My Dear Lads,
Had I attempted to write you an account of the whole of the adventurous career of Charles the Twelfth of Sweden, it would, in itself, have filled a bulky volume, to the exclusion of all other matter; and a youth, who fought at Narva, would have been a middle-aged man at the death of that warlike monarch, before the walls of Frederickshall. I have, therefore, been obliged to confine myself to the first three years of his reign, in which he crushed the army of Russia at Narva, and laid the then powerful republic of Poland prostrate at his feet. In this way, only, could I obtain space for the private adventures and doings of Charlie Carstairs, the hero of the story. The details of the wars of Charles the Twelfth were taken from the military history, written at his command by his chamberlain, Adlerfeld; from a similar narrative by a Scotch gentleman in his service; and from Voltaire’s history. The latter is responsible for the statement that the trade of Poland was almost entirely in the hands of Scotch, French, and Jewish merchants, the Poles themselves being sharply divided into the two categories of nobles and peasants.
G. A. Henty.
Chapter 1: A Spy in the Household.
On the borders of Lancashire and Westmoreland, two centuries since, stood Lynnwood, a picturesque mansion, still retaining something of the character of a fortified house. It was ever a matter of regret to its owner, Sir Marmaduke Carstairs, that his grandfather had so modified its construction, by levelling one side of the quadrangle, and inserting large mullion windows in that portion inhabited by the family, that it was in no condition to stand a siege, in the time of the Civil War.
Sir Marmaduke was, at that time, only a child, but he still remembered how the Roundhead soldiers had lorded it there, when his father was away fighting with the army of the king; how they had seated themselves at the board, and had ordered his mother about as if she had been a scullion, jeering her with cruel words as to what would have been the fate of her husband, if they had caught him there, until, though but eight years old, he had smitten one of the troopers, as he sat, with all his force. What had happened after that, he did not recollect, for it was not until a week after the Roundheads had ridden away that he found himself in his bed, with his mother sitting beside him, and his head bandaged with cloths dipped in water. He always maintained that, had the house been fortified, it could have held out until help arrived, although, in later years, his father assured him that it was well it was not in a position to offer a defence.
“We were away down south, Marmaduke, and the Roundheads were masters of this district, at the time. They would have battered the place around your mother’s ears, and, likely as not, have burnt it to the ground. As it was, I came back here to find it whole and safe, except that the crop-eared scoundrels had, from pure wantonness, destroyed the pictures and hacked most of the furniture to pieces. I took no part in the later risings, seeing that they were hopeless, and therefore preserved my property, when many others were ruined.