Read CHAPTER XXIII - The battle of Worcester of Friends‚ though divided, free online book, by G. A. Henty, on

The next morning the Scotch army moved after that of Cromwell, which had fallen back to Dunbar, and took post on the Doon hill facing him there.  Cromwell’s army occupied a peninsula, having on their face a brook running along a deep, narrow little valley.  The Scotch position on the hill was an exceedingly strong one, and had they remained there Cromwell’s army must have been driven to surrender.  Cromwell himself wrote on that night, “The enemy hath blocked up our way at the pass at Copperspath, through which we cannot pass without almost a miracle.  He lieth so upon the hills that we knoweth not how to come that way without much difficulty, and our lying here daily consumeth our men, who fall sick beyond imagination.”

The Scotch had, in fact, the game in their hands, had they but waited on the ground they had taken up.  The English had, however, an ally in their camp.  The Earl of Argyll strongly urged that an attack should be made upon the English, and he was supported by the preachers and fanatics, who exclaimed that the Lord had delivered their enemies into their hands.  General Leslie, however, stood firm.  The preachers scattered in the camp and exhorted the soldiers to go down and smite the enemy.  So great an enthusiasm did they excite by their promises of victory that in the afternoon the soldiers, without orders from their general, moved down the hill toward the enemy.  The more regular body of the troops stood firm, but Leslie, seeing that the preachers had got the mastery, and that his orders were no longer obeyed, ordered these also to move forward, in hopes that the enthusiasm which had been excited would yet suffice to win the victory.

Cromwell saw the fatal mistake which had been committed, and in the night moved round his troops to his left, and these at daybreak fell upon the Scottish right.  The night had been wet, and the Scottish army were unprovided with tents.  Many of their matchlocks had been rendered useless.  At daybreak on the morning of the 3d of September the English, led by General Lambert, fell upon them.  The Scotch for a time stood their ground firmly; but the irregular troops, who had by their folly led the army into this plight, gave way before the English pikemen.  The preachers, who were in vast numbers, set the example of flight.  Many of the regiments of infantry fought most fiercely, but the battle was already lost.  The Scotch cavalry were broken by the charge of the Ironsides, and in less than an hour from the commencement of the fighting the rout was complete.  Three thousand Scotch were killed, and ten thousand taken prisoners.

Harry’s regiment was but slightly engaged.  It had been one of the last to march down the hill on the evening before, and Harry and Jacob foresaw the disaster which would happen.  “If I were the king,” Harry said, “I would order every one of these preachers out of camp, and would hang those who disobeyed.  Then I would march the army on to the hill again.  If they wait there the English must attack us with grievous disadvantage, or such as cannot get on board their ships must surrender.  Charles would really be king then, and could disregard the wrath of the men of the conventicles.  Cromwell will attack us to-morrow, and will defeat us; his trained troops are more than a match for these Scotchmen, who think more of their preachers than of their officers, and whose discipline is of the slackest.”

“I agree with you entirely,” Jacob said.  “But in the present mood of the army, I believe that half of them would march away if the general dismissed the preachers.”

The next day, when the fight began, Harry moved forward his regiment to the support of the Scottish right, but before he came fairly into the fray this had already given away, and Harry, seeing that the day was lost, halted his men, and fell back in good order.  Again and again the Ironsides charged them.  The leveled pikes and heavy musketry fire each time beat them off, and they marched from the field almost the only body which kept its formation.  Five thousand of the country people among the prisoners Cromwell allowed to depart to their homes.  The remainder he sent to Newcastle, where great numbers of them were starved to death by the cruelty of the governor, Sir Arthur Hazelrig.  The remainder were sent as slaves to New England.

Leslie, with the wreck of his army, fell back to Stirling, while Charles, with the Scotch authorities, went to Perth.  Here the young king, exasperated beyond endurance at the tyranny of Argyll and the fanatics, escaped from them, and with two or three friends rode fifty miles north.  He was overtaken and brought back to Perth, but the anger of the army was so hot at his treatment that the fanatics were henceforth obliged to put a curb upon themselves, and a strong king’s party, as opposed to that of the Covenant, henceforth guided his counsels.

The winter passed quietly.  The English troops were unable to stand the inclemency of the climate, and contented themselves with capturing Edinburgh Castle, and other strongholds south of the Forth.  Cromwell was compelled by ill health to return for some months to England.  Leslie’s army was strongly intrenched round Stirling.  In June Cromwell again took the field, and moved against Perth, which he captured on the 31st of July.  Charles, who had joined his army at Stirling, broke up his camp and marched toward England, the road being open to him owing to Cromwell and his army being further north at Perth.

During the time which had elapsed since the battle of Dunbar no events had happened in Harry’s life.  Remaining quietly in camp, where the troops, who had been disgusted by the conduct of the fanatics at Dunbar, were now ill disposed toward Argyll and his party, he had little fear of the machinations of the earl, who was with the king at Perth.

Argyll refused to join in the southern march, and the army with which Leslie entered England numbered only eleven thousand men.  As soon as he crossed the border, Charles was proclaimed king, and proclamations were issued calling on all loyal subjects to join him.

The people were, however, weary of civil war.  The Royalists had already suffered so heavily that they held back now, and the hatred excited, alike by the devastations of the Scotch army on its former visit to England, and by the treachery with which they had then sold the king, deterred men from joining them.  A few hundred, indeed, came to his standard; but upon the other hand, Lambert and Harrison, with a strong force, were marching against him, and Cromwell, having left six thousand men in Scotland, under Monk, was pressing hotly behind with the victors of Dunbar.  On the 22d of August Charles reached Worcester.  On the 28th Cromwell was close to the town with thirty thousand men.

“This is the end of it all, Jacob,” Harry said that night.  “They outnumber us by three to one, and even if equal, they would assuredly beat us, for the Scotch are dispirited at finding themselves so far from home, in a hostile country.  Things look desperate.  If all is lost to-morrow, do you and William Long and Mike keep close to me.  Get a horse for Mike to-night.  You and Long are already mounted.  If all is lost we must try and make our way to the seacoast, and take boat for France or Holland.  But first of all we must see to the safety of the king.  It is clear that at present England is not ready to return to the former state of things.  We must hope that some day she will weary of the Roundhead rule, and if the king can reach the Continent he must remain there till England calls him.  At present she only wants peace.  It is just nine years now since King Charles’ father set up his standard at Nottingham.  Nine years of wars and troubles!  No wonder men are aweary of it.  It is all very well for us, Jacob, who have no wives, neither families nor occupations, and are without property to lose, but I wonder not that men who have these things are chary of risking them in a cause which seems destined to failure.”

Upon the 3d of September, 1651, the anniversary of the battle of Dunbar, Cromwell advanced to the attack.  Harry’s regiment was placed among some hedges around the city, and upon them the brunt of the fight first fell.  In spite of the immense numbers brought against them they defended themselves with desperate bravery.  Some of the Scottish troops came up, and for a time Cromwell’s footmen could make but little way.  At other parts, however, the resistance was more feeble, and the Scotch fell rapidly into confusion.  Contesting every foot of the way, Harry’s regiment was driven back into the town, where a terrible confusion reigned.  Still keeping his men together, he marched to the marketplace.  Here he found the king with a considerable body of horse.  The greater part, however, of the horse had fled through the town without drawing rein, while the foot were throwing away their arms and flying in all directions.

“If all my troops had fought like your regiment, Colonel Furness, we should have won the day,” the king said.  “As it is now, it is a hopeless rout.  It is useless for your brave fellows to throw away their lives further.  They will only be cut down vainly, seeing that the rest of my army are disbanded.  Thank them from me for their services, and bid them seek their homes as best they may and wait for better times.  They are English, and will meet with better treatment from the country people than will the Scotch.  Then do you join me.  I am going to head my horsemen here in a charge against the Roundhead cavalry, and so give more time for the army to get away.”

Harry rode up to his troops, now reduced to half their former strength.  Leslie and Grahame had both been killed, and William Long was sorely wounded.  He gave the men the message from the king, and the brave fellows gave a cheer for King Charles, the last he was to hear for ten years.  Then they marched away in orderly array, with their arms, intending to beat off all who might attack them before nightfall, and then to break up and scatter, each for himself.  William Long had friends near Gloucester, and as his wound would prevent him from traveling rapidly with Harry, he took farewell of him, and rode away with the regiment.  Harry, with Jacob and Mike, rejoined the king, and they rode toward the gate by which the Roundhead troops were already entering the town.  The horsemen, however, had but little stomach for the fight, and as the king advanced, in twos and threes they turned their horses’ heads and rode off.

Harry was riding close to the king, and looking round said at length, “It is useless, your majesty.  There are not a dozen men with us.”

The king looked round and checked his horse.  Besides his personal friends, Buckingham, Wilmot, and one or two other nobles, scarce a man remained.  The king shrugged his shoulders.  “Well, gentlemen, as we cannot fight, we must needs run.”  Then the party turned their horses and galloped out on the other side of Worcester.  The country was covered with fugitives.  They soon came upon a considerable body of horse, who at once attached themselves to the party.  “These, gentlemen,” the king said, “would not fight when I wanted them to, and now that I would fain be alone, they follow me.”

At last, when darkness came on, the king, with his personal friends and some sixty others, slipped away down a by-road, and after riding for some hours came to a house called the White Ladies.  Here for a few hours they rested.  Then a council was held.  They had news that on a heath near were some three thousand Scotch cavalry.  The king’s friends urged him to join these and endeavor to make his way back into Scotland, but Charles had already had more than enough of that country, and he was sure that Argyll and his party would not hesitate to deliver him up to the Parliament, as they had done his father before him.  He therefore determined to disguise himself, and endeavor to escape on foot, taking with him only a guide.  The rest of the party agreed to join the Scotch horse, and endeavor to reach the border.  After a consultation with Jacob, Harry determined to follow the example of the king, and to try and make his way in disguise to a seaport.  He did not believe that the Scotch cavalry would be able to regain their country, nor even if they did would his position be improved were he with them.  With the destruction of the Royalist army, Argyll would again become supreme, and Harry doubted not that he would satisfy his old grudge against him.  He was right in his anticipations.  The Scots were a day or two later routed by the English horse, and comparatively few of them ever regained their country.  Out of the eleven thousand men who fought at Worcester, seven thousand were taken prisoners, including the greater part of the Scottish contingent.  The English, attracting less hostility and attention from the country people, for the most part reached their homes in safety.

As soon as the king had ridden off, Harry with Jacob and Mike, started in another direction.  Stopping at a farmhouse, they purchased from the master three suits of clothes.  Harry’s was one of the farmer’s own, the man being nearly his own size.  For Jacob, who was much shorter, a dress, cloak and bonnet of the farmer’s wife was procured, and for Mike the clothes of one of the farmer’s sons.  One of the horses was left here, and a pillion obtained for the other.  Putting on these disguises, Harry mounted his horse, with Jacob seated behind him on a pillion, while Mike rode by his side.  They started amid the good wishes of the farmer and his family, who were favorable to the Royalist cause.  Harry had cut off his ringlets, and looked the character of a young farmer of twenty-four or twenty-five years old well enough, while Jacob had the appearance of a suitable wife for him.  Mike was to pass as his brother.

In the course of the first day’s journey they met several parties of Roundhead horse, who plied them with questions as to whether they had seen any parties of fugitives.  Making a detour, they rode toward Gloucester, not intending to enter that town, where there was a Parliamentary garrison, but to cross the river higher up.  They stopped for the night at a wayside inn, where they heard much talk concerning the battle, and learned that all the fords were guarded to prevent fugitives crossing into Wales, and that none might pass who could not give a good account of themselves.  They heard, too, that on the evening before a proclamation had been made at Gloucester and other towns offering a reward of a thousand pounds for the capture of Charles, and threatening all with the penalties of treason who should venture to aid or shelter him; a systematic watch was being set on all the roads.

They determined to ride again next morning toward Worcester, and to remain in that neighborhood for some days, judging that less inquiry would be made there than elsewhere.  This they did, but journeyed very slowly, and slept a mile or two from Worcester.

Before reaching their halting-place they took off a shoe from Mike’s horse, and with a nail wounded the frog of the foot, so that the animal walked lame.  Under this pretense they stopped three days, feigning great annoyance at the delay.  They found now that orders had been issued that none should journey on the roads save those who had passes, and these had to be shown before entering any of the large towns.  They therefore resolved to leave their horses, and to proceed on foot, as they could then travel by byways and across the country.  There was some debate as to the best guise in which to travel, but it was presently determined to go as Egyptians, as the gypsies were then called.  Harry walked into Worcester, and there, at the shop of a dealer in old clothes, procured such garments as were needed, and at an apothecary’s purchased some dyes for staining the skin.

The next day, telling the landlord that they should leave the lame horse with him until their return, they started as before, Mike walking instead of riding.  They presently left the main road, and finding a convenient place in a wood, changed their attire.  Harry and Mike were dressed in ragged clothes, with bright handkerchiefs round their necks, and others round their heads.  Jacob still retained his attire as a woman, with a tattered shawl round his shoulders, and a red handkerchief over his head.  All darkened their faces and hands.  They took the saddle from the horse, and placed the bundles, containing the clothes they had taken off, on his back.  Mike took the bridle, Harry and Jacob walked beside, and so they continued for some miles along the lonely roads, until they came to a farmhouse.  Here they stopped.  The farmer came out, and roughly demanded what they wanted.  Harry replied that he wanted to sell their horse, and would take a small sum for it.

“I doubt me,” the farmer said, looking at it, “that that horse was not honestly come by.  It suits not your condition.  It may well be,” he said, “the horse of some officer who was slain at Worcester, and which you have found roaming in the country.”

“It matters not,” Harry said, “where I got it; it is mine now, and may be yours if you like it, cheap.  As you say, its looks agree not with mine, and I desire not to be asked questions.  If you will give me that donkey I see there, and three pounds, you shall have him.”

The offer was a tempting one, but the farmer beat them down a pound before he agreed to it.  Then shifting their bundles to the donkey, they continued their way.  At the next village they purchased a cooking-pot and some old stuff for a tent.  Cutting some sticks, they encamped that night on some wild land hard by, having purchased provisions for their supper.  Very slowly they traveled south, attracting no attention as they passed.  They avoided all large towns, and purchased such things as they needed at villages, always camping out on commons and waste places.  They could hear no news of the king at any of their halting-places.  That he had not been taken was certain; also, that he had not reached France, or the news of his coming there would have been known.  It was generally supposed that he was in hiding somewhere in the south, hoping to find an opportunity to take ship to France.  Everywhere they heard of the active search which was being made for him, and how the houses of all suspected to be favorable to him were being searched.

Traveling only a few miles a day, and frequently halting for two or three days together, the party crossed the Thames above Reading, and journeyed west into Wiltshire.  So they went on until they reached the port of Charmouth, near Lime Regis.  Here, as in all the seaport towns, were many soldiers of the Parliament.  They did not enter the town, but encamped a short distance outside, Harry alone going in to gather the news.  He found that numerous rumors concerning the king were afloat.  It was asserted that he had been seen near Bristol, and failing to embark there, was supposed to be making his way east along the coast, in hopes of finding a ship.  The troops were loud in their expressions of confidence that in a few days, if not in a few hours, he would be in their hands, and that he would be brought to the scaffold, as his father had been.

Uneasy at the news, Harry wandered about the town, and at nightfall entered a small public house near the port.  Calling for some liquor, he sat down, and listened to the talk of the sailors.  Presently these left, and soon after they did so three other men entered.  One was dressed as a farmer, the other two as serving-men.  Harry thought that he noticed a glance of recognition pass between the farmer and the landlord, and as the latter placed some liquor and a candle on the table before the newcomers, Harry recognized in the farmer Colonel Wyndham, a Royalist with whom he was well acquainted.  He now looked more closely at the two serving-men, and recognized in them the king and Lord Wilmot.

He sauntered across the room as if to get a light for his pipe, and said, in low tones: 

“Colonel Wyndham, I am Harry Furness.  Is there any way I can serve his majesty?”

“Ah!  Colonel Furness, I am glad to see you,” the king said heartily; “though if you are hunted as shrewdly as I am, your state is a perilous one.”

“The landlord is to be trusted,” Colonel Wyndham said.  “We had best call him in.  He said nothing before you, deeming you a stranger.”

The landlord was called in, and told Harry was a friend, whereupon he barred the door and closed the shutters, as if for the night.  Then turning to Colonel Wyndham, whom alone he knew, he said: 

“I am sorry to say that my news is bad, sir.  An hour since I went round to the man who had engaged to take you across to St. Malo, but his wife has got an inkling of his intentions.  She has locked him into his room, and swears that if he attempts to come forth she will give the alarm to the Parliament troops; for that she will not have herself and her children sacrificed by meddlings of his in the affairs of state.”