Chap.viii. : HOW HE FOUND THE DEVIL IN THE TROUGH, AND HOW JUMP-I’-TH’-FIELD GOT FINE HORSES
Now I could by no means be rid of my Jupiter: for the commandant would have none of him, as a pigeon not worth the plucking, but said he made me a free gift of him. So now I had a fool of mine own and needed to buy none, though a year before I must needs allow others to treat me as such. So wondrous is fortune and so changeable the times! Even now had the lice troubled me, and now had I the very god of fleas in my power; half a year before was I serving a miserable dragoon as page, and now I had command of two servants that called me master; and so I reflected at times that noting is so certain in this world as its uncertainty. And so must I fear if ever Fortune should let loose her hornets upon me it would altogether overwhelm my present happiness.
Now just then Count von der Wahl, as colonel in command of the Westphalian circle, was collecting troops from all the garrisons to make a cavalry expedition through the bishopric of Munster towards the Vecht1, Meppen, Lingen and such places, but specially to drive off two companies of Hessian troopers in the bishopric of Paderborn2 that lay two miles from the city and had out with our dragoons, and when a few troops had been collected at Ham we beat up the quarters of the said troopers, which were but an ill-protected village, till the rest of our people came. They tried to escape, but we let them go without horse or weapons but with the clothes on their backs; to this they would not agree, but would defend themselves with their carbines like musqueteers. So it came to that, that in the same night I must try what luck I had in storming, for the dragoons led the way; and my luck was so good that I, together with Jump-i’-th’-field, was among the first to come into the town, and that without hurt, and we soon cleared the streets; for all that bore arms were cut down, and the citizens had no stomach for fighting; so we entered the houses. Then said Jump-i’-th’-field, we should choose a house before which a big heap of dung stood, for in such the rich curmudgeons were wont to dwell, with whom commonly officers were billeted: on such a one we seized, and there Jump-i’-th’-field would first visit the stable and I the house, on the condition each should share with the other whatever he could lay hands on. So then each lit his torch, and I called to the master of the house but had no answer, for all had hid themselves, but came upon a room wherein was nought but an empty bed and a covered kneading-trough. This I knocked open in hopes to find somewhat valuable, but as I raised the cover a coal-black thing rose up against me which I took for Lucifer himself. Nay, I can swear I was never in my life so terrified as I was then, when I so unawares beheld this black devil. “My all the powers of hell take thee,” I cried in my fear, and raised my hatchet wherewith I had broke open the trough, yet had not the heart to split the creature’s skull: so down he knelt, raised his hands to me, and says he, “O massa, I beg by de good God, gib me my life.” With that I first knew ‘twas no devil, for he spake of God and begged for his life; so I bade him get out of his trough: and that he did as naked as God made him. Then I cut a piece of my torch off for him to light me, the which he did obediently, and brought me to a little room wherein I found the master of the house, who, together with his people, was looking on as this merry sight, and begged with trembling for mercy. And that he easily came by, for in any case we might not harm the burghers, and besides he handed me over the baggage of the Hessian captain, among which was a fairly well-furnished, locked portmanteau, telling me the said captain and all his people, save one servant and the negro now present, were gone to their posts to defend themselves. Meanwhile Jump-i’-th’-field had made prize of the said servant and six fine saddle-horses in the stable: these we brought into the house, barred the doors, and bade the negro to put on his clothes; and told the burgher what story he should tell to his captain. But when the gate was opened and the posts occupied, and our general of ordnance, Count von der Wahl, was admitted, he lodged his staff in the very house where we were. So in dark night we must needs seek other quarters; and these we found with our comrades who had come in with the storming-parties: with them we made merry and spent the rest of the night in eating and drinking, when Jump-i’-th’-field and I had divided our booty. For my share I received the negro and the two best horses, of which one was a Spanish one, on which any soldier might meet his enemy, and with this thereafter I made no small show; but out of the portmanteau I got divers costly rings, and in a golden case set with rubies the Prince of Orange’s3 portrait (for all the rest I left to Jump-i’-th’-field), so that the whole, if I had desired to give it away, would with the horses have stood me in 200 ducats: since for the negro, that was the poorest part of my booty, the Master-General of Ordnance to whom I presented him gave me two dozen thalers.
Thence we marched quickly to the Ems4 , yet accomplished but little: and as it happened that we came near Recklinghausen, I took leave, together with Jump-i’-th’-field, to speak with my pastor from whom I had stolen the bacon. With him I made merry and told him the negro had made me feel the same terror which he and his cook had felt, and presented him, moreover, with a fine striking watch for a friendly remembrance, which I had had out of the captain’s portmanteau: and so did I take care to make friends in all places of them that would otherwise have had cause to hate me.
Chap. ix.: OF AN UNEQUAL COMBAT IN WHICH THE WEAKEST WINS THE DAY AND THE CONQUEROR IS CAPTURED
But with my good fortune my pride so increased that in the end it could bring me nothing but a fall. For as we were encamped some half-hour from Rehnen, I had leave to go into the town with my dear comrade, there to have those arms furbished up which we had just received. And as it was our intent to be right merry with each other, we turned in to the best inn, and had minstrels sent for, to play our wine and beer down our throat. So we fell to drinking and roaring; and no sport was wanting, which could make the money fly: nay, I invited also lads from other regiments to be my guests, and so carried myself as a young prince who has command of land and folk and great sums to spend by the year. And thus we fared better than was pleasing to a company of troopers who sat there also at table, but with no such mad tricks as we. So, being angry, they began to jest upon us, “How comes it,” said they to one another, “that these prop-hoppers§” (for they took us for musqueteers, seeing that no animal in the world is more like a musqueteer than is a dragoon, and if a dragoon fall from his horse he rises up a musqueteer) “can make such a show with their halfpence?” “Yonder lad,” answered another, “is surely some straw-squire whose mother hath sent him the milk-pence, and those he now spends upon his comrades, that some time they may pull him out of the mud or through a ditch.” With which words they aimed at me, for they took me for a young nobleman. Of such talk the maid that waited brought me private news: yet since I heard it not myself, I could do no more than fill a great beer-glass with wine and let it go round to the health of all good musqueteers, and at every round made such a hubbub that none could hear himself speak. And this vexed them yet more, so that they said aloud, “What in the devil’s name have these prop-hoppers for an easy life of it!” Whereupon Jump-i-‘th’-field answered, “And what matters that to the bootblacks?” This passed well enough; for he looked so big and held so fierce and threatening a carriage that no one cared to give him the rub. Yet he must again fall foul of them and this time of a fellow of some consideration, who answered, “Ay, and if these loiterers could not so swagger here on their own dung-hill (for he thought we lay there in garrison, because our clothes seemed not so weather-beaten as those of the poor musqueteers who must lie day and night in open field), where could they show themselves? Who knows not that any of them in the battlefield is as surely the booty of the troopers as is the pigeon of the hawk?” But I answered him, “It is our business to take cities and fortresses, whereas ye troopers, if ye come but to the poorest rat’s-nest of a town, can there drive no dog out of his den. Why may we not then have your good leave to make merry in that which is more ours than yours?”
The trooper answered, “Him who is master in the field the fortresses must follow after: and that we troopers are masters in the field is proved by this: that I for myself not only fear not three such babes as thee, musquet and all, but could stick a couple such in my hat-band, and then ask the third where there were more to be found. And if I now sat by thee,” said he with scorn, “I would bestow on my young squire a couple of buffets to prove the truth of this.”
“Yea,” said I, “and though I have as good a pair of pistols as thou, notwithstanding I am no trooper, but only a bastard between such and the musqueteers, yet, look you, even a child hath heart enough to shew himself alone in open field against such a bully on horseback as thou art, and against all thine armoury.”
“Aha; thou swaggerer,” said the fellow, “I hold thee for a rascal if thou make not good thy words forthwith as becomes an honourable nobleman.”
So I threw him my glove and, “See then,” said I, “if I get this not from thee in fair field with my musquet only and on foot, so hast thou right and good leave to hold and to reproach me for such a one as they presumption has even now named me.”
Then we paid the reckoning and the trooper made ready his carbine and pistols, and I my musquet: and as he rod away with his comrades to the place agreed upon he told my comrade Jump-i’-th’-field he might order my grave. So he answered him he had better give it in charge to one of his own fellows that he might order such for him. Yet thereafter he rebuked me for my presumption, and said plainly he feared I should now play my last tune. But I did but laugh, for I had long since devised a plan how to encounter the best mounted of troopers, if ever such an one should attack me in the open field, though armed only with my musquet and on foot. So when we came to the place where this beggar’s dance should be, I had my musquet already loaded with two balls, and put in fresh priming and smeared the cover of the pan with tallow as careful musqueteers be wont to do, to guard the touch-hole and powder in the pan from damp in rainy weather.
Before we engaged, our comrades on both sides agreed that we should fight in open field, and to that end that we should start, one from the East, the other from the West, in a fenced plot; and thereafter each should do his best against the other as a soldier would do in face of the enemy; and that no one should help either party before or during or after the fight, either to succour his comrade, or to avenge his death or hurt. So when they had thus engaged themselves with word and hand, I and my opposite gave each other our hand upon this, that each would forgive the other his death. In all which most unreasonable folly that ever a man of sense could entertain, each hoped to gain for his arm of the service the advantage, for all the world as if the entire honour and reputation of one or the other, depended upon the outcome of our devilish undertaking.
Now as I entered the stricken field at my appointed end with my match alight at both ends, and saw my adversary before my eyes, I made as if I shook out the old priming as I walked. Yet I did not so, but spread priming powder only on the cover of the pan, blew up my match, and passed my two fingers over the pan, as is the custom, and before I could see the white of the eyes of my opposite, who kept me well in sight, I took aim, and set fire to the false priming powder on the cover of the pan. Then the enemy, believing that my musquet had missed fire and that the touch-hole was stopped, rode straight down upon me pistol in hand, and all too anxious to pay me there and then for my presumption, but before he was aware I had the pan open and shut again, and gave him such a welcome that ball and fall came together.
Then I returned to my fellows, who received me with embraces; but his comrades, freeing his foot from the stirrup, dealt with him and with us as honest fellows, for they returned me my glove with all praise. But even when I deemed my reputation to be at its height, came five-and-twenty musqueteers from Rehnen, who laid me and my comrades by the heels. Then presently I was clapped in chains and sent to headquarters, for all duels were forbidden on pain of death.
Chap. x. : HOW THE MASTER-GENERAL OF ORDNANCE GRANTED THE HUNTSMAN HIS LIFE AND HELD OUT HOPES TO HIM OF GREAT THINGS
Now as our General of Ordnance was wont to keep strict discipline, I looked to lose my head: yet had I hopes to escape, because I had at so early an age ever carried myself well against the enemy, and gained great name and fame for courage. Yet was this hope uncertain because, by reason of such things happening daily, ‘twas necessary to make an example. Our men had but just beat up a dangerous nest of rats, and demanded a surrender, yet had received a denial; for the enemy knew we had no heavy artillery. For that reason Count von der Wahl appeared with all our force before the said place, demanded a surrender once more by a trumpeter, and threatened to storm the town. Yet all he got thereby was the writing that here followeth:
“High and well-born Count, &c.,--From your Excellency’s
letter to me I understand what you suggest to me in the name of his Imperial
Roman Majesty. Now your Excellency, with his great understanding,
must be well aware how improper, nay unjustifiable, it were for a soldier
to surrender a place like this to the adversary without especial necessity.
For which reason your Excellency will not, I hope, blame me if I wait till
his means of attack are sufficient. But if your Excellency have occasion
to employ my small powers in any services but those touching my allegiance,
I shall ever be,
“Your Excellency’s most obedient servant,
Thereupon was much discussion in our camp about this place; for to leave it alone was not to be thought on: to storm it without a breach would have cost much blood, and ‘twould have been uncertain even then whether we should succeed or not: and if we had to fetch our heavy pieces and all their equipment from Munster5 and Ham, ‘twould cost much time, trouble, and expense. So while great and small were hard at work a-reasoning, it came into my head that I should use this opportunity to get free: so I set all my wits to work, and reflected how one might cheat the enemy, seeing ‘twas only the cannon that were wanted. And pretty soon I had devised a trick and let my lieutenant-colonel know I had plans by which the place could be secured without trouble and expense, if only I could be pardoned and set free. Yet some old and tried soldiers laughed and said, “Drowning men catch at straws; and this good fellow thinks to talk himself out of gaol.”
But the lieutenant-colonel himself, with others that knew me, listened to my words as to an article of belief; wherefore he went himself to the Master-General of the Ordnance and laid before him my plan, with the recital, moreover, of many things that he could tell of me: and inasmuch as the Count had already heard of the Huntsman, he had me brought before him and for so long loosed from my bonds. He was set at table when I came, and my lieutenant-colonel told him how the spring before, having stood my first hour as sentry under St. James’s Gate at Soest, a heavy rain with thunder and wind had suddenly come on, and when, each running wind had suddenly come on, and when, each running from the fields and the gardens into the town, there was great press of foot and horse, I had had the wit to call out the guard, because in such a tumult a town was easiest to take. “At last,” said the lieutenant-colonel further, “came an old woman dripping wet, and said even as she passed by the huntsman, ‘Yea, I have felt this storm in my back for a fortnight.’ So the huntsman, hearing this and having a rod in his hand, smote her with it over the shoulder, and says he, ‘Thou old witch, couldst thou not let it loose before; must though wait till I stood sentry?’ And when his officer rebuked him he answered, ‘She is rightly served: the old carrion crow had heard a month ago how all were crying out for rain: why did she not let honest folk have it before? It had been better for the barley and hops.’”
At this the general, though he was in general a stern man, laughed heartily; but I thought, “If the colonel tell him of such fools’ tricks, surely he will not have failed to speak of my other devices.” So I was brought in, and when the general asked what was my plan I answered, “Gracious sir, although my fault and your Excellency’s order and prohibition do both deny me my life, yet my most humble loyalty, which is due from me towards his Imperial Majesty, my most gracious Lord, even to the death, bids me so far as lies in my weak power yet do the enemy a damage, and further the interests and arms of his Majesty.” So the general cut me short, and says he, “Didst thou not lately give me the negro?” “Yea, gracious sir,” said I. Then said he, “Well, thy zeal and loyalty might perhaps serve to spare thy life: but what plan hast thou to bring the enemy out of this place without great loss in time and men?” So I answered, “Since the town cannot resist heavy artillery, my humble opinion is that the enemy would soon come to terms if he did but really believe we had such pieces.” “That,” said the general, “a fool could have told me; but who will persuade them so to believe?” Then I answered, “Thine own eyes; I have examined their Mainguard with a perspective glass, and it can be easily deceived; if we did but set a few baulks of timber, shaped like water-pipes, on wagons, and haul them into the field with many horses, they will certainly believe they are heavy pieces, specially if your Excellency will order works to be thrown up about the field as if to plant canon there.” “My dear little friend,” answered the Count, “they be not children in the town: they will not believe this pantomime, but will require to hear thy guns; and if the trick fail,” says he to the officers that stood around, “we shall be mocked of all the world.” But I answered, “Gracious sir, an I can but have a pair of double musquets and a pretty large cask, I will make them to hear great guns: only beyond the sound there can be no further effect: but if against all expectation naught but mockery ensure, then shall I, the inventor, that must in any case die, take with me that mockery and purge it away with my life.”
Yet the general liked it not, but my colonel persuaded him to it; for he said I was in such cases so lucky that he doubted not this trick would succeed: so the Count ordered him to settle the matter as he thought it could best be done, and said to him in jest that the honour he should gain thereby should be reckoned to him alone.
So three such baulks were brought to hand, and before each were harnessed four-and-twenty horses, though two had been sufficient: and these towards evening we brought up in full sight of the foe: and meanwhile I had gotten me three double musquets and a great cask from a mansion near at hand, and set all in order as I would have it: and by night this was added to our fool’s artillery. The double musquets I charged twice over and had them discharged through the said cask, of which the bottom had been knocked out, as if it was three trial shots being fired. Which sounded so thunderously that any man had sworn they were great serpents or demi-culverins. Our general must needs laugh at such trickery, and again offered the enemy terms, with the addition that if they did not agree that same evening it would not go so easily with them the next day. Thereupon hostages were exchanged and terms arranged, and the same night one gate of the town put into our hands, and this was well indeed for me: for the Count not only granted me my life that by his order I had forfeited, but set me free the same night and commanded the lieutenant-colonel in my presence to appoint me to the first ensigncy that should fall vacant: which was not to his taste (for he had cousins and kinsmen many in waiting) that I should be promoted before them.
1The Vecht was
a river starting at the Zuider Zee within the Lordship of Overyssel in
the Netherlands. (Shepherd, William R. Shepherd’s Historical
Atlas. Totowa: Barnes and Noble Books, 1980. 117.)
2Paderborn, a city in northwest Germany, was occupied by William of Hesse-Kassel’s army and a Swedish army under Duke George of Brunswick-Luneburg in 1633. (Parker, Geoffrey. The Thirty Years’ War. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984. 133.)
3Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, was the leader of the army as well as in charge of all Dutch domestic and foreign policy at the pinnacle of his power in 1640. (Cooper, J.P., ed. New Cambridge Modern History. Volume IV The Decline of Spain and the Thirty Years War 1609-48/59. London: Cambridge University Press. 1970. 375.)
4The Ems was a river starting at the North Sea running from the County of East Friesland to the Bishopric of Munster which became an Ecclesiastical state after 1648. (Shepherd, William R. Shepherd’s Historical Atlas. Totowa: Barnes and Noble Books, 1980. 122.)
§The musqueteer supported his piece on a prop or stake. [Goodrich’s note]
5Munster, a town located in the Bishopric of Munster, was one of two places specified for negotiations in the Franco-Swedish treaty of 1641 (the other being Osnabruck). Spain, France, and other Catholic states established their base for negotiations here. (Parker, Geoffrey. The Thirty Years’ War. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul plc, 1984. 173.)
Edited by Ben Miller