An hour thereafter, Dick was back
at the Goat and Bagpipes, breaking his fast, and receiving
the report of his messengers and sentries. Duckworth
was still absent from Shoreby; and this was frequently
the case, for he played many parts in the world, shared
many different interests, and conducted many various
affairs. He had founded that fellowship of the
Black Arrow, as a ruined man longing for vengeance
and money; and yet among those who knew him best,
he was thought to be the agent and emissary of the
great King-maker of England, Richard, Earl of Warwick.
In his absence, at any rate, it fell
upon Richard Shelton to command affairs in Shoreby;
and, as he sat at meat, his mind was full of care,
and his face heavy with consideration. It had
been determined, between him and the Lord Foxham,
to make one bold stroke that evening, and, by brute
force, to set Joanna free. The obstacles, however,
were many; and as one after another of his scouts
arrived, each brought him more discomfortable news.
Sir Daniel was alarmed by the skirmish
of the night before. He had increased the garrison
of the house in the garden; but not content with that,
he had stationed horsemen in all the neighbouring lanes,
so that he might have instant word of any movement.
Meanwhile, in the court of his mansion, steeds stood
saddled, and the riders, armed at every point, awaited
but the signal to ride.
The adventure of the night appeared
more and more difficult of execution, till suddenly
Dick’s countenance lightened.
“Lawless!” he cried, “you
that were a shipman, can ye steal me a ship?”
“Master Dick,” replied
Lawless, “if ye would back me, I would agree
to steal York Minster.”
Presently after, these two set forth
and descended to the harbour. It was a considerable
basin, lying among sand hills, and surrounded with
patches of down, ancient ruinous lumber, and tumble-down
slums of the town. Many decked ships and many
open boats either lay there at anchor, or had been
drawn up on the beach. A long duration of bad
weather had driven them from the high seas into the
shelter of the port; and the great trooping of black
clouds, and the cold squalls that followed one another,
now with a sprinkling of dry snow, now in a mere swoop
of wind, promised no improvement but rather threatened
a more serious storm in the immediate future.
The seamen, in view of the cold and
the wind, had for the most part slunk ashore, and
were now roaring and singing in the shoreside taverns.
Many of the ships already rode unguarded at their
anchors; and as the day wore on, and the weather offered
no appearance of improvement, the number was continually
being augmented. It was to these deserted ships,
and, above all, to those of them that lay far out,
that Lawless directed his attention; while Dick, seated
upon an anchor that was half embedded in the sand,
and giving ear, now to the rude, potent, and boding
voices of the gale, and now to the hoarse singing
of the shipmen in a neighbouring tavern, soon forgot
his immediate surroundings and concerns in the agreeable
recollection of Lord Foxham’s promise.
He was disturbed by a touch upon his
shoulder. It was Lawless, pointing to a small
ship that lay somewhat by itself, and within but a
little of the harbour mouth, where it heaved regularly
and smoothly on the entering swell. A pale gleam
of winter sunshine fell, at that moment, on the vessel’s
deck, relieving her against a bank of scowling cloud;
and in this momentary glitter Dick could see a couple
of men hauling the skiff alongside.
“There, sir,” said Lawless,
“mark ye it well! There is the ship for
Presently the skiff put out from the
vessel’s side, and the two men, keeping her
head well to the wind, pulled lustily for shore.
Lawless turned to a loiterer.
“How call ye her?” he
asked, pointing to the little vessel.
“They call her the Good Hope,
of Dartmouth,” replied the loiterer. “Her
captain, Arblaster by name. He pulleth the bow
oar in yon skiff.”
This was all that Lawless wanted.
Hurriedly thanking the man, he moved round the shore
to a certain sandy creek, for which the skiff was
heading. There he took up his position, and as
soon as they were within earshot, opened fire on the
sailors of the Good Hope.
“What! Gossip Arblaster!”
he cried. “Why, ye be well met; nay, gossip,
ye be right well met, upon the rood! And is that
the Good Hope? Ay, I would know her among ten
thousand! a sweet shear, a sweet boat!
But marry come up, my gossip, will ye drink?
I have come into mine estate which doubtless ye remember
to have heard on. I am now rich; I have left
to sail upon the sea; I do sail now, for the most part,
upon spiced ale. Come, fellow; thy hand upon
’t! Come, drink with an old shipfellow!”
Skipper Arblaster, a long-faced, elderly,
weather-beaten man, with a knife hanging about his
neck by a plaited cord, and for all the world like
any modern seaman in his gait and bearing, had hung
back in obvious amazement and distrust. But
the name of an estate, and a certain air of tipsified
simplicity and good-fellowship which Lawless very well
affected, combined to conquer his suspicious jealousy;
his countenance relaxed, and he at once extended his
open hand and squeezed that of the outlaw in a formidable
“Nay,” he said, “I
cannot mind you. But what o’ that?
I would drink with any man, gossip, and so would
my man Tom. Man Tom,” he added, addressing
his follower, “here is my gossip, whose name
I cannot mind, but no doubt a very good seaman.
Let’s go drink with him and his shore friend.”
Lawless led the way, and they were
soon seated in an alehouse, which, as it was very
new, and stood in an exposed and solitary station,
was less crowded than those nearer to the centre of
the port. It was but a shed of timber, much
like a blockhouse in the backwoods of to-day, and was
coarsely furnished with a press or two, a number of
naked benches, and boards set upon barrels to play
the part of tables. In the middle, and besieged
by half a hundred violent draughts, a fire of wreck-wood
blazed and vomited thick smoke.
“Ay, now,” said Lawless,
“here is a shipman’s joy a good
fire and a good stiff cup ashore, with foul weather
without and an off-sea gale a-snoring in the roof!
Here’s to the Good Hope! May she ride
“Ay,” said Skipper Arblaster,
“’tis good weather to be ashore in, that
is sooth. Man Tom, how say ye to that?
Gossip, ye speak well, though I can never think upon
your name; but ye speak very well. May the Good
Hope ride easy! Amen!”
“Friend Dickon,” resumed
Lawless, addressing his commander, “ye have
certain matters on hand, unless I err? Well,
prithee be about them incontinently. For here
I be with the choice of all good company, two tough
old shipmen; and till that ye return I will go warrant
these brave fellows will bide here and drink me cup
for cup. We are not like shore-men, we old,
“It is well meant,” returned
the skipper. “Ye can go, boy; for I will
keep your good friend and my good gossip company till
curfew ay, and by St. Mary, till the sun
get up again! For, look ye, when a man hath been
long enough at sea, the salt getteth me into the clay
upon his bones; and let him drink a draw-well, he
will never be quenched.”
Thus encouraged upon all hands, Dick
rose, saluted his company, and going forth again into
the gusty afternoon, got him as speedily as he might
to the Goat and Bagpipes. Thence he sent word
to my Lord Foxham that, so soon as ever the evening
closed, they would have a stout boat to keep the sea
in. And then leading along with him a couple
of outlaws who had some experience of the sea, he
returned himself to the harbour and the little sandy
The skiff of the Good Hope lay among
many others, from which it was easily distinguished
by its extreme smallness and fragility. Indeed,
when Dick and his two men had taken their places, and
begun to put forth out of the creek into the open
harbour, the little cockle dipped into the swell and
staggered under every gust of wind, like a thing upon
the point of sinking.
The Good Hope, as we have said, was
anchored far out, where the swell was heaviest.
No other vessel lay nearer than several cables’
length; those that were the nearest were themselves
entirely deserted; and as the skiff approached, a
thick flurry of snow and a sudden darkening of the
weather further concealed the movements of the outlaws
from all possible espial. In a trice they had
leaped upon the heaving deck, and the skiff was dancing
at the stern. The Good Hope was captured.
She was a good stout boat, decked
in the bows and amidships, but open in the stern.
She carried one mast, and was rigged between a felucca
and a lugger. It would seem that Skipper Arblaster
had made an excellent venture, for the hold was full
of pieces of French wine; and in the little cabin,
besides the Virgin Mary in the bulkhead which proved
the captain’s piety, there were many lockfast
chests and cupboards, which showed him to be rich
A dog, who was the sole occupant of
the vessel, furiously barked and bit the heels of
the boarders; but he was soon kicked into the cabin,
and the door shut upon his just resentment.
A lamp was lit and fixed in the shrouds to mark the
vessel clearly from the shore; one of the wine pieces
in the hold was broached, and a cup of excellent Gascony
emptied to the adventure of the evening; and then,
while one of the outlaws began to get ready his bow
and arrows and prepare to hold the ship against all
comers, the other hauled in the skiff and got overboard,
where he held on, waiting for Dick.
“Well, Jack, keep me a good
watch,” said the young commander, preparing
to follow his subordinate. “Ye will do
“Why,” returned Jack,
“I shall do excellent well indeed, so long as
we lie here; but once we put the nose of this poor
ship outside the harbour See, there she
trembles! Nay, the poor shrew heard the words,
and the heart misgave her in her oak-tree ribs.
But look, Master Dick! how black the weather gathers!”
The darkness ahead was, indeed, astonishing.
Great billows heaved up out of the blackness, one
after another; and one after another the Good Hope
buoyantly climbed, and giddily plunged upon the further
side. A thin sprinkle of snow and thin flakes
of foam came flying, and powdered the deck; and the
wind harped dismally among the rigging.
“In sooth, it looketh evilly,”
said Dick. “But what cheer! ’Tis
but a squall, and presently it will blow over.”
But, in spite of his words, he was depressingly affected
by the bleak disorder of the sky and the wailing and
fluting of the wind; and as he got over the side of
the Good Hope and made once more for the landing-creek
with the best speed of oars, he crossed himself devoutly,
and recommended to Heaven the lives of all who should
adventure on the sea.
At the landing-creek there had already
gathered about a dozen of the outlaws. To these
the skiff was left, and they were bidden embark without
A little further up the beach Dick
found Lord Foxham hurrying in quest of him, his face
concealed with a dark hood, and his bright armour covered
by a long russet mantle of a poor appearance.
“Young Shelton,” he said, “are ye
for sea, then, truly?”
“My lord,” replied Richard,
“they lie about the house with horsemen; it
may not be reached from the land side without alarum;
and Sir Daniel once advertised of our adventure, we
can no more carry it to a good end than, saving your
presence, we could ride upon the wind. Now, in
going round by sea, we do run some peril by the elements;
but, what much outweighteth all, we have a chance
to make good our purpose and bear off the maid.”
“Well,” returned Lord
Foxham, “lead on. I will, in some sort,
follow you for shame’s sake; but I own I would
I were in bed.”
“Here, then,” said Dick.
“Hither we go to fetch our pilot.”
And he led the way to the rude alehouse
where he had given rendezvous to a portion of his
men. Some of these he found lingering round the
door outside; others had pushed more boldly in, and,
choosing places as near as possible to where they
saw their comrade, gathered close about Lawless and
the two shipmen. These, to judge by the distempered
countenance and cloudy eye, had long since gone beyond
the boundaries of moderation; and as Richard entered,
closely followed by Lord Foxham, they were all three
tuning up an old, pitiful sea-ditty, to the chorus
of the wailing of the gale.
The young leader cast a rapid glance
about the shed. The fire had just been replenished,
and gave forth volumes of black smoke, so that it was
difficult to see clearly in the further corners.
It was plain, however, that the outlaws very largely
outnumbered the remainder of the guests. Satisfied
upon this point, in case of any failure in the operation
of his plan, Dick strode up to the table and resumed
his place upon the bench.
“Hey?” cried the skipper, tipsily, “who
are ye, hey?”
“I want a word with you without,
Master Arblaster,” returned Dick; “and
here is what we shall talk of.” And he
showed him a gold noble in the glimmer of the firelight.
The shipman’s eyes burned, although
he still failed to recognise our hero.
“Ay, boy,” he said, “I
am with you. Gossip, I will be back anon.
Drink fair, gossip;” and, taking Dick’s
arm to steady his uneven steps, he walked to the door
of the alehouse.
As soon as he was over the threshold,
ten strong arms had seized and bound him; and in two
minutes more, with his limbs trussed one to another,
and a good gag in his mouth, he had been tumbled neck
and crop into a neighbouring hay-barn. Presently,
his man Tom, similarly secured, was tossed beside
him, and the pair were left to their uncouth reflections
for the night.
And now, as the time for concealment
had gone by, Lord Foxham’s followers were summoned
by a preconcerted signal, and the party, boldly taking
possession of as many boats as their numbers required,
pulled in a flotilla for the light in the rigging
of the ship. Long before the last man had climbed
to the deck of the Good Hope, the sound of furious
shouting from the shore showed that a part, at least,
of the seamen had discovered the loss of their skiffs.
But it was now too late, whether for
recovery or revenge. Out of some forty fighting
men now mustered in the stolen ship, eight had been
to sea, and could play the part of mariners.
With the aid of these, a slice of sail was got upon
her. The cable was cut. Lawless, vacillating
on his feet, and still shouting the chorus of sea-ballads,
took the long tiller in his hands: and the Good
Hope began to flit forward into the darkness of the
night, and to face the great waves beyond the harbour
Richard took his place beside the
weather rigging. Except for the ship’s
own lantern, and for some lights in Shoreby town, that
were already fading to leeward, the whole world of
air was as black as in a pit. Only from time
to time, as the Good Hope swooped dizzily down into
the valley of the rollers, a crest would break a
great cataract of snowy foam would leap in one instant
into being and, in an instant more, would
stream into the wake and vanish.
Many of the men lay holding on and
praying aloud; many more were sick, and had crept
into the bottom, where they sprawled among the cargo.
And what with the extreme violence of the motion,
and the continued drunken bravado of Lawless, still
shouting and singing at the helm, the stoutest heart
on board may have nourished a shrewd misgiving as to
But Lawless, as if guided by an instinct,
steered the ship across the breakers, struck the lee
of a great sandbank, where they sailed for awhile
in smooth water, and presently after laid her alongside
a rude, stone pier, where she was hastily made fast,
and lay ducking and grinding in the dark.