Chapter 11 | Master Pawson Gives His Opinions | The Young Castellan

Chapter Eleven.

“You’re quite turning everything into military style, Ben,” said Roy, as they left the armoury.

“Yes, sir; nothing like it. Keep the men up to the mark.”

“But isn’t it comic to speak of the people as the troops?”

“No, sir; not a bit. Troops are troops whether there’s many or few. It’s serious work is fighting, and, with due respect to you, sir, there’s nothing comic in treating our new levies as if they were seasoned men.”

All the same, though, Roy felt that he could not agree with his companion, when they reached the great gate-way, now, for the time being, made the parade ground. To his eyes the aspect of the place was decidedly comic, and his first impulse upon seeing the familiar figures of butler, footman, grooms, and gardeners, looking stiff and awkward in their heavy buff coats, creased and angular for want of use, was to burst out laughing.

But he did not even smile, for he could see that the men were glancing at him consciously, and he knew that any such display of mirth at their personal appearance would have had a most disastrous effect. As it was, he behaved very wisely, for when Ben shouted out an order for them to fall into line, Roy advanced to the men at once with a few encouraging remarks.

“The accoutrements and things have been lying by so long,” he said, “that they must be very uncomfortable and stiff.”

“Yes, sir, they really are,” said the butler, shaking his head. “You feel as if you can’t move in them; and my steel cap is terribly heavy.”

“You’ll find them grow more easy to wear after a bit,” said Roy, at a venture. “I see you are pretty well fitted, and—What’s that, Ben?”

For voices came from the gate-way beyond the drawbridge, a hundred yards from where they were standing.

“I’ll see, sir,” said Ben, importantly, as he drew himself to the salute. “Beg pardon, sir,” he added in a low tone; “be better now if you’d make everything soldierly and speak to me as sergeant. Don’t see why my old rank shouldn’t tell now, and it will help me with the three troopers, for one of ’em’s a corporal.”

Roy nodded, and directly after followed his sergeant, for he began to have an inkling of what was going on.

As he crossed the drawbridge, it was in time to hear Master Pawson say, in his high-pitched voice and in a tone of anger that was quite new—

“Oh, there you are, Martlet! What is the meaning of all this folly? Rogers dressed up, and telling me I can’t come in without an order from her ladyship.”

“Quite right, sir,” said Ben, steadily; “only he didn’t know he was to let in any one belonging to the place.”

“But what does it mean? I’ve been out since morning, and I return to find the gate locked, and a man playing at being a sentry. Why, Roy, my dear boy, surely this is not some bad joke of yours?”

“Unfasten the gate, Rogers, and let Master Pawson in,” said Roy, with his face turning scarlet; and, seeing his look of confusion, the secretary continued—

“Oh, I see; it is playing at soldiers. And gracious me! who are those under the gate-way? Surely troops have not arrived in my absence. My dear Roy, surely her ladyship does not countenance this? It is too absurd.”

Annoyance made the boy feel indignant, and he knew that those near him expected him to speak on their behalf.

“It is not absurd, Master Pawson,” he replied, sharply. “The castle is being placed under military rule now, and will be put in a state of defence as soon as possible.”

“That’s so!” growled Ben, whose face was black as a thunder-cloud.

Master Pawson gave him a quick look, but he did not speak to him, but to Roy.

“A state of defence!” he said, in a tone of raillery; “what nonsense! and pray, why?”

“On account of the troubled times, sir.”

“Troubled times! What troubled times?”

“Surely you know, sir, who have been bringing my mother news of the revolution.”

Master Pawson’s eyes opened a little more widely, for he was astonished. The boy addressing him seemed no longer the quiet, sport-loving pupil who came up into the tower to read with him and listen patiently while he played on his violoncello, but one who had suddenly been transformed.

“Ah, you mean the tidings of those people who object to some of the king’s orders? But really that has nothing to do with us out here in this quiet, retired place. And you are making it an excuse for all this folly? For shame, Roy! Dressing up the servants, and putting on a sword! Go and take it off, boy, and do not make yourself ridiculous.”

Ben glanced at his young master, whose face was redder than ever, and waited impatiently for him to speak, while Master Pawson turned towards his pupil smilingly, extending one hand to lay upon his shoulder, the other to lay hold of his sword.

“There is nothing absurd or nonsensical about it, Master Pawson,” he said, firmly. “As I have told you, the castle will be put in a state of defence.”

“You mean repair, my dear boy,” said the secretary, mockingly.

“Yes, repair if you will, as to the weak parts, sir. And as to playing at soldiers, we may look a little awkward at first, as we are not used to our weapons and arms; but that will soon pass off, and you will have to join us, and do your best.”

“That’s so!” growled Ben, whose face began to lighten up a little as Roy spoke out so firmly.

Master Pawson turned upon the old soldier with his eyebrows raised in a look of surprise.

“My good man,” he said, “will you please to recollect your position here.”

Ben saluted, and drew himself up as stiff as a pike.

“Nonsense, my dear boy!” continued Master Pawson; “this is all foolish vanity, and I am sure that, when you have thought it over coolly, you will see that it is childish for you, a boy, to imagine that you can do any good by making this silly display. Why, you must have been reading some old book of chivalry and warlike adventure. If you only knew how ridiculous you look with that long sword buckled on, you would soon take it off. You look almost as absurd as Rogers here; I thought some scarecrow had been stuck up by the gate.”

“Yes, sir; that’s right,” growled Ben. “Scarecrows who were going to scare off all the crows as try to peck at his majesty the king.”

“Silence, Martlet!” cried Roy, sharply. “It is not your place to speak to Master Pawson like that.”

“I should think not,” said the secretary, with his face flushing slightly.

“Beg pardon, sir, a slip: not mutiny,” said Ben.

“No, but insolence on the part of a menial,” cried Master Pawson; “and if it is repeated, I shall ask Lady Royland to dismiss you, sir, at once.”

“And my mother would refuse to dismiss so old and faithful a servant,” said Roy, warmly.

The secretary looked at the boy wonderingly again, and his eyes darkened; but he smiled the next moment.

“Come, come, Roy!” he said. “Pray leave off this nonsense, and have the gate left open. Send the men back to their work. You will thank me for giving you this advice to-morrow.”

“No, Master Pawson, I shall not,” said Roy, firmly. “The gate will be kept locked; no one will be allowed to pass without the word, and to-night the drawbridge will be raised; by to-morrow, I dare say, we shall be able to lower the portcullis.”

“Are you mad, my boy?”

“I hope not, sir.”

“Do you mean to tell me that you will not listen to my advice?”

“Yes, sir; I cannot.”

“Then, my good lad, I must be severe. I have tried gentle means. As your tutor, in whose charge you have been left by your father, I command you to give up all this silly mummery. You have something better to do than to waste time over such childish tricks. Go to your room, and stay there for a while before you come to mine with an apology. Quick! At once!”

He stood, looking very important, as he gave a quick stamp and pointed towards the castle.

“You, Jenkin, go and put that sword away! Rogers and Martlet, go back to your work at once!”

“Stop!” said Roy, firmly, as the men looked at him for help. “Keep as you are. Master Pawson is my tutor, but he has no right to give you any orders.—I must ask you, sir, to go to your room, and not to interfere with what is going on around.”

“Hah!” ejaculated Ben, expelling a tremendous pent-up breath, and he turned and winked at Rogers and Jenk, though the poor old gate-keeper could not see.

“The boy is mad,” cried Master Pawson, flushing angrily now. “This is beyond bearing. An act of rebellion. Once more, sir, will you obey me?”

“Obey you, Master Pawson? In my studies, yes. Over the business of the castle, no!”

“I am striving to save you from being ridiculed by the whole district, sir, and I appeal to you not to force me to have you humbled by going in to complain to Lady Royland.”

“You will not humble me, sir, by going in to complain to my mother, for she endorses everything I have done.”

“Her ladyship does!” cried Master Pawson, looking quite aghast.

“Of course. All this is by my father’s orders.”

“Absurd, boy! Your father has given no such orders.”

“Indeed!” said Roy, flushing angrily at the contradiction. “You have not been at home, sir, or you would have seen his messengers, three troopers, ride up this morning, from his regiment, who will stay to help us strengthen the place. There they are! I hope you don’t think they look ridiculous in their uniforms.”

For, as he was speaking, the three men, rested now and refreshed, had marched from the servants’ hall to where the new recruits were drawn up, and stood there waiting for their captain to return.

For a few moments Master Pawson’s face dropped, and he stared in his utter astonishment.

But he recovered himself quickly, and said, with a smile—

“Of course I did not know of this, my dear boy, especially as it all was while I have been away. As your father has given the orders in his letter,—and I am very glad that your mother has heard at last,—of course there is nothing to be done, unless her ladyship can be brought to see how unnecessary it all is, and likely to cause trouble and misconstruction among the neighbours. I am sure that if Sir Granby could be here now, he would see that it was needless. Whatever troubles may arise, nothing can disturb us in this secluded spot. There, I will go now to attend to my reading. When you have done playing at soldiers,” he added, with a slightly mocking emphasis upon the “playing,” “perhaps you will join me, Roy. You will get tired of handling swords too large for your hand, but of studies you can never weary. Au revoir. I am sorry we had this little misunderstanding.”

He patted Roy on the shoulder and walked on across the drawbridge, as if not perceiving that his pupil followed him; and as he drew near the servants, ranged rather awkwardly in their fresh habiliments, he smiled in a way which made every man shrink and feel far more uncomfortable than he had been made by his stiff buff coat. But as he passed the three troopers,—fine, manly-looking, seasoned fellows, who wore their uniforms as if to the manner born, and who drew themselves up and saluted him, evidently looking upon him as one of the important personages of the house,—he ceased to smile, and went on to his study in the north-west tower, looking very serious and much disturbed in mind.