G.A. Henty.

Friends, though divided A Tale of the Civil War online

. (page 4 of 24)
Online LibraryG.A. HentyFriends, though divided A Tale of the Civil War → online text (page 4 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


London. Harry's tale was soon told, and the colonel roared with laughter
at the thought of his boy masquerading as a Puritan preacher.

"King Charles himself," he said, "might smile over your story, Harry;
and in faith it takes a great deal to call up a smile into his majesty's
face, which is, methinks a pity, for he would be more loved, and not
less respected, did he, by his appearance and manner, do something to
raise the spirits of those around him."

When once seated in the hall Harry inquired of his father what progress
had been made since he was taken prisoner, for he had heard nothing from
his guards.

"Things are as they were," his father said. "After our unfortunate
advance we fell back hither, and for six weeks nothing was done. A
fortnight since, on the 2d of January, a petition was brought by
deputies from the Common Council of London, asking the king to return to
the capital when all disturbance should be suppressed. King Charles,
however, knew not that these gentlemen had the power to carry out their
promises seeing that the seditious have the upper hand in the capital,
and answered them to that effect. His answer was, however, methinks, far
less conciliatory and prudent than it might have been, for it boots not
to stir up men's minds unnecessarily, and with a few affectionate words
the king might have strengthened his party in London. The result,
however, was to lead to a fierce debate, in which Pym and Lord
Manchester addressed the multitude, and stirred them up to indignation,
and I fear that prospects of peace are further away than ever. In other
respects there is good and bad news. Yorkshire and Cheshire, Devon and
Cornwall, have all declared for the crown; but upon the other hand, in
the east the prospects are most gloomy. There, the seven counties,
Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridge, Herts, Lincoln, and Huntingdon, have
joined themselves into an association, and the king's followers dare not
lift their heads. At Lichfield, Lord Brook, a fierce opponent of bishops
and cathedrals, while besieging a party of Cavaliers who had taken
possession of the close, was shot in the eye and killed. These are the
only incidents that have taken place."

For some weeks no event of importance occurred. On the 22d of February
the queen, who had been absent on the Continent selling her jewels and
endeavoring to raise a force, landed at Burlington, with four ships,
having succeeded in evading the ships of war which the Commons had
dispatched to cut her off, under the command of Admiral Batten. That
night, however, the Parliament fleet arrived off the place, and opened
fire upon the ships and village. The queen was in a house near the
shore, and the balls struck in all directions round. She was forced to
get up, throw on a few clothes, and retire on foot to some distance from
the village to the shelter of a ditch, where she sat for two hours, the
balls sometimes striking dust over them, and singing round in all
directions. It was a question whether the small force which the queen
brought with her was not rather a hindrance than an assistance to the
royal cause, for the Earl of Newcastle, who had been sent to escort her
to York, was authorized by the king to raise men for the service,
without examining their consciences, that is to say, to receive
Catholics as well as Protestants. The Parliament took advantage of this
to style his army the Catholic Army, and this, and some tamperings with
the Papists in Ireland, increased the popular belief that the king
leaned toward Roman Catholicism, and thus heightened the feelings
against him, and embittered the religious as well as the political
quarrel.

Toward the end of March commissioners from the Parliament, under the
Earl of Northumberland, came to Oxford with propositions to treat. It is
questionable whether the offers of the Commons were sincere. But
Charles, by his vacillation and hesitation, by yielding one day and
retracting the next, gave them the opportunity of asserting, with some
show of reason, that he was wholly insincere, and could not be trusted;
and so the commission was recalled, and the war went on again.

On the 15th of April Parliament formally declared the negotiations to be
at an end, and on that day Essex marched with his army to the siege of
Reading. The place was fortified, and had a resolute garrison; but by
some gross oversight no provisions or stores had been collected, and
after an unsuccessful attempt to relieve the town, when the Royalist
forces failed to carry the bridge at Caversham, they fell back upon
Wallingford, and Reading surrendered. Meanwhile skirmishes were going on
all over the country. Sir William Waller was successful against the
Royalists in the south and west. In the north Lord Newcastle was opposed
to Fairfax, and the result was doubtful; while in Cornwall the Royalists
had gained a battle over the Parliament men under Lord Stamford.

Meanwhile, the king was endeavoring to create a party in the Parliament,
and Lady Aubigny was intrusted with the negotiations. The plot was,
however, discovered. Several members of Parliament were arrested, and
two executed by orders of the Parliament.

Early in June Colonel Furness and his troop were called into Oxford, as
it was considered probable that some expeditions would be undertaken,
and on the 17th of that month Prince Rupert formed up his horse and
sallied out against the outlying pickets and small troops of the
Parliament. Several of these he surprised and cut up, and on the morning
of the 19th reached Chalgrove Field, near Thame. Hampden was in command
of a detachment of Parliamentary troops in this neighborhood, and
sending word to Essex, who lay near, to come up to his assistance,
attacked Prince Rupert's force. His men, however, could not stand
against the charge of the Royalists. They were completely defeated, and
Hampden, one of the noblest characters of his age, was shot through the
shoulder. He managed to keep his horse, and ride across country to
Thame, where he hoped to obtain medical assistance. After six days of
pain he died there, and thus England lost the only man who could, in
the days that were to come, have moderated, and perhaps defeated, the
ambition of Cromwell.

Essex arrived upon the scene of battle a few minutes after the defeat of
Hampden's force, and Prince Rupert fell back, and crossing the Thames
returned to Oxford, having inflicted much damage upon the enemy.

Shortly after this event, one of the serving men rushed in to Harry with
the news that a strong band of Parliament horse were within three or
four miles of the place, and were approaching. Harry at once sent for
the steward, and a dozen men were summoned in all haste. On their
arrival they set to work to strip the hall of its most valued furniture.
The pictures were taken down from the walls, the silver and plate
tumbled into chests, the arms and armor worn by generations of the
Furnesses removed from the armory, the choicest articles of furniture of
a portable character put into carts, together with some twenty casks of
the choicest wine in the cellars, and in four hours only the heavier
furniture, the chairs and tables, buffets and heavy sideboards remained
in their places.

Just as the carts were filled news came that the enemy had ridden into
Abingdon. Night was now coming on, and the carts at once started with
their contents for distant farms, where the plate and wine were to be
buried in holes dug in copses, and other places little likely to be
searched by the Puritans. The pictures and furniture were stowed away in
lofts and covered deeply with hay.

Having seen the furniture sent off, Harry awaited the arrival of the
Parliament bands, which he doubted not would be dispatched by the
Puritans among the townspeople to the hall. The stables were already
empty except for Rollo, Harry's own horse. This he had at once, the
alarm being given, sent off to a farm a mile distant from the hall, and
with it its saddle, bridle, and his arms, a brace of rare pistols,
breast and back pieces, a steel cap with plumes, and his sword. It cost
him an effort to part with the last, for he now carried it habitually.
But he thought that it might be taken from him, and, moreover, he feared
that he might be driven into drawing it, when the consequences might be
serious, not only for himself, but for the mansion of which his father
had left him in charge.

At nine a servitor came in to say that a party of men were riding up the
drive. Harry seated himself in the colonel's armchair, and repeated to
himself the determination at which he had arrived of being perfectly
calm and collected, and of bearing himself with patience and dignity.
Presently he heard the clatter of horses' hoofs in the courtyard, and
two minutes later, the tramp of feet in the passage. The door opened,
and an officer entered, followed by five or six soldiers.

This man was one of the worst types of Roundhead officers. He was a
London draper, whose violent harangues had brought him into notice, and
secured for him a commission in the raw levies when they were first
raised. Harry rose as he entered.

"You are the son of the man who is master of this house?" the officer
said roughly.

"I am his son and representative," Harry said calmly.

"I hear that he is a malignant fighting in the ranks of King Charles."

"My father is a colonel in the army of his gracious majesty the king,"
Harry said.

"You are an insolent young dog!" the captain exclaimed. "We will teach
you manners," and rising from the seat into which he had thrown himself
on entering the hall, he struck Harry heavily in the face.

The boy staggered back against the wall; then with a bound he snatched
a sword from the hand of one of the troopers, and before the officer had
time to recoil or throw up his hands, he smote him with all his force
across the face. With a terrible cry the officer fell back, and Harry,
throwing down the sword, leaped through the open window into the garden
and dashed into the shrubberies, as half a dozen balls from the pistols
of the astonished troopers whizzed about his head.

For a few minutes he ran at the top of his speed, as he heard shouts and
pistol shots behind him. But he knew that in the darkness strangers
would have no chance whatever of overtaking him, and he slackened his
pace into a trot. As he ran he took himself to task for not having acted
up to his resolution. But the reflection that his father would not
disapprove of his having cut down the man who had struck him consoled
him, and he kept on his way to the farm where he had left his horse. In
other respects, he felt a wild delight at what had happened. There was
nothing for him now but to join the Royal army, and his father could
hardly object to his taking his place with the regiment.

"I wish I had fifty of them here," he thought to himself; "we would
surround the hall, and pay these traitors dearly. As for their captain,
I would hang him over the door with my own hands. The cowardly ruffian,
to strike an unarmed boy! At any rate I have spoiled his beauty for him,
for I pretty nearly cut his face in two, I shall know him by the scar if
I ever meet him in battle, and then we will finish the quarrel.

"I shall not be able to see out of my right eye in the morning," he
grumbled; "and shall be a nice figure when I ride into Oxford."

As he approached the farm he slackened his speed to a walk; and neared
the house very carefully, for he thought it possible that one of the
parties of the enemy might already have taken up his quarters there. The
silence that reigned, broken by the loud barking of dogs as he came
close, proved that no stranger had yet arrived, and he knocked loudly at
the door. Presently an upper window was opened, and a woman's voice
inquired who he was, and what he wanted.

"I am Harry Furness, Dame Arden," he said. "The Roundheads are at the
hall, and I have sliced their captain's face; so I must be away with all
speed. Please get the men up, and lose not a moment; I want my arms and
horse."

The farmer's wife lost no time in arousing the house, and in a very few
minutes all was ready. One man saddled the horse, while another buckled
on Harry's breast and back pieces; and with a hearty good-by, and amid
many prayers for his safety and speedy return with the king's troops,
Harry rode off into the darkness. For awhile he rode cautiously,
listening intently lest he might fall into the hands of some of the
Roundhead bands. But all was quiet, and after placing another mile or
two between himself and Abingdon, he concluded that he was safe, drew
Rollo's reins tighter, pressed him with his knees, and started at full
gallop for Oxford.




CHAPTER V.

A MISSION OF STATE.


When Harry rode into Oxford with the news that the Roundheads had made a
raid as far as Abingdon, no time was lost in sounding to boot and
saddle, and in half an hour the Cavalier horse were trotting briskly in
that direction. They entered Abingdon unopposed, and found to their
disgust that the Roundheads had departed an hour after their arrival. A
party went up to Furness Hall, and found it also deserted. The
Roundheads, in fact, had made but a flying raid, had carried off one or
two of the leading Royalists in the town, and had, on their retirement,
been accompanied by several of the party favorable to the Commons, among
others, Master Rippinghall and the greater portion of his men, who had,
it was suspected, been already enrolled for the service of the
Parliament. Some of the Royalists would fain have sacked the house of
the wool-stapler; but Colonel Furness, who had accompanied the force
with his troop, opposed this vehemently.

"As long as we can," he said, "let private houses be respected. If the
Puritans commence, it will be time for us to retort. There are
gentlemen's mansions all over the country, many of them in the heart of
Roundhead neighborhoods, and if they had once an excuse in our
proceedings not one of these would be safe for a minute."

Leaving a strong force of horse in Abingdon, Prince Rupert returned to
Oxford, and Colonel Furness again settled down in his residence, his
troop dispersing to their farms until required, a small body only
remaining at Furness Hall as a guard, and in readiness to call the
others to arms if necessary. The colonel warmly approved of the steps
that Harry had taken to save the valuables, and determined that until
the war was at an end these should remain hidden, as it was probable
enough that the chances of the strife might again lead the Roundheads
thither.

"I hope, father," Harry Furness said the following day, "that you will
now permit me to join the troop. I am getting on for sixteen, and could
surely bear myself as a man in the fray."

"If the time should come, Harry, when the fortune of war may compel the
king to retire from Oxford - which I trust may never be - I would then
grant your request, for after your encounter with the officer who
commanded the Roundheads here, it would not be safe for you to remain
behind. But although you are too young to take part in the war, I may
find you employment. After a council that was held yesterday at Oxford,
I learned, from one in the king's secrets, that it was designed to send
a messenger to London with papers of importance, and to keep up the
communication with the king's friends in that city. There was some
debate as to who should be chosen. In London, at the present time, all
strangers are closely scrutinized. Every man is suspicious of his
neighbor, and it is difficult to find one of sufficient trust whose
person is unknown. Then I have thought that maybe you could well fulfill
this important mission. A boy would be unsuspected, where a man's every
movement would be watched. There is, of course, some danger attending
the mission, and sharpness and readiness will be needed. You have shown
that you possess these, by the manner in which you made your escape from
London, and methinks that, did you offer, your services would be
accepted. You would have, of course, to go in disguise, and to accept
any situation which might appear conformable to your character and add
to your safety."

Harry at once gladly assented to the proposal. He was at the age when
lads are most eager for adventure, and he thought that it would be great
fun to be living in London, watching the doings of the Commons, and, so
far as was in his power, endeavoring to thwart them. Accordingly in the
afternoon he rode over with Sir Henry to Oxford. They dismounted in the
courtyard of the building which served as the king's court, and
entering, Sir Henry left Harry in an antechamber, and, craving an
audience with his majesty, was at once ushered into the king's cabinet.
A few minutes later he returned, and motioned to Harry to follow him.
The latter did so, and the next moment found himself in the presence of
the king. The latter held out his hand for the boy to kiss, and Harry,
falling on one knee, and greatly abashed at the presence in which he
found himself, pressed his lips to King Charles' hand.

"I hear from your father, my trusty Sir Henry Furness, that you are
willing to adventure your life in our cause, and to go as our messenger
to London, and act there as our intermediary with our friends. You seem
young for so delicate a work; but your father has told me somewhat of
the manner in which you escaped from the hands of the traitors at
Westminster, and also how you bore yourself in the affair with the
rebels at his residence. It seems to me, then, that we must not judge
your wisdom by your years, and that we can safely confide our interests
in your hands. Your looks are frank and boyish, and will, therefore,
excite far less suspicion than that which would attend upon an older and
graver-looking personage. The letters will be prepared for you
to-morrow, and, believe me, should success finally crown our efforts
against these enemies of the crown, your loyalty and devotion will not
be forgotten by your king."

He again held out his hand to Harry, and the boy left the cabinet with
his heart burning with loyalty toward his monarch, and resolved that
life itself should be held cheap if it could be spent in the service of
so gracious and majestic a king.

The next morning a royal messenger brought out a packet of letters to
Furness Hall, and Harry, mounting with his father and the little body of
horse at the hall, rode toward London. His attire was that of a country
peasant boy. The letters were concealed in the hollow of a stout ashen
stick which he carried, and which had been slightly weighted with lead,
so that, should it be taken up by any but its owner, its lightness would
not attract attention. Sir Henry rode with him as far as it was prudent
to do toward the outposts of the Parliament troops. Then, bidding him a
tender farewell, and impressing upon him the necessity for the utmost
caution, both for his own sake and for that of the king, he left him.

It was not upon the highroad that they parted, but near a village some
little distance therefrom. In his pocket Harry had two or three pieces
of silver, and between the soles of his boots were sewn several gold
coins. These he did not anticipate having to use; but the necessity
might arise when such a deposit would prove of use. Harry walked quietly
through the village, where his appearance was unnoticed, and then along
the road toward Reading. He soon met a troop of Parliament horsemen; but
as he was sauntering along quietly, as if merely going from one village
to another, no attention whatever was paid to him, and he reached
Reading without the slightest difficulty. There he took up his abode for
the night at a small hostelry, mentioning to the host that his master
had wanted him to join the king's forces, but that he had no stomach for
fighting, and intended to get work in the town. The following morning he
again started, and proceeded as far as Windsor, where he slept. The next
day, walking through Hounslow and Brentford, he stopped for the night at
the village of Kensington, and the following morning entered the city.
Harry had never before been in the streets of London, for in his flight
from his prison he had at once issued into the country, and the bustle
and confusion which prevailed excited great surprise in his mind. Even
Oxford, busy as it was at the time, and full of the troops of the king
and of the noblemen and gentlemen who had rallied to his cause, was yet
quiet when compared with London. The booths along the main streets were
filled with goods, and at these the apprentices shouted loudly to all
passer-by, "What d'ye lack? What d'ye lack?" Here was a mercer
exhibiting dark cloths to a grave-looking citizen; there an armorer was
showing the temper of his wares to an officer. Citizens' wives were
shopping and gossiping; groups of men, in high steeple hats and dark
cloak, were moving along the streets. Pack horses carried goods from the
ships at the wharves below the bridge to the merchants, and Harry was
jostled hither and thither by the moving crowd. Ascending the hill of
Ludgate to the great cathedral of St. Paul's, he saw a crowd gathered
round a person on an elevated stand in the yard, and approaching to see
what was going on, found that a preacher was pouring forth anathemas
against the king and the Royal party, and inciting the citizens to throw
themselves heart and soul into the cause. Especially severe was he upon
waverers, who, he said, were worse than downright enemies, as, while the
one withstood the Parliament openly in fair fight, the others were
shifted to and fro with each breeze, and none could say whether they
were friends or enemies. Passing through the cathedral, where regular
services were no longer held, but where, in different corners, preachers
were holding forth against the king, and where groups of men strolled up
and down, talking of the troubles of the times, he issued at the eastern
door, and entering Cheapside, saw the sign of the merchant to whom he
had been directed.

This was Nicholas Fleming, a man of Dutch descent, and well spoken of
among his fellows. He dealt in silks and velvets from Genoa. His shop
presented less outward appearance than did those of his neighbors, the
goods being too rich and rare to be exposed to the weather, and he
himself dealing rather with smaller traders than with the general
public. The merchant - a grave-looking man - was sitting at his desk when
Harry entered. A clerk was in the shop, engaged in writing, and an
apprentice was rolling up a piece of silk. Harry removed his hat, and
went up to the merchant's table, and laying a letter upon it, said:

"I have come, sir, from Dame Marjory, my aunt, who was your honor's
nurse, with a letter from her, praying you to take me as an apprentice."

The merchant glanced for a moment at the boy. He was expecting a message
from the Royalist camp, and his keen wit at once led him to suspect that
the bearer stood before him, although his appearance in nowise justified
such a thought, for Harry had assumed with his peasant clothes a look of
stolid stupidity which certainly gave no warrant for the thought that a
keen spirit lay behind it. Without a word the merchant opened the
letter, which, in truth, contained nearly the same words which Harry had
spoken, but whose signature was sufficient to the merchant to indicate
that his suspicions were correct.

"Sit down," he said to the lad. "I am busy now; but will talk with you
anon."

Harry took his seat on a low stool, while the merchant continued his
writing as before, as if the incident were too unimportant to arrest his
attention for a moment. Harry amused himself by looking round the shop,
and was specially attracted by the movements of the apprentice, a
sharp-looking lad, rather younger than himself, and who, having heard
what had passed, seized every opportunity, when he was so placed that
neither the merchant nor his clerk could observe his face to make
grimaces at Harry, indicative of contempt and derision. Harry was sorely
tempted to laugh; but, with an effort, he kept his countenance, assuming
only a grim of wonder which greatly gratified Jacob, who thought that he
had obtained as companion a butt who would afford him infinite
amusement.

After the merchant had continued his writing for an hour, he laid down
his pen, and saying to Harry "Follow me; I will speak to Dame Alice, my
wife, concerning thee," left the shop and entered the inner portion of
the house, followed by Harry. The merchant led him into a sitting-room
on the floor above, where his wife, a comely dame, was occupied with her



Online LibraryG.A. HentyFriends, though divided A Tale of the Civil War → online text (page 4 of 24)