Part 3 out of 8
the town secretly at dawn. That day Joan led a sally against the
Burgundians. Her Voices told her nothing, good or bad, she says.
The Burgundians were encamped at Margny and at Clairoix, the English
at Venette, villages on a plain near the walls. Joan crossed the
bridge on a gray charger, in a surcoat of crimson silk, rode through
the redoubt beyond the bridge, and attacked the Burgundians. De
Flavy in the town was to prevent the English from attacking her in
the rear. He had boats on the river to secure Joan's retreat, if
Joan swept through Margny driving the Burgundians before her; the
garrison of Clairoix came to their help; the battle was doubtful.
Meanwhile the English came up; they could not have reached
the Burgundians, to aid them, but some of the Maid's men, seeing
the English standards, fled. The English followed them under the
walls of Compiègne; the gate of the redoubt was closed to prevent
the English from entering with the runaways. Like Hector under
Troy, the Maid was shut out from the town which she came to save.
Joan was with her own foremost line when the rear fled. They told
her of her danger; she heeded not. Her men seized her bridle and
turned her horse's head about. The English held the entrance from
the causeway; Joan and a few men were driven into a corner of the
outer wall. A rush was made at Joan. "Yield! yield to me!" each
"I have given my faith to Another," she said, "and I will keep my
Her enemies confess that on this day Joan did great feats of arms,
covering the rear of her force when they had to fly. Some French
historians hold that the gates were closed, by treason, that the
Maid might be taken.
The Maid, as a prisoner, was led to Margny, where the Burgundian
and English captains rejoiced over her. They had her at last, the
girl who had driven them from fort and field. Not a French lance
was raised to rescue her; not a sou did the king send to ransom
Within two days of her capture, the Vicar-General of the Inquisition
in France claimed her as a heretic and a witch. The English knights
let the doctors of the University of Paris judge and burn the girl
whom they seldom dared to face in war. She was the enemy of the
English, and the English believed in witchcraft. Joan was now kept
in a high tower and was allowed to walk on the leads. She knew
she was sold to England, she had heard that the people of Compiègne
were to be massacred. She would rather die than fall into English
hands, but she hoped to escape and relieve Compiègne. She therefore
prayed for counsel to her Saints; might she leap from the top of
the tower? Would they not bear her up in their hands? St. Catherine
bade her not to leap; God would help her and the people of Compiègne.
Then, for the first time, as far as we know, the Maid wilfully
disobeyed her Voices. She leaped from the tower. They found her,
not wounded, not a limb broken, but stunned. She knew not what
had happened; they told her she had leaped down For three days she
could not eat, "yet was she comforted by St. Catherine, who bade
her confess and seek pardon of God, and told her that, without
fail, they of Compiègne should be relieved before Martinmas." This
prophecy was fulfilled. Joan was more troubled about Compiègne than
about her own coming doom.
She was now locked up in an iron cage at Rouen. The person who
conducted the trial was her deadly enemy, the Bishop of Beauvais,
Cauchon, whom she and her men had turned out of his bishopric.
Next, Joan was kept in strong irons day and night, always guarded
by five English soldiers. Weakened by long captivity and ill usage,
she, an untaught girl, was questioned repeatedly for three months
by the most cunning and learned doctors of law of the Paris
University. Often many spoke at once, to perplex her mind. But
Joan always showed a wisdom which confounded them, and which is at
least as extraordinary as her skill in war. She would never swear
an oath to answer _all_ their questions. About herself, and all
matters bearing on her own conduct, she would answer. About the
king, and the secrets of the king, she would not answer. If they
forced her to reply about these things, she frankly said, she would
not tell them the truth. The whole object of the trial was to prove
that she dealt with powers of evil, and that her king had been
crowned and aided by the devil. Her examiners, therefore, attacked
her day by day, in public and in her dungeon, with questions about
these visions which she held sacred and could only speak of with
a blush among her friends. She maintained that she certainly did
see and hear her Saints, and that they came to her by the will of
God. This was called blasphemy and witchcraft.
Most was made of her refusal to wear woman's dress. For this she
seems to have had two reasons: first, that to give up her old dress
would have been to acknowledge that her mission was ended; next,
for reasons of modesty, she being alone in prison among ruffianly
men. She would wear woman's dress if they would let her take the
Holy Communion, but this they refused. To these points she was
constant: she would not deny her visions; she would not say one word
against her king, "the noblest Christian in the world" she called
him, who had deserted her. She would not wear woman's dress in
prison. They took her to the torture-chamber, and threatened her
with torture. Finally, they put her up in public, opposite a pile
of wood ready for burning, where she was solemnly preached to for
the last time. All through her trial, her Voices bade her answer
boldly, in three months she would give her last answer, in three
months "she would be free with great victory, and come into the
Kingdom of Paradise."
At last, in fear of the fire and the stake before her, and on promise
of being taken to a kindlier prison among women, and released from
chains, she promised to renounce her visions, and submit to Cauchon
and her other enemies. Some little note on paper she now signed
with a cross, and repeated a short form of words. By some trick
this signature was changed for a long document, in which she was
made to confess all her visions false.
Cauchon had triumphed. The blame of heresy and witchcraft was cast
on Joan, and on her king as an accomplice. But the English were
not satisfied; they made an uproar, they threatened Cauchon, for
Joan's life was to be spared. She was to be in prison all her days,
on bread and water, but while she lived they dared scarcely stir
against the French. They were soon satisfied.
Joan's prison was not changed. There soon came news that she had
put on man's dress again. The judges went to her. She told them
(they say) that she put on this dress of her own free will. In
confession, later, she told her priest that she had been refused
any other dress, and had been brutally treated both by the soldiers
and by an English lord.
In any case, the promises made to her had been broken. The judge
asked her if her Voices had been with her again.
"What did they say?"
"God told me by the Voices of the great sorrow of my treason, when
I abjured to save my life."
"Do you believe the Voices came from St. Margaret and St. Catherine?"
"Yes, and that they are from God."
She added that she had never meant to deny this, had not understood
that she had denied it.
All was over now; she was a "relapsed heretic."
Enough. They burned Joan the Maid. She did not suffer long. Her
eyes were fixed on a cross which a priest, Martin l'Advenu, held
up before her. She maintained, he says, to her dying moment, the
truth of her Voices. With a great cry of JESUS! she gave up her
life. Even the English wept, even a secretary of the English king
said that they had burned a Saint.
Twenty years after her death Charles VII, in his own interest,
induced the Pope to try the case of Joan over again. They collected
the evidence of most of the living people who had known her, the
Domremy peasants, from Dunois, d'Alençon, d'Aulon, from Isambart
and l'Advenu, they learned how nobly she died, and how she never
made one complaint, but forgave all her enemies freely. All these
old Latin documents were collected, edited, and printed, in 1849,
by Monsieur Jules Quicherat, a long and noble labor.
HOW CATHERINE DOUGLAS TRIED TO SAVE KING JAMES OF SCOTLAND
By Charlotte M. Yonge
It was bedtime, and the old vaulted chambers of the Dominican monastery
at Perth echoed with sounds that would seem incongruous in such a
home of austerity, but that the disturbed state of Scotland rendered
it the habit of her kings to attach their palaces to convents, that
they themselves might benefit by the "peace of the Church," which
was in general accorded to all sacred spots.
Thus it was that Christmas and Carnival time of 1435-6 had been
spent by the court in the cloisters of Perth, and the dance, the
song, and the tourney had strangely contrasted with the grave and
self-denying habits to which the Dominicans were devoted in their
neighboring cells. The festive season was nearly at an end, for
it was the 20th of February, but the evening had been more than
usually gay, and had been spent in games at chess, tables, or
backgammon, reading romances of chivalry, harping and singing. King
James himself, brave and handsome, and in the prime of life, was
the blithest of the whole joyous party. He was the most accomplished
man in his dominions; for though he had been basely kept a prisoner
at Windsor throughout his boyhood by Henry IV of England, an
education had been bestowed on him far above what he would have
otherwise obtained; and he was naturally a man of great ability,
refinement, and strength of character. Not only was he a perfect
knight on horseback, but in wrestling and running, throwing
the hammer, and "putting the stane," he had scarcely a rival, and
he was skilled in all the learned lore of the time, wrote poetry,
composed music both sacred and profane, and was a complete minstrel,
able to sing beautifully and to play on the harp and organ. His queen,
the beautiful Joan Beaufort, had been the lady of his minstrelsy
in the days of his captivity, ever since he had watched her walking
on the slopes of Windsor Park, and wooed her in verses that are
still preserved. They had now been eleven years married, and their
court was one bright spot of civilization, refinement, and grace,
amid the savagery of Scotland. And now, after the pleasant social
evening, the queen, with her long fair hair unbound, was sitting
under the hands of her tirewomen, who were preparing her for the
night's rest; and the king, in his furred nightgown, was standing
before the bright fire on the hearth of the wide chimney, laughing
and talking with the attendant ladies.
Yet dark hints had already been whispered, which might have cast
a shadow over that careless mirth. Always fierce and vindictive,
the Scots had been growing more and more lawless and savage ever
since the disputed succession of Bruce and Balliol had unsettled all
royal authority, and led to one perpetual war with the English. The
twenty years of James's captivity had been the worst of all--almost
every noble was a robber chief, Scottish borderer preyed upon
English borderer, Highlander upon Lowlander, knight upon traveler,
every one who had armor upon him who had not; each clan was at deadly
feud with its neighbor; blood was shed like water from end to end
of the miserable land, and the higher the birth of the offender
the greater the impunity he claimed.
Indeed, James himself had been brought next to the throne by one of
the most savage and horrible murders ever perpetrated--that of his
elder brother, David, by his own uncle; and he himself had probably
been only saved from sharing the like fate by being sent out of the
kingdom. His earnest words on his return to take the rule of this
unhappy realm were these: "Let God but grant me life, and there
shall not be a spot in my realm where the key shall not keep the
castle, and the bracken bush the cow, though I should lead the life
of a dog to accomplish it."
This great purpose had been before James through the eleven years
of his reign, and he had worked it out resolutely. The lawless
nobles would not brook his ruling hand, and strong and bitter was
the hatred that had arisen against him. In many of his transactions
he was far from blameless: he was sometimes tempted to craft,
sometimes to tyranny; but his object was always a high and kingly
one, though he was led by the horrible wickedness of the men he
had to deal with more than once to forget that evil is not to be
overcome with evil, but with good. In the main, it was his high
and uncompromising resolution to enforce the laws upon high and low
alike that led to the nobles' conspiracies against him; though, if
he had always been true to his purpose of swerving neither to the
right nor to the left, he might have avoided the last fatal offense
that armed the murderer against his life.
The chief misdoers in the long period of anarchy had been his uncles
and cousins; nor was it till after his eldest uncle's death that
his return home had been possible. With a strong hand had he avenged
upon the princes and their followers the many miseries they had
inflicted upon his people; and in carrying out these measures he
had seized upon the great earldom of Strathern, which had descended
to one of their party in right of his wife, declaring that it could
not be inherited by a female. In this he appears to have acted
unjustly, from the strong desire to avail himself by any pretext
of an opportunity of breaking the overweening power of the great
turbulent nobles; and, to make up for the loss, he created the new
earldom of Menteith, for the young Malise Graham, the son of the
dispossessed earl. But the proud and vindictive Grahams were not
thus to be pacified. Sir Robert Graham, the uncle of the young
earl, drew off into the Highlands, and there formed a conspiracy
among other discontented men who hated the resolute government that
repressed their violence. Men of princely blood joined in the plot,
and 300 Highland catherans were ready to accompany the expedition
that promised the delights of war and plunder.
Even when the hard-worked king was setting forth to enjoy his holiday
at Perth, the traitors had fixed upon that spot as the place of
his doom; but the scheme was known to so many, that it could not
be kept entirely secret, and warnings began to gather round the
king. When, on his way to Perth, he was about to cross the Firth of
Forth, the wild figure of a Highland woman appeared at his bridle
rein, and solemnly warned him "that, if he crossed that water, he
would never return alive." He was struck by the apparition, and
bade one of his knights to inquire of her what she meant; but the
knight must have been a dullard or a traitor, for he told the king
that the woman was either mad or drunk, and no notice was taken of
There was likewise a saying abroad in Scotland, that the new year,
1436, should see the death of a king; and this same carnival night,
James, while playing at chess with a young friend, whom he was wont
to call the king of love, laughingly observed that "it must be you
or I, since there are but two kings in Scotland--therefore, look
well to yourself."
Little did the blithe monarch guess that at that moment one of the
conspirators, touched by a moment's misgiving, was hovering round,
seeking in vain for an opportunity of giving him warning; that even
then his chamberlain and kinsman, Sir Robert Stewart, was enabling
the traitors to place boards across the moat for their passage,
and to remove the bolts and bars of all the doors in their way.
And the Highland woman was at the door, earnestly entreating to
see the king if but for one moment! The message was even brought
to him, but alas! he bade her wait till the morrow, and she turned
away, declaring that she should never more see his face!
And now, as before said, the feast was over, and the king stood,
gayly chatting with his wife and her ladies, when the clang of arms
was heard, and the glare of torches in the court below flashed on
the windows. The ladies flew to secure the doors. Alas! the bolts
and bars were gone! Too late the warnings returned upon the king's
mind, and he knew it was he alone who was sought. He tried to
escape by the windows, but here the bars were but too firm. Then
he seized the tongs, and tore up a board in the floor, by which he
let himself down into the vault below, just as the murderers came
rushing along the passage, slaying on their way a page named Walter
There was no bar to the door. Yes, there was. Catherine Douglas,
worthy of her name, worthy of the cognizance of the bleeding heart,
thrust her arm through the empty staples to gain for her sovereign
a few moments more for escape and safety! But though true as steel,
the brave arm was not as strong. It was quickly broken. She was
thrust fainting aside, and the ruffians rushed in. Queen Joan stood
in the midst of the room, with her hair streaming round her, and
her mantle thrown hastily on. Some of the wretches even struck and
wounded her, but Graham called them off, and bade them search for
the king. They sought him in vain in every corner of the women's
apartments, and dispersed through the other rooms in search of
their prey. The ladies began to hope that the citizens and nobles
in the town were coming to their help, and that the king might
have escaped through an opening that led from the vault into the
tennis-court. Presently, however, the king called to them to draw
him up again, for he had not been able to get out of the vault,
having a few days before caused the hole to be bricked up, because
his tennis-balls used to fly into it and be lost. In trying to
draw him up by the sheets, Elizabeth Douglas, another of the ladies,
was actually pulled down into the vault; the noise was heard by
the assassins, who were still watching outside, and they returned.
There is no need to tell of the foul and cruel slaughter that
ensued, nor of the barbarous vengeance that visited it. Our tale
is of golden, not of brazen deeds; and if we have turned our eyes
for a moment to the Bloody Carnival of Perth, it is for the sake of
the king, who was too upright for his bloodthirsty subjects, and,
above all, for that of the noble-hearted lady whose frail arm was
the guardian of her sovereign's life in the extremity of peril.
THE BRAVE QUEEN OF HUNGARY
By Charlotte M. Yonge
Of all the possessions of the old kingdom of Hungary, none was more
valued than what was called the Crown of St. Stephen, so called from
one which had, in the year 1000, been presented by Pope Sylvester
II to Stephen, the second Christian Duke, and first King of Hungary.
A crown and a cross were given to him for his coronation, which
took place in the Church of the Holy Virgin, at Alba Regale, also
called in German Weissenburg, where thenceforth the kings of Hungary
were anointed to begin their troubled reigns, and at the close of
them were laid to rest beneath the pavement, where most of them
might have used the same epitaph as the old Italian leader: "He rests
here, who never rested before." For it was a wild realm, bordered
on all sides by foes, with Poland, Bohemia, and Austria, ever
casting greedy eyes upon it, and afterwards with the Turk upon the
southern border, while the Magyars, or Hungarian nobles, themselves
were a fierce and untamable race, bold and generous, but brooking
little control, claiming a voice in choosing their own sovereign,
and to resist him, even by force of arms, if he broke the laws. No
prince had a right to their allegiance unless he had been crowned
with St. Stephen's crown; but if he had once worn that sacred
circle, he thenceforth was held as the only lawful monarch, unless
he should flagrantly violate the Constitution. In 1076, another
crown had been given by the Greek emperor to Geysa, King of Hungary,
and the sacred crown combined the two. It had the two arches of
the Roman crown, and the gold circlet of the Constantinopolitan;
and the difference of workmanship was evident.
In the year 1439 died King Albert, who had been appointed King of
Hungary in right of his wife, Queen Elizabeth. He left a little
daughter only four years old, and as the Magyars had never been
governed by a female hand, they proposed to send and offer their
crown, and the hand of their young widowed queen, to Wladislas, the
King of Poland. But Elizabeth had hopes of another child, and in
case it should be a son, she had no mind to give away its rights
to its father's throne. How, then, was she to help herself among
the proud and determined nobles of her court? One thing was certain,
that if once the Polish King were crowned with St. Stephen's crown,
it would be his own fault if he were not King of Hungary as long
as he lived; but if the crown were not to be found, of course he
could not receive it, and the fealty of the nobles would not be
pledged to him.
The most trustworthy person she had about her was Helen Kottenner,
the lady who had the charge of her little daughter, Princess
Elizabeth, and to her she confided her desire that the crown might
be secured, so as to prevent the Polish party from getting access
to it. Helen herself has written down the history of these strange
events, and of her own struggles of mind at the risk she ran, and
the doubt whether good would come of the intrigue; and there can
be no doubt that, whether the queen's conduct were praiseworthy or
not, Helen dared a great peril for the sake purely of loyalty and
fidelity. "The queen's commands," she says, "sorely troubled me;
for it was a dangerous venture for me and my little children, and
I turned it over in my mind what I should do, for I had no one to
take counsel of but God alone; and I thought if I did it not, and
evil arose therefrom, I should be guilty before God and the world.
So I consented to risk my life on this difficult undertaking; but
desired to have some one to help me." This was permitted; but the
first person to whom the Lady of Kottenner confided her intention,
a Croat, lost his color from alarm, looked like one half dead, and
went at once in search of his horse. The next thing that was heard
of him was that he had had a bad fall from his horse, and had been
obliged to return to Croatia, and the queen remained much alarmed
at her plans being known to one so faint-hearted. However, a more
courageous confidant was afterwards found in a Hungarian gentleman,
whose name has become illegible in Helen's old manuscript.
The crown was in the vaults of the strong castle of Plintenburg,
also called Vissegrad, which stands upon a bend of the Danube,
about twelve miles from the twin cities of Buda and Pesth. It was
in a case, within a chest, sealed with many seals, and since the
king's death, it had been brought up by the nobles, who closely
guarded both it and the queen, into her apartments, and there
examined and replaced it in the chest. The next night, one of the
queen's ladies upset a wax taper, without being aware of it, and
before the fire was discovered, and put out, the corner of the
chest was singed, and a hole burnt in the blue velvet cushion that
lay on the top. Upon this, the lords had caused the chest to be
taken down again into the vault, and had fastened the doors with
many locks and with seals. The castle had further been put into
the charge of Ladislas von Gara, the queen's cousin, and Ban, or
hereditary commander, of the border troops, and he had given it
over to a Burggraf, or seneschal, who had placed his bed in the
chamber where was the door leading to the vaults.
The queen removed to Komorn, a castle higher up the Danube, in
charge of her faithful cousin, Count Ulric of Eily, taking with
her her little daughter Elizabeth, Helen Kottenner, and two other
ladies. This was the first stage on the journey to Presburg, where
the nobles had wished to lodge the queen, and from thence she sent
back Helen to bring the rest of the maids of honor and her goods
to join her at Komorn. It was early spring, and snow was still on
the ground, and the Lady of Kottenner and her faithful nameless
assistant travelled in a sledge; but two Hungarian noblemen went
with them, and they had to be most careful in concealing their
arrangements. Helen had with her the queen's signet, and keys; and
her friend had a file in each shoe, and keys under his black velvet
On arriving in the evening, they found that the Burggraf had fallen
ill, and could not sleep in the chamber leading to the vault, because
it belonged to the ladies' chambers, and that he had therefore
put a cloth over the padlock of the door and sealed it. There was
a stove in the room, and the maidens began to pack up their clothes
there, an operation that lasted till eight o'clock; while Helen's
friend stood there, talking and jesting with them, trying all the
while to hide the files, and contriving to say to Helen: "Take care
that we have a light." So she begged the old housekeeper to give
her plenty of wax tapers, as she had many prayers to say. At last
every one was gone to bed, and there only remained in the room
with Helen, an old woman, whom she had brought with her, who knew
no German, and was fast asleep. Then the accomplice came back through
the chapel, which opened into this same hall. He had on his black
velvet gown and felt shoes, and was followed by a servant, who,
Helen says, was bound to him by oath, and had the same Christian
name as himself, this being evidently an additional bond of fidelity.
Helen, who had received from the queen all the keys of this outer
room, let them in, and, after the Burggraf's cloth and seal had been
removed, they unlocked the padlock and the other two locks of the
outer door of the vault, and the two men descended into it. There
were several other doors, whose chains required to be filed through,
and their seals and locks broken, and to the ears of the waiting
Helen the noise appeared fatally loud. She says: "I devoutly prayed
to God and the Holy Virgin, that they would support and help me;
yet I was in greater anxiety for my soul than for my life, and I
prayed to God that He would be merciful to my soul, and rather let
me die at once there, than that anything should happen against His
will, or that should bring misfortune on my country and people."
She fancied she heard a noise of armed men at the chapel door, but
finding nothing there, believed that it was a spirit, and returning
to her prayers, vowed, poor lady, to make a pilgrimage to St. Maria
Zell, in Styria, if the Holy Virgin's intercessions obtained their
success, and till the pilgrimage could be made, "to forego every
Saturday night my feather bed!" After another false alarm at a
supposed noise at the maidens' door, she ventured into the vault
to see how her companions were getting on, when she found they
had filed away all the locks, except that of the case containing
the crown, and this they were obliged to burn, in spite of their
apprehension that the smell and smoke might be observed. They then
shut up the chest, replaced the padlocks and chains with those
they had brought for the purpose, and renewed the seals with the
queen's signet, which, bearing the royal arms, would baffle detection
that the seals had been tampered with. They then took the crown
into the chapel, where they found a red velvet cushion, so large
that by taking out some of the stuffing a hiding-place was made in
which the crown was deposited, and the cushion sewn up over it.
By this time day was dawning, the maidens were dressing, and it was
the hour for setting off for Komorn. The old woman who had waited
on them came to the Lady of Kottenner to have her wages paid, and
be dismissed to Buda. While she was waiting, she began to remark
on a strange thing lying by the stove, which, to the Lady Helen's
great dismay, she perceived to be a bit of the case in which the
crown was kept. She tried to prevent the old woman from noticing
it, pushed it into the hottest part of the stove, and, by way of
further precaution, took the old woman away with her, on the plea
of asking the queen to make her a bedeswoman at Vienna, and this
was granted to her.
When all was ready, the gentleman desired his servant to take the
cushion and put it into the sledge designed for himself and the
Lady of Kottenner. The man took it on his shoulders, hiding it
under an old ox-hide, with the tail hanging down, to the laughter
of all beholders. Helen further records the trying to get some
breakfast in the market-place and finding nothing but herrings,
also the going to mass, and the care she took not to sit upon the
holy crown, though she had to sit on its cushion in the sledge.
They dined at an inn, but took care to keep the cushion in sight,
and then in the dusk crossed the Danube on the ice, which was
becoming very thin, and half-way across it broke under the maidens'
carriage, so that Helen expected to be lost in the Danube, crown
and all. However, though many packages were lost under the ice,
her sledge got safe over, as well as all the ladies, some of whom
she took into her conveyance, and all safely arrived at the castle
of Komorn late in the evening.
The very hour of their arrival a babe was born to the queen and
to her exceeding joy it was a son. Count von Eily, hearing "that
a king and friend was born to him," had bonfires lighted, and
a torchlight procession on the ice that same night, and early in
the morning came the Archbishop of Gran to christen the child. The
queen wished her faithful Helen to be godmother, but Helen refused
in favor of some lady whose family it was probably needful to
propitiate. She took off the little princess Elizabeth's mourning
for her father and dressed her in red and gold, all the maidens
appeared in gay apparel, and there was great rejoicing and
thanksgiving when the babe was christened Ladislas, after a sainted
king of Hungary.
[Illustration: THEN HE OFFERED A FERVENT PRAYER OF THANKS]
The peril was, however, far from ended; for many of the Magyars
had no notion of accepting an infant for their king, and by Easter,
the King of Poland was advancing upon Buda to claim the realm to
which he had been invited. No one had discovered the abstraction
of the crown, and Elizabeth's object was to take her child to
Weissenburg, and there have him crowned, so as to disconcert the
Polish party. She had sent to Buda for cloth of gold to make him a
coronation dress, but it did not come in time, and Helen therefore
shut herself into the chapel at Komorn, and, with doors fast
bolted, cut up a rich and beautiful vestment of his grandfather's,
the Emperor Sigismund, of red and gold, with silver spots, and
made it into a tiny coronation robe, with surplice and humeral (or
shoulder-piece), the stole and banner, the gloves and shoes. The
queen was much alarmed by a report that the Polish party meant to
stop her on her way to Weissenburg; and if the baggage should be
seized and searched, the discovery of the crown might have fatal
consequences. Helen, on this, observed that the king was more
important than the crown, and that the best way would be to keep
them together; so she wrapped up the crown in a cloth, and hid it
under the mattress of his cradle, with a long spoon for mixing his
pap upon the top, so, said the queen, he might take care of his
On Tuesday before Whitsunday the party set out, escorted by Count
Ulric, and several other knights and nobles. After crossing the
Danube in a large boat, the queen and her little girl were placed
in a carriage, or more probably a litter, the other ladies rode,
and the cradle and its precious contents were carried by four men;
but this the poor little Lassla, as Helen shortens his lengthy
name, resented so much, that he began to scream so loud that she
was forced to dismount and carry him in her arms, along a road
rendered swampy by much rain.
They found all the villages deserted by the peasants, who had fled
into the woods, and as most of their lords were of the other party,
they expected an attack, so the little king was put into the carriage
with his mother and sister, and the ladies formed a circle round it
"that if any one shot at the carriage we might receive the stroke."
When the danger was over the child was taken out again, for he
would be content nowhere but in the arms of either his nurse or
of faithful Helen, who took turns to carry him on foot nearly all
the way, sometimes in a high wind which covered them with dust,
sometimes in great heat, sometimes in rain so heavy that Helen's
fur pelisse, with which she covered his cradle, had to be wrung
out several times. They slept at an inn, round which the gentlemen
lighted a circle of fires, and kept watch all night.
Weissenburg was loyal, five hundred armed gentlemen came out to
meet them, and on Whitsun Eve they entered the city, Helen carrying
her little king in her arms in the midst of a circle of these five
hundred holding their naked swords aloft. On Whitsunday, Helen rose
early, bathed the little fellow, who was twelve weeks old that day,
and dressed him. He was then carried in her arms to the church,
beside his mother. According to the old Hungarian customs the choir
door was closed,--the burghers were within, and would not open
till the new monarch should have taken the great coronation oath
to respect the Hungarian liberties and laws.
This oath was taken by the queen in the name of her son, the doors
were opened, and all the train entered, the little princess being
lifted up to stand by the organ, lest she should be hurt in the
throng. First Helen held her charge up to be confirmed, and then
she had to hold him while he was knighted, with a richly adorned
sword bearing the motto "Indestructible," and by a stout Hungarian
knight called Mikosch Weida, who struck with such a good will that
Helen felt the blow on her arm, and the queen cried out to him not
to hurt the child.
The Archbishop of Gran anointed the little creature, dressed him
in the red and gold robe, and put on his head the holy crown, and
the people admired to see how straight he held up his neck under
it; indeed, they admired the loudness and strength of his cries,
when, as the good lady records, "the noble king had little pleasure
in his coronation, for he wept aloud." She had to hold him up for
the rest of the service, while Count Ulric of Eily held the crown
over his head, and afterwards to seat him in a chair in St. Peter's
Church, and then he was carried home in his cradle, with the count
holding the crown over his head, and the other regalia borne before
And thus Ladislas became King of Hungary at twelve weeks old, and
was then carried off by his mother into Austria for safety. Whether
this secret robbery of the crown, and coronation by stealth,
was wise or just on the mother's part is a question not easy of
answer--though of course she deemed it her duty to do her utmost
for her child's rights. Of Helen Kottenner's deep fidelity and
conscientious feeling there can be no doubt, and her having acted
with her eyes fully open to the risk she ran, her trust in Heaven
overcoming her fears and terrors, rendered her truly a heroine.
The crown has had many other adventures, and afterwards was kept in
an apartment of its own in the castle of Ofen, with an antechamber
guarded by two grenadiers. The door was of iron, with three locks,
and the crown itself was contained in an iron chest with five
seals. All this, however, did not prevent it from being taken away
and lost in the Revolution of 1849.
A STORY OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS FOR LITTLE CHILDREN
By Elizabeth Harrison
Once upon a time, far across the great ocean there lived a little
boy named Christopher. The city in which he lived was called Genoa.
It was on the coast of the great sea, and from the time that little
Christopher could first remember he had seen boats come and go
across the water. I doubt not that he had little boats of his own
which he tried to sail, or paddle about on the small pools near
Soon after he was old enough to read books, which in those days
were very scarce and very much valued, he got hold of an account
of the wonderful travels of a man named Marco Polo. Over and over
again little Christopher read the marvelous stories told by this
old traveler, of the strange cities which he had seen and of the
dark-colored people whom he had met; of the queer houses; of the
wild and beautiful animals he had encountered; of the jewels and
perfumes and flowers which he had come across.
All day long the thoughts of little Christopher were busy with this
strange far-away land which Marco Polo described. All night long
he dreamed of the marvelous sights to be seen on those distant
shores. Many a time he went down to the water's edge to watch the
queer ships as they slowly disappeared in the dim distance, where
the sea and sky seemed to meet. He listened eagerly to everything
about the sea and the voyages of adventure, or of trade which were
told by the sailors near.
When he was fourteen years old he went to sea with an uncle, who
was commander of one of the vessels that came and went from the
port of Genoa. For a number of years he thus lived on a vessel,
learning everything that he could about the sea. At one time the
ship on which he was sailing had a desperate fight with another
ship; both took fire and were burned to the water's edge. Christopher
Columbus, for that was his full name, only escaped, as did the
other sailors, by jumping into the sea and swimming to the shore.
Still this did not cure him of his love for the ocean life.
We find after a time that he left Italy, his native country, and
went to live in Portugal, a land near the great sea, whose people
were far more venturesome than had been those of Genoa. Here he
married a beautiful maiden, whose father had collected a rich store
of maps and charts, which showed what was then supposed to be the
shape of the earth and told of strange and wonderful voyages which
brave sailors had from time to time dared to make out into the
then unknown sea. Most people in those days thought it was certain
death to any one who ventured very far out on the ocean.
There were all sorts of queer and absurd ideas afloat as to the
shape of the earth. Some people thought it was round like a pancake
and that the waters which surrounded the land gradually changed
into mist and vapor and that he who ventured out into these vapors
fell through the mist and clouds down into--they knew not where.
Others believed that there were huge monsters living in the distant
waters ready to swallow any sailor who was foolish enough to venture
But Christopher Columbus had grown to be a very wise and thoughtful
man, and from all he could learn from the maps of his father-in-law
and the books which he read, and from the long talks which he had
with some other learned men, he grew more and more certain that the
world was round like an orange, and that by sailing westward from
the coast of Portugal one could gradually go round the world and
find at last the wonderful land of _Cathay_, the strange country
which lay far beyond the sea, the accounts of which had so thrilled
him as a boy.
We, of course, know that he was right in his belief concerning the
shape of the earth, but people in those days laughed him to scorn
when he spoke of making a voyage out on the vast and fearful ocean.
In vain he talked and reasoned and argued, and drew maps to explain
matters. The more he proved to his own satisfaction that this must
be the shape of the world, the more other people shook their heads
and called him crazy.
He remembered in his readings of the book of Marco Polo's travels
that the people whom Polo had met were heathen who knew little about
the God who had made the world, and nothing at all about His Son,
Christ Jesus, and as Christopher Columbus loved very dearly the
Christian religion, his mind became filled with a longing to carry
it across the great seas to this far-away country. The more he
thought about it the more he wanted to go, until his whole life
was filled with the one thought of how to get hold of some ships
to prove that the earth was round, and that these far-away heathens
could be reached.
Through some influential friends he obtained admission to the court
of the King of Portugal. Eagerly he told the rich monarch of the
great enterprise which filled his heart. It was of little or no
use, the king was busy with other affairs, and only listened to
the words of Columbus as one might listen to the wind. Year after
year passed by, Columbus' wife had died, and their one little son,
Diego, had grown to be quite a boy. Finally Columbus decided he
would leave Portugal and would go over to Spain, a rich country
near by, and see if the Spanish monarchs would not give him boats
in which to make his longed-for voyage.
The Spanish king was named Ferdinand, and the Spanish queen was a
beautiful woman named Isabella. When Columbus told them of his belief
that the world was round, and of his desire to help the heathen who
lived in this far-off country, they listened attentively to him,
for both King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were very earnest people
and very desirous that all the world should become Christians;
but their ministers and officers of state persuaded them that the
whole thing was a foolish dream of an enthusiastic, visionary man;
and again Columbus was disappointed in his hope of getting help.
Still he did not give up in despair. _The thought was too great for
that_. He sent his brother over to England to see if the English
king would not listen to him and give the necessary help, but again
he was doomed to disappointment. Only here and there could he find
any one who believed that it was possible for him to sail round
the earth and reach the land on the other side. Long years passed
by. Columbus grew pale and thin with waiting and hoping, with
planning arid longing.
Sometimes as he walked along the streets of the Spanish capital
people would point their fingers at him and say: "There goes
the crazy old man who thinks the world is round." Again and again
Columbus tried to persuade the Spanish king and queen that if they
would aid him, his discoveries would bring great honor and riches
to their kingdom, and that they would also become the benefactors
of the world by helping to spread the knowledge of Christ and His
religion. Nobody believed in his theory. Nobody was interested in
his plan. He grew poorer and poorer.
At last he turned his back on the great Spanish court, and in silent
despair he took his little son by the hand and walked a long way to
a small seaport called Palos, where there was a queer old convent
in which strangers were often entertained by the kind monks who
lived in it. Weary and footsore he reached the gate of the convent.
Knocking upon it he asked the porter, who answered the summons,
if he would give little Diego a bit of bread and a drink of water.
While the two tired travelers were resting, as the little boy ate
his dry crust of bread, the prior of the convent, a man of thought
and learning, whose name was Juan Perez, came by and at once saw that
these two were no common beggars. He invited them in and questioned
Columbus closely about his past life. He listened quietly and
thoughtfully to Columbus and his plan of crossing the ocean and
converting the heathen to Christianity.
Juan Perez had at one time been a very intimate friend of Queen
Isabella; in fact, the priest to whom she told all her sorrows and
troubles. He was a quiet man and talked but little. After a long
conference with Columbus, in which he was convinced that Columbus
was right, he borrowed a mule and getting on his back rode for many
miles across the open country to the palace in which the queen was
then staying. I do not know how he convinced her of the truth of
Columbus' plan, when all the ministers and courtiers and statesmen
about her considered it the absurdly foolish and silly dream of an
old man; but, somehow, he did it.
He then returned on his mule to the old convent at Palos, and
told Columbus to go back once more to the court of Spain and again
petition the queen to give him money with which to make his voyage
of discovery. The state treasurer said the queen had no money to
spare, but this noble-hearted woman, who now, for the first time,
realized that it was a grand and glorious thing Columbus wished to
do, said she would give her crown jewels for money with which to
start Columbus on his dangerous journey across the great ocean.
This meant much in those days, as queens were scarcely considered
dignified or respectable if they did not wear crowns of gold inlaid
with bright jewels on all public occasions, but Queen Isabella
cared far more to send the gospel of Christ over to the heathen
than how she might look, or what other people might say about her.
The jewels were pawned and the money was given to Columbus. With
a glad heart he hastened back to the little town of Palos where he
had left his young son with the kind priest Juan Perez.
But now a new difficulty arose. Enough sailors could not be found
who would venture their lives by going out on this unknown voyage
with a crazy old man such as Columbus was thought to be. At last
the convicts from the prisons were given liberty by the queen on
condition that they would go with the sailors and Columbus. So, you
see, it was not altogether a very nice crew, still it was the best
he could get, and Columbus' heart was so filled with the great work
that he was willing to undertake the voyage no matter how great
or how, many the difficulties might be. The ships were filled with
food and other provisions for a long, long voyage.
Nobody knew how long it would be before the land on the other side
could be reached, and many people thought there was no possible
hope of its ever being found.
Early one summer morning, even before the sun had risen, Columbus
bade farewell to the few friends who had gathered at the little
seaport of Palos to say good-bye to him. The ships spread their
sails and started on the great untried voyage. There were three
boats, none of which we would think, nowadays, was large enough
or strong enough to dare venture out of sight and help of land and
run the risk of encountering the storms of mid-ocean.
The names of the boats were the _Santa Maria_, which was the one
that Columbus himself commanded, and two smaller boats, one named
the _Pinta_ and the other the _Nina_.
Strange, indeed, must the sailors have felt, as hour after hour
they drifted out into the great unknown waters, which no man ever
ventured into before. Soon all land faded from their sight, and
on, and on, and on they went, not knowing where or how the voyage
would end. Columbus alone was filled with hope, feeling quite sure
that in time he would reach the never before visited shores of a
New World, and would thus be the means of bringing the Christian
religion to these poor, ignorant people. On and on they sailed,
day after day--far beyond the utmost point which sailors had ever
Many of the men were filled with a strange dread and begged and
pleaded to return home. Still on and on they went, each day taking
them further and further from all they had ever known or loved
before. Day after day passed, and week after week until two months
The provisions which they had brought with them were getting scarce,
and the men now dreaded starvation. They grew angry with Columbus,
and threatened to take his life if he did not command the ships
to be turned back toward Spain, but his patience did not give out,
nor was his faith one whit the less. He cheered the hearts of the
men as best he could, often telling them droll, funny stories to
distract their thoughts from the terrible dread which now filled
He promised a rich reward to the first man who should discover
land ahead. This somewhat renewed their courage, and day and night
watches were set and the western horizon before them was scanned
at all hours. Time and again they thought they saw land ahead,
only to find they had mistaken a cloud upon the horizon for the
longed-for shore. Flocks of birds flying westward began to be seen.
This gave some ground for hope. For surely the birds must be flying
toward some land where they could find food, and trees in which to
build their nests. Still fear was great in the hearts of all, and
Columbus knew that he could not keep the men much longer in suspense,
and that if land did not appear soon they would compel him to turn
around and retrace his steps whether he wished to or not.
Then he thought of all the benighted heathen who had never heard of
God's message of love to man through Christ, and he prayed almost
incessantly that courage might be given him to go on. Hour after
hour he looked across the blue water, day and night, longing for
the sight of land. In fact, he watched so incessantly that his
eyesight became injured and he could scarcely see at all.
At last one night as he sat upon the deck of the ship he was quite
sure that a faint light glimmered for a few moments in the distant
darkness ahead. Where there is a light there must be land, he
thought. Still he was not sure, as his eyesight had become so dim.
So he called one of the more faithful sailors to him and asked him
what he saw. The sailor exclaimed:
"A light, a light!"
Another sailor was called, but by this time the light had disappeared
and the sailor saw nothing, and Columbus' hopes again sank. Still
he felt they must be nearing land. About two o'clock that night
the commander of one of the other boats started the cry:
"Land! land ahead!"
You can well imagine how the shout was taken up, and how the sailors,
one and all, rushed to the edge of their ships, leaning far over,
no doubt, and straining their eyes for the almost unhoped-for sight.
Early the next morning some one of the sailors picked up a branch
of a strange tree, lodged in the midst of which was a tiny bird's
nest. This was sure evidence that they were indeed near land; for
branches of trees do not grow in water,
Little by little the land came in sight. First it looked like a dim
ghost of a shore, but gradually it grew distinct and clear. About
noon the next day the keel of Columbus' boat grounded upon the sand
of the newly discovered country. No white man had ever before set
eyes upon it. No ship had ever before touched this coast.
At last after a long life of working and studying, of hoping
and planning, of trying and failing, and trying yet again, he had
realized his dream.
The great mystery of the ocean was revealed, and Columbus had
achieved a glory which would last as long as the world lasted. _He
had given a new world to mankind!_ He had reached the far distant
country across the ocean, which scarcely any of his countrymen had
even believed to have any existence. He now _knew_ that the whole
round world could in time have the Christian religion.
He sprang upon the shore, and dropping on his knees he first stooped
and kissed the ground, and then he offered a fervent prayer of
thanks to God.
A learned attorney who had come with him across the water next
planted the flag of Spain upon the unknown land, and claimed the
newly discovered country in the name of King Ferdinand and Queen
Isabella of Spain.
Wonderful, wonderful indeed were the things which Columbus and the
sailors now saw! Strange naked men and women of a copper, or bronze
color, strange new birds with gorgeous tails that glittered like
gems such as they had never seen before; beautiful and unknown
fruits and flowers met their gaze on every side.
The savages were kind and gentle and brought them food and water.
They had little else to offer as they had no houses, nor streets,
nor carriages, nor cars, nor conveniences of any kind. Do you know,
my dear children, that this strange, wild savage country which
Columbus had traveled so far and so long to discover was _our
But it was not long after Columbus had gone back to Europe and told
the people there of the wonderful things which he had seen in this
far, far away land that ship-loads of white people, who were educated
and who had been taught to love God and to keep His commandments,
came over and settled in this wild, new country. They plowed the
land and planted seed; they built houses for themselves, their
wives, and little ones, and in time they made school-houses for
the children, and churches in which to worship God. Long and hard
was the struggle which these first white men had to make in this
strange, new country.
Year after year more and more white men came. These new settlers
prospered, and new towns were built, and roads were made from one
town to another, and stores and manufactories began to be seen.
At last the little handful of people had grown so strong that they
established a government of their own, which welcomed all newcomers,
providing they were law-abiding citizens. The poor and oppressed,
the persecuted and discouraged in other lands came to this new shore,
where they found wealth if they were willing to work for it.
Here they need no longer fear the persecutions from which they had
suffered. Here they gained new hope and became honored and respected
Little by little the small country grew into a great nation, the
greatest on earth, because it is the freest, and each citizen in
it has his rights respected. But for the courage and determination
and self-sacrifice of Columbus this great new world might have
remained for hundreds of years unknown to men.
Four hundred years afterwards the children of the children's children
of these early settlers, had a grand celebration in honor of the
brave old man, Christopher Columbus, whom the people of his day
called crazy, and all the nations of the earth were invited to
bring their most beautiful, their richest and rarest products to
this celebration, in order that not we of America alone, but _the
whole world might celebrate the wisdom and the courage of the great
Columbus, "the finder of America."_
In the rejoicing and in the celebration the nations did not forget the
good Queen Isabella, who was willing to give up her most precious
jewels in order that she might help Columbus in his voyage of
A SEA-FIGHT IN THE TIME OF QUEEN BESS
By Charles Kingsley
When the sun leaped up the next morning, and the tropic night
flashed suddenly into the tropic day, Amyas was pacing the deck,
with dishevelled hair and torn clothes, his eyes red with rage
and weeping, his heart full--how can I describe it? Picture it
to yourselves, picture it to yourselves, you who have ever lost a
brother; and you who have not, thank God that you know nothing of
his agony. Full of impossible projects, he strode and staggered
up and down, as the ship thrashed close-hauled through the rolling
seas. He would go back and burn the villa. He would take Guayra,
and have the life of every man in it in return for his brother's.
"We can do it, lads!" he shouted. "If Drake took Nombre de Dios,
we can take La Guayra." And every voice shouted, "Yes."
"We will have it, Amyas, and have Frank too, yet," cried Cary; but
Amyas shook his head. He knew, and knew not why he knew, that all
the ports in New Spain would never restore to him that one beloved
"Yes, he shall be well avenged. And look there! There is the first
crop of our vengeance." And he pointed toward the shore, where
between them and the now distant peaks of the Silla three sails
appeared, not five miles to windward.
"There are the Spanish bloodhounds on our heels, the same ships
which we saw yesterday off Guayra. Back, lads, and welcome them,
if they were a dozen."
There was a murmur of applause from all around; and if any young
heart sank for a moment at the prospect of fighting three ships
at once, it was awed into silence by the cheer which rose from all
the older men, and by Salvation Yeo's stentorian voice:
"If there were a dozen, the Lord is with us, who has said, 'One of
you shall chase a thousand.' Clear away, lads, and see the glory
of the Lord this day."
"Amen!" cried Gary; and the ship was kept still closer to the wind.
Amyas had revived at the sight of battle. He no longer felt his
wounds, or his great sorrow; even Frank's last angel's look grew
dimmer every moment as he bustled about the deck; and ere a quarter
of an hour had passed, his voice cried firmly and cheerfully as of
"Now, my masters, let us serve God, and then to breakfast, and
after that clear for action."
Jack Brimblecombe read the daily prayers, and the prayers before a
fight at sea, and his honest voice trembled as, in the Prayer for
all Conditions of Men (in spite of Amyas' despair), he added, "and
especially for our dear brother Mr. Francis Leigh, perhaps captive
among the idolaters;" and so they rose.
"Now, then," said Amyas, "to breakfast. A Frenchman fights best
fasting, a Dutchman drunk, an Englishman full, and a Spaniard when
the devil is in him, and that's always."
"And good beef and the good cause are a match for the devil," said
Cary. "Come down, captain; you must eat too."
Amyas shook his head, took the tiller from the steersman, and bade
him go below and fill himself. Will Cary went down, and returned
in five minutes, with a plate of bread and beef, and a great jack
of ale, coaxed them down Amyas' throat, as a nurse does with a
child, and then scuttled below again with tears hopping down his
Amyas stood still steering. His face was grown seven years older
in the last night. A terrible set calm was on him. Woe to the man
who came across him that day!
"There are three of them, you see, my masters," said he, as the crew
came on deck again. "A big ship forward, and two galleys astern of
her. The big ship may keep; she is a race ship, and if we can but
recover the wind of her, we will see whether our height is not
a match for her length. We must give her the slip, and take the
"I thank the Lord," said Yeo, "who has given so wise a heart to
so young a general; a very David and Daniel, saving his presence,
lads; and if any dare not follow him, let him be as the men of
Meroz and Succoth. Amen! Silas Stavely, smite me that boy over the
head, the young monkey; why is he not down at the powder-room door?"
And Yeo went about his gunnery, as one who knew how to do it, and
had the most terrible mind to do it thoroughly, and the most terrible
faith that it was God's work.
So all fell to; and though there was comparatively little to
be done, the ship having been kept as far as could be in fighting
order all night, yet there was "clearing the decks, lacing the
nettings, making of bulwarks, fitting of waist-cloths, arming of
tops, tallowing of pikes, slinging of yards, doubling of sheets
and tacks," enough to satisfy even the pedantical soul of Richard
Amyas took charge of the poop, Gary of the forecastle, and Yeo, as
gunner, of the main deck, while Drew, as master, settled himself
in the waist; and all was ready, and more than ready, before the
great ship was within two miles of them.
And now, while the mastiffs of England and the bloodhounds of Spain
are nearing and nearing over the rolling surges, thirsting for each
other's blood, let us spend a few minutes at least in looking at
them both, and considering the causes which in those days enabled
the English to face and conquer armaments immensely superior in
size and number of ships, and to boast that in the whole Spanish
war but one queen's ship, the _Revenge_, and (if I recollect right)
but one private man-of-war, Sir Richard Hawkins' _Dainty_, had ever
struck their colors to the enemy.
What was it which enabled Sir Richard Grenvil's _Revenge_, in his
last fearful fight off the Azores, to endure, for twelve hours
before she struck, the attack of eight Spanish armadas, of which
two (three times her own burden) sank at her side; and after all
her masts were gone, and she had been boarded three times without
success, to defy to the last the whole fleet of fifty-four sail,
which lay around, her, waiting for her to sink, "like dogs around
the dying forest king?"
What was it that enabled young Richard Hawkins' _Dainty_, though
half her guns were useless through the carelessness or treachery
of the gunner, to maintain for three days a running fight with two
Spaniards of equal size with her, double weight of metal, and ten
times the number of men?
What enabled Sir George Gary's illustrious ship, the _Content_,
to fight single-handed, from seven in the morning till eleven at
night, with four great armadas and two galleys, though her heaviest
gun was but one nine-pounder, and for many hours she had but thirteen
men fit for service?
What enabled, in the very year of which I write, those two valiant
Turkey merchantmen of London, the _Merchant Royal_ and the _Tobie_,
with their three small consorts, to cripple, off Pantellaria in the
Mediterranean, the whole fleet of Spanish galleys sent to intercept
them, and return triumphant through the Straits of Gibraltar?
And lastly, what in the fight of 1588, whereof more hereafter,
enabled the English fleet to capture, destroy, and scatter that
Great Armada, with the loss (but not the capture) of one pinnace,
and one gentleman of note?
There were more causes than one: the first seems to have lain in
the build of the English ships; the second in their superior gunnery
and weight of metal; the third (without which the first would have
been useless) in the hearts of the English men.
The English ship was much shorter than the Spanish; and this (with
the rig of those days) gave them an ease in manoeuvring, which
utterly confounded their Spanish foes. "The English ships in the
fight of 1588," says Camden, "charged the enemy with marvellous
agility, and having discharged their broadsides, flew forth presently
into the deep, and levelled their shot directly, without missing,
at those great ships of the Spaniards, which were altogether heavy
and unwieldy." Moreover, the Spanish fashion, in the West Indies
at least, though not in the ships of the Great Armada, was, for
the sake of carrying merchandise, to build their men-of-war flush
decked, or as it was called "race" (razés), which left those on
deck exposed and open; while the English fashion was to heighten
the ship as much as possible at stem and stern, both by the sweep
of her lines, and also by stockades ("close fights and cage-works")
on the poop and forecastle, thus giving to the men a shelter, which
was further increased by strong bulkheads ("co-bridgeheads") across
the main-deck below, dividing the ship thus into a number of separate
forts, fitted with swivels ("bases, fowlers and murderers") and
loopholed for musketry and arrows.
But the great source of superiority was, after all, in the men
themselves. The English sailor was then, as now, a quite amphibious
and all-cunning animal, capable of turning his hand to everything,
from needlework and carpentry to gunnery or hand-to-hand blows;
and he was, moreover, one of a nation, every citizen of which was
not merely permitted to carry arms, but compelled by law to practice
from childhood the use of the bow, and accustomed to consider
sword-play and quarter-staff as a necessary part and parcel
of education, and the pastime of every leisure hour. The "fiercest
nation upon earth," as they were then called, and the freest
also, each man of them fought for himself with the self-help and
self-respect of a Yankee ranger, and once bidden to do his work,
was trusted to carry it out by his own wit as best he could. In
one word, he was a free man.
The English officers, too, as now, lived on terms of sympathy with
their men unknown to the Spaniards, who raised between the commander
and the commanded absurd barriers of rank and blood, which forbade
to his pride any labor but that of fighting. The English officers,
on the other hand, brought up to the same athletic sports, the
same martial exercise, as their men, were not ashamed to care for
them, to win their friendship, even on emergency to consult their
judgment; and used their rank, not to differ from their men,
but to outvie them; not merely to command and be obeyed, but like
Homer's heroes, or the old Norse vikings, to lead and be followed.
Drake touched the true mainspring of English success when he once
(in his voyage round the world) indignantly rebuked some coxcomb
gentleman-adventurers with, "I should like to see the gentleman that
will refuse to set his hand to a rope. I must have the gentlemen
to hale and draw with the mariners." But those were days in which
her Majesty's service was as little overridden by absurd rules of
seniority as by that etiquette which is at once the counterfeit and
the ruin of true discipline. Under Elizabeth and her ministers, a
brave and a shrewd man was certain of promotion, let his rank or
his age be what they might; the true honor of knighthood covered
once and for all any lowliness of birth; and the merchant service
(in which all the best sea-captains, even those of noble blood,
were more or less engaged) was then a nursery, not only for seamen,
but for warriors, in days when Spanish and Portuguese traders
(whenever they had a chance) got rid of English competition by
salvoes of cannon-shot.
Hence, as I have said, that strong fellow-feeling between officers
and men; and hence mutinies (as Sir Richard Hawkins tells us) were
all but unknown in the English ships, while in the Spanish they broke
out on every slight occasion. For the Spaniards, by some suicidal
pedantry, had allowed their navy to be crippled by the same
despotism, etiquette, and official routine by which the whole nation
was gradually frozen to death in the course of the next century
or two; forgetting that, fifty years before, Cortez, Pizarro, and
the early conquistadores of America had achieved their miraculous
triumphs on the exactly opposite methods; by that very fellow-feeling
between commander and commanded by which the English were now
conquering them in their turn.
Their navy was organized on a plan complete enough; but on one
which was, as the event proved, utterly fatal to their prowess
and unanimity, and which made even their courage and honor useless
against the assaults of free men. "They do, in their armadas at sea,
divide themselves into three bodies; to wit, soldiers, mariners, and
gunners. The soldiers and officers watch and ward as if on shore;
and this is the only duty they undergo, except cleaning their
arms, wherein they are not over curious. The gunners are exempted
from all labor and care, except about the artillery; and these are
either Almaines, Flemings, or strangers; for the Spaniards are but
indifferently practiced in this art. The mariners are but as slaves
to the rest, to moil and to toil day and night; and those but few
and bad, and not suffered to sleep or harbor under the decks. For
in fair or foul weather, in storms, sun, or rain, they must pass
void of covert or succor."
This is the account of one who was long prisoner on board their
ships; let it explain itself, while I return to my tale. For the
great ship is now within two musket-shots of the _Rose_, with the
golden flag of Spain floating at her poop; and her trumpets are
shouting defiance up the breeze, from a dozen brazen throats, which
two or three answer lustily from the _Rose_, from whose poop flies
the flag of England, and from her fore the arms of Leigh and Cary
side by side, and over them the ship and bridge of the good town
of Bideford. And then Amyas calls:
"Now, silence trumpets, waits, play up! 'Fortune my foe!' and God
and the Queen be with us!"
Whereon (laugh not, reader, for it was a fashion of those musical
as well as valiant days) up rose that noble old favorite of good
Queen Bess, from cornet and sackbut, fife and drum; while Parson
Jack, who had taken his stand with the musicians on the poop, worked
away lustily at his violin.
"Well played, Jack; thy elbow flies like a lamb's tail," said Amyas,
forcing a jest.
"It shall fly to a better fiddle-bow presently, sir, if I have the
"Steady, helm!" said Amyas. "What is he after now?"
The Spaniard, who had been coming upon them right down the wind
under a press of sail, took in his light canvas.
"He don't know what to make of our waiting for him so bold," said
"He does, though, and means to fight us," cried another. "See, he
is hauling up the foot of his mainsail; but he wants to keep the
wind of us."
"Let him try, then," quoth Amyas. "Keep her closer still. Let no
one fire till we are about. Man the starboard guns; to starboard,
and wait, all small-arm men. Pass the order down to the gunner,
and bid all fire high, and take the rigging."
Bang went one of the Spaniard's bow guns, and the shot went wide.
Then another and another, while the men fidgeted about, looking at
the priming of their muskets, and loosened arrows in the sheaf.
"Lie down, men, and sing a psalm. When I want you, I'll call you.
Closer still, if you can, helmsman, and we will try a short ship
against a long one. We can sail two points nearer the wind than
As Amyas had calculated, the Spaniard would gladly enough have stood
across the _Rose's_ bows, but knowing the English readiness, dare
not for fear of being raked; so her only plan, if she did not
intend to shoot past her foe down to leeward, was to put her head
close to the wind, and wait for her on the same tack.
Amyas laughed to himself. "Hold on yet awhile. More ways of killing
a cat than choking her with cream. Drew, there, are your men ready?"
"Ay, ay, sir!" and on they went, closing fast with the Spaniard,
till within a pistol-shot.
"Ready about!" and about she went like an eel, and ran upon
the opposite tack right under the Spaniard's stern. The Spaniard,
astounded at the quickness of the manoeuvre, hesitated a moment,
and then tried to get about also, as his only chance; but it was
too late, and while his lumbering length was still hanging in the
wind's eye, Amyas' bowsprit had all but scraped his quarter, and
the _Rose_ passed slowly across his stern at ten yards' distance.
"Now, then!" roared Amyas. "Fire, and with a will! Have at
her--archers, have at her, muskets all!" and in an instant a storm
of bar and chainshot, round and canister, swept the proud Don
from stem to stern, while through the white cloud of smoke the
musket-balls, and the still deadlier clothyard arrows, whistled
and rushed upon their venomous errand. Down went the steersman,
and every soul who manned the poop. Down went the mizzen topmast,
in went the stern windows and quarter galleries; and as the smoke
cleared away, the gorgeous painting of the Madre Dolorosa, with
her heart full of seven swords, which, in a gilded frame, bedizened
the Spanish stern, was shivered in splinters; while, most glorious
of all, the golden flag of Spain, which the last moment flaunted
above their heads, hung trailing in the water. The ship, her tiller
shot away, and her helmsman killed, staggered helplessly a moment,
and then fell up into the wind.
"Well done, men of Devon!" shouted Amyas, as cheers rent the welkin.
"She has struck!" cried some, as the deafening hurrahs died away.
"Not a bit," said Amyas. "Hold on, helmsman, and leave her to patch
her tackle while we settle the galleys."
On they shot merrily, and long ere the armada could get herself
to rights again, were two good miles to windward, with the galleys
sweeping down fast upon them.
And two venomous-looking craft they were, as they shot through the
short chopping sea upon some forty oars apiece, stretching their
long sword-fish snouts over the water, as if snuffing for their prey.
Behind this long snout, a strong square forecastle was crammed with
soldiers, and the muzzles of cannon grinned out through port-holes,
not only in the sides of the forecastle, but forward in the line
of the galley's course, thus enabling her to keep up a continual
fire on a ship right ahead.
The long low waist was packed full of the slaves, some five or
six to each oar, and down the centre, between the two banks, the
English could see the slave-drivers walking up and down a long
gangway, whip in hand. A raised quarter-deck at the stern held
more soldiers, the sunlight flashing merrily upon their armor and
their gun-barrels; as they neared, the English could hear plainly
the cracks of the whips, and the yells as of wild beasts which
answered them; the roll and rattle of oars, and the loud "Ha!" of
the slaves which accompanied every stroke, and the oaths and curses
of the drivers; while a sickening musky smell, as of a pack of
kennelled hounds, came down the wind from off those dens of misery.
No wonder if many a young heart shuddered as it faced, for the first
time, the horrible reality of those floating hells, the cruelties
whereof had rung so often in the English ears, from the stories
of their own countrymen, who had passed them, fought them, and now
and then passed years of misery on board of them. Who knew but what
there might be English among those sun-browned, half-naked masses
of panting wretches?
"Must we fire upon the slaves?" asked more than one, as the thought
"Spare them all you can, in God's name; but if they try to run us
down, rake them we must, and God forgive us."
The two galleys came on abreast of each other, some forty yards
apart. To out-manoeuvre their oars as he had done the ship's sails,
Amyas knew was impossible. To run from them, was to be caught
between them and the ship.
He made up his mind, as usual, to the desperate game.
"Lay her head upon the wind, helmsman, and we will wait for them."
They were now within musket-shot, and opened fire from their
bow-guns; but, owing to the chopping sea, their aim was wild. Amyas,
as usual, withheld his fire.
The men stood at quarters with compressed lips, not knowing what
was to come next. Amyas, towering motionless on the quarter-deck,
gave orders calmly and decisively. The men saw that he trusted
himself, and trusted him accordingly.
The Spaniards, seeing him wait for them, gave a shout of joy--was
the Englishman mad? And the two galleys converged rapidly, intending
to strike him full, one on each bow.
They were within forty yards--another minute, and the shock would
The Englishman's helm went up, his yards creaked round, and gathering
way he plunged upon the larboard galley.
"A dozen gold nobles to him who brings down the steersman!" shouted
Carey, who had his cue.
And a flight of arrows from the forecastle rattled upon the galley's
Hit or not hit, the steersman lost his nerve, and shrank from the
coming shock. The galley's helm went up to port, and her beak slid
all but harmless along Amyas' bow; a long dull grind, and then
loud crack on crack, as the _Rose_ sawed slowly through the bank
of oars from stem to stern, hurling the wretched slaves in heaps
upon each other; and ere her mate on the other side could swing
round, to strike him in his new position, Amyas' whole broadside,
great and small, had been poured into her at pistol-shot, answered
by a yell which rent their ears and hearts.
"Spare the slaves! Fire at the soldiers!" cried Amyas; but the
work was too hot for much discrimination, for the larboard galley,
crippled but not undaunted, swung round across his stern, and hooked
herself venomously on to him.
It was a move more brave than wise; for it prevented the other
galley from returning to the attack without exposing herself a
second time to the English broadside; and a desperate attempt of
the Spaniards to board at once through the stern ports, and up the
quarter, was met with such a demurrer of shot and steel that they
found themselves in three minutes again upon the galley's poop,
accompanied, to their intense disgust, by Amyas Leigh and twenty
Five minutes' hard cutting, hand to hand, and the poop was clear.
The soldiers in the forecastle had been able to give them no assistance,
open as they lay to the arrows and musketry from the _Rose's_ lofty
stern. Amyas rushed along the central gangway, shouting in Spanish,
"Freedom to the slaves! death to the masters!" clambered into the
forecastle, followed close by his swarm of wasps, and set them so
good an example how to use their stings, that in three minutes more
there was not a Spaniard on board who was not dead or dying.
"Let the slaves free!" shouted he. "Throw us a hammer down, men.
Hark! there's an English voice!" There is indeed. From amid the
wreck of broken oars and writhing limbs, a voice is shrieking in
broadest Devon to the master, who is looking over the side:
"Oh, Robert Drew! Robert Drew! Come down and take me out of hell!"
"Who be you, in the name of the Lord?"
"Don't you mind William Prust, that Captain Hawkins left behind in
the Honduras, years and years agone? There's nine of us aboard, if
your shot hasn't put 'em out of their misery. Come down--if you've
a Christian heart, come down!"
Utterly forgetful of all discipline, Drew leaps down, hammer in
hand, and the two old comrades rush into each other's arms.
Why make a long story of what took but five minutes to do? The nine
men (luckily none of them wounded) are freed, and helped on board,
to be hugged and kissed by all comrades and young kinsmen; while
the remaining slaves, furnished with a couple of hammers, are told
to free themselves and help the English. The wretches answered by
a shout; and Amyas, once more safe on board again, dashes after
the other galley, which has been hovering out of reach of his guns;
but there is no need to trouble himself about her; sickened with
what she has got, she is struggling right up wind, leaning over to
one side, and seemingly ready to sink.
"Are there any English on board of her?" asked Amyas, loth to lose
the chance of freeing a countryman.
"Never a one, sir, thank God."
So they set to work to repair damages; while the liberated slaves,
having shifted some of the galley's oars, pull away after their
comrade; and that with such a will, that in ten minutes they have
caught her up, and careless of the Spaniard's fire, boarded her en
masse, with yells as of a thousand wolves. There will be fearful
vengeance taken on those tyrants, unless they play the man this
And in the meanwhile half the crew are clothing, feeding, questioning,
caressing those nine poor fellows thus snatched from living death;
and Yeo, hearing the news, has rushed up on deck to welcome his
old comrades, and:
"Is Michael Heard, my cousin, here among you?"
Yes, Michael Heard is there, white-headed rather from misery than
age; and the embracings and questionings begin afresh.
"Where is my wife, Salvation Yeo?"
"With the Lord."
"Amen!" says the old man, with a short shudder.
"I thought so much; and my two boys?"
"With the Lord."
The old man catches Yeo by the arm.
"How, then?" It is Yeo's turn to shudder now.
"Killed in Panama, fighting the Spaniards; sailing with Mr. Oxenham;
and 'twas I led 'em into it. May God and you forgive me!"
"They couldn't die better, Cousin Yeo. Where's my girl Grace?"
The old man covers his face with his hands for a while. "Well, I've
been alone with the Lord these fifteen years, so I must not whine
at being alone a while longer--it won't be long."
"Put this coat on your back, uncle," says some one.
"No; no coats for me. You'd better go to your work, lads, or the
big one will have the wind of you yet."
"So she will," said Amyas, who has overheard; but so great is the
curiosity on all hands, that he has some trouble in getting the
men to quarters again; indeed, they only go on condition of parting
among themselves the new-comers, each to tell his sad and strange
story. How after Captain Hawkins, constrained by famine, had put
them ashore, they wandered in misery till the Spaniards took them;
how, instead of hanging them (as they at first intended), the Dons
fed and clothed them, and allotted them as servants to various
gentlemen about Mexico, where they throve, turned their hands
(like true sailors) to all manner of trades, and made much money,
and some of them were married, even to women of wealth; so that
all went well, until the fatal year 1574, when, "much against the
minds of many of the Spaniards themselves, that cruel and bloody
Inquisition was established for the first time in the Indies"; and
how, from that moment, their lives were one long tragedy.
The history even of their party was not likely to improve the good
feeling of the crew toward the Spanish ship which was two miles
to leeward of them, and which must be fought with, or fled from,
before a quarter of an hour was past. So, kneeling down upon the
deck, as many a brave crew in those days did in like case, they
"gave God thanks devoutly for the favor they had found"; and then
with one accord, at Jack's leading, sang one and all the ninety-fourth
"O, Lord, Thou dost revenge all wrong,
Vengeance belongs to Thee," etc.
And then again to quarters; for half the day's work, or more than
half, still remained to be done; and hardly were the decks cleared
afresh, and the damage repaired as best it could be, when she came
ranging up to leeward, as closehauled as she could. She was, as
I said, a long flush-decked ship of full five hundred tons, more
than double the size, in fact, of the _Rose_, though not so lofty
in proportion; and many a bold heart beat loud, and no, shame to
them, as she began firing away merrily,, determined, as all well
knew, to wipe out in English blood the disgrace of her late foil.
"Never mind, my merry masters," said Amyas, "she has quantity and
"That's true," said one, "for one honest man is worth two rogues."
"And one of our guns, three of theirs," said another. "So when
you will, captain, and have at her."
"Let her come abreast of us, and don't burn powder. We have the
wind, and can do what we like with her. Serve the men out a horn
of ale all round, steward, and all take your time."
So they waited for five minutes more, and then set to work quietly,
after the fashion of English mastiffs, though they waxed right mad
before three rounds were fired, and the white splinters began to
crackle and fly.
Amyas, having, as he had said, the wind, and being able to go nearer
it than the Spaniard, kept his place at easy point-blank range for
his two eighteen-pounder guns, which Yeo and his mate worked with
"We are lacking her through and through every shot," said he.
"Leave the small ordnance alone yet awhile, and we shall sink her
"Whing, whing," went the Spaniard's shot like so many humming-tops,
through the rigging far above their heads; for the ill-constructed
ports of those days prevented the guns from hulling an enemy who
was to windward, unless close alongside.
"Blow, jolly breeze," cried one, "and lay the Don over all thou
canst. What's the matter aloft there?"
Alas! a crack, a flap, a rattle; and blank dismay! An unlucky shot
had cut the foremast in two, and all forward was a mass of dangling
"Forward, and cut away the wreck!" said Amyas, unmoved. "Small-arm
men, be ready. He will be aboard of us in five minutes!"
It was too true. The _Rose_, unmanageable from the loss of her
head-sail, lay at the mercy of the Spaniard; and the archers and
musketeers had hardly time to range themselves to leeward, when
the _Madre Dolorosa's_ chains were grinding against the _Rose's_,
and grapples tossed on board from stem to stern.
"Don't cut them loose!" roared Amyas. "Let them stay and see the
fun! Now, dogs of Devon, show your teeth, and hurrah for God and
And then began a fight most fierce and fell; the Spaniards,
according to their fashion, attempted to board, the English, amid
fierce shouts of "God and the Queen!" "God and St. George for
England!" sweeping them back by showers of arrows and musket balls,
thrusting them down with pikes, hurling grenades from the tops;
while the swivels on both sides poured their grape, and bar, and
chain, and the great main-deck guns, thundering muzzle to muzzle,
made both ships quiver and recoil, as they smashed the round shot
through and through each other.
So they roared and flashed, fast clenched to each other under a
cloud of smoke beneath the cloudless tropic sky; while all around,
the dolphins gamboled, and the flying-fish shot on from swell to
swell, and the rainbow-hued jellies opened and shut their cups of
living crystal to the sun, as merrily as if nothing had happened.
So it raged for an hour or more, till all arms were weary, and
all tongues clove to the mouth. Sick men scrambled up on deck and
fought with the strength of madness; and tiny powder-boys, handing
up cartridges from the hold, laughed and cheered as the shots ran
past their ears; and old Salvation Yeo, a text upon his lips, and
a fury in his heart as of Joshua or Elijah in old time, worked on,
calm and grim, but with the energy of a boy at play. And now and
then an opening in the smoke showed the Spanish captain, in his
suit of black steel armor, standing cool and proud, guiding and
pointing, careless of the iron hail, but too lofty a gentleman to
soil his glove with aught but a knightly sword-hilt; while Amyas
and Will, after the fashion of the English gentlemen, had stripped
themselves nearly as bare as their own sailors, and were cheering,
thrusting, hewing, and hauling, here, there, and everywhere, like
any common mariner, and filling them with a spirit of self-respect,
fellow-feeling, and personal daring, which the discipline of the
Spaniards, more perfect mechanically, but cold and tyrannous, and
crushing spiritually, never could bestow. The black-plumed senor
was obeyed; but the golden locked Amyas was followed; and would
have been followed to the end of the world.
The Spaniards, ere five minutes had passed, poured into the _Rose's_
waist, but only to their destruction. Between the poop and forecastle
(as was then in fashion) the upper deck beams were left open and
unplanked, with the exception of a narrow gangway on either side;
and off that fatal ledge the boarders, thrust on by those behind,
fell headlong between the beams to the maindeck below to be slaughtered
helpless in that pit of destruction, by the double fire from the
bulkheads fore and aft; while the few who kept their footing on
the gangway, after vain attempts to force the stockades on poop
and forecastle, leaped overboard again amid a shower of shot and
arrows. The fire of the English was as steady as it was quick; and
though three-fourths of the crew had never smelled powder before,
they proved well the truth of the old chronicler's saying (since
proved again more gloriously than ever at Alma, Balaklava, and
Inkermann), that "the English never fight better than in their
Thrice the Spaniards clambered on board; and thrice surged back
before that deadly hail. The deck on both sides were very shambles;
and Jack Brimblecombe, who had fought as long as his conscience
would allow him, found enough to do in carrying poor wretches to
the surgeon. At last there was a lull in that wild storm. No shot
was heard from the Spaniard's upper-deck.
Amyas leaped into the mizzen rigging, and looked through the
smoke. Dead men he could descry through the blinding veil, rolled
in heaps, laid flat; dead men and dying; but no man upon his feet.
The last volley had swept the deck clear; one by one had dropped
below to escape that fiery shower: and alone at the helm, grinding
his teeth with rage, his mustachios curling up to his very eyes,
stood the Spanish captain.
Now was the moment for a counter-stroke. Amyas shouted for the
boarders, and in two minutes more he was over the side, and clutching
at the Spaniard's mizzen rigging.
What was this? The distance between him and the enemy's side was
widening. Was she sheering off? Yes--and rising too, growing bodily
higher every moment, as if by magic. Amyas looked up in astonishment
and saw what it was. The Spaniard was keeling fast over to leeward
away from him. Her masts were all sloping forward, swifter and
swifter--the end was come then!
"Back! in God's name back, men! She is sinking by the head!"
And with much ado some were dragged back, some leaped back--all
but old Michael Heard.
With hair and beard floating in the wind, the bronzed naked figure,
like some weird old Indian fakir, still climbed on steadfastly up
the mizzen-chains of the Spaniard, hatchet in hand.
"Come back, Michael! Leap while you may!" shouted a dozen voices.
"And what should I come back for, then, to go home where no one
knoweth me? I'll die like an Englishman this day, or I'll know the
reason why!" and turning, he sprang in over the bulwarks, as the
huge ship rolled up more and more, like a dying whale, exposing
all her long black bulk almost down to the keel, and one of her
lower-deck guns, as if in defiance, exploded upright into the air,
hurling the ball to the very heavens.
In an instant it was answered from the _Rose_ by a column of
smoke, and the eighteen-pound ball crashed through the bottom of
the defenceless Spaniard.
"Who fired? Shame to fire on a sinking ship!"
"Gunner Yeo, sir," shouted a voice up from the maindeck. "He's like
a madman down here."
"Tell him if he fires again, I'll put him in irons, if he were my
own brother. Cut away the grapples aloft, men. Don't you see how
she drags us over? Cut away, or we shall sink with her."
They cut away, and the _Rose_, released from the strain, shook her
feathers on the wave-crest like a freed sea-gull, while all men
held their breath.
Suddenly the glorious creature righted herself, and rose again, as
if in noble shame, for one last struggle with her doom. Her bows
were deep in the water, but her afterdeck still dry. Righted: but
only for a moment, long enough to let her crew come pouring wildly
up on deck, with cries and prayers, and rush aft to the poop, where,
under the flag of Spain, stood the tall captain, his left hand on
the standard-staff, his sword pointed in his right.
"Back, men!" they heard him cry, "and die like valiant mariners."
Some of them ran to the bulwarks, and shouted "Mercy! We surrender!"
and the English broke into a cheer and called to them to run her
"Silence!" shouted Amyas. "I take no surrender from mutineers.
Señor," cried he to the captain, springing into the rigging and
taking off his hat, "for the love of God and these men, strike!
and surrender _á buena querra_."
The Spaniard lifted his hat and bowed courteously, and answered,
"Impossible, señor. No _querra_ is good which stains my honor."
"God have mercy on you, then!"
"Amen!" said the Spaniard, crossing himself.
She gave one awful lunge forward, and dived under the coming swell,
hurling her crew into the eddies. Nothing but the point of her poop
remained, and there stood the stern and steadfast Don, cap-à-pie
in his glistening black armor, immovable as a man of iron, while
over him the flag, which claimed the empire of both worlds, flaunted
its gold aloft and upward in the glare of the tropic noon.
"He shall not carry that flag with him! I will have it yet, if I die
for it!" said Will Gary, and rushed to the side to leap overboard,
but Amyas stopped him.
"Let him die as he has lived, with honor." A wild figure sprang out
of the mass of sailors who struggled and shrieked amid the foam,
and rushed upward at the Spaniard. It was Michael Heard. The Don,
who stood above him, plunged his sword into the old man's body:
but the hatchet gleamed, nevertheless: down went the blade through
headpiece and through head; and as Heard sprang onward, bleeding,
but alive, the steel-clad corpse rattled down the deck into the
surge. Two more strokes, struck with the fury of a dying man, and
the standard-staff was hewn through. Old Michael collected all
his strength, hurled the flag far from the sinking ship, and then
stood erect one moment and shouted, "God save Queen Bess!" and the
English answered with a "Hurrah!" which rent the welkin.
Another moment and the gulf had swallowed his victim, and the
poop, and him; and nothing remained of the _Madre Dolorosa_ but a
few floating spars and struggling wretches, while a great awe fell
upon all men, and a solemn silence, broken only by the cry
"Of some strong swimmer in his agony."
And then, suddenly collecting themselves, as men awakened from a
dream, half-a-dozen desperate gallants, reckless of sharks and eddies,
leaped overboard, swam toward the flag, and towed it alongside in
A BRAVE SCOTTISH CHIEF
This is the story of the life of Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun,
in the province of Galloway, Scotland. Earlstoun is a bonny place,
sitting above the waterside of the river Ken. The gray tower stands
ruinous and empty to-day, but once it was a pleasant dwelling, and
dear to the hearts of those who had dwelt in it, when they were
in foreign lands or hiding out on the wild wide moors. It was the
time when Charles II wished to compel the most part of the people
of Scotland to change their religion and worship as he bade them.
Some obeyed the king; but most hated the new order of things, and
cleaved in their hearts to their old ways and to their old ministers,
who had been put out of their churches and homes at the coming
of the king. Many even set themselves to resist the king in open
battle rather than obey him in the matter of their consciences. It
was only in this that they were rebellious, for many of them had
been active in bringing him again to the throne.
Among those who thus went out to fight were William Gordon and his
son Alexander. William Gordon was a grave, courteous, and venerable
man, and his estate was one of the best in all Galloway. Like
nearly all the lairds in the south and west, he was strongly of the
Presbyterian party, and resolved to give up life and lands rather
than his principles. Now, the king was doubtless ill-advised, and
his councillors did not take the kindly or the wise way with the
people at this time; for a host of wild Highlanders had been turned
into the land, who plundered in cotter's and laird's hall without
much distinction between those that stood for the Covenants and
those that held for the king. So in the year 1679 Galloway was
very hot and angry, and many were ready to fight the king's forces
wherever they could be met with.
So, hearing news of a revolt in the west, William Gordon rode away,
with many good riders at his back, to take his place in the ranks
of the rebels. His son Alexander, whose story we are to tell, was
there before him. The Covenanting army had gained one success in
Drumclog, which gave them some hope, but at Bothwell Bridge their
forces were utterly broken, largely through their own quarrels, by
the Duke of Monmouth and the disciplined troops of the government.
Alexander Gordon had to flee from the field of Bothwell. He came
home to Earlstoun alone, for his father had been met about six miles
from the battle-field by a troop of horse, and as he refused to
surrender, he was slain there and buried in the parish of Glassford.
Immediately after Bothwell, Alexander Gordon was compelled to go into
hiding with a price upon his head. Unlike his father, he was very
ready-witted, free with his tongue, even boisterous upon occasion,
and of very great bodily strength. These qualities stood him in
good stead during the long period of his wandering and when lying
in concealment among the hills.
The day after Bothwell, he was passing through the town of Hamilton,
when he was recognized by an old retainer of the family.
"Save us, Maister Alexander," said the man, who rememhered the
ancient kindnesses of his family, "do you not know that it is death
for you to be found here?"
So saying he made his young master dismount, and carried away
all his horseman's gear and his arms, which he hid in a heap of
field-manure behind the house. Then he took Earlstoun to his own
house, and put upon him a long dress of his wife's. Hardly had
he been clean-shaven and arrayed in a clean white cap, when the
troopers came clattering into the town. They had heard that he and
some others of the prominent rebels had passed that way; and they
went from door to door, knocking and asking, "Saw ye anything of
Sandy Gordon of Earlstoun?"
So going from house to house they came to the door of the ancient
Gordon retainer, and Earlstoun had hardly time to run to the corner
and begin to rock the cradle with his foot before the soldiers
came to ask the same question there. But they passed on without
suspicion, only saying one to the other as they went out, "My
certes, Billy, but yon was a sturdy hizzie!"
After that there was nothing but the heather and the mountain cave
for Alexander Gordon for many a day. He had wealth of adventures,
travelling by night, hiding and sleeping by day. Sometimes he would
venture to the house of one who sympathized with the Covenanters,
only to find that the troopers were already in possession. Sometimes,
in utter weariness, he slept so long that when he awoke he would
find a party searching for him quite close at hand; then there was
nothing for it but to lie close like a hare in a covert till the
danger passed by.
Once when he came to his own house of Earlstoun he was only an
hour or two there before the soldiers arrived to search for him.
His wife had hardly time to stow him in a secret recess behind the
ceiling of a room over the kitchen, in which place he abode several
days, having his meals passed to him from above, and breathing
through a crevice in the wall.
After this misadventure he was sometimes in Galloway and sometimes
in Holland for three or four years. He might even have remained in
the Low Countries, but his services were so necessary to his party
in Scotland that he was repeatedly summoned to come over into
Galloway and the west to take up the work of organizing resistance
to the government.
During most of the time the tower of Earlstoun was a barracks
of the soldiers, and it was only by watching his opportunity that
Alexander Gordon could come home to see his wife, and put his hand
upon his bairns' heads as they lay a-row in their cots. Yet come
he sometimes did, especially when the soldiers of the garrison
were away on duty in the more distant parts of Galloway. Then the
wanderer would steal indoors in the gloaming, soft-footed, like
a thief, into his own house, and sit talking with his wife and an
old retainer or two who were fit to be trusted with the secret. Yet
while he sat there, one was ever on the watch, and at the slightest
signs of king's men in the neighborhood Alexander Gordon rushed
out and ran to the great oak tree, which you may see to this day
standing in sadly diminished glory in front of the great house of
Now it stands alone, all the trees of the forest having been cut
away from around it during the subsequent poverty which fell upon
the family. A rope ladder lay snugly concealed among the ivy that
clad the trunk of the tree. Up this Alexander Gordon climbed. When
he arrived at the top he pulled the ladder after him, and found
himself upon an ingeniously constructed platform built with a
shelter over it from the rain, high among the branchy tops of the
great oak. His faithful wife, Jean Hamilton, could make signals to
him out of one of the top windows of Earlstoun whether it was safe
for him to approach the house, or whether he had better remain hidden
among the leaves. If you go now to look for the tree, it is indeed
plain and easy to be seen. But though now so shorn and lonely, there
is no doubt that two hundred years ago it stood undistinguished
among a thousand others that thronged the woodland about the tower
Often, in order to give Alexander Gordon a false sense of security,
the garrison would be withdrawn for a week or two, and then in the
middle of some mirky night or early in the morning twilight the
house would be surrounded and the whole place ransacked in search
of its absent master.
On one occasion, the man who came running along the narrow river
path from Dalry had hardly time to arouse Gordon before the dragoons
were heard clattering down through the wood from the high-road.
There was no time to gain the great oak in safety, where he had so
often hid in time of need. All Alexander Gordon could do was to put
on the rough jerkin of a laboring man, and set to cleaving firewood
in the courtyard with the scolding assistance of a maid-servant.
When the troopers entered to search for the master of the house,
they heard the maid vehemently "flyting" the great hulking lout
for his awkwardness, and threatening to "draw a stick across his
back" if he did not work to a better tune.
The commander ordered him to drop his axe, and to point out the
different rooms and hiding-places about the castle. Alexander Gordon
did so with an air of indifference, as if hunting Whigs were much
the same to him as cleaving firewood. He did his duty with a stupid
unconcern which successfully imposed on the soldiers; and as soon
as they allowed him to go, he fell to his wood-chopping with the
same stolidity and rustic boorishness that had marked his conduct.
Some of the officers came up to him and questioned him as to his
master's hiding-place in the woods. But as to this he gave them no
"My master," he said, "has no hiding-place that I know of. I always
find him here when I have occasion to seek for him, and that is
all I care about. But I am sure that if he thought you were seeking
him he would immediately show you, for that is ever his custom."
This was one of the answers with a double meaning that were so much
in the fashion of the time and so characteristic of the people.
On leaving, the commander of the troop said, "Ye are a stupid kindly
nowt, man. See that ye get no harm in such a rebel service."
Sometimes, however, searching waxed so hot and close that Gordon
had to withdraw himself altogether out of Galloway and seek quieter
parts of the country. On one occasion he was speeding up the Water
of Æ when he found himself so weary that he was compelled to lie
down under a bush of heather and rest before proceeding on his
journey. It so chanced that a noted king's man, Dalyell of Glenæ,
was riding homeward over the moor. His horse started back in
astonishment, having nearly stumbled over the body of a sleeping
man. It was Alexander Gordon. Hearing the horse's feet, he leaped
up, and Dalyell called upon him to surrender. But that was no word
to say to a Gordon of Earlstoun. Gordon instantly drew his sword,
and, though unmounted, his lightness of foot on the heather and
moss more than counterbalanced the advantages of the horseman, and
the king's man found himself matched at all points; for the Laird
of Earlstoun was in his day a famous swordsman.
Soon the Covenanter's sword seemed to wrap itself about Dalyell's
blade and sent it twirling high in the air. In a little while he
found himself lying on the heather at the mercy of the man whom he
had attacked. He asked for his life, and Alexander Gordon granted
it to him, making him promise by his honor as a gentleman that