Chapter 25 | Lady Royland Turns Nurse | The Young Castellan

Chapter Twenty Five.

Roy was face to face with the first of the stern realities of war, as he hurried into the long chamber beneath the eastern rampart, which Lady Royland had set apart for the use of any of the men who might, she said, “turn ill.”

Poor Sam Donny had fainted away before he reached the hospital-room, and upon Roy entering, eager to render assistance, it was to find himself forestalled by Lady Royland, who, with the old housekeeper, attended to the wounded man.

Lady Royland hurried to her son, as he appeared at the door.

“No,” she said, firmly, “not now: leave this to us. It is our duty.”

“But, mother, do you understand?” protested Roy.

“Better, perhaps, than any one here,” she replied. “Go to your duties; but come by-and-by to see how the poor fellow is. It will cheer him.”

Roy could not refuse to obey the order, and hurried back to meet Ben on the way to the sufferer’s side.

“Not go in?” said the sergeant. “Her ladyship says so? Oh, very well—then of course it is all right.”

“But I feel so anxious,” said Roy; “my mother is not a chirurgeon.”

“More aren’t we, Master Roy; but she’s what’s just as good—a splendid nurse. So’s old Grey’s wife; so Sam Donny’s in clover. I was being a bit anxious about him, for fear Master Pawson was doing the doctoring, and I’d rather trust myself.”

“But the wound—the terrible wound?” cried Roy.

“Tchah! Nothing terrible about that, captain. Just a clean sword-cut. You’ve cut your finger many a time, haven’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Well, did you want a doctor? No; you had it tied up tightly, and left it alone. Then it grew together again!”

“Yes, yes, yes,” cried Roy, impatiently. “But this was a terrible slash on the poor fellow’s thigh. You saw how horribly it bled.”

“Come, Master Roy, we’re both soldiers, and we mustn’t talk like this. I saw his leg bleed, and stopped it, but it wasn’t horrible. Leg’s only like a big finger, and a strong healthy chap soon grows together again. You mustn’t take any notice of a few cuts. They’re nothing. What we’ve got to mind is the cannon-balls. Now a wound from one of them is terrible, because you see they don’t cut clean, but break bones and do all kinds of mischief. Well, we mustn’t talk away here, but see to the men, and get ready for what’s to come.”

“Do you think they’ll attack us to-day?”

“Yes, sir; and as soon as they’ve finished their two-gun battery. Now, by rights, we ought to go and destroy that work, and spike their guns; but they’ve got the advantage of us with all that horse, and if we tried they’d cut us up before we could get at it. Only chance is to try and do it at night, if we can’t dismount the guns with ours.”

A hasty breakfast was eaten, and then the sergeant went up to the newly mounted guns on the top of the square tower, where Roy promised to join him as soon as he had been to visit the wounded man.

“Tell him I mean to come as soon as I can, my lad,” said Ben, “but it won’t do him any good for me to come now. Wounded man’s best left alone till he gets over his touch of fever. But tell him I’m sorry he’s down, and that I shall very much miss my best gunner. It’ll please him, and it’s quite true.”

Roy nodded, and in due time went to the hospital-room, where he tapped lightly, and the door was opened by the old housekeeper, who looked rather pale; but Lady Royland, who was seated by the wounded man’s bedside, rose and came to her son.

“Yes,” she said; “go and speak to him; but don’t stay many minutes, for he must not talk much. A few words from you, though, will do him good.”

Roy glanced towards the bed, which was close to one of the windows looking out on the court-yard garden, and he could see that the man was watching him intently.

“Go to him. I’ll leave you and come back when I think you have been here long enough.”

The door closed behind Lady Royland and her old assistant as Roy made for the couch, expecting to see a painful sight of agony and terror; but, as he approached, the man’s countenance expanded into a broad grin.

“Don’t be hard on a poor fellow, captain,” he said, just as Roy was ready with a prepared speech about being sorry to see the man in so grievous a condition.

“Hard upon you, Sam! What for?”

“Sneaking out o’ all the fun like this here! ’Taren’t my fault, you know. I didn’t want to stop in bed; but my lady says I must, and that she’ll report me to you if I don’t obey orders. I say, let me get up, sir. It’s just foolishness me lying here.”

“Foolishness! What! with that bad wound?”

“Bad, sir? Why, you don’t call that bad. If he’d cut my head off, I’d ha’ said it was.”

“How?” cried Roy, unable to repress a smile.

“How, sir? Why—oh! o’ course not. Didn’t think o’ that; I s’pose I couldn’t then. But I say, Master Roy, sir—I mean cap’n, I’m just ashamed o’ myself letting her ladyship wait on the likes o’ me!”

“Why should you be, Sam? Haven’t you been risking your life to defend us?”

“Me? No, sir, not as I knows on,” said the man, staring.

“Well, I do know; and now you are not to talk.”

“Oh, sir! If I’m to be here I must talk.”

“You must not, Sam. There, I came to see how you were.”

“Quite well, thank ye kindly, sir.”

“You are not. You have a bad wound.”

“But I aren’t, Master Roy. It’s on’y a bit cut; and I want to have a stick and come up on the tower in case we have to work that gun.”

“If you want to help to work that gun again, Sam, you will have to lie still and let your wound heal.”

“Master Roy!—I mean oh, cap’n—it’s worse than the wound to hear that.”

“We can’t help it. Tell me, are you in much pain?”

“Oh, it hurts a bit, sir; but if I was busy I should forget that, and—”


A strange breaking sound, and the rattling of the windows as a heavy report followed directly after, and Roy sprang from the chair he had taken by the wounded man’s couch.

“On’y hark, sir—that was my gun atop o’ the gate tower begun firing, and me not there.”

“Be patient, Sam,” cried Roy, excitedly. “It was not one of our guns, but the enemy’s, and the fight has begun in earnest. Good-bye, and lie still.”

He was half across the room as he said this, and the door opened to admit Lady Royland, looking deadly pale.

“Roy, my boy,” she cried, in a low, pained voice, as she caught his hands; “they are firing.”

“Yes, mother; and so will we,” cried the lad, excitedly.

“You—you will not expose yourself rashly,” she whispered; “you will take care?”

“I’m going to try not to do anything foolish, mother,” he said; “but I must be with the men.”

She clung to him wildly, and her lips trembled as she tried to speak; but no words came, and Roy bent forward, kissed her, and tried to withdraw his hands, but they were too tightly held.

Boom! came another report following closely upon a peculiar whizzing sound, apparently over the open window.

“Another gun from the enemy, and we’re doing nothing,” said Roy, impatiently. “Mother, don’t stop me; they will think I’m afraid. I must be with the men.”

Lady Royland drew a deep breath, and her face became fixed and firm once more, though the pallor seemed intensified.

“Yes,” she said, quickly, as she threw her arms about her son for a brief embrace; “you must be with your men, Roy. Go, and remember my prayers are with you always. Good-bye!”

“Just for a while,” he cried. “You shall soon have news of how we are going on.”