G.A. Henty.

Friends, though divided A Tale of the Civil War online

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know that his services would not be required, and might sail away
whither he listed. He was to receive fifty guineas at once for the
service, and if he transported those who might come down to the shore,
to France, he would, on arriving there, be paid two hundred and fifty
more.

"It is the king, of course, who seeks to escape," the sailor said.
"Well, young gentlemen, for such I doubt not that you are, I am ready to
try it. We sailors are near all for the king, and the fleet last week
declared for him, and sailed for Holland. So, once on board, there will
be little danger. Pay me the fifty guineas at once, and you may rely
upon the Moonlight being at the point named."

Harry handed over the money, and arranged that on the third night
following the lugger should beat the post appointed, and that it should
at once run them across and land them at Cowes. It was now the middle of
May, and Harry and his friends, who were still in the disguise of
countrymen, walked across to Newport. Their first step was to examine
the castle. It lay a short distance from the town, was surrounded by a
high wall with towers, and could offer a strong resistance to an
attacking force. At the back of the castle was a small postern gate, at
which they decided that his escape must, if possible, be made. Harry had
been well supplied with money by Sir John Berkeley before leaving
Southampton, Sir John himself, on account of his figure being so well
known at Newport, during his stay there with the king, deeming it
imprudent to take any personal part in the enterprise. After an
examination of the exterior of the castle Harry bought a large basket of
eggs, and some chickens, and with these proceeded to the castle. There
was a guard at the gate, but persons could freely enter. As Harry's
wares were exceedingly cheap in price, he speedily effected a sale of
them to the soldiers and servants of the officers.

"I should like," he said to the man to whom he disposed of the last of
the contents of his basket, "to catch a sight of the king. I ha' never
seen him."

"That's easy enough," the man said. "Just mount these stairs with me to
the wall. He is walking in the garden at the back of the castle."

Harry followed the man, and presently reached a spot where he could look
down into the garden. The king was pacing up and down the walk, his head
bent, his hands behind his back, apparently in deep thought. An
attendant, a short distance behind him, followed his steps.

"Be that the king?" Harry asked. "He don't look like a king."

"That's him," the man said, "and he's not much of a king at present."

"Where does he live now?" Harry asked.

"That is his room," the man said, pointing to a window some ten feet
from the ground. After a little further conversation Harry appeared to
be satisfied, and returning to the courtyard, made his way from the
castle. During that day and the next they remained quiet, except that
Jacob walked over to Cowes, where he purchased two very fine and sharp
saws, and a short length of strong rope, with a hook. The following
night they hired a cart with a fast horse, and this they placed at a
spot a quarter of a mile from the castle.

Leaving the man in charge of it there, Harry and his companions made for
the back of the castle. They could tell by the calls upon the walls that
the sentries were watchful, but the night was so dark that they had no
fear whatever of being seen. Very quietly they crossed the moat, which
was shallow, and with but little water in it. Then with an auger they
cut four holes in a square two feet each way in the door, and, with a
saw, speedily cut the piece inclosed by them out, and creeping through,
entered the garden. The greater part of the lights were already
extinguished, but that in the king's chamber was still burning. They
made their way quietly until they stood beneath this window, and waited
until the light here was also put out. Then Harry climbed on to the
shoulders of his companions, which brought his face on a level with the
window. He tapped at it. The king, who had been warned that his friends
would attempt to open a means of escape, at once came to the window, and
threw open the casement.

"Who is there?" he asked, in low tones.

"It is I, Harry Furness, your majesty. I have two trusty friends with
me. We have cut a hole through the postern gate, a cart is waiting
without, and a ship lies ready to receive you on the coast."

"I am ready," the king said. "Thanks, my faithful servant. But have you
brought something to cut the bars?"

"The bars!" Henry exclaimed, aghast. "I did not know that there were
bars!"

"There are, indeed, Master Furness," the king said, "and if you have no
file the enterprise is ruined."

Harry put his hands on the stonework and pulled himself up, and felt the
bars within the window.

"They are too strong for our united strength," he said, in a tone of
deep disappointment. "But methinks it is possible to get between them."
Putting his head between the bars he struggled though, but with great
difficulty. "See, your majesty, I have got through."

"Ay, Master Furness, but you are slighter in figure than I, although you
are changed indeed since first the colonel, your father, presented you
to me at Oxford. However, I will try." The king tried, but in vain. He
was stouter than Harry, although less broadly built, and had none of the
lissomness which enabled the latter to wriggle through the bars. "It is
useless," he said at last. "Providence is against me. It is the will of
God that I should remain here. It may be the decree of Heaven that even
yet I may sit again on the throne of my ancestors. Now go, Master
Furness. It is too late to renew the attempt to-night. Should Charles
Stuart ever reign again over England, he will not forget your faithful
service."

Harry kissed the king's hand, and with a prayer for his welfare he again
made his way through the bars and dropped from the window, by the side
of his companions, the tears streaming down his cheeks with the
disappointment and sorrow he felt at the failure of his enterprise. "It
is all over," he said. "The king cannot force his way through the bars."

Without another word they made their way down to the postern, passed
through it, and replaced the piece of wood in its position, in the faint
hope that it might escape notice. Then they rejoined the driver with the
cart, paid him handsomely, and told him that his services would not be
required that night at least. They then returned to their lodgings in
the town. The next morning early Jacob started for Cowes to buy some
sharp files and aquafortis, but an hour later the news passed through
Newport that an attempt had been made in the night to free the king,
that a hole had been cut in the postern, and the marks of footsteps
discovered under the king's window. Perceiving that it would be useless
to renew the attempt now that the suspicions of the garrison were
aroused, Harry and William Long, fearing that a search would be
instituted, at once started for Cowes. They met Jacob close to that
town, crossed in a boat to the mainland, and walked to Southampton. They
hesitated whether they should join Lord Goring, who had risen in Kent,
or Lord Capel and Sir Charles Lucas, who had collected a large force at
Colchester. They determined upon the latter course, as the movement
appeared to promise a better chance of success. Taking passage in a
coaster, they sailed to the mouth of the Thames, and being landed near
Tilbury, made their way to Colchester. Harry was, on his arrival,
welcomed by the Royalist leaders, who were well acquainted with him.
They proposed to march upon London, which would, they felt sure, declare
for the king upon their approach. They had scarcely set their force in
motion when they heard that Fairfax, at the head of an army, was
marching against them. A debate was held among the leaders as to the
best course to pursue. Some were for marching north, but the eastern
counties had, from the commencement of the troubles, been wholly on the
side of the Parliament. Others were for dispersing the bands, and
awaiting a better opportunity for a rising. Sir Charles Lucas, however,
urged that they should defend Colchester to the last.

"Here," he said, "we are doing good service to the Royal cause, and by
detaining Fairfax here, we shall give time to our friends in Wales,
Kent, and other parts to rise and organize. If it is seen that whenever
we meet the Roundheads we disperse at once, hope and confidence will be
lost."

The next day the town was invested by Fairfax, and shortly after the
siege began in earnest. The Royalists fought with great bravery, and for
two months every attempt of the Roundheads to storm the place was
repulsed. At length, however, supplies ran short, several breaches had
been made in the walls by the Roundhead artillery, and a council of war
was held, at which it was decided that further resistance was useless,
and would only inflict a great slaughter upon their followers, who, in
the event of surrender, would for the most part be permitted to return
to their homes. Harry Furness was present at the council and agreed to
the decision. He said, however, that he would endeavor, with his two
personal followers, to effect his escape, as, if he were taken a
prisoner to London, he should be sure to be recognized there as the
leader of the rising in May, in which case he doubted not that little
mercy would be shown to him. The Royalist leaders agreed with him, but
pointed out that his chances of escape were small, as the town was
closely beleaguered. Harry, however, declared that he preferred the risk
of being shot while endeavoring to escape, to the certainty of being
executed if carried to London.

That night they procured some bladders, for although Jacob and Harry
were able to swim, William Long could not do so, and in any case it was
safer to float than to swim. The bladders were blown out and their necks
securely fastened. The three adventurers were then lowered from the wall
by ropes, and having fastened the bladders around them, noiselessly
entered the water. A numerous flotilla of ships and boats of the
Commons lay below the town; the tide was running out, however, and the
night dark, and keeping hold of each other, so as not to be separated by
the tide, they drifted through these unobserved. Once safely out of
hearing, Jacob and Harry struck out and towed their companion to shore.
While at Colchester they had been attired as Royalist officers, but they
had left these garments behind them, and carried, strapped to their
shoulders, above water, the countrymen's clothes in which they had
entered the town. They walked as far as Brentwood, where they stopped
for a few days, and learned the news of what was passing throughout the
country.

Colchester surrendered on the 27th of August, the morning after they
left it. Lord Capel was sent a prisoner to London to be tried for his
life; but Fairfax caused Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle to be
tried by court-martial, and shot. On the 10th of July the town and
castle of Pembroke had surrendered to Cromwell, who immediately
afterward marched north to meet the Scotch army, which six days before
had entered England. The Duke of Hamilton, who commanded it, was at once
joined by five thousand English Royalists under Sir Marmaduke Langdale.
General Lambert, who commanded the Parliamentary troops in the north,
fell back to avoid a battle until Cromwell could join him.

The Scotch army could not be called a national force. The Scotch
Parliament, influenced by the Duke of Hamilton and others, had entered
into an agreement with King Charles, and undertook to reinstate him on
the throne. The more violent section, headed by Argyll, were bitterly
hostile to the step. The Duke of Hamilton's army, therefore, consisted
entirely of raw and undisciplined troops. Cromwell marched with great
speed through Wales to Gloucester, and then on through Leicester and
Nottingham, and joined Lambert at Barnet Castle on the 12th of August.
Then he marched against the Scotch army, which, straggling widely and
thinking Cromwell still at a distance, was advancing toward Manchester.
On the 16th the duke with his advanced guard was at Preston, with
Langdale on his left. Cromwell attacked Langdale with his whole force
next morning, and the Royalists after fighting stoutly were entirely
defeated. Then he fell upon the Duke of Hamilton and the force under him
at Preston, and after four hours' sharp fighting in the inclosures round
the place, defeated and drove them out of the town. That night the Scots
determined to retreat, and at once began to scatter. General Baillie,
after some hard fighting around Warrington, surrendered with his
division. The duke with three thousand men went to Nantwich. The country
was hostile, his own troops, wearied and dispirited, mutinied, and
declared they would fight no longer; the Duke of Hamilton thereupon
surrendered, the Scotch invasion of England came to an end.




CHAPTER XVI.

THE EXECUTION OF KING CHARLES.


The news of the failure of the Welsh insurrection and the Scotch
invasion, while the risings in Kent and Essex were crushed out, showed
Harry Furness that, for the time at least, there was no further fighting
to be done. Cromwell, after the defeat of the Scotch, marched with his
army to Edinburgh, where he was received with enthusiasm by Argyll and
the fanatic section, who were now again restored to power, and
recommenced a cruel persecution of all suspected of Royalist opinions.
Now that the Scotch had been beaten, and the Royalist rising everywhere
crushed out, the Parliament were seized with fear as to the course which
Cromwell and his victorious army might pursue. If they had been so
arrogant and haughty before, what might not be expected now.
Negotiations were at once opened with the king. He was removed from
Carisbrook to a good house at Newport. Commissioners came down there,
and forty days were spent in prolonged argument, and the commissioners
returned to London on the 28th of November with a treaty signed. It was
too late. The army stationed at St. Albans sent in a remonstrance to
Parliament, calling upon them to bring the king to trial, and stating
that if Parliament neglected its duty the army would take the matter
into its own hands. This remonstrance caused great excitement in the
Commons. No steps were taken upon it however, and the Commons proceeded
to discuss the treaty, and voted that the king's concessions were
sufficient. On the 29th a body of soldiers went across to the Isle of
Wight, surrounded the king's house, seized him and carried him to Hurst
Castle. The next day Parliament voted that they would not debate the
remonstrance of the army, and in reply the army at Windsor marched on
the 2d of December into London. On the 5th the Commons debated all day
upon the treaty.

Prynne, formerly one of the stanchest opposers of King Charles, spoke
with others strongly in his favor, and it was carried by a hundred and
twenty-nine to thirty-eight. The same day some of the leaders of the
army met, and determined to expel from the house all those opposed to
their interests. On the 7th the Trained Bands of the city were withdrawn
from around the House, and Colonel Pride with his regiment of foot
surrounded it. As the members arrived forty-one of them were turned
back. The same process was repeated on the two following days, until
over a hundred members had been arrested. Thus the army performed a
revolution such as no English sovereign has dared to carry out. After
this it is idle to talk of the Parliament as in any way representing
the English people. The representatives who supported the king had long
since left it. The whole of the moderate portion of those who had
opposed him, that is to say, those who had fought to support the
liberties of Englishmen against encroachments by the king, and who
formed the majority after the Royalists had retired, were now expelled;
there remained only a small body of fanatics devoted to the interests of
the army, and determined to crush out all liberties of England under its
armed heel. This was the body before whom the king was ere long to
undergo the mockery of a trial.

King Charles was taken to Hurst Castle on the 17th of December, and
three days later carried to Windsor. On the 2d of January, 1649, the
Commons voted that in making war against the Parliament the king had
been guilty of treason, and should be tried by a court of a hundred and
fifty commissioners. The Peers rejected the bill, and the Commons then
voted that neither the assent of the Peers nor the king was necessary
for a law passed by themselves.

All the encroachments of King Charles together were as nothing to this
usurpation of despotic power.

In consequence of the conduct of the Peers, the number of commissioners
was reduced to a hundred and thirty-five; but of these only sixty-nine
assembled at the trial. Thus the court which was to try the king
consisted only of those who were already pledged to destroy him. Before
such a court as this there could be but one end to the trial. When,
after deciding upon their sentence, the king was brought in to hear it,
the chief commissioner told him that the charges were brought against
him in the name of the people of England, when Lady Fairfax from the
gallery cried out, "It's a lie! Not one-half of them." Had she said not
one hundredth of them, she would have been within the mark.

On the 27th sentence was pronounced. On the 29th the court signed the
sentence, which was to be carried out on the following day.

From the time when Harry Furness left Brentwood at the end of August
until the king was brought to London, he had lived quietly at
Southampton. He feared to return home, and chose this port as his
residence, in order that he might, if necessary, cross into France at
short notice. When the news came that the king had been brought up from
Windsor, Harry and his friends at once rode to London, Every one was so
absorbed in the great trial about to take place that Harry had little
fear of attracting attention or of being molested should any one
recognize in the young gentleman in sober attire the rustic who had led
the rising in the spring. To London, too, came many other Cavaliers from
all parts of the country, eager to see if something might not be
attempted to rescue the king. Throughout London the consternation was
great at the usurpation by the remnant of the Commons of all the rights
of the Three Estates, and still more, at the trial of the king. The
army, however, lay in and about London, and, with Cromwell at its head,
it would, the people felt, easily crush out any attempt at a rising in
the city. Within a few hours of his arrival in London, Harry saw that
there was no hope from any effort in this direction, and that the only
possible chance of saving the king was by his arranging for his escape.
His majesty, on his arrival from Windsor, had been lodged in St. James'
Palace, and as this was completely surrounded by the Roundhead troops,
there was no chance of effecting an invasion thence. The only possible
plan appeared to be a sudden attack upon his guards on his way to
execution.

Harry gathered round him a party of thirty Cavaliers, all men ready like
himself to sacrifice their lives for the king. Their plan was to gather
near Whitehall, where the execution was to take place, to burst through
the soldiers lining the way, to cut down the guards, and carry the king
to a boat in readiness behind Whitehall, This was to convey him across
to Lambeth, where fleet horses were to be stationed, which would take
him down to the Essex coast.

The plan was a desperate one, but it might possibly have succeeded,
could the Cavaliers have gained the position which they wished. The
whole of the army was, however, placed in the streets and passages
leading to Whitehall, and between that place and the city the cavalry
were drawn up, preventing any from coming in or going out. When they
found that this was the case, the Cavaliers in despair mounted their
horses, and rode into the country, with their hearts filled with grief
and rage.

On the 30th, an hour after the king's execution, proclamation was made
that whoever should proclaim a new king would be deemed a traitor, and a
week later, the Commons, now reduced to a hundred members, formally
abolished the House of Peers. A little later Lord Capel, Lord Holland,
and the Duke of Hamilton were executed.

Had the king effected his escape, Harry Furness had determined to return
to Abingdon and live quietly at home, believing that now the army had
grasped all power, and crushed all opposition, it was probable that they
would abstain from exciting further popular animosity by the persecution
of those who had fought against them. The fury, however, excited in his
mind by the murder of the king after the mockery of a trial, determined
him to fight to the last, wherever a rising might be offered, however
hopeless a success that rising might appear. He would not, however,
suffer Jacob and William Long any longer to follow his fortunes,
although they earnestly pleaded to do so. "I have no hope of success,"
he said. "I am ready to die, but I will not bring you to that strait. I
have written to my father begging him, Jacob, to receive you as his
friend and companion, and to do what he can, William, to assist you in
whatever mode of life your wishes may hereafter lead you to adopt. But
come with me you shall not."

Not without tears did Harry's faithful companions yield themselves to
his will, and set out for Abingdon, while he, with eight or ten comrades
as determined as himself, kept on west until they arrived at Bristol,
where they took ship and crossed to Ireland. They landed at Waterford,
and journeyed north until they reached the army, with which the Marquis
of Ormonde was besieging Dublin. Nothing that Harry had seen of war in
England prepared him in any way for the horrors which he beheld in
Ireland. The great mass of the people there were at that time but a few
degrees advanced above savages, and they carried on their war with a
brutal cruelty and bloodshed which could now only be rivaled in the
center of Africa. Between the Protestants and the English and Scotch
settlers on the one hand, and the wild peasantry on the other, a war of
something like extermination went on. Wholesale massacres took place, at
which men, women, and children were indiscriminately butchered, the
ferocity shown being as great upon one side as the other. In fact,
beyond the possession of a few large towns, Ireland had no claim
whatever to be considered a civilized country. As Harry and his comrades
rode from Waterford they beheld everywhere ruined fields and burned
houses; and on joining the army of the Marquis of Ormonde, Harry felt
even more strongly than before the hopelessness of the struggle on which
he was engaged. These bands of wild, half-clad kernes, armed with pike
and billhook, might be brave indeed, but could do nothing against the
disciplined soldiers of the Parliament. There were with Ormonde, indeed,
better troops than these. Some of the companies were formed of English
and Welsh Royalists. Others had been raised by the Catholic gentry of
the west, and into these some sort of order and discipline had been
introduced. The army, moreover, was deficient in artillery, and not more
than one-third of the footmen carried firearms. Harry was, a day or two
after reaching the camp of Lord Ormonde, sent off to the West to drill
some of the newly-raised levies there. It was now six years since he had
begun to take an active part in the war, and he was between twenty-one
and twenty-two. His life of active exertion had strengthened his
muscles, broadened his frame, and given a strength and vigor to his tall
and powerful figure.

Foreseeing that the siege of Dublin was not likely to be successful,
Harry accepted his commission to the West with pleasure. He felt already
that with all his devotion to the Royalist cause he could not wish that
the siege of Dublin should be successful; for he saw that the vast
proportion of the besieging army were animated by no sense of loyalty,
by no interest in the constitutional question at stake, but simply with
a blind hatred of the Protestant population of Dublin, and that the
capture of the city would probably be followed by the indiscriminate
slaughter of its inhabitants.

He set out on his journey, furnished with letters from Ormonde to
several influential gentlemen in Galway. The roads at first were fairly


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Online LibraryG.A. HentyFriends, though divided A Tale of the Civil War → online text (page 14 of 24)