out
in the streets, talking in frightened clumps, expecting something. After
thanking the Quaker for his kindness in giving me a lift I asked at one
of these clumps where I could find the Duke. I was feeling so happy
at the thought of rejoining my master, after all my adventures, that I
think I never felt so happy.

“Where can I find the Duke?” I asked. “I’m his servant, I must find
him.”

“Find him?” said one of the talkers. “He’s not here. He’s marched out,
sir, with all his army, over to Sedgemoor to fight the King’s army. It’s
a night attack, sir.”

I was bitterly disappointed at not having reached my journey’s end; but
there was a stir in the thought of battle. I asked by which road I could
get to the place where the battle would be. The man told me to turn to
the right after crossing the river. “But,” said he, “you don’t want to
get mixed up in the fighting, master. There be thousands out there on
the moor. A boy would be nowhere among all them.”

“Yes,” said another. “Better stay here, sir. If the Duke wins he’ll be
back afore breakfast. If he gets beat, you’d be best out of the way.”

This was sound advice; but I was not in a mood to profit by it.
Something told me that the battle was to be a victory for us; so I
thanked the men, telling them that I would go out over the moor by the
road they had mentioned. As I moved away, they called out to me to mind
myself, for the King’s dragoons were on the moor, as a sort of screen
in front of their camp. By the road they had mentioned I might very well
get into the King’s camp without seeing anything of my master. One of
them added that the battle would begin, or might begin, long before I
got there, “if the mist don’t lead en astray, like.”

It took me some few minutes to get out of the gates across the river;
for there was a press of people crowded there. It was as dark as
a summer night ever is, that is, a sort of twilight, when I passed
through, but just at the gates were two great torches stuck into rings
in the wall. The wind made their flames waver about uncertainly, so that
sometimes you could see particular faces in the crowd, all lit in muddy
gold light for an instant, before the wavering made them dark again.
Several mounted men were there, trying to pass. Among them, in one
sudden glare, I saw Aurelia on her Arab, reined in beside Sir Travers,
whose horse was kicking out behind him. I passed them by so close that
I touched Aurelia’s riding habit as I crept out of the press. They were
talking together, just behind me, as I crept from the town over the
bridge above which the summer mists clung, almost hiding the stream.
Aurelia was saying “I only hope we may be in time.” “Yes, poor boy,”
 said Sir Travers. “It will be terrible if we are too late.” It gave me a
pang to hear them, for I knew that they were talking about me.

I crept into the shelter of the bridge parapet while they rode on past
me. The mist hid them from me. The town was dark above the mist like
a city in the clouds. The stars were dim now with the coming of day.
A sheep-bell on the moor made a noise like a nightbird. A few ponies
pastured on the moor trotted away, lightly padding, scared, I suppose,
by the two riders. Then, far away, but sounding very near at hand, for
sound travels very strangely in mist, so strangely that often a very
distant noise will strike loudly, while it is scarcely heard close to,
there came a shot. Almost instantly, the air seemed full of the roar
of battle. The gun-fire broke out into a long irregular roar, a fury
of noise which roused up the city behind me, as though all the citizens
were slamming their doors to get away from it. I hurried along the road
towards the battle, praying, as I went, that my master might conquer,
that the King’s troops had been caught asleep, that when I got there,
in the glory of dawn, I might find the Duke’s army returning thanks in
their enemy’s camp. I pressed on along the rough moor road until the
dawn came over the far horizon, driving the mists away, so that I could
see what was doing there.

I saw a great sweep of moorland to my left, with a confused crowd of
horsemen scattering away towards a line of low hills some miles beyond.
They were riding from the firing, which filled all the nearer part of
the moor with smoke, among which I saw moving figures, sudden glimpses
of men in rank, sudden men on horseback, struggling with their horses.
The noise was worse than I had expected; it came on me with repeated
deafening shocks. I could hear cries in the lulls when the firing
slackened; then the uproar grew worse again, sounds of desperate thuds,
marking cannon shot. I heard balls going over my head with a shrill
“wheep, wheep,” which made me duck. A small iron cannon ball spun into
the road like a spinning top, scattering the dust. It wormed slowly past
me for a second, then rose up irregularly in a bound, to thud into the
ditch, where it lay still. I saw cannon coming up at a gallop, with many
horses, on the bare right flank of the battle. Another ball came just
over my head, with a scream which made my heart quite sick. I sat down
cowering under a ruined thorn-tree by the road, crying like a little
child. It must have been a moment after that when I saw a man staggering
down the road towards me, holding his side with both hands. He fell
into the road, dead, not far from me. Then others came past, some so
fearfully hurt that it was a miracle that they should walk. They came
past in a long horrible procession, men without weapons, without hands,
shot in the head, in the body, lacerated, bleeding, limping, with white
drawn faces, tottering to the town which they would never see again. I
shut my eyes, crouching well under the tree, while this fight went
on. It was nothing but a time of pain, a roaring, booming horror with
shrieks in it. I don’t know how long it lasted. I only know that the
shooting seemed suddenly to pass into a thunder of horse-hoofs as
the King’s dragoons came past in a charge. Right in front of me they
galloped, hacking at the fleers, leaning out from their saddles to cut
at them, leaning down to stab them, rising up to reach at those who
climbed the banks. Under that tide of cavalry the Duke’s army melted.
They fought in clumps desperately. They flung away their weapons. They
fled. They rushed down desperately to meet death. It was all a medley of
broken noises, oaths, stray shots, cries, wounded men whimpering, hurt
horses screaming. The horses were the worst part of it. Perhaps you
never heard a horse scream.

That morning’s work is all very confused to me. I remember seeing men
cut down as they ran. I remember a fine horse coming past me lurching,
clattering his stirrups, before leaping into the river. I remember the
stink of powder over all the field; the strange look on the faces of
the dead; the body of a trumpeter, kneeling against a gorse-bush, shot
through the heart, with his trumpet raised to his lips, the litter
everywhere, burnt cartridges, clothes, belts, shot, all the waste of
war. They are in my mind, those memories, like scattered pictures. The
next clear memory in my mind, is of a company of cavalry in red coats,
under a fierce, white-faced man, bringing in a string of prisoners to
the King’s camp. A couple of troopers jumped down to examine me. One had
the face of a savage; the other was half drunk. “You’re one of them,”
 they said. “Bring him on.” They twisted string about my thumbs. I
was their prisoner. They dragged me into the King’s camp, where the
white-faced man sat down at a table to judge us.

I will not talk of that butchery. The white-faced man has been judged
now, in his turn; I will say no more of him. When it came to my turn, he
would hear no words from me; I was a rebel, fit for nothing but death.
“Pistol him” was all the sentence passed on me. The soldiers laid hands
on me to drag me away, to add my little corpse to the heap outside. One
of the officers spoke up for me. “He’s only a boy,” he said. “Go easy
with the boy. Don’t have the poor child killed.” It was kindly spoken;
but quite carelessly. The man would have pleaded for a cat with just as
much passion. It was useless, anyway, for the colonel merely repeated
“Pistol him,” just as one would have ordered a wine at dinner.
“Burgundy.” “No, the Burgundy here is all so expensive.” “Never mind,
Burgundy.” So I was led away to stand with the next batch of prisoners
lined against a wall to be shot. My place was at the end of a line,
next to a young sullen-looking man black with powder. I did not feel
frightened, only hopeless, quite hopeless, a sort of dead feeling. I
remember looking at the soldiers getting ready to shoot us. I wondered
which would shoot me. They seemed so slow about it. There was some
hitch, I think, in filling up the line; a man had proved his innocence
or something.

Then, the next instant, there was Aurelia dragging the white-faced man
from his table. I dimly remember him ordering me to be released, while
Sir Travers Carew gave me brandy. I remember the young sullen-looking
man’s face; for he looked at me, a look of dull wonder, with a sort
of hopeless envy in it, which has wrung my heart daily, ever since.
“Mount,” said Aurelia. “Mount, Martin. For God’s sake, Uncle Travers,
let us get out of this.” They were on both sides of me each giving me an
arm in the saddle, as we rode out of that field of death through Zoyland
village towards the old Abbey near Chard.

I shall say little more, except that I never saw my master again. When
they led him to the scaffold on Tower Hill I was outward bound to
the West Indies, as private secretary to Sir Travers, newly appointed
Governor of St. Eulalie. We had many of Monmouth’s men in St. Eulalie
after the Bloody Assizes; but their tale is too horrible to tell here.
You will want to know whether I ever saw Aurelia again. Not for some
years, not very often for nine years; but since then our lives have been
so mingled that when we die it will be hard to say which soul is which,
so much our spirits are each other’s. So now, I have written a long
story. May we all tell our tales to the end before the pen is taken from
us.





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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.



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