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Chapter 19


CHAPTER VI - THE GOOD HOPE (concluded)


The moans of the wounded baron blended with the wailing of the
ship's dog.  The poor animal, whether he was merely sick at heart
to be separated from his friends, or whether he indeed recognised
some peril in the labouring of the ship, raised his cries, like
minute-guns, above the roar of wave and weather; and the more
superstitious of the men heard, in these sounds, the knell of the
Good Hope.

Lord Foxham had been laid in a berth upon a fur cloak.  A little
lamp burned dim before the Virgin in the bulkhead, and by its
glimmer Dick could see the pale countenance and hollow eyes of the
hurt man.

"I am sore hurt," said he.  "Come near to my side, young Shelton;
let there be one by me who, at least, is gentle born; for after
having lived nobly and richly all the days of my life, this is a
sad pass that I should get my hurt in a little ferreting skirmish,
and die here, in a foul, cold ship upon the sea, among broken men
and churls."

"Nay, my lord," said Dick, "I pray rather to the saints that ye
will recover you of your hurt, and come soon and sound ashore."

"How!" demanded his lordship.  "Come sound ashore?  There is, then,
a question of it?"

"The ship laboureth - the sea is grievous and contrary," replied
the lad; "and by what I can learn of my fellow that steereth us, we
shall do well, indeed, if we come dryshod to land."

"Ha!" said the baron, gloomily, "thus shall every terror attend
upon the passage of my soul! Sir, pray rather to live hard, that ye
may die easy, than to be fooled and fluted all through life, as to
the pipe and tabor, and, in the last hour, be plunged among
misfortunes!  Howbeit, I have that upon my mind that must not be
delayed.  We have no priest aboard?"

"None," replied Dick.

"Here, then, to my secular interests," resumed Lord Foxham:  "ye
must be as good a friend to me dead, as I found you a gallant enemy
when I was living.  I fall in an evil hour for me, for England, and
for them that trusted me.  My men are being brought by Hamley - he
that was your rival; they will rendezvous in the long holm at
Holywood; this ring from off my finger will accredit you to
represent mine orders; and I shall write, besides, two words upon
this paper, bidding Hamley yield to you the damsel.  Will he obey?
I know not."

"But, my lord, what orders?" inquired Dick.

"Ay," quoth the baron, "ay - the orders;" and he looked upon Dick
with hesitation.  "Are ye Lancaster or York?" he asked, at length.

"I shame to say it," answered Dick, "I can scarce clearly answer.
But so much I think is certain:  since I serve with Ellis
Duckworth, I serve the house of York.  Well, if that be so, I
declare for York."

"It is well," returned the other; "it is exceeding well.  For,
truly, had ye said Lancaster, I wot not for the world what I had
done.  But sith ye are for York, follow me.  I came hither but to
watch these lords at Shoreby, while mine excellent young lord,
Richard of Gloucester, (1) prepareth a sufficient force to fall
upon and scatter them.  I have made me notes of their strength,
what watch they keep, and how they lie; and these I was to deliver
to my young lord on Sunday, an hour before noon, at St. Bride's
Cross beside the forest.  This tryst I am not like to keep, but I
pray you, of courtesy, to keep it in my stead; and see that not
pleasure, nor pain, tempest, wound, nor pestilence withhold you
from the hour and place, for the welfare of England lieth upon this
cast."

"I do soberly take this up on me," said Dick.  "In so far as in me
lieth, your purpose shall be done."

"It is good," said the wounded man. "My lord duke shall order you
farther, and if ye obey him with spirit and good will, then is your
fortune made.  Give me the lamp a little nearer to mine eyes, till
that I write these words for you."

He wrote a note "to his worshipful kinsman, Sir John Hamley;" and
then a second, which he-left without external superscripture.

"This is for the duke," he said.  "The word is 'England and
Edward,' and the counter, 'England and York.'"

"And Joanna, my lord?" asked Dick.

"Nay, ye must get Joanna how ye can," replied the baron.  "I have
named you for my choice in both these letters; but ye must get her
for yourself, boy.  I have tried, as ye see here before you, and
have lost my life.  More could no man do."

By this time the wounded man began to be very weary; and Dick,
putting the precious papers in his bosom, bade him be of good
cheer, and left him to repose.

The day was beginning to break, cold and blue, with flying squalls
of snow.  Close under the lee of the Good Hope, the coast lay in
alternate rocky headlands and sandy bays; and further inland the
wooded hill-tops of Tunstall showed along the sky.  Both the wind
and the sea had gone down; but the vessel wallowed deep, and scarce
rose upon the waves.

Lawless was still fixed at the rudder; and by this time nearly all
the men had crawled on deck, and were now gazing, with blank faces,
upon the inhospitable coast.

"Are we going ashore?" asked Dick.

"Ay," said Lawless, "unless we get first to the bottom."

And just then the ship rose so languidly to meet a sea, and the
water weltered so loudly in her hold, that Dick involuntarily
seized the steersman by the arm.

"By the mass!" cried Dick, as the bows of the Good Hope reappeared
above the foam, "I thought we had foundered, indeed; my heart was
at my throat."

In the waist, Greensheve, Hawksley, and the better men of both
companies were busy breaking up the deck to build a raft; and to
these Dick joined himself, working the harder to drown the memory
of his predicament.  But, even as he worked, every sea that struck
the poor ship, and every one of her dull lurches, as she tumbled
wallowing among the waves, recalled him with a horrid pang to the
immediate proximity of death.

Presently, looking up from his work, he saw that they were close in
below a promontory; a piece of ruinous cliff, against the base of
which the sea broke white and heavy, almost overplumbed the deck;
and, above that, again, a house appeared, crowning a down.

Inside the bay the seas ran gayly, raised the Good Hope upon their
foam-flecked shoulders, carried her beyond the control of the
steersman, and in a moment dropped her, with a great concussion, on
the sand, and began to break over her half-mast high, and roll her
to and fro.  Another great wave followed, raised her again, and
carried her yet farther in; and then a third succeeded, and left
her far inshore of the more dangerous breakers, wedged upon a bank.

"Now, boys," cried Lawless, "the saints have had a care of us,
indeed.  The tide ebbs; let us but sit down and drink a cup of
wine, and before half an hour ye may all march me ashore as safe as
on a bridge."

A barrel was broached, and, sitting in what shelter they could find
from the flying snow and spray, the shipwrecked company handed the
cup around, and sought to warm their bodies and restore their
spirits.

Dick, meanwhile, returned to Lord Foxham, who lay in great
perplexity and fear, the floor of his cabin washing knee-deep in
water, and the lamp, which had been his only light, broken and
extinguished by the violence of the blow.

"My lord," said young Shelton, "fear not at all; the saints are
plainly for us; the seas have cast us high upon a shoal, and as
soon as the tide hath somewhat ebbed, we may walk ashore upon our
feet."

It was nearly an hour before the vessel was sufficiently deserted
by the ebbing sea; and they could set forth for the land, which
appeared dimly before them through a veil of driving snow.

Upon a hillock on one side of their way a party of men lay huddled
together, suspiciously observing the movements of the new arrivals.

"They might draw near and offer us some comfort," Dick remarked.

"Well, an' they come not to us, let us even turn aside to them,"
said Hawksley.  "The sooner we come to a good fire and a dry bed
the better for my poor lord."

But they had not moved far in the direction of the hillock, before
the men, with one consent, rose suddenly to their feet, and poured
a flight of well-directed arrows on the shipwrecked company.

"Back! back!" cried his lordship.  "Beware, in Heaven's name, that
ye reply not."

"Nay," cried Greensheve, pulling an arrow from his leather jack.
"We are in no posture to fight, it is certain, being drenching wet,
dog-weary, and three-parts frozen; but, for the love of old
England, what aileth them to shoot thus cruelly on their poor
country people in distress?"

"They take us to be French pirates," answered Lord Foxham.  "In
these most troublesome and degenerate days we cannot keep our own
shores of England; but our old enemies, whom we once chased on sea
and land, do now range at pleasure, robbing and slaughtering and
burning.  It is the pity and reproach of this poor land."

The men upon the hillock lay, closely observing them, while they
trailed upward from the beach and wound inland among desolate sand-
hills; for a mile or so they even hung upon the rear of the march,
ready, at a sign, to pour another volley on the weary and
dispirited fugitives; and it was only when, striking at length upon
a firm high-road, Dick began to call his men to some more martial
order, that these jealous guardians of the coast of England
silently disappeared among the snow.  They had done what they
desired; they had protected their own homes and farms, their own
families and cattle; and their private interest being thus secured,
it mattered not the weight of a straw to any one of them, although
the Frenchmen should carry blood and fire to every other parish in
the realm of England.

Robert Louis Stevenson