THROUGH THE FRAY
THROUGH THE FRAY
G. A. HENTY
My Dear Lads:
The beginning of the present century glorious as it was for British
arms abroad was a dark time to those who lived by their daily
labor at home. The heavy taxation entailed by the war the injury
to trade and the enormous prices of food all pressed heavily
upon the working classes. The invention of improved machinery vast
as has been the increase of trade which it has brought about at
first pressed heavily upon the hand workers who assigned all their
distress to the new inventions. Hence a movement arose which did
much damage and for a time threatened to be extremely formidable.
It had its ramifications through all the manufacturing districts
of England the object being the destruction of the machinery and
a return to the old methods of work. The troubles which occurred
in various parts of the country were known as the Luddite Riots
and the secret body which organized them was called King or General
Lud. In the present story I have endeavored to give you an idea
of the state of things which prevailed in Yorkshire where among
the croppers and others employed in the woolen manufactures was
one of the most formidable branches of the secret association. The
incidents of the murder of Mr. Horsfall and the attack upon Mr.
Cartwright's mill are strictly accurate in all their details.
In this story I have left the historical battlefields across so
many of which I have taken you and have endeavored to show that
there are peaceful battles to be fought and victories to be won every
jot as arduous and as difficult as those contested under arms. In
"Facing Death" my hero won such a battle. He had to fight against
external circumstances and step by step by perseverance pluck
and determination made his way in life. In the present tale
my hero's enemy was within and although his victory was at last
achieved the victor was well nigh worsted in the fray. We have all
such battles to fight dear lads; may we all come unscathed and
victorious through the fray!
G. A. Henty
CHAPTER I: A FISHING EXPEDITION
It has just struck one and the boys are streaming out from the
schoolroom of Mr. Hathorn's academy in the little town of Marsden
in Yorkshire. Their appearance would create some astonishment in
the minds of lads of the present generation for it was the year
1807 and their attire differed somewhat materially from that now
worn. They were for the most part dressed in breeches tight at
the knee and buttoning up outside the close fitting jacket nearly
under the arms so that they seemed almost devoid of waist. At the
present moment they were bareheaded; but when they went beyond the
precincts of the school they wore stiff caps flat and very large
at the top and with far projecting peaks.
They were not altogether a happy looking set of boys and many of
their cheeks were stained with tears and begrimed with dirt from
the knuckles which had been used to wipe them away; for there was
in the year 1807 but one known method of instilling instruction
into the youthful mind namely the cane and one of the chief
qualifications of a schoolmaster was to be able to hit hard and
Mr. Hathorn judged by this standard stood very high in his
profession; his cane seemed to whiz through the air so rapidly
and strongly did it descend and he had the knack of finding out
tender places and of hitting them unerringly.
Any one passing in front of the schoolhouse during the hours when
the boys were at their lessons would be almost sure to hear the
sharp cracks of the cane followed sometimes by dead silence when
the recipient of the blows was of a sturdy and Spartan disposition
but more frequently by shrieks and cries.
That Hathorn's boys hated their master was almost a matter of
course. At the same time they were far from regarding him as an
exceptional monster of cruelty for they knew from their friends
that flogging prevailed almost everywhere and accepted it as a
necessary portion of the woes of boyhood. Indeed in some respects
when not smarting under the infliction they were inclined to believe
that their lot was in comparison with that of others a fortunate
one; for whereas in many schools the diet was so poor and bad that
the boys were half starved at Hathorn's if their food was simple
and coarse it was at least wholesome and abundant.
Mr. Hathorn in fact intended and as he quite believed with success
to do his duty by his boys. They were sent to him to be taught and
he taught them through the medium then recognized as most fitting
for the purpose--the cane; while as far as an abundance of
porridge for breakfast and of heavy pudding at dinner with twice
a week an allowance of meat the boys were unstinted. He would
indeed point with pride to his pupils when their parents assembled
at the annual presentation of prizes.
"Look at them!" he would say proudly. "None of your half starved
skeletons here--well filled out and in good condition every boy
of them--no stint of porridge here. It keeps them in good health
and improves their learning; for mark you a plump boy feels the
cane twice as much as a skinny one; it stings my dear sir it
stings and leaves its mark; whereas there is no getting at a boy
whose clothes hang like bags about him."
This was no doubt true and the boys themselves were conscious of
it and many had been the stern resolutions made while smarting in
agony that henceforward food should be eschewed or taken only in
sufficient quantities to keep life together. But boys' appetites
are stronger than boys' resolutions and in the end there was never
any marked falling off in the consumption of viands at Hathorn's.
Like other things punishment fails when administered in excess. There
was no disgrace whatever in what was common to all for although
some of the boys of superior ability and perseverance would escape
with a smaller amount of punishment than their fellows none could
hope to escape altogether. Thus it was only the pain that they had
to bear and even this became to some extent deadened by repetition
and was forgotten as soon as inflicted save when a sudden movement
caused a sharp pain in back or leg. Once in the playground their
spirits revived and except a few whose recent punishment incapacitated
them for a time from active exercise the whole were soon intent
upon their games.
One only of the party wore his cap and he after a few minutes left
the others and went toward a door which led from the playground
into the road.
"Don't be long Sankey; come back as soon as you can you know we
agreed to go fishing this afternoon."
"All right Tompkins; I will come back directly I have done my
dinner. I expect I shall have finished quite as soon as you will."
Edward Sankey who was regarded with envy by his schoolfellows
was the only home boarder at Hathorn's; for as a general thing
the master set his face against the introduction of home boarders.
They were he considered an element of disturbance; they carry
tales to and from the school; they cause discontent among the
other boys and their parents are in the habit of protesting and
interfering. Not indeed that parents in those days considered it
in any way a hardship for their boys to suffer corporal punishment;
they had been flogged at school and they believed that they had
learned their lessons all the better for it. Naturally the same thing
would happen to their sons. Still mothers are apt to be weak and
soft hearted and therefore Mr. Hathorn objected to home boarders.
He had made an exception in Sankey's case; his father was of a
different type to those of the majority of his boys; he had lost
his leg at the battle of Assaye and had been obliged to leave the
army and having but small means beyond his pension had settled
near the quiet little Yorkshire town as a place where he could
live more cheaply than in more bustling localities. He had when he
first came no acquaintances whatever in the place and therefore
would not be given to discuss with the parents of other boys the
doings in the school. Not that Mr. Hathorn was afraid of discussion
for he regarded his school as almost perfect of its kind. Still
it was his fixed opinion that discussion was as a general rule
unadvisable. Therefore when Captain Sankey a few weeks after taking
up his residence in the locality made a proposal to him that his
son should attend his school as a home boarder Mr. Hathorn acceded
to the proposition stating frankly his objections as a rule to
boys of that class.
"I shall not interfere" Captain Sankey said. "Of course boys must
be thrashed and provided that the punishment is not excessive
and that it is justly administered I have nothing to say against
it. Boys must be punished and if you don't flog you have to confine
them and in my opinion that is far worse for a boy's temper
spirit and health."
So Ned Sankey went to Hathorn's and was soon a great favorite there.
Just at first he was regarded as a disobliging fellow because he
adhered strictly to a stipulation which Mr. Hathorn had made that
he should not bring things in from the town for his school fellows.
Only once a week on the Saturday half holiday were the boys allowed
outside the bounds of the wall round the playground and although
on Wednesday an old woman was allowed to come into those precincts
to sell fruit cakes and sweets many articles were wanted in
the course of the week and the boys took it much amiss for a time
that Ned refused to act as their messenger; but he was firm in his
refusals. His father had told him not to do so and his father's
word was law to him; but when the boys saw that in all other respects
he was a thoroughly good fellow they soon forgave him what they
considered his undue punctiliousness and he became a prime favorite
in the school.
It is due to Mr. Hathorn to say that no fear of interference
induced him to mitigate his rule to thrash when he considered that
punishment was necessary and that Ned received his full share of
the general discipline. He was never known to utter a cry under
punishment for he was as his school fellows said admiringly as
hard as nails; and he was moreover of a dogged disposition which
would have enabled him when he had once determined upon a thing
to carry it through even if it killed him. Mr. Hathorn regarded
this quality as obstinacy the boys as iron resolution; and while
the former did his best to conquer what he regarded as a fault the
boys encouraged by their admiration what they viewed as a virtue.
At home Ned never spoke of his punishments; and if his father
observed a sudden movement which told of a hidden pain and would
say cheerfully "What! have you been getting it again Ned?" the
boy would smile grimly and nod but no complaint ever passed his
There was no disgrace in being flogged--it was the natural lot
of schoolboys; why should he make a fuss about it? So he held his
tongue. But Mr. Hathorn was not altogether wrong. Ned Sankey was
obstinate but though obstinate he was by no means sulky. When he
made up his mind to do a thing he did it whether it was to be at
the top of his class in order to please his father or to set his
teeth like iron and let no sound issue from them as Mr. Hathorn's
cane descended on his back.
Ned Sankey was about fourteen years of age. He had a brother and
a sister but between them and himself was a gap of four years as
some sisters who had been born after him had died in infancy. Ned
adored his father who was a most kind and genial man and would
have suffered anything in silence rather than have caused him any
troubles or annoyance by complaining to him.
For his mother his feelings were altogether different. She was a
kindly and well intentioned woman but weak and silly. On leaving
school she had gone out to join her father in India. Captain
Sankey had sailed in the same ship and taken by her pretty face
and helpless dependent manner he had fallen in love with her
knowing nothing of her real disposition and they had been married
upon their arrival at the termination of the voyage. So loyal
was his nature that it is probable Captain Sankey never admitted
even to himself that his marriage had been a mistake; but none of
his comrades ever doubted it. His wife turned out one of the most
helpless of women. Under the plea of ill health she had at a very
early period of their marriage given up all attempt to manage the
affairs of the household and her nerves were wholly unequal to
the strain of looking after her children. It was noticeable that
though her health was unequal to the discharge of her duties she
was always well enough to take part in any pleasure or gayety which
might be going on; and as none of the many doctors who attended her
were able to discover any specific ailment the general opinion
was that Mrs. Sankey's ill health was the creation of her own
imagination. This however was not wholly the case. She was not
strong; and although had she made an effort she would have been
able to look after her children like other women she had neither
the disposition nor the training to make that effort.
Her son regarded her with the sort of pity not unmingled with
contempt with which young people full of life and energy are apt
to regard those who are weak and ailing without having any specific
disease or malady which would account for their condition.
"All the bothers fall upon father" he would say to himself; "and
if mother did but make up her mind she could take her share in them
well enough. There was he walking about for two hours this evening
with little Lucy in his arms because she had fallen down and hurt
herself; and there was mother lying on the sofa reading that book
of poetry as if nothing that happened in the house was any affair
of hers. She is very nice and very kind but I do wish she wouldn't
leave everything for father to do. It might have been all very well
before he lost his leg but I do think she ought to make an effort
However Mrs. Sankey made no effort nor did her husband ever hint
that it would be better for herself as well as her family if she
did so. He accepted the situation as inevitable and patiently
and indeed willingly bore her burden as well as his own.
Fortunately she had in the children's nurse an active and trustworthy
woman. Abijah Wolf was a Yorkshire woman. She had in her youth
been engaged to a lad in her native village. In a moment of drunken
folly a short time before the day fixed for their wedding he
had been persuaded to enlist. Abijah had waited patiently for him
twelve years. Then he had returned a sergeant and she had married
him and followed him with his regiment which was that in which
Captain Sankey--at that time a young ensign--served. When the
latter's first child was born at Madras there was a difficulty in
obtaining a white nurse and Mrs. Sankey declared that she would
not trust the child to a native. Inquiries were therefore made in
the regiment and Sergeant Wolf's wife who had a great love for
children although childless herself volunteered to fill the post
for a time. A few months afterward Sergeant Wolf was killed in a
fight with a marauding hill tribe. His widow instead of returning
home and living on the little pension to which she was entitled at
his death remained in the service of the Sankeys who soon came
to regard her as invaluable.
She was somewhat rough in her ways and sharp with her tongue; but
even Mrs. Sankey who was often ruffled by her brusque independence
was conscious of her value and knew that she should never obtain
another servant who would take the trouble of the children so entirely
off her hands. She retained indeed her privilege of grumbling
and sometimes complained to her husband that Abijah's ways were
really unbearable. Still she never pressed the point and Abijah
appeared established as a permanent fixture in the Sankeys' household.
She it was who when after leaving the service Captain Sankey
was looking round for a cheap and quiet residence had recommended
"There is a grand air from the hills" she said "which will be
just the thing for the children. There's good fishing in the stream
for yourself captain and you can't get a quieter and cheaper place
in all England. I ought to know for I was born upon the moorland
but six miles away from it and should have been there now if I
hadn't followed my man to the wars."
"Where are you going Master Ned?" she asked as the boy having
finished his dinner ran to the high cupboard at the end of the
passage near the kitchen to get his fishing rod.
"I am going out fishing Abijah."
"Not by yourself I hope?"
"No; another fellow is going with me. We are going up into the
"Don't ye go too far Master Ned. They say the croppers are drilling
on the moors and it were bad for ye if you fell in with them."
"They wouldn't hurt me if I did."
"I don't suppose they would" the nurse said "but there is never
no saying. Poor fellows! they're druv well nigh out of their senses
with the bad times. What with the machines and the low price of
labor and the high price of bread they are having a terrible time
of it. And no wonder that we hear of frame breaking in Nottingham
and Lancashire and other places. How men can be wicked enough to
make machines to take the bread out of poor men's mouths beats
"Father says the machinery will do good in the long run Abijah
--that it will largely increase trade and so give employment to
a great many more people than at present. But it certainly is hard
on those who have learned to work in one way to see their living
taken away from them."
"Hard!" the nurse said. "I should say it were hard. I know the
croppers for there were a score of them in my village and a rough
wild lot they were. They worked hard and they drank hard and the
girl as chose a cropper for a husband was reckoned to have made a
bad match of it; but they are determined fellows and you will see
they won't have the bread taken out of their mouths without making
a fight for it."
"That may be" Ned said "for every one gives them the name of a
rough lot; but I must talk to you about it another time Abijah
I have got to be off;" and having now found his fishing rod his
box of bait his paper of books and a basket to bring home the fish
he intended to get Ned ran off at full speed toward the school.
As Abijah Wolf had said the croppers of the West Riding were a
rough set. Their occupation consisted in shearing or cropping the
wool on the face of cloths. They used a large pair of shears which
were so set that one blade went under the cloth while the other
worked on its upper face mowing the fibers and ends of the wool to
a smooth even surface. The work was hard and required considerable
skill and the men earned about twenty-four shillings a week a
sum which with bread and all other necessities of life at famine
prices barely sufficed for the support of their families. The
introduction of power looms threatened to abolish their calling.
It was true that although these machines wove the cloth more evenly
and smoothly than the hand looms croppers were still required to
give the necessary smoothness of face; still the tendency had been
to lower wages.
The weavers were affected even more than the croppers for strength
and skill were not so needed to tend the power looms as to work the
hand looms. Women and boys could do the work previously performed
by men and the tendency of wages was everywhere to fall.
For years a deep spirit of discontent had been seething among the
operatives in the cotton and woolen manufactures and there had been
riots more or less serious in Derbyshire Nottingham Lancashire
and Yorkshire which in those days were the headquarters of these
trades. Factories had been burned employers threatened and attacked
and the obnoxious machines smashed. It was the vain struggle of
the ignorant and badly paid people to keep down production and to
keep up wages to maintain manual labor against the power of the
Hitherto factories had been rare men working the frames in their
own homes and utilizing the labor of their wives and families
and the necessity of going miles away to work in the mills where
the looms were driven by steam added much to the discontent.
Having found his fishing appliances Ned hurried off to the school
where his chum Tompkins was already waiting him and the two set
out at once on their expedition.
They had four miles to walk to reach the spot where they intended
to fish. It was a quiet little stream with deep pools and many
shadows and had its source in the heart of the moorlands. Neither
of them had ever tried it before but they had heard it spoken
of as one of the best streams for fish in that part. On reaching
its banks the rods were put together the hooks were baited with
worms and a deep pool being chosen they set to work. After fishing
for some time without success they tried a pool higher up and so
mounted higher and higher up the stream but ever with the same
want of success.
"How could they have said that this was a good place for fish?"
Tompkins said angrily at last. "Why by this time it would have
been hard luck if we had not caught a dozen between us where we
usually fish close to the town and after our long walk we have
not had even a bite."
"I fancy Tompkins" Ned said "that we are a couple of fools.
I know it is trout that they catch in this stream and of course
now I think of it trout are caught in clear water with a fly not
with a worm. Father said the other day he would take me out some
Saturday and give me a lesson in fly fishing. How he will laugh
when I tell him we have wasted all our afternoon in trying to catch
trout with worms!"
"I don't see anything to laugh at" Tompkins grumbled. "Here we
waste a whole half holiday and nothing to show for it and have
got six or seven miles at least to tramp back to school."
"Well we have had a nice walk" Ned said "even if we are caught
in the rain. However we may as well put up our rods and start. I
vote we try to make a straight cut home; it must be ever so much
shorter to go in a straight line than to follow all the windings
of this stream."
They had long since left the low lands where trees and bushes
bordered the stream and were in a lonely valley where the hills
came down close to the little stream which sparkled among the
boulders at their feet. The slopes were covered with a crop of short
wiry grass through which the gray stone projected here and there.
Tiny rills of water made their way down the hillside to swell the
stream and the tinge of brown which showed up wherever these found
a level sufficient to form a pool told that they had their source
in the bogs on the moorland above. Tompkins looked round him rather
"I don't know" he said. "It's a beastly long way to walk round;
but suppose we got lost in trying to make our way across the hills."
"Well just as you like" Ned said "I am game to walk back the
way we came or to try and make a straight cut only mind don't you
turn round and blame me afterward. You take your choice; whichever