Chapter II. For the King.
 

It was late that evening when Sir Henry Furness returned from Oxford; but Harry, anxious to hear the all-absorbing news of the day, had waited up for him.

"What news, father?" he said, as Sir Henry alighted at the door.

"Stirring news, Harry; but as dark as may be. War appears to be now certain. The king has made every concession, but the more he is ready to grant, the more those Puritan knaves at Westminster would force from him. King, peers, bishops, Church, all is to go down before this knot of preachers; and it is well that the king has his nobles and gentry still at his back. I have seen Lord Falkland, and he has given me a commission in the king's name to raise a troop of horse. The royal banner will be hoisted at Nottingham, and there he will appeal to all his loyal subjects for aid against those who seek to govern the nation."

"And you think, sir, that it will really be war now?" Harry asked.

"Ay, that will it, unless the Commons go down on their knees and ask his majesty's pardon, of which there is, methinks, no likelihood. As was to be expected, the burghers and rabble of the large towns are everywhere with them, and are sending up petitions to the Commons to stand fast and abolish everything. However, the country is of another way of thinking, and though the bad advisers of the king have in times past taken measures which have sorely tried our loyalty, that is all forgotten now. His majesty has promised redress to all grievances, and to rule constitutionally in future, and I hear that the nobles are calling out their retainers in all parts. England has always been governed by her kings since she was a country, and we are going to try now whether we are to be governed in future by our kings or by every tinker, tailor, preacher, or thief sent up to Westminster. I know which is my choice, and to-morrow I shall set about raising a troop of lads of the same mind."

"You mean to take me, sir, I hope," Harry said.

"Take you?" his lather repeated, laughing. "To do what?"

"To fight, certainly," Harry replied. "I am sure that among the tenants there is not one who could use the small sword as I can, for you have taught me yourself, and I do not think that I should be more afraid of the London pikemen than the best of them."

"No, no, Harry," his father said, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder; "I do not doubt your bravery. You come of a fighting stock indeed, and good blood cannot lie. But you are too young, my boy."

"But if the war goes on for a couple of years, father."

"Ay, ay, my boy; but I hope that it will be ended in a couple of months. If it should last--which God forbid!--you shall have your chance, never fear. Or, Harry, should you hear that aught has happened to me, mount your horse at once, my boy; ride to the army, and take your place at the head of my tenants. They will of course put an older hand in command; but so long as a Furness is alive, whatever be his age, he must ride at the head of the Furness tenants to strike for the king. I hear, by the way, Harry, that that Puritan knave, Rippinghall, the wool-stapler, is talking treason among his hands, and says that he will add a brave contingent to the bands of the Commons when they march hither. Hast heard aught about it?"

"Nothing, father, but I hope it is not true. I know, however, that Master Rippinghall's thoughts and opinions lie in that direction, for I have heard from Herbert--"

"Ah, the son of the wool-stapler. Hark you, Harry, this is a time when we must all take sides for or against the king. Hitherto I have permitted your acquaintance with the wool-stapler's son, though, in truth, he be by birth no fit companion for you. But times have changed now. The sword is going to be drawn, and friends of the king can no longer be grip hands with friends of the Commons. Did my own brother draw sword for Parliament, we would never speak again. Dost hear?"

"Yes, sir; and will of course obey your order, should you determine that I must speak no more to Herbert. But, as you say, I am a boy yet, too young to ride to the wars, and Herbert is no older. It will be time for us to quarrel when it is time for us to draw the sword."

"That is so, Harry, and I do not altogether forbid you speaking with him. Still the less you are seen together, the better. I like the lad, and have made him welcome here for your sake. He is a thoughtful lad, and a clever one; but it is your thoughtful men who plot treason, and until the storm be overpast, it is best that you see as little of him as may be. And now I have eaten my supper, and it is long past the time that you should have been in bed. Send down word by Thomas Hardway to Master Drake, my steward, to bid him send early in the morning notices that all my tenants shall assemble here to-morrow at four in the afternoon, and bid the cook come to me. We shall have a busy day to-morrow, for the Furness tenantry never gather at the hall and go out empty. And short though be the notice, they shall not do so this time, which to some of us may, perchance, be the last."

The next day there was bustle and hurry at Furness Hall. The ponds were dragged for fish; the poultry yard was scoured for its finest birds; the keepers were early afield, and when they returned with piles of hares and rabbits, these were seized by the cook and converted into huge pies and pasties. Two sheep were slaughtered, and the scullions were hard at work making confections of currants, gooseberries, plums, and other fruits from the garden. In the great hall the tables were laid, and when this was done, and all was in readiness, the serving men were called up to the armory, and there, throughout the day, the cleaning of swords and iron caps, the burnishing of breast and back pieces, the cleaning of firelocks, and other military work went on with all haste.

The Furness estates covered many a square mile of Berkshire, and fifty sturdy yeomen dismounted before Furness Hall at the hour named by Sir Henry. A number of grooms and serving men were in attendance, and took the horses as they rode up, while the major-domo conducted them to the great picture gallery. Here they were received by Sir Henry with a stately cordiality, and the maids handed round a great silver goblet filled with spiced wine.

At four exactly the major-domo entered and announced that the quota was complete, and that every one of those summoned was present.

"Serve the tables then," Sir Henry said, as he led the Way to the great dining-hall.

Sir Henry took the head of the broad table, and bade Harry sit on his right hand, while the oldest of the tenants faced him at the opposite end. Then a troop of servants entered bearing smoking joints, cold boars' heads, fish, turkeys, geese, and larded capons. These were placed upon the table, with an abundance of French wine, and of strong ale for those who preferred it, to wash down the viands. The first courses were followed by dishes of meats and confections, and when all was finished and cleared away Sir Henry Furness rose to his feet.

"Fill your glasses all," he said; "and bumpers. The toast which I give you to-day is 'The king, God bless him.' Never should Englishmen drink his health more earnestly and solemnly than to-day, when rebels have driven him from his capital, and pestilent traitors threatened him with armed force. Perhaps, my friends, you, like me, may from time to time have grumbled when the tax-collectors have come round, and you have seen no one warrant for their demands. But if the king has been forced so to exceed his powers, it was in no slight degree because those at Westminster refused to grant him the sums which were needful. He has, too, been surrounded by bad advisers. I myself loved not greatly either Stratford or Laud. But I would rather bear their high-handed ways, which were at least aimed to strengthen the kingdom and for the honor of the king, than be ground by these petty tyrants at Westminster, who would shut up our churches, forbid us to smile on a Sunday, or to pray, except through our noses; who would turn merry England into a canting conventicle, and would rule us with a rod to which that of the king were as a willow wand. Therefore it is the duty of all true men and good to drink the health of his majesty the king, and confusion to his enemies."

Upstanding, and with enthusiastic shouts, the whole of the tenants drank the toast. Sir Henry was pleased with the spirit which was manifested, and when the cheering had subsided and quiet was again restored, he went on:

"My friends, I have summoned you here to tell you what many of you no doubt know already--that the king, driven from London by the traitors of Parliament, who would take from him all power, would override the peers, and abolish the Church, has appealed to his faithful subjects to stand by him, and to maintain his cause. He will, ere a fortnight be past, raise his banner at Nottingham. Already Sir John Hotham, the rebel Governor of York, has closed the gates of that city to him, and it is time that all loyal men were on foot to aid his cause. Lord Falkland has been pleased to grant me a commission to raise a troop of horse in his service, and I naturally come to you first, to ask you to follow me."

He paused a moment, and a shout of assent rang through the hall.

"There are," he said, "some among you whom years may prevent from yourselves undertaking the hardships of the field, but these can send substitutes in their sons. You will understand that none are compelled to go; but I trust that from the long-standing friendship between us, and from the duty which you each owe to the king, none will hold back. Do I understand that all here are willing to join, or to furnish substitutes?"

A general shout of "All" broke from the tenants.

"Thank you, my friends, I expected nothing else. This will give me fifty good men, and true, and I hope that each will be able to bring with him one, two, or more men, in proportion to the size of his holding. I shall myself bear the expense of the arms and outfit of all these; but we must not strip the land of hands. Farming must still go on, for people must feed, even if there be war. As to the rents, we must waive our agreements while the war lasts. Each man will pay me what proportion of his rent he is able, and no more. The king will need money as well as men, and as all I receive will be at his service, I know that each of you will pay as much as he can to aid the common cause. I have here a list of your names. My son will take it round to each, and will write down how many men each of you may think to bring with him to the war. No man must be taken unwillingly. I want only those whose hearts are in the cause. My son is grieving that he is not old enough to ride with us; but should aught befall me in the strife, I have bade him ride and take his place among you."

Another cheer arose, and Harry went round the table taking down the names and numbers of the men, and when his total was added up, it was found that those present believed that they could bring a hundred men with them into the field.

"This is beyond my hopes," Sir Harry said, as amid great cheering he announced the result. "I myself will raise another fifty from my grooms, gardeners, and keepers, and from brave lads I can gather in the village, and I shall be proud indeed when I present to his majesty two hundred men of Furness, ready to die in his defense."

After this there was great arrangement of details. Each tenant gave a list of the arms which he possessed and the number of horses fit for work, and as in those days, by the law of the land each man, of whatsoever his degree, was bound to keep arms in order to join the militia, should his services be required for the defense of the kingdom, the stock of arms was, with the contents of Sir Henry's armory, found to be sufficient for the number of men who were to be raised. It was eight o'clock in the evening before all was arranged, and the party broke up and separated to their homes.

For the next week there was bustle and preparation on the Furness estates, as, indeed, through all England. As yet, however, the Parliament were gathering men far more rapidly than the king. The Royalists of England were slow to perceive how far the Commons intended to press their demands, and could scarcely believe that civil war was really to break out. The friends of the Commons, however, were everywhere in earnest. The preachers in the conventicles throughout the land denounced the king in terms of the greatest violence, and in almost every town the citizens were arming and drilling. Lord Essex, who commanded the Parliamentary forces, was drawing toward Northampton with ten thousand men, consisting mainly of the train-bands of London; while the king, with only a few hundred followers, was approaching Nottingham, where he proposed to unfurl his standard and appeal to his subjects.

In a week from the day of the appeal of Sir Henry two troops, each of a hundred men strong, drew up in front of Furness Hall. To the eye of a soldier accustomed to the armies of the Continent, with their bands trained by long and constant warfare, the aspect of this troop might not have appeared formidable. Each man was dressed according to his fancy. Almost all wore jack-boots coming nigh to the hip, iron breast and back pieces, and steel caps. Sir Henry Furness and four gentlemen, his friends, who had seen service in the Low Countries, and had now gladly joined his band, took their places, Sir Henry himself at the head of the body, and two officers with each troop. They, too, were clad in high boots, with steel breast and back pieces, thick buff leather gloves, and the wide felt hats with feathers which were worn in peace time. During the war some of the Royalist officers wore iron caps as did their foes. But the majority, in a spirit of defiance and contempt of their enemies, wore the wide hat of the times, which, picturesque and graceful as it was, afforded but a poor defense for the head. Almost all wore their hair long and in ringlets, and across their shoulders were the white scarfs typical of their loyalty to the king. Harry bestrode a fine horse which his father had given him, and had received permission to ride for half the day's march by his side at the head of the troop. The trumpeter sounded the call, Sir Henry stood up in his stirrups, drew his sword and waved it over his head, and shouted "For God and King." Two hundred swords flashed in the air, and the answering shout came out deep and full. Then the swords were sheathed, the horses' heads turned, and with a jingle of sabers and accouterments the troop rode gayly out through the gates of the park.

Upon their way north they were joined by more than one band of Cavaliers marching in the same direction, and passed, too, several bodies of footmen, headed by men with closely-cropped heads, and somber figures, beside whom generally marched others whom their attire proclaimed to be Puritan preachers, on their way to join the army of Essex. The parties scowled at each other as they passed; but as yet no sword had been drawn on either side, and without adventure they arrived at Nottingham.

Having distributed his men among the houses of the town, Sir Henry Furness rode to the castle, where his majesty had arrived the day before. He had already the honor of the personal acquaintance of the king, for he had in one of the early parliaments sat for Oxford. Disgusted, however, with the spirit that prevailed among the opponents of the king, and also by the obstinacy and unconstitutional course pursued by his majesty, he had at the dissolution of Parliament retired to his estate, and when the next House was summoned, declined to stand again for his seat.

"Welcome, Sir Henry," his majesty said graciously to him, "you are among the many who withstood me somewhat in the early days of my reign, and perchance you were right to do so; but who have now, in my need, rallied round me, seeing whither the purpose of these traitorous subjects of mine leads them. You are the more welcome that you have, as I hear, brought two hundred horsemen with you, a number larger than any which has yet joined me. These," he said, pointing to two young noblemen near him, "are my nephews, Rupert and Maurice, who have come to join me."

Upon making inquiries, Sir Henry found that the prospects of the king were far from bright. So far, the Royalists had been sadly behindhand with their preparations. The king had arrived with scarce four hundred men. He had left his artillery behind at York for want of carriage, and his need in arms was even greater than in men, as the arsenals of the kingdom had all been seized by the Parliament. Essex lay at Northampton with ten thousand men, and had he at this time advanced, even the most sanguine of the Royalists saw that the struggle would be a hopeless one.

The next day, at the hour appointed, the royal standard was raised on the Castle of Nottingham, in the midst of a great storm of wind and rain, which before many hours had passed blew the royal standard to the ground--an omen which those superstitiously inclined deemed of evil augury indeed. The young noblemen and gentlemen, however, who had gathered at Northampton, were not of a kind to be daunted by omens and auguries, and finding that Essex did not advance and hearing news from all parts of the country that the loyal gentlemen were gathering their tenants fast, their hopes rose rapidly. There was, indeed, some discontent when it was known that, by the advice of his immediate councilors, King Charles had dispatched the Earl of Southampton with Sir John Collpeper and Sir William Uvedale to London, with orders to treat with the Commons. The Parliament, however, refused to enter into any negotiations whatever until the king lowered his standard and recalled the proclamation which he had issued. This, which would have been a token of absolute surrender to the Parliament, the king refused to do. He attempted a further negotiation; but this also failed.

The troops at Nottingham now amounted to eleven hundred men, of which three hundred were infantry raised by Sir John Digby, the sheriff of the county. The other eight hundred were horse. Upon the breaking off of negotiations, and the advance of Essex, the king, sensible that he was unable to resist the advance of Essex, who had now fifteen thousand men collected under him, fell back to Derby, and thence to Shrewsbury, being joined on his way by many nobles and gentlemen with their armed followers. At Wellington, a town a day's march from Shrewsbury, the king had his little army formed up, and made a solemn declaration before them in which he promised to maintain the Protestant religion, to observe the laws, and to uphold the just privileges and freedom of Parliament.

The Furness band were not present on that occasion, as they had been dispatched to Worcester with some other soldiers, the whole under the command of Prince Rupert, in order to watch the movements of Essex, who was advancing in that direction. While scouring the ground around the city, they came upon a body of Parliamentary cavalry, the advance of the army of Essex. The bands drew up at a little distance from each other, and then Prince Rupert gave the command to charge. With the cheer of "For God and the king!" the troop rushed upon the cavalry of the Parliament with such force and fury that they broke them utterly, and killing many, drove them in confusion from the field, but small loss to themselves.

This was the first action of the civil war, the first blood drawn by Englishmen from Englishmen since the troubles in the commencement of the reign of Mary.