Gateway to the Classics: The World's Story: England by Eva March Tappan
The World's Story: England by  Eva March Tappan

When the King Returned from Holland


[HENRY VI was thrust from the throne chiefly by the power of the "king-maker," the Earl of Warwick, and Edward IV became king in his place. Edward, however, failed to be as obedient as Warwick had expected, and the mighty earl promptly changed sides. Edward fled to Holland, but soon returned with strong forces.
The Editor. ]

AND the winds still blew; and storm was on the tide, and Margaret came not; when, in the gusty month of March, the fishermen of the Humber beheld a single ship, without flag or pennon, and sorely stripped and riveled by adverse blasts, gallantly struggling towards the shore. The vessel was not of English build, and resembled, in its bulk and fashion, those employed by the Easterlings in their trade;—half merchantman, half warship.

The villagers of Ravenspur,—the creek of which the vessel now rapidly made to,—imagining that it was some trading craft in distress, grouped round the banks, and some put out their boats. But the vessel held on its way, and, as the water was swelled by the tide, and unusually deep, silently cast anchor close ashore, a quarter of a mile from the crowd.

The first who leaped on land was a knight of lofty stature, and in complete armor, richly inlaid with gold arabesques. To him succeeded another, also in mail, and, though well built and fair proportioned, of less imposing presence. And then, one by one, the womb of the dark ship gave forth a number of armed soldiers, infinitely larger than it could have been supposed to contain till the knight, who first landed, stood the center of a group of five hundred men. Then were lowered from the vessel, barbed and caparisoned, some fivescore horses; and, finally, the sailors and rowers, armed but with steel caps and short swords, came on shore, till not a man was left on board.

"Now praise," said the chief knight, "to God and St. George, that we have escaped the water! and not with invisible winds, but with bodily foes must our war be waged."

"Beau sire," cried one knight who had debarked immediately after the speaker, and who seemed, from his bearing and equipment, of higher rank than those that followed—"beau sire, this is a slight army to reconquer a king's realm! Pray Heaven, that our bold companions have also escaped the deep!"

"Why, verily, we are not enough, at the best, to spare one man," said the chief knight gayly, "but, lo! we are not without welcomers." And he pointed to the crowd of villagers who now slowly neared the warlike group, but halting at a little distance, continued to gaze at them in some anxiety and alarm.

"Ho there! good fellows!" cried the leader, striding towards the throng,—"what name give you to this village?"

"Ravenspur, please your worship," answered one of the peasants.

"Ravenspur—hear you that, lords and friends? Accept the omen! On this spot landed, from exile, Henry of Bolingbroke, known, afterwards, in our annals as King Henry IV! Bare is the soil of corn and of trees—it disdains meaner fruit; it grows kings!  Hark!"—The sound of a bugle was heard at a little distance, and in a few moments, a troop of about a hundred men were seen rising above an undulation in the ground, and as the two bands recognized each other, a shout of joy was given and returned.

As this new reinforcement advanced, the peasantry and fishermen, attracted by curiosity and encouraged by the peaceable demeanor of the debarkers, drew nearer, and mingled with the first corners.

"What manner of men be ye, and what want ye?" asked one of the bystanders, who seemed of better nurturing than the rest, and who, indeed, was a small franklin.

No answer was returned by those he more immediately addressed, but the chief knight heard the question, and suddenly unbuckling his helmet, and giving it to one of those beside him, he turned to the crowd a countenance of singular beauty, at once animated and majestic, and said, in a loud voice, "We are Englishmen, like you, and we come here to claim our rights. Ye seem tall fellows and honest. Standard-bearer, unfurl our flag!" And, as the ensign suddenly displayed the device of a sun, in a field azure, the chief continued, "March under this banner, and for every day ye serve, ye shall have a month's hire."

"Marry!" quoth the franklin, with a suspicious, sinister look, "these be big words. And who are you, Sir Knight, who would levy men in King Henry's kingdom?"

"Your knees, fellows!" cried the second knight. "Behold your true liege and suzerain, Edward IV! Long live King Edward!"

The soldiers caught up the cry, and it was reechoed lustily by the smaller detachment that now reached the spot; but no answer came from the crowd. They looked at each other in dismay, and retreated rapidly from their place amongst the troops. In fact, the whole of the neighboring district was devoted to Warwick, and many of the peasantry about had joined the former rising under Sir John Coniers. The franklin alone retreated not with the rest; he was a bluff, plain, bold fellow, with good English blood in his veins. And when the shout ceased, he said, shortly, "We, hereabouts, know no king but King Henry. We fear you would impose upon us. We cannot believe that a great lord like him you call Edward IV would land, with a handful of men, to encounter the armies of Lord Warwick. We forewarn you to get into your ship, and go back as fast as ye came, for the stomach of England is sick of brawls and blows; and what ye devise is treason!"

Forth from the new detachment stepped a youth of small stature, not in armor, and with many a weather stain on his gorgeous dress. He laid his hand upon the franklin's shoulder. "Honest and plain-dealing fellow," said he, "you are right: pardon the foolish outburst of these brave men, who cannot forget as yet that their chief has worn the crown. We come back not to disturb this realm, nor to effect aught against King Henry, whom the saints have favored. No, by St. Paul, we come back to claim our lands unjustly forfeit. My noble brother here is not King of England, since the people will it not, but he is Duke of York, and he will be contented if assured of the style and lands our father left him. For me, called Richard of Gloucester, I ask nothing but leave to spend my manhood where I have spent my youth, under the eyes of my renowned godfather, Richard Nevile, Earl of Warwick. So report of us. Whither leads you road?"

"To York," said the franklin, softened, despite his judgment, by the irresistible suavity of the voice that addressed him.

"Thither will we go, my Lord Duke and brother, with your leave," said Prince Richard, "peaceably and as petitioners. God save ye, friends and countrymen, pray for us that King Henry and the Parliament may do us justice. We are not overrich now, but better times may come. Largess!"—and filling both hands with coin from his gipsire, he tossed the bounty among the peasants.

"Mille tonnère!  What means he with this humble talk of King Henry and the Parliament?" whispered Edward to the Lord Say, while the crowd scrambled for the largess, and Richard smilingly mingled amongst them, and conferred with the franklin.

"Let him alone, I pray you, my liege; I guess his wise design. And now for our ships. What orders for the master?"

"For the other vessels let them sail or anchor as they list. But for the bark that has borne Edward, King of England, to the land of his ancestors, there is no return!"

The royal adventurer then beckoned the Flemish master of the ship, who, with every sailor aboard, had debarked, and the loose dresses of the mariners made a strong contrast to the mail of the warriors with whom they mingled.

"Friend!" said Edward, in French, "thou hast said that thou wilt share my fortunes, and that thy good fellows are no less free of courage and leal in trust."

"It is so, sire. Not a man who has gazed on thy face, and heard thy voice, but longs to serve one on whose brow Nature has written king."

"And trust me," said Edward, "no prince of my blood shall be dearer to me than you and yours, my friends in danger and in need. And since it be so, the ship that bath borne such hearts and such hopes, should, in sooth, know no meaner freight. Is all prepared?"

"Yes, sire, as you ordered. The train is laid for the brennen."

"Up, then, with the fiery signal, and let it tell, from cliff to cliff, from town to town, that Edward the Plantagenet, once returned to England, leaves it but for the grave!"

The master bowed, and smiled grimly. The sailors, who had been prepared for the burning, arranged before between Hie master and the prince, and whose careless hearts Edward had thoroughly won to his person and his cause, followed the former towards the ship, and stood silently grouped around the shore. The soldiers, less informed, gazed idly on, and Richard now regained Edward's side.

"Reflect," he said, as he drew him apart, "that when on this spot landed Henry of Bolingbroke, he gave not out that he was marching to the throne of Richard II.  He professed but to claim his duchy—and men were influenced by justice: till they became agents of ambition. This be your policy; with two thousand men you are but Duke of York; with ten thousand men you are King of England! In passing hither, I met with many, and sounding the temper of the district, I find it not ripe to share your hazard. The world soon ripens when it hath to hail success!"

"O young boy's smooth face!—O old man's deep brain!" said Edward admiringly—"what a king hadst thou  made!"

A sudden flush passed over the prince's pale cheek, and, ere it died away, a flaming torch was hurled aloft in the air—it fell whirling into the ship—a moment, and a loud crash—a moment, and a mighty blaze! Up sprung from the deck, along the sails, the sheeted fire—

"A giant beard of flame."

It reddened the coast—the skies from far and near! it glowed on the faces and the steel of the scanty army—it was seen, miles away by the warders of many a castle manned with the troops of Lancaster;—it brought the steed from the stall, the courier to the selle;—it sped, as of old the beacon fire that announced to Clytemnestra the return of the Argive king. From post to post rode the fiery news, till it reached Lord Warwick in his hall, King Henry in his palace, Elizabeth in her sanctuary. The iron step of the dauntless Edward was once more pressed upon the soil of England.

by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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