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A large body of the burghers had already set out to join the rebel army, but a good number had remained behind to guard the city, and these were reinforced by gangs of peasants, like the one to which we had attached ourselves, who had trooped in from the surrounding country, and now divided their time between listening to their favourite preachers and learning to step in line and to handle their weapons. In yard, street, and market-square there was marching and drilling, night, morning, and noon. As we rode out after breakfast the whole town was ringing with the shouting of orders and the clatter of arms. Our own friends of yesterday marched into the market-place at the moment we entered it, and no sooner did they catch sight of us than they plucked off their hats and cheered lustily, nor would they desist until we cantered over to them and took our places at their head.
'They have vowed that none other should lead them,' said the minister, standing by Saxon's stirrup.
'I could not wish to lead stouter fellows,' said he. 'Let them deploy into double line in front of the town-hall. So, so, smartly there, rear rank!' he shouted, facing his horse towards them. 'Now swing round into position. Keep your ground, left flank, and let the others pivot upon you. So--as hard and as straight as an Andrea Ferrara. I prythee, friend, do not carry your pike as though it were a hoe, though I trust you will do some weeding in the Lord's vineyard with it. And you, sir, your musquetoon should be sloped upon your shoulder, and not borne under your arm like a dandy's cane. Did ever an unhappy soldier find himself called upon to make order among so motley a crew! Even my good friend the Fleming cannot so avail here, nor does Petrinus, in his "De re militari," lay down any injunctions as to the method of drilling a man who is armed with a sickle or a scythe.'
'Shoulder scythe, port scythe, present scythe--mow!' whispered Reuben to Sir Gervas, and the pair began to laugh, heedless of the angry frowns of Saxon.
'Let us divide them,' he said, 'into three companies of eighty men. Or stay--how many musketeers have we in all? Five-and-fifty. Let them stand forward, and form the first line or company. Sir Gervas Jerome, you have officered the militia of your county, and have doubtless some knowledge of the manual exercise. If I am commandant of this force I hand over the captaincy of this company to you. It shall be the first line in battle, a position which I know you will not be averse to.'
'Gad, they'll have to powder their heads,' said Sir Gervas, with decision.
'You shall have the entire ordering of them,' Saxon answered. 'Let the first company take six paces to the front--so! Now let the pikemen stand out. Eighty-seven, a serviceable company! Lockarby, do you take these men in hand, and never forget that the German wars have proved that the best of horse has no more chance against steady pikemen than the waves against a crag. Take the captaincy of the second company, and ride at their head.'