Chapter 30 | And All Through My Neglect | The Young Castellan

Chapter Thirty.

Seeing how completely prostrated his companion seemed to be, the officer turned to him as they reached the entrance to the private apartments and said, quietly—

“Perhaps you will show me a room where I and my officers can have some refreshment. We are starving. You can tell your servants that they have nothing to fear. I will see that they are not insulted; and then perhaps you would prefer to be alone.”

“Thank you,” faltered Roy, speaking in a strange, dazed way, as if he were in a dream.

“Come, be a man, sir,” said the officer, rather sternly. “It is the fortune of war. A young soldier must not lose heart because he finds he is a prisoner. There, meet me at breakfast-time, and you and I will have a chat together. But listen first before you go: do not attempt any foolish, reckless pranks in the way of trying to escape. I tell you honestly, the castle will be so guarded and watched that it would be madness.—By the way, where are Lady Royland’s apartments?”

Roy pointed to a door.

“Tell her when you see her that there is nothing to fear. But Master Pawson told me that he would place guards over her.”

Roy drew a deep breath but said nothing, merely contented himself with pointing out the dining-room and library to his conqueror. Then he stopped at his own door.

“Your room? Very well; take my advice, and have a few hours’ sleep,” said the officer, opening the door, entering, and looking round by the light of the dim lamp. “Where does that big window open upon?”

“The garden,—the court-yard.”

“And that narrow slit?”

“Upon the moat.”

“Hah! Good-night to you.”

He strode out, and Roy stood where he had been left, with his head throbbing as if it would burst from the terrible thoughts that invaded it.

Directly after he heard the tramp of heavy feet, a few words delivered in an imperious tone, and there was the heavy rap, rap of a couple of musket butts upon the oaken floor, telling him that guards had been placed at his door. His despair now knew no bounds, for he had determined to go straight to his mother’s chamber, and ask her if Master Pawson’s words were true. Now all communication was cut off, for he was a prisoner.

But his agony had reached its greatest height, and in a short time he grew calmer; for light came into his darkened brain, and he told himself he was glad that he had not been able to go and insult his mother by asking such a question.

“It is horrible!” he said to himself; “and I must have been mad to think such a thing possible. Liar! traitor! wretch! How could I think there was the faintest truth in anything he said!”

Utterly exhausted, he took off his armour and laid it and his sword-belt and empty scabbard aside.

“Done with now,” he said, bitterly; and he sank upon the couch to try and think whether he was to blame for not searching more for the passage leading out beyond the moat.

“But I did try, and try hard,” he muttered. “No; I could not foresee that the man chosen by my father would betray us. It was my duty to trust him. It was not my fault.”

Through the remainder of that night he sat there thinking. Now listening to the tramp of the sentries at his door and overhead upon the ramparts, starting from time to time as he heard them challenge, and the word passed on, till it died away; now thinking bitterly of the ease with which they had been beaten, and of the men who must have fallen in their defence. Then, from utter exhaustion, his eyes would close, and consciousness leave him for a few minutes as he sank back.

But he never thoroughly went to sleep, the act of sinking back making him start into wakefulness, bitter and angry with himself for these lapses, and in every case springing up to pace the room.

“Poor mother! What she must have suffered through it all, and I scarcely gave her a thought. That wretch must have locked her in her room or she would certainly have been seeing to the wounded.”

The clock chimed and struck, and chimed and struck again, with Roy counting the long lingering hours as they went on, for he was longing for the day to appear, hopeless as the dawn would be. But he wanted to see the general, to beg that he might go to Lady Royland; and the time when he would meet him seemed as if it would never come.

But at last the faint light began to dawn through the window, and, hot and feverish, he threw it open, to look out across the court and over the eastern ramparts at the coming signs of day, which grew brighter and clearer till the sentinels upon the terrace-like place, and the crenellations, stood out of a purply black plainly marked against the sky.

There were at least twenty men marching to and fro where at the most he had had two; and he groaned in spirit for a time as he went over again the occurrences of the past night. But far on high the sky began to be dappled with orange and golden clouds, which increased in brightness till the whole east was one glory of light, bringing with it hope; while the soft cool breeze he drank in gave him fresh courage and the strength to act the part he had to play,—that of one too proud to be cast down, so that his men should speak of him ever after as his father’s son.

“Better than being in one of the dungeons,” he thought, as he indulged in a good bathe, and dressed himself simply; after which he carefully hung up his armour, with the helmet above, and longed for his sword that it might occupy its old place.

“Better be lying rusting in the moat than resting in such hands as his,” he muttered.

After spending some time at the window gazing across the court at the windows of the long chamber used for the hospital, and at the opening to the stabling down below, he fell to wondering as to how the poor fellows who were wounded had passed the night; and this brought a shudder, and he ran across to the little slit in the thickness of the wall to open the tiny casement, and look down at the moat, peering to right and left with starting eyes in expectant dread of seeing some ghastly sign of the horrible struggle that had taken place upon the tower platforms. But the lilies floated peacefully enough, and displayed their great white cups, and the fish played about beneath the leaves, making rings in the smooth patches where they rose—rings which spread and spread till they slightly swayed the reeds and rushes at the edge.

But he saw no dead white face gazing up at the sunlit heavens, and, search the waters as he would, there was not a sign to send a shudder through his frame.

All at once there was the tramp of feet overhead, and he went back to the other window, where he stood and looked across, and on the eastern rampart saw the guard relieved, the sun burnishing the men’s steel caps; and soon after, as he watched, wondering what the day would bring forth, he heard the sentries at his door relieved in turn.

This ended, the echoes of the place were awakened by the blast of a trumpet, and the boy stood looking in wonder at the strength of the force drawn up in the court, and saw fully half of them march towards the great gate-way. Then he heard the drawbridge lowered, and the heavy, hollow tramp of the men as they passed across. Soon after, the neighing of horses reached his ears, and then came the beating of hoofs on the bridge, raising echoes from the walls at the other end, as a troop rode in and were drawn up on either side—sturdy-looking fellows, who sat their horses well, as Roy was fain to grant in spite of Ben Martlet’s disparaging remarks.

He was still watching the troopers and their horses, when he heard a movement outside his door as if the sentries had presented arms; and directly after the general strode into the room, with his stern, thoughtful countenance lighting up as he encountered Roy’s frank, bold eyes.

“Good-morning,” he said, holding out his hand.

Roy flushed, but made no movement to take it.

“As one gentleman to another, Roy Royland,” he said, smiling. “We can be enemies again when we have fighting to do. Come, we can be friends now.”

Roy felt drawn towards him, and he slowly raised his hand, which was firmly gripped and held for a few moments.

“Ah, that’s better!—Well, prisoner, how have you slept?”

“I? Not at all,” said Roy, bitterly.

“That is a pity, too,” said the general. “You ought to have slept. You had no guilty conscience to keep you awake. You only had the knowledge of duty done.”

“And what about the poor fellows who fell fighting for us? Would not that keep me awake?”

“Ah, yes!” said the general, laying his hand on Roy’s shoulder. “That is right. Well, as far as I have ascertained, not a man failed to cross the moat after his plunge. There are some ugly wounds, no doubt, but the doctor tells me that my men have suffered worse than yours, and he does not anticipate that any of your brave fellows will even have to stay in bed.”

“That is good news,” said Roy in spite of himself, for he meant to be very stern and distant.

“Better than was given me, my boy. There, come along; breakfast is waiting.”

Roy shrank back.

“I would rather have some bread and water here,” he said.

“Indeed! But I’m not going to feed my prisoner upon bread and water. I find you have plenty here, and that plenty you shall share. Ah! I see you do not want to meet our friend Pawson.”

Roy started violently, and changed colour.

“He will not be with us, sir. Master Pawson prefers to stay in his own chamber, and I am quite willing.”

“My mother?” asked Roy, in agony.

“Keeps to her room, boy. Her women are with her, and she knows that you are safe.”

“She knows that?” cried Roy.

“Well, yes. I am what you would call a brutal rebel and traitor to my king; but I have a wife who knows what anxiety is about her husband and her son during this cruel war, and I took the liberty of asking an interview last night, before going to rest, and telling Lady Royland how you had behaved.”

“Thank you, General—General—”

“Hepburn, my lad,” and he caught the hand the boy held out. “And let me tell you that you have a mother of whom any boy should be proud—your father a wife such as few men own. She passed the whole night tending the wounded and winning our doctor’s esteem. But come; I am hungry, and so must you be too.”

Roy followed him without a word, feeling that, prisoner though he was, the salutes of the sentinels they passed were full of respect; and when he reached the dining-room, in which about twenty officers were gathered waiting their general’s presence to begin, they rose like one man, and pressed forward to shake him by the hand, making the boy flush with mingled shame and pride, for had he taken the castle instead of losing it, his reception could not have been more warm.

“Come,” said the general, after their hasty meal was at an end, “you are my prisoner, but I will not ask you to make promises not to escape. You can go about the castle; the men will let you pass anywhere within the portcullis. You will like to visit your wounded men, of course.”

“And the other prisoners?” said Roy.

“I am going to parade them now; so come with me and see.”

The strong force pretty well filled the square court-yard, but left a vacant place in the middle into which the general strode; and then giving his orders, there was a pause, during which Roy’s gaze turned involuntarily towards the little turret at the corner of the gate tower; but no flag fluttered there, and he felt a pang as he gazed at the tall pole with the halyard against it swayed by the wind.

But he had something else to take his attention directly as he glanced round the walls.

There, standing at the window of the north-west tower, was the upper part of the figure of Master Pawson, framed as it were in stone; and Roy turned away in disgust as a hearty cheer arose, and he saw it was to welcome the brave fellows, who marched from their prison of the night, bandaged, bruised, and sadly damaged in their personal appearance, but with heads erect and keeping step with Ben Martlet, who looked as if he were flushed with victory instead of labouring under defeat.

The men were drawn up in line in the middle of the narrow square, and as they caught sight of Roy just by the general, their military manners gave place to a touch of human nature, for Ben nodded eagerly to his young captain, and wounded and sound all waved steel cap or hand, Farmer Raynes the latter in a left-handed way, for his right was in a sling; and then all burst into a cheer.

Just then, behind the prisoners and over the heads of the line of mounted men, whose horses’ hoofs were trampling the flower-beds, Roy caught sight of something white in the open hospital window, and his heart leaped as his mother waved her handkerchief to him, wafting away with it the last trace of the vile mist Master Pawson had raised around her by his assertion.

Roy eagerly responded to the salutation, and then had his attention taken up by the action of the general, who walked along the little line of prisoners, who, to a man, returned his stern scrutiny with a bold, defiant stare. Then turning to Ben, he said—

“How many of these are disciplined soldiers, sergeant?”

“All of ’em far as we could make ’em,” replied Ben.

“Yes. But how many were in the Royalist army?”

“Three and me,” said Ben.

“You three men, two paces to the rear,” said the general, sharply; and the three troopers stepped back.

“Nay, nay!” shouted Farmer Raynes, angrily. “Share and share alike. We were all in it; and I say if you shoot them, shoot us, too;” and he stepped back, the others after a momentary hesitation following his example.

There was a murmur in the Parliamentary ranks as the men witnessed this little bit of heroism, and the general shouted his next order in a very peremptory way.

“Attention!” he cried, addressing the prisoners. “I do not shoot brave men in cold blood, only cowards and traitors.”

“Then have that hound down from yon window, general,” cried Ben, excitedly, pointing to where Master Pawson stood looking on, “and shoot him. Nay, it’s insulting good soldiers to ask ’em to do it, sir. We’ve an old stone gallows here on the ramparts; have him hung.”

A yell of execration burst from the prisoners, and the ex-secretary disappeared.

“Silence!” cried the general. “Attend there. You, sergeant, and you three men, will you take service under the Parliament, and keep your ranks with the promise of early promotion?”

“Shall I speak for you, comrades?” asked Ben.

“Yes,” they cried together.

“Then not a man of us, sir. We’re Sir Granby Royland’s old troopers, and we say, God save the king!”

The general made a sign, and the four men were surrounded and marched to one side in the direction from whence they had been brought; while at another sign, the rest of the prisoners, with Farmer Raynes at their head, closed up in line.

“What are you?” said the general, sternly, beginning with the sturdy tenant of the estate.


“And you?”


And so all along the line, each man making his response in an independent, defiant tone.

“Will you come and serve the Parliament?” said the general. “I want strong, brave men.”

He looked at Farmer Raynes as he spoke, but glanced afterwards at every man in turn.

“Then you must go and look for ’em somewhere else, squire. You won’t find a man on Sir Granby Royland’s estate.”

A murmur from the rank showed how the rest acquiesced.

The general made a sign, and a squad of musketeers surrounded the men.

“Go back to your homes, my lads; but remember, if you are found in arms again, you will be shot. Escort these men beyond the moat.”

Farmer Raynes turned sharply to Roy.

“Can’t help ourselves, captain,” he cried, loudly; “but shot or no, we’re ready when you want us again.—Good-bye, Martlet, old comrade.—Take care of him, general, for he’s as fine a soldier as ever stepped.—Now, my lads, three cheers for my lady, and then march.”

The prisoners burst into a hearty roar, and were then escorted through the gate-way and over the drawbridge beyond the strong picket stationed by the earthwork. Here they cheered loudly again.

“Hallo! who are you?” said the general, sharply, as his eyes lit upon the flowing white hair and beard of the tottering old gate-keeper, who, fully armed, and with his head erect, took a few paces forward from where he had stood before unobserved.

“Sir Granby’s oldest follower, and his father’s afore him,” said Jenk, in his feeble, quavering voice. “Do I go with Ben Martlet and t’others to the prison?”

“No,” said the general, shortly; “stop and attend to your young master, and mind you don’t get playing tricks with that sword.”

“But I’m a soldier as has sarved—”

“Silence, Jenk!” said Roy, hastily stepping to his side. “You must not desert me; I’m quite alone now.”

“Oh, very well, if it’s like that, sir, I’ll stop with you,” quavered the old man; and he stepped stiffly behind his young master, unconscious of the smiles and whispers which arose.

Half an hour later the new garrison had settled down to its quarters; the three heavy guns from the battery had been brought in and planted in the gate-way to sweep the approach, and Royland Castle was transformed into a Parliamentary stronghold, protected by whose guns a little camp was formed just beyond the moat, and occupied by the cavalry of the force.

Ben and his three comrades were placed in a room opening on the court-yard, with leave to go anywhere about the quadrangle, with a sentry placed over them—hardly a necessity, for they were all suffering from wounds, of which, however, they made light when Roy went to them, setting him a capital example of keeping a good heart.

Then, finding himself fully at liberty to go where he pleased, the sentries saluting and letting him pass, Roy made for the hospital-room, longing for and yet dreading the interview, fearing as he did to witness his mother’s despair.

To his surprise, as she eagerly caught his hands in hers, her face was wreathed in smiles, and she strove to comfort him.

“Defeated, Roy; but even your enemies honour you for your brave defence,” she whispered.

“Ours, mother; not mine only,” he said. And then, feeling that he could not even allude to the traitor who carefully kept out of his way, he went round to the men’s beds with Lady Royland. The place was pretty full now, but in spite of serious wounds the room looked cheerful, and the men of both sides received them with smiles. There was only one sad face, and that was Sam Donny’s, for he had taken to his bed again, “from weakness,” Lady Royland said.

She passed on to the next bed, and Roy sat down by the poor fellow for a few minutes, to take his hand, gazing the while in his drawn and wrinkled face.

“I’m very, very sorry, Sam,” Roy said, gently. “Come, you must try and get right again.”

“Yes, captain,” said the man loudly, with a groan. “I was to have been out in a few days if I hadn’t turned worse. This doctor don’t understand my case.”

“What is it?” said Roy, anxiously. “Has your wound broken out again?”

“Nothing at all,” whispered the man, with his eyes twinkling. “I’m nearly as right as you are, sir; and when you want me, here I am.”


“Hush! Don’t look like that. I’m gammoning my lady, so as they shan’t send me away like t’others. You’ve got a strong man here when you and Ben Martlet wants to make a fight for it again. Oh-h-h!”

He groaned as he saw one of the wounded Parliamentarians looking in their direction, and Roy rose hurriedly and joined his mother, feeling as if he were playing false.

They finished their round of the place, and then went out into the corridor to talk.

“Don’t speak about our disaster, Roy,” said Lady Royland, clinging to his hand. “We must bear it, and your father cannot blame us for our reverse. There, I shall be busy here, and we must be thankful that we have fallen into the hands of General Hepburn, whose kindness and consideration are far more than we could have expected. He has only one fault—he is an enemy.”

“Then you don’t blame me for feeling as if I half liked him, mother?”

“We can like the man, Roy, without liking his principles,” said Lady Royland, calmly. “Come and see me as often as you can; I shall generally be here, but I suppose you can come to my room sometimes.”

“I suppose so,” said Roy. “I believe I am to keep mine.”

“Yes; General Hepburn told me you should; but, Roy, you will be careful.”

“What—about trying to retake the place?”

“It is impossible, my boy. But I did not mean that; I meant about encountering that man—no, he is not a man,” she cried, with an angry flash of her eyes. “He has taken possession of the library and the state-room, for he made a bargain with our enemies that his reward for delivering up the place was to be that he should retain the estate afterwards.”

“And they wanted the stronghold put down, and agreed,” said Roy. “Yes; I pretty well know all, mother. Of course you have heard how he got the men in? All through my neglect?”

“Yes, Roy! No, Roy, there was no neglect! We could not know of that communication.”

“I did; but I could not find it. Oh, how that villain did cheat—”

Roy got no further, for his mother’s hand was laid upon his lips, and they parted directly after, her last words being:

“Don’t think of it, Roy; our position is a happy one compared to his. Even the enemy look upon him with disgust.”

“And I was ready for a few moments to believe all he said,” thought Roy, as he returned to the court-yard with a strong desire now in his mind, one which grew minute by minute. He only waited for a favourable opportunity to make his request.