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   Chapter 4 CROMWELL'S IRONSIDES.

Hayslope Grange / A Tale of the Civil War By Emma Leslie Characters: 11901

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Gilbert Clayton and Harry Drury kept on their weary tramp to London, and at length reached the little village of Whitechapel, which was outside the city walls. They had run some risks from highwaymen and footpads; but now they thought all danger was over, for they had almost reached their destination. But just as they were about to leave the village, a party of the King's pikemen rode in, and at once seized upon the travellers, to compel them to enter the King's service.

This was a dilemma neither of them had foreseen. To declare they were in favour of the Parliament would be the signal for their arrest as traitors to his Majesty; and to escape on any other pretext, without telling an actual lie, seemed equally impossible. Gilbert was seized first, and asked his name and condition. The latter was not easy to comply with, as he had left the army on account of his wounds, and was not at all sure that he should be received back again. He therefore gave his former occupation-a mercer of the city of London. Harry gave his as a farmer, for although he did not look much like one, he spoke of that being his occupation. After a few more questions had been asked and answered, they were marched off to the captain of the band, who began his examination by asking Harry his name.

"Drury!" he repeated. "Are you one of the Hayslope Drurys?"

"My father lives at Hayslope Grange," said Harry.

"Ay, a right true and trusty servant of the King's is Master Drury. I marvel that he has not sent you to do service for the King ere this," said the officer.

"My father meddleth not with public matters," said Harry, pondering what would come next.

"I trow not, I trow not," said the soldier, shaking his head; "but I must have a word with Master Drury on this same matter as I pass through the village, and I doubt not he will bid you wield your arms for King Charles after your visit to London. You may pursue your journey now, young man; but nathless you will speed your return, for the King needs trusty men to do him service in these troublous times. But we wish not to force our friends too much in this matter, therefore will I suffer you both to depart."

All the time he was speaking he eyed Gilbert most narrowly, as if trying to recall where he had seen that face before, as in truth he had, for they had met in the first battle fought between Charles and his Parliament, at Edgehill, on the borders of Warwickshire.

Gilbert remembered Captain Stanhope quite well, for he had been his prisoner for a little while, until an exchange of prisoners took place. Long illness had, however, altered Gilbert far more than the two years' campaign had altered the captain; and he rode away, thinking his eyes had played him false for once. Perhaps his being in the company of one whose family was known to be so strongly attached to the royal cause helped his escape; for he could not think it possible that a Drury would hold any intimacy with the Claytons.

"We have had a narrow escape, Harry, and we must not stay long in London," said Gilbert, as they left the village, and saw the soldiers ride out towards Essex; and then he told his companion of his former acquaintance with Captain Stanhope.

Harry could not help laughing, in spite of his sorrow, and quite agreed that their stay in London should be as short as possible. They would only stay a few hours to rest, to replenish their purses, and ascertain where Lieutenant Cromwell was now with his army, and then hasten to join him. The long tramp from Essex to London in the heat and dust had somewhat wearied Harry, unused to such exertion; but no sooner did he hear that horses had been provided, than he was anxious to start again, and they were soon on the great road leading to Yorkshire, where Lord Kimbolton and his lieutenant, Cromwell, were mustering their forces.

It was sad to pass along the edge of uncultivated fields in this bright summer weather; and yet, what encouragement was there for the farmer to plant or sow, when crops might be trodden down by the feet of horses and soldiers, or, if allowed to ripen, to see the grain cut down by that lawless Prince Rupert and his band of soldier-robbers. Truly the land might be said to mourn as well as the inhabitants, although as yet they had not reached the scene of actual strife.

Gilbert was anxious to reach his kinsman Cromwell as soon as possible, and so pressed on with all speed, making inquiries now and then at the villages where they slept, or of people they met on the road, as to the whereabouts of the two armies. It seems almost incredible in these days of rapid communication that this necessary intelligence could not be furnished in London, but that both forces lay somewhere in or near Yorkshire was the utmost Gilbert could learn about them.

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A RIDE TO THE NORTH.

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The farther they travelled northwards the more people did they meet, and it soon became plain that these were many of them fugitives flying from impending ruin. The tales they told were of course conflicting, and in their fright and anxiety to escape and save their families, often confused. But Gilbert was able to make out that the Scots army, which had marched over the Border to the help of the Parliament, had been shut up in Sunderland by the Royalists under the Earl of Newcastle; but the Parliamentary forces under Fairfax coming to their relief, the Earl had retired to York, and the English and Scotch together had now laid siege to that city.

As they drew near to Yorkshire, evidence of the commotion became still more apparent. The roads were strewed with beds and bedding, and various articles of household furniture, which the fugitives had attempted to take with them, but afterwards had thrown away; for the rumour had gone abroad that Prince Rupert was coming, and enough had been heard of his atrocities in Cheshire and Lancashire to make the people dread his approach

as they would the plague. At length, as they neared the besieged city, they heard that Lord Kimbolton's army was in the neighbourhood, and Gilbert was not long in discovering the encampment and seeking out Lieutenant Cromwell.

He warmly welcomed his young kinsman, and at once accepted his services and that of his companion. Harry Drury was not unused to arms. He had been taught fencing as a part of his education, and would use the singlestick, arquebus, and crossbow, while the fashion of every gentleman wearing a sword had rendered it necessary that this weapon should be handled skilfully. The necessary drill was therefore soon learned by Harry, and he was admitted to serve in the same corps as his friend.

Every addition to the army was welcome now, and the work of drilling the recruits went on all day, and often far into the night too. The life of a soldier here in Cromwell's camp was very different from the gay scene of revel he had sometimes heard the Royalist troopers describe. There was no rioting or drunkenness, no shouting or brawling, for these were sober-minded earnest men, who felt they had a real work to do, and sacrificed much in the doing of it. None had been forced to come here; but they had left home, and wife, and little ones, of their own accord, to fight their country's battles and set all England free. No wonder that they were earnest when they thought of the dear ones far away. They were not like the paid soldiers of the regular army; they could not afford to trifle and lose their time in play when they might be at work preparing for the battle; and so when not at drill, the cleaning of armour and furbishing of arms went on ceaselessly, and the clatter of this and the ring of the blacksmith's tools were broken only by the singing of some pious hymn or the voice of one reading to his comrade from the Word of Life. The day was begun and closed with prayer, and but for the tramp of the sentry, when once the word of command had been given that all work should cease, all the camp was as quiet and still, as a sleeping village.

Harry joyfully took his share of the labour going forward; he was willing to do anything, or bear any fatigue, to prepare himself to take part in the expected action when Prince Rupert should show himself. July was drawing near now, and they had almost reached the united armies besieging York, and it was expected that when Prince Rupert came into the field a battle would be fought. Scouts were sent out in all directions to give timely notice of his approach, but they were able to reach the forces of Fairfax before he came. But, however, only just in time. On the second of July, Prince Rupert came upon them by way of Marston Moor, but Kimbolton and his lieutenants were prepared for his coming.

A desperate battle was fought, and for some time it seemed that the Royalists must be victorious, for Prince Rupert fought with the most desperate bravery, driving several generals from the field, and thus disconcerting all their plans. He tried to do the same with Cromwell's cavalry, but they kept together like an iron phalanx, and all Rupert's dashing charges and feigned retreats failed to throw them into disorder. They were rightly named the Ironsides, for they kept the field and turned the tide of battle in favour of the Parliamentarians, and when once the Royalists saw that the day was lost their rout was complete. They retired from the field, leaving all their artillery, military stores, and baggage to the enemy.

The battle of Marston Moor decided the Royalist cause in the north. That was lost to Charles for ever, and there might well be hymns of rejoicing and solemn thanksgiving for the victory, for the cause of the Parliament had looked desperate enough only a short time before.

But in these rejoicings neither Gilbert nor Harry could take part. Gilbert had again been seriously wounded, and Harry, fighting by his side, had shared the same fate. The news was carried to Cromwell just as he was giving the last instructions to the messenger who was to bear the despatches to London giving information of the victory. "Clayton and young Drury of Hayslope wounded!" he repeated. "I will come and see them soon;" and then he went on giving instructions how Prince Rupert's retreating troops should be avoided, by the messenger taking an easterly course through Essex, instead of following the more direct road to London at the risk of being robbed. Cromwell was as clever a man of business as he was a soldier, and although the nominal head of the army was Lord Kimbolton, it was well known that the actual direction of affairs rested with his lieutenant, and all the men looked up to him as their leader. Cromwell's Ironsides, as his troops were now called, were everywhere spoken of as having gained the battle of Marston Moor, and he was daily rising into greater prominence, and was more frequently consulted as to the general direction of affairs.

But he did not forget his young kinsman lying sick and wounded. Provision had been made for this beforehand. Medicaments-hospital stores we should call them-had been secured, and now Cromwell went round to see those who had been carried from that awful battle-field where four thousand lay dead. Many an arm was raised when he was seen approaching, and many a feeble voice attempted to cheer; but Gilbert lay quiet and unconscious, while Harry was talking in the delirium of fever, moaning out the one name, "Maud, Maud!" or imploring his father's forgiveness.

Cromwell made particular inquiries into the case of each, and directed the doctors to let the two friends be as near to each other as possible when they were sensible, and this was the most he could do for them at present. The doctors could give no opinion as to their recovery yet, for they were both severely wounded; but Harry's case seemed the most dangerous, from the fever running so high.

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