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قراءة كتاب The Young Castellan: A Tale of the English Civil War

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‏اللغة: English
The Young Castellan: A Tale of the English Civil War

The Young Castellan: A Tale of the English Civil War

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 1

George Manville Fenn

"The Young Castellan"

Chapter One.

In the Old Armoury.

“See these here spots o’ red rust, Master Roy?”

“I should be blind as poor old Jenkin if I couldn’t, Ben.”

“Ay, that you would, sir. Poor old Jenk, close upon ninety he be; and that’s another thing.”

“What do you mean?” said the boy addressed.

“What do I mean, sir? Why, I mean as that’s another thing as shows as old England’s wore out, and rustin’ and moulderin’ away.”

“Is this Dutch or English, Ben?” said the manly-looking boy, who had just arrived at the age when dark lads get teased about not having properly washed the sides of their faces and their upper lips, which begin to show traces of something “coming up.” “I don’t understand.”

“English, sir,” said the weather-beaten speaker, a decidedly ugly man of about sixty, grizzly of hair and beard, deeply-lined of countenance, and with a peculiar cicatrice extending from the upper part of his left cheek-bone diagonally down to the right corner of his lips, and making in its passage a deep notch across his nose. “English, sir; good old honest English.”

“You’re always grumbling, Ben, and you won’t get the rust off that morion with that.”

“That I shan’t, sir; and if I uses elber grease and sand, it’ll only come again. But it’s all a sign of poor old England rustin’ and moulderin’ away. The idea! And at a place like this. Old Jenk, as watch at the gate tower, and not got eyes enough to see across the moat, and even that’s getting full o’ mud!”

“Well, you wouldn’t have father turn the poor old man away because he’s blind and worn-out.”

“Not I, sir,” said the man, moistening a piece of flannel with oil, dipping it into some fine white sand, and then proceeding to scrub away at the rust spots upon the old helmet, which he now held between his knees; while several figures in armour, ranged down one side of the low, dark room in which the work was being carried on, seemed to be looking on and waiting to have their rust removed in turn.

“Then what do you mean?” said the boy.

“I mean, Master Roy, as it’s a pity to see the old towers going down hill as they are.”

“But they’re not,” cried the boy.

“Not, sir? Well, if you’ll excuse me for saying as you’re wrong, I’ll say it. Where’s your garrison? where’s your horses? and where’s your guns, and powder, and shot, and stores?”

“Fudge, then! We don’t want any garrison nowadays, and as for horses, why, it was a sin to keep ’em in those old underground stables that used to be their lodging. Any one would think you expected to have some one come and lay siege to the place.”

“More unlikely things than that, Master Roy. We live in strange times, and the king may get the worst of it any day.”

“Oh, you old croaker!” cried Roy. “I believe you’d like to have a lot more men in the place, and mount guard, and go on drilling and practising with the big guns.”

“Ay, sir, I should; and with a place like this, it’s what ought to be done.”

“Well, it wouldn’t be bad fun, Ben,” said the boy, thoughtfully.

“Fun, sir? Don’t you get calling serious work like that fun.—But look ye there. Soon chevy these spots off, don’t I?”

“Yes, it’s getting nice and bright,” said Roy, gazing down at the steel headpiece.

“And it’s going to get brighter and better before I’ve done. I’m going to let Sir Granby see when he comes back that I haven’t neglected nothing. I’m a-going to polish up all on ’em in turn, beginning with old Sir Murray Royland. Let me see: he was your greatest grandfather, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, he lived in 1480,” said the boy, as the old man rose, set down the morion, and followed him to where the farthest suit of mail stood against the wall. “I say, Ben, this must have been very heavy to wear.”

“Ay, sir, tidy; but, my word, it was fine for a gentleman in those days to mount his horse, shining in the sun, and looking as noble as a man could look. He’s a bit spotty, though, it’s been so damp. But I’ll begin with Sir Murray and go right down ’em all, doing the steeliest ones first, and getting by degrees to the last on ’em as is only steel half-way down, and the rest being boots. Ah! it’s a dolesome change from Sir Murray to Sir Brian yonder at the end, and worse still, to your father, as wouldn’t put nothing on but a breast-piece and back-piece and a steel cap.”

“Why, it’s best,” said the boy; “steel armour isn’t wanted so much now they’ve got cannon and guns.”

“Ay, that’s a sad come-down too, sir. Why, even when I was out under your grandfather, things were better and fighting fairer. People tried to see who was best man then with their swords. Now men goes to hide behind hedges and haystacks, to try and shoot you like they would a hare.”

“Why, they did the same sort of thing with their bows and arrows, Ben, and their cross-bows and bolts.”

“Well, maybe, sir; but that was a clean kind o’ fighting, and none of your sulphur and brimstone, and charcoal and smoke.”

“I say, Ben, it’ll take you some time to get things straight. Mean to polish up the old swords and spears, too?”

“Every man jack of ’em, sir. I mean to have this armoury so as your father, when he comes back from scattering all that rabble, will look round and give me a bit of encouragement.”

“Ha, ha!” laughed the boy; “so that’s what makes you so industrious.”

“Nay it aren’t, sir,” said the man, with a reproachful shake of his head. “I didn’t mean money, Master Roy, but good words, and a sort o’ disposition to make the towers what they should be again. He’s a fine soldier is your father, and I hear as the king puts a lot o’ trust in him; but it always seems to me as he thinks more about farming when he’s down here than he does about keeping up the old place as a good cavalier should.”

“Don’t you talk a lot of nonsense,” said Roy, hotly; “if my father likes to live here as country gentlemen do, and enjoy sport and gardening and farming, who has a better right to, I should like to know?”

“Oh, nobody, sir, nobody,” said the man, scouring away at the rusted steel.

“And besides, times are altered. When this castle was built, gentlemen used to have to protect themselves, and kept their retainers to fight for them. Now there’s a regular army, and the king does all that.”

That patch of rust must have been a little lighter on, for the man uttered a low grunt of satisfaction.

“It would be absurd to make the towers just as they used to be, and shut out the light and cover the narrow slits with iron bars.”

“Maybe, Master Roy; but Sir Granby might have the moat cleared of mud, and kept quite full.”

“What! I just hope it won’t be touched. Why, that would mean draining it, and then what would become of my carp and tench?”

“Ketch ’em and put ’em in tubs, sir, and put some little uns back.”

“Yes, and then it would take years for them to grow, and all the beautiful white and yellow water-lilies would be destroyed.”

“Yes; but see what a lot of fine, fat eels we should get, sir. There’s some thumpers there. I caught a four-pounder on a night-line last week.”

“Ah, you did, did you?” cried the lad; “then don’t you do it again without asking for leave.”

“All right, sir, I won’t; but you don’t grudge an old servant like me one eel?”

“Of course I don’t, Ben,” said the lad, importantly; “but the moat is mine. Father gave it to me as my own special fishing-place before he went