Chapter 31 | Old Jenk's Mind is Troubled | The Young Castellan

Chapter Thirty One.

Two days passed before Roy was able to ask what he wanted. For during this interval General Hepburn seemed too much immersed in affairs to more than give him a friendly nod when they met at meals. Men were being constantly sent out with despatches, and others came. Then the cavalry regiment was always going and coming, “sweeping the country,” Ben said, when Roy sat talking by the old soldier, who was more injured than he would own to, and spent most of his time on a stone seat in the sun.

“Tchah! not I, sir,” he said, peevishly. “My lady’s got her hands full enough. We chaps know how to manage with clean water, fresh bit o’ linen, and keep quiet in the sunshine, and natur’ does all the rest. We’re getting on right enough.—Eh, comrades?”

“Couldn’t be better,” said the corporal. “Soon be ready to begin again, Master Roy, when you see your chance.”

Words like these, and a hint or two again and again from the sick men in the hospital, could not fail to set ideas growing in Roy’s brain; but everything was confused and misty yet, and the time went on. Poor old Jenk crept up to the four men, and always had the sunniest spot in the corner given to him, and here he would settle himself, nursing his sword in his lap, and go fast asleep.

“Yes, sir,” said Ben, one day; “you see he’s so very old. I believe after all he’s a hundred, and it’s a honour to him, I say. Mean to live to a hundred myself if I can. But see how he sleeps; I don’t believe he’s quite awake more than three hours a day, and I dessay he’ll just come to an end some time in his sleep.”

“Poor old fellow,” said Roy, softly, as he laid his fresh young hand upon the gnarled and withered fingers that rested upon the sword across the old man’s knees.

“Ah, he has been a good soldier in his day, Master Roy, but it’s rum how he can’t see that he’s not a fine strong man now! Why, you might really nigh blow him over, and all the time he keeps on talking about what he’s going to do to Master Fiddler as soon as he gets a chance.”

“What! he doesn’t threaten to attack him?”

“Don’t threaten, sir?” said Ben with a chuckle. “But he just do; and then he’s going to retake the castle singlehanded.”

“But he mustn’t have a sword; he’ll be making some trouble.”

“Well, if he makes an end to Master Pawson, sir, I think he may just lie down and die at once like a regular hero, for he’ll have done the finest thing he ever did in his life.”

“Oh, nonsense, Ben! You and all of you must mind the poor old fellow does nothing foolish.”

Ben growled and shook his head, for his ideas were not at all in accordance with his young master’s.

“You need not look so sour, Ben,” Roy hastened to say. “Master Pawson will get his deserts some day.”

“Yes, sir,” said the old soldier, sourly; “his sort generally seem to in this precious world. His deserts seem to be your father’s fine old property to wallow in, and get fatter and rounder-faced every day. He’d better not go and sit and read big books belonging to your father atop of either of the towers when I’m nigh, sir, for I’ll pitch him off as sure as he plays the fiddle.”

The men laughed.

“Oh, you may grin,” said Ben, “but I mean it. You know, I s’pose, Master Roy, as they’ve emptied his room and carried everything into your father’s library,—fiddle and all. Oh, how I should like to smash that caterwaulin’ thing!”

“I did not know it, Ben,” said Roy, thoughtfully. “I keep away from there as much as I can. But I say, Ben,” he continued, smiling, as he laid his hand upon the old soldier’s knee, “your wound is hurting you a good deal to-day.”

“Awful, my lad, awful; it’s getting better, but it feels as if a hungry dog was gnawing the bone.”

“I thought so.”

“Why, how did you know, my lad?” said Ben, innocently.

“Only by your manner. But look here,” continued Roy, “I want very badly to see that place where the enemy got in.”

“Ay, and so do I, sir. I’ve lain awake at nights with that place worrying me more than my big chop as ought to ha’ been well by this time. I don’t understand it yet, only I expect as he let ’em in. So he filled all the long underground passages with the men, and got ’em there ready to go up the towers when the signal was given? I daresay he give it with his miserable squeak of a pipe.”

“I’m going to ask General Hepburn to let me see the place.”

“And he won’t let you, of course. You’ll have to give the sentries something, and perhaps they may.”

“No; I’m not going to do anything underhanded, Ben. I shall ask the general himself.”

“Oh come, I like that, sir,” said Ben, derisively. “He didn’t do anything underhanded along with Fiddler Pawson, did he?”

“Wound shooting, Ben?” said Roy, drily.

The old soldier chuckled, and the boy rose and went straight to the general’s snug quarters in a little place adjoining the dining-room to prefer his request.