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´╗┐Title: In the Wars of the Roses - A Story for the Young
Author: Everett-Green, Evelyn, 1856-1932
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Wars of the Roses - A Story for the Young" ***

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IN THE WARS OF THE ROSES

A Story for the Young

by

Everett Evelyn-Green.

1901



CONTENTS

Prologue.
Chapter 1:  A Brush with the Robbers.
Chapter 2:  A Hospitable Shelter.
Chapter 3:  A Strange Encounter.
Chapter 4:  Paul's Kinsman.
Chapter 5:  In Peril.
Chapter 6:  In The Hands of the Robbers.
Chapter 7:  The Protection of the Protected.
Chapter 8:  The Rally of the Red Rose.
Chapter 9:  The Tragedy of Tewkesbury.
Chapter 10: The Prince Avenged.
Notes.



Prologue.


"Mother, will the little prince be there?"

"Yes, my son. He never leaves his mother's side. You will see them
all today, if fortune favours us--the good King Henry, his noble
queen, to whom he owes so much, and the little prince likewise. We
will to horse anon, that we may gain a good view of the procession
as it passes. The royal party lodges this night at our good
bishop's palace. Perchance they will linger over the Sunday, and
hear mass in our fair cathedral, Our loyal folks of Lichfield are
burning to show their love by a goodly show of welcome; and it is
said that his majesty takes pleasure in silvan sports and such-like
simple pleasures, many preparations for the which have been
prepared for him to witness."

"O mother, I know. Ralph and Godfrey have been practising
themselves this many a day in tilting and wrestling, and in the use
of the longbow and quarterstaff, that they may hold their own in
the sports on the green before the palace, which they say the king
will deign to watch.

"O mother; why am I not as old and as strong as they? I asked Ralph
to let me shoot with his bow; but he only laughed at me, and bade
me wait till I was as tall and as strong as he. It is very hard to
be the youngest--and so much the youngest, too."

The mother smiled as she passed her hand over the floating curls of
the gallant boy beside her; He was indeed a child of whom any
mother might be proud: beautiful, straight-limbed, active, and
fearless, his blue eyes glowing and shining, his cheek flushed with
excitement, every look and gesture seeming to speak of the bold
soldier spirit that burned within.

And these were times when it appeared indeed as if England's sons
had need of all the warlike instincts of their race. Party faction
had well-nigh overthrown ere this the throne--and the authority of
the meek King Henry, albeit the haughty Duke of York had set forth
no claim for the crown, which his son but two short years later
both claimed and won. But strife and jealousy and evil purposes
were at work in men's minds. The lust of power and of supremacy had
begun to pave the way for the civil war which was soon to devastate
the land. The sword had already been drawn at St. Albans, and the
hearts of many men were full of foreboding as they thought upon the
perilous times in which they lived; though others were ready to
welcome the strife which promised plunder and glory and fame to
those who should distinguish themselves by prowess in field or
counsel in the closet.

The gentle Lady Stukely, however, was not one of these. Her heart
sank sometimes when she heard the talk of her bold husband and
warlike sons. They had all three of them fought for the king at the
first battle, or rather skirmish, at St. Albans four years before,
and were ardent followers and adherents of the Red Rose of
Lancaster. Her husband had received knighthood at the monarch's
hands on the eve of the battle, and was prepared to lay down his
life in the cause if it should become necessary to do so.

But if rumours of strife to come, and terrible pictures of
bloodshed, sometimes made her gentle spirit quail, she had always
one consolation in the thought that her youngest child, her little
Paul, would not be torn from her side to follow the bloody trail of
war. Her two first-born sons, the younger of whom was twenty-two,
had long been very finished young gallants, trained to every
military enterprise, and eager to unsheathe their swords whenever
rumour told of slight to King Henry or his haughty queen from the
proud Protector, who for a time had held the reins of government,
though exercising his powers in the name of the afflicted king.

But Paul was still a child, not yet quite eight years old; and of
the five fair children born to her between him and his brothers,
not one had lived to complete his or her third year, so that the
mother's heart twined itself the more firmly about this last brave
boy, and in the frequent absences of husband and sons upon matters
of business or pleasure, the companionship between the pair was
almost unbroken, and they loved each other with a devotion that may
easily be understood. Paul felt no awe of his gentle mother, but
rather looked upon himself as her champion and defender in his
father's absence. It was no new thing for him to long for manhood
and its privileges; for would not these make him all the stouter
protector to his mother?

But she was wont when he spoke such words to check him by gentle
counsel and motherly sympathy, and now she took his hand in hers
and patted it smilingly as she replied:

"Ah, my little Paul, time flies fast, and you will be a man before
very long now; but be content for these next days to be yet a
child. Perchance the little prince will pay more heed to such as
are of his age.

"You may chance to win a smile from him, even if the nobles and
gentlemen regard not children."

Paul's face brightened instantly.

"O mother, yes; I had not thought of that. But I do so long to see
the little prince. Oh, if he were to notice me--to speak to me--how
happy I should be! We were born on the same day, were we not, dear
mother--on the thirteenth of October? But I am older, am I not?"

"Yes, my child; by two years. You will be eight upon your next
birthday, and he six. But I hear he is such a forward, kingly,
noble child, that both in appearance and discretion he is far in
advance of his actual age. Those who are brought up with royalty
early learn the lessons which to others come but with advancing
years."

"I love the little prince, our good king's son," cried Paul with
kindling eyes; "I would that I had been called Edward, too. Mother,
why was I not given his name, as I was born on his day, and that of
the good St. Edward too?"

The mother fondly caressed the golden curls of the beautiful child
as she answered:

"Ah, my son, we knew not till long afterward that our gracious
queen had borne a little son on thy natal day. Paul is a name which
many of our race have borne before, and so we called our child by
it. It is the man that makes the name, not the name the man."

"I know that, mother; yet I would fain have borne the name of the
little prince. But hark! I hear the sounds of the horses' feet.
They are bringing them round to the door. Sweet mother, lose no
time. Let us mount and depart. I would fain have been in the
gallant band of gentlemen who rode out this morning at dawn to
welcome and escort the king and queen; as my father and brothers
were. But let us not delay. I should be sorely grieved were we to
miss seeing the entry into the city."

Lady Stukely smiled at the impatience of the child, knowing well
that many hours must elapse before the royal party would reach the
city walls; but she was willing to gratify the ardent desires of
her little son, and as she was already dressed for the saddle, she
rose and took him by the hand and led him out to the courtyard,
where some half dozen of the good knight's retainers were awaiting
their lady and her son.

Stukely Hall was no very large or pretentious place, but it was
built in that quadrangular form so common to that age, and
accommodated within its walls the dependents and retainers that
every man of rank had about him under the old feudal system, which
obliged him to bring to his lord's service on demand a certain
following of armed and trained soldiers.

In those days, when every article of common consumption was made at
home, the household of even a knight or gentleman of no great
wealth or note was no inconsiderable matter, and even the field
labourers almost always dwelt within the walls of their lord's
house, eating his bread, and growing old in his service as a matter
of course, without thinking of such a thing as change.

So that although the greater part of the retainers had ridden off
at dawn with the knight and his sons, there were still a good
half-dozen stout fellows ready to escort their lady to the town;
and besides these were many menials of lower grade standing about
to see the start. Little Paul, who had grown up amongst them, ran
from one to the other, telling them excitedly how he was going to
see the prince that day, and eagerly accepting from the hands of
his old nurse a beautiful bunch of red roses which she had gathered
that morning, in the hope that her darling might have the chance to
offer them to queen or prince.

Mother and son each wore the red rose broidered upon their state
robes, and the boy had stuck the crimson blossom in his velvet cap.
He was a perfect little picture in his white velvet tunic sloshed
with rose colour, his white cloth hosen laced with gold from ankle
to thigh, a short cloak flowing jauntily from his shoulders, and
his bright golden curls flowing from beneath the crimson and white
cap.

No wonder that his stately mother regarded him with looks of fond
pride, or that his old nurse breathed a benediction on his pretty
head, and invoked the saints and the blessed Virgin on his behalf.
They little knew that the gallant child was riding forth to an
encounter which would be fraught for him with strange results; and
that the long-hoped-for meeting with the little prince would be the
first step in one of those passionate attachments which almost
always cost the owner of them dear.

The sun shone hot and bright as the little cavalcade set forth from
the courtyard. The month was that of July, and merry England was
looking its best. The fair landscape lying before the eyes of the
riders seemed to breathe nothing but peace and plenty; and it was
hard to think that the desolating hand of war might, before many
years had passed, be working havoc and ruin over a land so smiling
and happy now.

The rich valley in which the ancient city of Lichfield stands
looked peculiarly beautiful and fertile that day. Lady Stukely,
whilst replying to the eager talk of her excited little boy, could
not but gaze around her with admiration, familiar as the scene was
to her; and even the boy seemed struck, for he looked up and said:

"I hope the little prince will be pleased with our town. He will
have seen many fine places on this progress, but I do think we
shall give him the best welcome of all. We all love him so."

It seemed indeed as if the whole country had turned out to welcome
the royal guests; for as the riders drew near to the city walls,
they found themselves in the midst of a crowd of holiday folks, all
bent upon the same object--namely, to take up a good position for
witnessing the royal procession as it passed; and every few minutes
some joyous roisterer would raise a shout, "Long live the king!"
"Health to the queen!" "Down with the false friends--the House of
York!" which cries would be taken up by the multitude, and echoed
lustily along the road.

And as the party from Stukely Hall rode up, way being made by the
crowd for persons of quality well known and beloved in those parts,
little Paul vented his excitement in a new cry of his own; for,
standing up in his stirrups and waving his cap in his hand, he
cried in his clear boyish tones:

"Three cheers, good people, for the little prince! Three cheers for
Edward, Prince of Wales, our future king!"

And this cheer was taken up with hearty goodwill by all the crowd;
partly for the sake of the cause ear to the hearts of these loyal
people, partly from admiration for the gallant child who had
started it; and Paul rode on with a flushed and happy face, looking
up to his mother and saying:

"They all love the little prince. Oh how I wish he would come!"

The captain of the little band of soldiers who guarded the gate by
which the royal procession was to enter, came forward doffing his
mailed head piece to greet the wife of the gallant Sir James, who
was a notable gentleman in those parts. By his courtesy the lady
and her child were allowed to take up a position so close to the
gate as would insure for them a most excellent view of the royal
party; whilst the humbler crowd was kept at a more discreet
distance by the good-humoured soldiers, who exercised their office
amid plenty of jesting and laughing, which showed that an excellent
understanding existed between them and their brethren of the soil.
The captain, as the hour for the entrance drew near, took up his
position beside the lady, and conversed with her in low tones. Paul
listened with all his ears the moment he discovered that the
soldier was talking about his beloved little prince.

"I do not credit every idle tale I hear, or certes life would be
but a sorry thing for a soldier. But there is a queer rumour flying
about that some of the bold marauding fellows who follow the banner
of York, Salisbury, and Warwick have been following and hanging on
the trail of the royal party with a view to the capture--so it is
said--of the Prince of Wales, who, once in the hands of the rival
faction, would prove a hostage of no mean value. I can scarce
credit such a tale myself. Sure am I that it cannot have originated
in the mind of any of those noble earls, but must be the device of
some meaner churl, who hopes to gain a reward for his treachery.
Belike there is no truth whatever in it. Rumour is never idle, and
must have some food to satisfy its cravings. I credit not so wild a
tale, albeit I must be on the watch against all chances.

"But hark! hear you not that sound in the distance? and methinks I
see on yonder height the glitter of the spearmen and the sheen of
an armed multitude. Ay, it is truly so. They come, they come! Why,
it is a goodly following our gallant knights and gentlemen have
furnished. Their gracious majesties will have no cause to grumble
at the loyalty of their trusty county of Lichfield {1}."

Paul's breath went and came. The words of the captain had stirred
his heart, and now the actual approach of the royal family set
every pulse throbbing. Eagerly his eyes were fixed upon the
advancing column of gallant riders, the self-appointed bodyguard of
the king and queen--a bodyguard which, changing and shifting as the
royal party progressed through the kingdom, yet never deserted them
throughout the triumphal march, and did not a little to raise
within the breast of the queen that martial ardour which was to be
so severely tested in days to come.

Nearer and yet more near came the gay procession; banners flying,
trumpets sounding, the joy bells from the town giving back gay
response. And now the mounted gentlemen--amongst whom Paul's quick
eyes have already discovered his father and brothers--wheel rapidly
aside to right and left, forming a sort of avenue to the gateway
through which the royal riders are to pass, to receive the loyal
welcome of the venerable prelate and the city dignitaries.

Paul's breath comes and goes as the cheering in the crowd grows
vociferous. He grasps his bunch of roses firmly in his hands, his
cheeks glowing till they almost rival the damask bloom of the
flowers, his eyes fixed in all their eager brightness upon the
advancing band, which consists of the king and queen and prince and
their own immediate attendants. It is a moment never forgotten by
the boy in after life--the moment when first his glance fell upon
the royal child around whose history romance has woven so many a
tale; and it was with a start of peculiar surprises and a thrill of
emotion he could not have analyzed, that the boy beheld the little
prince of his dreams. For in those beautiful princely features, in
the alert graceful figure and the floating curls of gold, Paul
seemed to see his own lineaments reproduced, and gave one
bewildered glance toward his mother to see if perchance the same
thought struck her.

And indeed it did; for the chance resemblance between the young
heir of the House of Lancaster and the son of an obscure
Staffordshire knight was so remarkable that none who saw the two
children could fail to be struck by it. Paul for a moment was
almost awed, feeling as if he had no right thus to have aped the
outward aspect of the little prince; but the next moment all else
was forgotten in the excitement of the moment and in the vigorous
cheering which greeted the close approach of royalty.

The party moved slowly forward, returning the loyal salutations of
the crowd right graciously. The little prince was charming in his
friendly gestures, and Paul observed that to one and another of the
knights and gentlemen drawn up to do them honour he held out some
little token, which was received with every demonstration of
respect and gratification.

His intense excitement caused the little Paul to push out somewhat
further than the line observed by the soldiers, and no one recalled
him to his place; and thus it was that when, as the cortege moved
forward, the Prince of Wales dropped the plumed hat with the white
ostrich feather, which he was raising in response to the
salutations showered upon him, it was Paul who had leaped to the
ground and caught up the costly headgear from beneath the very feet
of the king's horse, and, with glowing face and ardent gaze of
admiration and homage, had bent the knee to the princely child, and
restored the cap, whilst his bunch of roses was offered at the same
moment with an air of modest eagerness that touched all hearts.

The little prince took both the cap and the flowers, thanking the
lad with friendly smiles; but when he saw how closely that bright
face resembled his own, and how those floating curls of shining
gold uncovered to the hot sunshine were but as the counterpart of
his, he too glanced at his mother, whose smiling face was bent with
a proud pleasure upon the pretty picture formed by the two
children, and he said in his clear, joyous tones:

"Why, verily, this must be a brother or a cousin of mine own. Tell
me your name, good lad. Surely we must be akin."

"Nay, gracious prince," answered Paul in low tones; "I am but the
son of a simple knight, who has ever been your royal father's loyal
servant. But I was born, like you, upon St. Edward's Day, and
perhaps our patron saint smiled kindly on us both."

The boy was so excited he scarce knew what he said; but his words
seemed to please the little prince, who replied:

"Nay, now, if you share the good offices of my patron saint, you
must wear my badge too, for love of me. See here, this little
silver swan, the device of my noble ancestor King Edward the Third,
it is now my badge, and you must wear it for my sake. Farewell for
the nonce; we shall meet again--I am sure of it--ere we say goodbye
to this pleasant city. I would I had a brother like you. But we
will meet anon. Farewell, and forget me not."

The royal cavalcade was yet moving onward whilst these gracious
words of childish greeting were spoken. The next moment the
bewildered Paul was standing looking after the pretty child prince,
the silver swan he grasped tightly between his hands alone
convincing him that the whole encounter had not been a fair
fleeting dream.

The great green meadow just without the walls of the city presented
an animated spectacle even to eyes accustomed to the gay and
party-coloured dresses of the Middle Ages, and to the hardy sports
of her bold sons. The whole town and countryside had assembled to
witness or bear a share in the merry silvan sports, instituted with
a view of amusing the royal guests, who had halted at Lichfield for
three nights in order that the pious monarch might hear mass on
Sunday at the cathedral; and the Saturday was given over to the
revels and pastimes at all times dear to the people, but more so
than ever when royalty deigned to be the witness of the feats of
skill and strength. And King Henry loved to watch the sports of his
subjects. His simple mind; that shrank from the intrigues of court
life, seemed to gather strength and health when removed from the
strife and turmoil of parties. His malady, which at times
completely incapacitated him from tasking part in the government,
was always liable to recur, and it was with a view of recuperating
his health, and calming his anxieties and fears for himself and
those he loved best, that the queen had decided upon this progress
through the loyal midland counties, and encouraged the people to
display their skill in manly sports before their king; for nothing
seemed more beneficial to him than the interest evoked by any
spectacles of this kind.

And little Paul Stukely was an eager spectator of the encounters
and feats that were taking place before royalty that bright summer
day. Paul felt as if he were living and moving in a wonderful
dream. He kept pulling off his little velvet cap to make sure that
the silver swan--the prince's token--was still in its place; and
even when most interested in any contest going on upon the green,
his eyes would turn instinctively toward the fair child leaning
upon his father's knee, and eagerly watching the rustic revels.

The royal guests were sumptuously lodged beneath a silken awning
under a mighty oak tree that gave a refreshing shade. A platform
had been erected for them beneath the awning, and chairs of state
set thereon. From this vantage ground they could watch everything
that went on, and reward the victors with words of praise, small
pieces of silver, or some fragment of lace or ribbon from the royal
apparel, as best suited the rank of the aspirant for honour; and
the kindly smiles and gracious words bestowed upon all who
approached increased each hour the popularity of the Lancastrian
cause and the devotion of the people to their king.

But Paul had not, so far, ventured to present himself before the
platform where the little prince was standing. He had not forgotten
a single one of the kind words spoken by the youthful Edward
yesterday, but he was fearful of presuming upon the favour thus
shown him, and his very admiration for the princely child seemed to
hold him back.

He knew that his father and brothers might rebuke him for
forwardness if he presumed to thrust himself into notice. Sir James
was one of those appointed to keep order upon the ground, and
withhold the rustics from incommoding in any way the royal
visitors; and the child knew that he would be the first to rebuke
his own son for putting himself unduly forward. As the youngest in
the house, Paul was accustomed to be held in small repute, and had
no desire to provoke a rebuff which might even reach the ears of
the little prince himself.

So he contented himself by hanging about on the outskirts of the
crowd, casting many longing, lingering glances toward the group
beneath the giant oak, and at other times diverting himself by
watching the wrestlers, the mummers, or the archers, who in turn
came forward to try their skill and strength. The quarterstaff
contests were very exciting, and several broken heads were the
result of the hearty encounters with that formidable weapon.

But Paul was familiar with most of the sports, and presently grew
weary of watching. It was hot, too, and there was not much shade to
be had in that big meadow; so he wandered a little apart, toward a
copse beside a small stream, on the opposite side of which a thick
forest rose stately and grand, and sitting down beside the merry
brook, he clasped his hands round his knees and sank into a
reverie.

He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he did not notice the
light tread of approaching footsteps, and gave a great start when
he suddenly felt an arm flung caressingly about his neck. He sprang
to his feet with a cry of astonishment, and stood face to face with
the little prince.

"You see I have found you," cried the child gleefully. "I saw you
several times in the crowd today, but you would not come near me.
Never mind; this is much better, for here we can talk, here we can
be friends. Are you aweary of their gay shows? So am I, in faith.
We have seen the same thing everywhere, and it is so good to be
alone sometimes. I love not to be always followed and watched.

"See you that dim, dark wood? Let us e'en hide ourselves therein
for a short hour. My mother will miss me from her side anon, and
will send to seek me. I would not be found too easily. Come, let us
hide ourselves there, and you shall tell me all about yourself, and
we will play at being trusty friends and comrades.

"It is dull work being always a prince. I would that we could
change parts for once. You shall be the prince and I will be the
bold knight's son, and your very faithful servant."

"O my lord!" faltered Paul, almost overcome with excitement and
pleasure at this strange encounter.

But the little prince stamped his foot and spoke with the air of a
regular little autocrat.

"Nay, call me not that. Did I not say I would be nobody's lord for
the nonce? What is your name? Paul? Then I will be called Paul for
this next hour, and you shall be Edward. See, here is my jewelled
collar and the cap with the ostrich plume--the badge of the Prince
of Wales. Yes, put them on, put them on. Marry, I could think it
was my very self, but a short inch the taller.

"Now, see, I take your cap instead; and now I am Paul, and you must
bid me follow you and attend you in your journey through the
forest. See, we will be fugitives, flying from the wicked Duke of
York, who would fain grasp at the king's power, but my mother will
not let him."

For a moment the child's eyes flashed, and his clenched hands and
heaving breast showed that the spirit of Margaret of Anjou lived
again in her child; but pulling himself up short with a laugh, the
little prince added with a deferential bow, resuming his character
of subject, "But I crave your pardon, sweet prince, if I lose
control of myself in the thought of your wrongs. Lead on, noble
lord, and I follow. Let us seek safety in the dim aisles of yon
giant wood. Surely there is some ford or bridge nigh at hand which
will give us safe crossing without wetting ourselves."

Children are children all the world over, and at any period of its
history. Childhood ever delights in romance and imaginative
situations and adventures; and before ten minutes had passed the
boys had completely entered into the spirit of their play. Paul,
shaking off the awe which had at first held him silent and abashed,
played the part of prince with an energy and zeal which evoked the
delight and admiration of his companion; whilst the younger boy was
amused to lay aside for the moment any pretence at royalty, and pay
his humble devoirs to his liege lord.

Paul knew of some stepping stones which led across the stream into
the dark wood, and soon the boys were in what seemed to them the
heart of the great forest. The prince was delighted by all he saw.
The sense of freedom was enchanting, and his curiosity unbounded.
He had never in his life before enjoyed a game of play in so
unfettered a fashion with a comrade of nearly his own age; and soon
forgetting even their own game, the boys were walking with arms
twined round each other's neck, telling each other all that was in
their hearts, and exchanging vows of unalterable affection.

"When I am grown to manhood, and am a belted knight with noble
gentlemen of mine own to attend me, you shall be my very first
esquire, Paul," said the prince emphatically; "and we will ride
through the world together, seeking adventures which shall make all
men wonder when they hear of them. And when I am king you shall be
my first counsellor and greatest lord. I will degrade from office
and dignity those proud nobles who have been traitors at heart to
my kingly father, and to you I will give their broad lands and high
titles. We will thus be comrades and friends through life. You
would never desert me, would you, Paul?"

"I would lay down my life for your highness," cried Paul with
enthusiasm. "I will live and die true to the Red Rose--to the sign
of the silver swan."

The little prince's eyes kindled.

"I believe you would. I love you, Paul, and methinks that you would
love me too. I would that I could take you with me now to be my
friend and comrade through life; but perchance your lady mother
could ill spare you, by what you say. I know what a mother's love
is like."

Paul's face was grave. For the first time in his life he was
confronted by the problem of a divided duty--that problem which
troubles us all more or less at some time in our history.

"I would gladly go with your highness to the world's end," he said.
"I should love to live and die at your side; but I doubt me if it
would not be cruel to my mother. She sometimes tells me that her
life would be a lone one without me."

"And you must stay with her," said the prince with decision; "at
least so long as you are a child. When you are a grown man it will
be different. Some day I will send for you, and you shall be my
first and best friend; but it cannot be now. My mother might not
approve my choice, and yours might not let you go. Princes as well
as other men have to wait for what they want"--and the child
sighed--"but some day our turn will come."

Then they resumed their play, and the hoary wood resounded to the
merry shouts of the boys as they ran hither and thither in active
sport, till the little prince was fairly tired out, though, still
exulting in his escape from maternal vigilance, he stoutly
protested against going back.

"See, good Paul," he said, "here is a right commodious hollow tree,
heaped with last year's dead leaves. I will rest awhile hidden away
here, where none will find me were they to look for me ever so. And
if you could find and bring me here a draught of water from the
brook or from some spring, I should be ever grateful. I am sore
athirst and weary, too."

The child was nevertheless much pleased with his nest, and
forthwith curled himself up in it like a young dormouse, delighting
in the conviction that no attendants despatched by his mother to
capture him would ever find him here. Boys have been young pickles
ever since the world began, and were just as full of pranks in the
fifteenth century as they are now. Edward had: a full share of
boyhood's mischievous delight in his own way, and owing to the
strong will and the ever-present vigilance of his mother, he had
not had many chances of indulging his natural craving for
independence. Therefore he rejoiced the more in it now, and was
quite determined to return to his royal parents at such time only
as it suited his own whim.

Paul was willing enough to do the behest of the prince, and stayed
only to make him comfortable before starting off on the quest for
water. He thought young Edward would soon be asleep, as indeed he
was, so luxurious was his leafy couch within the giant oak; and
resolved to run as far as a certain well he knew of in the wood,
the water of which was peculiarly fresh and cold and clear, and
where a cup was always kept by the brothers of a neighbouring
monastery for the benefit of weary travellers.

Paul sped away on his mission with a light heart He was elated
above measure by his day's adventure, and his head was brimming
over with plans and dreams of the future, which was to be so
glorious and so distinguished.

He the chosen comrade of their future king! he the loyal upholder
of that king's rights, the bulwark of the throne, the trusted
noble, the shrewd counsellor, the valiant warrior! A boy's ambition
is boundless--innocent of envy or evil, but wild in its flights.

Paul went on his way with glowing cheeks and sparkling eyes, till a
stealthy sound in the bushes beside him made him stop short,
listening intently. He heard voices in cautious whisper.

"He cannot be far away. He certainly came to the wood. Long Peter
says he had another boy with him; but be that as it may, he is
here, and close at hand. We must lose no time. The alarm will be
given if he is missed. Take one, or take both, it matters not if we
but get the prince into our hands. He may be known by his ostrich
plume and his golden curls, and the jewelled collar he wears about
his neck."

Paul heard these words plainly, and it seemed as if his heart were
in his mouth. It beat so violently that he fancied the conspirators
must surely hear. The words he had heard but yesterday flashed back
into his mind.

It was true then. There was a conspiracy to carry off the young
prince, and the band of men pledged to the deed were actually on
their track and close at hand. How could he warn the prince in
time? How could he save him from their hands?

For a moment the boy's courage seemed to desert him. A cold sweat
broke out on his face, his knees trembled beneath him. But his fear
was not a selfish or unworthy one; it was all for the royal child,
whose peril was so imminent.

And then, with a sudden revulsion of feeling, he recollected that
he himself wore the cap with the white plume, the jewelled collar
of royalty, and the dagger the little prince habitually carried in
his girdle. And had he not the same floating golden curls, the same
cast of features, the same active figure, and almost the same
stature? Might he not save the real prince by playing his part to
some purpose for the time being? The men would not distinguish
between the pair--he felt certain of that; they would at once make
off with their prize. Later on, of course, they would discover the
trick, but then the prince would be safe. His own followers would
have long since discovered him. Yes, he would do it--he would save
the prince at all cost. What did it matter if his own life were the
forfeit? The heir of England would be saved.

It was no small act of heroism to which the boy made up his mind in
those few moments. Those were lawless days, and human life was held
very cheap. The band of fierce men who had believed they were
carrying off a prince, would think nothing of running him through
with their swords when they discovered how they had been tricked,
and that by a mere child. Paul set his teeth hard and braced
himself up for the task he had set himself. He knew his peril-he
realized it too; but he was a soldier's son, and had he not said he
would live and die for the prince? Would he ever be worthy of the
knighthood every lad looked forward to as the goal of his ambition,
if he shrank now from the task he had set himself?

Hardly had that resolution been taken before there sprang out from
the thick underwood two or three fierce-looking men, armed to the
teeth.

"Ha, my young springal! well met, in sooth," cried the foremost of
the band, laying a firm hand upon the boy's shoulder. "We have been
looking long for you.

"To horse, brave fellows! we have our prize. We may not linger
here."

"Hands off, varlet!" cried Paul, throwing himself into the
character of prince with great energy and goodwill. "Know you to
whom you speak--whom ye thus rough handle? Have a care; the Prince
of Wales is not thus to be treated."

"Pardon, sweet prince," cried the leader, with ironical courtesy,
his grasp not relaxing one whit from the boy's arm. "Time leaves us
scant opportunity for the smooth speech of the court. We must use
all despatch in conveying your worshipful presence hence, to the
safe custody of England's friends.

"Nay, struggle not, boy. We would not harm you. You are safe with
us--"

"I know you not. I will not be thus insulted. I will to my royal
parents," cried Paul in well-feigned indignation.

But remonstrance and resistance were alike useless. At the sound of
a peculiar whistle from one of the party, there immediately
appeared some half score of mounted troopers, leading other horses
with them. The boy was swung upon the saddle of one of the horses
and fastened there by means of thongs, which, although not
incommoding him whilst riding, utterly precluded all idea of
escape. Moreover the steed was placed between those of two of the
stalwart troopers, each of whom kept a hand upon the reins of the
supposed prince; and thus, silently but rapidly, the little band
threaded the intricacies of the wood, by paths evidently known to
them, and ere the dusk had fully come, had cleared the forest
altogether, and were galloping steadily and fast across the open
country toward the north.

Paul had not spoken another word. He had been in terror lest by
some inadvertent phrase he might betray himself, and let those
fierce men know that he was not the prince; in which case not only
might his own life be forfeit, but the real prince might fall into
their hands. But now as the dusk overtook them, and still they were
flying farther and farther away from the city where the prince lay,
his heart rose, and beat with a generous triumph; for though his
own fate might be a speedy death, the heir of England was safe.

It was dark before the lights of a wayside hostelry became visible
across the dreary waste they were traversing. The leader of the
band turned and addressed a few words to the troopers who had the
care of the captive; and at once he felt himself deprived of the
tell-tale cap and collar, the former of which was replaced by a
cloth cap belonging to one of the men, which almost concealed the
boy's features. He was also wrapped in a mantle that further
disguised him; and thus they rode up to the inn.

A ruddy stream of light poured out from that comfortable hostelry,
and Paul saw, seated on his stout nag, with three of his servants
behind him, the well-known figure of a neighbouring farmer, whom
business often took to a town many miles from his native place.

The troopers were dismounting and hurrying into the inn. Two only
remained with their prize. Paul's resolution was quickly taken. He
threw off the encumbering mantle and cap, and cried aloud:

"Gaffer Hood, Gaffer Hood, come and help me! These men have carried
me off, and are taking me I know not whither. Come and help me to
get free, and my father will richly reward you. They think I am the
Prince of Wales, who was playing with me but this afternoon. Tell
them who I really am, and they will let me go."

"By the mass, if that be not the voice of little Paul Stukely!"
exclaimed the honest farmer in great amazement, as he brought his
stout nag alongside the animal that carried the child. The troopers
drew their swords as if to interpose (and in those days it was
considered better to leave these reckless gentlemen alone when they
had booty in their hands, however come by, and no doubt they were
in league with the host of the inn); but the character of the
dialogue between the farmer and the child was so astounding that
the men remained mute and motionless, whilst the leader of the
gang, who had heard something of the words, came hurrying to the
spot, to see that his prize was safe.

He was quite prepared to make short work of farmer and men alike if
there should be any futile attempt at rescue. The man knew his
trade, and long habit had made him utterly reckless of human life.
But the words he heard exchanged between the child and the farmer
held him spellbound, too.

"I was playing with the prince," cried Paul, loud enough for all to
hear. "He bid me take his collar and cap and be prince in fantasy,
whilst he was my esquire. Afterwards, when he was weary, he lay
down to rest, and these fellows caught me and carried me off,
thinking I was prince indeed. I would not tell them what they had
done, lest they should return and capture him. But bid them loose
me now, good Gaffer, and give them all the money in your pouch as
my ransom, and I warrant my father will repay you double.

"It is the heir of the House of Lancaster you want, gentlemen, not
a poor knight's youngest son, a lad of no account. This good man
will pay you some broad gold pieces if you will let me go; but if
you are resolved to take my life as the price of my deceit, why,
take it now. I am not afraid to die in a good cause, and this
worthy man will perchance take home my body to my mother, that it
may lie in time beside hers."

"Nay, lad, we will all die ere they shall touch a hair of thy bonny
head," cried the honest farmer, signing to his men to come and be
ready. "If there's a man in this troop dastard enough to lay a hand
upon thee, he shall settle accounts with Gaffer Hood ere he leaves
the place. A farmer can fight, ay, and give good strong blows, too.

"Now, gentlemen, which of you will lay hands on that gallant child?
for he will have to do it across my dead body first."

"Tush, man, put up thy sword," cried the leader of the band, who,
being a man prompt both in action and thought, had taken in the
bearings of the situation with great rapidity, and upon whom the
simple heroism of the child had not been thrown away.

Rough and self-seeking and cruel as lawless times had made such
men, they were not devoid of all better feelings; and although, had
there been no interposition on his behalf, Paul might have been a
victim to their irritation at being thus duped, as it was his life
was now safe enough.

"We war not with babes and children. The boy has borne himself
gallantly, and we will take the gold pieces and let him go free.
Our chance may come another time, and we want not the cumbrance of
children on our march. He would not be hostage worth having, so
ransom him and begone. We have the prince's jewels if we have not
the lad himself.

"Go your way, boy; you will make a soldier in time. You have the
right grit in you. Farewell! one day we may meet again."

And thinking, perhaps, that he and his band had better not linger
longer, the captain gave the word to mount; and as soon as Paul's
thongs were cut and the ransom paid over, the troopers set spurs to
their horses' sides and vanished away in the darkness.

Once again little Paul Stukely stood in the presence of royalty.
The prince's arm was about his neck, the proud queen's eyes--moist
now with tears--were bent upon him in loving gratitude, whilst from
the king's lips he was receiving words of praise that set the hot
blood mounting to his brow. Behind him stood his father, all around
were the attendants of the royal family; and Paul, unaccustomed to
be thus the centre of attention, almost wished the ground would
open to hide him, although his heart could not but beat high in
gratification and loving loyalty.

All the city was ringing with the daring attempt that had been made
to carry off the young Prince of Wales, and the gallantry of the
boy who had dared to brave the consequences, and take upon himself
the personality of the youthful Edward. The child himself, the
farmer who had been the means of his restoration, and the knight
who owned so brave a son, all had been heroes of the past
six-and-thirty hours.

A special mass of thanksgiving had been sung in the cathedral on
the Sunday. The captain of the town, who had heard a rumour which
had sent him flying into the forest the previous afternoon, to find
the true prince vainly seeking his missing comrade, could not make
enough of the boy whose simple-hearted gallantry had saved him from
a lasting remorse, and perhaps a lasting disgrace. Indeed, Sir
James Stukely had had to hurry his child home in haste to his
mother's care, lest he should hear too much of his own prowess;
and, thrusting him into her loving arms, had said, in a voice which
quivered in spite of himself:

"Here, dame, take the boy and give him a kiss to show that he has
been a good lad. He has done his duty, as a Stukely ought to do,
and that should be enough for all of us. But let us have no
nonsense talked. What will the country come to if everyone who does
his duty as it should be done expects to be called a hero, and I
know not what besides? The prince is safe, and the boy likewise.
Now off to bed with him, and no more nonsense to be talked in my
hearing.

"God bless you, child! You'll live yet to be a credit to the name
you bear."

And Paul was made happier by that one word from his stern though
loving sire than by all the praises he had heard lavished upon
himself during the past hours. For there was no one in the wide
world that the child so reverenced as his dark-browed father, who
seldom praised his children, and was inflexible in his punishments
whenever they were deserved. To be told by him that he had done his
duty, and would be a credit to his house, was happiness far beyond
his deserts, he thought; and he registered a mental vow, deep down
in his brave little heart, that he would never in time to come give
the world cause to say he had not lived up to the promise of his
boyhood.

The loving sympathy with which his mother listened to his story,
the caresses she showered upon him in thought of the deadly peril
in which he had stood, and the hearty approbation of his brothers
and the retainers and servants in his father's halls, were a small
pleasure as compared with those few brief, almost stern, words from
that father himself. Even the notification that he was to present
himself on the Monday before the king and queen added little to his
happiness, although the idea of seeing once again his admired
little prince could not but fill him with gratification.

His father led him to the royal presence, and bowed low on hearing
himself thanked for having brought up sons who so well demonstrated
the loyalty and devotion which had been born and bred in them. But
Paul scarce heard what passed, for the little prince dashed forward
to take him round the neck, kissing him with all the natural grace
of childhood, whilst half rebuking him for having denied him his
own legitimate share in the adventure.

"If we had but been together we would have achieved our own
liberty," he said, his bright eyes flashing with the spirit of his
ancestors. "We would have shown them what Plantagenet blood could
do. I would I had been there. I would I had shared the adventure
with you. It would have been a thing for our bards to write of, for
our soldiers to sing over their campfires. But now I shall have
none of the glory. I was sleeping in a tree. It was you who were
the hero, the prince."

"Ah, sweet prince, had they once laid hold on the true prize,
methinks neither you nor I would so easily have escaped," said
Paul, who had vivid recollections of the iron hands that had been
laid upon him by the stern men who had carried him off. "I know not
how I could have escaped, had it not been that they were willing to
be quit of me when they found out I was not him whom they sought."

But the prince was hardly satisfied with the rather tame ending to
the adventure.

"To be rescued by a farmer, and carried home on his nag!" he said,
tossing back his curls with a gesture of hauteur. "Paul, I would
that you had cut your way through the very heart of them. I would
you had left at least one or two dead upon the spot. Had we been
together--" He clenched his hands for a moment, but then laughed a
little, and said in a whisper--"But no matter, Paul; they all say
that you played the hero, and I will not envy you for it. We shall
be men one day, and then I shall come and claim your promise. You
will be my faithful esquire, and I will be your liege lord.
Together we will roam the world in search of adventure, and well I
know that we shall meet with such as will not disgrace the royal
house of the Plantagenet."

The child's eyes flashed, and an answering spark was kindled in the
breast of the hardy little Paul. He put his hand within that of the
prince, and cried loud enough to be heard by those who stood by:

"Dear my lord, I will serve you to the death. I will go with you to
the world's end."

Sir James laid a warning hand upon his son's shoulder.

"Boy," he said in a low voice, "it becomes thee not thus to put
thyself forward in the presence of royalty. Be silent before thy
betters, and show thy loyalty by thy deeds, not by high-sounding
words of which thou canst have but little understanding."

Paul was instantly abashed. Indeed, in those days it was not usual
for children to make their voices heard in the presence of their
elders; but the prince was privileged, and it was his words that
had drawn forth this exclamation from Paul.

The king and the queen, however, smiled upon the boy; and the
latter said in tender tones, that would have amazed some amongst
her enemies:

"Nay, chide not the boy, good Sir James; he does but speak as his
heart dictates, and I would indeed that my son might look forward
to the day when he and your gallant son might be companions in
arms. But I ask no pledge in these troublous, stormy days. Only I
will cherish the hope that when brighter days dawn for the House of
Lancaster, and her proud foes are forever subjugated to their right
position, this bold boy may appear again before us to receive at
our hands the guerdon he is too young for yet. And be sure that
never will knighthood be more gladly accorded to any than to him,
for the deed which saved England's heir and hope from the deadly
peril which menaced him but a few short hours ago."

Sir James and his son both bowed low, and the father prepared to
lead away the boy. But the prince had once more thrown his arms
round Paul's neck, and was speaking in his eager way:

"You and I will be knighted together when we are grown. I shall
think of you, and you will not forget me--promise that you will
not. And when we meet next, wherever it may be, we shall know each
other for the likeness we bear the one to the other. Kiss me, Paul,
and promise never to forget. Farewell now, but my heart tells me we
shall meet again."

The king's son and the knight's embraced with all the warmth of a
real and deep affection, albeit of only a few hours' growth, and
gazing at each other to the last they parted.

"I shall always wear the silver swan," Paul had said as their lips
met. "You will know me by that. And I--oh, I never could forget
you! Your face will live always in my heart."

The doors closed behind the retiring knight and his son. The vision
alone conjured up by the words of the prince lived in the heart of
Paul Stukely. His face was very brightly grave as he rode home
beside his father. How little he or any in that noble company
guessed where and under what circumstances the prince and Paul
would meet next!



Chapter 1: A Brush With The Robbers.


"Help--help--help!"

This cry, growing feebler at each repetition, was borne by the
evening breeze to the ears of a traveller who was picking his way
along the dark mazes of Epping Forest one cool, fresh October day.
Instinctively he drew rein and listened, laying his band
unconsciously upon the hilt of his poniard.

"A woman's voice," he said half aloud, as he spurred more rapidly
onward in the direction whence the cry proceeded. "A woman set
upon, no doubt, by some band of these marauders who are desolating
the country and disgracing humanity. Cowards! I wonder how many of
them there are? A solitary traveller has not much chance against a
gang of them; but at least I can sell my life dear. I have little
enough to live for now; and it would be a stain for ever upon my
father's fame were I to pass by unheeding the cry of a damsel in
distress.

"Forward, then, good Sultan; there is work for both of us before we
can think of food or lodging after our weary day of travel.
Forward, good horse."

The coal-black charger, who, despite his jaded air and look of
neglect, had evidently come of a good stock, and had both blood and
mettle of the true soldier sort in him, pricked his ears, arched
his neck, and appeared to be fully aware of what was required of
him by his loved master. He broke into a gentle canter, and despite
the roughness of the ground, maintained that pace for several
hundred yards, until the hand of the traveller upon his rein warned
him to moderate his pace.

The shades of evening were falling fast, but a young moon rode high
in the sky, and helped to light up the expanse of broken ground and
piled-up tree trunks which suddenly became visible to the traveller
as he reached a clearing in the forest, through which the rough
trail or path he was pursuing led. And here in this clearing he
came upon the object of his search, and saw that his surmise as to
the cause of the cries he had heard was only too correct. Four big
burly men, all armed with the weapons of the day--bills, maces, and
even the handgun, which was beginning to find a place amongst the
more time-honoured arms of offence and defence--were surrounding
the struggling figure of a woman, a young woman the traveller
fancied, from her slimness and the cat-like agility which she
displayed in struggling with her captors.

It appeared as if the men did not desire to hurt her if they could
avoid doing so, but rather wished to make of her a prisoner; whilst
she was making the most frantic efforts to escape from their
restraining hands, and was uttering strangled cries for help, which
were so deadened by the thick folds of the heavy driving cloak,
which had been wrapped about her head, as to be barely audible even
at a short distance.

"Let her fight and struggle," said a tall, broad-shouldered man
with a darkly sinister face, who stood a little apart all this
while, keeping, however, a very close watch upon the group. "She
will soon tire herself out, and then we can carry her away
peacefully. Don't hurt her. Let her have her fling--it won't last
long--and she will be all the tamer afterward."

The traveller, who was but a stripling himself, set his teeth hard
as he heard these words spoken. Something in the cool arrogance of
the man, who appeared to be a leader of the rest, stirred his blood
and made his hands tingle to be at his throat.

But it would not do to act rashly in an encounter with four
stalwart men, all armed to the teeth, and plainly well used to the
practice of arms. The youth saw that he must husband his strength
and use his opportunity with every care. His best chance lay in
taking the party by surprise.

He examined his weapons with a keen eye. He too possessed one of
the handguns of the period, and was a good marksman to boot. He
had, too--and glad enough was he of it at that moment--the deadly
guisarme, that old-fashioned weapon that combined a spear and
scythe, and was used with horrible effect in the charges of the
day. Then there was the short battle-axe, slung across his
saddlebow, which at close quarters would be a formidable weapon,
and the poniard in his belt had in its time done deadly work before
this.

But although he had plenty of weapons for offence, he had not much
defensive armour upon him. Only a cloth cap protected his head, and
although his jerkin was of the tough leather which often defied the
thrust of a dagger almost as successfully as mail, it might not
prove a defence against the combined attack of a number of enemies;
and his legs were unprotected save by the long leather riding boots
laced up the front, and ornamented with silken tassels, now much
faded and stained.

Altogether, he appeared hardly equipped for so desperate an
encounter as the one that lay before him; but it was plain that he
did not on that account shrink from it. His appearance upon the
scene had not been observed by any of the robbers--for such they
plainly were--and he was thus able to take his time and weigh his
chances carefully.

The girl was suffering no injury from her captors; but what her
fate might be if rescue did not come was what no one could say. It
was plain that it was the desire of the leader of the band to
possess her as a captive. It was he who was the leading spirit in
the attack. He was just as determined to carry her off as he was
wishful to accomplish the capture without inflicting injury.

The stripling astride the good warhorse--who seemed to scent
battle in the air, and stood perfectly still, quivering with
excitement--unslung his handgun from his shoulder, and levelled it
at the leader of the band. The next instant a sharp report rang
through the silent forest. The robber chief flung up his hands with
a stifled cry and sank down upon the ground; whilst the other men,
astonished beyond measure at this sudden attack from they knew not
what quarter, ceased to heed their prisoner, and turned round with
loud execrations, laying their hands upon their weapons.

But before they had time to draw these the horseman was upon them.
He had his battle-axe in his hand--a light small axe, but one of
exquisite temper and workmanship--and dashing through the group, he
dealt such a blow with it upon the head of one of the ruffians as
cleft his skull in two; and the man dropped with never a groan, a
dead corpse upon the ground.

"Two done for," quoth the youth to himself as he wheeled about for
a second encounter. "Well, a mounted man should be a match for two
on foot.

"Ha! what is that?" for even as he spoke he felt a sharp, stinging
pain in one shoulder, and simultaneously the report of firearms
rang out once more. His adversaries had not been slow to avenge the
death of their comrade, and their aim was as true as his own. The
traveller knew that his only chance was now to close with his foes
and grapple with them before they could load their piece again.

His right arm was partially disabled, as he felt in a moment. He
could no longer swing the trusty little axe which had done good
service before; but there was the deadly guisarme at his side.
Sultan could be trusted to carry him straight to the foe without
any guidance beyond that of the pressure of knee and foot; and
grasping the weapon in both hands, he gallantly charged back upon
the men, who stood grimly awaiting his next movement with every
intention of unhorsing and slaying him.

The odds were heavy against him. The two ruffians who stood to bar
his way were stalwart, powerful fellows, well inured to this kind
of warfare; and the chief, who though wounded was not killed, had
struggled to his feet, and was plainly endeavouring, though with
difficulty, to reach the handgun and reload it. The girl was still
encumbered by the heavy cloak which had been knotted about her head
and hands, and was not at once thrown off. The traveller plainly
saw that there was no time to be lost if he was to escape with his
own life, or save the damsel from a fate perhaps worse than death.

"Forward, Sultan!" he cried.

And the good horse dashed back upon the enemy; and the youth,
holding his weapon in both hands, strove as he passed to deal a
deadly blow to one of his assailants. But the man was quick, and
his own strength impaired by the injury he had received. The
lance-like point of the weapon inflicted a deep gash upon the face
of one of his adversaries, causing him to yell with rage and pain,
but no vital injury had been inflicted upon either; whilst a savage
blow from the other upon the youth's left arm had broken the bone,
and he felt as if his last moment had surely come.

But it did not occur to him even then to save himself by flight, as
he could well have done, seeing that he was mounted and that the
robbers were on foot. Disabled as he was, he wheeled about once
more, and half maddened by pain and the desperation of his case,
rode furiously upon the only man who had not yet received some
injury. The robber awaited his charge with a smile of triumph upon
his face; but he triumphed a little too soon.

Sultan was a horse of remarkable intelligence and fidelity. He had
known fighting before now--had carried his rider through many a
skirmish before this; and his fidelity and affection equalled his
intelligence. With the wonderful instinct that seems always to
exist between horse and rider who have known each other long, he
appeared to divine that his master's case was somewhat desperate,
and that he needed an ally in his cause. And thus when the pair
bore down upon the robber, who was coolly awaiting the charge,
Sultan took law into his own hands, and overthrew the plan both of
attack and defence by a quick movement of his own. For he swerved
slightly as he approached the man, and rising suddenly upon his
hind legs, brought down all the weight of his iron shoe with
tremendous force upon the head of the adversary, who fell to the
ground with a low groan, and lay as helpless as his former comrade.

But excellent as this manoeuvre was in one aspect, it disconcerted
the rider by its suddenness; and when as the horse reared the
second robber sprang upon the rider to try and drag him from his
seat, the effort was only too successful. The traveller was easily
pulled away from the saddle, and fell heavily to the ground; whilst
the foe uttered a savage exclamation of triumph, and knelt with his
knee upon the chest of the fallen man, his bloody and distorted
visage bent over him in evil triumph. He was feeling in his belt
for his dagger; and the young man closed his eyes and tried to
mutter a prayer, for he knew that his hour had come at last.

He had sold his life dear, but sold it was, and the next moment he
felt certain would be his last; when all in a moment there was
another of those loud reports of the gun. The man kneeling upon his
chest fell suddenly backwards; and the youth, starting to his feet,
was confronted by the spectacle of the maiden he had rescued, white
and trembling, and almost overcome by her own deed, holding in her
hand the still smoking gun, whilst her eyes, dilated with horror,
were fixed upon the helpless creature in the dust.

"Is he dead?" she asked in a hollow voice.

"I cannot tell," answered the youth hastily. "It were better not to
linger longer here. Their own band will come and look to them if
they return not by sundown. Let us to horse and away before any of
the gang come. Sultan will carry the pair of us well, and you will
tell us which course to steer; for the night will be upon us ere
long, and I am a stranger to these dark forests."

Whilst thus speaking, the traveller was throwing keen glances round
him, and saw that the men, though wounded, were not all
dead--though one certainly was, and the other, whom Sultan had
attacked, was scarce likely to look again upon the light of day.
The leader of the band had fallen again to the earth, and was
enveloped in the folds of the heavy cloak, from which he appeared
to be feebly struggling to disentangle himself. The girl followed
the direction of the youth's glance, and explained the matter in a
few short words.

"He was loading the gun when I freed myself. I knew that he was
going to shoot you. I am very strong, and I saw that he was
bleeding and wounded. I sprang upon him and threw him down, and
tied the cloak about him, as he had bidden his men bind it about
me, By that time you were unhorsed, and I saw that the robber was
about to kill you. The gun was loaded, and I took it and shot him.
I never killed a man before. I hope it is not wicked; but he would
have killed you else. And you had risked your life a dozen times to
save me."

"It was well and bravely done for me and for yourself," answered
the stranger, as he mounted the docile Sultan and assisted the girl
to spring up behind him.

Wounded and spent as he was, the excitement of the encounter had
not yet subsided, and he was only vaguely conscious of his hurts,
whilst he was very much in earnest in his desire to get away from
this ill-omened spot before others of the band should return in
search of their missing comrades, and take a terrible vengeance
upon those who had slain or wounded them.

His companion was no less anxious than he to be gone; and as the
good horse picked his way in the dim light through the intricate
forest paths pointed out by the girl, who was plainly a native of
the neighbourhood, she told him in whispers of the men from whom
she had escaped, and of the fate which had so narrowly overtaken
her.

"They are the robbers of Black Notley," she said. "There are two
rival bands of robbers here--one at White Notley and one at Black
Notley. We call them the Black or the White Robbers, to distinguish
between them. The White are not so fierce or so lawless as the
Black; but both are a terror to us, for we never know what violence
we shall not hear of next."

"And these Black Robbers would have carried you away with them, by
what I gathered from their words, at least from the words of him
they looked to as their leader?"

The girl shuddered strongly.

"Once he lived in our village--Much Waltham, as it is called. He
was no robber then; but a proper youth enough; and although I was
but a little maid, not grown to womanhood, he asked my hand of my
father in marriage."

"And what said your father to his suit?"

"Why, that I was too young to be betrothed as yet; but that if he
were a steady youth, as time went on perchance it might be even as
he wished. But instead of growing up to the plough or the anvils as
other youths of our village do, he must needs go off to see
somewhat of the wars; and when he returned it was as a swashbuckler
and roisterer, such as my father and mother cannot abide sight of.
When he came to Figeon's to ask me in marriage, he was turned from
the door with cold looks and short words; but he would ever be
striving to see me alone, and swear that he loved me and would wed
me in spite of all. I had liked him when I was but a child, but I
grew first to fear and then to hate him; and at last I spoke to
Will Ives, the smith's son, of how he troubled me and gave me no
peace of my life. And forthwith there was a great stir through the
village; and Will Ives set upon him and beat him within an inch of
his life, for all he was so proud of his skill and strength. And
the good brothers spoke to him seriously of his evil courses, and I
know not what besides. So the end was that he ran away once more
and joined himself to the Robbers of Black Notley, and was taken in
such favour by the captain of the band that he is half a captain
himself; and many is the time he has ridden through our village,
robbing his old neighbours, and doing more harm in a night than
months of hard work will put right; and often when I have chanced
to meet him he has given me a look that has frozen the blood in my
veins. I have always lived in fear of him all my life; but I was
never in such peril before today."

"Peril enough, in all sooth," said the traveller. "How came it,
pretty maiden, that you chanced to be all alone in the wood so near
to the haunts of the robbers?"

"Nay, I was far enough away from their regular haunts. I had but
come a short cut through the wood to see a sick neighbour, and I
tarried beside her longer than I well knew. I will never do the
like again, but I have been used from childhood to roam these
forest paths unharmed. The wood is thick, and if I hear the sound
of horse or man I always slip aside and hide myself. But today,
methinks, they must have tracked me and were lying in wait; for the
wood was silent as the church till I reached the clearing, and then
the whole four sprang up from behind the pile of felled trees and
set upon me. Had you not been at hand, by good providence; I should
ere this have been their helpless captive;" and again the girl
shuddered strongly.

By this time the trees were growing somewhat thinner, and lights
began to twinkle here and there, showing that some village was nigh
at hand. A bell for vespers began to ring forth, and the traveller
was glad enough to think his toilsome journey nearly at an end.
Hardy as he was, and well inured to fatigues and hardship of all
kinds, he was growing exhausted from his day's travel and his sharp
fighting. He was wounded, too, and although there was no great
effusion of blood, his hurt was becoming painful, and his left arm,
which was undoubtedly broken, required some skilled attention.

"Is it here that you live, fair maid?" he asked. "I know not how
you are named; but I gather that you are directing our course to
your own home."

"My name is Joan Devenish," she answered, "and the lights you see
yonder are those of Much Waltham, and it is our church bell that
you hear ringing out so sweetly. My father's farm is a mile beyond.
But I beseech you ride thither with me. My mother would be ill
pleased did I not bring home the gallant stranger who had saved me
from my foes. And Figeon's will be proud to shelter such a guest."

"I give you humble thanks, Mistress Joan, and gladly would I find
so hospitable a shelter. I am but a poor traveller, however,
roaming the world in search of the fame and fortune that come not.
I am one of those who have ever followed the failing fortunes of
the Red Rose of Lancaster, and sorry enough has often been my
plight. But if rumour speaks true, and the great Earl of Warwick
has placed King Henry once again on his throne, then perchance I
may retrieve the fallen fortunes of my house. My father and
brothers laid down their lives for his cause; his foes took
possession of our fair lands, and I was turned adrift on the wide
world. But tell me, ere we journey farther, which Rose you and your
house favour; for I would not bring trouble upon any, and my roving
life has taught me that the House of Lancaster has many bitter
foes."

"O sir, be not afraid," answered Joan eagerly; "we country folk are
quiet and peaceable, and care little who wears the crown, so as we
may till our land in peace, and be relieved from the hordes of
robbers and disbanded soldiers who have swarmed the country so
long. We have called ourselves Yorkists these past years, since
King Edward has been reigning; but I trow if what men say is true,
and he has fled the country without striking a blow for his crown,
and the great earl has placed King Henry on the throne again, that
we shall welcome him back. I know little of the great matters of
the day. My father bids me not trouble my head over things too hard
for me. I tend the poultry and the young calves, and let the
question of kings alone."

The traveller smiled at this; but his companion was evidently
something of a talker, and endued with her full share of feminine
curiosity.

"I would gladly know your name, fair sir," she said shyly, "for I
shall have to present you to my good father ere long."

"My name is Paul Stukely," he answered. "I am the youngest and only
surviving son of one of King Henry's knights and loyal adherents.
My parents are both dead, and I have long been alone in the world.
I have little to call my own save my good horse and trusty weapons.
But I sometimes hope that there may be better days in store, if the
rightful king gets back his own again."

At that moment the travellers were passing by the village forge,
and a bright gleam of light streamed across their path, revealing
to a brawny young fellow at the door the weary horse and its double
burden. He came one step nearer, and exclaimed:

"Why, Joan, what means this? You riding pillion fashion with a
stranger! What, in the name of all the saints, has befallen you?"

Sultan had paused of his own accord at the forge, and Joan was
eagerly telling her story to a little crowd of listeners, and
making so much capital out of the heroism of her gallant rescuer
that all eyes were turned upon the battered stranger; and whilst
deep curses went up from the lips of many of the men as they heard
of the last attempt of the Black Robbers upon one of their own
village maidens, equal meed of praise and thanks was showered upon
Paul, who leaned over his saddlebow in an attitude that bespoke
exhaustion, though he answered all questions, and thanked the good
people for their kindly reception of him, whilst trying to make
light of his own prowess, and to give the credit of their final
escape to Joan, to whom, indeed, it was due.

But the elder smith, John Ives, pushed his way through the little
group round the black horse, and scattered them right and left.

"Good neighbours," he said, "can you not see that this gentleman is
weary and wounded, and that his good horse is like to drop as he
stands?

"Go to, Will. Lift down the maid, and lead her yourself up to
Figeon's. I will conduct the gentleman thither, and tend his hurts
myself.

"For, good sir, I know as much about broken bones as any leech in
the countryside; and if you will but place yourself in my hands,
I'll warrant you a sound man again before another moon has run her
course. 'Tis a farrier's trade to be a bit of a surgeon; and the
Iveses have been farriers in Much Waltham longer than any can mind.

"On then, good horse. 'Tis but a short mile farther; and a good
stable and a soft bed, and as much fodder as you can eat, you will
find at Figeon's Farm."

Paul was glad enough to have matters thus settled for him; and even
Sultan seemed to understand the promise made him, for he pricked up
his ears, dropped his nose for a moment into the kindly hand of the
smith, and with the guiding hand upon his rein stepped briskly
forward up the dark rough lane, through the thick belt of trees on
either side. For in the days of which I write the great forest of
Epping extended almost all over the county of Essex, the villages
were scarcely more than small clearings in the vast wood, and only
round the farms themselves were there any real fields worth calling
by the name.

Will and Joan tripped on ahead more rapidly than Sultan or his
master cared to go. Paul did not trouble himself any longer about
the road he was traversing, leaving himself entirely in the kindly
care of the smith. He even dozed a little in the saddle as the
horse picked his way steadily through the darkness, and was only
fully roused up again by the sight of lanterns dancing, as it
seemed, over the ground, by the sound of rough yet pleasant voices,
and the glimmer of steadier light through the latticed windows of
some building near at hand. The next minute he was before the
hospitable door of the old farmhouse.

A ruddy blaze streamed out through that open door. Friendly hands
assisted him to alight, and guided him to a rude oak settle placed
within the deep inglenook, which was almost like a small inner
chamber of the wide farm kitchen. Some hot, steaming drink was held
to his lips; and when he had drunk, the mist seemed to clear away
from his eyes, and he saw that he was the centre of quite a group
of simple rustics; whilst the pretty, dark-eyed Joan, in her gown
of blue serge, with its big sleeves of white cloth, was eagerly
watching him, all the time pouring out her story, which everybody
appeared to wish to hear again and again.

"Just to think of it!" cried a burly man, whose dress bespoke him a
farmer no less than his ruddy cheeks and horny hands. "Would that I
had been there! He should not then have escaped with his life.

"Child, why didst thou not stab him to the heart as he lay?

"Well has he been called Devil's Own by his former comrades and
playfellows. A defenceless girl--my daughter! By good St. Anthony,
if he crosses my path again it shall be for the last time. I
will--"

"Hush, I pray you, good husband," said his wife more gently, though
from the way in which she clasped her daughter to her breast it was
plain she had been deeply moved by the story of her peril.
"Remember what the Scriptures say: 'Thou shalt not kill,'
'Vengeance is mine,' and many like passages--"

But the woman stopped suddenly short, silenced by the grip of her
husband's hand upon her arm. A quick look was exchanged between
them, and she lapsed into silence.

The farmer glanced round him, and dismissed the serving wenches and
labourers who had gathered round to their own quarters, and indeed
in many cases to their beds; for early hours were all the fashion
in those days. The farmer's wife beckoned her daughter, and went to
prepare for the lodging of their guest; and before very long Paul
found himself in a bed which, however rude according to our
notions, was luxury itself to the weary traveller.

The smith soon saw to his hurts, pronounced them only trifling, and
bound them up as cleverly as a leech would have done. Indeed, he
was the regular doctor for most kinds of hurts, and could practise
the rude surgery of the day with as much success as a more
qualified man.

Paul had been weary enough half-an-hour before, but the good food
he had taken and the hot spiced wine had effectually aroused him.
He was very tough and well seasoned, and although glad enough to
lie still in bed, was not particularly disposed for sleep; and when
the smith was preparing to depart, he begged him to stay a while
longer, and tell him something about the place and about the people
he had come amongst. The worthy man was ready enough to chat,
though he had little notion of imparting information. Still, he
answered questions with frankness, and Paul was able to pick up a
good deal of gossip as to public opinion in those parts and the
feeling of the people round.

But what he heard did not give him pleasure. He had been in the
north when he had heard of Warwick's sudden desertion of the
Yorkist cause, and before he had been able to reach London he had
heard the glad news that Henry of Lancaster was again on the
throne, placed there by the power of the King Maker, who had
dethroned him but a few years back. Glad as Paul was, he yet wished
that any other hand had been the one to place the crown upon the
gentle monarch's head. He could not but distrust Warwick, and he
was eager to learn the feeling of the country, and to know whether
or not the people welcomed back the sovereign so long a captive.

But in this place, at least, it seemed as if there was no pleasure
in Henry's restoration. The smith shook his head, and said he had
no faith in his keeping the crown now he had got it. It seemed as
if the love borne by Londoners to Edward of York had extended as
far as this remote village: the people had been enjoying again,
under the later years of his reign, something of the blessings of
peace, and were loath that their calm should be disturbed.

The feeling might not be patriotic, but it was natural, and Paul
admitted with a sigh that the cause of the Red Rose was not likely
to find favour here. A king who could fight and who could govern,
and hold his kingdom against all comers, was more thought of than
one who appeared a mere puppet in the hands of a designing noble or
a strong-willed queen. The sudden desertion of Warwick from his
banner had caused a momentary panic in Edward's army, and the king
had fled with his followers beyond the sea; but, as the hardy smith
remarked with a grim smile, he would not be long in coming back to
claim his kingdom. And if the country were again to be plunged into
the horrors of civil war, it would be better for the whole brood of
Lancaster to seek exile or death.

Paul had not energy to argue for his cause, and fell asleep with
these sinister words ringing in his ears.



Chapter 2: A Hospitable Shelter.


Figeon's Farm (the true spelling of the name should be Fitz-John's,
but nobody ever thought of calling it so) was a prosperous and
pleasant place enough. It had been in the hands of Devenishes ever
since the Norman conquest--so at least the common belief went--and
there was no tradition of the house or lands having been in other
hands than those of the present family.

When Paul Stukely awoke from the deep sleep of exhaustion into
which he had fallen even while the worthy smith had been talking to
him overnight, his ears were assailed by the peaceful and
comfortable sounds inseparable from farmhouse life and occupation.
He heard the cackling of hens, the grunting of pigs, and the rough
voices of the hinds as they got the horses out of the sheds, and
prepared to commence the labours of the day with harrow or plough.
These sounds were familiar enough to Paul; they seemed to carry him
back to the days of his childhood, and he lay for several minutes
in a state between sleeping and waking, dreamily wondering if the
strange events of the past year were all a dream, and if he should
wake by-and-by to find himself a child once more, in his little bed
in the old home, and receive his mother's kiss as his morning's
greeting.

But soon this sweet illusion faded, and the young man sat up in bed
and looked quickly round him, trying to recollect where he was and
what had brought him here. During the last two years, in which he
had been forced to lead the roving life of an adventurer--common
enough in those days, and by no means entirely distasteful to one
of his temperament and training--he had slept in many strange
places, and had known quarters far ruder than the unceiled,
raftered room of the gabled farm.

In time it all came back to him--the attack upon the helpless girl
in the wood, his own successful defence, and the journey to the
farmhouse in the gathering darkness. Paul gave himself a shake to
see how he felt, and decided that although stiff and bruised, and
crippled in the left arm, he might yet make shift to rise and dress
himself. He saw his clothes all laid out in readiness for him, and
it was plain that some good friend had sat up far into the night
brushing and mending them; for they had been in somewhat sorry
plight after his adventure of yesterday, and now they were fresh
and clean and almost smart looking, as they had not been for many a
long day before.

As Paul was slowly dressing, he was suddenly aware of the sound of
a woman's voice speaking or reading--he fancied from its monotonous
cadence that it must be the latter--in some room that could not be
far away from his own chamber. In those days such an accomplishment
as reading was not at all common to the inhabitants of a farm, and
Paul stood still in surprise to listen.

Yes, there was no mistaking it, there was certainly somebody--some
woman--reading aloud in a chamber hard by. Presently the cadence of
the voice changed, and Paul was certain that the reading had
changed to prayer; but not the pattering Paternosters or Ave Marias
with which he was familiar enough. This style of prayer was quite
different from that; and the young man, after listening for a few
moments with bated breath, exclaimed to himself, in accents of
surprise and some dismay:

"Lollards, in good sooth! By the mass, I must have stumbled into a
nest of heresy;" and he crossed himself devoutly, as if to shield
himself from the evil of contamination.

Paul had been born and bred a Papist, as indeed was the case with
most of his countrymen in those days. The House of Lancaster was
deeply attached to the faith as they found it, and Henry the Sixth
had burned many a heretic at Smithfield; for he was at once a saint
and a fanatic--a very common combination then, hard enough as it
seems now to bracket the two qualities together--and led in all
things by his ghostly advisers.

But the leaven of the new doctrines was silently working throughout
the length and breadth of the land in spite of all repressive
measures, and King Edward the Fourth, either from policy or
indifference, had done little or nothing to check its spread.
London--the place of all others which was ever loyal to him--was a
perfect hotbed of heresy (in the language of the priests), and that
alone was enough to deter the Yorkist monarch from stirring up
strife and bringing down upon his head the enmity of the powerful
city which served him so well. Now that the meek Henry wore the
crown again--if indeed he did wear it--the Lollards might well
tremble for their liberties and lives.

As for Paul, he had seen and heard little of the new religion, as
he called it, and looked upon it as a terrible and deadly sin. At
the same time, he had knocked about the world enough to have won a
larger toleration for all sorts and conditions of men than he would
have done had he remained master of the ancestral estates at home;
and after a momentary thrill of dismay and repulsion, he decided to
take no notice of what he had inadvertently overheard.

These people had been kind and friendly. If they desired him to
remain a short time beneath their roof until his wounds were
healed, he saw no particular reason against doing so. A spell of
rest and quiet would suit him and Sultan very well, and with their
private beliefs he had no concern; the less he knew of them the
better.

So he finished his toilet, whistling a gay tune to drown the sound
of the unauthorized prayer nigh at hand; and when he had finished
he opened his door, and made his way down the narrow, winding
stairs, into the great kitchen he had entered the previous evening.

The big place looked cheerful enough this bright morning: the door
standing wide open to the October sunlight--the huge fire of logs
crackling and blazing on the wide hearth and roaring up the vast
open chimney--the rude metal and wooden utensils as clean as
scrubbing could make them--and the brick floor clean enough to eat
off, as the saying goes. And this cleanliness was not so common in
those days of partial civilization as it is now: there were
farmhouses enough and to spare in the England of that day where men
and animals herded together amid filth that we should hardly
condemn pigs to in this enlightened age. Wherefore Paul was both
pleased and surprised by all he saw, and his dim misgivings fled
away promptly.

In the wide inglenook before the oak settle a small table had been
drawn up, and upon this table stood one wooden platter, and some
homely viands sufficiently tempting to a hungry man, and a huge
joram of home-brewed ale. Paul did not doubt for a moment that this
was his own breakfast thus temptingly spread for him; and he was
fully disposed to do it ample justice, for he had eaten little
during the past four-and-twenty hours, and had ridden far and done
some good hard fighting to boot. But he did not like to sit down
uninvited, and as he stood warming his hands at the pleasant blaze,
there tripped into the room the girl he had last clearly seen, gun
in hand, in the forest, and she greeted him with the prettiest
smile and blush.

"Good morrow, fair sir. I am pleased indeed to see you thus afoot,
and hope you feel little the worse for your brave encounter
yesterday. We know not how to thank you; in truth, I scarce slept
all last night, thinking what my fate must have been but for your
timely rescue. But I pray you be seated, and try this pie of
mother's own making, with a slice of home-cured ham (father is a
great rearer of pigs; and the brothers of Leighs Priory, who know
what good living is, always come to him for his primest bacon and
ham). You look as if you needed a good meal, for your face is but
wan this morning. Mother scarce looked to see you on your feet so
soon."

Paul laughed as he sat himself down to the hospi table board.

"Nay, I scarce feel any ill effects from the knocks I got. A rover
like myself is tough and wiry, or should be. I fear this arm may
not be serviceable for a few weeks to come, but--"

"But if you will do us the pleasure to make this poor house your
home until such time as you can go forth a sound man, you will be
giving us great honour and pleasure; for I think that if harm had
befallen our dear and only daughter, her father's heart would have
broken, and her mother's hairs have gone down with sorrow to the
grave."

It was a fresh voice that spoke these words, and Paul rose
instinctively to his feet as he found himself face to face with his
hostess.

Mistress Devenish, as she was commonly called, was no ordinary
buxom, loud-tongued farmer's wife, but a slight, small woman, of
rather insignificant aspect, unless the expression of the face was
taken into account. Then indeed might be seen a refinement and
intellect seldom found in persons of her class in those rough and
uncultured times. Paul, who was a shrewd observer, detected at once
that this was no ordinary woman before him, and saw from whom Joan
had inherited her graceful, refined bearing and sweet, low-toned
voice. She was a much taller and finer woman than her mother had
ever been, for she had something of her father's strength and
stature; but for all that she owed much of her charm to her mother,
and plainly regarded her with true filial devotion.

"I thank you heartily," answered Paul, as he held out his hand in
greeting. "I should be glad enough to rest, for a few days at
least, in such pleasant quarters; but I must not let myself become
a burden to you because that I have had the honour of rendering a
trifling service to fair Mistress Joan here."

"Nay, sir, it was no trifling service you did her; it was such
service as must ever cause a mother's heart to swell with thankful
joy. What would have become of the maid carried off by that evil
man to his own secret haunts I dare not even think. Had they slain
her before her parents' eyes, it would have been less terrible than
to know her utterly at their mercy."

"Ay, indeed it would," cried the girl, with dilating eyes. "Ah,
fair sir, you know not what monsters these terrible robbers can be.
Oh, I pray you go not forth again until you can go a hale and sound
man; for you have incurred by your act of yesterday the fury of one
who never forgives, and who is as cunning as he is cruel. He may
set his spies upon you; and dog your steps if you leave this place;
and if you were to be overcome by them and carried off to their
cave in the forest, some terrible and cruel death would surely
await you there. For they truly call him Devil's Own--so crafty, so
bloodthirsty, so full of malice and revenge has he ever shown
himself."

The girl's cheek paled as she spoke; but Paul smiled at her fears.
Not that he was altogether foolhardy, or disposed to despise
warnings thus given him; but his life had taught him a certain
hardihood and contempt of danger, and he and his good horse had
proved match enough for formidable antagonists before now.

"I thank you for your kind thought for me, and I will use all
prudence when I stir from the shelter of this hospitable roof. But
my next journey will be to London, and there, methinks, shall I
find more of law and order. It is a sad state of things when not
forty miles from the king's own city bands of robbers abound and
flourish, making honest folks tremble for their lives and
liberties."

"You speak truly; young sir," answered Mistress Devenish, who had
now sat down to her spinning wheel in the inglenook, whilst her
daughter still hovered about restlessly, and waited assiduously
upon their disabled guest. "And had King Edward but kept his
throne, I verily believe he would have put down with a strong hand
these same marauders who devastate the country more than war
itself. Things were beginning to improve after the long and
disastrous civil strife, and we fondly told ourselves that the
worst was over, and that the distracted country would taste
something of the blessings of peace again. But since that haughty
earl men call the King Maker has gone to France to make his peace
with the Lancastrian queen, and has returned to place her husband
(poor man, it is no fault of his that he cannot sway the sceptre,
but can only submit to the dictates of others) on England's throne,
we shall again be plunged, I know it well, in bloody and terrible
strife. The lion-hearted Edward will never resign his rights
without a struggle. He will return and collect an army, and the
cruel bloodshed will recommence. This bloodless victory will not
last. God alone knows how the struggle will end. We know but too
well that misery and desolation will be the fate of the country
until the matter is finally settled one way or the other; and when
will that be?"

Paul listened in grave silence to these words, so foreign to his
own hopes and the confident expressions he had heard from time to
time uttered by hot partisans of the Red Rose. He had hoped to find
the whole country rejoicing in the restoration of the gentle
monarch, whom he loved with the ardour of a generous and impetuous
temperament. But these simple folks, rustic and unlettered though
they were, managed somehow to throw a shadow over his spirit by
their grave and doubting words.

He realized that King Henry would have a hard struggle ere the
whole of England owned his sway. Edward was yet the king in many a
part of the realm. He was more respected and beloved than the
feeble, monk-ridden monarch he had deposed; and if it came to be a
question of abstract right, none could dispute the superiority of
the claim of the House of York. Edward was the descendant of the
elder branch of the family of Edward the Third. It was only the
politic reign of the fourth Henry, and the brilliant reign of the
fifth, which had given to the House of Lancaster its kingly title.
Men would probably never have thought of disputing the sixth
Henry's sway had he held the sceptre firmly and played the part of
king, to any purpose. But his health and temperament were alike
feeble: he inherited the fatal malady of his grandsire of France,
and was subject to fits of mental illness which made him utterly
helpless and supine. His strong-minded queen was detested by the
nobles and unpopular with the mass of the people, whilst the
ambition of the powerful barons and peers had made civil strife an
easy and popular thing.

There was no great issue at stake in these disastrous wars; no
burning question was settled by the victory of either side; no
great principle or national interest was involved. It was little
more in reality than the struggle for supremacy and place amongst
the overbearing and ambitious nobles; hence the ease and readiness
with which they changed sides on every imaginable pretext, and the
hopeless character of the struggle, which ruined and exhausted the
country without vindicating one moral or national principle.

But Paul Stukely, at twenty years of age, was not likely to take
this dispassionate view of the case. His whole heart was in the
cause of the Red Rose, and he could scarce listen to these quiet
but telling words without breaking out into ardent defence of the
cause he had at heart.

"But listen, good mistress," he exclaimed eagerly, when she had
ceased to speak: "there are better days dawning for the land than
they have seen either beneath the rule of the gentle Henry or the
bold but licentious Edward. His blessed majesty has no love for the
office of king, and his long captivity has further weakened his
health and increased his love for retirement. You speak truly when
you doubt if he will ever rule this turbulent nation, so long torn
with strife and divided into faction. But think--he need not sway
the sceptre which has proved too heavy for his hands. He has a
son--a fair and gallant prince--worthy of the royal name of Edward
which he bears. Men say that it will not be the feeble father who
will restore order to the country and bring peace again to its
shores, but that the task will be intrusted to the youthful Edward,
who in his person combines the graces of his stately mother and the
warlike prowess of his great ancestor whose cognizance he bears.
Trust me, good people, if you love not Henry you will love Henry's
son; and will it not be better to be ruled by him than by that
other Edward of York, the usurper, who, though I verily believe he
can be a lion in battle, yet spends his days, when not in arms, in
lolling in idleness and luxury amid his fine court beauties, and
beseems himself rather as a woman than a man? I would fain serve a
spotless prince, such as our noble Prince of Wales is known to be,
than one whose life is stained by the debaucheries of a luxurious
court, and gluttony such as it is a marvel even to hear of."

Joan's eyes lighted, as the youth spoke with all the ardour of a
young and vivid imagination and a generous and undoubting love.
Even the grave-faced woman at the spinning wheel smiled to herself,
and though she heaved a little sigh, she answered gently enough:

"Ay, young sir, if that could be! If we could be ruled by one who
was brave, and stainless, and wise, and just, then England might
count itself a happy land indeed; but I have lived through
troublous times, and I have lost hope in such a speedy and happy
conclusion to the matter. But we shall see--we shall see."

"We have all favoured King Edward's cause here, as I told you
yesterday," said Joan; "for we seemed better off under his rule
than in the days before, when we were distracted by the war. But
tell us of this prince--the Prince of Wales, as you call him. Would
he be able to rule us wisely and well? Has he a strong arm and a
kind heart? And does he think for himself? or do the monks or the
queen direct him in all matters? Have you ever seen him? Do you
know what he is like?"

"I have not seen him since he was a child and I a child, too,"
answered Paul, his face lighting at the recollection of the little
prince of his dreams, which had never faded or grown dim. "In
sooth, he was the noblest, kingliest child the sun ever shone on.
And men say he has grown up to fulfil all the promise of his youth.
He is solemnly betrothed, so they say, to the Lady Anne, the
daughter of the proud Earl of Warwick, and it is into his hands
that the real government of the country will be intrusted.

"Oh, you would love him if you could see him--I am sure of that. I
would he could come himself now, for the hearts of the nation would
surely go out to him. Shall I tell you a story of him when he was a
child--when we were children together? You will see how sweet and
lovable he was even then, and I warrant that he has not changed
now."

Joan answered eagerly in the affirmative, and Paul told of his
adventure with the little prince in the forest hard by Lichfield;
and mother and daughter as they heard the tale exchanged glances,
as if it was not the first time they had heard something of the
kind. He had hardly finished the narrative before Joan broke
eagerly in:

"O sir, was it in truth you that balked the robbers of their prey?
I pray you never speak of this to any in these parts, for truly it
might cost you your life. You have heard us speak of the Black
Notley robbers, whose lawless band our neighbour joined--the one
who tried yesterday to get me into his clutches? Well, this same
story that you have told to us he has heard a dozen times from his
chief--the chief of all the band--Fire Eater, as he is called in
their fierce language. It was he and his followers who hung upon
the royal party all those long years ago, and he who carried you
off in mistake for the Prince of Wales. He has often been heard to
swear terribly over that great disappointment, and regret that he
did not run his sword through the body of the daring boy who had
outwitted him. If he were to hear of your being here, he would move
heaven and earth to obtain your capture or death.

"O sir, be advised, you are in more peril than you know. Go not
forth from the shelter of these doors till you can do so a sound
man, and then make hasty and swift flight for London, where
perchance you may be safe. These terrible robbers are not to be
smiled at; they are cunning and cruel and crafty beyond belief. I
shiver even for myself whenever I think of that terrible Simon
Dowsett, whom they call Devil's Own."

Paul was not a little surprised to hear that his childish exploit
had been heard of here, and that the robber chief he had outwitted
was the real leader of the band some members of which he had slain
the previous day. He could not disguise from himself that he might
on this account be placed in a position of some danger. The man
whose villainous scheme he had frustrated would undoubtedly be his
deadly enemy, and it was possible that if his name became known in
the place, it would draw upon him the vengeance of the whole band.
True, the robber chieftain might have forgotten the name of the
child who had been carried off by him in mistake for the Prince of
Wales; but Paul remembered how he had called it out when appealing
to his friend the farmer for help, and it was possible that it
might be remembered against him. Certainly, in his present crippled
state, it seemed advisable to remain in hiding at the farm, as he
was so hospitably pressed to do; and after a short debate with
himself upon his position, he gratefully consented to do so.

"That is right, that is right," cried the farmer, when he came in
at midday for the dinner that family and servants all shared
together; and presently, when the meal was over, and the women had
retired to wash up the platters in an adjoining room, whilst the
labourers had started forth for their labours, the master drew his
guest into the warm inglenook again, and said to him in a low
voice:

"I'll be right glad to have a good Lancastrian abiding beneath my
roof for awhile. The good brothers of Leighs are our best
customers, and one or another of them is always coming across on
some errand, and 'twill do us no harm in their eyes to find a
follower of King Henry under our roof. I know not how it is, but of
late they have been somewhat changed toward us;" and the farmer
looked uneasily round, as if hardly knowing who might be listening.
"We go to mass as regular as any; and my little girl there has
worked a robe for the reverend prior himself as cost me a pretty
penny in materials, and half blinded her pretty eyes, she sat at it
so close. They have no need to look askance at us; but there,
there, I suppose they have had a deal of trouble with the heretic
books and such like as have been getting about the country of late.
They say they found a Wycliffe's Bible hidden under the hearth
stone of a poor woman's cottage in Little Waltham, nigh at hand
here; and if King Henry had been on the throne, she might have been
sent up to Smithfield to be burned, as an example and warning to
others. But King Edward was on the throne then, and he cares not to
burn his subjects for heresy--God bless him for that! But if King
Henry is coming back to reign, it behoves all good persons to be
careful and walk warily. So, young sir, if you can speak a good
word for us to the holy brothers, I will thank you with all my
heart. It's a bad thing when they get the notion that a house is
corrupted by heresy."

The palpable uneasiness of the farmer betrayed to Paul full well
that he was very much afraid of the orthodoxy of his wife, and it
was not impossible that he himself might not be secretly favouring
the new religion whilst conforming outwardly in all things. Such
cases were by no means rare, and this village appeared Yorkist
enough in its sentiments to suggest suspicions as to its orthodoxy.

But Paul was young and impressionable and generous; he liked these
good folks, and knew nothing whatever to their discredit. He was
sure that, whatever they might privately believe, they were good
and trustworthy folks, and he gave his word to do all that he
could, if chance offered, with an emphasis that won him the hearty
thanks of the farmer.

Nor was the chance very long in coming: for only on the afternoon
of the next day a portly monk jogged up to the farm on his sleek
palfrey; and Paul, who was seated near to the door, rose and bent
his knee, asking the customary blessing; after which the monk
dismounted, and made his way into the kitchen to give some order to
the good mistress of the house.

The monks of those days were regular gossips, and loved a chat, as
they sat in the chimney corner enjoying a cup of the best wine the
house afforded, or a substantial meal of the choicest products of
the larder. Brother Lawrence was no exception to this rule; and the
farmer's wife bestirred herself to get him everything he could
fancy, whilst he sat and questioned Paul as to his history and the
adventure which had brought him to this homestead. Very much did he
enjoy hearing of the discomfiture of the robbers, and laughed quite
merrily to think how they had been overcome by the handsome
stripling before him.

Presently, when Mistress Devenish had gone away to make some
inquiries respecting the flitches of bacon required for the Priory,
Brother Lawrence beckoned Paul somewhat nearer, and said, in a low
voice, in his ear:

"Be in no haste to depart from hence, my son. It may be that there
is work for you here for the Holy Church. It is whispered by one
and another that yon good woman, as I would fain believe her to be,
is somewhat tainted with the damnable heresy they call Lollardism,
and that she has in her possession one of those Bibles which that
arch-heretic Wycliffe translated into the vulgar tongue for the
undoing of the unlearned, who think that they can thus judge for
themselves on matters too high for them. You, my son, as a true son
of the Church, may do us great service by keeping open both ears
and eyes, and telling if you see or hear ought amiss. I would fain
learn that no such evil is done among these good folks; but if it
be that the leaven is working, it will be your duty to tell us
thereof, and we will see if the evil may not be stamped out ere it
has spread to others, or much corrupted even them that are tainted.
We trust that the days are dawning now when Holy Church will have
her ancient powers restored, and will be able to deal with heretics
even as they merit. But however that may be, be it your work to
watch and listen with all the powers you have. I trust that there
will be nought you will hear save what is to the credit of these
worthy folks."

Paul secretly in his heart vowed that no syllable which should hurt
his hosts should ever pass his lips; but he bent his head with due
reverence before the monk, who smiled and nodded cheerily to him
before he went his way. It seemed strange that so jovial and kindly
a man should so lightly speak of burning to death fellow creatures
whom he had regarded for years with kindly goodwill. But there were
strange anomalies in those days, even as there are in our own, and
Paul saw nothing strange in this, nor in his own conduct, which
made him appear submissive to the dictates of the Holy Church, as
he ever called her in his thoughts, whilst all the time he was
resolved neither to hear nor to see any of the things which would,
if made known, injure his hosts in the eyes of the spiritual
authorities. The very teaching of those spiritual pastors
inculcated a certain amount of deceit and double dealing. What
wonder if the weapon so freely used by themselves sometimes turned
its double edge against them in its turn?

Paul accompanied the monk to the gate which led to the so-called
road by which Figeon's was approached. It was nothing but a rude
cart track; and although well-tilled fields lay on one side of this
track, the forest lay upon the other, stretching away black and dim
into immeasurable distance.

Paul lingered a little while beside the gate, watching the friar
descend the sloping path; and he might have remained longer than he
knew, for he was aroused from his day dream by the growl of one of
the farm dogs, who stood at his side. Looking quickly round him, he
fancied he detected amid the shadows of the trees across the road a
dark figure almost concealed behind a solid trunk, the face alone
visible--a dark, saturnine face, with a pair of eyes that gleamed
like those of some wild beast.

The moment those eyes met Paul's the head was withdrawn, and the
youth stood asking himself if it were not all a dream; but if it
had been one, it was remarkably clear and vivid, and he walked to
the house with a look of deep thought upon his face.



Chapter 3: A Strange Encounter.


"Let me go," said Paul; "I should like the walk through the wood. I
am quite strong again now, and I am weary of doing nothing from
morning to night."

"Well, I don't know why you should not if it pleases your fancy,"
said the farmer. "You will be welcome at the Priory, as all guests
are who come with news for the holy brothers from the world
without. 'Tis less than four miles away, and you have got the use
of your legs. Go, and welcome, if you will."

"I would go with you, were I not bound to go to Chelmsford myself,"
quoth Jack, the farmer's ruddy-faced son, of whom mention has not
yet been made.

Paul had indeed seen but little of him so far, as his time was
mainly spent in the fields, and he had been absent from home on his
first arrival there, buying some fat sheep to be killed and salted
down for consumption in the winter.

"I like well enough a visit to the Priory. There is always good
cheer there enough and to spare. They know what good living means,
those holy men. If all other trades failed, I would not mind
turning friar myself."

"Nay, brother, jest not upon the holy men," quoth his sister in a
tone of gentle reproof. Then turning to Paul, she added, with
something of pleading in her tones, "But, sir, why peril yourself
by venturing into the forest alone? You have still but the use of
one arm, and were the robbers to be on the watch for you, you would
fall an easy prey into their hands."

But Paul laughed, as also did Jack.

"I trow the robbers have something else to do than to play the spy
continually on me and my movements," he said. "They cannot always
be on the watch, and the wood is dark and full of hiding places.
Were I to hear the sound of pursuit, I warrant me I could hide
myself so that none should find me. I have done the like many a
time before now. In this part of the country one must needs go into
the forest if one is ever to leave the shelter of the house at all.
Have no fear for me; I will take care not to run into danger."

Joan looked as if hardly satisfied, though she was unable to uphold
her case by argument; for it was very true that if their guest was
to be anything but a close prisoner, he must adventure himself from
time to time in the forest. Jack, however, broke into one of his
hearty laughs, as he looked at Paul, and said:

"Those same robbers are not such bad fellows, after all, as some of
our good folks would make out. True, they help themselves to our
goods from time to time; but they are capital company if you chance
to fall upon their haunts, and they make you welcome. I've spent
more than one night amongst them, and never a bit the worse. Men
must live; and if the folks in authority will outlaw them, why,
they must jog along then as best they may. I don't think they do
more harm than they can well help."

Mistress Devenish shook her head in silence over the rather wild
talk of her son, but she said nothing. She was used to Jack's ways,
and she was proud of his spirit, though afraid sometimes that it
would lead him into trouble. She had noted of late that he had been
unwontedly absent from home during the long evenings of the summer
just gone by, and had wondered what took him off, for he seldom
gave account of himself. She noted, too, that he spoke in a very
different fashion from others of the robber band that was such a
terror to the village folks. She did not know whether or not to put
these two facts together as connected with each other; but she
listened eagerly to all he said on the subject, trying to discover
what might be the meaning of this strange leniency of opinion.
"It is different for you, brother--they owe you no grudge," said
Joan, with a slight shiver; whilst the farmer broke in roughly:

"Tut, tut, Jack! what mean you by trying to make common cause with
the ruffians who would have carried your sister off as a prey of
that graceless scamp well-called Devil's Own? I marvel to hear such
words from you. You should know better."

"They are not all brutes like Devil's Own," muttered Jack in a low
tone; but he did not speak aloud, for the fashion of the day
forbade the young to argue with the old, or children to answer back
when their parents spoke to them in reproof.

But Paul was still resolved that he would be the messenger to carry
to the Priory that day the two fat capons the worthy mistress had
in readiness for the prior's table. They had been bespoken some
time, and could be no longer delayed. Paul was weary of an idle
life, and eager to see something of the country in which he found
himself. He was in comfortable quarters enough at the farm; but he
was growing stronger each day, and was beginning to fret against
the fetters which held him from straying far from the farm.

He did not much believe in the lasting anger of the robber band. He
knew that those gentlemen would have other matters on hand than
that of revenging themselves upon him for his frustration of their
captain's design. He was content to rest yet awhile beneath the
hospitable roof of the Figeons, so long as he knew that his
presence there might be something of a protection and gain to its
inmates; but he had no intention of being a prisoner. His young
blood stirred within him, and he longed to be out in the free air
of heaven again. His strength had all come back, and even the
broken arm was mending so fast that he felt it would not be long
before he should gain its full use again. The love of adventure,
strong within him, made him fearless even of a second encounter
with the robbers. He felt certain he could hold his own against one
or two, and a whole band would never take him unawares. He should
hear or see them in plenty of time to hide away in some tree or
thicket. It was absurd to be chained within doors any longer.

Paul was looking now a very different object from the battered and
way-worn traveller who had rescued Joan from the robbers. A couple
of weeks' rest and good feeding had given a healthy glow to his
cheek, had brightened his eye, and brought back the native
boyishness and brightness to his face. He was stronger, gayer,
blither than he had been since the never-to-be-forgotten day when
he had closed his dead mother's eyes, and been obliged to fly for
his life from his ancestral halls, ere the rapacious scions of the
House of York fell upon him there, to take into their own
possession all that should have been his. For his father and
brothers lay in a bloody grave, killed in one of those many risings
and insurrections scarce mentioned in history, whereby the
adherents of the Red Rose sought to disturb Edward's rule in
England, and incite the people to bring back him they called their
rightful king.

Those days had changed Paul, a mere lad of seventeen, into a grave
and sad-faced man; but the impression had gradually worn somewhat
faint during the three years in which he had been a wanderer and an
outcast from his home. Of late it had seemed to him that his lost
youth was returning, and certainly there was that in his bright
glance and erect and noble bearing which won for him universal
admiration and affection.

He was, in truth, a right goodly youth. His features were very
fine, and the dark-gray eyes with their delicately-pencilled brows
were full of fire and brilliance. The lips readily curved to a
bright smile, though they could set themselves in lines of resolute
determination when occasion demanded. The golden curls clustered
round the noble head in classic fashion, but were not suffered to
grow long enough to reach the shoulders, as in childhood's day; and
the active, graceful, well-knit figure gave indication of great
strength as well as of great agility.

Paul's dress, too, was improved since we saw him last; for one of
the travelling peddlers or hawkers who roamed the country with
their wares, and supplied the remote villages with the greater part
of those articles not made at home, had recently visited Figeon's
Farm, and Paul had been able to supply himself with a new and
serviceable suit of clothes, in which his tall figure was set off
to the best advantage.

It was made of crimson cloth and the best Spanish leather, and was
cut after one of the most recent but least extravagant fashions of
the day. Paul had been able to purchase it without difficulty, for
he had by no means exhausted the funds he had in his possession,
and the leather belt he wore next his person was still heavy with
broad gold pieces.

Lady Stukely had seemed to have a prevision of coming trouble for
her youngest-born son for many long years before the troubles
actually came, and she had been making preparation for the same
with the patience and completeness that only a mother's heart would
have prompted. She had made with her own hands a stout leather
belt, constructed of a number of small pouches, each one of which
could contain a score of broad gold pieces. She knew full well that
lands might be confiscated, valuables forfeited, houses taken in
possession by foes, but the owner of the current gold of the land
would never be utterly destitute; so for years before her death she
bad been filling this ingeniously contrived belt, and had stored
within its many receptacles gold enough to be a small fortune in
itself. This belt had been in Paul's possession ever since the sad
day when she had kissed him for the last time and had commended him
to the care of Heaven. He had by no means yet exhausted its
contents, for he had often won wages for himself by following one
or another great noble in his private enterprises against some
lawless retainer or an encroaching neighbour.

A little money went a long way in those days, when open house was
kept by almost all the great of the land, and free quarters and
food were always to be had at any monastery or abbey to which
chance might guide the wanderer's feet. So Paul had not been forced
to draw largely upon his own resources, and was a man of some
substance still, although his compact little fortune was so well
hidden away that none suspected its presence.

And now, his health restored, his strength renewed and his outer
man refurbished in excellent style, Paul began to weary of the
seclusion and monotony of the farm, and was eager to enjoy even the
mild relaxation of a walk across to the brothers of the
neighbouring Priory. The basket was soon packed, and was intrusted
to his care; and off he set down the easy slope which led from
Figeon's to Much Waltham, whistling gaily as he moved, and swinging
his heavy burden with an ease that showed how little he made of it.

Will Ives, the blacksmith's son, was looking out from the rude
forge as he passed, and came out to speak a friendly word to the
fine young gentleman, as he now looked to rustic eyes. Honest
Will's face had grown somewhat gloomy of late, though Paul did not
know it, and he was suffering, if the truth must be told, from the
keen pangs of jealousy. For he had long been courting Joan
Devenish, and hoped to make her his wife before the year's end, and
he fancied that she was disposed to his suit, although she had
never given a direct reply to his rather clumsy but ardent wooing.

Of course it seemed to the young smith that every man in the world
must be equally enamoured of his sweetheart, and he was terribly
afraid that this fine young gentleman, with his handsome face and
graceful figure, and pleasant voice and ways, would altogether cut
him out with saucy Mistress Joan, who, it must be confessed, was
fond of teasing her faithful swain, and driving him to the verge of
distraction. So it showed Will's good-heartedness that he did not
shun and dislike his rival, but rather, when he found him bent on
an errand into the forest, offered to go with him part of the way,
to make sure that all was safe.

"We haven't seen anything of the robbers round here lately, and
they always give the Priory a wide berth, being half afraid of
incurring the ban of Holy Church, though they care little about
anything else. Anyway, I'll walk a part of the way with you, and
carry the basket for a spell. Not but what you look brave and
hearty again, in good faith."

Paul was ready enough for company, and Will soon got talking of his
own private affairs, and presently it all came out--how he had
loved Joan ever since they had been children together; how he had
worked hard these past three years to save money to furbish up a
little home for her; and how he was now building a snug little
cottage under shelter of his father's larger one, so that he might
have a little place for her all her own, seeing that she had been
used to the space and comfort of the farm. To all this Paul
listened with good-humoured interest, only wondering why Will's
face kept so lugubrious, as if he were speaking of something which
he had hoped for, but which could never be.

"You will have to look a little brighter when you come a-wooing,"
he said at length, "or Mistress Joan will be frightened to look at
you. And why have you kept away so much these last days? She has
been quite offended by it, I can tell you. It's always being said
that you are sure to come today; and when the day goes by and you
come not, she pouts and looks vexed, and casts about for all manner
of reasons to account for it. You had better not be too slack, or
you will offend her altogether."

Will's face brightened up marvellously.

"Then you think she cares?"

"Why, of course she does. She's forever talking of you and all you
have done, and what a wonderful Will you are. When she sits at her
wheel and chatters to me as I lounge by the fire, she is always
telling of you and your sayings and doings. Why, man, did you not
know that for yourself? Did you think all the love was on your
side?"

"I daresay I was a fool," said Will, getting fiery red. "But I
thought, perhaps, she would not care for a clumsy fellow like me
after she had seen a gentleman like you. You saved her life, you
know, and it seemed natural like that you should care for each
other afterward. I know I'm nothing like you."

"No, indeed. I'm a mere wanderer--here today and gone tomorrow; a
soldier and an outcast, who could never ask any woman to share his
lot. My good sword is my bride. I follow a different mistress from
you. I may never know rest or peace till the House of Lancaster is
restored to its ancient rights. You need not fear me as a rival,
good Will; for no thought of marriage has ever entered my head, and
sometimes methinks it never will."

The smith's face was a study as he listened to these welcome words,
and Paul laughed as he read the meaning of those changing
expressions.

"Give me the basket, and get you gone to Figeon's, and make your
peace with your offended lady," he said, laughing. "You are but a
sorry wooer if you yield so soon to depression and despair. But I
warrant she will forgive you this time; and if you will but plead
your cause in good earnest, it may be that I shall yet have the
pleasure of treading a measure at your wedding feast."

The blushing smith was easily persuaded to this course, and bade
farewell to his companion in eager haste. He was clad only in his
working apron, and his hands were grimy from his toil; but his open
face was comely and honest enough to please the fancy of any
maiden, and Paul thought to himself that Mistress Joan would scarce
reject so stalwart a champion after the fright and the shock of the
previous week but one. As Will Ives's wife she would be safer and
better protected than as Farmer Devenish's unwedded daughter.

As for himself, thoughts of love and marriage had seldom entered
his mind, and had always been dismissed with a light laugh. As he
had said to Will, he was wedded to a cause, to a resolute aim and
object, and nothing nearer or dearer had ever yet intruded itself
upon him to wean away his first love from the object upon which it
had been so ardently bestowed. The little prince--as in his
thoughts he still called him sometimes--was the object of his
loving homage. King Henry was too little the man, and Queen
Margaret too much, for either of them to fulfil his ideal or win
the unquestioning love and loyalty of his heart; but in Edward,
Prince of Wales, as he always called him, he had an object worthy
of his admiration and worship.

Everything he heard about that princely boy seemed to agree with
what he remembered of him in bygone years. He and not the gentle
and half-imbecile king would be the real monarch of the realm; and
who better fitted to reign than such a prince?

The kindly welcome he received at the Priory from Brother Lawrence
and the prior himself was pleasant to one who had so long been a
mere wanderer on the face of the earth. The beautiful medieval
building, with its close-shorn turf and wide fish ponds, was a
study in itself, and lay so peacefully brooding in the pale
November sunshine, that it was hard to realize that the country
might only too soon be shaken from end to end by the convulsions of
civil war.

Paul was eagerly questioned as to what he knew of the feeling of
the country, and he could not deny that there was great discontent
in many minds at the thought of the return to power of the
Lancastrian king. The monks and friars shook their heads, and
admitted with a sigh that they feared the whole county of Essex was
Yorkist to the core, and that it was the leaven of heretical
opinions which was at the root of their rebellion against their
lawful king. It was difficult to believe that the warlike Edward
would long remain an exile, content to deliver up a kingdom which
had once been his without striking a single blow, especially when
his own party was so powerful in the land.. London, a hotbed of
Lollardism, would soon raise its voice in the call for Edward of
York. The present hour was calm and bright, and Henry of Windsor
wore his crown again; but the mutterings of the coming storm seemed
already to be heard in the distance, and the brothers of the
monastery did not blind their eyes to the fact that the wheel of
fortune might still have strange turns in store.

"Wherefore we must walk warily, and not stir up strife," quoth the
rubicund prior, who looked at once a benevolent and a strong-willed
man. "We will pray for the restoration--the permanent restoration
of the good king; but we must avoid stirring up the hearts of his
subjects in such a way as will make them his foes.

"Young sir, what think you of your hosts at the farm? Are they
quiet and well-disposed people, seeking in all things the good of
the people, and giving due reverence to Holy Church?"

Paul answered eagerly in the affirmative. He had heard or seen
nothing of a suspicious character of late, and had grown very fond
of the kindly folks, who made him so welcome to the best of what
they had. His reply was considered very satisfactory, and the prior
dismissed him with his blessing; for Paul had no wish to be belated
in the forest, and proposed to return immediately after the midday
meal which he had shared with the brothers.

It was in somewhat thoughtful mood that he pursued his way through
the woodland paths. Conversation about the burning questions of the
day always left him with a feeling akin to depression. He longed
for the restoration of the house he loved and served, but knew that
a transitory triumph was not a true victory. There was still much
to be done before Henry's seat upon the throne could be called
secure; and what would be the result of the inevitable struggle of
the next months?

He had unconsciously stopped still in deep thought as he asked
himself this question, and was leaning in meditation against a
great oak tree, when he suddenly became aware of a rapid tread
approaching along the narrow track. It seemed as if some youth were
advancing toward him, for he heard the clear whistle as of a boyish
voice, and the springy tread seemed to denote youth and agility.

Although Paul was by no means afraid of a chance encounter in the
forest, he was well aware that it was possible to be overreached
and taken prisoner by some of the robbers, and that he was an
object of special hatred to some amongst them. He decided,
therefore, to act with caution; and as the spot in which he had
halted was rather an open one, through which meandered a little
brook, he resolved to slip silently into the thicket hard by, and
watch from that place of security what manner of person it was
advancing.

A moment later he had effectually concealed himself, and hardly had
he done so before a figure came into view through the dim aisles of
the wood.

The figure was that of a tall, slim, graceful youth of singularly
winning aspect. His frame displayed that combination of strength,
lightness, and agility which is the perfection of training, and his
face was as full of beauty as his frame of activity and grace. The
features were exceedingly noble, and the poise of the head upon the
shoulders was almost princely in its unconscious majesty. The eyes
were a deep blue gray, and looked out upon the world as if their
owner were born to rule. The hair was golden in hue, and clustered
round the head in manly fashion, not in the flowing love locks that
some in those days affected. The dress he wore was very simple, and
somewhat faded, and in his cap a little silver swan was fastened,
forming the only adornment on his person.

Paul, as he lay in his ambush, gazed and gazed as if fascinated
upon the figure now standing stationary in the midst of the green
space. Instinctively he felt for the little silver swan in his own
cap, and looked to see if he had on by mistake the faded dress he
had previously worn, so like the one he now gazed upon. For it
seemed to him as though he saw his own double--or someone closely
resembling himself--and his heart began to beat almost to
suffocation; for had not this same experience been his before? and
could there be another, a third youth in the realm, whose face and
figure he had so accurately copied? Paul had not the royal mien of
this wanderer--he had not even the same absolute beauty of feature
or peculiar delicacy of colouring; but for all that the likeness
was so striking that it was bewildering to him to see it, and the
images and visions at once conjured up before his mind's eye were
of a nature to excite him beyond the bounds of consecutive thought.
Holding his breath, and still uncertain if he might not be
dreaming, he fastened his eyes upon the apparition, and waited for
what should happen.

The youth paused and looked round him, and then spoke aloud:

"Have I come on a fool's errand after all? Shall I ever accomplish
my object? Methinks if I had but a trusty comrade at hand somewhat
might be done; but I fear my poor Jacques never reached the land
alive, and I had trusted to him to be my guide and counsellor in my
quest. Alone I feel helpless--stranded--bewildered.

"Ha! what is that? Who comes this way?"

"Your faithful servant, gracious prince," cried Paul, springing out
of his concealment and throwing himself at young Edward's feet. "My
dear, dear lord, how come you here alone, unarmed, defenceless, in
the midst of a hostile country? Methinks I do but dream; but yet
the face, the voice--I cannot be mistaken. O sweet prince, did we
not truly say that we should meet again? Do you remember me?"

"Remember you, good Paul? Of a truth I do, and that right well; and
it is indeed a happy chance that has thrown you across my path this
day. But Paul, on your life, on your loyalty as a subject, call me
not prince again. It might cost me my life, and you yours.

"Hush! I will be obeyed, and I will explain in brief. I am here
unknown to all. I stole away from my mother's side, even as I stole
into the forest with you when we were but boys together. She thinks
me with her sister, the Princess Yolande. But I had my own purpose
in coming thus alone and disguised to our royal realm of England.
They say my father reigns here once again. The crown has been
placed upon his head by one I have almost the right now to call my
father-in-law. But what rule has he, in truth, who reigns not in
his people's hearts? What use to seek the empty glory of a golden
crown, who wins not the priceless guerdon of a nation's love?

"Listen then, Paul. They tell me that in my hands will the kingly
power soon be placed. If that is to be so, I would fain learn for
myself the temper of my people. And this is not to be learned by
Edward, Prince of Wales, seated in the midst of proud nobles at his
father's court; but it may be learned by a humble wayfarer, who
travels from place to place seeking information from whence it may
truly be culled--namely, from the artless sons of the soil, who
speak not to please their listener but as their heart dictates.

"Paul, tell me I have done well--smile upon me again; for I am very
lonely, and my heart sometimes sinks. But I love my people, and
would be loved by them, only I needs must grow to know them first."

"O my lord," cried Paul enthusiastically, "how can they help loving
you when they see you? But how come you alone, and in these wild
woods, too, infested by fierce robber bands? It is not meet thus to
peril your royal life."

The prince placed his hand smilingly on Paul's lips.

"Use not that word again," he said smilingly, yet with a certain
imperiousness of manner that became him well. "I am thus solitary
through the untoward accident that drowned the faithful follower
who alone shared my design, and I knew not that I was in peril from
these lawless men in one part of the realm more than the other.
Paul, if I ever wield the kingly power, I will put down these bands
of marauders with a strong hand. My peaceful subjects shall not go
in terror of their liberties and lives. I would learn all their
wrongs that I may right them. They shall know at last that a prince
who loves them has been in their midst."

"And, my lord, if you are thus alone and unattended, take me with
you on your travels. Did you not promise me long years ago that the
day would come when we should roam the world together? and has not
the time come now?"

"Why, verily I believe it has," cried Edward, with brightening
eyes. "But, Paul, I have not asked you of yourself. Have you no
other tie--no stronger claim? And how comes it that you are here,
so far away from your home? I have asked not your history, though I
have told mine own."

"Mine is soon told, sweet prince," said Paul. "I crave your pardon,
but I know not how else to frame my speech."

Then in a few graphic words he sketched the history of himself and
his kindred during those troubled years of civil strife and of
Edward's reign; and young Edward listened with a sorrowful air and
drooping mien, and heaved a deep sigh at the conclusion.

"Another faithful house ruined--another tale of woe for which it
seems we unhappy princes are the cause. Nay, Paul, I know what you
would say, brave loyal heart; but it lies heavy on my soul for all
that. And having suffered thus, why tempt your fate anew by linking
your fortunes with those of the hapless House of Lancaster? Why
not--"

"My lord, break not my heart by rejecting my poor services," cried
Paul, plunging anew into the tale of his longing and ambition to be
one day called the servant of the Prince of Wales; and then as both
were young, both ardent, hot-headed, and hopeful, all stern and
sorrowful thoughts were laid aside, and the two youths began to
plan with eager vehemence the future of adventure which lay before
them.

"And first, Paul, this you must learn once and for all: I am prince
no more, but Edward alone, Edward Stukely--for I will e'en borrow
your good name--your younger brother, who seeks his fortune with
you. I will pass as cousin here, where you are known, but elsewhere
it shall be as brothers we will travel. This strange likeness will
be my best safeguard, for none will doubt that we are close akin.
Not as knight and squire, as once we thought, will we roam the
world in search of adventure. This little realm of England will
suffice us, and hand in hand as brothers will we go. But methinks
we shall surely meet as many strange adventures as in our dreams;
and if I ever sit at last on England's throne, this journey of
thine and mine will be for years the favourite theme of minstrels
to sing in bower and hall."



Chapter 4: Paul's Kinsman.


"Kinsman--marry, a brother in very sooth!" cried the hospitable
farmer, eying Paul's young companion with a glance of shrewd
admiration and surprise; "and right welcome shall he be to such
good cheer as my poor house can afford.

"And how found you your brother, fair youth?--for it can scarce
have been chance that led you here. My guest spoke not of bringing
you home when he started forth today."

"Nay, he knew it not himself," answered the prince, laughing
merrily. "Nor is he my brother, good mine host: our kinship is a
less close one than that, for all that we favour each other so
well. He had no thought of the encounter when he started forth
today, but kind fortune guided us to the meeting. As children we
loved each other and played together, but for years we have not
met. I am nought but a solitary wanderer, without friends or home.
It has been a happy chance that has brought to me this trusty
comrade and the welcome of this hospitable home."

There was something so attractive in the aspect and speech of the
royal youth that all who heard him felt their hearts go out to him,
they knew not why. The farmer laid his horny hand on the lad's arm,
and cried in his jovial way:

"All travellers, be they gentle or simple, are welcome at Figeon's
Farm, and doubly so anyone who claims kinship with our guest and
very good friend Paul Stukely. And you come at a good time, too,
young sir; for we have a wedding feast in prospect, and we shall
want all the blithe company we can assemble to make merry at it.

"Come, my wench; you need not run away. You are not ashamed of
honest Will; and these gentlemen will doubtless honour our poor
home by remaining our guests a while longer, that they may tread a
measure at your marriage feast."

Paul looked smilingly at the blushing Joan, whose face was alight
with happiness, and her father continued laughingly:

"Oh ay, they have made it up together this very day; and poor Will,
who has been courting her these three years and more, cannot see
what there is to wait for--no more can I. For my part, since that
rascally Simon tried to carry off the girl, I have known no peace
about her. Figeon's is a lonely place, and the young know not how
to be cautious, and it's ill work for young blood to be cooped up
ever between four walls. Down in the village, with neighbours about
her, the wench will be safe enough, and Will's sturdy arm will be
her best protection. Simon might think twice about assaulting a
wedded woman to carry her away, when he would count a maid fair
spoil, seeing that he ever claimed to be called a lover of hers. So
all ways she will be safer wed, and I see no cause for them to
wait."

And indeed in those unsettled and troubled times fathers were glad
enough to get their daughters safely married at the first
reasonable opportunity. Farmer Devenish had another reason in
wishing Joan to leave her home. He was afraid that she might imbibe
the views her mother had embraced, and which he and his son could
not but give credence to, whilst they made no protest of having
altered their old way of thinking. But he had always forbidden his
wife to disturb Joan in her pious faith in the old religion. Such
hard matters, he said, were not for young wenches; and the peril
which menaced those who embraced the reformed doctrines was
sufficiently terrible for the mother to be almost glad of the
prohibition. It would be an awful thing for her if her daughter
fell under the ban of the law, and was made to answer for her faith
as some had been in so cruel a fashion before now.

So that there was no wish on the part of any at the old home to
hinder her marriage, and as soon as the young people had come to an
understanding with one another, their way was made perfectly plain
by those in authority.

Joan looked shyly at Paul as he crossed the kitchen with some
pleasant word of congratulation, and said:

"In faith, kind sir, I think we owe it all to you. Will tells me it
was you who sent him hither today. He had got some foolish notion
in his head which kept him away; but he said it was you who bid him
take heart and try his luck."

"And very good luck he has had, it seems," answered Paul, laughing.
"And so the marriage is to be next week?"

"My father and mother wish it so," answered the blushing Joan; "and
my mother has long had all my household linen spun against the
wedding day. I trust you will stay, and your kinsman also.
Perchance you have never before seen a rustic wedding."

"Not for many years now," answered Paul, with a smile and a sigh;
"and I would fain be a witness of yours, fair mistress. But I must
ask my young companion there. We have linked our lives together for
the nonce."

But young Edward was perfectly willing to be the farmer's guest for
awhile. Nothing could better have fitted in with his own wishes
than to have stayed in such unquestioned fashion beneath the roof
of one of his humble subjects. At the supper table that night he
won all hearts by the grace of his manners, the sweetness of his
smiles, his ready courtesy to all, and the brilliant sallies that
escaped his lips which set the whole table sometimes in a roar. He
possessed that ready adaptability to circumstances which is often
an attribute of the highest birth. The motherly heart of Mistress
Devenish went out to him at once, and she would fain have known
something of his history, and how it came that so fair and gentle a
youth was wandering thus alone in the wide world.

Paul had told her all his story without the least reserve; but this
kinsman of his was more reticent, and if asked a question,
contrived to turn the edge off it without appearing to avoid giving
a direct answer. But Mistress Devenish was acute enough to perceive
that he did not intend to speak of his own past; and noting the
unconscious deference paid by Paul to one whom seniority would have
given him the right to dictate to and lead, she came to the
conclusion that, kinsfolk or no, the newcomer was of a more exalted
rank than his comrade, and that some romantic history attached to
him, as it did only too often, to wanderers in those days. Her
interest in him only deepened as she reached this conclusion, and
she wished that she knew how to help the two lonely youths whose
fates seemed now to be linked together.

Supper was in course, and the whole party assembled round the
table, when a knock at the outer door, heralded by a great barking
of dogs without, caused one of the men to start to his feet; whilst
Joan turned red and pale, as she had had a trick of doing of late;
and the farmer looked a trifle uneasy, as a man may do who is half
afraid of some domestic visitation of an unpleasing kind.

But when the door was opened, brows cleared and anxious looks
vanished; for the visitor was none other than the peddler of a few
days back, who, contrary to custom, had paid a second visit to the
village within a week of the first.

"Good even, good folks," he said, stepping in with his heavy bags,
which he deposited with a grunt upon the floor. "You will wonder to
see me so soon again, but I was turned from my course by the
breaking down of the bridge at Terling, and so I thought I would
tramp back the way I had come. Reaching the village at sundown, I
heard the news of the wedding that is to be up here; and, thought
I, surely where a wedding is to be the peddler is always welcome.
So here I am, and I doubt not you will give me a night's shelter;
and the pretty maid is welcome to turn over my packs at her
leisure, whilst I take my ease in yon cozy inglenook."

The peddler was always a welcome guest in those days, and Peter was
eagerly welcomed by all. He was speedily seated at the board, the
best of everything heaped upon his trencher; whilst as he talked
and ate at the same time, doing both with hearty goodwill, Joan and
one of the serving wenches slipped away to the tempting packs and
undid the strings, handling the wares thus exposed with tender care
and delighted curiosity.

The father laughed as he saw his daughter thus employed, but bid
her choose the finest stuff to make herself a wedding kirtle;
whilst he himself turned again to the peddler, asking news of the
realm; and young Edward leaned his elbows on the table with his
head in his hands, listening eagerly to every word that passed.

Paul almost wished he would not thus listen, for it was the same
old story everywhere: discontent at the present state of things;
longing for "the king"--by which was meant Edward the Fourth--to
come back and reclaim the kingdom; gloomy prognostications of civil
war; hopes that the proud Earl of Warwick would change sides once
more--a thing many quite expected of him.

And invective against the feeble Henry and the warlike and
revengeful Margaret of Anjou, scornfully called "the Frenchwoman,"
ran so high that Paul presently drew his kinsman away, and tried to
interest him in other matters.

"Heed them not, my lord," he whispered. "We know there have ever
been two factions in the kingdom, and in these parts they are all
for the House of York. But the coming of this peddler may be good
for you. Said you not that you wished to purchase a riding dress?
His wares are good and not too costly for narrow purses. Since we
mean to ride to London shortly, this were no bad time to furnish
yourself with such things as you need for the journey."

Edward roused himself with an effort, and shook off the melancholy
which had crept over his face as he listened to the talk round the
table. The peddler's wares were being unpacked and handed round for
inspection in a free and easy fashion enough; but the man made no
objection, and only kept a pretty keen watch upon his property,
glancing from time to time at the stranger youth with rather marked
scrutiny, which, however, the latter did not observe.

There was a riding dress amongst the goods of the peddler somewhat
similar to the one recently purchased by Paul, and Edward decided
upon the purchase of it, if he could come to terms with the man. He
and Paul both desired to make some present to the bride, and picked
out, the one an elegant high-peaked headdress, such as the ladies
of the day loved to wear, though satirists made merry at the
expense of their "exalted horns;" the other, some of the long gold
pins to fasten both cap and hair which were equally acceptable as
an adjunct to a lady's toilet.

Edward brought his purchases over to the corner where the peddler
had ensconced himself, and addressed him in a low tone:

"See here, my good fellow. I am a wanderer from foreign parts; and
my servant, who had charge of my moneybag, lost his life, I fear
me, in trying to effect the landing on these shores, which I was
lucky enough to manage in safety. Thus it comes about that I have
but little gold about me. But your trade is one that barters all
kinds of gear, and I have this pearl clasp to offer to you in part
exchange for what I wish to take of you, so doubtless you will
furnish me over and above with money to put in my gipsire: for the
clasp is a valuable one, as any one who knows gems can see at a
glance; nor would I part with it, but that necessity compels me."

The peddler looked at the clasp attentively, and then gave such a
quick, keen look at the prince as would have aroused Paul's anxiety
had he been near at hand. But he had not observed his comrade's
last move, and was still patiently holding out stuffs in good
natured if rather clumsy man fashion for the farmer's wife and
daughter to take stock of and compare one with another.

"Hum--yes--a pretty trinket and a costly one, I doubt not, for
those that have a market for such things," returned the peddler.
"And how came you by it, young sir? It scarce seems in accord with
the simplicity of your dress and appointments."

Edward flushed slightly. He was not used to being taken to task,
and that by a common peddler; but his common sense told him that he
must expect such treatment now, and not be over ready to take
offence, so he answered quietly enough:

"It has been in our family these many years. I know not how it came
there first. I trow I am not the only youth who has jewels by him
in these days little in keeping with the bravery of his other
garments."

The peddler nodded his head with a smile.

"True, true, young sir; I meant no offence. Fortunes are lost and
won but too quickly in these times, and will be again, I misdoubt
me, ere England sees peace and prosperity once more. But at least
the vultures fatten if honest folks starve; and what care princes
how their subjects suffer, so as they and their nobles divide the
spoil?"

"Nay, now, you wrong them," cried the lad with sudden heat. "He is
unworthy the name of prince who could thus think or act."

Then pulling himself up quickly, as if afraid he had said too much,
he returned to the matter of the bargain, and asked what the
peddler would allow for the jewel.

The offer was not a very liberal one, but the man professed that
jewels were difficult to get rid of, and Edward was no hand at
making a bargain. However, when he had paid for his purchases he
had a few gold pieces to put in his pouch, and he reflected that in
London he should be able to dispose of the other jewels in his
possession to better advantage. He had enough now to purchase a
horse to take him to London, and for the present that was all he
required.

He and Paul shared the same room at night, and talked in low tones
far on into the small hours. Edward, who had suffered many
hardships and privations since leaving the French court, was glad
enough of a few days' rest in the hospitable farmhouse, and of the
opportunity of hearing all the village gossip which the wedding
festivity would give him. But after that event he desired to push
on to London, to learn what he could of public feeling in the great
metropolis.

"For, Paul," he said, gravely and almost sadly, "the city of London
is like the heart of the nation. If that beat with enmity to our
cause and love to our foes, I fear me all is lost before a blow has
been struck. I know we have loyal friends in the west, and in some
of those fair towns like Coventry and Lichfield; but if London be
against us, that rich merchant city, the pride and wonder of the
world, I have little heart or hope of success. Folks ever talk as
if London were Yorkist to the core; but I yet have hopes that
amongst her humbler citizens there may beat hearts warm in Henry of
Lancaster's cause. At least I will go thither and see with my own
eyes, and hear with my own ears. Disguised as we shall be, we shall
hear the truth, and all men who are lukewarm will be inclining
toward the cause that has the mighty King Maker, as they call him,
in its ranks. We shall hear the best that is to be heard. If the
best be bad, I shall know that our cause is hopeless indeed."

Paul pressed the hand he held, but said nothing. He feared only too
well what they would hear in London. But yet, inasmuch as he was
young and ardent, he hoped even whilst he feared; and talking and
planning their future in glowing colours, both the lads fell
asleep.

The following days were bright and busy ones at the farm. The
peddler had vanished ere the travellers were downstairs next
morning; but they had bought all they required overnight, and did
not trouble about that. There was a great stirring throughout the
house, and the needles of mistress and maid were flying swiftly
whilst the short daylight lasted.

Edward and Paul spent the morning hours in the selection of a horse
fit to carry the prince on his journey to London, and the farmer's
son brought all the spare colts and lighter steeds into the straw
yard for their guest to try and select for himself. There was no
horse quite so handsome or well bred as Sultan, and Paul was eager
for Edward to accept his steed in place of another. But the prince
only laughed and shook his head, in the end selecting a fine
chestnut colt only just broken to the wearing of the halter; and
the kinsmen spent the best part of the next days in teaching the
mettlesome though tractable creature how to answer to the rein and
submit to saddle and rider. It was shod at Ives's forge, and
christened by the name of Crusader, and soon learned to love the
lads, who, whilst showing themselves masters of its wildest moods,
were yet kindly and gentle in their handling.

The young prince was in great spirits during these days. He had
been all his life somewhat too much under the close restraint of an
affectionate but dictatorial mother, and had been master of none of
his own actions. Such restraint was galling to a high-spirited
youth; and although the sweetness of disposition inherited from his
father had carried the prince through life without rebellion or
repining, yet this foretaste of liberty was very delightful, and
the romance of being thus unknown and obscure, free to go where he
would unquestioned and unmarked, exercised a great fascination over
him, and made him almost forget the shadow which sometimes seemed
to hang over his path.

Paul was as light hearted as his companion in the main, though
there were moments when his joy at having his adored prince under
his care was dashed by the feeling of responsibility in such a
charge, and by the fear of peril to the hope of the House of
Lancaster. He wondered if it were his fancy that the farm was
watched; that there were often stealthy steps heard without in the
night--steps that set the dogs barking furiously, but which never
could be accounted for next day; that if he rode or walked down the
cart road to the village alone or with his comrade, their movements
were followed by watchful eyes--eyes that seemed now and again to
glare at him, as in the dusk that first evening, but which always
melted away into the shadows of the forest if looked at closely or
followed and tracked.

He was disposed to think it all the trick of an excited
imagination, but he began to be not sorry that the day for
departure was drawing near. If he had provoked the enmity of the
robber chief, or if by a remoter chance the identity of his
companion had been suspected, it would be better to be off without
much more delay so soon as the wedding should be over.

Joan herself was nervous and fearful, and seldom set foot outside
the door of her home. She sometimes said with a shiver that she was
certain there were fierce men hiding about the house ready to carry
her off if she did; and though her father and brother laughed at
her fear, they humoured her, and were willing enough to let her
keep safe at home: for Simon Dowsett was not a man to be trifled
with, and he might very likely have heard before now that the woman
he had vowed to make his wife was to be given in marriage to his
rival.

The days, however, fled by without any event to arouse real
disquiet, and on the morrow Joan would pass to the sturdy keeping
of the young smith, whose new house stood well flanked between his
father's dwelling and the forge in the heart of the village where
law-abiding persons dwelt in fair security.

The eve of the marriage day had come and gone. The household had
retired to rest. Paul and Edward were in their raftered room, which
was better lighted by the fire of logs than by the feeble rush
light glimmering on the table. Fuel was so plentiful in that wooded
country that all the hearths blazed in cold weather with the
sputtering pine logs, which gave out an aromatic scent pleasant to
the nostril.

As they closed the door behind them, Edward laid a hand upon his
companion's arm and said:

"Good Paul, shall we two hold a vigil this night? I misdoubt me
that some mischief is meditated toward Mistress Joan this night. I
would that we might keep watch and ward."

"With all my heart," answered Paul readily, instinctively laying
his hand upon his poniard. "But what makes you think that evil is
intended?"

"I scarce know, but so it is. Noted you not how quiet and sluggish
the dogs were at suppertime tonight? They would scarce come to
receive a morsel of meat, and as often as not turned away in
indifference, and curled themselves to sleep again. Indoors and out
they are all alike. And did you not hear Jack Devenish say as he
came in from his last round that he feared the great black watchdog
in the yard would not live till morning, he seemed so sick and out
of sorts? I wondered then that no one thought strange hands had
been tampering with them; but all the farmer said was that he
supposed they had gorged themselves upon the refuse meat of the
sheep they had been killing--and I liked not to say ought to alarm
them, for it may be as they say, and surely they ought best to
know."

"Nevertheless we may well make ourselves watchdogs for tonight,"
said Paul. "If evil is meant against the girl, this is the last
chance that bold Devil's Own, as they call him, will have of
getting her into his power. They all call him a desperate fellow,
and he will know that after the hard day's toil to have all in
readiness for the morrow the household will sleep sound tonight.
Why, even the maid had sleeping draught of spiced wine given her by
her mother, that she might look her best in her bridal kirtle
tomorrow. I think they all pledged themselves in the same bowl.

"I warrant there will be no watchers but ourselves tonight. What
say you to look to our weapons and take the task upon ourselves?"

Edward's eyes gave ready response. What youths do not love the idea
of facing the foe, and outwitting the cowardly cunning of those who
have planned an attack upon a sleeping household? Paul thought he
had been right now in fancying the house watched; but probably the
hope of the watchers had rather been to find and carry off the girl
than to take vengeance upon himself. He understood it all now, and
was eager to defeat them a second time.

The nights were almost at their longest now, and the cold was very
great; but the watchers piled fresh logs upon the fire, and talked
quietly to each other as they sat in the dancing glow--for the
rushlight had long since gone out. Midnight had passed. All was
intensely still, and sleep seemed disposed to steal upon their
senses in spite of their resolution to banish his presence. Paul
was just about to suggest to his companion that he should lie down
awhile on the bed and indulge in a nap, whilst he himself kept
watch alone, when the prince laid a hand upon his arm, and gripped
him tight in a fashion which told that his quick ears had heard
something.

The next moment Paul heard the same himself--stealthy sounds as of
approaching footsteps, which paused beneath the window and then
seemed to steal round the house. It was useless to look out of the
window, for the night was dark as pitch, and they themselves might
be seen; but they glanced at each other, and Paul whispered
excitedly:

"It is to Mistress Joan's room they will find their way. I heard a
sound as though a ladder was being brought out. They will climb to
her window, force it open, and carry her away.

"Hark! that was the whinny of a horse. They are mounted, and think
to baffle pursuit by their speed and knowledge, of the wood. There
is no time to lose. Call up the farmer and his son. I know which is
Mistress Joan's room. I will keep guard there till you come."

Paul knew every inch of the house by heart; but Edward was less
familiar with its winding passages and crooked stairs. However, he
knew the position of the rooms occupied by the farmer and his son,
and groped his way thither; whilst Paul, with more certain step,
sped lightly along another passage toward the room in which he knew
Joan slept, not far from the serving wenches, but by no means near
the men of the place.

All seemed profoundly quiet as he moved through the sleeping house;
but he had scarce reached the door of the maiden's room before he
heard the sound of a startled, muffled cry.

In a second he had burst open the door and had sprung in. The sight
which met his gaze showed how truly he had guessed. The window was
open, and upon a ladder, with his body half in the room, was a
sooty-faced man, holding in his hand a flaring torch to light the
movements of his companion. This companion was already in the room;
he was in the very act of lifting from the bed the form of the
bride elect, who was so wrapped and smothered in the bed clothes
that she was unable either to cry aloud or to resist. Paul could
not see the face of the ruffian who was thus molesting her, and
knew not whether it was Simon Dowsett or another in his employ; but
he was disposed to think it was the captain himself, from the
stalwart proportions of his frame and the gigantic strength he
plainly possessed, of which he had heard so many stories told.

This man was so engrossed in his efforts of lifting and carrying
away the struggling girl that he did not know it was any voice but
that of his companion which had uttered the exclamation he had
heard; and Paul, seeing that his presence was undetected, rushed
straight across the room toward the window, grasped the ladder in
both hands, and before the astonished ruffian upon it had recovered
his surprise sufficiently to grapple with him, had flung the ladder
and its occupant bodily to the ground, where the man lay groaning
and swearing on the frost-bound stones beneath.

The torch had fallen within the room, and Paul snatched it up and
stuck it in a crevice of the boards, for he did not wish his other
adversary to escape in the darkness. The man had uttered a great
oath as he became aware that his occupation had been interrupted,
and dropping his burden upon the bed, he turned furiously upon his
opponent, so quickly and so fiercely that Paul had barely time to
draw his poniard and throw himself into an attitude of defence
before the man was upon him.

"You again!" he hissed between his teeth, as his well-directed
blows fell one after the other, taxing Paul's strength and agility
not a little in evading or diverting them. "Have I not enough
against you without this? Do you know that no man thwarts Devil's
Own who lives not bitterly to rue the day? I have your name down in
a certain book of mine, young man, and some day you will learn the
meaning of that word. If I kill you not now, it is but that I may
take a more terrible vengeance later. Let me pass, I say, or I may
lose patience and cleave your skull as you stand."

But Paul had no intention of letting this dangerous foe escape him.
He stood directly before the door, and barred the robber's way. It
might have gone ill with the lad in spite of his courage and
address, for he was but a stripling and the robber a man of
unwonted strength, and full of fury now at being thus balked; but
the sound of hurrying feet through the house toward the scene of
conflict told both the combatants that an end to the struggle was
approaching.

Paul shouted to them to take care the prey did not escape by way of
one of the many crooked stairways, with which doubtless he was
familiar enough; and he, seeing that all hope of escape through the
house was now at an end, and knowing that he should inevitably be
overpowered by numbers if he waited longer, suddenly sprang
backwards and rushed to the window. Although it was high above the
ground, and the stones below were both slippery and hard, he
vaulted out like a deer, landing on the prostrate body of his
companion, who received him with an execration and a groan; and as
Paul rushed after him, intensely chagrined at this unexpected
escape, he was only in time to see him dash off into the forest, or
rather to hear his steps crashing through the thicket, until the
sound of a horse's steady gallop showed that he was off and away.

The whole household was crowding into the room in various stages of
dishabille. The terrified Joan and the disappointed Paul had each
to tell their tale. But whilst the parents bent over their
daughter, soothing her terrors and calming her fears, Jack drew
toward Paul and his comrade, and said in low tones:

"Simon Dowsett is not a foe to be set at defiance. I would counsel
you to take horse with the first gleam of day, and gain another
parish or the protection of London, at least, before he has
recovered from his discomfiture. I say this not without regret, as
I would fain keep you over our feast today; but--"

The comrades exchanged glances, and spoke in one breath:

"We understand: you have spoken kindly and well," they said. "If
you can have the horses in readiness, we will ride off with the
first streak of dawn. It will be best so for all."

And though Joan Devenish and Will Ives were made man and wife that
very morning, Paul and the prince were not there to grace the
ceremony, but were far on their way to London.



Chapter 5: In Peril.


"Edward, I am glad to see you back. Where have you been these many
hours? I have been watching and waiting, hoping you would come
before nightfall. I am very anxious. I much fear that we are
suspected--spied upon."

"Nay, now, what makes you think that?" asked young Edward, as he
let himself be drawn within the small attic bedchamber in the
river-side inn, which he and his comrade had shared ever since they
had arrived in London; now some three weeks back. Paul had closed
the door before he began to speak, and now stood with his back
against it, his face looking pale and anxious in the fading light
of the winter's day.

"What makes me think it? Why, more things than one; but mainly the
fact that the peddler we bought our clothes of is here."

Edward smiled and laid a hand on Paul's shoulder.

He was growing used to the anxieties of his elder comrade, who
deeply felt his responsibility in having the heir of England under
his care, and had begun to treat his words of warning with some
lightness.

"And why should not the old man be here? The world is as free to
him as it is to us. Rather I should have looked upon him as a
friend. For did he not eat at the same board with us, and share the
hospitality of the same roof?"

"Yes, yes," answered Paul quickly; "but so do all men of his
calling. They are always welcome wherever they appear. But I will
tell you why I misdoubt this man. He first came in whilst we of the
house were sitting at dinner, and his eye roved round the room till
it fell upon me, and I saw in it then a gleam of recognition which
I did not like. He went out then, and anon returned with a great
bearded fellow of sinister aspect. And I was certain that he
pointed me out to him; for though I would not raise my eyes, or
seem to notice, I knew that they whispered together, and that this
other man's black eyes were fixed full on my face."

"That might well be," answered Edward lightly, "you are a right
goodly youth, made to find favour in all eyes."

But Paul proceeded without heeding the interruption.

"Presently the peddler shuffled round the table, and took the
vacant seat beside me--the seat that should have been yours,
Edward. He pretended that he had only just recognized me, and began
to talk in friendly fashion enough. He asked after you; but I said
we had little companionship now--that you had your own concerns to
attend to in the city, and that we might part company at any time.
I would have disclaimed you altogether, save that those at the inn
could have told him that I had a brother or comrade with me. He
kept his eye warily on me the whole time. I know that he was on the
watch for news of you."

"And wherefore not? Methinks you are over fearful, good Paul."

"Nay, Edward, think but a moment--What care would any feel for news
of you did they not suspect something? Who cares whither I go or
what I do? If you were but the obscure stranger you pass for, who
would trouble to heed whither your steps were bent or how your time
was passed? As you came in just now, did any man see you pass the
threshold?"

"Nay, I know not. I was heeding little in the street. It was dark
enough in the narrow alley, darker than it is up here; but--"

"Wait, Edward, answer me one question yet. Is it possible that the
peddler can have any clue by which he may know you? Did you betray
aught to him that evening when you bartered with him for your suit
of clothes? How did you pay him? Was it in French gold?"

"Nay, I paid him no money at all. I gave him a pearl clasp which I
had, and he furnished me with funds for the journey to London. I
made a villainous bad bargain, it seems. The other jewels I have
disposed of in London I have got far better price for.

"Now, Paul, why look you so troubled and wan? Have you yet another
lecture in store for your luckless comrade?"

"O Edward, Edward," cried Paul in anxious tones, "is it really so?
Have you been mad enough to sell jewels which may be known and
traced? Did I not tell you from the very first that I had money
enough for both? You should not have done it. And why, if done it
must be, did you not tell me, and let me do the trafficking?"

Edward smiled as he laid his hand upon his comrade's shoulder.

"Good Paul, did you think that I would trade upon your love, to
filch from you the remains of that poor fortune which is all you
have left of the world's goods? I knew how readily your all would
have been laid at my feet; but it was not for me to accept the
sacrifice when I had means of raising money myself. And what danger
can there be? My mother's jewels can scarce be known here. I fear
your courage is but a sorry thing, you are so prone to idle fears
and gloomy portents."

"Heaven grant I may be deceived; But the pearl clasp of which you
speak--tell me what it was like."

"Why, a fine pearl set in a clasp of chased gold with an eagle in
relief, the claws forming the catch of the clasp. My royal mother
had a pair of them once; what befell the other I remember not. It
was lost, I have heard her say, long years ago."

Paul clasped his hands closely together.

"Edward," he said, "it was just such a clasp as that which fastened
the jewelled collar of the little Prince of Wales on the day when
he, in play, fastened that collar about my neck, which collar fell
a prey to certain robbers who carried off the humble knight's son
in mistake for the prince.

"And listen further, Edward. Those same robbers who dogged your
steps years ago are now in hiding in the fastnesses of that great
Epping Forest through which we have lately journeyed. The peddler
knows them and traffics with them; that have I heard from others.
Most likely he has himself suspected something, and has gone with
his clasp to consult with the chieftain, who is a sworn foe to the
House of Lancaster. And having made out that the clasps are
fellows, and having their suspicions fully aroused, they have
followed on our trail--we made no secret that London was our
goal--and are seeking to get you into their power."

Edward's face was grave now. It seemed as if Paul's fears were not
unfounded.

"Yet what good would come to them by that?" he questioned
thoughtfully; and Paul had the answer only too ready.

"Marry, every good in the world! Dear my lord, forgive the plain
speaking of one who loves you well; but we have not lived in this
great city all these weeks for nought. You know how it is with the
people of this land. They will never be ruled long by your saintly
father. They know his strange malady, and they think him more fit
for a monk's cell than a royal throne. Your mother--"

"Ay, they hate her," answered Edward mournfully. "They cannot speak
her name without all manner of insulting epithets, which have made
my blood boil in my veins."

"It is so, dear my lord; they have never loved her, and evil report
will spread and gather head, You see that they would never accept
her rule in your royal father's name. It would raise sedition and
tumult at once. The house and faction of York know this. They know
that their power would be secure were King Henry and his queen
alone in the matter; but there is still one more--the Prince of
Wales, against whom no man speaks evil, even the most rancorous
enemies of the House of Lancaster. All who have seen him love him;
all speak of his noble person, his graces of body and mind, his
aptness to rule, his kingly qualities.

"You smile, but in truth it is so. The nation might rally beneath
the banner of such a prince; and the proud nobles of the rival king
know it well, and could they get the prince into their own power,
they know that victory is from that moment theirs. Wherefore,
Edward, if it be true that you are known, we must fly, and that
instantly. These lawless men will not quit the trail till they have
run the quarry down, and delivered you dead or alive into the hands
of the foe. They know well the value of the prize, and they will
not let it escape them."

Edward felt the truth of these words. Paul had been anxious and
alarmed before, but never with the same cause. He had always been
fearful that the young prince might be recognized by some wayfarer,
who might have chanced to see him in past days or at the French
court; but he had never before made sure that this recognition had
actually taken place, and the likeness between the supposed
brothers, though more a likeness now in figure and colouring and
expression than actually in feature, was as great a safeguard as
could have been devised.

Moreover, not a rumour of any kind had come over from France
reporting the escape or absence of the Prince of Wales, and it was
far fetched to imagine that anybody would suspect the identity of
the yellow-haired youth. But the occurrences of this day, combined
with Edward's admission about the clasp, had roused Paul's worst
fears, and it did indeed seem as if there were some watch set upon
their movements now.

He looked earnestly into the flushed face of the fair young prince,
and then said thoughtfully:

"Edward, I have a plan whereby I think you can escape this
threatened danger. Leave this house tonight--at once, if the coast
be clear--and go as fast as your steed can take you to your royal
father, and claim the protection of his state, and that of the earl
your future father-in-law. Tell all your story, and it will make of
you the idol even of this wayward city of London. All men will
delight in the presence of the Prince of the Silver Swan; and
methinks a happy end may be the result of the journey which seems
like to end in peril and gloom.

"Good my lord, it is a joyous welcome you would receive. It would
rejoice the whole heart of the nation to have you back."

Edward hesitated for a moment, but finally shook his head.

"Nay, Paul, I will not do that, though I grant the scheme has its
attractions. If what you say be true and my presence in this city
is suspected, be sure that every alley to the palace is watched and
guarded by foes who would find a speedy way of preventing my
entrance there--ay, or thine, were that tried.

"And over and above the danger, I am yearning to see the face of my
sweet bride again, my gentle Anne, whom I have loved right well
these many years, even whilst her father seemed our bitterest foe.
My return will be looked for ere the glad Christmas season, and if
I am not missed before, I shall be then, and I would not that my
good mother were kept long in anxiety as to what has befallen me. I
have been now four weeks absent. I laid careful plans whereby a
brief absence might not be discovered, but it is time I returned
now.

"Moreover, my quest is done. I have learned all and more than I
came to do. My heart is heavy within me as I think on all I have
heard. Ere I come as prince to this realm, I would fain see and
have earnest speech with my mother. There are moments when methinks
it would be the wiser and happier thing to talk no more of ruling
here, but rather of securing to my father liberty and honour, and
such titles and estates as he can claim through his duchy of
Lancaster, and letting the crown remain on the head of him who
could have claimed it with a better right than we, were it not for
the kingly rule of my grandsire and his sire before him."

Paul made no reply save what was expressed in a deep sigh. His hope
of the permanent restoration of the House of Lancaster had received
some rude shocks during the past weeks; but he had never before
heard Edward speak in this key, and he wondered if it were but the
expression of a passing emotion, or the result of a deeply-seated
conviction.

"I trow my mother will call me craven-hearted," said the lad with a
slight smile, after a moment's silence, "and I myself may think
differently anon. But tonight all seems wrapped in gloom, and I
would I were far away from this city, which seems to breathe hatred
to all of our name and race. Paul, we had better linger here no
longer. Let us away the route we came, so shall we soonest reach
the coast; and we will pass together to the French court, and you
shall see the reception which will await us there from my mother
and my sweet betrothed.

"Ah, I would the day had come! I long to see kindly faces once
again. And they will love you ever for the love you have borne to
me."

The lad's face flushed with excitement at the bare thought, and the
prospect was welcome enough to Paul, who was sick at heart, and
weary with the strain of continual watchfulness; but he lowered his
voice to a mere whisper as he said:

"Hist, sweet prince! speak not so loud. There may be spies without
the very door. We will indeed make shift to start the very first
moment we may. I shall not draw another easy breath till we are far
away from here. But think you it will be wise to go the way we
came? May not those roads be watched more closely there than
elsewhere?"

"I think not so. I think they will guess that we shall make for one
of the southern ports, by which France can be the more easily
reached. If these wild robbers have left their former haunts to
pursue us, we may well be safest nearest to their lair. And we know
not the country to the south, whilst this great forest seems like a
friend to us; and we have sturdy friends within its sheltering
aisles if we are hard pressed. We can quicker reach the coast, too,
that way than any other. And the good brothers you have spoken of
at Leighs Priory will give us shelter tomorrow night, if we cannot
make shift to push on to the coast in one day."

There seemed sound sense in the counsel thus offered by the prince,
and Paul was ever ready to obey his wishes, if he saw no objection
to them. They appeared to be menaced by peril on all sides, and he
would have been thankful if the prince would have thrown himself
into the keeping of his kingly sire; but as he had declined to do
this, and was not of the stuff to be balked of his will, the next
best thing was to slip off in silence and secrecy, and Paul thought
it quite probable that the route least watched and guarded might
well be the one which led back through the forest again.

But it would not do to appear as if suspicious; and leaving Edward
locked up in the attic chamber--hoping that no one had observed his
entrance into the inn--he went down into the common room, where
preparations for supper were going on.

There were a larger number of persons collected in the inn than
usual that night, and Paul fancied that many sharp glances were
fastened upon him as he entered the room. But he kept command over
his countenance well, and walked forward toward the fire with an
air of easy assurance. The peddler was sitting in the warmest
corner, and pushed away his next neighbour to make room for Paul,
who took the vacant seat readily. The man very quickly led up to
the subject of his companion and kinsman (laying an apparent and
rather suspicious emphasis on that word), asking if he did not mean
to come to supper, since he had seen him enter the inn at dusk.

Paul replied that his comrade was unwell, and that he would retire
early to bed, and have something hot to take there. He was resolved
that Edward should not be exposed to the gaze of these rough men,
whose faces inspired him with the greatest uneasiness.

Edward should be supposed to be sick, and that might divert
attention from his movements for the time being; and, long before
the morning dawned, he hoped that they might both be far away from
this ill-omened spot.

"Ill!" quoth the peddler; "no doubt a colic or a chill, taken in
this villainous cold weather. I have a draught here that acts like
a charm in all such cases. If you will permit me, I will mix it for
you in a stoup of hot spiced wine, and I warrant he will sleep like
a dormouse all night, and wake in the morning as well as ever."

Paul thanked the peddler, and the ingredients of the draught were
called for. He watched its preparation keenly, and noted that
several meaning glances were exchanged between the peddler and his
associates--as he now believed half the men in the inn to be. He
told the landlord to prepare two trenchers to be carried upstairs,
as he would sup with his friend that night; and he presently
carried up the hot and steaming tankard, together with the platters
of the savoury viands for which London was famous.

Edward had meantime kindled the rushlight and set light to a small
fire on the hearth, for the weather was bitterly cold. The peddler
had advised Paul to partake of the hot draught also, and the
landlord had not heeded his request to place a tankard of ale on
the tray also: so that if either of the youths were to drink at
all, it must be of the potion concocted by the peddler.

This fact greatly increased Paul's suspicions, which were quickly
shared by Edward.

"We will not touch a drop of it," he said, "although it is tempting
enough this cold night. It is either drugged or poisoned, and given
us to keep us a certain prey for tonight. Perhaps in the end it
will prove our best friend; for if they think us tied by the heel,
they may be less vigilant in the watch they keep upon us."

It was not with much appetite that the comrades ate their supper,
but they knew that they might need all their strength before the
next hours had passed, and they ate heartily from that motive.
Their trenchers had been so liberally piled, however, that there
was plenty of broken meat and bread left when they had finished,
and this was first allowed to grow cold, and then packed away into
one of their wallets, as it might be some considerable time before
they tasted food again, save such as they had with them.

Paul made several excursions from the room to ask for this thing or
that, keeping up the fiction that his comrade was sick; and each
time he did so he found some person or another guarding the
door--at least watching hard by--though apparently bent upon some
private errand. He came to the conclusion at last that their
movements were most certainly spied upon, and that to attempt to
escape through the house that night would be impossible. A few
cautious words (which he caught as he entered the room where the
peddler and his companions were sitting) confirmed his impression
that Edward was certainly suspected, if not actually identified,
and that he would not be allowed to pass out of sight until
suspicion was either verified or laid at rest. He fancied, from the
few words he heard, that these men were awaiting a companion who
would be able absolutely to identify the prince, if it were really
he, and that meantime they did not intend that either of the youths
should escape their surveillance.

It was with a sinking heart that Paul returned to Edward with this
news. But peril seemed only to act like a tonic upon the nerves of
the younger lad; and springing to his feet with energy and
resolution, he cried with flashing eyes:

"And so they think to make a prisoner of the eaglet of England's
royal house! Let them try. Let them do their worst. They shall see
that his wings are strong enough for a higher and more daring
flight than they dream of; that he will not be fettered by a cage
of their treacherous making! Paul, it is not for nothing that I
have lain awake long nights dreaming dreams of peril and escape. I
know how we will outwit our pursuers this very night. Say, can yon
swim, as you can do all else that a brave Englishman should?"

"Like a fish," answered Paul, who had many a time terrified and
astonished his mother by his feats in the salmon pool at home, and
had never lost the skill and strength to battle with wind or wave.

"Good! I was sure of it; and I can do the same. Paul, come here to
the window. See you no means of escape as you look down into that
dark, sullen water below?"

Paul started and looked eagerly out. The inn, as has before been
said, stood on the banks of the great river Thames. Indeed, it was
built so close to the waterside that the walls were washed by the
lapping waves on the backside of the house, and the windows looked
sheer down into the turbid, sullen stream. No watch could be kept
on this side, nor did it seem to be needful; for the old inn was a
lofty building of its kind, and the black water lay some sixty feet
below the small window of the room in which Paul and his companion
lodged. No man in his senses, it seemed, would hazard such a leap,
and none but an expert swimmer would care or dare to trust himself
to that swiftly-flowing flood, which might so easily sweep him to
his doom. And on a freezing December night the idea of escape in
such a fashion seemed altogether madness itself.

Even Paul, menaced by a danger that might be worse than death, drew
in his head with something of a shudder; but Edward had dived into
a little press that stood in the room, and brought out a coil of
stout, strong rope. Paul gave a cry of surprise and pleasure.

"Some instinct warned me it might be wanted. See here, Paul. We can
tie one end to this heavy bedstead, knotting it also around the
bolt of the door, and we can glide down like two veritable shadows,
and drop silently into the river: Then we must swim to one of those
small wherries which lie at anchor beside the sleeping barges. I
know exactly what course to steer for that; and once aboard, we cut
her loose, and row for dear life down with the tide, till we can
find some deserted spot where we can land, and thence we make our
way back to the coast through the friendly forest, as we planned."

"On foot?"

"Ay, we must leave our good steeds behind; it would be madness to
seek to take them. We are young and strong, and this frost makes
walking easy. We shall speed so well that we may chance to reach
the shelter of the Priory ere night falls on us again, and then the
worst of our troubles will be over. Say, Paul, will you come with
me? Will you follow me?"

"To the death, my prince," answered Paul with enthusiasm; yet even
as he spoke a sort of shiver came over him, as though he had
pronounced his own doom. But he shook it off, and fell to upon the
simple preparations to be made.

These were very simple, and consisted of rolling up into a compact
bundle their outer dress and a change of under tunic, which they
fastened, together with their food wallet and arms, upon their
heads, in the hope that they might keep them from the water. They
slung their boots about their necks, and then, with as little
clothing as possible upon them, commenced their stealthy descent
down the rope, which had been firmly attached as suggested by the
prince. Edward went first, whilst Paul remained in the room to
guard against surprise, and to hold the end if it slipped or gave.
But no such casualty befell; and the moment he heard the slight
splash which told that the prince had reached the water, he swung
himself lightly down the rope, and fell with a soft splash beside
him.

But oh, how cold it was in that dark water! Hardy though the pair
were, it seemed impossible to live in that fearful cold; but they
struck out valiantly into midstream, and presently the exercise of
swimming brought a little life into their benumbed limbs. But glad
indeed was Paul to reach the side of the little wherry which they
intended to purloin, and it was all that their united efforts could
do to clamber in and cut the cord which bound it to the barge.

"We must row hard, Edward," said Paul, with chattering teeth; "it
is our only chance of life. We shall freeze to death if we cannot
get some warmth into our blood. I feel like a block of ice."

They were too much benumbed to try and dress themselves yet, but as
they rowed their hardest along the dark, still water, the life came
ebbing back into their chilled limbs, and with the welcome warmth
came that exultation of heart which always follows escape from
deadly peril. With more and more vigour they bent to their oars,
and at last Edward spoke in a natural voice again.

"Let us float down quietly with the stream a while, Paul, whilst we
don our dry garments, if indeed they are dry. It will be better
here than on shore, where we might chance to be seen and suspected.
I am glowing hot now, freezing night though it be; but I confess I
should be more comfortable rid of these soaking clothes."

So stripping off these, they found, to their great satisfaction,
that the leather jerkins in which the other clothing had been
wrapped had kept everything dry, and the feel of warm and
sufficient clothing was grateful indeed after the icy bath they had
encountered. Their boots were wet, but that mattered little to the
hardy striplings; and when, dressed and armed, they bent to their
oars again, it seemed as if all their spirit and confidence had
come back.

"We have made so good a start that we shall surely prosper," cried
Edward boldly. "Our good friend the peddler will look blank enough
when morning comes and they find the birds are flown."

But Paul could not triumph quite so soon; he was still far from
feeling assured of safety, and feared their escape might be quickly
made known, in which case pursuit would be hot. The best hope lay
in getting into the forest, which might give them shelter, and
enable them to baffle pursuit; but responsibility lay sore upon
him, and he could not be quite as gay as his comrade.

The moon shone out from behind the clouds, and presently they
slipped beneath the arches of the old bridge, and past the grim
fortress of the Tower. Very soon after that, they were gliding
between green and lonely banks in a marshy land, and they presently
effected a landing and struck northward, guiding themselves by the
position of the moon.

It was a strange, desolate country they traversed, and glad enough
was Paul that it was night when they had to cross this unprotected
fiat land. By day they would be visible for miles to the trained
eye of a highwayman, and if pursued would fall an easy prey. But by
crossing this desolate waste at night, when not a living thing was
to be seen, they might gain the dark aisles of the wood by the time
the tardy dawn stole upon them, and once there Paul thought he
could breathe freely again.

All through the long hours of the night the lads trudged onwards
side by side. Paul was more anxious than weary, for he had been
inured to active exercise all his life, and had spent many long
days stalking deer or wandering in search of game across the bleak
hillsides. But Edward, though a hardy youth by nature, and not
altogether ignorant of hardship, had lived of late in the softer
air of courts, and as the daylight struggled into the sky he was so
weary he could scarce set one foot before another.

Yet even as Paul's anxious glance lighted on him he smiled bravely
and pointed onwards, and there before them, in the rising sunlight,
lay the great black forest, stretching backwards as far as eye
could see; and Edward, throwing off his exhaustion by a manful
effort, redoubled his speed, until the pair stood within the
encircling belt of forest land, and paused by mutual consent at the
door of a woodman's cabin.

Travellers were rare in that lone part, but the good folks of the
hut were kindly and hospitable and unsuspicious. Paul produced some
small pieces of silver and asked for food and shelter for a few
hours, as he and his comrade had been benighted, and had been
wandering about in the darkness many hours. The fare was very
coarse and homely, but the famished lads were not disposed to find
fault; and the cabin, if close, was at least warm, and, when a peat
fire had been lighted, was a not altogether uncomfortable place for
wanderers like themselves.

As soon as his hunger was satisfied, Edward lay down upon the floor
and was soon sound asleep; but Paul had no disposition for slumber,
and sat gazing into the glowing turves with earnest, anxious eyes.
The heir of England was in his care, and already probably sought in
many directions by cruel and implacable foes. Until Edward were in
safety, he himself should know no peace. And as if suddenly
inspired by some new thought, he started up and went in search of
the good woman of the cabin, with whom he held a long and earnest
conversation.

When he came back to the other room, it was with a smile of
satisfaction on his face and a queer bundle in his arms, and the
old woman was looking with great wonderment at a gold piece lying
on her palm, and marvelling at the strange caprice of the young and
rich.



Chapter 6: In The Hands Of The Robbers


"But wherefore should I disguise myself rather than you?" cried
Edward, resisting Paul's efforts to clothe him in a long smock
frock, such as the woodmen of those days wore when going about
their avocations. "Our peril is the same, and it is I who have led
you into danger. I will not have it so. We will share in all things
alike. If we are pursued and cannot escape, we will sell our lives
dear, and die together. But let it never be said that I left my
friend and companion to face a danger from which I fled myself."

The boy's eyes flashed as he spoke--he looked the very image of a
prince; and Paul's heart swelled with loving pride, although he
still persisted in his design.

"Listen, Edward," he said, speaking very gravely and resolutely.
"It is needful for our joint safety that we be not seen together,
now that we are entering a region of country where we may easily be
recognized, and where watch may be kept for us. Yes, these woods
may be watched, although, as you have said, it is probable they
will watch even more closely the other routes to the coast. But we
have come slowly, toiling along on foot, and there has been ample
time for a mounted messenger to ride back and give the warning to
such of the robbers as are yet here. They know that the twain of us
are travelling together. Wherefore, for the few miles that separate
us now from the kindly shelter of the Priory, it will be better
that we journey alone. This smock and battered hat will protect you
from recognition, the more so when I have blackened your face with
charcoal, as I have means to do, and have hidden away all your
bright curls so that none shall see them. Walk with bent shoulders
and heavy gait, as the aged country folks do, and I warrant none
will guess who you are or molest you. Tonight, when we meet to
laugh at our adventures over the prior's roaring fire, we shall
forget the perils and the weariness of our long tramp."

"But, Paul, I love not this clumsy disguise. It befits not a prince
thus to clothe himself. Wear it yourself, good comrade, for your
peril is as great as mine."

"Nay, Edward, speak not thus idly," said Paul, with unwonted
gravity. "Princes must think not of themselves alone, but of the
nation's weal. Edward, listen. If harm befalls you, then farewell
to all the fond hopes of half of the people who obey the sway of
England's sceptre. You are not your own master; you are the servant
of your loyal and true-hearted subjects, who have suffered already
so much in the cause. To throw your life away, nay, even to run
into needless peril, were a sin to them and to the country. I say
nothing of your mother's despair, of the anguish of your bride, if
harm befell you: that you must know better than I can do. But I am
a subject. I know what your subjects feel; and were you to neglect
any safeguard, however trivial, in these remaining hours of
threatened danger, you would be doing England a wrong which might
be utterly irreparable."

Edward was struck by this argument, and hesitated.

"I only wish to do what is right; but I cannot bear to play the
coward's part, and save myself when you are still in peril."

"Tush!" answered Paul lightly, "I am tougher than you, Edward; you
are so footsore and weary you can scarce put one leg before the
other. If foes were to spring upon us, you would fall an easy prey
at once. I am strong and full of life. I could lead them a fine
chase yet. But we may never sight an adversary. These woods are
still and silent, and we have heard no sounds of dread import all
these long, weary miles. It may well be that we shall reach the
Priory in safety yet; but it were better now to part company and
take different routes thither. And you must don this warm though
clumsy dress; it will keep you the safer, and shield you from the
piercing cold, which you feel more than I do."

In truth, the youthful prince was nigh worn out from fatigue,
notwithstanding the fact that Paul had contrived to give him almost
the whole of their scanty provision, and had helped him tenderly
over the roughest of the way. It was true, indeed, that had they
been attacked Edward would have fallen an easy prey; but alone in
this disguise, hobbling along with the heavy gait of an aged
rustic, he would attract no suspicion from any robber band. And
Paul was eager to see him thus equipped; for they had reached the
part of the wood which was familiar to both, and the prince could
easily find the shortest and most direct way to the Priory, whilst
he himself would make a short circuit and arrive from another point
with as little delay as possible.

A strong will and a sound argument generally win the day. Edward
submitted at last to be arrayed in the woodman's homely garments,
and was grateful for the warmth they afforded; for he was feeling
the bitter cold of the northern latitude, and was desperately tired
from his long day and night of walking. There was no pretence about
the limping, shuffling gait adopted; for his feet were blistered
and his limbs stiff and aching.

Paul watched him hobbling away, his face looking swarthy and old
beneath the shade of the hat, his shoulders bent, and his blackened
hands grasping a tough ash stick to help himself along; and a smile
of triumph stole over his own countenance as he heaved a long sigh
of relief--for he felt quite certain that in the gathering dusk no
one would suspect the true character of the weary pedestrian, and
that he would reach the shelter of the Priory in safety.

It seemed as if a millstone were rolled from Paul's neck as he
turned from contemplating that retiring figure. The strain upon his
faculties during the past twenty-four hours had been intense, and
when it was removed he felt an immense sensation of relief. But
with that relief came a greater access of fatigue than he had been
conscious of before. He had been spurred along the road by the
sense of responsibility--by the feeling that the safety and perhaps
the life of the young Prince of Wales depended in a great measure
upon his sagacity, endurance, and foresight. To get the prince to
Leigh's Priory, beneath the care of the good monks who were stanch
to the cause of the saintly Henry, was the one aim and object of
his thoughts. He had known all along that the last miles of the
journey would be those most fraught with peril, and to lessen this
peril had been the main purpose on his mind. Having seen the prince
start off on the direct path, so disguised that it was impossible
to anticipate detection, he felt as though his life's work for the
moment were ended, and heaving a great sigh of relief, he sank down
upon a heap of dead leaves, and gave himself up to a brief spell of
repose, which his weary frame did indeed seem to require.

The cold, together with the exhaustion of hunger and fatigue,
sealed his senses for a brief space, and he remembered nothing
more. He fancied his eyes had been closed but for a few seconds,
when some noise close at hand caused him to raise his head with a
start. But the dusk had deepened in the great wood, and he saw that
he must have been asleep for quite half an hour.

He started and listened intently. Yes, there was no mistaking the
sounds. A party of mounted horsemen were approaching him along the
narrow track which wandered through the wood. Paul would have
started to his feet and fled to the thicket, but his benumbed limbs
refused their office. It was freezing hard upon the ground, and he
had lain there till his blood had almost ceased to circulate, and
he was powerless to move.

Yet even then his thoughts were first for Edward, and only second
for himself. He rapidly reviewed the situation.

"They are on the path that he has taken. He has the start, but they
are mounted. Are they in pursuit of anyone? They have dogs with
them: that looks as if they were hunting something. It were better
that they should not come up with Edward. In another half hour he
will be safe at the Priory, if he make good speed, as methinks he
will; for with the hope of speedy ease and rest, even the weariest
traveller plucks up heart and spirit. If they are following him, to
find even me will delay them. If not, they will pass me by
unheeded. I am not likely even to attract their notice. I cannot
escape if I would. I am sore, weary, and chilled beyond power of
flight, and the dogs would hunt me down directly. My best chance is
to rest quiet and tranquil, as if I knew not fear. Perchance they
then will let me go unscathed."

Possibly had Paul's faculties been less benumbed by fatigue and the
bitter cold, he would scarce have argued the case so calmly; but he
was calm with the calmness of physical exhaustion, and in truth his
chance of escape would have been small indeed. He could have made
no real effort at flight, and the very fact of his trying to hide
himself would have brought upon him instant pursuit and capture.

So he lay still, crouching in his nest of leaves, until one of the
dogs suddenly gave a deep bay, and came rushing upon him, as if
indeed he had been the quarry pursued.

"Halt there!" cried a deep voice in the gloom; "the dogs have
found. They never give tongue for a different trail than the right
one.

"Dicon, dismount and see what it is; there is something moving
there be neath that bush."

Seeing himself discovered, Paul rose to his feet, and made a step
forward, though uncertainly, as if his limbs still almost refused
to obey him.

"I am a poor benighted traveller," he said; "I pray you, can you
direct me where I can get food and shelter for the night? I have
been wandering many hours in this forest, and am weary well-nigh to
death."

"Turn the lantern upon him, fellows," said the same voice that had
spoken before; and immediately a bright gleam of light was cast
upon Paul's pale, tired face and golden curling hair.

"Is this the fellow we are seeking?" asked the leader of his
followers; "the description seems to fit."

"If it isn't one it is the other," answered the man addressed. "I
have seen both; but, marry, I can scarce tell one from the other
when they are apart. What has he done with his companion? They
have, been together this many a day, by day and by night."

"You were not alone when you started on this journey last night,"
said the robber, addressing Paul sternly. "Where is your companion?
You had better speak frankly. It will be the worse for you if you
do not."

Paul's heart beat fast; the blood began to circulate in his veins.
He tried hard to keep his faculties clear, and to speak nothing
which could injure the prince.

"We parted company. I know not where he is," he answered slowly. "I
told him to go his own way; I would not be a source of peril to
him. I bid him adieu and sent him away."

It suddenly occurred to Paul that if, even for an hour, he could
personate the prince, and so draw off pursuit from him, his point
might be gained. He had not forgotten the episode of the first
adventure they had shared as children; and as we all know, history
repeats itself in more ways than one.

The man who appeared the leader of the band, and whose face was not
unkindly, doffed his hat respectfully at these words, and said, "It
is true, then, that I am addressing the Prince of Wales?"

Paul said nothing, but bent his head as if in assent, and the man
continued speaking, still respectfully.

"It is my duty then, sire, to take your sacred person under my
protection. You are in peril from many sources in these lone woods,
and I have been sent out on purpose to bring you into a place of
safety. My followers will provide you with a good horse, and you
will soon be in safe shelter, where you can obtain the food and
rest your condition requires, and you will receive nothing but
courteous treatment at our hands."

To resist were fruitless indeed. Politely as the invitation was
tendered, there was an undertone of authority in the man's voice
which convinced Paul that any attempt at resistance would be met by
an appeal to force. And he had no disposition to resist. The longer
the fiction was kept up, the longer there would be for the prince
to seek safe asylum at the Priory. When once those sanctuary doors
had closed behind Edward, Paul thought it mattered little what
became of himself.

"I will go with you," he answered with simple dignity; "I presume
that I have indeed no choice."

A draught from a flask tendered him by one of the men did much to
revive Paul, and the relief at finding himself well mounted,
instead of plodding wearily along on foot, was very great. He was
glad enough to be mounted behind one of the stout troopers, for he
was excessively drowsy, despite the peril of his situation. He had
been unable to sleep, as Edward had done, in the woodman's hut, and
it was now more than thirty-six hours since sleep had visited him,
and those hours had been crowded with excitement, peril, and
fatigue. The potent liquor he had just drunk helped to steal his
senses away, and as the party jogged through the dim aisles of the
wood, Paul fell fast asleep, with his head resting on the shoulder
of the stalwart trooper, and he only awoke with a start, half of
fear and half of triumph--for he knew the prince was safe enough by
this time--when the glare from the mouth of a great cavern, and the
loud, rough voices of a number of men who came crowding out, smote
upon his senses, and effectually aroused him to a sense of what was
passing.

"Have you got them?" cried a loud voice, not entirely unfamiliar to
Paul, although he could not for the moment remember where he had
heard it before.

"We have got one-got the most important one," answered the man who
had been leader of the little band. "The other has got off; but
that matters less."

"By the holy mass, it was the other that I wanted the more," cried
the rougher voice, as the man came out swearing roundly; "I had an
account of my own to square with him, and square it I will one of
these days. But bring in the prize--bring him in. Let us have a
look at him. He is worth the capture, anyhow, as the Chief will say
when he returns. He is not back yet. We have all been out scouring
the forest; but you always have the luck, Sledge Hammer George. I
said if any one brought them in it would be you."

Paul had by this time recognized the speaker, who was standing in
the entrance of the cave with the light full upon his face. It was
none other than his old adversary, Simon Dowsett, whom he had twice
defeated in his endeavour to carry off the lady of his choice; and
who was, as he well knew, his bitterest foe. His heart beat fast
and his breath came fitfully as he realized this, and he looked
quickly round toward the black forest, as if wondering if he could
plunge in there and escape. But a strong hand was laid upon his
arm, and he was pushed into the cave, where the ruddy glow of the
fire fell full upon him.

Simon Dowsett, who in the absence of the Chief, as he was called,
acted as the captain of the band, strode forward and fixed his eyes
upon the lad, his face changing as he did so until its expression
was one of diabolical malice.

"What?" he cried aloud; "at the old game again? You thought to
trick us once more, and again to get off with a sound skin?--Lads,
this isn't the prince at all; this is the other of them, who has
fooled you as he fooled the Chief himself long years ago. What were
you thinking of to take his word for it? And you have let the real
one slip through your fingers.

"Ha, ha, Sledge Hammer George! you are not quite so clever as you
thought. Why did you not wring the truth out of him, when the other
quarry could not have been far off? You have been pretty gulls to
have been taken in like this!"

The other man, who had now come up, looked full into Paul's face,
and asked, not savagely though sternly enough:

"Which are you, lad? speak the truth. Are you the Prince of Wales,
or not?"

It was useless now to attempt to keep up the deception. Paul
carried the mark of Simon Dowsett's bullet in his shoulder, and he
was too well known by him to play a part longer. Looking full at
the man who addressed him, he answered boldly:

"I am Paul Stukely, not the prince at all. He is beyond the reach
of your malice. He is in safe shelter now."

"Where is he?" asked the man quietly.

"I shall not tell you," answered Paul, who knew that these robbers
were so daring that they might even make a raid on the Priory, or
watch it night and day, and to prevent the escape of the prince
from thence, if their suspicions were once attracted, to the spot.

Sledge Hammer George laid a hand upon the young man's arm.

"Now don't be a fool, lad; these fellows here will stand no more
from you. A valuable prize has escaped them, and they will wring
the truth out of you by means you will not like, but will not be
able to resist. You have a bitter enemy in Devil's Own, as he is
called, and he will not spare you if you provoke. I will stand your
friend, if you will but speak out and tell us where the prince is
to be found; for he cannot be very many miles away from this place,
as we are well assured. If you are obstinate, I can do nothing for
you, and you will have to take your chance.

"Come, now, speak up. Every moment is of value. You will be made to
do so before long, whether you wish or not."

Paul's lips closed tightly one over the other, and his hands
clasped themselves fast together. He thought of the vow he had
registered long years ago in his heart, to live or to die in the
service of his prince; and though what he might be called upon to
suffer might be far worse than death itself, his will stood firm,
and he gave no sign of yielding. The man, who would have stood his
friend if he would have spoken, looked keenly at him, and then
turned away with a slight shrug of the shoulders, and Simon's
triumphant and malicious face was looking into his.

"Now, lad, once more: will you speak, or will you not? It is the
last time I shall ask you."

"I will tell you nothing," answered Paul, raising his head and
looking at his old enemy with a contempt and lofty scorn which
seemed to sting the man to greater fury.

"You will not! very good. You will be glad enough to speak before I
have done with you. I have many old scores to settle with you yet,
and so has the Chief when he comes back; but the first thing is to
wring from you where the prince is hiding himself.

"Strip off his fine riding dress and under tunic, lads (it is a
pity to spoil good clothes that may be useful to our own brave
fellows), and string him up to that beam.

"Get out your hide whips, Peter and Joe, and lay it on well till I
tell you to stop."

With a brutal laugh, as if it were all some excellent joke, the men
threw themselves upon Paul, and proceeded to carry out the
instructions of their leader, who seated himself with a smile of
triumph where he could enjoy the spectacle of the suffering he
intended to inflict. Paul's upper garments were quickly removed,
and his hands and feet tightly bound with leather thongs. An
upright and a crossway beam, supporting the roof of the cave,
formed an excellent substitute for the whipping post not uncommon
in those days upon a village green; and Paul, with a mute prayer
for help and courage, nerved himself to meet the ordeal he was
about to undergo, praying, above all things, that he might not in
his agony betray the prince to these relentless enemies.

The thick cow-hide whips whistled through the air and descended on
his bare, quivering shoulders, and he nearly bit his lips through
to restrain the cry that the infliction almost drew from him. But
he was resolved that his foe should not have the satisfaction of
extorting from him any outward sign of suffering save the
convulsive writhings which no effort of his own could restrain. How
many times the cruel whips whistled through the air and descended
on his back, he never knew--it seemed like an eternity to him; but
at last he heard a voice say:

"Hold, men!

"Dowsett, you will kill him before the Chief sees him, and that he
will not thank you for. He is a fine fellow, and I won't stand by
and see him killed outright. Take him down and lock him up safely
till the Chief returns. He will say what is to be done with him
next. It is not for us to take law into our own hands beyond a
certain point. You will get nothing out of him, that is plain; he
is past speech now."

"The Chief will make him find his tongue," said Dowsett with a
cruel sneer; "this is only a foretaste of what he will get when the
Fire Eater returns.

"Take him down then, men. 'Twere a pity to kill him too soon. Keep
him safe, and we will see what the Chief says to him tomorrow."

Paul heard this as in a dream, although a merciful
semi-consciousness had deadened him to the worst of the pain. He
felt himself unbound and carried roughly along down some dark
passage, as he fancied. There was a grating noise, as if a door had
turned on its hinges, and then he was flung down on what seemed
like a heap of straw, and left alone in pitchy darkness.

For a time he lay just as he had been thrown, in the same trance of
semi-consciousness; but after what had appeared to him a very long
time, he beheld as if a long way off a glimmering light, which
approached nearer and nearer, though he was too dizzy and faint to
heed its movements much. But it certainly approached quite close to
him--he saw as much through his half-closed eyelids--and then a
voice addressed him, a soft, sweet voice, strangely unlike those he
had just been hearing.

"Are you indeed Paul Stukely?" asked the voice.

The sound of his name aroused him, and he made a great effort to
see through the mists that seemed to hang over his eyes. A sweet
and very lovely face was hanging over him. He thought he must be
dreaming, and he asked faintly, hardly knowing what he said:

"Is it an angel?"

"Oh no, I am no angel, but only the daughter of the Chief; and I
want to help you, because I have heard of you before, and I cannot
bear that they should kill you by inches, as I know they will do if
you stay here. See, they are all fast asleep now, and there is no
chance of my father's return tonight. I have brought you your
clothes, and Madge has given me some rag steeped in a concoction of
herbs of her own making, which will wonderfully ease your wounds if
you will let me lay it on them. Old Madge is a wonderful leech, and
she cannot bear their cruel doings any more than I can, and she
said you were a brave lad, and she made you some soup, which I will
fetch for you to hearten you up for your journey. For you must get
away from here before morning, or nothing can save you from a
terrible fate.

"See now, do not your poor shoulders feel better for this dressing?
If you can put your clothes on whilst I am gone, I will bring you
something that will go far to help you over your ride tonight."

It was a great effort to Paul to collect his wandering faculties,
and get his lacerated and trembling limbs to obey his will; but he
was nerved to his utmost efforts by the dread of what might befall
him if he could not avail himself of this strange chance of escape.
By the time the fair-faced girl had returned with a steaming basin
in her hands, he had contrived to struggle into his garments, and
though quivering in every fibre of his being, was more himself
again, and able to understand better the rapid stream of words
poured out by the eager maiden.

"Drink this," she said, giving him the basin. "It is very good. It
has all kinds of ingredients in it that will ease your pain and
give you strength and courage; but that you have without. Oh, I
think you are the bravest lad I ever knew. But listen, for I am
going to tell you a strange story. I told you that I was the,
daughter of the robber chief, did I not? Well, so I am; and my
father loves me the more, I think, that he never loved any other
being save my mother, and she died in this very cave when I was
born. He has always loved me and given me my own way; but these
last weeks a change seems to have come over him, and he talks of
giving me in wedlock to that terrible man T hate worse than them
all--the one they call Devil's Own. He has never spoken a soft word
to me all these years; but the past three weeks he has tried to woo
me in a fashion that curdles the very blood in my veins. I would
not wed him were I heart whole as a babe; and I am not that, for my
hand and heart are pledged to another, whose wife I will surely
be."

The girl's eyes flashed, and it was plain that the spirit of the
sire had descended to her. Paul was slowly swallowing the contents
of the basin, and feeling wonderfully invigorated thereby; indeed,
he was sufficiently restored to feel a qualm of surprise at being
thus intrusted with the history of this young girl, and she seemed
to divine the reason of his inquiring look.

"I will tell you why I speak thus freely; and I must be brief, for
the moments fly fast, and it is time we were on our way. The man I
love is one Jack Devenish, of a place they call Figeon's Farm; and
this very night, ere my father returns, I am to meet him; and he
will carry me to his home and his mother, and there shall I lie hid
in safety until such time as the priest may wed us. And, Paul, it
is a happy chance that brought you hither this night instead of
another; for we will fly together, and you will be safe at Figeon's
as I. For they will not suspect whither we have fled, nor would
they dare to attack a peaceful homestead near the village if they
did. They have made this country almost too hot to hold them as it
is, and are ever talking of a flight to the north. Methinks they
will soon be gone, and then I can draw my breath in peace."

Paul listened in amaze. It was an effort to think of moving again
tonight, so weary and worn and suffering was he; but anything was
better than remaining behind in the power of these terrible men,
and he rose slowly to his feet, though wincing with every movement.

"I know it pains you," cried the girl compassionately; "but oh,
what is that pain to what you would have to endure if you were to
stay? And you will not have to walk. My palfrey is ready tied up in
the wood, a bare stone's throw from here. You shall ride her, and I
will run beside you, and guide you to the trysting place, where my
Jack will be awaiting me, and his great roan will carry the pair of
us. Now silence, and follow me. There is a narrow exit from this
inner recess in the cave known only to me and to Madge. Not one of
the robbers, not even my father himself, knows of it. They think
they have you in a safe trap, and will not even keep watch tonight
after their weary search.

"Tread softly when you reach the open, lest our footsteps be heard.
But it is far from the mouth of the cave, and I have never raised
an alarm yet, often as I have slipped out unawares. Give me your
hand--so; now stoop your head, and squeeze through this narrow
aperture. There, here are we beneath the clear stars of heaven, and
here is my pretty Mayflower waiting patiently for her mistress.

"Yes, pretty one; you must bear a heavier burden tonight, but you
will do it gladly for your mistress's sake.

"Mount, good sir; we shall soon be out of reach of all danger."

It must be a dream thought Paul, as, mounted on a light palfrey, he
went speeding through the dun wood by intricate paths, a fairy-like
figure springing through the gloom beside him, and guiding the
horse, as he was utterly unable to do.

It seemed as if his strength had deserted him. His hands had lost
their power, and it was all he could do to maintain his seat on the
animal that bounded lightly along with her unaccustomed burden. At
last they reached an open glade; a dark, motionless figure was
standing in the moonlight.

"It is he--it is my Jack!" cried the fairy, springing forward with
a faint cry of welcome.

"O Jack, I have brought your old friend Paul Stukely back to you.
You must take care of him as well as of me, for he has been in
deadly peril tonight."



Chapter 7: The Protection Of The Protected.


"Nay, wife, why sit up for him? Since he has taken to these roving
habits at night there is no depending upon him. I must put an end
to them if they are to disturb you so. The boy is safe enough. Why
are you anxious about him tonight?"

It was Farmer Devenish who spoke these words to his wife, half an
hour after the rest of the household had retired to rest, and he
found her still sitting beside the fire, which she had piled up
high on the hearth, as if she meant to remain downstairs for some
time; which indeed she distinctly told him was her intention, as
she did not wish to go to bed until Jack had come in.

"He asked me to sit up for him tonight," she answered, "and he
never did so before. I was glad of it; for I have been uneasy for
the boy, wondering what could take him out so often at night."

"Oh, he's going courting, you may depend upon it," laughed the
farmer in his hearty way; "and courting some young lass not of our
village, but one who lives a pretty step from here, I'll be bound.
I've held my peace, and let the boy go his own way. He'll speak out
when the time comes, depend upon it."

"I believe he will speak out this very night," answered the mother.
"He told me he had a surprise in store for me, and begged that I
would sit up till his return, and stand his friend with you, if you
should be displeased at his choice. One might have thought he was
bringing his bride home with him, to hear him talk; but he would
never get wedded without speaking first. He is a good lad and a
dutiful, and his parents have the right to be told."

The farmer's curiosity was piqued by what he heard, and he resolved
to share his wife's vigil. Jack, their only son, was very dear to
them, and they were proud of him in their own hearts, and thought
such a son had never lived before. Both were anxiously looking
forward to the day when he should bring home a wife to brighten up
the old home, since it had lost the sweet presence of the daughter
Joan; and they neither of them believed that Jack's choice would
fall upon anyone unworthy of him.

The farmer dozed in his chair by the glowing hearth. The woman got
a large book from some secret receptacle upstairs, and read with
deep attention, though with cautious glance around her from time to
time, as if half afraid of what she was doing. It was long before
the silence outside was broken by any sound of approaching
footfalls; and when the ring of a horse hoof upon the frosty ground
became distinctly audible through the silence of the night, the
farmer would not unbar the door until his wife had glided away with
the volume she had been reading.

A minute later and the parents both stood in the doorway, peering
out into the cloudy night, that was not altogether dark.

"By holy St. Anthony, there are two horses and three riders," said
the farmer, shading his eyes from the glare of the lantern as he
peered out into the darkness beyond.

"Jack, is that you, my son? And who are these that you have brought
with you?"

"Friends--friends claiming the shelter and protection of your roof,
father," answered Jack's hearty voice as he rode up to the door;
and then it was seen that he was greatly encumbered by some burden
he supported before him on his horse. But from the other lighter
palfrey there leaped down a small and graceful creature of
fairy-like proportions, and Mistress Devenish found herself
suddenly confronted by the sweetest, fairest face she had ever seen
in her life, whilst a pair of soft arms stole caressingly about her
neck.

"You are Jack's mother," said a sweet, soft voice in accents of
confident yet timid appeal that went at once to her heart. "He has
told me so much of you--he has said that you would be a mother to
me. And I have so longed for a mother all my life. I never had one.
Mine own mother died almost ere I saw the light. He said you would
love me; and I have loved you long. Yet it is not of myself I must
talk now, but of yon poor lad whom you know well. We have brought
Paul Stukely back to you. Oh, he has been sorely handled by those
cruel robbers--the band of Black Notley! He has been like a dead
man these last miles of the road. But Jack says he is not dead, and
that your kindly skill will make him live again."

And before Mistress Devenish was well aware whether she were not in
a dream herself, her husband had lifted into the house the
apparently inanimate form of Paul Stukely, and had laid him down
upon the oak settle near to the hospitable hearth.

Jack had gone to the stable with the horses; but one of the serving
men having been aroused and having come to his assistance, he was
able quickly to join the party beside the fire, and coming forward
with a glad and confident step, he took the hand of the fairy-like
girl in his own, and placed it within that of his mother.

"Father, mother," he said, "I have brought you home my bride that
is to be. Listen, and I will tell you a strange story, and I know
you will not then withhold your love from one who has known little
of it, and who has led a strange, hard life amid all that is bad
and cruel, and is yet all that you can wish to find in woman--all
that is true and pure and lovely."

And then Jack, with the sort of rude eloquence sometimes found in
his class, told of his wooing of the robber's daughter; told of her
hatred and loathing of the scenes she was forced to witness, of the
life she was forced to lead; told of her fierce father's fierce
love gradually waning and turning to anger as he discovered that
she was not pliable material in his hands, to be bent to his stern
will; told how he had of late wished to wed her to the terrible
Simon Dowsett, and how she had felt at last that flight alone with
her own lover could save her from that fate.

Then he told of Paul's capture upon the very night for which the
flight had been planned; told how gallantly he had defied the
cruelty of the robber band, and how his Eva had effected his
liberation and had brought him with her to the trysting place. They
had planned before the details of the flight, and it would be death
to her to be sent back; but after her liberation of the captive,
the thought of facing that lawless band again was not to be thought
of.

And the farmer, who had listened to the tale with kindling eyes and
many a smothered ejaculation of anger and pity, suddenly put his
strong arms about the slight figure of the girl, and gave her a
hearty kiss on both cheeks.

"Thou art a good wench and a brave one," he said, "and I am proud
that my roof is the one to shelter thee from those lawless men, who
are the curse of our poor country.

"Jack, I told the mother that you must be going courting, and that
I should be right glad when you brought a bride to the old home.
And a bride this brave girl shall be as soon as Holy Church can
make you man and wife; and we will love her none the less for what
her father was. I always heard that the Fire Eater, as they call
him, had carried off and married a fair maiden, too good by a
thousand times for the like of him; and if this is that poor lady's
daughter, I can well believe the tale. But she is her mother's
child, not her fierce father's, and we will love her as our own.

"Take her to your heart, good mother. A brave lass deserves a warm
welcome to her husband's home."

The gentle but high-spirited Eva had gone through the dangers of
the night with courage and resolution, but tears sprang to her eyes
at hearing these kindly words; and whilst Jack wrung his father's
hand and thanked him warmly for his goodwill. The girl buried her
face upon the shoulder of Mistress Devenish, and was once more
wrapped in a maternal embrace.

And then, having got the question of Eva's adoption as Jack's
betrothed bride so quickly and happily settled, they all turned
their attention to poor Paul, who for a few minutes had been almost
forgotten.

There was a warm little chamber scarce larger than a closet opening
from the room where the farmer and his wife slept, and as there was
a bed therein always in readiness against the arrival of some
unlooked-for guest, Paul was quickly transported thither, and
tenderly laid between the clean but coarse coverings. He only
moaned a little, and never opened his eyes or recognized where he
was or by whom he was tended; whilst the sight of his lacerated
back and shoulders drew from the woman many an exclamation of pity,
and from the farmer those of anger and reprobation.

It was some time before they understood what had happened, or
realized that the young kinsman (as they had called him) of Paul's
was really the Prince of Wales, the son of the now reigning Henry,
and that the two lads had been actually living and travelling
together with this secret between them. But Eva had heard much
about both, and told how the presence of the prince in the country
had become known to her father and his band first through the
suspicions of the peddler, who had seen the one pearl clasp still
owned and kept by the robber chief, and had at once recognized its
fellow; and secondly, from the identification of Paul's companion
with the Prince of Wales by one of the band who had been over to
France not long ago, and had seen the prince there.

The old likeness between the two youths was remembered well by the
band, who had been fooled by it before; and they had been for weeks
upon the track of the fugitives, who had, however, left Figeon's
before their enemies had convinced themselves of their identity;
and in London they were less easily found. Eva did not know the
whole story--it was Paul who supplied the missing links later; but
she told how a great part of the band had gone forth to seek them
in the city--how word had presently been brought by a mounted
messenger that the fugitives had escaped, just when they were
certain they had them fast--that all roads were being watched for
them, but that those who still remained in the forest were to keep
a close lookout, lest by some chance they should return by the way
they had come.

The band had been scouring the woods all that day in different
detachments, and they had brought in Paul just before dark. The
prince had escaped their vigilance, and Paul had maintained silence
under their cruel questioning. Eva knew no more of him than the
farmer, but all were full of hope that he had escaped. Well indeed
for both--if Paul knew his hiding place--that he was out of the
power of the robbers. They would scarce in any case have let him
escape with his life, after the ill will many of them bore him; but
had he continued to set them at defiance by his silence, there is
no knowing to what lengths their baffled rage might not have gone.
Eva had heard of things in bygone days which she could not recall
without a shudder, and the farmer and Jack, with clenched hands and
stern faces, vowed that they would leave no stone unturned until
the country was rid of these lawless and terrible marauders.

"We have stood enough; this is the last!" cried the burly owner of
Figeon's. "We will raise the whole countryside; we will send a
deputation to the bold Earl of Warwick; we will tell him Paul's
history, and beg him to come himself, or to send a band of five
hundred of his good soldiers, and destroy these bandits root and
branch. If these outrages are committed in the name of the House of
York, then I and mine will henceforth wear the badge of Lancaster.
What we simple country folks want is a king who can keep order in
this distracted land; and if that brave boy who dwelt beneath our
roof, and was kindly and gracious to all, is our future king, well,
God bless and keep him, say I, and let the sceptre long be held in
his kindly hands!"

In the village of Much Waltham next day the wildest excitement
prevailed. Jack was down at his sister's house with the dawn to
tell how Paul had been rescued from the hands of the robbers the
previous night, and what cruel treatment he had received at their
hands. He was going off on a secret errand to the Priory that very
day on Paul's behalf, to ask for news of the prince; and when it
was known that the bright-haired lad (Paul's kinsman, as he had
been called) who had won all hearts was none other than their
future Prince of Wales, a great revulsion of feeling swept over the
hearts of the simple and loving rustics, and they became as warm in
their sympathies for Lancaster as they had been loyal hitherto to
York.

But the burning feeling of the hour was the desire to put down by a
strong hand the depredations of these lawless robber hordes. Not a
house in the place but had suffered from them, not a farmer but had
complaints to make of hen roost robbed or beasts driven off in the
night. Others had darker tales to tell; and Will Ives clenched his
fists and vowed that he would be glad indeed to see the day when he
and Simon Dowsett might meet face to face in equal combat. But it
would be impossible to attack the robbers in their forest
fastnesses unless they had military help; and a deputation was to
start forthwith to London, to lay before the mighty earl the story
of the ravages committed, and the deadly peril which had just
threatened the heir of England, from which he might not yet have
escaped.

Jack was in hopes that he might still be at the Priory, and that he
might bring him back and set him at the head of a party of loyal
rustics, who should escort him in triumph to his royal father in
London. But that hope was of short duration; for the news he
received at the Priory told that the prince was already far away,
and safe at sea on his way to France.

He had arrived just at dusk the previous evening, and when he had
told his adventures and proved his identity to the satisfaction of
the Prior, strenuous efforts were made to convey him safely away
before further peril could menace him. It chanced that one of the
brothers was about to start for the coast on a mission for the
Prior; and disguised in a friar's gown, Edward could travel with
him in the most perfect safety. Stout nags were in readiness for
the pair; and after the lad had been well fed, and had enjoyed a
couple of hours' sleep beside the fire, he was sufficiently
refreshed to proceed on his way, only charging the Prior either to
send Paul after him if he should arrive in time, or to keep him in
safe hiding if that should not be possible.

Before Jack left the place, the brother who had been the prince's
companion returned with the news that Edward had been safely
embarked in a small trading vessel bound for France, the captain of
which, an ardent Lancastrian, would defend his passenger from every
peril at risk of his own life if need be. The wind was favourable
and light, and there was every hope of a rapid and safe passage.
Before nightfall this very day Edward would probably be landed upon
French soil, out of all chance of danger from foeman's steel.

As to the purposed overthrow of the robber band, the brothers most
heartily approved of it. They too, though in some sort protected by
the awe inspired by Holy Church, suffered from the bold dealings of
these lawless men, and gladly would they see the band scattered or
exterminated.

The Prior shook his head somewhat as Jack explained how he wished
to wed the daughter of the chief of the crew; but when the lover
pleaded his cause with all the eloquence at his command, and
painted in piteous words the misery the gentle girl had endured in
the midst of her unhallowed surroundings, the kind-hearted
ecclesiastic relented, and forthwith despatched Brother Lawrence to
examine and counsel the maid, hear her confession, and absolve her
from her offences, and then, if all seemed well, to perform the
rite of betrothal, which was almost as binding as the marriage
service itself, and generally preceded it by a few weeks or months,
as the case might be. So Jack rode off in high feather, and talked
so unceasingly of his Eva the whole way to the farm, that the good
brother was almost convinced beforehand of the virtue and devotion
of the maid, and was willing enough a few hours later to join their
hands in troth plight. After that, unless the father were prepared
to draw upon himself the fulminations of the Church, he could not
lay claim to his daughter, or try to give her in wedlock to
another. Her place was now with her betrothed's kindred, where she
would remain until the marriage ceremony itself took place, and
made her indeed the daughter of the farm.

Meantime Paul lay for a while sorely sick, and was tended with
motherly devotion by good Mistress Devenish, who learned to love
him almost as a son. Hardy and tough as he was, the fatigue and
suffering he had undergone had broken him down, and a fever set in
which for a time made them fear for his very life. But his hardy
constitution triumphed over the foe, and in a week's time from the
night he first set foot across the threshold of Figeon's Farm he
was held to be out of danger, though excessively weak and ill.

During the long nights when his hostess had watched beside him,
thinking that he was either unconscious or delirious, Paul had seen
and heard more than she knew. He had heard her read, as if to
herself, strange and beautiful words from a book upon her
knee--words that had seemed full of peace and light and comfort,
and which had sunk into his weary brain with strangely soothing
power. Some of these same words were not quite unfamiliar to
him--at least he knew their equivalents in the Latin tongue; but
somehow when spoken thus in the language of everyday life, they
came home to him with tenfold greater force, whilst some of the
sweetest and deepest and most comforting words were altogether new
to him.

And as his strength revived, Paul's anxiety to hear more of such
words grew with it; and one forenoon, as his nurse sat beside him
with her busy needle flying, he looked up at her and said, "You do
not read out of the book any more, and I would fain hear those
wonderful words again."

"I knew not that you had ever heard."

"Yes, I heard much, and it seemed to ease my pain and give me happy
thoughts. It is a beautiful and a goodly book. May I not hear
more?"

"I would that all the world might hear the life giving words of
that book, Paul," said the good woman with a sigh. "But they come
from Wycliffe's Bible, and the holy brothers tell us that it is a
wicked book, which none of us should read."

"It cannot be a wicked book which holds such goodly words--words
that in the Latin tongue the Holy Church herself makes use of,"
said Paul stoutly. "It may be bad for unlettered and ignorant men
to try to teach and expound the words they read, but the words
themselves are good words. May I not see the book myself?"

"You know the risk you run in so doing, Paul?"

"Ay; but I am a good son of the Church, and I fear not to see what
manner of book this be. If it is bad, I will no more of it."

The woman smiled slightly as she rose from her seat and touched a
spring in the wall hard by the chimney. A sliding panel sprang back
and disclosed a small shelf, upon which stood a large book, which
the woman placed in Paul's hands, closing the panel immediately.

He lay still, turning the leaves with his thin hands, and
marvelling what the Church found to condemn in so holy a book as
this seemed, breathing peace and goodwill and truest piety; but a
slight stir without the house, and the trampling of horse hoofs in
the court below, caused the woman to raise her head with an
instinct of caution, and Paul to thrust the volume hastily but
cautiously deep beneath the pillows on which he lay.

There were strange voices in the house, and the door was opened by
Brother Lawrence, who came in with a troubled look upon his face.
He was followed by three tall monks in a different habit, and with
none of the rubicund joviality upon their faces that was seen in
those of the brothers of Leighs Priory; whilst last of all, with a
cunning and malicious leer upon his face, followed the little
peddler, who, when he met the steady glance of Paul's eyes, shrank
back somewhat and looked discomfited.

But the foremost of the tall monks, scarce heeding the respectful
salutation made him by Paul and the mistress, turned upon the
peddler and said:

"Fellow, come forward and bear your testimony. It was, you who laid
the information that heretical books were hidden in this house, and
that you knew the hiding place. Make good your words, now that you
have brought us to the spot; for our worthy brother here speaks
well of those that live beneath this roof."

"May it please your reverence, I know the place well, and that
there are heretical books concealed there always. If you will press
that spring in the wall here, you will see for yourself. If you
find not the forbidden Bible there, call me a prating and a lying
knave.",

Brother Lawrence was looking both troubled and curious, but the
face of Mistress Devenish was perfectly calm, and Paul commanded
his countenance to a look of simple wonderment and surprise.

The monk obeyed the direction of the peddler; the secret spring,
gave a sharp click, and the door flew open. But the little shelf
was bare, and told no tales, and the face of the peddler fell.

"It has been removed--they have had notice of this visitation,"
stammered the discomfited man; but Brother Lawrence cut him short.

"Your reverence knows that that is impossible," he said, addressing
the tall monk: "no word of this visitation had reached even our
ears till your arrival this very morning. This house has ever been
well thought of by our fraternity, and pays its dues to Holy Church
as I would all other houses did. I trust your mind is satisfied."

The monk bent his head; but before he could speak, Paul had raised
himself on his pillows, and was speaking in quick, earnest tones.

"Holy father, listen, I pray you, to me," he said, "and trust not
the testimony of yon traitorous fellow, who, if he had had his
will, would have done to death the son of our sainted monarch King
Henry.

"Nay, let him not escape," he cried, as he saw the man make an
attempt to reach the door, which was promptly frustrated by the
sudden appearance of Jack Devenish, who had heard of this sudden
incursion of monks, and had rushed to the house in some fear of
what might be happening there.

"Hold him fast, Jack," cried Paul, with increasing energy, "till I
have told my tale;" and forthwith he described in graphic words how
this man had identified the prince, and had striven to sell him to
the enemy, that the House of York might triumph in his death, or in
possession of the heir whose life alone could redeem the cause of
Lancaster from destruction. The story was listened to with deep
attention and no little sympathy, for the visit, the peril, and the
flight of the prince were becoming known in this part of the
country, and the clergy of all degrees were thankful indeed that
the heir of England was safe, as they were all deeply attached to
the cause of the Red Rose.

So Paul's story roused a great wave of anger against the mean
fellow, who would thus earn his own living by betraying those whose
bread he had eaten, or one whose life it should be his care to
protect; and scarce had Paul done speaking before Brother Lawrence
took up the gauntlet, and addressing himself to the tall monk,
pointed to Paul, as he lay still white and weak upon his pillows.

"And hear farther, reverend father: this youth who now speaks to
you is he of whom I told you as we rode along, who bore torture
without yielding up the name of the hiding place to which he knew
the prince had escaped. But for him young Edward might yet have
fallen into the hands of these robbers; for they would have watched
our Priory and have set upon all who went or came, and ravaged the
whole country, so that even the habit of the monk would not have
protected or disguised him. And these good folks here at this farm
were they who rescued him from the hands of the robbers; for the
maiden alone, without the help of this stalwart youth, could not
have brought him, ill and fainting as he was, all these long weary
miles. And they took him in; and this woman, whom yon informer
would have you believe is a vile heretic, has nursed him like his
own mother, and brought him back from the very jaws of death. And
is she who has done a service that royal Henry will one day thank
her for publicly (for this pallid youth is as a brother in love to
young Edward, and his especial charge to us till he comes again to
claim him and bestow his well-earned knighthood upon him)--is she
to suffer from the unproven charges of a base spy and Yorkist tool
like yon fellow there, who would have betrayed his own king's son
to death? Away with such a fellow from the earth, I say; and let
those who have sheltered England's heir, and rescued this bold
youth from worse than death--let them, I say, live in peace and
honour for the service they have done their country! For I wot that
when young Edward comes in his own proper state again, his first
care will be for those who befriended him in his hour of need, his
first chastisement against those who have done aught to harm them,
if they be still cumbering the earth."

And with that the usually jovial brother, moved now by a great
access of wrath, which had given him unwonted eloquence, pointed a
finger significantly at the trembling peddler; and Jack, who held
him by the collar, gave him a shake and said:

"Give me leave to carry him to the village green and tell the good
folks there the tale, and I warrant that he will not cumber the
ground much longer."

"Do with him as you will," said the tall monk, "he is no charge of
mine; and if all be true that is said, he well deserves his fate."

The peddler was borne away, crying and entreating, and before an
hour had passed, his dead body was hanging on an oak tree nigh to
the blacksmith's forge--a warning to all informers; and when he had
gone the tall monk turned to Paul with a more benign air, and laid
his hand upon his head as he said:

"Thou art a stanch lad; and for their care to thee these honest
folks deserve the gratitude of the Church. I believe none of the
accusations of that lewd fellow. I trow this is a godly house,
where the Lord is rightly honoured in His holy ordinances."

"That indeed is so," answered Paul fervently.

The visitors departed well satisfied; whilst Paul heaved a great
sigh of relief, and wondered if he had in any way sinned by thought
or word or deed. But his conscience was clear; he could not see
that there was sin in reading holy words from God's own Book. Such
matters of dispute were too hard for him, and he closed his tired
eyes and was soon sound asleep. He saw the great Bible no more
whilst he remained beneath that roof; but many of its words were
engraved upon his heart, and were a guide to his steps and a light
to his path throughout his subsequent life.

"You have saved us from a great peril this day, Paul," said the
farmer that night, with a moisture in his eyes and a gravity upon
his jolly face. "If we have given shelter and protection to you,
your protection of us has been equally great. You must make this
your home, my boy, so long as you need one."

The next days were full of excitement for Much Waltham. The request
made by the people of Essex had been listened to by the great earl,
and though he could scarce credit the fact that the king's son had
been so near, he was convinced at last, and burned to avenge
himself on those who had tried to take him captive. A band of armed
men was sent down, and the forest swept clear of the marauders--at
least for a while. Will Ives had his wish, and met Simon Dowsett
face to face in a hand-to-hand struggle; and although the latter
did all to deserve his undesirable sobriquet, he was overpowered at
last and slain, and his head carried in triumph to his native
village, where, after the savage custom of the day, it was exposed
on a pike on the village green.

Paul heard of this fight by report alone, for he was able to get
only as far as the great kitchen fire, where he and Eva spent a
great part of their time in eagerly discussing the questions of the
day. Her father, the chief of the band, made his escape with some
few of his followers, and was heard of no more in those parts. His
daughter was glad he was not killed, though she could not desire to
see him more; and in a short time she and Jack were married, and
she almost forgot that she had been for so many years living
amongst the robbers of Black Notley.



Chapter 8: The Rally Of The Red Rose.


"Paul! Is it really you? Now indeed I feel that I have reached my
native land again. O Paul, I have wearied sorely for you. Why
followed you not me to France, as we planned? Every day I looked
for tidings of you, and none came. But this meeting atones for
all."

It was the bright dawn of an Easter day, and Paul, after a night's
hard riding, stood within the precincts of the Abbey of Cerne, not
far from the seaport of Weymouth. His hands were closely grasped in
those of young Edward, who was looking into his face with beaming
eyes.

It was no longer the fugitive Edward of the winter months, but a
royally equipped and accoutred youth, upon whose noble face and
figure Paul's eyes dwelt with fond pride. Weary and tempestuous as
had been the voyage from France to England--a voyage that had
lasted seventeen days, in lieu of scarce so many hours--yet the
bright face of the Prince of Wales bore no signs of fatigue or
disappointment. The weary days of waiting were over. He and his
mother had come to share his father's royal state, and drive from
the shores--if he came--the bold usurper who had hitherto triumphed
in the strife of the Roses. His heart beat high with hope and lofty
purpose; and in joy at the eager welcomes poured upon him by the
friends and warriors who came flocking to his standard he forgot
all the doubts and fears of the past, and looked upon himself as
the saviour of his country, as indeed he was regarded by all his
party.

The old comrades and friends looked each other well over with
smiling glances, and it seemed as if Edward marked in Paul as much
change in the outward man as he had done in the prince.

"By my troth, Paul, fair fortune has smiled upon you since last we
met. And the gold spurs of knighthood too--nay, now, what means
that, good comrade? Were we not to have knelt side by side to
receive that honour? Have you outstripped me from the first?"

"Pardon, my dear lord," answered Paul, blushing and smiling; "I
would sooner have received the honour at your hands than at those
of any other. But I was summoned to London, so soon as my wounds
were healed, by the great earl; and your royal father himself gave
me audience, to ask news of you (for it became known that you had
visited the realm by stealth); and after I had told him all my
tale, he with his own hand bestowed that honour upon me. Then the
noble earl made over to me a fair manor in the west country, which
I have not yet visited, but which has put money once more into my
purse. And here am I, your grace's loyal servant, to ask no better
than to follow and fight for you until the crown is safely placed
upon your head."

And he bent the knee and pressed his lips upon the prince's hand.

But Edward raised him, and linked his arm within that of his old
companion, walking with him along the pleasant green pathway of the
Abbey mead, not content till he had heard every detail of that
which had befallen Paul, from the moment they had parted up till
the present, and listening with intense excitement to his account
of what had befallen him in the robbers' cave, and how he had
escaped from thence, and had been tended and protected at Figeon's
by the kindly and honest folks there.

"When I am king," said young Edward, with flashing eyes, "I will go
thither again, and reward them royally for all they have done for
you and me. I am glad they loved me still, Lancastrian though they
knew me at last to be. Oh, if they were willing to follow my
fortunes and own me as their king, methinks others will not be far
behind! And, God helping me, I will try to show them what manner of
man a king should be."

For it had been fully recognized upon all hands now that the
prince's father was absolutely incapable of more than the name of
king, and it was well known that the prince was to be the real
ruler, with the name of regent, and that it would be his hands or
his mother's that would sway the sceptre of power, should the
Lancastrian cause triumph in the struggle.

And no thought of aught but victory had as yet found place in young
Edward's heart. Was not the great invincible earl fighting on their
side? And had he not already placed Henry once more upon the
throne, not to be again deposed so long as he had a soldier left to
fight for him?

But Paul's heart was scarce so light, although the sight of the
prince awakened his loyal enthusiasm.

"O my lord, if you had but come sooner--had come before the proud
son of York had landed, and drawn to his standard a host of
powerful followers! I know not how it is, but his name is a magnet
that strangely stirs the hearts of men. Ere I left London I heard
that the rival armies were closely approaching each other, and that
the battle might not be much longer delayed. I knew not whether to
fly to welcome you, or to stay and draw the sword on your behalf,
and strive to be the one to bring to you the glorious news of
victory. I cannot think but what the great earl will again be
victorious; but the despatches he intrusted to me, with commands to
hasten westwards to try and meet you on your landing, will tell you
more of the chances of war than I can do. Men's mouths are full of
rumours. One knows not how to sift the false from the true. But the
men of London--ay, there is the peril--they all stand sullen when
we of the Red Rose pass by, and scarce a voice calls 'God save the
king.' If Edward of York were to succeed in reaching the city--"

"But he must not--he shall not--he cannot!" cried young Edward,
with flashing eyes. "What! shall the proud crest of my great
father-in-law stoop before the traitorous host of York? Fie on
thee, Paul! talk not to me of defeat. Nay, after we have heard the
holy mass of this glad Easter day, let us rather to horse and
away--you and I together, Paul, as we have done times before--and
let us not draw rein till we ride into the victorious camp of the
king my father, and hear the glad welcome we shall receive from his
brave host.

"O Paul, I have had my moments of doubt and desponding, but they
are all past now. I come to claim my kingdom, and to place a crown
upon the brow of my lovely bride. Ah, I must present you to her--my
gentle Lady Anne. I wot she will not be far off She will be seeking
for me, as is her fashion if we are long apart. She must thank you
herself for all that you have done and suffered for me. You will
feel yourself a thousandfold repaid when you have heard her sweet
words of recognition."

And in effect, as they turned once more toward the Abbey, Paul saw
approaching them the slight and graceful figure of a young girl, in
the first blush of maiden bloom and beauty, her face ethereally
lovely, yet tinged, as it seemed, with some haunting melancholy,
which gave a strange pathos to its rare beauty, and seemed almost
to speak of the doom of sorrow and loss already hanging over her,
little as she knew it then.

The solemn troth plight which had passed between her and young
Edward was almost equivalent to the marriage vow that would shortly
bind them indissolubly together, and their love for each other was
already that of man and wife. As the gentle lady listened to the
eager tale poured out by Paul, she stretched out her hand to him,
and when he would have bent the knee she raised him up with sweet
smiles, and told him how her dear lord had always praised him as a
very brother, and the type of all that was faithful and true in
comrade. Such words from such lips brought the boyish blush to
Paul's cheeks, and he stumbled bashfully over his undying
protestations of loyalty.

Then, as they reached the refectory, which had been allotted by the
monks to their noble guests, he stopped short and fell upon his
knees; for in a tall and stately figure advancing to meet them he
recognized the great queen he had not seen since he was a child,
and scarce dared to raise his eyes to note the ravages that sorrow
and care had made upon that princely visage, or the silver
whiteness of the locks, covered for the most part by the tall,
peaked headdress of the day.

The queen recognized Paul at once from the strange likeness to her
own son, and her welcome was kindly given. But she was anxious and
preoccupied, having but risen from the perusal of the despatches
Paul had brought; and although her natural courage and hopefulness
would not permit her to despond, she could not but admit that
danger menaced the cause of the Red Rose, whilst she realized, as
her young son could not do at his age, how utterly disastrous would
be a single victory of the enemy at such a juncture.

The fortunes of the rival houses were trembling in the balance. The
first decisive, advantage to either would give a prestige and
fillip to that cause which might be absolutely fatal to the hopes
of the other. If it were true that some battle were being fought or
about to be fought that very day, such a battle might be either the
death blow to all their hopes or the earnest of a final triumph
nigh at hand.

It was a strange Easter Day for the party at the Abbey. The mass
was quickly followed by the arrival of loyal adherents from the
surrounding country, who had heard of the landing of the
long-expected party from France, and flocked eagerly to pay their
homage to the queen and the prince, and look upon the fair face of
the Lady Anne, whose position as Warwick's daughter and Edward's
bride alike made her an object of the greatest interest and a
person of importance. Paul was deeply enamoured of the gentle and
lovely lady, and received many marks of favour from her hands. He
was given a post about the young prince, and kept close at his side
the whole day.

It was inspiriting indeed to hear the loyal protestations of the
friends who kept flocking all day to join their standard, and there
was no riding forth to London for prince or attendant so long as
the light lasted.

"But tomorrow morn we will sally forth ere it well be day," said
Edward, in low tones, as they parted for the night. "My heart tells
me that something of note has occurred this very day. We will be
the first to bring the news to my mother. Be ready with a couple of
horses and some few men-at-arms ere the sun be well risen over yon
ridge, and we will forth to meet the messengers of victory, and
bring them back with us to tell their welcome news."

Paul had forgotten his vague fears in the gladness of the present,
and scarce closed his eyes that night, thinking of the coming
triumph for the prince he loyally loved. He was up and in the
saddle with the first glimmering light of day, and by the time that
the rosy glow of dawn was transforming the fair world of nature and
clothing it with an indescribable radiance of gossamer beauty, he
and the prince were already a mile from the Abbey, galloping along
in the fresh morning air with a glad exultation of spirit that
seemed in itself like a herald of coming triumph.

"The very heavens have put on the livery of the Red Rose!" cried
Edward gaily, as he pointed to the vivid red of the east; and Paul
smiled, and tried to banish from his mind the old adage learned at
his nurse's knee, to the effect that a red morn was the herald of a
dark and dreary day.

They had ridden a matter of some five miles forth in the direction
of the great road to London--as it was then considered, though we
should scarce call the rude tracks of those days roads--when the
quick eye of Paul caught sight of a little moving cloud of dust,
and he drew rein to shade his eyes with his hand.

Edward followed his example, and together they stood gazing, their
hearts beating with sympathetic excitement. How much might the next
few moments contain for them of triumph or of despair! for from the
haste with which these horsemen rode, it was plain they were the
bearers of tidings, and if of tidings, most likely those of some
battle, in which the King Maker and the king he had first made and
then driven away would stand for the first time in hostile ranks.
Together they had been victorious; what would be the result when
they met as foes?

Nearer and nearer came the riders, looming through the uncertain
morning mist, and emerging thence two jaded, weary figures, their
horses flecked with foam, nostrils wide, chests heaving, showing
every sign of distress; and Paul, recognizing in one of the riders
a follower of the Earl of Warwick, called upon him by name, and bid
him speak his tidings.

"Lost--lost--all lost!" cried the man, addressing himself to Paul,
unconscious of the identity of his companion; "the battle is fought
and lost. The armies met on Barnet Heath. The Earl of Warwick, the
great earl, was there slain. His Majesty King Henry is again a
prisoner in the hands of Edward of York. Today he makes his
triumphant entry into London, which will open its gates to him with
joy and receive him as king."

Paul sat rigid and motionless as he heard these words. He did not
dare to look at young Edward, who sat beside him as if turned to
stone. The second messenger, who had had a moment to draw breath
whilst his fellow had been speaking, now broke in with his share of
the terrible news. He had seen the prodigies of valour performed by
the mighty earl. He had witnessed the death of that warrior--such a
death as was fitting for one of his warlike race. The testimony of
eyewitnesses could not be doubted. The fatal day had again been
hostile to the cause of the Red Rose, and the mournful cry of those
who had seen and shared in the fight, as they fled pellmell from
the field, had been, "Lost--all lost! the House of Lancaster is
utterly overthrown!"

Mournfully the little procession turned itself and rode back to the
Abbey. Edward had not spoken one word all this time, and the
messengers, who had now learned who he was, fell to the rear, and
observed an awed silence. But their tale had been told. They had
said enough. The worst was made known, and not even Paul dared
venture a word of consolation, or seek to know what was passing in
the mind of the prince, whose fair inheritance seemed thus to be
slipping away.

Excitement, uncertainty, and suspense seemed in the very air, and
even before the silent little troop reached the courtyard of the
Abbey eager forms were seen hurrying out, and the tall and stately
figure of the royal Margaret stood outlined in the doorway. Perhaps
something in the very silence and confused looks of the little
group told a tale of disaster, for the queen came hurrying down the
steps with whitening face, and her son sprang from his saddle and
put his arm about her, as if to support her in the shock which
could not but fall upon her now.

"Tell me all," she whispered hoarsely. "Do not keep me in suspense.
Speak, I command you, my son."

"A battle has been fought--and lost," answered Edward, speaking
mechanically. "Our ally and friend the Earl of Warwick was killed
in desperate fight. My father is a prisoner in the enemy's hands.
Edward of York is even now making his triumphant entry into London,
which will receive him with open arms."

Edward said no more; he had indeed told all his tale, and it had
been enough for the unhappy woman, who had landed on English soil
so confident of victory. She gave one short, low cry, a convulsive
shudder passed through her limbs, and she fell senseless to the
ground. That cry found its echo upon the pale lips of another--one
who had closely followed the queen to learn the tidings of the
travellers; and Edward turned to catch his bride in his arms,
whilst her tears rained down fast as she heard how her noble father
lay dead upon the fatal field that had lost her lord his crown, and
had dashed to the ground the warmest hopes of the Red Rose.

"Let us to ship again," said Margaret, as she recovered from her
long swoon. "The cause is lost without hope. Warwick is slain. Whom
have we now to trust to? Let us back to France, and hide our
dishonoured heads there. My father's court will receive us yet, and
perchance we may in time learn to forget that we were ever princes
and sovereigns."

Strange words, indeed, from the haughty and warlike Margaret; but
at that moment her proud spirit seemed crushed and broken, and it
was young Edward who answered her with words of hope and courage.

"Nay, mother," he said, "let it not be said of the House of
Plantagenet that they turned their backs upon the foe, and fled
disgracefully, leaving their followers to butchery and ruin. It
might have been well for us never to have disturbed again the peace
of this realm; but having summoned to our banner the loyal
adherents of the Red Rose, it is not for us to fly to safety, and
leave them to the wrath and cruelty of Edward. No; one battle--one
defeat--does not lose us our cause. My father lives; shall we leave
him to linger out his days in hopeless captivity? I live; have I
not the right to strike a blow for the crown to which I was born?

"Courage, sweet mother. You are a king's daughter. You have led men
to victory before. Say not--think not--that all is lost. Let us win
the crown of England by the power of the name and of the righteous
cause we own, and henceforth shall no man say that a subject crowns
and dethrones England's monarch at his will."

These words, seconded and echoed by those of many a gallant knight
and noble, raised Margaret's broken spirit, and she began once more
to hope. That day they journeyed by rapid stages to Beaulieu Abbey,
a very famous sanctuary in those days, the ruins of which may still
be seen in the New Forest; and there the party found the widowed
Countess of Warwick, who had landed at Portsmouth before the royal
party had reached Weymouth, and had just heard of her terrible
loss. To have her daughter with her once again, and to mingle their
tears together, was some consolation, both for the countess and the
Lady Anne; but others had sterner work before them than weeping
over past misfortunes, and as soon as the retreat of the royal
Lancastrian became generally known, many stanch adherents flocked
to tender their allegiance and promise fealty to the cause.

Foremost amongst these was the young Duke of Somerset, whose family
had ever been stanch to the Red Rose, as well it might. Some of the
unpopularity Margaret of Anjou had early won for herself at the
English court was due to her confidence in and affection for
Somerset, and his son might well be ardent in her cause.

Margaret herself was still sunk in unwonted depression, but the
representations of the fiery young duke did much to give her heart.
With him came Jasper Tudor, the king's half brother, and they drew
glowing pictures of the loyalty of the western counties; and of
Wales, where a large band of troops was mustering for her support;
and represented that if she could but effect a junction with them,
the whole country would soon be hers, and she would be able to
dictate terms to the enemy at the gates of London.

Margaret's elastic temper rose with the encouragement thus
received, and Edward's heart beat high with hope. The party began
their westward march, and through the bright days of April and May
they rode through the smiling land, receiving welcome and adulation
from all, and reinforcements to their little band from every town
through which they passed. Small wonder was it that they learned to
feel confident of ultimate success. The young prince, with Paul at
his side, would ride through the ranks of his followers day by day,
speaking bright, brave words to all he passed, and winning the
hearts of his troops as perhaps only the young and frank-hearted
and unspoiled can do. To him it seemed almost more like a triumphal
progress than a recruiting march.

But Margaret's brow was often dark with anxiety. She knew the
temper of the bold Edward of York, as she called him, whom the
world still spoke of as king; and she knew that he would be upon
their track. Any day they might see his banners threatening their
rear, and still the Welsh army was at some distance; and until a
junction could be effected, even their lives could scarce be called
safe.

Then at Gloucester a serious check met them. The place was held for
the king's brother, and the gates were resolutely closed against
her. It was here that she had reckoned upon crossing the deep and
treacherous waters of the Severn, and to be thus foiled might mean
the ruin of the enterprise. The sheltering mountains of Wales were
already in sight; but how was she to reach them if the passage of
the river were denied her?

Paul had gone forth alone that day, and had not been present when
the queen had ridden herself to the fortified gates to demand an
entrance, which had been firmly and respectfully declined her. But
he had learned tidings which disquieted him not a little, and it
was at full gallop that he dashed back into the ranks, and sought
the prince himself, who was looking with darkening brow upon the
frowning battlements of the unfriendly city.

"My liege, it brooks not this delay," he cried, reining up beside
Edward, and speaking in rapid whispers. "The army of York is scarce
a score of miles away, and in hot pursuit after us. They have had
certain news of our movements, and unless we can push on across the
river and meet our friends there, we shall be taken in the rear,
and at sore disadvantage. It behoves us to strain every nerve to
reach our friends before our foes are upon us."

"I doubt not that," answered Edward calmly, yet with a look which
Paul did not understand; "but the wide river runs before us, and
the bridge is barred to us. Unless we reduce first this noble city,
we must turn and face the foe and fight him at sore odds."

A look of dismay crossed Paul's face as he heard this piece of
news, and he silently followed the prince at his bidding to the
spot where the leading nobles and generals were gathered together
in warm debate. The news that Edward was just upon them ran like
wildfire through the ranks, and all the most experienced leaders,
including the royal Margaret herself, were of opinion that it would
be better not to run the risk of a battle, but retire rapidly and
stealthily from their present position, and not encounter the onset
of Edward's veteran troops, flushed with victory and thirsting for
blood, until their hardy mountain allies had contrived to join
them.

But there is something revolting to young and ardent spirits in the
thought of flight, and the Duke of Somerset was eager for the fray.
He argued that an easy victory must be theirs if they did but act
boldly and hastened to the attack. To fly were fatal; their troops
would become disheartened and melt away. Their foes would openly
triumph, and all men would be drawn to them. Edward's soldiers,
weary with long marching, would be taken by surprise. It were a
thousand times better to risk the fight than to play the coward at
so critical a juncture.

And these impetuous words carried the younger spirits along with
them. The prince drew his sword, and riding through the ranks,
asked if the soldiers would choose to fight or fly. There could
scarce be more than one reply to such an appeal so made. They drew
their swords and vowed to live or die with him, and the enthusiasm
of the moment was such that all were carried away; and orders were
instantly given for a march upon Tewkesbury, where it was thought
a spot might be found which would give them advantages for the
coming struggle.

The troops had had a long march earlier in the day, but they
traversed the ten miles which lay between them and Tewkesbury with
cheerful alacrity. Paul and the prince rode side by side in the van
of the advancing host, and Edward looked straight before him with
glowing eyes, as if he felt that a crisis of his fate were at hand.

"At last, my good Paul, we are riding forth to try conclusions with
the world, as we have purposed so long to do," he said, with a
strange, flashing smile. "In faith I am glad that the hour of
action is come. Ere another sun is set some blow shall have been
struck which shall set the crown of England upon some one head more
firmly than ever it has been set before. God grant the cause of
right may triumph! But whichever way the conflict goes, I pray that
this distracted land may find peace and rest, and that I may be
either a victor in the strife, or may find a soldier's grave. Paul,
will you give me your promise, trusty comrade, that ere I fall
alive into the hand of the foe, you will bury your knightly sword
in my heart yourself? It were the part of a true brother to save me
from the fate of my patient father. He has borne dethronement and
captivity; but methinks I should pine and die, and I would far
rather--"

He gave Paul an expressive glance; but the young knight answered
gravely and steadfastly:

"My liege, ask me not that beyond my power to grant. We may not
without sin raise our hands against the Lord's anointed, and I may
not do the thing you ask. Death or captivity I will gladly share
with you, or spend every drop of my blood to save you; but more
than this no loyal knight may promise. Forgive me, my liege, if I
offend in this."

But Edward held out his mailed hand with his own bright, sweet
smile, grasping that of Paul, which he held in his own as he spoke.

"You are in the right, Paul, you are in the right. Perchance it
were a coward thought; for should not a prince be ready for any
blow of adverse fortune? But ride you into the battle beside me.
Let us fight side by side, even as we have always hoped to do. I
would that you were in very truth my brother, as in love you have
long been. And if I fall whilst you escape, be it your office to
break the tidings to my mother and my gentle Anne; for methinks,
were it told them suddenly or untenderly, their hearts would break
with the sorrow."

Paul gave this pledge willingly, though it scarce seemed possible
to him that he should live to carry such tidings, seeing he would
die a thousand deaths to save his prince from the foeman's steel.
And then, with grave faces but brave hearts and unclouded brows,
the comrades rode side by side into the town of Tewkesbury, whilst
the army intrenched itself on the summit of a small eminence called
the Home Ground, not half a mile away.

Already the rival army was mustering, and the Yorkist troops
occupied the sloping ground to the south, that went by the name of
the Red Piece. The Lancastrians had the best of the situation, as
they were established amongst trenches and ditches, partly real and
partly artificial; which would render any attack by the enemy
difficult and dangerous.

"I trow it would be hard to drive from this ground these brave men
thus posted," said Edward to Paul, as the two rode round the camp
at the close of the day. "They have only to stand firm and hold
their position, and all will be well. Oh that the night were past,
and that a new day had come! I would I could see the end of this
struggle. I would the veil of the future might be for one moment
lifted."

But the future keeps its secrets well--well for us it is so--and
the youthful and high-spirited young prince saw not the black cloud
hanging already upon him. The soldiers greeted him with cheers and
blessings; the generals bent the knee to him, and vowed to die to
win him back his crown. The light of the setting sun illumined the
field so soon to be red with human blood, and the vesper bell from
the church hard by rang out its peaceful summons.

Edward looked round him, and laid his hand affectionately on Paul's
shoulder.

"This is a fair earth," he said dreamily. "I wonder what the world
beyond will be like, for those who leave this behind, as so many
will do tomorrow."

Paul spoke not a word, but returned the look with one infinitely
loving, and together the two rode back to the town.



Chapter 9: The Tragedy Of Tewkesbury


How the battle of Tewkesbury was lost and won is too well known to
need description in detail here. Whether the Lancastrian army could
have held the field before the Yorkist veterans had they been
skilfully generalled will never now be known; but the fiery and
impetuous Duke of Somerset, whose ill-judged ardour had forced the
battle upon his followers, undoubtedly lost the day for them by his
intemperate and reckless disregard of the dictates of common
prudence. After opening the fight by a discharge of ordnance, he
was mad enough to leave his intrenched position on the Home Ground,
and carry his men into the open for a charge upon the opposing
army. Here they were not only confronted by Edward's compact army,
but were taken in the flank and rear by a company of spearmen who
had been told off to guard against a possible ambush in a little
wood; which, however, the hot-headed Somerset had never thought to
place.

Thrown into confusion, the Lancastrians were routed, and confusion
was rendered worse confounded by another impetuous act on the part
of the fiery young duke. As he and his flying soldiers fell back
upon the town of Tewkesbury, and reached the market place, they
found Lord Wenlock and his men sitting idle and motionless there,
as if there was no work for them to do.

The reason for this extraordinary apathy on the part of one of the
leaders will never now be known. It was the curse of the strife of
the Roses that treachery and a change of sides was always
suspected, and too often with good cause, between men who had been
friends and allies heretofore. The Duke of Somerset at once
concluded that Lord Wenlock had turned traitor to the cause, and
riding furiously up to him as he sat, he dashed out his brains with
his battle-axe, without so much as pausing to ask a single
question.

The followers of both leaders who saw the deed were struck with new
terror. With loud cries of "Treason, treason!" they threw down
their arms and fled they knew not whither, and the retreat became a
confused rout, in which the thought of each man was to save his own
life.

Such, in brief, was the deplorable story of the battle of
Tewkesbury. But we are concerned less with the main course of the
fortunes of the day than with the individual adventures of certain
persons concerned, who, if isolated acts of gallantry and devotion
could have saved the day, would have turned the fortunes of even
the fatal field of Tewkesbury.

The prince was stationed in the main body of the army, under the
care, as was supposed by his anxious mother, of the military Prior
of St. John's Longstruther. And by his side was his faithful
shadow, Paul, whose solemn purpose that day was to keep beside the
prince throughout the course of the battle, and shield him from
harm even at the cost of his own life. Some strange foreboding had
fallen upon Paul, and he scarce expected to see the light of
another day; but this presentiment of coming ill he bravely hid
from his companion, and the two rode into the ranks with smiling
faces, and looked across at the opposing lines of the enemy with a
steadfast and lofty courage. Then the prince turned to his
companion.

"Our first battle, good Paul; for though as a child I saw fighting,
I never took part in it before. I am glad that we ride side by side
this day. Let us show our loyal people, whatever be the fortunes of
the field, that Englishmen can strike hard blows, and that they
never turn their backs upon the foe. If we ride not to victory,
Paul, let us ride to death with a courage that shall not disgrace
the kingly blood that both of us can boast in some measure."

Then they looked to their weapons, and sat very silent, waiting
what would befall.

Perhaps those that take part in a fierce fight know less about the
details than any others. Paul was presently aware that he and the
men about him, the prince still at his side, were charging down the
little eminence upon which they had been posted, straight at the
serried ranks of the Yorkist army, which kept its position, and
awaited their coming with cool intrepidity. Paul had not time to
think or reason, or he would surely have wondered at the rashness
of quitting an advantageous position, and putting themselves to
such disadvantage before the foe. All he knew was that the duke's
company had moved first, and had charged upon the enemy, and that
their military monk had given the word to follow and support their
friends; which was done without a moment's hesitation, whether the
movement were, strategically speaking, right or wrong.

And then, all in a moment as it seemed, the prince and his comrade
found themselves in a fierce melee, in which for a while they could
scarce move hand or foot, jammed in by the press of men and steeds,
but surrounded by friends and comrades, who were eagerly pressing
forward toward the foe. Cries and shouts rent the air, mingled
sometimes with the shriek or groan which told that a well-directed
blow had gone home to its mark. The press became denser, and then
less dense; some riderless horses from the front rank came tearing
back through the crush, forcing their way in a sort of mad terror;
and Edward, snatching his battle-axe from its resting place across
his saddle bow, swung it over his head, and shouted to his
companion:

"Follow me, Paul! yonder lies the foe. I will strike a blow for my
father's liberty and crown this day, whether I live or die."

The way was open now, and Paul saw plainly that they were close to
the ranks of the foe. But there was no drawing back, even had he
wished it; his blood was up now, and not even fear for the possible
peril of the prince could withhold him from the charge. He knew not
whether the person of the prince was known, and whether young
Edward ran any especial danger in thus flinging himself upon the
enemy. But it was no longer his place to think--the moment for
action had arrived; and following Edward's example, he dashed into
the thick of the fray, the impetuosity and fury of his charge
bearing down all before him, and hewing down man and horse as he
clave a passage through the ranks for the prince, who closely
followed.

They were not alone. A gallant little company was following in
their track, and with cries of "An Edward, an Edward, a Prince of
Wales!" smote down the rival warriors with a fury which for the
moment nothing could withstand. There is surely something magnetic
in a war cry or in a patriotic song, for it inspires those who use
it with an ardour and a strength which for the moment seem
invincible.

To Paul and the prince it seemed as if the day were all but won.
Wherever they turned they dealt death and destruction. The wing of
the army upon which they charged was wavering and disorganized; the
infantry recoiled before the fierce charge of the horsemen, and the
opposing cavalry was mostly in another part of the field.

"Victory, victory!" shouted those about Paul and the prince; and to
the enthusiastic and excited lads it seemed as if the day was
already theirs. The name of the Prince of Wales was in all mouths.
It was shouted by each soldier as he fell upon his foe, and the
enemy appeared to recoil before it. Onward and ever onward pressed
the eager little band, until it was entirely separated from the
main body of the army; and so certain were all who took part in
that isolated skirmish that the fortunes of the day were with the
House of Lancaster, that the peril of their position struck none of
the prince's followers till, thinned by the blows of their
adversaries, and weary with the impetuosity of their own charge,
they paused and drew together; whilst the foe, glad of a moment's
breathing space, did not molest them.

There are pauses even on the battlefield when a few words can be
exchanged, and the prince, flushed with the foretaste (as it seemed
to him) of a glorious victory, turned to Paul with kindling eyes.

"War is a glorious game in all truth, Paul. I would not have been
elsewhere for all the world. But you bleed--you are wounded. Tell
me where. I knew not that you were hurt. You must ride back to the
town and be tended there."

"Nay, it is nought; I do not even feel it. I know not who struck
me, nor when. I will bind this scarf about my arm, and all will be
well. And think you not, my liege, that it were well to return to
the lines ourselves? I promised your royal mother and the Lady Anne
that you should not adventure yourself too much today within the
enemy's lines. But all such charge passed from my memory in the
heat of the fight."

"Ay, and my place was here, in the midst of my good soldiers. Oh,
it has been a glorious day! 'Lancaster will remember it ever. And
see, Paul--see how they fly on yonder height! See how the battle
rages and becomes a flight! It is the same everywhere. The Red Rose
triumphs. Proud York is forced to fly. Shall we join them, and lead
again to victory? They are chasing them to the very walls of the
town."

Paul looked in the direction indicated, and a change came over his
face. He had the wonderful long, keen sight which often comes to
those who have grown up in the open air, and have been used from
childhood to the exercise of hunting and hawking. The prince saw
only the flying rout, which he concluded to be the soldiers of
York; but Paul could distinguish more. He could see the colours,
and the badges they wore, and he recognized with a sinking heart
the terrible fact that it was the followers of the Red Rose who
were flying before the mailed warriors of Edward of York.

The change in his countenance did not escape young Edward's keen
eye, and he at once divined the cause, The bright flush faded from
his own face, and his gaze was turned in the same direction again.

Alas! it was but too plain now; for the rout was plainly in the
direction of the town, and it was easy to understand that had it
been the Yorkists who had fled they would have taken an opposite
direction, in order to reach their own lines.

For a moment prince and subject sat spellbound, watching that
terrible sight in deep silence. But then the peril of their own
position, and the deadly danger that menaced the prince if the
situation should be realized by their foes surrounding them here,
flashed across Paul like a vivid and terrible lightning gleam.

He turned and laid his hand upon the shoulder of the prince.

"My liege," he said, "we may not linger here. We must regain our
comrades, and see if we may rally them yet. All may not be lost,
but it were madness to remain here. Let me call our followers
together, and we will charge back through the foe to our own lines.
It is not safe to be here."

Edward made no reply. The face that had been flushed with victory
and bright with hope was now set in those stern lines which seem to
speak of a forlorn hope. He saw their peril as clearly as Paul; but
if the day were lost, what mattered it if his life were yet whole
in him? The face he silently turned upon his companion seemed to
have grown years older whilst he had been speaking.

And to make matters worse, the knowledge of the disaster to their
own side spread to the soldiers who had followed the prince, and
that instant demoralization which so often accompanies and
aggravates defeat seized upon the men. They flung away their
heavier arms, and with a shout of "Treason, treason!"--for they
were assured there had been foul play somewhere--fled each man by
himself, without a thought for aught save his own life.

Paul and the prince thus found themselves alone in the midst of a
hostile host--alone save for the presence of some half-dozen stout
troopers attached to the service of Paul, who since his advance in
worldly prosperity had been in a position to engage and retain the
services of some men-at-arms of his own. These faithful fellows,
who had learned to love their young master, sat doggedly in their
saddles, prepared to sell their lives dear, and to carry off if
possible their master and the prince living from the field. But
they, too, realized how desperate was the situation; and the
threatening and triumphant glances of their enemies, who now began
to close up round them, showed that others had realized that the
battle was already won by the Yorkist faction.

"King Edward, King Edward!" shouted the fierce soldiers as they
grasped their weapons anew. "Down with the Red Rose! Down with all
false princes! Down with the traitors who would disturb the peace
of the land! King Edward, King Edward!"

The prince looked at Paul, and Paul looked at the prince. The same
thought was in the minds of both.

"We will at least sell our lives dear," said young Edward in low
tones. "My trusty comrade, your loyalty to the Red Rose has been
but a sorry thing for you. I would I could have rewarded you with
such honours as a prince has to give; but--"

"It is honour enough for me, my liege, to die at your side--to die,
if it may be, in saving your life," said Paul. "Talk not so, I
beseech you. The happiness of my life has been in calling myself
your servant. It will be a happy death that is died at your side."

"Not servant--comrade, friend, brother," said Ed ward, holding out
his hand once again, with a look that Paul never forgot. "No more,
Paul. I must play the man; and such words go deep, and bring the
tears to mine eyes. Paul, there are strange chances in battle, and
it may be that you will live through it, and that I may be slain:
If such be so, tell my mother and my wife (for she is that to me,
as I am her husband in love) that I died as a prince of the House
of Plantagenet should do--sword in hand and face to the foe. Tell
my mother that such a death is better than an inglorious life of
exile, and bid her not weep for me. There is yet another world than
this in which we shall meet, where the strife of war is not heard
and the malice of foes pursues us not. Let her look forward to our
meeting there. It were a better prospect, in all truth, than an
earthly crown, which methinks sits heavy on the head of him that
wears it."

Paul said nothing, for he could not trust himself to speak, and
indeed the brief respite was at an end. With loud and threatening
cries the foe was closing round the devoted little band, and from
the other side of the field he could see that a knot of horsemen
were galloping in their direction, as though they had got some news
of the presence of the prince.

Wounded as he was, and spent from having borne the brunt of that
first gallant charge, Paul yet set his teeth and nerved himself for
a last desperate rally. If they could cut their way through the
ranks of the foes and gain the town, they might be safe at least
for the moment; and that was the object of himself and his
servants. Placing the reluctant prince in the midst, so as if
possible to save at least him from steel or lead, the gallant
little band with axes and pikes commenced hewing its way through
the living wall which surrounded it. And so gallantly did the good
steeds respond to the urging of their riders, and so fierce were
the blows that rained down upon the heads of the footmen who barred
their passage, that for a moment it seemed as if they would yet win
their way back, and gain the protection of such of their comrades
as had not shared in the general rout.

But alas! though the footmen gave way before them, the mounted
soldiers, who were speeding across the field, saw at once the line
they were taking, and galloped headlong to intercept them. Paul, in
the fury of his hot young blood, dashed forward alone, and fell
upon the foremost with so fierce a blow that his axe was wedged in
the head-piece of his opponent, so that he was unable to draw it
out. The man reeled in his saddle and fell, almost dragging Paul,
who still had hold of the axe, with him; and before he could
recover himself or draw his sword, he was set upon by half a score
mounted riders.

For one moment he was aware of merciless blows raining down upon
him, battering him to the earth; he felt suffocated, crushed, more
utterly helpless and powerless than he had ever done in his life
before. Quick thrills of pain were running through him, stars
danced before his eyes; and through all this confusion and
distress he was yet aware of some terrible danger menacing the
prince--danger from which he had sworn to save him at the risk of
his own life. He struggled fiercely and blindly with the foes who
seemed to be above and about him, knocking the wind from his body,
and holding his throat in an iron clasp. Consciousness was fast
deserting him. The dancing stars had disappeared, leaving the
blackest darkness behind them. He made one frantic effort to break
the chain which seemed to be grinding his very life out of him, and
then followed a space of blankness that must surely have been like
death itself.

It might have been minutes, hours, days, or even years before
Paul opened his eyes to the light of day once more, for all
consciousness he had of the flight of time; but when he did so it
was to meet the solicitous glance of a pair of friendly eyes, and
to feel himself supported by strong arms, whilst some potent spirit
was held to his lips, which, when he had drunk of it, seemed to
drive away the mists and give him back his senses again.

He looked round him, and found himself lying upon a bloody field,
dead and wounded strewn about him. He was upheld by the arm of one
of his own stout servants; and no one else save a few wounded men
or dead corpses was near. In a flash it all came back--the fight,
the supposed victory, the disastrous defeat; and he groaned aloud,
and struggled to regain his feet.

"The prince!" he cried, in tones sharpened by physical and mental
anguish, "the prince!--where is he?"

"He is a prisoner; but he is unhurt. A gallant knight took him. His
name, I learned from one of his men-at-arms, is Sir Richard Crofts;
and he called out to his men, after you were down, that he would
have no hurt done to the prince. He was to be taken prisoner and
brought to the king--so he called him; and he had given out by
proclamation that whoever brought to him the prince, alive or dead,
should have a hundred pounds a year; and that the life of the
prince should be spared. This I learned from the man-at-arms who
stayed behind with me a while, to bind up a wound you had given
him, and to help me to unlace your helmet, which was going nigh to
choke you as you lay.

"Fear not for the prince, good master. His life is safe; and
doubtless his noble aspect will win him favour with him they now
call king.

"Nay, why do you struggle with me? you can scarce stand yet.
Whither would you go? Let me catch some riderless steed and carry
you to the town. Methinks the leaders have taken sanctuary with the
queen in the church. You had better join them there."

"Ay, get me a horse," said Paul, with faint but vehement command;
and he leaned heavily upon his sword as his servant departed to do
his bidding.

Battered, sore wounded as he felt himself to be, instinct told him
that he could act now as it would be impossible to do later, when
his wounds began to stiffen and his muscles to refuse to obey his
will. No bones were broken. He could still keep his feet and use
his arms; and when the faithful servant brought up a horse and
helped his master to mount, Paul felt that giddy and weak and
suffering as he was, he could yet make shift to ride as far as it
would be needful to do. The royal pennon floating over a certain
tent not so very far away told him that his goal might yet be
reached before his strength deserted him. The fiery spirit of which
he again partook gave him temporary power. He scarce knew what he
wished to do, save that he must stand beside his prince when he was
brought to Edward's presence, and if harm befell him there, share
it with him, as he had shared his peril that fatal day.

"Save yourself, good Adam," he said to his servant when he was once
mounted; "I am going to follow the prince. But come not near the
enemy's lines yourself, lest mischief befall you."

And before the astonished servant could speak a word of
remonstrance, Paul had set spurs to his horse and had galloped off
in the direction of the enemy's camp.

Within the lines there was the confusion incident to a battle, and
no one heeded the battered rider, who, his helmet left behind and
his mail dinted and disfigured by the hard blows it had received,
had nothing about him to show to which army he belonged. Soldiers
were leaning on their swords and eagerly discussing the fortunes of
the day; and round and about Edward's royal tent a dense crowd had
gathered, out of curiosity, it was said--and Paul heard the
words--to see what manner of reception would be met at the
monarch's hands by the youthful Edward, called "Prince," who had
been brought into the lines by Sir Richard Crofts.

The proclamation respecting him was widely known throughout the
camp, and it was said on all hands that the life of the prince
would be safe; but whether he would share his father's captivity or
be banished the kingdom with his French mother were points no one
could answer.

And Paul rode silently and swiftly by, glad that no one heeded him
or challenged him to give an account of himself.

Dismounting at last as he reached the outskirts of the crowd, and
turning his horse loose to find its own master if it could, Paul
was about to push his way into the eager knot of spectators, when a
hand was laid upon his arm; and turning suddenly, he found himself
confronted by a delicate page boy, whose white face and dilated
eyes seemed to bespeak the extreme of emotion and distress. Before
he had time to speak or to ask a question, the page addressed him;
and as soon as the voice smote upon his ears Paul started and
turned even paler than he had been; for he had heard those musical
tones before, and in the fair page before him he recognized, to his
horror and dismay, the gentle Lady Anne--young Edward's
bride--here, alone and unprotected, in the heart of the foe's camp.

She saw that she was recognized, and laid her hand upon her lips in
token of silence. Paul choked back the words that were upon his
tongue, and looked at her in mute amaze.

"I could not keep away," she whispered, "when they told me all was
lost and he had not returned. It was the only way. No one has
heeded me in the tumult and strife. I heard all. I heard he was
prisoner--that he was to be brought before Edward of York. Paul, I
knew that you would be near him. I knew, if living, I should find
you. See, they heed us not. They care not whether we be friends or
foes. Take me through the crowd; take me to him. I am safe with
you. Let us all die together."

Paul, utterly bewildered and astonished by this extraordinary
meeting, could only obey in silence. It was all like some hideous,
oppressive dream. Little by little he and his companion made their
way through the throng until they reached the line of armed
sentries who kept their stations outside the royal tent. Here they
would have had to pause, had not Paul made a step forward and said
boldly:

"I am the servant squire of the prisoner, and I claim the right to
stand at his side and share his fate, whatever it may be. Let me
and this lad, I pray you, go to him. We desire nothing better than
to lay down our lives with him."

The sentries eyed the pair doubtfully. Their unarmed condition and
Paul's visibly battered state told that these were no dangerous
conspirators; and devotion to a lost cause always stirs the
generous feelings of brave men. It may, however, be doubted whether
the pair would have gained their wish had it not been for the fact
that at this moment Edward himself appeared, disarmed, but
otherwise treated with due honour and courtesy, attended by his
captor, who was leading him to the king's tent in obedience to a
summons just received.

The moment that she saw her betrothed husband, no power on earth
would have been strong enough to hold back the fair-faced page,
under whose boyish dress a faithful woman's heart was beating. The
disguised maiden sprang forward and sank at the feet of her
supposed master, seizing his hand and covering it with kisses as
she tenderly murmured his name.

Edward instantly recognized her--Paul saw that at once; but the
shock of the discovery steadied his nerves, as he realized the
peril in which she had placed herself, and he looked round for one
who might save her when he himself might be powerless to do so. It
was at that moment--as the crowd stood speechless, touched and
perplexed by the little scene, and reluctant to rough-handle so
fair a boy, and one whose devotion was so bravely displayed--that
Paul took occasion to step forward and present himself before
Edward.

A look of relief instantly crossed the prince's face.

"I might have known that you would have been here--ever nearest in
the hour of deadliest peril. Paul, whatever befalls me, take care
of him." Low as the words were spoken, the prince dared not use the
other pronoun. "Keep him safe. Take him to my mother; she will
protect him from the menaced peril."

"I will, my liege, I will," said Paul; and it was he who raised the
form of the trembling page, and together the three were pushed not
ungently into the royal presence--Sir Richard being a man of kindly
nature, and having been touched by the devotion evinced by these
two youths (as he supposed them) in braving the dangers of the camp
in order to be with their prince when he was called upon to answer
for his life before the offended monarch.

Edward was standing in his tent, surrounded by his nobles,
brothers, and his wife's kinsmen, as the young Plantagenet prince
was brought before him. Perhaps England hardly possessed a finer
man than its present king, who was taller by the head than almost
any of those who stood round him, his dress of mail adding to the
dignity of his mien, and his handsome but deeply-lined features,
now set in stern displeasure, showing at once the indications of an
unusual beauty and a proud and relentless nature.

The youthful Edward was brought a few paces forward by the
attendants; whilst Paul stood in the background, longing to be
beside his prince, but obliged to support the trembling form of
Anne, who had been his liege's last charge to him.

"Is this the stripling they falsely call the Prince of Wales?"
quoth Edward, stepping one pace nearer and regarding the noble lad
with haughty displeasure. "How dost thou dare to come thus
presumptuously to my realms with banners displayed against me?"

"To recover my father's kingdom and mine own inheritance," was the
bold but unhesitating answer of the kingly youth, who, fettered and
prisoner as he was, had all the fearless Plantagenet blood running
in his veins.

The eagle eye of Edward flashed ominously, and making one more step
toward his unarmed prisoner, he struck him in the face with his
iron gauntlet. In a moment a dozen swords flashed from their
scabbards. It seemed as if the bloodthirsty nobles awaited but this
signal for the ruthless attack upon the deposed monarch's son which
has left so dark a stain upon one page of history.

Paul, all unarmed as he was, would have sprung forward to die with
his prince, but was impeded by the senseless burden now lying a
dead weight in his arms. At the king's blow the page had uttered a
faint cry; and as the first of those murderous weapons were plunged
in the breast of her youthful lover, she fell to the earth like a
stone, or would have done, but that Paul flung his arm about her,
and she lay senseless on his breast.

For one awful moment the blackness returned upon him and swallowed
him up, and he knew not what terrible thing had happened; but when
a loud voice proclaimed the fact that the prince had ceased to
live, a wild fury fell upon Paul, and he started to his feet to
revenge that death by plunging his dagger into the breast of the
haughty monarch as he stood there, calm and smiling, in his
terrible wrath and power.

Had Paul attempted to carry out this wild act, a fateful murder
would have been enacted in the tent that day; but even as he
released himself from the clinging clasp of Anne's unconscious
arms, there came to him the memory of those last words spoken by
his beloved prince. The young bride must be his first care. She
must be carried to safe sanctuary; that done, he would stand forth
to revenge his lord's death. But the prince's charge must be
fulfilled.

Lifting the unconscious form in his arms, he walked unchallenged
from the tent. The deed now done sent a thrill of horror through
the camp, and men looked into each other's eyes, and were ashamed
that they had stood by to see it.

Not an attempt was made to oppose the passage of the faithful
attendant, who carried in his arms the page boy, who had stood by
his master to the last. Room was made for them to pass through the
crowd; and staggering blindly along, Paul reached a spot where, to
his astonishment and relief, his own servant was waiting for him
with a horse ready caparisoned.

"To the church, to the church," he whispered as Paul mounted
mechanically, holding his still unconscious burden in his arms.

And he made a mute sign of assent; for he knew that within the
walls of the church he should find the wretched Margaret, who would
have taken sanctuary there at first tidings of defeat.

Silently, and as in a dream, the horsemen passed along, and at last
drew rein at the door of the little church, where stood a priest
with the Host in his hand, ready, if need be, to stand betwixt the
helpless victims of the battle and their fierce pursuers.

He knew Paul's face, he recognized that of the inanimate form he
carried in his arms, and he made way for him to pass with a mute
sign of blessing.

Paul passed in. There beside the altar he saw the queen, bowed down
by the magnitude of her woe, for she had just heard the first
rumour of that terrible tragedy.

As he approached someone spoke to her, and she turned, rose, and
came swiftly forward.

"Paul," she said, "Paul--tell me--is it true?"

Paul looked at her with dim eyes.

"I have brought you his wife," he said. "It was his last charge.
Now I am going back. They have killed him; let them kill me, too."

He placed his helpless burden in the queen's arms, turned, and made
a few uncertain steps, and then fell down helplessly. He had
fulfilled his life's purpose in living for the prince; but it was
not given to him to die uselessly for him, too.



Chapter 10: The Prince Avenged.


Paul Stukely lived to see the foul crime that stained the victor's
laurels on the field of Tewkesbury amply avenged upon the House of
York in the days that quickly followed.

He himself was carried away by his faithful men-at-arms, who saw
that their cause was finally lost; and when, many weeks later, the
raging fever which held him in its grasp abated, and he knew once
more the faces of those about him, and could ask what had befallen
him, he found that he had been carried away to his own small manor,
bestowed upon him by the great Earl of Warwick--which manor,
perhaps from its very obscurity and his own, was left quietly in
his hands; for its late owner had fallen upon the field of
Tewkesbury, and no claim was ever made which disturbed Paul from
peaceful possession.

When he recovered his senses it was to hear that not only the
prince was dead, but his royal father also; that the queen, as
Margaret was still called by him, had returned to France; and that
the cause of the Red Rose was hopelessly extinguished. So Paul,
with the hopefulness which is the prerogative of youth, recovered
by degrees from the depression of spirit that the memory of the
tragedy of Tewkesbury cast over him, and learned by degrees to take
a healthy interest in his little domain, which he ruled wisely and
kindly, without meddling in public matters, or taking part in the
burning questions of the day. To him Edward always was and always
must be a cruel tyrant and usurper; but as none but princes of the
House of York were left to claim the succession to the crown, there
could be no possible object in any renewal of strife.

Paul, in his quiet west-country home, watched the progress of
events, and saw in the tragedies which successively befell the
scions of the House of York the vengeance of Heaven for the foul
murder of the young Lancastrian prince.

The Duke of Clarence, who had been one of the first to strike him,
fell a victim to the displeasure of the king, his brother, and was
secretly put to death in the Tower. Although Edward himself died a
natural death, it was said that vexation at the failure of some of
his most treasured schemes for the advancement of his children cut
him off in the flower of his age. And a darker fate befell his own
young sons than he had inflicted upon the son of the rival monarch:
for Edward of Lancaster had died a soldier's death, openly slain by
the sword in the light of day; whilst the murderer's children were
done to death between the stone walls of a prison, and for years
their fate was shrouded in terrible mystery.

The next death in that ill-omened race was that of King Richard's
own son, in the tenth year of his age. As Duke of Gloucester, he
had stood by to see the death of young Edward, even if his hand had
not been raised to strike him. He had then forced into reluctant
wedlock with himself the betrothed bride of the murdered
prince--the unhappy Lady Anne. He had murdered his brother's
children to raise himself to the throne, and had committed many
other crimes to maintain himself thereon; and his own son--another
Edward, Prince of Wales--was doomed to meet a sudden death, called
by the chroniclers of the time "unhappy," as though some strange or
painful circumstance attached to it, in the absence of both his
parents: and lastly, the lonely monarch, wifeless and childless,
was called upon to reap the fruits of the bitter hostility and
distrust which his cruel and arbitrary rule had awakened in the
breasts of his own nobles and of his subjects in general.

Paul Stukely, now a married man with children of his own growing up
about him, watched with intense interest the course of public
events; and when Henry of Richmond--a lineal descendant of Edward
the Third by his son John of Gaunt--landed for the second time to
head the insurrection against the bloody tyrant, Sir Paul Stukely
and a gallant little following marched amongst the first to join
his standard, and upon the bloody field of Bosworth, Paul felt that
he saw revenged to the full the tragedy of Tewkesbury.

He was there, close beside Henry Tudor, when the last frantic
charge of the wretched monarch in his despair was made, and when
Richard, after unhorsing many amongst Henry's personal attendants
in order to come to a hand-to-hand combat with his foe, witnessed
the secession from his ranks of Sir William Stanley, and fell,
crying "Treason, treason!" with his last breath. He who had
obtained his crown by treachery, cruelty, and treason of the
blackest kind, was destined to fall a victim to the treachery of
others. As Paul saw the mangled corpse flung across a horse's back
and carried ignominiously from the field, he felt that the God of
heaven did indeed look down and visit with His vengeance those who
had set at nought His laws, and that in the miserable death of this
last son of the House of York the cause of the Red Rose was amply
avenged.

A few years later, in the bright summertide, when the politic rule
of Henry the Seventh was causing the exhausted country to recover
from the ravages of the long civil war, Sir Paul Stukely and his
two sons, fine, handsome lads of ten and twelve years old, were
making a little journey (as we should now call it, though it seemed
a long one to the excited and delighted boys) from his pleasant
manor near St. Albans through a part of the county of Essex.

Paul had prospered during these past years. The king had rewarded
his early fealty by a grant of lands and a fine manor near to St.
Albans, whither he had removed his wife and family, so as to be
within easy reach of them at such times as he was summoned by the
king to Westminster. The atmosphere of home was dearer to him than
that of courts, and he was no longer away from his own house than
his duty to his king obliged him to be. But he had been much
engaged by public duties of late, and the holiday he had promised
himself had been long in coming. It had been a promise of some
standing to his two elder sons, Edward and Paul, that he would take
them some day to visit the spots which he talked of when they
climbed upon his knee after his day's work was done to beg for the
story of "the little prince," as they still called him. Paul
himself was eager again to visit those familiar haunts, and see if
any of those who had befriended the homeless wanderer were living
still, and would recognize the bronzed and prosperous knight of
today.

And now they were entering a familiar tract; and the father told
his boys to keep their eyes well open, for the village of Much
Waltham could not be far off and every pathway in this part of the
forest had been traversed by him and the prince in the days that
had gone by.

"I hear the sound of hammering," cried the younger Paul in great
excitement soon. "O father, we must be getting very near! It is
like a smith's forge. I am sure it must be Will Ives or his father.
Oh, do let us ride on quickly and see!"

The riders pressed onward through the widening forest path, and,
sure enough, found themselves quickly in the little clearing which
surrounded the village of Much Waltham. How well the elder Paul
remembered it all! the village church, the smithy, and the low
thatched cottages, the small gardens, now brighter than he had seen
them in the dreary winter months; the whole place wearing an air of
increased comfort and prosperity.

The flame within the forge burned cheerily, and revealed an active
figure within, hard at work over some glowing metal, which emitted
showers of brilliant sparks. Sir Paul rode forward and paused at
the door with a smile of recognition on his face. The smith came
forward to see if the traveller required any service of him, but
was somewhat taken aback by the greeting he received.

"Well, worthy Will Ives, time has dealt more kindly with you than
with me, I trow. You are scarce a whit changed from the day,
seventeen years back come November, when I first stopped in sorry
plight at this forge, with your pretty wife as my companion, to get
your assistance as far as Figeon's Farm. Why, and here is Mistress
Joan herself; and I warrant that that fine lad is the son of both
of you.

"Good Even to you, fair mistress!--Last time we met we scarce
thought that so many years would roll by before I should pay these
parts a visit. But fortune's wheel has many strange turns, and I
have been dwelling in regions far remote from here. But these lads
of mine have given me no peace until I should bring them on a visit
to Much Waltham and Figeon's Farm. I trust that I shall find all
the dwellers there hale and hearty as of yore, and that death has
passed this peaceful place by, whilst he has been so busy
elsewhere."

Great was the excitement of the place when it was realized by the
inhabitants that this fine knight, who rode with half-a-dozen
men-at-arms in his company, and two beautiful boys at his side, was
none other than the Paul Stukely that the men and women of the
place remembered, and the children spoke of as of the hero of some
romance dear to their hearts. The news flew like wildfire through
the village, and old and young came flocking out to see, till the
knight was the centre of quite a little crowd, and the excited and
delighted boys were hearing the familiar story again and again from
the lips of these friendly strangers.

When at length the little cavalcade moved up the gentle slope
toward Figeon's Farm, quite a large bodyguard accompanied it. Joan
herself walked proudly beside the knight, who had given his horse
in charge to his servant, and was on foot as he trod the familiar
track; and she was listening with flushing and paling cheek to the
tale of Tewkesbury, whilst the boys were asking questions of
everybody in the little crowd, and eagerly pushing on ahead to get
the first sight of the farm that had twice sheltered their father
in the hour of his need.

The old people were living yet, though infirm and feeble, and more
disposed to spend the day in the armchairs, beside the blazing fire
in the inglenook, than to stir abroad or carry on any active
occupation at home. Jack Devenish and his wife, Eva, managed the
house and farm, and brought up their sturdy and numerous family so
as to be a credit to the old name. It was Jack himself who came
hurrying out to meet his guests--a rumour of their approach having
gone on before--whilst his smiling wife stood in the door way to
welcome in the bronzed knight, whom once she had rescued from such
pitiful plight and from deadly danger.

What a welcome it was that they got from all at Figeon's Farm! and
how delightful to the boys to run all over the house--to see the
room in which their father had slept, the window from which he had
flung the robber who had come to carry away Mistress Joan, and the
little sliding panel behind which the recess lay that had been so
luckily emptied of its treasure before the search party came!

Then, on the next day, there was the Priory to visit, and Brother
Lawrence to claim acquaintance with, and a long ride through the
forest to be made to visit the cave at Black Notley, where Paul had
once been dragged a prisoner, and had been so roughly handled by
the robbers. The days were full of excitement and pleasure to the
two lads, and scarcely less so to Paul himself, save for the faint
flavour of melancholy which could not but at times assail him in
recalling the episode of his romantic friendship with Edward,
Prince of Wales.

And when they returned home at last to tell their adventures to
wife and mother, they left behind them in Much Waltham many
substantial proofs of the gratitude the Stukelys must ever feel for
the protection accorded by its inhabitants in past days to the head
of the house; and round the firesides in cottage and farm there was
for many long years no more favourite story told by the old folks
to the eager children than the tale of adventure, peril, and
devotion in the days of the Wars of the Roses, which went by the
name, in that place, of "The Story of Paul and the Prince."



Notes.


{1} Lichfield had the right in these days of calling itself a county.





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