In Honour's Cause: A Tale of the Days of George the First, Page 2George Manville Fenn
SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
The water in the canal looked ruddy golden in the light glowing in thewest, as the two pages passed through the courtyard along beneath thearches, where the soldiers on guard saluted them, and reached the longmall planted with trees.
"Halt! One can breathe here," said Frank, with his eyes brightening."Come along; let's have a run."
"Quiet, quiet! What a wild young colt you are!--This isn't thecountry."
"No; but it looks like a good makeshift!" cried Frank.
"Who's disloyal now? Nice way to speak of his Majesty's Park! I say,you're short enough as it is."
"No, I'm not. I'm a very fair height for my age. It's you who are toolong."
"Never mind that; but it's my turn to talk. Suppose you get cut shorterfor saying disloyal things under the window of the Palace."
"Is it? They give it to the people they call rebels pretty hard for astrifling things," said Andrew, flushing a little. "They flogged threesoldiers to death the other day for wearing oak apples in their caps."
"What? Why did they wear oak apples in their caps?"
"Because it was King Charles's day; and they've fined and imprisoned andhung people for all kinds of what they call rebellious practices."
"Then you'd better be careful, Master Drew," said Frank merrily. "Isay, my legs feel as if they were full of pins and needles, withstanding about so much doing nothing. It's glorious out here. Comealong; I'll race you to the end of this row of trees."
"With the people who may be at the windows watching us! Where's yourdignity?"
"Have none. They wouldn't know it was us. We're not dressed up now,and we look like any one else."
"I hope not," said Andrew, drawing himself up.
Frank laughed, and his companion looked nettled.
"It is nothing to laugh at. Do you suppose I want to be taken for oneof the mob?"
"Of course I don't. But, I say, look. I saw a fish rise with a regularflop. That must be a carp. They are fond of leaping out of the waterwith a splash. I say, this isn't a lake, is it? Looks like a river."
"Oh, I don't know--yes, I do. Some one said it's part of a stream thatcomes down from out beyond Tyburn way, where they hang the people."
"Ugh! Horrid! But look here, the water seems beautifully clear. Let'sget up to-morrow morning and have a bathe. I'll swim you across thereand back."
"Tchah! I say, Frank, what a little savage you are!"
"Didn't know there was anything savage in being fond of swimming."
"Well, I did. A man isn't a fish."
"No," said Frank, laughing; "he's flesh."
"You know, now you belong to the Prince's household, and live in theKing's Palace, you must forget all these boyish follies."
"Oh dear!" sighed Frank.
"We've got to support the dignity of the establishment as gentlemen inthe Prince's train. It wants it badly enough, with all thesesausage-eating Vans and Vons and Herrs. We must do it while things arein this state for the sake of old England."
"I wish I had never come here," said Frank dismally. "No, I don't," headded cheerfully. "I am close to my mother, and I see father sometimes.I say, didn't he look well at the head of his company yesterday?"
"Splendid!" cried Andrew warmly. "Here, cheer up, young one; you'llsoon get to like it; and one of these days we'll both be marching at theheads of our companies."
"Think so?" cried Frank eagerly.
"I'm sure of it. Of course I like our uniform, and thousands of fellowswould give their ears to be pages at the Palace; but you don't suppose Imean to keep on being a sort of lapdog in the anteroom. No. Wait abit. There'll be grand times by-and-by. We must be like the rest ofthe best people, looking forward to the turn of the tide."
Frank glanced quickly at the tall, handsome lad at his side, andquickened his pace and lengthened his stride to keep up with him, for hehad drawn himself up and held his head back as if influenced by thoughtsbeyond the present. But he slackened down directly.
"No need to make ourselves hot," he said. "You'd like to run, youlittle savage; but it won't do now. Let the mob do that. Look! that'sLord Ronald's carriage. Quick! do as I do."
He doffed his hat to the occupant of the clumsy vehicle, Frank followinghis example; and they were responded to by a handsome, portly man with abow and smile.
"I say," said Frank, "how stupid a man looks in a great wig like that."
"Bah! It is ridiculous. Pretty fashion these Dutchmen have broughtin."
"Dutchmen! What Dutchmen?"
"Oh, never mind, innocence," said Andrew, with a half laugh. "Justthink of how handsome the gentlemen of the Stuart time looked in theirdoublets, buff boots, long natural hair, and lace. This fashion isdisgusting. Here's old Granthill coming now," he continued, as thetrampling of horses made him glance back. "Don't turn round; don't seehim."
"Very well," said Frank with a laugh; "but whoever he is, I don'tsuppose he'll mind whether I bow or not."
"Whoever he is!" cried Andrew contemptuously. "I say, don't you knowthat he is one of the King's Ministers?"
"No," said Frank thoughtfully. "Oh yes, I do; I remember now. Ofcourse. But I've never thought about these things. He's the gentleman,isn't he, that they say is unpopular?"
"Well, you are partly right. He is unpopular; but I don't look upon himas a gentleman. Hark! hear that?" he shouted excitedly, as he lookedeagerly toward where the first carriage had passed round the curve aheadof him on its way toward Westminster.
"Yes, there's something to see. I know; it must be the soldiers. Comealong; I want to see them."
"No, it isn't the soldiers; it's the people cheering Lord Ronald on hisway to the Parliament House. They like him. Every one does. He knowsmy father, and yours too. He knows me. Didn't you see him smile? I'llintroduce you to him first time there's a levee."
"No, I say, don't," said Frank, flushing. "He'd laugh at me."
"So do I now. But this won't do, Frank; you mustn't be so modest."
The second carriage which had passed them rolled on round the curve inthe track of the first and disappeared, Frank noticing that many of thepromenaders turned their heads to look after it. Then his attention wastaken up by his companion's words.
"Look here," he cried; "I want to show you Fleet Street."
"Fleet Street," said Frank,--"Fleet Street. Isn't that where Temple Baris?"
"Well done, countryman! Quite right."
"Then I don't want to see it."
"Why?" said Andrew, turning to him in surprise at the change which hadcome over his companion, who spoke in a sharp, decided way.
"Because I read about the two traitors' heads being stuck up there onTemple Bar, and it seems so horrible and barbarous."
"So it is, Frank," whispered Andrew, grasping his companion's arm."It's horrible and cowardly. It's brutal; and--and--I can't find wordsbad enough for the act of insulting the dead bodies of brave men afterthey've executed them. But never mind; it will be different some day.There, I always knew I should like you, young one. You've got the rightstuff in you for making a brave, true gentleman; and--and I hope Ihave."
"I'm sure you have," cried Frank warmly.
"Then we will not pass under the old city gate, with its horrible,grinning heads: but I must take you to Fleet Street; so we'll go toWestminster Stairs and have a boat--it will be nice on the river."
"Yes, glorious on an evening like this," cried Frank excitedly; "and, Isay, we can go round by Queen Anne Street."
"What for? It's out of the way."
"Well, only along by the Park side; I want to look up at our windows."
"But your mother's at the Palace."
"Father might be at home; he often sits at one of the windows lookingover the Park."
"Come along then," cried Andrew mockingly; "the good little boy shall betaken where he can see his father and mother, and
--hark! listen! hearthat?" he cried excitedly.
"Yes. What can it be?"
"The people hooting and yelling at Granthill. They're mobbing hiscarriage. Run, run! I must see that."
Andrew Forbes trotted off, forgetting all his dignity as one of thePrincess's pages, and heedless now in his excitement of what any of thewell-dressed promenaders might think; while, laughing to himself thewhile, Frank kept step with him, running easily and looking quite coolwhen the tall, overgrown lad at his side, who was unused to outdoorexercise, dropped into a walk panting heavily.
"Too late!" he said, in a tone of vexation. "There the carriage goes,through Storey's Gate. Look at the crowd after it. They'll hoot himtill the soldiers stop them. Come along, Frank; we shall see a fight,and perhaps some one will be killed."