The Adventures of Harry Rochester: A Tale of the Days of Marlborough and Eugene

The Adventures of Harry Rochester: A Tale of the Days of Marlborough and Eugene

Herbert Strang
Herbert Strang

Author: Strang, Herbert
Battle of
1704 — Juvenile fiction
The Adventures of Harry Rochester: A Tale of the Days of Marlborough and Eugene

The Adventures of

Harry Rochester

A Tale of the

Days of Marlborough and Eugene





Illustrated by William Rainey, R.I.





“Honour hath three things in it: the vantage-ground to do
good; the approach to kings and principal persons; and the
raising of a man’s own fortunes.”


My dear Tom,

You received my former books so kindly that I feel
assured you will not object to have this volume inscribed with
your name. I am not the less convinced of this because you
know well the country in which my opening scenes are laid,
and I had the pleasure last year of playing cricket with you
within a few miles of the village here disguised as Winton
St. Mary.

I hope you will bear with me for one minute while I
explain that in writing this book I had three aims. First, to
tell a good story: that of course. Secondly, to give some
account of the operations that resulted in one of the most
brilliant victories ever gained by our British arms. Thirdly,
to throw some light—fitful, it may be, but as clear as the
circumstances of my story admitted—on life and manners
two hundred years ago. History, as you have no doubt
already learnt, is not merely campaigning; and I shall be
well pleased if these pages enlarge your knowledge, in ever
so slight a degree, of an interesting period in our country’s
annals. And if you, or any other Christ’s Hospital boy,
should convict me of borrowing a week from the life of a
great personage, or of antedating by a little a development
in our national pastime—well, I shall feel complimented
by such evidence of careful reading, and not be
in the least abashed.

I take the opportunity of this open letter to acknowledge
my indebtedness to the monumental “Mémoires militaires
rélatifs à la succession d’Espagne” issued by the French
General Staff; to Mr. Austin Dobson for a detail which
only his perfect knowledge of the 18th century could so
readily have supplied; and to Lord Wolseley’s brilliant life
of Marlborough, which every student of military history
must hope so competent a hand will continue and complete.

Yours very sincerely,


Michaelmas Day, 1905.


Chapter I

The Queen’s Purse-Bearer

Chapter II

Sherebiah Shouts

Chapter III

Master and Man

Chapter IV

Mynheer Jan Grootz and Another

Chapter V

A Message from the Squire

Chapter VI

My Lord Marlborough makes a Note

Chapter VII


Chapter VIII


Chapter IX

Monsieur de Polignac Presses his Suit

Chapter X


Chapter XI

The Battle of Lindendaal

Chapter XII

Harry is Discharged

Chapter XIII

Concerning Sherebiah

Chapter XIV

Harry Rides for a Life

Chapter XV

The Water of Affliction

Chapter XVI

Knaves All Three

Chapter XVII

In the Dusk

Chapter XVIII

A Little Plot

Chapter XXI

Marlborough’s March to the Danube

Chapter XX

The Castle of Rauhstein

Chapter XXI

Across the Fosse

Chapter XXII

The Fight in the Keep

Chapter XXIII


Chapter XXIV

The Wages of Sin

Chapter XXV

A Bundle of Letters

Chapter XXVI

The New Squire

Chapter XXVII

Visitors at Winton Hall

List of Illustrations

Plate I

The Fight in the Castle Yard . . . . . . Frontispiece

Plate II

Harry makes a Diversion

Plate III

My Lord Marlborough

Plate IV

At the Last Gasp

Plate V

“Mon Colonel, we are surrounded!”

Plate VI

The Stroke of Eight

Plate VII

“Fire and Fury!” shouted Aglionby

Plate VIII

Mein Wirth is Surprised

Map And Plan

Map of the Low Countries in 1703

Plan of the Battle of Blenheim


The Queen’s Purse-Bearer

Winton St. Mary—Cricket: Old Style—Last Man
In—Bowled—The Gaffer Explains—More Explanations—Parson
Rochester—”The Boy”—Cambridge in the Field—Village
Batsmen—Old Everlasting makes One—The Squire—An
Invitation—Lord Godolphin is Interested—An Uphill
Game—Young Pa’son—The Winning Hit

“Stap me, Frank, if ever I rattle my old bones over these
roads again! Every joint in me aches; every wrinkle—and
I’ve too many—is filled with dust; and my wig—plague
on it, Frank, my wig’s a doormat. Look at it—whew!”

My lord Godolphin took off his cocked hat, removed
his full periwig, and shook it over the side of the calash,
wrying his lips as the horse of one of his escort started
at the sudden cloud. My lord had good excuse for his
petulance. It was a brilliant June day, in a summer of
glorious weather, and the Wiltshire roads, no better nor
worse than other English highways in the year 1702, were
thick with white dust, which the autumn rains would by
and by transform into the stickiest of clinging mud. The
Lord High Treasurer, as he lay back wearily on his
cushions, looked, with his lean, lined, swarthy face and
close-cropt grizzled poll, every day of his fifty-eight years.
He was returning with his son Francis, now nearly twenty-three,
from a visit to his estates in Cornwall. Had he been
a younger man he would no doubt have ridden his own
horse; had he been of lower rank he might have travelled
by the public coach; but being near sixty, a baron, and
lord of the Treasury to boot, he drove in his private
four-horsed calash, with two red-coated postilions, and four
sturdy liveried henchmen on horseback, all well armed
against the perils of footpads and highwaymen.

It was nearing noon on this bright, hot morning, and
my lord had begun to acknowledge to himself that he
would barely complete his journey to London that day.

“Where are we now, Dickory?” he asked languidly of
the nearest rider on the off-side.

“Nigh Winton St. Mary, my lord,” replied the man.
“Down the avenue yonder, my lord; then the common,
and the church on the right, and the village here and there
bearing to the left, as you might say, my lord.”

“Look ‘ee, Frank, we’ll draw up at Winton St. Mary
and wet our whistles. My lady Marlborough expects
us in town to-night, to be sure; but she must e’en be
content to wait. Time was——eh, my boy?—but now,
egad, I’ll not kill myself for her or any woman.”

“‘Twould be a calamity—for the nation, sir,” said
Frank Godolphin with a grin.

“So it would, i’ faith. Never fear, Frank, I’ll not
make way for you for ten years to come. But what’s
afoot yonder? A fair, eh?”

The carriage had threaded a fine avenue of elms, and
come within sight of the village common, which stretched
away beyond and behind the church, an expanse of rough
turf now somewhat parched and browned, broken here
by a patch of shrub, there by a dwindling pond, and
bounded in the distance by the thick coverts of the
manor-house. My lord’s exclamation had been called forth by
the bright spectacle that met his eyes. At the side of
the road, and encroaching also on the grass, were ranged
a number of vehicles of various sizes and descriptions,
from the humble donkey-cart of a sherbet seller to the
lofty coach of some county magnate. Between the
carriages the travellers caught glimpses of a crowd; and
indeed, as they drew nearer to the scene, their ears were
assailed by sundry shoutings and clappings that seemed
to betoken incidents of sport or pastime. My lord
Godolphin, for all his coldness and reserve in his official
dealings, was in his moments a keen sportsman; from
a horse-race to a main of cock-fighting or a sword-match,
nothing that had in it the element of sport came
amiss to him; and as he replaced his wig and settled
his hat upon it his eyes lit up with an anticipation vastly
different from his air of weary discontent.

“Split me, Frank,” he cried in a more animated tone
than was usual with him; “whatever it is, ’twill cheer us
up. John,” he added to the postilion, “drive on to the
grass, and stop at the first opening you find in the ring.
Odsbodikins, ’tis a game at cricket; we’ll make an
afternoon of it, Frank, and brave your mother-in-law’s anger,
come what may.”

The postilions whipped up their horses, wheeled to the
right, and drove with many a jolt on to the common,
passing behind the row of vehicles until they came to an
interval between one of the larger sort and a dray heaped
with barrels of cider. There they pulled up sideways to
the crowd, over whose heads the occupants of the calash
looked curiously towards the scene of the game. It was
clearly an exciting moment, for beyond a casual turning
of the head the nearest spectators gave no heed to the
new-comers. A space was roped in at some distance in
front of the church, and within the ring the wickets were
pitched—very primitive compared with the well-turned
polished apparatus of to-day. The stumps were two short
sticks forked at the top, stuck at a backward slant into
the turf about a foot apart, with one long bail across them.
Nothing had been done to prepare the pitch; the grass
was short and dry and stubby, with a tuft here and there
likely to trip an unwary fielder headlong. There was no
crease, but a hole in the ground. Nor was there any
uniformity of attire among the players: all had the
stockings and pantaloons of daily wear, and if there was any
difference in their shirts, it was due merely to their
difference in rank and wealth.

“Over” had just been called as Lord Godolphin and his
son drove up, and something in the attitude of the crowd
seemed to show that the game was at a crisis. The
umpires, armed with rough curved bats somewhat like
long spoons, had just taken their new places, and the
batsman who was to receive the first ball of the new over
was taking his block. A tall, loose-limbed young fellow,
he held his bat with an air of easy confidence.

“Egad, sir, ’tis Gilbert Young,” said Frank Godolphin
to his father. “I knew him at Cambridge: a sticker.
Who’s the bowler? I don’t know him.”

The bowler was a youth, a mere stripling of some
sixteen or seventeen years, who stood at his end of the
wicket, ball in hand, awaiting the word to “play”. His
loose shirt was open at the neck; his black hair, not yet
cropt for a wig, fell in a strong thick mass over his
brow; and as he waited for the batsman to complete his
somewhat fastidious preparations, he once or twice pushed
up the heavy cluster with his left hand.

“Gibs was ever a tantalising beast,” said Frank aside.
“Hi, you fellow!” he shouted to a broad-shouldered yokel
who stood just in front of him by the rope, “how stands
the score?”

The man addressed looked over his shoulder, and seeing
that the speaker was one of the “quality” he doffed his
cap and replied:

“‘Tis ninety-four notches, your honour, and last man in.
Has a’ready twenty-vive to hisself, and the Winton boys
can’t get un out.”

“Play!” cried the umpire. The batsman stood to his
block, and looked round the field with a smile of
confidence. The bowler gave a quick glance around, took
a light run of some three yards, and delivered the
ball—underhand, for round-arm bowling was not yet invented.
The ball travelled swiftly, no more than two or three feet
above the ground, pitched in front of the block-hole, and
was driven hard to the off towards a thick-set, grimy-looking
individual—the village smith. He, bending to
field the ball, missed it, swung round to run after it, and
fell sprawling over a tussock of grass, amid yells of
mingled derision and disappointment.

“Pick theeself up, Lumpy!” roared the man to whom
Frank Godolphin had spoken. But the ball had already
been fielded by Long Robin the tanner, running round
from long-on. Sir Gilbert meanwhile had got back to his
end of the wicket, and the scorer, seated near the umpire,
had cut two notches in the scoring stick.

Again the ball was bowled, with an even lower delivery
than before. The batsman stepped a yard out of his
ground and caught the ball on the rise; it flew high over
the head of the remotest fieldsman, over the rope, over
the crowd, and dropped within a foot of the lych-gate of
the church. Loud cheers from a party of gentlemen
mounted on coaches in front of a tent greeted this stroke;
four notches were cut to the credit of the side, bringing
the score to a hundred. There was dead silence among
the crowd now; it was plain that their sympathies lay
with the out side, and this ominous opening of the new
bowler’s over was a check upon their enjoyment.

Sir Gilbert once more stood to his block. For his third
ball the bowler took his run on the other side of the
wicket. His delivery this time was a little higher: the
ball pitched awkwardly, and the batsman seemed to be in
two minds what to do with it. His hesitation was fatal.
With a perplexing twist the ball slid along the ground
past his bat, hit the off stump, and just dislodged the bail,
which fell perpendicularly and lay across between the
sticks. Sir Gilbert looked at it for a moment with rueful
countenance, then marched towards the tent, while the
crowd cheered and, the innings being over, made for the
stalls and carts, at which ale and cider and gingerbread
were to be had.

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