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       A Lad of Grit: A Story of Adventure on Land and Sea in Restoration Times, p.1

           Percy F. Westerman
 
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A Lad of Grit: A Story of Adventure on Land and Sea in Restoration Times


  Produced by Al Haines.

  Cover art]

  "INCH BY INCH THEY WERE DRIVEN BACK"]

  A Lad of Grit

  A Story of Adventure on Land and Sea in Restoration Times

  by

  PERCY F. WESTERMAN

  _ILLUSTRATED BY EDWARD S. HODGSON_

  BLACKIE & SON LIMITED LONDON AND GLASGOW 1909

  By Percy F. Westerman

  Captain Fosdyke's Gold.In Defiance of the Ban.Captain Sang.The Senior Cadet.The Amir's Ruby.The Secret of the Plateau.Leslie Dexter, Cadet.All Hands to the Boats.A Mystery of the Broads.Rivals of the Reef.A Shanghai Adventure.Pat Stobart in the "Golden Dawn".The Junior Cadet.Captain Starlight.The Sea-Girt Fortress.On the Wings of the Wind.Captured at Tripoli.Captain Blundell's Treasure.The Third Officer.Unconquered Wings.The Riddle of the Air.Chums of the "Golden Vanity".Clipped Wings.The Luck of the "Golden Dawn".The Salving of the "Fusi Yama".Winning his Wings.A Lively Bit of the Front.A Cadet of the Mercantile Marine.The Good Ship "Golden Effort".East In the "Golden Gain".The Quest of the "Golden Hope".Sea Scouts Abroad.Sea Scouts Up-Channel.The Wireless Officer.A Lad of Grit.The Submarine Hunters.Sea Scouts All.The Thick of the Fray.A Sub and a Submarine.Under the White Ensign.The Fight for Constantinople.With Beatty off Jutland.The Dispatch Riders.

  _Printed in Great Britain by Blackie & Son, Ltd., Glasgow_

  ----

  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER I--How the Tidings of the Restoration Came to Rake CHAPTER II--Of the Arrest and Escape of Increase Joyce CHAPTER III--Concerning my Journey to Portsmouth CHAPTER IV--How Judgment was Passed on the Dorset Smugglers CHAPTER V--Of my First Ship, the _Gannet_ CHAPTER VI--Of the Finding of Pedro Alvarez, and of the Strange Tale that he Told CHAPTER VII--Concerning the Treasure Island CHAPTER VIII--Of an Encounter with an Algerine Corsair CHAPTER IX--I lose the _Little Gannet_ CHAPTER X--How I Defended the Foretop CHAPTER XI--Of the Manner of my Homecoming CHAPTER XII--The Smugglers' Cave CHAPTER XIII--The Escape CHAPTER XIV--I Set Out to Fight the Dutch CHAPTER XV--Of the Famous Sea Fight of Four Days CHAPTER XVI--I Meet an Old Enemy CHAPTER XVII--Showing that there are Two Means of Leaving a Prison CHAPTER XVIII--The Veil is Partly Drawn CHAPTER XIX--How Three Horsemen set out for the North CHAPTER XX--What we Heard and Saw at Holwick. CHAPTER XXI--Our Search for the Treasure

  ----

  Illustrations

  Inch by inch they were driven back . . . . . . FrontispieceI ran at my father's murderer and rained blow after blow upon his headand bodyThey clambered up our sides with the greatest intrepidityThe chest is hoisted to the surface

  CHAPTER I--How the Tidings of the Restoration Came to Rake

  The sun was slowly sinking behind the tree-clad Hampshire Downs.Already the long shadows of Rake Hill lay athwart the misty coombe, andthe glimmer of the innumerable forges in the valley beneath began tohold its own against the rapidly fading daylight. The cold east wind,for it was but the beginning of March, in the year of grace 1660,whistled through the clump of gaunt pine trees that marked the summit ofthe hill, and, despite the fact that each of us wore a thick doublet,the chilly blast cut us like a knife.

  I remember that evening well; its stirring incidents are graven on mymemory as if they had happened but yesterday, though nigh on twoscoreand ten winters and summers have passed over my head since the eventfulyear of which I write.

  My father and I were returning homewards from the great fair atPetersfield. For an old man, he being well over sixty years of age, myfather was the marvel of our village. Tall but sparely built, his framebetokened a strength of body that harmonized with the determination ofcharacter that made itself known by the glance of his steel-colouredeyes. Report says that when he came to Rake to settle down, some twelveor thirteen years back--I being but an infant in arms,--he did gain alasting reputation by outmatching one Caleb James, a notorious bully, athis own game, breaking his pate with his own staff on the roadside hardby Milland Church.

  Moreover, as proof of his hardiness, is there not the testimony of theworthy Master Hugh Salesbury, the chirurgeon of Lyss--the same whose sonfell in Torrington's action off Beachy Head,--to the effect that thoughpractice was slack around Lyss, yet he perforce would have to give up ifnone were better patients than honest Owen Wentworth.

  Despite the fact that he was on the losing side, my father was notbackward in declaring his attachment to His Gracious Majesty KingCharles II; and although our neighbours, even the Roundheads, werefavourably disposed to him, making allowance for his fiery temper, yetwith strangers who passed along the great highway betwixt London Townand Portsmouth, honest Owen's outspoken declarations oft led to wordystrife, and on occasions ended in blows.

  In defiance of the Puritan regulations against anything tending towardsthe lost cause, my father, though ruined by confiscations andsequestration, endeavoured to maintain the appearance of a careless andsocial demeanour, ever cherishing a hope that each day seemed nearerfulfilment.

  He still retained his flowing lovelocks, while the lower part of hisweather-worn face was adorned by a greyish beard of Van Dyck cut, whichfailed to hide a portion of a long, whitish scar that extended from hisleft eyebrow to his cheek bone--the legacy of a pike-thrust in thesanguinary encounter of Cropredy Bridge. He was dressed in a dark-bluesuit, relieved by a deep collar of Mechlin lace, while, on account ofthe severity of the weather, he was further attired in a long cloak thatbarely concealed the end of a short hanger--a necessary weapon in thesetroublous times. I also knew that he carried two long dags, or Scottishpistols, yet of these there was no outward sign.

  As we neared the foot of the hill, instead of turning to the righttowards our home, my father broke the silence by saying:

  "I will call in at the 'Flying Bull'. Possibly the chapman fromGodalming is there. If so, I can replenish my stock of gun flints."

  As we entered the doorway of the "Flying Bull"--an old hostelry that hassheltered all sorts and conditions of men, from kings and queens even tothe arch-traitor Old Noll himself, and the sign of which, painted by alimner who had learned his art in the time of the last crusade, hadswung in the breeze for nigh on four hundred years--we were greeted witha chorus of welcome from the score or so of persons assembled in thelarge stone-flagged common room.

  "How goes the price of malt and barley at Petersfield?" questioned oneman in a voice that was like to the bellowing of a bull.

  "Man," retorted another, "doth thy reasoning not rise above the price ofpetty huckstering, Obadiah Blow-the-trumpet-in-Zion? Heed him not, goodMaster Wentworth. Hast news of honest George Monk and his army?"

  "None, though rumour hath it that the fleet at Portsmouth hath sidedwith Monk, and that John Tippets, the mayor, hath called out the trainbands and manned the ordnance on the Platform and the Square Tower.Moreover, a trusty messenger hath reached Sir Giles Seaward with ordersto raise the countryside and to assemble in Petersfield marketplaceto-morrow at noon. God forfend that this land be not again drenched inblood!"

  "Ay," rejoined another, "but, as man to man, Master Wentworth, whatthink ye? How blows the wind in London?" he added darkly.

  "My friend, mark ye well, the wind blows straight from the Low Country."

  "No," thunde
red a voice from a seat in the chimney corner; "the blast ofthe Lord, that destroyed Sennacherib and his host, will utterly consumethe malignants, including Charles Stuart, the son of the enemy of thepeople of England!" My father sprang to his feet, white with fury. Alleyes were centred on the speaker. He was a short, thick-set man of aboutforty years of age, with a bull-neck, huge ears, small ferrety eyes,close-cropped hair, and a clean-shaven face deeply pitted with smallpox.He wore a buff-coloured jerkin, opened at the neck for comfort's sake,and frayed and soiled from the wearing of armour, his breast- andback-plates of dull steel having been removed. These, together with asteel helmet with metal guards, and a heavy broadsword, lay on thesettle within arm's length, while a petronel and a well-weightedbandolier hung across the back of a chair on which the man's feet,encased in long Spanish boots, rested.

  On my father striding across the room, the stranger leisurely rose fromhis seat and extended his hand in an attitude of contemptuous reproof.

  "Tut, man, 'tis time thy grey hairs taught thee wisdom! Wouldstthreaten me, Increase Joyce, trooper of Parliamentary Horse?"

  "Draw, knave, draw!" shouted my father, whipping out his hanger."Either unsay those words or else swallow them!"

  Instantly all was confusion. Some of the more timid made towards thedoor, tables were overturned, tankards clattered on the floor, excitedmen shouted in unintelligible voices. For my own part, I remained by myfather's side, unable to take my eyes off his antagonist, and, at thesame time, knowing that my father in his choler would brook nointerference from me.

  "I fight not with old men," retorted Joyce. "But this I know: 'The axeis laid unto the root of the trees', an' if that arch-profligate,Charles Stuart, were to set foot in England----"

  He was interrupted by a violent knocking at the door, which, beingthrown wide open, showed a man fully armed and holding the reins of asteaming and apparently exhausted horse.

  "Host!" he shouted. "Where or which is the host?"

  Old Giles Perrin, the innkeeper, came forward and awaited his commands.

  "Now, sirrah, on thy life, hasten! Provender for my beast; a cup ofspiced ale for myself. With all dispatch, man, for I am on the serviceof the State!"

  The stranger strode into the room, stooped and replaced one of theoverturned stools, seated himself thereon, and, removing a cloth thatencircled his neck, wiped his heated brow vigorously. Then he staredhaughtily around at the assembled company, seized the cup that old Gilesbrought, and drained it at one gulp.

  I remarked that he spoke with an accent totally different from theSouthern dialect of our part of Hampshire and Sussex, but my doubts weresoon set at rest.

  "How far down yon road is't to Petersfield? And is one like to meetaught of footpads, drawlatches, or vagrants of that condition?"

  It was my father who answered him, yet barely had he opened his mouthwhen the stranger clapped him on the shoulder:

  "By all the powers of darkness! You, S----"

  "Hold, man!" replied my father in a tone that implied no denial. Then,in an undertone, I heard him say: "I am now but Owen Wentworth,gentleman yeoman, at your service."

  "I am still Ralph Slingsby, though, thanks to my General Monk, cornet ofhorse no longer, but captain in his favourite regiment. Let me think.'Tis but thrice that I have seen thee since we parted at Holwick, you tojoin the king at Nottingham, I to enrol under my Lord Essex. First, atEdgehill, when I, a mere stripling, lay under the hoofs of Rupert'shorse. Secondly, at Cropredy Bridge, when I did turn aside the pikethat would have let your soul out of the keeping of your body. Lastly,when at the trial of----"

  "Ssh! I would have you remember that the rising generation hath longears."

  My father spoke truly, for though the stranger had uttered his lengthyspeech but in an undertone, yet I, with the curiosity of youth, did notfail to hear, much to my mystification. Knowing also that the remarkabout "the rising generation" was applied to me, I must needs raise myhands to my ears to feel if they were long, much to Ralph Slingsby'samusement.

  "So this is your son, Master Wentworth? A fitting chip of the old block!What wouldst thou be, lad; a fighting man, like thy sire?"

  "Ay," I replied. "But I would love to go to sea, and become famous likeAdmiral Blake, e'en though he were a Roundhead!"

  "What knowest thou of Blake?"

  "Henry Martin hath told me tales of his gallant deeds, and besides, hehath shown me his medal of bronze, inscribed: 'For eminent service insaving ye _Triumph_, fired in fight with ye Dutch'. That was the seafight in which Martin lost his leg."

  "Ah, Master Wentworth, that's the spirit I like! The time hath comewhen Englishmen cease from flying at each other's throats. Host, myscore!"

  Then, shaking my father by the hand, and patting me kindly on the head,he strode towards the door; then, turning, he addressed the company:

  "Gentlemen, I beg you take heed that yesternight a messenger was sent toHolland to invite His Majesty King Charles II to return to his throne.I bear orders to the fleet at Portsmouth that they all, with theexception of the _Naseby_, the name of which giveth offence to HisMajesty, proceed to the Downs, there to welcome our sovereign lord. Godsave the King!"

  While the silence that prevailed in the room, following on thisstartling announcement, still remained, I could hear the thud of horse'shoofs as Ralph Slingsby resumed his momentous journey towardsPetersfield.

  When, a quarter of an hour or so later, we left the "Flying Bull", themoon had risen, throwing the long shadows of the dark pines athwart theroad. Our humble abode lay about a mile on the by-road from Rake toMidhurst, and homewards we stepped, our thick-soled shoes ringing on thefrosty road. When but half the distance was covered, I heard the soundof the crackling of the dry brushwood in a coppice on our left, followedby the cry of a bird and the fluttering of its wings as it flew over ourheads.

  Instinctively I edged closer to my father and grasped his left hand.

  "Lad, art afraid of a fox running through the covert?" he exclaimed."And wouldst be a sailor, too!"

  In spite of my boast in the well-lit room of the "Flying Bull", my heartthrobbed painfully, and my reply seemed like to stick in my throat. Wecontinued in silence, and presently came to a spot where a largereed-fringed lake lay on the right-hand side of the road, while on theother a dense clump of gaunt firs threw a dismal gloom over our path.

  As we neared the clump a voice, authoritative, harsh, and yet familiar,shouted:

  "Stand!"

  And into the moonlight stepped a short, thick-set man, whom I recognizedas the soldier who caused the turmoil at the inn, Increase Joyce.

  For the second time that night my father unsheathed his hanger, and,pushing me behind him, advanced towards the man.

  "Stand!" he repeated. "See here; a word in thine ear, Master Wentworth.Less than an hour agone I said: 'I fight not with old men'. I recallthose words. With me it is a case of doing in Rome as do the Romans.The Commonwealth is at an end, therefore I am a Parliamentarian nolonger. Instead, I journey to the Rhine to join the German freebooters,or else to the Spanish Main to throw in my lot with the buccaneers ofthe Indies--it matters not which; but ere I go I have an account tosettle with the Lord of Holwick. Little did I think to find him hidingin an obscure Sussex village. Dost remember twenty years aback--thetrysting place under the Holmwood Oak?--Ah! ... Nay! Stand, at thyperil!"

  But my father, white with passion, still advanced, the moonbeams dancingon his glittering blade. Joyce unslung his petronel, and covered hisantagonist when within fifteen or twenty paces.

  "Murderer!" shouted my father.

  "As you will; I take no risks with steel," and immediately the report ofthe weapon burst upon my ears like a clap of thunder, while the treeswere illuminated by the flash of the discharge. I shut my eyes andscreamed in terror, and on opening them I saw--oh, merciful Heaven!--aconvulsive form lying in the road, while the Roundhead stood watching meintently, the smoke from his petronel hanging round like a pall, andslowly ascending
in the chill night air.

  In an instant my terror left me and I became a demon. Grasping my oakcudgel in my hand, I ran at my father's murderer and rained blow afterblow upon his head and body. It was but a forlorn attempt. Hisheadpiece and armour received the blows as lightly as if they were froma straw, and with an oath he smote me heavily on the chest with the buttof his pistol, so that I reeled, fell backward across the body of mymurdered sire, and struck my head on the frosty road. Multitudes oflights flashed before my eyes, followed by a red glare, and I lost allconsciousness.

  "I RAN AT MY FATHER'S MURDERER AND RAINED BLOW AFTER BLOWUPON HIS HEAD AND BODY"]

 
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