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The Young Castellan: A Tale of the English Civil War, Page 2

George Manville Fenn



  "I had missed you, Roy," said the lady, smiling proudly on the boy; andhe looked with eyes full of pride at the beautiful woman, who now restedher arm upon his shoulder and walked by his side into the more homelikepart of the old fortalice, whose grim interior had been transformed bywainscoting, hangings, carpets, stained glass, and massive oak furnitureinto the handsome mansion of the middle of the seventeenth century.

  They passed down a broad staircase into a noble hall, and from thenceinto a library whose broad, low, mullioned stone window opened into whathad been the inner court of the castle, whose ramparts and flankingcorner towers were still there; but the echoing stones that had oncepaved it had given place to verdant lawn, trim flower-beds ablaze withbloom, quaintly-cut shrubs, and creepers which beautified the walls onceso bare and grim.

  "I want to talk to you, Roy," said Lady Royland, sinking into a greatformal chair. "Bring your stool and sit down."

  "Got too big for the stool, mother," said the boy; "I can't double up mylegs close enough. I'll sit here."

  He threw himself upon the thick carpet at her feet, and rested his armsupon her lap.

  "Want to talk to me? I'd rather hear you read."

  "Not now, my dear."

  "Why, what's the matter, mother?" said the boy, anxiously. "You're aswhite as can be. Got one of your headaches?"

  "No, my boy,--at least, my head does ache. But it is my heart, Roy,--myheart."

  "Then you've heard bad news," cried the boy. "Oh, mother, tell me; whatis it? Not about father?"

  "No, no; Heaven forbid, my dear," cried Lady Royland, wildly. "It isthe absence of news that troubles me so."

  "I ought to say us," said Roy, angrily; "but I'm so selfish andthoughtless."

  "Don't think that, my boy. You are very young yet, but I do wish youwould give more thought to your studies with Master Pawson."

  The boy frowned.

  "I wish you'd let me read with you, mother," he said. "I understandeverything then, and I don't forget it; but when that old--"

  "Master Palgrave Pawson," said Lady Royland, reprovingly, but with asmile.

  "Oh, well, Master Palgrave Pawson. P.P., P.P. What a mouthful it seemsto be!"


  "I've tried, mother; but I do get on so badly with him. I can't helpit; I don't like him, and he doesn't like me, and it will always be thesame."

  "But why? Why do you not like him?"

  "Because--because--well, he always smiles at me so."

  "That does not seem as if he disliked you. Rather the reverse."

  "He's so smooth and oily."

  "It is only his manner, my dear. He seems to be very sincere, and tohave your welfare at heart."

  "Yes, that's it, mother; he won't let me alone."

  "But he is your tutor, my dear. You know perfectly well that he came tobe your father's secretary and your tutor combined."

  "Yes, I know, mother," said the boy, impatiently; "but somehow hedoesn't seem to teach me."

  "But he is very studious, and tries hard."

  "Yes, I know. But he seems to think I'm about seven instead of nearlyseventeen, and talks to me as if I were a very little boy, and--and--andwe don't get on."

  "This sounds very sad, Roy, and I cannot bear to have a fresh troublenow. Your studies are so important to us."

  Roy reached up to get his arms round his mother's neck, drew her headdown, and kissed her lovingly.

  "And she shan't have any more trouble," he cried. "I'll get wonderfullyfond of old Paw."


  "Master Palgrave Pawson, then; and I'll work at my lessons and classicslike a slave. But you will read with me, too, mother?"

  "As much as you like, my son. Thank you. That has taken away part ofmy load."

  "I wish I could take away the rest; but I know you're fidgeting becausefather hasn't written, and think that something has happened to him.But don't you get fancying that, because there can't be anything.They've only gone after a mob of shoemakers and tailors with acounterpane for flag, and father will scatter them all like deadleaves."

  "Roy! My boy, these are not your words?"

  "No, mother; old Ben Martlet said something of that kind to me thismorning."

  "Does he not know, then, how serious it is?"

  "Serious? What do you mean by serious?"

  Lady Royland drew a deep breath, and laid her hand upon her side as ifin pain.

  "Why, mother," repeated the boy, "what do you mean by serious?"

  "This trouble--this rising, my dear. We have had no news, but MasterPawson has had letters from London, and he tells me that what wassupposed to be a little petty discontent has grown into a seriousrevolution."

  Roy gazed in his mother's troubled face as if he did not quitecomprehend the full extent of her words.

  "Well, and if it has, mother, what then?"

  "What then, my boy?"

  "Yes. You've nothing to fidget about. Father is there with his men,and he'll soon put a stop to it all. You know how stern he can be whenpeople misbehave."

  "My dear Roy, this, I am afraid, is going to be no little trouble thatyour father can put down with his men. Master Pawson tells me thatthere is every prospect of its being a civil war."

  "What! Englishmen fighting against Englishmen?"

  "Yes; a terrible fratricidal war."

  "But who has quarrelled, mother? Oh, the king will soon stop it."

  "Roy, my boy, we have kept you so shut up here in this retired place forhome study, instead of parting with you to send you to one of the greatschools, that in some things you are as ignorant as I."

  "Oh, mother!" cried the boy, laughing. "You ignorant! I only wish Iwere half as learned and clever. Why, father said--"

  "Yes, yes, dear; but that is only book-learning. We have been so happyhere that the jarring troubles of politics and the court have notreached our ears; and I, for one, never gave them a thought till, afterall these years of peacefulness, your father found himself compelled toobey the call of duty, and left us. We both thought that it was onlyfor a week or two, and then the disturbance would be at an end; butevery letter he has sent me has contained worse news, till now it isnearly a month since I have heard from him."

  "Then it is because he is putting down the rioters," said Roy, quickly.

  "Rioters, my boy! Rebels you should say, for I fear that a greatattempt is to be made to overthrow the monarchy. Master Pawson'sinformants assure him that this is the case, and before long, he says,there must be an encounter between the Royal and the Parliamentarytroops."

  "Is Master Pawson right, mother? Royal troops--Parliamentary troops?Why, they're all the same."

  "No, Roy; there is a division--a great division, I fear, anddiscontented people are taking the side against the king."

  "Then I'm sorry for them," said the boy, flushing. "They'll get a mostterrible beating, these discontented folks."

  "Let us hope so, my boy, so that there may be an end to this terribleanxiety. To those who have friends whom they love in the army, aforeign war is dreadful enough; but when I think of the possibility of awar here at home, with Englishmen striving against Englishmen, Ishudder, and my heart seems to sink."

  "Look here," cried the boy, as he rose and stood with his hand restingupon his mother's shoulder, "you've been fidgeting and fancying allsorts of things, because you haven't heard from father."

  "Yes, yes," said Lady Royland, faintly.

  "Then you mustn't, mother. 'Tis as I say; he is too busy to write, orelse he hasn't found it easy to send you a letter. I'll take the ponyand ride over to Sidecombe and see when the Exeter wagon comes in.There are sure to be letters for you, and even if there are not, it willmake you more easy for me to have been to see, and I can bring you backwhat news there is. I'll go at once."

  Lady Royland took hold of her son's hand and held it fast.

  "No," she said, making an effort to
be firm. "We will wait another day.I have been fidgeting, dear, as you say, and it has made me nervous andlow-spirited; but I'm better now for talking to you, my boy, and lettingyou share my trouble. I dare say I have been exaggerating."

  "But I should like to ride over, mother."

  "You shall go to-morrow, Roy; but even then I shall be loath to let you.There, you see I am quite cheerful again. You are perfectly right;your father is perhaps away with his men, and he may have sent, and theletter has miscarried in these troublous times."

  "I shouldn't like to be the man who took it, if it has miscarried," saidthe boy, laughing.

  "Poor fellow! it may have been an accident. There, go to Master Pawsonnow; and Roy, my dear, don't talk about our trouble to any one for thepresent."

  "Not to old Pawson?"

  "Master Pawson."

  "Not to Master Pawson?" said Roy, smiling.

  "Not unless he speaks to you about it; then, of course, you can."

  "But he won't, mother. He only talks to me about the Greek and Latinpoets and about music. I say, you don't want to see me squeezing a bigfiddle between my knees and sawing at it with a bow as if I wanted tocut all the strings, do you, mother?"

  "My dear boy, not unless you wished to learn the violoncello."

  "Well, I don't," said Roy, pettishly; "but old Master Pawson is alwaysbringing his out of its great green-baize bag and talking to me aboutit. He says that he will instruct me, and he is sure that my fatherwould have one sent to me from London if I asked him. Just as if thereare not noises enough in the west tower now without two of us sawingtogether. _Thrrum, thrrum, throomp, throomp, throomp_!"

  Roy struck an attitude as if playing, running his left hand up and downimaginary strings while he scraped with his right, and produced no badimitation of the vibrating strings with his mouth.

  "I should not dislike for you to play some instrument to accompany myclavichord, Roy," said Lady Royland, smiling at the boy's antics.

  "Very well, then; I'll learn the trumpet," cried the lad. "I'm off nowto learn--not music."

  "One moment, Roy, my dear," said Lady Royland, earnestly. "Don't letyour high spirits get the better of your discretion."

  "Of course not, mother."

  "You do not understand me, my dear. I am speaking very seriously now.I mean, do not let Master Pawson think that you ridicule his love ofmusic. It would be very weak and foolish, and lower you in his eyes."

  "Oh, I'll mind, mother."

  "Recollect that he is a scholar and a gentleman, and in your father'sconfidence."

  Roy nodded, and his lips parted as if to speak, but he closed themagain.

  "What were you going to say, Roy?"

  "Oh, nothing, mother."


  "Well, only--that--I was going to say, do you like Master Pawson?"

  "As your tutor and your father's secretary, yes. He is a very cleverman, I know."

  "Yes, he's a very clever man," said Roy, as, after kissing his motheraffectionately, he went off towards the west tower, which had beenspecially fitted up as study and bedchamber for the gentleman who hadcome straight from Oxford to reside at Sir Granby Royland's seat acouple of years before this time. "Yes, he's a very clever man," saidRoy to himself; "but I thought I shouldn't like him the first day hecame, and I've gone on thinking so ever since. I don't know why, but--Oh, yes, I do," cried the boy, screwing up his face with a look ofdisgust: "it's because, as he says, I've no soul for music."

  For just at that moment a peculiar long-drawn wailing sound came fromthe open window of the west tower, and a dog lying curled up on thegrass in the sun sprang up and began to bark, finishing off with a long,low howl, as it stretched out its neck towards the open window.

  "Poor old Nibbs! he has no soul for it, either," said the boy tohimself, as his face lit up with a mirthful expression. "It woke himup, and he thought it was cats. Wonder what tune that is? He won'twant me to interrupt him now. Better see, though, and speak to himfirst, and then I'll go and see old Ben polish the armour."