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barely escaped by crawling through the mud in sorry plight. Many more were killed by our horse and foot, and by our ships at the Point, who, seeing we had the victory, grew honest again-a poor, mean sort of honesty that!
Dick Tonkin, his face all aglow with pride and joy, thanked God aloud that he had been permitted to help in this victorious ending of the business of the day, and been given strength to wield his weapon in defence of the holy cause of truth and righteousness. Amongst our prisoners was a priest called Father Langford, who served as a captain amongst the enemy. We had also a captain-lieutenant of horse and some thirty soldiers. Besides this we captured thirteen barrels of powder, and two teams of horses with their furniture, by which they were drawing up our ordnance against us. But we saw fit to put them to another use.
But our own losses were great brave Captain Wansey and twelve men were killed, and we had a hundred wounded, some of whom have since died; while three officers and forty soldiers were taken prisoners.
Look at the Lord's deliverance, young sirs," said Sergeant Gurney to Dick Tonkin and myself afterwards. "When the enemy had gotten a ground of advantage, and were ten to one against us, the Almighty was pleased by our handful to drive them back another way than they came." The same day our guard, encouraged by our success, drove the enemy back from an attack they made on Pennycome-quick Work; and after this we had a little quiet for about a fortnight, while the enemy gathered his routed troops together somewhat. Only he attacked a new work under Lipson, called Lipson Mill Work, and partly slighted it; our guard left it without a shot, then suddenly returning upon it, managed to restore it as before.
For our victory at Laira, and in the fight which followed, and the success at Penny-come-quick, a general thanksgiving was appointed. After attendance at church I dined with my good friends, the Tonkins. The repast was a frugal one, and it could not be otherwise now; people who had an abundance of means could not exchange their money for food. There was some talk amongst the officers of sowing and planting the Hoe with corn and vegetables; but while we waited for these to grow there was too much likelihood we should die of waiting. Food was eaten in the homes of the poor at this time which they would not have believed in happier times they could have brought themselves to taste. Grass was boiled, mice were cooked, while those thought themselves happy indeed who could catch fish of any description to allay the pangs of a hunger which they had long ceased to fully satisfy. All who had stores of salted bacon or fish were envied by their neighbours; and if money was dearer to them than the satisfaction of their hungry stomachs, they could obtain almost fabulous prices for their commodities.
I pitied the soldiers, and most of all the sentries, who had hard duties to do, much lonely night work too, upon the barest pittance of food. Frightful dreams of unknown dangers are a common accompaniment of such hunger, and these they suffered from very sadly. We were now arrived at such a pass that there was hardly a day when some
poor fellow did not fall out of rank through faintness from privation.
The brave old Sergeant Gurney endeared himself to every young soldier during this time. The old fellow never received his rations, such as they were, without immediately husbanding them for the growing lads, who must suffer, he said, so much more than himself. I do not know how he lived. He never complained; but his sturdy strength waned, and but for the marvellous determination and resolution that never failed him, he would surely have given way altogether. I had thought him at first a little hard, and stern, and severe, for he would never overlook a fault, such as lying, or swearing, or stealing, amongst the men, however sorely they were tempted; and as for drunkenness, I used sometimes to smile, and wonder how it would fare with Jonathan Thorp at home if he ever fell into the hands of Sergeant Gurney. I have now and then expostulated with "Old Ironsides," as we playfully, yet with reverence, called him, and told him he should not "expect old heads on young shoulders." "There'll be fools' heads on old shoulders in a few more years, Master Holbeck, if the poor lads know no restraint. Old England wants men to fight for her, not rascals to waste her. How can we expect the Lord's blessing if we go against His laws?"
Once or twice, or even oftener, Colonel Gould himself invited the Sergeant to his kitchen, and insisted on his sharing the meal of his servants. Dick Tonkin took him home with him, and entertained him as an honoured guest at his own table, and I heard the young Lieutenant tell his mother afterwards that he understood now that text in the Bible, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Dear old Ironsides doesn't look much like an angel, mother, but he has the heart of one;" and Mrs. Tonkin assented.
If I had a clever pencil, as my grandmother has, who often has amused us with her pictures, I would make one of Sergeant Gurney, surrounded by the rough, raw lads, to whom he is distributing his biscuit and dried fish. It is something to see them, not pushing greedily forward, but patiently waiting their turn, and receiving their few mouthfuls with abundant thanks, not always willing to take it from the brave old hero.
Eat away, my hearties, eat away, and thank the Lord for the bit and the sup, more than ye ever thanked Him for a full meal," he said one day, as I watched him from my window, above the court, where this little scene took place. And then he got up to leave them with a smile, tender and beautiful, on his rugged features. But all suddenly his face turned ashen, he staggered and fell, and I hurried down just as several of the lads he had fed rushed to assist him.
There was quite a crowd in the court immediately. No one could be unmoved at what had happened. Softly and reverently we bore him to his quarters, the unconscious form of the famished Sergeant. The Colonel and other officers, with Doctor Calmady from the town, the same who had attended Lucy Woollcombe, were presently there. We all waited in respectful silence for the verdict of the man of science. Even his rosy, smiling face was sad and serious
How I Fared at the Siege of Plymouth.
I never saw such a thing as happened then. Rough lads began to sob and cry like babies, and hurried out, ashamed of what did them more credit than all their idle, noisy mirth. The officers who remained were most of them in tears. Colonel Gould fell on his knees beside the corpse and prayed aloud. It was a solemn, reverent, humble prayer. In it he asked to be forgiven for not taking better care of this faithful servant of God; for eating while this saint was hungry, for drinking while he was thirsty. When he had ended he got up and stood leaning upon his sword, and gazing down into the calm, dead face of the old warrior, while a few big tears came out of his cold grey eyes, and rolled solemnly, as if to a death march, over his large features, until they were lost in his shaggy beard. Then he turned and left, not speaking another word.
I felt as if now, if never before, I was truly in the presence of the Lord of Hosts.
One by one the officers drew near, gazed on the still form, and then left. Dr. Calmady went with some of them, and I was alone with the dead.
All the words of advice he had ever spoken to me, all the brave, manful thoughts he had uttered in my presence, in short concise language, as his manner was, came over me then. They softened me, they inspired me, they made me long to live the noble life he led. O God of my father, God of this, Thy servant, be Thou my God!"
SERGEANT GURNEY had been buried a week with the honours he would most have coveted, and the siege was not yet raised by the malignants. Our fear of famine grew daily more real, when one morning, as I was getting up, heard a tremendous shout, Barbican way, and feared the enemy had made an entrance. Yet it was hardly like the noise of men shouting in battle
but rather like a jubilant upraising of all kinds of voices in chorus. Again! again! I hurried on my uniform and went out to know the meaning of the clamour. I had not seen so much eagerness and delight in the faces of the men for weeks. The younger soldiers danced about and clapped their hands joyfully, and presently I saw women at the gates of our fort, with great baskets in their hands, as much as they could carry, laden with small fishes, and heard eager talking and discussion about the price. We can't stay haggling, Mother Kitty," said one pale lad, whose face I remembered like a full moon for roundness two months ago; I'd give all I've got to feel full again."
A burst of laughter from his comrades was the answer to poor Tom's words.
But the Commissary appeared at this moment, and. in the Colonel's name, bought all the stock of fish, and ordered that a full ration of them, with some bread, should be served to every man. Quarters soon smelt like a single kitchen; there was such a hurry to cook the longed-for meal, that every available fire was in request, and any leisurable man turned cook.
Friz! friz! friz!" What a noise it was! These little fish had the additional advantage of being oily enough to "fry theirselves," as Mother Kitty informed
"It was a real miracle," she further said. "They be out of season, my dear, and no ways used to coming close in shore to be caught, else why should dear souls go out in boats and ships and such like to catch 'em? And they do run the risk of their poor dear lives, that they do, many and many's the time. Why, would you believe it, sir, my man hisself, he that was my second husband-for my first was drownded too, though not here, but somewhere in foreign parts-he lost his life, catching these 'ere pilchards!"
I looked a little unbelievingly at Mother Kitty, and then reflected she did not mean these particular fish she had just brought, as her words implied, but pilchards" of long past days. Then I said, "A
miracle is a large word for a catch of fish, Mother Kitty." This I said more to hear her answer than for any other reason. I had little doubt if Sergeant Gurney were here, he would believe firmly in the miraculous interposition of Providence in regard to the pilchards.
"You baint as well read as you ought to be, young sir, and you an officer in a godly army, if you don't know that there have been fish miracles afore to-day. Mr. Cheare preacheth beautiful, and he told us all about 'em out of the Bible, he did, how the Lord made so many of the fish to come into the net that it broke, and the poor souls was afeared they'd all be lost in the bottom of the say. But somehow they catched up the ropes, and saved everyone. And then there was that there big fish with the money in the mouth of 'un; haven't I often and often wished I could find such luck when times was hard and no money, and scarce any fish to get money by! But there, 'twasn't luck, 'twas miracle!" So saying, Mother Kitty took up her empty baskets, and prepared to go, for she had already received payment for her fish.
She was a good specimen of her class, and as my mother and sisters, if they ever get these papers of mine, may like to have her described for them, they but rarely having seen a fish-wife, I will do my best in the matter. She appears, though a woman of good average height, almost as broad as she is long; her petticoats being very full and ample and short, formed of dark blue woollen material of very coarse texture. Over this she wears a short bedgown, just as my mother and sisters and our servants them selves do in the midst of their work; but it is of a bright colour, and flowery pattern; over her shoulders a coarse, woollen turnover, of very showy colours, scarlet and black, or green and red. Instead of carrying her baskets on her head, as is so much our custom, she carries them at the sides, resting them on her hips, and in loud sing-song tone she generally calls her wares through every street.
Pilchards! fresh pilchards!" is, in the summer and early autumn, one of the most frequent cries in the streets of Plymouth. The pilchard season was just at its height when I arrived here, and I was greatly at a loss to understand what Mother Kitty and her companions said. The pilchard is a small fish about the size of a herring, oily and tasty, very good when fried or salted. The Plymouth folks often salt and put away small barrels full for winter use, and in this time of siege, those who had been thus provident when these fish were plenty, congratulated themselves on their prudence; while others as bitterly repented their carelessness in not making this provision.
Pilchards are only to be found on the coasts of Devon and Cornwall-a curious circumstance, which I am not learned enough to account for, but for which I should like to know the reason. Sometimes, I am told, the fishermen catch more than can be eaten, and they are thrown away. But we have all of us learned, in the last few weeks, not lightly to estimate the bounties of Providence in the way of food. I have often seen bread cast about the streets on my first coming here; now such a prize as a half-eaten slice thrown away by some too well-fed child would be pounced upon by a dozen hands, each eager to claim it for his own.
Shall we ever dare waste anything again, sir ?” I heard Tom ask of Lieutenant Tonkin. "Yes, Tom, unless God alters our hearts as well as our circumstances," Dick answered him. You feel now as if you would remember your hunger to the last day of your life, but when the siege is raised, you will be like the man who looks in the glass and goes away again, and forgets how he looks, unless you see the sin of wastefulness. Just as men who have been shipwrecked or in imminent peril of their lives at sea, come back to port, and spend their first night on shore in drunkenness and dissipation; daring the Lord to smite them again, if He wasn't better to them than they are to themselves."
I suppose Dick is right. I have myself imagined, when I stood face to face with death in battle, that I could never forget it; yet I have forgotten, and have even grown somewhat hardened in fight. If I were fighting for all I held dear, perhaps it would be different. Am I not? I am often perplexed. Why do two honourable, high-minded men, like my father, for instance, and Mr. Woollcombe, feel, both of them, perfectly convinced that precisely opposite things are right, and worthy of the sacrifice of a man's life, if need be. Can two opposite things be right? My brain, which I never used to trouble with such speculations, often aches now; I am glad to have night-work given me, that I may, in quiet, think of the many things which, when I have done my best, are as far from explanation as ever. From the reports of the prisoners, the Royalist forces lead a very different life to ours. Gaiety, revelling, cards, and other amusements are freely promoted by the officers amongst the men. Colonel Gould is a religious man, an Independent, and a strict disciplinarian. The men he likes best amongst the non-commissioned officers are such as Sergeant Gurney, only they are not, after all, such as he was, but much more stiff and hard. We shall never get so good a specimen of the Ironsides amongst us again, as that fine, noble-hearted Sergeant we loved as well as feared, and who himself "feared God, and knew no other fear."
When I went down into the town, after the ample breakfast of bread and pilcharde, which officers and men had so much enjoyed, everyone was talking about the fish, and the rather strong smell of such a universal cooking of them was in every street,
"It is nothing different to the supply of manna and quails in the wilderness," said one old fisherman, the centre of a little group of men upon the quay. "I'm an old man now, and I never heerd tell of no such thing afore, never! You seed it for yourselves, and I needn't tell 'ee how it was, the fish come in a shoal, and threw theirselves on the beach, and asked to be caught."
There was some laughter amongst the listeners, and the old man smiled too, and his merry eyes twinkled. "Asked to be caught, pretty dears, and they did too, though with dumb meanings, like.”
Another burst of laughter greeted the speaker. The poor people were to-day in the comfortable state of those who had had enough, and were ready to enjoy anything. My old woman, and yours, mate, and yours, and the little 'uns, and the big 'uns amongst the children, took their baskets and went down to Barbican from all parts, and the fish, they as good as said, 'Here we be, my dears, sent to 'ee all from the
How I Fared at the Siege of Plymouth.
Lord, to fill up your poor empty insides. Don't 'ee forget to thank the Lord when you do eat us,' and with that, the pilchards hopped into the baskets with just a bit of a push; as many as you would have, the more the merrier. And the widow's cruse of oil was as good as done over again, with these here pilchards. Every basket was filled, and still there was more, and they brought tubs and barrels and still there was more. Don't 'ee mean to believe God after that? If you don't, the Lord have mercy on 'ee, for you won't believe nothing, and aren't worth the miracle!" I was much interested and amused at the old fisherman's harangue, and when it was ended I found my way to Mr. Tonkin's.
I had never yet repeated my visit to the house of Mr. Woollcombe after the warning I had received from Captain Wansey, followed as it was by such a sad experience; but to-day, being somewhat in spirits through God's goodness to us in the matter of the fish, and by the sufficiency of food I had had after so long a scarcity, I decided to call and inquire for Lucy and her father, and to judge by Bridget's manner whether I should venture to intrude further. My reception by Bridget was somewhat curt, just as I expected it would be. She invited me inside the door, which she shut, and then retreated, her wooden face
by no means relaxed in its expression, only her lips muttered something about seeing whether Miss Woollcombe was at liberty.
To stand there was not agreeable, but it must be borne. Presently I heard the sweet, soft voice I knew so well, exchanging a sentence or two with the dry, hard tones of Bridget. Then the serving-woman returned, and said:
"You can walk in, sir."
I availed myself of this grudging invitation, and followed her into the same small, snug apartment where we had had tea on the previous occasion. Lucy's arm was still in a sling. She looked pale and fragile, and as if she still suffered a good deal of pain.
Bridget hovered round after I had taken my seat near her young mistress, as if quite unwilling to leave us alone together.
You may go now, Bridget," said the sweet, tender voice. "I shall not want you for anything just at present. You can go on with the fish, Bridget," and she smiled. Bridget extended her square lips a little, as if she rather enjoyed the cleverness of her young mistress, but was not in the least deceived by anything; she obeyed unquestioningly, however, and we were left alone.
(To be continued.)
A SCHOOL-BOY'S CHRISTMAS EVE.
birds, as they settled themselves to rest, only made the hush seem more intense. There was not even the presence of the snow to make things look seasonable and Christmas-like, but everything was dank and wet as with autumnal mist, and the withered flowers in the deserted grounds of the house hung drearily above the leaf-strewn mould.
It was the 24th of December, and, formally speaking, the school had broken up some days ago. Breaking-up," however, did not mean "going home" to all the inmates, as you might have learned, if on this particular afternoon you could have glanced in at one of the windows; for there in the deepening twilight two boys stood lounging against the pannelled walls of the large schoolroom, both evidently surveying the prospect with no enviable feelings. All their companions had taken their departure, and they were left with only floating visions of other people's enjoyments to comfort them. Could anything be more aggravating or more depressing to a boy's mind?
So thought Hugh Culross, the elder of the two, a tall square-shouldered lad of fifteen; and so thought HE dull his companion in misery, Harry Ernshaw, a solemnDecember faced, thin-legged youth, some few months younger, afternoon whose company did not tend to raise the thermometer was fast of his friend's spirits, which, since 4 p.m., had fallen drawing to a close, and almost to zero. the tall trees, now bare and spectral, began to throw deep shadows on the scholastic walls of Pengarvan Hall. Everything was growing still and dark, and the faint notes of the shivering
"I can't make out why in the world they want us to stop till to-morrow," burst out Hugh, at last; "it was settled weeks ago that I was to go home on the 22nd, and take you with me. Why can't they keep to their arrangement? It was all so jolly before, and
now the whole thing's upset. I declare it's a horrid shame!"
"What's the reason of this changing ?" asked his companion.
"That's just what I want to know: they didn't say in the letter."
"It is a nuisance !" supplemented Harry, and then there was a long silence, in which the mind of each boy seemed to imbibe a further supply of the melancholy which pervaded the scene outside.
What time does the Doctor expect to arrive home?" asked Harry Ernshaw, after a pause.
He left word that he should not be home at all to-night, but should probably come on by the morning train."
Humph! That's lively! So now there's no one in the house except the servants and old Barnacles." The latter individual, who lived in the capacity of coachman at Pengarvan Hall, had been christened Barnabas Abbot when a child, but the youthful inmates of the school had unceremoniously altered it into Barnacles. So Barnacles he was called and Barnacles he remained, though he much resented the misnomer, and often came to quarrelling about it with the more aggravating of his youthful sponsors.
"No," continued Hugh; "so we shall have to make ourselves as comfortable over it as we can. What time is it now ?"
"Just five o'clock," said his companion, pulling out a silver hunter, and closing the case with a loud snap; pleasant, isn't it-four hours more of doing nothing before we turn in ?”
This feathered inmate of Pengarvan Hall had lived in its present quarters some eight years or more, and had seen many a change in the crowd of boyish faces with which the big schoolroom was usually filled. She was a great pet of the Doctor's, whose evening studies she alone was allowed to disturb with impunity. Her native home was a sunny island lying far away to the westward, not far from Jamaica, where she had been captured by the father of one of the scholars, and sent as a present to the principal of Pengarvan school. Age and experience had not rendered her a whit less voluble in her talking capacity, and any cant phrase that had its run in the school never slipped her memory. Some very uncomplimentary epithets were consequently added to her lengthy vocabulary, which was more extensive than select. This, however, only made her more of a favourite with the fun-loving
youngsters, who delighted to supply her with new material for speeches.
About half-past five tea was brought in for the two boys, and the sight of a pot of preserve-a somewhat rare luxury-brightened their downcast faces. When tea was finished, a good supply of light reading from the library helped to while away the hours till nine o'clock came.
The evening meal was soon concluded, and the boys sat together talking in front of the well-fed hearth discussing their plans for the ensuing holidays. An hour passed and ten o'clock struck, before they were aware how the time had flown. Hugh got up lazily. "I suppose we had better turn in," he said; "it's getting late. Have the servants gone up?"
"Yes, long ago," was the reply. "Here, help us rake out the fire, and we'll go up.'
Presently old Barnabas came shuffling in, to put out the lights and take a look round before going to bed. "Is the Doctor's room locked up, Barnabas ?" asked Hugh. He was not up to chaffing to-night.
"Yes, Master Culross; he give me the key afore he went. He told me to be sure an' look sharp afterthe bolts and catches, 'cause there was a good share of gold in his cabinet. But I've looked all round, and it's all as safe as can be. Will you take your candle, Master Hugh? Master left strict orders that all lights should be out at ten. Wake you in the mornin' as usual?"
Good-night." And the
As they passed the window on the great staircase, they looked out. The clouds were scudding fast across a grey starless sky, and the ivy trails, blown by the wind, were flapping disconsolately against the panes.
"Yes, please, Barnabas.
two lads went off to bed.
The look-out did not improve their spirits, and as they proceeded up the stairs, Harry kept involuntarily close to his companion. How desolate the long dormitory looked now, and what strange moving shadows were darkening the walls. The very pictures, hung around them to enliven the appearance of the room, now looked down solemnly on the two solitary lads, and their footfall echoed drearily along the halfcarpeted floor. Could this be the scene of all those jokes and boyish "larks" that had created such an atmosphere of merriment, and taken the edge off the memory of the day's toilsome routine? Where now was the ringing laugh of jest-loving Tom Halley and the ceaseless clack of Paul Chatterton's voice? Ah! where were they now? Safe home, in the midst of parents, and brothers and sisters, and uncles and aunts, and cousins, and parties, and plum-pudding. Oh! the thought was horrible, and they to be shut up in a lonely school-house, cut off from the world of fun!
As they closed the door and turned the key-a somewhat unusual custom-the loneliness seemed to increase. How quiet it all was! There was no Phil Carter to spin yarns to them while they lay in bed; rubbish though it often was, they would gladly have heard him to-night. They almost missed the bristly brushes and peppered pillows with which the juniors were wont to make easy the nightly couch of their senior "tyrants."
Well, there was nothing left to do but to get into bed as soon as possible, and forget their grievances and loneliness in sleep.