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Martin Hyde, The Duke's Messenger by John Masefield

Part 4 out of 4

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savages who once lived there with their cattle. I could see just
the bare steep wall of the rampart standing up in a dull green
line of short-grassed turf against the sky, now burning with the
intense blue of summer. One hard quick scramble, with my
fingernails dug into the ground, brought my head to the top of
the rampart, beyond which I could see nothing but great ferns, a
forest of great ferns, already four or five feet high, stretching
away below, into the cup of the camp or citadel. I did not dare
to stand up, lest I should be seen. I burrowed my way among the
ferns over the wall into the hollow, worming my way towards the
edge of the fern clump so that I could see. In a minute, I was
gazing through the fern-stems into the camp itself; it was a
curious sight.

About fifty people (some of them women) were sitting about a
hollow in the ground, which I guessed to be a sort of smokeless
fireplace or earth-oven. Everywhere else, all over the hollow of
the camp, which must have been a full three hundred yards across,
were various kinds of farm-stock, mostly cattle, though there
were many picketed horses, too. At first I thought that I had
climbed into a camp of gipsies, which gave me a scare; for
gipsies then were a wild lot, whom wise folk avoided. Then, as I
glanced about, I saw a sentry standing not thirty yards from me,
but well above me, on the rampart top. He was no gipsy. tie was
an ordinary farmer's lad, with the walk of a ploughman. His
sleeves, which were rolled back, showed me a sun-burnt pair of
arms, such as no gipsy ever had. What puzzled me about him was
his heavy double-barrelled pistol, which he carried in his right
hand, with something of a military cock, yet as though awed by
it. He was not over sure of that same pistol. I could see that he
confounded it in some way with art-magic.

Then I remembered what the old soldier had said the night before
about club men. This camp must be a camp of club men, I thought.
They had come there to protect their stock from the rapine of our
vile pillagers, who had spread such terror amongst the farmers
the day before. Perched up on the combe, with sentries always on
the look-out, they could see the Duke's raiders long before they
came within gunshot. If an armed force had tried to rush the
camp, after learning that the beasts were shut up within it
(which, by the way, no man could possibly suspect until he saw
them from the rampart top), the few defenders clubbed together
there could have kept them out without difficulty; for there was
only one narrow entrance to the camp, so constructed that any one
entering by it could be shot at from three sides, if not from all
four. I looked about me carefully from my hiding-place, till I
decided that I could get a better view from another part of the
fern clump. I began to wriggle through the thick, sweet-scented
stalks, towards the heart of the camp, going with infinite care,
so as not to break down the fern into a path. I hoped to make no
more stir among the fern-tops than would be made by one of the
many pigs scattering about in the enclosure.

While I was crawling along in this way, I suddenly heard a
curious noise from an intensely thick part of the fern in front
of me. It was a clinking noise, followed by a sort of dry
rasping, as though a very big person were gritting his teeth very
hard. It stopped suddenly, but soon began again. I thought that
it must be some one mending harness with a file, or perhaps some
old sheep or cow, with the remnants of a bell about her neck,
licking a stone for salt. As was in an adventure, I thought that
I would see it out to the end; for I was enjoying my morning. In
spite of the want of breakfast I felt very like a red Indian or a
pirate, creeping through the jungle to the sack of a treasure
train. So I wormed on towards the noise. As I came near to it, I
went more cautiously, because in one of the pauses of the noise,
I heard a muttered curse, which told me that the unseen
noise-maker was a man. If I had been wise I should have stopped
there; for I had learned all that I came out to learn. But I was
excited now. I wished to see everything, before creeping away
unseen to make my report. Perhaps I wished to see something which
had nothing to do with the club men, a private main of cocks,
say, or a dog, or bull-baiting, carried on with some of the
squire's creatures, but without his knowledge. I had a half wish
that I might have something of the kind to report; because in my
heart I longed to say nothing to any of the Duke's party which
might lead to the ruin of these poor people who were trying so
hard to protect their property.

A few feet further on, I was wishing most heartily that I had
never left my room in London. It was like this. In the very heart
of the fern clump, where the ferns were tallest, a little spring
bubbled out of the ground, at the rate, I suppose, of a pint of
water in a minute. The ferns grew immensely thick there; but
someone had thinned out a few of the roots from the ground,
leaving the uprooted plant with the ferns still living, to form a
rough kind of thatch above a piece of earth big enough for a
man's body. In the scented shade of this thatch, with the side of
his face turned towards me, a big, rough, bearded man sat, filing
away some bright steel irons which were riveted on his ankles. He
swore continually in a low whisper as he worked, not even pausing
in his curses when he spat on to the hollow scraped in the irons
by his file. He was the fiercest looking savage of a man I have
ever seen. His face had a look of stern, gloomy cruelty which I
shall never forget. His general appearance was terrible; for he
had a face burnt almost black by the sun (some of it may have
been mud) with a nasty white scar running irregularly all down
his left cheek, along the throat to the shoulder. He was not what
you might call naked. a naked man, such as I have seen since in
the hot countries, would have looked a nobleman beside him. He
wore a pair of dirty linen knickerbockers, all frayed into
ribbons at the knees, a pair of strong hide slippers bound to his
ankles by strips of leather, a part of a filthy red shirt without
sleeves, a hat stolen from a scarecrow, nothing else whatever,
except the mud of many days' gathering. His shirt was torn all
down the back in a great slit which he had tried to secure by
what the sailors call "Bristol buttons," i.e. pieces of string.
The red flannel hung from him so as to show his back, all
criss-crossed with flogging scars. I knew at once from the irons
that he was a criminal escaped from gaol; but the criss-crossed
scars taught me that he was a criminal of the most terrible kind,
probably one who had shipped into the Navy to avoid hanging.

I took in a view of him before he saw me. His image was stamped
on my brain in less than ten seconds. In the eleventh second, I
was lying on my back in the gloom of the fern-growth, with this
great ruffian on my chest, squeezing me by my windpipe. I cannot
say that he spoke to me. It was not speech. It was the snarling
wild beast gurgle which passes for speech in the slums of our
great cities, as though all the filth of a low nature were
choking in the throat at once. He was on me too quickly for me to
cry out. I could only lie still, cackling for breath, while the
fierce face glowered down on me. I understood him to say that he
would have my windpipe out if I said a word. I suppose he saw
that I was only a very frightened boy; for his clutch upon me
relaxed, after a few awful, gasping moments. When he loosed his
hold, his great hand pawed over my throat till he had me by the
scruff of the neck. He drew me over towards the spring, as one
would draw a puppy. Then, still crouching in the fern, he hurried
me to a single stunted sloe-bush which grew there. "Go down,
you," he said, giving me a shove towards the bush. "Down th'

Just behind the sloe-bush, under a fringe of immense ferns, was
an opening in the earth, about eighteen inches high, by two feet
across. It was like a large rabbit or fox earth, except that the
mouth of it was not worn bare. I did not like the thought of
going down th' 'ole; but with this great griping fist on my nape
there was not much sense in saying so. I wormed my way in, helped
on by prods from the file. It was a melancholy moment when my
head passed beyond the last filtering of light into the tomb's
blackness, where not even insects lived. After a moment of
scrambling I found that the passage was big enough for me to go
on all fours. It was a dry passage, too, which seemed strange to
me; but on reaching out with my hand I felt that the walls were
lined with well laid stones, unmortared. The roof above me was
also of stone. You may wonder why I did not shoot this ruffian
with my pistol. You boys think that if you had a pistol you would
shoot any one who threatened you. You would not. When the moment
comes, it is not so easily disposed of. Besides, a filthy,
cursing pirate on your throat checks your natural calm most

The passage led into the swell of the rampart for about twenty
yards, where it opened into a dimly lighted chamber about four
feet high. A little blink of light came through a rabbit hole, at
the end of which I saw a spray of gorse with the sunlight on it.
I could see by the dim light that the chamber was built of
unmortared stones, very cleverly laid. The floor of it was
greasier than the passage had been, but still it was not damp. On
one side it had a bed of heather stalks, on the other there was
something dark which felt like cold meat. The man came grunting
in behind me, clinking his leg-irons. After groping about in a
corner of the room he lighted a stinking rushlight by means of a
tinder box.


"There," he said, not unkindly, "there's a nice little 'ome for
yer. Now you, tell me wot you were doing spying on me. First of
all, 'ave you any money?" He did not wait for me to answer, but
dug his hands into my pockets at once, taking every penny I had,
except a few shillings which were hidden in my belt. He did not
see my belt, as I had taken to wearing it next my skin, since I
began to follow the wars. I feared from the greed which showed in
all his movements that he vas going to strip me; but he did not
do so, thinking, no doubt, that none of my clothes would fit his

"Well," he said, in his snarling beast voice, "wot's up 'ere,
with all these folk brought their beasts 'ere?"

I told him that the Duke had come co fight for the crown of
England, with the result, as I supposed, that the country people
dared not trust their live-stock at home, for fear of having them
pillaged. He seemed pleased at the news; but being an utter wild
beast, far less civilized than the lowest savage ever known to
me, he showed his pleasure by hoping that the rich (whom he
cursed fluently) might have their heads pulled off in the war,
while as for the poor (the farmers close by us) he hoped that
they might lose every beast they owned. "Do 'era good," he said.
"Now," he went on, "are you come spying 'ere along of the

"No," I said, "I am a servant of the Duke's, riding out to look
for the militia."

"Ah," he said. "Are yer, cocky? 'Ow'm I to know that?"

"Well," I said, "Look at my hands. Are they the hands of a

"No," he said. "No, Mister stuck-up flunkey, they ain't. I s'pose
yet proud of yet 'ands. I'll 'ave yer wait at table on me." He
seemed to like the notion: for he repeated it many times, while
he dug out hunks of cold ham with his file, from the meat which I
had felt as I crawled in

"'Ow proud I dig
A'unk a cold pig"

he sang, as he gulped the pieces down. It was partly a nightmare,
partly very funny. I was not sure if he was mad, probably he was
mad, but being down in the burrow there, in the half darkness,
hearing that song, made me feel that I was mad; it was all a very
terrible joke; perhaps madness affects people like that. At last
I spoke to him again.

"Sir," I said, "I've been up since two this morning. Give me a
hunk of cold pig, too. I'm half-starved."

"'Elp yourself, can't yer?" he snarled. "Oo'm I to wait on yer?"
Then, very cunningly, he put in, "'Ave you got a knife on yer?"

"No," I said cautiously, "I've got no knife," which was a lie; I
did not wish my knife to go the same way as the money. He gave me
some cold pig, very excellent ham it was, too, for which I was
very thankful. He watched my greediness with satisfaction. I ate
heartily when I saw that my confident way with him had made him
more tender towards me.

"Yes," he snorted. "Per'aps you ain't been lying to me after all.
Now 'ow long will these blokes be up the 'ill 'ere?" I did not
know that; but I supposed that they would go home directly the
Duke's army had got as far, say, as Taunton. "But," I added, "the
Duke may be beaten. If he's beaten, all this part will be full of
troops beating every bush for the rebels." He swore at this; but
his curses were only designed to hide his terror.

"Could a fellow get to sea," he said in a whining tone. "Could a
poor fellow in trouble slip away to sea, now, at one of these
seaport towns? Boy, I been livin' like a wild beast all the way
from Bristol, this two months. I didn't kill the feller; not
dead. The knife only went into 'im a very little way, not more'n
a inch. I was raised near 'ere at a farm. So I knowed of this
'ere burrow. I got 'ere two days ago, pretty near dead. Now I
been penned up from the sea by these farmers comin' 'ere, doin'
swottin' sentry-go all round me. I tell yer, I'll cut up sour, if
they pen me in, now I'm so near got away. I been with Avery. They
call Avery a pirate. They said I was a pirate. It's 'anging if.
they ketch me. Do yer think I could get away to Lyme or some
place, to get took into a ship?" I told him, no; because I knew
from what Lord Grey had told me, that the Channel was full of
men-of-war searching every ship which hove in sight; besides, he
did not look to me to be a very promising hand for a captain to
take aboard.

"All the same," he said, "I got to risk it. You say there may be
troops coming?"

"As for that," I answered, "the troops may be here at any moment
from Exeter or Honiton. They've arrested hundreds of people
everywhere around. You'd better stay in the burrow here." He did
not pay much attention to what I said. He cursed violently, as
though he were a bag-pipe full of foul words being slowly
squeezed by some player. At last he crawled to the passage,
foaming out incoherently that he would show them, he would, let
them just wait.

"You stay 'ere, he said. "If I find you follerin' me, I'll mash
your 'ed into that much slobber." He showed me a short piece of
rope which he had twisted, sailor fashion, so as to form a handle
for a jagged piece of flint, which, as I could see, had been used
on some one or something quite recently.

"Mogador Jack," he said, "'e don't like people follerin' 'im."
With that he left me alone in the burrow, wondering, now that it
was over, why he had not killed me. He left me quite stunned; his
sudden coming into my life had been so strange. It was unreal,
like a dream, to have been in an ancient Briton's burial-chamber
with a mad old pirate who had committed murder. But now that he
had gone, I was eager to go, too, if it could be managed. I would
not stay there till the brute came back, in spite of that flint
club. After waiting some little time, during which, I felt sure,
he was waiting for me at the door of the burrow, I took out my
pistol. I examined the charge to see that all was well; then very
cautiously, I began to crawl up the passage, with my pistol in my

I waited for some minutes near the door, trying to convince
myself by the lie of the shadows outside that he was crouched
there, ready for me. But it seemed safe. I could see no shadow at
all except the tremulous fern-shadows. At last I took off my coat
as a blind. I flung it through the doorway, with some force, to
see if it would draw him from his hiding. Nothing happened. The
ruffian did not pounce upon it. I took a few long breaths to
hearten me; it was now or never. I shut my eyes, praying that the
first two blows might miss my head, so that I should have time to
fire. Then, on my back, with my pistol raised over my head, I
forced myself out with every muscle in my body. I leaped to my
feet on the instant, quickly glancing round for the madman,
swinging my pistol about with my finger hard on the trigger. He
was not there, after all. I might have spared myself the trouble.
I was alone there in the fern, within earshot of a murmur of
voices, talking excitedly. I was not going to spy into any more
secrets. I was going to get out of that camp cost what it might.
I made one rush through the fern in the direction of the rampart,
shoving the stalks aside, as a bull knocks through jungle in
Campeachy. In thirty steps I was clear of the fern, charging slap
into a group of people who were giving brandy to the sentry, whom
I had passed but a little while before. He was bleeding from a
broken wound on his pretty hard Saxon skull. He was not badly
hurt, for he was swearing lustily; but he had been stunned just
long enough for my pirate man to strip him. He was dressed now in
a pair of leather gaiters, all the rest of his things had been
taken, the pistol with them, I saw all this at a glance, as I
charged in among them. I took it all in, guessing in one swift
gleam of comprehension, exactly what had happened there, as my
pirate made his rush for freedom. There was no time to ask if my
guess were right or not.

"Out of my way," I shouted, shoving my pistol towards the nearest
of the group. "Out of my way, or I shall fire." They made way for
me. I charged down hill by the way I had come. Some one cried
"Stop en." Another shouted "Shoot en, maister." There came a
great bang of a gun over my head. But I was going down hill like
a rabbit, into the gorse, into the bracken, into the close cover
of the heath. Glancing back, I saw a dozen excited people rushing
down the rampart after me. Some flung stones; some ran to catch
horses to chase me. But I had the start of them. I was down the
hill, over the hedge, in the lane, in no time. There, a hundred
yards away, I saw my friends the troopers leading my cob. I
shouted to them. They heard me. They came up to me at a gallop.
In ten seconds more we were sailing away together.

"You been getting into scrapes, master," said one of the
troopers. "You doan't want to meddle with the folk in these

"No," said the other, with a touch of insolence in his voice. "So
your master may find, one of these fine days." Being mindful of
the Duke's honour, I told the man to mind his own business, which
he said he meant to do, without asking my opinion. After that we
rode on together a little heated, till we were out of sight of
the combe, where I had had such a startling adventure.

After another hour of riding, we pulled up at the garden gate of
an old grey handsome house which stood at some distance from the
road. I asked one of the troopers who lived in this house. He
said that it was an old Abbey, which belonged to Squire; but that
we were to leave word there of the Duke's movements, "for Squire
be very 'tached to the Protestants; besides he'll give us a
breakfast. Sure to." We left our horses at the gate while we
walked up to the house. A pretty girl, who seemed to know one of
the men, told us to come in, while she got breakfast for us.
"Squire," she said, "would be glad to hear what was going on; for
he was that given up to the soldiers we couldn't hardly believe."
We were shown down a long flagged corridor to a little cool room
which looked as though it had once been the abbot's cell. It had
a window in it, looking out upon a garden in full flower, a
little rose garden, covered with those lovely bushes of old
English red single roses, the most beautiful flower in the world.
The window was large, but the space of it was broken up by stone
piers, so that no pane of glass was more than six inches wide. I
mention this now, because of what happened later. There was not
much furniture in the room; but what there was was very good.
There was an old Dutch pewter jug, full of sweet-williams, on the
table. On the wall' there was a picture of a Spanish gentleman on
a cream-coloured, fat handsome little horse. Together they looked
very like Don Quixote out for a ride with his squire. The two
troopers left me in this room, while they went off to the
kitchen. Presently the servant came in again, bringing me a noble
dish of breakfast, a pigeon pie, a ham, a jar of preserved
quince, a honeycomb, a great household loaf, newly baked, a big
quart jug full of small beer. I made a very honest meal. After
eating, I examined the room. There was tapestry over one part of
the wall. It concealed a little low door which led to what had
once been the abbot's fishpond, now a roofed-in bath-house, where
one could plunge into eight feet or so of (bitterly cold) spring
water. This bath-house was some steps lower than the little
dining room. It was lighted by a skylight directly over the bath.
It had no other window whatever. After examining the bath,
wishing that I had known of it before eating, I went back to the
dining room, where the servant was clearing away the food.

"I hope you enjoyed your breakfast, sir," she said.

"Yes, thank you, very much indeed," I answered.

"Squire will be down d'reckly, sir," she said. "If you will
please to make yourself at home." I made myself at home, as she
desired, while she, after a few minutes, took away the soiled
plates, leaving all the other things on the side-board, ready for
dinner. I noticed that she smiled in a rather strange way as she
drew to the door behind her.

I loitered away about half an hour, waiting for the squire to
come. As he did not come, I turned over the books on the shelves,
mostly volumes of plays, the Spanish Tragedy, the Laws of Candy,
Love Lies a Bleeding, etc., four plays to a volume in buckram
covers. I was just getting tired of All for Love, when I heard a
footstep in the passage outside. I thought that I would ask the
passenger, whoever it might be, for how much longer the squire
would keep me waiting. I was anxious about getting back to the
army. It was dangerous to straggle too far from the Duke's camps
when unbeaten armies followed on both his wings. So I went to the
door to learn my fate at once. To my great surprise I found that
I could not open it. It was locked on the outside. The great
heavy iron lock had been turned upon me. I was a prisoner in the
room there. Thinking that it had been done carelessly, I beat
upon the door to attract the man who passed down the passage,
calling to him to turn the key for me so that I might get out.
The footsteps did not pause. They passed on, down the corridor,
as though the man were deaf. After that a fury came upon me. I
beat upon the door for five minutes on end, till the house must
have rung with the clatter; but no one paid any attention to me,
only, far away, I heard a woman giggling, in an interval when I
had paused for breath. The door was a heavy, thick oak door,
bound with iron. The lock was a bar of steel at least two inches
thick; there was no chance of getting it open. Even firing into
the lock with my little pistol would not have helped me; it would
only have jammed the tongue of steel in its bed. I soon saw the
folly of trying to get out by the door; so I turned to the
window, which was more difficult still, or, if not more
difficult, more tantalizing, since it showed me the free garden
into which one little jump would suffice to carry me. But the
closely placed piers of stone made it impossible for me to get
through the window. It was no use trying to do so. I should only
have stuck fast, midway. I began at once to pick out the mortar
of the pier stones with my knife point. It was hopeless work,
though, for the old monks had used some cement a good deal harder
than the stones which it bound together. I could only dig away a
little dust from its surface. That way also was barred to me.
Then I went down to the bathing-chamber, hoping that there
would be some way of escape for me there. I hoped that the escape
pipe of the bath might be a great stone conduit leading to a
fish-pond in the garden. It was nothing of the sort. It was a
little miserable leaden pipe. I beat all round the walls, praying
for some secret door, but there was nothing of any use to me,
only a little iron ventilator high up, big enough to take my
head, but nothing more. As for the skylight over the bath, it was
beyond my reach, high up. For the moment I could see no means of
getting to it. I went back to the dining room to give another
useless pounding to the door. My head was full of miserable
forebodings; but as yet I suspected merely that I had been caught
by some sudden advance of militia. Or perhaps the squire had laid
plans to get information from one who knew the Duke. Perhaps I
had been lured away specially by one hungry for the King's good
opinion. Or could it be Aurelia? Whatever it was, I was trapped,
that was the terrible thing. I was shut up there till my enemy,
whoever it was, chose to deal with me. I was in arms against the
ruling King of England; everybody's hand would be against me,
unless my own hands helped me before my enemies came. My first
thought was to get the table down the steps, to make a bridge
across the bath, from which I could reach the skylight. This I
could not do at first; for being much flustered, I did not put
the table-leaves down. Until I knocked them down in my hurry they
kept me from dragging the table from the dining room. When I got
it at last into the bath-room, I found that it would not stretch
across the water: the legs were too close together, as I might
have seen had I kept my wits about me. I could think of no other
way of getting out.

I went back disheartened to the dining room, dragging my coat
behind me. The first thing which I saw was a letter addressed to
me in a hand already known to me. The letter lay on the floor on
the space once covered by the table. As it had not been there
when I dragged the table downstairs, someone must have entered
the room while I was away. I opened the letter in a good deal of
flurry. It ran as follows:

"Dear Martin Hyde:--As you will not take a sincere friend's
advice, you have to make the best of a sincere adviser's
friendship. You did me a great service. Let me do you one. I hope
to keep you an amused prisoner until your captain is a beaten
man. By about three weeks from this 26th of June we shall hope to
have made you so much our friend that you will not think of
leaving us. May I make a compact with you? Please do not shoot me
with that pistol of yours when I bring you some supper tonight.
That is one part of it. The other is this. Let us be friends. We
know all about you. I have even talked to Ephraim about you. So
let us make it up. We have been two little spit fires. At any
rate you have. Let us be friends. What sorts of books do you like
to read? I shall bring you some story-books about ghosts, or
about red Indians. Which do you like best? I like red Indians
myself. I suppose you, being a man, like ghosts best. Your
sincere friend Aurelia Carew. Who by the by thinks it best to
warn you that you had not better try to get up the chimney, as it
is barred across. She hopes that the table did not fall into the


It was a friendly letter, which relieved me a good deal from my
anxieties; but what I could not bear was the thought that the
Duke would think me a deserter. I made up my mind that I would
get away from that house at the first opportunity, so as to
rejoin the Duke, to whom I felt myself pledged. But in the
meantime, until I could get away, I resolved to make the best of
my imprisonment. I was nettled by Aurelia's tone of superiority.
I would show her, as I had shown her before, that my wits were
just as nimble as hers. A few minutes after the letter had been
read, she held a parley with me through the keyhole.

"Mr. Martin Hyde. Are you going to shoot me?"

"No, Miss Carew, though I think you deserve it."

"You won't try to get away if I open the door?"

"I mean to get away as soon as ever I get half a chance."

"I've got three men with me at the door here."

"Oh. Very well. But you just wait till I get a chance."

"Don't be so bloodthirsty, Mr. Martin Hyde. Now, I'm coming in to
talk with you. No pistols, mind. Not one."

"I've promised I won't shoot. You might believe a fellow. But I
mean to get away, remember. Just to show you."

She opened the door after that, a brown, merry Aurelia, behind
whom I could see three men, ready to stop any rush. They closed
the door behind her after she had entered.

"Well," she said, smiling. "Will you not shake hands with me,
Martin Hyde?"

"Yes," I said, "I will shake hands. But you played a very mean
trick, I think. There."

"You mustn't think me mean," she answered. "I don't like mean
people. Now promise me one thing. You say you are going to run
away from us. You won't run away from me when I am with you, will

"No," I said, after thinking this over, to see if it could be
twisted into any sort of trap, likely to stop my escape. "I will
not. Not while I am with you."

"That's right," she said. "We can go out together, then. Now
you've promised, suppose we go out into the garden."

We went into the garden together, talking of every subject under
the sun but the subject nearest to our hearts at the moment. I
would not speak of her capture of me; she would not speak of the
Duke's march towards Taunton. There was some constraint whenever
we came near those subjects. She was a very merry, charming
companion; but the effect of her talk that morning was to make me
angry at being trapped by her. I looked over the countryside for
guiding points in case I should be able to get away. Axminster
lay to the southeast, distant about six miles; so much I could
reckon from the course of our morning's ride. I could not see
Axminster for I was shut from it by rolling combes, pretty high,
which made a narrow valley for the river. To the west the combes
were very high, strung along towards Taunton in heaps. Due east,
as I suspected, quite near to us, was Chard, where by this time
the Duke must have been taking up his position. Taunton I judged
(from a mile-stone which we had passed) to be not much more than
a dozen miles from where I was. I have always had a pretty keen
sense of position. I do not get lost. Even in the lonely parts of
the world I have never been lost. I can figure out the way home
by a sort of instinct helped by a glimpse at the sun. When I go
over a hill I have a sort of picture-memory of what lies behind,
to help me home again, however tortuous my path is on the other
side. So the few glimpses which I could get of the surrounding
country were real helps to me. I made more use of them than
Aurelia suspected.

We were much together that day. Certainly she did her best to
make my imprisonment happy. In the evening she was kinder; we
were more at ease together; I was able to speak freely to her.

"Aurelia," I said, "you risked your life twice to warn me."

"That's not quite true, Martin," she said. "I am a government
spy, trusted with many people's lives. I had other work to do
than to warn a naughty boy who wanted to see what the ghosts
were." I was startled at her knowing so much about me; she

"Well," she said, "I like you for it. I should have wanted to see
them myself. But the ghost-makers are scattered far enough now."

"All the same, Aurelia," I said, "I thank you for what you did
for me. I wish I could do something in return." She laughed.

"Well," she said, "you were very kind in the ship. You were a
good enemy to me then. Weren't you?"

"Yes," I said, "I beat you properly on the ship. I carried the
Duke's letters in my pistol cartridges, where you never suspected
them. The letters which were in the satchel I forged myself after
I got on board. If you'd not been a silly you'd have seen that
they were forged."

"So that was why," she said. "Those letters gave everybody more
anxious work than you've any notion of. Oh, Martin, though, I
helped to drug you to get those letters. It was terrible.
Terrible. Will you ever forgive me?"

"Why, yes, Aurelia," I said. "After all, it was done for your
King. Just as I mean to run away from here to serve mine. All is
fair in the King's service. Let us shake hands on that." We shook
hands heartily, looking into each other's eyes.

"By the way," I said, "where did you get to that day in Holland,
when I got the letters from you?"

"Ah," she answered, "you made me like a wildcat that day. I
nearly killed you, twice. You remember that low parapet on the
roof? I was behind that, waiting for you with a loaded pistol.
You were all very near your deaths that morning. In the King's
service, of course. For just a minute, I thought that you would
climb up to examine that parapet. What a crazy lot you all were
not to know at once that I was there! Where else could I have

"Well," I answered, "I beat you in the ride, didn't I? You
thought yourself awfully clever about that horse at the inn.
Well, I beat you there. I beat you in the race. I beat you with
my letters to the Dutchman. I beat you over those forgeries."

"Yes, indeed," she said. "I can beat all the men in your Duke's
service. Every one. Even clever Colonel Lane. Even Fletcher of
Saltoun. But a boy is so unexpected, there's no beating a boy,
except with a good birch rod. You beat me so often, Martin, that
I think you can afford to forgive me for tricking you once in
bringing you here."

"I shall beat you in that, too, Miss Carew," I said; "for I mean
to get away from you as soon as I can."

"So you say," she said. "But we have club men walking all round
this house all night, as well as sentries by day, guarding the
stock. Your gang of marauders will find a rough welcome if they
come for refreshments here."

Even as she spoke, there came a sudden crash of fire-arms from
the meadows outside the garden. About a dozen men came hurrying
out of the house with weapons in their hands, among them a big,
fierce-looking handsome man, who drew his sword as he ran.

"That is my uncle, Travers Carew," said Aurelia. "He owns this
property. He wants to meet you." There came another splutter of
fire-arms from the meadows. "Come," she said. "We'll see what it
is. It is the Duke's men come pillaging."

We ran through a gate in the wall into an apple-orchard, where
the Carew men were already dodging among the trees towards the
enemy. There was a good deal of shouting, but the tide of battle,
as they call it, the noise of shots, the trampling of horses, had
already set away to the left, where the enemy were retreating,
with news, as I heard later, that the militia held the Abbey in
force. The Carew men came back in a few minutes with a prisoner.
He had been captured while holding the horses of two friends, who
had dismounted to drive off some of the Carew cattle. He said
that the attack had been made by a party of twenty of the Duke's
horse, sent out to bring in food for the march. They had
scattered at the first discharge of fire-arms, which had
frightened them horribly, for they had not expected any
opposition. The frightened men never drew rein till they galloped
their exhausted horses into Chard camp, where they gave another
touch of dejection to the melancholy Duke. As for the prisoner,
he was sent off under guard to Honiton gaol; I don't know what
became of him. He was one of more than three thousand who came to
death or misery in that war. They said that he was a young
farmer, in a small way, from somewhere out beyond Chideock. The
war had been a kind of high-spirited frolic for him; he had
entered into it thoughtlessly, in the belief that it would be a
sort of pleasant ride to London, with his expenses paid. Now he
was ended. When he rode out with bound hands from the Carew house
that evening, between two armed riders, he rode out of life. He
never saw Chideock again, except in the grey light of dawn, after
a long ride upon a hurdle, going to be hanged outside his home.
Or perhaps he was bundled into one of the terrible convict ships
bound for Barbadoes, with other rebels, to die of small-pox on
the way, or under the whip in the plantations.

After this little brush, with its pitiful accompaniment, which
filled me full of a blind anger against the royal party, so much
stronger, yet with so much less right than ours, I was taken in
to see Sir Travers Carew. He had just sent off the prisoner to
Honkon, much as he would have brushed a fly from his hand. He had
that satisfaction with himself, that feeling of having supported
the right, which comes to all those who do cruel things in the
name of that code of unjust cruelty, the criminal law. He looked
at me with rather a grim smile, which made me squirm.

"So," he said, "this is the young rebel, is it? Do you know that
I could send you off to Honiton gaol with that poor fellow
there?" This made my heart die; but something prompted me to put
a good face on it.

"Sir," I said, "I have done what my father thought right. I don't
wish to be treated better than any other prisoner. Send me to
Honiton, sir."

"No," he said, looking at me kindly. "I shall not send you to
Honiton. You are not in arms against the King's peace, nor did
you come over from Holland with the Duke. I can't send you to
Honiton. Besides, I knew your father, Martin. I was at college
with him. He was a good friend of mine, poor fellow. No, sir, I
shall keep you here till the Duke's crazy attempt is knocked on
the head. I think I can find something better for you to do than
that fussy old maid, your uncle, could. But, remember, sir. You
have a reputation for being a slippery young eel. I shall take
particular pains to keep you from slipping out of my hands. But I
do not wish to use force to your father's son. Will you give me
your word not to try to escape?"

"No," I answered, sullenly. "I won't. I mean to get away directly
I can."

"Come," he said kindly, "we tricked you rather nastily. But do
you suppose, Martin, that your father, if he were here, would
encourage your present resolutions? The Duke is coming (nearly
unprepared) to bring a lot of silly yokels into collision with
fully trained soldiers ten times more numerous. If the
countryside, the gentry, the educated, intelligent men, were
ready for the Duke, or believed in his cause, they would join
him. They do not join him. His only adherents are the idle,
ignorant, ill-conditioned rogues of this county, who will neither
fight nor obey, when it comes to the pinch. I do not love the
present King, Martin, but he is a better man than this Duke. The
Duke will never make a king. He may be very fit for court-life;
but there is not an ounce of king in him. If the Duke succeeds,
in a year or two he will show himself so foolish that we shall
have to send for the Prince of Orange, who is a man of real,
strong wisdom. We count on that same prince to deliver us from
James, when the time is ripe. It is not ripe, yet. I am telling
you bitter, stern truth, Martin. Now then. Let me have your
promise not to continue in the service of this doomed princeling,
your master. Eh? What shall it be?"

"No," I said, "that's desertion."

"Not at all," he answered. "It is a custom of war. Come now. As a
prisoner of war, give me your parole."

"You said just now that I was not a prisoner of war," I answered.

"Very well, then," he said. "I am a magistrate. I commit you add
suspected person. Hart! Hart!" (Here he called in a man-servant.)
"Just see that this young sprig keeps out of mischief. Think it
over, Mr. Martin. Think it over."

In a couple of minutes I was back in my prison cells, locked in
for the night, with neither lamp nor candle. A cot had been made
up for me in a corner of the room. Supper was laid for me on the
table, which had been brought back to its place. There was
nothing for it but to grope to bed in the twilight, wondering how
soon I could get away to what I still believed to be a righteous
cause in which my father wished me to fight. I slept soundly
after my day of adventure. I dreamed that I rode into London
behind the Duke, amid all the glory of victory, with the people
flinging flowers at us. But dreams go by contraries, the wise
women say.

I was a full fortnight, or a little more, a prisoner in that
house. They treated me very kindly. Aurelia was like an elder
sister. Old Sir Travers used to jest at my being a rebel. But I
was a prisoner, shut in, watched, kept close. The kindness jarred
upon me. It was treating me like a child, when I was no longer a
child. I had for some wild weeks been doing things which few men
have the chance of doing. Perhaps, if I had confided all that I
felt to Aurelia, she would have cleared away my troubles, made me
see that the Duke's cause was wrong, that my father would wish
his son well out of civil broils, however just, that I had better
give the promise that they asked from me. But I never confided
really fully in her. I moped a good deal, much worried in my
mind. I began to get a lot of unworthy fancies into my head,
silly fancies, which an honest talk would have scattered at once.
I began to think from their silence about the Duke's doings that
his affairs were prospering, that he was conquering, or had
conquered, that I was being held by this loyalist family as a
hostage. It was silly of me; but although in many ways I was
a skilled man of affairs, I had only the brain of a child, I
could not see the absurdity of what I came to believe. It worried
me so much that at the end of my imprisonment I became very
feverish; really ill from anxiety, as prisoners often are. I
refused food for the latter part of one day, hoping to frighten
my captors. They did not notice it, so I had my pains for

I went to bed very early; but I could not sleep. I fidgeted about
till I was unusually wakeful. Then I got out of bed to try if
there was a way of escape by the old-fashioned chimney, barred
across as it was, at intervals, by strong old iron bars. I had
never thought the chimney possible, having examined it before,
when I first came to that house; but my fever made me think all
things possible; so up I got, hoping that I should have light
enough to work by.


It was too dark to do much that night, but I spent an hour in
picking mortar from the bricks into which the lowest iron bar had
been let. After a brief sleep I woke in the first of the light
(at about one o'clock) ready to go at it again. My fever was hot
upon me. I don't think that I was quite sane that day; but all my
reason seemed to burn up into one bright point, escape, escape at
all costs, then, at the instant. I must tell you that the
chimney, like most old chimneys, was big enough for a big boy to
scramble up, in order to sweep it. For some reason, the owners of
the house had barred the chimney across so that this could not be
done. They swept it, probably, in the effective old-fashioned way
by shooting a blank charge of powder from a blunderbuss straight
up the opening. The first two iron bars were so placed that it
was only necessary to remove one to make room for my body.
Further up there were others, more close together. The fire had
not been lighted for many years; there was no soot in the
passage. There was a jackdaw's nest high up. I could see the old
jackdaw looking down at me. Up above her head was a little square
of sky. I did not doubt that when I got to the top I should be
able to scramble out of that square on to the leads, then down by
a water-spout, evading the sentries, over the garden wall to
freedom. After half an hour of mortar picking I got one end of
the lowest iron bar out of its socket. Then I picked out the
mortar from the other end, working the bar about like a lever, to
grind the fulcrum into dust. Soon I had the bar so loose that I
was able to thrust it to one side, leaving a passage big enough
for my body.

I was very happy when this was done. I went back to the room to
make up a packet of food to take with me. This I thrust into an
inner pocket, before launching out up the hole. When I had
cleaned up the mess of mortar, I started up the chimney,
carefully replacing the bar behind me. Soon I was seven or eight
feet above the room, trying to get at the upper bars. I was
scrambling about for a foothold, when I noticed, to my left, an
iron bar or handle, well concealed from below by projecting
bricks. I seized hold of it with my left hand, very glad of the
support it offered, when, with a dull grating noise, it slid
downwards under my weight, drawing with it the iron panel to
which it was clamped. I had come upon a secret chamber in the
chimney; there at my side was an opening big enough for a man's
body. I was pretty well startled by it, not only by the
suddenness of the discovery, but from the fear I had lest it
should lead to some inhabited room, where my journey would be
brought to an end. I peered into it well, before I ventured to
enter. It was a little low room, about five feet square, lit by
two loopholes, which were concealed from outside by the great
growth of ivy on the side of the house. I clambered into it with
pleasure, keeping as quiet as I could. It was a dirty little
room, with part of its floor rotten from rain which had beaten in
through the loopholes. It had not been used for a great while.
The pallet bed against the wall was covered with rotten rags, dry
as tinder. There were traces of food, who could say how ancient,
in a dish by the bed. There was a little crucifix, with a broken
neck-chain, lying close to the platter. Some priest who had used
this priest-hole years before had left it there in his hurry; I
wondered how. Something of the awe which had been upon him then
seemed to linger in the place. Many men had lain with beating
hearts in that room; the room seemed to remember. I have never
been in a place which made one's heart move like that room. Well.
The priest's fears were dead as the priest by this time. Nothing
but the wreck of his dinner, perhaps the last he ever ate,
remained to tell of him, beside the broken symbol of his belief.
I shut-to the little panel-door by which I had entered, so that I
might not have the horrible fancy that the old priest's shaven
head was peering up the chimney at me, to see what I was doing in
his old room, long since given over to the birds.

As I expected, there was a way of escape from the hiding-place. A
big stone in the wall seemed to project unnecessarily; the last
comer to that room had shut the door carelessly; otherwise I
might never have found it. Seeing the projecting stone, I took it
for a clue feeling all round it, till I found that underneath it
there was a groove for finger tips. The stone was nothing more
than a large, cunningly fashioned drawer, which pulled out,
showing a passage leading down, down, along narrow winding steps,
just broad enough for one man to creep down at a time. The stairs
were more awesome than the room, for they were dark. I could not
see where they led; but I meant to go through this adventure, now
that I had begun it. So down I crept cautiously, clinging to the
wall, feeling with my feet as I went, lest there should be no
step, suddenly, but a black pit, far down, into which a man might
fall headlong, on to who knows what horrors. I counted the steps.
I thought that they would never end. There were thirty-seven
altogether. They brought me to a dark sort of room, with damp
earth for its floor, upon which water slowly dropped from some
unseen stalactite. I judged that I must be somewhere under the
bath-chamber, not more than ten feet from the abbot's old
fish-pond. If there was a way out I felt that it must be to my
left, under the garden; not to my right, which would lead back
under the body of the house.

Very cautiously I felt along to my left, till I found that there
was indeed a passage; but one so low that I had to stoop to get
along it. A few steps further brought me with a shock against a
wall, a sad surprise to me, for I thought that I was on the road
to safety. When I recovered from my fear I felt along the wall
till I found that the passage zigzagged like a badger's earth. It
turned once sharply to the right, going up a couple of steps,
then again sharply to the left, going up a few more steps, then
again to the right up one step more, to a broader open stretch,
lit by one or two tiny chinks, more cheering to me than you can
imagine. I guessed that I was passing at last under the garden,
having gone right below the house's foundations. The chinks of
light seemed to me to come from holes worn in the roof by rabbits
or rats. They were pleasant things to see after all that groping
in the blackness of night. On I went cautiously, feeling my way
before me, till suddenly I stopped dead, frightened terribly, for
close to me, almost within touch as it seemed, some men were
talking to each other. They were evidently sitting just above my
head, in the cool morning, watching for me to come through my
window, as I suppose. They were some of Sir Travers's sentries. A
moment's thought told me that I had little to fear from them, if
I moved quietly in my burrow. However, as my walk was often
noisy, through stumblings on stones, I waited till they moved
off, which was not for some minutes. One of the men was asking
the other what was the truth about the Duke.

"Why," his mate answered, "they say as he got beat back coming
towards London. They say he be going to Bridgewater, now, to make
it a castle, like; or perhaps he be a coming to Taunton. They say
he have only a mob, like, left to en, what with all this rain.
But I do-an't know. He be very like to come here agen; so as
us'll have to watch for our stock."

"Ah?" said the first. "They did say as there was soldiers come to
Evilminster. So as to shut en off, like. I seed fires out that
way, myself, like camp-fires, afore it grew light. They do say
the soldiers be all for the Duke."

"Yes," the other answered, "he be very like to win if it come to
a battle. He'd a got on to London, I dare-say, if the roads had
but been dry."

"What do ee say to a bit of tobaccy, master?" said the first,
after a pause.

"Why, very well," said the other. At this instant, without any
warning, something in the wall of my passage gave way, some bit
of rotten mortar which held up a stone, or something of the sort.
At any rate, a stone fell out, with a little rush of rotten
plaster, making a good deal of noise, though of course it seemed
more to me than to the men outside.

"What ever in the world was that?" said one of them.

"I dunno," said the other. "It seemed to come from down below
somewhere, under the earth, like. Do you think as it could be a

"It did sound like a stone falling out of a wall," came the
answer. "I dunno. Where could it a come from?"

They seemed to search about for some trace of a rabbit; but not
finding any, they listened for another stone to fall.

"I tell you what I think," said the first man. "I believe as
there be underground passages all over these here gardens. Some
of them walks sound just as hollow as logs if you do stamp on
'em. There was very queer doings here in the old monks' time;
very queer. Some day I mean to grub about a bit, master. For my
old grandmother used always to say as the monks buried a lot of
treasure hereabouts in the old time."

"Ah?" said the other. "Then shall us get a spade quiet like, to
see if it be beneath." The other hesitated, while my heart sank.
I very nearly went back to my prison, thinking that all was over.

"No," said his comrade. "Us'll ask Sir Travers first. He do-an't
like people grubbing about. Some of his forefathers as they call
them weren't very good, I do hear, neither. He do-an't want none
of their little games brought to light, like."

After this, the men moved off, to some other part of their beat.
I went on along the passage quickly, till suddenly I fell with a
crash down three or four steps into a dirty puddle, knocking my
head as I fell. I could see no glimmer of light from this place;
but I groped my way out, up a few more steps further on into a
smaller, dirtier passage than the one which I had just left.
After this I had to crawl like a badger in his earth, with my
back brushing against the roof, over many masses of broken
brickwork most rough to the palms of my hands. All of a sudden I
smelt a pleasant stable-smell. I heard the rattle of a halter
drawn across manger bars. I heard a horse paw upon the ground
quite close to me. A dim, but regular chink of light showed in
front of me, level with my head as crawled. Peering through it, I
saw that I was looking into a stable, almost level with the
floor; the passage had come to an end.

By getting my fingers into the crack through which I peered, I
found that I could swing round some half a dozen stones, which
were mortared together, so as to form a revolving door. It worked
with difficulty, as though no one had passed through by that way
for many years; but it worked for me, after a little hard
pushing. I scrambled through the narrow opening into a roomy old
stable, where some cart-horses peered at me with wonder, as I
rose to my feet. After getting out, I shut to my door behind me,
so firmly that I could not open it again; there must have been
some spring or catch which I could not set to work. Two steps
more took me out of the horses' stalls into the space behind,
where, on a mass of hay, lay a carter, fast asleep, with the
door-key in his hand. By his side lay a pitchfork. He was keeping
guard there, prepared to resist Monmouth's pillagers.

He slept so heavily that I was tempted to take the key from his
hand. Twice I made little half steps forward to take it; but each
time something in the man's look daunted me. He was a
surly-looking man who, if roused suddenly, in a locked stable,
might lay about him without waiting to see who roused him. He
stirred in his sleep as I drew near him for the second time; so I
gave up the key as a bad job. The loft seemed to be my only
chance; as there was only this one big locked double door upon
the lower floor, I clambered up the steep ladder to the loft,
hoping that my luck there might be better, but resolved, if the
worst came, to hide there in the hay until the carter took the
horses to work, leaving the doors open.

I had hardly set my foot upon the loft floor, when one of the
horses, hearing some noise outside, or being moved by some evil
spirit, whinnied loudly, rattling his halter. The noise was
enough to arouse an army. It startled the carter from his bed. I
heard him leap to his feet with an oath; I heard him pad round
the stable, talking to the horses in turn; I heard him unlock the
door to see what was stirring. I stood stock-still in my tracks,
not daring to stir towards the cover of the hay at the farther
end of the loft. I heard him walk slowly, grunting heavily, to
the foot of the ladder, where he stopped to listen for any
further signal. If he had come up he must have caught me. I could
not have escaped. But though he seemed suspicious he did not
venture further. He walked slowly back to his bed, grunting
discontentedly. In a few minutes he was sound asleep again; for
farming people sleep like sailors, as though sleep were a sort of
spirit muffling them suddenly in a thick felt blanket. After he
had gone off to sleep, I took off my boots, in order to put them
on under my stockings, for the greater quiet which that muffling
gives to the tread. Then I peered about the loft for a way of

There were big double doors to this upper loft, through which the
hay could be passed from a waggon standing near the wall. These
doors were padlocked on the inside; there was no opening them;
the staples were much too firm for me to remove without a
crowbar. The other openings in the walls were mere loophole
slits, about four feet long but only a few inches broad. There
were enough of these to make the place light. By their light I
could see that there was no way of escape for me except by the
main door. I was almost despairing of escape from this prison of
mine, when I saw that the loft had a hayshoot, leading downwards.
When I saw it I fondly hoped that it led to some outer stable or
cart-shed, separated from that in which the carter slept. A
glance down its smooth shaft showed me that it led to the main
stable. I could see the heads of the meditative horses, bent over
the empty mangers exactly as if they were saying grace. Beyond
them I saw the boots of the carter dangling over the edge of the
trusses of hay on which he slept. I stepped back from this shaft
quickly because I thought that I might be seen from below. My
foot went into the nest of a sitting hen, right on to the
creature's back. Up she started, giving me such a fright that I
nearly screamed. She flew with a cackling shriek which set all
the blackbirds chippering in the countryside. Round the loft she
scattered, calling her hideous noise. Up jumped the carter, down
came his pitchfork with a thud. His great boots clattered over
the stable to the ladder. Clump, clump, he came upstairs, with
his pitchfork prongs gleaming over his head like lanceheads. I
saw his head show over the opening of the loft. There was not a
second to lose. His back of course was still towards me, as the
ladder was mercifully nailed to the wall. Before he turned I slid
over the mouth of the shaft down into the hayrack of the old
brute who had whinnied. I lit softly; but I certainly shocked
that old mare's feelings. In a second, before she had time to
kick, I was outside her stall, darting across the stable to the
key, which lay on the truss of hay, mercifully left there by its
guardian. In another second the lock had turned. I was outside,
in the glorious open fields again. Swiftly but silently I drew
the key out of the lock. One second more sufficed to lock that
door from without. The carter was a prisoner there, locked safely
in with his horses. I was free. The key was in my pocket. Yonder
lay the great combes which hid Taunton from me. I waved my hat
towards them; then, with a wild joyous rush, I scrambled behind
the cover of the nearest hedge, along which I ran hard for nearly
a quarter of a mile.

I stopped for a few minutes to rest among some ferns, while I
debated how to proceed. I changed the arrangement of my
stockings; I also dusted my very dirty clothes, all filthy from
that horrid passage underground. "Now," I said to myself, "there
must be many ways to Taunton. One way, I know, leads along this
valley, past Chard there, where the houses are. The other way
must lie across these combes, high up. Which way shall I choose,
I wonder?" A moment's thought showed me that the combes would be
unfrequented, while the valley road, being the easy road, which
(as I knew) the Duke's army had chosen, would no doubt be full of
people, some of them (perhaps) the King's soldiers, coming up
from Bridport. If I went by that road my pursuers would soon hear
of me, even if I managed to get past the watchers on the road. On
the other hand, Aurelia would probably know that I should choose
the combe road. Still, even if she sent out mounted men, she
would find me hard to track, since the combes were lonely, so
lonely that for hours together you can walk there without meeting
anybody. There would be plentiful cover among the combes in case
I wished to lie low. Besides, I had a famous start, a five hours'
start; for I should not be missed until eight o'clock. It could
not then have been much more than half-past two. In five hours an
active boy, even if he knew not the road, might put some half a
dozen miles behind him. I say only half a dozen miles, because
the roads were the roughest of rough mud-tracks, still soft from
the rains. As I did not know the way, I knew that I might count
on going wrong, taking wrong turns, etc. As I wished to avoid
people, I counted on travelling most of the way across country,
trusting to luck to find my way among the fields. So that,
although in five hours I should travel perhaps ten or twelve
miles, I could not count on getting more than six miles towards


For the first hour or two, as no one would be about so early, I
thought it safe to use the road. I put my best foot foremost,
going up the great steep combe, with Chard at my back.

The road was one of the loneliest I have ever trodden. It went
winding up among barren-looking combes which seemed little better
than waste land. There were few houses, so few that sometimes, on
a bit of rising ground, when the road lifted clear of the hedges,
one had to look about to see any dwelling of men. There was
little cultivation, either. It was nearly all waste, or scanty
pasture. A few cows cropped by the wayside near the lonely
cottages. A few sheep wandered among the ferns. It was a very
desolate land to lie within so few miles of England's richest
valleys. I walked through it hurriedly, for I wished to get far
from my prison before my escape was discovered. No one was there
to see me; the lie of the valley below gave me my direction,
roughly, but closely enough. After about an hour of steady,
fairly good walking, I pulled up by a little tiny brook for
breakfast. I ate quickly, then hurried on, for I dared not waste
time. I turned out of the narrow cart-tracks into what seemed to
be a highroad.

I dipped down a hollow, past a pond where geese were feeding,
then turned to a stiff steep hill, which never seemed to end for
miles. The country grew lonelier at every step; there were no
houses there; only a few rabbits tamely playing in the outskirts
of the coverts. A jay screamed in the clump of trees at the
hill-top; it seemed the proper kind of voice for a waste like
that. Still further on, I sat down to rest at the brink of the
great descent, which led, as I guessed, as I could almost see, to
the plain where Taunton lay, waiting for the Duke's army to
garrison her. There were thick woods to my right at this point,
making cover so dense that no hounds would have tried to break
through it, no matter how strong a scent might lead them. It was
here, as I sat for a few minutes to rest, that a strange thing

I was sitting at the moment with my back to the wood, looking
over the desolate country towards a tiny cottage far off on the
side of the combe. A big dog-fox came out of the cover from
behind me, so quietly that I did not hear him. He trotted past me
in the road; I do not think that he saw me till he was just
opposite. Then he stopped to examine me, as though he had never
seen such a thing before. He was puzzled by me, but he soon
decided that I was not worth bothering about, for he made no
stay. He padded slowly on towards Chard, evidently well-pleased
with himself. Suddenly he stopped dead, with one pad lifted, a
living image of alert tension. He was alarmed by something coming
along the road by which I had come. He turned his head slightly,
as though to make sure with his best ear. Then with a single
beautiful lollopping bound he was over the hedge to safety, going
in that exquisite curving rhythm of movement which the fox has
above all English animals. For a second, I wondered what it was
that had startled him. Then, with a quickness of wit which would
have done credit to an older mind, I realized that there was
danger coming on the road towards me, danger of men or of dogs,
since nothing else in this country frightens a fox. It flashed in
upon me that I must get out of sight at once; before that danger
hove in view of me. I gave a quick rush over the fence into the
tangle, through which I drove my way till I was snug in an open
space under some yew trees, surrounded on all sides by brambles.
I shinned up one of the great yew trees, till I could command a
sight of the road, while lying hidden myself in the profuse
darkness of the foliage. Here I drew out my pistol, ready for
what might come. I suppose I had not been in my hiding-place for
more than thirty seconds, when over the brow of the hill came Sir
Travers Carew, at a full gallop, cheering on a couple of hounds,
who were hot on my scent. Aurelia rode after him, on her famous
chestnut mare. Behind her galloped two men, whom I had not seen
before. In an instant, they were swooped down to the place where
the dog-fox had passed. The hounds gave tongue when they smelt
the rank scent of their proper game; they were unused to
boy-hunting. They did not hesitate an instant, but swung off as
wild as puppies over the hedge, after the fox. The horsemen
paused for a second, surprised at the sudden sharp turn; but they
followed the hounds' lead, popping over the fence most nimbly,
not waiting to look for my tracks in the banks of the hedge. They
streamed away after the fox, to whom I wished strong legs. I knew
that with two young hounds they would never catch him, but I
hoped that he would give them a good run before the sun killed
the scent. I looked at the sun, now gloriously bright over all
the world, putting a bluish glitter on to the shaking oak leaves
of the wood. How came it that they had discovered my flight so
soon since it could not be more than six o'clock, if as much? I
wondered if it had been the old carter, who had never really seen
me. It might have been the old carter; but doubtless he drummed
for a good while on the door of the stable before anybody heard
him. Or it might have been one of the garden sentries. One of the
sentries might well have peeped in at the window of my room to
make sure that I was up to no pranks. He could have seen from the
window that my bed was empty. If he had noticed that, he could
have unlocked my door to make sure, after which it would not have
taken more than a few minutes to start after me. I learned
afterwards that the sentry had alarmed the house at a little
before five o'clock. The carter, being only half-awake when he
came after me, suspected nothing till the other farm-hands came
for the horses, at about six o'clock, when, the key being gone,
he had to break the lock, vowing that the rattens had took his
key from him in the night. My disappearance puzzled everybody,
because I had hidden my tracks so carefully that no one noticed
at first how the chimney bars had been loosened. No one in that
house knew of the secret room, so that the general impression was
that I had either squeezed myself through the window, or blown
myself out through the keyhole by art-magic. The hounds had been
laid along the road to Chard, with the result that they had hit
my trail after a few minutes of casting about.

Now that they were after me, I did not know what to do. I dared
not go on towards Taunton; for who knew how soon the squire would
find his error, by viewing the fox? He was too old a huntsman not
to cast back to where he had left the road, as soon as he learned
that his hounds had changed foxes. I concluded that I had better
stay where I was, throughout that day, carefully hidden in the
yew-tree. In the evening I might venture further if the coast
seemed clear. It was easy to make such a resolution; but not so
easy to keep to it; for fifteen hours is a long time for a boy to
wait. I stayed quiet for some hours, but I heard no more of my
hunters. I learned later that they had gone from me, in a wide
circuit, to cut round upon the Taunton roads, so as to intercept
me, or to cause me to be intercepted in case I passed by those
ways. The hounds gave up after chasing the fox for three miles.
The old squire thought that they stopped because the sun had
destroyed the scent. With a little help from an animal I had
beaten Aurelia once more. When I grew weary of sitting up in the
yew tree, clambered down, intending to push on through the wood
until I came to the end of it. It was mighty thick cover to push
through for the first half mile; then I came to a cart-track,
made by wood-cutters, which I followed till it took me out of the
wood into a wild kind of sheep-pasture. It was now fully nine in
the evening, but the country was so desolate it might have been
undiscovered land. I might have been its first settler, newly
come there from the seas. It taught me something of the terrors
of war that day's wandering towards Taunton. I realized all the
men of these parts had wandered away after the Duke, for the sake
of the excitement, after living lonely up there in the wilds.
Their wives had followed the army also. The while population
(scanty as it was) had moved off to look for something more
stirring than had hitherto come to them. I wandered on slowly,
taking my time, getting my direction fairly clear from the
glimpses which I sometimes caught of the line of the highway. At
a little after noon I ate the last of my victuals near a spring.
I rested after my dinner, then pushed on again, till I had won to
a little spinney only four miles from Taunton, where my legs
began to fail under me.

I crept into the spinney, wondering if it contained some good
shelter in which I could sleep for the night. I found a sort of
dry, high pitched bank, with the grass all worn off it, which I
thought would serve my turn, if the rain held off. As for supper,
I determined to shoot a rabbit with my pistol. For drink, there
was a plenty of small brooks within half a mile of the little
enclosure. After I had chosen my camp, I was not very satisfied
with it. The cover near by was none too thick. So I moved off to
another part where the bushes grew more closely together. As I
was walking leisurely along, I smelt a smell of something
cooking, I heard voices, I heard something clink, as though two
tin cups were being jangled. Before I could draw back, a man
thrust through the undergrowth, challenging me with a pistol. Two
other men followed him, talking in low, angry tones. They came
all round me with very murderous looks. They were the filthiest
looking scarecrows ever seen out of a wheat-field.

"Why," said one of them, lowering his pistol, "it be the Duke's
young man, as we seed at Lyme." They became more friendly at
that; but still they seemed uneasy, not very sure of my

"Where is the Duke?" I asked after a long awkward pause. "Is he
at Taunton?" They looked from one to the other with strange looks
which I did not understand.

"The Duke be at Bridgewater," said one of them in a curious tone.
"What be you doing away from the Duke?"

"Why," I said, "I was taken prisoner. I escaped this morning."

"Yes?" they said with some show of eagerness. "Be there many
soldiers hereaway, after us?"

"No. Not many," I said. "Are you coming from the Duke?"

"Yes," said one of them, "we left en at Bridgewater. We have been
having enough of fighting for the crown. We been marching in mud
up to our knees. We been fighting behind hedges. We been
retreating for the last week. So now us be going home, if us can
get there. Glad if we never sees a fight again."

"Well," I said, "I must get to the Duke if I can. How far is it
to Bridgewater?"

"Matter of fifteen mile," they said, after a short debate.
"You'll never get there tonight. Nor perhaps tomorrow, since we
hear the soldiers be a coming."

"I'll get some of the way tonight," I said; but my heart sank at
the thought; for I was tired out.

"No, young master," said one of the men kindly, "you stop with us
for tonight. Come to supper with us. Us 'ave rabbits on the
fire." Their fortnight of war had given them a touch of that
comradeship which camp-life always gives. They took me with them
to their camp-fire, where they fed me on a wonderful mess of
rabbits boiled with herbs. The men had bread. One of them had
cider. Our feast there was most pleasant; or would have been, had
not the talk of these deserters been so melancholy. They were
flying to their homes like hunted animals, after a fortnight of
misery which had altered their faces forever. They had been in
battle; they had retreated through mud; they had seen all the
ill-fortune of war. They did all that they could to keep me from
my purpose; but I had made up my mind to rejoin my master; I was
not to be moved. Before settling down to sleep for the night I
helped the men to set wires for rabbits, an art which I had not
understood till then, but highly useful to a lad so fated to
adventurous living as myself. We slept in various parts of the
spinney, wherever there was good shelter; but we were all so full
of jangling nerves that our sleep was most uneasy. We woke very
early, visited our wires, then breakfasted heartily on the
night's take. The men insisted on giving me a day's provision to
take with me, which I took, though grudgingly, for they had none
too much for themselves, poor fellows. Just before we parted I
wrote a note to Sir Travers, on a leaf of my pocketbook. "Dear
Sir Travers," I wrote, "These men are well-known to me as honest
subjects. They have had great troubles on their road. I hope that
you will help them to get home. Please remember me very kindly to
your niece." After folding this very neatly I gave the precious
piece of impudence to one of the men. "There," I said, "if you
are stopped, insist on being carried before Sir Travers. He knows
me. I am sure that he will help you as far as he can." For this
the men thanked me humbly. I learned, too, that it was of service
to them. It saved them all from arrest later in the same day.

Having bidden my hosts farewell, I wandered on, keeping pretty
well in cover. I saw a patrol of the King's dragoons in one of
the roads near which I walked. The nets were fast closing in on
my master: there were soldiers coming upon him from every quarter
save the west, which was blocked too, as it happened, by ships of
war in the Channel. This particular patrol of dragoons caught
sight of me. I saw a soldier looking over a gate at me; but as I
was only a boy, seemingly out for birdsnests, he did not
challenge me, so that by noon I was safe in Taunton. I have no
clear memory of Taunton, except that it was full of people,
mostly women. There were little crowds in the streets, little
crowds of women, surrounding muddy, tired men who had come in
from the Duke. People were going about in a hurried, aimless way
which showed that they were scared. Many houses were shut up.
Many men were working on the city walls, trying to make the place
defensible. If ever a town had the fear of death upon it that
town was Taunton, then. As far as I could make out it was not the
actual war that it feared; though that it feared pretty strongly,
as the looks on the women's faces showed. It feared that the
Duke's army would come back to camp there, to eat them all up,
every penny, every blade of corn, like an army of locusts.
Sometimes, while I was there, men galloped in with news,
generally false, like most warmews, but eagerly sought for by
those who even now saw their husbands shot dead in ranks by the
fierce red-coats under their drunken Dutch general. Sometimes the
news was that the army was pressing in to cut off the Duke from
Taunton; that the dragoons were shooting people on the road; that
they were going to root out the whole population without mercy.
At another time news came that Monmouth was marching in to music,
determined to hold Taunton till the town was a heap of cinders.
Then one, bloody with his spurred horse's gore, cried aloud that
the King was dead, shot in the heart by one of his brother's
servants. Then another came calling all to prayer. All this
uproar caused a hurrying from one crowd to another. Here a man
preached fervently to a crowd of enthusiasts. Here men ran from a
prayer-meeting to crowd about a messenger. Bells jangled from the
churches; the noise of the picks never ceased in the trenches;
the taverns were full; the streets swarmed; the public places
were now thronged, now suddenly empty. Here came the aldermen in
their robes, scared faces among the scarlet, followed by a mob
praying for news, asking in frenzy for something certain, however
terrible. There several in a body clamoured at a citizen's door
in the like fever of doubt. There was enough agony of mind in
Taunton that day to furnish out any company of tragedians. We
English, an emotional people by nature, are best when the blow
has fallen. We bear neither doubt nor rapture wisely. Our
strength is shown in troublous times in which other people give
way to despair.


Among all the confusion, I learned certainly from some deserters
that the Duke was at Bridgewater, waiting till his men had
rested, before trying to break through to the north, to his
friends in Chester. He had won a bad name for himself among his
friends. Nobody praised him. The Taunton people, who had given
him such a splendid welcome ten days before, now cursed him for
having failed; they knew too well what sort of punishment was
sure to fall upon them, directly the fighting came to an end.
Somehow all their despairing talk failed to frighten me. I was
not scared by all the signs of panic in the streets. I was too
young to understand fully; but besides that I was buoyed up by
the belief that I had done a fine thing in escaping from prison
in order to serve the cause dear to my heart. My heart told me
that I was going to a glorious victory in the right cause. I
cannot explain it. I felt my father in my heart urging me to go
forward. I would not have drawn back for all the King's captains
in a company riding out against me together. I felt that these
people were behaving absurdly; they should keep a brave patient
face against their troubles. Tomorrow or the next day would see
us in triumph, beating our enemies back to London, to the
usurper's den in Whitehall.

It drew towards sunset before I had found a means to get to
Bridgewater. The innkeepers who in times of peace sent daily
carriers thither, with whom a man could travel in comfort for a
few pence, had now either lost their horses, or feared to risk
them. No carriers had gone either to Bridgewater or to Bristol
since the Duke marched in on the fourth day of his journey; nor
had the carriers come in as usual from those places; the business
of the town was at a standstill. I asked at several inns, but
that was the account given to me. There was no safety on the
roads. The country was overrun by thieves, who stole horses in
the name of the Duke or of the King; nothing was safe anywhere.
The general hope of the people was for Monmouth to be beaten
soon, or to be victorious soon. They had lost quite enough by
him; they wanted the rebellion over.

At last, just when I had begun to think the thing hopeless, I
found an honest Quaker about to ride to Bridgewater with a basket
of Bibles for the Duke's men. He did not ask me what my business
at Bridgewater might be; but he knew that no one would want to go
there at such a time without good cause. "Well," he said, "if you
can ride small, you shall ride behind me, but it will be slow
riding, as the horse will be heavily laden." He was going to
start at eight o'clock, so as to travel all night, when the
marauders, whether deserters from the Duke or ill-conditioned
country people, were always less busy. I had time to get some
supper for myself in the tavern-bar before starting. Just as we
were about to ride off together, when we were in the saddle,
waiting only till some carts rolled past the yard-door, I had a
fright, for there, coming into the inn yard, was one of the
troopers who had beguiled me from the Duke's army that day at
Axminster. I had no doubt that he was going from inn to inn,
asking for news of me. We began to move through the yard as he
came towards us; the clack of the horse's feet upon the cobbles
made him look up; but though he stared at me hard, he did so with
an occupied mind; he was in such a brown study (as it is called)
that he never recognized me. A minute later, we were riding out
of town past the trench-labourers, my heart going pit-a-pat from
the excitement of my narrow escape. I dared not ask the Quaker to
go fast, lest he should worm my story from me, but for the first
three miles I assure you I found it hard not to prod that old nag
with my knife to make him quicken his two mile an hour crawl.
Often during the first hours of the ride I heard horses coming
after us at a gallop. It was all fancy; we were left to our own
devices. My pursuers, I found, afterwards, were misled by the
lies of the landlord at the inn we had left. We were being
searched for in Taunton all that fatal night, by half a dozen of
the Carew servants.

Bridgewater had not gone to bed when we got there. The people
were out in the streets, talking in frightened clumps, expecting
something. After thanking the Quaker for his kindness in giving
me a lift I asked at one of these clumps where I could find the
Duke. I was feeling so happy at the thought of rejoining my
master, after all my adventures, that I think I never felt so

"Where can I find the Duke?" I asked. "I'm his servant, I must
find him."

"Find him?" said one of the talkers. "He's not here. He's marched
out, sir, with all his army, over to Sedgemoor to fight the
King's army. It's a night attack, sir."

I was bitterly disappointed at not having reached my journey's
end; but there was a stir in the thought of battle. I asked by
which road I could get to the place where the battle would be.
The man told me to turn to the right after crossing the river.
"But," said he, "you don't want to get mixed up in the fighting,
master. There be thousands out there on the moor. A boy would be
nowhere among all them."

"Yes," said another. "Better stay here, sir. If the Duke wins
he'll be back afore breakfast. If he gets beat, you'd be best out
of the way."

This was sound advice; but I was not in a mood to profit by it.
Something told me that the battle was to be a victory for us; so
I thanked the men, telling them that I would go out over the moor
by the road they had mentioned. As I moved away, they called out
to me to mind myself, for the King's dragoons were on the moor,
as a sort of screen in front of their camp. By the road they had
mentioned I might very well get into the King's camp without
seeing anything of my master. One of them added that the battle
would begin, or might begin, long before I got there, "if the
mist don't lead en astray, like."

It took me some few minutes to get out of the gates across the
river; for there was a press of people crowded there. It was as
dark as a summer night ever is, that is, a sort of twilight, when
I passed through, but just at the gates were two great torches
stuck into rings in the wall. The wind made their flames waver
about uncertainly, so that sometimes you could see particular
faces in the crowd, all lit in muddy gold light for an instant,
before the wavering made them dark again. Several mounted men
were there, trying to pass. Among them, in one sudden glare, I
saw Aurelia on her Arab, reined in beside Sir Travers, whose
horse was kicking out behind him. I passed them by so close that
I touched Aurelia's riding habit as I crept out of the press.
They were talking together, just behind me, as I crept from the
town over the bridge above which the summer mists clung, almost
hiding the stream. Aurelia was saying "I only hope we may be in
time." "Yes, poor boy," said Sir Travers. "It will be terrible if
we are too late." It gave me a pang to hear them, for I knew that
they were talking about me.

I crept into the shelter of the bridge parapet while they rode on
past me. The mist hid them from me. The town was dark above the
mist like a city in the clouds. The stars were dim now with the
coming of day. A sheep-bell on the moor made a noise like a
nightbird. A few ponies pastured on the moor trotted away,
lightly padding, scared, I suppose, by the two riders. Then, far
away, but sounding very near at hand, for sound travels very
strangely in mist, so strangely that often a very distant noise
will strike loudly, while it is scarcely heard close to, there
came a shot. Almost instantly, the air seemed full of the roar of
battle. The gun-fire broke out into a long irregular roar, a fury
of noise which roused up the city behind me, as though all the
citizens were slamming their doors to get away from it. I hurried
along the road towards the battle, praying, as I went, that my
master might conquer, that the King's troops had been caught
asleep, that when I got there, in the glory of dawn, I might find
the Duke's army returning thanks in their enemy's camp. I pressed
on along the rough moor road until the dawn came over the far
horizon, driving the mists away, so that I could see what was
doing there.

I saw a great sweep of moorland to my left, with a confused crowd
of horsemen scattering away towards a line of low hills some
miles beyond. They were riding from the firing, which filled all
the nearer part of the moor with smoke, among which I saw moving
figures, sudden glimpses of men in rank, sudden men on horseback,
struggling with their horses. The noise was worse than I had
expected; it came on me with repeated deafening shocks. I could
hear cries in the lulls when the firing slackened; then the
uproar grew worse again, sounds of desperate thuds, marking
cannon shot. I heard balls going over my head with a shrill
"wheep, wheep," which made me duck. A small iron cannon ball spun
into the road like a spinning top, scattering the dust. It wormed
slowly past me for a second, then rose up irregularly in a bound,
to thud into the ditch, where it lay still. I saw cannon coming
up at a gallop, with many horses, on the bare right flank of the
battle. Another ball came just over my head, with a scream which
made my heart quite sick. I sat down cowering under a ruined
thorn-tree by the road, crying like a little child. It must have
been a moment after that when I saw a man staggering down the
road towards me, holding his side with both hands. He fell into
the road, dead, not far from me. Then others came past, some so
fearfully hurt that it was a miracle that they should walk. They
came past in a long horrible procession, men without weapons,
without hands, shot in the head, in the body, lacerated,
bleeding, limping, with white drawn faces, tottering to the town
which they would never see again. I shut my eyes, crouching well
under the tree, while this fight went on. It was nothing but a
time of pain, a roaring, booming horror with shrieks in it. I
don't know how long it lasted. I only know that the shooting
seemed suddenly to pass into a thunder of horse-hoofs as the
King's dragoons came past in a charge. Right in front of me they
galloped, hacking at the fleers, leaning out from their saddles
to cut at them, leaning down to stab them, rising up to reach at
those who climbed the banks. Under that tide of cavalry the
Duke's army melted. They fought in clumps desperately. They flung
away their weapons. They fled. They rushed down desperately to
meet death. It was all a medley of broken noises, oaths, stray
shots, cries, wounded men whimpering, hurt horses screaming. The
horses were the worst part of it. Perhaps you never heard a horse

That morning's work is all very confused to me. I remember seeing
men cut down as they ran. I remember a fine horse coming past me
lurching, clattering his stirrups, before leaping into the river.
I remember the stink of powder over all the field; the strange
look on the faces of the dead; the body of a trumpeter, kneeling
against a gorse-bush, shot through the heart, with his trumpet
raised to his lips, the litter everywhere, burnt cartridges,
clothes, belts, shot, all the waste of war. They are in my mind,
those memories, like scattered pictures. The next clear memory in
my mind, is of a company of cavalry in red coats, under a fierce,
white-faced man, bringing in a string of prisoners to the King's
camp. A couple of troopers jumped down to examine me. One had the
face of a savage; the other was half drunk. "You're one of them,"
they said. "Bring him on." They twisted string about my thumbs. I
was their prisoner. They dragged me into the King's camp, where
the white-faced man sat down at a table to judge us.

I will not talk of that butchery. The white-faced man has been
judged now, in his turn; I will say no more of him. When it came
to my turn, he would hear no words from me; I was a rebel, fit
for nothing but death. "Pistol him" was all the sentence passed
on me. The soldiers laid hands on me to drag me away, to add my
little corpse to the heap outside. One of the officers spoke up
for me. "He's only a boy," he said. "Go easy with the boy. Don't
have the poor child killed." It was kindly spoken; but quite
carelessly. The man would have pleaded for a cat with just as
much passion. It was useless, anyway, for the colonel merely
repeated "Pistol him," just as one would have ordered a wine at
dinner. "Burgundy." "No, the Burgundy here is all so expensive."
"Never mind, Burgundy." So I was led away to stand with the next
batch of prisoners lined against a wall to be shot. My place was
at the end of a line, next to a young sullen-looking man black
with powder. I did not feel frightened, only hopeless, quite
hopeless, a sort of dead feeling. I remember looking at the
soldiers getting ready to shoot us. I wondered which would shoot
me. They seemed so slow about it. There was some hitch, I think,
in filling up the line; a man had proved his innocence or

Then, the next instant, there was Aurelia dragging the
white-faced man from his table. I dimly remember him ordering me
to be released, while Sir Travers Carew gave me brandy. I
remember the young sullen-looking man's face; for he looked at
me, a look of dull wonder, with a sort of hopeless envy in it,
which has wrung my heart daily, ever since. "Mount," said
Aurelia. "Mount, Martin. For God's sake, Uncle Travers, let us
get out of this." They were on both sides of me each giving me an
arm in the saddle, as we rode out of that field of death through
Zoyland village towards the old Abbey near Chard.

I shall say little more, except that I never saw my master again.
When they led him to the scaffold on Tower Hill I was outward
bound to the West Indies, as private secretary to Sir Travers,
newly appointed Governor of St. Eulalie. We had many of
Monmouth's men in St. Eulalie after the Bloody Assizes; but their
tale is too horrible to tell here. You will want to know whether
I ever saw Aurelia again. Not for some years, not very often for
nine years; but since then our lives have been so mingled that
when we die it will be hard to say which soul is which, so much
our spirits are each other's. So now, I have written a long
story. May we all tell our tales to the end before the pen is
taken from us.

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