Chapter 20 | War to the Knife | The Young Castellan

Chapter Twenty.

War to the knife without a doubt, for in the gathering gloom of the evening, as Roy went up to the top of the north-west tower, followed by Master Pawson, it was to see that mounted men were in a goodly body making a complete circuit of the castle, roughly marking out a line about half a mile in diameter, and at every hundred yards or so a couple of troopers were halted, and retained their posts.

“Shutting us in, Master Pawson,” said Roy, after watching the manoeuvre for some time.

“Ah!” said the secretary, with a sigh; “they will patrol the country all round now, and stop communications with the outside.”

“Yes,” said Roy, frowning; “and I suppose I must give up all hope of the men from the farm getting in.”

“Ah, yes! they are prisoners before this. So your poor father is looked upon as a rebel now.”

“Stop, Master Pawson,” said Roy, hotly; “these words must not be spoken here.”

“I only meant them as the opinion of the other party, who presume to say the estate is confiscated.”

“My father acknowledges no other party. Confiscated! Why, this place has belonged to the Roylands from the days of the Plantagenets, Master Pawson. Let these people come and take it if they can.”

“Ah, yes! that’s brave and true, Roy, brave and true. Then you do mean to fight?”

“Yes, and you too,” cried the boy. “You want to save my father’s estate.”

“Oh, yes, I want to save the estate,” said the secretary, eagerly.

“Then do everything you can,” cried Roy. “Yes, they will soon have formed a ring round the castle now! Well, let them keep their distance, for I shall give orders for the garrison to fire at any one who attempts to approach.”

“And how long do you hope to be able to hold out?”

“As long as it is necessary,” said Roy, proudly; “till my father comes with his men, and scatters all these people away.”

“To be sure, yes,” said the secretary. “How proud he will be of you, Roy, when he knows all.”

Roy hurried down to join his lieutenant, whom he found humming a tune in the armoury, busy over some preparations by the light of a lamp.

“You don’t seem in very bad spirits, Ben,” he said. “Bad spirits! What about, sir? Why, it’s like the good old time when your father and I were young. Not so young as you, though! Well, sir, we’ve been thinking over our plans. They won’t do anything yet—only shut us in. They’re going to wait for more men and more artillery.”

“But we must be well on the watch against surprise, Ben.”

“Why, of course, sir! You’ll have your watch on the towers. And you’ve seen how they’ve got a ring of patrols round us?”

“Yes, I watched them. So we may give up all hope of getting those ten of Raynes’s.”

“I’m afraid so. It’s a bad job, sir, as the corporal was saying just now, for we’d trained them into being our best gunners.”

“A terrible loss.”

“Well, not so very terrible, sir, because we must train up some more. Oh! we can keep the enemy outside the moat and enjoy ourselves while they’re starving without a roof to cover them. But I want to say a serious thing or two, sir.”

“I know, Ben; you want to say that my mother’s garden must go.”

“That’s one thing, sir.”

“Well, take what ground you want, and we’ll put it straight when we’ve sent the Parliament to the right-about.”

“Oh, you’ll make a good general, sir; and this trouble’s a blessing in disguise to save you from being wasted on books, and becoming a sort of Master Pawson. And that brings me to the other things.”

“Well, what are those?”

“Just you tell me plain, as a soldier—which you are now—what you set down as the strongest bits of the castle?”

“Why, the towers, of course!”

“That’s right, sir. Very well, then, they must be well manned.”

“As well as we can man them.”

“That’s it, sir; and we must have elbow-room.”

“Of course!”

“Then will you speak to my lady, and ask her to give Master Pawson a couple of rooms in the private part somewhere, or one room ought to be enough now, for I want those two chambers of his badly?”

“He won’t like that, Ben,” said Roy, quickly.

“I s’pose not, sir; and there’ll be a lot of things none of us will like, but we’ve got to put up with them. If you’ll see about that at once, I shall be glad.”

“Is it very necessary, Ben?”

“You know best about that, sir.”

“Yes, it is very necessary, Ben,” said Roy; and he hurried off to talk the matter over with his mother, visiting the ramparts on his way.

He found Lady Royland busy writing, and she looked up with a smile.

“I am keeping a diary of all that has taken place since we began the defence. But tell me first—Raynes’s men—are we to give them up?”

“I’m afraid so, mother. They have not failed us, but have been taken prisoners.”

“This is a sad blow, Roy, but we must make up for it by working together.—But what is it? You have not come to chat about nothings.”

“No, mother,” said the boy, seriously. “I have come to say that the pleasaunce must go. Ben Martlet says he cannot do without it now.”

“I have been expecting this, my boy. It has always been a dear delight to me, but it is a pleasure for peace; and when the happy days come back, I shall want the whole garrison to restore it to me again.”

“Then I was right in telling Ben to take what he wanted?”

“Of course, my boy.—Something else?”

“Yes, mother—another bit of self-sacrifice. Martlet and I both feel that we must have the north-west tower.—Ah, Master Pawson, you there?”

“Yes. I knocked twice, and I thought you said ‘Come in.’”

“Then you heard what I said just now.”

“I heard you mention the western tower. Have you been telling her ladyship of what we saw this evening?”

“No. What did you see?” cried Lady Royland, quickly.

“The enemy has completely surrounded us with sentinels.”

“Ah! they would, of course.”

“It was not that, Master Pawson—but this; I was about telling my mother that, for the purposes of defence, Martlet and I feel that we must have the north-west tower.”

“But you have it; the guns are there.”

“The top only,” said Roy. “The chambers below are required for the men who work the guns, for ammunition, and other purposes.”

Master Pawson looked at him in blank horror.

“My mother will see that you have comfortable rooms or a room somewhere here. I will give up mine to you if you like.”

“Oh! I could not take that,” said the secretary, quickly. “But surely this is not necessary.”

“Yes; it is absolutely necessary. Besides, that tower will certainly be battered by the enemy’s guns, and it will not be safe for you.”

“I wish you would not persist in looking upon me as such a coward, Roy; it is not fair. I was never meant for a soldier, but surely a man may be a man of peace and yet not a coward.”

“No, no; I do not look upon you as a coward,” said Roy, hastily. “It is really because that will be a dangerous spot, and the rooms must be strongly occupied.”

“But, as I said, you have the guns at the top. Really, I must protest; I am so much attached to those little rooms. Surely you can let me stay. I do not mind the firing. I will not go near the windows.”

“You do not grasp the fact that these angle towers are our greatest protection,” said Roy, firmly. “I am sorry to give you all the trouble and annoyance, but we must have the chambers below. The one you use for a sleeping-room is absolutely necessary for the powder.”

“Indeed, Lady Royland, they could manage without,” protested the secretary, warmly. “It would be a dreadful inconvenience to me to give them up. There are the books and my papers. Oh, it is really impossible.”

“You forget, Master Pawson, that we all have to make sacrifices now, and that we shall have to make more and greater ones yet, before this unhappy trouble is at an end.”

“Yes, yes, I know, Lady Royland, and I am ready to do anything to assist you,” cried the secretary, excitedly.

“Then give up your rooms like a man,” said Roy, “and without making so much fuss.”

Master Pawson darted an angry look at the boy and then turned to his mother.

“You know, Lady Royland, how I have thrown myself heart and soul into the defence since I have found it necessary. You bade me go, but I would not. Duty said stay, and I risked my life in doing so; but as a favour, I beg that you will not let me be ousted from my two poor little rooms to gratify the whim of a very obstinate old soldier, who would turn your pleasaunce into a drill-ground.”

“I have given up my garden because it is wanted, Master Pawson,” said Lady Royland, coldly.

“To gratify a good soldier, I know, but a man who would have everything turned into a fighting place.”

“It is not fair of you, sir,” said Roy, speaking very firmly. “This is no whim on the part of Martlet. Now that we are coming to using the guns, the men must have a place of shelter beneath the platform, and one where the powder may lie ready for handing up. We must have your sleeping-room.”

“Take it then,” cried the secretary. “I give it up; but spare me my little sitting-room.”

“We want that too,” said Roy. “We may have wounded men.”

“Then bring them in there, and I’ll help to dress their wounds; but I must keep that.”

“Surely you can manage without depriving Master Pawson of that place, Roy,” said Lady Royland.

“Thank you, thank you, Lady Royland.—Yes, you hear that, Roy. You can—you must—you shall spare me that poor place. It is so small.”

“And suppose we have an accident, and the powder bestowed in your chamber above is blown up?”

“Well, I shall have died doing my duty,” said the secretary, with humility.

“Wouldn’t it be doing your duty more to try and avoid danger, so as to be useful to us all?” said Roy; and his mother’s eyes flashed with pleasure, while the secretary started to hear such utterances from the mere boy he despised.

“Perhaps so,” he said, with a faint laugh; “but really, Roy, you will not be so hard upon me as to refuse that favour. Do not make me think that now you are castellan, you are becoming a tyrant.”

“There is no fear of my son becoming a tyrant, Master Pawson,” said Lady Royland, smiling, and with something suggesting contempt for the speaker in her tones.—“Roy, dear, I think you might manage to let the lower room remain as it is for Master Pawson’s use, if the upper floor is given up to the men. He could have the room next to yours for a bedchamber.”

“Oh, that would not be necessary,” said the secretary, eagerly. “The one room is all I want—it can be my bedchamber too.”

“I hardly know what to say, mother,” said the boy, gravely.—“Well, then, Master Pawson, keep your study; but we must have the upper room at once, and if you are annoyed by the going to and fro of the men on the staircase, you must not blame me.”

“My dear boy,” he cried, with effusion, “pray do not think me so unreasonable. I am most grateful to you, Lady Royland, and to you too, Roy. I shall never forget this kindness. I will go and see to the new arrangement at once. Can I have two servants to help to move down the few things I shall want?”

“You can have two of the garrison, Master Pawson,” replied Roy, smiling; “they all consider themselves to be soldiers now.”

“Thank you, thank you,” he cried, in a voice which sounded as if it were choked by emotion, and he hastily left the room.

“I wish he would not be so dreadfully smooth,” said Roy, petulantly. “I want to like Master Pawson, but somehow he always makes me feel cross.”

“He is rather too fond of thanking one for every little favour; but it is his manner, dear, and he has certainly been doing his best to help us in this time of need.”

“Yes,” said Roy; “and we should have thought bad enough of him if he had gone and left us in the lurch. There, mother, I must go and see Ben Martlet and tell him what has been arranged. He will not like it, though; but he will have two things out of three.”

“You must not give up too much to Martlet, my boy,” said Lady Royland, retaining her son’s hand as he rose to go. “He is a faithful old servant, and will fight for us to the death; but remember that you are governor of the castle.”

“He makes me remember it, mother,” cried Roy, merrily. “Don’t you be afraid of his being presuming, for he will not do a thing without I give the order. There, good-bye.”

“Good-bye? You will be back soon.”

“No,” replied Roy; “I must be on the battlements all night, visiting posts and helping to keep watch. You forget that the enemy surround us now.”

“Alas! no, Roy. I know it only too well. Come back in an hour’s time—you will want some refreshment. I will see that it is ready, and I hope by then you will find things so quiet that you can take a few hours’ rest.”

“We shall see, mother,” said Roy, kissing her affectionately. “How brave you have grown!”

She shook her head sadly as she clung to him for a few moments; and, as soon as the door had closed, and his steps died away on the oaken floor of the corridor, she sank in a chair sobbing as if her heart would break.