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HUGH AND THE QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN
THE ENGLISH POET-ADVENTURER
 In the quiet of twilight Lady Eleanor was walking
in her park among the fast-darkening shadows
of the great oaks and beeches. She loved the
woods. At this hour they were full of mystery
and story. And as she came upon a carpet of
soft moss or saw a hollow formed by the gnarled
roots of an old oak, she would say to
herself,—even if her little boy Mortimer
was not with her—"There's where the elves
dance, there they keep house." Tonight as she
came to a specially dark dell hidden away
among the trees and bushes, she heard a little
song. It was thin and faint and sweet, very
like what an elf's song should be. But soon
she caught words repeated over and over in
O Fairie Queen, come dance for me,
Thy secret fast I'll hold,
Over hill, over dale,
over park, over pale,
Come on the moonbeam's gold.
Then suddenly there was a rude crashing
through the branches, the song stopped,
and the sound of blows
 was mingled with oaths spoken in the
well-known voice of her head keeper.
"Wicks!" she cried. "Stop! What is it?
Wicks, a big, burly fellow, came out of
the bushes holding by the neck of his
smock a little boy, ten years old,—the
age of her own Mortimer. The child blinked
and swallowed hard, for he had had a bad
beating, but he did not whimper nor shed
"What is the matter, Wicks?" Lady Eleanor
demanded. "How came he here? Who is
"Please, m'lady, 'tis yon lad from the
tavern,—the little jackanapes. 'Tis
the second time he'm come. I catched sight
o' he once before."
"You mean Prettyman's boy,—Prettyman of
the 'Golden Hind'?"
"No'm, he'm nobody's boy. But Martin leaves
him bide there. And to think o' he coming
here to steal."
Lady Eleanor interrupted, turning to the boy,
"Tell me how you came here."
"Please, your ladyship," he answered soberly,
and his eyes looked straight into hers,
"through the iron rods of the gate. They
sit so wide apart."
A smile peeped from Lady Eleanors's eyes.
"You are a tiny bit of a lad, aren't you?
My Mortimer's age, I take it, but much
smaller. Tell me, why did you climb through?"
At that he lowered his eyes and was silent.
Wicks answered for him.
THE PARK OF AN ENGLISH HOME
 "They'm all the same, please, m'lady. 'Tis
Lady Eleanor shook her head. "No, Wicks. Go.
Leave him with me."
Wicks reluctantly let go his hold, and she
put a gentle hand on the boy's shoulder.
Again he looked straight into her eyes.
"What is your name?" she asked.
"Hugh, please, your lady, Hugh of the
'Golden Hind.' "
"Was it you whom I heard singing?" He flushed
for answer, and she went on gently. "Now tell
me why you came into my park?"
"It's the fairies, please, your lady."
"Oh, and so you find fairies in my park and
sing to them?"
"Not—not yet. But this is their kind of
place. I hoped they would be here. And so I
made the song to call them."
"And that is all you came for?" He nodded.
"Well, do you know," she admitted softly, "this
is something I have always wondered about
myself. And so you may come here as often as
you like on one condition,—that is, if
you ever do see fairies you will come and tell
me. Will you?"
Hugh looked into her smiling eyes, and overcome
with shyness and pleasure murmured his thanks.
He went back to the tavern, to his so-called
home, with a big new happiness in his heart.
He thought it was because he could go to find
the fairies without
 any fear of the cruel Wicks, but it was also
because he had found a friend who understood.
His life at the tavern was always very
interesting, but it was lonely. He was really
nobody's child. No one knew who his father or
mother was, though people supposed his father
was a sailor gone away with Hawkins out across
the seas to the New World, for it was just at
that time that a basket with a baby boy in it,
labeled Hugh, had been left on the tavern steps,
and Goody Prettyman had taken him in, and had
let him stay there ever since. He was useful,
and no trouble to anyone. He sat for hours in
the taproom listening to the sailor's talk.
For the "Golden Hind" was near the wharves
where ships came in at Plymouth. Wonderful times
of excitement those were, when the little ships
sailed out through the sunset into the Great
Unknown, and more exciting still when they
came back, each one with tales more marvelous
than the last of the New World they had seen.
They told of Spanish ships deep-laden with gold
and silver, captured for the glory of England
and good Queen Bess; of dark-skinned people
with strange ways, who feasted on golden grain
and roots taken from the earth; of shores piled
up with pearls like pebbles, and with the very
sands of gold.
Of course Hugh was going to sea himself as soon
as he was old enough. Meanwhile, he climbed
daily to the headland and watched the ships
come and go on their voyages of mystery. The
best of them all was
 naturally the Golden Hind, Captain Drake.
No one had done such wonders as Drake of
Plymouth. And now he was gone,—Hugh had
seen him sail away,—out into a new ocean,
the Pacific, where no Englishman had ever been.
Word had come that he was lost, but Hugh and
Plymouth knew better and waited for his return.
This is a British warship of the time of Queen Elizabeth
So, thanks to the coming and going of the ships
and the talk of the sailors, the days were
never dull for Hugh. Though it was a coarse,
rough life, somehow the coarseness left no mark
upon him, for his mind
 was too much taken up with wondering about magic
and mystery and high adventure. And it was while
waiting for the day of his own big adventure
when he should be old enough to put out to sea,
that he had made a little adventure for himself
by stealing through the dusk and dangers of the
great park to watch for the fairies.
Now his hopes of success, quickened by Lady
Eleanor's interest, were very strong, and he
kept nightly watch. And one morning as Lady
Eleanor and Mortimer came down the steps of the
great house, they were met by an excited boy.
"I've come to tell you," he cried,—then
at the sight of Mortimer hesitated and stopped,
but Lady Eleanor held out a welcoming hand.
"It's Hugh, Mortimer," she said. "What is it,
"Please, please, your lady," he stammered, "I've
"What, no! The fairies?"
"I came last night in the dark," he said, "and
very soon they began to dance. Oh, but it was
pretty, and I guess I must have watched all
night, for now it's morning."
Lady Eleanor smiled, but Mortimer spoke in
big-boy fashion. "Fairies! Pooh! Who believes
in them? There's no such thing."
But his mother interposed, even before she saw
Hugh's crestfallen look.
"How do you know there are not? Who would have
believed there were oceans and lands and people
 in the West if Frobisher and our own Drake
hadn't gone and found them and told us about
"Yes," Hugh affirmed, "and stranger things than
fairies happen there."
"What?" Mortimer challenged him.
"Why, why, seashores made of gold, and men
who pour smoke out of their mouths but don't
burn up, and a fountain where you drink and
you'll be made young forever."
"Who told you?" demanded Mortimer.
"Why, all the sailors. Everyone tells about
Mortimer's only response was an indirect one.
"I say, mother, why can't he stay and play
Lady Eleanor looked a moment into Hugh's
honest face. "He may, whenever he will.
Should you like to, Hugh?"
After that the boys were constantly together.
The park was an enchanted place to Hugh, and
Hugh's strange acquaintances and information
were full of interest to Mortimer. One day
he begged Hugh to take him to the wharves to
hear the sailors talk, and Hugh gladly did so.
They found Simms, and old friend of Hugh's, a
veteran of many voyages and a former seaman
of Drake's, now too stiff and too old to
"Tell him about it," begged Hugh, as master
of ceremonies. "He's never properly heard
about things, only what I tell him."
"Eh? Bless my soul!" said the old sea dog.
"And what kind of story do you like best,
 "Oh, about gold and catching the Spanish
"Yes, but tell him, too, about the new
ocean," Hugh interrupted, "and Drake's
climbing up in the tree to see it, you know.
Always there's something more out beyond,
isn't there? New oceans and new worlds
always on ahead?"
BOYHOOD OF RALEIGH, BY MILLAIS
"Sure, that's the spirit," said Simms.
" 'Twon't be long before you'm at it, eh, Hugh?
They'm as has things always beckoning 'em,
they'm the ones who goes. But, if it's
gold, you want, my master,"—he turned
to Mortimer, "then listen"; and he told
 yarn of the Spanish Main, of Panama and its
mule-trains loaded with gold, and of Drake
capturing great shiploads all for the
glory of England. "I want to go and do it
with him," said Mortimer.
"Aye, marry, 'tis in the air, these days,"
the old salt said. "Every mother's son
wants to be roving, each for his own good
reason. Some for the sake of the gold,
and Hugh here to find the place of the
sunset and what's at the end of the world,
AN ELIZABETHAN HOUSE
The shape of the house is in the form of a letter E in honor of the queen
That was Mortimer's only visit to the
wharves, for much to Hugh's surprise Lady
Eleanor did not approve. She had plans of
her own to keep the boys at home. Hugh
was to come and share Mortimer's daily
lessons. Here was great news for Hugh, who
 been taught a word, though he was ten years
old. He worked hard now, and soon could read
and write, and was rapidly catching up with
Mortimer. They were happy days for him. He
loved the big manor house, so different from
the tavern. On the floors, instead of rushes
strewn about, usually dirty, there were rugs
of soft tints, and on the walls bright-colored
pictures woven of wool,—"wall-clothing,"
Lady Eleanor called
 them, and instead of the thick mica panes of
the tavern the windows were of glass, through
which one could see to the beautiful park
outside. And sometimes Lady Eleanor sat at
the clavichord making music and singing. This
was home,—an English home in the days of
Queen Bess, with beauty and comfort and clean,
A PANELED ROOM
Such beautifully carved walls might have been found in a room of a house of Elizabeth's time. (Photograph furnished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
The best place of all was a richly paneled room
where they sat while Lady Eleanor read to them.
The wood of the walls was carved in pictures;
the faces of gnomes and fairies and knights
looked at them while Lady Eleanor read and
reread the old stories of Arthur and his
Round Table. These were the boys' favorites,
and after she had read to them about King
Arthur rowing across the lake to catch the
fateful sword Excalibur from the waves, or
of Arthur receiving the vows of his knights
who rose pale and dazed with awe when they
had taken their oath
Of utter hardihood, utter gentleness,
And, loving, utter faithfulness in love,
And uttermost obedience to the King,
they went out to play them, just as Hugh
had seen the companies of actors who came
to the tavern play their old stories.
Mortimer was always King Arthur: that
somehow seemed natural to both boys. And
Hugh, now as Sir Launcelot, now as Sir Bors,
now as Sir Gareth, who won his knighthood
by serving as a kitchen-boy (and Hugh liked
that story well), knelt
 and was knighted and started out on his quest
to honor his fair lady. His fair lady was
always like Lady Eleanor with thick golden
hair and gentle eyes.
The best story of all, and the one he asked
Lady Eleanor to read over and over again, was
the story of Sir Galahad and the Holy
Grail,—the quest of the Holy Cup from
which our Lord drank at his last supper, and
which, before it vanished from the earth,
was seen only by those whose lives were pure.
He used to curl up in one of the big wooden
chairs in the paneled room and picture every
scene as Lady Eleanor read the story.
Sir Galahad came to Arthur's court, the
youngest of the Knights, dressed in white
armor, though where he came from or who he
was no one knew; yet he was so fair that when
King Arthur knighted him, he said, "God make
thee good as thou art beautiful." At the
Round Table there was a seat called the Siege
Perilous, for the magician Merlin had said
that on it "no man could sit but he should
lose himself." So it had been left vacant,
but when Galahad came he sat in it, saying
"If I lose myself, I save myself." Then there
had followed thunder and a beam of light, and
in the midst of the beam shone the Holy Grail,
and Galahad heard a voice calling, "O Galahad,
and O Galahad, follow me." At once Sir
Galahad and Sir Percival and others of the
knights took the oath to go to find the Holy
Grail; but of all those who set out, only
Sir Galahad and Sir Percival really saw it.
 because he was not always true to his vows
and because, lacking real modesty, he
prided himself on the deeds he did, saw it
only in the distance and then only with the
help of Sir Galahad. But to Sir Galahad it
was given to complete the quest of the Grail.
For he went out and fought and overcame evil
men and did great deeds, never thinking of his
own worth and bravery, and when he met Sir
Percival, he bade him follow him. Together
they came to a steep and perilous hill; this
they climbed, only to reach on the other side
a black swamp, and there Sir Percival stayed;
but Galahad crossed over it on bridge after
bridge, each one of which burned behind him,
until he came to a shore and took a boat and
sailed away far out on an unknown sea.
Percival saw him go, but could not follow.
And soon the Holy Grail, red as any rose,
floated over his head in a bright cloud, while
far away, like a pearl in its beauty, shone
a heavenly city with all its spires and
gateways. This was the goal, and to this
Sir Galahad sailed away never to come back.
But Percival returned to Arthur's court and
told what he had seen. Then all knew that
Sir Galahad, because he best of all had kept
his vow to "Live pure, speak true, right
wrong, follow the King," had alone of them
all accomplished his quest of the Holy Grail.
When Mortimer and Hugh began to act out this
story, as they had the others, both wanted
to play Sir Galahad, Hugh because he too was
a knight from no one knew where, and Mortimer,
because he always took
 the leading part. It was Hugh who yielded,
remembering that for lack of humility Sir
Percival had lost the Holy Grail. Yet he
was always a little jealous, when Mortimer,
acting his part, stepped into his imaginary
boat and sailed away to the dream-city.
For to take boat and go away was what he was
always longing to do. And so, when Lady
Eleanor asked, "Why do you both like this
story so much?" Mortimer answered, "Because
Sir Galahad won his prize," but Hugh said,
"Because he sails away in his boat out into
the unknown sea and finds it all come true.
And I'm sure it was just the same way I have
seen it when I climb up onto the headland
and watch the boats when they go out at
sunset into the gold. Do you suppose the
real gold they find is half as nice as sailing
into that?" And he and Lady Eleanor both
One day Hugh was on "the Hoe," his favorite
headland, when he saw far out a sail, and
the longer he looked the more surely he made
up his mind that it was the Golden Hind.
It must be Drake home again after all the long
years. He ran into the village, crying to the
people to come and see. And true it was;
the Golden Hind was limping into port
after its three years' journey around the
world. There was excitement enough in Plymouth
then. Not only was the ship loaded with gold
and pearls and diamonds and emeralds, but
their own Drake was back, having beaten the
Spanish ships in every port and having carried
the name of England upon every sea. Drake had
 "plowed a furrow round the world," they said,
and all kinds of revelry were planned in
Plymouth to honor her favorite son.
Hugh took a share in the celebration,
according to his own fashion. When, in the
midst of shouting throngs, Drake passed up
the street, a boy darted out from the crowd,
put a paper into his hand and disappeared.
It was a verse in his honor, proclaiming
him a knight like the knights of old, who
had gone out on adventures for his queen,
and it closed with a prayer that some day
great Drake of the Golden Hind would
let Hugh of the "Golden Hind" go with him
as his squire. The verse pleased and amused
Drake, and he made inquiries about the boy,
but before he could see Hugh he had to sail
away to London to the queen. And there he
 made a knight, for Queen Bess touched him
with her royal staff and called him
"Sir Francis." Drake, well pleased, declared
that Hugh was a prophet and did not forget
the boy. But he was seldom on land, and
Hugh went on his quiet way growing up and
learning his lessons until he and Mortimer
SIR FRANCIS DRAKE
Photograph furnished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The time was come then when Hugh might carry
out his ambition and go to sea. Of course,
more than ever, he wanted to go with Drake,
for no one else could rival him for daring
and adventure or in service of the queen.
But Hugh, who was nobody's boy, knew that
he would have to be content to ship on some
little trading boat until he had proved
himself. Mortimer was not going with him.
Though he begged hard for the chance, his
mother insisted that he should go to Eton
to continue the education of a gentleman.
Both boys were unhappy at the parting; Hugh
was sorry to give up his books, though he
longed for the sea, and Mortimer was openly
May Day came. Hugh with the other villagers
had been watching a band of Morris dancers
and had himself been dancing around the
Maypole when a sudden summons sent him
hurrying to Lady Eleanor. He found her in
distress. Mortimer had disappeared and had
left no word for his mother. Hugh went at
once and searched the wharves and all the
departing ships, but without result, for
no mariner was foolish enough to carry off
the son of the manor house. Mortimer was
not to be found. The only clue Hugh could
 that someone thought he had seen him among
the company of the Morris dancers, who had
started to dance their way to London.
"I will go after them," Hugh promised Lady
Eleanor. "Never fear! I shall find him. I
will do nothing else until I find him."
"Bless you, dear Hugh," Lady Eleanor thanked
him with affection. "I have no one whom I
can trust like you. Take anything you need,
and God reward you for what you are doing."
Hugh traveled from village to village, now
finding that the Morris dancers had been
there and gone, now finding no clue to
their whereabouts. He rode his horse as
fast as possible, refreshed by the beauty
of the green meadows and blossoming hedgerows,
and occasionally another traveler joined him
at some village, but Hugh outrode them all.
One day his road was blocked. There was no
passing. Crowds were everywhere,—hucksters
with carts, companies of actors, wagonloads
of goods, great lords in splendid dress on
prancing horses, heralds and outriders shouting
orders. Everywhere was confusion. Hugh could
not get right of way to pass. He could not
combat Queen Bess herself. For all this
tumult and gay life meant that the queen
was at hand. She was coming to visit one of
her lords in his castle close by, and great
fêtes and pageants were already beginning
in her honor. The crowds were everywhere
lined up by the roads hoping to catch a sight
of it all, and though horsemen shouted and
 back, the people pressed in ever closer. For
the queen was coming! The word went flashing
down the lines, as men in plumes and gorgeous
armor came by, reining in their prancing,
spirited horses. Then, from the midst of the
crowd, a little hunchback boy leaned far out
to see, lost his balance and fell, pushed out
into the highway. A horseman was almost on him.
He shouted out oaths but never even slackened
his speed. The hunchback was almost caught
under the horse's hoofs. Women screamed, but
Hugh, who was close by, sprang out, caught
back the little fellow and saved him. But he
himself was kicked in the head.
Photograph furnished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
He knew nothing more until he found himself
in a beautiful room, and whether he was alive
or dead, he could not say. A young man
 handsome as any knight of his early dreams, but
his greeting was not dreamlike. "Ho, the lad's
awake!" he cried. "I told them it was not easy
killing such as you! Art well again?" This, he
learned was his rescuer, Sir Hubert, who had
brought him to where he was lying now, in the
very castle of the lord who was entertaining
the queen. The queen! The thought sent Hugh
jumping from his bed. The queen! If he could
see her! But then he remembered his promise
to Lady Eleanor. "Alas, I cannot wait. Show
me the road," he said sadly, "for I must not
stay even to pay my thanks."
"Tut, tut!" said Sir Hubert. "Business of more
importance than the queen's? And how can you
go? Your horse is strayed, lost in the crowd,
and you but off a sick bed!"
When he heard Hugh's errand, however, he was
ready to help him. He promised that in two days'
time he would mount him on one of his own
horses and take him by the most direct route
So Hugh stayed, and saw the queen, more
resplendent in her pride and all her gold and
pearls,—the very jewels Drake had brought
her—than any earthly being he had ever
imagined. He understood why all the poets
made verses in her honor, and why at every
gate or doorway that she passed some one sang
her praises. His own mind was rhyming her
with sun and moon and all the stars of heaven.
There were sights, too, to see as wonderful
as those he used to
 dream of: banquets and plays, pageants of gods
and goddesses in stately companies, a mock
tournament between knights in armor, and even
fairies dancing on the green. Those, however,
were not half as lovely as the memories of
Yet he was glad when at last he was on his
way to London. London itself took his breath
away. It was so big, so crowded with people,
so splendid with fine houses, finer even than
the manor house. And there was so much noise,
with carts jolting over the newly paved roads,
and street venders crying their wares. How
could he ever expect to find Mortimer in such
a place? Sir Hubert gave him a home for as
long as he would stay and helped him in every
way possible, but it was the wharves that
drew Hugh. He felt sure that Mortimer
meant to go to sea, here where no skipper
would know him; so he spent all his days at
the docks. He boarded every outgoing ship,
for fear that Mortimer might be in hiding
somewhere. But the days and weeks went slipping
by without result. It was dreary, disappointing
work. To fight for one's lady is much more
interesting than to suffer loneliness and to
do nothing but wait, yet the thought of Lady
Eleanor held him fast.
One evening he stayed later than usual.
Something seemed to hold him. It was cold, the
fog was thick, and it was difficult to see two
yards before one's face,—a night for
some bad thing to happen. Soon he heard
scuffling and swearing, common enough sounds
 at the docks, where the ruffians of the city
were apt to gather. But he stepped nearer,
and saw that the victim this time was a young
fellow better dressed than most haunters of
the wharves. Something about him made Hugh
start. His hat was pulled low over his face
and he was muffled in his cape, but it was
Mortimer. There could be no doubt of it.
Hugh sprang forward, and with the advantage
of surprise, struck down one and then another
of the ruffians. Mortimer, too, seeing help
at hand, recovered his fighting spirit, and
thrust at them. But they were two against
four, and it was likely to go hard with Hugh
and Mortimer. At that moment, however, a
broad, commanding figure swung into their midst,
ordered the bandits off, and told the boys to
follow him. They followed into a ship lying
close by, and into a cabin, and there by the
light of a candle Hugh recognized their
preserver. It was as he suspected—Sir Francis
Drake. "Now what is this to-do?" he demanded.
"And who are you two, loitering at this hour
about the docks?"
"My name is Mortimer," Mortimer spoke boldly,
"and I am waiting for Sir Francis Drake."
"Humph!" the captain grunted, and turned to
Hugh. "And you?"
"I am Hugh,—Hugh of the 'Golden Hind,' men
call me,—and I was seeking my friend for
whose safety I feared."
"Hugh of the 'Golden Hind'! Where have I heard
that name before?" Sir Francis spoke half to
 "Ah, Plymouth,—the day we came into port.
You're the boy, are you, who sprang out of the
"Yes, Sir Francis," Hugh spoke the name softly.
"Humph!" the great man grunted again, but this
time with good humor. "And you write verse,
don't you? I remember."
"Pretty good one, too. Still wanting to go to
sea? Want to go and write verses to the
"Indeed, sir, yes, I want to go."
"And no one to say you no, if I recollect aright.
"No one, sir,—oh, except, sir, I have first
a promise to keep, and then,—then, oh, I want
to go, sir."
"Meet me at Plymouth, then, in a month and a day.
And mind you be ready. We set sail from there,
God willing, for the Indies in a month and a day."
"Oh, sir!" Hugh could not express himself for
amazement and for joy.
But Mortimer, who had been completely mystified,
was just coming to understand. "Oh, Sir Francis,"
he put in, "take me, too!"
The captain shook his head. "You're another sort
of waterfowl, young sir, I take it. A friend of
yours?" he turned to Hugh. "From Plymouth, too?"
Hugh nodded. "Mortimer, son of the late Sir
Mortimer of Kestor Park, I'll wager. So?" he
questioned Hugh again, and again Hugh nodded,
though Mortimer looked black.
 "Humph." Sir Francis grunted. "Sent me letters
about you, they did. Afraid I'd kidnap you, were
they? Marry, I still can see the nose before
my face and know a runaway when I see him. Go
home, young sir, and when your mother says the
word, there's time enough for you to think about
MAP OF THE NEW WORLD
This map of the early sixteenth century, from a book called the "Strasburg Ptolemy." shows the West Indies, the point of Florida, and a little of the coast of North America, as well as a good deal of Brazil, marked "Terra Incognita," the Unknown Land. (Photograph furnished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
 That was enough to send Mortimer straight to
Plymouth with Hugh, to beg Lady Eleanor to change
her will. But it was of no use; she insisted that
he go to college first, and then, when he was
twenty-one, he could choose for himself. But
Hugh was ready. He had brought Mortimer safely
home and kept his word. And at the end of a month
and a day, followed by Mortimer's envy and Lady
Eleanor's blessing, he took ship with Drake,
outward bound in the service of England and the
queen. The New World would soon lie before
him,—the New World, still the Unknown and
Mysterious, a land of fabulous treasure, ready
to reward each newcomer, whether he sought riches
for pocket or mind. Out to the Unknown Hugh
sailed, a poet-adventurer launched on his Sea
of Gold. In childhood he had dared everything
to find the fairies and sing to them, and as
a boy he had in dreams followed after Sir
Galahad and the Holy Grail, and now in the
same spirit and with the same hopes he was
going out to seek the New World. One more
knight was embarking on his quest,—on the
Great Adventure of the Unknown.