A March on London by G. A. Henty
Chapter XIX. Well Settled
"Well, well, well," Mr. Ormskirk exclaimed when Edgar brought the story of all that had happened since he had been away to an end, "indeed you surprise me. I know that many knights fit out parties and go to the wars, not so much for honour and glory as for the spoils and ransoms they may gain, and that after Crecy and Poictiers, there was not a single soldier but came back laden with booty and with rich jewels, gold chains, and costly armour, gathered from the host of French nobles who fell on those fields; while knights who were fortunate enough to capture counts, earls, or princes, gained ransoms that enabled them to purchase estates, and live without occasion to go further to the wars during their lives. But I never thought that you would benefit by such a chance. As it is to my mind more honourable to save life than to take it, I rejoice that you have come to your fortune, not by the slaying of enemies, but by the saving the lives of a man, his wife, and daughter, who are rich enough to reward you.
"Assuredly, if a man like Mynheer Van Voorden had fallen into the hands of the Count of Flanders, the latter would have extracted from him, as the price of his freedom, a sum many times larger than that which he has expended on the purchase of these two estates, and the building of the castles. Well, Edgar, I congratulate you heartily. You can now ride to the wars when the king's banner is spread to the winds, and do your duty to your country, but there will be no occasion for you to become a mere knight adventurer--a class I detest, ever ready to sell their swords to the highest bidder, and to kill men, against whom they have no cause of complaint, as indifferently as a butcher would strike down a bullock with a pole-axe.
"Between these men and those who fight simply in the wars of their own country, the gulf is a wide one, as wide as that betwixt a faithful house- dog and a roving wolf. When are you going to receive your new acquisition, or are you intending to ride first to London to thank the Fleming for his noble gift?"
"Assuredly, we should have first ridden to London, father, but we each found in the bottom of our boxes a short letter which we had at first overlooked. The letters were the same, save for our names. Mine ran:--
"'_Dear Sir Edgar,
"'It has given me very great pleasure to prepare this little surprise for you. I pray you, do not mar it in any way by returning me thanks. The gift is as naught in comparison with the service rendered. I am proceeding to the North to-morrow on business with Earl Percy, and shall not return for some weeks. When we meet next, I pray you, let there be no word of thanks concerning this affair, for I consider myself still greatly your debtor. You will find an agent of mine at your castle. He has been there some time, has made the acquaintance of all the vassals and others, and will introduce you to them as their lord. He has my instructions either to remain there to manage your affairs for six months, or for any less time you may choose. But methinks you will do well to keep him for that time, as he is a good man of business, and you will need such an one until you have mastered all the details, and can take matters entirely in your own hands._'
"So you see, father, we shall be free to start to-morrow. Sir Ralph, Lady De Courcy, and Mistress Aline will ride with us, and I trust that you will come also. We shall first go to Cliffe, which will be on our road, and, indeed, I believe that for some distance Albert's lands join mine. Then we shall go on to my castle--it sounds absurd, doesn't it, father?--and doubtless we shall be able to stay in Hoo, or if not, 'tis but two or three miles to Stroud, where we are sure to find good lodging."
"I should like to ride with you, Edgar, but it is years since I have bestridden a horse."
"We shall ride but slowly, father, for Dame De Courcy loves not for her palfrey to go beyond a walk. If you like you could bestride Hal Carter's horse, which is a strong and steady animal, and he can walk alongside, so as to be ready to catch the rein if it be needed. He will be very glad to go, for the honest fellow is in the highest delight at the news of my good fortune."
"I think that I could do that, Edgar, yet I will not go by Cliffe, but straight to Hoo. I can then travel as I like, and shall not have to join in talk with Dame De Courcy nor the others, nor feel that my bad horsemanship makes me a jest."
"Very well, father, perhaps that would be the pleasantest way for you."
"If I get there before you, Edgar, I shall stop at a tavern in the main street of Hoo. There is sure to be one there; and will rest until you come along. If Hal Carter learns that you have passed through before my arrival, I will come straight on to the castle."
Accordingly, early the next morning, Mr. Ormskirk started with Hal, and Edgar, after seeing them fairly on their way, rode over to the De Courcys'. All were in readiness for the start.
"Is not Mr. Ormskirk coming with us?" Dame De Courcy asked. "Recluse though he is, I thought he would surely tear himself from his books on such an occasion."
"He has done so, dame, and is already on the road to Hoo, under the charge of Hal Carter. 'Tis so many years since he has bestridden a horse that he said that he should be ill at ease riding with such a party, and that he would therefore go on quietly, with Hal walking beside him, and would join us when we came to Hoo."
They mounted at once. Dame De Courcy rode on a pillion behind Sir Ralph. Aline bestrode--for side-saddles had not yet come into use--her own pony. Two retainers followed, one leading a sumpter horse, with two panniers well filled with provisions and wine, together with some women's gear, in case the weather should turn bad, and a change be required at the halting- place for the night. They started briskly, and Edgar was glad that his father had gone on alone; the pace would have sorely discomposed him. Alternately walking and going at a canter they arrived in three hours at Cliffe.
"There is your castle, Albert!" Aline exclaimed. "It seems well-nigh, if not quite, finished, and is strongly posted on that hill, overlooking the whole country from Dartford to Sheerness. You will need a chatelaine before long, brother mine."
Albert laughed, but coloured a little.
"Time enough to think of that, Aline."
"Nay, I am in earnest. Many are betrothed, if not married, long before they attain your age."
"I may say the same to you, Aline. 'Tis the fashion now for girls to be betrothed between twelve and fourteen. I have been wandering about and fighting and have had no time to think of love-making."
Aline shrugged her shoulders. "You had better ask Sir Ralph and my mother for their views about me, Albert. It is not for a maid to make her own marriage, but a valiant knight like yourself can manage your own affairs, Methought perhaps that you would have to tell us that the Fleming's fair daughter was to assist you in the management of the castle that her father has given you."
"Joanna Van Voorden!" Albert exclaimed, indignantly, while Edgar burst into laughter; "why, she is well-nigh as big as her mother already, and promises to be far bigger. Thank you, Aline; if the castle and estate had been offered me on the condition that I married her, I would have had none of them."
"Well, sir, shall I make another guess?" Aline asked, mischievously.
"No, no, Aline," Albert said, hastily. "No more guessing, if you please."
They had by this time approached the castle. "Look, father!" Aline exclaimed, clapping her hands; "they must have been on the watch for us. See! they are raising a flag on that staff on the turret, and see, there are your arms blazoned on it."
"'Tis a goodly castle for its size," the knight said, as he drew rein and turned his horse so that his dame might get a better view of it. "There is a dry moat, which is lined with stonework. The walls are not very high, but they are well defended by those flanking towers, and the place could stand any sudden assault. I should say that it was about the same strength as our own. So far as I can see, the other arrangements are quite different. There is no keep, and it seems to me that the house is built rather for comfort than for defence; the windows are large, and it looks more like a Flemish house built within a castle wall than an English place of strength. Now let us ride on," and they pressed their horses forward. The gates were thrown open when they approached within a hundred yards; the drawbridge over the moat had been already lowered.
"Ride you first, Albert," Sir Ralph said; "you are lord of the place."
As they came to the head of the drawbridge, a middle-aged man of grave aspect, dressed in the garb of a citizen, appeared at the gate, and six men-at-arms, in steel caps and body armour, armed with pike and sword, drew up behind him.
The man bowed deeply to Albert. "Welcome to Cliffe Castle, sir knight," he said. "I am Nicholas Hocht, and have, by the orders of my master, Mynheer Van Voorden, been here for the last year to superintend the building of this castle, and in carrying out his other commands respecting it, with further orders to remain here, should you desire it, for the further space of six months as your steward. I received a message from him yesterday, saying that possibly you would be here to-day, and I must, therefore, have everything in readiness for you. The warning was somewhat short, but I have done my best, and I trust that you will pardon any shortcomings."
"I am much beholden to you, Master Hocht," Albert said. "You have done well, indeed, for a fairer castle and one better placed no one could desire."
The men-at-arms saluted as he rode on. Entering the gate, they were able to see the house itself. It was, as Sir Ralph had said, rather a Flemish house than a knightly castle; the lower range of windows were small and heavily barred, but above there were large casements, pointed roofs, and projecting gables. It had an air of comfort and brightness. On the top of the broad steps leading to the great door were four retainers, all similarly attired in doublets of russet cloth and orange hose. As soon as the party alighted they ascended the steps, led by the steward. When they entered the great hall a general exclamation of surprise broke from them.
They had expected to see bare walls and every sign of the place having only just left the builders' hands; instead of this everything was complete, the massive oak beams and panels of the ceilings were varnished, the walls were wainscoted, the oak floor highly polished; Eastern rugs lay here and there upon it, carved benches ran along the sides, and a large banqueting table stood in the centre; rich curtains hung by the window, and a huge fire was piled on the hearth.
"Why, this is a work of enchantment, Master Hocht," Dame Agatha said.
"I have had but little to do with it, lady," the steward replied. "The woodwork was all made in London, to my master's orders, and I had but to superintend its being placed in position."
He led them from room to room, their surprise and delight continually increasing; all were furnished richly in the Flemish style with cabinets, tables, settees, and armoires. There were hangings to the windows and rugs on the floors; everything was ready for habitation, the linen presses were full of table-cloths and napkins and sheets. The beds were ready for sleeping in, with their great bags of soft feathers, their thick blankets and silken coverlets. These more than anything else excited the dame's admiration. Never had she seen beds approaching these in softness and daintiness.
"With the exception of the furniture in the hall," Master Hocht explained, "everything has come direct from Flanders, having been selected by Mynheer Van Voorden himself, and sent by sea to Gravesend."
After having inspected the whole of the house they returned to the hall. Here the table had been spread. A silver skewer, to act as a fork, an article then unknown in England, was placed before each, and an admirable repast was served, the steward himself officiating as carver, while the four servitors carried the platters, which were of fine Flemish ware, to the guests. Albert had begged his father to take the head of the table, but the latter refused positively. He sat on one side of his son and his dame on the other. Fish of several kinds, meats, and poultry were served. All cut up their meat with their daggers, and carried it to their mouths on the point of the skewer.
Albert and Edgar had learned the use of them in Flanders. Lady Agatha and Aline said that they were charming, but Sir Ralph declared that he greatly preferred using his fingers. After the meal was concluded, water was brought round in a silver bowl, with a damask napkin for them to wipe their fingers on.
"The wine is excellent," Sir Ralph said. "You can scarcely have purchased this at Cliffe or Gravesend."
"It is from the cellar, Sir Ralph, which is well stocked with the wines of France and Spain."
"Truly, Albert," Dame Agatha said, "this is not a castle; it is a veritable enchanted palace. Mynheer Van Voorden is like one of the good genii the Saracens believe in, who can, at will, summon up from the ground a vast palace, ready built and furnished. I trust that it will not at once vanish as soon as we leave it. Were it to do so I should scarcely be more surprised than I have been at its splendour and comfort."
"Do you tarry here to-night, Sir Albert?" the steward asked, as they rose from the table.
"No, we are going to take horse at once and ride to Hoo."
"Will you take the men-at-arms with you? They have horses in the stables."
"Not to-day," Albert said. "We are a family party, and travelling quietly."
As they rode into the street of Hoo, Mr. Ormskirk came out of a tavern, where he had been resting. After greeting the ladies and Sir Ralph, he said, "I had begun to think that you must have changed your minds, and that you were not coming hither to-day. I expected you three hours ago."
"We have been viewing the marvels of an enchanted castle, Mr. Ormskirk," Dame Agatha said. "We will not tell you about them, for doubtless you will see others like them here, and it would be a pity for me to prepare you for what you are to see."
The castle was indeed in all respects an almost exact duplicate to that of Cliffe. They were received as before by the Flemish steward. There were the same number of men-at-arms and servitors, and the fittings and furnishings were as perfect as those of Cliffe. After going over it, Edgar drew Sir Ralph aside.
"Sir Ralph," he said, "the castle, perfect as it is, still lacks one thing--a mistress. I have long hoped that the time would some day come that I should ask you for the hand of Mistress Aline, but though I have been fortunate, and have won rank and some distinction, I was but a landless knight, and in no position to ask for your daughter's hand. That obstacle has now been removed, and I pray you to give her to me. I love her very truly. My thoughts have never wandered for a moment from her, and I trust that I shall be able to make her happy. Unless the banner of England is hoisted I shall go no more to the wars."
"I am in no way surprised at your request, Edgar," the knight said; "and, indeed, for the past two years my dame and I have talked this over, and hoped that it might be. I have during the past year had more than one request for her hand, but have refused them, for her mother told me she believed that Aline's fancy has long inclined towards you."
He called Dame Agatha to join him, and on hearing Edgar's request, she heartily concurred with the knight.
"Nothing could please us better," she said. "We have long regarded you almost as our son, and we need have no fear that Aline will thwart our wishes and yours. Have you spoken to your father?"
"I spoke to him last night, lady, and told him what my hopes have long been, and that Van Voorden's noble gift now rendered it possible for me to speak; that it might be some time before it could be more than a betrothal, since, although I had rank and land, I was still without money to enable me to make the castle comfortable for her abode. Now that, owing to the Fleming's generosity, this difficulty is also removed, I hope that you will not think it necessary that our marriage should be delayed."
"I see no reason at all," Sir Ralph said. "Here is everything ready for her, and no noble in England could offer so comfortable a home to his bride. The castle lacks a mistress, and the sooner it has one the better. Therefore, you can take her as soon as her mother can get her ready."
They now joined Albert, Aline, and Mr. Ormskirk, who had mounted to the top of one of the turrets and were admiring the view.
"'Tis a fair home," Sir Ralph said.
"It is indeed, father."
"What say you to becoming its mistress, daughter? Sir Edgar has asked for your hand, and has gained mine and your mother's hearty consent. What say you?"
The girl coloured up to her forehead as her father spoke. "I am ready to obey your orders, father," she said, in a low tone, "the more so as my heart goes wholly with them."
"Take her, Edgar. 'Tis not often that a young knight gains castle, and land, and bride in twenty-four hours. May your good luck continue all your life."
"You have robbed me of my chatelaine, Edgar," Albert said, after the first congratulations were over. "Aline had half promised to come and keep house for me for the present."
"You must follow Edgar's example," Sir Ralph said. "Who is it to be, lad?"
"I had intended to speak to you shortly, father, but as you ask me I will do so at once. I have seen no one whom I could love so well as Mistress Ursula, daughter of Sir Robert Gaiton, and methinks that I am not indifferent to her."
"She is a fair maid," Sir Ralph said, "and her father is a right good fellow, though but a city knight. Still, others of higher rank than yourself have married in the city, and as Sir Robert has no other children, and is said to be one of the wealthiest of the London citizens, she will doubtless come to you better dowered than will Aline, for, as Edgar knows, my estates bring me in scarcely enough to keep up my castle and to lay by sufficient to place my retainers in the field should the king call on me for service. So be it then, my son. As we have settled to sleep here to-night, it will be to-morrow afternoon before we get home. The next day I will ride with you to London, and will ask Sir Robert for his daughter's hand for you."
Not the least happy of the party at the castle was Hal Carter. He passed the afternoon in walking, sometimes round the walls, sometimes going out and making a circuit of the moat, or walking away short distances to obtain views of the castle from various points. The news that his master and Aline De Courcy would shortly be married raised his delight to the highest pitch, for it pointed to an early occupation of the castle. The thought that he, Hal Carter, was to be the captain of the men-at-arms in a castle like this seemed to him a huge joke. It was but two years before that he had been hunted as a rioter, and would have been executed if caught. That so famous a leader as Sir Hugh Calverley should have praised him greatly, and that he was now to have men under his command, seemed to him as wonderful a thing as that his master, whom he had known as a young boy, should stand high in the king's favour, and should be lord of a castle and a wide estate.
"Of course, father," Edgar said, as early the next morning he took a turn upon the battlements with him, "you will leave St. Alwyth and come here?"
"I don't think that I could do that, Edgar," Mr. Ormskirk said, doubtfully.
"You will find it very lonely there, father; and, of course, we can fit you up a laboratory here, and you can go on just the same way as you did at home."
"I do not see that I shall be more lonely than I have been for the last two years, Edgar, and, indeed, as you know, even when you were at home I lived very much my own life, and only saw you at meals and for an hour or so of an evening; therefore, your being established here will make but little difference in my life, and, indeed, whenever I feel lonely I can ride over here for a day or two. I thank you all the same, Edgar; but, at any rate, for the present I will continue to live at St. Alwyth. I have the good prior, who often comes in for a talk with me in the evening, and makes me heartily welcome should I, as I do sometimes, go to the monastery for an hour after sunset. Sir Ralph never passes my door on his way down to Dartford without dismounting and coming in. I am happy in my own life, and as long as I have health and strength shall hope to continue it. Should my interest in my work flag, or when I feel that I am getting too old for useful work, which will, I trust, be not for many years yet, I will then gladly come and end my days here."
So the matter was left for the time, and although Edgar more than once tried to shake his father's determination, and Aline added her persuasions to his, he failed to alter Mr. Ormskirk's resolution. Sir Ralph and Albert returned from London after staying there for a few days. Sir Robert Gaiton had consented willingly to his daughter's marriage with Albert, and had announced his intention of giving her a dowry greater than that which most nobles could have bestowed on a daughter. The king had expressed very great satisfaction at hearing of the gift Master Van Voorden had bestowed on the young knights, and took great interest in their approaching marriages.
"They will then have enough land for a knight banneret's feu," he said; "that pleases me much. I should, on the report of Sir Hugh Calverley, have appointed them to that rank, but at present there are no estates in my gift, and I waited till some might fall in before I appointed them. Now, however, there is no further need for delay, and I will order the patent appointing them to be made out at once, for they can now, if called upon for service, take the field with the proper following of their rank. Has Sir Edgar adopted any cognizance? Of course your son will take yours."
"I don't think that he has ever so much as thought of it, sire."
"I will talk it over with my heralds," the king said, "and see if we can fix upon something appropriate, and that is not carried by any noble or knight. When will the weddings be?"
"In two months' time, sire. Sir Robert Gaiton and his dame asked for that time. My son will, of course, be married in London, and will be wed in St. Paul's, I have not yet thought about my daughter's marriage, but it will doubtless be at the chapel in the castle."
"'Tis a pity that they could not be married together here, Sir Ralph."
"I believe that my daughter's tastes and those of Sir Edgar would incline to a quiet wedding, with just our neighbours and friends, and doubtless Albert's would also lie that way; but in this matter Sir Robert must, of course, carry out the arrangements as he wishes; and as an alderman and like to be lord mayor in two years he would wish to make a brave show on the occasion."
Before the time for the weddings approached came the news that things had gone badly in Flanders. At the approach of the French army a council was held among the leaders, and it was agreed that the allied army could not fight with any hope of success against it. Accordingly, the men of Ghent retired to their own city, and the English marched with great haste to the coast and shut themselves up in Bruckburg, while the bishop himself galloped as far as Bergues. Bruckburg surrendered on the arrival of the French army, all the English being permitted to embark with the great spoil that had been taken. Sir Hugh Calverley, whose advice throughout had been always disregarded, had ridden to Gravelines with his small body of men-at-arms and thence took ship to England. The bishop, on his arrival home, was, with the knights who had been his councillors, very badly received; for it was held that by their conduct and ignorance of affairs, and by the manner in which they had behaved in Flanders, they had brought great discredit upon England.
Sir Hugh Calverley, on the other hand, was received with honour, it being well known that all that had been done had been contrary to his advice, and that had this been followed the event would have turned out very differently. The people at large, however, considered that the blame for the ill ending of the expedition was due entirely to the delay on the part of the Duke of Lancaster in crossing over with the army under him. It was known that he had been altogether opposed to the expedition, which had prevented the one he desired from sailing to Spain, and that he was minded to bring ruin upon it by delaying, under many false pretences, from crossing to France. He had been extremely unpopular before, but this added very greatly to the ill-feeling with which he was regarded.
But, in truth, the bishop's expedition failed from its own weakness. In no case could an army so collected and led have effected any great thing; but the headstrong folly and arrogance of the bishop, and his unprovoked attack upon the Flemings, precipitated matters, and the scornful neglect of all the counsel tendered by the veteran knight who accompanied the expedition, rendered it a shameful disaster.
The marriage of Sir Edgar with Aline was celebrated a fortnight before that of the bride's brother. The ceremony took place at the castle of the De Courcys, and was attended only by neighbours and friends, and by Sir Robert Gaiton, who rode down from town and presented the bride with a superb casket of jewels.
On the following day Sir Edgar with his wife rode to his castle at Hoo, where for the first time his banner, with the cognizance chosen by the king, a very simple one, being a sword with the words "For King and Honour," was hoisted at their approach, while the banneret denoting Edgar's new rank flew from another tower. The number of the men-at-arms had been increased to ten, and great was Hal Carter's pride as he took his place in front of them and saluted as Sir Edgar rode in. Ten days later they started for London to attend Albert's wedding; which was celebrated with much pomp in St. Paul's, the king himself and most of the nobles of the Court being present.
Neither of the two young knights ever rode to the wars again, for in King Richard's time the royal banner was never again raised in France; and yet they were not without a share of fighting. Many depredations were committed along the coasts and at the mouths of rivers by French freebooters and lawless people, and the castles of Hoo and Cliffe were well placed for preventing such incursions by men landing anywhere in the Hundred, either from the Medway or the Thames. There was no fear of such marauders sailing up the Medway past Hoo, for Upnor Castle barred the way, and indeed Rochester was too large a place, defended as it was by its castle, to be attacked by such pirates, but below Hoo a landing could be effected anywhere, and boats with a few hands on board could row up the creeks in the marshes, pounce upon a quiet hamlet, carry off anything of value, and set the place on fire.
Such incursions had been carried far up the Thames and great damage done, but as the ships of Fowey and other places were equally busy damaging French commerce and ravaging their sea-coast, no complaints could be made to France even during the very brief period when there was a truce between the two countries. Not only from across the Channel did these marauders come, but from the islands of Friesland and Zeeland, where the inhabitants--hardy sailors to a man--were lawless and uncontrolled. After having suffered several times from these pirates, and been moved by the constant complaints of their tenants, Edgar and Albert went up to town and laid the matter before the king and council, pointing out that these attacks were becoming more frequent and general all along the coast, and praying that measures might be adopted for putting a stop to them.
"But what do you propose should be done, sir knights?" the king asked.
"I would suggest, your Majesty, that either a few fast ships should be placed at various points, such as the mouth of the Medway, Harwich, Dover, Hastings, and Southampton, that might keep a watch for these pirates, or else that some of your vassals round the coast should be appointed to keep forces of some strength always under arms, just as the Percys are at all times in readiness to repel the incursions of the Scots; but should you and the council think this too weighty a plan, we would pray you to order better protection for the Thames. It was but the other day some pirates burnt six ships in Dartford Creek, and if they carry on these ravages unpunished, they may grow bolder and will be sailing higher still, and may cause an enormous loss to your merchants by setting fire to the vessels at the wharves, or to those anchored out in the stream."
"The matter would be serious, assuredly," the king said, "and would cause so great a trouble to the citizens of London that it would be well that some means should be taken to prevent it. I will talk the matter over with the council, sir knights, and will let you know in an hour's time whether we can do aught in the matter."
When the young knights returned, the king said:
"There is a royal manor at Bromley at present vacant; 'tis of the value of fifty-six pounds a year. This we will hand over to you jointly, upon your undertaking to keep thirty men-at-arms fully equipped and ready for service, each of you; and also that each of you shall maintain, at the spots which may seem to you the most advisable, a galley with oars, in which you can put out and attack these pirates."
Edgar begged permission to consult with his friend.
"You see, Albert, we have already each of us ten men-at-arms, and the revenue of the manor should well-nigh, if not quite, pay the expenses of the others. As to the galleys, we could keep them in the little creek between Cliffe and Graves-end. It would give us employment, and should we ever be called upon to take the field, the sixty men-at-arms will make a good beginning for the force we should gather."
Albert assented, and, returning, they informed the council that they were ready to undertake the charge of keeping thirty men-at-arms each, always in readiness for service, and for fighting the pirates by land or water. Returning home, preparations were speedily made, and the men enrolled and drilled. A watch-tower was raised on an eminence that was visible from both castles, and a look-out place also erected at the mouth of the Medway. This was some sixty feet high. A great cresset was placed at the summit ready for firing, and an arrangement made with the tenants, on whose land it stood, that a man should be on watch night and day. His duty would be to keep a vigilant eye on the river, and to light the beacon if any suspicions vessels were seen coming up. The smoke by day or the fire at night could be seen at both castles, and by a pre-arranged system signals could then be exchanged between Edgar and Albert by means of the watch-tower on the hill.
Albert had two large and fast galleys constructed, for his wife's dowry enabled him to spend money more freely than Edgar. They had a good many encounters with the freebooters. Two or three times strong parties that had landed from ships were attacked by the garrisons of both castles, joined by the tenantry near, and were driven to the boats with heavy loss.
Once the beacon from the mouth of the Medway signalled that three ships had entered the mouth of that river. Edgar signalled to Cliffe, and when at ten o'clock the French landed just below Hoo, thinking to make an easy capture of the village, and, perhaps, even to carry the castle by surprise, they were allowed to ascend the hill undisturbed, and were then attacked by the sixty men-at-arms, led by the two knights, together with a number of villagers and countrymen armed with bows and bills. Although superior in numbers the French were driven down the hill with great slaughter. Only a few succeeded in regaining their ships; but the tide had not yet turned, and there was little wind. Boats were obtained at Upnor, the vessels boarded, and all on board put to the sword.
Three or four sharp engagements also took place between the galleys and the pirates ascending the Thames, and at various times rich prizes that the pirates had taken higher up the river were recovered from them; so that in time the depredations greatly abated, and the city of London presented the two knights with costly swords and a vote of thanks for the great services they had rendered to the city, and to those trading with it.
They were both too happy in their homes to care to go often to Court, but they viewed with pain the increasing unpopularity of the king, brought about by his reckless extravagance, his life of pleasure, and the manner in which he allowed himself to be dominated by unworthy favourites. Van Voorden, who had permanently settled in England, often came down with his wife and daughter to stay for a few days with them, and declared that he had never laid out money so well as that which had established two such happy households. The last few years of Mr. Ormskirk's life were spent at Hoo, where he still dabbled a little in his former occupation, but never succeeded in finding the elixir he had laboured so long to discover. On the departure of the Flemish steward, Hal Carter was appointed to the post, with the understanding that if his lord should ever ride to battle, he was to revert to the command of the men-at-arms. Hal was ignorant of figures, but he had a young assistant given him to manage this part of the work, and his honesty, his acquaintance with farming, and his devotion to his master, made up for any deficiency on that score. Both knights sent contingents under their sons to fight at Agincourt, and were only prevented from taking the field themselves by the entreaties of their wives and daughters, and by the thought that it would be as well to give their sons the opportunity of distinguishing themselves, as they themselves had done, in their early youth.