After this came a review of the outer fortifications—if, indeed, they were worthy of the name—enclosing the gardens, the old tilting yard, now used as a bowling-green, the home-farmyard, and other such outlying portions under the stewardship of sir Ralph Blackstone and the governorship of Charles Somerset, the earl’s youngest son. It was here that the most was wanted; and the next few days were chiefly spent in surveying these works, and drawing plans for their extension, strengthening, and connection—especially about the stables, armourer’s shop, and smithy, where the building of new defences was almost immediately set on foot.
A thorough examination of the machinery of the various portcullises and drawbridges followed; next an overhauling of the bolts, chains, and other defences of the gates. Then came an inspection of the ordnance, from cannons down to drakes, through a gradation of names as uncouth to our ears, and as unknown to the artillery descended from them, as many of the Christian names of the puritans are to their descendants of the present day. At length, to conclude the inspection, lord Herbert and the master of the armoury held consultation with the head armourer, and the mighty accumulation of weapons of all sorts was passed under the most rigid scrutiny; many of them were sent to the forge, and others carried to the ground-floor of the keep.
Presently, things began to look busy in a quiet way about the place. Men were at work blasting the rocks in a quarry not far off, whence laden carts went creeping to the castle; but this was oftener in the night. Some of them drove into the paved court, for here and there a buttress was wanted inside, and of the battlements not a few were weather-beaten and out of repair. These the earl would have let alone, on the ground that they were no longer more than ornamental, and therefore had better be repaired after the siege, if such should befall, for the big guns would knock them about like cards; but Caspar reminded him that every time the ball from a cannon, culvering, or saker missed the parapet, it remained a sufficient bar to the bullet that might equally avail to carry off the defenceless gunner. The earl, however, although he yielded, maintained that the flying of the wall when struck was a more than counterbalancing danger.
The stock of provisions began to increase. The dry larder, which lay under the court, between the kitchen and buttery, was by degrees filled with gammons and flitches of bacon, well dried and smoked. Wheat, barley, oats, and pease were stored in the granary, and potatoes in a pit dug in the orchard.
Strange faces in the guard-room caused wonderings and questions amongst the women. The stables began to fill with horses, and ’more man’ to go about the farmyard and outhouses.