Captain Blood HTML version

1. The Messenger
Peter Blood, bachelor of medicine and several other things besides, smoked a pipe and
tended the geraniums boxed on the sill of his window above Water Lane in the town of
Sternly disapproving eyes considered him from a window opposite, but went
disregarded. Mr. Blood's attention was divided between his task and the stream of
humanity in the narrow street below; a stream which poured for the second time that
day towards Castle Field, where earlier in the afternoon Ferguson, the Duke's chaplain,
had preached a sermon containing more treason than divinity.
These straggling, excited groups were mainly composed of men with green boughs in
their hats and the most ludicrous of weapons in their hands. Some, it is true, shouldered
fowling pieces, and here and there a sword was brandished; but more of them were
armed with clubs, and most of them trailed the mammoth pikes fashioned out of
scythes, as formidable to the eye as they were clumsy to the hand. There were
weavers, brewers, carpenters, smiths, masons, bricklayers, cobblers, and
representatives of every other of the trades of peace among these improvised men of
war. Bridgewater, like Taunton, had yielded so generously of its manhood to the service
of the bastard Duke that for any to abstain whose age and strength admitted of his
bearing arms was to brand himself a coward or a papist.
Yet Peter Blood, who was not only able to bear arms, but trained and skilled in their
use, who was certainly no coward, and a papist only when it suited him, tended his
geraniums and smoked his pipe on that warm July evening as indifferently as if nothing
were afoot. One other thing he did. He flung after those war-fevered enthusiasts a line
of Horace - a poet for whose work he had early conceived an inordinate affection:
"Quo, quo, scelesti, ruitis?"
And now perhaps you guess why the hot, intrepid blood inherited from the roving sires
of his Somersetshire mother remained cool amidst all this frenzied fanatical heat of
rebellion; why the turbulent spirit which had forced him once from the sedate
academical bonds his father would have imposed upon him, should now remain quiet in
the very midst of turbulence. You realize how he regarded these men who were rallying
to the banners of liberty - the banners woven by the virgins of Taunton, the girls from
the seminaries of Miss Blake and Mrs. Musgrove, who - as the ballad runs - had ripped
open their silk petticoats to make colours for King Monmouth's army. That Latin line,
contemptuously flung after them as they clattered down the cobbled street, reveals his
mind. To him they were fools rushing in wicked frenzy upon their ruin.
You see, he knew too much about this fellow Monmouth and the pretty brown slut who
had borne him, to be deceived by the legend of legitimacy, on the strength of which this