By England's Aid
G. A. Henty
Part 1 out of 7
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By England's Aid
Or, the Freeing of the Netherlands, 1585-1604
G. A. HENTY
[Illustration: GEOFFREY AND LIONEL SAVE FRANCIS VERE'S LIFE]
In my preface to _By Pike and Dyke_ I promised in a future story
to deal with the closing events of the War of Independence in Holland.
The period over which that war extended was so long, and the incidents
were so numerous and varied, that it was impossible to include the
whole within the limit of a single book. The former volume brought the
story of the struggle down to the death of the Prince of Orange and the
capture of Antwerp; the present gives the second phase of the war, when
England, who had long unofficially assisted Holland, threw herself
openly into the struggle, and by her aid mainly contributed to the
successful issue of the war. In the first part of the struggle the
scene lay wholly among the low lands and cities of Holland and Zeeland,
and the war was strictly a defensive one, waged against overpowering
odds. After England threw herself into the strife it assumed far wider
proportions, and the independence of the Netherlands was mainly secured
by the defeat and destruction of the great Armada, by the capture of
Cadiz and the fatal blow thereby struck at the mercantile prosperity of
Spain, and by the defeat of the Holy League by Henry of Navarre, aided
by English soldiers and English gold. For the facts connected with the
doings of Sir Francis Vere and the British contingent in Holland, I
have depended much upon the excellent work by Mr. Clement Markham
entitled the _Fighting Veres_. In this full justice is done to the
great English general and his followers, and it is conclusively shown
that some statements to the disparagement of Sir Francis Vere by Mr.
Motley are founded upon a misconception of the facts. Sir Francis Vere
was, in the general opinion of the time, one of the greatest commanders
of the age, and more, perhaps, than any other man--with the exception
of the Prince of Orange--contributed to the successful issue of the
struggle of Holland to throw off the yoke of Spain.
G. A. HENTY.
I. AN EXCURSION
II. A MEETING IN CHEPE
III. IN THE LOW COUNTRY
IV. THE SIEGE OP SLUYS
V. AN HEROIC DEFENCE
VI. THE LOSS OF THE "SUSAN"
VII. A POPISH PLOT
VIII. THE SPANISH ARMADA
IX. THE ROUT OF THE ARMADA
X. THE WAR IN HOLLAND
XI. IN SPAIN
XII. RECRUITING THEIR FUNDS
XIII. THE FESTA AT SEVILLE
XIV. THE SURPRISE OF BREDA
XV. A SLAVE IN BARBARY
XVI. THE ESCAPE
XVII. A SPANISH MERCHANT
XXI. THE BATTLE OF NIEUPORT
XXII. OLD FRIENDS
XXIII. THE SIEGE OF OSTEND
Geoffrey And Lionel Save Francis Vere's Life
The Four Pages Carry Down The Wounded Soldier
The Next Few Minutes It Was A Wild Struggle For Life
Geoffrey Carried Overboard By The Falling Mast
Geoffrey Gives Inez Her Lover's Note
Geoffrey Falls Into The Hands Of The Corsairs
Crossing The Bridge Of Boats Over The Haven
Vere's Horse Shot Under Him At The Fight Before Ostend
* * * * *
Plan of Sluys and the Castle, to illustrate the Siege of 1587
Plan of Breda and its Defences, illustrating its surprise and capture
Map of Cadiz and Harbour at the time of its capture in 1596, showing
the position of the English and Spanish Ships
Plan of Ostend and its Defences, showing the lines of the attacking
forces during the siege of 1601-4
BY ENGLAND'S AID
"And we beseech Thee, O Lord, to give help and succour to Thy servants
the people of Holland, and to deliver them from the cruelties and
persecutions of their wicked oppressors; and grant Thy blessing, we
pray Thee, upon the arms of our soldiers now embarking to aid them in
their extremity." These were the words with which the Rev. John
Vickars, rector of Hedingham, concluded the family prayers on the
morning of 6th December, 1585.
For twenty years the first portion of this prayer had been repeated
daily by him, as it had been in tens of thousands of English
households; for since the people of the Netherlands first rose against
the Spanish yoke the hearts of the Protestants of England had beat
warmly in their cause, and they had by turns been moved to admiration
at the indomitable courage with which the Dutch struggled for
independence against the might of the greatest power in Europe, and to
horror and indignation at the pitiless cruelty and wholesale massacres
by which the Spaniards had striven to stamp out resistance.
From the first the people of England would gladly have joined in the
fray, and made common cause with their co-religionists; but the queen
and her counsellors had been restrained by weighty considerations from
embarking in such a struggle. At the commencement of the war the power
of Spain overshadowed all Europe. Her infantry were regarded as
irresistible. Italy and Germany were virtually her dependencies, and
England was but a petty power beside her. Since Agincourt was fought we
had taken but little part in wars on the Continent. The feudal system
was extinct; we had neither army nor military system; and the only
Englishmen with the slightest experience of war were those who had gone
abroad to seek their fortunes, and had fought in the armies of one or
other of the continental powers. Nor were we yet aware of our naval
strength. Drake and Hawkins and the other bucaneers had not yet
commenced their private war with Spain, on what was known as the
Spanish main--the waters of the West Indian Islands--and no one dreamed
that the time was approaching when England would be able to hold her
own against the strength of Spain on the seas.
Thus, then, whatever the private sentiments of Elizabeth and her
counsellors, they shrank from engaging England in a life and death
struggle with the greatest power of the time; though as the struggle
went on the queen's sympathy with the people of the Netherlands was
more and more openly shown. In 1572 she was present at a parade of
three hundred volunteers who mustered at Greenwich under Thomas Morgan
and Roger Williams for service in the Netherlands. Sir Humphrey
Gilbert, half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, went out a few months
later with 1500 men, and from that time numbers of English volunteers
continued to cross the seas and join in the struggle against the
Spaniards. Nor were the sympathies of the queen confined to allowing
her subjects to take part in the fighting; for she sent out large sums
of money to the Dutch, and as far as she could, without openly joining
them, gave them her aid.
Spain remonstrated continually against these breaches of neutrality,
while the Dutch on their part constantly implored her to join them
openly; but she continued to give evasive answers to both parties until
the assassination of William of Orange on 10th July, 1584, sent a
thrill of horror through England, and determined the queen and her
advisers to take a more decisive part in the struggle. In the following
June envoys from the States arrived in London, and were received with
great honour, and a treaty between the two countries was agreed upon.
Three months later the queen published a declaration to her people and
to Europe at large, setting forth the terrible persecutions and
cruelties to which "our next neighbours, the people of the Low
Countries," the special allies and friends of England, had been
exposed, and stating her determination to aid them to recover their
liberty. The proclamation concluded: "We mean not hereby to make
particular profit to ourself and our people, only desiring to obtain,
by God's favour, for the Countries, a deliverance of them from war by
the Spaniards and foreigners, with a restitution of their ancient
liberties and government."
Sir Thomas Cecil was sent out at once as governor of Brill, and Sir
Philip Sidney as governor of Flushing, these towns being handed over to
England as guarantees by the Dutch. These two officers, with bodies of
troops to serve as garrisons, took charge of their respective
fortresses in November. Orders were issued for the raising of an army
for service in the Low Countries, and Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was
appointed by the queen to its command. The decision of the queen was
received with enthusiasm in England as well as in Holland, and although
the Earl of Leicester was not personally popular, volunteers flocked to
Breakfast at Hedingham Rectory had been set at an earlier hour than
usual on the 6th of December, 1585. There was an unusual stir and
excitement in the village, for young Mr. Francis Vere, cousin of the
Earl of Oxford, lord of Hedingham and of all the surrounding country,
was to start that morning to ride to Colchester, there to join the Earl
of Leicester and his following as a volunteer. As soon as breakfast was
over young Geoffrey and Lionel Vickars, boys of fourteen and thirteen
years old, proceeded to the castle close by, and there mounted the
horses provided for them, and rode with Francis Vere to Colchester.
Francis, who was at this time twenty-five years old, was accompanied by
his elder brother, John, and his two younger brothers, Robert and
Horace, and by many other friends; and it was a gay train that cantered
down the valley of the Colne to Colchester. That ancient town was all
astir. Gentlemen had ridden in from all the country seats and manors
for many miles round, and the quiet streets were alive with people. At
two o'clock in the afternoon news arrived that the earl was
approaching, and, headed by the bailiffs of the town in scarlet gowns,
the multitude moved out to meet the earl on the Lexden road. Presently
a long train was seen approaching; for with Leicester were the Earl of
Essex, Lords North and Audley, Sir William Russell, Sir Thomas Shirley,
and other volunteers, to the number of five hundred horse. All were
gaily attired and caparisoned, and the cortege presented a most
brilliant appearance. The multitude cheered lustily, the bailiffs
presented an address, and followed by his own train and by the
gentlemen who had assembled to meet him, the earl rode into the town.
He himself took up his abode at the house of Sir Thomas Lucas, while
his followers were distributed among the houses of the townsfolk. Two
hours after the arrival of the earl, the party from Hedingham took
leave of Mr. Francis Vere.
"Good-bye, lads," he said to the young Vickars. "I will keep my
promise, never fear; and if the struggle goes on till you are old
enough to carry arms, I will, if I am still alive, take you under my
leading and teach you the art of war."
Upon the following day the Earl of Leicester and his following rode to
Manningtree, and took boat down the Stour to Harwich, where the fleet,
under Admiral William Borough, was lying. Here they embarked, and on
the 9th of December sailed for Flushing, where they were joined by
another fleet of sixty ships from the Thames.
More than a year passed. The English had fought sturdily in Holland.
Mr. Francis Vere had been with his cousin, Lord Willoughby, who was in
command of Bergen-op-Zoom, and had taken part in the first brush with
the enemy, when a party of the garrison marched out and attacked a
great convoy of four hundred and fifty waggons going to Antwerp, killed
three hundred of the enemy, took eighty prisoners, and destroyed all
their waggons except twenty-seven, which they carried into the town.
Leicester provisioned the town of Grave, which was besieged by the Duke
of Parma, the Spanish commander-in-chief. Axel was captured by
surprise, the volunteers swimming across the moat at night, and
throwing open the gates. Doesburg was captured, and Zutphen besieged.
Parma marched to its relief, and, under cover of a thick fog, succeeded
in getting close at hand before it was known that he was near. Then the
English knights and volunteers, 200 in number, mounted in hot haste and
charged a great Spanish column of 5000 horse and foot. They were led by
Sir William Russell, under whom were Lords Essex, North, Audley, and
Willoughby, behind the last of whom rode Francis Vere. For two hours
this little band of horse fought desperately in the midst of the
Spanish cavalry, and forced them at last to fall back, but were
themselves obliged to retreat when the Spanish infantry came up and
opened fire upon them. The English loss was 34 killed and wounded,
while 250 of the Spaniards were slain, and three of their colours
captured. Among the wounded on the English side was the very noble
knight Sir Philip Sidney, who was shot by a musket-ball, and died three
The successes of the English during these two years were
counterbalanced by the cowardly surrender of Grave by its governor, and
by the treachery of Sir William Stanley, governor of Deventer, and of
Roland Yorke, who commanded the garrisons of the two forts known as the
Zutphen Sconces. Both these officers turned traitors and delivered up
the posts they commanded to the Spaniards. Their conduct not only
caused great material loss to the allies, but it gave rise to much bad
feeling between the English and Dutch, the latter complaining that they
received but half-hearted assistance from the English.
It was not surprising, however, that Leicester was unable to effect
more with the little force under his command, for it was necessary not
only to raise soldiers, but to invent regulations and discipline. The
Spanish system was adopted, and this, the first English regular army,
was trained and appointed precisely upon the system of the foe with
whom they were fighting. It was no easy task to convert a body of brave
knights and gentlemen and sturdy country men into regular troops, and
to give them the advantages conferred by discipline and order. But the
work was rendered the less difficult by the admixture of the volunteers
who had been bravely fighting for ten years under Morgan, Rowland
Williams, John Norris, and others. These had had a similar experience
on their first arrival in Holland. Several times in their early
encounters with the Spaniards the undisciplined young troops had
behaved badly; but they had gained experience from their reverses, and
had proved themselves fully capable of standing in line even against
the splendid pikemen of Spain.
While the English had been drilling and fighting in Holland things had
gone on quietly at Hedingham. The village stands near the head waters
of the Colne and Stour, in a rich and beautiful country. On a rising
ground behind it stood the castle of the Veres, which was approached
from the village by a drawbridge across the moat. There were few more
stately piles in England than the seat of the Earl of Oxford. On one
side of the great quadrangle was the gate-house and a lofty tower, on
another the great hall and chapel and the kitchens, on a third the
suites of apartments of the officials and retinue. In rear were the
stables and granaries, the butts and tennis-court, beyond which was the
court of the tournaments.
In the centre of the quadrangle rose the great keep, which still
stands, the finest relic of Norman civil architecture in England. It
possessed great strength, and at the same time was richly ornamented
with carving. The windows, arches, and fireplaces were decorated with
chevron carvings. A beautiful spiral pattern enriched the doorway and
pillars of the staircase leading to galleries cut in the thickness of
the wall, with arched openings looking into the hall below. The outlook
from the keep extended over the parishes of Castle Hedingham, Sybil
Hedingham, Kirby, and Tilbury, all belonging to the Veres--whose
property extended far down the pretty valley of the Stour--with the
stately Hall of Long Melford, the Priory of Clare, and the little town
of Lavenham; indeed the whole country was dotted with the farmhouses
and manors of the Veres. Seven miles down the valley of the Colne lies
the village of Earl's Colne, with the priory, where ten of the earls of
Oxford lie buried with their wives.
The parish church of Castle Hedingham stood at the end of the little
village street, and the rectory of Mr. Vickars was close by. The party
gathered at morning prayers consisted of Mr. Vickars and his wife,
their two sons, Geoffrey and Lionel, and the maid-servants, Ruth and
Alice. The boys, now fourteen and fifteen years old respectively, were
strong-grown and sturdy lads, and their father had long since owned
with a sigh that neither of them was likely to follow his profession
and fill the pulpit at Hedingham Church when he was gone. Nor was this
to be wondered at, for lying as it did at the entrance to the great
castle of the Veres, the street of the little village was constantly
full of armed men, and resounded with the tramp of the horses of
richly-dressed knights and gay ladies.
Here came great politicians, who sought the friendship and support of
the powerful earls of Oxford, nobles and knights, their kinsmen and
allies, gentlemen from the wide-spreading manors of the family, stout
fighting-men who wished to enlist under their banner. At night the
sound of music from the castle told of gay entertainments and festive
dances, while by day parties of knights and ladies with dogs and
falcons sallied out to seek sport over the wide domains. It could
hardly be expected, then, that lads of spirit, brought up in the midst
of sights and sounds like these, should entertain a thought of settling
down to the tranquil life of the church. As long as they could
remember, their minds had been fixed upon being soldiers, and fighting
some day under the banner of the Veres. They had been a good deal in
the castle; for Mr. Vickars had assisted Arthur Golding, the learned
instructor to young Edward Vere, the 17th earl, who was born in 1550,
and had succeeded to the title at the age of twelve, and he had
afterwards been tutor to the earl's cousins, John, Francis, Robert, and
Horace, the sons of Geoffrey, fourth son of the 15th earl. These boys
were born in 1558, 1560, 1562, and 1565, and lived with their mother at
Kirby Hall, a mile from the Castle of Hedingham.
The earl was much attached to his old instructor, and when he was at
the castle there was scarce a day but an invitation came down for Mr.
Vickars and his wife to be present either at banquet or entertainment.
The boys were free to come and go as they chose, and the earl's men-at-
arms had orders to afford them all necessary teaching in the use of
Mr. Vickars considered it his duty to accept the invitations of his
friend and patron, but he sorely grudged the time so abstracted from
his favourite books. It was, indeed, a relief to him when the earl,
whose love of profusion and luxury made serious inroads even into the
splendid possessions of the Veres, went up to court, and peace and
quietness reigned in the castle. The rector was fonder of going to
Kirby, where John, Geoffrey's eldest son, lived quietly and soberly,
his three younger brothers having, when mere boys, embraced the
profession of arms, placing themselves under the care of the good
soldier Sir William Browne, who had served for many years in the Low
Countries. They occasionally returned home for a time, and were pleased
to take notice of the sons of their old tutor, although Geoffrey was
six years junior to Horace, the youngest of the brothers.
The young Vickars had much time to themselves, much more indeed than
their mother considered to be good for them. After their breakfast,
which was finished by eight o'clock, their father took them for an hour
and heard the lessons they had prepared the day before, and gave them
instruction in the Latin tongue. Then they were supposed to study till
the bell rang for dinner at twelve; but there was no one to see that
they did so, for their father seldom came outside his library door, and
their mother was busy with her domestic duties and in dispensing
simples to the poor people, who, now that the monasteries were closed,
had no medical aid save that which they got from the wives of the
gentry or ministers, or from the wise women, of whom there was
generally one in every village.
Therefore, after half an hour, or at most an hour, spent in getting up
their tasks, the books would be thrown aside, and the boys be off,
either to the river or up to the castle to practise sword-play with the
men-at-arms, or to the butts with their bows, or to the rabbit-warren,
where they had leave from the earl to go with their dogs whenever they
pleased. Their long excursions were, however, generally deferred until
after dinner, as they were then free until supper-time, and even if
they did not return after that hour Mrs. Vickars did not chide them
unduly, being an easy-going woman, and always ready to make excuses for
There were plenty of fish in the river; and the boys knew the pools
they loved best, and often returned with their baskets well filled.
There were otters on its banks, too; but, though they sometimes chased
these pretty creatures, Tan and Turk, their two dogs, knew as well as
their masters that they had but small chance of catching them.
Sometimes they would take a boat at the bridge and drop down the stream
for miles, and once or twice had even gone down to Bricklesey
[Footnote: Now Brightlingsea.] at the mouth of the river. This,
however, was an expedition that they never performed alone, making it
each time in charge of Master Lirriper, who owned a flat barge, and
took produce down to Bricklesey, there to be transhipped into coasters
bound for London. He had a married daughter there, and it was at her
house the boys had slept when they went there; for the journey down and
up again was too long to be performed in a single day.
But this was not the only distant expedition they had made, for they
had once gone down the Stour as far as Harwich with their father when
he was called thither on business. To them Harwich with its old walls
and the houses crowded up within them, and its busy port with vessels
coming in and going out, was most delightful, and they always talked
about that expedition as one of the most pleasant recollections of
After breakfast was over on 1st of May, 1587, and they had done their
lessons with their father, and had worked for an hour by themselves,
the boys put by their books and strolled down the village to the
bridge. There as usual stood their friend Master Lirriper with his
hands deep in his pockets, a place and position in which he was sure to
be found when not away in his barge.
"Good-morning, Master Lirriper."
"Good-morning, Master Geoffrey and Master Lionel."
"So you are not down the river to-day?"
"No, sir. I am going to-morrow, and this time I shall be away four or
five days--maybe even a week."
"Shall you?" the boys exclaimed in surprise. "Why, what are you going
"I am going round to London in my nephew Joe Chambers' craft."
"Are you really?" Geoffrey exclaimed. "I wish we were going with you.
Don't you think you could take us, Master Lirriper?"
The bargeman looked down into the water and frowned. He was slow of
speech, but as the minutes went on and he did not absolutely refuse the
boys exchanged glances of excitement and hope.
"I dunno how that might be, young sirs," John Lirriper said slowly,
after long cogitation. "I dus-say my nephew would have no objection,
but what would parson say about it?"
"Oh, I don't think he would object," Geoffrey said. "If you go up and
ask him, Master Lirriper, and say that you will take care of us, you
know, I don't see why he should say no."
"Like enough you would be ill," John Lirriper said after another long
pause. "It's pretty rough sometimes."
"Oh, we shouldn't mind that," Lionel protested. "We should like to see
the waves and to be in a real ship."
"It's nothing much of a ship," the boatman said. "She is a ketch of
about ten tons and carries three hands."
"Oh, we don't care how small she is if we can only go in her; and you
would be able to show us London, and we might even see the queen. Oh,
do come up with us and ask father, Master Lirriper."
"Perhaps parson wouldn't be pleased, young sirs, and might say I was
putting wandering thoughts into your heads; and Mistress Vickars might
think it a great liberty on my part."
"Oh, no, she wouldn't, Master Lirriper. Besides, we will say we asked
"But suppose any harm comes to you, what would they say to me then?"
"Oh, there's no fear of any harm coming to us. Besides, in another year
or two we mean to go over to the Low Countries and fight the Spaniards,
and what's a voyage to London to that?"
"Well, I will think about it," John Lirriper said cautiously.
"No no, Master Lirriper; if you get thinking about it it will never be
done. Do come up with us at once," and each of them got hold of one of
the boatman's arms.
"Well, the parson can but say no," he said, as he suffered himself to
be dragged away. "And I don't say as it isn't reasonable that you
should like to see something of the world, young sirs; but I don't know
how the parson will take it."
Mr. Vickars looked up irritably from his books when the servant came in
and said that Master Lirriper wished to see him.
"What does he want at this hour?" he said. "You know, Ruth, I never see
people before dinner. Any time between that and supper I am at their
service, but it's too bad being disturbed now."
"I told him so, sir; but Master Geoffrey and Master Lionel were with
him, and they said he wanted particular to see you, and they wanted
The clergyman sighed as he put his book down.
"If Geoffrey and Lionel have concerned themselves in the matter, Ruth,
I suppose I must see the man; but it's very hard being disturbed like
this. Well, Master Lirriper, what is it?" he asked, as the boatman
accompanied by Geoffrey and Lionel entered the room. Master Lirriper
twirled his hat in his hand. Words did not come easily to him at the
best of times, and this was a business that demanded thought and care.
Long before he had time to fix upon an appropriate form of words
Geoffrey broke in:
"This is what it is, father. Master Lirriper is going down the river to
Bricklesey to-morrow, and then he is going on board his nephew's ship.
She is a ketch, and she carries ten tons, though I don't know what it
is she carries; and she's going to London, and he is going in her, and
he says if you will let him he will take us with him, and will show us
London, and take great care of us. It will be glorious, father, if you
will only let us go."
Mr. Vickars looked blankly as Geoffrey poured out his torrent of words.
His mind was still full of the book he had been reading, and he hardly
took in the meaning of Geoffrey's words.
"Going in a ketch!" he repeated. "Going to catch something, I suppose
you mean? Do you mean he is going fishing?"
"No, father,--going in a ketch. A ketch is a sort of ship, father,
though I don't quite know what sort of ship. What sort of ship is a
ketch, Master Lirriper?"
"A ketch is a two-masted craft, Master Geoffrey," John Lirriper said.
"She carries a big mizzen sail."
"There, you see, father," Geoffrey said triumphantly; "she carries a
big mizzen sail. That's what she is, you see; and he is going to show
us London, and will take great care of us if you will let us go with
"Do you mean, Master Lirriper," Mr. Vickars asked slowly, "that you are
going to London in some sort of ship, and want to take my sons with
"Well, sir, I am going to London, and the young masters seemed to think
that they would like to go with me, if so be you would have no
"I don't know," Mr. Vicars said. "It is a long passage, Master
Lirriper; and, as I have heard, often a stormy one. I don't think my
"Oh, yes, father," Lionel broke in. "If you say yes, mother is sure to
say yes; she always does, you know. And, you see, it will be a great
thing for us to see London. Every one else seems to have seen London,
and I am sure that it would do us good. And we might even see the
"I think that they would be comfortable, sir," John Lirriper put in.
"You see, my nephew's wife is daughter of a citizen, one Master
Swindon, a ship's chandler, and he said there would be a room there for
me, and they would make me heartily welcome. Now, you see, sir, the
young masters could have that room, and I could very well sleep on
board the ketch; and they would be out of all sort of mischief there."
"That would be a very good plan certainly, Master Lirriper. Well, well,
I don't know what to say."
"Say yes, father," Geoffrey said as he saw Mr. Vickars glance anxiously
at the book he had left open. "If you say yes, you see it will be a
grand thing for you, our being away for a week with nothing to disturb
"Well, well," Mr. Vickars said, "you must ask your mother. If she makes
no objection, then I suppose you can go," and Mr. Vickars hastily took
up his book again.
The boys ran off to the kitchen, where their mother was superintending
the brewing of some broth for a sick woman down the village.
"Mother!" Geoffrey exclaimed, "Master Lirriper's going to London in a
ketch--a ship with a big mizzen sail, you know--and he has offered to
take us with him and show us London. And father has said yes, and it's
all settled if you have no objection; and of course you haven't."
"Going to London, Geoffrey!" Mrs. Vicars exclaimed aghast. "I never
heard of such a thing. Why, like enough you will be drowned on the way
and never come back again. Your father must be mad to think of such a
"Oh, no, mother; I am sure it will do us a lot of good. And we may see
the queen, mother. And as for drowning, why, we can both swim ever so
far. Besides, people don't get drowned going to London. Do they Master
John was standing bashfully at the door of the kitchen. "Well, not as a
rule, Master Geoffrey," he replied. "They comes and they goes, them
that are used to it, maybe a hundred times without anything happening
"There! You hear that, mother? They come and go hundreds of times. Oh,
I am sure you are not going to say no. That would be too bad when
father has agreed to it. Now, mother, please tell Ruth to run away at
once and get a wallet packed with our things. Of course we shall want
our best clothes; because people dress finely in London, and it would
never do if we saw the queen and we hadn't our best doublets on, for
she would think that we didn't know what was seemly down at Hedingham."
"Well, my dears, of course if it is all settled--"
"Oh, yes, mother, it is quite all settled."
"Then it's no use my saying anything more about it, but I think your
father might have consulted me before he gave his consent to your going
on such a hazardous journey as this.
"He did want to consult you, mother. But then, you see, he wanted to
consult his books even more, and he knew very well that you would agree
with him; and you know you would too. So please don't say anything more
about it, but let Ruth run upstairs and see to our things at once.
There, you see, Master Lirriper, it is all settled. And what time do
you start to-morrow? We will be there half an hour before, anyhow."
"I shall go at seven from the bridge. Then I shall just catch the turn
of the tide and get to Bricklesey in good time."
"I never did see such boys," Mrs. Vickars said when John Lirriper had
gone on his way. "As for your father, I am surprised at him in
countenancing you. You will be running all sorts of risks. You may be
drowned on the way, or killed in a street brawl, or get mixed up in a
plot. There is no saying what may not happen. And here it is all
settled before I have even time to think about it, which is most
inconsiderate of your father."
"Oh, we shall get back again without any harm, mother. And as to
getting killed in a street brawl, Lionel and I can use our hangers as
well as most of them. Besides, nothing of that sort is going to happen
to us. Now, mother, please let Ruth go at once, and tell her to put up
our puce doublets that we had for the jousting at the castle, and our
red hose and our dark green cloth slashed trunks."
"There is plenty of time for that, Geoffrey, as you are not going until
to-morrow. Besides, I can't spare Ruth now, but she shall see about it
There was little sleep for the boys that night. A visit to London had
long been one of their wildest ambitions, and they could scarcely
believe that thus suddenly and without preparation it was about to take
place. Their father had some time before promised that he would some
day make request to one or other of the young Veres to allow them to
ride to London in his suite, but the present seemed to them an even
more delightful plan. There would be the pleasure of the voyage, and
moreover it would be much more lively for them to be able to see London
under the charge of John Lirriper than to be subject to the ceremonial
and restraint that would be enforced in the household of the Veres.
They were then at the appointed place a full hour before the time
named, with wallets containing their clothes, and a basket of
provisions that their mother had prepared for them. Having stowed these
away in the little cabin, they walked up and down impatiently until
Master Lirriper himself appeared.
"You are up betimes, my young masters," the boatman said. "The church
has not yet struck seven o'clock."
"We have been here ever so long, Master Lirriper. We could not sleep
much last night, and got up when it chimed five, being afraid that we
might drop off to sleep and be late."
"Well, we shall not be long before we are off. Here comes my man Dick,
and the tide is just on the turn. The sky looks bright, and the weather
promises well. I will just go round to the cottage and fetch up my
things, and then we shall be ready."
In ten minutes they pushed off from the shore. John and his man got out
long poles shod with iron, and with these set to work to punt the barge
along. Now that they were fairly on their way the boys quieted down,
and took their seats on the sacks of flour with which the boat was
laden, and watched the objects on the bank as the boat made her way
Halstead was the first place passed. This was the largest town near
Hedingham, and was a place of much importance in their eyes. Then they
passed Stanstead Hall and Earl's Colne on their right, Colne Wake on
their left, and Chapel Parish on their right. Then there was a long
stretch without any large villages, until they came in sight of the
bridge above Colchester. A few miles below the town the river began to
widen. The banks were low and flat, and they were now entering an arm
of the sea. Half an hour later the houses and church of Bricklesey came
in sight. Tide was almost low when they ran on to the mud abreast of
the village, but John put on a pair of high boots and carried the boys
ashore one after the other on his back, and then went up with them to
the house where they were to stop for the night.
Here, although not expected, they were heartily welcomed by John's
"If father had told me that you had been coming, Masters Vickars, I
would have had a proper dinner for you; but though he sent word
yesterday morning that he should be over today, he did not say a word
about your coming with them."
"He did not know himself," Geoffrey said; "it was only settled at ten
o'clock yesterday. But do not trouble yourself about the dinner. In the
first place, we are so pleased at going that we don't care a bit what
we eat, and in the second place we had breakfast on board the boat, and
we were both so hungry that I am sure we could go till supper-time
without eating if necessary."
"Where are you going, father?" the young woman asked.
"I am going to set about unloading the flour."
"Why, it's only a quarter to twelve, and dinner just ready. The fish
went into the frying-pan as you came up from the boat. You know we
generally dine at half-past eleven, but we saw you coming at a distance
and put it off. It's no use your starting now."
"Well, I suppose it isn't. And I don't know what the young masters'
appetite may be, but mine is pretty good, I can tell you."
"I never knew it otherwise, father," the woman laughed, "Ah, here is my
Sam. Sam, here's father brought these two young gentlemen. They are the
sons of Mr. Vickars, the parson at Hedingham. They are going to stop
here to-night, and are going with him in the _Susan_ to-morrow to
"Glad to see you, young masters," Sam said. "I have often heard Ann
talk of your good father. I have just been on board the _Susan_,
for I am sending up a couple of score sides of bacon in her, and have
been giving Joe Chambers, her master, a list of things he is to get
there and bring down for me. Now then, girl, bustle about and get
dinner on as soon as you can. We are half an hour late. I am sure the
young gentlemen here must be hungry. There's nothing like being on the
water for getting an appetite."
A few minutes later a great dish of fish, a loaf of bread and some
wooden platters, were placed on the table, and all set to at once.
Forks had not yet come into use, and table-cloths were unknown, except
among the upper classes. The boys found that in spite of their hearty
breakfast their appetites were excellent. The fish were delicious, the
bread was home-baked, and the beer from Colchester, which was already
famous for its brewing. When they had finished, John Lirriper asked
them if they would rather see what there was to be seen in the village,
or go off to the ketch. They at once chose the latter alternative. On
going down to the water's edge they found that the tide had risen
sufficiently to enable Dick to bring the barge alongside the jetty.
They were soon on board.
"Which is the _Susan_, Master Lirriper?"
"That's her lying out there with two others. She is the one lowest down
the stream. We shall just fetch her comfortably."
A MEETING IN CHEPE.
A row of ten minutes took the boat with Master Lirriper and the two
boys alongside the ketch.
"How are you, Joe Chambers?" Master Lirriper hailed the skipper as he
appeared on the deck of the _Susan_. "I have brought you two more
passengers for London. They are going there under my charge."
"The more the merrier, Uncle John," the young skipper replied. "There
are none others going this journey, so though our accommodation is not
very extensive, we can put them up comfortably enough if they don't
mind roughing it."
"Oh, we don't mind that," Geoffrey said, as they climbed on board;
"besides, there seems lots of room."
"Not so much as you think," the skipper replied. "She is a roomy craft
is the _Susan_; but she is pretty nigh all hold, and we are
cramped a little in the fo'castle. Still we can sleep six, and that's
just the number we shall have, for we carry a man and a boy besides
myself. I think your flour will about fill her up, Master Lirriper. We
have a pretty full cargo this time."
"Well, we shall soon see," John Lirriper said. "Are you ready to take
the flour on board at once? Because, if so, we will begin to
"Yes, I am quite ready. You told me you were going to bring forty
sacks, and I have left the middle part of the hold empty for them. Sam
Hunter's bacon will stow in on the top of your sacks, and just fill her
up to the beams there, as I reckon. I'll go below and stow them away as
you hand them across."
In an hour the sacks of flour were transferred from the barge to the
hold of the _Susan_, and the sides of bacon then placed upon them.
"It's a pity we haven't all the rest of the things on board," the
skipper said, "and then we could have started by this evening's tide
instead of waiting till the morning. The wind is fair, and I hate
throwing away a fair wind. There is no saying where it may blow to-
morrow, but I shouldn't be at all surprised if it isn't round to the
south, and that will be foul for us till we get pretty nigh up into the
mouth of the river. However, I gave them till to-night for getting all
their things on board, and must therefore wait."
To the boys the _Susan_ appeared quite a large craft, for there
was not water up at Hedingham for vessels of her size; and though they
had seen ships at Harwich, they had never before put foot on anything
larger than Master Lirriper's barge. The _Susan_ was about forty
feet long by twelve feet beam, and drew, as her skipper informed them,
near five feet of water. She was entirely decked. The cabin in the bows
occupied some fourteen feet in length. The rest was devoted to cargo.
They descended into the cabin, which seemed to them very dark, there
being no light save what came down through the small hatchway. Still it
looked snug and comfortable. There was a fireplace on one side of the
ladder by which they had descended, and on this side there were two
bunks, one above the other. On the other side there were lockers
running along the entire length of the cabin. Two could sleep on these
and two on the bunks above them.
"Now, young masters, you will take those two bunks on the top there.
John Lirriper and I will sleep on the lockers underneath you. The man
and the boy have the two on the other side. I put you on the top
because there is a side board, and you can't fall out if she rolls, and
besides the bunks are rather wider than the lockers below. If the wind
is fair you won't have much of our company, because we shall hold on
till we moor alongside the wharves of London; but if it's foul, or
there is not enough of it to take us against tide, we have to anchor on
the ebb, and then of course we turn in."
"How long do you take getting from here to London?"
"Ah, that I can tell you more about when I see what the weather is like
in the morning. With a strong fair wind I have done it in twenty-four
hours, and again with the wind foul it has taken me nigh a week. Taking
one trip with another I should put it at three days."
"Well, now, we will be going ashore," John Lirriper said. "I will leave
my barge alongside till tide turns, for I could not get her back again
to the jetty so long as it is running in strong, so I will be off again
in a couple of hours."
So saying he hauled up the dingy that was towing behind the barge, and
he and Dick rowed the two boys ashore. Then he walked along with them
to a spot where several craft were hauled up, pointing out to them the
differences in their rig and build, and explained their purpose, and
gave them the names of the principal ropes and stays.
"Now," he said, "it's getting on for supper-time, and it won't do to
keep them waiting, for Ann is sure to have got some cakes made, and
there's nothing puts a woman out more than people not being in to meals
when they have got something special ready. After that I shall go out
with Dick and bring the barge ashore. He will load her up to-morrow,
and take her back single-handed; which can be done easy enough in such
weather as this, but it is too much for one man if there is a strong
wind blowing and driving her over to the one side or other of the
As John Lirriper had expected, his daughter had prepared a pile of hot
cakes for supper, and her face brightened up when she saw the party
return punctually. The boys had been up early, and had slept but little
the night before, and were not sorry at eight o'clock to lie down on
the bed of freshly-cut rushes covered with home-spun sheets, for
regular beds of feathers were still but little used in England. At five
o'clock they were astir again, and their hostess insisted on their
eating a manchet of bread with some cheese, washed down by a stoup of
ale before starting. Dick had the boat at the jetty ready to row them
off, and as soon as they were on board the _Susan_ preparations
were made for a start.
The mainsail was first hoisted, its size greatly surprising the boys;
then the foresail and jib were got up, and lastly the mizzen. Then the
capstan was manned, and the anchor slowly brought on board, and the
sails being sheeted home, the craft began to steal through the water.
The tide was still draining up, and she had not as yet swung. The wind
was light, and, as the skipper had predicted, was nearly due south. As
the ketch made its way out from the mouth of the river, and the wide
expanse of water opened before them, the boys were filled with delight.
They had taken their seats, one on each side of the skipper, who was at
"I suppose you steer by the compass, Master Chambers?" Geoffrey said.
"Which is the compass? I have heard about it, always pointing to the
"It's down below, young sir; I will show it you presently. We steer by
that at night, or when it's foggy; but on a fine day like this there is
no need for it. There are marks put up on all the sands, and we steer
by them. You see, the way the wind is now we can lay our course for the
Whittaker. That's a cruel sand, that is, and stretches out a long way
from a point lying away on the right there. Once past that we bear away
to the south-west, for we are then, so to speak, fairly in the course
of the river. There is many a ship has been cast away on the Whittaker.
Not that it is worse than other sands. There are scores of them lying
in the mouth of the river, and if it wasn't for the marks there would
be no sailing in or out."
"Who put up the marks?" Lionel asked.
"They are put up by men who make a business of it. There is one boat of
them sails backwards and forwards where the river begins to narrow
above Sheerness, and every ship that goes up or down pays them
something according to her size. Others cruise about with long poles,
putting them in the sands wherever one gets washed away. They have got
different marks on them. A single cross-piece, or two cross-pieces, or
a circle, or a diamond; so that each sand has got its own particular
mark. These are known to the masters of all ships that go up and down
the river, and so they can tell exactly where they are, and what course
to take. At night they anchor, for there would be no possibility of
finding the way up or down in the dark. I have heard tell from mariners
who have sailed abroad that there ain't a place anywhere with such
dangerous sands as those we have got here at the mouth of the Thames."
In the first three or four hours' sail Geoffrey and Lionel acquired
much nautical knowledge. They learned the difference between the
mainmast and the mizzen, found that all the strong ropes that kept the
masts erect and stiff were called stays, that the ropes that hoist
sails are called halliards, and that sheets is the name given to the
ropes that restrain the sails at the lower corner, and are used to haul
them in more tightly when sailing close to the wind, or to ease them
off when the wind is favourable. They also learned that the yards at
the head of the main and mizzen sails are called gaffs, and those at
the bottom, booms.
"I think that's about enough for you to remember in one day, young
masters," John Lirriper said. "You bear all that in your mind, and
remember that each halliard and sheet has the name of the sail to which
it is attached, and you will have learnt enough to make yourself
useful, and can lend a hand when the skipper calls out, 'Haul in the
jib-sheet,' or 'Let go the fore-halliards.' Now sit yourselves down
again and see what is doing. That beacon you can just see right ahead
marks the end of the Whittaker Spit. When we get there we shall drop
anchor till the tide turns. You see we are going across it now; but
when we round that beacon we shall have it dead against us, and the
wind would be too light to take us against it even if it were not from
the quarter it is. You see there are two or three other craft brought
"Where have they come from do you think, Master Lirriper?"
"Well, they may have come out from Burnham, or they may have come down
from London and be going up to Burnham or to Bricklesey when the tide
turns. There is a large ship anchored in the channel beyond the
Whittaker. Of course she is going up when tide begins to flow. And
there are the masts of two vessels right over there. They are in
another channel. Between us and them there is a line of sands that you
will see will show above the water when it gets a bit lower. That is
the main channel, that is; and vessels coming from the south with a
large draught of water generally use that, while this is the one that
is handiest for ships from the north. Small vessels from the south come
in by a channel a good bit beyond those ships. That is the narrowest of
the three; and even light draught vessels don't use it much unless the
wind is favourable, for there is not much room for them to beat up if
the wind is against them."
"What is to beat up, Master Lirriper?"
"Well, you will see about that presently. I don't think we shall be
able to lay our course beyond the Whittaker. To lay our course means to
steer the way we want to go; and if we can't do that we shall have to
beat, and that is tedious work with a light wind like this."
They dropped anchor off the beacon, and the captain said that this was
the time to take breakfast. The lads already smelt an agreeable odour
arising from the cabin forward, where the boy had been for some time
busily engaged, and soon the whole party were seated on the lockers in
the cabin devouring fried fish.
"Master Chambers," Geoffrey said, "we have got two boiled pullets in
our basket. Had we not better have them for dinner? They were cooked
the evening before we came away, and I should think they had better be
"You had better keep them for yourselves, Master Geoffrey," the skipper
said. "We are accustomed to living on fish, but like enough you would
get tired of it before we got to London."
But this the boys would not hear of, and it was accordingly arranged
that the dinner should be furnished from the contents of the basket.
As soon as tide turned the anchor was hove up and the _Susan_ got
under way again. The boys soon learnt the meaning of the word beating,
and found that it meant sailing backwards and forwards across the
channel, with the wind sometimes on one side of the boat and sometimes
on the other. Geoffrey wanted very much to learn why, when the wind was
so nearly ahead, the boat advanced instead of drifting backwards or
sideways. But this was altogether beyond the power of either Master
Lirriper or Joe Chambers to explain. They said every one knew that when
the sails were full a vessel went in the direction in which her head
pointed. "It's just the same way with yourself, Master Geoffrey. You
see, when you look one way that's the way you go. When you turn your
head and point another way, of course you go off that way; and it's
just the same thing with the ship."
"I don't think it's the same thing, Master Lirriper," Geoffrey said
puzzled. "In one case the power that makes one go comes from the
inside, and so one can go in any direction one likes; in the other it
comes from outside, and you would think the ship would have to go any
way the wind pushes her. If you stand up and I give you a push, I push
you straight away from me. You don't go sideways or come forward in the
direction of my shoulder, which is what the ship does."
John Lirriper took off his cap and scratched his head.
"I suppose it is as you say, Master Geoffrey, though I never thought of
it before. There is some reason, no doubt, why the craft moves up
against the wind so long as the sails are full, instead of drifting
away to leeward; though I never heard tell of it, and never heard
anyone ask before. I daresay a learned man could tell why it is; and if
you ask your good father when you go back I would wager he can explain
it. It always seems to me as if a boat have got some sort of sense,
just like a human being or a horse, and when she knows which way you
wants her to go she goes. That's how it seems to me--ain't it, Joe?"
"Something like that, uncle. Every one knows that a boat's got her
humours, and sometimes she sails better than she does others; and each
boat's got her own fancies. Some does their best when they are beating,
and some are lively in a heavy sea, and seem as if they enjoy it; and
others get sulky, and don't seem to take the trouble to lift their bows
up when a wave meets them; and they groans and complains if the wind is
too hard for them, just like a human being. When you goes to a new
vessel you have got to learn her tricks and her ways and what she will
do, and what she won't do, and just to humour her as you would a child,
I don't say as I think she is actually alive; but every sailor will
tell you that there is something about her that her builders never put
"That's so," John Lirriper agreed. "Look at a boat that is hove up when
her work's done and going to be broken up. Why, anyone can tell her
with half an eye. She looks that forlorn and melancholy that one's
inclined to blubber at the sight of her. She don't look like that at
any other time. When she is hove up she is going to die, and she knows
"But perhaps that's because the paint's off her sides and the ropes all
worn and loose," Geoffrey suggested.
But Master Lirriper waved the suggestion aside as unworthy even of an
answer, and repeated, "She knows it. Anyone can see that with half an
Geoffrey and Lionel talked the matter over when they were sitting
together on deck apart from the others. It was an age when there were
still many superstitions current in the land. Even the upper classes
believed in witches and warlocks, in charms and spells, in lucky and
unlucky days, in the arts of magic, in the power of the evil eye; and
although to the boys it seemed absurd that a vessel should have life,
they were not prepared altogether to discredit an idea that was
evidently thoroughly believed by those who had been on board ships all
their lives. After talking it over for some time they determined to
submit the question to their father on their return.
It took them two more tides before they were off Sheerness. The wind
was now more favourable, and having increased somewhat in strength, the
_Susan_ made her way briskly along, heeling over till the water
ran along her scuppers. There was plenty to see now, for there were
many fishing-boats at work, some belonging, as Master Chambers told
them, to the Medway, others to the little village of Leigh, whose
church they saw at the top of the hill to their right. They met, too,
several large craft coming down the river, and passed more than one,
for the _Susan_ was a fast boat.
"They would beat us," the skipper said when the boys expressed their
surprise at their passing such large vessels, "if the wind were
stronger or the water rough. We are doing our best, and if the wind
rises I shall have to take in sail; while they could carry all theirs
if it blew twice as hard. Then in a sea, weight and power tell; a wave
that would knock the way almost out of us would hardly affect them at
So well did the _Susan_ go along, that before the tide was much
more than half done they passed the little village of Gravesend on
their left, with the strong fort of Tilbury on the opposite shore, with
its guns pointing on the river, and ready to give a good account of any
Spaniard who should venture to sail up the Thames. Then at the end of
the next reach the hamlet of Grays was passed on the right; a mile
further Greenhithe on the left. Tide was getting slack now, but the
_Susan_ managed to get as far as Purfleet, and then dropped her
"This is our last stopping-place," Joe Chambers said. "The morning tide
will carry us up to London Bridge."
"Then you will not go on with to-night's tide?" Geoffrey asked.
"No; the river gets narrower every mile, and I do not care to take the
risk of navigating it after dark, especially as there is always a great
deal of shipping moored above Greenwich. Tide will begin to run up at
about five o'clock, and by ten we ought to be safely moored alongside
near London Bridge. So we should not gain a great deal by going on this
evening instead of to-morrow morning, and I don't suppose you are in a
"Oh, no," Lionel said. "We would much rather go on in the morning,
otherwise we should miss everything by the way; and there is the
Queen's Palace at Greenwich that I want to see above all things."
Within a few minutes of the hour the skipper had named for their
arrival, the _Susan_ was moored alongside some vessels lying off
one of the wharves above the Tower. The boys' astonishment had risen
with every mile of their approach to the city, and they were perfectly
astounded at the amount of shipping that they now beheld. The great
proportion were of course coasters, like themselves, but there were
many large vessels among them, and of these fully half were flying
foreign colours. Here were traders from the Netherlands, with the flag
that the Spaniards had in vain endeavoured to lower, flying at their
mast-heads. Here were caravels from Venice and Genoa, laden with goods
from the East. Among the rest Master Chambers pointed out to the lads
the ship in which Sir Francis Drake had circumnavigated the world, and
that in which Captain Stevens had sailed to India, round the Cape of
Good Hope. There were many French vessels also in the Pool, and indeed
almost every flag save that of Spain was represented. Innumerable
wherries darted about among the shipping, and heavier cargo boats
dropped along in more leisurely fashion. Across the river, a quarter of
a mile above the point at which they were lying, stretched London
Bridge, with its narrow arches and the houses projecting beyond it on
their supports of stout timbers. Beyond, on the right, rising high
above the crowded roofs, was the lofty spire of St. Paul's. The boys
were almost awed by this vast assemblage of buildings. That London was
a great city they had known, but they were not prepared for so immense
a difference between it and the place where they had lived all their
lives. Only with the Tower were they somewhat disappointed. It was very
grand and very extensive, but not so much grander than the stately
abode of the Veres as they had looked for.
"I wouldn't change, if I were the earl, with the queen's majesty,"
Geoffrey said. "Of course it is larger than Hedingham, but not so
beautiful, and it is crowded in by the houses, and has not like our
castle a fair look-out on all sides. Why, there can be no hunting or
hawking near here, and I can't think what the nobles can find to do all
"Now, young sirs," Master Lirriper said, "if you will get your wallets
we will go ashore at once."
The boys were quite bewildered as they stepped ashore by the bustle and
confusion. Brawny porters carrying heavy packages on their backs pushed
along unceremoniously, saying from time to time in a mechanical sort of
way, "By your leave, sir!" but pushing on and shouldering passers-by
into the gutter without the smallest compunction. The narrowness and
dinginess of the streets greatly surprised and disappointed the boys,
who found that in these respects even Harwich compared favourably with
the region they were traversing. Presently, however, after passing
through several lanes and alleys, they emerged into a much broader
street, alive with shops. The people who were walking here were for the
most part well dressed and of quiet demeanour, and there was none of
the rough bustle that had prevailed in the river-side lanes.
"This is Eastchepe," their conductor said; "we have not far to go now.
The street in which my friend dwells lies to the right, between this
and Tower Street. I could have taken you a shorter way there, but I
thought that your impressions of London would not be favourable did I
take you all the way through those ill-smelling lanes."
In a quarter of an hour they arrived at their destination, and entered
the shop, which smelt strongly of tar; coils of rope of all sizes were
piled up one upon another by the walls, while on shelves above them
were blocks, lanterns, compasses, and a great variety of gear of whose
use the boys were ignorant. The chandler was standing at his door.
"I am right glad to see you, Master Lirriper," he said, "and have been
expecting you for the last two or three days. My wife would have it
that some evil must have befallen you; but you know what women are.
They make little allowance for time or tide or distance, but expect
that every one can so arrange his journeys as to arrive at the very
moment when they begin to expect him. But who have you here with you?"
"These are the sons of the worshipful Mr. Vickars, the rector of our
parish, and tutor to the Earl of Oxford and several of the young Veres,
his cousins--a wise gentleman and a kind one, and much loved among us.
He has entrusted his two sons to me that I might show them somewhat of
this city of yours. I said that I was right sure that you and your good
dame would let them occupy the chamber you intended for me, while I can
make good shift on board the _Susan_."
"Nay, nay, Master Lirriper; our house is big enough to take in you and
these two young masters, and Dorothy would deem it a slight indeed upon
her hospitality were you not to take up your abode here too. You will
be heartily welcome, young sirs, and though such accommodation as we
can give you will not be equal to that which you are accustomed to, I
warrant me that you will find it a pleasant change after that poky
little cabin on board the _Susan_. I know it well, for I supply
her with stores, and have often wondered how men could accustom
themselves to pass their lives in places where there is scarce room to
turn, to say nothing of the smell of fish that always hangs about it.
But if you will follow me I will take you up to my good dame, to whose
care I must commit you for the present, as my foreman, John Watkins, is
down by the riverside seeing to the proper delivery of divers stores on
board a ship which sails with the next tide for Holland. My
apprentices, too, are both out, as I must own is their wont. They
always make excuses to slip down to the river-side when there is aught
doing, and I am far too easy with the varlets. So at present, you see,
I cannot long leave my shop."
So saying the chandler preceded them up a wide staircase that led from
a passage behind the shop, and the boys perceived that the house was
far more roomy and comfortable than they had judged from its outward
appearance. Turning to the left when he reached the top of the stairs
the chandler opened a door.
"Dorothy," he said, "here is your kinsman, Master Lirriper, who has
suffered none of the misadventures you have been picturing to yourself
for the last two days, and he has brought with him these young
gentlemen, sons of the rector of Hedingham, to show them something of
"You are welcome, young gentlemen," Dame Dorothy said, "though why
anyone should come to London when he can stay away from it I know not."
"Why, Dorothy, you are always running down our city, though I know
right well that were I to move down with you to your native Essex again
you would very soon cry out for the pleasures of the town."
"That would I not," she said. "I would be well contented to live in
fresh country air all the rest of my life, though I do not say that
London has not its share of pleasures also, though I care but little
"Ah, Master Lirriper," her husband said laughing, "you would not think,
to hear her talk, that there is not a feast or a show that Dorothy
would stay away from. She never misses an opportunity, I warrant you,
of showing herself off in her last new kirtle and gown. But I must be
going down; there is no one below, and if a customer comes and finds
the shop empty he will have but a poor idea of me, and will think that
I am away gossiping instead of attending to my business."
"Are you hungry, young sirs?" the dame asked. "Because if so the maid
shall bring up a manchet of bread and a cup of sack; if not, our
evening meal will be served in the course of an hour."
The boys both said that they were perfectly able to wait until the meal
came; and Geoffrey added, "If you will allow us, mistress, as doubtless
you have private matters to talk of with Master Lirriper, my brother
and I will walk out for an hour to see something of the town."
"Mind that you lose not your way," Master Lirriper said. "Do not go
beyond Eastchepe, I beg you. There are the shops to look at there, and
the fashions of dress and other matters that will occupy your attention
well enough for that short time. To-morrow morning I will myself go
with you, and we can then wander further abroad. I have promised your
good father to look after you, you know; and it will be but a bad
beginning if you meet with any untoward adventure upon this the first
day of your arrival here."
"We will not go beyond the limits of Eastchepe; and as to adventures, I
can't see very well how any can befall us."
"Oh, there are plenty of adventures to be met with in London, young
sir; and I shall be well content if on the day when we again embark on
board the _Susan_ none of them have fallen to your share."
The two lads accordingly sallied out and amused themselves greatly by
staring at the goods exhibited in the open shops. They were less
surprised at the richness and variety of the silver work, at the silks
from the East, the costly satins, and other stuffs, than most boys from
the country would have been, for they were accustomed to the splendour
and magnificence displayed by the various noble guests at the castle,
and saw nothing here that surpassed the brilliant shows made at the
jousting and entertainments at Hedingham.
It was the scene that was novel to them: the shouts of the apprentices
inviting attention to their employers' wares, the crowd that filled the
street, consisting for the most part of the citizens themselves, but
varied by nobles and knights of the court, by foreigners from many
lands, by soldiers and men-at-arms from the Tower, by countrymen and
sailors. Their amusement was sometimes turned into anger by the
flippant remarks of the apprentices; these varlets, perceiving easily
enough by the manner of their attire that they were from the country,
were not slow, if their master happened for the moment to be absent, in
indulging in remarks that set Geoffrey and Lionel into a fever to
commit a breach of the peace. The "What do you lack, masters?" with
which they generally addressed passers-by would be exchanged for
remarks such as, "Do not trouble the young gentlemen, Nat. Do you not
see they are up in the town looking for some of their master's calves?"
or, "Look you, Philip, here are two rustics who have come up to town to
"I quite see, Geoffrey," Lionel said, taking his brother by the arm and
half dragging him away as he saw that he was clenching his fist and
preparing to avenge summarily one of these insults even more pointed
than usual, "that Master Lirriper was not very far out, and there is no
difficulty in meeting with adventures in the streets of London.
However, we must not give him occasion on this our first stroll in the
streets to say that we cannot be trusted out of his sight. If we were
to try to punish these insolent varlets we should have them upon us
like a swarm of bees, and should doubtless get worsted in the
encounter, and might even find ourselves hauled off to the lock-up, and
that would be a nice tale for Master Lirriper to carry back to
"That is true enough, Lionel; but it is not easy to keep one's temper
when one is thus tried. I know not how it is they see so readily that
we are strangers, for surely we have mixed enough with the earl's
family and friends to have rubbed off the awkwardness that they say is
common to country folk; and as to our dress, I do not see much
difference between its fashion and that of other people. I suppose it
is because we look interested in what is going on, instead of strolling
along like those two youths opposite with our noses in the air, as if
we regarded the city and its belongings as infinitely below our regard.
Well, I think we had best be turning back to Master Swindon's; it will
not do to be late for our meal."
"Well, young sirs, what do you think of our shops?" Dame Swindon asked
as they entered.
"The shops are well enough," Geoffrey replied; "but your apprentices
seem to me to be an insolent set of jackanapes, who take strange
liberties with passers-by, and who would be all the better for
chastisement. If it hadn't been that Lionel and I did not wish to
become engaged in a brawl, we should have given some of them lessons in
"They are free in speech," Dame Swindon said, "and are an impudent set
of varlets. They have quick eyes and ready tongues, and are no
respecters of persons save of their masters and of citizens in a
position to lay complaints against them and to secure them punishment.
They hold together greatly, and it is as well that you should not
become engaged in a quarrel with them. At times they have raised
serious tumults, and have even set not only the watch but the citizens
at large at defiance. Strong measures have been several times taken
against them; but they are a powerful body, seeing that in every shop
there are one or more of them, and they can turn out with their clubs
many thousand strong. They have what they call their privileges, and
are as ready to defend them as are the citizens of London to uphold
their liberties. Ordinances have been passed many times by the fathers
of the city, regulating their conduct and the hours at which they may
be abroad and the carrying of clubs and matters of this kind, but the
apprentices seldom regard them, and if the watch arrest one for a
breach of regulations, he raises a cry, and in two or three minutes a
swarm of them collect and rescue the offender from his hands. Therefore
it is seldom that the watch interferes with them."
"It would almost seem then that the apprentices are in fact the
masters," Geoffrey said.
"Not quite as bad as that," Master Swindon replied. "There are the
rules which they have to obey when at home, and if not they get a
whipping; but it is difficult to keep a hand over them when they are
abroad. After the shops are closed and the supper over they have from
time immemorial the right to go out for two hours' exercise. They are
supposed to go and shoot at the butts; but archery, I grieve to say, is
falling into disrepute, and although many still go to the butts the
practice is no longer universal. But here is supper."
Few words were spoken during the meal. The foreman and the two
apprentices came up and sat down with the family, and it was not until
these had retired that the conversation was again resumed.
"Where are you going to take them to-morrow, Master Lirriper?"
"To-morrow we will see the city, the shops in Chepe, the Guildhall, and
St. Paul's, then we shall issue out from Temple Bar and walk along the
Strand through the country to Westminster and see the great abbey, then
perhaps take a boat back. The next day, if the weather be fine, we will
row up to Richmond and see the palace there, and I hope you will go
with us, Mistress Dorothy; it is a pleasant promenade and a
fashionable, and methinks the river with its boats is after all the
prettiest sight in London."
"Ah, you think there can be nothing pretty without water. That is all
very well for one who is ever afloat, Master Lirriper; but give me
Chepe at high noon with all its bravery of dress, and the bright shops,
and the gallants of the court, and our own citizens too, who if not
quite so gay in colour are proper men, better looking to my mind than
some of the fops with their silver and satins."
"That's right, Dorothy," her husband said; "spoken like the wife of a
All these plans were destined to be frustrated. As soon as breakfast
was over the next morning Master Lirriper started with the two boys,
and they had but just entered Chepe-side when they saw two young men
"Why, Lionel, here is Francis Vere!" Geoffrey exclaimed. "I thought he
was across in Holland with the Earl of Leicester." They doffed their
caps. Captain Vere, for such was now his rank, looked at them in
"Why!" he exclaimed, "here are Mr. Vickars' two sons. How came you
here, lads? Have you run away from home to see the wonders of London,
or to list as volunteers for the campaigns against the Dons?"
"I wish we were, Mr. Francis," Geoffrey said. "You promised when you
were at Hedingham a year and a half since that you would some day take
us to the wars with you, and our father, seeing that neither of us have
a mind to enter the church, has quite consented that we shall become
soldiers, the more so as there is a prospect of fighting for the
persecuted Protestants of Holland. And oh, Mr. Francis, could it be
now? You know we daily exercise with arms at the castle, and we are
both strong and sturdy for our age, and believe me you should not see
us flinch before the Spaniards however many of them there were."
"Tut, tut!" Captain Vere laughed. "Here are young cockerels, Allen;
what think you of these for soldiers to stand against the Spanish
"There are many of the volunteers who are not very much older than they
are," Captain Allen replied. "There are two in my company who must be
between seventeen and eighteen."
"Ah! but these boys are three years younger than that."
"Would you not take us as your pages, Mr. Francis?" Lionel urged. "We
would do faithful service, and then when we come to the age that you
could enter us as volunteers we should already have learnt a little of
"Well, well, I cannot stop to talk to you now, for I am on my way to
the Tower on business. I am only over from Holland for a day or two
with despatches from the Earl to Her Majesty's Council, and am lodging
at Westminster in a house that faces the abbey. It is one of my cousin
Edward's houses, and you will see the Vere cognizance over the door.
Call there at one hour after noon, and I will have a talk with you; but
do not buoy yourselves up with hopes as to your going with me." So
saying, with a friendly nod of his head Francis Vere continued his way
"What think you, Allen?" he asked his comrade as they went along. "I
should like to take the lads with me if I could. Their father, who is
the rector of Hedingham, taught my cousin Edward as well as my brothers
and myself. I saw a good deal of the boys when I was at home. They are
sturdy young fellows, and used to practise daily, as we did at their
age, with the men-at-arms at the castle, and can use their weapons. A
couple of years of apprenticeship would be good schooling for them. One
cannot begin to learn the art of war too young, and it is because we
have all been so ignorant of it that our volunteers in Holland have not
"I think, Vere, that they are too young yet to be enlisted as
volunteers, although in another two years, perhaps, you might admit the
elder of the two. But I see no reason why, if you are so inclined, you
should not take them with you as pages. Each company has its pages and
boys, and you might take these two for the special service of yourself
and your officers. They would then be on pretty well the same footing
as the five gentlemen volunteers you have already with you, and would
be distinct from the lads who have entered as pages to the company. I
suppose that you have not yet your full number of boys?"
"No; there are fifteen boys allowed, one to each ten men, and I am
several short of this number, and have already written my brother John
to get six sturdy lads from among our own tenantry and to send them
over in the first ship from Harwich. Yes, I will take these lads with
me. I like their spirit, and we are all fond of their father, who is a
very kindly as well as learned man."
"I don't suppose he will thank you greatly, Francis," Captain Allen
"His goodwife is more likely to be vexed than he is," Captain Vere
said, "for it will give him all the more time for the studies in which
he is wrapped up. Besides, it will be a real service to the boys. It
will shorten their probation as volunteers, and they may get
commissions much earlier than they otherwise would do. We are all mere
children in the art of war; for truly before Roger Morgan first took
out his volunteers to fight for the Dutch there was scarce a man in
England who knew how to range a company in order. You and I learned
somewhat of our business in Poland, and some of our leaders have also
had a few lessons in the art of war in foreign countries, but most of
our officers are altogether new to the work. However, we have good
masters, and I trust these Spaniards may teach us how to beat them in
time; but at present, as I said, we are all going to school, and the
earlier one begins at school the sooner one learns its lessons.
Besides, we must have pages, and it will be more pleasant for me having
lads who belong in a sort of way to our family, and to whom, if I am
disposed, I can talk of people at home. They are high-spirited and full
of fun, and I should like to have them about me. But here we are at the
Tower. We shall not be long, I hope, over the list of arms and
munitions that the earl has sent for. When we have done we will take
boat back to Westminster. Half an hour will take us there, as the tide
will be with us."
IN THE LOW COUNTRY.
Master Lirriper had stood apart while the boys were conversing with
"What do you think, Master Lirriper?" Geoffrey exclaimed as they joined
him. "We have asked Mr. Vere to take us with him as pages to the war in
the Low Country, and though he said we were not to be hopeful about his
reply, I do think he will take us. We are to go round to Westminster at
one o'clock to see him again. What do you think of that?"
"I don't know what to think, Master Geoffrey. It takes me all by
surprise, and I don't know how I stand in the matter. You see, your
father gave you into my charge, and what could I say to him if I went
"But, you see, it is with Francis Vere," Geoffrey said. "If it had been
with anyone else it would be different. But the Veres are his patrons,
and he looks upon the earl, and Mr. Francis and his brothers, almost as
he does on us; and, you know, he has already consented to our entering
the army some day. Besides, he can't blame you; because, of course, Mr.
Vere will write to him himself and say that he has taken us, and so you
can't be blamed in the matter. My father would know well enough that
you could not withstand the wishes of one of the Veres, who are lords
of Hedingham and all the country round."
"I should withstand them if I thought they were wrong," the boatman
said sturdily, "and if I were sure that your father would object to
your going; but that is what I am not sure. He may think it the best
thing for you to begin early under the protection of Master Francis,
and again he may think you a great deal too young for such wild work.
He has certainly always let you have pretty much your own way, and has
allowed you to come and go as you like, but this is a different
business altogether. I am sorely bested as to what I ought to do."
"Well, nothing is settled yet, Master Lirriper; and, besides, I don't
see that you can help yourself in the matter, and if Mr. Vere says he
will take us I suppose you can't carry us off by force."
"It is Mistress Vickars that I am thinking of more than your father.
The vicar is an easy-going gentleman, but Mistress Vickars speaks her
mind, and I expect she will be in a terrible taking over it, and will
rate me soundly; though, as you say, I do not see how I can help myself
in the matter. Well now, let us look at the shops and at the Guildhall,
and then we will make our way down to Westminster as we had proposed to
do and see the abbey; by that time it will be near the hour at which
you are to call upon Mr. Vere."
But the sights that the boys had been so longing to see had for the
time lost their interest in their eyes. The idea that it was possible
that Mr. Vere would take them with him to fight against the cruel
oppressors of the Low Country was so absorbing that they could think of
nothing else. Even the wonders of the Guildhall and St. Paul's received
but scant attention, and the armourers' shops, in which they had a new
and lively interest, alone sufficed to detain them. Even the gibes of
the apprentices fell dead upon their ears. These varlets might laugh,
but what would they say if they knew that they were going to fight the
Spaniards. The thought so altered them that they felt almost a feeling
of pity for these lads, condemned to stay at home and mind their
As to John Lirriper, he was sorely troubled in his mind, and divided
between what he considered his duty to the vicar and his life-long
respect and reverence towards the lords of Hedingham. The feudal system
was extinct, but feudal ideas still lingered among the people. Their
lords could no longer summon them to take the field, had no longer
power almost of life and death over them, but they were still their
lords, and regarded with the highest respect and reverence. The earls
of Oxford were, in the eyes of the people of those parts of Essex where
their estates lay, personages of greater importance than the queen
herself, of whose power and attributes they had but a very dim notion.
It was not so very long since people had risen in rebellion against the
queen, but such an idea as that of rising against their lords had never
entered the mind of a single inhabitant of Hedingham.
However, Master Lirriper came to the conclusion that he was, as
Geoffrey had said, powerless to interfere. If Mr. Francis Vere decided
to take the boys with him, what could he do to prevent it? He could
hardly take them forcibly down to the boat against their will, and even
could he do so their father might not approve, and doubtless the earl,
when he came to hear of it, would be seriously angry at this act of
defiance of his kinsman. Still, he was sure that he should have a very
unpleasant time with Mistress Vickars. But, as he reassured himself, it
was, after all, better to put up with a woman's scolding than to bear
the displeasure of the Earl of Oxford, who could turn him out of his
house, ruin his business, and drive him from Hedingham. After all, it
was natural that these lads should like to embark on this adventure
with Mr. Francis Vere, and it would doubtless be to their interest to
be thus closely connected with him. At any rate, if it was to be it
was, and he, John Lirriper, could do nothing to prevent it. Having
arrived at this conclusion he decided to make the best of it, and began
to chat cheerfully with the boys.
Precisely at the appointed hour John Lirriper arrived with the two lads
at the entrance to the house facing the abbey. Two or three servitors,
whose doublets were embroidered with the cognizance of the Veres, were
standing in front of the door.
"Why, it is Master Lirriper!" one of them said. "Why, what has brought
you here? I did not know that your trips often extended to London."
"Nor do they," John Lirriper said. "It was the wind and my nephew's
craft the _Susan_ that brought me to London, and it is the will of
Mr. Francis that these two young gentlemen should meet him here at one
o'clock that has brought me to this door."
"Captain Francis is in; for, you know, he is a captain now, having been
lately appointed to a company in the Earl of Leicester's army. He
returned an hour since, and has but now finished his meal. Do you wish
to go up with these young masters, or shall I conduct them to him?"
"You had best do that," John Lirriper answered. "I will remain here
below if Captain Francis desires to see me or has any missive to
intrust to me."
The boys followed the servant upstairs, and were shown into a room
where Francis Vere, his cousin the Earl of Oxford, and Captain Allen
were seated at table.
"Well, lads," the earl said, "so you want to follow my cousin Francis
to the wars?"
"That is our wish, my lord, if Captain Francis will be so good as to
take us with him."
"And what will my good tutor your father say to it?" the earl asked
"I think, my lord," Geoffrey said boldly, "that if you yourself will
tell my father you think it is for our good, he will say naught against
"Oh, you want to throw the responsibility upon me, and to embroil me
with your father and Mistress Vickars as an abettor of my cousin
Francis in the kidnapping of children? Well, Francis, you had better
explain to them what their duties will be if they go with you."
"You will be my pages," Francis Vere said, "and will perform the usual
duties of pages in good families when in the field. It is the duty of
pages to aid in collecting firewood and forage, and in all other ways
to make themselves useful. You will bear the same sort of relation to
the gentlemen volunteers as they do towards the officers. They are
aspirants for commissions as officers as you will be to become
gentlemen volunteers. You must not think that your duties will be
light, for they will not, and you will have to bear many discomforts
and hardships. But you will be in an altogether different position from
that of the boys who are the pages of the company. You will, apart from
your duties, and bearing in mind the difference of your age, associate
with the officers and the gentlemen volunteers on terms of equality
when not engaged upon duty. On duty you will have to render the same
strict and unquestionable obedience that all soldiers pay to those of
superior rank. What say you? Are you still anxious to go? Because, if
so, I have decided to take you."
Geoffrey and Lionel both expressed their thanks in proper terms, and
their earnest desire to accompany Captain Vere, and to behave in all
ways conformably to his orders and instructions.
"Very well, that is settled," Francis Vere said. "The earl is
journeying down to Hedingham to-morrow, and has kindly promised to take
charge of a letter from me to your father, and personally to assure him
that this early embarkation upon military life would prove greatly to
"Supposing that you are not killed by the Spaniards or carried off by
fever," the earl put in; "for although possibly that might be an
advantage to humanity in general, it could scarcely be considered one
to you personally."
"We are ready to take our risk of that, my lord," Geoffrey said; "and
are indeed greatly beholden both to Captain Francis for his goodness in
taking us with him, and to yourself in kindly undertaking the mission
of reconciling our father to our departure."
"You have not told me yet how it is that I find you in London?" Francis
"We only came up for a week, sir, to see the town. We are in charge of
Master Lirriper, who owns a barge on the river, and plies between
Hedingham and Bricklesey, but who was coming up to London in a craft
belonging to his nephew, and who took charge of us. We are staying at
the house of Master Swindon, a citizen and ship-chandler."
"Is Master Lirriper below?"
"He is, sir."
"Then in that case he had better go back to the house and bring your
mails here. I shall sail from Deptford the day after to-morrow with the
turn of tide. You had best remain here now. There will be many things
necessary for you to get before you start. I will give instructions to
one of my men-at-arms to go with you to purchase them."
"I will take their outfit upon myself, Francis," the earl said. "My
steward shall go out with them and see to it. It is the least I can do
when I am abetting you in depriving my old tutor of his sons." He
touched a bell and a servitor entered. "See that these young gentlemen
are fed and attended to. They will remain here for the night. Tell
Master Dotterell to come hither to me."
The boys bowed deeply and retired.
"It is all settled, Master Lirriper," they said when they reached the
hall below. "We are to sail with Captain Francis the day after to-
morrow, and you will be pleased to hear that the earl himself has taken
charge of the matter, and will see our father and communicate the news
"That is a comfort indeed," John Lirriper said fervently; "for I would
most as soon have had to tell him that the _Susan_ had gone down
and that you were both drowned, as that I had let you both slip away to
the wars when he had given you into my charge. But if the earl takes
the matter in hand I do not think that even your lady mother can bear
very heavily on me. And now, what is going to be done?"
"We are to remain here in order that suitable clothes may be obtained
for us by the time we sail. Will you bring down to-morrow morning our
wallets from Master Swindon's, and thank him and his good dame for
their hospitality, and say that we are sorry to leave them thus
suddenly without having an opportunity of thanking them ourselves? We
will write letters to-night to our father and mother, and give them to
you to take with you when you return."
John Lirriper at once took his departure, greatly relieved in mind to
find that the earl himself had taken the responsibility upon his
shoulders, and would break the news long before he himself reached
Hedingham. A few minutes later a servitor conducted the boys to an
apartment where a meal was laid for them; and as soon as this was over
they were joined by the steward, who requested them to set out with him
at once, as there were many things to be done and but short time for
doing them. No difficulty in the way of time was, however, thrown in
the way by the various tradesmen they visited, these being all
perfectly ready to put themselves to inconvenience to do pleasure to so
valuable a patron as the powerful Earl of Oxford.
Three suits of clothes were ordered for each of them: the one such as
that worn by pages in noble families upon ordinary occasions, another
of a much richer kind for special ceremonies and gaieties, the third a
strong, serviceable suit for use when actually in the field. Then they
were taken to an armourer's where each was provided with a light morion
or headpiece, breast-plate and backpiece, sword and dagger. A
sufficient supply of under garments, boots, and other necessaries were
also purchased; and when all was complete they returned highly
delighted to the house. It was still scarce five o'clock, and they went
across to the abbey and wandered for some time through its aisles,
greatly impressed with its dignity and beauty now that their own
affairs were off their mind.
They returned to the house again, and after supper wrote their letters
to their father and mother, saying that they hoped they would not be
displeased at the step they had taken, and which they would not have
ventured upon had they not already obtained their father's consent to
their entering the army. They knew, of course, that he had not
contemplated their doing so for some little time; but as so excellent
an opportunity had offered, and above all, as they were going out to
fight against the Spaniards for the oppressed people of the Low
Countries, they hoped their parents would approve of the steps they had
taken, not having had time or opportunity to consult them.
At noon two days later Francis Vere with Captain Allen and the two boys
took their seats in the stern of a skiff manned by six rowers. In the
bow were the servitors of the two officers, and the luggage was stowed
in the extreme stern.
"The tide is getting slack, is it not?" Captain Vere asked the boatmen.
"Yes, sir; it will not run up much longer. It will be pretty well
slack-water by the time we get to the bridge."
Keeping close to the bank the boat proceeded at a rapid pace. Several
times the two young officers stood up and exchanged salutations with
ladies or gentlemen of their acquaintance. As the boatman had
anticipated, tide was slack by the time they arrived at London Bridge,
and they now steered out into the middle of the river.
"Give way, lads," Captain Allen said. "We told the captain we would not
keep him waiting long after high-water, and he will be getting
impatient if he does not see us before long."
As they shot past the _Susan_ the boys waved their hands to Master
Lirriper, who, after coming down in the morning and receiving their
letters for their parents, had returned at once to the city and had
taken his place on board the _Susan_, so as to be able to tell
their father that he had seen the last of them. The distance between
London Bridge and Deptford was traversed in a very short time. A vessel
with her flags flying and her canvas already loosened was hanging to a
buoy some distance out in the stream, and as the boat came near enough
for the captain to distinguish those on board, the mooring-rope was
slipped, the head sails flattened in, and the vessel began to swing
round. Before her head was down stream the boat was alongside. The two
officers followed by the boys ascended the ladder by the side. The
luggage was quickly handed up, and the servitors followed. The sails
were sheeted home, and the vessel began to move rapidly through the
The boys had thought the _Susan_ an imposing craft, but they were
surprised, indeed, at the space on board the _Dover Castle_. In
the stern there was a lofty poop with spacious cabins. Six guns were
ranged along on each side of the deck, and when the sails were got up
they seemed so vast to the boys that they felt a sense of littleness on
board the great craft. They had been relieved to find that Captain Vere
had his own servitor with him; for in talking it over they had mutually
expressed their doubt as to their ability to render such service as
Captain Vere would be accustomed to.
The wind was from the south-west, and the vessel was off Sheerness
before the tide turned. There was, however, no occasion to anchor, for
the wind was strong enough to take them against the flood.
During the voyage they had no duties to perform. The ship's cook
prepared the meals, and the officers' servants waited on them, the lads
taking their meals with the two officers. Their destination was Bergen-
op-Zoom, a town at the mouth of the Scheldt, of the garrison of which
the companies of both Francis Vere and Captain Allen formed part.
As soon as the low coasts of Holland came in sight the boys watched
them with the most lively interest.
"We are passing Sluys now," Captain Vere said. "The land almost ahead
of us is Walcheren; and that spire belongs to Flushing. We could go
outside and up the channel between the island and Beveland, and then up
the Eastern Scheldt to Bergen-op-Zoom; but instead of that we shall
follow the western channel, which is more direct."
"It is as flat as our Essex coast," Geoffrey remarked.
"Aye, and flatter; for the greater part of the land lies below the
level of the sea, which is only kept out by great dams and dykes. At
times when the rivers are high and the wind keeps back their waters
they burst the dams and spread over a vast extent of country. The
Zuider-Zee was so formed in 1170 and 1395, and covers a tract as large
as the whole county of Essex. Twenty-six years later the river Maas
broke its banks and flooded a wide district. Seventy-two villages were
destroyed and 100,000 people lost their life. The lands have never been
recovered; and where a fertile country once stood is now a mere swamp."
"I shouldn't like living there," Lionel said. "It would be terrible,
every time the rivers are full and the wind blows, to think that at
any moment the banks may burst and the Hood come rushing over you."
"It is all habit," Captain Vere replied; "I don't suppose they trouble
themselves about it. But they are very particular in keeping their
dykes in good repair. The water is one of the great defences of their
country. In the first place there are innumerable streams to be crossed
by an invader, and in the second, they can as a last resource cut the
dykes and flood the country. These Dutchmen, as far as I have seen of
them, are hard-working and industrious people, steady and patient, and
resolved to defend their independence to the last. This they have
indeed proved by the wonderful resistance they have made against the
power of Spain. There, you see the ship's head has been turned and we
shall before long be in the channel. Sluys lies up that channel on the
right. It is an important place. Large vessels can go no further, but
are unloaded there and the cargoes taken to Bruges and thence
distributed to many other towns. They say that in 1468 as many as a
hundred and fifty ships a day arrived at Sluys. That gives you an idea
of the trade that the Netherlands carry on. The commerce of this one
town was as great as is that of London at the present time. But since
the troubles the trade of Sluys has fallen off a good deal."
The ship had to anchor here for two or three hours until the tide
turned, for the wind had fallen very light and they could not make head
against the ebb. As soon as it turned they again proceeded on their
way, dropping quietly up with the tide. The boys climbed up into the
tops, and thence could see a wide extent of country dotted with
villages stretching beyond the banks, which restricted their view from
the decks. In five hours Bergen-op-Zoom came in sight, and they
presently dropped anchor opposite the town. The boat was lowered, and
the two officers with the lads were rowed ashore. They were met as they
landed by several young officers.
"Welcome back, Vere; welcome, Allen. You have been lucky indeed in
having a few days in England, and getting a view of something besides
this dreary flat country and its sluggish rivers. What is the last news
"There is little news enough," Vere replied. "We were only four days in
London, and were busy all the time. And how are things here? Now that
summer is at hand and the country drying the Dons ought to be
"They say that they are doing so," the officer replied. "We have news
that the Duke of Parma is assembling his army at Bruges, where he is
collecting the pick of the Spanish infantry with a number of Italian
regiments which have joined him. He sent off the Marquess Del Vasto
with the Sieur De Hautepenne towards Bois-le-Duc. General Count
Hohenlohe, who, as you know, we English always call Count Holland, went
off with a large force to meet him, and we heard only this morning that
a battle has been fought, Hautepenne killed, and the fort of Crevecoeur
on the Maas captured. From what I hear, some of our leaders think that
it was a mistake so to scatter our forces, and if Parma moves forward
from Bruges against Sluys, which is likely enough, we shall be sorely
put to it to save the place."
As they were talking they proceeded into the town, and presently
reached the house where Francis Vere had his quarters. The officers and
gentlemen volunteers of his company soon assembled, and Captain Vere
introduced the two boys to them.
"They are young gentlemen of good family," he said, "who will act as my
pages until they are old enough to be enrolled as gentlemen volunteers.
I commend them to your good offices. Their father is a learned and
reverend gentleman who was my tutor, and also tutor to my cousin, the
Earl of Oxford, by whom he is greatly valued. They are lads of spirit,
and have been instructed in the use of arms at Hedingham as if they had
been members of our family, I am sure, gentlemen volunteers, that you
will receive them as friends. I propose that they shall take their
meals with you, but of course they will lodge here with me and my
officers; but as you are in the next house this will cause no
inconvenience. I trust that we shall not remain here long, but shall
soon be on the move. We have now been here seven months, and it is high
time we were doing something. We didn't bargain to come over here and
settle down for life in a dull Dutch town."
In a few hours the boys found themselves quite at home in their new
quarters. The gentlemen volunteers received them cordially, and they
found that for the present their duties would be extremely light,
consisting chiefly in carrying messages and orders; for as the officers
had all servants of their own, Captain Vere dispensed with their
attendance at meals. There was much to amuse and interest them in
Bergen-op-Zoom. It reminded them to some extent of Harwich, with its
narrow streets and quaint houses; but the fortifications were far
stronger, and the number of churches struck them as prodigious. The
population differed in no very large degree in dress from that of
England, but the people struck them as being slower and more deliberate
in their motions. The women's costumes differed much more widely from
those to which they were accustomed, and their strange and varied head-
dresses, their bright-coloured handkerchiefs, and the amount of gold
necklaces and bracelets that they wore, struck them with surprise.
Their stay in Bergen-op-Zoom was even shorter than they had
anticipated, for three days after their arrival a boat came with a
letter from Sir William Russell, the governor at Flushing. He said that
he had just received an urgent letter from the Dutch governor of Sluys,
saying that Parma's army was advancing from Bruges towards the city,
and had seized and garrisoned the fort of Blankenburg on the sea-coast
to prevent reinforcements arriving from Ostend; he therefore prayed the
governor of Flushing to send off troops and provisions with all haste
to enable him to resist the attack. Sir William requested that the
governor of Bergen-op-Zoom would at once embark the greater portion of
his force on board ship and send them to Sluys. He himself was having a
vessel filled with grain for the use of the inhabitants, and was also
sending every man he could spare from Flushing.
In a few minutes all was bustle in the town. The trumpets of the
various companies called the soldiers to arms, and in a very short time
the troops were on their way towards the river. Here several ships had
been requisitioned for the service; and as the companies marched down
they were conducted to the ships to which they were allotted by the
quarter-masters. Geoffrey and Lionel felt no small pride as they
marched down with their troop. They had for the first time donned their
steel-caps, breast and back pieces; but this was rather for convenience
of carriage than for any present utility. They had at Captain Vere's
orders left their ordinary clothes behind them, and were now attired in
thick serviceable jerkins, with skirts coming down nearly to the knee,
like those worn by the troops. They marched at the rear of the company,
the other pages, similarly attired, following them.
As soon as the troops were on board ship, sail was made, and the
vessels dropped down the stream. The wind was very light, and it was
not until thirty hours after starting that the little fleet arrived off
Sluys. The town, which was nearly egg-shaped, lay close to the river,
which was called the Zwin. At the eastern end, in the centre of a
detached piece of water, stood the castle, connected with the town by a
bridge of boats.
The Zwin formed the defence on the north side, while the south and west
were covered by a very wide moat along the centre of which ran a dyke,
dividing it into two channels. On the west side this moat extended to
the Zwin, and was crossed at the point of junction by the bridge
leading to the west gate. The walls inclosed a considerable space,
containing fields and gardens. Seven windmills stood on the ramparts.
The tower of the town-hall, and those of the churches of Our Lady, St.
John, and the Grey Friars rose high above the town.
The ships from Flushing and Bergen-op-Zoom sailed up together, and the
800 men who landed were received with immense enthusiasm by the
inhabitants, who were Protestants, and devoted to the cause of
independence. The English were under the command of Sir Roger Williams,
who had already seen so many years of service in the Low Countries; and
under him were Morgan, Thomas Baskerville, and Huntley, who had long
served with him.
Roger Williams was an admirable man for service of this kind. He had
distinguished himself by many deeds of reckless bravery. He possessed
an inexhaustible fund of confidence and high spirits, and in his
company it was impossible to feel despondent, however desperate the
The citizens placed their houses at the disposal of their new allies,
handsome quarters were allotted to the officers, and the soldiers were
all housed in private dwellings or the warehouses of the merchants. The
inhabitants had already for some days been working hard at their
defences, and the English at once joined them in their labours,
strengthening the weak portions of the walls, mounting cannon upon the
towers, and preparing in all ways to give a warm reception to the
Captain Vere, his lieutenant and ensign and his two pages, were
quartered in the house of a wealthy merchant, whose family did all in
their power to make them comfortable. It was a grand old house, and the
boys, accustomed as they were to the splendours of Hedingham Castle,
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