In Honour's Cause, by George Manville Fenn.
This book is set in the Court of George the First, a Hanoverian King who was not very popular. To make himself feel more comfortable he had introduced into his Court a number of German people, and also Dutch ones. The hero of the story is 17-year old Frank Gowan, who is a page in the ante-room of the Prince of Wales, the King's eldest son. His father is an officer in the King's Guard. Another page is Andrew, whose father is pro-Jacobite, as Andrew is himself.
One evening a German Baron deliberately insults Frank's father, and a duel ensues, in which the German is very badly wounded, but eventually recovers. However, Frank's father, who is very loyal to the King, is sentenced to be kicked out of his Regiment, and to leave the country.
The rest of the book is a series of searches for Frank's father, Sir Robert Gowan, roof-top escapes, working out who are the spies, and who the heroes in disguise. Most of the action takes place in the Palace, in the Park which is still adjacent (and a very pretty part of London), and in a house in a street just the other side of the Park from Saint James's Palace. As always with this author there are a number of close shaves. NH
IN HONOUR'S CAUSE, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
TWO YOUNG COURTIERS.
A regular ringing, hearty, merry laugh—just such an outburst of mirth as a strong, healthy boy of sixteen, in the full, bright, happy time of youth, and without a trouble on his mind, can give vent to when he sees something that thoroughly tickles his fancy.
Just at the same time the heavy London clouds which had been hanging all the morning over the Park opened a little to show the blue sky, and a broad ray of sunshine struck in through the anteroom window and lit up the gloomy, handsome chamber.
Between them—the laugh and the sunshine—they completely transformed the place, as the lad who laughed threw himself into a chair, and then jumped up again in a hurry to make sure that he had not snapped in two the sword he wore in awkward fashion behind him.
The lad's companion, who seemed to be about a couple of years older, faced round suddenly from the other end of the room, glanced sharply at one of the doors, and then said hurriedly:
"I say, you mustn't laugh like that here."
"It isn't broken," said he who had helped to make the solemn place look more cheerful.
"What, your sword? Lucky for you. I told you to take care how you carried it. Easy enough when you are used to one."
The speaker laid his left hand lightly on the hilt of his own, pressed it down a little, and stood in a stiff, deportment-taught attitude, as if asking the other to study him as a model.
"But you mustn't burst out into guffaws like that in the Palace."
"Seems as if you mustn't do anything you like here," said the younger lad. "Wish I was back at Winchester."
"Pooh, schoolboy! I shall have enough to do before I make anything of you."
"You never will. I'm sick of it already: no games, no runs down by the river or over the fields; nothing to do but dress up in these things, and stand like an image all day. I feel just like a pet monkey in a cage."
"And look it," said the other contemptuously.
"What!" said the boy, flushing up to the temples, as he took a step toward the speaker, and with flashing eyes looked him up and down. "Well, if you come to that, so do you, with your broad skirts, salt-box pockets, lace, and tied-up hair. See what thin legs you've got too!"
"You insolent—No, I didn't mean that;" and an angry look gave place to a smile. "Lay your feathers down, Master Frank Gowan, and don't draw Master Frank Gowan, and don't draw your skewer; that's high treason in the King's Palace. You mustn't laugh here when you're on duty. If there's any fighting to be done, they call in the guard; and if any one wants to quarrel, he must go somewhere else."
"I don't want to quarrel," said the boy, rather sulkily. "You did a moment ago, for all your hackles were sticking up like a gamecock's."
"Well, I don't now, Drew," said the boy, smiling frankly; "but the place is all so stiff and formal and dull, and I can't help wanting to be back in the country. I used to think one was tied down there at the school, but that was free liberty to this."
"Oh, you young barbarian! School and the country! Right enough for boys."
"Well, we're boys."
The other coughed slightly, took a measured pace or two right and left, and gave a furtive glance at his handsome, effeminate face and slight form in the glass. Then he said, rather haughtily:
"You are, of course; but I should have thought that you might have begun to look upon me as a man."
"Oh, I will, if you like," said the other, smiling,—"a very young one, though. Of course you're ever so much older than I am. But there, I'm going to try and like it; and I like you, Forbes, for being so good to me. I'm not such a fool as not to know that I'm a sort of un-licked cub, and you will go on telling me what I ought, to do and what I oughtn't. I can play games as well as most fellows my age; but all this stiff, starchy court etiquette sickens me."
"Yes," said his companion, with a look of disgust on his face; "miserable, clumsy Dutch etiquette. As different from the grand, graceful style of the old regime and of Saint Germains as chalk is from cheese."
"I say," said the younger of the pair merrily, after imitating his companion's glances at the doors, "you must not talk like that here."
"Talk like what?" said the elder haughtily.
"Calling things Dutch, and about Saint Germains. I say, isn't that high treason?"
"Pooh!—Well, yes, I suppose you're right. Your turn now. But we won't quarrel, Franky."
"Then, don't call me that," said the boy sharply; "Frank, if you like. I did begin calling you Drew. It's shorter and better than Andrew. I say, I am ever so much obliged to you."
"Don't mention it. I promised Sir Robert I would look after you."
"Yes, my father told me."
"And I like Lady Gowan. She's as nice as she is handsome. My mother was something like her."
"Then she must have been one of the dearest, sweetest, and best ladies that ever lived," cried the boy warmly.
"Thank ye, Frank," said the youth, smiling and laying his arm in rather an affected manner upon the speaker's shoulder, as he crossed his legs and again posed himself with his left hand upon his sword hilt. But there was no affectation in the tone of the thanks expressed; in fact, there was a peculiar quiver in his voice and a slight huskiness of which he was self-conscious, and he hurriedly continued:
"Oh yes, I like you. I did at first; you seemed so fresh and daisy-like amongst all this heavy Dutch formality. I'll tell you everything; and if you can't have the country, I'll see that you do have some fun. We'll go out together, and you must see my father. He's a fine, dashing officer; he ought to have had a good command given him. I say, Frank, he's great friends with Sir Robert."
"Is he? My father never said so."
"Mine did; but—er—I think there are reasons just now why they don't want it to be known. You see your father's in the King's Guards."
"Well, and mine isn't. He is not very fond of the House of Brunswick."
"I say, mind what you are saying."
"Of course. I shouldn't say it to any one else. But, I say, what made you burst put into that roar of laughter about nothing?"
"It wasn't about nothing," said Frank, with a mirthful look in his eyes.
"What was it then? See anything out of the window?"
"Oh no; it was in this room."
"Well, what was it?"
"Oh, never mind."
"Here, I thought we were going to be great friends."
"Then friends must confide in one another. Why don't you speak?"
"I don't want to offend you."
"Come, out with it."
"Well, I was laughing at you."
"To see you admiring yourself in the glass there."
Andrew Forbes made an angry gesture, but laughed it off.
"Well, the Prince's pages are expected to look well," he said.
"You always look well without. But I wish you wouldn't do that sort of thing; it makes you seem so girlish."
There was another angry gesture.
"I can't help my looks."
"There, now, you're put out again."
"No, not a bit," said the youth hastily. "I say, though, you don't think much of the King, do you?"
"Oh yes," said Frank thoughtfully; "of course."
"Why? Well, because he's the King, of course. Don't you?"
"No! I don't think anything of him. He's only a poor German prince, brought over by the Whigs. I always feel ready to laugh in his face."
"I say," cried Frank, looking at his companion in horror, "do you know what you are saying?"
"Oh yes; and I don't think a great deal of the Prince. My father got me here; but I don't feel in my place, and I'm not going to sacrifice myself, even if I am one of the pages. I believe in the Stuarts, and I always shall."
"This is more treasonable than what you said before."
"Well, it's the truth."
"Perhaps it is. I say, you're a head taller than I am."
"Yes, I know that."
"But you don't seem to know that if you talk like that you'll soon be the same height."
"What, you think my principles will keep me standing still, while yours make you grow tall?"
"No. I think if it gets known you'll grow short all in a moment."
"They'll chop my head off? Pooh! I'm not afraid. You won't blab."
"But you've no business to be here."
"Oh yes, I have. Plenty think as I do. You will one of these days."
"Never! What, go against the King!"
"This German usurper you mean. Oh, you'll come over to our side."
"What, with my father in the King's Guards, and my mother one of the Princess's ladies of the bed-chamber! Nice thing for a man to have a son who turned traitor."
"What a red-hot Whig you are, Frank! You're too young and too fresh to London and the court to understand these things. He's King because a few Whigs brought him over here. If you were to go about London, you'd find every one nearly on the other side."
"I don't believe it."
"Come for a few walks with me, and I'll take you where you can hear people talking about it."
"I don't want to hear people talk treason, and I can't get away."
"Oh yes, you can; I'll manage it. Don't you want to go out?"
"Yes; but not to hear people talk as you say. They must be only the scum who say such things."
"Better be the scum which rises than the dregs which sink to the bottom. Come, I know you'd like a run."
"I'll go with you in the evening, and try and catch some of the fish in that lake."
"What, the King's carp! Ha—ha! You want old Bigwig to give you five pounds."
"Old Bigwig—who's he?"
"You know; the King."
"Pooh! no one can hear."
"But what do you mean about the five pounds?"
"Didn't you hear? They say he wrote to some one in Hanover saying that he could not understand the English, for when he came to the Palace they told him it was his, and when he looked out of the window he saw a park with a long canal in it, and they told him that was his too. Then next day the ranger sent him a big brace of carp out of it, and when they told him he was to behave like a prince and give the messenger five guineas, he was astonished. Oh, he isn't a bit like a king."
"I say, do be quiet. I don't want you to get into trouble."
"Of course you don't," said the lad merrily. "But you mustn't think of going fishing now. Hark! there are the Guards."
He hurried to the window, through which the trampling of horses and jingling of spurs could be heard, and directly after the leaders of a long line of horse came along between the rows of trees, the men gay in their scarlet and gold, their accoutrements glittering in the sunshine.
"Look well, don't they?" said Andrew Forbes. "They ought to have given my father a command like that. If he had a few regiments of horse, and as many of foot, he'd soon make things different for old England."
"I say, do be quiet, Drew. You'll be getting in trouble, I know you will. Why can't you let things rest."
"Because I'm a Royalist."
"No, you're not; you're a Jacobite. I say, why do they call them Jacobites? What Jacob is it who leads them?"
"And you just fresh from Winchester! Where's your Latin?"
"Oh, I see," cried the boy: "Jacobus—James."
"That's right; you may go up. I wish I was an officer in the Guards."
"Behave yourself then, and some day the Prince may get you a commission."
"Not he. Perhaps I shall have one without. Well, you'll go with me this evening?"
"Oh, I don't know."
"That means you would if you could. Well, I'll manage it. And I'll soon show you what the people in London think about the King."
"Sh! some one coming."
The two lads darted from the window as one of the doors was thrown open, and an attendant made an announcement which resulted in the pages going to the other end to open the farther door and draw back to allow the Prince and Princess with a little following of ladies to pass through, one of the last of the group turning to smile at Frank Gowan and kiss her hand.
The boy turned to his companion, looking flushed and proud as the door was closed after the retiring party.
"How handsome the Princess looked!" he said. "Hush!" said Forbes. "Pretty well. Not half so nice as your mother; you ought to be proud of her, Frank."
"I am," said the boy.
"But what a pity!"
"What's a pity?"
"That she should be in the Princess's train."
"A pity! Why the Princess makes her quite a friend."
"More pity still. Well, we shall be off duty soon, and then I'll get leave for us to go."
"I don't think I want to now."
"Well I do, and you'd better come and take care of me, or perhaps I shall get into a scrape."
"No, you will not. You only talk as you do to banter me."
"Think so?" said Andrew, with a peculiar smile. "Well, we shall see. But you'll come?"
"Yes," said Frank readily, "to keep you from getting into a scrape."
SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
The water in the canal looked ruddy golden in the light glowing in the west, as the two pages passed through the courtyard along beneath the arches, where the soldiers on guard saluted them, and reached the long mall planted with trees.
"Halt! One can breathe here," said Frank, with his eyes brightening. "Come along; let's have a run."
"Quiet, quiet! What a wild young colt you are!—This isn't the country."
"No; but it looks like a good makeshift!" cried Frank.
"Who's disloyal now? Nice way to speak of his Majesty's Park! I say, you're short enough as it is."
"No, I'm not. I'm a very fair height for my age. It's you who are too long."
"Never mind that; but it's my turn to talk. Suppose you get cut shorter for saying disloyal things under the window of the Palace."
"Is it? They give it to the people they call rebels pretty hard for as trifling things," said Andrew, flushing a little. "They flogged three soldiers to death the other day for wearing oak apples in their caps."
"What? Why did they wear oak apples in their caps?"
"Because it was King Charles's day; and they've fined and imprisoned and hung people for all kinds of what they call rebellious practices."
"Then you'd better be careful, Master Drew," said Frank merrily. "I say, my legs feel as if they were full of pins and needles, with standing about so much doing nothing. It's glorious out here. Come along; I'll race you to the end of this row of trees."
"With the people who may be at the windows watching us! Where's your dignity?"
"Have none. They wouldn't know it was us. We're not dressed up now, and we look like any one else."
"I hope not," said Andrew, drawing himself up.
Frank laughed, and his companion looked nettled.
"It is nothing to laugh at. Do you suppose I want to be taken for one of the mob?"
"Of course I don't. But, I say, look. I saw a fish rise with a regular flop. That must be a carp. They are fond of leaping out of the water with a splash. I say, this isn't a lake, is it? Looks like a river."
"Oh, I don't know—yes, I do. Some one said it's part of a stream that comes down from out beyond Tyburn way, where they hang the people."
"Ugh! Horrid! But look here, the water seems beautifully clear. Let's get up to-morrow morning and have a bathe. I'll swim you across there and back."
"Tchah! I say, Frank, what a little savage you are!"
"Didn't know there was anything savage in being fond of swimming."
"Well, I did. A man isn't a fish."
"No," said Frank, laughing; "he's flesh."
"You know, now you belong to the Prince's household, and live in the King's Palace, you must forget all these boyish follies."
"Oh dear!" sighed Frank.
"We've got to support the dignity of the establishment as gentlemen in the Prince's train. It wants it badly enough, with all these sausage-eating Vans and Vons and Herrs. We must do it while things are in this state for the sake of old England."
"I wish I had never come here," said Frank dismally. "No, I don't," he added cheerfully. "I am close to my mother, and I see father sometimes. I say, didn't he look well at the head of his company yesterday?"
"Splendid!" cried Andrew warmly. "Here, cheer up, young one; you'll soon get to like it; and one of these days we'll both be marching at the heads of our companies."
"Think so?" cried Frank eagerly.
"I'm sure of it. Of course I like our uniform, and thousands of fellows would give their ears to be pages at the Palace; but you don't suppose I mean to keep on being a sort of lapdog in the anteroom. No. Wait a bit. There'll be grand times by-and-by. We must be like the rest of the best people, looking forward to the turn of the tide."
Frank glanced quickly at the tall, handsome lad at his side, and quickened his pace and lengthened his stride to keep up with him, for he had drawn himself up and held his head back as if influenced by thoughts beyond the present. But he slackened down directly.
"No need to make ourselves hot," he said. "You'd like to run, you little savage; but it won't do now. Let the mob do that. Look! that's Lord Ronald's carriage. Quick! do as I do."
He doffed his hat to the occupant of the clumsy vehicle, Frank following his example; and they were responded to by a handsome, portly man with a bow and smile.
"I say," said Frank, "how stupid a man looks in a great wig like that."
"Bah! It is ridiculous. Pretty fashion these Dutchmen have brought in."
"Dutchmen! What Dutchmen?"
"Oh, never mind, innocence," said Andrew, with a half laugh. "Just think of how handsome the gentlemen of the Stuart time looked in their doublets, buff boots, long natural hair, and lace. This fashion is disgusting. Here's old Granthill coming now," he continued, as the trampling of horses made him glance back. "Don't turn round; don't see him."
"Very well," said Frank with a laugh; "but whoever he is, I don't suppose he'll mind whether I bow or not."
"Whoever he is!" cried Andrew contemptuously. "I say, don't you know that he is one of the King's Ministers?"
"No," said Frank thoughtfully. "Oh yes, I do; I remember now. Of course. But I've never thought about these things. He's the gentleman, isn't he, that they say is unpopular?"
"Well, you are partly right. He is unpopular; but I don't look upon him as a gentleman. Hark! hear that?" he shouted excitedly, as he looked eagerly toward where the first carriage had passed round the curve ahead of him on its way toward Westminster.
"Yes, there's something to see. I know; it must be the soldiers. Come along; I want to see them."
"No, it isn't the soldiers; it's the people cheering Lord Ronald on his way to the Parliament House. They like him. Every one does. He knows my father, and yours too. He knows me. Didn't you see him smile? I'll introduce you to him first time there's a levee."
"No, I say, don't," said Frank, flushing. "He'd laugh at me."
"So do I now. But this won't do, Frank; you mustn't be so modest."
The second carriage which had passed them rolled on round the curve in the track of the first and disappeared, Frank noticing that many of the promenaders turned their heads to look after it. Then his attention was taken up by his companion's words.
"Look here," he cried; "I want to show you Fleet Street."
"Fleet Street," said Frank,—"Fleet Street. Isn't that where Temple Bar is?"
"Well done, countryman! Quite right."
"Then I don't want to see it."
"Why?" said Andrew, turning to him in surprise at the change which had come over his companion, who spoke in a sharp, decided way.
"Because I read about the two traitors' heads being stuck up there on Temple Bar, and it seems so horrible and barbarous."
"So it is, Frank," whispered Andrew, grasping his companion's arm. "It's horrible and cowardly. It's brutal; and—and—I can't find words bad enough for the act of insulting the dead bodies of brave men after they've executed them. But never mind; it will be different some day. There, I always knew I should like you, young one. You've got the right stuff in you for making a brave, true gentleman; and—and I hope I have."
"I'm sure you have," cried Frank warmly.
"Then we will not pass under the old city gate, with its horrible, grinning heads: but I must take you to Fleet Street; so we'll go to Westminster Stairs and have a boat—it will be nice on the river."
"Yes, glorious on an evening like this," cried Frank excitedly; "and, I say, we can go round by Queen Anne Street."
"What for? It's out of the way."
"Well, only along by the Park side; I want to look up at our windows."
"But your mother's at the Palace."
"Father might be at home; he often sits at one of the windows looking over the Park."
"Come along then," cried Andrew mockingly; "the good little boy shall be taken where he can see his father and mother, and—hark! listen! hear that?" he cried excitedly.
"Yes. What can it be?"
"The people hooting and yelling at Granthill. They're mobbing his carriage. Run, run! I must see that."
Andrew Forbes trotted off, forgetting all his dignity as one of the Princess's pages, and heedless now in his excitement of what any of the well-dressed promenaders might think; while, laughing to himself the while, Frank kept step with him, running easily and looking quite cool when the tall, overgrown lad at his side, who was unused to outdoor exercise, dropped into a walk panting heavily.
"Too late!" he said, in a tone of vexation. "There the carriage goes, through Storey's Gate. Look at the crowd after it. They'll hoot him till the soldiers stop them. Come along, Frank; we shall see a fight, and perhaps some one will be killed."
GETTING INTO HOT WATER.
The excitement of his companion was now communicated to Frank Gowan, and as fast as they could walk they hurried on toward the gate at the corner of the Park, passing knot after knot of people talking about the scene which had taken place. But the boy did not forget to look eagerly in the direction of the row of goodly houses standing back behind the trees, and facing on to the Park, before they turned out through the gate and found themselves in the tail of the crowd hurrying on toward Palace Ward.
The crowd grew more dense till they reached the end of the street with the open space in front, where it was impossible to go farther.
"Let's try and get round," whispered Andrew. "Do you hear? They're fighting!"
Being young and active, they soon managed to get round to where they anticipated obtaining a view of the proceedings; but there was nothing to see but a surging crowd, for the most part well-dressed, but leavened by the mob, and this was broken up from time to time by the passing of carriages whose horses were forced to walk.
"Oh, if we could only get close up!" said Andrew impatiently. "Hark at the shouting and yelling. They are fighting with the soldiers now."
"No, no, not yet, youngster," said a well-dressed man close by them; "it's only men's canes and fists. The Whigs are getting the worst of it; so you two boys had better go while your heads are whole."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, I know a Whig when I see one, my lad."
"Do you mean that as an insult, sir?" said Andrew haughtily.
"No," said the gentleman, smiling; "only as a bit of advice."
"Because if you did—" said Andrew, laying his hand upon his sword.
"You would send your friends to me, boy, and then I should not fight. Nonsense, my lad. There, off with your friend while your shoes are good, and don't raise your voice, or some one will find out that you are from the Palace. Then the news would run like wild fire, and you ought to know by this time what a cowardly London mob will do. They nearly tore Sir Marland Granthill out of his carriage just now. There, if I am not on your side, I speak as a friend."
Before Andrew could make any retort, and just as Frank was tugging at his arm to get him away, they were separated from the stranger by a rush in the crowd, which forced them up into a doorway, from whose step they saw, one after the other, no less than six men borne along insensible and bleeding from wounds upon the head, while their clothes were nearly torn from their backs.
Then the shouting and yelling began to subside, and the two lads were forced to go with the stream, till an opportunity came for them to dive down a side street and reach the river stairs, where they took a wherry and were rowed east.
"I should like to know who that man was," said Andrew, after a long silence, during which they went gliding along with the falling tide.
"He spoke very well," said Frank.
"Yes; but he took me for a Whig," said the youth indignantly.
"But, I say, what was it all about?"
"Oh, you'll soon learn that," replied Andrew.
"Is there often fighting like this going on in the streets?"
"Every day somewhere."
"But why?" said Frank anxiously.
"Surely you know! Because the Whigs have brought in a king that the people do not like. There, don't talk about it any more now. I want to sit still and think."
Frank respected his companion's silence, and thankful at having escaped from the heat and pressure of the crowd, he sat gazing at the moving panorama on either side, enjoying the novelty of his position.
His musings upon what he saw were interrupted by his companion, who repeated his former words suddenly in a low, thoughtful voice, but one full of annoyance, as if the words were rankling in his memory.
"He took me for a Whig."
Then, catching sight of his companion's eyes watching him wonderingly:
"What say?" he cried. "Did you speak?"
"No; you did."
"No, I said nothing."
"Yes, you said again that the man in the crowd took you for a Whig."
"Did I? Well, I was thinking aloud then."
"Where to, sir?" asked the waterman, as he sent the boat gliding along past the gardens of the Temple, "London Bridge?"
A few minutes later they landed at the stairs, and, apparently quite at home in the place, Andrew led his companion in and out among the gloomy-looking streets and lanes of the old Alsatian district, and out into the continuation of what might very well be called High Street, London.
"Here we are," he said, as he directed their steps toward one of the narrow courts which ran north from the main thoroughfare; but upon reaching the end, where a knot of excitable-looking men were talking loudly upon some subject which evidently interested them deeply, one of the loudest speakers suddenly ceased his harangue and directed the attention of his companions to the two lads. The result was that all faced round and stared at them offensively, bringing the colour into Andrew's cheeks and making Frank feel uncomfortable.
"Let's go straight on," said the former; and drawing himself up, he walked straight toward the group, which extended right across the rough pavement and into the road, so that any one who wanted to pass along would be compelled to make a circuit by stepping down first into the dirty gutter.
"Keep close to me; don't give way," whispered Andrew; and he kept on right in the face of the staring little crowd, till he was brought to a standstill, not a man offering to budge.
"Will you allow us to pass?" said Andrew haughtily.
"Plenty o' room in the road," shouted the man who had been speaking. "Aren't you going up the court?"
"I do not choose to go into the muddy road, sir, because you and your party take upon yourselves to block up the public way," retorted Andrew, giving the man so fierce a look that for a moment or two he was somewhat abashed, and his companions, influenced by the stronger will of one who was in the right, began to make way for the well-dressed pair.
But the first man found his tongue directly.
"Here, clear the road!" he cried banteringly. "Make way, you dirty blackguards, for my lords. Lie down, some of you, and let 'em walk over you. Lost your way, my lords? Why didn't you come in your carriages, with horse soldiers before and behind? But it's no use to-day; the Lord Mayor's gone out to dinner with his wife."
A roar of coarse laughter followed this sally, which increased as another man shouted in imitation of military commands:
"Heads up; draw skewers; right forward; ma-rr-rr-ch!"
"Scum!" said Andrew contemptuously, as they left the little crowd behind.
"Is the city always like this?" said Frank, whose face now was as red as his companion's.
"Yes, now," said Andrew bitterly. "That's a specimen of a Whig mob."
"Nonsense!" cried Frank, rather warmly; "don't be so prejudiced. How can you tell that they are Whigs?"
"By the way in which they jumped at a chance to insult gentlemen. Horse soldiers indeed! Draw swords! Oh! I should like to be at the head of a troop, to give the order and chase the dirty ruffians out of the street, and make my men thrash them with the flats of their blades till they went down on their knees in the mud and howled for mercy."
"What a furious fire-eater you are, Drew," cried Frank, recovering his equanimity. "We ought to have stepped out into the road."
"For a set of jeering ruffians like that!" cried Andrew. "No. They hate to see a gentleman go by. London is getting disgraceful now."
"Never mind. There, I've seen enough of it. Let's get down to the river again, and take a boat; it's much pleasanter than being in this noisy, crowded place."
"Not yet. We've a better right here than a mob like that. It would be running away."
"Why, how would they know?" said Frank merrily.
"I should know, and feel as if I had disgraced myself," replied Andrew haughtily. "Besides, I wanted to see a gentleman."
"What, up that court?" said Frank, looking curiously at his companion.
"Yes, a gentleman up that court. There are plenty of gentlemen, and noblemen, too, driven nowadays to live in worse places than that, and hide about in holes and corners."
"Oh, I say, don't be so cross because a lot of idlers would not make way."
"It isn't that," said the youth. "It half maddens me sometimes."
"Then don't think about it. You are always talking about politics. I don't understand much about them, but it seems to me that if people obey the laws they can live happily enough."
"Poor Frank!" said Andrew mockingly. "But never mind. You have got everything to learn. This way."
The boy was thinking that he did not want to learn "everything" if the studies were to make him as irritable and peppery as his companion, when the imperative order to turn came upon him by surprise, and he followed Andrew, who had suddenly turned into a narrower court than the one for which he had first made, and out of the roaring street into comparative silence.
"Where are you going?"
"This way. We can get round by the back. I want to see my friend."
The court was only a few feet wide, and the occupants of the opposing houses could easily have carried on a conversation from the open windows; but these occupants seemed to be too busy, for in the glimpses he obtained as they passed, Frank caught sight of workmen in paper caps and dirty white aprons, and boys hurrying to and fro, carrying packets of paper.
But he had not much opportunity for noticing what business was being carried on, for they soon reached the end of the court, where a fresh group of men were standing listening to a speaker holding forth from an open window, and the lad fully expected a similar scene to that which had taken place in the main street.
But people made way here, and Andrew, apparently quite at home, turned to the left along a very dirty lane, plunged into another court, and in and out two or three times in silence, along what seemed to the boy fresh from quaint old Winchester a perfect maze.
"I say, Drew," he said at last, "you must have been here before."
"I? Oh yes! I know London pretty well. Now down here."
He plunged sharply now round a corner and into the wide court he had at first made for, but now from its northern end. So quick and sudden was the movement made that the two lads, before they could realise the fact, found themselves in another crowd, which filled this court from end to end. The people composing it were principally of the rough class they had seen grouped at the lower part, but fully half were workmen in their shirt sleeves, many of them with faces blackened by their occupation, while a smaller portion was well-dressed, and kept on moving about and talking earnestly to the people around.
"Too late," said Andrew, half to himself.
"Yes; we shall have to go round and reach the street farther along," said Frank quietly. "We don't want to push through there."
"But it's here I want to see my friend."
"Does he live in this place?"
"No; but he is sure to be there—in that house."
The lad nodded at a goodly sized mansion about half-way down the court; and even from where they stood they could make out that the place was crowded, and that something exciting was going on, the crowd in the court outside being evidently listeners, trying to catch what was said within, the murmurs of which reached the two lads' ears.
All at once there was a loud outburst of cheering, shouting, and clapping of hands, as if at the conclusion of a speech; and this was responded to by a roar of yells, hoots, and derisive cries from the court.
"Oh! too late—too late," muttered Andrew. "Silence, you miserable crew!"
But where heard his words passed unnoticed, those around evidently taking them as being addressed to the people in the great tavern.
"Let's get away—quickly, while we can," said Frank, with his lips close to his companion's ear; but the lad shook him off angrily, and then uttered a cry of rage, for at that moment there was a loud crash and splintering of glass, the mob in the court, evidently under the direction of the well-dressed men, hurling stones, decayed vegetables, and rubbish of all kinds in at the windows of the tavern.
This was responded to by shouts of defiance and a rain of pots, glasses, and pails of water; and even the pails themselves were hurled down upon the heads of the people in the court, while a long oaken settle which came clattering down fell crosswise, the end coming within a few inches of a man's head.
"Oh, do let's go!" Frank very naturally said, gripping Andrew's arm hard.
But the lad seemed to have suddenly gone crazy with excitement, shouting and gesticulating with the rest, directing his words, which sounded like menaces, at the people crowding at the window of the house.
At this the mob cheered, and, as if in answer to his orders, made a rush for the door, surging in, armed for the most part with sticks, and as if to carry the place by assault.
"I can't go and leave him," thought Frank; and directly after—as he looked up the court toward the end by which they had entered, and down from which they had been borne until they were nearly opposite the house—"if I wanted to," he muttered, as he saw how they were wedged in and swayed here and there by the crowd.
The noise increased, the crowd beginning to cheer loudly, as crowds will when excited by the chance to commit mischief, and Frank remained ignorant of the reasons which impelled them on, as he watched the exciting scene. The sound of blows, yells of defiance, and the angry, increasing roar of those contending within the house, set his heart beating wildly. For a few minutes, when he found himself shut in by the people around, a feeling of dread came over him, mingled with despair at his helplessness, and he would have given anything to be able to escape from his position; but as he saw man after man come stumbling out bruised and bleeding, and heard the cries of rage uttered by those who hemmed him in, the feeling of fear gave place to indignation, and this was soon followed by an angry desire to help those who, amidst the cheers of their fellows, pressed forward to take the place of those who were beaten back.
It was at this moment that he saw two well-dressed men waving swords above their heads, and, white now with rage, Andrew turned to him.
"The cowards—the dogs!" he whispered. "Frank lad, you will be man enough to help?"
"Yes, yes," panted the boy huskily, with a sensation akin to that which he had felt when hurt in his last school fight, when, reckless from pain, he had dashed at a tyrannical fellow-pupil who was planting blow after blow upon him almost as he pleased.
"Draw your sword then, and follow me."
Frank made a struggle to wrench himself free, but it was in vain.
"I can't!" he panted. "My arms are pinned down to my side."
"So are mine," groaned Andrew. "I can hardly breathe."
A furious yell of rage arose from fifty throats, and the two lads saw the attacking party come tumbling one over the other out of the tavern, driven back by the defenders, who charged bravely out after them, armed with stick and sword; and almost before the two lads could realise their position they found themselves being carried along in the human stream well out of reach of the blows being showered down by the rallying party from the house, who literally drove their enemies before them, at first step by step, striking back in their own defence, rendered desperate by their position, then giving up and seeking refuge in flight, when with a rush their companions gave way more and more in front.
For a few minutes the heat and pressure were suffocating, and as Frank and his companion were twisted round and borne backward, the former felt a peculiar sensation of giddy faintness, the walls swam round, the shouting sounded distant, and he was only half-conscious when, in company with those around, he was shot out of the narrow entrance of the court; and then the terrible pressure ceased.
FRANK'S EYES BEGIN TO OPEN.
Everything else seemed to the boy to cease at the same time, till he became conscious of feeling cold and wet, and heard a voice speaking:
"And him quite a boy too. I wonder what his mother would say.—Here, drink this, my dear; and don't you never go amongst the crazy, quarrelsome wretches again. I don't know what we're coming to with their fighting in the streets. It isn't safe to go out, that it isn't. Drink it all, my dear; you'll feel better then. I always feel faint myself if I get in a crowd."
Frank had heard every word, with a peculiar dreamy feeling that he ought to listen and know who the boy was so addressed. Then he became conscious that it was he who was drinking from a mug of water held to his lips; and, opening his eyes, he looked up into a pleasant, homely face bending over him in an open doorway, upon whose step he was sitting, half leaning against the doorpost, half against the woman who was kneeling at his side.
"Ah, that's better," said the woman. "Now you take my advice; you go straight home. You're not a man yet, and don't want to mix yourself up with people fighting about who ought to be king. Just as if it matters to such as us. As I often tell my husband, he'd a deal better attend to getting his living, and not go listening to people argifying whether it's to be the king on the other side of the water or on this. I say, give me peace and—You feel better, don't you?"
"Yes, thank you," said Frank, making an effort to rise; but the moment he tried the ground seemed to heave up beneath him.
"You're not quite right yet, my dear; sit still a little longer. And you too with a sword by your side, just as if you wanted to fight. I call it shocking, that I do."
"But I am much better," said Frank, ignoring the woman's remarks. "I can walk now. But did you see my friend?"
"Your friend? Was it one of those rough-looking fellows who came running down with you between 'em, and half a dozen more hunting them, and they pushed you in here and ran on?"
"Oh no. My friend is a—Ah! there he is. Drew! Drew!"
Looking white and strange, Andrew Forbes was coming hurriedly down the narrow lane, when he heard his name pronounced, and looking round he caught sight of his companion, and hurried to his side.
"Oh, here you are!" he panted. "I've been looking for you everywhere. I was afraid they had taken you to the watch-house. I couldn't keep by you; I was regularly dragged away."
"Were you hurt?" cried Frank excitedly.
"Felt as if my ribs were all crushed in. But what about you?"
"I suppose I turned faint," said Frank. "I didn't know anything till I found myself here, and this lady giving me water."
"Oh, I'm not a lady, my dear," said the woman, smiling,—"only a laundress as does for some of the gentlemen in the Temple. There now, you both go home; for I can see that you don't belong to this part of the town. I dare say, if the truth was known, he brought you here."
Frank was silent, but he glanced up at Andrew, who was carefully rearranging his dress and brushing his cocked hat.
"I thought as much," said the woman. "He's bigger, and he ought to have known better than to get into such a shameful disturbance.—What's that?—Lor' bless me, no, my dear! Why should I take a mark for a mug of cold water? Put it in your pocket, my dear; you'll want it to buy cakes and apples. I don't want to be paid for doing a Christian act."
"Then thank you very much," said Frank warmly, offering his hand.
"Oh! if you will," said the woman, "I don't mind. It isn't the first time I've shook hands with a gentleman."
The woman turned, smiling with pleasure, as if to repeat the performance with Andrew Forbes; but as she caught sight of his frowning countenance her hand fell to her side, and she dropped the youth a formal curtsey.
"Thank you for helping my friend," he said.
"You're quite welkum, young man," said the woman tartly. "And if you'll take my advice, you won't bring him into these parts again, where they're doing nothing else but swash-buckling from morning to night. The broken heads I've seen this year is quite awful, and—"
Andrew Forbes did not wait to hear the rest, but passed his arm through that of Frank, and walked with him swiftly down the narrow lane toward the water-side.
"You're not much hurt, are you?"
"Oh no. It was the heat and being squeezed so."
"Don't say you were frightened, lad!" cried Andrew.
"I was at first; but when I saw the people being knocked about so, I felt as if I wanted to help."
"That's right. You've got the right stuff in you. But wasn't it glorious?"
"Yes!" cried Andrew excitedly. "It was brave and gallant to a degree. The cowardly brutes were three times as many as the others."
"Oh no; the other side was the stronger, and they ought to have whipped."
"Nonsense! You don't know what you are talking about," said Andrew warmly. "The miserable brutes were five or six times as strong, and the brave fellows drove them like a flock of sheep right out of the court, and scattered them in the street like chaff. Oh, it made up for everything!"
Frank put his hand to his head.
"I don't quite understand it," he said. "My head feels swimming and queer yet. I thought the people in the house were the weaker—I mean those who dashed out shouting, 'Down with the Dutchmen!'"
"Of course," cried Andrew; "that's what I'm saying. It was very horrible to be situated as we were."
"Yes, horrible," said Frank quietly.
"Not able to so much as draw one's sword."
"Too much squeezed together."
"Yes," said Andrew, with his face flushed warmly. "I did cry out and shout to them to come on; but one was so helpless and mixed-up-like that people could hardly tell which side they belonged to."
"No," said Frank drily; "it was hard."
He looked meaningly at his companion as he spoke; but Andrew's eyes were gazing straight before him, and he was seeing right into the future.
"Did you see your friend you wanted to speak to?" said Frank, as they reached the river-side.
"See him? Yes, fighting like a hero; but I couldn't get near him. Never mind; another time will do. I little thought I should come to the city to-day to see such a victory. It all shows how things are working."
"Going to ride back by boat?" said Frank, as if to change the conversation.
"Oh yes; we can't go along Fleet Street and the Strand. The streets will be full of constables, and soldiers out too I dare say. They're busy making arrests I know; and if we were to go along there, as likely as not there'd be some spy or one of the beaten side ready to point us out as having been in it."
They reached the stairs, took their place in a wherry, and as they leaned back and the waterman tugged at his oars, against tide now, Frank said thoughtfully:
"I say, what would have happened if somebody had pointed us out?"
"We should have been locked up of course, and been taken before the magistrate to-morrow. Then it would all have come out about our being there, and—ha—ha—ha!—the Prince would have had vacancies for two more pages.—I shouldn't have cared."
"I should," said Frank quickly, as he saw in imagination the pained faces of father and mother.
"Well, of course, so should I. Don't take any notice of what I said. Besides, we can be so useful as we are."
"How?" said Frank thoughtfully. "It always seems to me that we are but a couple of ornaments, and of no use at all."
"Ah! wait," said Andrew quietly. Then, as if feeling that he had been in his excitement letting his tongue run far too fast, he turned to his companion, and said gently:
"You are the son of a gallant officer and a beautiful lady, and I know you would not say a word that would injure a friend."
"I hope not," said Frank, rather huskily.
"I'm sure you would not, or I should not have spoken out as I have. But don't take any notice; you see, a man can't help talking politics at a time like this. Well, when will you come to the city again?"
"Never, if I can help it," said Frank shortly; and that night in bed he lay sleepless for hours, thinking of his companion's words, and grasping pretty clearly that King George the First had a personage in his palace who was utterly unworthy of trust.
"And it's such a pity," said the boy, with a sigh. "I like Andrew Forbes, though he is a bit conceited and a dandy; but it seems as if I ought to speak to somebody about what I know. My father—my mother? There is no one else I should like to trust with such a secret. But he has left it to my honour, and I feel pulled both ways. What ought I to do?"
He fell asleep at last with that question unanswered, and when he awoke the next morning the thought repeated itself with stronger force than before, "Why, he must be at heart a traitor to the King!" and once more in dire perplexity Frank Gowan asked himself that question, "What shall I do?"
THE OFFICER OF THE GUARDS.
It would not take much guessing to arrive at the course taken by Frank Gowan. He cudgelled his brains well, being in a kind of mental balance, which one day went down in favour of making a clean breast of all he knew to his mother; the next day up went that side, for he felt quite indignant with himself.
Here, he argued, was he, Frank Gowan, freshly appointed one of the Prince's pages, a most honourable position for a youth of his years, and with splendid prospects before him, cut off from his old school friendships, and enjoying a new one with a handsome, well-born lad, whom, in spite of many little failings at which he laughed, he thoroughly admired for his dash, courage, and knowledge of the world embraced by the court. This lad had completely taken him under his wing, made him proud by the preference he showed for his companionship, and ready to display his warm admiration for his new friend by making him the confidant of his secret desires; and what was he, the trusted friend, about to do? Play traitor, and betray his confidence. But, then, was not Andrew Forbes seeking to play traitor to the King?
"That's only talk and vanity," said the boy to himself. "He has done nothing traitorous; but if I go and talk to any one, I shall have done something—something cruelly treacherous, which must end in the poor fellow being sent away from the court in disgrace, perhaps to a severe punishment."
He turned cold at the thought.
"They hang or behead people for high treason," he thought; "and suppose Drew were to be punished like that, how should I feel afterward? I should never forgive myself. Besides, how could I go and worry my mother about such a business as this? It is not women's work, and it would only make her unhappy."
But he felt that he might go to his father, and confide the matter to him, asking him on his honour not to do anything likely to injure Drew.
But he could not go and confide in his father, who was generally with his regiment, and they only met on rare occasions. By chance he caught sight of him on duty at the Palace with the guard, but he could not speak to him then. At other times he was at his barrack quarters, and rarely at his town house across the Park in Queen Anne Street. This place was generally only occupied by the servants, Lady Gowan having apartments in the Palace.
Hence Frank felt that it would be very difficult to see his father and confide in him, and he grew more at ease in consequence. It was the way out of a difficulty most dear to many of us—to wit, letting things drift to settle themselves.
And so matters went on for some days. Frank had been constantly in company with Andrew Forbes, and his admiration for the handsome lad grew into a hearty friendship, which was as warmly returned.
"He can't help knowing he is good-looking," thought Frank, "and that makes him a bit conceited; but it will soon wear off. I shall joke him out of it. And he knows so much. He is so manly. He makes me feel like an awkward schoolboy beside him."
Frank knitted his brow a little over these thoughts, but he brightened up with a laugh directly.
"I think I could startle him, though," he said half aloud, "if I had him down at Winchester."
It was one bright morning at the Palace, where he was standing at the anteroom window just after the regular morning military display, and he had hardly thought this when a couple of hands were passed over his eyes, and he was held fast.
"I know who it is," he said, "though you don't think it. It's you, Drew."
"How did you know?" said that individual merrily.
"Because you have hands like a girl's, and no lady here would have done it."
"Bah! hands like a girl's indeed! I shall have to lick you into a better shape, bear. You grow too insolent."
"Very well; why don't you begin?" said Frank merrily.
"Because I don't choose. Look here, young one; I want you to come out with me for a bit this afternoon."
"No, thank you," replied the boy, shaking his head. "I don't want to go and see mad politicians quarrel and fight in the city, and get nearly squeezed to death."
"Who wants you to? It's only to go for a walk."
"That was going for a walk."
"Afraid of getting your long hair taken out of curl?" said Andrew banteringly.
"No; that would curl up again; but I don't want to have my clothes torn off my back."
"You won't get them torn off this afternoon. I want you to come in the Park there, down by the water-side. You'll like that, savage."
"Yes, of course. Can we fish?"
"No, that wouldn't do; but I tell you what: you can take some bread with you and feed the ducks."
"Take some bread with me and feed the ducks!" cried the boy contemptuously.
"Well, that's what I'm going to do. Then you won't come?"
"Yes, I will, Drew, if I can get away. Of course I will. Oh, mother, you there?"
Lady Gowan had just entered the room, and came up toward the window, smiling, and looking proud, happy, and almost too young to be the mother of the stout, manly-looking boy who hurried to meet her; and court etiquette did not hinder a loving exchange of kisses. She shook hands directly after with Andrew Forbes.
"I am afraid that you two find it very dull here sometimes," she said.
"Well, yes, Lady Gowan," said the youth, "I often do. I'm not like Frank here, with his friends at court."
"But I have so few opportunities for seeing him, Mr Forbes. After a few weeks, though, I shall be at home yonder, and then you must come and spend as much time there as you can with Frank."
Andrew bowed and smiled, and said something about being glad.
"Frank dear," said Lady Gowan, "I have had a letter from your father this morning, and I have written an answer. He wants to see you for a little while. He is at home for a couple of days. You can take the note across."
"Yes," cried Frank, flushing with pleasure; but the next moment he turned to Andrew with an apologetic look.
"What is the matter?" said Lady Gowan. "Am I interrupting some plans?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing, Lady Gowan," said Andrew, warmly.
"I was going out with Drew, mother; but we can go another time. He will not mind."
"But it was only this afternoon."
"Oh!" cried Lady Gowan, "he will be back in an hour or so. I am glad that you were going out, my boy; it will make a little change for you. And I am very glad, Mr Forbes, that he has found so kind a companion."
Andrew played the courtier to such perfection, that as soon as she had passed out of the room with her son Lady Gowan laughed merrily.
"In confidence, Frank," she said, "and not to hurt Mr Forbes's feelings, do not imitate his little bits of courtly etiquette. They partake too much of the dancing-master. I like to see my boy natural and manly. There, quick to your father, with my dear love, and tell him I am longing for his leave, when we can have, I hope, a couple of months in Hampshire."
"Hah!" ejaculated Frank, as he hurried across the Park; "a couple of months in Hampshire. I wonder how long it will be?"
Ten minutes later he was going up two steps at a time to the room affected by his father in the spacious house in Queen Anne Street, where, as soon as he threw open the door, he caught sight of the lightly built but vigorous and active-looking officer in scarlet, seated at the window overlooking the Park, deep in a formidable-looking letter.
"Ah, Frank, my dear boy," he cried, hurriedly thrusting the letter into his breast, "this is good. What, an answer already? You lucky young dog, to have the best woman in the world for a mother. Bless her!" he cried, kissing the letter and placing it with the other; "I'll read that when you are gone. Not come to stay, I suppose?"
"No, father," cried the boy, whose eyes flashed with excitement as they took in every portion of the officer in turn. "I've only come to bring the note; mother said you wished to see me."
"Of course, my boy, so as to have a few words. I just catch a glimpse of you now and then, but it's only a nod."
"And I do often long so to come to you," cried Frank, with his arm upon his father's shoulder.
"That's right, boy," said Sir Robert, smiling and taking his hands; "but it wouldn't do for the captain of the guard to be hugging his boy before everybody, eh? We men must be men, and do all that sort of thing with a nod or a look. As long as we understand each other, my boy, that's enough, eh?"
"Yes, father, of course."
"But bravo, Frank; you're growing and putting on muscle. By George, yes! Arms are getting hard, and—good—fine depth of chest for your age. Don't, because you are the Prince's page, grow into a dandy macaroni milk-sop, all scent, silk, long curls, and pomatum. I want you to grow into a man, fit for a soldier to fight for his king."
"And that's what I want to do, father," said the lad proudly.
"Of course you do; and so you will. You are altering wonderfully, boy. Why, hallo! I say," cried the captain, with mock seriousness, as he held his son sidewise and gazed at his profile against the light.
"What's the matter, father?" cried Frank, startled.
"Keep your head still, sir; I want to look. Yes, it's a fact—very young and tender, but there it is; it's coming up fast. Why, Frank boy, you'll soon have to shave."
"What nonsense!" cried the boy, reddening partly at being laughed at, but quite as much with satisfaction.
"It's no nonsense, you young dog. There's your moustache coming, and no mistake. Why, if I had a magnifying-glass, I could see it quite plainly."
"I say, father, don't; I can't stop long, and—and—that teases one."
"Then I won't banter you, boy," cried Sir Robert, clapping him heartily on the shoulder; "but, I say, you know: it's too bad of you, sir. I don't like it."
"What is, father? What have I done?"
"Oh I suppose you can't help it; but it's too bad of you to grow so fast, and make your mother look an old woman."
"That she doesn't, father," cried the boy. "Why, she's the youngest-looking and most beautiful lady at court."
"So she is, my boy—so she is. Heaven bless her!"
"And as for you, father, you talk about looking old, and about me growing big and manly; I shall never grow into such a fine, handsome officer as you."
"Why, you wicked, parasitical, young court flatterer!" cried Sir Robert; "you're getting spoiled and sycophantish already."
"I'm not, father!" cried the boy, flushing; "it's quite true, every word of it. Everybody says what a noble-looking couple you are."
"Do they, my boy?" said the father more gently, and there was a trace of emotion in his tone. "But there's not much couple in it, living apart like this. Ah, well, we have our duty to do, and mine is cut out for me. But never mind the looks, Frank, my boy, and the gay uniform; it's the man I want you to grow into. But all the same, sir, nature is nature. Look there."
"What, at grandfather's portrait?"
"Yes, boy. You will not need to have yours painted, and I have not had mine taken for the same reason. Is it like me?"
"Yes, father. If you were dressed the same, it would be exactly like you."
"In twenty years' time it will do for you."
"But I say yes, sir," cried Sir Robert. "Why, in sixteen years' time, if I could have stood still, we two would be as much alike as a couple of peas. But in sixteen years perhaps I shall be in my grave."
"Well, I'm a soldier, my boy; and soldiers have to run risks more than other men."
"Oh, but you won't; you're too big and brave."
"Ha—ha—ha! Flattering again. Why, Frank, I sometimes think I'm a coward."
"You! A coward! I should like to hear any one say so."
"A good many will perhaps, boy. But there, never mind that; and perhaps after all you had better not follow my profession."
"What! not be a soldier!"
"Yes. Do you really wish to be?"
"Why of course, father; I don't want to be a palace lapdog all my life."
"Bravo, Frank! well said!" cried the father heartily. "Well, you come of a military family, and I dare say I can get you a commission when the beard really does grow so that it can be seen without an optic glass."
"Oh, I say, father, you're beginning to tease again. I say, do get up and walk across the room."
"Eh? What for?"
"I want to look at you."
Sir Robert smiled and shook his head. Then, slowly rising, he drew himself up in military fashion, and marched slowly across the room and back, with his broad-skirted scarlet and gold uniform coat, white breeches, and high boots, and hand resting upon his sword hilt, and looking the beau ideal of an officer of the King's Guards.
"There, have I been weak enough, Frank?" he said, stopping in front of his son, and laying his hands affectionately upon his shoulders. "All show, my boy. When you've worn it as long as I have, you will think as little of it; but it is quite natural for it to attract a boy like you. But now sit down and tell me a little about how you spend your time. I find that you have quite taken up with Andrew Forbes. His father promised me that the lad should try and be companionable to you. Forbes is an old friend of mine still, though he is in disgrace at court. How do you get on with Andrew? Like him?"
"Oh, very much, father."
"Well, don't like him too much, my boy. Lads of your age are rather too ready to make idols of showy fellows a year or two older, and look up to them and imitate them, when too often the idol is not of such good stuff as the worshipper. So you like him?"
"Kind and helpful to you?"
"Well, what is it?"
"What is what, father?"
"That cloudy look on your face. Why, Frank, I've looked at you so often that I can read it quite plainly. Why, you've been quarrelling with Andrew Forbes!"
"Oh no, father; we're the best of friends."
"Then what is it, Frank? You are keeping something back."
Sir Robert spoke almost sternly, and the son shrank from gazing in the fine, bold, questioning eyes.
"I knew it," said Sir Robert. "What is it, boy? Speak out."
It was the firm officer talking now, and Frank felt his breath come shorter as his heart increased the speed of its pulsations.
"Well, sir, I am waiting. Why don't you answer?"
"I can't, father."
"Can't? I thought my boy always trusted his father, as he trusts his son. There, out with it, Frank. The old saying, my lad. The truth may be blamed, but can never be shamed. What is it—some scrape? There, let's have it, and get it over. Always come to me, my boy. We are none of us perfect, so let there be no false shame. If you have done wrong, come to me and tell me like a man. If it means punishment, that will not be one hundredth part as painful to you as keeping it back and forfeiting my confidence in my dear wife's boy."
"Oh, I would come. I have wanted to come to you about this, but I felt that I could not."
"Because it would be dishonourable."
"Perhaps that is only your opinion, Frank. Would it not be better for me to give you my opinion?"
The boy hesitated for a moment. Then quickly:
"I gave my word, father."
"Not to speak of whatever it is?"
Sir Robert Gowan sat looking stern and silent for a few moments as if thinking deeply.
"Frank boy," he said at last. "I am a man of some experience; you are a mere boy fresh from a country school, and now holding a post which may expose you to many temptations. I, then, as your father, whose desire is to watch over you and help you to grow into a brave and good man, hold that it would not be dishonourable for you to confide in me in every way. It can be no dishonour for you to trust me."
"Then I will tell you, father;" and the boy hastily laid bare his breast, telling of his adventures with Andrew Forbes, and how great a source of anxiety they had proved to be.
"Hah!" said Sir Robert, after sitting with knitted brows looking curiously at his son and hearing him to the end. "Well, I am very glad that you have spoken, my boy, and I think it will be right for you to stand your ground, and be ready to laugh at Master Andrew and his political associations. It is what people call disloyal and treasonable on one side; on the other, it is considered noble and right. But you need not trouble your head about that. Andrew Forbes is after all a mere boy, very enthusiastic, and led away perhaps by thoughts of the Prince living in exile instead of sitting on the throne of England. But you don't want to touch politics for the next ten years. It would be better for many if they never touched them at all. There, I am glad you have told me."
"So am I now, father. But you will not speak about it all, so as to get Drew in disgrace?"
"I give you my word I will not, Frank. Oh, nonsense! It is froth— fluff; a chivalrous boy's fancy and sympathy for one he thinks is oppressed. No, Frank, no words of mine will do Drew Forbes any harm; but as for you—"
"Do all you can to help him and hold him back. It would be a pity for him to suffer through being rash. They might treat it all as a boy's nonsense—No, it would mean disgrace. Keep him from it if you can."
"I, father! He is so much older than I am, and I looked up to him."
"Proof of what I said, Frank," cried Sir Robert, clapping his son upon the shoulder. "He is a bright, showy lad; but you carry more ballast than he. Brag's a good dog, you know, but Holdfast's a better. Now, then, I think you ought to be going back. Good-bye, my boy. I look to you to be your mother's protector more and more. Perhaps in the future I may be absent. But you must go now, for I have an important letter to write. My dear love to your mother, and come to me again whenever you have a chance."
Sir Robert went down to the garden door with his son, and let him out that way into the Park.
"Mind," he said at parting. "Keep away from political mobs."
"I will," said Frank to himself, as he turned back. "Well, it will be all right going with Drew this afternoon, as it is only to feed the ducks."
FRANK FEEDS THE DUCKS.
Something very nearly akin to a guilty feeling troubled Frank upon meeting his fellow-page that afternoon; but his father's promise, in conjunction with his words respecting Andrew's actions being merely those of an enthusiastic boy, helped to modify the trouble he felt, and in a few minutes it passed off. For Andrew began by asking how his friend's father was, and praising him.
"I always liked your father, Frank," he said; "but he's far too good for where he is. Well, we're off duty till the evening. Ready for our run?"
"Oh yes, I'm ready," said Frank, laughing; "but you won't run unless somebody's carriage is being mobbed. You could go fast enough then."
"Well, of course I can run if I like. Come along."
"Where's the bread?" asked Frank.
"Bread? What bread? Are you hungry already?"
"No, no; the bread you talked about."
"The bread I talked about? What nonsense! I never said anything about bread that I can remember."
"Well, you said we were going to feed the ducks."
"Oh-h-oh!" ejaculated Andrew; and he then burst into a hearty fit of laughter. "Of course: so I did. I didn't think of it. Well, perhaps we had better take some. Ring the bell, and ask one of the footmen to bring you some."
Frank thought it strange that his companion, after proposing that they should go and feed the ducks, had forgotten all about the bread. However, he said no more, but rang, and asked the servant to get him a couple of slices.
The man stared, but withdrew, and came back directly.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said; "but did you wish me to bring the bread here?"
"Certainly. Be quick, please. We are waiting to go out."
The man withdrew for the second time, and the lads waited chatting together till Andrew grew impatient.
"Ring again," he cried. "Have they sent to have a loaf baked? It's getting late. Let's start. Never mind the bread."
"Oh, let's have it now it's ordered. How are we to feed the ducks without?"
"Throw them some stones," said Andrew mockingly. "Come along. We'll look at other people feeding them—if there are any. Look here; it's twenty minutes by that clock since you gave the order."
At that moment another footman opened the door, and held it back for one of his fellows to enter bearing a tray covered with a cloth, on which were a loaf, a butter-dish, knives, plates, glasses, and a decanter of water.
"Oh, what nonsense!" cried Andrew impatiently. "There, cut a slice, Frank, put it in your pocket, and come along, or we shall be late."
"I did not know that ducks had particular hours for being fed," thought the boy, as he cut into the loaf, and then hacked off two slices instead of one, the two men-servants standing respectfully back and looking on, both being too well-trained to smile, as Frank thrust one slice into his pocket and offered the other to Andrew. "Oh, I don't want it," he said impatiently. "Better take it," cried Frank. "I shan't give you any of mine."
Andrew hesitated for a moment, and then snatched a handkerchief from his pocket, wrapped the slice in it, and thrust the handkerchief back.
"Perhaps I had better take one too," he said aloud; and then to his companion as they went out: "Makes one look so ridiculous and childish before the servants. They'll go chattering about it all over the place."
"Let them," said Frank coolly. "I don't see anything to be ashamed of."
"No," said Andrew, with something like a sneer, "you don't; but you will some day. There, let's make haste."
It did not strike the lad that his companion's manner was peculiar, only that he felt it to be rather an undignified proceeding; but he said nothing, and accommodating his stride to Andrew's long one, they crossed the courtyard, went out into the Park, and came in sight of the water glittering in the sun.
"There's a good place," said Frank. "Plenty of ducks close in."
"Oh, there's a better place round on the other side," said Andrew hastily. "Let's go there."
"Anywhere you like," said Frank, "so long as we're out here on the fresh grass again. What a treat it is to be among the green trees!"
"Much better than the country, eh?"
"Oh no; but it does very well. I say, I wish we might fish."
"Oh, we'll go fishing some day. Walk faster; we're late."
"Fast as you like. What do you say to a run? You can run, you say, when you like."
"Oh no, we needn't run; only walk fast."
"Or the ducks will be impatient," said Frank, laughing.
"Yes, or the ducks may be impatient," said Andrew to himself, as he led on toward the end of the ornamental water nearest to where Buckingham Palace now stands, and bore off to the left; and when some distance back along the farther shore of the lake and nearly opposite to Saint James's Palace, he said suddenly:
"Look, Frank, there is some one beforehand;" and he pointed to where a gentleman stood by the edge of the water shooting bits of biscuit with his thumb and finger some distance out, apparently for the sake of seeing the ducks race after them, some aiding themselves with their wings, and then paddling back for more.
The two lads walked up to where the gentleman was standing, and as he heard them approach he turned quickly, and Frank saw that he was a pale, slight, thin-faced, youngish-looking man who might be forty.
"Ah, Andrew," he said, "you here; how are you? You have not come to feed the ducks?"
"Oh yes, I have," said Andrew, giving the stranger a peculiar look; "and I've brought a friend with me. Let me introduce him. Mr Frank Gowan, Captain Sir Robert Gowan's son, and my fellow-servant with his Royal Highness. Frank, this happens to be a friend of mine—Mr George Selby."
"I am very glad to meet any friend of Andrew Forbes," said the stranger, raising his hat with a most formal bow. "I know Sir Robert slightly."
As he replaced his hat and smiled pleasantly to the salute Frank gave in return, he took a biscuit from his pocket, and began to break it in very small pieces, when, apparently without any idea of its looking childish, Andrew took out his piece of bread, and after a moment's hesitation Frank did the same, the ducks in his Majesty's "canal," as he termed it, benefiting largely by the result.
"Any news?" said Andrew, after this had been going on for some minutes, and as he spoke he turned his head and looked fixedly at Mr Selby.
"No, nothing whatever; everything is as dull as can be," was the reply, and the fixed look was returned.
There seemed to be nothing in these words of an exciting nature, and Frank was intent upon a race between two green-headed drakes for a piece of crust which he had jerked out to a considerable distance; but all the same Andrew Forbes drew a deep breath, and his face flushed up. Then he glanced sharply at Frank, and looked relieved to find how his attention was diverted.
"Er—er—it is strange what a little news there is stirring nowadays," he said, huskily.
"Yes, very, is it not?" replied their new companion; "but I should have thought that you gentlemen, living as you do in the very centre of London life, would have had plenty to amuse you."
"Oh no," said Andrew, with a forced laugh. "Ours is a terrible humdrum life at the Palace, so bad that Gowan there is always wanting to go out into the country to find sport, and as he cannot and I cannot, we are glad to come out here and feed the ducks."
"Well," said the stranger gravely, jerking out a fresh piece of biscuit, "it is a nice, calm, and agreeable diversion. I like to come here for the purpose on Wednesday and Friday afternoons about this time. It is harmless, Forbes."
"Very," said the youth, with another glance at Frank; but he was breaking a piece of crust for another throw, and another meaning look passed between the two, Forbes seeming to question the stranger with his eyes, and to receive for answer an almost imperceptible nod.
"Yes, I like feeding the ducks," said Selby. "One acquires a good deal of natural history knowledge thereby, and also enjoys the pleasure of making new and pleasant friends."
This was directed at Frank, who felt uncomfortable, and made another bow, it being the proper thing to do, as his new acquaintance—he did not mentally call him friend—dropped a piece of biscuit, to be seized by a very fat duck, which had found racing a failure, and succeeded best by coming out of the water, to snap up the fragments which dropped at the distributors' feet.
As the piece of biscuit fell, the stranger formally and in a very French fashion raised his cocked hat again.
"And so you find the court life dull, Mr Gowan," he said.
"Yes," said the boy, colouring. "You see, I have not long left Winchester and my school friends. Miss the ga—sports; but Andrew Forbes has been very friendly to me," he added heartily.
"Of course you feel dull coming among strangers; but never fear, Mr Gowan, you will have many and valuable friends I hope, your humble servant among the number. It must be dull, though, at this court. Now at Saint—"
"That's my last piece of bread, Selby," said Andrew hastily. "Give me a bit of biscuit."
"Certainly, if I have one left," was the smiling reply, with another almost imperceptible nod. "Yes, here is the last. Of course you must find it dull, and we have not seen you lately at the club, my dear fellow. By the way, why not bring Mr Gowan with you next time?"
"Oh, he would hardly care to come. He does not care for politics, eh, Frank?"
"I don't understand them," said the boy quietly.
"You soon will now you are resident in town, Mr Gowan; and I hope you will favour us by accompanying your friend Forbes. Only a little gathering of gentlemen, young, clever, and I hope enthusiastic. You will come?"
"Say yes, Frank, and don't be so precious modest. He will bring up a bit of country now and then. But he is fast growing into a man of town."
"What nonsense, Drew!" cried the boy quickly.
"Yes, what nonsense!" said the new acquaintance, smiling. "Believe me, Mr Gowan, we do not talk of town at our little social club. I shall look forward to seeing you there as my guest. What do you say to Monday?"
"I say yes for both of us," said Andrew quickly.
"I am very glad. There, my last biscuit has gone, so till Monday evening I will say good-bye—au revoir."
"Stick to the English, Selby," said Andrew sharply. "French is not fashionable at Saint James's."
"You are quite right, my dear Forbes. Good-bye, Mr Gowan. It is a pleasure to shake your father's son by the hand. Till Monday then, my dear Forbes;" and with a more courtly bow than ever, the gentleman stalked slowly away, with one hand raising a laced handkerchief to his face, the other resting upon his sword hilt.
"Glad we met him," said Andrew quickly, and he looked unusually excited. "One of the best of men. You will like him, Frank."
"But you should not have been so ready to accept a stranger's invitation for me."
"Pooh! he isn't a stranger. He'll be grateful to you for going. Big family the Selbys, and he'll be very rich some day. Wonderful how fond he is, though, of feeding the ducks."
"Yes, he seems to be," said Frank; and he accompanied his companion as the latter strolled on now along the bank after finishing the distribution of bread to the feathered fowl by sending nearly a whole biscuit skimming and making ducks and drakes on the surface of the water; but the living ducks and drakes soon ended that performance and followed the pair in vain. For Andrew Forbes had suddenly become very thoughtful; while his companion also had his fit of musing, which ended in his saying to himself:
"I wish I was as clever as they are. It almost seemed as if they meant something more than they said. It comes from living in London I suppose, and perhaps some day I shall get to be as sharp and quick as they are. Perhaps, though, it is all nonsense, and they meant nothing. But I wish Drew had not said we'd go. I'm not a man, and what do I want at a club? I don't know anything that they'd want to know, living as I do shut up in the Palace." But there Frank Gowan was wrong, for what went on at Saint James's Palace in the early days of the eighteenth century was of a great deal of interest to some people outside, and he never forgot the feeding of the ducks.
HOW FRANK GOWAN GREW ONE YEAR OLDER IN ONE DAY.
"I Seem to have so many things to worry me," thought Frank. "Any one would think that in a place like this without lessons or studies there would be no unpleasantries; but as soon as I've got the better of one, another comes to worry me."
This was in consequence of the invitation for the following Monday. His mind was pretty well at ease about his confidential talk with his father; but he was nervous and uncomfortable about the visit to the club, and several times over he was on the point of getting leave to go across to Sir Robert to ask his opinion as to whether he ought to go.
"I can't go and bother my mother about such a thing as that," he mused. "I ought to be old enough now to be able to decide which is right and which is wrong. Drew thinks and talks like a man, while it seems to me that I'm almost a child compared to him.
"Well, let's try. Ought I to go, or ought I not? There can't be any harm to me in going. There may be some friends of Drew's whom I shan't like; but if there are I needn't go again. It's childish, when I want to become more manly, to shrink from going into society, like a great girl.—I'll go. If there's any harm in it, the harm is likely to be to Drew, and—yes, of course; I could save him from getting into trouble.
"Then I ought to go," he said to himself decisively, and he felt at ease, troubling himself little more about the matter, but going through his extremely easy duties of waiting in the anteroom, bearing letters and messages from one part of the Palace to the other, and generally looking courtly as a royal page.
Then the Monday came, with Andrew Forbes in the highest of spirits, and ready to chat about the country, his friend's life at Winchester, and to make plans for running down to see them when his father and mother went out of town.
"I don't believe you'd like it if you did come," said Frank.
"Oh yes, I should. Why not?"
"Because you'd find some of the lanes muddy, and the edges of the roads full of brambles. You wouldn't care to see the bird's and squirrels and hedgehogs, nor the fish in the river, nor the rabbits and hares."
"Why, those are all things that I am dying to see in their natural places. I wish you would not think I am such a macaroni. Why, after the way in which you have gone on about the country, isn't it natural that I should want to see more of it?"
He kept on in this strain to such an extent that, instead of convincing his companion, he overdid it, and set him wondering.
"I don't understand him a bit," he said to himself; "and I wish he wouldn't keep on calling me my dear fellow and slapping me on the back. I never saw him so wild and excitable before."
The lad's musings were interrupted to his great disgust by Andrew coming behind him with the very act and words which had annoyed him. For he started and turned angrily upon receiving a sounding slap between the shoulders.
"Why, Frank, my dear fellow," cried Andrew, "what ails you? Hallo! eyes flashing lightning and brow heavy with thunder. Has the gentle, shepherd-like swain from the country got a temper of his own?"
"Of course I have," cried the boy angrily. "Why don't you let it lie quiet, and not wake it up by doing that!"
"Is the temper like a surly dog, then?" cried Andrew, laughing mockingly. "Will it bite?"
"Yes, if you tease it too much," snapped out Frank.
"Oh, horrible! You alarm me!" cried Andrew, bounding away in mock dread.
"Don't be a fool!" cried Frank angrily; and the tone and gesture which accompanied the request sobered Andrew in a moment, though his eyes looked his surprise that the boy whom he patronised with something very much like contempt could be roused up into showing so much strength of mind.
"What's the matter, Frank boy?" he said quietly; "eaten something that hasn't agreed with you?"
"No," said the boy sharply. "I haven't eaten it—I can't swallow it."
"Eh? What do you mean? What is it?"
"You," said Frank shortly.
"Oh!" said Andrew, raising his eyebrows a little and staring at him hard; "and pray how is it you can't swallow me?"
"Because you will keep going on in this wild, stupid way, and treating me as if I were some stupid boy whom you meant to make your butt."
"Yes, and yesterday, and the day before that, and last week, and—and ever since I've been here."
"Then why didn't you tell me of it if I did, like a gentleman should, and not call me a fool?"
"I didn't; I said don't be a fool."
"Same thing. You insulted me."
"Well, you've insulted me dozens of times."
"And amongst gentlemen, sir," continued Andrew haughtily, and ignoring the other's words, "these things mean a meeting. Gentlemen don't wear swords for nothing. They have their honour to defend. Do you understand?"
"Oh yes, I understand," said Frank warmly. "I haven't been behind the trees in the big field at Winchester a dozen times perhaps without knowing what that means."
"Pish!" said Andrew contemptuously; "schoolboys' squabbles settled with fists. Black eyes, bruised knuckles, and cut lips."
"Well, schoolboys don't wear swords," cried Frank, who was by no means quelled. "I learned fencing, and I dare say I could use mine properly. I've fenced with my father in the holidays many a time."
"Then I shall send a friend to you, sir," said Andrew fiercely.
"You mean an enemy," said Frank grimly.
"A friend, sir—a friend," said Andrew haughtily; "and you can name your own."
"No, I can't, and I shouldn't make such a fool of myself," cried Frank defiantly.
"You are very free, sir, with your fools," cried Andrew. "Such language as this is not fitted for the anteroom in the Palace."
"I suppose I may call myself a fool if I like."
"When you are alone, sir, if you think proper, but not in my presence. Perhaps you will have the goodness to name your friend now; it will save time and trouble."
Frank looked at his companion sharply.
"Then you mean to fight?"
"Yes, sir, I mean to chastise this insolence."
"They wouldn't let us cross swords within the Palace grounds."
"Pooh! No paltry excuses and evasions, sir," cried Andrew, in whose thin cheeks a couple of red spots appeared. "Of course we could not hold a meeting here. But there is the Park. I see, though. Big words, and now the dog that was going to bite is putting his tail between his legs, and is ready to run away."
"Is he?" said Frank sharply, and a curiously stubborn look came into his face. "Don't you be too sure of that. But, anyhow, I'm not going to cross swords with you in real earnest."
"I thought so. You are afraid that I should pink you."
"Bah!" cried Andrew contemptuously. "You are."
"Oh, am I?" growled Frank. "Look here; I'm sure my father wouldn't like me to fight you with swords, whether you pinked me as you call it, or I wounded you."
"Pish! Frank Gowan, you are a poltroon."
"Perhaps so; but look here, Andrew Forbes, you've often made me want to hit you when you've been so bounceable and patronising. Now, we were going to see your friend to-night—"
"We are going to see my friend to-night, sir. Even if gentlemen have an affair, they keep their words."
"If they can, and are fit to show themselves. I'm not going to that place with you this evening, though I had got leave to go out. You can go afterwards if you like; but if you'll come anywhere you like, where we shan't be stopped, I'll try and show you, big as you are, that I'm not a coward."
"Very well. I dare say we can find a place. But your sword is shorter than mine. You must wear my other one."
"Rubbish! I'm not going to fight with swords!" cried Frank.
"What! you mean pistols?"
"I mean fists."
In Honour's Cause.
"Pah! like schoolboys or people in the mob."
"I shan't fight with anything else," said Frank stubbornly.
"You shall, sir. Now, then, name your friend."
"Can't; he wouldn't go. He's such a hot, peppery fellow too."
"Then he is as big a coward as you are."
"Look here," said Frank, almost in a whisper. "I don't know so much as you do about what we ought to do here, but I suppose it means a lot of trouble; and if it does I can't help it, but if you call me a coward again I'll hit you straight in the face."
"Coward then!" cried Andrew, in a sharp whisper. "Now hit me, if you dare."
As he spoke he drew himself up to his full height, threw out his chest, and folded his arms behind him.
Quick as thought Frank doubled his fist, and as he drew back his arm raised his firm white knuckles to a level with his shoulder, and then reason checked him, and he stood looking darkly into his fellow-page's eyes.
"I knew it," cried the latter—"a coward; and your friend is worse than you, or you wouldn't have chosen him."
"Oh! don't you abuse him," said Frank, with his face brightening; and his eyes shone with the mirth which had suddenly taken the place of his anger.
"What! do you dare to mock me?" cried Andrew.
"No; only it seemed so comic. You know, I've only had one friend since I've been here. How could I ask you?"
For a few moments Andrew stood gazing at him, as if hardly knowing how to parry this verbal thrust, and then the look which had accompanied it did its work.