The Boy who sailed with Blake, by W.H.G. Kingston.
Another vintage Kingston book, this time with a background of the 1650s, when Cromwell and the Roundheads were in power.
With acknowledgement to Chamber's Biographical Dictionary we read:
Blake, Robert (1599-1657) English naval commander, the son of a merchant. Educated at Wadham College, Oxford, he continued his father's business and led the life of a quiet country gentleman until he was 40. Returned for Bridgwater in 1640 to the short Parliament, he cast in his lot with the Parliamentarians. In the Civil War he took part in the defence of Bristol (1643) and Lyme Regis (1644), and his defence of Taunton (1644-45) against overwhelming odds proved a turning point in the war. Appointed Admiral in 1649, he destroyed Prince Rupert's fleet and captured the Scilly Isles and Jersey. In the first Dutch War (1652-54) he defeated Tromp at the battle of Portland and shattered Dutch supremacy at sea. He destroyed the Barbary Coast pirate fleet off Tunis (1655) and in 1657 destroyed a Spanish treasure fleet at Santa Cruz off Teneriffe. He died as his ship entered Plymouth, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, but his body was removed at the Restoration. He is considered one of the greatest of English admirals, second only to Nelson.
That was the background to this story. The only thing that upset your transcriber is that he is by nature on the side of the Cavaliers and the Monarchy, rather than that of the Roundheads.
THE BOY WHO SAILED WITH BLAKE, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
The following story is not one of reckless adventure, nor one in which fighting and bloodshed are introduced to fan a spurious spirit of heroism. It is the reproduction of a page of history, and a most important one, when good men held not their lives dear to uphold and defend that which was dearer than life—civil and religious liberty.
The example of Blake is held up to the boys of to-day, not because he fought and conquered, but because he was a conscientious, God-fearing man, and his conscience told him that the best interests of his country demanded resistance to the Stuart rule. Such a man as Blake was a hero everywhere, and needed not a quarter-deck to display his heroism.
MY FRIENDS AND I.
"Hark! the bells of Saint Michael's are sending forth a jovial peal!" exclaimed Lancelot Kerridge, as he, Dick Harvey, and I were one day on board his boat fishing for mackerel, about two miles off the sea-port town of Lyme. "What they are saying I should mightily like to know, for depend on't it's something of importance. Haul in the lines, Ben!" he continued, addressing me; "and, Dick, put an oar out to windward. I'll take the helm. We shall fetch the Cob by keeping our luff."
The wind was off shore, but as we were to the westward of the Cob, and the tide was making in the same direction, we could easily fetch it. The water was smooth, the sea blue and bright as the eyes of sweet Cicely Kerridge, my friend Lancelot's young sister, while scarcely a cloud dimmed the clear sky overhead.
Lyme, then containing but one thousand inhabitants, where my two companions and I lived, is situated in Dorsetshire, near its western border, on the northern shore of a wide bay, formed by the Bill of Portland on the east and the Start Point on the west. Along the coast are several other towns, of which Dartmouth, owing to its excellent harbour, is the most considerable, besides numerous villages, including Charmouth and Uplyme. A line of cliffs of no great height extends away on either side of Lyme, which stands at the bottom of a valley; while beyond it rise the green slopes of Colway and Uplyme, hills overlooking the town.
On the eastern side was the house of my father, Captain Roger Bracewell. He had commanded several of the trading ships of Master Humphrey Blake, of Bridgwater, at one time a merchant of renown, and the father of Captain Robert Blake, who had already made his name famous for his gallant defence of Prior's Hill when Bristol was besieged by Prince Rupert, until it was yielded in a dastardly fashion by Governor Fiennes. My father retiring from the sea with a competency, having married late in life, settled in Lyme, his native place. His house, which overlooked the bay, was of the better sort, with curious gables, and a balcony supported on strong wooden pillars in front, where he was wont to sit, smoking his pipe, and enjoying a view of the ocean he still loved full well, with the ships—their white canvas spread to the breeze—sailing by in the distance, or approaching to take shelter in our roadstead.
There were a few other residences of the same character; but most of the houses were built of soft stone, with thatched roofs, forming four irregular narrow streets, with several narrower lanes of no very dignified character. Still, we were fond of our little town, and had reasons to be proud of it from the events I am about to describe.
My two friends and I spent much of our time on the water. Lancelot, my senior by two years, was the son of the worshipful Master Kerridge, Mayor of Lyme, and Dick's father was Mr Harvey, a man of considerable wealth and influence in the neighbourhood, brother-in-law of Mr Ceely, who had been made Governor of the town by the Parliament.
Our fathers were Puritans and staunch Parliamentarians. They had become so in consequence of the faithlessness of the King, and the attempt of Laud to introduce Popish rites and to enslave the consciences of free-born Englishmen. Who, indeed, could have witnessed the clipping of ears, the slitting of noses, the branding of temples, and burning of tongues, to which the Archbishop resorted to crush Nonconformity—who could have seen their friends imprisoned, placed in the pillory, and even scourged through the streets, without feeling their hearts burn with indignation and their whole souls rebel against tyranny so outrageous?
"It is a wonder that any honest man could be found to support that miscreant Laud," I remember hearing my father say. "He and his faithless master are mainly answerable for the civil strife now devastating, from north to south and east to west, our fair English land."
But I must not trouble my readers with politics; my object is to narrate the scenes I witnessed, or the events in which I took a part. I was too young, indeed, at that time to think much about the matter, but yet I was as enthusiastic a Roundhead as any of my fellow-townsmen. As we approached the little harbour we passed through a large fleet of traders, brought up in the roadstead for shelter, most of which, belonging to London merchants, dared not therefore put into any port held by the Cavaliers. Three or four had dropped their anchors while we were out fishing. We hailed one of them, which had come in from the westward, to ask the news.
"Bad news!" was the answer. "The Malignants have taken Exeter, and many other places in the west country, and are now marching in great force on London."
"I hope they won't come to Lyme on their way, for if they do, we shall have but small chance of withstanding them," I observed to my companions as we sailed on.
"I have but little fear on that score," replied Lancelot. "We'll fight while a man remains on his legs, or a gun can be fired from our batteries."
Lancelot's enthusiasm inspired me. The breeze freshened. We soon rounded the Cob, when we pulled up among the small craft which crowded the harbour, to a spot where Lancelot usually kept his boat. As soon as we had moored her we sprang on shore, and hurried through the lower part of the town, which was almost deserted.
We found the greater portion of the inhabitants collected at the northern side; and I had scarcely time to ask a question of my father, whom I joined, before we saw a body of troops approaching, led by an officer on horseback. He was a strong-built man, of moderate height, with a fair and florid complexion, and, contrary to the fashion general among Puritans, his hair, in rich profusion, was seen escaping beneath his broad-brimmed hat, while he wore large whiskers, but no beard—his countenance unmistakably exhibiting firmness and determination. He returned in a cordial manner the salutes of the principal townsmen, who had gone out to meet him.
"Who is he?" I asked of my father.
"That, my son, is Colonel Blake. He has come with five hundred men of Popham's regiment, to protect us from a large army of Malignants—twenty thousand men, it is said—under Prince Maurice, cousin to the King. He threatens to annihilate our little town; but though we shall have a hard struggle to beat them back, God will protect the right."
The bells we had heard had been set ringing on the announcement of the approach of Colonel Blake; and now, as he and his brave followers entered the town, they pealed forth with redoubled energy.
While the men were sent to their quarters, he, accompanied by the Governor and Mayor, and several officers, rode round the outskirts of the town, to point out the spots where he judged it necessary that batteries and entrenchments should be thrown up.
He was accompanied by a young nephew, also named Robert Blake, son of his brother Samuel, who was killed some time before at Bridgwater, while commanding a company in Colonel Popham's regiment. I afterwards became well acquainted with young Robert Blake, as we were much drawn together by the fondness for a sea life which we both possessed. His was rather a passion than mere fondness—indeed, like his noble uncle, he was enthusiastic in all his aspirations, and a more gallant, noble-minded lad I never met.
That evening the newly arrived troops, as well as every man in the place capable of labouring, set to work with pickaxes, spades, and barrows to throw up embankments, to cut trenches, to erect batteries, to barricade the roads, and to loophole all the outer walls of the houses and gardens. Officers were in the meantime despatched by the Governor and the Mayor to obtain volunteers from Charmouth, Uplyme, and other villages; while foraging parties were sent out in all directions to collect provisions, cattle, and fodder. Although, in addition to Colonel Blake's five hundred regulars, scarcely more than three hundred fighting men could be mustered in the town, there were no signs of wavering; but high and low endeavoured to make amends for the paucity of their numbers by their dauntless courage, their energy, and unceasing toil; and even women and children were to be seen in all directions, filling baskets with sods, and carrying materials to the labourers at the earthworks.
Lancelot and I kept together, and did our best to be of use, though I could not do much, being a little fellow; but I know that I worked away as hard as my strength would allow me. Colonel Blake was everywhere, superintending the operations and encouraging the men. Stopping near where my friends and I were at work, he addressed the labourers.
"The haughty Cavaliers fancy that they can ride roughshod into your little town, my lads," he said; "but I want you to show them that you can fight for your hearths and homes as well as did my brave fellows at Prior's Hill; and I do not fear that a traitor will be found within our trenches to deliver up the place, while we have a cask of powder in our magazines, or a musket to fire it. And even should our ammunition run short, the Lord of Hosts being with us, we'll drive them back with pike and sword."
"Rightly spoken, Colonel Blake," said my father, who had just then reached the spot where the Colonel was standing. "I am an old man, and had looked forward to ending my days in peace; but willingly will I promise you that the enemy shall march over my dead body before they get within our entrenchments. I served on board the ships of your honoured father, when we had many a tough fight with corsairs, Spaniards, Portingales, and Dutchmen; and I feel sure that I shall not draw my sword in vain when his son commands. Maybe you may remember Richard Bracewell?"
"Well indeed I do," answered Colonel Blake, putting out his hand and warmly shaking that of my father. "And many a long yarn about your adventures have I listened to with eager interest, while I longed to sail over the wide ocean and to visit the strange countries you described. Who is that youngster standing by you?" he then asked in a kindly tone, looking down on me.
"My only boy, the son of my old age," answered my father. "Though young now, he will, I trust, ere long grow big enough to fight for the civil and religious liberties of our country, or to defend her from foreign foes."
"Judging by his looks, and knowing whose son he is, I would gladly have him with me when he is old enough, should heaven spare our lives; but at present he is too young to be exposed to the dangers of war, and I would advise you to keep him under lock and key when the fight is going on, or he will be running where bullets and round shot are falling, and perhaps his young life will be taken before he has had time to strike a blow for the liberties of our country."
"I hope that I can do something now, sir," I said, not liking the thoughts of being shut up. "I can fire a pistol if I cannot point an arquebuse; and since morning I have carried a hundred baskets or more of earth to the embankment."
"You speak bravely, my boy, and bravely you will act when the time comes," said the Colonel, and forthwith he addressed himself to others who came to receive his orders. Such was my first introduction to one with whom I was destined to serve for many a year.
I well remember the spot where we were standing. On one side lay the blue sea extending to the horizon, below us was the town with its white-walled, straw-thatched buildings, the church with its spire to the left, and before us were the green slopes of the hills sprinkled here and there with clumps of trees, while on the more level spots were to be seen corn-fields and orchards smiling in the rays of the setting sun. Beyond the town was Colway House, a substantial mansion, once the residence of the Cobham family; and about a mile from it, on the opposite side of the valley, was a collection of buildings known as Hayes Farm, both of which had been fortified, and occupied as outposts.
We had, we knew, not many days to prepare for the defence; and I am proud to say that, scrap of a boy as I was, I worked as hard as many of my elders. Late in the evening, when it was already dusk, my father found me, with Lancelot and Dick, still at our self-imposed task.
"Come, boys," he said, "it is time for you to go home and get some sleep. You must leave it to stronger men to labour during the night."
"Just let us carry a few more basketfuls, sir," answered Lancelot. "See that gap; we have undertaken to fill it up, and, for what we can tell, the enemy may be upon us before the morning."
"Well, well, lads, I like your spirit. I will not baulk you. Give me a spade; I will try what I can do to expedite the work." And my revered father, as soon as the spade had been handed to him, began digging away with right goodwill, filling the baskets, which were carried up to the embankment. He soon became so interested in the work that he was as unwilling to knock off as we were.
"Run back and get a lantern. Its light will help us to finish our task more quickly. Maybe the host of the 'Three Tankards' will lend thee one; or Master Harris who lives opposite; or, if you cannot get one nearer, go home and bring our big lantern which hangs inside the hall door. See that it is well trimmed, though."
"Ay, ay, father," I answered, and set off. Knowing every foot of the way, I was not afraid of running, even though the gathering darkness made it difficult to see objects at any distance beyond my nose.
At the first places where I called, all the lanterns had been put into requisition, and so I had to run on until I reached our house. I found my sister Audrey, and Margaret our maid, wondering why we were so long absent. Supper was on the table, and the viands getting cold. On hearing why I wanted the lantern, they both wished to come and help us, Audrey declaring that she could carry a basket as well as either of us boys.
"You must stop and take care of the house," I answered, feeling a little jealous that a girl should fancy she could work as well as my companions and I. "There are a good many strangers in the town, and it would not do to leave the house empty. Margaret can trim the lantern, as she knows how to do it better than I do. Be quick about it, for I must be off again as fast as my legs can carry me."
"Take a crust of bread and a piece of cheese in the meantime, Master Ben," said Margaret, as she took down the lantern, and examined the wick.
"I have no time for eating; I am not hungry," I answered, and I watched her impatiently, while she poured in some fresh oil. Taking the lantern as soon as it was lighted, I hurried out, and, holding it before me, ran on without fear of rushing against any one coming from an opposite direction. I had got a short distance when I found myself in the midst of a body of men, who were coming up from the harbour carrying loads on their shoulder. They had, I discovered from the remarks which reached me, just landed.
"Do you bring any news?" I inquired.
"Fine news, young sir," answered one of the men. "Prince Maurice has been driven away from Plymouth, which he tried to take, but couldn't. But, as maybe he will pay a visit to Lyme, we have brought you powder and shot, and other munitions of war, and no doubt Colonel Blake will make good use of them."
Having obtained all the information I could from the communicative seaman, I hurried on with the satisfactory intelligence to the works, where I found my father leaning on his spade, pretty well tired out by his unusual exertions. The light of the lantern I brought, however, enabled us to proceed, and he recommenced digging with as much energy as before.
As we were running backwards and forwards, I could see numerous other lights all along the line, within a few yards of each other, marking the spots where the people were working.
It was nearly midnight before our task was concluded. Not one of us had felt hungry or thirsty. My father then insisted on our returning home, and on our way we left Lancelot and Dick at their respective homes.
We found Audrey and Margaret sitting up for us, both looking somewhat pale, naturally supposing that if the finishing of the earthworks was so important, immediate danger was to be apprehended. Supper over, we knelt in prayer, which, on all occasions and under all circumstances, was our wont. Then retiring to bed, I for one slept like a top. Next day was like the previous one.
The news that Prince Maurice, at the head of a vast army, was marching into Dorsetshire, spread through the town and incited every one to renewed exertions. Volunteers, who came in from all sides, were being drilled by Colonel Weir and other officers, most of them having to learn not only the use of the pike and sword, but how to load and fire an arquebuse or musket.
The soldiers and townsmen were still labouring away at the fortifications, when one morning, as Lancelot, Dick, and I were employed at the top of an embankment, my father helping us, we saw a horseman who had been on outpost duty come galloping down the hill towards the town.
"The enemy are near at hand!" he exclaimed, as he rode up to where Colonel Blake and Governor Ceely stood. "They will be here anon. I could see them defiling along the road like a host of ants. I had to ride hard to escape their advance guard."
On receiving this news, the colonel ordered the drums to beat to arms. Parties were sent out to strengthen the two outposts, and the troops and townsmen, with the volunteers, hastened to the lines.
"How many fighting men have we?" I asked of my father, as I watched the defenders taking up their appointed positions.
"Colonel Blake brought five hundred men with him, and, maybe, with the townsmen and volunteers from the neighbourhood, we shall muster well-nigh another five hundred," he answered.
"A thousand men to withstand twenty thousand?" I asked in a doubtful tone.
"Each man of the one thousand will count for twenty when fighting in a just cause," he answered. "Colonel Blake thinks that we can not only withstand, but drive back the Malignants, or he would not wantonly throw away our lives."
We watched eagerly for some time, when at length horse and foot, gay banners flying, cuirasses and helmets glittering in the bright sun, appeared over the brow of the distant hills. On they came, until every height was crowned, and we saw drawn up in battle array what appeared to us an army sufficient at a single charge to overwhelm our slender defences.
There they remained. We could see horsemen galloping to and fro on the sides of the hills, but as yet not a shot had been fired.
Sentries were posted along our whole line, and the men were ordered to sit down and take their dinners. I saw my father look graver than usual.
"Ben," he said, "I have been consulting with Master Kerridge, and he agrees with me that it would be wrong to allow you boys to expose your lives. I promise you that if you can render service to the cause you shall be employed; and you must all three give me your words that you will remain where I place you, and not come forth until you are sent for."
Very unwillingly Lancelot and Dick and I gave the promise exacted from us, though we were more content when my father took us to the church, and told us that we might remain in the tower, whence, as it overlooked the greater portion of the lines, we could see through a narrow loophole what was going forward.
He then returned to the post which he, with Martin Shobbrok, an old follower of his in many a voyage, had undertaken to keep. He had directed me, should the enemy get into the town, to run home and try to protect my sister from insult, and our house from plunder. "Though I may never return, my boy, should the Malignants force an entrance, yet you, Ben, will, I trust, live to become a man, and serve our country either on shore or afloat," he said in a grave tone, which showed, however, no signs of fear. I often afterwards thought of his words, and prayed that I might fulfil his expectations.
We had not long taken up our position in the tower before we saw the Cavalier forces moving down the slopes of the hill. One party advanced towards our outposts at Hayes Farm, and then attacked Colway House, at which their great guns commenced a furious fire, wreaths of white smoke filling the calm air. Presently the two little garrisons returned the salute with right goodwill.
Then we caught sight of them rushing at full speed towards our lines; and good reason they had to move fast, for, following them close, came horse and foot in battle array, with trumpets sounding, drums beating, lances in rest, pikes at the charge, and swords flashing in the bright sunlight. The enemy halted, however, when still at a distance, and a herald advanced, who blowing a blast on his trumpet summoned the town instantly to surrender.
Colonel Blake, mounting on the ramparts, answered in a loud tone, which reached our ears—
"Not while we have men to fight, or breastworks to defend the place. Go, tell the Prince who sent you that such is our resolve."
Shaking his fist at the town, the herald wheeled round his horse and galloped off.
But a short time elapsed before the trumpets sounded a general charge, and the infantry rushed impetuously forward towards the lines, hurling immense numbers of hand-grenades among the defenders, which, bursting as they fell, filled the air with smoke and deafened our ears by their explosions.
Not one of our brave fellows wavered, but fired rapidly in return among the dense masses of the foe. The next instant we could see a large body of cavalry riding furiously onward, expecting to gain an easy victory. In vain the bravest attempted to ride over the earthworks, up to the very muzzles of the muskets; but they were driven back by the heavy fire poured into their ranks, and compelled to retreat up the valley, leaving many dead and wounded behind.
We three boys could not refrain from giving way to a shout of joy, believing that the battle was won; but we were grievously mistaken. Again the serried ranks of foot advanced with fierce shouts, threatening the destruction of our little garrison.
A SUCCESSFUL DISGUISE.
On came the enemy with determination. Fiercely the battle raged—again and again the foot advanced up to the embankment, each time retreating from the storm of bullets, case shot, and round shot poured into them, leaving the ground strewed with their comrades, some in the calm of death, others struggling in vain efforts to rise and escape from the field.
Again we thought that the fight for that day was over, when we distinguished a horseman riding along the broken ranks of the Cavaliers, waving his sword, as if to lead them on. He advanced, but not a foot would they budge. They had that day gained a lesson they could not so easily forget.
At length, losing patience, the Cavalier, who we had no doubt was the Prince himself, rode round to where his cavalry were posted. The advance was sounded, and now the horse, drawn up in the rear, urged forward the foot with lances and pistol shots at their backs.
"They must come on this time," cried Lancelot; "if they don't, they'll get cut down by their friends in the rear."
"Then I hope that such will be their fate," said Dick. "See, the poor fellows are advancing. I pity them, for they well know how they will be treated by Colonel Blake."
As the enemy got within range of our firearms they were received with showers of musket balls and case shot, which went through and through their closed ranks, striking down dozens at a time, but still, urged on by their officers—who, to give them their due, fought with the most heroic bravery—they advanced close up to our lines. Here they were met by pistols, pikes, and spears, and then, staggering, they broke and fled, followed by showers of missiles, until they were beyond our reach.
A loud shout rose all along our line, in which we in the tower joined right heartily, but our troops were too wearied with the ceaseless exertions they had made during the whole of the afternoon to pursue the fugitives; indeed, it would have been the very thing the Prince would have desired, as he would have been down upon them with his cavalry, and although they might have retreated to the lines, many a valuable life would have been sacrificed, and no advantage gained.
Colonel Blake therefore contented himself with the brilliant success he had achieved. He had shown those haughty Cavaliers that the garrison of Lyme was not to be so easily overcome as they had thought, and had taught them what they were to expect should they again venture to assail us.
Such was the termination of the first day of the siege. Descending from our tower with the satisfaction of having faithfully fulfilled our promise, we went down the lines to view more nearly the battle-field. The whole ground was strewed near and far off with the bodies of men and horses. Parties were at once sent out to bring in any who might be still living, and to bury the dead while the rays of the setting sun gleamed on the white tents of the Royalist camp, which could be seen in the distance.
Few doubted that another day would see a fresh attack made on our entrenchments, but some were sanguine enough to believe that the Prince, after the lesson he had received, would retire. I asked my father what he thought. He answered—
"The Royalists will not go away without further attempts to reduce the town, for they know too well that if they do they will leave a vigilant enemy in their rear, under whose standard thousands of honest Puritans will gladly gather to destroy the enemies of our country's freedom."
The next morning it was seen that the Cavaliers were busy erecting batteries and throwing up earthworks on all the neighbouring heights, so that they might command our forts and batter down our houses.
Notwithstanding the preparations made for the destruction of the town, Colonel Blake urged the garrison to resist to the bitter end, assuring them that ere that should come Parliament would send them relief.
I cannot attempt to give a detailed account of the siege. Soon after his first repulse, Prince Maurice opened fire from his great guns placed on all the heights commanding the town, from the effects of which not only the houses but our forts suffered. In a short time the fort at the Cob was knocked to pieces by a battery which had been thrown up at Holme Bush, which also swept the bay, so as to render it dangerous for any vessel to enter the harbour in the day time. Information was also received that the Cavaliers were busy throwing up another battery at Colway Hill, in front of Colway House, and into this battery they were seen dragging some of their largest ordnance. As it commanded Davies Fort, which was the key of our defences, the Colonel ordered a large body of men to strengthen that fort as rapidly as possible. Volunteers were not lacking, and Lancelot and I were allowed to help. We called for Dick Harvey on the way, and when the men saw three young gentlemen, the sons of the three principal persons in the place, labouring away as hard as any one, it encouraged them to still greater exertions, and in a few hours a bank twelve feet thick had been thrown up, which it was not likely the shot from the enemy's guns could penetrate. Colonel Blake passing while we were thus occupied, patted me on the head.
"Well done, young comrade," he said in a kind tone. "If we had a garrison of a few hundred boys like you, we might hold the place against all assailants, without the help of more veteran troops."
The earthworks had been completed, and Lancelot and I were standing on the top, surveying with no little pride the portion we had assisted in throwing up, when I saw a puff of smoke issue from Colway Hill, followed by a thundering report, and a round shot plunged into the bank close beneath our feet.
"Come down, youngsters!" shouted my father, who had just before entered the fort. "More of those iron balls will be coming in this direction. You must not run the risk of losing your lives when you cannot advance our good cause." We unwillingly obeyed, but we had not gone far before a succession of reports showed that the enemy had already got several guns into position, and had not the fort been strengthened, it would soon have been rendered untenable. Numerous successive attacks were made, but were repulsed as the first had been.
Poor little Audrey and Cicely were in a great state of alarm while the firing continued, naturally fearing that the whole town would soon be battered down.
At length, however, the Royalists drew off, and we were left in quiet for nearly a week. The time was spent in strengthening the fortifications and drilling the volunteers. We had spies in the camp of the Cavaliers, who managed under cover of the night to come into the town with information of what they were about. One piece of news they brought caused Governor Ceely and my friend Dick much anxiety. It was that Mr Harvey, Dick's father, who, having been absent from the town when the Cavalier army arrived before it, had been unable to join us, was made prisoner, and was now in the camp. Dick was afraid that the Prince would hang him, as he had others, and talked much with Lancelot and me of a plan for rescuing him; still, for a long time we could strike out nothing feasible. Dick, like a good son, was ready to run every risk, and I was ready to assist him if I could obtain my father's leave, as was also Lancelot.
We took Audrey and Cicely into our councils. Audrey proposed that she and Cicely should go to the camp and try to bribe the guards to let Mr Harvey escape.
"Bad as the Cavaliers may be, they won't injure two young girls, and Prince Maurice, who is a gentleman, would be sure to treat us with courtesy," observed Audrey. "You, Lancelot, and Dick might, in the meantime, during the night, row along the coast, and landing, obtain a horse, with which you can wait outside the Royalists' camp, until Mr Harvey, being free, finds you and gallops off."
"No, no, such a plan I can never agree to," exclaimed Lancelot. "I would sooner trust you two girls in a den of lions than amongst those Malignants. We must devise some other plan; I am sure that our fathers would not consent. Mr Harvey was taken without arms, and nothing can be proved against him."
This conversation took place on the 6th of May, 1644, and good reason I had for remembering the date. The weather had hitherto been fine, but soon after midday it began to blow hard from the southward, and the seas came rolling into our little harbour. Lancelot, who had gone away, returned in a hurry, accompanied by Dick, and asked him to assist in hauling up his boat, which ran a chance of being dashed to pieces, as Tom Noakes, who had charge of her, was likely to be engaged on the lines. We all three hurried down. When we got there, we found a number of men, who, as the enemy were quiet, had left their posts in order to secure their craft from the tempest. Evening was approaching, and as the gale was rapidly increasing there was no time to be lost. We found the boat tumbling and tossing about at her moorings, exposed to great risk of being run down by the smaller vessels which were standing in for shelter. To get on board was the difficulty, as no other boat was at hand, so Lancelot, pulling off his clothes, and swimming through the foaming sea, was soon on board.
"Stand by, to haul her up as she comes in," he shouted out, as he cast off the moorings. Then springing aft, he seized an oar. It was well that he did so, for just then a vessel which had rounded the Cob came tearing up under her foresail, the man at the helm apparently not seeing the boat in the way.
Lancelot shouted lustily and plied his oar, the craft just scraping the stern of the boat as she luffed up to come to an anchor. We were on the east shore, the most exposed side of the harbour, it should be understood. Dick and I stood by to seize the boat as she struck the beach. Lancelot, leaping on shore, slipped into his shirt and hauled away likewise, but with our united strength we could scarcely have succeeded, had not Martin Shobbrok come to our aid. Fortunately there were some rollers near at hand, and by their means we at length got the boat hauled up out of harm's way.
Never had I seen our harbour in a state of greater confusion. The smaller craft continued to stand in sometimes two or three together, many of them running foul of one another before they could bring up, and others being driven on shore.
The larger vessels outside were getting down fresh anchors, and several making sail were endeavouring to beat out of the bay, to obtain an offing where they could ride out the gale.
A large number of the townsmen were engaged in securing the vessels, when sounding high above the roar of the tempest a rapid fusillade was heard in the direction of the lines, while shot after shot from the enemy's batteries came hurtling into the town.
"The soldiers would be at their suppers at this hour," exclaimed Martin. "I fear me much that the place has been surprised, and if so, it will go hard with us. Hasten to your homes, young gentlemen, and await the issue; I must to my post."
Martin, without waiting to see what we should do, taking his musket, which he had placed near the boat, hurried away, as did all the men engaged in securing the vessels. We followed, eager to know what was taking place. The sound of bursting hand-grenades, the reports of muskets and pistols, the shouts and shrieks which reached our ears, showed us that the fight was raging much nearer than usual.
"There's no doubt about the enemy being in the town," cried Lancelot. "We may as well die fighting as be killed like rats in a hole. Come on, lads!"
We dashed forward through the market square, in a street leading from which towards the lines we could see, by the bright and rapid flashes, that hot fighting was going on. A party from the harbour had come up just in time to stop the entrance into the square, and with loud shouts they pressed onwards, while from the windows of every house there burst forth bright flashes from arquebuse, musket, and pistol. To force our way in that direction was impossible, so, led by Lancelot, we made a wide circuit, until we reached the neighbourhood of the lines, where we found a furious fight was also raging.
We met on our way several wounded men supported by mourning parties of women, who had ventured up, even to the scene of the conflict, for the sake of succouring those who had been struck down. Still, the fight in the centre of the town continued, and at length we learned from one of the wounded men that a large body of Cavaliers had forced their way into the town, when Colonel Blake, closing in on their rear, had cut them off, but though Malignants as they were, like gallant men they were fighting desperately.
Meanwhile another party outside were endeavouring to drive back the garrison and rescue them. The darkness increased, the south wind bringing up a thick fog, which prevented our assailants from seeing their way. Often the hand-grenades they intended for us were thrown among their own companions, while our people plied them with every weapon which could be mustered. The bullets came pinging against the wall above where we were standing, but in our eagerness we boys heeded not the risk we were running.
"Let us fight too!" exclaimed Lancelot, and we made our way on to the trenches, where not only the soldiers, the volunteers, and the townsmen were fighting, but women, with muskets in their hands, were firing away, encouraging their companions with shouts and cheers. Lancelot had got hold of a musket belonging to one of the garrison who had fallen, and had taken his powder-horn and shot-belt. Dick and I, after hunting about, succeeded in finding a couple of horse-pistols, but scarcely had we fired them than the din in front of us ceased, though the report of firearms to the right and left of us still continued. We could hear the tramp of men and the cries and groans of the wounded in front, but the uproar towards the market-place was quelled. No shots were heard, no clashing of swords, no shouts and shrieks.
"The enemy have retreated! The Malignants are flying!" was the cry passed along the lines.
Still, we could scarcely believe it possible. But an hour had passed since the attack had commenced, and our little garrison had driven back once more the well-equipped troops of Prince Maurice.
The storm raged fiercely during the night, and many fearing that another attack might be made, the greater portion of the garrison remained under arms, ready for any emergency.
Not until morning was the full extent of the Cavaliers' loss discovered. Within the lines well-nigh four hundred men lay stark and stiff where they had fallen, struck down by the fire from the houses and the fierce onslaught in front and rear, few prisoners having been taken.
Outside the trenches a hundred more strewed the ground, among them many officers of distinction, including Colonel Blewett, a gallant gentleman, greatly esteemed by Maurice. We knew this, because early in the morning the Prince sent a herald to request that he might be restored if a prisoner, or that his body might be given up if dead.
A prisoner he was not, for every officer who had come inside the lines had been slain. The Colonel answered that the body should be restored if found, provided our people were not injured while searching for it and burying the dead. Before long the body of the Cavalier was discovered where he had fallen, at the entrance of the town, leading on his men. It was placed with all decency in a coffin, and Colonel Blake sent word that it was ready to be delivered up, and that he hoped, in return, his friend Mr Harvey would be set at liberty.
The Prince, to the indignation of the garrison, replied that they might keep the body, and refused to give up Mr Harvey. The coffin was, notwithstanding, carried to the lines opposite Holme Bush, when a signal was made to the heralds to come for it. Colonel Blake stood by to receive them.
"Have you any orders to pay for the shroud and coffin?" he asked.
"We have received none," was the answer.
"Take them, notwithstanding," answered the Colonel, curling his whiskers, as was his wont when angered. "We are not so poor but that we can afford to give them to you."
The body was taken up by the men sent to fetch it, and slowly they wended their way back to the camp. An officer approached while the flag of truce was flying. He was one with whom Colonel Blake was acquainted.
"Here, friend," he said, "you see the weakness of our works. We trust not to them. Tell Prince Maurice that should he desire to come in, we will pull down a dozen yards, so that he may enter with ten men abreast, and we will give him battle."
"Not so," answered the Royalist, stung by the reproach to the military prowess of his party. "We will take our own time, but will come ere long."
The Colonel replied by a scornful laugh.
All that day we enjoyed unusual quiet, for the Royalists had not the heart again to attack us, though we were well aware they would do so should occasion favour them.
Day after day and week after week went by, still our garrison held out. Our provisions were running short, as was our ammunition, and should that fail us—notwithstanding all the heroic efforts which had been made—we should be compelled to yield.
My friend Dick was still very anxious about his father.
"I have an idea!" exclaimed Lancelot. "You, Dick, are like your sister Mildred. Probably the Prince is not aware she is not in the town. What say you to dressing up in her clothes, and taking Ben with you? he can pretend to be your brother. He looks so young, no one would think of injuring him more than they would you, supposing you to be a girl. You can steal out at night; go boldly to the Prince, and say you wish to see your father. He will scarcely refuse you. You can then tell Mr Harvey your plan, and he is a man of wealth; the chances are he'll find the means of bribing his guards. I meantime will sail along the shore, and landing, arrange as I proposed about a horse, which I will have ready at the foot of Charmouth Rise."
We kept our plan secret. I had some doubt whether I was acting rightly, but I trusted that my father would not blame me. Audrey and Cicely were delighted, and soon rigged up Dick, so that the keenest eye would not have discovered that he was a boy.
That very night Lancelot, accompanied by Tom Noakes, who had charge of his boat, put out of the harbour, and favoured by a light breeze, stood along the shore. We slipped out and crept along past the sentries, making our way to the east of Colway Hill. Every moment we expected to be discovered, but a thick fog favoured our design, and we got away, creeping along hedges and under banks, until we were clear outside the enemy's entrenchments as well as our own.
Proceeding northward, we reached a wide-spreading tree on the top of a high bank, where we sat down to rest and consult as to our future course. The moon rising and the fog blowing off, we saw spread out before us the white tents of the Cavalier army, covering a wide extent of ground. We agreed that it would be wise to wait until daylight, lest, approaching the camp, we might be shot by the sentries. Dick produced some food which he had brought in his pocket. We ate it with good appetites. We then stretched ourselves on the sward, not supposing that we should go to sleep, but in spite of our anxiety we dropped off. When we awoke it was broad daylight.
It was fortunate we were not discovered, for Dick's dress looked so draggled and dirty that no one would have taken him for a young lady. I set to work to brush and clean him, and make him more presentable. We had resolved to walk boldly on unless challenged, until we could reach the Prince's tent, when Dick would ask leave as if his request was sure to be granted to see his father as though on family matters. If refused, we would wait about the camp until we could find an opportunity of gaining our object. We came sooner than we expected on a sentry, who at once challenged us.
"You won't stop us, my good man," answered Dick, going up and slipping a silver crown into his hand. "We have come to see our father, and surely you would not interfere with two young children like us, who can do no harm to anyone."
The man, a fresh recruit, who knew nothing about military discipline, having pocketed the coin, was easily persuaded to allow us to proceed. The next sentry Dick managed in the same way. We advanced, Dick holding my hand, until we were within the camp. Several persons spoke to us, but did not seem to think it necessary to interfere with our progress, and at length, by dint of inquiring the way we found ourselves standing before a large tent, occupied we were told, by Prince Maurice.
We were waiting for leave to enter, when the curtain was drawn aside, and a Cavalier in cuirass and plumed hat, a light moustache, his locks curling over his shoulders, came forth.
"Who are you, my pretty maiden?" he asked, looking at Dick.
"An' it please you, sir, I've come to see my father, who, we have heard, is a prisoner in the camp, though why or wherefore he is detained we cannot tell, for no more peaceable gentleman is to be found in the south of England. We wish to deliver some messages to him, and learn how he fares. Have we your permission, for you are, I opine, the general of this army?"
The Prince, for that such he was we knew by the way the officers who stood round addressed him, smiled as he replied—
"Say, who is your father?"
"Master Harvey, your highness," answered Dick.
"You have an arrant rebel for a father, then, I fear," said the Prince.
"Please, your highness, I know nothing of politics; all I desire is to have a few words with my father, whom I am bound to honour, whether Royalist or Roundhead, and then to quit the camp and return home."
The Prince, after exchanging a few words with one of the gentlemen standing by, handed a piece of paper, on which he had written a few lines, to Dick.
"Take this, maiden," he said; "it will gain your object. But, understand, after you have seen your father, for your own sake, without loss of time, you must return home."
Thankful that we had so easily accomplished the first part of our enterprise—accompanied by one of the officers, who undertook to show us the way—we set off for the cottage in which we were told Mr Harvey with other prisoners were confined.
IN THE ENEMY'S HANDS.
Mr Harvey looked so astonished when Dick and I were introduced, that he almost betrayed us. Quickly, however, recovering himself, he opened his arms and embraced us affectionately. The other prisoners, gentlemen well acquainted with him, seeing that he wished to be alone, retired to the farther end of the room, when Dick lost no time in whispering into his ear the plan we had arranged for his liberation.
He listened with a thoughtful brow, and Dick continued to press its adoption, but I much feared that he would not agree.
"I will try it," he said at last; "but you, my children, must hasten from the camp; it is no place for young persons, and should I fail to escape, you will be made to suffer."
Though Dick begged hard to remain, his father was firm, and told us to return by the way we had come, hoping that we might get free without further questions being asked us.
Having taken an affectionate farewell of Mr Harvey, we set out, Dick cleverly replying to all the questions put to us, and, with much less difficulty than we had expected, we gained the outskirts of the camp. Instead of returning to Lyme, we kept on towards Charmouth, to a spot where we had agreed to meet Lancelot. To our infinite satisfaction we found that he had obtained a horse and left if in Charmouth Wood as arranged, under charge of a lad who had been directed to stay there until Mr Harvey appeared, being supplied with food for himself and corn for the animal.
We would gladly have remained to see the success of our undertaking, but Lancelot was impatient to get back to relieve the anxiety which his father and mother would feel when his absence was discovered. We therefore set off to return to the shore, keeping a look-out to ascertain that we were not watched.
We had reached the top of the cliffs, and were about to descend, when we caught sight in the distance of a party of horse galloping towards us.
"They are out on a foraging expedition, probably," observed Lancelot. "We must get away before they come here, or they will be apt to inquire our business."
Whether we had been seen or not, it was impossible to say. We, however, made the best of our way down the cliff; on reaching the bottom we found Tom waiting for us, and forthwith set to work to launch the boat. We had scarcely got her into the water when some of the men we had before seen appeared at the top of the cliffs. They hailed us, and ordered us to come back.
"Very likely," said Lancelot. "Shove away, Tom. Let them halloo as long as they like."
We had got out the oars, and the boat was soon in deep water. Dick took the helm while the rest of us rowed, as there was not wind enough to fill the sail had we hoisted it.
A voice from the top of the cliff again ordered us to come back, and presently several shots pattered into the water close alongside.
"Cowards!" exclaimed Lancelot. "Even though they fancy they see a girl steering, they make no scruple of trying to hit us." The shot only made us pull the harder. Presently we saw some of the men descending the cliff, and making towards a boat which lay hauled up on the beach at some distance.
"They suspect something, and intend to pursue us," observed Lancelot. "Nevertheless, we have a good start of them, and when we get farther out, we shall feel the breeze and be able to make sail."
"And maybe the other boat hasn't any oars in her, and if so we can laugh at them," said Tom.
Lancelot told Dick to steer right out to sea. "They won't be inclined to follow us far away from the land," he observed; "and if we make for Lyme, they will guess where we come from."
We saw the men reach the boat, and presently they began to launch her. By this time we had got well beyond the range of their firearms.
"Hurrah!" cried Dick, who had been looking to the eastward. "I see a sail coming up from Portland. She's more likely to be a friend than an enemy, and if we can get on board her we may defy our pursuers."
This announcement encouraged us. We had need, however, to exert ourselves, for the soldiers had almost launched the boat, which showed us that they had found oars, or they would not have taken the trouble of putting her into the water. We could only just see what they were about, but we made out that four or five fellows had got into her.
Directly afterwards, her head being turned towards us, they gave way. Though the boat was heavy, four stout hands were more than a match for us, for though Tom pulled a strong oar, Lancelot and I were scarcely equal in strength to one man.
Dick kept looking eastward. Again he cried out, "There's another sail, and another; a whole fleet of them!"
"If they are Parliament ships, they'll soon make the fellows in the boat astern put about," exclaimed Tom; but we were pulling too hard to turn our heads even for a moment. Our pursuers still kept on, but they were not near enough to allow them to fire with any chance of hitting us.
They had undoubtedly seen the ships, and thought we were going out to carry them information. This probably made them more anxious to catch us. At length the breeze, as we expected it would, freshened.
"I'll step the mast; you, Master Lancelot, go to the helm. Stand by to hoist the sail, Master Ben," cried Tom; and in half a minute we had the mast stepped, the sail hoisted, and the sheet hauled aft, when, again getting out the oars, we glided rapidly through the water. We saw that our pursuers had no sail, or they would have hoisted it. This was satisfactory, though they were pulling harder than ever.
Should the wind hold, we had good hope that they would soon be left behind, still it would be folly to relax our efforts.
"Hurrah! we are distancing them," cried Tom.
As he spoke, our pursuers fired two shots at us, but the bullets fell into the water astern.
"Blaze away as fast as you like!" cried Lancelot; "every shot you fire will help us to get ahead of you."
The men in the boat had to throw in their oars to fire, while they lost some time in reloading.
The ships were still a long way off, and it was very probable that, as evening came on, the wind would fail before we could reach them. There was, however, one frigate ahead, which, propelled by oars as well as sails, was making good way. We steered for her.
"All right, boys," cried Tom; "I see the Parliamentary flag flying from her peak, and if those fellows come near us they'll have to rue it."
Notwithstanding, our pursuers, finding that they could not reach us with their muskets, again took to their oars and pulled away with might and main, trusting probably to the chances of the wind falling. Still, as we were already well ahead, we determined to maintain our advantage. The frigate meantime was coming on at good speed, carrying every stitch of canvas she could set. At length both we and the boat in chase were seen, but should the frigate fire at the latter, we might run a chance of being hit. We kept on therefore. As we got nearer, Tom stood up and waved as a signal that we wished to get on board.
On perceiving this, our pursuers knew that their game was up, and, to our regret, putting about, pulled away towards the shore as fast as they had come. The frigate, to allow us to get on board, now clewed up her sails and drew in her sweeps.
We were welcomed on board by her commander, who inquired where we had come from and what we had been about. We frankly told him, when, to our joy, he informed us that the fleet was that of the Earl of Warwick, sent by the Parliament to the relief of Lyme.
"You have come opportunely, sir," said Lancelot, "for we lack both ammunition, food, and clothing, and had you not arrived, we might in a short time have been compelled to yield to the foe."
The Mermaid, the frigate we had so fortunately reached, again making sail, continued her course towards Lyme. Darkness, however, quickly came on, but Tom piloted her up to a berth close in with the harbour, where none of the enemy's shot could reach her. We then accompanied Captain Ray, her commander, on shore, to convey the joyful intelligence of the approach of the Earl of Warwick's fleet.
The news spread through the town quickly, but Colonel Blake issued orders that no demonstration should be made. My father, when he had heard of our expedition, did not blame me for having taken part in it.
"Ben," he said, "you should have trusted me; and, my boy, let me urge you never to undertake anything for which you cannot ask the blessing of your Father in heaven as well as your earthly parent. Now go to rest. Before to-morrow evening important events may have occurred."
On rising the next morning, I saw a goodly array of ships at anchor before the town. Soon after I had left home I met my friend Lancelot, and we hurried down to have a look at them.
While standing on the quay, Colonel Blake with two other officers came down, about to embark to hold a consultation with the Earl.
"Would you like to accompany us and see the big ships?" he asked, looking kindly at Lancelot and me.
We doffed our hats, and answered that it was the very thing we wished.
"Come, then!" he said; and we followed him and his companions into the boat. We pulled away for the Vanguard, one of the largest ships, on the deck of which the Earl stood ready to receive Colonel Blake.
Briefly exchanging greetings, they went to work on business at once, while Lancelot and I were allowed to go round the ship to see the big guns, the huge lanterns, the stores of pikes, and the tops high up the lofty masts, each capable of holding a score of men.
"Have you a mind to sail with us, youngsters?" asked one of the officers. "You are likely boys, and will become prime seamen in time."
I answered that it was the desire of my heart, but that I must be guided by my father's wishes, for that he, being himself a master mariner, well knew the nature of the calling. The officer laughed at my reply, and I was about to ask him why he laughed, when Lancelot and I were summoned to return with Colonel Blake to the shore.
From the conversation I overheard I found that the Earl had brought, by order of Parliament, some provisions and military stores, of which we stood greatly in need. Indeed, by this time we wanted nearly everything. One third of our men had no shoes or stockings, and large numbers were but scantily clothed, while famine had made the faces of the stoutest look pale and thin.
So shocked were the brave seamen with the appearance of the garrison, that they made collections of food and clothing on board their ships, while they gave a fourth of their daily allowance of bread for a month to supply our wants. Colonel Blake had also arranged with the Earl a plan by which it was hoped the Prince would be more signally defeated than before, should he again attack the town.
Scarcely, however, had we landed, and before the plan could be carried out, than the Cavaliers in great force once more approached our lines to attempt taking the town by assault; but Colonel Blake, hurrying to the front, placed himself at the head of a chosen band, and sallying forth drove them back. The battle lasted little more than an hour, and during that time Colonel Weir was killed, as were many other officers, and Colonel Blake himself was wounded badly in the foot, while many Cavaliers, several of them of note, lost their lives.
The next day, while the funeral of Colonel Weir was taking place, another equally sanguinary attack was made with the same result.
That night, according to a plan before arranged, three hundred seamen came on shore, and were concealed in the houses. In the morning the fleet was seen under weigh, standing towards Charmouth, now approaching the shore as if about to land some men, now firing at the Cavaliers who appeared on the cliffs.
This made the Prince fancy that part of the garrison had gone away in order to land and attack him in the rear, and that the town was even less prepared for resistance than before.
It was still early in the evening when we saw the Cavaliers in three solid columns approaching, and at the same time the big guns opened fire upon us with redoubled fury. Instead of being diminished, our little garrison had been increased by the seamen landed from the ships, so that we now mustered twelve hundred men.
As the enemy approached, the whole of our force springing into view, opened so withering a fire, that the front ranks of the foe fell into confusion. The next column coming on was treated in the same manner as the first. The big guns meanwhile battered at our earthworks, knocking down walls, and sent their shot through the roofs of the houses, many of which being set on fire were blazing up brightly.
The second column driven back as the first had been, the last advanced shouting fiercely, hoping to retrieve the day, but our brave commander was prepared for them. While he pressed them in front, his best officers appeared on their flanks, and the seamen rushing forward leaped on them furiously with their hangers.
In vain the gentlemen Cavaliers urged on their men. Beaten back at every point, the soldiers took to flight, and at length, when that summer's day closed, five hundred Cavalier corpses strewed the ground in front of the lines.
In wanton rage at his defeat, Prince Maurice fired red-hot balls and bars of twisted lead into the town; but no farther attempt was made to capture it, and the following day his army was in full retreat, he having heard that the Earl of Essex with a large force was marching to the westward. Altogether upwards of two thousand Cavaliers lost their lives in front of our earthworks.
To us that last day was the saddest of all. By our father's desire, Audrey and Margaret had taken up their abode in the house of Mr Kerridge, as our own was greatly exposed. Lancelot and I had been endeavouring to ascertain what was taking place, when he saw bright flames ascending from the direction of my father's house.
We hastened toward it. Our worst fears were realised. Already every part was burning, while red-hot shot and cannon balls kept ever and anon plunging into the midst of it, preventing the possibility of extinguishing the flames. So dangerous was the position, that Lancelot dragged me away, and accompanied me in search of my father, to whom I wished to give the intelligence.
As the firing in front had ceased, we went on, hoping every now and then to meet him. It was by this time getting so dusk that we could hardly distinguish one person from another. As we approached the part of the lines where my father was generally posted, we met a person hurrying towards us. He was Martin Shobbrok.
"Alack, alack! young gentlemen, I have bad news to give you," he said. "I am hastening for a stretcher on which to carry the captain home, though I fear much it will be but his lifeless body."
"Where is he?" I asked, in an agony of sorrow. "Take me to him."
"I remained with him where he fell till a surgeon camp to bind up his wounds, but from what he said I fear the worst," answered Martin.
Hurrying on, I soon reached the spot where my dear father lay, as Martin had told us, attended by a surgeon.
He knew my voice, but his eyes were already growing dim. Pressing my hand, he whispered—
"Ben, I am about to be taken from you, but I have fallen in a righteous cause; may you never fight for another. And remember, my boy, do your duty in the sight of God, and never fear what your fellow man may say or do to you."
"I will, father," I answered, bursting into tears. "Is there no hope?" I asked, finding that my father did not again speak. The surgeon shook his head. Ere many minutes had passed, my kind, brave father breathed his last. "Poor dear Audrey will break her heart," I cried, while Lancelot raised me from the ground.
We followed the litter on which some men, who had been sent to collect the dead, had placed my father's body. He received a soldier's funeral, with several other brave men who had fallen on that day, so glorious to the national cause.
We were orphans, but not friendless, for Mr Kerridge invited Audrey and me, with Margaret, to take up our abode at his house until arrangements were made for our future disposal. Dick had all this time received no new of his father, and he, as were all who valued Mr Harvey, was in great anxiety as to his fate. Had he been unable to make his escape, Prince Maurice would not have scrupled to hang him, as he had other Roundheads who had fallen into his power, when he found himself defeated.
Dick, Lancelot, and I were going along the lines picking up bullets and searching for arms and any valuables which might have been left by the Cavaliers, when we saw a horseman spurring at full speed towards the town. Dick gazed eagerly at him.
"That's my father!" he exclaimed. "I know his way of riding. Heaven be praised!"
Dick was right. In a short time Mr Harvey, having thrown himself from his horse, was embracing his son. Owing to the arrangements we had made, he had effected his escape, though he had nearly been caught afterwards by Prince Maurice's troops as they advanced eastward. He came to inform Colonel Blake of the road they were taking, and of their probable plans for the future. He brought also news of the near approach of the Parliamentary army under the Earl of Essex and of the recapture of Weymouth.
The result of this information was that Colonel Blake marched out of Lyme with his now veteran troops, and, joined by other Roundhead forces, captured Taunton without a blow. His heroic defence of that town, when it was soon afterwards surrounded by the Cavaliers, I cannot describe. For a year the brave garrison held out against all the assaults of some of the bravest of the Cavalier leaders, including Lord Goring and his ruffian crew.
Although their clothes were reduced to rags, their ammunition had run short, and they were almost starved, they maintained it until relieved by General Fairfax.
In the meantime Lyme was unmolested, and Audrey and I continued to reside with our kind friend Mr Kerridge and his family. A young minister undertook to superintend our studies, but all my leisure time was spent with Lancelot and Dick, as had been our wont before the siege, on the water.
Sometimes we extended our excursions westward as far as the Teign, and even to Dartmouth, at other times along the coast to the west of Portland Bill, but as there were no safe harbours to run to, we seldom ventured in that direction.
Colonel Blake, we heard, remained Governor of Taunton, and I much feared that I should never see him more, as he was not likely again to come to Lyme.
The battle of Naseby had been fought, and the Parliament had gained the upper hand through the length and breadth of England and Scotland, though the Royalists still held Jersey and Guernsey and Scilly, and the greater part of Ireland.
News now reached us but rarely; indeed, our little town, which had lately been so famous, seemed almost forgotten. Audrey and I, having recovered from the grief caused by the loss of our father, were very happy in our new home.
Mr Kerridge and Mr Harvey had arranged our affairs, so that we were not dependent upon others. At the same time it was necessary that I should have a profession. My inclinations prompted me to follow that of my father, but my friends found it difficult to settle with whom I should be sent to sea. Both Lancelot and Dick declared that they would go with me, though their fathers were not very willing that they should engage in so dangerous a calling. One day, the weather being fine, Lancelot proposed that we should make a trip to Dartmouth, taking Martin Shobbrok, now our constant companion, with us. Storing our boat with provisions for the voyage, we made sail.
We had a fine run to that beautiful little harbour, and having gone on shore, we spent more time than we had intended in purchasing various articles which were not to be procured at Lyme.
It was somewhat late in the evening when we stood out again, but as there was a moon we expected no difficulty in finding our way back; scarcely, however, had we got well out of the harbour than the wind shifted to the eastward, but as the tide was in our favour we agreed that by making a long leg to the southward we should fetch Lyme on the next tack.
To our disappointment, just as we were going about, the wind veered three points to the northward, and we found it blowing directly in our teeth. Unwilling to be defeated, we continued standing out to sea, expecting that when we went about we should be almost abreast of Lyme. In a short time, however, the sky became covered with thick clouds, the wind came in fitful gusts, and the hitherto calm ocean was broken into foam-covered waves.
We reduced our sail as much as possible, and Martin, as the most experienced, took the helm. The night became darker and darker. We had no compass, and no land could be seen. Still, supposing that the wind was now remaining steady, we stood on, our stout boat riding buoyantly over the increasing seas. Martin at length expressed his fear that the wind had gone back to its old quarter, and judging by the heavy foam-crested seas which came rolling on, that we were no longer under shelter of the land.
We kept up our spirits, though I guessed by the tone of Martin's voice that he was far from happy at our position. The tide, too, we knew by this time must have turned, and we should be unable to fetch Lyme.
We might, we agreed, run back to Dartmouth, but the attempt to find the entrance of the harbour in the darkness of the night would be difficult, if not dangerous.
Though Martin steered as well as the best of seamen, the rising seas came washing over our bows, and we all had to turn to and bale out the boat. This prevented us from thinking of the danger we were in.
At length, not without risk, putting an oar out, we got the boat round, and stood, as we supposed, towards the shore. By this time we were wet through to the skin, and in spite of our exertions our teeth were chattering with cold.
"I hope Mistress Margaret will have some bowls of hot porridge ready for us when we get in," said Lancelot.
"Oh, don't talk of that," observed Dick. "Let us get in first. Shall we ever reach the shore, Martin, do you think?"
"That's as God wills, Master Dick," answered Martin. "It's our business to do our best."
Just then a sudden blast almost laid the boat over. Martin saved her by luffing-up. Scarcely had he done so than we saw a dark object away on the starboard hand.
"That's a ship; she's standing directly down upon us," cried Martin. "Shout, lads, shout at the tops of your voices."
We all shrieked out, joining Martin's deep bass, which rose above the howling of the storm. The next instant there came a crash, our boat had been run down, but before she sank, having been happily struck by the bow, and not by the stern of the ship, we found ourselves alongside, when Martin, seizing me by the arm and catching hold of the fore-chains, hauled me up as the boat disappeared beneath our feet. We hung there for a few seconds before we were discovered, though I caught sight of several figures leaning over the side. I uttered a cry of sorrow as I thought that my two friends were lost. In vain I looked down for them. The next instant several willing hands assisted Martin and me on board.
"Oh, save Dick and Lancelot," I cried out. "Lower a boat; pick them up; don't let them perish."
My heart bounded with joy when I heard Lancelot's voice.
"Here I am, safe and sound," he cried out, running forward and shaking me by the hand, "thanks to our friends here, who hove me a rope just as I was sinking."
"And Dick, where is Dick?" I said.
"The youngster is on board, but he got a knock on the head. He's coming round though," said a voice from the afterpart of the ship.
Martin, Lancelot, and I hurried aft, where we found Dick lying on the deck, supported by a seaman, who seemed as wet as he was. We were told that the gallant fellow had fastened a rope round his waist, plunged overboard and picked up Dick just as he was being washed by astern. Dick quickly came to.
"Where is the boat!" he asked, lifting up his head.
"She's gone to the bottom," answered Lancelot.
"Where are we?"
"On board a ship."
"What ship, what ship?" asked Dick, still confused.
"That's more than I can say," answered Lancelot, "We shall soon know, however."
ON BOARD HIS MAJESTY'S FRIGATE.
Scarcely were we on board the ship than the gale came down with greater fury than before, so that the seamen being required to hand the sails left us to ourselves. Two or three persons, however, gathered round us, one of whom—the surgeon, I concluded—advised that we should be taken below, and stripped of our wet clothes, for our teeth were chattering with the cold.
Very thankful to be so treated, we had no time to ask questions before we found ourselves in the officers' cabin; Dick and I being placed in one bed, and Lancelot in another, while Martin was allowed to go forward among the men, to obtain such assistance from them as they were inclined to give.
After a short time some food and a cup of warm tea were brought us, having partaken of which, thanks to its genial warmth, we soon fell asleep.
Once I awoke when the rolling and pitching, the battering of the sea against the sides, and the noises overhead, told me that the gale was still blowing. I was soon asleep again, and when I opened my eyes it was broad daylight. No one was in the cabin. I roused my companions. Our clothes had been brought back tolerably well dried, so we dressed, intending to go on deck and learn what ship we were on board of, and where we were bound.
The pistols, hangers, and other weapons hanging up against the bulkhead showed us she was a ship of war, and Lancelot discovered several prints ornamenting his cabin, which made us suspect that she did not belong to the Puritans.
"If they inquire who we are, as they are sure to do, what shall we say about ourselves?" asked Dick.
"Tell the truth and shame the devil! Whoever they are, we should be grateful to them for having saved our lives, and maybe, if we speak them fair, they'll set us on shore at the first port they touch at," answered Lancelot.
"If they're Cavaliers, there's no port they can put into on the south coast without the certainty of being fired at," I observed, "though perhaps they may be induced to set us ashore in one of their boats, and we can find our way back over land. I much wish to relieve the anxiety that Audrey and Cicely and your father must be feeling about us, for they will—should we not return—give us up for lost."
"We shan't grow wiser by staying here," said Lancelot, as he led the way on deck.
"Halloa, young masters. Who are you?" exclaimed a gentleman in plumed hat, scarlet doublet, and sword hanging by a rich scarf at his side.
An officer approached and spoke to the gentleman, whom we guessed must be the captain.
I had time to look around; the sea had somewhat gone down, but it was still blowing fresh. Over the starboard quarter I observed a long point, which I at first thought was the Start, but afterwards learned was the Lizard. The frigate, for such I saw was the vessel we were on board of, was heeling over to the breeze, and the Union Jack waving from her peak showed me that she belonged to the Royalist party; indeed, when I remarked the varied costumes of the officers, the careless manners of the crew, and heard their strange oaths, I had no doubt about the matter.
Seeing that we were expected to reply to the question put to us, Lancelot advanced and informed the captain that we were young gentlemen belonging to Lyme, and were taking a pleasure trip when caught by the gale.
"Young Roundheads, I wot," answered the captain, with an oath. "You might have been left to drown with small loss to honest men. However, as you are now on board the frigate, you may remain, and we will see to what use we can put you. You have a companion, I understand. Is he a sailor?"
"Yes!" I answered, somewhat incautiously. "He spent his early life at sea, and visited many strange parts with my late father, Captain Bracewell."
"So much the better for him. He shall serve on board, and I will order his name to be entered on the books."
From the way we were first received, we fancied that we should have been treated like young gentlemen, but on his ordering us with an oath to go forward and do what we were told, such we found was not the captain's intention. We obeyed, for we had no choice. On our way we encountered a big fellow with a knotted rope in his hand, who, from the chain with a whistle hanging to it round his neck, we knew was the boatswain.
"Come along, my young masters. I'll soon find tasks for you. You!" he exclaimed, seizing Dick, "go and help the cook in the galley, you two will pick oakum," he added, turning to Lancelot and me; "and when the hands are sent aloft to reef sails, as you seem active fellows, you'll go to the foretop-gallant yard."
"But I have never been aloft," said Lancelot, "and shan't know what to do when I get there."
"Then the sooner you go the faster you'll learn, or you'll have a taste of my persuader," and he flourished the knotted rope. "Up, both of you, and let me see how you can lay out on the yard."
As we hesitated, flourishing the rope, he laid it across our shoulders, at which the men standing by laughed and jeered at us. To remonstrate was useless, so to avoid a repetition of the unpleasant infliction, we sprang into the rigging and began to mount, taking care to hold tight as we went up until we got into the top, where we both stood looking down, not liking to go higher.
"Aloft with you, aloft, or I'll send a couple of hands to start you," shouted the boatswain from the deck.
We looked up at the tall mast swaying to and fro, and I fully expected, should I make the attempt, to fall down on deck, or to be plunged into the sea, for which I had no wish; but looking down for a moment, and seeing two men about to come up the rigging, I told Lancelot that I would run the chance.
"It is the only thing we can do," he answered.
Catching hold of the topmast shrouds, we began to mount. We got up at length, and crawled out on the yard, holding on tightly by the ropes which seemed most secure. Finding that it was not so terrible as I had supposed, I crawled out to the very end of the yard, where I clung on, in spite of the fearful way in which it moved about.
Thankful I was, however, to hear the boatswain shout, "You may come down now, lads;" and I made my way into the top.
Lancelot had gone out at the other end of the yard, and when we met on deck he could not help shaking hands, as if we had arrived successfully from some desperate enterprise. The seamen laughed as they saw us, and even the boatswain's grim features wrinkled into a smile.
"You'll do, lads," he said. "You'll make prime topmen in a few weeks, and thank me for having taught you."
Such was the commencement of our sea life. Things, we agreed, might have been worse, though we got many a kick and rope's ending, not only from the boatswain, but from others among the more brutal of the crew.
Martin, when on deck, always came to our rescue, but old as he was, he was but ill able to contend with so many opposed to him.
"Better grin and bear it, Master Ben," he said; "they'll soon give up ill-treating you if you take it with good temper, and I should do more harm than good if I was to shove in my oar except at a favourable time; but I shall be on the watch, never fear, and I'll take care matters don't grow too bad."
We followed Martin's advice, and found it answer. The seamen of the frigate were a lawless and disorderly set, every sentence they uttered being accompanied by strange oaths, while below, when not asleep, they spent their time in dicing and gaming.
We found, I should have said, that we were on board the Charles frigate, Captain Blackleach, carrying one hundred and fifty men and thirty-two guns, one of Prince Rupert's squadron, from which she had been separated while in chase of a trader the captain had hoped to capture, but which had escaped.
A bright look-out was now kept for the squadron, and for traders of all nations.
Our cruising ground was the mouth of the English Channel, where we lay in wait to pounce down upon any unwary vessel coming up with a rich cargo.
We were all three below, poor Dick by this time looking as black as a negro; he had unfortunately let it be known whose son he was, and consequently, I believe, got a double allowance of ill-treatment.
"All hands make sail!" was shouted, and we with the rest sprang on deck.
"Aloft, you youngsters!" cried the boatswain, looking at Lancelot and me.
We ran up the rigging to the fore-topgallant-yard, and with the aid of two other men let fall the sail which had been furled.
On looking ahead, we saw a large ship in the distance, for which the frigate was steering. The stranger held on her course, not apparently fearing us, though we had the Union Jack flying at the peak, while that of Holland fluttered at hers.
On getting within range of our guns, we opened fire from a dozen pieces or more, but without doing her much damage. Again we fired, sending our shot crashing on board her, when the guns being run in and reloaded, we stood on, receiving her broadside, the shots going through our sails and cutting some of our running rigging, then luffing-up across her bows, we raked her fore and aft, and went about, showing that we intended to give her the other broadside. Not relishing this, she hauled down her colours and triced up her sails.
A well-armed boat's crew was sent on board to take possession, when her ship's company were speedily removed, and those of her people who remained in her were ordered to steer her to Kinsale harbour, a short distance to the southward of Cork, in Ireland.
The next vessel we chased proved to be English, and as she was bound for the Thames, she was captured and sent away like the first, with part of the Dutch crew, who, being promised good pay, had no objection to navigate her.
A third vessel was seen the next day, carrying the flag of France. Chase was given to her also, and the Charles coming alongside, she struck without firing a shot. She was also sent away, under command of one of the officers, for the same harbour as the former prize.
"Why, these fellows are pirates," observed Lancelot to me, though he took care to speak in a low voice, so that only Martin and I who was standing near could hear him.
"Little doubt about that," answered Martin; "all's fish that comes to their net! I wish that we were well free of them, but how to get away is the difficulty. I suspect that if a Parliamentary ship was to catch the frigate, they'd hang us all up at the yard-arms."
"Heaven forbid!" said Lancelot.
A few days after this, the look-out from the mast-head shouted—
"Five sail to the eastward!"
Presently afterwards three more were seen standing down channel, under all the canvas they could carry.
"What if they should prove to be Parliamentary ships," I said to Lancelot.
"We must try and explain who we are, and how we came on board," he answered.
"But what if they won't believe us?" I asked. "We may be strung up before they find out the truth."
"That would be a hard case, but I do not see how we are to escape, unless we jump overboard when the fight begins, and try to swim to one of them."
Instead of running away, as we expected, the Charles stood boldly towards the approaching squadron. At length from the peak of the leading ship we saw the Union Jack flying.
"That must be Prince Rupert's squadron after all," said Lancelot.
That this was the case was soon evident, for the frigate, ranging up alongside the big ship, exchanged friendly salutes.
An officer in handsome costume, with a gold chain round his neck, was seen standing on the after-castle. When Captain Blackleach raised his beaver, the officer took off his in return, and inquired how many prizes he had made.
"Three since we parted with your highness," was the answer, "and they are by this time safe in Kinsale harbour."
"You have used diligence; you shall have a bigger ship before long," said the officer in the handsome dress.
"Who is he?" I asked one of the men standing by.
"What! have you never seen Prince Rupert, the bravest commander in the king's armies, and now his best admiral? Wherever he leads, rich prizes are sure to be found."
Such we discovered was a fact, for that very day the squadron captured well-nigh a dozen merchantmen homeward bound, which mistook it for the Earl of Warwick's fleet, and fell without firing a shot into its voracious jaws.
In high glee the Prince with his prizes stood for Kinsale harbour, where we found a dozen other goodly ships, which had been captured by his cruisers, including the three taken by the Charles. While we lay here, Lancelot and I, when no one was by, often talked over various schemes for escaping, but we had to ask ourselves the question, where should we go? The whole southern part of Ireland was in favour of the King, as the Prince of Wales was now called, his father having been put to death in London. Thus, even should we reach the shore, we should run a great risk of being knocked on the head when attempting to travel through the country, for rumours had reached us of the fearful way in which the Romanists had treated the Protestants residing among them.
Martin to whom we confided our wishes, was as eager as we were to escape, being anxious, as he said, to get away from the swearing, drinking, gambling crew. "I won't say there's not a godly man among them, because there are two or three who have been pressed into the service, and are ready to get away if they can, but the rest, the Lord deliver us from them," he said, while we were standing on the forecastle one evening, out of hearing of the rest of the ship's company.
Lancelot, who was full of devices, proposed that we should take a boat and pull away out to sea, hoping that we might get across to the Welsh coast and be picked up by a Parliamentary cruiser, some of which were said to be in the Irish Channel.
This plan seemed most feasible, though in reality full of danger. It would be no easy matter, in the first place, to get hold of a boat, and to obtain provisions and water. It would be still more difficult to slip away out of the harbour unperceived; and then, after all, we might be picked up by one of Prince Rupert's squadron and treated as deserters.
"Nothing risk, nothing have!" said Martin. "I would chance it for myself, but I do not like the thought of hazarding your young lives. Howsumdever, I'll speak to the men I think will join us, and hear what they say."
The Charles was one of the outer line of frigates placed at the entrance of the harbour to give due notice of the approach of an enemy, so that we should have a better opportunity of getting off than would have been the case had we been higher up the harbour; but then the difficulty of obtaining a boat was greater.
Many of the crew were allowed to go on shore, but we had hitherto always been refused. Lancelot suggested that if we could by some means get on shore, we might obtain a boat, and late in the evening pretend to be returning in her to the ship, instead of which we might pass her and get out to sea.
"I fear that the guard ships keep too sharp a look-out to allow us to do that," observed Martin; "still, I see no better way of making our escape."
"We must wait for our opportunity; it will come, maybe, when we least expect it," said Lancelot.
Buoyed up with this hope, when our watch was over, we turned into our hammocks.
Next morning a frigate came in, towing a boat. She passed close to us. On her deck stood ten men heavily ironed, their features, which we could clearly see, showing that they felt themselves to be in a dangerous predicament. The frigate sailed on, and brought up in the centre of the squadron.
Soon afterwards a signal from the flag-ship was seen flying, ordering two boats from each vessel to come alongside. Ours were in the water, when the captain ordered Martin and three other men, together with Lancelot, Dick, and me, to go in one of them.
"It may teach you a lesson, lads, which for your own sakes I advise you not to forget," he said with a significant look.
"I am afraid the captain has an inkling of our plans," whispered Lancelot to me as we went down the side.
We took our seats in our respective boats, which pulled away up the harbour. We found numerous other boats, the men resting on their oars round the flag-ship. Presently a gun was fired from her, and up went ten human beings dangling by their necks to the yard-arms. Some struggled in a way it was fearful to look at. They were the men we had seen on the deck of the frigate, and who had, we heard, attempted to make their escape in a boat, just as we proposed doing. Such would have been our fate had we carried out our intention and been captured.
We returned on board very low-spirited.
"We must be careful what we are about," said Lancelot to me; "I have no fancy to share the lot of those unhappy fellows."
"What's to be done?" I asked.
"Grin and bear it, as Martin would say," he answered.
Although we were not allowed to go on shore, we saw what was taking place up the harbour. Boats were constantly going backwards and forwards, carrying the cargoes of the captured vessels to the town, where the goods were disposed of to eager traders, who came in from all parts to purchase them—often for less than half their value; but still, from the number of vessels taken, they must have realised a large profit to the Prince, seeing that he had paid nothing for them.
The cargoes being discharged, the stouter ships were fitted out with guns, there being found no lack of men ready to serve under so successful a corsair, for such the Prince had become.
The fleet being ready, we once more sailed in quest of fresh prizes. I did not note the number taken, but I often grieved to see the despair of the poor ship-masters and owners when they found themselves robbed of their hard-earned gains. No flag protected them—Dutchmen, Spaniards, Portuguese, Englishmen, all were treated alike. Some fought pretty hard, especially the English, but the frigates hung about them, preventing their escape, until the big ships came down and they were compelled to strike their flags.
We were cruising about the mouth of the Channel, and, favoured by fine weather, had taken many prizes, when a south-westerly wind sprang up, and soon increased to a heavy gale, harder than any we had yet encountered.
The dark leaden seas came rolling up from the Atlantic, crested with foam, which flew in masses across our decks. The sky, covered with black clouds, sent forth vivid flashes of lightning, whilst peals of rattling thunder vied with the loud howling of the blast through the rigging, the creaking of blocks and bulkheads, and the dashing of the waves against the bows and sides. Now the wind blew from one quarter, now from another, and prevented our running for Kinsale, the only harbour in which we could have found a secure refuge.
We could see the rest of the fleet tumbling and tossing about under close-reefed canvas, scattered far and wide, some in one direction, some in another. Thus the night closed down upon us. We had to keep a watchful eye on every side, for should we run foul of another ship under such circumstances, the destruction of both would be inevitable.
The next day and the greater part of the following night the storm raged with as much fury as ever. Fearful of being driven on the Scilly Isles, or the southern coast of England, our captain endeavoured to keep a good offing, though we thereby lost sight of the rest of the fleet. About the middle of the next night the storm began to abate, and when morning came we found ourselves enveloped in a thick fog, while the ocean, though still heaving in slow undulations, gradually assumed a glass-like surface of leaden hue.
We, having borne up, stood to the northward in search of the squadron. The captain ordered a bright look-out to be kept.
"Marry! a bright look-out. We must have eyes of a different nature to most men to pierce through this dense mist," quoth Martin, laughing.
Still, such a look-out as was possible was kept, the captain hoping ere long to see one of the Prince's vessels, and to learn from her where the rest were to be found. At length, about noon, the sun made an effort to burst through the thick veil which shrouded us. Soon afterwards the mist lifted for an instant ahead, and during that instant I saw what appeared to me the hull of a ship, the canvas just rising above it; but it was only a glimpse, and it needed a sharp pair of eyes to discern any object a few fathoms off. I pointed her out to Lancelot, but he was doubtful whether I had actually seen a vessel, and no one else appeared to have observed her. The frigate therefore stood on, and unless the stranger which I supposed I had seen was sailing at equal speed, we must have passed her to leeward. Presently the wind blowing stronger, the fog once more lifted, and the sun bursting through, it fell on the white canvas of a tall ship close aboard us to windward.
Putting up her helm, she came nearer, when the captain hailed through his trumpet, supposing her to be one of Prince Rupert's squadron. The answer was not heard, but the question, "What ship is that?" came down clearly to us.
"The Charles," answered the captain, again putting the same question.
Scarcely had he spoken than we heard the words, "Strike to the Parliament ship, Constant Warwick!" and, the mist clearing still more, we saw flying from her peak a white flag with a red-cross.
"We are caught in a trap, and must fight to get out of it," exclaimed the captain, ordering the drums to beat to quarters.
The men rushed to the guns, which they were well accustomed to handle; but before they could cast off the lashings and run them out, a broadside from the Constant Warwick came crashing into us, several of the crew being struck to the deck to rise no more. With scant ceremony their shipmates hove the bodies overboard, while the gunners, running out their pieces, returned with interest the fire of the other frigate.
I prayed that neither my friends nor I might be killed or wounded, though we ran as great a risk as the rest. I felt thankful when we were all three ordered down to the magazine to bring up powder, for below the risk of being hit was less, though neither of us felt any cowardly fears.
Having brought up the powder, we were ordered to sit on the tubs until it was wanted. We could thus see what was going forward, though we would far rather, I must confess, have been below. Captain Blackleach, a brave fellow, to give him his due, seemed in no way inclined to strike while he had a chance of getting off. The Constant Warwick's fore-yard was soon shot away, and her main topmast shortly afterwards fell, on which our corsair crew cheered lustily, and with redoubled vigour plied their guns. I looked round to see how it was faring with my friends, Dick and Lancelot. They were seated on their tubs, Dick making himself as small as possible, so as to have less chance of being hit. A short way off stood Martin Shobbrok among the sail trimmers. Just then two of the gunners fell, their heads shot off, and their brains scattered over the deck. The captain, seeing what had occurred, shouted to Martin and another man to take their places. Martin stood with his arms folded, as if he did not hear the order. The captain again shouted to him.
"I'll do a seaman's duty, but will not fight against those who have justice and right on their side," answered Martin.
"Mutiny! mutiny!" shouted the captain. "Suffer the fate of a mutineer!" and, drawing a pistol from his belt he fired.
I expected to see my old friend fall, but the bullet merely grazed one of his grey whiskers; and, fixing his eye on the captain, he answered—