I swung her up, and myself after her. The bush was one which I myself had polled two years before; an old stump set thickly about with young shoots, in the cover of which we huddled, staring down the slope of our own great grass-field (the largest on Lawhibbet farm) now filled with rebels withdrawing in good order upon the earthwork on Castle Dore. This earthwork stood in the very next field on our right, behind what had used to be a hedge but where was now a gap some twenty yards wide (levelled a few days before by Essex’s cannoniers), and through this gap, towards which the regiments were streaming, drifted the smoke of the guns as they flung their round shot high over our heads, and over the hedge on our left which hid from us all of the royal troops save now and then the flash of a steel cap behind the top-growth of hazel ash and bramble.
The line of this hedge, on the near side to us, was yet held by musketeers who had spread themselves along it very closely and seemed to be using every bush. Indeed I wondered how they were to be forced from such cover, when a party of them by the gate suddenly gave back and began running, and through the gateway a small troop of horse came pouring at their heels. And albeit these cavaliers must have suffered desperately in so charging up to a covered foe (and many riderless chargers came galloping with them), yet the remnant held such good order that in pouring through they seemed to divide by agreement, a part wheeling to right and a part to left to drive the skirmishers, while the main troop held on across the field nor drew rein until they had chased the rebel rearguard to the gap. But as the gap cleared ahead and showed the earthwork and the muzzles of the guns now lowered right in their path, their leader checked his horse, wheeled about in as pretty a curve as you would wish to see, and his troop following cantered back towards the gate.
It was gallantly done and clearly won high approval from a horseman who at the moment came at a trot through the gate, with a second troop behind him, and was saluted by the returning squadron with, one flash of sword-blades, all together, hilt brought to chin and every blade pointing straight in air—a flourish almost as pretty as the feat it concluded. He too held his sword before him with point upright, but awkwardly; and though he sat his saddle well, his bearing had more of civil authority than of soldierlike precision. I was wondering, indeed, what his business might be on this field of arms—for his men hung back somewhat, as escorting rather than charging at his lead, when Margery plucked at my elbow.
I stared at her stupidly. And reading awe in her wide eyes, I had almost turned to follow their gaze when my own fell on a rider who had detached himself from the escort and was coming towards us along the hedge row, whipping it idly with the flat of his sword, and now and again thrusting at it with the point, as if beating for hidden skirmishers. It was our brother Mark, and he frowned as he rode.