By England's Aid
G. A. Henty
Part 5 out of 7
"Nineteen men altogether."
"And there are thirty soldiers, and six male passengers in the cabin,"
Gerald said; "so we muster fifty-four. That ought to be enough to beat
off the corsair."
On returning to the deck the captain informed the officer in charge of
the troops on board that a Moorish pirate was putting off towards them,
and that unless the wind came to their aid there was no chance of
escaping a conflict with her.
"Then we must fight her, captain," the officer, who was still a youth,
said cheerfully. "I have thirty men, of whom at least half are
veterans. You have four cannon on board, and there are the crew and
"Fifty-four in all," Gerald said. "We ought to be able to make a good
fight of it."
Orders were at once given, soldiers and crew were mustered and informed
of the approaching danger.
"We have got to fight, men, and to fight hard," the young officer said;
"for if we are beaten you know the result--either our throats will be
cut or we shall have to row in their galleys for the rest of our lives.
So there is not much choice."
In an hour the corsair was half-way between the coast and the vessel.
By this time every preparation had been made for her reception. Arms
had been distributed among the crew and such of the passengers as were
not already provided, the guns had been cast loose and ammunition
brought up, cauldrons of pitch were ranged along the bulwarks and fires
lighted on slabs of stone placed beneath them. The coppers in the
galley were already boiling.
"Now, captain," the young officer said, "do you and your sailors work
the guns and ladle out the pitch and boiling water, and be in readiness
to catch up their pikes and axes and aid in the defence if the villains
gain a footing on the deck. I and my men and the passengers will do our
best to keep them from climbing up."
The vessel was provided with sweeps, and the captain had in the first
place proposed to man them; but Gerald pointed out that the corsair
would row three feet to their one, and that it was important that all
should be fresh and vigorous when the pirates came alongside. The idea
had consequently been abandoned, and the vessel lay motionless in the
water while the corsair was approaching.
Inez, who felt better now that the motion had subsided, came on deck as
the preparations were being made. Gerald told her of the danger that
was approaching. She turned pale.
"This is dreadful, Gerald. I would rather face death a thousand times
than be captured by the Moors."
"We shall beat them off, dear, never fear. They will not reckon upon
the soldiers we have on board, and will expect an easy prize. I do not
suppose that, apart from the galley-slaves, they have more men on board
than we have, and fighting as we do for liberty, each of us ought to be
equal to a couple of these Moorish dogs. When the conflict begins you
must go below."
"I shall not do that," Inez said firmly. "We will share the same fate
whatever it may be, Gerald; and remember that whatever happens I will
not live to be carried captive among them. I will stab myself to the
heart if I see that all is lost."
"You shall come on deck if you will, Inez, when they get close
alongside. I do not suppose there will be many shots fired--they will
be in too great a hurry to board; but as long as they are shooting you
must keep below. After that come up if you will. It would make a coward
of me did I know that a chance shot might strike you."
"Very well, then, Gerald, to please you I will go down until they come
alongside, then come what will I shall be on deck."
As the general opinion on board was that the corsairs would not greatly
outnumber them, while they would be at a great disadvantage from the
lowness of their vessel in the water, there was a general feeling of
confidence, and the approach of the enemy was watched with calmness.
When half a mile distant two puffs of smoke burst out from the
corsair's bows. A moment later a shot struck the ship, and another
threw up the water close to her stern. The four guns of the
_Tarifa_ had been brought over to the side on which the enemy was
approaching, and these were now discharged. One of the shots carried
away some oars on the starboard side of the galley, another struck her
in the bow. There was a slight confusion on board; two or three oars
were shifted over from the port to the starboard side, and she
continued her way.
The guns were loaded again, bags of bullets being this time inserted
instead of balls. The corsairs fired once more, but their shots were
unanswered; and with wild yells and shouts they approached the
motionless Spanish vessel.
"She is crowded with men," Gerald remarked to Geoffrey. "She has far
more on board than we reckoned on."
"We have not given them a close volley yet," Geoffrey replied. "If the
guns are well aimed they will make matters equal."
[Illustration: GEOFFREY FALLS INTO THE HANDS OF THE CORSAIRS]
The corsair was little more than her own length away when the captain
gave the order, and the four guns poured their contents upon her
crowded decks. The effect was terrible. The mass of men gathered in her
bow in readiness to board as soon as she touched the _Tarifa_ were
literally swept away. Another half minute she was alongside the
Spaniard, and the Moors with wild shouts of vengeance tried to clamber
But they had not reckoned upon meeting with more than the ordinary crew
of a merchant ship. The soldiers discharged their arquebuses, and then
with pike and sword opposed an impenetrable barrier to the assailants,
while the sailors from behind ladled over the boiling pitch and water
through intervals purposely left in the line of the defenders. The
conflict lasted but a few minutes. Well-nigh half the Moors had been
swept away by the discharge of the cannon, and the rest, but little
superior in numbers to the Spaniards, were not long before they lost
heart, their efforts relaxed, and shouts arose to the galley-slaves to
"Now, it is our turn!" the young officer cried. "Follow me, my men; we
will teach the dogs a lesson." As he spoke he sprang from the bulwark
down upon the deck of the corsair.
Geoffrey, who was standing next to him, followed his example, as did
five or six soldiers. They were instantly engaged in a hand-to-hand
fight with the Moors. In the din and confusion they heard not the
shouts of their comrades. After a minute's fierce fighting, Geoffrey,
finding that he and his companions were being pressed back, glanced
round to see why support did not arrive, and saw that there were
already thirty feet of water between the two vessels. He was about to
spring overboard, when the Moors made a desperate rush, his guard was
beaten down, a blow from a Moorish scimitar fell on his head, and he
It was a long time before he recovered. The first sound he was aware of
was the creaking of the oars. He lay dreamily listening to this, and
wondering what it meant, until the truth suddenly flashed across him.
He opened his eyes and looked round. A heavy weight lay across his
legs, and he saw the young Spanish officer lying dead there. Several
other Spaniards lay close by, while the deck was strewn with the
corpses of the Moors. He understood at once what had happened. The
vessels had drifted apart just as he sprang on board, cutting off those
who had boarded the corsair from all assistance from their friends, and
as soon as they had been overpowered the galley had started on her
return to the port from which she had come out.
"At any rate," he said to himself, "Gerald and Inez are safe; that is a
comfort, whatever comes of it."
It was not until the corsair dropped anchor near the shore that the
dispirited Moors paid any attention to those by whom their deck was
cumbered. Then the Spaniards were first examined. Four, who were dead,
were at once tossed overboard. Geoffrey and two others who showed signs
of life were left for the present, a bucket of water being thrown over
each to revive them. The Moorish wounded and the dead were then lowered
into boats and taken on shore for care or burial. Then Geoffrey and the
two Spaniards were ordered to rise.
All three were able to do so with some difficulty, and were rowed
ashore. They were received when they landed by the curses and
execrations of the people of the little town, who would have torn them
to pieces had not their captors marched them to the prison occupied by
the galley-slaves when on shore, and left them there. Most of the
galley-slaves were far too exhausted by their long row, and too
indifferent to aught but their own sufferings, to pay any attention to
the new-comers. Two or three, however, came up to them and offered to
assist in bandaging their wounds. Their doublets had already been taken
by their captors; but they now tore strips off their shirts, and with
these staunched the bleeding of their wounds.
"It was lucky for you that five or six of our number were killed by
that discharge of grape you gave us," one of them said, "or they would
have thrown you overboard at once. Although, after all, death is almost
preferable to such a life as ours."
"How long have you been here?" Geoffrey asked.
"I hardly know," the other replied; "one almost loses count of time
here. But it is somewhere about ten years. I am sturdy, you see. Three
years at most is the average of our life in the galleys, though there
are plenty die before as many months have passed. I come of a hardy
race. I am not a Spaniard. I was captured in an attack on a town in the
West Indies, and had three years on board one of your galleys at Cadiz.
Then she was captured by the Moors, and here I have been ever since."
"Then you must be an Englishman!" Geoffrey exclaimed in that language.
The man stared at him stupidly for a minute, and then burst into tears.
"I have never thought to hear my own tongue again, lad," he said,
holding out his hand. "Aye, I am English, and was one of Hawkins' men.
But how come you to be in a Spanish ship? I have heard our masters say,
when talking together, that there is war now between the English and
Spaniards; that is, war at home. There has always been war out on the
Spanish Main, but they know nothing of that."
"I was made prisoner in a fight we had with the great Spanish Armada
off Gravelines," Geoffrey said.
"We heard a year ago from some Spaniards they captured that a great
fleet was being prepared to conquer England; but no news has come to us
since. We are the only galley here, and as our benches were full, the
prisoners they have taken since were sent off at once to Algiers or
other ports, so we have heard nothing. But I told the Spaniards that if
Drake and Hawkins were in England when their great fleet got there,
they were not likely to have it all their own way. Tell me all about
it, lad. You do not know how hungry I am for news from home."
Geoffrey related to the sailor the tale of the overthrow and
destruction of the Armada, which threw him into an ecstasy of
"These fellows," he said, pointing to the other galley-slaves, "have
for the last year been telling me that I need not call myself an
Englishman any more, for that England was only a part of Spain now. I
will open their eyes a bit in the morning. But I won't ask you any more
questions now; it is a shame to have made you talk so much after such a
clip as you have had on the head."
Geoffrey turned round on the sand that formed their only bed, and was
soon asleep, the last sound he heard being the chuckling of his
companion over the discomfiture of the Armada.
In the morning the guard came in with a great dish filled with a sort
of porridge of coarsely-ground grain, boiled with water. In a corner of
the yard were a number of calabashes, each composed of half a gourd.
The slaves each dipped one of these into the vessel, and so eat their
breakfast. Before beginning Geoffrey went to a trough, into which a jet
of water was constantly falling from a small pipe, bathed his head and
face, and took a long drink.
"We may be thankful," the sailor, who had already told him that his
name was Stephen Boldero, said, "that someone in the old times laid on
that water. If it had not been for that I do not know what we should
have done, and a drink of muddy stuff once or twice a day is all we
should have got. That there pure water is just the saving of us."
"What are we going to do now?" Geoffrey asked. "Does the galley go out
"Bless you, no; sometimes not once a month; only when a sail is made
out in sight, and the wind is light enough to give us the chance of
capturing her. Sometimes we go out on a cruise for a month at a time;
but that is not often. At other times we do the work of the town, mend
the roads, sweep up the filth, repair the quays; do anything, in fact,
that wants doing. The work, except in the galleys, is not above a man's
strength. Some men die under it, because the Spaniards lose heart and
turn sullen, and then down comes the whip on their backs, and they
break their hearts over it; but a man as does his best, and is cheerful
and willing, gets on well enough except in the galleys.
"That is work; that is. There is a chap walks up and down with a whip,
and when they are chasing he lets it fall promiscuous, and even if you
are rowing fit to kill yourself you do not escape it; but on shore here
if you keep up your spirits things ain't altogether so bad. Now I have
got you here to talk to in my own lingo I feel quite a different man.
For although I have been here ten years, and can jabber in Spanish, I
have never got on with these fellows; as is only natural, seeing that I
am an Englishman and know all about their doings in the Spanish Main,
and hate them worse than poison. Well, our time is up, so I am off. I
do not expect they will make you work till your wounds are healed a
This supposition turned out correct, and for the next week Geoffrey was
allowed to remain quietly in the yard when the gang went out to their
work. At the end of that time his wound had closed, and being heartily
sick of the monotony of his life, he voluntarily fell in by the side of
Boldero when the gang was called to work. The overseer was apparently
pleased at this evidence of willingness on the part of the young
captive, and said something to him in his own tongue. This his
companion translated as being an order that he was not to work too hard
for the present.
"I am bound to say, mate, that these Moors are, as a rule, much better
masters than the Spaniards. I have tried them both, and I would rather
be in a Moorish galley than a Spanish one by a long way, except just
when they are chasing a ship, and are half wild with excitement. These
Moors are not half bad fellows, while it don't seem to me that a
Spaniard has got a heart in him. Then again, I do not think they are
quite so hard on Englishmen as they are on Spaniards; for they hate the
Spaniards because they drove them out of their country. Once or twice I
have had a talk with the overseer when he has been in a special good
humour, and he knows we hate the Spaniards as much as they do, and that
though they call us all Christian dogs, our Christianity ain't a bit
like that of the Spaniards. I shall let him know the first chance I
have that you are English too, and I shall ask him to let you always
work by the side of me."
As Stephen Boldero had foretold, Geoffrey did not find his work on
shore oppressively hard. He did his best, and as he and his companion
always performed a far larger share of work than that done by any two
of the Spaniards, they gained the good-will of their overlooker, who,
when a fortnight later the principal bey of the place sent down a
request for two slaves to do some rough work in his garden, selected
them for the work.
"Now we will just buckle to, lad," Stephen Boldero said. "This bey is
the captain of the corsair, and he can make things a deal easier for us
if he chooses; so we will not spare ourselves. He had one of the men up
there two years ago, and kept him for some months, and the fellow found
it so hard when he came back here again that he pined and died off in
A guard took them to the bey's house, which stood on high ground behind
the town. The bey came out to examine the men chosen for his work.
"I hear," he said, "that you are both English, and hate the Spaniards
as much as we do. Well, if I find you work well, you will be well
treated; if not, you will be sent back at once. Now, come with me, and
I shall show you what you have to do."
The high wall at the back of the garden had been pulled down, and the
bey intended to enlarge the inclosure considerably.
"You are first," he said, "to dig a foundation for the new wall along
that line marked out by stakes. When that is done you will supply the
masons with stone and mortar. When the wall is finished the new ground
will all have to be dug deeply and planted with shrubs, under the
superintendence of my gardener. While you are working here you will not
return to the prison, but will sleep in that out-house in the garden."
"You shall have no reason to complain of our work," Boldero said. "We
Englishmen are no sluggards, and we do not want a man always looking
after us as those lazy Spaniards do."
As soon as they were supplied with tools Geoffrey and his companion set
to work. The trench for the foundations had to be dug three feet deep;
and though the sun blazed fiercely down upon them, they worked
unflinchingly. From time to time the bey's head servant came down to
examine their progress, and occasionally watched them from among the
trees. At noon he bade them lay aside their tools and come into the
shed, and a slave boy brought them out a large dish of vegetables, with
small pieces of meat in it.
"This is something like food," Stephen said as he sat down to it. "It
is ten years since such a mess as this has passed my lips. I do not
wonder that chap fell ill when he got back to prison if this is the
sort of way they fed him here."
That evening the Moorish overseer reported to the bey that the two
slaves had done in the course of the day as much work as six of the
best native labourers could have performed, and that without his
standing over them or paying them any attention whatever. Moved by the
report, the bey himself went down to the end of the garden.
"It is wonderful," he said, stroking his beard. "Truly these Englishmen
are men of sinews. Never have I seen so much work done by two men in a
day. Take care of them, Mahmoud, and see that they are well fed; the
willing servant should be well cared for."
The work went steadily on until the wall was raised, the ground dug,
and the shrubs planted. It was some months before all this was done,
and the two slaves continued to attract the observation and good-will
of the bey by their steady and cheerful labour. Their work began soon
after sunrise, and continued until noon. Then they had three hours to
themselves to eat their mid-day meal and dose in the shed, and then
worked again until sunset. The bey often strolled down to the edge of
the trees to watch them, and sometimes even took guests to admire the
way in which these two Englishmen, although ignorant that any eyes were
upon them, performed their work.
His satisfaction was evinced by the abundance of food supplied them,
their meal being frequently supplemented by fruit and other little
luxuries. Severely as they laboured, Geoffrey and his companion were
comparatively happy. Short as was the time that the former had worked
with the gang, he appreciated the liberty he now enjoyed, and
especially congratulated himself upon being spared the painful life of
a galley-slave at sea. As to Boldero, the change from the prison with
the companions he hated, its degrading work, and coarse and scanty
food, made a new man of him.
He had been but two-and-twenty when captured by the Spaniards, and was
now in the prime of life and strength. The work, which had seemed very
hard to Geoffrey at first, was to him but as play, while the
companionship of his countryman, his freedom from constant
surveillance, the absence of all care, and the abundance and excellence
of his food, filled him with new life; and the ladies of the boy's
household often sat and listened to the strange songs that rose from
the slaves toiling in the garden.
As the work approached its conclusion Geoffrey and his companion had
many a talk over what would next befall them. There was one reason only
that weighed in favour of the life with the slave-gang. In their
present position there was no possibility whatever, so far as they
could discern, of effecting their escape; whereas, as slaves, should
the galley in which they rowed be overpowered by any ship it attacked,
they would obtain their freedom. The chance of this, however, was
remote, as the fast-rowing galleys could almost always make their
escape should the vessel they attacked prove too strong to be captured.
When the last bed had been levelled and the last shrub planted the
superintendent told them to follow him into the house, as the bey was
desirous of speaking with them. They found him seated on a divan.
"Christians," he said, "I have watched you while you have been at work,
and truly you have not spared yourselves in my service, but have
laboured for me with all your strength, well and willingly. I see now
that it is true that the people of your nation differ much from the
Spaniards, who are dogs.
"I see that trust is to be placed in you, and were you but true
believers I would appoint you to a position where you could win credit
and honour. As it is, I cannot place you over believers in the prophet;
but neither am I willing that you should return to the gang from which
I took you. I will, therefore, leave you free to work for yourselves.
There are many of my friends who have seen you labouring, and will give
you employment. It will be known in the place that you are under my
protection, and that any who insult or ill-treat you will be severely
punished. Should you have any complaint to make, come freely to me and
I will see that justice is done you.
"This evening a crier will go through the place proclaiming that the
two English galley-slaves have been given their freedom by me, and will
henceforth live in the town without molestation from anyone, carrying
on their work and selling their labour like true believers. The crier
will inform the people that the nation to which you belong is at war
with our enemies the Spaniards, and that, save as to the matter of your
religion, you are worthy of being regarded as friends by all good
Moslems. My superintendent will go down with you in the morning. I have
ordered him to hire a little house for you and furnish it with what is
needful, to recommend you to your neighbours, and to give you a purse
of piastres with which to maintain yourselves until work comes to you."
Stephen Boldero expressed the warmest gratitude, on the part of his
companion and himself, to the bey for his kindness.
"I have done but simple justice," the bey said, "and no thanks are
necessary. Faithful work should have its reward, and as you have done
to me so I do to you."
The next morning as they were leaving, a female slave presented them
with a purse of silver, the gift of the bey's wife and daughters, who
had often derived much pleasure from the songs of the two captives. The
superintendent conducted them to a small hut facing the sea. It was
furnished with the few articles that were, according to native ideas,
necessary for comfort. There were cushions on the divan of baked clay
raised about a foot above the floor, which served as a sofa during the
day and as a bed at night. There was a small piece of carpet on the
floor and a few cooking utensils on a shelf, and some dishes of burnt
clay; and nothing more was required. There was, however, a small chest,
in which, after the superintendent had left, they found two sets of
garments as worn by the natives.
"This is a comfort indeed," Geoffrey said. "My clothes are all in rags,
and as for yours the less we say about them the better. I shall feel
like a new man in these things."
"I shall be glad myself," Stephen agreed, "for the clothes they give
the galley-slaves are scarce decent for a Christian man to wear. My
consolation has been that if they had been shocked by our appearance
they would have given us more clothes; but as they did not mind it
there was no reason why I should. Still it would be a comfort to be
cleanly and decent again."
For the first few days the natives of the place looked askance at these
Christians in their midst, but the bey's orders had been peremptory
that no insults should be offered to them. Two days after their
liberation one of the principal men of the place sent for them and
employed them in digging the foundations for a fountain, and a deep
trench of some hundred yards in length for the pipe for bringing water
to it. After that they had many similar jobs, receiving always the
wages paid to regular workmen, and giving great satisfaction by their
steady toil. Sometimes when not otherwise engaged they went out in
boats with fishermen, receiving a portion of the catch in payment of
So some months passed away. Very frequently they talked over methods of
Escape. The only plan that seemed at all possible was to take a boat
and make out to sea; but they knew that they would be pursued, and if
overtaken would revert to their former life at the galleys, a change
which would be a terrible one indeed after the present life of freedom
and independence. They knew, too, that they might be days before
meeting with a ship, for all traders in the Mediterranean hugged the
northern shores as much as possible in order to avoid the dreaded
corsairs, and there would be a far greater chance of their being
recaptured by one of the Moorish cruisers than of lighting upon a
"It is a question of chance," Stephen said, "and when the chance comes
we will seize it; but it is no use our giving up a life against which
there is not much to be said, unless some fair prospect of escape
offers itself to us."
"In one respect," Geoffrey said, as they were talking over their chance
of escape, "I am sorry that the bey has behaved so kindly to us."
"What is that?" Stephen Boldero asked in surprise.
"Well, I was thinking that were it not for that we might manage to
contrive some plan of escape in concert with the galley-slaves, get
them down to the shore here, row off to the galley, overpower the three
or four men who live on board her, and make off with her. Of course we
should have had to accumulate beforehand a quantity of food and some
barrels of water, for I have noticed that when they go out they always
take their stores on board with them, and bring on shore on their
return what has not been consumed. Still, I suppose that could be
managed. However, it seems to me that our hands are tied in that
direction by the kindness of the bey. After his conduct to us it would
be ungrateful in the extreme for us to carry off his galley."
"So it would, Geoffrey. Besides I doubt whether the plan would succeed.
You may be sure the Spaniards are as jealous as can be of the good
fortune that we have met with, and were we to propose such a scheme to
them the chances are strongly in favour of one of them trying to better
his own position by denouncing us. I would only trust them as far as I
can see them. No, if we ever do anything it must be done by ourselves.
There is no doubt that if some night when there is a strong wind
blowing from the south-east we were to get on board one of these
fishing-boats, hoist a sail, and run before it, we should not be far
off from the coast of Spain before they started to look for us. But
what better should we be there? We can both talk Spanish well enough,
but we could not pass as Spaniards. Besides, they would find out soon
enough that we were not Catholics, and where should we be then? Either
sent to row in their galleys or clapped into the dungeons of the
Inquisition, and like enough burnt alive at the stake. That would be
out of the frying-pan into the fire with vengeance."
"I think we might pass as Spaniards," Geoffrey said; "for there is a
great deal of difference between the dialects of the different
provinces, and confined as you have been for the last ten years with
Spanish sailors you must have caught their way of talking. Still, I
agree with you it will be better to wait for a bit longer for any
chance that may occur rather than risk landing in Spain again, where
even if we passed as natives we should have as hard work to get our
living as we have here, and with no greater chance of making our way
During the time that they had been captives some three or four vessels
had been brought in by the corsair. The men composing the crews had
been either sold as slaves to Moors or Arabs in the interior or sent to
Algiers, which town lay over a hundred miles to the east. They were of
various nationalities, Spanish, French, and Italian, as the two friends
learned from the talk of the natives, for they always abstained from
going near the point where the prisoners were landed, as they were
powerless to assist the unfortunate captives in any way, and the sight
of their distress was very painful to them.
One day, however, they learned from the people who were running down to
the shore to see the captives landed from a ship that had been brought
in by the corsair during the night, that there were two or three women
among the captives. This was the first time that any females had been
captured since their arrival at the place, for women seldom travelled
far from their homes in those days except the wives of high officials
journeying in great ships that were safe from the attack of the Moorish
"Let us go down and see them," Boldero said. "I have not seen the face
of a white woman for nine years."
"I will go if you like," Geoffrey said. "They will not guess that we
are Europeans, for we are burnt as dark as the Moors."
They went down to the landing-place. Eight men and two women were
landed from the boat. These were the sole survivors of the crew.
"They are Spaniards," Boldero said. "I pity that poor girl. I suppose
the other woman is her servant."
The girl, who was about sixteen years of age, was very pale, and had
evidently been crying terribly. She did not seem to heed the cries and
threats with which the townspeople as usual assailed the newly-arrived
captives, but kept her eyes fixed upon one of the captives who walked
"That is her father, no doubt," Geoffrey said. "It is probably her last
look at him. Come away, Stephen; I am awfully sorry we came here. I
shall not be able to get that girl's face out of my mind for I don't
know how long."
Without a word they went back to their hut. They had no particular work
that day. Geoffrey went restlessly in and out, sometimes pacing along
the strand, sometimes coming in and throwing himself on the divan.
Stephen Boldero went on quietly mending a net that had been damaged the
night before, saying nothing, but glancing occasionally with an amused
look at his companion's restless movements, Late in the afternoon
Geoffrey burst out suddenly: "Stephen, we must try and rescue that girl
somehow from her fate."
"I supposed that was what it was coming to," Boldero said quietly.
"Well, let me hear all about it. I know you have been thinking it over
ever since morning. What are your ideas?"
"I do not know that I have any ideas beyond getting her and her father
down to a boat and making off."
"Well, you certainly have not done much if you haven't got farther than
that," Stephen said drily. "Now, if you had spent the day talking it
over with me instead of wandering about like one out of his mind, we
should have got a great deal further than that by this time. However, I
have been thinking for you. I know what you young fellows are. As soon
as I saw that girl's face and looked at you I was dead certain there
was an end of peace and quietness, and that you would be bent upon some
plan of getting her off. It did not need five minutes to show that I
was right; and I have been spending my time thinking, while you have
thrown yours away in fidgeting.
"Well, I think it is worth trying. Of course it will be a vastly more
difficult job getting the girl and her father away than just taking a
boat and sailing off as we have often talked of doing. Then, on the
other hand, it would altogether alter our position afterwards. By his
appearance and hers I have no doubt he is a well-to-do trader, perhaps
a wealthy one. He walked with his head upright when the crowd were
yelling and cursing, and is evidently a man of courage and
determination. Now, if we had reached the Spanish coast by ourselves we
should have been questioned right and left, and, as I have said all
along, they would soon have found that we were not Spaniards, for we
could not have said where we came from, or given our past history, or
said where our families lived. But it would be altogether different if
we landed with them. Every one would be interested about them. We
should only be two poor devils of sailors who had escaped with them,
and he would help to pass it off and get us employment; so that the
difficulty that has hitherto prevented us from trying to escape is very
greatly diminished. Now, as to getting them away. Of course she has
been taken up to the bey's, and no doubt he will send her as a present
to the bey of Algiers. I know that is what has been done several times
before when young women have been captured.
"I have been thinking it over, and I do not see a possibility of
getting to speak to her as long as she is at the bey's. I do not see
that it can be done anyhow. She will be indoors most of the time, and
if she should go into the garden there would be other women with her.
Our only plan, as far as I can see at present, would be to carry her
off from her escort on the journey. I do not suppose she will have more
than two, or at most three, mounted men with her, and we ought to be
able to dispose of them. As to her father, the matter is comparatively
easy. We know the ways of the prison, and I have no doubt we can get
him out somehow; only there is the trouble of the question of time. She
has got to be rescued and brought back and hidden somewhere till
nightfall, he has got to be set free the same evening, and we have to
embark early enough to be well out of sight before daylight; and maybe
there will not be a breath of wind stirring. It is a tough job,
Geoffrey, look at it which way you will."
"It is a tough job," Geoffrey agreed. "I am afraid the escort would be
stronger than you think. A present of this kind to the bey is regarded
as important, and I should say half a dozen horsemen at least will be
sent with her. In that case an attempt at rescue would be hopeless. We
have no arms, and if we had we could not kill six mounted men; and if
even one escaped, our plans would be all defeated. The question is,
would they send her by land? It seems to me quite as likely that they
might send her by water."
"Yes, that is likely enough, Geoffrey. In that case everything would
depend upon the vessel he sent her in. If it is the great galley there
is an end of it; if it is one of their little coasters it might be
managed. We are sure to learn that before long. The bey might keep her
for a fortnight or so, perhaps longer, for her to recover somewhat from
her trouble and get up her good looks again, so as to add to the value
of the present. If she were well and bright she would be pretty enough
for anything. In the meantime we can arrange our plans for getting her
father away. Of course if she goes with a big escort on horseback, or
if she goes in the galley, there is an end of our plans. I am ready to
help you, Geoffrey, if there is a chance of success; but I am not going
to throw away my life if there is not, and unless she goes down in a
coaster there is an end of the scheme."
"I quite agree to that," Geoffrey replied; "we cannot accomplish
They learned upon the following day that three of the newly-arrived
captives were to take the places of the galley-slaves who had been
killed in the capture of the Spanish ship, which had defended itself
stoutly, and that the others were to be sold for work in the interior.
"It is pretty certain," Boldero said, "that the trader will not be one
of the three chosen for the galley. The work would break him down in a
month. That makes that part of the business easier, for we can get him
away on the journey inland, and hide him up here until his daughter is
Geoffrey looked round the bare room.
"Well, I do not say as how we could hide him here," Boldero said in
answer to the look, "but we might hide him somewhere among the sand-
hills outside the place, and take him food at night."
"Yes, we might do that," Geoffrey agreed. "That could be managed easily
enough, I should think, for there are clumps of bushes scattered all
over the sand-hills half a mile back from the sea. The trouble will be
if we get him here, and find after all that we cannot rescue his
"That will make no difference," Boldero said. "In that case we will
make off with him alone. Everything else will go on just the same. Of
course, I should be very sorry not to save the girl; but, as far as we
are concerned, if we save the father it will answer our purpose."
Geoffrey made no reply. Just at that moment his own future was a very
secondary matter, in comparison, to the rescue of this unhappy Spanish
Geoffrey and his companion had been in the habit of going up
occasionally to the prison. They had won over the guard by small
presents, and were permitted to go in and out with fruit and other
little luxuries for the galley-slaves. They now abstained from going
near the place, in order that no suspicion might fall upon them after
his escape of having had any communication with the Spanish trader.
Shortly after the arrival of the captives two merchants from the
interior came down, and Geoffrey learned that they had visited the
prison, and had made a bargain with the bey for all the captives except
those transferred to the galley. The two companions had talked the
matter over frequently, and had concluded it was best that only one of
them should be engaged in the adventure, for the absence of both might
be noticed. After some discussion it was agreed that Geoffrey should
undertake the task, and that Boldero should go alone to the house where
they were now at work, and should mention that his friend was unwell,
and was obliged to remain at home for the day.
As they knew the direction in which the captives would be taken
Geoffrey started before daybreak, and kept steadily along until he
reached a spot where it was probable they would halt for the night. It
was twenty miles away, and there was here a well of water and a grove
of trees. Late in the afternoon he saw the party approaching. It
consisted of the merchants, two armed Arabs, and the five captives, all
of whom were carrying burdens. They were crawling painfully along,
overpowered by the heat of the sun, by the length of the journey, and
by the weight they carried. Several times the Arabs struck them heavily
with their sticks to force them to keep up.
Geoffrey retired from the other side of the clump of trees, and lay
down in a depression of the sand-hills until darkness came on, when he
again entered the grove, and crawling cautiously forward made his way
close up to the party. A fire was blazing, and a meal had been already
cooked and eaten. The traders and the two Arabs were sitting by the
fire; the captives were lying extended on the ground. Presently, at the
command of one of the Arabs, they rose to their feet and proceeded to
collect some more pieces of wood for the fire. As they returned the
light fell on the gray hair of the man upon whom Geoffrey had noticed
that the girl's eyes were fixed.
He noted the place where he lay down, and had nothing to do now but to
wait until the party were asleep. He felt sure that no guard would be
set, for any attempt on the part of the captives to escape would be
nothing short of madness. There was nowhere for them to go, and they
would simply wander about until they died of hunger and exhaustion, or
until they were recaptured, in which case they would be almost beaten
to death. In an hour's time the traders and their men lay down by the
fire, and all was quiet. Geoffrey crawled round until he was close to
the Spaniard. He waited until he felt sure that the Arabs were asleep,
and then crawled up to him. The man started as he touched him.
"Silence, senor," Geoffrey whispered in Spanish; "I am a friend, and
have come to rescue you."
"I care not for life; a few days of this work will kill me, and the
sooner the better. I have nothing to live for. They killed my wife the
other day, and my daughter is a captive in their hands. I thank you,
whoever you are, but I will not go."
"We are going to try to save your daughter too," Geoffrey whispered;
"we have a plan for carrying you both off."
The words gave new life to the Spaniard.
"In that case, sir, I am ready. Whoever you are whom God has sent to my
aid I will follow you blindly, whatever comes of it."
Geoffrey crawled away a short distance, followed by the Spaniard. As
soon as they were well beyond the faint light now given out by the
expiring fire they rose to their feet, and gaining the track took their
way on the backward road. As soon as they were fairly away, Geoffrey
explained to the Spaniard who he was, and how he had undertaken to
endeavour to rescue him. The joy and gratitude of the Spaniard were too
deep for words, and he uttered his thanks in broken tones. When they
had walked about a mile Geoffrey halted.
"Sit down here," he said. "I have some meat and fruit here and a small
skin of water. We have a long journey before us, for we must get near
the town you left this morning before daybreak, and you must eat to
keep up your strength."
"I did not think," the Spaniard said, "when we arrived at the well,
that I could have walked another mile had my life depended upon it. Now
I feel a new man, after the fresh hope you have given me. I no longer
feel the pain of my bare feet or the blisters the sun has raised on my
naked back. I am struggling now for more than life--for my daughter.
You shall not find me fail, sir."
All night they toiled on. The Spaniard kept his promise, and utterly
exhausted as he was, and great as was the pain in his limbs, held on
bravely. With the first dawn of morning they saw the line of the sea
before them. They now turned off from the track, and in another half
hour the Spaniard took shelter in a clump of bushes in a hollow, while
Geoffrey, having left with him the remainder of the supply of
provisions and water, pursued his way and reached the hut just as the
sun was shining in the east, and without having encountered a single
"Well, have you succeeded?" Boldero asked eagerly, as he entered.
"Yes; I have got him away. He is in hiding within a mile of this place.
He kept on like a hero. I was utterly tired myself, and how he managed
to walk the distance after what he had gone through in the day is more
than I can tell. His name is Mendez. He is a trader in Cadiz, and owns
many vessels. He was on his way to Italy, with his wife and daughter,
in one of his own ships, in order to gratify the desire of his wife to
visit the holy places at Rome. She was killed by a cannon-shot during
the fight, and his whole heart is now wrapped up in his daughter. And
now, Stephen, I must lie down and sleep. You will have to go to work
alone to-day again, and can truly say that I am still unfit for
Four days later it became known in the little town that a messenger had
arrived from the merchant who bought the slaves from the bey, saying
that one of them had made his escape from their first halting-place.
"The dog will doubtless die in the desert," the merchant wrote; "but if
he should find his way down, or you should hear of him as arriving at
any of the villages, I pray you to send him up to me with a guard. I
will so treat him that it will be a lesson to my other slaves not to
follow his example."
Every evening after dark Geoffrey went out with a supply of food and
water to the fugitive. For a week he had no news to give him as to his
daughter; but on the eighth night he said that he and his companion had
that morning been sent by the bey on board the largest of the coasting
vessels in the port, with orders to paint the cabins and put them in a
fit state for the reception of a personage of importance.
"This is fortunate, indeed," Geoffrey went on. "No doubt she is
intended for the transport of your daughter. Her crew consists of a
captain and five men, but at present they are living ashore; and as we
shall be going backwards and forwards to her, we ought to have little
difficulty in getting on board and hiding away in the hold before she
starts. I think everything promises well for the success of our
The bey's superintendent came down the next day to see how matters were
going on on board the vessel. The painting was finished that evening,
and the next day two slaves brought down a quantity of hangings and
cushions, which Geoffrey and his companion assisted the superintendent
to hang up and place in order. Provisions and water had already been
taken on board, and they learnt that the party who were to sail in her
would come off early the next morning.
At midnight Geoffrey, Boldero, and the Spaniard came down to the little
port, embarked in a fisherman's boat moored at the stairs, and
noiselessly rowed off to the vessel. They mounted on to her deck
barefooted. Boldero was the last to leave the boat, giving her a
vigorous push with his foot in the direction of the shore, from which
the vessel was but some forty yards away. They descended into the hold,
where they remained perfectly quiet until the first light of dawn
enabled them to see what they were doing, and then moved some baskets
full of vegetables, and concealed themselves behind them.
A quarter of an hour later they heard a boat come alongside, and the
voices of the sailors. Then they heard the creaking of cordage as the
sails were let fall in readiness for a start. Half an hour later
another boat came alongside. There was a trampling of feet on the deck
above them, and the bey's voice giving orders. A few minutes later the
anchor was raised, there was more talking on deck, and then they heard
a boat push off, and knew by the rustle of water against the planks
beside them that the vessel was under way.
The wind was light and the sea perfectly calm, and beyond the slight
murmur of the water, those below would not have known that the ship was
in motion. It was very hot down in the hold, but fortunately the crew
had not taken the trouble to put on the hatches, and at times a faint
breath of air could be felt below. Geoffrey and his companion talked
occasionally in low tones; but the Spaniard was so absorbed by his
anxiety as to the approaching struggle, and the thought that he might
soon clasp his daughter to his arms, that he seldom spoke.
No plans could be formed as to the course they were to take, for they
could not tell whether those of the crew off duty would retire to sleep
in the little forecastle or would lie down on deck. Then, too, they
were ignorant as to the number of men who had come on board with the
captive. The overseer had mentioned the day before that he was going,
and it was probable that three or four others would accompany him.
Therefore they had to reckon upon ten opponents. Their only weapons
were three heavy iron bolts, some two feet long. These Boldero had
purchased in exchange for a few fish, when a prize brought in was
broken up as being useless for the purposes of the Moors.
"What I reckon is," he said, "that you and I ought to be able to settle
two apiece of these fellows before they fairly know what is happening.
The Don ought very well to account for another. So that only leaves
five of them; and five against three are no odds worth speaking of,
especially when the five are woke up by a sudden attack, and ain't sure
how many there are against them. I don't expect much trouble over the
"I don't want to kill more of the poor fellows than I can help,"
"No more do I; but you see it's got to be either killing or being
killed, and I am perfectly certain which I prefer. Still, as you say,
if the beggars are at all reasonable I ain't for hurting them, but the
first few we have got to hit hard. When we get matters a little even,
we can speak them fair."
The day passed slowly, and in spite of their bent and cramped position
Geoffrey and Stephen Boldero dozed frequently. The Spaniard never
closed an eye. He was quite prepared to take his part in the struggle;
and as he was not yet fifty years of age, his assistance was not to be
despised. But the light-hearted carelessness of his companions, who
joked under their breath, and laughed and eat unconcernedly with a
life-and-death struggle against heavy odds before them, surprised him
As darkness came on the party below became wakeful. Their time was
coming now, and they had no doubt whatever as to the result. Their most
formidable opponents would be the men who had come on board with the
bey's superintendent, as these, no doubt, would be fully armed. As for
the sailors, they might have arms on board, but these would not be
ready to hand, and it was really only with the guards they would have
"I tell you what I think would be a good plan, Stephen," Geoffrey said
suddenly. "You see, there is plenty of spare line down here; if we wait
until they are all asleep we can go round and tie their legs together,
or put ropes round their ankles and fasten them to ring-bolts. If we
could manage that without waking them, we might capture the craft
without shedding any blood, and might get them down into the hold one
after the other."
"I think that is a very good plan," Stephen agreed. "I do not like the
thought of knocking sleeping men on the head any more than you do; and
if we are careful, we might get them all tied up before an alarm is
given. There, the anchor has gone down. I thought very likely they
would not sail at night. That is capital. You may be sure that they
will be pretty close inshore, and they probably will have only one man
on watch; and as likely as not not even one, for they will not dream of
any possible danger."
For another two hours the sound of talk on deck went on, but at last
all became perfectly quiet. The party below waited for another half
hour, and then noiselessly ascended the ladder to the deck, holding in
one hand a cudgel, in the other a number of lengths of line cut about
six feet long. Each as he reached the deck lay down flat. The Spaniard
had been told to remain perfectly quiet while the other two went about
First they crawled aft, for the bey's guards would, they knew, be
sleeping at that end, and working together they tied the legs of these
men without rousing them. The ropes could not be tightly pulled, as
this would at once have disturbed them. They were therefore fastened
somewhat in the fashion of manacles, so that although the men might
rise to their feet they would fall headlong the moment they tried to
walk. In addition other ropes were fastened to these and taken from one
man to another. Then their swords were drawn from the sheaths and their
knives from their sashes.
The operation was a long one, as it had to be conducted with the
greatest care and caution. They then crept back to the hatchway and
told the Spaniard that the most formidable enemies had been made safe.
"Here are a sword and a knife for you, senor; and now as we are all
armed I consider the ship as good as won, for the sailors are not
likely to make much resistance by themselves. However, we will secure
some of them. The moon will be up in half an hour, and that will be an
advantage to us."
The captain and three of the sailors were soon tied up like the others.
Two men were standing in the bow of the vessel leaning against the
bulwarks, and when the moon rose it could be seen by their attitude
that both were asleep.
"Now, we may as well begin," Geoffrey said. "Let us take those two
fellows in the bow by surprise. Hold a knife to their throats, and tell
them if they utter the least sound we will kill them. Then we will make
them go down into the forecastle and fasten them there."
"I am ready," Stephen said, and they stole forward to the two sleeping
men. They grasped them suddenly by the throat and held a knife before
their eyes, Boldero telling them in a stern whisper that if they
uttered a cry they would be stabbed to the heart. Paralysed by the
sudden attack they did not make the slightest struggle, but accompanied
their unknown assailants to the forecastle and were there fastened in.
Joined now by the Spaniard, Geoffrey and his companion went aft and
roused one of the sleepers there with a threat similar to that which
had silenced the sailors.
He was, however, a man of different stuff. He gave a loud shout and
grappled with Boldero, who struck him a heavy blow with his fist in the
face, and this for a moment silenced him; but the alarm being given,
the superintendent and the two men struggled to their feet, only
however to fall prostrate as soon as they tried to walk.
"Lie quiet and keep silence!" Boldero shouted in a threatening voice.
"You are unarmed and at our mercy. Your feet are bound and you are
perfectly helpless. We do not wish to take your lives, but unless you
are quiet we shall be compelled to do so."
The men had discovered by this time that their arms had gone, and were
utterly disconcerted by the heavy and unexpected fall they had just
had. Feeling that they were indeed at the mercy of their captors, they
"Now then," Boldero went on, "one at a time. Keep quiet, you rascals
there!" he broke off, shouting to the sailors who were rolling and
tumbling on the deck forward, "or I will cut all your throats for you.
Now then, Geoffrey, do you and the senor cut the rope that fastens that
man on the port side to his comrades. March him to the hatchway and
make him go down into the hold. Keep your knives ready and kill him at
once if he offers the slightest resistance."
One by one the superintendent, the three guards, the captain and
sailors were all made to descend into the hold, and the hatches were
put over it and fastened down.
"Now, senor," Geoffrey said, "we can spare you."
The Spaniard hurried to the cabin, opened the door, and called out his
daughter's name. There was a scream of delight within as Dolores
Mendez, who had been awakened by the tumult, recognized her father's
voice, and leaping up from her couch threw herself into his arms.
Geoffrey and his companion now opened the door of the forecastle and
called the two sailors out.
"Now," Boldero said, "if you want to save your lives you have got to
obey our orders. First of all fall to work and get up the anchor, and
then shake out the sails again. I will take the helm, Geoffrey, and do
you keep your eye on these two fellows. There is no fear of their
playing any tricks now that they see they are alone on deck, but they
might, if your back were turned, unfasten the hatches. However, I do
not think we need fear trouble that way, as for ought they know we may
have cut the throats of all the others."
A few minutes later the vessel was moving slowly through the water with
her head to the north-west.
"We must be out of sight of land if we can by the morning," Stephen
said, when Geoffrey two hours later came to take his place at the helm;
"at any rate until we have passed the place we started from. Once
beyond that it does not matter much; but it will be best either to keep
out of sight of land altogether, or else to sail pretty close to it, so
that they can see the boat is one of their own craft. We can choose
which we will do when we see which way the breeze sets in in the
It came strongly from the south, and they therefore determined to sail
direct for Carthagena.
A SPANISH MERCHANT.
As soon as the sails had been set, and the vessel was under way, the
Spaniard came out from the cabin. "My daughter is attiring herself,
senor," he said to Stephen Boldero, for Geoffrey was at the time at the
helm. "She is longing to see you, and to thank you for the inestimable
services you have rendered to us both. But for you I should now be
dying or dead, my daughter a slave for life in the palace of the bey.
What astonishes us both is, that such noble service should have been
rendered to us by two absolute strangers, and not strangers only, but
by Englishmen--a people with whom Spain is at war--and who assuredly
can have no reason to love us. How came you first to think of
interesting yourself on our behalf?"
"To tell you the truth, senor," Stephen Boldero said bluntly, "it was
the sight of your daughter and not of yourself that made us resolve to
save you if possible, or rather, I should say, made my friend Geoffrey
do so. After ten years in the galleys one's heart gets pretty tough,
and although even I felt a deep pity for your daughter, I own it would
never have entered my mind to risk my neck in order to save her. But
Geoffrey is younger and more easily touched, and when he saw her as she
landed pale and white and grief-stricken, and yet looking as if her own
fate touched her less than the parting from you, my good friend
Geoffrey Vickars was well-nigh mad, and declared that in some way or
other, and at whatever risk to ourselves, you must both be saved. In
this matter I have been but a passive instrument in his hands; as
indeed it was only right that I should be, seeing that he is of gentle
blood and an esquire serving under Captain Vere in the army of the
queen, while I am but a rough sailor. What I have done I have done
partly because his heart was in the matter, partly because the
adventure promised, if successful, to restore me to freedom, and partly
also, senor, for the sake of your brave young daughter."
"Ah, you are modest, sir," the Spaniard said. "You are one of those who
belittle your own good deeds. I feel indeed more grateful than I can
express to you as well as to your friend."
The merchant's daughter now appeared at the door of the cabin. Her
father took her hand and led her up to Boldero. "This, Dolores, is one
of the two Englishmen who have at the risk of their lives saved me from
death and you from worse than death. Thank him, my child, and to the
end of your life never cease to remember him in your prayers."
"I am glad to have been of assistance, senora," Boldero said as the
girl began to speak; "but as I have just been telling your father, I
have played but a small part in the business, it is my friend Don
Geoffrey Vickars who has been the leader in the matter. He saw you as
you landed at the boat, and then and there swore to save you, and all
that has been done has been under his direction. It was he who followed
and rescued your father, and I have really had nothing to do with the
affair beyond hiding myself in the hole and helping to tie up your
"Ah, sir," the girl said, laying her hands earnestly upon the sailor's
shoulder, "it is useless for you to try to lessen the services you have
rendered us. Think of what I was but an hour since--a captive with the
most horrible of all fates before me, and with the belief that my
father was dying by inches in the hands of some cruel task-master, and
now he is beside me and I am free. This has been done by two strangers,
men of a nation which I have been taught to regard as an enemy. It
seems to me that no words that I can speak could tell you even faintly
what I feel, and it is God alone who can reward you for what you have
Leaving Boldero the Spaniard and his daughter went to the stern, where
Geoffrey was standing at the helm.
"My daughter and I have come to thank you, senor, for having saved us
from the worst of fates and restored us to each other. Your friend
tells me that it is to you it is chiefly due that this has come about,
for that you were so moved to pity at the sight of my daughter when we
first landed, that you declared at once that you would save her from
her fate at whatever risk to yourself, and that since then he has been
but following your directions."
"Then if he says that, senor, he belies himself. I was, it is true, the
first to declare that we must save your daughter at any cost if it were
possible to do so; but had I not said so, I doubt not he would have
announced the same resolution. Since then we have planned every thing
together; and as he is older and more experienced than I am, it was
upon his opinion that we principally acted. We had long made up our
minds to escape when the opportunity came. Had it not been that we were
stirred into action by seeing your daughter in the hands of the Moors,
it might have been years before we decided to run the risks. Therefore
if you owe your freedom to us, to some extent we owe ours to you; and
if we have been your protectors so far, we hope that when we arrive in
Spain you will be our protectors there, for to us Spain is as much an
enemy's country as Barbary."
"That you can assuredly rely upon," the trader replied. "All that I
have is at your disposal."
For an hour they stood talking. Dolores said but little. She had felt
no shyness with the stalwart sailor, but to this youth who had done her
such signal service she felt unable so frankly to express her feelings
By morning the coast of Africa was but a faint line on the horizon, and
the ship was headed west. Except when any alteration of the sails was
required, the two Moors who acted as the crew were made to retire into
the forecastle, and were there fastened in, Geoffrey and Boldero
sleeping by turns.
After breakfast the little party gathered round the helm, and at the
request of Juan Mendez, Geoffrey and Stephen both related how it befell
that they had become slaves to the Moors.
"Your adventures are both singular," the trader said when they had
finished. "Yours, Don Geoffrey, are extraordinary. It is marvellous
that you should have been picked up in that terrible fight, and should
have shared in all the perils of that awful voyage back to Spain
without its being ever suspected that you were English. Once landed in
the service as you say of Senor Burke, it is not so surprising that you
should have gone freely about Spain. But your other adventures are
wonderful, and you and your friend were fortunate indeed in succeeding
as you did in carrying off the lady he loved; and deeply they must have
mourned your supposed death on the deck of the Moorish galley. And now
tell me what are your plans when you arrive in Spain?"
"We have no fixed plans, save that we hope some day to be able to
return home," Geoffrey said. "Stephen here could pass well enough as a
Spaniard when once ashore without being questioned, and his idea is, if
there is no possibility of getting on board an English or Dutch ship at
Cadiz, to ship on board a Spaniard, and to take his chance of leaving
her at some port at which she may touch. As for myself, although I
speak Spanish fluently, my accent would at once betray me to be a
foreigner. But if you will take me into your house for a time until I
can see a chance of escaping, my past need not be inquired into. You
could of course mention, were it asked, that I was English by birth,
but had sailed in the Armada with my patron, Mr. Burke, and it would be
naturally supposed that I was an exile from England."
"That can certainly be managed," the trader said. "I fear that it will
be difficult to get you on board a ship either of your countrymen or of
the Hollanders; these are most closely watched lest fugitives from the
law or from the Inquisition should escape on board them. Still, some
opportunity may sooner or later occur; and the later the better pleased
shall I be, for it will indeed be a pleasure to me to have you with
In the afternoon Geoffrey said to Stephen, "I have been thinking,
Stephen, about the men in the hold, and I should be glad for them to
return to their homes. If they go with us to Spain they will be made
galley-slaves, and this I should not like, especially in the case of
the bey's superintendent. The bey was most kind to us, and this man
himself always spoke in our favour to him, and behaved well to us. I
think, therefore, that out of gratitude to the bey we should let them
go. The wind is fair, and there are, so far as I can see, no signs of
any change of weather. By to-morrow night the coast of Spain will be in
sight. I see no reason, therefore, why we should not be able to
navigate her until we get near the land, when Mendez can engage the
crew of some fishing-boat to take us into a port. If we put them into
the boat with plenty of water and provisions, they will make the coast
by morning; and as I should guess that we must at present be somewhere
abreast of the port from which we started, they will not be very far
from home when they land."
"I have no objection whatever, Geoffrey. As you say we were not treated
badly, at any rate from the day when the bey had us up to his house;
and after ten years in the galleys, I do not wish my worst enemies such
a fate. We must, of course, be careful how we get them into the boat."
"There will be three of us with swords and pistols, and they will be
unarmed," Geoffrey said. "We will put the two men now in the forecastle
into the boat first, and let the others come up one by one and take
their places. We will have a talk with the superintendent first, and
give him a message to the bey, saying that we are not ungrateful for
his kindness to us, but that of course we seized the opportunity that
presented itself of making our escape, as he would himself have done in
similar circumstances; nevertheless that as a proof of our gratitude to
him, we for his sake release the whole party on board, and give them
the means of safely returning."
An hour later the boat, pulled by four oars, left the side of the ship
with the crew, the superintendent and guards, and the two women who had
come on board to attend upon Dolores upon the voyage.
The next morning the vessel was within a few miles of the Spanish
coast. An hour later a fishing-boat was hailed, and an arrangement made
with the crew to take the vessel down to Carthagena, which was, they
learned, some fifty miles distant. The wind was now very light, and it
was not until the following day that they entered the port. As it was
at once perceived that the little vessel was Moorish in rigging and
appearance, a boat immediately came alongside to inquire whence she
Juan Mendez had no difficulty in satisfying the officer as to his
identity, he being well known to several traders in the town. His story
of the attack upon his ship by Barbary pirates, its capture, and his
own escape and that of his daughter by the aid of two Christian
captives, excited great interest as soon as it became known in the
town; for it was rare, indeed, that a captive ever succeeded in making
his escape from the hands of the Moors. It had already been arranged
that, in telling his story, the trader should make as little as
possible of his companions' share in the business, so that public
attention should not be attracted towards them. He himself with Dolores
at once disembarked, but his companions did not come ashore until after
Stephen Boldero took a Spanish name, but Geoffrey retained his own, as
the story that he was travelling as a servant with Mr. Burke, a well-
known Irish gentleman who had accompanied the Armada, was sufficient to
account for his nationality. Under the plea that he was anxious to
return to Cadiz as soon as possible, Senor Mendez arranged for horses
and mules to start the next morning. He had sent off two trunks of
clothes to the ship an hour after he landed, and the two Englishmen
therefore escaped all observation, as they wandered about for an hour
or two after landing, and did not go to the inn where Mendez was
staying until it was time to retire to bed.
The next morning the party started. The clothes that Geoffrey was
wearing were those suited to an employe in a house of business, while
those of Boldero were such as would be worn by the captain or mate of a
merchant vessel on shore. Both were supplied with arms, for although
the party had nothing to attract the cupidity of robbers beyond the
trunks containing the clothes purchased on the preceding day, and the
small amount of money necessary for their travel on the road, the
country was so infested by bands of robbers that no one travelled
unarmed. The journey to Cadiz was, however, accomplished without
The house of Senor Mendez was a large and comfortable one. Upon the
ground floor were his offices and store-rooms. He himself and his
family occupied the two next floors, while in those above his clerks
and employes lived. His unexpected return caused great surprise, and in
a few hours a number of acquaintances called to hear the story of the
adventures through which he had passed, and to condole with him on the
loss of his wife. At his own request Stephen Boldero had been given in
charge of the principal clerk, and a room assigned to him in the upper
"I shall be much more comfortable," he said, "among your people, Don
Mendez. I am a rough sailor, and ten years in the galleys don't improve
any manners a man may have had. If I were among your friends I would be
out of place and uncomfortable, and should always have to be bowing and
scraping and exchanging compliments, and besides they would soon find
out that my Spanish was doubtful. I talk a sailor's slang, but I doubt
if I should understand pure Spanish. Altogether, I should be very
uncomfortable, and should make you uncomfortable, and I would very much
rather take my place among the men that work for you until I can get on
board a ship again."
Geoffrey was installed in the portion of the house occupied by the
merchant, and was introduced by him to his friends simply as the
English gentleman who had rescued him and his daughter from the hands
of the Moors, it being incidentally mentioned that he had sailed in the
Armada, and that he had fallen into the hands of the corsairs in the
course of a voyage made with his friend Mr. Burke to Italy. He at once
took his place as a friend and assistant of the merchant; and as the
latter had many dealings with Dutch and English merchants, Geoffrey was
able to be of considerable use to him in his written communications to
the captains of the various vessels of those nationalities in the port.
"I think," the merchant said to him a fortnight after his arrival in
Cadiz, "that, if it would not go against your conscience, it would be
most advisable that you should accompany me sometimes to church. Unless
you do this, sooner or later suspicion is sure to be roused, and you
know that if you were once suspected of being a heretic, the
Inquisition would lay its hands upon you in no time."
"I have no objection whatever," Geoffrey said. "Were I questioned I
should at once acknowledge that I was a Protestant; but I see no harm
in going to a house of God to say my prayers there, while others are
saying theirs in a different manner. There is no church of my own
religion here, and I can see no harm whatever in doing as you suggest."
"I am glad to hear that that is your opinion," Senor Mendez said, "for
it is the one point concerning which I was uneasy. I have ordered a
special mass at the church of St. Dominic to-morrow, in thanksgiving
for our safe escape from the hands of the Moors, and it would be well
that you should accompany us there."
"I will do so most willingly," Geoffrey said. "I have returned thanks
many times, but shall be glad to do so again in a house dedicated to
Accordingly the next day Geoffrey accompanied Don Mendez and his
daughter to the church of St. Dominic, and as he knelt by them wondered
why men should hate each other because they differed as to the ways and
methods in which they should worship God. From that time on he
occasionally accompanied Senor Mendez to the church, saying his prayers
earnestly in his own fashion, and praying that he might some day be
restored to his home and friends.
He and the merchant had frequently talked over all possible plans for
his escape, but the extreme vigilance of the Spanish authorities with
reference to the English and Dutch trading ships seemed to preclude any
possibility of his being smuggled on board. Every bale and package was
closely examined on the quay before being sent off. Spanish officials
were on board from the arrival to the departure of each ship, and no
communication whatever was allowed between the shore and these vessels,
except in boats belonging to the authorities, every paper and document
passing first through their hands for examination before being sent on
board. The trade carried on between England, Holland, and Spain at the
time when these nations were engaged in war was a singular one; but it
was permitted by all three countries, because the products of each were
urgently required by the others. It was kept within narrow limits, and
there were frequent angry complaints exchanged between the English
government and that of Holland, when either considered the other to be
going beyond that limit.
Geoffrey admitted to himself that he might again make the attempt to
return to England, by taking passage as before in a ship bound for
Italy, but he knew that Elizabeth was negotiating with Philip for
peace, and thought that he might as well await the result. He was,
indeed, very happy at Cadiz, and shrank from the thought of leaving it.
Stephen Boldero soon became restless, and at his urgent request Juan
Mendez appointed him second mate on board one of his ships sailing for
the West Indies, his intention being to make his escape if an
opportunity offered; but if not, he preferred a life of activity to
wandering aimlessly about the streets of Cadiz. He was greatly grieved
to part from Geoffrey, and promised that, should he ever reach England,
he would at once journey down to Hedingham, and report his safety to
his father and mother.
"You will do very well here, Master Geoffrey," he said. "You are quite
at home with all the Spaniards, and it will not be very long before you
speak the language so well that, except for your name, none would take
you for a foreigner. You have found work to do, and are really better
off here than you would be starving and fighting in Holland. Besides,"
he said with a sly wink, "there are other attractions for you. Juan
Mendez treats you as a son, and the senorita knows that she owes
everything to you. You might do worse than settle here for life. Like
enough you will see me back again in six months' time, for if I see no
chance of slipping off and reaching one of the islands held by the
bucaneers, I shall perforce return in the ship I go out in."
At parting Senor Mendez bestowed a bag containing five hundred gold
pieces upon Stephen Boldero as a reward for the service he had rendered
Geoffrey missed him greatly. For eighteen months they had been
constantly together, and it was the sailor's companionship and
cheerfulness that had lightened the first days of his captivity; and
had it not been for his advice and support he might now have been
tugging at an oar in the bey's corsair galley. Ever since they had been
at Cadiz he had daily spent an hour or two in his society; for when
work was done they generally went for a walk together on the
fortifications, and talked of England and discussed the possibility of
escape. After his departure he was thrown more than before into the
society of the merchant and his daughter. The feeling that Dolores had,
when he first saw her, excited within him had changed its character.
She was very pretty now that she had recovered her life and spirits,
and she made no secret of the deep feeling of gratitude she entertained
towards him. One day, three months after Stephen's departure, Senor
Mendez, when they were alone together, broached the subject on which
his thoughts had been turned so much of late.
"Friend Geoffrey," he said, "I think that I am not mistaken in
supposing that you have an affection for Dolores. I have marked its
growth, and although I would naturally have rather bestowed her upon a
countryman, yet I feel that you have a right to her as having saved her
from the horrible fate that would have undoubtedly befallen her, and
that it is not for me, to whom you have restored her, besides saving my
own life, to offer any objection. As to her feelings, I have no doubt
whatever. Were you of my religion and race, such a match would afford
me the greatest happiness. As it is I regret it only because I feel
that some day or other it will lead to a separation from me. It is
natural that you should wish to return to your own country, and as this
war cannot go on for ever, doubtless in time some opportunity for doing
so will arrive. This I foresee and must submit to, but if there is
peace I shall be able occasionally to visit her in her home in England.
I naturally hope that it will be long before I shall thus lose her. She
is my only child, and I shall give as her dower the half of my
business, and you will join me as an equal partner. When the war is
over you can, if you wish, establish yourself in London, and thence
carry on and enlarge the English and Dutch trade of our house. I may
even myself settle there. I have not thought this over at present, nor
is there any occasion to do so. I am a wealthy man and there is no need
for me to continue in business, and I am not sure when the time comes I
shall not prefer to abandon my country rather than be separated from my
daughter. At any rate for the present I offer you her hand and a share
in my business."
Geoffrey expressed in suitable terms the gratitude and delight he felt
at the offer. It was contrary to Spanish notions that he should receive
from Dolores in private any assurance that the proposal in which she
was so largely concerned was one to which she assented willingly, but
her father at once fetched her in and formally presented her to
Geoffrey as his promised wife, and a month later the marriage was
solemnized at the church of St. Dominic.
The day after the capture of Breda Sir Francis Vere sent for Lionel
Vickars to his quarters. Prince Maurice and several of his principal
officers were there, and the prince thanked him warmly for the share he
had taken in the capture of the town.
"Captain Heraugiere has told me," he said, "that the invention of the
scheme that has ended so well is due as much to you as to him, that you
accompanied him on the reconnoitring expedition and shared in the
dangers of the party in the barge. I trust Sir Francis Vere will
appoint you to the first ensigncy vacant in his companies, but should
there be likely to be any delay in this I will gladly give you a
commission in one of my own regiments."
"I have forestalled your wish, prince," Sir Francis said, "and have
this morning given orders that his appointment shall be made out as
ensign in one of my companies, but at present I do not intend him to
join. I have been ordered by the queen to send further aid to help the
King of France against the League. I have already despatched several
companies to Brittany, and will now send two others. I would that my
duties permitted me personally to take part in the enterprise, for the
battle of the Netherlands is at present being fought on the soil of
France; but this is impossible. Several of my friends, however,
volunteers and others, will journey with the two companies, being
desirous of fighting under the banner of Henry of Navarre. Sir Ralph
Pimpernel, who is married to a French Huguenot lady and has connections
at the French court, will lead them. I have spoken to him this morning,
and he will gladly allow my young friend here to accompany him, I think
that it is the highest reward I can give him, to afford him thus an
opportunity of seeing stirring service; for I doubt not that in a very
short time a great battle will be fought. We know that Alva has sent
eighteen hundred of the best cavalry of Flanders to aid the League, and
he is sure to have given orders that they are to be back again as soon
as possible. How do you like the prospect, Lionel?"
Lionel warmly expressed his thanks to Sir Francis Vere for his
kindness, and said that nothing could delight him more than to take
part in such an enterprise.
"I must do something at any rate to prove my gratitude for your share
in the capture of this city," Prince Maurice said; "and will send you
presently two of the best horses of those we have found in the
governor's stables, together with arms and armour suitable to your rank
as an officer of Sir Francis Vere."
Upon the following morning a party of ten knights and gentlemen,
including Lionel Vickars, rode to Bergen-op-Zoom. The two companies,
which were drawn from the garrison of that town, had embarked the
evening before in ships that had come from England to transport them to
France. Sir Ralph Pimpernel and his party at once went on board, and as
soon as their horses were embarked the sails were hoisted. Four days'
voyage took them to the mouth of the Seine, and they landed at Honfleur
on the south bank of the river. There was a large number of ships in
port, for the Protestant princes of Germany were, as well as England,
sending aid to Henry of Navarre, and numbers of gentlemen and
volunteers were flocking to his banners.
For the moment Henry IV. represented in the eyes of Europe the
Protestant cause. He was supported by the Huguenots of France and by
some of the Catholic noblemen and gentry. Against him were arrayed the
greater portion of the Catholic nobles, the whole faction of the Guises
and the Holy League, supported by Philip of Spain.
The party from Holland disembarked at mid-day on the 9th of March.
Hearing rumours that a battle was expected very shortly to take place,
Sir Ralph Pimpernel started at once with his mounted party for Dreux,
which town was being besieged by Henry, leaving the two companies of
foot to press on at their best speed behind him. The distance to be
ridden was about sixty miles, and late at night on the 10th they rode
into a village eight miles from Dreux. Here they heard that the Duke of
Mayenne, who commanded the force of the League, was approaching the
Seine at Mantes with an army of ten thousand foot and four thousand
"We must mount at daybreak, gentlemen," Sir Ralph Pimpernel said, "or
the forces of the League will get between us and the king. It is
evident that we have but just arrived in time, and it is well we did
not wait for our foot-men."
The next morning they mounted early and rode on to the royal camp near
Dreux. Here Sir Ralph Pimpernel found Marshal Biron, a relation of his
wife, who at once took him to the king.
"You have just arrived in time, Sir Ralph," the king said when Marshal
Biron introduced him, "for to-morrow, or at latest the day after, we
are likely to try our strength with Mayenne. You will find many of your
compatriots here. I can offer you but poor hospitality at present, but
hope to entertain you rarely some day when the good city of Paris opens
its gates to us."
"Thanks, sire," Sir Ralph replied; "but we have come to fight and not
"I think I can promise you plenty of that at any rate," the king said.
"You have ten gentlemen with you, I hear, and also that there are two
companies of foot from Holland now on their way up from Honfleur."
"They landed at noon the day before yesterday, sire, and will probably
be up to-morrow."
"They will be heartily welcome, Sir Ralph. Since Parma has sent so
large a force to help Mayenne it is but right that Holland, which is
relieved of the presence of these troops, should lend me a helping
Quarters were found for the party in a village near the camp; for the
force was badly provided with tents, the king's resources being at a
very low ebb; he maintained the war, indeed, chiefly by the loans he
received from England and Germany. The next day several bodies of
troops were seen approaching the camp. A quarter of an hour later the
trumpets blew; officers rode about, ordering the tents to be levelled
and the troops to prepare to march. A messenger from Marshal Biron rode
at full speed into the village, where many of the volunteers from
England and Germany, besides the party of Sir Ralph Pimpernel, were
"The marshal bids me tell you, gentlemen, that the army moves at once.
Marshal D'Aumont has fallen back from Ivry; Mayenne is advancing. The
siege will be abandoned at present, and we march towards Nonancourt,
where we shall give battle to-morrow if Mayenne is disposed for it."
The camps were struck and the waggons loaded, and the army marched to
St. Andre, a village situated on an elevated plain commanding a view of
all the approaches from the country between the Seine and Eure.
"This is a fine field for a battle," Sir Ralph said, as the troops
halted on the ground indicated by the camp-marshals. "It is splendid
ground for cavalry to act, and it is upon them the brunt of the
fighting will fall We are a little stronger in foot; for several
companies from Honfleur, our own among them, have come up this morning,
and I hear we muster twelve thousand, which is a thousand more than
they say Mayenne has with him. But then he has four thousand cavalry to
our three thousand; and Parma's regiments of Spaniards, Walloons, and
Italian veterans are far superior troops to Henry's bands of riders,
who are mostly Huguenot noblemen and gentlemen, with their armed
retainers, tough and hardy men to fight, as they have shown themselves
on many a field, but without any of the discipline of Parma's troopers.
"If Parma himself commanded yonder army I should not feel confident of
the result; but Mayenne, though a skilful general, is slow and
cautious, while Henry of Navarre is full of fire and energy, and brave
almost to rashness. We are to muster under the command of the king
himself. He will have eight hundred horse, formed into six squadrons,
behind him, and upon these will, I fancy, come the chief shock of the
battle. He will be covered on each side by the English and Swiss
infantry; in all four thousand strong.
"Marshal Biron will be on the right with five troops of horse and four
regiments of French infantry; while on the left will be the troops of
D'Aumont, Montpensier, Biron the younger, D'Angouleme, and De Givry,
supported in all by two regiments of French infantry, one of Swiss, and
one of German. The marshal showed us the plan of battle last night in
his tent. It is well balanced and devised."
It was late in the evening before the whole of the force had reached
the position and the tents were erected. One of these had been placed
at the disposal of Sir Ralph's party. Sir Ralph and four of his
companions had been followed by their mounted squires, and these
collected firewood, and supplied the horses with forage from the sacks
they carried slung from their saddles, while the knights and gentlemen
themselves polished up their arms and armour, so as to make as brave a
show as possible in the ranks of the king's cavalry.
When they had eaten their supper Lionel Vickars strolled through the
camp, and was amused at the contrast presented by the various groups.
The troops of cavalry of the French nobles were gaily attired; the
tents of the officers large and commodious, with rich hangings and
appointments. The sound of light-hearted laughter came from the groups
round the camp-fires, squires and pages moved about thickly, and it was
evident that comfort, and indeed luxury, were considered by the
commanders as essential even upon a campaign. The encampments of the
German, Swiss, and English infantry were of far humbler design. The
tents of the officers were few in number, and of the simplest form and
make. A considerable portion of the English infantry had been drawn
from Holland, for the little army there was still the only body of
trained troops at Elizabeth's disposal.
The Swiss and Germans were for the most part mercenaries. Some had been
raised at the expense of the Protestant princes, others were paid from
the sums supplied from England. The great proportion of the men were
hardy veterans who had fought under many banners, and cared but little
for the cause in which they were fighting, provided they obtained their
pay regularly and that the rations were abundant and of good quality.
The French infantry regiments contained men influenced by a variety of
motives. Some were professional soldiers who had fought in many a field
during the long wars that had for so many years agitated France, others
were the retainers of the nobles who had thrown in their cause with
Henry, while others again were Huguenot peasants who were fighting, not
for pay, but in the cause of their religion.
The cavalry were for the most part composed of men of good family,
relations, connections, or the superior vassals of the nobles who
commanded or officered them. The king's own squadrons were chiefly
composed of Huguenot gentlemen and their mounted retainers; but with
these rode many foreign volunteers like Sir Ralph Pimpernel's party,
attracted to Henry's banner either from a desire to aid the Protestant
cause or to gain military knowledge and fame under so brave and able a
monarch, or simply from the love of excitement and military ardour.
The camp of this main body of cavalry or "battalia," as the body on
whom the commander of our army chiefly relied for victory was called,
was comparatively still and silent. The Huguenot gentlemen, after the
long years of persecution to which those of their religion had been
exposed, were for the most part poor. Their appointments were simple,
and they fought for conscience' sake, and went into battle with the
stern enthusiasm that afterwards animated Cromwell's Ironsides.
It was not long before the camp quieted down; for the march had been a
long one, and they would be on their feet by daybreak The king himself,
attended by Marshals D'Aumont and Biron, had gone through the whole
extent of the camp, seen that all was in order, that the troops had
everywhere received their rations, and that the officers were
acquainted with the orders for the morrow. He stayed a short time in
the camp of each regiment and troop, saying a few words of
encouragement to the soldiers, and laughing and joking with the
officers. He paused a short time and chatted with Sir Ralph Pimpernel,
who, at his request, introduced each of his companions to him.
Lionel looked with interest and admiration at the man who was regarded
as the champion of Protestantism against Popery, and who combined in
himself a remarkable mixture of qualities seldom found existing in one
person. He was brave to excess and apparently reckless in action, and
yet astute, prudent, and calculating in council. With a manner frank,
open, and winning, he was yet able to match the craftiest of opponents
at their own weapons of scheming and duplicity. The idol of the
Huguenots of France, he was ready to purchase the crown of France at
the price of accepting the Catholic doctrines, for he saw that it was
hopeless for him in the long run to maintain himself against the
hostility of almost all the great nobles of France, backed by the great
proportion of the people and aided by the pope and the Catholic powers,
so long as he remained a Protestant. But this change of creed was
scarcely even foreseen by those who followed him, and it was the
apparent hopelessness of his cause, and the gallantry with which he
maintained it, that attracted the admiration of Europe.
Henry's capital was at the time garrisoned by the troops of the pope
and Spain. The great nobles of France, who had long maintained a sort
of semi-independence of the crown, were all against him, and were
calculating on founding independent kingdoms. He himself was
excommunicated. The League were masters of almost the whole of France,
and were well supplied with funds by the pope and the Catholic powers,
while Henry was entirely dependent for money upon what he could borrow
from Queen Elizabeth and the States of Holland. But no one who listened
to the merry laugh of the king as he chatted with the little group of
English gentlemen would have thought that he was engaged in a desperate
and well-nigh hopeless struggle, and that the following day was to be a
decisive one as to his future fortunes.
"Well, gentlemen," he said as he turned his horse to ride away, "I must
ask you to lie down as soon as possible. As long as the officers are
awake and talking the men cannot sleep; and I want all to have a good
night's rest. The enemy's camp is close at hand, and the battle is sure
to take place at early dawn."
As the same orders were given everywhere, the camp was quiet early, and
before daylight the troops were called under arms and ranged in the
order appointed for them to fight in.
The army of the League was astir in equally good time. In its centre
was the battalia, composed of six hundred splendid cavalry, all
noblemen of France, supported by a column of three hundred Swiss and
two thousand French infantry. On the left were six hundred French
cuirassiers and the eighteen hundred troops of Parma, commanded by
Count Egmont. They were supported by six regiments of French and
Lorrainers, and two thousand Germans. The right wing was composed of
three regiments of Spanish lancers, two troops of Germans, four hundred
cuirassiers, and four regiments of infantry.
When the sun rose and lighted up the contending armies, the difference
between their appearance was very marked. That of the League was gay
with the gilded armour, waving plumes, and silken scarfs of the French
nobles, whose banners fluttered brightly in the air, while the Walloons
and Flemish rivalled their French comrades in the splendour of their
appointments. In the opposite ranks there was neither gaiety nor show.
The Huguenot nobles and gentlemen, who had for so many years been
fighting for life and religion, were clad in armour dinted in a hundred
battle-fields; and while the nobles of the League were confident of
victory, and loud in demanding to be led against the foe, Henry of
Navarre and his soldiers were kneeling, praying to the God of battles
to enable them to bear themselves well in the coming fight. Henry of
Navarre wore in his helmet a snow-white plume, which he ordered his
troops to keep in view, and to follow wherever they should see it
waving, in case his banner went down.
Artillery still played but a small part in battles on the field, and
there were but twelve pieces on the ground, equally divided between the
two armies. These opened the battle, and Count Egmont, whose cavalry
had suffered from the fire of the Huguenot cannon, ordered a charge,
and the splendid cavalry of Parma swept down upon the right wing of
Henry. The cavalry under Marshal Biron were unable to withstand the
shock and were swept before them, and Egmont rode on right up to the
guns and sabred the artillerymen. Almost at the same moment the German
riders under Eric of Brunswick, the Spanish and French lancers, charged
down upon the centre of the Royal Army. The rout of the right wing
shook the cavalry in the centre. They wavered, and the infantry on
their flanks fell back, but the king and his officers rode among them,
shouting and entreating them to stand firm. The ground in their front
was soft and checked the impetuosity of the charge of the Leaguers, and
by the time they reached the ranks of the Huguenots they were broken
and disordered, and could make no impression whatever upon them.
As soon as the charge was repulsed, Henry set his troops in motion, and
the battalia charged down upon the disordered cavalry of the League.
The lancers and cuirassiers were borne down by the impetuosity of the
charge, and Marshal Biron, rallying his troops, followed the king's
white plume into the heart of the battle. Egmont brought up the cavalry
of Flanders to the scene, and was charging at their head when he fell
dead with a musket-ball through the heart. Brunswick went down in the
fight, and the shattered German and Walloon horse were completely
overthrown and cut to pieces by the furious charges of the Huguenot
At one time the victorious onset was checked by the disappearance of
the king's snow-white plumes, and a report ran through the army that
the king was killed. They wavered irresolutely. The enemy, regaining
courage from the cessation of their attacks, were again advancing, when
the king reappeared bareheaded and covered with dust and blood, but
entirely unhurt. He addressed a few cheerful words to his soldiers, and
again led a charge. It was irresistible; the enemy broke and fled in
the wildest confusion hotly pursued by the royalist cavalry, while the
infantry of the League, who had so far taken no part whatever in the
battle, were seized with a panic, threw away their arms, and sought
refuge in the woods in their rear.
Thus the battle was decided only by the cavalry, the infantry taking no
part in the fight on either side. Eight hundred of the Leaguers either
fell on the battle-field or were drowned in crossing the river in their
rear. The loss of the royalists was but one-fourth that number. Had the
king pushed forward upon Paris immediately after the battle, the city
would probably have surrendered without a blow; and the Huguenot
leaders urged this course upon him. Biron and the other Catholics,
however, argued that it was better to undertake a regular siege, and
the king yielded to this advice, although the bolder course would have
been far more in accordance with his own disposition.
He was probably influenced by a variety of motives. In the first place
his Swiss mercenaries were in a mutinous condition, and refused to
advance a single foot unless they received their arrears of pay, and
this Henry, whose chests were entirely empty, had no means of
providing. In the second place he was at the time secretly in
negotiation with the pope for his conversion, and may have feared to
give so heavy a blow to the Catholic cause as would have been effected
by the capture of Paris following closely after the victory of Ivry. At
any rate he determined upon a regular siege. Moving forward he seized
the towns of Lagny on the Marne, and Corbeil on the Seine, thus
entirely cutting off the food supply of Paris.
Lionel Vickars had borne his part in the charges of the Huguenot
cavalry, but as the company to which he belonged was in the rear of the
battalia, he had no personal encounters with the enemy.
After the advance towards Paris the duties of the cavalry consisted
entirely in scouting the country, sweeping in provisions for their own
army, and preventing supplies from entering Paris. No siege operations
were undertaken, the king relying upon famine alone to reduce the city.
Its population at the time the siege commenced was estimated at
400,000, and the supply of provisions to be sufficient for a month. It
was calculated therefore that before the League could bring up another
army to its relief, it must fall by famine.
But no allowance had been made for the religious enthusiasm and
devotion to the cause of the League that animated the population of
Paris. Its governor, the Duke of Nemours, brother of Mayenne, aided by
the three Spanish delegates, the Cardinal Gaetano, and by an army of
priests and monks, sustained the spirits of the population; and though
the people starved by thousands, the city resisted until towards the
end of August. In that month the army of the League, united with twelve
thousand foot and three thousand horse from the Netherlands under Parma
himself, advanced to its assistance; while Maurice of Holland, with a
small body of Dutch troops and reinforcements from England, had
strengthened the army of the king.
The numbers of the two armies were not unequal. Many of the French
nobles had rallied round Henry after his victory, and of his cavalry
four thousand were nobles and their retainers who served at their own
expense, and were eager for a battle. Parma himself had doubts as to
the result of the conflict. He could rely upon the troops he himself
had brought, but had no confidence in those of the League; and when
Henry sent him a formal challenge to a general engagement, Parma
replied that it was his custom to refuse a combat when a refusal seemed
advantageous for himself, and to offer battle whenever it suited his
purpose to fight.
For seven days the two armies, each some twenty-five thousand strong,
lay within a mile or two of each other. Then the splendid cavalry of
Parma moved out in order of battle, with banners flying, and the
pennons of the lances fluttering in the wind. The king was delighted
when he saw that the enemy were at last advancing to the fight. He put
his troops at once under arms, but waited until the plan of the enemy's
battle developed itself before making his dispositions. But while the
imposing array of cavalry was attracting the king's attention, Parma
moved off with the main body of his army, threw a division across the
river on a pontoon bridge, and attacked Lagny on both sides.
When Lagny was first occupied some of Sir Ralph Pimpernel's party were
appointed to take up their quarters there, half a company of the
English, who had come with them from Holland, were also stationed in
the town, the garrison being altogether 1200 strong. Lionel's horse had
received a bullet wound at Ivry, and although it carried him for the
next day or two, it was evident that it needed rest and attention, and
would be unfit to carry his rider for some time. Lionel had no liking
for the work of driving off the cattle of the unfortunate landowners
and peasants, however necessary it might be to keep the army supplied
with food, and was glad of the excuse that his wounded horse afforded
him for remaining quietly in the town when his comrades rode out with
the troop of cavalry stationed there.
It happened that the officer in command of the little body of English
infantry was taken ill with fever, and Sir Ralph Pimpernel requested
Lionel to take his place. This he was glad to do, as he was more at
home at infantry work than with cavalry. The time went slowly, but
Lionel, who had comfortable quarters in the house of a citizen, did not
find it long. The burgher's family consisted of his wife and two
daughters, and these congratulated themselves greatly upon having an
officer quartered upon them who not only acted as a protection to them
against the insolence of the rough soldiery, but was courteous and
pleasant in his manner, and tried in every way to show that he regarded
himself as a guest and not a master.
After the first week's stay he requested that instead of having his
meals served to him in a room apart he might take them with the family.
The girls were about Lionel's age, and after the first constraint wore
off he became great friends with them; and although at first he had
difficulty in making himself understood, he rapidly picked up a little
French, the girls acting as his teachers.
"What do you English do here?" the eldest of them asked him when six
weeks after his arrival they were able to converse fairly in a mixture
of French and Spanish. "Why do you not leave us French people to fight
out our quarrels by ourselves?"
"I should put it the other way," Lionel laughed. "Why don't you French
people fight out your quarrels among yourselves instead of calling in
foreigners to help you? It is because the Guises and the League have
called in the Spaniards to fight on the Catholic side that the English
and Dutch have come to help the Huguenots. We are fighting the battle
of our own religion here, not the battle of Henry of Navarre."
"I hate these wars of religion," the girl said. "Why can we not all
worship in our own way?"
"Ah, that is what we Protestants want to know, Mademoiselle Claire;
that is just what your people won't allow. Did you not massacre the
Protestants In France on the eve of St. Bartholomew? and have not the
Spaniards been for the last twenty years trying to stamp out with fire
and sword the new religion in the Low Countries? We only want to be
"But your queen of England kills the Catholics."
"Not at all," Lionel said warmly; "that is only one of the stories they
spread to excuse their own doings. It is true that Catholics in England
have been put to death, and so have people of the sect that call
themselves Anabaptists; but this has been because they had been engaged
in plots against the queen, and not because of their religion. The
Catholics of England for the most part joined as heartily as the
Protestants in the preparations for the defence of England in the time
of the Armada. For my part, I cannot understand why people should
quarrel with each other because they worship God in different ways."
"It is all very bad, I am sure," the girl said; "France has been torn
to pieces by these religious wars for years and years. It is dreadful
to think what they must be suffering in Paris now."
"Then why don't they open their gates to King Henry instead of starving
themselves at the orders of the legate of the pope and the agent of
Philip of Spain? I could understand if there was another French prince
whom they wanted as king instead of Henry of Navarre. We fought for
years in England as to whether we would have a king from the house of
York or the house of Lancaster, but when it comes to choosing between a
king of your own race and a king named for you by Philip of Spain, I
can't understand it."
"Never mind, Master Vickars. You know what you are fighting for, don't
"I do; I am fighting here to aid Holland. Parma is bringing all his
troops to aid the Guises here, and while they are away the Dutch will
take town after town, and will make themselves so strong that when
Parma goes back he will find the nut harder than ever to crack."
"How long will Paris hold out, think you, Master Vickars? They say that
provisions are well-nigh spent."
"Judging from the way in which the Dutch towns held on for weeks and
weeks after, as it seemed, all supplies were exhausted, I should say
that if the people of Paris are as ready to suffer rather than yield as
were the Dutch burghers, they may hold on for a long time yet It is
certain that no provisions can come to them as long as we hold
possession of this town, and so block the river."
"But if the armies of Parma and the League come they may drive you
away, Master Vickars."
"It is quite possible, mademoiselle; we do not pretend to be
invincible, but I think there will be some tough fighting first."
As the weeks went on Lionel Vickars came to be on very intimate terms
with the family. The two maid-servants shared in the general liking for
the young officer. He gave no more trouble than if he were one of the
family, and on one or two occasions when disturbances were caused by
the ill-conduct of the miscellaneous bands which constituted the
garrison, he brought his half company of English soldiers at once into
the house, and by his resolute attitude prevented the marauders from
When Parma's army approached Sir Ralph Pimpernel with the cavalry
joined the king, but Lionel shared in the disappointment felt by all
the infantry of the garrison of Lagny that they could take no share in
the great battle that was expected. Their excitement rose high while
the armies lay watching each other. From the position of the town down
by the river neither army was visible from its walls, and they only
learned when occasional messengers rode in how matters were going on.
One morning Lionel was awoke by a loud knocking at his door. "What is
it?" he shouted, as he sat up in bed.
"It is I--Timothy Short, Master Vickars. The sergeant has sent me to
wake you in all haste. The Spaniards have stolen a march upon us. They
have thrown a bridge across the river somewhere in the night, and most
all their army stands between us and the king, while a division are
preparing to besiege the town on the other side." Lionel was hastily
throwing on his clothes and arming himself while the man was speaking.
"Tell the sergeant," he said, "to get the men under arms. I will be
with him in a few minutes."
When Lionel went out he found that the household was already astir.
"Go not out fasting," his host said. "Take a cup of wine and some food
before you start. You may be some time before you get an opportunity of
eating again if what they say is true."
"Thank you heartily," Lionel replied as he sat down to the table, on
which some food had already been placed; "it is always better to fight
full than fasting."
"Hark you!" the bourgeois said in his ear; "if things go badly with you
make your way here. I have a snug hiding-place, and I shall take refuge
there with my family if the Spaniards capture the town. I have heard of
their doings in Holland, and that when they capture a town they spare
neither age nor sex, and slay Catholics as well as Protestants;
therefore I shall take refuge till matters have quieted down and order
is restored. I shall set to work at once to carry my valuables there,
and a goodly store of provisions. My warehouseman will remain in charge
above. He is faithful and can be trusted, and he will tell the
Spaniards that I am a good Catholic, and lead them to believe that I
fled with my family before the Huguenots entered the town."
"Thank you greatly," Lionel replied; "should the need arise I will take
advantage of your kind offer. But it should not do so. We have twelve
hundred men here, and half that number of citizens have kept the
Spaniards at bay for months before towns no stronger than this in
Holland. We ought to be able to defend ourselves here for weeks, and
the king will assuredly come to our relief in two or three days at the
Upon Lionel sallying out he found the utmost confusion and disorder
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