Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Roger Willoughby: A Story of the Times of Benbow

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Roger Willoughby, A Story of the Times of Benbow, by W.H.G. Kingston.


  Sadly, this was the last book Kingston wrote. He was diagnosed with arapid fatal illness while he was writing it, and he used the opportunityof bidding his young readers farewell in the Preface.

  There is a lot of action in the book, from encounters with the BarbaryPirates in what is now called Morocco, to military goings-on in Somersetand Dorset, to trials by Jeffreys, the Chief Justice (or Injustice mightbe a better name). It's just a little bit confusing! An example of howconfusing is that there's a ship called Benbow, and a couple of chaps ofthat name as well. We have tried to sort out some inconsistencies inspelling, for example Axminster and Axeminster, Tregellen and Treleggen,but I think few of us would do any better if we were trying to finish abook in the few remaining days of our life.

  It's not a long book, and not a short one, either. About ten hours toread aloud.




  "Hillo, Roger! glad to find you at last. I have been hunting up anddown along the cliffs for the last hour or more, till I began to fearthat you must have been carried off by a Barbary corsair, or spiritedaway on the end of Mother Shipton's broomstick."

  The speaker was a fine-looking lad of sixteen, dressed in the costumeworn by Puritans in the time of the second Charles--a long cloth coat ofunobtrusive hue, knee-breeches, high-heeled shoes with large buckles, athick neckcloth tied in a bow, and a high-crowned, broad-brimmed hat;but the brim of the lad's hat was looped up on one side by a rosette ofsilver lace, his shoe-buckles were of massive silver, his neckcloth wasof silk, and his coat of fine cloth, betokening that he was of the rankof a gentleman, and that, if a Puritan, he had taken no small pains toset his person off to the best advantage.

  "Faith! I had no idea that I had been so long hidden away in my cosynook, and if you had not ferreted me out, Stephen, I should likelyenough have lain _perdu_ for another hour or more," answered Roger, asturdy blue-eyed boy, apparently a year or two younger than StephenBattiscombe, and of the same station in life; but his dress, though ofgayer colours and less precise cut than that of his friend, was somewhatthreadbare, and put on as if he had not troubled himself much about thematter. "See, I have been studying the art of navigation, and begin tohope that I shall be able to sail a ship through distant seas as well asDrake or Cavendish, or Sir Martin Frobisher, or Sir Richard Grenville,or the great Christopher Columbus himself,--ay, and maybe to imitatetheir gallant deeds," he continued, holding up a small well-thumbedvolume. "I have not made as much progress this morning as I expected todo, for I have ever and anon been watching yonder fine ship, which haslong been in sight, striving to beat down Channel against this lightwesterly breeze, but for some time past she has made no progress, orrather has been drifting back to the eastward."

  "It seems to me that she is standing in this way," observed Stephen,shading his eyes with his hand from the noonday sun. "Certes, she is agoodly craft, and light as is the wind slips swiftly through the water."

  "Would that I were on board of her!" exclaimed Roger. "She is doubtlessbound out to some of those strange lands of which I have read in MasterPurchas _Pilgrims_, and many another book of voyages. How I long tovisit those regions, and to behold with mine own eyes the wonderfulsights they present!"

  "Many, you should understand, are mere travellers' tales--lying fables--such as Sir John de Mandeville would make us believe about monsters,half man and half beast, and people walking about with their heads undertheir arms, and cities of marble, the windows of precious stones, andthe streets paved with gold, and such like extravagances," observedStephen. "I much doubt also whether your father will readily accede toyour wishes. Think how he would grieve should any of the many mishapsbefall you which so often overtake those who voyage on the treacherousocean."

  "My father knows that I must seek my fortune in some calling or other,and he would be well pleased were I to come back with a goodly store ofthe gold of Golconda to restore the impoverished fortunes of our house,"answered Roger, still looking eagerly towards the approaching ship.

  "Day-dreams, my friend, day-dreams,--natural enough, but very unlikelyto come true," said Stephen in a somewhat sententious tone, such as heconsidered became one of his mature years. If the truth were to havebeen known, however, Master Stephen Battiscombe was apt to indulge inday-dreams himself, though of a different character--a judge's wig androbes, or even a seat on the Woolsack, were not beyond his aspirations.He now added, "But we must stop talking here longer. See, the sun isalready at his height in the heavens; an we delay the Colonel and MadamPauline will be justly chiding us for being late to dinner."

  "I am ready," answered Roger, still, however, lingering and watching theship in the offing. "But tell me, what cause brought you to Eversdenthis morning?"

  "I came over to ask you to return with me to Langton, that you mightjoin us in making war on the young rooks, which have increased toogreatly in our woods of late. Not finding you, I would fain, I own,have remained in the house to enjoy the society of sweet Mistress Alice,but Madame Pauline, cruelly insisting that she required her aid in themanufacture of some conserves, sent me out to search for you."

  "I am bound to be grateful to you for coming, whether willingly or not,to look for me, or I might have remained in my nest mayhap till the sunhad sunk behind Beer Head out yonder," said Roger, beginning to climb upthe cliff. "I would gladly, however, remain till the ship comes nearenough to let us get a better sight of her."

  To this, however, Stephen would not consent, for the reason he hadalready given, and Roger also well knew that his uncle, ColonelTregellen, would be displeased should they not appear at the regulardinner-hour.

  Roger Willoughby's cosy nook, as he called it, was a small hollow in thecliff a few feet from the summit, surrounded by a thick growth of purplebramble, scented clematis, pink thorn, and other shrubs, which formed acomplete shelter from all but southerly winds, and likewise concealed itfrom any one passing along the downs above. It was on a part of theDorsetshire coast between Lyme and Bridport, almost in the centre of theextensive bay which has Portland Bill on its eastern side and the StartPoint on the west. To the right could be seen Lowesdon Hill andPillesdon Pen rising above the surrounding country, while to the left aline of precipitous cliffs extended in a bold sweep for several miles tothe conical height of the Gilten Cap, visible to the mariner far awayout at sea, while inland, beyond a range of smooth undulating downs,were fields of grass and corn, orchards and woods, amid which appearedhere and there a church steeple, the roof of a farm-house or labourer'scottage, or the tower or gable-end of some more pretentious residence.

  Still, Roger accompanied Stephen Battiscombe with evident reluctance,and turned more than once to take another look at the approaching shipwhich had so attracted his attention.

  "She must be purposing to come to an anchor close to the shore, and wemay be able to go on board her," he exclaimed.

  "Very possibly her captain intends to bring up to wait till the tideturns," said Stephen in a tone of indifference. "If you have a fancyfor visiting her, the sooner we get back to Eversden the more time youwill have to accomplish your object, should your father not object toyour going; but as we do not know the character of the vessel, he maydoubt whether the trip is a safe one--she may be a pirate, or a traderin want of hands, and may kidnap yo
u and your boatmen to fill up thecomplement of her crew."

  Roger laughed heartily as Stephen ceased speaking. "We need not fearany danger of that sort," he said. "My father is not so over-careful ofme as you suppose. Neither he nor the Colonel will say me nay, and ifyou are unwilling to accompany me, I will go alone."

  "No! no!--if you go I will go with you," answered Stephen. "I merelywished to warn you, that you might not be disappointed."

  "I know well that I can always trust you, and that you are ever ready toplease me when you can," said Roger. "But, as you say, it were a pityto lose time--so we will hasten on to the manor-house, and as soon as wehave satisfied our hunger, we will return to the shore and get BenRullock and his boy Toby to put us aboard the stranger. See, she isstill standing in for the land, and she would certainly not come soclose except for the purpose of anchoring."

  The boys had now reached the highest part of the downs. After this,having to descend to the cultivated ground, they lost sight of the ship.Making a short cut across some fields enclosed by stone walls, theyreached a lane with hedges on either side, along which they proceededfor a mile or more, as snake-like it twisted and turned in variousdirections, till, crossing what from its width looked like a high-road,though as full of ruts and holes as the lane, they passed through agateway, the entrance to an avenue of fine beech-trees. The once stoutgate shook and creaked on its rusty hinges as they pushed it open; thekeeper's lodge was in ruins, burnt down many years ago, for the marks offire were still visible on the portions of the walls seen between theivy and other creepers partially covering them. The lads, hurrying upthe avenue, soon reached a substantial house of some size, surrounded bya broad moat with a roughly constructed wooden bridge, where once adrawbridge had existed across the narrowest part, directly in front ofthe chief entrance. The most prominent feature of the building was aporch of stone, handsomely carved; on the right side of it was a breadthof wall with several windows, and at the end what appeared from itsarchitecture to be a chapel, though the large window at the gable-endhad been bricked up, a few loopholes only being left in it. On theother side of the porch was a still more extensive range of windows,giving light to a large hall, and beyond that again was a square stonetower, serving in the eyes of the architect as a balance to the chapel.The moat was a sufficient distance from the house to allow of a roadwayround it to the back, where, guarded by a high wall, the offices andstables, the cow-house, the piggeries and poultry-yard, were situated.

  The boys hurried through the open doorway, the savoury odours proceedingfrom the hall on the left exciting their appetites. The family werealready seated at table, and Master Holden, the parson of the parish,was in the act of saying grace. As soon as he had concluded, they tookthe places left vacant for them, Stephen managing to place himself nextto Mistress Alice Tufnell, while Roger, who cared not where he sat, wentto one on the opposite side of the table between his father and theparson, who had at first humbly taken a lower position. At the head ofthe table sat Colonel Tregellen, the owner of Eversden Manor, with hissprightly French wife, Madam Pauline, on his right, and hisbrother-in-law, Master Ralph Willoughby, Roger's father, on his left.

  "You are late, lads," said the Colonel, looking first at one, then atthe other, in a somewhat stern manner. "You know the rules of thehouse--how comes it?"

  "Please, sir, I was looking for Roger, and only lately discovered him,"answered Stephen, who was the elder, and thought it incumbent on him tospeak first. "He was not aware how the hours had gone by."

  "And why were you not aware how time passed, Master Roger?" asked theColonel, turning to his nephew. "The sun is shining in the heavens, andyou should have known when noon arrived."

  "I was sitting in the shade and reading, good uncle," answered Roger ina brisk tone, which showed that he had little fear of the Colonel'sdispleasure; "besides, to say the truth, I was watching a fine shipstanding in for the coast, which ship I have a notion has come to anchornot far from this, and as soon as Stephen and I have stowed away somefood, with yours and my father's leave and good pleasure we proposegoing on board her to learn what cargo she carries, whither she isbound, and all about her."

  "You are of an inquisitive disposition regarding all things nautical,Roger," observed the Colonel. "I have no objection, if your father hasnot, but take care you are not carried off to sea. We must make StephenBattiscombe answerable for that; and if the vessel has a suspiciouslook, remember that you are not to venture on board."

  "Ah, yes; do take care that the strange ship you speak of is not apirate. It would be dreadful to have you spirited away, as I have heardhas sometimes happened," observed Madam Pauline.

  "There is not much risk of that," observed Mr Willoughby. "Since thenoble Blake commanded the fleets of England, such gentry have not daredto venture into the English Channel."

  "And are you also going, Master Battiscombe?" asked Alice, turning toStephen.

  "I have no great fancy for the expedition, and would rather spend mytime here, Mistress Alice," he answered. "But Roger begs for mycompanionship, and I must go to look after him, for I suspect that hewould not be greatly grieved if he were to be carried off, as his heartis set on visiting foreign lands, and he knows not how to accomplish hiswishes."

  "If you go I know you will advise him wisely," said Alice, in a tonewhich showed that she placed confidence in the person she wasaddressing.

  Stephen looked gratified. "I will not betray my trust," he said, "and Ihope, Mistress Alice, that I shall act in a way to merit your approval."

  The lads did not allow their plates to remain idly before them. Rogersent his for an additional supply of the goodly sirloin which theColonel was carving, and then, as soon as he had finished eating,without waiting for the pasties or Master Holden's grace, he started upand said: "We have your leave, uncle, my father not objecting, to visitthe stranger, and I doubt not we shall bring you before evening a goodaccount of her."

  Mr Willoughby nodded his assent. "You may go, Roger, and Stephen ishis own master, but remember the caution you have received. Should youfind, which is most probable, that the commander is a goodly person, andhis ship is going to remain long enough at anchor, you may invite him upto the manor-house, and say we shall gladly receive him. It may be thathe has been long at sea, and some fresh provisions will be welcome."

  "Thank you," said Roger, leaving his chair.--"Come along, Stephen; weshall find Ben Rullock and Toby at their hut before they leave for theirevening fishing, if we make haste."

  Stephen, with less eagerness than that exhibited by his friend, rosefrom his seat, and bowing to Madam Pauline and Mistress Alice, followedRoger out of the hall.

  "They are spirited lads," observed the Colonel, "and as they have littleenough to fill up their time, I like not to deny them such amusement asthey discover for themselves."

  "Where it is harmless 'tis right that it should be encouraged," remarkedMaster Holden, who seldom said anything except it was to agree with theColonel, his patron, by whose means he had been reinstated in the parishat the Restoration.

  Colonel Tregellen, a staunch Cavalier, the owner of Eversden, had duringthe Civil War been among the most active partisans of King Charles theFirst, in whose service he had expended large sums of money. On thetriumph of Cromwell his property was confiscated, and he had judged itprudent to escape beyond seas. The manor, however, had been purchasedby his brother-in-law, Roger Willoughby, who had married his sister, andwho had held it during the period of the Commonwealth. Mr Willoughbywas a rigid Puritan, and had been as active in supporting Cromwell ashis brother-in-law had been in the cause of the opposite party. At theRestoration the tables were again turned, and Colonel Tregellen, who hadsome time before ventured back to England, had, by an amicablearrangement with his brother-in-law, again become possessed of theestate, it being settled that Mr Willoughby and his son should residewith him.

  While abroad, Colonel Tregellen had married a French Protestant lady, avery charming and lively per
son, who made herself liked by all who camein contact with her. Having no children of their own, they had adoptedthe grand-daughter of a Cavalier friend killed at Naseby, who hadcommitted his only daughter to the Colonel's care. On his return toEngland she came to live at Eversden Manor, where she married Mr HarryTufnell, the younger son of a gentleman of property in the county. He,however, soon afterwards died, leaving his widow and infant daughterslenderly provided for. Two years elapsed from his death, when MrsTufnell, who was then staying at the manor-house, followed him to thegrave. Madam Pauline had promised to be a mother to her child, and suchshe had ever since truly proved. Alice, who was too young to feel herloss, had always looked upon the Colonel and his wife as her parents,and loved them as such, though the Colonel had considered it expedientthat she should retain her father's name, and keep up such intercoursewith her family as circumstances would permit. She amply rewarded theColonel and Madam Pauline for the care they bestowed on her by theamiability of her disposition, her sweet and engaging manners, and theaffection she exhibited towards them. She was a year or two youngerthan Roger, but from her intelligence and appearance, and a certainmanner she had caught from Madam Pauline, she was generally supposed tobe older. She and Roger were fast friends, and regarded each other asbrother and sister. Of late she not only looked but felt herself theelder of the two, and treated him as young ladies are sometimes inclinedto treat boys, in a slightly dictatorial way, ordering him about, andexpecting him to obey her slightest behest; as he was invariablyobedient they never quarrelled, and she always appeared to receive hisservice as her right.

  Mr Willoughby, who lost his wife some years after the Restoration, andwas in infirm health, had sunk almost heart-broken into the position ofa dependant on his brother-in-law. He had paid a heavy price to obtainEversden, and had also expended large sums in support of the cause headvocated, besides which, certain mercantile speculations into which hehad entered had been unsuccessful, so that when deprived of Eversden hehad no means remaining for his support. The hope, which he probablyentertained, that his son Roger would be Colonel Tregellen's heir, wassomewhat damped when Mistress Alice was adopted as his daughter--notthat he felt any jealousy of her in consequence,--indeed, he mightpossibly have entertained the idea that she would marry Roger, and that,should she become the Colonel's heiress, the property would thus berestored to the family. Had the subject, however, been spoken of tohim, he would very likely have replied that he did not wish his thoughtsto dwell on such sublunary matters, that, all being ordered for thebest, he would leave them in the hands of Providence, without attemptingto interfere. Still, as Alice grew up into a sweet and engaging girl,he could not help wishing, as he looked at her, that she would some daybecome his son's wife. It is certain, however, that such thought hadnever for a moment crossed Roger's mind, nor that of the young ladyeither. She would have laughed heartily if the subject had beenmentioned to her, and declared that she should as soon have thought ofmarrying old Mr Willoughby himself, whom she always called her uncle.Fortunately no one had ever been silly enough to talk to her about thematter, and she and Roger had never had what might prove a barrier totheir friendship placed between them.

  Roger's thoughts were generally occupied with his grand idea to goabroad to the Indies, or to America, or to the plantations, to make afortune, and to restore the family to its former position. He did notconsider that his father was dependent on the Colonel, but he saw thatthe latter himself had but limited means; for the estate, although ofconsiderable extent, yielded but a poor income. Its owner had nothingelse to depend on, so that he was unable to repair the house or to makeimprovements on the land. The King on his Restoration had promised togive him a lucrative post as soon as he could find one suited to histalents, but year after year passed by, and he received no appointment;at length he went up to London--a journey not easily performed in thosedays,--and after waiting for a considerable time, through the interestof an old friend he obtained an interview with the Merry Monarch.

  "Gadzooks, man!" exclaimed the King, when he saw him, "I remember youwell,--a loyal, sturdy supporter of our cause. We have had so manyloyal gentlemen applying for posts that we fear all have been filled up,but depend on it we will not forget you. Go back to Eversden, and waitwith such patience as may be vouchsafed you. In due course of time youwill receive notice of the appointment to which we shall have thesatisfaction of naming you."

  Colonel Tregellen took his leave and returned to Eversden, but he wastoo old a soldier to have his hopes raised high, and from that time tothe present he had received no further communication on the subject--indeed, he had reason to believe that the King had forgotten all abouthim. Though he did not in consequence of this waver in his loyalty, itdid not increase his affection for the King, and made him criticise themonarch's proceeding with more minuteness than might otherwise have beenthe case. He had ever been a firm Protestant, and he had become stillmore attached to the Reformed principles, and more enlightened, from theexample set him by his wife, and also from the instruction he receivedfrom her. He was sufficiently acquainted with political affairs to knowthat the King was more than suspected of leaning to Romanism, while theDuke of York--the heir to the throne--was a professed Romanist. Hislove, therefore, for the family for whom he had fought and expended hisfortune had greatly waned of late years, and he therefore agreed morenearly with the opinions of his brother-in-law than formerly. Thischange of sentiment permitted him willingly to receive youngBattiscombe, who was of a Puritan family, at his house, though at onetime he would not have admitted him within his doors. He also lived onfriendly terms with other neighbours holding the same opinion as theowner of Langton Hall. Still, the Colonel did not altogether abandonhis Cavalier habits and notions, which, without intending it perhaps, heinstilled into the mind of his young nephew, who, although his fatherhad been a supporter of Cromwell, was ready enough to acknowledgeCharles as the rightful king of England. He and Stephen often haddiscussions on the subject, but as neither held his opinions with muchobstinacy, they never fell out on the matter, and generally ended with alaugh, each asserting that he had the beat of the argument. Stephen, ifnot a bigoted Puritan, was a strong Protestant, and never failed toexpress his dread of the consequences should James come to the throne.

  Stephen Battiscombe was the second son of Mr Battiscombe of LangtonPark, who had several other sons and daughters. He had been an officerin General Monk's army, and had consequently retained his paternalestates, although he had been compelled to part with some of his broadacres in order to secure the remainder. Stephen had been for the lastyear or two a constant visitor at Eversden, he and Roger having formed afriendship; it may be that he came oftener than he otherwise might havedone for the sake of enjoying the society of Mistress Alice, whom hegreatly admired.

  The early dinner being concluded, and the viands removed, the ladiesretired to pursue their usual avocations, while the Colonel, with MrWilloughby and Master Holden, sat still at the table, not so much toindulge in potations, though a flagon of wine and glasses stood beforethem, as to discuss certain parochial questions in which they wereinterested.

  The first matter to be discussed had scarcely been broached when theColonel, whose quick ears had detected the sound of horses' hoofs in thecourt-yard, exclaimed, "Hark! here come visitors. I pray you, MasterHolden, go and see who they are, and, should they have travelled far,and require food, bid the cook make ready a sufficiency; whether they beold friends or strangers, we must not show a want of hospitality if theycome expecting to find it at Eversden." The curate, ever accustomed toobey his patron's directions, rose and hastened to the door. Not longafter he had gone, Tobias Platt, the Colonel's serving-man, whoperformed the duties of butler, valet, and general factotum, entered thehall.

  "Master Thomas Handscombe, cloth-merchant of London, who has just comedown from thence, craves to see Mr Roger Willoughby," he said.

  "Do you know him?" asked the Colonel of his brother-in-law.

"Yes, an old and worthy friend," answered Mr Willoughby, rising fromhis seat.

  "Let him be admitted, and assure him of a welcome," said the Colonel,turning to Tobias Platt, who hurried out of the hall, while MrWilloughby followed him somewhat more leisurely. He found his oldfriend, a middle-aged man of grave exterior, in travel-stained cloak,broad-brimmed beaver, just dismounting from a strongly-built nag, towhose saddle were attached a pair of huge holsters in front, and avalise behind. He was accompanied by two attendants, each of whoseanimals carried considerably heavier burdens, apparently merchandise,more or less of cloth and other articles, firmly secured by leathernstraps.

  "I am glad to see you again, Master Handscombe," exclaimed MrWilloughby, warmly pressing the hand of his old friend; "although I amno longer master of this mansion, I can bid you welcome, for my goodbrother-in-law, Colonel Tregellen, desires that all my friends should behis friends; but you will remember that he is an old Cavalier, and thatthere are certain subjects it were better not to touch on."

  "I mix too much with all classes of men not to be on my guard," answeredthe merchant, as he accompanied Mr Willoughby into the house, whenTobias Platt came forward to take his dusty cloak and beaver, and thenfollowed Mr Willoughby into the hall, where the Colonel received him ashis brother-in-law's friend.

  "You will be glad to shake off more of the dust of your journey while arepast is preparing," observed the Colonel. "The servant will provideyou with water and other necessaries."

  The guest gladly accepted the offer. Mr Willoughby himself accompaniedhim to the room, that they might have an opportunity of conversing inprivate, which they might not afterwards obtain. Madam Pauline andAlice, on hearing from Master Holden of the arrival of a stranger fromLondon, returned to the hall, where all the party were soon againassembled. Master Handscombe, though a man of grave deportment, had noobjection to hear himself speak.

  "When did you leave London?" was one of the first questions verynaturally put by the Colonel to his guest.

  "Just seven days ago, good sir," answered Mr Handscombe. "Having sentall my goods with my two servant-men by the stage-wagon, I took my placeby the light coach which now runs from London to the West. There weresix of us inside, who, till the moment we met, were not aware of eachother's existence, though, before we parted, we had become as intimateas a litter of puppies. Pretty close stowing it was too--yet,considering the jolting, bumping, and rolling, that was an advantage.Oftentimes I feared that the coach would go over altogether into theditch, when I was thankful that there was not any one outside except thecoachman and guard, who are in a manner born to it, to break theirnecks. Still, notwithstanding all impediments, we accomplished thirtymiles a day; that is fast going, you will allow, compared to thestage-wagon or other ancient means of conveyance. Once only we werestopped by highwaymen, but the guard's blunderbuss disposed of one ofthem, and an old officer, who was fortunately for us one of thepassengers, though his legs were of the longest, shot another, and therest, fearing that the Major's pistols would settle a third of theirgang, rode off, leaving us to proceed unmolested. Mine host of the`Green Dragon,' where we had stopped, seemed greatly surprised at seeingus arrive safely, and pulled a long face at hearing of the highwaymanwhom the Major had shot, for he owed a long score, he acknowledged,which he had now no chance of getting paid. At Salisbury I found my nagand servants, and, leaving the coach, proceeded on to this place by suchroads as I could discover. It was one comfort to believe that we werenot likely to encounter highwaymen by paths so little frequented, thoughwe had several streams to cross, where we ran no small risk of ourlives, especially near Salisbury, where the waters were out, and forsome hours no boat was to be found to ferry us across. However, atlength, by God's kind providence, we got over, and as you see, goodmasters, I have arrived sound in health and limb."

  "Truly you have reason to be thankful," observed Mr Willoughby; "for itis a long time since I made a journey to London, and, of my own freewill, I will never again undertake it."

  "And what news do you bring from the city?" asked the Colonel. "How gomatters at Court?"

  "About the Court I know but little, except such as appears in thebroad-sheet and scraps of information which reach the city. The Dukesof York and Monmouth are still at daggers drawn, the King now favouringone, now the other, though Monmouth by his affable and condescendingmanners wins the hearts of many of the people, while the Earl ofShaftesbury is ever plotting and contriving how he may keep the power inhis own hands, and play one against the other. The Duke of Monmouth,who was, as you may have heard, banished, has returned without theKing's permission, and, as he refuses again to quit the kingdom, hasbeen stripped of his various offices; but a short time ago appeared atract in which the Duke is clearly pointed out as the fittest person,from his courage, quality, and conduct, to become the ruler of theserealms. It is remarked that he who has the worst title will make thebest King. There is a story current of the existence of a black box inwhich is deposited the marriage-contract between the King and the Duke'smother, but some doubt, not without reason, whether such a black boxexists, much more the contents spoken of. Be that as it may, manypersons speak boldly of the Duke of Monmouth some day becoming King ofEngland."

  "What is your opinion, Master Handscombe?" asked the Colonel.

  "I have merely reported what is said," answered the merchant. "Mybusiness is in buying and selling, and I have no wish to enter intopolitical affairs."

  "Well answered, sir; but I would have it clearly understood that I hopenone of those in whom I have an interest will ever draw sword or aid bytongue or otherwise in supporting any but the rightful and legitimateSovereign of these realms. Though James has become a Papist, he willnot interfere with the rights and privileges of his Protestantsubjects."

  "On that point there exist adverse and strong opinions," answered MasterHandscombe. "A Roman in power and a Roman out of power are two verydifferent species of animals. The one rules it like the lordly lion,and strikes down with his powerful paw all opponents; the other creepsforward gently and noiselessly like the cat,--not the less resolved,however, to destroy his prey."

  "You would then rather see the Duke of Monmouth than the Duke of Yorkking of England?" said the Colonel.

  "No, good sir, I said not so," answered Mr Handscombe. "I am merelyrepeating at your desire what people do say in the city, and in thetowns also through which I passed."

  While they were speaking, Tobias Platt had placed a smoking hot dishbefore the hungry traveller, on which the Colonel bade him fall-to.Scarcely, however, had he commenced operations, when young Roger hurriedinto the hall.

  "We have brought him, uncle; he was very willing to come, and you willlike him as much as we do. I ran on to announce him, and he and Stephenwill be here anon."

  "But who is your friend?" asked the Colonel. "You have not told us."

  "He is the captain of the fine ship we saw entering the bay; his name isBenbow, and his ship is the _Benbow_ frigate. He received us in acourteous manner when we went on board, and told him that we had come toinvite him on shore. He said as there was no prospect of a breeze forsome hours, he would gladly accept your invitation.--Here he comes."

  A youngish, broadly-built man, with light blue eyes and somewhatsun-burnt complexion, dressed as a sea-going officer of those days,entered the hall accompanied by Stephen Battiscombe, and advanced, hatin hand, towards the Colonel, who rose to receive him.

  "You have come just in time, Captain Benbow, for such I hear is yourname, to partake of a dinner prepared for a friend from London; you areheartily welcome."

  "Thanks, good sir, but I dined before I came on shore, though I shall behappy to quaff a glass of wine to your health and that of your guests,"he answered, as he seated himself in a chair, which the Colonel offered,by his side.

  "We have not many visitors in this quiet place, and are always glad toreceive those who have sailed, as you have undoubtedly, to many foreignlands," observed the Colonel, as he poured out a
glass of sparkling winefor the new-comer, who, before putting it to his lips, bowed to theladies and then to the Colonel and the other gentlemen.

  "Methinks I should know you, Captain Benbow," said Mr Handscombe,looking up at him from the other side of the table. "We have met on'Change, and I may venture to say it in your presence that nosea-captain stands higher than you do in the estimation of the merchantsof London."

  "Much obliged to you, Master Handscombe, for the opinion you express ofme," said Captain Benbow, at once recognising the worthy merchant. "Ihave always wished to do my duty towards those whose goods I carry, andto defend my cargo against pirates, privateers, and corsairs of alldescriptions, as well as to carry it safely to its destination."

  "The name of Benbow sounds familiar to my ears," said the Colonel,looking earnestly at the merchant captain. "I had two old well-lovedcomrades, Colonel Thomas and Colonel John Benbow, gentlemen of estate inShropshire, who raised regiments in the service of his late Majesty, ofpious memory, and for whom I also had the honour of drawing my sword. Iwell remember that 20th of September in the year of grace 1642, whenthey and many more came with their faithful men to Shrewsbury to enrolthemselves under the King's standard, and opposed those who had resolvedon his destruction. From that day forward we fought side by side inmany a bloody battle, sometimes in the open field, sometimes in thedefence of towns or fortified manor-houses, till the King's cause waslost and his sacred head struck off, though even then we did not despairthat the cause of monarchy would triumph; and as soon as our presentKing, marching from Scotland, reached Worcester, I, with the two ColonelBenbows, who had mustered their Shropshire men, and a few other noblegentlemen--alack! not so many as we had a right to expect--arrayedourselves under the King's standard. We had secured, as we hoped, astrong position, and expected that when Cromwell and his Ironsidesmarched against us we should drive them back and hold our own, withWales and other loyal counties in our rear, till the nation was aroused.But such was not to be, for without waiting to give himselfbreathing-time after his march, Cromwell set upon us. Though manyfought bravely, others grew faint-hearted, and took to flight, and theday was lost. I fell wounded, and was conveyed to the house of afaithful friend, who concealed me; but unhappily the Colonel Benbowswere both made prisoners, and Colonel Thomas Benbow with the Earl ofDerby and several other gallant noblemen. To my grief, I heard soonafterwards that Colonel Thomas Benbow was shot with the Earl and severalothers, for engaging in what the usurper pleased to call rebellion; butof my friend Colonel John Benbow I could for a long time hear nothing,and had myself to escape across seas."

  "I am the son of Colonel John Benbow, of whom you speak," said theCaptain. "I know that my uncle Thomas was made prisoner in the fight atWorcester, and afterwards cruelly shot. My father escaped with the helpof a friend, and remained concealed with my mother and their family,living in the humblest way, till King Charles the Second was restored tothe throne. Through the influence of some friends my father obtained asmall office connected with the Ordnance in the Tower, which brought himin sufficient to feed and clothe his family in a simple fashion. I wasyoung, and used to what might be called penury, and I well knew that Imust seek my fortune in the world, and work hard. I had an early tastefor the sea, for we lived near the Thames, and I often used to maketrips with the watermen, among whom I was a favourite. When I was oldenough to make myself useful they paid me for the assistance I gavethem, looking after boats, sometimes bringing them a fare from theshore, and often taking an oar. I was just ten years old when thepresent King came to the throne, and I might perchance have joined oneof his ships, but from the way I heard my friends the watermen say thatmen were treated on board them, I had no fancy for joining a man-of-war.Soon after the time I speak of, an old friend of my father's got him anappointment in the Tower, which brought him in indeed but 80 pounds ayear; yet as that was more than our family had had to live on for many along year, it was a cause of much rejoicing and thanksgiving. Still itwas not enough to allow any of us who could work to live in idleness,and I determined to try what I could do. I was one day looking out fora fare for an old waterman, John Cox by name, who had engaged myservices, I being an especial favourite of his, when a sailor-like mancame down and said he wanted to be put on board the _Rainbow_ frigatelying in the stream. `John Cox will put you on board,' says I; `there'shis boat. I'll hail him, and he will be down in a moment.'

  "`That will do,' said the stranger, and he stepped on board the boat.

  "`Are you the old man's son?' he asked.

  "`No, sir; I am the son of Colonel Benbow, who has got an office in theTower.'

  "`What! his son thus employed!' exclaimed the stranger. `Is he going tobring you up as a waterman?'

  "`An please you, sir, I am bringing myself up to gain an honestlivelihood as best I can,' I answered.

  "`Would you like to go to sea and visit foreign countries?' asked thestranger.

  "`That I would, sir, with all my heart,' I answered.

  "`What will you say if I offer to take you?' he asked, looking at me.

  "`That I will accept your offer, and serve you faithfully,' I said.

  "`Then, lad, you shall come with me aboard the _Rainbow_. We will goback and see your father. I would not take you without his sanction;but if he approves, we shall have time to get such an outfit as yourequire, for I do not sail till to-morrow.'

  "John Cox and I put Captain Downing, for such was his name, on board the_Rainbow_. He told us to wait alongside for him. After some time heagain stepped into the boat, and ordered John Cox to pull for the TowerStairs.

  "On landing, he bade me conduct him to my father's lodgings, which Igladly did. My father, as it happened, had met Captain Downing, andknew him to be a man of probity. Thanking the Captain for his offer, hewithout hesitation gave me leave to accompany him as cabin-boy. It didnot take long to get an outfit, and bidding my old father and my kindmother and brothers and sisters farewell, I went on board the _Rainbow_.We dropped down the Thames the next day, but it was nearly a weekbefore we were fairly at sea. The moment I stepped on board, havingdetermined to become a sailor, I set to work to learn everything Icould. The Captain helped me in every way. I observed especially themanner he treated his men. He spoke kindly to them, took care that theyhad plenty of good provisions, and never demanded more work of them thanhe knew they could perform. Thus the same crew sailed with him voyageafter voyage, and I said to myself, `Whenever I get command of a ship, Iwill treat my men in the same way.' We sailed for the Levant, and weremore than a year away, and then made several voyages to Lisbon andCadiz, and other places on the coast of Portugal and Spain, two out tothe West Indies. When I got back I found my father holding his old postin the Tower, still cheerful and contented, though, as he said, hethought some of his old friends might have found him one with betterpay, considering what he had lost for holding to the Royal cause. Thefirst Dutch war was just over, when the Governor received notice thatthe King himself was going to visit the Tower to inspect the ordnance.All the officers, from the highest to the lowest, in their best attire,were drawn up to receive his Majesty. Among them stood my father, hiswhite hair streaming over his shoulders, a head taller than any of thebystanders, I well remember the cry which was raised of `Here comes theKing!' Presently his Majesty appeared. As he walked along, nodding toone, exchanging a word with another, his eye fell on my father, whom heknew at once, as he did most people, however long a time had passedsince he had seen them. `Gadzooks! why, there's my old friend ColonelBenbow!' exclaimed the King, going up to him and giving him a warmembrace. `I have not seen you since we parted at Worcester; if all hadacted as bravely as you did, we should have had a very different accountto give of that day. What do you here?'

  "`An please your Majesty, I have a post of 80 pounds a year, in which Ido my duty as cheerfully as I would were it 4000 pounds a year,'answered my father.

  "`Alack, alack! that an old and faithful friend should have been soneglected,' said
the King. `You ought to have had one of the best postsI have it in my power to confer, for you lost not only your ownproperty, but your brave brother lost his life, as I have heard, withmany other gallant gentlemen.--Colonel Legge,' he said, turning to oneof the officers in attendance, `bring Colonel Benbow to me to-morrow,and we will see what office we can best bestow on him. I will providefor him an his family as becomes me.'

  "As the King passed on, my honoured father, overcome with joy andgratitude for the King's intended goodness, sank down on a bench, wherehe sat motionless. Suddenly a pallor was seen to overspread hiscountenance, and he would have fallen forward had not some of thosestanding by hurried to support him;--but he was past human help; thesudden revulsion of feeling was more than his weak frame could stand,and before the King had left the Tower he had breathed his last. It wasa sad day to my mother, but we tried to comfort her by reminding herthat our father died from excessive joy, that the King would graciouslybestow the favour he had intended for him on her and us. From that dayforward, however, no message came from his Majesty to inquire why myfather had not appeared at Court. Though means were also taken to letthe King know of our father's death, and that his wife and family werealmost destitute no notice was taken, and my mother had to depend onsuch support as I and her other children could give her; but do all wecould, it was only sufficient to keep her from starving. Well may Isay, `Put not your trust in princes.'

  "I need not trouble you, fair ladies and gentlemen, with a furtheraccount of my early life. I was in great favour with Captain Downing,with whom I sailed for many years as his chief officer, and on hisdeath, which occurred at sea, he left me his share in the _Rainbow_, andother property. As she was getting old and unfit for long voyages, Isold her and built the _Benbow_ frigate, which ship several of my formercrew joined as soon as she was ready for sea. Thus, you see, my lifehas not been a very eventful one, though I have risen to independence byjust sticking to my duty. I do not say that I have not met withadventures, but I will occupy no more of your time by attempting todescribe them."

  Roger and Stephen, especially the former, had been eagerly listening tothe account Captain Benbow gave of himself.

  "How I should delight to sail with you, if my father would give meleave!" exclaimed Roger.

  "If there were time, I should be happy to take you on board my ship andteach you to become a sailor, but I fear there is no time, as I must beaway again as soon as the tide changes, for I am bound up to the furtherend of the Mediterranean, and you require certain suits of clothing andother articles which cannot be procured in a moment."

  "If you propose putting into Plymouth, the difficulty might beobviated," said Roger, who looked much disappointed. "I could soonscrape such few things together as I require, for I care not much what Iwear."

  "But you have not yet obtained your father's sanction to your going,young gentleman, and it was only provided that he should give hispermission that I offered to receive you on board my ship," said theCaptain.

  "Thank you heartily, Captain Benbow," said Mr Willoughby. "From thereport I have heard of you through my friend Handscombe here, there isno man to whom I would more willingly confide my son, for he has set hisheart on being a sailor; but, as you observe, he requires suitableclothing, and that cannot be procured forthwith; still, if you will giveme intimation of your return to England, and are willing to take him onyour next voyage, I will send him to the port at which your ship lieswithout fail."

  "I will do that," said the Captain.--"So, Master Roger, you may lookupon yourself as my future shipmate."

  Still Roger appeared much disappointed, as he had expected to go off atonce.

  "Cheer up, my lad," said the Captain good-humouredly. "I will not failto give notice of my arrival to your father." The Captain evidentlytook compassion on the boy's eagerness, for he added, "To show myreadiness to take you, if your friends will undertake to collect suchneedful articles as you must have, I will agree to wait till a breezesprings up, which may not be for several hours to come."

  "Thank you, sir, thank you," cried Roger, looking at his aunt andMistress Alice, and then at his father and the Colonel, as much as toask what they would do.

  "If your father gives you leave, I will not say you nay," observed theColonel. "But I know nothing of the required preparations. MadamPauline and Alice had better say what they and the maidens in the housecan do in the course of a few hours."

  Roger turned inquiringly towards them.

  "As Captain Benbow is good enough to take you, we will do our best toget the things you require ready," said Madam Pauline.

  "I am loath to lose Roger, but if he will accept some of my clothing, Iwill ride back to Langton Park and get it for him," said Stephen. "Itis much against the grain, though, I confess."

  "Thank you, thank you, Stephen," cried Roger, grasping his friend'shand. "I know that you are sorry to part from me, but then you know howmuch I long to go to sea, and may never have so good an opportunity."

  The matter being thus settled, Madam Pauline and Alice hastened toinspect poor Roger's scanty wardrobe, and to consider how with thematerials in the house they could most speedily add to it, whileStephen, mounting his horse, rode away for Langton, and Roger himself,accompanied by Master Holden, hunted through the big lumber-room at thetop of the house, with the hopes of finding a chest in which hisproperty might be stowed. He soon found one of oak, clamped with iron,which, though larger and heavier than was desirable, might, he thought,serve the purpose required. Their next business was to collect thetreasures, including a few well-thumbed books, which Roger wished totake with him, and which he at once placed in the bottom of the chest.The rest of the party remained at table, the Colonel talking chieflywith Captain Benbow, whom he looked upon as an old friend.

  "You will remain at the manor-house to-night, I hope," said the Colonel,"and you may return in the morning with my nephew at as early an hour asyou desire. I suspect that the females of the family will take but fewhours of rest, as their needles will be busy during the night inpreparing the young fellow's wardrobe."

  "Thank you for the offer, Colonel, but I have made a rule, from which Inever depart, always to sleep on board my ship," answered the Captain."I know not what may happen during the night, and I am thus in readinessfor any emergency."

  Mr Willoughby was engaged in earnest conversation with MasterHandscombe, the merchant, on matters which, it appeared, they wereunwilling should reach the ears of the Colonel. They spoke of the Dukeof Monmouth, Lord Shaftesbury, and many other persons. MasterHandscombe appeared to be very anxious to ascertain the politicalopinions of the landowners and other gentlemen residing in that part ofDorsetshire and the neighbouring counties of Wilts and Devon. It mighthave been suspected that the cloth-merchant had other objects in viewbesides those connected with his mercantile pursuits.

  In spite of the exertions made by the indefatigable Madame Pauline andher assistants during the evening, Roger's wardrobe was not completed;indeed, darkness was approaching before Stephen Battiscombe returnedwith the bundle of clothing which he had generously devoted to the useof his friend. Captain Benbow had risen from the table, and havingwished the Colonel and the rest of the party good-bye, was prepared toset out on his return to his ship. Stephen and Roger insisted onaccompanying him, and he was glad of their society, as he confessed thathe might have some difficulty in finding his way alone. His boat waswaiting for him at the beach.

  "You will come down with your traps as soon as possible after daylight,my lad," he said, as he stepped on board, "and I will send a boat onshore for you."

  "No fear, sir, about my being punctual," answered Roger, and his heartbounded as he thought that in a few hours more he should be on board thestout ship which rode at anchor out in the bay. He and Stephen stood onthe beach watching the boat till she was lost to sight in the fastincreasing gloom. Already, as they stood there, they observed thatalthough the calm was as perfect as before, the water had begun to breakwith considerabl
y more force than it had done since the morning. Smoothundulations came rolling in and burst with a dull splash on the sand,then rushed up in a sheet of snowy foam, which had scarcely disappearedbefore another took its place.

  "I cannot quite make it out," observed Stephen. "It seems to me thatthe sky is unusually dark away to the south and south-west; to say thetruth, it looks to me as if there was a bank of dark clouds out there."

  "I do not see any bank. It is simply the coming gloom of evening whichdarkens the sky in that direction," answered Roger. "I think you aremistaken; however, it is time that we should get back, as I have manythings to do, and I don't like to desert my poor father, as it will bethe last evening I shall spend with him for many a day."

  Stephen acknowledging this, they hastened back to the manor-house.