Chapter 2 | Roy's Mother and Tutor | The Young Castellan

Chapter Two.

“I had missed you, Roy,” said the lady, smiling proudly on the boy; and he looked with eyes full of pride at the beautiful woman, who now rested her arm upon his shoulder and walked by his side into the more homelike part of the old fortalice, whose grim interior had been transformed by wainscoting, hangings, carpets, stained glass, and massive oak furniture into the handsome mansion of the middle of the seventeenth century.

They passed down a broad staircase into a noble hall, and from thence into a library whose broad, low, mullioned stone window opened into what had been the inner court of the castle, whose ramparts and flanking corner towers were still there; but the echoing stones that had once paved it had given place to verdant lawn, trim flower-beds ablaze with bloom, quaintly-cut shrubs, and creepers which beautified the walls once so bare and grim.

“I want to talk to you, Roy,” said Lady Royland, sinking into a great formal chair. “Bring your stool and sit down.”

“Got too big for the stool, mother,” said the boy; “I can’t double up my legs close enough. I’ll sit here.”

He threw himself upon the thick carpet at her feet, and rested his arms upon her lap.

“Want to talk to me? I’d rather hear you read.”

“Not now, my dear.”

“Why, what’s the matter, mother?” said the boy, anxiously. “You’re as white as can be. Got one of your headaches?”

“No, my boy,—at least, my head does ache. But it is my heart, Roy,—my heart.”

“Then you’ve heard bad news,” cried the boy. “Oh, mother, tell me; what is it? Not about father?”

“No, no; Heaven forbid, my dear,” cried Lady Royland, wildly. “It is the absence of news that troubles me so.”

“I ought to say us,” said Roy, angrily; “but I’m so selfish and thoughtless.”

“Don’t think that, my boy. You are very young yet, but I do wish you would give more thought to your studies with Master Pawson.”

The boy frowned.

“I wish you’d let me read with you, mother,” he said. “I understand everything then, and I don’t forget it; but when that old—”

“Master Palgrave Pawson,” said Lady Royland, reprovingly, but with a smile.

“Oh, well, Master Palgrave Pawson. P.P., P.P. What a mouthful it seems to be!”


“I’ve tried, mother; but I do get on so badly with him. I can’t help it; I don’t like him, and he doesn’t like me, and it will always be the same.”

“But why? Why do you not like him?”

“Because—because—well, he always smiles at me so.”

“That does not seem as if he disliked you. Rather the reverse.”

“He’s so smooth and oily.”

“It is only his manner, my dear. He seems to be very sincere, and to have your welfare at heart.”

“Yes, that’s it, mother; he won’t let me alone.”

“But he is your tutor, my dear. You know perfectly well that he came to be your father’s secretary and your tutor combined.”

“Yes, I know, mother,” said the boy, impatiently; “but somehow he doesn’t seem to teach me.”

“But he is very studious, and tries hard.”

“Yes, I know. But he seems to think I’m about seven instead of nearly seventeen, and talks to me as if I were a very little boy, and—and—and we don’t get on.”

“This sounds very sad, Roy, and I cannot bear to have a fresh trouble now. Your studies are so important to us.”

Roy reached up to get his arms round his mother’s neck, drew her head down, and kissed her lovingly.

“And she shan’t have any more trouble,” he cried. “I’ll get wonderfully fond of old Paw.”


“Master Palgrave Pawson, then; and I’ll work at my lessons and classics like a slave. But you will read with me, too, mother?”

“As much as you like, my son. Thank you. That has taken away part of my load.”

“I wish I could take away the rest; but I know you’re fidgeting because father hasn’t written, and think that something has happened to him. But don’t you get fancying that, because there can’t be anything. They’ve only gone after a mob of shoemakers and tailors with a counterpane for flag, and father will scatter them all like dead leaves.”

“Roy! My boy, these are not your words?”

“No, mother; old Ben Martlet said something of that kind to me this morning.”

“Does he not know, then, how serious it is?”

“Serious? What do you mean by serious?”

Lady Royland drew a deep breath, and laid her hand upon her side as if in pain.

“Why, mother,” repeated the boy, “what do you mean by serious?”

“This trouble—this rising, my dear. We have had no news, but Master Pawson has had letters from London, and he tells me that what was supposed to be a little petty discontent has grown into a serious revolution.”

Roy gazed in his mother’s troubled face as if he did not quite comprehend the full extent of her words.

“Well, and if it has, mother, what then?”

“What then, my boy?”

“Yes. You’ve nothing to fidget about. Father is there with his men, and he’ll soon put a stop to it all. You know how stern he can be when people misbehave.”

“My dear Roy, this, I am afraid, is going to be no little trouble that your father can put down with his men. Master Pawson tells me that there is every prospect of its being a civil war.”

“What! Englishmen fighting against Englishmen?”

“Yes; a terrible fratricidal war.”

“But who has quarrelled, mother? Oh, the king will soon stop it.”

“Roy, my boy, we have kept you so shut up here in this retired place for home study, instead of parting with you to send you to one of the great schools, that in some things you are as ignorant as I.”

“Oh, mother!” cried the boy, laughing. “You ignorant! I only wish I were half as learned and clever. Why, father said—”

“Yes, yes, dear; but that is only book-learning. We have been so happy here that the jarring troubles of politics and the court have not reached our ears; and I, for one, never gave them a thought till, after all these years of peacefulness, your father found himself compelled to obey the call of duty, and left us. We both thought that it was only for a week or two, and then the disturbance would be at an end; but every letter he has sent me has contained worse news, till now it is nearly a month since I have heard from him.”

“Then it is because he is putting down the rioters,” said Roy, quickly.

“Rioters, my boy! Rebels you should say, for I fear that a great attempt is to be made to overthrow the monarchy. Master Pawson’s informants assure him that this is the case, and before long, he says, there must be an encounter between the Royal and the Parliamentary troops.”

“Is Master Pawson right, mother? Royal troops—Parliamentary troops? Why, they’re all the same.”

“No, Roy; there is a division—a great division, I fear, and discontented people are taking the side against the king.”

“Then I’m sorry for them,” said the boy, flushing. “They’ll get a most terrible beating, these discontented folks.”

“Let us hope so, my boy, so that there may be an end to this terrible anxiety. To those who have friends whom they love in the army, a foreign war is dreadful enough; but when I think of the possibility of a war here at home, with Englishmen striving against Englishmen, I shudder, and my heart seems to sink.”

“Look here,” cried the boy, as he rose and stood with his hand resting upon his mother’s shoulder, “you’ve been fidgeting and fancying all sorts of things, because you haven’t heard from father.”

“Yes, yes,” said Lady Royland, faintly.

“Then you mustn’t, mother. ’Tis as I say; he is too busy to write, or else he hasn’t found it easy to send you a letter. I’ll take the pony and ride over to Sidecombe and see when the Exeter wagon comes in. There are sure to be letters for you, and even if there are not, it will make you more easy for me to have been to see, and I can bring you back what news there is. I’ll go at once.”

Lady Royland took hold of her son’s hand and held it fast.

“No,” she said, making an effort to be firm. “We will wait another day. I have been fidgeting, dear, as you say, and it has made me nervous and low-spirited; but I’m better now for talking to you, my boy, and letting you share my trouble. I dare say I have been exaggerating.”

“But I should like to ride over, mother.”

“You shall go to-morrow, Roy; but even then I shall be loath to let you. There, you see I am quite cheerful again. You are perfectly right; your father is perhaps away with his men, and he may have sent, and the letter has miscarried in these troublous times.”

“I shouldn’t like to be the man who took it, if it has miscarried,” said the boy, laughing.

“Poor fellow! it may have been an accident. There, go to Master Pawson now; and Roy, my dear, don’t talk about our trouble to any one for the present.”

“Not to old Pawson?”

“Master Pawson.”

“Not to Master Pawson?” said Roy, smiling.

“Not unless he speaks to you about it; then, of course, you can.”

“But he won’t, mother. He only talks to me about the Greek and Latin poets and about music. I say, you don’t want to see me squeezing a big fiddle between my knees and sawing at it with a bow as if I wanted to cut all the strings, do you, mother?”

“My dear boy, not unless you wished to learn the violoncello.”

“Well, I don’t,” said Roy, pettishly; “but old Master Pawson is always bringing his out of its great green-baize bag and talking to me about it. He says that he will instruct me, and he is sure that my father would have one sent to me from London if I asked him. Just as if there are not noises enough in the west tower now without two of us sawing together. Thrrum, thrrum, throomp, throomp, throomp!”

Roy struck an attitude as if playing, running his left hand up and down imaginary strings while he scraped with his right, and produced no bad imitation of the vibrating strings with his mouth.

“I should not dislike for you to play some instrument to accompany my clavichord, Roy,” said Lady Royland, smiling at the boy’s antics.

“Very well, then; I’ll learn the trumpet,” cried the lad. “I’m off now to learn—not music.”

“One moment, Roy, my dear,” said Lady Royland, earnestly. “Don’t let your high spirits get the better of your discretion.”

“Of course not, mother.”

“You do not understand me, my dear. I am speaking very seriously now. I mean, do not let Master Pawson think that you ridicule his love of music. It would be very weak and foolish, and lower you in his eyes.”

“Oh, I’ll mind, mother.”

“Recollect that he is a scholar and a gentleman, and in your father’s confidence.”

Roy nodded, and his lips parted as if to speak, but he closed them again.

“What were you going to say, Roy?”

“Oh, nothing, mother.”


“Well, only—that—I was going to say, do you like Master Pawson?”

“As your tutor and your father’s secretary, yes. He is a very clever man, I know.”

“Yes, he’s a very clever man,” said Roy, as, after kissing his mother affectionately, he went off towards the west tower, which had been specially fitted up as study and bedchamber for the gentleman who had come straight from Oxford to reside at Sir Granby Royland’s seat a couple of years before this time. “Yes, he’s a very clever man,” said Roy to himself; “but I thought I shouldn’t like him the first day he came, and I’ve gone on thinking so ever since. I don’t know why, but—Oh, yes, I do,” cried the boy, screwing up his face with a look of disgust: “it’s because, as he says, I’ve no soul for music.”

For just at that moment a peculiar long-drawn wailing sound came from the open window of the west tower, and a dog lying curled up on the grass in the sun sprang up and began to bark, finishing off with a long, low howl, as it stretched out its neck towards the open window.

“Poor old Nibbs! he has no soul for it, either,” said the boy to himself, as his face lit up with a mirthful expression. “It woke him up, and he thought it was cats. Wonder what tune that is? He won’t want me to interrupt him now. Better see, though, and speak to him first, and then I’ll go and see old Ben polish the armour.”