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So quickly were the preparations made that by the time the cavalry came riding back from Moor Fields they found the way barred to them. The commander of the cavalry ordered his men to charge. Harry, who had now taken the command of the crowd, ordered a few of the apprentices to stand before the first line of chains, so that these would not be visible until the horses were close upon them. Behind the chains he placed a strong body of watermen with their oars, while behind these, and at the windows of the houses, were the apprentices, each armed with a quantity of stones and broken bricks. The cavalry charged down upon the defense. When they reached within a few yards of the apprentices in front, these slipped under the chain. The leading troopers halted, but were pressed by those behind them gainst the chain. Then a ram of stones and brickbats opened upon them, and the watermen struck down men and horses with their heavy oars. In vain the troopers tried with their swords to reach their opponents. In vain they fired their pistols into the mass. They were knocked down by the stones and brickbats in numbers, and at last, their commander having been struck senseless, the rest drew off, a tremendous cheer greeting their retreat, from the crowd.
"Now," Harry shouted, taking his position on a doorstep, whence he could be seen, "attend to me. The battle has only begun yet, and they will bring up their infantry now. Next time we will let them enter the street, and defend the chains at the other end--a party must hold these--do some of you fill each lane which comes down on either side, and do ten of you enter each house and take post at the upper windows, with a good store of ammunition. Do not show yourselves until the head of their column reaches the chain. Then fling open the windows and pour volleys of stones and bricks upon them. Then let those in the side streets, each headed by parties of watermen, fall upon their flanks. Never fear their musketry. They can only give fire once before you are upon them. The oars will beat down the pikes, and your clubs will do the rest. Now let the apprentices of each street form themselves into parties, each under their captain. Let all be regular and orderly, and we will show them what the Londoners can do."
With a cheer the crowd separated, and soon took post as Harry had directed. He stationed himself at the barricade at the head of the street. A quarter of an hour later the militia were seen approaching in close column followed by the cavalry. On arriving at the end of the street the assailants removed the chain, and again advanced. The street was silent until they neared its end. The watermen had, under Harry's direction, torn up the paving stones, and formed a barricade breast high, behind which, remaining crouched, they awaited the assault.
The fight began by a volley of stones from the apprentices behind the barricade. The leading rank of the column discharged their muskets, and rushed at the barricade; the watermen sprang to oppose them. At the sound of the first shot every window in the street opened, and a rain of bricks and heavy stones poured down on all sides upon the column, while at the same time dense masses flung themselves upon its flanks, from every lane leading into it. Confused and broken by the sudden onslaught in the narrow street, the column halted, and endeavored to open a fire upon the upper windows. This, however, effected but little harm, while every brick from above told upon their crowded mass. The column was instantly in confusion, and Harry and his followers, leaping over the barricade, and followed by the watermen and apprentices behind, fell upon it with fury. In vain did the Roundheads strive to repulse the attack. Their numbers melted away as they fell, killed or senseless, from the rain of missiles from above. Already the column was rent by their assailants on the flanks, and in less than five minutes from the commencement of the assault those who remained on their legs were driven headlong out into Moor Fields.
Loud rose the triumphant cry of the defenders, "God and King Charles." Some hours elapsed before any attempt was made to renew the assault. Then toward evening fresh troops were brought up from Westminster, and the attack was renewed on two sides. Still the apprentices held their own. Attack after attack was repulsed. All night the fight continued, and when morning dawned the Royalists were still triumphant.
"How will it go, think you, Jacob?" Harry asked.
"They will beat us in the long run," Jacob said. "They have not been properly led yet. When they are, guns and swords must prevail against clubs and stones."
At eleven o'clock in the morning a heavy body of cavalry were seen approaching from Westminster. The Roundheads had brought up Cromwell's Ironsides, the victors in many a hard-fought field, against the apprentice boys of London. The Roundhead infantry advanced with their horse. As they approached the first barricade the cavalry halted, and the infantry advanced alone to within thirty yards of it. Then, just as its defenders thought they were going to charge, they halted, divided into bodies, and entered the houses on either side, and appeared at the windows. Then, as the Ironsides came down at a gallop, they opened a heavy fire on the defenders of the barricade. Harry saw at once that the tactics now adopted were irresistible, and that further attempts at defense would only lead to useless slaughter. He therefore shouted:
"Enough for to-day, lads. Every man back to his own house. We will begin again when we choose. We have given them a good lesson."
In an instant the crowd dispersed, and by the time the Ironsides had dismounted, broken the chains, and pulled down the barricade sufficiently to enable them to pass, Ludgate Hill was deserted, the apprentices were back in their masters' shops, and the watermen standing by their boats ready for a fare.
Seeing that their persons were known to so many of the citizens, and would be instantly pointed out to the troops by those siding with the army, who had, during the tumult, remained quietly in their houses, watching from the windows what was going on, Harry and his friends hurried straight to Aldersgate, where they passed out into the country beyond. Dressed in laborers' smocks, which they had, in preparation for any sudden flight, left at the house of a Royalist innkeeper, a mile or two in the fields, they walked to Kingston, crossed the river there, and made for Southampton.
The king was now closely confined in Carisbrook Castle. For the first three months of his residence in the Isle of Wight he could have escaped with ease, had he chosen, and it is probable that Cromwell and the other leaders of the army would have been glad that he should go, and thus relieve the country from the inconvenience of his presence. They had become convinced that so long as he lived quiet could not be hoped for. While still pretending to negotiate with them, he had signed a treaty with the Scots, promising to establish Presbyterianism in England, and their army was already marching south. To the Irish Papists he had promised free exercise of their religion, and these were taking up arms and massacring all opposed to them, as was the custom in that barbarous country. In Wales a formidable insurrection had broken out. Essex and Kent were up in arms, and, indeed, all through the country the Royalists were stirring. The leaders had therefore determined upon bringing the king to trial.
At Southampton Harry found Sir John Berkeley concealed in a house where he had previously instructed Harry he might be looked for. He told him that the king was now a close prisoner, and would assuredly escape if means could be provided. Leaving Sir John, Harry joined his followers, and after telling them the circumstances, they walked down to the port. Here they entered into conversation with an old sailor. Seeing that he was an honest fellow, and in no way disposed toward the fanatics, Harry told him that he and those with him were Cavaliers, who sought to cross over into France.
"There is a boat, there," the sailor said, pointing to a lugger which was lying at anchor among some fishing boats, "that will carry you. The captain, Dick Wilson, is a friend of mine, and often makes a run across to France on dark nights, and brings back smuggled goods. I know where he can be found, and will lead you to him, if it so pleases you." Upon their gladly accepting the offer he led them to a small inn by the water side, and introduced them to the captain of the Moonlight, for so the lugger was called. Upon receiving a hint from the sailor that his companions wished to speak to him in private, Wilson led the way upstairs to the chamber he occupied. Here Harry at once unfolded to him the nature of the service he required. He was to lay with his boat off the bank of the island, making to sea before daylight, and returning after dusk, and was to take his station off a gap in the cliffs, known as Black Gang Chine, where a footpath from above descended to the beach. Upon a light being shown three times at the water's edge he was to send a boat immediately ashore, and embarking those whom he might find there, sail for France. If at the end of the week none should come, he would know that his services would not be required, and might sail away whither he listed. He was to receive fifty guineas at once for the service, and if he transported those who might come down to the shore, to France, he would, on arriving there, be paid two hundred and fifty more.
"It is the king, of course, who seeks to escape," the sailor said. "Well, young gentlemen, for such I doubt not that you are, I am ready to try it. We sailors are near all for the king, and the fleet last week declared for him, and sailed for Holland. So, once on board, there will be little danger. Pay me the fifty guineas at once, and you may rely upon the Moonlight being at the point named."
Harry handed over the money, and arranged that on the third night following the lugger should beat the post appointed, and that it should at once run them across and land them at Cowes. It was now the middle of May, and Harry and his friends, who were still in the disguise of countrymen, walked across to Newport. Their first step was to examine the castle. It lay a short distance from the town, was surrounded by a high wall with towers, and could offer a strong resistance to an attacking force. At the back of the castle was a small postern gate, at which they decided that his escape must, if possible, be made. Harry had been well supplied with money by Sir John Berkeley before leaving Southampton, Sir John himself, on account of his figure being so well known at Newport, during his stay there with the king, deeming it imprudent to take any personal part in the enterprise. After an examination of the exterior of the castle Harry bought a large basket of eggs, and some chickens, and with these proceeded to the castle. There was a guard at the gate, but persons could freely enter. As Harry's wares were exceedingly cheap in price, he speedily effected a sale of them to the soldiers and servants of the officers.
"I should like," he said to the man to whom he disposed of the last of the contents of his basket, "to catch a sight of the king. I ha' never seen him."
"That's easy enough," the man said. "Just mount these stairs with me to the wall. He is walking in the garden at the back of the castle."
Harry followed the man, and presently reached a spot where he could look down into the garden. The king was pacing up and down the walk, his head bent, his hands behind his back, apparently in deep thought. An attendant, a short distance behind him, followed his steps.
"Be that the king?" Harry asked. "He don't look like a king."
"That's him," the man said, "and he's not much of a king at present."
"Where does he live now?" Harry asked.
"That is his room," the man said, pointing to a window some ten feet from the ground. After a little further conversation Harry appeared to be satisfied, and returning to the courtyard, made his way from the castle. During that day and the next they remained quiet, except that Jacob walked over to Cowes, where he purchased two very fine and sharp saws, and a short length of strong rope, with a hook. The following night they hired a cart with a fast horse, and this they placed at a spot a quarter of a mile from the castle.
Leaving the man in charge of it there, Harry and his companions made for the back of the castle. They could tell by the calls upon the walls that the sentries were watchful, but the night was so dark that they had no fear whatever of being seen. Very quietly they crossed the moat, which was shallow, and with but little water in it. Then with an auger they cut four holes in a square two feet each way in the door, and, with a saw, speedily cut the piece inclosed by them out, and creeping through, entered the garden. The greater part of the lights were already extinguished, but that in the king's chamber was still burning. They made their way quietly until they stood beneath this window, and waited until the light here was also put out. Then Harry climbed on to the shoulders of his companions, which brought his face on a level with the window. He tapped at it. The king, who had been warned that his friends would attempt to open a means of escape, at once came to the window, and threw open the casement.
"Who is there?" he asked, in low tones.
"It is I, Harry Furness, your majesty. I have two trusty friends with me. We have cut a hole through the postern gate, a cart is waiting without, and a ship lies ready to receive you on the coast."
"I am ready," the king said. "Thanks, my faithful servant. But have you brought something to cut the bars?"
"The bars!" Henry exclaimed, aghast. "I did not know that there were bars!"
"There are, indeed, Master Furness," the king said, "and if you have no file the enterprise is ruined."
Harry put his hands on the stonework and pulled himself up, and felt the bars within the window.
"They are too strong for our united strength," he said, in a tone of deep disappointment. "But methinks it is possible to get between them." Putting his head between the bars he struggled though, but with great difficulty. "See, your majesty, I have got through."
"Ay, Master Furness, but you are slighter in figure than I, although you are changed indeed since first the colonel, your father, presented you to me at Oxford. However, I will try." The king tried, but in vain. He was stouter than Harry, although less broadly built, and had none of the lissomness which enabled the latter to wriggle through the bars. "It is useless," he said at last. "Providence is against me. It is the will of God that I should remain here. It may be the decree of Heaven that even yet I may sit again on the throne of my ancestors. Now go, Master Furness. It is too late to renew the attempt to-night. Should Charles Stuart ever reign again over England, he will not forget your faithful service."
Harry kissed the king's hand, and with a prayer for his welfare he again made his way through the bars and dropped from the window, by the side of his companions, the tears streaming down his cheeks with the disappointment and sorrow he felt at the failure of his enterprise. "It is all over," he said. "The king cannot force his way through the bars."
Without another word they made their way down to the postern, passed through it, and replaced the piece of wood in its position, in the faint hope that it might escape notice. Then they rejoined the driver with the cart, paid him handsomely, and told him that his services would not be required that night at least. They then returned to their lodgings in the town. The next morning early Jacob started for Cowes to buy some sharp files and aquafortis, but an hour later the news passed through Newport that an attempt had been made in the night to free the king, that a hole had been cut in the postern, and the marks of footsteps discovered under the king's window. Perceiving that it would be useless to renew the attempt now that the suspicions of the garrison were aroused, Harry and William Long, fearing that a search would be instituted, at once started for Cowes. They met Jacob close to that town, crossed in a boat to the mainland, and walked to Southampton. They hesitated whether they should join Lord Goring, who had risen in Kent, or Lord Capel and Sir Charles Lucas, who had collected a large force at Colchester. They determined upon the latter course, as the movement appeared to promise a better chance of success. Taking passage in a coaster, they sailed to the mouth of the Thames, and being landed near Tilbury, made their way to Colchester. Harry was, on his arrival, welcomed by the Royalist leaders, who were well acquainted with him. They proposed to march upon London, which would, they felt sure, declare for the king upon their approach. They had scarcely set their force in motion when they heard that Fairfax, at the head of an army, was marching against them. A debate was held among the leaders as to the best course to pursue. Some were for marching north, but the eastern counties had, from the commencement of the troubles, been wholly on the side of the Parliament. Others were for dispersing the bands, and awaiting a better opportunity for a rising. Sir Charles Lucas, however, urged that they should defend Colchester to the last.
"Here," he said, "we are doing good service to the Royal cause, and by detaining Fairfax here, we shall give time to our friends in Wales, Kent, and other parts to rise and organize. If it is seen that whenever we meet the Roundheads we disperse at once, hope and confidence will be lost."
The next day the town was invested by Fairfax, and shortly after the siege began in earnest. The Royalists fought with great bravery, and for two months every attempt of the Roundheads to storm the place was repulsed. At length, however, supplies ran short, several breaches had been made in the walls by the Roundhead artillery, and a council of war was held, at which it was decided that further resistance was useless, and would only inflict a great slaughter upon their followers, who, in the event of surrender, would for the most part be permitted to return to their homes. Harry Furness was present at the council and agreed to the decision. He said, however, that he would endeavor, with his two personal followers, to effect his escape, as, if he were taken a prisoner to London, he should be sure to be recognized there as the leader of the rising in May, in which case he doubted not that little mercy would be shown to him. The Royalist leaders agreed with him, but pointed out that his chances of escape were small, as the town was closely beleaguered. Harry, however, declared that he preferred the risk of being shot while endeavoring to escape, to the certainty of being executed if carried to London.
That night they procured some bladders, for although Jacob and Harry were able to swim, William Long could not do so, and in any case it was safer to float than to swim. The bladders were blown out and their necks securely fastened. The three adventurers were then lowered from the wall by ropes, and having fastened the bladders around them, noiselessly entered the water. A numerous flotilla of ships and boats of the Commons lay below the town; the tide was running out, however, and the night dark, and keeping hold of each other, so as not to be separated by the tide, they drifted through these unobserved. Once safely out of hearing, Jacob and Harry struck out and towed their companion to shore. While at Colchester they had been attired as Royalist officers, but they had left these garments behind them, and carried, strapped to their shoulders, above water, the countrymen's clothes in which they had entered the town. They walked as far as Brentwood, where they stopped for a few days, and learned the news of what was passing throughout the country.
Colchester surrendered on the 27th of August, the morning after they left it. Lord Capel was sent a prisoner to London to be tried for his life; but Fairfax caused Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle to be tried by court-martial, and shot. On the 10th of July the town and castle of Pembroke had surrendered to Cromwell, who immediately afterward marched north to meet the Scotch army, which six days before had entered England. The Duke of Hamilton, who commanded it, was at once joined by five thousand English Royalists under Sir Marmaduke Langdale. General Lambert, who commanded the Parliamentary troops in the north, fell back to avoid a battle until Cromwell could join him.
The Scotch army could not be called a national force. The Scotch Parliament, influenced by the Duke of Hamilton and others, had entered into an agreement with King Charles, and undertook to reinstate him on the throne. The more violent section, headed by Argyll, were bitterly hostile to the step. The Duke of Hamilton's army, therefore, consisted entirely of raw and undisciplined troops. Cromwell marched with great speed through Wales to Gloucester, and then on through Leicester and Nottingham, and joined Lambert at Barnet Castle on the 12th of August. Then he marched against the Scotch army, which, straggling widely and thinking Cromwell still at a distance, was advancing toward Manchester. On the 16th the duke with his advanced guard was at Preston, with Langdale on his left. Cromwell attacked Langdale with his whole force next morning, and the Royalists after fighting stoutly were entirely defeated. Then he fell upon the Duke of Hamilton and the force under him at Preston, and after four hours' sharp fighting in the inclosures round the place, defeated and drove them out of the town. That night the Scots determined to retreat, and at once began to scatter. General Baillie, after some hard fighting around Warrington, surrendered with his division. The duke with three thousand men went to Nantwich. The country was hostile, his own troops, wearied and dispirited, mutinied, and declared they would fight no longer; the Duke of Hamilton thereupon surrendered, the Scotch invasion of England came to an end.
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