Chapter 23 | Roy Gets Over His Fit | The Young Castellan

Chapter Twenty Three.

The dawn came, and Lady Royland still knelt by the couch where her son slept heavily. She did not stir till the sun rose, and then she rose softly to go to the narrow slit in the massive wall, reach as far as she could into the deep splay, and gaze out.

She sighed, for far-away in the distance she could see mounted men with the sun flashing from their armour.

She turned back, for she had learned all she wished to know—the enemy was still there; and, wondering what that day might bring forth, she went and sat down now by her son’s head to watch him as he slept.

The time crept on with the sounds of the awakening household mingled with the clangour of the morning calls and the tramp of armed men floating in through the window; but the watcher did not stir till the door was opened, and a couple of the maids appeared, to start back in affright, after a wondering glance at the untouched meal upon the table, for Lady Royland rose quickly with a gesture to them to be silent.

They crept away, and she followed to the door.

“Prepare the breakfast in the library,” she said, and then returned to her seat.

The clock chimed and struck again and again, but Roy did not wake; and at last one of the maids came and tapped very softly.

“Breakfast is quite ready, my lady,” she whispered.

“I am not coming till my son wakes,” replied Lady Royland. “Ask Master Pawson not to wait.”

“He’s not down yet, my lady,” said the woman.

“Very well: ask him not to wait when he does come. The gentlemen are weary after the troubles of a very anxious night.”

The woman went away, and Lady Royland returned to her seat, to bend over her son again as he lay there breathing evenly, still plunged in his deep sleep; and then at its stated intervals, the clock in the gate-way chimed, and chimed, and struck, and struck again, to mark off the second hour before there was another tap at the door, and the maid announced in a whisper that Sergeant Martlet was asking for Captain Roy.

“Send him here,” said her ladyship, “and bid him come in gently.”

“Yes, my lady,” said the woman; “and, if you please, my lady, Master Pawson has just come down, and is having his breakfast.”

“Very good,” said Lady Royland, coldly, and the maid retired.

Five minutes later, the old soldier, fully armed, came softly to the door, was admitted, and stood upon the thick carpet, saluting his lady. She pointed to the couch, and a grim smile of satisfaction crossed the soldier’s deeply-lined face.

“He was quite worn-out and exhausted,” said Lady Royland, in a whisper, as she crossed to where Ben stood,—“too faint and troubled with the cares and anxieties of this weary business even to eat.”

“But he has slept, my lady?” whispered Ben.

“Ever since.”

“Let him sleep, then, till he wakes, and he’ll be right enough again.”

“I hope so; but he was very low and despondent last night. He feels the responsibility of his position so much.”

“Course he does, my lady. That’s his breed. His father always did. Used to make as much fuss over one of us as went down or got a wound as if we’d been his own children. But you let him sleep, my lady; he’ll be like a new man when he gets up. He’s a wonder, my lady; that he is.”

“He was afraid that the men were disposed to smile at him because he is so young.”

“I should just like to ketch one on ’em a-doing it,” growled Ben. “But it aren’t true, my lady,” he continued, excitedly. “They smiles when he comes up, o’ course, but it’s because he seems to do ’em good, and they can’t help it, they’re so pleased to see him. Why, if you’ll believe me, my lady, from Sir Granby’s corporal o’ dragoons down to Isaiah Wiggens, as got nigh upon drowned being pulled across the moat last night, my lady—”

“Oh, how horrible!”

“Horrid? Not it, my lady—begging your pardon. Sarve him right! Great big hulking lubberly chap like that, and not able to swim!”

“But is he ill this morning?”

“Not he, my lady. He was so roasted in the guard-room after, that he got up at daylight and went into the moat again ’s morning to begin to larn.”

“But tell me, what news?”

“They’re all padrolling us, my lady, same as they were last night. They got the oats from Farmer Raynes, and they think they’re going to starve us by stopping everything else from coming in; but we can afford to laugh at ’em for about three months; and at the end of that time, if Sir Granby don’t come and raise the siege, I’ve got an idee for trapping enough meat for the men.”


“Yes, my lady,” said Ben, with a grin. “Only to lower the drawbridge and hyste the portcullis, to let a whole court-yard-full ride in. Then drop the grating behind ’em, and they’re trapped. After that we can make ’em lay down their arms, turn ’em out, and keep their horses. They’ll do to feed the men. I’ve eaten horse, and Sir Granby too, at a pinch, and it aren’t so bad; but o’ course I’d rather have beef.”

“Then there is nothing to fear for the present?”

“Aren’t nothing to fear at all, past, present, or futur’, my lady, so don’t you be uncomfortable. And as for Master Roy, he needn’t go thinking no nonsense o’ that sort about the men, for they just worship him, all of ’em, and that’s the honest truth.”

“I believe it, Martlet. Have you breakfasted this morning?”

“Had a chunk o’ bread and a mug o’ milk, my lady.”

“That is not enough for a busy man like you are. Sit down to that table, and eat.”

“What, here, my lady! Oh, no, I couldn’t presume!”

“Hush! Do not speak so loud,” said Lady Royland, smiling. “These are not times for standing upon ceremony, Martlet. We women cannot fight; but we can help in other ways, above all in attending to our brave defenders, and seeing that they have all that is necessary. And if the worst comes to the worst, and—”

“Yes; I know what your ladyship means,” said the old soldier, for Lady Royland had paused, “and to be plain, the men have been talking a bit about that same, and what they were to do if they were hurt and no doctor here. I said—”

It was the sergeant’s turn to be silent now, and he stopped as if the words would not come.

“And what did you say?”

“Well, my lady, I took the liberty of saying that your ladyship was training up the women, and that when one of us was lucky enough to get wounded in the service of his king and country, he’d be carried into one of the big rooms o’ the east side, as would be turned into a hospital, and there tied up and put to bed, and souped and jellied and pastied, and made so much of, that he’d be sorry for the poor comrades who were only working the guns and doing the fighting.”

“You were quite right, Martlet,” said Lady Royland. “Tell the men that the wounded shall each be treated as if he were my own son.”

“Begging your ladyship’s pardon, that’s just what I did tell ’em, only I put a few flourishes to it, and I won’t say it again, because it may make ’em rash and wanting to get wounded for the sake of being carried into the snug quarters, and—”

“Sit down, Martlet, and eat,” said Lady Royland, pushing a chair towards the table.

“With your ladyship’s permission, I’d rather cut off a bit o’ something, and go and sit on one of the guns to eat it, and look out too. I should enjoy it better.”

“Do as you wish,” said Lady Royland. “There, take that fowl and loaf.”

“Thank you kindly, my lady, and—Morning, Master Roy, sir. Had a good sleep?”

For at that moment Roy sprang from the couch and looked excitedly round.

“What is it?” he cried. “What’s the matter? Morning! Surely I have not—”

“Yes, Roy, soundly and well, all night. Come, you must be ready for breakfast.”

“Yes, yes, mother,” cried the boy, impatiently.—“But tell me, Ben—Oh, you ought not to have let me sleep all night. Here, what has happened?”

“Nothing at all, sir, or I should have sent for you,” said the old soldier, who had taken out a handkerchief, given it a shake, and spread it upon the carpet, placed in it the roast chicken and loaf, sprinkled all liberally with salt, and now proceeded to tie the ends of the handkerchief across, to make a bundle. “They’re a-padrolling round and round, just as they have been all night, and keeping well out of gunshot. Wouldn’t like me to send a ball hopping along the ground to try the range, would you, sir?”

“No, not unless they attack,” said Roy, quickly.

“Thought you wouldn’t, sir, when I spoke.—Thank ye for this snack, my lady. I’ll go back now to the ramparts.—P’raps you’ll jyne me there, Master Roy, when you’ve had your breakfast. All’s well, sir; and them ten farmers are ready to stand on their heads with joy at getting through the enemy’s ranks.”

“Ah! how was it?”

“Only kept back by the sentries watching ’em; so they all went home as if they’d done work, and agreed to crawl to our place after dark, and creep to the gates.”

“But no one was hurt?”

“No, sir; nothing worse happened to ’em than a wetting in the moat, and that don’t count, because they were well wet before with crawling through the grass and damp ditches. See you in ’bout an hour’s time then, sir?”

Roy nodded shortly, and the man left the room with his bundle; while Roy, uneasy still in mind, turned to his mother, who embraced him tenderly.

“You will not be long, Roy, my dear?” she said. “I want my breakfast, too.”

“But surely, mother, you have not been sitting up all night while I slept?”

“Indeed, yes,” she said, merrily. “And many a time before last night, when you were a tiny thing and could not sleep. Last night you could, peacefully and well, to awake this morning strong mentally and bodily, to do your duty like my brave son.”

Roy winced; but there was something in his mother’s look which told him that his words of the past night were as if uttered only to himself, and that the subject of their conversation must be buried in the past.

“You will not be long?” said Lady Royland, as she went to the door.

“No, mother; not above ten minutes. Quite enough for a soldier’s toilet,” he said, cheerily. And she nodded and went off; while he hurried to his own room, and after plunging his face in the fresh cold water felt such a healthy glow coming through his veins, that he was ready to wonder at the previous night’s depression.

“What a glorious morning!” he muttered. “Couldn’t have been well last night.—Hope my mother didn’t think me stupid.—What a shame to let her sit up there all night!—Why, how hungry I do feel!—And only to think of our getting those fellows in quite safe after all.—Ha, ha, ha! how mad the enemy must have felt.”

Roy was standing before a mirror combing his wet locks as he burst out into a hearty laugh, full of enjoyment; but he checked it directly, and stood staring at himself in wonder as the thoughts of the past night intruded, and he remained for a few moments puzzled to account for the change that a long rest had wrought in him.

The next minute he was hurrying with his sword and belt under his arm to the breakfast-room, where he found his mother waiting, and Master Pawson, who looked very pale, in conversation with her.

“Good-morning, Roy,” he said. “I congratulate you upon the accession to the strength of the garrison. The men are all in the highest spirits, and full of praise of the gallant way in which you drove the enemy back.”

“Then I shall have to undeceive them, Master Pawson,” replied Roy, as he joined his mother at the table. “It was in the dark, and they could not see. All Ben Martlet’s doing from beginning to end.”

“I’m afraid you are too modest,” said the secretary, smiling, as Roy began his breakfast with a splendid appetite. “And tell me,” he continued, anxiously—“I ought not to ask, perhaps, but I take such interest in the proceedings—you will not listen to any proposals for surrender, even on good terms, which may come from the enemy?”

“What capital ham, mother,” said Roy. Then turning to the secretary: “I wouldn’t have listened to any proposals for surrender without those ten men, Master Pawson. When all the guns are disabled and the powder done, and nearly everybody wounded, I won’t surrender; for you’ll put on a helmet and back-piece then, and come and help the maids throw down stones upon their heads, and—yes, we shall have to use the machicolations then; but it shall be hot water for the enemy, not hot lead. The women can manage the boiling water better than the metal. Surrender! Bah! I say, sit down and have some more breakfast. I’m too busy to talk.”

“Ah! what a spirit you have,” cried the secretary, with a look of admiration in the lad’s face. “But you are right. No surrender upon any terms; and if you talk much more like this, Roy, you will inspire me. I, too, shall want to fight, or at least help to load the guns.”

“I hope you won’t,” thought Roy; “for I’d a great deal rather you would stop away.”

Ten minutes later he was buckling on his sword, without a trace of the last night’s emotion visible on his countenance.

“I’ll go down to the great gate,” said the secretary. “You will join me there?”

“Yes, directly. But I say, Master Pawson, I hope you managed to make shift at your new bedroom.”

“Don’t mention it. I shall be all right.—For the present, Lady Royland!” And the secretary left the room.

“No surrender, Roy, my boy.”

“No, mother; and—and—last night, I—”

“Was tired out, and no wonder. No—hush! Not another word. Some day when all is at peace once more, I will reopen the subject in your father’s presence. Till then, it is our mutual confidence. There, go and show yourself to the men, and see how they will greet you on this bonnie, sunny day.”

The boy hurried out with burning cheeks, and they seemed to scorch as he found his mother’s flower-beds trampled down, and the whole strength of the garrison on parade; for the moment he appeared, discipline seemed to be at an end, swords and muskets, adorned with steel caps, were waving in the air, while the flag flew out bravely from the great tower overhead, as if fluttered by the wind of the great hearty cheer which arose as he marched to the front, saluting as he went.

“Ah!” he sighed to himself, as his blood seemed to effervesce, and a thrill ran through his nerves, “who could be a coward at a time like this?”