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- St. George and St. Michael - 80/94 -
them. There was mounting in hot haste, and a hurried sally. Lord Charles flung himself on little Dick's bare back, and flew to reconnoitre. Fifty of the garrison were ready armed and mounted by the time he came back, having discovered the route they were taking, and off they went at full speed in pursuit. But, encumbered as they were at first with the driven horses, the twenty men who had carried them off had such a start of their pursuers that they reached the high road where they could not stray, and drove them right before them to sir Trevor Williams at Usk.
'The fodder will last the longer,' said the marquis, with a sigh sent after his eighty horses.
'Mistress Dorothy,' said lord Charles the next day, 'methinks thou art as Cassandra in Troy. I shall tremble after this to do aught against thy judgment.'
'My lord,' returned Dorothy, 'I have to ask your pardon for my presumption, but it was borne in upon me, as Tom Fool says, that there was danger in the thing. It was scarcely judgment on my part--rather a womanish dread.'
'Go thou on to speak thy mind like Cassandra, cousin Dorothy, and let us men despise it at our peril. I am humbled before thee,' said lord Charles, with the generosity of his family.
'Truly, child,' said lady Glamorgan, 'the mantle of my husband hath fallen upon thee!'
The next day sir Trevor Williams and his men sat down before the castle with a small battery, and the siege was fairly begun. Dorothy, on the top of the keep, watching them, but not understanding what they were about in particulars, heard the sudden bellow of one of their cannon. Two of the battlements beside her flew into one, and the stones of the parapet between them stormed into the cistern. Had her presence been the attraction to that thunderbolt? Often after this, while she watched the engine below in the workshop, she would hear the dull thud of an iron ball against the body of the tower; but although it knocked the parapet into showers of stones, their artillery could not make the slightest impression upon that.
The same night a sally was prepared. Rowland ran to lord Charles, begging leave to go. But his lordship would not hear of it, telling him to get well, and he should have enough of sallying before the siege was over. The enemy were surprised, and lost a few men, but soon recovered themselves and drove the royalists home, following them to the very gates, whence the guns of the castle sent them back in their turn.
Many such sallies and skirmishes followed. Once and again there was but time for the guard to open the gate, admit their own, and close it, ere the enemy came thundering up--to be received with a volley and gallop off. At first there was great excitement within the walls when a party was out. Eager and anxious eyes followed them from every point of vision. But at length they got used to it, as to all the ordinary occurrences of siege.
By and by colonel Morgan appeared with additional forces, and made his head-quarters to the south, at Llandenny. In two days more the castle was surrounded, and they began to erect a larger battery on the east of it, also to dig trenches and prepare for mining. The chief point of attack was that side of the stone court which lay between the towers of the kitchen and the library. Here then came the hottest of the siege, and very soon that range of building gave show of affording an easy passage by the time the outer works should be taken.
After the first ball, whose execution Dorothy had witnessed, there came no more for some time. Sir Trevor waited until the second battery should be begun and captain Hooper arrive, who was to be at the head of the mining operations. Hence most of the inmates of the castle began to imagine that a siege was not such an unpleasant thing after all. They lacked nothing; the apple trees bloomed; the moon shone; the white horse fed the fountain; the pigeons flew about the courts, and the peacock strutted on the grass. But when they began digging their approaches and mounting their guns on the east side, sir Trevor opened his battery on the west, and the guns of the tower replied. The guns also from the kitchen tower, and another between it and the library tower, played upon the trenches, and the noise was tremendous. At first the inhabitants were nearly deafened, and frequently failed to hear what was said; but at length they grew hardened--so much so that they were often unaware of the firing altogether, and began again to think a siege no great matter. But when the guns of the eastern battery opened fire, and at the first discharge a round shot, bringing with it a barrowful of stones, came down the kitchen chimney, knocking the lid through the bottom of the cook's stewpan, and scattering all the fire about the place; when the roof of one of the turrets went clashing over the stones of the paved court; when a spent shot struck the bars of the Great Mogul's cage, and sent him furious, making them think what might happen, and wishing they were sure of the politics of the wild beasts; when the stones and slates flew about like sudden showers of hail; when every now and then a great rumble told of a falling wall, and that side of the court was rapidly turning to a heap of ruins; then were cries and screams, many more however of terror than of injury, to be heard in the castle, and they began to understand that it was not starvation, but something more peremptory still, to which they were doomed to succumb. At times there would fall a lull, perhaps for a few hours, perhaps but for a few moments, to end in a sudden fury of firing on both sides, mingled with shouts, the rattling of bullets, and the falling of stones, when the women would rush to and fro screaming, and all would imagine the storm was in the breach.
But the gloom of the marquis seemed to have vanished with the breaking of the storm, as the outburst of the lightning takes the weight off head and heart that has for days been gathering. True, when his house began to fall, he would look for a moment grave at each successive rumble, but the next he would smile and nod his head, as if all was just as he had expected and would have it. One day when sir Toby Mathews and Dr. Bayly happened both to be with him in his study, an ancient stack of chimneys tumbled with tremendous uproar into the stone court. The two clergymen started visibly, and then looked at each other with pallid faces. But the marquis smiled, kept the silence for an instant, and then, in slow solemn voice, said:
'Scimus enim quoniam si terrestris domus nomus nostra hujus habitationis dissolvatur, quod aedificationem ex Deo habemus, domum non manufactam, aeternam in coelis.'
The clergymen grasped each other by the hand, then turning bowed together to the marquis, but the conversation was not resumed.
One evening in the drawing-room, after supper, the marquis, in good spirits, and for him in good health, was talking more merrily than usual. Lady Glamorgan stood near him in the window. The captain of the garrison was giving a spirited description of a sally they had made the night before upon colonel Morgan in his quarters at Llandenny, and sir Rowland was vowing that come of it what might, leave or no leave, he would ride the next time, when crash went something in the room, the marquis put his hand to his head, and the countess fled in terror, crying, 'O Lord! O Lord!' A bullet had come through the window, knocked a little marble pillar belonging to it in fragments on the floor, and glancing from it, struck the marquis on the side of the head. The countess, finding herself unhurt, ran no farther than the door.
'I ask your pardon, my lord, for my rudeness,' she said, with trembling voice, as she came slowly back. 'But indeed, ladies,' she added, 'I thought the house was coming down.--You gentlemen, who know not what fear is, I pray you to forgive me, for I was mortally frightened.'
'Daughter, you had reason to run away, when your father was knocked on the head,' said the marquis.
He put his finger on the flattened bullet where it had fallen on the table, and turning it round and round, was silent for a moment evidently framing aright something he wanted to say. Then with the pretence that the bullet had been flattened upon his head,
'Gentlemen,' he remarked, 'those who had a mind to flatter me were wont to tell me that I had a good head in my younger days, but if I don't flatter myself, I think I have a good head-piece in my old age, or else it would not have been musket-proof.'
But although he took the thing thus quietly and indeed merrily, it revealed to him that their usual apartments were no longer fit for the ladies, and he gave orders therefore that the great rooms in the tower should be prepared for them and the children.
Dorothy's capacity for work was not easily satisfied, but now for a time she had plenty to do. In the midst of the roar from the batteries, and the answering roar from towers and walls, the ladies betook themselves to their stronger quarters: a thousand necessaries had to be carried with them, and she, as a matter of course, it seemed, had to superintend the removal. With many hands to make light work she soon finished, however, and the family was lodged where no hostile shot could reach them, although the frequent fall of portions of its battlemented summit rendered even a peep beyond its impenetrable shell hazardous. Dorothy would lie awake at night, where she slept in her mistress's room, and listen--now to the baffled bullet as it fell from the scarce indented wall, now to the roar of the artillery, sounding dull and far away through the ten- foot thickness; and ever and again the words of the ancient psalm would return upon her memory: 'Thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.'
She tended the fire-engine if possible yet more carefully than ever, kept the cistern full, and the water lipping the edge of the moat, but let no fountain flow except that from the mouth of the white horse. Her great fear was lest a shot should fall into the reservoir and injure its bottom, but its contriver had taken care that, even without the protection of its watery armour, it should be indestructible.
The marquis would not leave his own rooms and the supervision they gave him. The domestics were mostly lodged within the kitchen tower, which, although in full exposure to the enemy's fire, had as yet proved able to resist it. But all between that and the library tower was rapidly becoming a chaos of stones and timber. Lord Glamorgan's secret chamber was shot through and through; but Caspar, as soon as the direction and force of the battery were known, had carried off his books and instruments.
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