Things began to look threatening. Raglan’s brooding disappointment and apprehension was like the electric overcharge of the earth, awaiting and drawing to it the hovering cloud: the lightning and thunder of the war began at length to stoop upon the Yellow Tower of Gwent. When the month of May arrived once more with its moonlight and apple-blossoms, the cloud came with it. The doings of the earl of Glamorgan in Ireland had probably hastened the vengeance of the parliament.
There was no longer any royal army. Most of the king’s friends had accepted the terms offered them; and only a few of his garrisons, amongst the rest that of Raglan, held out—no longer, however, in such trim for defence as at first. The walls, it is true, were rather stronger than before, the quantity of provisions was large, and the garrison was sufficient; but their horses were now comparatively few, and, which was worse, the fodder in store was, in prospect of a long siege, scanty. But the worst of all, indeed the only weak and therefore miserable fact, was, that the spirit, I do not mean the courage, of the castle was gone; its enthusiasm had grown sere; its inhabitants no longer loved the king as they had loved him, and even stern-faced general Duty cannot bring up his men to a hand-to-hand conflict with the same elans as queen love.
The rumour of approaching troops kept gathering, and at every fresh report Scudamore’s eyes shone.
‘Sir Rowland,’ said the governor one day, ’hast not had enough of fighting yet for all thy lame shoulder?’
‘’Tis but my left shoulder, my lord,’ answered Scudamore.
‘Thou lookest for the siege as an’ it were but a tussle and over—a flash and a roar. An’ thou had to answer for the place like me—well!’
’Nay, my lord, I would fain show the roundheads what an honest house can do to hold out rogues.’
‘Ay, but there’s the rub!’ returned lord Charles: ’will the house hold out the rogues? Bethink thee, Rowland, there is never a spot in it fit for defence except the keep and the kitchen.’
‘We can make sallies, my lord.’
’To be driven in again by ten times our number, and kept in while they knock our walls about our ears! However, we will hold out while we can. Who knows what turn affairs may take?’
It was towards the end of April when the news reached Raglan that the king, desperate at length, had made his escape from beleaguered Oxford, and in the disguise of a serving man, betaken himself to the headquarters of the Scots army, to find himself no king, no guest even, but a prisoner. He sought shelter and found captivity. The marquis dropped his chin on his chest and murmured, ‘All is over.’
But the pang that shot to his heart awoke wounded loyalty: he had been angry with his monarch, and justly, but he would fight for him still.