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´╗┐Title: One Snowy Night - Long ago at Oxford
Author: Holt, Emily Sarah, 1836-1893
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "One Snowy Night - Long ago at Oxford" ***

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One Snowy Night, by Emily Sarah Holt.



PREFACE.

The story of the following pages is one of the least known yet saddest
episodes in English history--the first persecution of Christians by
Christians in this land.  When Boniface went forth from England to
evangelise Germany, he was received with welcome, and regarded as a
saint: when Gerhardt came from Germany to restore the pure Gospel to
England, he was cast out of the vineyard and slain.

The spirit of her who is drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus is
the same now that it was then.  She does not ask if a man agree with the
Word of God, but whether he agree with _her_.  "When the Church has
spoken"--this has been said by exalted ecclesiastical lips quite
recently--"we cannot appeal to Scripture against her!"

But we Protestants can--we must--we will.  The Church is not God, but
man.  The Bible is not the word of man, but the Word of God (One
Thessalonians, two, verse 13; Ephesians, six, verse 17): therefore it
must be paramount and unerring.  Let us hold fast this our profession,
not being moved away from the hope of the Gospel, nor entangled again
with the yoke of bondage, but stablished in the faith, grounded and
settled.  "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning
of our confidence stedfast unto the end."



CHAPTER ONE.

SAINT MAUDLIN'S WELL.

  "For men must work, and women must weep,
  And the sooner 'tis over, the sooner to sleep."

  Reverend Charles Kingsley.

"Flemild!"

"Yes, Mother."

It was not a cross voice that called, but it sounded like a very tired
one.  The voice which answered was much more fresh and cheerful.

"Is Romund come in yet?"

"No, Mother."

"Nor Haimet either?"

"I have not seen him, Mother."

"Oh dear, those boys!  They are never in the way when they are wanted."

The speaker came forward and showed herself.  She was a woman of some
forty years or more, looking older than she was, and evidently very
weary.  She wore a plain untrimmed skirt of dark woollen stuff, short to
the ankles, a long linen apron, and a blue hood over her head and
shoulders.  Resting her worn hands on the half-door, she looked drearily
up and down the street, as if in languid hope of catching a glimpse of
the boys who should have been there, and were not.

"Well, there's no help for it!" she said at last, "Flemild, child, you
must go for the water to-night."

"I?  O Mother!"  The girl's tone was one of manifest reluctance.

"It can't be helped, child.  Take Derette with you, and be back as quick
as you can, before the dusk comes on.  The lads should have been here to
spare you, but they only think of their own pleasure.  I don't know what
the world's coming to, for my part."

"Father Dolfin says it's going to be burnt up," said a third voice--that
of a child--from the interior of the house.

"Time it was!" replied the mother bluntly.  "There's nought but trouble
and sorrow in it--leastwise I've never seen much else.  It's just work,
work, work, from morning to night, and often no rest to speak of from
night to morning.  You get up tireder than you went to bed, and you may
just hold your tongue for all that any body cares, as the saints know.
Well, well!--Come, make haste, child, or there'll be a crowd round Saint
Martin's Well."  [Note 1.]

"O Mother! mayn't I go to Plato's Well?"

"What, and carry your budget four times as far?  Nonsense, Flemild!"

"But, Mother, please hear me a minute!  It's a quiet enough way, when
you are once past the Bayly, and I can step into the lodge and see if
Cousin Stephen be at home.  If he be, he'll go with me, I know."

"You may go your own way," said the mother, not quite pleasantly.
"Young folks are that headstrong!  I can't look for my children to be
better than other folks'.  If they are as good, it's as much as one need
expect in this world."

Flemild had been busily tying on a red hood while her mother spoke, and
signing to her little sister to do the same.  Then the elder girl took
from a corner, where it hung on a hook, a budget or pail of boiled
leather, a material then much used for many household vessels now made
of wood or metal: and the girls went out into the narrow street.

The street was called Kepeharme Lane, and the city was Oxford.  This
lane ran, in old diction, from the Little Bayly to Fish Street--in
modern language, from New Inn Hall Street to Saint Aldate's, slightly
south of what is now Queen Street, and was then known as the Great
Bayly.  The girls turned their backs on Saint Aldate's, and went
westwards, taking the way towards the Castle, which in 1159 was not a
ruined fortress, but an aristocratic mansion, wherein the great De Veres
held almost royal state.

"Why don't you like Saint Martin's Well, Flemild?" demanded the child,
with childish curiosity.

"Oh, for lots of reasons," answered her sister evasively.

"Tell me one or two."

"Well, there is always a crowd there towards evening.  Then, very often,
there are ragamuffins on Penniless Bench [Note 2] that one does not want
to come too near.  Then--don't you see, we have to pass the Jewry?"

"What would they do to us?" asked the child.

"Don't talk about it!" returned her sister, with a shudder.  "Don't you
know, Derette, the Jews are very, very wicked people?  Hasn't Mother
told you so many a time?  Never you go near them--now, mind!"

"Are they worse than we are?"

Flemild's conscience pricked her a little as she replied, "Of course
they are.  Don't you know they crucified our Lord?"

"What, these Jews?" asked Derette with open eyes.  "Old Aaron, and
Benefei at the corner, and Jurnet the fletcher, and--O Flemild, not,
surely not Countess and Regina?  They look so nice and kind, I'm sure
they never could do any thing like that!"

"No, child, not these people, of course.  Why, it was hundreds and
hundreds of years ago.  But these are just as bad--every one of them.
They would do it again if they had the chance."

"Countess wouldn't, _I_ know," persisted the little one.  "Why, Flemild,
only last week, she caught pussy for me, and gave her to me, and she
smiled so prettily.  I liked her.  If Mother hadn't said I must never
speak to any of them, I'd have had a chat with her; but of course I
couldn't, then, so I only smiled back again, and nodded for `thank
you.'"

"Derette!"  There was genuine terror in the tone of the elder sister.
"Don't you know those people are all wicked witches?  Regular black
witches, in league with the Devil.  There isn't one of them would not
cast a spell on you as soon as look at you."

"What would it do to me?" inquired the startled child.

"What wouldn't it do? you had better ask.  Make you into a horrid black
snake, or a pig, or something you would not like to be, I can tell you."

"I shouldn't quite like to be a black snake," said Derette, after a
minute's pause for reflection.  "But I don't think I should much mind
being a pig.  Little, tiny pigs are rather pretty things; and when they
lie and grunt, they look very comfortable."

"Silly child!--you'd have no soul to be saved!"

"Shouldn't I?  But, Flemild, I don't quite see--if _I_ were the pig--
would that be me or the pig?"

"Hi, there!  Where are you going?"

Flemild was not very sorry to be saved the solution of Derette's
difficult problem.  She turned to the youth of some fifteen years, who
had hailed her from the corner of Castle Street.

"Where you should have gone instead, Haimet--with the budget for water.
Do go with me now."

"Where on earth are you going--to Osney?"

"No, stupid boy: to Plato's Well."

"I'm not going there.  I don't mind Saint Maudlin's, if you like."

"We are out of the way to Saint Maudlin's, or else I shouldn't have
minded--"

"No, my lady, I rather think you wouldn't have minded the chance of a
dance in Horsemonger Street.  However, I'm not going to Plato's Well.
If you go with me, you go to Saint Maudlin's; and if you don't, you may
find your way back by yourselves, that's all."

And laying his hands on the budget, Haimet transferred it from his
sister's keeping to his own.

Plato's Well stood in Stockwell Street, on the further side of the
Castle, and on the south of Gloucester Hall, now Worcester College.
Fortified by her brother's presence, Flemild turned after him, and they
went up Castle Street, and along North Bayly Street into Bedford Lane,
now the northern part of New Inn Hall Street.  When they reached the
North Gate, they had to wait to go out, for it was just then blocked by
a drove of cattle, each of which had to pay the municipal tax of a
halfpenny, and they were followed by a cart of sea-fish, which paid
fourpence.  The gate being clear, they passed through it, Flemild
casting rather longing looks down Horsemonger Street (the modern Broad
Street), where a bevy of young girls were dancing, while their elders
sat at their doors and looked on; but she did not attempt to join them.
A little further, just past the Church of Saint Mary Magdalen, they came
to a small gothic building over a well.  Here, for this was Saint
Maudlin's Well, Haimet drew the water, and they set forth on the return
journey.

"Want to go after those damsels?" inquired the youth, with a nod in the
direction of the dancers, as they passed the end of the street.

"N-o," said Flemild.  "Mother bade me haste back.  Beside, they won't be
out many minutes longer.  It isn't worth while."

"Like a woman," retorted Haimet with a satirical grin; "the real reason
always comes last."

"What do you know about it?" answered his sister, not ill-humouredly, as
they paused again at the North Gate.  "O Haimet, what are those?"

A small company of about thirty--men, women, and a few children--were
coming slowly down Horsemonger Street.  They were attired in rough short
tunics, warm sheepskin cloaks, heavy boots which had seen hard service,
and felt hats or woollen hoods.  Each man carried a long staff, and all
looked as though they were ending a wearisome journey.  Their faces had
a foreign aspect, and most of the men wore beards,--not a very common
sight in England at that date, especially with the upper classes.  And
these men were no serfs, as was shown by the respectability of their
appearance, and the absence of the brazen neck-collar which marked the
slave.

The man who walked first of the little company, and had a look of
intelligence and power, addressed himself to the porter at the gate in
excellent French--almost too excellent for comprehension.  For though
French was at that date the Court tongue in England, as now in Belgium,
it was Norman French, scarcely intelligible to a Parisian, and still
less so to a Provencal.  The porter understood only the general scope of
the query--that the speaker wished to know if he and his companions
might find lodging in the city.

"Go in," said he bluntly.  "As to lodgings, the saints know where you
will get them.  There are dog-holes somewhere, I dare say."

The leader turned, and said a few words to his friends in an unknown
tongue, when they at once followed him through the gate.  As he passed
close by the girls, they noticed that a book hung down from his girdle--
a very rare sight to their eyes.  While they were watching the
foreigners defile past them, the leader stopped and turned to Haimet,
who was a little in advance of his sisters.

"My master," he said, "would you for the love of God tell us strangers
where we can find lodging?  We seek any honest shelter, and ask no
delicate fare.  We would offend no man, and would gladly help with any
household work."

Haimet hesitated, and gnawed his under lip in doubtful fashion.  Flemild
pressed forward.

"Master," she said, "if in truth you are content with plain fare and
lodging, I think my mother would be willing to give room to one or two
of the women among you, if they would pay her by aid in household work:
and methinks our next neighbour would maybe do as much.  Thinkest thou
not so, Haimet?--Will you follow us and see?"

"Most gladly, maiden," was the answer.

"My word, Flemild, you are in for it!" whispered Haimet.  "Mother will
be right grateful to you for bringing a whole army of strangers upon
her, who may be witches for all you know."

"Mother will be glad enough of a woman's arms to help her, and let her
rest her own," replied Flemild decidedly; "and I am sure they look quite
respectable."

"Well, look out for storms!" said Haimet.

Flemild, who had acted on an impulse of compassionate interest, was
herself a little doubtful how her action would be received at home,
though she did not choose to confess it.  They passed down North Gate
Street (now the Corn-market), and crossing High Street, went a few yards
further before they readied their own street.  On their right hand stood
the cooks' shops, and afterwards the vintners', while all along on their
left ran the dreaded Jewry, which reached from High Street to what is
_now_ the chief entrance of Christ Church.  The fletchers' and cutlers'
stalls stood along this side of the street.  Eastwards the Jewry
stretched to Oriel Street, and on the south came very near the Cathedral
Church of Saint Frideswide.  The (now destroyed) Church of Saint Edward
stood in the midst of it.

As our friends turned into their own street, they passed a girl of some
seventeen years of age--a very handsome girl, with raven hair and dark
brilliant eyes.

She smiled at Derette as she passed, and the child returned the silent
salutation, taking care to turn her head so that her sister should not
see her.  A moment later they came to their own door, over which hung a
panel painted with a doubtful object, which charity might accept as the
walnut tree for which it was intended.  Just as this point was reached,
their mother came to the door, carrying a tin basin, from which she
threw some dirty water where every body then threw it, into the gutter.

"Saint Benedict be merciful to us!" she cried, nearly dropping the
basin.  "What on earth is all this ado?  And the children here in the
midst of it!  Holy Virgin, help us!  There is nothing but trouble for a
poor woman in this world.  And me as good as a widow, and worse, too.
Haimet!  Flemild! whatever are you about?"

"Mother," said Flemild in politic wise, "I have brought you some help.
These good women here seek lodging for the night--any decent kind will
serve them--and they offer to pay for it in work.  It will be such a
rest for you, Mother, if you will take in one or two; and don't you
think Franna would do the same, and old Turguia be glad of the chance?"

Isel stood with the basin in her hand, and a look half vexed, half
amused, upon her face.

"Well! what is to be will be," she said at last.  "I suppose you've
arranged it all.  It'll be grand rest to have every thing smashed in the
house.  Come in, friends, as many of you as like.  Those that can't find
straw to lie on can sit on a budget.  Blessed saints, the shiftlessness
of girls!"

And with a tone of voice which seemed to be the deeper depth below
despair itself, Isel led the way into the house.

Derette had fallen a little back, entranced by a sight which always
attracted her.  She loved any thing that she could pet, whether a baby
or a kitten; and had once, to the horror of her mother's housekeeping
soul, been discovered offering friendly advances to a whole family of
mice.  In the arms of the woman who immediately followed the leader, lay
what seemed to Derette's eyes a particularly fascinating baby.  She now
edged her way to her mother's side, with an imploring whisper of
"There's a baby, Mother!"

"There's three, child.  I counted them," was the grim reply.

"But, Mother, there's one particular baby--"

"Then you'd better go and fetch it, before you lose it," said Isel in
the same tone.

Derette, who took the suggestion literally, ran out, and with many
smiles and encouraging nods, led in the baby and its mother, with a
young girl of about eighteen years, who came after them, and seemed to
belong to them.

"I suppose I shall have to go with you, at any rate through this
street," said Haimet, returning after he had set down the bucket.  "Our
folks here won't understand much of that lingo of yours.  Come along."

The tone was less rough than the words--it usually was with Haimet,--and
the little company followed him down the street, very ready to accept
the least attempt at kindness.

Isel and Flemild were somewhat dismayed to discover that their chosen
guests could not understand a word they said, and were quite as
unintelligible to them.  Derette's mute offer to hold the baby was
quickly comprehended; and when Isel, taking the woman and girl up the
ladder, showed them a heap of clean straw, on which two thick rough rugs
lay folded, they quite understood that their sleeping-place for the
night was to be there.  Isel led the way down again, placed a bowl of
apples before the girl, laid a knife beside it, and beginning to pare
one of the apples, soon made known to her what she required.  In a
similar manner she seated the woman in the chimney-corner, and put into
her hands a petticoat which she was making for Derette.  Both the
strangers smiled and nodded, and went to work with a will, while Isel
set on some of the fresh water just brought, and began to prepare
supper.

"Well, this is a queer fix as ever I saw!" muttered Isel, as she cleaned
her fish ready for boiling.  "It's true enough what my grandmother used
to say--you never know, when you first open your eyes of a morning, what
they'll light on afore you shut them at night.  If one could talk to
these outlandish folks, there'd be more sense in it.  Flemild, I wonder
if they've come across your father."

"O Mother, couldn't we ask them?"

"How, child?  If I say, `Have you seen aught of an Englishman called
Manning Brown?' as like as not they'll think I'm saying, `Come and eat
this pie.'"

Flemild laughed.  "That first man talks," she said.

"Ay, and he's gone with the lot.  Just my luck!--always was.  My father
was sure to be killed in the wars, and my husband was safe to take it
into his head to go and fight the Saracens, instead of stopping at home
like a decent fellow to help his wife and bring up his children the way
they should go.  Well!--it can't be helped, I suppose."

"Why did Father go to fight the Saracens?" demanded Derette, looking up
from the baby.

"Don't you know, Derette?  It is to rescue our Lord's sepulchre," said
Flemild.

"Does He want it?" replied Derette.

Flemild did not know how to answer.  "It is a holy place, and ought not
to be left in the hands of wicked people."

"Are Saracens wicked people?"

"Yes, of course--as bad as Jews.  They are a sort of Jews, I believe; at
any rate, they worship idols, and weave wicked spells."  [Note 3.]

"Is all the world full of wicked people?"

"Pretty nigh, child!" said her mother, with a sigh.  "The saints know
that well enough."

"I wonder if the saints do know," answered Derette meditatively, rocking
the baby in her arms.  "I should have thought they'd come and mend
things, if they did.  Why don't they, Mother?"

"Bless you, child!  The saints know their own business best.  Come here
and watch this pan whilst I make the sauce."

The supper was ready, and was just about to be dished up, when Haimet
entered, accompanied by the leader of the foreigners, to the evident
delight of the guests.

"Only just in time," murmured Isel.  "However, it is as well you've
brought somebody to speak to.  Where's all the rest of them folks?"

"Got them all housed at last," said Haimet, flinging his hat into a
corner.  "Most in the town granary, but several down this street.  Old
Turguia took two women, and Franna a man and wife: and what think you?--
if old Benefei did not come forth and offer to take in some."

"Did they go with him?"

"As easy in their minds, so far as looks went, as if it had been my Lord
himself.  Didn't seem to care half a straw."

"Sweet Saint Frideswide!  I do hope they aren't witches themselves,"
whispered Isel in some perturbation.

To open one's house for the reception of passing strangers was not an
unusual thing in that day; but the danger of befriending--and yet more
of offending--those who were in league with the Evil One, was an
ever-present fear to the minds of men and women in the twelfth century.

The leader overheard the whisper.

"Good friends," he said, addressing Isel, "suffer me to set your minds
at rest with a word of explanation.  We are strangers, mostly of
Teutonic race, that have come over to this land on a mission of good and
mercy.  Indeed we are not witches, Jews, Saracens, nor any evil thing:
only poor harmless peasants that will work for our bread and molest no
man, if we may be suffered to abide in your good country for this
purpose.  This is my wife--" he laid his hand on the shoulder of the
baby's mother--"her name is Agnes, and she will soon learn your tongue.
This is my young sister, whose name is Ermine; and my infant son is
called Rudolph.  Mine own name is Gerhardt, at your service.  I am a
weaver by trade, and shall be pleased to exercise my craft in your
behalf, thus to return the kindness you have shown us."

"Well, I want some new clothes ill enough, the saints know," said Isel
in answer; "and if you behave decent, and work well, and that, I don't
say as I might be altogether sorry for having taken you in.  It's right,
I suppose, to help folks in trouble--though it's little enough help I
ever get that way, saints knows!--and I hope them that's above 'll bear
it in mind when things come to be reckoned up like."

That was Isel's religion.  It is the practical religion of a sadly large
number of people in this professedly Christian land.

Agnes turned and spoke a few words in a low voice to her husband, who
smiled in answer.

"My wife wishes me to thank you," he said, "in her name and that of my
sister, for your goodness in taking us strangers so generously into your
home.  She says that she can work hard, and will gladly do so, if, until
she can speak your tongue, you will call her attention, and do for a
moment what you wish her to do.  Ermine says the same."

"Well, that's fair-spoken enough, I can't deny," responded Isel; "and
I'm not like to say I shan't be glad of a rest.  There's nought but hard
work in this world, without it's hard words: and which is the uglier of
them I can't say.  It'll be done one of these days, I reckon."

"And then, friend?" asked Gerhardt quietly.

"Well, if you know the answer to that, you know more than I do," said
Isel, dishing up her salt fish.  "Dear saints, where ever is that boy
Romund?  Draw up the form, Haimet, and let us have our supper.  Say
grace, boy."

Haimet obeyed, by the short and easy process of making a large cross
over the table, and muttering a few unintelligible words, which should
have been a Latin formula.  The first surprise received from the foreign
guests came now.  Instead of sitting down to supper, the trio knelt and
prayed in silence for some minutes, ere they rose and joined their hosts
at the table.  Then Gerhardt spoke aloud.

"God, who blessed the five barley loaves and the two fishes before His
disciples in the wilderness, bless this table and that which is set on
it, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

"Oh, you do say your prayers!" remarked Isel in a tone of satisfaction,
as the guests began their supper.  "But I confess I'd sooner say mine
while the fish isn't getting cold."

"We do, indeed," answered Gerhardt gravely.

"Oh, by the way, tell me if you've ever come across an English traveller
called Manning Brown?  My husband took the cross, getting on for three
years now, and I've never heard another word about him since.  Thought
you might have chanced on him somewhere or other."

"Whither went he, and which way did he take?"

"Bless you, I don't know!  He went to foreign parts: and foreign parts
are all one to me."

Gerhardt looked rather amused.

"We come from Almayne," he said; "some of us in past years dwelt in
Provence, Toulouse, and Gascony."

"Don't tell me!" said Isel, holding up her hands.  "It's all so much
gibberish.  Have you met with my man?--that's all I want to know."

"I have not," replied Gerhardt.  "I will ask my friends, and see if any
of them have done so."

Supper over, a second surprise followed.  Again Gerhardt offered his
special blessing--"God, who has given us bodily food, grant us His
spiritual life; and may God be with us, and we always with Him!"  Then
they once more knelt and silently prayed.  Gerhardt drew his wife and
sister into a corner of the house, and opening his book, read a short
portion, after which they engaged in low-toned conversation.

Derette, with the baby in her arms, had drawn near the group.  She was
not at all bashful.

"I wish I could understand you," she said.  "What are you talking
about?"

Gerhardt lifted his cap before answering.

"About our blessed Lord Christ, my maiden," he said.

Derette nodded, with an air of satisfaction at the wide extent of her
knowledge.  "I know.  He's holy Mary's Son."

"Ay, and He is our Saviour," added Flemild.

"Is He thy Saviour, little one?" asked Gerhardt.

"I don't know what you mean," was the answer.

"O Derette! you know well enough that our Lord is called the Saviour!"
corrected her sister in rather a shocked tone.

"I know that, but I don't know what it means," persisted the child
sturdily.

"Come, be quiet!" said her mother.  "I never did see such a child for
wanting to get to the bottom of things.--Well, Romund!  Folks that want
supper should come in time for it.  All's done and put by now."

"I have had my supper at the Lodge," responded a tall young man of
twenty-two, who had just entered.  "Who are those people?"

His mother gave the required explanation.  Romund looked rather
doubtfully at the guests.  Gerhardt, seeing that this was the master of
the house, at least under present circumstances, rose, and respectfully
raising his cap, apologised for their presence.

"What can you do?" inquired Romund shortly.

"My trade is weaving," replied Gerhardt, "but I can stack wood or cut
it, put up shelves, milk cows, or attend to a garden.  I shall be glad
to do any thing in my power."

"You may nail up the vine over the back door," said Romund, "and I dare
say my mother can find you some shelves and hooks to put up.  The women
can cook and sew.  You may stay for a few days, at any rate."

Gerhardt expressed his thanks, and Romund, disappearing outside the back
door, returned with some pieces of wood and tools, which he laid down on
the form.  He was trying to carve a wooden box with a pattern of oak
leaves, but he had not progressed far, and his attempts were not of the
first order.  Haimet noticed Gerhardt's interested glance cast on his
brother's work.

"Is that any thing in your line?" he asked with a smile.

"I have done a little in that way," replied Gerhardt modestly.  "May I
examine it?" he asked of Romund.

The young carver nodded, and Gerhardt took up the box.

"This is an easy pattern," he said.

"Easy, do you call it?" replied Romund.  "It is the hardest I have done
yet.  Those little round inside bits are so difficult to manage."

"May I try?" asked Gerhardt.

It was not very willingly that Romund gave permission, for he almost
expected the spoiling of his work: but the carving-tool had not made
more than a few cuts in the German's fingers, before Romund saw that his
guest was a master in the art.  The work so laborious and difficult to
him seemed to do itself when Gerhardt took hold of it.

"Why, you are a first-class hand at it!" he cried.

Gerhardt smiled.  "I have done the like before, in my own country," he
said.

"Will you teach me your way of working?" asked Romund eagerly.  "I never
had any body to teach me.  I should be as glad as could be to learn of
one that really knew."

"Gladly," said Gerhardt.  "It will give me pleasure to do any thing for
the friends who have been so kind to me."

"Derette, it is your bedtime," came from the other corner--not by any
means to Derette's gratification.  "Give the baby to its mother, and be
off."

Very unwillingly Derette obeyed: but Gerhardt, looking up, requested
Isel's permission for his wife and sister to retire with the child.
They had had a long journey that day, and were quite worn out.  Isel
readily assented, and Derette with great satisfaction saw them accompany
her up the ladder.

The houses of the common people at that time were extremely poor.  This
family were small gentlefolks after a fashion, and looked down upon the
tradesmen by whom they were surrounded as greatly their inferiors: yet
they dwelt in two rooms, one above the other, with a ladder as the only
means of communication.  Their best bed, on which Isel and Flemild
slept, was a rough wooden box filled with straw, on the top of which
were a bed and a mattress, covered by coarse quilts and a rug of
rabbit-skin.  Derette and the boys lay on sacks filled with chaff, with
woollen rugs over them.

The baby was already asleep, and Agnes laid it gently on one of the
woollen rugs, while she and Ermine, to Derette's amazement, knelt and
prayed for some time.  Derette herself took scarcely five minutes to her
prayers.  Why should she require more, when her notion of prayer was not
to make request for what she wanted to One who could give it to her, but
to gabble over one Creed, six Paternosters, and the doxology, with as
much rapidity as she could persuade her lips to utter the words?  Then,
in another five minutes, after a few rapid motions, Derette drew the
woollen rug over her, and very quickly knew nothing more, for that night
at least.

The city of Oxford, as then inhabited, was considerably smaller than it
is now.  The walls ran, roughly speaking, on the north, from the Castle
to Holywell Street, on the east a little lower than the end of Merton
Street, thence on the south to the other side of the Castle.  Beyond the
walls the houses extended northwards somewhat further than to Beaumont
Street, and southwards about half-way to Friar Bacon's Tower.  The
oldest church in the city is Saint Peter's in the East, which was
originally built in the reign of Alfred; the University sermons used to
be delivered in the stone pulpit of this church.

There was a royal palace in Oxford, built by Henry First, who styled it
le Beau Mont; it stood in Stockwell Street, nearly on the site of the
present workhouse.  It had not been visited by royalty since 1157, when
a baby was born in it, destined to become a mighty man of valour, and to
be known to all ages as King Richard Coeur-de-Lion.  In 1317 King Edward
Second bestowed it on the White Friars, and all that now remains of it
is a small portion of the wall built into the workhouse.

The really great man of the city was the Earl of Oxford, at that time
Aubrey de Vere, the first holder of the title.  He had been married to a
lady who was a near relative of King Stephen, but his second and present
Countess, though of good family, came from a lower grade.

Modern ideas of a castle are often inaccurate.  It was not always a
single fortified mansion, but consisted quite as frequently of an
embattled wall surrounding several houses, and usually including a
church.  The Castle of Oxford was of the latter type, the Church of
Saint George being on its western side.  The keep of a castle was
occupied by the garrison, though it generally contained two or three
special chambers for the use of the owner, should necessity oblige him
and his family to take refuge there in a last extremity.  The entrance
was dexterously contrived, particularly when the fortress consisted of a
single house, to present as much difficulty as possible to a besieger.
It was always at some height in the wall, and was reached by a winding,
or rather rambling, stairway leading from the drawbridge, and often
running round a considerable part of the wall.  One or more gates in the
course of this stair could be closed at pleasure.  A large and imposing
portal admitted the visitor to a small tower occupied by the guards,
through which the real entrance was approached.  This stood in the
thickness of the outer wall, and was protected by another pair of gates
and a portcullis, just inside which was the porter's lodge.  On the
ground-floor the soldiers were lodged; on the midmost were the state and
family apartments, while the uppermost accommodated the household
servants and attendants.  A special tower was usually reserved for the
ladies of the family, and was often accompanied by a tiny garden.  In
the partition wall a well was dug, which could be reached on every
floor; and below the vestibule was a dungeon.  The great banqueting-hall
was the general sitting-room to which every one in the castle had
access; and here it was common for family, servants, and guard to take
together their two principal meals--dinner at nine a.m., supper at four
or five o'clock.  The only distinction observed was that the board and
trestles for the family and guests were set up on the dais, for the
household and garrison below.  The tables were arranged in the form of a
horse-shoe, the diners sitting on the outer or larger side, while the
servants waited on the inner.  The ladies had, beside this, their own
private sitting-room, always attached to the bedchamber, and known as
the "bower," to which strangers were rarely admitted.  Here they sat and
sang, gossiped, and worked their endless embroidery.  The days were
scarcely yet over when English needlework bore the palm in Europe and
even in the East, while the first illuminators were the monks of
Ireland.  Ladies were the spinners, weavers, surgeons, and readers of
the day; they were great at interpreting dreams, and dearly loved
flowers.  The gentlemen looked upon reading as an occupation quite as
effeminate as sewing, war and hunting being the two main employments of
the lords of creation, and gambling the chief amusement.  Priests and
monks were the exceptions to this rule, until Henry First introduced a
taste for somewhat more liberal education.  Even more respectful to
letters was his grandson Henry Second, who had a fancy for resembling
his grandfather in every thing; yet he allowed the education of his sons
to be thoroughly neglected.

The popular idea that the University of Oxford is older than King Alfred
is scarcely borne out by modern research.  That there was some kind of
school there in Alfred's day is certain: but nothing like a university
arose before the time of Henry First, and the impetus which founded it
came from outside.  A Frenchman with a Scotch education, and a Jewish
Rabbi, are the two men to whom more than any others must be traced the
existence of the University of Oxford.

Theodore d'Etampes, a secular priest, and apparently a chaplain of Queen
Margaret of Scotland, arrived at Oxford about the year 1116, where he
taught classes of scholars from sixty to a hundred in number.  But every
thing which we call science came there with the Jews, who settled under
the shadow of Saint Frideswide shortly after the Conquest.  Hebrew,
astronomy, astrology, geometry, and mathematics, were taught by them, at
their hostels of Lombard Hall, Moses Hall, and Jacob Hall; while law,
theology, and the "humanities," engaged the attention of the Christian
lecturers.  Cardinal Pullus, Robert de Cricklade, and the Lombard jurist
Vacario, each in his turn made Oxford famous, until King Stephen closed
the mouth of "the Master" of civil law, and burned at once the law-books
and the Jews.  Henry Second revived and protected the schools, in the
churchyard outside the west door of Saint Mary's Church; the scriveners,
binders, illuminators, and parchmenters, occupying Schools Street, which
ran thence towards the city wall.

The special glory of Oxford, at that time, was not the University, but
the shrine of Saint Frideswide.  This had existed from the eighth
century, when the royal maiden whom it celebrated, after declining to
fulfil a contract of matrimony which her father had made for her (as she
was much too holy to be married), had added insult to injury by
miraculously inflicting blindness on her disappointed lover when he
attempted to pursue her.  She had, however, the grace to restore his
sight on due apologies being made.  Becoming Prioress of the convent
which she founded, she died therein on October 14th, 740, which day was
afterwards held as a gaudy day.  Possibly because her indignant lover
was a king, it was held ominous for any monarch to enter the Chapel of
Saint Frideswide in her convent church.  King John, who was as
superstitious on some points as he was profane on others, never dared to
pass the threshold.

His father, being gifted with more common sense, was present at the
translation of the saint in 1180.  The bones of Saint Frideswide still
sleep in Christ Church; but at the Reformation they were purposely
mingled with those of Katherine Vermilia, wife of Peter Martyr, and on
the grave where the two were interred was carved the inscription, "Here
lieth Religion with Superstition."  Of course the object of this was to
prevent any further worship of the relics, as it would be impossible to
discern the bones of the saint from those of the heretic.  It is not
improbable that both were good women according to their light; but the
saint was assuredly far the less enlightened.  To common sense, apart
from tradition and sentiment, it is difficult to understand why a
certain group of persons, who lived in an age when education was very
limited, superstition and prejudice very rife, spirituality almost
dormant, and a taste for childish follies and useless hair-splitting the
commonest things in literature, should be singled out for special
reverence as "saints," or under the honourable name of "the Fathers," be
deemed higher authorities in respect to the interpretation of Holy Writ
than the far more intelligent and often far more spiritual writers of
later date.  If this curious hero-worship were confined to the
generation immediately following the Apostles, it would be a little more
intelligible; as such men might possibly have derived some of their
ideas from apostolic oral teaching.  But to those who know the history
of the early ages of Christianity, and are not blinded by prejudice, it
is simply amazing that the authority of such men as Basil, Cyprian, and
Jerome, should be held to override that of the spiritual giants of the
Puritan era, and of those who have deeply and reverently studied
Scripture in our own times.  To appeal to the views held by such men as
decisive of the burning questions of the day, is like referring matters
of grave import to the judgment of little children, instead of
consulting men of ripe experience.  We know what followed a similar
blunder on the part of King Rehoboam.  Yet how often is it repeated!  It
would seem that not only is "no prophet accepted in his own country,"
but also in his own day.

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

Note 1.  Saint Martin's Well stood in the junction of the "four-ways"
from which Carfax takes its name.

Note 2.  Penniless Bench, which ran along the east end of Carfax Church,
was the original of all "penniless benches."  It was not always occupied
by idle vagrants, for sometimes the scholars of the University used to
congregate there, as well as the Corporation of the city.

Note 3.  All Christians believed this at that date.



CHAPTER TWO.

VALIANT FOR THE FAITH.

  "As labourers in Thy vineyard,
      Send us out, Christ, to be,
   Content to bear the burden
      Of weariness for Thee.

  "We ask no other wages
      When Thou shalt call us Home,
  But to have shared the travail
      Which makes Thy kingdom come."

It is popularly supposed that surnames only came into existence with the
reign of King John.  This is not quite an accurate assertion.  They
existed from the Conquest, but were chiefly personal, and apart from the
great feudal families, only began at that date to consolidate and
crystallise into hereditary names.  So far as common people were
concerned, in the reign of Henry the Second, a man's surname was usually
restricted to himself.  He was named either from one of his parents, as
John William-son, or John Fitz-mildred; from his habitation, as John by
the Brook; from his calling, as John the Tanner; from some peculiarity
in his costume, as John Whitehood,--in his person, as John Fairhair,--in
his mind, as John Lovegood,--in his tastes, as John Milk-sop,--or in his
habits, as John Drinkdregs.  If he removed from one place to another, he
was likely to change his name, and to become known, say at Winchester,
as John de Nottingham; or if his father were a priest who was a
well-known person, he would not improbably be styled John
Fiz-al-Prester.  [Note 1.]  It will readily be seen that the majority of
these names were not likely to descend to a second generation.  The son
of John William-son would be Henry John-son, or Henry Alice-son; he
might or might not retain the personal name, or the trade-name; but the
place-name he probably would inherit.  This explains the reason why so
large a majority of our modern surnames are place-names, whether in
respect of a town, as Nottingham, Debenham, Brentwood: or of a country
locality, as Brook, Lane, Hill, etcetera.  Now and then a series of
Johns in regular descent would fix the name of Johnson on the family; or
the son and grandson pursuing the same calling as the father, would turn
the line into Tanners.  All surnames have arisen in such a manner.

Our friends in Kepeharme Lane knew nothing of surnames otherwise than
personal, apart from the great territorial families of Norman
immigration, who brought their place-names with them.  Manning Brown was
so termed from his complexion; his elder son, not being specially
remarkable, was known merely as Romund Fitz-Manning; but the younger, in
his boyhood of a somewhat impetuous temper, had conferred on him the
epithet of Haimet Escorceueille, or Burntown.  The elder brother of
Manning was dubbed Gilbert Cuntrevent, or Against-the-Wind; and his two
sons, of whom one was the head porter, and another a watchman, at the
Castle, were called Osbert le Porter and Stephen Esueillechien, or
Watchdog,--the last term evidently a rendering of English into
_dog-French_.  Our forefathers were apt hands at giving nicknames.
Their epithets were always direct and graphic, sometimes highly
satirical, some very unpleasant, and some very picturesque.  Isel, who
was recognised as a woman of a complaining spirit, was commonly spoken
of as Isel the Sweet; while her next neighbour, who lorded it over a
very meek husband, received the pungent appellation of Franna
Gillemichel.  [Note 2.]

The day after the arrival of the Germans, the porter's wife came down to
see her kindred.

"What, you've got some of those queer folks here?" she said in a loud
whisper to Isel, though Gerhardt was not present, and his wife and
sister could not understand a word she spoke.

"Ay, they seem decentish folks," was the reply, as Isel washed her
eel-like lampreys for a pie--the fish which had, according to tradition,
proved the death of Henry the First.

"Oh, do they so?  You mind what you are after.  Osbert says he makes no
account of them.  He believes they're Jews, if not worse."

"Couldn't be worse," said Isel sententiously.  "Nothing of the sort,
Anania.  They say their prayers oftener than we do."

"Ay, but what to?  Just tell me that.  Old Turguia has some in her
house, and she says they take never a bit of notice of our Lady nor
Saint Helen, that she has upstairs and down; they just kneel down and
fall a-praying anywhere.  What sort of work do you call that?"

"I don't know as I wish to call it anything in particular, without
you're very anxious," replied Isel.

"But I am anxious about it, Aunt.  These folks are in your house, and if
they are witches and such like, it's you and the girls who will suffer."

"Well, do you think it's much matter?" asked Isel, putting aside the
lampreys, and taking up a bushel basket of Kentish pearmains.  "If our
Lady could hear me in one corner, I reckon she could hear me in
another."

"But to turn their backs on them!" remonstrated Anania.

"Well, I turn mine on her, when I'm at work, many a time of a day."

"Work--ay.  But not when you're at prayer, I suppose?"

"Oh, it'll be all right at last, I hope," said Isel a little uneasily.

"Hope's poor fare, Aunt.  But I tell you, these folks are after no good.
Why, only think! five of them got taken in by those rascals of Jews--
three in Benefei's house, and two at Jurnet's.  _They'd_ never have
taken them in, depend on it, if they hadn't known they weren't so much
better than they should be."

Agnes and Ermine understood none of these words, though they saw readily
enough that the looks Anania cast upon them were not friendly.  But
Derette spoke up for her friends.

"They're much better than you, Cousin Anania!" said that downright young
woman.

"Keep a civil tongue in your head," replied Anania sharply.

"I'd rather have a true one," was the child's answer; "and I'm not sure
they always go together."

"Osbert says," pursued Anania, ignoring Derette, "that he expects
there'll be a stir when my Lord comes to hear of them.  Much if they
don't get turned out, bag and baggage.  Serve 'em right, too!"

"They haven't got any bags," said literal Derette.  "I don't think
they've any of them any clothes but what they wear.  Only Gerard's got a
book."

"A book!  What is it about?" cried Anania.  "Is he a priest?--surely
not!"

Only a priest or monk, in her eyes, could have any business with a book.

"Oh no, he's no priest; he's a weaver."

"Then what on earth is he doing with a book?  You get hold of it, Aunt!
I'll warrant you it's some sort of wickedness--safe to be!  Black spells
to turn you all into ugly toads, or some such naughty stuff--take my
word for it!"

"I'd rather not, Cousin Anania, for you haven't seen it, so your word
isn't much good," said Derette calmly.

"It's not like to do us much good when we do see it," observed Isel,
"because it will be in their own language, no doubt."

"But if it's a witch-book, it's like to have horoscopes and all manner
of things in it!" said Anania, returning to the charge.

"Then it is not, for I have seen it," said Flemild.  "It is in a foreign
language; but all in it beside words is only red lines ruled round the
pages."

"He read me a piece out of it," added Derette; "and it was a pretty
story about our Lady, and how she carried our Lord away when He was a
baby, that the wicked King should not get hold of Him.  It wasn't bad at
all, Cousin Anania.  You are bad, to say such things when you don't know
they are true."

"Hush, child!" said her mother.

"I'll hush," responded Derette, marching off to Agnes and the baby: "but
it's true, for all that."

"That girl wants teaching manners," commented Anania.  "I really think
it my duty, Aunt, to tell you that nearly every body that knows you is
talking of that child's forward manners and want of respect for her
betters.  You don't hear such remarks made, but I do.  She will be
insufferable if the thing is not stopped."

"Oh, well, stop it, then!" said Isel wearily, "only leave me in peace.
I'm just that tired!--"

"I beg your pardon, Aunt!  Derette is not my child.  I have no right to
correct her.  If I had--"

Anania left it to be understood that the consequences would not be to
her little cousin's taste.

"She'll get along well enough, I dare say.  I haven't time to bother
with her," said Isel.

"She will just be a bye-word in the whole town, Aunt.  You don't know
how people talk.  I've heard it said that you are too idle to take any
pains with the child."

"Idle?--me!" cried poor Isel.  "I'm up long before you, and I don't get
a wink of sleep till the whole town's been snoring for an hour or more:
and every minute of the time as full as it can be crammed.  I'll tell
you what, Anania, I don't believe you know what work means.  If you'd
just change with me for a week, you'd have an idea or two more in your
head at the end of it."

"I see, Aunt, you are vexed at what I told you," replied Anania in a
tone of superior virtue.  "I am thankful to say I have not my house in
the mess yours is, and my children are decently behaved.  I thought it
only kind to let you know the remarks that are being made: but of
course, if you prefer to be left ignorant, I don't need to stay.  Good
morrow!  Pray don't disturb yourself, Flemild--I can let myself out, as
you are all so busy.  You'll be sorry some day you did not take advice.
But I never obtrude my advice; if people don't want it, I shall not
trouble them with it.  It's a pity, that's all."

"Oh deary, deary!" cried poor Isel, as Anania sailed away with her head
held rather higher than usual.  "Why ever did she come to plague me,
when I've got my hands as full already!--And what on earth does she
mean, calling me names, and Derette too?  The child's good enough--only
a bit thoughtless, as children always are.  I do wonder why folks can't
let a body alone!"

For three days the Germans rested peacefully in their new quarters.  At
the end of that time, Gerhardt called on all his little company, and
desired them to meet him early on the following morning on a piece of
vacant ground, a few miles from the city.  They met as agreed, eighteen
men and eleven women, of all ages, from young Conrad whose moustache was
little more than down, to old Berthold who carried the weight of
threescore and fifteen years.

"My friends," said Gerhardt, "let us speak to our God, before we say
anything to each other."

All knelt, and Gerhardt poured forth a fervent prayer that God would be
with them and aid them in the work which they had undertaken; that He
would supply them with bread to eat, and raiment to put on; that He
would keep the door of their lips, that they should speak neither guile,
discourtesy, nor error, yet open their mouths that with all boldness
they might preach His Word; that none of them might be ashamed to
confess the faith of Christ crucified, nor seek to hide the offence of
the cross for the sake of pleasing men.  A whole-hearted Amen was the
response from the group around him.

They rose, and Gerhardt repeated by heart three Psalms--the fifteenth,
the forty-sixth, and the ninetieth--not in Latin, but in sonorous
German, many of his compatriots taking up the words and repeating them
with him, in a style which made it plain that they were very familiar.
Then Gerhardt spoke.

"I will but shortly remind you, my friends," he said, "of the reason for
which we are here.  Hundreds of years ago, it pleased God to send to us
Germans a good English pastor, who name was Winfrid, when we were poor
heathens, serving stocks and stones.  He came with intent to deliver us
from that gloomy bondage, and to convert us to the faith of Christ.  God
so blessed his efforts that as their consequence, Germany is Christian
at this day; and he, leaving his English name of Winfrid, the
Peace-Conqueror (though a truer name he could never have had), is known
among us as Boniface, the doer of good deeds.  Since his day, four
hundred years have passed, and the Church of Christ throughout the world
has woefully departed from the pure faith.  We are come out, like the
Apostles, a little company,--like them, poor and unlearned,--but rich in
the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord; we are come to tread in
their steps, to do the work they did, and to call the world back to the
pure truth of the earliest days of Christendom.  And we come here,
because it is here that our first duty is due.  We come to give back to
England the precious jewel of the true faith which she gave to us four
hundred years ago.  Let every one of us clearly understand for what we
are to be ready.  We tread in our Master's steps, and our Master was not
flattered and complimented by the world.  He came bringing salvation,
and the world would none of it, nor of Him.  So, if we find the world
hates us, let us be neither surprised nor afraid, but remember that it
hated Him, and that as He was, so are we in this world.  Let us be
prepared to go with Him, if need be, both into prison and to death.  If
we suffer with Him, we shall reign.  Brethren, if we seek to reign, we
must make account first to suffer."

"We are ready!" cried at least a dozen voices.

"Will ye who are foremost now, be the foremost in that day?" asked
Gerhardt, looking round upon them with a rather compassionate smile.
"God grant it may be so!  Now, my friends, I must further remind you--
not that ye know it not, but that ye may bear its importance in mind--
that beyond those beliefs common to all Christians, our faith confesses
three great doctrines which ye must teach.

"First, that Holy Scripture alone containeth all things necessary to
salvation; and nothing is to be taught as an article of faith but what
God has revealed.

"Secondly, the Church of God consists of all who hear and understand the
Word of God.  All the saved were elect of God before the foundation of
the world; all who are justified by Christ go into life eternal.
Therefore it follows that there is no Purgatory, and all masses are
damnable, especially those for the dead.  And whosoever upholds free
will--namely, man's capacity to turn to God as and when he will--denies
predestination and the grace of God.  Man is by nature utterly depraved;
and all the evil that he doth proceeds from his own depravity.

"Thirdly, we acknowledge one God and one Mediator--the Lord Jesus
Christ; and reject the invocation of saints or angels.  We own two
Sacraments--baptism and the Supper of the Lord; but all Church
observances not ordained by Christ and the Apostles, we reject as idle
superstitions and vain traditions of men.  [Note 3.]

"This is our faith.  Brethren, do ye all stand banded together in this
faith?"

Up went every right arm, some quietly, some impetuously.

"Furthermore," continued the leader, "as to conduct.  It is incumbent
upon us to honour all secular powers, with subjection, obedience,
promptitude, and payment of tribute.  On the Sabbath, cease ye from all
worldly labours, abstain from sin, do good works, and pay your devotions
to God.  Remember, to pray much is to be fervent in prayer, not to use
many words nor much time.  Be orderly in all things; in attire, so far
as lies in your power, avoid all appearance of either pride or squalor.
We enter no trade, that we may be free from falsehood: we live by the
labour of our hands, and are content with necessaries, not seeking to
amass wealth.  Be ye all chaste, temperate, sober, meek: owe no man
anything; give no reason for complaint.  Avoid taverns and dancing, as
occasions of evil.  The women among you I charge to be modest in manners
and apparel, to keep themselves free from foolish jesting and levity of
the world, especially in respect of falsehood and oaths.  Keep your
maidens, and see that they wander not; beware of suffering them to deck
and adorn themselves.  `We serve the Lord Christ.'  `Watch ye, stand
fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong!'  Read the Scriptures,
serve God in humility, be poor in spirit.  Remember that Antichrist is
all that opposeth Christ.  `Love not the world, neither the things of
the world.'  `Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us
free,' and bear in mind that ye are sent forth as sheep in the midst of
wolves, as under-shepherds to seek for His strayed sheep.  Beware that
ye glorify not yourselves, but Him.

"Berthold, Arnulph, and Guelph, ye tarry in this city with me, going
forth to preach in the surrounding villages, as the Lord shall grant us
opportunity.  Heinrich, Otho, Conrad, and Magnus, ye go northward to
evangelise in like manner.  Friedrich, Dietbold, Sighard, and Leopold,
ye to the south; Albrecht, Johann, and Hermann, ye to the east; Wilhelm,
Philipp, and Ludwig, ye to the west.  Every man shall take with him wife
and children that hath them.  The elder women among us--Cunegonde,
Helena, Luitgarde, Elisabeth, and Margarethe--I especially exhort to
instruct the young women, as the Apostle bids, and to evangelise in such
manner as women may, by modest and quiet talking with other women.  Once
in the year let us meet here, to compare experiences, resolve
difficulties, and to comfort and edify one another in our work.  And now
I commend you to God, and to the Word of His grace.  Go ye forth, strong
in the Lord, and in the power of His might, always abounding in the work
of the Lord, teaching all to observe whatsoever He has commanded.  For
lo!  He is with us always, even unto the end of the world."

Another fervent prayer followed the address.  Then each of the little
company came up in turn to Gerhardt, who laid his hand upon the head of
every one, blessing them in the name of the Lord.  As each thus took
leave, he set out in the direction which he had been bidden to take,
eight accompanied by their wives, and three by children.  Then Gerhardt,
with Agnes and Ermine, turned back into the town; Berthold, with his
wife Luitgarde, and his daughter Adelheid, followed; while Arnulph and
Guelph, who were young unmarried men, went off to begin their preaching
tour in the villages.

The day afterwards, the priest of Saint Aldate's rapped at the door of
the Walnut Tree.  It was opened by Flemild, who made a low reverence
when she saw him.  With hand uplifted in blessing, and--"Christ save all
here!"--he walked into the house, where Isel received him with an
equally respectful courtesy.

"So I hear, my daughter, you have friends come to see you?"

"Well, they aren't friends exactly," said Isel: "leastwise not yet.  May
be, in time--hope they will."

"Whence come they, then, if they be strangers?"

"Well," replied Isel, who generally began her sentences with that
convenient adverb, "to tell truth, Father, it beats me to say.  They've
come over-sea, from foreign parts; but I can't get them outlandish names
round my tongue."

"Do they speak French or English?"

"One of 'em speaks French, after a fashion, but it's a queer fashion.
As to English, I haven't tried 'em."

The Reverend Dolfin (he had no surname) considered the question.

"They are Christians, of course?"

"That they are, Father, and good too.  Why, they say their prayers
several times a day."

The priest did not think that item of evidence so satisfactory as Isel
did.  But he had not come with any intention of ferreting out doubtful
characters or suspicious facts.  He was no ardent heretic-hunter, but a
quiet, peaceable man, as inoffensive as a priest could be.

"Decent and well-behaved?" he asked.

"As quiet and sensible as any living creature in this street," Isel
assured him.  "The women are good workers, and none of them's a talker,
and that's no small blessing!"

"Truly, thou art right there, my daughter," said the priest, who,
knowing nothing about women, was under the impression that they rarely
did any thing but talk, and perform a little desultory housework in the
intervals between the paragraphs.  "So far, good.  I trust they will
continue equally well-behaved, and will give no scandal to their
neighbours."

"I'll go surety for that," answered Isel rather warmly; "more than I
will for their neighbours giving them none.  Father, I'd give a silver
penny you'd take my niece Anania in hand; she'll be the death of me if
she goes on.  Do give her a good talking-to, and I'll thank you all the
days of my life!"

"With what does she go on?" asked the priest, resting both hands on his
silver-headed staff.

"Words!" groaned poor Isel.  "And they bain't pretty words, Father--not
by no manner of means.  She's for ever and the day after interfering
with every mortal thing one does.  And her own house is just right-down
slatternly, and her children are coming up any how.  If she'd just spend
the time a-scouring as she spends a-chattering, her house 'd be the
cleanest place in Oxfordshire.  But as for the poor children, I'm that
sorry!  Whatever they do, or don't do, they get a slap for it; and then
she turns round on me because I don't treat mine the same.  Why, there's
nothing spoils children's tempers like everlasting scolding and slapping
of 'em.  I declare I don't know which to be sorriest for, them that
never gets no bringing up at all, or them that's slapped from morning to
night."

"Does her husband allow all that?"

"Bless you, Father, he's that easy a man, if she slapped _him_, he'd
only laugh and give it back.  It's true, when he's right put out he'll
take the whip to her; but he'll stand a deal first that he'd better not.
Biggest worry I have, she is!"

"Be thankful, my daughter, if thy biggest worry be outside thine own
door."

"That I would, Father, if I could keep her outside, but she's always
a-coming in."

The priest laughed.

"I will speak to my brother Vincent about her," he said.  "You know the
Castle is not in my parish."

"Well, I pray you, Father, do tell Father Vincent to give it her strong.
She's one o' them that won't do with it weak.  It'll just run off her
like water on a duck's back.  Father, do you think my poor man 'll ever
come back?"

The priest grew grave when asked that question.

"I cannot tell, my daughter.  Bethink thee, that if he fall in that holy
conflict, he is assured of Heaven.  How long is it since his departing?"

"It's two years good, Father--going in three: and I'm glad enough he
should be sure of Heaven, but saving your presence, I want him here on
earth.  It's hard work for a lone woman to bring up four children, never
name boys, that's as rampageous as young colts, and about as easy to
catch.  And the younger and sillier they are, the surer they are to
think they know better than their own mother."

"That is a standing grievance, daughter," said the priest with a smile,
as he rose to take leave.  "Well, I am glad to hear so good a report of
these strangers.  So long as they conduct themselves well, and come to
church, and give no offence to any, there can be no harm in your giving
them hospitality.  But remember that if they give any occasion of
scandal, your duty will be to let me know, that I may deal with them.
The saints keep you!"

No occasion of scandal required that duty from Isel.  Every now and then
Gerhardt absented himself--for what purpose she did not know; but he
left Agnes and Ermine behind, and they never told the object of his
journeys.  At home he lived quietly enough, generally following his
trade of weaving, but always ready to do any thing required by his
hostess.  Isel came to congratulate herself highly on the presence of
her quiet, kindly, helpful guests.  In a house where the whole upper
floor formed a single bedchamber, divided only by curtains stretched
across, and the whole ground-floor was parlour and kitchen in one, a few
inmates more or less, so long as they were pleasant and peaceable, were
of small moment.  Outwardly, the Germans conducted themselves in no way
pointedly different from their English hosts.  They indulged in rather
longer prayers, but this only increased the respect in which they were
held.  They went to church like other people; and if they omitted the
usual reverences paid to the images, they did it so unobtrusively that
it struck and shocked no one.

The Roman Church, in 1160, was yet far from filling the measure of her
iniquity.  The mass was in Latin, but transubstantiation was only a
"pious opinion;" there were invocation of saints and worship of images,
prayers for the dead, and holy water; but dispensations and indulgences
were uninvented, the Inquisition was unknown, numbers of the clergy were
married men, and that organ of tyranny and sin, termed auricular
confession, had not yet been set up to grind the consciences and torment
the hearts of those who sought to please God according to the light they
enjoyed.  Without that, it was far harder to persecute; for how could a
man be indicted for the belief in his heart, if he chose to keep the
door of his lips?

The winter passed quietly away, and Isel was--for her--well pleased with
her new departure.  The priest, having once satisfied himself that the
foreign visitors were nominal Christians, and gave no scandal to their
neighbours, ceased to trouble himself about them.  Anania continued to
make disagreeable remarks at times, but gradually even she became more
callous on the question, and nobody else ever said any thing.

"I do wonder if Father Vincent have given her a word or two," said Isel.
"She hasn't took much of it, if he have.  If she isn't at me for one
thing, she's at me for another.  If it were to please the saints to make
Osbert the Lord King's door-keeper, so as he'd go and live at London or
Windsor, I shouldn't wonder if I could get over it!"

"Ah, `the tongue can no man tame,'" observed Gerhardt with a smile.

"I don't so much object to tongues when they've been in salt," said
Isel.  "It's fresh I don't like 'em, and with a live temper behind of
'em.  They don't agree with me then."

"It is the live temper behind, or rather the evil heart, which is the
thing to blame.  `Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,' which grow
into evil words and deeds.  Set the heart right, and the tongue will
soon follow."

"I reckon that's a bit above either you or me," replied Isel with a
sigh.

"A man's thoughts are his own," interposed Haimet rather warmly.
"Nobody has a right to curb them."

"No man can curb them," said Gerhardt, "unless the thinker put a curb on
himself.  He that can rule his own thoughts is king of himself: he that
never attempts it is `a reed driven with the wind and tossed.'"

"Oh, there you fly too high for me," said Haimet.  "If my acts and words
are inoffensive, I have a right to my thoughts."

"Has any man a right to evil thoughts?" asked Gerhardt.

"What, you are one of those precise folks who make conscience of their
thoughts?  I call that all stuff and nonsense," replied Haimet, throwing
down the hammer he was using.

"If I make no conscience of my thoughts, of what am I to make
conscience?" was the answer.  "Thought is the seed, act the flower.  If
you do not wish for the flower, the surest way is not to sow the seed.
Sow it, and the flower will blossom, whether you will or no."

"That sort of thing may suit you," said Haimet rather in an irritated
tone.  "I could never get along, if I had to be always measuring my
thoughts with an ell-wand in that fashion."

"Do you prefer the consequences?" asked Gerhardt.

"Consequences!--what consequences?"

"Rather awkward ones, sometimes.  Thoughts of hatred, for instance, may
issue in murder, and that may lead to your own death.  If the thoughts
had been curbed in the first instance, the miserable results would have
been spared to all the sufferers.  And `no man liveth to himself': it is
very seldom that you can bring suffering on one person only.  It is
almost sure to run over to two or three more.  And as the troubles of
every one of them will run over to another two or three, like circles in
the water, the sorrow keeps ever widening, so that the consequences of
one small act or word for evil are incalculable.  It takes God to reckon
them."

"Eh, don't you, now!" said Isel with a shudder.  "Makes me go all creepy
like, that does.  I shouldn't dare to do a thing all the days of my
life, if I looked at every thing that way."

"Friend," said Gerhardt gravely, "these things _are_.  It does not
destroy them to look away from them.  It is not given to us to choose
whether we will act, but only how we will act.  In some manner, for good
or for ill, act we must."

"I declare I won't listen to you, Gerard.  I'm going creepy-crawly this
minute.  Oh deary me! you do make things look just awful."

"Rubbish!" said Haimet, driving a nail into the wall with unnecessary
vehemence.

"It is the saying of a wise man, friends," remarked Gerhardt, "that `he
that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little.'  And with
equal wisdom he saith again, `Be not confident in a plain way.'"  [Note
5.]

"But it is all nonsense to say `we must act,'" resumed Haimet.  "We need
not act in any way unless we choose.  How am I acting if I sit here and
do nothing?"

"Unless you are resting after work is done, you are setting an example
of idleness or indecision.  Not to do, is sometimes to do in a most
effectual way.  Not to hinder the doing of evil, when it lies in your
power, is equivalent to doing it."

Haimet stared at Gerhardt for a moment.

"What a wicked lot of folks you would make us out to be!"

"So we are," said Gerhardt with a quiet smile.

"Oh, I see!--that's how you come by your queer notions of every man's
heart being bad.  Well, you are consistent, I must admit."

"I come by that notion, because I have seen into my own.  I think I have
most thoroughly realised my own folly by noting in how many cases, if I
were endued with the power of God, I should not do what He does: and in
like manner, I most realise my own wickedness by seeing the frequent
instances wherein my will raises itself up in opposition to the will of
God."

"But how is it, then, that I never see such things in myself?"

"Your eyes are shut, for one thing.  Moreover, you set up your own will
as the standard to be followed, without seeking to ascertain the will of
God.  Therefore you do not see the opposition between them."

"Oh, I don't consider myself a saint or an angel.  I have done foolish
things, of course, and I dare say, some things that were not exactly
right.  We are all sinners, I suppose, and I am much like other people.
But taking one thing with another, I think I am a very decent fellow.  I
can't worry over my `depravity,' as you do.  I am not depraved.  I know
several men much worse than I am in every way."

"Is that the ell-wand by which God will measure you?  He will not hold
you up against those men, but against the burning snow-white light of
His own holiness.  What will you look like then?"

"Is that the way you are going to be measured, too?"

"I thank God, no.  Christ our Lord will be measured for me, and He has
fulfilled the whole Law."

"And why not for me?" said Haimet fiercely.  "Am I not a baptised
Christian, just as much as you?"

"Friend, you will not be asked in that day whether you were a baptised
Christian, but whether you were a believing Christian.  Sins that are
laid on Christ are gone--they exist no longer.  But sins that are not so
destroyed have to be borne by the sinner himself."

"Well, I call that cowardice," said Haimet, drawing a red herring across
the track, "to want to burden somebody else with your sins.  Why not
have the manliness to bear them yourself?"

"If you are so manly," answered Gerhardt with another of his quiet
smiles, "will you oblige me, Haimet, by taking up the Castle, and
setting it down on Presthey?"

"What are you talking about now?  How could I?"

"Much more easily than you could atone for one sin.  What do you call a
man who proposes to do the impossible?"

"A fool."

"And what would you call the bondman whose master had generously paid
his debt, and who refused to accept that generosity, but insisted on
working it out himself, though the debt was more than he could discharge
by the work of a thousand years?"

"Call him what you like," said Haimet, not wishing to go too deeply into
the question.

"I will leave you to choose the correct epithet," said Gerhardt, and
went on with his carving in silence.

The carving was beginning to bring in what Isel called "a pretty penny."
Gerhardt's skill soon became known, and the Countess of Oxford employed
him to make coffers, and once sent for him to the Castle to carve
wreaths on a set of oak panels.  He took the work as it came, and in the
intervals, or on the summer evenings, he preached on the village greens
in the neighbourhood.  His audiences were often small, but his doctrines
spread quietly and beneath the surface.  Not one came forward to join
him openly, but many went away with thoughts that they had never had
before.  Looked on from the outside, Gerhardt's work seemed of no value,
and blessed with no success.  Yet it is possible that its inward
progress was not little.  There may have been silent souls that lived
saintly lives in that long past century, who owed their first awakening
or their gradual edification to some word of his; it may be that the
sturdy resistance of England to Papal aggression in the subsequent
century had received its impetus from his unseen hand.  Who shall say
that he achieved nothing?  The world wrote "unsuccessful" upon his work:
did God write "blessed"?  One thing at least I think he must have
written--"Thou hast been faithful in a few things."  And while the
measure of faithfulness is not that of success, it is that of the
ultimate reward, in that Land where many that were first shall be last,
and the last first.  "They that are with" the Conqueror in the last
great battle, are not the successful upon earth, but the "called and
chosen and faithful."

"If any man serve Me, let him follow Me,"--and what work ever had less
the appearance of success than that which seemed to close on Calvary?

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

Note 1.  "William, son of the fat priest," occurs on the Pipe Roll for
1176, Unless "Grossus" is to be taken as a Christian name.

Note 2.  Servant or slave of Michael.  The Scottish _gillie_ comes from
the same root.

Note 3.  These are the tenets of the ancient Waldensian Church, with
which, so far as they are known, those of the German mission agreed.
(They are exactly those of the Church of England, set forth in her
Sixth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Seventeenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth,
Twenty-Second, Twenty-Fifth, and Thirty-First Articles of Religion.)
She accepted two of our three Creeds, excluding the Nicene.

Note 4.  Ecclesiasticus nineteen 1, and thirty-two 21.  The Waldensian
Church regarded the Apocrypha as the Church of England does--not as
inspired Scripture, but as a good book to be read "for example of life
and instruction of manners."



CHAPTER THREE.

THE JEWISH MAIDEN'S VOW.

              "To thine own self be true!
  And it must follow, as the night the day,
  Thou canst not then be false to any man."

  Shakespeare.

"There's the Mayor sent orders for the streets to be swept clean, and
all the mud carted out of the way.  You'd best sweep afore your own
door, and then maybe you'll have less rate to pay, Aunt Isel."

It was Stephen the Watchdog who looked in over the half-door to give
this piece of information.

"What's that for?" asked Isel, stopping in the work of mopping the brick
floor.

"The Lady Queen comes through on her way to Woodstock."

"To-day?" said Flemild and Derette together.

"Or to-morrow.  A running footman came in an hour ago, to say she was at
Abingdon, and bid my Lord hold himself in readiness to meet her at the
East Gate.  The vintners have had orders to send in two tuns of Gascon
and Poitou wine; and Henry the Mason tells me a new cellar and chimney
were made last week in the Queen's chamber at Woodstock.  Geoffrey the
Sumpter was in town yesterday, buying budgets, coffers, and bottles.  So
if you girls want to see her, you had better make haste and get your
work done, and tidy yourselves up, and be at the East Gate by noon or
soon after."

"Get their work done!  Don't you know better than that, Stephen?  A
woman's work never is done.  It's you lazy loons of men that stop
working and take your pleasure when night comes.  Work done, indeed!"

"But, Isel, I will finish de work for you.  Go you and take your
pleasure to see de Queen, meine friend.  You have not much de pleasure."

"You're a good soul, Agnes, and it was a fine day for me when I took you
in last winter.  But as for pleasure, it and me parted company a smart
little while ago.  Nay, let the maids go; I'll tarry at home.  You can
go if you will.--Stephen! are you bound elsewhere, or can you come and
look after the girls?"

"I can't, Aunt Isel; I'm on duty in the Bayly in half an hour, and when
I shall be free again you must ask my Lord or Master Mayor."

"Never mind: the boys are safe to be there.  Catch them missing a show!
Now, Flemild, child, drop that washing; and leave the gavache [Note 1],
Ermine, and get yourselves ready.  It's only once in three or four years
at most that you're like to see such a sight.  Make haste, girls."

There was little need to tell the girls to make haste.  Flemild hastily
wrung out the apron she was washing, and pinned it on the line; Ermine
drew the thread from her needle--the entire household owned but one of
those useful and costly articles--and put it carefully away; while
Derette tumbled up the ladder at imminent risk to her limbs, to fling
back the lid of the great coffer at the bed-foot, and institute a
search, which left every thing in wild confusion, for her sister's best
kerchief and her own.  Just as the trio were ready to start, Gerhardt
came in.

"Saint Frideswide be our aid! wherever are them boys?" demanded Isel of
nobody in particular.

"One on the top of the East Gate," said Gerhardt, "and the other playing
at quarter-staff in Pary's Mead."

Pary's Mead lay between Holywell Church and the East Gate, on the north
of the present Magdalen College.

"Lack-a-daisy! but however are the girls to get down to the gate?  I
daren't let 'em go by themselves."

The girls looked blank: and two big tears filled Derette's eyes, ready
to fall.

"If all you need is an escort, friend, here am I," said Gerhardt; "but
why should the girls go alone?  I would fain take you and Agnes too."

"Take Agnes and welcome," said Isel with a sigh; "but I'm too old, I
reckon, and poor company at best."

A little friendly altercation followed, ended by Gerhardt's decided
assertion that Agnes should not go without her hostess.

"But who's to see to Baby?" said Derette dolefully.

"We will lock up the house, and leave Baby with old Turguia," suggested
Isel.

"Nay, she tramped off to see the show an hour ago."

"Never mind!  I'll stop with Baby," said Derette with heroic
self-abnegation.

"Indeed you shall not," said Ermine.

A second war of amiability seemed likely to follow, when a voice said at
the door--

"Do you all want to go out?  I am not going to the show.  Will you trust
me with the child?"

Isel turned and stared in amazement at the questioner.

"I would not hurt it," pleaded the Jewish maiden in a tremulous voice.
"Do trust me!  I know you reckon us bad people; but indeed we are not so
black as you think us.  My baby brother died last summer; and my aims
are so cold and empty since.  Let me have a little child in them once
more!"

"But--you will want to see the show," responded Isel, rather as an
excuse to decline the offered help than for any more considerate reason.

"No--I do not care for the show.  I care far more for the child.  I have
stood at the corner and watched you with him, so often, and have longed
so to touch him, if it might be but with one finger.  Won't you let me?"

Agnes was looking from the girl to Gerhardt, as if she knew not what to
do.

"Will you keep him from harm, and bring him back as soon as we return,
if you take him?" asked Gerhardt.  "Remember, the God in whom we both
believe hears and records your words."

"Let Him do so to me and more also," answered Countess solemnly, "if I
bring not the child to you unhurt."

Gerhardt lifted little Rudolph from his mother's arms and placed him in
those of the dark-eyed maiden.

"The Lord watch over thee and him!" he said.

"Amen!"  And as Countess carried away the baby close pressed to her
bosom, they saw her stoop down and kiss it almost passionately.

"Holy Virgin! what have you done, Gerard?" cried Isel in horror.  "Don't
you know there is poison in a Jew's breath?  They'll as sure cast a
spell upon that baby as my name's Isel."

"No, I don't," said Gerhardt a little drily.  "I only know that some men
say so.  I have placed my child in the hands of the Lord; and He, not I,
has laid it in that maiden's.  It may be that this little kindness is a
link in the chain of Providence, whereby He designs to bring her soul to
Him.  Who am I, if so, that I should put my boy or myself athwart His
purpose?"

"Well, you're mighty pious, I know," said Isel.  "Seems to me you should
have been a monk, by rights.  However, what's done is done.  Let's be
going, for there's no time to waste."

They went a little way down Fish Street, passing the Jewish synagogue,
which stood about where the northernmost tower of Christ Church is now,
turned to the left along Civil School Lane--at the south end of Tom
Quad, coming out about Canterbury Gate--pursued their way along Saint
John Baptist Street, now Merton Street, and turning again to the left
where it ended, skirted the wall till they reached the East Gate.  Here
a heterogeneous crowd was assembled, about the gate, and on the top were
perched a number of adventurous youths, among whom Haimet was descried.

"Anything coming?"  Gerhardt called to him.

"Yes, a drove of pigs," Haimet shouted back.

The pigs came grunting in, to be sarcastically greeted by the crowd, who
immediately styled the old sow and her progeny by the illustrious names
of Queen Eleonore and the royal children.  Her Majesty was not very
popular, the rather since she lived but little in England, and was known
greatly to prefer her native province of Aquitaine.  Still, a show was
always a show, and the British public is rarely indifferent to it.

The pigs having grunted themselves up Cat Street--running from the east
end of Saint Mary's to Broad Street--a further half-hour of waiting
ensued, beguiled by rough joking on the part of the crowd.  Then Haimet
called down to his friends--

"Here comes Prester John, in his robes of estate!"

The next minute, a running footman in the royal livery--red and gold--
bearing a long wand decorated at the top with coloured ribbons, sped in
at the gate, and up High Street on his way to the Castle.  In ten
minutes more, a stir was perceptible at the west end of High Street, and
down to the gate, on richly caparisoned horses, came the Earl and
Countess of Oxford, followed by a brilliant crowd of splendidly-dressed
officials.  It was evident that the Queen must be close at hand.

All eyes were now fixed on the London Road, up which the royal cavalcade
was quickly seen approaching.  First marched a division of the guard of
honour, followed by the officials of the household, on horseback; then
came the Queen in her char, followed by another bearing her ladies.  The
remainder of the guard brought up the rear.

The char was not much better than a handsomely-painted cart.  It had no
springs, and travelling in it must have been a trying process.  But the
horses bore superb silken housings, and the very bits were gilt.  [Note
2.]  Ten strong men in the royal livery walked, five on each side of the
char; and their office, which was to keep it upright in the miry
tracks--roads they were not--was by no means a sinecure.

The royal lady, seated on a Gothic chair which made the permanent seat
of the char, being fixed to it, was one of the most remarkable women who
have ever reigned in England.  If a passage of Scripture illustrative of
the life and character were to be selected to append to the statue of
each of our kings and queens, there would be little difficulty in the
choice to be made for Eleonore of Aquitaine.  "Whatsoever a man soweth,
that shall he also reap."  She sowed the wind, and she reaped the
whirlwind.  A youth of the wildest giddiness was succeeded by a middle
life of suffering and hardship, and both ended in an old age of
desolation.

But when Eleonore rode in that spring noon-day at the East Gate of
Oxford, the reaping-time was not yet.  The headstrong giddiness was a
little toned down, but the terrible retribution had not begun.

The Queen's contemporaries are eloquent as to her wondrous loveliness
and her marvellous accomplishments.  "Beauty possessed both her mind and
body," says one writer who lived in the days of her grandson, while
another expatiates on her "_clairs et verds yeux_," and a third on her
"exquisite mouth, and the most splendid eyes in the world."  Her Majesty
was attired with equal stateliness and simplicity, for that was not an
era of superb or extravagant dress.  A close gown with tight sleeves was
surmounted by a pelisse, the sleeves of which were very wide and full,
and the fur trimming showed the high rank of the wearer.  A long white
veil came over her head, and fell around her, kept in its place by a
jewelled fillet.  The gemmed collar of gold at the neck, and the thick
leather gloves (with no partitions for the fingers) heavily embroidered
on the back, were also indicative of regal rank.

The Queen's char stopped just within the gate, so that our friends had
an excellent view of her.  She greeted the Earl and Countess of Oxford
with a genial grace, which she well knew how to assume; gave her hand to
be kissed to a small selection of the highest officials, and then the
char passed on, and the sight was over.

Isel and her friends turned homewards, not waiting for the after portion
of the entertainment.  There was to be a bull-baiting in the afternoon
on Presthey--Christ Church Meadow--and a magnificent bonfire at night in
Gloucester Meadows--Jericho; but these enjoyments they left to the boys.
There would be plenty of women, however, at the bull-baiting; as many
as at a Spanish _corrida_.  The idea of its being a cruel pastime, or
even of cruelty being at all objectionable or demoralising, with very
few exceptions, had not then dawned on the minds of men.

They returned by the meadows outside the city, entering at the South
Gate.  As they came up Fish Street, they could see Countess on a low
seat at her father's door, with little Rudolph on her knee, both parties
looking very well content with their position.  On their reaching the
corner, she rose and came to meet them.

"Here is the baby," she said, smiling rather sadly.  "See, I have not
done him any harm!  And it has done me good.  You will let me have him
again some day?--some time when you all want to go out, and it will be a
convenience to you.  Farewell, my pretty bird!"

And she held out the boy to Agnes.  Little Rudolph had shown signs of
pleasure at the sight of his mother; but it soon appeared that he was
not pleased by any means at the prospect of parting with his new friend.
Countess had kept him well amused, and he had no inclination to see an
abrupt end put to his amusement.  He struggled and at last screamed his
disapprobation, until it became necessary for Gerhardt to interfere, and
show the young gentleman decidedly that he must not always expect to
have his own way.

"I t'ank you"--Agnes began to say, in her best English, which was still
imperfect, though Ermine spoke it fluently now.  But Countess stopped
her, rather to her surprise, by a few hurried words in her own tongue.

"Do not thank me," she said, with a flash of the black eyes.  "It is I
who should thank you."

And running quickly across Fish Street, the Jewish maiden disappeared
inside her father's door.

All European nations at that date disliked and despised the hapless sons
of Israel: but the little company to whom Gerhardt and Agnes belonged
were perhaps a shade less averse to them than others.  They were to some
extent companions in misfortune, being themselves equally despised and
detested by many; and they were much too familiar with the Word of God
not to recognise that His blessing still rested on the seed of Abraham
His friend, hidden "for a little moment" by a cloud, but one day to
burst into a refulgence of heavenly sunlight.  When, therefore, Flemild
asked Ermine, as they were laying aside their out-door garb--"Don't you
hate those horrid creatures?" it was not surprising that Ermine paused
before replying.

"Don't you?" repeated Flemild.

"No," said Ermine, "I do not think I do."

"_Don't_ you?" echoed Flemild for the third time, and with emphasis.
"Why, Ermine, they crucified our Lord."

"So did you and I, Flemild; and He bids us love one another."

Flemild stood struck with astonishment, her kerchief half off her head.

"I crucified our Lord!" she exclaimed.  "Ermine, what can you mean?"

"Sin crucified Him," said Ermine quietly; "your sins and mine, was it
not?  If He died not for our sins, we shall have to bear them ourselves.
And did He not die for Countess too?"

"I thought He died for those who are in holy Church; and Countess is a
wicked heathen Jew."

"Yes, for holy Church, which means those whom God has chosen out of the
world.  How can you know that Countess is not some day to be a member of
holy Church?"

"Ermine, they are regular wicked people!"

"We are all wicked people, till God renews us by His Holy Spirit."

"I'm not!" cried Flemild indignantly; "and I don't believe you are
either."

"Ah, Flemild, that is because you are blind.  Sin has darkened our eyes;
we cannot see ourselves."

"Ermine, do you mean to say that you see me a wicked creature like a
Jew?"

"By nature, I am as blind as you, Flemild."

"`By nature'!  What do you mean?  _Do_ you see me so?"

"Flemild, dear friend, what if God sees it?"

Ermine had spoken very softly and tenderly, but Flemild was not in a
mood to appreciate the tenderness.

"Well!" she said in a hard tone.  "If we are so dreadfully wicked, I
wonder you like to associate with us."

"But if I am equally wicked?" suggested Ermine with a smile.

"I wonder how you can hold such an opinion of yourself.  I should not
like to think myself so bad.  I could not bear it."

Flemild entertained the curious opinion--it is astonishing how many
people unwittingly hold it--that a fact becomes annihilated by a man
shutting his eyes to it.  Ermine regarded her with a look of slight
amusement.

"What difference would it make if I did not think so?" she asked.

Flemild laughed, only then realising the absurdity of her own remark.
It augured well for her good sense that she could recognise the
absurdity when it was pointed out to her.

Coming down the ladder, they found Anania seated below.

"Well, girls! did you see the Queen?"

"Oh, we had a charming view of her," said Flemild.

"Folks say she's not so charming, seen a bit nearer.  You know Veka, the
wife of Chembel?  She told me she'd heard Dame Ediva de Gathacra say the
Queen's a perfect fury when she has her back up.  Some of the scenes
that are to be seen by nows and thens in Westminster Palace are enough
to set your hair on end.  And her extravagance!  Will you believe it,
Dame Ediva said, this last year she gave over twenty pounds for one
robe.  How many gowns would that buy you and me, Aunt Isel?"

At the present value of money, Her Majesty's robe cost rather more than
500.

"Bless you, I don't know," was Isel's answer.  "Might be worth cracking
my head over, if I were to have one of 'em when I'd done.  But there's
poor chance of that, I reckon; so I'll let it be."

"They say she sings superbly," said Flemild.

"Oh, very like.  Folks may well sing that can afford to give twenty
pound for a gown.  If she'd her living to earn, and couldn't put a bit
of bread in her mouth, nor in her children's, till she'd worked for it,
she'd sing o' t'other side her mouth, most likely."

"Anania, don't talk so unseemly.  I'm sure you've a good enough place."

"Oh, are you?  I dress in samite, like the Queen, don't I?--and eat
sturgeon and peacocks to my dinner?--and drive of a gilt char when I
come to see folks?  I should just like to know why she must have all the
good things in life, and I must put up with the hard ones?  I'm as good
a woman as she is, I'm sure of that."

"Cousin Anania," said Derette in a scandalised tone, "you should not
tell us you're a good woman; you should wait till we tell you."

"Then why didn't you tell me?" snapped Anania.

"_I_ didn't tell you so because I don't think so," replied Derette with
severity, "if you say such things of the Queen."

"Much anybody cares what you think, child.  Why, just look!--tuns and
tuns of Gascon wine are sent to Woodstock for her: and here must I make
shift with small ale and thin mead that's half sour.  She's only to ask
and have."

"Well, I don't know," said Isel.  "I wouldn't give my quiet home for a
sup of Gascon wine--more by reason I don't like it.  `Scenes at
Westminster Palace' are not things I covet.  My poor Manning was
peaceable enough, and took a many steps to save me, and I doubt if King
Henry does even to it.  Eh dear! if I did but know what had come of my
poor man!  I should have thought all them Saracens 'd have been dead and
buried by now, when you think what lots of folks has gone off to kill
'em.  And as to `asking and having'--well, that hangs on what you ask
for.  There's a many folks asks for the moon, but I never heard tell as
any of 'em had it."

"Why do folks go to kill the Saracens?" demanded Derette, still
unsatisfied on that point.

"Saints know!" said her mother, using her favourite comfortable
expletive.  "I wish _he_ hadn't ha' gone--I do so!"

"It's a good work, child," explained Anania.

"Wouldn't it have been a good work for Father to stay at home, and save
steps for Mother?"

"I think it would, my child," said Gerhardt; "but God knoweth best, and
He let thy father go.  Sometimes what seems to us the best work is not
the work God has appointed for us."

Had Gerhardt wished to drive away Anania, he could not have taken a
surer method than by words which savoured of piety.  She resembled a
good many people in the present day, who find the Bread of Life very dry
eating, and if they must swallow a little of it, can only be persuaded
to do so by a thick coating of worldly butter.  They may be coaxed to
visit the church where the finest anthem is sung, but that where the
purest Gospel is preached has no attraction for them.  The porter's
wife, therefore, suddenly discovered that she had plenty to do at home,
and took her departure, much to the relief of the friends on whom she
inflicted herself.  She had not been gone many minutes when Stephen
looked in.

"Lads not come in yet?" said he.  "Well, have you seen the grand sight?
The Queen's gone again; she only stayed for supper at the Castle, and
then off to Woodstock.  She'll not be there above a month, they say.
She never tarries long in England at once.  But the King's coming back
this autumn--so they say."

"Who say?" asked Gerhardt.

"Oh, every body," said Stephen with a laugh, as he leaned over the
half-door.

"_Every_ body?" inquired Gerhardt drily.

"Oh, come, you drive things too fine for me.  Every body, that is
anybody."

"I thought every body was somebody."

"Not in this country: maybe in yours," responded Stephen, still
laughing.  "But I'm forgetting what I came for.  Aunt Isel, do you want
either a sheep or a pig?"

"Have you got 'em in that wallet on your back?"

"Not at present, but I can bring you either if you want it."

"What's the price, and who's selling them?"

"Our neighbour Veka wants to sell three or four bacon pigs and
half-a-dozen young porkers; Martin le bon Fermier, brother of Henry the
Mason, has a couple of hundred sheep to sell."

"But what's the cost?  Veka's none so cheap to deal with, though she
feeds her pigs well, I know."

"Well, she wants two shillings a-piece for the bacons, and four for the
six porkers."

"Ay, I knew she'd clap the money on!  No, thank you; I'm not made of
gold marks, nor silver pennies neither."

"Well, but the sheep are cheap enough; he only asks twopence halfpenny
each."

"That's not out of the way.  We might salt one or two.  I'll think about
it.  Not in a hurry to a day or two, is he?"

"Oh, no; I shouldn't think so."

"Has he any flour or beans to sell, think you?  I could do with both
those, if they were reasonable."

"Ay, he has.  Beans a shilling a quarter, and flour fourteen pence a
load.  [Note 3.]  Very good flour, he says it is."

"Should be, at that price.  Well, I'll see: maybe I shall walk over one
of these days and chaffer with him.  Any way, I'm obliged to you,
Stephen, for letting me know of it."

"Very good, Aunt Isel; Martin will be glad to see you, and I'll give
Bretta a hint to be at home when you come, if you'll let me know the day
before."

This was a mischievous suggestion on Stephen's part, as he well knew
that Martin's wife was not much to his aunt's liking.

"Don't, for mercy's sake!" cried Isel.  "She's a tongue as long as a
yard measure, and there isn't a scrap of gossip for ten miles on every
side of her that she doesn't hand on to the first comer.  She'd know all
I had on afore I'd been there one Paternoster, and every body else 'd
know it too, afore the day was out."

The space of time required to repeat the Lord's Prayer--of course as
fast as possible--was a measure in common use at that day.

"Best put on your holiday clothes, then," said Stephen with a laugh, and
whistling for his dog, which was engaged in the pointing of Countess's
kitten, he turned down Fish Street on his way to the East Gate.

Stephen's progress was arrested, as he came to the end of Kepeharme
Lane, by a long and picturesque procession which issued from the western
door of Saint Frideswide.  Eight priests, fully robed, bore under a
canopy the beautifully-carved coffer which held the venerated body of
the royal saint, and they were accompanied by the officials of the
Cathedral, the choir chanting a litany, and a long string of nuns
bringing up the rear.  Saint Frideswide was on her way to the bedside of
a paralysed rich man, who had paid an immense sum for her visit, in the
hope that he might be restored to the use of his faculties by a touch of
her miracle-working relics.  As the procession passed up the street, a
door opened in the Jewry, and out came a young Jew named Dieulecresse
[Note 4], who at once set himself to make fun of Saint Frideswide.
Limping up the street as though he could scarcely stir, he suddenly drew
himself erect and walked down with a free step; clenching his hands as
if they were rigid, he then flung his arms open and worked his fingers
rapidly.

"O ye men of Oxford, bring me your oblations!" he cried.  "See ye not
that I am a doer of wonders, like your saint, and that my miracles are
quite as good and real as hers?"

The procession passed on, taking no notice of the mockery.  But when,
the next day, it was known that Dieulecresse had committed suicide in
the night, the priests did not spare the publication of the fact, with
the comment that Saint Frideswide had taken vengeance on her enemy, and
that her honour was fully vindicated from his aspersions.

"Ah!" said Gerhardt softly, "`those eighteen, on whom the tower in
Siloam fell!'  How ready men are to account them sinners above all men
that dwell in Jerusalem!  Yet it may be that they who thus judge are the
worse sinners of the two, in God's eyes, however high they stand in the
world's sight."

"Well, I don't set up to be better than other folks," said Stephen
lightly.  He had brought the news.  "I reckon I shall pass muster, if
I'm as good."

"That would not satisfy me," said Gerhardt.  "I should want to be as
good as I could be.  I could not pass beyond that.  But even then--"

"That's too much trouble for me," laughed Stephen.  "When you've done
your work, hand me over the goodness you don't want."

"I shall not have any, for it won't be enough."

"That's a poor lookout!"

"It would be, if I had to rely on my own goodness."

Stephen stared.  "Why, whose goodness are you going to rely on?"

Gerhardt lifted his cap.  "`There is none good but One,--that is, God.'"

"I reckon that's aiming a bit too high," said Stephen, with a shake of
his head.  "Can't tell how you're going to get hold of that."

"Nor could I, unless the Lord had first laid hold of me.  `_He_ hath
covered me with the robe of righteousness'--I do not put it on myself."

Gerhardt never made long speeches on religious topics.  He said what he
had to say, generally, in one pithy sentence, and then left it to carry
its own weight.

"I say, Gerard, I've wondered more than once--"

"Well, Stephen?"

"No offence, friend?"

"Certainly not: pray say all you wish."

"Whether you were an unfrocked priest."

"No, I assure you."

"Can't tell how you come by all your notions!" said Stephen, scratching
his head.

"Notions of all kinds have but two sources," was the reply: "the Word of
God, and the corruption of man's heart."

"Come, now, that won't do!" objected Stephen.  "You've built your door a
mile too narrow.  I've a notion that grass is green, and another that my
new boots don't fit me: whence come they?"

"The first," said Gerhardt drily, "from the Gospel of Saint Mark; the
second from the Fourteenth Psalm."

"The Fourteenth Psalm makes mention of my boots!"

"Not in detail.  It saith, `There is none that doeth good,--no, not
one.'"

"What on earth has that to do with it?"

"This: that if sin had never entered the world, both fraud and suffering
would have tarried outside with it."

"Well, I always did reckon Father Adam a sorry fellow, that he had no
more sense than to give in to his wife."

"I rather think he gave in to his own inclination, at least as much.  If
he had not wanted to taste the apple, she might have coaxed till now."

"Hold hard there, man!  You are taking the woman's side."

"I thought I was taking the side of truth.  If that be not one's own, it
is quite as well to find it out."

Stephen laughed as he turned away from the door of the Walnut Tree.

"You're too good for me," said he.  "I'll go home before I'm infected
with the complaint."

"I'd stop and take it if I were you," retorted Isel.  "You're off the
better end, I'll admit, but you'd do with a bit more, may be."

"I'll leave it for you, Aunt Isel," said Stephen mischievously.  "One
shouldn't want all the good things for one's self, you know."

The Queen did not remain for even a month at Woodstock.  In less than
three weeks she returned to London, this time without passing through
Oxford, and took her journey to Harfleur, the passage across the Channel
costing the usual price of 7 pounds, 10 shillings equivalent in modern
times to 187 pounds, 10 shillings.

Travelling seems to have been an appalling item of expense at that time.
The carriage of fish from Yarmouth to London cost 9 shillings (11
pounds, 5 shillings); of hay from London to Woodstock, 60 shillings (75
pounds); and of the Queen's robes from Winchester to Oxford, 8 shillings
(10 pounds).  Yet the Royal Family were perpetually journeying; the hams
were fetched from Yorkshire, the cheeses from Wiltshire, and the
pearmain apples from Kent.  Exeter was famous for metal and corn;
Worcester and London for wheat; Winchester for wine--there were
vineyards in England then; Hertford for cattle, and Salisbury for game;
York for wood; while the speciality of Oxford was knives.

An old Jew, writing to a younger some thirty years later, in the reign
of Henry Second, and giving him warning as to what he would find in the
chief towns of southern England, thus describes such as he had visited:
"London much displeases me; Canterbury is a collection of lost souls and
idle pilgrims; Rochester and Chichester are but small villages; Oxford
scarcely (I say not satisfies, but) sustains its clerks; Exeter
refreshes men and beasts with corn; Bath, in a thick air and sulphurous
vapour, lies at the gates of Gehenna!"

But if travelling were far more costly than in these days, there were
much fewer objects on which money could be squandered.  Chairs were
almost as scarce as thrones, being used for little else, and chimneys
were not more common.  [Note 5.]  Diamonds were unknown; lace, velvet,
and satin had no existence, samite and silk being the costly fabrics;
and the regal ermine is not mentioned.  Dress, as has been said, was not
extravagant, save in the item of jewellery, or of very costly
embroidery; cookery was much simpler than a hundred years later.  Plate,
it is true, was rich and expensive, but it was only in the hands of the
nobles and church dignitaries.  On the other hand, fines were among the
commonest things in existence.  Not only had every breach of law its
appropriate fine, but breaches of etiquette were expiated in a similar
manner.  False news was hardly treated: 13 shillings 4 pence was exacted
for that [Pipe Roll, 12 Henry Third] and perjury [Ibidem, 16 ib] alike,
while wounding an uncle cost a sovereign, and a priest might be slain
for the easy price of 4 shillings 9 pence [Ibidem, 27 ib].  The Prior of
Newburgh was charged three marks for excess of state; and poor Stephen
de Mereflet had to pay 26 shillings 8 pence for "making a stupid reply
to the King's Treasurer"!  [Pipe Roll, 16 Henry Third] It was reserved
for King John to carry this exaction to a ridiculous excess, by taking
bribes to hold his tongue on inconvenient topics, and fining his
courtiers for not having reminded him of points which he happened to
forget.  [Misae Roll, I John.]

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

Note 1.  A long undergarment then worn by men and women alike.

Note 2.  "For gilding the King's bit (_frenum_), 56 shillings."  (Pipe
Roll, 31 Henry First.)

Note 3.  Reckoned according to modern value, these prices stand about
thus:--Bacon pig, 2 pounds, 10 shillings; porkers, 5 pounds; sheep, 5
shillings 3 pence; quarter of beans, 25 shillings; load of flour, 30
shillings.

Note 4.  "_Dieu L'encroisse_," a translation of Gedaliah, and a very
common name among the English Jews at that time.  This incident really
occurred about twenty-five years later.

Note 5.  Some writers deny the existence of chimneys at this date; but
an entry, on the Pipe Roll for 1160, of money expended on "the Queen's
chamber and chimney and cellar," leaves no doubt on the matter.



CHAPTER FOUR.

THE FAIR OF SAINT FRIDESWIDE.

  "That's what I always say--if you wish a thing to be well done,
  You must do it yourself, you must not leave it to others."

  Longfellow.

The month of May was the liveliest and gayest of the year at Oxford, for
not only were the May Day games common to the whole country, but another
special attraction lay in Saint Frideswide's Fair, held on Gloucester
Green early in that month.  Oxford was a privileged town, in respect of
the provision trade, the royal purveyors being forbidden to come within
twenty miles of that city.  In those good old times, the King was first
served, then the nobility, lay and clerical, then the gentry, and the
poor had to be content with what was left.  It was not unusual, when a
report of anything particularly nice reached the monarch--such as an
import of wine, a haul of fish, or any other dainty,--for the Sheriff of
that place to receive a mandate, bidding him seize for the royal use a
portion or the whole thereof.  Prices, too, were often regulated by
proclamation, so that tradesmen not unfrequently found it hard to live.
If a few of our discontented and idle agitators (I do not mean those who
would work and cannot) could spend a month or two in the olden time,
their next speeches on Tower Hill might be somewhat differently
flavoured.

Saint Frideswide's Fair was a sight to see.  For several days before it
was held, a multitude of carpenters were employed in putting up wooden
booths and stalls, and Gloucester Green became a very lively place.
Fairs in the present day, when they are held at all, are very different
exhibitions from what they were seven hundred years ago.  The stalls
then were practically shops, fully stocked with goods of solid value.
There was a butcher's row, a baker's row, a silversmith's row, and a
mercer's row--ironmongers, saddlers, shoemakers, vintners, coopers,
pelters (furriers), potters, hosiers, fishmongers, and cooks
(confectioners)--all had their several streets of stalls.  The Green--
larger than now--became a town within a town.  As the fair was held by
licence of Saint Frideswide, and was under her especial protection, the
Canons of that church exacted certain dues both from the Crown and the
stall-holders, which were duly paid.  From the Crown they received 25
shillings per annum.  It was deemed a point of honour to keep the best
of everything for the fair; and those buyers who wished to obtain good
value for their money put off their purchases when it grew near fair
time.  When the third of May came, they all turned out in holiday
costume to lay in necessaries, so far as possible, for the year--meat
excepted, which could be purchased again at the cattle fair in the
following September.

There was one serious inconvenience in shopping at that time, of which
we know nothing at the present day.  With the exception of the penny and
still smaller coins (all silver) there was no money.  The pound, though
it appears on paper, was not a coin, but simply a pound weight of pence;
the mark was two-thirds, and the noble (if used so early) one-third of
that amount.  When a woman went out to buy articles of any value, she
required to carry with her an enormous weight of small silver cash.
Purses were not therefore the toys we use, but large bags of heavy
leather, attached to the girdle on the left side; and the aim of a
pickpocket was to cut the leather bag away from its metal fastening--
hence the term _cut-purse_.

Every woman in Kepeharme Lane--and it might be added, in Oxford--
appeared in the street with a basket on her arm as soon as daylight had
well dawned.  The men went at their own time and convenience.  For many
of them a visit to the fair was merely amusement; but the ladies were on
business.  Even Derette followed her mother, armed with a smaller basket
than the rest.  Little Rudolph was left with Countess, who preferred him
to the fair; and such is the power of habit that our friends had now
become quite accustomed to this, and would give a nod and a smile to
Countess when they met, just as they did to any other neighbour.  This
does not mean that they entertained an atom less of prejudice against
Jews in general; they had merely got over their prejudice in the case of
that one Jewish girl in particular.

Isel's business was heavy enough.  She wanted a pig, half an ox, twenty
ells of dark blue cloth, a cloak for herself and capes for her
daughters, thirty pairs of slippers--a very moderate allowance for three
women, for slippers were laid in by the dozen pairs in common--fifty
cheeses (an equally moderate reckoning) [Note 1], a load of flour,
another of oatmeal, two quarters of cabbage for salting, six bushels of
beans, five hundred herrings, a barrel of ale, two woollen rugs for
bedclothes, a wooden coffer, and a hundred nails.  She had already
bought and salted two sheep from Martin, so mutton was not needed.

"Now, Agnes, what do you want?" she asked.

Agnes, who was following with another basket, replied that she wanted
some stuff for a dress, some flannel for Rudolph, and a few pairs of
shoes.  Shoes must have worn only a very short time, considering the
enormous quantity of them usually bought at once.

"And you, Ermine?"

"Nothing but a hood, Mother Isel."

"You're easily satisfied.  Well, I'll go first after my pig."

They turned into the Butcher's Row, where in a minute they could
scarcely hear each other speak.  The whole air seemed vocal with grunts,
lowing, and bleating, and, the poulterers' booths lying close behind,
crowing and cackling also.

"How much for a good bacon pig?" screamed Isel to a fat butcher, who was
polishing a knife upon a wooden block.

"Hertford kids?  I have none."

"Bacon pig!" screamed Isel a little louder.

"Oh!  Well, look you, there's a nice one--twenty pence; there's a rare
fine one--twenty-two; there's a--"

"Bless thee, man! dost thou think I'm made of money?"

"Shouldn't wonder if you'd a pot laid by somewhere," said the butcher
with a knowing wink.  He was an old acquaintance.

"Well, I haven't, then: and what's more, I've plenty to do with the few
marks I have.  Come now, I'll give you sixteen pence for that biggest
fellow."

The butcher intimated, half in a shout and half by pantomime, that he
could not think of such a thing.

"Well, eighteen, then."

The butcher shook his head.

"Nineteen!  Now, that's as high as I'll go."

"Not that one," shouted the butcher; "I'll take nineteen for the other."

Isel had to execute a gymnastic feat before she could answer, to save
herself from the horns of an inquisitive cow which was being driven up
the row; while a fat pig on the other side was driving Flemild nearly
out of the row altogether.

"Well!  I'll agree to that," said Isel, when she had settled with the
cow.

A similar process having been gone through for the half ox, for which
Isel had to pay seventeen pence [Salted cow was much cheaper, being only
2 shillings each.]--a shameful price, as she assured her companions--the
ladies next made their way to Drapers' Row.  The draper, then and for
some centuries later, was the manufacturer of cloth, not the retail
dealer only: but he sold retail as well as wholesale.  Isel found some
cloth to her mind, but the price was not to her mind at all, being
eighteen pence per ell.

"Gramercy, man! wouldst thou ruin me?" she demanded.

A second battle followed with the draper, from which Isel this time
emerged victorious, having paid only 1 shilling 5 pence per ell.  They
then went to the clothier's, where she secured a cloak for a mark (13
shillings 4 pence) and capes for the girls at 6 shillings 8 pence each.
At the shoemaker's she laid in her slippers for 6 pence per pair, with
three pairs of boots at a shilling.  The cheeses were dear, being a
halfpenny each; the load of flour cost 14 pence, and of meal 2
shillings; the beans were 1 shilling 8 pence, the cabbage 1 shilling 2
pence, the herrings 2 shillings.  The coffer came to 5 shillings, the
nails to 2 shillings 4 pence.  [Note 2.]  Isel looked ruefully at her
purse.

"We must brew at home," she said, easily dismissing that item; "but how
shall I do for the rugs?"

Rugs were costly articles.  There was no woollen manufacture in England,
nor was there to be such for another hundred years.  A thick,
serviceable coverlet, such as Isel desired, was not to be bought much
under two pounds.

"We must do without them," she said, with a shake of her head.  "Girls,
you'll have to spread your cloaks on the bed.  We must eat, but we
needn't lie warm if we can't afford it."

"Isel, have you de one pound?  Look, here is one," said Agnes timidly,
holding out her hand.

"But you want that, my dear."

"No, I can do widout.  I will de gown up-mend dat I have now.  Take you
de money; I have left for de shoes and flannel."

She did not add that the flannel would have to be cut down, as well as
the new dress resigned.

"And I can do very well without a hood," added Ermine quickly.  "We must
help Mother Isel all we can."

"My dears, I don't half like taking it."

"We have taken more from you," said Ermine.

Thus urged, Isel somewhat reluctantly took the money, and bought one
rug, for which she beat down the clothier to two marks and a half, and
departed triumphant, this being her best bargain for the day.  It was
then in England, as it yet is in Eastern lands, an understood thing that
all tradesmen asked extortionate prices, and must be offered less as a
matter of course: a fact which helps to the comprehension of the
Waldensian objection to trade as involving falsehood.

Isel returned to Agnes the change which remained out of her pound, which
enabled her to get all the flannel she needed.  Their baskets being now
well filled, Isel and her party turned homewards, sauntering slowly
through the fair, partly because the crowd prevented straightforward
walking, but partly also because they wished to see as much as they
could.  Haimet was to bring a hand-cart for the meat and other heavy
purchases at a later hour.

Derette, who for safety's sake was foremost of the girls, directly
following her mother and Agnes, trudged along with her basket full of
slippers, and her head full of profound meditation.  Had Isel known the
nature of those meditations, she certainly would never have lingered at
the silversmiths' stalls in a comfortable frame of mind, pointing out to
her companions various pretty things which took her fancy.  But she had
not the remotest idea of her youngest daughter's private thoughts, and
she turned away from Gloucester Green at last, quite ignorant of the
fashion wherein her feelings of all sorts were about to be outraged.

Derette was determined to obtain a dress for Agnes.  She had silently
watched the kindly manner in which the good-natured German gave up the
thing she really needed: for poor Agnes had but the one dress she wore,
and Derette well knew that no amount of mending would carry it through
another winter.  But how was a penniless child to procure another for
her?  If Derette had not been a young person of original ideas and very
independent spirit, the audacious notion which she was now entertaining
would never have visited her mind.

This was no less than a visit to the Castle, to beg one of the cast-off
gowns of the women of the household.  Dresses wore long in the Middle
Ages, and ladies of rank were accustomed to make presents of half-worn
ones to each other.  Derette was not quite so presumptuous as to think
of addressing the Countess--that, even in her eyes, seemed a
preposterous impossibility; but surely one of her waiting-women might be
reached.  How was she to accomplish her purpose?

That she must slip away unseen was the first step to be taken.  Her
mother would never dream of allowing such an errand, as Derette well
knew; but she comforted herself, as others have done beside her, with
the reflection that the excellence of her motive quite compensated for
the unsatisfactory details of her conduct.  Wedged as she was in the
midst of the family group, and encumbered with her basket, she could not
hope to get away before they reached home; but she thought she saw her
chance directly afterwards, when the baskets should have been discharged
of their contents, and every body was busy inspecting, talking about,
and putting away, the various purchases that had been made.

Young girls were never permitted to go out alone at that time.  It was
considered less dangerous in town than country, and a mere run into a
neighbouring house might possibly have been allowed; but usually, when
not accompanied by some responsible person, they were sent in groups of
three or four at once.  Derette's journey must be taken alone, and it
involved a few yards of Milk Street, as far as Saint Ebbe's, then a run
to Castle Street and up to the Castle.  That was the best way, for it
was both the shortest and comparatively the quietest.  But Derette
determined not to go in at the entrance gate, where she would meet
Osbert and probably Anania, but to make for the Osney Gate to the left,
where she hoped to fall into the kindlier hands of her cousin Stephen.
The danger underlying this item was that Stephen might have gone to the
fair, in which case she would have to encounter either the rough joking
of Orme, or the rough crustiness of Wandregisil, his fellow-watchmen.
That must be risked.  The opportunity had to be bought, and Derette made
up her mind to pay the necessary price.

The Walnut Tree was reached, the baskets laid down, and while Agnes was
divesting herself of her cloak, and Isel reiterating her frequent
assertion that she was "that tired," Derette snatched her chance, and
every body's back being turned for the moment, slipped out of the door,
and sped up Kepeharme Lane with the speed of a fawn.  Her heart beat
wildly, and until she reached Milk Street, she expected every instant to
be followed and taken back.  If she could only get her work done, she
told herself, the scolding and probable whipping to follow would be
easily borne.

Owing to its peculiar municipal laws, throughout the Middle Ages, Oxford
had the proud distinction of being the cleanest city in England.  That
is to say, it was not quite so appallingly smothered in mire and filth
as others were.  Down the midst of every narrow street ran a gutter,
which after rain was apt to become a brook, and into which dirt of every
sort was emptied by every householder.  There were no causeways; and
there were frequent holes of uncertain depth, filled with thick mud.
Ownerless dogs, and owned but equally free-spoken pigs, roamed the
streets at their own sweet will, and were not wont to make way for the
human passengers; while if a cart were met in the narrow street, it was
necessary for the pedestrian to squeeze himself into the smallest
compass possible against the wall, if he wished to preserve his limbs in
good working order.  Such were the delights of taking a walk in the good
old times.  It may reasonably be surmised that unnecessary walks were
not frequently taken.

Kepeharme Lane left behind, where the topography of the holes was
tolerably familiar, Derette had to walk more guardedly.  After getting
pretty well splashed, and dodging a too attentive pig which was intent
on charging her for venturing on his beat, Derette at last found herself
at the Osney Gate.  She felt now that half her task was over.

"Who goes there?" demanded the welcome voice of Stephen, when Derette
rapped at the gate.

"It's me, Stephen,--Derette: do let me in."

The gate stood open in a moment, and Stephen's pleasant face appeared
behind it, with a look of something like consternation thereon.

"Derette!--alone!--whatever is the matter?"

"Nothing, Stephen; oh, nothing's the matter.  I only came alone because
I knew Mother wouldn't let me if I asked her."

"Hoity-toity!--that's a nice confession, young woman!  And pray what are
you after, now you have come?"

"Stephen--dear, good Stephen, will you do me a favour?"

"Hold off, you coaxing sinner!"

"Oh, but I want it so much!  You see, she gave it up because Mother
wanted a rug, and she let her have the money--and I know it won't mend
up to wear any thing like through the winter--and I do want so to get
her another--a nice soft one, that will be comfortable, and--You'll help
me, won't you, Steenie?"

And Derette's small arms came coaxingly round her cousin's wrist.

"I'm a heathen Jew if I have the shadow of a notion what I'm wanted to
help!  `A nice soft one!'  Is it a kitten, or a bed-quilt, or a sack of
meal, you're after?"

"O Stephen!--what queer things you guess!  It's a gown--."

"I don't keep gowns, young woman."

"No, but, Steenie, you might help me to get at somebody that does.  One
of the Lady's women, you know.  I'm sure you could, if you would."

Steenie whistled.  "Well, upon my word!  _You'll_ not lose cakes for
want of asking for.  Why don't you go to Anania?"

"You know she'd only be cross."

"How do you know I sha'n't be cross?" asked Stephen, knitting his brows,
and pouting out his lips, till he looked formidable.

"Oh, because you never are.  You'll only laugh at me, and you won't do
that in an ugly way like some people.  Now, Steenie, you _will_ help me
to get a gown for Agnes?"

"Agnes, is it?  I thought you meant Flemild."

"No, it's Agnes; and Ermine gave up her hood to help: but Agnes wants
the gown worse than Ermine does a hood.  You like them, you know,
Steenie."

"Who told you that, my Lady Impertinence?  Dear, dear, what pests these
children are!"

"Now, Stephen, you know you don't think any thing of the sort, and you
are going to help me this minute."

"How am I to help, I should like to know?  I can't leave my gate."

"You can call somebody.  Now do, Steenie, there's a darling cousin!--and
I'll ask Mother to make you some of those little pies you like so much.
I will, really."

"You outrageous wheedler!  I suppose I shall have no peace till I get
rid of you.--Henry!"

A lad of about twelve years old, who was crossing the court-yard at the
other side, turned and came up at the call.

"Will you take this maid in, and get her speech of Cumina?  She's very
good-natured, and if you tell her your story, Derette, I shouldn't
wonder if she helps you."

"Oh, thank you, Steenie, so much!"

Derette followed Henry, who made faces at her, but gave her no further
annoyance, into the servants' offices at the Castle, where he turned her
unceremoniously over to the first person he met--a cook in a white cap
and apron--with the short and not too civil information that--

"She wants Cumina."

The cook glanced carelessly at Derette.

"Go straight along the passage, and up the stairs to the left," he said,
and then went on about his own business.

Never before had Derette seen a house which contained above four rooms
at the utmost.  She felt in utter confusion amid stairs, doors, and
corridors.  But she managed to find the winding staircase at the end of
the passage, and to mount it, wishing much that so convenient a mode of
access could replace the ladder in her mother's house.  She went up till
she could go no further, when she found herself on the top landing of a
round tower, without a human creature to be seen.  There were two doors,
however; and after rapping vainly at both, she ventured to open one.  It
led to the leads of the tower.  Derette closed this, and tried the
other.  She found it to open on a dark fathomless abyss,--the Castle
well [Note 3], had she known it--and shut it quickly with a sensation of
horror.  After a moment's reflection, she went down stairs to the next
landing.

Here there were four doors, and from one came the welcome sound of human
voices.  Derette rapped timidly on this.  It was opened by a girl about
the age of Flemild.

"Please," said Derette, "I was to ask for Cumina."

"Oh, you must go to the still-room," answered the girl, and would have
shut the door without further parley, had not Derette intercepted her
with a request to be shown where the still-room was.

With an impatient gesture, the girl came out, led Derette a little way
along the corridor running from the tower, and pointed to a door on the
left hand.

Derette's hopes rose again.  She was one of those persons whom delays
and difficulties do not weary out or render timid, but rather inspire to
fresh and stronger action.

"Well, what do you want?" asked the pleasant-faced young woman who
answered Derette's rap.  "Please, is there somebody here called Cumina?"

"I rather think there is," was the smiling answer.  "Is it you?"

"Ay.  Come in, and say what you wish."  Derette obeyed, and poured out
her story, rather more lucidly than she had done to Stephen.  Cumina
listened with a smile.

"Well, my dear, I would give you a gown for your friend if I had it,"
she said good-humouredly; "but I have just sent the only one I can spare
to my mother.  I wonder who there is, now--Are you afraid of folks that
speak crossly?"

"No," said Derette.  "I only want to shake them."  Cumina laughed.
"You'll do!" she said.  "Come, then, I'll take you to Hagena.  She's not
very pleasant-spoken, but if any body can help you, she can.  The only
doubt is whether she will."

Derette followed Cumina through what seemed to her endless corridors
opening into further and further corridors, till at last she asked in a
tone of astonishment--

"How can you ever find your way?"

"Oh, you learn to do that very soon," said Cumina, laughing, as she
opened the door of a long, low chamber.  "Now, you must tread softly
here, and speak very respectfully."

Derette nodded acquiescence, and they went in.

The room was lined with presses from floor to ceiling.  On benches which
stood back to back in its midst, several lengths of rich silken stuffs
were spread out; and on other benches near the windows sat two or three
girls busily at work.  Several elder ladies were moving about the room,
and one of them, a rather stout, hard-featured woman, was examining the
girls' work.  Cumina went up to her.

"If you please, Hagena," she said, "is there any where an old gown which
it would please you to bestow on this girl, who has asked the boon?"

Hagena straightened herself up and looked at Derette.

"Is she the child of one of my Lord's tenants?"

"No," answered Derette.  "My mother's house is her own."

"Well, if ever I heard such assurance!  Perchance, Madam, you would like
a golden necklace to go with it?"

If Derette had not been on her good behaviour, Hagena would have
received as much as she gave.  But knowing that her only chance of
success lay in civil and submissive manners, she shut her lips tight and
made no answer.

"Who sent you?" pursued Hagena, who was the Countess's mistress of the
household, and next in authority to her.

"Nobody.  I came of myself."

"_Ha, chetife_!  I do wonder what the world's coming to!  The impudence
of the creature!  How on earth did she get in?  Just get out again as
fast as you can, and come on such an errand again if you dare!  Be off
with you!"

Derette's voice trembled, but not with fear, as she turned back to
Cumina.  To Hagena she vouchsafed no further word.

"I did not know I was offending any body," she said, in a manner not
devoid of childish dignity.  "I was trying to do a little bit of good.
I think, if you please, I had better go home."

Derette's speech infuriated Hagena.  The child had kept her manners and
her dignity too, under some provocation, while the mistress of the
household was conscious that she had lost hers.

"How dare--" she was beginning, when another voice made her stop
suddenly.

"What has the child been doing?  I wish to speak with her."

Cumina hastily stopped Derette from leaving the room, and led her up to
the lady who had spoken and who had only just entered.

"What is it, my little maid?" she said kindly.

"I beg your pardon," said the child.  She was but a child, and her brave
heart was failing her.  Derette was very near tears.  "I did not mean
any harm.  Somebody had given up having a new gown--and she wanted it
very much--to let somebody else have the money; and I thought, if I
could beg one for her--but I did not mean to be rude.  Please let me go
home."

"Thou shalt go home, little one," answered the lady; "but wait a moment.
Does any one know the child?"

Nobody knew her.

"Stephen the Watchdog knows me," said Derette, drawing a long breath.
"He is my cousin.  So is Osbert the porter."

The lady put her arm round Derette.

"What sort of a gown wouldst thou have, my child?"

Derette's eyes lighted up.  Was she really to succeed after all?

"A nice one, please," she said, simply, making every one smile except
Hagena, who was still too angry for amusement.  "Not smart nor grand,
you know, but warm and soft.  Something woollen, I suppose, it should
be."

The lady addressed herself to Hagena.

"Have I any good woollen robe by the walls?"

When a dress was done with, if the materials were worth using for
something else, it was taken to pieces; if not, it was hung up "by the
walls," ready to give away when needed.

Hagena had some difficulty in answering properly.

"No, Lady; the last was given to Veka, a fortnight since."

"Then," was the quiet answer, which surprised all present, "it must be
one of those I am wearing.  Let Cumina and Dora bring such as I have."

Derette looked up into the face of her new friend.

"Please, are you the Lady Countess?"

"Well, I suppose I am," replied the Countess with a smile.  "Now, little
maid, choose which thou wilt."

Seven woollen gowns were displayed before the Countess and Derette, all
nearly new--blue, green, scarlet, tawny, crimson, chocolate, and
cream-colour.  Derette looked up again to the Countess's face.

"Nay, why dost thou look at me?  Take thine own choice."

The Countess was curious to see what the child's selection would be.

"I looked to see which you liked best," said Derette, "because I
wouldn't like to choose that."

"True courtesy here!" remarked the Countess.  "It is nothing to me, my
child.  Which dost thou like?"

"I like that one," said Derette, touching the crimson, which was a rich,
soft, dark shade of the colour, "and I think Agnes would too; but I
don't want to take the best, and I am not sure which it is."

"Fold it up," said the Countess to Cumina, with a smile to Derette; "let
it be well lapped in a kerchief; and bid Wandregisil go to the Osney
Gate, so that Stephen can take the child home."

The parcel was folded up, the Countess's hand kissed with heartfelt
thanks, and the delighted Derette, under the care of Cumina, returned to
the Osney Gate with her load.

"Well, you are a child!" exclaimed Stephen.  "So Cumina has really found
you a gown?  I thought she would, if she had one to give away."

"No," said Derette, "it is the Countess's gown."

"And who on earth gave you a gown of the Lady's?"

"Her own self!--and, Stephen, it is of her own wearing; she hadn't done
with it; but she gave it me, and she was so nice!--so much nicer than
all the others except Cumina."

"Well, if ever I did!" gasped Stephen.  "Derette, you are a terrible
child!  I never saw your like."

"I don't know what I've done that's terrible," replied the child.  "I'm
sure Agnes won't think it terrible to have that pretty gown to wear.
What is terrible about it, Stephen?"

They had left the Castle a few yards behind, were over the drawbridge,
and winding down the narrow descent, when a sharp call of "Ste-phen!"
brought them to a standstill.

"Oh dear, that's Cousin Anania!" exclaimed Derette.  "Let me run on,
Stephen, and you go back and see what she wants."

"Nay, I must not do that, child.  The Lady sent orders that I was to see
you home.  You'll have to go back with me."

"But she'll worry so!  She'll want to know all about the gown, and then
she'll want it undone, and I'm sure she'll mess it up--and Cumina folded
it so smooth and nice:" urged Derette in a distressed tone.

"We won't let her," answered Stephen, quietly, as they came to the
entrance gate.  "Well, what's up, Anania?"

"What's Derette doing here?  Who came with her?  Where are you going?--
and what's in that fardel?"

"Oh, is that all you're after?  I'll answer those questions when I come
back.  I've got to take Derette home just now."

"You'll answer them before you go an inch further, if you please.  That
child's always in some mischief, and you aid and abet her a deal too
often."

"But I don't please.  I am under orders, Anania, and I can't stop now."

"At least you'll tell me what's in the fardel!" cried Anania, as Stephen
turned to go on his way without loosing his hold of the parcel.

"A gown which the Lady has given to Derette," said Stephen
mischievously, "and she sent commands that I was to escort her home with
it."

"A gown!--the Lady!--Derette!" screamed Anania.  "Not one of her own?--
why on earth should she give Derette a gown?"

"That's the Lady's business, not mine."

"Yes, one of her own," said Derette proudly.

"But what on earth for?  She hasn't given me a gown, and I am sure I
want it more than that child--and deserve it, too."

"Perhaps you haven't asked her," suggested Derette, trotting after
Stephen, who was already half-way across the bridge.

"Asked her!  I should hope not, indeed--I know my place, if you don't.
You never mean to say you asked her?"

"I can't stop to talk, Cousin Anania."

"But which gown is it?--tell me that!" cried Anania, in an agony of
disappointed curiosity.

"It's a crimson woollen one.  Good morrow."

"What! never that lovely robe she had on yesterday?  Saints bless us
all!" was the last scream that reached them from Anania.

Stephen laughed merrily as Derette came up with him.

"We have got clear of the dragon this time," said he.

A few minutes brought them to the Walnut Tree.

"Haimet--Oh, it's Stephen!" cried Isel in a tone of sore distress, as
soon as he appeared at the door.  "Do, for mercy's sake--I'm just at my
wits' end to think whatever--Oh, there she is!"

"Yes, Mother, I'm here," said Derette demurely.

"Yes, she's here, and no harm done, but good, I reckon," added Stephen.
"Still, I think it might be as well to look after her a bit, Aunt Isel.
If she were to take it into her head to go to London to see the Lady
Queen, perhaps you mightn't fancy it exactly."

"What has she been doing?" asked Isel in consternation.

"Only paying a visit to the Countess," said Stephen, laughing.

By this time Derette had undone the knots on the handkerchief, and the
crimson robe was revealed in all its beauty.

"Agnes," she said quietly, but with a little undertone of decided
triumph, "this is for you.  You won't have to give up your gown, though
you did give Mother the money."

A robe, in the Middle Ages, meant more than a single gown, and the
crimson woollen was a robe.  Under and upper tunics, a mantle, and a
corset or warm under-bodice, lay before the eyes of the amazed Agnes.

"Derette, you awful child!" exclaimed her mother almost in terror, "what
have you been after, and where did you get all that?  Why, it's a new
robe, and fit for a queen!"

"Don't scold the child," said Stephen.  "She meant well, and I believe
she behaved well; she got more than she asked for, that's all."

"Please, it isn't quite new, Mother, because the Lady wore it yesterday;
but she said she hadn't one done with, so she gave me one she was
wearing."

Bit by bit the story was told, while Isel held up her hands in horrified
astonishment, which she allowed to appear largely, and in inward
admiration of Derette's spirit, of which she tried to prevent the
appearance.  She was not, however, quite able to effect her purpose.

"_Meine Kind_!" cried Agnes, even more amazed and horrified than Isel.
"Dat is not for me.  It is too good.  I am only poor woman.  How shall I
such beautiful thing wear?"

"But it is for you," pleaded Derette earnestly, "and you must wear it;
because, you see, if you did not, it would seem as if I had spoken
falsely to the Lady."

"Ay, I don't see that you can do aught but take it and wear it," said
Stephen.  "Great ladies like ours don't take their gifts back."

Gerhardt had come in during the discussion.

"Nor does the Lord," he said, "at least not from those who receive them
worthily.  Take it from Him, dear, with thankfulness to the human
instruments whom He has used.  He saw thy need, and would not suffer
thee to want for obeying His command."

"But is it not too fine, Gerhardt?"

"It might be if we had chosen it," answered Gerhardt with a smile; "but
it seems as if the Lord had chosen it for thee, and that settles the
matter.  It is only the colour, after all."

There was no trimming on the robe, save an edging of grey fur,--not even
embroidery: and no other kind of trimming was known at that time.  Agnes
timidly felt the soft, fine texture.

"It is beautiful!" she said.

"Oh, it is beautiful enough, in all conscience," said Isel, "and will
last you a life-time, pretty nigh.  But as to that dreadful child--"

"Now, Mother, you won't scold me, will you?" said Derette coaxingly,
putting her arms round Isel's neck.  "I haven't done any harm, have I?"

"Well, child, I suppose you meant well," said Isel doubtfully, "and I
don't know but one should look at folks' intentions more than their
deeds, in especial when there's no ill done; but--"

"Oh, come, let's forgive each other all round!" suggested Stephen.
"Won't that do?"

Isel seemed to think it would, for she kissed Derette.

"But you must never, never do such a thing again, child, in all the days
of your life!" said she.

"Thank you, Mother, I don't want to do it again just now," answered
Derette in a satisfied tone.

The afternoon was not over when Anania marched into the Walnut Tree.

"Well, Aunt Isel!  I hope you are satisfied _now_!"

"With what, Anania?"

"That dreadfully wicked child.  Didn't I tell you?  I warned you to look
after her.  If you only would take good advice when folks take the
trouble to give it you!"

"Would you be so good as to say what you mean, Anania?  I'm not at all
satisfied with dreadfully wicked children.  I'm very much dissatisfied
with them, generally."

"I mean Derette, of course.  I hope you whipped her well!"

"What for?" asked Isel, in a rather annoyed tone.

"`What for?'"  Anania lifted up her hands.  "There now!--if I didn't
think she would just go and deceive you!  She can't have told you the
truth, of course, or you could never pass it by in that light way."

"If you mean her visit to the Castle," said Isel in a careless tone,
"she told us all about it, of course, when she got back."

"And you take it as coolly as that?"

"How did you wish me to take it?  The thing is done, and all's well that
ends well.  I don't see that it was so much out of the way, for my part.
Derette got no harm, and Agnes has a nice new gown, and nobody the
worse.  If anybody has a right to complain, it is the Countess; and I
can't see that she has so much, either; for she needn't have given the
robe if she hadn't liked."

"Oh, she's no business to grumble; she has lots more of every thing.
She could have twenty robes made like that to-morrow, if she wanted
them.  I wish I'd half as many--I know that!"

Agnes came down the ladder at that moment, carrying one of her new
tunics, which she had just tried on, and was now going to alter to fit
herself.

"That's it, is it?" exclaimed Anania in an interested voice.  "I thought
it was that one.  Well, you are in luck!  That's one of her newest
robes, I do believe.  Ah, folks that have more money than they know what
to do with, can afford to do aught they fancy.  But to think of throwing
away such a thing as that on _you_!"

Neither words nor tone were flattering, but the incivility dropped
harmless from the silver armour of Agnes's lowly simplicity.

"Oh, but it shall not away be t'rown," she said gently; "I will dem all
up-make, and wear so long as they will togeder hold.  I take care of
dat, so shall you see!"

Anania looked on with envious eyes.

"How good lady must de Countess be!" added Agnes.

"Oh, she can be good to folks sometimes," snarled Anania.  "She's just
as full of whims as she can be--all those great folks are--proud and
stuck-up and crammed full of caprice: but they say she's kind where she
_takes_, you know.  It just depends whether she takes to you.  She never
took to me, worse luck!  I might have had that good robe, if she had."

"I shouldn't think she would," suddenly observed the smallest voice in
the company.

"What do you mean by that, you impudent child?"

"Because, Cousin Anania, I don't think there's much in you to take to."

Derette's prominent feeling at that moment was righteous indignation.
She could not bear to hear the gentle, gracious lady, who had treated
her with such unexpected kindness, accused of being proud and full of
whims, apparently for no better reason than because she had not "taken
to" Anania--a state of things which Derette thought most natural and
probable.  Her sense of justice--and a child's sense of justice is often
painfully keen--was outraged by Anania's sentiments.

"Well, to be sure!  How high and mighty we are!  That comes of visiting
Countesses, I suppose.--Aunt Isel, I told you that child was getting
insufferable.  There'll be no bearing her very soon.  She's as stuck-up
now as a peacock.  Just look at her!"

"I don't see that she looks different from usual," said Isel, who was
mixing the ingredients for a "bag-pudding."

Anania made that slight click with her tongue which conveys the idea of
despairing compassion for the pitiable incapacity of somebody to
perceive patent facts.

Isel went on with her pudding, and offered no further remark.

"Well, I suppose I'd better be going," said Anania--and sat still.

Nobody contradicted her, but she made no effort to go, until Osbert
stopped at the half-door and looked in.

"Oh, you're there, are you?" he said to his wife.  "I don't know whether
you care particularly for those buttons you bought from Veka, but Selis
has swallowed two, and--"

"_Those_ buttons!  Graven silver, as I'm a living woman!  I'll shake him
while I can stand over him!  And only one blessed dozen I had of them,
and the price she charged me--The little scoundrel!  Couldn't he have
swallowed the common leaden ones?"

"Weren't so attractive, probably," said Osbert, as Anania hurried away,
without any leave-taking, to bestow on her son and heir, aged six, the
shaking she had promised.

"But de little child, he shall be sick!" said Agnes, looking up from her
work with compassionate eyes.

"Oh, I dare say it won't hurt him much," replied Osbert coolly, "and
perhaps it will teach him not to meddle.  I wish it might teach his
mother to stay at home and look after him, but I'm afraid that's
hopeless.  Good morrow!"

Little Selis seemed no worse for his feast of buttons, beyond a fit of
violent indigestion, which achieved the wonderful feat of keeping Anania
at home for nearly a week.

"You've had a nice quiet time, Aunt Isel," said Stephen.  "Shall I see
if I can persuade Selis to take the rest of the dozen?"

Life went on quietly--for the twelfth century--in the little house in
Kepeharme Street.  That means that nobody was murdered or murderously
assaulted, the house was not burned down nor burglariously entered, and
neither of the boys lost a limb, and was suffered to bleed to death, for
interference with the King's deer.  In those good old times, these
little accidents were rather frequent, the last more especially, as the
awful and calmly-calculated statistics on the Pipe Rolls bear terrible
witness.

Romund married, and went to live in the house of his bride, who was an
heiress to the extent of possessing half-a-dozen houses in Saint Ebbe's
parish.  Little Rudolph grew to be seven years old, a fine fearless boy,
rather more than his quiet mother knew how to manage, but always
amenable to a word from his grave father.  The Germans had settled down
peaceably in various parts of the country, some as shoemakers, some as
tailors, some as weavers, or had hired themselves as day-labourers to
farmers, carpenters, or bakers.  Several offers of marriage had been
made to Ermine, but hitherto, to the surprise of her friends, all had
been declined, her brother assenting to this unusual state of things.

"Why, what do you mean to do, Gerard?" asked Isel of her, when the last
and wealthiest of five suitors was thus treated.  "You'll never have a
better offer for the girl than Raven Soclin.  He can spend sixty pound
by the year and more; owns eight shops in the Bayly, and a brew-house
beside Saint Peter's at East Gate.  He's no mother to plague his wife,
and he's a good even-tempered lad, as wouldn't have many words with her.
Deary me! but it's like throwing the fish back into the sea when
they've come in your net!  What on earth are you waiting for, I should
just like to know?"

"Dear Mother Isel," answered Ermine softly, "we are waiting to see what
God would have of me.  I think He means me for something else.  Let us
wait and see."

"But there is nothing else, child," returned Isel almost irritably,
"without you've a mind to be a nun; and that's what I wouldn't be, take
my word for it.  Is that what you're after?"

"No, I think not," said Ermine in the same tone.

"Then there's nothing else for you--nothing in this world!"

"This is not the only world," was the quiet reply.

"It's the only one I know aught about," said Isel, throwing her beans
into the pan; "or you either, if I'm not mistaken.  You'd best be wise
in time, or you'll go through the wood and take the crookedest stick you
can find."

"I hope to be wise in time, Mother Isel; but I would rather it were
God's time than mine.  And we Germans, you know, believe in
presentiments.  Methinks He has whispered to me that the way He has
appointed for my treading is another road than that."

Ermine was standing, as she spoke, by the half-door, her eyes fixed on
the fleecy clouds which were floating across the blue summer sky.

"Can you see it, Aunt Ermine?" cried little Rudolph, running to her.
"Is it up there, in the blue--the road you are going to tread?"

"It is down below first," answered Ermine dreamily.  "Down very low, in
the dim valleys, and it is rough.  But it will rise by-and-bye to the
everlasting hills, and to the sapphire blue; and it leads straight to
God's holy hill, and to His tabernacle."

They remembered those words--seven months later.

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

Note 1.  The Pipe Rolls speak of _large_ cheeses, which cost from
threepence to sixpence each, and the ordinary size, of which two or
three were sold for a penny.  They were probably very small.

Note 2.  Modern value of above prices:--Pig, 1 pound, 19 shillings 7
pence; half ox, 1 pound, 15 shillings 5 pence; cloth, 1 pound 16
shillings 5 and a half pence per ell; cloak, 13 pounds 6 shillings 8
pence; cape, 6 pounds, 13 shillings 4 pence; pair of slippers, 12
shillings 6 pence; boots, per pair, 25 shillings; cheeses, 2 shillings 1
penny each; flour and cabbage, each 1 pound 9 shillings 2 pence; meal
and herrings, each 2 pounds, 10 shillings; beans, 2 pounds 1 shilling 8
pence; coffer, 6 pounds, 5 shillings; nails, 2 pounds, 18 shillings 4
pence; rug, 50 pounds.  It will be seen that money was far cheaper than
now, and living much more expensive.

Note 3.  For the sinking of which King Henry paid 19 pounds, 19
shillings 5 pence near this time.



CHAPTER FIVE.

WARNED.

  "Though briars and thorns obstruct the way,
  Oh, what are thorns and briars to me,
  If Thy sweet words console and stay,
  If Thou but let me go with Thee?"

  "G.E.M."

In the house of Henry the Mason, six doors from the Walnut Tree, three
of the Germans had been received--old Berthold, his wife Luitgarde, and
their daughter Adelheid.  Two years after their coming, Luitgarde had
died, and Berthold and his daughter were left alone Adelheid, though ten
years the elder, was a great friend of Ermine, and she seemed about as
much averse to matrimony as the latter, though being less well-favoured,
she had received fewer incentives to adopt it.  Raven Soclin, however,
did not allow his disappointment in love to affect his spirits, nor to
have much time for existence.  Ermine's refusal was barely six weeks old
when he transferred his very transferable affections to Flemild, and
Romund, the family dictator, did not allow any refusal of the offer.  In
fact, Flemild was fairly well satisfied with the turn matters had taken.
She knew she must be either wife or nun--there was no third course open
for a woman in England at that day--and she certainly had no proclivity
for the cloister.  Derette, on the other hand, had expressed herself in
terms of great contempt for matrimony, and of decided intention to adopt
single life, in the only form in which it was then possible.  It was
therefore arranged by Romund, and obediently sanctioned by Isel--for
that was an age of obedient mothers, so far as sons were concerned--that
Flemild should marry Raven Soclin, and Derette should become a novice at
Godstowe, in the month of September shortly about to open.

Nothing had yet been heard of Manning, the absent husband and father.
Isel still cherished an unspoken hope of his return; but Romund and
Flemild had given him up for dead, while the younger children had almost
forgotten him.

Another person who had passed out of their life was the Jewish maiden,
Countess.  She had been married the year after the arrival of the
Germans, and had gone to live at Reading: married to an old Jew whom she
only knew by name, then no unusual fate for girls of her nation.  From
little Rudolph, who was just beginning to talk, she had parted most
unwillingly.

"Ah! if you would give him to me!" she had said in German to Agnes, with
a smile on her lips, yet with tears in the dark eyes.  "I know it could
not be.  Yet if time should come that trouble befel you, and you sought
refuge for the child, my heart and my arms would be open.  Ah, you
think, what could a poor Jewess do for you?  Well, maybe so.  Yet you
know the fable of the mouse that gnawed the net in which the lion was
caught.  It might be, some day, that even poor Countess--"

Gerhardt laid his hand on the arm of the young Jewess, and Isel, who saw
the action, trembled for the consequences of his temerity.

"Friend," he said, "I would, if so were, confide my child to you sooner
than to any other outside this house, if your word were given that he
should not be taught to deride and reject the Lord that died for him."

"You would take my word?"  The dark eyes flashed fire.

"I would take it, if you would give it."

"And you know that no Court in this land would receive the witness of a
Jew!  You know it?" she repeated fierily.

"I know it," he answered, rather sadly.

"Yet you would take mine?"

"God would know if you spoke truth.  He is the Avenger of all that have
none other."

"He has work to do, then!" replied Countess bitterly.

"He would not be too busy, if need were, to see to my little Rudolph.
But I do not believe in the need: I think you true."

"Gerhardt, you are the strangest Christian that I ever knew!  Do you
mean what you say?"

"I mean every word of it, Countess."

"Then--you shall not repent it."  And she turned away.

Little Rudolph fretted for a time after his nurse and playfellow.  But
as the months passed on, her image grew fainter in his memory, and now,
at seven years old, he scarcely remembered her except by name, Ermine
having spoken of her to him on several occasions.

"I wonder you talk of the girl to that child!"  Isel remonstrated.  "It
were better that he should forget her."

"Pardon me, Mother Isel, but I think not so.  The good Lord brought her
in our way, and how do I know for what purpose?  It may be for Rudolph's
good, no less than hers; and she promised, if need arose, to have a care
of him.  I cannot tell what need may arise, wherein it would be most
desirable that he should at least recall her name."

"But don't you see, Ermine, even on your own showing, our Lord has taken
her out of your way again?"

"Yes, now.  But how do I know that it is for always?"

"Why, child, how can Countess, a married woman, living away at Reading,
do anything to help a child at Oxford?"

"I don't know, Mother Isel.  The Lord knows.  If our paths never cross
again, it will not hurt Rudolph to remember that a young Jewess named
Countess was his loving friend in childhood: if they should meet
hereafter, it may be very needful.  And--" that dreamy look came into
Ermine's eyes--"something seems to whisper to me that it may be needed.
Do not blame me if I act upon it."

"Well, with all your soft, gentle ways, you have a will of your own, I
know," said Isel; "so you must e'en go your own way.  And after
September, Ermine, you'll be the only daughter left to me.  Ah me!
Well, it's the way of the world, and what is to be must be.  I am sure
it was a good wind blew you in at my door, for I should have been
dreadful lonely without you when both my girls were gone."

"But, dear Mother Isel, Flemild is not going far."

"Not by the measuring-line, very like; but she's going far enough to be
Raven's wife, and not my daughter.  It makes a deal of difference, that
does.  And Derette's going further, after the same fashion.  I sha'n't
see her, maybe, again, above a dozen times in my life.  Eh dear! this is
a hard world for a woman to live in.  It's all work, and worry, and
losing, and giving up, and such like."

"There is a better world," said Ermine softly.

"There had need be.  I'm sure I deserve a bit of rest and comfort, if
ever a hard-working woman did.  I'll say nought about pleasure; more by
reason that I'm pretty nigh too much worn out and beat down to care
about it."

"Nay, friend," said Gerhardt; "we sinners deserve the under-world.  The
road to the upper lieth only through the blood and righteousness of our
Lord Christ."

"I don't know why you need say that," returned Isel with mild
resentment.  "I've been as decent a woman, and as good a wife and
mother, as any woman betwixt Grandpont and Saint Maudlin, let the other
be who she may,--ay, I have so, though I say it that hadn't ought.  But
you over-sea folks seem to have such a notion of everybody being bad, as
I never heard before--not even from the priest."

The Church to which Gerhardt belonged held firmly, as one of her most
vital dogmas, that strong view of human depravity which human depravity
always opposes and resents.  Therefore Gerhardt did but enunciate a
foundation-article of his faith when he made answer--

"`All the evil which I do proceeds from my own depravity.'"

"Come, you're laying it on a bit too thick," said Isel, with a shake of
her head.

"He only speaks for himself, don't you hear, Mother?" suggested Haimet
humorously.

Gerhardt smiled, and shook his head in turn.

"Well, but if all the ill we do comes of ourselves, I don't see how you
leave any room for Satan.  He's busy about us, isn't he?"

"He's `a roaring lion, that goeth about, seeking whom he may devour';
but he can devour no man without his own participation."

"Why, then, you make us all out to be witches, for it's they who enter
into league with Satan."

"Do you know, Gerard," said Haimet suddenly, "some folks in the town are
saying that you belong to those over-sea heretics whose children are
born with black throats and four rows of teeth, and are all over hair?"

"I don't see that Rudolph resembles that description," was the calm
reply of Gerhardt.  "Do you?"

"Oh, of course we know better.  But there are some folks that say so,
and are ready to swear it too.  It would be quite as well if you stayed
quiet at home for a while, and didn't go out preaching in the villages
so much.  If the Bishop comes to hear of some things you've said--"

Isel and her daughters looked up in surprise.  They had never imagined
that their friend's frequent journeys were missionary tours.  Haimet,
who mixed far more with the outer world, was a good deal wiser on many
points.

"What have I said?" quietly replied Gerhardt, stopping his carving--
which he still pursued in an evening--to sweep up and throw into the
corner the chips which he had made.

"Well, I was told only last week, that you had said when you spoke at
Abingdon, that `Antichrist means all that is in contrast to Christ,' and
that there was no such thing as a consecrated priest in the world."

"The first I did say: can you disprove it?  But the second I did not
say.  God forbid that I ever should!"

"Oh, well, I am glad to hear it: but I can tell you, Halenath the
Sacristan said he heard you."

"I wish that old chattering magpie would hold his tongue!" exclaimed
Isel, going to the door to empty the bowl in which she had been washing
the cabbages for supper.  "He makes more mischief than any man within
ten miles of the Four-Ways."

"Haimet," said Gerhardt, looking up from the lovely wreath of
strawberry-blossom which he was carving on a box, "I must not leave you
to misapprehend me as Halenath has done.  I never said there was no such
thing as a consecrated priest: for Christ our Priest is one, of the
Order of Melchizedek, and by His one offering He hath perfected His
saints for ever.  But I did say that the priests of Rome were not
rightly consecrated, and that the Pope's temporal power had deprived the
Church of true consecration.  I will stand as firmly to that which I
have said, as I will deny the words I have not spoken."

Isel stood aghast, looking at him, while the spoon in her hand went down
clattering on the brick floor.

"Dear blessed saints!" seemed to be all she could say.

"Why, whatever do you call that?" cried Haimet.  "It sounds to me just
as bad as the other, if it isn't worse.  I should think, if anything, it
were a less heresy to say there were no consecrated priests, than to say
that holy Church herself had lost true consecration.  Not that there's
very much to choose between them, after all; only that you cunning
fellows can split straws into twenty bits as soon as we can look at
them."

"Do you mean to say that the Church of England has lost true
consecration?" gasped Isel.

"If he means one, he means the other," said Haimet, "because our Church
is subject to the holy Father."

"There is one Church, and there are many Churches," answered Gerhardt.
"One--holy, unerring, indivisible, not seen of men.  This is the Bride,
the Lamb's wife; and they that are in her are called, and chosen, and
faithful.  This is she that shall persevere, and shall overcome, and
shall receive the crown of life.  But on earth there are many Churches;
and these may err, and may utterly fall away.  Yea, there be that have
done it--that are doing it now."

"I don't understand you a bit!" exclaimed Isel.  "I always heard of the
Catholic Church, that she was one and could not err; that our Lord the
Pope was her head, and the Church of England was a branch of her.  Isn't
that your doctrine?"

"You mean the same thing, don't you, now?" suggested Flemild, trying to
make peace.  "I dare be bound, it's only words that differ.  They are so
queer sometimes.  Turn 'em about, and you can make them mean almost
anything."

Gerhardt smiled rather sadly, as he rose and put away his carving on one
of the broad shelves that ran round the house-place, and served the uses
of tables and cupboards.

"Words can easily be twisted," he said, "either by ignorance or malice.
But he is a coward that will deny his words as he truly meant them.  God
help me to stand to mine!"

"Well, you'd better mind what I tell you about your preaching,"
responded Haimet.  "Leave preaching to the priests, can't you?  It is
their business, not a weaver's.  You keep to your craft."

"Had you not once a preacher here named Pullus?" asked Gerhardt, without
replying to the question.

"I think I have heard of him," said Haimet, "but he was before my time."

"I have been told that he preached the Word of God in this city years
ago," said Gerhardt.

"Whom did you say?  Cardinal Pullus?" asked Isel, standing up from her
cooking.  "Ay, he did so!  You say well, Haimet, it was before your day;
you were only beginning to toddle about when he died.  But I've listened
to him many a time at Saint Martin's, and on Presthey, too.  He used to
preach in English, so that the common folks could understand him.  Many
professed his doctrines.  I used to like to hear him, I did--when I was
younger.  He said nice words, though I couldn't call 'em back now.  No,
I couldn't."

"I am sorry to hear it; I rather hoped you could," replied Gerhardt.

"Bless you!  I never heard aught of that sort yet, that I could tell you
again, a Paternoster after I'd gone forth of the door.  Words never stay
with me; they run in at one ear and out at the other.  Seem to do me
good, by times; but I never can get 'em back again, no more than you can
the rain when it has soaked into the ground."

"If the rain and the words bring forth good fruit, you get them back in
the best way of all," said Gerhardt.  "To remember the words in your
head only, were as fruitless as to gather up rain-drops from the stone
or metal into which they cannot penetrate."

"Well, I never had nought of a head-piece," returned Isel.  "I've heard
my mother tell that I had twenty wallopings ere she could make me say
the Paternoster; and I never could learn nought else save the Joy and
the Aggerum."

"What do you mean by the `Aggerum,' Mother?" inquired Haimet.

"Well, isn't that what you call it?  Aggerum or Adjerum, or some such
outlandish name.  It's them little words that prayers begin with."

"`_Deus, in adjutorium_,'" said Gerhardt quietly.

Haimet seemed exceedingly amused.  He had attended the schools long
enough to learn Latin sufficient to interpret the common prayers and
Psalms which formed the private devotions of most educated people.  This
was because his mother had wished him to be a priest.  But having now,
in his own estimation, arrived at years of discretion, he declined the
calling chosen for him, preferring as he said to go into business, and
he had accordingly been bound apprentice to a moneter, or money-changer.
Poor Isel had mourned bitterly over this desertion.  To her mind, as to
that of most people in her day, the priesthood was the highest calling
that could be attained by any middle-class man, while trade was a very
mean and despicable occupation, far below domestic service.  She
recognised, however, that Haimet was an exception to most rules, and was
likely to take his own way despite of her.

Isel's own lack of education was almost as unusual as Haimet's
possession of it.  At that time all learning was in the hands of the
clergy, the monastic orders, and the women.  By the Joy, she meant the
Doxology, the English version of which substituted "joy" for "glory;"
while the _Adjutorium_ denoted the two responses which follow the Lord's
Prayer in the morning service, "O God, make speed to save us," "O Lord,
make haste to help us."

"Can't you say _adjutorium_, Mother?" asked the irreverent youth.

"No, lad, I don't think I can.  I'll leave that for thee.  One's as good
as t'other, for aught I see."

Haimet exploded a second time.

"Good evening!" said Romund's voice, and a cloaked figure, on whose
shoulders drops of rain lay glittering, came in at the door.  "I thought
you were not gone up yet, for I saw the light under the door.  Derette,
I have news for you.  I have just heard that Saint John's anchoritess
died yesterday, and I think, if you would wish it, that I could get the
anchorhold for you.  You may choose between that and Godstowe."

Derette scarcely stood irresolute for a moment.

"I should like the anchorhold best, Brother.  Then Mother could come to
me whenever she wanted me."

"Is that the only reason?" asked Haimet, half laughing.

"No, not quite," said Derette, with a smile; "but it is a good one."

"Then you make up your mind to that?" questioned Romund.

"Yes, I have made up my mind," replied Derette.

"Very good: then I will make application for it.  Good night! no time to
stay.  Mabel?  Oh, she's all right.  Farewell!"

And Romund shut the door and disappeared.

"Deary me, that seems done all of a hurry like!" said Isel.  "I don't
half like such sudden, hasty sort of work.  Derette, child, are you sure
you'll not be sorry?"

"No, I don't think I shall, Mother.  I shall have more liberty in the
anchorhold than in the nunnery."

"More liberty, quotha!" cried Isel in amazement.  "Whatever can the
child mean?  More liberty, penned up in two little chambers, and never
to leave them all your life, than in a fine large place like Godstowe,
with a big garden and cloisters to walk in?"

"Ah, Mother, I don't want liberty for my feet, but for my soul.  There
will be no abbess nor sisters to tease one in the anchorhold."

"Well, and what does that mean, but never a bit of company?  Just your
one maid, and tied up to her.  And the child calls it `liberty'!"

"You forget, Mother," said Haimet mischievously.  "There will be the
Lady Derette.  In the cloister they are only plain Sister."

Every recluse had by courtesy the title of a baron.

"As if I cared for that rubbish!" said Derette with sublime scorn.

"Dear!  I thought you were going on purpose," retorted her brother.

"Whom will you have for your maid, Derette?" asked her sister.

"Ermine, if I might have her," answered Derette with a smile.

Gerhardt suddenly stopped the reply which Ermine was about to make.

"No," he said, "leave it alone to-night, dear.  Lay it before the Lord,
and ask of Him whether that is the road He hath prepared for thee to
walk in.  It might be for the best, Ermine."

There was a rather sorrowful intonation in his voice.

"I will wait till the morning, and do as you desire," was Ermine's
reply.  "But I could give the answer to-night, for I know what it will
be.  The best way, and the prepared way, is that which leads the
straightest Home."

It was very evident, when the morning arrived, that Gerhardt would much
have liked Ermine to accept the lowly but safe and sheltered position of
companion to Derette in the anchorhold.  While the hermit lived alone,
but wandered about at will, the anchorite, who was never allowed to
leave his cell, always had with him a companion of his own sex, through
whom he communicated with the outer world.  Visitors of the same sex, or
children, could enter the cell freely, or the anchorite might speak
through his window to any person.  Derette, therefore, would really be
less cut off from the society of her friends in the anchorhold, than she
would have been as a cloistered sister at Godstowe, where they would
only have been permitted to see her, at most, once in a year.  But
outside the threshold of her cell she might never step, save for
imminent peril of life, as in the case of fire.  She must live there,
and die there, her sole occupation found in devotional exercises, her
sole pleasure in her friends' visits, the few sights she could see from
her window, and through a tiny slit into the chancel of the Church of
Saint John the Baptist, which we know as the chapel of Merton College.
Every anchorhold was built close to a church, so as to allow its
occupant the privilege of seeing the performance of mass, and of
receiving the consecrated wafer, by the protrusion of his tongue through
the narrow slit.

In those early days, and before the corruptions of Rome reached their
full development, this cloistered life was not without some advantages
for the securing of which it is not required now.  In rough, wild times,
when insult or cruelty to a woman was among the commonest events, it was
something for a woman to know that by wearing a certain uniform, her
person would be regarded as so sacred that he who dared to molest her
would be a man of rare and exceptional wickedness.  It was something,
also, to be sure, even moderately sure, of provision for her bodily
needs during life: something to know that if any sudden accident should
deprive her of the services of her only companion, the world deemed it
so good a deed to serve her, that any woman whom she might summon
through her little window would consider herself honoured and benefited
by being allowed to minister to her even in the meanest manner.  The
loss of liberty was much assuaged and compensated, by being set against
such advantages as these.  The recluse was considered the holiest of
nuns, not to say of women, and the Countess of Oxford herself would have
held it no degradation to serve her in her need.

Derette would dearly have liked to secure the companionship of Ermine,
but she saw plainly that it was not to be.  When the morning came,
therefore, she was much less surprised than sorry that Ermine declined
the offer.  Gerhardt pressed it on her in vain.

"If you command me, my brother," said Ermine, "I will obey, for you have
a right to dispose of me; but if the matter is left to my own choice, I
stay with you, and your lot shall be mine."

"But if our lot be hardship and persecution, my Ermine--cold and hunger,
nakedness, and peril and sword!  This might be a somewhat dull and
dreary life for thee, but were it not a safe one?"

"Had the Master a safe and easy life, Brother, that His servants should
seek it?  Is the world so safe, and the way to Paradise so hard?  Is it
not written, `Blessed are ye, when they shall persecute you'?  Methinks
I see arising, even now, that little cloud which shall ere long cover
all the sky with darkness.  Shall I choose my place with the `fearful'
that are left without the Holy City, rather than with them that shall
follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth?"

"It is written again, `When they persecute you in one city, flee ye into
another,'" replied Gerhardt.

"`_When_ they persecute you,'" repeated Ermine.  "It has not come yet."

"It may be too late, when it has come."

"Then the way will be plain before me."

"Well, dear, I will urge you no further," said Gerhardt at last, drawing
a heavy sigh.  "I had hoped that for thee at least--The will of the Lord
be done."

"If it were His will to preserve my life, even the persecutors
themselves might be made the occasion of doing so."

"True, my Ermine.  It may be thou hast more faith than I.  Be it as thou
wilt."

So Derette had to seek another maid.

"I'm sure I don't know who you'll get," said Isel.  "There's Franna's
Hawise, but she's a bit of a temper,"--which her hearers knew to be a
very mild representation of facts: "and there's Turguia's
grand-daughter, Canda, but you'll have to throw a bucket of water over
her of a morrow, or she'll never be out of bed before sunrise on the
shortest day of the year.  Then there's Henry's niece, Joan--" then
pronounced as a dissyllable, Joan--"but I wouldn't have such a sloven
about me.  I never see her but her shoes are down at heel, and if her
gown isn't rent for a couple of hand-breadths, it's as much as you can
look for.  Deary me, these girls! they're a sorry lot, the whole heap of
'em!  _I_ don't know where you're going to find one, Derette."

"Put it in the Lord's hands, and He will find you one."

"I'll tell you what, Gerard, I never heard the like of you," answered
Isel, setting her pan swinging by its chain on the hook over the fire.
"You begin and end every mortal thing with our Lord, and you're saying
your prayers pretty nigh all day long.  Are you certain sure you've
never been a monk?"

"Very certain, friend," said Gerhardt, smiling.  "Is not the existence
of Agnes answer enough to that?"

"Oh, but you might have run away," said Isel, whose convictions on most
subjects were of rather a hazy order.  "There are monks that do, and
priests too: or if they don't forsake their Order, they don't behave
like it.  Why, just look at Reinbald the Chaplain--who'd ever take him
for a priest, with his long curls and his silken robes, and ruffling up
his hair to hide the tonsure?"

"Ay, there are men who are ashamed of nothing so much as of the cross
which their Master bore for them," admitted Gerhardt sorrowfully.  "And
at times it looks as if the lighter the cross be, the less ready they
are to carry it.  There be who would face a drawn sword more willingly
than a scornful laugh."

"Well, we none of us like to be laughed at."

"True.  But he who denies his faith through the mockery of Herod's
soldiers, how shall he bear the scourging in Pilate's hall?"

"Well, I'm none so fond of neither of 'em," said Isel, taking down a
ham.

"It is only women who can't stand being touched," commented Haimet
rather disdainfully.  "But you are out there, Gerard: it is a disgrace
to be laughed at, and disgrace is ever worse to a true man than pain."

"Why should it be disgrace, if I am in the right?" answered Gerhardt.
"If I do evil, and refuse to own it, that is disgrace, if you will; but
if I do well, or speak truth, and stand by it, what cause have I to be
ashamed?"

"But if men believe that you have done ill, is that no disgrace?"

"If they believe it on false witness, the disgrace is equally false.
`Blessed are ye, when men shall persecute you, and shall say all evil
against you, lying, for My sake.'  Those are His words who bore all
shame for us."

"They sha'n't say it of me, unless they smart for it!" cried Haimet
hotly.

"Then wilt thou not be a true follower of the Lamb of God, who, when He
was reviled, reviled not again, but committed Himself unto Him that
judgeth righteously."

"Saints be with you!" said Anania, lifting the latch, and intercepting a
response from Haimet which might have been somewhat incisive.  "I
declare, I'm just killed with the heat!"

"I should have guessed you were alive, from the look of you," returned
Derette calmly.

"So you're going into the anchorhold, I hear?" said Anania, fanning
herself with her handkerchief.

"If Romund can obtain it for me."

"Oh, he has; it's all settled.  Didn't you know?  I met Mabel in Saint
Frideswide's Street [which ran close to the north of the Cathedral], and
she told me so.--Aunt Isel, I do wonder you don't look better after that
young woman!  She'll bring Romund to his last penny before she's done.
That chape [a cape or mantle] she had on must have cost as pretty a sum
as would have bought a flock of sheep.  I never saw such extravagance."

"The money's her own," responded Isel shortly.

"It's his too.  And you're his mother.  You never ought to let her go on
as she does."

"Deary me, Anania, as if I hadn't enough to do!"

"Other folks can slice ham and boil cabbage.  You've got no call to
neglect your duty.  I can tell you, Franna's that shocked you don't
speak to the girl; and Turguia was saying only the other day, she didn't
believe in folks that pretended to care so much for their children, and
let other folks run 'em into all sorts of troubles for want of looking
after a bit.  I'll tell you, Aunt Isel--"

"Anania, I'll tell _you_," cried Isel, thoroughly put out, for she was
hot and tired and not feeling strong, "I'll tell you this once, you're a
regular plague and a mischief-maker.  You'd make me quarrel with all the
friends I have in the world, if I listened to you.  Sit you down and
rest, if you like to be peaceable; and if you don't, just go home and
give other folks a bit of rest for once in your life.  I'm just worn out
with you, and that's the honest truth."

"Well, to be sure!" gasped the porter's wife, in high dudgeon and much
amazement.  "I never did--!  Dear, dear, to think of it--how ungrateful
folks can be!  You give them the best advice, and try to help them all
you can, and they turn on you like a dog for it!  Very well, Aunt Isel;
I'll let you alone!--and if you don't rue it one of these days, when
your fine lady daughter-in-law has brought you down to beggary for want
of a proper word, my name isn't Anania--that's all!"

"Oh, deary weary me!" moaned poor Isel, dropping herself on the form as
if she could not stand for another minute.  "If this ain't a queer
world, I just _don't_ know!  Folks never let you have a shred of peace,
and come and worrit you that bad till you scarce can tell whether you're
on your head or your heels, and you could almost find in your heart to
wish 'em safe in Heaven, and then if they don't set to work and abuse
you like Noah's wife [Note 1] if you don't thank 'em for it!  That girl
Anania 'll be the death of me one of these days, if she doesn't mend her
ways.  Woe worth the day that Osbert brought her here to plague us!"

"I fancy he'd say Amen to that," remarked Haimet.

"I heard him getting it pretty hot last night.  But he takes it easier
than you, Mother; however she goes on at him, he only whistles a tune.
He has three tunes for her, and I always know how she's getting on by
the one I hear.  So long as it's only the _Agnus_, I dare lift the
latch; but when it come to _Salve Regina_, things are going awkward."

"I wish she wasn't my niece, I do!" said poor Isel.  "Well, folks, come
and get your supper."

Supper was over, and the trenchers scraped--for Isel lived in great
gentility, seeing that she ate from wooden trenchers, and not on plates
made of thick slices of bread--when a rap on the door heralded the visit
of a very superior person.  Long ago, when a young girl, Isel had been
chamberer, or bower-woman, of a lady named Mildred de Hameldun; and she
still received occasional visits from Mildred's daughter, whose name was
Aliz or Elise de Norton.  Next to the Countess of Oxford and her two
daughters, Aliz de Norton was the chief lady in the city.  Her father,
Sir Robert de Hameldun, had been Seneschal of the Castle, and her
husband, Sir Ording de Norton, was now filling a similar position.  Yet
the lofty title of Lady was barely accorded to Aliz de Norton.  At that
time it was of extreme rarity; less used than in Saxon days, far less
than at a subsequent date under the later Plantagenets.  The only women
who enjoyed it as of right were queens, wives of the king's sons,
countesses, and baronesses: for at this period, the sole titles known to
the peerage were those of baron and earl.  Duke was still a sovereign
title, and entirely a foreign one.  The epithet of Dame or Lady was also
the prerogative of a few abbesses, who held the rank of baroness.  Very
commonly, however, it was applied to the daughters of the sovereign, to
all abbesses, prioresses, and recluses, and to earls' daughters; but
this was a matter rather of courtesy than of right.  Beyond the general
epithet of "my Lord," there was no definite title of address even for
the monarch.  The appropriation of such terms as Grace, Highness,
Excellence, Majesty, or Serenity, belongs to a much later date.  Sir,
however, was always restricted to knights; and Dame was the most
respectful form of address that could be offered to any woman, however
exalted might be her rank.  The knight was above the peer, even kings
receiving additional honour from knighthood; but the equivalent title of
Dame does not seem to have been regularly conferred on their wives till
about 1230, though it might be given in some cases, as a matter of
courtesy, at a rather earlier period.

Perceiving her exalted friend, Isel went forward as quickly as was in
her, to receive her with all possible cordiality, and to usher her to
the best place in the chimney-corner.  Aliz greeted the family
pleasantly, but with a shade of constraint towards their German guests.
For a few minutes they talked conventional nothings, as is the custom of
those who meet only occasionally.  Then Aliz said--

"I came to-day, Isel, for two reasons.  Have here the first: do you know
of any vacant situation for a young woman?"

Isel could do nothing in a hurry,--more especially if any mental process
was involved.

"Well, maybe I might," she said slowly.  "Who is it, I pray you, and
what are her qualifications?"

"It is the daughter of my waiting-woman, and grand-daughter of my old
nurse.  She is a good girl--rather shy and inexperienced, but she learns
quickly.  I would have taken her into my own household, but I have no
room for her.  I wish to find her a good place, not a poor one.  Do you
know of any?"

As Isel hesitated, Haimet took up the word.

"Would it please you to have her an anchorhold maid?"

"Oh, if she could obtain such a situation as that," said Aliz eagerly,
"there would be no more to wish for."

The holiness of an anchoritess was deemed to run over upon her maid, and
a young woman who wore the semi-conventual garb of those persons was
safe from insult, and sure of help in time of need.

"My youngest sister goes into Saint John's anchorhold next month," said
Haimet, "and we have not yet procured a maid for her."

"So that is your destiny?" said Aliz, with a smile to Derette.  "Well,
it is a blessed calling."

Her manner, however, added that she had no particular desire to be
blessed in that fashion.

"That would be the very thing for Leuesa," she pursued.  "I will send
her down to talk with you.  Truly, we should be very thankful to those
choice souls to whom is given the rare virtue of such holy
self-sacrifice."

Aliz spoke the feeling of her day, which could see no bliss for a woman
except in marriage, and set single life on a pinnacle of holiness and
misery not to be reached by ordinary men and women.  The virtues of
those self-denying people who sacrificed themselves by adopting it were
supposed to be paid into an ecclesiastical treasury, and to form a kind
of set-off against the every-day shortcomings of inferior married folks.
Therefore Aliz expressed her gratitude for the prospect, as affording
her an extra opportunity of doing her duty by proxy.

Derette was in advance of her age.

"But I am not sacrificing myself," she said.  "I am pleasing myself.  I
should not like to be a wife."

"Oh, what a saintly creature you must be!" cried Aliz, clasping her
hands in admiration.  "That you can _prefer_ a holy life!  It is given
to few indeed to attain that height."

"But the holy life does not consist in dwelling in one chamber,"
suggested Gerhardt, "nor in refraining from matrimony.  He that dwelleth
in God, in the secret place of the Most High--this is the man that is
holy."

"It would be well for you, Gerard, and your friends," observed Aliz
freezingly, "not to be quite so ready in offering your strange fancies
on religious topics.  Are you aware that the priests of the city have
sent up a memorial concerning you to my Lord the Bishop, and that it has
been laid before King Henry?"

The strawberry which Gerhardt's tool was just then rounding was not
quite so perfect a round as its neighbours.  He laid the tool down, and
the hand which held the carving trembled slightly.

"No, I did not know it," he said in a low voice.  "I thank you for the
warning."

"I fear there may be some penance inflicted on you," resumed Aliz, not
unkindly.  "The wisest course for you would be at once to submit, and
not even to attempt any excuse."

Gerhardt looked up--a look which struck all who saw it.  There was in it
a little surface trouble, but under that a look of such perfect peace
and sweet acceptance of the Divine will, as they had never before
beheld.

"There will be no penance laid on me," he said, "that my Father will not
help me to bear.  I have only to take the next step, whether it lead
into the home at Bethany or the judgment-hall of Pilate.  The Garden of
God lies beyond them both."

Aliz looked at him as if he were speaking a foreign tongue.

"Gerard," she said, "I do hope you have no foolish ideas of braving out
the censure of the Bishop.  Such action would not only be sin, but it
would be the worst policy imaginable.  Holy Church is always merciful to
those who abase themselves before her,--who own their folly, and humbly
bow to her rebuke.  But she has no mercy on rebels who persist in their
rebellion,--stubborn self-opinionated men, who in their incredible folly
and presumption imagine themselves capable of correcting her."

"No," answered Gerhardt in that same low voice.  "She has no mercy."

"Then I hope you see how very foolish and impossible it would be for you
to adopt any other course than that of instant and complete submission?"
urged Aliz in a kinder tone.

Gerhardt rose from his seat and faced her.

"Your meaning is kind," he said, "and conscientious also.  You desire
the glory of your Church, but you also feel pity for the suffering of
the human creatures who dissent from her, and are crushed under the
wheels of her triumphal car.  I thank you for that pity.  In the land
where one cup of cold water goeth not without its reward, it may be that
even a passing impulse of compassion is not forgotten before God.  It
may at least call down some earthly blessing.  But for me--my way is
clear before me, and I have but to go straight forward.  I thank God
that I know my duty.  Doubt is worse than pain."

"Indeed, I am thankful too," said Aliz, as she rose to take leave.
"That you should do your duty is the thing I desire.--Well, Isel, our
Lady keep you!  I will send Leuesa down to-morrow or the next day."

Aliz departed, and the rest began to think of bedtime.  Isel sent the
girls upstairs, then Haimet followed, and Agnes went at last.  But
Gerhardt sat on, his eyes fixed on the cold hearth.  It was evident that
he regarded the news which he had heard as of no slight import.  He rose
at length, and walked to the window.  It was only a wooden shutter,
fastened by a button, and now closed for the night.  Looking round to
make sure that all had left the lower room, he threw the casement open.
But he did not see Isel, who at the moment was concealed by the red
curtain drawn half-way across the house-place, at the other end where
the ladder went up.

"Father!" he said, his eyes fixed on the darkened sky, "is the way to
Thy holy hill through this thorny path?  Wheresoever Thou shalt guide, I
go with Thee.  But `these are in the world!'  Keep them through Thy
name, and let us meet in the Garden of God, if we may not go together.
O blessed Jesu Christ! the forget-me-nots which bloom around Thy cross
are fairer than all the flowers of the world's gardens."

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

Note 1.  In the medieval mystery plays, Noah's wife was always
represented as a scolding vixen.



CHAPTER SIX.

TAKEN IN THE NET.

  "There is no time so miserable
  But a man may be true."

  Shakespeare.

"Berthold, hast thou heard the news?"

"I have, Pastor.  I was coming to ask if you had heard it."

"Ah, it was told me last night, by one that meant it kindly.  I knew it
would come sooner or later."

"What will they do, think you?"  Gerhardt hesitated.  It was not so easy
to guess in 1165 the awful depths to which religious hatred could
descend, as it would have been some two centuries later.  They knew
something then of the fury of the Church against open unbelievers or
political enemies; but persecution of Christians by Christians on
account of nothing but their belief and the confession of it, was
something new at that time.

"They will impose penance on us, I suppose," suggested old Berthold.

"Doubtless, if we stand firm.  And we must stand firm, Berthold,--every
one of us."

"Oh, of course," replied Berthold calmly.  "They won't touch the
women?--what think you?"

"I know not what to think.  But I imagine--not."

"Fine and scourging, perchance.  Well, we can stand that."

"We can stand any thing with God to aid us: without Him we can bear
nothing.  Thanks be to the Lord, that last they that trust Him will
never be called upon to do."

"I heard there was a council of the bishops to be held upon us,"
suggested Berthold a little doubtfully.

"I hope not.  That were worse for us than a summons before the King.
Howbeit, the will of the Lord be done.  It may be that the hotter the
furnace is heated, the more glory shall be His by the song of His
servants in the fires."

"Ay, there'll be four," said old Berthold, bowing reverently.  "Sure
enough, Pastor, whatever we are called upon to bear, there will be One
more than our number, and His form shall be that of the _Son_ of God.
Well! the children will be safe, no question.  But I am afraid the
hottest corner of the furnace may be kept for you, dear Teacher."

"Be it so," answered Gerhardt quietly.  "Let my Lord do with me what is
good in His sight; only let me bring glory to Him, and show forth His
name among the people."

"Ay, but it does seem strange," was the response, "that the work should
be stopped, and the cause suffer, and eloquent lips be silenced, just
when all seemed most needed!  Can you understand it, Pastor?"

"No," said Gerhardt calmly.  "Why should I?  He understands who has it
all to do.  But the cause, Berthold!  The cause will not suffer.  It is
God's custom to bring good out of evil--to give honey to His Samsons out
of the carcases of lions, and to bring His Davids through the cave of
Adullam to the throne of Israel.  It is for Him to see that the cause
prospers, in His own time and way.  We have only to do each our little
handful of duty, to take the next step as He brings it before us.
Sometimes the next step is a steep pull, sometimes it is only an easy
level progress.  We have but to take it as it comes.  Never two steps at
once; never one step, without the Lord at our right hand.  Never a cry
of `Lord, save me!' from a sinking soul, that the hand which holds up
all the worlds is not immediately stretched forth to hold him up."

"One can't always feel it, though," said the old man wistfully.

"It is enough to know it."

"Ay, when we two stand talking together in Overee Lane [Overee Lane ran
out of Grandpont Street, just below the South Gate], so it may be: but
when the furnace door stands open, an King Nebuchadnezzar's mighty men
are hauling you towards it, how then, good Pastor?"

"Berthold, what kind of a father would he be who, in carrying his child
over a bridge, should hold it so carelessly that he let it slip from his
arms into the torrent beneath, and be drowned?"

"Couldn't believe such a tale, Pastor, unless the father were either
drunk or mad.  Why, he wouldn't be a man--he'd be a monster."

"And is that the character that thou deemest it fair and true to give to
Him who laid down His life for thee?"

"Pastor!--Oh!  I see now what you mean.  Well--ay, of course--"

"Depend upon it, Berthold, the Lord shall see that thou hast grace
sufficient for the evil day, if thy trust be laid on Him.  He shall not
give thee half enough for thy need out of His royal treasure, and leave
thee to make up the other half out of thy poor empty coffer.  `My God
shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory'--`that ye,
always having all-sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good
work.'  Is that too small an alner [Note 1] to hold the wealth thou
wouldst have?  How many things needest thou beyond `_all_ things'?"

"True enough," said Berthold.  "But I was not thinking so much of
myself, Pastor--I've had my life: I'm two-and-fourscore this day; and if
I am called on to lay it down for the Lord, it will only be a few months
at the furthest that I have to give Him.  It wouldn't take so much to
kill me, neither.  An old man dies maybe easier than one in the full
vigour of life.  But you, my dear Pastor!--and the young fellows among
us--Guelph, and Conrad, and Dietbold, and Wilhelm--it'll be harder work
for the young saplings to stand the blast, than for the old oak whose
boughs have bent before a thousand storms.  There would most likely be a
long term of suffering before you, when my rest was won."

"Then our rest would be the sweeter," replied Gerhardt softly.  "`He
knoweth the way that we take; when He hath tried us, we shall come forth
as gold.'  He is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tried above that
we are able to bear.  And He can make us able to bear any thing."

Gerhardt was just turning into Kepeharme Lane, when a voice at his elbow
made him pause and look back.

"Did you want me, friend?"

"No," answered a hoarse voice, in a significant tone.  "You want me."

Gerhardt smiled.  "I thank you, then, for coming to my help.  I almost
think I know your voice.  Are you not Rubi, the brother of Countess, who
made such a pet of my little child?"

An affirmative grunt was the response.

"Well, friend?"

"If an open pit lay just across this street, between you and the Walnut
Tree, what would you do?" asked the hoarse voice.

"That would depend on how necessary it was that I should pass it, would
it not?"

"Life this way--death that way," said Rubi shortly.

"And what way honour?"

"Pshaw!  `All that a man hath will he give for his life.'"

"Truth: yet even life, sometimes, will a man give for glory, patriotism,
or love.  There is a life beyond this, friend Rubi; and for that, no
price were too high to pay."

"Men may weigh gold, but not clouds," answered Rubi in a rather scornful
tone.

"Yet how much gold would purchase the life-giving water that comes from
the clouds?" was Gerhardt's ready response.

"At how much do you value your life?" asked Rubi without answering the
question.

"Truly, friend, I know not how to respond to that.  Do you count my life
to be in danger, that you ask me?"

"Not if the morning light come to you in Aylesbury or Cricklade--at
least, perchance not.  But if it dawn on you where you can hear the bell
from yon tower--ay, I do."

"I perceive your meaning.  You would have me to fly."

In the evening twilight, now fast darkening, Gerhardt could see a nod of
Rubi's black head.

"`Should such a man as I flee?'  Friend, I am the leader of this band of
my countrymen--"

"Just so.  That's the reason."

"Were I to flee, would they stand firm?" said Gerhardt thoughtfully,
rather to himself than to the young Jew.

"Firm--to what?"

"To God," replied Gerhardt reverently, "and to His truth."

"What does a Gentile care for truth?  They want you to worship one dead
man, and you prefer to worship another dead man.  What's the odds to
you?  Can't you mutter your Latin, and play with your beads, before
both, and have done with it?"

"I worship no saints, and have no beads."

"Father Jacob!  You must be a new sort of a Gentile.  Never came across
a reptile of your pattern before.  Is that why Countess took to you?"

"I cannot say.  It was the child, I think, that attracted her.  Well,
friend, I am thankful for your warning.  But how come you to know?"

A smothered laugh, as hoarse as the voice, replied--

"Folks have ways and means, sometimes, that other folks can't always
guess."

"If you know more than others," said Gerhardt boldly, "suffer me to
question you a moment."

"Question away.  I don't promise to answer."

"Are we all to be taken and examined?"

"All."

"Before the King?"

"And the creeping creatures called Bishops."

"Will any thing be done to the women and children?"

"Does the lion discriminate between a kid and a goat?  `Let your little
ones also go with you.'  Even Pharaoh could say that--when he could not
help allowing it."

"I think I understand you, Friend Rubi, and I thank you."

"You are not so badly off for brains," said Rubi approvingly.

"But how far to act upon your warning I know not, until I lay it before
the Lord, and receive His guidance."

"You--a Gentile--receive guidance from the Holy One (blessed be He)!"
Rubi's tone was not precisely scornful; it seemed rather a mixture of
surprise, curiosity, and perplexity.

"Ay, friend, I assure you, however strange it may seem to you, the good
Lord deigns to guide even us Gentiles.  And why not?  Is it not written,
`Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My
house of prayer'? and, `O Thou that hearest prayer, unto Thee shall all
flesh come'?"

"Those promises belong to the reign of the Messiah.  He is not come yet.
Do you new sort of Gentiles believe He is?"

It was a most difficult question to answer.  "Yes" would probably drive
Rubi away in anger--perhaps with a torrent of blasphemy on his lips.
"No" would be false and cowardly.

"I believe," said Gerhardt softly, "that He shall yet come to Zion, and
turn away iniquity from Jacob.  May thou and I, Rubi, be ready to
welcome Him when He cometh!"

"You are better than yonder lot," answered Rubi, with a scornful wave of
his hand towards Carfax behind them.  "Ay, I suppose the Blessed One has
some mercies even for Gentiles--decent ones such as you.  Well, remember
you've been warned.  Good night!"

"Good night, Rubi, and God go with thee!"

As Gerhardt stepped into the Walnut Tree, Isel's voice greeted him from
the top of the ladder leading to the upper chamber.

"Who is that--Gerard or Haimet?"

"It is I, Isel," said the German pastor.

"Well, now, don't put out your lantern, but do, like a good man, take
this girl back to the Castle.  I've been on thorns how to get her back,
for I've kept her talking a bit too long, and there hasn't a creature
come near that I could ask.  It's Leuesa, that Aliz de Norton spoke
about, and we've settled she's to be Derette's maid.  It's a mercy
you've come just in time!"

"The next step!" said Gerhardt to himself with a smile.  "Well, this at
least is no hard one."

The girl who came down the ladder and entrusted herself to Gerhardt's
escort, was very young-looking for an anchorhold: slim, fair, and frail
in appearance, with some timidity of manner.  They set out for the
Castle.

"You know the girl who is to be my mistress?" asked Leuesa.  "Will she
be easy or hard to serve?"

"Very easy, I think, so long as you obey her.  She has a will of her
own, as you will find, if you do not."

"Oh dear, I don't want to disobey her!  But I don't like to be scolded
at from morning to night, whether I do right or wrong."

"Derette will not treat you in that fashion.  She has a good temper, and
is bright and cheerful."

"I am so glad to hear it!  I get so tired--"

Leuesa suddenly broke off her sentence.

"You look young for the work," said Gerhardt.

"I am older than I look.  At least, people say so.  I am twenty-one."

"Dear!  I should not have thought you eighteen."

"Oh yes, I am twenty-one," replied Leuesa, with a bright little laugh;
adding with sudden gravity, "I think I am much older than that in some
ways."

"Hast thou found life hard, poor child?" asked Gerhardt sympathisingly.

"Well, one gets tired, you know," replied the girl vaguely.  "I suppose
it has to be, if one's sins are to be expiated.  So many sins, so many
sufferings.  That's what Mother says.  It will be counted up some time,
maybe.  Only, sometimes, it does seem as if there were more sufferings
than sins."

"Is that thy religion, Maiden?" responded Gerhardt with a pitying smile.

"It's about all I know.  Why?--isn't it good?"

"Friend, if thou wert to suffer for ten thousand years, without a
moment's intermission, thy sins could never be balanced by thy
sufferings.  Suffering is finite; sin is infinite.  It is not only what
thou hast done, or hast left undone.  The sin of thy whole nature
requires atonement.  _Thou_ art sin!  The love of sin which is in thee
is worse than any act of sin thou couldst commit.  What then is to be
done with thy sins?"

Leuesa looked up with an expression of wistful simplicity in her blue
eyes.

She might be older than her years in some respects, thought Gerhardt,
but there were some others in which she was a very child.

"I don't know!" she said blankly, with a frightened accent.  "Can't you
tell me?"

"Thank God, I can tell thee.  Thou must get rid of this load of sin, by
laying it on Him who came down from Heaven that He might bear it for
thee.  Tell me whom I mean."

The flaxen head was shaken.  "I can't--not certainly.  Perhaps it's a
saint I don't know."

"Dost thou not know Jesu Christ?"

"Oh, of course.  He's to judge us at the last day."

"If He save thee not before He judge thee, thou wilt never be saved.
Dost thou not know He is the Saviour of men?"

"Well, I've heard say so, but I never thought it meant any thing."

"It means every thing to sinners.  Now, how art thou about to come by
the salvation that Christ has wrought for thee?"

"The priest will give me some, won't he?"

"He hath it not to give thee.  Thou must go straight to the Lord
Himself."

"But I can't go save through the Church.  And oh dear, but I should be
frightened to have aught to do with Him!  Except when He's a baby, and
then we've got our Lady to intercede for us."

"Art thou, then, very much afraid of me?"

"You?  Oh no!  You're coming with me to take care of me--aren't you?"

"I am.  But what am I doing for thee, in comparison of Him who died for
thee?  Afraid of the Lord that laid down His life for thine!  Why,
Maiden, there is nought in His heart for thee save love and pity and
strength to help.  He loved thee--get it into thy mind, grave it deep in
thy soul--He loved thee, and gave His life for thee."

"Me?"  Leuesa had come to a sudden stand.  "You don't mean _me_?"

"I mean thee, and none other."

"Mother always says I'm so stupid, nobody will ever care for me.  I
thought--I never heard any body talk like that.  I thought it was only
the very greatest saints that could get near Him, and then only through
the Church."

"Thou and I are the Church, if Christ saves us."

"Oh, what do you mean?  The priests and bishops are the Church.  At
least they say so."

"Ay, they do say so, the hirelings that foul with their feet the water
whence the flock should drink: `we are the people, and wisdom shall die
with us!'  `The Temple of the Lord are we!'  But the Temple of the Lord
is larger, and wider, and higher, than their poor narrow souls.  Maiden,
listen to me, for I speak to thee words from God.  The Church of God
consists of the elect of God from the beginning to the end of the world,
by the grace of God, through the merits of Christ, gathered together by
the Holy Ghost, and fore-ordained to eternal life.  They that hear and
understand the Word of God, receiving it to their souls' health, and
being justified by Christ--these are the Church; these go into life
eternal.  Hast thou understood me, Maiden?"

"I don't--exactly--know," she said slowly.  "I should like to
understand.  But how can I know whether I am one of them or not?"

"Of the elect of God?  If thou hast chosen God rather than the world,
that is the strongest evidence thou canst have that He has chosen thee
out of the world."

"But I sha'n't be in the world--just exactly.  You see I'm going to live
in the anchorhold.  That isn't the world."

It was not easy to teach one who spoke a different dialect from the
teacher.  To Gerhardt, the world was the opposite of God; to Leuesa, it
was merely the opposite of the cloister.

"Put `sin' for `the world,' Maiden," said Gerhardt, "and thou wilt
understand me better."

"But what must I do to keep out of sin?"

"`If thou wilt love Christ and follow His teaching,'" said Gerhardt,
quoting from his confession of faith, "`thou must watch, and read the
Scriptures.  Spiritual poverty of heart must thou have, and love purity,
and serve God in humility.'"

"I can't read!" exclaimed Leuesa, in a tone which showed that she would
have deemed it a very extraordinary thing if she could.

"Thou canst hear.  Ermine will repeat them to thee, if thou ask her--so
long as we are here."

"Osbert says you won't be for long.  He thinks you are bad people; I
don't know why."

"Nor do I, seeing we serve God--save that the enemy of God and men
spreads abroad falsehoods against us."

They had reached the little postern of the Castle.  Gerhardt rapped at
the door, and after two or three repetitions, it was opened.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" said Stephen's voice behind it.  "Get you in
quickly, Leuesa, for Hagena's in a terrible tantrum.  She declares
you've run away."

"I'm late, I know," answered Leuesa humbly; "but I could not help it,
Stephen."

"Well, you'll catch it, I can tell you; and the longer you stay, the
more you'll catch: so best get it over.--Gerard, will you come in?  I
want a word with you."

Gerhardt stepped inside the postern, and Stephen beckoned him into an
outhouse, at the moment untenanted.

"What are you going to do?"

"About what?"

"What!  Don't you know you are to be haled before the Bishops?  Every
body else does."

"Yes, I have been told so."

"Are you going to wait for them?" demanded Stephen, with several notes
of astonishment in his voice.

"I am going to wait for the Lord."

"You'll be a fool if you do!"  The tone was compassionate, though the
words were rough.

"Never.  `They shall not be ashamed that wait for Him.'"

"Do you expect Him to come down from Heaven to save you from the
Bishops?"

"As He pleases," said Gerhardt quietly.

"But, man!--if you are a man, and not a stone--don't you know that the
Church has authority from God to bind and loose--that her sentence is
His also?"

"Your Church has no jurisdiction over mine."

"My Church, forsooth!  I am speaking of the Catholic Church, which has
authority over every Christian on earth."

"Where is it?"

"Every where."

"The Church that is every where consists of faithful souls, elect of
God.  That Church will not condemn me for being faithful to the Word of
God."

"Oh, I can't split straws like you, nor preach like a doctor of the
schools either.  But one thing I can do, and that is to say, Gerard, you
are in danger--much more danger than the rest.  Get away while you can,
and leave them to meet it.  They won't do half so much to them as to
you."

"`He that is an hireling, when he seeth the wolf coming, leaveth the
sheep and fleeth; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.'
Is that conduct you recommend, Stephen?"

"I recommend you to get outside of Oxford as fast as you can, and take
your womankind with you; and if you don't, you'll be sorry, that's all.
Now be off, and don't forget that you've been warned.  Good night!"

"I have been warned thrice, friend.  But where God has need of me, there
is my post, and there am I.  There are penalties for desertion in the
army of the Lord.  I thank you for your kindly meaning.  Good night!"

"Poor fool!" said Stephen to himself as he fastened the postern behind
Gerhardt.  "Yet--`penalties for desertion'--I don't know.  Which is the
fool, I wonder?  If I could have saved _her_!"

Gerhardt went back to the Walnut Tree, where they were sitting down to
the last meal.  It consisted of "fat fish," apple turnovers, and spiced
ale.

"Eh dear!" said Isel, with a sigh.  "To think that this is pretty nigh
the last supper you'll ever eat in this house, Derette!  I could cry
with the best when I think of it."

"You can come to see me whenever you wish, Mother--much better than if I
were at Godstowe."

"So I can, child; but you can't come to me."

"I can send Leuesa to say that I want to see you."

"Well, and if so be that I've broken my leg that very morning, and am
lying groaning up atop of that ladder, with never a daughter to serve
me--how then?  Thou gone, and Flemild gone, and not a creature near!"

"You'll have Ermine.  But you are not going to break your leg, Mother, I
hope."

"You hope!  Oh ay, hope's a fine trimming, but it's poor stuff for a
gown.  And how long shall I have Ermine?  She'll go and wed somebody or
other--you see if she doesn't."

Ermine smiled and shook her head.

"Well, then, you'll have Agnes."

"I shall have trouble--that's what I shall have: it's the only thing
sure in this world: and it's that loving it sticks to you all the
tighter if you've got nothing else.  There's nought else does in this
world--without it's dogs."

"`There's a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother,'" quoted
Gerhardt softly.

"There's precious few of them," returned Isel, who naturally did not
understand the allusion.  "You'll not find one of that sort more than
once in a--Mercy on us! here's a soldier walking straight in!--whatever
does the man want?"

Gerhardt's quick eyes had caught the foreign texture of the soldier's
mantle--the bronzed face with its likeness to Derette--the white cross
of the English Crusader.

"He wants his wife and children, I should think," he answered calmly;
and at the same moment the soldier said--

"Isel!  Wife!  Dost thou not know me?"

Nobody in the room could have given a clear and connected account of
what happened after that.  Isel cried and laughed by turns, the majority
all talked at once, and little Rudolph, divided between fear and
admiration, clung to his mother, and cast furtive glances at the
new-comer.  Manning was naturally astonished to see how his family had
grown, and much had to be explained to him--the presence of the Germans,
the approaching marriage of Flemild, the past marriage of Romund, and
the profession of Derette.  The first and third he accepted with bluff
good-humour.  As to the second, he said he would have a talk with Raven
Soclin--very likely he was all right now, though he remembered him a
troublesome lad.  But Derette's fate did not appear quite to please him.
She had been his pet, and he had pictured her future differently and
more according to his own notion of happiness.

"Well, she seems to like it best herself," said Isel, "and I don't see
but you have to leave folks to be happy their own way, though the way
some folks choose is mighty queer.  Father Dolfin says we must always
give God the best, and if we grudge it to Him, it wipes out the merit of
the sacrifice."

"Ay, Father Dolfin knows how they do things up yonder," answered
Manning.  "Do thy duty, and leave the priest to see thou comest safe--
that's my way of thinking."

"But suppose he fails to `see'?" suggested Gerhardt.

Manning eyed him rather suspiciously.

"I hope you aren't one of that new lot that talk against the priests,"
said he.  "I've heard something of them as I came through Almayne and
Guienne: saw one fellow flogged at the market-cross, that had let his
tongue run too freely.  And I can tell you, I'm not one of that sort.
You're welcome to stay while you behave decently, as I see you've been a
help and comfort to my women here: but one word against the priests, or
one wag of your head in irreverence to the holy mass, and out you go,
bag and baggage!--ay, down to that child."

Rudolph seemed frightened by the harsh tones and loud words, and when
Manning ended by striking his hand upon his thigh with a resounding slap
to enforce his threat, the child began to whimper.

"I trust, friend, you will never see any irreverence in me towards aught
to which reverence is due," replied Gerhardt; "but if you do, fulfil
your words, and I shall not trouble you longer."

"Well, look out!" said Manning.  "I don't much like your long prayers
just now: they're a bad sign.  As to Haimet's Latin grace, I suppose
he's learnt that in the schools; and praying in Latin isn't so bad.  But
a cross over the supper-table is plenty good enough for me.  I never did
believe in folks that are always saying their prayers, and reckoning to
be better than their neighbours."

"I believe in being as good as I can be," said Gerhardt with a smile.
"If that should make me better than my neighbours, it would hardly be my
fault, would it?  But in truth, Friend Manning, I do not think myself
any better, for I know too much of the evil of mine own heart."

"Ay, that's the lingo of the pestilent vipers in Guienne!  I could find
in my heart to lay a silver penny you'll turn out to be one of that
brood.  Girls, I hope you haven't caught the infection?  We'll wait a
few days and see--what we shall see."

"Eh, Manning, they're the peaceablest set ever came in a house!"
exclaimed Isel.  "Helped me over and over, they have, and never one of
'em gave me an ill word.  And Gerard's made a pretty penny with weaving
and wood-carving, and every farthing he's given me, save what they
wanted for clothes.  Do, for mercy's sake, let 'em be!  Flemild married,
and Derette away to the anchorhold--I shall be a lost woman without
Agnes and Ermine!  Nigh on seven years they've been here, and I haven't
been so comfortable in all my life afore.  They may have some queer
notions in their heads--that I can't say; most folks have one way or
another--but they're downright good for help and quietness.  They are,
so!"

"What says Father Dolfin about them?"

"Well, he don't say much of no sort," answered Isel doubtfully, with an
uneasy recollection of one or two things he had lately said.  "But I say
they're as good folks as ever walked in shoe-leather, and you'll not
find their match in Oxford, let be Kepeharme Lane."

"Well," said Manning, "let them bide a few days: we shall see.  But I
shall brook no heresy, and so I give you fair warning.  No heretic,
known to me, shall ever darken the doors of a soldier of the cross!"

"I pray you, hold to that!" was Gerhardt's answer.

The next morning dawned a fair autumn day.  Manning seemed somewhat more
inclined to be friendly than on the previous evening, and matters went
on pleasantly enough until the hour of dinner.  They had just risen from
table when a rap came on the door.  Flemild went to open it.

"Holy saints!" they heard her cry.

Then the door opened, and in walked two men in red and white livery,
with four golden crosses patee embroidered on the left arm.  With a
glance round, they addressed themselves to Manning.

"Are you the owner of this house?"

Manning knew in a moment who his visitors were--official sumners of the
Bishop of Lincoln.

"I am," he said.  "What would you have?"

One of the sumners unrolled a parchment deed.

"We have here a writ to take the bodies of certain persons believed to
be in your house, and we bid you, in the name of holy Church, that you
aid us in the execution of our office."

Isel, terribly frightened, was muttering Ave Marias by the dozen.  To
Gerhardt's forehead the blood had surged in one sudden flush, and then
subsiding, left him calm and pale.

"When holy Church bids, I am her lowly servant," was Manning's answer.
"Do your duty."

"You say well," replied the sumner.  "I demand the body of one Gerard, a
stranger of Almayne, of Agnes his wife, of Rudolph their son, and of
Ermine, the man's sister."

"Of what stand they accused?"

"Of the worst that could be--heresy."

"Then will I give them no shelter.  I pray you to note, Master Sumner,
that I returned but last night from over seas, whither I have followed
the cross, and have not hitherto had any opportunity to judge of these
whom I found here."

"You will have opportunity to clear yourself before the Council," said
the sumner.  "Find me a rope, good woman.  Is _this_ your son?" he
added, appealing to Gerhardt.

"This is my son," answered Gerhardt, with a tremulous smile.  "He is
scarcely yet old enough to commit crime."

"Eh, dear, good gentlemen, you'll never take the little child!" pleaded
Isel.  "Why, he is but a babe.  I'll swear to you by every saint in the
Calendar, if you will, to bring him up the very best of Catholic
Christians, under Father Dolfin's eye.  What can he have done?"

"He believes what has been taught him, probably," said the sumner
grimly.  "But I cannot help it, good wife--the boy's name is in the
writ.  The only favour in my power to show is to tie him with his
mother.  Come now, the rope--quick!"

"No rope of mine shall tie _them_!" said Isel, with sudden determination
which no one had expected from her.  "You may go buy your own ropes for
such innocent lambs, for I'll not find you one!"

"But a rope of mine shall!" thundered Manning.  "Sit down, silly woman,
and hold thy tongue.--I beseech you, my masters, to pardon this foolish
creature; women are always making simpletons of themselves."

"Don't put yourself out, good man," answered the sumner with a smile of
superiority; "I have a wife and four daughters."

Haimet now appeared with a rope which he handed to the sumner, who
proceeded to tie together first Gerhardt and Ermine, then Agnes and
Rudolph.  The child was thoroughly frightened, and sobbing piteously.

"Oh deary, deary me!" wailed poor Isel.  "That ever such a day should
come to my house!  Dame Mary, and all the blessed Saints in Heaven, have
mercy on us!  Haven't I always said there was nought but trouble in this
world?"

"It's no good vexing, Mother; it has to be," said Flemild, but there
were tears in her eyes.  "I'm glad Derette's not here."

Derette had gone to see her cousins at the Castle,--a sort of farewell
visit before entering the anchorhold.

"Then I'm sorry," said Isel.  "She might have given those rascals a lick
with the rough side of her tongue--much if she wouldn't, too.  I'd like
to have heard it, I would!"

The prisoners were marched out, with much show of righteous indignation
against them from Manning, and stolid assistance to the sumners on the
part of Haimet.  When the door was shut and all quiet again, Manning
came up to Isel.

"Come, Wife, don't take on!" he said, in a much more gentle tone than
before.  "We must not let ourselves be suspected, you know.  Perhaps
they'll be acquitted--they seem decent, peaceable folk, and it may be
found to be a false accusation.  So long as holy Church does not condemn
them, we need not: but you know we must not set ourselves against her
officers, nor get ourselves suspected and into trouble.  Hush, children!
the fewer words the better.  They may turn out to be all wrong, and then
it would be sin to pity them.  We can but wait and see."

"Saints alive! but I'm in a whole sea of trouble already!" cried Isel.
"We've lost six hands for work; and good workers too; and here had I
reckoned on Ermine tarrying with me, and being like a daughter to me,
when my own were gone: and what am I to do now, never speak of them?"

"There are plenty more girls in the city," said Manning.

"Maybe: but not another Ermine."

"Perhaps not; but it's no good crying over spilt milk, Isel.  Do the
best you can with what you have; and keep your mouth shut about what you
have not."

Haimet was seen no more till nearly bedtime, when he came in with the
information that all the Germans had been committed to the Castle
dungeon, to await the arrival of King Henry, who had summoned a Council
of Bishops to sit on the question, the Sunday after Christmas.  That
untried prisoners should be kept nearly four months in a dark, damp,
unhealthy cellar, termed a dungeon, was much too common an occurrence to
excite surprise.  Isel, as usual, lamented over it, and Derette, who had
seen the prisoners marched into the Castle yard, was as warm in her
sympathy as even her mother could have wished.  Manning tried, not
unkindly, to silence them both, and succeeded only when they had worn
themselves out.

About ten days later, Derette made her profession, and was installed in
the anchorhold, with Leuesa as her maid.  The anchorhold consisted of
two small chambers, some ten feet square, with a doorway of
communication that could be closed by a curtain.  The inner room, which
was the bedchamber, was furnished with two bundles of straw, two rough
woollen rugs, a tin basin, a wooden coffer, a form, and some hooks for
hanging garments at one end.  The outer room was kitchen and parlour; it
held a tiny hearth for a wood-fire (no chimney), another form, a small
pair of trestles and boards to form a table, which were piled in a
corner when not wanted for immediate use; sundry shelves were put up
around the walls, and from hooks in the low ceiling hung a lamp, a
water-bucket, a pair of bellows, a bunch of candles, a rope of onions, a
string of dried salt fish, and several bundles of medical herbs.  The
scent of the apartment, as may be imagined, was somewhat less fragrant
than that of roses.  In one corner stood the Virgin Mary, newly-painted
and gilt; in the opposite one, Saint John the Baptist, whom the imager
had made with such patent whites to his eyes, set in a bronzed
complexion, that the effect was rather startling.  A very small
selection of primitive culinary utensils lay on a shelf close to the
hearth.  Much was not wanted, when the most sumptuous meal to be had was
boiled fish or roasted onions.

Derette was extremely tired, and it was no cause for wonder.  From early
morning she had been kept on the strain by most exciting incidents.  Her
childhood's home, though it was scarcely more than a stone's throw from
her, she was never to see again.  Father or brother might not even touch
her hand any more.  Her mother and sister could still enter her tiny
abode; but she might never go out to them, no matter what necessity
required it.  Derette was bright, and sensible, and strong: but she was
tired that night.  And there was no better repose to be had than sitting
on a hard form, and leaning her head against the chimney-corner.

"Shut the window, Leuesa," she said, "and come in.  I am very weary, and
I must sleep a little, if I can, before compline."

"No marvel, Lady," replied Leuesa, doing as she was requested.  "I am
sure you have had a tiring day.  But your profession was lovely!  I
never saw a prettier scene in my life."

"Ay, marriages and funerals are both sights for the world.  Which was it
most like, thinkest thou?"

"O Lady! a marriage, of course.  Has it not made you the bride of Jesu
Christ?"

Leuesa fancied she heard a faint sigh from the chimney-corner; but
Derette gave no answer.

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

Note 1.  The alner, or alms-bag, was the largest sort of purse used in
the Middle Ages.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

VIA DOLOROSA.

  "We bless Thee for the quiet rest Thy servant taketh now,
  We bless Thee for his blessedness, and for his crowned brow;
  For every weary step he trod in faithful following Thee,
  And for the good fight foughten well, and closed right valiantly."

The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin was filled to overflowing, but it
was not the church we know as such now.  That more ancient edifice had
been built in the days of Alfred, and its nave was closely packed with
the clergy of Oxford and the neighbourhood, save a circle of curule
chairs reserved for the members of the Council.  Into the midst of the
excited crowd of clergy--among whom were sprinkled as many laymen,
chiefly of the upper class, as could find room to squeeze in--filed an
imposing procession of dignitaries--priests, archdeacons, bishops--all
robed in full canonicals; the Bishop of the diocese being preceded by
his crucifer.  There was as yet no bishopric of Oxford, and the diocese
was that of Lincoln.  It was a point of the most rigid ecclesiastical
etiquette that no prelate should have his official cross borne before
him in the diocese of another: and the standing quarrel between the two
archbishops on that point was acute and long lasting.  The clerical
procession was closed by the Dean of Saint Mary's--John de Oxineford--a
warm opponent of Becket, the exiled and absent Primate.  After the
clergy came a number of the chief officers of state, and lastly, King
Henry the Second, who took his seat in the highest of the curule chairs,
midmost among the others.

The first of the Plantagenets was no common man.  Like most of his race,
he was a born statesman; and also like most of them, he allowed his evil
passions and natural corruption such free scope that his talents were
smothered under their weight.  In person he was of middle stature,
somewhat thickly built, with a large round head covered by curly hair,
cut square upon the forehead.  Long arms ended in large hands, the care
of which he entirely neglected, never wearing gloves save when he
carried a hawk.  His complexion was slightly florid, his eyes small but
clear and sparkling, dove-like when he was pleased, but flashing fire in
his anger.  Though his voice was tremulous, yet he could be an eloquent
speaker.  He rarely sat down, but commonly stood, whether at mass,
council, or meals.  Except on ceremonial occasions, he was extremely
careless in his attire, wearing short clothes of a homely cut, and
requiring some persuasion to renew them.  He detested every thing that
came in the way of his convenience, whether long skirts, hanging
sleeves, royal mantles, or boots with folding tops.  He was (for his
time) a great reader, a "huge lover of the woods" and of all sylvan
sports, fond of travelling, a very small eater, a generous almsgiver, a
faithful friend--and a good hater.  The model example which he set
before him as a statesman was that of his grandfather, Henry First.  The
Empress Maud, his mother, was above all things Norman, and was now
living in Normandy in peaceful old age.  Perhaps her stormy and eventful
life had made her _feel_ weary of storms, for she rarely emerged from
her retirement except in the character of a peacemaker.  Certainly she
had learnt wisdom by adversity.  Her former supercilious sternness was
gone, and a meek and quiet spirit, which earned the respect of all, had
taken its place.  She may have owed that change, and her quiet close of
life, instrumentally, in some measure to the prayers of the good Queen
Maud, that sweet and saintly mother to whom Maud the Empress had in her
childhood and maturity been so complete a contrast, and whom she now
resembled in her old age.  Her son was unhappily not of her later tone,
but rather of the earlier, though he rarely reached those passionate
depths of pride and bitterness through which his aged mother had
struggled into calm.  He did not share her Norman proclivities, but
looked back--as the mass of his people did with him--to the old Saxon
laws of Alfred and of Athelstan, which he called the customs of his
grandfather.  In a matter of trial for heresy, or a question of
doctrine, he was the obedient servant of Rome; but when the Pope laid
officious hands on the venerable customs of England, and strove to
dictate in points of state law, he found no obedient servant in Henry of
Anjou.

This morning, being a ceremonial occasion, His Majesty's attire had
risen to it.  He wore a white silken tunic, the border richly
embroidered in gold; a crimson dalmatic covered with golden stars; a
mantle of blue samite, fastened on the right shoulder with a golden
fermail set with a large ruby; and red hose, crossed by golden bands all
up the leg.  The mantle was lined with grey fur; golden lioncels
decorated the fronts of the black boots; and a white samite cap, adorned
with ostrich feathers, and rising out of a golden fillet, reposed on the
King's head.

When the members of the Council had taken their seats, and the Bishop of
Lichfield had offered up sundry Latin prayers which about one in ten of
the assembled company understood, the King rose to open the Council.

"It is not unknown to you, venerable Fathers," he said, "for what
purpose I have convened this Council.  There have come into my kingdom
certain persons, foreigners, from the dominions of the Emperor, who have
gone about the country preaching strange doctrines, and who appear to
belong to some new foreign sect.  I am unwilling to do injustice, either
by punishing them without investigation, or by dismissing them as
harmless if they are contaminating the faith and morals of the people.
But inasmuch as it appertains to holy Church to judge questions of that
nature, I have here summoned you, my Fathers in God, and your clergy,
that you may examine these persons, and report to me how far they are
innocent or guilty of the false doctrines whereof they are suspected.  I
pray you therefore so to do: and as you shall report, so shall I know
how to deal with them."

His Majesty reseated himself, and the Bishop of the diocese rose, to
deliver a long diatribe upon the wickedness of heresy, the infallibility
of the Church, and the necessity for the amputation of diseased limbs of
the body politic.  As nobody disagreed with any of his sentiments, the
harangue was scarcely necessary; but time was of small value in the
twelfth century.  Two other Bishops followed, with long speeches: and
then the Council adjourned for dinner, the Earl of Oxford being their
host.

On re-assembling about eleven o'clock, the King commanded the prisoners
to be brought up.  Up they came, the company of thirty--men, women, and
children, Gerhardt the foremost at the bar.

"Who are thou?" he was asked.

"I am a German named Gerhardt, born in the dominions of the Duke of
Francia, an elector of the Empire."

"Art thou the leader of this company?"

"I am."

"Wherefore earnest thou to this land?"

"Long ago, in my childhood, I had read of the blessed Boniface, who,
being an Englishman, travelled into Almayne to teach our people the
faith of Christ.  I desired to pay back to your land something of the
debt we owed her, by bringing back to her the faith of Christ."

"Didst thou ignorantly imagine us without it?"

"I thought," replied Gerhardt in his quiet manner, "that you could
scarcely have too much of it."

"What is thy calling?"

"While in this country, I have followed the weaver's craft."

"Art thou a lettered man?"

"I am."

"Try him," said one of the Bishops.  A Latin book was handed up to
Gerhardt, from which he readily construed some sentences, until the
Council declared itself satisfied on that point.  This man before them,
whatever else he might be, was no mere ignorant peasant.

"Are the rest of thy company lettered men?"

"No.  They are mostly peasants."

"Have they gone about preaching, as thou hast?"

"The men have done so."

"And how can ignorant peasants teach abstruse doctrines?"

"I do not think they attempted that.  They kept to the simple
doctrines."

"What understandest thou by that?"  Gerhardt was beginning to answer,
when the Bishop of Winchester interposed with another question.  He was
Prince Henry of Blois, the brother of King Stephen, and a better warrior
than a cleric.  "Art thou a priest?"

"I am not."

"Go on," said the Bishop of Lincoln, who led the examination.  "What
meanest thou by the faith of Christ?  What dost thou believe about
Christ?"

Gerhardt's reply on this head was so satisfactory that the Bishop of
Worcester--not long appointed--whispered to his brother of Winchester,
"The man is all right!"

"Wait," returned the more experienced and pugnacious prelate.  "We have
not come to the crux yet."

"You call yourselves Christians, then?" resumed Lincoln.

"Certainly we are Christians, and revere the doctrines of the Apostles."

"What say you of the remedies for sin?"

"I know of one only, which is the blood of Christ our Lord."

"How!--are the sacraments no remedies?"

"Certainly not."

"Is sin not remitted in baptism?"

"No."

"Is not the blood of Christ applied to sinners in the holy Eucharist?"

"I utterly refuse such a doctrine."

"What say you of marriage? is that a sacrament?"

"I do not believe it."

"Ha! the man is all right, is he?" whispered old Winchester satirically
to his young neighbour, Worcester.

"Doth not Saint Paul term marriage `_sacramentum magnum_'?"

"He did not write in Latin."

This was awkward.  The heretic knew rather too much.

"Are you aware that all the holy doctors are against you?"

"I am not responsible for their opinions."

"Do you not accept the interpretation of the Church?"

What his Lordship meant by this well-sounding term was a certain bundle
of ideas--some of them very illiterate, some very delicate
hair-splitting, some curious even to comicality,--gathered out of the
writings of a certain number of men, who assuredly were not inspired,
since they often travesty Scripture, and at times diametrically
contradict it.  Having lived in the darkest times of the Church, they
were extremely ignorant and superstitious, even the best of them being
enslaved by fancies as untrue in fact as they were unspiritual in tone.
It might well have been asked as the response, Where is it?--for no
Church, not even that of Rome herself, has ever put forward an
authorised commentary explanatory of holy Scripture.  Her
"interpretation of the Church" has to be gathered here and there by
abstruse study, and so far as her lay members are concerned, is
practically received from the lips of the nearest priest.  Gerhardt,
however, did not take this line in replying, but preferred to answer the
Bishop's inaccurate use of the word Church, which Rome impudently denies
to all save her corrupt self.  He replied--

"Of the true Church, which is the elect of God throughout all ages,
fore-ordained to eternal life?  I see no reason to refuse it."

The Scriptural doctrine of predestination has been compared to "a red
rag" offered to a bull, in respect of its effect on those--whether
votaries of idols or latitudinarianism--who are conscious that they are
not the subjects of saving grace.  To none is it more offensive than to
a devout servant of the Church of Rome.  The Bishop took up the offence
at once.

"You hold that heresy--that men are fore-ordained to eternal life?"

"I follow therein the Apostle Paul and Saint Austin."

This was becoming intolerable.

"Doth not the Apostle command his hearers to `work out their own
salvation'?"

"Would it please my Lord to finish the verse?"

It did not please my Lord to finish the verse, as that would have put an
extinguisher on his interpretation of it.

"These heretics refuse to be corrected by Scripture!" he cried instead,
as a much more satisfactory thing to say.

Gerhardt's quiet answer was only heard by those near him--"I have not
been so yet."

This aggravating man must be put down.  The Bishop raised his voice.

"Speak, ye that are behind this man.  Do ye accept the interpretation of
Scripture taught by the Church our mother, to whom God hath committed
the teaching of all her children?"

Old Berthold replied.  "We believe as we have been taught, but we do not
wish to dispute."

"Ye are obstinate in your heresy!  Will ye do penance for the same?"

"No," answered Gerhardt.

"Let them have one more chance," said King Henry in a low voice.  "If
they are unsound on one point only, there might yet be hope of their
conversion."

"They are unsound on every point, my Lord," replied Lincoln irascibly;
"but at your desire I will test them on one or two more.--Tell me, do ye
believe that the souls of the dead pass into Purgatory?"

"We do not."

"Do you pray for the dead?"

"No."

"Do you invocate the blessed Mary and the saints, and trust to their
merits and intercession?"

"Never.  We worship God, not men."

At this point Winchester beckoned to Lincoln, and whispered something in
his ear.

"I am told," pursued the latter, addressing Gerhardt, "that you hold the
priests of holy Church not to be validly consecrated, and have so said
in public.  Is it so?"

"It is so.  The temporal power of the Pope has deprived the Church of
the true consecration.  You have only the shadow of sacraments, and the
traditions of men."

"You reject the holy sacraments entirely, then?"

"Not so.  We observe the Eucharist at our daily meals.  Our Lord bade us
`as oft as we should drink,' to take that wine in remembrance of Him.
We do His bidding."

"Ye presume to profane the Eucharist thus!" cried Lichfield in pious
horror.  "Ye administer to yourselves--"

"As Saint Basil held lawful," interposed Gerhardt.

"Saint Basil spoke of extraordinary occasions when no priest could be
had."

"But if it be lawful at any time to receive without priestly
consecration, it cannot be unlawful, at every time."

It did not occur to the Bishop to ask the pertinent question, in what
passage of Scripture priestly consecration of the Eucharist was
required,--nay, in what passage any consecration at all is ever
mentioned.  For at the original institution of the rite, our Lord
consecrated nothing, but merely gave thanks to God [Note 1], as it was
customary for the master of the house to do at the Passover feast; and
seeing that "if He were on earth, He should not be a priest."  [Note 2.]
He cannot have acted as a priest when He was on earth.  We have even
distinct evidence that He declined so to act [Note 3].  And in any
subsequent allusions to this Sacrament in the New Testament [Note 4],
there is no mention of either priests or consecration.  It did not,
however, suit the Bishop to pursue this inconvenient point.  He passed
at once to another item.

"Ye dare to touch the sacred cup reserved to the priests--"

"When did Christ so reserve it?  His command was, `Drink ye all of it.'"

"To the Apostles, thou foolish man!"

"Were they priests at that time?"

This was the last straw.  The question could not be answered except in
the negative, for if the ordination of the Apostles be not recorded
after the Resurrection [John twenty 21-23], then there is no record of
their having been ordained at all.  To be put in a corner in this manner
was more than a Bishop could stand.

"How darest thou beard me thus?" he roared.  "Dost thou not know what
may follow?  Is not the King here, who has the power of life and death,
and is he not an obedient son of holy Church?"

The slight smile on Gerhardt's lips said, "Not very!"  But his only
words were--

"Ay, I know that ye have power.  `This is your hour, and the power of
darkness.'  We are not afraid.  We have had our message of consolation.
`Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for
theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.'"

"Incredible folly!" exclaimed Lincoln.  "That was said to the early
Christians, who suffered persecution from the heathen: not to heretics,
smarting under the deserved correction of the Church.  How dare you so
misapply it?"

"All the Lord's martyrs were not in the early Church.  `We are the
circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and
have no confidence in the flesh.'  Do to us what ye will.  `Whether we
live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord.
Living or dying, we are the Lord's.'"

"We solemnly adjudge you false heretics," was the stern reply, "and
deliver you up to our Catholic Prince for punishment.  Depart in peace!"

Gerhardt looked up.  "`My peace I give unto you; not as the world
giveth, give I unto you!'  Be it so.  We go in peace; we go to peace.
Our suffering will soon be over.  Already we behold Jesus our Lord at
the right hand of God, and we are ready to partake of His sufferings,
that we may reign with Him."

King Henry now rose to pronounce sentence.  The condemned criminals
before him were to be branded on the forehead with a mark of ignominy,
to be scourged, and cast forth out of the city.  No man might receive
them under his roof, relieve them with food, nor administer to them
consolation of any sort.  And this was the sentence of the King and of
holy Church, to the honour and laud of God, and of Mary, His most
glorious Mother!

The sentence was carried out even more barbarously than it was
pronounced.  The foreheads of all were branded with hot irons, they were
whipped through the city, and their clothes having been cut short to the
girdle [John twenty 21-23], they were turned into the snow-covered
fields.  One of the men appointed to use the branding-irons had just
lost a daughter, and moved by a momentary impulse of pity (for which he
afterwards blamed himself and did penance), he passed two or three of
the younger women--Ermine among them--with a lighter brand than the
rest.  No such mercy was shown to the men or the elder women, nor would
it have been to Ermine, had it not been the case that her extreme
fairness made her look much younger than she really was.

Gerhardt, being regarded as the ringleader, was also branded on the
chin.

"Courage, my children!" he said to the shivering, trembling little
company, as they were marched down High Street.  "We are counted
worthy--worthy to suffer shame for Him who suffered dire shame for us.
Let us praise God."

And to the amazement, alike of the officials and the crowd of
spectators, the song was set up, and echoed into the side
streets--"Blessed are ye, when men shall persecute you, for the Son of
Man's sake!" varied every now and then by a joyous chorus of "Glory to
God in the highest! on earth peace, goodwill towards men!"

The song was heard clearly enough in the Walnut Tree: so clearly, that
Flemild even fancied she could distinguish Ermine's voice from the rest.

"Mother, will you go and look?" she asked, tears running down her face.

"I'll not go near," said Isel, in a tone of defiance very unusual with
her.  "I'll not get your father and you into trouble.  And if I were to
go, much if I didn't tear somebody a-pieces."

"O Mother! you wouldn't touch our old friends?  They've enough to bear,
surely."

"I said _somebody_! child!" was the growl in answer: and Flemild did not
venture to reply.

Fainter and fainter grew the sounds; only strengthened for a minute when
the higher notes of the chorus supervened.  Then came a great roar of
applause from the crowd, as the East Gate was reached, and the heretics
were cast out from the priest-ridden city.  But they scarcely heard that
in Kepeharme Lane.

At the window of the anchorhold stood Derette, having sent Leuesa to
bring her word what happened.  She could see nothing, yet she heard the
joyous chant of "Glory to God in the highest!" as the crowd and the
condemned swept down the street just beyond her ken.  Leuesa did not
even try to hide her tears when she reached the shelter of the
anchorhold: before that, it would have been perilous to shed them.

"Oh, it was dreadful, Lady!  Gerard never looked at any one: he walked
first, and he looked as if he saw nothing but God and Heaven.  Agnes I
could not see, nor the child; I suppose they were on the other side.
But Ermine saw me, and she gave me a smile for you--I am sure she meant
it for you--such as an angel might have given who had been a few hours
on earth, and was just going back to his place before the Throne."

Manning and Haimet, who had joined the crowd of sightseers, had not
returned when the latch of the Walnut Tree was lifted, and Anania walked
in.

"What, both stayed at home!  O Aunt Isel, you have missed such a sight!"

"Well, you've got it, then, I suppose," muttered Isel.

"I shall never forget it--not if I live to be a hundred."

"Umph!  Don't think I shall neither."

"Now, didn't I tell you those foreigners were no good?  Osbert always
said so.  I knew I was right.  And I am, you see."

"You're standing in my light, Anania--that's all I can see at present."

Anania moved about two inches.  "Oh, but it was grand to see the Council
come out of Saint Mary's!  All the doctors in their robes, and the
Bishops, and last the King--such a lovely shade his mantle was!  It's a
pity the Queen was not there too; I always think a procession's half
spoiled when there are no ladies."

"Oh, that's what you're clucking about, is it?  Processions, indeed!"

"Aunt Isel, are you very cross, or what's the matter with you?"

"She's in pain, I fear," said Flemild quickly.

"Where's the pain?  I've gathered some splendid fresh betony and
holy-thistle."

"Here!" said Isel, laying her hand on her heart.

"Why, then, holy-thistle's just what you want.  I'll send you some down
by Stephen."

"Thank you.  But it'll do me no good."

"Oh, don't you say that, now.--Flemild, I wonder you did not come to see
all the sights.  You'll find you've not nearly so much time for pleasure
after you're married; don't look for it.  Have you settled when it's to
be?"

"It was to have been last month, you know, but Father wanted it put
off."

"Ay, so as he could know Raven a bit better.  Well, when is it to be
now?"

"March, they say."

"You don't say it as if you enjoyed it much."

"Maybe she takes her pleasure in different ways from you," said Isel.
"Can't see any, for my part, in going to see a lot of poor wretches
flogged and driven out into the snow.  Suppose you could."

"O Aunt!--when they were heretics?"

"No, _nor murderers neither_--without they'd murdered me, and then I
reckon I shouldn't have been there to look at 'em."

"But the priests say they are worse than murderers--they murder men's
souls."

"I'm alive, for aught I know.  And I don't expect to say my Paternoster
any worse than I did seven years gone."

"How do you know they haven't bewitched you?" asked Anania in a solemn
tone.

"For the best of all reasons--that I'm not bewitched."

"Aunt Isel, I'm not so sure of that.  If those wretches--"

"O Anania, do let Mother be!" pleaded Flemild.  "It is her pain that
speaks, not herself.  I told you she was suffering."

"You did; but I wonder if her soul isn't worse than her body.  I'll just
give Father Dolfin a hint to look to her soul and body both.  They say
those creatures only bewitched one maid, and she was but a poor villein
belonging to some doctor of the schools: and so frightened was she to
see their punishment that she was in a hurry to recant every thing they
had taught her.  Well! we shall see no more of them, that's one good
thing.  I shouldn't think any of them would be alive by the end of the
week.  The proclamation was strict--neither food nor shelter to be
given, nor any compassion shown.  And branded as they are, every body
will know them, you see."

Stephen came in while his sister-in-law was speaking.

"Come, now, haven't you had talk enough?" said he.  "You've a tongue as
long as from here to Banbury Cross.  You'd best be going home, Anania,
for Osbert's as cross as two sticks, and he'll be there in a few
minutes."

"Oh dear, one never has a bit of peace!  I did think I could have sat a
while, and had a nice chat."

"It won't be so nice if you keep Osbert waiting, I can tell you."

Anania rose with evident reluctance, and gathered her mantle round her.

"Well, good-day, Aunt Isel!  I'll send you down the holy-thistle.
Good-day, Flemild.  Aren't you coming with me, Stephen?"

"No; I want to wait for Uncle Manning."

"Stephen, I'm obliged to you for ever and ever!  If she'd stayed another
minute, I should have flown at her!"

"You looked as if you'd come to the end of your patience," said Stephen,
smiling, but gravely; "and truly, I don't wonder.  But what's this about
holy-thistle?  Are you sick, Aunt Isel?"

Isel looked searchingly into her nephew's face.

"You look true," she said; "I think you might be trusted, Stephen."

"Oh, _if_ you're grieving over _them_, don't be afraid to tell me so.  I
did my best to save Gerard, but he would not be warned.  I'd have caught
up the child and brought him to you, if I'd had a chance; but I was
hemmed in the crowd, a burly priest right afore me, and I couldn't have
laid hand on him.  Poor souls!  I'm sorry for them."

"God bless thee for those words, Stephen!  I'm sore for them to the very
core of my heart.  If they'd been my own father's children or mine, I
couldn't feel sadder than I do.  And to have to listen to those hard,
cold, brutal words from that woman--."

"I know.  She is a brute.  I guessed somewhat how things were going with
you, for I saw her turn in here from the end of Saint Edward's; and I
thought you mightn't be so sorry to have her sent off.  Her tongue's not
so musical as might be."

Manning and Haimet came in together.  The former went up to Isel, while
Haimet began a conversation with his cousin, and after a moment the two
young men left the house together.  Then Manning spoke.

"Wife and children," said he, "from this day forward, no word is to be
uttered in my house concerning these German people.  They are heretics,
so pronounced by holy Church; and after that, no compassion may be shown
to them.  Heretics are monsters, demons in human form, who seek the ruin
of souls.  Remember my words."

Isel looked earnestly in her husband's face.

"No," said Manning, not unkindly, but firmly; "no excuses for them,
Isel.  I can quite understand that you feel sorry for those whom you
have regarded as friends for seven years: but such sorrow is now sin.
You must crush and conquer it.  It were rebellion against God, who has
judged these miscreants by the lips of His Church."

Isel broke down in a very passion of tears.

"I can't help it, Manning; I can't help it!" she said, when she could
speak.  "It may be sin, but I must do it and do penance for it--it's not
a bit of use telling me I must not.  I'll try not to talk if you bid me
be silent, but you must give me a day or two to get quieted,--till every
living creature round has done spitting venom at them.  I don't promise
to hold my tongue to that ninny of an Anania--she aggravates me while it
isn't in human nature to keep your tongue off her; it's all I can do to
hold my hands."

"She is very provoking, Father," said Flemild in an unsteady voice; "she
wears Mother fairly out."

"You may both quarrel with Anania whenever you please," replied Manning
calmly; "I've nothing to say against that.  But you are not to make
excuses for those heretics, nor to express compassion for them.  Now
those are my orders: don't let me have to give them twice."

"No, Father; you shall not, to me," said Flemild in a low tone.

"I can't promise you nothing," said Isel, wiping her eyes on her apron,
"because I know I shall just go and break it as fast as it's made: but
when I can, I'll do your bidding, Manning.  And till then, you'll have
either to thrash me or forgive me--whichever you think the properest
thing to do."

Manning walked away without saying more.

Snow, snow everywhere!--lying several inches deep on the tracks our
forefathers called roads, drifted several feet high in corners and
clefts of the rocks.  Pure, white, untrodden, in the silent fields; but
trampled by many feet upon the road to Dorchester, the way taken by the
hapless exiles.  No voice was raised in pity, no hand outstretched for
help; every door was shut against the heretics.  Did those who in after
years were burned at the stake on the same plea suffer more or less than
this little band of pioneers, as one after another sank down, and died
in the white snow?  The trembling hands of the survivors heaped over
each in turn the spotless coverlet, and then they passed on to their own
speedy fate.

The snow descended without intermission, driving pitilessly in the
scarred faces of the sufferers.  Had they not known that it came from
the hand of their heavenly Father, they might have fancied that Satan
was warring against them by that means, as the utmost and the last thing
that he could do.  But as the snow descended, the song ascended as
unceasingly.  Fainter and less full it grew to human ears, as one voice
after another was silenced.  It may be that the angels heard it richer
and louder, as the choristers grew more few and weak.

Of the little family group which we have followed, the first to give way
was Agnes.  She had taken from her own shivering limbs, to wrap round
the child, one of the mutilated garments which alone her tormentors had
left her.  As they approached Nuneham, she staggered and fell.  Guelph
and Adelheid ran to lift her up.

"Oh, let me sleep!" she said.  "I can sing no more."

"Ay, let her sleep," echoed Gerhardt in a quivering voice; "she will
suffer least so.  Farewell for a moment, my true beloved!  We shall meet
again ere the hour be over."

Gerhardt held on but a little longer.  Doubly branded, and more brutally
scourged than the rest, he was so ill from the first that he had to be
helped along by Wilhelm and Conrad, two of the strongest in the little
company.  How Ermine fared they knew not: they could only tell that when
they reached Bensington, she was no longer among them.  Most of the
children sank early.  Little Rudolph fared the best, for a young mother
who had lost her baby gave him such poor nourishment as she could from
her own bosom.  It was just as they came out of Dorchester, that they
laid him down tenderly on a bed of leaves in a sheltered corner, to
sleep out his little life.  Then they passed on, still southwards--still
singing "Glory to God in the highest!" and "Blessed are they which are
persecuted for righteousness' sake!"  Oh, what exquisite music must have
floated up through the gates of pearl, and filled the heavenly places,
from that poor faint song, breathed by those trembling voices that could
scarcely utter the notes!

A few hours later, and only one dark figure was left tottering through
the snow.  Old Berthold was alone.

Snow everywhere!--and the night fell, and the frost grew keen; and
Bensington had not long been left behind when old Berthold lay down in
the ditch at the road-side.  He had sung his last song, and could go no
further.  He could only wait for the chariot of God--for the
white-winged angels to come silently over the white snow, and carry him
Home.

"The Lord will not forget me, though I am the last left," he said to
himself.  "His blessings are not mere empty words.  `Glory to God in the
highest!'"  And Berthold slept.

"Rudolph!"  The word was breathed softly, eagerly, by some moving thing
closely wrapped up, in the dense darkness of the field outside
Dorchester.  There was no answer.

"Rudolph!" came eagerly again.

The speaker, who was intently listening, fancied she heard the faintest
possible sound.  Quickly, quietly, flitting from one point to another,
feeling with her hands on the ground, under the bushes, by the walls,
she went, till her outstretched hands touched something round and soft,
and not quite so chillingly cold as every thing else seemed to be that
night.

"Rudolph! art thou here?"

"Yes, it's me," said the faint childish voice.  "Where am I?--and who
are you?"

"Drink," was the answer; and a bottle of warm broth was held to the
boy's blue lips.  Then, when he had drunk, he was raised from the
ground, clasped close to a woman's warm breast, and a thick fur mantle
was hastily wrapped round them both.

"Who are you?" repeated the child.  "And where--where's Mother?"

"I am an old friend, my little child.  Hast thou ever heard the name of
Countess?"

"Yes," murmured the child feebly.  He could not remember yet how or
where he had heard it; he only knew that it was not strange to him.

"That is well.  Glory be to the Blessed that I have found thee in time
to save thee!"

They were speeding back now into the lighted town--not lighted, indeed,
by out-door lamps, but by many an open door and uncovered window, and
the lanterns of passengers going up or down the street.  Countess
carried the child to a stone house--only Jews built stone houses in
towns at that day--and into a ground-floor room, where she laid him down
on a white couch beside the fire.  There were two men in the room--both
old, and with long white beards.

"Countess! what hast thou there?" sternly asked one of the men.

"Father Jacob!--a babe of the Goyim!" exclaimed the other.

"Hush!" said Countess in a whisper, as she bent over the boy.  "The life
is barely in him.  May the Blessed (to whom be praise!) help me to save
my darling!"

"Accursed are all the infidels!" said the man who seemed slightly the
younger of the two.  "Daughter, how earnest thou by such a child, and
how darest thou give him such a name?"

Countess made no answer.  She was busy feeding little Rudolph with bits
of bread sopped in warm broth.

"Where am I?" asked the child, as sense and a degree of strength
returned to him.  "It isn't Isel's house."

"Wife, dost thou not answer the Cohen?" said the elder man angrily.

"The Cohen can wait for his answer; the child cannot for his life.  When
I think him safe I will answer all you choose."

At length, after careful feeding and drying, Countess laid down the
spoon, and covered the child with a warm woollen coverlet.

"Sleep, my darling!" she said softly.  "The God of Israel hush thee
under His wings!"

A few moments of perfect quiet left no doubt that little Rudolph was
sound asleep.  Then Countess stood up, and turned to the Rabbi.

"Now, Cohen, I am ready.  Ask me what you will."

"Who and what is this child?"

"An exile, as we are.  An orphan, cast on the great heart of the
All-Merciful.  A trust which was given to me, and I mean to fulfil it."

"That depends on the leave of thy lord."

"It depends on nothing of the sort.  I sware to the dead father of this
boy that I would protect him from all hurt."

"Sware!  Well, then--" said the elder Jew--"an oath must be fulfilled,
Cohen?"

"That depends on circumstances," returned the Rabbi in Jesuitical wise.
"For instance, if Countess sware by any idol of the Goyim, it is void.
If she sware by her troth, or faith, or any such thing, it may be
doubtful, and might require a synod of the Rabbins to determine it.  But
if she sware by the Holy One (blessed be He!) then the oath must stand.
But of course, daughter, thou wilt have the boy circumcised, and bring
him up as a proselyte of Israel."

The expression in the eyes of Countess did not please the Rabbi.

"Thus I sware," she said: "`God do so to me and more also, if I bring
not the child to you unhurt!'  How can I meet that man at the day of
doom, if I have not kept mine oath--if I deliver not the boy to him
unhurt, as he will deem hurting?"

"But that were to teach him the idolatries of the Goyim!" exclaimed the
Rabbi in horror.

"I shall teach him no idolatry.  Only what his father would have taught
him--and I know what that was.  I have listened to him many a day on
Presthey and Pary's Mead."

"Countess, I shall not suffer it.  Such a thing must not be done in my
house."

"It has to be done in mine," said Countess doggedly.

"I do not forbid thee to show mercy to the child.  If he be, as thou
sayest, an orphan and an exile, and thou moreover hast accepted some
fashion of trust with regard to him (however foolish it were to do so),
I am willing that thou shouldst keep him a day or two, till he has
recovered.  But then shelter must be sought for him with the Goyim."

"Do you two know," said Countess, in a low voice of concentrated
determination, "that this child's parents, and all of their race that
were with them, have been scourged by the Goyim?--branded, and cast
forth as evil, and have died in the night and in the snow, because they
would _not_ worship idols?  These are not of the brood of the priests,
who hate them.  The boy is mine, and shall be brought up as mine.  I
sware it."

"But not for life?"

"I sware it."

"Did the child's father know what thou hadst sworn? as if not, perchance
there may be means to release thee."

The black eyes flashed fire.

"I tell you, I sware unto him by Adonai, the God of Israel, and He knew
it!  In the lowest depths and loftiest heights of my own soul I sware,
and He heard it.  I repeated the vow this night, when I clasped the boy
to my heart once more.  God will do so to me and more also, if I bring
not the boy unhurt to his father and his mother at the Judgment Day!"

"But, my daughter, if it can be loosed?"

"What do I care for your loosing?  He will not loose me.  And the child
shall not suffer.  I will die first."

"Let the child tarry till he has recovered: did I not say so?  Then he
must go forth."

"If you turn him forth, you turn me forth with him."

"Nonsense!"

"You will see.  I shall never leave him.  My darling, my white
snow-bird!  I shall never leave the boy."

"My daughter," said the Rabbi softly, for he thought the oil might
succeed where the vinegar had failed, "dost thou not see that Leo's
advice is the best?  The child must tarry with thee till he is well; no
man shall prevent that."

"Amen!" said Countess.

"But that over, is it not far better both for him and thee that he
should go to the Goyim?  We will take pains, for the reverence of thine
oath, to find friends of his parents, who will have good care of him: I
promise thee it shall be done, and Leo will assent thereto."

Leo confirmed the words with--"Even so, Cohen!"

"But I pray thee, my daughter, remember what will be thought of thee, if
thou shouldst act as thou art proposing to do.  It will certainly be
supposed that thou art wavering in the faith of thy fathers, if even it
be not imagined that thou hast forsaken it.  Only think of the horror of
such a thing!"

"I have not forsaken the faith of Abraham."

"I am sure of that; nevertheless, it is good thou shouldst say it."

"If the Cohen agree," said Leo, stroking his white beard, "I am willing
to make a compromise.  As we have no child, and thou art so fond of
children, the child shall abide with thee, on condition that thou take a
like oath to bring him up a proselyte of Israel: and then let him be
circumcised on the eighth day after his coming here.  But if not, some
friend of his parents must be found.  What say you, Cohen?"

"I am willing so to have it."

"I am not," said Countess shortly.  "As to friends of the child's
parents, there are none such, save the God for whom they died, and in
whose presence they stand to-night.  I must keep mine oath.  Unhurt in
body, unhurt in soul, according to their conception thereof, and
according to my power, will I bring the boy to his father at the coming
of Messiah."

"Wife, wouldst thou have the Cohen curse thee in the face of all
Israel?"

"These rash vows!" exclaimed the Rabbi, in evident uneasiness.
"Daughter, it is written in the Thorah that if any woman shall make a
vow, her husband may establish it or make it void, if he do so in the
day that he hear it; and the Blessed One (unto whom be praise!) shall
forgive her, and she shall not perform the vow."

"The vow was made before I was Leo's wife."

"Well, but in the day that he hath heard it, it is disallowed."

"There is something else written in the Thorah, Cohen.  `Every vow of a
widow, or of her that is divorced, shall stand.'"

"Father Isaac! when didst thou read the Thorah?  Women have no business
to do any such thing."

"It is there, whether they have or not."

"Then it was thy father's part to disallow it."

"I told him of my vow, and he did not."

"That is an awkward thing!" said Leo in a low tone to the Rabbi.

"I must consult the Rabbins," was the answer.  "It may be we shall find
a loophole, to release the foolish woman.  Canst thou remember the exact
words of thy vow?"

"What matter the exact words?  The Holy One (blessed be He!) looketh on
the heart, and He knew what I meant to promise."

"Yet how didst thou speak?"

"I have told you.  I said, `God do so to me and more also, if I bring
not the child to you unhurt!'"

"Didst thou say `God'? or did the man say it, and thy word was only
`He'?" asked the Rabbi eagerly, fancying that he saw a way of escape.

"What do I know which it was?  I meant Him, and that is in His eyes as
if I had said it."

"Countess, if thou be contumacious, I cannot shelter thee," said Leo
sternly.

"My daughter," answered the Rabbi, still suavely, though he was not far
from anger, "I am endeavouring to find thee a way of escape."

"I do not wish to escape.  I sware, and I will do it.  Oh, bid me
depart!" she cried, almost fiercely, turning to Leo.  "I cannot bear
this endless badgering.  Give me my raiment and my jewels, and bid me
depart in peace!"

There was a moment's dead silence, during which the two old men looked
fixedly at each other.  Then the Rabbi said--

"It were best for thee, Leo.  Isaac the son of Deuslesalt [probably a
translation of Isaiah or Joshua] hath a fair daughter, and he is richer
than either Benefei or Jurnet.  She is his only child."

"I have seen her: she is very handsome.  Yet such a winter night!  We
will wait till morning, and not act rashly."

"No: now or not at all," said Countess firmly.

"My daughter," interposed the Rabbi hastily, "there is no need to be
rash.  If Leo give thee now a writing of divorcement, thou canst not
abide in his house to-night.  Wait till the light dawns.  Sleep may
bring a better mind to thee."

Countess vouchsafed him no answer.  She turned to her husband.

"I never wished to dwell in thy house," she said very calmly, "but I
have been a true and obedient wife.  I ask thee now for what I think I
have earned--my liberty.  Let me go with my little child, whom I love
dearly,--go to freedom, and be at peace.  I can find another shelter for
to-night.  And if I could not, it would not matter--for me."

She stooped and gathered the sleeping child into her arms.

"Speak the words," she said.  "It is the one boon that I ask of you."

Leo rose--with a little apparent reluctance--and placed writing
materials before the Rabbi, who with the reed-pen wrote, or rather
painted, a few Hebrew words upon the parchment.  Then Leo, handing it to
his wife, said solemnly--

"Depart in peace!"

The fatal words were spoken.  Countess wrapped herself and Rudolph in
the thick fur mantle, and turned to leave the room, saying to the man
whose wife she was no longer--

"I beseech you, send my goods to my father's house.  Peace be unto you!"

"Peace be to thee, daughter!" returned the Rabbi.

Then, still carrying the child, she went out into the night and the
snow.

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

Note 1.  See Matthew 27 verses 26, 27; Mark fourteen verses 22, 23; Luke
twenty-two verses 17, 20; One Corinthians eleven verse 24, when it will
be seen that "blessed" means gave thanks to God, not blessed the
elements.

Note 2.  Hebrews Seven verse 14; Eight verse 4.

Note 3.  Matthew Eight verse 4.

Note 4.  Acts two verse 46; twenty-seven verse 11; One Corinthians
eleven verses 20-34.

Note 5.  Diceto makes this barbarity a part of the sentence passed on
the Germans.  Newbury mentions it only as inflicted.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

IN THE WHITE WITCH'S HUT.

  "But all my years have seemed so long;
  And toil like mine is wondrous dreary;
  And every body thinks me strong:
  And I'm aweary."

  M.A. Chaplin.

"Heigh-Ho!  It's a weary life, Gib--a weary life!"

The words came from an old woman, and were addressed to a cat.  Neither
of them was an attractive-looking object.  The old woman was very old,
having a face all over minute wrinkles, a pair of red eyes much sunken,
and the semblance of a beard under her chin.  The cat, a dark tabby,
looked as if he had been in the wars, and had played his part valiantly.
His coat, however, was less dilapidated than the old woman's garments,
which seemed to be composed mainly of disconnected rags of all colours
and shapes.  She sat on a three-legged stool, beside a tiny hearth, on
which burned a small fire of sticks.

"Nobody cares for us, Gib: nobody!  They call me a witch--the saints
know why, save that I am old and poor.  I never did hurt to any, and
I've given good herb medicines to the women about; and if I do mutter a
few outlandish words over them, what harm does it do?  They mean
nothing; and they make the foolish girls fancy I know something more
than they do, and so I get a silver penny here, or a handful of eggs
there, and we make shift to live."

She spoke aloud, though in a low voice, as those often do who live
alone; and the cat rose and rubbed himself against her, with a soft
"Me-ew!"

"Well, Gib!  Didst thou want to remind me that so long as thou art
alive, I shall have one friend left?  Poor puss!" and she stroked her
uncomely companion.

"How the wind whistles!  Well, it is cold to-night!  There'll be nobody
coming now to consult the Wise Woman.  We may as well lie down, Gib--
it's the only warm place, bed is.  Holy saints! what's that?"

She listened intently for a moment, and Gib, with erect tail, went to
the door and smelt under it.  Then he looked back at his mistress, and
said once more,--"Me-ew!"

"Somebody there, is there?  A bit frightened, I shouldn't wonder.  Come
in, then--there's nought to fear,"--and she opened the crazy door of her
hut.  "Well, can't you come in--must I lift you up?  Why, what--Mary,
Mother!"

Half lifting, half dragging, for very little strength was left her, the
old woman managed to pull her visitor inside.  Then she bolted the door,
and stooping down, with hands so gentle that they might have been an
infant's, softly drew away from a young scarred face the snow-saturated
hair.

"Ay, I see, my dear, I see!  Don't you try to speak.  I can guess what
you are, and whence you come.  I heard tell what had happened.  Don't
you stir, now, but just drink a drop of this warm mallow tea--the finest
thing going for one in your condition.  I can't give you raiment, for
I've none for myself, but we'll see to-morrow if I can't get hold o'
somewhat: you've not been used to wear rags.  I'll have 'em, if I steal
'em.  Now, don't look at me so reproachful-like! well, then, I'll beg
'em, if it worries you.  Oh, you're safe here, my dear! you've no need
to look round to see if no villains is a-coming after you.  They'll not
turn up in these quarters, take my word for it.  Not one o' them would
come near the witch's hut after nightfall.  But I'm no witch, my
dearie--only a poor old woman as God and the blessed saints have quite
forgot, and folks are feared of me."

"The Lord never forgets," the parched lips tried to say.

"Don't He?  Hasn't He forgot both you and me, now?"

"No--never!"

"Well, well, my dear!  Lie still, and you shall tell me any thing you
will presently.  Have another sup!--just one at once, and often--you'll
soon come round.  I know some'at about herbs and such-like, if I know
nought else.  See, let me lay this bundle of straw under your head;
isn't that more comfortable, now?  Poor thing, now what are you a-crying
for?--does your face pain you bad?  I'll lay some herbs to it, and you
won't have so much as a scar there when they've done their work.  Ay, I
know some'at about herbs, I do!  Deary me, for sure!--poor thing, poor
thing!"

"The Lord bless you!"

"Child, you're the first that has blessed me these forty years! and I
never hear _that_ name.  Folks take me for one of Sathanas' servants,
and they never speak to me of--that Other.  I reckon they fancy I should
mount the broomstick and fly through the chimney, if they did.  Eh me!--
and time was I was a comely young maid--as young and well-favoured as
you, my dear: eh dear, dear, to think how long it is since!  I would I
could pull you a bit nearer the fire; but I've spent all my strength--
and that's nought much--in hauling of you in.  But you're safe, at any
rate; and I'll cover you up with straw--I've got plenty of that, if I
have not much else.  Them villains, to use a young maid so!--or a wife,
whichever you be.  And they say I'm in league with the Devil!  I never
got so near him as they be."

"I am a maid."

"Well, and that's the best thing you can be.  Don't you be in a hurry to
change it.  Come, now, I'll set on that sup o' broth was given me at the
green house; you'll be ready to drink it by it's hot.  Well, now, it's
like old times and pleasant, having a bit o' company to speak to beside
Gib here.  What's your name, now, I wonder?"

"Ermine."

"Ay, ay.  Well, mine's Haldane--old Haldane, the Wise Woman--I'm known
all over Oxfordshire, and Berkshire too.  Miles and miles they come to
consult me.  Oh, don't look alarmed, my pretty bird! you sha'n't see one
of them if you don't like.  There's a sliding screen behind here that I
can draw, and do by times, when I want to fright folks into behaving
themselves; I just draw it out, and speak from behind it, in a hollow
voice, and don't they go as white!--I'll make a cosy straw bed for you
behind it, and never a soul of 'em 'll dare to look in on you--no, not
the justice himself, trust me.  I know 'em: Lords, and constables, and
foresters, and officers--I can make every mother's son of 'em shiver in
his shoes, till you'd think he had the ague on him.  But _you_ sha'n't,
my dear: you're as safe as if the angels was rocking you.  Maybe they'll
want to come with you: but they'll feel strange here.  When you can talk
a bit without hurting of you, you shall tell me how you got here."

"I lost my way in the snow."

"Well, no wonder!  Was there many of you?"

"About thirty."

"And all served like you?"

"Yes, except my brother: he was our leader, and they served him worse.
I do not think the children were branded."

"Children!"

"Ay, there were eight children with us."

"One minds one's manners when one has the angels in company, or else
maybe I should speak my mind a bit straight.  And what was it for,
child?"

"They said we were heretics."

"I'll be bound they did!  But what had you done?"

"My brother and some others had preached the Gospel of Christ in the
villages round, and further away."

"What mean you by that, now?"

"The good news that men are sinners, and that Jesus died for sinners."

"Ah!  I used to know all about that once.  But now--He's forgotten me."

"No, never, never, Mother Haldane!  It is thou who hast forgotten Him.
He sent me to thee to-night to tell thee so."

"Gently now, my dear!  Keep still.  Don't you use up your bit of
strength for a worthless old woman, no good to any body.  There ain't
nobody in the world as cares for me, child.  No, there ain't nobody!"

"Mother Haldane, I think Christ cared for you on His cross; and He cares
for you now in Heaven.  He wanted somebody to come and tell you so; and
nobody did, so he drove me here.  You'll let me tell you all about it,
won't you?"

"Softly, my dear--you'll harm yourself!  Ay, you shall tell me any thing
you will, my snow-bird, when you're fit to do it; but you must rest a
while first."

There was no sleep that night for Mother Haldane.  All the long winter
night she sat beside Ermine, feeding her at short intervals, laying her
herb poultices on the poor brow, covering up the chilled body from which
it seemed as if the shivering would never depart.  More and more silent
grew the old woman as time went on, only now and then muttering a
compassionate exclamation as she saw more clearly all the ill that had
been done.  She kept up the fire all night, and made a straw bed, as she
had promised, behind the screen, where the invalid would be sheltered
from the draught, and yet warm, the fire being just on the other side of
the screen.  To this safe refuge Ermine was able to drag herself when
the morning broke.

"You'll be a fine cure, dearie!" said the old woman, looking on her with
satisfaction.  "You'll run like a hare yet, and be as rosy as
Robin-run-by-the-hedge."

"I wonder why I am saved," said Ermine in a low voice.  "I suppose all
the rest are with God now.  I thought I should have been there too by
this time.  Perhaps He has some work for me to do:--it may be that He
has chosen you, and I am to tell you of His goodness and mercy."

"You shall tell any thing you want, dearie.  You're just like a bright
angel to old Mother Haldane.  I'm nigh tired of seeing frightened faces.
It's good to have one face that'll look at you quiet and kind; and
nobody never did that these forty years.  Where be your friends, my
maid?  You'll want to go to them, of course, when you're fit to
journey."

"I have no friends but One," said the girl softly: "and He is with me
now.  I shall go to Him some day, when He has done His work in me and by
me.  As to other earthly friends, I would not harm the few I might
mention, by letting their names be linked with mine, and they would be
afraid to own me.  For my childhood's friends, _they_ are all over-sea.
I have no friend save God and you."

When Ermine said, "He is with me now," the old woman had glanced round
as if afraid of seeing some unearthly presence.  At the last sentence
she rose--for she had been kneeling by the girl--with a shake of her
head, and went outside the screen, muttering to herself.

"Nobody but the snow-bird would ever link them two together!  Folks
think I'm Sathanas' thrall."

She put more sticks on the fire, muttering while she did so.

"`Goodness and mercy!'  Eh, deary me!  There's not been much o' that for
the old witch.  Folks are feared of even a white witch, and I ain't a
black 'un.  Ay, feared enough.  They'll give me things, for fear.  But
nobody loves me--no, nobody loves me!"

With a vessel of hot broth in her hands, she came back to the niche
behind the screen.

"Now, my dearie, drink it up.  I must leave you alone a while at after.
I'm going out to beg a coverlet and a bit more victuals.  You're not
afeared to be left?  There's no need, my dear--never a whit.  The worst
outlaw in all the forest would as soon face the Devil himself as look
behind this screen.  But I'll lock you in if you like that better."

"As you will, Mother Haldane.  The Lord will take care of me, in the way
He sees best for me, and most for His glory."

"I'll lock you in.  It'll not be so hard for Him then.  Some'at new,
bain't it, for the like o' me to think o' helping Him?"

Ermine answered only by a smile.  Let the old woman learn to come nigh
to God, she thought, however imperfectly; other items could be put right
in time.

It was nearly three hours before Haldane returned, and she came so well
laden that she had some work to walk.  A very old fur coverlet hung over
her left arm, while on her right was a basket that had seen hard service
in its day.

"See you here, dearie!" she said, holding them up to the gaze of her
guest.  "Look you at all I've got for you.  I didn't steal a bit of it--
I saw from your face you wouldn't like things got that way.  Here's a
fine happing of fur to keep you warm; and I've got a full dozen of eggs
given me, and a beef-bone to make broth, and a poke o' meal: and they
promised me a cape at the green house, if I bring 'em some herbs they
want.  We shall get along grandly, you'll see.  I've picked up a fine
lot of chestnuts, too,--but them be for me; the other things be for you.
I'll set the bone on this minute; it's got a goodly bit o' meat on it."

"You are very good to me, Mother Haldane.  But you must take your share
of the good things."

"Never a whit, my dearie!  I got 'em all for you.  There, now!"

She spread the fur coverlet over Ermine, wrapping her closely in it, and
stood a moment to enjoy the effect.

"Ain't that warm, now?  Oh, I know where to go for good things!  Trust
the Wise Woman for that!  Can you sleep a while, my dear?  Let me put
you on a fresh poultice, warm and comforting, and then you'll try, won't
you?  I'll not make no more noise than Gib here, without somebody comes
in, and then it's as may be."

She made her poultice, and put it on, covered Ermine well, made up the
fire, and took her seat on the form, just outside the screen, while
Ermine tried to sleep.  But sleep was coy, and would not visit the
girl's eyes.  Her state of mind was strangely quiescent and acquiescent
in all that was done to her or for her.  Perhaps extreme weakness had a
share in this; but she felt as if sorrow and mourning were as far from
her as was active, tumultuous joy.  Calm thankfulness and satisfaction
with God's will seemed to be the prevailing tone of her mind.  Neither
grief for the past nor anxiety for the future had any place in it.  Her
soul was as a weaned child.

As Haldane sat by the fire, and Ermine lay quiet but fully awake on the
other side of the screen, a low tap came on the door.

"Enter!" said Haldane in a hollow voice, quite unlike the tone she used
to Ermine: for the Wise Woman was a ventriloquist, and could produce
terrifying effects thereby.

The visitor proved to be a young woman, who brought a badly-sprained
wrist for cure.  She was treated with an herb poultice, over which the
old woman muttered an inaudible incantation; and having paid a bunch of
parsnips as her fee, she went away well satisfied.  Next came a lame old
man, who received a bottle of lotion.  The third applicant wanted a
charm to make herself beautiful.  She was desired to wash herself once a
day in cold spring water, into which she was to put a pinch of a powder
with which the witch furnished her.  While doing so, she was to say
three times over--

  "Win in, white!  Wend out, black!
  Bring to me that I do lack.
  Wend out, black!  Win in, white!
  Sweet and seemly, fair to sight."

The young lady, whose appearance might certainly have been improved by
due application of soap and water, departed repeating her charm
diligently, having left behind her as payment a brace of rabbits.

A short time elapsing, before any fresh rap occurred, Haldane went to
look at her patient.

"Well, my dear, and how are you getting on?  Not asleep, I see.  Look at
them rabbits!  I can make you broth enough now.  Get my living this way,
look you.  And it's fair too, for I gives 'em good herbs.  Fine cures I
make by times, I can tell you."

"I wondered what you gave the last," said Ermine.

The old woman set her arms akimbo and laughed.

"Eh, I get lots o' that sort.  It's a good wash they want, both for
health and comeliness; and I make 'em take it that way.  The powder's
nought--it's the wash does it, look you: but they'd never do it if I
told 'em so.  Mum, now! there's another."

And dropping her voice to a whisper, Haldane emerged from the screen,
and desired the applicant to enter.

It was a very handsome young woman who came in, on whose face the
indulgence of evil passions--envy, jealousy, and anger--had left as
strong a mark as beauty.  She crossed herself as she stepped over the
threshold.

"Have you a charm that will win hearts?" she asked.

"Whose heart do you desire to win?" was the reply.

"That of Wigan the son of Egglas."

"Has it strayed from you?"

"I have never had it.  He loves Brichtiva, on the other side of the
wood, and he will not look on me.  I hate her.  I want to beguile his
heart away from her."

"What has she done to you?"

"Done!" cried the girl, with a flash of her eyes.  "Done!  She is fair
and sweet, and she has won Wigan's love.  That is what she has done to
me."

"And you love Wigan?"

"I care nothing for Wigan.  I hate Brichtiva.  I want to be revenged on
her."

"I can do nothing for you," answered Haldane severely.  "Revenge is the
business of the black witch, not the Wise Woman who deals in honest
simples and harmless charms.  Go home and say thy prayers, Maiden, and
squeeze the black drop out of thine heart, that thou fall not into the
power of the Evil One.  Depart!"

This interview quite satisfied Ermine that Haldane was no genuine witch
of the black order.  However dubious her principles might be in some
respects, she had evidently distinct notions of right and wrong, and
would not do what she held wicked for gain.

Other applicants came at intervals through the day.  There were many
with burns, scalds, sprains, or bruises, nearly all of which Haldane
treated with herbal poultices, or lotions; some with inward pain, to
whom she gave bottles of herbal drinks.  Some wanted charms for all
manner of purposes--to make a horse go, induce plants to grow, take off
a spell, or keep a lover true.  A few asked to have their fortunes told,
and wonderful adventures were devised for them.  After all the rest,
when it began to grow dusk, came a man muffled up about the face, and
evidently desirous to remain unknown.

The White Witch rested her hands on the staff which she kept by her,
partly for state and partly for support, and peered intently at the
half-visible face of the new-comer.

"Have you a charm that will keep away evil dreams?" was the question
that was asked in a harsh voice.

"It is needful," replied Haldane in that hollow voice, which seemed to
be her professional tone, "that I should know what has caused them."

"You a witch, and ask that?" was the sneering answer.

"I ask it for your own sake," said Haldane coldly.  "Confession of sin
is good for the soul."

"When I lack shriving, I will go to a priest.  Have you any such charm?"

"Answer my question, and you shall have an answer to yours."

The visitor hesitated.  He was evidently unwilling to confess.

"You need not seek to hide from me," resumed Haldane, "that the wrong
you hold back from confessing is a deed of blood.  The only hope for you
is to speak openly."

The Silence continued unbroken for a moment, during which the man seemed
to be passing through a mental conflict.  At length he said, in a hoarse
whisper--

"I never cared for such things before.  I have done it many a time,--not
just this, but things that were quite as--well, bad, if you will.  They
never haunted me as this does.  But they were men, and these--Get rid of
the faces for me!  I must get rid of those terrible faces."

"If your confession is to be of any avail to you, it must be complete,"
said Haldane gravely.  "Of whose faces do you wish to be rid?"

"It's a woman and a child," said the man, his voice sinking lower every
time he spoke, yet it had a kind of angry ring in it, as if he appealed
indignantly against some injustice.  "There were several more, and why
should these torment me?  Nay, why should they haunt _me_ at all?  I
only did my duty.  There be other folks they should go to--them that
make such deeds duty.  I'm not to blame--but I can't get rid of those
faces!  Take them away, and I'll give you silver--gold--only take them
away!"

The probable solution of the puzzle struck Haldane as she sat there,
looking earnestly into the agitated features of her visitor.

"You must confess all," she said, "the names and every thing you know.
I go to mix a potion which may help you.  Bethink you, till I come
again, of all the details of your sin, that you may speak honestly and
openly thereof."

And she passed behind the screen.  One glance at the white face of the
girl lying there told Haldane that her guess was true.  She knelt down,
and set her lips close to Ermine's ear.

"You know the voice," she whispered shortly.  "Who is he?"

"The Bishop's sumner, who arrested us."

"And helped to thrust you forth at the gate?"

Ermine bowed her head.  Haldane rose, and quickly mixing in a cup a
little of two strong decoctions of bitter herbs, she returned to her
visitor.

"Drink that," she said, holding out the cup, and as he swallowed the
bitter mixture, she muttered--

  "Evil eye be stricken blind!
  Cords about thy heart unwind!
  Tell the truth, and shame the fiend!"

The sumner set down the cup with a wry face.

"Mother, I will confess all save the names, which I know not.  I am
sumner of my Lord of Lincoln, and I took these German heretics four
months gone, and bound them, and cast them into my Lord's prison.  And
on Sunday, when they were tried, I guarded them through the town, and
thrust them out of the East Gate.  Did I do any more than my duty?
There were women and little children among them, and they went to
perish.  They must all be dead by now, methinks, for no man would dare
to have compassion on them, and the bitter cold would soon kill men so
weak already with hunger.  Yet they were heretics, accursed of God and
men: but their faces were like the faces of the angels that are in
Heaven.  Two of those faces--a mother and a little child--will never
away from me.  I know not why nor how, but they made me think of another
winter night, when there was no room for our Lady and her holy Child
among men on earth.  Oh take away those faces!  I can bear no more."

"Did they look angrily at thee?"

"Angry!  I tell you they were like the angels.  I was pushing them out
at the gate--I never thought of any thing but getting rid of heretics--
when she turned, and the child looked up on me--such a look!  I shall
behold it till I die, if you cannot rid me of it."

"My power extends not to angels," replied Haldane.

"Can you do nought for me, then?" he asked in hopeless accents.  "Must I
feel for ever as Herod the King felt, when he had destroyed the holy
innocents?  I am not worse than others--why should they torture me?"

"Punishment must always follow sin."

"Sin!  Is it any sin to punish a heretic?  Father Dolfin saith it is a
shining merit, because they are God's enemies, and destroy men's souls.
I have not sinned.  It must be Satan that torments me thus; it can only
be he, since he is the father of heretics, and they go straight to him.
Can't you buy him off?  I 'll give you any gold to get rid of those
faces!  Save me from them if you can!"

"I cannot.  I have no power in such a case as thine.  Get thee to the
priest and shrive thee, thou miserable sinner, for thy help must come
from Heaven and not from earth."

"The priest!  _Shrive_ me for obeying the Bishop, and bringing doom upon
the heretics!  Nay, witch!--art thou so far gone down the black road
that thou reckonest such good works to be sins?"

And the sumner laughed bitterly.

"It is thy confession of sin wherewith I deal," answered Haldane
sternly.  "It is thy conscience, not mine, whereon it lieth heavy.  Who
is it that goeth down the black road--the man that cannot rest for the
haunting of dead faces, or the poor, harmless, old woman, that bade him
seek peace from the Church of God?"

"The Church would never set that matter right," said the sumner, half
sullenly, as he rose to depart.

"Then there is but one other hope for thee," said a clear low voice from
some unseen place: "get thee to Him who is the very Head of the Church
of God, and who died for thee and for all Christian men."

The sumner crossed himself several times over, not waiting for the end
of one performance before he began another.

"Dame Mary, have mercy on us!" he cried; "was that an angel that spake?"

"An evil spirit would scarcely have given such holy counsel," gravely
responded Haldane.

"Never expected to hear angels speak in a witch's hut!" said the
astonished sumner.  "Pray you, my Lord Angel--or my Lady Angela, if so
be--for your holy intercession for a poor sinner."

"Better shalt thou have," replied the voice, "if thou wilt humbly rest
thy trust on Christ our Lord, and seek His intercession."

"You see well," added Haldane, "that I am no evil thing, else would good
spirits not visit me."

The humbled sumner laid two silver pennies in her hand, and left the hut
with some new ideas in his head.

"Well, my dear, you've a brave heart!" said Haldane, when the sound of
his footsteps had died away.  "I marvel you dared speak.  It is well he
took you for an angel; but suppose he had not, and had come round the
screen to see?  When I told you the worst outlaw in the forest would not
dare to look in on you, I was not speaking of _them_.  They stick at
nothing, commonly."

"If he had," said Ermine quietly, "the Lord would have known how to
protect me.  Was I to leave a troubled soul with the blessed truth
untold, because harm to my earthly life might arise thereby?"

"But, my dear, you don't think he'll be the better?"

"If he be not, the guilt will not rest on my head."

The dark deepened, and the visitors seemed to have done coming.  Haldane
cooked a rabbit for supper for herself and Ermine, not forgetting Gib.
She had bolted the door for the night, and was fastening the wooden
shutter which served for a window, when a single tap on the door
announced a late applicant for her services.  Haldane opened the tiny
wicket, which enabled her to speak without further unbarring when she
found it convenient.

"Folks should come in the day," she said.

"Didn't dare!" answered a low whisper, apparently in the voice of a
young man.  "Can you find lost things?"

"That depends on the planets," replied Haldane mysteriously.

"But can't you rule the planets?"

"No; they rule me, and you too.  However, come within, and I will see
what I can do for you."

Unbarring the door, she admitted a muffled man, whose face was almost
covered by a woollen kerchief evidently arranged for that purpose.

"What have you lost?" asked the Wise Woman.

"The one I loved best," was the unexpected answer.

"Man, woman, or child?"

"A maiden, who went forth the morrow of Saint Lucian, by the East Gate
of Oxford, on the Dorchester road.  If you can, tell me if she be
living, and where to seek her."

Haldane made a pretence of scattering a powder on the dying embers of
her wood-fire.  [Note 1.]

"The charm will work quicker," she said, "if I know the name of the
maiden."

"Ermine."

Haldane professed to peer into the embers.

"She is a foreigner," she remarked.

"Ay, you have her."

"A maiden with fair hair, a pale soft face, blue eyes, and a clear,
gentle voice."

"That's it!--where is she?"

"She is still alive."

"Thanks be to all the saints!  Where must I go to find her?"

"The answer is, Stay where you are."

"Stay!  I cannot stay.  I must find and succour her."

"Does she return your affection?"

"That's more than I can say.  I've never seen any reason to think so."

"But you love her?"

"I would have died for her!" said the young man, with an earnest ring in
his voice.  "I have perilled my life, and the priests say, my soul.  All
this day have I been searching along the Dorchester way, and have found
every one of them but two--her, and one other.  I did my best, too, to
save her and hers before the blow fell."

"What would you do, if you found her?"

"Take her away to a safe place, if she would let me, and guard her there
at the risk of my life--at the cost, if need be."

"The maid whom you seek," said Haldane, after a further examination of
the charred sticks on the hearth, "is a pious and devout maiden; has
your life been hitherto fit to mate with such?"

"Whatever I have been," was the reply, "I would give her no cause for
regret hereafter.  A man who has suffered as I have has no mind left for
trifling.  She should do what she would with me."

Haldane seemed to hesitate whether she should give further information
or not.

"Can't you trust me?" asked the young man sorrowfully.  "I have done ill
deeds in my life, but one thing I can say boldly,--I never yet told a
lie.  Oh, tell me where to go, if my love yet lives?  Can't you trust
me?"

"I can," said a voice which was not Haldane's.  "I can, Stephen."

Stephen stared round the hut as if the evidence of his ears were totally
untrustworthy.  Haldane touched him on the shoulder with a smile.

"Come!" she said.

The next minute Stephen was kneeling beside Ermine, covering her hand
with kisses, and pouring upon her all the sweetest and softest epithets
which could be uttered.

"They are all gone, sweet heart," he said, in answer to her earnest
queries.  "And the priests may say what they will, but I believe they
are in Heaven."

"But that other, Stephen?  You said, me and one other.  One of the men,
I suppose?"

"That other," said Stephen gently, "that other, dear, is Rudolph."

"What can have become of him?"

"He may have strayed, or run into some cottage.  That I cannot find him
may mean that he is alive."

"Or that he died early enough to be buried," she said sadly.

"The good Lord would look to the child," said Haldane unexpectedly.  "He
is either safe with Him, or He will tell you some day what has become of
Him."

"You're a queer witch!" said Stephen, looking at her with some surprise.

"I'm not a witch at all.  I'm only a harmless old woman who deals in
herbs and such like, but folks make me out worse than I am.  And when
every body looks on you as black, it's not so easy to keep white.  If
others shrink from naming God to you, you get to be shy of it too.  Men
and women have more influence over each other than they think.  For
years and years I've felt as if my soul was locked up in the dark, and
could not get out: but this girl, that I took in because she needed
bodily help, has given me better help than ever I gave her--she has
unlocked the door, and let the light in on my poor smothered soul.  Now,
young man, if you'll take an old woman's counsel--old women are mostly
despised, but they know a thing or two, for all that--you'll just let
the maid alone a while.  She couldn't be safer than she is here; and
she'd best not venture forth of the doors till her hurts are healed, and
the noise and talk has died away.  Do you love her well enough to deny
yourself for her good?  That's the test of real love, and there are not
many who will stand it."

"Tell me what you would have me do, and I'll see," answered Stephen with
a smile.

"Can you stay away for a month or two?"

"Well, that's ill hearing.  But I reckon I can, if it is to do any good
to Ermine."

"If you keep coming here," resumed the shrewd old woman, "folks will
begin to ask why.  And if they find out why, it won't be good for you or
Ermine either.  Go home and look after your usual business, and be as
like your usual self as you can.  The talk will soon be silenced if no
fuel be put to it.  And don't tell your own mother what you have found."

"I've no temptation to do that," answered Stephen gravely.  "My mother
has been under the mould this many a year."

"Well, beware of any friend who tries to ferret it out of you--ay, and
of the friends who don't try.  Sometimes they are the more treacherous
of the two.  Let me know where you live, and if you are wanted I will
send for you.  Do you see this ball of grey wool?  If any person puts
that into your hand, whenever and however, come here as quick as you
can.  Till then, keep away."

"Good lack!  But you won't keep me long away?"

"I shall think of her, not of you," replied Haldane shortly.  "And the
more you resent that, the less you love."

After a moment's struggle with his own thoughts, Stephen said, "You're
right, Mother.  I'll stay away till you send for me."

"Those are the words of a true man," said Haldane, "if you have strength
to abide by them.  Remember, the test of love is not sweet words, but
self-sacrifice; and the test of truth is not bold words, but patient
endurance."

"I'm not like to forget it.  You bade me tell you where I live?  I am
one of the watchmen in the Castle of Oxford; but I am to be found most
days from eleven to four on duty at the Osney Gate of the Castle.  Only,
I pray you to say to whomsoever you make your messenger, that my
brother's wife--he is porter at the chief portal--is not to be trusted.
She has a tongue as long as the way from here to Oxford, and curiosity
equal to our mother Eve's or greater.  Put yon ball of wool in _her_
hand, and she'd never take a wink of sleep till she knew all about it."

"I trust no man till I have seen him, and no woman till I have seen
through her," said Haldane.

"Well, she's as easy to see through as a church window.  Ermine knows
her.  If you must needs trust any one, my cousin Derette is safe; she is
in Saint John's anchorhold.  But I'd rather not say too much of other
folks."

"O Stephen, Mother Isel!"

"Aunt Isel would never mean you a bit of harm, dear heart, I know that.
But she might let something out that she did not mean; and if a pair of
sharp ears were in the way, it would be quite as well she had not the
chance.  She has carried a sore heart for you all these four months,
Ermine; and she cried like a baby over your casting forth.  But Uncle
Manning and Haimet were as hard as stones.  Flemild cried a little too,
but not like Aunt Isel.  As to Anania, nothing comes amiss to her that
can be sown to come up talk.  If an earthquake were to swallow one of
her children, I do believe she'd only think what a fine thing it was for
a gossip."

"I hope she's not quite so bad as that, Stephen."

"Hope on, sweet heart, and farewell.  Here's Mother Haldane on thorns to
get rid of me--that I can see.  Now, Mother, what shall I pay you for
your help, for right good it has been?"

Haldane laid her hand on Stephen's, which was beginning to unfasten his
purse--a bag carried on the left side, under the girdle.

"Pay me," she said, "in care for Ermine."

"There's plenty of that coin," answered Stephen, smiling, as he withdrew
his hand.  "You'll look to your half of the bargain, Mother, and trust
me to remember mine."

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

Note 1.  The ordinary fire at this time was of wood.  Charcoal, the
superior class of fuel, cost from 5 shillings to 10 shillings per ton
(modern value from six to twelve guineas).



CHAPTER NINE.

THE SECRET THAT WAS NOT TOLD.

  "Thine eye is on Thy wandering sheep;
  Thou knowest where they are, and Thou wilt keep
  And bring them home."

  Hetty Bowman.

"So you've really come back at last!  Well, I did wonder what you'd gone
after!  Such lots of folks have asked me--old Turguia, and Franna, and
Aunt Isel, and Derette--leastwise Leuesa--and ever such a lot: and I
couldn't tell ne'er a one of them a single word about it."

Anania spoke in the tone of an injured woman, defrauded of her rights by
the malice prepense of Stephen.

"Well," said Stephen calmly, "you may tell them all that I went after my
own business; and if any of them thinks that's what a man shouldn't do,
she can come and tell me so."

"Well, to be sure!  But what business could you have to carry you out of
the town for such a time, and nobody to know a word about it?  Tell me
that, if you please."

"Don't you tell her nought!" said Osbert in the chimney-corner.  "If you
went to buy a new coat, she'll want to know where the money was minted,
and who sheared the sheep."

"I'll finish my pie first, I think," answered Stephen, "for I am rather
too hungry for talk; and I dare say she'll take no harm by that."

He added, in mental reservation,--"And meantime I can be thinking what
to say."

"Oh, _you_ never want to know nought!" exclaimed Anania derisively.
"Turguia, she said you were gone after rabbits--as if any man in his
senses would do that in the snow: and Aunt Isel thought you were off on
a holiday; and Franna was certain sure you were gone a-courting."

Stephen laughed to himself, but made no other reply.

"Baint you a-going to tell me, now?" demanded Anania.

"Aunt Isel wasn't so far out," said Stephen, helping himself to a second
wedge of pie.

"And Franna?"

Anania was really concerned on that point.  She found Stephen very
useful, and his wages, most of which he gave her, more than paid for his
board.  If he were to marry and set up house for himself, it would
deprive her of the means to obtain sundry fashionable frivolities
wherein her soul delighted.  Stephen was quite aware of these facts,
which put an amusing edge on his determination to keep the truth from
the inquisitive gossip.

"Franna?" he repeated.  "Did you say she thought I'd gone after
squirrels? because I've brought ne'er a one."

"No, stupid!  She said you'd gone a-courting, and I want to know who."

"You must ask Franna that, not me.  I did not say so."

"You'll say nothing, and that's the worst of signs.  When folks won't
answer a reasonable question, ten to one they've been in some mischief."

"I haven't finished the pie."

"Much you'll tell me when you have!"

"Oh, I'll answer any reasonable question," said Stephen, with a slight
emphasis on the adjective.

Osbert laughed, and Anania was more vexed than ever.

"You're a pair!" said he.

"Now, look you here!  I'll have an answer, if I stand here while
Christmas; and you sha'n't have another bite till you've given it.  Did
you go a-courting?"

As Anania had laid violent hands on the pie, which she held out of his
grasp, and as Stephen had no desire to get into a genuine quarrel with
her, he was obliged to make some reply.

"Will you give me back the pie, if I tell you?"

"Yes, I will."

"Then, I'd no such notion in my head.  Let's have the pie."

"When?"  Anania still withheld the pie.

"When what?"

"When hadn't you such a notion? when you set forth, or when you came
back?"

"Eat thy supper, lad, and let them buzzing things be!" said Osbert.
"There'll never be no end to it, and thou mayest as well shut the
portcullis first as last."

"Them's my thoughts too," said Stephen.

"Then you sha'n't have another mouthful."

"Nay, you're off your bargain.  I answered the question, I'm sure."

"You've been after some'at ill, as I'm a living woman!  You'd have told
me fast enough if you hadn't.  There's the pie,"--Anania set it up on a
high shelf--"take it down if you dare!"

"I've no wish to quarrel with you, Sister.  I'll go and finish my supper
at Aunt Isel's--they'll give me some'at there, I know."

"Anania, don't be such a goose!" said Osbert.

"Don't you meddle, or you'll get what you mayn't like!" was the conjugal
answer.

Osbert rose and took down a switch from its hook on the wall.

"You'll get it first, my lady!" said he: and Stephen, who never had any
fancy for quarrelling, and was wont to leave the house when such not
unfrequent scenes occurred, shut the door on the ill-matched pair, and
went off to Kepeharme Lane.

"Stephen, is it?  Good even, lad.  I'm fain to see thee back.  Art only
just come?"

"Long enough to eat half a supper, and for Anania to get into more than
half a temper," said Stephen, laughing.  "I'm come to see, Aunt, if
you'll give me another half."

"That I will, lad, and kindly welcome.  What will thou have?  I've a fat
fish pie and some cold pork and beans."

"Let's have the pork and beans, for I've been eating pie up yonder."

"Good, and I'll put some apples down to roast.  Hast thou enjoyed thy
holiday?"

"Ay, middling, thank you, if it hadn't been so cold."

"It's a desperate cold winter!" said Isel, with a sigh, which Stephen
felt certain was breathed to the memory of the Germans.  "I never
remember a worse."

"I'm afraid you feel lonely, Aunt."

"Ay, lonely enough, the saints know!"

"Why doesn't Haimet wed, and bring you a daughter to help you?  Mabel's
a bit too grand, I reckon."

"Mabel thinks a deal of herself, that's true.  Well.  I don't know.
One's not another, Stephen."

"I'll not gainsay you, Aunt Isel.  But mayn't `another' be better than
none?  Leastwise, some others,"--as a recollection of his amiable
sister-in-law crossed his mind.

"I don't know, Stephen.  Sometimes that hangs on the `one.'  You'll
think it unnatural in me, lad, but I don't miss Flemild nor Derette as I
do Ermine."

"Bless you, dear old thing!" said Stephen in his heart.

"O Stephen, lad, I believe you've a kind heart; you've shown it in a
many little ways.  Do let me speak to you of them now and again!  Your
uncle won't have me say a word, and sometimes I feel as if I should
burst.  I don't believe you'd tell on me, if I did, and it would relieve
me like, if I could let it out to somebody."

"Catch me at it!" said Stephen significantly.  "You say what you've a
mind, Aunt Isel: I'm as safe as the King's Treasury."

"Well, lad, do you think they're all gone--every one?"

"I'm afraid there's no hope for the most of them, Aunt," said Stephen in
a low voice.

"Then you do think there might--?"

"One, perhaps, or two--ay, there _might_ be, that had got taken in
somewhere.  I can't say it isn't just possible.  But folks would be
afraid of helping them, mostly."

"Ay, I suppose they would," said Isel sorrowfully.

Stephen ate in silence, sorely tempted to tell her what he knew.  Had
the danger been for himself only, and not for Ermine, he thought he
should certainly have braved it.

"Well!" said Isel at last, as she stood by the fire, giving frequent
twirls to the string which held the apples.  "Maybe the good Lord is
more merciful than men.  _They_ haven't much mercy."

"Hold you there!" said Stephen.

"Now why shouldn't we?--we that are all sinners, and all want forgiving?
We might be a bit kinder to one another, if we tried."

"Some folks might.  I'm not sure you could, Aunt Isel."

"Eh, lad, I'm as bad a sinner as other folks.  I do pray to be forgiven
many a time."

"Maybe that's a good help to forgiving," said Stephen.

"So you're back from your holiday?" said Haimet, coming in, and flinging
his felt hat on one of the shelves.  "Well, where did you go?"

"Oh, round-about," replied Stephen, taking his last mouthful of beans.

"Did you go Banbury way?"

"No, t'other way," answered Stephen, without indicating which other way.

"Weather sharp, wasn't it?"

"Ay, sharp enough.  It's like to be a hard winter.--Well, Aunt, I'm much
obliged to you.  I reckon I'd best be turning home now."

"Weather rather sharp there too, perhaps?" suggested Haimet jocosely.

"Ay, there's been a bit of a storm since I got back.  I came here to get
out of it.  I'm a fair-weather-lover, as you know."

Stephen went home by a round-about way, for he took Saint John's
anchorhold in the route.  He scarcely knew why he did it; he had an idea
that the sight of Derette would be an agreeable diversion of his
thoughts.  Too deep down to be thoroughly realised, was a vague
association of her with Ermine, whose chief friend in the family she had
been.

Derette came to the casement as soon as she heard from Leuesa who was
there.

"Good evening, Stephen!" she said cordially.  "Leuesa, my maid, while I
chat a minute with my cousin, prithee tie on thine hood and run for a
cheese.  I forgot it with the other marketing this morrow.  What are
cheeses now? a halfpenny each?"

"Three a penny, Lady, they were yesterday."

"Very good; bring a pennyworth, and here is the money."

As soon as Leuesa was out of hearing, Derette turned to Stephen with a
changed expression on her face.

"Stephen!" she said, in a low whisper, "you have been to see after
_them_.  Tell me what you found."

"I never said nought o' the sort," answered Stephen, rather staggered by
his cousin's penetration and directness.

"Maybe your heart said it to mine.  You may trust me, Stephen.  I would
rather let out my life-blood than any secret which would injure them."

"Well, you're not far wrong, Derette.  Gerard and Agnes are gone; they
lie under the snow.  So does Adelheid; but Berthold was not buried; I
reckon he was one of the last.  I cannot find Rudolph."

"You have told me all but the one thing my heart yearns to know.
Ermine?"

Stephen made no reply.

"You have found her!" said Derette.  "Don't tell me where.  It is
enough, if she lives.  Keep silence."

"Some folks are hard that you'd have looked to find soft," answered
Stephen, with apparent irrelevance; "and by times folk turn as soft as
butter that you'd expect to be as hard as stones."

Derette laid up the remark in her mind for future consideration.

"Folks baint all bad that other folks call ill names," he observed
further.

Derette gave a little nod.  She was satisfied that Ermine had found a
refuge, and with some unlikely person.

"Wind's chopped round since morning, seems to me," pursued Stephen, as
if he had nothing particular to say.  "Blew on my back as I came up to
the gate."

Another nod from Derette.  She understood that Ermine's refuge lay south
of Oxford.

"Have you seen Flemild?" she asked.  "She has sprained her wrist sadly,
and cannot use her hand."

"Now just you tell her," answered Stephen, with a significant wink,
"I've heard say the White Witch of Bensington makes wonderful cures with
marsh-mallows poultice: maybe it would ease her."

"I'll let her know, be sure," said Derette: and Stephen took his leave
as Leuesa returned with her purchase.

He had told her nothing about Ermine: he had told her every thing.
Derette thanked God for the--apparently causeless--impulse to mention
her sister's accident, which had just given Stephen the opportunity to
utter the last and most important item.  Not the slightest doubt
disturbed her mind that Ermine was in the keeping of the White Witch of
Bensington, and that Stephen was satisfied of the Wise Woman's kind
treatment and good faith.  She was sorry for Gerhardt and Agnes; but she
had loved Ermine best of all.  As for Rudolph, if Ermine were safe, why
should he not be likewise?  Derette's was a hopeful nature, not given to
look on the dark side of any thing which had a light one: a tone of mind
which, as has been well said, is worth a thousand a year to its
possessor.

Leuesa returned full of excitement.  A wolf had been killed only three
miles from the city, and the Earl had paid the sportsman fourpence for
its head, which was to be sent up to the King--the highest price ever
given for a wolf's head in that county.  The popular idea that Edgar
exterminated all the wolves in England is an error.  Henry Second paid
tenpence for three wolves' heads [Pipe Roll, 13 Henry Second], and Henry
Third's State Papers speak of "hares, wolves, and cats," in the royal
forests [Close Roll, 38 Henry Third].

The days went on, and Stephen received no summons to the Wise Woman's
hut.  He found it very hard to keep away.  If he could only have known
that all was going on right!  But weeks and months passed by, and all
was silence.  Stephen almost made up his mind to brave the witch's
anger, and go without bidding.  Yet there would be danger in that, for
Anania, who had been piqued by his parrying of her queries, watched him
as a cat watches a mouse.

He was coming home, one evening in early summer, having been on guard
all day at the East Gate, when, as he passed the end of Snydyard (now
Oriel) Street, a small child of three or four years old toddled up to
him, and said--

"There!  Take it."

Stephen, who had a liking for little toddlers, held out his hand with a
smile; and grew suddenly grave when there was deposited in it a ball of
grey wool.

"Who gave thee this?"

"Old man--down there--said, `Give it that man with the brown hat,'" was
the answer.

Stephen thanked the child, threw it a sweetmeat, with which his pocket
was generally provided, and ran after the old man, whom he overtook at
the end of the street.

"What mean you by this?" he asked.

The old man looked up blankly.

"I know not," said he.  "I was to take it to Stephen the Watchdog,--
that's all I know."

"Tell me who gave it you, then?"

"I can't tell you--a woman I didn't know."

"Where?"

"A bit this side o' Dorchester."

"That'll do.  Thank you."

The ball was safely stored in Stephen's pocket, and he hastened to the
Castle.  At the gate he met his brother.

"Here's a pretty mess!" said Osbert.  "There's Orme of the Fen run off,
because I gave him a scolding for his impudence: and it is his turn to
watch to-night.  I have not a minute to go after him; I don't know
whatever to do."

Stephen grasped the opportunity.

"I'll go after him for you, if you'll get me leave for a couple of days
or more.  I have a bit of business of my own I want to see to, and I can
manage both at once--only don't tell Anania of it, or she'll worry the
life out of me."

Osbert laughed.

"Make your mind easy!" said he.  "Go in and get you ready, lad, and I'll
see to get you the leave."

Stephen turned into the Castle, to fetch his cloak and make up a parcel
of provisions, while Osbert went to the Earl, returning in a few minutes
with leave of absence for Stephen.  To the great satisfaction of the
latter, Anania was not at home; so he plundered her larder, and set off,
leaving Osbert to make his excuses, and to tell her just as much, or as
little, as he found convenient.  Stephen was sorely tempted to go first
to Bensington, but he knew that both principle and policy directed the
previous search for Orme.  He found that exemplary gentleman, after an
hour's search, drinking and gambling in a low ale-booth outside South
Gate; and having first pumped on him to get him sober, he sent him off
to his work with a lecture.  Then, going a little way down Grandpont
Street, he turned across Presthey, and coming out below Saint Edmund's
Well, took the road to Bensington.

The journey was accomplished in much shorter time than on the previous
occasion.  As Stephen came up to the Witch's hut, he heard the sound of
a low, monotonous voice; and being untroubled, at that period of the
world's history, by any idea that eavesdropping was a dishonourable
employment, he immediately applied his ear to the keyhole.  To his great
satisfaction, he recognised Ermine's voice.  The words were these:--

"`I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hiddest
these things from the wise and prudent, and revealedst them unto little
children.  Even so, Father; for this was well-pleasing before Thee.  All
things are to Me delivered from My Father; and none knoweth the Son save
the Father; neither the Father doth any know, save the Son, and he to
whom the Son is willing to reveal Him.  Come unto Me, all ye that labour
and are burdened, and I will refresh you.  Take My yoke upon you, and
learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest
unto your souls.'"

"Did He say that, now, dearie?" asked the voice of the White Witch.
"Eh, it sounds good--it does so!  I'm burdened, saints knows; I'd like
to find a bit o' rest and refreshing.  Life's a heavy burden, and sin's
a heavier; and there's a many things I see are sins now, that I never
did afore you came.  But how am I to know that He's willing?"

"Won't you come and see, Mother?" said Ermine softly.

"Husht!  Bide a bit, my dear: there's a little sound at the door as I
don't rightly understand.  Maybe--"

In another moment the wicket opened, and Haldane's face looked out upon
Stephen.

"Good evening, Mother!" said Stephen, holding up the ball of grey wool.

"Ay, you got it, did you?  Come in--you're welcome."

"I hope I am," replied Stephen, going forward.  Ermine was no longer
hidden behind the screen, but seated on the form in the chimney-corner.
On her calm fair brow there was no scar visible.

"Ay, ain't she a fine cure!" cried the old woman.  "That's white
mallows, that is, and just a pinch of--Well, I'd best tell no tales.
But she's a grand cure; I don't hide her up now.  Nobody'd ever guess
nought, from the look of her, now, would folks?  What think you?"

"No, I hope they wouldn't," answered Stephen: "leastwise they sha'n't if
I can help it."

Haldane laid her hand on his arm impressively.

"Stephen, you must take her away."

"I'll take her fast enough, if she'll go, Mother; but why?  I reckoned
she was as safe here as she could be anywhere."

"She _was_," said Haldane significantly.  "She won't be, presently.  I
don't tell my secrets: but the Wise Woman knows a thing or two.  You'd
best take her, and waste no time: but it must not be to Oxford.  There's
folks there would know her face."

"Ay, to be sure there are.  Well, Mother, I'll do your bidding.
Where'll she be safest?"

"You'd best be in London.  It's the biggest place.  And when a man wants
to hide, he'll do it better in a large town than a little place, where
every body knows his neighbour's business."

"All right!" said Stephen.  "Ermine!"--and he went up to her--"will you
go with me?"

Ermine lived in an age when it was a most extraordinary occurrence for a
woman to have any power to dispose of herself in marriage, and such a
thing was almost regarded as unnatural and improper.  She held out her
hand to Stephen.

"I will go where the Lord sends me," she said simply.  "Dear Mother
Haldane saved my life, and she has more right to dispose of me than any
one else.  Be it so."

"When folks are wed, they commonly have gifts made them," said Haldane
with a smile.  "I haven't much to give, and you'll think my gift a queer
one: but I wish you'd take it, Ermine.  It's Gib."

"I will take Gib and welcome, and be very thankful to you," answered
Ermine in some surprise.  "But, Mother Haldane, you are leaving yourself
all alone.  I was afraid you would miss me, after all these weeks, and
if you lose Gib too, won't you be lonely?"

"Miss you!" repeated the old woman in a tremulous voice.  "Miss you, my
white bird that flew into my old arms from the cruel storm?  Sha'n't I
miss you?  But it won't be for long.  Ay! when one has kept company with
the angels for a while, one's pretty like to miss them when they fly
back home.  But you'd best take Gib.  The Wise Woman knows why.  Only I
don't tell all my secrets.  And it won't be for long."

Haldane had been laying fresh sticks on the embers while she spoke.  Now
she turned to Stephen.

"She'd best have Gib," she said.  "He's like another creature since she
came.  She'll take care of him.  And you'll take care of her.  I told
you last time you were here as I'd do the best for her, not for you.
But this is the best for both of you.  And maybe the good Lord'll do the
best for me.  Ermine says He's not above keeping a poor old woman
company.  But whatever comes, and whatever you may hear, you bear in
mind that I did my best for you."

"Ay, that I'm sure you've done, Mother," replied Stephen warmly.  "As
for Gib, I'll make him welcome for your sake; he looks rather
comfortable now, so I think he'll get along."

It certainly was not too much to say that Gib was another creature.
That once dilapidated-looking object, under Ermine's fostering care, had
developed into a sleek, civilised, respectable cat; and as he sat on her
lap, purring and blinking at the wood-fire, he suggested no ideas of
discomfort.

"Ay, I've done my best," repeated the old woman with a sigh.  "The Lord
above, He knows I've done it.  You'd best be off with the morning light.
I can't be sure--Well, I mustn't tell my secrets."

Stephen was inclined to be amused with the Wise Woman's reiteration of
this assertion.  What fancy she had taken into her head he could not
guess.  It was some old-womanly whim, he supposed.  If he could have
guessed her reason for thus dismissing them in haste--if he had seen in
the embers what she saw coming nearer and nearer, and now close to her
very door--wild horses would not have carried Stephen away from the
woman who had saved Ermine.

Haldane's bidding was obeyed.  The dawn had scarcely broken on the
following morning, when Stephen and Ermine, with Gib in the arms of the
latter, set forth on their journey to London.  Haldane stood in her
doorway to watch them go.

"Thank God!" she said, when she had entirely lost sight of them.  "Thank
God, my darling is safe!  I can bear anything that comes now.  It is
only what such as me have to look for.  And Ermine said the good Lord
wouldn't fail them that trusted Him.  I'm only a poor ignorant old
woman, and He knows it; but He took the pains to make me, and He'll not
have forgot it; and Ermine says He died for me, and I'm sure He could
never forget that, if He did it.  I've done a many ill things, though
I'm not the black witch they reckon me: no, I've had more laid to my
charge than ever I did; but for all that I'm a sinner, I'm afeared, and
I should be sore afeared to meet what's coming if He wouldn't take my
side.  But Ermine, she said He would, if I trusted myself to Him."

Haldane clasped her withered hands and looked heavenwards.

"Good Lord!" she said, "I'd fain have Thee on my side, and I do trust
Thee.  And if I'm doing it wrong way about, bethink Thee that I'm only a
poor old woman, that never had no chance like, and I mean to do right,
and do put things to rights for me, as Thou wouldst have 'em.  Have a
care of my darling, and see her safe: and see me through what's coming,
if Thou wilt be so good.  Worlds o' worlds, Amen."

That conclusion was Haldane's misty idea of the proper way to end a
prayer [Note 1].  Perhaps the poor petition found its way above the
stars as readily as the choral services that were then being chanted in
the perfumed cathedrals throughout England.

She went in and shut the door.  She did not, as usual, shake her straw
bed and fold up the rug.  A spectator might have thought that she had no
heart for it.  She only kept up the fire; for though summer was near, it
was not over-warm in the crazy hut, and a cold east wind was blowing.
For the whole of the long day she sat beside it, only now and then
rising to look out of the window, and generally returning to her seat
with a muttered exclamation of "Not yet!"  The last time she did this,
she pulled the faded woollen kerchief over her shoulders with a shiver.

"Not yet!  I reckon they'll wait till it's dusk.  Well! all the better:
they'll have more time to get safe away."

The pronouns did not refer to the same persons, but Haldane made no
attempt to specify them.

She sat still after that, nodding at intervals, and she was almost
asleep when the thing that she had feared came upon her.  A low sound,
like and yet unlike the noise of distant thunder, broke upon her ear.
She sat up, wide awake in a moment.

"They're coming!  Good Lord, help me through!  Don't let it be very bad
to bear, and don't let it be long!"

Ten minutes had not passed when the hut was surrounded by a crowd.  An
angry crowd, armed with sticks, pitchforks, or anything that could be
turned into a weapon--an abusive crowd, from whose lips words of hate
and scorn were pouring, mixed with profaner language.

"Pull the witch out!  Stone her! drown her! burn her!" echoed on all
sides.

"Good Lord, don't let them burn me!" said poor old Haldane, inside the
hut.  "I'd rather be drowned, if Thou dost not mind."

Did the good Lord not mind what became of the helpless old creature,
who, in her ignorance and misery, was putting her trust in Him?  It
looked like it, as the mob broke open the frail door, and roughly hauled
out the frailer occupant of the wretched hut.

"Burn her!"  The cry was renewed: and it came from one of the two
persons most prominent in the mob--that handsome girl to whom Haldane
had refused the revenge she coveted upon Brichtiva.

"Nay!" said the other, who was the Bishop's sumner, "that would be
irregular.  Burning's for heretics.  Tie her hands and feet together,
and cast her into the pond: that's the proper way to serve witches."

The rough boys among the crowd, to whom the whole scene was sport--and
though we have become more civilised in some ways as time has passed,
sport has retained much of its original savagery even now--gleefully
tied together Haldane's hands and feet, and carried her, thus secured,
to a large deep pond about a hundred yards from her abode.

This was the authorised test for a witch.  If she sank and was drowned,
she was innocent of the charge of witchcraft; if she swam on the
surface, she was guilty, and liable to the legal penalty for her crime.
Either way, in nine out of ten cases, the end was death: for very few
thought of troubling themselves to save one who proved her innocence
after this fashion.  [Note 2.]

The boys, having thus bound the poor old woman into a ball, lifted her
up, and with a cry of--"One--two--three!" flung her into the pond.  At
that moment a man broke through the ring that had formed outside the
principal actors.

"What are you doing now?  Some sort of mischief you're at, I'll be
bound--you lads are always up to it.  Who are you ducking?  If it's that
cheat Wrangecoke, I'll not meddle, only don't--What, Mother Haldane!
Shame on you!  Colgrim, Walding, Oselach, Amfrid!--shame on you!  What,
_you_, Erenbald, that she healed of that bad leg that laid you up for
three months!  And _you_, Baderun, whose child she brought back
well-nigh from the grave itself!  If you are men, and not demons, come
and help me to free her!"

The speaker did not content himself with words.  He had waded into the
pond, and was feeling his way carefully to the spot where the victim
was.  For Mother Haldane had not struggled nor even protested, but
according to all the unwritten laws relating to witchcraft, had
triumphantly exhibited her innocence by sinking to the bottom like a
stone.  The two spectators whom he had last apostrophised joined him in
a shamefaced manner, one muttering something about his desire to avoid
suspicion of being in league with a witch, and the other that he "didn't
mean no harm:" and among them, amid the more or less discontented
murmurs of those around, they at last dragged out the old woman, untied
the cords, and laid her on the grass.  The life was yet in her; but it
was nearly gone.

"Who's got a sup of anything to bring her to?" demanded her rescuer.
"She's not gone; she opened her eyes then."

The time-honoured remedies for drowning were applied.  The old woman was
set on her head "to let the water run out;" and somebody in the crowd
having produced a flask of wine, an endeavour was made to induce her to
swallow.  Consciousness partially returned, but Haldane did not seem to
recognise any one.

"Don't be feared, Mother," said the man who had saved her.  "I'll look
after you.  Don't you know me?  I am Wigan, son of Egglas the
charcoal-burner, in the wood."

Then Mother Haldane spoke,--slowly, with pauses, and as if in a dream.

"Ay, He looked after me.  Did all--I asked.  He kept them--safe, and--
didn't let it--be long."

She added two words, which some of her hearers said were--"Good night."
A few thought them rather, "Good Lord!"

Nobody understood her meaning.  Only He knew it, who had kept safe the
two beings whom Mother Haldane loved, and had not let the hour of her
trial and suffering be long.

And then, when the words had died away in one last sobbing sigh, Wigan
the son of Egglas stood up from the side of the dead, and spoke to the
gazing and now silent multitude.

"You can go home," he said.  "You've had your revenge.  And what was it
for?  How many of you were there that she had not helped and healed?
Which of you did she ever turn away unhelped, save when the malady was
beyond her power, or when one came to her for aid to do an evil thing?
Men, women, lads! you've repeated the deed of Iscariot this day, for
you've betrayed innocent blood--you have slain your benefactor and
friend.  Go home and ask God and the saints to forgive you--if they ever
can.  How they sit calm above yonder, and stand this world, is more than
I can tell.--Poor, harmless, kindly soul! may God comfort thee in His
blessed Heaven!  And for them that have harried thee, and taken thy
life, and have the black brand of murder on their souls, God pardon them
as He may!"

The crowd dispersed silently and slowly.  Some among them, who had been
more thoughtless than malicious, were already beginning to realise that
Wigan's words were true.  The sumner, however, marched away whistling a
tune.  Then Wigan, with his shamefaced helpers, Erenbald and Baderun,
and a fourth who had come near them as if he too were sorry for the evil
which he had helped to do, inasmuch as he had not stood out to prevent
its being done, lifted the frail light corpse, and bore it a little way
into the wood.  There, in the soft fresh green, they dug a grave, and
laid in it the body of Mother Haldane.

"We'd best lay a cross of witch hazel over her," suggested Baderun.  "If
things was all right with her, it can't do no harm; and if so be--"

"Lay what you like," answered Wigan.  "I don't believe, and never did,
that she was a witch.  What harm did you ever know her do to any one?"

"Nay, but Mildred o' th' Farm, over yonder, told me her black cow
stopped giving milk the night Mother Haldane came up to ask for a sup o'
broth, and she denied it."

"Ay, and Hesela by the Brook--I heard her tell," added Erenbald, "that
her hens, that hadn't laid them six weeks or more, started laying like
mad the day after she'd given the White Witch a gavache.  What call you
that?"

"I call it stuff and nonsense," replied Wigan sturdily, "save that both
of them got what they deserved: and so being, I reckon that God, who
rewards both the righteous and the wicked, had more to do with it than
the White Witch."

"Eh, Wigan, but them's downright wicked words!  You'd never go to say as
God Almighty takes note o' hens, and cows, and such like?"

"Who does, then?  How come we to have any eggs and milk?"

"Why, man, that's natur'."

"I heard a man on Bensington Green, one day last year," answered Wigan,
"talking of such things; and he said that `nature' was only a fool's
word for God.  And said I to myself, That's reason."

Wigan, being one of that very rare class who think for themselves, was
not comprehended by his commissionary tours, had been to this man's
heart as a match to tinder.

"Ay, and he said a deal more too: but it wouldn't be much use telling
you.  There--that's enough.  She'll sleep quiet there.  I'll just go
round by her hut, and see if her cat's there--no need to leave the
creature to starve."

"Eh, Wigan, you'd never take that thing into your house?  It's her
familiar, don't you know?  They always be, them black cats--they're
worse than the witches themselves."

"Specially when they aren't black, like this?  I tell you, she wasn't a
witch; and as to the cat, thou foolish man, it's nought more nor less
than a cat.  I'll take it home to Brichtiva my wife,--she's not so
white-livered as thou."

"Eh, Wigan, you'll be sorry one o' these days!"

"I'm as sorry now as I can be, that I didn't come up sooner: and I don't
look to be sorry for aught else."

Wigan went off to the empty hut.  But all his coaxing calls of "Puss,
puss!" proved vain.  Gib was in Ermine's arms; and Ermine was travelling
towards London in a heavy carrier's waggon, with Stephen on horseback
alongside.  He gave up the search at last, and went home; charging
Brichtiva that if Gib should make a call on her, she was to be careful
to extend to him an amount of hospitality which would induce him to
remain.

But Gib was never seen in the neighbourhood of Bensington again.

"What wonder?" said Erenbald.  "The thing was no cat--it was a foul
fiend; and having been released from the service of its earthly
mistress, had returned as a matter of course to Satan its master."

This conclusion was so patent to every one of his neighbours that nobody
dreamed of questioning it.  Morally speaking, there is no blindness so
hopelessly incurable as that of the man who is determined to keep his
eyes shut.  Only the Great Physician can heal such a case as this, and
He has often to do it by painful means.

"Christ save you!" said Isel, coming into the anchorhold one evening, a
fortnight after Stephen's disappearance.  "Well, you do look quiet and
peaceful for sure! and I'm that tired!--"

"Mother, I am afraid you miss me sadly," responded Derette, almost
self-reproachfully.

"I'm pleased enough to think you're out of it, child.  Miss you?  Well,
I suppose I do; but I haven't scarce time to think what I miss.  There's
one thing I'd miss with very great willingness, I can tell you, and
that's that horrid tease, Anania.  She's been at me now every day this
week, and she will make me tell her where Stephen is, and what he's gone
after,--and that broom knows as much as I do.  She grinds the life out
of me, pretty nigh: and what am I to do?"

Derette smiled sympathetically.  Leuesa said--

"It does seem strange he should stay so long away."

"Anania will have it he is never coming again."

"I dare say she is right there," said Derette suddenly.

"Saints alive! what dost thou mean, child?  Never coming again?"

"I shouldn't wonder," said Derette quietly.

"Well, I should.  I should wonder more than a little, I can tell you.
Whatever gives you that fancy, child?"

"I have it, Mother; why I cannot tell you."

"I hope you are not a prophetess!"

"I don't think I am," said Derette with a smile.

"I think Ermine was a bit of one, poor soul!  She seemed to have some
notion what was coming to her.  Eh, Derette!  I'd give my best gown to
know those poor things were out of Purgatory.  Father Dolfin says we
shouldn't pray for them: but I do--I can't help it.  If I were a priest,
I'd say mass for them every day I lived--ay, I would!  I never could
understand why we must not pray for heretics.  Seems to me, the more
wrong they've gone, the more they want praying for.  Not that _they_
went far wrong--I'll not believe it.  Derette, dost thou ever pray for
the poor souls?"

"Ay, Mother: every one of them."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it.  And as to them that ill-used them, let them
look to themselves.  Maybe they'll not find themselves at last in such a
comfortable place as they look for.  The good Lord may think that
cruelty to Christian blood [Note 3]--and they were Christian blood, no
man can deny--isn't so very much better than heresy after all.  Hope he
does."

"I remember Gerard's saying," replied Derette, "that all the heresies in
the world were only men's perversions of God's truths: and that if men
would but keep close to Holy Scripture, there would be no heresies."

"Well, it sounds like reason, doesn't it?" answered Isel with a sigh.

"But I remember his saying also," pursued Derette, "that where one man
followed reason and Scripture, ten listened to other men's voices, and
ten more to their own fancies."

Dusk was approaching on the following day, when a rap came on the door
of the anchorhold, and a voice said--

"Leuesa, pray you, ask my cousin to come to the casement a moment."

"Stephen!" cried Derette, hurrying to her little window when she heard
his voice.  "So you have come back!"

"Shall I go now, Lady, for the fresh fish?" asked Leuesa, very
conveniently for Stephen, who wondered if she good-naturedly guessed
that he had a private communication to make.

"Do," said Derette, giving her three silver pennies.

As soon as Leuesa was out of hearing, Stephen said--"I am only here for
a few hours, Derette, and nobody knows it save my Lord, you, and my
brother.  I have obtained my discharge, and return to London with the
dawn."

"Are you not meaning to come back, Stephen?  Folks are saying that."

"Folks are saying truth.  I shall live in London henceforth.  But
remember, Derette, that is a secret."

"I shall not utter it, Stephen.  Truly, I wish you all happiness, but I
cannot help being sorry."

There were tears in Derette's eyes.  Stephen had ever been more
brotherly to her than her own brothers.  It was Stephen who had begged
her off from many a punishment, had helped her over many a difficulty,
had made her rush baskets and wooden boats, and had always had a
sweetmeat in his pocket for her in childhood.  She was grieved to think
of losing him.

"You may well wish me happiness in my honeymoon," he said, laughingly.

"Are you married?  Why, when--O Stephen, Stephen! is it Ermine?"

"You are a first-rate guesser, little one.  Yes, I have Ermine safe; and
I will keep her so, God helping me."

"I am so glad, Steenie!" said Derette, falling into the use of the old
pet name, generally laid aside now.  "Tell Ermine I am so glad to hear
that, and so sorry to lose you both: but I will pray God and the saints
to bless you as long as I live, and that will be better for you than our
meeting, though it will not be the same thing to me."

"`So glad, and so sorry!'  It seems to me, Cousin, that's no inapt
picture of life.  God keep thee!--to the day when--Ermine says--it will
be all `glad' and no `sorry.'"

"Ay, we shall meet one day.  Farewell!"

The days passed, and no more was seen or heard of Stephen in Oxford.
What had become of him was not known at the Walnut Tree, until one
evening when Osbert looked in about supper-time, and was invited to stay
for the meal, with the three of whom the family now consisted--Manning,
Isel, and Haimet.  As Isel set on the table a platter of little pies,
she said--

"There, that's what poor Stephen used to like so well.  Maybe you'll
fancy them too, Osbert."

"Why do you call him poor Stephen?" questioned Osbert, as he
appropriated a pie.  "He is not particularly poor, so far as I know."

"Well, we've lost him like," said Isel, with a sigh.  "When folks vanish
out of your sight like snow in a thaw, one cannot help feeling sorry."

"Oh, I'm sorry for myself, more ways than one: but not so much for
Stephen."

"Why, Osbert, do you know where he is, and what he's doing?"

"Will you promise not to let on to Anania, if I tell you?"

"Never a word that I can help, trust me."

"Her knowing matters nought, except that she'll never let me be if she
thinks I have half a notion about it.  Well, he's gone south somewhere--
I don't justly know where, but I have a guess of London way."

"What for?"

"Dare say he had more reasons than he gave me.  He told me he was going
to be married."

"Dear saints!--who to?"

"Didn't ask him."

Isel sat looking at Osbert in astonishment, with a piece of pie
transfixed on the end of her knife.

"You see, if I did not know, I shouldn't get so much bothered with folks
asking me questions: so I thought I'd let it be."

That Osbert's "folks" might more properly be read "Anania," Isel knew
full well.

"Saints love us!--but I would have got to know who was my sister-in-law,
if I'd been in your place."

"To tell the truth, Aunt, I don't care, so long as she is a decent woman
who will make Stephen comfortable; and I think he's old enough to look
out for himself."

"But don't you know even what he was going to do?--seek another watch,
or go into service, or take to trade, or what?"

"I don't know a word outside what I have just told you.  Oh, he'll be
all right!  Stephen has nine lives, like a cat.  He always falls on his
feet."

"But it don't seem natural like!"

Osbert laughed.  "I suppose it is natural to a woman to have more
curiosity than a man.  I never had much of that stuff.  Anania's got
enough for both."

"Well, I'm free to confess she has.  Osbert, how do you manage her?  I
can't."

"Let her alone as long as I can, and take the mop to her when I can't,"
was the answer.

"I should think the mop isn't often out of your hand," observed Haimet
with painful candour.

"It wears out by times," returned Osbert drily.

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

Note 1.  "Into the worlds of worlds" is the Primer's translation of "_in
saecula saeculorum_."

Note 2.  That witchcraft is no fable, but a real sin, which men have
committed in past times, and may commit again, is certain from Holy
Scripture.  But undoubtedly, in the Middle Ages, numbers of persons
suffered under accusation of this crime who were entirely innocent: and
the so-called "white witches" were in reality mere herbalists and
dealers in foolish but harmless charms, often consisting in a kind of
nursery rhyme and a few Biblical words.

Note 3.  The wrong of cruelty to men and women, as such, whether they
were Christians or not, had not dawned on men's minds in the twelfth
century, nor did it till the Reformation.  But much pity was often
expressed for the sufferings of "Christian blood," and a very few
persons had some compassion for animals.



CHAPTER TEN.

BARRIERS IN THE WAY.

  "Christ is my readiness: who lives in Him
  Can scarcely be unready."

  S.W. Partridge.

A little way out of Dorchester, surrounded by pollard willow trees, and
on a narrow slip of ground which sloped down towards the river, stood a
tiny mud hut, the inhabitants of which lived in great misery even for
that time.  One small chamber, with a smaller lean-to, constituted the
whole dwelling.  As to furniture, a modern eye, glancing round, would
have said there was none.  There was a bundle of rags, covering a heap
of straw, in one corner; and in another was a broken bench, which with a
little contrivance might have seated three persons of accommodating
tempers.  A hole in the roof let out the smoke--when it chose to go; and
let in the rain and snow, which generally chose to come.  On a niche in
the wall stood a single pan, an axe, and a battered tin bowl, which
comprised all the family riches.  The axe was the tool which obtained
bread--and very little of it; the pan did all the cooking; the bowl
served for pail, jug, and drinking-vessel.  An iron socket let into the
wall held a piece of half-burnt pinewood, which was lamp and candle to
the whole house.  A handful of chips of wood, branches, and dried
leaves, in one corner, represented the fuel; and a heap of snow
underneath the hole showed that its influence was not potent.

On the heap of rags, five persons were lying, huddled close together for
warmth's sake--father, mother, and three children.  How had they come
into such a condition as this?  Ah, they had not always lived thus.
Only a few years ago, this man had been a prosperous silversmith at
Reading; his wife had been well dressed, his children well fed, his
acquaintance large, and himself generally respected.  How had it come
about that they were now in this pitiable condition?  Had the man been
idle and neglectful of his business?  By no means; he had been diligent
and hard-working.  Was he a drunken profligate?  Not at all; he was, for
the age, unusually sober.  Had he committed some terrible crime which
had brought him to ruin?

The only true answer seems scarcely possible: and yet the only answer
possible is awfully true.  The man was born a Jew, and had become a
Christian.  It was only natural that this should turn the Jewish
community against him; and all his acquaintances deserted him as a
matter of course.  But surely this very fact should have made the
Christian community more friendly and helpful!  Alas, the Christian
community, in bondage to the iron yoke of Rome, hated him more as a Jew
than they welcomed him as a Christian.  Rome has always been the hater
and opponent of Israel.  The law of England at that time was actually
this: that if a Jew became converted to Christianity, he forfeited
everything he possessed to the Crown, and had to begin the world again.
This had been the lot of poor David ben Mossi, and his wife Ruth, whose
conversion had taken place under Gerhardt's preaching.  They were too
honest to hide the change in their convictions, though to reveal it
meant worldly ruin.  They applied for baptism, and by so doing literally
gave up all for Christ--home, goods, gain, and occupation, not to speak
of friends.  David obtained work as a woodcutter, which brought them in
just enough to keep life in them and rags about them; and he built with
his own hands, aided by his faithful Ruth, the mud hovel, wherein they
found the only shelter that this cold world had for them.  They had left
Reading, preferring solitude to averted looks and abusive tongues; and
not a creature in Dorchester came near them.  Alike as Jews and as poor
people, they were not worth cultivating.

David had retained his name, being one used also by Christians; but Ruth
had been required to change hers.  She had chosen the name of Christian,
as the most truthful and expressive that she could take.

"And I like to feel," she said to David, "that I have something of our
blessed Lord in my name."

"Let us keep Him in our hearts, Wife," was the answer: "then it will not
much matter whether or no we have Him any where else."

It was bitterly cold in the hovel that snowy night.  The children had
cried themselves to sleep, and the parents felt as if they could easily
have done the same.  The lights were out at Dorchester, and all nature
had settled down to rest, when Christian, who could not sleep for the
cold, fancied she heard a voice outside the hut.

"David!" it seemed to say.

But the voice, if voice there were, was faint, and Christian did not
like to rouse the husband who had lost his suffering in sleep, for what
might have been a mere fancy.  The voice spoke again.

"Ruth!" it said this time.

Christian hesitated no longer.

"David!  There is one without, calling on us.  And it must be one we
knew of old, for it calls me by my old name.  Pray thee, get up, and let
the poor soul in; 'tis not a night for a dog to tarry without, never
speak of a human creature, who must be in some trouble."

David sat up and listened.

"I hear nothing, Wife.  I think thou must have been dreaming."

"Nay, I have been wide awake this hour gone.  I am sure some one spoke."

"I think it's fancy, Christian.  However--"

"There's no harm in making sure."

"There's the harm of letting in a lot of snow," said David, not suiting
the action to the word, for he had risen and was pulling on his hose.
They required careful pulling, as they were so nearly in pieces that
very little rough handling would have damaged them past repair.  He was
fastening the last clasp when the voice spoke again.  It was nearer now,
close at the door, and it was low and trembling, as if the applicant had
hard work to speak at all.

"For the love of the Crucified," it said, "take in a Christian child!"

David's response was to open the door instantly.

Something at once staggered in, and sank down on the bench:--something
which looked at first sight more like a statue of white marble than a
human being, so thick lay the snow over the wrappers which enfolded it.
But when David had succeeded in unfolding the wrappers, and brushing off
the snow, they discovered that their visitor was a woman, and that in
her arms a child lay clasped, either dead or sleeping.

The moment that Christian perceived so much as this, she hastily rose,
throwing her poor mantle over her, and drew near to the stranger.

"Poor soul, you're heartily welcome," she said, "whoever you are.  We
have little beside a roof to offer you, for we have scarcely food or
raiment ourselves, nor money to buy either; but such as we have we will
give you with all our hearts."

"May the Blessed bless you!" was the faint answer.  "Don't you know me,
Ruth?"

"Know you!"  Christian studied the face of her unexpected guest.  "Nay,
I do almost believe--Countess!  Is it you?"

"Ay."

"Whatever has brought you to this?  The richest Jewess in Reading!  Have
you, too, become a Christian like us?"

Countess did not give a direct answer to that direct question.

"I am not poor now," she said.  "I can find you money for food for us
all, if you will suffer me to stay here till the storm has abated, and
the roads can be travelled again."

"That won't be this s'ennight," interjected David.

"But how--what?" queried Christian helplessly.

"This brought me," said Countess, touching the child.  "I was under vow
to save him.  And--well, I could not do it otherwise."

"Is he alive?" asked Christian pityingly.

"Yes, only very fast asleep.  Lay him down with your little ones, and
wrap this coverlet over them all, which has sheltered us in our
journey."

It was a down coverlet of rich damask silk.  Christian's fingers touched
it as with a feeling of strangeness, and yet familiarity--as a handling
of something long unfelt, but well-known years ago.

"I have nothing to offer you save a crust of barley bread," she said
hesitatingly.  "I am sorry for it, but it is really all I have."

"Then," said Countess with a smile, "play the widow of Zarephath.  Give
me thy `little cake,' and when the light dawns, you shall have a new
cruse and barrel in reward."

"Nay, we look for no reward," answered Christian heartily.  "I am only
grieved that it should be so little.  You are spent with your journey."

"I am most spent with the weight.  I had to carry the child, and this,"
she replied, touching a large square parcel, tied in a silk handkerchief
round her waist.  "It is the child's property--all he has in the world.
May the Blessed One be praised that I have saved them both!"

"`To them that have no might, He increaseth strength,'" quoted Christian
softly.  "Then--is not this your child?"

"Yes--now."

"But not--?"

"By gift, not by birth.  And it is the Holy One who has given him.  Now,
good friends, let me not keep you from sleeping.  Perhaps I shall sleep
myself.  We will talk more in the morning."

It was evident when the morning arrived, that the saved child had
suffered less than she who had saved him.  Both needed care,
nourishment, and rest; but Countess wanted it far more than Rudolph.  A
few days sufficed to restore him to his usual lively good health; but it
was weeks ere she recovered the physical strain and mental suffering of
that terrible night.  But Countess was one of those people who never
either "give in" or "give up."  Before any one but herself thought her
half fit for it, she went out, not mentioning her destination, on an
expedition which occupied the greater part of a day, and returned at
night with a satisfied expression on her face.

"I have settled every thing," she said.  "And now I will tell you
something.  Perhaps you were puzzled to know why I sought shelter with
you, instead of going to some of my wealthy acquaintances in the town?"

"I was, very much," answered Christian hesitatingly.

"I supposed you had some reason for it," said David.

"Right.  I had a reason--a strong one.  That I shall not tell you at
present.  But I will tell you what perhaps you have already guessed--
that I have been divorced from Leo."

"Well, I fancied you must have had a quarrel with him, or something of
that kind," replied Christian.

"Oh, we are on excellent terms," said Countess in a rather sarcastic
tone.  "So excellent, that he even proposed himself to lend me an escort
of armed retainers to convey me to London."

"To London!" exclaimed Christian, in some surprise.  "I thought you
would be going back to your father's house at Oxford."

"Oh, no!--that would not do at all.  I did think of it for a moment; not
now.  London will be much better."

"May I take the liberty to ask how you mean to live?" said David.  "Of
course it is no business of mine, but--"

"Go on," said Countess, when he hesitated.

"Well, I don't quite see what you can do, without either husband or
father.  Perhaps your brother Rubi is coming with you?  You can't live
alone, surely."

"I could, and get along very well, too; but I suppose one must not defy
the world, foolish thing as it is.  No, my brother Rubi is not coming,
and I don't want him either.  But I want you--David and Ruth."

David and Ruth--as Countess persisted in calling her--looked at each
other in surprise and perplexity.

"You can take a week to think about it," resumed Countess, in her
coolest manner, which was very cool indeed.  "I shall not set forth
until the Sabbath is over.  But I do not suppose you are so deeply in
love with this hovel that you could not bring yourselves to leave it
behind."

"What do you mean us to do or be?"

"I intend to set up a silversmith's and jeweller's shop, and I mean
David to be the silversmith, and to train Rudolph to the business."

This sounded practical.  David's heart leaped within him, at the thought
of returning to his old status and occupation.

"I could do that," he said, with a gleam in his eyes.

"I know you could," replied Countess.

"And _I_?" suggested Christian wistfully.

"You may see to the house, and keep the children out of mischief.  We
shall want some cooking and cleaning, I suppose; and I hate it."

"Do you take no servants with you?" asked Christian, in an astonished
tone.  For a rich lady like Countess to travel without a full
establishment, both of servants and furniture, was amazing to her.

"I take the child with me," said Countess.

Christian wondered why the one should hinder the other; but she said no
more.

"But--" David began, and stopped.

"I would rather hear all the objections before I set forth," responded
Countess calmly.

"Countess, you must clearly understand that we cannot deny our faith."

"Who asked you to do so?"

"Nor can we hide it."

"That is your own affair.  Do Christians clean silver worse than Jews?"

"They should not, if they are real Christians and not mere pretenders."

"Shams--I hate shams.  Don't be a sham anything.  Please yourself
whether you are a Jew or a Christian, but for goodness' sake don't be a
sham."

"I hope I am not that," said David.  "If you are content with us,
Countess, my wife and I will be only too happy to go with you.  The
children--"

"Oh, you don't fancy leaving them behind?  Very well--they can play with
Rudolph, and pull the cat's tail."

"I shall whip them if they do," said Christian, referring not to
Rudolph, but to the cat.

"Countess, do you mean to cut yourself off from all your friends?" asked
David, with a mixed feeling of perplexity and pity.  "I cannot
understand why you should do so."

"`Friends!'" she replied, with an indescribable intonation.  "I fancy I
shall take them all with me.  Do as I bid thee, David, and trouble not
thyself to understand me."

David felt silenced, and asked no more questions.

"Rudolph must have an English name," said Countess abruptly.  "Let him
be called Ralph henceforth.  That is the English version of his own
name, and he will soon grow accustomed to it."

"What is he to call you?" asked Christian.

"What he pleases," was the answer.

What it pleased Rudolph to do was to copy the other children, and say
"Mother;" but he applied the term impartially alike to Countess and to
Christian, till the latter took him aside, and suggested that it would
be more convenient if he were to restrict the term to one of them.

"You see," she said, "if you call us both by one name, we shall never
know which of us you mean."

"Oh, it does not matter," answered Master Rudolph with imperial
unconcern.  "Either of you could button me up and tie my shoes.  But if
you like, I'll call you Christie."

"I think it would be better if you did," responded Christian with
praiseworthy gravity.

From the time that this matter was settled until the journey was fairly
begun, Countess showed an amount of impatience and uneasiness which it
sometimes took all Christian's meekness to bear.  She spent the whole
day, while the light lasted, at the little lattice, silently studying a
large square volume, which she carefully wrapped every evening in silk
brocade, and then in a woollen handkerchief, placing it under the pillow
on which she slept, and which had come from Leo's house for her use.
Beyond that one day's expedition, she never quitted the hut till they
left Dorchester.  Of the hardships inseparable from her temporary
position she did not once complain; all her impatience was connected
with some inner uncertainty or apprehension which she did not choose to
reveal.  Rudolph looked far more disdainfully than she on the rye-crusts
and ragged garments of his companions.

At last, on the Sunday morning--for nobody dreamed in those days of not
travelling on Sunday after mass--a small party of armed servants arrived
at the hut, leading three palfreys and four baggage-mules, beside their
own horses.  Three of the mules were already loaded.  Countess issued
her orders, having evidently considered and settled every thing
beforehand.  Christian was to ride one palfrey, Countess the other, and
David the third, with Rudolph in front of him.  His children were to be
disposed of, in panniers, on the back of the unloaded mule, with a lad
of about fifteen years, who was one of the escort, behind them.

"Hast thou found us any convoy, Josce?" asked Countess of the man who
took direction of the escort.

Josce doffed his cap to answer his mistress, to whom he showed
considerable deference.

"Deuslesalt journeys to-day as far as Wallingford," he said, "and Simeon
the usurer, who has a strong guard, will go thence to-morrow to
Windsor."

"Good.  Set forth!" said Countess.

So they set out from the mud hovel.  The snow was still deep in many
parts, but it had been trodden down in the well-worn tracks, such as was
the high road from Oxford to London.  Countess rode first of the party,
ordering David to ride beside her; Christian came next, by the mule
which bore her children; the armed escort was behind.  A mile away from
the hut they joined the imposing retinue of Deuslesalt, who was a
wealthy silk-merchant, and in their company the journey to Wallingford
was accomplished.  There Countess and Rudolph found shelter with
Deuslesalt in the house of a rich Jew, while David, Christian, and the
children were received as travellers in a neighbouring hospital; for an
hospital, in those days, was not necessarily a place where the sick were
treated, but was more of the nature of a large almshouse, where all the
inmates lived and fared in common.

On the second day they joined the usurer's party, which was larger and
stronger than that of the silk-merchant.  At Windsor they found an inn
where they were all lodged; and the following day they entered London.
It now appeared that Countess had in some mysterious manner made
preparation for her coming; for they rode straight to a small house at
the corner of Mark Lane, which they found plainly but comfortably
furnished to receive them.  Countess paid liberally and dismissed her
escort, bade David unpack the goods she had brought, and dispose of the
jewels in the strong safes built into the walls, desired Christian to
let her know if anything necessary for the house were not provided, and
established herself comfortably at the window with her big book, and
Rudolph on a hassock at her feet.

"David!" she said, looking up, when the unpacking was about half done.

David touched his forelock in answer.

"I wish thou wouldst buy a dog and cat."

"Both?" demanded David, rather surprised.  "They will fight."

"Oh, the cat is for the children," said Countess coolly; "I don't want
one.  But let the dog be the biggest thou canst get."

"I think I'd have the dog by himself," said David.  "The children will
be quite as well pleased.  And if you want a big one, he is pretty sure
to be good-tempered."

So David and Rudolph went to buy a dog, and returned with an amiable
shaggy monster quite as tall as the latter--white and tan, with a smile
upon his lips, and a fine feathery tail, which little Helwis fell at
once to stroking.  This eligible member of the family received the name
of Olaf, and was clearly made to understand that he must tolerate
anything from the children, and nothing from a burglar.

Things were settling down, and custom already beginning to come into the
little shop, when one evening, as they sat round the fire, Countess
surprised David with a question--

"David, what did the priest to thee when thou wert baptised?"

David looked up in some astonishment.

"Why, he baptised me," said he simply.

"I want to know all he did," said Countess.

"Don't think I could tell you if I tried.  He put some oil on me, and
some spittle,--and water, of course,--and said ever so many prayers."

"What did he say in his prayers?"

"Eh, how can I tell you?  They were all in Latin."

"The Lord does not speak French or English, then?" demanded Countess
satirically.

"Well!" said David, scratching his head, "when you put it that way--"

"I don't see what other way to put it.  But I thought they baptised with
water?"

"Oh, yes, the real baptism is with water."

"Then what is the good of the unreal baptism, with oil and other
rubbish?"

"I cry you mercy, but you must needs ask the priest.  I'm only an
ignorant man."

"Dost thou think he knows?"

"The priest?  Oh, of course."

"I should like to be as sure as thou art.  Can any body baptise?--or
must it be done by a priest only?"

"Oh, only--well--" David corrected himself.  "Of course the proper
person is a priest.  But in case of necessity, it can be done by a
layman.  A woman, even, may do it, if a child be in danger of death.
But then, there is no exorcism nor anointing; only just the baptising
with water."

"I should have thought that was all there need be, at any time."

With that remark Countess dropped the subject.  But a few days later she
resumed the catechising, though this time she chose Christian as her
informant.

"What do Christians mean by baptism?"

Christian paused a moment.  She had not hitherto reflected on the
esoteric meaning of the ceremony to which she had been ordered to submit
as the introductory rite of her new religion.

"I suppose," she said slowly, "it must mean--confession."

"Confession of what?" inquired Countess.

"Of our faith in the Lord Jesus," replied Christian boldly.

To Christian's surprise, Countess made no scornful answer.  She sat in
silence, looking from the window with eyes that saw neither the knight
who was riding past, nor the fish-woman selling salt cod to the opposite
neighbour.

"Can faith not exist without confession?" she said in a low tone.

"Would it not be poor faith?"

"Why?" demanded Countess, drawing her brows together, and in a tone that
was almost fierce.

"I should think there would be no love in it.  And faith which had no
love in it would be a very mean, shabby, worthless sort of faith."

"I don't see that," said Countess stubbornly.  "I believe that this book
is lying on the window-seat.  Can't I do that without loving either the
window-seat or the book?"

"Ah, yes, when you only believe things.  But the faith which is shown in
baptism is not believing a fact; it is trusting yourself, body and soul,
with a Person."

"That makes a difference, I dare say," replied Countess, and relapsed
into silence.

A week later she came into the shop, where David was busy polishing up
the ornaments in stock.

"David," she said abruptly, "what does a Christian do when he is
completely perplexed, and cannot tell how to act?"

"Well, I don't exactly know," said David, looking perplexed himself.
"Never was like that, so far as I know.  Leastwise--No, I couldn't just
say I ever have been."

"O happy man!  Some Christians are, sometimes, I suppose?"

"I should think so.  I don't know."

"What wouldst thou do, then, if thou wert in a slough from which thou
sawest not the way out?"

"Why, I think--I should pray the Lord to show me the way out.  I don't
see what else I could do."

"And if no answer came?"

"Then I should be a bit afraid it meant that I'd walked in myself, and
hadn't heeded His warnings.  Sometimes, I think, when folks do that, He
leaves them to flounder awhile before He helps them out."

"That won't do this time."

"Well, if that's not it, then maybe it would be because I wanted to get
out on my own side, and wouldn't see His hand held out on the other.
The Lord helps you out in His way, not yours: and that often means, up
the steeper-looking bank of the two."

Countess was silent.  David applied himself to bending the pin of a
brooch, which he thought rather too straight.

"Is it ever right to do wrong?" she said suddenly.

"Why, no!--how could it be?" answered David, looking up.

"You put me deeper in the slough, every word you say.  I will go no
further to-day."

And she turned and walked away.

"Christie," said David to his wife that evening, "thou and I must pray
for our mistress."

"Why, what's the matter with her?"

"I don't know.  She's in some trouble; and I think it is not a little
trouble.  Unless I mistake, it is trouble of a weary, wearing sort, that
she goes round and round in, and can't see the way out."

"But what are we to ask for, if we know nothing?"

"Dear heart! ask the Lord to put it right.  He knows the way out; He
does not want us to tell Him."

A fortnight elapsed before any further conversation took place.  At the
end of that time Ash Wednesday came, and David and Christian went to
church as usual.  The service was half over, when, to their unspeakable
astonishment, they perceived Countess standing at the western door,
watching every item of the ceremonies, with an expression on her face
which was half eager, half displeased, but wholly disturbed and wearied.
She seemed desirous to avoid being seen, and slipped out the instant
the mass was over.

"Whatever brought her there?" asked Christian.

David shook his head.

"I expect it was either the Lord or the Devil," he said.  "Let us ask
Him more earnestly to bring her out of the slough on the right side."

"Did you see me in All Hallows this morning?" asked Countess abruptly,
as they sat beside the fire that night.  The children were in bed, and
Olaf lying on the hearth.

"Ay, I did," replied Christian; and her tone added--"to my surprise."

"What are those things for there?"

"What things?"

"A number of dolls, all painted and gilt."

"Do you mean the holy images?"

"I mean the images.  I don't believe in the holiness."

"They are images of the blessed saints."

"What are they for?" demanded Countess, knitting her brows.

"The priest says they are to remind us, and are helps to prayer."

"To whose prayers?" said Countess disdainfully.  "No woman in England
prays more regularly than I; but I never wanted such rubbish as that to
help me."

"Oh, they don't help me," said David.  "I never pay any attention to
them; I just pray straight up."

"I don't understand praying to God in the House of Baal.  `Thou shalt
not make unto thee any graven image.'"

"But they say the Church has loosed that command now.  And of course we
can't set ourselves up above the Church."

"What on earth do you mean?  Art thou God, to kill and to make alive,
that thou shouldst style the keeping of His command `setting one's self
above the Church?'  The Church shall never guide me, if she speak
contrary to God."

"But how can she, when God inspires her?"

"There is another question I want settled first.  How can I believe that
God inspires her, when I see that she contradicts His distinct
commands?"

"I suppose the priest would say that was very wicked."

"What do I care for that popinjay?  How did _you_ get over it?  Had you
no sensation of horror, when you were required to bow down to those
stocks and stones?"

"Well, no," said Christian, speaking very slowly.  "I believed what
Gerard had taught us, and--"

"When did Gerhardt ever teach you that rubbish?"

"He never did," answered David.  "The priests taught us that.  And I did
find it main hard to swallow at first."

"Ah!  I'm afraid I shall find it too hard to swallow at last.  But there
is nothing of all that in this book."

"I know nought about books.  But of course the Church must know the
truth," responded David uneasily.

"This is the truth," answered Countess, laying her hand upon the book.
"But if this be, that is not.  David--Ruth--I believe as you do in Jesus
Christ of Nazareth: but I believe in no gilded images nor priestly lies.
I shall take my religion from His words, not from them.  I should like
to be baptised, if it mean to confess Him before men; but if it only
mean to swallow the priests' fables, and to kneel before gods that
cannot hear nor save, I will have none of it.  As the Lord liveth,
before whom I stand, I will never bow down to the work of men's hands!"

She had risen and stood before them, a grand figure, with hands clenched
and eyes on fire.  Christian shrank as if alarmed.  David spoke in a
regretful tone.

"Well!  I thought that way myself for a while.  But they said.  I
couldn't be a Christian if I did not go to church, and attend the holy
mass.  The Church had the truth, and God had given it to her: so I
thought I might be mistaken, and I gave in.  I've wondered sometimes
whether I did right."

"If that be what baptism means--to put my soul into the hands of that
thing they call the Church, and let it mould me like wax--to defile
myself with all the idols and all the follies that I see there--I will
not be baptised.  I will believe without it.  And if He ask me at the
Day of Doom why I did not obey His command given in Galilee, I shall
say, `Lord, I could not do it without disobeying Thy first command,
given amid the thunders of Sinai.'  If men drive me to do thus, it will
not be my sin, but theirs."

"Well, I don't know!" answered David, in evident perplexity.  "I suppose
you _could_ be baptised, with nothing more--but I don't know any priest
that would do it."

"Would you do it?"

"Oh, I daren't!"

"David, your religion is very queer."

"What's the matter?" asked David in astonishment.

"The other day, when I told you I was in a great slough, you did not
advise me to go and ask those gaudy images to help me out of it; you
spoke of nobody but the Lord.  Now that we come to talk about images,
you flounder about as if you did not know what to say."

"Well, don't you see, I know one o' them two, but I've only been told
the other."

"Oh yes, I see.  You are not the first who has had one religion for
sunshiny weather, and another for rainy days; only that with you--
different from most people--you wear your best robe in the storm."

David rubbed his face upon the sleeve of his jacket, as if he wished to
rub some more discrimination into his brains.

"Nay, I don't know--I hope you've no call to say that."

"I usually say what I think.  But there's no need to fret; you've time
to mend."

Both the women noticed that for a few days after that, David was very
silent and thoughtful.  When the Sunday came he excused himself from
going to church, much to the surprise and perplexity of his wife.  The
day after he asks for a holiday, and did not return till late at night.

As they sat round the fire on the following evening, David said
suddenly,--"I think I've found it out."

"What?" asked his mistress.

"Your puzzle--and my own too."

"Let me have the key, by all means, if you possess it."

"Well, I have been to see the hermit of Holywell.  They say he is the
holiest man within reach of London, go what way you will.  And he has
read me a bit out of a book that seems to settle the matter.  At least I
thought so.  Maybe you mightn't see it so easy."

"It takes more than fair words to convince me.  However, let me hear
what it is.  What was the book?  I should like to know that first."

"He said it was an epistle written by Paul the Apostle to somebody--I
can't just remember whom."

"Who was he?"

"Why, he was one of the saints, wasn't he?"

"I don't know.  There's no mention of him in my book."

David looked like a man stopped unexpectedly in rapid career.  "You
always want to know so much about every thing!" he said, rubbing his
face on his sleeve, as he had a habit of doing when puzzled.  "Now I
never thought to ask that."

"But before I can act on a message from my superior, I must surely
satisfy myself as to the credentials of the messenger.  However, let us
hear the message.  Perhaps that may tell us something.  Some things bear
on their faces the evidence of what they are--still more of what they
are not."

"Well, what he read was this: `If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the
Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him
from the dead, thou shalt be saved.'  And `Look you,' saith he, `there
isn't a word here of any body else.'  `If thou shalt confess' Him--not
the saints, nor the images, nor the Church, nor the priest.  `Baptism,'
saith he, `is confessing Him.'  Then he turned over some leaves, and
read a bit from another place, how our Lord said, `Come unto Me, all
ye--'"

Countess's eyes lighted up suddenly.  "That's in my book.  `All ye that
travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.'"

"That's it.  And says he, `He does not say, "Come to the Church or the
priest," but "Come to Me."' `Well,' says I, `but how can you do one
without the other?'  `You may come to the priest easy enough, and never
come to Christ,' saith he, `so it's like to be as easy to come to Christ
without the priest.'  `Well, but,' says I, `priests doesn't say so.'
`No,' says he; `they don't'--quite short like.  `But for all I can see
in this book,' says he, `He does.'"

"Go on!" said Countess eagerly, when David paused.

"Well, then--I hope you'll excuse me if I said more than I should--says
I to him, `Now look here, Father: suppose you had somebody coming to you
for advice, that had been a Jew like me, and was ready to believe in our
Lord, but could not put up with images and such, would you turn him away
because he could not believe enough, or would you baptise him?'  `I
would baptise him,' saith he.  Then he turns over the book again, and
reads: `"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
That is what the Apostles said to one man,' says he: `and if it was
enough then, it is enough now.'  `But, Father,' says I, `that sounds
rather as if you thought the Church might go wrong, or had gone wrong,
in putting all these things beside our Lord.'  `My son,' saith he, `what
meanest thou by the Church?  The Holy Ghost cannot teach error.  Men in
the Church may go wrong, and are continually wandering into error.  What
said our Lord to the rulers of the Jews, who were the priests of His
day?  "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures."  This book is truth: when
men leave this book,' saith he, `they go astray.'  `But not holy
Church?' said I.  `Ah,' saith he, `the elect may stray from the fold;
how much more they that are strangers there?  The only safe place for
any one of us,' he says, `is to keep close to the side of the Good
Shepherd.'"

"David, where dwells that hermit?"

"By the holy well, away on the Stronde, west of Lud Gate.  Any body you
meet on that road will tell you where to find him.  His hut stands a bit
back from the high way, on the north."

"Very good.  I'll find him."

The next day, until nearly the hour of curfew, nothing was seen of
Countess.  She took Olaf with her as guard, and they returned at the
last moment, just in time to enter the City before the gates were
closed.  David and Christian had finished their work, shut up the shop,
and put the children to bed, when Olaf made his stately entrance, with
his mistress behind him.

"Thy old hermit," she said, addressing David, "is the first decent
Christian I have found--the first that goes by his Master's words, and
does not worry me with nonsense."

She drew off her hood, and sat down in the chimney-corner.

"You found him then?" answered David.  "Had you much trouble?"

"I found him.  Never mind the trouble."

"Has he settled the puzzle for you, then?"

"I think I settled it for him."

"I ask your pardon, but I don't understand you."

"I don't suppose you do."

"Countess," said Christian, coming down the ladder, "I bought the
herrings as you bade me; but there is no salt salmon in the market
to-day."

"To whom are you speaking?" inquired Countess, with an expression of fun
about the corners of her lips.

"You," replied Christian in surprise.

"Then, perhaps you will have the goodness to call me by my Christian
name, which is Sarah."

"O Countess! have you been baptised?"

"I have."

"By the hermit?"

"By the hermit."

"But how?"

"How?  With water.  What did you expect?"

"But--all at once, without any preparation?"

"What preparation was needed?  I made my confession of Christ, and he
baptised me in His name.  The preparation was only to draw the water."

"What on earth did you do for sponsors?"

"Had none."

"Did he let you?"

A little smothered laugh came from Countess.  "He had not much choice,"
she said.  "He did try it on.  But I told him plainly, I was not going
to give in to that nonsense: that if he chose to baptise me at once, I
was there ready, and would answer any questions and make any confession
that he chose.  But if not--not.  I was not coming again."

"And he accepted it!" said David, with a dozen notes of exclamation in
his voice.

"Did I not tell you he was the most sensible Christian I ever found?  He
said, `Well!--after all, truly, any thing save the simple baptism with
water was a man-made ordinance.  The Ethiopian eunuch had no sponsors'--
I don't know who he was, but I suppose the hermit did--`and he probably
made as true a Christian for all that' `In truth,' said I, `the
institution of sponsors seems good for little children--friends who
promise to see that they shall be brought up good Christians if their
parents die early; but for a woman of my age, it is simply absurd, and I
won't have it.  Let me confess Christ as my Messiah and Lord, and
baptise me with water in His name, and I am sure he will be satisfied
with it.  And if any of the saints and angels are not satisfied, they
can come down and say so, if they think it worth while.'  So--as he saw,
I suppose, that _I_ was not going to do it--he gave in."

"I hope it's all right," said David, rather uneasily.

"David, I wish I could put a little sense into you.  You are a good man,
but you are a very foolish one.  `All right!'  Of course it is all
right.  It is man, and not God, who starts at trifles like a frightened
horse, and makes men offenders for a word.  The Lord looketh on the
heart."

"Ay, but Moses (on whom be peace!) was particular enough about some
details which look very trifling to us."

"He was particular enough where they concerned the honour of God, or
where they formed a part of some symbolism which the alteration would
cause to be wrongly interpreted so as to teach untruth.  But for all
else, he let them go, and so did our Lord.  When Aaron explained why he
had not eaten the goat of the sin-offering, Moses was content.  Nor did
Christ condemn David the King, but excused him, for eating the
shewbread.  I am sure Moses would have baptised me this morning, without
waiting for sponsors or Lucca oil.  This is a very silly world; I should
have thought the Church might have been a trifle wiser, and really it
seems to have less common sense of the two.  How could I have found
sponsors, I should like to know?  I know nobody but you and Christian."

"They told us, when we were baptised, that the Church did not allow a
husband and wife to be sponsors to the same person.  So we could not
both have stood for you.  It would have had to be Christian and Rudolph,
and some other woman."

"Rudolph!  That baby!  [Note 1.]  Would they have let him stand?"

"Yes--if you could not find any one else."

"And promise to bring me up in the Catholic faith?  Well, if that is not
rich!--when I have got to bring him up!  I will tell you what, David--if
some benevolent saint would put a little common sense into the Church,
it would be a blessing to somebody.  `The Church!'  I am weary of that
ceaseless parrot scream.  The Church stands in the way to Jesus of
Nazareth, not as a door to go in, but as a wall to bar out.  I wish we
had lived in earlier days, before all that rubbish had had time to grow.
Now, mind you," concluded Countess, as she rose to go to bed, "David
and Christian, I don't mean to be bothered about this.  Don't talk to
me, nor to Rudolph, nor to any body else.  I shall read the Book, and
teach him to do it; but I shall not pray to those gilded things; and he
shall not.  What Gerhardt taught is enough for him and me.  And
remember, if too much be said, the King's officers may come and take
every thing away.  I do not see that it is my duty to go and tell them.
If they come, let them come, and God be my aid and provider!  Otherwise,
we had better keep quiet."

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

Note 1.  That little children were at times allowed to be sponsors in
the Middle Ages, is proved by the instance of John Earl of Kent in 1330,
whose brother and sister, the former probably under ten years of age,
and the latter aged only eighteen months, stood sponsors for him.
(_Prob. aet. Johannis Com. Kant._, 23 Edward Third, 76.)



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

WELL MET.

  "O God, we are but leaves upon Thy stream,
  Clouds in Thy sky."

  Dinah Mulock.

A busy place on a Monday morning was Bread Street, in the city of
London.  As its name denotes, it was the street of the bakers; for our
ancestors did not give names, as we do, without reason, for mere
distinction's sake.  If a town gate bore the name of York Gate, that was
equivalent to a signpost, showing that it opened on the York road.  They
made history and topography, where we only make confusion.

The fat, flour-besprinkled baker at the Harp, in Bread Street, was in
full tide of business.  His shelves were occupied by the eight different
kinds of bread in common use--wassel, used only by knights and squires;
cocket, the kind in ordinary use by smaller folk; maslin, a mixture of
wheat, oats, and barley; barley, rye, and brown bread, the fare of
tradesmen and monks; oaten, the food of the poorest; and horse bread.
There were two or three varieties finer and better than these, only used
by the nobles, which were therefore made at home, and not commonly to be
found at the baker's: simnel, manchet or chet, and paynemayne or _pain
de main_ (a corruption of _panis dominicus_).  We read also of _pain le
Rei_, or the King's bread, but this may be paynemayne under another
name.  Even in the large towns, at that time, much of the baking was
done at home; and the chief customers of the bakers were the cookshops
or eating houses, with such private persons as had not time or
convenience to prepare their own bread.  The price of bread at this time
does not appear to be on record; but about seventy years later, four
loaves were sold for a penny.  [Note 1.]

The cooks, who lived mainly in Eastcheap and along the water-side, of
course had to provide bread of various kinds, to suit their different
customers; and a young man, armed with a huge basket, came to have it
filled with all varieties.  Another young man had entered after him, and
now stood waiting by the wall till the former should have finished his
business.

"Now then," said the baker, turning to the man in waiting, as the other
trudged forth with his basket: "what shall I serve you with?"

"I don't want you to serve me; I want to serve you," was the answer.

The baker looked him over with a good-natured but doubtful expression.

"Want to serve me, do you?  Whence come you?"

"I'm an upland man."  [From the country.]

"Got any one to speak for you?"

"A pair of eyes, a pair of hands, a fair wit, and a good will to work."

The fat baker looked amused.  "And an honest repute, eh?" said he.

"I have it, but I can't give it you, except from my wife, and I scarcely
suppose you'll be satisfied to go to her for my character."

"I'm not so sure of that!" laughed the baker.  "If she'd speak truth,
she could give you the character best worth having of any."

"She never yet spoke any thing else, nor did I."

"_Ha, jolife_!--you must be a fine pair.  Well, now, speak the truth,
and tell me why a decent, tidy-seeming young fellow like you can't get a
character to give me."

"Because I should have to put my wife in peril, if I went back to do
it," was the bold answer.

"Ha, so!"  Such a possibility, in those rough days, was only too
apparent to the honest baker.  "Well, well!  Had to run from a bad
master, eh?  Ay, ay, I see."

He did not see exactly the accurate details of the facts; but the
applicant did not contradict him.

"Well!  I could do with another hand, it's true; and I must say I like
the look of you.  How long have you been a baker's man?"

"When I've been with you seven days, it'll be just a week," was the
humorous reply.

"What, you've all to learn?  That's a poor lookout."

"A man that has all to learn, and has a will to it, will serve you
better than one that has less to learn, and has no will to it."

"Come, I can't gainsay that.  What have you been, then?"

"I have been watchman in a castle."

"Oh, ho!--how long?"

"Fifteen years."

"And what gives you a mind to be a baker?"

"Well, more notions than one.  It's a clean trade, and of good repute;
wholesome, for aught I know: there's no killing in it, for which I
haven't a mind; and as folks must eat, it does not depend on fashion
like some things.  Moths don't get into bread and spoil it, nor rust
neither; and if you can't sell it, you can eat it yourself, and you're
no worse off, or not much.  It dries and gets stale, of course, in time:
but one can't have every thing; and seems to me there's as little risk
in bread, and as little dirt or worry, as there is in any thing one can
put one's hand to do.  I'm not afraid of work, but I don't like dirt,
loss, nor worry."

The fat baker chuckled.  "Good for you, my lad!--couldn't have put it
better myself.  Man was made to labour, and I like to see a man that's
not afraid of work.  Keep clear of worry by all means; it eats a man's
heart out, which honest work never does.  Work away, and sing at your
work--that's my notion: and it's the way to get on and be happy."

"I'm glad to hear it; I always do," said the applicant.  "And mind you,
lad,--I don't know an unhappier thing than discontent.  When you want to
measure your happiness, don't go and set your ell-wand against him
that's got more than you have, but against him that's got less.  Bread
and content's a finer dinner any day than fat capon with grumble-sauce.
We can't all be alike; some are up, and some down: but it isn't them at
the top of the tree that's got the softest bed to lie on, nor them that
sup on the richest pasties that most enjoy their supper.  If a man wants
to be comfortable, he must keep his heart clear of envy, and put a good
will into his work.  I believe a man may come to take pleasure in any
thing, even the veriest drudgery, that brings a good heart to it and
does his best to turn it out well."

"I am sure of that," was the response, heartily given.

The baker was pleased with the hearty response to the neat epigrammatic
apothegms wherein he delighted to unfold himself.  He nodded approval.

"I'll take you on trial for a month," he said.  "And if you've given
yourself a true character, you'll stay longer.  I'll pay you--No, we'll
settle that question when I have seen how you work."

"I'll stay as long as I can," was the answer, as the young man turned to
leave the shop.

"Tarry a whit!  What's your name, and how old are you?"

"I am one-and-thirty years of age, and my name is Stephen."

"Good.  Be here when the vesper bell begins to ring."

Stephen went up to Cheapside, turned along it, up Lady Cicely's Lane,
and out into Smithfield by one of the small posterns in the City wall.
Entering a small house in Cock Lane, he went up a long ladder leading to
a tiny chamber, screened-off from a garret.  Here a tabby cat came to
meet him, and rubbed itself against his legs as he stooped down to
caress it, while Ermine, who sat on the solitary bench, looked up
brightly to greet him.

"Any success, Stephen?"

"Thy prayer is heard, sweet heart.  I have entered the service of a
baker in Bread Street,--a good-humoured fellow who would take me at my
own word.  I told him I had no one to refer him to for a character but
you,--I did not think of Gib, or I might have added him.  You'd speak
for me, wouldn't you, old tabby?"

Gib replied by an evidently affirmative "Me-ew!"

"I'll give you an excellent character," said Ermine, smiling, "and so
will Gib, I am sure."

The baker was well satisfied when his new hand reached the Harp exactly
as the vesper bell sounded its first stroke at Saint Mary-le-Bow.

"That's right!" said he.  "I like to see a man punctual.  Take this damp
cloth and rub the shelves."

"Clean!" said he to himself a minute after.  "Have you ever rubbed
shelves before?"

"Not much," said Stephen.

"How much do you rub 'em?"

"Till they are clean."

"You'll do.  Can you carry a tray on your head?"

"Don't know till I try."

"Best practise a bit, before you put any thing on it, or else we shall
have mud pies," laughed the baker.

When work was over, the baker called Stephen to him.

"Now," said he, "let us settle about wages.  I could not tell how much
to offer you, till I saw how you worked.  You've done very well for a
new hand.  I'll give you three-halfpence a-day till you've fairly learnt
the trade, and twopence afterwards: maybe, in time, if I find you
useful, I may raise you a halfpenny more: a penny of it in bread, the
rest in money.  Will that content you?"

"With a very good will," replied Stephen.

His wages as watchman at the Castle had been twopence per day, so that
he was well satisfied with the baker's proposal.

"What work does your wife do?"

"She has none to do yet.  She can cook, sew, weave, and spin."

"I'll bear it in mind, if I hear of any for her."

"Thank you," said Stephen; and dropping the halfpenny into his purse, he
secured the loaves in his girdle, and went back to the small
screened-off corner of the garret which at present he called home.

It was not long before the worthy baker found Stephen so useful that he
raised his wages even to the extravagant sum of threepence a day.  His
wife, too, had occasional work for Ermine; and the thread she spun was
so fine and even, and the web she wove so regular and free from
blemishes, that one employer spoke of her to another, until she had as
much work as she could do.  Not many months elapsed before they were
able to leave the garret where they had first found refuge, and take a
little house in Ivy Lane; and only a few years were over when Stephen
was himself a master baker and pastiller (or confectioner), Ermine
presiding over the lighter dainties, which she was able to vary by
sundry German dishes not usually obtainable in London, while he was
renowned through the City for the superior quality of his bread.
Odinel, the fat baker, who always remained his friend, loved to point a
moral by Stephen's case in lecturing his journeymen.

"Why, do but look at him," he was wont to say; "when he came here, eight
years ago, he scarcely knew wassel bread from cocket, and had never seen
a fish pie save to eat.  Now he has one of the best shops in Bread
Street, and four journeymen under him.  And how was it done, think you?
There was neither bribery nor favour in it.  Just by being honest,
cleanly, and punctual, thorough in all he undertook, and putting heart
and hands into the work.  Every one of you can do as well as he did, if
you only bestir yourselves and bring your will to it.  Depend upon it,
lads, `I will' can do a deal of work.  `I can' is _very_ well, but if `I
will' does not help him, `I can' will not put many pennies in his
pocket.  `I can'--`I ought'--`I will'--those are the three good fairies
that do a man's work for him: and the man that starts work without them
is like to turn out but a sorry fellow."

It was for Ermine's sake, that he might retain a hiding place for her if
necessary, that Stephen continued to keep up the house in Ivy Lane.  The
ordinary custom was for a tradesman to live over or behind his shop.
The excuse given out to the world was that Stephen and his wife, being
country people, did not fancy being close mewed up in city streets; and
between Ivy Lane and the fresh country green and air, there were only a
few lanes and the city walls.

Those eight years passed quietly and peacefully to Stephen and Ermine.
A small family--five in number--grew up around them, and Gib purred
tranquilly on the hearth.  They found new friends in London, and thanked
God that He had chosen their inheritance for them, and had set their
feet in a large room.

At that time, and for long afterwards, each trade kept by itself to its
own street or district.  The mercers and haberdashers lived in West
Chepe or Cheapside, which Stephen had to go down every day.  One
morning, at the end of those eight years, he noticed that a shop long
empty had been reopened, and over it hung a newly-painted signboard,
with a nun's head.  As Stephen passed, a woman came to the door to hang
up some goods, and they exchanged a good look at each other.

"I wonder who it is you are like!" said Stephen to himself.

Then he passed on, and thought no more about her.

On two occasions this happened.  When the third came, the woman suddenly
exclaimed--

"I know who you are now!"

"Do you?" asked Stephen, coming to a halt.  "I wish I knew who you are.
I have puzzled over your likeness to somebody, and I cannot tell who it
is."

The woman laughed, thereby increasing the mysterious resemblance which
was perplexing Stephen.

"Why," said she, "you are Stephen Esueillechien, unless I greatly
mistake."

"So I am," answered Stephen, "or rather, so I was; for men call me now
Stephen le Bulenger.  But who are you?"

"Don't you think I'm rather like Leuesa?"

"That's it!  But how come you hither, old friend?  Have you left my
cousin?  Or is she--"

"The Lady Derette is still in the anchorhold.  I left her when I wedded.
Do you remember Roscius le Mercer, who dwelt at the corner of North
Gate Street?  He is my husband--but they call him here Roscius de
Oxineford--and we have lately come to London.  So you live in Bread
Street, I suppose, if you are a baker?"

Stephen acknowledged his official residence, mentally reserving the
private one, and purposing to give Ermine a hint to confine herself for
the present to Ivy Lane.

"Do come in," said Leuesa hospitably, "and let us have a chat about old
friends."

And lifting up her voice she called--"Roscius!"

The mercer, whom Stephen remembered as a slim youth, presented himself
in the changed character of a stout man of five-and-thirty, and warmly
seconded his wife's invitation, as soon as he recognised an old
acquaintance.

"I'm glad enough to hear of old friends," said Stephen, "for I haven't
heard a single word since I left Oxford about any one of them.  Tell me
first of my brother.  Is he living and in the old place?"

"Ay, and Anania too, and all the children.  I don't think there have
been any changes in the Castle."

"Uncle Manning and Aunt Isel?"

"Manning died three years ago, and Isel dwells now with Raven and
Flemild, who have only one daughter, so they have plenty of room for
her."

"Then what has become of Haimet?"

"Oh, he married Asselot, the rich daughter of old Tankard of Bicester.
He lives at Bicester now.  Romund and Mabel are well; they have no
children, but Haimet has several."

"Both my cousins married heiresses?  They have not done badly, it
seems."

"N-o, they have _not_, in one way," said Leuesa.  "But I do not think
Haimet is bettered by his marriage.  He seems to me to be getting very
fond of money, and always to measure everything by the silver pennies it
cost.  That's not the true ell-wand; or I'm mistaken."

"You are not, Leuesa.  I'd as soon be choked with a down pillow as have
my soul all smothered up with gold.  Well, and how do other folks get
on?--Franna, and Turguia, and Chembel and Veka, and all the rest?"

"Turguia's gone, these five years; the rest are well--at least I don't
recall any that are not."

"Is old Benefei still at the corner?"

"Ay, he is, and Rubi and Jurnet.  Regina is married to Jurnet's wife's
nephew, Samuel, and has a lot of children--one pretty little girl, with
eyes as like Countess as they can be."

"Oh, have you any notion what is become of Countess?"

"They removed from Reading to Dorchester, I believe, and then I heard
old Leo had divorced Countess, and married Deuslesalt's daughter and
heir, Drua.  What became of her I don't know."

"By the way, did either of you know aught of the Wise Woman of
Bensington?  Mother Haldane, they used to call her.  She'll perhaps not
be alive now, for she was an old woman eight years gone.  She did me a
good turn once."

"I don't know anything about her," said Leuesa.

"Ah, well, I do," answered Roscius.  "I went to her when our cow was
fairy-led, twelve years gone; and after that for my sister, when she had
been eating chervil, and couldn't see straight before her.  Ay, she was
a wise woman, and helped a many folks.  No, she's not alive now."

"You mean more than you say, Roscius," said Stephen, with a sudden
sinking of heart.  What had happened to Haldane?

"Well, you see, they ducked her for a witch."

"And killed her?"  Stephen's voice was hard.

"Ay--she did not live many minutes after.  She sank, though--she was no
witch: though it's true, her cat was never seen afterwards, and some
folks would have it he'd gone back to Sathanas."

"Then it must have been that night!" said Stephen to himself.  "Did she
know, that she sent us off in haste?  Was _that_ the secret she would
not tell?"  Aloud, he said,--"And who were `they' that wrought that ill
deed?"

"Oh, there was a great crowd at the doing of it--all the idle loons in
Bensington and Dorchester: but there were two that hounded them on to
the work--the Bishop's sumner Malger, and a woman: I reckon they had a
grudge against her of some sort.  Wigan the charcoal-burner told me of
it--he brought her out, and loosed the cord that bound her."

"God pardon them as He may!" exclaimed Stephen.  "She was no more a
witch than you are.  A gentle, harmless old woman, that healed folks
with herbs and such--shame on the men that dared to harm her!"

"Ay, I don't believe there was aught bad in her.  But, saints bless
you!--lads are up to anything," said Roscius.  "They'd drown you, or
burn me, any day, just for the sake of a grand show and a flare-up."

"They're ill brought up, then," said Stephen.  "I'll take good care my
lads don't."

"O Stephen! have you some children?--how many?"

"Ay, two lads and three lasses.  How many have you?"

"We're not so well off as you; we have only two maids.  Why, Stephen,
I'd forgot you were married.  I must come and see your wife.  But I
never heard whom you did marry: was she a stranger?"

Poor Stephen was sorely puzzled what to say.  On the one hand, he
thought Leuesa might safely be trusted; and as Ermine had already
suffered the sentence passed upon her, and the entire circumstances were
forgotten by most people, it seemed as if the confession of facts might
be attended by no danger.  Yet he could not know with certainty that
either of his old acquaintances was incorruptibly trustworthy; and if
the priests came to know that one of their victims had survived the
ordeal, what might they not do, in hatred and revenge?  A moment's
reflection, and an ejaculatory prayer, decided him to trust Leuesa.  She
must find out the truth if she came to see Ermine.

"No," he said slowly; "she was not a stranger."

"Why, who could it be?" responded Leuesa.  "Nobody went away when you
did."

"But somebody went away before I did.  Leuesa, I think you are not the
woman who would do an old friend an ill turn?"

"Indeed, I would not, Stephen," said she warmly.  "If there be any
secret, you may trust me, and my husband too; we would not harm you or
yours for the world."

"I believe I may," returned Stephen.  "My cousin Derette knows, but
don't name it to any one else.  My wife is--Ermine."

"Stephen!  You don't mean it?  Well, I am glad to know she got safe
away!  But how did you get hold of her?"

Stephen told his story.

"You may be very certain we shall not speak a word to injure Ermine,"
said Leuesa.  "Ay, I'll come and see her, and glad I shall be.  Why,
Stephen, I thought more of Ermine than you knew; I called one of my
little maids after her.  Ermine and Derette they are.  I can never
forget a conversation I once had with Gerard, when he took me back to
the Castle from Isel's house; I did not think so much of it at the time,
but it came to me with power afterwards, when he had sealed his faith
with his blood."

"Ah! there's nothing like dying, to make folks believe you," commented
Roscius.

"Can't agree with you there, friend," answered Stephen with a smile.
"There is one other thing, and that is living.  A man may give his life
in a sudden spurt of courage and enthusiasm.  It is something more to
see him spend his life in patient well-doing through many years.  That
is the harder of the two to most."

"Maybe it is," assented Roscius.  "I see now why you were so anxious
about old Haldane."

"Ay, we owed her no little.  And I cannot but think she had some notion,
poor soul! of what was coming: she was in such haste to get us off by
dawn.  If I had known--"

"Eh, what could you have done if you had?" responded Roscius.  "Wigan
told me there were hundreds in the crowd."

"Nothing, perchance," answered Stephen sadly.  "Well! the good Lord knew
best, and He ordered matters both for us and her."

"Wigan said he thought she had been forewarned--I know not why."

"Ay, I think some one must have given her a hint.  That was why she sent
us off so early."

"I say, Stephen," asked Roscius rather uneasily, "what think you did
become of that cat of hers?  The thing was never seen after she died--
not once.  It looks queer, you know."

"Does it?" said Stephen, with a little laugh.

"Why, yes!  I don't want to think any ill of the poor old soul--not I,
indeed: but never to be seen once afterwards--it _does_ look queer.  Do
you think Sathanas took the creature?"

"Not without I am Sathanas.  That terrible cat that so troubles you,
Roscius, sits purring on my hearth at this very moment."

"You!  Why, did you take the thing with you?"

"We did.  It came away in Ermine's arms."

"Eh, Saint Frideswide be our aid!  I wouldn't have touched it for a
king's ransom."

"I've touched it a good few times," said Stephen, laughing, "and it
never did aught worse to me than rub itself against me and mew.  Why,
surely, man! you're not feared of a cat?"

"No, not of a real cat; but that--"

"It is just as real a cat as any other.  My children play with it every
day; and if you'll bring your little maids, I'll lay you a good venison
pasty that they are petting it before they've been in the house a
Paternoster.  Trust a girl for that!  Ah, yes! that was one reason why I
thought she had some fancy of what was coming--the poor soul begged us
to take old Gib.  He'd been her only companion for years, and she did
not want him ill-used.  Poor, gentle, kindly soul!  Ermine will be
grieved to hear of her end."

"Tell Ermine I'll come to see her," said Leuesa, "and bring the children
too."

"We have a Derette as well as you," replied Stephen with a smile.  "She
is the baby.  Our boys are Gerard and Osbert, and our elder girls Agnes
and Edild--my mother's name, you know."

As Stephen opened the door of his house that evening, Gib came to meet
him with erect tail.

"Well, old fellow!" said Stephen, rubbing his ears--a process to which
Gib responded with loud purrs.  "I have seen a man to-day who is afraid
to touch you.  I don't think you would do much to him--would you, now?"

"That's nice--go on!" replied Gib, purring away.

Leuesa lost no time in coming to see Ermine.  She brought her two little
girls, of whom the elder, aged five years, immediately fell in love with
the baby, while the younger, aged three, being herself too much of a
baby to regard infants with any sentiment but disdain, bestowed all her
delicate attentions upon Gib.  Stephen declared laughingly that he saw
he should keep the pasty.

"Well, really, it does look very like a cat!" said the mercer, eyeing
Gib still a little doubtfully.

"Very like, indeed," replied Stephen, laughing again.  "I never saw
anything that looked more like one."

"There's more than one at Oxford would like to see you, Ermine, and
Stephen too," said Leuesa.

"Mother Isel would, and Derette," was Ermine's answer.  "I am not so
sure of any one else."

"I am sure of one else," interpolated Stephen.  "It would be a perfect
windfall to Anania, for she'd get talk out of it for nine times nine
days.  But would it be safe, think you?"

"Why not?" answered Roscius.  "The Earl has nought against you, has he?"

"Oh no, he has nought against me; I settled every thing with him--went
back on purpose to do so.  I was thinking of Ermine.  The Bishop is not
the same [Note 2], but for aught I know, the sumners are."

"Only one of them: Malger went to Lincoln some two years back."

"Well, I should be glad not to meet that villain," said Stephen.

"You'll not meet him.  Then as to the other matter, what could they do
to her?  The sentence was carried out.  You can't execute a man twice."

"That's a point that does not generally rise for decision.  But you see
she got taken in, and that was forbidden.  They were never meant to
survive it, and she did."

"I don't believe any penalty could fall on her," said Roscius.  "But if
you like, I'll ask my cousin, who is a lawyer, what the law has to say
on that matter."

"Then don't mention Ermine's name."

"I'll mention nobody's name.  I shall only say that I and a friend of
mine were having a chat, and talking of one thing and another, we fell
a-wondering what would happen if a man were to survive a punishment
intended to kill him."

"That might serve.  I don't mind if you do."

The law, in 1174, was much more dependent on the personal will of the
sovereign than it is now.  The lawyer looked a little doubtful when
asked the question.

"Why," said he, "if the prisoner had survived by apparent miracle, the
chances are that he would be pardoned, as the probability would be that
his innocence was thus proved by visitation of God.  I once knew of such
a case, where a woman was accused of murdering her husband; she held her
mute of malice at her trial, and was adjudged to suffer _peine forte et
dure_."

When a prisoner refused to plead, he was held to be "mute of malice."
The _peine forte et dure_, which was the recognised punishment for this
misdemeanour, was practically starvation to death.  In earlier days it
seems to have been pure starvation; but at a later period, the more
refined torture was substituted of allowing the unhappy man on alternate
days three mouthfuls of bread with no liquid, and three sips of water
with no food, for a term which the sufferer could not be expected to
survive.  At a later time again, this was exchanged for heavyweights,
under which he was pressed to death.

"Strange to say," the lawyer went on, "the woman survived her sentence;
and this being an undoubted miracle, she received pardon to the laud of
God and the honour of His glorious mother, Dame Mary.  [Such a case
really happened at Nottingham in 1357.]  But if you were supposing a
case without any such miraculous intervention--"

"Oh, we weren't thinking of miracles, any way," answered Roscius.

"Then I should say the sentence would remain in force.  There is of
course a faint possibility that it might not be put in force; but if the
man came to me for advice, I should not counsel him to build much upon
that.  Especially if he happened to have an enemy."

"Well, it does not seem just, to my thinking, that a man should suffer a
penalty twice over."

"Just!" repeated the lawyer, with a laugh and a shrug of his shoulders.
"Were you under the impression, Cousin Roscius, that law and justice
were interchangeable terms?"

"I certainly was," said Roscius.

"Then, you'd better get out of it," was the retort.

"I daren't take Ermine, after that," said Stephen, rather sorrowfully,
"The only hope would be that she might be so changed, nobody would know
her; and then, as my wife, she might pass unharmed But the risk seems
too great."

"She's scarcely changed enough for that," replied Leuesa.  "Very likely
she would not be recognised by those to whom she was a comparative
stranger; but such as had known her well would guess in a moment.
Otherwise--"

"Then her name would tell tales," suggested Stephen.

"Oh, you might change that," said Roscius.  "Call her Emma or Aymeria--
folks would never think."

"And tell lies?" responded Stephen.

"Why, you'd never call that telling lies, surely?"

"It's a bit too like it to please me.  Is Father Dolfin still at Saint
Frideswide's?"

"Ay, he's still there, but he's growing an old man, and does not get
outside much now.  He has resigned Saint Aldate's."

"Then that settles it.  He'd know."

"But he's not an unkindly man, Stephen."

"No, he isn't.  But he's a priest.  And maybe the priest might be
stronger than the man.  Let's keep on the safe side."

"Let us wait," said Ermine quietly.

"I don't see how waiting is to help you, unless you wait till every body
is dead and buried--and it won't be much good going then."

"Perhaps we may have to wait for the Better Country.  There will be no
sumners and sentences there."

"But are you sure of knowing folks there?"

"Saint Paul would scarcely have anticipated meeting his friends with joy
in the resurrection if they were not to know each other when they met.
There are many passages in Scripture which make it very plain that we
shall know each other."

"Are you so sure of getting there yourself?" was the query put by
Roscius, with raised eyebrows.

"I am quite sure," was Ermine's calm answer, "because Christ is there,
and I am a part of Christ.  He wills that His people shall be with Him
where He is."

"But does not holy Church teach rather different?"  [Note 3.]

Stephen would fain have turned off the question.  But it was answered as
calmly as before.

"Holy Church is built on Christ our Lord.  She cannot therefore teach
contrary to Him, though we may misunderstand either."

Roscius was satisfied.  He had not, however, the least idea that by that
vague term "holy Church," while he meant a handful of priests and
bishops, Ermine meant the elect of God, for whom His words settle every
question, and who are not apt to trouble themselves for the
contradictions either of priests or critics.  "For the world passeth
away, and the lust thereof"--the pleasures, the opinions, the prejudices
of the world--"but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

The times of Henry Second knew neither post-offices nor carriers.  When
a man wanted to send a parcel anywhere, he was obliged to carry it
himself or send a servant to do so, if he could not find some
acquaintance journeying in that direction who would save him the
trouble.

A few weeks after Stephen had come to the conclusion that he could not
take Ermine to Oxford, he was passing down Bread Street to his shop
early one morning, when Odinel hailed him from the door.

"Hi, Stephen!  Just turn in here a minute, will you?--you don't happen
to be going or sending up into the shires, do you, these next few days?"

"Which of the shires?" inquired Stephen, without committing himself.

"Well, it's Abingdon I want to send to--but if I could get my goods
carried as far as Wallingford, I dare say I could make shift to have
them forwarded."

"Would Oxford suit you equally well?"

"Ay, as well or better."

Stephen stood softly whistling for a moment.  He might work the two
things together--might at least pay a visit to Derette, and learn from
her how far it was safe to go on.  He felt that Anania was the chief
danger; Osbert would placidly accept as much or as little as he chose to
tell, and Isel, if she asked questions, might be easily turned aside
from the path.  Could he be sure that Anania was out of the way, he
thought he would not hesitate to go himself, though he no longer dared
to contemplate taking Ermine.

"Well, I might, mayhap, be going in that direction afore long,--I can't
just say till I see how things shape themselves.  If I can, I'll let you
know in a few days."

"All right!  I'm in no hurry to a week or two."

Stephen meditated on the subject in the intervals of superintendence of
his oven, and serving out wassel and cocket, with the result that when
evening came, he was almost determined to go, if Ermine found no good
reasons to the contrary.  He consulted her when he went home, for she
was not at the shop that day.  She looked grave at first, but her
confidence in Stephen's discretion was great, and she made no serious
objection.  No sooner, however, did the children hear of such a
possibility as their father's visiting the country, than they all, down
to three-year-old Edild, sent in petitions to be allowed to accompany
him.

"Couldn't be thought of!" was Stephen's decided though good-tempered
answer: and the petitioners succumbed with a look of disappointment.

"I might perchance have taken Gerard," Stephen allowed to his wife, out
of the boy's hearing: "but to tell truth, I'm afraid of Anania's hearing
his name--though, as like as not, she'll question me on the names of all
the children, and who they were called after, and why we selected them,
and if each were your choice or mine."

"Better not, I think," said Ermine, with a smile.  "I almost wish I
could be hidden behind a curtain, to hear your talk with her."

Stephen laughed.  "Well, I won't deny that I rather enjoy putting spokes
in her wheels," said he.

The next morning he told Odinel to make up his goods, and he would carry
them to Oxford on the following Monday.

Odinel's parcel proved neither bulky nor heavy.  Instead of requiring a
sumpter-mule to carry it, it could readily be strapped at the back of
Stephen's saddle, while the still smaller package of his own necessaries
went in front.  He set out about four o'clock on a spring morning,
joining himself for the sake of safety to the convoy of travellers who
started from the Black Bull in the Poultry, and arrived at the East Gate
of Oxford before dark, on the Tuesday evening.  His first care was to
commit Odinel's goods to the safe care of mine host of the Blue Boar
[Note 4] in Fish Street, as had been arranged.  Here he supped on fried
fish, rye bread, and cheese; and having shared the "grace-cup" of a
fellow-traveller, set off for Saint John's anchorhold.  A young woman in
semi-conventual dress left the door just as he came up.  Stephen doffed
his cap as he asked her--"I pray you, are you the maid of the Lady
Derette?"

"I am," was the reply.  "Do you wish speech of her?"

"Would you beseech her to let me have a word with her at the casement?"

The girl turned back into the anchorhold, and the next minute the
casement was opened, and the comely, pleasant face of Derette appeared
behind it.  She looked a little older, but otherwise unaltered.

There was nothing unusual in Stephen's request.  Anchorites lived on
alms, and were also visited to desire their prayers.  The two ideas
likely to occur to the maid as the object of Stephen's visit were
therefore either a present to be offered, or intercession to be asked
and probably purchased.

"Christ save you, Lady!" said Stephen to his cousin.  "Do you know me?"

"Why, is it Stephen?  Are you come back?  I _am_ glad to see you."

When the natural curiosity and interest of each was somewhat satisfied,
Stephen asked Derette's advice as to going further.

"You may safely go to see Mother," said she, "if you can be sure of your
own tongue; for you will not meet Anania there.  She has dislocated her
ankle, and is lying in bed."

"Poor soul!  It seems a shame to say I'm glad to hear it; but really I
should like to avoid her at Aunt Isel's, and to be able to come away at
my own time from the Lodge."

"You have the chance of both just now."

Stephen thought he would get the worse interview over first.  He
accordingly went straight on into Civil School Lane, which ran right
across the north portion of Christ Church, coming out just above Saint
Aldate's, pursued his way forward by Pennyfarthing Street, and turning
up a few yards of Castle Street, found himself at the drawbridge leading
to the porter's lodge where his brother lived.  There were voices inside
the Lodge; and Stephen paused for a moment before lifting the latch.

"Oh dear, dear!" said a querulous voice, which he recognised as that of
Anania, "I never thought to be laid by the heels like this!--not a soul
coming in to see a body, and those children that ungovernable--Gilbert,
get off that ladder! and Selis, put the pitchfork down this minute!  Not
a bit of news any where, and if there were, not a creature coming in to
tell one of it!  Eline, let those buttons alone, or I'll be after--Oh
deary dear, I can't!"

Stephen lifted the latch and looked in.  Anania lay on a comfortable
couch, drawn up by the fire; and at a safe distance from it, her four
children were running riot--turning out all her treasures, inspecting,
trying on, and occasionally breaking them--knowing themselves to be safe
from any worse penalty than a scolding, for which evidently they cared
nothing.

"You seem to want a bit of help this afternoon," suggested Stephen
coolly, collaring Selis, from whom he took the pitchfork, and then
lifting Gilbert off the ladder, to the extreme disapprobation of both
those young gentlemen, as they showed by kicks and angry screams.
"Come, now, be quiet, lads: one can't hear one's self speak."

"Stephen! is it you?" cried Anania incredulously, trying to lift herself
to see him better, and sinking back with a groan.

"Looks rather like me, doesn't it?  I am sorry to find you suffering,
Sister."

"I've suffered worse than any martyr in the Calendar, Stephen!--and
those children don't care two straws for me.  Nobody knows what I've
gone through.  Are you come home for good?  Oh dear, this pain!"

"No, only for a look at you.  I had a little business to bring me this
way.  How is Osbert?"

"He's well enough to have never a bit of sympathy for me.  Where are you
living, Stephen, and what do you do now?"

"Oh, up London way; I'm a baker.  Have you poulticed that foot, Anania?"

"I've done all sorts of things to it, and it's never--Julian, if you
touch that clasp, I declare I'll--Are you married, Stephen?"

"Married, and have one more trouble than you," answered Stephen
laughingly, as he took the clasp from his youthful and inquisitive
niece; "but my children are not troublesome, I am thankful to say.  I
was going to tell you that marsh-mallows makes one of the finest
poultices you can have.  Pluck it when Jupiter is in the ascendant, and
the moon on the wane, and you'll find it first-rate for easing that foot
of yours.--Gilbert, I heard thy mother tell thee not to go up the
ladder."

"Well, what if she did?" demanded Gilbert sulkily.  "She's only a
woman."

"Then she must be obeyed," said Stephen.

"But who did you marry, for I never--Oh deary me, but it does sting!"

"Now, Anania, I'll just go to the market and get you some marsh mallow;
Selis will come with me to carry it.  I've to see Aunt Isel yet, and
plenty more.  Come, Selis."

"_Ha, chetife_!--you've no sooner come than you're off again!  Who did
you marry?  That's what I want to know."

"The sooner you get that poultice on the better.  I may look in again,
if I have time.  If not, you'll tell Osbert I've been, and all's well
with me."

Stephen shut the door along with his last word, disregarding Anania's
parting cry of--"But you haven't told me who your wife is!" and marched
Selis off to the market, where he laded him with marsh mallow, and sent
him home with strict injunctions not to drop it by the way.  Then,
laughing to himself at the style wherein he had disposed of Anania, he
turned off to Turlgate Street (now the Turl) where Raven Soclin lived.

The first person whom he saw there was his cousin Flemild.

"Why, Stephen, this is an unexpected pleasure!" she said warmly.
"Mother, here's Cousin Stephen come."

"I'm glad to see thee, lad," responded Isel: and the usual questions
followed as to his home and calling.  But to Stephen's great
satisfaction, though Isel expressed her hope that he had a good wife,
nobody asked for her name.  The reason was that they all took it for
granted she must be a stranger to them; and when they had once satisfied
themselves that he was doing well, and had learnt such details as his
present calling, the number of his family, and so forth, they seemed
more eager to impart information than to obtain it.  At their request,
Stephen promised to sleep there, and then went out to pay a visit to
Romund and Mabel, which proved to be of a very formal and uninteresting
nature.  He had returned to Turlgate Street, but they had not yet gone
to rest, when Osbert lifted the latch.

"So you're real, are you?" said he, laughing to his brother.  "Anania
couldn't tell me if you were or not; she said she rather thought she'd
been dreaming,--more by reason that you did not tarry a minute, and she
could not get an answer to one question, though she asked you three
times."

Stephen too well knew what that question was to ask for a repetition of
it "Nay, I tarried several minutes," said he; "but I went off to get
some marsh mallow for a poultice for the poor soul; she seemed in much
pain.  I hope Selis took it home all right?  Has she got it on?"

"I think she has," said Osbert.  "But she wants you very badly to go
back and tell her a lot more news."

"Well, I'll see," replied Stephen; "I scarcely think I can.  But if she
wants news, you tell her I've heard say women's head-kerchiefs are to be
worn smaller, and tied under the chin; that's a bit of news that'll take
her fancy."

"That'll do for a while," answered Osbert; "but what she wants to know
most is your wife's name and all the children's."

"Oh, is that it?" said Stephen coolly.  "Then you may tell her one of
the children is named after you, and another for our mother; and we have
an Agnes and a Derette: and if she wants to know the cat's name too--"

Osbert roared.  "Oh, let's have the cat's name, by all means," said he;
and Stephen gravely informed him that it was Gib.

As Agnes was at that time one of the commonest names in England, about
as universal as Mary or Elizabeth now, Stephen felt himself pretty safe
in giving it; but the name of his eldest son he did not mention.

"Well, I'd better go home before I forget them," said Osbert.  "Let's
see--Osbert, Edild, Agnes, and Derette--and the cat is Gib.  I think I
shall remember.  But I haven't had your wife's."

"I'll walk back with you," said Stephen, evading the query; and they
went out together.

"Stephen, lad," said Osbert, when they had left the house, "I've a
notion thou dost not want to tell thy wife's name.  Is it true, or it's
only my fancy?"

"Have you?" responded Stephen shortly.

"Ay, I have; and if it be thus, say so, but don't tell me what it is.
It's nought to me; so long as she makes thee a good wife I care nought
who she is; but if I know nothing, I can say nothing.  Only, if I knew
thou wouldst as lief hold thy peace o'er it, I would not ask thee
again."

"She is the best wife and the best woman that ever breathed," replied
Stephen earnestly: "and you are right, old man--I don't want to tell
it."

"Then keep thine own counsel," answered his brother.  "Farewell, and God
speed thee!"

Stephen turned back, and Osbert stood for a moment looking after him.
"If I thought it possible," said the porter to himself,--"but I don't
see how it could be any way--I should guess that the name of Stephen's
wife began and ended with an _e_.  I am sure he was set on her once--and
that would account for any reluctance to name her: but I don't see how
it could be.  Well! it doesn't matter to me.  It's a queer world this."

With which profoundly original and philosophical remark, Osbert turned
round and went home.

"Well, what is it?" cried Anania, the moment he entered.

"Let me unlade my brains," said Osbert, "for I'm like a basket full of
apples; and if they are not carefully taken out, they'll be bruised and
good for nought.  Stephen's children are called Edild, Agnes, Osbert,
and Derette--"

"But his wife! it's his wife I want to know about."

"Dear, now!  I don't think he told me that," said Osbert with lamb-like
innocence, as if it had only just occurred to him.

"Why, that was what you went for, stupid!"

"Well, to be sure!" returned Osbert in meek astonishment, which he acted
to perfection.  "He told me the cat's name, if that will suit you
instead."

"I wish the cat were inside you this minute!" screamed Anania.

"Thank you for your kind wishes," replied Osbert with placid amiability.
"I'm not sure the cat would."

"Was there ever any mortal thing in this world so aggravating as a man?"
demanded Anania, in tones which were not placid by any means.  "Went
down to Kepeharme Lane to find something out, and came back knowing
ne'er a word about it!  Do you think you've any brains, you horrid
tease?"

"Can't say: never saw them," answered Osbert sweetly.

"I wonder if you have your match in the county!"

"Oh, I don't think there's any doubt of that."

"Well, at any rate, first thing to-morrow morning, if you please, back
you go and ask him.  And mind you don't let him slip through your
fingers this time.  He's as bad as an eel for that."

"First thing!  I can't, Anania.  The Earl has sent word that he means to
fly the new hawks at five o'clock to-morrow morning."

"Bother the--hawks!  Couldn't you go again to-night?"

"No, they'll be gone to bed by now.  Why, wife, what on earth does it
matter to thee?"

Anania's reply to this query was so sharp a snarl that Osbert let her
alone thereafter.

The next morning, when released from his duties, he went again to
Kepeharme Lane--to hear that Stephen had set out on his return journey
half-an-hour before.  "Well, now, it's plain to me what _that_ means!"
announced Anania solemnly, when this distressing fact was communicated
to her.  "He's married somebody he's ashamed of--some low creature,
quite beneath him, whom he doesn't care to own.  That must be the
explanation.  She's no better than she should be; take my word for it!"

"That's quite possible," said Osbert drily.  "There's another or two of
us in that predicament."

Anania flounced over on her couch, thereby making herself groan.

"You are, and no mistake!" she growled.

"Father Vincent said, when he married us, that you and I were
thenceforth one, my dearest!" was the pleasing response.

"What in the name of wonder I ever wished to marry you for--!"

"I will leave you to consider it, my darling, and tell me when I come
back," said Osbert, shutting the door and whistling the _Agnus_ as he
went up Castle Street.

"Well, if you aren't the worst, wickedest, aggravatingest man that ever
worrited a poor helpless woman," commented Anania, as she turned on her
uneasy couch, "my new boots are made of pear jelly!"

But it did not occur to her to inquire of what the woman was made who
habitually tormented that easy-tempered man, nor how much happier her
home might have been had she learnt to bridle her own irritating tongue.

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

Note 1.  Close Roll, 32 Henry Third.  About 5 pence per loaf according
to modern value.

Note 2.  The Bishop of Lincoln who sat on the Council of Oxford was
Robert de Chesney.  He died on January 26th, 1168, and was succeeded by
the King's natural son, Geoffrey Plantagenet, a child of only nine years
of age.  Such were the irregularities in the "apostolical succession"
during the "ages of faith!"

Note 3.  Even Wycliffe taught that no man could know whether he were
elected to salvation or not.

Note 4.  The Blue Boar in Saint Aldate's Street really belongs to a
later date than this.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

REUNITED.

  "With mercy and with judgment
      My web of time He wove,
  And ay the dews of sorrow
      Were lustred with His love:
  I'll bless the hand that guided,
      I'll bless the heart that planned,
  When throned where glory dwelleth,
      In Immanuel's land."

  Mrs Cousins.

It was a very tiny house in Tower Street, at the corner of Mark Lane.
There were but two rooms--above and below, as in Isel's house, but these
were smaller than hers, and the lower chamber was made smaller still by
a panel screen dividing it in two unequal parts.

The front division, which was a very little one, was a jeweller's shop;
the back was larger, and was the family living-room.  In it to-night the
family were sitting, for business hours were over, and the shop was
closed.

The family had a singular appearance.  It consisted of four persons, and
these were derived from three orders of the animate creation.  Two were
human.  The third was an aged starling, for whose convenience a wicker
cage hung in one corner; but the owner was hopping in perfect freedom
about the hearth, and occasionally varying that exercise by pausing to
give a mischievous peck to the tail of the fourth, a very large white
and tan dog.  The dog appeared so familiarised with this treatment as
scarcely to notice it, unless the starling gave a harder peck than
usual, when he merely moved his tail out of its way, accompanying the
action in specially severe cases by the most subdued of growls, an
action which seemed to afford great amusement to that impertinent and
irrepressible fowl.

The relationship of the human inhabitants of the little chamber would
not have been easy to guess.  The elder, seated on a cushioned bench by
the fire, was one whose apparent age was forty or perhaps rather more.
She was a woman of extremely dark complexion, her hair jet-black, her
eyes scarcely lighter--a woman who had once been very handsome, and
whose lost youth and beauty now and then seemed to flash back into her
face, when eagerness, anger, or any other strong feeling lent animation
to her features.  The other was a young man about half her years, and as
unlike her as he well could be.  His long flaxen hair waved over a brow
as white as hers was dark, and his eyes were a light clear blue.  He sat
on a stool in front of the fire, gazing into the charred wooden embers
with intent fixed eyes.  The woman had glanced at him several times, but
neither had spoken for above half an hour.  Now she broke the silence.

"Well, Ralph?"

"Well, Mother?" echoed the youth with a smile.  Both spoke in German--a
language then as unfamiliar in England as Persian.

"What are you thinking about so intently?"

"Life," was the ready but unexpected answer.

"Past, present, future?"

"Past and future--hardly present.  The past chiefly--the long ago."

The woman moved uneasily, but did not answer.

"Mother, if I am of age to-day, I think I have the right to ask you a
few questions.  Do you accord it?"

"Ah!" she said, with a deep intonation.  "I knew it would come some
time.  Well! what is to be must be.  Speak, my son."

The young man laid his hand affectionately on hers.

"Had it not better come?" he said.  "You would not prefer that I asked
my questions of others than yourself, nor that I shut them in my own
soul, and fretted my heart out, trying to find the answer."

"I should prefer any suffering rather than the loss of thy love and
confidence, my Ralph," she answered tenderly.  "To the young, it is easy
to look back, for they have only just left the flowery garden.  To the
old, it may be so, when there is only a little way to go, and they will
then be gathered to their fathers.  But half-way through the long
journey--with all the graves behind, and the dreary stretch of trackless
heath before--Speak thy will, Ralph."

"Forgive me if I pain you, Mother.  I feel as if I must speak, and
something has happened to-day which bids me do it now."

It was evident that these words startled and discomposed the mother.
She had been leaning back rather wearily in the corner of the bench, as
one resting from bodily strain.  Now she sat up, the rich crimson
mantling her dark cheek.

"What!  Hast thou seen--hast thou heard something?"

"I have seen," answered Ralph slowly, as if almost unwilling to say it,
"a face from the long ago.  At any rate, a face which carried my memory
thither."

"Whose?" she said, almost in tones of alarm.

"I cannot tell you.  Let me make it as plain as I can.  You may be able
to piece the disjointed strands together, when I cannot."

"Go on," she said, settling herself to listen.

"You know, Mother," he began, "that I have always known and remembered
one thing from my past.  I know you are not my real mother.  Kindest and
truest and dearest of mothers and friends you have been to me; my true
mother, whoever and wherever she may be, could have loved and tended me
no better than you.  That much I know: but as to other matters my
recollection is far more uncertain.  Some persons and things I recall
clearly; others are mixed together, and here and there, as if in a
dream, some person, or more frequently some action of such a person,
stands out vividly, like a picture, from the general haze.  Now, for
instance, I can remember that there was somebody called `Mother Isel':
but whether she were my mother, or yours, or who she was, that I do not
know.  Again, I recollect a man, who must have been rather stern to my
childish freaks, I suppose, for he brings with him a sense of fear.
This man does not come into my life till I was some few years old; there
is another whom I remember better, an older friend, a man with light
hair and grave, kindly blue eyes.  There are some girls, too, but I
cannot clearly recall them--they seem mixed together in my memory,
though the house in which I and they lived I recollect perfectly.  But I
do not know how it is--I never see you there.  I clearly recall a big
book, which the man with the blue eyes seems to be constantly reading:
and when he reads, a woman sits by him with a blue check apron, and I
sit on her lap.  Perhaps such a thing happened only once, but it appears
to me as if I can remember it often and often.  There is another man
whose face I recall--I doubt if he lived in the house; I think he came
in now and then: a man with brown hair and a pleasant, lively face, who
often laughed and had many a merry saying.  I cannot certainly remember
any one else connected with that house, except one other--a woman: a
woman with a horrible chattering tongue, who often left people in tears
or very cross: a woman whom I don't like at all."

"And after, Ralph?" suggested the mother in a low voice, when the young
man paused.

"After?  Ah, Mother, that is harder to remember still.  A great tumult,
cross voices, a sea of faces which all looked angry and terrified me,
and then it suddenly changes like a dream to a great lonely expanse of
shivering snow: and I and some others--whom, I know not--wander about in
it--for centuries, as it appears to me.  Then comes a blank, and then--
you."

"You remember better than I should have expected as to some things:
others worse.  Can you recollect no name save `Mother Isel'?"

"I can, but I don't know whose they are.  I can hear somebody call from
the upper chamber--`Gerard, is that you?' and the pleasant-faced man
says, `Tell Ermine' something.  That is what made me ask you, Mother.  I
met a man to-day in Cheapside who looked hard at me, and who made me
think both of that pleasant-faced man, and also of the stern man; and as
I had to wait for a cart to pass, another man and woman came and spoke
to him, and he said to the woman, `Well, when are you coming to see
Ermine?'  The face, and his curious, puzzled look at me, and the name,
carried me back all at once to that house and the people there.  He
looked as if he thought he ought to know me, and could not tell exactly
who I was.  And just as I came away, I fancied I heard another word or
two, spoken low as if not for me or somebody to hear--something
about--`like him and Agnes too.'  I wonder if I ever knew any one called
Agnes?  I have a faint impression that I did.  Can you tell me, Mother?"

"I will tell thee, Ralph.  But answer me first.  Wert thou always called
Ralph?"

"I cannot tell, Mother," replied the youth, with an interested look.  "I
fancy, somehow, that I once used to be called something not that
exactly, and yet very like it.  I have tried to recover it, and cannot.
Was it some pet name used by somebody?"

"No.  It was your own name--which Ralph is not."

"O Mother! what was it?"

"Wait a moment.  Did you ever hear of any one called--Countess?"

She brought out the second name with hesitation, as if she spoke it
unwillingly.  The youth shook his head.

"Let that pass."

"But who was it, Mother?"

"Never mind who it was.  No relative of yours--Rudolph."

"Rudolph!"  The young man sprang to his feet.  "That was my name!  I
know it was, but I never could get hold of it.  I shall not forget it
again."

"Do not forget it again.  But let it be for ourselves only.  To the
world outside you are still `Ralph.'  It is wiser."

"Very well, Mother."

This youth had been well trained, and was far more obedient to his
adopted mother than most sons at that time were to their real parents.
With the Saxons a mother had always been under the control of an adult
son; and the Normans who had won possession of England had by no means
abolished either the social customs or modes of thought of the
vanquished people.  In fact, the moral ascendancy soon rested with the
subject race.  The Norman noble who dried his washed hands in the air,
sneered at the Saxon thrall who wiped his on a towel; but the towel was
none the less an article of necessary furniture in the house of the
Norman's grandson.  It has often been the case in the history of the
world, that the real victory has rested with the vanquished: but it has
always been brought about by the one race mixing with and absorbing the
other.  Where that does not take place, the conquerors remain dominant.

"Now, my son, listen and think.  I have some questions to ask.  What
faith have I taught thee?"

"You have taught me," said Rudolph slowly, "to believe in God Almighty,
and in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross to
expiate the sins of His chosen."

"Is that the creed of those around us?"

"Mother, I cannot tell.  One half of my brain answers, Ay, it is; but
the other half says, No, there is a difference.  Yet I cannot quite see
what the difference is, and you have always so strictly forbidden me to
speak to any one except yourself on religious subjects, that I have had
no opportunity to learn what it is.  Others, when I hear them talking to
you, speak of God, of our Lord, and of our Lady, as we ourselves do: and
they speak of the holy Apostles and others of whom we always read in the
big book.  Mother, is that the same big book out of which the grave-eyed
man used to read?  But they mention a great many people who are not in
the book,--Martin, and Benedict, and Margaret, and plenty more--and they
call them all `Saint,' but I do not know who they were.  You never told
me about those people."

There was silence for a moment, till she said--"Thou hast learnt well,
and hast been an obedient boy.  In the years that lie before thee, thou
mayest have cause to thank God for it.  My questions are done: thou
mayest ask thine."

"Then, Mother, who am I?" was the eager inquiry.  "Thou art Rudolph, son
of Gerhardt of Mainz, and of Agnes his wife, who both gave their lives
for the Lord Christ's sake, fourteen years ago."

"Mother!--were my real parents martyrs?"

"That is the word which is written after their names in the Lamb's Book
of Life.  But in the books written by men the word is different."

"What is that word, then, Mother?"

"Rudolph, canst thou bear to hear it?  The word is--`heretic'."

"But those are wicked people, who are called heretics!"

"I think it depends on who uses the word."

Rudolph sat an instant in blank silence.

"Then what did my father believe that was so wrong?"

"He believed what I have taught you."

"Then were they wicked, and not he?"

"Judge for thyself.  There were about thirty of thy father's countrymen,
who came over to this country to preach the pure Word of God: and those
who called them heretics took them, and branded them, and turned them
out into the snow to die.  Would our Lord have done that?"

"Never!  Did they die?"

"Every one, except the child I saved."

"And that was I, Mother?"

"That was thou."

"So I am not an Englishman!" said Rudolph, almost regretfully.

"No.  Thou seest now why I taught thee German.  It is thine own tongue."

"Mother, this story is terrible.  I shall feel the world a worse place
to my life's end, after hearing it.  But suffer me to ask--who are you?
We are so unlike, that sometimes I have fancied we might not be related
at all."

"We are not related at all."

"But you are German?"

"No."

"You are English!  I always imagined you a foreigner."

"No--I am not English."

"Italian?--Spanish?"

She shook her head, and turned away her face.

"I never cared for the scorn of these other creatures," she said in a
low troubled voice.  "I could give them back scorn for scorn.  But it
will be hard to be scorned by the child whom I saved from death."

"Mother!  I scorn you?  Why, the thing could not be.  You are all the
world to me."

"It will not be so always, my son.  Howbeit, thou shalt hear the truth.
Rudolph, I am a Jewess.  My old name is Countess, the daughter of
Benefei of Oxford."

"Mother," said Rudolph softly, "you are what our Lady was.  If I could
scorn you, it would not be honouring her."

"True enough, boy: but thou wilt not find the world say so."

"If the world speak ill of you, Mother, I will have none of it!  Now
please tell me about others.  Who was Mother Isel?"

"A very dear and true friend of thy parents."

"And Ermine?"

"Thy father's sister--one of the best and sweetest maidens that God ever
made."

"Is it my father that I remember, with the grave blue eyes--the man who
read in the book?"

"I have no doubt of it.  It is odd--" and a smile flitted over
Countess's lips--"that all thou canst recollect of thy mother should be
her checked apron."

Rudolph laughed.  "Then who is the stern man, and who the merry one?"

"I should guess the stern man to be Manning Brown, the husband of Isel.
The merry, pleasant-faced man, I think, must be his nephew Stephen.
`Stephen the Watchdog' they used to call him; he was one of the Castle
watchmen."

"At Oxford?  Was it Oxford, then, where we used to live?"

"It was Oxford."

"I should like to go there again."

"Take heed thou do not so.  Thou are so like both thy father and mother
that I should fear for thy safety.  No one would know me, I think.  But
for thee I am not so sure.  And if they were to guess who thou art, they
would have thee up before the bishops, and question thee, and brand thee
with the dreadful name of `heretic,' as they did to thy parents."

"Mother, why would they do these things?--why did they do them?"

"Because they loved idols, and after them they would go.  We worship
only the Lord our God, blessed be He!  And thou wilt find always,
Rudolph, that not only doth light hate darkness, but the darkness also
hateth the light, and tries hard to extinguish it."

"Yet if they worship the same God that we do--"

"Do they?  I cannot tell.  Sometimes I think He can hardly reckon it so.
The God they worship seems to be no jealous God, but one that hath no
law to be broken, no power to be dreaded, no majesty to be revered.  `If
I be a Master,' said the Holy One by Malachi the Prophet, `where is My
fear?'  And our Lord spake to the Sadducees, saying, `Do ye not
therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of
God?'  They seem to be strangely fearless of breaking His most solemn
commands--even the words that He spake to Moses in the sight of all
Israel, on the mount that burned with fire.  Strangely fearless! when
the Master spake expressly against making the commands of God of no
effect through man's tradition.  What do they think He meant?  Let them
spill a drop of consecrated wine--which He never told them to be careful
over--and they are terrified of His anger: let them deliberately break
His distinct laws, and they are not terrified at all.  The world has
gone very, very far from God."

They sat for a little while in silence.

"Mother," said Rudolph at last, "who do you think that man was whom I
met, that looked so hard at me, and seemed to think me like my parents?
He spoke of `Ermine,' too."

"I can only guess, Rudolph.  I think it might be a son of Mother Isel--
she had two.  The Ermine of whom he spoke, no doubt, is some girl named
after thine aunt.  Perhaps it may be a child of their sister Flemild.  I
cannot say."

"You think it could not be my aunt, Mother?  I should like to know one
of my own kin."

"Not possible, my boy.  She must have died with the rest."

"Are you sure they all died, Mother?"

"I cannot say that I saw it, Rudolph: though I did see the dead faces of
several, when I was searching for thee.  But I do not see how she could
possibly have escaped."

"Might she not--if she had escaped--say the same of me?"

Countess seemed scarcely willing to admit even so much as this.

"It is time for sleep, my son," she said; and Rudolph rose, lighted the
lantern, and followed her upstairs.  The chamber above was divided in
two by a curtain drawn across it.  As Rudolph was about to pass beyond
it, he stopped to ask another question.

"Mother, if I should meet that man again,--suppose he were to speak to
me?"

A disquieted look came into the dark eyes.

"Bring him to me," she said.  "Allow nothing--deny nothing.  Leave me to
deal with him."

Rudolph dropped the curtain behind him, and silence fell upon the little
house in Mark Lane.

A few hours earlier, our old friend Stephen, now a middle-aged man, had
come home from his daily calling, to his house in Ivy Lane.  He was
instantly surrounded by his five boys and girls, their ages between six
and thirteen, all of whom welcomed him with tumultuous joyfulness.

"Father, I've construed a whole book of Virgil!"

"And, Father, I'm to begin Caesar next week!"

"I've made a gavache for you, Father--done every stitch myself!"

"Father, I've learnt how to make pancakes!"

"Father, I stirred the posset!"

"Well, well! have you, now?" answered the kindly-faced father.  "You're
all of you mighty clever, I'm very sure.  But now, if one or two of you
could get out of the way, I might shut the door; no need to let in more
snow than's wanted.--Where's Mother?"

"Here's Mother," said another voice; and a fair-haired woman of the age
of Countess, but looking younger, appeared in a doorway, drawing back
the curtain.  "I am glad you have come, Stephen.  It is rather a stormy
night."

"Oh, just a basinful of snow," said Stephen lightly.  "Supper ready?
Gerard--" to his eldest boy--"draw that curtain a bit closer, to keep
the wind off Mother.  Now let us ask God's blessing."

It was a very simple supper--cheese, honey, roasted apples, and brown
bread; but the children had healthy appetites, and had not been
enervated by luxuries.  Conversation during the meal was general.  When
it was over, the three younger ones were despatched to bed with a
benediction, under charge of their eldest sister; young Gerard seated
himself on the bench, with a handful of slips of wood, which he was
ambitiously trying to carve into striking likenesses of the twelve
Apostles; and when the mother's household duties were over, she came and
sat by her husband in the chimney-corner.  Stephen laid his hand upon
her shoulder.

"Ermine," he said, "dear heart, wilt thou reckon me cruel, if I carry
thy thoughts back--for a reason I have--to another snowy night, fourteen
years ago?"

"Stephen!" she exclaimed, with a sudden start.  "Oh no, I could never
think _thee_ cruel.  But what has happened?"

"Dost thou remember, when I first saw thee in Mother Haldane's house, my
telling thee that I could not find Rudolph?"

"Of course I do.  O Stephen! have you--do you think--"

Gerard looked up from his carving in amazement, to see the mother whom
he knew as the calmest and quietest of women transformed into an eager,
excited creature, with glowing cheeks and radiant eyes.

"Let me remind thee of one other point,--that Mother Haldane said God
would either take the child to Himself, or would some day show us what
had become of him."

"She did,--much to my surprise."

"And mine.  But I think, Ermine--I think it is going to come true."

"Stephen, what have you heard?"

"I believe, Ermine, I have seen him."

"Seen _him_--Rudolph?"

"I feel almost sure it was he.  I was standing this morning near Chepe
Cross, to let a waggon pass, when I looked up, and all at once I saw a
young man of some twenty years standing likewise till it went by.  The
likeness struck me dumb for a moment.  Gerard's brow--no, lad, not thou!
Thy mother knows--Gerard's brow, and his fair hair, with the very wave
it used to have about his temples; his eyes and nose too; but Agnes's
mouth, and somewhat of Agnes in the way he held his head.  And as I
stood there, up came Leuesa and her husband, passing the youth; and
before I spoke a word about him, `Saw you ever one so like Gerard?'
saith she.  I said, `Ay, him and Agnes too.'  We watched the lad cross
the street, and parting somewhat hastily from our friends, I followed
him at a little distance.  I held him in sight as far as Tower Street,
but ere he had quite reached Mark Lane, a company of mummers, going
westwards, came in betwixt and parted us.  I lost sight of him but for a
moment, yet when they had passed, I could see no more of him--north,
south, east, nor west--than if the earth had swallowed him up.  I reckon
he went into an house in that vicinage.  To-morrow, if the Lord will, I
will go thither, and watch.  And if I see him again, I will surely
speak."

"Stephen!  O Stephen, if it should be our lost darling!"

"Ay, love, if it should be!  It was always possible, of course, that he
might have been taken in somewhere.  There are many who would have no
compassion on man or woman, and would yet shrink from turning out a
little child to perish.  And he was a very attractive child.  Still, do
not hope too much, Ermine; it may be merely an accidental likeness."

"If I could believe," replied Ermine, "that Countess had been anywhere
near, I should think it more than possible that she had saved him."

"Countess?  Oh, I remember--that Jewish maiden who petted him so much.
But she went to some distance when she married, if I recollect rightly."

"She went to Reading.  But she might not have been there always."

"True.  Well, I will try to find out something to-morrow night."

The little jeweller's shop at the corner of Mark Lane had now been
established for fourteen years.  For ten of those years, David and
Christian had lived with Countess; but when Rudolph was old enough and
sufficiently trained to manage the business for himself, Countess had
thought it desirable to assist David in establishing a shop of his own
at some distance.  She had more confidence in David's goodness than in
his discretion, and one of her chief wishes was to have as few
acquaintances as possible.  Happily for her aim, Rudolph's disposition
was not inconveniently social.  He liked to sit in a cushioned corner
and dream the hours away; but he shrank as much as Countess herself from
the rough, noisy, rollicking life of the young people by whom they were
surrounded.  Enough to live on, in a simple and comfortable fashion--a
book or two, leisure, and no worry--these were Rudolph's desiderata, and
he found them in Mark Lane.

He had no lack of subjects for thought as he sat behind his tiny counter
on the evening of the following day.  Shop-counters, at that date, were
usually the wooden shutter of the window, let down table-wise into the
street; but in the case of plate and jewellery the stock was too
valuable to be thus exposed, and customers had to apply for admission
within.  It had been a very dull day for business, two customers only
having appeared, and one of these had gone away without purchasing.
There was one wandering about outside who would have been only too glad
to become a customer, had he known who sat behind the counter.  Stephen
had searched in vain for Rudolph in the neighbourhood where he had so
mysteriously vanished from sight.  He could not recognise him under the
alias of "Ralph le Juwelier," by which name alone his neighbours knew
him.  Evening after evening he watched the corner of Mark Lane, and some
fifty yards on either side of it, but only to go back every time to
Ermine with no tale to tell.  There were no detectives nor inquiry
offices in those days; nothing was easier than for a man to lose himself
in a great city under a feigned name.  For Countess he never inquired;
nor would he have taken much by the motion had he done so, since she was
known to her acquaintances as Sarah la Juweliere.  Her features were not
so patently Jewish as those of some daughters of Abraham, and most
people imagined her to be of foreign extraction.

"It seems of no use, Ermine," said Stephen mournfully, when a month had
passed and Rudolph had not been seen again.  "Maybe it was the boy's
ghost I saw, come to tell us that he is not living."

Stephen was gifted with at least an average amount of common sense, but
he would have regarded a man who denied the existence of apparitions as
a simpleton.

"We can only wait," said Ermine, looking up from the tunic she was
making for her little Derette.  "I have asked the Lord to send him to
us; we can only wait His time."

"But, Wife, suppose His time should be--never?"

"Then, dear," answered Ermine softly, "it will still be the right time."

The morning after that conversation was waning into afternoon, when
Rudolph, passing up Paternoster Row, heard hurried steps behind him, and
immediately felt a grasp on his shoulder--a grasp which seemed as if it
had no intention of letting him go in a hurry.  He looked up in some
surprise, into the face of the man whose intent gaze and disconnected
words had so roused his attention a month earlier.

"Caught you at last!" were the first words of his captor.  "Now don't
fall to and fight me, but do me so much grace as to tell me your name in
a friendly way.  You would, if you knew why I ask you."

The kindliness and honest sincerity of the speaker's face were both so
apparent, that Rudolph smiled as he said--

"Suppose you tell me yours?"

"I have no cause to be ashamed of it.  My name is Stephen, and men call
me `le Bulenger.'"

"Have they always called you so?"

"Are you going to catechise me?" laughed Stephen.  "No--you are right
there.  Fifteen years ago they called me `Esueillechien.'  Now, have you
heard my name before?"

"I cannot say either `yes' or `no,' unless you choose to come home with
me to see my mother.  She may know you better than I can."

"I'll come home with you fast enough," Stephen was beginning, when the
end of the sentence dashed his hopes down.  "`To see your--mother!'
That won't do, young man.  I have looked myself on her dead face--or
else you are not the man for whom I took you."

"I can answer you no questions till you do so," replied Rudolph firmly.

"Come, then, have with you," returned Stephen, linking his arm in that
of the younger man.  "Best to make sure.  I shall get to know something,
if it be only that you are not the right fellow."

"Now?" asked Rudolph, rather disconcertedly.  He was not in the habit of
acting in this ready style about everything that happened, but required
a little while to make up his mind to a fresh course.

"Have you not found out yet," said Stephen, marching him into Saint
Paul's Churchyard, "that _now_ is the only time a man ever has for
anything?"

"Well, you don't let the grass grow under your feet," observed Rudolph,
laughing.

Being naturally of a rather dreamy and indolent temperament, he was not
accustomed to getting over the ground with the rapidity at which Stephen
led him.

"There's never time to waste time," was the sententious reply.

In a shorter period than Rudolph would have thought possible, they
arrived at the corner of Mark Lane.

"You live somewhere about here," said Stephen coolly, "but I don't know
where exactly.  You'll have to show me your door."

"You seem to know a great deal about me," answered Rudolph in an amused
tone.  "This is my door.  Come in."

Stephen followed him into the jeweller's shop, where Countess sat
waiting for customers, with the big white dog lying at her feet.

"I'm thankful to see, young man, that your `mother' is no mother of
yours.  Your flaxen locks were never cut from those jet tresses.  But I
don't know who you are--" he turned to her--"unless Ermine be right that
Countess the Jewess took the boy.  Is that it?"

"That is it," she replied, flushing at the sound of her old name.  "You
are Stephen the Watchdog, if I mistake not?  Yes, I am Countess--or
rather, I was Countess, till I was baptised into the Christian faith.
So Ermine is yet alive?  I should like to see her.  I would fain have
her to come forward as my witness, when I deliver the boy unhurt to his
father at the last day."

"But how on earth did you do it?" broke out Stephen in amazement.  "Why,
you could scarcely have heard at Reading of what had happened,--I should
have thought you could not possibly have heard, until long after all was
over."

"I was not at Reading," she said in a constrained tone.  "I was living
in Dorchester.  And I heard of the arrest from Regina."

"Do, for pity's sake, tell me all about it!"

"I will tell you every thing: but let me tell Ermine with you.  And,--
Stephen--you will not try to take him from me?  He is all I have."

"No, Countess," said Stephen gravely.  "You have a right to the life
that you have saved.  Will you come with me now?  But perhaps you cannot
leave together?  Will the house be rifled when you return?"

"Not at all," calmly replied Countess.  "We will both go with you."

She rose, disappeared for a moment, and came back clad in a fur-lined
cloak and hood.  Turning the key in the press which held the stock, she
stooped down and attached the key to the dog's collar.

"On guard, Olaf!  Keep it!" was all she said to the dog.  "Now, Stephen,
we are ready to go with you."

Olaf got up somewhat sleepily, shook himself, and then lay down close to
the screen, his head between his paws, so that he could command a view
of both divisions of the chamber.  He evidently realised his
responsibility.

Stephen had no cause to complain that Countess wasted any time.  She
walked even faster than he had done, only pausing to let him take the
lead at the street corner.  But when he had once told her that his home
was in Ivy Lane, she paused no more, but pressed on steadily and quickly
until they reached the little street.  Stephen opened his door, and she
went straight in to where Ermine stood.

"Ermine!" she said, with a pleading cadence in her voice, "I have
brought back the child unhurt."

"Countess!" was Ermine's cry.

She took Ermine's hands in hers.

"I may touch you now," she said.  "You will not shrink from me, for I am
a Christian.  But I have kept my vow.  I have never permitted the boy to
worship idols.  I have kept him, so far as lay in my power, from all
contact with those men and things which his father held evil.  God bear
me witness to you, and God and you to him, that the poor scorned Jewess
has fulfilled her oath, and that the boy is unharmed in body and soul!--
Rudolph! this is thine Aunt Ermine.  Come and show thyself to her."

"Did I ever shrink from you?" replied Ermine with a sob, as she clasped
Countess to her heart.  "My friend, my sister!  As thou hast dealt with
us outcasts, may God reward thee! and as thou has mothered our Rudolph,
may He comfort thee!--O my darling, my Gerhardt's boy!--nay, I could
think that Gerhardt himself stood before me.  Wilt thou love me a
little, my Rudolph?--for I have loved thee long, and have never failed,
for one day, to pray God's blessing on thee if thou wert yet alive."

"I think I shall not find it hard, Aunt Ermine," said Rudolph, as he
kissed without knowing it that spot on Ermine's brow where the terrible
brand had once been.  "I have often longed to find one of my own
kindred, for I knew that Mother was not my real mother, good and true as
she has been to me."

Countess brought out from under her cloak a large square parcel, wrapped
in a silken kerchief.

"This is Rudolph's fortune," she said.

Stephen looked on with some curiosity, fully expecting to see a box of
golden ornaments, or perhaps of uncut gems.  But when the handkerchief
was carefully unfolded, there lay before them an old, worn book, in a
carved wooden case.

Stephen--who could not read--was a little disappointed, though the
market value of any book was very high.  But Ermine recognised the
familiar volume with a cry of delight, and took it into her hands,
reading half-sentences here and there as she turned over the leaves.

"Oh, how have I wished for this!  How I have wondered what became of it!
Gerhardt's dear old Gospel-Book!  Countess, how couldst thou get it?
It was taken from him when we were arrested."

"I know it," answered Countess with a low laugh.

"But you were at Reading!" exclaimed Ermine.

"I was at Oxford, though you knew it not.  I had arrived on a visit to
my father, the morning of that very day.  I was in the crowd around when
you went down to the prison, though I saw none of you save Gerhardt.
But I saw the sumner call his lad, and deliver the book to him, bidding
him bear it to the Castle, there to be laid up for the examination of
the Bishops.  Finding that I could not get the child, I followed the
book.  Rubi was about, and I begged him to challenge the lad to a trial
of strength, which he was ready enough to accept.  He laid down the book
on the window-ledge of a house, and--I do not think he picked it up
again."

"You stole it, sinner!" laughed Stephen.

"Why not?" inquired Countess with a smile.  "I took it for its lawful
owner, from one that had no right to it.  You do not call that theft?"

"Could you read it?"

"I could learn to do anything for Rudolph."

"But how did you ever find him?"

"We were living at Dorchester.  Regina came to stay with me in the
winter, and she told me that you were to be examined before the King and
the bishops, and on what day.  All that day I watched to see you pass
through the town, and having prepared myself to save the child if I
possibly could, when I caught a glimpse of Guelph, who was among the
foremost, I followed in the rabble, with a bottle of broth, which I kept
warm in my bosom, to revive such as I might be able to reach.  Ermine, I
looked in vain for you, for Gerhardt or Agnes.  But I saw Rudolph, whom
Adelheid was leading.  The crowd kept pressing before me, and I could
not keep him in sight; but as they went out of Dorchester, I ran
forward, and came up with them again a little further, when I missed
Rudolph.  Then I turned back, searching all the way--until I found him."

"And your husband let you keep him?" asked Ermine in a slightly
surprised tone.

"My oath let me keep him," said Countess in a peculiar voice.

"Are you a widow?" responded Ermine pityingly.

"Very likely," was the short, dry answer.

Ermine asked no more.  "Poor Countess!" was all she said.

"Don't pity me for _that_," replied the Jewess.  "You had better know.
We quarrelled, Ermine, over the boy, and at my own request he divorced
me, and let me go.  It was an easy choice to make--gold and down
cushions on the one hand, love and the oath of God upon the other.  I
never missed the down cushions; and I think the child found my breast as
soft as they would have been.  I sold my jewels, and set up a little
shop.  We have had the blessing of the Holy One, to whom be praise!"

"That is a Jewish way of talking, is it not?" said Stephen, smiling.  "I
thought you were a Catholic now."

"I am a Christian.  I know nothing about `Catholic'--unless the idols in
the churches are Catholic, and with them I will have nought to do.
Gerhardt never taught me to worship them, and Gerhardt's book has never
taught it either.  I believe in the Lord my God, and His Son Jesus
Christ, the Messiah of Israel: but these gilded vanities are
abominations to me.  Oh, why have ye Christian folk added your folly to
God's wisdom, and have held off the sons and daughters of Israel from
faith in Messiah the King?"

"Ah, why, indeed!" echoed Ermine softly.

"Can you tell me anything of our old friends at Oxford?" asked Countess
suddenly, after a moment's pause.

"Yes, we heard of them from Leuesa, who married and came to live in
London about six years ago," said Stephen.  "Your people were all well,
Countess; your sister Regina has married Samuel, the nephew of your
uncle Jurnet's wife, and has a little family about her--one very pretty
little maid, Leuesa told us, with eyes like yours."

"Thank you," said Countess in a tone of some emotion.  "They would not
own me now."

"Dear," whispered Ermine lovingly, "whosoever shall confess Christ
before men,--not the creed, nor the Church, but Him whom the Father
sent, and the truth to which He bore witness--him will He also confess
before our Father which is in Heaven.  And I think there are a very few
of those whom He will present before the presence of His glory, who
shall hear Him say of them those words of highest praise that He ever
spoke on earth,--`She hath done what she could.'"



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

HISTORICAL APPENDIX.

The sorrowful story of Gerhardt's Mission is told by William of Newbury
and Ranulph de Diceto.  It seems strange that a company of thirty German
peasants should have set forth to bring England back to the pure
primitive faith; yet not stranger than that four hundred years earlier,
Boniface the Englishman should have set out to convert Germany from
heathenism.  Boniface succeeded; Gerhardt failed.  The reason for the
failure, no less than for the success, is hidden in the counsels of Him
who worketh all things according to His own will.  The time was not yet.

It was in 1159 that this little company arrived in England, and for
seven years they preached without repression.  Gerhardt, their leader,
was the only educated man amongst them, the rest being described as
"rustic and unpolished."  Some have termed them Publicani or Paulikians;
whether they really belonged to that body is uncertain.  William of
Newbury says they were a sect which came originally from Gascony, and
was scattered over Gaul, Spain, Italy, and Germany.  They seem therefore
to have been true descendants of the old Gallican Church--the Church of
Irenaus and Blandina--which we know retained her early purity far longer
than the Church of Rome.  Their defence, too, when examined, was that of
Blandina--"I am a Christian, and no evil is done amongst us."

Their preaching was singularly unsuccessful, if the monkish writers are
to be trusted.  "They added to their company, during a sojourn of some
time in England, only one girl (_muliercula_), who, as report says, was
fascinated by magic."  Perhaps their work was of more value than
appeared on the surface.  After seven years of this quiet evangelising,
the King and the clergy interfered.  Considered as a "foreign sect,"
they were cited before a council held at Oxford in 1166, the King
stating his desire neither to dismiss them as harmless, nor to punish
them as guilty, without proper investigation.

Gerhardt was the chief spokesman.  To the questions asked he replied
that they were Christians, and "revered the doctrine of the Apostles,"
but he expressed abhorrence of certain Romish tenets--_e.g._, Purgatory,
prayers for the dead, and the invocation of saints.  He is said to have
shown detestation for the sacraments and for marriage: which, compared
with similar accusations brought against the Albigenses, and their
replies thereto, almost certainly means that he objected to the corrupt
view of these institutions taken by Rome.  If Gerhardt denied
consubstantiation, baptismal regeneration, and the sacramental character
of matrimony, the priests were sure to assert that he denied the
sacraments and marriage.  The Albigenses were similarly accused, and
almost in the same sentence we are told that they had their wives with
them.  When "the Scriptures were urged against them," the Germans
declined disputation.  They probably saw that it would be of no avail.
Indeed, what good could be gained by disputing with men who confessed
that they received Scripture only on the authority of the Church (which
they held superior to the Word of God), and who allowed no explanation
of it save their own private interpretation?--who were so illogical as
to urge that the Church existed before the Scriptures as a reason for
her superiority, and so ignorant as to maintain that _pulai adou_
signified the power of Satan!  Asked if they would do penance, the
Germans refused: threatened with penalties, they held firm.  Their
punishment was terrible.  They were, of course, by Rome's cruel fiction
that the Church punishes no man, delivered over to the secular power;
and the sentence upon them was that of branding on the forehead, their
garments being cut down to the girdle, and being turned into the open
fields.  Proclamation was made that none should presume to receive them
under his roof, nor "to administer consolation."  The sentence was
carried out with even more barbarity than it was issued, for Gerhardt
was twice branded, on forehead and chin, all were scourged, and were
then beaten with rods out of the city.  No compassion was shown even to
the women.  Not a creature dared to open his door to the "heretics."
Their solitary convert recanted in terror.  But the Germans went
patiently and heroically to their death, singing, as they passed on, the
last beatitude--"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute
you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for My
sake."  Their suffering did not last long.  It was in the depth of
winter that they were cast out, and they soon lay down in the snow and
yielded up their martyr-souls to God.

According to the monkish chroniclers, not one survived.  But one
elaborate argument may be found, by an eminent antiquary (_Archaologia_,
nine 292-309), urging that survivors of this company were probably the
ancestors of a mysterious group entitled "Waldenses," who appear in the
Public Records in after years as tenants, and not improbably vassals, of
the Archbishop of Canterbury.  They paid to that See 4 shillings per
annum for waste land; 3 shillings 4 pence for "half a plough of land of
gable;" 5 shillings 4 pence at each of the four principal feasts, with
32 and a half pence in lieu of autumnal labours--_i.e._, mowing,
reaping, etcetera.  When the Archbishop was resident on the manor of
Darenth, they had to convey corn for his household, in consideration of
which they received forage from his barns, and a corrody or regular
allowance of food and clothing from a monastery.  I am not competent to
judge how far the contention of the writer is valid; but the possibility
of such a thing seemed to warrant the supposition in a tale that one or
two of the company might have escaped the fate which undoubtedly
overtook the majority of the mission.

The story may be found in a condensed form in Milner's Church History,
Three, 459.

Every one of the singular names, as well as prices, and various other
details, has been taken from the Pipe Rolls of Henry Second, from the
first to the twenty-seventh year.  All the characters are fictitious
excepting the Royal Family, the Earl and Countess of Oxford, the members
of the Council, Gerhardt himself, and--simply as regards their
existence--Osbert the porter, his wife Anania, and Aliz de Norton, who
are entered on the Pipe Roll as inhabitants of Oxford at this date.

The language spoken at that time, whether French or English, would be
wholly unintelligible to read, if enough of it had come down to us to
make it possible to be written.  It seemed best, therefore, to use
ordinary modern English, flavoured with the Oxfordshire dialect, and now
and then varied by antique expressions.

THE END.





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