The Tower Of London by W. Harrison Ainsworth

“It is but a small advantage gained, your highness,” remarked the officer; “they will be speedily repulsed.”

“Small as it is, sir,” rejoined the queen, “I would rather have lost the richest jewel from my crown than they had gained so much. Look! they are gathering together before the Lion’s Gate. They are thundering against it with sledge-hammers, battering-rams, and other engines. I can hear the din of their blows above all this tumult. And see! other troops are advancing to their aid. By their banners and white coats, I know they are the London trained bands, headed by Bret. Heaven confound the traitor! He who will bring him to me dead or alive, shall have whatever he asks. Ah, God’s death! they have forced the Lion’s Gate—they drive all before them. Recreants! why do you not dispute it inch by inch, and you may regain what you have lost? Confusion! Wyat and his rebel band press onward, and the others fly. They pass through the Middle Tower. Ah! that shout, those fearful cries! They put my faithful subjects to the sword. They are in possession of the Middle Tower, and direct its guns on the By-ward Tower. Wyat and his band are on the bridge. They press forward, the others retreat. Retreat! ah, caitiffs, cowards that you are, you must fight now, if you have a spark of loyalty left. They fly. They have neither loyalty nor valour. Where is Bedingfeld?—where is my lieutenant? why does he not sally forth upon them? If I were there, I would myself lead the attack.”

“Your majesty’s desires are fulfilled,” remarked the officer; “a sally is made by a party from the gate—the rebels are checked.”

“I see it!” exclaimed the queen, joyfully, “but what valiant men are they who thus turn the tide? Ah! I know them now, they are my famous giants, my loyal warders. Look how the rebel ranks are cleared by the sweep of their mighty arms. Brave yeomen! you have fought as no belted knights have hitherto fought, and have proved the truth of your royal descent. Ah! Wyat is down. Slay him I spare him not, brave giant! his lands, his title are yours. Heaven’s curse upon him, the traitor has escaped! I can bear this no longer,” she added, turning to her conductor. “Lead on: I would see what they are doing elsewhere.”

The command was obeyed, but the officer had not proceeded many yards when a shot struck him, and he fell mortally wounded at the queen’s feet.

“I fear you are hurt, sir,” said Mary, anxiously.

“To death, madam,” gasped the officer. “I should not care to die, had I lived to see you victorious. When all others were clamouring for the usurper Jane, my voice was raised for you, my rightful queen; and now my last shout shall be for you.”

“Your name?” demanded Mary, bending over him.

“Gilbert,” replied the officer, “I am the grandson of Gunnora Braose.”

“Live, Gilbert,” rejoined Mary, “live for my sake!”

Raising himself upon one arm, with a dying effort, Gilbert waved his sword over his head, and cried, “God save Queen Mary, and confusion to her enemies!” And with these words, he fell backwards, and instantly expired. The queen gazed for a moment wistfully at the body.

“How is it,” she mused, as she suffered herself to be led onward by Renard, “that, when hundreds of my subjects are perishing around me, this man’s death should affect me so, strongly? I know not. Yet, so it is.”

Her attention, however, was speedily attracted to other matters. Passing through the Beauchamp Tower, she proceeded to the next fortification.

The main attacks of the besiegers, as has been previously stated, were directed against the Brass Mount, Saint Thomas’s Tower, and the By-ward Tower—the western and northwestern ramparts, including the Leg Mount, a large bastion corresponding with the Brass Mount, being comparatively unmolested. Taking up a position on the roof of the Devilin Tower, which flanked the north-west angle of the ballium wall, Mary commanded two sides of the fortress, and the view on either hand was terrific and sublime. On the left, the blazing habitations, which being of highly-combustible material were now, in a great measure, consumed, cast a red and lurid glare on the moat, lighting up the ramparts, the fortifications behind them, and those on the bridge, two of which, she was aware, were in the possession of the besiegers. In this quarter the firing had ceased; and it seemed that both parties had by mutual consent suspended hostilities, to renew them in a short time with greater animosity than ever. On the right, however, the assault continued with unabated fury. A constant fire was kept up from the temporary batteries placed before the postern gate; clouds of arrows whizzed through the air, shot by the archers stationed on the banks of the moat; and another ladder having been placed against the ramparts, several of the scaling party had obtained a footing, and were engaged hand to hand with the besieged. Ever and anon, amid this tumultuous roar was heard a loud splash, proclaiming that some miserable wretch had been hurled into the moat.

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