« AnteriorContinuar »
fare as it afforded. For a better concealment, he mounted upon an oak, where he sheltered himself among the leaves and branches for twentyfour hours. He saw several soldiers pass by. All of them were intent in search of the king; and some expressed, in his hearing, their earnest wishes of seizing him. This tree was afterwards denominated the Royal oak, and for many years was regarded by the neighbourhood with great
In the course of his adventures, he was frequently exposed to danger no less imminent. He was compelled to ride before a young lady, in the character of a servant; he was even obliged to conceal himself in holes and lurking-places: he was known by a person of the name of Pope, butler to the gentleman at whose house he resided as the lady's servant; but the man had too much honour to discover him: he was once detected by the sagacity of a smith, who observed his horse's shoes had been made in the North, and not in the West, as he pretended; and he very narrowly escaped; at last, after a concealment of more than a month, during which time he had entrusted his life to the fidelity of forty different persons; after assuming various disguises, and passing through many dangers, he embarked in a vessel at Shoreham, in Sussex, and arrived safely at Fescamp, in Normandy.
POREMOST among the men of the English Commonwealth stands Robert Blake. Both as a soldier and sailor he did good service to the country. He was not educated for either profession; but when the king raised his standard at Nottingham, and summoned the nobility and gentry to defend the royal cause, Blake was one of the first to join the Commons.
The most remarkable event of the war in which Blake was engaged was the defence of Lyme. It was a small fishing town, its port affording shelter to vessels of low tonnage; yet as the only harbour for many leagues on a stormy coast, it was a place of considerable importance. With a few troops Blake took possession of the town, in order to defend the shipping from the cavaliers, and there he was summoned to surrender by Prince Maurice. Receiving a defiant answer, Prince Maurice ordered his trumpeters to sound a charge, and horse and foot came on in full array-steel caps, steel coats, lances, pikes, and swords, all blazing with
the sunlight, as gallant a spectacle as you might wish to see. But Blake had thrown up defences, and he and his troopers were in no mood to yield. The charge was repulsed, and the mortification of Prince Maurice at being so defeated was extreme. He resolved to bring up the main body of his army, and to lay regular siege to Lyme. But storm, stratagem, blockade, failed to make any impression on the little garrison. In the shallow trenches beyond the mudworks flowed the blood of the noblest in England; under Blake's fire more men of gentle birth perished at Lyme, than in all the other skirmishes and sieges in the western counties. The garrison was in a sorry plight: few had shoes or shirts, and fewer still a whole suit of clothes. Some of those who defended the breastworks had never before handled a musket; but they fought like— MEN. The young helped, and the women helped, bandaging wounds and loading guns, and discharging the musket when need be, and many a scented Cavalier was shot by a woman. One night a fierce attack was made by the royalists, and some of them actually forced their way through the rude works into the market. They had reason to repent their folly; for as well might they have walked into the shambles: they perished to a man. One morning, some reinforcements arriving at the besieging lines, the royalists jested over their breakfast, and swore they would take the town before they dined. They came on gallantly, but were beaten back with great slaughter. In the town bread and powder were becoming scarcer every day: the succour which had been expected had not arrived. Prince Maurice knew of their miserable plight, and determined to surprise them; but his purpose was known, and Blake resolved on returning plot for plot. When, as expected, the royalist assailants came up, those on guard at the outworks fled before them, and were hotly pursued. To the number of four hundred the pursuers rushed into the town, and there they suddenly found themselves inclosed: a deadly fire pouring on them from door, window, and parapet, their escape effectually cut off, they fell in heaps, and were slaughtered every one.
Towards the end of May, some vessels arrived from the Parliament with stores of food and ammunition for the besieged. The sailors were shocked at the deplorable condition of the brave defenders of that little town, and munificently gave up every article of clothing they could spare,—"thirty pairs of boots, sixty pairs of stockings, a heap of old clothes, a good round number of shirts, and a considerable quantity of bread and fish." While