More people are aware of Robert Louis Stevenson’s great novels of high adventure than have ever read the original books, for they are enduring favourites for dramatisation on film, television, radio and the stage. There is a simple explanation for this, and that is that quality abides while mediocrity inevitably fades away. Leonaur has brought together two of these wonderful adventures, Treasure Island and The Black Arrow, in one good-value edition. Stevenson, unlike some contemporary writers of ‘historical’ fiction, always paints an authentic picture of historical periods whether it is in the maritime world of eighteenth century pirates in ‘Treasure Island’ or the fifteenth century world of the Wars of the Roses against which the action of ‘The Black Arrow’ is set. ‘The Black Arrow’ was written after ‘Treasure Island’ and though it might not be as well known today, was considered by the author to be a superior book. However, it is almost impossible to undervalue either story. ‘Treasure Island’ features a host of memorable characters including the immortal Long John Silver in a genre defining adventure in search of buried pirate treasure. ‘The Black Arrow’ combines a story of murder, treachery and revenge in the medieval world that thunders to a climax of bloody battle involving not only the novel’s principal characters but also the driven, sinister figure of Richard of Gloucester—the future infamous Richard III. This is an essential volume for collectors’ and a genuine treat for anyone who has yet to read these iconic tales.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The frost was more rigorous than ever; the air windless and dry, and stinging to the nostril. The moon had gone down, but the stars were still bright and numerous, and the reflection from the snow was clear and cheerful. There was no need for a lamp to walk by; nor, in that still but ringing air, the least temptation to delay.
Dick had crossed the greater part of the open ground between Shoreby and the forest, and had reached the bottom of the little hill, some hundred yards below the Cross of St. Bride, when, through the stillness of the black morn, there rang forth the note of a trumpet, so shrill, clear, and piercing, that he thought he had never heard the match of it for audibility. It was blown once, and then hurriedly a second time; and then the clash of steel succeeded.
At this young Shelton pricked his ears, and drawing his sword, ran forward up the hill.
Presently he came in sight of the cross, and was aware of a most fierce encounter raging on the road before it. There were seven or eight assailants, and but one to keep head against them; but so active and dexterous was this one, so desperately did he charge and scatter his opponents, so deftly keep his footing on the ice, that already, before Dick could intervene, he had slain one, wounded another, and kept the whole in check.
Still, it was by a miracle that he continued his defence, and at any moment, any accident, the least slip of foot or error of hand, his life would be a forfeit.
“Hold ye well, sir! Here is help!” cried Richard; and forgetting that he was alone, and that the cry was somewhat irregular, “To the Arrow! to the Arrow!” he shouted, as he fell upon the rear of the assailants.
These were stout fellows also, for they gave not an inch at this surprise, but faced about, and fell with astonishing fury upon Dick. Four against one, the steel flashed about him in the starlight; the sparks flew fiercely; one of the men opposed to him fell—in the stir of the fight he hardly knew why; then he himself was struck across the head, and though the steel cap below his hood protected him, the blow beat him down upon one knee, with a brain whirling like a windmill-sail.
Meanwhile the man whom he had come to rescue, instead of joining in the conflict, had, on the first sign of intervention, leaped aback and blown again, and yet more urgently and loudly, on that same shrill-voiced trumpet that began the alarm. Next moment, indeed, his foes were on him, and he was once more charging and fleeing, leaping, stabbing, dropping to his knee, and using indifferently sword and dagger, foot and hand, with the same unshaken courage and feverish energy and speed.
But that ear-piercing summons had been heard at last. There was a muffled rushing in the snow; and in a good hour for Dick, who saw the sword-points glitter already at his throat, there poured forth out of the wood upon both sides a disorderly torrent of mounted men-at-arms, each cased in iron, and with visor lowered, each bearing his lance in rest, or his sword bared and raised, and each carrying, so to speak, a passenger, in the shape of an archer or page, who leaped one after another from their perches, and had presently doubled the array.
The original assailants, seeing themselves outnumbered and surrounded, threw down their arms without a word.
“Seize me these fellows!” said the hero of the trumpet; and when his order had been obeyed, he drew near to Dick and looked him in the face.
Dick, returning this scrutiny, was surprised to find in one who had displayed such strength, skill, and energy, a lad no older than himself—slightly deformed, with one shoulder higher than the other, and of a pale, painful, and distorted countenance. The eyes, however, were very clear and bold.
“Sir,” said this lad, “ye came in good time for me, and none too early.”
“My lord,” returned Dick, with a faint sense that he was in the presence of a great personage, “ye are yourself so marvellous a good swordsman that I believe ye had managed them single-handed. Howbeit, it was certainly well for me that your men delayed no longer than they did.”
“How knew ye who I was?” demanded the stranger.
“Even now, my lord,” Dick answered, “I am ignorant of whom I speak with.”
“Is it so?” asked the other. “And yet ye threw yourself head-first into this unequal battle.”
“I saw one man valiantly contending against many,” replied Dick, “and I had thought myself dishonoured not to bear him aid.”
A singular sneer played about the young nobleman’s mouth as he made answer:
“These are very brave words. But to the more essential—are ye Lancaster or York?”
“My lord, I make no secret; I am clear for York,” Dick answered.
“By the mass!” replied the other, “it is well for you.”
And so saying, he turned towards one of his followers.
“Let me see,” he continued, in the same sneering and cruel tones—“let me see a clean end of these brave gentlemen. Truss me them up.”
There were but five survivors of the attacking party. Archers seized them by the arms; they were hurried to the borders of the wood, and each placed below a tree of suitable dimension; the rope was adjusted; an archer, carrying the end of it, hastily clambered overhead; and before a minute was over, and without a word passing upon either hand, the five men were swinging by the neck.