'I never heard of him or it,' said Scudamore.
'It is no matter as now: these verses are not of his. Prithee, hearken:
'I carry with, me, Lord, a foolish fool, That still his cap upon my head would place. I dare not slay him, he will not to school, And still he shakes his bauble in my face.
'I seize him, Lord, and bring him to thy door; Bound on thine altar-threshold him I lay. He weepeth; did I heed, he would implore; And still he cries ALACK and WELL-A-DAY!
'If thou wouldst take him in and make him wise, I think he might be taught to serve thee well; If not, slay him, nor heed his foolish cries, He's but a fool that mocks and rings a bell.'
Something in the lines appeared to strike Scudamore.
'I thank you, sir,' he said. 'Might I put you to the trouble, I would request that you would write out the verses for me, that I may study their meaning at my leisure.'
Mr. Vaughan promised, and, after a little more conversation, took his leave.
Now, whether it was from anything he had said in particular, or that Scudamore had felt the general influence of the man, Dorothy could not tell, but from that visit she believed Rowland began to think more and to brood less. By and by he began to start questions of right and wrong, suppose cases, and ask Dorothy what she would do in such and such circumstances. With many cloudy relapses there was a suspicion of dawn, although a rainy one most likely, on his far horizon.
'Dost thou really believe, Dorothy,' he asked one day, 'that a man ever did love his enemy? Didst thou ever know one who did?'
'I cannot say I ever did,' returned Dorothy. 'I have however seen few that were enemies. But I am sure that had it not been possible, we should never have been commanded thereto.'
'The last time Dr. Bayly came to see me he read those words, and I thought within myself all the time of the only enemy I had, and tried to forgive him, but could not.'
'Had he then wronged thee so deeply?'
'I know not, indeed, what women call wronged—least of all what thou, who art not like other women, wouldst judge; but this thing seems to me strange—that when I look on thee, Dorothy, one moment it seems as if for thy sake I could forgive him anything—except that he slew me not outright, and the next that never can I forgive him even that wherein he never did me any wrong.'
'What! hatest thou then him that struck thee down in fair fight? Sure thou art of meaner soul than I judged thee. What man in battle-field hates his enemy, or thinks it less than enough to do his endeavour to slay him?'
'Know'st thou whom thou wouldst have me forgive? He who struck me down was thy friend, Richard Heywood.'
'Then he hath his mare again?' cried Dorothy, eagerly.
Rowland's face fell, and she knew that she had spoken heartlessly—knew also that, for all his protestations, Rowland yet cherished the love she had so plainly refused. But the same moment she knew something more.
For, by the side of Rowland, in her mind's eye, stood Henry Vaughan, as wise as Rowland was foolish, as accomplished and learned as Rowland was narrow and ignorant; but between them stood Richard, and she knew a something in her which was neither tenderness nor reverence, and yet included both. She rose in some confusion, and left the chamber.
This good came of it, that from that moment Scudamore was satisfied she loved Heywood, and, with much mortification, tried to accept his position. Slowly his health began to return, and slowly the deeper life that was at length to become his began to inform him.
Heartless and poverty-stricken as he had hitherto shown himself, the good in him was not so deeply buried under refuse as in many a better-seeming man. Sickness had awakened in him a sense of requirement—of need also, and loneliness, and dissatisfaction. He grew ashamed of himself and conscious of defilement. Something new began to rise above and condemn the old. There are who would say that the change was merely the mental condition resulting from and corresponding to physical weakness; that repentance, and the vision of the better which maketh shame, is but a mood, sickly as are the brain and nerves which generate it; but he who undergoes the experience believes he knows better, and denies neither the wild beasts nor the stars, because they roar and shine through the dark.
Mr. Vaughan came to see him again and again, and with the concurrence of Dr. Spott, prescribed for him. As the spring approached he grew able to leave his room. The ladies of the family had him to their parlours to pet and feed, but he was not now so easily to be injured by kindness as when he believed in his own merits.
January of 1646, according to the division of the year, arrived, and with it the heaviest cloud that had yet overshadowed Raglan.
One day, about the middle of the month. Dorothy, entering lady Glamorgan's parlour, found it deserted. A moan came to her ears from the adjoining chamber, and there she found her mistress on her face on the bed.
'Madam,' said Dorothy in terror, 'what is it? Let me be with you. May I not know it?'
'My lord is in prison,' gasped lady Glamorgan, and bursting into fresh tears, she sobbed and moaned.
'Has my lord been taken in the field, madam, or by cunning of his enemies?'
'Would to God it were either,' sighed lady Glamorgan. 'Then were it a small thing to bear.'
'What can it be, madam? You terrify me,' said Dorothy.
No words of reply, only a fresh outburst of agonised—could it also be angry?—weeping followed.
'Since you will tell me nothing, madam, I must take comfort that of myself I know one thing.'
'Prithee, what knowest thou?' asked the countess, but as if careless of being answered, so listless was her tone, so nearly inarticulate her words.
'That is but what bringeth him fresh honour, my lady,' answered Dorothy.
The countess started up, threw her arms about her, drew her down on the bed, kissed her, and held her fast, sobbing worse than ever.
'Madam! madam!' murmured Dorothy from her bosom.
'I thank thee, Dorothy,' she sighed out at length: 'for thy words and thy thoughts have ever been of a piece.'
'Sure, my lady, no one did ever yet dare think otherwise of my lord,' returned Dorothy, amazed.
'But many will now, Dorothy. My God! they will have it that he is a traitor. Wouldst thou believe it, child—he is a prisoner in the castle of Dublin!'
'But is not Dublin in the hands of the king, my lady?'
'Ay! there lies the sting of it! What treacherous friends are these heretics! But how should they be anything else? Having denied their Saviour they may well malign their better brother! My lord marquis of Ormond says frightful things of him.'
'One thing more I know, my lady,' said Dorothy, '—that as long as his wife believes him the true man he is, he will laugh to scorn all that false lips may utter against him.'
'Thou art a good girl, Dorothy, but thou knowest little of an evil world. It is one thing to know thyself innocent, and another to carry thy head high.'
'But, madam, even the guilty do that; wherefore not the innocent then?'
'Because, my child, they ARE innocent, and innocence so hateth the very shadow of guilt that it cannot brook the wearing it. My lord is grievously abused, Dorothy—I say not by whom.'
'By whom should it be but his enemies, madam?'
'Not certainly by those who are to him friends, but yet, alas! by those to whom he is the truest of friends.'
'Is my lord of Ormond then false? Is he jealous of my lord Glamorgan? Hath he falsely accused him? I would I understood all, madam.'
'I would I understood all myself, child. Certain papers have been found bearing upon my lord's business in Ireland, all ears are filled with rumours of forgery and treason, coupled with the name of my lord, and he is a prisoner in Dublin castle.'
She forced the sentence from her, as if repeating a hated lesson, then gave a cry, almost a scream of agony.
'Weep not, madam,' said Dorothy, in the very foolishness of sympathetic expostulation.
'What better cause could I have out of hell!' returned the countess, angrily.
'That it were no lie, madam.'
'It is true, I tell thee.'
'That my lord is a traitor, madam?'
Lady Glamorgan dashed her from her, and glared at her like a tigress. An evil word was on her lips, but her better angel spoke, and ere Dorothy could recover herself, she had listened and understood.
'God forbid!' she said, struggling to be calm. 'But it is true that he is in prison.'
'Then give God thanks, madam, who hath forbidden the one and allowed the other, said Dorothy; and finding her own composure on the point of yielding, she courtesied and left the room. It was a breach of etiquette without leave asked and given, but the face of the countess was again on her pillow, and she did not heed.
For some time things went on as in an evil dream. The marquis was in angry mood, with no gout to lay it upon. The gloom spread over the castle, and awoke all manner of conjecture and report. Soon, after a fashion, the facts were known to everybody, and the gloom deepened. No further enlightenment reached Dorothy. At length one evening, her mistress having sent for her, she found her much excited, with a letter in her hand.
'Come here, Dorothy: see what I have!' she cried, holding out the letter with a gesture of triumph, and weeping and laughing alternately.
'Madam, it must be something precious indeed,' said Dorothy, 'for I have not heard your ladyship laugh for a weary while. May I not rejoice with you, madam?'
'You shall, my good girl: hearken: I will read:—'My dear Heart,'—Who is it from, think'st thou, Dorothy? Canst guess?—'My dear Heart, I hope these will prevent any news shall come unto you of me since my commitment to the Castle of Dublin, to which I assure thee I went as cheerfully and as willingly as they could wish, whosoever they were by whose means it was procured; and should as unwillingly go forth, were the gates both of the Castle and Town open unto me, until I were cleared: as they are willing to make me unserviceable to the king, and lay me aside, who have procured for me this restraint; when I consider thee a Woman, as I think I know you are, I fear lest you should be apprehensive. But when I reflect that you are of the House of Thomond, and that you were once pleased to say these words unto me, That I should never, in tenderness of you, desist from doing what in honour I was obliged to do, I grow confident, that in this you will now show your magnanimity, and by it the greatest testimony of affection that you can possibly afford me; and am also confident, that you know me so well, that I need not tell you how clear I am, and void of fear, the only effect of a good conscience; and that I am guilty of nothing that may testify one thought of disloyalty to his Majesty, or of what may stain the honour of the family I come of, or set a brand upon my future posterity.'
The countess paused, and looked a general illumination at Dorothy.
'I told you so, madam,' returned Dorothy, rather stupidly perhaps.
'Little fool!' rejoined the countess, half-angered: 'dost suppose the wife of a man like my Ned needs to be told such things by a green goose like thee? Thou wouldst have had me content that the man was honest—me, who had forgotten the word in his tenfold more than honesty! Bah, child! thou knowest not the love of a woman. I could weep salt tears over a hair pulled from his noble head. And thou to talk of TELLING ME SO, hussy! Marry, forsooth!'
And taking Dorothy to her bosom, she wept like a relenting storm.
One sentence more she read ere she hurried with the letter to her father-in-law. The sentence was this:
'So I pray let not any of my friends that's there, believe anything, until ye have the perfect relation of it from myself.'
The pleasure of receiving news from his son did but little, however, to disperse the cloud that hung about the marquis. I do not know whether, or how far, he had been advised of the provision made for the king's clearness by the anticipated self-sacrifice of Glamorgan, but I doubt if a full knowledge thereof gives any ground for disagreement with the judgment of the marquis, which seems, pretty plainly, to have been, that the king's behaviour in the matter was neither that of a Christian nor a gentleman. As in the case of Strafford, he had accepted the offered sacrifice, and, in view of possible chances, had in Glamorgan's commission pretermitted the usual authoritative formalities, thus keeping it in his power, with Glamorgan's connivance, it must be confessed, but at Glamorgan's expense, to repudiate his agency. This he had now done in a message to the parliament, and this the marquis knew.
His majesty had also written to lord Ormond as follows: 'And albeit I have too just cause, for the clearing of my honour, to prosecute Glamorgan in a legal way, yet I will have you suspend the execution,' &c. At the same time his secretary wrote thus to Ormond and the council: 'And since the warrant is not' 'sealed with the signet,' &c., &c., 'your lordships cannot but judge it to be at least surreptitiously gotten, if not worse; for his majesty saith he remembers it not;' and thus again privately to Ormond: 'The king hath commanded me to advertise your lordship that the patent for making the said lord Herbert of Raglan earl of Glamorgan is not passed the great seal here, so as he is no peer of this kingdom; notwithstanding he styles himself, and hath treated with the rebels in Ireland, by the name of earl of Glamorgan, which is as vainly taken upon him as his pretended warrant (if any such be) was surreptitiously gotten.' The title had, meanwhile, been used by the king himself in many communications with the earl.
These letters never came, I presume, to the marquis's knowledge, but they go far to show that his feeling, even were it a little embittered by the memory of their midnight conference and his hopes therefrom, went no farther than the conduct of his majesty justified. It was no wonder that the straightforward old man, walking erect to ruin for his king, should fret and fume, yea, yield to downright wrath and enforced contempt.
Of the king's behaviour in the matter, Dorothy, however, knew nothing yet.
One day towards the end of February, a messenger from the king arrived at Raglan, on his way to Ireland to lord Ormond. He had found the roads so beset—for things were by this time, whether from the successes of the parliament only, or from the negligence of disappointment on the part of lord Worcester as well, much altered in Wales and on its borders—that he had been compelled to leave his despatches in hiding, and had reached the castle only with great difficulty and after many adventures. His chief object in making his way thither was to beg of lord Charles a convoy to secure his despatches and protect him on his farther journey. But lord Charles received him by no means cordially, for the whole heart of Raglan was sore. He brought him, however, to his father, who, although indisposed and confined to his chamber, consented to see him. When Mr. Boteler was admitted, lady Glamorgan was in the chamber, and there remained.
Probably the respect to the king's messenger which had influenced the marquis to receive him, would have gone further and modified the expression of his feelings a little when he saw him, but that, like many more men, his lordship, although fairly master of his temper-horses when in health, was apt to let them run away with him upon occasion of even slighter illness than would serve for an excuse.
'Hast thou in thy despatches any letters from his majesty to my son Glamorgan, master Boteler?' he inquired, frowning unconsciously.
'Not that I know of, my lord,' answered Mr. Boteler, 'but there may be such with the lord marquis of Ormond's.'
He then proceeded to give a friendly message from the king concerning the earl. But at this the 'smouldering fire out-brake' from the bosom of the injured father and subject.
'It is the grief of my heart,' cried his lordship, wrath predominating over the regret which was yet plainly enough to be seen in his face and heard in his tone—'It is the grief of my heart that I am enforced to say that the king is wavering and fickle. To be the more his friend, it too plainly appeareth, is but to be the more handled as his enemy.'
'Say not so, my lord,' returned Mr. Boteler. 'His gracious majesty looketh not for such unfriendly judgment from your lips. Have I not brought your lordship a most gracious and comfortable message from him concerning my lord Glamorgan, with his royal thanks for your former loyal expressions?'
'Mr. Boteler, thou knowest nought of the matter. That thou has brought me a budget of fine words, I go not to deny. But words may be but schismatics; deeds alone are certainly of the true faith. Verily the king's majesty setteth his words in the forefront of the battle, but his deeds lag in the rear, and let his words be taken prisoners. When his majesty was last here, I lent him a book to read in his chamber, the beginning of which I know he read, but if he had ended, it would have showed him what it was to be a fickle prince.'
'My lord! my lord! surely your lordship knoweth better of his majesty.'
'To know better may be to know worse, master Boteler. Was it not enough to suffer my lord Glamorgan to be unjustly imprisoned by my lord marquis of Ormond for what he had His majesty's authority for, but that he must in print protest against his proceedings and his own allowance, and not yet recall it? But I will pray for him, and that he may be more constant to his friends, and as soon as my other employments will give leave, you shall have a convoy to fetch securely your despatches.'
Herewith Mr. Boteler was dismissed, lord Charles accompanying him from the room.
'False as ice!' muttered the marquis to himself, left as he supposed alone. 'My boy, thou hast built on a quicksand, and thy house goeth down to the deep. I am wroth with myself that ever I dreamed of moving such a bag of chaff to return to the bosom of his honourable mother.'
'My lord,' said lady Glamorgan from behind the bed-curtains, 'have you forgotten that I and my long ears are here?'
'Ha! art thou indeed there, my mad Irishwoman! I had verily forgotten thee. But is not this king of ours as the Minotaur, dwelling in the labyrinths of deceit, and devouring the noblest in the land? There was his own Strafford, next his foolish Laud, and now comes my son, worth a host of such!'
'In his letter, my lord of Glamorgan complaineth not of his majesty's usage,' said the countess.
'My lord of Glamorgan is patient as Grisel. He would pass through the pains of purgatory with never a grumble. But purgatory is for none such as he. In good sooth I am made of different stuff. My soul doth loath deceit, and worse in a king than a clown. What king is he that will lie for a kingdom!'
Day after day passed, and nothing was done to speed the messenger, who grew more and more anxious to procure his despatches and be gone; but lord Worcester, through the king's behaviour to his honourable and self-forgetting son, with whom he had never had a difference except on the point of his blind devotion to his majesty's affairs, had so lost faith in the king himself that he had no heart for his business. It seems also that for his son's sake he wished to delay Mr. Boteler, in order that a messenger of his own might reach Glamorgan before Ormond should receive the king's despatches. For a whole fortnight therefore no further steps were taken, and Boteler, wearied out, bethought him of applying to the countess to see whether she would not use her influence in his behalf. I am thus particular about Boteler's affair, because through it Dorothy came to know what the king's behaviour had been, and what the marquis thought of it; she was in the room when Mr. Boteler waited on her mistress.
'May it please your ladyship,' he said, 'I have sought speech of you that I might beg your aid for the king's business, remembering you of the hearty affection my master the king beareth towards your lord and all his house.'
'Indeed you do well to remember me of that, master Boteler, for it goeth so hard with my memory in these troubled times that I had nigh forgotten it,' said the countess dryly.
'I most certainly know, my lady, that his majesty hath gracious intentions towards your lord.'
'Intention is but an addled egg,' said the countess. 'Give me deeds, if I may choose.'
'Alas! the king hath but little in his power, and the less that his business is thus kept waiting.'
'Your haste is more than your matter, master Boteler. Believe me, whatsoever you consider of it, your going so hurriedly is of no great account, for to my knowledge there are others gone already with duplicates of the business.'
'Madam, you astonish me.'
'I speak not without book. My own cousin, William Winter, is one, and he is my husband's friend, and hath no relation to my lord marquis of Ormond,' said lady Glamorgan significantly.
'My lord, madam, is your lord's very good friend, and I am very much his servant; but if his majesty's business be done, I care not by whose hand it is. But I thank your honour, for now I know wherefore I am stayed here.'
With these words Boteler withdrew—and withdraws from my story, for his further proceedings are in respect of it of no consequence.
When he was gone, lady Glamorgan, turning a flushed face, and encountering Dorothy's pale one, gave a hard laugh, and said:
'Why, child! thou lookest like a ghost! Was afeard of the man in my presence?'
'No, madam; but it seemed to me marvellous that his majesty's messenger should receive such words from my mistress, and in my lord of Worcester's house.'
'I' faith, marvellous it is, Dorothy, that there should be such good cause so to use him!' returned lady Glamorgan, tears of vexation rising as she spoke. 'But an' thou think I used the man roughly, thou shouldst have heard my father speak to him his mind of the king his master.'
'Hath the king then shown himself unkingly, madam?' said Dorothy aghast.
Whereupon lady Glamorgan told her all she knew, and all she could remember of what she had heard the marquis say to Boteler.
'Trust me, child,' she added, 'my lord Worcester, no less than I am, is cut to the heart by this behaviour of the king's. That my husband, silly angel, should say nothing, is but like him. He would bear and bear till all was borne.'
'But,' said Dorothy, 'the king is still the king.'
'Let him be the king then,' returned her mistress. 'Let him look to his kingdom. Why should I give him my husband to do it for him and be disowned therein? I thank heaven I can do without a king, but I can't do without my Ned, and there he lies in prison for him who cons him no thanks! Not that I would overmuch heed the prison if the king would but share the blame with him; but for the king to deny him—to say that he did all of his own motion and without authority!—why, child, I saw the commission with my own eyes, nor count myself under any farther obligation to hold my peace concerning it! I know my husband will bear all things, even disgrace itself, undeserved, for the king's sake: he is the loveliest of martyrs; but that is no reason why I should bear it. The king hath no heart and no conscience. No, I will not say that; but I will say that he hath little heart and less conscience. My good husband's fair name is gone—blasted by the king, who raiseth the mist of Glamorgan's dishonour that he may hide himself safe behind it. I tell thee, Dorothy Vaughan, I should not have grudged his majesty my lord's life, an' he had been but a right kingly king. I should have wept enough and complained too much, in womanish fashion, doubtless; but I tell thee earl Thomond's daughter would not have grudged it. But my lord's truth and honour are dear to him, and the good report of them is dear to me. I swear I can ill brook carrying the title he hath given me. It is my husband's and not mine, else would I fling it in his face who thus wrongs my Herbert.'
This explosion from the heart of the wild Irishwoman sounded dreadful in the ears of the king-worshipper. But he whom she thus accused the king of wronging, had been scarcely less revered of her, even while the idol with the feet of clay yet stood, and had certainly been loved greatly more, than the king himself. Hence, notwithstanding her struggle to keep her heart to its allegiance, such a rapid change took place in her feelings, that ere long she began to confess to herself that if the puritans could have known what the king was, their conduct would not have been so unintelligible—not that she thought they had an atom of right on their side, or in the least feared she might ever be brought to think in the matter as they did; she confessed only that she could then have understood them.
The whole aspect and atmosphere of Raglan continued changed. The marquis was still very gloomy; lord Charles often frowned and bit his lip; and the flush that so frequently overspread the face of lady Glamorgan as she sat silent at her embroidery, showed that she was thinking in anger of the wrong done to her husband. In this feeling all in the castle shared, for the matter had now come to be a little understood, and as they loved the earl more than the king, they took the earl's part.
Meantime he for whose sake the fortress was troubled, having been released on large bail, was away, with free heart, to Kilkenny, busy as ever on behalf of the king, full of projects, and eager in action. Not a trace of resentment did he manifest—only regret that his majesty's treatment of him, in destroying his credit with the catholics as the king's commissioner, had put it out of his power to be so useful as he might otherwise have been. His brain was ever contriving how to remedy things, but parties were complicated, and none quite trusted him now that he was disowned of his master.
Things began to look threatening. Raglan's brooding disappointment and apprehension was like the electric overcharge of the earth, awaiting and drawing to it the hovering cloud: the lightning and thunder of the war began at length to stoop upon the Yellow Tower of Gwent. When the month of May arrived once more with its moonlight and apple-blossoms, the cloud came with it. The doings of the earl of Glamorgan in Ireland had probably hastened the vengeance of the parliament.
There was no longer any royal army. Most of the king's friends had accepted the terms offered them; and only a few of his garrisons, amongst the rest that of Raglan, held out—no longer, however, in such trim for defence as at first. The walls, it is true, were rather stronger than before, the quantity of provisions was large, and the garrison was sufficient; but their horses were now comparatively few, and, which was worse, the fodder in store was, in prospect of a long siege, scanty. But the worst of all, indeed the only weak and therefore miserable fact, was, that the spirit, I do not mean the courage, of the castle was gone; its enthusiasm had grown sere; its inhabitants no longer loved the king as they had loved him, and even stern-faced general Duty cannot bring up his men to a hand-to-hand conflict with the same elans as queen love.
The rumour of approaching troops kept gathering, and at every fresh report Scudamore's eyes shone.
'Sir Rowland,' said the governor one day, 'hast not had enough of fighting yet for all thy lame shoulder?'
''Tis but my left shoulder, my lord,' answered Scudamore.
'Thou lookest for the siege as an' it were but a tussle and over—a flash and a roar. An' thou had to answer for the place like me—well!'
'Nay, my lord, I would fain show the roundheads what an honest house can do to hold out rogues.'
'Ay, but there's the rub!' returned lord Charles: 'will the house hold out the rogues? Bethink thee, Rowland, there is never a spot in it fit for defence except the keep and the kitchen.'
'We can make sallies, my lord.'
'To be driven in again by ten times our number, and kept in while they knock our walls about our ears! However, we will hold out while we can. Who knows what turn affairs may take?'
It was towards the end of April when the news reached Raglan that the king, desperate at length, had made his escape from beleaguered Oxford, and in the disguise of a serving man, betaken himself to the headquarters of the Scots army, to find himself no king, no guest even, but a prisoner. He sought shelter and found captivity. The marquis dropped his chin on his chest and murmured, 'All is over.'
But the pang that shot to his heart awoke wounded loyalty: he had been angry with his monarch, and justly, but he would fight for him still.
'See to the gates, Charles,' he cried, almost springing, spite of his unwieldiness, from his chair. 'Tell Casper to keep the powder-mill going night and day. Would to God my boy Ned were here! His majesty hath wronged me, but throned or prisoned he is my king still—the church must come down, Charles. The dead are for the living, and will not cry out.' For in St. Cadocus' church lay the tombs of his ancestors.
On deliberation it was resolved, however, that only the tower, which commanded some portions of the castle, should fall. To Dorothy it was like taking down the standard of the Lord. She went with some of the ladies to look a last look at the ancient structure, and saw mass after mass fall silent from the top to clash hideous at the foot amidst the broken tomb-stones. It was sad enough! but the destruction of the cottages around it, that the enemy might not have shelter there, was sadder still. The women wept and wailed; the men growled, and said what was Raglan to them that their houses should be pulled from over their heads. The marquis offered compensation and shelter. All took the money, but few accepted the shelter, for the prospect of a siege was not attractive to any but such as were fond of fighting, of whom some would rather attack than defend.
The next day they heard that sir Trevor Williams was at Usk with a strong body of men. They knew colonel Birch was besieging Gutbridge castle. Two days passed, and then colonel Kirk appeared to the north, and approached within two miles. The ladies began to look pale as often as they saw two persons talking together: there might be fresh news. His father and his wife were not the only persons in the castle who kept sighing for Glamorgan. Every soul in it felt as if, not to say fancied that, his presence would have made it impregnable.
But a strange excitement seized upon Dorothy, which arose from a sense of trust and delegation, outwardly unauthorised. She had not the presumption to give it form in words, even to Caspar, but she felt as if they two were the special servants of the absent power. Ceaselessly therefore she kept open eyes, and saw and spoke and reminded and remedied where she could, so noiselessly, so unobtrusively, that none were offended, and all took heed of the things she brought before them. Indeed what she said came at length to be listened to almost as if it had been a message from Glamorgan. But her chief business was still the fire-engine, whose machinery she anxiously watched—for if anything should happen to Caspar and then to the engine, what would become of them when driven into the tower?
Discipline, which of late had got very drowsy, was stirred up to fresh life. Watch grew strict. The garrison was drilled more regularly and carefully, and the guard and sentinels relieved to the minute. The armoury was entirely overhauled, and every smith set to work to get the poor remainder of its contents into good condition.
One evening lord Charles came to his father with the news that some score of fresh horses had arrived.
'Have they brought provender with them, my lord?' asked the marquis.
'Alas, no, my lord, only teeth,' answered the governor.
'How stands the hay?'
'At low ebb, my lord. There is plenty of oats, however.'
'We hear to-day nothing of the round-heads: what say you to turning them out and letting them have a last bellyful of sweet grass under the walls?'
'I say 'tis so good a plan, my lord, that I think we had better extend it, and let a few of the rest have a parting nibble.'
The marquis approved.
There was a postern in the outermost wall of the castle on the western side, seldom used, commanded by the guns of the tower, and opening upon a large field of grass, with nothing between but a ditch. It was just wide enough to let one horse through at a time, and by this the governor resolved to turn them out, and as soon as it was nearly dark, ordered a few thick oak planks to be laid across the ditch, one above another, for a bridge. The field was sufficiently fenced to keep them from straying, and with the first signs of dawn they would take them in again.
Dorothy, leaving the tower for the night, had reached the archway, when to her surprise she saw the figure of a huge horse move across the mouth of it, followed by another and another. Except Richard's mare on that eventful night she had never seen horse-kind there before. One after another, till she had counted some five-and-twenty, she saw pass, then heard them cross the fountain court with heavy foot upon the tiles. At length, dark as it was, she recognised her own little Dick moving athwart the opening. She sprang forward, seized him by the halter, and drew him in beside her. On and on they came, till she had counted eighty, and then the procession ceased.
Presently she heard the voice of lord Charles, as he crossed the hall and came out into the court, saying,
'How many didst thou count, Shafto?'
'Seventy-nine, my lord,' answered the groom, coming from the direction of the gate.
'I counted eighty at the hall-door as they went in.'
'I am certain no more than seventy-nine went through the gate, my lord.'
'What can have become of the eightieth? He must have gone into the chapel, or up the archway, or he may be still in the hall. Art sure he is not grazing on the turf?'
'Certain sure, my lord,' answered Shafto.
'I am the thief, my lord,' said Dorothy, coming from the archway behind him, leading her little horse. '—Good, my lord, let me keep Dick. He is as useful as another—more useful than some.'
'How, cousin!' cried lord Charles, 'didst imagine I was sending off thy genet to save the hay? No, no! An' thou hadst looked well at the other horses, thou wouldst have seen they are such as we want for work—such as may indeed save the hay, but after another fashion. I but mean to do thy Dick a kindness, and give him a bite of grass with the rest.'
'Then you are turning them out into the fields, my lord?'
'Yes—at the little postern.'
'Is it safe, my lord, with the enemy so near?'
'It is my father's idea. I do not think there is any danger. There will be no moon to-night.'
'May not the scouts ride the closer for that,' my lord?'
'Yes, but they will not see the better.'
'I hope, my lord, you will not think me presumptuous, but—please let me keep my Dick inside the walls.'
'Do what thou wilt with thine own, cousin. I think thou art over-fearful; but do as thou wilt, I say.'
Dorothy led Dick back to his stable, a little distressed that lord Charles seemed to dislike her caution.
But she had a strong feeling of the risk of the thing, and after she went to bed was so haunted by it that she could not sleep. After a while, however, her thoughts took another direction:—Might not Richard come to the siege? What if they should meet?—That his party had triumphed, no whit altered the rights of the matter, and she was sure it had not altered her feelings; yet her feelings were altered: she was no longer so fiercely indignant against the puritans as heretofore! Was she turning traitor? or losing the government of herself? or was the right triumphing in her against her will? Was it St. Michael for the truth conquering St. George for the old way of England? Had the king been a tyrant indeed? and had the powers of heaven declared against him, and were they now putting on their instruments to cut down the harvest of wrong? Had not Richard been very sure of being in the right? But what was that shaking—not of the walls, but the foundations? What was that noise as of distant thunder? She sprang from her bed, caught up her night-light, for now she never slept in the dark as heretofore, and hurried to the watch-tower. From its top she saw, by the faint light of the stars, vague forms careering over the fields. There was no cry except an occasional neigh, and the thunder was from the feet of many horses on the turf. The enemy was lifting the castle horses!
She flew to the chamber beneath, where, since the earl's departure, in the stead of the cross-bow, a small minion gun had been placed by lord Charles, with its muzzle in the round where the lines of the loop-hole crossed. A piece of match lay beside it. She caught it up, lighted it at her candle, and fired the gun. The tower shook with its roar and recoil. She had fired the first gun of the siege: might it be a good omen!
In an instant the castle was alive. Warders came running from the western gate. Dorothy had gone, and they could not tell who had fired the gun, but there were no occasion to ask why it had been fired—for where were the horses? They could hear, but no longer see them. There was mounting in hot haste, and a hurried sally. Lord Charles flung himself on little Dick's bare back, and flew to reconnoitre. Fifty of the garrison were ready armed and mounted by the time he came back, having discovered the route they were taking, and off they went at full speed in pursuit. But, encumbered as they were at first with the driven horses, the twenty men who had carried them off had such a start of their pursuers that they reached the high road where they could not stray, and drove them right before them to sir Trevor Williams at Usk.
'The fodder will last the longer,' said the marquis, with a sigh sent after his eighty horses.
'Mistress Dorothy,' said lord Charles the next day, 'methinks thou art as Cassandra in Troy. I shall tremble after this to do aught against thy judgment.'
'My lord,' returned Dorothy, 'I have to ask your pardon for my presumption, but it was borne in upon me, as Tom Fool says, that there was danger in the thing. It was scarcely judgment on my part—rather a womanish dread.'
'Go thou on to speak thy mind like Cassandra, cousin Dorothy, and let us men despise it at our peril. I am humbled before thee,' said lord Charles, with the generosity of his family.
'Truly, child,' said lady Glamorgan, 'the mantle of my husband hath fallen upon thee!'
The next day sir Trevor Williams and his men sat down before the castle with a small battery, and the siege was fairly begun. Dorothy, on the top of the keep, watching them, but not understanding what they were about in particulars, heard the sudden bellow of one of their cannon. Two of the battlements beside her flew into one, and the stones of the parapet between them stormed into the cistern. Had her presence been the attraction to that thunderbolt? Often after this, while she watched the engine below in the workshop, she would hear the dull thud of an iron ball against the body of the tower; but although it knocked the parapet into showers of stones, their artillery could not make the slightest impression upon that.
The same night a sally was prepared. Rowland ran to lord Charles, begging leave to go. But his lordship would not hear of it, telling him to get well, and he should have enough of sallying before the siege was over. The enemy were surprised, and lost a few men, but soon recovered themselves and drove the royalists home, following them to the very gates, whence the guns of the castle sent them back in their turn.
Many such sallies and skirmishes followed. Once and again there was but time for the guard to open the gate, admit their own, and close it, ere the enemy came thundering up—to be received with a volley and gallop off. At first there was great excitement within the walls when a party was out. Eager and anxious eyes followed them from every point of vision. But at length they got used to it, as to all the ordinary occurrences of siege.
By and by colonel Morgan appeared with additional forces, and made his head-quarters to the south, at Llandenny. In two days more the castle was surrounded, and they began to erect a larger battery on the east of it, also to dig trenches and prepare for mining. The chief point of attack was that side of the stone court which lay between the towers of the kitchen and the library. Here then came the hottest of the siege, and very soon that range of building gave show of affording an easy passage by the time the outer works should be taken.
After the first ball, whose execution Dorothy had witnessed, there came no more for some time. Sir Trevor waited until the second battery should be begun and captain Hooper arrive, who was to be at the head of the mining operations. Hence most of the inmates of the castle began to imagine that a siege was not such an unpleasant thing after all. They lacked nothing; the apple trees bloomed; the moon shone; the white horse fed the fountain; the pigeons flew about the courts, and the peacock strutted on the grass. But when they began digging their approaches and mounting their guns on the east side, sir Trevor opened his battery on the west, and the guns of the tower replied. The guns also from the kitchen tower, and another between it and the library tower, played upon the trenches, and the noise was tremendous. At first the inhabitants were nearly deafened, and frequently failed to hear what was said; but at length they grew hardened—so much so that they were often unaware of the firing altogether, and began again to think a siege no great matter. But when the guns of the eastern battery opened fire, and at the first discharge a round shot, bringing with it a barrowful of stones, came down the kitchen chimney, knocking the lid through the bottom of the cook's stewpan, and scattering all the fire about the place; when the roof of one of the turrets went clashing over the stones of the paved court; when a spent shot struck the bars of the Great Mogul's cage, and sent him furious, making them think what might happen, and wishing they were sure of the politics of the wild beasts; when the stones and slates flew about like sudden showers of hail; when every now and then a great rumble told of a falling wall, and that side of the court was rapidly turning to a heap of ruins; then were cries and screams, many more however of terror than of injury, to be heard in the castle, and they began to understand that it was not starvation, but something more peremptory still, to which they were doomed to succumb. At times there would fall a lull, perhaps for a few hours, perhaps but for a few moments, to end in a sudden fury of firing on both sides, mingled with shouts, the rattling of bullets, and the falling of stones, when the women would rush to and fro screaming, and all would imagine the storm was in the breach.
But the gloom of the marquis seemed to have vanished with the breaking of the storm, as the outburst of the lightning takes the weight off head and heart that has for days been gathering. True, when his house began to fall, he would look for a moment grave at each successive rumble, but the next he would smile and nod his head, as if all was just as he had expected and would have it. One day when sir Toby Mathews and Dr. Bayly happened both to be with him in his study, an ancient stack of chimneys tumbled with tremendous uproar into the stone court. The two clergymen started visibly, and then looked at each other with pallid faces. But the marquis smiled, kept the silence for an instant, and then, in slow solemn voice, said:
'Scimus enim quoniam si terrestris domus nomus nostra hujus habitationis dissolvatur, quod aedificationem ex Deo habemus, domum non manufactam, aeternam in coelis.'
The clergymen grasped each other by the hand, then turning bowed together to the marquis, but the conversation was not resumed.
One evening in the drawing-room, after supper, the marquis, in good spirits, and for him in good health, was talking more merrily than usual. Lady Glamorgan stood near him in the window. The captain of the garrison was giving a spirited description of a sally they had made the night before upon colonel Morgan in his quarters at Llandenny, and sir Rowland was vowing that come of it what might, leave or no leave, he would ride the next time, when crash went something in the room, the marquis put his hand to his head, and the countess fled in terror, crying, 'O Lord! O Lord!' A bullet had come through the window, knocked a little marble pillar belonging to it in fragments on the floor, and glancing from it, struck the marquis on the side of the head. The countess, finding herself unhurt, ran no farther than the door.
'I ask your pardon, my lord, for my rudeness,' she said, with trembling voice, as she came slowly back. 'But indeed, ladies,' she added, 'I thought the house was coming down.—You gentlemen, who know not what fear is, I pray you to forgive me, for I was mortally frightened.'
'Daughter, you had reason to run away, when your father was knocked on the head,' said the marquis.
He put his finger on the flattened bullet where it had fallen on the table, and turning it round and round, was silent for a moment evidently framing aright something he wanted to say. Then with the pretence that the bullet had been flattened upon his head,
'Gentlemen,' he remarked, 'those who had a mind to flatter me were wont to tell me that I had a good head in my younger days, but if I don't flatter myself, I think I have a good head-piece in my old age, or else it would not have been musket-proof.'
But although he took the thing thus quietly and indeed merrily, it revealed to him that their usual apartments were no longer fit for the ladies, and he gave orders therefore that the great rooms in the tower should be prepared for them and the children.
Dorothy's capacity for work was not easily satisfied, but now for a time she had plenty to do. In the midst of the roar from the batteries, and the answering roar from towers and walls, the ladies betook themselves to their stronger quarters: a thousand necessaries had to be carried with them, and she, as a matter of course, it seemed, had to superintend the removal. With many hands to make light work she soon finished, however, and the family was lodged where no hostile shot could reach them, although the frequent fall of portions of its battlemented summit rendered even a peep beyond its impenetrable shell hazardous. Dorothy would lie awake at night, where she slept in her mistress's room, and listen—now to the baffled bullet as it fell from the scarce indented wall, now to the roar of the artillery, sounding dull and far away through the ten- foot thickness; and ever and again the words of the ancient psalm would return upon her memory: 'Thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.'
She tended the fire-engine if possible yet more carefully than ever, kept the cistern full, and the water lipping the edge of the moat, but let no fountain flow except that from the mouth of the white horse. Her great fear was lest a shot should fall into the reservoir and injure its bottom, but its contriver had taken care that, even without the protection of its watery armour, it should be indestructible.
The marquis would not leave his own rooms and the supervision they gave him. The domestics were mostly lodged within the kitchen tower, which, although in full exposure to the enemy's fire, had as yet proved able to resist it. But all between that and the library tower was rapidly becoming a chaos of stones and timber. Lord Glamorgan's secret chamber was shot through and through; but Caspar, as soon as the direction and force of the battery were known, had carried off his books and instruments.
Meantime Mr. Heywood had returned home to look after his affairs, and brought Richard with him. In the hope that peace was come they had laid down their commissions. Hardly had they reached Redware when they heard the news of the active operations at Raglan, and Richard rode off to see how things were going—not a little anxious concerning Dorothy, and full of eagerness to protect her, but entirely without hope of favour either at her hand or her heart. He had no inclination to take part in the siege, and had had enough of fighting for any satisfaction it had brought him. It might be the right thing to do, and so far the only path towards the sunrise, but had he ground for hope that the day of freedom had in himself advanced beyond the dawn? His confidence in Milton and Cromwell, with his father's, continued unshaken, but what could man do to satisfy the hunger for freedom which grew and gnawed within him? Neither political nor religious liberty could content him. He might himself be a slave in a universe of freedom. Still ready, even for the sake of mere outward freedom of action and liberty of worship, to draw the sword, he yet had begun to think he had fought enough.
As he approached Raglan he missed something from the landscape, but only upon reflection discovered that it was the church tower. Entering the village, he found it all but deserted, for the inhabitants had mostly gone, and it was too near the gates and too much exposed to the sudden sallies of the besieged for the occupation of the enemy. That day, however, a large reinforcement, sent from Oxford by Fairfax to strengthen colonel Morgan, having arrived at Llandenny, some of its officers, riding over to inspect captain Hooper's operations, had halted at the White Horse, where they were having a glass of ale when Richard rode up. He found them old acquaintances, and sat down with them. Almost evening when he arrived, it was quite dusk when they rose and called for their horses.
They had placed a man to keep watch towards Raglan, while the rest of their attendants, who were but few, leaving their horses in the yard, were drinking their ale in the kitchen; but seeing no signs of peril, and growing weary of his own position and envious of that of his neighbours, the fellow had ventured, discipline being neither active nor severe, to rejoin his companions.
The host, being a tenant of the marquis, had decided royalist predilections, but whether what followed was of his contriving I cannot tell; news reached the castle somehow that a few parliamentary officers with their men were drinking at the White Horse.
Rowland was in the chapel, listening to the organ, having in his illness grown fond of hearing Delaware play. The brisker the cannonade, the blind youth always praised the louder, and had the main stops now in full blast; but through it all, Scudamore heard the sound of horses' feet on the stones, and running along the minstrels' gallery and out on the top of the porch, saw over fifty horsemen in the court, all but ready to start. He flew to his chamber, caught up his sword and pistols, and without waiting to put on any armour, hurried to the stables, laid hold of the first horse he came to, which was fortunately saddled and bridled, and was in time to follow the last man out of the court before the gate was closed behind the issuing troop.
The parliamentary officers were just mounting, when their sentinel, who had run again into the road to listen, for it was now too dark to see further than a few yards, came running back with the alarm that he heard the feet of a considerable body of horse in the direction of the castle. Richard, whose mare stood unfastened at the door, was on her back in a moment. Being unarmed, save a brace of pistols in his holsters, he thought he could best serve them by galloping to captain Hooper and bringing help, for the castle party would doubtless outnumber them. Scarcely was he gone, however, and half the troopers were not yet in their saddles, when the place was surrounded by three times their number. Those who were already mounted, escaped and rode after Heywood, a few got into a field, where they hid themselves in the tall corn, and the rest barricaded the inn door and manned the windows. There they held out for some time, frequent pistol-shots being interchanged without much injury to either side. At length, however, the marquis's men had all but succeeded in forcing the door, when they were attacked in the rear by Richard with some thirty horse from the trenches, and the runaways of colonel Morgan's men, who had met them and turned with them. A smart combat ensued, lasting half an hour, in which the parliament men had the advantage. Those who had lost their horses recovered them, and a royalist was taken prisoner. From him Richard took his sword, and rode after the retreating cavaliers.
One of their number, a little in the rear, supposing Richard to be one of themselves, allowed him to get ahead of him, and, facing about, cut him off from his companions. It was the second time he had headed Scudamore, and again he did not know him, this time because it was dark. Rowland, however, recognised his voice as he called him to surrender, and rushed fiercely at him. But scarcely had they met, when the cavalier, whose little strength had ere this all but given way to the unwonted fatigue, was suddenly overcome with faintness, and dropped from his horse. Richard got down, lifted him, laid him across Lady's shoulders, mounted, raised him into a better position, and, leading the other horse, brought him back to the inn. There first he discovered that he was his prisoner whom he feared he had killed at Naseby.
When Rowland came to himself,
'Are you able to ride a few miles, Mr Scudamore?' asked Richard.
At first Rowland was too much chagrined, finding in whose power he was, to answer.
'I am your prisoner,' he said at length. 'You are my evil genius, I think. I have no choice. Thy star is in the ascendant, and mine has been going down ever since first I met thee, Richard Heywood.'
Richard attempted no reply, but got Rowland's horse, and assisted him to mount.
'I want to do you a good turn, Mr Scudamore,' he said, after they had ridden a mile in silence.
'I look for nothing good at thy hand,' said Scudamore.
'When thou findest what it is, I trust thou wilt change thy thought of me, Mr Scudamore.'
'SIR ROWLAND, an' it please you,' said the prisoner, his boyish vanity roused by misfortune, and passing itself upon him for dignity.
'Mere ignorance must be pardoned, sir Rowland,' returned Richard: 'I was unaware of your dignity. But think you, sir Rowland, you do well to ride on such rough errands, while yet not recovered, as is but too plain to see, from former wounds?'
'It seems not, Mr. Heywood, for I had not else been your prize, I trust. The wound I caught at Naseby has cost the king a soldier, I fear.'
'I hope it will cost no more than is already paid. Men must fight, it seems, but I for one would gladly repair, an' I might, what injuries I had been compelled to cause.'
'I cannot say the like on my part,' returned sir Rowland. 'I would I had slain thee!'
'So would not I concerning thee—in proof whereof do I now lead thee to the best leech I know—one who brought me back from death's door, when through thee, if not by thy hand, I was sore wounded. With her, as my prisoner, I shall leave thee. Seek not to make thy escape, lest, being a witch, as they saw of her, she chain thee up in alabaster. When thou art restored, go thy way whither thou pleasest. It is no longer as it was with the cause of liberty: a soldier of hers may now afford to release an enemy for whom he has a friendship.'
'A friendship!' exclaimed sir Rowland. 'And wherefore, prithee, Mr Heywood? On what ground?'
But they had reached the cottage, and Richard made no reply. Having helped his prisoner to dismount, led him through the garden, and knocked at the door,
'Here, mother!' he said as mistress Rees opened it, 'I have brought thee a king's-man to cure this time.'
'Praise God!' returned mistress Rees—not that a king's-man was wounded, but that she had him to cure: she was an enthusiast in her art. Just as she had devoted herself to the puritan, she now gave all her care and ministration to the royalist. She got her bed ready for him, asked him a few questions, looked at his shoulder, not even yet quite healed, said it had not been well managed, and prepared a poultice, which smelt so vilely that Rowland turned from it with disgust. But the old woman had a singular power of persuasion, and at length he yielded, and in a few moments was fast asleep.
Calling the next morning, Richard found him very weak—partly from the unwonted fatigue of the previous day, and partly from the old woman's remedies, which were causing the wound to threaten suppuration. But somehow he had become well satisfied that she knew what she was about, and showed no inclination to rebel.
For a week or so he did not seem to improve. Richard came often, sat by his bedside, and talked with him; but the moment he grew angry, called him names, or abused his party, would rise without a word, mount his mare, and ride home—to return the next morning as if nothing unpleasant had occurred.
After about a week, the patient began to feel the benefit of the wise woman's treatment. The suppuration carried so much of an old ever-haunting pain with it, that he was now easier than he had ever been since his return to Raglan. But his behaviour to Richard grew very strange, and the roundhead failed to understand it. At one time it was so friendly as to be almost affectionate; at another he seemed bent on doing and saying everything he could to provoke a duel. For another whole week, aware of the benefit he was deriving from the witch, as he never scrupled to call her, nor in the least offended her thereby, apparently also at times fascinated in some sort by the visits of his enemy, as he persisted in calling Richard, he showed no anxiety to be gone.
'Heywood,' he said one morning suddenly, with quite a new familiarity, 'dost thou consider I owe thee an apology for carrying off thy mare? Tell me what look the thing beareth to thee.'
'Put thy case, Scudamore,' returned Richard.
And sir Rowland did put his case, starting from the rebel state of the owner, advancing to the natural outlawry that resulted, going on to the necessity of the king, &c., and ending thus:
'Now I know thou regardest neither king nor right, therefore I ask thee only to tell me how it seemeth to thee I ought on these grounds to judge myself, since for thy judgment in thy own person and on thy own grounds, or rather no grounds, I care not at all.'
'Come, then, let it be but a question of casuistry. Yet I fear me it will be difficult to argue without breaking bounds. Would my lord marquis now walk forth of his castle at the king's command as certainly as he will at the voice of the nation, that is, the cannons of the parliament?'
'The cannons of the cursed parliament are not the voice of the nation? Our side is the nation, not yours.'
'How provest thou that?'
'We are the better born, to begin with.'
'Ye have the more titles, I grant ye, but we have the older families. Let it be, however, that I was or am a rebel—then I can only say that in stealing—no, I will not say STEALING, for thou didst it with a different mind—all I will say is this, sir Rowland, that I should have scorned so to carry off thine or any man's horse.'
'Ah, but thou wouldst have no right, being but a rebel!'
'Bethink thee, thou must judge on my grounds when thou judgest me.'
'True; then am I driven to say thou wast made of the better earth—curse thee! I am ashamed of having taken thy mare—only because it was in a half-friendly passage with thee I learned her worth. But, hang thee! it was not through thee I learned to know my cousin, Dorothy Vaughan.'
The recoiling blood stung Richard's heart like the blow of a whip, but he manned himself to answer with coolness.
'What then of her?' he said. 'Hast thou been wooing her favour, sir Rowland? Thou owest me nothing there, I admit, even had she not sent me from her. Besides, I am scarce one to be content with a mistress whose favour depended on the not coming between of some certain other, known or unknown. This I say not in pride, but because in such case I were not the right man for her, neither she the woman for me.'
'Then thou bearest me no grudge in that I have sought the prize of my cousin's heart?'
'None,' answered Richard, but could not bring himself to ask how he had sped.
'Then will I own to thee that I have gained as little. I will madden myself telling thee whom I hate, and to thy comfort, that she despises me like any Virginia slave.'
'Nay, that I am sure she doth not. She can despise nothing that is honourable.'
'Dost thou then count me honourable, Heywood?' said Scudamore, in a voice of surprise, putting forth a thin white hand, and placing it on Richard's where it lay huge and brown on the coverlid: 'Then honourable I will be.'
'And, in that resolve, art, sir Rowland.'
'I will be honourable,' repeated Scudamore, angrily, with flushing cheek, and hard yet flashing eye, 'because thou thinkest me such, although my hate would, an' it might, damn thee to lowest hell.'
'Nay, but thou wilt be honourable for honour's sake,' said Richard. 'Bethink thee, when first we met, we were but boys: now are we men, and must put away boyish things.'
'Dost call it a boyish thing to be madly in love with the fairest and noblest and bravest mistress that ever trod the earth—though she be half a puritan, alack?'
'She half a puritan!' exclaimed Heywood. 'She hates the very wind of the word.'
'She may hate the word, but she is the thing. She hath read me such lessons as none but a puritan could.'
'Were they not then good lessons, that thou joinest with them a name hateful to thee?'
'Ay, truly—much too good for mortal like me—or thee either, Heywood. They are but hypocrites that pretend otherwise.'
'Callest thou thy cousin a hypocrite?'
'No, by heaven! she is not. She is a woman, and it is easy for women to say prayers.'
'I never rode into a fight but I said my prayer,' returned Richard.
'None the less art thou a hypocrite. I should scorn to be for ever begging favours as thou. Dost think God heareth such prayers as thine?'
'Not if He be such as thou, sir Rowland, and not if he who prays be such as thou thinkest him. Prithee, what sort of prayer thinkest thou I pray ere I ride into the battle?'
'How should I know? My lord marquis would have had me say my prayers at such a time, but, good sooth! I always forgot. And if I had done it, where would have been the benefit thereof, so long as thou, who wast better used to the work, wast praying against me? I say it is a cowardly thing to go praying into the battle, and not take thy fair chance as other men do.'
'Then will I tell thee to what purpose I pray. But, first of all, I must confess to thee that I have had my doubts, not whether my side were more in the right than thine, but whether it were worth while to raise the sword even in such cause. Now, still when that doubt cometh, ever it taketh from my arm the strength, and going down into the very legs of my mare causeth that she goeth dull, although willing, into the battle. Moreover, I am no saint, and therefore cannot pray like a saint, but only like Richard Heywood, who hath got to do his duty, and is something puzzled. Therefore pray I thus, or to this effect:
'"O God of battles! who, thyself dwelling in peace, beholdest the strife, and workest thy will thereby, what that good and perfect will of thine is I know not clearly, but thou hast sent us to be doing, and thou hatest cowardice. Thou knowest I have sought to choose the best, so far as goeth my poor ken, and to this battle I am pledged. Give me grace to fight like a soldier of thine, without wrath and without fear. Give me to do my duty, but give the victory where thou pleasest. Let me live if so thou wilt; let me die if so thou wilt—only let me die in honour with thee. Let the truth be victorious, if not now, yet when it shall please thee; and oh! I pray, let no deed of mine delay its coming. Let my work fail, if it be unto evil, but save my soul in truth."
'And in truth, sir Rowland, it seemeth to me then as if the God of truth heard me. Then say I to my mare, "Come, Lady, all is well now. Let us go. And good will come of it to thee also, for how should the Father think of his sparrows and forget his mares? Doubtless there are of thy kind in heaven, else how should the apostle have seen them there? And if any, surely thou, my Lady!" So ride we to the battle, merry and strong, and calm, as if we were but riding to the rampart of the celestial city.'
Rowland lay gazing at Richard for a few moments, then said:
'By heaven, but it were a pity you should not come together! Surely the same spirit dwelleth in you both! For me, I should show but as the shadow cast from her brightness. But I tell thee, roundhead, I love her better than ever roundhead could.'
'I know not, Scudamore. Nor do I mean to judge thee when I say that no man who loves not the truth can love a woman in the grand way a woman ought to be loved.'
'Tell me not I do not love her, or I will rise and kill thee. I love her even to doing what my soul hateth for her sake. Damned roundhead, she loves THEE.'
The last words came from him almost in a shriek, and he fell back panting.
Richard sat silent for a few moments, his heart surging and sinking. Then he said quietly:—
'It may be so, sir Rowland. We were boy and girl together—fed rabbits, flew kites, planted weeds to make flowers of them, played at marbles; she may love me a little, roundhead as I am.'
'By heaven, I will try her once more! Who knows the heart of a woman?' said Rowland through his teeth.
'If thou should gain her, Scudamore, and afterward she should find thee unworthy?'
'She would love me still.'
'And break her heart for thee, and leave thee young to marry another—while I—'
He laughed a low, strangely musical laugh, and ceased—then resumed:—
'But what if, instead of dying, she should learn to despise thee, finding thou hadst not only deceived her, but deceived thy better self, and should turn from thee with loathing, while thou didst love her still—as well as thy nature could?—what then, sir Rowland?'
'Then I should kill her.'
'And thou lovest her better than any roundhead could! I will find thee man after man from amongst Ireton's or Cromwell's horse—I know not the foot so well:—fanatic enough they are, God knows! and many of them fools enough to boot!—but I will find thee man after man who is fanatic or fool enough, which thou wilt, to love better than thou, thou poor atom of solitary selfishness!'
Rowland half flung himself from the bed, seized Richard by the throat, and with all the strength he could summon did his best to strangle him. For a time Richard allowed him to spend his rage, then removed his grasp as gently as he could, and holding both his wrists in his left hand, rose and stood over him.
'Sir Rowland,' he said, 'I am not angry with thee that thou art weak and passionate. But bethink thee—thou liest in God's hands a thousandfold more helpless than now thou liest in mine, and like Saul of Tarsus thou wilt find it hard to kick against the pricks. For the maiden, do as thou wilt, for thou canst not do other than the will of God. But I thank thee for what thou hast told me, though I doubt it meaneth little better for me than for thee. Thou hast a kind heart. I almost love thee, and will when I can.'
He let go his hands, and walked from the room.
'Canting hypocrite!' cried sir Rowland in the wrath of impotence, but knew while he said the words that they were false.
And with the words the bitterness of life seized his heart, and his despair shrouded the world in the blackness of darkness. There was nothing more to live for, and he turned his face to the wall.
UNDER THE MOAT.
It was some time ere they discovered that Scudamore was missing from the castle, but there was the hope that he had been taken prisoner; and things were growing so bad within the walls, that there was little leisure for lamentation over individual misfortunes. Unless some change as entire as unexpected—for there seemed no chance of any except the king should win over the Scots to take his part —should occur, it was evident that the enemy must speedily make the assault, nor could there be a doubt of their carrying the place—an anticipation which, as the inevitable drew nearer, became nothing less than terrible to both household and garrison. True, their conquerors would be of their own people, but battle and bloodshed and victory, and, worst of all, party-spirit, the marquis knew, destroy not nationality merely, but humanity as well, rousing into full possession the feline beast which has his lair in every man—in many, it is true, dwindled to the household cat, but in many others a full-sized, only sleepy tiger. To what was he about to expose his men, not to speak of his ladies and their children!
On the other hand, ever since the balls had been flying about his house, and the stones of it leaving their places to keep them company, the loyalty of the marquis had been rising, and he had thought of his prisoner-king ever with growing tenderness, of his faults with more indulgence, and of the wrongs he had done his family with more magnanimity and forgiveness, so that, for his own part, he would have held out to the very last.
'And truly were it not better to be well buried under the ruins,' he would say to himself, looking down with a sigh at his great bulk, which added so much to the dismalness of the prospect of being, in his seventieth year, a prisoner or a wanderer—the latter a worse fate even than the former. To be no longer the master of his own great house, of many willing servants, of all ready appliances for liberty and comfort, while the weight of his clumsy person must still hang about him, and his unfitness to carry the same go on increasing with the bulk to be carried—such a prospect required something more than loyalty to meet it with equanimity. To the young and strong, adventure ought always to be more attractive than ease, but none save those who are themselves within sight of old age can truly imagine what an utter horror the breach of old habits and loss of old comforts is to the aged.
But to the good marquis it was consolation enough to repeat to himself the text from his precious Vulgate: Scimus enim; For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For the ladies, so long as their father-chief was with them, they were at least not too anxious. Whatever was done must be the right thing, and in the midst of tumult and threat they were content. If only their Edward had been with them too!
But surrender, even when the iron shot was driving his stately house into showers of dirt, the marquis found it hard indeed to contemplate. The eastern side of the stone court was now little better than a heap of rubbish, and the hour of assault could not be far off, although as yet there had been no second summons; but he could not forget that, though the castle was his, it was not for himself but for his king he held it garrisoned, and how could he yield it without the approval of his sovereign? The governor shared in the same chivalry with his father, and was equally anxious for a word from the king. But that king was a prisoner in the hands of a hostile nation, and how was he to receive message or return answer? Nay, how were they to send message or receive answer, not even knowing with certainty where his majesty was, and but presuming that he was still at Newcastle? And not to mention difficulties at every step of the way, their house itself was so beset that no one could issue from its gates without risk of being stopped, searched, detained until it should have fallen. For the besiegers knew well enough that lord Glamorgan was still in Ireland, straining his utmost on behalf of the king; and what more likely than that he should, with the men he was still raising in Ireland, make some desperate attempt to turn the scales of war, striking first, it might well be, for the relief of his father's castle?
These things were all pretty freely spoken of in the family, and Dorothy understood the position of affairs as well as any one. And now at length it seemed to her that the hour had arrived for attempting some return for Raglan's hospitality. No service she had hitherto stumbled upon had any magnitude in her eyes, but now—to be the bearer of dispatches to the king! It would suffice at least, even if it turned out a failure, to prove her not ungrateful. But she too had her confidant, and in the absence of lord Glamorgan would consult with Caspar.
Meantime the marquis had made matters worse by sending a request to Colonel Morgan that he would grant safe passage for a messenger to the king, without whose command he was not at liberty to surrender the place. The answer was to the effect that they acknowledged no jurisdiction of the king in the business, and that the marquis might keep his mind easy as far as his supposed duty to his majesty was concerned, for they would so compel a surrender that there could be no reflection upon him for making it.
Caspar, fearful of the dangers she would have to encounter, sought to dissuade Dorothy from her meditated proposal—but feebly, for every one who had anything noble in his nature, and Caspar had more than his share, was influenced by the magnanimity that ruled the place. Indeed he told her one thing which served to clench her resolution—that there was a secret way out of the castle, provided by his master Glamorgan for communication during siege: more he was not at liberty to disclose. Dorothy went straight to the marquis and laid her plan before him, which was that she should make her escape to Wyfern, and thence, attended by an old servant, set out to seek the king.
'There is no longer time, alas!' returned the marquis. 'I look for the final summons every hour.'
'Could you not raise the report, my lord, that you have undermined the castle, and laid a huge quantity of gunpowder, with the determination of blowing it up the moment they enter? That would make them fall back upon blockade, and leave us a little time. Our provisions are not nearly exhausted, and when fodder fails, we can eat the horses first.'
'Thou art a brave lady, cousin Dorothy,' said the marquis. 'But if they caught and searched thee, and found papers upon thee, it would go worse with us than before.'
'Please your lordship, my lord Glamorgan once showed me such a comb as a lady might carry in her pocket, but so contrived that the head thereof was hollow and could contain despatches. Methinks Caspar could lay his hand on the comb. If I were but at Wyfern! and thither my little horse would carry me in less than hour, giving all needful time for caution too, my lord.'
'By George, thou speakest well, cousin!' said the marquis. 'But who should attend thee?'
'Let me have Tom Fool, my lord, for now have I thought of a betterment of my plan: he will guide me to his mother's house by byways, and thence can I cross the fields to my own—as easily as the great hall, my lord.'
'Tom Fool is a mighty coward,' objected the marquis.
'So much the better, my lord. He will not get me into trouble through displaying his manhood before me. He hath besides a a face long enough for three roundheads, and a tongue that can utter glibly enough what soundeth very like their jargon. Tom is the right fool to attend me, my lord.'
'He can't ride; he never backed a horse in his life, I believe. No, no, Dorothy. Shafto is the man.'
'Shafto is much too ready, my lord. He would ride over my hounds. I want Tom no farther than his mother's, and there will be no need for him to ride.'
'Well, it is a brave offer, my child, and I will think thereupon,' said his lordship.
All the rest of the day the marquis and lord Charles, with two or three of the principal officers of house and garrison, were in conference, and letters were written both to his majesty and lord Glamorgan. Before they were finally written out in cipher, Kaltoff was sent for, the comb found, its contents gauged, and the paper cut to suit.
About an hour after midnight, Dorothy, lord Charles, and Caspar stood together in the workshop, waiting for Tom Fool, who had gone to fetch Dick from the stables. Dorothy had the comb in her pocket. She looked pale, but her grey eyes shone with courage and determination. She carried nothing but a whip. A keen little lamp borne by Caspar was all their light.
Presently they heard the sound of Dick's hoofs on the bridge. A moment more and Tom led him in, both man and horse looking somewhat scared at the strangeness of the midnight proceeding. But Tom was, notwithstanding, glad of the office, and ready to risk a good deal in order to get out of the castle, where he expected nothing milder at last than a general massacre.
Lord Charles himself lifted foot after foot of the little horse to be satisfied that his shoes were sound, then made a sign to Caspar, and gave his hand to Dorothy. Caspar took Dick by the bridle, and led him up to the wall near the door. Lord Charles and Dorothy followed. But Tom, observing that they placed themselves within a chalk-drawn circle, hung back in terror; he fancied Caspar was going to raise the devil. Yet he knew that within the circle was the only safety; a word from Dorothy turned the scale, and he stood trembling by her side. Nor was he greatly consoled to find that, as he now thought, instead of the devil coming to them, they were going to him, as, with the circle upon which they stood, they began to sink, through a stone-faced shaft, slowly into the foundations of the keep. Dick also was frightened, but happily his faith was stronger than his imagination, and a word now and then from his mistress, and an occasional pat from her well-known hand, sufficed to keep him quiet.
At the depth of about thirty feet they stopped, and found themselves facing a ponderous door, studded and barred with iron. Caspar took from his pocket a key about the size of a goose quill, felt about for a moment, and then with a slight movement of finger and thumb threw back a dozen ponderous bolts with a great echoing clang; the door slowly opened, and they entered a narrow vaulted passage of stone. Lord Charles took the lamp from Caspar, and led the way with Dorothy; Tom Fool came next, and Caspar followed with Dick. The lamp showed but a few feet of the walls and roof, and revealed nothing in front until they had gone about a furlong, when it shone upon what seemed the live rock ending their way. But again Caspar applied the little key somewhere, and immediately a great mass of rock slowly turned on a pivot, and permitted them to pass.
When they were all on the other side of it, lord Charles turned and held up the light. Dorothy turned also and looked: there was nothing to indicate whence they had come. Before her was the rough rock, seemingly solid, certainly slimy and green, and over its face was flowing a tiny rivulet.
'See there,' said lord Charles, pointing up; 'that little stream comes the way thy dog Marquis and the roundhead Heywood came and went. But I challenge anything larger than a rat to go now.'
Dorothy made no answer, and they went on again for some distance in a passage like the former, but soon arrived at the open quarry, whence Tom knew the way across the fields to the high road as well, he said, as the line of life on his own palm. Lord Charles lifted Dorothy to the saddle, said good-luck and good-bye, and stood with Caspar watching as she rode up the steep ascent, until for an instant her form stood out dark against the sky, then vanished, when they turned and re-entered the castle.
THE UNTOOTHSOME PLUM.
It was a starry night, with a threatening of moonrise, and Dorothy was anxious to reach the cottage before it grew lighter. But they must not get into the high road at any nearer point than the last practicable, for then they would be more likely to meet soldiers, and Dick's feet to betray their approach. Over field after field, therefore, they kept on, as fast as Tom, now and then stopping to peer anxiously over the next fence or into a boundary ditch, could lead the way. At last they reached the place by the side of a bridge, where Marquis led Richard off the road, and there they scrambled up.
'O Lord!' cried Tom, and waked a sentry dozing on the low parapet.
'Who goes there?' he cried, starting up, and catching at his carbine, which leaned against the wall.
'Oh, master!' began Tom, in a voice of terrified appeal; but Dorothy interrupted him.
'I am an honest woman of the neighbourhood,' she said. 'An' thou wilt come home with me, I will afford thee a better bed than thou hast there, and also a better breakfast, I warrant thee, than thou had a supper.'
'That is, an' thou be one of the godly,' supplemented Tom.
'I thank thee, mistress,' returned the sentinel, 'but not for the indulgence of carnal appetite will I forsake my post. Who is he goeth with thee?'
'A fellow whose wit is greater than his courage, and yet he goeth with many for a born fool. A parlous coward he is, else might he now be fighting the Amalekites with the sword of the Lord and of Gideon. Yet in good sooth he serveth me well for the nonce.'
The sentry glanced at Tom, but could see little of him except a long white oval, and Tom was now collected enough to put in exercise his best wisdom, which consisted in holding his tongue.
'Answer me then, mistress, how, being a godly woman, as I doubt not from thy speech thou art, thee rides thus late with none but a fool to keep thee company? Knowest thou not that the country is full of soldiers, whereof some, though that they be all true-hearted and right-minded men, would not mayhap carry themselves so civil to a woman as corporal Bearbanner? And now, I bethink me, thou comest from the direction of Raglan!'
Here he drew himself up, summoned a voice from his chest a storey or two deeper, and asked in magisterial tone:
'Whence comest thou, woman? and on what business gaddest thou so late?'
'I am come from visiting at a friend's house, and am now almost on my own farm,' answered Dorothy.
The man turned to Tom, and Dorothy began to regret she had brought him: he was trembling visibly, and his mouth was wide open with terror.
'See,' she said, 'how thy gruff voice terrifieth the innocent! If now he should fall in a fit thou wert to blame.'
As she spoke she put her hand in her pocket, and taking from it her untoothsome plum, popped it into Tom's mouth. Instantly he began to make such strange uncouth noises that the sentinel thought he had indeed terrified him into a fit.
'I must get him straightway home. Good-night, friend,' said Dorothy, and giving Dick the rein, she was off like the wind, heedless of the shouts of the sentinel or the feeble cries of pursuing Tom, who, if he could not fight, could run. Following his mistress at great speed, he was instantly lost in the darkness, and the sentinel, who had picketed his horse in a neighbouring field, sat down again on the parapet of the bridge, and began to examine all that Dorothy had said with a wondrous inclination to discover the strong points in it.