THE BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE
THE BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE
G. A. HENTY
My Dear Lads:
There are few great leaders whose lives and actions have so completely
fallen into oblivion as those of the Earl of Peterborough. His
career as a general was a brief one extending only over little more
than a year and yet in that time he showed a genius for warfare
which has never been surpassed and performed feats of daring worthy
of taking their place among those of the leaders of chivalry.
The fact that they have made so slight a mark upon history is due
to several reasons. In the first place they were overshadowed
by the glory and successes of Marlborough; they were performed in
a cause which could scarcely be said to be that of England and in
which the public had a comparatively feeble interest; the object
too for which he fought was frustrated and the war was an
unsuccessful one although from no fault on his part.
But most of all Lord Peterborough failed to attain that place in
the list of British worthies to which his genius and his bravery
should have raised him because that genius was directed by no
steady aim or purpose. Lord Peterborough is indeed one of the
most striking instances in history of genius and talent wasted and
a life thrown away by want of fixed principle and by an inability
or unwillingness to work with other men. He quarreled in turn with
every party and with almost every individual with whom he came in
contact; and while he himself was constantly changing his opinions
he was intolerant of all opinions differing from those which he
at the moment held and was always ready to express in the most
open and offensive manner his contempt and dislike for those who
differed from him. His eccentricities were great; he was haughty
and arrogant hasty and passionate; he denied his God quarreled
with his king and rendered himself utterly obnoxious to every
party in the state.
And yet there was a vast amount of good in this strange man. He
was generous and warm hearted to a fault kind to those in station
beneath him thoughtful and considerate for his troops who adored
him cool in danger sagacious in difficulties and capable at
need of evincing a patience and calmness wholly at variance with
his ordinary impetuous character. Although he did not scruple to
carry deception in order to mislead an enemy to a point vastly
beyond what is generally considered admissible in war he was true
to his word and punctiliously honorable in the ordinary affairs of
For the historical events I have described and for the details of
Peterborough's conduct and character I have relied chiefly upon
the memoir of the earl written by Mr. C. Warburton and published
some thirty years ago.
CHAPTER I: THE WAR OF THE SUCCESSION
"He is an idle vagabond!" the mayor of the good town of Southampton
said in high wrath--"a ne'er do well and an insolent puppy;
and as to you Mistress Alice if I catch you exchanging words with
him again ay or nodding to him or looking as if in any way you
were conscious of his presence I will put you on bread and water
and will send you away for six months to the care of my sister
Deborah who will I warrant me bring you to your senses."
The Mayor of Southampton must have been very angry indeed when he
spoke in this way to his daughter Alice who in most matters had
her own way. Especially did it show that he was angry since he
so spoke in the presence of Mistress Anthony his wife who was
accustomed to have a by no means unimportant share in any decision
arrived at respecting family matters.
She was too wise a woman however to attempt to arrest the torrent
in full flood especially as it was a matter on which her husband
had already shown a very unusual determination to have his own way.
She therefore continued to work in silence and paid no attention
to the appealing glance which her daughter a girl of fourteen cast
toward her. But although she said nothing her husband understood
in her silence an unuttered protest.
"It is no use your taking that scamp's part Mary in this matter.
I am determined to have my own way and the townspeople know well
that when Richard Anthony makes up his mind nothing will move
"I have had no opportunity to take his part Richard" his wife
said quietly; "you have been storming without interruption since
you came in five minutes ago and I have not uttered a single word."
"But you agree with me Mary--you cannot but agree with me--that
it is nothing short of a scandal for the daughter of the Mayor of
Southampton to be talking to a penniless young rogue like that at
the garden gate."
"Alice should not have met him there" Mistress Anthony said;
"but seeing that she is only fourteen years old and the boy only
sixteen and he her second cousin I do not see that the matter is
so very shocking."
"In four more years Mistress Anthony" the mayor said profoundly
"he will be twenty and she will be eighteen."
"So I suppose Richard; I am no great head at a figures but even
I can reckon that. But as at present they are only fourteen and
sixteen I repeat that I do not see that it matters--at least
not so very much. Alice do you go to your room and remain there
till I send for you."
The girl without a word rose and retired. In the reign of King
William the Third implicit obedience was expected of children.
"I think Richard" Mrs. Anthony went on when the door closed behind
her daughter "you are not acting quite with your usual wisdom in
treating this matter in so serious a light and in putting ideas
into the girl's head which would probably never have entered there
otherwise. Of course Alice is fond of Jack. It is only natural
that she should be seeing that he is her second cousin and that
for two years they have lived together under this roof."
"I was a fool Mistress Anthony" the mayor said angrily "ever to
yield to your persuasions in that matter. It was unfortunate of
course that the boy's father the husband of your Cousin Margaret
should have been turned out of his living by the Sectarians
as befell thousands of other clergymen besides him. It was still
more unfortunate that when King Charles returned he did not get
reinstated; but after all that was Margaret's business and not
mine; and if she was fool enough to marry a pauper and he well nigh
old enough to be her father--well as I say it was no business
"He was not a pauper Richard and you know it; and he made enough
by teaching to keep him and Margaret comfortably till he broke
down and died three years ago and poor Margaret followed him to
the grave a year later. He was a good man--in every way a good
"Tut tut! I am not saying he wasn't a good man. I am only saying
that good or bad it was no business of mine; and then nothing
will do but I must send for the boy and put him in my business. And
a nice mess he made of it--an idler more careless apprentice
no cloth merchant especially one who stood well with his fellow
citizens and who was on the highway to becoming mayor of his native
city was ever crossed with."
"I think he was hardly as bad as that Richard. I don't think you
were ever quite fair to the boy."
"Not fair Mary! I am surprised at you. In what way was I not quite
"I don't think you meant to be unfair Richard; but you see you
were a little--just a little--prejudiced against him from the
first; because instead of jumping at your offer to apprentice him
to your trade he said he should like to be a sailor."
"Quite enough to prejudice me too madam. Why there are scores of
sons of respectable burgesses of this town who would jump at such
an offer; and here this penniless boy turns up his nose at it."
"It was foolish no doubt Richard; but you see the boy had been
reading the lives of admirals and navigators--he was full of life
and spirit--and I believe his father had consented to his going
"Full of life and spirit madam!" the mayor repeated more angrily
than before; "let me tell you it is these fellows who are full
of life and adventure who come to the gallows. Naturally I was
offended; but as I had given you my word I kept to it. Every man
in Southampton knows that the word of Richard Anthony is as good as
his bond. I bound him apprentice and what comes of it? My foreman
Andrew Carson is knocked flat on his back in the middle of the
Mrs. Anthony bit her lips to prevent herself from smiling.
"We will not speak any more about that Richard" she said; "because
if we did we should begin to argue. You know it is my opinion
and always has been that Carson deliberately set you against the
boy; that he was always telling you tales to his disadvantage;
and although I admit that the lad was very wrong to knock him down
when he struck him I think my dear I should have done the same
had I been in his place."
"Then madam" Mr. Anthony said solemnly "you would have deserved
what happened to him--that you should be turned neck and crop
into the street."
Mrs. Anthony gave a determined nod of her head--a nod which
signified that she should have a voice on that point. However
seeing that in her husband's present mood it was better to say no
more she resumed her work.
While this conversation had been proceeding Jack Stilwell who
had fled hastily when surprised by the mayor as he was talking to
his daughter at the back gate of the garden had made his way down
to the wharves and there seating himself upon a pile of wood
had stared moodily at the tract of mud extending from his feet to
the strip of water far away. His position was indeed an unenviable
one. As Mrs. Anthony had said his father was a clergyman of the
Church of England the vicar of a snug living in Lincolnshire but
he had been cast out when the Parliamentarians gained the upper
hand and his living was handed over to a Sectarian preacher.
When after years of poverty King Charles came to the throne the
dispossessed minister thought that as a matter of course he should
be restored to his living; but it was not so. As in hundreds of
other cases the new occupant conformed at once to the new laws
and the Rev. Thomas Stilwell having no friends or interest was
like many another clergyman left out in the cold.
But by this time he had settled at Oxford--at which university he
had been educated--and was gaining a not uncomfortable livelihood
by teaching the sons of citizens. Late in life he married Margaret
Ullathorpe who still a young woman had during a visit to some
friends at Oxford made his acquaintance. In spite of the disparity
of years the union was a happy one. One son was born to them and
all had gone well until a sudden chill had been the cause of Mr.
Stilwell's death his wife surviving him only one year. Her death
took place at Southampton where she had moved after the loss of
her husband having no further tie at Oxford and a week later Jack
Stilwell found himself domiciled at the house of Mr. Anthony.
It was in vain that he represented to the cloth merchant that his
wishes lay toward a seafaring life and that although his father
had wished him to go into the ministry he had given way to his
entreaties. Mr. Anthony sharply pooh poohed the idea and insisted
that it was nothing short of madness to dream of such a thing when
so excellent an opportunity of learning a respectable business was
open to him.
At any other time Jack would have resisted stoutly and would have
run away and taken his chance rather than agree to the proposition;
but he was broken down by grief at his mother's death. Incapable of
making a struggle against the obstinacy of Mr. Anthony and scarce
caring what became of himself he signed the deed of apprenticeship
which made him for five years the slave of the cloth merchant. Not
that the latter intended to be anything but kind and he sincerely
believed that he was acting for the good of the boy in taking him
as his apprentice; but as Jack recovered his spirits and energy he
absolutely loathed the trade to which he was bound. Had it not been
for Mistress Anthony and Alice he would have braved the heavy pains
and penalties which in those days befell disobedient apprentices
and would have run away to sea; but their constant kindness and
the fact that his mother with her dying breath had charged him
to regard her cousin as standing in her place prevented him from
carrying the idea which he often formed into effect.
In the shop his life was wretched. He was not stupid as his master
asserted; for indeed in other matters he was bright and clever
and his father had been well pleased with the progress he made with
his studies; but in the first place; he hated his work and in
the second every shortcoming and mistake was magnified and made
the most of by the foreman Andrew Carson. This man had long looked
to be taken into partnership and finally to succeed his master
seeing that the latter had no sons and he conceived a violent
jealousy of Jack Stilwell in whose presence as a prime favorite
of Mistress Anthony and of her daughter he thought he foresaw an
overthrow of his plans.
He was not long in effecting a breach between the boy and his
master--for Jack's carelessness and inattention gave him plenty of
opportunities--and Mr. Anthony ere long viewed the boy's errors
as acts of willful disobedience. This state of things lasted for two
years until the climax came when as Mr. Anthony had said to his
wife Jack upon the foreman attempting to strike him had knocked
the latter down in the shop.
Mr. Anthony's first impulse was to take his apprentice before
the justices and to demand condign punishment for such an act of
flagrant rebellion; but a moment's reflection told him that Jack
at the end of his punishment would return to his house where
his wife would take his part as usual and the quarrels which had
frequently arisen on his account would be more bitter than before.
It was far better to get rid of him at once and he accordingly
ordered him from the shop tore up his indenture before his eyes
and bade him never let him see his face again. For the first few
hours Jack was delighted at his freedom. He spent the day down on
the wharves talking to the fishermen and sailors. There were no
foreign bound ships in the port and he had no wish to ship on board
a coaster; he therefore resolved to wait until a vessel sailing
for foreign ports should leave.
He had no money; but a few hours after he left the shop Mrs.
Anthony's maid found him on the wharf and gave him a letter from
her mistress. In this was inclosed a sum of money sufficient to
last him for some time and an assurance that she did not share
her husband's anger against him.
"I have no doubt my dear Jack" she said "that in time I could
heal the breach and could arrange for you to come back again
but I think perhaps it is better as it is. You would never make a
clothier and I don't think you would ever become Mayor of Southampton.
I know what your wishes are and I think that you had better follow
them out. Alice is heartbroken over the affair but I assure her
that it will all turn out for the best. I cannot ask you to come
up to the house; but whenever you have settled on anything leave
a note with Dorothy for me and I will come down with Alice to see
you and say goodby to you. I will see that you do not go without
a proper outfit."
It was to deliver this letter that Jack had gone up to the back
gate; and seeing Alice in the garden they had naturally fallen
into conversation at the gate when the mayor looking out from
the window of his warehouse happened to see them and went out in
the greatest wrath to put a stop to the conversation.
Jack had indeed found a ship; she had come in from Holland with
cloth and other merchandise and was after she was discharged to
sail for the colonies with English goods. She would not leave the
port for some weeks; but he had seen the captain who had agreed
to take him as ship's boy. Had the mayor been aware that his late
apprentice was on the point of leaving he would not have interfered
with his intention; but as he had peremptorily ordered that his
name was not to be mentioned before him and as Mrs. Anthony had
no motive in approaching the forbidden subject the mayor remained
in ignorance that Jack was about to depart on a distant voyage.
One day on going down to the town hail he found an official letter
waiting him; it was an order from government empowering justices
of the peace to impress such men as they thought fit with the only
restriction that men entitled to vote for members of parliament were
exempted. This tremendous power had just been legalized by an act
of parliament. A more iniquitous act never disgraced our statutes
for it enabled justices of the peace to spite any of their poorer
neighbors against whom they had a grudge and to ship them off to
share in the hardships of Marlborough's campaign in Germany and
the Low Countries or in the expedition now preparing for Spain.
At that time the army was held in the greatest dislike by the
English people. The nation had always been opposed to a standing
force and it was only now that the necessities of the country
induced them to tolerate it. It was however recruited almost
entirely from reckless and desperate men. Criminals were allowed
to commute sentences of imprisonment for service in the army and
the gates of the prisons were also opened to insolvent debtors
consenting to enlist. But all the efforts of the recruiting sergeants
aided by such measures as these proved insufficient to attract
a sufficient number of men to keep up the armies at the required
Pressing had always existed to a certain extent; but it had been
carried on secretly and was regarded as illegal. Therefore as
men must be had the law giving justices the authority and power
to impress any men they might select with the exception of those
who possessed a vote for members of parliament was passed with
the approval of parties on both sides of the House of Commons.
There was indeed great need for men. England had allied herself with
Austria and Holland in opposition to France the subject of dispute
being the succession to the crown of Spain England's feelings in
the matter being further imbittered by the recognition by Louis
XIV of the Pretender as King of England. Therefore although her
interests were not so deeply engaged in the question as to the
succession to the throne of Spain as were those of the continental
powers she threw herself into the struggle with ardor.
The two claimants to the throne of Spain were the Archduke Charles
second son of Leopold Emperor of Austria and Philip Duke of
Anjou a younger grandson of Louis. On the marriage of the French
king with Maria Theresa the sister of Charles II of Spain she
had formally renounced all claims to the succession but the French
king had nevertheless continued from time to time to bring them
forward. Had these rights not been renounced Philip would have had
the best claim to the Spanish throne the next of kin after him
being Charles of Austria.
During the later days of the King of Spain all Europe had looked on
with the most intense interest at the efforts which the respective
parties made for their candidates. Whichever might succeed to the
throne the balance of power would be destroyed; for either Austria
and Spain united or France and Spain united would be sufficient
to overawe the rest of the Continent. Louis XIV lulled the fears
of the Austrian party by suggesting a treaty of partition to the
Dutch states and William the Third of England.
By this treaty it was agreed that the Archduke Charles was to be
acknowledged successor to the crowns of Spain the Indies and the
Netherlands; while the dauphin as the eldest son of Maria Theresa
should receive the kingdom of Naples and Sicily with the Spanish
province of Guipuscoa and the duchy of Milan in compensation of
his abandonment of other claims. When the conditions of this treaty
became known they inspired natural indignation in the minds of the
people of the country which had thus been arbitrarily allotted
and the dying Charles of Spain was infuriated by this conspiracy
to break up and divide his dominion. His jealousy of France would
have led him to select the Austrian claimant; but the emperor's
undisguised greed for a portion of the Spanish empire and the
overbearing and unpleasant manner of the Austrian ambassador in
the Spanish court drove him to listen to the overtures of Louis
who had a powerful ally in Cardinal Portocarrero Archbishop of
Toledo whose influence was all powerful with the king. The cardinal
argued that the grandson of Maria Theresa could not be bound by
her renunciation and also that it had only been made with a view
to keep separate the French and Spanish monarchies and that if a
descendant of hers other than the heir to the throne of France
were chosen this condition would be carried out.
Finally he persuaded Charles a month before his death to sign
a will declaring Philip Duke of Anjou grandson of his brother in
law Louis XIV sole heir of the Spanish empire. The will was kept
secret till the death of the king and was then publicly proclaimed.
Louis accepted the bequest in favor of his grandson and Philip
was declared king in Spain and her dependencies.
The greatest indignation was caused in England Holland and
the empire at this breach by the King of France of the treaty of
partition of which he himself had been the author. England and
Holland were unprepared for war and therefore bided their time
but Austria at once commenced hostilities by directing large bodies
of troops under Prince Eugene into the duchy of Milan and by
inciting the Neapolitans to revolt. The young king was at first
popular in Spain but Cardinal Portocarrero who exercised the
real power of the state by his overbearing temper his avarice
and his shameless corruption speedily alienated the people from
their monarch. Above all the cardinal was supposed to be the tool
of the French king and to represent the policy which had for its
object the dismemberment of the Spanish monarchy and the aggrandizement
That Louis had such designs was undoubted and if properly managed
and bribed Portocarrero would have been a pliant instrument
in his hands; but the cardinal was soon estranged by the constant
interference by the French agents in his own measures of government
and therefore turned against France that power of intrigue which
he had recently used in her favor. He pretended to be devoted to
France and referred even the most minute details of government
to Paris for approbation with the double view of disgusting Louis
with the government of Spain and of enraging the Spanish people at
the constant interference of Louis.
Philip however found a new and powerful ally in the hearts of
the people by his marriage with Maria Louisa daughter of the Duke
of Savoy--a beautiful girl of fourteen years old who rapidly
developed into a graceful and gifted woman and became the darling
of the Spanish people and whose intellect firmness and courage
guided and strengthened her weak but amiable husband. For a time the
power of Spain and France united overshadowed Europe the trading
interests of England and Holland were assailed and a French army
assembled close to the Flemish frontier.
The indignation of the Dutch overcame their fears and they yielded
to the quiet efforts which King William was making and combined