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´╗┐Title: The Armourer's Prentices
Author: Yonge, Charlotte Mary, 1823-1901
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 "The Armourer's Prentices" ***

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The Armourers' Prentices

By Charlotte M. Yonge
This is a story about two young orphans from Hampshire, who travel to
London in search of relatives.  On the way they rescue a prominent City
of London figure after he has been attacked by highwaymen, and in this
way they become attached to his household in the City.  The date is the
early years of Henry the Eighth, when the religious world of England is
simmering not only with the new views on religion, but also with the
problems of the King and his Divorces.  We meet great figures like Dean
Colet, famous even to this very day for his charitable foundations,
Thomas More, and other great figures of the pre-Reformation years.

It is a very lively story that rings true at every turn, and is worth
while reading for those who would like a further understanding of the
late Tudor Court, and the customs in the City, prevailing at the time of
the Reformation.




"Give me the poor allottery my father left me by testament, with that I
will go buy me fortunes."

"Get you with him, you old dog."

_As You Like It_.

The officials of the New Forest have ever since the days of the
Conqueror enjoyed some of the pleasantest dwellings that southern
England can boast.

The home of the Birkenholt family was not one of the least delightful.
It stood at the foot of a rising ground, on which grew a grove of
magnificent beeches, their large silvery boles rising majestically like
columns into a lofty vaulting of branches, covered above with tender
green foliage.  Here and there the shade beneath was broken by the
gilding of a ray of sunshine on a lower twig, or on a white trunk, but
the floor of the vast arcades was almost entirely of the russet brown of
the fallen leaves, save where a fern or holly bush made a spot of green.
At the foot of the slope lay a stretch of pasture ground, some parts
covered by "lady-smocks, all silver white," with the course of the
little stream through the midst indicated by a perfect golden river of
shining kingcups interspersed with ferns.  Beyond lay tracts of brown
heath and brilliant gorse and broom, which stretched for miles and miles
along the flats, while the dry ground was covered with holly brake, and
here and there woods of oak and beech made a sea of verdure, purpling in
the distance.

Cultivation was not attempted, but hardy little ponies, cows, goats,
sheep, and pigs were feeding, and picking their way about in the marshy
mead below, and a small garden of pot-herbs, inclosed by a strong fence
of timber, lay on the sunny side of a spacious rambling forest lodge,
only one story high, built of solid timber and roofed with shingle.  It
was not without strong pretensions to beauty, as well as to
picturesqueness, for the posts of the door, the architecture of the deep
porch, the frames of the latticed windows, and the verge boards were all
richly carved in grotesque devices.  Over the door was the royal shield,
between a pair of magnificent antlers, the spoils of a deer reported to
have been slain by King Edward the Fourth, as was denoted by the
"glorious sun of York" carved beneath the shield.

In the background among the trees were ranges of stables and kennels,
and on the grass-plat in front of the windows was a row of beehives.  A
tame doe lay on the little green sward, not far from a large rough deer-
hound, both close friends who could be trusted at large.  There was a
mournful dispirited look about the hound, evidently an aged animal, for
the once black muzzle was touched with grey, and there was a film over
one of the keen beautiful eyes, which opened eagerly as he pricked his
ears and lifted his head at the rattle of the door latch.  Then, as two
boys came out, he rose, and with a slowly waving tail, and a wistful
appealing air, came and laid his head against one of the pair who had
appeared in the pont.  They were lads of fourteen and fifteen, clad in
suits of new mourning, with the short belted doublet, puffed hose, small
ruffs and little round caps of early Tudor times.  They had dark eyes
and hair, and honest open faces, the younger ruddy and sunburnt, the
elder thinner and more intellectual--and they were so much the same size
that the advantage of age was always supposed to be on the side of
Stephen, though he was really the junior by nearly a year.  Both were
sad and grave, and the eyes and cheeks of Stephen showed traces of
recent floods of tears, though there was more settled dejection on the
countenance of his brother.

"Ay, Spring," said the lad, "'tis winter with thee now.  A poor old
rogue!  Did the new housewife talk of a halter because he showed his
teeth when her ill-nurtured brat wanted to ride on him?  Nay, old
Spring, thou shalt share thy master's fortunes, changed though they be.
Oh, father! father! didst thou guess how it would be with thy boys!"
And throwing himself on the grass, he hid his face against the dog and

"Come, Stephen, Stephen; 'tis time to play the man!  What are we to do
out in the world if you weep and wail?"

"She might have let us stay for the month's mind," was heard from

"Ay, and though we might be more glad to go, we might carry bitterer
thoughts along with us.  Better be done with it at once, say I."

"There would still be the Forest!  And I saw the moorhen sitting yester
eve!  And the wild ducklings are out on the pool, and the woods are full
of song.  Oh!  Ambrose!  I never knew how hard it is to part--"

"Nay, now, Steve, where be all your plots for bravery?  You always meant
to seek your fortune--not bide here like an acorn for ever."

"I never thought to be thrust forth the very day of our poor father's
burial, by a shrewish town-bred vixen, and a base narrow-souled--"

"Hist! hist!" said the more prudent Ambrose.

"Let him hear who will!  He cannot do worse for us than he has done!
All the Forest will cry shame on him for a mean-hearted skinflint to
turn his brothers from their home, ere their father and his, be cold in
his grave," cried Stephen, clenching the grass with his hands, in his
passionate sense of wrong.

"That's womanish," said Ambrose.

"Who'll be the woman when the time comes for drawing cold steel?" cried
Stephen, sitting up.

At that moment there came through the porch a man, a few years over
thirty, likewise in mourning, with a paler, sharper countenance than the
brothers, and an uncomfortable pleading expression of self-

"How now, lads!" he said, "what means this?  You have taken the matter
too hastily.  There was no thought that ye should part till you had some
purpose in view.  Nay, we should be fain for Ambrose to bide on here, so
he would leave his portion for me to deal with, and teach little Will
his primer and accidence.  You are a quiet lad, Ambrose, and can rule
your tongue better than Stephen."

"Thanks, brother John," said Ambrose, somewhat sarcastically, "but where
Stephen goes I go."

"I would--I would have found Stephen a place among the prickers or
rangers, if--" hesitated John.  "In sooth, I would yet do it, if he
would make it up with the housewife."

"My father looked higher for his son than a pricker's office," returned

"That do I wot," said John, "and therefore, 'tis for his own good that I
would send him forth.  His godfather, our uncle Birkenholt, he will
assuredly provide for him, and set him forth--"

The door of the house was opened, and a shrewish voice cried, "Mr
Birkenholt--here, husband!  You are wanted.  Here's little Kate crying
to have yonder smooth pouch to stroke, and I cannot reach it for her."

"Father set store by that otter-skin pouch, for poor Prince Arthur slew
the otter," cried Stephen.  "Surely, John, you'll not let the babes make
a toy of that?"

John made a helpless gesture, and at a renewed call, went indoors.

"You are right, Ambrose," said Stephen, "this is no place for us.  Why
should we tarry any longer to see everything moiled and set at nought?
I have couched in the forest before, and 'tis summer time."

"Nay," said Ambrose, "we must make up our fardels and have our money in
our pouches before we can depart.  We must tarry the night, and call
John to his reckoning, and so might we set forth early enough in the
morning to lie at Winchester that night and take counsel with our uncle

"I would not stop short at Winchester," said Stephen.  "London for me,
where uncle Randall will find us preferment!"

"And what wilt do for Spring!"

"Take him with me, of course!" exclaimed Stephen.  "What! would I leave
him to be kicked and pinched by Will, and hanged belike by Mistress

"I doubt me whether the poor old hound will brook the journey."

"Then I'll carry him!"

Ambrose looked at the big dog as if he thought it would be a serious
undertaking, but he had known and loved Spring as his brother's property
ever since his memory began, and he scarcely felt that they could be
separable for weal or woe.

The verdurers of the New Forest were of gentle blood, and their office
was well-nigh hereditary.  The Birkenholts had held it for many
generations, and the reversion passed as a matter of course to the
eldest son of the late holder, who had newly been laid in the burial-
ground of Beaulieu Abbey.  John Birkenholt, whose mother had been of
knightly lineage, had resented his father's second marriage with the
daughter of a yeoman on the verge of the Forest, suspected of a strain
of gipsy blood, and had lived little at home, becoming a sort of agent
at Southampton for business connected with the timber which was yearly
cut in the Forest to supply material for the shipping.  He had wedded
the daughter of a person engaged in law business at Southampton, and had
only been an occasional visitor at home, ever after the death of his
stepmother.  She had left these two boys, unwelcome appendages in his
sight.  They had obtained a certain amount of education at Beaulieu
Abbey, where a school was kept, and where Ambrose daily studied, though
for the last few months Stephen had assisted his father in his forest

Death had come suddenly to break up the household in the early spring of
1515, and John Birkenholt had returned as if to a patrimony, bringing
his wife and children with him.  The funeral ceremonies had been
conducted at Beaulieu Abbey on the extensive scale of the sixteenth
century, the requiem, the feast, and the dole, all taking place there,
leaving the Forest lodge in its ordinary quiet.

It had always been understood that on their father's death the two
younger sons must make their own way in the world; but he had hoped to
live until they were a little older, when he might himself have started
them in life, or expressed his wishes respecting them to their elder
brother.  As it was, however, there was no commendation of them, nothing
but a strip of parchment, drawn up by one of the monks of Beaulieu,
leaving each of them twenty crowns, with a few small jewels and
properties left by their own mother, while everything else went to their

There might have been some jealousy excited by the estimation in which
Stephen's efficiency--boy as he was--was evidently held by the plain-
spoken underlings of the verdurer; and this added to Mistress
Birkenholt's dislike to the presence of her husband's half-brothers,
whom she regarded as interlopers without a right to exist.  Matters were
brought to a climax by old Spring's resentment at being roughly teased
by her spoilt children.  He had done nothing worse than growl and show
his teeth, but the town-bred dame had taken alarm, and half in terror,
half in spite, had insisted on his instant execution, since he was too
old to be valuable.  Stephen, who loved the dog only less than he loved
his brother Ambrose, had come to high words with her; and the end of the
altercation had been that she had declared that she would suffer no
great lubbers of the half-blood to devour her children's inheritance,
and teach them ill manners, and that go they must, and that instantly.
John had muttered a little about "not so fast, dame," and "for very
shame," but she had turned on him, and rated him with a violence that
demonstrated who was ruler in the house, and took away all disposition
to tarry long under the new dynasty.

The boys possessed two uncles, one on each side of the house.  Their
father's elder brother had been a man-at-arms, having preferred a
stirring life to the Forest, and had fought in the last surges of the
Wars of the Roses.  Having become disabled and infirm, he had taken
advantage of a corrody, or right of maintenance, as being of kin to a
benefactor of Hyde Abbey at Winchester, to which Birkenholt some
generations back had presented a few roods of land, in right of which,
one descendant at a time might be maintained in the Abbey.  Intelligence
of his brother's death had been sent to Richard Birkenholt, but answer
had been returned that he was too evil-disposed with the gout to attend
the burial.

The other uncle, Harry Randall, had disappeared from the country under a
cloud connected with the king's deer, leaving behind him the reputation
of a careless, thriftless, jovial fellow, the best company in all the
Forest, and capable of doing every one a work save his own.

The two brothers, who were about seven and six years old at the time of
his flight, had a lively recollection of his charms as a playmate, and
of their mother's grief for him, and refusal to believe any ill of her
Hal.  Rumours had come of his attainment to vague and unknown greatness
at court, under the patronage of the Lord Archbishop of York, which the
Verdurer laughed to scorn, though his wife gave credit to them.  Gifts
had come from time to time, passed through a succession of servants and
officials of the king, such as a coral and silver rosary, a jewelled
bodkin, an agate carved with Saint Catherine, an ivory pouncet box with
a pierced gold coin as the lid; but no letter with them, as indeed Hal
Randall had never been induced to learn to read or write.  Master
Birkenholt looked doubtfully at the tokens and hoped Hal had come
honestly by them; but his wife had thoroughly imbued her sons with the
belief that Uncle Hal was shining in his proper sphere, where he was
better appreciated than at home.  Thus their one plan was to go to
London to find Uncle Hal, who was sure to put Stephen on the road to
fortune, and enable Ambrose to become a great scholar, his favourite

His gifts would, as Ambrose observed, serve them as tokens, and with the
purpose of claiming them, they re-entered the hall, a long low room,
with a handsome open roof, and walls tapestried with dressed skins,
interspersed with antlers, hung with weapons of the chase.  At one end
of the hall was a small polished barrel, always replenished with beer,
at the other a hearth with a wood fire constantly burning, and there was
a table running the whole length of the room; at one end of this was
laid a cloth, with a few trenchers on it, and horn cups, surrounding a
barley loaf and a cheese, this meagre irregular supper being considered
as a sufficient supplement to the funeral baked meats which had abounded
at Beaulieu.  John Birkenholt sat at the table with a trencher and horn
before him, uneasily using his knife to crumble, rather than cut, his
bread.  His wife, a thin, pale, shrewish-looking woman, was warming her
child's feet at the fire, before putting him to bed, and an old woman
sat spinning and nodding on a settle at a little distance.

"Brother," said Stephen, "we have thought on what you said.  We will put
our stuff together, and if you will count us out our portions, we will
be afoot by sunrise to-morrow."

"Nay, nay, lad, I said not there was such haste; did I, mistress
housewife?"--(she snorted); "only that thou art a well-grown lusty
fellow, and 'tis time thou wentest forth.  For thee, Ambrose, thou
wottest I made thee a fair offer of bed and board."

"That is," called out the wife, "if thou wilt make a fair scholar of
little Will.  'Tis a mighty good offer.  There are not many who would
let their child be taught by a mere stripling like thee!"

"Nay," said Ambrose, who could not bring himself to thank her, "I go
with Stephen, mistress; I would in end my scholarship ere I teach."

"As you please," said Mistress Maud, shrugging her shoulders, "only
never say that a fair offer was not made to you."

"And," said Stephen, "so please you, brother John, hand us over our
portions, and the jewels as bequeathed to us, and we will be gone."

"Portions, quotha?" returned John.  "Boy, they be not due to you till
you be come to years of discretion."

The brothers looked at one another, and Stephen said, "Nay, now,
brother, I know not how that may be, but I do know that you cannot drive
us from our father's house without maintenance, and detain what belongs
to us."

And Ambrose muttered something about "my Lord of Beaulieu."

"Look you, now," said John, "did I ever speak of driving you from home
without maintenance?  Hath not Ambrose had his choice of staying here,
and Stephen of waiting till some office be found for him?  As for
putting forty crowns into the hands of striplings like you, it were mere
throwing it to the robbers."

"That being so," said Ambrose turning to Stephen, "we will to Beaulieu,
and see what counsel my lord will give us."

"Yea, do, like the vipers ye are, and embroil us with my Lord of
Beaulieu," cried Maud from the fire.

"See," said John, in his more caressing fashion, "it is not well to
carry family tales to strangers, and--and--"

He was disconcerted by a laugh from the old nurse, "Ho!  John
Birkenholt, thou wast ever a lad of smooth tongue, but an thou, or madam
here, think that thy brothers can be put forth from thy father's door
without their due before the good man be cold in his grave, and the
Forest not ring with it, thou art mightily out in thy reckoning!"

"Peace, thou old hag; what matter is't of thine?" began Mistress Maud,
but again came the harsh laugh.

"Matter of mine!  Why, whose matter should it be but mine, that have
nursed all three of the lads, ay, and their father before them, besides
four more that lie in the graveyard at Beaulieu?  Rest their sweet
souls!  And I tell thee, Master John, an thou do not righteously by
these thy brothers, thou mayst back to thy parchments at Southampton,
for not a man or beast in the Forest will give thee good-day."

They all felt the old woman's authority.  She was able and spirited in
her homely way, and more mistress of the house than Mrs Birkenholt
herself; and such were the terms of domestic service, that there was no
peril of losing her place.  Even Maud knew that to turn her out was an
impossibility, and that she must be accepted like the loneliness, damp,
and other evils of Forest life.  John had been under her dominion, and
proceeded to persuade her.  "Good now, Nurse Joan, what have I denied
these rash striplings that my father would have granted them?  Wouldst
thou have them carry all their portion in their hands, to be cozened of
it at the first alehouse, or robbed on the next heath?"

"I would have thee do a brother's honest part, John Birkenholt.  A
loving part I say not.  Thou wert always like a very popple for
hardness, and smoothness, ay, and slipperiness.  Heigh ho!  But what is
right by the lads, thou _shalt_ do."

John cowered under her eye as he had done at six years old, and
faltered, "I only seek to do them right, nurse."

Nurse Joan uttered an emphatic grunt, but Mistress Maud broke in, "They
are not to hang about here in idleness, eating my poor child's
substance, and teaching him ill manners."

"We would not stay here if you paid us for it," returned Stephen.

"And whither would you go?" asked John.

"To Winchester first, to seek counsel with our uncle Birkenholt.  Then
to London, where uncle Randall will help us to our fortunes."

"Gipsy Hal!  He is more like to help you to a halter," sneered John,
_sotto voce_, and Joan herself observed, "Their uncle at Winchester will
show them better than to run after that there go-by-chance."

However, as no one wished to keep the youths, and they were equally
determined to go, an accommodation was come to at last.  John was
induced to give them three crowns apiece and to yield them up the five
small trinkets specified, though not without some murmurs from his wife.
It was no doubt safer to leave the rest of the money in his hands than
to carry it with them, and he undertook that it should be forthcoming,
if needed for any fit purpose, such as the purchase of an office, an
apprentice's fee, or an outfit as a squire.  It was a vague promise that
cost him nothing just then, and thus could be readily made, and John's
great desire was to get them away so that he could aver that they had
gone by their own free will, without any hardship, for he had seen
enough at his father's obsequies to show him that the love and sympathy
of all the scanty dwellers in the Forest was with them.

Nurse Joan had fought their battles, but with the sore heart of one who
was parting with her darlings never to see them again.  She bade them
doff their suits of mourning that she might make up their fardels, as
they would travel in their Lincoln-green suits.  To take these she
repaired to the little rough shed-like chamber where the two brothers
lay for the last time on their pallet bed, awake, and watching for her,
with Spring at their feet.  The poor old woman stood over them, as over
the motherless nurslings whom she had tended, and she should probably
never see more, but she was a woman of shrewd sense, and perceived that
"with the new madam in the hall" it was better that they should be gone
before worse ensued.

She advised leaving their valuables sealed up in the hands of my Lord
Abbot, but they were averse to this--for they said their uncle Randall,
who had not seen them since they were little children, would not know
them without some pledge.

She shook her head.  "The less you deal with Hal Randall the better,"
she said.  "Come now, lads, be advised and go no farther than
Winchester, where Master Ambrose may get all the book-learning he is
ever craving for, and you, Master Stevie, may prentice yourself to some
good trade."

"Prentice!" cried Stephen, scornfully.

"Ay, ay.  As good blood as thine has been prenticed," returned Joan.
"Better so than be a cut-throat sword-and-buckler fellow, ever slaying
some one else or getting thyself slain--a terror to all peaceful folk.
But thine uncle will see to that--a steady-minded lad always was he--was
Master Dick."

Consoling herself with this hope, the old woman rolled up their new
suits with some linen into two neat knapsacks; sighing over the thought
that unaccustomed fingers would deal with the shirts she had spun,
bleached, and sewn.  But she had confidence in "Master Dick," and
concluded that to send his nephews to him at Winchester gave a far
better chance of their being cared for, than letting them be flouted
into ill-doing by their grudging brother and his wife.



  "All Itchen's valley lay,
  Saint Catherine's breezy side and the woodlands far away,
  The huge Cathedral sleeping in venerable gloom,
  The modest College tower, and the bedesmen's Norman home."

  Lord Selborne.

Very early in the morning, even according to the habits of the time,
were Stephen and Ambrose Birkenholt astir.  They were full of ardour to
enter on the new and unknown world beyond the Forest, and much as they
loved it, any change that kept them still to their altered life would
have been distasteful.

Nurse Joan, asking no questions, folded up their fardels on their backs,
and packed the wallets for their day's journey with ample provision.
She charged them to be good lads, to say their Pater, Credo, and Ave
daily, and never omit Mass on a Sunday.  They kissed her like their
mother and promised heartily--and Stephen took his crossbow.  They had
had some hope of setting forth so early as to avoid all other _human_
farewells, except that Ambrose wished to begin by going to Beaulieu to
take leave of the Father who had been his kind master, and get his
blessing and counsel.  But Beaulieu was three miles out of their way,
and Stephen had not the same desire, being less attached to his
schoolmaster and more afraid of hindrances being thrown in their way.

Moreover, contrary to their expectation, their elder brother came forth,
and declared his intention of setting them forth on their way, bestowing
a great amount of good advice, to the same purport as that of nurse
Joan, namely, that they should let their uncle Richard Birkenholt find
them some employment at Winchester, where they, or at least Ambrose,
might even obtain admission into the famous college of Saint Mary.

In fact, this excellent elder brother persuaded himself that it would be
doing them an absolute wrong to keep such promising youths hidden in the

The purpose of his going thus far with them made itself evident.  It was
to see them past the turning to Beaulieu.  No doubt he wished to tell
the story in his own way, and that they should not present themselves
there as orphans expelled from their father's house.  It would sound
much better that he had sent them to ask counsel of their uncle at
Winchester, the fit person to take charge of them.  And as he
represented that to go to Beaulieu would lengthen their day's journey so
much that they might hardly reach Winchester that night, while all
Stephen's wishes were to go forward, Ambrose could only send his
greetings.  There was another debate over Spring, who had followed his
master as usual.  John uttered an exclamation of vexation at perceiving
it, and bade Stephen drive the dog back.  "Or give me the leash to drag
him.  He will never follow me."

"He goes with us," said Stephen.

"He!  Thou'lt never have the folly!  The old hound is half blind and
past use.  No man will take thee in with him after thee."

"Then they shall not take me in," said Stephen.  "I'll not leave him to
be hanged by thee."

"Who spoke of hanging him!"

"Thy wife will soon, if she hath not already."

"Thou wilt be for hanging him thyself ere thou have made a day's journey
with him on the king's highway, which is not like these forest paths, I
would have thee to know.  Why, he limps already."

"Then I'll carry him," said Stephen, doggedly.

"What hast thou to say to that device, Ambrose?" asked John, appealing
to the elder and wiser.

But Ambrose only answered "I'll help," and as John had no particular
desire to retain the superannuated hound, and preferred on the whole to
be spared sentencing him, no more was said on the subject as they went
along, until all John's stock of good counsel had been lavished on his
brothers' impatient ears.  He bade them farewell, and turned back to the
lodge, and they struck away along the woodland pathway which they had
been told led to Winchester, though they had never been thither, nor
seen any town save Southampton and Romsey at long intervals.  On they
went, sometimes through beech and oak woods of noble, almost primeval,
trees, but more often across tracts of holly underwood, illuminated here
and there with the snowy garlands of the wild cherry, and beneath with
wide spaces covered with young green bracken, whose soft irregular
masses on the undulating ground had somewhat the effect of the waves of
the sea.  These alternated with stretches of yellow gorse and brown
heather, sheets of cotton-grass, and pools of white crowfoot, and all
the vegetation of a mountain side, only that the mountain was not there.

The brothers looked with eyes untaught to care for beauty, but with a
certain love of the home scenes, tempered by youth's impatience for
something new.  The nightingales sang, the thrushes flew out before
them, the wild duck and moorhen glanced on the pools.  Here and there
they came on the furrows left by the snout of the wild swine, and in the
open tracts rose the graceful heads of the deer, but of inhabitants or
travellers they scarce saw any, save when they halted at the little
hamlet of Minestead, where a small alehouse was kept by one Will
Purkiss, who claimed descent from the charcoal-burner who had carried
William Rufus's corpse to burial at Winchester--the one fact in history
known to all New Foresters, though perhaps Ambrose and John were the
only persons beyond the walls of Beaulieu who did not suppose the affair
to have taken place in the last generation.

A draught of ale and a short rest were welcome as the heat of the day
came on, making the old dog plod wearily on with his tongue out, so that
Stephen began to consider whether he should indeed have to be his
bearer--a serious matter, for the creature at full length measured
nearly as much as he did.  They met hardly any one, and they and Spring
were alike too well known and trained, for difficulties to arise as to
leading a dog through the Forest.  Should they ever come to the term of
the Forest?  It was not easy to tell when they were really beyond it,
for the ground was much of the same kind.  Only the smooth, treeless
hills, where they had always been told Winchester lay, seemed more
defined, and they saw no more deer, but here and there were inclosures
where wheat and barley were growing, and black timbered farmhouses began
to show themselves at intervals.  Herd boys, as rough and unkempt as
their charges, could be seen looking after little tawny cows, black-
faced sheep, or spotted pigs, with curs which barked fiercely at poor
weary Spring, even as their masters were more disposed to throw stones
than to answer questions.

By and by, on the further side of a green valley, could be seen
buildings with an encircling wall of flint and mortar faced with ruddy
brick, the dark red-tiled roofs rising among walnut-trees, and an
orchard in full bloom spreading into a long green field.

"Winchester must be nigh.  The sun is getting low," said Stephen.

"We will ask.  The good folk will at least give us an answer," said
Ambrose wearily.

As they reached the gate, a team of plough horses was passing in led by
a peasant lad, while a lay brother, with his gown tucked up, rode
sideways on one, whistling.  An Augustinian monk, ruddy, burly, and
sunburnt, stood in the farm-yard, to receive an account of the day's
work, and doffing his cap, Ambrose asked whether Winchester were near.

"Three mile or thereaway, my good lad," said the monk; "thou'lt see the
towers an ye mount the hill.  Whence art thou?" he added, looking at the
two young strangers.  "Scholars?  The College elects not yet a while."

"We be from the Forest, so please your reverence, and are bound for Hyde
Abbey, where our uncle, Master Richard Birkenholt, dwells."

"And oh, sir," added Stephen, "may we crave a drop of water for our

The monk smiled as he looked at Spring, who had flung himself down to
take advantage of the halt, hanging out his tongue, and panting
spasmodically.  "A noble beast," he said, "of the Windsor breed, is't
not?"  Then laying his hand on the graceful head, "Poor old hound, thou
art o'er travelled.  He is aged for such a Journey, if you came from the
Forest since morn.  Twelve years at the least, I should say, by his

"Your reverence is right," said Stephen, "he is twelve years old.  He is
two years younger than I am, and my father gave him to me when he was a
little whelp."

"So thou must needs take him to seek thy fortune with thee," said the
good-natured Augustinian, not knowing how truly he spoke.  "Come in, my
lads, here's a drink for him.  What said you was your uncle's name?" and
as Ambrose repeated it, "Birkenholt!  Living on a corrody at Hyde!  Ay!
ay!  My lads, I have a call to Winchester to-morrow, you'd best tarry
the night here at Silkstede Grange, and fare forward with me."

The tired boys were heartily glad to accept the invitation, more
especially as Spring, happy as he was with the trough of water before
him, seemed almost too tired to stand over it, and after the first,
tried to lap, lying down.  Silkstede was not a regular convent, only a
grange or farmhouse, presided over by one of the monks, with three or
four lay brethren under him, and a little colony of hinds, in the
surrounding cottages, to cultivate the farm, and tend a few cattle and
numerous sheep, the special care of the Augustinians.

Father Shoveller, as the good-natured monk who had received the
travellers was called, took them into the spacious but homely chamber
which served as refectory, kitchen, and hall.  He called to the lay
brother who was busy over the open hearth to fry a few more rashers of
bacon; and after they had washed away the dust of their Journey at the
trough where Spring had slaked his thirst, they sat down with him to a
hearty supper, which smacked more of the grange than of the monastery,
spread on a large solid oak table, and washed down with good ale.  The
repast was shared by the lay brethren and farm servants, and also by two
or three big sheep-dogs, who had to be taught their manners towards

There was none of the formality that Ambrose was accustomed to at
Beaulieu in the great refectory, where no one spoke, but one of the
brethren read aloud some theological book from a stone pulpit in the
wall.  Here Brother Shoveller conversed without stint, chiefly with the
brother who seemed to be a kind of bailiff, with whom he discussed the
sheep that were to be taken into market the next day, and the prices to
be given for them by either the college, the castle, or the butchers of
Boucher Row.  He however found time to talk to the two guests, and being
sprung from a family in the immediate neighbourhood, he knew the
verdurer's name, and ere he was a monk, had joined in the chase in the

There was a little oratory attached to the hall, where he and the lay
brethren kept the hours, to a certain degree, putting two or three
services into one, on a liberal interpretation of _laborare est orare_.
Ambrose's responses made their host observe as they went out, "Thou hast
thy Latin pat, my son, there's the making of a scholar in thee."

Then they took their first night's rest away from home, in a small
guest-chamber, with a good bed, though bare in all other respects.
Brother Shoveller likewise had a cell to himself but the lay brethren
slept promiscuously among their sheep-dogs on the floor of the

All were afoot in the early morning, and Stephen and Ambrose were
awakened by the tumultuous bleatings of the flock of sheep that were
being driven from their fold to meet their fate at Winchester market.
They heard Brother Shoveller shouting his orders to the shepherds in
tones a great deal more like those of a farmer than of a monk, and they
made haste to dress themselves and join him as he was muttering a
morning abbreviation of his obligatory devotions in the oratory,
observing that they might be in time to hear mass at one of the city
churches, but the sheep might delay them, and they had best break their
fast ere starting.

It was Wednesday, a day usually kept as a moderate fast, so the
breakfast was of oatmeal porridge, flavoured with honey, and washed down
with mead, after which Brother Shoveller mounted his mule, a sleek
creature, whose long ears had an air of great contentment, and rode off,
accommodating his pace to that of his young companions up a stony cart-
track which soon led them to the top of a chalk down, whence, as in a
map, they could see Winchester, surrounded by its walls, lying in a
hollow between the smooth green hills.  At one end rose the castle, its
fortifications covering its own hill, beneath, in the valley, the long,
low massive Cathedral, the college buildings and tower with its
pinnacles, and nearer at hand, among the trees, the Almshouse of Noble
Poverty at Saint Cross, beneath the round hill of Saint Catherine.
Churches and monastic buildings stood thickly in the town, and indeed,
Brother Shoveller said, shaking his head, that there were well-nigh as
many churches as folk to go to them; the place was decayed since the
time he remembered when Prince Arthur was born there.  Hyde Abbey he
could not show them, from where they stood, as it lay further off by the
river side, having been removed from the neighbourhood of the Minster,
because the brethren of Saint Grimbald could not agree with those of
Saint Swithun's belonging to the Minster, as indeed their buildings were
so close together that it was hardly possible to pass between them, and
their bells jangled in each other's ears.

Brother Shoveller did not seem to entertain a very high opinion of the
monks of Saint Grimbald, and he asked the boys whether they were
expected there.  "No," they said; "tidings of their father's death had
been sent by one of the woodmen, and the only answer that had been
returned was that Master Richard Birkenholt was ill at ease, but would
have masses said for his brother's soul."

"Hem?" said the Augustinian ominously; but at that moment they came up
with the sheep, and his attention was wholly absorbed by them, as he
joined the lay brothers in directing the shepherds who were driving them
across the downs, steering them over the high ground towards the arched
West Gate close to the royal castle.  The street sloped rapidly down,
and Brother Shoveller conducted his young companions between the
overhanging houses, with stalls between serving as shops, till they
reached the open space round the Market Cross, on the steps of which
women sat with baskets of eggs, butter, and poultry, raised above the
motley throng of cattle and sheep, with their dogs and drivers, the
various cries of man and beast forming an incongruous accompaniment to
the bells of the churches that surrounded the market-place.

Citizens' wives in hood and wimple were there, shrilly bargaining for
provision for their households, squires and grooms in quest of hay for
their masters' stables, purveyors seeking food for the garrison, lay
brethren and sisters for their convents, and withal, the usual margin of
begging friars, wandering gleemen, jugglers and pedlars, though in no
great numbers, as this was only a Wednesday market-day, not a fair.
Ambrose recognised one or two who made part of the crowd at Beaulieu
only two days previously, when he had "seen through tears the juggler
leap," and the jingling tune one of them was playing on a rebeck brought
back associations of almost unbearable pain.  Happily, Father Shoveller,
having seen his sheep safely bestowed in a pen, bethought him of bidding
the lay brother in attendance show the young gentlemen the way to Hyde
Abbey, and turning up a street at right angles to the principal one,
they were soon out of the throng.

It was a lonely place, with a decayed uninhabited appearance, and
Brother Peter told them it had been the Jewry, whence good King Edward
had banished all the unbelieving dogs of Jews, and where no one chose to
dwell after them.

Soon they came in sight of a large extent of monastic buildings, partly
of stone, but the more domestic offices of flint and brick or mortar.
Large meadows stretched away to the banks of the Itchen, with cattle
grazing in them, but in one was a set of figures to whom the lay brother
pointed with a laugh of exulting censure.

"Long bows!" exclaimed Stephen.  "Who be they?"

"Brethren of Saint Grimbald, sir.  Such rule doth my Lord of Hyde keep,
mitred abbot though he be.  They say the good bishop hath called him to
order, but what recks he of bishops?  Good-day, Brother Bulpett, here be
two young kinsmen of Master Birkenholt to visit him; and so
_benedicite_, fair sirs.  Saint Austin's grace be with you!"

Through a gate between two little red octagonal towers, Brother Bulpett
led the two visitors, and called to another of the monks, "_Benedicite_,
Father Segrim, here be two striplings wanting speech of old Birkenholt."

"Looking after dead men's shoes, I trow," muttered Father Segrim, with a
sour look at the lads, as he led them through the outer court, where
some fine horses were being groomed, and then across a second court
surrounded with a beautiful cloister, with flower beds in front of it.
Here, on a stone bench, in the sun, clad in a gown furred with rabbit
skin, sat a decrepit old man, both his hands clasped over his staff.
Into his deaf ears their guide shouted, "These boys say they are your
kindred, Master Birkenholt."

"Anan?" said the old man, trembling with palsy.  The lads knew him to be
older than their father, but they were taken by surprise at such
feebleness, and the monk did not aid them, only saying roughly, "There
he is.  Tell your errand."

"How fares it with you, uncle?" ventured Ambrose.

"Who be ye?  I know none of you," muttered the old man, shaking his head
still more.

"We are Ambrose and Stephen from the Forest," shouted Ambrose.

"Ah Steve! poor Stevie!  The accursed boar has rent his goodly face so
as I would never have known him.  Poor Steve!  Rest his soul!"

The old man began to weep, while his nephews recollected that they had
heard that another uncle had been slain by the tusk of a wild boar in
early manhood.  Then to their surprise, his eyes fell on Spring, and
calling the hound by name, he caressed the creature's head--"Spring,
poor Spring!  Stevie's faithful old dog.  Hast lost thy master?  Wilt
follow me now?"

He was thinking of a Spring as well as of a Stevie of sixty years ago,
and he babbled on of how many fawns were in the Queen's Bower this
summer, and who had best shot at the butts at Lyndhurst, as if he were
excited by the breath of his native Forest, but there was no making him
understand that he was speaking with his nephews.  The name of his
brother John only set him repeating that John loved the greenwood, and
would be content to take poor Stevie's place and dwell in the verdurer's
lodge; but that he himself ought to be abroad, he had seen brave Lord
Talbot's ships ready at Southampton, John might stay at home, but he
would win fame and honour in Gascony.

And while he thus wandered, and the boys stood by perplexed and
distressed, Brother Segrim came back, and said, "So, young sirs, have
you seen enough of your doting kinsman?  The sub-prior bids me say that
we harbour no strange, idling, lubber lads nor strange dogs here.  'Tis
enough for us to be saddled with dissolute old men-at-arms without all
their idle kin making an excuse to come and pay their devoirs.  These
corrodies are a heavy charge and a weighty abuse, and if there be the
visitation the king's majesty speaks of they will be one of the first
matters to be amended."

Wherewith Stephen and Ambrose found themselves walked out of the
cloister of Saint Grimbald, and the gates shut behind them.



  "The reul of Saint Maure and of Saint Beneit
  Because that it was old and some deale streit
  This ilke monk let old things pace
  He held ever of the new world the trace."

"The churls!" exclaimed Stephen.

"Poor old man!" said Ambrose; "I hope they are good to him!"

"To think that thus ends all that once was gallant talk of fighting
under Talbot's banner," sighed Stephen, thoughtful for a moment.
"However, there's a good deal to come first."

"Yea, and what next?" said the elder brother.

"On to uncle Hal.  I ever looked most to him.  He will purvey me to a
page's place in some noble household, and get thee a clerk's or
scholar's place in my Lord of York's house.  Mayhap there will be room
for us both there, for my Lord of York hath a goodly following of armed

"Which way lies the road to London?"

"We must back into the town and ask, as well as fill our stomachs and
our wallets," said Ambrose.  "Talk of their rule!  The entertaining of
strangers is better understood at Silkstede than at Hyde."

"Tush!  A grudged crust sticks in the gullet," returned Stephen.  "Come
on, Ambrose, I marked the sign of the White Hart by the market-place.
There will be a welcome there for foresters."

They returned on their steps past the dilapidated buildings of the old
Jewry, and presently saw the market in full activity; but the sounds and
sights of busy life where they were utter strangers, gave Ambrose a
sense of loneliness and desertion, and his heart sank as the bolder
Stephen threaded the way in the direction of a broad entry over which
stood a slender-bodied hart with gold hoofs, horns, collar, and chain.

"How now, my sons?" said a full cheery voice, and to their joy, they
found themselves pushed up against Father Shoveller.

"Returned already!  Did you get scant welcome at Hyde?  Here, come where
we can get a free breath, and tell me."

They passed through the open gateway of the White Hart, into the court,
but before listening to them, the monk exchanged greetings with the
hostess, who stood at the door in a broad hat and velvet bodice, and
demanded what cheer there was for noon-meat.

"A jack, reverend sir, eels and a grampus fresh sent up from Hampton;
also fresh-killed mutton for such lay folk as are not curious of the
Wednesday fast.  They are laying the board even now."

"Lay platters for me and these two young gentlemen," said the
Augustinian.  "Ye be my guests, ye wot," he added, "since ye tarried not
for meat at Hyde."

"Nor did they ask us," exclaimed Stephen; "lubbers and idlers were the
best words they had for us."

"Ho! ho!  That's the way with the brethren of Saint Grimbald!  And your

"Alas, sir, he doteth with age," said Ambrose.  "He took Stephen for his
own brother, dead under King Harry of Windsor."

"So!  I had heard somewhat of his age and sickness.  Who was it who
thrust you out?"

"A lean brother with a thin red beard, and a shrewd, puckered visage."

"Ha!  By that token 'twas Segrim the bursar.  He wots how to drive a
bargain.  Saint Austin! but he deemed you came to look after your
kinsman's corrody."

"He said the king spake of a visitation to abolish corrodies from
religious houses," said Ambrose.

"He'll abolish the long bow from them first," said Father Shoveller.
"Ay, and miniver from my Lord Abbot's hood.  I'd admonish you, my good
brethren of Saint Grimbald, to be in no hurry for a visitation which
might scarce stop where you would fain have it.  Well, my sons, are ye
bound for the Forest again?  An ye be, we'll wend back together, and ye
can lie at Silkstede to-night."

"Alack, kind father, there's no more home for us in the Forest," said

"Methought ye had a brother?"

"Yea; but our brother hath a wife."

"Ho! ho!  And the wife will none of you?"

"She would have kept Ambrose to teach her boy his primer," said Stephen;
"but she would none of Spring nor of me."

"We hoped to receive counsel from our uncle at Hyde," added Ambrose.

"Have ye no purpose now?" inquired the Father, his jolly good-humoured
face showing much concern.

"Yea," manfully returned Stephen.  "'Twas what I ever hoped to do, to
fare on and seek our fortune in London."

"Ha!  To pick up gold and silver like Dick Whittington.  Poor old Spring
here will scarce do you the part of his cat," and the monk's hearty
laugh angered Stephen into muttering, "We are no fools," but Father
Shoveller only laughed the more, saying, "Fair and softly, my son, ye'll
never pick up the gold if ye cannot brook a kindly quip.  Have you
friends or kindred in London?"

"Yea, that have we, sir," cried Stephen; "our mother's own brother,
Master Randall, hath come to preferment there in my Lord Archbishop of
York's household, and hath sent us tokens from time to time, which we
will show you."

"Not while we be feasting," said Father Shoveller, hastily checking
Ambrose, who was feeling in his bosom.  "See, the knaves be bringing
their grampus across the court.  Here, we'll clean our hands, and be
ready for the meal;" and he showed them, under a projecting gallery in
the inn yard a stone trough, through which flowed a stream of water, in
which he proceeded to wash his hands and face, and to wipe them in a
coarse towel suspended nigh at hand.  Certainly after handling sheep
freely there was need, though such ablutions were a refinement not
indulged in by all the company who assembled round the well-spread board
of the White Hart for the meal after the market.  They were a motley
company.  By the host's side sat a knight on his way home from
pilgrimage to Compostella, or perhaps a mission to Spain, with a couple
of squires and other attendants, and converse of political import seemed
to be passing between him and a shrewd-looking man in a lawyer's hood
and gown, the recorder of Winchester, who preferred being a daily guest
at the White Hart to keeping a table of his own.  Country franklins and
yeomen, merchants and men-at-arms, palmers and craftsmen, friars and
monks, black, white, and grey, and with almost all, Father Shoveller had
greeting or converse to exchange.  He knew everybody, and had friendly
talk with all, on canons or crops, on war or wool, on the prices of pigs
or prisoners, on the news of the country side, or on the perilous
innovations in learning at Oxford, which might, it was feared, even
affect Saint Mary's College at Winchester.

He did not affect outlandish fishes himself, and dined upon pike, but
observing the curiosity of his guests, he took good care to have them
well supplied with grampus; also in due time with varieties of the
pudding and cake kind which had never dawned on their forest--bred
imagination, and with a due proportion of good ale--the same over which
the knight might be heard rejoicing, and lauding far above the Spanish
or French wines, on which he said he had been half starved.

Father Shoveller mused a good deal over his pike and its savoury
stuffing.  He was not by any means an ideal monk, but he was equally far
from being a scandal.  He was the shrewd man of business and manager of
his fraternity, conducting the farming operations and making all the
bargains, following his rule respectably according to the ordinary
standard of his time, but not rising to any spirituality, and while duly
observing the fast day, as to the quality of his food, eating with the
appetite of a man who lived in the open fields.

But when their hunger was appeased, with many a fragment given to
Spring, the young Birkenholts, wearied of the endless talk that was
exchanged over the tankard, began to grow restless, and after exchanging
signs across Father Shoveller's solid person, they simultaneously rose,
and began to thank him and say they must pursue their journey.

"How now, not so fast, my sons," said the Father; "tarry a bit, I have
more to say to thee.  Prayers and provender, thou knowst--I'll come
anon.  So, sir, didst say yonder beggarly Flemings haggle at thy price
for thy Southdown fleeces.  Weight of dirt forsooth!  Do not we wash the
sheep in the Poolhole stream, the purest water in the shire?"

Manners withheld Ambrose from responding to Stephen's hot impatience,
while the merchant in the sleek puce-coloured coat discussed the Flemish
wool market with the monk for a good half-hour longer.

By this time the knight's horses were brought into the yard, and the
merchant's men had made ready his palfrey, his pack-horse being already
on the way; the host's son came round with the reckoning, and there was
a general move.  Stephen expected to escape, and hardly could brook the
good-natured authority with which Father Shoveller put Ambrose aside,
when he would have discharged their share of the reckoning, and took it
upon himself.  "Said I not ye were my guests?" quoth he.  "We missed our
morning mass, it will do us no harm to hear Nones in the Minster."

"Sir, we thank you, but we should be on our way," said Ambrose, incited
by Stephen's impatient gestures.

"Tut, tut.  Fair and softly, my son, or more haste may be worse speed.
Methought ye had somewhat to show me."

Stephen's youthful independence might chafe, but the habit of submission
to authorities made him obediently follow the monk out at the back
entrance of the inn, behind which lay the Minster yard, the grand
western front rising in front of them, and the buildings of Saint
Swithun's Abbey extending far to their right.  The hour was nearly noon,
and the space was deserted, except for an old woman sitting at the great
western doorway with a basket of rosaries made of nuts and of snail
shells, and a workman or two employed on the bishop's new reredos.

"Now for thy tokens," said Father Shoveller.  "See my young foresters,
ye be new to the world.  Take an old man's counsel, and never show, nor
speak of such gear in an hostel.  Mine host of the White Hart is an old
gossip of mine, and indifferent honest, but who shall say who might be
within earshot?"

Stephen had a mind to say that he did not see why the meddling monk
should wish to see them at all, and Ambrose looked a little reluctant,
but Father Shoveller said in his good-humoured way, "As you please,
young sirs.  'Tis but an old man's wish to see whether he can do aught
to help you, that you be not as lambs among wolves.  Mayhap ye deem ye
can walk into London town, and that the first man you meet can point you
to your uncle--Randall call ye him?--as readily as I could show you my
brother, Thomas Shoveller of Cranbury.  But you are just as like to meet
with some knave who might cozen you of all you have, or mayhap a beadle
might take you up for vagabonds, and thrust you in the stocks, or ever
you get to London town; so I would fain give you some commendation, an I
knew to whom to make it, and ye be not too proud to take it."

"You are but too good to us, sir," said Ambrose, quite conquered, though
Stephen only half believed in the difficulties.  The Father took them
within the west door of the Minster, and looking up and down the long
arcade of the southern aisle to see that no one was watching, he
inspected the tokens, and cross-examined them on their knowledge of
their uncle.

His latest gift, the rosary, had come by the hand of Friar Hurst, a
begging Minorite of Southampton, who had it from another of his order at
Winchester, who had received it from one of the king's archers at the
Castle, with a message to Mistress Birkenholt that it came from her
brother, Master Randall, who had good preferment in London, in the house
of my Lord Archbishop of York, without whose counsel King Henry never
stirred.  As to the coming of the agate and the pouncet box, the minds
of the boys were very hazy.  They knew that the pouncet box had been
conveyed through the attendants of the Abbot of Beaulieu, but they were
only sure that from that time the belief had prevailed with their mother
that her brother was prospering in the house of the all-powerful Wolsey.
The good Augustinian, examining the tokens, thought they gave colour to
that opinion.  The rosary and agate might have been picked up in an
ecclesiastical household, and the lid of the pouncet box was made of a
Spanish coin, likely to have come through some of the attendants of
Queen Katharine.

"It hath an appearance," he said.  "I marvel whether there be still at
the Castle this archer who hath had speech with Master Randall, for if
ye know no more than ye do at present, 'tis seeking a needle in a bottle
of hay.  But see, here come the brethren that be to sing Nones--sinner
that I am, to have said no Hours since the morn, being letted with
lawful business."

Again the unwilling Stephen had to submit.  There was no feeling for the
incongruous in those days, and reverence took very different directions
from those in which it now shows itself, so that nobody had any
objection to Spring's pacing gravely with the others towards the Lady
Chapel, where the Hours were sung, since the Choir was in the hands of
workmen, and the sound of chipping stone could be heard from it, where
Bishop Fox's elaborate lace-work reredos was in course of erection.
Passing the shrine of Saint Swithun, and the grand tomb of Cardinal
Beaufort, where his life-coloured effigy filled the boys with wonder,
they followed their leader's example, and knelt within the Lady Chapel,
while the brief Latin service for the ninth hour was sung through by the
canon, clerks, and boys.  It really was the Sixth, but cumulative easy-
going treatment of the Breviary had made this the usual time for it, as
the name of noon still testifies.  The boys' attention, it must be
confessed, was chiefly expended on the wonderful miracles of the Blessed
Virgin in fresco on the walls of the chapel, all tending to prove that
here was hope for those who said their Ave in any extremity of fire or

Nones ended, Father Shoveller, with many a halt for greeting or for
gossip, took the lads up the hill towards the wide fortified space where
the old Castle and royal Hall of Henry of Winchester looked down on the
city, and after some friendly passages with the warder at the gate,
Father Shoveller explained that he was in quest of some one recently
come from court, of whom the striplings in his company could make
inquiry concerning a kinsman in the household of my Lord Archbishop of
York.  The warder scratched his head, and bethinking himself that
Eastcheap Jockey was the reverend father's man, summoned a horse-boy to
call that worthy.

"Where was he?"

"Sitting over his pottle in the Hall," was the reply, and the monk, with
a laugh savouring little of asceticism, said he would seek him there,
and accordingly crossed the court to the noble Hall, with its lofty dark
marble columns, and the Round Table of King Arthur suspended at the
upper end.  The governor of the Castle had risen from his meal long ago,
but the garrison in the piping times of peace would make their ration of
ale last as far into the afternoon as their commanders would suffer.
And half a dozen men still sat there, one or two snoring, two playing at
dice on a clear corner of the board, and another, a smart well-dressed
fellow in a bright scarlet jerkin, laying down the law to a country
bumpkin, who looked somewhat dazed.  The first of these was, as it
appeared, Eastcheap Jockey, and there was something both of the
readiness and the impudence of the Londoner in his manner, when he
turned to answer the question.  He knew many in my Lord of York's
house--as many as a man was like to know where there was a matter of two
hundred folk between clerks and soldiers, he had often crushed a pottle
with them.  No; he had never heard of one called Randall, neither in hat
nor cowl, but he knew more of them by face than by name, and more by by
name than surname or christened name.  He was certainly not the archer
who had brought a token for Mistress Birkenholt, and his comrades all
avouched equal ignorance on the subject.  Nothing could be gained there,
and while Father Shoveller rubbed his bald head in consideration,
Stephen rose to take leave.

"Look you here, my fair son," said the monk.  "Starting at this hour,
though the days be long, you will not reach any safe halting place with
daylight, whereas by lying a night in this good city, you might reach
Alton to-morrow, and there is a home where the name of Brother Shoveller
will win you free lodging and entertainment."

"And to-night, good Father?" inquired Ambrose.

"That will I see to, if ye will follow me."

Stephen was devoured with impatience during the farewells in the Castle,
but Ambrose represented that the good man was giving them much of his
time, and that it would be unseemly and ungrateful to break from him.

"What matter is it of his?  And why should he make us lose a whole day?"
grumbled Stephen.

"What special gain would a day be to us?" sighed Ambrose.  "I am
thankful that any should take heed for us."

"Ay, you love leading-strings," returned Stephen.  "Where is he going
now?  All out of our way!"

Father Shoveller, however, as he went down the Castle hill, explained
that the Warden of Saint Elizabeth's Hospital was his friend, and
knowing him to have acquaintance among the clergy of Saint Paul's, it
would be well to obtain a letter of commendation from him, which might
serve them in good stead in case they were disappointed of finding their
uncle at once.

"It would be better for Spring to have a little more rest," thought
Stephen, thus mitigating his own longing to escape from the monks and
friars, of whom Winchester seemed to be full.

They had a kindly welcome in the pretty little college of Saint
Elizabeth of Hungary, lying in the meadows between William of Wykeham's
College and the round hill of Saint Catherine.  The Warden was a more
scholarly and ecclesiastical-looking person than his friend, the good-
natured Augustinian.  After commending them to his care, and partaking
of a drink of mead, the monk of Silkstede took leave of the youths, with
a hearty blessing and advice to husband their few crowns, not to tell
every one of their tokens, and to follow the counsel of the Warden of
Saint Elizabeth's, assuring them that if they turned back to the Forest
they should have a welcome at Silkstede.  Moreover he patted Spring
pitifully, and wished him and his master well through the journey.

Saint Elizabeth's College was a hundred years older than its neighbour
Saint Mary's, as was evident to practised eyes by its arches and
windows, but it had been so entirely eclipsed by Wykeham's foundation
that the number of priests, students, and choir-boys it was intended to
maintain, had dwindled away, so that it now contained merely the Warden,
a superannuated priest, and a couple of big lads who acted as servants.
There was an air of great quietude and coolness about the pointed arches
of its tiny cloister on that summer's day, with the old monk dozing in
his chair over the manuscript he thought he was reading, not far from
the little table where the Warden was eagerly studying Erasmus's _Praise
of Folly_.  But the Birkenholts were of the age at which quiet means
dulness, at least Stephen was, and the Warden had pity both on them and
on himself; and hearing joyous shouts outside, he opened a little door
in the cloister wall, and revealed a multitude of lads with their black
gowns tucked up, "a playing at the ball"--these being the scholars of
Saint Mary's.  Beckoning to a pair of elder ones, who were walking up
and down more quietly, he consigned the strangers to their care,
sweetening the introduction by an invitation to supper, for which he
would gain permission from their Warden.

One of the young Wykehamists was shy and churlish, and sheered off from
the brothers, but the other catechised them on their views of becoming
scholars in the college.  He pointed out the cloister where the studies
took place in all weathers, showed them the hall, the chapel, and the
chambers, and expatiated on the chances of attaining to New College.
Being moreover a scholarly fellow, he and Ambrose fell into a discussion
over the passage of Virgil, copied out on a bit of paper, which he was
learning by heart.  Some other scholars having finished their game, and
become aware of the presence of a strange dog and two strange boys,
proceeded to mob Stephen and Spring, whereupon the shy boy stood forth
and declared that the Warden of Saint Elizabeth's had brought them in
for an hour's sport.

Of course, in such close quarters, the rival Warden was esteemed a
natural enemy, and went by the name of "Old Bess," so that his
recommendation went for worse than nothing, and a dash at Spring was
made by the inhospitable young savages.  Stephen stood to the defence in
act to box, and the shy lad stood by him, calling for fair play and one
at a time.  Of course a fight ensued, Stephen and his champion on the
one side, and two assailants on the other, till after a fall on either
side, Ambrose's friend interfered with a voice as thundering as the
manly crack would permit, peace was restored, Stephen found himself free
of the meads, and Spring was caressed instead of being tormented.

Stephen was examined on his past present, and future, envied for his
Forest home, and beguiled into magnificent accounts, not only of the
deer that had fallen to his bow and the boars that had fallen to his
father's spear, but of the honours to which his uncle in the
Archbishop's household would prefer him--for he viewed it as an absolute
certainty that his kinsman was captain among the men-at-arms, whom he
endowed on the spot with scarlet coats faced with black velvet, and
silver medals and chains.

Whereat one of the other boys was not behind in telling how his father
was pursuivant to my Lord Duke of Norfolk, and never went abroad save
with silver lions broidered on back and breast, and trumpets going
before; and another dwelt on the splendours of the mayor and aldermen of
Southampton with their chains and cups of gold.  Stephen felt bound to
surpass this with the last report that my Lord of York's men rode
Flemish steeds in crimson velvet housings, passmented with gold and
gems, and of course his uncle had the leading of them.

"Who be thine uncle?" demanded a thin, squeaky voice.  "I have brothers
likewise in my Lord of York's meine."

"Mine uncle is Captain Harry Randall, of Shirley," quoth Stephen
magnificently, scornfully surveying the small proportions of the
speaker.  "What is thy brother?"

"Head turnspit," said a rude voice, provoking a general shout of
laughter; but the boy stood his ground, and said hotly: "He is page to
the comptroller of my lord's household, and waits at the second table,
and I know every one of the captains."

"He'll say next he knows every one of the Seven Worthies," cried another
boy, for Stephen was becoming a popular character.

"And all the paladins to boot.  Come on, little Rowley!" was the cry.

"I tell you my brother is page to the comptroller of the household, and
my mother dwells beside the Gate House, and I know every man of them,"
insisted Rowley, waxing hot.  "As for that Forest savage fellow's uncle
being captain of the guard, 'tis more like that he is my lord's fool,
Quipsome Hal!"

Whereat there was a cry, in which were blended exultation at the hit,
and vituperation of the hitter.  Stephen flew forward to avenge the
insult, but a big bell was beginning to ring, a whole wave of black
gowns rushed to obey it, sweeping little Rowley away with them; and
Stephen found himself left alone with his brother and the two lads who
had been invited to Saint Elizabeth's, and who now repaired thither with

The supper party in the refectory was a small one, and the rule of the
foundation limited the meal to one dish and a pittance, but the dish was
of savoury eels, and the Warden's good nature had added to it some cates
and comfits in consideration of his youthful guests.

After some conversation with the elder Wykehamist, the Warden called
Ambrose and put him through an examination on his attainments, which
proved so satis factory, that it ended in an invitation to the brothers
to fill two of the empty scholarships of the college of the dear Saint
Elizabeth.  It was a good offer, and one that Ambrose would fain have
accepted, but Stephen had no mind for the cloister or for learning.

The Warden had no doubt that he could be apprenticed in the city of
Winchester, since the brother at home had in keeping a sum sufficient
for the fee.  Though the trade of "capping" had fallen off, there were
still good substantial burgesses who would be willing to receive an
active lad of good parentage, some being themselves of gentle blood.
Stephen, however, would not brook the idea.  "Out upon you, Ambrose!"
said he, "to desire to bind your own brother to base mechanical arts."

"'Tis what Nurse Joan held to be best for us both," said Ambrose.

"Joan!  Yea, like a woman, who deems a man safest when he is a tailor,
or a perfumer.  An you be minded to stay here with a black gown and a
shaven crown, I shall on with Spring and come to preferment.  Maybe
thou'lt next hear of me when I have got some fat canonry for thee."

"Nay, I quit thee not," said Ambrose.  "If thou fare forward, so do I.
But I would thou couldst have brought thy mind to rest there."

"What! wouldst thou be content with this worn-out place, with more
churches than houses, and more empty houses than full ones?  No! let us
on where there is something doing!  Thou wilt see that my Lord of York
will have room for the scholar as well as the man-at-arms."

So the kind offer was declined, but Ambrose was grieved to see that the
Warden thought him foolish, and perhaps ungrateful.

Nevertheless the good man gave them a letter to the Reverend Master
Alworthy, singing clerk at Saint Paul's Cathedral, telling Ambrose it
might serve them in case they failed to find their uncle, or if my Lord
of York's household should not be in town.  He likewise gave them a
recommendation which would procure them a night's lodging at the Grange,
and after the morning's mass and meat, sped them on their way with his
blessing, muttering to himself, "That elder one might have been the
staff of mine age!  Pity on him to be lost in the great and evil City!
Yet 'tis a good lad to follow that fiery spark his brother.  _Tanquam
agnus inter lupes_.  Alack!"



"These four came all afront and mainly made at me.  I made no more ado,
but took their seven points on my target--thus--"


The journey to Alton was eventless.  It was slow, for the day was a
broiling one, and the young foresters missed their oaks and beeches, as
they toiled over the chalk downs that rose and sank in endless
succession; though they would hardly have slackened their pace if it had
not been for poor old Spring, who was sorely distressed by the heat and
the want of water on the downs.  Every now and then he lay down, panting
distressfully, with his tongue hanging out, and his young masters always
waited for him, often themselves not sorry to rest in the fragment of
shade from a solitary thorn or juniper.

The track was plain enough, and there were hamlets at long intervals.
Flocks of sheep fed on the short grass, but there was no approaching the
shepherds, as they and their dogs regarded Spring as an enemy, to be
received with clamour, stones, and teeth, in spite of the dejected looks
which might have acquitted him of evil intentions.

The travellers reached Alton in the cool of the evening, and were kindly
received by a monk, who had charge of a grange just outside the little
town, near one of the springs of the River Wey.

The next day's journey was a pleasanter one, for there was more of wood
and heather, and they had to skirt round the marshy borders of various
bogs.  Spring was happier, being able to stop and lap whenever he would,
and the whole scene was less unfriendly to them.  But they scarcely made
speed enough, for they were still among tall whins and stiff scrub of
heather when the sun began to get low, gorgeously lighting the tall
plumes of golden broom, and they had their doubts whether they might not
be off the track; but in such weather, there was nothing alarming in
spending a night out of doors, if only they had something for supper.
Stephen took a bolt from the purse at his girdle, and bent his crossbow,
so as to be ready in case a rabbit sprang out, or a duck flew up from
the marshes.

A small thicket of trees was in sight, and they were making for it, when
sounds of angry voices were heard, and Spring, bristling up the mane on
his neck, and giving a few premonitory fierce growls like thunder,
bounded forward as though he had been seven years younger.  Stephen
darted after him, Ambrose rushed after Stephen, and breaking through the
trees, they beheld the dog at the throat of one of three men.  As they
came on the scene, the dog was torn down and hurled aside, giving a howl
of agony, which infuriated his master.  Letting fly his crossbow bolt
full at the fellow's face, he dashed on, reckless of odds, waving his
knotted stick, and shouting with rage.  Ambrose, though more aware of
the madness of such an assault, still hurried to his support, and was
amazed as well as relieved to find the charge effectual.  Without
waiting to return a blow, the miscreants took to their heels, and
Stephen, seeing nothing but his dog, dropped on his knees beside the
quivering creature, from whose neck blood was fast pouring.  One glance
of the faithful wistful eyes, one feeble movement of the expressive
tail, and Spring had made his last farewell!  That was all Stephen was
conscious of; but Ambrose could hear the cry, "Good sirs, good lads, set
me free!" and was aware of a portly form bound to a tree.  As he cut the
rope with his knife, the rescued traveller hurried out thanks and
demands--"Where are the rest of you?" and on the reply that there were
no more, proceeded, "Then we must on, on at once, or the villains will
return!  They must have thought you had a band of hunters behind you.
Two furlongs hence, and we shall be safe in the hostel at Dogmersfield.
Come on, my boy," to Stephen, "the brave hound is quite dead, more's the
pity.  Thou canst do no more for him, and we shall soon be in his case
if we dally here."

"I cannot cannot leave him thus," sobbed Stephen, who had the loving old
head on his knees.  "Ambrose! stay, we must bring him.  There, his tail
wagged!  If the blood were staunched--"

"Stephen!  Indeed he is stone dead!  Were he our brother we could not do
otherwise," reasoned Ambrose, forcibly dragging his brother to his feet.
"Go on we must.  Wouldst have us all slaughtered for his sake?  Come!
The rogues will be upon us anon.  Spring saved this good man's life.
Undo not his work.  See.  Is yonder your horse, sir?  This way, Stevie!"

The instinct of catching the horse roused Stephen, and it was soon
accomplished, for the steed was a plump, docile, city-bred palfrey, with
dapple-grey flanks like well-stuffed satin pincushions, by no means
resembling the shaggy Forest ponies of the boys' experience, but quite
astray in the heath, and ready to come at the master's whistle; and call
of "Soh Soh!--now Poppet!"  Stephen caught the bridle, and Ambrose
helped the burgess into the saddle.  "Now, good boys," he said, "each of
you lay a hand on my pommel.  We can make good speed ere the rascals
find out our scant numbers."

"You would make better speed without us, sir," said Stephen, hankering
to remain beside poor Spring.

"Eye think Giles Headley the man to leave two children, that have maybe
saved my life as well as my purse, to bear the malice of the robbers?"
demanded the burgess angrily.  "That were like those fellows of mine who
have shown their heels and left their master strapped to a tree!  Thou!
thou! what's thy name, that hast the most wit, bring thy brother, unless
thou wouldst have him laid by the side of his dog."

Stephen was forced to comply, and run by Poppet's side, though his eyes
were so full of tears that he could not see his way, even when the pace
slackened, and in the twilight they found themselves among houses and
gardens, and thus in safety, the lights of an inn shining not far off.

A figure came out in the road to meet them, crying, "Master! master! is
it you? and without scathe?  Oh, the saints be praised!"

"Ay, Tibble, 'tis I and no other, thanks to the saints and to these
brave lads!  What, man, I blame thee not, I know thou canst not strike;
but where be the rest?"

"In the inn, sir.  I strove to call up the hue and cry to come to the
rescue, but the cowardly hinds were afraid of the thieves, and not one
would come forth."

"I wish they may not be in league with them," said Master Headley.
"See!  I was delivered--ay, and in time to save my purse, by these twain
and their good dog.  Are ye from these parts, my fair lads?"

"We be journeying from the New Forest to London," said Ambrose.  "The
poor dog heard the tumult, and leapt to your aid, sir, and we made after

"'Twas the saints sent him!" was the fervent answer.

"And," (with a lifting of the cap), "I hereby vow to Saint Julian a
hound of solid bronze a foot in length, with a collar of silver, to his
shrine in Saint Faith's, in token of my deliverance in body and goods!
To London are ye bound?  Then will we journey on together!"

They were by this time near the porch of a large country hostel, from
the doors and large bay window of which light streamed out.  And as the
casement was open, those without could both see and hear all that was
passing within.

The table was laid for supper, and in the place of honour sat a youth of
some seventeen or eighteen years, gaily dressed, with a little feather
curling over his crimson cap, and thus discoursing:--

"Yea, my good host, two of the rogues bear my tokens, besides him whom I
felled to the earth.  He came on at me with his sword, but I had my
point ready for him; and down he went before me like an ox.  Then came
on another, but him I dealt with by the back stroke as used in the tilt-
yard at Clarendon."

"I trow we shall know him again, sir.  Holy saints to think such rascals
should haunt so nigh us," the hostess was exclaiming.  "Pity for the
poor goodman, Master Headley.  A portly burgher was he, friendly of
tongue and free of purse.  I well remember him when he went forth on his
way to Salisbury, little thinking, poor soul, what was before him.  And
is he truly sped?"

"I tell thee, good woman, I saw him go down before three of their pikes.
What more could I do but drive my horse over the nearest rogue who was
rifling him?"

"If he were still alive--which Our Lady grant!--the knaves will hold him
to ransom," quoth the host, as he placed a tankard on the table.

"I am afraid he is past," said the youth, shaking his head.  "But an if
he be still in the rogues' hands and living, I will get me on to his
house in Cheapside, and arrange with his mother to find the needful sum,
as befits me, I being his heir and about to wed his daughter.  However,
I shall do all that in me lies to get the poor old seignior out of the
hands of the rogues.  Saints defend me!"

"The poor old seignior is much beholden to thee," said Master Headley,
advancing amid a clamour of exclamations from three or four serving-men
or grooms, one protesting that he thought his master was with him,
another that his horse ran away with him, one showing an arm which was
actually being bound up, and the youth declaring that he rode off to
bring help.

"Well wast thou bringing it," Master Headley answered.  "I might be
still standing bound like an eagle displayed, against yonder tree, for
aught you fellows reeked."

"Nay, sir, the odds--" began the youth.

"Odds! such odds as were put to rout--by what, deem you?  These two
striplings and one poor hound.  Had but one of you had the heart of a
sparrow, ye had not furnished a tale to be the laugh of the Barbican and
Cheapside.  Look well at them.  How old be you, my brave lads?"

"I shall be sixteen come Lammas day, and Stephen fifteen at Martinmas
day, sir," said Ambrose; "but verily we did nought.  We could have done
nought had not the thieves thought more were behind us."

"There are odds between going forward and backward," said Master
Headley, dryly.  "Ha!  Art hurt?  Thou bleedst," he exclaimed, laying
his hand on Stephen's shoulder, and drawing him to the light.

"'Tis no blood of mine," said Stephen, as Ambrose likewise came to join
in the examination.  "It is my poor Spring's.  He took the coward's
blow.  His was all the honour, and we have left him there on the heath!"
And he covered his face with his hands.

"Come, come, my good child," said Master Headley; "we will back to the
place by times to-morrow when rogues hide and honest men walk abroad.
Thou shalt bury thine hound, as befits a good warrior, on the battle-
field.  I would fain mark his points for the effigy we will frame,
honest Tibble, for Saint Julian.  And mark ye, fellows, thou godson
Giles, above all, who 'tis that boast of their valour, and who 'tis that
be modest of speech.  Yea, thanks, mine host.  Let us to a chamber, and
give us water to wash away soil of travel and of fray, and then to
supper.  Young masters, ye are my guests.  Shame were it that Giles
Headley let go farther them that have, under Heaven and Saint Julian,
saved him in life, limb, and purse."

The inn was large, being the resort of many travellers from the south,
often of nobles and knights riding to Parliament, and thus the brothers
found themselves accommodated with a chamber, where they could prepare
for the meal, while Ambrose tried to console his brother by representing
that, after all, poor Spring had died gallantly, and with far less pain
than if he had suffered a wasting old age, besides being honoured for
ever by his effigy in Saint Faith's, wherever that might be, the idea
which chiefly contributed to console his master.

The two boys appeared in the room of the inn looking so unlike the
dusty, blood-stained pair who had entered, that Master Headley took a
second glance to convince himself that they were the same, before
beckoning them to seats on either side of him, saying that he must know
more of them, and bidding the host load their trenchers well from the
grand fabric of beef-pasty which had been set at the end of the board.
The runaways, four or five in number, herded together lower down, with a
few travellers of lower degree, all except the youth who had been
boasting before their arrival, and who retained his seat at the board,
thumping it with the handle of his knife to show his impatience for the
commencement of supper; and not far off sat Tibble, the same who had
hailed their arrival, a thin, slight, one-sided looking person, with a
terrible red withered scar on one cheek, drawing the corner of his mouth
awry.  He, like Master Headley himself, and the rest of his party were
clad in red, guarded with white, and wore the cross of Saint George on
the white border of their flat crimson caps, being no doubt in the
livery of their Company.  The citizen himself, having in the meantime
drawn his conclusions from the air and gestures of the brothers, and
their mode of dealing with their food, asked the usual question in an
affirmative tone, "Ye be of gentle blood, young sirs?"

To which they replied by giving their names, and explaining that they
were journeying from the New Forest to find their uncle in the train of
the Archbishop of York.

"Birkenholt," said Tibble, meditatively.  "He beareth vert, a buck's
head proper, on a chief argent, two arrows in saltire.  Crest, a buck
courant, pierced in the gorge by an arrow, all proper."

To which the brothers returned by displaying the handles of their
knives, both of which bore the pierced and courant buck.

"Ay, ay," said the man.  "'Twill be found in our books, sir.  We painted
the shield and new-crested the morion the first year of my prenticeship,
when the Earl of Richmond, the late King Harry of blessed memory, had
newly landed at Milford Haven."

"Verily," said Ambrose, "our uncle Richard Birkenholt fought at Bosworth
under Sir Richard Pole's banner."

"A tall and stalwart esquire, methinks," said Master Headley.  "Is he
the kinsman you seek?"

"Not so, sir.  We visited him at Winchester, and found him sorely old
and with failing wits.  We be on our way to our mother's brother, Master
Harry Randall."

"Is he clerk or layman?  My Lord of York entertaineth enow of both,"
said Master Headley.

"Lay assuredly, sir," returned Stephen; "I trust to him to find me some
preferment as page or the like."

"Know'st thou the man, Tibble?" inquired the master.

"Not among the men-at-arms, sir," was the answer; "but there be a many
of them whose right names we never hear.  However, he will be easily
found if my Lord of York be returned from Windsor with his train."

"Then will we go forward together, my young Masters Birkenholt.  I am
not going to part with my doughty champions!"--patting Stephen's
shoulder.  "Ye'd not think that these light-heeled knaves belonged to
the brave craft of armourers."

"Certainly not," thought the lads, whose notion of armourers was derived
from the brawny blacksmith of Lyndhurst, who sharpened their boar spears
and shod their horses.  They made some kind of assent, and Master
Headley went on.  "These be the times.  This is what peace hath brought
us to!  I am called down to Salisbury to take charge of the goods,
chattels, and estate of my kinsman, Robert Headley--Saints rest his
soul!--and to bring home yonder spark, my godson, whose indentures have
been made over to me.  And I may not ride a mile after sunset without
being set upon by a sort of robbers, who must have guessed over-well
what a pack of cowards they had to deal with."

"Sir," cried the younger Giles, "I swear to you that I struck right and
left.  I did all that man could do, but these rogues of serving-men,
they fled, and dragged me along with them, and I deemed you were of our
company till we dismounted."

"Did you so?  Methought anon you saw me go down with three pikes in my
breast.  Come, come, godson Giles, speech will not mend it!  Thou art
but a green, town-bred lad, a mother's darling, and mayst be a brave man
yet, only don't dread to tell the honest truth that you were afeard, as
many a better man might be."

The host chimed in with tales of the thieves and outlaws who then, and
indeed for many later generations, infested Bagshot heath, and the wild
moorland tracks around.  He seemed to think that the travellers had had
a hair's-breadth escape, and that a few seconds' more delay might have
revealed the weakness of the rescuers and have been fatal to them.

However there was no danger so near the village in the morning, and,
somewhat to Stephen's annoyance, the whole place turned out to inspect
the spot, and behold the burial of poor Spring, who was found stretched
on the heather, just as he had been left the night before.  He was
interred under the stunted oak where Master Headley had been tied.
While the grave was dug with a spade borrowed at the inn, Ambrose
undertook to cut out the dog's name on the bark, but he had hardly made
the first incision when Tibble, the singed foreman, offered to do it for
him, and made a much more sightly inscription than he could have done.
Master Headley's sword was found honourably broken under the tree, and
was reserved to form a base for his intended _ex voto_.  He uttered the
vow in due form like a funeral oration, when Stephen, with a swelling
heart, had laid the companion of his life in the little grave, which was
speedily covered in.



  "A citizen
  Of credit and renown
  A trainband captain eke was he
  Of famous London town."

In spite of his satisfaction at the honourable obsequies of his dog,
Stephen Birkenholt would fain have been independent, and thought it
provoking and strange that every one should want to direct his
movements, and assume the charge of one so well able to take care of
himself; but he could not escape as he had done before from the Warden
of Saint Elizabeth, for Ambrose had readily accepted the proposal that
they should travel in Master Headley's company, only objecting that they
were on foot; on which the good citizen hired a couple of hackneys for

Besides the two Giles Headleys, the party consisted of Tibble, the
scarred and withered foreman, two grooms, and two serving-men, all armed
with the swords and bucklers of which they had made so little use.  It
appeared in process of time that the two namesakes, besides being
godfather and godson, were cousins, and that Robert, the father of the
younger one, had, after his apprenticeship in the paternal establishment
at Salisbury, served for a couple of years in the London workshop of his
kinsman to learn the latest improvements in weapons.  This had laid the
foundation of a friendship which had lasted through life, though the
London cousin had been as prosperous as the country one had been the
reverse.  The provincial trade in arms declined with the close of the
York and Lancaster wars.  Men were not permitted to turn from one
handicraft to another, and Robert Headley had neither aptitude nor
resources.  His wife was vain and thriftless, and he finally broke down
under his difficulties, appointing by will his cousin to act as his
executor, and to take charge of his only son, who had served out half
his time as apprentice to himself.  There had been delay until the peace
with France had given the armourer some leisure for an expedition to
Salisbury, a serious undertaking for a London burgess, who had little
about him of the ancient northern weapon-smith, and had wanted to avail
himself of the protection of the suite of the Bishop of Salisbury,
returning from Parliament.  He had spent some weeks in disposing of his
cousin's stock in trade, which was far too antiquated for the London
market; also of the premises, which were bought by an adjoining convent
to extend its garden; and he had divided the proceeds between the widow
and children.  He had presided at the wedding of the last daughter, with
whom the mother was to reside, and was on his way back to London with
his godson, who had now become his apprentice.

Giles Headley the younger was a fine tall youth, but clumsy and
untrained in the use of his limbs, and he rode a large, powerful brown
horse, which brooked no companionship, lashing out with its shaggy hoofs
at any of its kind that approached it, more especially at poor, plump,
mottled Poppet.  The men said he had insisted on retaining that, and no
other, for his journey to London, contrary to all advice, and he was
obliged to ride foremost, alone in the middle of the road; while Master
Headley seemed to have an immense quantity of consultation to carry on
with his foreman, Tibble, whose quiet-looking brown animal was evidently
on the best of terms with Poppet.  By daylight Tibble looked even more
sallow, lean, and sickly, and Stephen could not help saying to the
serving-man nearest to him, "Can such a weakling verily be an armourer?"

"Yea, sir.  Wry-mouthed Tibble, as they call him, was a sturdy fellow
till he got a fall against the mouth of a furnace, and lay ten months in
Saint Bartholomew's Spital, scarce moving hand or foot.  He cannot wield
a hammer, but he has a cunning hand for gilding, and coloured devices,
and is as good as Garter-king-at-arms himself for all bearings of
knights and nobles."

"As we heard last night," said Stephen.

"Moreover in the spital he learnt to write and cast accompts like a very
scrivener, and the master trusts him more than any, except maybe Kit
Smallbones, the head smith."

"What will Smallbones think of the new prentice!" said one of the other

"Prentice!  'Tis plain enough what sort of prentice the youth is like to
be who beareth the name of a master with one only daughter."

An emphatic grunt was the only answer, while Ambrose pondered on the
good luck of some people, who had their futures cut out for them with no
trouble on their own part.

This day's ride was through more inhabited parts, and was esteemed less
perilous.  They came in sight of the Thames at Lambeth, but Master
Headley, remembering how ill his beloved Poppet had brooked the ferry,
decided to keep to the south of the river by a causeway across Lambeth
marsh, which was just passable in high and dry summers, and which
conducted them to a raised road called Bankside, where they looked
across to the towers of Westminster, and the Abbey in its beauty dawned
on the imagination of Stephen and Ambrose.  The royal standard floated
over the palace, whence Master Headley perceived that the King was
there, and augured that my Lord of York's meine would not be far to
seek.  Then came broad green fields with young corn growing, or hay
waving for the scythe, the tents and booths of May Fair, and the
beautiful Market Cross in the midst of the village of Charing, while the
Strand, immediately opposite, began to be fringed with great monasteries
within their ample gardens, with here and there a nobleman's castellated
house and terraced garden, with broad stone stairs leading to the

Barges and wherries plied up and down, the former often gaily canopied
and propelled by livened oarsmen, all plying their arms in unison, so
that the vessel looked like some brilliant many-limbed creature treading
the water.  Presently appeared the heavy walls inclosing the City
itself, dominated by the tall openwork timber spire of Saint Paul's,
with the four-square, four-turreted Tower acting, as it has been well
said, as a padlock to a chain, and the river's breadth spanned by London
bridge, a very street of houses built on the abutments.  Now, Bankside
had houses on each side of the road, and Wry-mouthed Tibble showed
evident satisfaction when they turned to cross the bridge, where they
had to ride in single file, not without some refractoriness on the part
of young Headley's steed.

On they went, now along streets where each story of the tall houses
projected over the last, so that the gables seemed ready to meet; now
beside walls of convent gardens, now past churches, while the country
lads felt bewildered with the numbers passing to and fro, and the air
was full of bells.

Cap after cap was lifted in greeting to Master Headley by burgess,
artisan, or apprentice, and many times did he draw Poppet's rein to
exchange greetings and receive congratulations on his return.  On
reaching Saint Paul's Minster, he halted and bade the servants take home
the horses, and tell the mistress, with his dutiful greetings, that he
should be at home anon, and with guests.

"We must een return thanks for our safe journey and great deliverance,"
he said to his young companions, and thrusting his arm into that of a
russet-vested citizen, who met him at the door, he walked into the
cathedral, recounting his adventure.

The youths followed with some difficulty through the stream of loiterers
in the nave, Giles the younger elbowing and pushing so that several of
the crowd turned to look at him, and it was well that his kinsman soon
astonished him by descending a stair into a crypt, with solid, short,
clustered columns, and high-pitched vaulting, fitted up as a separate
church, namely that of the parish of Saint Faith.  The great cathedral,
having absorbed the site of the original church, had given this crypt to
the parishioners.  Here all was quiet and solemn, in marked contrast to
the hubbub in "Paul's Walk," above in the nave.  Against the eastern
pillar of one of the bays was a little altar, and the decorations
included Saint Julian, the patron of travellers, with his saltire doubly
crossed, and his stag beside him.  Little ships, trees, and wonderful
enamelled representations of perils by robbers, field and flood, hung
thickly on Saint Julian's pillar, and on the wall and splay of the
window beside it; and here, after crossing himself, Master Headley
rapidly repeated a Paternoster, and ratified his vow of presenting a
bronze image of the hound to whom he owed his rescue.  One of the clergy
came up to register the vow, and the good armourer proceeded to bespeak
a mass of thanksgiving on the next morning, also ten for the soul of
Master John Birkenholt, late Verdurer of the New Forest in Hampshire--a
mode of showing his gratitude which the two sons highly appreciated.

Then, climbing up the steps again, and emerging from the cathedral by
the west door, the boys beheld a scene for which their experiences of
Romsey, and even of Winchester, had by no means prepared them.  It was
five o'clock on a summer evening, so that the whole place was full of
stir.  Old women sat with baskets of rosaries and little crosses, or
images of saints, on the steps of the cathedral, while in the open space
beyond, more than one horse was displaying his paces for the benefit; of
some undecided purchaser, who had been chaffering for hours in Paul's
Walk.  Merchants in the costume of their countries, Lombard, Spanish,
Dutch, or French, were walking away in pairs, attended by servants, from
their Exchange, likewise in the nave.  Women, some alone, some protected
by serving-men or apprentices, were returning from their orisons, or, it
might be, from their gossipings.  Priests and friars, as usual, pervaded
everything, and round the open space were galleried buildings with
stalls beneath them, whence the holders were removing their wares for
the night.  The great octagonal structure of Paul's Cross stood in the
centre, and just beneath the stone pulpit, where the sermons were wont
to be preached, stood a man with a throng round him, declaiming a ballad
at the top of his sing-song voice, and causing much loud laughter by
some ribaldry about monks and friars.

Master Headley turned aside as quickly as he could, through Paternoster
Row, which was full of stalls, where little black books, and larger
sheets printed in black, letter, seemed the staple commodities, and
thence the burgess, keeping a heedful eye on his young companions among
all his greetings, entered the broader space of Cheapside, where
numerous prentice lads seemed to be playing at different sports after
the labours of the day.

Passing under an archway surmounted by a dragon with shining scales,
Master Headley entered a paved courtyard, where the lads started at the
figures of two knights in full armour, their lances in rest, and their
horses with housings down to their hoofs, apparently about to charge any
intruder.  But at that moment there was a shriek of joy, and out from
the scarlet and azure petticoats of the nearest steed, there darted a
little girl, crying, "Father! father!" and in an instant she was lifted
in Master Headley's arms, and was clinging round his neck, while he
kissed and blessed her, and as he set her on her feet, he said, "Here,
Dennet, greet thy cousin Giles Headley, and these two brave young
gentlemen.  Greet them like a courteous maiden, or they will think thee
a little town mouse."

In truth the child had a pointed little visage, and bright brown eyes,
somewhat like a mouse, but it was a very sweet face that she lifted
obediently to be kissed not only by the kinsman, but by the two guests.
Her father meantime was answering with nods to the respectful welcomes
of the workmen, who thronged out below, and their wives looking down
from the galleries above; while Poppet and the other horses were being
rubbed down after their journey.

The ground-floor of the buildings surrounding the oblong court seemed to
be entirely occupied by forges, workshops, warehouses and stables.
Above, were open railed galleries, with outside stairs at intervals,
giving access to the habitations of the workpeople on three sides.  The
fourth, opposite to the entrance, had a much handsomer, broad, stone
stair, adorned on one side with a stone figure of the princess fleeing
from the dragon, and on the other of Saint George piercing the monster's
open mouth with his lance, the scaly convolutions of the two dragons
forming the supports of the handrail on either side.  Here stood, cap in
hand, showing his thick curly hair, and with open front, displaying a
huge hairy chest, a giant figure, whom his master greeted as Kit
Smallbones, inquiring whether all had gone well during his absence.

"'Tis time you were back, sir, for there's a great tilting-match on hand
for the Lady Mary's wedding.  Here have been half the gentlemen in the
Court after you, and my Lord of Buckingham sent twice for you since
Sunday, and once for Tibble Steelman, and his squire swore that if you
were not at his bidding before noon to-morrow, he would have his new
suit of Master Hillyer of the Eagle."

"He shall see me when it suiteth me," said Mr Headley coolly.  "He
wotteth well that Hillyer hath none who can burnish plate armour like
Tibble here."

"Moreover the last iron we had from that knave Mepham is nought.  It
works short under the hammer."

"That shall be seen to, Kit.  The rest of the budget to-morrow.  I must
on to my mother."

For at the doorway, at the head of the stairs, there stood the still
trim and active figure of an old woman, with something of the mouse
likeness seen in her grand-daughter, in the close cap, high hat, and
cloth dress, that sumptuary opinion, if not law, prescribed for the
burgher matron, a white apron, silver chain and bunch of keys at her
girdle.  Due and loving greetings passed between mother and son, after
the longest and most perilous absence of Master Headley's life, and he
then presented Giles, to whom the kindly dame offered hand and cheek,
saying, "Welcome, my young kinsman, your good father was well known and
liked here.  May you tread in his steps!"

"Thanks, good mistress," returned Giles.  "I am thought to have a pretty
taste in the fancy part of the trade.  My Lord of Montagu--"

Before he could get any farther, Mistress Headley was inquiring what was
the rumour she had heard of robbers and dangers that had beset her son,
and he was presenting the two young Birkenholts to her.  "Brave boys!
good boys," she said, holding out her hands and kissing each according
to the custom of welcome, "you have saved my son for me, and this little
one's father for her.  Kiss them, Dennet, and thank them."

"It was the poor dog," said the child, in a clear little voice, drawing
back with a certain quaint coquetting shyness; "I would rather kiss

"Would that thou couldst, little mistress," said Stephen.  "My poor
brave Spring!"

"Was he thine own?  Tell me all about him," said Dennet, somewhat

She stood between the two strangers looking eagerly in with sorrowfully
interested eyes, while Stephen, out of his full heart, told of his
faithful comradeship with his hound from the infancy of both.  Her
father meanwhile was exchanging serious converse with her grandmother,
and Giles finding himself left in the background, began: "Come hither,
pretty coz, and I will tell thee of my Lady of Salisbury's dainty little

"I care not for dainty little hounds," returned Dennet; "I want to hear
of the poor faithful dog that flew at the wicked robber."

"A mighty stir about a mere chance," muttered Giles.

"I know what _you_ did," said Dennet, turning her bright brown eyes full
upon him.  "You took to your heels."

Her look and little nod were so irresistibly comical that the two
brothers could not help laughing; whereupon Giles Headley turned upon
them in a passion.

"What mean ye by this insolence, you beggars' brats picked up on the

"Better born than thou, braggart and coward that thou art!" broke forth
Stephen, while Master Headley exclaimed, "How now, lads?  No brawling

Three voices spoke at once.

"They were insolent."

"He reviled our birth."

"Father! they did but laugh when I told cousin Giles that he took to his
heels, and he must needs call them beggars' brats picked up on the

"Ha! ha! wench, thou art woman enough already to set them together by
the ears," said her father, laughing.  "See here, Giles Headley, none
who bears my name shall insult a stranger on my hearth."

Stephen however had stepped forth holding out his small stock of coin,
and saying, "Sir, receive for our charges, and let us go to the tavern
we passed anon."

"How now, boy!  Said I not ye were my guests?"

"Yea, sir, and thanks; but we can give no cause for being called beggars
nor beggars' brats."

"What beggary is there in being guests, my young gentlemen?" said the
master of the house.  "If any one were picked up on the heath, it was I.
We owned you for gentlemen of blood and coat armour, and thy brother
there can tell thee that ye have no right to put an affront on me, your
host, because a rude prentice from a country town hath not learnt to
rule his tongue."

Giles scowled, but the armourer spoke with an authority that imposed on
all, and Stephen submitted, while Ambrose spoke a few words of thanks,
after which the two brothers were conducted by an external stair and
gallery to a guest-chamber, in which to prepare for supper.

The room was small, but luxuriously filled beyond all ideas of the young
foresters, for it was hung with tapestry, representing the history of
Joseph; the bed was curtained, there was a carved chest for clothes, a
table and a ewer and basin of bright brass with the armourer's mark upon
it, a twist in which the letter H and the dragon's tongue and tail were
ingeniously blended.  The City was far in advance of the country in all
the arts of life, and only the more magnificent castles and abbeys,
which the boys had never seen, possessed the amount of comforts to be
found in the dwellings of the superior class of Londoners.  Stephen was
inclined to look with contempt upon the effeminacy of a churl merchant.

"No churl," returned Ambrose, "if manners makyth man, as we saw at

"Then what do they make of that cowardly clown, his cousin?"

Ambrose laughed, but said, "Prove we our gentle blood at least by not
brawling with the fellow.  Master Headley will soon teach him to know
his place."

"That will matter nought to us.  To-morrow shall we be with our uncle
Hal.  I only wish his lord was not of the ghostly sort, but perhaps he
may prefer me to some great knight's service.  But oh!  Ambrose, come
and look.  See!  The fellow they call Smallbones is come out to the
fountain in the middle of the court with a bucket in each hand.  Look!
Didst ever see such a giant?  He is as big and brawny as Ascapart at the
bar-gate at Southampton.  See! he lifts that big pail full and brimming
as though it were an egg shell.  See his arm!  'Twere good to see him
wield a hammer!  I must look into his smithy before going forth to-

Stephen clenched his fist and examined his muscles ere donning his best
mourning jerkin, and could scarce be persuaded to complete his toilet,
so much was he entertained with the comings and goings in the court, a
little world in itself, like a college quadrangle.  The day's work was
over, the forges out, and the smiths were lounging about at ease, one or
two sitting on a bench under a large elm-tree beside the central well,
enjoying each his tankard of ale.  A few more were watching Poppet being
combed down, and conversing with the newly-arrived grooms.  One was
carrying a little child in his arms, and a young man and maid sitting on
the low wall round the well, seemed to be carrying on a courtship over
the pitcher that stood waiting to be filled.  Two lads were playing at
skittles, children were running up and down the stairs and along the
wooden galleries, and men and women went and came by the entrance
gateway between the two effigies of knights in armour.  Some were
servants bringing helm or gauntlet for repair, or taking the like away.
Some might be known by their flat caps to be apprentices, and two
substantial burgesses walked in together, as if to greet Master Headley
on his return.  Immediately after, a man-cook appeared with white cap
and apron, bearing aloft a covered dish surrounded by a steamy cloud,
followed by other servants bearing other meats; a big bell began to
sound, the younger men and apprentices gathered together and the
brothers descended the stairs, and entered by the big door into the same
large hall where they had been received.  The spacious hearth was full
of green boughs, with a beaupot of wild rose, honeysuckle, clove pinks
and gilliflowers; the lower parts of the walls were hung with tapestry
representing the adventures of Saint George; the mullioned windows had
their upper squares filled with glass, bearing the shield of the City of
London, that of the Armourers' Company, the rose and portcullis of the
King, the pomegranate of Queen Catharine, and other like devices.
Others, belonging to the Lancastrian kings, adorned the pendants from
the handsome open roof and the front of a gallery for musicians which
crossed one end of the hall in the taste of the times of Henry the Fifth
and Whittington.

Far more interesting to the hungry travellers was it that the long
table, running the whole breadth of the apartment, was decked with snowy
linen, trenchers stood ready with horns or tankards beside them, and
loaves of bread at intervals, while the dishes were being placed on the
table.  The master and his entire establishment took their meals
together, except the married men, who lived in the quadrangle with their
families.  There was no division by the salt-cellar, as at the tables of
the nobles and gentry, but the master, his family and guests, occupied
the centre, with the hearth behind them, where the choicest of the
viands were placed; next after them were the places of the journeymen
according to seniority, then those of the apprentices, household
servants, and stable-men, but the apprentices had to assist the serving-
men in waiting on the master and his party before sitting down
themselves.  There was a dignity and regularity about the whole, which
could not fail to impress Stephen and Ambrose with the weight and
importance of a London burgher, warden of the Armourers' Company, and
alderman of the Ward of Cheap.  There were carved chairs for himself,
his mother, and the guests, also a small Persian carpet extending from
the hearth beyond their seats.  This article filled the two foresters
with amazement.  To put one's feet on what ought to be a coverlet!  They
would not have stepped on it, had they not been kindly summoned by old
Mistress Headley to take their places among the company, which
consisted, besides the family, of the two citizens who had entered, and
of a priest who had likewise dropped in to welcome Master Headley's
return, and had been invited to stay to supper.  Young Giles, as a
matter of course, placed himself amongst them, at which there were black
looks and whispers among the apprentices, and even Mistress Headley wore
an air of amazement.

"Mother," said the head of the family, speaking loud enough for all to
hear, "you will permit our young kinsman to be placed as our guest this
evening.  To-morrow he will act as an apprentice, as we all have done in
our time."

"I never did so at home!" cried Giles, in his loud, hasty voice.

"I trow not," dryly observed one of the guests.

Giles, however, went on muttering while the priest was pronouncing a
Latin grace, and thereupon the same burgess observed, "never did I see
it better proved that folk in the country give their sons no good

"Have patience with him, good Master Pepper," returned Mr Headley.  "He
hath been an only son, greatly cockered by father, mother, and sisters,
but ere long he will learn what is befitting."

Giles glared round, but he met nothing encouraging.  Little Dennet sat
with open mouth of astonishment, her grandmother looked shocked, the
household which had been aggrieved by his presumption laughed at his
rebuke, for there was not much delicacy in those days; but something
generous in the gentle blood of Ambrose moved him to some amount of pity
for the lad, who thus suddenly became conscious that the tie he had
thought nominal at Salisbury, a mere preliminary to municipal rank, was
here absolute subjection, and a bondage whence there was no escape.  His
was the only face that Giles met which had any friendliness in it, but
no one spoke, for manners imposed silence upon youth at table, except
when spoken to; and there was general hunger enough prevailing to make
Mistress Headley's fat capon the most interesting contemplation for the

The elders conversed, for there was much for Master Headley to hear of
civic affairs that had passed in his absence of two months, also of all
the comings and goings, and it was ascertained that my Lord Archbishop
of York was at his suburban abode, York House, now Whitehall.

It was a very late supper for the times, not beginning till seven
o'clock, on account of the travellers; and as soon as it was finished,
and the priest and burghers had taken their leave, Master Headley
dismissed the household to their beds, although daylight was scarcely



  "The rod of Heaven has touched them all,
  The word from Heaven is spoken
  Rise, shine and sing, thou captive thrall,
  Are not thy fetters broken!"

On Sunday morning, when the young Birkenholts awoke, the whole air
seemed full of bells from hundreds of Church and Minster steeples.  The
Dragon Court wore a holiday air, and there was no ring of hammers at the
forges; but the men who stood about were in holiday attire: and the
brothers assumed their best clothes.

Breakfast was not a meal much accounted of.  It was reckoned effeminate
to require more than two meals a day, though, just as in the verdurer's
lodge at home, there was a barrel of ale on tap with drinking horns
beside it in the hall, and on a small round table in the window a loaf
of bread, to which city luxury added a cheese, and a jug containing
sack, with some silver cups beside it, and a pitcher of fair water.
Master Headley, with his mother and daughter, was taking a morsel of
these refections, standing, and in out-door garments, when the brothers
appeared at about seven o'clock in the morning.

"Ha! that's well," quoth he, greeting them.  "No slugabeds, I see.  Will
ye come with us to hear mass at Saint Faith's?"  They agreed, and Master
Headley then told them that if they would tarry till the next day in
searching out their uncle, they could have the company of Tibble
Steelman, who had to see one of the captains of the guard about an
alteration of his corslet, and thus would have every opportunity of
facilitating their inquiries for their uncle.

The mass was an ornate one, though not more so than they were accustomed
to at Beaulieu.  Ambrose had his book of devotions, supplied by the good
monks who had brought him up, and old Mrs Headley carried something of
the same kind; but these did not necessarily follow the ritual, and
neither quiet nor attention was regarded as requisite in "hearing mass."
Dennet, unchecked, was exchanging flowers from her Sunday posy with
another little girl, and with hooded fingers carrying on in all
innocence the satirical pantomime of Father Francis and Sister
Catharine; and even Master Headley himself exchanged remarks with his
friends, and returned greetings from burgesses and their wives while the
celebrant priest's voice droned on, and the choir responded--the peals
of the organ in the Minster above coming in at inappropriate moments,
for there they were in a different part of High Mass using the Liturgy
peculiar to Saint Paul's.

Thinking of last week at Beaulieu, Ambrose knelt meantime with his head
buried in his hands, in an absorption of feeling that was not perhaps
wholly devout, but which at any rate looked more like devotion than the
demeanour of any one around.  When the _Ite missa est_ was pronounced,
and all rose up, Stephen touched him and he rose, looking about,

"So please you, young sir, I can show you another sort of thing by and
by," said in his ear Tibble Steelman, who had come in late, and marked
his attitude.

They went up from Saint Faith's in a flood of talk, with all manner of
people welcoming Master Headley after his journey, and thence came back
to dinner which was set out in the hall very soon after their return
from church.  Quite guests enough were there on this occasion to fill
all the chairs, and Master Headley intimated to Giles that he must begin
his duties at table as an apprentice, under the tuition of the senior, a
tall young fellow of nineteen, by name Edmund Burgess.  He looked
greatly injured and discomfited, above all when he saw his two
travelling companions seated at the table--though far lower than the
night before; nor would he stir from where he was standing against the
wall to do the slightest service, although Edmund admonished him sharply
that unless he bestirred himself it would be the worse for him.

When the meal was over, and grace had been said, the boards were removed
from their trestles, and the elders drew round the small table in the
window with a flagon of sack and a plate of wastel bread in their midst
to continue their discussion of weighty Town Council matters.  Every one
was free to make holiday, and Edmund Burgess good-naturedly invited the
strangers to come to Mile End, where there was to be shooting at the
butts, and a match at single-stick was to come off between Kit
Smallbones and another giant, who was regarded as the champion of the
brewer's craft.

Stephen was nothing loth, especially if he might take his own crossbow;
but Ambrose never had much turn for these pastimes and was in no mood
for them.  The familiar associations of the mass had brought the grief
of orphanhood, homelessness, and uncertainty upon him with the more
force.  His spirit yearned after his father, and his heart was sick for
his forest home.  Moreover, there was the duty incumbent on a good son
of saying his prayers for the repose of his hither's soul.  He hinted as
much to Stephen, who, boy-like, answered, "Oh, we'll see to that when we
get into my Lord of York's house.  Masses must be plenty there.  And I
must see Smallbones floor the brewer."

Ambrose could trust his brother under the care of Edmund Burgess, and
resolved on a double amount of repetitions of the appointed
intercessions for the departed.

He was watching the party of youths set off, all except Giles Headley,
who sulkily refused the invitations, betook himself to a window and sat
drumming on the glass, while Ambrose stood leaning on the dragon
balustrade, with his eyes dreamily following the merry lads out at the

"You are not for such gear, sir," said a voice at his ear, and he saw
the scathed face of Tibble Steelman beside him.

"Never greatly so, Tibble," answered Ambrose.  "And _my_ heart is too
heavy for it now."

"Ay, ay, sir.  So I thought when I saw you in Saint Faith's.  I have
known what it was to lose a good father in my time."

Ambrose held out his hand.  It was the first really sympathetic word he
had heard since he had left Nurse Joan.

"'Tis the week's mind of his burial," he said, half choked with tears.
"Where shall I find a quiet church where I may say his _de profundis_ in

"Mayhap," returned Tibble, "the chapel in the Pardon churchyard would
serve your turn.  'Tis not greatly resorted to when mass time is over,
when there's no funeral in hand, and I oft go there to read my book in
quiet on a Sunday afternoon.  And then, if 'tis your will, I will take
you to what to my mind is the best healing for a sore heart."

"Nurse Joan was wont to say the best for that was a sight of the true
Cross, as she once beheld it at Holy Rood church at Southampton," said

"And so it is, lad, so it is," said Tibble, with a strange light on his
distorted features.

So they went forth together, while Giles again hugged himself in his
doleful conceit, marvelling how a youth of birth and nurture could walk
the streets on a Sunday with a scarecrow such as that!

The hour was still early, there was a whole summer afternoon before
them; and Tibble, seeing how much his young companion was struck with
the grand vista of church towers and spires, gave him their names as
they stood, though coupling them with short dry comments on the way in
which their priests too often perverted them.

The Cheap was then still in great part an open space, where boys were
playing, and a tumbler was attracting many spectators; while the ballad-
singer of yesterday had again a large audience, who laughed loudly at
every coarse jest broken upon mass-priests and friars.

Ambrose was horrified at the stave that met his ears, and asked how such
profanity could be allowed.  Tibble shrugged his shoulders, and cited
the old saying, "The nearer the church,"--adding, "Truth hath a voice,
and will out."

"But surely this is not the truth?"

"'Tis mighty like it, sir, though it might be spoken in a more seemly

"What's this?" demanded Ambrose.  "'Tis a noble house."

"That's the Bishop's palace, sir--a man that hath much to answer for."

"Liveth he so ill a life then?"

"Not so.  He is no scandalous liver, but he would fain stifle all the
voices that call for better things.  Ay, you look back at yon ballad-
monger!  Great folk despise the like of him, never guessing at the power
there may be in such ribald stuff; while they would fain silence that
which might turn men from their evil ways while yet there is time."

Tibble muttered this to himself, unheeded by Ambrose, and then presently
crossing the churchyard, where a grave was being filled up, with
numerous idle children around it, he conducted the youth into a curious
little chapel, empty now, but with the Host enthroned above the altar,
and the trestles on which the bier had rested still standing in the
narrow nave.

It was intensely still and cool, a fit place indeed for Ambrose's filial
devotions, while Tibble settled himself on the step, took out a little
black book, and became absorbed.  Ambrose's Latin scholarship enabled
him to comprehend the language of the round of devotions he was
rehearsing for the benefit of his father's soul; but there was much
repetition in them, and he had been so trained as to believe their
correct recital was much more important than attention to their spirit,
and thus, while his hands held his rosary, his eyes were fixed upon the
walls where was depicted the Dance of Death.  In terrible repetition,
the artist had aimed at depicting every rank or class in life as alike
the prey of the grisly phantom.  Triple-crowned pope, scarlet-hatted
cardinal, mitred prelate, priests, monks, and friars of every degree;
emperors, kings, princes, nobles, knights, squires, yeomen, every sort
of trade, soldiers of all kinds, beggars, even thieves and murderers,
and, in like manner, ladies of every degree, from the queen and the
abbess, down to the starving beggar, were each represented as grappled
with, and carried off by the crowned skeleton.  There was no truckling
to greatness.  The bishop and abbot writhed and struggled in the grasp
of Death, while the miser clutched at his gold, and if there were some
nuns, and some poor ploughmen who willingly clasped his bony fingers and
obeyed his summons joyfully, there were countesses and prioresses who
tried to beat him off, or implored him to wait.  The infant smiled in
his arms, but the middle-aged fought against his scythe.

The contemplation had a most depressing effect on the boy, whose heart
was still sore for his father.  After the sudden shock of such a loss,
the monotonous repetition of the snatching away of all alike, in the
midst of their characteristic worldly employments, and the anguish and
hopeless resistance of most of them, struck him to the heart.  He moved
between each bead to a fresh group; staring at it with fixed gaze, while
his lips moved in the unconscious hope of something consoling; till at
last, hearing some uncontrollable sobs, Tibble Steelman rose and found
him crouching rather than kneeling before the figure of an emaciated
hermit, who was greeting the summons of the King of Terrors, with
crucifix pressed to his breast, rapt countenance and outstretched arms,
seeing only the Angel who hovered above.  After some minutes of bitter
weeping, which choked his utterance, Ambrose, feeling a friendly hand on
his shoulder, exclaimed in a voice broken by sobs, "Oh, tell me, where
may I go to become an anchorite!  There's no other safety!  I'll give
all my portion, and spend all my time in prayer for my father and the
other poor souls in purgatory."

Two centuries earlier, nay, even one, Ambrose would have been encouraged
to follow out his purpose.  As it was, Tibble gave a little dry cough
and said, "Come along with me, sir, and I'll show you another sort of

"I want no entertainment!" said Ambrose, "I should feel only as if he,"
pointing to the phantom, "were at hand, clutching me with his deadly
claw," and he looked over his shoulder with a shudder.

There was a box by the door to receive alms for masses on behalf of the
souls in purgatory, and here he halted and felt for the pouch at his
girdle, to pour in all the contents; but Steelman said, "Hold, sir, are
you free to dispose of your brother's share, you who are purse-bearer
for both?"

"I would fain hold my brother to the only path of safety."

Again Tibble gave his dry cough, but added, "He is not in the path of
safety who bestows that which is not his own but is held in trust.  I
were foully to blame if I let this grim portrayal so work on you as to
lead you to beggar not only yourself, but your brother, with no consent
of his."

For Tibble was no impulsive Italian, but a sober-minded Englishman of
sturdy good sense, and Ambrose was reasonable enough to listen and only
drop in a few groats which he knew to be his own.

At the same moment, a church bell was heard, the tone of which Steelman
evidently distinguished from all the others, and he led the way out of
the Pardon churchyard, over the space in front of Saint Paul's.  Many
persons were taking the same route; citizens in gowns and gold or silver
chains, their wives in tall pointed hats; craftsmen, black-gowned
scholarly men with fur caps, but there was a much more scanty proportion
of priests, monks or friars, than was usual in any popular assemblage.
Many of the better class of women carried folding stools, or had them
carried by their servants, as if they expected to sit and wait.

"Is there a procession toward? or a relic to be displayed?" asked
Ambrose, trying to recollect whose feast-day it might be.

Tibble screwed up his mouth in an extraordinary smile as he said, "Relic
quotha? yea, the soothest relic there be of the Lord and Master of us

"Methought the true Cross was always displayed on the High Altar," said
Ambrose, as all turned to a side aisle of the noble nave.

"Rather say hidden," muttered Tibble.  "Thou shalt have it displayed,
young sir, but neither in wood nor gilded shrine.  See, here he comes
who setteth it forth."

From the choir came, attended by half a dozen clergy, a small, pale man,
in the ordinary dress of a priest, with a square cap on his head.  He
looked spare, sickly, and wrinkled, but the furrows traced lines of
sweetness, his mouth was wonderfully gentle, and there was a keen
brightness about his clear grey eye.  Every one rose and made obeisance
as he passed along to the stone stair leading to a pulpit projecting
from one of the columns.

Ambrose saw what was coming, though he had only twice before heard
preaching.  The children of the ante-reformation were not called upon to
hear sermons; and the few exhortations given in Lent to the monks of
Beaulieu were so exclusively for the religious that seculars were not
invited to them.  So that Ambrose had only once heard a weary and heavy
discourse there plentifully garnished with Latin; and once he had stood
among the throng at a wake at Millbrook, and heard a begging friar
recommend the purchase of briefs of indulgence and the daily repetition
of the Ave Maria by a series of extraordinary miracles for the rescue of
desperate sinners, related so jocosely as to keep the crowd in a roar of
laughter.  He had laughed with the rest, but he could not imagine his
guide, with the stern, grave eyebrows, writhen features and earnest,
ironical tone, covering--as even he could detect--the deepest feeling,
enjoying such broad sallies as tickled the slow merriment of village
clowns and forest deer-stealers.

All stood for a moment while the Paternoster was repeated.  Then the
owners of stools sat down on them, some leant on adjacent pillars,
others curled themselves on the floor, but most remained on their feet
as unwilling to miss a word, and of these were Tibble Steelman and his

_Omnis qui facit peccattum, servus est peccati_, followed by the
rendering in English, "Whosoever doeth sin is sin's bond thrall."  The
words answered well to the ghastly delineations that seemed stamped on
Ambrose's brain and which followed him about into the nave, so that he
felt himself in the grasp of the cruel fiend, and almost expected to
feel the skeleton claw of Death about to hand him over to torment.  He
expected the consolation of hearing that a daily "Hail Mary," persevered
in through the foulest life, would obtain that beams should be arrested
in their fall, ships fail to sink, cords to hang, till such confession
had been made as should insure ultimate salvation, after such a
proportion of the flames of purgatory as masses and prayers might not

But his attention was soon caught.  Sinfulness stood before him not as
the liability to penalty for transgressing an arbitrary rule, but as a
taint to the entire being, mastering the will, perverting the senses,
forging fetters out of habit, so as to be a loathsome horror paralysing
and enchaining the whole being and making it into the likeness of him
who brought sin and death into the world.  The horror seemed to grow on
Ambrose, as his boyish faults and errors rushed on his mind, and he felt
pervaded by the contagion of the pestilence, abhorrent even to himself.
But behold, what was he hearing now?  "The bond thrall abideth not in
the house for ever, but the Son abideth ever.  _Si ergo Filius
liberavit, vere liberi eritis_."  "If the Son should make you free, then
are ye free indeed."  And for the first time was the true liberty of the
redeemed soul comprehensibly proclaimed to the young spirit that had
begun to yearn for something beyond the outside.  Light began to shine
through the outward ordinances; the Church; the world, life, and death,
were revealed as something absolutely new; a redeeming, cleansing,
sanctifying power was made known, and seemed to inspire him with a new
life, joy, and hope.  He was no longer feeling himself necessarily
crushed by the fetters of death, or only delivered from absolute peril
by a mechanism that had lost its heart, but he could enter into the
glorious liberty of the sons of God, in process of being saved, not _in_
sin but _from_ sin.

It was an era in his life, and Tibble heard him sobbing, but with very
different sobs from those in the Pardon chapel.  When it was over, and
the blessing given, Ambrose looked up from the hands which had covered
his face with a new radiance in his eyes, and drew a long breath.
Tibble saw that he was like one in another world, and gently led him

"Who is he?  What is he?  Is he an angel from Heaven?" demanded the boy,
a little wildly, as they neared the southern door.

"If an angel be a messenger of God, I trow he is one," said Tibble.
"But men call him Dr Colet.  He is Dean of Saint Paul's Minster, and
dwelleth in the house you see below there."

"And are such words as these to be heard every Sunday?"

"On most Sundays doth he preach here in the nave to all sorts of folk."

"I must--I must hear it again!" exclaimed Ambrose.

"Ay, ay," said Tibble, regarding him with a well-pleased face.  "You are
one with whom it works."

"Every Sunday!" repeated Ambrose.  "Why do not all--your master and all
these," pointing to the holiday crowds going to and fro--"why do they
not all come to listen?"

"Master doth come by times," said Tibble, in the tone of irony that was
hard to understand.  "He owneth the dean as a rare preacher."

Ambrose did not try to understand.  He exclaimed again, panting as if
his thoughts were too strong for his words--

"Lo you, that preacher-dean call ye him?--putteth a soul into what hath
hitherto been to me but a dead and empty framework."

Tibble held out his hand almost unconsciously, and Ambrose pressed it.
Man and boy, alike they had felt the electric current of that truth,
which, suppressed and ignored among man's inventions, was coming as a
new revelation to many, and was already beginning to convulse the Church
and the world.

Ambrose's mind was made up on one point.  Whatever he did, and wherever
he went, he felt the doctrine he had just heard as needful to him as
vital air, and he must be within reach of it.  This, and not the
hermit's cell, was what his instinct craved.  He had always been a
studious, scholarly boy, supposed to be marked out for a clerical life,
because a book was more to him than a bow, and he had been easily
trained in good habits and practices of devotion; but all in a childish
manner, without going beyond simple receptiveness, until the experiences
of the last week had made a man of him, or more truly, the Pardon chapel
and Dean Colet's sermon had made him a new being, with the realities of
the inner life opened before him.

His present feeling was relief from the hideous load he had felt while
dwelling on the Dance of Death, and therewith general goodwill to all
men, which found its first issue in compassion for Giles Headley, whom
he found on his return seated on the steps--moody and miserable.

"Would that you had been with us," said Ambrose, sitting down beside him
on the step.  "Never have I heard such words as to-day."

"I would not be seen in the street with that scarecrow," murmured Giles.
"If my mother could have guessed that he was to be set over me, I had
never come here."

"Surely you knew that he was foreman."

"Yea, but not that I should be under him--I whom old Giles vowed should
be as his own son--I that am to wed yon little brown moppet, and be
master here!  So, forsooth," he said, "now he treats me like any common
low-bred prentice."

"Nay," said Ambrose, "an if you were his son, he would still make you
serve.  It's the way with all craftsmen--yea and with gentlemen's sons
also.  They must be pages and squires ere they can be knights."

"It never was the way at home.  I was only bound prentice to my father
for the name of the thing, that I might have the freedom of the city,
and become head of our house."

"But how could you be a wise master without learning the craft?"

"What are journeymen for?" demanded the lad.  "Had I known how Giles
Headley meant to serve me, he might have gone whistle for a husband for
his wench.  I would have ridden in my Lady of Salisbury's train."

"You might have had rougher usage there than here," said Ambrose.
"Master Headley lays nothing on you but what he has himself proved.  I
would I could see you make the best of so happy a home."

"Ay, that's all very well for you, who are certain of a great man's

"Would that I were certified that my brother would be as well off as
you, if you did but know it," said Ambrose.  "Ha! here come the dishes!
'Tis supper-time come on us unawares, and Stephen not returned from Mile

Punctuality was not, however, exacted on these summer Sunday evenings,
when practice with the bow and other athletic sports were enjoined by
Government, and, moreover, the youths were with so trustworthy a member
of the household as Kit Smallbones.

Sundry City magnates had come to supper with Master Headley, and whether
it were the effect of Ambrose's counsel, or of the example of a handsome
lad who had come with his father, one of the worshipful guild of
Merchant Taylors, Giles did vouchsafe to bestir himself in waiting, and
in consideration of the effort it must have cost him, old Mrs Headley
and her son did not take notice of his blunders, but only Dennet fell
into a violent fit of laughter, when he presented the stately alderman
with a nutmeg under the impression that it was an overgrown peppercorn.
She suppressed her mirth as well as she could, poor little thing, for it
was a great offence in good manners, but she was detected, and, only
child as she was, the consequence was the being banished from the table
and sent to bed.

But when, after supper was over, Ambrose went out to see if there were
any signs of the return of Stephen and the rest, he found the little
maiden curled up in the gallery with her kitten in her arms.

"Nay!" she said, in a spoilt-child tone, "I'm not going to bed before my
time for laughing at that great oaf!  Nurse Alice says he is to wed me,
but I won't have him!  I like the pretty boy who had the good dog and
saved father, and I like you, Master Ambrose.  Sit down by me and tell
me the story over again, and we shall see Kit Smallbones come home.  I
know he'll have beaten the brewer's fellow."

Before Ambrose had decided whether thus far to abet rebellion, she
jumped up and cried: "Oh, I see Kit!  He's got my ribbon!  He has won
the match!"

And down she rushed, quite oblivious of her disgrace, and Ambrose
presently saw her uplifted in Kit Smallbones' brawny arms to utter her

Stephen was equally excited.  His head was full of Kit Smallbones'
exploits, and of the marvels of the sports he had witnessed and joined
in with fair success.  He had thought Londoners poor effeminate
creatures, but he found that these youths preparing for the trained
bands understood all sorts of martial exercises far better than any of
his forest acquaintance, save perhaps the hitting of a mark.  He was
half wild with a boy's enthusiasm for Kit Smallbones and Edmund Burgess,
and when, after eating the supper that had been reserved for the late
comers, he and his brother repaired to their own chamber, his tongue ran
on in description of the feats he had witnessed and his hopes of
emulating them, since he understood that Archbishop as was my Lord of
York, there was a tilt-yard at York House.  Ambrose, equally full of his
new feelings, essayed to make his brother a sharer in them, but Stephen
entirely failed to understand more than that his book-worm brother had
heard something that delighted him in his own line of scholarship, from
which Stephen had happily escaped a year ago!



  "Then hath he servants five or six score,
  Some behind and some before
  A marvellous great company
  Of which are lords and gentlemen,
  With many grooms and yeomen
  And also knaves among them."
  _Contemporary Poem on Wolsey_.

Early were hammers ringing on anvils in the Dragon Court, and all was
activity.  Master Headley was giving his orders to Kit Smallbones before
setting forth to take the Duke of Buckingham's commands; Giles Headley,
very much disgusted, was being invested with a leathern apron, and
entrusted to Edmund Burgess to learn those primary arts of furbishing
which, but for his mother's vanity and his father's weakness, he would
have practised four years sooner.  Tibble Steelman was superintending
the arrangement of half a dozen corslets, which were to be carried by
three stout porters, under his guidance, to what is now Whitehall, then
the residence of the Archbishop of York, the king's prime adviser,
Thomas Wolsey.

"Look you, Tib," said the kind-hearted armourer, "if those lads find not
their kinsman, or find him not what they look for, bring them back
hither, I cannot have them cast adrift.  They are good and brave youths,
and I owe a life to them."

Tibble nodded entire assent, but when the boys appeared in their
mourning suits, with their bundles on their backs, they were sent back
again to put on their forest green, Master Headley explaining that it
was reckoned ill-omened, if not insulting, to appear before any great
personage in black, unless to enhance some petition directly addressed
to himself.  He also bade them leave their fardels behind, as, if they
tarried at York House, these could be easily sent after them.

They obeyed--even Stephen doing so with more alacrity than he had
hitherto shown to Master Headley's behests; for now that the time for
departure had come, he was really sorry to leave the armourer's
household.  Edmund Burgess had been very good-natured to the raw country
lad, and Kit Smallbones was, in his eyes, an Ascapart in strength, and a
Bevis in prowess and kindliness.  Mistress Headley too had been kind to
the orphan lads, and these two days had given a feeling of being at home
at the Dragon.  When Giles wished them a moody farewell, and wished he
were going with them, Stephen returned, "Ah! you don't know when you are
well off."

Little Dennet came running down after them with two pinks in her hands.
"Here's a sop-in-wine for a token for each of you young gentlemen," she
cried, "for you came to help father, and I would you were going to stay
and wed me instead of Giles."

"What, both of us, little maid?" said Ambrose, laughing, as he stooped
to receive the kiss her rosy lips tendered to him.

"Not but what she would have royal example," muttered Tibble aside.

Dennet put her head on one side, as considering.  "Nay, not both; but
you are gentle and courteous, and he is brave and gallant--and Giles
there is moody and glum, and can do nought."

"Ah! you will see what a gallant fellow Giles can be when thou hast
cured him of his home-sickness by being good to him," said Ambrose,
sorry for the youth in the universal laughter at the child's plain

And thus the lads left the Dragon, amid friendly farewells.  Ambrose
looked up at the tall spire of Saint Paul's with a strong determination
that he would never put himself out of reach of such words as he had
there drunk in, and which were indeed spirit and life to him.

Tibble took them down to the Saint Paul's stairs on the river, where at
his whistle a wherry was instantly brought to transport them to York
stairs, only one of the smiths going any further in charge of the
corslets.  Very lovely was their voyage in the brilliant summer morning,
as the glittering water reflected in broken ripples church spire,
convent garden, and stately house.  Here rows of elm-trees made a cool
walk by the river side, there strawberry beds sloped down the Strand,
and now and then the hooded figures of nuns might be seen gathering the
fruit.  There, rose the round church of the Temple, and the beautiful
gardens surrounding the buildings, half monastic, half military, and
already inhabited by lawyers.  From a barge at the Temple stairs a legal
personage descended, with a square beard, and open, benevolent, shrewd
face, before whom Tibble removed his cap with eagerness, saying to
Ambrose, "Yonder is Master More, a close friend of the dean's, a good
and wise man, and forward in every good work."

Thus did they arrive at York House.  Workmen were busy on some portions
of it, but it was inhabited by the great Archbishop, the king's chief
adviser.  The approach of the boat seemed to be instantly notified, as
it drew near the stone steps giving entrance to the gardens, with an
avenue of trees leading up to the principal entrance.

Four or five yeomen ran down the steps, calling out to Tibble that their
corslets had tarried a long time, and that Sir Thomas Drury had been
storming for him to get his tilting armour into order.

Tibble followed the man who had undertaken to conduct him through a path
that led to the offices of the great house, bidding the boys keep with
him, and asking for their uncle Master Harry Randall.

The yeoman shook his head.  He knew no such person in the household, and
did not think there ever had been such.  Sir Thomas Drury was found in
the stable court, trying the paces of the horse he intended to use in
the approaching joust.  "Ha! old Wrymouth," he cried, "welcome at last!
I must have my new device damasked on my shield.  Come hither, and I'll
show it thee."

Private rooms were seldom enjoyed, even by knights and gentlemen, in
such a household, and Sir Thomas could only conduct Tibble to the
armoury, where numerous suits of armour hung on blocks, presenting the
semblance of armed men.  The knight a good-looking personage, expatiated
much on the device he wished to dedicate to his lady-love, a pierced
heart with a forget-me-not in the midst and it was not until the
directions were finished that Tibble ventured to mention the inquiry for

"I wot of no such fellow," returned Sir Thomas, "you had best go to the
comptroller, who keeps all the names."

Tibble had to go to this functionary at any rate, to obtain an order for
payment for the corslets he had brought home.  Ambrose and Stephen
followed him across an enormous hall, where three long tables were being
laid for dinner.

The comptroller of the household, an esquire of good birth, with a stiff
little ruff round his neck, sat in a sort of office inclosed by panels
at the end of the hall.  He made an entry of Tibble's account in a big
book, and sent a message to the cofferer to bring the amount.  Then
Tibble again put his question on behalf of the two young foresters, and
the comptroller shook his head.  He did not know the name.  "Was the
gentleman," (he chose that word as he looked at the boys), "layman or

"Layman, certainly," said Ambrose, somewhat dismayed to find how little,
on interrogation, he really knew.

"Was he a yeoman of the guard, or in attendance on one of my lord's
nobles in waiting?"

"We thought he had been a yeoman," said Ambrose.

"See," said the comptroller, stimulated by a fee administered by Tibble,
"'tis just dinner-time, and I must go to attend on my Lord Archbishop;
but do you, Tibble, sit down with these striplings to dinner, and then I
will cast my eye over the books, and see if I can find any such name.
What, hast not time?  None ever quits my lord's without breaking his

Tibble had no doubt that his master would be willing that he should give
up his time for this purpose, so he accepted the invitation.  The tables
were by this time nearly covered, but all stood waiting, for there
flowed in from the great doorway of the hall a gorgeous train--first, a
man bearing the double archiepiscopal cross of York, fashioned in
silver, and thick with gems--then, with lofty mitre enriched with pearls
and jewels, and with flowing violet lace-covered robes came the sturdy
square-faced ruddy prelate, who was then the chief influence in England,
and after him two glittering ranks of priests in square caps and richly
embroidered copes, all in accordant colours.  They were returning, as a
yeoman told Tibble, from some great ecclesiastical ceremony, and dinner
would be served instantly.

"That for which Ralf Bowyer lives!" said a voice close by.  "He would
fain that the dial's hands were Marie bones, the face blancmange,
wherein the figures should be grapes of Corinth!"

Stephen looked round and saw a man close beside him in what he knew at
once to be the garb of a jester.  A tall scarlet velvet cap, with three
peaks, bound with gold braid, and each surmounted with a little gilded
bell, crowned his head, a small crimson ridge to indicate the cock's
comb running along the front.  His jerkin and hose were of motley, the
left arm and right leg being blue, their opposites, orange tawny, while
the nether socks and shoes were in like manner black and scarlet
counterchanged.  And yet, somehow, whether from the way of wearing it,
or from the effect of the gold embroidery meandering over all, the
effect was not distressing, but more like that of a gorgeous bird.  The
figure was tall, lithe, and active, the brown ruddy face had none of the
blank stare of vacant idiocy, but was full of twinkling merriment, the
black eyes laughed gaily, and perhaps only so clear-sighted and shrewd
an observer as Tibble would have detected a weakness of purpose about
the mouth.

There was a roar of laughter at the gibe, as indeed there was at
whatever was uttered by the man whose profession was to make mirth.

"Thou likest thy food well enough thyself, quipsome one," muttered Ralf.

"Hast found one who doth not, Ralf?  Then should he have a free gift of
my bauble," responded the jester, shaking on high that badge, surmounted
with the golden head of an ass, and jingling with bells.  "How now,
friend Wrymouth?  'Tis long since thou wert here!  This house hath well-
nigh been forced to its ghostly weapons for lack of thy substantial
ones.  Where hast thou been?"

"At Salisbury, good Merryman."

"Have the Wilts men raked the moon yet out of the pond?  Did they lend
thee their rake, Tib, that thou hast raked up a couple of green Forest
palmerworms, or be they the sons of the man in the moon, raked out and
all astray?"

"Mayhap, for we met them with dog and bush," said Tibble, "and they
dropped as from the moon to save my poor master from the robbers on
Bagshot heath!  Come now, mine honest fellow, aid me to rake, as thou
sayest, this same household.  They are come up from the Forest, to seek
out their uncle, one Randall, who they have heard to be in this meine.
Knowest thou such a fellow?"

"To seek a spider in a stubble-field!  Truly he needs my bauble who sent
them on such an errand," said the jester, rather slowly, as if to take
time for consideration.  "What's your name, my Forest flies?"

"Birkenholt sir," answered Ambrose, "but our uncle is Harry Randall."

"Here's fools enow to take away mine office," was the reply.  "Here's a
couple of lads would leave the greenwood and the free oaks and beeches,
for this stinking, plague-smitten London."

"We'd not have quitted it could we have tarried at home," began Ambrose;
but at that moment there was a sudden commotion, a trampling of horses
was heard outside, a loud imperious voice demanded, "Is my Lord
Archbishop within?" a whisper ran round, "the King," and there entered
the hall with hasty steps, a figure never to be forgotten, clad in a
bunting dress of green velvet embroidered with gold, with a golden
hunting horn slung round his neck.

Henry the Eighth was then in the splendid prime of his youth, in his
twenty-seventh year, and in the eyes, not only of his own subjects, but
of all others, the very type of a true king of men.  Tall, and as yet of
perfect form for strength, agility, and grace; his features were of the
beautiful straight Plantagenet type, and his complexion of purely fair
rosiness, his large well-opened blue eyes full at once of frankness and
keenness, and the short golden beard that fringed his square chin giving
the manly air that otherwise might have seemed wanting to the feminine
tinting of his regular lineaments.  All caps were instantly doffed save
the little bonnet with one drooping feather that covered his short,
curled, yellow hair; and the Earl of Derby, who was at the head of
Wolsey's retainers, made haste, bowing to the ground, to assure him that
my Lord Archbishop was but doffing his robes, and would be with his
Grace instantly.  Would his Grace vouchsafe to come on to the privy
chamber where the dinner was spread?

At the same moment Quipsome Hal sprang forward, exclaiming, "How now,
brother and namesake?  Wherefore this coil?  Hath cloth of gold wearied
yet of cloth of frieze?  Is she willing to own her right to this?" as he
held out his bauble.

"Holla, old Blister! art thou there?" said the King, good-humouredly.
"What! knowest not that we are to have such a wedding as will be a sight
for sore eyes!"

"Sore! that's well said, friend Hal.  Thou art making progress in mine
art!  Sore be the eyes wherein thou wouldst throw dust."

Again the King laughed, for every one knew that his sister Mary had
secretly been married to the Duke of Suffolk for the last two months,
and that this public marriage and the tournament that was to follow were
only for the sake of appearances.  He laid his hand good-naturedly on
the jester's shoulder as he walked up the hall towards the Archbishop's
private apartments, but the voices of both were loud pitched, and bits
of the further conversation could be picked up.  "Weddings are rife in
your family," said the jester, "none of you get weary of fitting on the
noose.  What, thou thyself, Hal?  Ay, thou hast not caught the contagion
yet!  Now ye gods forefend!  If thou hast the chance, thou'lt have it

Therewith the Archbishop, in his purple robes, appeared in the archway
at the other end of the hall, the King joined him, and still followed by
the jester, they both vanished.  It was presently made known that the
King was about to dine there, and that all were to sit down to eat.  The
King dined alone with the Archbishop as his host; the two noblemen who
had formed his suite joined the first table in the higher hall; the
knights that of the steward of the household, who was of knightly
degree, and with whom the superior clergy of the household ate; and the
grooms found their places among the vast array of yeomen and serving-men
of all kinds with whom Tibble and his two young companions had to eat.
A week ago, Stephen would have contemned the idea of being classed with
serving-men and grooms, but by this time he was quite bewildered, and
anxious enough to be thankful to keep near a familiar face on any terms,
and to feel as if Tibble were an old friend, though he had only known
him for five days.

Why the King had come had not transpired, but there was a whisper that
despatches from Scotland were concerned in it.  The meal was a lengthy
one, but at last the King's horses were ordered, and presently Henry
came forth, with his arm familiarly linked in that of the Archbishop,
whose horse had likewise been made ready that he might accompany the
King back to Westminster.  The jester was close at hand, and as a
parting shaft he observed, while the King mounted his horse, "Friend
Hal! give my brotherly commendations to our Madge, and tell her that one
who weds Anguish cannot choose but cry out."

Wherewith, affecting to expect a stroke from the King's whip, he doubled
himself up, performed the contortion now called turning a coachwheel,
then, recovering himself, put his hands on his hips and danced wildly on
the steps; while Henry, shaking his whip at him, laughed at the only too
obvious pun, for Anguish was the English version of Angus, the title of
Queen Margaret's second husband, and it was her complaints that had
brought him to his counsellor.

The jester then, much to the annoyance of the two boys, thought proper
to follow them to the office of the comptroller, and as that dignitary
read out from his books the name of every Henry, and of all the
varieties of Ralf and Randolf among the hundred and eighty persons
composing the household, he kept on making comments.  "Harry Hempseed,
clerk to the kitchen; ay, Hempseed will serve his turn one of these
days.  Walter Randall, groom of the chamber; ah, ha! my lads, if you
want a generous uncle who will look after you well, there is your man!
He'll give you the shakings of the napery for largesse, and when he is
in an open-handed mood, will let you lie on the rushes that have served
the hall.  Harry of Lambeth, yeoman of the stable.  He will make you
free of all the taverns in Eastchepe."

And so on, accompanying each remark with a pantomime mimicry of the air
and gesture of the individual.  He showed in a second the contortions of
Harry Weston in drawing the bow, and in another the grimaces of Henry
Hope, the choir man, in producing bass notes, or the swelling majesty of
Randall Porcher, the cross-bearer, till it really seemed as if he had
shown off the humours of at least a third of the enormous household.
Stephen had laughed at first, but as failure after failure occurred, the
antics began to weary even him, and seem unkind and ridiculous as hope
ebbed away, and the appalling idea began to grow on him of being cast
loose on London without a friend or protector.  Ambrose felt almost
despairing as he heard in vain the last name.  He would almost have been
willing to own Hal the scullion, and his hopes rose when he heard of
Hodge Randolph, the falconer, but alas, that same Hodge came from

"And mine uncle was from the New Forest in Hampshire," he said.

"Maybe he went by the name of Shirley," added Stephen, "'tis where his
home was."

But the comptroller, unwilling to begin a fresh search, replied at once
that the only Shirley in the household was a noble esquire of the
Warwickshire family.

"You must e'en come back with me, young masters," said Tibble, "and see
what my master can do for you."

"Stay a bit," said the fool.  "Harry of Shirley!  Harry of Shirley!
Methinks I could help you to the man, if so be as you will deem him
worth the finding," he added, suddenly turning upside down, and looking
at them standing on the palms of his hands, with an indescribable leer
of drollery, which in a moment dashed all the hopes with which they had
turned to him.  "Should you know this nunks of yours?" he added.

"I think I should," said Ambrose.  "I remember best how he used to carry
me on his shoulder to cull mistletoe for Christmas."

"Ah, ha!  A proper fellow of his inches now, with yellow hair?"

"Nay," said Ambrose, "I mind that his hair was black, and his eyes as
black as sloes--or as thine own, Master Jester."

The jester tumbled over into a more extraordinary attitude than before,
while Stephen said--

"John was wont to twit us with being akin to Gipsy Hal."

"I mean a man sad and grave as the monks of Beaulieu," said the jester.

"He!" they both cried.  "No, indeed!  He was foremost in all sports."

"Ah!" cried Stephen, "mind you not, Ambrose, his teaching us leap-frog,
and aye leaping over one of us himself, with the other in his arms."

"Ah! sadly changed, sadly changed," said the jester, standing upright,
with a most mournful countenance.  "Maybe you'd not thank me if I showed
him to you, young sirs, that is, if he be the man."

"Nay! is he in need, or distress?" cried the brothers.

"Poor Hal!" returned the fool, shaking his head with mournfulness in his

"Oh, take us to him, good--good jester," cried Ambrose.  "We are young
and strong.  We will work for him."

"What, a couple of lads like you, that have come to London seeking for
him to befriend you--deserving well cap for that matter.  Will ye be
guided to him, my broken and soured--no more gamesome, but a sickly old

"Of course," cried Ambrose.  "He is our mother's brother.  We must care
for him."

"Master Headley will give us work, mayhap," said Stephen, turning to
Tibble.  "I could clean the furnaces."

"Ah, ha!  I see fools' caps must hang thick as beech masts in the
Forest," cried the fool, but his voice was husky, and he turned suddenly
round with his back to them, then cut three or four extraordinary
capers, after which he observed--

"Well, young gentlemen, I will see the man I mean, and if he be the
same, and be willing to own you for his nephews, he will meet you in the
Temple Gardens at six of the clock this evening, close to the rose-bush
with the flowers in my livery--motley red and white."

"But how shall we know him?"

"D'ye think a pair of green caterpillars like you can't be marked--
unless indeed the gardener crushes you for blighting his roses."
Wherewith the jester quitted the scene, walking on his hands, with his
legs in the air.

"Is he to be trusted?" asked Tibble of the comptroller.

"Assuredly," was the answer; "none hath better wit than Quipsome Hal,
when he chooseth to be in earnest.  In very deed, as I have heard Sir
Thomas More say, it needeth a wise man to be fool to my Lord of York."



  "The sweet and bitter fool
  Will presently appear,
  The one in motley here
  The other found out there."

There lay the quiet Temple Gardens, on the Thames bank, cut out in
formal walks, with flowers growing in the beds of the homely kinds
beloved by the English.  Musk roses, honeysuckle and virgin's bower,
climbed on the old grey walls; sops-in-wine, bluebottles, bachelor's
buttons, stars of Bethlehem and the like, filled the borders; May thorns
were in full sweet blossom; and near one another were the two rose-
bushes, one damask and one white provence, whence Somerset and Warwick
were said to have plucked their fatal badges; while on the opposite side
of a broad grass-plot was another bush, looked on as a great curiosity
of the best omen, where the roses were streaked with alternate red and
white, in honour, as it were, of the union of York and Lancaster.

By this rose-tree stood the two young Birkenholts.  Edmund Burgess
having, by his master's desire, shown them the way, and passed them in
by a word and sign from his master, then retired unseen to a distance to
mark what became of them, they having promised also to return and report
of themselves to Master Headley.

They stood together earnestly watching for the coming of the uncle,
feeling quite uncertain whether to expect a frail old broken man, or to
find themselves absolutely deluded, and made game of by the jester.

The gardens were nearly empty, for most people were sitting over their
supper-tables after the business of the day was over, and only one or
two figures in black gowns paced up and down in conversation.

"Come away, Ambrose," said Stephen at last.  "He only meant to make
fools of us!  Come, before he comes to gibe us for having heeded a
moment.  Come, I say--here's this man coming to ask us what we are doing

For a tall, well-made, well personage in the black or sad colour of a
legal official, looking like a prosperous householder, or superior
artisan, was approaching them, some attendant, as the boys concluded
belonging to the Temple.  They expected to be turned out, and Ambrose in
an apologetic tone, began, "Sir, we were bidden to meet a--a kinsman

"And even so am I," was the answer, in a grave, quiet tone, "or rather
to meet twain."

Ambrose looked up into a pair of dark eyes, and exclaimed, "Stevie,
Stevie, 'tis he.  'Tis uncle Hal."

"Ay, 'tis all you're like to have for him," answered Harry Randall,
enfolding each in his embrace.  "Lad, how like thou art to my poor
sister!  And is she indeed gone--and your honest father too--and none
left at home but that hunks, little John?  How and when died she?"

"Two years agone come Lammastide," answered Stephen.  "There was a
deadly creeping fever and ague through the Forest.  We two sickened, and
Ambrose was so like to die that Diggory went to the abbey for the priest
to housel and anneal him, but by the time Father Simon came he was sound
asleep, and soon was whole again.  But before we were on our legs, our
blessed mother took the disease, and she passed away ere many days were
over.  Then, though poor father took not that sickness, he never was the
same man again, and only twelve days after last Pasch-tide he was taken
with a fit and never spake again."

Stephen was weeping by this time, and his uncle had a hand on his
shoulder, and with tears in his eyes, threw in ejaculations of pity and
affection.  Ambrose finished the narrative with a broken voice indeed,
but as one who had more self-command than his brother, perhaps than his
uncle, whose exclamations became bitter and angry as he heard of the
treatment the boys had experienced from their half-brother, who, as he
said, he had always known as a currish mean-spirited churl, but scarce
such as this.

"Nor do I think he would have been, save for his wife, Maud Pratt of
Hampton," said Ambrose.  "Nay, truly also, he deemed that we were only
within a day's journey of council from our uncle Richard at Hyde."

"Richard Birkenholt was a sturdy old comrade!  Methinks he would give
Master Jack a piece of his mind."

"Alack, good uncle, we found him in his dotage, and the bursar of Hyde
made quick work with us, for fear, good Father Shoveller said, that we
were come to look after his corrody."

"Shoveller--what, a Shoveller of Cranbury?  How fell ye in with him?"

Ambrose told the adventures of their journey, and Randall exclaimed, "By
my bau--I mean by my faith--if ye have ill-luck in uncles, ye have had
good luck in friends."

"No ill-luck in thee, good, kind uncle," said Stephen, catching at his
hand with the sense of comfort that kindred blood gives.

"How wottest thou that, child?  Did not I--I mean did not Merryman tell
you, that mayhap ye would not be willing to own your uncle?"

"We deemed he was but jesting," said Stephen.

For a sudden twinkle in the black eyes, an involuntary twist of the
muscles of the face, were a sudden revelation to him.  He clutched hold
of Ambrose with a sudden grasp; Ambrose too looked and recoiled for a
moment, while the colour spread over his face.

"Yes, lads.  Can you brook the thought!--Harry Randall is the poor

Stephen, whose composure had already broken down, burst into tears
again, perhaps mostly at the downfall of all his own expectations and
glorifications of the kinsman about whom he had boasted.  Ambrose only
exclaimed, "O uncle, you must have been hard pressed."  For indeed the
grave, almost melancholy man, who stood before them, regarding them
wistfully, had little in common with the lithe tumbler full of
absurdities whom they had left at York House.

"Even so, my good lad.  Thou art right in that," said he gravely.
"Harder than I trust will ever be the lot of you two, my sweet Moll's
sons.  She never guessed that I was come to this."

"O no," said Stephen.  "She always thought thou--thou hadst some high
preferment in--"

"And so I have," said Randall with something of his ordinary humour.
"There's no man dares to speak such plain truth to my lord--or for that
matter to King Harry himself, save his own Jack-a-Lee--and he, being a
fool of nature's own making, cannot use his chances, poor rogue!  And so
the poor lads came up to London hoping to find a gallant captain who
could bring them to high preferment, and found nought but--Tom Fool!  I
could find it in my heart to weep for them!  And so thou mindest
clutching the mistletoe on nunk Hal's shoulder.  I warrant it groweth
still on the crooked May bush?  And is old Bobbin alive?"

They answered his questions, but still as if under a great shock, and
presently he said, as they paced up and down the garden walks, "Ay, I
have been sore bestead, and I'll tell you how it came about, boys, and
mayhap ye will pardon the poor fool, who would not own you sooner, lest
ye should come in for mockery ye have not learnt to brook."  There was a
sadness and pleading in his tone that touched Ambrose, and he drew
nearer to his uncle, who laid a hand on his shoulder, and presently the
other on that of Stephen, who shrank a little at first, but submitted.
"Lads, I need not tell you why I left fair Shirley and the good
greenwood.  I was a worse fool then than ever I have been since I wore
the cap and bells, and if all had been brought home to me, it might have
brought your father and mother into trouble--my sweet Moll who had done
her best for me.  I deemed, as you do now, that the way to fortune was
open, but I found no path before me, and I had tightened my belt many a
time, and was not much more than a bag of bones, when, by chance, I fell
in with a company of tumblers and gleemen.  I sang them the old hunting-
song, and they said I did it tunably, and, whereas they saw I could
already dance a hornpipe and turn a somersault passably well, the leader
of the troop, old Nat Fire-eater, took me on, and methinks he did not
repent--nor I neither--save when I sprained my foot and had time to lie
by and think.  We had plenty to fill our bellies and put on our backs;
we had welcome wherever we went, and the groats and pennies rained into
our caps.  I was Clown and Jack Pudding and whatever served their turn,
and the very name of Quipsome Hal drew crowds.  Yea, 'twas a merry life!
Ay, I feel thee wince and shrink, my lad; and so should I have
shuddered when I was of thine age, and hoped to come to better things."

"Methinks 'twere better than this present," said Stephen rather gruffly.

"I had my reasons, boy," said Randall, speaking as if he were pleading
his cause with their father and mother rather than with two such young
lads.  "There was in our company an old man-at-arms who played the lute
and the rebeck, and sang ballads so long as hand and voice served him,
and with him went his grandchild, a fair and honest little maiden, whom
he kept so jealously apart that 'twas long ere I knew of her following
the company.  He had been a franklin on my Lord of Warwick's lands, and
had once been burnt out by Queen Margaret's men, and just as things
looked up again with him, King Edward's folk ruined all again, and slew
his two sons.  When great folk play the fool, small folk pay the scot,
as I din into his Grace's ears whenever I may.  A minion of the Duke of
Clarence got the steading, and poor old Martin Fulford was turned out to
shift as best he might.  One son he had left, and with him he went to
the Low Countries, where they would have done well had they not been
bitten by faith in the fellow Perkin Warbeck.  You've heard of him?"

"Yea," said Ambrose; "the same who was taken out of sanctuary at
Beaulieu, and borne off to London.  Father said he was marvellous like
in the face to all the kings he had ever seen hunting in the Forest."

"I know not; but to the day of his death old Martin swore that he was a
son of King Edward's, and they came home again with the men the Duchess
of Burgundy gave Perkin--came bag and baggage, for young Fulford had
wedded a fair Flemish wife, poor soul!  He left her with his father nigh
to Taunton ere the battle, and he was never heard of more, but as he was
one of the few men who knew how to fight, belike he was slain.  Thus old
Martin was left with the Flemish wife and her little one on his hands,
for whose sake he did what went against him sorely, joined himself to
this troop of jugglers and players, so as to live by the minstrelsy he
had learnt in better days, while his daughter-in-law mended and made for
the company and kept them in smart and shining trim.  By the time I fell
in with them his voice was well-nigh gone, and his hand sorely shaking,
but Fire-eating Nat, the master of our troop, was not an ill-natured
fellow, and the glee-women's feet were well used to his rebeck.
Moreover, the Fire-eater had an eye to little Perronel, though her
mother had never let him train her--scarce let him set an eye on her;
and when Mistress Fulford died, poor soul, of ague, caught when we
showed off before the merry Prior of Worcester, her last words were that
Perronel should never be a glee-maiden.  Well, to make an end of my
tale, we had one day a mighty show at Windsor, when the King and Court
were at the castle, and it was whispered to me at the end that my Lord
Archbishop's household needed a jester, and that Quipsome Hal had been
thought to make excellent fooling.  I gave thanks at first, but said I
would rather be a free man, not bound to be a greater fool than Dame
Nature made me all the hours of the day.  But when I got back to the
Garter, what should I find but that poor old Martin had been stricken
with the dead palsy while he was playing his rebeck, and would never
twang a note more; and there was pretty Perronel weeping over him, and
Nat Fire-eater pledging his word to give the old man bed, board, and all
that he could need, if so be that Perronel should be trained to be one
of his glee-maidens, to dance and tumble and sing.  And there was the
poor old franklin shaking his head more than the palsy made it shake
already, and trying to frame his lips to say, `rather they both should

"Oh, uncle, I wot now what thou didst!" cried Stephen.

"Yea, lad, there was nought else to be done.  I asked Master Fulford to
give me Perronel, plighting my word that never should she sing or dance
for any one's pleasure save her own and mine, and letting him know that
I came of a worthy family.  We were wedded out of hand by the priest
that had been sent for to housel him, and in our true names.  The Fire-
eater was fiery enough, and swore that, wedded or not, I was bound to
him, that he would have both of us, and would not drag about a helpless
old man unless he might have the wench to do his bidding.  I verily
believe that, but for my being on the watch and speaking a word to two
or three stout yeomen of the king's guard that chanced to be crushing a
pot of sack at the Garter, he would have played some villainous trick on
us.  They gave a hint to my Lord of York's steward and he came down and
declared that the Archbishop required Quipsome Hal, and would--of his
grace--send a purse of nobles to the Fire-eater, wherewith he was to be
off on the spot without more ado, or he might find it the worse for him,
and they, together with mine host's good wife, took care that the rogue
did not carry away Perronel with him, as he was like to have done.  To
end my story, here am I, getting showers of gold coins one day and
nought but kicks and gibes the next, while my good woman keeps house
nigh here on the banks of the Thames with Gaffer Martin.  Her Flemish
thrift has set her to the washing and clear--starching of the lawyers'
ruffs, whereby she makes enough to supply the defects of my scanty days,
or when I have to follow my lord's grace out of her reach, sweet soul.
There's my tale, nevoys.  And now, have ye a hand for Quipsome Hal?"

"O uncle!  Father would have honoured thee!" cried Stephen.

"Why didst thou not bring her down to the Forest?" said Ambrose.

"I conned over the thought," said Randall, "but there was no way of
living.  I wist not whether the Ranger might not stir up old tales, and
moreover old Martin is ill to move.  We brought him down by boat from
Windsor, and he has never quitted the house since, nor his bed for the
last two years.  You'll come and see the housewife?  She hath a supper
laying out for you, and on the way we'll speak of what ye are to do, my
poor lads."

"I'd forgotten that," said Stephen.

"So had not I," returned his uncle; "I fear me I cannot aid you to
preferment as you expected.  None know Quipsome Hal by any name but that
of Harry Merryman, and it were not well that ye should come in there as
akin to the poor fool."

"No," said Stephen, emphatically.

"Your father left you twenty crowns apiece?"

"Ay, but John hath all save four of them."

"For that there's remedy.  What saidst thou of the Cheapside armourer?
His fellow, the Wrymouth, seemed to have a care of you.  Ye made in to
the rescue with poor old Spring."

"Even so," replied Ambrose, "and if Stevie would brook the thought, I
trow that Master Headley would be quite willing to have him bound as his

"Well said, my good lad!" cried Hal.  "What sayest thou, Stevie?"

"I had liefer be a man-at-arms."

"That thou couldst only be after being sorely knocked about as horse-boy
and as groom.  I tried that once, but found it meant kicks, and oaths,
and vile company--such as I would not have for thy mother's son, Steve.
Headley is a well-reported, God-fearing man, and will do well by thee.
And thou wilt learn the use of arms as well as handle them."

"I like Master Headley and Kit Smallbones well enough," said Stephen,
rather gloomily, "and if a gentleman must be a prentice, weapons are not
so bad a craft for him."

"Whittington was a gentleman," said Ambrose.

"I am sick of Whittington," muttered Stephen.

"Nor is he the only one," said Randall, "there's Middleton and Pole--ay,
and many another who have risen from the flat cap to the open helm, if
not to the coronet.  Nay, these London companies have rules against
taking any prentice not of gentle blood.  Come in to supper with my good
woman, and then I'll go with thee and hold converse with good Master
Headley, and if Master John doth not send the fee freely, why then I
know of them who shall make him disgorge it.  But mark," he added, as he
led the way out of the gardens, "not a breath of Quipsome Hal.  Down
here they know me as a clerk of my lord's chamber, sad and sober, and
high in his trust and therein they are not far out."

In truth, though Harry Randall had been a wild and frolicsome youth in
his Hampshire home, the effect of being a professional buffoon had
actually made it a relaxation of effort to him to be grave, quiet, and
slow in movement; and this was perhaps a more effectual disguise than
the dark garments, and the false brown hair, beard, and moustache, with
which he concealed the shorn and shaven condition required of the
domestic jester.  Having been a player, he was well able to adapt
himself to his part, and yet Ambrose had considerable doubts whether
Tibble had not suspected his identity from the first, more especially as
both the lads had inherited the same dark eyes from their mother, and
Ambrose for the first time perceived a considerable resemblance between
him and Stephen, not only in feature but in unconscious gesture.

Ambrose was considering whether he had better give his uncle a hint,
lest concealment should excite suspicion; when, niched as it were
against an abutment of the wall of the Temple courts, close to some
steps going down to the Thames, they came upon a tiny house, at whose
open door stood a young woman in the snowiest of caps and aprons over a
short black gown, beneath which were a trim pair of blue hosen and stout
shoes; a suspicion of yellow hair was allowed to appear framing the
honest, fresh, Flemish face, which beamed a good-humoured welcome.

"Here they be! here be the poor lads, Pernel mine."  She held out her
hand, and offered a round comfortable cheek to each, saying, "Welcome to
London, young gentlemen."

Good Mistress Perronel did not look, exactly the stuff to make a glee-
maiden of, nor even the beauty for whom to sacrifice everything, even
liberty and respect.  She was substantial in form, and broad in face and
mouth, without much nose, and with large almost colourless eyes.  But
there was a wonderful look of heartiness and friendliness about her
person and her house; the boys had never in their lives seen anything so
amazingly and spotlessly clean and shining.  In a corner stood an
erection like a dark oaken cupboard or wardrobe, but in the middle was
an opening about a yard square through which could be seen the night-
capped face of a white-headed white-bearded old man, propped against
snowy pillows.  To him Randall went at once, saying, "So, gaffer, how
goes it?  You see I have brought company, my poor sister's sons--rest
her soul!"

Gaffer Martin mumbled something to them incomprehensible, but which the
jester comprehended, for he called them up and named them to him, and
Martin put out a bony hand, and gave them a greeting.  Though his speech
and limbs had failed him, his intelligence was evidently still intact,
and there was a tenderly-cared-for look about him, rendering his
condition far less pitiable than that of Richard Birkenholt, who was so
palpably treated as an incumbrance.

The table was already covered with a cloth, and Perronel quickly placed
on it a yellow bowl of excellent beef broth, savoury with vegetables and
pot-herbs, and with meat and dumplings floating in it.  A lesser bowl
was provided for each of the company, with horn spoons, and a loaf of
good wheaten bread, and a tankard of excellent ale.  Randall declared
that his Perronel made far daintier dishes than my Lord Archbishop's
cook, who went every day in silk and velvet.

He explained to her his views on the armourer, to which she agreed with
all her might, the old gentleman in bed adding something which the boys
began to understand, that there was no worthier nor more honourable
condition than that of an English burgess, specially in the good town of
London, where the kings knew better than to be ever at enmity with their
good towns.

"Will the armourer take both of you?" asked Mistress Randall.

"Nay, it was only for Stephen we devised it," said Ambrose.

"And what wilt thou do?"

"I wish to be a scholar," said Ambrose.

"A lean trade," quoth the jester; "a monk now or a friar may be a right
jolly fellow, but I never yet saw a man who throve upon books!"

"I had rather study than thrive," said Ambrose rather dreamily.

"He wotteth not what he saith," cried Stephen.

"Oh ho! so thou art of that sort!" rejoined his uncle.  "I know them!  A
crabbed black and white page is meat and drink to them!  There's that
Dutch fellow, with a long Latin name, thin and weazen as never was
Dutchman before; they say he has read all the books in the world, and
can talk in all the tongues, and yet when he and Sir Thomas More and the
Dean of Saint Paul's get together at my lord's table one would think
they were bidding for my bauble.  Such excellent fooling do they make,
that my lord sits holding his sides."

"The Dean of Saint Paul's!" said Ambrose, experiencing a shock.

"Ay!  He's another of your lean scholars, and yet he was born a wealthy
man, son to a Lord Mayor, who, they say, reared him alone out of a round
score of children."

"Alack! poor souls," sighed Mistress Randall under her breath, for, as
Ambrose afterwards learnt, her two babes had scarce seen the light.  Her
husband, while giving her a look of affection, went on--"Not that he can
keep his wealth.  He has bestowed the most of it on Stepney church, and
on the school he hath founded for poor children, nigh to Saint Paul's."

"Could I get admittance to that school?" exclaimed Ambrose.

"Thou art a big fellow for a school," said his uncle, looking him over.
"However, faint heart never won fair lady."

"I have a letter from the Warden of Saint Elizabeth's to one of the
clerks of Saint Paul's," added Ambrose.  "Alworthy is his name."

"That's well.  We'll prove that same," said his uncle.  "Meantime, if ye
have eaten your fill, we must be on our way to thine armourer, nevoy
Stephen, or I shall be called for."

And after a private colloquy between the husband and wife, Ambrose was
by both of them desired to make the little house his home until he could
find admittance into Saint Paul's School, or some other.  He demurred
somewhat from a mixture of feelings, in which there was a certain amount
of Stephen's longing for freedom of action, and likewise a doubt whether
he should not thus be a great inconvenience in the tiny household--a
burden he was resolved not to be.  But his uncle now took a more serious

"Look thou, Ambrose, thou art my sister's son, and fool though I be,
thou art bound in duty to me, and I to have charge of thee, nor will I--
for the sake of thy father and mother--have thee lying I know not where,
among gulls, and cutpurses, and beguilers of youth here in this city of
London.  So, till better befalls thee, and I wot of it, thou must be
here no later than curfew, or I will know the reason why."

"And I hope the young gentleman will find it no sore grievance," said
Perronel, so good-humouredly that Ambrose could only protest that he had
feared to be troublesome to her, and promise to bring his bundle the
next day.



  "For him was leifer to have at his bedde's hedde
  Twenty books clothed in blacke or redde
  Of Aristotle and his philosophie
  Than robes riche or fiddle or psalterie."

Master Headley was found spending the summer evening in the bay window
of the hall.  Tibble sat on a three-legged stool by him, writing in a
crabbed hand, in a big ledger, and Kit Smallbones towered above both,
holding in his hand a bundle of tally-sticks.  By the help of these, and
of that accuracy of memory which writing has destroyed, he was
unfolding, down to the very last farthing, the entire account of
payments and receipts during his master's absence, the debtor and
creditor account being preserved as perfectly as if he had always had a
pen in his huge fingers, and studied book-keeping by double or single

On the return of the two boys with such an apparently respectable member
of society as the handsome well-dressed personage who accompanied them,
little Dennet, who had been set to sew her sampler on a stool by her
grandmother, under penalty of being sent off to bed if she disturbed her
father, sprang up with a little cry of gladness, and running up to
Ambrose, entreated for the tales of his good greenwood Forest, and the
pucks and pixies, and the girl who daily shared her breakfast with a
snake and said, "Eat your own side, Speckleback."  Somehow, on Sunday
night she had gathered that Ambrose had a store of such tales, and she
dragged him off to the gallery, there to revel in them, while his
brother remained with her father.

Though Master Stephen had begun by being high and mighty about
mechanical crafts, and thought it a great condescension to consent to be
bound apprentice, yet when once again in the Dragon court, it looked so
friendly and felt so much like a home that he found himself very anxious
that Master Headley should not say that he could take no more
apprentices at present, and that he should be satisfied with the terms
uncle Hal would propose.  And oh! suppose Tibble should recognise
Quipsome Hal!

However, Tibble was at this moment entirely engrossed by the accounts,
and his master left him and his big companion to unravel them, while he
himself held speech with his guest at some distance--sending for a cup
of sack, wherewith to enliven the conversation.

He showed himself quite satisfied with what Randall chose to tell of
himself as a well known "housekeeper" close to the Temple, his wife a
"lavender" there, while he himself was attached to the suite of the
Archbishop of York.  Here alone was there any approach to shuffling, for
Master Headley was left to suppose that Randall attended Wolsey in his
capacity of king's counsellor, and therefore, having a house of his own,
had not been found in the roll of the domestic retainers and servants.
He did not think of inquiring further, the more so as Randall was
perfectly candid as to his own inferiority of birth to the Birkenholt
family, and the circumstances under which he had left the Forest.

Master Headley professed to be quite willing to accept Stephen as an
apprentice, with or without a fee; but he agreed with Randall that it
would be much better not to expose him to having it cast in his teeth
that he was accepted out of charity; and Randall undertook to get a
letter so written and conveyed to John Birkenholt that he should not
dare to withhold the needful sum, in earnest of which Master Headley
would accept the two crowns that Stephen had in hand, as soon as the
indentures could be drawn out by one of the many scriveners who lived
about Saint Paul's.

This settled, Randall could stay no longer, but he called both nephews
into the court with him.  "Ye can write a letter?" he said.

"Ay, sure, both of us; but Ambrose is the best scribe," said Stephen.

"One of you had best write then.  Let that cur John know that I have my
Lord of York's ear, and there will be no fear but he will give it.  I'll
find a safe hand among the clerks, when the judges ride to hold the
assize.  Mayhap Ambrose might also write to the Father at Beaulieu.  The
thing had best be bruited."

"I wished to do so," said Ambrose.  "It irked me to have taken no leave
of the good Fathers."

Randall then took his leave, having little more than time to return to
York House, where the Archbishop might perchance come home wearied and
chafed from the King, and the jester might be missed if not there to put
him in good humour.

The curfew sounded, and though attention to its notes was not compulsory
by law, it was regarded as the break-up of the evening and the note of
recall in all well-ordered establishments.  The apprentices and
journeymen came into the court, among them Giles Headley, who had been
taken out by one of the men to be provided with a working dress, much to
his disgust; the grandmother summoned little Dennet and carried her off
to bed.  Stephen and Ambrose bade good-night, but Master Headley and his
two confidential men remained somewhat longer to wind up their accounts.
Doors were not, as a rule, locked within the court, for though it
contained from forty to fifty persons, they were all regarded as a
single family, and it was enough to fasten the heavily bolted, iron-
studded folding doors of the great gateway leading into Cheapside, the
key being brought to the master like that of a castle, seven minutes,
measured by the glass, after the last note of the curfew in the belfry
outside Saint Paul's.

The summer twilight, however, lasted long after this time of grace, and
when Tibble had completed his accountant's work, and Smallbones' deep
voiced "Good-night, comrade," had resounded over the court, he beheld a
figure rise up from the steps of the gallery, and Ambrose's voice said:
"May I speak to thee, Tibble?  I need thy counsel."

"Come hither, sir," said the foreman, muttering to himself, "Methought
'twas working in him!  The leaven! the leaven!"

Tibble led the way up one of the side stairs into the open gallery,
where he presently opened a door, admitting to a small, though high
chamber, the walls of bare brick, and containing a low bed, a small
table, a three-legged stool, a big chest, and two cupboards, also a
cross over the head of the bed.  A private room was a luxury neither
possessed nor desired by most persons of any degree, and only enjoyed by
Tibble in consideration of his great value to his master, his peculiar
tastes, and the injuries he had received.  In point of fact, his fall
had been owing to a hasty blow, given in a passion by the master himself
when a young man.  Dismay and repentance had made Giles Headley a cooler
and more self-controlled man ever since, and even if Tibble had not been
a superior workman, he might still have been free to do almost anything
he chose.  Tibble gave his visitor the stool, and himself sat down on
the chest, saying: "So you have found your uncle, sir."

"Ay," said Ambrose, pausing in some expectation that Tibble would
mention some suspicion of his identity; but if the foreman had his ideas
on the subject he did not disclose them, and waited for more

"Tibble!" said Ambrose, with a long gasp, "I must find means to hear
more of him thou tookedst me to on Sunday."

"None ever truly tasted of that well without longing to come back to
it," quoth Tibble.  "But hath not thy kinsman done aught for thee?"

"Nay," said Ambrose, "save to offer me a lodging with his wife, a good
and kindly lavender at the Temple."

Tibble nodded.

"So far am I free," said Ambrose, "and I am glad of it.  I have a letter
here to one of the canons, one Master Alworthy, but ere I seek him I
would know somewhat from thee, Tibble.  What like is he?"

"I cannot tell, sir," said Tibble.  "The canons are rich and many, and a
poor smith like me wots little of their fashions."

"Is it true," again asked Ambrose, "that the Dean--he who spake those
words yesterday--hath a school here for young boys?"

"Ay.  And a good and mild school it be, bringing them up in the name and
nurture of the Holy Child Jesus, to whom it is dedicated."

"Then they are taught this same doctrine?"

"I trow they be.  They say the Dean loves them like the children of his
old age, and declares that they shall be made in love with holy lore by
gentleness rather than severity."

"Is it likely that this same Alworthy could obtain me entrance there?"

"Alack, sir, I fear me thou art too old.  I see none but little lads
among them.  Didst thou come to London with that intent?"

"Nay, for I only wist to-day that there was such a school.  I came with
I scarce know what purpose, save to see Stephen safely bestowed, and
then to find some way of learning myself.  Moreover, a change seems to
have come on me, as though I had hitherto been walking in a dream."

Tibble nodded, and Ambrose, sitting there in the dark, was moved to pour
forth all his heart, the experience of many an ardent soul in those
spirit searching days.  Growing up happily under the care of the simple
monks of Beaulieu he had never looked beyond their somewhat mechanical
routine, accepted everything implicitly, and gone on acquiring knowledge
with the receptive spirit but dormant thought of studious boyhood as yet
unawakened, thinking that the studious clerical life to which every one
destined him would only be a continuation of the same, as indeed it had
been to his master, Father Simon.  Not that Ambrose expressed this,
beyond saying, "They are good and holy men, and I thought all were like
them, and fear that was all!"

Then came death, for the first time nearly touching and affecting the
youth, and making his soul yearn after further depths, which he might
yet have found in the peace of the good old men, and the holy rites and
doctrine that they preserved; but before there was time for these things
to find their way into the wounds of his spirit, his expulsion from home
had sent him forth to see another side of monkish and clerkly life.

Father Shoveller, kindly as he was, was a mere yeoman with nothing
spiritual about him; the monks of Hyde were, the younger, gay comrades,
only trying how loosely they could sit to their vows; the elder,
churlish and avaricious; even the Warden of Elizabeth College was little
more than a student.  And in London, fresh phases had revealed
themselves; the pomp, state, splendour and luxury of Archbishop Wolsey's
house had been a shock to the lad's ideal of a bishop drawn from the
saintly biographies he had studied at Beaulieu; and he had but to keep
his ears open to hear endless scandals about the mass-priests, as they
were called, since they were at this time very unpopular in London, and
in many cases deservedly so.  Everything that the boy had hitherto
thought the way of holiness and salvation seemed invaded by evil and
danger, and under the bondage of death, whose terrible dance continued
to haunt him.

"I saw it, I saw it," he said, "all over those halls at York House.  I
seemed to behold the grisly shape standing behind one and another, as
they ate and laughed; and when the Archbishop and his priests and the
King came in it seemed only to make the pageant complete!  Only now and
then could I recall those blessed words, `Ye are free indeed.'  Did he
say from the bondage of death?"

"Yea," said Tibble, "into the glorious freedom of God's children."

"Thou knowst it.  Thou knowst it, Tibble.  It seems to me that life is
no life, but living death, without that freedom!  And I _must_ hear of
it, and know whether it is mine, yea, and Stephen's, and all whom I
love.  O Tibble, I would beg my bread rather than not have that freedom
ever before mine eyes."

"Hold it fast! hold it fast, dear sir," said Tibble, holding out his
hands with tears in his eyes, and his face working in a manner that
happily Ambrose could not see.

"But how--how?  The barefoot friar said that for an _Ave_ a day, our
Blessed Lady will drag us back from purgatory.  I saw her on the wall of
her chapel at Winchester saving a robber knight from the sea, yea and a
thief from the gallows; but that is not being free."

"Fond inventions of pardon-mongers," muttered Tibble.

"And is one not free when the priest hath assoilsied him?" added

"If, and if--" said Tibble.  "But none shall make me trow that shrift in
words, without heart--sorrow for sin, and the Latin heard with no
thought of Him that bore the guilt, can set the sinner free.  'Tis none
other that the Dean sets forth, ay, and the book that I have here.  I
thank my God," he stood up and took off his cap reverently, "that He
hath opened the eyes of another!"

His tone was such that Ambrose could have believed him some devout
almost inspired hermit rather than the acute skilful artisan he appeared
at other times; and in fact, Tibble Steelman, like many another
craftsman of those days, led a double life, the outer one that of the
ordinary workman, the inner one devoted to those lights that were
shining unveiled and new to in any; and especially here in the heart of
the City, partly from the influence of Dean Colet's sermons and
catechisings at Saint Paul's, but also from remnants of Lollardism,
which had never been entirely quenched.  The ordinary clergy looked at
it with horror, but the intelligent and thoughtful of the burgher and
craftsman classes studied it with a passionate fervour which might have
sooner broken out and in more perilous forms save for the guidance it
received in the truly Catholic and open-spirited public teachings of
Colet, in which he persisted in spite of the opposition of his brother

Not that as yet the inquirers had in the slightest degree broken with
the system of the Church, or with her old traditions.  They were only
beginning to see the light that had been veiled from them, and to
endeavour to clear the fountain from the mire that had fouled it; and
there was as yet no reason to believe that the aspersions continually
made against the mass-priests and the friars were more than the chronic
grumblings of Englishmen, who had found the same faults in them for the
last two hundred years.

"And what wouldst thou do, young sir?" presently inquired Tibble.

"That I came to ask thee, good Tibble.  I would work to the best of my
power in any craft so I may hear those words and gain the key to all I
have hitherto learnt, unheeding as one in a dream.  My purpose had been
to be a scholar and a clerk, but I must see mine own way, and know
whither I am being carried, ere I can go farther."

Tibble writhed and wriggled himself about in consideration.  "I would I
wist how to take thee to the Dean himself," he said, "but I am but a
poor man, and his doctrine is `new wine in old bottles' to the master,
though he be a right good man after his lights.  See now, Master
Ambrose, me seemeth that thou hadst best take thy letter first to this
same priest.  It may be that he can prefer thee to some post about the
minster.  Canst sing?"

"I could once, but my voice is nought at this present.  If I could but
be a servitor at Saint Paul's School!"

"It might be that the will which hath led thee so far hath that post in
store for thee, so bear the letter to Master Alworthy.  And if he fail
thee, wouldst thou think scorn of aiding a friend of mine who worketh a
printing-press in Warwick Inner Ward?  Thou wilt find him at his place
in Paternoster Row, hard by Saint Paul's.  He needeth one who is clerk
enough to read the Latin, and the craft being a new one 'tis fenced by
none of those prentice laws that would bar the way to thee elsewhere, at
thy years."

"I should dwell among books!"

"Yea, and holy books, that bear on the one matter dear to the true
heart.  Thou might serve Lucas Hansen at the sign of the Winged Staff
till thou hast settled thine heart, and then it may be the way would be
opened to study at Oxford or at Cambridge, so that thou couldst expound
the faith to others."

"Good Tibble, kind Tibble, I knew thou couldst aid me!  Wilt thou speak
to this Master Hansen for me?"

Tibble, however, held that it was more seemly that Ambrose should first
try his fate with Master Alworthy, but in case of this not succeeding,
he promised to write a billet that would secure attention from Lucas

"I warn thee, however, that he is Low Dutch," he added, "though he
speaketh English well."  He would gladly have gone with the youth, and
at any other time might have been sent by his master, but the whole
energies of the Dragon would be taken up for the next week by
preparations for the tilting-match at court, and Tibble could not be
spared for another working hour.

Ambrose, as he rose to bid his friend good-night, could not help saying
that he marvelled that one such as he could turn his mind to such
vanities as the tilt-yard required.

"Nay," said Tibble, "'twas the craft I was bred to--yea, and I have a
good master; and the Apostle Paul himself--as I've heard a preacher
say--bade men continue in the state wherein they were, and not be
curious to chop and change.  Who knoweth whether in God's sight, all our
wars and policies be no more than the games of the tilt-yard.  Moreover,
Paul himself made these very weapons read as good a sermon as the Dean
himself.  Didst never hear of the shield of faith, and helmet of
salvation, and breastplate of righteousness?  So, if thou comest to
Master Hansen, and provest worthy of his trust, thou wilt hear more, ay,
and maybe read too thyself, and send forth the good seed to others," he
murmured to himself, as he guided his visitor across the moonlit court
up the stairs to the chamber where Stephen lay fast asleep.



  "The smith, a mighty man is he
  With large and sinewy hands;
  And the muscles of his brawny arms
  Are strong as iron bands."

Stephen's first thought in the morning was whether the _ex voto_ effigy
of poor Spring was put in hand, while Ambrose thought of Tibble's
promised commendation to the printer.  They both, however, found their
affairs must needs wait.  Orders for weapons for the tilting-match had
come in so thickly the day before that every hand must be employed on
executing them, and the Dragon court was ringing again with the clang of
hammers and screech of grind-stones.

Stephen, though not yet formally bound, was to enter on his apprentice
life at once; and Ambrose was assured by Master Headley that it was of
no use to repair to any of the dignified clergy of Saint Paul's before
mid-day, and that he had better employ the time in writing to his elder
brother respecting the fee.  Materials were supplied to him, and he used
them so as to do credit to the monks of Beaulieu, in spite of little
Dennet spending every spare moment in watching his pen as if he were
performing some cabalistic operation.

He was a long time about it.  There were two letters to write, and the
wording of them needed to be very careful, besides that the old court
hand took more time to frame than the Italian current hand, and even
thus, when dinner-time came, at ten o'clock, the household was
astonished to find that he had finished all that regarded Stephen,
though he had left the letters open, until his own venture should have
been made.

Stephen flung himself down beside his brother hot and panting, shaking
his shoulder-blades and declaring that his arms felt ready to drop out.
He had been turning a grindstone ever since six o'clock.  The two new
apprentices had been set on to sharpening the weapon points as all that
they were capable of, and had been bidden by Smallbones to turn and hold
alternately, but "that oaf Giles Headley," said Stephen, "never ground
but one lance, and made me go on turning, threatening to lay the butt
about mine ears if I slacked."

"The lazy lubber!" cried Ambrose.  "But did none see thee, or couldst
not call out for redress?"

"Thou art half a wench thyself, Ambrose, to think I'd complain.
Besides, he stood on his rights as a master, and he is a big fellow."

"That's true," said Ambrose, "and he might make it the worse for thee."

"I would I were as big as he," sighed Stephen, "I would soon show him
which was the better man."

Perhaps the grinding match had not been as unobserved as Stephen
fancied, for on returning to work, Smallbones, who presided over all the
rougher parts of the business, claimed them both.  He set Stephen to
stand by him, sort out and hand him all the rivets needed for a suit of
proof armour that hung on a frame, while he required Giles to straighten
bars of iron heated to a white heat.  Ere long Giles called out for
Stephen to change places, to which Smallbones coolly replied, "Turnabout
is the rule here, master."

"Even so," replied Giles, "and I have been at work like this long
enough, ay, and too long!"

"Thy turn was a matter of three hours this morning," replied Kit--not
coolly, for nobody was cool in his den, but with a brevity which
provoked a laugh.

"I shall see what my cousin the master saith!" cried Giles, in great

"Ay, that thou wilt," returned Kit, "if thou dost loiter over thy
business, and hast not those bars ready when called for."

"He never meant me to be put on work like this, with a hammer that
breaks mine arm."

"What! crying out for that!" said Edmund Burgess, who had just come in
to ask for a pair of tongs.  "What wouldst say to the big hammer that
none can wield save Kit himself?"

Giles felt there was no redress, and panted on, feeling as if he were
melting away, and with a dumb, wild rage in his heart, that could get no
outlet, for Smallbones was at least as much bigger than he as he was
than Stephen.  Tibble was meanwhile busy over the gilding and enamelling
of Buckingham's magnificent plate armour in Italian fashion, but he had
found time to thrust into Ambrose's hand an exceedingly small and
curiously folded billet for Lucas Hansen, the printer, in case of need.
"He would be found at the sign of the Winged Staff in Paternoster Row,"
said Tibble, "or if not there himself, there would be his servant who
would direct Ambrose to the place where the Dutch printer lived and
worked."  No one was at leisure to show the lad the way, and he set out
with a strange feeling of solitude, as his path began decisively to be
away from that of his brother.

He did not find much difficulty in discovering the quadrangle on the
south side of the minster where the minor canons lived near the deanery;
and the porter, a stout lay brother, pointed out to him the doorway
belonging to Master Alworthy.  He knocked, and a young man with a
tonsured head but a bloated face opened it.  Ambrose explained that he
had brought a letter from the Warden of Saint Elizabeth's College at

"Give it here," said the young man.

"I would give it to his reverence himself," said Ambrose.

"His reverence is taking his after-dinner nap and may not be disturbed,"
said the man.

"Then I will wait," said Ambrose.

The door was shut in his face, but it was the shady side of the court,
and he sat down on a bench and waited.  After full an hour the door was
opened, and the canon, a good-natured looking man, in a square cap, and
gown and cassock of the finest cloth, came slowly out.  He had evidently
heard nothing of the message, and was taken by surprise when Ambrose,
doffing his cap and bowing low, gave him the greeting of the Warden of
Saint Elizabeth's and the letter.

"Hum!  Ha!  My good friend--Fielder--I remember him.  He was always a
scholar.  So he hath sent thee here with his commendations.  What should
I do with all the idle country lads that come up to choke London and
feed the plague?  Yet stay--that lurdane Bolt is getting intolerably
lazy and insolent, and methinks he robs me!  What canst do, thou

"I can read Latin, sir, and know the Greek alphabeta."

"Tush!  I want no scholar more than enough to serve my mass.  Canst

"Not now; but I hope to do so again."

"When I rid me of Bolt there--and there's an office under the sacristan
that he might fill as well as another knave--the fellow might do for me
well enow as a body servant," said Mr Alworthy, speaking to himself.
"He would brush my gowns and make my bed, and I might perchance trust
him with my marketings, and by and by there might be some office for him
when he grew saucy and idle.  I'll prove him on mine old comrade's

"Sir," said Ambrose, respectfully, "what I seek for is occasion for
study.  I had hoped you could speak to the Dean, Dr John Colet, for
some post at his school."

"Boy," said Alworthy, "I thought thee no such fool!  Why crack thy
brains with study when I can show thee a surer path to ease and
preferment?  But I see thou art too proud to do an old man a service.
Thou writst thyself gentleman, forsooth, and high blood will not stoop."

"Not so, sir," returned Ambrose, "I would work in any way so I could
study the humanities, and hear the Dean preach.  Cannot you commend me
to his school?"

"Ha!" exclaimed the canon, "this is your sort, is it?  I'll have nought
to do with it!  Preaching, preaching!  Every idle child's head is agog
on preaching nowadays!  A plague on it!  Why can't Master Dean leave it
to the black friars, whose vocation 'tis, and not cumber us with his
sermons for ever, and set every lazy lad thinking he must needs run
after them?  No, no, my good boy, take my advice.  Thou shalt have two
good bellyfuls a day, all my cast gowns, and a pair of shoes by the
year, with a groat a month if thou wilt keep mine house, bring in my
meals, and the like, and by and by, so thou art a good lad, and runst
not after these new-fangled preachments which lead but to heresy, and
set folk racking their brains about sin and such trash, we'll get thee
shorn and into minor orders, and who knows what good preferment thou
mayst not win in due time!"

"Sir, I am beholden to you, but my mind is set on study."

"What kin art thou to a fool?" cried the minor canon, so startling
Ambrose that he had almost answered, and turning to another ecclesiastic
whose siesta seemed to have ended about the same time, "Look at this
varlet, Brother Cloudesley!  Would you believe it?  He comes to me with
a letter from mine old friend, in consideration of which I offer him
that saucy lubber Bolt's place, a gown of mine own a year, meat and
preferment, and, lo you, he tells me all he wants is to study Greek,
forsooth, and hear the Dean's sermons!"

The other canon shook his head in dismay at such arrant folly.  "Young
stripling, be warned," he said.  "Know what is good for thee.  Greek is
the tongue of heresy."

"How may that be, reverend sir," said Ambrose, "when the holy Apostles
and the Fathers spake and wrote in the Greek?"

"Waste not thy time on him, brother," said Mr Alworthy.  "He will find
out his error when his pride and his Greek forsooth have brought him to
fire and faggot."

"Ay! ay!" added Cloudesley.  "The Dean with his Dutch friend and his
sermons, and his new grammar and accidence, is sowing heretics as thick
as groundsel."

Wherewith the two canons of the old school waddled away, arm in arm, and
Bolt put out his head, leered at Ambrose, and bade him shog off, and not
come sneaking after other folk's shoes.

Sooth to say, Ambrose was relieved by his rejection.  If he were not to
obtain admission in any capacity to Saint Paul's School, he felt more
drawn to Tibble's friend the printer; for the self-seeking luxurious
habits into which so many of the beneficed clergy had fallen were
repulsive to him, and his whole soul thirsted after that new revelation,
as it were, which Colet's sermon had made to him.  Yet the word heresy
was terrible and confusing, and a doubt came over him whether he might
not be forsaking the right path, and be lured aside by false lights.

He would think it out before he committed himself.  Where should he do
so in peace?  He thought of the great Minster, but the nave was full of
a surging multitude, and there was a loud hum of voices proceeding from
it, which took from him all inclination to find his way to the quieter
and inner portions of the sanctuary.

Then he recollected the little Pardon Church, where he had seen the
_Dance of Death_ on the walls; and crossing the burial-ground he
entered, and, as he expected, found it empty, since the hours for masses
for the dead were now past.  He knelt down on a step, repeated the sext
office, in warning for which the bells were chiming all round, covering
his face with his hands, and thinking himself back to Beaulieu; then,
seating himself on a step, leaning against the wall, he tried to think
out whether to give himself up to the leadings of the new light that had
broken on him, or whether to wrench himself from it.  Was this, which
seemed to him truth and deliverance, verily the heresy respecting which
rumours had come to horrify the country convents?  If he had only heard
of it from Tibble Wrymouth, he would have doubted, in spite of its power
over him, but he had heard it from a man, wise, good, and high in place,
like Dean Colet.  Yet to his further perplexity, his uncle had spoken of
Colet as jesting at Wolsey's table.  What course should he take?  Could
he bear to turn away from that which drew his soul so powerfully, and
return to the bounds which seem to him to be grown so narrow, but which
he was told were safe?  Now that Stephen was settled, it was open to him
to return to Saint Elizabeth's College, but the young soul within him
revolted against the repetition of what had become to him unsatisfying,
unless illumined by the brightness he seemed to have glimpsed at.

But Ambrose had gone through much unwonted fatigue of late, and while
thus musing he fell asleep, with his head against the wall.  He was half
wakened by the sound of voices, and presently became aware that two
persons were examining the walls, and comparing the paintings with some
others, which one of them had evidently seen.  If he had known it, it
was with the _Dance of Death_ on the bridge of Lucerne.

"I question," said a voice that Ambrose had heard before, "whether these
terrors be wholesome for men's souls."

"For priests' pouches, they be," said the other, with something of a
foreign accent.

"Alack, when shall we see the day when the hope of paradise and dread of
purgatory shall be no longer made the tools of priestly gain; and hatred
of sin taught to these poor folk, instead of servile dread of

"Have a care, my Colet," answered the yellow bearded foreigner; "thou
art already in ill odour with those same men in authority; and though a
Dean's stall be fenced from the episcopal crook, yet there is a rod at
Rome which can reach even thither."

"I tell thee, dear Erasmus, thou art too timid; I were well content to
leave house and goods, yea, to go to prison or to death, could I but
bring home to one soul, for which Christ died, the truth and hope in
every one of those prayers and creeds that our poor folk are taught to
patter as a senseless charm."

"These are strange times," returned Erasmus.  "Methinks yonder phantom,
be he skeleton or angel, will have snatched both of us away ere we
behold the full issue either of thy preachings, or my Greek Testament,
or of our More's Utopian images.  Dost thou not feel as though we were
like children who have set some mighty engine in motion, like the great
water-wheels in my native home, which, whirled by the flowing streams of
time and opinion, may break up the whole foundations, and destroy the
oneness of the edifice?"

"It may be so," returned Colet.  "What read we?  `The net brake' even in
the Master's sight, while still afloat on the sea.  It was only on the
shore that the hundred and fifty-three, all good and sound, were drawn
to His feet."

"And," returned Erasmus, "I see wherefore thou hast made thy children at
Saint Paul's one hundred and fifty and three."

The two friends were passing out.  Their latter speeches had scarce been
understood by Ambrose, even if he heard them, so full was he of
conflicting feelings, now ready to cast himself before their feet, and
entreat the Dean to help him to guidance, now withheld by bashfulness,
unwillingness to interrupt, and ingenuous shame at appearing like an
eavesdropper towards such dignified and venerable personages.  Had he
obeyed his first impulse, mayhap his career had been made safer and
easier for him, but it was while shyness chained his limbs and tongue
that the Dean and Erasmus quitted the chapel, and the opportunity of
accosting them had slipped away.

Their half comprehended words had however decided him in the part he
should take, making him sure that Colet was not controverting the
formularies of the Church, but drawing out those meanings which in
repetition by rote were well-nigh forgotten.  It was as if his course
were made clear to him.

He was determined to take the means which most readily presented
themselves of hearing Colet; and leaving the chapel, he bent his steps
to the Row which his book-loving eye had already marked.  Flanking the
great Cathedral on the north, was the row of small open stalls devoted
to the sale of books, or "objects of devotion," all so arranged that the
open portion might be cleared, and the stock-in-trade locked up if not
carried away.  Each stall had its own sign, most of them sacred, such as
the Lamb and Flag, the Scallop Shell, or some patron saint, but
classical emblems were oddly intermixed, such as Minerva's aegis,
Pegasus, and the Lyre of Apollo.  The sellers, some middle-aged men,
some lads, stretched out their arms with their wares to attract the
passengers in the street, and did not fail to beset Ambrose.  The more
lively looked at his Lincoln-green and shouted verses of ballads at him,
fluttering broad sheets with verses on the lamentable fate of Jane
Shore, or Fair Rosamond, the same woodcut doing duty for both ladies,
without mercy to their beauty.  The scholastic judged by his face and
step that he was a student, and they flourished at him black-bound
copies of Virgilius Maro, and of Tully's Offices, while others, hoping
that he was an incipient clerk, offered breviaries, missals or
portuaries, with the Use of Saint Paul's, or of Sarum, or mayhap Saint
Austin's Confessions.  He made his way along, with his eye diligently
heedful of the signs, and at last recognised the Winged Staff or
caduceus of Hermes, over a stall where a couple of boys in blue caps and
gowns and yellow stockings were making a purchase of a small, grave-
looking, elderly but bright cheeked man, whose yellow hair and beard
were getting intermingled with grey.  They were evidently those Saint
Paul's School boys whom Ambrose envied so much, and as they finished
their bargaining and ran away together, Ambrose advanced with a
salutation, asked if he did not see Master Lucas Hansen, and gave him
the note with the commendations of Tibble Steelman the armourer.

He was answered with a ready nod and "yea, yea," as the old man opened
the billet and cast his eyes over it; then scanning Ambrose from head to
foot, said with some amazement, "But you are of gentle blood, young

"I am," said Ambrose; "but gentle blood needs at times to work for
bread, and Tibble let me hope that I might find both livelihood for the
body and for the soul with you, sir."

"Is it so?" asked the printer, his face lighting up.  "Art thou willing
to labour and toil, and give up hope of fee and honour, if so thou mayst
win the truth?"

Ambrose folded his hands with a gesture of earnestness, and Lucas Hansen
said, "Bless thee, my son!  Methinks I can aid thee in thy quest, so
thou canst lay aside," and here his voice grew sharper and more
peremptory, "all thy gentleman's airs and follies, and serve--ay, serve
and obey."

"I trust so," returned Ambrose; "my brother is even now becoming
prentice to Master Giles Headley, and we hope to live as honest men by
the work of our hands and brains."

"I forgot that you English herren are not so puffed up with pride and
scorn like our Dutch nobles," returned the printer.  "Canst live
sparingly, and lie hard, and see that thou keepst the house clean, not
like these English swine?"

"I hope so," said Ambrose, smiling; "but I have an uncle and aunt, and
they would have me lie every night at their house beside the Temple

"What is thine uncle?"

"He hath a post in the meine of my Lord Archbishop of York," said
Ambrose, blushing and hesitating a little.  "He cometh to and fro to his
wife, who dwells with her old father, doing fine lavender's work for the
lawyer folk therein."

It was somewhat galling that this should be the most respectable
occupation that could be put forward, but Lucas Hansen was evidently
reassured by it.  He next asked whether Ambrose could read Latin,
putting a book into his hand as he did so; Ambrose read and construed
readily, explaining that he had been trained at Beaulieu.

"That is well!" said the printer; "and hast thou any Greek?"

"Only the alphabeta," said Ambrose, "I made that out from a book at
Beaulieu, but Father Simon knew no more, and there was nought to study

"Even so," replied Hansen, "but little as thou knowst 'tis as much as I
can hope for from any who will aid me in my craft.  'Tis I that, as thou
hast seen, furnish for the use of the children at the Dean's school of
Saint Paul's.  The best and foremost scholars of them are grounded in
their Greek, that being the tongue wherein the Holy Gospels were first
writ.  Hitherto I have had to get me books for their use from Holland,
whither they are brought from Basle, but I have had sent me from Hamburg
a fount of type of the Greek character, whereby I hope to print at home,
the accidence, and mayhap the _Dialogues_ of Plato, and it might even be
the sacred Gospel itself, which the great Doctor, Master Erasmus, is
even now collating from the best authorities in the universities."

Ambrose's eyes kindled with unmistakable delight.  "You have the
accidence!" he exclaimed.  "Then could I study the tongue even while
working for you!  Sir, I would do my best!  It is the very opportunity I

"Fair and softly," said the printer with something of a smile.  "Thou
art new to cheapening and bargaining, my fair lad.  Thou hast spoken not
one word of the wage."

"I recked not of that," said Ambrose.  "'Tis true, I may not burthen
mine uncle and aunt, but verily, sir, I would live on the humblest fare
that will keep body and soul together so that I may have such an

"How knowst thou what the opportunity may be?" returned Lucas, drily.
"Thou art but a babe!  Some one should have a care of thee.  If I set
thee to stand here all day and cry what d'ye lack? or to carry bales of
books 'twixt this and Warwick Inner Ward, thou wouldst have no ground to

"Nay, sir," returned Ambrose, "I wot that Tibble Steelman would never
send me to one who would not truly give me what I need."

"Tibble Steelman is verily one of the few who are both called and
chosen," replied Lucas, "and I think thou art the same so far as green
youth may be judged, since thou art one who will follow the word into
the desert, and never ask for the loaves and fishes.  Nevertheless, I
will take none advantage of thy youth and zeal, but thou shalt first
behold what thou shalt have to do for me, and then if it still likes
thee, I will see thy kindred.  Hast no father?"

Ambrose explained, and at that moment Master Hansen's boy made his
appearance, returning from an errand; the stall was left in his charge,
while the master took Ambrose with him into the precincts of what had
once been the splendid and hospitable mansion of the great king-maker,
Warwick, but was now broken up into endless little tenements with their
courts and streets, though the baronial ornaments and the arrangement
still showed what the place had been.

Entering beneath a wide archway, still bearing the sign of the Bear and
Ragged Staff, Lucas led the way into what must have been one of the
courts of offices, for it was surrounded with buildings and sheds of
different heights and sizes, and had on one side a deep trough of stone,
fed by a series of water-taps, intended for the use of the stables.  The
doors of one of these buildings was unlocked by Master Hansen, and
Ambrose found himself in what had once perhaps been part of a stable,
but had been partitioned off from the rest.  There were two stalls, one
serving the Dutchman for his living room, the other for his workshop.
In one corner stood a white earthenware stove--so new a spectacle to the
young forester that he supposed it to be the printing-press.  A table,
shiny with rubbing, a wooden chair, a couple of stools, a few vessels,
mirrors for brightness, some chests and corner cupboards, a bed shutting
up like a box and likewise highly polished, completed the furniture, all
arranged with the marvellous orderliness and neatness of the nation.  A
curtain shut off the opening to the other stall, where stood a machine
with a huge screw, turned by leverage.  Boxes of type and piles of paper
surrounded it, and Ambrose stood and looked at it with a sort of awe-
struck wonder and respect as the great fount of wisdom.  Hansen showed
him what his work would be, in setting up type, and by and by correcting
after the first proof.  The machine could only print four pages at a
time, and for this operation the whole strength of the establishment was
required.  Moreover, Master Hansen bound, as well as printed his books.
Ambrose was by no means daunted.  As long as he might read as well as
print, and while he had Sundays at Saint Paul's to look to, he asked no
more--except indeed that his gentle blood stirred at the notion of
acting salesman in the book-stall, and Master Hansen assured him with a
smile that Will Wherry, the other boy, would do that better than either
of them, and that he would be entirely employed here.

The methodical master insisted however on making terms with the boy's
relations; and with some misgivings on Ambrose's part, the two--since
business hours were almost over--walked together to the Temple and to
the little house, where Perronel was ironing under her window.

Ambrose need not have doubted.  The Dutch blood on either side was
stirred; and the good housewife commanded the little printer's respect
as he looked round on a kitchen as tidy as if it in his own country.
And the bargain was struck that Ambrose Birkenholt should serve Master
Hansen for his meals and two pence a week, while he was to sleep at the
little house of Mistress Randall, who would keep his clothes and linen
in order.

And thus it was that both Ambrose and Stephen Birkenholt had found their
vocations for the present, and both were fervent in them.  Master
Headley pshawed a little when he heard that Ambrose had engaged himself
to a printer and a foreigner; and when he was told it was to a friend of
Tibble's, only shook his head, saying that Tib's only fault was dabbling
in matters of divinity, as if a plain man could not be saved without
them!  However, he respected the lad for having known his own mind and
not hung about in idleness, and he had no opinion of clerks, whether
monks or priests.  Indeed, the low esteem in which the clergy as a class
were held in London was one of the very evil signs of the times.
Ambrose was invited to dine and sup at the Dragon court every Sunday and
holiday, and he was glad to accept, since the hospitality was so free,
and he thus was able to see his brother and Tibble; besides that, it
prevented him from burthening Mistress Randall, whom he really liked,
though he could not see her husband, either in his motley or his plain
garments, without a shudder of repulsion.

Ambrose found that setting up type had not much more to do with the
study of new books than Stephen's turning the grindstone had with
fighting in the lists; and the mistakes he made in spelling from right
to left, and in confounding the letters, made him despair, and prepare
for any amount of just indignation from his master; but he found on the
contrary that Master Hansen had never had a pupil who made so few
blunders on the first trial, and augured well of him from such a
beginning.  Paper was too costly, and pressure too difficult, for many
proofs to be struck off, but Hansen could read and correct his type as
it stood, and assured Ambrose that practice would soon give him the same
power; and the correction was thus completed, when Will Wherry, a big,
stout fellow, came in to dinner--the stall being left during that time,
as nobody came for books during the dinner-hour, and Hansen, having an
understanding with his next neighbour, by which they took turns to keep
guard against thieves.

The master and the two lads dined together on the contents of a
cauldron, where pease and pork had been simmering together on the stove
all the morning.  Their strength was then united to work the press and
strike off a sheet, which the master scanned, finding only one error in
it.  It was a portion of Lilly's _Grammar_, and Ambrose regarded it with
mingled pride and delight, though he longed to go further into those
deeper revelations for the sake of which he had come here.

Master Hansen then left the youths to strike off a couple of hundred
sheets, after which they were to wash the types and re-arrange the
letters in the compartments in order, whilst he returned to the stall.
The customers requiring his personal attention were generally late ones.
When all this was accomplished, and the pot put on again in preparation
for supper, the lads might use the short time that remained as they
would, and Hansen himself showed Ambrose a shelf of books concealed by a
blue curtain, whence he might read.

Will Wherry showed unconcealed amazement that this should be the taste
of his companion.  He himself hated the whole business, and would never
have adopted it, but that he had too many brothers for all to take to
the water on the Thames, and their mother was too poor to apprentice
them, and needed the small weekly pay the Dutchman gave him.  He seemed
a good-natured, dull fellow, whom no doubt Hansen had hired for the sake
of the strong arms, developed by generations of oarsmen upon the river.
What he specially disliked was that his master was a foreigner.  The
whole court swarmed with foreigners, he said, with the utmost disgust,
as if they were noxious insects.  They made provisions dear, and
undersold honest men, and he wondered the Lord Mayor did not see to it
and drive them out.  He did not so much object to the Dutch, but the
Spaniards--no words could express his horror of them.

By and by, Ambrose going out to fetch some water from the conduit, found
standing by it a figure entirely new to him.  It was a young girl of
some twelve or fourteen years old, in the round white cap worn by all of
her age and sex; but from beneath it hung down two thick plaits of the
darkest hair he had ever seen, and though the dress was of the ordinary
dark serge with a coloured apron, it was put on with an air that made it
look like some strange and beautiful costume on the slender, lithe,
little form.  The vermilion apron was further trimmed with a narrow
border of white, edged again with deep blue, and it chimed in with the
bright coral earrings and necklace.  As Ambrose came forward the
creature tried to throw a crimson handkerchief over her head, and ran
into the shelter of another door, but not before Ambrose had seen a pair
of large dark eyes so like those of a terrified fawn that they seemed to
carry him back to the Forest.  Going back amazed, he asked his companion
who the girl he had seen could have been.

Will stared.  "I trow you mean the old blackamoor sword-cutler's wench.
He is one of those pestilent strangers.  An 'Ebrew Jew who worships
Mahound and is too bad for the Spanish folk themselves."

This rather startled Ambrose, though he knew enough to see that the
accusations could not both be true, but he forgot it in the delight,
when Will pronounced the work done, of drawing back the curtain and
feasting his eyes upon the black backs of the books, and the black-
letter brochures that lay by them.  There were scarcely thirty, yet he
gloated on them as on an inexhaustible store, while Will, whistling
wonder at his taste, opined that since some one was there to look after
the stove, and the iron pot on it, he might go out and have a turn at
ball with Hob and Martin.

Ambrose was glad to be left to go over his coming feast.  There was
Latin, English, and, alas! baffling Dutch.  High or Low it was all the
same to him.  What excited his curiosity most was the _Enchiridion
Militis Christiani_ of Erasmus--in Latin of course, and that he could
easily read--but almost equally exciting was a Greek and Latin
vocabulary; or again, a very thin book in which he recognised the New
Testament in the Vulgate.  He had heard chapters of it read from the
graceful stone pulpit overhanging the refectory at Beaulieu, and, of
course, the Gospels and Epistles at mass, but they had been read with
little expression and no attention; and that Sunday's discourse had
filled him with eagerness to look farther; but the mere reading the
titles of the books was pleasure enough for the day, and his master was
at home before he had fixed his mind on anything.  Perhaps this was as
well, for Lucas advised him what to begin with, and how to divide his
studies so as to gain a knowledge of the Greek, his great ambition, and
also to read the Scripture.

The master was almost as much delighted as the scholar, and it was not
till the curfew was beginning to sound that Ambrose could tear himself
away.  It was still daylight, and the door of the next dwelling was
open.  There, sitting on the ground cross-legged, in an attitude such as
Ambrose had never seen, was a magnificent old man, with a huge long
white beard, wearing, indeed, the usual dress of a Londoner of the lower
class, but the gown flowed round him in a grand and patriarchal manner,
corresponding with his noble, somewhat aquiline features; and behind him
Ambrose thought he caught a glimpse of the shy fawn he had seen in the



  "In sooth it was a thing to weep
  If then as now the level plain
  Beneath was spreading like the deep,
  The broad unruffled main.
  If like a watch-tower of the sun
  Above, the Alpuxarras rose,
  Streaked, when the dying day was done,
  With evening's roseate snows."
  Archbishop Trench.

When Mary Tudor, released by death from her first dreary marriage,
contracted for her brother's pleasure, had appeased his wrath at her
second marriage made to please herself, Henry the Eighth was only too
glad to mark his assent by all manner of festivities; and English
chroniclers, instead of recording battles and politics, had only to
write of pageantries and tournaments during the merry May of the year
1515--a May, be it remembered, which, thanks to the old style, was at
least ten days nearer to Midsummer than our present month.

How the two queens and all their court had gone a-maying on Shooter's
Hill, ladies and horses poetically disguised and labelled with sweet
summer titles, was only a nine days' wonder when the Birkenholts had
come to London, but the approaching tournament at Westminster on the
Whitsun holiday was the great excitement to the whole population, for,
with all its faults, the Court of bluff King Hal was thoroughly genial,
and every one, gentle and simple, might participate in his pleasures.

Seats were reserved at the lists for the city dignitaries and their
families, and though old Mistress Headley professed that she ought to
have done with such vanities, she could not forbear from going to see
that her son was not too much encumbered with the care of little Dennet,
and that the child herself ran into no mischief.  Master Headley himself
grumbled and sighed but he put himself into his scarlet gown, holding
that his presence was a befitting attention to the king, glad to gratify
his little daughter, and not without a desire to see how his
workmanship--good English ware--held out against "mail and plate of
Milan steel," the fine armour brought home from France by the new Duke
of Suffolk.  Giles donned his best in the expectation of sitting in the
places of honour as one of the family, and was greatly disgusted when
Kit Smallbones observed, "What's all that bravery for?  The tilting-
match quotha?  Ha! ha! my young springald, if thou see it at all, thou
must be content to gaze as thou canst from the armourers' tent, if
Tibble there chooses to be cumbered with a useless lubber like thee."

"I always sat with my mother when there were matches at Clarendon,"
muttered Giles, who had learnt at least that it was of no use to
complain of Smallbones' plain speaking.

"If folks cocker malapert lads at Sarum we know better here," was the

"I shall ask the master, my kinsman," returned the youth.

But he got little by his move.  Master Headley told him, not unkindly,
for he had some pity for the spoilt lad, that not the Lord Mayor himself
would take his own son with him while yet an apprentice.  Tibble
Steelman would indeed go to one of the attendants' tents at the further
end of the lists, where repairs to armour and weapons might be needed,
and would take an assistant or two, but who they might be must depend on
his own choice, and if Giles had any desire to go, he had better don his
working dress.

In fact, Tibble meant to take Edmund Burgess and one workman for use,
and one of the new apprentices for pleasure, letting them change in the
middle of the day.  The swagger of Giles actually forfeited for him the
first turn, which--though he was no favourite with the men--would have
been granted to his elder years and his relationship to the master; but
on his overbearing demand to enter the boat which was to carry down a
little anvil and charcoal furnace, with a few tools, rivets, nails, and
horse-shoes, Tibble coolly returned that he needed no such gay birds;
but if Giles chose to be ready in his leathern coat when Stephen
Birkenholt came home at mid-day, mayhap he might change with him.

Stephen went joyously in the plainest of attire, though Tibble in fur
cap, grimy jerkin, and leathern apron was no elegant steersman; and
Edmund, who was at the age of youthful foppery, shrugged his shoulders a
little, and disguised the garments of the smithy with his best flat cap
and newest mantle.

They kept in the wake of the handsome barge which Master Headley shared
with his friend and brother alderman, Master Hope the draper, whose
young wife, in a beautiful black velvet hood and shining blue satin
kirtle, was evidently petting Dennet to her heart's content, though the
little damsel never lost an opportunity of nodding to her friends in the
plainer barge in the rear.

The Tudor tilting-matches cost no lives, and seldom broke bones.  They
were chiefly opportunities for the display of brilliant enamelled and
gilt armour, at the very acme of cumbrous magnificence; and of equally
gorgeous embroidery spread out over the vast expanse provided by
elephantine Flemish horses.  Even if the weapons had not been purposely
blunted, and if the champions had really desired to slay one another,
they would have found the task very difficult, as in effect they did in
the actual game of war.  But the spectacle was a splendid one, and all
the apparatus was ready in the armourers' tent, marked by Saint George
and the Dragon.  Tibble ensconced himself in the innermost corner with a
"tractate," borrowed from his friend Lucas, and sent the apprentices to
gaze their fill at the rapidly filling circles of seats.  They saw King
Harry, resplendent in gilded armour--"from their own anvil, true English
steel," said Edmund, proudly--hand to her seat his sister the bride, one
of the most beautiful women then in existence, with a lovely and
delicate bloom on her fair face and exquisite Plantagenet features.  No
more royally handsome creatures could the world have offered than that
brother and sister, and the English world appreciated them and made the
lists ring with applause at the fair lady who had disdained foreign
princes to wed her true love, an honest Englishman.

He--the cloth of frieze--in blue Milanese armour, made to look as
classical as possible, and with clasps and medals engraven from antique
gems--handed in Queen Katharine, whose dark but glowing Spanish
complexion made a striking contrast to the dazzling fairness of her
young sister-in-law.  Near them sat a stout burly figure in episcopal
purple, and at his feet there was a form which nearly took away all
Stephen's pleasure for the time.  For it was in motley, and he could
hear the bells jingle, while the hot blood rose in his cheeks in the
dread lest Burgess should detect the connection, or recognise in the
jester the grave personage who had come to negotiate with Mr Headley
for his indentures, or worse still, that the fool should see and claim

However, Quipsome Hal seemed to be exchanging drolleries with the young
dowager of France, who, sooth to say, giggled in a very unqueenly manner
at jokes which made the grave Spanish-born queen draw up her stately
head, and converse with a lady on her other hand--an equally stately
lady, somewhat older, with the straight Plantagenet features, and by her
side a handsome boy, who, though only eight or nine years old, was
tonsured, and had a little scholar's gown.  "That," said Edmund, "is my
Lady Countess of Salisbury, of whom Giles Headley prates so much."

A tournament, which was merely a game between gorgeously equipped
princes and nobles, afforded little scope for adventure worthy of
record, though it gave great diversion to the spectators.  Stephen gazed
like one fascinated at the gay panoply of horse and man, with the huge
plumes on the heads of both, as they rushed against one another, and he
shared with Edmund the triumph when the lance from their armoury held
good, the vexation if it were shivered.  All would have been perfect but
for the sight of his uncle, playing off his drolleries in a manner that
gave him a sense of personal degradation.

To escape from the sight almost consoled him when, in the pause after
the first courses had been run, Tibble told him and Burgess to return,
and send Headley and another workman with a fresh bundle of lances for
the afternoon's tilting.  Stephen further hoped to find his brother at
the Dragon court, as it was one of those holidays that set every one
free, and separation began to make the brothers value their meetings.

But Ambrose was not at the Dragon court, and when Stephen went in quest
of him to the Temple, Perronel had not seen him since the early morning,
but she said he seemed so much bitten with the little old man's
scholarship that she had small doubt that he would be found poring over
a book in Warwick Inner Ward.

Thither therefore did Stephen repair.  The place was nearly deserted,
for the inhabitants were mostly either artisans or that far too numerous
race who lived on the doles of convents, on the alms of churchgoers, and
the largesses scattered among the people on public occasions, and these
were for the most part pursuing their vocation both of gazing and
looking out for gain among the spectators outside the lists.  The door
that Stephen had been shown as that of Ambrose's master was, however,
partly open, and close beside it sat in the sun a figure that amazed
him.  On a small mat or rug, with a black and yellow handkerchief over
her head, and little scarlet legs crossed under a blue dress, all
lighted up by the gay May sun, there slept the little dark, glowing
maiden, with her head bent as it leant against the wall, her rosy lips
half-open, her long black plaits on her shoulders.

Stepping up to the half-open door, whence he heard a voice reading, his
astonishment was increased.  At the table were his brother and his
master, Ambrose with a black book in hand, Lucas Hansen with some
papers, and on the ground was seated a venerable, white-bearded old man,
something between Stephen's notions of an apostle and of a magician,
though the latter idea predominated at sight of a long parchment scroll
covered with characters such as belonged to no alphabet that he had ever
dreamt of.  What were they doing to his brother?  He was absolutely in
an enchanter's den.  Was it a pixie at the door, guarding it?
"Ambrose!" he cried aloud.

Everybody started.  Ambrose sprang to his feet, exclaiming, "Stephen!"
The pixie gave a little scream and jumped up, flying to the old man, who
quietly rolled up his scroll.

Lucas rose up as Ambrose spoke.

"Thy brother?" said he.

"Yea--come in search of me," said Ambrose.

"Thou hadst best go forth with him," said Lucas.

"It is not well that youth should study over long," said the old man.
"Thou hast aided us well, but do thou now unbend the bow.  Peace be with
thee, my son."

Ambrose complied, but scarcely willingly, and the instant they had made
a few steps from the door, Stephen exclaimed in dismay, "Who--what was
it?  Have they bewitched thee, Ambrose?"

Ambrose laughed merrily.  "Not so.  It is holy lore that those good men
are reading."

"Nay now, Ambrose.  Stand still--if thou canst, poor fellow," he
muttered, and then made the sign of the cross three times over his
brother, who stood smiling, and said, "Art satisfied Stevie?  Or wilt
have me rehearse my _Credo_?"  Which he did, Stephen listening
critically, and drawing a long breath as he recognised each word,
pronounced without a shudder at the critical points.  "Thou art safe so
far," said Stephen.  "But sure he is a wizard.  I even beheld his
familiar spirit--in a fair shape doubtless--like a pixie!  Be not
deceived, brother.  Sorcery reads backwards--and I saw him so read from
that scroll of his.  Laughest thou!  Nay! what shall I do to free thee?
Enter here!"

Stephen dragged his brother, still laughing, into the porch of the
nearest church, and deluged him with holy water with such good will,
that Ambrose, putting up his hands to shield his eyes, exclaimed, "Come
now, have done with this folly, Stephen--though it makes me laugh to
think of thy scared looks, and poor little Aldonza being taken for a
familiar spirit."  And Ambrose laughed as he had not laughed for weeks.

"But what is it, then?"

"The old man is of thy calling, or something like it, Stephen, being
that he maketh and tempereth sword-blades after the prime Damascene or
Toledo fashion, and the familiar spirit is his little daughter."

Stephen did not however look mollified.  "Sword-blades!  None have a
right to make them save our craft.  This is one of the rascaille
Spaniards who have poured into the city under favour of the queen to
spoil and ruin the lawful trade.  Though could you but have seen,
Ambrose, how our tough English ashwood in King Harry's band--from our
own armoury too--made all go down before it, you would never uphold
strangers and their false wares that can only get the better by

"How thou dost harp upon sorcery!" exclaimed Ambrose.  "I must tell thee
the good old man's story as 'twas told to me, and then wilt thou own
that he is as good a Christian as ourselves--ay, or better--and hath
little cause to love the Spaniards."

"Come on, then," said Stephen.  "Methought if we, went towards
Westminster we might yet get where we could see the lists.  Such a rare
show, Ambrose, to see the King in English armour, ay, and Master
Headley's, every inch of it, glittering in the sun, so that one could
scarce brook the dazzling, on his horse like a rock shattering all that
came against him!  I warrant you the lances cracked and shivered like
faggots under old Purkis's bill-hook.  And that you should liefer pore
over crabbed monkish stuff with yonder old men!  My life on it, there
must be some spell!"

"No more than of old, when I was ever for book and thou for bow," said
Ambrose; "but I'll make thee rueful for old Michael yet.  Hast heard
tell of the Moors in Spain?"

"Moors--blackamoors who worship Mahound and Termagant.  I saw a
blackamoor last week behind his master, a merchant of Genoa, in Paul's
Walk.  He looked like the devils in the Miracle Play at Christ Church,
with blubber lips and wool for hair.  I marvelled that he did not writhe
and flee when he came within the Minster, but Ned Burgess said he was a
christened man."

"Moors be not all black, neither be they all worshippers of Mahound,"
replied Ambrose.

However, as Ambrose's information, though a few degrees more correct and
intelligent than his brother's, was not complete, it will be better not
to give the history of Lucas's strange visitors in his words.

They belonged to the race of Saracen Arabs who had brought the arts of
life to such perfection in Southern Spain, but who had received the
general appellation of Moors from those Africans who were continually
reinforcing them, and, bringing a certain Puritan strictness of
Mohammedanism with them, had done much towards destroying the highest
cultivation among them before the Spanish kingdoms became united, and
finally triumphed over them.  During the long interval of two centuries,
while Castille was by Italian occupied by internal wars, and Aragon
conquests, there had been little aggression on the Moorish borderland,
and a good deal of friendly intercourse both in the way of traffic and
of courtesy, nor had the bitter persecution and distrust of new converts
then set in, which followed the entire conquest of Granada.  Thus, when
Ronda was one of the first Moorish cities to surrender, a great merchant
of the unrivalled sword-blades whose secret had been brought from
Damascus, had, with all his family, been accepted gladly when he
declared himself ready to submit and receive baptism.  Miguel Abenali
was one of the sons, and though his conversion had at first been mere
compliance with his father's will and the family interests, he had
become sufficiently convinced of Christian truth not to take part with
his own people in the final struggle.  Still, however, the inbred
abhorrence of idolatry had influenced his manner of worship, and when,
after half a lifetime, Granada had fallen, and the Inquisition had begun
to take cognisance of new Christians from among the Moors as well as the
Jews, there were not lacking spies to report the absence of all sacred
images or symbols from the house of the wealthy merchant, and that
neither he nor any of his family had been seen kneeling before the
shrine of Nuestra Senora.  The sons of Abenali did indeed feel strongly
the power of the national reaction, and revolted from the religion which
they saw cruelly enforced on their conquered countrymen.  The Moor had
been viewed as a gallant enemy, the Morisco was only a being to be
distrusted and persecuted; and the efforts of the good Bishop of
Granada, who had caused the Psalms, Gospels, and large portions of the
Breviary to be translated into Arabic, were frustrated by the zeal of
those who imagined that heresy lurked in the vernacular, and perhaps
that objections to popular practices might be strengthened.

By order of Cardinal Ximenes, these Arabic versions were taken away and
burnt; but Miguel Abenali had secured his own copy, and it was what he
there learnt that withheld him from flying to his countrymen and
resuming their faith when he found that the Christianity he had
professed for forty years was no longer a protection to him.  Having
known the true Christ in the Gospel, he could not turn back to Mohammed,
even though Christians persecuted in the Name they so little understood.

The crisis came in 1507, when Ximenes, apparently impelled by the dread
that simulated conformity should corrupt the Church, quickened the
persecution of the doubtful "Nuevos Cristianos," and the Abenali family,
who had made themselves loved and respected, received warning that they
had been denounced, and that their only hope lay in flight.

The two sons, high-spirited young men, on whom religion had far less
hold than national feeling, fled to the Alpuxarra Mountains, and
renouncing the faith of the persecutors, joined their countrymen in
their gallant and desperate warfare.  Their mother, who had long been
dead, had never been more than an outward Christian; but the second wife
of Abenali shared his belief and devotion with the intelligence and
force of character sometimes found among the Moorish ladies of Spain.
She and her little ones fled with him in disguise to Cadiz, with the
precious Arabic Scriptures rolled round their waists, and took shelter
with an English merchant, who had had dealings in sword-blades with
Senor Miguel, and had been entertained by him in his beautiful Saracenic
house at Ronda with Eastern hospitality.  This he requited by giving
them the opportunity of sailing for England in a vessel laden with Xeres
sack; but the misery of the voyage across the Bay of Biscay in a ship
lit for nothing but wine, was excessive, and creatures reared in the
lovely climate and refined luxury of the land of the palm and orange,
exhausted too already by the toils of the mountain journey, were
incapable of enduring it, and Abenali's brave wife and one of her
children were left beneath the waves of the Atlantic.  With the one
little girl left to him, he arrived in London, and the recommendation of
his Cadiz friend obtained for him work from a dealer in foreign weapons,
who was not unwilling to procure them nearer home.  Happily for him,
Moorish masters, however rich, were always required to be proficients in
their own trade; and thus Miguel, or Michael as he was known in England,
was able to maintain himself and his child by the fabrication of blades
that no one could distinguish from those of Damascus.  Their perfection
was a work of infinite skill, labour, and industry, but they were so
costly, that their price, and an occasional job of inlaying gold in
other metal, sufficed to maintain the old man and his little daughter.
The armourers themselves were sometimes forced to have recourse to him,
though unwillingly, for he was looked on with distrust and dislike as an
interloper of foreign birth, belonging to no guild.  A Biscayan or
Castillian of the oldest Christian blood incurred exactly the same
obloquy from the mass of London craftsmen and apprentices, and Lucas
himself had small measure of favour, though Dutchmen were less alien to
the English mind than Spaniards, and his trade did not lead to so much
rivalry and competition.

As much of this as Ambrose knew or understood he told to Stephen, who
listened in a good deal of bewilderment, understanding very little, but
with a strong instinct that his brother's love of learning was leading
him into dangerous company.  And what were they doing on this fine May
holiday, when every one ought to be out enjoying themselves?

"Well, if thou wilt know," said Ambrose, pushed hard, "there is one
Master William Tindal, who hath been doing part of the blessed Evangel
into English, and for better certainty of its correctness, Master
Michael was comparing it with his Arabic version, while I overlooked the

"O Ambrose, thou wilt surely run into trouble.  Know you not how nurse
Joan used to tell us of the burning of the Lollard books?"

"Nay, nay, Stevie, this is no heresy.  'Tis such work as the great
scholar, Master Erasmus, is busied on--ay, and he is loved and honoured
by both the Archbishops and the King's grace.  Ask Tibble Steelman what
he thinks thereof."

"Tibble Steelman would think nought of a beggarly stranger calling
himself a sword-cutler, and practising the craft without prenticeship or
license," said Stephen, swelling with indignation.  "Come on, Ambrose,
and sweep the cobwebs from thy brain.  If we cannot get into our own
tent again, we can mingle with the outskirts, and learn how the day is
going, and how our lances and breastplates have stood where the knaves
at the Eagle have gone like reeds and egg-shells--just as I threw George
Bates, the prentice at the Eagle yesterday, in a wrestling match at the
butts with the trick old Diggory taught me."



  "For my pastance
  Hunt, sing, and dance,
  My heart is set
  All godly sport
  To my comfort.
  Who shall me let?"
  The King's Balade,
  _attributed to Henry the Eighth_.

Life was a rough, hearty thing in the early sixteenth century, strangely
divided between thought and folly, hardship and splendour, misery and
merriment, toil and sport.

The youths in the armourer's household had experienced little of this as
yet in their country life, but in London they could not but soon begin
to taste both sides of the matter.  Master Headley himself was a good
deal taken up with city affairs, and left the details of his business to
Tibble Steelman and Kit Smallbones, though he might always appear on the
scene, and he had a wonderful knowledge of what was going on.

The breaking-in and training of the two new country lads was entirely
left to them and to Edmund Burgess.  Giles soon found that complaints
were of no avail, and only made matters harder for him, and that Tibble
Steelman and Kit Smallbones had no notion of favouring their master's

Poor fellow, he was very miserable in those first weeks.  The actual
toil, to which he was an absolute novice, though nominally three years
an apprentice, made his hands raw, and his joints full of aches, while
his groans met with nothing but laughter; and he recognised with great
displeasure, that more was laid on him than on Stephen Birkenholt.  This
was partly in consideration of Stephen's youth, partly of his ready zeal
and cheerfulness.  His hands might be sore too, but he was rather proud
of it than otherwise, and his hero worship of Kit Smallbones made him
run on errands, tug at the bellows staff, or fetch whatever was called
for with a bright alacrity that won the foremen's hearts, and it was
noted that he who was really a gentleman, had none of the airs that
Giles Headley showed.

Giles began by some amount of bullying, by way of slaking his wrath at
the preference shown for one whom he continued to style a beggarly brat
picked up on the heath; but Stephen was good-humoured, and accustomed to
give and take, and they both found their level, as well in the Dragon
court as among the world outside, where the London prentices were a
strong and redoubtable body, with rude, not to say cruel, rites of
initiation among themselves, plenty of rivalries and enmities between
house and house, guild and guild, but a united, not to say ferocious,
_esprit de corps_ against every one else.  Fisticuffs and wrestlings
were the amenities that passed between them, though always with a love
of fair play so long as no cowardice, or what was looked on as such, was
shown, for there was no mercy for the weak or weakly.  Such had better
betake themselves at once to the cloister, or life was made intolerable
by constant jeers, blows, baiting and huntings, often, it must be owned,
absolutely brutal.

Stephen and Giles had however passed through this ordeal.  The letter to
John Birkenholt had been despatched by a trusty clerk riding with the
Judges of Assize, whom Mistress Perronel knew might be safely trusted,
and who actually brought back a letter which might have emanated from
the most affectionate of brothers, giving his authority for the binding
Stephen apprentice to the worshipful Master Giles Headley, and sending
the remainder of the boy's portion.

Stephen was thereupon regularly bound apprentice to Master Headley.  It
was a solemn affair, which took place in the Armourer's Hall in Coleman
Street, before sundry witnesses.  Harry Randall, in his soberest garb
and demeanour, acted as guardian to his nephew, and presented him, clad
in the regulation prentice garb--"flat round cap, close-cut hair, narrow
falling bands, coarse side coat, close hose, cloth stockings," coat with
the badge of the Armourers' Company, and Master Headley's own dragon's
tail on the sleeve, to which was added a blue cloak marked in like
manner.  The instructions to apprentices were rehearsed, beginning, "Ye
shall constantly and devoutly on your knees every day serve God, morning
and evening,"--pledging him to "avoid evil company, to make speedy
return when sent on his master's business, to be fair, gentle and lowly
in speech and carriage with all men," and the like.

Mutual promises were interchanged between him and his master, Stephen on
his knees; the indentures were signed, for Quipsome Hal could with much
ado produce an autograph signature, though his penmanship went no
further, and the occasion was celebrated by a great dinner of the whole
craft at the Armourers' Hall, to which the principal craftsmen who had
been apprentices, such as Tibble Steelman and Kit Smallbones, were
invited, sitting at a lower table, while the masters had the higher one
on the days, and a third was reserved for the apprentices after they
should have waited on their masters--in fact it was an imitation of the
orders of chivalry, knights, squires, and pages, and the gradation of
rank was as strictly observed as by the nobility.  Giles, considering
the feast to be entirely in his honour, though the transfer of his
indentures had been made at Salisbury, endeavoured to come out in some
of his bravery, but was admonished that such presumption might be
punished, the first time, at his master's discretion, the second time,
by a whipping at the Hall of his Company, and the third time by six
months being added to the term of his apprenticeship.

Master Randall was entertained in the place of honour, where he
comported himself with great gravity, though he could not resist
alarming Stephen with an occasional wink or gesture as the boy
approached in the course of the duties of waiting at the upper board--a
splendid sight with cups and flagons of gold and silver, with venison
and capons and all that a City banquet could command before the
invention of the turtle.

There was drinking of toasts, and among the foremost was that of Wolsey,
who had freshly received his nomination of cardinal, and whose hat was
on its way from Rome--and here the jester could not help betraying his
knowledge of the domestic policy of the household, and telling the
company how it had become known that the scarlet hat was actually on the
way, but in a "varlet's budget--a mere Italian common knave, no better
than myself," quoth Quipsome Hal, whereat his nephew trembled standing
behind his chair, forgetting that the decorous solid man in the sad-
coloured gown and well-crimped ruff, neatest of Perronel's performances,
was no such base comparison for any varlet.  Hal went on to describe,
however, how my Lord of York had instantly sent to stay the messenger on
his landing at Dover, and equip him with all manner of costly silks by
way of apparel, and with attendants, such as might do justice to his
freight, "that so," he said, "men may not rate it but as a scarlet
cock's comb, since all men be but fools, and the sole question is, who
among them hath wit enough to live by his folly."  Therewith he gave a
wink that so disconcerted Stephen as nearly to cause an upset of the
bowl of perfumed water that he was bringing for the washing of hands.

Master Headley, however, suspected nothing, and invited the grave Master
Randall to attend the domestic festival on the presentation of poor
Spring's effigy at the shrine of Saint Julian.  This was to take place
early in the morning of the 14th of September, Holy Cross Day, the last
holiday in the year that had any of the glory of summer about it, and on
which the apprentices claimed a prescriptive right to go out nutting in
Saint John's Wood, and to carry home their spoil to the lasses of their

Tibble Steelman had completed the figure in bronze, with a silver collar
and chain, not quite without protest that the sum had better have been
bestowed in alms.  But from his master's point of view this would have
been giving to a pack of lying beggars and thieves what was due to the
holy saint; no one save Tibble, who could do and say what he chose,
could have ventured on a word of remonstrance on such a subject; and as
the full tide of iconoclasm, consequent on the discovery of the original
wording of the second commandment, had not yet set in, Tibble had no
more conscientious scruple against making the figure, than in moulding a
little straight-tailed lion for Lord Harry Percy's helmet.

So the party in early morning heard their mass, and then, repairing to
Saint Julian's pillar, while the rising sun came peeping through the low
eastern window of the vaulted Church of Saint Faith, Master Headley on
his knees gave thanks for his preservation, and then put forward his
little daughter, holding on her joined hands the figure of poor Spring,
couchant, and beautifully modelled in bronze with all Tibble's best

Hal Randall and Ambrose had both come up from the little home where
Perronel presided, for the hour was too early for the jester's absence
to be remarked in the luxurious household of the Cardinal elect, and he
even came to break his fast afterwards at the Dragon court, and held
such interesting discourse with old Dame Headley on the farthingales and
coifs of Queen Katharine and her ladies, that she pronounced him a man
wondrous wise and understanding, and declared Stephen happy in the
possession of such a kinsman.

"And whither away now, youngsters?" he said, as he rose from table.

"To Saint John's Wood!  The good greenwood, uncle," said Ambrose.

"Thou too, Ambrose?" said Stephen joyfully.  "For once away from thine
ink and thy books!"

"Ay," said Ambrose, "mine heart warms to the woodlands once more.
Uncle, would that thou couldst come."

"Would that I could, boy!  We three would show these lads of Cockayne
what three foresters know of wood-craft!  But it may not be.  Were I
once there, the old blood might stir again and I might bring you into
trouble, and ye have not two faces under one hood as I have!  So fare ye
well, I wish you many a bagful of nuts!"

The four months of city life, albeit the City was little bigger than our
moderate sized country towns, and far from being an unbroken mass of
houses, had yet made the two young foresters delighted to enjoy a day of
thorough country in one another's society.  Little Dennet longed to go
with them, but the prentice world was far too rude for little maidens to
be trusted in it, and her father held out hopes of going one of these
days to High Park as he called it, while Edmund and Stephen promised her
all their nuts, and as many blackberries as could be held in their flat

"Giles has promised me none," said Dennet, with a pouting lip, "nor

"Why sure, little mistress, thou'lt have enough to crack thy teeth on!"
said Edmund Burgess.

"They _ought_ to bring theirs to me," returned the little heiress of the
Dragon court with an air of offended dignity that might have suited the
heiress of the kingdom.

Giles, who looked on Dennet as a kind of needful appendage to the
Dragon, a piece of property of his own, about whom he need take no
trouble, merely laughed and said, "Want must be thy master then."  But
Ambrose treated her petulance in another fashion.  "Look here, pretty
mistress," said he, "there dwells by me a poor little maid nigh about
thine age, who never goeth further out than to Saint Paul's minster, nor
plucketh flower, nor hath sweet cake, nor manchet bread, nor sugar-
stick, nay, and scarce ever saw English hazel-nut nor blackberry.  'Tis
for her that I want to gather them."

"Is she thy master's daughter?" demanded Dennet, who could admit the
claims of another princess.

"Nay, my master hath no children, but she dwelleth near him."

"I will send her some, and likewise of mine own comfits and cakes," said
Mistress Dennet.  "Only thou must bring all to me first."

Ambrose laughed and said, "It's a bargain then, little mistress?"

"I keep my word," returned Dennet marching away, while Ambrose obeyed a
summons from good-natured Mistress Headley to have his wallet filled
with bread and cheese like those of her own prentices.

Off went the lads under the guidance of Edmund Burgess, meeting parties
of their own kind at every turn, soon leaving behind them the City
bounds, as they passed under New Gate, and by and by skirting the fields
of the great Carthusian monastery, or Charter House, with the burial-
ground given by Sir Walter Manny at the time of the Black Death.  Beyond
came marshy ground through which they had to pick their way carefully,
over stepping-stones--this being no other than what is now the Regent's
Park, not yet in any degree drained by the New River, but all quaking
ground, overgrown with rough grass and marsh-plants, through which
Stephen and Ambrose bounded by the help of stout poles with feet and
eyes well used to bogs, and knowing where to look for a safe footing,
while many a flat-capped London lad floundered about and sank over his
yellow ankles or left his shoes behind him, while lapwings shrieked pee-
wheet, and almost flapped him with their broad wings, and moorhens dived
in the dark pools, and wild ducks rose in long families.

Stephen was able to turn the laugh against his chief adversary and
rival, George Bates of the Eagle, who proposed seeking for the lapwing's
nest in hopes of a dainty dish of plovers' eggs; being too great a
cockney to remember that in September the contents of the eggs were
probably flying over the heather, as well able to shift for themselves
as their parents.

Above all things the London prentices were pugnacious, but as every one
joined in the laugh against George, and he was, besides, stuck fast on a
quaking tussock of grass, afraid to proceed or advance, he could not
have his revenge.  And when the slough was passed, and the slight rise
leading to the copse of Saint John's Wood was attained, behold, it was
found to be in possession of the lower sort of lads, the black guard as
they were called.  They were of course quite as ready to fight with the
prentices as the prentices were with them, and a battle royal took
place, all along the front of the hazel bushes--in which Stephen of the
Dragon and George of the Eagle fought side by side.  Sticks and fists
were the weapons, and there were no very severe casualties before the
prentices, being the larger number as well as the stouter and better
fed, had routed their adversaries, and driven them off towards Harrow.

There was crackling of boughs and filling of bags, and cracking of nuts,
and wild cries in pursuit of startled hare or rabbit, and though Ambrose
and Stephen indignantly repelled the idea of Saint John's Wood being
named in the same day with their native forest, it is doubtful whether
they had ever enjoyed themselves more; until just as they were about to
turn homeward, whether moved by his hostility to Stephen, or by envy at
the capful of juicy blackberries, carefully covered with green leaves,
George Bates, rushing up from behind, shouted out, "Here's a skulker!
Here's one of the black guard!  Off to thy fellows, varlet!" at the same
time dealing a dexterous blow under the cap, which sent the blackberries
up into Ambrose's face.  "Ha! ha!" shouted the ill-conditioned fellow.
"So much for a knave that serves rascally strangers!  Here! hand over
that bag of nuts!"

Ambrose was no fighter, but in defence of the bag that was to purchase a
treat for little Aldonza, he clenched his fists, and bade George Bates
come and take them if he would.  The quiet scholarly boy was, however,
no match for the young armourer, and made but poor reply to the buffets
of his adversary, who had hold of the bag, and was nearly choking him
with the string round his neck.

However, Stephen had already missed his brother, and turning round,
shouted out that the villain Bates was mauling him, and rushed back,
falling on Ambrose's assailant with a sudden well-directed pommelling
that made him hastily turn about, with cries of "Two against one!"

"Not at all," said Stephen.  "Stand by, Ambrose; I'll give the coward
his deserts."

In fact, though the boys were nearly of a size, George somewhat the
biggest, Stephen's country activity, and perhaps the higher spirit of
his gentle blood, generally gave him the advantage, and on this occasion
he soon reduced Bates to roar for mercy.

"Thou must purchase it!" said Stephen.  "Thy bag of nuts, in return for
the berries thou hast wasted!"

Peaceable Ambrose would have remonstrated, but Stephen was implacable.
He cut the string, and captured the bag, then with a parting kick bade
Bates go after his comrades, for his Eagle was nought but a thieving

Bates made off pretty quickly, but the two brothers tarried a little to
see how much damage the blackberries had suffered, and to repair the
losses as they descended into the bog by gathering some choice

"I marvel these fine fellows 'scaped our company," said Stephen

"Are we in the right track, thinkst thou?  Here is a pool I marked not
before," said Ambrose anxiously.

"Nay, we can't be far astray while we see Saint Paul's spire and the
Tower full before us," said Stephen.  "Plainer marks than we had at

"That may be.  Only where is the safe footing?" said Ambrose.  "I wish
we had not lost sight of the others!"

"Pish! what good are a pack of City lubbers!" returned Stephen.  "Don't
we know a quagmire when we see one, better than they do?"

"Hark, they are shouting for us."

"Not they!  That's a falconer's call.  There's another whistle!  See,
there's the hawk.  She's going down the wind, as I'm alive," and Stephen
began to bound wildly along, making all the sounds and calls by which
falcons were recalled, and holding up as a lure a lapwing which he had
knocked down.  Ambrose, by no means so confident in bog-trotting as his
brother, stood still to await him, hearing the calls and shouts of the
falconer coming nearer, and presently seeing a figure, flying by the
help of a pole over the pools and dykes that here made some attempt at
draining the waste.  Suddenly, in mid career over one of these broad
ditches, there was a collapse, and a lusty shout for help as the form
disappeared.  Ambrose instantly perceived what had happened, the leaping
pole had broken to the downfall of its owner.  Forgetting all his doubts
as to bogholes and morasses, he grasped his own pole, and sprang from
tussock to tussock, till he had reached the bank of the ditch or water-
course in which the unfortunate sportsman was floundering.  He was a
large, powerful man, but this was of no avail, for the slough afforded
no foothold.  The further side was a steep bank built up of sods, the
nearer sloped down gradually, and though it was not apparently very
deep, the efforts of the victim to struggle out had done nothing but
churn up a mass of black muddy water in which he sank deeper every
moment, and it was already nearly to his shoulders when with a cry of
joy, half choked however, by the mud, he cried, "Ha! my good lad!  Are
there any more of ye?"

"Not nigh, I fear," said Ambrose, beholding with some dismay the breadth
of the shoulders which were all that appeared above the turbid water.

"Soh!  Lie down, boy, behind that bunch of osier.  Hold out thy pole.
Let me see thine hands.  Thou art but a straw, but, our Lady be my
speed!  Now hangs England on a pair of wrists!"

There was a great struggle, an absolute effort for life, and but for the
osier stump Ambrose would certainly have been dragged into the water,
when the man had worked along the pole, and grasping his hands, pulled
himself upwards.  Happily the sides of the dyke became harder higher up,
and did not instantly yield to the pressure of his knees, and by the
time Ambrose's hands and shoulders felt nearly wrenched from their
sockets, the stem of the osier had been attained, and in another minute,
the rescued man, bareheaded, plastered with mud, and streaming with
water, sat by him on the bank, panting, gasping, and trying to gather
breath and clear his throat from the mud he had swallowed.

"Thanks, good lad, well done," he articulated.  "Those fellows! where
are they?"  And feeling in his bosom, he brought out a gold whistle
suspended by a chain.  "Blow it," he said, taking off the chain, "my
mouth is too full of slime."

Ambrose blew a loud shrill call, but it seemed to reach no one but
Stephen, whom he presently saw dashing towards them.

"Here is my brother coming, sir," he said, as he gave his endeavours to
help the stranger to free himself from the mud that clung to him, and
which was in some places thick enough to be scraped off with a knife.
He kept up a continual interchange of exclamations at his plight,
whistles and shouts for his people, and imprecations on their tardiness,
until Stephen was near enough to show that the hawk had been recovered,
and then he joyfully called out, "Ha! hast thou got her?  Why, flat-caps
as ye are, ye put all my fellows to shame!  How now, thou errant bird,
dost know thy master, or take him for a mud wall?  Kite that thou art,
to have led me such a dance!  And what's your name, my brave lads?  Ye
must have been bred to wood-craft."

Ambrose explained both their parentage and their present occupation, but
was apparently heeded but little.  "Wot ye how to get out of this
quagmire?" was the question.

"I never was here before, sir," said Stephen; "but yonder lies the
Tower, and if we keep along by this dyke, it must lead us out

"Well said, boy, I must be moving, or the mud will dry on me, and I
shall stand here as though I were turned to stone by the Gorgon's head!
So have with thee!  Go on first, master hawk-tamer.  What will bear thee
will bear me!"

There was an imperative tone about him that surprised the brothers, and
Ambrose looking at him from head to foot, felt sure that it was some
great man at the least, whom it had been his hap to rescue.  Indeed, he
began to have further suspicions when they came to a pool of clearer
water, beyond which was firmer ground, and the stranger with an
exclamation of joy, borrowed Stephen's cap, and, scooping up the water
with it, washed his face and head, disclosing the golden hair and beard,
fair complexion, and handsome square face he had seen more than once

He whispered to Stephen, "'Tis the King!"

"Ha! ha!" laughed Henry, "hast found him out, lads?  Well, it may not be
the worse for ye.  Pity thou shouldst not be in the Forest still, my
young falconer, but we know our good city of London too well to break
thy indentures.  And thou--"

He was turning to Ambrose when further shouts were heard.  The King
hallooed, and bade the boys do so, and in a few moments more they were
surrounded by the rest of the hawking party, full of dismay at the
king's condition, and deprecating his anger for having lost him.

"Yea," said Henry; "an it had not been for this good lad, ye would never
have heard more of the majesty of England!  Swallowed in a quagmire had
made a new end for a king, and ye would have to brook the little Scot."

The gentlemen who had come up were profuse in lamentations.  A horse was
brought up for the king's use, and he prepared to mount, being in haste
to get into dry clothes.  He turned round, however, to the boys, and
said, "I'll not forget you, my lads.  Keep that!" he added, as Ambrose,
on his knee, would have given him back the whistle, "'tis a token that
maybe will serve thee, for I shall know it again.  And thou, my black-
eyed lad--My purse, Howard!"

He handed the purse to Stephen--a velvet bag richly wrought with gold,
and containing ten gold angels, besides smaller money--bidding them
divide, like good brothers as he saw they were, and then galloped off
with his train.

Twilight was coming on, but following in the direction of the riders,
the boys were soon on the Islington road.  The New Gate was shut by the
time they reached it, and their explanation that they were belated after
a nutting expedition would not have served them, had not Stephen
produced the sum of twopence which softened the surliness of the guard.

It was already dark, and though curfew had not yet sounded, preparations
were making for lighting the watch-fires in the open spaces and throwing
chains across the streets, but the little door in the Dragon court was
open, and Ambrose went in with his brother to deliver up his nuts to
Dennet and claim her promise of sending a share to Aldonza.

They found their uncle in his sober array sitting by Master Headley, who
was rating Edmund and Giles for having lost sight of them, the latter
excusing himself by grumbling out that he could not be marking all
Stephen's brawls with George Bates.

When the two wanderers appeared, relief took the form of anger, and
there were sharp demands why they had loitered.  Their story was
listened to with many exclamations: Dennet jumped for joy, her
grandmother advised that the angels should be consigned to her own safe
keeping, and when Master Headley heard of Henry's scruples about the
indentures, he declared that it was a rare wise king who knew that an
honest craft was better than court favour.

"Yet mayhap he might do something for thee, friend Ambrose," added the
armourer.  "Commend thee to some post in his chapel royal, or put thee
into some college, since such is thy turn.  How sayst thou, Master
Randall, shall he send in this same token, and make his petition?"

"If a fool--if a plain man may be heard where the wise hath spoken,"
said Randall, "he had best abstain.  Kings love not to be minded of
mishaps, and our Hal's humour is not to be reckoned on!  Lay up the toy
in case of need, but an thou claim overmuch he may mind thee in a
fashion not to thy taste."

"Sure our King is of a more generous mould!" exclaimed Mrs Headley.

"He is like other men, good mistress, just as you know how to have him,
and he is scarce like to be willing to be minded of the taste of mire,
or of floundering like a hog in a salt marsh.  Ha! ha!" and Quipsome Hal
went off into such a laugh as might have betrayed his identity to any
one more accustomed to the grimaces of his professional character, but
which only infected the others with the same contagious merriment.
"Come thou home now," he said to Ambrose; "my good woman hath been in a
mortal fright about thee, and would have me come out to seek after thee.
Such are the women folk, Master Headley.  Let them have but a lad to
look after, and they'll bleat after him like an old ewe that has lost
her lamb."

Ambrose only stayed for Dennet to divide the spoil, and though the
blackberries had all been lost or crushed, the little maiden kept her
promise generously, and filled the bag not only with nuts but with three
red-cheeked apples, and a handful of comfits, for the poor little maid
who never tasted fruit or sweets.



  "Up then spoke the apprentices tall
  Living in London, one and all."
  _Old Ballad_.

Another of the many holidays of the Londoners was enjoyed on the
occasion of the installation of Thomas Wolsey as Cardinal of Saint
Cecilia, and Papal Legate.

A whole assembly of prelates and "lusty gallant gentlemen" rode out to
Blackheath to meet the Roman envoy, who, robed in full splendour, with
Saint Peter's keys embroidered on back and breast and on the housings of
his mule, appeared at the head of a gallant train in the papal liveries,
two of whom carried the gilded pillars, the insignia of office, and two
more, a scarlet and gold-covered box or casket containing the Cardinal's
hat.  Probably no such reception of the dignity was ever prepared
elsewhere, and all was calculated to give magnificent ideas of the
office of Cardinal and of the power of the Pope to those who had not
been let into the secret that the messenger had been met at Dover; and
thus magnificently fitted out to satisfy the requirements of the
butcher's son of Ipswich, and of one of the most ostentatious of courts.

Old Gaffer Martin Fulford had muttered in his bed that such pomp had not
been the way in the time of the true old royal blood, and that display
had come in with the upstart slips of the Red Rose--as he still chose to
style the Tudors; and he maundered away about the beauty and affability
of Edward the Fourth till nobody could understand him, and Perronel only
threw in her "ay, grandad," or "yea, gaffer," when she thought it was
expected of her.

Ambrose had an unfailing appetite for the sermons of Dean Colet, who was
to preach on this occasion in Westminster Abbey, and his uncle had given
him counsel how to obtain standing ground there, entering before the
procession.  He was alone, his friends Tibble and Lucas both had that
part of the Lollard temper which loathed the pride and wealth of the
great political clergy, and in spite of their admiration for the Dean
they could not quite forgive his taking part in the pomp of such a

But Ambrose's devotion to the Dean, to say nothing of youthful
curiosity, outweighed all those scruples, and as he listened, he was
carried along by the curious sermon in which the preacher likened the
orders of the hierarchy below to that of the nine orders of the Angels,
making the rank of Cardinal correspond to that of the Seraphim, aglow
with love.  Of that holy flame, the scarlet robes were the type to the
spiritualised mind of Colet, while others saw in them only the relic of
the imperial purple of old Rome; and some beheld them as the token that
Wolsey was one step nearer the supreme height that he coveted so
earnestly.  But the great and successful man found himself personally
addressed, bidden not to be puffed up with his own greatness, and
stringently reminded of the highest example of humility, shown that he
that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself be
exalted.  The preacher concluded with a strong personal exhortation to
do righteousness and justice alike to rich and poor, joined with truth
and mercy, setting God always before him.

The sermon ended, Wolsey knelt at the altar, and Archbishop Wareham,
who, like his immediate predecessors, held legatine authority, performed
the act of investiture, placing the scarlet hat with its many loops and
tassels on his brother primate's head, after which a magnificent _Te
Deum_ rang through the beautiful church, and the procession of prelates,
peers, and ecclesiastics of all ranks in their richest array formed to
escort the new Cardinal to banquet at his palace with the King and

Ambrose, stationed by a column, let the throng rush, tumble, and jostle
one another to behold the show, till the Abbey was nearly empty, while
he tried to work out the perplexing question whether all this pomp and
splendour were truly for the glory of God, or whether it were a delusion
for the temptation of men's souls.  It was a debate on which his old and
his new guides seemed to him at issue, and he was drawn in both
directions--now by the beauty, order, and deep symbolism of the Catholic
ritual, now by the spirituality and earnestness of the men among whom he
lived.  At one moment the worldly pomp, the mechanical and irreverent
worship, and the gross and vicious habits of many of the clergy repelled
him; at another the reverence and conservatism of his nature held him

Presently he felt a hand on his shoulder, and started, "Lost in a stud,
as we say at home, boy," said the jester, resplendent in a bran new
motley suit.  "Wilt come in to the banquet?  'Tis open house, and I can
find thee a seat without disclosing the kinship that sits so sore on thy
brother.  Where is he?"

"I have not seen him this day."

"That did I," returned Randall, "as I rode by on mine ass.  He was
ruffling it so lustily that I could not but give him a wink, the which
my gentleman could by no means stomach!  Poor lad!  Yet there be times,
Ambrose, when I feel in sooth that mine office is the only honourable
one, since who besides can speak truth?  I love my lord; he is a kind,
open-handed master, and there's none I would so willingly serve, whether
by jest or earnest, but what is he but that which I oft call him in
joke--the greater fool than I, selling peace and ease, truth and hope,
this life and the next, for yonder scarlet hat, which is after all of no
more worth than this jingling head-gear of mine."

"Deafening the spiritual ears far more, it may be," said Ambrose, "since
_humiles exaltaverint_."

It was no small shock that there, in the midst of the nave, the answer
was a bound, like a ball, almost as high as the capital of the column by
which they stood.  "There's exaltation!" said Randall in a low voice,
and Ambrose perceived that some strangers were in sight.  "Come, seek
thy brother out, boy, and bring him to the banquet.  I'll speak a word
to Peter Porter, and he'll let you in.  There'll be plenty of fooling
all the afternoon, before my namesake King Hal, who can afford to be an
honester man in his fooling than any about him, and whose laugh at a
hearty jest is goodly to hear."

Ambrose thanked him and undertook the quest.  They parted at the great
west door of the Abbey, where, by way of vindicating his own character
for buffoonery, Randall exclaimed, "Where be mine ass?" and not seeing
the animal, immediately declared, "There he is!" and at the same time
sprang upon the back and shoulders of a gaping and astonished clown who
was gazing at the rear of the procession.

The crowd applauded with shouts of coarse laughter, but a man, who
seemed to belong to the victim, broke in with an angry oath, and "How
now, sir?"

"I cry you mercy," quoth the jester; "'twas mine own ass I sought, and
if I have fallen on thine, I will but ride him to York House and then
restore him.  So ho! good jackass," crossing his ankles on the poor
fellow's chest so that he could not be shaken off.

The comrade lifted a cudgel, but there was a general cry of "My Lord
Cardinal's jester, lay not a finger on him!"

But Harry Randall was not one to brook immunity on the score of his
master's greatness.  In another second he was on his feet, had wrested
the staff from the hands of his astounded beast of burden, flourished it
round his head after the most approved manner of Shirley champions at
Lyndhurst fair, and called to his adversary to "come on."

It did not take many rounds before Hal's dexterity had floored his
adversary, and the shouts of "Well struck, merry fool!"  "Well played,
Quipsome Hal!" were rising high when the Abbot of Westminster's yeomen
were seen making way through the throng, which fell back in terror on
either side as they came to seize on the brawlers in their sacred

But here again my Lord Cardinal's fool was a privileged person, and no
one laid a hand on him, though his blood being up, he would, spite of
his gay attire, have enjoyed a fight on equal terms.  His quadruped
donkey was brought up to him amid general applause, but when he looked
round for Ambrose, the boy had disappeared.

The better and finer the nature that displayed itself in Randall, the
more painful was the sight of his buffooneries to his nephew, and at the
first leap, Ambrose had hurried away in confusion.  He sought his
brother here, there, everywhere, and at last came to the conclusion that
Stephen must have gone home to dinner.  He walked quickly across the
fields separating Westminster from the City of London, hoping to reach
Cheapside before the lads of the Dragon should have gone out again; but
just as he was near Saint Paul's, coming round Amen Corner, he heard the
sounds of a fray.  "Have at the country lubbers!  Away with the
moonrakers!  Flat-caps, come on!"  "Hey! lads of the Eagle!  Down with
the Dragons!  Adders!  Snakes-s-s-s-s-!"

There was a kicking, struggling mass of blue backs and yellow legs
before him, from out of which came "Yah!  Down with the Eagles!
Cowards!  Kites!  Cockneys!"  There were plenty of boys, men, women with
children in their arms hallooing on, "Well done, Eagle!"  "Go it,

The word Dragon filled the quiet Ambrose with hot impulse to defend his
brother.  All his gentle, scholarly habits gave way before that cry, and
a shout that he took to be Stephen's voice in the midst of the _melee_.

He was fairly carried out of himself, and doubling his fists, fell on
the back of the nearest boys, intending to break through to his brother,
and he found an unexpected ally.  Will Wherry's voice called out, "Have
with you, comrade!"--and a pair of hands and arms considerably stouter
and more used to fighting than his own, began to pommel right and left
with such good will that they soon broke through to the aid of their
friends; and not before it was time, for Stephen, Giles, and Edmund,
with their backs against the wall, were defending themselves with all
their might against tremendous odds; and just as the new allies reached
them, a sharp stone struck Giles in the eye, and levelled him with the
ground, his head striking against the wall.  Whether it were from alarm
at his fall, or at the unexpected attack in the rear, or probably from
both causes, the assailants dispersed in all directions without waiting
to perceive how slender the succouring force really was.

Edmund and Stephen were raising up the unlucky Giles, who lay quite
insensible, with blood pouring from his eye.  Ambrose tried to wipe it
away, and there were anxious doubts whether the eye itself were safe.
They were some way from home, and Giles was the biggest and heaviest of
them all.

"Would that Kit Smallbones were here!" said Stephen, preparing to take
the feet, while Edmund took the shoulders.

"Look here," said Will Wherry, pulling Ambrose's sleeve, "our yard is
much nearer, and the old Moor, Master Michael, is safe to know what to
do for him.  That sort of cattle always are leeches.  He wiled the pain
from my thumb when 'twas crushed in our printing-press.  Mayhap if he
put some salve to him, he might get home on his own feet."

Edmund listened.  "There's reason in that," he said.  "Dost know this
leech, Ambrose?"

"I know him well.  He is a good old man, and wondrous wise.  Nay, no
black arts; but he saith his folk had great skill in herbs and the like,
and though he be no physician by trade, he hath much of their lore."

"Have with thee, then," returned Edmund, "the rather that Giles is no
small weight, and the guard might come on us ere we reached the Dragon."

"Or those cowardly rogues of the Eagle might set on us again," added
Stephen; and as they went on their way to Warwick Inner Ward, he
explained that the cause of the encounter had been that Giles had
thought fit to prank himself in his father's silver chain, and thus
George Bates, always owing the Dragon a grudge, and rendered specially
malicious since the encounter on Holy Rood Day, had raised the cry
against him, and caused all the flat-caps around to make a rush at the
gaud as lawful prey.

"'Tis clean against prentice statutes to wear one, is it not?" asked

"Ay," returned Stephen; "yet none of us but would stand up for our own
comrade against those meddling fellows of the Eagle."

"But," added Edmund, "we must beware the guard, for if they looked into
the cause of the fray, our master might be called on to give Giles a
whipping in the Company's hall, this being a second offence of going
abroad in these vanities."

Ambrose went on before to prepare Miguel Abenali, and entreat his good
offices, explaining that the youth's master, who was also his kinsman,
would be sure to give handsome payment for any good offices to him.  He
scarcely got out half the words; the grand old Arab waved his hand and
said, "When the wounded is laid before the tent of Ben Ali, where is the
question of recompense?  Peace be with thee, my son!  Bring him hither.
Aldonza, lay the carpet yonder, and the cushions beneath the window,
where I may have light to look to his hurt."

Therewith he murmured a few words in an unknown tongue, which, as
Ambrose understood, were an invocation to the God of Abraham to bless
his endeavours to heal the stranger youth, but which happily were spoken
before the arrival of the others, who would certainly have believed them
an incantation.

The carpet though worn threadbare, was a beautiful old Moorish rug, once
glowing with brilliancy, and still rich in colouring, and the cushion
was of thick damask faded to a strange pale green.  All in that double-
stalled partition, once belonging to the great earl's war-horses, was
scrupulously clean, for the Christian Moor had retained some of the
peculiar virtues born of Mohammedanism and of high civilisation.  The
apprentice lads tramped in much as if they had been entering a wizard's
cave, though Stephen had taken care to assure Edmund of his application
of the test of holy water.

Following the old man's directions, Edmund and Stephen deposited their
burden on the rug.  Aldonza brought some warm water, and Abenali washed
and examined the wound, Aldonza standing by and handing him whatever he
needed, now and then assisting with her slender brown hands in a manner
astonishing to the youths, who stood by anxious and helpless, while
their companion began to show signs of returning life.

Abenali pronounced that the stone had missed the eyeball, but the cut
and bruise were such as to require constant bathing, and the blow on the
head was the more serious matter, for when the patient tried to raise
himself he instantly became sick and giddy, so that it would be wise to
leave him where he was.  This was much against the will of Edmund
Burgess, who shared all the prejudices of the English prentice against
the foreigner--perhaps a wizard and rival in trade; but there was no
help for it, and he could only insist that Stephen should mount guard
over the bed until he had reported to his master, and returned with his
orders.  Therewith he departed, with such elaborate thanks and
courtesies to the host, as betrayed a little alarm in the tall
apprentice, who feared not quarter-staff, nor wrestler, and had even
dauntlessly confronted the masters of his guild!

Stephen, sooth to say, was not very much at ease; everything around had
such a strange un-English aspect, and he imploringly muttered, "Bide
with me, Am!" to which his brother willingly assented, being quite as
comfortable in Master Michael's abode as by his aunt's own hearth.

Giles meanwhile lay quiet and then, as his senses became less confused,
and he could open one eye, he looked dreamily about him, and presently
began to demand where he was, and what had befallen him, grasping at the
hand of Ambrose as if to hold fast by something familiar; but he still
seemed too much dazed to enter into the explanation, and presently
murmured something about thirst.  Aldonza came softly up with a cup of
something cool.  He looked very hard at her, and when Ambrose would have
taken it from her hand to give it to him, he said, "Nay!  _Site_!"

And _site_, with a sweet smile in her soft, dark, shady eyes, and on her
full lips, held the cup to his lips far more daintily and dexterously
than either of his boy companions could have done; then when he moaned
and said his head and eye pained him, the white-bearded elder came and
bathed his brow with the soft sponge.  It seemed all to pass before him
like a dream, and it was not much otherwise with his unhurt companions,
especially Stephen, who followed with wonder the movements made by the
slippered feet of father and daughter upon the mats which covered the
stone flooring of the old stable.  The mats were only of English rushes
and flags, and had been woven by Abenali and the child; but loose rashes
strewing the floor were accounted a luxury in the Forest, and even at
the Dragon court the upper end of the hall alone had any covering.  Then
the water was heated, and all such other operations carried on over a
curious round vessel placed over charcoal; the window and the door had
dark heavy curtains; and a matted partition cut off the further stall,
no doubt to serve as Aldonza's chamber.  Stephen looked about for
something to assure him that the place belonged to no wizard enchanter,
and was glad to detect a large white cross on the wall, with a holy-
water stoup beneath it, but of images there were none.

It seemed to him a long time before Master Headley's ruddy face, full of
anxiety, appeared at the door.

Blows were, of course, no uncommon matter; perhaps so long as no
permanent injury was inflicted, the master-armourer had no objection to
anything that might knock the folly out of his troublesome young inmate;
but Edmund had made him uneasy for the youth's eye, and still more so
about the quarters he was in, and he had brought a mattress and a couple
of men to carry the patient home, as well as Steelman, his prime
minister, to advise him.

He had left all these outside, however, and advanced, civilly and
condescendingly thanking the sword-cutler, in perfect ignorance that the
man who stood before him had been born to a home that was an absolute
palace compared with the Dragon court.  The two men were a curious
contrast.  There stood the Englishman with his sturdy form inclining,
with age, to corpulence, his broad honest face telling of many a civic
banquet, and his short stubbly brown grizzled beard; his whole air
giving a sense of worshipful authority and weight; and opposite to him
the sparely made, dark, thin, aquiline-faced, white-bearded Moor, a far
smaller man in stature, yet with a patriarchal dignity, refinement, and
grace in port and countenance, belonging as it were to another sphere.

Speaking English perfectly, though with a foreign accent, Abenali
informed Master Headley that his young kinsman would by Heaven's
blessing soon recover without injury to the eye, though perhaps a scar
might remain.

Mr Headley thanked him heartily for his care, and said that he had
brought men to carry the youth home, if he could not walk; and then he
went up to the couch with a hearty "How now, Giles?  So thou hast had
hard measure to knock the foolery out of thee, my poor lad.  But come,
we'll have thee home, and my mother will see to thee."

"I cannot walk," said Giles, heavily, hardly raising his eyes, and when
he was told that two of the men waited to bear him home, he only
entreated to be let alone.  Somewhat sharply, Mr Headley ordered him to
sit up and make ready, but when he tried to do so, he sank back with a
return of sickness and dizziness.

Abenali thereupon intreated that he might be left to his care for that
night, and stepping out into the court so as to be unheard by the
patient, explained that the brain had had a shock, and that perfect
quiet for some hours to come was the only way to avert a serious
illness, possibly dangerous.  Master Headley did not like the
alternative at all, and was a good deal perplexed.  He beckoned to
Tibble Steelman, who had all this time been talking to Lucas Hansen, and
now came up prepared with his testimony that this Michael was a good man
and true, a godly one to boot, who had been wealthy in his own land and
was a rare artificer in his own craft.

"Though he hath no license to practise it here," threw in Master
Headley, _sotto voce_; but he accepted the assurance that Michael was a
good Christian, and, with his daughter, regularly went to mass; and
since better might not be, he reluctantly consented to leave Giles under
his treatment, on Lucas reiterating the assurance that he need have no
fears of magic or foul play of any sort.  He then took the purse that
hung at his girdle, and declared that Master Michael, (the title of
courtesy was wrung from him by the stately appearance of the old man),
must be at no charges for his cousin.

But Abenali with a grace that removed all air of offence from his
manner, returned thanks for the intention, but declared that it never
was the custom of the sons of Ali to receive reward for the hospitality
they exercised to the stranger within their gates.  And so it was that
Master Headley, a good deal puzzled, had to leave his apprentice under
the roof of the old sword-cutler for the night at least.

"'Tis passing strange," said he, as he walked back; "I know not what my
mother will say, but I wish all may be right.  I feel--I feel as if I
had left the lad Giles with Abraham under the oak tree, as we saw him in
the miracle play!"

This description did not satisfy Mrs Headley, indeed she feared that
her son was likewise bewitched; and when, the next morning, Stephen, who
had been sent to inquire for the patient, reported him better, but still
unable to be moved, since he could not lift his head without sickness,
she became very anxious.  Giles was transformed in her estimate from a
cross-grained slip to poor Robin Headley's boy, the only son of a widow,
and nothing would content her but to make her son conduct her to Warwick
Inner Ward to inspect matters, and carry thither a precious relic
warranted proof against all sorcery.

It was with great trepidation that the good old dame ventured, but the
result was that she was fairly subdued by Abenali's patriarchal dignity.
She had never seen any manners to equal his, not _even_ when King
Edward the Fourth had come to her father's house at the Barbican,
chucked her under the chin, and called her a dainty duck!

It was Aldonza, however, who specially touched her feelings.  Such a
sweet little wench, with the air of being bred in a kingly or knightly
court, to be living there close to the very dregs of the city was a
scandal and a danger--speaking so prettily too, and knowing how to treat
her elders.  She would be a good example for Dennet, who, sooth to say,
was getting too old for spoilt-child sauciness to be always pleasing,
while as to Giles, he could not be in better quarters.  Mrs Headley,
well used to the dressing of the burns and bruises incurred in the
weapon-smiths' business, could not but confess that his eye had been
dealt with as skilfully as she could have done it herself.



  "I am a gentleman of a company."

Giles Headley's accident must have amounted to concussion of the brain,
for though he was able to return to the Dragon in a couple of days, and
the cut over his eye was healing fast, he was weak and shaken, and did
not for several weeks recover his usual health.

The noise and heat of the smithy were distressing to him, and there was
no choice but to let him lie on settles, sun himself on the steps, and
attempt no work.

It had tamed him a good deal.  Smallbones said the letting out of
malapert blood was wholesome, and others thought him still under a
spell; but he seemed to have parted with much of his arrogance, either
because he had not spirits for self-assertion, or because something of
the grand eastern courtesy of Abenali had impressed him.  For
intercourse with the Morisco had by no means ceased.  Giles went, as
long as the injury required it, to have the hurt dressed, and loitered
in the Inner Ward a long time every day, often securing some small
dainty for Aldonza--an apple, a honey cake, a bit of marchpane, a dried
plum, or a comfit.  One day he took her a couple of oranges.  To his
surprise, as he entered, Abenali looked up with a strange light in his
eyes, and exclaimed, "My son! thy scent is to my nostrils as the court
of my fathouse!"  Then, as he beheld the orange, he clasped his hands,
took it in them, and held it to his breast, pouring out a chant in an
unknown tongue, while the tears flowed down his cheeks.

"Father, father!"  Aldonza cried, terrified, while Giles marvelled
whether the orange worked on him like a spell.  But he perceived their
amazement, and spoke again in English, "I thank thee, my son!  Thou hast
borne me back for a moment to the fountain in my father's house, where
ye grow, ye trees of the unfading leaf, the spotless blossom, and golden
fruit!  Ah Ronda!  Ronda!  Land of the sunshine, the deep blue sky, and
snow-topped hills!  Land where are the graves of my father and mother!
How pines and sickens the heart of the exile for thee!  O happy they who
died beneath the sword or flame, for they knew not the lonely home-
longing of the exile.  Ah! ye golden fruits!  One fragrant breath of
thee is as a waft of the joys of my youth!  Are ye foretastes of the
fruits of Paradise, the true home to which I may yet come, though I may
never, never see the towers and hills of Ronda more?"

Giles knew not what to make of this outburst.  He kept it to himself as
too strange to be told.  The heads of the family were willing that he
should carry these trifles to the young child of the man who would
accept no reward for his hospitality.  Indeed, Master Headley spent much
consideration on how to recompense the care bestowed on his kinsman.

Giles suggested that Master Michael had just finished the most beautiful
sword blade he had ever seen, and had not yet got a purchaser for it; it
was far superior to the sword Tibble had just completed for my Lord of
Surrey.  Thereat the whole court broke into an outcry; that any workman
should be supposed to turn out any kind of work surpassing Steelman's
was rank heresy, and Master Headley bluntly told Giles that he knew not
what he was talking of!  He might perhaps purchase the blade by way of
courtesy and return of kindness, but--good English workmanship for him!

However, Giles was allowed to go and ask the price of the blade, and
bring it to be looked at.  When he returned to the court he found, in
front of the building where finished suits were kept for display, a
tall, thin, wiry, elderly man, deeply bronzed, and with a scar on his
brow.  Master Headley and Tibble were both in attendance, Tib measuring
the stranger, and Stephen, who was standing at a respectful distance,
gave Giles the information that this was the famous Captain of Free-
lances, Sir John Fulford, who had fought in all the wars in Italy, and
was going to fight in them again, but wanted a suit of "our harness."

The information was hardly needed, for Sir John, in a voice loud enough
to lead his men to the battle-field, and with all manner of strong
asseverations in all sorts of languages, was explaining the dints and
blows that had befallen the mail he had had from Master Headley eighteen
years ago, when he was but a squire; how his helmet had endured tough
blows, and saved his head at Novara, but had been crushed like an egg
shell by a stone from the walls at Barletta, which had nearly been his
own destruction: and how that which he at present wore (beautifully
chased and in a classical form) was taken from a dead Italian Count on
the field of Ravenna, but always sat amiss on him; and how he had broken
his good sword upon one of the rascally Swiss only a couple of months
ago at Marignano.  Having likewise disabled his right arm, and being
well off through the payment of some ransoms, he had come home partly to
look after his family, and partly to provide himself with a full suit of
English harness, his present suit being a patchwork of relics of
numerous battle-fields.  Only one thing he desired, a true Spanish
sword, not only Toledo or Bilboa in name, but nature.  He had seen
execution done by the weapons of the soldiers of the Great Captain, and
been witness to the endurance of their metal, and this made him demand
whether Master Headley could provide him with the like.

Giles took the moment for stepping forward and putting Abenali's work
into the master's hand.  The Condottiere was in raptures.  He pronounced
it as perfect a weapon as Gouzalo de Cordova himself could possess;
showed off its temper and his own dexterity by piercing and cutting up
an old cuirass, and invited the bystanders to let him put it to further
proof by letting him slice through an apple placed on the open palm of
the hand.

Giles's friendship could not carry him so far as to make the venture;
Kit Smallbones observed that he had a wife and children, and could not
afford to risk his good right hand on a wandering soldier's bravado;
Edmund was heard saying, "Nay, nay, Steve, don't be such a fool," but
Stephen was declaring he would not have the fellow say that English lads
hunt back from what rogues of France and Italy would dare.

"No danger for him who winceth not," said the knight.

Master Headley, a very peaceful citizen in his composition in spite of
his trade, was much inclined to forbid Stephen from the experiment, but
he refrained, ashamed and unwilling to daunt a high spirit; and half the
household, eager for the excitement, rushed to the kitchen in quest of
apples, and brought out all the women to behold, and add a clamour of

Sir John, however, insisted that they should all be ordered back again.
"Not that the noise and clamour of women folk makes any odds to me,"
said the grim old warrior, "I've seen too many towns taken for that, but
it might make the lad queasy, and cost him a thumb or so."

Of course this renewed the dismay and excitement, and both Tibble and
his master entreated Stephen to give up the undertaking if he felt the
least misgiving as to his own steadiness, arguing that they should not
think him any more a craven than they did Kit Smallbones or Edmund
Burgess.  But Stephen's mind was made up, his spirit was high, and he
was resolved to go through with it.

He held out his open hand, a rosy-checked apple was carefully laid on
it.  The sword flashed through the air--divided in half the apple which
remained on Stephen's palm.  There was a sharp shriek from a window,
drowned in the acclamations of the whole court, while the Captain patted
Stephen on the shoulder, exclaiming, "Well done, my lad.  There's the
making of a tall fellow in thee!  If ever thou art weary of making
weapons and wouldst use them instead, seek out John Fulford, of the
Badger troop, and thou shalt have a welcome.  Our name is the Badger,
because there's no troop like us for digging out mines beneath the

A few months ago such an invitation would have been bliss to Stephen.
Now he was bound in all honour and duty to his master, and could only
thank the knight of the Badger, and cast a regretful eye at him, as he
drank a cup of wine, and flung a bag of gold and silver, supplemented by
a heavy chain, to Master Headley, who prudently declined working for
Free Companions, unless he were paid beforehand; and, at the knight's
request, took charge of a sufficient amount to pay his fare back again
to the Continent.  Then mounting a tall, lean, bony horse, the knight
said he should call for his armour on returning from Somerset, and rode
off, while Stephen found himself exalted as a hero in the eyes of his
companions for an act common enough at feats of arms among modern
cavalry, but quite new to the London flat-caps.  The only sufferer was
little Dennet, who had burst into an agony of crying at the sight,
needed that Stephen should spread out both hands before her, and show
her the divided apple, before she would believe that his thumb was in
its right place, and at night screamed out in her sleep that the ill-
favoured man was cutting off Stephen's hands.

The sword was left behind by Sir John in order that it might be fitted
with a scabbard and belt worthy of it; and on examination, Master
Headley and Tibble both confessed that they could produce nothing equal
to it in workmanship, though Kit looked with contempt at the slight
weapon of deep blue steel, with lines meandering on it like a watered
silk, and the upper part inlaid with gold wire in exquisite arabesque
patterns.  He called it a mere toy, and muttered something about
sorcery, and men who had been in foreign parts not thinking honest
weight of English steel good enough for them.

Master Headley would not trust one of the boys with the good silver
coins that had been paid as the price of the sword--French crowns and
Milanese ducats, with a few Venetian gold bezants--but he bade them go
as guards to Tibble, for it was always a perilous thing to carry a sum
of money through the London streets.  Tibble was not an unwilling
messenger.  He knew Master Michael to be somewhat of his own way of
thinking, and he was a naturally large-minded man who could appreciate
skill higher than his own without jealousy.  Indeed, he and his master
held a private consultation on the mode of establishing a connection
with Michael and profiting by his ability.

To have lodged him at the Dragon court and made him part of the
establishment might have seemed the most obvious way, but the dogged
English hatred and contempt of foreigners would have rendered this
impossible, even if Abenali himself would have consented to give up his
comparative seclusion and live in a crowd and turmoil.

But he was thankful to receive and execute orders from Master Headley,
since so certain a connection would secure Aldonza from privation such
as the child had sometimes had to endure in the winter; when, though the
abstemious Eastern nature needed little food, there was great suffering
from cold and lack of fuel.  And Tibble moreover asked questions and
begged for instructions in some of the secrets of the art.  It was an
effort to such a prime artificer as Steelman to ask instruction from any
man, especially a foreigner, but Tibble had a nature of no common order,
and set perfection far above class prejudice; and moreover, he felt
Abenali to be one of those men who had their inner eyes devotedly fixed
on the truth, though little knowing where the quest would lead them.

On his side Abenali underwent a struggle.  "Woe is me!" he said.
"Wottest thou, my son, that the secrets of the sword of light and
swiftness are the heritage that Abdallah Ben Ali brought from Damascus
in the hundred and fifty-third year of the flight of him whom once I
termed the prophet; nor have they departed from our house, but have been
handed on from father to son.  And shall they be used in the wars of the
stranger and the Christian?"

"I feared it might be thus," said Tibble.

"And yet," went on the old man, as if not hearing him, "wherefore should
I guard the secret any longer?  My sons?  Where are they?  They brooked
not the scorn and hatred of the Castillian which poisoned to them the
new faith.  They cast in their lot with their own people, and that their
bones may lie bleaching on the mountains is the best lot that can have
befallen the children of my youth and hope.  The house of Miguel Abenali
is desolate and childless, save for the little maiden who sits by my
hearth in the land of my exile!  Why should I guard it longer for him
who may wed her, and whom I may never behold?  The will of Heaven be
done!  Young man, if I bestow this knowledge on thee, wilt thou swear to
be as a father to my daughter, and to care for her as thine own?"

It was a good while since Tibble had been called a young man, and as he
listened to the flowing Eastern periods in their foreign enunciation, he
was for a moment afraid that the price of the secret was that he should
become the old Moor's son-in-law!  His seared and scarred youth had
precluded marriage, and he entertained the low opinion of women frequent
in men of superior intellect among the uneducated.  Besides, the
possibilities of giving umbrage to Church authorities were dawning on
him, and he was not willing to form any domestic ties, so that in every
way such a proposition would have been unwelcome to him.  But he had no
objection to pledge himself to fatherly guardianship of the pretty child
in case of a need that might never arise.  So he gave the promise, and
became a pupil of Abenali, visiting Warwick Inner Ward with his master's
consent whenever he could be snared, while the workmanship at the Dragon
began to profit thereby.

The jealousy of the Eagle was proportionately increased.  Alderman
Itillyeo, the head of the Eagle, was friendly enough to Mr Headley, but
it was undeniable that they were the rival armourers of London, dividing
the favours of the Court equally between them, and the bitterness of the
emulation increased the lower it went in the establishment.  The
prentices especially could hardly meet without gibes and sneers, if
nothing worse, and Stephen's exploit had a peculiar flavour because it
was averred that no one at the Eagle would have done the like.

But it was not till the Sunday that Ambrose chanced to hear of the feat,
at which he turned quite pale, but he was prouder of it than any one
else, and although he rejoiced that he had not seen it performed, he did
not fail to boast of it at home, though Perronel began by declaring that
she did not care for the mad pranks of roistering prentices; but
presently she paused, as she stirred her grandfather's evening posset,
and said, "What saidst thou was the strange soldier's name?"

"Fulford--Sir John Fulford," said Ambrose.  "What?  I thought not of it,
is not that Gaffer's name?"

"Fulford, yea!  Mayhap--" and Perronel sat down and gave an odd sort of
laugh of agitation--"mayhap 'tis mine own father."

"Shouldst thou know him, good aunt?" cried Ambrose, much excited.

"Scarce," she said.  "I was not seven years old when he went to the
wars--if so be he lived through the battle--and he recked little of me,
being but a maid.  I feared him greatly and so did my mother.  'Twas
happier with only Gaffer!  Where saidst thou he was gone?"

Ambrose could not tell, but he undertook to bring Stephen to answer all
queries on the subject.  His replies that the Captain was gone in quest
of his family to Somersetshire settled the matter, since there had been
old Martin Fulford's abode, and there John Fulford had parted with his
wife and father.  They did not, however, tell the old man of the
possibility of his son's being at home, he had little memory, and was
easily thrown into a state of agitation; besides, it was a doubtful
matter how the Condottiere would feel as to the present fortunes of the
family.  Stephen was to look out for his return in quest of his suit of
armour, inform him of his father's being alive, and show him the way to
the little house by the Temple Gardens; but Perronel gave the strictest
injunctions that her husband's profession should not be explained.  It
would be quite enough to say that he was of the Lord Cardinal's

Stephen watched, but the armour was finished and Christmas passed by
before anything was seen of the Captain.  At last, however, he did
descend on the Dragon court, looking so dilapidated that Mr Headley
rejoiced in the having received payment beforehand.  He was louder
voiced and fuller of strange oaths than ever, and in the utmost haste,
for he had heard tidings that, "there was to be a lusty game between the
Emperor and the Italians, and he must have his share."

Stephen made his way up to speak to him, and was received with, "Ha, my
gallant lad!  Art weary of hammer and anvil?  Wouldst be a brave Badger,
slip thine indentures, and hear helm and lance ring in good earnest?"

"Not so, sir," said Stephen, "but I have been bidden to ask if thou hast
found thy father?"

"What's that to thee, stripling?  When thou hast cut thy wisdom teeth,
thou'lt know old fathers be not so easy found.  'Twas a wild goose
chase, and I wot not what moved me to run after it.  I met jolly
comrades enough, bumpkins that could drink with an honest soldier when
they saw him, but not one that ever heard the name of Fulford."

"Sir," said Stephen, "I know an old man named Fulford.  His grand-
daughter is my uncle's wife, and they dwell by the Temple."

The intelligence seemed more startling and less gratifying than Stephen
had expected.  Sir John demanded whether they were poor, and declared
that he had better have heard of them when his purse was fuller.  He had
supposed that his wife had given him up and found a fresh mate, and when
he heard of her death, he made an exclamation which might be pity, but
had in it something of relief.  He showed more interest about his old
father; but as to his daughter, if she had been a lad now, a' might have
been a stout comrade by this time, ready to do the Badger credit.  Yea,
his poor Kate was a good lass, but she was only a Flemish woman and
hadn't the sense to rear aught but a whining little wench, who was of no
good except to turn fools' heads, and she was wedded and past all that
by this time.

Stephen explained that she was wedded to one of the Lord Cardinal's

"Ho!" said the Condottiere, pausing, "be that the butcher's boy that is
pouring out his gold to buy scarlet hats, if not the three crowns.  'Tis
no bad household wherein to have a footing.  Saidst thou I should find
my wench and the old Gaffer there?"

Stephen had to explain, somewhat to the disappointment of the Captain,
who had, as it appeared, in the company of three or four more
adventurous spirits like himself, taken a passage in a vessel lying off
Gravesend, and had only turned aside to take up his new armour and his
deposit of passage-money.  He demurred a little, he had little time to
spare, and though, of course, he could take boat at the Temple Stairs,
and drop down the river, he observed that it would have been a very
different thing to go home to the old man when he first came back with a
pouch full of ransoms and plunder, whereas now he had barely enough to
carry him to the place of meeting with his Badgers.  And there was the
wench too--he had fairly forgotten her name.  Women were like she wolves
for greed when they had a brood of whelps.

Stephen satisfied him that there was no danger on that score, and heard
him muttering, that it was no harm to secure a safe harbour in case a
man hadn't the luck to be knocked on the head ere he grew too old to
trail a pike.  And he would fain see the old man.

So permission was asked for Stephen to show the way to Master Randall's,
and granted somewhat reluctantly, Master Headley saying, "I'll have thee
back within an hour, Stephen Birkenholt, and look thou dost not let thy
brain be set afire with this fellow's windy talk of battles and sieges,
and deeds only fit for pagans and wolves."

"Ay!" said Tibble, perhaps with a memory of the old fable, "better be
the trusty mastiff than the wolf."

And like the wolf twitting the mastiff with his chain, the soldier was
no sooner outside the door of the Dragon court before he began to
express his wonder how a lad of mettle could put up with a flat cap, a
blue gown, and the being at the beck and call of a greasy burgher, when
a bold, handsome young knave like him might have the world before him
and his stout pike.

Stephen was flattered, but scarcely tempted.  The hard selfishness and
want of affection of the Condottiere shocked him, while he looked about,
hoping some of his acquaintance would see him in company with this tall
figure clanking in shining armour, and with a knightly helmet and gilt
spurs.  The armour, new and brilliant, concealed the worn and shabby
leathern dress beneath, and gave the tall, spare figure a greater
breadth, diminishing the look of a hungry wolf which Sir John Fulford's
aspect suggested.  However, as he passed some of the wealthier stalls,
where the apprentices, seeing the martial figure, shouted, "What d'ye
lack, sir knight?" and offered silk and velvet robes and mantles, gay
sword knots, or even rich chains, under all the clamour, Stephen heard
him swearing by Saint George what a place this would be for a sack, if
his Badgers were behind him.

"If that poor craven of a Warbeck had had a spark of valour in him,"
quoth he, as he passed a stall gay with bright tankards and flagons, "we
would have rattled some of that shining gear about the lazy citizens'
ears!  He, jolly King Edward's son!  I'll never give faith to it!  To
turn his back when there was such a booty to be had for the plundering."

"He might not have found it so easy.  Our trainbands are sturdy enough,"
said Stephen, whose _esprit de corps_ was this time on the Londoners'
side, but the knight of the Badger snapped his fingers, and said, "So
much for your burgher trainbands!  All they be good for with their show
of fight is to give honest landsknechts a good reason to fall on to the
plunder, if so be one is hampered by a squeamish prince.  But grammercy
to Saint George, there be not many of that sort after they be once

Perhaps a year ago, when fresh from the Forest, Stephen might have been
more captivated by the notion of adventure and conquest.  Now that he
had his place in the community and looked on a civic position with
wholesome ambition, Fulford's longings for havoc in these peaceful
streets made his blood run cold.  He was glad when they reached their
destination, and he saw Perronel with bare arms, taking in some linen
cuffs and bands from a line across to the opposite wall.  He could only
call out, "Good naunt, here he be!"

Perronel turned round, the colour rising in her cheeks, with an
obeisance, but trembling a good deal.  "How now, wench?  Thou art grown
a buxom dame.  Thou makst an old man of me," said the soldier with a
laugh.  "Where's my father?  I have not the turning of a cup to stay,
for I'm come home poor as a cat in a plundered town, and am off to the
wars again; but hearing that the old man was nigh at hand, I came this
way to see him, and let thee know thou art a knight's daughter.  Thou
art indifferent comely, girl, what's thy name? but not the peer of thy
mother when I wooed her as one of the bonny lasses of Bruges."

He gave a kind of embrace, while she gave a kind of gasp of "Welcome,
sir," and glanced somewhat reproachfully at Stephen for not having given
her more warning.  The cause of her dismay was plain as the Captain,
giving her no time to precede him, strode into the little chamber, where
Hal Randall, without his false beard or hair, and in his parti-coloured
hose, was seated by the cupboard-like bed, assisting old Martin Fulford
to take his mid-day meal.

"Be this thine husband, girl?  Ha! ha!  He's more like a jolly friar
come in to make thee merry when the good man is out!" exclaimed the
visitor, laughing loudly at his own rude jest; but heeding little either
Hal's appearance or his reply, as he caught the old man's bewildered
eyes, and heard his efforts to utter his name.

For eighteen years had altered John Fulford less than either his father
or his daughter, and old Martin recognised him instantly, and held out
the only arm he could use, while the knight, softened, touched, and
really feeling more natural affection than Stephen had given him credit
for, dropped on his knee, breaking into indistinct mutterings with rough
but hearty greetings, regretting that he had not found his father
sooner, when his pouch was full, lamenting the change in him, declaring
that he must hurry away now, but promising to come back with sacks of
Italian ducats to provide for the old man.

Those who could interpret the imperfect utterance, now further choked by
tears and agitation, knew that there was a medley of broken rejoicings,
blessings, and weepings, in the midst of which the soldier, glad perhaps
to end a scene where he became increasingly awkward and embarrassed,
started up, hastily kissed the old man on each of his withered cheeks,
gave another kiss to his daughter, threw her two Venetian ducats,
bidding her spend them for the old man, and he would bring a pouchful
more next time, and striding to the door, bade Stephen call a boat to
take him down to Gravesend.

Randall, who had in the meantime donned his sober black gown in the
inner chamber, together with a dark hood, accompanied his newly found
father-in-law down the river, and Stephen would fain have gone too, but
for the injunction to return within the hour.

Perronel had hurried back to her grandfather's side to endeavour to
compose him after the shock of gladness.  But it had been too much for
his enfeebled powers.  Another stroke came on before the day was over,
and in two or three days more old Martin Fulford was laid to rest, and
his son's ducats were expended on masses for his soul's welfare.



  "For strangers then did so increase,
  By reason of King Henry's queen,
  And privileged in many a place
  To dwell, as was in London seen.
  Poor tradesmen had small dealing then
  And who but strangers bore the bell,
  Which was a grief to Englishmen
  To see them here in London dwell."
  _Ill May Day_,
  by Churchill, a Contemporary Poet.

Time passed on, and Edmund Burgess, who had been sent from York to learn
the perfection of his craft, completed his term and returned to his
home, much regretted in the Dragon court, where his good humour and good
sense had generally kept the peace, both within and without.

Giles Headley was now the eldest prentice.  He was in every way greatly
improved, thoroughly accepting his position, and showing himself quite
ready both to learn and to work; but he had not the will or the power of
avoiding disputes with outsiders, or turning them aside with a merry
jest; and rivalries and quarrels with the armoury at the Eagle began to
increase.  The Dragon, no doubt, turned out finer workmanship, and this
the Eagle alleged was wholly owing to nefarious traffic with the old
Spanish or Moorish sorcerer in Warwick Inner Ward, a thing unworthy of
honest Englishmen.

This made Giles furious, and the cry never failed to end in a fight, in
which Stephen supported the cause of the one house, and George Bates and
his comrades of the other.

It was the same with even the archery at Mile End, where the butts were
erected, and the youth contended with the long bow, which was still
considered as the safeguard of England.  King Henry often looked in on
these matches, and did honour to the winners.  One match there was in
especial, on Mothering Sunday, when the champions of each guild shot
against one another at such a range that it needed a keen eye to see the
popinjay--a stuffed bird at which they shot.

Stephen was one of these, his forest lore having always given him an
advantage over many of the others.  He even was one of the last three
who were to finish the sport by shooting against one another.  One was a
butcher named Barlow.  The other was a Walloon, the best shot among six
hundred foreigners of various nations, all of whom, though with little
encouragement, joined in the national sport on these pleasant spring
afternoons.  The first contest threw out the Walloon, at which there
were cries of ecstasy; now the trial was between Barlow and Stephen, and
in this final effort, the distance of the pole to which the popinjay was
fastened was so much increased that strength of arm told as much as
accuracy of aim, and Stephen's seventeen years' old muscles could not,
after so long a strain, cope with those of Ralph Barlow, a butcher of
full thirty years old.  His wrist and arm began to shake with weariness,
and only one of his three last arrows went straight to the mark, while
Barlow was as steady as ever, and never once failed.  Stephen was
bitterly disappointed, his eyes filled with tears, and he flung himself
down on the turf, feeling as if the shouts of "A Barlow! a Barlow!"
which were led by the jovial voice of King Harry himself, were all
exulting over him.

Barlow was led up to the king, who hailed him "King of Shoreditch," a
title borne by the champion archer ever after, so long as bowmanship in
earnest lasted.  A tankard which the king filled with silver pieces was
his prize, but Henry did not forget Number 2.  "Where's the other
fellow?" he said.  "He was but a stripling, and to my mind, his feat was
a greater marvel than that of a stalwart fellow like Barlow."

Half a dozen of the spectators, among them the cardinal's hurried in
search of Stephen, who was roused from his fit of weariness and
disappointment by a shake of the shoulder as his uncle jingled his bells
in his ears, and exclaimed, "How now, here I own a cousin!"  Stephen sat
up and stared with angry, astonished eyes, but only met a laugh.  "Ay,
ay, 'tis but striplings and fools that have tears to spend for such as
this!  Up, boy!  D'ye hear?  The other Hal is asking for thee."

And Stephen, hastily brushing away his tears, and holding his flat cap
in his hand, was marshalled across the mead, hot, shy, and indignant, as
the jester mopped and mowed, and cut all sorts of antics before him,
turning round to observe in an encouraging voice, "Pluck up a heart,
man!  One would think Hal was going to cut off thine head!"  And then,
on arriving where the king sat on his horse, "Here he is, Hal, such as
he is come humbly to crave thy gracious pardon for hitting the mark no
better!  He'll mend his ways, good my lord, if your grace will pardon
him this time."

"Ay, marry, and that will I," said the king.  "The springald bids fair
to be King of Shoreditch by the time the other fellow abdicates.  How
old art thou, my lad?"

"Seventeen, an it please your grace," said Stephen, in the gruff voice
of his age.

"And thy name?"

"Stephen Birkenholt, my liege," and he wondered whether he would be
recognised; but Henry only said--

"Methinks I've seen those sloe-black eyes before.  Or is it only that
the lad is thy very marrow, quipsome one?"

"The which," returned the jester, gravely, while Stephen tingled all
over with dismay, "may account for the tears the lad was wasting at not
having the thews of the fellow double his age!  But I envy him not!  Not
I!  He'll never have wit for mine office, but will come in second there

"I dare be sworn he will," said the king.  "Here, take this, my good
lad, and prank thee in it when thou art out of thy time, and goest a-
hunting in Epping!"

It was a handsome belt with a broad silver clasp, engraven with the
Tudor rose and portcullis; and Stephen bowed low and made his
acknowledgments as best he might.

He was hailed with rapturous acclamations by his own contemporaries, who
held that he had saved the credit of the English prentice world, and
insisted on carrying him enthroned on their shoulders back to Cheapside,
in emulation of the journeymen and all the butcher kind, who were thus
bearing home the King of Shoreditch.

Shouts, halloos, whistles, every jubilant noise that youth and boyhood
could invent, were the triumphant music of Stephen on his surging and
uneasy throne, as he was shifted from one bearer to another when each in
turn grew tired of his weight.  Just, however, as they were nearing
their own neighbourhood, a counter cry broke out, "Witchcraft!  His
arrows are bewitched by the old Spanish sorcerer!  Down with Dragons and
Wizards!"  And a handful of mud came full in the face of the enthroned
lad, aimed no doubt by George Bates.  There was a yell and rush of rage,
but the enemy was in numbers too small to attempt resistance, and dashed
off before their pursuers, only pausing at safe corners to shout
Parthian darts of "Wizards!"  "Magic!"  "Sorcerers!"  "Heretics!"

There was nothing to be done but to collect again, and escort Stephen,
who had wiped the mud off his face, to the Dragon court, where Dennet
danced on the steps for joy, and Master Headley, not a little gratified,
promised Stephen a supper for a dozen of his particular friends at
Armourers' Hall on the ensuing Easter Sunday.

Of course Stephen went in search of his brother, all the more eagerly
because he was conscious that they had of late drifted apart a good
deal.  Ambrose was more and more absorbed by the studies to which Lucas
Hansen led him, and took less and less interest in his brother's
pursuits.  He did indeed come to the Sunday's dinner according to the
regular custom, but the moment it was permissible to leave the board he
was away with Tibble Steelman to meet friends of Lucas, and pursue
studies, as if, Stephen thought, he had not enough of books as it was.
When Dean Colet preached or catechised in Saint Paul's in the afternoon
they both attended and listened, but that good man was in failing
health, and his wise discourses were less frequent.

Where they were at other times, Stephen did not know, and hardly cared,
except that he had a general dislike to, and jealousy of, anything that
took his brother's sympathy away from him.  Moreover Ambrose's face was
thinner and paler, he had a strange absorbed look, and often even when
they were together seemed hardly to attend to what his brother was

"I will make him come," said Stephen to himself, as he went with
swinging gait towards Warwick Inner Ward, where, sure enough, he found
Ambrose sitting at the door, frowning over some black-letter which
looked most uninviting in the eyes of the apprentice, and he fell upon
his brother with half angry, half merry reproofs for wasting the fine
spring afternoon over such studies.

Ambrose looked up with a dreamy smile and greeted his brother; but all
the time Stephen was narrating the history of the match, (and he _did_
tell the fate of each individual arrow of his own or Barlow's), his eyes
were wandering back to the crabbed page in his hand, and when Stephen
impatiently wound up his history with the invitation to supper on Easter
Sunday, the reply was, "Nay, brother, thanks, but that I cannot do."

"Cannot!" exclaimed Stephen.

"Nay, there are other matters in hand that go deeper."

"Yea, I know whatever concerns musty books goes deeper with thee than
thy brother," replied Stephen, turning away much mortified.

Ambrose's warm nature was awakened.  He held his brother by the arm and
declared himself anything but indifferent to him, but he owned that he
did not love noise and revelry, above all on Sunday.

"Thou art addling thy brains with preachings!" said Stephen.  "Pray
Heaven they make not a heretic of thee.  But thou mightest for once have
come to mine own feast."

Ambrose, much perplexed and grieved at thus vexing his brother, declared
that he would have done so with all his heart, but that this very Easter
Sunday there was coming a friend of Master Hansen's from Holland: who
was to tell them much of the teaching in Germany, which was so
enlightening men's eyes.

"Yea, truly, making heretics of them, Mistress Headley saith," returned
Stephen.  "O Ambrose, if thou wilt run after these books and parchments,
canst not do it in right fashion, among holy monks, as of old?"

"Holy monks!" repeated Ambrose.  "Holy monks!  Where be they?"

Stephen stared at him.

"Hear uncle Hal talk of monks whom he sees at my Lord Cardinal's table!
What holiness is there among them?  Men, that have vowed to renounce all
worldly and carnal things flaunt like peacocks and revel like swine--my
Lord Cardinal with his silver pillars foremost of them!  He poor and
mortified!  'Tis verily as our uncle saith, he plays the least false and
shameful part there!"

"Ambrose, Ambrose, thou wilt be distraught, poring over these matters
that were never meant for lads like us!  Do but come and drive them out
for once with mirth and good fellowship."

"I tell thee, Stephen, what thou callest mirth and good fellowship do
but drive the pain in deeper.  Sin and guilt be everywhere.  I seem to
see the devils putting foul words on the tongue and ill deeds in the
hands of myself and all around me, that they may accuse us before God.
No, Stephen, I cannot, cannot come.  I must go where I can hear of a
better way."

"Nay," said Stephen, "what better way can there be than to be shriven--
clean shriven--and then houselled, as I was ere Lent, and trust to be
again on next Low Sunday morn?  That's enough for a plain lad."  He
crossed himself reverently, "Mine own Lord pardoneth and cometh to me."

But the two minds, one simple and practical, the other sensitive and
speculative, did not move in the same atmosphere, and could not
understand one another.  Ambrose was in the condition of excitement and
bewilderment produced by the first stirrings of the Reformation upon
enthusiastic minds.  He had studied the Vulgate, made out something of
the Greek Testament, read all fragments of the Fathers that came in his
way, and also all the controversial "tractates," Latin or Dutch, that he
could meet with, and attended many a secret conference between Lucas and
his friends, when men, coming from Holland or Germany, communicated
accounts of the lectures and sermons of Dr Martin Luther, which already
were becoming widely known.

He was wretched under the continual tossings of his mind.  Was the
entire existing system a vast delusion, blinding the eyes and destroying
the souls of those who trusted to it; and was the only safety in the one
point of faith that Luther pressed on all, and ought all that he had
hitherto revered to crumble down to let that alone be upheld?  Whatever
he had once loved and honoured at times seemed to him a lie, while at
others real affection and veneration, and dread of sacrilege, made him
shudder at himself and his own doubts!  It was his one thought, and he
passionately sought after all those secret conferences which did but
feed the flame that consumed him.

The elder men who were with him were not thus agitated.  Lucas's
convictions had not long been fixed.  He did not court observation nor
do anything unnecessarily to bring persecution on himself, but he
quietly and secretly acted as an agent in dispersing the Lollard books
and those of Erasmus, and lived in the conviction that there would one
day be a great crash, believing himself to be doing his part by
undermining the structure, and working on undoubtingly.  Abenali was not
aggressive.  In fact, though he was reckoned among Lucas's party,
because of his abstinence from all cult of saints or images, and the
persecution he had suffered, he did not join in their general opinions,
and held aloof from their meetings.  And Tibble Steelman, as has been
before said, lived two lives, and that as foreman at the Dragon court,
being habitual to him, and requiring much thought and exertion, the
speculations of the reformers were to him more like an intellectual
relaxation than the business of life.  He took them as a modern artisan
would in this day read his newspaper, and attend his club meeting.

Ambrose, however, had the enthusiastic practicalness of youth.  On that
which he fully believed, he must act, and what did he fully believe?

Boy as he was--scarcely yet eighteen--the toils and sports that
delighted his brother seemed to him like toys amusing infants on the
verge of an abyss, and he spent his leisure either in searching in the
Vulgate for something to give him absolute direction, or in going in
search of preachers, for, with the stirring of men's minds, sermons were
becoming more frequent.

There was much talk just now of the preaching of one Doctor Beale, to
whom all the tradesmen, Journeymen, and apprentices were resorting, even
those who were of no special religious tendencies.  Ambrose went on
Easter Tuesday to hear him preach at Saint Mary's Spitall.  The place
was crowded with artificers, and Beale began by telling them that he had
"a pitiful bill," meaning a letter, brought to him declaring how aliens
and strangers were coming in to inhabit the City and suburbs, to eat the
bread from poor fatherless children, and take the living from all
artificers and the intercourse from merchants, whereby poverty was so
much increased that each bewaileth the misery of others.  Presently
coming to his text, "_Caelum caeli Domini, terram autem dedit filiis
hominis_," (the Heaven of Heavens is the Lord's, the earth hath He given
to the children of men), the doctor inculcated that England was given to
Englishmen, and that as birds would defend their nests, so ought
Englishmen to defend themselves, _and to hurt and grieve aliens for the
common weal_!  The corollary a good deal resembled that of "hate thine
enemy" which was foisted by "them of the old time" upon "thou shalt love
thy neighbour."  And the doctor went on upon the text, "_Pugna pro
patria_," to demonstrate that fighting for one's country meant rising
upon and expelling all the strangers who dwelt and traded within it.
Many of these foreigners were from the Hanse towns which had special
commercial privileges, there were also numerous Venetians and Genoese,
French and Spaniards, the last of whom were, above all, the objects of
dislike.  Their imports of silks, cloth of gold, stamped leather, wine
and oil, and their superior skill in many handicrafts, had put English
wares out of fashion; and their exports of wool, tin, and lead excited
equal jealousy, which Dr Beale, instigated as was well known by a
broker named John Lincoln, was thus stirring up into fierce passion.
His sermon was talked of all over London; blacker looks than ever were
directed at the aliens, stones and dirt were thrown at them, and even
Ambrose, as he walked along the street, was reviled as the Dutchkin's
knave.  The insults became each day more daring and outrageous.  George
Bates and a skinner's apprentice named Studley were caught in the act of
tripping up a portly old Flanderkin and forthwith sent to Newgate, and
there were other arrests, which did but inflame the smouldering rage of
the mob.  Some of the wealthier foreigners, taking warning by the signs
of danger, left the City, for there could be no doubt that the whole of
London and the suburbs were in a combustible condition of discontent,
needing only a spark to set it alight.

It was just about this time that a disreputable clerk--a lewd priest, as
Hall calls him--a hanger-on of the house of Howard, was guilty of an
insult to a citizen's wife as she was quietly walking home through the
Cheap.  Her husband and brother, who were nearer at hand than he
guessed, avenged the outrage with such good wills that this disgrace to
the priesthood was left dead on the ground.  When such things happened,
and discourses like Beale's were heard, it was not surprising that
Ambrose's faith in the clergy as guides received severe shocks.



  "The rich, the poor, the old, the young,
  Beyond the seas though born and bred,
  By prentices they suffered wrong,
  When armed thus they gather'd head."
  _Ill May Day_.

May Eve had come, and little Dennet Headley was full of plans for going
out early with her young play-fellows to the meadow to gather May dew in
the early morning, but her grandmother, who was in bed under a heavy
attack of rheumatism, did not like the reports brought to her, and
deferred her consent to the expedition.

In the afternoon there were tidings that the Lord Mayor, Sir Thomas
Rest, had been sent for to my Lord Cardinal, who just at this time,
during the building at York House, was lodging in his house close to
Temple Bar.  Some hours later a message came to Master Alderman Headley
to meet the Lord Mayor and the rest of the Council at the Guildhall.  He
shook himself into his scarlet gown, and went off, puffing and blowing,
and bidding Giles and Stephen take heed that they kept close, and ran
into no mischief.

But they agreed, and Kit Smallbones with them, that there could be no
harm in going into the open space of Cheapside and playing out a match
with bucklers between Giles and Wat Ball, a draper's prentice who had
challenged him.  The bucklers were huge shields, and the weapons were
wooden swords.  It was an exciting sport, and brought out all the youths
of Cheapside in the summer evening, bawling out encouragement, and
laying wagers on either side.  The curfew rang, but there were special
privileges on May Eve, and the game went on louder than ever.

There was far too much noise for any one to hear the town crier, who
went along jingling his bell, and shouting, "O yes!  O yes!  O yes!  By
order of the Lord Mayor and Council, no householder shall allow any one
of his household to be abroad beyond his gate between the hours of nine
o'clock at night and seven in the morning," or if any of the outermost
heard it, as did Ambrose who was on his way home to his night quarters,
they were too much excited not to turn a deaf ear to it.

Suddenly, however, just as Giles was preparing for a master-stroke, he
was seized roughly by the shoulder and bidden to give over.  He looked
round.  It was an alderman, not his master, but Sir John Mundy, an
unpopular, harsh man.

"Wherefore?" demanded Giles.

"Thou shalt know," said the alderman, seizing his arm to drag him to the
Counter prison, but Giles resisted.  Wat Ball struck at Sir John's arm
with his wooden sword, and as the alderman shouted for the watch and
city-guard, the lads on their side raised their cry, "Prentices and
Clubs!  Flat-caps and Clubs!"  Master Headley, struggling along, met his
colleague, with his gown torn into shreds from his back, among a host of
wildly yelling lads, and panting, "Help, help, brother Headley!"  With
great difficulty the two aldermen reached the door of the Dragon, whence
Smallbones sallied out to rescue them, and dragged them in.

"The boys!--the boys!" was Master Headley's first cry, but he might as
well have tried to detach two particular waves from a surging ocean as
his own especial boys from the multitude on that wild evening.  There
was no moon, and the twilight still prevailed, but it was dark enough to
make the confusion greater, as the cries swelled and numbers flowed into
the open space of Cheapside.  In the words of Hall, the chronicler, "Out
came serving-men, and watermen, and courtiers, and by eleven of the
clock there were six or seven hundreds in Cheap.  And out of Pawle's
Churchyard came three hundred which wist not of the others."  For the
most part all was involved in the semi-darkness of the summer night, but
here and there light came from an upper window on some boyish face,
perhaps full of mischief, perhaps somewhat bewildered and appalled.
Here and there were torches, which cast a red glare round them, but
whose smoke blurred everything, and seemed to render the darkness

Perhaps if the tumult had only been of the apprentices, provoked by
Alderman Mundy's interference, they would soon have dispersed, but the
throng was pervaded by men with much deeper design, and a cry arose--no
one knew from whence--that they would break into Newgate and set free
Studley and Bates.

By this time the torrent of young manhood was quite irresistible by any
force that had yet been opposed to it.  The Mayor and Sheriffs stood at
the Guildhall, and read the royal proclamation by the light of a wax
candle, held in the trembling hand of one of the clerks; but no one
heard or heeded them, and the uproar was increased as the doors of
Newgate fell, and all the felons rushed out to join the rioters.

At the same time another shout rose, "Down with the aliens!" and there
was a general rush towards Saint Martin's gate, in which direction many
lived.  There was, however, a pause here, for Sir Thomas More, Recorder
of London, stood in the way before Saint Martin's gate, and with his
full sweet voice began calling out and entreating the lads to go home,
before any heads were broken more than could be mended again.  He was
always a favourite, and his good humour seemed to be making some
impression, when, either from the determination of the more evil-
disposed, or because the inhabitants of Saint Martin's Lane were
beginning to pour down hot water, stones, and brickbats on the dense
mass of heads below them, a fresh access of fury seized upon the mob.
Yells of, "Down with the strangers!" echoed through the narrow streets,
drowning Sir Thomas's voice.  A lawyer who stood with him was knocked
down and much hurt, the doors were battered down, and the household
stuff thrown from the windows.  Here, Ambrose, who had hitherto been
pushed helplessly about, and knocked hither and thither, was driven up
against Giles, and, to avoid falling and being trampled down, clutched
hold of him breathless and panting.

"Thou here!" exclaimed Giles.  "Who would have thought of sober Ambrose
in the midst of the fray?  See here, Stevie!"

"Poor old Ambrose!" cried Stephen, "keep close to us!  We'll see no harm
comes to thee.  'Tis hot work, eh?"

"Oh, Stephen! could I but get out of the throng to warn my master and
Master Michael!"

Those words seemed to strike Giles Headley.  He might have cared little
for the fate of the old printer, but as he heard the screams of the
women in the houses around, he exclaimed, "Ay! there's the old man and
the little maid!  We will have her to the Dragon!"

"Or to mine aunt's," said Ambrose.

"Have with thee then," said Giles: "Take his other arm, Steve;" and
locking their arms together the three fought and forced their way from
among the plunderers in Saint Martin's with no worse mishap than a
shower of hot water, which did not hurt them much through their stout
woollen coats.  They came at last to a place where they could breathe,
and stood still a moment to recover from the struggle, and vituperate
the hot water.

Then they heard fresh howls and yells in front as well as behind.

"They are at it everywhere," exclaimed Stephen.  "I hear them somewhere
out by Cornhill."

"Ay, where the Frenchmen live that calender worsted," returned Giles.
"Come on; who knows how it is with the old man and little maid?"

"There's a sort in our court that are ready for aught," said Ambrose.

On they hurried in the darkness, which was now at the very deepest of
the night; now and then a torch was borne across the street, and most of
the houses had lights in the upper windows, for few Londoners slept on
that strange night.  The stained glass of the windows of the Churches
beamed in bright colours from the Altar lights seen through them, but
the lads made slower progress than they wished, for the streets were
never easy to walk in the dark, and twice they came on mobs assailing
houses, from the windows of one of which, French shoes and boots were
being hailed down.  Things were moderately quiet around Saint Paul's,
but as they came into Warwick Lane they heard fresh shouts and wild
cries, and at the archway leading to the inner yard they could see that
there was a huge bonfire in the midst of the court--of what composed
they could not see for the howling figures that exulted round it.

"George Bates, the villain!" cried Stephen, as his enemy in exulting
ferocious delight was revealed for a moment throwing a book on the fire,
and shouting, "Hurrah! there's for the old sorcerer, there's for the

That instant Giles was flying on Bates, and Stephen, with equal, if not
greater fury, at one of his comrades; but Ambrose dashed through the
outskirts of the wildly screaming and shouting fellows, many of whom
were the miscreant population of the mews, to the black yawning doorway
of his master.  He saw only a fellow staggering out with the screw of
the press to feed the flame, and hurried on in the din to call, "Master,
art thou there?"

There was no answer, and he moved on to the next door, calling again
softly, while all the spoilers seemed absorbed in the fire and the
combat.  "Master Michael!  'Tis I, Ambrose!"

"Here, my son," cautiously answered a voice he knew for Lucas Hansen's.

"Oh, master! master!" was his low, heart-stricken cry, as by the leaping
light of a flame he saw the pale face of the old printer, who drew him

"Yea! 'tis ruin, my son," said Lucas.  "And would that that were the

The light flashed and flickered through the broken window so that
Ambrose saw that the hangings had been torn down and everything wrecked,
and a low sound as of stifled weeping directed his eyes to a corner
where Aldonza sat with her father's head on her lap.  "Lives he?  Is he
greatly hurt?" asked Ambrose, awe-stricken.

"The life is yet in him, but I fear me greatly it is passing fast," said
Lucas, in a low voice.  "One of those lads smote him on the back with a
club, and struck him down at the poor maid's feet, nor hath he moved
since.  It was that one young Headley is fighting with," he added.

"Bates! ah!  Would that we had come sooner!  What! more of this work--"

For just then a tremendous outcry broke forth, and there was a rush and
panic among those who had been leaping round the fire just before.  "The
guard!--the King's men!" was the sound they presently distinguished.
They could hear rough abusive voices, shrieks and trampling of feet.  A
few seconds more and all was still, only the fire remained, and in the
stillness the suppressed sobs and moans of Aldonza were heard.

"A light!  Fetch a light from the fire!" said Lucas.

Ambrose ran out.  The flame was lessening, but he could see the dark
bindings, and the blackened pages of the books he loved so well.  A
corner of a page of Saint Augustine's Confessions was turned towards him
and lay on a singed fragment of Aldonza's embroidered curtain, while a
little red flame was licking the spiral folds of the screw, trying, as
it were, to gather energy to do more than blacken it.  Ambrose could
have wept over it at any other moment, but now he could only catch up a
brand--it was the leg of his master's carved chair--and run back with
it.  Lucas ventured to light a lamp, and they could then see the old
man's face pale, but calm and still, with his long white beard flowing
over his breast.  There was no blood, no look of pain, only a set look
about the eyes; and Aldonza cried, "Oh, father, thou art better!  Speak
to me!  Let Master Lucas lift thee up!"

"Nay, my child.  I cannot move hand or foot.  Let me lie thus till the
Angel of Death come for me.  He is very near."  He spoke in short
sentences.  "Water--nay--no pain," he added then, and Ambrose ran for
some water in the first battered fragment of a tin pot he could find.
They bathed his face and he gathered strength after a time to say, "A
priest!--oh for a priest to shrive and housel me."

"I will find one," said Ambrose, speeding out into the court over
fragments of the beautiful work for which Abenali was hated, and over
the torn, half-burnt leaves of the beloved store of Lucas.  The fire had
died down, but morning twilight was beginning to dawn, and all was
perfectly still after the recent tumult though for a moment or two
Ambrose heard some distant cries.

Where should he go?  Priests indeed were plentiful, but both his friends
were in bad odour with the ordinary ones.  Lucas had avoided both the
Lenten shrift and Easter Communion, and what Miguel might have done,
Ambrose was uncertain.  Some young priests had actually been among the
foremost in sacking the dwellings of the unfortunate foreigners, and
Ambrose was quite uncertain whether he might not fall on one of that
stamp--or on one who might vex the old man's soul--perhaps deny him the
Sacraments altogether.  As he saw the pale lighted windows of Saint
Paul's, it struck him to see whether any one were within.  The light
might be only from some of the tapers burning perpetually, but the pale
light in the north-east, the morning chill, and the clock striking
three, reminded him that it must be the hour of Prime, and he said to
himself, "Sure, if a priest be worshipping at this hour, he will be a
good and merciful man.  I can but try."

The door of the transept yielded to his hand.  He came forward, lighted
through the darkness by the gleam of the candles, which cast a huge and
awful shadow from the crucifix of the rood-screen upon the pavement.
Before it knelt a black figure in prayer.  Ambrose advanced in some awe
and doubt how to break in on these devotions, but the priest had heard
his step, rose and said, "What is it, my son?  Dost thou seek sanctuary
after these sad doings?"

"Nay, reverend sir," said Ambrose.  "'Tis a priest for a dying man I
seek;" and in reply to the instant question, where it was, he explained
in haste who the sufferer was, and how he had received a fatal blow, and
was begging for the Sacraments.  "And oh, sir!" he added, "he is a holy
and God-fearing man, if ever one lived, and hath been cruelly and foully
entreated by jealous and wicked folk, who hated him for his skill and

"Alack for the unhappy lads; and alack for those who egged them on,"
said the priest.  "Truly they knew not what they did.  I will come with
thee, my good youth.  Thou hast not been one of them?"

"No, truly sir, save that I was carried along and could not break from
the throng.  I work for Lucas Hansen, the Dutch printer, whom they have
likewise plundered in their savage rage."

"'Tis well.  Thou canst then bear this," said the priest, taking a thick
wax candle.  Then reverently advancing to the Altar, whence he took the
pyx, or gold case in which the Host was reserved, he lighted the candle,
which he gave, together with his stole, to the youth to bear before him.

Then, when the light fell full on his features, Ambrose with a strange
thrill of joy and trust perceived that it was no other than Dean Colet,
who had here been praying against the fury of the people.  He was very
thankful, feeling intuitively that there was no fear but that Abenali
would be understood, and for his own part, the very contact with the man
whom he revered seemed to calm and soothe him, though on that solemn
errand no word could be spoken.  Ambrose went on slowly before, his dark
head uncovered, the priestly stole hanging over his arm, his hands
holding aloft the tall candle of virgin wax, while the Dean followed
closely with feeble steps, looking frail and worn, but with a grave,
sweet solemnity on his face.  It was a perfectly still morning, and as
they slowly paced along, the flame burnt steadily with little
flickering, while the pure, delicately-coloured sky overhead was
becoming every moment lighter, and only the larger stars were visible.
The houses were absolutely still, and the only person they met, a lad
creeping homewards after the fray, fell on his knees bareheaded as he
perceived their errand.  Once or twice again sounds came up from the
city beneath, like shrieks or wailing breaking strangely on that fair
peaceful May morn; but still that pair went on till Ambrose had guided
the Dean to the yard, where, except that the daylight was revealing more
and more of the wreck around, all was as he had left it.  Aldonza, poor
child, with her black hair hanging loose like a veil, for she had been
startled from her bed, still sat on the ground making her lap a pillow
for the white-bearded head, nobler and more venerable than ever.  On it
lay, in the absolute immobility produced by the paralysing blow, the
fine features already in the solemn grandeur of death, and only the
movement of the lips under the white flowing beard and of the dark eyes
showing life.

Dean Colet said afterwards that he felt as if he had been called to the
death-bed of Israel, or of Barzillai the Gileadite, especially when the
old man, in the Oriental phraseology he had never entirely lost, said,
"I thank Thee, my God, and the God of my fathers, that Thou hast granted
me that which I had prayed for."

The Dutch printer was already slightly known to the Dean, having sold
him many books.  A few words were exchanged with him, but it was plain
that the dying man could not be moved, and that his confession must be
made on the lap of the young girl.  Colet knelt over him so as to be
able to hear, while Lucas and Ambrose withdrew, but were soon called
back for the remainder of the service for the dying.  The old man's face
showed perfect peace.  All worldly thought and care seemed to have been
crushed out of him by the blow, and he did not even appear to think of
the unprotected state of his daughter, although he blessed her with
solemn fervour immediately after receiving the Viaticum--then lay
murmuring to himself sentences which Ambrose, who had learnt much from
him, knew to be from his Arabic breviary about palm-branches, and the
twelve manner of fruits of the Tree of Life.

It was a strange scene--the grand, calm, patriarchal old man, so
peaceful on his dark-haired daughter's lap in the midst of the shattered
home in the old feudal stable.  All were silent a while in awe, but the
Dean was the first to move and speak, calling Lucas forward to ask
sundry questions of him.

"Is there no good woman," he asked, "who could be with this poor child
and take her home, when her father shall have passed away?"

"Mine uncle's wife, sir," said Ambrose, a little doubtfully.  "I trow
she would come--since I can certify her that your reverence holds him
for a holy man."

"I had thy word for it," said the Dean.  "Ah! reply not, my son, I see
well how it may be with you here.  But tell those who will take the word
of John Colet that never did I mark the passing away of one who had
borne more for the true holy Catholic faith, nor held it more to his
soul's comfort."

For the Dean, a man of vivid intelligence, knew enough of the Moresco
persecutions to be able to gather from the words of Lucas and Ambrose,
and the confession of the old man himself, a far more correct estimate
of Abenali's sufferings, and constancy to the truth, than any of the
more homebred wits could have divined.  He knew, too, that his own
orthodoxy was so called in question by the narrower and more unspiritual
section of the clergy that only the appreciative friendship of the King
and the Cardinal kept him securely in his position.

Ambrose sped away, knowing that Perronel would be quite satisfied.  He
was sure of her ready compassion and good-will, but she had so often
bewailed his running after learning and possibly heretical doctrine,
that he had doubted whether she would readily respond to a summons, on
his own authority alone, to one looked on with so much suspicion as
Master Michael.  Colet intimated his intention of remaining a little
longer to pray with the dying man, and further wrote a few words on his
tablets, telling Ambrose to leave them with one of the porters at his
house as he went past Saint Paul's.

It was broad daylight now, a lovely May morning, such as generally
called forth the maidens, small and great, to the meadows to rub their
fresh cheeks with the silvery dew, and to bring home kingcups, cuckoo
flowers, blue bottles, and cowslips for the Maypoles that were to be
decked.  But all was silent now, not a house was open, the rising sun
made the eastern windows of the churches a blaze of light, and from the
west door of Saint Paul's the city beneath seemed sleeping, only a
wreath or two of smoke rising.  Ambrose found the porter looking out for
his master in much perturbation.  He groaned as he looked at the
tablets, and heard where the Dean was, and said that came of being a
saint on earth.  It would be the death of him ere long!  What would old
Mistress Colet, his mother, say?  He would have detained the youth with
his inquiries, but Ambrose said he had to speed down to the Temple on an
errand from the Dean, and hurried away.  All Ludgate Hill was now quiet,
every house closed, but here and there lay torn shreds of garments, or
household vessels.

As he reached Fleet Street, however, there was a sound of horses' feet,
and a body of men-at-arms with helmets glancing in the sun were seen.
There was a cry, "There's one!  That's one of the lewd younglings!  At

And Ambrose to his horror and surprise saw two horsemen begin to gallop
towards him, as if to ride him down.  Happily he was close to a narrow
archway leading to an alley down which no war-horse could possibly make
its way, and dashing into it and round a corner, he eluded his pursuers,
and reached the bank of the river, whence, being by this time
experienced in the by-ways of London, he could easily reach Perronel's

She was standing at her door looking out anxiously, and as she saw him
she threw up her hands in thanksgiving to our Lady that here he was at
last, and then turned to scold him.  "O lad, lad, what a night thou hast
given me!  I trusted at least that thou hadst wit to keep out of a fray
and to let the poor aliens alone, thou that art always running after
yonder old Spaniard.  Hey! what now?  Did they fall on him!  Fie!  Shame
on them!--a harmless old man like that."

"Yea, good aunt, and what is more, they have slain him, I fear me,

Amidst many a "good lack" and exclamation of pity and indignation from
Perronel, Ambrose told his tale of that strange night, and entreated her
to come with him to do what was possible for Abenali and his daughter.
She hesitated a little; her kind heart was touched, but she hardly liked
to leave her house, in case her husband should come in, as he generally
contrived to do in the early morning, now that the Cardinal's household
was lodged so near her.  Sheltered as she was by the buildings of the
Temple, she had heard little or nothing of the noise of the riot, though
she had been alarmed at her nephew's absence, and an officious neighbour
had run in to tell her first that the prentice lads were up and sacking
the houses of the strangers, and next that the Tower was firing on them,
and the Lord Mayor's guard and the gentlemen of the Inns of Court were
up in arms to put them down.  She said several times, "Poor soul!" and,
"Yea, it were a shame to leave her to the old Dutchkin," but with true
Flemish deliberation she continued her household arrangements, and
insisted that the bowl of broth, which she set on the table, should be
partaken of by herself and Ambrose before she would stir a step.  "Not
eat!  Now out on thee, lad! what good dost thou think thou or I can do
if we come in faint and famished, where there's neither bite nor sup to
be had?  As for me, not a foot will I budge, till I have seen thee empty
that bowl.  So to it, my lad!  Thou hast been afoot all night, and
lookst so grimed and ill-favoured a varlet that no man would think thou
camest from an honest wife's house.  Wash thee at the pail!  Get thee
into thy chamber and put on clean garments, or I'll not walk the street
with thee!  'Tis not safe--thou wilt be put in ward for one of the

Everybody who entered that little house obeyed Mistress Randall, and
Ambrose submitted, knowing it vain to resist, and remembering the
pursuit he had recently escaped; yet the very refreshment of food and
cleanliness revealed to him how stiff and weary were his limbs, though
he was in no mood for rest.  His uncle appeared at the door just as he
had hoped Perronel was ready.

"Ah! there's one of you whole and safe!" he exclaimed.  "Where is the

"Stephen?" exclaimed Ambrose.  "I saw him last in Warwick Inner Ward."
And in a few words he explained.  Hal Randall shook his head.  "May all
be well," he exclaimed, and then he told how Sir Thomas Parr had come at
midnight and roused the Cardinal's household with tidings that all the
rabble of London were up, plundering and murdering all who came in their
way, and that he had then ridden on to Richmond to the King with the
news.  The Cardinal had put his house into a state of defence, not
knowing against whom the riot might be directed--and the jester had not
been awakened till too late to get out to send after his wife, besides
which, by that time, intelligence had come in that the attack was
directed entirely on the French and Spanish merchants and artificers in
distant parts of the city and suburbs, and was only conducted by lads
with no better weapons than sticks, so that the Temple and its precincts
were in no danger at all.

The mob had dispersed of its own accord by about three or four o'clock,
but by that hour the Mayor had got together a force, the Gentlemen of
the Inns of Court and the Yeomen of the Tower were up in arms, and the
Earl of Shrewsbury had come in with a troop of horse.  They had met the
rioters, and had driven them in herds like sheep to the different
prisons, after which Lord Shrewsbury had come to report to the Cardinal
that all was quiet, and the jester having gathered as much intelligence
as he could, had contrived to slip into the garments that concealed his
motley, and to reach home.  He gave ready consent to Perronel's going to
the aid of the sufferers in Warwick Inner Ward, especially at the
summons of the Dean of Saint Paul's, and even to her bringing home the
little wench.  Indeed, he would escort her thither himself, for he was
very anxious about Stephen, and Ambrose was so dismayed by the account
he gave as to reproach himself extremely for having parted company with
his brother, and never having so much as thought of him as in peril,
while absorbed in care for Abenali.  So the three set out together, when
no doubt the sober, solid appearance which Randall's double suit of
apparel and black gown gave him, together with his wife's matronly and
respectable look, were no small protection to Ambrose, for men-at-arms
were prowling about the streets, looking hungry to pick up straggling
victims; and one actually stopped Randall to interrogate him as to who
the youth was, and what was his errand.

Before Saint Paul's they parted, the husband and wife going towards
Warwick Inner Ward, whither Ambrose, fleeter of foot, would follow, so
soon as he had ascertained at the Dragon court whether Stephen was at

Alas! at the gate he was hailed with the inquiry whether he had seen his
brother or Giles.  The whole yard was disorganised, no work going on.
The lads had not been seen all night, and the master himself had in the
midst of his displeasure and anxiety been summoned to the Guildhall.
The last that was known was Giles's rescue, and the assault on Alderman
Mundy.  Smallbones and Steelman had both gone in different directions to
search for the two apprentices, and Dennet, who had flown down unheeded
and unchecked at the first hope of news, pulled Ambrose by the sleeve,
and exclaimed, "Oh!  Ambrose, Ambrose! they can never hurt them!  They
can never do any harm to _our_ lads, can they?"

Ambrose hoped for the same security, but in his dismay, could only hurry
after his uncle and aunt.

He found the former at the door of the old stable--whence issued wild
screams and cries.  Several priests and attendants were there now, and
the kind Dean with Lucas was trying to induce Aldonza to relax the grasp
with which she embraced the body, whence a few moments before the brave
and constant spirit had departed.  Her black hair hanging over like a
veil, she held the inanimate head to her bosom, sobbing and shrieking
with the violence of her Eastern nature.  The priest who had been sent
for to take care of the corpse, and bear it to the mortuary of the
Minster, wanted to move her by force; but the Dean insisted on one more
gentle experiment, and beckoned to the kindly woman, whom he saw
advancing with eyes full of tears.  Perronel knelt down by her,
persevered when the poor girl stretched out her hand to beat her off,
crying, "Off! go!  Leave me my father!  O father, father, joy of my
life! my one only hope and stay, leave me not!  Wake! wake, speak to thy
child, O my father!"

Though the child had never seen or heard of Eastern wailings over the
dead, yet hereditary nature prompted her to the lamentations that
scandalised the priests and even Lucas, who broke in with, "Fie, maid,
thou mournest as one who hath no hope."  But Dr Colet still signed to
them to have patience, and Perronel somehow contrived to draw the girl's
head on her breast and give her a motherly kiss, such as the poor child
had never felt since she, when almost a babe, had been lifted from her
dying mother's side in the dark stifling hold of the vessel in the Bay
of Biscay.  And in sheer surprise and sense of being soothed she ceased
her cries, listened to the tender whispers and persuasions about holy
men who would care for her father, and his wishes that she should be a
good maid--till at last she yielded, let her hands be loosed, allowed
Perronel to lift the venerable head from her knee, and close the eyes--
then to gather her in her arms, and lead her to the door, taking her,
under Ambrose's guidance, into Lucas's abode, which was as utterly and
mournfully dismantled as their own, but where Perronel, accustomed in
her wandering days to all sorts of contrivances, managed to bind up the
streaming hair, and, by the help of her own cloak, to bring the poor
girl into a state in which she could be led through the streets.

The Dean meantime had bidden Lucas to take shelter at his own house, and
the old Dutchman had given a sort of doubtful acceptance.

Ambrose, meanwhile, half distracted about his brother, craved counsel of
the jester where to seek him.



  "With two and two together tied,
  Through Temple Bar and Strand they go,
  To Westminster, there to be tried,
  Ropes about their necks also."
  _Ill May Day_.

And where was Stephen?  Crouching, wretched with hunger, cold,
weariness, blows, and what was far worse, sense of humiliation and
disgrace, and tenor for the future, in a corner of the yard of Newgate--
whither the whole set of lads, surprised in Warwick Inner Court by the
law students of the Inns of Court, had been driven like so many cattle,
at the sword's point, with no attention or perception that he and Giles
had been struggling against the spoilers.

Yet this fact made them all the more forlorn.  The others, some forty in
number, their companions in misfortune, included most of the Barbican
prentices, who were of the Eagle faction, special enemies alike to
Abenali and to the Dragon, and these held aloof from Headley and
Birkenholt, nay, reviled them for the attack which they declared had
caused the general capture.

The two lads of the Dragon had, in no measured terms, denounced the
cruelty to the poor old inoffensive man, and were denounced in their
turn as friends of the sorcerer.  But all were too much exhausted by the
night's work to have spirit for more than a snarling encounter of words,
and the only effect was that Giles and Stephen were left isolated in
their misery outside the shelter of the handsome arched gateway under
which the others congregated.

Newgate had been rebuilt by Whittington out of pity to poor prisoners
and captives.  It must have been unspeakably dreadful before, for the
foulness of the narrow paved court, shut in by strong walls, was
something terrible.  Tired, spent, and aching all over, and with boyish
callousness to dirt, still Giles and Stephen hesitated to sit down, and
when at last they could stand no longer, they rested, leaning against
one another.  Stephen tried to keep up hope by declaring that his master
would soon get them released, and Giles alternated between despair, and
declarations that he would have justice on those who so treated his
father's son.  They dropped asleep--first one and then the other--from
sheer exhaustion, waking from time to time to realise that it was no
dream, and to feel all the colder and more cramped.

By and by there were voices at the gate.  Friends were there asking
after their own Will, or John, or Thomas, as the case might be.  The
jailer opened a little wicket-window in the heavy door, and, no doubt
for a consideration, passed in food to certain lads whom he called out,
but it did not always reach its destination.  It was often torn away as
by hungry wolves.  For though the felons had been let out, when the
doors were opened; the new prisoners were not by any means all
apprentices.  There were watermen, husbandmen, beggars, thieves, among
them, attracted by the scent of plunder; and even some of the elder lads
had no scruple in snatching the morsel from the younger ones.

Poor little Jasper Hope, a mischievous little curly-headed idle fellow,
only thirteen, just apprenticed to his brother the draper, and rushing
about with the other youths in the pride of his flat cap, was one of the
sufferers.  A servant had been at the door, promising that his brother
would speedily have him released, and handing in bread and meat, of
which he was instantly robbed by George Bates and three or four more big
fellows, and sent away reeling and sobbing, under a heavy blow, with all
the mischief and play knocked out of him.  Stephen and Giles called
"Shame!" but were unheeded, and they could only draw the little fellow
up to them, and assure him that his brother would soon come for him.

The next call at the gate was Headley and Birkenholt--

"Master Headley's prentices--Be they here?"

And at their answer, not only the window, but the door in the gate was
opened, and stooping low to enter, Kit Smallbones came in, and not

"Ay, ay, youngsters," said he, "I knew how it would be, by what I saw
elsewhere, so I came with a fee to open locks.  How came ye to get into
such plight as this?  And poor little Hope too!  A fine pass when they
put babes in jail."

"I'm prenticed!" said Jasper, though in a very weak little voice.

"Have you had bite or sup?" asked Kit.

And on their reply, telling how those who had had supplies from home had
been treated, Smallbones observed, "Let them try it," and stood, at all
his breadth, guarding the two youths and little Jasper, as they ate,
Stephen at first with difficulty, in the dampness and foulness of the
place, but then ravenously.  Smallbones lectured them on their folly all
the time, and made them give an account of the night.  He said their
master was at the Guildhall taking counsel with the Lord Mayor, and
there were reports that it would go hard with the rioters, for murder
and plunder had been done in many places, and he especially looked at.
Giles with pity, and asked how he came to embroil himself with Master
Mundy?  Still his good-natured face cheered them, and he promised
further supplies.  He also relieved Stephen's mind about his brother,
telling of his inquiry at the Dragon in the morning.  All that day the
condition of such of the prisoners as had well-to-do friends was
improving.  Fathers, brothers, masters, and servants, came in quest of
them, bringing food and bedding, and by exorbitant fees to the jailers
obtained for them shelter in the gloomy cells.  Mothers could not come,
for a proclamation had gone out that none were to babble, and men were
to keep their wives at home.  And though there were more material
comforts, prospects were very gloomy.  Ambrose came when Kit Smallbones
returned with what Mrs Headley had sent the captives.  He looked sad
and dazed, and clung to his brother, but said very little, except that
they ought to be locked up together, and he really would have been left
in Newgate, if Kit had not laid a great hand on his shoulder and almost
forced him away.

Master Headley himself arrived with Master Hope in the afternoon.
Jasper sprang to his brother, crying, "Simon!  Simon! you are come to
take me out of this dismal, evil place?"  But Master Hope--a tall,
handsome, grave young man, who had often been much disturbed by his
little brother's pranks--could only shake his head with tears in his
eyes, and, sitting down on the roll of bedding, take him on his knee and
try to console him with the hope of liberty in a few days.

He had tried to obtain the boy's release on the plea of his extreme
youth, but the authorities were hotly exasperated, and would hear of no
mercy.  The whole of the rioters were to be tried three days hence, and
there was no doubt that some would be made an example of; the only
question was, how many?

Master Headley closely interrogated his own two lads, and was evidently
sorely anxious about his namesake, who, he feared, might be recognised
by Alderman Mundy and brought forward as a ringleader of the
disturbance; nor did he feel at all secure that the plea that he had no
enmity to the foreigners, but had actually tried to defend Lucas and
Abenali, would be attended to for a moment, though Lucas Hansen had
promised to bear witness of it.  Giles looked perfectly stunned at the
time, unable to take in the idea, but at night Stephen was wakened on
the pallet that they shared with little Jasper, by hearing him weeping
and sobbing for his mother at Salisbury.

Time lagged on till the 4th of May.  Some of the poor boys whiled away
their time with dreary games in the yard, sometimes wrestling, but more
often gambling with the dice, that one or two happened to possess, for
the dinners that were provided for the wealthier, sometimes even betting
on what the sentences would be, and who would be hanged, or who escape.

Poor lads, they did not, for the most part, realise their real danger,
but Stephen was more and more beset with home-sick longing for the
glades and thickets of his native forest, and would keep little Jasper
and even Giles for an hour together telling of the woodland adventures
of those happy times, shutting his eyes to the grim stone walls, and
trying to think himself among the beeches, hollies, cherries, and
hawthorns, shining in the May sun!  Giles and he were close friends now,
and with little Jasper, said their Paters and Aves together, that they
might be delivered from their trouble.  At last, on the 4th, the whole
of the prisoners were summoned roughly into the court, where harsh-
looking men-at-arms proceeded to bind them together in pairs to be
marched through the streets to the Guildhall.  Giles and Stephen would
naturally have been put together, but poor little Jasper cried out so
lamentably, when he was about to be bound to a stranger, that Stephen
stepped forward in his stead, begging that the boy might go with Giles.
The soldier made a contemptuous sound, but consented, and Stephen found
that his companion in misfortune, whose left elbow was tied to his
right, was George Bates.

The two lads looked at each other in a strange, rueful manner, and
Stephen said, "Shake hands, comrade.  If we are to die, let us bear no

George gave a cold, limp, trembling hand.  He looked wretched, subdued,
tearful, and nearly starved, for he had no kinsfolk at hand, and his
master was too angry with him, and too much afraid of compromising
himself to have sent him any supplies.  Stephen tried to unbutton his
own pouch, but not succeeding with his left hand, bade George try with
his right.  "There's a cake of bread there," he said.  "Eat that, and
thou'lt be able better to stand up like a man, come what will."

George devoured it eagerly.  "Ah!" he said, in a stronger voice,
"Stephen Birkenholt, thou art an honest fellow.  I did thee wrong.  If
ever we get out of this plight--"

Here they were ordered to march, and in a long and doleful procession
they set forth.  The streets were lined with men-at-arms, for all the
affections and sympathies of the people were with the unfortunate boys,
and a rescue was apprehended.

In point of fact, the Lord Mayor and aldermen were afraid of the King's
supposing them to have organised the assault on their rivals, and each
was therefore desirous to show severity to any one's apprentices save
his own; while the nobility were afraid of contumacy on the part of the
citizens, and were resolved to crush down every rioter among them, so
that they had filled the city with their armed retainers.  Fathers and
mothers, masters and dames, sisters and fellow prentices, found their
doors closely guarded, and could only look with tearful, anxious eyes,
at the processions of poor youths, many of them mere children, who were
driven from each of the jails to the Guildhall.  There when all
collected the entire number amounted to two hundred and seventy-eight
though a certain proportion of these were grown men, priests, wherrymen
and beggars, who had joined the rabble in search of plunder.

It did not look well for them that the Duke of Norfolk and his son, the
Earl of Surrey, were joined in the commission with the Lord Mayor.  The
upper end of the great hall was filled with aldermen in their robes and
chains, with the sheriffs of London and the whole imposing array, and
the Lord Mayor with the Duke sat enthroned above them in truly awful
dignity.  The Duke was a hard and pitiless man, and bore the City a
bitter grudge for the death of his retainer, the priest killed in
Cheapside, and in spite of all his poetical fame, it may be feared that
the Earl of Surrey was not of much more merciful mood, while their men-
at-arms spoke savagely of hanging, slaughtering, or setting the City on

The arraignment was very long, as there were so large a number of names
to be read, and, to the horror of all, it was not for a mere riot, but
for high treason.  The King, it was declared, being in amity with all
Christian princes, it was high treason to break the truce and league by
attacking their subjects resident in England.  The terrible punishment
of the traitor would thus be the doom of all concerned, and in the
temper of the Howards and their retainers, there was little hope of
mercy, nor, in times like those, was there even much prospect that, out
of such large numbers, some might escape.

A few were more especially cited, fourteen in number, among them George
Bates, Walter Ball, and Giles Headley, who had certainly given cause for
the beginning of the affray.  There was no attempt to defend George
Bates, who seemed to be stunned and bewildered beyond the power of
speaking or even of understanding, but as Giles cast his eyes round in
wild, terrified appeal, Master Headley rose up in his alderman's gown,
and prayed leave to be heard in his defence, as he had witnesses to
bring in his favour.

"Is he thy son, good Armourer Headley?" demanded the Duke of Norfolk,
who held the work of the Dragon court in high esteem.

"Nay, my Lord Duke, but he is in the place of one, my near kinsman and
godson, and so soon as his time be up, bound to wed my only child!  I
pray you to hear his cause, ere cutting off the heir of an old and
honourable house."

Norfolk and his sons murmured something about the Headley skill in
armour, and the Lord Mayor was willing enough for mercy, but Sir John
Mundy here rose: "My Lord Duke, this is the very young man who was first
to lay hands on me!  Yea, my lords and sirs, ye have already heard how
their rude sport, contrary to proclamation, was the cause of the tumult.
When I would have bidden them go home, the one brawler asks me
insolently, `Wherefore?' the other smote me with his sword, whereupon
the whole rascaille set on me, and as Master Alderman Headley can
testify, I scarce reached his house alive.  I ask should favour overcome
justice, and a ringleader, who hath assaulted the person of an alderman,
find favour above others?"

"I ask not for favour," returned Headley, "only that witnesses be heard
on his behalf, ere he be condemned."

Headley, as a favourite with the Duke, prevailed to have permission to
call his witnesses; Christopher Smallbones, who had actually rescued
Alderman Mundy from the mob, and helped him into the Dragon court, could
testify that the proclamation had been entirely unheard in the din of
the youths looking on at the game.  And this was followed up by Lucas
Hansen declaring that so far from having attacked or plundered him and
the others in Warwick Inner Ward, the two, Giles Headley and Stephen
Birkenholt, had come to their defence, and fallen on those who were
burning their goods.

On this a discussion followed between the authorities seated at the
upper end of the hall.  The poor anxious watchers below could only guess
by the gestures what was being agitated as to their fate, and Stephen
was feeling it sorely hard that Giles should be pleaded for as the
master's kinsman, and he left to so cruel a fate, no one saying a word
for him but unheeded Lucas.  Finally, without giving of judgment, the
whole of the miserable prisoners, who had been standing without food for
hours, were marched back, still tied, to their several prisons, while
their guards pointed out the gibbets where they were to suffer the next

Master Headley was not quite so regardless of his younger apprentice as
Stephen imagined.  There was a sort of little council held in his hall
when he returned--sad, dispirited, almost hopeless--to find Hal Randall
anxiously awaiting him.  The alderman said he durst not plead for
Stephen, lest he should lose both by asking too much, and his young
kinsman had the first right, besides being in the most peril as having
been singled out by name; whereas Stephen might escape with the
multitude if there were any mercy.  He added that the Duke of Norfolk
was certainly inclined to save one who knew the secret of Spanish sword-
blades; but that he was fiercely resolved to be revenged for the murder
of his lewd priest in Cheapside, and that Sir John Mundy was equally
determined that Giles should not escape.

"What am I to say to his mother?  Have I brought him from her for this?"
mourned Master Headley.  "Ay, and Master Randall, I grieve as much for
thy nephew, who to my mind hath done nought amiss.  A brave lad!  A good
lad, who hath saved mine own life.  Would that I could do aught for him!
It is a shame!"

"Father," said Dennet, who had crept to the back of his chair, "the King
would save him!  Mind you the golden whistle that the grandame keepeth?"

"The maid hath hit it!" exclaimed Randall.  "Master alderman!  Let me
but have the little wench and the whistle to-morrow morn, and it is
done.  How sayest thou, pretty mistress?  Wilt thou go with me and ask
thy cousin's life, and poor Stephen's, of the King?"

"With all my heart, sir," said Dennet, coming to him with outstretched
hands.  "Oh! sir, canst thou save them?  I have been vowing all I could
think of to our Lady and the saints, and now they are going to grant

"Tarry a little," said the alderman.  "I must know more of this.  Where
wouldst thou take my child?  How obtain access to the King's Grace?"

"Worshipful sir, trust me," said Randall.  "Thou know'st I am sworn
servant to my Lord Cardinal, and that his folk are as free of the Court
as the King's own servants.  If thine own folk will take us up the river
to Richmond, and there wait for us while I lead the maid to the King, I
can well-nigh swear to thee that she will prevail."

The alderman looked greatly distressed.  Ambrose threw himself on his
knees before him, and in an agony entreated him to consent, assuring him
that Master Randall could do what he promised.  The alderman was much
perplexed.  He knew that his mother, who was confined to her bed by
rheumatism, would be shocked at the idea.  He longed to accompany his
daughter himself, but for him to be absent from the sitting of the court
might be fatal to Giles, and he could not bear to lose any chance for
the poor youths.

Meantime an interrogative glance and a nod had passed between Tibble and
Randall, and when the alderman looked towards the former, always his
prime minister, the answer was, "Sir, me seemeth that it were well to do
as Master Randall counselleth.  I will go with Mistress Dennet, if such
be your will.  The lives of two such youths as our prentices may not
lightly be thrown away, while by God's providence there is any means of
striving to save them."

Consent then was given, and it was further arranged that Dennet and her
escort should be ready at the early hour of half-past four, so as to
elude the guards who were placed in the streets; and also because King
Henry in the summer went very early to mass, and then to some out-of-
door sport.  Randall said he would have taken his own good woman to have
the care of the little mistress, but that the poor little orphan Spanish
wench had wept herself so sick, that she could not be left to a

Master Headley himself brought the child by back streets to the river,
and thence down to the Temple stairs, accompanied by Tibble Steelman,
and a maidservant on whose presence her grandmother had insisted.
Dennet had hardly slept all night for excitement and perturbation, and
she looked very white, small, and insignificant for her thirteen years,
when Randall and Ambrose met her, and placed her carefully in the barge
which was to take them to Richmond.  It was somewhat fresh in the very
early morning, and no one was surprised that Master Randall wore a large
dark cloak as they rowed up the river.  There was very little speech
between the passengers; Dennet sat between Ambrose and Tibble.  They
kept their heads bowed.  Ambrose's brow was on one hand, his elbow on
his knee, but he spared the other to hold Dennet.  He had been longing
for the old assurance he would once have had, that to vow himself to a
life of hard service in a convent would be the way to win his brother's
life; but he had ceased to be able to feel that such bargains were the
right course, or that a convent necessarily afforded sure way of
service, and he never felt more insecure of the way and means to prayer
than in this hour of anguished supplication.

When they came beyond the City, within sight of the trees of Sheen, as
Richmond was still often called, Randall insisted that Dennet should eat
some of the bread and meat that Tibble had brought in a wallet for her.
"She must look her best," he said aside to the foreman.  "I would that
she were either more a babe or better favoured!  Our Hal hath a tender
heart for a babe and an eye for a buxom lass."

He bade the maid trim up the child's cap and make the best of her array,
and presently reached some stairs leading up to the park.  There he let
Ambrose lift her out of the boat.  The maid would fain have followed,
but he prevented this, and when she spoke of her mistress having bidden
her follow wherever the child went, Tibble interfered, telling her that
his master's orders were that Master Randall should do with her as he
thought meet.  Tibble himself followed until they reached a thicket
entirely concealing them from the river.  Halting here, Randall, with
his nephew's help, divested himself of his long gown and cloak, his
beard and wig, produced cockscomb and bauble from his pouch, and stood
before the astonished eyes of Dennet as the jester!

She recoiled upon Tibble with a little cry, "Oh, why should he make
sport of us?  Why disguise himself?"

"Listen, pretty mistress," said Randall.  "'Tis no disguise, Tibble
there can tell you, or my nephew.  My disguise lies there," pointing to
his sober raiment.  "Thus only can I bring thee to the King's presence!
Didst think it was jest?  Nay, verily, I am as bound to try to save my
sweet Stevie's life, my sister's own gallant son, as thou canst be to
plead for thy betrothed."  Dennet winced.

"Ay, Mistress Dennet," said Tibble, "thou mayst trust him, spite of his
garb, and 'tis the sole hope.  He could only thus bring thee in.  Go
thou on, and the lad and I will fall to our prayers."

Dennet's bosom heaved, but she looked up in the jester's dark eyes, saw
the tears in them, made an effort, put her hand in his, and said, "I
will go with him."

Hal led her away, and they saw Tibble and Ambrose both fall on their
knees behind the hawthorn bush, to speed them with their prayers, while
all the joyous birds singing their carols around seemed to protest
against the cruel captivity and dreadful doom of the young gladsome
spirits pent up in the City prisons.

One full gush of a thrush's song in especial made Dennet's eyes
overflow, which the jester perceived and said, "Nay, sweet maid, no
tears.  Kings brook not to be approached with blubbered faces.  I marvel
not that it seems hard to thee to go along with such as I, but let me be
what I will outside, mine heart is heavy enough, and thou wilt learn
sooner or later, that fools are not the only folk who needs must smile
when they have a load within."

And then, as much to distract her thoughts and prevent tears as to
reassure her, he told her what he had before told his nephews of the
inducements that had made him Wolsey's jester, and impressed on her the
forms of address.

"Thou'lt hear me make free with him, but that's part of mine office,
like the kitten I've seen tickling the mane of the lion in the Tower.
Thou must say, `An it please your Grace,' and thou needst not speak of
his rolling in the mire, thou wottest, or it may anger him."

The girl showed that her confidence became warmer by keeping nearer to
his side, and presently she said, "I must beg for Stephen first, for
'tis his whistle."

"Blessings on thee, fair wench, for that, yet seest thou, 'tis the other
springald who is in the greater peril, and he is closer to thy father
and to thee."

"He fled, when Stephen made in to the rescue of my father," said Dennet.

"The saints grant we may so work with the King that he may spare them
both," ejaculated Randall.

By this time the strange pair were reaching the precincts of the great
dwelling-house, where about the wide-open door loitered gentlemen,
grooms, lacqueys, and attendants of all kinds.  Randall reconnoitred.

"An we go up among all these," he said, "they might make their sport of
us both, so that we might lose time.  Let us see whether the little
garden postern be open."

Henry the Eighth had no fears of his people, and kept his dwellings more
accessible than were the castles of many a subject.  The door in the
wall proved to be open, and with an exclamation of joy, Randall pointed
out two figures, one in a white silken doublet and hose, with a short
crimson cloak over his shoulder, the other in scarlet and purple robes,
pacing the walk under the wall--Henry's way of holding a cabinet council
with his prime minister on a summer's morning.

"Come on, mistress, put a brave face on it!" the jester encouraged the
girl, as he led her forward, while the king, catching sight of them,
exclaimed, "Ha! there's old Patch.  What doth he there?"

But the Cardinal, impatient of interruption, spoke imperiously, "What
dost thou here, Merriman?  Away, this is no time for thy fooleries and

But the King, with some pleasure in teasing, and some of the enjoyment
of a schoolboy at a break in his tasks, called out, "Nay, come hither,
quipsome one!  What new puppet hast brought hither to play off on us?"

"Yea, brother Hal," said the jester, "I have brought one to let thee
know how Tom of Norfolk and his crew are playing the fool in the
Guildhall, and to ask who will be the fool to let them wreak their spite
on the best blood in London, and leave a sore that will take many a day
to heal."

"How is this, my Lord Cardinal?" said Henry; "I bade them make an
example of a few worthless hinds, such as might teach the lusty burghers
to hold their lads in bounds and prove to our neighbours that their
churlishness was by no consent of ours."

"I trow," returned the Cardinal, "that one of these same hinds is a boon
companion of the fool's--_hinc illae lachrymae_, and a speech that would
have befitted a wise man's mouth."

"There is work that may well make even a fool grave, friend Thomas,"
replied the jester.

"Nay, but what hath this little wench to say?" asked the King, looking
down on the child from under his plumed cap with a face set in golden
hair, the fairest and sweetest, as it seemed to her, that she had ever
seen, as he smiled upon her.  "Methinks she is too small to be thy love.
Speak out, little one.  I love little maids, I have one of mine own.
Hast thou a brother among these misguided lads?"

"Not so, an please your Grace," said Dennet, who fortunately was not in
the least shy, and was still too young for a maiden's shamefastness.
"He is to be my betrothed.  I would say, one of them is, but the other--
he saved my father's life once."

The latter words were lost in the laughter of the King and Cardinal at
the unblushing avowal of the small, prim-faced maiden.

"Oh ho!  So 'tis a case of true love, whereto a King's face must needs
show grace.  Who art thou, fair suppliant, and who may this swain of
thine be?"

"I am Dennet Headley, so please your Grace; my father is Giles Headley
the armourer, Alderman of Cheap Ward," said Dennet, doing her part
bravely, though puzzled by the King's tone of banter; "and see here,
your Grace!"

"Ha! the hawk's whistle that Archduke Philip gave me!  What of that?  I
gave it--ay, I gave it to a youth that came to mine aid, and reclaimed a
falcon for me!  Is't he, child?"

"Oh, sir, 'tis he who came in second at the butts, next to Barlow, 'tis
Stephen Birkenholt!  And he did nought!  They bore no ill-will to
strangers!  No, they were falling on the wicked fellows who had robbed
and slain good old Master Michael, who taught our folk to make the only
real true Damascus blades welded in England.  But the lawyers of the
Inns of Court fell on them all alike, and have driven them off to
Newgate, and poor little Jasper Hope too.  And Alderman Mundy bears ill-
will to Giles.  And the cruel Duke of Norfolk and his men swear they'll
have vengeance on the Cheap, and there'll be hanging and quartering this
very morn.  Oh! your Grace, your Grace, save our lads! for Stephen saved
my father."

"Thy tongue wags fast, little one," said the King, good-naturedly, "with
thy Stephen and thy Giles.  Is this same Stephen, the knight of the
whistle and the bow, thy betrothed, and Giles thy brother?"

"Nay, your Grace," said Dennet, hanging her head, "Giles Headley is my
betrothed--that is, when his time is served, he will be--father sets
great store by him, for he is the only one of our name to keep up the
armoury, and he has a mother, Sir, a mother at Salisbury.  But oh, Sir,
Sir!  Stephen is so good and brave a lad!  He made in to save father
from the robbers, and he draws the best bow in Cheapside, and he can
grave steel as well as Tibble himself, and this is the whistle your
Grace wots of."

Henry listened with an amused smile that grew broader as Dennet's voice
all unconsciously became infinitely more animated and earnest, when she
began to plead Stephen's cause.

"Well, well, sweetheart," he said, "I trow thou must have the twain of
them, though," he added to the Cardinal, who smiled broadly, "it might
perchance be more for the maid's peace than she wots of now, were we to
leave this same knight of the whistle to be strung up at once, ere she
have found her heart; but in sooth that I cannot do, owing well-nigh a
life to him and his brother.  Moreover, we may not have old Headley's
skill in weapons lost!"

Dennet held her hands close clasped while these words were spoken apart.
She felt as if her hope, half granted, were being snatched from her, as
another actor appeared on the scene, a gentleman in a lawyer's gown, and
square cap, which he doffed as he advanced and put his knee to the
ground before the King, who greeted him with, "Save you, good Sir
Thomas, a fair morning to you."

"They told me your Grace was in Council with my Lord Cardinal," said Sir
Thomas More; "but seeing that there was likewise this merry company, I
durst venture to thrust in, since my business is urgent."

Dennet here forgot court manners enough to cry out, "O your Grace! your
Grace, be pleased for pity's sake to let me have the pardon for them
first, or they'll be hanged and dead.  I saw the gallows in Cheapside,
and when they are dead, what good will your Grace's mercy do them?"

"I see," said Sir Thomas.  "This little maid's errand jumps with mine
own, which was to tell your Grace that unless there be speedy commands
to the Howards to hold their hands, there will be wailing like that of
Egypt in the City.  The poor boys, who were but shouting and brawling
after the nature of mettled youth--the most with nought of malice--are
penned up like sheep for the slaughter--ay, and worse than sheep, for we
quarter not our mutton alive, whereas these poor younglings--babes of
thirteen, some of them--be indicted for high treason!  Will the parents,
shut in from coming to them by my Lord of Norfolks men, ever forget
their agonies, I ask your Grace?"

Henry's face grew red with passion.  "If Norfolk thinks to act the King,
and turn the city into a shambles,"--with a mighty oath--"he shall abye
it.  Here, Lord Cardinal--more, let the free pardon be drawn up for the
two lads.  And we will ourselves write to the Lord Mayor and to Norfolk
that though they may work their will on the movers of the riot--that
pestilent Lincoln and his sort--not a prentice lad shall be touched till
our pleasure be known.  There now, child, thou hast won the lives of thy
lads, as thou callest them.  Wilt thou rue the day, I marvel?  Why
cannot some of their mothers pluck up spirit and beg them off as thou
hast done?"

"Yea," said Wolsey.  "That were the right course.  If the Queen were
moved to pray your Grace to pity the striplings, then could the
Spaniards make no plaint of too much clemency being shown."

They were all this time getting nearer the palace, and being now at a
door opening into the hall, Henry turned round.  "There, pretty maid,
spread the tidings among thy gossips, that they have a tender-hearted
Queen, and a gracious King.  The Lord Cardinal will presently give thee
the pardon for both thy lads, and by and by thou wilt know whether thou
thankest me for it!"  Then putting his hand under her chin, he turned up
her face to him, kissed her on each cheek, and touched his feathered cap
to the others, saying, "See that my bidding be done," and disappeared.

"It must be prompt, if it be to save any marked for death this morn,"
More in a low voice observed to the Cardinal.  "Lord Edmund Howard is
keen as a bloodhound on his vengeance."

Wolsey was far from being a cruel man, and besides, there was a natural
antagonism between him and the old nobility, and he liked and valued his
fool, to whom he turned, saying, "And what stake hast thou in this,
sirrah?  Is't all pure charity?"

"I'm scarce such a fool as that, Cousin Red Hat," replied Randall,
rallying his powers.  "I leave that to Mr More here, whom we all know
to be a good fool spoilt.  But I'll make a clean breast of it.  This
same Stephen is my sister's son, an orphan lad of good birth and
breeding--whom, my lord, I would die to save."

"Thou shalt have the pardon instantly, Merriman," said the Cardinal, and
beckoning to one of the attendants who clustered round the door, he gave
orders that a clerk should instantly, and very briefly, make out the
form.  Sir Thomas More, hearing the name of Headley, added that for him
indeed the need of haste was great, since he was one of the fourteen
sentenced to die that morning.

Quipsome Hal was interrogated as to how he had come, and the Cardinal
and Sir Thomas agreed that the river would be as speedy a way of
returning as by land; but they decided that a King's pursuivant should
accompany him, otherwise there would be no chance of forcing his way in
time through the streets, guarded by the Howard retainers.

As rapidly as was in the nature of a high officer's clerk to produce a
dozen lines, the precious document was indicted, and it was carried at
last to Dennet, bearing Henry's signature and seal.  She held it to her
bosom, while, accompanied by the pursuivant, who--happily for them--was
interested in one of the unfortunate fourteen, and therefore did not
wait to stand on his dignity, they hurried across to the place where
they had left the barge--Tibble and Ambrose joining them on the way.
Stephen was safe.  Of his life there could be no doubt, and Ambrose
almost repented of feeling his heart so light while Giles's fate hung
upon their speed.

The oars were plied with hearty good-will, but the barge was somewhat
heavy, and by and by coming to a landing-place where two watermen had a
much smaller and lighter boat, the pursuivant advised that he should go
forward with the more necessary persons, leaving the others to follow.
After a few words, the light weights of Tibble and Dennet prevailed in
their favour, and they shot forward in the little boat.

They passed the Temple--on to the stairs nearest Cheapside--up the
street.  There was an awful stillness, only broken by heavy knells
sounding at intervals from the churches.  The back streets were thronged
by a trembling, weeping people, who all eagerly made way for the
pursuivant, as he called, "Make way, good people--a pardon!"

They saw the broader space of Cheapside.  Horsemen in armour guarded it,
but they too opened a passage for the pursuivant.  There was to be seen
above the people's heads a scaffold.  A fire burnt on it--the gallows
and noosed rope hung above.

A figure was mounting the ladder.  A boy!  Oh, Heavens! would it be too
late?  Who was it?  They were still too far off to see.  They might only
be cruelly holding out hope to one of the doomed.

The pursuivant shouted aloud--"In the King's name, Hold!"  He lifted
Dennet on his shoulder, and bade her wave her parchment.  An
overpowering roar arose.  "A pardon! a pardon!  God save the King!"

Every hand seemed to be forwarding the pursuivant and the child, and it
was Giles Headley, who, loosed from the hold of the executioner, stared
wildly about him, like one distraught.



  "`What if,' quoth she, `by Spanish blood
  Have London's stately streets been wet,
  Yet will I seek this country's good
  And pardon for these young men get.'"

The night and morning had been terrible to the poor boys, who only had
begun to understand what awaited them.  The fourteen selected had little
hope, and indeed a priest came in early morning to hear the confessions
of Giles Headley and George Bates, the only two who were in Newgate.

George Bates was of the stolid, heavy disposition that seems armed by
outward indifference, or mayhap pride.  He knew that his case was
hopeless, and he would not thaw even to the priest.  But Giles had been
quite unmanned, and when he found that for the doleful procession to the
Guildhall he was to be coupled with George Bates, instead of either of
his room-fellows, he flung himself on Stephen's neck, sobbing out
messages for his mother, and entreaties that, if Stephen survived, he
would be good to Aldonza.  "For you will wed Dennet, and--"

There the jailers roughly ordered him to hold his peace, and dragged him
off to be pinioned to his fellow-sufferer.  Stephen was not called till
some minutes later, and had not seen him since.  He himself was of
course overshadowed by the awful gloom of apprehension for himself, and
pity for his comrades, and he was grieved at not having seen or heard of
his brother or master, but he had a very present care in Jasper, who was
sickening in the prison atmosphere, and when fastened to his arm, seemed
hardly able to walk.  Leashed as they were, Stephen could only help him
by holding the free hand, and when they came to the hall, supporting him
as much as possible, as they stood in the miserable throng during the
conclusion of the formalities, which ended by the horrible sentence of
the traitor being pronounced on the whole two hundred and seventy-eight.
Poor little Jasper woke for an interval from the sense of present
discomfort to hear it.  He seemed to stiffen all over with the shock of
horror, and then hung a dead weight on Stephen's arm.  It would have
dragged him down, but there was no room to fall, and the wretchedness of
the lad against whom he staggered found vent in a surly imprecation,
which was lost among the cries and the entreaties of some of the others.
The London magistracy were some of them in tears, but the indictment
for high treason removed the poor lads from their jurisdiction to that
of the Earl Marshal, and thus they could do nothing to save the fourteen
foremost victims.  The others were again driven out of the hall to
return to their prisons; the nearest pair of lads doing their best to
help Stephen drag his burthen along in the halt outside, to arrange the
sad processions, one of the guards, of milder mood, cut the cord that
bound the lifeless weight to Stephen, and permitted the child to be laid
on the stones of the court, his collar unbuttoned, and water to be
brought.  Jasper was just reviving when the word came to march, but
still he could not stand, and Stephen was therefore permitted the free
use of his arms, in order to carry the poor little fellow.  Thirteen
years made a considerable load for seventeen, though Stephen's arms were
exercised in the smithy, and it was a sore pull from the Guildhall.
Jasper presently recovered enough to walk with a good deal of support.
When he was laid on the bed he fell into an exhausted sleep, while
Stephen kneeling, as the strokes of the knell smote on his ear, prayed--
as he had never prayed before--for his comrade, for his enemy, and for
all the unhappy boys who were being led to their death wherever the
outrages had been committed.

Once indeed there was a strange sound coming across that of the knell.
It almost sounded like an acclamation of joy.  Could people be so cruel,
thought Stephen, as to mock poor Giles's agonies?  There were the knells
still sounding.  How long he did not know, for a beneficent drowsiness
stole over him as he knelt, and he was only awakened, at the same time
as Jasper, by the opening of his door.

He looked up to see three figures--his brother, his uncle, his master.
Were they come to take leave of him?  But the one conviction that their
faces beamed with joy was all that he could gather, for little Jasper
sprang up with a scream of terror, "Stephen, Stephen, save me!  They
will cut out my heart," and clung trembling to his breast, with arms
round his neck.

"Poor child! poor child!" sighed Master Headley.  "Would that I brought
him the same tidings as to thee!"

"Is it so?" asked Stephen, reading confirmation as he looked from the
one to the other.  Though he was unable to rise under the weight of the
boy, life and light were coming to his eye, while Ambrose clasped his
hand tightly, choked by the swelling of his heart in almost an agony of
joy and thankfulness.

"Yea, my good lad," said the alderman.  "Thy good kinsman took my little
wench to bear to the King the token he gave thee."

"And Giles?"  Stephen asked, "and the rest?"

"Giles is safe.  For the rest--may God have mercy on their souls."

These words passed while Stephen rocked Jasper backwards and forwards,
his face hidden on his neck.

"Come home," added Master Headley.  "My little Dennet and Giles cannot
yet rejoice till thou art with them.  Giles would have come himself, but
he is sorely shaken, and could scarce stand."

Jasper caught the words, and loosing his friend's neck, looked up.  "Oh!
are we going home?  Come, Stephen.  Where's brother Simon?  I want my
good sister!  I want nurse!  Oh! take me home!"  For as he tried to sit
up, he fell back sick and dizzy on the bed.

"Alack! alack!" mourned Master Headley; and the jester, muttering that
it was not the little wench's fault, turned to the window, and burst
into tears.  Stephen understood it all, and though he felt a passionate
longing for freedom, he considered in one moment whether there were any
one of his fellow prisoners to whom Jasper could be left, or who would
be of the least comfort to him, but could find no one, and resolved to
cling to him as once to old Spring.

"Sir," he said, as he rose to his master, "I fear me he is very sick.
Will they--will your worship give me licence to bide with him till this

"Thou art a good-hearted lad," said the alderman with a hand on his
shoulder.  "There is no further danger of life to the prentice lads.
The King hath sent to forbid all further dealing with them, and hath
bidden my little maid to set it about that if their mothers beg them
grace from good Queen Katherine, they shall have it.  But this poor
child!  He can scarce be left.  His brother will take it well of thee if
thou wilt stay with him till some tendance can be had.  We can see to
that.  Thanks be to Saint George and our good King, this good City is
our own again!"

The alderman turned away, and Ambrose and Stephen exchanged a passionate
embrace, feeling what it was to be still left to one another.  The
jester too shook his nephew's hand, saying, "Boy, boy, the blessing of
such as I is scarce worth the having, but I would thy mother could see
thee this day."

Stephen was left with these words and his brother's look to bear him
through a trying time.

For the "Captain of Newgate" was an autocrat, who looked on his captives
as compulsory lodgers, out of whom he was entitled to wring as much as
possible--as indeed he had no other salary, nor means of maintaining his
underlings, a state of things which lasted for two hundred years longer,
until the days of James Oglethorpe and John Howard.  Even in the rare
cases of acquittals, the prisoner could not be released till he had paid
his fees, and that Giles Headley should have been borne off from the
scaffold itself in debt to him was an invasion of his privileges, which
did not dispose him to be favourable to any one connected with that
affair; and he liked to show his power and dignity even to an alderman.

He was found sitting in a comfortable tapestried chamber, handsomely
dressed in orange and brown, and with a smooth sleek countenance and the
appearance of a good-natured substantial citizen.

He only half rose from his big carved chair, and touched without
removing his cap, to greet the alderman, as he observed, without the
accustomed prefix of your worship--"So, you are come about your
prentice's fees and dues.  By Saint Peter of the Fetters, 'tis an
irksome matter to have such a troop of idle, mischievous, dainty
striplings thrust on one, giving more trouble, and making more call and
outcry than twice as many honest thieves and pickpurses."

"Be assured, sir, they will scarce trouble you longer than they can
help," said Master Headley.

"Yea, the Duke and my Lord Edmund are making brief work of them," quoth
the jailer.  "Ha!" with an oath, "what's that?  Nought will daunt those
lads till the hangman is at their throats."

For it was a real hurrah that reached his ears.  The jester had got all
the boys round him in the court, and was bidding them keep up a good
heart, for their lives were safe, and their mothers would beg them off.
Their shouts did not tend to increase the captain's good humour, and
though he certainly would not have let out Alderman Headley's remaining
apprentice without his fee, he made as great a favour of permission, and
charged as exorbitantly, for a pardoned man to remain within his domains
as if they had been the most costly and delightful hostel in the

Master Hope, who presently arrived, had to pay a high fee for leave to
bring Master Todd, the barber-surgeon, with him to see his brother; but
though he offered a mark a day, (a huge amount at that time), the
captain was obdurate in refusing to allow the patient to be attended by
his own old nurse, declaring that it was contrary to discipline, and,
(what probably affected him much more), one such woman could cause more
trouble than a dozen felons.  No doubt it was true, for she would have
insisted on moderate cleanliness and comfort.  No other attendant whom
Mr Hope could find would endure the disgrace, the discomfort, and alarm
of a residence in Newgate for Jasper's sake; so that the draper's
gratitude to Stephen Birkenholt, for voluntarily sharing the little
fellow's captivity, was great, and he gave payment to one or two of the
officials to secure the two lads being civilly treated, and that the
provisions sent in reached them duly.

Jasper did not in general seem very ill by day, only heavy, listless and
dull, unable to eat, too giddy to sit up, and unable to help crying like
a babe, if Stephen left him for a moment; but he never fell asleep
without all the horror and dread of the sentence coming over him.  Like
all the boys in London, he had gazed at executions with the sort of
curiosity that leads rustic lads to run to see pigs killed, and now the
details came over him in semi-delirium, as acted out on himself, and he
shrieked and struggled in an anguish which was only mitigated by
Stephen's reassurances, caresses, even scoldings.  The other youths,
relieved from the apprehension of death, agreed to regard their
detention as a holiday, and not being squeamish, turned the yard into a
playground, and there they certainly made uproar, and played pranks,
enough to justify the preference of the captain for full grown
criminals.  But Stephen could not join them, for Jasper would not spare
him for an instant, and he himself, though at first sorely missing
employment and exercise, was growing drowsy and heavy limbed in his
cramped life and the evil atmosphere, even the sick longings for liberty
were gradually passing away from him, so that sometimes he felt as if he
had lived here for ages and known no other life, though no sooner did he
lie down to rest, and shut his eyes, than the trees and green glades of
the New Forest rose before him, with all the hollies shining in the
summer light, or the gorse making a sheet of gold.

The time was not in reality so very long.  On the 7th of May, John
Lincoln, the broker, who had incited Canon Beale to preach against the
foreigners, was led forth with several others of the real promoters of
the riot to the centre of Cheapside, where Lincoln was put to death, but
orders were brought to respite the rest; and, at the same time, all the
armed men were withdrawn, the City began to breathe, and the women who
had been kept within doors to go abroad again.

The Recorder of London and several aldermen were to meet the King at his
manor at Greenwich.  This was the mothers' opportunity.  The civic
dignitaries rode in mourning robes, but the wives and mothers,
sweethearts and sisters, every woman who had a youth's life at stake,
came together, took boat, and went down the river, a strange fleet of
barges, all containing white caps, and black gowns and hoods, for all
were clad in the most correct and humble citizen's costume.

"Never was such a sight," said Jester Randall, who had taken care to
secure a view, and who had come with his report to the Dragon court.
"It might have been Ash Wednesday for the look of them, when they landed
and got into order.  One would think every prentice lad had got at least
three mothers, and four or five aunts and sisters!  I trow, verily, that
half of them came to look on at the other half, and get a sight of
Greenwich and the three queens.  However, be that as it might, not one
of them but knew how to open the sluices.  Queen Katharine noted well
what was coming, and she and the Queens of Scotland and France sat in
the great chamber with the doors open.  And immediately there's a knock
at the door, and so soon as the usher opens it, in they come, three and
three, every good wife of them with her napkin to her eyes, and working
away with her sobs.  Then Mistress Todd, the barber-surgeon's wife, she
spoke for all, being thought to have the more courtly tongue, having
been tirewoman to Queen Mary ere she went to France.  Verily her husband
must have penned the speech for her--for it began right scholarly, and
flowery, with a likening of themselves to the mothers of Bethlehem,
(lusty innocents theirs, I trow!) but ere long the good woman faltered
and forgot her part, and broke out `Oh! madam, you that are a mother
yourself for the sake of your own sweet babe, give us back our sons.'
And therewith they all fell on their knees, weeping and wringing their
hands, and crying out, `Mercy, mercy!  For our Blessed Lady's sake, have
pity on our children!' till the good Queen, with the tears running down
her cheeks for very ruth, told them that the power was not in her hands,
but the will was for them and their poor sons, and that she would strive
so to plead for them with the King as to win their freedom.  Meantime,
there were the aldermen watching for the King in his chamber of
presence, till forth he came, when all fell on their knees, and the
Recorder spake for them, casting all the blame on the vain and light
persons who had made that enormity.  Thereupon what does our Hal but
make himself as stern as though he meant to string them all up in a
line.  `Ye ought to wail and be sorry,' said he, `whereas ye say that
substantial persons were not concerned, it appeareth to the contrary.
You did wink at the matter,' quoth he, `and at this time we will grant
you neither favour nor goodwill.'  However, none who knew Hal's eye but
could tell that 'twas all very excellent fooling, when he bade them get
to the Cardinal.  Therewith, in came the three queens, hand in hand,
with tears in their eyes, so as they might have been the three queens
that bore away King Arthur, and down they went on their knees, and cried
aloud `Dear sir, we who are mothers ourselves, beseech you to set the
hearts at ease of all the poor mothers who are mourning for their sons.'
Whereupon, the door being opened, came in so piteous a sound of wailing
and lamentation as our Harry's name must have been Herod to withstand!
`Stand up, Kate,' said he, `stand up, sisters, and hark in your ear.
Not a hair of the silly lads shall be touched, but they must bide lock
and key long enough to teach them and their masters to keep better
ward.'  And then when the queens came back with the good tidings, such a
storm of blessings was never heard, laughings and cryings, and the like,
for verily some of the women seemed as distraught for joy as ever they
had been for grief and fear.  Moreover, Mistress Todd, being instructed
of her husband, led up Mistress Hope to Queen Mary, and told her the
tale of how her husband's little brother, a mere babe, lay sick in
prison--a mere babe, a suckling as it were--and was like to die there,
unless the sooner delivered, and how our Steve was fool enough to tarry
with the poor child, pardoned though he be.  Then the good lady wept
again, and `Good woman,' saith she to Mistress Hope, `the King will set
thy brother free anon.  His wrath is not with babes, nor with lads like
this other of whom thou speakest.'

"So off was she to the King again, and though he and his master pished
and pshawed, and said if one and another were to be set free privily in
this sort, there would be none to come and beg for mercy as a warning to
all malapert youngsters to keep within bounds, `Nay, verily,' quoth I,
seeing the moment for shooting a fool's bolt among them, `methinks
Master Death will have been a pick-lock before you are ready for them,
and then who will stand to cry mercy?'"

The narrative was broken off short by a cry of jubilee in the court.
Workmen, boys, and all were thronging together, Kit Smallbones' head
towering in the midst.  Vehement welcomes seemed in progress.  "Stephen!
Stephen!" shouted Dennet, and flew out of the hail and down the steps.

"The lad himself!" exclaimed the jester, leaping down after her.

"Stephen, the good boy!" said Master Headley, descending more slowly,
but not less joyfully.

Yes, Stephen himself it was, who had quietly walked into the court.
Master Hope and Master Todd had brought the order for Jasper's release,
had paid the captain's exorbitant fees for both, and, while the sick boy
was carried home in a litter, Stephen had entered the Dragon court
through the gates, as if he were coming home from an errand; though the
moment he was recognised by the little four-year old Smallbones, there
had been a general rush and shout of ecstatic welcome, led by Giles
Headley, who fairly threw himself on Stephen's neck, as they met like
comrades after a desperate battle.  Not one was there who did not claim
a grasp of the boy's hand, and who did not pour out welcomes and
greetings; while in the midst, the released captive looked, to say the
truth, very spiritless, faded, dusty, nay dirty.  The court seemed
spinning round with him, and the loud welcomes roared in his ears.  He
was glad that Dennet took one hand, and Giles the other, declaring that
he must be led to the grandmother instantly.

He muttered something about being in too foul trim to go near her, but
Dennet held him fast, and he was too dizzy to make much resistance.  Old
Mrs Headley was better again, though not able to do much but sit by the
fire kept burning to drive away the plague which was always smouldering
in London.

She held out her hands to Stephen, as he knelt down by her.  "Take an
old woman's blessing, my good youth," she said.  "Right glad am I to see
thee once more.  Thou wilt not be the worse for the pains thou hast
spent on the little lad, though they have tried thee sorely."

Stephen, becoming somewhat less dazed, tried to fulfil his long-
cherished intention of thanking Dennet for her intercession, but the
instant he tried to speak, to his dismay and indignation, tears choked
his voice, and he could do nothing but weep, as if, thought he, his
manhood had been left behind in the jail.

"Vex not thyself," said the old dame, as she saw him struggling with his
sobs.  "Thou art worn-out--Giles here was not half his own man when he
came out, nor is he yet.  Nay, beset him not, children.  He should go to
his chamber, change these garments, and rest ere supper-time."

Stephen was fain to obey, only murmuring an inquiry for his brother, to
which his uncle responded that if Ambrose were at home, the tidings
would send him to the Dragon instantly; but he was much with his old
master, who was preparing to leave England, his work here being ruined.

The jester then took leave, accepting conditionally an invitation to
supper.  Master Headley, Smallbones, and Tibble now knew who he was, but
the secret was kept from all the rest of the household, lest Stephen
should be twitted with the connection.

Cold water was not much affected by the citizens of London, but smiths'
and armourers' work entailed a freer use of it than less grimy trades;
and a bath and Sunday garments made Stephen more like himself, though
still he felt so weary and depressed that he missed the buoyant joy of
release to which he had been looking forward.

He was sitting on the steps, leaning against the rail, so much tired
that he hoped none of his comrades would notice that he had come out,
when Ambrose hurried into the court, having just heard tidings of his
freedom, and was at his side at once.  The two brothers sat together,
leaning against one another as if they had all that they could wish or
long for.  They had not met for more than a week, for Ambrose's finances
had not availed to fee the turnkeys to give him entrance.

"And what art thou doing, Ambrose?" asked Stephen, rousing a little from
his lethargy.  "Methought I heard mine uncle say thine occupation was

"Even so," replied Ambrose.  "Master Lucas will sail in a week's time to
join his brother at Rotterdam, bearing with him what he hath been able
to save out of the havoc.  I wot not if I shall ever see the good man

"I am glad thou dost not go with him," said Stephen, with a hand on his
brother's leather-covered knee.

"I would not put seas between us," returned Ambrose.  "Moreover, though
I grieve to lose my good master, who hath been so scurvily entreated
here, yet, Stephen, this trouble and turmoil hath brought me that which
I longed for above all, even to have speech with the Dean of Saint

He then told Stephen how he had brought Dean Colet to administer the
last rites to Abenali, and how that good man had bidden Lucas to take
shelter at the Deanery, in the desolation of his own abode.  This had
led to conversation between the Dean and the printer; Lucas, who
distrusted all ecclesiastics, would accept no patronage.  He had a
little hoard, buried in the corner of his stall, which would suffice to
carry him to his native home and he wanted no more; but he had spoken of
Ambrose, and the Dean was quite ready to be interested in the youth who
had led him to Abenali.

"He had me to his privy chamber," said Ambrose, "and spake to me as no
man hath yet spoken--no, not even Tibble.  He let me utter all my mind,
nay, I never wist before even what mine own thoughts were till he set
them before me--as it were in a mirror."

"Thou wast ever in a harl," said Stephen, drowsily, using the Hampshire
word for whirl or entanglement.

"Yea.  On the one side stood all that I had ever believed or learnt
before I came hither of the one true and glorious Mother-Church to whom
the Blessed Lord had committed the keys of His kingdom, through His holy
martyrs and priests to give us the blessed host and lead us in the way
of salvation.  And on the other side, I cannot but see the lewd and
sinful and worldly lives of the most part, and hear the lies whereby
they amass wealth and turn men from the spirit of truth and holiness to
delude them into believing that wilful sin can be committed without
harm, and that purchase of a parchment is as good as repentance.  That
do I see and hear.  And therewith my master Lucas and Dan Tindall, and
those of the new light, declare that all has been false even from the
very outset, and that all the pomp and beauty is but Satan's bait, and
that to believe in Christ alone is all that needs to justify us, casting
all the rest aside.  All seemed a mist, and I was swayed hither and
thither till the more I read and thought, the greater was the fog.  And
this--I know not whether I told it to yonder good and holy doctor, or
whether he knew it, for his eyes seemed to see into me, and he told me
that he had felt and thought much the same.  But on that one great
truth, that faith in the Passion is salvation, is the Church built,
though sinful men have hidden it by their errors and lies as befell
before among the Israelites, whose law, like ours, was divine.  Whatever
is entrusted to man, he said, will become stained, soiled, and twisted,
though the power of the Holy Spirit will strive to renew it.  And such
an outpouring of cleansing and renewing power is, he saith, abroad in
our day.  When he was a young man, this good father, so he said, hoped
great things, and did his best to set forth the truth, both at Oxford
and here, as indeed he hath ever done, he and the good Doctor Erasmus,
striving to turn men's eyes back to the simplicity of God's Word rather
than to the arguments and deductions of the schoolmen.  And for the
abuses of evil priests that have sprung up, my Lord Cardinal sought the
Legatine Commission from our holy father at Rome to deal with them.  But
Dr Colet saith that there are other forces at work, and he doubteth
greatly whether this same cleansing can be done without some great and
terrible rending and upheaving, that may even split the Church as it
were asunder--since judgment surely awaiteth such as will not be
reformed.  But, quoth he, `our Mother-Church is God's own Church and I
will abide by her to the end, as the means of oneness with my Lord and
Head, and do thou the same, my son, for thou art like to be more sorely
tried than will a frail old elder like me, who would fain say his _Nunc
Dimittis_, if such be the Lord's will, ere the foundations be cast

Ambrose had gone on rehearsing all these words with the absorption of
one to whom they were everything, till it occurred to him to wonder that
Stephen had listened to so much with patience and assent, and then,
looking at the position of head and hands, he perceived that his brother
was asleep, and came to a sudden halt.  This roused Stephen to say, "Eh?
What?  The Dean, will he do aught for thee?"

"Yea," said Ambrose, recollecting that there was little use in returning
to the perplexities which Stephen could not enter into.  "He deemed that
in this mood of mine, yea, and as matters now be at the universities, I
had best not as yet study there for the priesthood.  But he said he
would commend me to a friend whose life would better show me how the new
gives life to the old than any man he wots of."

"One of thy old doctors in barnacles, I trow," said Stephen.

"Nay, verily.  We saw him t'other night perilling his life to stop the
poor crazy prentices, and save the foreigners.  Dennet and our uncle saw
him pleading for them with the King."

"What!  Sir Thomas More?"

"Ay, no other.  He needs a clerk for his law matters, and the Dean said
he would speak of me to him.  He is to sup at the Deanery to-morrow, and
I am to be in waiting to see him.  I shall go with a lighter heart now
that thou art beyond the clutches of the captain of Newgate."

"Speak no more of that!" said Stephen, with a shudder.  "Would that I
could forget it!"

In truth Stephen's health had suffered enough to change the bold, high-
spirited, active lad, so that he hardly knew himself.  He was quite
incapable of work all the next day, and Mistress Headley began to dread
that he had brought home jail-fever, and insisted on his being inspected
by the barber-surgeon, Todd, who proceeded to bleed the patient, in
order, as he said, to carry off the humours contracted in the prison.
He had done the same by Jasper Hope, and by Giles, but he followed the
treatment up with better counsel, namely, that the lads should all be
sent out of the City to some farm where they might eat curds and whey,
until their strength should be restored.  Thus they would be out of
reach of the sweating sickness which was already in some of the purlieus
of Saint Katharine's Docks, and must be specially dangerous in their
lowered condition.

Master Hope came in just after this counsel had been given.  He had a
sister married to the host of a large prosperous inn near Windsor, and
he proposed to send not only Jasper but Stephen thither, feeling how
great a debt of gratitude he owed to the lad.  Remembering well the good
young Mistress Streatfield, and knowing that the Antelope was a large
old house of excellent repute, where she often lodged persons of quality
attending on the court or needing country air, Master Headley added
Giles to the party at his own expense, and wished also to send Dennet
for greater security, only neither her grandmother nor Mrs Hope could
leave home.

It ended, however, in Perronel Randall being asked to take charge of the
whole party, including Aldonza.  That little damsel had been in a manner
confided to her both by the Dean of Saint Paul's and by Tibble
Steelman--and indeed the motherly woman, after nursing and soothing her
through her first despair at the loss of her father, was already loving
her heartily, and was glad to give her a place in the home which Ambrose
was leaving on being made an attendant on Sir Thomas More.

For the interview at the Deanery was satisfactory.  The young man, after
a good supper, enlivened by the sweet singing of some chosen pupils of
Saint Paul's school, was called up to where the Dean sat, and with him,
the man of the peculiarly sweet countenance, with the noble and deep
expression, yet withal, something both tender and humorous in it.

They made him tell his whole life, and asked many questions about
Abenali, specially about the fragment of Arabic scroll which had been
clutched in his hand even as he lay dying.  They much regretted never
having known of his existence till too late.  "Jewels lie before the
unheeding!" said More.  Then Ambrose was called on to show a specimen of
his own penmanship, and to write from Sir Thomas's dictation in English
and in Latin.  The result was that he was engaged to act as one of the
clerks Sir Thomas employed in his occupations alike as lawyer,
statesman, and scholar.

"Methinks I have seen thy face before," said Sir Thomas, looking keenly
at him.  "I have beheld those black eyes, though with a different

Ambrose blushed deeply.  "Sir, it is but honest to tell you that my
mother's brother is jester to my Lord Cardinal."

"Quipsome Hal Merriman!  Patch as the King calleth him!" exclaimed Sir
Thomas.  "A man I have ever thought wore the motley rather from excess,
than infirmity, of wit."

"Nay, sir, so please you, it was his good heart that made him a jester,"
said Ambrose, explaining the story of Randall and his Perronel in a few
words, which touched the friends a good deal, and the Dean remembered
that she was in charge of the little Moresco girl.  He lost nothing by
dealing thus openly with his new master, who promised to keep his secret
for him, then gave him handsel of his salary, and bade him collect his
possessions, and come to take up his abode in the house of the More
family at Chelsea.

He would still often see his brother in the intervals of attending Sir
Thomas to the courts of law, but the chief present care was to get the
boys into purer air, both to expedite their recovery and to ensure them
against being dragged into the penitential company who were to ask for
their lives on the 22nd of May, consisting of such of the prisoners who
could still stand or go--for jail-fever was making havoc among them, and
some of the better-conditioned had been released by private interest.
The remainder, not more than half of the original two hundred and
seventy-eight, were stripped to their shirts, had halters hung round
their necks, and then, roped together as before, were driven through the
streets to Westminster, where the King sat enthroned.  There, looking
utterly miserable, they fell on their knees before him, and received his
pardon for their misdemeanours.  They returned to their masters, and so
ended that Ill May day, which was the longer remembered because one
Churchill, a ballad-monger in Saint Paul's Churchyard, indited a poem on
it, wherein he swelled the number of prentices to two thousand, and of
the victims to two hundred.  Will Wherry, who escaped from among the
prisoners very forlorn, was recommended by Ambrose to the work of a
carter at the Dragon, which he much preferred to printing.



  "Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen
  Full many a sprightly race,
  Disporting on thy margent green,
  The paths of pleasure trace."

Master Hope took all the guests by boat to Windsor, and very soon the
little party at the Antelope was in a state of such perfect felicity as
became a proverb with them all their lives afterwards.  It was an inn
wherein to take one's ease, a large hostel full of accommodation for man
and horse, with a big tapestried room of entertainment below, where
meals were taken, with an oriel window with a view of the Round Tower,
and above it a still more charming one, known as the Red Rose, because
one of the Dukes of Somerset had been wont to lodge there.  The walls
were tapestried with the story of Saint Genoveva of Brabant, fresh and
new on Mrs Streatfield's marriage; there was a huge bed with green
curtains of that dame's own work, where one might have said:--

  "Above, below, the rose of snow,
  Twined with her blushing foe we spread."

so as to avoid all offence.  There was also a cupboard or sideboard of
the choicer plate belonging to the establishment, and another awmry
containing appliances for chess and backgammon, likewise two large
chairs, several stools, and numerous chests.

This apartment was given up to Mistress Randall and the two girls,
subject however to the chance of turning out for any very distinguished
guests.  The big bed held all three, and the chamber was likewise their
sitting-room, though they took their meals down stairs, and joined the
party in the common room in the evening whenever they were not out of
doors, unless there were guests whom Perronel did not think desirable
company for her charges.  Stephen and Giles were quartered in a small
room known as the Feathers, smelling so sweet of lavender and woodruff
that Stephen declared it carried him back to the Forest.  Mrs
Streatfield would have taken Jasper to tend among her children, but the
boy could not bear to be without Stephen, and his brother advised her to
let it be so, and not try to make a babe of him again.

The guest-chamber below stairs opened at one end into the innyard, a
quadrangle surrounded with stables, outhouses, and offices, with a
gallery running round to give access to the chambers above, where, when
the Court was at Windsor, two or three great men's trains of retainers
might be crowded together.

One door, however, in the side of the guest-chamber had steps down to an
orchard, full of apple and pear trees in their glory of pink bud and
white blossom, borders of roses, gillyflowers, and lilies of the valley
running along under the grey walls.  There was a broad space of grass
near the houses, whence could be seen the Round Tower of the Castle
looking down in protection, while the background of the view was filled
up with a mass of the foliage of Windsor forest, in the spring tints.

Stephen never thought of its being beautiful, but he revelled in the
refreshment of anything so like home, and he had nothing to wish for but
his brother, and after all he was too contented and happy even to miss
him much.

Master Streatfield was an elderly man, fat and easy-going, to whom
talking seemed rather a trouble than otherwise, though he was very good-
natured.  His wife was a merry, lively, active woman, who had been
handed over to him by her father like a piece of Flanders cambric, but
who never seemed to regret her position, managed men and maids, farm and
guests, kept perfect order without seeming to do so, and made great
friends with Perronel, never guessing that she had been one of the
strolling company, who, nine or ten years before, had been refused
admission to the Antelope, then crowded with my Lord of Oxford's

At first, it was enough for the prentices to spend most of their time in
lying about on the grass under the trees.  Giles, who was in the best
condition, exerted himself so far as to try to learn chess from Aldonza,
who seemed to be a proficient in the game, and even defeated the good-
natured burly parson who came every evening to the Antelope, to imbibe
slowly a tankard of ale, and hear any news there stirring.

She and Giles were content to spend hours over her instructions in chess
on that pleasant balcony in the shade of the house.  Though really only
a year older than Dennet Headley, she looked much more, and was so in
all her ways.  It never occurred to her to run childishly wild with
delight in the garden and orchard as did Dennet, who, with little five-
years-old Will Streatfield for her guide and playfellow, rushed about
hither and thither, making acquaintance with hens and chickens, geese
and goslings, seeing cows and goats milked, watching butter churned,
bringing all manner of animal and vegetable curiosities to Stephen to be
named and explained, and enjoying his delight in them, a delight which
after the first few days became more and more vigorous.

By and by there was punting and fishing on the river, strawberry
gathering in the park, explorations of the forest, expeditions of all
sorts and kinds, Jasper being soon likewise well enough to share in
them.  The boys and girls were in a kind of fairy land under Perronel's
kind wing, the wandering habits of whose girlhood made the freedom of
the country far more congenial to her than it would have been to any
regular Londoner.

Stephen was the great oracle, of course, as to the deer respectfully
peeped at in the park, or the squirrels, the hares and rabbits, in the
forest, and the inhabitants of the stream above or below.  It was he who
secured and tamed the memorials of their visit--two starlings for Dennet
and Aldonza.  The birds were to be taught to speak, and to do wonders of
all kinds, but Aldonza's bird was found one morning dead, and Giles
consoled her by the promise of something much bigger, and that would
talk much better.  Two days after he brought her a young jackdaw.
Aldonza clasped her hands and admired its glossy back and queer blue
eye, and was in transports when it uttered something between "Jack" and
"good lack."  But Dennet looked in scorn at it, and said, "That's a bird
tamed already.  He didn't catch it.  He only bought it!  I would have
none such!  An ugsome great thieving bird!"

"Nay now, Mistress Dennet," argued Perronel.  "Thou hast thy bird, and
Alice has lost hers.  It is not meet to grudge it to her."

"I!  Grudge it to her!" said Dennet, with a toss of the head.  "I grudge
her nought from Giles Headley, so long as I have my Goldspot that
Stephen climbed the wall for, his very self."

And Dennet turned majestically away with her bird--Goldspot only in the
future--perched on her finger; while Perronel shook her head bodingly.

But they were all children still, and Aldonza was of a nature that was
slow to take offence, while it was quite true that Dennet had been free
from jealousy of the jackdaw, and only triumphant in Stephen's prowess
and her own starling.

The great pleasure of all was a grand stag-hunt, got up for the
diversion of the French ambassadors, who had come to treat for the
espousals of the infant Princess Mary with the baby "Dolphyne."
Probably these illustrious personages did not get half the pleasure out
of it that the Antelope party had.  Were they not, by special management
of a yeoman pricker who had recognised in Stephen a kindred spirit, and
had a strong admiration for Mistress Randall, placed where there was the
best possible view of hunters, horses, and hounds, lords and ladies,
King and ambassadors, in their gorgeous hunting trim?  Did not Stephen,
as a true verdurer's son, interpret every note on the horn, and predict
just what was going to happen, to the edification of all his hearers?
And when the final rush took place, did not the prentices, with their
gowns rolled up, dart off headlong in pursuit?  Dennet entertained some
hope that Stephen would again catch some runaway steed, or come to the
King's rescue in some way or other, but such chances did not happen
every day.  Nay, Stephen did not even follow up the chase to the death,
but left Giles to do that, turning back forsooth because that little
Jasper thought fit to get tired and out of breath, and could not find
his way back alone.  Dennet was quite angry with Stephen and turned her
back on him, when Giles came in all glorious, at having followed up
staunchly all day, having seen the fate of the poor stag, and having
even beheld the King politely hand the knife to Monsieur de Montmorency
to give the first stroke to the quarry!

That was the last exploit.  There was to be a great tilting-match in
honour of the betrothal, and Master Alderman Headley wanted his
apprentices back again, and having been satisfied by a laborious letter
from Dennet, sent per carrier, that they were in good health, despatched
orders by the same means, that they were to hire horses at the Antelope
and return--Jasper coming back at the same time, though his aunt would
fain have kept him longer.

Women on a journey almost always rode double, and the arrangement came
under debate.  Perronel, well accustomed to horse, ass, or foot,
undertook to ride behind the child, as she called Jasper, who--as a born
Londoner--knew nothing of horses, though both the other prentices did.
Giles, who, in right of his name, kindred, and expectations, always held
himself a sort of master, declared that, "it was more fitting that
Stephen should ride before Mistress Dennet."  And to this none of the
party made any objection, except that Perronel privately observed to him
that she should have thought he would have preferred the company of his

"I shall have quite enough of her by and by," returned Giles; then
adding, "She is a good little wench, but it is more for her honour that
her father's servant should ride before her."

Perronel held her tongue, and they rode merrily back to London, and
astonished their several homes by the growth and healthful looks of the
young people.  Even Giles was grown, though he did not like to be told
so, and was cherishing the down on his chin.  But the most rapid
development had been in Aldonza, or Alice, as Perronel insisted on
calling her to suit the ears of her neighbours.  The girl was just
reaching the borderland of maidenhood, which came all the sooner to one
of southern birth and extraction, when the great change took her from
being her father's childish darling to be Perronel's companion and
assistant.  She had lain down on that fatal May Eve a child, she rose in
the little house by the Temple Gardens, a maiden, and a very lovely one,
with delicate, refined, beautifully cut features of a slightly aquiline
cast, a bloom on her soft brunette cheek, splendid dark liquid eyes
shaded by long black lashes, under brows as regular and well arched as
her Eastern cousins could have made them artificially, magnificent black
hair, that could hardly be contained in the close white cap, and a lithe
beautiful figure on which the plainest dress sat with an Eastern grace.
Perronel's neighbours did not admire her.  They were not sure whether
she were most Saracen, gipsy, or Jew.  In fact, she was as like Rachel
at the well as her father had been to a patriarch, and her descent was
of the purest Saracen lineage, but a Christian Saracen was an anomaly
the London mind could not comprehend, and her presence in the family
tended to cast suspicion that Master Randall himself, with his gipsy
eyes, and mysterious comings and goings, must have some strange
connections.  For this, however, Perronel cared little.  She had made
her own way for many years past, and had won respect and affection by
many good offices to her neighbours, one of whom had taken her laundry
work in her absence.

Aldonza was by no means indocile or incapable.  She shared in Perronel's
work without reluctance, making good use of her slender, dainty brown
fingers, whether in cooking, household work, washing, ironing, plaiting,
making or mending the stiff lawn collars and cuffs in which her
hostess's business lay.  There was nothing that she would not do when
asked, or when she saw that it would save trouble to good mother
Perronel, of whom she was very fond, and she seemed serene and
contented, never wanting to go abroad; but she was very silent, and
Perronel declared herself never to have seen any living woman so
perfectly satisfied to do nothing.  The good dame herself was
industrious, not only from thrift but from taste, and if not busy in her
vocation or in household business, was either using her distaff or her
needle, or chatting with her neighbours--often doing both at once; but
though Aldonza could spin, sew, and embroider admirably, and would do so
at the least request from her hostess, it was always a sort of task, and
she never seemed so happy as when seated on the floor, with her dark
eyes dreamily fixed on the narrow window, where hung her jackdaw's cage,
and the beads of her rosary passing through her fingers.  At first
Mistress Randall thought she was praying, but by and by came to the
conviction that most of the time, "the wench was bemused."  There was
nothing to complain of in one so perfectly gentle and obedient, and
withal, modest and devout; but the good woman, after having for some
time given her the benefit of the supposition that she was grieving for
her father, began to wonder at such want of activity and animation, and
to think that on the whole Jack was the more talkative companion.

Aldonza had certainly not taught him the phrases he was so fond of
repeating.  Giles Headley had undertaken his education, and made it a
reason for stealing down to the Temple many an evening after work was
done, declaring that birds never learnt so well as after dark.
Moreover, he had possessed himself of a chess board, and insisted that
Aldonza should carry on her instructions in the game; he brought her all
his Holy Cross Day gain of nuts, and he used all his blandishments to
persuade Mrs Randall to come and see the shooting at the popinjay, at
Mile End.

All this made the good woman uneasy.  Her husband was away, for the
dread of sweating sickness had driven the Court from London, and she
could only take counsel with Tibble Steelman.  It was Hallowmas Eve, and
Giles had been the bearer of an urgent invitation from Dennet to her
friend Aldonza to come and join the diversions of the evening.  There
was a large number of young folk in the hall--Jasper Hope among them--
mostly contemporaries of Dennet, and almost children, all keen upon the
sports of the evening, namely, a sort of indoor quintain, where the
revolving beam was decorated with a lighted candle at one end, and at
the other an apple to be caught at by the players with their mouths,
their hands being tied behind them.

Under all the uproarious merriment that each attempt occasioned, Tibble
was about to steal off to his own chamber and his beloved books, when,
as he backed out of the group of spectators, he was arrested by Mistress
Randall, who had made her way into the rear of the party at the same

"Can I have a word with you, privily, Master Steelman?" she asked.

Unwillingly he muttered, "Yea, so please you;" and they retreated to a
window at the dark end of the hall, where Perronel began--

"The alderman's daughter is contracted to young Giles, her kinsman, is
she not?"

"Not as yet in form, but by the will of the parents," returned Tibble,
impatiently, as he thought of the half-hour's reading which he was
sacrificing to woman's gossip.

"An it be so," returned Perronel, "I would fain--were I Master Headley--
that he spent not so many nights in gazing at mine Alice."

"Forbid him the house, good dame."

"Easier spoken than done," returned Perronel.  "Moreover, 'tis better to
let the matter, such as it is, be open in my sight than to teach them to
run after one another stealthily, whereby worse might ensue."

"Have they spoken then to one another?" asked Tibble, beginning to take

"I trow not.  I deem they know not yet what draweth them together."

"Pish, they are mere babes!" quoth Tib, hoping he might cast it off his

"Look!" said Perronel; and as they stood on the somewhat elevated floor
of the bay window, they could look over the heads of the other
spectators to the seats where the young girls sat.

Aldonza's beautiful and peculiar contour of head and face rose among the
round chubby English faces like a jessamine among daisies, and at that
moment she was undertaking, with an exquisite smile, the care of the
gown that Giles laid at her feet, ere making his venture.

"There!" said Perronel.  "Mark that look on her face!  I never see it
save for that same youngster.  The children are simple and guileless
thus far, it may be.  I dare be sworn that she is, but they wot not
where they will be led on."

"You are right, dame; you know best, no doubt," said Tib, in helpless
perplexity.  "I wot nothing of such gear.  What would you do?"

"Have the maid wedded at once, ere any harm come of it," returned
Perronel promptly.  "She will make a good wife--there will be no
complaining of her tongue, and she is well instructed in all good

"To whom then would you give her?" asked Tibble.

"Ay, that's the question.  Comely and good she is, but she is
outlandish, and I fear me 'twould take a handsome portion to get her
dark skin and Moorish blood o'erlooked.  Nor hath she aught, poor maid,
save yonder gold and pearl earrings, and a cross of gold that she says
her father bade her never part with."

"I pledged my word to her father," said Tibble, "that I would have a
care of her.  I have not cared to hoard, having none to come after me,
but if a matter of twenty or five-and-twenty marks would avail--"

"Wherefore not take her yourself?" said Perronel, as he stood aghast.
"She is a maid of sweet obedient conditions, trained by a scholar even
like yourself.  She would make your chamber fair and comfortable, and
tend you dutifully."

"Whisht, good woman.  'Tis too dark to see, or you could not speak of
wedlock to such as I.  Think of the poor maid!"

"That is all folly!  She would soon know you for a better husband than
one of those young feather-pates, who have no care but of themselves."

"Nay, mistress," said Tibble, gravely, "your advice will not serve here.
To bring that fair young wench hither, to this very court, mind you,
with a mate loathly to behold as I be, and with the lad there ever
before her, would be verily to give place to the devil."

"But you are the best sword-cutler in London.  You could make a living
without service."

"I am bound by too many years of faithful kindness to quit my master or
my home at the Dragon," said Tibble.  "Nay, that will not serve, good

"Then what can be done?" asked Perronel, somewhat in despair.  "There
are the young sparks at the Temple.  One or two of them are already
beginning to cast eyes at her, so that I dare not let her help me carry
home my basket, far less go alone.  'Tis not the wench's fault.  She
shrinks from men's eyes more than any maid I ever saw, but if she bide
long with me, I wot not what may come of it.  There be rufflers there
who would not stick to carry her off!"

Tibble stood considering, and presently said, "Mayhap the Dean might aid
thee in this matter.  He is free of hand and kind of heart, and belike
he would dower the maid, and find an honest man to wed her."

Perronel thought well of the suggestion, and decided that after the mass
on All Soul's Day, and the general visiting of the graves of kindred,
she would send Aldonza home with Dennet, whom they were sure to meet in
the Pardon Churchyard, since her mother, as well as Abenali and Martin
Fulford lay there; and herself endeavour to see Dean Colet, who was sure
to be at home, as he was hardly recovered from an attack of the
prevalent disorder.

Then Tibble escaped, and Perronel drew near to the party round the fire,
where the divination of the burning of nuts was going on, but not
successfully, since no pair hitherto put in would keep together.
However, the next contribution was a snail, which had been captured on
the wall, and was solemnly set to crawl on the hearth by Dennet, "to see
whether it would trace a G or an H."

However, the creature proved sullen or sleepy, and no jogging of hands,
no enticing, would induce it to crawl an inch, and the alderman, taking
his daughter on his knee, declared that it was a wise beast, who knew
her hap was fixed.  Moreover, it was time for the rere supper, for the
serving-men with the lanterns would be coming for the young folk.

London entertainments for women or young people had to finish very early
unless they had a strong escort to go home with, for the streets were
far from safe after dark.  Giles's great desire to convoy her home,
added to Perronel's determination, and on All Souls' Day, while knells
were ringing from every church in London, she roused Aldonza from her
weeping devotions at her father's grave, and led her to Dennet, who had
just finished her round of prayers at the grave of the mother she had
never known, under the protection of her nurse, and two or three of the
servants.  The child, who had thought little of her mother, while her
grandmother was alert, and supplied the tenderness and care she needed,
was beginning to yearn after counsel and sympathy, and to wonder, as she
told her beads, what might have been, had that mother lived.  She took
Aldonza's hand, and the two girls threaded their way out of the crowded
churchyard together, while Perronel betook herself to the Deanery of
Saint Paul's.

Good Colet was always accessible to the meanest, but he had been very
ill, and the porter had some doubts about troubling him respecting the
substantial young matron whose trim cap and bodice, and full petticoats,
showed no tokens of distress.  However, when she begged him to take in
her message, that she prayed the Dean to listen to her touching the
child of the old man who was slain on May Eve, he consented; and she was
at once admitted to an inner chamber, where Colet, wrapped in a gown
lined with lambskin, sat by the fire, looking so wan and feeble that it
went to the good woman's heart, and she began by an apology for
troubling him.

"Heed not that, good dame," said the Dean, courteously, "but sit thee
down and let me hear of the poor child."

"Ah, reverend sir, would that she were still a child--" and Perronel
proceeded to tell her difficulties, adding, that if the Dean could of
his goodness promise one of the dowries which were yearly given to poor
maidens of good character, she would inquire among her gossips for some
one to marry the girl.  She secretly hoped he would take the hint and
immediately portion Aldonza himself perhaps likewise find the husband.
And she was disappointed that he only promised to consider the matter
and let her hear from him.  She went back and told Tibble that his
device was nought, an old scholar with one foot in the grave knew less
of women than even he did!

However it was only four days later, that, as Mrs Randall was hanging
out her collars to dry, there came up to her from the Temple stairs a
figure whom for a moment she hardly knew, so different was the long,
black garb, and short gown of the lawyer's clerk from the shabby old
green suit that all her endeavours had not been able to save from many a
stain of printer's ink.  It was only as he exclaimed, "Good aunt, I am
fain to see thee here!" that she answered, "What, thou, Ambrose!  What a
fine fellow thou art!  Truly I knew not thou wast of such good mien!
Thou thrivest at Chelsea!"

"Who would not thrive there?" said Ambrose.  "Nay, aunt, tarry a little,
I have a message for thee that I would fain give before we go in to

"From his reverence the Dean?  Hath he bethought himself of her?"

"Ay, that hath he done," said Ambrose.  "He is not the man to halt when
good may be done.  What doth he do, since it seems thou hadst speech of
him, but send for Sir Thomas More, then sitting at Westminster, to come
and see him as soon as the Court brake up, and I attended my master.
They held council together, and by and by they sent for me to ask me of
what conditions and breeding the maid was, and what I knew of her

"Will they wed her to thee?  That were rarely good, so they gave thee
some good office!" cried his aunt.

"Nay, nay," said Ambrose.  "I have much to learn and understand ere I
think of a wife--if ever.  Nay!  But when they had heard all I could
tell them, they looked at one another, and the Dean said, `The maid is
no doubt of high blood in her own land--scarce a mate for a London
butcher or currier.'"

"`It were matching an Arab mare with a costard monger's colt,' said my
master, `or Angelica with Ralph Roister-Doister.'"

"I'd like to know what were better for the poor outlandish maid than to
give her to some honest man," put in Perronel.

"The end of it was," said Ambrose, "that Sir Thomas said he was to be at
the palace the next day, and he would strive to move the Queen to take
her countrywoman into her service.  Yea, and so he did, but though Queen
Katharine was moved by hearing of a fatherless maid of Spain, and at
first spake of taking her to wait on herself, yet when she heard the
maid's name, and that she was of Moorish blood, she would none of her.
She said that heresy lurked in them all, and though Sir Thomas offered
that the Dean or the Queen's own chaplain should question her on the
faith, it was all lost labour.  I heard him tell the Dean as much, and
thus it is that they bade me come for thee, and for the maid, take boat,
and bring you down to Chelsea, where Sir Thomas will let her be bred up
to wait on his little daughters till he can see what best may be done
for her.  I trow his spirit was moved by the Queen's hardness!  I heard
the Dean mutter, `_Et venient ab Oriente et Occidente_.'"

Perronel looked alarmed.  "The Queen deemed her heretic in grain!  Ah!
She is a good wench, and of kind conditions.  I would have no ill befall
her, but I am glad to be rid of her.  Sir Thomas--he is a wise man, ay,
and a married man, with maidens of his own, and he may have more wit in
the business than the rest of his kind.  Be the matter instant?"

"Methinks Sir Thomas would have it so, since this being a holy day, the
courts be not sitting, and he is himself at home, so that he can present
the maid to his lady.  And that makes no small odds."

"Yea, but what the lady is makes the greater odds to the maid, I trow,"
said Perronel anxiously.

"Fear not on that score.  Dame Alice More is of kindly conditions, and
will be good to any whom her lord commends to her; and as to the young
ladies, never saw I any so sweet or so wise as the two elder ones,
specially Mistress Margaret."

"Well-a-day!  What must be must!" philosophically observed Perronel.
"Now I have my wish, I could mourn over it.  I am loth to part with the
wench; and my man, when he comes home, will make an outcry for his
pretty Ally; but 'tis best so.  Come, Alice, girl, bestir thyself.
Here's preferment for thee."

Aldonza raised her great soft eyes in slow wonder, and when she had
heard what was to befall her, declared that she wanted no advancement,
and wished only to remain with mother Perronel.  Nay, she clung to the
kind woman, beseeching that she might not be sent away from the only
motherly tenderness she had ever known, and declaring that she would
work all day and all night rather than leave her; but the more
reluctance she showed, the more determined was Perronel, and she could
not but submit to her fate, only adding one more entreaty that she might
take her jackdaw, which was now a spruce grey-headed bird.  Perronel
said it would be presumption in a waiting-woman, but Ambrose declared
that at Chelsea there were all manner of beasts and birds, beloved by
the children and by their father himself, and that he believed the daw
would be welcome.  At any rate, if the lady of the house objected to it,
it could return with Mistress Randall.

Perronel hurried the few preparations, being afraid that Giles might
take advantage of the holiday to appear on the scene, and presently
Aldonza was seated in the boat, making no more lamentations after she
found that her fate was inevitable, but sitting silent, with downcast
head, now and then brushing away a stray tear as it stole down under her
long eyelashes.

Meantime Ambrose, hoping to raise her spirits, talked to his aunt of the
friendly ease and kindliness of the new home, where he was evidently as
thoroughly happy as it was in his nature to be.  He was much, in the
position of a barrister's clerk, superior to that of the mere servants,
but inferior to the young gentlemen of larger means, though not perhaps
of better birth, who had studied law regularly, and aspired to offices
or to legal practice.

But though Ambrose was ranked with the three or four other clerks, his
functions had more relation to Sir Thomas's literary and diplomatic
avocations than his legal ones.  From Lucas Hansen he had learnt Dutch
and French, and he was thus available for copying and translating
foreign correspondence.  His knowledge of Latin and smattering of Greek
enabled him to be employed in copying into a book some of the
inestimable letters of Erasmus which arrived from time to time, and Sir
Thomas promoted his desire to improve himself, and had requested Mr
Clements, the tutor of the children of the house, to give him weekly
lessons in Latin and Greek.

Sir Thomas had himself pointed out to him books calculated to settle his
mind on the truth and catholicity of the Church, and had warned him
against meddling with the fiery controversial tracts which, smuggled in
often through Lucas's means, had set his mind in commotion.  And for the
present at least beneath the shadow of the great man's intelligent
devotion, Ambrose's restless spirit was tranquil.

Of course, he did not explain his state of mind to his aunt, but she
gathered enough to be well content, and tried to encourage Aldonza, when
at length they landed near Chelsea Church, and Ambrose led the way to an
extensive pleasaunce or park, full of elms and oaks, whose yellow leaves
were floating like golden rain in the sunshine.

Presently children's voices guided them to a large chestnut tree.  "Lo
you now, I hear Mistress Meg's voice, and where she is, his honour will
ever be," said Ambrose.

And sure enough, among a group of five girls and one boy, all between
fourteen and nine years old, was the great lawyer, knocking down the
chestnuts with a long pole, while the young ones flew about picking up
the burrs from the grass, exclaiming joyously when they found a full

Ambrose explained that of the young ladies, one was Mistress Middleton,
Lady More's daughter by a former marriage, another a kinswoman.
Perronel was for passing by unnoticed; but Ambrose knew better; and Sir
Thomas, leaning on the pole, called out, "Ha, my Birkenholt, a forester
born, knowst thou any mode of bringing down yonder chestnuts, which
being the least within reach, seem in course the meetest of all."

"I would I were my brother, your honour," said Ambrose, "then would I
climb the tree."

"Thou shouldst bring him one of these days," said Sir Thomas.  "But thou
hast instead brought us a fair maid.  See, Meg, yonder is the poor young
girl who lost her father on Ill May day.  Lead her on and make her good
cheer, while I speak to this good dame."

Margaret More, a slender, dark-eyed girl of thirteen, went forward with
a peculiar gentle grace to the stranger, saying, "Welcome, sweet maid!
I hope we shall make thee happy," and seeing the mournful countenance,
she not only took Aldonza's hand, but kissed her cheek.

Sir Thomas had exchanged a word or two with Perronel, when there was a
cry from the younger children, who had detected the wicker cage which
Perronel was trying to keep in the background.

"A daw! a daw!" was the cry.  "Is't for us?"

"Oh, mistress," faltered Aldonza, "'tis mine--there was one who tamed it
for me, and I promised ever to keep it, but if the good knight and lady
forbid it, we will send it back."

"Nay now, John, Cicely," was Margaret saying, "'tis her own bird!  Wot
ye not our father will let us take nought of them that come to him?
Yea, Al-don-za--is not that thy name?--I am sure my father will have
thee keep it."

She led up Aldonza, making the request for her.  Sir Thomas smiled.

"Keep thy bird?  Nay, that thou shalt.  Look at him, Meg, is he not in
fit livery for a lawyer's house?  Mark his trim legs, sable doublet and
hose, and grey hood--and see, he hath the very eye of a councillor
seeking for suits, as he looketh at the chestnuts John holdeth to him.
I warrant he hath a tongue likewise.  Canst plead for thy dinner, bird?"

"I love Giles!" uttered the black beak, to the confusion and indignation
of Perronel.

The perverse bird had heard Giles often dictate this avowal, but had
entirely refused to repeat it, till, stimulated by the new surroundings,
it had for the first time uttered it.

"Ah! thou foolish daw!  Crow that thou art!  Had I known thou hadst such
a word in thy beak, I'd have wrung thy neck sooner than have brought
thee," muttered Perronel.  "I had best take thee home without more ado."

It was too late, however, the children were delighted, and perfectly
willing that Aldonza should own the bird, so they might hear it speak,
and thus the introduction was over.  Aldonza and her daw were conveyed
to Dame Alice More, a stout, good-tempered woman, who had too many
dependents about her house to concern herself greatly about the
introduction of another.

And thus Aldonza was installed in the long, low, two-storied red house
which was to be her place of home-like service.



  "Then you lost
  The view of earthly glory men might say
  Till this time pomp was single; but now married
  To one above itself."

If Giles Headley murmured at Aldonza's removal, it was only to Perronel,
and that discreet woman kept it to herself.

In the summer of 1519 he was out of his apprenticeship, and though
Dennet was only fifteen, it was not uncommon for brides to be even
younger.  However, the autumn of that year was signalised by a fresh
outbreak of the sweating sickness, apparently a sort of influenza, and
no festivities could be thought of.  The King and Queen kept at a safe
distance from London, and escaped, so did the inmates of the pleasant
house at Chelsea; but the Cardinal, who, as Lord Chancellor, could not
entirely absent himself from Westminster, was four times attacked by it,
and Dean Colet, a far less robust man, had it three times, and sank at
last under it.  Sir Thomas More went to see his beloved old friend, and
knowing Ambrose's devotion, let the young man be his attendant.  Nor
could those who saw the good man ever forget his peaceful farewells,
grieving only for the old mother who had lived with him in the Deanery,
and in the ninetieth year of her age, thus was bereaved of the last of
her twenty-one children.  For himself, he was thankful to be taken away
from the evil times he already beheld threatening his beloved Saint
Paul's, as well as the entire Church both in England and abroad; looking
back with a sad, sweet smile to the happy Oxford days, when he, with
More and Erasmus:

  "Strained the watchful eye
  If chance the golden hours were nigh
  By youthful hope seen gleaming round her walls."

"But," said he, as he laid his hand in blessing for the last time on
Ambrose's head, "let men say what they will, do thou cling fast to the
Church, nor let thyself be swept away.  There are sure promises to her,
and grace is with her to purify herself, even though it be obscured for
a time.  Be not of little faith, but believe that Christ is with us in
the ship, though He seem to be asleep."

He spoke as much to his friend as to the youth, and there can be no
doubt that this consideration was the restraining force with many who
have been stigmatised as half-hearted Reformers, because though they
loved truth, they feared to lose unity.

He was a great loss at that especial time, as a restraining power,
trusted by the innovators, and a personal friend both of King and
Cardinal, and his preaching and catechising were sorely missed at Saint

Tibble Steelman, though thinking he did not go far enough, deplored him
deeply; but Tibble himself was laid by for many days.  The epidemic went
through the Dragon court, though some had it lightly, and only two young
children actually died of it.  It laid a heavy hand on Tibble, and as
his distaste for women rendered his den almost inaccessible to Bet
Smallbones, who looked after most of the patients, Stephen Birkenholt,
whose nursing capacities had been developed in Newgate, spent his spare
hours in attending him, sat with him in the evenings, slept on a pallet
by his side, carried him his meals and often administered them, and
finally pulled him through the illness and its effects, which left him
much broken and never likely to be the same man again.

Old Mistress Headley, who was already failing, did not have the actual
disease severely, but she never again left her bed, and died just after
Christmas, sinking slowly away with little pain, and her memory having
failed from the first.

Household affairs had thus slipped so gradually into Dennet's hands that
no change of government was perceptible, except that the keys hung at
the maiden's girdle.  She had grown out of the child during this winter
of trouble, and was here, there, and everywhere, the busy nurse and
housewife, seldom pausing to laugh or play except with her father, and
now and then to chat with her old friend and playfellow, Kit Smallbones.
Her childish freedom of manner had given way to grave discretion, not
to say primness, in her behaviour to her father's guests, and even the
apprentices.  It was, of course, the unconscious reaction of the
maidenly spirit, aware that she had nothing but her own modesty to
protect her.  She was on a small scale, with no pretensions to beauty,
but with a fresh, honest, sensible young face, a clear skin, and dark
eyes that could be very merry when she would let them, and her whole air
and dress were trimness itself, with an inclination to the choicest
materials permitted to an alderman's daughter.

Things were going on so smoothly that the alderman was taken by surprise
when all the good wives around began to press on him that it was
incumbent on him to lose no time in marrying his daughter to her cousin,
if not before Lent, yet certainly in the Easter holidays.

Dennet looked very grave thereon.  Was it not over soon after the loss
of the good grandmother?  And when her father said, as the gossips had
told him, that she and Giles need only walk quietly down some morning to
Saint Faith's and plight their troth, she broke out into her girlish
wilful manner, "Would she be married at all without a merry wedding?
No, indeed!  She would not have the thing done in a corner!  What was
the use of her being wedded, and having to consort with the tedious old
wives instead of the merry wenches?  Could she not guide the house, and
rule the maids, and get in the stores, and hinder waste, and make the
pasties, and brew the possets?  Had her father found the crust hard, or
missed his roasted crab, or had any one blamed her for want of
discretion?  Nay, as to that, she was like to be more discreet as she
was, with only her good old father to please, than with a husband to
plague her."

On the other hand, Giles's demeanour was rather that of one prepared for
the inevitable than that of an eager bridegroom; and when orders began
to pour in for accoutrements of unrivalled magnificence for the King and
the gentlemen who were to accompany him to Ardres, there to meet the
young King of France just after Whitsuntide, Dennet was the first to
assure her father that there would be no time to think of weddings till
all this was over, especially as some of the establishment would have to
be in attendance to repair casualties at the jousts.

At this juncture there arrived on business Master Tiptoff, husband to
Giles's sister, bringing greetings from Mrs Headley at Salisbury, and
inquiries whether the wedding was to take place at Whitsuntide, in which
case she would hasten to be present, and to take charge of the
household, for which her dear daughter was far too young.  Master
Tiptoff showed a suspicious alacrity in undertaking the forwarding of
his mother-in-law and her stuff.

The faces of Master Headley and Tib Steelman were a sight, both having
seen only too much of what the house wifery at Salisbury had been.  The
alderman decided on the spot that there could be no marriage till after
the journey to France, since Giles was certainly to go upon it; and lest
Mrs Headley should be starting on her journey, he said he should
despatch a special messenger to stay her.  Giles, who had of course been
longing for the splendid pageant, cheered up into great amiability, and
volunteered to write to his mother, that she had best not think of
coming, till he sent word to her that matters were forward.  Even thus,
Master Headley was somewhat insecure.  He thought the dame quite capable
of coming and taking possession of his house in his absence, and
therefore resolved upon staying at home to garrison it; but there was
then the further difficulty that Tibble was in no condition to take his
place on the journey.  If the rheumatism seized his right arm, as it had
done in the winter, he would be unable to drive a rivet, and there would
be every danger of it, high summer though it were; for though the party
would carry their own tent and bedding, the knights and gentlemen would
be certain to take all the best places, and they might be driven into a
damp corner.  Indeed it was not impossible that their tent itself might
be seized, for many a noble or his attendants might think that beggarly
artisans had no right to comforts which he had been too improvident to
afford, especially if the alderman himself were absent.

Not only did Master Headley really love his trusty foreman too well to
expose him to such chances, but Tibble knew too well that there were
brutal young men to whom his contorted visage would be an incitement to
contempt and outrage, and that if racked with rheumatism, he would only
be an incumbrance.  There was nothing for it but to put Kit Smallbones
at the head of the party.  His imposing presence would keep off wanton
insults, but on the other hand, he had not the moral weight of authority
possessed by Tibble, and though far from being a drunkard, he was not
proof against a carouse, especially when out of reach of his Bet and of
his master, and he was not by any means Tib's equal in fine and delicate
workmanship.  But on the other hand, Tib pronounced that Stephen
Birkenholt was already well skilled in chasing metal and the difficult
art of restoring inlaid work, and he showed some black and silver
armour, that was in hand for the King, which fully bore out his words.

"And thou thinkst Kit can rule the lads!" said the alderman, scarce

"One of them at least can rule himself," said Tibble.  "They have both
been far more discreet since the fright they got on Ill May day; and, as
for Stephen, he hath seemed to me to have no eyes nor thought save for
his work of late."

"I have marked him," said the master, "and have marvelled what ailed the
lad.  His merry temper hath left him.  I never hear him singing to keep
time with his hammer, nor keeping the court in a roar with his gibes.  I
trust he is not running after the new doctrine of the hawkers and
pedlars.  His brother was inclined that way."

"There be worse folk than they, your worship," protested Tib, but he did
not pursue their defence, only adding, "but 'tis not that which ails
young Stephen.  I would it were!" he sighed to himself, inaudibly.

"Well," said the good-natured alderman, "it may be he misseth his
brother.  The boys will care for this raree-show more than thou or I,
Tib!  We've seen enough of them in our day, though verily they say this
is to surpass all that ever were beheld!"

The question of who was to go had not been hitherto decided, and Giles
and Stephen were both so excited at being chosen that all low spirits
and moodiness were dispelled, and the work which went on almost all
night was merrily got through.  The Dragon court was in a perpetual
commotion with knights, squires, and grooms, coming in with orders for
new armour, or for old to be furbished, and the tent-makers, lorimers,
mercers, and tailors had their hands equally full.  These lengthening
mornings heard the hammer ringing at sunrise, and in the final rush,
Smallbones never went to bed at all.  He said he should make it up in
the waggon on the way to Dover.  Some hinted that he preferred the clang
of his hammer to the good advice his Bet lavished on him at every
leisure moment to forewarn him against French wine-pots.

The alderman might be content with the party he sent forth, for Kit had
hardly his equal in size, strength, and good humour.  Giles had
developed into a tall, comely young man, who had got rid of his country
slouch, and whose tall figure, light locks, and ruddy cheeks looked well
in the new suit which gratified his love of finery, sober-hued as it
needs must be.  Stephen was still bound to the old prentice garb, though
it could not conceal his good mien, the bright sparkling dark eyes,
crisp black hair, healthy brown skin, and lithe active figure.  Giles
had a stout roadster to ride on, the others were to travel in their own
waggon, furnished with four powerful horses, which, it possible, they
were to take to Calais, so as to be independent of hiring.  Their
needments, clothes, and tools, were packed in the waggon, with store of
lances, and other appliances of the tourney.  A carter and Will Wherry,
who was selected as being supposed to be conversant with foreign
tongues, were to attend on them; Smallbones, as senior journeyman, had
the control of the party, and Giles had sufficiently learnt
subordination not to be likely to give himself dangerous airs of

Dennet was astir early to see them off, and she had a little gift for
each.  She began with her oldest friend, "See here, Kit," she said,
"here's a wallet to hold thy nails and rivets.  What wilt thou say to me
for such a piece of stitchery?"

"Say, pretty mistress?  Why this!" quoth the giant, and he picked her up
by the slim waist in his great hands, and kissed her on the forehead.
He had done the like many a time nine or ten years ago, and though
Master Headley laughed, Dennet was not one bit embarrassed, and turned
to the next traveller.  "Thou art no more a prentice, Giles, and canst
wear this in thy bonnet," she said, holding out to him a short silver
chain and medal of Saint George and the Dragon.

"Thanks, gentle maid," said Giles, taking the handsome gift a little
sheepishly.  "My bonnet will make a fair show," and he bent down as she
stood on the step, and saluted her lips, then began eagerly fastening
the chain round his cap, as one delighted with the ornament.

Stephen was some distance off.  He had turned aside when she spoke to
Giles, and was asking of Tibble last instructions about the restoration
of enamel, when he felt a touch on his arm, and saw Dennet standing by
him.  She looked up in his face, and held up a crimson silken purse,
with S B embroidered on it within a wreath of oak and holly leaves.

With the air that ever showed his gentle blood, Stephen put a knee to
the ground, and kissed the fingers that held it to him, whereupon
Dennet, a sudden burning blush overspreading her face under her little
pointed hood, turned suddenly round and ran into the house.  She was out
again on the steps when the waggon finally got under weigh, and as her
eyes met Stephen's, he doffed his flat cap with one hand, and laid the
other on his heart, so that she knew where her purse had taken up its

Of the Field of the Cloth of Gold not much need be said.  To the end of
the lives of the spectators, it was a tale of wonder.  Indeed without
that, the very sight of the pavilions was a marvel in itself, the blue
dome of Francis spangled in imitation of the sky, with sun, moon, and
stars; and the feudal castle of Henry, a three months' work, each
surrounded with tents of every colour and pattern which fancy could
devise, with the owners banners or pennons floating from the summits,
and every creature, man, and horse, within the enchanted precincts,
equally gorgeous.  It was the brightest and the last full display of
magnificent pseudo chivalry, and to Stephen's dazzled eye, seeing it
beneath the slant rays of the setting sun of June, it was a fairy tale
come to life.  Hal Randall, who was in attendance on the Cardinal,
declared that it was a mere surfeit of jewels and gold and silver, and
that a frieze jerkin or leathern coat was an absolute refreshment to the
sight.  He therefore spent all the time he was off duty in the forge far
in the rear, where Smallbones and his party had very little but hard
work, mending, whetting, furbishing, and even changing devices.  Those
six days of tilting when "every man that stood, showed like a mine,"
kept the armourers in full occupation night and day, and only now and
then could the youths try to make their way to some spot whence they
could see the tournament.

Smallbones was more excited by the report of fountains of good red and
white wines of all sorts, flowing perpetually in the court of King
Henry's splendid mock castle; but fortunately one gulp was enough for an
English palate nurtured on ale and mead, and he was disgusted at the
heaps of country folk, men-at-arms, beggars and vagabonds of all kinds,
who swilled the liquor continually, and, in loathsome contrast to the
external splendours, lay wallowing on the ground so thickly that it was
sometimes hardly possible to move without treading on them.

"I stumbled over a dozen," said the jester, as he strolled into the
little staked inclosure that the Dragon party had arranged round their
tent for the prosecution of their labours, which were too important to
all the champions not to be respected.  "Lance and sword have not laid
so many low in the lists as have the doughty Baron Burgundy and the
heady knight Messire Sherris Sack."

"Villain Verjuice and Varlet Vinegar is what Kit there calls them," said
Stephen, looking up from the work he was carrying on over a pan of
glowing charcoal.

"Yea," said Smallbones, intermitting his noisy operations, "and the more
of swine be they that gorge themselves on it.  I told Jack and Hob that
'twould be shame for English folk to drown themselves like French frogs
or Flemish hogs."

"Hogs!" returned Randall.  "A decent Hampshire hog would scorn to be
lodged as many a knight and squire and lady too is now, pigging it in
styes and hovels and haylofts by night, and pranking it by day with the

"Sooth enough," said Smallbones.  "Yea, we have had two knights and
their squires beseeching us for leave to sleep under our waggon!  Not an
angel had they got among the four of them either, having all their
year's income on their backs, and more too.  I trow they and their heirs
will have good cause to remember this same Field of Gold."

"And what be'st thou doing, nevvy?" asked the jester.  "Thy trade seems
as brisk as though red blood were flowing instead of red wine."

"I am doing my part towards making the King into Hercules," said
Stephen, "though verily the tailor hath more part therein than we have;
but he must needs have a breastplate of scales of gold, and that by to-
morrow's morn.  As Ambrose would say, `if he will be a pagan god, he
should have what's-his-name, the smith of the gods, to work for him.'"

"I heard of that freak," said the jester.  "There be a dozen tailors and
all the Queen's tirewomen frizzling up a good piece of cloth of gold for
the lion's mane, covering a club with green damask with pricks, cutting
out green velvet and gummed silk for his garland!  In sooth, these
graces have left me so far behind in foolery that I have not a jest left
in my pouch!  So here I be, while my Lord Cardinal is shut up with
Madame d'Angouleme in the castle--the real old castle, mind you--doing
the work, leaving the kings and queens to do their own fooling."

"Have you spoken with the French King, Hal?" asked Smallbones, who had
become a great crony of his, since the anxieties of May Eve.

"So far as I may when I have no French, and he no English!  He is a
comely fellow, with a blithe tongue and a merry eye, I warrant you a
chanticleer who will lose nought for lack of crowing.  He'll crow louder
than ever now he hath given our Harry a fall."

"No! hath he?" and Giles, Stephen, and Smallbones, all suspended their
work to listen in concern.

"Ay marry, hath he!  The two took it into their royal noddles to try a
fall, and wrestled together on the grass, when by some ill hap, this
same Francis tripped up our Harry, so that he was on the sward for a
moment.  He was up again forthwith, and in full heart for another round,
when all the Frenchmen burst in gabbling; and, though their King was
willing to play the match out fairly, they wouldn't let him, and my Lord
Cardinal said something about making ill blood, whereat our King laughed
and was content to leave it.  As I told him, we have given the French
falls enough to let them make much of this one."

"I hope he will yet give the mounseer a good shaking," muttered

"How now, Will!  Who's that at the door?  We are on his grace's work and
can touch none other man's were it the King of France himself, or his
Constable, who is finer still."

By way of expressing, "No admittance except on business," Smallbones
kept Will Wherry in charge of the door of his little territory, which
having a mud wall on two sides, and a broad brook with quaking banks on
a third, had been easily fenced on the fourth, so as to protect tent,
waggon, horses, and work from the incursions of idlers.  Will however
answered, "The gentleman saith he hath kindred here."

"Ay!" and there pushed in, past the lad a tall, lean form, with a gay
but soiled short cloak over one shoulder, a suit of worn buff, a cap
garnished with a dilapidated black and yellow feather, and a pair of
gilt spurs.  "If this be as they told me, where Armourer Headley's folk
lodge--I have here a sort of a cousin.  Yea, yonder's the brave lad who
had no qualms at the flash of a good Toledo in a knight's fist.  How
now, my nevvy!  Is not my daughter's nevvy--mine?"

"Save your knighthood!" said Smallbones.  "Who would have looked to see
you here, Sir John?  Methought you were in the Emperor's service!"

"A stout man-at-arms is of all services," returned Fulford.  "I'm here
with half Flanders to see this mighty show, and pick up a few more lusty
Badgers at this encounter of old comrades.  Is old Headley here?"

"Nay, he is safe at home, where I would I were," sighed Kit.

"And you are my young master his nephew, who knew where to purvey me of
good steel," added Fulford, shaking Giles's hand.  "You are fain,
doubtless, you youngsters, to be forth without the old man.  Ha! and
you've no lack of merry company."

Harry Randall's first impulse had been to look to the right and left for
the means of avoiding this encounter, but there was no escape; and he
was moreover in most fantastic motley, arrayed in one of the many suits
provided for the occasion.  It was in imitation of a parrot, brilliant
grass-green velvet, touched here and there with scarlet, yellow, or
blue.  He had been only half disguised on the occasion of Fulford's
visit to his wife, and he perceived the start of recognition in the eyes
of the Condottiere, so that he knew it would be vain to try to conceal
his identity.

"You sought Stephen Birkenholt," he said.  "And you've lit on something
nearer, if so be you'll acknowledge the paraquito that your Perronel
hath mated with."

The Condottiere burst into a roar of laughter so violent that he had to
lean against the mud wall, and hold his sides.  "Ha, ha! that I should
be father-in-law to a fool!" and then he set off again.  "That the
sober, dainty little wench should have wedded a fool!  Ha! ha! ha!"

"Sir," cried Stephen hotly, "I would have you to know that mine uncle
here, Master Harry Randall, is a yeoman of good birth, and that he
undertook his present part to support your own father and child!
Methinks you are the last who should jeer at and insult him!"

"Stephen is right," said Giles.  "This is my kinsman's tent, and no man
shall say a word against Master Harry Randall therein."

"Well crowed, my young London gamebirds," returned Fulford, coolly.  "I
meant no disrespect to the gentleman in green.  Nay, I am mightily
beholden to him for acting his part out and taking on himself that would
scarce befit a gentleman of a company--_impedimenta_, as we used to say
in the grammar school.  How does the old man?--I must find some token to
send him."

"He is beyond the reach of all tokens from you save prayers and masses,"
returned Randall, gravely.

"Ay?  You say not so?  Old gaffer dead?"  And when the soldier was told
how the feeble thread of life had been snapped by the shock of joy on
his coming, a fit of compunction and sorrow seized him.  He covered his
face with his hands and wept with a loudness of grief that surprised and
touched his hearers; and presently began to bemoan himself that he had
hardly a mark in his purse to pay for a mass; but therewith he proceeded
to erect before him the cross hilt of poor Abenali's sword, and to vow
thereupon that the first spoil and the first ransom, that it should
please the saints to send him, should be entirely spent in masses for
the soul of Martin Fulford.  This tribute apparently stilled both grief
and remorse, for looking up at the grotesque figure of Randall, he said,
"Methought they told me, master son, that you were in the right quarters
for beads and masses and all that gear--a varlet of Master Butcher-
Cardinal's, or the like-but mayhap 'twas part of your fooling."

"Not so," replied Randall.  "'Tis to the Cardinal that I belong,"
holding out his sleeve, where the scarlet hat was neatly worked, "and
I'll brook no word against his honour."

"Ho! ho!  Maybe you looked to have the hat on your own head," quoth
Fulford, waxing familiar, "if your master comes to be Pope after his own
reckoning.  Why, I've known a Cardinal get the scarlet because an ape
had danced on the roof with him in his arms!"

"You forget!  I'm a wedded man," said Randall, who certainly, in private
life, had much less of the buffoon about him than his father-in-law.

"_Impedimentum_ again," whistled the knight.  "Put a halter round her
neck, and sell her for a pot of beer."

"I'd rather put a halter round my own neck for good and all," said Hal,
his face reddening; but among other accomplishments of his position, he
had learnt to keep his temper, however indignant he felt.

"Well--she's a knight's daughter, and preferments will be plenty.
Thou'lt make me captain of the Pope's guard, fair son--there's no post I
should like better.  Or I might put up with an Italian earldom or the
like.  Honour would befit me quite as well as that old fellow, Prosper
Colonna; and the Badgers would well become the Pope's scarlet and yellow

The Badgers, it appeared, were in camp not far from Gravelines, whence
the Emperor was watching the conference between his uncle-in-law and his
chief enemy; and thence Fulford, who had a good many French
acquaintance, having once served under Francis the First, had come over
to see the sport.  Moreover, he contrived to attach himself to the
armourer's party, in a manner that either Alderman Headley himself, or
Tibble Steelman, would effectually have prevented; but which Kit
Smallbones had not sufficient moral weight to hinder, even if he had had
a greater dislike to being treated as a boon companion by a knight who
had seen the world, could appreciate good ale, and tell all manner of
tales of his experiences.

So the odd sort of kindred that the captain chose to claim with Stephen
Birkenholt was allowed, and in right of it, he was permitted to sleep in
the waggon; and thereupon his big raw-boned charger was found sharing
the fodder of the plump broad-backed cart horses, while he himself,
whenever sport was not going forward for him, or work for the armourers,
sat discussing with Kit the merits or demerits of the liquors of all
nations, either in their own yard or in some of the numerous drinking
booths that had sprung up around.

To no one was this arrangement so distasteful as to Quipsome Hal, who
felt himself in some sort the occasion of the intrusion, and yet was
quite unable to prevent it, while everything he said was treated as a
joke by his unwelcome father-in-law.  It was a coarse time, and Wolsey's
was not a refined or spiritual establishment, but it was decorous, and
Randall had such an affection and respect for the innocence of his
sister's young son, that he could not bear to have him exposed to the
company of one habituated to the licentiousness of the mercenary
soldier.  At first the jester hoped to remove the lads from the danger,
for the brief remainder of their stay, by making double exertion to
obtain places for them at any diversion which might be going on when
their day's work was ended, and of these, of course, there was a wide
choice, subordinate to the magnificent masquing of kings and queens.  On
the last midsummer evening, while their majesties were taking leave of
one another, a company of strolling players were exhibiting in an
extemporary theatre, and here Hal incited both the youths to obtain
seats.  The drama was on one of the ordinary and frequent topics of
that, as of all other times, and the dumb show and gestures were far
more effective than the words, so that even those who did not understand
the language of the comedians, who seemed to be Italians, could enter
into it, especially as it was interspersed with very expressive songs.

An old baron insists on betrothing his daughter and heiress to her
kinsman freshly knighted.  She is reluctant, weeps, and is threatened,
singing afterwards her despair, (of course she really was a black-eyed
boy).  That song was followed by a still more despairing one from the
baron's squire, and a tender interview between them followed.

Then came discovery, the baron descending as a thunderbolt, the
banishment of the squire, the lady driven at last to wed the young
knight, her weeping and bewailing herself under his ill-treatment, which
extended to pulling her about by the hair, the return of the lover,
notified by a song behind the scenes, a dangerously affectionate
meeting, interrupted by the husband, a fierce clashing of swords, mutual
slaughter by the two gentlemen, and the lady dying of grief on the top
of her lover.

Such was the argument of this tragedy, which Giles Headley pronounced to
be very dreary pastime, indeed he was amusing himself with an exchange
of comfits with a youth who sat next him all the time--for he had found
Stephen utterly deaf to aught but the tragedy, following every gesture
with eager eyes, lips quivering, and eyes filling at the strains of the
love songs, though they were in their native Italian, of which he
understood not a word.  He rose up with a heavy groan when all was over,
as if not yet disenchanted, and hardly answered when his uncle spoke to
him afterwards.  It was to ask whether the Dragon party were to return
at once to London, or to accompany the Court to Gravelines, where, it
had just been announced, the King intended to pay a visit to his nephew,
the Emperor.

Neither Stephen nor Giles knew, but when they reached their own quarters
they found that Smallbones had received an intimation that there might
be jousts, and that the offices of the armourers would be required.  He
was very busy packing up his tools, but loudly hilarious, and Sir John
Fulford, with a flask of wine beside him, was swaggering and shouting
orders to the men as though he were the head of the expedition.

Revelations come in strange ways.  Perhaps that Italian play might be
called Galeotto to Stephen Birkenholt.  It affected him all the more
because he was not distracted by the dialogue, but was only powerfully
touched by the music, and, in the gestures of the lovers, felt all the
force of sympathy.  It was to him like a kind of prophetic mirror,
revealing to him the true meaning of all he had ever felt for Dennet
Headley, and of his vexation and impatience at seeing her bestowed upon
a dull and indifferent lout like her kinsman, who not only was not good
enough for her, but did not even love her, or accept her as anything but
his title to the Dragon court.  He now thrilled and tingled from head to
foot with the perception that all this meant love--love to Dennet; and
in every act of the drama he beheld only himself, Giles, and Dennet.
Watching at first with a sweet fascination, his feelings changed, now to
strong yearning, now to hot wrath, and then to horror and dismay.  In
his troubled sleep after the spectacle, he identified himself with the
lover, sang, wooed, and struggled in his person, woke with a start of
relief, to find Giles snoring safely beside him, and the watch-dog on
his chest instead of an expiring lady.  He had not made unholy love to
sweet Dennet, nor imperilled her good name, nor slain his comrade.  Nor
was she yet wedded to that oaf Giles!  But she would be in a few weeks,
and then!  How was he to brook the sight, chained as he was to the
Dragon court--see Giles lord it over her, and all of them, see her
missing the love that was burning for her elsewhere.  Stephen lost his
boyhood on that evening, and, though force of habit kept him like
himself outwardly, he never was alone, without feeling dazed, and torn
in every direction at once.



  "Darest thou be so valiant as to play the coward with thy indenture,
  and to show it a fair pair of heels and run from it!"


Tidings came forth on the parting from the French King that the English
Court was about to move to Gravelines to pay a visit to the Emperor and
his aunt, the Duchess of Savoy.  As it was hoped that jousts might make
part of the entertainment, the attendance of the Dragon party was
required.  Giles was unfeignedly delighted at this extension of holiday,
Stephen felt that it deferred the day--would it be of strange joy or
pain?--of standing face to face with Dennet; and even Kit had come to
tolerate foreign parts more with Sir John Fulford to show him the way to
the best Flemish ale!

The knight took upon himself the conduct of the Dragons.  He understood
how to lead them by routes where all provisions and ale had not been
consumed; and he knew how to swagger and threaten so as to obtain the
best of liquor and provisions at each _kermesse_--at least so he said,
though it might be doubted whether the Flemings might not have been more
willing to yield up their stores to Kit's open, honest face and free

However, Fulford seemed to consider himself one with the party; and he
beguiled the way by tales of the doings of the Badgers in Italy and
Savoy, which were listened to with avidity by the lads, distracting
Stephen from the pain at his heart, and filling both with excitement.
They were to have the honour of seeing the Badgers at Gravelines, where
they were encamped outside the city to serve as a guard to the great
inclosure that was being made of canvas stretched on the masts of ships
to mark out the space for a great banquet and dance.

The weather broke however just as Henry, his wife and his sister,
entered Gravelines; it rained pertinaciously, a tempestuous wind blew
down the erection, and as there was no time to set it up again, the
sports necessarily took place in the castle and town hall.  There was no
occasion for the exercise of the armourer's craft, and as Charles had
forbidden the concourse of all save invited guests, everything was
comparatively quiet and dull, though the entertainment was on the most
liberal scale.  Lodgings were provided in the city at the Emperor's
expense, and wherever an Englishman was quartered each night, the
imperial officers brought a cast of fine manchet bread, two great silver
pots with wine, a pound of sugar, white and yellow candles, and a torch.
As Randall said, "Charles gave solid pudding where Francis gave empty

Smallbones and the two youths had very little to do, save to consume
these provisions and accept the hospitality freely offered to them at
the camp of the Badgers, where Smallbones and the Ancient of the troop
sat fraternising over big flagons of Flemish ale, which did not visibly
intoxicate the honest smith, but kept him in the dull and drowsy state,
which was his idea of the _dolce far niente_ of a holiday.  Meanwhile
the two youths were made much of by the warriors, Stephen's dexterity
with the bow and back-sword were shown off and lauded, Giles's strength
was praised, and all manner of new feats were taught them, all manner of
stories told them; and the shrinking of well-trained young citizens from
these lawless men, "full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,"
and some very truculent-looking, had given way to judicious flattery,
and to the attractions of adventure and of a free life, where wealth and
honour awaited the bold.

Stephen was told that the gentleman in him was visible, that he ought to
disdain the flat cap and blue gown, that here was his opportunity, and
that among the Badgers he would soon be so rich, as to wonder that he
had ever tolerated the greasy mechanical life of a base burgher.
Respect to his oaths to his master--Sir John laughed the scruple to
scorn; nay, if he were so tender, he could buy his absolution the first
time he had his pouch full of gold.

"What shall I do?" was the cry of Stephen's heart.  "My honour and my
oath.  They bind me.  _She_ would weep.  My master would deem me
ungrateful, Ambrose break his heart.  And yet who knows but I should do
worse if I stayed, I shall break my own heart if I do.  I shall not
see--I may forget.  No, no, never I but at least I shall never know the
moment when the lubber takes the jewel he knows not how to prize!
Marches--sieges--there shall I quell this wild beating!  I may die
there.  At least they will allay this present frenzy of my blood."

And he listened when Fulford and Will Marden, a young English man-at-
arms with whom he had made friends, concerted how he should meet them at
an inn--the sign of the Seven Stars--in Gravelines, and there exchange
his prentice's garb for the buff coat and corslet of a Badger, with the
Austrian black and yellow scarf.  He listened, but he had not promised.
The sense of duty to his master, the honour to his word, always recurred
like "first thoughts," though the longing to escape, the restlessness of
hopeless love, the youthful eagerness for adventure and freedom, swept
it aside again and again.

He had not seen his uncle since the evening of the comedy, for Hal had
travelled in the Cardinal's suite, and the amusements being all within
doors, jesters were much in request, as indeed Charles the Fifth was
curious in fools, and generally had at least three in attendance.
Stephen, moreover, always shrank from his uncle when acting
professionally.  He had learnt to love and esteem the _man_ during his
troubles, but this only rendered the sight of his buffoonery more
distressing, and as Randall had not provided himself with his home suit,
they were the more cut off from one another.  Thus there was all the
less to counteract or show the fallacy of Fulford's recruiting

The day had come on the evening of which Stephen was to meet Fulford and
Marden at the Seven Stars and give them his final answer, in time to
allow of their smuggling him out of the city, and sending him away into
the country, since Smallbones would certainly suspect him to be in the
camp, and as he was still an apprentice, it was possible, though not
probable, that the town magistrates might be incited to make search on
inquiry, as they were very jealous of the luring away of their
apprentices by the Free Companies, and moreover his uncle might move the
Cardinal and the King to cause measures to be taken for his recovery.

Ill at ease, Stephen wandered away from the hostel where Smallbones was
entertaining his friend, the Ancient.  He had not gone far down the
street when a familiar figure met his eye, no other than that of Lucas
Hansen, his brother's old master, walking along with a pack on his back.
Grown as Stephen was, the old man's recognition was as rapid as his
own, and there was a clasp of the hand, an exchange of greeting, while
Lucas eagerly asked after his dear pupil, Ambrose.

"Come in hither, and we can speak more at ease," said Lucas, leading the
way up the common staircase of a tall house, whose upper stories
overhung the street.  Up and up, Lucas led the way to a room in the high
peaked roof, looking out at the back.  Here Stephen recognised a press,
but it was not at work, only a young friar was sitting there engaged in
sewing up sheets so as to form a pamphlet.  Lucas spoke to him in
Flemish to explain his own return with the English prentice.

"Dost thou dwell here, sir?" asked Stephen.  "I thought Rotterdam was
thine home."

"Yea," said Lucas, "so it be, but I am sojourning here to aid in bearing
about the seed of the Gospel, for which I walk through these lands of
ours.  But tell me of thy brother, and of the little Moorish maiden?"

Stephen replied with an account of both Ambrose and Aldonza, and
likewise of Tibble Steelman, explaining how ill the last had been in the
winter, and that therefore he could not be with the party.

"I would I had a token to send him," said Lucas; "but I have nought here
that is not either in the Dutch or the French, and neither of those
tongues doth he understand.  But thy brother, the good Ambrose, can read
the Dutch.  Wilt thou carry him from me this fresh tractate, showing how
many there be that make light of the Apostle Paul's words not to do evil
that good may come?"

Stephen had been hearing rather listlessly, thinking how little the good
man suspected how doubtful it was that he should bear messages to
Ambrose.  Now, on that sore spot in his conscience, that sentence darted
like an arrow, the shaft finding "mark the archer little meant," and
with a start, not lost on Lucas, he exclaimed, "Saith the holy Saint
Paul that?"

"Assuredly, my son.  Brother Cornelis, who is one whose eyes have been
opened, can show you the very words, if thou hast any Latin."

Perhaps to gain time, Stephen assented, and the young friar, with a
somewhat inquisitive look, presently brought him the sentence, "_Et non
faciamus mala ut veniant bona_."

Stephen's Latin was not very fresh, and he hardly comprehended the
words, but he stood gazing with a frown of distress on his brow, which
made Lucas say, "My son, thou art sorely bestead.  Is there aught in
which a plain old man can help thee, for thy brother's sake?  Speak
freely.  Brother Cornelis knows not a word of English.  Dost thou owe
aught to any man?"

"Nay, nay--not that," said Stephen, drawn in his trouble and perplexity
to open his heart to this incongruous confidant, "but, sir, sir, which
be the worst to break my pledge to my master, or to run into a trial
which--which will last from day to day, and may be too much for me--yea,
and for another--at last?"

The colour, the trembling of limb, the passion of voice, revealed enough
to Lucas to make him say, in the voice of one who, dried up as he was,
had once proved the trial, "'Tis love, thou wouldst say?"

"Ay, sir," said Stephen, turning away, but in another moment bursting
forth, "I love my master's daughter, and she is to wed her cousin, who
takes her as her father's chattel!  I wist not why the world had grown
dark to me till I saw a comedy at Ardres, where, as in a mirror, 'twas
all set forth--yea, and how love was too strong for him and for her, and
how shame and death came thereof."

"Those players are good for nought but to wake the passions!" muttered

"Nay, methought they warned me," said Stephen.  "For, sir,"--he hid his
burning face in his hands as he leant on the back of a chair--"I wot
that she has ever liked me better, far better than him.  And scarce a
night have I closed an eye without dreaming it all, and finding myself
bringing evil on her, till I deemed 'twere better I never saw her more,
and left her to think of me as a forsworn runagate rather than see her
wedded only to be flouted--and maybe--do worse."

"Poor lad!" said Lucas; "and what wouldst thou do?"

"I have not pledged myself--but I said I would consider of--service
among Fulford's troop," faltered Stephen.

"Among those ruffians--godless, lawless men!" exclaimed Lucas.

"Yea, I know what you would say," returned Stephen, "but they are brave
men, better than you deem, sir."

"Were they angels or saints," said Lucas, rallying his forces, "thou
hast no right to join, them.  Thine oath fetters thee.  Thou hast no
right to break it and do a sure and certain evil to avoid one that may
never befall!  How knowst thou how it may be?  Nay, if the trial seem to
thee over great, thine apprenticeship will soon be at an end."

"Not for two years."

"Or thy master, if thou spakest the whole truth, would transfer thine
indentures.  He is a good man, and if it be as thou sayest, would not
see his child tried too sorely.  God will make a way for the tempted to
escape.  They need not take the devil's way."

"Sir," said Stephen, lifting up his head, "I thank you.  This was what I
needed.  I will tell Sir John Fulford that I ought never to have heeded

"Must thou see him again?"

"I must.  I am to give him his answer at the Seven Stars.  But fear not
me, Master Lucas, he shall not lead me away."  And Stephen took a
grateful leave of the little Dutchman, and charged himself with more
messages for Ambrose and Tibble than his overburdened spirit was likely
to retain.

Lucas went down the stairs with him, and as a sudden thought said at the
foot of them, "'Tis at the Seven Stars thou meetest this knight.  Take
an old man's counsel.  Taste no liquor there."

"I am no ale bibber," said Stephen.

"Nay, I deemed thee none--but heed my words--captains of landsknechts in
_kermesses_ are scarce to be trusted.  Taste not."

Stephen gave a sort of laugh at the precaution, and shook himself loose.
It was still an hour to the time of meeting, and the Ave-bell was
ringing.  A church door stood open, and for the first time since he had
been at Gravelines he felt that there would be the calm he needed to
adjust the conflict of his spirits, and comprehend the new situation, or
rather the recurrence to the old one.  He seemed to have recovered his
former self, and to be able to perceive that things might go on as
before, and his heart really leapt at finding he might return to the
sight of Dennet and Ambrose and all he loved.

His wishes were really that way; and Fulford's allurements had become
very shadowy when he made his way to the Seven Stars, whose vine-covered
window allowed many loud voices and fumes of beer and wine to escape
into the summer evening air.

The room was perhaps cleaner than an English one would have been, but it
was reeking with heat and odours, and the forest-bred youth was
unwilling to enter, but Fulford and two or three Badgers greeted him
noisily and called on him to partake of the supper they had ready

"No, sir knight, I thank you," said Stephen.  "I am bound for my
quarters, I came but to thank you for your goodness to me, and to bid
you farewell."

"And how as to thy pledge to join us, young man?" demanded Fulford

"I gave no pledge," said Stephen.  "I said I would consider of it."

"Faint-hearted! ha! ha!" and the English Badgers translated the word to
the Germans, and set them shouting with derision.

"I am not faint-hearted," said Stephen; "but I will not break mine oath
to my master."

"And thine oath to me?  Ha!" said Fulford.

"I sware you no oath, I gave you no word," said Stephen.

"Ha!  Thou darest give me the lie, base prentice.  Take that!"

And therewith he struck Stephen a crushing blow on the head, which
felled him to the ground.  The host and all the company, used to pot-
house quarrels, and perhaps playing into his hands, took little heed;
Stephen was dragged insensible into another room, and there the Badgers
began hastily to divest him of his prentice's gown, and draw his arms
into a buff coat.

Fulford had really been struck with his bravery, and knew besides that
his skill in the armourer's craft would be valuable, so that it had been
determined beforehand that he should--by fair means or foul--leave the
Seven Stars a Badger.

"By all the powers of hell, you have struck too hard, sir.  He is sped,"
said Marden anxiously.

"Ass! tut!" said Fulford.  "Only enough to daze him till he be safe in
our quarters--and for that the sooner the better.  Here, call Anton to
take his heels.  We'll get him forth now as a fellow of our own."

"Hark!  What's that?"

"Gentlemen," said the host hurrying in, "here be some of the gentlemen
of the English Cardinal, calling for a nephew of one of them, who they
say is in this house."

With an imprecation, Fulford denied all connection with gentlemen of the
Cardinal; but there was evidently an invasion, and in another moment,
several powerful-looking men in the crimson and black velvet of Wolsey's
train had forced their way into the chamber, and the foremost, seeing
Stephen's condition at a glance, exclaimed loudly, "Thou villain!
traitor! kidnapper!  This is thy work."

"Ha! ha!" shouted Fulford, "whom have we here?  The Cardinal's fool a
masquing!  Treat us to a caper, quipsome sir?"

"I'm more like to treat you to the gyves," returned Randall.  "Away with
you!  The watch are at hand.  Were it not for my wife's sake, they
should bear you off to the city jail; the Emperor should know how you
fill your ranks."

It was quite true.  The city-guard were entering at the street door, and
the host hurried Fulford and his men, swearing and raging, out at a back
door provided for such emergencies.  Stephen was beginning to recover by
this time.  His uncle knelt down, took his head on his shoulder, and
Lucas washed off the blood and administered a drop of wine.  His first
words were:

"Was it Giles?  Where is she?"

"Still going over the play!" thought Lucas.  "Nay, nay, lad.  'Twas one
of the soldiers who played thee this scurvy trick!  All's well now.
Thou wilt soon be able to quit this place."

"I remember now," said Stephen, "Sir John said I gave him the lie when I
said I had given no pledge.  But I had not!"

"Thou hast been a brave fellow, and better broken head than broken
troth," said his uncle.

"But how came you here," asked Stephen, "in the nick of time?"

It was explained that Lucas, not doubting Stephen's resolution, but
quite aware of the tricks of landsknecht captains with promising
recruits in view, had gone first in search of Smallbones, but had found
him and the Ancient so deeply engaged in potations from the liberal
supply of the Emperor to all English guests, that there was no getting
him apart, and he was too much muddled to comprehend if he could have
been spoken with.

Lucas then, in desperation, betook himself to the convent where Wolsey
was magnificently lodged.  Ill May Day had made him, as well as others,
well acquainted with the relationship between Stephen and Randall,
though he was not aware of the further connection with Fulford.  He
hoped, even if unable to see Randall, to obtain help on behalf of an
English lad in danger, and happily he arrived at a moment when State
affairs were going on, and Randall was refreshing himself by a stroll in
the cloister.  When Lucas had made him understand the situation, his
dismay was only equalled by his promptitude.  He easily obtained the
loan of one of the splendid suits of scarlet and crimson, guarded with
black velvet a hand broad, which were worn by the Cardinal's secular
attendants--for he was well known by this time in the household to be
very far from an absolute fool, and indeed had done many a good turn to
his comrades.  Several of the gentlemen, indignant at the threatened
outrage on a young Englishman, and esteeming the craftsmen of the
Dragon, volunteered to accompany him, and others warned the watch.

There was some difficulty still, for the burgher guards, coming up
puffing and blowing, wanted to carry off the victim and keep him in ward
to give evidence against the mercenaries, whom they regarded as a sort
of wolves, so that even the Emperor never durst quarter them within one
of the cities.  The drawn swords of Randall's friends however settled
that matter, and Stephen, though still dizzy, was able to walk.  Thus
leaning on his uncle, he was escorted back to the hostel.

"The villain!" the jester said on the way, "I mistrusted him, but I
never thought he would have abused our kindred in this fashion.  I would
fain have come down to look after thee, nevvy, but these kings and
queens are troublesome folk.  The Emperor--he is a pale, shame-faced,
solemn lad.  Maybe he museth, but he had scarce a word to say for
himself.  Our Hal tried clapping on the shoulder, calling him fair coz,
and the like, in his hearty fashion.  Behold, what doth he but turn
round with such a look about the long lip of him as my Lord of
Buckingham might have if his scullion made free with him.  His aunt, the
Duchess of Savoy, is a merry dame, and a wise!  She and our King can
talk by the ell, but as for the Emperor, he speaketh to none willingly
save Queen Katharine, who is of his own stiff Spanish humour, and he
hath eyes for none save Queen Mary, who would have been his empress had
high folk held to their word.  And with so tongue--tied a host, and the
rain without, what had the poor things to do by way of disporting
themselves with but a show of fools.  I've had to go through every trick
and quip I learnt when I was with old Nat Fire-eater.  And I'm stiffer
in the joints and weightier in the heft than I was in those days when I
slept in the fields, and fasted more than ever Holy Church meant; But,
heigh ho!  I ought to be supple enough after the practice of these three
days.  Moreover, if it could loose a fool's tongue to have a king and
queen for interpreters, I had them--for there were our Harry and Moll
catching at every gibe as fast as my brain could hatch it, and rendering
it into French as best thy might, carping and quibbling the while
underhand at one another's renderings, and the Emperor sitting by in his
black velvet, smiling about as much as a felon at the hangman's jests.
All his poor fools moreover, and the King's own, ready to gnaw their
baubles for envy!  That was the only sport I had!  I'm wearier than if
I'd been plying Smallbones' biggest hammer.  The worst of it is that my
Lord Cardinal is to stay behind and go on to Bruges as ambassador, and I
with him, so thou must bear my greetings to thy naunt, and tell her I'm
keeping from picking up a word of French or Flemish lest this same
Charles should take a fancy to me and ask me of my master, who would
give away his own head to get the Pope's fool's cap."

"_Wer da?  Qui va la_?" asked a voice, and the summer twilight revealed
two figures with cloaks held high and drooping Spanish hats; one of
whom, a slender, youthful figure, so far as could be seen under his
cloak, made inquiries, first in Flemish, then in French, as to what
ailed the youth.  Lucas replied in the former tongue, and one of the
Englishmen could speak French.  The gentleman seemed much concerned,
asked if the watch had been at hand, and desired Lucas to assure the
young Englishman that the Emperor would be much distressed at the
tidings, asked where he was lodged, and passed on.

"Ah ha!" muttered the jester, "if my ears deceive me now, I'll never
trust them again!  Mynheer Charles knows a few more tricks than he is
fain to show off in royal company.  Come on, Stevie!  I'll see thee to
thy bed.  Old Kit is too far gone to ask after thee.  In sooth, I trow
that my sweet father-in-law set his Ancient to nail him to the wine pot.
And Master Giles I saw last with some of the grooms.  I said nought to
him, for I trow thou wouldst not have him know thy plight!  I'll be with
thee in the morning ere thou partest, if kings, queens, and cardinals
roar themselves hoarse for the Quipsome."

With this promise Hal Randall bestowed his still dulled and half-stunned
nephew carefully on the pallet provided by the care of the purveyors.
Stephen slept dreamily at first, then soundly, and woke at the sound of
the bells of Gravelines to the sense that a great crisis in his life was
over, a strange wild dream of evil dispelled, and that he was to go home
to see, hear, and act as he could, with a heartache indeed, but with the
resolve to do his best as a true and honest man.

Smallbones was already afoot--for the start for Calais was to be made on
that very day.  The smith was fully himself again, and was bawling for
his subordinates, who had followed his example in indulging in the good
cheer, and did not carry it off so easily.  Giles, rather silent and
surly, was out of bed, shouting answers to Smallbones, and calling on
Stephen to truss his points.  He was in a mood not easy to understand,
he would hardly speak, and never noticed the marks of the fray on
Stephen's temple--only half hidden by the dark curly hair.  This was of
course a relief, but Stephen could not help suspecting that he had been
last night engaged in some revel about which he desired no inquiries.

Randall came just as the operation was completed.  He was in a good deal
of haste, having to restore the groom's dress he wore by the time the
owner had finished the morning toilet of the Lord Cardinal's palfreys.
He could not wait to inquire how Stephen had contrived to fall into the
hands of Fulford, his chief business being to put under safe charge a
bag of coins, the largesse from the various princes and nobles whom he
had diverted--ducats, crowns, dollars, and angels all jingling
together--to be bestowed wherever Perronel kept her store, a matter
which Hal was content not to know, though the pair cherished a hope some
day to retire on it from fooling.

"Thou art a good lad, Steve," said Hal.  "I'm right glad thou leavest
this father of mine behind thee.  I would not see thee such as he--no,
not for all the gold we saw on the Frenchmen's backs."

This was the jester's farewell, but it was some time before the waggon
was under way, for the carter and one of the smiths were missing, and
were only at noon found in an alehouse, both very far gone in liquor,
and one with a black eye.  Kit discoursed on sobriety in the most
edifying manner, as at last he drove heavily along the street, almost
the last in the baggage train of the king and queens--but still in time
to be so included in it so as to save all difficulty at the gates.  It
was, however, very late in the evening when they reached Calais, so that
darkness was coming on as they waited their turn at the drawbridge, with
a cart full of scullions and pots and pans before them, and a waggon-
load of tents behind.  The warders in charge of the gateway had orders
to count over all whom they admitted, so that no unauthorised person
might enter that much-valued fortress.  When at length the waggon rolled
forward into the shadow of the great towered gateway on the outer side
of the moat, the demand was made, who was there?  Giles had always
insisted, as leader of the party, on making reply to such questions, and
Smallbones waited for his answer, but none was forthcoming.  Therefore
Kit shouted in reply, "Alderman Headley's wain and armourers.  Two
Journeymen, one prentice, two smiths, two waggoners."

"Seven!" rejoined the warder.  "One--two--three--four--five.  Ha! your
company seems to be lacking."

"Giles must have ridden on," suggested Stephen, while Kit, growling
angrily, called on the lazy fellow, Will Wherry, to wake and show
himself.  But the officials were greatly hurried, and as long as no
dangerous person got into Calais, it mattered little to them who might
be left outside, so they hurried on the waggon into the narrow street.

It was well that it was a summer night, for lodgings there were none.
Every hostel was full and all the houses besides.  The earlier comers
assured Kit that it was of no use to try to go on.  The streets up to
the wharf were choked, and he might think himself lucky to have his
waggon to sleep in.  But the horses!  And food?  However, there was one
comfort--English tongues answered, if it was only with denials.

Kit's store of travelling money was at a low ebb, and it was nearly
exhausted by the time, at an exorbitant price, he had managed to get a
little hay and water for the horses, and a couple of loaves and a haunch
of bacon among the five hungry men.  They were quite content to believe
that Master Giles had ridden on before and secured better quarters and
viands, nor could they much regret the absence of Will Wherry's wide

Kit called Stephen to council in the morning.  His funds would not
permit waiting for the missing ones, if he were to bring home any
reasonable proportion of gain to his master.  He believed that Master
Headley would by no means risk the whole party loitering at Calais, when
it was highly probable that Giles might have joined some of the other
travellers, and embarked by himself.

After all, Kit's store had to be well-nigh expended before the horses,
waggon, and all, could find means to encounter the miseries of the
transit to Dover.  Then, glad as he was to be on his native soil, his
spirits sank lower and lower as the waggon creaked on under the hot sun
towards London.  He had actually brought home only four marks to make
over to his master; and although he could show a considerable score
against the King and various nobles, these debts were not apt to be
promptly discharged, and what was worse, two members of his party and
one horse were missing.  He little knew how narrow an escape he had had
of losing a third!



  "What shall be the maiden's fate?
  Who shall be the maiden's mate?"

No Giles Headley appeared to greet the travellers, though Kit Smallbones
had halted at Canterbury, to pour out entreaties to Saint Thomas, and
the vow of a steel and gilt reliquary of his best workmanship to contain
the old shoe, which a few years previously had so much disgusted Erasmus
and his companion.

Poor old fellow, he was too much crest-fallen thoroughly to enjoy even
the gladness of his little children; and his wife made no secret of her
previous conviction that he was too dunderheaded not to run into some
coil, when she was not there to look after him.  The alderman was more
merciful.  Since there had been no invasion from Salisbury, he had
regretted the not having gone himself to Ardres, and he knew pretty well
that Kit's power lay more in his arms than in his brain.  He did not
wonder at the small gain, nor at the having lost sight of the young man,
and confidently expected the lost ones soon to appear.

As to Dennet, her eyes shone quietly, and she took upon herself to send
down to let Mistress Randall know of her nephew's return, and invite her
to supper to hear the story of his doings.  The girl did not look at all
like a maiden uneasy about her lost lover, but much more like one
enjoying for the moment the immunity from a kind of burthen; and, as she
smiled, called for Stephen's help in her little arrangements, and
treated him in the friendly manner of old times, he could not but wonder
at the panic that had overpowered him for a time like a fever of the

There was plenty to speak of in the glories of the Field of the Cloth of
Gold, and the transactions with the knights and nobles; and Stephen held
his peace as to his adventure, but Dennet's eyes were sharper than
Kit's.  She spied the remains of the bruise under his black curly hair;
and while her father and Tib were unravelling the accounts from Kit's
brain and tally-sticks, she got the youth out into the gallery, and
observed, "So thou hast a broken head.  See here are grandmother's lily-
leaves in strong waters.  Let me lay one on for thee.  There, sit down
on the step, then I can reach."

"'Tis well-nigh whole now, sweet mistress," said Stephen, complying
however, for it was too sweet to have those little fingers busy about
him, for the offer to be declined.

"How gatst thou the blow?" asked Dennet.  "Was it at single-stick?
Come, thou mayst tell me.  'Twas in standing up for some one."

"Nay, mistress, I would it had been."

"Thou hast been in trouble," she said, leaning on the baluster above
him.  "Or did ill men set on thee?"

"That's the nearest guess," said Stephen.  "'Twas that tall father of
mine aunt's, the fellow that came here for armour, and bought poor
Master Michael's sword."

"And sliced the apple on thine hand.  Ay?"

"He would have me for one of his Badgers."

"Thee!  Stephen!"  It was a cry of pain as well as horror.

"Yea, mistress; and when I refused, the fellow dealt me a blow, and laid
me down senseless, to bear me off willy nilly, but that good old Lucas
Hansen brought mine uncle to mine aid--"

Dennet clasped her hands.  "O Stephen, Stephen!  Now I know how good the
Lord is.  Wot ye, I asked of Tibble to take me daily to Saint Faith's to
crave of good Saint Julian to have you all in his keeping, and saith he
on the way, `Methinks, mistress, our dear Lord would hear you if you
spake to Him direct, with no go-between.'  I did as he bade me, Stephen,
I went to the high Altar, and prayed there, and Tibble went with me, and
lo, now, He hath brought you back safe.  We will have a mass of
thanksgiving on the very morn."

Stephen's heart could not but bound, for it was plain enough for whom
the chief force of these prayers had been offered.

"Sweet mistress," he said, "they have availed me indeed.  Certes, they
warded me in the time of sore trial and temptation."

"Nay," said Dennet, "thou _couldst_ not have longed to go away from
hence with those ill men who live by slaying and plundering?"

The present temptation was to say that he had doubted whether this
course would not have been for the best both for himself and for her;
but he recollected that Giles might be at the gate, and if so, he should
feel as if he had rather have bitten out his tongue than have let Dennet
know the state of the case, so he only answered--

"There be sorer temptations in the world for us poor rogues than little
home-biding house crickets like thee wot of, mistress.  Well that ye can
pray for us without knowing all!"

Stephen had never consciously come so near lovemaking, and his honest
face was all one burning glow with the suppressed feeling, while Dennet
lingered till the curfew warned them of the lateness of the hour, both
with a strange sense of undefined pleasure in the being together in the
summer twilight.

Day after day passed on with no news of Giles or Will Wherry.  The
alderman grew uneasy, and sent Stephen to ask his brother to write to
Randall, or to some one else in Wolsey's suite, to make inquiries at
Bruges.  But Ambrose was found to have gone abroad in the train of Sir
Thomas More, and nothing was heard till their return six weeks later,
when Ambrose brought home a small packet which had been conveyed to him
through one of the Emperor's suite.  It was tied up with a long tough
pale wisp of hair, evidently from the mane or tail of some Flemish
horse, and was addressed, "To Master Ambrose Birkenholt, menial clerk to
the most worshipful Sir Thomas More, Knight, Under Sheriff of the City
of London.  These greeting--"

Within, when Ambrose could open the missive, was another small parcel,
and a piece of brown coarse paper, on which was scrawled--

"Good Ambrose Birkenholt,--I pray thee to stand, my friend, and let all
know whom it may concern, that when this same billet comes to hand, I
shall be far on the march to High Germany, with a company of lusty
fellows in the Emperor's service.  They be commanded by the good knight,
Sir John Fulford.

"If thou canst send tidings to my mother, bid her keep her heart up, for
I shall come back a captain, full of wealth and honour, and that will be
better than hammering for life--or being wedded against mine own will.
There never was troth plight between my master's daughter and me, and my
time is over, so I be quit with them, and I thank my master for his
goodness.  They shall all hear of me some of these days.  Will Wherry is
my groom, and commends him to his mother.  And so, commending thee and
all the rest to Our Lady and the saints,

"Thine to command,

"Giles Headley,

"_Man-at-Arms in the Honourable Company of Sir John Fulford, Knight_."

On a separate strip was written--

"Give this packet to the little Moorish maid, and tell her that I will
bring her better by and by, and mayhap make her a knight's lady; but on
thy life, say nought to any other."

It was out now!  Ambrose's head was more in Sir Thomas's books than in
real life at all times, or he would long ago have inferred something--
from the jackdaw's favourite phrase--from Giles's modes of haunting his
steps, and making him the bearer of small tokens--an orange, a simnel
cake, a bag of walnuts or almonds to Mistress Aldonza, and of the
smiles, blushes, and thanks with which she greeted them.  Nay, had she
not burst into tears and entreated to be spared when Lady More wanted to
make a match between her and the big porter, and had not her distress
led Mistress Margaret to appeal to her father, who had said he should as
soon think of wedding the silver-footed Thetis to Polyphemus.  "Tilley
valley!  Master More," the lady had answered, "will all your fine pagan
gods hinder the wench from starving on earth, and leading apes in hell."

Margaret had answered that Aldonza should never do the first, and Sir
Thomas had gravely said that he thought those black eyes would lead many
a man on earth before they came to the latter fate.

Ambrose hid the parcel for her deep in his bosom before he asked
permission of his master to go to the Dragon court with the rest of the

"He always was an unmannerly cub," said Master Headley, as he read the
letter.  "Well, I've done my best to make a silk purse of a sow's ear!
I've done my duty by poor Robert's son, and if he will be such a fool as
to run after blood and wounds, I have no more to say!  Though 'tis pity
of the old name!  Ha! what's this?  `Wedded against my will--no troth
plight.'  Forsooth, I thought my young master was mighty slack.  He hath
some other matter in his mind, hath he?  Run into some coil mayhap with
a beggar wench!  Well, we need not be beholden to him.  Ha, Dennet, my

Dennet screwed up her little mouth, and looked very demure, but she
twinkled her bright eyes, and said, "My heart will not break, sir; I am
in no haste to be wed."

Her father pinched her cheek and said she was a silly wench; but perhaps
he marked the dancing step with which the young mistress went about her
household cares, and how she was singing to herself songs that certainly
were not "Willow! willow!"

Ambrose had no scruple in delivering to Aldonza the message and token,
when he overtook her on the stairs of the house at Chelsea, carrying up
a lapful of roses to the still-room, where Dame Alice More was rejoicing
in setting her step-daughters to housewifely tasks.

There came a wonderful illumination and agitation over the girl's
usually impassive features, giving all that they needed to make them
surpassingly beautiful.

"Woe is me!" was, however, her first exclamation.  "That he should have
given up all for me!  Oh! if I had thought it!"  But while she spoke as
if she were shocked and appalled, her eyes belied her words.  They shone
with the first absolute certainty of love, and there was no realising as
yet the years of silent waiting and anxiety that must go by, nay,
perhaps an entire lifetime of uncertainty of her lover's truth or
untruth, life or death.

Dame Alice called her, and in a rambling, maundering way, charged her
with loitering and gadding with the young men; and Margaret saw by her
colour and by her eyes that some strange thing had happened to her.
Margaret had, perhaps, some intuition; for was not her heart very tender
towards a certain young barrister by name Roper whom her father doubted
as yet, because of his Lutheran inclinations.  By and by she discovered
that she needed Aldonza to comb out her long dark hair, and ere long,
she had heard all the tale of the youth cured by the girl's father, and
all his gifts, and how Aldonza deemed him too great and too good for
her, (poor Giles!) though she knew she should never do more than look up
to him with love and gratitude from afar.  And she never so much as
dreamt that he would cast an eye on her save in kindness.  Oh yes, she
knew what he had taught the daw to say, but then she was a child, she
durst not deem it more.  And Margaret More was more kind and eager than
worldly wise, and she encouraged Aldonza to watch and wait, promised
protection from all enforced suits and suitors, and gave assurances of
shelter as her own attendant as long as the girl should need it.

Master Headley, with some sighing and groaning, applied himself to write
to the mother at Salisbury what had become of her son; but he had only
spent one evening over the trying task, when just as the supper bell was
ringing, with Master Hope and his wife as guests, there were horses'
feet in the court, and Master Tiptoff appeared, with a servant on
another horse, which carried besides a figure in camlet, on a pillion.
No sooner was this same figure lifted from her steed and set down on the
steps, while the master of the house and his daughter came out to greet
her, than she began, "Master Alderman Headley, I am here to know what
you have done with my poor son!"

"Alack, good cousin!"

"Alack me no alacks," she interrupted, holding up her riding rod.  "I'll
have no dissembling, there hath been enough of that, Giles Headley.
Thou hast sold him, soul and body, to one of yon cruel, bloodthirsty
plundering, burning captains, that the poor child may be slain and
murthered!  Is this the fair promises you made to his father--wiling him
away from his poor mother, a widow, with talking of teaching him the
craft, and giving him your daughter!  My son, Tiptoff here, told me the
spousal was delayed and delayed, and he doubted whether it would ever
come off, but I thought not of this sending him beyond seas, to make
merchandise of him.  And you call yourself an alderman!  The gown should
be stript off the back of you, and shall be, if there be any justice in
London for a widow woman."

"Nay, cousin, you have heard some strange tale," said Master Headley,
who, much as he would have dreaded the attack beforehand, faced it the
more calmly and manfully because the accusation was so outrageous.

"Ay, so I told her," began her son-in-law, "but she hath been neither to
have nor to hold since the--"

"And how should I be to have or to hold by a nincompoop like thee," she
said, turning round on him, "that would have me sit down and be content
forsooth, when mine only son is kidnapped to be sold to the Turks or to
work in the galleys, for aught I know."

"Mistress!" here Master Hope's voice came in, "I would counsel you to
speak less loud, and hear before you accuse.  We of the City of London
know Master Alderman Headley too well to hear him railed against."

"Ah! you're all of a piece," she began; but by this time Master Tiptoff
had managed at least to get her into the hall, and had exchanged words
enough with the alderman to assure himself that there was an
explanation, nay, that there was a letter from Giles himself.  This the
indignant mother presently was made to understand--and as the alderman
had borrowed the letter in order to copy it for her, it was given to
her.  She could not read, and would trust no one but her son-in-law to
read it to her.  "Yea, you have it very pat," she said, "but how am I to
be assured 'tis not all writ here to hoodwink a poor woman like me."

"'Tis Giles's hand," averred Tiptoff.

"And if you will," added the alderman, with wonderful patience, "to-
morrow you may speak with the youth who received it.  Come, sit down and
sup with us, and then you shall learn from Smallbones how this mischance
befel, all from my sending two young heads together, and one who, though
a good fellow, could not hold all in rule."

"Ay--you've your reasons for anything," she muttered, but being both
weary and hungry, she consented to eat and drink, while Tiptoff, who was
evidently ashamed of her violence, and anxious to excuse it, managed to
explain that a report had been picked up at Romsey, by a bare-footed
friar from Salisbury, that young Giles Headley had been seen at Ghent by
one of the servants of a wool merchant, riding with a troop of Free
Companions in the Emperor's service.  All the rest was deduced from this
intelligence by the dame's own imagination.

After supper she was invited to interrogate Kit and Stephen, and her
grief and anxiety found vent in fierce scolding at the misrule which had
permitted such a villain as Fulford to be haunting and tempting poor
fatherless lads.  Master Headley had reproached poor Kit for the same
thing, but he could only represent that Giles, being a freeman, was no
longer under his authority.  However, she stormed on, being absolutely
convinced that her son's evasion was every one's fault but his own.  Now
it was the alderman for misusing him, overtasking the poor child, and
deferring the marriage, now it was that little pert poppet, Dennet, who
had flouted him, now it was the bad company he had been led into--the
poor babe who had been bred to godly ways.

The alderman was really sorry for her, and felt himself to blame so far
as that he had shifted the guidance of the expedition to such an
insufficient head as poor Smallbones, so he let her rail on as much as
she would, till the storm exhausted itself, and she settled into the
trust that Giles would soon grow weary and return.  The good man felt
bound to show her all hospitality, and the civilities to country cousins
were in proportion to the rarity of their visits.  So Mrs Headley
stayed on after Tiptoff's return to Salisbury, and had the best view
feasible of all the pageants and diversions of autumn.  She saw some
magnificent processions of clergy, she was welcomed at a civic banquet
and drank of the loving cup, and she beheld the Lord Mayor's Show in all
its picturesque glory of emblazoned barges on the river.  In fact, she
found the position of denizen of an alderman's household so very
agreeable that she did her best to make it a permanency.  Nay, Dennet
soon found that she considered herself to be waiting there and keeping
guard till her son's return should establish her there, and that she
viewed the girl already as a daughter--for which Dennet was by no means
obliged to her!  She lavished counsel on her hostess, found fault with
the maidens, criticised the cookery, walked into the kitchen and still-
room with assistance and directions, and even made a strong effort to
possess herself of the keys.

It must be confessed that Dennet was saucy!  It was her weapon of self-
defence, and she considered herself insulted in her own house.

There she stood, exalted on a tall pair of pattens before the stout
oaken table in the kitchen where a glowing fire burned; pewter, red and
yellow earthenware, and clean scrubbed trenchers made a goodly show, a
couple of men-cooks and twice as many scullions obeyed her behests--only
the superior of the two first ever daring to argue a point with her.
There she stood, in her white apron, with sleeves turned up, daintily
compounding her mince-meat for Christmas, when in stalked Mrs Headley
to offer her counsel and aid--but this was lost in a volley of barking
from the long-backed, bandy-legged, turnspit dog, which was awaiting its
turn at the wheel, and which ran forward, yapping with malign intentions
towards the dame's scarlet-hosed ankles.

She shook her petticoats at him, but Dennet tittered even while
declaring that Tray hurt nobody.  Mrs Headley reviled the dog, and then
proceeded to advise Dennet that she should chop her citron finer.
Dennet made answer "that father liked a good stout piece of it."
Mistress Headley offered to take the chopper and instruct her how to
compound all in the true Sarum style.

"Grammercy, mistress, but we follow my grand-dame's recipe!" said
Dennet, grasping her implement firmly.

"Come, child, be not above taking a lesson from thine elders!  Where's
the goose?  What?" as the girl looked amazed, "where hast thou lived not
to know that a live goose should be bled into the mince-meat?"

"I have never lived with barbarous, savage folk," said Dennet--and
therewith she burst into an irrepressible fit of laughter, trying in
vain to check it, for a small and mischievous elf, freshly promoted to
the office of scullion, had crept up and pinned a dish-cloth to the
substantial petticoats, and as Mistress Headley whisked round to see
what was the matter, like a kitten after its tail, it followed her like
a train, while she rushed to box the ears of the offender, crying:

"You set him on, you little saucy vixen!  I saw it in your eyes.  Let
the rascal be scourged."

"Not so," said Dennet, with prim mouth and laughing eyes.  "Far be it
from me!  But 'tis ever the wont of the kitchen, when those come there
who have no call thither."

Mistress Headley flounced away, dish-cloth and all, to go whimpering to
the alderman with her tale of insults.  She trusted that her cousin
would give the pert wench a good beating.  She was not a whit too old
for it.

"How oft did you beat Giles, good kinswoman?" said Dennet demurely, as
she stood by her father.

"Whisht, whisht, child," said her father, "this may not be!  I cannot
have my guest flouted."

"If she act as our guest, I will treat her with all honour and
courtesy," said the maiden; "but when she comes where we look not for
guests, there is no saying what the black guard may take it on them to

Master Headley was mischievously tickled at the retort, and not without
hope that it might offend his kinswoman into departing; but she
contented herself with denouncing all imaginable evils from Dennet's
ungoverned condition, with which she was prevented in her beneficence
from interfering by the father's foolish fondness.  He would rue the

Meantime if the alderman's peace on one side was disturbed by his
visitor, on the other, suitors for Dennet's hand gave him little rest.
She was known to be a considerable heiress, and though Mistress Headley
gave every one to understand that there was a contract with Giles, and
that she was awaiting his return, this did not deter more wooers than
Dennet ever knew of, from making proposals to her father.  Jasper Hope
was offered, but he was too young, and besides, was a mercer--and Dennet
and her father were agreed that her husband must go on with the trade.
Then there was a master-armourer, but he was a widower with sons and
daughters as old as Dennet, and she shook her head and laughed at the
bare notion.  There also came a young knight who would have turned the
Dragon court into a tilt-yard, and spent all the gold that long years of
prudent toil had amassed.

If Mistress Headley deemed each denial the result of her vigilance for
her son's interests, she was the more impelled to expatiate on the folly
of leaving a maid of sixteen to herself, to let the household go to rack
and ruin; while as to the wench, she might prank herself in her own
conceit, but no honest man would soon look at her for a wife, if her
father left her to herself, without giving her a good stepmother, or at
least putting a kinswoman in authority over her.

The alderman was stung.  He certainly had warmed a snake on his hearth,
and how was he to be rid of it?  He secretly winked at the resumption of
a forge fire that had been abandoned, because the noise and smoke
incommoded the dwelling-house, and Kit Smallbones hammered his loudest
there, when the guest might be taking her morning nap; but this had no
effect in driving her away, though it may have told upon her temper; and
good-humoured Master Headley was harassed more than he had ever been in
his life.

"It puts me past my patience," said he, turning into Tibble's special
workshop one afternoon.  "Here hath Mistress Hillyer of the Eagle been
with me full of proposals that I would give my poor wench to that
scapegrace lad of hers, who hath been twice called to account before the
guild, but who now, forsooth, is to turn over a new leaf."

"So I wis would the Dragon under him," quoth Tibble.

"I told her 'twas not to be thought of, and then what does the dame but
sniff the air and protest that I had better take heed, for there may not
be so many who would choose a spoilt, misruled maid like mine.  There's
the work of yonder Sarum woman.  I tell thee, Tib, never was bull in the
ring more baited than am I."

"Yea, sir," returned Tib, "there'll be no help for it till our young
mistress be wed."

"Ay! that's the rub!  But I've not seen one whom I could mate with her--
let alone one who would keep up the old house.  Giles would have done
that passably, though he were scarce worthy of the wench, even
without--" An expressive shake of the head denoted the rest.  "And now
if he ever come home at all, 'twill be as a foul-mouthed, plundering
scarecrow, like the kites of men-at-arms, who, if they lose not their
lives, lose all that makes an honest life in the Italian wars.  I would
have writ to Edmund Burgess, but I hear his elder brother is dead, and
he is driving a good traffic at York.  Belike too he is wedded."

"Nay," said Tibble, "I could tell of one who would be true and faithful
to your worship, and a loving husband to Mistress Dennet, ay, and would
be a master that all of us would gladly cleave to.  For he is godly
after his lights, and sound-hearted, and wots what good work be, and can
do it."

"That were a son-in-law, Tib!  Of who speakest thou?  Is he of good

"Yea, of gentle birth and breeding."

"And willing?  But that they all are.  Wherefore then hath he never made

"He hath not yet his freedom."

"Who be it then?"

"He that made this elbow-piece for the suit that Queen Margaret ordered
for the little King of Scots," returned Tibble, producing an exquisite
miniature bit of workmanship.

"Stephen Birkenholt!  The fool's nephew!  Mine own prentice!"

"Yea, and the best worker in steel we have yet turned out.  Since the
sickness of last winter hath stiffened my joints and dimmed mine eyes, I
had rather trust dainty work such as this to him than to myself."

"Stephen!  Tibble, hath he set thee on to this?"

"No, sir.  We both know too well what becometh us; but when you were
casting about for a mate for my young mistress, I could not but think
how men seek far, and overlook the jewel at their feet."

"He hath nought!  That brother of his will give him nought."

"He hath what will be better for the old Dragon and for your worship's
self, than many a bag of gold, sir."

"Thou sayst truly there, Tib.  I know him so far that he would not be
the ingrate Jack to turn his back on the old master or the old man.  He
is a good lad.  But--but--I've ever set my face against the prentice
wedding the master's daughter, save when he is of her own house, like
Giles.  Tell me, Tibble, deemst thou that the varlet hath dared to lift
his eyes to the lass?"

"I wot nothing of love!" said Tibble, somewhat grimly.  "I have seen
nought.  I only told your worship where a good son and a good master
might be had.  Is it your pleasure, sir, that we take in a freight of
sea-coal from Simon Collier for the new furnace?  His is purest, if a
mark more the chaldron."

He spoke as if he put the recommendation of the son and master on the
same line as that of the coal.  Mr Headley answered the business
matters absently, and ended by saying he would think on the council.

In Tibble's workroom, with the clatter of a forge close to them, they
had not heard a commotion in the court outside.  Dennet had been
standing on the steps cleaning her tame starling's cage, when Mistress
Headley had suddenly come out on the gallery behind her, hotly scolding
her laundress, and waving her cap to show how ill-starched it was.

The bird had taken fright and flown to the tree in the court; Dennet
hastened in pursuit, but all the boys and children in the court rushing
out after her, her blandishments had no chance, and "Goldspot" had
fluttered on to the gateway.  Stephen had by this time come out, and
hastened to the gate, hoping to turn the truant back from escaping into
Cheapside; but all in vain, it flew out while the market was in full
career, and he could only call back to her that he would not lose sight
of it.

Out he hurried, Dennet waiting in a sort of despair by the tree for a
time that seemed to her endless, until Stephen reappeared under the
gate, with a signal that all was well.  She darted to meet him.  "Yea,
mistress, here he is, the little caitiff.  He was just knocked down by
this country lad's cap--happily not hurt.  I told him you would give him
a tester for your bird."

"With all my heart!" and Dennet produced the coin.  "Oh!  Stephen, are
you sure he is safe?  Thou bad Goldspot, to fly away from me!  Wink with
thine eye--thou saucy rogue!  Wottest thou not but for Stephen they
might be blinding thy sweet blue eyes with hot needles?"

"His wing is grown since the moulting," said Stephen.  "It should be cut
to hinder such mischances."

"Will you do it?  I will hold him," said Dennet.

"Ah! 'tis pity, the beauteous green gold-bedropped wing--that no armour
of thine can equal, Stephen, not even that for the little King of Scots.
But shouldst not be so silly a bird, Goldie, even though thou hast
thine excuse.  There!  Peck not, ill birdling.  Know thy friends, Master

And with such pretty nonsense the two stood together, Dennet in her
white cap, short crimson kirtle, little stiff collar, and white bib and
apron, holding her bird upside down in one hand, and with the other
trying to keep his angry beak from pecking Stephen, who, in his leathern
coat and apron, grimed, as well as his crisp black hair, with soot,
stood towering above her, stooping to hold out the lustrous wing with
one hand while he used his smallest pair of shears with the other to
clip the pen-feathers.

"See there, Master Alderman," cried Mistress Headley, bursting on him
from the gallery stairs.  "Be that what you call fitting for your
daughter and your prentice, a beggar lad from the heath?  I ever told
you she would bring you to shame, thus left to herself.  And now you see

Their heads had been near together over the starling, but at this
objurgation they started apart, both crimson in the cheeks, and Dennet
flew up to her father, bird in hand, crying, "O father, father! suffer
her not.  He did no wrong.  He was cutting my bird's wing."

"I suffer no one to insult my child in her own house," said the
alderman, so much provoked as to be determined to put an end to it all
at once.  "Stephen Birkenholt, come here."

Stephen came, cap in hand, red in the face, with a strange tumult in his
heart, ready to plead guilty, though he had done nothing, but imagining
at the moment that his feelings had been actions.

"Stephen," said the alderman, "thou art a true and worthy lad!  Canst
thou love my daughter?"

"I--I crave your pardon, sir, there was no helping it," stammered
Stephen, not catching the tone of the strange interrogation, and
expecting any amount of terrible consequences for his presumption.

"Then thou wilt be a faithful spouse to her, and son to me?  And Dennet,
my daughter, hast thou any distaste to this youth--though he bring
nought but skill and honesty!"

"O, father, father!  I--I had rather have him than any other!"

"Then, Stephen Birkenholt and Dennet Headley, ye shall be man and wife,
so soon as the young man's term be over, and he be a freeman--so he
continue to be that which he seems at present.  Thereto I give my word,
I, Giles Headley, Alderman of the Chepe Ward, and thereof ye are
witnesses, all of you.  And God's blessing on it."

A tremendous hurrah arose, led by Kit Smallbones, from every workman in
the court, and the while Stephen and Dennet, unaware of anything else,
flew into one another's arms, while Goldspot, on whom the operation had
been fortunately completed, took refuge upon Stephen's head.

"O, Mistress Dennet, I have made you black all over!" was Stephen's
first word.

"Heed not, I ever loved the black!" she cried, as her eyes sparkled.

"So I have done what was to thy mind, my lass?" said Master Headley,
who, without ever having thought of consulting his daughter, was
delighted to see that her heart was with him.

"Sir, I did not know fully--but indeed I should never have been so happy
as I am now.

"Sir," added Stephen, putting his knee to the ground, "it nearly wrung
my heart to think of her as belonging to another, though I never durst
utter aught,"--and while Dennet embraced her father, Stephen sobbed for
very joy, and with difficulty said in broken words something about a
"son's duty and devotion."

They were broken in upon by Mistress Headley, who, after standing in
mute consternation, fell on them in a fury.  She understood the device
now!  All had been a scheme laid amongst them for defrauding her poor
fatherless child, driving him away, and taking up this beggarly brat.
She had seen through the little baggage from the first, and she pitied
Master Headley.  Rage was utterly ungovernable in those days, and she
actually was flying to attack Dennet with her nails when the alderman
caught her by the wrists; and she would have been almost too much for
him, had not Kit Smallbones come to his assistance, and carried her,
kicking and screaming like a naughty child, into the house.  There was
small restraint of temper in those days even in high life, and below it,
there was some reason for the employment of the padlock and the ducking

Floods of tears restored the dame to some sort of composure; but she
declared she could stay no longer in a house where her son had been ill-
used and deceived, and she had been insulted.  The alderman thought the
insult had been the other way, but he was too glad to be rid of her on
any terms to gainsay her, and at his own charge, undertook to procure
horse and escort to convey her safely to Salisbury the next morning.  He
advised Stephen to keep out of her sight for the rest of the day, giving
leave of absence, so that the youth, as one treading on air, set forth
to carry to his brother, his aunt, and if possible, his uncle, the
intelligence that he could as yet hardly believe was more than a happy



  "I am a poor fallen man, unworthy now
  To be thy lord and master.  Seek the king!
  That sun I pray may never set."

Matters flowed on peaceably with Stephen and Dennet.  The alderman saw
no reason to repent his decision, hastily as it had been made.  Stephen
gave himself no unseemly airs of presumption, but worked on as one whose
heart was in the business, and Dennet rewarded her father's trust by her

They were happily married in the summer of 1522, as soon as Stephen's
apprenticeship was over; and from that time, he was in the position of
the master's son, with more and more devolving on him as Tibble became
increasingly rheumatic every winter, and the alderman himself grew in
flesh and in distaste to exertion.

Ambrose meanwhile prospered with his master, and could easily have
obtained some office in the law courts that would have enabled him to
make a home of his own; but if he had the least inclination to the love
of women, it was all merged in a silent distant worship of "sweet pale
Margaret, rare pale Margaret," the like-minded daughter of Sir Thomas
More--an affection which was so entirely devotion at a shrine, that it
suffered no shock when Sir Thomas at length consented to his daughter's
marriage with William Roper.

Ambrose was the only person who ever received any communication from
Giles Headley.  They were few and far between, but when Stephen Gardiner
returned from his embassy to Pope Clement the Seventh, who was then at
Orvieto, one of the suite reported to Ambrose how astonished he had been
by being accosted in good English by one of the imperial men-at-arms,
who were guarding his Holiness in actual though unconfessed captivity.
This person had sent his commendations to Ambrose, and likewise a
laborious bit of writing, which looked as if he were fast forgetting the
art.  It bade Ambrose inform his mother and all his friends and kin that
he was well and coming to preferment, and inclosed for Aldonza a small
mother-of-pearl cross blessed by the Pope.  Giles added that he should
bring her finer gifts by and by.

Seven years' constancy!  It gave quite a respectability to Giles's love,
and Aldonza was still ready and patient while waiting in attendance on
her beloved mistress.

Ambrose lived on in the colony at Chelsea, sometimes attending his
master, especially on diplomatic missions, and generally acting as
librarian and foreign secretary, and obtaining some notice from Erasmus
on the great scholar's visit to Chelsea.  Under such guidance, Ambrose's
opinions had settled down a good deal; and he was a disappointment to
Tibble, whose views advanced proportionably as he worked less, and read
and thought more.  He so bitterly resented and deplored the burning of
Tindal's Bible that there was constant fear that he might bring on
himself the same fate, especially as he treasured his own copy and
studied it constantly.  The reform that Wolsey had intended to effect
when he obtained the legatine authority seemed to fall into the
background among political interests, and his efforts had as yet no
result save the suppression of some useless and ill-managed small
religious houses to endow his magnificent project of York College at
Oxford, with a feeder at Ipswich, his native town.

He was waiting to obtain the papacy, when he would deal better with the
abuses.  Randall once asked him if he were not waiting to be King of
Heaven, when he could make root and branch work at once.  Hal had never
so nearly incurred a flogging!

And in the meantime another influence was at work, an influence only
heard of at first in whispered jests, which made loyal-hearted Dennet
blush and look indignant, but which soon grew to sad earnest, as she
could not but avow, when she beheld the stately pomp of the two
Cardinals, Wolsey and Campeggio, sweep up to the Blackfriars Convent to
sit in judgment on the marriage of poor Queen Katharine.

"Out on them!" she said.  "So many learned men to set their wits against
one poor woman!"  And she heartily rejoiced when they came to no
decision, and the Pope was appealed to.  As to understanding all the
explanations that Ambrose brought from time to time, she called them
quirks and quiddities, and left them to her father and Tibble to discuss
in their chimney corners.

They had seen nothing of the jester for a good while, for he was with
Wolsey, who was attending the King on a progress through the midland
shires.  When the Cardinal returned to open the law courts as Chancellor
at the beginning of the autumn term, still Randall kept away from home,
perhaps because he had forebodings that he could not bear to mention.

On the evening of that very day, London rang with the tidings that the
Great Seal had been taken from the Cardinal, and that he was under
orders to yield up his noble mansion of York House and to retire to
Esher; nay, it was reported that he was to be imprisoned in the Tower,
and the next day the Thames was crowded with more than a thousand boats
filled with people, expecting to see him landed at the Traitors' Gate,
and much disappointed when his barge turned towards Putney.

In the afternoon, Ambrose came to the Dragon court.

Even as Stephen figured now as a handsome prosperous young freeman of
the City, Ambrose looked well in the sober black apparel and neat ruff
of a lawyer's clerk--clerk indeed to the first lawyer in the kingdom,
for the news had spread before him that Sir Thomas More had become Lord

"Thou art come to bear us word of thy promotion--for thy master's is
thine own," said the alderman heartily as he entered, shaking hands with
him.  "Never was the Great Seal in better hands."

"'Tis true indeed, your worship," said Ambrose, "though it will lay a
heavy charge on him, and divert him from much that he loveth better
still.  I came to ask of my sister Dennet a supper and a bed for the
night, as I have been on business for him, and can scarce get back to

"And welcome," said Dennet.  "Little Giles and Bess have been wearying
for their uncle."

"I must not toy with them yet," said Ambrose, "I have a message for my
aunt.  Brother, wilt thou walk down to the Temple with me before

"Yea, and how is it with Master Randall?" asked Dennet.  "Be he gone
with my Lord Cardinal?"

"He is made over to the King," said Ambrose briefly.  "'Tis that which I
must tell his wife."

"Have with thee, then," said Stephen, linking his arm into that of his
brother, for to be together was still as great an enjoyment to them as
in Forest days.  And on the way, Ambrose told what he had not been
willing to utter in full assembly in the hall.  He had been sent by his
master with a letter of condolence to the fallen Cardinal, and likewise
of inquiry into some necessary business connected with the
chancellorship.  Wolsey had not time to answer before embarking, but as
Sir Thomas had vouched for the messenger's ability and trustiness, he
had bidden Ambrose come into his barge, and receive his instructions.
Thus Ambrose had landed with him, just as a messenger came riding in
haste from the King, with a kind greeting, assuring his old friend that
his seeming disgrace was only for a time, and for political reasons, and
sending him a ring in token thereof.  The Cardinal had fallen on his
knees to receive the message, had snatched a gold chain and precious
relic from his own neck to reward the messenger, and then, casting about
for some gift for the King, "by ill-luck," said Ambrose, "his eye lit
upon our uncle, and he instantly declared that he would bestow Patch, as
the Court chooses to call him, on the King.  Well, as thou canst guess,
Hal is hotly wroth at the treatment of his lord, whom he truly loveth;
and he flung himself before the Cardinal, and besought that he might not
be sent from his good lord.  But the Cardinal was only chafed at aught
that gainsaid him; and all he did was to say he would have no more ado,
he had made his gift.  `Get thee gone,' he said, as if he had been
ordering off a horse or dog.  Well-a-day! it was hard to brook the
sight, and Hal's blood was up.  He flatly refused to go, saying he was
the Cardinal's servant, but no villain nor serf to be thus made over
without his own will."

"He was in the right there," returned Stephen, hotly.

"Yea, save that by playing the fool, poor fellow, he hath yielded up the
rights of a wise man.  Any way, all he gat by it was that the Cardinal
bade two of the yeomen lay hands on him and bear him off.  Then there
came on him that reckless mood, which, I trow, banished him long ago
from the Forest, and brought him to the motley.  He fought with them
with all his force, and broke away once--as if that were of any use for
a man in motley!--but he was bound at last and borne off by six of them
to Windsor!"

"And thou stoodst by, and beheld it!" cried Stephen.

"Nay, what could I have done, save to make his plight worse, and forfeit
all chance of yet speaking to him?"

"Thou wert ever cool!  I wot that I could not have borne it," said

They told the story to Perronel, who was on the whole elated by her
husband's promotion, declaring that the King loved him well, and that he
would soon come to his senses, though for a wise man, he certainly had
too much of the fool, even as he had too much of the wise man for the

She became anxious, however, as the weeks passed by without hearing of
or from him, and at length Ambrose confessed his uneasiness to his kind
master, and obtained leave to attend him on the next summons to Windsor.

Ambrose could not find his uncle at first.  Randall, who used to pervade
York House, and turn up everywhere when least expected, did not appear
among the superior serving-men and secretaries with whom his nephew
ranked, and of course there was no access to the state apartments.  Sir
Thomas, however, told Ambrose that he had seen Quipsome Hal among the
other jesters, but that he seemed dull and dejected.  Then Ambrose
beheld from a window a cruel sight, for the other fools, three in
number, were surrounding Hal, baiting and teasing him, triumphing over
him in fact, for having formerly outshone them, while he stood among
them like a big dog worried by little curs, against whom he disdained to
use his strength.  Ambrose, unable to bear this, ran down stairs to
endeavour to interfere; but before he could find his way to the spot, an
arrival at the gate had attracted the tormentors, and Ambrose found his
uncle leaning against the wall alone.  He looked thin and wan, the light
was gone out of his black eyes, and his countenance was in sad contrast
to his gay and absurd attire.  He scarcely cheered up when his nephew
spoke to him, though he was glad to hear of Perronel.  He said he knew
not when he should see her again, for he had been unable to secure his
suit of ordinary garments, so that even if the King came to London, or
if he could elude the other fools, he could not get out to visit her.
He was no better than a prisoner here, he only marvelled that the King
retained so wretched a jester, with so heavy a heart.

"Once thou wast in favour," said Ambrose.  "Methought thou couldst have
availed thyself of it to speak for the Lord Cardinal."

"What?  A senseless cur whom he kicked from him," said Randall.  "'Twas
that took all spirit from me, boy.  I, who thought he loved me, as I
love him to this day.  To send me to be sport for his foes!  I think of
it day and night, and I've not a gibe left under my belt!"

"Nay," said Ambrose, "it may have been that the Cardinal hoped to secure
a true friend at the King's ear, as well as to provide for thee."

"Had he but said so--"

"Nay, perchance he trusted to thy sharp wit."

A gleam came into Hal's eyes.  "It might be so.  Thou always wast a
toward lad, Ambrose, and if so, I was cur and fool indeed to baulk him."

Therewith one of the other fools danced back exhibiting a silver crown
that had just been flung to him, mopping and mowing, and demanding when
Patch would have wit to gain the like.  Whereto Hal replied by pointing
to Ambrose and declaring that that gentleman had given him better than
fifty crowns.  And that night, Sir Thomas told Ambrose that the Quipsome
one had recovered himself, had been more brilliant than ever and had
quite eclipsed the other fools.

On the next opportunity, Ambrose contrived to pack in his cloak-bag, the
cap and loose garment in which his uncle was wont to cover his motley.
The Court was still at Windsor; but nearly the whole of Sir Thomas's
stay elapsed without Ambrose being able to find his uncle.  Wolsey had
been very ill, and the King had relented enough to send his own
physician to attend him.  Ambrose began to wonder if Hal could have
found any plea for rejoining his old master; but in the last hour of his
stay, he found Hal curled up listlessly on a window seat of a gallery,
his head resting on his hand.

"Uncle, good uncle!  At last!  Thou art sick?"

"Sick at heart, lad," said Hal, looking up.  "Yea, I took thy counsel.
I plucked up a spirit, I made Harry laugh as of old, though my heart
smote me, as I thought how he was wont to be answered by my master.  I
even brooked to jest with the night-crow, as my own poor lord called
this Nan Boleyn.  And lo you now, when his Grace was touched at my
lord's sickness, I durst say there was one sure elixir for such as he,
to wit a gold Harry; and that a King's touch was a sovereign cure for
other disorders than the King's evil.  Harry smiled, and in ten minutes
more would have taken horse for Esher, had not Madam Nan claimed his
word to ride out hawking with her.  And next, she sendeth me a warning
by one of her pert maids, that I should be whipped, if I spoke to his
Grace of unfitting matters.  My flesh could brook no more, and like a
born natural, I made answer that Nan Boleyn was no mistress of mine to
bid me hold a tongue that had spoken sooth to her betters.  Thereupon,
what think you, boy?  The grooms came and soundly flogged me for
uncomely speech of my Lady Anne!  I that was eighteen years with my Lord
Cardinal, and none laid hand on me!  Yea, I was beaten; and then shut up
in a dog-hole for three days on bread and water, with none to speak to,
but the other fools jeering at me like a rogue in a pillory."

Ambrose could hardly speak for hot grief and indignation, but he wrung
his uncle's hand, and whispered that he had hid the loose gown behind
the arras of his chamber, but he could do no more, for he was summoned
to attend his master, and a servant further thrust in to say, "Concern
yourself not for that rogue, sir, he hath been saucy, and must mend his
manners, or he will have worse."

"Away, kind sir," said Hal, "you can do the poor fool no further good!
but only bring the pack about the ears of the mangy hound."  And he sang
a stave appropriated by a greater man than he--

  "Then let the stricken deer go weep,
  The hart ungalled play."

The only hope that Ambrose or his good master could devise for poor
Randall was that Sir Thomas should watch his opportunity and beg the
fool from the King, who might part with him as a child gives away the
once coveted toy that has failed in its hands; but the request would
need circumspection, for all had already felt the change that had taken
place in the temper of the King since Henry had resolutely undertaken
that the wrong should be the right; and Ambrose could not but dread the
effect of desperation on a man whose nature had in it a vein of
impatient recklessness.

It was after dinner, and Dennet, with her little boy and girl, was on
the steps dispensing the salt fish, broken bread, and pottage of the
Lenten meal to the daily troop who came for her alms, when, among them,
she saw, somewhat to her alarm, a gipsy man, who was talking to little
Giles.  The boy, a stout fellow of six, was astride on the balustrade,
looking up eagerly into the face of the man, who began imitating the
note of a blackbird.  Dennet, remembering the evil propensities of the
gipsy race, called hastily to her little son to come down and return to
her side; but little Giles was unwilling to move, and called to her, "O
mother, come!  He hath a bird-call!"  In some perturbation lest the man
might be calling her bird away, Dennet descended the steps.  She was
about to utter a sharp rebuke, but Giles held out his hand imploringly,
and she paused a moment to hear the sweet full note of the "ouzel cock,
with orange tawny bill," closely imitated on a tiny bone whistle.  "He
will sell it to me for two farthings," cried the boy, "and teach me to
sing on it like all the birds--"

"Yea, good mistress," said the gipsy, "I can whistle a tune that the
little master, ay, and others, might be fain to hear."

Therewith, spite of the wild dress, Dennet knew the eyes and the voice.
And perhaps the blackbird's note had awakened echoes in another mind,
for she saw Stephen, in his working dress, come out to the door of the
shop where he continued to do all the finer work which had formerly
fallen to Tibble's share.

She lifted her boy from his perch, and bade him take the stranger to his
father, who would no doubt give him the whistle.  And thus, having
without exciting attention, separated the fugitive from the rest of her
pensioners, she made haste to dismiss them.

She was not surprised that little Giles came running back to her,
producing unearthly notes on the instrument, and telling her that father
had taken the gipsy into his workshop, and said they would teach him
bird's songs by and by.

"Steve, Steve," had been the first words uttered when the boy was out of
hearing, "hast thou a smith's apron and plenty of smut to bestow on me?
None can tell what Harry's mood may be, when he finds I've given him the
slip.  That is the reason I durst not go to my poor dame."

"We will send to let her know.  I thought I guessed what black ouzel
'twas!  I mind how thou didst make the like notes for us when we were no
bigger than my Giles!"

"Thou hast a kind heart Stephen.  Here!  Is thy furnace hot enough to
make a speedy end of this same greasy gipsy doublet?  I trust not the
varlet with whom I bartered it for my motley.  And a fine bargain he had
of what I trust never to wear again to the end of my days.  Make me a
smith complete, Stephen, and then will I tell thee my story."

"We must call Kit into counsel, ere we can do that fully," said Stephen.

In a few minutes Hal Randall was, to all appearance, a very shabby and
grimy smith, and then he took breath to explain his anxiety and alarm.
Once again, hearing that the Cardinal was to be exiled to York, he had
ventured on a sorry jest about old friends and old wine being better
than new; but the King, who had once been open to plain speaking, was
now incensed, threatened and swore at him!  Moreover, one of the other
fools had told him, in the way of boasting that he had heard Master
Cromwell, formerly the Cardinal's secretary, informing the King that
this rogue was no true "natural" at all, but was blessed, (or cursed),
with as good an understanding as other folks, as was well known in the
Cardinal's household, and that he had no doubt been sent to serve as a
spy, so that he was to be esteemed a dangerous person, and had best be
put under ward.

Hal had not been able to discover whether Cromwell had communicated his
name, but he suspected that it might be known to that acute person, and
he could not tell whether his compeer spoke out of a sort of good-
natured desire to warn him, or simply to triumph in his disgrace, and
leer at him for being an impostor.  At any rate, being now desperate, he
covered his parti-coloured raiment with the gown Ambrose had brought,
made a perilous descent from a window in the twilight, scaled a wall
with the agility that seemed to have returned to him, and reached
Windsor Forest.

There, falling on a camp of gipsies, he had availed himself of old
experiences in his wild Shirley days, and had obtained an exchange of
garb, his handsome motley being really a prize to the wanderers.  Thus
he had been able to reach London; but he did not feel any confidence
that if he were pursued to the gipsy tent he would not be betrayed.

In this, his sagacity was not at fault, for he had scarcely made his
explanation, when there was a knocking at the outer gate, and a demand
to enter in the name of the King, and to see Alderman Sir Giles Headley.
Several of the stout figures of the yeomen of the King's guard were
seen crossing the court, and Stephen, committing the charge of his uncle
to Kit, threw off his apron, washed his face and went up to the hall,
not very rapidly, for he suspected that since his father-in-law knew
nothing of the arrival, he would best baffle the inquiries by sincere

And Dennet, with her sharp woman's wit, scenting danger, had whisked
herself and her children out of the hall at the first moment, and taken
them down to the kitchen, where modelling with a batch of dough occupied
both of them.

Meantime the alderman flatly denied the presence of the jester, or the
harbouring of the gipsy.  He allowed that the jester was of kin to his
son-in-law, but the good man averred in all honesty that he knew nought
of any escape, and was absolutely certain that no such person was in the
court.  Then, as Stephen entered, doffing his cap to the King's officer,
the alderman continued, "There, fair son, this is what these gentlemen
have come about.  Thy kinsman, it seemeth, hath fled from Windsor, and
his Grace is mightily incensed.  They say he changed clothes with a
gipsy, and was traced hither this morn, but I have told them the thing
is impossible."

"Will the gentlemen search?" asked Stephen.

The gentlemen did search, but they only saw the smiths in full work; and
in Smallbones' forge, there was a roaring glowing furnace, with a bare-
armed fellow feeding it with coals, so that it fairly scorched them, and
gave them double relish for the good wine and beer that was put out on
the table to do honour to them.

Stephen had just with all civility seen them off the premises when
Perronel came sobbing into the court.  They had visited her first, for
Cromwell had evidently known of Randall's haunts; they had turned her
little house upside down, and had threatened her hotly in case she
harboured a disloyal spy, who deserved hanging.  She came to consult
Stephen, for the notion of her husband wandering about, as a sort of
outlaw, was almost as terrible as the threat of his being hanged.

Stephen beckoned her to a store-room full of gaunt figures of armour
upon blocks, and there brought up to her his extremely grimy new hand!

There was much gladness between them, but the future had to be
considered.  Perronel had a little hoard, the amount of which she was
too shrewd to name to any one, even her husband, but she considered it
sufficient to enable him to fulfil the cherished scheme of his life, of
retiring to some small farm near his old home, and she was for setting
off at once.  But Harry Randall declared that he could not go without
having offered his services to his old master.  He had heard of his
"good lord" as sick, sad, and deserted by those whom he had cherished,
and the faithful heart was so true in its loyalty that no persuasion
could prevail in making it turn south.

"Nay," said the wife, "did he not cast thee off himself, and serve thee
like one of his dogs!  How canst thou be bound to him?"

"There's the rub!" sighed Hal.  "He sent me to the King deeming that he
should have one full of faithful love to speak a word on his behalf, and
I, brutish oaf as I was, must needs take it amiss, and sulk and mope
till the occasion was past, and that viper Cromwell was there to back up
the woman Boleyn and poison his Grace's ear."

"As if a man must not have a spirit to be angered by such treatment."

"Thou forgettest, good wife.  No man, but a fool, and to be entreated as
such!  Be that as it may, to York I must.  I have eaten of my lord's
bread too many years, and had too much kindness from him in the days of
his glory, to seek mine own ease now in his adversity.  Thou wouldst
have a poor bargain of me when my heart is away."

Perronel saw that thus it would be, and that this was one of the points
on which, to her mind, her husband was more than half a veritable fool
after all.

There had long been a promise that Stephen should, in some time of slack
employment make a visit to his old comrade, Edmund Burgess, at York; and
as some new tools and patterns had to be conveyed thither, a sudden
resolution was come to, in family conclave, that Stephen himself should
convey them, taking his uncle with him as a serving-man, to attend to
the horses.  The alderman gave full consent, he had always wished
Stephen to see York, while he himself with Tibble Steelman, was able to
attend to the business; and while he pronounced Randall to have a heart
of gold, well worth guarding, he still was glad when the risk was over
of the King's hearing that the runaway jester was harboured at the
Dragon.  Dennet did not like the journey for her husband, for to her
mind it was perilous, but she had had a warm affection for his uncle
ever since their expedition to Richmond together, and she did her best
to reconcile the murmuring and wounded Perronel by praises of Randall, a
true and noble heart; and that as to setting her aside for the Cardinal,
who had heeded him so little, such faithfulness only made her more
secure of his true-heartedness towards her.  Perronel was moreover to
break up her business, dispose of her house, and await her husband's
return at the Dragon.

Stephen came back after a happy month with his friend, stored with
wondrous tales and descriptions which would last the children for a
month.  He had seen his uncle present himself to the Cardinal at Cawood
Castle.  It had been a touching meeting.  Hal could hardly restrain his
tears when he saw how Wolsey's sturdy form had wasted, and his round
ruddy cheeks had fallen away, while the attitude in which he sat in his
chair was listless and weary, though he fitfully exerted himself with
his old vigour.

Hal on his side, in the dark plain dress of a citizen, was hardly
recognisable, for not only had he likewise grown thinner, and his brown
cheeks more hollow, but his hair had become almost white during his
miserable weeks at Windsor, though he was not much over forty years old.

He came up the last of a number who presented themselves for the
Archiepiscopal blessing, as Wolsey sat under a large tree in Cawood
Park.  Wolsey gave it with his raised fingers, without special heed, but
therewith Hal threw himself on the ground, kissed his feet, and cried,
"My lord, my dear lord, your pardon."

"What hast done, fellow?  Speak!" said the Cardinal.  "Grovel not thus.
We will be merciful."

"Ah! my lord," said Randall, lifting himself up, but with clasped hands
and tearful eyes, "I did not serve you as I ought with the King, but if
you will forgive me and take me back--"

"How now?  How couldst thou serve me?  What!"--as Hal made a familiar
gesture--"thou art not the poor fool, Quipsome Patch?  How comest thou
here?  Methought I had provided well for thee in making thee over to the

"Ah! my lord, I was fool, fool indeed, but all my jests failed me.  How
could I make sport for your enemies?"

"And thou hast come, thou hast left the King to follow my fallen
fortunes?" said Wolsey.  "My poor boy, he who is sitting in sackcloth
and ashes needs no jester."

"Nay, my lord, nor can I find one jest to break!  Would you but let me
be your meanest horse-boy, your scullion!"  Hal's voice was cut short by
tears as the Cardinal abandoned to him one hand.  The other was drying
eyes that seldom wept.

"My faithful Hal!" he said, "this is love indeed!"

And Stephen ere he came away had seen his uncle fully established, as a
rational creature, and by his true name, as one of the personal
attendants on the Cardinal's bed-chamber, and treated with the affection
he well deserved.  Wolsey had really seemed cheered by his affection,
and was devoting himself to the care of his hitherto neglected and even
unvisited diocese, in a way that delighted the hearts of the

The first idea was that Perronel should join her husband at York, but
safe modes of travelling were not easy to be found, and before any
satisfactory escort offered, there were rumours that made it prudent to
delay.  As autumn advanced, it was known that the Earl of Northumberland
had been sent to attach the Cardinal of High Treason.  Then ensued other
reports that the great Cardinal had sunk and died on his way to London
for trial; and at last, one dark winter evening, a sorrowful man
stumbled up the steps of the Dragon, and as he came into the bright
light of the fire, and Perronel sprang to meet him, he sank into a chair
and wept aloud.

He had been one of those who had lifted the brokenhearted Wolsey from
his mule in the cloister of Leicester Abbey, he had carried him to his
bed, watched over him, and supported him, as the Abbot of Leicester gave
him the last Sacraments.  He had heard and treasured up those mournful
words which are Wolsey's chief legacy to the world, "Had I but served my
God, as I have served my king, He would not have forsaken me in my old
age."  For himself, he had the dying man's blessing, and assurance that
nothing had so much availed to cheer in these sad hours as his faithful

Now, Perronel might do what she would with him--he cared not.

And what she did was to set forth with him for Hampshire, on a pair of
stout mules with a strong serving-man behind them.



  "Of a worthy London prentice
  My purpose is to speak,
  And tell his brave adventures
  Done for his country's sake.
  Seek all the world about
  And you shall hardly find
  A man in valour to exceed
  A prentice' gallant mind."
  _The Homes of a London Prentice_.

Six more years had passed over the Dragon court, when, one fine summer
evening, as the old walls rang with the merriment of the young boys at
play, there entered through the gateway a tall, well-equipped, soldierly
figure, which caught the eyes of the little armourer world in a moment.
"Oh, that's a real Milan helmet!" exclaimed the one lad.

"And oh, what a belt and buff coat!" cried another.

The subject of their admiration advanced muttering, "As if I'd not been
away a week," adding, "I pray you, pretty lads, doth Master Alderman
Headley still dwell here?"

"Yea, sir, he is our grandfather," said the elder boy, holding a lesser
one by the shoulder as he spoke.

"Verily!  And what may be your names?"

"I am Giles Birkenholt, and this is my little brother, Dick."

"Even as I thought.  Wilt thou run in to your grandsire, and tell him?"

The bigger boy interrupted, "Grandfather is going to bed.  He is old and
weary, and cannot see strangers so late.  'Tis our father who heareth
all the orders."

"And," added the little one, with wide-open grave eyes, "Mother bade us
run out and play and not trouble father, because uncle Ambrose is so
downcast because they have cut off the head of good Sir Thomas More."

"Yet," said the visitor, "methinks your father would hear of an old
comrade.  Or stay, where be Tibble Steelman and Kit Smallbones?"

"Tibble is in the hall, well-nigh as sad as uncle Ambrose," began Dick;
but Giles, better able to draw conclusions, exclaimed, "Tibble!  Kit!
You know them, sir!  Oh! are you the Giles Headley that ran away to be a
soldier ere I was born?  Kit!  Kit! see here--" as the giant, broader
and perhaps a little more bent, but with little loss of strength, came
forward out of his hut, and taking up the matter just where it had been
left fourteen years before, demanded as they shook hands, "Ah, Master
Giles, how couldst thou play me such a scurvy trick?"

"Nay, Kit, was it not best for all that I turned my back to make way for
honest Stephen?"

By this time young Giles had rushed up the stair to the hall, where, as
he said truly, Stephen was giving his brother such poor comfort as could
be had from sympathy, when listening to the story of the cheerful, brave
resignation of the noblest of all the victims of Henry the Eighth.
Ambrose had been with Sir Thomas well-nigh to the last, had carried
messages between him and his friends during his imprisonment, had handed
his papers to him at his trial, had been with Mrs Roper when she broke
through the crowd and fell on his neck as he walked from Westminster
Hall with the axe-edge turned towards him; had received his last kind
farewell, counsel, and blessing, and had only not been with him on the
scaffold because Sir Thomas had forbidden it, saying, in the old strain
of mirth, which never forsook him, "Nay, come not, my good friend.  Thou
art of a queasy nature, and I would fain not haunt thee against thy

All was over now, the wise and faithful head had fallen, because it
would not own the wrong for the right; and Ambrose had been brought home
by his brother, a being confounded, dazed, seeming hardly able to think
or understand aught save that the man whom he had above all loved and
looked up to was taken from him, judicially murdered, and by the King.
The whole world seemed utterly changed to him, and as to thinking or
planning for himself, he was incapable of it; indeed, he looked
fearfully ill.  His little nephew came up to his father's knee, pausing,
though open-mouthed, and at the first token of permission, bursting out,
"Oh! father!  Here's a soldier in the court!  Kit is talking to him.
And he is Giles Headley that ran away.  He has a beauteous Spanish
leathern coat, and a belt with silver bosses--and a morion that Phil
Smallbones saith to be of Milan, but I say it is French."

Stephen had no sooner gathered the import of this intelligence than he
sprang down almost as rapidly as his little boy, with his welcome.  Nor
did Giles Headley return at all in the dilapidated condition that had
been predicted.  He was stout, comely, and well fleshed, and very
handsomely clad and equipped in a foreign style, with nothing of the
lean wolfish appearance of Sir John Fulford.  The two old comrades
heartily shook one another by the hand in real gladness at the meeting.
Stephen's welcome was crossed by the greeting and inquiry whether all
was well.

"Yea.  The alderman is hale and hearty, but aged.  Your mother is tabled
at a religious house at Salisbury."

"I know.  I landed at Southampton and have seen her."

"And Dennet," Stephen added with a short laugh, "she could not wait for

"No, verily.  Did I not wot well that she cared not a fico for me?  I
hoped when I made off that thou wouldst be the winner, Steve, and I am
right glad thou art, man."

"I can but thank thee, Giles," said Stephen, changing to the familiar
singular pronoun.  "I have oft since thought what a foolish figure I
should have cut had I met thee among the Badgers, after having given leg
bail because I might not brook seeing thee wedded to her.  For I was
sore tempted--only thou wast free, and mine indenture held me fast."

"Then it was so!  And I did thee a good turn!  For I tell thee, Steve, I
never knew how well I liked thee till I was wounded and sick among those
who heeded neither God nor man!  But one word more, Stephen, ere we go
in.  The Moor's little maiden, is she still unwedded?"

"Yea," was Stephen's answer.  "She is still waiting-maid to Mistress
Roper, daughter to good Sir Thomas More; but alack, Giles, they are in
sore trouble, as it may be thou hast heard--and my poor brother is like
one distraught."

Ambrose did indeed meet Giles like one in a dream.  He probably would
have made the same mechanical greeting, if the Emperor or the Pope had
been at that moment presented to him; but Dennet, who had been attending
to her father, made up all that was wanting in cordiality.  She had
always had a certain sense of shame for having flouted her cousin, and,
as his mother told her, driven him to death and destruction, and it was
highly satisfactory to see him safe and sound, and apparently
respectable and prosperous.

Moreover, grieved as all the family were for the fate of the admirable
and excellent More, it was a relief to those less closely connected with
him to attend to something beyond poor Ambrose's sorrow and his talk,
the which moreover might be perilous if any outsider listened and
reported it to the authorities as disaffection to the King.  So Giles
told his story, sitting on the gallery in the cool of the summer
evening, and marvelling over and over again how entirely unchanged all
was since his first view of the Dragon court as a proud, sullen, raw lad
twenty summers ago.  Since that time he had seen so much that the time
appeared far longer to him than to those who had stayed at home.

It seemed that Fulford had from the first fascinated him more than any
of the party guessed, and that each day of the free life of the
expedition, and of contact with the soldiery, made a return to the
monotony of the forge, the decorous life of a London citizen, and the
bridal with a child, to whom he was indifferent, seem more intolerable
to him.  Fulford imagining rightly that the knowledge of his intentions
might deter young Birkenholt from escaping, enjoined strict secrecy on
either lad, not intending them to meet till it should be too late to
return, and therefore had arranged that Giles should quit the party on
the way to Calais, bringing with him Will Wherry, and the horse he rode.

Giles had then, been enrolled among the Badgers.  He had little to tell
about his life among them till the battle of Pavia, where he had had the
good fortune to take three French prisoners; but a stray shot from a
fugitive had broken his leg during the pursuit, and he had been laid up
in a merchant's house at Pavia for several months.  He evidently looked
back to the time with gratitude, as having wakened his better
associations, which had been well-nigh stifled during the previous years
of the wild life of a soldier of fortune.  His host's young daughter had
eyes like Aldonza, and the almost forgotten possibility of returning to
his love a brave and distinguished man awoke once more.  His burgher
thrift began to assert itself again, and he deposited a nest-egg from
the ransoms of his prisoners in the hands of his host, who gave him
bonds by which he could recover the sum from Lombard correspondents in

He was bound by his engagements to join the Badgers again, or he would
have gone home on his recovery; and he had shared in the terrible taking
of Rome, of which he declared that he could not speak--with a
significant look at Dennet and her children, who were devouring his
words.  He had, however, stood guard over a lady and her young children
whom some savage Spaniards were about to murder, and the whole family
had overpowered him with gratitude, lodged him sumptuously in their
house, and shown themselves as grateful to him as if he had given them
all the treasure which he had abstained from seizing.

The sickness brought on by their savage excesses together with the Roman
summer had laid low many of the Badgers.  When the Prince of Orange drew
off the army from the miserable city, scarce seven score of that once
gallant troop were in marching order, and Sir John Fulford himself was
dying.  He sent for Giles, as less of a demon than most of the troop,
and sent a gold medal, the only fragment of spoil remaining to him, to
his daughter Perronel.  To Giles himself Fulford bequeathed Abenali's
well-tested sword, and he died in the comfortable belief--so far as he
troubled himself about the matter at all--that there were special
exemptions for soldiers.

The Badgers now incorporated themselves with another broken body of
Landsknechts, and fell under the command of a better and more
conscientious captain.  Giles, who had been horrified rather than
hardened by the experiences of Rome, was found trustworthy and rose in
command.  The troop was sent to take charge of the Pope at Orvieto, and
thus it was that he had fallen in with the Englishmen of Gardiner's
suite, and had been able to send his letter to Ambrose.  Since he had
found the means of rising out of the slough, he had made up his mind to
continue to serve till he had won some honour, and had obtained enough
to prevent his return as a hungry beggar.

His corps became known for discipline and valour.  It was trusted often,
was in attendance on the Emperor, and was fairly well paid.  Giles was
their "ancient" and had charge of the banner, nor could it be doubted
that he had flourished.  His last adventure had been the expedition to
Tunis, when 20,000 Christian captives had been set free from the
dungeons and galleys, and so grand a treasure had been shared among the
soldiery that Giles, having completed the term of service for which he
was engaged, decided on returning to England, before, as he said, he
grew any older, to see how matters were going.

"For the future," he said, "it depended on how he found things."  If
Aldonza would none of him, he should return to the Emperor's service.
If she would go with him, he held such a position that he could provide
for her honourably.  Or he could settle in England.  For he had a good
sum in the hands of Lombard merchants; having made over to them spoils
of war, ransoms, and arrears when he obtained them; and having at times
earned something by exercising his craft, which he said had been most
valuable to him.  Indeed he thought he could show Stephen and Tibble a
few fresh arts he had picked up at Milan.

Meantime his first desire was to see Aldonza.  She was still at Chelsea
with her mistress, and Ambrose, to his brother's regret, went thither
every day, partly because he could not keep away, and partly to try to
be of use to the family.  Giles might accompany him, though he still
looked so absorbed in his trouble that it was doubtful whether he had
really understood what was passing, or that he was wanted to bring about
an interview between his companion and Aldonza.

The beautiful grounds at Chelsea, in their summer beauty, looked
inexpressibly mournful, deprived of him who had planted and cherished
the trees and roses.  As they passed along in the barge, one spot after
another recalled More's bright jests or wise words; above all, the very
place where he had told his son-in-law Roper that he was merry, not
because he was safe, but because the fight was won, and his conscience
had triumphed against the King he loved and feared.

Giles told of the report that the Emperor had said he would have given a
hundred of his nobles for one such councillor as More, and the prospect
of telling this to the daughters had somewhat cheered Ambrose.  They
found a guard in the royal livery at the stairs to the river, and at the
door of the house, but these had been there ever since Sir Thomas's
apprehension.  They knew Ambrose Birkenholt, and made no objection to
his passing in and leaving his companion to walk about among the borders
and paths, once so trim, but already missing their master's hand and

Very long it seemed to Giles, who was nearly despairing, when a female
figure in black came out of one of the side doors, which were not
guarded, and seemed to be timidly looking for him.  Instantly he was at
her side.

"Not here," she said, and in silence led the way to a pleached alley out
of sight of the windows.  There they stood still.  It was a strange
meeting of two who had not seen each other for fourteen years, when the
one was a tall, ungainly youth, the other well-nigh a child.  And now
Giles was a fine, soldierly man in the prime of life, with a short,
curled beard, and powerful, alert bearing, and Aldonza, though the first
flower of her youth had gone by, yet, having lived a sheltered and far
from toilsome life, was a really beautiful woman, gracefully
proportioned, and with the delicate features and clear olive, skin of
the Andalusian Moor.  Her eyes, always her finest feature, were sunken
with weeping, but their soft beauty could still be seen.  Giles threw
himself on his knee and grasped at her hand.

"My love!--my only love!" he cried.

"Oh! how can I think of such matters now--now, when it is thus with my
dear mistress," said Aldonza, in a mournful voice, as though her tears
were all spent--yet not withholding her hand.

"You knew me before you knew her," said Giles.  "See, Aldonza, what I
have brought back to you."

And he half drew the sword her father had made.  She gave a gasp of
delight, for well she knew every device in the gold inlaying of the
blade, and she looked at Giles with eyes full of gratitude.

"I knew thou wouldst own me," said Giles.  "I have fought and gone far
from thee, Aldonza.  Canst not spare one word for thine old Giles?"

"Ah, Giles--there is one thing which if you will do for my mistress, I
would be yours from--from my heart of hearts."

"Say it, sweetheart, and it is done."

"You know not.  It is perilous, and may be many would quail.  Yet it may
be less perilous for you than for one who is better known."

"Peril and I are well acquainted, my heart."

She lowered her voice as her eyes dilated, and she laid her hand on his
arm.  "Thou wottest what is on London Bridge gates?"

"I saw it, a sorry sight."

"My mistress will not rest till that dear and sacred head, holy as any
blessed relic, be taken down so as not to be the sport of sun and wind,
and cruel men gaping beneath.  She cannot sleep, she cannot sit or stand
still, she cannot even kiss her child for thinking of it.  Her mind is
set on taking it down, yet she will not peril her husband.  Nor verily
know I how any here could do the deed."

"Ha!  I have scaled a wall ere now.  I bare our banner at Goletta, with
the battlements full of angry Moors, not far behind the Emperor's."

"You would?  And be secret?  Then indeed nought would be overmuch for
you.  And this very night--"

"The sooner the better."

She not only clasped his hand in thanks, but let him raise her face to
his, and take the reward he felt his due.  Then she said she must
return, but Ambrose would bring him all particulars.  Ambrose was as
anxious as herself and her mistress that the thing should be done, but
was unfit by all his habits, and his dainty, scholarly niceness, to
render such effectual assistance as the soldier could do.  Giles offered
to scale the gate by night himself carry off the head, and take it to
any place Mrs Roper might appoint, with no assistance save such as
Ambrose could afford.  Aldonza shuddered a little at this, proving that
her heart had gone out to him already, but with this he had to be
contented, for she went back into the house, and he saw her no more.
Ambrose came back to him, and, with something more like cheerfulness
than he had yet seen, said, "Thou art happy, Giles."

"More happy than I durst hope--to find her--"

"Tush!  I meant not that.  But to be able to do the work of the holy
ones of old who gathered the remnants of the martyrs, while I have
indeed the will, but am but a poor craven!  It is gone nearer to comfort
that sad-hearted lady than aught else."

It appeared that Mrs Roper would not be satisfied unless she herself
were present at the undertaking, and this was contrary to the views of
Giles, who thought the further off women were in such a matter the
better.  There was a watch at the outer entrance of London Bridge, the
trainbands taking turns to supply it, but it was known by experience
that they did not think it necessary to keep awake after belated
travellers had ceased to come in; and Sir Thomas More's head was set
over the opposite gateway, looking inwards at the City.  The most
suitable hour would be between one and two o'clock, when no one would be
stirring, and the summer night would be at the shortest.  Mrs Roper was
exceedingly anxious to implicate no one, and to prevent her husband and
brother from having any knowledge of an act that William Roper might
have prohibited, as if she could not absolutely exculpate him, it might
be fatal to him.  She would therefore allow no one to assist save
Ambrose, and a few more devoted old servants, of condition too low for
anger to be likely to light upon them.  She was to be rowed with muffled
oars to the spot, to lie hid in the shadow of the bridge till a signal
like the cry of the pee-wit was exchanged from the bridge, then approach
the stairs at the inner angle of the bridge where Giles and Ambrose
would meet her.

Giles's experience as a man-at-arms stood him in good stead.  He
purchased a rope as he went home, also some iron ramps.  He took a
survey of the arched gateway in the course of the afternoon, and
shutting himself into one of the work-sheds with Ambrose, he constructed
such a rope ladder as was used in scaling fortresses, especially when
seized at night by surprise.  He beguiled the work by a long series of
anecdotes of adventures of the kind, of all of which Ambrose heard not
one word.  The whole court, and especially Giles number three, were very
curious as to their occupation, but nothing was said even to Stephen,
for it was better, if Ambrose should be suspected, that he should be
wholly ignorant, but he had--they knew not how--gathered somewhat.  Only
Ambrose was, at parting for the night, obliged to ask him for the key of
the gate.

"Brother," then he said, "what is this work I see?  Dost think I can let
thee go into a danger I do not partake?  I will share in this pious act
towards the man I have ever reverenced."

So at dead of night the three men stole out together, all in the
plainest leathern suits.  The deed was done in the perfect stillness of
the sleeping City, and without mishap or mischance.  Stephen's strong
hand held the ladder securely and aided to fix it to the ramps, and just
as the early dawn was touching the summit of Saint Paul's spire with a
promise of light, Giles stepped into the boat, and reverently placed his
burden within the opening of a velvet cushion that had been ripped up
and deprived of part of the stuffing, so as to conceal it effectually.
The brave Margaret Roper, the English Antigone, well knowing that all
depended on her self-control, refrained from aught that might shake it.
She only raised her face to Giles and murmured from dry lips, "Sir, God
must reward you!"  And Aldonza, who sat beside her, held out her hand.

Ambrose was to go with them to the priest's house, where Mrs Roper was
forced to leave her treasure, since she durst not take it to Chelsea, as
the royal officers were already in possession, and the whole family were
to depart on the ensuing day.  Stephen and Giles returned safely to



  "O the oak, and the birch, and the bonny holly tree,
  They flourish best at home in my own countree."

When the absence of the barbarous token of the execution was discovered,
suspicion instantly fell on the More family, and Margaret, her husband,
and her brother, were all imprisoned.  The brave lady took all upon
herself, and gave no names of her associates in the deed, and as Henry
the Eighth still sometimes had better moods, all were soon released.

But that night had given Ambrose a terrible cough, so that Dennet kept
him in bed two days.  Indeed he hardly cared to rise from it.  His whole
nature, health, spirits, and mind, had been so cruelly strained, and he
was so listless, so weak, so incapable of rousing himself, or turning to
any fresh scheme of life, that Stephen decided on fulfilling a long-
cherished plan of visiting their native home and seeing their uncle, who
had, as he had contrived to send them word, settled down on a farm which
he had bought with Perronel's savings, near Romsey.  Headley, who was
lingering till Aldonza could leave her mistress and decide on any plan,
undertook to attend to the business, and little Giles, to his great
delight, was to accompany them.

So the brothers went over the old ground.  They slept in the hostel at
Dogmersfield where the Dragon mark and the badge of the Armourers'
Company had first appeared before them.  They found the very tree where
the alderman had been tied, and beneath which Spring lay buried, while
little Giles gazed with ecstatic, almost religious veneration, and
Ambrose seemed to draw in new life with the fresh air of the heath, now
becoming rich with crimson bells.  They visited Hyde Abbey, and the
well-clothed, well-mounted travellers received a better welcome than had
fallen to the lot of the hungry lads.  They were shown the grave of old
Richard Birkenholt in the cloister, and Stephen left a sum to be
expended in masses for his behoof.  They looked into Saint Elizabeth's
College, but the kind warden was dead, and a trembling old man who
looked at them through the wicket hoped they were not sent from the
Commissioners.  For the visitation of the lesser religious houses was
going on, and Saint Elizabeth's was already doomed.  Stephen inquired at
the White Hart for Father Shoveller, and heard that he had grown too old
to perform the office of a bailiff, and had retired to the parent abbey.
The brothers therefore renounced their first scheme of taking Silkstede
in their way, and made for Romsey.  There, under the shadow of the
magnificent nunnery, they dined pleasantly by the waterside at the sign
of Bishop Blaise, patron of the woolcombers of the town, and halted long
enough to refresh Ambrose, who was equal to very little fatigue.  It
amused Stephen to recollect how mighty a place he had once thought the
little town.

Did mine host know Master Randall?  What Master Randall of Baddesley?
He should think so!  Was not the good man or his good wife here every
market-day, with a pleasant word for every one!  Men said he had had
some good office about the Court, as steward or the like--for he was
plainly conversant with great men, though he made no boast.  If these
guests were kin of his, they were welcome for his sake.

So the brothers rode on amid the gorse and heather till they came to a
broad-spreading oak tree, sheltering a farmhouse built in frames of
heavy timber, filled up with bricks set in zigzag patterns, with a high-
pitched roof and tall chimneys.  Barns and stacks were near it, and
fields reclaimed from the heath were waving with corn just tinged with
the gold of harvest.  Three or four cows, of the tawny hue that looked
so home-like to the brothers, were being released from the stack-yard
after being milked, and conducted to their field by a tall, white-haired
man in a farmer's smock with a little child perched on his shoulder, who
gave a loud jubilant cry at the sight of the riders.  Stephen, pushing
on, began the question whether Master Randall dwelt there, but it broke
off half way into a cry of recognition on either side, Harry's an
absolute shout.  "The lads, the lads!  Wife, wife! 'tis our own lads!"

And as Perronel, more buxom and rosy than London had ever made her, came
forth from her dairy, and there was a _melee_ of greetings, and Stephen
would have asked what homeless little one the pair had adopted, he was
cut short by an exulting laugh.  "No more adopted than thy Giles there,
Stephen.  'Tis our own boy, Thomas Randall!  Yea, and if he have come
late, he is the better loved, though I trow Perronel there will ever
look on Ambrose as her eldest son."

"And by my troth, he needs good country diet and air!" cried Perronel.
"Thou hast had none to take care of thee, Ambrose.  They have let thee
pine and dwine over thy books.  I must take thee in hand."

"'Tis what I brought him to thee for, good aunt," said Stephen, smiling.

Great was the interchange of news over the homely hearty meal.  It was
plain that no one could be happier, or more prosperous in a humble way,
than the ex-jester and his wife; and if anything could restore Ambrose
it would surely be the homely plenty and motherly care he found there.

Stephen heard another tale of his half-brother.  His wife had soon been
disgusted by the loneliness of the verdurer's lodge, and was always
finding excuses for going to Southampton, where she and her daughter had
both caught the plague, imported in some Eastern merchandise, and had
died.  The only son had turned out wild and wicked, and had been killed
in a broil which he had provoked: and John, a broken-down man, with no
one to enjoy the wealth he had accumulated, had given up his office as
verdurer, and retired to an estate which he had purchased on the skirts
of the Forest.

Stephen rode thither to see him, and found him a dying man, tyrannised
over and neglected by his servants, and having often bitterly regretted
his hardness towards his young brothers.  All that Stephen did for him
he received as tokens of pardon, and it was not possible to leave him
until, after a fortnight's watching, he died in his brother's arms.  He
had made no will, and Ambrose thus inherited a property which made his
future maintenance no longer an anxiety to his brother.

He himself seemed to care very little for the matter.  To be allowed to
rest under Perronel's care, to read his Erasmus' Testament, and attend
mass on Sundays at the little Norman church, seemed all that he wished.
Stephen tried to persuade him that he was young enough at thirty-five to
marry and begin life again on the fair woodland river-bordered estate
that was his portion, but he shook his head.  "No, Stephen, my work is
over.  I could only help my dear master, and that is at an end.  Dean
Colet is gone, Sir Thomas is gone, what more have I to do here?  Old
ties are broken, old bonds severed.  Crime and corruption were protested
against in vain; and, now that judgment is beginning at the house of
God, I am thankful that I am not like to live to see it."

Perronel scolded and exhorted him, and told him he would be stronger
when the hot weather was over, but Ambrose only smiled, and Stephen saw
a change in him, even in this fortnight, which justified his

Stephen and his uncle found a trustworthy bailiff to manage the estate,
and Ambrose remained in the house where he could now be no burthen.
Stephen was obliged to leave him and take home young Giles, who had, he
found, become so completely a country lad, enjoying everything to the
utmost, that he already declared that he would much rather be a yeoman
and forester than an armourer, and that he did not want to be
apprenticed to that black forge.

This again made Ambrose smile with pleasure as he thought of the boy as
keeping up the name of Birkenholt in the Forest.  The one wish he
expressed was that Stephen would send down Tibble Steelman to be with
him.  For in truth they both felt that in London Tib might at any time
be laid hands on, and suffer at Smithfield for his opinions.  The hope
of being a comfort to Ambrose was perhaps the only idea that could have
counterbalanced the sense that he ought not to fly from martyrdom; and
as it proved, the invitation came only just in time.  Three days after
Tibble had been despatched by the Southampton carrier in charge of all
the comforts Dennet could put together, Bishop Stokesley's grim
"soumpnour" came to summon him to the Bishop's court, and there could be
little question that he would have courted the faggot and stake.  But as
he was gone out of reach, no further inquiries were made after him.

Dennet had told her husband that she had been amazed to find how, in
spite of a very warm affection for her, her husband, and children, her
father hankered after the old name, and grieved that he could not fulfil
his old engagement to his cousin Robert.  Giles Headley had managed the
business excellently during Stephen's absence, had shown himself very
capable, and gained good opinions from all.  Rubbing about in the world
had been very good for him; and she verily believed that nothing would
make her father so happy as for them to offer to share the business with
Giles.  She would on her part make Aldonza welcome, and had no fears of
not agreeing with her.  Besides--if little Giles were indeed to be heir
to Testside was not the way made clear?

So thus it was.  The alderman was very happy in the arrangement, and
Giles Headley had not forfeited his rights to be a freeman of London or
a member of the Armourers' Guild.  He married Aldonza at Michaelmas, and
all went well and peacefully in the household.  Dennet never quitted her
father while he lived; but Stephen struggled through winter roads and
floods, and reached Baddesley in time to watch his brother depart in
peace, his sorrow and indignation for his master healed by the sense of
his martyrdom, and his trust firm and joyful.  "If this be, as it is,
dying of grief," said Hal Randall, "surely it is a blessed way to die!"

A few winters later Stephen and Dennet left Giles Headley in sole
possession of the Dragon, with their second son as an apprentice, while
they themselves took up the old forest life as Master and Mistress
Birkenholt of Testside, where they lived and died honoured and loved.


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