Chapter XXIV. Across the Sea.
 

The announcement of the innkeeper struck consternation into the party.

"This is bad news indeed," Colonel Wyndham said; "what does your majesty advise now?"

"I know not, my good Wyndham," King Charles replied. "Methinks 'twere better that I should give myself up at once. Fate seems against us, and I'm only bringing danger on all my friends."

"Your friends are ready to risk the danger," Colonel Wyndham said; "and I doubt not that we shall finally place your majesty in safety. I think we had best try Bridport. Unfortunately, the Roundheads are so sure of your being on the coast that it is well-nigh impossible to procure a ship, so strict is the search of all who leave port. If we could but put them off your scent, and lead them to believe that you have given it up in despair here, and are trying again to reach Scotland, it might throw them off their guard, and make it more easy for us to find a ship."

"I might do that," Harry said. "I have with me my comrade Jacob, who is about the king's height and stature. I will travel north again, and will in some way excite suspicion that he is the king. The news that your majesty has been seen traveling there will throw them off your track here."

"But you may be caught yourself," the king said. "The Earl of Derby and other officers have been executed. There would be small chance for you were you to fall into their hands."

"I trust that I shall escape, sire. My friend Jacob is as cunning as a fox, and will, I warrant me, throw dust in their eyes. And how has it fared with your majesty since I left you at White Ladies?"

"Faith," Charles replied, laughing, "I have been like a rat with the dogs after him. The next night after leaving you I was in danger from a rascally miller, who raised an alarm because we refused to stay at his bidding. Then we made for Moseley, where I hoped to cross the Severn. The Roundheads had set a guard there, and Richard Penderell went to the house of Mr. Woolfe, a loyal gentleman, and asked him for shelter for an officer from Worcester. Mr. Woolfe said he would risk his neck for none save the king himself. Then Richard told him who I was, and brought me in. Mr. Woolfe hid me in the barn and gave me provisions. The neighborhood was dangerous, for the search was hot thereabout, and I determined to double back again to White Ladies, that I might hear what had become of Wilmot. Richard Penderell guided me to Boscabell, a farmhouse kept by his brother William. Here I found Major Careless in hiding. The search was hot, and we thought of hiding in a wood near, but William advised that as this might be searched we should take refuge in an oak lying apart in the middle of the plain."

"This had been lopped three or four years before and had grown again very thick and bushy, so that it could not be seen through. So, early in the morning, Careless and I, taking provisions for the day, climbed up it and hid there, and it was well we did so, for in the day the Roundheads came and searched the wood from end to end, as also the house. But they did not think of the tree. The next two days I lay at Boscabell, and learned on the second day that Wilmot was hiding at the house of Mr. Whitgrave, a Catholic gentleman at Moseley, where he begged me to join him. That night I rode thither. The six Penderells, for there were that number of brothers, rode with me as a bodyguard. I was well received by Mr. Whitgrave, who furnished me with fresh linen, to my great comfort, for that which I had on was coarse, and galled my flesh grievously, and my feet were so sore I could scarce walk. But the Roundheads were all about, and the search hot, and it was determined that I should leave. This time I was dressed as a decent serving man, and Colonel Lane's daughter agreed to go with me. I was to pass as her serving man, taking her to Bristol. A cousin rode with us in company. Colonel Lane procured us a pass, and we met with no adventure for three days. A smith who shod my horse, which had cast a shoe, did say that that rogue Charles Stuart had not been taken yet, and that he thought he ought to be hanged. I thought so too, so we had no argument. At Bristol we could find no ship in which I could embark, and after some time I went with Miss Lane and her cousin to my good friend Colonel Wyndham, at Trent House. After much trouble he had engaged a ship to take me hence, and now this rascal refuses to go, or rather his wife refuses for him. And now, my friend, we will at once make for Bridport, since Colonel Wyndham hopes to find a ship there. I trust we may meet ere long in France. None of my friends have served me and my father more faithfully than you. It would seem but a mockery now to take knighthood at the hands of Charles Stuart, but it will not harm thee."

Taking a sword from Colonel Wyndham, the king dubbed Harry knight. Then giving his hand to the landlord to kiss, Charles, accompanied by his two companions, left the inn.

A few minutes later Harry started and joined his friends. Jacob agreed at once to the proposal to throw the Roundheads off King Charles' track. The next day they started north, and traveled through Wiltshire up into Gloucestershire, still keeping their disguises as gypsies. There they left their donkey with a peasant, telling him they would return in a fortnight's time and claim it. In a wood near they again changed their disguise, hid their gypsy dresses, and started north on foot. In the evening they stopped at Fairford, and took up their abode at a small inn, where they asked for a private room. They soon ascertained that the landlord was a follower of the Parliament. Going toward the room into which they were shown, Jacob stumbled, and swore in a man's voice, which caused the servant maid who was conducting them to start and look suspiciously at him. Supper was brought, but Harry noticed that the landlord, who himself brought it in, glanced several times at Jacob. They were eating their supper when they heard his footstep again coming along the passage. Harry dropped on one knee, and was in the act of handing the jug in that attitude to Jacob, when the landlord entered. Harry rose hastily, as if in confusion, and the landlord, setting down on the table a dish which he had brought, again retired.

"Throw up the window, Jacob, and listen," Harry said. "We must not be caught like rats in a trap."

The window opened into a garden, and Jacob, listening, could hear footsteps as of men running in the streets.

"That is enough, then," Harry said. "The alarm is given. Now let us be off." They leaped from the window, and they were soon making their way across the country. They had not been gone a hundred yards before they heard a great shouting, and knew that their departure had been discovered. They had not walked far that day and now pressed forward north. They had filled their pockets with the remains of their supper, and after walking all night, left the road, and climbing into a haystack at a short distance, ate their breakfast and were soon fast asleep.

It was late in the afternoon before they awoke. Then they walked on until, after darkness fell, they entered a small village. Here they went into a shop to buy bread. The woman looked at them earnestly.

"I do not know whether it concerns you," she said, "but I will warn you that this morning a mounted man from Fairford came by warning all to seize a tall countryman with a young fellow and a woman with him, for that she was no other than King Charles."

"Thanks, my good woman," Jacob said. "Thanks for your warning. I do not say that I am he you name, but whether or no, the king shall hear some day of your good-will."

Traveling on again, they made thirty miles that night, and again slept in a wood. The next evening, when they entered a village to buy food, the man in the shop, after looking at them, suddenly seized Jacob, and shouted loudly for help. Harry stretched him on the ground with a heavy blow of the stout cudgel he carried. The man's shouts, however, had called up some of his neighbors, and these ran up as they issued from the shop, and tried to seize them. The friends, however, struck out lustily with their sticks, Jacob carrying one concealed beneath his dress. In two or three minutes they had fought their way clear, and ran at full speed through the village, pursued by a shouting crowd of rustics.

"Now," Harry said, "we can return for our gypsy dresses, and then make for the east coast. We have put the king's enemies off the scent. I trust that when we may get across the water we may hear that he is in safety."

They made a long detour, traveling only at night, Harry entering alone after dusk the villages where it was necessary to buy food. When they regained the wood where they had left their disguises they dressed themselves again as gypsies, called for the donkey, and then journeyed across England by easy stages to Colchester, where they succeeded in taking passage in a lugger bound for Hamburg. They arrived there in safety, and found to their great joy the news had arrived that the king had landed in France.

He had, they afterward found, failed to obtain a ship at Bridport, where when he arrived he here found a large number of soldiers about to cross to Jersey. He returned to Trent House, and a ship at Southampton was then engaged. But this was afterward taken up for the carriage of troops. A week later a ship lying at Shoreham was hired to carry a nobleman and his servant to France, and King Charles, with his friends, made his way thither in safety. The captain of the ship at once recognized the king, but remained true to his promise, and landed him at Fécamp in Normandy.

Six weeks had elapsed since the battle of Worcester, and during that time the king's hiding-places had been known to no less than forty-five persons, all of whom proved faithful to the trust, and it was owing to their prudence and caution as well as to their loyalty that the king escaped, in spite of the reward offered and the hot search kept up everywhere for him.

Harry had now to settle upon his plans for the future. There was no hope whatever of an early restoration. He had no thought of hanging about the king whose ways and dissolute associates revolted him. It was open to him to take service, as so many of his companions had done, in one or other of the Continental armies, but Harry had had more than enough of fighting. He determined then to cross the ocean to the plantations of Virginia, where many loyal gentlemen had established themselves. The moneys which Colonel Furness had during the last four years regularly sent across to a banker at the Hague, for his use, were lying untouched, and these constituted a sum amply sufficient for establishing himself there. Before starting, however, he determined that if possible he would take a wife with him. In all his wanderings he had never seen any one he liked so much as his old playmate, Lucy Rippinghall. It was nearly four years since he had seen her, and she must now be twenty-one. Herbert, he knew by his father's letters, had left the army at the end of the first civil war, and was carrying on his father's business, the wool-stapler having been killed at Marston Moor. Harry wrote to the colonel, telling him of his intention to go to Virginia and settle there until either Cromwell's death, and the dying out of old animosities, or the restoration of the king permitted him to return to England, and also that he was writing to ask Lucy Rippinghall to accompany him as his wife. He told his father that he was well aware that he would not have regarded such a match as suitable had he been living at home with him at Furness Hall, but that any inequality of birth would matter no whit in the plantations of Virginia, and that such a match would greatly promote his happiness there. By the same mail he wrote to Herbert Rippinghall.

"My DEAR HERBERT: The bonds of affection which held us together when boys are in no way slackened in their hold upon me, and you showed, when we last met, that you loved me in no way less than of old. I purpose sailing to Virginia with such store of money as would purchase a plantation there, and there I mean to settle down until such times as these divisions in England may be all passed. But I would fain not go alone. As a boy I loved your sister Lucy, and I have seen none to take the place of her image in my heart. She is, I know, still unmarried, but I know not whether she has any regard for me. I do beseech you to sound her, and if she be willing to give her to me. I hear that you are well married, and can therefore the better spare her. If she be willing to take me, I will be a good husband to her, and trust some day or other to bring her back to be lady of Furness Hall. Although I know that she will care little for such things, I may say that she would be Lady Lucy, since the king has been pleased to make me Sir Harry Furness. Should the dear girl be willing, will you, since I cannot come to you, bring her hither to me. I have written to my father, and have told him what I purpose to do. Trusting that this will find you as well disposed toward me as ever, I remain, your affectionate friend, HARRY FURNESS."

This letter, together with that to his father, Harry gave to Mike. The post in those days was extremely irregular, and none confided letters of importance to it which could possibly be sent by hand. Such a communication as that to Herbert Rippinghall was not one which Harry cared to trust to the post. Mike had never been at Abingdon, and would therefore be unknown there. Nor, indeed, unless they were taken prisoners in battle or in the first hot pursuit, were any of lower degree meddled with after their return to their homes. There was therefore no fear whatever of molestation. At this time Jacob was far from well. The fatigues which he had undergone since the king broke up his camp at Stirling had been immense. Prolonged marches, great anxiety, sleeping on wet ground, being frequently soaked to the skin by heavy rains, all these things had told upon him, and now that the necessity for exertion was over, a sort of low fever seized him, and he was forced to take to his bed. The leech whom Harry called in told him that Jacob needed rest and care more than medicine. He gave him, however, cooling drinks, and said that when the fever passed he would need strengthening food and medicine.

Hamburg was at that time the resort of many desperate men from England. After Worcester, as after the crushing out of the first civil war, those too deeply committed to return to their homes sought refuge here. But though all professed to be Cavaliers, who were suffering only from their loyalty to the crown, a great many of them were men who had no just claim to so honorable a position. There were many who took advantage of the times in England to satisfy private enmities or to gratify evil passions. Although the courts of law sat during the whole of the civil war, and the judges made their circuits, there was necessarily far more crime than in ordinary times. Thus many of those who betook themselves to Hamburg and other seaports on the continent had made England too hot for them by crimes of violence and dishonesty.

The evening after Mike sailed Harry, who had been sitting during the afternoon chatting by Jacob's bedside, went out to take the air. He strolled along the wharves, near which were the drinking-houses, whence came sounds of singing, dancing, and revelry, mingled occasionally with shouts and the clash of steel, as quarrels arose among the sailors and others frequenting them. Never having seen one of these places, Harry strolled into one which appeared of a somewhat better class than the rest. At one end was a sort of raised platform, upon which were two men, with fiddles, who, from time to time, played lively airs, to which those at the tables kept time by stamping their feet. Sometimes men or women came on to the platform and sang. The occupants of the body of the hall were mostly sailors, but among whom were a considerable number of men, who seemed by their garb to be broken-down soldiers and adventurers.

Harry took his seat by the door, called for a glass of wine and drank it, and, having soon seen enough of the nature of the entertainment, was about to leave, when his attention was attracted by a young girl who took her place on the platform. She was evidently a gypsy, for at this time these people were the minstrels of Europe. It would have been considered shameful for any other woman to sing publicly. Two or three of these women had already sung, and Harry had been disgusted with their hard voices and bold looks. But he saw that the one who now took her place on the platform was of a different nature. She advanced nervously, and as if quite strange to such a scene, and touched her guitar with trembling fingers. Then she began to sing a Spanish romance in a sweet, pure voice. There was a good deal of applause when it finished, for even the rough sailors could appreciate the softness and beauty of the melody. Then a half-drunken man shouted, "Give us something lively. Sing 'May the Devil fly off with Old Noll.'"

The proposal was received with a shout of approval by many, but some of the sailors cried out, "No, no. No politics. We won't hear Cromwell insulted."

This only led to louder and more angry shouts on the part of the others, and in all parts of the room men rose to their feet, gesticulating and shouting. The girl, who evidently did not understand a word that was said, stood looking with affright at the tumult which had so suddenly risen. In a minute swords were drawn. The foreign sailors, in ignorance of the cause of dispute, drew their knives, and stood by the side of those from the English ships, while the foreign soldiers seemed ready to make common cause with the English who had commenced the disturbance. Two or three of the latter leaped upon the platform to insist upon their wishes being carried out. The girl, with a little scream, retreated into a corner. Harry, indignant at the conduct to his countrymen, had drawn his sword, and made his way quietly toward the end of the hall, and he now sprang upon the platform.

"Stand back," he shouted angrily. "I'll spit the first man who advances a step."

"And who are you, sir, who ventures to thrust yourself into a quarrel, and to interfere with English gentlemen?"

"English gentlemen," Harry said bitterly. "God help England if you are specimens of her gentlemen."

"S'death!" exclaimed one. "Run the scoundrel through, Ralph."

In a moment Harry slashed open the cheek of one, and ran the other through the arm. By this time the fray had become general in the hall. Benches were broken up, swords and knives were used freely. Just as the matter began to grow serious there was a cry of "The watch!" and a strong armed guard entered the hall.

There was an instant cessation of hostilities, and then both parties uniting, rushed upon the watch, and by sheer weight bore them back out of the place. Harry looked round, and saw that the girl had fled by a door at the back of the platform. Seeing that a fight was going on round the door, and desiring to escape from the broil, he went out by the door she had taken, followed a passage for some distance, went down a dimly-lighted stair, and issued through a door into the air. He found himself in a foul and narrow lane. It was entirely unlighted, and Harry made his way with difficulty along, stumbling into holes in the pavement, and over heaps of rubbish of all kinds.

"I have got into a nice quarter of the town," he muttered to himself. "I have heard there are places in Hamburg, the resort of thieves and scoundrels of the worst kind, and where even the watch dare not penetrate, Methinks that this must be one them."

He groped his way along till he came to the end of the lane. Here a dim light was burning. Three or four other lanes, in appearance as forbidding as that up which he had come, met at this spot. Several men were standing about. Harry paused for a moment, wondering whether he had better take the first turning at random, or invite attention by asking his way. He determined that the former was the least dangerous alternative, and turned down the lane to his right. He had not gone ten steps when a woman came up to him from behind.

"Are you not the gentleman who drew a sword to save me from insult?" she asked in French.

Harry understood enough of the language to make out what she said.

"Yes," he said, "if you are the singer."

"Good heavens! sir, what misfortune has brought you here? I recognized your face in the light. Your life, sir, is in the greatest danger. There are men here who would murder you for the sake of a gold piece, and that jewel which fastens your plume must have caught their eyes. Follow me, sir, quickly."