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´╗┐Title: A Forgotten Hero - Not for Him
Author: Holt, Emily Sarah, 1836-1893
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "A Forgotten Hero - Not for Him" ***

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A Forgotten Hero, or, Not for Him, by Emily Sarah Holt.

________________________________________________________________________

This shortish book takes us to the end of the thirteenth century, and,
although the people in the book are mostly high-born, the scene is a
very domestic one.  It gives us a good understanding of the way life was
lived in those days.  Recommended for its social interest.
________________________________________________________________________

A FORGOTTEN HERO, OR, NOT FOR HIM, BY EMILY SARAH HOLT.



CHAPTER ONE.

CASTLES IN THE AIR.

  "O pale, pale face, so sweet and meek, Oriana!"

  Tennyson.

"Is the linen all put away, Clarice?"

"Ay, Dame."

"And the rosemary not forgotten?"

"I have laid it in the linen, Dame."

"And thy day's task of spinning is done?"

"All done, Dame."

"Good.  Then fetch thy sewing and come hither, and I will tell thee
somewhat touching the lady whom thou art to serve."

"I humbly thank your Honour."  And dropping a low courtesy, the girl
left the room, and returned in a minute with her work.

"Thou mayest sit down, Clarice."

Clarice, with another courtesy and a murmur of thanks, took her seat in
the recess of the window, where her mother was already sitting.  For
these two were mother and daughter; a middle-aged, comfortable-looking
mother, with a mixture of firmness and good-nature in her face; and a
daughter of some sixteen years, rather pale and slender, but active and
intelligent in her appearance.  Clarice's dark hair was smoothly brushed
and turned up in a curl all round her head, being cut sufficiently short
for that purpose.  Her dress was long and loose, made in what we call
the Princess style, with a long train, which she tucked under one arm
when she walked.  The upper sleeve was of a narrow bell shape, but under
it came down tight ones to the wrist, fastened by a row of large round
buttons quite up to the elbow.  A large apron--which Clarice called a
barm-cloth--protected the dress from stain.  A fillet of ribbon was
bound round her head, but she had no ornaments of any kind.  Her mother
wore a similar costume, excepting that in her case the fillet round the
head was exchanged for a wimple, which was a close hood, covering head
and neck, and leaving no part exposed but the face.  It was a very
comfortable article in cold weather, but an eminently unbecoming one.

These two ladies were the wife and daughter of Sir Gilbert Le Theyn, a
knight of Surrey, who held his manor of the Earl of Cornwall; and the
date of the day when they thus sat in the window was the 26th of March
1290.

It will strike modern readers as odd if I say that Clarice and her
mother knew very little of each other.  She was her father's heir, being
an only child; and it was, therefore, considered the more necessary that
she should not live at home.  It was usual at that time to send all
young girls of good family, not to school--there were no schools in
those days--but to be brought up under some lady of rank, where they
might receive a suitable education, and, on reaching the proper age,
have a husband provided for them, the one being just as much a matter of
course as the other.  The consent of the parents was asked to the
matrimonial selection of the mistress, but public opinion required some
very strong reason to justify them in withholding it.  The only
exception to this arrangement was when girls were destined for the
cloister, and in that case they received their education in a convent.
But there was one person who had absolutely no voice in the matter, and
that was the unfortunate girl in question.  The very idea of consulting
her on any point of it, would have struck a mediaeval mother with
astonishment and dismay.

Why ladies should have been considered competent in all instances to
educate anybody's daughters but their own is a mystery of the Middle
Ages.  Dame La Theyn had under her care three girls, who were receiving
their education at her hands, and she never thought of questioning her
own competency to impart it; yet, also without a question, she sent
Clarice away from her, first to a neighbouring knight's wife, and now to
a Princess, to receive the education which she might just as well have
had at home.  It was the command of Fashion; and who does not know that
Fashion, whether in the thirteenth century or the nineteenth, _must_ be
obeyed?

Clarice was on the brink of high promotion.  By means of a ladder of
several steps--a Dame requesting a Baroness, and the Baroness entreating
a Countess--the royal lady had been reached at last, whose husband was
the suzerain of Sir Gilbert.  It made little difference to this lady
whether her bower-women were two or ten, provided that the attendance
given her was as much as she required; and she readily granted the
petition that Clarice La Theyn might be numbered among those young
ladies.  The Earl of Cornwall was the richest man in England, not
excepting the King.  It may be added that, at this period, Earl was the
highest title known short of the Prince of Wales.  The first Duke had
not yet been created, while Marquis is a rank of much later date.

Dame La Theyn, though she had some good points, had also one grand
failing.  She was an inveterate gossip.  And it made no difference to
her who was her listener, provided a listener could be had.  A spicy
dish of scandal was her highest delight.  She had not the least wish nor
intention of doing harm to the person whom she thus discussed.  She had
not even the slightest notion that she did any.  But her bower-maidens
knew perfectly well that, if one of them wanted to put the dame in high
good-humour before extracting a favour, the best way to do so was to
inform her that Mrs Sheppey had had words with her goodman, or that
Dame Rouse considered Joan Stick i' th' Lane [Note 1], no better than
she should be.

An innocent request from Clarice, that she might know something about
her future mistress, had been to Dame La Theyn a delightful opportunity
for a good dish of gossip.  Reticence was not in the Dame's nature; and
in the thirteenth century--and much later than that--facts which in the
nineteenth would be left in concealment, or, at most, only delicately
hinted at, were spoken out in the plainest English, even to young girls.
The fancy that the Countess of Cornwall might not like her whole life,
so far as it was known, laid bare to her new bower-woman was one which
never troubled the mind of Dame La Theyn.  Privacy, to any person of
rank more especially, was an unknown thing in the Middle Ages.

"Thou must know, Clarice," began the Dame, "that of old time, before
thou wert born, I was bower-maiden unto my most dear-worthy Lady of
Lincoln--that is brother's wife to my gracious Lady of Gloucester,
mother unto my Lady of Cornwall, that shall be thy mistress.  The Lady
of Lincoln, that was mine, is a dame of most high degree, for her father
was my Lord of Saluces, [Note 2], in Italy--very nigh a king--and she
herself was wont to be called `Queen of Lincoln,' being of so high
degree.  Ah, she gave me many a good gown, for I was twelve years in her
service.  And a good woman she is, but rarely proud--as it is but like
such a princess should be.  I mind one super-tunic she gave me, but half
worn,"--this was said impressively, for a garment only _half worn_ was
considered a fit gift from one peeress to another--"of blue damask, all
set with silver buttons, and broidered with ladies' heads along the
border.  I gave it for a wedding gift unto Dame Rouse when she was wed,
and she hath it now, I warrant thee.  Well! her lord's sister, our Lady
Maud, was wed to my Lord of Gloucester; but stay!--there is a tale to
tell thee thereabout."

And Dame La Theyn bit off her thread with a complacent face.  Nothing
suited her better than a tale to tell, unless it were one to hear.

"Well-a-day, there be queer things in this world!"

The Dame paused, as if to give time for Clarice to note that very
original sentiment.

"Our Lady Maud was wed to her lord, the good Earl of Gloucester, with
but little liking of her side, and yet less on his.  Nathless, she made
no plaint, but submitted herself, as a good maid should do--for mark
thou, Clarice, 'tis the greatest shame that can come to a maiden to set
her will against those of her father and mother in wedlock.  A good
maid--as I trust thou art--should have no will in such matters but that
of those whom God hath set over her.  And all love-matches end ill,
Clarice; take my word for it!  Art noting me?"

Clarice meekly responded that the moral lesson had reached her.  She did
not add whether she meant to profit by it.  Probably she had her own
ideas on the question, and it is quite possible that they did not
entirely correspond with those which her mother was instilling.

"Now look on me, Clarice," pursued Dame La Theyn, earnestly.  "When I
was a young maid I had foolish fancies like other maidens.  Had I been
left to order mine own life, I warrant thee I should have wed with one
Master Pride, that was page to my good knight my father; and when I wist
that my said father had other thoughts for my disposal, I slept of a wet
pillow for many a night--ay, that did I.  But now that I be come to
years of discretion, I do ensure thee that I am right thankful my said
father was wiser than I.  For this Master Pride was slain at Evesham,
when I was of the age of five-and-twenty years, and left behind him not
so much as a mark of silver that should have come to me, his widow.  It
was a good twenty-fold better that I should have wedded with thy father,
Sir Gilbert, that hath this good house, and forty acres of land, and
spendeth thirty marks by the year and more.  Dost thou not see the
same?"

No.  Clarice heard, but she did not see.

"Well-a-day!  Now know, that when my good Lord of Gloucester, that wed
with our Lady Maud, was a young lad, being then in wardship unto Sir
Hubert, sometime Earl of Kent (whom God pardon!) he strake up a
love-match with the Lady Margaret, that was my said Lord of Kent his
daughter.  And in very deed a good match it should have been, had it
been well liked of them that were above them; but the Lord King that
then was--the father unto King Edward that now is--rarely misliked the
same, and gat them divorced in all hate.  It was not meet, as thou
mayest well guess, that such matters should be settled apart from his
royal pleasure.  And forthwith, ere further mischief could ensue, he
caused my said Lord of Gloucester to wed with our Lady Maud.  But look
thou, so obstinate was he, and so set of having his own way, that he
scarce ever said so much as `Good morrow' to the Lady Maud until he knew
that the said Lady Margaret was commanded to God.  Never do thou be
obstinate, Clarice.  'Tis ill enough for a young man, but yet worse for
a maid."

"How long time was that, Dame, an' it like you?"

"Far too long," answered Dame La Theyn, somewhat severely.  "Three years
and more."

Three years and more!  Clarice's thoughts went off on a long journey.
Three years of disappointed hope and passionate regret, three years of
weary waiting for death, on the part of the Lady Margaret!  Naturally
enough her sympathies were with the girl.  And three years, to Clarice,
at sixteen, seemed a small lifetime.

"Now, this lady whom thou shalt serve, Clarice," pursued her mother--and
Clarice's mind came back to the subject in hand--"she is first-born
daughter unto the said Sir Richard de Clare, Lord of Gloucester, and our
Lady Maud, of whom I spake.  Her name is Margaret, after the damsel that
died--a poor compliment, as methinks, to the said Lady Maud; and had I
been she, the maid should have been called aught else it liked my baron,
but not that."

Ah, but had I been he, thought Clarice, it should have been just that!

"And I have heard," said the Dame, biting off her thread, "that there
should of old time be some misliking--what I know not--betwixt the Lady
Margaret and her baron; but whether it were some olden love of his part
or of hers, or what so, I cast no doubt that she hath long ere this
overlived the same, and is now a good and loving lady unto him, as is
meet."

Clarice felt disposed to cast very much doubt on this suggestion.  She
held the old-fashioned idea that a true heart could love but once, and
could not forget.  Her vivid imagination instantly erected an exquisite
castle in the air, wherein the chief part was played by the Lady
Margaret's youthful lover--a highly imaginary individual, of the most
perfect manners and unparalleled beauty, whom the unfortunate maiden
could never forget, though she was forced by her cruel parents to marry
the Earl of Cornwall.  He, of course, was a monster of ugliness in
person, and of everything disagreeable in character, as a man in such
circumstances was bound to be.

Poor Clarice! she had not seen much of the world.  Her mental picture of
the lady whom she was to serve depicted her as sweet and sorrowful, with
a low plaintive voice and dark, starry, pathetic eyes, towards whom the
only feelings possible would be loving reverence and sympathy.

"And now, Clarice, I have another thing to say."

"At your pleasure, Dame."

"I think it but meet to tell thee a thing I have heard from thy father--
that the Lord Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, thy lady's baron, is one that
hath some queer ideas in his head.  I know not well what kind they are;
but folk say that he is a strange man and hath strange talk.  So do thou
mind what thou dost.  Alway be reverent to him, as is meet; but suffer
him not to talk to thee but in presence of thy lady."

Clarice felt rather frightened--all the more so from the extreme
vagueness of the warning.

"And now lap up thy sewing, child, for I see thy father coming in, and
we will go down to hall."

A few weeks later three horses stood ready saddled at the door of Sir
Gilbert's house.  One was laden with luggage; the second was mounted by
a manservant; and the third, provided with saddle and pillion, was for
Clarice and her father.  Sir Gilbert, fully armed, mounted his steed,
Clarice was helped up behind him, and with a final farewell to Dame La
Theyn, who stood in the doorway, they rode forth on their way to Oakham
Castle.  Three days' journey brought them to their destination, and they
were witnesses of a curious ceremony just as they reached the Castle
gate.  All over the gate horseshoes were nailed.  A train of visitors
were arriving at the Castle, and the trumpeter sounded his horn for
entrance.

"Who goes there?" demanded the warder.  "The right noble and puissant
Prince Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, Leicester, and Derby; and his most
noble lady, Blanche, Queen Dowager of Navarre, Countess of the same,
cousins unto my gracious Lord of Cornwall."

"Is this my said noble Lord's first visit unto the lordship of Oakham?"
asked the warder, without opening the gate.  "It is."

"Then our gracious Lord, as Lord of the said manor, demands of him one
of the shoes of the horse whereon he rides as tribute due from every
peer of the realm on his first coming to this lordship."

"My right noble and puissant Lord," returned the trumpeter, "denies the
said shoe of his horse; but offers in the stead one silver penny, for
the purchase of a shoe in lieu thereof."

"My gracious Lord deigns to receive the said silver penny in lieu of the
shoe, and lovingly prays your Lord and Lady to enter his said Castle."

Then the portcullis was drawn up, and the long train filed noisily into
the courtyard.  This ceremony was observed on the first visit of every
peer to Oakham Castle; but the visitor was allowed, if he chose, as in
this instance, to redeem the horse-shoe by the payment of money to buy
one.  The shoes contributed by eminent persons were not unfrequently
gilded.

The modest train of Sir Gilbert and Clarice crept quietly in at the end
of the royal suite.  As he was only a knight, his horse-shoe was not in
request Sir Gilbert told the warder in a few words his name and errand,
whereupon that functionary summoned a boy, and desired him to conduct
the knight and maiden to Mistress Underdone.  Having alighted from the
horse, Clarice shook down her riding-gown, and humbly followed Sir
Gilbert and the guide into the great hall, which was built like a
church, with centre and aisles, up a spiral staircase at one end of it,
and into a small room hung with green say [Note 3].  Here they had to
wait a while, for every one was too busily employed in the reception of
the royal guests to pay attention to such comparatively mean people.  At
last--when Sir Gilbert had yawned a dozen times, and strummed upon the
table about as many, a door at the back of the room was opened, and a
portly, comfortable-looking woman came forward to meet them.  Was this
the Countess? thought Clarice, with her heart fluttering.  It was
extremely unlike her ideal picture.

"Your servant, Sir Gilbert Le Theyn," said the newcomer, in a cheerful,
kindly voice.  "I am Agatha Underdone, Mistress of the Maids unto my
gracious Lady of Cornwall.  I bid thee welcome, Clarice--I think that is
thy name?"

Clarice acknowledged her name, with a private comforting conviction that
Mistress Underdone, at least, would be pleasant enough to live with.

"You will wish, without doubt, to go down to hall, where is good company
at this present," pursued the latter, addressing Sir Gilbert.  "So, if
it please you to take leave of the maiden--"

Sir Gilbert put two fingers on Clarice's head, as she immediately knelt
before him.  For a father to kiss a daughter was a rare thing at that
time, and for the daughter to offer it would have been thought quite
disrespectful, and much too familiar.

"Farewell, Clarice," said he.  "Be a good maid, be obedient and meek;
please thy lady; and may God keep thee, and send thee an husband in good
time."

There was nothing more necessary in Sir Gilbert's eyes.  Obedience was
the one virtue for Clarice to cultivate, and a husband (quality
immaterial) was sufficient reward for any amount of virtue.

Clarice saw her father depart without any feeling of regret.  He was
even a greater stranger to her than her mother.  She was a
self-contained, lonely-hearted girl, capable of intense love and
hero-worship, but never having come across one human being who had
attracted those qualities from their nest in her heart.

"Now follow me, Clarice," said Mistress Underdone, "and I will introduce
thee to the maidens, thy fellows, of whom there are four beside thee at
this time."

Clarice followed, silently, up a further spiral staircase, and into a
larger chamber, where four girls were sitting at work.

"Maidens," said Mistress Underdone, "this is your new fellow, Clarice La
Theyn, daughter of Sir Gilbert Le Theyn and Dame Maisenta La Heron.
Stand, each in turn, while I tell her your names."

The nearest of the four, a slight, delicate-looking, fair-haired girl,
rose at once, gathering her work on her arm.

"Olympias Trusbut, youngest daughter of Sir Robert Trusbut, of the
county of Lincoln, and Dame Joan Twentymark," announced Mistress
Underdone.

She turned to the next, a short, dark, merry-looking damsel.

"Elaine Criketot, daughter of Sir William Criketot and Dame Alice La
Gerunell, of the county of Chester."

The third was tall, stately, and sedate.

"Diana Quappelad, daughter of Sir Walter Quappelad and Dame Beatrice
Cotele, of the county of Rutland."

Lastly rose a quiet, gentle-looking girl.

"Roisia de Levinton, daughter of Sir Hubert de Levinton and Dame Maud
Ingham, of the county of Surrey."

Clarice's heart went faintly out to the girl from her own county, but
she was much too shy to utter a word.

Having introduced the girls to each other, Mistress Underdone left them
to get acquainted at their leisure.

"Art thou only just come?" asked Elaine, who was the first to speak.

"Only just come," repeated Clarice, timidly.

"Hast thou seen my Lady?"

"Not yet: I should like to see her."

Elaine's answer was a little half-suppressed laugh, which seemed the
concentration of amusement.

"Maids, hear you this?  Our new fellow has not seen the Lady.  She would
like to see her."

A smile was reflected on all four faces.  Clarice thought Diana's was
slightly satirical; those of the other two were rather pitying.

"Now, what dost thou expect her to be like?" pursued Elaine.

"I may be quite wrong," answered Clarice, in the shy way which she was
not one to lose quickly.  "I fancied she would be tall--"

"Right there," said Olympias.

"And dark--"

"Oh, no, she is fair."

"And very beautiful, with sorrowful eyes, and a low, mournful voice."

All the girls laughed, Roisia and Olympias gently, Diana scornfully,
Elaine with shrill hilarity.

"_Ha, jolife_!" cried the last-named young lady.  "Heard one ever the
like?  Only wait till supper.  Then thou shalt see this lovely lady,
with the sweet, sorrowful eyes and the soft, low voice.  _Pure foy_!  I
shall die with laughing, Clarice, if thou sayest anything more."

"Hush!" said Diana, sharply and suddenly; but Elaine's amusement had too
much impetus on it to be stopped all at once.  She was sitting with her
back to the door, her mirthful laughter ringing through the room, when
the door was suddenly flung open, and two ladies appeared behind it.
The startled, terrified expression on the faces of Olympias and Roisia
warned Clarice that something unpleasant was going to happen.  Had
Mistress Underdone a superior, between her and the Countess, whom to
offend was a very grave affair?  Clarice looked round with much interest
and some trepidation at the new comers.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Stykelane and Bakepuce--both most unpleasantly suggestive
names--occur on the Fines Roll for 1254.

Note 2.  Saluzzo.

Note 3.  A common coarse silk, used both for dress and upholstery.



CHAPTER TWO.

THE MISTS CLEAR AWAY.

  "Nec tecum possum vivere, nec sine te."

  Martial.

One at least of the ladies who had disturbed Elaine's hilarity did not
look a person of whom it was necessary to be afraid.  She was a matronly
woman of middle age, bearing the remains of extreme beauty.  She had a
good-natured expression, and she rather shrank back, as if she were
there on sufferance only.  But the other, who came forward into the
room, was tall, spare, upright, and angular, with a face which struck
Clarice as looking very like verjuice.

"Agatha!" called the latter, sharply; and, laying her hand, not gently,
on Elaine's shoulder, she gave her a shake which rapidly reduced her to
gravity.

"Ye weary, wretched giglots, what do ye thus laughing and tittering,
when I have distinctly forbidden the same?--Agatha!--Know ye not that
all ye be miserable sinners, and this lower world a vale of tears?--
Agatha!"

"Truly, Cousin Meg," observed the other lady, now coming forward,
"methinks you go far to make it such."

"Agatha might have more sense," returned her acetous companion.  "I have
bidden her forty times o'er to have these maids well ordered, and mine
house as like to an holy convent as might be compassed; and here is she
none knows whither--taking her pleasure, I reckon--and these caitiff
hildings making the very walls for to ring with their wicked foolish
laughter!--Agatha! bring me hither the rod.  I will see if a good
whipping bring not down your ill-beseen spirits, mistress!"

Elaine turned pale, and cast a beseeching glance at the pleasanter of
the ladies.

"Nay, now, Cousin Meg," interposed she, "I pray you, let not this my
first visit to Oakham be linked with trouble to these young maids.  I am
well assured you know grey heads cannot be well set on green shoulders."

"Lady, I am right unwilling to deny any bidding of yours.  But I do
desire of you to tell me if it be not enough to provoke a saint to
swear?"

"What! to hear a young maid laugh, cousin?  Nay, soothly, I would not
think so."

Mistress Underdone had entered the room, and, after dropping a courtesy
to each of the ladies, stood waiting the pleasure of her mistress.
Clarice was slowly coming to the conclusion, with dire dismay, that the
sharp-featured, sharp-tongued woman before her was no other than the
Lady Margaret of Cornwall, her lovely lady with the pathetic eyes.

"Give me the rod, Agatha," said the Countess, sternly.

"Nay, Cousin Meg, I pray you, let Agatha give it to me."

"_You'll_ not lay on!" said the Countess, with a contortion of her lips
which appeared to do duty for a smile.

"Trust me, I will do the right thing," replied Queen Blanche, taking the
rod which Mistress Underdone presented to her on the knee.  "Now.
Elaine, stand out here."

Elaine, very pale and preternaturally grave, placed herself in the
required position.

"Say after me.  `I entreat pardon of my Lady for being so unhappy as to
offend her.'"

Elaine faltered out the dictated words.

"Kiss the rod," said the Queen.

She was immediately obeyed.

"Now, Cousin Meg, for my sake, I pray you, let that suffice."

"Well, Lady, for _your_ sake," responded the Countess, with apparent
reluctance, looking rather like a kite from whose talons the Queen had
extracted a sparrow intended for its dinner.

"Sit you in this chamber, Cousin Meg?" asked the Queen, taking a curule
chair as she spoke--the only one in the room.

"Nay, Lady.  'Tis mine hour for repeating the seven penitential psalms.
I have no time to waste with these giglots."

"Then, I pray you, give me leave to abide here myself for a season."

"You will do your pleasure, Lady.  I only pray of you to keep them from
laughing and such like wickedness."

"Nay, for I will not promise that for myself," said Queen Blanche, with
a good-tempered smile.  "Go your ways, Meg; we will work no evil."

The Countess turned and stalked out of the door again.  And Clarice's
first castle in the air fell into pieces behind her.

"Now, Agatha, I pray thee shut the door," said the Queen, "that we
offend not my Cousin Margaret's ears in her psalms.  Fare ye all well,
my maids?  Thy face is strange to me, child."

Clarice courtesied very low.  "If it please the Lady Queen, I am but
just come hither."

She had to tell her name and sundry biographical particulars, and then,
suddenly looking round, the Queen said, "And where is Heliet?"

"Please it the Lady Queen, in my chamber," said Mistress Underdone.

"Bid her hither, good Agatha--if she can come."

"That can she, Lady."

Mistress Underdone left the room, and in another minute the regular tap
of approaching crutches was audible.  Clarice imagined their wearer to
be some old woman--perhaps the mother of Mistress Underdone.  But as
soon as the door was opened again, she was surprised and touched to
perceive that the sufferer who used them was a girl little older than
herself.  She came up to Queen Blanche, who welcomed her with a smile,
and held her hand to the girl's lips to be kissed.  This was her only
way of paying homage, for to her courtesying and kneeling were alike
impossible.

Clarice felt intuitively, as she looked into Heliet's face, that here
was a girl entirely different from the rest.  She seemed as if Nature
had intended her to be tall, but had stopped and stunted her when only
half grown.  Her shoulders were unnaturally high, and one leg was
considerably shorter than the other.  Her face was not in any way
beautiful, yet there was a certain mysterious attraction about it.
Something looked out of her eyes which Clarice studied without being
able to define, but which disposed her to keep on looking.  They were
dark, pathetic eyes, of the kind with which Clarice had gifted her very
imaginary Countess; but there was something beyond the pathos.

"It looks," thought Clarice, "as if she had gone through the pathos and
the suffering, and had come out on the other side--on the shore of the
Golden Land, where they see what everything meant, and are satisfied."

There was very little time for conversation before the supper-bell rang.
Queen Blanche made kind inquiries concerning Heliet's lameness and
general health, but had not reached any other subject when the sound of
the bell thrilled through the room.  The four girls rapidly folded up
their work, as though the summons were welcome.  Queen Blanche rose and
departed, with a kindly nod to all, and Heliet, turning to Clarice,
said, "Wilt thou come down with me?  I cannot go fast, as thou mayest
see; but thou wilt sit next to me, and I can tell thee anything thou
mayest wish to know."

Clarice thankfully assented, and they went down the spiral staircase
together into the great hall, where three tables were spread.  At the
highest and smallest, on the dais, were already seated the Queen and the
Countess, two gentlemen, and two priests.  At the head of the second
stood Mistress Underdone, next to whom was Diana, and Heliet led up
Clarice to her side.  They faced the dais, so that Clarice could watch
its distinguished occupants at her pleasure.  Tables for meals, at that
date, were simply boards placed on trestles, and removed when the repast
was over.  On the table at the dais was silver plate, then a rare
luxury, restricted to the highest classes, the articles being spoons,
knives, plates, and goblets.  There were no forks, for only one fork had
ever then been heard of as a thing to eat with, and this had been the
invention of the wife of a Doge of Venice, about two hundred years
previous, for which piece of refinement the public rewarded the lady by
considering her as proud as Lucifer.  Forks existed, both in the form of
spice-forks and fire-forks, but no one ever thought of eating with them
in England until they were introduced from Italy in the reign of James
the First, and for some time after that the use of them marked either a
traveller, or a luxurious, effeminate man.  Moreover, there were no
knives nor spoons provided for helping one's self from the dishes.  Each
person had a knife and spoon for himself, with which he helped himself
at his convenience.  People who were very delicate and particular wiped
their knives on a piece of bread before doing so, and licked their
spoons all over.  When these were the practices of fastidious people,
the proceedings of those who were not such may be discreetly left to
imagination.  The second table was served in a much more ordinary
manner.  In this instance the knife was iron and the spoon pewter, the
plate a wooden trencher (never changed), and the drinking-cup of horn.
In the midst of the table stood a pewter salt-cellar, formed like a
castle, and _very_ much larger than we use them now.

This salt-cellar acted as a barometer, not for weather, but for rank.
Every one of noble blood, or filling certain offices, sat above the
salt.

With respect to cooking our fathers had some peculiarities.  They ate
many things that we never touch, such as porpoises and herons, and they
used all manner of green things as vegetables.  They liked their bread
hot from the oven (to give cold bread, even for dinner, was a shabby
proceeding), and their meat much underdone, for they thought that
overdone meat stirred up anger.  They mixed most incongruous things
together; they loved very strong tastes, delighting in garlic and
verjuice; they never appear to have paid the slightest regard to their
digestion, and they were, in the most emphatic sense, not teetotallers.

The dining-hall, but not the table, was decorated with flowers, and
singers, often placed in a gallery at one end, were employed the whole
time.  A gentleman usher acted as butler, and a yeoman was always at
hand to keep out strange dogs, snuff candles, and light to bed the
guests, who were not always in a condition to find their way upstairs
without his help.  The hours at this time were nine or ten o'clock for
dinner (except on fast-days, when it was at noon), and three or four for
supper.  Two meals a day were thought sufficient for all men who were
not invalids.  The sick and women sometimes had a "rear-supper" at six
o'clock or later.  As to breakfast, it was a meal taken only by some
persons, and then served in the bedchamber or private boudoir at
convenience.  Wine, with bread sopped in it, was a favourite breakfast,
especially for the old.  Very delicate or exceptionally temperate people
took milk for breakfast; but though the Middle Ages present us with
examples of both vegetarians and total abstainers, yet of both there
were very few indeed, and they were mainly to be found among the
religious orders.

In watching the illustrious persons on the dais one thing struck Clarice
as extremely odd, which would never be thought strange in the nineteenth
century.  It was the custom in her day for husband and wife to sit
together at a meal, and, the highest ranks excepted, to eat from the
same plate.  But the Earl and Countess of Cornwall were on opposite
sides of the table, with one of the priests between them.  Clarice
thought they must have quarrelled, and softly demanded of Heliet if that
were the case.

"No, indeed," was Heliet's rather sorrowful answer.  "At least, not more
than usual.  The Lady of Cornwall will never sit beside her baron, and,
as thou shalt shortly see, she will not even speak to him."

"Not speak to him!" exclaimed Clarice.

"I never heard her do so yet," said Heliet.

"Does he entreat her very harshly?"

"There are few gentlemen more kindly or generous towards a wife.  Nay,
the harsh treatment is all on her side."

"What a miserable life to live!" commented Clarice.

"I fear he finds it so," said Heliet.

The dillegrout, or white soup, was now brought in, and Clarice, being
hungry, attended more to her supper than to her mistress for a time.
But during the next interval between the courses she studied her master.

He was a tall and rather fine-looking man, with a handsome face and a
gentle, pleasant expression.

There certainly was not in his exterior any cause for repulsion.  His
hair was light, his eyes bluish-grey.  He seemed--or Clarice thought so
at first--a silent man, who left conversation very much to others; but
the decidedly intelligent glances of the grey eyes, and an occasional
twinkle of fun in them when any amusing remark was made, showed that he
was not in the least devoid of brains.

Clarice thought that the priest who sat between the Earl and Countess
was a far more unprepossessing individual than his master.  He was a
Franciscan friar, in the robe of his order; while the friar who sat on
the other side of the Countess was a Dominican, and much more agreeable
to look at.

At this juncture the Earl of Lancaster, who bore a strong family
likeness to his cousin, the Earl of Cornwall--a likeness which extended
to character no less than person--inquired of the latter if any news had
been heard lately from France.

"I have had no letters lately," replied his host; and, turning to the
Countess, he asked, "Have you, Lady?"

Now, thought Clarice, she must speak to him.  Much to her surprise, the
Countess, imagining, apparently, that the Franciscan friar was her
questioner, answered, [Note 1], "None, holy Father."

The friar gravely turned his head and repeated the words to the Earl,
though he must have heard them.  And Clarice became aware all at once
that her own puzzled face was a source of excessive amusement to her
_vis-a-vis_, Elaine.  Her eyes inquired the reason.

"Oh, I know!" said Elaine, in a loud whisper across the table.  "I know
what perplexes thee.  They are all like that when they first come.  It
is such fun to watch them!"

And she did not succeed in repressing a convulsion behind her
handkerchief, even with the aid of Diana's "Elaine! do be sensible."

"Hush, my maid," said Mistress Underdone, gently.  "If the Lady see thee
laugh--"

"I shall be sent away without more supper, I know," said Elaine,
shrugging her shoulders.  "It is Clarice who ought to be punished, not
I.  I cannot help laughing when she looks so funny."

Elaine having succeeded in recovering her gravity without attracting the
notice of the Countess, Clarice devoured her helping of salt beef along
with much cogitation concerning her mistress's singular ways.  Still,
she could not restrain a supposition that the latter must have supposed
the priest to speak to her, when she heard the Earl say, "I hear from
Geoffrey Spenser, [Note 2], that our stock of salt ling is beyond what
is like to be wanted.  Methinks the villeins might have a cade or two
thereof, my Lady."

And again, turning to the friar, the Countess made answer, "It shall be
seen to, holy Father;" while the friar, with equal composure, as though
it were quite a matter of course, repeated to the Earl, "The Lady will
see to it, my Lord."

"Does she always answer him so?" demanded Clarice of Heliet, in an
astonished whisper.  "Always," replied Heliet, with a sad smile.  "But
surely," said Clarice, her amazement getting the better of her shyness,
"it must be very wanting in reverence from a dame to her baron!"

Clarice's ideas of wifely duty were of a very primitive kind.  Unbounded
reverence, unreasoning obedience, and diligent care for the husband's
comfort and pleasure were the main items.  As for love, in the sense in
which it is usually understood now, that was an item which simply might
come into the question, but it was not necessary by any means.  Parents,
at that time, kept it out of the matter as much as possible, and
regarded it as more of an encumbrance than anything else.

"It is a very sad tale, Clarice," answered Heliet, in a low tone.  "He
loves her, and would cherish her dearly if she would let him.  But there
is not any love in her.  When she was a young maid, almost a child, she
set her heart on being a nun, and I think she has never forgiven her
baron for being the innocent means of preventing her.  I scarcely know
which of them is the more to be pitied."

"Oh, he, surely!" exclaimed Clarice.

"Nay, I am not so sure.  God help those who are unloved! but, far more,
God help those who cannot love!  I think she deserves the more
compassion of the two."

"May be," answered Clarice, slowly--her thoughts were running so fast
that her words came with hesitation.  "But what shouldst thou say to one
that had outlived a sorrowful love, and now thought it a happy chance
that it had turned out contrary thereto?"

"It would depend upon how she had outlived it," responded Heliet,
gravely.

"I heard one say, not many days gone," remarked Clarice--not meaning to
let Heliet know from whom she had heard it--"that when she was young she
loved a squire of her father, which did let her from wedding with him;
and that now she was right thankful it so were, for he was killed on the
field, and left never a plack behind him, and she was far better off,
being now wed unto a gentleman of wealth and substance.  What shouldst
thou say to that?"

"If it were one of any kin to thee I would as lief say nothing to it,"
was Heliet's rather dry rejoinder.

"Nay, heed not that; I would fain know."

"Then I think the squire may have loved her, but so did she never him."

"In good sooth," said Clarice, "she told me she slept many a night on a
wet pillow."

"So have I seen a child that had broken his toy," replied Heliet,
smiling.

Clarice saw pretty plainly that Heliet thought such a state of things
was not love at all.

"But how else can love be outlived?" she said.

"Love cannot.  But sorrow may be."

"Some folks say love and sorrow be nigh the same."

"Nay, 'tis sin and sorrow that be nigh the same.  All selfishness is
sin, and very much of what men do commonly call love is but pure
selfishness."

"Well, I never loved none yet," remarked Clarice.

"God have mercy on thee!" answered Heliet.

"Wherefore?" demanded Clarice, in surprise.

"Because," said Heliet, softly, "`he that loveth not knoweth not God,
for God is charity.'"

"Art thou destined for the cloister?" asked Clarice.

Only priests, monks, and nuns, in her eyes, had any business to talk
religiously, or might reasonably be expected to do so.

"I am destined to fulfil that which is God's will for me," was Heliet's
simple reply.  "Whether that will be the cloister or no I have not yet
learned."

Clarice cogitated upon this reply while she ate stewed apples.

"Thou hast an odd name," she said, after a pause.

"What, Heliet?" asked its bearer, with a smile.  "It is taken from the
name of the holy prophet Elye, [Elijah] of old time."

"Is it?  But I mean the other."

"Ah, I love it not," said Heliet.

"No, it is very queer," replied Clarice, with an apologetic blush, "very
odd--Underdone!"

"Oh, but that is not my name," answered Heliet, quickly, with a little
laugh; "but it is quite as bad.  It is Pride."

Clarice fancied she had heard the name before, but she could not
remember where.

"But why is it bad?" said she.  "Then I reckon Mistress Underdone hath
been twice wed?"

"She hath," said Heliet, answering the last question first, as people
often do, "and my father was her first husband.  Why is pride evil?
Surely thou knowest that."

"Oh, I know it is one of the seven deadly sins, of course," responded
Clarice, quickly; "still it is very necessary and noble."

Heliet's smile expressed a mixture of feelings.  Clarice was not the
first person who has held one axiom theoretically, but has practically
behaved according to another.

"The Lord saith that He hates pride," said the lame girl, softly.  "How,
then, can it be necessary, not to say noble?"

"Oh, but--" Clarice went no further.

"But He did not mean what He said?"

"Oh, yes, of course!" said Clarice.  "But--"

"Better drop the _but_," said Heliet, quaintly.  "And Father Bevis is
about to say grace."

The Dominican friar rose and returned thanks for the repast, and the
company broke up, the Earl and Countess, with their guests, leaving the
hall by the upper door, while the household retired by the lower.

The preparations for sleep were almost as primitive as those for meals.
Exalted persons, such as the Earl and Countess, slept in handsome
bedsteads, of the tent form, hung with silk curtains, and spread with
coverlets of fur, silk, or tapestry.  They washed in silver basins, with
ewers of the same costly metal; and they sat, the highest rank in curule
chairs, the lower upon velvet-cove red forms or stools.  But ordinary
people, of whom Clarice was one, were not provided for in this luxurious
style.  Bower-maidens slept in pallet-beds, which were made extremely
low, so as to run easily under one of the larger bedsteads, and thus be
put out of the way.  All beds rejoiced in a quantity of pillows.  Our
ancestors made much more use of pillows and cushions than we--a fact
easily accounted for, considering that they had no softly-stuffed
chairs, but only upright ones of hard carved wood.  But Clarice's sheets
were simple "cloth of Rennes," while those of her mistress were set with
jewels.  Her mattress was stuffed with hay instead of wool; she had
neither curtains nor fly-nets, and her coverlet was of plain cloth,
unwrought by the needle.  In the matter of blankets they fared alike
except as to quality.  But in the bower-maidens' chamber, where all the
girls slept together, there were no basins of any material.  Early in
the morning a strong-armed maid came in, bearing a tub of water, which
she set down on one of the coffers of carved oak which stood at the foot
of each bed and held all the personal treasures of the sleeper.  Then,
by means of a mop which she brought with her, she gently sprinkled every
face with water, thus intimating that it was time to get up.  The tub
she left behind.  It was to provide--on the principle of "first come,
first served"--for the ablutions of all the five young ladies, though
each had her personal towel.  Virtue was thus its own reward, the
laziest girl being obliged to content herself with the dirtiest water.
It must, however, be remembered that she was a fastidious damsel who
washed more than face and hands.

They then dressed themselves, carefully tying their respective amulets
round their necks, without which proceeding they would have anticipated
all manner of ill luck to befall them during the day.  These articles
were small boxes of the nature of a locket, containing either a little
dust of one saint, a shred of the conventual habit of another, or a few
verses from a gospel, written very minutely, and folded up extremely
small.  Then each girl, as she was ready, knelt in the window, and
gabbled over in Latin, which she did not understand, a Paternoster, ten
Aves, and the Angelical Salutation, not unfrequently breaking eagerly
into the conversation almost before the last Amen had left her lips.
Prayers over, they passed into the sitting-room next door, where they
generally found a basket of manchet bread and biscuits, with a large jug
of ale or wine.  A gentleman usher called for Mistress Underdone and her
charges, and conducted them to mass in the chapel.  Here they usually
found the Earl and Countess before them, who alone, except the priests,
were accommodated with seats.  Each girl courtesied first to the altar,
then to the Countess, and lastly to the Earl, before she took her
allotted place.  The Earl always returned the salutation by a quiet
inclination of his head.  The Countess sat in stony dignity, and never
took any notice of it.  Needlework followed until dinner, after which
the Countess gave audience for an hour to any person desiring to see
her, and usually concluded it by a half-hour's nap.  Further needlework,
for such as were not summoned to active attendance on their mistress if
she went out, lasted until vespers, after which supper was served.
After supper was the recreation time, when in most houses the
bower-maidens enjoyed themselves with the gentlemen of the household in
games or dancing in the hall; but the Lady Margaret strictly forbade any
such frivolous doings in her maidens.  They were still confined to their
own sitting-room, except on some extraordinary occasion, and the only
amusements allowed them were low-toned conversation, chess, draughts, or
illumination.  Music, dancing (even by the girls alone), noisy games of
all kinds, and laughter, the Countess strictly forbade.  The practical
result was that the young ladies fell back upon gossip and
ghost-stories, until there were few nights in the year when Roisia would
have dared to go to bed by herself for a king's ransom.  An hour before
bed-time wine and cakes were served.  After this Mistress Underdone
recited the Rosary, the girls making the responses, and at eight
o'clock--a late hour at that time--they trooped off to bed.  All were
expected to be in bed and all lights out by half-past eight.  The
unlucky maiden who loitered or was accidentally hindered had to finish
her undressing in the dark.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  This strange habit of the Countess is a fact, and sorely
distressed the Earl, as he has himself put on record, though with all
his annoyance he shows himself quite conscious of the comicality of the
proceeding.

Note 2.  The _depenseur_, or family provider.  Hence comes the name of
Le Despenser, which, therefore, should not be spelt Despencer.



CHAPTER THREE.

ON THE THRESHOLD OF LIFE.

  "I will not dream of him handsome and strong--
  My ideal love may be weak and slight;
  It matters not to what class he belong,
  He would be noble enough in my sight;
  But he must be courteous toward the lowly,
  To the weak and sorrowful, loving too;
  He must be courageous, refined, and holy,
  By nature exalted, and firm, and true."

By the time that Clarice had been six weeks at Oakham she had pretty
well made up her mind as to the characters of her companions.  The
Countess did not belie the estimate formed on first seeing her.  The
gentle, mournful, loving woman of Clarice's dreams had vanished, never
to be recalled.  The girl came to count that a red-letter day on which
she did not see her mistress.  Towards the Earl her feeling was an odd
mixture of reverential liking and compassion.  He came far nearer the
ideal picture than his wife.  His manners were unusually gentle and
considerate of others, and he was specially remarkable for one trait
very rarely found in the Middle Ages--he was always thoughtful of those
beneath him.  Another peculiarity he had, not common in his time; he was
decidedly a humourist.  The comic side even of his own troubles was
always patent to him.  Yet he was a man of extremely sensitive feeling,
as well as of shrewd and delicate perceptions.  He lived a most
uncomfortable life, and he was quite aware of it.  The one person who
should have been his truest friend deliberately nursed baseless enmity
towards him.  The only one whom he loved in all the world hated him with
deadly hatred.  And there was no cause for it but one--the strongest
cause of all--the reason why Cain slew his brother.  He was of God, and
she was of the world.  Yet nothing could have persuaded her that he was
not on the high road to perdition, while she was a special favourite of
Heaven.

Clarice found Mistress Underdone much what she had expected--a
good-natured, sensible supervisor.  Her position, too, was not an easy
one.  She had to submit her sense to the orders of folly, and to sink
her good-nature in submission to harshness.  But she did her best,
steered as delicately as she could between her Scylla and Charybdis, and
always gave her girls the benefit of a doubt.

The girls themselves were equally distinct as to character.  Olympias
was delicate, with a failing of delicate people--a disposition to
complaining and fault-finding.  Elaine was full of fun, ready to barter
any advantage in the future for enjoyment in the present.  Diana was
caustic, proud of her high connections, which were a shade above those
of her companions, and inclined to be scornful towards everything not
immediately patent to her comprehension.  Roisia, while the most
amiable, was also the weakest in character of the four; she was easily
led astray by Elaine, easily persuaded to deviate from the right through
fear of Diana.

The two priests had also unfolded themselves.  The Dominican, Father
Bevis, awoke in Clarice a certain amount of liking, not unmixed with
rather timorous respect.  But he was a grave, silent, undemonstrative
man, who gave no encouragement to anything like personal affection,
though he was not harsh nor unkind.  The Franciscan, Father Miles, was
of a type common in his day.  The man and the priest were two different
characters.  Father Miles in the confessional was a stern master; Father
Miles at the supper-table was a jovial playfellow.  In his eyes,
religion was not the breath and salt of life, but something altogether
separate from it, and only to be mentioned on a Sunday.  It was a bundle
of ceremonies, not a living principle.  To Father Bevis, on the
contrary, religion was everything or nothing.  If it had anything to do
with a man at all, it must pervade his thoughts and his life.  It was
the leaven which leavened the whole lump; the salt whose absence left
all unsavoury and insipid; the breath, which virtually was identical
with life.  One mistake Father Bevis made, a very natural mistake to a
man who had been repressed, misunderstood; and disliked, as he had been
ever since he could remember--he did not realise sufficiently that
warmth was a necessity of life, and that young creatures more especially
required a certain brooding tenderness to develop their faculties.  No
one had ever given him love but God; and he was too apt to suppose that
religion could be fostered only in that way which had cherished his own.
His light burned bright to Godward, but it was not sufficiently visible
to men.

Clarice La Theyn had by this time discovered that there were other
people in the household beyond those already mentioned.  The Earl had
four squires of the body, and the Countess two pages in waiting, beside
a meaner crowd of dressers, sewers, porters, messengers, and all kinds
of officials.  The squires and the pages were the only ones who came
much in contact with the bower-maidens.

Both the pages were boys of about fifteen, of whom Osbert was quiet and
sedate for a boy, while Jordan was _espiegle_ and full of mischievous
tricks.  The squires demand longer notice.

Reginald de Echingham was the first to attract Clarice's notice--a fact
which, in Reginald's eyes, would only have been natural and proper.  He
was a handsome young man, and no one was better aware of it than
himself.  His principal virtue lay in a silky moustache, which he
perpetually caressed.  The Earl called him Narcissus, and he deserved
it.

Next came Fulk de Chaucombe, who was about as careless of his personal
appearance as Reginald was careful.  He looked on his brother squire
with ineffable disdain, as a man only fit to hunt out rhymes for
sonnets, and hold skeins of silk for ladies.  Call him a man! thought
Master Fulk, with supreme contempt.  Fulk's notion of manly occupations
centred in war, with an occasional tournament by way of dessert.

Third on the list was Vivian Barkworth.  To Clarice, at least, he was a
perplexity.  He was so chameleon-like that she could not make up her
mind about him.  He could be extremely attractive when he liked, and he
could be just as repellent.

Least frequently of any were her thoughts given to Ademar de Gernet.
She considered him at first entirely colourless.  He was not talkative;
he was neither handsome nor ugly; he showed no special characteristic
which would serve to label him.  She merely put him on one side, and
never thought of him unless she happened to see him.

Her fellow bower-maidens also had their ideas concerning these young
gentlemen.  Olympias was--or fancied herself--madly in love with the
handsome Reginald, on whom Elaine cracked jokes and played tricks, and
Diana exhausted all her satire.  As to Reginald, he was too deeply in
love with himself to be sensible of the attractions of any other person.
It struck Clarice as very odd when she found that the weak and gentle
Roisia was a timid admirer of the bear-like De Chaucombe.  As for Diana,
her shafts were levelled impartially at all; but in her inmost heart
Clarice fancied that she liked Vivian Barkeworth.  Elaine was
heart-whole, and plainly showed it.

The Countess had not improved on further acquaintance.  She was not only
a tyrant, but a capricious one.  Not merely was penalty sure to follow
on not pleasing her, but it was not easy to say what would please her at
any given moment.

"We might as well be in a nunnery!" exclaimed Diana.

"Nay," said Elaine, "for then we could not get out."

"Don't flatter thyself on getting out, pray," returned Diana.  "We shall
never get out except by marrying, or really going into a nunnery."

"For which I am sure I have no vocation," laughed Elaine.  "Oh, no!  I
shall marry; and won't I lead my baron a dance!"

"Who is it to be, Elaine?" asked Clarice.

"_Ha, chetife_!  How do I know?  The Lady will settle that.  I only hope
it won't be a man who puts oil on his hair and scents himself."

This remark was a side-thrust at Reginald, as Olympias well knew, and
she looked reproachfully at Elaine.

"Well, I hope it won't be one who kills half-a-dozen men every morning
before breakfast," said Diana, making a hit at Fulk.

It was Roisia's turn to look reproachful.  Clarice could not help
laughing.

"What dost thou think of our giddy speeches, Heliet?" said she.

Heliet looked up with her bright smile.

"Very like maidens' fancies," she said.  "For me, I am never like to
wed, so I can look on from the outside."

"But what manner of man shouldst thou fancy, Heliet?"

"Oh ay, do tell us!" cried more than one voice.

"I warrant he'll be a priest," said Elaine.

"He will have fair hair and soft manners," remarked Olympias.

"Nay, he shall have such hair as shall please God," said Heliet, more
gravely.  "But he must be gentle and loving, above all to the weak and
sorrowful: a true knight, to whom every woman is a holy thing, to be
guarded and tended with care.  He must put full affiance in God, and
love Him supremely: and next, me; and below that, all other.  He must
not fear danger, yet without fool-hardiness; but he must fear disgrace,
and fear and hate sin.  He must be true to himself, and must aim at
making of himself the best man that ever he can.  He must not be afraid
of ridicule, or of being thought odd.  He must have firm convictions,
and be ready to draw sword for them, without looking to see whether
other men be on the same side or not.  His heart must be open to all
misery, his brain to all true and innocent knowledge, his hand ready to
redress every wrong not done to himself.  For his enemies he must have
forgiveness; for his friends, unswerving constancy: for all men,
courtesy."

"And that is thy model man?  _Ha, jolife_!" cried Elaine.  "Why, I could
not stand a month of him."

"I am afraid he would be rather soft and flat," said Diana, with a curl
of her lip.

"No, I don't think that," answered Roisia.  "But I should like to know
where Heliet expects to find him."

"Do give his address, Heliet!" said Elaine, laughing.

"Ah!  I never knew but one that answered to that description," was
Heliet's reply.

"_Ha, jolife_!" cried Elaine, clapping her hands.  "Now for his name!  I
hope I know him--but I am sure I don't."

"You all know His name," said Heliet, gravely.  "How many of us know
_Him_?  For indeed, I know of no such man that ever lived, except only
Jesus Christ our Lord."

There was no answer.  A hush seemed to have fallen on the whole party,
which was at last broken by Olympias.

"Well, but--thou knowest we cannot have Him."

"Pardon me, I know no such thing," answered Heliet, in the same soft,
grave tone.  "Does not the Psalmist say, `_Portio mea, Domine_'?  [Note
1] And does not Solomon say, `_Dilectus meus mihi_?'  [Note 2.] Is it
not the very glory of His infinitude, that all who are His can have all
of Him?"

"Where did Heliet pick up these queer notions?" said Diana under her
breath.

"She goes to such extremes!"  Elaine whispered back.

"But all that means to go into the cloister," replied Olympias in a
discontented tone.

"Nay," said Heliet, taking up her crutches, "I hope a few will go to
Heaven who do not go into the cloister.  But we may rest assured of
this, that not one will go there who has not chosen Christ for his
portion."

"Well," said Diana, calmly, a minute after Heliet had disappeared, "I
suppose she means to be a nun!  But she might let that alone till she is
one."

"Let what alone?" asked Roisia.

"Oh, all that parson's talk," returned Diana.  "It is all very well for
priests and nuns, but secular people have nothing to do with it."

"I thought even secular people wanted to go to Heaven," coolly put in
Elaine, not because she cared a straw for the question, but because she
delighted in taking the opposite side to Diana.

"Let them go, then!" responded Diana, rather sharply.  "They can keep it
to themselves, can't they?"

"Well, I don't know," said Elaine, laughing.  "Some people cannot keep
things to themselves.  Just look at Olympias, whatever she is doing, how
she argues the whole thing out in public.  `Oh, shall I go or not?  Yes,
I think I will; no, I won't, though; yes, but I will; oh, can't somebody
tell me what to do?'"

Elaine's mimicry was so perfect that Olympias herself joined in the
laugh.  The last-named damsel carried on all her mental processes in
public, instead of presenting her neighbours, as most do, with results
only.  And when people wear their hearts upon their sleeves, the daws
will come and peck at them.

"Now, don't tease Olympias," said Roisia good-naturedly.

"Oh, let one have a bit of fun," said Elaine, "when one lives in a
convent of the strictest order."

"I suspect thou wouldst find a difference if thou wert to enter one,"
sneered Diana.

Elaine would most likely have fought out the question had not Mistress
Underdone entered at that moment with a plate of gingerbread in her hand
smoking hot from the oven.

"Oh, Mistress, I am so hungry!" plaintively observed that young lady.

Mistress Underdone laughed, and set down the plate.  "There, part the
spice-cake among you," said she.  "And when you be through, I have
somewhat to tell you."

"Tell us now," said Elaine, as well as a mouthful of gingerbread allowed
her to speak.

"Let me see, now--what day is this?" inquired Mistress Underdone.

All the voices answered her at once, "Saint Dunstan's Eve!"  [May 13th].

"So it is.  Well--come Saint Botolph, [June 17th] as I have but now
learned, we go to Whitehall."

"_Ha, jolife_!" cried Diana, Elaine, and Roisia at once.

"Will Heliet go too?" asked Clarice, softly.

"Oh, no; Heliet never leaves Oakham," responded Olympias.

Mistress Underdone looked kindly at Clarice.  "No, Heliet will not go,"
she said.  "She cannot ride, poor heart."  And the mother sighed, as if
she felt the prospective pain of separation.

"But there will be dozens of other maidens," said Elaine.  "There are
plenty of girls in the world beside Heliet."

Clarice was beginning to think there hardly were for her.

"Oh, thou dost not know what thou wilt see at Westminster!" exclaimed
Elaine.  "The Lord King, and the Lady Queen, and all the Court; and the
Abbey, with all its riches, and ever so many maids and gallants.  It is
delicious beyond description, when the Lady is away visiting some
shrine, and she does that nearly every day."

Roisia's "Hush!" had come too late.

"I pray you say that again, my mistress!" said the well-known voice of
the Lady Margaret in the doorway.  "Nay, I will have it.--Fetch me the
rod, Agatha.--Now then, minion, what saidst?  Thou caitiff giglot!  If I
had thee not in hand, that tongue of thine should bring thee to ruin.
What saidst, hussy?"

And Elaine had to repeat the unlucky words, with the birch in prospect,
and immediately afterwards in actuality.

"I will lock thee up when I go visiting shrines!" said the Countess with
her last stroke.  "Agatha, remember when we are at Westminster that I
have said so."

"Ay, Lady," observed Mistress Underdone, composedly.

And the Lady Margaret, throwing down the birch, stalked away, and left
the sobbing Elaine to resume her composure at her leisure.

In a vaulted upper chamber of the Palace of Westminster, on a bright
morning in June, four persons were seated.  Three, who were of the
nobler sex, were engaged in converse; the last, a lady, sat apart with
her embroidery in modest silence.  They were near relatives, for the men
were respectively husband, brother-in-law, and uncle of the woman, and
they were the most prominent members of the royal line of England, with
one who did not belong to it.

Foremost of the group was the King.  He was foremost in more senses than
one, for, as is well known, Edward the First, like Saul, was higher than
any of his people.  Moreover, he was as spare as he was tall, which made
him look almost gigantic.  His forehead was large and broad, his
features handsome and regular, but marred by that perpetual droop in his
left eyelid which he had inherited from his father.  Hair and
complexion, originally fair, had been bronzed by his Eastern campaigns
till the crisp curling hair was almost black, and the delicate tint had
acquired a swarthy hue.  He had a nose inclining to the Roman type, a
broad chest, agile arms, and excessively long legs.  His dark eyes were
soft when he was in a good temper, but fierce as a tiger's when roused
to anger; and His Majesty's temper was--well, not precisely angelic.
[Note 3.] It was like lightning, in being as sudden and fierce, but it
did not resemble that natural phenomenon in disappearing as quickly as
it had come.  On the contrary, Edward never forgot and hardly forgave an
injury.  His abilities were beyond question, and, for his time, he was
an unusually independent and original thinker.  His moral character,
however, was worse than is commonly supposed, though it did not descend
to the lowest depths it reached until after the death of his fair and
faithful Leonor.

The King's brother Edmund was that same Earl of Lancaster whom we have
already seen at Oakham.  He was a man of smaller intellectual calibre
than his royal brother, but of much pleasanter disposition.  Extreme
gentleness was his principal characteristic, as it has been that of all
our royal Edmunds, though in some instances it degenerated into
excessive weakness.  This was not the case with the Earl of Lancaster.
His great kindness of heart is abundantly attested by his own letters
and his brother's State papers.

William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, was the third member of the group,
and he was the uncle of the royal brothers, being a son of their
grandmother's second marriage with Hugh de Lusignan, Count de La Marche.
Though he made a deep mark upon his time, yet his character is not easy
to fathom beyond two points--that his ability had in it a little element
of craft, and that he took reasonable care of Number One.

Over the head of the lady who sat in the curule chair, quietly
embroidering, twenty-five years had passed since she had been styled by
a poet, "the loveliest lady in all the land."  She was hardly less even
now, when her fifty years were nearly numbered; when, unseen by any
earthly eyes, her days were drawing to their close, and the angel of
death stood close beside her, ready to strike before six months should
be fulfilled.  Certainly, according to modern ideas of beauty, never was
a queen fairer than Leonor the Faithful, and very rarely has there been
one as fair.  And--more unusual still--she was as good as she was
beautiful.  The worst loss in all her husband's life was the loss of
her.

So far from seeing any sorrow looming in the future was King Edward at
this moment, that he was extremely jubilant over a project which he had
just brought to a successful issue.

"There!" said he, rubbing his hands in supreme satisfaction, "that
parchment settles the business.  When both my brother of Scotland and I
are gone, our children will reign over one empire, king and queen of
both.  Is not that worth living for?"

"_Soit_!"  [Be it so] ejaculated De Valence, shrugging his Provencal
shoulders.  "A few acres of bare moss and a handful of stags, to say
nothing of the barbarians who dwell up in those misty regions.  A fine
matter surely to clap one's hands over!"

"Ah, fair uncle, you never travelled in Scotland," interposed the gentle
Lancaster, before the King could blaze up, "and you know not what sort
of country it is.  From what I have heard, it would easily match your
land in respect of beauty."

"Match Poitou? or Provence?  Cousin, you must have taken leave of your
senses.  You were not born on the banks of the Isere, or you would not
chatter such treason as that."

"Truly no, fair Uncle, for I was born in the City of London, just
beyond," said Lancaster, with a good-humoured laugh; "and, verily, that
would rival neither Scotland nor Poitou, to say nothing of Dauphine and
Provence.  The goddess of beauty was not in attendance when I was born."

Perhaps few would have ventured on that assertion except himself.
Edmund of Lancaster was among the most handsome of our princes.

"Beshrew you both!" cried King Edward, unfraternally; "wherever will
these fellows ramble with their tongues?  Who said anything about
beauty?  I care not, I, if the maiden Margaret were the ugliest lass
that ever tied a kerchief, so long as she is the heiress of Scotland.
Ned has beauty enough and to spare; let him stare in the glass if he
cannot look at his wife."

The Queen looked up with an amused expression, and would, perhaps, have
spoken, had not the tapestry been lifted by some person unseen, and a
little boy of six years old bounded into the room.

No wonder that the fire in the King's eyes died into instant softness.
It would have been a wonder if the parents had not been proud of that
boy, for he was one of the loveliest children on whom human eye ever
rested.  Did it ever cross the minds of that father and mother that the
kindest deed they could have done to that darling child would have been
to smother him in his cradle?  Had the roll of his life been held up
before them at that moment, they would have counted only thirty-seven
years, written within and without in lamentation, and mourning, and woe.

King Edward lifted his little heir upon his knee.

"Look here, Ned," said he.  "Seest yonder parchment?"

The blue eyes opened a little, and the fair curls shook with a nod of
affirmation.

"What is it, thinkest?"

A shake of the pretty little head was the reply.

"Thy Cousin Margaret is coming to dwell with thee.  That parchment will
bring her."

"How old is she?" asked the Prince.

"But just a year younger than thou."

"Is she nice?"

The King laughed.  "How can I tell thee?  I never saw her."

"Will she play with us?"

"I should think she will.  She is just between thee and Beatrice."

"Beatrice is only a baby!" remarked the Prince disdainfully.  Six years
old is naturally scornful of four.

"Not more of a baby than thou," said his uncle Lancaster, playfully.

"But she's a girl, and I'm a man!" cried the insulted little Prince.

King Edward, excessively amused, set his boy down on the floor.  "There,
run to thy mother," said he.  "Thou wilt be a man one of these days, I
dare say; but not just yet, Master Ned."

And no angel voice whispered to one of them that it would have been well
for that child if he had never been a man, nor that ere he was six
months older, the mother, whose death was a worse calamity to him than
to any other, and the little Norwegian lassie to whom he was now
betrothed, would pass almost hand in hand into the silent land.  Three
months later, Margaret, Princess of Norway and Queen of Scotland, set
sail from her father's coast for her mother's kingdom, whence she was to
travel to England, and be brought up under the tender care of the royal
Leonor as its future queen.  But one of the sudden and terrible storms
of the North Sea met her ere she reached the shore of Scotland.  She
just lived to be flung ashore at Kirkwall, in the Orkneys, and there, in
the pitying hands of the fishers' wives, the child breathed out her
little life, having lived five years, and reigned for nearly as long.
Who of us, looking back to the probable lot that would have awaited her
in England, shall dare to pity that little child?

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  "Thou art my portion, O Lord."--Psalm 119, verse 57.

Note 2.  "My beloved is mine."--Canticles 2, verse 16.

Note 3.  Two anecdotes may be given which illustrate this in a manner
almost comical; the first has been published more than once, the latter
has not to my knowledge.  When his youngest daughter Elizabeth was
married to the Earl of Hereford in 1302, the King, annoyed by some
unfortunate remark of the bride, snatched her coronet from her head and
threw it into the fire, nor did the Princess recover it undamaged.  In
1305, writing to John de Fonteyne, the physician of his second wife,
Marguerite of France, who was then ill of small-pox, the King warns him
not on any account to allow the Queen to exert herself until she has
completely recovered, "and if you do," adds the monarch in French, of
considerably more force than elegance, and not too suitable for exact
quotation, "you shall pay for it!"



CHAPTER FOUR.

WAITING AND WEARY.

  "Oh! for the strength of God's right hand! the way is hard and dreary,
  Through Him to walk and not to faint, to run and not be weary!"

  E.L. Marzials.

We left the Royal party in conversation in the chamber at Westminster.

"Have you quite resolved, Sire, to expel all the Jews from England?"
asked De Valence.

"Resolved?  Yes; I hope it is half done," replied the King.  "You are
aware, fair Uncle, that our Commons voted us a fifteenth on this
condition?"

"No, I did not hear that," said De Valence.

"How many are there of those creatures?" inquired Lancaster.

"How should I know?" returned Edward, with an oath.  "I only know that
the Chancellor said the houses and goods were selling well to our
profit."

"Fifteen thousand and sixty, my Lord of Surrey told me," said Lancaster.
"I doubted if it were not too high a computation; that is why I asked."

"Oh, very likely not," responded Edward, carelessly.  "There are as many
of them as gnats, and as much annoyance."

"Well, it is a pious deed, of course," said Lancaster, stroking his
moustache, not in the dilettante style of De Echingham, but like a man
lost in thought.  "It seems a pity, though, for the women and children."

"My cousin of Lancaster, I do believe, sings _Dirige_ over the chickens
in his barnyard," sneered De Valence.

Lancaster looked up with a good-tempered smile.

"Does my fair Uncle never wish for the day when the lion shall eat straw
like the ox?"  [Note 1.]

"Not I!" cried De Valence, with a hearty laugh.  "Why, what mean you?
are we to dine on a haunch of lion when it comes?"

"Nay, for that were to make us worse than either, methinks.  I suppose
we shall give over eating what has had life, at that time."

"_Merci, mille fois_!" laughed his uncle.  "My dinner will be spoiled.
Not thine, I dare say.  I'll be bound, Sire, our fair cousin will munch
his apples and pears with all the gusto in the world, and send his
squire to the stable to inquire if the lion has a straw doubled under
him."

"Bah!" said the King.  "What are you talking about?"

"How much will this business of the Jews cost your Grace?" asked De
Valence, dropping his sarcasms.

"Cost _me_?" demanded Edward, with a short laugh.  "Did our fair uncle
imagine we meant to execute such a project at our own expense?  Let the
rogues pay their own travelling fees."

"Ha! good!" said the Poitevin noble.  "And our fair cousin of Lancaster
shall chant the _De Profundis_ while they embark, and I will offer a
silver fibula to Saint Edward that they may all be drowned.  How sayest,
fair Cousin?"

"Nay," was Lancaster's answer, in a doubtful tone.  "I reckon we ought
not to pity them, being they that crucified our Lord.  But--"

But for all that, his heart cried out against his creed.  Yet it did not
occur to him that the particular men who were being driven from their
homes for no fault of theirs, and forced with keen irony of oppression
to pay their own expenses, were not those who crucified Christ, but were
removed from them by many generations.  The times of the Gentiles were
not yet fulfilled, and the cry, "His blood be on us, _and on our
children_" had not yet exhausted its awful power.

There was one person not present who would heartily have agreed with
Lancaster.  This was his cousin and namesake, Edmund, Earl of Cornwall,
who not only felt for the lower animals--a rare yet occasional state of
mind in the thirteenth century--but went further, and compassionated the
villeins--a sentiment which very few indeed would have dreamed of
sharing with him.  The labourers on the land were serfs, and had no
feelings,--that is, none that could be recognised by the upper classes.
They were liable to be sold with the land which they tilled; nor could
they leave their "hundred" without a passport.  Their sons might not be
educated to anything but agriculture; their daughters could not be
married without paying a fine to the master.  Worse things than these
are told of some, for of course the condition of the serf largely
depended on the disposition of his owner.

The journey from Oakham to Westminster was a pleasant change to all the
bower-maidens but one, and that was the one selected to travel with her
mistress in the litter.  Each was secretly, if not openly, hoping not to
be that one; and it was with no little trepidation that Clarice received
the news that this honour was to be conferred on her.  She discovered,
however, on the journey, that scolding was not the perpetual occupation
of the Countess.  She spent part of every day in telling her beads, part
in reading books woefully dry to the apprehension of Clarice, and part
in sleeping, which not unfrequently succeeded the beads.  Conversation
she never attempted, and Clarice, who dared not speak till she was
spoken to, began to entertain a fear of losing the use of her tongue.
Otherwise she was grave and quiet enough, poor girl! for she was not
naturally talkative.  She was very sorry to part with Heliet, and she
felt, almost without knowing why, some apprehension concerning the
future.  Sentiments of this sort were quite unknown to such girls as
Elaine, Diana, and Roisia, while with Olympias they arose solely from
delicate health.  But Clarice was made of finer porcelain, and she could
not help mournfully feeling that she had not a friend in the world.  Her
father and mother were not friends; they were strangers who might be
expected to do what they thought best for her, just as the authorities
of a workhouse might take conscientious care in the apprenticing of the
workhouse girls.  But no more could be expected, and Clarice felt it.
If there had only been, anywhere in the world, somebody who loved her!
There was no such probability to which it was safe to look forward.
Possibly, some twenty or thirty years hence, some of her children might
love her.  As for her husband, he was simply an embarrassing future
certainty, who--with almost equal certainty--would not care a straw
about her.  That was only to be expected.  The squire who liked Roisia
would be pretty sure to get Diana; while the girl who admired Reginald
de Echingham was safe to fall to Fulk de Chaucombe.  Things always were
arranged so in this world.  Perhaps, thought Clarice, those girls were
the happiest who did not care, who took life as it came, and made all
the fun they could out of it.  But she knew well that this was how life
and she would never take each other.

Whitehall was reached at last, on that eve of Saint Botolph.  Clarice
was excessively tired, and only able to judge of the noise without, and
the superb decorations and lofty rooms within.  Lofty, be it remembered,
to her eyes; they would not look so to ours.  She supped upon salt
merling [whiting], pease-cods [green peas], and stewed fruit, and was
not sorry to get to bed.

In the morning, she found the household considerably increased.  Her
eyes were almost dazzled by the comers and goers; and she really noticed
only one person.  Two young knights were among the new attendants of the
Earl, but one of them Clarice could not have distinguished from the
crowd.  The other had attracted her notice by coming forward to help the
Countess from her litter, and, instead of attending his mistress
further, had, rather to Clarice's surprise, turned to help _her_.  And
when she looked up to thank him, it struck her that his face was like
somebody she knew.  She did not discover who it was till Roisia
observed, while the girls were undressing, that--"My cousin is growing a
beard, I declare.  He had none the last time I saw him."

"Which is thy cousin?" asked Clarice.

"Why, Piers Ingham," said Roisia.  "He that helped my Lady from the
litter."

"Oh, is he thy cousin?" responded Clarice.

"By the mother's side," answered Roisia.  "He hath but been knighted
this last winter."

"Then he is just ready for a wife," said Elaine.  "I wonder which of us
it will be!  It is tolerably sure to be one.  I say, maids, I mean to
have a jolly time of it while we are here!  It shall go hard with me if
I do not get promoted to be one of the Queen's bower-women!"

"Oh, would I?" interpolated Diana.

"Why?" asked more than one voice.

"I am sure," said Olympias, "I had ever so much rather be under the Lady
Queen than our Lady."

"Oh, that may be," said Diana.  "I was not looking at it in that light.
There is some amusement in deceiving our Lady, and one doesn't feel it
wrong, because she is such a vixen; but there would be no fun in taking
in the Queen, she's too good."

"I wonder what Father Bevis would say to that doctrine," demurely
remarked Elaine.  "What it seems to mean is, that a lie is not such a
bad thing if you tell it to a bad person as it would be if you told it
to a good one.  Now I doubt if Father Bevis would be quite of that
opinion."

"Don't talk nonsense," was Diana's reply.

"Well, but is it nonsense?  Didst thou mean that?"

It was rather unusual for Elaine thus to satirise Diana, and looked as
if the two had changed characters, especially when Diana walked away,
muttering something which no one distinctly heard.

Elaine proved herself a tolerably true prophetess.  _Fete_ followed
_fete_.  Clarice found herself initiated into Court circles, and
discovered that she was enjoying herself very much.  But whether the
attraction lay in the pageants, in the dancing, in her own bright array,
or in the companionship, she did not pause to ask herself.  Perhaps if
she had paused, and made the inquiry, she might have discovered that
life had changed to her since she came to Westminster.  The things
eternal, of which Heliet alone had spoken to her, had faded away into
far distance; they had been left behind at Oakham.  The things temporal
were becoming everything.

In a stone balcony overhanging the Thames, at Whitehall, sat Earl Edmund
of Cornwall, in a thoughtful attitude, resting his head upon his hand.
He had been alone for half an hour, but now a tall man in a Dominican
habit, who was not Father Bevis, came round the corner of the balcony,
which ran all along that side of the house.  He was the Prior or Rector
of Ashridge, a collegiate community, founded by the Earl himself, of
which we shall hear more anon.

The Friar sat down on the stone bench near the Earl, who took no further
notice of him than by a look, his eyes returning to dreamy contemplation
of the river.

"Of what is my Lord thinking?" asked the Friar, gently.

"Of life," said the Prince.

"Not very hopefully, I imagine."

"The hope comes at the beginning, Father.  Look at yonder pleasure-boat,
with the lads and lasses in it, setting forth for a row.  There is hope
enough in their faces.  But when the journey comes near its end, and the
perilous bridge must be shot, and the night is setting in, what you see
in the faces then will not be hope.  It will be weariness; perhaps
disgust and sorrow.  And--in some voyages, the hope dies early."

"True--if it has reference only to the day."

"Ah," responded the Prince, with a smile which had more sadness than
mirth in it, "you mean to point me to the hope beyond.  But the day is
long Father.  The night has not come yet, and the bridge is still to be
shot.  Ay, and the wind and rain are cold, as one drops slowly down the
river."

"There is home at the end, nevertheless," answered the Dominican.  "When
we sit round the fire in the banquet hall, and all we love are round us,
and the doors shut safe, we shall easily forget the cold wind on the
water."

"When!  Yes.  But I am on the water yet, and it may be some hours before
my barge is moored at the garden steps.  And--it is always the same,
Father.  It does seem strange, when there is only one earthly thing for
which a man cares, that God should deny him that one thing.  Why rouse
the hope which is never to be fulfilled?  If the width of the world had
lain all our lives between me and my Lady, we should both have been
happier.  Why should God bring us together to spoil each other's lives?
For I dare say she is as little pleased with her lot as I with mine--
poor Magot!"

"Will my Lord allow me to alter the figure he has chosen?" said the
Predicant Friar.  "Look at your own barge moored down below.  If the
rope were to break, what would become of the barge?"

"It would drift down the river."

"And if there were in it a little child, alone, too young to have either
skill or strength to steer it, what would become of him when the barge
shot the bridge?"

"Poor soul!--destruction, without question."

"And what if my Lord be that little child, safe as yet in the barge
which the Master has tied fast to the shore?  The rope is his trouble.
What if it be his safety also?  He would like far better to go drifting
down, amusing himself with the strange sights while daylight lasted; but
when night came, and the bridge to be passed, how then?  Is it not
better to be safe moored, though there be no beauty or variety in the
scene?"

"Nay, Father, but is there no third way?  Might the bridge not be passed
in safety, and the child take his pleasure, and yet reach home well and
sound?"

"Some children," said the Predicant Friar, with a tender intonation.
"But not that child."

The Earl was silent.  The Prior softly repeated a text of Scripture.

"Endure chastisement.  As sons God dealeth with you; what son then is
he, whom the Father chasteneth not?"  [Hebrews 12, verse 7, Vulgate
version.]

A low, half-repressed sigh from his companion reminded the Prior that he
was touching a sore place.  One of the Prince's bitterest griefs was his
childlessness.  [He has told us so himself.] The Prior tacked about, and
came into deeper water.

"`Nor have we a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our infirmities,
for He was tempted in all things like us, except in sinning.'" [Hebrews
4, verse 15, Vulgate version.]

"If one could see!" said the Earl, almost in a whisper.

"It would be easier, without doubt.  Yet `blessed are they who see not,
and believe.'  God can see.  I would rather He saw and not I, than--if
such a thing were possible--that I saw and not He.  Whether is better,
my Lord, that the father see the danger and guard the child without his
knowing anything, or that the child see it too, and have all the pain
and apprehension consequent upon the seeing?  The blind has the
advantage, sometimes."

"Yet who would wish to be blind on that account?" answered the Earl,
quickly.

"No man could wish it, nor need he.  Only, the blind man may take the
comfort of it."

"But you have not answered one point, Father.  Why does God rouse
longings in our hearts which He never means to fulfil?"

"Does God rouse them?"

"Are they sin, then?"

"No," answered the Prior, slowly, as if he were thinking out the
question, and had barely reached the answer.  "I dare not say that.
They are nature.  Some, I know, would have all that is nature to be sin;
but I doubt if God treats it thus in His Word.  Still, I question if He
raises those longings.  He allows them.  Man raises them."

"Does He never guide them?"

"Yes, that I think He does."

"Then the question comes to the same thing.  Why does God not guide us
to long for the thing that He means to give us?"

"He very often does."

"Then," pursued the Earl, a little impatiently, "why does He not turn us
away from that which He does not intend us to have?"

"My Lord," said the Predicant, gravely, "from the day of his fall, man
has always been asking God _why_.  He will probably go on doing it to
the day of the dissolution of all things.  But I do not observe that God
has ever yet answered the question."

"It is wrong to ask it, then, I suppose," said the Earl, with a weary
sigh.

"It is not faith that wants to know why.  `He that believeth hasteneth
not.'  [Isaiah 28, verse 16, Vulgate version.] `What I do, thou knowest
not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.'  [John 13 verse 7.] We can
afford to wait, my Lord."

"Easily enough," replied the Earl, with feeling, "if we knew it would
come right in the end."

"It will come as He would have it who laid down His life that you should
live for ever.  Is that not enough for my Lord?"

Perhaps the Prince felt it enough.  At all events, he gave no answer.

"Well, that is not my notion of going comfortably through life!"
observed Miss Elaine Criketot, in a decided tone.  "My idea is to pull
all the plums out of the cake, and leave the hard crusts for those that
like them."

"Does anybody like them?" laughingly asked Clarice.

"Well, for those who need them, then.  Plenty of folks in this world are
glad of hard crusts or anything else."

"Thy metaphor is becoming rather confused," observed Diana.

"Dost thou not think, Elaine Criketot, that it might be only fair to
leave a few plums for those whose usual fare is crusts?  A crust now and
then would scarcely hurt the dainty damsels who commonly regale
themselves on plums."

It was a fourth voice which said this--a voice which nobody expected,
and the sound of which brought all the girls to their feet in an
instant.

"Most certainly, Lord Earl," replied Elaine, courtesying low; "but I
hope they would be somebody else's plums than mine."

"I see," said the Earl, with that sparkle of fun in his eyes, which they
all knew.  "Self-denial is a holy and virtuous quality, to be cultivated
by all men--except me.  Well, we might all subscribe that creed with
little sacrifice.  But then where would be the self-denial?"

"Please it the Lord Earl, it might be practised by those who liked it."

"I should be happy to hear of any one who liked self-denial," responded
the Earl, laughing.  "Is that not a contradiction in terms?"

Elaine was about to make a half-saucy answer, mixed sufficiently with
reverence to take away any appearance of offence, when a sight met her
eyes which struck her into silent horror.  In the doorway, looking a
shade more acetous than usual, stood Lady Margaret.  It was well known
to all the bower-maidens of the Countess of Cornwall that there were two
crimes on her code which were treated as capital offences.  Laughing was
the less, and being caught in conversation with a man was the greater.
But beneath both these depths was a deeper depth yet, and this was
talking to the Earl.  Never was a more perfect exemplification of the
dog in the manger than the Lady Margaret of Cornwall.  She did not want
the Earl for herself, but she was absolutely determined that no one else
should so much as speak to him.  Here was Elaine, caught red-handed in
the commission of all three of these stupendous crimes.  And if the
offence could be made worse, it was so by the Earl saying, as he walked
away, "I pray you, my Lady, visit not my sins on this young maid."

Had one compassionate sensation remained in the mind of the Countess
towards Elaine, that unlucky speech would have extinguished it at once.
She did not, as usual, condescend to answer her lord; but she turned to
Elaine, and in a voice of concentrated anger, demanded the repetition of
every word which had passed.  Diana gave it, for Elaine seemed almost
paralysed with terror.  Clarice, on the demand of her mistress,
confirmed Diana's report as exact.  The Countess turned back to Elaine.
Her words were scarcely to be reported, for she lost alike her temper
and her gentlewomanly manners.  "And out of my house thou goest this
day," was the conclusion, "thou shameful, giglot hussey!  And I will not
give thee an husband; thou shalt go back to thy father and thy mother,
with the best whipping that ever I gave maid.  And she that shall be in
thy stead shall be the ugliest maid I can find, and still of tongue, and
sober of behaviour.  Now, get thee gone!"

And calling for Agatha as she went, the irate lady stalked away.

Of no use was poor Elaine's flood of tears, nor the united entreaties of
her four companions.  Clarice and Diana soon found that they were not to
come off scatheless.  Neither had spoken to the Earl, as Elaine readily
confessed; but for the offence of listening to such treachery, both were
sent to bed by daylight, with bread and water for supper.  The offences
of grown-up girls in those days were punished like those of little
children now.  All took tearful farewells of poor Elaine, who dolefully
expressed her fear of another whipping when she reached home; and so she
passed out of their life.

It was several weeks before the new bower-maiden appeared.  Diana
suggested that the Countess found some difficulty in meeting with a girl
ugly enough to please her.  But, at last, one evening in November,
Mistress Underdone introduced the new-comer, in the person of a girl of
eighteen, or thereabouts, as Felicia de Fay, daughter of Sir Stephen de
Fay and Dame Sabina Watefeud, of the county of Sussex.  All the rest
looked with much curiosity at her.

Felicia, while not absolutely ugly, was undeniably plain.  Diana
remarked afterwards to Clarice that there were no ugly girls to be had,
as plainly appeared.  But the one thing about her which really was ugly
was her expression.  She looked no one in the face, while she diligently
studied every one who was not looking at her.  Let any one attempt to
meet her eyes, and they dropped in a moment.  Some do this from mere
bashfulness, but Felicia showed no bashfulness in any other way.
Clarice's feeling towards her was fear.

"I'm not afraid!" said Diana.  "I am sure I could be her match in fair
fight!"

"It is the fair fight I doubt," said Clarice.  "I am afraid there is
treachery in her eyes."

"She makes me creep all over," added Olympias.

"Well, she had better not try to measure swords with me," said Diana.
"I tell you, I have a presentiment that girl and I shall fight; but I
will come off victor; you see if I don't!"

Clarice made no answer, but in her heart she thought that Diana was too
honest to be any match for Felicia.

It was the Countess's custom to spend her afternoon, when the day was
fine, in visiting some shrine or abbey.  When the day was not fine, she
passed the time in embroidering among her maidens, and woe betide the
unlucky damsel who selected a wrong shade, or set in a false stitch.
The natural result of this was that the pine-cone, kept by Olympias as a
private barometer, was anxiously consulted on the least appearance of
clouds.  Diana asserted that she offered a wax candle to Saint Wulstan
every month for fair weather.  One of the young ladies always had to
accompany her mistress, and the fervent hope of each was to escape this
promotion.  Felicia alone never expressed this hope, never joined in any
tirades against the Countess, never got into disgrace with her, and
seemed to stand alone, like a drop of vinegar which would not mingle
with the oil around it.  She appeared to see everything, and say
nothing.  It was impossible to get at her likes and dislikes.  She took
everything exactly alike.  Either she had no prejudices, or she was all
prejudice, and nobody could tell which it was.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Some readers will think such ideas too modern to have occurred
to any one in 1290.  There is evidence to the contrary.



CHAPTER FIVE.

BUILDING A FRESH CASTLE.

  "Oh, had I wist, afore I kissed,
  That loue had been sae ill to win,
  I'd locked my heart wi' a key o' gowd,
  And pinned it wi' a siller pin."--_Old Ballad_.

On an afternoon early in December, the Countess sat among her
bower-women at work.  Roisia was almost in tears, for she had just been
sharply chidden for choosing too pale a shade of blue.  A little stir at
the door made all look up, and they saw Father Bevis.  All rose to their
feet in an instant, the Countess dropping on her knees, and entreating
the priest's blessing.  He gave it, but as if his thoughts were far
away.

"Lady, my Lord hath sent me to you with tidings.  May God grant they be
not the worst tidings for England that we have heard for many a day!  A
messenger is come from the North, bringing news that the Lady Alianora
the Queen lieth dead in the marsh lands of Lincolnshire."

It was a worse loss to England than any there knew.  Yet they knew
enough to draw a cry of horror and sorrow from the lips of all those
that heard the news.  And a fortnight later, on the 17th of December,
they all stood at Charing Cross, to see the funeral procession wind down
from the north road, and set down the black bier for its last momentary
rest on the way to Westminster.

It is rather singular that the two items which alone the general reader
usually remembers of this good Queen's history should be two points
distinctly proved by research to be untrue.  Leonor did not suck the
poison from her husband's arm--a statement never made until a hundred
and fifty years after her death, and virtually disproved by the
testimony of an eye-witness who makes no allusion to it, but who tells
us instead that she behaved like a very weak woman instead of a very
brave one, giving way to hysterical screams, and so distressing the
sufferer that he bade four of his knights to carry her out of the room.
Again, Edward's affectionate regret did not cause the erection of the
famous Eleanor Crosses wherever the bier rested on its journey.  Leonor
herself desired their erection, and left money for it in her will.

The domestic peace of the royal house died with her who had stood at its
head for nineteen years.  To her son, above all others, her loss was
simply irreparable.  The father and son were men of very different
tastes and proclivities; and the former never understood the latter.  In
fact, Edward the Second was a man who did not belong to his century; and
such men always have a hard lot.  His love of quiet, and hatred of war,
were, in the eyes of his father, spiritless meanness; while his musical
tastes and his love of animals went beyond womanish weakness, and were
looked upon as absolute vices.  But perhaps to the nobles the worst
features of his character were two which, in the nineteenth century,
would entitle him to respect.  He was extremely faithful in friendship,
and he had a strong impatience of etiquette.  He loved to associate with
his people, to mix in their joys and sorrows, to be as one of them.  His
favourite amusement was to row down the Thames on a summer evening, with
music on board, and to chat freely with the lieges who came down in
their barges, occasionally, and much to his own amusement, buying
cabbages and other wares from them.  We should consider such actions
indicative of a kindly disposition and of simplicity of taste.  But in
the eyes of his contemporaries they were inexpressibly low.  And be it
remembered that it was not a question of associating with persons of
more or less education, whose mental standard might be unequal to his
own.  There was no mental standard whereby to measure any one in the
thirteenth century.  All (with a very few exceptions, and those chiefly
among the clergy) were uneducated alike.  The moral standard looked upon
war and politics as the only occupations meet for a prince, and upon
hunting and falconry as the only amusements sufficiently noble.  A man
who, like Edward, hated war, and had no fancy for either sport or
politics, was hardly a man in the eyes of a mediaeval noble.

The hardest treatment to which Edward was subjected, whether from his
father in youth or from his people at a later time, arose out of that
touching constancy which was his greatest virtue.  Perhaps he did not
always choose his friends well; he was inclined to put rather too much
trust in his fellow creatures; and Hugh Le Despenser the elder may have
been grasping and mean, and Piers Gavestone too extravagant.  Yet we
must remember that we read their characters only as depicted by the pens
of men who hated them--of men who were simply unable to conceive that
two persons might be drawn together by mutual taste for some elevated
and innocent pursuit.  The most wicked motives imaginable were
recklessly suggested for the attachment which Edward showed for these
chosen friends--who were not of noble origin, and had no handles to
their names till he conferred them.

It is only through a thick mist of ignorance and prejudice that we of
this day can see the character of Edward the Second.  We read it only in
the pages of monks who hated their Lollard King--in the angry complaints
of nobles who were jealous that he listened to and bestowed gifts on
other men than themselves.  But we do see some faint glimpses of the
Edward that really was, in the letter-book but recently dug out of a
mass of State papers; in the pages of De La Moor, [Note 1], the only
chronicler of his deeds who did not hate him, and who, as his personal
attendant, must have known more of him in a month than the monks could
have learned in a century; and last, not least, in that touching Latin
poem in which, during the sad captivity which preceded his sadder death,
he poured out his soul to God, the only Friend whom he had left in all
the universe.

  "Oh, who that heard how once they praised my name,
  Could think that from those tongues these slanders came?
  ...  I see Thy rod, and, Lord, I am content.
  Weave Thou my life until the web is spun;
  Chide me, O Father, till Thy will be done:
  Thy child no longer murmurs to obey;
  He only sorrows o'er the past delay.
  Lost is my realm; yet I shall not repine,
  If, after all, I win but that of Thine."

  [See Note 2.]

To a character such as this, the loss of his chief friend and only
reliable intercessor, when just emerging from infancy into boyhood, was
a loss for which nothing could atone.  It proved itself so in those
dreary after-years of perpetual misunderstandings and severities on the
part of his father, who set him no good example, and yet looked on the
son whose tastes were purer than his own as an instance of irredeemable
depravity.  The easiest thing in the world to do is one against which
God has denounced a woe--to put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.

Another item of sorrowful news reached London with the coffin of Queen
Leonor.  It was the death of the baby Queen of Scotland, by whose
betrothal to Prince Edward the King had vainly hoped to fuse the
northern and southern kingdoms into one.  It left Scotland in a
condition of utter distraction, with no less than eleven different
claimants for the Crown, setting up claims good, bad, and indifferent;
but every one of them persuaded that all the others had not an inch of
ground to stand on, and that he was the sole true and rightful
inheritor.

The only claimants who really had a shadow of right may be reduced to
three.  If the old primitive custom of Scotland was to be regarded--a
custom dear to all Celtic nations--by which illegitimate children were
considered to have an equal right to the succession with the legitimate
ones, then there could be no question that the heir was Patrick de
Galithlys, son of Henry, the natural son of Alexander the Second.  But
if not--and in this respect undoubtedly the custom had become obsolete--
the struggle rested between John Baliol and Robert Bruce, of whom the
first was the son of Dervorgoyl, daughter of Margaret, eldest daughter
of David Earl of Huntingdon, brother of King William the Lion; while the
latter was the son of Isabel, the second daughter of David.  Every
reader knows that the question was submitted by consent of the Scottish
nobles to Edward the First as arbitrator, and that he gave his decision
in favour of Baliol.  In other words, he gave it against the existing
law both of England and Scotland, which did not recognise
representation, and according to which the son of the second sister
ought to have been preferred to the grandson of the elder.

The anxiety of our kings to bring in this law of representation is a
curious psychological fact.  Richard the First tried to do it by will,
in leaving the crown to his nephew Arthur; but the law was too strong
for him, and the rightful heir succeeded--his brother John.  Edward the
First contrived to abrogate the law, so far as Scotland was concerned, a
hundred years later.  And eighty years after him Edward the Third tried
again to alter the English law of succession, and this time the
experiment succeeded.  But its success was due mainly to two reasons--
the personal popularity of the dead Prince whose son was thus lifted
into the line of succession, while the rightful heir was extremely
unpopular; and the fact that the disinherited heir gave full consent and
assistance to the change in the law.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The knights and squires of the Earl of Cornwall's household were
gathered together on the balcony which faced the river.  One only was
absent, Piers Ingham, who was occupied in a more interesting manner, as
will presently be seen.  His colleague, Sir Lambert Aylmer, was holding
forth in a lively manner for the benefit of the four squires, who were
listening to him with various degrees of attention.  Reginald de
Echingham could never spare much of that quality from his admirable
self, and De Chaucombe was an original thinker, who did not purchase
ready-made ideas from other people.  Barkeworth invariably agreed with
the last speaker in public, but kept his private views an inscrutable
mystery; while all that could be said of Gernet's notions was that he
had "_un grand talent pour le silence_."

To this quartette Sir Lambert was explaining his forecast of the
political weather.  The young knight had a great fancy for airing his
politics, and an unwavering conviction of the infallibility of his
judgment.  If Sir Lambert was to be believed, what King Edward would
undoubtedly do was to foment civil war in Scotland, until all the rival
male claimants had destroyed each other.  He would then marry the
daughter of one of them, and annex Scotland as her appanage.  All being
smooth in that quarter, the King would next undertake a pilgrimage to
Palestine, drive the Saracens out, and confer that country on one of his
sons-in-law.  He would then carry fire and sword through Borussia,
Lithuania, and other heathen kingdoms in the north, subdue them all, put
a few more sons-in-law in possession as tributary governors, and being
by that time an old man, would then return to Westminster to end his
days in peace, a new Alexander, and to leave a magnificent empire to his
son.

"Easier said than done," growled De Chaucombe, in his beard.

"Charming!" observed De Echingham, caressing his pet moustache.

"A lovely prospect, indeed," said De Barkeworth, with a bow, in a tone
so impartially suspended between conviction and cynicism that nobody
could tell which had dictated it.  "I should like to win my spurs in
Lithuania."

"Win thy spurs!" muttered De Chaucombe again.  "There are no spurs for
carpet-knights [Note 3] in the wardrobe of the Future."

"I think knights should have golden spurs, not gilt ones--don't you?"
inquired De Echingham.

"Puppy!" sneered De Chaucombe.  "If ever either are on thy heels it will
be a blunder of somebody's making."

"Is it necessary to quarrel?" asked Gernet, speaking for the first time.

"Oh, I trust I have more generosity than to quarrel with _him_," rather
contemptuously returned De Echingham, who, as every one present knew,
had as little physical courage as any girl.

"Make thyself easy," was the answer of De Chaucombe, as he walked away.
"I should not think of running the risk."

"What risk?" demanded Barkeworth, laughing.  De Chaucombe looked back
over his shoulder, and discharged a Parthian dart.

"The risk of turning my good Damascus blade on a toad," said he, to the
great amusement of Barkeworth.

De Chaucombe went to the end of the balcony, descended the steps which
led to the ground floor, and came on a second terrace, also fronting the
river.  As he turned a corner of the house he suddenly confronted two
people, who were walking slowly along the terrace, and conversing in
hushed tones.  Sir Piers Ingham was evidently and deeply interested, his
head slightly bowed towards Clarice who was as earnestly engaged in the
dissection of one of the _few_ leaves which Christmas had left
fluttering on the garden bushes.  As De Chaucombe approached she looked
up with a startled air, and blushed to her eyes.

De Chaucombe muttered something indistinct which might pass for "Good
evening," and resumed his path rather more rapidly than before.

"So the wind blows from that direction!" he said to himself.  "Well, it
does not matter a straw to me.  But what our amiable mistress will say
to the fair Clarice, when she comes to know of it, is another question.
I do believe that, if she had made up her mind to a match between them,
she would undo it again, if she thought they wished it.  It would be
just like her."

It had never occurred to Clarice to suppose that she did anything wrong
in thus disobeying point blank the known orders of her mistress that the
bower-maidens were to hold no intercourse whatever with the gentlemen of
the household.  She knew perfectly well that if the Countess saw her
talking to Sir Piers, she would be exceedingly angry; and she knew that
her parents fully intended and expected her to obey her mistress as she
would themselves.  Poor Clarice's code of morals looked upon discovery,
not disobedience, as the thing to be dreaded; and while she would have
recoiled with horror from the thought of unfaithfulness to her beloved,
she looked with absolute complacency on the idea of disloyalty to the
mistress whom she by no means loved.  How could she do otherwise when
she had never been taught better?

Clarice's standard was _loyaute d'amour_.  It is the natural standard of
all men, the only difference being in the king whom they set up.  A vast
number are loyal to themselves only, for it is themselves whom alone
they love.  Fewer are loyal to some human being; and poor humanity being
a very fallible thing, they often make sad shipwreck.  Very few indeed--
in comparison of the mass--are loyal to the King who claims and has a
right to their hearts' best affections.  And Clarice was not one of
these.

Inside the house the Countess and Mistress Underdone were very busy
indeed.  Before them, spread over forms and screens, lay piles of
material for clothing--linen, serge, silk, and crape, of many colours.
On a leaf-table at the side of the room a number of gold and silver
ornaments were displayed.  Furs were heaped upon the bed, boots and
loose slippers stood in a row in one corner; while Mistress Underdone
was turning over for her mistress's inspection a quantity of embroidered
neckerchiefs.

"Now, let me see," said the Countess, peremptorily.  "Measure off linen
for four gowns, Agatha--two of brown and two of red.  Serge for two--the
dark green.  One silk will be enough, and one of crape."

"How many ells the gown does my Lady choose to allow?" asked Mistress
Underdone, taking an ell-wand from the table.

"Four," said the Countess, curtly.  This was rather miserly measure,
four ells and a third being the usual reckoning; but Mistress Underdone
measured and cut in silence.

"Thou mayest allow a third more for the silk and crape," said the
Countess, in a fit of unusual generosity.

Mistress Underdone finished her measuring, laying each piece of material
neatly folded on the last, until the table held a tall heap of them.

"Now for hoods," pursued the Countess.  "Black cloth for two, lined with
cats' fur; russet for two more.  Capes for outdoor wear--two of the
green serge; one of black cloth lined with cats' fur; one of silk.  Four
linen wimples; two pairs of cloth boots, two of slippers; two corsets;
three of those broidered kerchiefs, one better than the others; four
pairs of hosen.  Measure off also twenty-four ells of linen cloth."

"Of what price, if it please my Lady?"

"Fivepence the ell.  And the boots of sixpence a pair.  What did that
green serge cost?"

"Threepence the ell, my Lady."

"That is monstrous.  Have I no cheaper?  Twopence would be good enough
for her."

"If it please my Lady, there is only that coarse grey serge at three
halfpence the ell, which was bought for the cook-maids."

"Humph!  I suppose that would scarcely do," said the Countess, in a tone
which sounded as if she wished it would.  "Well, then--those ornaments.
She must have a silver fibula, I suppose; and a copper-gilt one for
common.  What made thee put out all those other things?  That is enough
for her.  If she wants a silver chain, her husband must give it her; I
shall not.  As to rings and necklaces, they are all nonsense--not fit
for such as she."

"Would my Lady think proper to allow a dovecote with silver pins?"

The dovecote was a head-dress, a kind of round caul of gold or silver
network, secured by gold or silver pins fastened in the hair.

"Not I.  Let her husband give her such fooleries."

"And may I request to know what my Lady allows for making the garments?"

"Three halfpence each."

"Might I be pardoned if I remind my Lady that the usual price is
twopence each?"

"For me, perhaps; not for her."

Mistress Underdone went on measuring the linen in silence.

"There, that finishes for Clarice," said the Countess.  "Now for Diana.
She may have a silver chain in addition, two of the best kerchiefs,
and--no, that is enough.  Otherwise let her have just the same."

"If my Lady would graciously indulge her servant with permission to ask
it, do the maidens know yet what is to befall them?"

"No.  I shall tell them on Sunday.  Time enough."

And the Countess left Mistress Underdone to finish the work by herself.

"On Sunday!  Only two days beforehand!" said Agatha Underdone to
herself.  "Diana will stand it.  She is one that would not care much for
anything of that kind, and she will rule the house.  But Clarice!  If
she should have given her heart elsewhere!--and I have fancied, lately,
that she has given it somewhere.  That poor child!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"But how can we?" queried Clarice.  "If I were to speak to the Lady--
even if I dared--I doubt--"

"I do not doubt, sweetheart," replied Sir Piers.  "No, the path must be
rather mere winding than that, though I confess I hate tortuous paths.
Father Miles is the only person who has any influence with the Lady, and
Father Bevis is the only one who has any with him."

"But Father Bevis would have no sympathy with a love-story."

"I am not sure that he would.  But my Lord will, I know; and Father
Bevis will listen to him.  Leave this business to me, my fair Clarice.
If I can obtain my Lord's ear this evening after vespers, and I think I
can, we shall soon have matters in train; and I have a fine hawk for
Father Miles, which will put him in a good humour.  Now, farewell, for I
hear the Lady's voice within."

The lovers parted hastily, and Clarice went in to attire herself for
mass.  For any one of her maidens to be absent from that ceremony would
have been a terrible offence in the eyes of the Countess; nor would any
less excuse than serious illness have availed to avert her displeasure.
Dinner followed mass, and a visit to the shrine of Saint Edward,
concluded by vespers, occupied the remainder of the afternoon.  There
was half an hour to spare before supper, and the girls were chatting
together in their usual "bower," or boudoir, when, to their surprise,
the Countess entered.

"I have ado but with two of you," she said, as she seated herself.

Naturally, the girls supposed that some penalty was about to befall
those two.  How had they offended her? and which of them were the
offenders?  To displease the Countess, as they all knew, was so
extremely easy, that not one of them was prepared for the next sentence.

"Two of you are to be wed on Tuesday."

This was a bombshell.  And it was the more serious because they were
aware that from this sentence there was no appeal.  Troubled eyes, set
in white faces, hurriedly sought each other.

Was it from sheer thoughtlessness, or from absolute malice, or even from
a momentary feeling of compassion towards the two who were to be
sacrificed, that the Countess made a long pause after each sentence?

"Diana Quappelad," she said.

Olympias, Roisia, and Clarice drew a sigh of relief.  There were just
half the chances against each that there had been.  Diana stood forward,
with a slight flush, but apparently not much concerned.

"Thou art to wed with Master Fulk de Chaucombe, and thy bridegroom will
be knighted on the wedding-day.  I shall give thee thy gear and thy
wedding-feast.  Mistress Underdone will show thee the gear."

The first momentary expression of Diana's face had been disappointment.
It passed in an instant, and one succeeded which was divided between
pleasurable excitement and amusement.  She courtesied very low, and
thanked the Countess, as of course was expected of her.

Roisia stood behind, with blank face and clasped hands.  There might be
further pain in store, but pleasure for her there could now be none.
The Countess quite understood the dumb show, but she made no sign.

"Clarice La Theyn."

The girl stood out, listening for the next words as though her life hung
on them.

"I shall also give thee thy gear, and thy squire will be knighted on the
wedding-day."

The Countess was turning away as though she had said all.  Clarice had
heard enough to make her feel as if life were not worth having.  A
squire who still required knighthood was not Piers Ingham.  Did it
matter who else it was?  But she found, the next moment, that it might.

"Would my Lady suffer me to let Clarice know whom she is to wed?" gently
suggested Mistress Underdone.

"Oh, did I not mention it?" carelessly responded the Countess, turning
back to Clarice.  "Vivian Barkeworth."

She paused an instant for the courtesy and thanks which she expected.
But she got a good deal more than she expected.  With a passionate sob
that came from her very heart, Clarice fell at the feet of the Lady
Margaret.

"What is all this fuss about?" exclaimed her displeased mistress.  "I
never heard such ado about nothing."

Her displeasure, usually feared above all things, was nothing to Clarice
in that terrible instant.  She sobbed forth that she loved elsewhere--
she was already troth-plight.

"Nonsense!" said the Countess, sharply.  "What business hadst thou with
such foolery, unknown to me?  All maidens are wed by orders from their
superiors.  Why shouldst thou be an exception?"

"Oh, have you no compassion?" cried poor Clarice, in her agony.  "Lady,
did you never love?"

All present were intently watching the face of the Countess, in the hope
of seeing some sign of relenting.  But when this question was asked, the
stern lips grew more set and stern than ever, and something like fire
flashed out of the usually cold blue-grey eyes.

"Who--I?" she exclaimed.  "Thanks be to all the saints right verily,
nay.  I never had ado with any such disgraceful folly.  From mine
earliest years I have ever desired to be an holy sister, and never to
see a man's face.  Get up, girl; it is of no use to kneel to me.  There
was no kindness shown to me; my wishes were never considered; why should
thine be?  I was made to array myself for my bridal, to the very
uprooting and destruction of all that I most loved and desired.  Ah! if
my Lord and father had lived, it would not have been so; he always
encouraged my vocation.  He said love was unhappy, and I thought it was
scandalous.  No, Clarice; I have no compassion upon lovers.  There never
ought to be any such thing.  Let it be as I have said."

And away stalked the Countess, looking more grey, square, and angular
than ever.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  De La Moor is the only chronicler in whose pages it is possible
to recognise the Edward of the letter-book, in which all his letters are
copied for the thirty-third year of his father's reign--1304-5.

Note 2.  Barnes's Edward the Third.  I must in honesty confess that I
have taken the liberty of smoothing Dr Barnes's somewhat rugged
translation.

Note 3.  A carpet-knight was one whose heroism lay more in rhetorical
visions addressed to his partner in the intervals of dancing than in
hard blows given and taken in the field.



CHAPTER SIX.

DESTROYED BY THE HURRICANE.

  "Our plans may be disjointed,
  But we may calmly rest:
  What God has once appointed
  Is better than our best."--Frances Ridley Havergal.

The Countess left Clarice prostrate on the ground, sobbing as if her
heart would break--Olympias feebly trying to raise and soothe her,
Roisia looking half-stunned, and Felicia palpably amused by the scene.

"Thou hadst better get up, child," said Diana, in a tone divided between
constraint and pity.  "It will do thee no good to lie there.  We shall
all have to put up with the same thing in our turn.  I haven't got the
man I should have chosen; but I suppose it won't matter a hundred years
hence."

"I am not so sure of that," said Roisia, in a low voice.

"Oh, thou art disappointed, I know," said Diana.  "I would hand Fulk
over to thee with pleasure, if I could.  I don't want him.  But I
suppose he will do as well as another, and I shall take care to be
mistress.  It is something to be married--to anybody."

"It is everything to be married to the right man," said Roisia; "but it
is something very awful to be married to the wrong one."

"Oh, one soon gets over that," was Diana's answer.  "So long as you can
have your own way, I don't see that anything signifies much.  I shall
not admire myself in my wedding-dress any the less because my squire is
not exactly the one I hoped it might be."

"Diana, I don't understand thee," responded Roisia.  "What does it
matter, I should say, having thine own way in little nothings so long as
thou art not to have it in the one thing for which thou really carest?
Thou dost not mean to say that a velvet gown would console thee for
breaking thy heart?"

"But I do," said Diana.  "I must be a countess before I could wear
velvet; and I would marry any man in the world who would make me a
countess."

Mistress Underdone, who had lifted up Clarice, and was holding her in
her arms, petting her into calmness as she would a baby, now thought fit
to interpose.

"My maids," she said, "there are women who have lost their hearts, and
there are women who were born without any.  The former case has the more
suffering, yet methinks the latter is really the more pitiable."

"Well, I think those people pitiable enough who let their hearts break
their sleep and interfere with their appetites," replied Diana.  "I have
got over my disappointment already; and Clarice will be a simpleton if
she do not."

"I expect Clarice and I will be simpletons," said Roisia, quietly.

"Please yourselves, and I will please myself," answered Diana.  "Now,
mistress, Clarice seems to have given over crying for a few seconds; may
we see the gear?"

"Oh, I want Father Bevis!" sobbed Clarice, with a fresh gush of tears.

"Ay, my dove, thou wilt be the better of shriving," said Mistress
Underdone, tenderly.  "Sit thee down a moment, and I will see to Father
Bevis.  Wait awhile, Diana."

It was not many minutes before she came back with Father Bevis, who took
Clarice into his oratory; and as it was a long while before she rejoined
them, the others--Roisia excepted--had almost time to forget the scene
they had witnessed, in the interest of turning over Diana's _trousseau_,
and watching her try on hoods and mantles.

The interview with Father Bevis was unsatisfactory to Clarice.  She
wanted comfort, and he gave her none.  Advice he was ready with in
plenty; but comfort he could not give her, because he could not see why
she wanted it.  He was simply incapable of understanding her.  He was
very kind, and very anxious to comfort her, if he could only have told
how to do it.  But love--spiritual love excepted--was a stranger to his
bosom.  No one had ever loved him; he could not remember his parents; he
had never had brother nor sister; and he had never made a friend.  His
heart was there, but it had never been warmed to life.  Perhaps he came
nearest to loving the Earl his master; but even this feeling awakened
very faint pulsations.  His capacity for loving human beings had been
simply starved to death.  Such a man as this, however anxious to be kind
and helpful, of course could not enter in the least into the position of
Clarice.  He told her many very true things, if she had been capable of
receiving them; he tried his very best to help her; but she felt through
it all that they were barbarians to each other, and that Father Bevis
regarded her as partially incomprehensible and wholly silly.

Father Bevis told Clarice that the chief end of man was to glorify God,
and to enjoy Him for ever; that no love was worthy in comparison with
His; that he who loved father and mother more than Christ was not worthy
of Him.  All very true, but the stunned brain and lacerated heart could
not take it in.  The drugs were pure and precious, but they were not the
medicine for her complaint.  She only felt a sensation of repulsion.

Clarice did not know that the Earl was doing his very best to rescue
her.  He insisted on Father Miles going to the Countess about it; nay,
he even ventured an appeal to her himself, though it always cost him
great pain to attempt a conversation with this beloved but irresponsive
woman.  But he took nothing by his motion.  The Countess was as
obstinate as she was absolute.  If anything, the opposition to her will
left her just a shade more determined.  In vain her husband pleaded
earnestly with her not to spoil two lives.  Hers had been spoiled, she
replied candidly: these ought not to be better off, nor should they be.

"Life has been spoiled for us both," said the Earl, sadly; "but I should
have thought that a reason why we might have been tenderer to others."

"You are a fool!" said the Countess with a flash of angry scorn.

They were the first words she had spoken to him for eighteen years.

"Maybe, my Lady," was the gentle answer.  "It would cost me less to be
accounted a fool than it would to break a heart."

And he left her, feeling himself baffled and his endeavours useless, yet
with a glow at his heart notwithstanding.  His Margaret had spoken to
him at last.  That her words were angry, even abusive, was a
consideration lost in the larger fact.  Tears which did not fall welled
up from the soft heart to the dove-like eyes, and he went out to the
terrace to compose himself.  "O Margaret, Margaret! if you could have
loved me!"  He never thought of blaming her--only of winning her as a
dim hope of some happy future, to be realised when it was God's will.
He had never yet dared to look his cross in the face sufficiently to
add, if it were God's will.

When the Monday came, which was to be the last day of Clarice's maiden
life, it proved a busy, bustling day, with no time for thought until the
evening.  Clarice lived through it as best she might.  Diana seemed to
have put her disappointment completely behind her, and to be thoroughly
consoled by the bustle and her _trousseau_.

One consideration never occurred to any of the parties concerned, which
would be thought rather desirable in the nineteenth century.  This was,
that the respective bridegrooms should have any interview with their
brides elect, or in the slightest degree endeavour to make themselves
agreeable.  They met at meals in the great hall, but they never
exchanged a word.  Clarice did not dare to lift her eyes, lest she
should meet those either of Vivian or Piers.  She kept them diligently
fixed upon her trencher, with which she did little else than look at it.

The evening brought a lull in the excitement and busy labour.  The
Countess, attended by Felicia, had gone to the Palace on royal
invitation.  Clarice sat on the terrace, her eyes fixed on the river
which she did not see, her hands lying listlessly in her lap.  Though
she had heard nothing, that unaccountable conviction of another
presence, which comes to us all at times, seized upon her; and she
looked up to see Piers Ingham.

The interview was long, and there is no need to add that it was painful.
The end came at last.

"Wilt thou forget me, Clarice?" softly asked Piers.

"I ought," was the answer, with a gush of tears, "if I can."

"I cannot," was the reply.  "But one pain I can spare thee, my beloved.
The Lady means to retain thee in her service as damsel of the chamber."
[Note 1.]

If Clarice could have felt any lesser grief beside the one great one,
she would have been sorry to hear that.

"I shall retire," said Sir Piers, "from my Lord's household.  I will not
give thee the misery of meeting me day by day.  Rather I will do what I
can to help thee to forget me.  It is the easier for me, since I have
had to offend my Lady by declining the hand of Felicia de Fay, which she
was pleased to offer me."

"The Lady offered Felicia to thee?"

Sir Piers bent his head in assent.  Clarice felt as if she could have
poisoned Felicia, and have given what arsenic remained over to the Lady
Margaret.

"And are we never to meet again?" she asked, with an intonation of
passionate sorrow.

"That must depend on God's will," said Sir Piers, gravely.

Clarice covered her face with both hands, and the bitter tears trickled
fast through her fingers.

"Oh, why is God's will so hard?" she cried.  "Could He not have left us
in peace?  We had only each other."

"Hush, sweet heart!  It is wrong to say that.  And yet it is hardly
possible not to think it."

"It is not possible!" sobbed Clarice.  "Does not God know it is not
possible?"

"I suppose He must," said Sir Piers, gloomily.

There was no comfort in the thought to either.  There never is any to
those who do not know God.  And Piers was only feeling after Him, if
haply he might find Him, and barely conscious even of that; while
Clarice had not reached even that point.  To both of them, in this very
anguish, Christ was saying, "Come unto Me;" but their own cry of pain
hindered them from hearing Him.  It was not likely they should hear,
just then, when the sunlight of life was being extinguished, and the
music was dying to its close.  But afterwards, in the silence and the
darkness, when the sounds were hushed and the lights were out, and there
was nothing that could be done but to endure, then the still, small
voice might make itself heard, and the crushed hearts might sob out
their answer.

So they parted.  "They took but ane kiss, and tare themselves away," to
meet when it was God's will, and not knowing on which side of the river
of death that would be.

Half an hour had passed since Sir Piers' step had died away on the
terrace, and Clarice still sat where he had left her, in crushed and
silent stillness.  If this night could only be the end of it!  If things
had not to go on!

"Clarice," said a pitying voice; and a hand was laid upon her head as if
in fatherly blessing.

Clarice was too stunned with pain to remember her courtly duties.  She
only looked up at Earl Edmund.

"Clarice, my poor child!  I want thee to know that I did my best for
thee."

"I humbly thank your Lordship," Clarice forced herself to say.

"And it may be, my child, though it seems hard to believe, that God is
doing His best for thee too."

"Then what would His worst be?" came in a gush from Clarice.

"It might be that for which thou wouldst thank Him now."

The sorrowing girl was arrested in spite of herself, for the Earl spoke
in that tone of quiet certainty which has more effect on an undecided
mind than any words.  She wondered how he knew, not realising that he
knows "more than the ancients" who knows God and sorrow.

"My child," said the Earl again, "man's best and God's best are often
very different things.  In the eyes of Monseigneur Saint Jacob, the best
thing would have been to spare his son from being cast into the pit and
sold to the Ishmaelites.  But God's best was to sell the boy into
slavery, and to send him into a dungeon, and then to lift him up to the
steps of the king's throne.  When _then_ comes, Clarice, we shall be
satisfied with what happened to us now."

"When will it come, my Lord?" asked Clarice, in a dreary tone.

"When it is best," replied the Earl quietly.

"Your Lordship speaks as if you knew!" said Clarice.

"God knows.  And he who knows God may be sure of everything else."

"Is it so much to know God?"

"It is life.  `Without God' and `Without hope' are convertible terms."

"My Lord," said Clarice, wondering much to hear a layman use language
which it seemed to her was only fit for priests, "how may one know God?"

"Go and ask Him.  How dost thou know any one?  Is it not by converse and
companionship?"

There was a silent pause till the Earl spoke again.

"Clarice," he said, "our Lord has a lesson to teach thee.  It rests with
thee to learn it well or ill.  If thou choose to be idle and obstinate,
and refuse to learn, thou mayst sit all day long on the form in
disgrace, and only have the task perfect at last when thou art wearied
out with thine own perverseness.  But if thou take the book willingly,
and apply thyself with heart and mind, the task will be soon over, and
the teacher may give thee leave to go out into the sunshine."

"My Lord," said Clarice, "I do not know how to apply your words here.
How can I learn this task quickly?"

"Dost thou know, first, what the task is?"

"Truly, no."

"Then let a brother tell thee who has had it set to him.  It is a hard
lesson, Clarice, and one that an inattentive scholar can make yet harder
if he will.  It is, `Not my will, but Thine, be done.'"

"I cannot!  I cannot!" cried Clarice passionately.

"Some scholars say that," replied the Earl gently, "until the evening
shadows grow very long.  They are the weariest of all when they reach
home."

"My Lord, pardon me, but you cannot understand it!"  Clarice stood up.
"I am young, and you--"

"I am over forty years," replied the Earl.  "Ah, child, dost thou make
that blunder?--dost thou think the child's sorrows worse than the man's?
I have known both, and I tell thee the one is not to be compared to the
other.  Young hearts are apt to think it, for grief is a thing new and
strange to them.  But if ever it become to thee as thy daily bread, thou
wilt understand it better.  It has been mine, Clarice, for eighteen
years."

That was a year more than Clarice had been in the world.  She looked up
wonderingly into the saddened, dove-like Plantagenet eyes--those eyes
characteristic of the House--so sweet in repose, so fiery in anger.
Clarice had but a dim idea what his sorrow was.

"My Lord," she said, half inquiringly, "methinks you never knew such a
grief as mine?"

The smile which parted the Earl's lips was full of pity.

"Say rather, maiden, that thou never knewest one like mine.  But God
knows both, Clarice, and He pities both, and when His time comes He will
comfort both.  At the best time, child!  Only let us acquaint ourselves
with Him, for so only can we be at peace.  And now, farewell.  I had
better go in and preach my sermon to myself."

Clarice was left alone again.  She did not turn back to exactly the same
train of thought.  A new idea had been given her, which was to become
the germ of a long train of others.  She hardly put it into words, even
to herself; but it was this--that God meant something.  He was not
sitting on the throne of the universe in placid indifference to her
sorrows; neither was He a malevolent Being who delighted in interfering
with the plans of His creatures simply to exhibit His own power.  He was
doing this--somehow--for her benefit.  She saw neither the how nor the
why; but He saw them, and He meant good to her.  All the world was not
limited to the Slough of Despond at her feet.  There was blue sky above.

Very vaguely Clarice realised this.  But it was sufficient to soften the
rocky hardness which had been the worst element of her pain--to take
away the blind chance against which her impotent wings had been beaten
in vain efforts to escape from the dark cage.  It was that contact with
"the living will of a living person," which gives the human element to
what would otherwise be hard, blind, pitiless fate.

Clarice rose, and looked up to the stars.  No words came.  The cry of
her heart was, "O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me."  But she was
too ignorant to weave it into a prayer.  When human hearts look up to
God in wordless agony, the Intercessor translates the attitude into the
words of Heaven.

Sad or bright, there was no time for thought on the Tuesday morning.
The day was bitterly cold, for it was the 16th of January 1291, and a
heavy hoar-frost silvered all the trees, and weighed down the bushes in
the Palace garden.  Diana, wrapped in her white furs, was the picture of
health and merriment.  Was it because she really had not enough heart to
care, or because she was determined not to give herself a moment to
consider?  Clarice, white as the fur round her throat, pale and
heavy-eyed, grave and silent, followed Diana into the Palace chapel.
The Countess was there, handsomely attired, and the Earl, in golden
armour; but they stood on opposite sides of the chancel, and the former
ignored her lord's existence.  Diana's wedding came first.  De Chaucombe
behaved a little more amiably than usual, and, contrary to all his
habits, actually offered his hand to assist his bride to rise.  Then
Diana fell back to the side of the Countess, and Fulk to that of the
Earl, and Clarice recognised that the moment of her sacrifice was come.

With one passionately pleading look at the Lady Margaret--who met it as
if she had been made of stone--Clarice slowly moved forward to the
altar.  She shuddered inwardly as Vivian Barkeworth took her hand into
his clasp, and answered the queries addressed to her in so low a voice
that Father Miles took the words for granted.  It seemed only a few
minutes before she woke to the miserable truth that she was now Vivian's
wife, and that to think any more of Piers Ingham was a sin against God.

Clarice dragged herself through the bridal festivities--how, she never
knew.  Diana was the life of the party.  So bright and gay she was that
she might never have heard of such a thing as disappointment.  She
danced with everybody, entered into all the games with the zest of an
eager child, and kept the hall ringing with merry laughter, while
Clarice moved through them all as if a weight of lead were upon her, and
looked as though she should never smile again.  Accident at length threw
the two brides close together.

"Art thou going to look thus woe-begone all thy life through, Clarice?"
inquired the Lady De Chaucombe.

"I do not know," answered Clarice, gloomily.  "I only hope it will not
be long."

"What will not be long?--thy sorrowful looks?"

"No--my life."

"Don't let me hear such nonsense," exclaimed Diana, with a little of her
old sharpness.  "Men are all deceivers, child.  There is not one of them
worth spoiling a woman's life for.  Clarice, don't be a simpleton!"

"Not more than I can help," said Clarice, with the shadow of a smile;
and then De Echingham came up and besought her hand for the next dance,
and she was caught away again into the whirl.

The dancing, which was so much a matter of course at a wedding, that
even the Countess did not venture to interfere with it, was followed by
the hoydenish romps which were considered equally necessary, and which
fell into final desuetude about the period of the accession of the House
of Hanover.  King Charles the First's good taste had led him to frown
upon them, and utterly to prohibit them at his own wedding; but the
people in general were attached to their amusements, rough and even
gross as they often were, and the improvement filtered down from palace
to cottage only very slowly.

The cutting of the two bride-cakes, as usual, was one of the most
interesting incidents.  It was then, and long afterwards, customary to
insert three articles in a bride-cake, which were considered to foretell
the fortunes of the persons in whose possession they were found when the
cakes were cut up.  The gold ring denoted speedy marriage; the silver
penny indicated future wealth; while the thimble infallibly doomed its
recipient to be an old maid.  The division of Diana's cake revealed Sir
Reginald de Echingham in possession of the ring, evidently to his
satisfaction; while Olympias, with the reverse sensation, discovered in
her slice both the penny and the thimble.  Clarice's cake proved even
more productive of mirth; for the thimble fell to the Countess, while
the Earl held up the silver penny, laughingly remarking that he was the
last person who ought to have had that, since he had already more of
them than he wanted.  But the fun came to its apex when the ring was
discovered in the hand of Mistress Underdone, who indignantly asserted
that if a thousand gold rings were showered upon her from as many cakes
they would not induce her to marry again.  She thought two husbands were
enough for any reasonable woman; and if not, she was too old now for
folly of that sort.  Sir Lambert sent the company into convulsions of
laughter by clasping his hands on this announcement with a look of
pretended despair, upon which Mistress Underdone, justly indignant, gave
him such a box on the ear that he was occupied in rubbing it for the
next ten minutes, thereby increasing the merriment of the rest.  Loudest
and brightest of all the laughers was Diana.  She at least had not
broken her heart.  Clarice, pale and silent in the corner, where she sat
and watched the rest, dimly wondered if Diana had any heart to break.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  There were two divisions of "damsels" in the household of a
mediaeval princess, the _domicellae_ and the _domicellae camera_.  The
former, who corresponded to the modern Maids of Honour, were young and
unmarried; the latter, the Ladies of the Bedchamber, were always married
women.  Sufficient notice of this distinction has not been taken by
modern writers.  Had it so been, the supposition long held of the
identity of Philippa Chaucer, _domicella camera_, with Philippa Pycard,
_domicella_, could scarcely have arisen; nor should we be told that
Chaucer's marriage did not occur until 1369, or later, when we find
Philippa in office as Lady of the Bedchamber in 1366.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

DAME MAISENTA DOES NOT SEE IT.

  "With a little hoard of maxims, preaching down a daughter's
  heart."--_Tennyson_.

Earl Edmund had not been callous to the white, woeful face under one of
the bridal wreaths.  He set himself to think how most pleasantly to
divert the thoughts of Clarice; and the result of his meditations was a
request to Father Miles that he would induce the Countess to invite the
parents of Clarice on a visit.  The Countess always obeyed Father Miles,
though had she known whence the suggestion came, she might have been
less docile.  A letter, tied up with red silk, and sealed with the
Countess's seal, was despatched by a messenger to Dame La Theyn, whom it
put into no small flutter of nervous excitement.

A journey to London was a tremendous idea to that worthy woman, though
she lived but forty miles from the metropolis.  She had never been there
in her life.  Sir Gilbert had once visited it, and had dilated on the
size, splendour, and attractions of the place, till it stood, in the
Dame's eyes, next to going to Heaven.  It may, indeed, be doubted if she
would not have found herself a good deal more at home in the former
place than the latter.

Three sumpter-mules were laden with the richest garments and ornaments
in the wardrobes of knight and dame.  Two armed servants were on one
horse, Sir Gilbert and his wife on another; and thus provided, late in
February, they drew bridle at the gate of Whitehall Palace.  Clarice had
not been told of their coming by the Countess, because she was not
sufficiently interested; by the Earl, because he wished it to be a
pleasant surprise.  She was called out into the ante-chamber one
afternoon, and, to her complete astonishment, found herself in the
presence of her parents.

The greeting was tolerably warm.

"Why, child, what hast done to thy cheeks?" demanded Sir Gilbert, when
he had kissed his palefaced daughter.  "'Tis all the smoke--that's what
it is!"

"Nay; be sure 'tis the late hours," responded the Dame.  "I'll warrant
you they go not to bed here afore seven o' the clock.  Eh, Clarice?"

"Not before eight, Dame," answered Clarice, with a smile.

"Eight!" cried Dame Maisenta.  "Eh, deary me!  Mine head to a pod of
peas, but that's a hearing!  And what time get they up of a morrow?"

"The Lady rises commonly by five or soon after."

"Saint Wulstan be our aid!  Heard I ever the like?  Why, I am never abed
after three!"

"So thou art become Dame Clarice?" said her father, jovially.

The smile died instantly from Clarice's lips.  "Yes," she said,
drearily.

"Where is thy knight, lass?" demanded her mother.

"You will see him in hall," replied Clarice.  And when they went down to
supper she presented Vivian in due form.

No one knew better than Vivian Barkeworth how to adapt himself to his
company.  He measured his bride's parents as accurately, in the first
five minutes, as a draper would measure a yard of calico.  It is not
surprising if they were both delighted with him.

The Countess received her guests with careless condescension, the Earl
with kind cordiality.  Dame La Theyn was deeply interested in seeing
both.  But her chief aim was a long _tete-a-tete_ discourse with
Clarice, which she obtained on the day following her arrival.  The
Countess, as usual, had gone to visit a shrine, and Clarice, being off
duty, took her mother to the terrace, where they could chat undisturbed.

Some of us modern folks would rather shrink from sitting on an open
terrace in February; but our forefathers were wonderfully independent of
the weather, and seem to have been singularly callous in respect to heat
and cold.  Dame La Theyn made no objection to the airiness of her
position, but settled herself comfortably in the corner of the stone
bench, and prepared for her chat with much gusto.

"Well, child," was the Dame's first remark, "the good saints have
ordered matters rarely for thee.  I ventured not to look for such good
fortune, not so soon as this.  Trust me, but I was rejoiced when I read
thy lady's letter, to hear that thou wert well wed unto a knight, and
that she had found all the gear.  I warrant thee, the grass grew not
under my feet afore Dame Rouse, and Mistress Swetapple, and every woman
of our neighbours, down to Joan Stick-i'-th'-Lane, knew the good luck
that was come to thee."

Clarice sat with her hands in her lap looking out on the river.  Good
luck!  Could Dame La Theyn see no further than that!

"Why, lass, what is come to thee?" demanded the Dame, when she found no
response.  "Sure, thou art not ungrateful to thy lady for her care and
goodness!  That were a sin to be shriven for."

Clarice turned her wan face towards her mother.

"Grateful!" she said.  "For what should I be thankful to her?  Dame, she
has torn me away from the only one in the world that I loved, and has
forced me to wed a man whom I alike fear and hate.  Do you think that
matter for thankfulness, or does she!"

"Tut, tut!" said the Dame.  "Do not ruffle up thy feathers like a pigeon
that has got bread-crumbs when he looked for corn!  Why, child, 'tis but
what all women have to put up with.  We all have our calf-loves and bits
of maidenly fancies, but who ever thought they were to rule the roast?
Sure, Clarice, thou hast more sense than so?"

"Dame, pardon me, but you understand not.  This was no light love of
mine--no passing fancy that a newer one might have put out.  It was the
one hope and joy of my whole life.  I had nothing else to live for."

To Clarice's horror, the rejoinder to her rhetoric was what the Dame
herself would have called "a jolly laugh."

"Dear, dear, how like all young maids be!" cried the mother.  "Just the
very thought had I when my good knight my father sent away Master Pride,
and told me I must needs wed with thy father, Sir Gilbert.  That is
twenty years gone this winter Clarice, and I swear to thee I thought
mine heart was broke.  Look on me now.  Look I like a woman that had
brake her heart o' love?  I trow not, by my troth!"

No; certainly no one would have credited that rosy, comfortable matron
with having broken her heart any number of years ago.

"And thou wilt see, too, when twenty years be over, Clarice, I warrant
thee thou shalt look back and laugh at thine own folly.  Deary me,
child!  Folks cannot weep for ever and the day after.  Wait till thou
art forty, and then see if thy trouble be as sore in thy mind then as
now."

Forty!  Should she ever be forty?  Clarice fondly hoped not.  And would
any lapse of years change the love which seemed to her interwoven with
every fibre of her heart?  That heart cried out and said, Impossible!
But Dame La Theyn heard no answer.

"When thou hast dwelt on middle earth [Note 1], child, as long as I
have, thou wilt look on things more in proportion.  There be other
affairs in life than lovemaking.  Women spend not all their days
thinking of wooing, and men still less.  I warrant thee thy lover, whoso
he be, shall right soon comfort himself with some other damsel.  Never
suspect a man of constancy, child.  They know not what the word means."

Clarice's inner consciousness violently contradicted this sweeping
statement.  But she kept silence still.

"Ah, I see!" said her mother, laughing.  "Not a word dost thou credit
me.  I may as well save my breath to cool my porridge.  Howsoe'er,
Clarice, when thou hast come to forty years, if I am yet alive, let me
hear thy thoughts thereupon.  Long ere that time come, as sure as eggs
be eggs, thou shalt be a-reading the same lesson to a lass of thine, if
it please God so to bless thee.  And she'll not believe thee a word, any
more than thou dost me.  Eh, these young folks, these young folks!
truly, they be rare fun for us old ones.  They think they've gotten all
the wisdom that ever dwelt in King Solomon's head, and we may stand
aside and doff our caps to them.  Good lack!--but this world is a queer
place, and a merry!"

Clarice thought she had not found it a merry locality by any means.

"And what ails thee at thy knight, child?  He is as well-favoured and
tall of his hands as e'er a one.  Trust me, but I liked him well, and so
said thy father.  He is a pleasant fellow, no less than a comely.  What
ails thee at him?"

"Dame, I cannot feel to trust him."

"Give o'er with thy nonsense!  Thou mayest trust him as well as another
man.  They are all alike.  They want their own way, and to please
themselves, and if they've gotten a bit of time and thought o'er they'll
maybe please thee at after.  That's the way of the world, child.  If
thou art one of those silly lasses that look for a man who shall never
let his eyes rove from thee, nor never make no love to nobody else, why,
thou mayest have thy search for thy pains.  Thou art little like to
catch that lark afore the sky falls."

Clarice thought that lark had been caught for her, and had been torn
from her.

"And what matter?" continued Dame La Theyn.  "If a man likes his wife
the best, and treats her reasonable kind, as the most do--and I make no
doubt thine shall--why should he not have his little pleasures?  Thou
canst do a bit on thine own account.  But mind thou, keep on the
windward side o' decency.  'Tis no good committing o' mortal sin, and a
deal o' trouble to get shriven for it.  Mind thy ways afore the world!
And let not thy knight get angered with thee, no more.  But I'll tell
thee, Clarice, thou wilt anger him afore long, to carry thyself thus
towards him.  Of course a man knows he must put up with a bit of
perversity and bashfulness when he is first wed; because he can guess
reasonable well that the maid might not have chose him her own self.
But it does not do to keep it up.  Thou must mind thy ways, child."

Clarice was almost holding her breath.  Whether horror or disgust were
the feeling uppermost in her mind, she would have found difficult to
tell.  Was this her mother, who gave her such counsel?  And were all
women like that?  _One_ other distinct idea was left to her--that there
was an additional reason for dying--to get out of it all.

"Thou art but a simple lass, I can see," reflectively added Dame La
Theyn.  "Thou hast right the young lass's notions touching truth, and
faith, and constancy, and such like.  All a parcel of moonshine, child!
There is no such thing, not in this world.  Some folks be a bit worse
than others, but that's all.  I dare reckon thy knight is one of the
better end.  At any rate, thou wilt find it comfortable to think so."

Clarice was inwardly convinced that Vivian belonged to the scrag end, so
far as character went.

"That's the true way to get through the world, child.  Shut thy eyes to
whatever thou wouldst not like to see.  Nobody'll admire thee more for
having red rims to 'em.  And, dear heart, where's the good?  'Tis none
but fools break their hearts.  Wise folks jog on jollily.  And if
there's somewhat to forgive on the one side, why, there'll be somewhat
on the other.  Thou art not an angel--don't fancy it.  And if he isn't
neither--"

Of that fact Clarice felt superlatively convinced.

"The best way is not to expect it of him, and thou wilt be the less
disappointed.  So get out thy ribbons and busk thee, and let's have no
more tears shed.  There's been a quart too much already."

A slight movement of nervous impatience was the sole reply.

"Eh, Clarice?  Ne'er a word, trow?"

Then she turned round a wan, set, distressed face, with fervent
determination glowing in the eyes.

"Mother!  I would rather die, and be out of it!"

"Be out of what, quotha?" demanded Dame La Theyn, in astonished tones.

"This world," said Clarice, through her set teeth.  "This hard, cold,
cruel, miserable, wicked world.  Is there only one of two lives before
me--either to harden into stone and crush other hearts, or to be crushed
by the others that have got hard before me?  Oh, Mother, Mother! is
there nothing in the world for a woman but _that_?--God, let me die
before I come to either!"

"Deary, deary, deary me!" seemed to be all that Dame La Theyn felt
herself capable of saying.

"A few weeks ago," Clarice went on, "before--_this_, there was a higher
and better view of life given to me.  One that would make _one's_
crushed heart grow softer, and not harder; that was upward and not
downward; that led to Heaven and God, not to Hell and Satan.  There is
no hope for me in this life but the hope of Heaven.  For pity's sake let
me keep that!  If every other human creature is going down--you seem to
think so--let me go higher, not lower.  Because my life has been spoiled
for me, shall I deliberately poison my own soul?  May God forbid it me!
If I am to spend my life with demons, let my spirit live with God."

The feelings of Dame La Theyn, on hearing this speech from Clarice, were
not capable of expression in words.

In her eyes, as in those of all Romanists, there were two lives which a
man or woman could lead--the religious and the secular.  To lead a
religious life meant, as a matter of course, to go into the cloister.
Matrimony and piety were simply incompatible.  Clarice was a married
woman: _ergo_, she could not possibly be religious.  Dame La Theyn's
mind, to use one of her favourite expressions, was all of a jumble with
these extraordinary ideas of which her daughter had unaccountably got
hold.  "What on earth is the child driving at? is she mad?" thought her
mother.

"What dost thou mean, child?" inquired the extremely puzzled Dame.
"Thou canst not go into the cloister--thou art wed.  Dear heart, but I
never reckoned thou hadst any vocation!  Thou shouldst have told thy
lady."

"I do not want the cloister," said Clarice.  "I want to do God's will.
I want to belong to God."

"Why, that is the same thing!" responded the still perplexed woman.

"The Lord Earl is not a monk," replied Clarice.  "And I am sure he
belongs to God, for he knows Him better than any priest that I ever
saw."

"Child, child!  Did I not tell thee, afore ever thou earnest into this
house, that thy Lord was a man full of queer fancies, and all manner of
strange things?  Don't thee go and get notions into thine head, for
mercy's sake!  Thou must live either in the world or the cloister.  Who
ever heard of a wedded woman devote to religion?  Thou canst not have
both--'tis nonsense.  Is that one of thy Lord's queer notions?  Sure,
these friars never taught thee so?"

"The friars never taught me anything.  Father Bevis tried to help me,
but he did not know how.  My Lord was the only one who understood."

"Understood?  Understood what?"

"Who understood me, and who understood God."

"Clarice, what manner of tongue art thou talking?  'Tis none I never
learned."

No, for Clarice was beginning to lisp the language of Canaan, and "they
that kept the fair were men of this world."  What wonder if she and her
thoroughly time-serving mother found it impossible to understand each
other?

"I cannot make thee out, lass.  If thou wert aware afore thou wert wed
that thou hadst a vocation, 'twas right wicked of thee not to tell thy
confessor and thy mistress, both.  But I cannot see how it well could,
when thou wert all head o'er ears o' love with some gallant or other--
the saints know whom.  I reckon it undecent, in very deed, Clarice, to
meddle up a love-tale with matters of religion.  I do wonder thou hast
no more sense of fitness and decorum."

"It were a sad thing," said Clarice quietly, "if only irreligious people
might love each other."

"Love each other!  Dear heart, thy brains must be made o' forcemeat!
Thou hast got love, and religion, and living, and all manner o' things,
jumbled up together in a pie.  They've nought to do with each other,
thou silly lass."

"If religion has nought to do with living, Dame, under your good
pleasure, what has it to do with?"

A query which Dame La Theyn found it as difficult to comprehend as to
answer.  In her eyes, religion was a thing to take to church on Sunday,
and life was restricted to the periods when people were not in church.
When she laid up her Sunday gown in lavender, she put her religion in
with it.  Of course, nuns were religious every day, but nobody else ever
thought of such an unreasonable thing.  Clarice's new ideas, therefore,
to her, were simply preposterous and irrational.

"Clarice!" she said, in tones of considerable surprise, "I do wonder
what's come o'er thee!  This is not the lass I sent to Oakham.  Have the
fairies been and changed thee, or what on earth has happened to thee?  I
cannot make thee out!"

"I hardly know what has happened to me," was the answer, "but I think it
is that I have gone nearer God.  He ploughed up my heart with the furrow
of bitter sorrow, and then He made it soft with the dew of His grace.  I
suppose the seed will come next.  What that is I do not know yet.  But
my knowing does not matter if He knows."

The difference which Dame La Theyn failed to understand was the
difference between life and death.  The words of the Earl had been used
as a seed of life, and the life was growing.  It is the necessity of
life to grow, and it is an impossibility that death should appreciate
life.

"Well!" was the Dame's conclusion, delivered as she rose from the stone
bench, in a perplexed and disappointed tone, "I reckon thou wilt be like
to take thine own way, child, for I cannot make either head or tail of
thy notions.  Only I do hope thou wilt not set up to be unlike everybody
else.  Depend upon it, Clarice, a woman never comes to no good when she
sets up to be better than her neighbours.  It is bad enough in anybody,
but 'tis worser in a woman than a man.  I cannot tell who has stuck thy
queer notions into thee--whether 'tis thy Lord, or thy lover, or who;
but I would to all the saints he had let thee be.  I liked thee a deal
better afore, I can tell thee.  I never had no fancy for philosophy and
such."

"Mother," said Clarice softly, "I think it was God."

"Gently, child!  No bad language, prithee."  Dame La Theyn looked upon
pious language as profanity when uttered in an unconsecrated place.
"But if it were the Almighty that put these notions into thy head, I
pray He'll take 'em out again."

"I think not," quietly replied Clarice.

And so the scene closed.  Neither had understood the other, so far, at
least, as spiritual matters were concerned.  But in respect to the
secular question Dame La Theyn could enter into Clarice's thoughts more
than she chose to allow.  The dialogue stirred within her faint
memories--not quite dead--of that earlier time when her tears had flowed
for the like cause, and when she had felt absolutely certain that she
could never be happy again.  But her love had been of a selfish and
surface kind, and the wound, never more than skin-deep, had healed
rapidly and left no scar.  Was it surprising if she took it for granted
that her daughter's was of the same class, and would heal with equal
rapidity and completeness?  Beside this, she thought it very unwise
policy to let Clarice perceive that she did understand her in any wise.
It would encourage her in her folly, Dame La Theyn considered, if she
supposed that so wise a person as her mother could have any sympathy
with such notions.  So she wrapped herself complacently in her mantle of
wisdom, and never perceived that she was severing the last strand of the
rope which bound her child's heart to her own.

"O, purblind race of miserable men!"

How strangely we all spend our lives in the anxious labour of straining
out gnats, while we scarcely detect the moment when we swallow the
camel!

A long private conversation between Clarice's parents resulted the next
day in Sir Gilbert taking her in hand.  His comprehension was even less
than her mother's, though it lay in a different direction.

"Well, Clarice, my dame tells me thou art not altogether well pleased
with thy wedding.  What didst thou wish otherwise, lass?"

"The man," said Clarice, shortly enough.

"What, is not one man as good as another?" demanded her father.

"Not to me, Sir," said his daughter.

"I am afeared, Clarice, thou hast some romantic notions.  They are all
very pretty to play with, but they don't do for this world, child.  Thou
hast better shake them out of thine head, and be content with thy lot."

"It is a bad world, I know," replied Clarice.  "But it is hard to be
content, when life has been emptied and spoiled for one."

"Folly, child, folly!" said Sir Gilbert.  "Thou mayest have as many silk
gowns now as thou couldst have had with any other knight; and I dare be
bound Sir Vivian should give thee a gold chain if thou wert pining for
it.  Should that content thee?"

"No, Sir."

Sir Gilbert was puzzled.  A woman whose perfect happiness could not be
secured by a gold chain was an enigma to him.

"Then what would content thee?" he asked.

"What I can never have now," answered Clarice.  "It may be, as time goes
on, that God will make me content without it--content with His will, and
no more.  But I doubt if even He could do that just yet.  The wisest
physician living cannot heal a wound in a minute.  It must have its
time."

Sir Gilbert tried to puzzle his way through this speech.

"Well, child, I do not see what I can do for thee."

"I thank you for wishing it, fair Sir.  No, you can do nothing.  No one
can do anything for me, except let me alone, and pray to God to heal the
wound."

"Well, lass, I can do that," said her father, brightening.  "I will say
the rosary all over for thee once in the week, and give a candle to our
Lady.  Will that do thee a bit of good, eh?"

Clarice had an instinctive feeling, that while the rosary and the candle
might be a doubtful good, the rough tenderness of her father was a
positive one.  Little as Sir Gilbert could enter into her ideas, his
affection was truer and more unselfish than that of her mother.  Neither
of them was very deeply attached to her; but Sir Gilbert's love could
have borne the harder strain of the two.  Clarice began to recognise the
fact with touched surprise.

"Fair Sir, I shall be very thankful for your prayers.  It will do me
good to be loved--so far as anything can do it."

Sir Gilbert was also discovering, with a little astonishment himself,
that his only child lay nearer to his heart than he had supposed.  His
heart was a plant which had never received much cultivation, either from
himself or any other; and love, even in faint throbs, was a rather
strange sensation.  It made him feel as if something were the matter
with him, and he could not exactly tell what.  He patted Clarice's
shoulder, and smoothed down her hair.

"Well, well, child!  I hope all things will settle comfortably by and
by.  But if they should not, and in especial if thy knight were ever
unkindly toward thee--which God avert!--do not forget that thou hast a
friend in thine old father.  Maybe he has not shown thee over much
kindliness neither, but I reckon, my lass, if it came to a pull, there'd
be a bit to pull at."

Neither Sir Gilbert nor Dame Maisenta ever fully realised the result of
that visit.  It found Clarice indifferent to both, but ready to reach
out a hand to either who would clasp it with any appearance of
tenderness and compassion.  It left her with a heart closed for ever to
her mother, but for ever open to her father.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  This mediaeval term for the world had its rise in the notion
that earth stood midway between Heaven and Hell, the one being as far
below as the other was above.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE SHADOW OF THE FUTURE.

  In His name was struck the blow
  That hath laid thy old life low
  In a garb of blood-red woe.

A very eventful year was 1291 in England and over all the civilised
world.  It was the end of the Crusades, the Turks driving the Christians
from Acre, the last place which they held in Palestine.  It opened with
the submission of the Scottish succession to the arbitrament of Edward
the First, and it closed with the funeral of his mother, Queen Eleonore
of Provence--a woman whom England was not able to thank for one good
deed during her long and stormy reign.  She had been a youthful beauty,
she wrote poetry, and she had never scandalised the nation by any
impropriety of womanly conduct.  But these three statements close the
list of her virtues.  She was equally grasping, unscrupulous, and
extravagant.  In her old age she retired to the Convent of Amesbury,
where her two granddaughters, Mary of England, and Alianora of Bretagne,
were nuns already, for the desirable purpose of "making her salvation."
Perhaps she thought she had made it when the summons came to her in the
autumn of 1291.  No voice had whispered to her, all through her long
life of nearly eighty years, that if that ever were to be--

  "Jesus Christ has done it all
  Long, long ago."

Matters had settled down quietly enough in Whitehall Palace.  Sir Fulk
de Chaucombe and Diana had been promoted to the royal household--the
former as attendant upon the King, the latter as Lady of the Bedchamber
to his eldest daughter, the Princess Alianora, who, though twenty-seven
years of age, was still unmarried.  It was a cause of some surprise in
her household that the Countess of Cornwall did not fill up the vacancy
created among her maidens by the marriages of Clarice and Diana.  But
when December came it was evident that before she did so she meant to
make the vacancy still more complete.

One dark afternoon in that cheerful month, the Lady Margaret marched
into the bower, where her female attendants usually sat when not engaged
in more active waiting upon her.  It was Saturday.

"Olympias Trusbut, Roisia de Levinton," she said in her harsh voice,
which did not sound unlike the rasping of a file, "ye are to be wed on
Monday morning."

Olympias showed slight signs of going into hysterics, which being
observed by the Lady Margaret, she calmly desired Felicia to fetch a jug
of water.  On this hint of what was likely to happen to her if she
imprudently screamed or fainted, Olympias managed to recover.

"Ye are to wed the two squires," observed their imperious mistress.  "I
gave the choice to Reginald de Echingham, and he fixed on thee,
Olympias."

Olympias passed from terror to ecstasy.

"Thou, Roisia, art to wed Ademar de Gernet.  I will give both of you
your gear."

And away walked the Countess.

"I wish she would have let me alone," said Roisia, in doleful accents.

"Too much to hope for," responded Felicia.

"Dost thou not like De Gernet?" asked Clarice, sympathisingly.

"Oh, I don't dislike him," said Roisia; "but I am not so fond of him as
that comes to."

An hour or two later, however, Mistress Underdone appeared, in a state
of flurry by no means her normal one.

"Well, here is a pretty tale," said she.  "Not for thee, Olympias;
matters be running smooth for thee, though the Lord Earl did say," added
she, laughing, "that incense was as breath of life to Narcissus, and he
would needs choose the maid that should burn plenty on his altar.  But--
the thing is fair unheard of!--Ademar de Gernet refuses to wed under
direction from the Lady."

"Why?" asked Roisia, looking rather insulted.

"Oh, it has nought to do with thee, child," said Mistress Underdone.
"Quoth he that he desired all happiness to thee, and pardon of thee for
thus dealing; but having given his heart to another of the Lady's
damsels, he would not wed with any but her."

"Why, that must be Felicia," said the other three together.

Felicia looked flattered and conscious.

"Well, I reckon so," answered Mistress Underdone.  "Howbeit, the Lady
hath sent for him hither, to know of him in thy presence what he would
be at."

"_Ha, chetife_!" exclaimed Roisia.  "I wish it had been somewhere else."

"Well, I cannot quite--.  Hush! here she comes."

And for the second time that day in stalked the Countess, and sat down
on the curule chair which Mistress Underdone set for her, looking like a
judge, and a very stern one, too.  In another minute the culprit made
his appearance, in charge of Sir Lambert Aylmer.

"Now, De Gernet, what means this?" irascibly demanded his mistress.

"Lady, it means not disobedience to you, nor any displeasance done to
this young damsel"--and De Gernet turned and bowed to Roisia.  "This it
means, that I dearly love another of your Ladyship's damsels, and I do
most humbly and heartily crave your permission to wed with her."

"What, Felicia de Fay?" said the Countess.

"Under your Ladyship's pleasure and her pardon, no."

Felicia's face changed evilly.

"But who, then?  There is none other."

"Let my Lady be pleased to pardon me.  There is one other--Heliet
Pride."

The faces in the bower just then might have furnished a study for an
artist.  Those of Clarice and Olympias expressed surprise mixed with
some pleasure; so did Mistress Underdone's, but the degree of both was
intense.  The Countess looked half vexed and wholly astonished, with a
little contempt superadded.  Felicia's face foreboded nothing but ill to
either Ademar or Heliet.

"Heliet Pride!" cried the Countess sharply.  "Why, man, she goes on
crutches!"

"They will carry her to the chapel, with my Lady's leave," answered De
Gernet, coolly.

"Gramercy, but thou wilt have a lovely wife!  There'll be no pride in
her outside her name," said the Countess, with a grim smile at her own
joke.  Indeed, she was so much amused that she forgot to be angry.

"I will see about that, if my Lady will grant me her grace," responded
De Gernet, in the same tone.

"Eh, thou shalt have her," said the Countess.  "I shall get Roisia
disposed of a sight easier than Heliet.  So be it.  Roisia, thou canst
still prepare for thy bridal; I will find somebody by Monday morning."

The Countess was rising from her chair, when Sir Lambert, after a glance
at Roisia, observed that if her Ladyship found any difficulty in that
selection, he had no particular objection to be chosen.

"You!" said the Countess.  "Oh, very good; it will save trouble.  Let it
be so."

Roisia appeared to be, if anything, rather gratified by the exchange.
But Clarice, looking into the dark, passionate eyes of Felicia, felt
troubled for the happiness of Heliet.

Olympias, like Clarice, was promoted to a vacancy among the ladies of
the bedchamber.  But Sir Lambert and Roisia passed away from the life at
Whitehall.  The new Maids of Honour were speedily appointed.  Their
names proved to be Sabina Babingell, Ada Gresley, and Filomena Bray.
The Countess declared her intention of keeping four only in the future.

The summer of 1292 saw the King on the Scottish border, and in his train
the Earl and Countess of Cornwall, with their household, moved north as
far as Oakham.  The household had been increased by one more, for in the
April previous Clarice Barkeworth became the mother of a little girl.
This was the first event which helped to reconcile her to her lot.  She
had been honestly trying hard to do her duty by Vivian, who scarcely
seemed to think that he had any duty towards her, beyond the obvious one
of civility in public.  All thought of Piers Ingham had been resolutely
crushed down, except when it came--as it sometimes did--in the form of a
dream of bliss from which she awoke to desolation.  A miserable day was
sure to follow one of those dreams.  The only other moment when she
allowed herself to think of him was in her evening prayer.

It was a relief to Clarice that she had never heard a word of Piers
since he left Whitehall.  Her work would have been harder if his name
had remained a household word.  And yet in another sense it was hard
never to know what had become of him, whether he were as sad as herself,
or had been comforted elsewhere.

Vivian's manners in public were perfect to every one, and Clarice shared
with the rest.  In private she was terribly snubbed whenever he was in a
bad temper, and carelessly ignored when he was in a good one.  The baby
daughter, who was such a comfort to Clarice, was a source of bitter
vexation to Vivian.  In his eyes, while a son would have been an
undoubted blessing, a daughter was something actively worse than a
disappointment.  When Clarice timidly inquired what name he wished the
child to bear, Vivian distinctly intimated that the child and all her
belongings were totally beneath his notice.  She could call the nuisance
what she liked.

Clarice silently folded her insulted darling to her breast, and tacitly
promised it that its mother at least should never think it a nuisance.

"What shall I call her?" she said to Mistress Underdone and Olympias,
both of whom were inclined to pet the baby exceedingly.

"Oh, something pretty!" said Olympias.  "Don't have a plain, common
name.  Don't call her Joan, or Parnel, or Beatrice, or Margery, or Maud,
or Isabel.  You meet those at every turn.  I am quite glad I was not
called anything of that sort."

"I wouldn't have it too long," was Mistress Underdone's recommendation.
"I'd never call her Frethesancia, or Florianora, or Aniflesia, or
Sauncelina.  Let her have a good, honest name, Dame, one syllable, or at
most two.  You'll have to clip it otherwise."

"I thought of Rose," said Clarice, meditatively.

"Well, it is not common," allowed Olympias.  "Still, it is very short.
Couldn't you have had it a _little_ longer?"

"That'll do," pronounced Mistress Underdone.  "It is short, and it means
a pretty, sweet, pleasant thing.  I don't know but I should have called
my girl Rose, if I'd chosen her name; but her father fancied Heliet, and
so it had to be so."

"Well, we can call her Rosamond," comfortingly suggested Olympias.

So, in the course of that evening, Father Bevis baptised little Rose
Barkeworth in the chapel of the palace, the Earl standing sponsor for
her, with the Lady de Chaucombe and the Lady de Echingham.  The Countess
had been asked, but to Clarice's private satisfaction had declined, for
she would much rather have had the Earl, and the canon law forbade
husband and wife being sponsors to the same infant.

Something was the matter with the Countess.  Every one agreed upon this,
but nobody could guess what it was.  She was quieter than her wont, and
was given to long, silent reveries, which had not been usual with her.

Filomena, who was of a lively turn of mind, declared that life at
Whitehall was becoming absolutely intolerable, and that she should be
thankful to go to Oakham, for at least it would be something new.

"Thou wilt be thankful to come away again," said Mistress Underdone,
with a smile.

They reached Oakham about the middle of July, and found Heliet, leaning
on her crutches, ready to welcome them with smiles in the hall.  No news
had reached her of their proceedings, and there was a great deal to tell
her; but Heliet and the baby took to one another in an instant, as if by
some unseen magical force.

The item of news which most concerned herself was not told to Heliet
that night.  The next morning, when all were seated at work, and baby
Rose, in Heliet's lap, was contentedly sucking her very small thumb,
Mistress Underdone said rather suddenly, "We have not told thee all,
Heliet."

"I dare say not," replied Heliet, brightly.  "You must have all done a
great deal more in these two years than you have told me."

"Well, lass, 'tis somewhat I never looked I should have to tell thee.
There's somebody wants to wed thee."

"Me!" cried Heliet, in large capitals.

"Ay, thee--crutches and all," said her mother laughing.  "He said he did
not care for thy crutches so they carried thee safe to chapel; and he
ran the risk of offending the Lady to get thee.  So I reckon he sets
some store by thee, lass."

"Who is it?" said Heliet, in a low voice, while a bright red spot burned
in each cheek.

"Ademar de Gernet."  Two or three voices told her.  The bright spots
burned deeper.

"Is it to be?" was the next question.

"Ay, the Lady said so much; and I reckon she shall give thee thy gear."

"God has been very good to me," said Heliet, softly, rocking little Rose
gently to and fro.  "But I never thought He meant to give me _that_!"

Clarice looked up, and saw a depth of happy love in the lame girl's
eyes, which made her sigh for herself.  Then, looking further, she
perceived a depth of black hate in those of Felicia de Fay, which made
her tremble for Heliet.

It appeared very shortly that the Countess was in a hurry to get the
wedding over.  Perhaps she was weary of weddings in her household, for
she did not seem to be in a good temper about this.  She always thought
Heliet would have had a vocation, she said, which would have been far
better for her, with her lameness, than to go limping into chapel to be
wed.  She wondered nobody saw the impropriety of it.  However, as she
had promised De Gernet, she supposed it must be so.  She did not know
what she herself could have been thinking about to make such a foolish
promise.  She was not usually so silly as that.  However, if it must be,
it had better be got over.

So got over it was, on an early morning in August, De Gernet receiving
knighthood from the Earl at the close of the ceremony.

Mistress Underdone had petitioned that her lame and only child might not
be separated from her, and the Countess--according to her own authority,
in a moment of foolishness--had granted the petition.  So Heliet was
drafted among the Ladies of the Bedchamber, but only as an honorary
distinction.

The manner of the Countess continued to strike every one as unusual.
Long fits of musing with hands lying idle were becoming common with her,
and when she rose from them she would generally shut herself up in her
oratory for the remainder of the day.  Clarice thought, and Heliet
agreed with her, that something was going to happen.  Once, too, as
Clarice was carrying Rose along the terrace, she was met by the Earl,
who stopped and noticed the child, as in his intense and unsatisfied
love for little children he always did.  Clarice thought he looked even
unwontedly sorrowful.

From the child, Earl Edmund looked up into the pleased eyes of the young
mother.

"Dame Clarice," he asked, gently, "are you happier than you were?"

Her eyes grew suddenly grave.

"Thus far," she said, touching the child.  "Otherwise--I try to be
content with God's will, fair Lord.  It is hard to bear heart-hunger."

"Ah!"  The Earl's tone was significant.  "Yes, it is hard to bear in any
form," he said, after a pause.  "May God send you never to know, Dame,
that there is a more terrible form than that wherein you bear it."

And he left her almost abruptly.

The winter of 1292 dragged slowly along.  Filomena declared that her
body was as starved as her mind, and she should be frozen to death if
she stayed any longer.  The next day, to everybody's astonishment, the
Countess issued orders to pack up for travelling.  Sir Vivian and
Clarice were to go with her--where, she did not say.  So were Olympias,
Felicia, and Ada.  Mistress Underdone, Sir Reginald, Sir Ademar and
Heliet, Filomena and Sabina, were left behind at Oakham.

Olympias grumbled extremely at being separated from her husband, and
Filomena at being left behind.  The Countess would listen to neither.

"When shall we return, under my Lady's leave?" asked Olympias,
disconsolately.

"_You_ can return," was the curt answer, "when I have done with you.  I
doubt if Sir Vivian and his dame will return at all.  Ada certainly will
not."

"_Ha, jolife_!" said Ada, under her breath.  She did not like Oakham.

Clarice, on the contrary, was inclined to make an exclamation of horror.
For never to return to Oakham meant never to see Heliet again.  And
what could the Countess mean by a statement which sounded at least as if
_she_ were not intending to return?

Concerning Felicia the Countess said nothing.  That misnamed young lady
had during the past few months been trying her best to make Heliet
miserable.  She began by attempting to flirt with Sir Ademar, but she
found him completely impervious material.  Her arrows glanced upon his
shield, and simply dropped off without further notice.  Then she took to
taunting Heliet with her lameness, but Heliet kept her temper.  Next she
sneered at her religious views.  Heliet answered her gently, gravely,
but held her own with undiminished calmness.  This point had been
reached when the Countess's order was given to depart from Oakham.

Even those least disposed to note the signs of the times felt the
pressure of some impending calamity.  The strange manner of the
Countess, the restless misery of the Earl, whom they all loved, the
busy, bustling, secretly-triumphant air of Father Miles--all denoted
some hidden working.  Father Bevis had been absent for some weeks, and
when he returned he wore the appearance of a baffled and out-wearied
man.

"He looks both tired and disappointed," remarked Clarice to Heliet.

"He looks," said Heliet, "like a man who had been trying very hard to
scale the wall of a tower, and had been flung back, bruised and
helpless, upon the stones below."

During the four months last spent at Oakham, Clarice had been absolutely
silent to Heliet on the subject of her own peculiar trouble.  Perhaps
she might have remained so, had it not been for the approaching
separation.  But her lips were unsealed by the strong possibility that
they might never meet again.  It was late on the last evening that
Clarice spoke, as she sat rocking Rose's cradle.  She laid bare her
heart before Heliet's sympathising eyes, until she could trace the whole
weary journey through the arid desert sands.

"And now tell me, friend," Clarice ended, "why our Lord deals so
differently with thee and with me.  Are we not both His children?  Yet
to thee He hath given the desire of thine heart, and on mine He lays His
hand, and says, `No, child, thou must not have it.'"

"I suppose, beloved," was Heliet's gentle answer, "that the treatment
suitable for consumption will not answer for fever.  We are both sick of
the deadly disease of sin; but it takes a different development in each.
Shall we wonder if the Physician bleeds the one, and administers
strengthening medicines to the other?"

Clarice's lip quivered, but she rocked Rose's cradle without answering.

"There is also another consideration," pursued Heliet.  "If I mistake
not--to alter the figure--we have arrived at different points in our
education.  If one of us can but decline `_puer_,' while the other is
half through the syntax, is it any wonder if the same lesson be not
given to us to learn?  Dear Clarice, all God's children need keeping
down.  I have been kept down all these years by my physical sufferings.
That is not appointed to thee; thou art tried in another way.  Shall we
either marvel or murmur because our Father sees that each needs a
different class of discipline?"

"Oh, Heliet, if I might have had thine!  It seems to me so much the
lighter cross to carry."

"Then, dear, I am the less honoured--the further from the full share of
the fellowship of our Lord's sufferings."

Clarice shook her head as if she hardly saw it in that light.

"Clarice, let me tell thee a parable which I read the other day in the
writings of the holy Fathers.  There were once two monks, dwelling in
hermits' cells near to each other, each of whom had one choice tree
given him to cultivate.  When this had lasted a year, the tree of the
one was in flourishing health, while that of the other was all stunted
and bare.  `Why, brother,' said the first, `what hast thou done to thy
tree?'  `Now, judge thou, my brother,' replied the second, `if I could
possibly have done more for my tree than I have done.  I watched it
carefully every day.  When I thought it looked dry, I prayed for rain;
when the ground was too wet, I prayed for dry weather; I prayed for
north wind or south wind, as I saw them needed.  All that I asked, I
received; and yet look at my poor tree!  But how didst thou treat thine?
for thy plan has been so much more successful than mine that I would
fain try it next year.'  The other monk said only, `I prayed God to make
my tree flourish, and left it to Him to send what weather He saw good.'"

"He has sent a bitter blast from the north-east," answered Clarice, with
trembling lips.

"And a hedge to shelter the root of the tree," said Heliet, pointing to
Rose.

"Oh, my little Rosie!" exclaimed Clarice, kissing the child
passionately.  "But if God were to take her, Heliet, what would become
of me?"

"Do not meet trouble half way, dear," said Heliet, gently.  "There is no
apparent likelihood of any such thing."

"I do not meet it--it comes!" cried poor Clarice.

"Then wait till it comes.  `Sufficient unto the day is the evil
thereof.'"

"Yet when one has learned by experience that evil is perpetually coming,
how can one help looking forward to the morrow?"

"Look forward," said Heliet.  "But let it be to the day after
to-morrow--the day when we shall awake up after Christ's likeness, and
be satisfied with it--when the Lord our God shall come, and all the
saints with Him.  Dear, a gem cannot be engraved without the
cutting-tools.  Wouldst thou rather be spared the pain of the cutting
than have Christ's likeness graven upon thee?"

"Oh, could it not be done with less cutting?"

"Yes--and more faintly graven then."

Clarice sobbed, without speaking.

"If the likeness is to be in high relief, so that all men may see it,
and recognise the resemblance, and applaud the graver, Clarice, the tool
must cut deep."

"If one could ever know that it was nearly done, it would be easier to
bear it."

"Ay, but how if the vision were granted us, and we saw that it was not
nearly done by many a year?  It is better not to know, dear.  Yet it is
natural to us all to think that it would be far easier if we could see.
Therefore the more `blessed is he that hath not seen, and yet hath
believed.'"

"I do think," said poor Clarice, drearily, "that I must be the worst
tried of all His people."

"Clarice," answered Heliet, in a low voice, "I believe there is one in
this very castle far worse tried than thou--a cross borne which is ten
times heavier than thine, and has no rose-bud twined around it.  And it
is carried with the patience of an angel, with the unselfish
forgetfulness of Christ.  The tool is going very deep there, and already
the portrait stands out in beautiful relief.  And that cross will never
be laid down till the sufferer parts with it at the very gate of Heaven.
At least, so it seems to me.  As the years go on it grows heavier, and
it is crushing him almost into the dust now."

"Whom dost thou mean, Heliet?"

"The Lord Earl, our master."

"I can see he is sorely tried; but I never quite understand what his
trouble is."

"The sorrow of being actively hated by the only one whom he loves.  The
prospect of being left to die, in wifeless and childless loneliness--
that terrible loneliness of soul which is so much worse to bear than any
mere physical solitude.  God, for some wise reason, has shut him up to
Himself.  He has deprived him of all human relationship and human love;
has said to him, `Lean on Me, and walk loose from all other ties.'  A
wedded man in the eyes of the world, God has called him in reality to be
an anchorite of the Order of Providence, to follow the Lamb
whithersoever He goeth.  And unless mine eyes see very wrongly into the
future--as would God they did!--the Master is about to lead this dear
servant into the Gethsemane of His passion, that he may be fashioned
like Him in all things.  Ah, Clarice, that takes close cutting!"

"Heliet, what dost thou mean?  Canst thou guess what the Lady is about
to do?"

"I think she is going to leave him."

"Alone?--for ever?"

"For earth," said Heliet, softly.  "God be thanked, that is not for
ever."

"What an intensely cruel woman she is!" cried Clarice, indignantly.

"Because, I believe, she is a most miserable one."

"Canst thou feel any pity for _her_?"

"It is not so easy as for him.  Yet I suspect she needs it even more
than he does.  Christ have mercy on them both!"

"I cannot comprehend it," said Clarice.

"I will tell thee one thing," answered Heliet.  "I would rather change
with thee than with Sir Edmund the Earl; and a hundred times rather with
thee than with the Lady Margaret.  It is hard to suffer; but it is worse
to be the occasion of suffering.  Let me die a thousand times over with
Saint Stephen, before I keep the clothes of the persecutors with Saul."

Clarice stooped and lifted the child from the cradle.

"It is growing late," she said.  "I suppose we ought not to be up
longer.  Good-night, sweetheart, and many thanks for thy counsel.  It is
all true, I know; yet--"

"In twenty years, may be--or at the longest, when thou hast seen His
Face in righteousness--dear Clarice, thou wilt know it, and want to add
no _yet_."

The soft tap of Heliet's crutches had died away, but Clarice stood still
with the child in her arms.

"It must be _yet_ now, however," she said, half aloud.  "Do Thy will
with me--cut me and perfect me; but, O God, leave me, leave me Rosie!"



CHAPTER NINE.

OVERWHELMED.

  "I am a useless and an evil man,--
  God planned my life, and let men spoil His plan."

  _Isabella Fyvie Mayo_.

Oakham was left behind; and to the surprise of the party--except the
Countess, her Prime Minister, Father Miles, and her Foreign Secretary,
Felicia--they found themselves lodged in Rochester Castle.  Here the
Countess shut herself up, and communicated with the outward world
through her Cabinet only.  All orders were brought to the ladies by
Felicia, and were passed to Vivian by Father Miles.  The latter was
closeted with his lady for long periods, and rolls of writing appeared
to be the result of these conferences.

The winter moved on with leaden feet, according to the ideas of the
household, and of Ada more particularly.

"This sort of life is really something dreadful!" said that young lady.
"If the frost would only break up, it would make something fresh to look
at.  There is _nothing_ to be done!"

"Poor Ada!" responded Olympias, laughing.  "Do get some needlework."

"I am tired of needlework," answered Ada.  "I am tired of everything!"

Felicia came in as the words were spoken.

"I have permission to tell you something," she said, with a light in her
black eyes which Clarice felt sure meant mischief.  "The Lady has
appealed to the holy Father for a divorce from the Lord Earl."

"Will she get it?" asked Olympias.

"No doubt of it," replied Felicia dogmatically.

"And if so, what will she do then?" asked Ada.

"Her pious intention," said Felicia, the black eyes dancing, "is to
become a holy Sister of the Order of the blessed Saint Dominic."

"Then what is to become of the Lord Earl?" queried Olympias.  "I suppose
he can marry somebody else.  I hope he will."

"That is no concern of the Lady's," said Felicia, in a tone of pious
severity.  "The religious do not trouble their holy repose about
externs, except to offer prayers for their salvation."

"Why, then, we shall all be turned out!" blankly cried Ada.  "What is to
become of us all?"

"What will become of me is already settled," replied Felicia demurely.
"I am about to make profession in the same convent with my mistress."

"Thank the saints!" reached Clarice's ears in a whisper from Olympias,
and was deliberately echoed in the heart of the former.

"But that will never do for me!" exclaimed Ada.  "I am sure I have no
vocation.  What am I to do?"

"The Lady proposes, in her goodness," said the Countess's mouthpiece,
"to get thee an appointment in the household of one of the Ladies the
King's daughters."

"_Ha, jolife_!" said Ada, and ceased her interjections.

"For you, Dames," continued Felicia, turning to Clarice and Olympias,
"she says that, being wedded, you are already provided for, and need no
thought on her part."

"Oh, then, I may go back to Oakham," answered Olympias in a satisfied
tone.  "That is what I want."

Clarice wondered sorrowfully what her lot would be--whether she might
return to Oakham.  She felt more at home there than anywhere else.  The
question was whether, Clarice being now at large, Vivian would continue
in the Earl's service; and even if he did, they might perhaps no longer
live in the Castle.  Clarice took this new trouble where she carried
them all; but the Earl's sorrow was more in her mind than her own.  She
was learning to cultivate:--

  "A heart at leisure from itself,
  To soothe and sympathise."

She found that Vivian had already heard the news from Father Miles, and
she timidly ventured to ask him what he intended to do.

After a few flights of rhetoric concerning the extreme folly of the
Countess--to forsake an earldom for the cloister was a proceeding not in
Vivian's line at all--that gentleman condescended so far to answer his
wife as to observe that he was not fool enough not to know when he was
well off.  Clarice thankfully conjectured that they would return to
Oakham.  She thought it better, however, to ask the question point
blank; and she received a reply--of course accompanied by a snub.

"Why should we be such fools as to go to Oakham when my Lord is in
Bermondsey?"

"Bermondsey!"  Clarice was surprised.  "You never know anything!" said
Vivian.  "Of course he is come to town."

Clarice received the snubbing in silence.  "You are so taken up with
that everlasting brat of yours," added Rose's affectionate father, "that
you never know what anybody else is doing."

There had been a time when Clarice would have defended herself against
such accusations.  She was learning now that she suffered least when she
received them in meek silence.  The only way to deal with Vivian
Barkeworth was to let him alone.

Two long letters went to the Pope that February; one was from the
Countess, the other from the Earl.  They are both yet extant, and they
show the character of each as no description could set it forth.

The Countess's letter is a mixture of pious demureness and querulous
selfishness.  She tells the Pope that all her life she has intensely
desired to be a nun: that she is, unhappily, in the irreligious position
of a matron, and, moreover, is the suffering wife of an impious husband.
This sinful man requires of her--of her, a soul devoted to religion--
that she shall behave as if she belonged to the wicked world which holds
himself within its thrall, and shall sacrifice God to him.  She humbly
and fervently entreats the holy Father to grant her a divorce from these
bonds of matrimony which so cruelly oppress her, and to set her soul
free that it may soar upwards unrestrained.  It is the letter of a woman
who did wish to serve God, but who was incapable of recognising that it
was possible to do it without shutting herself up in stone walls, and
starving body and soul alike.

The Earl's letter is of an entirely different calibre.  He tells the
Pope in his turn that he is wedded to a woman whom he dearly loves, and
who resolutely keeps him at arm's length.  She will not make a friend of
him, nor behave as a good wife ought to do.  This is all he asks of her;
he is as far as can be from wishing to be unkind to her or to cross her
wishes.  He only wants her to live with him on reasonable and ordinary
terms.  But she--and here the Earl's irrepressible humour breaks out; he
must see the comical side even of his own sorest trouble, and certainly
this had its comical side--she will not sit next to him at table, but
insists on putting her confessor between; she will not answer Yes or No
to his simplest question, but invariably returns the answer through a
third person.  When she goes into her private apartments, she turns the
key in his face.  Does the holy Father think this is the way that a
rational wife ought to behave to her own husband? and will he not
remonstrate with her, and induce her to use him a little more kindly and
reasonably than she does?  The Earl's letter is that of an injured and
justly provoked man; of a man who loves his wife too well to coerce or
quarrel with her, and who thoroughly perceives the absurdity of his
position no less than its pain.  Yet he does feel the pain bitterly, and
he would do anything to end it.

This letter to the Patriarch of Christendom was his last hope.
Entreaties, remonstrances, patient tenderness, loving kindness, all had
proved vain.  Now:--

  "He had set his life upon a cast,
  And he must run the hazard of the die."

Weary and miserable weeks they were, during which Earl Edmund waited the
Pope's answer.  It came at last.  The Pope replied as only a Romish
priest could be expected to reply.  For the human anguish of the one he
had no sympathy; for the quasi-religious sorrows of the other he had
very much.  He decreed, in the name of God, a full divorce between
Edmund Earl of Cornwall, and Margaret his wife, coldly admonishing the
Earl to take the Lord's chastening in good part, and to let the griefs
of earth lift his soul towards Heaven.

But it was not there that this sorrow lifted it at first.  The human
agony had to be lived through before the Divine calm and peace could
come to heal it.  His last effort had been made in vain.  The passionate
hope of twenty years, that the day would come when his long, patient
love should meet with its reward even on earth, was shattered to the
dust.  Even if she wished to come back after this, she could never
retrace her steps.  Compensation he might find in Heaven, but there
could be none left for him on earth now.  Even hope was dead within him.

The fatal Bull fell from the Earl's hand, and dropped a dead weight on
the rushes at his feet.  He was a heart-wrecked man, and life had to go
on.

Was this man--for his is no fancy picture--a poor weak creature, or was
he a strong, heroic soul?  Many will write him down the weakling;
perhaps all but those who have themselves known much of that hope
deferred which maketh the heart sick, and drains away the moral
life-blood drop by drop.  It may be that the registers of Heaven held
appended to his name a different epithet.  It is harder to wait than to
work; hardest of all to awake after long suspense to the blank
conviction that all has been in vain, and then to take up the cross and
meekly follow the Crucified.

Two hours later, a page brought a message to Reginald de Echingham to
the effect that he was wanted by his master.

Reginald, in his own eyes, was a thoroughly miserable man.  He had
nobody to talk with, and nothing to do.  He missed Olympias sadly, for
as the Earl had once jestingly remarked, she burnt perpetual incense on
his altar, and flattery was a necessary of life to Reginald.  Olympias
was the only person who admired him nearly as much as he did himself.
Like the old Romans, _partem et circenses_ constituted his list of
indispensables; and had it been inevitable to dispense with one of them
for a time, Reginald would have resigned the bread rather than the game.
On this particular morning, his basket of grievances was full.  The
damp had put his moustache out of curl; he had found a poor breakfast
provided for him--and Reginald was by no means indifferent to his
breakfast--and, worst of all, the mirror was fixed so high up on the
wall that he could not see himself comfortably.  The usual religious
rites of the morning before his own dear image had, therefore, to be
very imperfectly performed.  Reginald grumbled sorely within himself as
he went through the cold stone passages which led to the Earl's chamber.

His master lifted very sad eyes to his face.

"De Echingham, I wish to set out for Ashridge to-morrow.  Can you be
ready?"

Ashridge!  De Echingham would as soon have received marching orders for
Spitzbergen.  If there were one place in the world which he hated in his
inmost soul, it was that Priory in Buckinghamshire, which Earl Edmund
had himself founded.  He would be worse off there than even in
Bermondsey Palace, with nothing around him but silent walls and almost
equally silent monks.  De Echingham ventured on remonstrance.

"Would not your Lordship find Berkhamsted much more pleasurable,
especially at this season?"

"I do not want pleasure," answered the Earl wearily.  "I want rest."

And he rose and began to walk aimlessly up and down the room, in that
restless manner which was well suited to emphasise his words.

"But--your Lordship's pardon granted--would you not find it far better
to seek for distraction and pleasance in the Court, than to shut
yourself up in a gloomy cell with those monks?"

Earl Edmund stopped in his walk and looked at Reginald, whose speech
touched his quick sense of humour.

"I would advise you to give thanks in your prayers to-night, De
Echingham."

"For what, my Lord?"

"That you have as yet no conception of a sorrow which is past
distraction by pleasance.  `Vinegar upon nitre!'  You never tasted it, I
should think."

"I thank your Lordship, I never did," said Reginald, who took the
allusion quite literally.

"Well, I have done, and I did not like it," rejoined his master.  "I
prefer the monks' _soupe maigre_, if you please.  Be so good as to make
ready, De Echingham."

Reginald obeyed, but grumbling bitterly within his disappointed soul.
Could there be any misery on earth worse than a cold stone bench, a bowl
of sorrel soup, and a chapter of Saint Augustine to flavour it?  And
when they had only just touched the very edge of the London season!
Why, he would not get a single ball that spring.  Poor Reginald!

They stayed but one night at Berkhamsted, though, to the Earl,
Berkhamsted was home.  It was the scene of his birth, and of that
blessed unapprehensive childhood, when brothers and sisters had played
with him on the Castle green, and light, happy laughter had rung through
the noble halls; when the hand of his fair Provencal mother had fallen
softly in caresses on his head, and his generous, if extravagant, father
had been only too ready to shower gold ducats in anticipation of his
slightest wish.  All was gone now but the cold gold--hard, silent,
unfeeling; a miserable comforter indeed.  There was one brother left,
but he was far away--too far to recall in this desolate hour.  Like a
sufferer of later date, he must go alone with his God to bear his
passion.  [Note 1.]

The Priory of Ashridge--of the Order of Bonihomines--which Earl Edmund
had founded a few years before, was the only one of its class in
England.  The Predicant Friars were an offshoot of the Dominican Order;
and the Boni-Homines were a special division of the Predicant Friars.
It is a singular fact that from this one source of Dominicans or Black
Monks, sprang the best and the worst issues that ever emanated from
monachism--the Bonihomines and the Inquisition.

The Boni-Homines were, in a word, the Protestants of the Middle Ages.
And--a remarkable feature--they were not, like all other seceders,
persons who had separated themselves from the corruptions of Rome.  They
were better off, for they had never been tainted with them.  From the
first ages of primitive Christianity, while on all sides the stream was
gradually growing sluggish and turbid, in the little nest of valleys
between Dauphine and Piedmont it had flowed fresh and pure, fed by the
Word of God, which the Vaudois [Note 2] mountaineers suffered no Pope
nor Church to wrench or shut up from them.

The oldest name by which we know these early Protestants is Paulikians,
probably having a reference to the Apostle Paul as either the exponent
of their doctrines, or the actual founder of their local church.  A
little later we find them styled Cathari, or Pure Ones.  Then we come on
their third name of Albigenses, derived from the neighbouring town of
Alby, where a Council was held which condemned them.  But by whatever
name they are called they are the same people, living in the same
valleys, and holding unwaveringly and unadulterated the same faith.

It was by their fourth name of Boni-Homines, or Good Men, that they took
advantage of the preaching movement set up by the Dominicans in the
thirteenth century.  They permeated their ranks, however, very gradually
and quietly--perhaps all the more surely.  For shortly after the date of
this story, in the early part of the fourteenth century, it is said that
of every three Predicant Friars, two were Bonihomines.

The Boni-Homines were rife in France before they ever crept into
England; and the first man to introduce them into England was Edmund,
Earl of Cornwall.  A hundred years later, when the Boni-Homines had
shown what they really were, and the leaven with which they had
saturated society had evolved itself in Lollardism, the monks of other
Orders did their best to bring both the movement and the men into
disrepute, and to paint in the blackest colours the name of the Prince
who had first introduced them into this country.  In no monkish
chronicle, unless written by a Bonus Homo, will the name of Earl Edmund
be found recorded without some word of condemnation.  And the
Boni-Homines, unfortunately for history, were not much given to writing
chronicles.  Their business was saving souls.

Most important is it to remember, in forming just estimates of the
character of things--whether men or events--in the Middle Ages, that
with few exceptions monks were the only historians.  Before we can
truthfully set down this man as good, or that man as bad, we must,
therefore, consult other sources--the chronicles of those few writers
who were not monks, the State papers, but above all, where accessible,
the personal accounts and private letters of the individuals in
question.  It is pitiable to see well-meaning Protestant writers, even
in our _own_ day, repeating after each other the old monkish calumnies,
and never so much as pausing to inquire, Are these things so?

Late on the evening of the following day the Prior and monks of Ashridge
stood at the gate ready to receive their founder.  The circumstances of
his coming were unknown to them, and they were prepared to make it a
triumphal occasion.  But the first glance at his face altered all that.
The Prior quietly waved his monks back, and, going forward himself,
kissed his patron's hand, and led him silently into the monastery.

Poor Sir Reginald found himself condemned to all the sorrows he had
anticipated, down to the sorrel soup--for it was a vigil--and the straw
mattress, which, though considerably softer than the plank beds of the
monks, was barely endurable to his ease-loving limbs.  He looked as he
felt--extremely uncomfortable and exceedingly cross.

The Prior wasted no attentions on him.  Such troubles as these were not
worth a thought in his eyes; but his founder's face cost him many
thoughts.  He saw too plainly that for him had come one of those dread
hours in life when the floods of deep waters overflow a man, and unless
God take him into the ark of His covenant mercy, he will go down in the
current.  It was after some hours of prayer that the Prior tapped at the
door of the royal guest.

Earl Edmund's quiet voice bade him enter.

"How fares it with my Lord?"

"How is it likely to fare," was the sorrowful answer, "with one who hath
lost hope?"

The Prior sat down opposite his guest, where he might have the
opportunity of studying his countenance.  He was himself the senior of
the Earl, being a man of about sixty years--a man in whom there had been
a great deal of fire, and in whose dark, gleaming eyes there were many
sparks left yet.

"Father," said the Earl, in a low, pained voice, "I am perplexed to
understand God's dealings with me."

"Did you expect to understand them?" was the reply.

"Thus far I did--that I thought He would finish what He had begun.  But
all my life--so far as this earthly life is concerned--I have been
striving for one aim, and it has come to utter wreck.  I set one object
before me, and I thought--I _thought_ it was God's will that I should
pursue it.  If He, by some act of His own providence, had shown me the
contrary, I could have understood it better.  But He has let men step in
and spoil all.  It is not He, but they who have brought about this
wreck.  My barge is not shattered by the winds and waves of God, but
scuttled by the violence of pirates.  My life is spoiled, and I do not
understand why.  I have done nothing but what I thought He intended me
to do: I have set my heart on one thing, but it was a thing that I
believed He meant to give me.  It is all mystery to me."

"What is spoiled, my Lord?  Is it what God meant you to do, or what you
meant God to do?"

The sand grew to a larger heap in the hour-glass before another word was
spoken.

"Father," said the Prince at last, "have I been intent on following my
own will, when I thought I was pursuing the Lord's will for me?  Father
Bevis thinks so: he gave me some very hard words before I came here.  He
accuses me of idolatry; of loving the creature more than the Creator--
nay, of setting up my will and aim, and caring nothing for those of the
Lord.  In his eyes, I ought to have perceived years ago that God called
me to a life apart with Him, and to have detached my heart from all but
Himself and His Church.  Father, it is hard enough to realise the wreck
of all a man hoped and longed for: yet it is harder to know that the
very hope was sin, that the longing was contrary to the Divine purpose
for me.  Have I so misunderstood my life?  Have I so misunderstood my
Master?"

The expression of the Prior's eyes was very pitying and full of
tenderness.  Hard words were not what he thought needed as the medicine
for that patient.  They were only to be expected from Father Bevis, who
had never suffered the least pang of that description of pain.

"My Lord," answered the Prior, gently, "it is written of the wicked man,
`Thou hast removed Thy judgments from his eyes.'  They are not to be
seen nor fathomed by him.  And to a great extent it is equally true of
the righteous man.  Man must not look to be able to comprehend the ways
of God--they are above him.  It is enough for him if he can walk
submissively in them."

"I wonder," said the Earl, still pursuing his own train of thought, "if
I ought to have been a monk.  I never imagined it, for I never felt any
vocation.  It seemed to me that Providence called me to a life entirely
different.  Have I made an utter blunder all my life?  I cannot think
it."

"There is no need to think it, my Lord.  We cannot all be monks, even if
we would.  And why should we?  It might, perhaps, be better for you to
think one other thing."

"What?" asked the Earl, with more appearance of interest than he had
hitherto shown.

"That what you suppose to be the spoiling of your life is just what God
intended for you."

The Earl's face grew dark.  "What! that all my life long He was leading
me up to _this_?"

"It looks like it," said the Prior, quietly.

"Oh! but why?"

"Now, my Lord, you go beyond me.  Neither you nor I can guess that.  But
He knows."

"Yes, I suppose He knows."  But the consideration did not seem to
comfort him as it had done before when suggested by Father Bevis.

"Perhaps," said the Prior again, softly, "there was no other way for
your Lordship to the gate of the Holy City.  He leads us by diverse
ways; some through the flowery mead, and some over the desert sands
where no water is.  But of all it is written, `He led them forth by the
right way, that they might reach the haven of their desire.'  Would your
Lordship have preferred the mead and have missed the haven?"

"No," answered the Earl, firmly.

"Remember that you hold God's promise that when you awake up after His
likeness you shall be satisfied with it.  And he is not satisfied with
his purchase who accounts it to have cost more than it was worth."

"Will your figure hold if pressed further?" said the Earl, with a wintry
smile.  "The purchase may be worth a thousand marks, but if I have but
five hundred in the world I shall starve to death before the gem is
mine."

"No, my Lord, it will not hold.  For you cannot pay the price of that
gem.  The cost of it was His who will keep it safe for you, so that you
cannot fling it away in mistake or folly.  Figures must fail somewhere;
and we want another in this case.  My Lord, you are the gem, and the
heavenly Graver is fashioning on you the King's likeness.  Will you stay
His hand before it is perfect?"

"I would it were near perfection!" sighed the Earl.

"Perhaps it is," said the Prior, gently.  "Remember, it is your Father
who is graving it."

The Earl's lip quivered.  "If one could but know when it would be done!
If one might know that in seven years--ten years--it would be complete,
and one's heart and brain might find rest!  But to think of its going on
for twenty, thirty, forty--"

"They will look short enough, my Lord, when they are over."

"True.  But not while they are passing."

"Nay, `No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous.'  Yet `faint
not when thou art rebuked of Him.'"

"It is the going on, that is so terrible!" said the Earl, almost under
his breath.  "If one might die when one's hope dies!  Father, do you
know anything of that?"

"In this world, my Lord, I dug a grave in mine own heart for all my
hopes, forty years ago."

"And can you look back on that time calmly?"

"That depends on what you mean by calmness.  Trustfully, yes;
indifferently, no."

"Yet the religious say that God requires their affections to be detached
from the world.  That must produce deadness of feeling."

"My Lord, there is such a thing as being alive from the dead.  That is
what God requires.  If we tarry at the dying, we shall stop short of His
perfection.  We are to be dead to sin; but I nowhere find in Scripture
that we are to die to love and happiness.  That is man's gloss upon
God's precept."

"Is that what you teach in your valleys?"

"We teach God's Word," said the Vaudois Prior.  "Alas! for the men that
have made it void through their tradition!  `If they speak not according
thereunto, it is because there is no light in them.'"

"And you learn--" suggested the Earl in a more interested tone.

"We learn that God requires of His servants that they shall overcome the
world; and He has told us what He means by the world--`The lust of the
flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.'  Whatever has
become that to me, that am I to overcome, if I would reign with Christ
when He cometh."

We Protestants can hardly understand the fearful extent to which Rome
binds the souls of her votaries.  When she goes so far--which she rarely
does--as to hold out God's Word with one hand, she carries in the other
an antidote to it which she calls the interpretation of the Church,
derived from the consent of the Fathers.  That the Fathers scarcely ever
consent to anything does not trouble her.  According to this
interpretation, all human affection comes for monk or nun under the head
of the lusts of the flesh.  [Note 3.] A daughter's love for her mother,
a father's for his child, is thus branded.  From his cradle Earl Edmund
had been taught this; was it any marvel if he found it impossible to get
rid of the idea?  The Prior's eyes were less blinded.  He had come
straight from those Piedmontese valleys where, from time immemorial, the
Word of God has not been bound, and whosoever would has been free to
slake his thirst at the pure fountain of the water of life.  Love was
not dead in his heart, and he was not ashamed of it.

"But then, Father, you must reckon all love a thing to be left behind?"
very naturally queried the Earl.

"It will not be so in Heaven," answered the Prior; "then why should it
be on earth?  Left behind!  Think you I left behind me the one love of
my life when I became a Bonus Homo?  I trow not.  My Lord, forty years
ago this summer, I was a young man, just entering life, and betrothed to
a maiden of the Val Pellice.  God laid His hand upon my hopes of earthly
happiness, and said, `Not so!'  But must I, therefore, sweep my
Adelaide's memory out of my heart as if I had never loved her, and hold
it sin against God to bear her sweet face in tender remembrance?  Nay,
verily, I have not so learned Christ."

"What happened?" said the Earl.

"God sent His angels for her," answered the Prior in a low voice.

"Ah, but she loved you!" was the response, in a tone still lower.  The
Earl did not know how much, in those few words, he told the Prior of
Ashridge.

"My Lord," said the Prior, "did you ever purchase a gift for one you
loved, and keep it by you, carefully wrapped up, not letting him know
till the day came to produce it?"

The Earl looked up as if he did not see the object of the question; but
he answered in the affirmative.

"It may be," continued the Prior, "that God our Father does the same at
times.  I believe that many will find gifts on their Father's table, at
the great marriage-feast of the Lamb, which they never knew they were to
have, and some which they fancied were lost irrevocably on earth.  And
if there be anything for which our hearts cry out that is not waiting
for us, surely He can and will still the craving."

The Prior scarcely realised the effect of his words.  He saw afterwards
that the most painful part of the Earl's grief was lightened, that the
terrible strain was gone from his eyes.  He thanked God and took
courage.  He did not know that he had, to some extent, given him back
the most precious thing he had lost--hope.  He had only moved it further
off--from earth to Heaven; and, if more distant, yet it was safer there.

The Prior left the Earl alone after that interview--alone with the
Evangelisterium and the Psalter.  The words of God were better for him
than any words of men.

He stayed at Ashridge for about a fortnight, and then, to the ecstasy of
Sir Reginald, issued orders for return to Berkhamsted.  Only a few words
passed between the Prior and his patron as they took leave of each other
at the gate.

"Farewell, Father, and many thanks.  You have done me good--as much good
as man can do me now."

"My Lord, that acknowledgment is trust money, which I will pay into the
treasury of your Lord and mine."

So they parted, to meet only once again.  The Vaudois Prior was to go
down with his friend to the river-side, to the last point where man can
go with man.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  "Je vais seul avec mon Dieu souffrir ma passion."--Bonnivard,
Prior of Saint Victor.

Note 2.  Vaudois is not really an accurate epithet, since the
"Valley-Men" only acquired it when, in after years, ejected, from their
old home, they sought shelter in the Pays de Vaud.  But it has come to
be regarded as a name expressive of certain doctrines.

Note 3.  "They (the Jesuits) were cut off from family and friends.
Their vow taught them to forget their father's house, and to esteem
themselves holy only when every affection and desire which nature had
planted in their breasts had been plucked up by the roots."
(_Jesuitism_, by the Reverend J.A. Wylie, Ll.D.)  This statement is
simply a shade less true of the other monastic orders.



CHAPTER TEN.

FORGIVENESS NOT TO BE FORGIVEN.

  "Ay, there's a blank at my right hand
  That ne'er can be made up to me."--_James Hogg_.

Before leaving Bermondsey, the Earl had accomplished one of the hardest
pieces of work which ever fell to his lot.  This was the execution of
the deed of separation which conveyed his legal assent to the departure
of his wife, and assigned to her certain lands for her separate
sustenance.  Himself the richest man in England, he was determined that
she should remain the wealthiest woman.  He assigned to her all his
lands in Norfolk and Suffolk, the manors of Kirketon in Lincolnshire,
Malmesbury and Wyntreslawe in Wiltshire, and an annuity on Queenhithe,
Middlesex--the whole sum amounting to 800 pounds per annum, which was
equivalent to at least 15,000 pounds a year.  He reserved to himself the
appointments to all priories and churches, and the military feofs and
escheats.  Moreover, the Countess was not to sell any of the lands, nor
had she the right to build castles.  So far, in all probability, any man
would have gone.  But one other item was added, which came straight from
the human heart of Earl Edmund, and was in the thirteenth century a very
strange item indeed.  The Countess, it was expressly provided, should
not waste, exile, enslave, nor destroy "the serfs on these estates."
[Note 1.]

The soul of Haman the Agagite, which had descended upon Margaret de
Clare, fiercely resented this unusual clause.  On the same roll which
contains the Earl's grant, in ordinary legal language--which must have
cost him something where he records her wish, and his assent, "freely
_during her widowhood_ to dedicate herself to the service of God,"--
there is another document, in very extraordinary language, wherein the
Lady Margaret recounts the wrongs which her lord is doing her in respect
of this 800 pounds a year.  A more spiteful production was hardly ever
penned.  From the opening address "to all who shall read or hear this
document" to the concluding assertion that she has hereto set her seal,
the indenture is crammed full of envy, hatred, and malice, and all
uncharitableness.  She lets it plainly be seen that all the lands in
Norfolk and Suffolk avail her nothing, so long as these restraining
clauses are added to the grant.  Margaret probably thought that she was
merely detailing her wrongs; she did not realise that she was exhibiting
her character.  But for these four documents, the two letters, and the
two indentures, wherein Earl and Countess have respectively "pressed
their souls on paper," we might never have known which was to blame in
the matter.  Out of her own mouth is Margaret judged.

With amazing effrontery, and in flat contradiction not only of her
husband's assertion, but of her own admission, the Countess commenced
her tirade by bringing against her lord the charge of which she herself
was guilty.  As he was much the more worthy of credit, I prefer to
believe him, confirmed as his statement is by her own letter to the
Pope.  She went on to detail the terms of separation, making the most of
everything against her husband, and wound up with a sentence which must
have pierced his heart like a poignard.  She solemnly promised never to
aggrieve him at any time by asking him to take her back, and never to
seek absolution [Note 2] from that oath!  In one sentence of cold,
cruel, concentrated spite, she sarcastically swore never to demand from
him the love for which during one and twenty years he had sued to her in
vain.

So now all was over between them.  The worst that could come had come.

  "All was ended now, the hope, and the fear, and the sorrow,
  All the aching heart, the restless unsatisfied longing,
  All the dull deep pain, and constant anguish of patience!"

There was no more left to fear, for there was nothing left to hope.

The Countess, attended by Father Miles and Felicia, left Rochester in
June for Romsey Abbey, where she solemnly assumed the veil of a black
nun.  She was now plain Sister Margaret, and in due course of time and
promotion, she would become Mother Margaret, and then, perhaps, Prioress
and Abbess.  And then--her soul would be required of her.

Mother Margaret!  What bitter mockery of a title for the woman who had
deliberately flung away from her as a worthless weed the white flower of
love which she might have cherished!

Of course, the household was now scattered.  Ada had been received into
the household of the Countess of Gloucester, the King's daughter Joan.
Olympias was pining to return to Reginald, if she could form some idea
in what part of the world he might be found; Clarice was awaiting her
imperious lord's commands.  The morning after the Countess had taken her
last farewell of them all, as they were still in this attitude of doubt
and expectation, in walked Sir Lambert Aylmer.  He was greeted with
delight.  Roisia was well, he reported, and sent her loving
commendations to all; but the object of his coming was not to talk about
Roisia.  The Earl, with Sir Reginald, was at Restormel, one of his
Cornish castles; but in a letter received from the latter gentleman, Sir
Lambert had been requested to inform Olympias that their master desired
them all to repair to Berkhamsted, whither he meant to come shortly, and
they should then hear his intentions for the future.

"The saints send he mean not to be a monk!" said Olympias, shrugging her
shoulders.

But nothing was further from Earl Edmund's purpose.

They reached Berkhamsted in a day or two, and to Clarice's great
delight, found there not only Mistress Underdone and the two
bower-maidens, but Sir Ademar and Heliet.  It was a new and pleasant
discovery that Heliet could travel.  It had been a sort of accepted
idea, never investigated, that her leaving Oakham was an impossibility;
but Ademar had coaxed her to try, and Heliet was quite willing.  The
result was that she had reached Berkhamsted in safety, to her own
intense enjoyment; for she had never before been a mile from Oakham, and
the discovery that she was no longer a fixture, but could accompany her
husband wherever duty called him was to Heliet unspeakable delight.

It was not till October that the Earl reached home; for he stayed at
Bristol for the wedding of the eldest princess, Alianora, with Henri
Duke of Barre, which took place on the twentieth of September.  The
morning after his arrival he desired to speak with the whole of his
household, who were to assemble in the hall for that purpose.

Olympias was positive that her master was about to take the cowl.  "And
it would be so nice, you see," she said; "just a match to the Lady."

"Nice, indeed!" said Reginald, pulling a terrible face.  "Thou hast not
spent a fortnight at Ashridge."

"Well, but he would not want to make a monk of thee," answered Olympias,
rather blankly.

"He would not manage it, if he tried," responded her lord and master.

When the Earl's intentions were stated, it appeared that he had no
further occasion for the services of Sir Reginald and Olympias, and he
had secured for them situations, if they chose to accept them, in the
household of the royal bride.  Olympias was in ecstasies; to live in
France was a most delicious fate in her eyes, nor did Reginald in the
least object to it.  Filomena and Sabina were provided for with the
Countess of Lincoln and the Princess Elizabeth, Mistress Underdone,
Heliet, and Sir Ademar would remain at Berkhamsted.  And then the Earl,
turning to Vivian and Clarice, requested as a favour to himself that
they would remain also.  It was necessary to have a lady of rank--
namely, a knight's wife--at the head of the establishment.  The Earl had
no sister who could take that position; and his brother's widow, the
Lady Constance d'Almayne, had preferred to return to her own home in
Bearn rather than live in England.  Heliet might have answered, but the
Earl felt, with his usual considerate gentleness, that her lameness
would make it a great charge and trouble to her.  He wished Clarice to
take it, if her husband would allow her, and was willing to continue in
his service.

"And, truth to tell," said the Earl, with a sad smile at Rosie, who was
making frantic efforts to compass the fearful distance of three yards
between the Earl's chair and Clarice's outstretched hand, "you have here
a jewel which I were very loth to lose from my empty casket.  So, Sir
Vivian, what say you?"

What became of either Clarice or Rosie was a matter of very little
importance to Vivian, for he considered them both in the light of
encumbrances--which was rather hard on Clarice at least, as she would
thankfully have got out of his way if duty had allowed it.  But, as he
had once said, he knew when he was well off, and he had no wish to pass
into the service either of a meaner nobleman or of a harder master.
Vivian assented without a qualifying word.

Thus, with Clarice, life sank back into its old groove, and time sped
on, uneventful except for the two items that every day little Rosie grew
in intelligence and attractiveness, and every month, as it seemed to her
mother, the Earl grew a year older.  Clarice doubted if Rosie were not
his sole tie to life.  She became his chief companion, and on the little
child who was no kin of his he poured out all the rich treasure of that
warm great heart which his own held at so small a value.  Rosie,
however, was by no means irresponsive.  Any one seeing her would have
taken the Earl to be her father, and Sir Vivian a stranger of whom she
was rather frightened.

The year 1294 was signalised by a remarkable action on the part of King
Edward.  In order to defray the vast expenses of his Welsh and Breton
wars, he took into his own hands all the priories in England, committing
their lands and goods to the care of state officials, and allowing
eighteenpence per week for the sustenance of each monk.  The allowance
was handsome, but the proceeding was very like burglary.

The exact religious position of Edward the First is not so easy to
define as that of some other monarchs.  With respect to any personal and
spiritual religion, it is, alas! only too easy.  But it is difficult to
say how far his opposition to the Pope originated from a deliberate
policy, well thought out beforehand, and how far from the momentary
irritation of a crossed will.  He certainly was not the intelligent
supporter of the Boni-Homines from personal conviction, that was to be
found in his son, Edward the Second, or in his cousin, Edmund, Earl of
Cornwall.  Yet he did support them to a certain extent, though more in
the earlier part of his life than in the later.  Like many another man
in his position, he was ready enough to assist a body of sensible
literary reformers, but, when the doctrine which they held began to
press personally on himself, he shrank from the touch of Ithuriel's
spear.  That his subjects should be made better and more obedient by
means of the Decalogue, or any other code, was a most excellent thing;
but when the Decalogue came closer and said, "Thou shalt not," to
himself, then it was an intrusive nuisance.

In the following year, 1295, the King laid the foundation of borough
representation, by directing the sheriffs of the various counties to
send to Parliament, along with the knights of the shire, two deputies
from each borough, who were to be elected by the townsmen, and empowered
to consent, in the name of their constituents, to the decrees of the
King and his Council.  "It is a most equitable rule," added the Monarch,
"that what concerns all should be judged of by all."  Concerning the
possibility of these members dissenting from his decrees, however, His
Majesty was not quite so eloquent.  That contingency was one which a
sovereign in the thirteenth century could scarcely be expected to take
into his august consideration.

But King Edward wanted more money, and apparently preferred to grind it
out of his monks rather than his peasants.  He now instituted a search
of all the monasteries in England, and commanded the confiscation of all
cash.  The monasteries resisting the excessive taxation laid upon them,
the King seized their lay fees.

In the December of this year, Earl Edmund left Berkhamsted for Cornwall,
taking with him Vivian, and leaving Ademar behind as the only gentleman
in the party.  He was going on an errand unpleasant to himself, for the
King had committed to his charge a portion of the Gascon army.  War and
contention were altogether out of his line, yet he had no choice but to
obey.  He joined his cousin, the Earl of Lancaster, and the Earl of
Lincoln, in Cornwall, and together they sailed on the fifteenth of
January 1296, from a Cornish port termed Plumhupe in the "Chronicle of
Worcester," but not easy to identify now, unless it be taken as a
blunder for Plymouth, and the chronicler be supposed ignorant of its
county.  With them were twenty-five barons and a thousand knights.

During the absence of the Earl, it struck his cousin, the King--for no
other reason can be guessed--that the Earl's treasury being much better
filled than his own, he might reasonably pay his debts out of his
cousin's overflowing coffers.  Accordingly he sent to Berkhamsted, much
to the dismay of the household, and coolly annexed his cousin's
valuables to the Crown.  But Earl Edmund was a man in whose eyes gold
was of comparatively small value, partly because he set other things
much higher, and partly because he had always had so much of it, that
poverty was a trouble which he was scarcely able to realise.

A sad year was 1296 to the royal family of England.  The Gascon
expedition proved so disastrous, that Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, died of
grief and disappointment at Bayonne on the fifth of June; and the
Scottish one, though brilliantly successful in a political light, cost
no less, for an arrow shot at a venture, at the siege of Berwick,
quenched the young life of Richard Plantagenet, the only brother and
last near relation of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall.  The triumphant capture
of the coronation chair and the Stone of Destiny and their removal from
Dunstaffnage to England, was contrasted with a terrible famine, which so
affected the vines in particular, that there was hardly wine enough left
for mass.

In the midst of these sharp contrasts of triumph and sorrow, Earl Edmund
returned to England, escorting his widowed cousin Queen Blanche, and
following the coffin of the Earl of Lancaster.  They found the King
earnestly engaged in effecting a contract of marriage between the young
Prince Edward and a daughter of Guy, Count of Flanders, and binding
himself to march to Guy's assistance against the King of France.

Ah, had it been God's will that the wife destined for Edward the Second
should have been the pure, high-minded, heroic Philippine of Flanders,
instead of the she-wolf of France, what a different history he would
have had!

For among all the princesses of the thirteenth century one of the
fairest souls is this Flemish maiden, who literally laid down her life
in ransom for her father.  It was not Prince Edward's fault that
Philippine was not Queen of England.  It was the fault of the ambitious
policy alike of King Edward and the King of France, and perhaps still
more of his Navarrese Queen.  They did not know that they were
sacrificing not only Philippine, but Edward.  Would they have cared much
about it if they had done?

The regalia of Scotland were solemnly offered at the shrine of Saint
Edward on the 17th of June.  Earl Edmund was present at the ceremony,
and after it, "weary with the storms of earth," he went home to court
repose at Berkhamsted.

It was the day after he came home, a soft, warm June day.  Clarice and
Heliet were playing with Rosie, now a bright, lively little child of
five years old.  In rushing away from Heliet, who was pretending to
catch her, Rosie, to the dismay of all parties, ran straight against her
father, who had just reached the top of the spiral staircase which led
to their own rooms.  Vivian, never very amiable when his course was
impeded, either by a physical or a moral hindrance, impatiently pushed
the child on one side.  It was the wrong side.  Rosie struggled to
recover her balance for one moment, during which her father's hand
_might_ have grasped her, had he been quick to do it; her mother had not
time to reach her.  Then, with an inarticulate cry for help, she went
down the well of the staircase.

Past Heliet's exclamation of horror came a sharp ringing shriek--"O
Vivian!  Rosie!" and darting by her astounded husband, down the stairs
fled Clarice, with a celerity that she would have thought impossible an
hour before.

Vivian's state of mind was a mixture of selfishness and horror.  He had
not intended to hurt the child, merely to get her out of his way; but
when selfishness and remorse struggle together, the worse of the two
usually comes to the front.  Vivian's first articulate answer was a
growl at his wife.

"Why did you not keep her out of my way?  Gramercy, what a fuss about a
girl!"

Then he read his guilt in Heliet's eyes, and began faltering out excuses
and asseverations that he had not meant anything.

Clarice reached the foot of the stairs without heeding a word he said.
But other hands, as tender as her own, were there before her.

"Little Rosie! my poor little child!" came from Earl Edmund's gentle
lips, as he lifted the bruised child in his arms.  Tenderly as it was
done, Rosie could not repress a moan of pain which went to the two
hearts that loved her.

She was not killed, but she was dying.

"A few hours," said the Earl's physician, instantly summoned, "a few
hours.  There was nothing to be done.  She would very likely not suffer
much--would hardly be conscious of pain until the end came."

The Earl bore her into his own chamber, and laid her on his bed.  With
speechless agony Clarice watched beside her.

Just once Rosie spoke.

"Mother, Mother, don't cry!"

Clarice was shedding no tears; they would not come yet; but in Rosie's
eyes her strained white face was an equivalent.

"Mother, don't cry," said Rosie.  "You said--I asked you--why people
died.  You said our Lord called them.  Must go--when our Lord calls."

Clarice was not able to answer; but Rosie's words struck cold to her
heart.

"Must go when our Lord calls!"

She could hardly pray.  What went up was not prayer, but rather a wild,
passionate cry that this thing could not be--should not be.

There were those few hours of half-consciousness, and then, just at the
turn of the night, the Lord came and called, and Rosie heard His voice,
and went to Him.

Sir Vivian Barkeworth, during that day and night, was not pursuing the
even tenor of his way in that state of complacent self-approval which
was the usual attitude of his mind.  It was not that he mourned the
child; his affections were at all times of a microscopic character, and
the only spark of regard which he entertained for Rosie was not as his
little child, but as his future heiress.  Nor was he at all troubled by
the sufferings of Clarice.  Women were always crying about something;
they were decided hindrances and vexations in a man's way; in fact, the
existence of women at all, except to see to a man's comforts, and amuse
his leisure, was, in Sir Vivian's eyes, an unfortunate mistake in the
arrangements of Providence.  He mourned first the good opinion which
people had of him, and which, by the way, was a much smaller package
than Sir Vivian thought it; and secondly, the far more important
disturbance of the excellent opinion which he had of himself.  He could
not rid himself of the unpleasant conviction that a little more patience
and amiability on his part would have prevented all this disagreeable
affair, though he would not for the world have acknowledged this
conviction to Clarice.  That was what he thought it--a disagreeable
affair.  It was the purest accident, he said to himself, and might have
happened to any one.  At the same time, something, which did not often
trouble Vivian, deep down in his inner man, distinctly told him that
such an accident would never have happened to the Earl or Sir Ademar.
Vivian only growled at his conscience when it gave him that faint prick.
He was so accustomed to bid it be quiet, that it had almost ceased to
give him any hints, and the pricking was very slight.

"A disagreeable business!" he said, inwardly; "a most disagreeable
business.  Why did not Clarice attend to her duties better?  It was her
duty to keep that child from bothering me.  What are women good for but
to keep their children out of mischief, and to see that their husbands'
paths through life are free from every thorn and pebble?"

Sir Vivian had reached this point when one of the Earl's pages brought
him a message.  His master wished his attendance in his private
sitting-room.  Vivian inwardly anathematised the Earl, the page, Heliet
(as a witness), Rosie (as the offender), but above all, as the head and
front of all his misery, Clarice.  He was not the less disposed to
anathemas when he found Sir Ademar, Heliet, Clarice, and Master Franco,
the physician, assembled to receive him with the Earl.  It rasped him
further to perceive that they were all exceedingly grave, though how he
could have expected any of them to look hilarious it would be difficult
to say.  Especially he resented the look of desolate despair in
Clarice's eyes, and the physical exhaustion and mental agony written in
every line of her white face.  He would not have liked to admit that he
felt them all as so many trumpet-tongued accusers against him.

"I desired you all to assemble," said the Earl, in tones as gentle as
usual, but with an under-current of pain, "because I wish to inquire in
what manner our poor little darling met her death.  How came she to fall
down the staircase?"

He looked at Heliet, and she was the one to reply.

"It was an accident, my Lord, I think," she said.

"`You think?'  Is there some doubt, then?"

No one answered him but Ademar.  "Pardon me, my Lord; I was not
present."

"Then I ask one who was present.  Dame Heliet?"

"I hope there is no doubt, my Lord," answered Heliet.  "I should be
sorry to think so."

The bushy eyebrows, which were the only blemish to the handsome
Plantagenet face of the Earl, were lowered at this reply.

"What am I to understand by that?" he asked.  "Did the child throw
herself down of her own will?"

"Oh, no, my Lord, no!"

"Did any one push her down?"

Dead silence.

"Sir Ademar was not present.  Were you, Sir Vivian?"

Vivian, whose face was far more eloquent in this instance than his
tongue, muttered an affirmative.

"Then you can answer me.  Did any one push her down?"

Vivian's reply was unintelligible, being hardly articulate.

"Will you have the goodness to repeat that, if you please?" said his
master.

In Clarice's heart a terrible tempest had been raging.  Ought she not to
speak, and declare the fact of which she felt sure, that Vivian had not
been intentionally the murderer of his child? that whatever he might
have done, he had meant no more than simply to push her aside?
Conscientiousness strove hard with bitterness and revenge.  Why should
she go out of her way to shield the man who had been the misery of her
life from the just penalty which he deserved for having made that life
more desolate than ever?  She knew that her voice would be the most
potent there--that her vote would outweigh twenty others.  The pleading
of the bereaved mother in favour of the father of the dead child was
just what would make its way straight to the heart of his judge.
Clarice's own heart said passionately, No!  Rosie's dead face must stand
between him and her for ever.  But then upon her spirit's fever fell
calming words--words which she repeated every day of her life--words
which she had taught Rosie.

"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

If God were to forgive her as she forgave Vivian, what would become of
her?  Would she ever see Rosie again?  And then a cry for help and
strength to do it went up beyond the stars.

The Earl was quietly waiting for the repetition of Vivian's answer.  It
came at last--the answer--not a repetition.

"Saint Mary love us, my Lord!  I never meant any harm."

"You never meant!" replied a stern voice, not at all like Earl Edmund's
gentle tones.  "Did you _do_ it?"

Before Vivian could reply, to every one's astonishment, and most of all
to his, Clarice threw herself down on her knees, and deprecatingly
kissed the hand which rested on the arm of her master's chair.

"Mercy, my good Lord, I entreat you!  It was a pure accident, and
nothing more.  I know Sir Vivian meant no more than to push the child
gently out of his way.  He did not calculate on the force he used.  It
was only an accident--he never thought of hurting her.  For the sake of
my dead darling, whom I know you loved, my gracious Lord, grant me mercy
for her father!"

The silence was broken for a moment only by Heliet's sobs.  The Earl had
covered his face with his hands.  Then he looked into Clarice's pleading
eyes, with eyes in which unshed tears were glistening.

"Dame Clarice," said Earl Edmund in his softest tone, "_you_ wish me to
grant Sir Vivian mercy?"

"I implore it of your Lordship, for His sake to whom my child is gone,
and hers."

The Earl's eyes went to Vivian, who stood looking the picture of guilt
and misery.

"You hear, Sir Vivian?  You are pardoned, but not for your sake.  Be it
yours to repay this generous heart."

The party dispersed in a few minutes.  But when Ademar and Heliet found
themselves alone, the former said--"Will he love her after this?"

"Love her!" returned Heliet.  "My dear husband, thou dost not know that
man.  He owes his life to her generosity, and he will never forgive her
for it."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Rot. Pat., 22 Edward the First.

Note 2.  The language of this sentence is remarkable:--"Jeo ou nul autre
en moun noun purchace absolucion _ou de Apostoile ou de autre
souerein_."  (Rot. Pat., 22 Edward the First.)



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE SUN BREAKS OUT.

  "If from Thine ordeal's heated bars,
  Our feet are seamed with crimson scars,
  Thy will be done!"--Whittier.

Heliet's penetration had not deceived her.  The mean, narrow, withered
article which Vivian Barkeworth called his soul, was unable to pardon
Clarice for having shown herself morally so much his superior.  That his
wife should be better than himself was in his eyes an inversion of the
proper order of things.  And as of course it was impossible that he
should be to blame, why, it must be her fault Clarice found herself most
cruelly snubbed for days after her interference in behalf of her
graceless husband.  Not in public; for except in the one instance of
this examination, where his sense of shame and guilt had overcome him
for a moment, Vivian's company manners were faultless, and a surface
observer would have pronounced him a model husband.  Poor Clarice had
learned by experience that any restraint which Vivian put upon himself
when inwardly vexed, was sure to rebound on her devoted head in the form
of after suffering in private.

To Clarice herself the reaction came soon and severely.  On the evening
before Rosie's funeral, Heliet found her seated by the little bier in
the hall, gazing dreamily on the face of her lost darling, with dry eyes
and strained expression.  She sat down beside her.  Clarice took no
notice.  Heliet scarcely knew how to deal with her.  If something could
be said which would set the tears flowing it might save her great
suffering; yet to say the wrong thing might do more harm than good.  The
supper-bell rang before she had made up her mind.  As they rose Clarice
slipped her hand into Heliet's arm, and, to the surprise of the latter,
thanked her.

"For what?" said Heliet.

"For the only thing any one can do for me--for feeling with me."

After supper Clarice went up to her own rooms; but Heliet returned to
the hall where Rosie lay.  To her astonishment, she found a sudden and
touching change in the surroundings of the dead child.  Rosie lay now
wreathed round in white rosebuds, tastefully disposed, as by a hand
which had grudged neither love nor labour.

"Who has done this?"  Heliet spoke aloud in he surprise.

"I have," said a voice beside her.  It was no voice which Heliet knew.
She looked up into the face of a tall man, with dark hair and beard, and
eyes which were at once sad and compassionate.

"You!  Who are you?" asked Heliet in the same tone.

"You may not know my name.  I am--Piers Ingham."

"Then I do know," replied Heliet, gravely.  "But, Sir Piers, _she_ must
not know."

"Certainly not," he said, quietly.  "Tell her nothing; let her think, if
she will, that the angels did it.  And--tell me nothing.  Farewell."

He stooped down and kissed the cold white brow of the dead child.

"That can hurt no one," said Piers, in a low voice.  "And she may be
glad to hear it--when she meets the child again."

He glided out of the hall so softly that Heliet did not hear him go, and
only looked up and found herself alone.  She knelt for a few minutes by
the bier and then went quietly to her own room.

The next morning there were abundance of conjectures as to who could
have paid this tender and graceful tribute.  The Earl was generally
suspected, but he at once said that it was no doing of his.  Everybody
was asked, and all denied it.  Father Bevis was appealed to, as being
better acquainted with the saints than the rest of the company, to state
whether he thought it probable that one of them had been the agent.  But
Father Bevis's strong common sense declined to credit any but human
hands with the deed.

Clarice was one of the last to appear.  And when the sweet, fair tribute
to her darling broke suddenly upon her sight, the result was attained
for which all had been more or less hoping.  That touch of nature set
the floodgates open, and dropping on her knees beside the bier, Clarice
poured forth a rain of passionate tears.

When all was over, and Rosie had been hidden away from sight until the
angel-trump should call her, Clarice and Heliet went out together on the
Castle green.  They sat down on one of the seats in an embrasure.  The
Earl, with his thoughtful kindness, seeing them, sent word to the
commandant to keep the soldiers within so long as the ladies chose to
stay there.  So they were left undisturbed.

Heliet was longing intensely to comfort Clarice, but she felt entirely
at a loss what line to take.  Clarice relieved her perplexity by being
the first to speak.

"Heliet!" she said, "what does God mean by this?"

"I cannot tell, dear heart, except that He means love and mercy.  `All
the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth unto the lovers of His will and
testimony.'  Is not that enough?"

"It might be if one could see it."

"Is it not enough, without seeing?"

"O Heliet, Heliet, she was all I had!"

"I know it, beloved.  But how if He would have thee to make Him all thou
hast?"

"Could I not have loved God and have had Rosie?"

"Perhaps not," said Heliet, gently.

"I hope He will take me soon," said Clarice.  "Surely He can never leave
me long now!"

"Or, it may be, make thee content to wait His will."

Clarice shook her head, not so much with a negative air as with a
shrinking one.  Just in that first agony, to be content with it seemed
beyond human nature.

Heliet laid her hand on that of her friend.  "Dear, would you have had
Rosie suffer as you have done?"

For a moment Clarice's mental eyes ran forward, over what would most
likely, according to human prevision, have been the course of Rosie's
after life.  The thought came to her as with a pang, and grew upon her,
that the future could have had no easy lot in store for Vivian
Barkeworth's daughter.  He would have disposed of her without a thought
of her own wish, and no prayers nor tears from her would have availed to
turn him from his purpose.  No--it was well with the child.

"Thou art right," she said, in a pained voice.  "It is better for Rosie
as it is.  But for me?"

"Leave that with God.  He will show thee some day that it was better for
thee too."

Clarice rose from her seat; but not till she had said the one thing
which Heliet had been hoping that she would not say.

"Who could have laid those flowers there?  Heliet, canst thou form any
idea?  Dost thou think it _was_ an angel?"

Heliet had an excuse in settling her crutches for delaying her reply for
a moment.  Then she said in a low tone, the source of whose tenderness
it was well that Clarice could not guess--"I am not sure, dear, that it
was not."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

If Clarice's sufferings had been passive before, they began to be active
now.  Vivian made her life a torment to her by jealousy on the one hand,
and positive cruelty on the other; yet his manners in public were so
carefully veiled in courtesy that not one of her friends guessed how
much she really suffered.  As much time as she could she spent in her
oratory, which was the only place where Vivian left her at peace, under
a vague idea that it would bring him ill luck to interrupt any one's
prayers.  Unfortunately for Clarice, he had caught a glimpse of Piers,
and, having no conscientiousness in his own composition, he could not
imagine it in that of another.  That Piers should be at Berkhamsted
without at least making an effort to open communication with Clarice,
was an idea which Vivian would have refused to entertain for a moment.
For what other earthly purpose could he be there?  Vivian was a man who
had no faith in any human being.  In his belief, the only possible means
to prevent Clarice from running away with Piers was to keep her either
in his sight or locked up when out of it.  The idea of trusting to her
principles would have struck him as simply ridiculous.

Sir Piers, however, had completely disappeared, as completely as though
he had never been seen.  And after a while Vivian grew more confident,
and not so particular about keeping the key turned.  Clarice knew
neither why he locked her in, nor why he gave over doing so.  Had she
had a suspicion of the reason, her indignation would not have been
small.

Public affairs meanwhile maintained their interest.  The King marched
his army to Scotland, and routed Wallace's troops in the battle of
Falkirk; but his success was somewhat counterbalanced by the burning of
Westminster Palace and Abbey before he left home.  It was about this
time that Piers Gavestone began to appear at Court, introduced by his
father with a view to making his fortune; and to the misfortune of the
young Prince Edward, their musical tastes being alike, they became fast
friends.  The Prince was now only fourteen years of age; and, led by
Gavestone, he was guilty--if indeed the charge be true--of a mischievous
boyish frolic, in "breaking the parks" of the Bishop of Chester, and
appropriating his deer.  The boy was fond of venison, and he was still
more fond of pets; but neither of these facts excused the raid on the
Bishop of Chester, who chose to take the offence far more seriously than
any modern bishop would be likely to do, and carried his complaint to
the King.  The royal father, as his wont was, flew into a passion, and
weighted the boys' frolic with the heavy penalty of banishment for
Gavestone, and imprisonment for the Prince.  In all probability young
Edward had never looked on his action in any other light than as a piece
of fun.  Had his father been concerned about the sin committed against
God--exactly the sin of a boy who robs an orchard--he might, with less
outward severity, have produced a far more wholesome impression on his
son; but what he considered appears to have been merely the dignity of
the Prince, which was outraged by the act of the boy who bore the title.
A quiet, grave exhortation might have done him good, but imprisonment
did none, and left on many minds the impression that the boy had been
hardly used.

One striking feature in the conduct of Edward the Second is the
remarkable meekness and submission with which he bore his father's angry
outbursts and severe punishments--often administered for mere youthful
follies, such as most fathers would think amply punished by a strong
lecture, and perhaps a few strokes of the cane.  Edward the First seems
to have been one of those men who entirely forget their own childhood,
and are never able in after life to enter into the feelings of a child.

His Majesty, however, had other matters to attend to beside the
provocation received from his heir; for in the month of September
following (1299) he was married at Canterbury to the Princess Marguerite
of France.  It was a case approaching that of Rachel and Leah, for it
was the beautiful Princess Blanche for whom the King had been in treaty,
and Marguerite was foisted on him by a process of crafty diplomacy not
far removed from treachery.  However, since Marguerite, though not so
fair as her sister, proved the better woman of the two, the King had no
reason to be disappointed in the end.

The Council of Regency established in Scotland, discontented with
Edward's arbitration, referred the question of their independence to the
Pope, and that wily potentate settled the matter in his own interests,
by declaring Scotland a fief of the Holy See.  The King was still
warring in that vicinity; the young Queen was left with her baby boy in
Yorkshire to await his return.

It was a hot July day, and Vivian, who highly disapproved of the
stagnation of Berkhamsted, declared his intention of going out to hunt.
People hunted in all weathers and seasons in the Middle Ages.  Ademar
declined to accompany him, and he contented himself by taking two of the
Earl's squires and a handful of archers as company.  The Earl did not
interfere with Vivian's proceedings.  He was quite aware that the quiet
which he loved was by no means to everybody's taste; and he left his
retinue at liberty to amuse themselves as they pleased.

Vivian did not think it necessary to turn the key on Clarice; but he
gave her a severe lecture on discreet behaviour which astonished her,
since her conscience did not accuse her of any breach of that virtue,
and she could not trace the course of her husband's thoughts.  Clarice
meekly promised to bear the recommendation in mind; and Vivian left her
to her own devices.

The day dragged heavily.  Mistress Underdone sat with Heliet and Clarice
at work; but not much work was gone through, for in everybody's opinion
it was too hot to do anything.  The tower in which they were was at the
back of the Castle, and looked upon the inner court.  The Earl's
apartments were in the next tower, and there, despite the heat, he was
going over sundry grants and indentures with Father Bevis and his
bailiff, always considering the comfort and advantage of his serfs and
tenants.  The sound of a horn outside warned the ladies that in all
probability Vivian was returning home; and whether his temper were good,
bad, or indifferent was likely to depend on the condition of his
hunting-bags.  Good, was almost too much to hope for.  With a little
smothered sigh Clarice ventured to hope that it might not be worse than
indifferent.  Her comfort for the next day or two would be much affected
by it.

They looked out of the window, but all they saw was Ademar crossing the
inner court with rapid steps, and disappearing within the Earl's tower.
There was some noise in the outer court, but no discernible solution of
it.  The ladies went back to their work.  Much to their surprise, ten
minutes later, the Earl himself entered the chamber.  It was not at all
his wont to come there.  When he had occasion to send orders to Clarice
concerning his household arrangements, he either sent for her or
conveyed them through Vivian.  These were the Countess's rooms which
they were now occupying, and the Earl had never crossed the threshold
since she left the Castle.

They looked up, and saw in his face that he had news to tell them.  And
all at once Clarice rose and exclaimed--"Vivian!"

"Dame, I grieve to tell you that your knight has been somewhat hurt in
his hunting."

Clarice was not conscious of any feeling but the necessity of knowing
all.  And that she had not yet been told all she felt certain.

"Much hurt?" she asked.

"I fear so," answered the Earl.

"My Lord, will you tell me all?"

The Earl took her hand and looked kindly at her.  "Dame, he is dead."

Mistress Underdone raised her hands with an exclamation of shocked
surprise, to which Heliet's look of horror formed a fitting corollary.
Clarice was conscious only of a confused medley of feelings, from which
none but a sense of amazement stood out in the foreground.  Then the
Earl quietly told her that, in leaping a wide ditch, Vivian had been
thrown from his horse, and had never spoken more.

No one tried to comfort Clarice.  Pitifully they all felt that comfort
was not wanted now.  The death of Rosie had been a crushing blow; but
Vivian's, however sudden, could hardly be otherwise than a relief.  The
only compassion that any one could feel was for him, for whom there
was--

  "No reckoning made, but sent to his account
  With all his imperfections on his head."

The very fact that she could not regret him on her own account lay a
weight on Clarice's conscience, though it was purely his own fault.
Severely as she tried to judge herself, she could recall no instance in
which, so far as such a thing can be said of any human sinner, she had
not done her duty by that dead man.  She had obeyed him in letter and
spirit, however distasteful it had often been to herself; she had
consulted his wishes before her own; she had even honestly tried to love
him, and he had made it impossible.  Now, she could not resist the
overwhelming consciousness that his death was to her a release from her
fetters--a coming out of prison.  She was free from the perpetual drag
of apprehension on the one hand, and of constantly endeavouring on the
other to please a man who was determined not to be pleased.  The spirit
of the uncaged bird awoke within her--a sense of freedom, and light, and
rest, such as she had not known for those eight weary years of her
married slavery.

Yet the future was no path of roses to the eyes of Clarice.  She was not
free in the thirteenth century, in the sense in which she would have
been free in the nineteenth, for she had no power to choose her own lot.
All widows were wards of the Crown; and it was not at all usual for the
Crown to concern its august self respecting their wishes, unless they
bought leave to comply with them at a very costly price.  By a singular
perversion of justice, the tax upon a widow who purchased permission to
remarry or not, at her pleasure, was far heavier than the fine exacted
from a man who married a ward of the Crown without royal licence.  The
natural result of this arrangement was that the ladies who were either
dowered widows or spinster heiresses very often contracted clandestine
marriages, and their husbands quietly endured the subsequent fine and
imprisonment, as unavoidable evils which were soon over, and well worth
the advantage which they purchased.

It seemed, however, as if blessings, no less than misfortunes, were not
to come single to Clarice Barkeworth.  A few weeks after Vivian's death,
the Earl silently put a parchment into her hand, which conveyed to her
the information that King Edward had granted to his well-beloved cousin,
Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, the marriage of Clarice, widow of Vivian
Barkeworth, knight, with the usual proviso that she was not to marry one
of the King's enemies.  This was, indeed, something for which to be
thankful.  Clarice knew that her future was as safe in her master's
hands as in her own.

"Ah!" said Heliet, when that remark was made to her, "if we could only
have felt, dear heart, that it was as safe in the hands of his Master!"

"Was I very faithless, Heliet?" said Clarice, with tears in her eyes.

"Dear heart, no more than I was!" was Heliet's answer.

"But has it not occurred to thee, Heliet, now--why might I not have had
Rosie?"

"I know not, dear Clarice, any more than Rosie knew, when she was a babe
in thine arms, why thou gavest her bitter medicine.  Oh, leave all that
alone--our Master understands what He is doing."

It was the middle of September, and about two months after Vivian's
death.  Clarice sat sewing, robed in the white weeds of widowhood, in
the room which she usually occupied in the Countess's tower.  The
garments worn by a widow were at this time extremely strict and very
unbecoming, though the period during which they were worn was much less
stringent than now.  From one to six months was as long as many widows
remained in that condition.  Heliet had not been seen for an hour or
more, and Mistress Underdone, with some barely intelligible remarks very
disparaging to "that Nell," who stood, under her, at the head of the
kitchen department, had disappeared to oversee the venison pasty.
Clarice was doing something which she had not done for eight years,
though hardly aware that she was doing it--humming a troubadour song.
Getting past an awkward place in her work, words as well as music became
audible--

  "And though my lot were hard and bare,
  And though my hopes were few,
  Yet would I dare one vow to swear
  My heart should still be true."

"Wouldst thou, Clarice?" asked a voice behind her.

Clarice's delicate embroidery got the worst of it, for it dropped in a
heap on the rushes, and nobody paid the slightest attention to it for a
considerable time.  Nor did any one come near the room until Heliet made
her appearance, and she came so slowly, and heralded her approach by
such emphatic raps of her crutches on the stone floor, that Clarice
could scarcely avoid the conclusion that she was a conspirator in the
plot.  The head and front of it all, however, was manifestly Earl
Edmund, who received Sir Piers with a smile and no other greeting--a
distinct intimation that it was not the first time they had met that
day.

The wedding--which nobody felt inclined to dispute--was fixed for the
fifteenth of October.  The Earl wished it to take place when he could be
present and give away the bride, and he wanted first a fortnight's
retreat at Ashridge, to which place he had arranged to go on the last
day of September.  Sir Piers stepped at once into his old position, but
the Earl took Ademar with him to Ashridge.  He gave the grant of
Clarice's marriage to Piers himself, in the presence of the household,
with the remark:--

"It will be better in your hands than mine; and there is no time like
the present."

Into Clarice's hand her master put a shining pile of gold for the
purchase of wedding garments and jewellery.

"I am glad," he said, "that your path through life is coming to the
roses now.  I would hope the thorns are over for you--at least for some
time.  There have been no roses for me; but I can rejoice, I hope, with
those for whom they blossom."

And so he rode away from Berkhamsted, looking back to smile a farewell
to Heliet and Clarice, as they stood watching him in the gateway.  Long
years afterwards they remembered that kind, almost affectionate, smile.

As the ladies turned into their own tower, and began to ascend the
staircase--always a slow process with Heliet--Clarice said, "I cannot
understand why our Lord the Earl has such a lonely and sorrowful lot."

"Thou wouldst like to understand everything, Clarice," returned Heliet,
smiling.

"I would!" she answered.  "I can understand my own troubles better, for
I know how much there is in me that needs setting right; but he--why he
is almost an angel already."

"Perhaps he would tell thee the same thing," said Heliet.  "I am afraid,
dear heart, if thou hadst the graving of our Lord's gems, thou wouldst
stop the tool before the portrait was in sufficient relief."

"But when the portrait _is_ in sufficient relief?" answered Clarice,
earnestly.

"Ah, dear heart!" said Heliet, "neither thine eyes nor mine are fine
enough to judge of that."

"It seems almost a shame to be happy when I know he is not," replied
Clarice, the tears springing to her eyes; "our dear master, who has been
to me as a very angel of God."

"Nay, dear, he would wish thee to be happy," gently remonstrated Heliet.
"I believe both thou and I are to him as daughters, Clarice."

"I wish I could make him happy!" said Clarice, as they turned into her
rooms.

"Ask God to do it," was Heliet's response.

They both asked Him that night.  And He heard and answered them, but, as
is often the case, not at all as they expected.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

IN THE CITY OF GOLD.

  "I am not eager, strong,
  Nor bold--all that is past;
  I am ready not to do,
  At last--at last.

  "My half-day's work is done,
  And this is all my part:
  I give a patient God
  My patient heart."

Vespers were over at Ashridge on the last day of September, the evening
of the Earl's arrival.  He sat in the guest-chamber, with the Prior and
his Buckinghamshire bailiff, to whom he was issuing instructions with
respect to some cottages to be built for the villeins on one of his
estates.  The Prior sat by in silence, while the Earl impressed on the
mind of his agent that the cottages were to be made reasonably
comfortable for the habitation of immortal souls and not improbably
suffering bodies.  When at last the bailiff had departed, the Prior
turned to his patron with a smile.  "I would all lay lords--and
spiritual ones too--were as kindly thoughtful of their inferiors as your
Lordship."

"Ah, how little one can do at the best!" said the Earl.  "Life is full
of miseries for these poor serfs; shall we, who would follow Christ's
steps, not strive to lighten it?"

"It is very truth," said the Prior.

"Ay, and how short the boundary is!" pursued the Earl.  "`Man is
ignorant what was before him; and what shall be after him, who can tell
him?'  It may be, the next lord of these lands will be a hard man, who
will oppress his serfs, or at any rate take no care for their comfort.
Poor souls! let them be happy as long as they can."

"When I last saw your Lordship, you seemed to think that short boundary
too long for your wishes."

"It is seven years since that," answered the Earl.  "It hardly seems so
far away now.  And lately, Father--I scarcely can tell how--I have
imagined that my life will not be long.  It makes me the more anxious to
do all I can ere `the night cometh in which no man can work.'"

The Prior looked critically and anxiously at his patron.  The seven
years which he had passed in sorrowful loneliness had aged him more than
seven years ought to have done.  He was not fifty yet, but he was
beginning to look like an old man.  The burden and heat of the day were
telling on him sadly.

"Right, my Lord," replied the Prior; "yet let me beg of your Lordship
not to over-weary yourself.  Your life is a precious thing to all
dependent on you, and not less to us, your poor bedesmen here."

"Ah, Father! is my life precious to any one?" was the response, with a
sad smile.

"Indeed it is," answered the Prior earnestly.  "As your Lordship has
just said, he who shall come after you may be harsh and unkind, and your
poor serfs may sorely feel the change.  No man has a right to throw away
life, my Lord, and you have much left to live for."

Perhaps the Earl had grown a little morbid.  Was it any wonder if he
had?  He shook his head.

"We have but one life," continued the Prior, "and it is our duty to make
the best of it--that is, to do God's will with it.  And when it is God's
will to say unto us, `Come up higher,' we may be sorry that we have
served Him no better, but not, I think, that we have given no more time
to our own ease, nor even to our own sorrows."

"And yet," said the Earl, resting his head upon one hand, "one gets
very, very tired sometimes of living."

"Cannot we trust our Father to call us to rest when we really need it?"
asked the Prior.  "Nor is it well that in looking onward to the future
glory we should miss the present rest to be had by coming to Him, and
casting all our cares and burdens at His feet."

"Does He always take them?"

"Always--if we give them.  But there is such a thing as asking Him to
take them, and holding them out to Him, and yet keeping fast hold of the
other end ourselves.  He will hardly take what we do not give."

The Earl looked earnestly into his friend's eyes.

"Father, I will confess that these seven years--nay! what am I saying?
these eight-and-twenty--I have not been willing that God should do His
will.  I wanted my will done.  For five-and-forty years, ever since I
could lisp the words, I have been saying to Him with my lips, _Fiat
voluntas tua_.  But only within the last few days have I really said to
Him in my heart, Lord, have Thy way.  It seemed to me--will you think it
very dreadful if I confess it?--that I wanted but one thing, and that it
was very hard of God not to let me have it.  I did not say such a thing
in words; I could talk fluently of being resigned to His will, but down
at the core of my heart I was resigned to everything but one, and I was
not resigned to that at all.  And I think I only became resigned when I
gave over trying and working at resignation, and sank down, like a tired
child, at my Father's feet.  But now I am very tired, and I would fain
that my Father would take me up in His arms."

The Prior did not speak.  He could not.  He only looked very sorrowfully
into the worn face of the heart-wearied man, with a conviction which he
was unable to repress, that the time of the call to come up higher was
not far away.  He would have been thankful to disprove his conclusion,
but to stifle it he dared not.

"I hope," said the Earl in the same low tone, "that there are quiet
corners in Heaven where weary men and women may lie down and rest a
while at our Lord's feet.  I feel unfit to take a place all at once in
the angelic choir.  Not unready to praise--I mean not that--only too
weary, just at first, to care for anything but rest."

There were tears burning under the Prior's eyelids; but he was silent
still.  That was not his idea of Heaven; but then he was less weary of
earth.  He felt almost vexed that the only passage of Scripture which
would come to him was one utterly unsuited to the occasion--"They rest
not day nor night."  Usually fluent and fervent, he was tongue-tied just
then.

"Did Christ our Lord need the rest of His three days and nights in the
grave?" suggested the Earl, thoughtfully.  "He must have been very weary
after the agony of His cross.  I think He must have been very tired of
His life altogether.  For was it not one passion from Bethlehem to
Calvary?  And He could hardly have been one of those strong men who
never seem to feel tired.  Twice we are told that He was weary--when He
sat on the well, and when He slept in the boat.  Father, I ought to ask
your pardon for speaking when I should listen, and seeming to teach
where I ought to be taught."

"Nay, my Lord, say not so, I pray you."  The Prior found his voice at
last.  "I have learned to recognise my Master's voice, whether I hear it
from the rostrum of the orator or from the lowly hovel of the serf.  And
it is not the first time that I have heard it in yours."

The Earl looked up with an expression of surprise, and then shook his
head again with a smile.

"Nay, good Father, flatter me not so far."

He might have added more, but the sound of an iron bar beaten on a
wooden board announced the hour of supper.  The Earl conversed almost
cheerfully with the Prior and his head officers during supper; and
Ademar remarked to the Cellarer that he had not for a long while seen
his master so like his old self.

The first of October rose clear and bright.  At Berkhamsted, the ladies
were spending the morning in examining the contents of a pedlar's
well-stocked pack, and buying silk, lawn, furs, and trimmings for the
wedding.  At Ashridge, the Earl was walking up and down the Priory
garden, looking over the dilapidations which time had wrought in his
monastery, and noting on his tables sundry items in respect of which he
meant to repair the ravages.  At Romsey, Mother Margaret, in her black
patched habit and up-turned sleeves, was washing out the convent
refectory, and thereby, she fervently hoped, washing her sins out of
existence--without a thought of the chivalrous love which would have set
her high above all such menial labour, and would never have permitted
even the winds of heaven to "visit her cheek too roughly."  Did it never
occur to her that she might have allowed the Redeemer of men to "make
her salvation" for her, and yet have allowed herself to make her
husband's life something better to him than a weary burden?

The day's work was over, and the recreation time had come.  The Prior of
Ashridge tapped at the door of the guest-chamber, and was desired to
enter.

He found the Earl turning over the leaves of his Psalter.

"Look here, Father," said the latter, pointing out the fifteenth verse
of the ninetieth Psalm.

"We are glad for the days wherein Thou didst humiliate us; the years
wherein we have seen evil."

"What does that mean?" said the Earl.  "Is it that we thank God for the
afflictions He has given us?  It surely does not mean--I hope not--that
our comfort is to last just as long as our afflictions have lasted, and
not a day longer."

"Ah, my Lord, God is no grudging giver," answered the Prior.  "The verse
before it, methinks, will reply to your Lordship--`we exult and are glad
all our days.'  All our earthly life have we been afflicted; all our
heavenly one shall we be made glad."

"Glad!  I hardly know what the word means," was the pathetic reply.

"You will know it then," said the Prior.

"You will--but shall I?  I have been such an unprofitable servant!"

"Nay, good my Lord, but are you going to win Heaven by your own works?"
eagerly demanded the Bonus Homo.  "`Beginning in the spirit, are ye
consummated in the flesh?'  Surely you have not so learned Christ.  Hath
He not said, `Life eternal give I to them; and they shall not perish for
ever, and none shall snatch them out of My hand'?"

"True," said the Earl, bowing his head.

But this was Vaudois teaching.  And though Earl Edmund, first of all men
in England, had drunk in the Vaudois doctrines, yet even in him they had
to struggle with a mass of previous teaching which required to be
unlearned--with all that rubbish of man's invention which Rome has built
up on the One Foundation.  It was hard, at times, to keep the old ghosts
from coming back, and troubling by their shadowy presence the soul whom
Christ had brought into His light.

There was silence for a time.  The Earl's head was bent forward upon his
clasped hands on the table, and the Prior, who thought that he might be
praying, forbore to disturb him.  At length he said, "My Lord, the
supper-hour is come."

The Earl gave no answer, and the Prior thought he had dropped asleep.
He waited till the board was struck with the iron bar as the signal for
supper.  Then he rose and addressed the Earl again.  The silence
distressed him now.  He laid his hand upon his patron's shoulder, but
there was no response.  Gently, with a sudden and terrible fear, he
lifted the bowed head and looked into his face.  And then he knew that
the weary heart was glad at last--that life eternal in His beatific
presence had God given to him.  From far and near the physicians were
summoned that night, but only to tell the Prior what he already knew.
They stood round the bed on which the corpse had been reverently laid,
and talked of his mysterious disease in hard words of sonorous Latin.
It would have been better had they called it in simple English what it
was--a broken heart.  Why such a fate was allotted to one of the best of
all our princes, He knows who came to bind up the broken-hearted, and
who said by the lips of His prophet, "Reproach hath broken mine heart."

Ademar was sent back to Berkhamsted with the woeful news.  There was
bitter mourning there.  It was not, perhaps, in many of the household,
unmixed with selfish considerations, for to a large proportion of them
the death of their master meant homelessness for the present, and to
nearly all sad apprehensions for the future.  Yet there was a great deal
that was not selfish, for the gentle, loving, humane, self-abnegating
spirit of the dead had made him very dear to all his dependants, and
more hearts wept for him than he would ever have believed possible.

But there was one person in especial to whom it was felt the news ought
to be sent.  The Prior despatched no meaner member of the Order, but
went himself to tell the dark tidings at Romsey.

He pleaded hard for a private interview with the Countess, but the
reigning Abbess of Romsey was a great stickler for rule, and she decided
that it was against precedent, and therefore propriety, that one of her
nuns should be thus singled out from the rest.  The announcement must be
made in the usual way, to the whole convent, at vespers.

So, in the well-known tones of the Prior of Ashridge,--some time the
Earl's confessor, and his frequent visitor,--with the customary request
to pray for the repose of the dead, to the ears of Mother Margaret, as
she knelt in her stall with the rest, came the sound of the familiar
name of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall.

Very tender and pathetic was the tone in which the intimation was given.
The heart of the Prior himself was so wrung that he could not imagine
such a feeling as indifference in that of the woman who had been the
dearest thing earth held for that dead man.  But if he looked down the
long row of black, silent figures for any sign or sound, he looked in
vain.  There was not even a trembling of Mother Margaret's black veil as
her voice rose untroubled in the response with all the rest--

  "_O Jesu dulcis!  O Jesu pie!
  O Jesu, Fili Maria!
  Dona eis requiem_."

In the recreation-time which followed, the Prior sought out Mother
Margaret.  He found her without difficulty, seated on a form at the side
of the room, talking to a sister nun, and he caught a few words of the
conversation as he approached.

"I assure thee, Sister Regina, it is quite a mistake.  Mother Wymarca
told me distinctly that the holy Mother gave Sister Maud an unpatched
habit, and it is all nonsense in her to say there was a patch on the
elbow."

The Prior bit his lips, but he restrained himself, and sat down,
reverently saluted by both nuns as he did so.  Was she trying to hide
her feelings? thought he.

"Sister Margaret, I brought you tidings," he said, as calmly as was in
him.

The nun turned upon him a pair of cold, steel-blue eyes, as calm and
irresponsive as if he had brought her no tidings whatever.

"I heard them, Father, if it please you.  Has he left any will?"

The priest-nature in the Prior compelled him officially to avoid any
reprehension of this perfect monastic calm; but the human nature, which
in his case lay beneath it, was surprised and repelled.

"He has left a will, wherein you are fully provided for."

"Oh, that is nice!" said Mother Margaret, in tones of unquestionable
gratulation.  "And how much am I to have?  Of course I care about it
only for the sake of the Abbey."

The Prior had his private ideas on that point; for, as he well knew, the
vow of poverty was somewhat of a formality in the Middle Ages, since the
nun who brought to her convent a title and a fortune was usually not
treated in the same manner as a penniless commoner.

"The customary dower to a widow, Sister."

"Do you mean to say I am only to have my third?  Well, I call that
shameful!  And so fond of me as he always professed to be!  I thought he
would have left me everything."

The Prior experienced a curious sensation in his right arm, which, had
Mother Margaret not been a woman, or had he been less of a Christian and
a Church dignitary, might have resulted in the measuring of her length
on the floor of the recreation-room.  But she was totally unconscious of
any such feeling on his part.  Her heart--or that within her which did
duty for one--had been touched at last.

"Well, I do call it disgraceful!" she repeated.

"And is that all?" asked the Prior involuntarily, and not by any means
in consonance with his duty as a holy priest addressing a veiled nun.
But priests and nuns have no business with hearts of any sort, and he
ought to have known this as well as she did.

"All?" she said, with a rather puzzled look in the frosty blue eyes.  "I
would it had been a larger sum, Father; for the convent's sake, of
course."

"And am I to hear no word of regret, Sister, for the man to whom you
were all the world?"

This was, of course, a most shocking speech, considering the speaker and
the person whom he addressed; but it came warm from that inconvenient
heart which had no business to be beneath the Prior's cassock.  Mother
Margaret was scandalised, and she showed it in her face, which awoke her
companion to the fact that he was not speaking in character.  That a
professed nun should be expected to feel personal and unspiritual
interest in an extern! and, as if that were not enough, in a man!
Mother Margaret's sense of decorum was quite outraged.

"How could such thoughts trouble the blessed peace of a holy sister?"
she wished to know.  "Pardon me, Father; I shall pray for his soul, of
course.  What could I do more?"

And the Prior recognised at last that to the one treasure of that dead
man's heart, the news he brought was less than it had been to him.

He bit his lips severely.  It was all he could do to keep from telling
her that the pure, meek, self-abnegating soul which had passed from
earth demanded far fewer prayers than the cold, hard, selfish spirit
which dwelt within her own black habit.

"It is I who require pardon, Sister," he said, in a constrained voice.
"May our Lord in His mercy forgive us all!"

He made no further attempt to converse with Mother Margaret.  But, as he
passed her a few minutes later, he heard that she and Sister Regina had
gone back to the previous subject, which they were discussing with some
interest in their tones.

"O woman, woman!" groaned the Prior, in his heart; "the patch on Sister
Maud's elbow is more to thee than all the love thou hast lost.  Ah, my
dear Lord! it is not you that I mourn.  You are far better hence."

From which speech it will be seen that the Bonus Homo was very far from
being a perfect monk.

The actions of Mother Margaret admirably matched her words.  She gave
herself heart and soul to the important business of securing her
miserable third of her dead lord's lands and goods.  Not till they were
safe in her possession did she allow herself any rest.

Did the day ever come when her feelings changed?  During the ten years
which she outlived the man who had loved her with every fibre of his
warm, great heart, did her heart ever turn regretfully, when Abbesses
were harsh or life was miserable, to the thought of that tender,
faithful love which, so far as in it lay, would have sheltered her life
from every breath of discomfort?  Did she ever in all those ten years
whisper to herself--

  "Oh, if he would but come again,
  I think I'd vex him so no more!"

Did she ever murmur such words as--

  "I was not worthy of you, Douglas,
  Not half worthy the like of you!"

...words which, honestly sobbed forth in very truth, would have been far
nearer real penitence than all the "acts of contrition" which passed her
lips day by day.

God knoweth.  Men will never know.  But all history and experience tend
to assure us that women such as Margaret de Clare usually die as they
have lived, and that of all barriers to penitence and conversion there
is none so hard to overthrow as indulged malice and deliberate hardening
of the heart against the love of God and man.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

There was not, as Piers and Clarice had feared there might have been,
any misfortune to them in the way of preventing their marriage.  King
Edward had great respect for justice and honour, and finding that his
cousin had, though without legal formalities, granted Clarice's marriage
to Piers, he confirmed the grant, and Father Bevis married them quietly
in the chapel of Berkhamsted Castle, without any festivity or
rejoicings, for the embalmed body of the master to whom they owed so
much lay in state in the banquet-hall.  It was a mournful ceremony,
where--

  "The cheers that had erst made the welkin ring
  Were drowned in the tears that were shed for the King."

Clarice and Piers made no attempt to obtain any further promotion.  They
retired to a little estate in Derbyshire, which shortly afterwards fell
to Piers, and there they spent their lives, in serving their generation
according to the will of God, often brightened by visits from Ademar and
Heliet, who had taken up their abode not far from them in the
neighbouring county of Rutland.  And as time went on, around Clarice
grew up brave sons and fair daughters, to all of whom she made a very
loving mother; but, perhaps, no one was ever quite so dear to her heart
as the star which had gleamed on her life the brighter for the
surrounding darkness, the little white rosebud which had been gathered
for the garden of God.

  "In other springs her life might be
  In bannered bloom unfurled;
  But never, never match her wee
  White Rose of all the world."

It was not until the spring which followed his death was blooming into
green leaves and early flowers that the coffin of Edmund, Earl of
Cornwall, was borne to the magnificent Abbey of Hales in
Gloucestershire, founded by his father.  There they laid him down by
father and mother--the grand, generous, spendthrift Prince who had so
nearly borne the proud title of Caesar Augustus, and the fair, soft,
characterless Princess who had been crowned with him as Queen of the
Romans.  For the Prince who was laid beside them that Easter afternoon,
the world had prepared what it considers a splendid destiny.  Throne and
diadem, glory and wealth, love and happiness, were to have been his, so
far as it lay in the world's power to give them; but on most of all
these God had laid His hand, and forbidden them to come near the soul
which He had marked for His own.  For him there was to be an
incorruptible crown, but no corruptible; the love of the Lord that
bought him, but not the love of the woman on whom he set his heart.
Now--whatever he may have thought on earth--now, standing on the sea of
glass, and having the harp of God, he knows which was the better
portion.

He wore no crown; he founded no dynasty; he passed away, like a name
written in water, followed only by the personal love of a few hearts
which were soon dust like him, and by the undying curses and calumnies
of the Church which he had done his best to purify against her will.
But shall we, looking back across the six centuries which lie between us
and him who brought Protestantism into England--shall we write on his
gravestone in the ruined Abbey of Hales, "This man lived in vain?"

THE END.





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