START OF VOLUME II|
As soon as supper was over in the housekeeper's room, Dorothy sped
to the keep, where she found Caspar at work.
'My lord is not yet from supper, mistress,' he said. 'Will it please
you wait while he comes?'
Had it been till midnight, so long as there was a chance of his
appearing, Dorothy would have waited. Caspar did his best to amuse
her, and succeeded,--showing her one curious thing after
another,--amongst the rest a watch that seemed to want no winding
after being once set agoing, but was in fact wound up a little by
every opening of the case to see the dial. All the while the
fire-engine was at work on its mysterious task, with but now and
then a moment's attention from Caspar, a billet of wood or a
shovelful of sea-coal on the fire, a pull at a cord, or a hint from
the hooked rod. The time went rapidly.
Twilight was over, Caspar had lighted his lamp, and the moon had
risen, before lord Herbert came.
'I am glad to find you have patience as well as punctuality in the
catalogue of your virtues, mistress Dorothy,' he said as he entered.
'I too am punctual, and am therefore sorry to have failed now, but
it is not my fault: I had to attend my father. For his sake pardon
'It were but a small matter, my lord, even had it been uncompelled,
to keep an idle girl waiting.'
'I think not so,' returned lord Herbert. 'But come now, I will
explain to you my wonderful fire-engine.'
As he spoke, he took her by the hand, and led her towards it. The
creature blazed, groaned, and puffed, but there was no motion to be
seen about it save that of the flames through the cracks in the door
of the furnace, neither was there any clanking noise of metal. A
great rushing sound somewhere in the distance, that seemed to belong
to it, yet appeared too far off to have any connection with it.
'It is a noisy thing,' he said, as they stood before it, 'but when I
make another, it shall do its work that thou wouldst not hear it
outside the door. Now listen to me for a moment, cousin. Should it
come to a siege and I not at Raglan--the wise man will always
provide for the worst--Caspar will be wanted everywhere. Now this
engine is essential to the health and comfort, if not to the
absolute life of the castle, and there is no one at present capable
of managing it save us two. A very little instruction, however,
would enable any one to do so: will you undertake it, cousin, in
case of need?'
'Make me assured that I can, and I will, my lord,' answered Dorothy.
'A good and sufficing answer,' returned his lordship, with a smile
of satisfaction. 'First then,' he went on, 'I will show you wherein
lies its necessity to the good of the castle. Come with me, cousin
He led the way from the room, and began to ascend the stair which
rose just outside it. Dorothy followed, winding up through the
thickness of the wall. And now she could not hear the engine. As she
went up, however, certain sounds of it came again, and grew louder
till they seemed close to her ears, then gradually died away and
once more ceased. But ever, as they ascended, the rushing sound
which had seemed connected with it, although so distant, drew nearer
and nearer, until, having surmounted three of the five lofty stories
of the building, they could scarcely hear each other speak for the
roar of water, falling in intermittent jets. At last they came out
on the top of the wall, with nothing between them and the moat below
but the battlemented parapet, and behold! the mighty tower was
roofed with water: a little tarn filled all the space within the
surrounding walk. It undulated in the moonlight like a subsiding
storm, and beat the encircling banks. For into its depths shot
rather than poured a great volume of water from a huge orifice in
the wall, and the roar and the rush were tremendous. It was like the
birth of a river, bounding at once from its mountain rock, and the
sound of its fall indicated the great depth of the water into which
it plunged. Solid indeed must be the walls that sustained the
outpush of such a weight of water!
'You see now, cousin, what yon fire-souled slave below is labouring
at,' said his lordship. 'His task is to fill this cistern, and that
he can in a few hours; and yet, such a slave is he, a child who
understands his fetters and the joints of his bones can guide him at
'But, my lord,' questioned Dorothy, 'is there not water here to
supply the castle for months? And there is the draw-well in the
pitched court besides.'
'Enough, I grant you,' he replied, 'for the mere necessities of
life. But what would come of its pleasures? Would not the
beleaguered ladies miss the bounty of the marble horse? Whence comes
the water he gives so freely that he needeth not to drink himself?
He would thirst indeed but for my water-commanding fiend below. Or
how would the birds fare, were the fountains on the islands dry in
the hot summer? And what would the children say if he ceased to
spout? And how would my lord's tables fare, with the armed men
besetting every gate, the fish-ponds dry, and the fish rotting in
the sun? See you, mistress Dorothy? And for the draw-well, know you
not wherein lies the good of a tower stronger than all the rest? Is
it not built for final retreat, the rest of the castle being at
length in the hands of the enemy? Where then is your draw-well?'
'But this tower, large as it is, could not receive those now within
the walls of the castle,' said Dorothy.
'They will be fewer ere its shelter is needful.'
It was his tone quite as much as the words that drove a sudden
sickness to the heart of the girl: for one moment she knew what
siege and battle meant. But she recovered herself with a strong
effort, and escaped from the thought by another question.
'And whence comes all this water, my lord?' she said, for she was
one who would ask until she knew all that concerned her.
'Have you not chanced to observe a well in my workshop below, on the
left-hand side of the door, not far from the great chest?'
'I have observed it, my lord.'
'That is a very deep well, with a powerful spring. Large pipes lead
from all but the very bottom of that to my fire-engine. The fuller
the well, the more rapid the flow into the cistern, for the
shallower the water, the more labour falls to my giant. He is
finding it harder work now. But you see the cistern is nearly full.'
'Forgive me, my lord, if I am troubling you,' said Dorothy, about to
ask another question.
'I delight in the questions of the docile,' said his lordship. 'They
are the little children of wisdom. There! that might be out of the
book of Ecclesiasticus,' he added, with a merry laugh. 'I might pass
that off on Dr. Bayly for my father's: he hath already begun to
gather my father's sayings into a book, as I have discovered. But,
prithee, cousin, let not my father know of it.'
'Fear not me, my lord,' returned Dorothy. 'Having no secrets of my
own to house, it were evil indeed to turn my friends' out of doors.'
'Why, that also would do for Dr. Bayly! Well said, Dorothy! Now for
thy next question.'
'It is this, my lord: having such a well in your foundations, whence
the need of such a cistern on your roof? I mean now as regards the
provision of the keep itself in case of ultimate resort.'
'In coming to deal with a place of such strength as this,' replied
his lordship, '--I mean the keep whereon we now stand, not the
castle, which, alas! hath many weak points--the enemy would
assuredly change the siege into a blockade; that is, he would try to
starve instead of fire us out; and, procuring information
sufficiently to the point, would be like enough to dig deep and cut
the water-veins which supply that well; and thereafter all would
depend on the cistern. From the moment therefore when the first
signs of siege appear, it will be wisdom and duty on the part of the
person in charge to keep it constantly full--full as a cup to the
health of the king. I trust however that such will be the good
success of his majesty's arms that the worst will only have to be
provided against, not encountered.--But there is more in it yet.
Come hither, cousin. Look down through this battlement upon the
moat. You see the moon in it? No? That is because it is covered so
thick with weeds. When you go down, mark how low it is. There is
little defence in the moat that a boy might wade through. I have
allowed it to get shallow in order to try upon its sides a new
cement I have lately discovered; but weeks and weeks have passed,
and I have never found the leisure, and now I am sure I never shall
until this rebellion is crushed. It is time I filled it. Pray look
down upon it, cousin. In summer it will be full of the loveliest
white water-lilies, though now you can see nothing but green weeds.'
He had left her side and gone a few paces away, but kept on
'One strange thing I can tell you about them, cousin--the roots of
that whitest of flowers make a fine black dye! What apophthegm
founded upon that, thinkest thou, my father would drop for Dr
'You perplex me much, my lord,' said Dorothy. 'I cannot at all
perceive your lordship's drift.'
'Lay a hand on each side of the battlement where you now stand; lean
through it and look down. Hold fast and fear nothing.' Dorothy did
as she was desired, and thus supported gazed upon the moat below,
where it lay a mere ditch at the foot of the lofty wall.
'My lord, I see nothing,' she said, turning to him, as she thought;
but he had vanished.
Again she looked at the moat, and then her eyes wandered away over
the castle. The two courts and their many roofs, even those of all
the towers, except only the lofty watch-tower on the western side,
lay bare beneath her, in bright moonlight, flecked and blotted with
shadows, all wondrous in shape and black as Erebus.
Suddenly, she knew not whence, arose a frightful roaring, a hollow
bellowing, a pent-up rumbling. Seized by a vague terror, she clung
to the parapet and trembled. But even the great wall beneath her,
solid as the earth itself, seemed to tremble under her feet, as with
some inward commotion or dismay. The next moment the water in the
moat appeared to rush swiftly upwards, in wild uproar, fiercely
confused, and covered with foam and spray. To her bewildered eyes,
it seemed to heap itself up, wave upon furious wave, to reach the
spot where she stood, greedy to engulf her. For an instant she
fancied the storming billows pouring over the edge of the
battlement, and started back in such momentary agony as we suffer in
dreams. Then, by a sudden rectification of her vision, she perceived
that what she saw was in reality a multitude of fountain jets
rushing high towards their parent-cistern, but far-failing ere they
reached it. The roar of their onset was mingled with the despairing
tumult of their defeat, and both with the deep tumble and wallowing
splash of the water from the fire-engine, which grew louder and
louder as the surface of the water in the reservoir sank. The uproar
ceased as suddenly as it had commenced, but the moat mirrored a
thousand moons in the agitated waters which had overwhelmed its
mantle of weeds.
'You see now,' said lord Herbert, rejoining her while still she
gazed, 'how necessary the cistern is to the keep? Without it, the
few poor springs in the moat would but sustain it as you saw it.
From here I can fill it to the brim.'
'I see,' answered Dorothy. 'But would not a simple overflow serve,
carried from the well through the wall?'
'It would, were there no other advantages with which this mode
harmonised. I must mention one thing more--which I was almost
forgetting, and which I cannot well show you to-night--namely, that
I can use this water not only as a means of defence in the moat, but
as an engine of offence also against any one setting unlawful or
hostile foot upon the stone bridge over it. I can, when I please,
turn that bridge, the same by which you cross to come here, into a
rushing aqueduct, and with a torrent of water sweep from it a whole
company of invaders.'
'But would they not have only to wait until the cistern was empty?'
'As soon and so long as the bridge is clear, the outflow ceases. One
sweep, and my water-broom would stop, and the rubbish lie sprawling
under the arch, or half-way over the court. And more still,' he
added with emphasis: 'I COULD make it boiling!'
'But your lordship would not?' faltered Dorothy.
'That might depend,' he answered with a smile. Then changing his
tone in absolute and impressive seriousness, 'But this is all
nothing but child's play,' he said, 'compared with what is involved
in the matter of this reservoir. The real origin of it was its
needfulness to the perfecting of my fire-engine.'
'Pardon me, my lord, but it seems to me that without the cistern
there would be no need for the engine. How should you want or how
could you use the unhandsome thing? Then how should the cistern be
necessary to the engine?'
'Handsome is that handsome does,' returned his lordship. 'Truly,
cousin Dorothy, you speak well, but you must learn to hear better. I
did not say that the cistern existed for the sake of the engine, but
for the sake of the perfecting of the engine. Cousin Dorothy, I will
give you the largest possible proof of my confidence in you, by not
only explaining to you the working of my fire-engine, but
acquainting you--only you must not betray me!'
'I, in my turn,' said Dorothy, 'will give your lordship, if not the
strongest, yet a very strong proof of my confidence: I promise to
keep your secret before knowing what it is.'
'Thanks, cousin. Listen then: That engine is a mingling of discovery
and invention such as hath never had its equal since first the
mechanical powers were brought to the light. For this shall be as a
soul to animate those, all and each--lever, screw, pulley, wheel,
and axle--what you will. No engine of mightiest force ever for
defence or assault invented, let it be by Archimedes himself, but
could by my fire-engine be rendered tenfold more mighty for safety
or for destruction, although as yet I have applied it only to the
blissful operation of lifting water, thus removing the curse of it
where it is a curse, and carrying it where the parched soil cries
for its help to unfold the treasures of its thirsty bosom. My
fire-engine shall yet uplift the nation of England above the heads
of all richest and most powerful nations on the face of the whole
earth. For when the troubles of this rebellion are over, which press
so heavily on his majesty and all loyal subjects, compelling even a
peaceful man like myself to forsake invention for war, and the
workman's frock which I love, for the armour which I love not, when
peace shall smile again on the country, and I shall have time to
perfect the work of my hands, I shall present it to my royal master,
a magical supremacy of power, which shall for ever raise him and his
royal progeny above all use or need of subsidies, ship-money,
benevolences, or taxes of whatever sort or name, to rule his kingdom
as independent of his subjects in reality as he is in right; for
this water-commanding engine, which God hath given me to make, shall
be the source of such wealth as no accountant can calculate. For
herewith may marsh-land be thoroughly drained, or dry land perfectly
watered; great cities kept sweet and wholesome; mines rid of the
water gathering from springs therein, so as he may enrich himself
withal; houses be served plentifully on every stage; and gardens in
the dryest summer beautified and comforted with fountains. Which
engine when I found that it was in the power of my hands to do, as
well as of my heart to conceive that it might be done, I did kneel
down and give humble thanks from the bottom of my heart to the
omnipotent God whose mercies are fathomless, for his vouchsafing me
an insight into so great a secret of nature and so beneficial to all
mankind as this my engine.'
With all her devotion to the king, and all her hatred and contempt
of the parliament and the puritans, Dorothy could not help a doubt
whether such independence might be altogether good either for the
king himself or the people thus subjected to his will. But the
farther doubt did not occur to her whether a pre-eminence gained
chiefly by wealth was one to be on any grounds desired for the
nation, or, setting that aside, was one which carried a single
element favourable to perpetuity.
All this time they had been standing on the top of the keep, with
the moonlight around them, and in their ears the noise of the water
flowing from the dungeon well into the sky-roofed cistern. But now
it came in diminished flow.
'It is the earth that fails in giving, not my engine in taking,'
said lord Herbert as he turned to lead the way down the winding
stair. Ever as they went, the noise of the water grew fainter and
the noise of the engine grew louder, but just as they stepped from
the stair, it gave a failing stroke or two, and ceased. A dense
white cloud met them as they entered the vault.
'Stopped for the night, Caspar?' said his lordship.
'Yes, my lord; the well is nearly out.'
'Let it sleep,' returned his master; 'like a man's heart it will
fill in the night. Thank God for the night and darkness and sleep,
in which good things draw nigh like God's thieves, and steal
themselves in--water into wells, and peace and hope and courage into
the minds of men. Is it not so, my cousin?'
Dorothy did not answer in words, but she looked up in his face with
a reverence in her eyes that showed she understood him. And this was
one of the idolatrous catholics! It was neither the first nor the
last of many lessons she had to receive, in order to learn that a
man may be right although the creed for which he is and ought to be
ready to die, may contain much that is wrong. Alas! that so few,
even of such men, ever reflect, that it is the element common to all
the creeds which gives its central value to each.
'I cannot show you the working of the engine to-night,' said lord
Herbert. 'Caspar has decreed otherwise.'
'I can soon set her agoing again, my lord,' said Caspar.
'No, no. We must to the powder-mill, Caspar. Mistress Dorothy will
come again to-morrow, and you must yourself explain to her the
working and management of it, for I shall be away. And do not fear
to trust my cousin, Caspar, although she be a soft-handed lady. Let
her have the brute's halter in her own hold.'
Filled with gratitude for the trust he reposed in her, Dorothy took
her leave, and the two workmen immediately abandoned their shop for
the night, leaving the door wide open behind them to let out the
vapours of the fire-engine, in the confidence that no unlicensed
foot would dare to cross the threshold, and betook themselves to the
powder-mill, where they continued at work the greater part of the
His lordship was unfavourable to the storing of powder because of
the danger, seeing they could, on his calculation, from the
materials lying ready for mixing, in one week prepare enough to keep
all the ordnance on the castle walls busy for two. But indeed he had
not such a high opinion of gunpowder but that he believed engines
for projection, more powerful as well as less expensive, could be
constructed, after the fashion of ballista or catapult, by the use
of a mode he had discovered of immeasurably increasing the strength
of springs, so that stones of a hundredweight might be thrown into a
city from a quarter of a mile's distance without any noise audible
to those within. It was this device he was brooding over when
Dorothy came upon him by the arblast. Nor did the conviction arise
from any prejudice against fire-arms, for he had, among many other
wonderful things of the sort, in cannons, sakers, harquebusses,
muskets, musquetoons, and all kinds, invented a pistol to discharge
a dozen times with one loading, and without so much as new priming
being once requisite, or the possessor having to change it out of
one hand into the other, or stop his horse.
One who had happened to see lord Herbert as he went about within his
father's walls, busy yet unhasting, earnest yet cheerful, rapid in
all his movements yet perfectly composed, would hardly have imagined
that a day at a time, or perhaps two, was all he was now able to
spend there, days which were to him as breathing-holes in the ice
to the wintered fishes. For not merely did he give himself to the
enlisting of large numbers of men, but commanded both horse and
foot, meeting all expenses from his own pocket, or with the
assistance of his father. A few months before the period at which my
story has arrived, he had in eight days raised six regiments,
fortified Monmouth and Chepstow, and garrisoned half-a-dozen smaller
but yet important places. About a hundred noblemen and gentlemen
whom he had enrolled as a troop of life-guards, he furnished with
the horses and arms which they were unable to provide with
sufficient haste for themselves. So prominenf indeed were his
services on behalf of the king, that his father was uneasy because
of the jealousy and hate it would certainly rouse in the minds of
some of his majesty's well-wishers--a just presentiment, as his son
had too good reason to acknowledge after he had spent a million of
money, besides the labour and thought and dangerous endeavour of
years, in the king's service.