This "With Marlborough to Malplaquet: A Story of the Reign of Queen Anne" was written by Herbert Strang in English language.
With Marlborough to
Malplaquet: A Story of
the Reign of Queen
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Marlborough to Malplaquet, by
Herbert Strang and Richard Stead
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Title: With Marlborough to Malplaquet
Author: Herbert Strang and Richard Stead
Release Date: October 20, 2004
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WITH MARLBOROUGH
E-text prepared by Juliet Sutherland, Tom Martin,
and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading
A mounted officer came galloping up.
[See CHAPTER X.
Herbert Strang's Historical Series
With Marlborough to Malplaquet
NOW READY IN THIS SERIES.
With the Black Prince
: a Story of the Reign of Edward III. By HERBERT
STRANG and RICHARD STEAD.
A Mariner of England
: a Story of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. By the same
With Marlborough to Malplaquet
: a Story of the Reign of Queen Anne. By
the same authors.
Other volumes to follow.
With Marlborough to Malplaquet
A Story of the Reign of Queen Anne
Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
With Four Illustrations in Colour and a Map
The object of this series is to encourage a taste for history among boys and
girls up to thirteen or fourteen years of age. An attempt has been made to
bring home to the young reader the principal events and movements of the
periods covered by the several volumes.
If in these little stories historical fact treads somewhat closely upon the heels of
fiction, the authors would plead the excellence of their intentions and the
limitations of their space.
CHAPTER I: A BOUT AT SINGLESTICK
CHAPTER II: THE ATTACK ON THE COLLIERY
CHAPTER III: THE FIRE AT BINFIELD TOWERS
CHAPTER IV: THE RESCUE
CHAPTER V: GEORGE RECONNOITRES
CHAPTER VI: THE ROCK OF GIBRALTAR
CHAPTER VII: BLENHEIM
CHAPTER VIII: COMRADES IN ARMS
CHAPTER IX: ANNUS MIRABILIS
CHAPTER X: "OUR OWN MEN, SIR!"
CHAPTER XI: THE HARDEST FIGHT OF THEM ALL
CHAPTER XII: CONCLUSION
HISTORICAL SUMMARY: REIGN OF QUEEN ANNE
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF PRINCIPAL EVENTS
A MOUNTED OFFICER CAME GALLOPING UP
"NOW!" CAME THE ORDER
GEORGE FOUND HIMSELF ENGAGED IN A HAND TO HAND ENCOUNTER
THE RESCUE OF MARLBOROUGH
MAP OF WESTERN EUROPE IN THE TIME OF QUEEN ANNE
A BOUT AT SINGLESTICK
"Get thee down, laddie, I tell thee."
This injunction, given for the third time, and in a broad north-country dialect,
came from the guard of the York and Newcastle coach, a strange new thing in
England. A wonderful vehicle the York and Newcastle coach, covering the
eighty-six long miles between the two towns in the space of two-and-thirty
hours, and as yet an object of delight, and almost of awe, to the rustics of the
villages and small towns on that portion of the Great North Road.
It was the darkening of a stinging day in the latter part of December, in the
year 1701—it wanted but forty-eight hours to Christmas Eve—when the coach
pulled up at the principal inn of the then quiet little country town of Darlington,
a place which roused itself from its general sleepiness only on market and fair
days, or now, since the mail-coach had begun to run, on the arrival or
departure of the marvellous conveyance, whose rattle over the cobble-stones
drew every inhabitant of the main street to the door.
No reply coming from the boy on the roof, the guard went on, "Eh, but the lad
must be frozen stark," and swinging himself up to the top of the coach, he
seized the dilatory passenger by the arm, saying, "Now, my hearty, come your
ways down; we gang na further to-day. Ye are as stiff as a frozen poker."
"And no wonder," came a voice from below; "'tis not a day fit for man or dog to
be out a minute longer than necessary. Bring the bairn in, Charley." The
invitation came from a kindly and portly dame, the hostess, who had come to
the door to welcome such passengers as might be disposed to put up for the
night at the inn.
"I don't think I can stir," the boy replied; "I'm about frozen."
He spoke in low tones and as if but half awake. He was, in fact, just dropping
into a doze.
"Here, mates, catch hold," the guard cried, and without more ado the lad was
lowered down to the little group of loafers who had come to see the sight and
to pick up any stray penny that might be available. A minute later George
Fairburn was rapidly thawing before the rousing fire in the inn's best parlour,
and was gulping down the cup of hot mulled ale the good-natured landlady had
put into his trembling hands.
"I'm all right, ma'am, now, and I'll go. Thank you and good night, ma'am."
"Go, Fairburn?" cried another boy of about his own age, who sat comfortably in
the arm-chair by the cosy chimney corner. "Surely you are not going to turn out
again this bitter night?"
"Indeed I am," was the somewhat ungracious reply; "my father is not a rich
man, and I'm not going to put him to needless expense."
The other boy blushed, but the next moment his face resumed its usual pallor.
He was tall for his fourteen years, but evidently not particularly strong. He had,
in truth, somewhat of a bookish look, and his rounded shoulders already told of
much poring over a student's tasks. Fairburn, on the other hand, though less
tall, carried in his face and form all the evidence of robust good health.
"I've relatives somewhere in Darlington, Blackett," George explained, in a
rather pleasanter tone, as if ashamed of his former surly speech, "and I'm
going to hunt them up."
"Look here, Fairburn," said the other, springing from his seat and placing a
patronizing hand on his companion's shoulder, "just make yourself comfortable
here with me for the night, and I'll settle the bill for both of us in the morning."
He spoke rather grandly, jingling the coins in his pocket the while.
"I can settle my own bills, thank you," answered Fairburn, a proud hot flush
overspreading his face. And, seizing his little bag, the lad strode from the room
and out of the inn, shivering as the chill northeasterly breeze caught him in the
now dark and almost deserted street.
"Confound the fellow with his purse-proud patronage!" he muttered as he
"Bless me, why is he so touchy?" Blackett was asking himself at the same
moment. "We seem fated to quarrel, Fairburn's family and ours. Whose is the
pride now, I wonder! Fairburn thinks a deal of his independence, as he calls it; I
should call it simply pride, myself. But I might have known that he wouldn't
accept my offer after his refusal of an inside place with me this morning, and
after riding all those miles from York to-day in the bitter cold. Heigh-ho, the
quarrel won't be of my seeking anyhow."
These two lads were both sons of colliery owners, and both pupils of the
ancient school of St. Peter of York, the most notable foundation north of the
Humber. But there the likeness ended. Matthew Blackett's father was a rich
man and descended from generations of rich men. He owned a large colliery
and employed many men and not a few ships. He was, moreover, a county
magnate, and held his head high on Tyneside. In politics he was a strong
supporter of the Tory party, and had never been easy under the rule of Dutch
William. He was proud and somewhat arrogant, yet not wanting his good
points. George Fairburn, on the other hand, was the son of a much smaller
man, of one, in truth, who had by his energy and thrift become the proprietor of
a small pit, of which he himself acted as manager. The elder Fairburn was of a
sturdy independent character, his independence, however, sometimes
asserting itself at the expense of his manners; that at least was the way Mr.
Blackett put it. Fairburn had been thrown much in his boyhood among the
Quakers, of which new sect there were several little groups in the northern
counties. He was a firm Whig, and as firm a hater of the exiled James II. He
had made some sacrifice to send his boy to a good school, being a great
believer in education, at a time when men of his class were little disposed to
set much store by book learning.
After breakfast by candlelight next morning the passengers for the coach
assembled at the door of the inn. Blackett was already comfortably seated
among his many and ample rugs and wraps when George Fairburn appeared,
accompanied by a woman who made an odd figure in an ancient cloak many
sizes too big for her, covering her from head to foot. It had, in fact, originally
been a soldier's cloak, and had seen much hard service in the continental
campaigns under William III. The good dame was very demonstrative in her
affection, and kissed George again and again on both cheeks, with good
sounding smacks, ere she would let him mount to the roof of the coach. Then
she stood by the window and talked volubly in a rich northern brogue till the
vehicle started, and even after, for George could see her gesticulations when
he was far out of earshot.
"It is bitter cold, bairn," she had said for the third or fourth time, "and I doubt
thou wilt be more dead than alive when thy father sees thee at Newcastle. But
don't forget that pasty; 'tis good, for I made it myself. And there's the sup of
summat comforting in the little bottle; don't forget that."
"Good-bye, aunt, and thank you over and over again," George called from the
top of the coach. "Don't stay any longer in the freezing cold. I'm all right."
But the talkative and kindly old dame would not budge, and Blackett could not
help smiling quietly in his corner. "What a curious old rustic!" he said to himself,
"and she's the aunt, it appears." As for George himself, he was thinking much
the same thing. "A good soul," he murmured to himself, "but, oh, so
Fairburn's limbs were pretty stiff by the time the grand old cathedral and the
castle of Durham standing proudly on their cliff above the river came in sight.
There was an unwonted stir in the streets of the picturesque little city. My lord
the bishop with a very great train was coming for the Christmas high services.
"Our bishop is a prince," explained the guard, who had had not a little talk with
George on the way. "There are squires and baronets and lords in his train, and
as for his servants and horses, why—" the good fellow spread out his hands in
his sheer inability to describe the magnificence of the bishops of Durham.
"Yes," Fairburn made answer, "and I've heard or read that when a new bishop
first comes to the see he is met at Croft bridge by all the big men of the county,
who do homage to him as if he were a king."
The guard stared at a youngster, an outside and therefore a poor passenger
too, who appeared so well informed, and then applied himself vigorously to his
The afternoon was fast waning when the coach brought to its passengers the
first glimpse of the blackened old fortress of Newcastle and the lantern tower
of St. Nicholas. Fairburn, almost as helpless as on the previous afternoon, was
speedily lifted down from his lofty perch by the strong arms of his father.
"Ah, my dear lad," the elder cried as he hugged George to his breast, "the
mother has a store of good things ready for her bairn and for Christmas. And
here is old Dapper ready to jog back with us and to his own Christmas Eve
supper. How do you do, sir?"
These last words were addressed to a gentleman who had just driven up in a
well-appointed family equipage.
"I hope I see young Mr. Blackett well," Fairburn continued.
"Ah! 'tis you, Mr. Fairburn," said the great man condescendingly. "This is your
boy? Looks a trifle cold, don't you think? 'Tis bitter weather for travelling
And with the curtest possible nod to the father, and no recognition whatever of
the son, Mr. Blackett linked his arm in Matthew's and strode away to his
George flushed, his father looked annoyed; then his face cleared.
"Come, lad," he said, "let us get along home."
Thursday, Christmas Day, and the Friday following passed quietly but happily
in the little Fairburn family. The father was in excellent spirits, and he had
much to tell his son of the prosperity that was at last coming. Orders were
being booked faster than the modest staff of the colliery could execute them.
Best of all, Fairburn had secured several important contracts with London
merchants; this, too, against the competition of the great Blackett pit.
"The truth is," the elder explained, "Mr. Blackett is too big a man, and too easy-
going to attend to his business as he should. But I suppose he's rich enough
and can afford to be a trifle slack."
"Whereas my dad has energy and to spare," George put in with a smile, "and
by that energy is taking the business out of the hands of the bigger man. The
Blacketts won't be exactly pleased with us, eh?"
"They are not. And, more, I hear the Blackett pit is working only short time; it is
more than likely that several of the men will have to be discharged soon, and
then will come more soreness."
"We can't help that, dad," the boy commented, "it's a sort of war, this business
competition, it seems to me, and all is fair in love and war, as the saying goes."
"True, my lad; yet I'm a peaceable man, and would fain enter into no quarrels."
On the Saturday afternoon a neighbour brought word up to the house that
there was some sort of a squabble going on down at the river side.
"Better run along and see what is the matter, George," said the mother.
"Father's gone to the town and won't be back till supper time."
So the boy pulled on his cap, twisted a big scarf about his neck, and made off
to the Tyne, nearly a mile away.
He found a tremendous hubbub on the wharf, men pulling and struggling and
cursing and fighting in vigorous fashion. What might be the right or the wrong
of the quarrel, George did not know, and he had not time to inquire before he
too was mixed up in the fray. The first thing that met his eye, in truth, was one
of the crew of the Fairburn collier brig lying helpless on his back and at the
mercy of a fellow who was showing him no favour, but was pounding away at
the upturned face with one of his fists, whilst with the other hand he held a firm
grip of his prostrate foeman.
"Let him get up, coward!" the lad shouted as he rushed to the spot. "Let him
get up, I tell you, and fight it out fair and square."
The fellow was by no means disposed to give up the advantage he had
obtained, however, and redoubled the vigour of his blows.
He was a strong thickset collier, not an easy man to tackle; but without more
ado George flung himself at the bully, and toppled him over, the side of his
head coming into violent collision with the rough planks of the landing-stage.
"Up with you, Jack!" George cried, and, seizing the hand of the prostrate sailor,
he jerked him to his feet. Jack, however, was of little more use when he had
been helped up, and staggered about in a dazed and aimless sort of way. He
was, in truth, almost blind, his eyes scarce visible at all, so severe had been
his punishment, while his face streamed with blood.
Meanwhile his antagonist had jumped to his feet, his face black with coaldust
and distorted with fury.
"Two on ye!" he yelled with an oath, "then I must fend for myself," and he
seized a broken broom handle that was lying near.
"A game of singlestick is it?" George replied gleefully, as he made a successful
grab at another stick a couple of yards away. It was the handle of a shovel;
there were several broken tools lying about the quay.
"Come on," said the boy, brandishing his short but heavy weapon, "this is quite
in my line, I can tell you!"
It was a curious sight as the two rushed upon each other, so unequal did the
antagonists seem. Bill, the collier, was tall as well as strongly built, and in the
very prime of life; while George, though a sturdy lad for his age, was many
inches shorter, and appeared at first sight an absurdly inadequate foeman.
In a moment the sticks were clattering merrily together, the lad hesitating not a
whit, for he felt sure that he was at least a match for the other. George Fairburn
had ever been an adept at all school games, and had spent many a leisure
hour at singlestick. In vain did Bill endeavour to bring down his stick with
furious whack upon the youngster's scalp; his blow was unfailingly parried. It
was soon evident to the man that the boy was playing with him, and when
twice or thrice he received a rap on his shoulder, his arm, his knuckles even,
his fury got quite beyond his control, and he struck out blindly and viciously,
forcing the lad backwards towards the edge of the wharf.
But Fairburn was not to be taken in that style. Slipping agilely out of the way,
he planted another blow, this time on his opponent's head. In a trice Bill threw
down his cudgel and, raising his heavy boot, endeavoured to administer a
vicious kick. It was time to take to more effective tactics, and while the man's
leg was poised in the air, George put in a thwack that made his skull resound,
and threw him quite off his already unstable balance. Bill fell to the ground and
lay there stunned, a roar of laughter hailing the exploit, with shouts of,
"Thrashed by a lad; that's a grand come off for Bill Hutchinson!"
George now had time to look about him. He found that the enemy, whoever
they might be, had been beaten off, and the crew of the Fairburn brig was in
possession of the landing-stage.
"What is it all about, Jack?" he inquired of the man to whose rescue he had
"Why," returned Jack, "they are some of Blackett's men. They tried to shove us
from our berth here, after we had made fast, and bring in their big schooner
over there. Some of 'em are vexed, 'cos 'tis said there'll be no work for 'em
soon. Your father's taking a lot of Blackett's trade, you see."
"Did they begin, Jack, or did you?"