The Young Castellan: A Tale of the English Civil WarGeorge Manville Fenn
Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England
The Young Castellan, by George Manville Fenn.
________________________________________________________________________A Castellan is a person in charge of a castle, and that is what youngRoy Royland has become, while his father, Sir Granby, is away defendinghis king. For the time is about 1640, and there is a move afoot in thecountry of England to do away with the monarchy. In the castle most ofits old defences have not been used for many years, perhaps centuries,and old Ben Martlet sets about restoring them, cleaning up the armour,teaching young Roy the arts of self-defence, by putting him through acourse of fencing, by restoring the portcullis and draw-bridge, and bytraining the men from the neighbouring farms to be soldiers.
But eventually, through treachery, the Roundheads, as those who opposethe monarchy, are called, manage to take the castle, and to make Roy andhis mother, along with old Ben Martlet and the other defenders,prisoner. This can't do the management of the tenant farms much good.
Eventually Sir Granby, Roy's father, appears on the scene, and theRoundheads are chased away. As we know from our history books, theMonarchy was restored, and peace spreads again through the land ofEngland.
________________________________________________________________________THE YOUNG CASTELLAN, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
IN THE OLD ARMOURY.
"See these here spots o' red rust, Master Roy?"
"I should be blind as poor old Jenkin if I couldn't, Ben."
"Ay, that you would, sir. Poor old Jenk, close upon ninety he be; andthat's another thing."
"What do you mean?" said the boy addressed.
"What do I mean, sir? Why, I mean as that's another thing as shows asold England's wore out, and rustin' and moulderin' away."
"Is this Dutch or English, Ben?" said the manly-looking boy, who hadjust arrived at the age when dark lads get teased about not havingproperly washed the sides of their faces and their upper lips, whichbegin to show traces of something "coming up." "I don't understand."
"English, sir," said the weather-beaten speaker, a decidedly ugly man ofabout sixty, grizzly of hair and beard, deeply-lined of countenance, andwith a peculiar cicatrice extending from the upper part of his leftcheek-bone diagonally down to the right corner of his lips, and makingin its passage a deep notch across his nose. "English, sir; good oldhonest English."
"You're always grumbling, Ben, and you won't get the rust off thatmorion with that."
"That I shan't, sir; and if I uses elber grease and sand, it'll onlycome again. But it's all a sign of poor old England rustin' andmoulderin' away. The idea! And at a place like this. Old Jenk, aswatch at the gate tower, and not got eyes enough to see across the moat,and even that's getting full o' mud!"
"Well, you wouldn't have father turn the poor old man away because he'sblind and worn-out."
"Not I, sir," said the man, moistening a piece of flannel with oil,dipping it into some fine white sand, and then proceeding to scrub awayat the rust spots upon the old helmet, which he now held between hisknees; while several figures in armour, ranged down one side of the low,dark room in which the work was being carried on, seemed to be lookingon and waiting to have their rust removed in turn.
"Then what do you mean?" said the boy.
"I mean, Master Roy, as it's a pity to see the old towers going downhill as they are."
"But they're not," cried the boy.
"Not, sir? Well, if you'll excuse me for saying as you're wrong, I'llsay it. Where's your garrison? where's your horses? and where's yourguns, and powder, and shot, and stores?"
"Fudge, then! We don't want any garrison nowadays, and as for horses,why, it was a sin to keep 'em in those old underground stables that usedto be their lodging. Any one would think you expected to have some onecome and lay siege to the place."
"More unlikely things than that, Master Roy. We live in strange times,and the king may get the worst of it any day."
"Oh, you old croaker!" cried Roy. "I believe you'd like to have a lotmore men in the place, and mount guard, and go on drilling andpractising with the big guns."
"Ay, sir, I should; and with a place like this, it's what ought to bedone."
"Well, it wouldn't be bad fun, Ben," said the boy, thoughtfully.
"Fun, sir? Don't you get calling serious work like that fun.--But lookye there. Soon chevy these spots off, don't I?"
"Yes, it's getting nice and bright," said Roy, gazing down at the steelheadpiece.
"And it's going to get brighter and better before I've done. I'm goingto let Sir Granby see when he comes back that I haven't neglectednothing. I'm a-going to polish up all on 'em in turn, beginning withold Sir Murray Royland. Let me see: he was your greatest grandfather,wasn't he?"
"Yes, he lived in 1480," said the boy, as the old man rose, set down themorion, and followed him to where the farthest suit of mail stoodagainst the wall. "I say, Ben, this must have been very heavy to wear."
"Ay, sir, tidy; but, my word, it was fine for a gentleman in those daysto mount his horse, shining in the sun, and looking as noble as a mancould look. He's a bit spotty, though, it's been so damp. But I'llbegin with Sir Murray and go right down 'em all, doing the steeliestones first, and getting by degrees to the last on 'em as is only steelhalf-way down, and the rest being boots. Ah! it's a dolesome changefrom Sir Murray to Sir Brian yonder at the end, and worse still, to yourfather, as wouldn't put nothing on but a breast-piece and back-piece anda steel cap."
"Why, it's best," said the boy; "steel armour isn't wanted so much nowthey've got cannon and guns."
"Ay, that's a sad come-down too, sir. Why, even when I was out underyour grandfather, things were better and fighting fairer. People triedto see who was best man then with their swords. Now men goes to hidebehind hedges and haystacks, to try and shoot you like they would ahare."
"Why, they did the same sort of thing with their bows and arrows, Ben,and their cross-bows and bolts."
"Well, maybe, sir; but that was a clean kind o' fighting, and none ofyour sulphur and brimstone, and charcoal and smoke."
"I say, Ben, it'll take you some time to get things straight. Mean topolish up the old swords and spears, too?"
"Every man jack of 'em, sir. I mean to have this armoury so as yourfather, when he comes back from scattering all that rabble, will lookround and give me a bit of encouragement."
"Ha, ha!" laughed the boy; "so that's what makes you so industrious."
"Nay it aren't, sir," said the man, with a reproachful shake of hishead. "I didn't mean money, Master Roy, but good words, and a sort o'disposition to make the towers what they should be again. He's a finesoldier is your father, and I hear as the king puts a lot o' trust inhim; but it always seems to me as he thinks more about farming when he'sdown here than he does about keeping up the old place as a good cavaliershould."
"Don't you talk a lot of nonsense," said Roy, hotly; "if my father likesto live here as country gentlemen do, and enjoy sport and gardening andfarming, who has a better right to, I should like to know?"
"Oh, nobody, sir, nobody," said the man, scouring away at the rustedsteel.
"And besides, times are altered. When this castle was built, gentlemenused to have to protect themselves, and kept their retainers to fightfor them. Now there's a regular army, and the king does all that."
That patch of rust must have been a little lighter on, for the manuttered a low grunt of satisfaction.
"It would be absurd to make the towers just as they used to be, and shutout the light and cover the narrow slits with iron bars."
"Maybe, Master Roy; but Sir Granby might have the moat cleared of mud,and kept quite full."
"What! I just hope it won't be touched. Why, that would mean drainingit, and then what would become of my carp and tench?"
"Ketch 'em and put 'em in tubs, sir, and put some little uns back."
"Yes, and then it would take years for them to grow, and all thebeautiful white and yellow water-lilies would be destroyed."
"Yes; but see what a lot of fine, fat eels we should get, sir. There'ssome thumpers there. I caught a four-pounder on a night-line lastweek."
"Ah, you did, did you?" cried the lad; "then don't you do it againwithout asking for leave."
"All right, sir, I won't; but you don't grudge an old servant like meone eel?"
"Of course I don't, Ben," said the lad, importantly; "but the moat ismine. Father gave it to me as my own special fishing-place before hewent away, and I don't allow any one to fish there without my leave."
"I'll remember, sir," said the man, beginning to whistle softly.
"I don't grudge you a _few_ eels, Ben, and you shall have plenty; butnext time you want to fish, you ask."
"Yes, sir, I will."
"And what you say is all nonsense: the place is beautiful as it is.Why, I believe if you could do as you liked, you'd turn my mother'spleasaunce and the kitchen-garden into drill-grounds."
"That I would, sir," said the man, flushing up. "The idea of abeautiful square of ground, where the men might be drilled, and practisewith sword and gun, being used to grow cabbages in. Er! it's horrid!"
"You're a rum fellow, Ben," he cried. "I believe you think that peoplewere meant to do nothing else but fight and kill one another."
"Deal better than spending all their time over books, sir," said theman; "and you take my advice. You said something to me about being astatesman some day, and serving the king that way. Now, I s'pose Idon't know exactly what a statesman is, but I expect it's something o'the same sort o' thing as Master Pawson is, and--You won't go and tellhim what I says, sir?"
"Do you want me to kick you, Ben?" said the boy, indignantly.
"Oh, I don't know, sir," said the man, with a good-humoured smilelighting up his rugged features; "can, if you like. Wouldn't be thefirst time by many a hundred."
"What! When did I kick you?"
"Lots o' times when you was a little un, and I wouldn't let you drownyourself in the moat, or break your neck walking along the worsest partso' the ramparts, or get yourself trod upon by the horses. Why, I'veknown you kick, and squeal, and fight, and punch me as hard as ever youcould."
"And did it hurt you, Ben?"
"Hurt me, sir? Not it. I liked it. Showed you was made o' good stuff,same good breed as your father; and I used to say to myself, `That youngcub'll turn out as fine a soldier as his father some day, and I shallhave the job o' training him.' But deary me, deary me, old England'sa-wasting all away! You aren't got the sperrit you had, my lad; andinstead o' coming to me cheery-like, and saying, `Now, Ben, get out theswords and let's have a good fence, or a bit o' back-sword orbroad-sword-play, or a turn with the singlestick or staves,' you'realways a-sticking your nose into musty old parchments, or dusty books,along o' Master Palgrave Pawson. Brrr!"
The latter was a low growl, following a loud smack given to the side ofthe helmet, after which, as the lad stood fretting and fuming, the oldservant scrubbed away at the steel furiously.
"It isn't true, Ben," the boy cried at last, indignantly; "and perhapsI'm going to be a soldier after all, especially if this trouble goeson."
"Tchaw! trouble goes on!" said the man, changing the steel headpiece fora cuirass. "There won't be no trouble. First time your father gets asight of the mob of tailors, and shoemakers, and tinkers, with an oldpatch-work counterpane atop of a clothes-prop for their flag, he'll ridealong the front of his ridgement of cavaliers, and he'll shout to 'em inthat big voice of his as I've followed many's the time; and `Don't draw,gentlemen,' he'll say; `ride the scum down, and make the rest run;' andthen they'll all roar with laughing loud enough to drown the trumpetcharge. My word, I'd a gi'n something to ha' been there to see therebels fly like dead leaves before a wind in November. But it were amean and a cruel thing, Master Roy. Look at that arm, look at theselegs! I'm a better and a stronger man than ever I was, and could sitany horse they'd put me on. But to leave an old soldier, as hadfollowed him as I have, at home here to rust like the rest o' things,when there was a chance for a bit o' fun, it went right to my 'art, sir,and it seemed to me as if it warn't the master as I used to sit with inthe ranks."
The old fellow was bending now over the breastplate and rubbing hard,while as Roy listened to his excited words, wondering at the way inwhich he seemed to resent what he looked upon as a slight, somethingdropped upon the polished steel with a pat, and spread out; and Roythought to himself that if that drop of hot salt water stayed there, itwould make a deeper rust spot than anything.
But it did not stay, for the man hastily rubbed it away, and began witha rough show of indifference to hum over an old Devon song, somethingabout "A morn in May, to hear birds whistle and see lambkins play."
But he ceased as the boy laid a hand upon his shoulder, and bent overthe breastplate and rubbed at it very slowly, listening intently thewhile.
"Don't you get thinking that, Ben Martlet," said the boy, gently;"father wanted to take you, and he said you were not too old."
"Nay, nay, nay, sir; don't you get trying to ile me over. I know."
"But you don't know," said the boy, hotly; "he said he should take you,but my mother asked him not to."
"Ay, she would, sir. She won't let you be a soldier, and she comes overyour father as I was too old and helpless to be any good."
"You're a stupid, pig-headed, old chump," cried Roy, angrily.
"Yes, sir; that's it; now you're at me too. Rusty, and worn-out, andgood for nothing; but it'll soon be over. I used to think it must bevery horrid to have to die, but I know better now, and I shan't be sorrywhen my turn comes."
"Will--you--listen to--what--I have--to say?" cried the boy.
"Oh, ay, sir, I'll listen. You're my master, now Sir Granby's away, andnobody shan't say as Ben Martlet didn't do his dooty as a soldier to theend, even if he is set to dig in a garden as was once a castlecourt-yard."
"Oh, you obstinate old mule!" cried Roy, gripping the man's shoulders,as he stood behind him, sawing him to and fro, and driving his kneesoftly into the broad strong back. "Will you listen?"
"Yes, sir, I'll listen; but that's only your knee. Kick the oldworn-out mule with your boot-toe, and--"
"I've a good mind to," cried Roy. "Now listen: my mother begged offather to leave you here."
"Oh, ay, of course."
"Quiet!" roared Roy, "or I will really kick--hard; because she said shewould feel safer, and that, if any trouble did arise with some of themen, Martlet would put it down at once, and everything would go right."
The cuirass went down on the dark oaken boards with a loud clang, andthe old soldier sprang to his feet panting heavily.
"Her ladyship said that?" he cried.
"Say it again, sir; say it again!" he cried, in a husky voice.
Roy repeated the words.
"Yes, yes, sir; and what--what did Sir Granby say to that?"
"Said he was very sorry and very glad."
"Sorry to leave you, because it didn't seem natural to go back to theregiment without his right-hand man."
"Yes; but he was glad my mother felt so about you, for he could go awaymore contented now, and satisfied that all would be right. For though--ahem!--he had the fullest confidence in me, I was too young to have themanagement of men."
"Wrong, wrong, sir--wrong. On'y want a bit o' training, and you'd makeas good a captain as ever stepped.--Then it was her ladyship's doing,and she said all that?"
"God bless her! my dear mistress. Here, don't you take no notice o'this here," cried the rough fellow, changing his tone, and undisguisedlywiping the salt tears from his face. "I don't work so much as I ought,sir, and this here's only what you calls presperashum, sir, as collects,and will come out somewheres. And so her ladyship says that, did her?"
"Then why haven't I knowed this afore? Here's three months gone bysince the master went to take command of his ridgement, and I see himoff. Ay, I did send him off looking fine, and here have I been eatingmy heart out ever since. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Oh, I don't know. Yes, I do. Of course, I wasn't going to tattleabout what my father and mother said, but when I heard you talk as youdid, and seem so cut up and unjust, why, I did."
"Here, let me have it, my lad! Kick away! Jump on me for an old fool.Why, I'm as blind as old Jenk. Worse.--She'd feel safer if there wasany trouble. Bless her! Oh, what an old fool I've been. No wonderI've got so weak and thin."
"Ha, ha, ha!"
"What are you laughing at, sir?"
"You weak and thin! Why, you're as strong as a horse."
"Well, I am, Master Roy," said the man, with a grim smile of pride."But I have got a bit thin, sir."
"Not a bit thinner."
"Well, I aren't enjoyed my vittles since the master went, sir. Youcan't contradick that."
"No, and don't want to; but you did eat a four or five pound eel thatyou'd no right to catch."
"That I didn't, sir. I give it to poor old Jenk to make a pie. I nevertasted it."
"Then you may catch as many as you like, Ben, without asking."
"Thank you, sir; but I don't want to go eeling now. Here, let's haveall this fighting-tackle so as you can see your face in it. But I say,my lad, do 'ee, now do 'ee, alter your mind; leave being statesman tothem soft, smooth kind o' fellows like Master Pawson."
"I don't see why one couldn't be a statesman and a soldier too," saidthe boy.
"I don't know nothing about that sort, sir; but I do know how to handlea sword or to load a gun. I do say, though, as you're going wronginstead of right."
"How, sir? Just look at your hands."
"Well, what's the matter with them?" said the boy, holding them out.
Ben Martlet uttered a low, chuckling laugh.
"I'll tell you, sir. S'pose any one's badly, and the doctor comes; whatdoes he do first?"
"Feels his pulse."
"Looks at his tongue."
"That's it, my lad; and he knows directly from his tongue what's thematter with him. Now, you see, Master Roy, I aren't a doctor."
"Not you, Ben; doctors cure people; soldiers kill 'em."
"Not always, Master Roy," said the old fellow, whose face during thelast few minutes had lit up till he seemed in the highest of glee."Aren't it sometimes t'other way on? But look here: doctors look atpeople's tongues to see whether they wants to be physicked, or to havetheir arms or legs cut off. I don't. I looks at a man's hand to seewhat's the matter with him, and if I see as he's got a soft, white handlike a gal's, I know directly he's got no muscles in his arms, no springin his back, and no legs to nip a horse's ribs or to march fifty mile ina day. Now, just look at yours."
"Oh, I can't help what my hands are like," said the boy, impatiently.
"Oh, yes, you can, sir. You've been a-neglecting of 'em, sir, horrible;so just you come to me a little more and let me harden you up a bit. Ifyou've got to be a statesman, you won't be none the worse for being ableto fight, and ride, and run. Now, will you? and--There's some onea-calling you, my lad."
"Yes, coming!" cried Roy; and he hurried out of the armoury into a long,dark passage, at the end of which a window full of stained glassadmitted the sunbeams in a golden, scarlet, blue, and orange sheaf ofrays which lit up the tall, stately figure of a lady, to whom the boyran with a cry of--