“My man found out all these matters from the servant wench. We shall have no difficulty in taking him quietly. The woman will be so terrified, when I tell her what he is wanted for, that she will do anything rather than have a scandal that would damage the reputation of the house.”
He assured Charlie that he need give the matter no further thought. All the arrangements would be made, and, unless he heard farther from him, he and Harry would only have to present themselves, at the door of the house in question, at two o’clock on the morning of Saturday.
The evening with the duke passed off pleasantly. The general’s questions turned, not so much upon the actual fighting, as upon the organization of the Swedes, their methods of campaigning, of victualling the army, of hutting themselves in winter, the maintenance of discipline in camp, and other military points that would be of service to him in his next campaign.
“Your king is very wise, in so strictly repressing all plundering and violence,” he said. “Only so can a general maintain an army in an enemy’s country. If the peasantry have confidence in him, and know that they will get a fair price for their produce, they will bring it into the market gladly, in spite of any orders their own government may issue to the contrary. I am determined that, if I again lead an English army in the field, I will follow King Charles’ example; though I shall find it more difficult to enforce my orders than he does, for he is king as well as general, and his Swedes are quiet, honest fellows, while my army will be composed of ne’er-do-wells—of men who prefer to wear the queen’s uniform to a prison garment, of debtors who wish to escape their creditors, and of men who find village life too quiet for them, and prefer to see the world, even at the risk of being shot, to honest labour on the farms. It requires a stern hand to make a disciplined army out of such materials, but when the time of fighting comes, one need wish for no better.”
Before parting with them, the duke inquired farther into their arrangements for the arrest of the highwayman, and said he should expect to see them on Saturday, and that, if he heard that all had gone well, he would at once take steps for bringing the matter before a court that would deal with it.
The young men felt restless, as the day approached. They had seen no more of Tony, but they felt complete confidence in him, and were sure that they would hear if any difficulties arose; but though, throughout Friday, they did not quit their lodging, no message reached them.
Chapter 18: A Confession.
At the appointed hour, as the clock of the Abbey was striking, they gave three gentle knocks at the door of the house. It was immediately opened by Tony, who held a candle in his hand, closed the door quietly behind them, and then led them into a parlour.