John Deane of Nottingham—Historic Adventures by Land and Sea, By W.H.G. Kingston.
According to the author in his preface, John Deane really existed and had an interesting and successful life in a variety of roles. He was born in 1679, of well-to-do parents, but started his working life as a drover, that is to say a person who drove great herds of cattle from the countryside to the great cities like London, for consumption there. He then joined the Navy and rose to become a ship's captain. After a spell as a Merchant Adventurer, he commanded a vessel in the Russian navy of Alexander the Great. Later he became British Consul at Ostend, on the coast of Belgium, quite close to south-east England. Finally he came back home to live in a village near Nottingham, receiving civic honours in that city. He died in 1760.
This book could therefore be called a historical novel, but written with the style and genius of Kingston it becomes far more than that. You will enjoy it.
JOHN DEANE OF NOTTINGHAM—HISTORIC ADVENTURES BY LAND AND SEA, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
John Deane was a real person, and I hope that the readers of this my book about him will be as much pleased with it as I was with the history of his adventures, placed in my hands by a friend who long resided at Nottingham. He was born at that town A.D. 1679. Though of gentle parentage, in his early days he followed the occupation of a drover. He then went to sea, and became a Captain in the Navy; after that he was a Merchant Adventurer. He next took service under Peter the Great, and commanded a Russian ship-of-war. On leaving Russia, he obtained the post of British Consul at Ostend, held by him for many years. Returning home, he was made a Burgess of his native town, and took up his abode at the neighbouring village of Wilford, where, in 1760, he died. In the quiet churchyard of that sweet spot, his tomb and that of his beloved wife Elizabeth are to be seen:—
"His age, fourscore years and one."
"After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well."
MR HARWOOD AND ALETHEA IN SHERWOOD FOREST, AND JACK DEANE'S FIRST ADVENTURE.
Romantic Sherwood! Its pristine glories since the days when bold Robin Hood and his merrie men held sway within its borders, and levied taxes from the passers-by, had sadly dwindled even in the year 1696, when our history commences. The woodman's axe had been busy and the plough had gone over the land, and mansions and homesteads had arisen where once flourished the monarchs of the forest, and the huntsman's horn had been wont to sound amid sequestered glades; still many a wide stretch of woodland and moorland remained, over which the fallow deer roamed at freedom, and rows of far-spreading trees overhung various by-paths green and narrow winding in all directions, and shaded the king's highway which ran north to York and south to the ancient and pleasant town of Nottingham. And there were likewise majestic avenues leading to the abodes of nobles and squires, and thick copses and scattered groves, above which rose the hoary giants of ancient days; and by the borders of the streams and rivulets which find their way into the Trent numberless trees had been allowed to stand. Wide strips also of grass-land were to be found running even with the road or between different estates, extending sometimes in an unbroken line for several miles together, with oaks and elms and beeches stretching out their umbrageous branches to meet from either side, and preserving by their shade the soft velvet of the turf even during the heats of summer.
Thus the old forest trees, if marshalled in close order, would have formed a wood of no inconsiderable magnitude.
The noon-day sun of the warm summer was shining down on the branches of the wide-spreading trees shading a long woodland glade, such as has been described running from the north towards Nottingham, the walls of whose siege-battered castle could be seen in the far distance, where on a slight eminence the trees opening out afforded a momentary glance of the country in front.
Just at that spot a gentleman of middle age, mounted on a strong, active horse, accompanied by a young lady on a graceful palfrey, was riding at a leisurely pace along the glade in the direction of the town. The gold lace with which his long, loose riding-coat was trimmed, his embroidered waistcoat, the gold ornament which secured the turned-up flaps of his beaver, and more than all, the jewel-hilted sword by his side, bespoke a person of position. He wore also leather breeches and buff-leather boots, the usual horseman's dress of the period.
The fair girl by his side sat her horse with that perfect ease which habit alone can give. Her blue riding-coat was turned up with white, with broad flaps and pockets, the petticoat below being of the same colour; her waistcoat was elegantly embroidered, and the small three-cornered hat with a jewel in front which she wore on the top of her light auburn hair, undisfigured by powder, completed her unassuming yet most becoming costume. Her figure was tall and slight, and her fair and brilliant complexion increased the beauty of her well-formed features, expressive of wit and humour, at the same time indicating thought and feeling.
Such at sixteen was Alethea Harwood, the only child of the Worshipful Mr Rupert Harwood, of Harwood Grange, the gentleman on the tall horse by whose side she rode.
"I have no great affection for yonder town," observed Squire Harwood, pointing southward with his hand. "I cannot forget my father's account of the times when Red-nosed Noll ruled the roost, and that arch-traitor Hutchinson held the castle, and insulted all the Cavaliers in the town and neighbourhood by his preaching, and his cant, and his strict rules and regulations; and now, forsooth, every man and woman in the place thinks fit to stand up for the usurper William, and not an expression of sympathy do I hear for the cruel fate of our lawful Sovereign King James."
"Poor king! it was treacherous in his ministers and officers to desert him; but what could be expected of men brought up in the days of the Commonwealth?" observed Alethea, with a slight tone of scorn in her sweet voice. "However, perhaps, when they get tired of the Prince of Orange, our king will have his own again."
"Pray Heaven he may!" ejaculated the Jacobite squire. "And now, daughter, let me counsel you to deport yourself with becoming dignity and reserve during our visit to the Deane family. Mr Deane is, I own, a man of credit and honour, and would never desire to injure a human being. I am, moreover, indebted to him for certain sums advanced on my estate, and of dire necessity only accepted; so that I wish he should be treated with all courtesy and respect. But he is an obstinate supporter of this vile government, and with him and one or two other exceptions, as I feel is my duty to my order and party, I hate them all, root and branch; they are a money-making, mean-spirited, trading set. It surprises me that any of the nobility and old families of the country can adhere to them. What, however, can be expected from stocking-weavers and such like? Well, well! I was speaking of that worthy man Deane. There is his wife, a good dame and a careful mother, and his two daughters. You know them better than I do—passable girls though, they seem to me; not exactly such as I might have chosen as your companions; but tempora mutantur, as we used to say at college! I'faith, most of my Latin has slipped out of my memory. And then there are those two sons. The eldest, Jasper, seems a quiet, proper-behaved young man enough. College has polished him up a little, but of the other I know but little; a broad-shouldered lad he seemed, not ill fitted to fight his way through life, as far as outward figure goes. And Master Jasper, what is to be his course in life? Will his father bring him up as a gentleman?"
"His sister Polly told me that Master Jasper is to become a physician, to follow in the footsteps of their esteemed cousin, Dr Nathaniel Deane," answered Alethea. "I suppose that might be considered the calling of a gentleman."
"Humph!" ejaculated the Squire, as if he had not quite made up his mind on the subject. "That, according to my notions, depends on the original position of a person. It is better than that of some others, my lord's chaplain, or the reverend vicar's curate, as was the lot of some of my college chums; however, I dare say, with so renowned a guide, Master Jasper will prove an honour to the profession. But the breeze feels cool beneath these trees; we will canter on, or you will not have time to change your habit, and be in readiness for Mistress Deane's entertainment."
At a touch of Alethea's whip, her palfrey broke into an easy canter, and her father's steed moving on at a trot, they soon reached Parliament Street on the confines of Nottingham, and passing Saint Anne's Well, they entered through Bridlesmith's Gate the broad market-place. This was, then as now, the widest open space in the town, and had many fine mansions standing round it. On their left was that long thoroughfare called the Pavement, with the grim old castle walls at the farther end, and the sparkling Trent on the other side; while close to them were butchers' and other shops, as well as those of the handicraftsmen, from which the different entrances on that side of the once fortified town took their names.
As Mr Harwood and his daughter emerged from the somewhat ill-paved and narrow street into the broad market-place, their ears were assailed by loud cries and shouts of men and boys, numbers of whom were issuing from the narrow passages which led out of Parliament Street, while from doors and windows appeared eager faces of spectators bending forward to ascertain the cause of the disturbance. The shouts, mingled with the barking of dogs, grew louder and louder, till they approached the Squire and his daughter. Now the mob was seen to move in one direction, and now in another.
"It is nothing, I believe, but some apprentice-lads baiting an ox," observed Mr Harwood as they moved forward.
Just at that moment the crowd, with a pack of barking dogs, came rushing on helter-skelter in hot pursuit of a brindled cow—so it seemed—whose heels its canine tormentors were ever and anon attacking, making it start forward with the pain they inflicted. At the same time a youth with his coat off and a stick in his hand was endeavouring to drive off the dogs, and shouting to the mob of rough-looking apprentices who were urging them on, to desist from the pursuit. His orders were, however, treated with but little attention, for the mob of lads and boys extending for some distance on either side continued their shouts and cries, with peals of laughter at the frantic movements of the unhappy animal. So completely was the road blocked up that Mr Harwood and his daughter were compelled to turn back to avoid them. Just, however, as they were about to do so, the maddened cow dashed forward, and before Alethea could turn her horse, its horns had struck the animal's side, and caught the skirt of her riding-dress. Dashing on, it would have dragged her from her seat, had not the young man who had been attempting to save the creature from its tormentors at that moment sprang forward and disentangled her dress, preventing her from falling from her palfrey.
"Stand back, you young ruffians!" shouted Mr Harwood to the mob. "Understand that I am a justice of the peace, and that I will summon you one and all before the magistrates of the town for this uproar."
The mob of apprentices, seeing the harm which their frolic might have produced, hung back, many of them taking to their heels, while others called off the dogs, which they had before been inciting to pursue the cow, which continued its course through Bridlesmith's Gate, glad to escape its pursuers.
"I have to thank you, young man, for the service you have rendered my daughter and me, and should be glad to reward you to the best of my ability," said Mr Harwood, turning to the youth who was holding Alethea's bridle whilst she recovered her seat in the saddle. "I must have these scapegraces brought up for punishment before the magistrates to-morrow; such proceedings ought not to take place in a well-ordered town."
The young man thus addressed drew himself up with a somewhat haughty air, as he replied, "I am glad to have rendered the young lady a service, sir, and require no reward for doing so; and as for punishing those fellows, I would rather have the opportunity of drubbing a few of them with my fists for worrying poor old Dame Pitt's lame cow, than see them sent to prison for their freak. It may be all very well for them to bait their cattle when they want tender meat, but they had no business to treat that poor animal in the way they did; and I told them so when they began, and promised them I would put a stop to it."
"You are a brave lad," said Mr Harwood, looking at the speaker approvingly. "May I ask your name?"
"I am called Jack Deane, sir," answered the young man, "at your service. I belong to Nottingham, and know every one of those apprentice-lads, and do not wish to bring them into trouble; but I will give the ringleaders as sound a thrashing as they ever had in their lives before long, for their conduct this day."
"Well, well! I suppose we must leave you to settle the matter in your own way," said Mr Harwood; "but if your name is Jack Deane, I conclude that you are the younger son of my friend Mr Jasper Deane, to whose house my daughter and I are now bending our way."
"Yes, sir, the house of my father, Mr Deane, is situated to the south there, on the farther side of the market-place, and with your leave, sir, I will accompany you and your daughter thither, after which I must be allowed to go in search of Widow Pitt's cow, and carry the animal back to her. I shall have time to do that and give a few of the apprentices a drubbing before dinner-time."
Saying this, Jack Deane, putting his arms again into the sleeves of his coat, adjusted his dress, which had been somewhat disordered by the scuffle; then placing his hand on the reins of Miss Harwood's palfrey, he walked by her side towards the house at which he had pointed.
"Well, well! I must leave you to keep order in the town, Master Deane," said Mr Harwood, laughing; "when there is so good a guardian of the peace as you appear to be, it would be useless for me to interfere; and I would not stop you from restoring the cow to the poor widow. At the same time, I may suggest that it might be as well to let alone the drubbing of the apprentices till a more convenient season, or you may get somewhat overheated and fatigued before your appearance at the dinner-table."
"Oh, that will be nothing, sir!" answered Jack, clutching his stout cudgel; "though to be sure the chances are that they will keep out of my way. When they get cool they will think better of it, before they will wish to encounter me. I only hope Miss Harwood's palfrey has not suffered, or her habit either; I am sure the poor animal did not wish to do her harm."
"Oh, no! thanks to you, Mr Deane, both my horse and I have escaped harm," said Alethea, looking at the young man with a kind smile.
On reaching the door of Mr Deane's house, Jack held the young lady's bridle while she dismounted, and then insisted on taking her horse and her father's round to the stables while they entered the house. Having unsaddled the steeds, and given them some corn and hay, he hurried off to fulfil his intention of restoring Dame Pitt's cow to her; but he was less successful in executing his purpose of thrashing the apprentices, in consequence, as he expected would be the case, of their judiciously keeping out of his way; when, failing in his efforts to discover them, he returned home, feeling that he might defer the execution of his purpose to another opportunity, should he on further consideration deem it necessary.
DINNER AT MR DEANE'S IN NOTTINGHAM—JACK DEANE ANNOUNCES THE PROFESSION HE HAS CHOSEN.
As the hour of dinner approached, the expected guests began to arrive at the hall-door of Mr Deane's substantial mansion in the market-place. With the exception of Mr Harwood and one or two others, they were relations of the family, or connected in some way or other. Mrs Deane received them in a cordial and hearty manner, showing, however, that she entertained a becoming sense of her own importance. The Squire and Alethea were evidently, from the style of their reception, amongst the most honoured. The lady of the mansion wore a tower of fine Flemish lace on her head, to which that on her gown, of handsome paduasoy, exactly corresponded; and her general appearance was matronly and dignified. Behind her, courtesying and smiling to the guests as they approached, stood two well-grown unmistakably English girls, their dresses ornamented with cherry-coloured ribbons, just then in fashion: the eldest, Catherine, or Kate, as she was called, a brunette, tall and slight, with a somewhat grave and retiring manner, and far more refined than her rosy-cheeked, merry-looking younger sister Polly, who gave promise of some day growing into the goodly proportions of her mother. Mr Deane, with full wig, lace coat, and sword by his side, stood in the old oak hall, accompanied by his son Jasper, ready to hand the ladies from their sedan-chairs as they were brought into the hall. The last to arrive, who was received with all due honour, was a Dr Nathaniel Deane, a cousin of Mr Deane's, the only physician, and one of the greatest men, in Nottingham. Jack was the last to enter the house, and had but little time to slip into his room, and put on his grey dress suit, before dinner was announced. For a few minutes he was seen standing behind the door, unwilling to enter and go through the ordeal of paying his respects to the assembled guests, little more of him being observable besides a broad shoulder and a well-turned leg, with a red clock to his grey stocking. Cousin Nat—for so Mr Nathaniel Deane was called by his relatives—soon however spied him out, and though at that moment tapping his jewelled snuff-box preparatory to offering it to Mrs Bethia Harcourt, Mrs Deane's maiden aunt, he contrived directly afterwards to find himself close to Jack, and to shake hands cordially with the young man, for whom he evidently had an especial regard.
"Well, Jack, what scrape have you last got into, or out of rather, I should say?" said Cousin Nat, "for I am told it is seldom you have not something of the sort on hand. However, you do not look the worse for that or for your studies either, boy, though I should be glad to hear that you had determined to follow some steady pursuit, instead of running your head into other people's quarrels, without any benefit to yourself."
"That is the very thing I have been thinking of," answered Jack, as he returned his respected cousin's greeting, "but I have no fancy for sitting at a desk, nor for any other indoor work. Jasper is more suited for that than I am."
He glanced as he spoke towards the slight figure of his brother, who presented a considerable contrast to himself. The elder had handsome features, with a somewhat sickly hue in his countenance, such as is often produced by study and thought. His manner was refined, and the expression of his countenance denoted an amiable and gentle disposition.
"We will not attempt to make an MD of you, at all events," answered Cousin Nat. "Perhaps you would rather take to breaking men's bones than attempting to cure them of their ailments, as I try to do, and as your brother Jasper hopes to do also."
"Not especially," answered Jack: "I should like to see the world, but I have not a fancy for knocking men on the head, and could never understand the amusement some people find in it; but I have no objection to stand up and defend my own if I am attacked, or to draw my sword in the defence of a friend or a right cause."
Dr Nathaniel smiled at his young kinsman's remark. "You will not have to wait long then, lad, before you find sufficient excuse for drawing your sword, and fighting away with as hearty good-will as any of old Noll's Ironsides ever did."
Just at this juncture dinner was announced, and the guests being marshalled according to the strictest rules of precedence, took their places round the well-covered table, on which the summer's sun, flaring through the three tall windows, lighted up the goodly array of silver tankards and pewter dishes, and a great store of blue oriental china. Mrs Deane's duties were of no ordinary kind, every joint being placed before her in succession, that she might employ her well-skilled hands in carving it, the duty of passing the bottles in quick succession being left to the host at the foot of the table.
The quiet, though far from retiring-mannered Jasper had enjoyed the honour of handing down the fair Alethea, and had dexterously managed to place himself by her side. Jack, who sat opposite, observed that she listened attentively to his conversation, which, although he could not catch the substance of it, he saw was of an interesting character. Dr Nathaniel Deane, however, took upon himself the entertainment of a larger portion of the guests, Mrs Deane occasionally keeping up the ball of conversation by a hearty joke and a jovial laugh, while Mr Deane, with more gravity of manner than his spouse, threw in a remark here and there as occasion required.
Nottingham was at this time, as its inhabitants asserted, the most genteel town in the midland counties, a distinction it owed in some measure to the noble palace, built by the Duke of Newcastle as his family residence, on the site of the old fortified castle that had been identified with nearly all the chief periods of English history, from the time of Isabella and Mortimer, who made it their stronghold, to that when Cromwell, riding back towards London, the Civil War being over, saw the greater part of the walls pulled down. On that occasion he told Colonel Hutchinson, who had so bravely defended those stout walls for the Parliament, that he was heartily vexed at it. The Colonel replied that he had procured it to be done, and believed it to be his duty to ease the people of charge when there was no more need for it. Some of the tower? and walls, however, still stood conspicuous among the newer parts of the edifice with which they had been incorporated by the architect. In the market-place, as has been observed, there were a number of fine old mansions belonging to the country families who were accustomed to spend their winters in the town. There were also a good many other handsome places in the immediate neighbourhood. None, however, could be compared for beauty of situation with the castle which crowns the rock rising abruptly from the Trent valley, with its stream at the bottom, which, after coming down from the Yorkshire moors, finds its way through the midst of that vast forest district, with its heaths and leafy alleys, which was once all included under the name of Sherwood Forest.
"Well, Neighbour Deane, what news do you bring from the big city of London?" inquired Mr Samuel Pinkstone, a most respected burgess of Nottingham, during a pause in the conversation. "I am glad to see that you and Master Jasper have escaped all the dangers you had to encounter there and on your way back. They say that housebreakers are as thick there as gooseberries on a gooseberry-bush; and as for highwaymen, I wonder any stage escapes being robbed from the number of them, I am told, who throng the roads."
"Thank you, Master Pinkstone, we met with no accident of any sort or kind," answered Mr Deane. "I did not set eyes on the muzzle of a pistol either in London or on our way from it. Some of the young rakes, who have not forgotten the pranks they played in the last king's reign, occasionally had a scuffle with the watch, and a few heads were broken now and then, but no brains were let out—for the best of reasons, that there were none within. It is proposed, however, to light the city, if our Greenland whalers would but bring us oil enough; but unless they have a fortunate fishing season, there is but little chance of their doing that. I saw some odd sights in the city, I must say; and unless the ladies of quality mend their manners, I am afraid things will come to a pretty pass before long."
"But as to public matters, neighbour," said Mr Pinkstone, "what about them? We do not hear much about them down here. What is our fleet about?"
"We have as fine a fleet as ever sailed, under Mr Russell," answered Mr Deane. "All the year he has managed to keep master of the Mediterranean, and has had the French fleet shut up within their ports, though contrary winds have prevented him making a descent on Marseilles or at Toulon, though he has had regiments of soldiers on board for that purpose. Then we have another fleet in our Channel, ready to bombard the French coast. They have destroyed Gronville, and have made an attack upon Dunkirk, but they failed in that, I am sorry to say. But the worst matter, however, is, that the Marquis of Carmarthen, with a squadron under him, which lay off the islands of Scilly to protect our trade, fancying that a superior French fleet was coming out to attack him, when it was only a fleet of merchant-ships, left his station and retired into Milford Haven. This mistake has caused a great blow to our trade. Many of the Barbados ships have been taken by French cruisers, and two rich ships coming from the East Indies have also been captured, besides which three other large ships have fallen into the hands of French privateers off the Irish coast. All the city of London therefore complains that neither the Admiralty nor the Government take proper care to preserve the wealth of of the nation."
"Nor are they likely to do so," observed Mr Harwood in an under-tone to his next neighbour, "while we have men of the present stamp at the head of affairs. Old England is going to rack and ruin, I see that very clearly, with all her new-fangled schemes and arrangements. They are yielding to the cry of the manufacturers, and are about to pass a law to put a stop to our free trade in wool and corn; and they will soon shut us up to our home markets, and not allow us to sell where we can get the best price abroad."
Mr Harwood among country gentlemen was not singular in his opinions on that subject.
The first course being removed, Mrs Deane folded her arms, to recover after the fatigue of carving for so many guests; no slight labour, considering the size of the joints which had been placed before her. Now, the cloth being removed, and the dessert spread on the shining mahogany table, came the usual accompaniment of pipes and tobacco, which Kate and Polly Deane had to prepare with their own pretty fingers for the use of the gentlemen. This being done, and small pieces of lighted charcoal being brought from the kitchen, wreaths of smoke began to ascend round the table.
"There is an important toast to be proposed, Neighbour Deane, is there not?" said the Worshipful Mr Pinkstone, turning to the host; "but that should be Dr Nathaniel's task, I opine, should it not?"
"To be sure, certainly," said Cousin Nat, "I will gladly undertake the honour. Our friends are generally aware of the object which has called us together this day. I have, then, the pleasure to announce that my kinsman, Mr Jasper Deane, is about to enter into the profession of which I have, for so many years, been an unworthy member, and I trust that by devoting his mind to science, and his energies to the care of those who are placed under him, he may be the means of largely benefiting his fellow-creatures, which all will agree is the great object a physician should have in view. I have infinite satisfaction, therefore, in proposing the health of the future MD, my young kinsman aforesaid, Mr Jasper Deane."
At the conclusion of Dr Nathaniel's short speech the guests rose to their feet, and all turned towards the young Mr Jasper, wishing him in succession health, happiness, and success in his proposed profession. He received the compliments paid to him with due modesty. His voice slightly trembling from nervousness, he returned thanks in a very neat and proper speech, which it is not necessary here to repeat.
Mr Deane then rose, and filling his glass, did the same in his own name, and in that of his dame, for the honour paid to their son, and then drank to the health of all the guests present, beginning with the ladies, and taking Mr Harwood first among the gentlemen, expressing at the same time his gratitude to Dr Nathaniel for having undertaken to introduce his son into the noble profession to which he himself was so great an ornament.
Alethea watched the countenance of Mr Jasper as he was addressing his guests, and she probably remarked that it lighted up with far more expression and animation than a stranger who saw him under ordinary circumstances would have supposed it capable of exhibiting.
"Well, Mr Jack, and what profession do you intend following?" asked Mr Harwood across the table.
"That depends upon circumstances, sir," said Jack. "I have no fancy for sitting indoors all day, and driving a pen, nor any other pursuit that would keep me out of the fresh air. To say the truth, if I had a free choice, I would follow some calling which would let me see the world at large, and our own country in particular. Last year, during the vacation, I took a trip with Will Brinsmead, Mr Strelley's head drover, as far as Stourbridge, to the fair, and I never enjoyed any thing more in my life. I thought then, and I think now, that for a young man who likes being on horseback, and enjoys the free air of heaven, galloping across country, there is not a pleasanter sort of life. And it is not unprofitable either, if a man knows any thing about beasts, and where are the best pastures on which to put flesh on their bones. If my father and mother, therefore, have no objection, I have made up my mind to turn drover."
Most of the company expressed their surprise at this announcement, by their looks if not by their remarks. Mr Deane was evidently somewhat annoyed at the announcement his younger son had made. Alethea especially looked at him across the table with surprise, while the colour mounted into his sister Polly's cheeks, for though she had heard him express the same resolution, she little dreamed that he was in earnest in the matter, thinking that it was only a way of talking in which lads of his age were apt to indulge.
"I should think, my lad, that you are fit for a higher walk in life than the one you have mentioned," said Mr Harwood across the table. "With a trusty sword by your side, and a hundred men at your orders, you would be more in your place, I suspect. There is plenty of work for gentlemen in these days, if not in Old England, at all events out of it. There are many wrongs to be righted, and many good causes to be sustained. There are many I could tell you of who would willingly accept the offer of your sword."
Mrs Deane looked highly pleased at the compliment Mr Harwood was paying her son, and thanked him with one of her beaming smiles, although Cousin Nat screwed up his lips in a peculiar manner and gave a significant look at Jack.
"Thank you, sir," said Jack, "but I have no fancy for offering my sword to any one out of the country, however high he may bid for it, or in using it, indeed, except in my own defence, or in that of my country. I do not see what is amiss in the life of a drover, such as I hope to be one of these days. It is no easy task, I should say, to drive three hundred head of cattle from the Yorkshire hills down South, and I hope in time to deal on a large scale, like Mr Strelley, and other friends I know of."
"Well, well, Master Jack, you must take your own way," answered Mr Harwood, "or be guided by your honoured parents: we will have a talk another time about these matters."
Mr Deane's lips had become considerably compressed while his son was speaking, and there was an hysterical cry from Aunt Bethia, whose great wish had always been to see her favourite Jack figure in what she called good society.
"You may quit the society of your equals, for which you have so little respect, Jack," said his father in somewhat stern accents; "those you do not value will take little pains to keep you among them; but let me hear no more of this matter. Now, friends," he continued, making an effort to recover his usual tone of voice, "fill the ladies' glasses, and keep the bottles moving among you. Lads often talk nonsense when they fancy they are talking sense, and so may I beg you to forget what my son Jack has just said? He will think better on the subject another day."
"Don't be too hard on the lad, cousin," said Dr Nathaniel, turning to the host. "It is a great thing, in my opinion, to get a young man to choose a profession for himself. There are too many men like Jack who are not content unless they can mount a helmet and jackboots, and go about the world slaughtering their fellow-creatures without rhyme or reason, should they not find a good cause to fight for. So, Jack, here's to your health, my boy, and success to you in whatever honest calling you determine to follow!"
Dr Nathaniel's word was law in Mr Deane's family, as it was in several others in the town, and he therefore quickly succeeded in smoothing down the somewhat ruffled temper of different members of the family.
Other toasts and speeches followed, but the songs which were generally sung on such occasions were reserved for the supper, of which all the guests present were expected to partake, at a later hour of the day.
The ladies then rising, gracefully sailed out of the room, while the gentlemen continued to pass the battle round for some time longer. It was still broad daylight, though the fresh air of evening was already blowing through the windows. Mrs Deane therefore proposed to her female guests that they should enjoy the breeze for a while on the Castle Terrace, which was the usual promenade of the gay world of Nottingham, and there was a general call for hoods and gloves. The party of ladies, as they glided out of the house, precedence being given to the more elderly dames, took their way towards the castle, and passing through the grand gateway which had stood so many attacks, soon ascended the broad stone steps with massive balustrades which led in two flights to the noble terrace in front of the building. It was well paved with large flat stones, and with a breastwork of stone, and on the south side of the castle a convenient arcade, where in rainy or hot weather the gentry of the town could walk under shelter. On that beautiful summer's evening, however, the ladies required only their green fans to protect their eyes from the almost level rays of the setting sun, which fans the young ones occasionally found useful for other purposes—either to hide their faces from an unwelcome admirer, or to beckon a too timid one, perchance. The park with its three long avenues lay before them, and the steep declivities which ran down from it to the river Leen were covered with woods, broken here by some old tower which had withstood all attempts at its demolition, and there by a jutting mass of grey rock, looking scarcely more solid than the rock-like masonry of the tower. The new building had only been finished the year Jack was born, as Mrs Deane was in the habit of telling any friends who came to visit her for the first time at Nottingham. It was built in the Italian style of architecture, with a fine double flight of steps to the principal entrance, over which was an equestrian alto-relievo of Charles the Second. The flat roofs were surrounded by balustrades, and the spaces between the long terrace of windows were filled up with architraves and entablatures, which produced a rich and picturesque though somewhat heavy effect. On one side the view ranged over the town, with its fine churches, and the distant sweeps of Sherwood Forest, and the nearer woods of Colwick Park. On the other side lay a rich and varied expanse of country, with the silvery Trent winding through the valley, and round many a bold and thickly wooded promontory; while the hills of Derbyshire and Leicestershire formed a beautiful background to the peaceful and smiling landscape.
Kate and Polly Deane, with Alethea Harwood, after taking a turn or two, sat down on one of the stone benches on the terrace. This was the first moment that they had had the opportunity of speaking together on the subject of Jack's determination to leave home, though neither Alethea nor Kate could believe he really purposed following the calling of a drover. Polly, who knew him better, was not so sure on the subject. He had often described to her in glowing language the life which he proposed to lead, and she could not help sympathising with him in that as in most other matters in which he took an interest.
"But surely he is formed for better things than that," observed Alethea, and Polly thought she saw a slight blush rise on the cheek of her friend.
"He would never consent to associate with the rude, rough men which drovers surely must be, even though he might meet occasionally with the adventures you describe," she exclaimed.
"Oh! but he intends not only to be a drover, but a grazier; and that, he tells me, is a sure road to wealth and independence," observed Polly.
"Here he comes to answer for himself," said Kate, and the young ladies, looking up, saw Jack advancing towards them, and presenting a very becoming appearance in his grey suit, with his hair brushed as smoothly back from his smooth open forehead as its curly nature would admit of, and his hat in his hand, a fashion he gladly adopted, to avoid the necessity of constantly removing it as he passed his numerous acquaintances.
Polly's affectionate little heart bounded at seeing many friendly glances thrown at him, and she whispered to Kate, in a tone which Alethea overheard, "He does not look as if we need ever be ashamed of him, after all."
"If he follows the life he proposes, he will never wear a sword like a gentleman," observed Kate.
"He is tolerably well able, I should say, to defend himself without one," observed Alethea, "from the specimen he gave us of his prowess this afternoon," and she described the scene which had occurred on their entering the town, when Jack had so bravely taken the part of the poor widow's cow.
While she was speaking, Jack himself came up to them. The sisters immediately attacked him on the subject, and Alethea inquired whether he had driven back the animal to Widow Pitt's paddock.
"Oh, yes!" he answered; "but I should have had a far better appetite for dinner, had I been able to find the fellows who had been so cruelly baiting her. However, they will not manage to escape me altogether, I'll warrant; but, as you know, I do not expect to remain here much longer, now that I have finished my course at the Grammar School. They will be for sending me to college if I do, and that I could never brook. But before I go, I must come and pay you a visit at Harwood Grange, Mistress Alethea."
"We shall always be glad to see you," said the young lady, looking up with a bright glance at Jack's honest countenance. "Here comes my father to say the same."
"Yes, indeed we shall, Jack," said Mr Harwood, who came up at that moment. "I may be able to give you some useful introductions, when I hear where you are going. I have many friends scattered about the country, north and south."
"And you will not mind introducing me," asked Jack with kindling eye, "though I follow the calling of what Kate calls a poor, miserable drover?"
"Oh, no, no!" answered the Squire, "not if you always show the spirit you did this afternoon, and that I am sure you will wherever you go, or whatever calling you follow."
Here he took Jack's hand, and pressed it kindly in presence of the various people of fashion who were walking up and down the terrace. Mrs Deane observed the action, and seemed well pleased with the attention paid her younger son. Taking somewhat after herself, he was, it must be confessed, her favourite.
The sun was now sinking over the distant hills, and as the mist began to rise from the river below, the parties on the terrace gradually dispersed, the Deane family and their friends returning to their mansion, where they assembled once more round their well-spread board, at eight o'clock precisely, the fashionable hour for supper. Jack, in better spirits than he had been in the afternoon, joined the family party. Songs were sung, and numerous stories told by Dr Nathaniel, Mr Pinkstone, and other acknowledged wits of the party. Ere ten o'clock had struck, the whole party retired to their chambers, our forefathers being of opinion that early to bed and early rising was far more conducive to health than the late hours adopted by the present generation.
A POACHING EXPEDITION TO COLWICK PARK—JACK FORMS AN ACQUAINTANCE WHO LEADS HIM INTO DIFFICULTIES.
As soon as the party broke up, Jack hurried to his room, and very contrary to his usual custom threw himself into a chair, and unconsciously pressing his hand on his brow, rested his elbow on the little oak table which stood by his bedside. The way in which the walls were adorned showed the tastes of the occupant of the chamber. The most honoured ornament was a fowling-piece with a curious lock lately invented, the gift of Cousin Nat, and which had superseded the stout cross-bow hanging beneath it. One wall was devoted to fishing-rods, tackle, and nets. Among them was a rod of which Izaak Walton, that great professor of the gentle art, had himself spoken approvingly when once, while fishing in the silvery Trent, he had seen it flourished in Cousin Nat's hands. There were two sets of foils with masks and gloves, and several cudgels with strange knots and devices, cut from ancient trees in Sherwood Forest, beneath whose once wide-spreading boughs certain feats of the renowned Robin Hood were said to have been performed. In one and all the tales relating to the exploits of the bold outlaw, it is scarcely necessary to say that Jack put the most implicit faith, and would have been highly indignant had any one ventured to doubt their authenticity or correctness. In one corner of the room stood a book-case, a very unpretending piece of furniture in itself, but it contained every ballad Jack believed to have been written, or at all events on which he could lay hold, connected with Robin Hood. It contained however other tomes: besides several schoolbooks, their dark covers sadly battered, and their leaves inked, dog's-eared, and torn, there were kind Izaak Walton's "Complete Angler," highly prized by Jack; Foxe's "Book of Martyrs," presented to him by Aunt Bethia; and a work he valued more than all the others—Purchas's "Travels:" and often and often as he conned these pages he longed to be able to visit the strange countries and to go through the wonderful adventures therein described.
The fact was that Jack had a very good head on his shoulders, and had he broken his leg, or met with any other accident which would have confined him to the house, he would have taken very readily to reading. In his case his physical powers demanded more exercise than his mental, whereas in the case of his brother Jasper his mental activity preponderated over his mere animal spirits. Jack required a tether to keep him within bounds, Jasper a spur to make him move fast enough to keep up with the times. Yet in most respects the elder was superior to the younger brother—cast in a finer mould, with keener sensibilities, a gentler heart, and more moral if not physical courage. Jack had, however, many good qualities, but many of his doings were not such as deserved imitation. Such book knowledge as he possessed he had obtained at the Nottingham Grammar School, where, as was the case at other places of education of the same character, boys were allowed to pick up what they chose, and if not inclined to learn, no great effort was made to instruct them. Jack had therefore run wild, and had done many things for which he had cause to be sorry, and had sometimes even got into trouble about them. He had not, however, even yet learned wisdom. His character was, however, to be developed, and may probably be so in the following pages.
"I would do any thing to please her," he said to himself. "I do not think she would like to know the work I have promised to engage in to-night, and yet how am I to be off it? I know myself it is not right, but I gave my word to those fellows, and ought I to break it? I do not like the forest laws, but they are laws notwithstanding, and it behoves honest men to obey them—there's the rub. How I did not come to think of that before, I don't know. Perhaps Alethea put it into my head; and yet she did not speak very approvingly of the king and the Parliament, so I suppose she would not much object to my breaking the laws which they have formed. Still she would not like to see me placed in the pillory, and that would be my fate if I was caught poaching—there's no use mincing the matter, that's the word. But I was never frightened at any thing, and I am not going to be frightened at that. I gave my word, and I must stick to my word."
Saying this, Jack started up, and began to throw aside his holiday suit. Instead, he donned his roughest clothes, took down the fishing-boots from the wall, filled his pockets with tackle, and threw a landing-net over his shoulder. Thus prepared, with a slouched hat that concealed his features, he gently opened the window, and by means of a leaden water-spout, and a pear-tree growing up the wall under his window, slipped noiselessly to the ground. He quickly scaled the garden wall, and took his way down a narrow lane winding between tall and irregular houses, till he reached the side of the narrow river Leen, which, sweeping by the foot of the castle hill, ultimately falls into the Trent. He was soon clear of all the buildings, when, stopping under a tall hedge-row which ran down to the stream, a low whistle reached his ears.
"That is Smedley," he said to himself. "Well, I will fulfil my promise, and then break with these fellows for good."
He whistled in return, in the same manner, and immediately a youth of about his own age stepped out from the shelter of a hedge.
"Well, Jack, I am glad you have come at last," said Smedley; "it's growing late, and the other fellows will be waiting for us down the stream."
"Where is the boat?" asked Jack. "I promised to go with you to-night, and I am not the man to break my word; but just let me tell you, Tom, once for all, I am determined that this shall be the last time."
"Don't say that, Jack," answered Smedley: "we cannot afford to lose you. We want a good leader in all our work, and you are just the man for us. As for the boat, she is down by the edge of Colwick Causeway, under the bushes; and Ned Bligh has got mufflers for the oars, and all ready; so come with us now, and don't be bothering your head about the future."
The young men were soon walking along the sward of Colwick Park, with the great trees throwing their shadows across it, when the moon, often hidden by clouds, came out, and cast its light upon them. Sometimes also it showed groups of cattle lying down sleeping, or lazily chewing the cud, among the sweet herbage of the river's side. No other living creature was in sight, so that Jack and his companion were not afraid of talking in their usual tone of voice. They kept, however, well under the shade of the trees.
"Those are some of Mr Strelley's beasts, I believe," said Jack: "a fine lot they are, too; they will soon be off towards Cambridge, and bring a good round sum at Stourbridge Fair. I wish I had the driving of them; and I should not mind the selling, either!"
"Are they the highland cattle which Will Brinsmead bought for him at Saint Faith's?" asked a voice, so close to the two speakers that they both started.
"Come out into the moonlight, friend," said Jack, boldly; "I don't answer questions to a man that keeps out of sight."
The stranger stepped out from beneath the shadow of a row of beech-trees which grew on the bank close to the path which Jack and his companion were following. He was a broad-set countryman in appearance, habited in a well-worn but strong riding-suit, with leather leggings, a horseman's jackboots, and a broad leathern belt, in which Jack's quick eye caught sight of a pistol-barrel. He seemed considerably entertained by Jack's challenge, and repeated his question with great good-humour, in an unmistakable Yorkshire accent.
"You perhaps know as much as I do about the beasts," answered Jack. "Some of them are Scotch, and well fed on these rich water-meadows, till they are nearly as valuable as the Leicestershire breed. I see a few down there which are real Herefordshire, too. And now may I ask who you are?"
"Well, a fair answer deserves another in return. I am a Yorkshire cattle-dealer, at your service, just passing through Nottingham, and I walked out here to see if there was any thing likely to suit me, in case I chose to make a bargain to-morrow morning. I must be early on the road to Derby. I hope you are satisfied, young man. And now let me ask you what game you are after?"
"To be honest with you, we came out to catch a salmon or two," answered Jack. "There are some fine ones now and then down the stream a little way, though it is not often salmon come so far up the river. We shall have a boat here, which will carry us close up to the weir."
"Ah! I like that sort of thing!" said the Yorkshireman; "I have seen a good bit of such sport in my time. What now if I were to lend you a hand? With the leister we would soon have a fine one that way, and if we had a lantern ready, we might take a few by 'sunning' besides."
"Oh, yes! we shall be glad for you to come," answered Smedley, before Jack could say any thing. "I should like above all things to see fish sunned."
"Well, then," answered the Yorkshireman, "you and your friend here must give me your word to forget, if ever you should see me again, that you met me this night. On that condition I will show you some north-country sport—on that alone, mind. You," he added, turning to Jack, "for I can trust you by the tone of your voice, must answer for your friends in the boat."
"Oh, yes! I will answer for them as I would for myself," said Jack, who, forgetting his former good resolutions, was almost as eager as Smedley to witness the new style of sport which the stranger promised them.
Just then the boat of which they had been talking came stealthily in sight, rowed by two other lads, much of the same age as Jack and his friend. The latter with the Yorkshireman quickly stepped into her, when without loss of time the boat glided again down the stream.
"This is a friend we have picked up, who is going to show us some sport, Bligh," said Smedley in a low tone of voice. "We can trust him, and he knows that he can trust us; so it is all right."
In a short time they entered the Trent, and quickly arrived at the weir, which was formed by large stones roughly laid together, so as to throw the water into a broad cascade, as it came tumbling over it to the lower reach of the river. Smedley was more inclined to be talkative than Jack or the other lads in the boat.
"What are we to call you, master?" he asked of the stranger.
"Call me Master Pearson; that is a good midland-county name enough," he said with a low laugh. "You have not got a leister in the boat, have you? I have an idea, from the look of the place, that if I had one, I could catch you a salmon quicker than by any other way."
The leister of which Master Pearson spoke is a three-pronged fork used for spearing fish.
"No," answered Smedley; "none of us are good hands at using such a thing."
"Well, just pull in here to the bank, and I will see if I cannot get a stick which will answer the purpose," answered Master Pearson.
Without having to search long, he found a stake which had been driven into the stream to prevent drawing nets across it. The stick apparently suiting his fancy, with a piece of wire, with great dexterity, he in a short time manufactured a pronged harpoon. Balancing it in his hand, he seemed satisfied with his performance. Sitting down in the boat, he next took off his boots and long-skirted great coat, which he deposited on the seat, and then, tucking up his ample trousers, waded up to the weir, while the boat was still rocking some distance from it. Jack followed close behind him, and with delight saw a noble salmon glistening now and then in the straggling moonlight, and playing securely in the shallow water, but ready to dart out into the deeper part of the stream at the slightest sound. In another instant a crimson bubble came up to the surface of the water, showing with how unerring a hand the clumsy-looking weapon manufactured by Master Pearson had been struck home. At a signal the rest of the party came up to him to carry off their prize, while he continued looking about for another. They felt inclined to be rather annoyed at the ease with which the stranger had captured a fish which they would have thought it impossible to kill in the same way. Smedley at that moment declared that he heard sounds in the distance, which made him fear that the keepers were coming through the wood. "If we are not off we shall be getting into trouble," he sung out.
"Hoot, mon!" cried Master Pearson, loud enough to be heard through the brawling of the weir; "you have time enough to learn how to strike a 'sawmon;' but come, I will show you another trick, since we have joined company for the night."
Saying this, he returned to the boat, and, putting on his coat and boots, produced a small lantern from his capacious horseman's pocket. With a flint and steel it was lighted, when, leaning over the side of the boat, he slowly moved the light along the surface of the water.
"Now stand by with your nets," he answered, "and you will soon pull up enough fish for your suppers."
As he spoke, the lads saw a number of small fish attracted by the light to the surface of the water; and, following his advice, in a short time a considerable quantity were caught.
"This is not proper sunning," he observed: "if I had had such a lantern as we use in the north, we should have caught far larger fish. It should be made watertight, and then, when lowered down close to the net, the fish are so eager to come and see the cause of the brightness, thinking, maybe, that the sun has come down to pay them a visit, that they swim right against the net, and are caught in great numbers. That is what we call sunning in the north."
"I heard a voice!" exclaimed Smedley, as Master Pearson ceased speaking. "There!—there again! It's the keepers as sure as we are living men!"
"Hold your tongue!" exclaimed Master Pearson somewhat sharply. "Here, give me the oars; we will soon distance the keepers, if so be that they are coming this way. You're right, I believe, though."
Taking the oars in his hands, he sent the boat through the water at a rate she had seldom moved before. The noise of the oars attracted the keepers, who rushed down to the water just in time to see the boat turning a reach of the river. They hurried along the bank for some distance, shouting to those in her to stop—an order not very likely to be obeyed. So vigorously did Pearson ply the oars, that there seemed every probability of the boat escaping its pursuers. Still the latter continued to chase along the banks.
"You must take the consequences, then," exclaimed a voice, and directly afterwards a shot whistled over their heads.
The lads crouched down in the boat, with the exception of Jack, who followed Pearson's example in sitting still.
"A miss is as good as a mile," observed the latter coolly. "They must be good marksmen to hit us at the rate we are going in this uncertain light. Now, if I was minded, I might return the compliment with one of my long pistols, and maybe they would wish I was farther off."
"What do you carry pistols for?" asked Jack in a tone of surprise.
"Never you mind, young man," replied Pearson, in a different style of voice to that which he had hitherto spoken. "If I spoke of pistols, maybe I was joking: you understand me?"
All this time he was vigorously rowing away, edging the boat off to the other side of the bank to that on which the keepers were following. In a short time they reached the shade of some tall trees which overhung the stream, and here the boat was completely hid from sight.
"A few more strokes, and there is little danger of their finding us," observed the stranger; and now once more they entered the mouth of the little river Leen, up which he turned the boat's head. "We have now to pull against the current," he observed, "and my advice is to land and leave the boat to look after herself."
"The best thing we can do," answered Jack, and a few strokes brought the boat to a spot where they could easily leap on shore.
"Don't leave your fish behind you, lads, or your tackle either. If you leave one, you will lose your suppers; and if you leave the other, you will be very likely to be discovered. Now, lads, you take your way, and I'll take mine, only just remember your promise. I consider it as good as an oath, and any man who breaks his oath to me will have cause to repent it. Now, good night to you all."
Having bid the stranger farewell, Smedley and the other two lads took their way along the banks of the river, in the direction of some dilapidated sheds, where they had arranged to meet and enjoy, according to their own fashion, their hard-won supper. The stranger lounged away across the bridge at some little distance from the sheds, while Jack, anxious to get home, hurried off in the direction of the market-place.
"I was wrong to go," said Jack to himself. "Suppose one of us had been shot, it would have been paying very dear for our night's sport. Such doings might be easily overlooked in a boy, but I am one no longer. I feel that. I claim to be a man, and as a man I must act. I hope there is work for me to do in the world of some sort, and the sooner I begin it the better, and put aside all my boyish pranks."
"A good resolution," said a voice behind him.
Jack was not aware he had been speaking aloud.
"I followed you, because I want to have a word more with you," said the speaker, in whom Jack at once recognised his late companion, Master Pearson. "There's mettle in you of the right sort," continued the stranger. "What say you? Would you like to join a band of brave fellows who have a right good cause to fight for?" he whispered in a low voice. "There's honour and distinction to be gained, and a name, maybe, and wealth in the end. It is what most men fight for, and I take it that you would not be less ready than others to use your sword for such an object."
"I am much obliged to you for the compliment you pay me," answered Jack, "and for the good opinion you have formed of my courage; but I have no great fancy for undertaking what I know nothing about. Men do not always agree as to the goodness of a cause, and what you may consider a good cause, you will pardon me for saying it, I may consider a bad one."
"A very discreet answer," observed Master Pearson, "and I think all the better of you for making it. Well, I will not press you just now. I have no doubt we shall meet again before long, and though I cannot tell you where to find me, I have a fancy that I shall have no great difficulty in putting my finger upon you at any time. So farewell, Master John Deane: you see I know you, and moreover I wish you well."
Saying this, the stranger wrung Jack's hand cordially. Still he lingered, rather unwilling perhaps to let the young man go without making a more favourable impression.
"It is a good cause and a right cause which I invite you to join. I must not explain it more to you just now, but just think the matter over; and stay, it's just possible I shall remain in Nottingham all to-morrow. Will you meet me in the evening as soon as it is dusk, down by the bank of the river, where you fell in with me just now? I will explain matters more fully to you then."
Jack did not answer for a minute or more. "I must think of it," he said at last. "You may be a very honest man, Mr Pearson, and your intentions towards me perhaps are fair, but I tell you again, I have no fancy to take a leap in the dark. I have a plan in view myself, and I would rather carry that out than try any other. You have wished me farewell to-night already, and now I will wish you the same, and leave you."
Saying this, Jack took the stranger's proffered hand, and shaking it, hurried off in the direction in which he was previously going. Master Pearson looked after him for an instant, and nodding his head, said to himself, "He is an honest lad as well as a brave one, and may be made of use if I can get a bridle into his mouth."
FIRE NEAR MR STRELLEY'S WAREHOUSE—JACK DEANE SHOWS THAT HE IS A LAD OF COURAGE.
Jack soon again scaled the garden wall, and stood under his bedroom window. He had left it wide open; it was now almost closed. The old pear-tree nailed against the wall enabled him to climb up a considerable distance, so as to reach the window-sill, by which he could haul himself up, and get into his room.
"Probably the wind has blown it to," he said to himself. "I hope no one has found out my absence."
Climbing up, he gently pushed back the window. On looking in, what was his dismay to see his father seated in the chair by the table, with a candle now almost burned out, and a book, from which he had evidently been reading, before him! His eyes were however closed, and he was nodding, fast asleep. Jack was a man of action, and always more ready to face a danger than to avoid it. He crawled in, therefore, as noiselessly as he could, and sat himself down on a chest at the farther end of the room, waiting for his father to awake. Jack did not trouble himself much as to what he should say, planning, and inventing, and twisting, and turning the truth in all sorts of ways, or inventing all sorts of falsehoods, but, like an honest man, he determined to tell the whole truth openly and frankly at once, and so brave the worst, and take the consequences of what he had done, whatever they might be. In fact, so little agitated was he at the thoughts of what he had to go through, and being moreover excessively tired, for he had been up and actively engaged all day, that he soon became drowsy, and imitating his respected father, began to nod much in the fashion he was doing. In a short time Jack was fast asleep. He was not very comfortable though, for he had an unpleasant sort of feeling, which was carried into his dreams, that all was not right, and that something very disagreeable was about to occur. How long he had slept he could not tell, but suddenly he was awoke by a bright glare which passed across his face, and starting up he saw flames issuing from the sheds by the side of the river, in which his late companions had proposed to enjoy their supper. He started to his feet, and remembering that Mr Strelley's great wool warehouse was near the sheds, as well as a number of cottages thatched with straw, belonging to the people employed on the river, he dreaded that a very considerable conflagration might be the consequence. Jack sprang to the window.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he exclaimed in a voice loud enough to awake his father; "I am sorry to rouse you up, but there's a fire near Mr Strelley's warehouse, and I must be off to try and get it put out. I hope it has not caught any of the premises yet; but pray call up some of our neighbours, there's not a moment to be lost!"
"Where! where! what's the matter?" exclaimed Mr Deane, starting. "Why, Jack, what have you been about?"
Jack repeated what he had just said; and before his father had time to make any answer, he had leaped out of the window and across the garden, and down the lane by which he had previously gone. As he ran through the narrow streets, he every now and then shouted, "Fire! fire!" By the time he had reached the sheds, they were blazing furiously. The wind had also carried some sparks to an outhouse nearer the cottages, and already the people were running to and fro; women with babies in their arms, roused out of their sleep, rushing from the doors, and boys hallooing and men shouting, and yet none doing any thing to stop the progress of the flames. Jack, seeing that unless some one took the lead all the neighbouring buildings might catch fire, shouted out, "Form a line, my lads, down to the river, and you women bring your 'pancheons,' pails, kettles, any thing that will hold water; and now, lads, pass them along, and we will soon put out this fire. Now, you lads, tear away the burning dry thatch from the tops of those cottages; never mind a little singeing. You won't have a house standing in the place if you don't look sharp about it!"
Jack, as he spoke, set an example, by doing himself as he directed others to do. As soon as the people saw what was necessary to be done to stop the progress of the flames, they worked willingly enough. Jack leaped up to the top of a wall, and having buckets passed to him, threw the water over the burning roof. Several of the most active of the men did the same, while the women and children passed the buckets along with considerable rapidity. It was very doubtful, however, whether their efforts would avail in checking the progress of the fire. Jack continued to encourage them with shouts and cheers, and by this time many more people having arrived with buckets, he began to hope that his efforts would not be without success. The shed in which the fire had originated, and two or three hovels, had already been burned down, while the outbuilding which communicated with the warehouse was already in flames: on this, therefore, Jack now directed the people to bestow all their efforts. A loud cheer at length announced to those who were arriving on the spot, the owner of the warehouse among them, that Jack's efforts had been crowned with success, and that the fire was extinguished. Jack, with his hands blackened and burned, and his clothes and hair singed, was now called for by the crowd, and before he was well aware what they were about to do, he found himself seated in a chair, and carried home in triumph, just at the break of the early summer morning. Jack, however, was more burned and injured than he had at first supposed; so much so, that his father forbore making any remark on his absence during the night. On awaking a few hours afterwards—for he had been immediately put into his bed, and doctored by the careful hands of his mother and sister Kate—he found Dr Nathaniel Deane seated by his side. The latter having felt his pulse, and complimented him on his achievements, "No, no, Cousin Nat," he answered; "if you knew all, you would not praise me. I have acted like an idiot, or worse than an idiot."
"I am glad to find that no great harm has been done except to your poor hands, my lad. It will be a fortnight, or nearly so, before you will be able to use them," answered the doctor. "You will have time to stay quiet and get wisdom, if that is what you want."
One of Jack's first visitors was Mr Strelley.
"I have come to thank you, Mr John Deane, for saving my property," he said, as he took his seat by his side. "You have not only benefited me very greatly, but I can scarcely tell you how many poor families would have been thrown out of work if my factory had been destroyed."
Jack of course made a suitable answer.
"I just did what I saw ought to be done," said Jack. "Really, Mr Strelley, I do not think you have anything to thank me for."
"There may be two opinions even on a matter of that sort," answered the manufacturer; "and, at all events, I wish you would tell me how I can best serve you. I wish to do it for your father's sake, as well as for your own. We are old friends, you know; so do not stand on ceremony, at all events."
The occurrence of the night had made Jack more than ever anxious to leave home for a time; for he felt that even should his father not question him as to the cause of his absence during it, he was bound to tell him. He therefore explained fully to Mr Strelley what were his wishes with regard to becoming a cattle-dealer and drover.
"If you really have made up your mind on the subject, I will most gladly forward your views," said Mr Strelley. "You know my trusty old head drover, Will Brinsmead, as you took an excursion with him last year, I rather think. He will start in a few days in charge of a large drove now grazing in Colwick Park and adjoining meadows, and dispose of them at Stourbridge Fair. With the price he obtains he is to buy Scotch cattle at Saint Faith's, near Norwich; for, as you know, the Highland drovers bring their lean beasts to that place. I have a correspondent at Norwich, my old friend Mr Gournay, the manufacturer, and several merchants; and Brinsmead will have to transact some business with them. Now you could not do better than serve your apprenticeship under him, and act as his clerk. You will learn in that way how to do business on a large scale, and that, I take it, will be your aim as a young man of spirit. You would not be long content to follow at the tails of oxen, and keep them moving on the straight road."
"The very thing above all things I should like," exclaimed Jack. "I hope my Cousin Nat will get my hands all to rights in a few days; and however my father might have objected to my starting with strangers, I am nearly sure he will agree to the plan you so kindly propose."
Mr Strelley's offer was duly placed before Mr Deane.
"If Jack remains much longer idle at home, he will be getting into mischief, if he has not got into it already," he thought to himself. "I have no reason to be ashamed of my boy, and perhaps it will be my own fault if I have cause to be at any future time. Cousin Nat is a man of judgment, and he asserts always that there is more in Jack than any of us suppose; and that if we allow him to follow the bent of his own inclinations, he will be sure to work his way up in the world, even though we let him begin at the bottom of the ladder. Some people want help, and don't get on well without it; others are all the better for being left alone, and help only makes them idle."
The assurance which Jack received that he would be allowed at length to carry out his much-cherished plan, contributed not a little to his restoration, and the burns on his hands and legs healed more rapidly than Cousin Nat had predicted.
Squire Harwood and his daughter had returned to the Grange the day after the occurrence which has been narrated; and as soon as Jack was able to leave the house, although not fit for a journey, he expressed his intention of riding over to pay a farewell visit to his friends. Often when left in solitude he had conjured up a vision of the sweet countenance of Alethea, and he could not help longing once more to see the reality. His proposal met with every encouragement from his family.
"If any body can civilise our boy Jack, Miss Harwood can," observed Mrs Deane to her husband.
"I doubt whether she will think it worth while to make the attempt," observed Mr Deane. "Jack is in no way suited to her, whatever he may flatter himself is the case. However, let the lad go; he can come to no harm, at all events; and Mistress Alethea may give him a taste for better society than he seems to have a fancy for."
JACK'S VISIT TO HARWOOD GRANGE—IS URGED TO ASSIST IN THE JACOBITE PLOT.
Jack accordingly donned his best suit, and his sister Polly put his hair, which had been considerably singed by the fire, in as good order as it was capable of. His left hand was still in a sling, but he had no difficulty in mounting his horse with the aid of his right, and managing him as well as most people could with two hands at liberty. With a note from his father on business, and numerous messages from his mother and sisters, he set out on his expedition. He rode merrily along through the green wood, often indulging in daydreams, which, had he known more of the world, he might have suspected that there was little probability of being realised. The fair Alethea formed a prominent feature in most of them. Cousin Nat had charged him not to heat his blood by galloping, lest it might retard his recovery; but when he came to the commencement of a fine open glade, it was hard to restrain either the horse or his own feelings, and more than once he found himself flying over the ground as fast as he would have done had a pack of hounds been before him in full chase of a deer. In a shorter time than he had calculated on, therefore, he arrived at the front of Harwood Grange. It was a mansion built in the time of Elizabeth, with high roof and pointed gables, richly ornamented with the arms of the family, deeply carved in stone, over the principal entrance. It had no moat nor other means of defence having originally been a hunting-lodge. It was also out of the highway, and had thus escaped being turned into a fortress, and suffering the fate of many mansions throughout England during the wars between the "Cavaliers" and the "Roundheads." It was of considerable size, the outbuildings affording ample accommodation for horses and dogs.
Both the Squire and his daughter were at home, and had seen him approach as he rode up the avenue. He received a cordial welcome from the Squire in the old hall, into which the entrance-door opened. It was hung round with the usual trophies of the chase, hunting-poles, boar-spears, deer-horns, old cross-bows, and modern fire-arms, as well as curious pieces of ancient armour, which had done good service when worn by his father and his retainers in the time of the first Charles, under whose banner the family had ranged themselves. In the corner stood whole suits of armour, placed on lay figures, while on a table at the farther end lay hawk's jesses, and hoods, and bells, and other apparatus of the gentle sport of heronry. A long massive oak table, with a side board of the same wood and style of construction, and numerous high-backed chairs, completed the furniture of the room, while at the inner end was a huge fire-place, with a mantel-piece high above it, and carved oak seats on either side. The hall was used generally for banquets and other entertainments; smaller rooms leading off it were more usually occupied by the family.
Alethea had followed her father into the hall to welcome Jack, which she did in as cordial a manner as he could have desired, though the perfect self-possession she exhibited, and the total want of timidity, might have created some uncomfortable doubts in the mind of a person better acquainted with the female heart than Jack could have been. The Squire insisted on Jack's remaining to dine with them at the usual hour of noon, telling him that he had a good deal to talk about, and if he still proposed setting off on the journey he had spoken of, he would entrust him with several letters to be delivered on the road.
While the Squire went to write his letters—a task which, although they were not very long, took him a considerable time—Jack was left to the society of Alethea. He was more inclined to be sentimental than he had ever been before in his life; but she seemed in such good spirits, and laughed so heartily at some of the remarks he made, that he very soon returned to his natural manners. She seemed, indeed, more anxious to persuade him that the Jacobite cause was the right one, than to attempt to induce him to give up his proposed journey. Now she praised the late king, and his energy, and the numerous good qualities which she declared he possessed; and now she did her best to lower William in Jack's opinion.
"Such a king as he is!" she exclaimed: "his manners are positively repulsive, and he has no love for the fine arts: why they say that he hates 'bainting and boetry,' as he calls them; and when they have brought him poor diseased children to be touched for the king's evil, as used to be done by the royal Stuarts, he absolutely refused to put his hand upon them. Now, you know, if he really had been a king, his touch would most certainly have cured them."
"That never struck me before," answered Jack; "but I know when I have read accounts of his various actions, I have often thought that he was like a great hero: I am sure he was at the battle of the Boyne. Have you never read an account of it? I found one only the other day in an old 'News-letter,' I think it was, or it might have been in the 'post-boy,' or the 'Flying Post' The tide was running fast in the river, and the king's charger had been forced to swim, and then was almost lost in the mud. As soon, however, as the king reached firm ground, taking his sword in his left hand—for his right arm was still stiff with a wound and the bandage round it—he led his men to the spot where the fight was the hottest. The Irish horse retired, fighting obstinately. In the midst of the tumult of pistols flashing and swords cutting in all directions, William rode up to the gallant Enniskilleners.
"'What will you do for me?' he cried out; but not being immediately recognised, a trooper, taking him for an enemy, was about to fire.
"'What!' said he, 'do you not know your friends?'
"'It's his Majesty!' exclaimed the colonel of the regiment.
"On hearing this, a loud shout of joy burst from the men, who were all Protestant yeomen.
"'Gentlemen!' said William, 'you shall be my guards to-day. I have heard much of you; let us now see something of each other, and what we can do.'
"With this he led them forward against the enemy, who at length took to flight, and in a short time there was no doubt that the battle was won.
"Since I have read that account, I have always looked upon the king as a real hero."
"As a mere fighter or a leader of men in battle, he may not be contemptible," answered the young lady, not quite liking Jack's remarks; "but, for my part, I should prefer acknowledging the sovereign 'who is every inch a king,' as William Shakspeare says."
"I have never read any of Shakspeare's plays, or seen them acted either; but of one thing I am very sure, that King William would not allow such doings as have been long taking place in France, and which James Stuart would ere long have imitated. Just think, Miss Harwood, of the way the poor Protestants are treated there. If they refuse to turn Romanists, they are persecuted in every possible manner. The roughest soldiers are quartered in their houses, and allowed to treat them as they think fit. The ministers are driven from the country, and if any Huguenot gentlemen are captured attempting to make their escape, they are sent to the galleys, and have there to row on board those vessels, chained to the oar like slaves. Had King James remained in the country, there is no saying whether he might not have treated us Protestants in the same way."
Alethea was a little disconcerted at Jack's matter-of-fact view of the Stuart cause.
"But then, you know," she exclaimed, "James was the rightful sovereign; you cannot deny that."
"My father says that both his father, King Charles the First, and he broke their vows; and that, had they proved faithful to the people, the people would have proved faithful to them. We none of us believe it was right to cut off King Charles's head; but when it was very evident that James wished to make himself a despot, and to introduce the Romish faith again, we all think it was quite right that he should have been dismissed from the country."
"Oh, you are a dreadful Roundhead!" answered Alethea, in a half-vexed tone, though she laughed at the same time. "I am afraid we shall never convert you to our principles; and yet, if you come to view the matter in the light we do, you may see that King James has right on his side."
Alethea then entered into arguments in favour of King James, more fully than is necessary here, and which it might weary the reader to repeat. Sometimes, indeed, so well did she argue her cause, that Jack was inclined to agree with her. Then again remembering the opinions which he had heard his father and Cousin Nat express, he thought the present state of things was satisfactory. However, in the end Alethea contrived to leave him very much in doubt about the matter, and certainly at that moment, if she had put a sword in his hand, and told him that King James was coming back, and that he must go and fight under his banner, he would very probably have obeyed her orders.
The dinner hour at length arrived, when Mr Harwood returned with several letters in his hand. The Squire treated him with every kindness and attention, as the son of an old friend, and did not in any way allude to the subject on which his daughter had been so energetically expatiating. A stranger coming in would not have heard any thing to make him suppose that the owner of Harwood Grange was one of the greatest Jacobites in that part of the country.
"Remember," said Alethea, as Jack's horse was brought round to the front door, and he was about to mount, "I shall expect to hear that my arguments have had due effect, and that you will be ready to drink the health of the king over the water, whenever you hear it proposed."
He gallantly kissed the fair hand held out to him; and receiving a hearty shake from that of the Squire, he mounted his horse and took his way towards Nottingham. He returned at a much slower pace than he had come. A variety of thoughts and feelings troubled his head and his heart. He thought Alethea the most beautiful creature he had ever set eyes on. He wished to please her in every way in his power. If she had desired him to give up his intention of accompanying Will Brinsmead, he would have done so, or he would even have gone to college, and tried to study like his brother, if she had desired it; but she had not intimated a wish on either of these subjects, and seemed perfectly content that he should follow out his own inclinations. And yet she evidently desired to influence him in some way, and that was what most puzzled him. He had always heard William spoken of as the best king for England, and James as a man likely to prove an opponent of religious liberty and of the advancement and prosperity of the country.
He was even more than usually silent when he reached home, and Polly had to stir him up before he would give any account of his visit to the Grange. He, however, said nothing on the subject which Alethea had discussed with him.
A few days after this, having been declared perfectly convalescent, Jack set off to pay his respects to Mr Strelley, and to receive that gentleman's last orders. As he approached the door, he saw Cousin Nat's scarlet cloak a little ahead of him. He soon overtook the worthy doctor.
"Well, Jack, I am glad to find you," said his cousin: "I want to have a few words with you before you start, and there's no opportunity like the present. Let me advise you, as you have entered into this business, to stick to it, and you will find it as lucrative, at all events, as any you could well engage in. You will pass in your journeys many a fine park and noble palace going to decay through the fines and alienations which have fallen upon them, and you will thus see for yourself how truly it has been lately written, that 'an estate is but a pond, but trade a spring;' for you will also come upon fair houses, whose owners' names were unknown before the late Civil Wars, and you will find them flourishing by means of trade, honourably carried on from father to son, whereby not only wealth, but titles too have been won for this generation, and which promise to last for many yet to come."
Mr Strelley received Jack pleasantly, not the less so, perhaps, that he was accompanied by the doctor, who told him of the advice he had been giving his young kinsman.
"Ah, indeed!" observed the worthy manufacturer, "the wool trade is the great staple, and next to it I place the cattle trade. I will not detain you now to give you an account of these two great sources of wealth; you shall see them another time in my study: and take heart, my young friend; you have your foot on the ladder, and will climb some day to the top, if you gain all the knowledge your honoured kinsman is ready to give you, and are guided by his advice."
"And by your own good sense, Jack," added Cousin Nat. "Don't wish to be master before you have learned to be man, and don't trust every one you may meet, however civil they may be and pleasant in their manners; and above all things, my boy, do not forget that there is a God in heaven who watches over you, and sees and knows every thing you do. Do not fear to displease man, but dread greatly displeasing God. Remember that He is your friend, and that you can go to Him on all occasions. If you go boldly and frankly, as He has told you to do, trusting in His Son who died for you, He will never turn aside from your petitions."
Mr Strelley enforced what Cousin Nat had said with further arguments, and then having given Jack various directions for his conduct on the road, and for the commissions he was to perform for him, shook him cordially by the hand, and wished him every prosperity on the journey which was to commence the following morning.
PEARSON'S VISIT TO SQUIRE HARWOOD—PLAN TO ENTRAP JACK.
On the day Jack had paid his visit to Harwood Grange, while the Squire was walking up and down the terrace, enjoying the cool of the evening, he saw a horseman riding along the avenue towards him. He was a strongly-built, active-looking man, with somewhat coarse features and a bold expression of countenance. He dismounted as he approached Mr Harwood, and presented a letter which he drew from his bosom.
"That will tell you who I am," said the horseman, as the Squire opened the epistle and glanced at its contents.
"Ah, yes!" he said, looking up at the stranger, "we have met before. I remember you now. Come along here, down this walk; we shall be out of ear-shot. Well, what success have you had?"
"Not so much as I should have expected," answered the stranger. "There's no spirit in the young men now-a-days; they all seem to be finding employment either at home, or at sea, or in the plantations, and there are few worth having, or who can be trusted at all events, who seem disposed to draw a sword for King James."
"I am afraid you are right," answered the Squire. "Most of those I have spoken to seem perfectly contented with this Dutch William we have got over us, and do not show any wish to have back their rightful king. But still we must not despair, Master Pearson."
"I am the last man to do that either," answered the stranger; "and if we cannot find them on this side of the border, there will be no lack on the other. It will not cost much labour to arouse the Highlanders, while some of the best soldiers in the country, though they refuse to join us, will stand neutral, not for love of the Stuarts, just the contrary, but because William did not treat King James as Cromwell and his party treated his father."
"What say you, Master Pearson? Do you think you could arouse the people in the fen-country? You might raise and drill an army in those wilds without the Government knowing any thing about the matter."
"If the people had any spirit, it could be done," said Master Pearson; "but they are too dull and stupid, I fear, to be aroused by any motive, and I suspect they care little what king sits on the throne."
"I am afraid, then, we must be content with small beginnings," said the Squire. "A good time will come if we wait for it; and if William dies, though I would have no hand in hastening his death, there would be no doubt that the people would be glad enough to get King James back again."
"As to that, his life is as good as James's," observed Pearson; "and if we have not a strong party in readiness to take advantage of any thing that may occur, I fear the Puritan Nonconformists generally will still be too powerful in the country to allow the return of a Catholic sovereign. We must go on recruiting, Squire, and work away among gentles and simples till we have increased the strength of our party, and then will be the time to strike a blow, which may set things to rights again."
"Perhaps it may be so," observed the Squire musingly; "but we must be cautious, Master Pearson; too many honest men have lost their heads for want of that quality, and I have no desire to lose mine or my estate either, which a plot of this sort, if discovered, would seriously imperil. Mind, all I say is, that we must be cautious, and wait patiently till we can gain strength; and by-the-bye there is a young man I wish to win over, a fine, spirited lad, and I'm sure if we can gain him he will prove valuable to the cause. Should you fall in with him, Master Pearson, I must commend him to your care. We have pressed him here pretty hard, and though he seemed stubborn, I think if right arguments coming from another source were to be used, he might yet be gained over. He is the younger son of Mr Jasper Deane of Nottingham. You are very likely in your rambles to come across him."
"I have done so already," answered Master Pearson, "and formed the same opinion of the youth as you have expressed. I hoped, indeed, to have gained him over by this time; but though he promised to meet me again, I missed him. Having, however, now received your further recommendation, I will be on the watch for him, and I dare say I shall come across him before long."
"Do so, good Master Pearson. I wish we could find a few hundreds such as he is, and the king would not long be kept out of his own. And now come into the house: we will send your horse round to the stable, and probably you and he will not be the worse for some refreshment."
"As to that, Squire, I have not ridden far to-day, but I know not how many leagues I may have to cover before to-morrow morning, and I make it a rule to keep my horse and myself in readiness for a gallop north or south, as I find necessary."