Книга The Black Arrow. Содержание - CHAPTER VI — THE GOOD HOPE (concluded)
“Bootless, my master, bootless,” said the steersman, peering forward through the dark. “We come every moment somewhat clearer of these sandbanks; with every moment, then, the sea packeth upon us heavier, and for all these whimperers, they will presently be on their backs. For, my master, ’tis a right mystery, but true, there never yet was a bad man that was a good shipman. None but the honest and the bold can endure me this tossing of a ship.”
“Nay, Lawless,” said Dick, laughing, “that is a right shipman’s byword, and hath no more of sense than the whistle of the wind. But, prithee, how go we? Do we lie well? Are we in good case?”
“Master Shelton,” replied Lawless, “I have been a Grey Friar — I praise fortune — an archer, a thief, and a shipman. Of all these coats, I had the best fancy to die in the Grey Friar’s, as ye may readily conceive, and the least fancy to die in John Shipman’s tarry jacket; and that for two excellent good reasons: first, that the death might take a man suddenly; and second, for the horror of that great, salt smother and welter under my foot here” — and Lawless stamped with his foot. “Howbeit,” he went on, “an I die not a sailor’s death, and that this night, I shall owe a tall candle to our Lady.”
“Is it so?” asked Dick.
“It is right so,” replied the outlaw. “Do ye not feel how heavy and dull she moves upon the waves? Do ye not hear the water washing in her hold? She will scarce mind the rudder even now. Bide till she has settled a bit lower; and she will either go down below your boots like a stone image, or drive ashore here, under our lee, and come all to pieces like a twist of string.”
“Ye speak with a good courage,” returned Dick. “Ye are not then appalled?”
“Why, master,” answered Lawless, “if ever a man had an ill crew to come to port with, it is I — a renegade friar, a thief, and all the rest on’t. Well, ye may wonder, but I keep a good hope in my wallet; and if that I be to drown, I will drown with a bright eye, Master Shelton, and a steady hand.”
Dick returned no answer; but he was surprised to find the old vagabond of so resolute a temper, and fearing some fresh violence or treachery, set forth upon his quest for three sure men. The great bulk of the men had now deserted the deck, which was continually wetted with the flying sprays, and where they lay exposed to the shrewdness of the winter wind. They had gathered, instead, into the hold of the merchandise, among the butts of wine, and lighted by two swinging lanterns.
Here a few kept up the form of revelry, and toasted each other deep in Arblaster’s Gascony wine. But as the Good Hope continued to tear through the smoking waves, and toss her stem and stern alternately high in air and deep into white foam, the number of these jolly companions diminished with every moment and with every lurch. Many sat apart, tending their hurts, but the majority were already prostrated with sickness, and lay moaning in the bilge.
Greensheve, Cuckow, and a young fellow of Lord Foxham’s whom Dick had already remarked for his intelligence and spirit, were still, however, both fit to understand and willing to obey. These Dick set, as a body-guard, about the person of the steersman, and then, with a last look at the black sky and sea, he turned and went below into the cabin, whither Lord Foxham had been carried by his servants.
CHAPTER VI — THE GOOD HOPE (concluded)
The moans of the wounded baron blended with the wailing of the ship’s dog. The poor animal, whether he was merely sick at heart to be separated from his friends, or whether he indeed recognised some peril in the labouring of the ship, raised his cries, like minute-guns, above the roar of wave and weather; and the more superstitious of the men heard, in these sounds, the knell of the Good Hope.
Lord Foxham had been laid in a berth upon a fur cloak. A little lamp burned dim before the Virgin in the bulkhead, and by its glimmer Dick could see the pale countenance and hollow eyes of the hurt man.
“I am sore hurt,” said he. “Come near to my side, young Shelton; let there be one by me who, at least, is gentle born; for after having lived nobly and richly all the days of my life, this is a sad pass that I should get my hurt in a little ferreting skirmish, and die here, in a foul, cold ship upon the sea, among broken men and churls.”
“Nay, my lord,” said Dick, “I pray rather to the saints that ye will recover you of your hurt, and come soon and sound ashore.”
“How!” demanded his lordship. “Come sound ashore? There is, then, a question of it?”
“The ship laboureth — the sea is grievous and contrary,” replied the lad; “and by what I can learn of my fellow that steereth us, we shall do well, indeed, if we come dryshod to land.”
“Ha!” said the baron, gloomily, “thus shall every terror attend upon the passage of my soul! Sir, pray rather to live hard, that ye may die easy, than to be fooled and fluted all through life, as to the pipe and tabor, and, in the last hour, be plunged among misfortunes! Howbeit, I have that upon my mind that must not be delayed. We have no priest aboard?”
“None,” replied Dick.
“Here, then, to my secular interests,” resumed Lord Foxham: “ye must be as good a friend to me dead, as I found you a gallant enemy when I was living. I fall in an evil hour for me, for England, and for them that trusted me. My men are being brought by Hamley — he that was your rival; they will rendezvous in the long holm at Holywood; this ring from off my finger will accredit you to represent mine orders; and I shall write, besides, two words upon this paper, bidding Hamley yield to you the damsel. Will he obey? I know not.”
“But, my lord, what orders?” inquired Dick.
“Ay,” quoth the baron, “ay — the orders;” and he looked upon Dick with hesitation. “Are ye Lancaster or York?” he asked, at length.
“I shame to say it,” answered Dick, “I can scarce clearly answer. But so much I think is certain: since I serve with Ellis Duckworth, I serve the house of York. Well, if that be so, I declare for York.”
“It is well,” returned the other; “it is exceeding well. For, truly, had ye said Lancaster, I wot not for the world what I had done. But sith ye are for York, follow me. I came hither but to watch these lords at Shoreby, while mine excellent young lord, Richard of Gloucester , prepareth a sufficient force to fall upon and scatter them. I have made me notes of their strength, what watch they keep, and how they lie; and these I was to deliver to my young lord on Sunday, an hour before noon, at St. Bride’s Cross beside the forest. This tryst I am not like to keep, but I pray you, of courtesy, to keep it in my stead; and see that not pleasure, nor pain, tempest, wound, nor pestilence withhold you from the hour and place, for the welfare of England lieth upon this cast.”
“I do soberly take this up on me,” said Dick. “In so far as in me lieth, your purpose shall be done.”
“It is good,” said the wounded man. “My lord duke shall order you farther, and if ye obey him with spirit and good will, then is your fortune made. Give me the lamp a little nearer to mine eyes, till that I write these words for you.”
He wrote a note “to his worshipful kinsman, Sir John Hamley;” and then a second, which he-left without external superscripture.
“This is for the duke,” he said. “The word is ‘England and Edward,’ and the counter, ‘England and York.’”
“And Joanna, my lord?” asked Dick.
“Nay, ye must get Joanna how ye can,” replied the baron. “I have named you for my choice in both these letters; but ye must get her for yourself, boy. I have tried, as ye see here before you, and have lost my life. More could no man do.”
By this time the wounded man began to be very weary; and Dick, putting the precious papers in his bosom, bade him be of good cheer, and left him to repose.
At the date of this story, Richard Crookback could not have been created Duke of Gloucester; but for clearness, with the reader’s leave, he shall so be called.