1634: THE BALTIC WAR — snippet 54

 

1634: THE BALTIC WAR – snippet 54:

 

 

            From their vantage point atop Tyburn Hill, three men could see the situation unfolding below them quite well, despite the sleet. The hill wasn’t especially tall but it had a good view of the gallows. In fact, it was the popular spot for the mob to gather for entertainment when a hanging was in progress.

 

            “Oh, this is shaping up very nicely, indeed,” chortled Richard Boyle, the Earl of Cork. His good humor complete over-rode the discomfort that, until just a minute or two ago, had kept him shivering in his coat and made him wish he’d never agreed to this affair—or, at least, hadn’t been foolish enough to come watch it himself. “My congratulations, Endymion.”

 

            One of his two companions shrugged, the motion barely visible under the heavy outerwear he had on himself. “Won’t come to much, of course, Your Lordship. Not with Leebrick commanding the force.”

 

            “A steady man, I take it.”

 

            “Oh, yes, very steady. That’s why Wentworth uses him for these things.”

 

            “Any chance—”

 

            “No, I’m afraid not. Leebrick’s just a mercenary, that’s all. The man has neither interest in politics nor any desire to get involved in them. I made two attempts—my agents, rather—before I wrote him off.”

 

            The third man grunted, a bit humorously. “Even with my money to wave under his nose. The captains of the Trained Bands weren’t so particular, I can tell you that, when I put them on notice last week that the king might be leaving for Oxford some time soon. Of course, it helped that the agent I used as my go-between was a known Puritan.”

 

            The earl frowned. “Paul, that seems a bit unwise.”

 

            Paul Pindar pulled his hand out from his coat where he was keeping it from the chill, and made a little deprecating motion. “The man’s not actually a Non-Conformist, Your Lordship, he just keeps up the pretense. I find it useful, from time to time.”

 

            “Ah.” The earl peered down at the scene below, squinting to shield his eyes from the sleet. “Well, let’s wait a bit longer to see how it unfolds. Even just as it is, that damned Wentworth will find another stain added to his reputation with the king. All we could hope for, of course.”

 

            Boyle glanced back at their horses, being held by servants a little ways down the hill. He was tempted to simply leave. They’d already accomplished their aim, and the conditions were truly miserable. There was nothing quite like a sleet to chill a man down to his bones, even if the temperature wasn’t nearly as cold as a bright sunny day in winter. Especially at the age of sixty-six.

 

****

 

            As he drew closer, Captain Leebrick could see that the eight horses pulling the royal carriage were considerably more nervous than his own, even though they weren’t moving at all any longer. The queen’s shrieks—half fear; half fury—were stirring them up. The coachman riding the near lead horse was doing his best to keep the beast steady, but his efforts were continually undermined by the queen’s outbursts. When she was agitated, Henrietta Maria’s voice had a particular shrill tone that would put a stone’s nerves on edge. It didn’t help any that she also tended to lapse into her native French, which confused her servants—and probably added to the horses’ agitation. Anthony couldn’t prove it, but he was certain that horses grew familiar with a certain language, even if they couldn’t understand the actual words.

 

            He pulled up alongside the carriage window, after glancing down the side road where a new Trained Band was advancing. Just a glance was all it took, to his experienced eye. That group posed no danger at all, even now, much less once Patrick got his men in position. From the queen’s squeals of panic you would have thought those apprentices moving up the icy road were a veritable horde of Barbary pirates, already clambering aboard. In fact, they were still at least fifty yards distant and were moving across the treacherous footing in a very careful and gingerly manner. He could see two of the lads sprawled on their buttocks, where they must have slipped and fell. One of them was still clutching his club, but the second had two other Bandsmen yelling angrily down at him. He’d probably been carrying the pike that Anthony could see lying on the road a few yards away, and had come close to injuring them when he lost his grip on it.

 

            Leebrick had chosen to approach the carriage window on that side in the hopes that because he and his horse would block the sight of the Bandsmen, he might thereby steady the royal nerves. Unfortunately, that also put him on the queen’s side, instead of the king’s. Dealing with Charles himself under these circumstances would have been difficult, but manageable. Leebrick had no high opinion of England’s monarch, any more than most people he knew did. Still, being fair, Charles was not really given to hysteria. He was simply unpleasant to deal with because of his unreasoning mulishness and petulance. Now, alas, he had to try to talk to the king by shouting across the queen—shouting, because her French gibberish was so loud that speaking in a normal tone was impossible.

 

            Luckily, Anthony didn’t speak French, never having served under French colors. His German was fluent, his Spanish near fluent, and his Italian was passable. But he didn’t comprehend French at all—certainly not spewed at him in an angry stream—and the king knew it. So, later, if need be, Anthony could claim he’d certainly never intended to offend Her Majesty, he’d simply not grasped what she’d been saying to him. Which probably didn’t amount to anything more than curses and condemnation anyway.

 

            “Your Majesty,” he began, leaning over from the saddle, “I can assure you the situation is quite under control. Give me five minutes—no more—and I’ll have these rascals out of here.”

 

            “I need to get to Oxford!” the king shouted.

 

            “Yes, I understand, Your Majesty. As I say—”

 

            He broke off, unable to keep from wincing. The queen had stuck her face in the window and shouted something at him.

 

            “As I say—”

 

            She shouted again.

 

            “Just allow me—”

 

            She shouted again. The king waved his hand in a gesture of dismissal, and moved to comfort his wife. Even in a royal carriage, that meant pushing aside some blankets to reach her. English coaches were still primitive compared to continental ones, with the passengers resting on trunks covered with cushions and blankets instead of real seats.

 

            But the hand gesture was enough to satisfy protocol. Heaving a sigh of relief after he turned his horse away, Anthony took a moment to gauge the situation on the side road before returning to the front of the column.

 

            No danger there at all, now. Leebrick had chosen Patrick to cover that flank because the Irishman’s men were more lightly equipped than most of the company and could move very quickly. In battle, he usually used them as skirmishers.

 

            Lightly equipped or not, even just the thirty of them, they were more than a match for the Trained Band on the side road. They were outnumbered perhaps two-to-one, but that made no difference. Welch’s skirmishers were mostly armed with rifled muskets and swords, with just enough pikemen to form a shield. One volley—if needed at all, which Leebrick doubted—would take down the front rank of the Bandsmen and send the rest scampering.

 

            He still hoped nothing of the sort would be necessary, though. Wentworth had given him clear instructions to handle the Trained Bands firmly but avoid, if at all possible, the sort of mayhem that would stir up the whole populace. It was a sensible policy, in Anthony’s judgment—and, by temperament, he wasn’t a man given to pointless bloodshed himself, anyway.

About Eric Flint

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Comments

4 Responses to 1634: THE BALTIC WAR — snippet 54

  1. Cindy says:

    Who cares about the next Harry Potter book? Bring on the Baltic War!!!!

  2. Sam P. says:

    In the second paragraph, if I’m not mistaken, the Earl of Cork’s good humor completeLY over-rode etc. etc.

    Wouldn’t the sleet hamper the guns? Point: http://members.aye.net/~bspen/wetflints.html Counterpoint: Were those techniques available so soon after the flintlock’s introduction? I suppose you’ve already done all the research, but I can’t help from asking. Sorry.

  3. Junior Davis says:

    I love this series.

    Respectfully, even flintlocks function very poorly in steady rain. This is even more true of early models which lack rain guards. Many of my friends when forced to hunt in rain use a calf’s knee cover. One actually seals the pancover portion of the frizzen with a little grease. This is risky as grease on the frizzen face prevents sparking. Honestly at this time matchlocks or snaphaunces are more likely both of which are are all but useless in rain.

  4. Junior Davis says:

    An issue with muzzle loaders of any type that neither my earlier comments nor Bob Spencer in the listed website address is water coming down the barrel. This is an issue even with a tight greased patch in rifles of the late caplock period. Most muskets used paper patches that were loose and even mini balls only grip tightly[?] when fired. Modern hunters often use a balloon or codom over the muzzle.

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