My uncle Gib oft swore that our Earl had in him all that was needful to do Queen Puss good service, had she the wit to see it.
“Which,” sayt my uncle, “she hath not.”
I, being young and saucie, sayt I feared His Harryship’s head held more hair than brains.
But my old uncle spake true.
No sooner had Linkin told me that our Earl was to lose his place as General of the Horse than there was supper talk in our household of his brave actions.
The soldiers that went south with Essex were beset on all sides by rebels. Even so, they captured a rebel castle [Cahir] that some swore was inexpugnable [impregnable] because it stood on an iland in the midst of a river.
They brought relief to many towns and garrisons. Then, worn and weary, they turned for Dublin.
Linkin and I heared the master say that when our army travels they form a long line, like unto a snake.
’Twas no wonder to us that the rebels loved to attack this snake. The snake was moving eastward when a force of rebels came out of the trees. Essex and His Harryship were in as great a danger as any that day.
Essex – as is his wont – was in all places where the fights were. As was His Harryship, ever readie to lead his horses against the rebels where he could.
He chased them off, but his friend Sir Harry Daffers [Danvers], endeavoring to save some stragglers at the tail, was shot in the face. The ball lodged by his left ear, but ’twas sayt he was not much hurt by it.
Worse came when our weary soldiers were nigh to the safe town of Arklow. After chasing off more rebels who’d attacked them whiles they were crossing a river, our men came to better ground by the sea. Some hasted on ahead while others lagged behind.
The master and our mistress began to move cups and spoons around on the table. Linkin and I sat swivel-eared beneath. Then we guessed they did this to show the master’s kits what happened next.
The snake (we eared the clink of spoons) was moving along the shore. The sea was on one side. A bog (signified by a linen kerchief) and hills (cups) were on the other.
The Earl of Essex, ascending a hill to watch how all fared, saw a great body of rebels making ready to attack our spoons line. There were poor horses in that line, bringing the baggage, with scant soldiers to protect them.
They stood mazed to see hundreds coming at them.
Essex sent for the fightsome horses that were guarding the tail end of the line to make haste forward.
And he commanded His Harryship and the few horses with him to save the baggage horses and all from being cut to pieces. So they placed theirselves between them and the rebels.
The rebels came screeching across the bog. Then they saw Essex with some soldiers making ready to attack them at their side. They turned on him.
That left His Harryship with no choice but to quit the shore and ride fast and furious into the bog. By then more bold horses had joined him so he, with 24 in all, chased those rebels back into the woods.
When he returned to the line, he saw 3 heroick horses had come to grief, so he went back into the bog. Rabbit Fur-None [Robert Vernon], brother to His Harryship’s Puss [Bess], was trapped beneath his horse. Another man was dead, and one was sore wounded.
“How is it,” arrkst one of the master’s kits, “that the rebels may go across the bogs, but our men cannot?”
The master sayt that the rebels – being men of that country – knew where the ground was firm and where they must not tread.
Linkin sayt to me, “Our Earl may have saved the day, but when he comes to Dublin he’ll receive word that he’s lost his place as General of the Horse.”
I sayt, “’Tis well our Earl loves tennis. For Queen Puss likes to toss him to and fro and brickwall him like a tennis ball.”
Accounts of the fight near Arklow differ, but there’s general agreement that the Earl of Southampton and the men with him distinguished themselves.
So much so that Henry Cuffe, one of Essex’s secretaries in Ireland, wrote to Edward Reynolds (the secretary in England coordinating reports) apologising because three men who were part of the “very brave charge…under the leading of my Lord of Southampton” had missed their mention in dispatches.
Henry Cuffe said he’d copied his account from another document after midnight and inadvertently skipped an entire line. He asked Edward Reynolds, who was responsible for receiving and coordinating reports, to make the necessary corrections.