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This adventure novel centers on a young man in the service of King Charles the XII of Sweden. Sir Marmaduke Carstairs is a Jacobite who is denounced as a plotter against King William. He and his son Charlie flee to Sweden. Charlie joins the foreign legion and is honored by his service in several campaigns against the Poles and Russians. (Jacobite refers to a political movement dedicated to restoring the Stuart kings to the throne of England. and Scotland.)
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Copyright © 2016 by G.A. Henty
Interior design by Pronoun
Distribution by Pronoun
Chapter 1: A Spy in the Household.
Chapter 2: Denounced.
Chapter 3: A Rescue.
Chapter 4: In Sweden.
Chapter 5: Narva.
Chapter 6: A Prisoner.
Chapter 7: Exchanged.
Chapter 8: The Passage of the Dwina.
Chapter 9: In Warsaw.
Chapter 10: In Evil Plight.
Chapter 11: With Brigands.
Chapter 12: Treed By Wolves.
Chapter 13: A Rescued Party.
Chapter 14: The Battle Of Clissow.
Chapter 15: An Old Acquaintance.
Chapter 16: In England Again.
Chapter 17: The North Coach.
Chapter 18: A Confession.
ON THE BORDERS OF Lancashire and Westmoreland, two centuries since, stood Lynnwood, a picturesque mansion, still retaining something of the character of a fortified house. It was ever a matter of regret to its owner, Sir Marmaduke Carstairs, that his grandfather had so modified its construction, by levelling one side of the quadrangle, and inserting large mullion windows in that portion inhabited by the family, that it was in no condition to stand a siege, in the time of the Civil War.
Sir Marmaduke was, at that time, only a child, but he still remembered how the Roundhead soldiers had lorded it there, when his father was away fighting with the army of the king; how they had seated themselves at the board, and had ordered his mother about as if she had been a scullion, jeering her with cruel words as to what would have been the fate of her husband, if they had caught him there, until, though but eight years old, he had smitten one of the troopers, as he sat, with all his force. What had happened after that, he did not recollect, for it was not until a week after the Roundheads had ridden away that he found himself in his bed, with his mother sitting beside him, and his head bandaged with cloths dipped in water. He always maintained that, had the house been fortified, it could have held out until help arrived, although, in later years, his father assured him that it was well it was not in a position to offer a defence.
“We were away down south, Marmaduke, and the Roundheads were masters of this district, at the time. They would have battered the place around your mother’s ears, and, likely as not, have burnt it to the ground. As it was, I came back here to find it whole and safe, except that the crop-eared scoundrels had, from pure wantonness, destroyed the pictures and hacked most of the furniture to pieces. I took no part in the later risings, seeing that they were hopeless, and therefore preserved my property, when many others were ruined.
“No, Marmaduke, it is just as well that the house was not fortified. I believe in fighting, when there is some chance, even a slight one, of success, but I regard it as an act of folly, to throw away a life when no good can come of it.”
Still, Sir Marmaduke never ceased to regret that Lynnwood was not one of the houses that had been defended, to the last, against the enemies of the king. At the Restoration he went, for the first time in his life, to London, to pay his respects to Charles the Second. He was well received, and although he tired, in a very short time, of the gaieties of the court, he returned to Lynnwood with his feelings of loyalty to the Stuarts as strong as ever. He rejoiced heartily when the news came of the defeat of Monmouth at Sedgemoor, and was filled with rage and indignation when James weakly fled, and left his throne to be occupied by Dutch William.
From that time, he became a strong Jacobite, and emptied his glass nightly “to the king over the water.” In the north the Jacobites were numerous, and at their gatherings treason was freely talked, while arms were prepared, and hidden away for the time when the lawful king should return to claim his own. Sir Marmaduke was deeply concerned in the plot of 1696, when preparations had been made for a great Jacobite rising throughout the country. Nothing came of it, for the Duke of Berwick, who was to have led it, failed in getting the two parties who were concerned to come to an agreement. The Jacobites were ready to rise, directly a French army landed. The French king, on the other hand, would not send an army until the Jacobites had risen, and the matter therefore fell through, to Sir Marmaduke’s indignation and grief. But he had no words strong enough to express his anger and disgust when he found that, side by side with the general scheme for a rising, a plot had been formed by Sir George Barclay, a Scottish refugee, to assassinate the king, on his return from hunting in Richmond Forest.
“It is enough to drive one to become a Whig,” he exclaimed. “I am ready to fight Dutch William, for he occupies the place of my rightful sovereign, but I have no private feud with him, and, if I had, I would run any man through who ventured to propose to me a plot to assassinate him. Such scoundrels as Barclay would bring disgrace on the best cause in the world. Had I heard as much as a whisper of it, I would have buckled on my sword, and ridden to London to warn the Dutchman of his danger. However, as it seems that Barclay had but some forty men with him, most of them foreign desperadoes, the Dutchman must see that English gentlemen, however ready to fight against him fairly, would have no hand in so dastardly a plot as this.
“Look you, Charlie, keep always in mind that you bear the name of our martyred king, and be ready ever to draw your sword in the cause of the Stuarts, whether it be ten years hence, or forty, that their banner is hoisted again; but keep yourself free from all plots, except those that deal with fair and open warfare. Have no faith whatever in politicians, who are ever ready to use the country gentry as an instrument for gaining their own ends. Deal with your neighbours, but mistrust strangers, from whomsoever they may say they come.”
Which advice Charlie, at that time thirteen years old, gravely promised to follow. He had naturally inherited his father’s sentiments, and believed the Jacobite cause to be a sacred one. He had fought and vanquished Alured Dormay, his second cousin, and two years his senior, for speaking of King James’ son as the Pretender, and was ready, at any time, to do battle with any boy of his own age, in the same cause. Alured’s father, John Dormay, had ridden over to Lynnwood, to complain of the violence of which his son had been the victim, but he obtained no redress from Sir Marmaduke.
“The boy is a chip of the old block, cousin, and he did right. I myself struck a blow at the king’s enemies, when I was but eight years old, and got my skull well-nigh cracked for my pains. It is well that the lads were not four years older, for then, instead of taking to fisticuffs, their swords would have been out, and as my boy has, for the last four years, been exercised daily in the use of his weapon, it might happen that, instead of Alured coming home with a black eye, and, as you say, a missing tooth, he might have been carried home with a sword thrust through his body.
“It was, to my mind, entirely the fault of your son. I should have blamed Charlie, had he called the king at Westminster Dutch William, for, although each man has a right to his own opinions, he has no right to offend those of others—besides, at present it is as well to keep a quiet tongue as to a matter that words cannot set right. In the same way, your son had no right to offend others by calling James Stuart the Pretender.
“Certainly, of the twelve boys who go over to learn what the Rector of Apsley can teach them, more than half are sons of gentlemen whose opinions are similar to my own.
“It would be much better, John Dormay, if, instead of complaining of my boy, you were to look somewhat to your own. I marked, the last time he came over here, that he was growing loutish in his manners, and that he bore himself with less respect to his elders than is seemly in a lad of that age. He needs curbing, and would carry himself all the better if, like Charlie, he had an hour a day at sword exercise. I speak for the boy’s good. It is true that you yourself, being a bitter Whig, mix but little with your neighbours, who are for the most part the other way of thinking; but this may not go on for ever, and you would, I suppose, like Alured, when he grows up, to mix with others of his rank in the county; and it would be well, therefore, that he should have the accomplishments and manners of young men of his own age.”
John Dormay did not reply hastily—it was his policy to keep on good terms with his wife’s cousin, for the knight was a man of far higher consideration, in the county, than himself. His smile, however, was not a pleasant one, as he rose and said:
“My mission has hardly terminated as I expected, Sir Marmaduke. I came to complain, and I go away advised somewhat sharply.”
“Tut, tut, man!” the knight said. “I speak only for the lad’s good, and I am sure that you cannot but feel the truth of what I have said. What does Alured want to make enemies for? It may be that it was only my son who openly resented his ill-timed remarks, but you may be sure that others were equally displeased, and maybe their resentment will last much longer than that which was quenched in a fair stand-up fight. Certainly, there need be no malice between the boys. Alured’s defeat may even do him good, for he cannot but feel that it is somewhat disgraceful to be beaten by one nearly a head shorter than he.”
“There is, no doubt, something in what you say, Sir Marmaduke,” John Dormay said blandly, “and I will make it my business that, should the boys meet again as antagonists, Alured shall be able to give a better account of himself.”
“He is a disagreeable fellow,” Sir Marmaduke said to himself, as he watched John Dormay ride slowly away through the park, “and, if it were not that he is husband to my cousin Celia, I would have nought to do with him. She is my only kinswoman, and, were aught to happen to Charlie, that lout, her son, would be the heir of Lynnwood. I should never rest quiet in my grave, were a Whig master here.
“I would much rather that he had spoken wrathfully, when I straightly gave him my opinion of the boy, who is growing up an ill-conditioned cub. It would have been more honest. I hate to see a man smile, when I know that he would fain swear. I like my cousin Celia, and I like her little daughter Ciceley, who takes after her, and not after John Dormay; but I would that the fellow lived on the other side of England. He is out of his place here, and, though men do not speak against him in my presence, knowing that he is a sort of kinsman, I have never heard one say a good word for him.
“It is not only because he is a Whig. There are other Whig gentry in the neighbourhood, against whom I bear no ill will, and can meet at a social board in friendship. It would be hard if politics were to stand between neighbours. It is Dormay’s manner that is against him. If he were anyone but Celia’s husband, I would say that he is a smooth-faced knave, though I altogether lack proof of my words, beyond that he has added half a dozen farms to his estate, and, in each case, there were complaints that, although there was nothing contrary to the law, it was by sharp practice that he obtained possession, lending money freely in order to build houses and fences and drains, and then, directly a pinch came, demanding the return of his advance.
“Such ways may pass in a London usurer, but they don’t do for us country folk; and each farm that he has taken has closed the doors of a dozen good houses to John Dormay. I fear that Celia has a bad time with him, though she is not one to complain. I let Charlie go over to Rockley, much oftener than I otherwise should do, for her sake and Ciceley’s, though I would rather, a hundred times, that they should come here. Not that the visits are pleasant, when they do come, for I can see that Celia is always in fear, lest I should ask her questions about her life at home; which is the last thing that I should think of doing, for no good ever comes of interference between man and wife, and, whatever I learned, I could not quarrel with John Dormay without being altogether separated from Celia and the girl.
“I am heartily glad that Charlie has given Alured a sound thrashing. The boy is too modest. He only said a few words, last evening, about the affair, and I thought that only a blow or two had been exchanged. It was as much as I could do, not to rub my hands and chuckle, when his father told me all about it. However, I must speak gravely to Charlie. If he takes it up, every time a Whig speaks scornfully of the king, he will be always in hot water, and, were he a few years older, would become a marked man. We have got to bide our time, and, except among friends, it is best to keep a quiet tongue until that time comes.”
To Sir Marmaduke’s disappointment, three more years went on without the position changing in any way. Messengers went and came between France and the English Jacobites, but no movement was made. The failure of the assassination plot had strengthened William’s hold on the country, for Englishmen love fair play and hate assassination, so that many who had, hitherto, been opponents of William of Orange, now ranged themselves on his side, declaring they could no longer support a cause that used assassination as one of its weapons. More zealous Jacobites, although they regretted the assassination plot, and were as vehement of their denunciations of its authors as were the Whigs, remained staunch in their fidelity to “the king over the water,” maintaining stoutly that his majesty knew nothing whatever of this foul plot, and that his cause was in no way affected by the misconduct of a few men, who happened to be among its adherents.
At Lynnwood things went on as usual. Charlie continued his studies, in a somewhat desultory way, having but small affection for books; kept up his fencing lesson diligently and learned to dance; quarrelled occasionally with his cousin Alured, spent a good deal of his time on horseback, and rode over, not unfrequently, to Rockley, choosing, as far as possible, the days and hours when he knew that Alured and his father were likely to be away. He went over partly for his own pleasure, but more in compliance with his father’s wishes.
“My cousin seldom comes over, herself,” the latter said. “I know, right well, that it is from no slackness of her own, but that her husband likes not her intimacy here. It is well, then, that you should go over and see them, for it is only when you bring her that I see Ciceley. I would she were your sister, lad, for she is a bright little maid, and would make the old house lively.”
Therefore, once a week or so, Charlie rode over early to Rockley, which was some five miles distant, and brought back Ciceley, cantering on her pony by his side, escorting her home again before nightfall. Ciceley’s mother wondered, sometimes, that her husband, who in most matters set his will in opposition to hers, never offered any objection to the girl’s visits to Lynnwood. She thought that, perhaps, he was pleased that there should be an intimacy between some member, at least, of his family, and Sir Marmaduke’s. There were so few houses at which he or his were welcome, it was pleasant to him to be able to refer to the close friendship of his daughter with their cousins at Lynnwood. Beyond this, Celia, who often, as she sat alone, turned the matter over in her mind, could see no reason he could have for permitting the intimacy. That he would permit it without some reason was, as her experience had taught her, out of the question.
Ciceley never troubled her head about the matter. Her visits to Lynnwood were very pleasant to her. She was two years younger than Charlie Carstairs; and although, when he had once brought her to the house, he considered that his duties were over until the hour arrived for her return, he was sometimes ready to play with her, escort her round the garden, or climb the trees for fruit or birds’ eggs for her.
Such little courtesies she never received from Alured, who was four years her senior, and who never interested himself in the slightest degree in her. He was now past eighteen, and was beginning to regard himself as a man, and had, to Ciceley’s satisfaction, gone a few weeks before, to London, to stay with an uncle who had a place at court, and was said to be much in the confidence of some of the Whig lords.
Sir Marmaduke was, about this time, more convinced than ever that, ere long, the heir of the Stuarts would come over from France, with men, arms, and money, and would rally round him the Jacobites of England and Scotland. Charlie saw but little of him, for he was frequently absent, from early morning until late at night, riding to visit friends in Westmoreland and Yorkshire, sometimes being away two or three days at a time. Of an evening, there were meetings at Lynnwood, and at these strangers, who arrived after nightfall, were often present. Charlie was not admitted to any of these gatherings.
“You will know all about it in time, lad,” his father said. “You are too young to bother your head with politics, and you would lose patience in a very short time. I do myself, occasionally. Many who are the foremost in talk, when there is no prospect of doing anything, draw back when the time approaches for action, and it is sickening to listen to the timorous objections and paltry arguments that are brought forward. Here am I, a man of sixty, ready to risk life and fortune in the good cause, and there are many, not half my age, who speak with as much caution as if they were graybeards. Still, lad, I have no doubt that the matter will straighten itself out, and come right in the end. It is always the most trying time, for timorous hearts, before the first shot of a battle is fired. Once the engagement commences, there is no time for fear. The battle has to be fought out, and the best way to safety is to win a victory. I have not the least doubt that, as soon as it is known that the king has landed, there will be no more shilly-shallying or hesitation. Every loyal man will mount his horse, and call out his tenants, and, in a few days, England will be in a blaze from end to end.”
Charlie troubled himself but little with what was going on. His father had promised him that, when the time did come, he should ride by his side, and with that promise he was content to wait, knowing that, at present, his strength would be of but little avail, and that every week added somewhat to his weight and sinew.
One day he was in the garden with Ciceley. The weather was hot, and the girl was sitting, in a swing, under a shady tree, occasionally starting herself by a push with her foot on the ground, and then swaying gently backward and forward, until the swing was again at rest. Charlie was seated on the ground, near her, pulling the ears of his favourite dog, and occasionally talking to her, when a servant came out, with a message that his father wanted to speak to him.
“I expect I shall be back in a few minutes, Ciceley, so don’t you wander away till I come. It is too hot today to be hunting for you, all over the garden, as I did when you hid yourself last week.”
It was indeed but a short time until he returned.
“My father only wanted to tell me that he is just starting for Bristowe’s, and, as it is over twenty miles away, he may not return until tomorrow.”
“I don’t like that man’s face who brought the message to you, Charlie.”
“Don’t you?” the boy said carelessly. “I have not noticed him much. He has not been many months with us.
“What are you thinking of?” he asked, a minute later, seeing that his cousin looked troubled.
“I don’t know that I ought to tell you, Charlie. You know my father does not think the same way as yours about things.”
“I should rather think he doesn’t,” Charlie laughed. “There is no secret about that, Ciceley; but they don’t quarrel over it. Last time your father and mother came over here, I dined with them for the first time, and I noticed there was not a single word said about politics. They chatted over the crops, and the chances of a war in Europe, and of the quarrel between Holstein and Denmark, and whether the young king of Sweden would aid the duke, who seems to be threatened by Saxony as well as by Denmark. I did not know anything about it, and thought it was rather stupid; but my father and yours both seemed of one mind, and were as good friends as if they were in equal agreement on all other points. But what has that to do with Nicholson, for that is the man’s name who came out just now?”
“It does not seem to have much to do with it,” she said doubtfully, “and yet, perhaps it does. You know my mother is not quite of the same opinion as my father, although she never says so to him; but, when we are alone together, sometimes she shakes her head and says she fears that trouble is coming, and it makes her very unhappy. One day I was in the garden, and they were talking loudly in the dining room—at least, he was talking loudly. Well, he said—But I don’t know whether I ought to tell you, Charlie.”
“Certainly you ought not, Ciceley. If you heard what you were not meant to hear, you ought never to say a word about it to anyone.”
“But it concerns you and Sir Marmaduke.”
“I cannot help that,” he said stoutly. “People often say things of each other, in private, especially if they are out of temper, that they don’t quite mean, and it would make terrible mischief if such things were repeated. Whatever your father said, I do not want to hear it, and it would be very wrong of you to repeat it.”
“I am not going to repeat it, Charlie. I only want to say that I do not think my father and yours are very friendly together, which is natural, when my father is all for King William, and your father for King James. He makes no secret of that, you know.”
“That is right enough, Ciceley, but still, I don’t understand in the least what it has to do with the servant.”
“It has to do with it,” she said pettishly, starting the swing afresh, and then relapsing into silence until it again came to a standstill.
“I think you ought to know,” she said suddenly. “You see, Charlie, Sir Marmaduke is very kind to me, and I love him dearly, and so I do you, and I think you ought to know, although it may be nothing at all.”
“Well, fire away then, Ciceley. There is one thing you may be quite sure of, whatever you tell me, it is like telling a brother, and I shall never repeat it to anyone.”
“Well, it is this. That man comes over sometimes to see my father. I have seen him pass my window, three or four times, and go in by the garden door into father’s study. I did not know who he was, but it did seem funny his entering by that door, as if he did not want to be seen by anyone in the house. I did not think anything more about it, till I saw him just now, then I knew him directly. If I had seen him before, I should have told you at once, but I don’t think I have.”
“I daresay not, Ciceley. He does not wait at table, but is under the steward, and helps clean the silver. He waits when we have several friends to dinner. At other times he does not often come into the room.
“What you tell me is certainly curious. What can he have to say to your father?”
“I don’t know, Charlie. I don’t know anything about it. I do think you ought to know.”
“Yes, I think it is a good thing that I should know,” Charlie agreed thoughtfully. “I daresay it is all right, but, at any rate, I am glad you told me.”
“You won’t tell your father?” she asked eagerly. “Because, if you were to speak of it—”
“I shall not tell him. You need not be afraid that what you have told me will come out. It is curious, and that is all, and I will look after the fellow a bit. Don’t think anything more about it. It is just the sort of thing it is well to know, but I expect there is no harm in it, one way or the other. Of course, he must have known your father before he came to us, and may have business of some sort with him. He may have a brother, or some other relation, who wants to take one of your father’s farms. Indeed, there are a hundred things he might want to see him about. But still, I am glad you have told me.”
In his own mind, Charlie thought much more seriously of it than he pretended. He knew that, at present, his father was engaged heart and soul in a projected Jacobite rising. He knew that John Dormay was a bitter Whig. He believed that he had a grudge against his father, and the general opinion of him was that he was wholly unscrupulous.
That he should, then, be in secret communication with a servant at Lynnwood, struck him as a very serious matter, indeed. Charlie was not yet sixteen, but his close companionship with his father had rendered him older than most lads of his age. He was as warm a Jacobite as his father, but the manner in which William, with his Dutch troops, had crushed the great Jacobite rebellion in Ireland, seemed to him a lesson that the prospects of success, in England, were much less certain than his father believed them to be.
John Dormay, as an adherent of William, would be interested in thwarting the proposed movement, with the satisfaction of, at the same time, bringing Sir Marmaduke into disgrace. Charlie could hardly believe that his cousin would be guilty of setting a spy to watch his father, but it was certainly possible, and as he thought the matter over, as he rode back after escorting Ciceley to her home, he resolved to keep a sharp watch over the doings of this man Nicholson.
“It would never do to tell my father what Ciceley said. He would bundle the fellow out, neck and crop, and perhaps break some of his bones, and then it would be traced to her. She has not a happy home, as it is, and it would be far worse if her father knew that it was she who had put us on our guard. I must find out something myself, and then we can turn him out, without there being the least suspicion that Ciceley is mixed up in it.”
The next evening several Jacobite gentlemen rode in, and, as usual, had a long talk with Sir Marmaduke after supper.
“If this fellow is a spy,” Charlie said to himself, “he will be wanting to hear what is said, and to do so he must either hide himself in the room, or listen at the door, or at one of the windows. It is not likely that he will get into the room, for to do that he must have hidden himself before supper began. I don’t think he would dare to listen at the door, for anyone passing through the hall would catch him at it. It must be at one of the windows.”
The room was at an angle of the house. Three windows looked out on to the lawn in front; that at the side into a large shrubbery, where the bushes grew up close to it; and Charlie decided that here, if anywhere, the man would take up his post. As soon, then, as he knew that the servants were clearing away the supper, he took a heavy cudgel and went out. He walked straight away from the house, and then, when he knew that his figure could no longer be seen in the twilight, he made a circuit, and, entering the shrubbery, crept along close to the wall of the Muse, until within two or three yards of the window. Having made sure that at present, at any rate, no one was near, he moved out a step or two to look at the window.
His suspicions were at once confirmed. The inside curtains were drawn, but the casement was open two or three inches. Charlie again took up his post, behind a bush, and waited.
In five minutes he heard a twig snap, and then a figure came along, noiselessly, and placed itself at the window. Charlie gave him but a moment to listen, then he sprang forward, and, with his whole strength, brought his cudgel down upon the man’s head. He fell like a stone. Charlie threw open the window, and, as he did so, the curtain was torn back by his father, the sound of the blow and the fall having reached the ears of those within.
Sir Marmaduke had drawn his sword, and was about to leap through the window, when Charlie exclaimed:
“It is I, father. I have caught a fellow listening at the window, and have just knocked him down.”
“Well done, my boy!
“Bring lights, please, gentlemen. Let us see what villain we have got here.”
But, as he spoke, Charlie’s head suddenly disappeared, and a sharp exclamation broke from him, as he felt his ankles grasped and his feet pulled from under him. He came down with such a crash that, for a moment, he was unable to rise. He heard a rustling in the bushes, and then his father leapt down beside him.
“Where are you, my boy? Has the scoundrel hurt you?”
“He has given me a shake,” Charlie said as he sat up; “and, what is worse, I am afraid he has got away.”
“Follow me, gentlemen, and scatter through the gardens,” Sir Marmaduke roared. “The villain has escaped!”
For a few minutes, there was a hot pursuit through the shrubbery and gardens, but nothing was discovered. Charlie had been so shaken that he was unable to join the pursuit, but, having got on to his feet, remained leaning against the wall until his father came back.
“He has got away, Charlie. Have you any idea who he was?”
“It was Nicholson, father. At least, I am almost certain that it was him. It was too dark to see his face. I could see the outline of his head against the window, and he had on a cap with a cock’s feather which I had noticed the man wore.”
“But how came you here, Charlie?”
“I will tell you that afterwards, father. Don’t ask me now.”
For, at this moment, some of the others were coming up. Several of them had torches, and, as they approached, Sir Marmaduke saw something lying on the ground under the window. He picked it up.
“Here is the fellow’s cap,” he said. “You must have hit him a shrewd blow, Charlie, for here is a clean cut through the cloth, and a patch of fresh blood on the white lining. How did he get you down, lad?”
“He fell so suddenly, when I hit him, that I thought I had either killed or stunned him; but of course I had not, for it was but a moment after, when I was speaking to you, that I felt my ankles seized, and I went down with a crash. I heard him make off through the bushes; but I was, for the moment, almost dazed, and could do nothing to stop him.”
“Was the window open when he came?”
“Yes, sir, two or three inches.”
“Then it was evidently a planned thing.
“Well, gentlemen, we may as well go indoors. The fellow is well out of our reach now, and we may be pretty sure he will never again show his face here. Fortunately he heard nothing, for the serving men had but just left the room, and we had not yet begun to talk.”
“That is true enough, Sir Marmaduke,” one of the others said. “The question is: how long has this been going on?”
Sir Marmaduke looked at Charlie.
“I know nothing about it, sir. Till now, I have not had the slightest suspicion of this man. It occurred to me, this afternoon, that it might be possible for anyone to hear what was said inside the room, by listening at the windows; and that this shrubbery would form a very good shelter for an eavesdropper. So I thought, this evening I would take up my place here, to assure myself that there was no traitor in the household. I had been here but five minutes when the fellow stole quietly up, and placed his ear at the opening of the casement, and you may be sure that I gave him no time to listen to what was being said.”
“Well, we had better go in,” Sir Marmaduke said. “There is no fear of our being overheard this evening.
“Charlie, do you take old Banks aside, and tell him what has happened, and then go with him to the room where that fellow slept, and make a thorough search of any clothes he may have left behind, and of the room itself. Should you find any papers or documents, you will, of course, bring them down to me.”
But the closest search, by Charlie and the old butler, produced no results. Not a scrap of paper of any kind was found, and Banks said that he knew the man could neither read nor write.
The party below soon broke up, considerable uneasiness being felt, by all, at the incident of the evening. When the last of them had left, Charlie was sent for.
“Now, then, Charlie, let me hear how all this came about. I know that all you said about what took place at the window is perfectly true; but, even had you not said so, I should have felt there was something else. What was it brought you to that window? Your story was straight-forward enough, but it was certainly singular your happening to be there, and I fancy some of our friends thought that you had gone round to listen, yourself. One hinted as much; but I said that was absurd, for you were completely in my confidence, and that, whatever peril and danger there might be in the enterprise, you would share them with me.”
“It is not pleasant that they should have thought so, father, but that is better than that the truth should be known. This is how it happened;” and he repeated what Ciceley had told him in the garden.
“So the worthy Master John Dormay has set a spy upon me,” Sir Marmaduke said, bitterly. “I knew the man was a knave—that is public property—but I did not think that he was capable of this. Well, I am glad that, at any rate, no suspicion can fall upon Ciceley in the matter; but it is serious, lad, very serious. We do not know how long this fellow has been prying and listening, or how much he may have learnt. I don’t think it can be much. We talked it over, and my friends all agreed with me that they do not remember those curtains having been drawn before. To begin with, the evenings are shortening fast, and, at our meeting last week, we finished our supper by daylight; and, had the curtains been drawn, it would have been noticed, for we had need of light before we finished. Two of the gentlemen, who were sitting facing the window, declared that they remembered distinctly that it was open. Mr. Jervoise says that he thought to himself that, if it was his place, he would have the trees cut away there, for they shut out the light.
“Therefore, although it is uncomfortable to think that there has been a spy in the house, for some months, we have every reason to hope that our councils have not been overheard. Were it otherwise, I should lose no time in making for the coast, and taking ship to France, to wait quietly there until the king comes over.”
“You have no documents, father, that the man could have found?”
“None, Charlie. We have doubtless made lists of those who could be relied upon, and of the number of men they could bring with them, but these have always been burned before we separated. Such letters as I have had from France, I have always destroyed as soon as I have read them. Perilous stuff of that sort should never be left about. No; they may ransack the place from top to bottom, and nothing will be found that could not be read aloud, without harm, in the marketplace of Lancaster.
“So now, to bed, Charlie. It is long past your usual hour.”
“CHARLIE,” SIR MARMADUKE SAID on the following morning, at breakfast, “it is quite possible that that villain who acted as spy, and that other villain who employed him—I need not mention names—may swear an information against me, and I may be arrested, on the charge of being concerned in a plot. I am not much afraid of it, if they do. The most they could say is that I was prepared to take up arms, if his majesty crossed from France; but, as there are thousands and thousands of men ready to do the same, they may fine me, perhaps, but I should say that is all. However, what I want to say to you is, keep out of the way, if they come. I shall make light of the affair, while you, being pretty hot tempered, might say things that would irritate them, while they could be of no assistance to me. Therefore, I would rather that you were kept out of it, altogether. I shall want you here. In my absence, there must be somebody to look after things.
“Mind that rascal John Dormay does not put his foot inside the house, while I am away. That fellow is playing some deep game, though I don’t quite know what it is. I suppose he wants to win the goodwill of the authorities, by showing his activity and zeal; and, of course, he will imagine that no one has any idea that he has been in communication with this spy. We have got a hold over him, and, when I come back, I will have it out with him. He is not popular now, and, if it were known that he had been working against me, his wife’s kinsman, behind my back, my friends about here would make the country too hot to hold him.”
“Yes, father; but please do not let him guess that we have learnt it from Ciceley. You see, that is the only way we know about it.”
“Yes, you are right there. I will be careful that he shall not know the little maid has anything to do with it. But we will think of that, afterwards; maybe nothing will come of it, after all. But, if anything does, mind, my orders are that you keep away from the house, while they are in it. When you come back, Banks will tell you what has happened.
“You had better take your horse, and go for a ride now. Not over there, Charlie. I know, if you happened to meet that fellow, he would read in your face that you knew the part he had been playing, and, should nothing come of the business, I don’t want him to know that, at present. The fellow can henceforth do us no harm, for we shall be on our guard against eavesdroppers; and, for the sake of cousin Celia and the child, I do not want an open breach. I do not see the man often, myself, and I will take good care I don’t put myself in the way of meeting him, for the present, at any rate. Don’t ride over there today.”
“Very well, father. I will ride over and see Harry Jervoise. I promised him that I would come over one day this week.”
It was a ten-mile ride, and, as he entered the courtyard of Mr. Jervoise’s fine old mansion, he leapt off his horse, and threw the reins over a post. A servant came out.
“The master wishes to speak to you, Master Carstairs.”
“No ill news, I hope, Charlie?” Mr. Jervoise asked anxiously, as the lad was shown into the room, where his host was standing beside the carved chimney piece.
“No, sir, there is nothing new. My father thought that I had better be away today, in case any trouble should arise out of what took place yesterday, so I rode over to see Harry. I promised to do so, one day this week.”
“That is right. Does Sir Marmaduke think, then, that he will be arrested?”
“I don’t know that he expects it, sir, but he says that it is possible.”
“I do not see that they have anything to go upon, Charlie. As we agreed last night, that spy never had any opportunity of overhearing us before, and, certainly, he can have heard nothing yesterday. The fellow can only say what many people know, or could know, if they liked; that half a dozen of Sir Marmaduke’s friends rode over to take supper with him. They can make nothing out of that.”
“No, sir; and my father said that, at the worst, it could be but the matter of a fine.”
“Quite so, lad; but I don’t even see how it could amount to that. You will find Harry somewhere about the house. He has said nothing to me about going out.”
Harry Jervoise was just the same age as Charlie, and was his greatest friend. They were both enthusiastic in the cause of the Stuarts, equally vehement in their expressions of contempt for the Dutch king, equally anxious for the coming of him whom they regarded as their lawful monarch. They spent the morning together, as usual; went first to the stables and patted and talked to their horses; then they played at bowls on the lawn; after which, they had a bout of sword play; and, having thus let off some of their animal spirits, sat down and talked of the glorious times to come, when the king was to have his own again.
Late in the afternoon, Charlie mounted his horse and rode for home. When within half a mile of the house, a man stepped out into the road in front of him.
“Hullo, Banks, what is it? No bad news, I hope?”
And he leapt from his horse, alarmed at the pallor of the old butler’s face.
“Yes, Master Charles, I have some very bad news, and have been waiting for the last two hours here, so as to stop you going to the house.”
“Why shouldn’t I go to the house?”
“Because there are a dozen soldiers, and three or four constables there.”
“And my father?”
“They have taken him away.”
“This is bad news, Banks; but I know that he thought that it might be so. But it will not be very serious; it is only a question of a fine,” he said.
The butler shook his head, sadly.
“It is worse than that, Master Charles. It is worse than you think.”
“Well, tell me all about it, Banks,” Charlie said, feeling much alarmed at the old man’s manner.
“Well, sir, at three this afternoon, two magistrates, John Cockshaw and William Peters—”
("Both bitter Whigs,” Charlie put in.)
“—Rode up to the door. They had with them six constables, and twenty troopers.”
“There were enough of them, then,” Charlie said. “Did they think my father was going to arm you all, and defend the place?”
“I don’t know, sir, but that is the number that came. The magistrates, and the constables, and four of the soldiers came into the house. Sir Marmaduke met them in the hall.
“‘To what do I owe the honour of this visit?’ he said, quite cold and haughty.
“‘We have come, Sir Marmaduke Carstairs, to arrest you, on the charge of being concerned in a treasonable plot against the king’s life.’
“Sir Marmaduke laughed out loud.
“‘I have no design on the life of William of Orange, or of any other man,’ he said. ‘I do not pretend to love him; in that matter there are thousands in this realm with me; but, as for a design against his life, I should say, gentlemen, there are few who know me, even among men like yourselves, whose politics are opposed to mine, who would for a moment credit such a foul insinuation.’
“‘We have nothing to do with that matter, Sir Marmaduke,’ John Cockshaw said. ‘We are acting upon a sworn information to that effect.’
“Sir Marmaduke was angry, now.
“‘I can guess the name of the dog who signed it,’ he said, ‘and, kinsman though he is by marriage, I will force the lie down his throat.’
“Then he cooled down again.
“‘Well, gentlemen, you have to do your duty. What do you desire next?’
“‘Our duty is, next, to search the house, for any treasonable documents that may be concealed here.’
“‘Search away, gentlemen,’ Sir Marmaduke said, seating himself in one of the settles. ‘The house is open to you. My butler, James Banks, will go round with you, and will open for you any cupboard or chest that may be locked.’
“The magistrates nodded to the four soldiers. Two of them took their post near the chair, one at the outside door, and one at the other end of the room. Sir Marmaduke said nothing, but shrugged his shoulders, and then began to play with the ears of the little spaniel, Fido, that had jumped up on his knees.
“‘We will first go into the study,’ John Cockshaw said; and I led them there.
“They went straight to the cabinet with the pull-down desk, where Sir Marmaduke writes when he does write, which is not often. It was locked, and I went to Sir Marmaduke for the key.
“‘You will find it in that French vase on the mantel,’ he said. ‘I don’t open the desk once in three months, and should lose the key, if I carried it with me.’
“I went to the mantel, turned the vase over, and the key dropped out.
“‘Sir Marmaduke has nothing to hide, gentlemen,’ I said, ‘so, you see, he keeps the key here.’
“I went to the cabinet, and put the key in. As I did so I said:
“‘Look, gentlemen, someone has opened, or tried to open, this desk. Here is a mark, as if a knife had been thrust in to shoot the bolt.’
“They looked where I pointed, and William Peters said to Cockshaw, ‘It is as the man says. Someone has been trying to force the lock—one of the varlets, probably, who thought the knight might keep his money here.’
“‘It can be of no importance, one way or the other,’ Cockshaw said roughly.
“‘Probably not, Mr. Cockshaw, but, at the same time I will make a note of it.’
“I turned the key, and pulled down the door that makes a desk. They seemed to know all about it, for, without looking at the papers in the pigeonholes, they pulled open the lower drawer, and took two foreign-looking letters out from it. I will do them the justice to say that they both looked sorry, as they opened them, and looked at the writing.
“‘It is too true,’ Peters said. ‘Here is enough to hang a dozen men.’
“They tumbled all the other papers into a sack, that one of the constables had brought with him. Then they searched all the other furniture, but they evidently did not expect to find anything. Then they went back into the hall.
“‘Well, gentlemen,’ Sir Marmaduke said, ‘have you found anything of a terrible kind?’
“‘We have found, I regret to say,’ John Cockshaw said, ‘the letters of which we were in search, in your private cabinet—letters that prove, beyond all doubt, that you are concerned in a plot similar to that discovered three years ago, to assassinate his majesty the king.’
“Sir Marmaduke sprang to his feet.
“‘You have found letters of that kind in my cabinet?’ he said, in a dazed sort of way.
“The magistrate bowed, but did not speak.
“‘Then, sir,’ Sir Marmaduke exclaimed, ‘you have found letters that I have never seen. You have found letters that must have been placed there by some scoundrel, who plotted my ruin. I assert to you, on the honour of a gentleman, that no such letters have ever met my eye, and that, if such a proposition had been made to me, I care not by whom, I would have struck to the ground the man who offered me such an insult.’
“‘We are sorry, Sir Marmaduke Carstairs,’ Mr. Peters said, ‘most sorry, both of us, that it should have fallen to our duty to take so painful a proceeding against a neighbour; but, you see, the matter is beyond us. We have received a sworn information that you are engaged in such a plot. We are told that you are in the habit of locking up papers of importance in a certain cabinet, and there we find papers of a most damnatory kind. We most sincerely trust that you may be able to prove your innocence in the matter, but we have nothing to do but to take you with us, as a prisoner, to Lancaster.’
“Sir Marmaduke unbuckled his sword, and laid it by. He was quieter than I thought he could be, in such a strait, for he has always been by nature, as you know, choleric.
“‘I am ready, gentlemen,’ he said.
“Peters whispered in Cockshaw’s ear.
“‘Ah yes,’ the other said, ‘I had well-nigh forgotten,’ and he turned to me. ‘Where is Master Charles Carstairs?’
“‘He is not in the house,’ I said. ‘He rode away this morning, and did not tell me where he was going.’
“‘When do you expect him back?’
“‘I do not expect him at all,’ I said. ‘When Master Charles rides out to visit his friends, he sometimes stays away for a day or two.’
“‘Is it supposed,’ Sir Marmaduke asked coldly, ‘that my son is also mixed up in this precious scheme?’
“‘It is sworn that he was privy to it,’ John Cockshaw said, ‘and is, therefore, included in the orders for arrest.’
“Sir Marmaduke did not speak, but he shut his lips tight, and his hand went to where the hilt of his sword would have been. Two of the constables went out and questioned the grooms, and found that you had, as I said, ridden off. When they came back, there was some talk between the magistrates, and then, as I said, four constables and some soldiers were left in the house. Sir Marmaduke’s horse was brought round, and he rode away, with the magistrates and the other soldiers.”
“I am quite sure, Banks, that my father could have known nothing of those letters, or of any plot against William’s life. I have heard him speak so often of the assassination plot, and how disgraceful it was, and how, apart from its wickedness, it had damaged the cause, that I am certain he would not have listened to a word about another such business.”
“I am sure of that, too,” the old butler said; “but that is not the question, Master Charles. There are the papers. We know that Sir Marmaduke did not put them there, and that he did not know that they were there. But how is it to be proved, sir? Everyone knows that Sir Marmaduke is a Jacobite, and is regarded as the head of the party in this part of the country. He has enemies, and one of them, no doubt, has played this evil trick upon him, and the putting of your name in shows what the motive is.”
“But it is ridiculous, Banks. Who could believe that such a matter as this would be confided to a lad of my age?”
“They might not believe it in their hearts, but people often believe what suits their interest. This accusation touches Sir Marmaduke’s life; and his estate, even if his life were spared, would be confiscated. In such a case, it might be granted to anyone, and possibly even to the son of him they would call the traitor. But the accusation that the son was concerned, or was, at any rate, privy to the crime intended by the father, would set all against him, and public opinion would approve of the estates passing away from him altogether.
“But now, sir, what do you think you had best do?”
“Of course I shall go on, Banks, and let them take me to join my father in Lancaster jail. Do you think I would run away?”
“No, sir, I don’t think you would run away. I am sure you would not run away from fear, but I would not let them lay hands on me, until I had thought the matter well over. You might be able to do more good to Sir Marmaduke were you free, than you could do if you were caged up with him. He has enemies, we know, who are doing their best to ruin him, and, as you see, they are anxious that you, too, should be shut up within four walls.”
“You are right, Banks. At any rate, I will ride back and consult Mr. Jervoise. Besides, he ought to be warned, for he, too, may be arrested on the same charge. How did you get away without being noticed?”
“I said that I felt ill—and I was not speaking falsely—at Sir Marmaduke’s arrest, and would lie down. They are keeping a sharp lookout at the stables, and have a soldier at each door, to see that no one leaves the house, but I went out by that old passage that comes out among the ruins of the monastery.”
“I know, Banks. My father showed it to me, three years ago.”
“I shall go back that way again, sir, and no one will know that I have left the house. You know the trick of the sliding panel, Master Charles?”
“Yes, I know it, and if I should want to come into the house again, I will come that way, Banks.”
“Here is a purse,” the butler said. “You may want money, sir. Should you want more, there is a store hidden away, in the hiding place under the floor of the Priest’s Chamber, at the other end of the passage. Do you know that?”
“I know the Priest’s Chamber of course, because you go through that to get to the long passage, but I don’t know of any special hiding place there.”
“Doubtless, Sir Marmaduke did not think it necessary to show it you then, sir, but he would have done it later on, so I do not consider that I am breaking my oath of secrecy in telling you. You know the little narrow loophole in the corner?”
“Yes, of course. There is no other that gives light to the room. It is hidden from view outside by the ivy.”
“Well, sir, you count four bricks below that, and you press hard on the next, that is the fifth, then you will hear a click, then you press hard with your heel at the corner, in the angle of the flag below, and you will find the other corner rise. Then you get hold of it and lift it up, and below there is a stone chamber, two feet long and about eighteen inches wide and deep. It was made to conceal papers in the old days, and I believe food was always kept there, in case the chamber had to be used in haste.
“Sir Marmaduke uses it as a store place for his money. He has laid by a good deal every year, knowing that money would be wanted when troops had to be raised. I was with him about three weeks ago, when he put in there half the rents that had been paid in. So, if you want money for any purpose, you will know where to find it.”
“Thank you, Banks. It may be very useful to have such a store, now.”
“Where shall I send to you, sir, if I have any news that it is urgent you should know of?”
“Send to Mr. Jervoise, Banks. If I am not there, he will know where I am to be found.”
“I will send Will Ticehurst, Master Charles. He is a stout lad, and a shrewd one, and I know there is nothing that he would not do for you. But you had best stop no longer. Should they find out that I am not in the house, they will guess that I have come to warn you, and may send out a party to search.”
Charlie at once mounted, and rode back to Mr. Jervoise’s.
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