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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesJohn Deane Of Nottingham: Historic Adventures By Land And Sea - Chapter 18. Journey To London With Long Sam
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John Deane Of Nottingham: Historic Adventures By Land And Sea - Chapter 18. Journey To London With Long Sam Post by :Zoderami Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :1574

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John Deane Of Nottingham: Historic Adventures By Land And Sea - Chapter 18. Journey To London With Long Sam

The month of February, 1696, had commenced, when one evening a rider was seen coming across the marsh from the direction of the sea. He threw himself from his horse, and called out loudly for Master Pearson. Jack recognised his voice as that of the tall stranger, Long Sam, whom he had met on his first arrival. He took Pearson, who went out to him, by the arm, and walked up and down in front of the house rapidly for some time, talking earnestly to him. Meantime, the dame and Elizabeth were preparing the evening meal. The new arrival, whose appearance was very different to what it had been formerly, now entered the house, and placed himself before the table, to partake of the food provided for him. While he was thus engaged, Pearson called Jack aside.

"Our friend here has business in London of importance, and requires a trustworthy attendant. Are you disposed to accompany him?" he asked. "You will find it, as I have before promised you, a good opportunity of seeing the great city, and all your expenses will besides be paid, while you will receive a handsome gratuity to boot. Take my advice: don't throw the chance away. As I told you before, you will be as safe there as you are in the middle of the fens, and you will, besides, very likely find an opportunity of pushing your fortune, which you certainly will not out here."

Jack thanked Pearson for the offer. The temptation was strong, and whatever might have been his suspicions of the tall stranger, he determined to accept it.

"You will set off to-morrow morning by daybreak, with eight horses. Each of you will take charge of three and bestride another, and you will be able to dispose of them in London or its neighbourhood for handsome prices. They will make fine chargers, and will very likely be purchased by officers of cavalry. Long Sam knows London well, and will make all the necessary arrangements for their sale."

Elizabeth's colour changed when Jack told her that he was about to take his departure for London.

"Going away!" she exclaimed; "I thought that you would remain here always and help my mother look after the farm when Mr Pearson is away. She much requires help. Oh, I wish that you were not going!"

"I hope to come back again soon, Elizabeth," he answered, taking the young girl's hand. "You have made my stay here very pleasant, far pleasanter than I expected, and I shall always remember you."

"And I, I am very sure, shall not forget you, Master Deane," replied Elizabeth, looking up in his face. "I have never felt sad or dull as I used sometimes to do before you came--and I have been very happy! My only fear is that you will not recollect me as I shall you; and I want to give you something to make you remember me. I have very few jewels or any thing of value of my own, besides this ring. Please, then, take it and wear it for my sake."

She took his hand, and put on his finger as she spoke a massive gold ring of a peculiar make, with a chameleon and a vessel under full sail engraved on it.

"It is all I have to give, but I entreat you to accept it, that you may be reminded how grateful I am for the kindness you have shown me since you came to live here!"

Jack did not like to refuse the gift, and yet he thought that he ought not to accept it.

"I should ever remember you without it," he answered. "But it is too valuable. Give me something of less cost, which I shall prize as much for your sake as this, for I shall value whatever you give me."

"Oh, no, keep it!" she murmured. "It is the only thing I possess suited for you. I have a locket and brooch and other jewels, but they are not such as you would care for."

Jack could no longer resist the gift. He kissed her brow and thanked her again and again, and promised never to forget her. He felt honestly what he said.

Jack slept very little all that night, thinking of what he was to see in London, and the adventures he might meet with on his journey there. Whatever suspicions might have arisen in his mind he shut out, anxious to have nothing to interfere with the pleasure he anticipated. The light of Pearson's lamp, as it gleamed in his eyes when he came to call him in the morning, aroused him from his sleep, and he found the horses already at the door prepared for starting. The dame and Elizabeth were on foot with breakfast prepared, and they gave him a friendly farewell, as, following Long Sam's example, he stepped out to mount his horse. A thick rime covered the ground, and a cold air blew across the fens, as the two riders with their charges took their way south. Jack, who by this time was well accustomed to the devious track across the fens, led the way at as rapid a pace as the horses could move, closely followed by Long Sam, who was now dressed as an ordinary jockey or rough-rider. They stopped to bait at various places: sometimes at the private residence of some gentleman who Long Sam said wished to look at their horses; at other times at a farm-house, and occasionally at inns, but these were generally avoided. While traversing an open country, Long Sam called Jack by his side.

"You will understand, Deane," he observed, "that you have a very simple part to play when you reach London; but I must have your promise that you will do nothing without my orders, and that you will make all the inquiries I may direct, and gain all the information you can on certain points which I will explain to you. You will thus be enabled to render great service to an important cause, and run no risk or danger yourself."

"As to that," answered Jack, "I am ready enough to run all sorts of risks where there is a good object to be attained; and I would rather be trusted than asked to act in the dark, as I am now doing!" Long Sam smiled grimly.

"Others may not be so willing to trust you as you suppose," he answered. "Indeed, it is better for all parties that you should not be acquainted with what is taking place. I wish you, however, to understand, that the men with whom I am engaged are persons of honour and character, and are not likely to do any act unworthy of their position."

"Then there _is some plot or scheme afoot?" said Jack. "I have long thought so, but could gain no information about the matter."

"You are right in that respect," answered Long Sam: "there is an important scheme about to be carried out; and as soon as you have given proof of your fitness to engage in it, you shall be informed as to the particulars. In the meantime, all I require is simple obedience to my directions, and then all will be well."

After riding for some distance across somewhat hilly country, on reaching the summit of a height, he pulled up his horse, exclaiming, "Why, surely that must be London!"

Before him, spread out, and extending some way both to the east and west, were numberless streets of houses, with towers and spires rising above them in all directions, Before them, glittering white in the sunlight, rose the pinnacles of the magnificent fane of Saint Paul's, with its lofty dome--just then verging towards completion, to the satisfaction of its talented architect, Sir Christopher Wren--while beyond could be seen, winding on through meadows and green fields, and then amidst the houses and stores of London and Westminster, the city and the borough, the blue stream of the Thames, covered with numerous boats and barges. Keeping to the right, Long Sam led his companion round the outside of London, at the back of the palace at Kensington, to the village of Hammersmith.

"We shall there find proper stables, and a careful groom to look after our horses," he observed; "and purchasers will not object to ride down there to inspect them--they may deem them of more value than if they were brought to their doors."

The village then consisted chiefly of a single street, with here and there a few houses on either side of branch roads. Instead of selecting the chief inn, Long Sam rode up to the door of a small house, with the sign of "The Bear" swinging on poles before it. Some good-sized stables showed that he had selected it more on account of the accommodation it could afford the horses than that which they would find within its doors for themselves.

"We're pretty full, masters," said the landlord, as he eyed the two travellers; "but I'll manage to put you up as best I can, as it's cold weather to sleep out in the lofts. I've got a room for you," he said, looking at Long Sam, "where, by adding two or three feet to the bed, you will find room to stretch yourself; and you, my lad, will be content with a little closet we have got on the stairs. There's not much air or light comes in, but it's pretty warm, considering it's near the kitchen chimney; and as for light, you will do well enough without that at night."

Jack, who had been accustomed to rough lodgings since he started with Will Brinsmead, expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the accommodation which was promised him. Long Sam, taking a valise which he had before him, followed the landlord up to his room.

Jack soon found that his companion intended to make him act the part of the careful groom, the person he spoke of, for some reason or other, not being forthcoming.

"You must keep a watchful eye on the horses, Jack," he observed, when he came down-stairs. "I have business which calls me elsewhere, and I must entrust them to you. Take care that they are well fed, and that their shoes are in good order. See that no tricks are played with them; for in this city rogues of all sorts abound. Some, for instance, on pretence of looking at them, may come in and lame them, perchance to depreciate their value; you understand me? You must watch, too, that no one, pretending to try their paces, gallops off, and leaves you to follow if you list, and to find, when you come back, that the rest have been disposed of in the same way."

"When I engaged for a ride, Master Smart, my object was to see the big city," said Jack, in a tone of expostulation.

"Have patience, lad!" answered Long Sam; "you will see the city soon enough, and perhaps have more time to spend in it than you expect I have the means of rewarding you in a way that will suit your taste. So let me hear no more grumbling, I pray thee!"

Saying this, Long Sam, turning on his heel, walked away from the stables, leaving Jack to groom the tired horses. Jack was fortunately accustomed to make the best of every thing, and, therefore, though somewhat hungry and tired, he set to work with whisp and brush to get the dust and dirt of the roads off the animals, and to put them into a condition to enjoy their food.

Several days passed by, during which Jack found himself almost a prisoner in the stable-yard. Occasionally Long Sam appeared, accompanied by various persons who took a look at the horses; but, strange to say, although they were lavish in their praises of the animals, no purchasers were found. At all events, the horses remained in their stalls. Among two or three who one day came together, Jack observed a person whose countenance he thought he recognised. The man turned a cold, unmeaning glance towards him as he caught Jack's eye fixed on his countenance.

"I am sure that is Master Stirthesoul!" Jack said to himself. "He is the same man I met at Mr Harwood's, and the same who was in Master Pearson's company at Saint Faith's. What can he have to do here?"

Jack resolved to solve the doubt by addressing him. Just as he was about to open his lips, the man, giving him a somewhat menacing look, turned round and followed Long Sam out of the stable. Jack saw him whispering a few words into Long Sam's ears.

"Oh, he's all right and faithful!" he heard the latter say. "He knows nothing, and if he did, he's not the lad to betray us!"

Jack could not tell whether these words were intended for his ears or not. However, the visitors walked away without taking any further notice of him.

In spite of Smart's promises, Jack began to feel very weary of confinement in the precincts of the inn, and determine on insisting that Long Sam should take his place.

"He pretends to be a groom, and therefore I do not see that he should not act as one," said Jack to himself.

Just, however, as he was about to insist on this arrangement with his companion, Long Sam told him that he might go into the city and take a look round London, and see what he could of the sights.

"Only take care to find your way back again here before the evening," he observed. "Keep in the broader streets, and don't tell any strangers where you come from, or what has brought you to the city."

It was Sunday morning; and Jack, putting on his best garments which he had brought with him, started on his walk. He took his way along a very bad road leading to the Strand, with the fields and cabbage-gardens to the right, and Hyde Park to the left, which then extended nearly to the Palace of Kensington. Fortunately the weather was dry for the season of the year, or he would have been splashed over from head to foot. Besides Saint Paul's, a number of beautiful churches were already raising their heads by the genius of Wren in various parts of London. Seeing a number of people collecting before a church, and having never failed at home in attending Divine Service, he took courage, and followed the crowd within the building. Although he had been accustomed occasionally to see people take their eyes off their books to watch the entrance of a stranger, or to examine the dress of their neighbours, or perhaps to exchange glances with one another, he was little prepared for the style of behaviour in which the congregation of the church where he now found himself indulged. Here were collected many of the beauties, and a few of the fine gentlemen of the day. It may have been that they lost little by not attending to the preacher. So Jack thought from what he could catch of the discourse, little of which he could understand, so full of flowers of rhetoric was it. Most of his neighbours were, at all events, flirting and ogling all through the service, and as they entered and took their seats all courtesied and bowed to their acquaintance, as if they had been at a theatre. Jack could not help feeling thankful when the service was brought to a conclusion.

"If this is the way the great people worship God in this big city, I am afraid the citizens and poorer ones can pay very little attention to Him at all," he thought.

Jack found himself looked at askance by several persons of ordinary degree, among whom he stood at the farther end of the building. At length he made his way into the open air. He much admired, however, the coaches and sedan-chairs that came to fetch away all the grand people, with little negro boys from the Sugar Islands to hold up the trains of the ladies, and pages who sat on the steps of the gaily-painted coaches, drawn, some by four, and some by six horses.

In a walk along the Mall, where, of course, no one paid the least attention to the open-mouthed country lad, Jack saw a still greater number of fashionable people. Among them was a very stout lady, carried in a sedan-chair with painted panels, and he heard the passers-by remark that she was the Princess Ann. Her chair was followed by another sedan, which, he was told, contained the Lady Churchill, whose beautiful face looked, however, in any thing but a good-humour. He saw many other sights, some of them curious enough but altogether he was disappointed with this his first day in London.

"They say that the streets are paved with gold; but that is a mistake. They could only once have been gilt, and the fine gentlemen I have met must have rolled in them, and the gilding must have stuck to their clothes."

Jack had been looking out all the day in the hopes of seeing the king, of whose courage, wisdom, and remarkable clemency, he had often heard his father and cousin Nat speak. They looked upon him, indeed, as the bulwark of the Protestant faith in England, and notwithstanding all the efforts which Mr Harwood and his daughter, and Master Pearson and others had made to eradicate that notion from Jack's mind, it remained in reality as firm as ever. The very reason which the king's enemies brought forward to depreciate him, raised him more and more in his opinion. His desire was at length gratified, when, on the 8th of February, Long Sam told him, that if he would go and stand near the gates of the Palace of Kensington he would there very likely get a glimpse of the king.

"And hark you, my lad," he said, "you must observe carefully all that happens at the time, and bring me word. Take your stand, also, with your right foot before the left, and your hand in the breast of your coat. A person will then probably come and speak to you, and you will repeat to me all he says. If he does not speak, he will give you a note, which you are to bring immediately to me."

Jack, as directed, took up his post at the gates of the palace at Kensington. He had not long to wait, when the gates were thrown open, and some guards appeared, and then a coach with six horses, within which sat a gentleman with a long nose and prominent features, dressed in a rich riding-suit. On either side were more horsemen, who Jack heard were the King's Dutch guards. They were followed by several Dutch officers of the court, among whom was the faithful Duke of Portland, and others of high rank. Jack had a good view of that clear hawk's eye, and the large Roman nose and the serious countenance, which expressed little but acute penetration into the mind and motives of others, with all of which the coinage of the realm had made his subjects familiar. The sight of the great warrior and wisest statesman of the day, who knew himself to be surrounded by plots, and yet went his way with perfect coolness, had great effect upon Jack's somewhat excitable mind. He threw up his cap, and shouted, "Hurrah! long live the King!" in as good faith as any of the many bystanders; and his first impulse was to run off, following the coach, shouting, as youths and boys are used to do after any great personage. The king leaned forward over a paper which he held in his hand, so that nearly the whole of his figure was visible at the window of the coach, which took its way towards Richmond.

Suddenly Jack remembered the direction he had received from Long Sam. Going back to the place he had before occupied, he put himself in the position in which he had been standing. Looking round, he saw a person who had come out of the palace observing him narrowly. The person, who was dressed in the livery of the palace, at length passed close to him.

"Are you Long Sam's messenger?" he asked.

"At your service," answered Jack.

"Where does he lodge?" asked the stranger.

"At the Bear," was Jack's answer.

"Take this note, and deliver it quickly," said the stranger; "but do not move from where you now stand till I have re-entered the palace."

Saying this, the stranger slipped a sealed packet into Jack's hand. He immediately concealed it in his doublet, but as he did so a shade of doubt crossed his mind that all was not right. He waited, however, a few minutes till the person who had given him the packet had re-entered the gate, and then took his way back to the Bear. He could not, however, help occasionally looking round to observe whether his steps were followed. He felt that he was engaged in some secret transaction; and from some of the remarks which Long Sam had let drop, as well as the appearance of the concealed Jesuit in his society, he could not help fearing that the plot afoot was against the welfare of the king. He reached the inn, however, in safety, and described exactly to Long Sam all he had seen.

"But you must tell me honestly," he said, "whether this matter has any thing to do with any proceeding which may injure the king. As I watched him just now, I thought of the many brave actions which he has performed, and his calmness and courage at the present time, and could not help feeling that I would rather fight for him than against him."

"You are a foolish young man!" answered Long Sam, in a more angry tone than he had ever used towards Jack. "Follow my directions, and all will be right. I do not want to hurt your feelings," he added, seeing that Jack's colour came to his cheek. "And now I must leave you."

"As to that," answered Jack, "I have no wish to quarrel with you, or any other man; but it strikes me I have been made a 'cat's-paw' of, and I tell you frankly I should like to know our object in coming to London."

"Then as frankly I will tell you--I cannot give it," answered Long Sam. "If you don't know your own interests, it's your own fault; but remain here a few days longer, and I have no doubt you will learn all you wish to know, and probably much more than I know now."

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