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Title: The Bondman - A Story of the Times of Wat Tyler (The Library of Romance, Vol. V)
Author: O'Neill, Mrs.
Language: English
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THE LIBRARY OF ROMANCE.

Edited

by LEITCH RITCHIE.

VOL. V.

THE BONDMAN.



London:
Smith, Elder and Co., 65, Cornhill.

1833.

Printed by Stewart and Co., Old Bailey.


THE BONDMAN.

A Story of the Times of Wat Tyler.



London:
Smith, Elder and Co., 65, Cornhill;

1833.



ADVERTISEMENT.


The idea of the following tale was suggested on reading the first
volume of Robertson's Charles the Fifth, on the Feudal Policy of
Germany; and the picture of moral and political debasement presented in
those pages, whether as regards the oppressor or the oppressed. Those
revolting distinctions have, however, passed away--villein is but a
thing that was. But if the old chronicles are to be credited, the monk,
whom the author has endeavoured to pourtray in the course of this tale,
was the first who whispered in the ear of an English serf, that slavery
was not his birthright.

It may, perhaps, be superfluous to add, that all the legal information
scattered through the volume, is strictly correct; and every historical
event, as nearly so as the machinery of the tale permitted. The
critical reader, whose indulgence the writer solicits, will immediately
perceive from whence the information has been derived.



THE BONDMAN.



BOOK I.



CHAPTER I.


About a quarter of a mile south of Winchcombe, on the summit of a
gentle elevation, are still the remains of a castle, which, as Fuller
says, "was of subjects' castles the most handsome habitation, and of
subjects' habitations the strongest castle."

In the month of August, in the year thirteen hundred and seventy-four,
this distinguished place, called Sudley Castle, presented an
interesting scene--the then owner, in consequence of his father's
death, holding his first court for receiving the homage and fealty of
his vassals.

The court-yards were thronged with the retainers of the Baron,
beguiling the hour until the ceremony called them into the hall. This
apartment, which corresponded in magnificence and beauty with the
outward appearance of the noble pile, was of an oblong shape. Carved
representations of battles adorned the lofty oaken ceiling, and
suspended were banners and quarterings of the Sudley and De Boteler
families. Ancestral statues of oak, clad in complete armour, stood
in niches formed in the thick walls. The heavy linked mail of the
Normans, with the close helmet, or skull cap, fastened under the chin,
and leaving the face exposed, encased those who represented the early
barons of Sudley; while those of a later period were clad in the more
convenient, and more beautiful armour of the fourteenth century. The
walls were covered with arms, adapted to the different descriptions of
soldiers of the period, and arranged so, as each might provide himself
with his proper weapons, without delay or confusion.

The hall had a tesselated pavement, on which the arms of the united
families of Sudley and De Boteler (the latter having inherited by
marriage, in consequence of a failure of male issue in the former)
were depicted with singular accuracy and beauty. About midway from
the entrance, two broad steps of white marble led to the part of the
hall exclusively appropriated to the owner of the castle. The mosaic
work of this privileged space was concealed on the present occasion
by a covering of fine crimson cloth. A large arm chair, covered with
crimson velvet, with the De Boteler arms richly emblazoned on the high
back, over which hung a velvet canopy fringed with gold, was placed
in the centre of the elevation; and several other chairs with similar
coverings and emblazonings, but wanting canopies, were disposed around
for the accommodation of the guests.

The steward at length appeared, and descended the steps to classify
the people for the intended homage, and to satisfy himself that none
had disobeyed the summons.

The tenantry were arranged in the following order:--

First--the steward and esquire stood on either side next the steps.

Then followed the vassals who held lands for watching and warding the
castle. These were considered superior to the other vassals from the
peculiar nature of their tenure, as the life-guards, as it were, of
their lord.

Then those who held lands in chivalry, namely, by performing stated
military services, the perfection of whose tenures was homage.

The next were those who held lands by agricultural or rent service, and
who performed fealty as a memorial of their attachment and dependence.

The bondmen, or legally speaking, the villeins, concluded the array.
These were either attached to the soil or to the person. The former
were designated _villeins appendant_, because following the transfer
of the ground, like fixtures of a freehold, their persons, lands, and
goods, being the property of the lord; they might be chastised, but not
maimed. They paid a fine on the marriage of females; who obtained their
freedom on marriage with a free man, but returned again to bondage
on surviving their husband. The latter class were called _villeins
in gross_, and differed nothing from the others except in name; the
term signifying that they were severed from the soil, and followed the
person of the lord. Neither of the classes were permitted to leave the
lands of their owner; and on flight or settlement in towns or cities,
might be pursued and reclaimed. An action for damages lay against those
who harboured them, or who refused to deliver them up,--the law also
provided a certain form of writ by which the sheriff was commanded
to seize, or obtain them by force. There was one mode, however, of
nullifying the right of capture. If the runaway resided on lands of the
king, for a year and a day, without claim, he could not be molested
for the future; although he was still liable, if caught beyond the
precincts of the royal boundary, to be retaken.

The classification had just finished, when a door at the upper end of
the hall was thrown open, and the Baron of Sudley entered, attended by
his guests, and followed by a page.

Roland de Boteler was a man about six-and-twenty, of a tall,
well-proportioned figure, with an open, handsome countenance; but
there was a certain boldness or freedom in the laughing glance of
his large black eyes, and in the full parted lips, blended with an
expression, which though not perhaps exactly haughty or cruel, yet told
distinctly enough that he was perfectly regardless of the feelings
of his dependants, and considered them merely as conducive to his
amusement, or to the display of military power. A doublet of crimson
cloth, embroidered with gold, was well chosen to give advantage to his
dark complexion. His tunic composed of baudykin, or cloth of gold,
was confined round the waist by a girdle, below which it hung in full
plaits, nearly to the knee,--thus allowing little of his trunk hose,
of rich velvet, corresponding in colour with the doublet, to be seen.
Over his dress he wore a surcoat or mantle of fine violet-coloured
cloth, fastened across the breast, with a gold clasp, and lined with
minever. His hair, according to the fashion introduced by the Black
Prince, when he brought over his royal captive, John of France, fell
in thick short curls below a cap in colour and material resembling
his mantle, and edged with minever; and the lip and chin wore neither
mustachio nor beard.

His eye fell proudly for a moment on the assembled yeomen, as he
took his seat for the first time as Lord of Sudley; but speedily the
ceremony commenced.

The individual first summoned from among the group, was a tall athletic
young man of about twenty-five, with a complexion fair but reddened
through exposure to the seasons. His hair was light-brown, thick and
curly, and there was a good-humoured expression in the clear grey eyes,
and in the full, broad, well marked countenance, that would give one
the idea of a gay, thoughtless spirit--had it not been for the bold
and firm step, and the sudden change of feature from gay to grave as
he advanced to the platform, and met unabashed the Baron's scrutiny,
at once indicating that the man possessed courage and decision when
occasion required these qualities to be called into action.

Stephen Holgrave ascended the marble steps, and proceeded on till he
stood at the baron's feet. He then unclasped the belt of his waist, and
having his head uncovered, knelt down, and holding up both his hands.
De Boteler took them within his own, and the yeoman said in a loud,
distinct voice--

"Lord Roland de Boteler, I become your man from this day forward, of
life and limb and earthly worship, and unto you shall be true and
faithful, and bear to you faith, for the lands that I claim to hold of
you, saving the faith that I owe unto our sovereign lord the king."

The baron then bent his head forward and kissed the young man's
forehead; and unloosing his hands, Holgrave arose, and bending his
head, stood to hear what De Boteler might say.

"You have spoken well, Holgrave," said De Boteler, looking
good-humouredly upon the yeoman, "and, truly, if the life of Roland de
Boteler is worth any thing, you have earned your reward; and, here, in
the presence of this good company, I covenant for myself and my heirs,
that you and your heirs, shall hold the land for ever, in chivalry,
presenting every feast of the Holy Baptist, a pair of gloves."

"Calverley," said the baron, as Holgrave retired, and while addressing
his esquire, his features assumed a peculiar expression: "What a pity
it is that a yeoman should reap the reward of a service that _should_
have been performed by you had your health permitted!"

The sarcastic smile that accompanied these words, called up a glow even
deeper than envy had done; yet, in a calm voice, Calverley replied,
"The land, my lord, though the gift be fair, is of little account in
comparison with the honour of the deed; but I may humbly say, that if
Thomas Calverley had witnessed his master's peril, he would have been
found as valiant in his defence as the yeoman, whose better fortune it
was to be present."

"Aye, aye, my good 'squire," said the baron, still in a laughing
tone, "your illness, I am told, gave you a most outrageous
appetite--doubtless your feeble constitution needed strengthening!
Come, come, man, it is but a joke--never look so blank; yet, if _we_
laugh, there is no reason why those knaves should stand grinning there
from ear to ear. Bid the senior vassal advance."

The vassals who were to perform homage then prepared to go through the
customary form; and an old grey-headed man advanced first from the
group to do fealty, and, standing before the baron, pronounced after
him the following oath, holding his right hand on the gospels:--

"I, John Hartwell, will be to you, my Lord Roland de Boteler, true and
faithful, and bear to you fealty and faith for the lands and tenements
which I hold of you; and I will truly do and perform the customs and
services that I ought to do to you, so help me God!" The old man then
kissed the book, and retired to give place to the next; and so on till
all who owed fealty had gone through the ceremony.

Lastly advanced from among the bondmen, or villeins, the oldest
servitor, and, holding his right hand over the book, pronounced after
De Boteler--

"Hear you, my Lord de Boteler, that I, William Marson, from this day
forth unto you shall be true and faithful, and shall owe you fealty for
the land which I may hold of you in villeinage, and shall be justified
by you both in body and goods, so help me God and all the saints."
After kissing the book he withdrew; and the bondmen successively
renewed their servile compact.

While the vassals were retiring from the hall, the Lord de Boteler
turned to the gentleman near him--

"Sir Robert," said he, "you saw that vassal who first did homage?--to
that base-born churl I owe my life. I had engaged hand to hand with a
French knight, when my opponent's esquire treacherously attacked me
from behind. This was observed by my faithful follower, who struck down
the coward with his axe, and, in a moment more, rid me of the knight by
a blow that cleft his helmet and entered his brain. He also, by rare
chance, I know not how, slew the bearer of that banner yonder, and,
when the battle was over, laid it at my feet."

"You have made him a freeman since then?" inquired Sir Robert.

"No; he received his freedom from my father when a boy for some
juvenile service--I hardly remember what. Yet I shall never forget the
look of the varlet--as if it mattered to such as he whether they were
free or not! He stared for an instant at my father--the tears trembling
in his eyes, and all the blood in his body, I verily believe, reddening
his face, and he looked as if he would have said something; but my
father and I did not care to listen, and we turned away. As for the
land he has now received, I promised it him on the field of battle, and
I could not retract my word."

"No, baron," said Sir Robert; "the man earned it by his bravery: and
surely the life of the Lord de Boteler is worth more than a piece of
dirty land."

De Boteler, not caring to continue so uninteresting a subject,
discoursed upon other matters; and the business of the morning having
concluded, he retired with his guests from the hall.

It was about a fortnight after this court day that the fortunate yeoman
one morning led his mother, Edith Holgrave, to the cottage he had built
on the land that was now his own.

Edith entered the cottage, her hand resting for support upon the
shoulder of her son--for she was feeble, though not so much from age
as from a weak constitution. As she stepped over the threshold she
devoutly crossed herself; and when they stood upon the earthen floor,
she withdrew her left hand from the arm that supported her, and,
sinking upon her knees, and raising up her eyes, exclaimed--

"May He, in whose hands are the ends of the earth, preserve thee, my
son, from evil. And oh! may He bless this house!"

While she spoke, her eyes brightened, and her pale face for a short
time glowed with the fervor of her soul.

"Stephen, my son," she continued (as with his aid she arose and seated
herself upon a wooden stool), "many days of sorrow have I seen, but
this proud day is an atonement for all. _My_ father was a freeman,
but _thy_ father was a serf;--but all are alike in _His_ eyes, who
oftentimes gives the soul of a churl to him who dwelleth in castles,
and quickens the body of the base of birth with a spirit that might
honour the wearer of crimson and gold. My husband was a villein, but
his soul spurned the bondage; and oftentimes, my son, when you have
been an infant in my arms, thy father wished that the free-born breast
which nourished you, could infuse freedom into your veins. _He_ did not
live to see it; but oh! what a proud day was that for me, when my son
no longer bore the name of slave! I had prayed--I had yearned for that
day; and it at length repaid me for all the taunts of our neighbours,
who reviled me because my spirit was not such as theirs!"

"Come, come, mother," interrupted Holgrave, "don't agitate yourself;
there is time to talk of all this by-and-bye."

"And so there is, child--but I am old; and the aged, as well as the
young, love to be talking. Stephen, you must bear with your mother."

"Aye, that I will, mother," replied Holgrave, kissing her cheek which
had assumed its accustomed paleness; "and ill befall the son that will
not!"

Leaving his mother to attend to the visitors who crowded in to drink
success to the new proprietor in a cup of ale, Stephen Holgrave stole
unobserved out of the cottage towards nightfall.

Passing through Winchcombe, he arrived at a small neat dwelling, in a
little sequestered valley, about a quarter of a mile from the town--the
tenant of which lowly abode is of no small consequence to our story.

Like Holgrave, Margaret was the offspring of the bond and the free. Her
father had been a bondman attached to the manor of Sudley; and her
mother a poor friendless orphan, with no patrimony save her freedom.
Such marriages were certainly of rare occurrence, because women
naturally felt a repugnance to become the mother of serfs; but still,
that they did occur, is evidenced by the law of villeinage, ordaining
that the children of a bondman and free woman should in no wise partake
of their mother's freedom.

It might be, perhaps, that this similarity in their condition had
attracted them towards each other; or it might be that, as Margaret
had been motherless since her birth, and Edith had nursed and reared
her till she grew to womanhood, from the feelings natural to long
association, love had grown and strengthened in Stephen's heart.
Indeed, there were not many of her class who could have compared with
this young woman. Her figure was about the middle height of her sex,
and so beautifully proportioned, that even the close kerchief and
russet gown could not entirely conceal the symmetrical formation of
the broad white shoulders, the swelling bust, and the slender waist.
Plain braids of hair of the darkest shade, and arched brows of the same
hue, gave an added whiteness to a forehead smooth and high; and her
full intelligent eyes, with a fringe as dark as her hair, were of a
clear deep blue. The feminine occupation of a sempstress had preserved
the delicacy of her complexion, and had left a soft flickering
blush playing on her cheek. Such was Margaret the beloved--the
betrothed--whom Holgrave was now hastening to invite, with all the
simple eloquence of honest love, to become the bride of his bosom--the
mistress of his home.

The duskiness of the twilight hour was lightened by the broad beams of
an autumn moon; and as the moonlight, streaming full upon the thatch,
revealed distinctly the little cot that held his treasure, all the high
thoughts of freedom and independence, all the wandering speculative
dreamings that come and go in the heart of man, gave place, for a
season, to one engrossing feeling. Margaret was not this evening, as
she was wont to be, sitting outside the cottage door awaiting his
approach. The door was partly opened--he entered--and beheld a man
kneeling before her, and holding one of her hands within his own!

"Stephen Holgrave!" cried the devotee, jumping up, "what brings you
here at such an hour?"

"What brings me, Calverley!" replied Holgrave, furiously, "who are you,
to ask such a question? What brings _you_ here?"

"My own will, Stephen Holgrave," answered Calverley in a calm tone;
"and mark you--this maiden has no right to plight her troth except with
her lord's consent. She is Lord de Boteler's bondwoman, and dares not
marry without his leave--which will never be given to wed with you."

"You talk boldly, sir, of my lord's intents," answered the yeoman
sulkily.

"I speak but the truth," replied Calverley. "You have been rewarded
well for the deed you did; and think not that your braggart speech
will win my lord. This maid is no meet wife for such as you. My lord
has offered me fair lands and her freedom if I choose to wed her: and
though many a free dowered maid would smile upon the suit of Thomas
Calverley, yet have I come to offer wedlock to Margaret."

"Margaret!" said Holgrave fiercely, "can this be true? answer me! Has
Calverley spoken of marriage to you?--why do you not answer? Have I
loved a false one?"

"No, Stephen," replied Margaret, in a low trembling voice.

Holgrave's mind was relieved as Margaret spoke, for he had confidence
in her truth. He knew, however, that Calverley stood high in the favour
of De Boteler, and he determined not to trust himself with further
words.

"Margaret," said Calverley suddenly, "I leave Sudley Castle on the
morrow to attend my lord to London. At my return I shall expect that
this silence be changed into language befitting the chosen bride of the
Baron de Boteler's esquire. Remember you are not yet free!--and now,
Stephen Holgrave, I leave not this cottage till you depart. The maiden
is my lord's nief, the cottage is his, and here I am privileged--not
you."

Fierce retorts and bitter revilings were on Holgrave's tongue; but the
sanctuary of a maiden's home was no place for contention. He knew that
Calverley did possess the power he vaunted; and, without uttering a
word, he crossed the threshold, and stood on the sod just beyond the
door.

Calverley paused a moment gazing on the blanched beauty of the agitated
girl, her cheek looking more pale from the moonlight that fell upon
it; and then, in the soft insinuating tone he knew so well how to
assume--

"Forgive me, Margaret," said he, "for what I have said. But oh," he
continued, taking her hand, and pressing it passionately to his bosom,
"You know not how much I love you!--Come, sir, will you walk?" Then
kissing the damsel's hand he relinquished it; and Margaret, with
streaming eyes and a throbbing heart, watched till the two receding
figures were lost in the distance.

Holgrave and Calverley pursued their path in sullen silence. There
were about a dozen paces between them, but neither were one foot in
advance of the other. On they went through Winchcombe and along the
road, till they came to where a footpath from the left intersected
the highway. Here they both, as if by mutual agreement, made a sudden
pause, and stood doggedly eyeing each other. At considerably less than
a quarter of a mile to the right was Sudley Castle; and at nearly the
same distance to the left was Holgrave's new abode. After the lapse of
several minutes, Calverley leaped across a running ditch to the right;
and Holgrave, having thus far conquered, turned to the left on his
homeward path.

The reader will, perhaps, feel some surprise that an esquire of the
rich and powerful Lord de Boteler should be thus competing with the
yeoman for the hand of a portionless humble nief; but it is necessary
to observe, in the first place, that in the fifteenth century esquires
were by no means of the consideration they had enjoyed a century
before. Some nobles, indeed, who were upholders of the ancient system,
still regarded an esquire as but a degree removed from a knight, but
these were merely exceptions;--the general rule, at the period we
are speaking of, was to consider an esquire simply as a principal
attendant, without the least claim to any distinction beyond. Such a
state of things accorded well with the temper of De Boteler;--he could
scarcely have endured the equality, which, in some measure, formerly
subsisted between the esquire and his lord. With him the equal might
be familiar, but the inferior must be submissive; and it was, perhaps,
the humility of Calverley's deportment that alone had raised him to the
situation he now held. Calverley, besides, had none of the requisites
of respectability which would have entitled him to take a stand among a
class such as esquires had formerly been.

About ten years before the commencement of our tale, a pale emaciated
youth presented himself one morning at Sudley Castle, desiring the
hospitality that was never denied to the stranger. Over his dress,
which was of the coarse monks' cloth then generally worn by the
religious, he wore a tattered cloak of the dark russet peculiar to the
peasant. That day he was fed, and that night lodged at the castle; and
the next morning, as he stood in a corner of the court-yard, apparently
lost in reflection as to the course he should next adopt, the young
Roland de Boteler, then a fine boy of fifteen, emerged from the stone
arch-way of the stable mounted on a spirited charger. The glow on his
cheek, the brightness of his eyes, and the youthful animation playing
on his face, and ringing in the joyous tones of his voice, seemed
to make the solitary dejected being, who looked as if he could claim
neither kindred nor home, appear even more care-worn and friendless.
The youth gazed at the young De Boteler, and ran after him as he rode
through the gateway followed by two attendants.

He then wandered about with a look of still deeper despondence, till
the trampling of the returning horses sent a transient tinge across
his cheek. He followed Roland's attendants, and again entered the
court-yard. By some chance, as the young rider was alighting, his eye
fell on the dejected stranger, who was standing at a little distance
fixing an anxious gaze upon the heir.

"Who is that sickly-looking carle, Ralph?" enquired De Boteler.

The attendant did not know. The youth interpreted the meaning of
Roland's glance, and approached, and, with a humble yet not ungraceful
obeisance--

"Noble young lord," said he, "may a wanderer crave leave to abide for a
time in this castle?"

"You have my leave," replied the boy in the consequential tone that
youth generally assumes when conferring a favour. "Indeed, you don't
look very fit to wander farther;--Ralph, see that this knave is
attended to."

The stranger was now privileged to remain, and a week's rest and
good cheer considerably improved his appearance. He did not presume,
however, to approach the part of the castle inhabited by the owners;
but never did the young Roland enter the court-yard, or walk abroad,
but the silent homage of the grateful stranger greeted him.

This strange youth was Thomas Calverley, and, by the end of a month,
Roland's eyes as instinctively sought for him when he needed an
attendant, as if he had been a regular domestic.

It was good policy in Calverley to propitiate the young De Boteler; for
had he presented himself to his father, although for a space he might
have been fed, he could never have presumed to obtrude himself upon his
notice.

There was a humility in the stranger which pleased Roland's imperious
temper; _he_ had granted the permission by which he abided in the
castle, and he seemed to feel a kind of interest in his protegé; and
the envy of his attendants was often excited by their young lord
beckoning to Calverley to assist him to mount, or alight, or do him
any other little service. Calverley began now to be considered as a
kind of inmate in the castle, and various were the whispered tales
that went about respecting him. At length it was discovered that he
was a scholar--that is, he could read and write; and the circumstance,
though it abated nothing of the whisperings of idle curiosity, entirely
silenced the taunts he had been compelled to endure. If still disliked,
yet was he treated with some respect; for none of the unlettered
domestics would have presumed to speak rudely to one so far above them
in intellectual attainments.

Such a discovery could not long remain a secret;--the tale reached the
ears of young De Boteler, and, already prepossessed in his favour, it
was but a natural consequence that Calverley should rise from being
first an assistant, to be the steward, the page, and, at length,
the esquire to the heir to the barony of Sudley. But the progress
of his fortunes did but add to the malevolence of the detractor and
the tale-bearer; theft, sacrilege, and even murder were hinted at
as probable causes for a youth, who evidently did not belong to the
vulgar, being thus a friendless outcast. But the most charitable
surmise was, that he was the offspring of the unhallowed love of some
dame or damsel who had reared him in privacy, and had destined him
for the church; and that either upon the death of his protectress, or
through some fault, he had been expelled from his home. Calverley had a
distant authoritative manner towards his equals and inferiors, which,
despite every effort, checked inquisitiveness; and all the information
he ever gave was, that he was the son of a respectable artizan of
the city of London, whom his father's death had left friendless.
Whether this statement was correct or not, could never be discovered.
Calverley was never known to allude to aught that happened in the years
previous to his becoming an inmate of the castle: what little he had
said was merely in reply to direct questions. It would seem, then,
that he stood alone in the world, and such a situation is by no means
enviable; and although duplicity, selfishness and tyranny, formed the
principal traits in his character; and though independently of tyranny
and selfishness, his mind instinctively shrunk from any contact, save
that of necessity, with those beneath him, yet had he gazed upon the
growing beauty of Margaret till a love pure and deep--a love in which
was concentrated all the slumbering affections, had risen and expanded
in his breast, until it had, as it were, become a part of his being.

Margaret had a brother--a monk in the abbey at Winchcombe, to whose
care she was indebted for the instructions which had made her a skilful
embroidress, and still more for the precautions which had preserved
her opening beauty from the gaze of the self-willed Roland de Boteler.
Though the daughter of a bondman, her services had never been demanded;
and father John had ultimately removed her from Edith's roof to the
little cottage already mentioned.

Calverley had intended to see Margaret again before leaving the castle;
but De Boteler, having changed the hour he had appointed, there was
not a moment to spare from the necessary arrangements. Never before
had Calverley's assumed equanimity of temper been so severely tried;
the patient attention with which he listened, and the prompt assiduity
with which he executed a thousand trifling commands--although, from
the force with which he bit his underlip, he was frequently compelled
to wipe away the blood from his mouth--shewed the absolute control he
had acquired over his feelings--at least so far as the exterior was
concerned.

The chapel bell rang for mass, at which Father John, the brother of
Margaret, officiated, in consequence of the sudden illness of the
resident chaplain. Calverley waited till the service was concluded;
and then, first pausing a few minutes to allow the monk to recite
the office, he unclosed the door of the sacristy and entered. Father
John was sitting with a book in his hand, and he still wore the white
surplice.

The ecclesiastic, on whose privacy Calverley had thus intruded, was
a man about thirty-five, of a tall muscular figure, with thick dark
hair encircling his tonsure, a thin visage, and an aquiline nose.
There was piety and meekness in the high pale forehead; and in the
whole countenance, when the eyes were cast down, or when their light
was partly shaded by the lids and the projecting brows: but when the
lids were raised, and the large, deeply-set eyes flashed full upon
the object of his scrutiny, there was a proud--a searching expression
in the glance which had often made the obdurate sinner tremble, and
which never failed to awe presumption and extort respect. Such was
the man whom Calverley was about to address; and from whose quiet,
unassuming demeanour at this moment, a stranger would have augured
little opposition to any reasonable proposal that might be suggested:
but Calverley well knew the character of the monk, and there was a kind
of hesitation in his voice as he said--

"Good morrow, holy father."

The monk silently bent his head.

"My Lord de Boteler," resumed Calverley, "will, in a few minutes,
depart hence. I attend him; but before I go, I would fain desire your
counsel."

"Speak on, my son," said the monk in a full deep voice, as Calverley
paused.

"Father John, you have a sister----"

"What of her?" asked the monk, looking inquiringly on the esquire.

"I love her!" replied Calverley, his hesitation giving place to an
impassioned earnestness.--"Why look you so much astonished? Has she
not beauty, and have I not watched the growth of that beauty from the
interesting loveliness of a child, to the full and fascinating charms
of a woman. Father John, you have never loved--you cannot tell the
conflict that is within my heart."

"But," asked the monk, "have you spoken to Margaret?"

"Last evening I went to give her freedom and to ask her love, when
Stephen Holgrave----"

"Did the baron empower you to free her?" eagerly asked the monk.

"Yes,--but Holgrave entered and----"

"She is still a nief?"

"Yes;--when that knave Holgrave entered, I could not speak of what was
burning in my breast."

"Stephen Holgrave is not a knave," returned the monk. "He is an honest
man, and Margaret is betrothed to him."

There was a momentary conflict in Calverley's breast as the monk
spoke;--there was a shade across his brow, and a slight tremor on his
lip, but he conquered the emotion--love triumphed, and, in a soft
imploring tone, he said--

"Think you, father, Holgrave loves her as I do; or think you his rude
untutored speech will accord well with so gentle a creature. Oh! father
John, be you my friend. Bid her forget the man who is unworthy of her!
She will listen to you--she will be guided by you--you are the only
kinsman she can claim;--and surely even you must wish rather to see
your sister attended almost as a mistress in this castle, than the
harassed wife of a laborious yeoman. Oh! if you win her to my arms,
I here swear to you, that not even your own heart could ask for more
gentle care than she will receive from me. My happiness centres in
_her_--to love her, to cherish her--to see the smile of joy for ever on
her lips."

At this moment a knock was heard at the door. Calverley opened it, and
De Boteler's page appeared to say, that if Thomas Calverley had wanted
the aid of the priest, he should have applied sooner, for his lord was
now waiting for him.

"Tell my lord," said Calverley, "I will attend him instantly."

The page withdrew, and Calverley, turning to the monk, asked hastily if
he might reckon on his friendship.

"Thomas Calverley," replied John, "I believe you do love my sister,
but I cannot force her inclinations;--I will not even strive to bias
her mind; there is a sympathy in hearts predestined to unite, which
attracts them towards each other;--if that secret sympathy exist not
between you, ye are not destined to become as one."

"Then you will not seek to win her to my love," asked Calverley,
impatiently.

"I will tell her," returned the monk, "that a love so devoted, so
disinterested, deserves in return an affection as pure: but if, after
all this, her heart still prefers the yeoman Holgrave, I will say no
more."

"And, think you, I shall endure rejection without an effort?"

"It is now too late! Why, if your happiness rested upon her, did you
defer declaring your love till the moment when she had promised to
become the wife of another? Know you not, Thomas Calverley, that even
as the rays of the bright sun dissolve the glittering whiteness of
the winter snow, just so do kind words and patient love enkindle warm
feelings in the bosom of the coldest virgin, and awaken sympathies in
her heart that else might for ever unconsciously have slumbered."

"You talk strange language," replied Calverley in a voice that had lost
all its assumed gentleness. "But--_remember_--I have not sought your
sister's love to be thus baffled--remember!----" Calverley was here
interrupted by a quick knocking at the door.

"Remember, father John," he continued, pausing ere he unclosed
the door, and speaking rapidly, "that mine is not the love of a
boy--that Thomas Calverley is not one whom it is _safe_ to trifle
with--that Margaret is a bondwoman--and that her freedom is in my
hands--_remember_!"

He repeated the last word in a tone of menace, and with a look that
seemed to dare the monk to sanction the union of his sister with
Holgrave. He opened the door, but, ere he passed through, his eye
caught an expression of proud contempt flashing in the dark hazel eyes,
and curving in the half-smiling lip of the man he had thus defied;--and
prudence whispered, that he had not properly estimated the character of
the priest.



CHAPTER II.


It was on a lovely October morning that the travellers returned to
Sudley. The whole region of the sky was of so clear and deep a blue,
that it seemed as if the pure cold breath of the morning had driven
every cloud and vapour far from the skies of merry England. The sun
shone brightly upon the yet green meadows, upon the hedges, and upon
the trees with their broad branches, and their scanty brown leaves:
the birds, rejoicing in the sun-light, were singing hymns of grateful
melody, as they darted among the branches, or sailed and curved in
the blue ether. Our fair Margaret, sympathizing in the gladness of
nature, could almost have sung in concert with the feathered choir,
as she tripped along with the light step that indicates a cheerful
heart. She had just reached that point of the Winchcombe road where
the green lane, turning to the left, led directly to her home, when,
catching a glimpse of an approaching figure, she raised her eyes and
beheld--Calverley.

Whether Calverley's quick glance had caught the marriage ring upon her
uncovered finger, or, whether the basket on her arm, together with the
circumstance of her being abroad at an hour that used to be devoted to
her needle, told him she was no longer a thing to be thought of with
hope, or looked on with love, it is difficult to say; but he stood
suddenly still, and his cheeks and lips became pale--almost livid.
Margaret turned and walked hastily down the path, her pallid cheek, and
trembling limbs, alone telling that she had recognized Calverley. He
stood silently gazing after her, till a winding in the path, shut her
out from his view. He then walked rapidly on to Winchcombe, entered the
first vintner's he came to, and, to the surprise of the host, who knew
Master Calverley to be a sober man, called for a measure of wine, drank
it off at a draught, and throwing down the money, departed as abruptly
as he came. In a few minutes after, he entered the room of old Luke,
the steward Sudley Castle.

"Master Luke," said he, with an assumed carelessness of manner, "you
are rather chary of my lord's wine--you have not yet offered me the cup
of welcome."

"I ask your pardon, Calverley," replied the steward, "but you so seldom
care for wine, that one hardly thinks of offering it to you: here,
however, is a cup that will do your heart good."

Calverley took the cup, and drinking it off with as much zest as if he
had not already tasted wine that morning--"Any news?" said he, "master
Luke--any news?"

"Not much, 'squire.--Stephen Holgrave, indeed, has got married, and,
I'll warrant me, there will be a fine to do about it; for he has
married a _nief_, and you know my lord is very particular about these
matters:--he told me, no longer ago than just before he went away this
last time, that he would not abate a jot of his due, in the marriages
or services of his bond-folk. To be sure the lass is sister of the monk
who now shrieves the castle, and, as my lord thinks much of Holgrave,
it may all blow over."

"Who married them?" asked Calverley, in a stifled voice.

"Oh! Father John, to be sure--nobody else--"

"Did he!" said Calverley, in a voice that made the old man start; but,
before the astonished steward could reply, he burst from the room. None
of the inmates of the castle saw him again during the remainder of that
day.

When he appeared before De Boteler the next morning, such a change had
twenty hours of mental suffering produced in his countenance, that his
lord, struck by the alteration, inquired if he were ill. Calverley
said something about a fall that had partly stunned him, but assured
De Boteler he was now perfectly well. While he yet spoke, the steward
entered, to say that Stephen Holgrave had come to crave his lordship's
pardon for marrying a nief without leave, and also to pay the merchet.

"Married a _nief_! has he?" returned De Boteler. "By my faith I thought
the kern had too proud a stomach to wed a nief. I thought he had no
such love for villeinage. I do not like those intermarriages. Were free
maidens so scarce that this Holgrave could not find a wife among them?"

Calverley slightly coloured as De Boteler spoke; he knew his lord
was no admirer of people stepping in the least out of their way, and
it seemed probable it was to him he alluded, when he expressed his
dislike of unequal marriages.

"Why, my lord," said Luke, in reply to De Boteler's interrogatory,
"there is hardly a free maiden in the parish that would not have been
glad of Stephen; but, though I have never seen her, I am told this
wife of his is the comeliest damsel between this and Winchcombe: and,
besides, she is not like a common nief--and then, my lord, she is the
sister of the good monk John."

"Father John's sister, is she?" asked the baron. "Why then my good
esquire here, has more to do with the matter than I--but however,
Luke, go tell Holgrave I cannot attend to him now"--"Why, Calverley,"
continued De Boteler, when the steward had withdrawn. "Is not this the
maiden you spoke to me about? Do not turn so pale man, but answer me."

"Yes, my lord," replied Calverley.

"And did this Holgrave dare to wed a nief of mine!--when I had already
disposed of her freedom and her hand?"

"Yes, my lord."

"By my faith, the knave is bold to thwart me thus."

"My lord," said Calverley; "the evening before you left the castle
for London, I went to the maiden's cottage to ask her hand; Holgrave
immediately came in, and I then distinctly told him that your lordship
had given me the maiden's freedom, and also had consented that I should
wed her, and yet, you see what regard he has paid to your will!"

"Yes, this is the gratitude of these base-born vassals; but,
Calverley, what priest presumed to wed them?"

"The monk John."

"What! the wife's brother! He who has attended the chapel since the
death of the late good father?"

"Yes, my lord."

"By Heavens! they seem all conspiring to set my will at nought!--he, at
least should have better known what was due to the lord of this castle."

"The monk," replied Calverley, "was not ignorant of my lord's will: and
it vexes me, not on my own account, for it was merely a passing fancy;
but it vexes me, that this proud, stubborn, priest, while he is eating
of your bread, and drinking of your cup, should, in the teeth of your
commands, do that which I could swear no other priest would have dared
to do; it ill becomes him to preach obedience who----"

"True, true, I will see to him--he shall answer for what he has
done--but now Calverley, tell me honestly, for you are not wont to be
familiar even with your fellows--tell me what you saw in this maiden
that could make you wish to rival Stephen Holgrave?"

"Her beauty, my lord."

"What! is she so fair?"

"My lord, I have seldom looked upon one so fair. In my judgment she was
the loveliest I ever saw in these parts."

"Say you so!" returned De Boteler. "I should like to see this boasted
beauty, even if it were to convince me of your taste in these matters.
Calverley, order one of the varlets to go to Holgrave, and desire him
to come to the castle directly--and, mind you, he brings his wife with
him."

Calverley could scarcely repress a smile of exultation as the baron
delivered this command, but composing his countenance to its general
calm expression, he bowed to De Boteler, and immediately withdrew.

Holgrave, when the henchman delivered the baron's command, hesitated,
and looked angrily to Margaret.

"What ails thee, my son," asked Edith. "Is she not thy wife?--and can
the baron break asunder the bonds that bind ye?--or dost thou fear that
Margaret's face may please him--and that he would strive to take from
the man who saved his life in the battle, the wife of his bosom! Shame!
shame!"

"No, no, mother," returned Holgrave, musing; "yet I would rather she
should not go to the castle--I have seen more of the baron than you:
and, besides, this Calverley----"

Holgrave, however, considering it better not to irritate the baron by
a refusal, at length consented that Margaret should accompany him, and
they quitted the cottage together.

"Come hither, Holgrave," said De Boteler, as Holgrave entered. "Is this
your wife?"

"Yes, my lord," replied the yeoman, with a humble reverence.

"Look up, pretty one," said De Boteler to Margaret!--"Now, by my faith
Holgrave, I commend your choice. I wonder not that such a prize was
contended for. Margaret,--I believe that is your name? Look up! and
tell me in what secret place you grew into such beauty?"

Margaret raised her bright blue eyes, that had been as yet hidden by
the long dark lashes, and the downcast lids; but, meeting the bold
fixed gaze of the baron, they were instantly withdrawn, and the deep
blush of one unaccustomed to the eyes of strangers, suffused her cheek
and brow, and even her neck.

"Were you reared on this barony, Margaret?" resumed the baron.

"Yes, my lord," answered Margaret, modestly, raising her eyes: "my
mother was a freeman's daughter; my father was a bondman on this land:
they died when I was but a child; and Edith Holgrave reared me till I
grew up a girl and could work for myself--and then----"

"You thought you could not do better than wed her son through
gratitude. That was well--and so this good squire of ours could not
expect to find much favour in your eyes. But, do you not know, you
should not have wedded without my consent?"

"My lord," answered Holgrave; "I beg your pardon; but I thought your
lordship wouldn't think much of the marriage, as your lordship was not
at the castle, and I did not know when you would return. Here is the
merchet, my lord, and I hope you will forgive me for not awaiting your
return."

"I suppose I must, for there is no helping it now; and by my faith,
it is well you did not let me see that pretty face before you were
wedded,--but take back the merchet," he continued, waving back with
his hand, the money which Holgrave was presenting. "Keep it. An orphan
bride seldom comes rich; and here is a trifle to add to it, as a token
that De Boteler prizes beauty--even though it be that of a bondwoman!"
As he spoke, he held a broad piece of gold towards Holgrave.

"Not so, my lord," said Holgrave, suffering the coin to remain between
De Boteler's fingers.--"Not so my lord. I take back the merchet with
many thanks, but I crave your pardon for not taking your gold. I have
no need of gold--I did not wed Margaret for dower--and with your
lordship's leave I pray you excuse my taking it."

"As you please, unthankful kern," replied the baron, haughtily. "De
Boteler forces his gifts upon no one--here," he continued, throwing
the piece to an attendant, who stood behind his chair--"_you_ will
not refuse it." He then turned round to the table and commenced a
game at cards, without further noticing Holgrave. The yeoman stood a
few minutes awaiting the baron's pleasure, but perceiving he did not
heed him, presently took Margaret's hand, and making a low obeisance,
retired.

When the game was finished, De Boteler threw down the cards.

"Calverley," said he, "think you that this Margaret loves her husband?"
A slight shade passed over Calverley's cheek as he answered,

"I should hardly think so, my lord. She is--her temper is very
gentle--Holgrave is passionate, and rude, and--"

"It is a pity she should be the wife of such a carle"--mused his lord.

That afternoon De Boteler, throwing a plain dark cloak over his rich
dress, left the castle, took the path that led to Holgrave's abode, and
raising the latch, entered the cottage.

Margaret was sitting near the window at needle-work, and Edith in her
high-backed arm-chair, was knitting in the chimney-corner. Margaret
blushing deeply, started from her seat as her eyes so unexpectedly
encountered those of the baron.

"Keep your seat, pretty dame," said De Boteler. "That is a stout silk.
For whom are you working these bright colours?"

"It is a stole for my brother, the monk, my lord," replied Margaret in
a tremulous voice.

"Your work is so beautiful" returned De Boteler, looking at the silk,
"that I wish you could find time to embroider a tabard for me."

"My lord," replied Edith, rising from her seat and stepping forward a
few paces, "Margaret Holgrave has little leisure from attending to the
household of her husband. There are abundance of skilful sempstresses;
and surely the Baron de Boteler would not require this young woman to
neglect the duty she has taken upon herself."

De Boteler looked at Edith an instant with a frown, as if about to
answer fiercely; but after a moment he inquired calmly,

"Does your son find his farm answer, dame?"

"Yes, my lord, with many thanks to the donor. Stephen has all he can
wish for in this farm."

"That is well," returned De Boteler; and then, after a momentary but
earnest gaze at Margaret, he turned away and left the cottage.

Holgrave entered soon after the baron's departure. Margaret strove
to meet him with a smile; but it was not the sunny glow, that usually
greeted his return. He detected the effort; nay, as he bent down to
kiss her cheek, he saw that she trembled.

"What ails you, Margaret?" inquired he tenderly. "You are not well?"

"O yes," replied Margaret. "I am perfectly well, but--I have been a
little frightened."

"By whom? Calverley?"

"No; his master."

"The baron! Surely Margaret--"

"Oh! Stephen," said Margaret, alarmed at the sudden fierceness his
countenance assumed. "Indeed he said no harm. Did he, mother?"

"No," replied Edith, "and if he had, Stephen, your wife knew how to
answer him as befitting a virtuous woman."

"It was well," replied Holgrave; "I am a freeman, and may go where I
list, and not King Edward himself shall insult a freeman's wife!--but
do not weep, Margaret, I am not angered with you."

That evening De Boteler spoke little during supper, and while drinking
the second cup after the repast, he desired the page who stood behind
his chair, to order the monk John to attend him directly. Father John
presently appeared, and approaching the foot of the table, made a low
obeisance, and then with his hands crossed on his bosom, and with eyes
cast down, awaited till De Boteler should address him. De Boteler
looked for a moment earnestly at the monk, ere in a stern voice he
said:

"Father John, know you not why I have sent for you?"

"My lord, I await your pleasure," replied the monk submissively.

"Await _my pleasure_!" replied the baron scornfully. "Did you consider
my pleasure, monk, when you presumed to set at nought my prerogatives?"

"My lord," answered the monk, still mildly, though in a firmer tone
than he had before spoken,

"My Lord de Boteler, servants must obey their masters."

"Hypocrite!" interrupted the baron, in a voice that resounded through
the hall. "Did you consider the obedience due to a master when you
presumed to dispose of a bondwoman of mine, without my sanction--nay,
even in direct opposition to my will? Answer me. Did you consider the
order of dependence then?"

"Baron of Sudley," replied the monk, in a voice which though
scarcely elevated above the ordinary pitch of colloquial discourse,
was nevertheless in that clear distinct tone which is heard at a
considerable distance--"Baron of Sudley, I am no hypocrite, neither
have I forgotten to render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's. If
I pronounced the nuptial benediction over a bondwoman and a freeman
without your lordship having consented, it was because you had first
violated the trust reposed in you. You are a master to command
obedience, but only in things that are not sinful; yet would you
sinfully have compelled a maiden to swear at the holy altar of God to
love and honour a man whom her soul abhorred. It was because you would
have done this, that I, as the only being besides your lordship who
could--"

"Insolent priest!" interrupted De Boteler, "do you dare to justify
what you have done? Now, by my faith, if you had with proper humility
acknowledged your fault and sued for pardon--pardon you should have
had. But now, you leave this castle instantly. I will teach you that De
Boteler will yet be master of his own house, and his own vassals. And
here I swear (and the baron of Sudley uttered an imprecation) that, for
your meddling knavery, no priest or monk shall ever again abide here.
If the varlets want to shrieve, they can go to the Abbey; and if they
want to hear mass, a priest can come from Winchcombe. But never shall
another of your meddling fraternity abide at Sudley while Roland de
Boteler is its lord."

"Calverley," he continued, turning to the squire, who stood at a
distance, enjoying the mortification of the monk--"Calverley, see that
the priest quits the castle--remember--instantly!"

The monk, for the first time, fully raised his eyes, and casting upon
the baron a momentary glance of reproach, turned, without speaking,
from the table. He walked on a few steps towards the door, and then
stopping suddenly, as if recollecting that Calverley had orders to
see him depart, he turned round, and looking upon the squire, who was
almost at his side, he said in a stern voice, and with a frowning brow,
"I go in obedience to your master; but even obedience to your master
is not to be enforced upon a servant of the Lord by such as _you_. Of
my own will I go forth; but not one step further do I proceed till you
retire!"

There was that in the voice and look of the monk, which made Calverley
involuntarily shrink; and receiving at the same instant a glance from
De Boteler, he withdrew to the upper end of the room; and father John,
with a dignified step, passed on through the hall, and across the
court-yard, and giving a blessing to the guard at the principal gate,
who bent his knee to receive it, he went forth, having first shaken the
dust from his sandals.

The next morning, when his lord had released him from attendance,
Calverley, little satisfied with the progress of his vengeance, left
the castle, and walked on to meditate alone more uninterruptedly on the
canker-worm within.

He had not proceeded far along his path, when the heavy tread of a
man on the rustling leaves, caused him to raise his eyes, and he saw
a short, thickset figure, in grey woollen hose, and a vest of coarse
medley cloth reaching no higher than the collar-bone, hastening onward.
A gleam of hope lighted Calverley's face as he observed this man.

"What is the matter this morning, Byles?" said he, "you look troubled."

Byles looked at Calverley for an instant, perfectly astonished at his
condescension.

"Troubled!" replied he--"no wonder. My farm is bad; and--"

"It _is_ a poor farm," said Calverley hastily; "but there are many fine
farms that have lately reverted to my lord in default of heirs, or as
forfeitures, that must soon be given away or sold."

"But, Master Calverley, what is that to me?" said Byles, looking with
some surprise at the squire--"you know I am a friendless man, and have
not wherewithal to pay the fine the steward would demand for the land.
No, no, John Byles is going fast down the hill."

"Don't despair, Byles--there is Holgrave--he was once poorer than
you--take heart, some lucky chance may lift you up the hill again. I
dare say this base-born I have named thinks himself better now than the
free-born honest man."

"Aye, that he does, squire: to be sure he doesn't say any thing;
but then he thinks the more; and, besides, he never comes into the
ale-house when his work is done, to take a cheering draught like other
men. No, no, he is too proud for that; but home he goes, and whatever
he drinks he drinks at his own fireside."

For a moment Calverley's brow contracted; but striving to look
interested for the man he wished to conciliate, he replied, "Yes,
Byles, it is a pity that a good-hearted yeoman like you should not
prosper as well as a mere mushroom. Now, Byles, I know you are a
discreet man, and I will tell you a piece of news that nobody about
the barony has yet heard. My lord is going to be married--yes, Byles,
he leaves Sudley in a few days, and goes again to London, and he will
shortly return with a fair and noble mistress for the castle."

"We shall have fine doings then," said Byles, in an animated tone, and
with a cheerful countenance; not that the news was of particular moment
to him, but people love to be told news; and, besides, the esquire's
increasing familiarity was not a little flattering.

"Oh yes," replied Calverley; "there will be fine feasting, and I will
see, Byles, that you do not lack the best. Who knows but your dame may
yet nurse the heir of this noble house."

"I am afraid not,--many thanks to you; John Byles is not thought enough
of in this barony--no, it is more likely Holgrave's wife, if she has
any children, will have the nursing."

"What! Margaret Holgrave?--never"--said Calverley, with such a look and
tone, that the yeoman started, and felt convinced, that what he had
heard whispered about the esquire's liking for Margaret was true: "but,
however," added Calverley, in a moment recovering his self-possession,
"do not despair, Byles. My lord tells me I shall replace old Luke as
steward in a few months, and if I do, there is not a vassal I should
be more inclined to favour than you; for I see, Byles, there is little
chance of your doing good unless you have a friend; for you are known
to the baron as an idle fellow, and not over-scrupulous of telling a
falsehood. Nay, my man, don't start, I tell you the truth."

"Well, but squire, how could the baron hear of this?"

"Perhaps Stephen Holgrave could answer----"

"The base-born kern," replied Byles, fiercely; "_he_ shall answer----"

"I don't say he told the Baron," said Calverley; "but I believe
Holgrave loves to make every body look worse than himself; and to be
plain with you, John Byles, I love him not."

"No, sir, I believe you have little reason to love him any more than
other people--"

"Byles," interrupted Calverley, speaking rapidly, "you are poor--you
are in arrear with your rent; a distress will be levied, and then what
will become of you--of your wife and the little one? Listen to me!
I will give you money to keep a house over your head; and when I am
steward, you shall have the first farm at my lord's disposal, if you
will only aid me in my revenge! Revenge!" he repeated, vehemently--"but
you hesitate--you refuse."

"Nay, nay, squire, I don't refuse: your offer is too tempting for a man
in my situation to refuse; but you know--"

"Well," interrupted Calverley, with a contemptuous smile--"well, well,
Byles, I see you prefer a jail for yourself, and beggary and starvation
for your wife and child. Aye--perhaps to ask bread from Stephen
Holgrave."

"Ask bread from him!--of the man who crows over us all, and who has
told my lord that I am a liar! No, no, I would sooner die first. I
thank you for your kindness, Master Calverley, and I will do any thing
short of----"

"Oh, you need not pause," interrupted Calverley, "I do not want you to
do him any bodily harm."

"Don't you?--oh! well, then, John Byles is yours," said he, with a
brightening countenance: "for you see I don't mind saying any thing
against such a fellow as he."

"Yes, Byles, and especially since you will not be asked to say it
for nothing," returned Calverley with a slight sarcastic smile; but
immediately assuming a more earnest and friendly tone, he continued,
"I have promised you gold, and gold you shall have. I will befriend you
to the utmost of my power, and you know my influence is not small at
the castle; but you must swear to be faithful. Here," said he, stooping
down and taking up a rotten branch that lay at his feet, and, breaking
it in two, he placed it in the form of a cross. "Here, Byles, swear by
this cross to be faithful." Byles hesitated for an instant, and then,
in rather a tremulous voice, swore to earn faithfully his wages of sin.

It was nearly four months subsequent to the departure of De Boteler
from the castle, ere Byles proceeded to earn the gold which had, in
some measure, set him to rights with the world. It was about the middle
of March;--the morning had risen gloomily, and, from a dense mass of
clouds, a slow heavy rain continued to pour during the whole of the
day. "Sam," said Byles to a servitor, a faithful stupid creature, with
just sufficient intellect to comprehend and obey the commands of his
master.--"Sam, if this rain continues we must go to work to-night?"

The rain did continue, and, after Byles had supped, he sat at the
fire for two or three hours, and scarcely spoke. His countenance was
troubled;--the deed he had promised to do--which he had contemplated
with almost indifference, was now about to be accomplished; and he
felt how different it is to dwell upon the commission of a thing, and
actually to do it. Frequent draughts of ale, however, in some measure
restored the tone of his nerves; and, as the evening wore away, he rose
from the fire, and, opening the door, looked out at the weather. A
thick drizzling rain still fell; the moon was at the full; and though
the heavy clouds precluded the possibility of her gladdening the earth,
yet even the heavy clouds could not entirely obscure her light;--there
was a radiance spread over the heavens which, though wanting the
brightness of moonlight, was nevertheless equal and shadowless.

"'Tis a capital night," said Byles, as he looked up at the sky in a
tone of soliloquy; "I could not have wished for a better--just light
enough to see what we are about, and not enough to tell tales. Sam,"
continued he, closing the door and sitting again at the fire, "bring me
the shafts and let me look if the bow is in order."

The serving man took from a concealed place a couple of arrows, and a
stout yew-tree bow, and handed them to his master.

"You did well, Sam, in getting these shafts from Holgrave. You put the
quiver up safe?--there is no fear of his missing them?"

"I should think not, master. It would be hard if he missed two out of
four-and-twenty."

"Mary," said Byles, addressing his wife, "put something over the
casement, lest if, by chance, any body should be abroad, they may
see that we are up:--and now, bring me the masks. Never fear, Mary,
nobody is out such a night as this. Now Sam," he continued, "fetch the
hand-barrow and let us away."

Mary began to tremble;--she caught her husband by the arm, and said
something in a low and tremulous voice. As the fire revealed her face,
Byles started at the strange paleness it exhibited.

"What ails you, Mary?" said he. "Have you not all along urged me to
this? and now, after taking Calverley's gold, and spending it, and
signing the bond, you want me to stand still! No, no, I must go to the
Chase this night, were I sure to be hung to-morrow morning!" He then
pushed her away with some violence, and the servitor preceding him, he
passed over the threshold and closed the door.

They entered the Chase--and the wind, as it came in sudden gusts
through the branches of the tall trees, gave an air of deeper gloom to
the night. Frequently they paused and listened, as if fearful of being
discovered; and then, when convinced that no human being was near,
hastened on to the spot where the deer usually herded at night. A deep
ravine, ten or twelve feet in breadth, intersected the Chase at a few
paces from the inclosure; and, about a stone's throw to the right of
this inclosure, stood the dwelling of the keeper.

"Sam," said Byles, "is not that a light in the cottage?"

"Yes, master, but I think they are in bed, and may be have forgotten to
rake the ashes over the fire."

"It may be so," answered Byles, doubtfully; "keep in the shade of the
trees, and let us stop awhile--I do not much like this light." They
watched the cottage anxiously, and, in about twenty minutes, the light
disappeared.

"Sam," said Byles, "I believe you were right--that last faint
flicker, I doubt not, came from the dying embers. Creep softly to the
inclosure, and gently rustle the brushwood. Don't let them see you.
Softly--there--go on."

Byles drew his shaft from beneath his garment, and fixed it in the
bow as Sam crept into the inclosure and did what he was ordered. The
animals started on their legs, and stretched their heads forward in
various directions, as if to ascertain whence the danger seemed to
threaten.

"Down, Sam, a little to the left," whispered Byles, as a noble buck
bounded forward towards the servitor, who had sheltered himself so as
to avoid being seen by the animal. Sam dropt on the drenched grass to
avoid the shaft that now sped from the bow of the marksman. The arrow
entered the neck of the affrighted creature, as, for an instant, it
stood with upraised head, its lofty antlers touching the branches. It
then bounded forward, but, in its giddy effort to clear the obstruction
of the opposing chasm, fell gasping among the brushwood that lined the
sides of the ravine.

"Confound him, he has escaped us!" exclaimed Byles. "See the whole herd
scudding off, as if the hounds were in full cry at their heels. But
forward, Sam, and creep to the edge, for he may not have fallen into
the stream."

Sam obeyed; but whether owing to his trepidation or the slippery
surface of the earth, he lost his footing and disappeared, uttering
a cry of terror. Byles stood for an instant, irresolute whether to
advance to the succour of his servitor, or leave him behind, for he
apprehended that the cry would arouse the guardians of the Chase.
Recollecting, however, that it would be as dangerous to abandon him as
to attempt his extrication, he rushed forward to the spot where Sam had
disappeared. The man had, in his fall, grasped the root of a tree from
which the late heavy rains had washed the earth, and he lay suspended
midway down. Byles hastily threw him a rope, with which he had intended
to bind the animal on the barrow, and, with some difficulty, succeeded
in dragging him up.

The dying throes of the buck recalled Byles to the object of his
journey; and they were about making an effort to extricate the animal
from the brushwood, when the servitor's eye caught the gleam of a light
in the cottage.

"It's all over," said Byles, in a disappointed tone; "but the arrow may
answer our purpose where it is. Take up the barrow and fly, but keep in
the shade of the trees."

A quick knock aroused Mary from her seat at the fire. She approached
the door on tiptoe, and hesitated a moment ere she unclosed it; but
the rapid breathings of Byles relieved her alarm, and she opened it
hastily. A pale, haggard look met her eyes as her husband rushed in.
"Fasten the door, Mary," said he--"haste, quench the fire. Here, put
these wet clothes in the hiding place"--stripping himself of his
garments--"and when you have done, hasten to bed. I am afraid they have
overtaken poor Sam."

"Oh!" said Mary, dropping the clothes, and staggering to a seat--"oh!
Byles, Byles, we are lost! What will become of us! Sam will tell all!"

"Hold your tongue, woman," said Byles, jumping out of the bed into
which he had thrown himself, and taking up the clothes, concealed them
in the pit. "Do you want to have me hanged? To bed, I tell you."

She tremblingly obeyed, and Byles listened with breathless anxiety for
the signal that would assure him of his servant's safety. At length a
footstep and a low tap at the door summoned Byles from his bed. "Who is
there?" said he.

"Hasten, master, open the door," answered the servitor.

"All is well; Sam is returned!" He opened the door, and the servitor
panting with fear and fatigue, threw the barrow on the floor.

"That's right, Sam; there is nothing left to tell we have been in the
Chase to-night. Now hasten to bed as quickly as you can. You shall have
a new suit at Easter for this night's business. But Master Calverley
will not be well pleased that the buck was not lodged in Holgrave's
barn. However, it cannot be helped now."



CHAPTER III.


It was a fair morning in the June succeeding Holgrave's marriage, that
Sudley castle presented a greater degree of splendour than it had
exhibited for some years before. Roland de Boteler had wedded a noble
maiden, and it was expected that the castle would that day be graced by
the presence of its future mistress.

There was a restless anxiety that morning, in every inhabitant of the
castle, from old Luke, the steward, who was fretting and fidgetting
lest the lady should consider him too old for the stewardship, to
the poor varlet who fed the dogs, and the dirty nief who scoured
the platters. This anxiety increased when a messenger arrived to
announce that the noble party were on the road from Oxford, and might
be expected in a few hours: and when at length a cloud of dust was
observed in the distance, old Luke, bare headed, and followed by the
retainers and domestics, went forth to greet with the accustomed
homage, De Boteler and his bride.

The graceful Isabella de Vere was seated on a white palfrey, and
attired in a riding-dress of green velvet, while a richly embroidered
mantle or surcoat of the same material, trimmed with minever, fell from
her shoulders, and in some measure concealed the emblazoned housing
that ornamented the beautiful animal on which she rode. A pyramidal cap
of green satin, with a long veil of transparent tissue flowing from the
point, and falling so as partly to shadow, and partly reveal the glow
of her high-born beauty, was the only head-gear worn that day by the
daughter of the Earl of Oxford, and the new baroness of Sudley.

On her right hand rode her husband, clad in a tunic of fine cloth, in
colour resembling the habit of his lady, and mounted on a dark, fiery
charger, which with difficulty he could rein in to the slow pace of
the palfrey. On the left of the lady Isabella was her brother, young
Robert de Vere, and though but a boy, one might have read much in the
lines of that countenance, of his future destiny. His smooth, dimpled
chin, was small and round, and his mouth possessed that habitual smile,
that softly beaming expression, which won for him in after years the
regard of the superficial Richard; while there shone a fire in the full
dark eyes, which betokened the ambitious spirit that was to animate the
future lord of Dublin, and sovereign of Ireland.

Sparkling with jewels, and attired in a white satin robe, the Lady De
Boteler took her seat for the first time, at the table of her lord,
and well was she calculated to grace the board. Her person, tall and
well formed, possessed that fullness of proportion which is conveyed by
the term majestic; and her movements were exceedingly graceful. She
had fine auburn hair, and the thick curls that fell beneath the gemmed
fillet encircling her head, seemed alternately a bright gold or a dark
brown according to the waving of the tress. Her hair and high white
forehead which the parted curls revealed, possessed sufficient beauty
to have redeemed even irregular features from the charge of homeliness;
but Isabella De Vere's face was altogether as generally faultless as
falls to the lot of woman.

The guests were numerous, and the evening passed away in feasting
and revelry. The blaze of the lights--the full strains of the
minstrels--the glad faces and graceful motions of the dancers, the
lustre of the ladies' jewels, and the glitter of the gold embroidery on
the dresses of male and female, combined to give to the spacious hall
that night, more the appearance of a fairy scene, which might dissolve
in a moment into air, than a palpable human festivity. The tenantry
had also their feasting and their dancing; but these had to pay for
their amusement: each tenant, according to the custom of the manor,
on the marriage of their lord, being obliged to bring an offering in
proportion to the land which he held.

On the morrow, accordingly, the vassals brought their presents. The
lady Isabella, surrounded by visitors and attended by her handmaidens,
was seated in the spacious apartment intended for the ceremony, as
Edith, supported by Margaret, entered the room. The baroness raised
her head and gazed upon the latter, with that complacent feeling which
beauty seldom fails to inspire. The delicate hue of Margaret's cheek
was, at this moment, deepened by embarrassment; and, as kneeling down,
she raised her bright blue eyes, the lady thought she had never seen so
lovely a creature.

"What is your pleasure with me, maiden?" asked the baroness, in a
condescending tone.

"Lady," replied Margaret modestly; "I am the wife of one of my lord's
vassals; and my mother, and myself, humbly beg you will accept this
present."

"And is this your present?--What is your name?"

"Margaret Holgrave, lady."

"Look, Lady Anne," said Isabella, displaying a pair of white silk
gloves, beautifully wrought with gold. "Do you not think this a fair
present for a vassal to bestow?"

"The gloves are very beautiful," replied the lady.

"Your gift betokens a good feeling, young dame," said Isabella, turning
to Margaret. "But why did you choose so costly a present?"

"Indeed, noble lady," replied Margaret, "the gloves cost but
little--Edith, here, my husband's mother, knitted them, and I have
striven to ornament them."

"What! Is this your embroidery?"

"Yes, my lady."

"This is not the work of a novice, Lady Anne--You are accustomed to
needle-work!"

"Yes, my lady--before I was married I obtained my support by making the
vestments for some of the monks at Hailes Abbey."

"Indeed! very well--and _you_ are this young person's mother-in-law?"
said the baroness, for the first time addressing Edith.

"Yes, Baroness De Boteler," replied the old woman.

"Very well," said the lady, and looking alternately at Edith and
Margaret, she added, "I accept your gift--you may now retire."

They accordingly withdrew from the chamber, and, in the court-yard,
were joined by Holgrave. "Did the baroness take the gloves?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Margaret, in delight, "and she seemed pleased with the
embroidery. O, Stephen, she is so beautiful! She looks like an angel!
Does she not, mother?"

"She has beauty, Margaret," answered Edith, "but it is not the beauty
of an angel--it has too much of pride."

"But all ladies are proud, mother! I warrant she is not prouder than
another."

"May be not, Margaret; but yet that lady who sat at her side, looked
not so high as the baroness. There was more sweetness in her smile, and
gentleness in her voice."

"O yes, she spoke very sweetly, but she is not so handsome as the
baron's lady."

"Margaret," replied Edith; "when you are as old as I, you will not look
upon beauty as you do now;--a gentle heart and a pallid cheek will seem
lovelier then, than brightness and bloom, if there be pride on the
brow. But, Stephen, what said the steward when you gave him the gold?"

"Oh, he said mine was the best gift that had been brought yet. But
come, mother, it is time we were at home."

The Lady de Boteler, Lady Anne Hammond, and the other ladies, were
admiring the embroidered gloves, when De Boteler and Sir Robert Knowles
entered the apartment.

"See, Roland," said the baroness, holding the gloves towards her
husband; "see, what a pretty gift I have received since you left us!"

"They are indeed pretty," answered De Boteler; "and the fair hands that
wrought them deserve praise. What think you, Sir Robert?"

"O, you must not ask Sir Robert for any fine compliment," interrupted
the baroness. "They are not a _lady's_ gift--they were presented to me
by the wife of one of your vassals."

"The wife of a vassal would not have taste enough to buy such as these;
and there is but one about Winchcombe who could work so well. And, by
my faith, I now remember that it was part of the tenure by which I some
time since granted land, to present a pair of gloves.--Was it not a
fair-looking damsel, one Stephen Holgrave's wife, that brought them?"

"I think she said her name was Holgrave," replied the lady in a cold
tone. "But indeed, my lord baron, you seem to be wondrously well
acquainted with the faces and the handywork of your vassals' wives!"

"Nay, Isabella," said the pale interesting lady of Sir Robert Knowles,
"it is not strange that my Lord de Boteler should know the faces of
those who were born on his land; and this young woman's skill could not
fail to have procured her notice. But the handiness of her fingers has
not made her vain. You know I am fond of reading faces, and I would
answer that she is as modest and good as she is fair."

"O, I dare say she is," replied the baroness, and immediately changed
the conversation.

The next morning Holgrave received a peremptory order to attend at
the castle in the afternoon; and the henchman of the baron, who was
the bearer of the message, refused to give any information why he had
been so summoned. Edith, with her natural penetration, saw, by the
hesitation of the servitor, and by the tone in which the mandate was
conveyed, that something of more than ordinary moment was about to be
transacted, and, with an undefined feeling of alarm, she resolved to
accompany her son.

As they entered the court-yard, the henchman, who had delivered the
message, accosted Holgrave, telling him he must go into the hall to
answer to some matter before the baron.

"What is the matter which my son is to answer, friend?" asked Edith;
but the man evaded the question, and Holgrave, leaving his mother in
the outer court-yard, passed through one of the arched doors into the
other, and, with a firm step, though with some apprehension of evil,
entered the hall.

He had scarcely time to give a nod of recognition to several neighbours
who stood near the entrance, when the steward approached, and,
desiring him to walk further up the hall, placed him at the first
step that elevated the upper end, thus cutting off every possibility
of communicating with his neighbours. Holgrave felt any thing but
composure in his present conspicuous situation: though strong in
the rectitude of his conscience, yet he felt apprehensions and
misgivings; and the strange silence that was observed respecting the
intended charge alarmed him the more. As the hall was always open on
such occasions, he speedily saw a crowd of vassals pouring in--some
anxious to know the event, either through a feeling of friendship or
hatred, and others merely from curiosity. The eyes of each man as he
entered, fell, as if instinctively, upon the yeoman; and he could
perceive, as they formed into groups, that he was the subject of their
conversation. Presently his mother, supported by an old friend named
Hartwell, entered, and he thought she regarded him with an earnest and
sorrowful look. But his attention was immediately diverted;--the upper
door opened, and De Boteler and the baroness, with Sir Robert and Lady
Knowles, entered the hall.

There was near the steps a small table with writing materials, at which
the steward ought to have been seated, to write down the proceedings;
but old Luke was not so quick of hearing, or perhaps of comprehension,
as Calverley, and the esquire, therefore, took his place.

"Stephen Holgrave," said the baron, in a stern voice, "are these your
shafts?" as he beckoned to old Luke to hand the yeoman two arrows which
he had hitherto concealed.

Holgrave looked at them an instant--

"Yes, my lord," said he, without hesitation, but yet with a
consciousness that the answer was to injure him.

"What, they _are_ yours then?" said De Boteler in a still harsher tone.

Holgrave bowed his head.

"Come forward, keeper," continued the baron, "and state how these
arrows came into your hands!"

The keeper made the deposition which the reader will have anticipated;
and his men were then examined, who corroborated the statement of their
master.

"Now, Stephen Holgrave," asked the baron, "what have you to say to
this?"

"My lord," replied Holgrave, still undaunted, "the shafts are mine;
but I am as innocent of the deed as the babe at its mother's breast.
Whoever shot the buck must have stolen my arrows, in order to bring me
into this scrape."

"By my faith, Holgrave, you seem to think lightly of this matter. Do
you call it a scrape to commit a felony in your lord's chase? Have you
any thing further to urge in your defence?"

There was a momentary pause after the baron had ceased. Holgrave
hesitated to reply;--he had denied the charge, and he knew not what
else to say. But when every eye except Calverley's, from Roland de
Boteler's to that of the lowest freeman present, was fixed on the
accused, expecting his answer, a slight movement was observed among the
people, and Edith Holgrave, supported by Hartwell, pressed forward,
and stood on the step by the side of her son. The gaze was now in an
instant turned from the son to the mother, and Edith, after pausing a
moment to collect her faculties, said, in a loud voice--

"My Lord de Boteler, and you noble sir, and fair dames--it may seem
strange that an old woman like me should speak for a man of my son's
years; but, in truth, he is better able to defend himself with his arm
than his tongue."

"Woman!" interrupted De Boteler impatiently, "your son has answered for
himself--retire."

"Nay, my lord," replied Edith, with a bright eye and a flushing cheek,
and drawing herself up to a height that she had not exhibited for many
years--"nay, my lord, my son is able to defend himself against the
weapon of an open foe, but not against the doings of a covert enemy!"

"What mean you, woman?" quickly returned De Boteler; "do you accuse the
keeper of my chase as having plotted against your son, or whom do you
suspect?"

"Baron de Boteler," replied Edith, with a look and a tone that
seemed to gain fresh energy from the kind of menace with which the
interrogatories were put, "I do not accuse your keeper. He had an
honest father, and he has himself ever been a man of good repute. But
I do say," she added in a wild and high tone, and elevating her right
hand and rivetting her flashing eyes on Calverley--"I _do_ say, the
charge as regards my son is a base and traitorous plot."

"Hold your tongue, woman," interrupted De Boteler, who had listened
to her with evident reluctance. "Why do you look so fiercely on my
'squire. Have you aught against him?"

"My lord baron," replied Edith, "I have nothing to say that can bring
home guilt to the guilty, or do right to the wronged: but I will say,
my lord, that what a man is to-day he will be to-morrow, unless he has
some end to answer by changing. The esquire will scarcely give the
word of courtesy to the most reputable vassal, and yet did he talk
secretly and familiarly with John Byles--and here is one who will swear
that he heard him repeat the name of my son, and then something about
an arrow."

Old Hartwell now stept forward, and averred that he had seen Calverley
and Byles talking together in the chase, and that he had overheard
the name of Stephen Holgrave repeated in conjunction with an allusion
to arrows. The circumstance, however, had been quite forgotten until
the charge this morning brought it to his memory. This eaves-dropping
testimony amounted to nothing, even before Calverley denied every
particular of the fact, which he did with the utmost composure--

"What motive have I to plot against Holgrave?" asked Calverley.

"You _have_ a motive," said Edith, "both in envy and in love. You well
know that if this charge could be proved, Stephen Holgrave must die."

Calverley was about to speak, when he was interrupted by De Boteler,
who expressed himself dissatisfied with the explanations on both sides:

"The proof is doubtful," said he, suddenly. "Give the fellow back his
arrows, and dissolve the court.--Away!"

When the arrows were handed to their owner, he instantly snapt them
asunder.

"What means this, Stephen Holgrave?" asked the baron impatiently.

"My lord, those arrows were used in a foul purpose; and Stephen
Holgrave will never disgrace his hand by using them again. The time may
come, my lord, when the malicious coward who stole them shall rue this
day!"

"Bravely said and done, my stout yeoman!" said Sir Robert Knowles, who
broke silence for the first time during the investigation: "and my
Lord de Boteler," he continued, addressing the baron, "the arm that
acquitted itself so well in your defence, you may be assured, could
never have disgraced itself by midnight plunder."

"The blessing of the most high God be with you for that, noble sir,"
said Edith, as she knelt down and fervently thanked Sir Robert; and
then, leaning on the arm of her son, she left the hall.

"By my faith, Sir Robert," said De Boteler, "Stephen Holgrave wants no
counsel while that old dame so ably takes his part. But a truce with
this mummery. Come along--our time is more precious than wasting it in
hearing such varlets."

The baron and his guests then withdrew.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the distance of nearly a mile from Sudley Castle, and at about a
quarter of a mile from the high road that led to Oxford, was a singular
kind of quarry or cliff. Its elevation was considerable, and the
portion of the hill visible from the road was covered with the heathy
verdure which usually springs from such scanty soil; but on passing
round to the other side, all the barren unsightly appearance of a half
worked quarry presented itself. Huge masses of stone stood firmly as
nature had formed them, while others, of a magnitude sufficient to
awaken in the hardiest, a sense of danger, hung apparently by so slight
a tenure, that a passing gust of wind, seemed only required to release
their fragile hold. But the hill had stood thus unaltered during the
remembrance of the oldest inhabitant of Winchcombe. Strange stories
were whispered respecting this cliff, but as the honour of the house of
Sudley, and that of another family equally noble, were concerned in the
tale, little more than obscure hints were suffered to escape.

One evening, as the rumour went, a female figure, enveloped in a mantle
of some dark colour, and holding an infant in her arms, was observed,
seated on one of the stones of the quarry, with her feet resting on
a fragment beneath. Her face was turned towards Sudley, and as the
atmosphere was clear, and her position elevated, the castle could well
be distinguished. Wild shrieks were heard by some during that night,
and the morning sun revealed blood on fragments of the stone, and on
the earth beneath; and at a little distance it was perceived that the
grass had been recently dug up, and trodden down with a heavy foot.
The peasants crossed themselves at the sight, but no enquiries were
made, and from that day the cliff was sacred to superstition, for no
inhabitant of the district would have touched a stone of the quarry, or
have dared to pass it after nightfall for the world.

It was beneath the shadow of those impending stones, and over the
spot, where it was whispered that the murdered had been buried, that
Calverley, on the night of the day that Holgrave left scatheless the
hall of Sudley castle, was pacing to and fro, awaiting the appearance
of Byles. "He lingers," said Calverley, as the rising moon told him it
was getting late, "I suppose the fool fears to come near this place."
But after some minutes of feverish impatience, Byles at length came.

"What detained you, sirrah?" asked the other sharply.

The yeoman muttered an excuse; but his speech betrayed him.

"You have been drinking," said Calverley, with anger. "Could you not
have kept sober till you had seen me?"

"Why, Master Calverley, to tell you the truth, that old mother Holgrave
frightened me so that--"

"Your childish cowardice had like to have betrayed us. Byles, you have
not dealt honestly by me in this affair--but you are not in a state to
be spoken to now."

"There you are mistaken, squire. I am just as sober as I ought to be to
come to this place: but I can't see why we couldn't have talked as well
any where else as here!"

"Yes, and have some old gossiping fool break in. No, no--here we are
safe. But come nearer, and stand, as I do, in the shadow of the cliff."

"Not a foot nearer, Master Calverley, for all the gold in England. Why,
you are standing just where the poor lady and her babe were buried!"

"Suppose I am--think you they will sleep the worse because I stand on
their grave? Oh! it is a fine thing," he continued, as if following up
some reflection in his mind, "to bury those we hate--deep, deep--so
that they may never blast our sight again!--Byles, you perjured
yourself in that affair of the buck. You swore to aid me. You had gold
for the service, and yet it would have been better that the beast were
still alive, than to have left it behind in the chase: it has only
brought suspicion on me, and given Holgrave a fresh triumph!"

"No fault of mine, squire," answered Byles, in a sullen tone; "there
was no such thing as getting the creature out; and if Sam or I had
been caught, it would have been worse still. But bad as Stephen is, he
wouldn't have thought of accusing us, if it hadn't have been for that
old she-fox, his mother."

"Aye," said Calverley, with a smile--if the curve of a bloodless lip
could be so designated--"aye, you name her rightly, Byles: she is a
fox, and like a fox shall she die,--hunted--driven--tortured. Byles,
have you never heard it said that this woman was a witch?"

"Why--yes--I have, Master Calverley; but in truth I don't like to have
any thing to do with her. If she set a spell upon me, I could never
do good again. Did not she tell Roger Follett, that if he didn't take
care, sooner or later, the gable end of his house would fall? and so,
sure enough it did."

"And yet, knowing this woman a witch, you would not assist in ridding
the parish of such a pest?"

Byles made no reply.

"Well," resumed Calverley, taking some nobles from a small bag he had
in his hand, "these must be for him who will aid me. You have been well
paid, John Byles, for the work you did not do, and now,--see if your
_industry_ and your _profitable_ farm will befriend you as much as _I_
should have done."

This speech acted as Calverley had anticipated. The yeoman's scruples
fled; and alarmed at the prospect of losing those comforts he had
enjoyed since entering into the nefarious league, he said more
earnestly than he had yet spoken--

"Master Calverly, you will find no man to act more faithfully by you
than John Byles. You have been a good friend to me, and I would do any
thing to serve you, but----you see a man can't stifle conscience all at
once."

"Conscience!" repeated Calverley, with a smile of irony. "Do you know,
Byles, I think that conscience of yours will neither serve you in this
world, nor in the next! You have too little to make you an honest man,
and too much to make you a reckless knave. But a truce with conscience.
I have here," said he, holding up the bag of coin, "that which would
buy the conscience of twenty such as you; and now, Byles, if you choose
to earn this gold, which will be given to another, if you hesitate,
swear on these gospels," presenting to the yeoman a Testament, "that
you will be a faithful and a willing confederate in my future plans
respecting the Holgraves. Will you swear?"

"Yes," replied Byles; but as he spoke, he looked wistfully round, in
evident trepidation.

"Are you afraid of good or bad spirits? Nonsense!--do as you have
promised, and take the gold."

Byles made the required asseveration, and took the price.

"What are you gazing at, Byles," asked Calverley.

"See, see!" said Byles, pointing to the north-west.

Calverley stept from the shadow of the cliff, and beheld a meteor in
the sky, brightening and expanding, as the clouds opened, until it
assumed the appearance of a brilliant star, of astonishing magnitude,
encircled by dazzling rays, which, in a singular manner, were all
inclined in one direction, and pointing to that part of the horizon
where lay the rival of England--France.

Even in Calverley's breast, the bad passions were for a moment hushed,
as he gazed upon the radiant phenomenon; but upon the more gross,
and more timorous mind of Byles, the effect produced was much more
striking. He seemed to imagine, that from that brilliant star, some
celestial being was about to descend, and blast him with the wrath of
heaven: and when a lambent flame, darting across the firmament, played
for an instant around the quarry, he concluded that heaven's vengeance
had, indeed, overtaken him. Rushing from the haunted spot, he stopped
not in his headlong course, until he stood in the midst of a group of
half-dressed neighbours near his own door, who had been aroused from
their slumbers to gaze upon the comet.

Calverley, although possessed of more moral courage than Byles, and
viewing the meteor with altogether different feelings, was yet not so
entirely imbued with the philosophy of later times, as to behold it
without apprehension. When Byles had fled, he turned, and walked on
towards the castle with a more rapid pace than usual.

Nothing of moment occurred at Sudley Castle for many months, if we
except the birth of an heir; the appointment of Mary Byles, through
Calverley's influence, to be the nurse; and the accession of Calverley
himself to the coveted stewardship. The baroness's infant grew a fine,
healthy child; but, as is sometimes the case with stout children,
it had occasionally convulsive fits in teething. This, however, was
carefully concealed from the mother, and Mary continued to receive
great praise for her nursing. But it unfortunately happened, that one
morning, when the boy had been laughing and playing in the highest
spirits, Mary saw its countenance suddenly change. This was the more
unfortunate, as De Boteler and his lady were momentarily expected to
return, after a fortnight's absence, and Mary had dressed the infant
in its gayest apparel to meet its parents, and had been congratulating
herself upon the sprightliness and health of the boy. No excuses of
sleep would satisfy the mother now: if the child was not taken to her,
the nurse was assured she would come to look at him, and kiss him as he
slept.

At this moment of perplexity, some medicine, that she had obtained from
Edith, occurred to her, and, with a feeling of confidence, and almost
of extacy, she took a phial from a shelf in a cupboard where she had
placed it, and, pouring out the contents in a large spoon, hesitated
an instant ere she administered it. "Let me see," said she; "surely it
was a large spoonful Edith told me to give--yet all that was in the
phial doesn't fill the spoon. Surely I can't be wrong: no--I remember
she said a large spoonful, and we didn't talk of any thing else--so I
must be right." But Mary still hesitated, till, hearing a sudden noise
in the court-yard, which, she conjectured, was her mistress returned,
and as the child was getting worse every moment, she leaned back its
head, and, forcing open its mouth, compelled the patient, though with
difficulty, to swallow its death. The draught was taken; the rigid
muscles relaxed, and for a minute the child lay motionless in her lap;
but in an instant after, Mary could scarcely suppress a shriek at
the horrid sight that met her gaze. The eyes opened, and glared, and
seemed as if starting from the head--the fair face and the red lips,
were blue, deepening and deepening, till settling in blackness--the
limbs contracted--the mouth opened, and displayed a tongue discoloured
and swollen--then came a writhing and heaving of the body, and a low,
agonized moan: and, as Mary looked almost frantic at this dreadful
sight, Edith's words, when she had given her the phial, "that there was
enough there to kill," suddenly occurred to her--and then, too, came,
with a dreadful distinctness, the remembrance of the true directions
which Edith had given.

"Oh, I have murdered the child!" exclaimed Mary, in the dreadful
excitement of the moment. "What will become of me? what shall I do?
I shall surely be hung. Oh! oh!" she continued, covering her face
with her hands, to shut out the sight of the gasping infant. At this
instant, the door opened; Mary looked up fearfully--it was her
husband. "Oh, Byles! Byles! look at this child! What will become of me?"

"The saints preserve us!" ejaculated Byles, as he looked at the babe:
"Mary, how is this?"

"Oh! don't ask me; but go for Master Calverley. For God's sake, do not
stand as if you were bewitched: see! see! he is dying. The poor child!
What will become of me? Run, Byles, run, for mercy's sake, and tell
Master Calverley."

Byles stood looking, with a countenance expressive of stupified horror,
and yet, as if doubting that the livid, distorted, suffering creature
could be the fine blooming boy he had so lately seen. At length,
aroused by the increasing energy of Mary, he turned silently round and
left the room; as he closed the door, the agonized spirit of the little
Roland passed away.

In an instant Byles returned with Calverley, and even he started and
uttered an exclamation, as his eyes fell on the ghastly face of the
dead child.

"Mary Byles, how did this happen?" asked Calverley, eagerly.

"Master Calverley, I will tell you truly," answered Mary, in a voice
scarcely audible from its tremor. "You have been our best friend, and
you would not see me hung? It was all a mistake--I am sure I wouldn't
hurt a hair of the dear creature's head." And here the feelings of
woman so far prevailed, that she shed some disinterested tears.

"You could have no motive to destroy the child--but tell me quickly
what you have to say." Calverley spoke with a harshness that instantly
recalled all Mary's fears and selfishness.

"Edith Holgrave," said she, "gave me some medicine to--"

"Edith Holgrave!" interrupted Calverley, with a quickness of voice and
eagerness of look that told how greatly the name interested him.

"Yes, Edith Holgrave told me to give ten drops out of that little
bottle," (pointing to the empty phial,) "and I--gave--but, oh! Master
Calverley, I forgot--"

"You gave it all?" said Calverley, impatiently.

"Yes."

"And you will swear it was a draught that Edith Holgrave gave you that
has killed the child?" said Calverley, with a brightening countenance.

"Oh, yes," replied Mary; "but, indeed--"

"Nonsense!" interrupted Calverley. "Hear me, or you will be hanged! If
you hope to save your life, Mary Byles, you must swear that you gave it
according to Edith's directions--breathe not a syllable of the drops!"

Mary looked with a fearful wildness at Calverley, as she comprehended
his meaning; but Byles said quickly,

"What! do you mean her to hang old Edith?"

"Certainly," returned Calverley, coolly, "unless you prefer a gallows
for your wife. But I dare say you would rather see Mary hanged
than that old witch! I will leave you to manage the matter between
yourselves."

"Oh, don't leave us!--don't leave us!" said Byles, in an agony. "Oh,
save me! save me!" sobbed Mary.

"Was any one present when you gave it?" inquired Calverley, as he
turned round and addressed Mary.

"Yes; Winifred handed me the bottle, but the child began to cry, so I
sent her out."

"It was well she was here," returned he: "and now, remember--not a
word of the drops! swear, simply, that the draught destroyed the
infant." And, without awaiting her reply, he seized the pale and
trembling Byles by the arm, and dragged him from the room into the
passage. He then unlocked a door that had never been observed by either
Byles or his wife, and, closing it after them, led the yeoman down a
flight of dark steps, and, pausing a moment at the bottom to listen,
he unlocked another door, and Byles found himself in a dark passage
that branched from one of the entrances to the court-yard to some of
the culinary offices. "Go you that way, and I will go this," said
Calverley, "and, remember, you know nothing of the child's death."
As he spoke, he darted from Byles, and gained the court-yard without
further observation. He walked carelessly about, till a female domestic
passing, he called to her, desiring her to go and ask Mary Byles if
the young Lord Roland was ready to meet his parents, as they were
momentarily expected. The woman departed, and he walked over to the
gate between the front towers as if looking for the return of his lord.



CHAPTER IV.


"What ails you, Stephen," asked Margaret, alarmed at the strange
paleness of the yeoman's countenance, and the agitation of his manner
as he entered the cottage on the afternoon the child died. But
Holgrave, without replying to her interrogatory, hastily closed and
bolted the door. He then drew the large oak table from the side of the
wall, and placed it as a barricade before it. "Stephen, what means this
bolting and barring?" inquired Edith, as she saw with surprise his
defensive preparations. "What fear you, my son?"

"Fear! mother," replied Holgrave, taking a lance and battle-axe from
their place over the chimney, and firmly grasping the former as he
stood against the table; "I do not fear now, mother, nor need you--for,
by the blessed St. Paul, they shall pass over my mangled body before
they reach you!"

"Stephen Holgrave, are you mad?" returned Edith alarmed: "tell me the
meaning of this!--Speak, I command thee!"

"Oh, mother, I cannot tell you," answered Holgrave, turning away his
face from her searching glance; "Oh, no, I cannot tell you!"

"Stephen, you were not used to answer me thus. I charge you, by the
authority and love of thy mother, and in the name of the blessed
saints, to tell me what has happened."

"Alas! my mother, you will know it soon enough. It is said you
have--have--bewitched--or poisoned--the baron's son!"

"Oh, mother!" shrieked Margaret. "Fly!--to the abbey, and take
sanctuary!"

"Margaret!" replied Edith, "I stir not hence. The guilty may take
refuge from the anger of the laws; but it is not for the innocent to
fear and fly like the felon!"

Margaret then threw herself at the feet of Edith, and besought her, in
the most earnest and pathetic manner, to take refuge at Hailes Abbey,
in which she was seconded by Holgrave. The old woman remained silent;
but there was a brightness--a glistening in her eyes as if a tear
had started;--but if a tear did start, it did not fall. At length,
recovering her composure, she rose firmly from her seat--

"My son," said she, "lay down your arms, I command. Should my life be
offered up to the vengeful spirit of Thomas Calverley, who alone can be
the foul author of this charge, it will be only taking from me a few
short years--perhaps days--of suffering. But thou hast years of health
and life before thee, and thou hast this gentle weeping creature to
sustain."

"What!" interrupted Margaret warmly; "Oh, no--the mother of Stephen
Holgrave to be torn from us without a blow! Did he not fight for his
lord? and shall he not risk his life for his mother?"

"And is this thy counsel, foolish woman?" replied Edith, in a tone of
rebuke.

"She speaks my purpose," said Holgrave, as he grasped still firmer the
poised weapon.

Edith stepped quickly up to her son and knelt before him--

"Oh Stephen, my son, my first-born--thy mother kneels to thee. Lay
aside that lance and hearken to the words of her who bore thee, and
nourished thee. Oh, bring not sorrow and ruin on thyself and her! What
would be the bitterness of my dying moments if my son lived not to
lay me beside his father?--if thy Margaret was left to mourn in lowly
widowhood--and, perhaps, to fall beneath the base arts of Calverley!
Oh, my son, my son, by the soul of thy dead father, and by the blessing
of thy mother, resist not!--Hark! they come--they come! Haste,
Stephen--Give me the weapon."

Holgrave, shocked and agitated, could only think of raising his mother
from her knees. He suffered her, without resistance, to take the lance
from his hand, and then attempt, with her weak fingers, to remove the
barricade, while advancing footsteps were heard without.

The hostile party reached the cottage, and the latch was quickly
raised; but, finding it resist their attempts, the voice of Calverley,
in an authoritative tone, pronounced--

"In the name of the Lord Roland de Boteler, I demand the body of
Edith Holgrave, who is accused of the foul crimes of witchcraft and
murder.--Open the door, Stephen Holgrave, if you are within!"

"Fiend of hell! it is he!" muttered Holgrave, gnashing his teeth, but
without moving.

The party without seemed to have expected resistance; for the next
moment a blow was struck upon the door which made the whole house
shake; and the besieged perceived that they were forcing an entrance
with the trunk of a young tree, or some such machine, in imitation
of the ram, not yet disused in warfare. Speedily the timber yielded
and cracked; and Holgrave, starting from the stupor in which he was
plunged, caught up the axe, and posted himself in an attitude of
striking near the door.

"Pollute not thy hand with the blood of the base," said Edith, grasping
her son's arm--"Judgment is mine, saith the Lord!"

"Thomas Calverley," continued she, in a loud calm voice, "produce your
warrant!"

"The word of the Lord de Boteler," replied Calverley, "is warrant
enough for the capture of the murderess of his child. Surrender,
Stephen Holgrave, I command!"

At this moment a noise was heard, as if an entrance had been effected
through the roof; and ere Holgrave could release his arm from his
mother's hold, a shriek from Margaret struck upon his ear. He turned
his head and beheld her covering him with outstretched arms from the
drawn bows of two retainers, who appeared at the door of the room, or
loft, above.

"Archers, do your duty!" shouted Calverley; but at the moment some
voices without exclaimed suddenly, "My lord comes! My lord comes!" and
the bowmen drew back, and Holgrave instinctively dropped his axe.

De Boteler, either through anxiety for Edith's arrest, or from an
apprehension that Holgrave might oppose it, did indeed approach, and as
he advanced, with hasty and agitated steps, and beheld the evidence of
resistance in the rent roof and shattered door, his rage was extreme.

"Tear down the cottage!" cried he, his voice choked with passion, "and
take this foul sorceress dead or alive!" The command was about to be
fulfilled when the door was unbarred and opened by Holgrave.

"Stop;" said the baron, "the knave surrenders. Base-born churl, how
dare you oppose my commands?"

"My lord," said the intrepid yeoman, "I had a right to defend my
dwelling against unlawful assault."

"Unlawful! Do you call the orders of your lord unlawful?"

"My Lord De Boteler," said Edith, stepping forward, and looking full at
the baron. "It is unlawful to send armed men, in the open day, without
warrant, save your own will, to attack the house of a faithful vassal
and set his life in jeopardy. Had you sent a messenger in peace, Edith
Holgrave would have obeyed the mandate. There was little need of all
this tumult to take an aged woman, whom _He_ knoweth is innocent, and
whom you, Lord of Sudley, in your own breast----"

"Foul mouthed witch!" interrupted De Boteler, "keep thy tongue
silent--no more--lest I anticipate justice by hanging you at your own
threshold!"

"That you dare not do!" said Edith, calmly.

"Bear her away, Calverley--bear her away, or I cannot answer for the
result. Place her in the dungeon at the top of the tower, and let no
one see her till to-morrow, when she shall be conveyed to Gloucester
Castle."

That same day, Calverley summoned, or rather packed, a jury at which he
himself presided; and a verdict of wilful murder was returned against
Edith. Apprehensive, however, that the charge of poisoning might not
be sustained upon the unsupported testimony of Mary Byles, he easily
influenced the credulous jurors to believe that witchcraft had as much
to do with the child's death as poison. His usual tact, however, had
forsaken him on this occasion, and it was not until the verdict was
announced and recorded, that the unwelcome conviction flashed across
his mind, that the temporal courts could exercise no jurisdiction over
the crime of witchcraft. It was now too late to alter the language
of the inquisition. It had gone forth to hundreds who awaited its
promulgation with intense anxiety; and the language of the verdict that
"Edith Holgrave delivered to Mary Byles, a certain charmed or poisonous
drug, for the purpose of destroying Roland De Boteler, and which said
drug was administered to, and caused the death of, the said Roland,"
was, in a few hours, familiar to the whole town and neighbourhood.

Calverley was too well aware of the jealous vigilance the church
exercised in cases appertaining to its jurisdiction, not to feel
apprehensive that its influence might be exerted to defeat the
operation of the temporal court; for, although the ecclesiastical
courts could not award the last penalty to persons convicted of
witchcraft or heresy, yet they were as tenacious of their exclusive
right to investigate such cases, as if they possessed the power to
punish. When a person accused of those crimes was adjudged to die,
a writ was issued from the court of King's Bench called a writ _de
heretico comburendo_, by virtue of which the victim was handed over
to the temporal authority, and underwent the punishment awarded. But
it was seldom, at this period, that the obstinacy of a delinquent
brought about such a consummation, for a confession of the crime (if
the first) only subjected him to ecclesiastical penance or censure. It
was not till the reign of James the First that we find any legislative
enactment against witchcraft. The well known passage in Exodus which
conveys the divine command to the great lawgiver, "Thou shalt not
suffer a witch to live," was the supposed authority from which the
church derived its jurisdiction; and though the priests of the old law
were armed with, and probably exercised, the ordinance in its fullest
meaning, yet the disciples of a purer and milder doctrine delegated
that authority to a power more suited to carry its decrees into effect.

The news of these transactions had no sooner reached the ears of father
John, than he hastened to the abbot of Winchcombe, for the purpose of
beseeching him to demand the prisoner in the name of the church.

Simon Sudbury, the mitred abbot, was a man of a fair and florid
complexion, with large, expressive eyes, that even at the age of fifty
were of a deep and clear blue. He was tall, and just sufficiently
corpulent to give an air of dignity to his figure; but even had his
person been insignificant, there sat on his brow, and glanced in his
eye, that pride and conscious superiority which, even from an equal,
would have extorted respect.

The monk made a lowly obeisance as he approached the abbot, and
when desired to make known his business, he detailed in a brief but
perspicuous manner the charge against Edith. The superior listened with
calm attention; but it was evident that the Baron de Boteler was not
one with whom he would feel disposed to interfere.

"My son," said he, when father John had ceased, "it seems an oppressive
case according to your statement; but you are well aware how much our
holy church has been shorn of her power, and how eager the monarch, and
nobles, and even the people, are to abridge our privileges." The abbot
paused, and again resumed: "I fear, my son, our remonstrance would be
disregarded by this young lord, and only cause a further indignity to
be cast on our holy church."

"My lord," answered the monk, "I would not urge you; but I so well know
the woman's piety and innocence, that it would be to participate in the
guilt of her accusers not to implore your lordship's interposition."
The abbot took up a pen that lay before him, and was about to write;
but he laid it down again, saying--

"Would it not be better to await her trial, and should she be found
guilty, petition the king for a pardon?"

"My lord, she may not survive the imprisonment."

"Well, my son, her earthly troubles would then cease without our
interference--the innocent are better away from this sinful world,
where oppression rules with a strong hand."

"True," answered the monk, with increased tenacity; "but will the Lord
of life hold us guiltless, if we heed not the cry of the innocent?"

The abbot looked frowningly on father John, as he again took up the
pen. "My son, you are not serving the church by such pertinacity. This
application will only expose one of its dignitaries to humiliation;
however, I shall write to the Baron, since you desire it, and demand
that the accused be transferred to the tribunal over which we preside."

The abbot waved his hand impatiently, and the monk withdrew.

The hall of Sudley had been hastily hung with black cloth, and the
walls of the adjoining apartment exhibited a similar covering; and
here, surrounded by a number of lighted tapers, lay the corpse of the
little Roland. At the foot of the bier knelt a monk in silent prayer,
and at the side sat the Lady Isabella, absorbed in a grief which none
but a mother can feel, and regardless of her husband's intreaties to
withdraw.

"Oh, no, not yet," she said, "I cannot yet leave my babe. It was but
yesterday my heart bounded at the thought of caressing my lovely boy;
and to-day--but this witch--this murderess!" she continued, turning
round, and elevating her voice; "what of her? Does she confess her
guilt?"

"No," replied Boteler; "and she persists that the potion, if rightly
administered, would rather have benefited than harmed our Roland."

"Heed her not--she is as artful as vile--they are an evil brood
altogether. Know you, De Boteler," she added quickly, "whether the
young woman participated in the deed of darkness?"

"Nothing has appeared against her," replied the baron.

At this instant an attendant entered, and delivered a letter to her
lord, from the abbot of Winchcombe, adding that two messengers were
waiting in the hall.

The baron untied the silken cord that confined the parchment, and
having hastily perused it, handed it to the Lady Isabella.

"De Boteler," said the lady, rising from her seat when her eyes had
run over the writing, "this woman shall _not_ escape justice. Go, my
lord--remember your murdered child, and compromise not with those who
would screen the guilty from punishment."

De Boteler moved from the illuminated bier, and entered the hall with a
haughty step; and as his eye fell on Father John, the frown on his brow
increased. He did not, however, appear to heed him, but, turning to the
abbot's messenger, said,

"Monk!--I have read my lord abbot's letter, and it would seem that
he ought to have known better than interfere in such a matter. My
child has been poisoned--the evidence is clear and convincing--why,
therefore, does he make such a demand?"

"My lord baron," replied the messenger, "the verdict states that a
charmed potion had been administered to the young lord. This accusation
precedes the charge of poisoning: therefore, the spiritual court must
first decide on the fact of witchcraft, before the temporal tribunal
can take cognizance of the other offence."

"And does your abbot think, when the hope of my house has perished,
whether by false incantations or deadly poison, that----Depart, monk!"
continued he, in a choked voice, "and tell your abbot that this woman's
guilt or innocence shall be tried by the laws of the realm."

"Then, my lord, you will not comply with the mandate of my superior?"

"Mandate!" repeated the enraged baron--"ha! ha! Mandate, forsooth!
From whom--from an impotent priest of a waning church--and which
church, with the blessing of God and our good king, will soon cease to
arrogate to itself the encroachment which it has made upon the royal
prerogative."

"Note down this speech, Father John," said the messenger. "And now,
Baron of Sudley, I formally demand, in the name of Simon Sudbury,
the mitred abbot of Winchcombe, the body of Edith Holgrave, whom you
impiously and rebelliously detain against the privileges of holy
church: and--"

"Hold, minion! Cease! or you will tempt me to hang the culprit from the
battlements of yonder keep, if it were only to afford news to your
master. Presumptuous shaveling! know you not that the royal franchise
granted to this manor empowers me to sit in judgment on my vassals, and
that it is only as an act of grace that she is handed over to a jury of
the county."

"The 'act of grace,' my lord," said Father John, looking sternly at
De Boteler, "only shows that your mind is not so fully convinced of
this woman's guilt as to embolden you to take the charge of her death
entirely upon your own conscience--"

"Base-born knave! do you think you wear a coat of mail in that
hypocritical garb. Ho! Calverley, let the woman be instantly
transmitted to Gloucester castle, that my lord abbot may thunder his
anathemas against its walls, if it so please him; and then bear this
meddling monk to the tumbrel, that he may learn better than to beard
his natural lord under his own roof."

"Not so, my lord," said Isabella, at the moment entering the hall,
attracted by the loud tones of De Boteler's voice; "not so, my lord;
the tumbrel is not for such as he, however rude his bearing. My
Lord de Boteler," turning to the monk, "has doubtless given you an
answer--retire, and do not farther provoke his wrath."

"Lady," returned Father John, with dignity, "I retire at your bidding,
but not through fear of the Baron de Boteler. Let him, if he will,
insult and expose an anointed priest--but, woe to him if he does! The
blight has already fallen on the blossom--beware of the tree!"

The baroness looked rebuked; and before De Boteler could reply, the two
monks left the hall.

"Did I not anticipate this result?" said the abbot, looking sternly at
the mortified monk, as the messenger detailed the interview with the
baron.

Father John bowed.

"_Your_ importunity," continued the abbot, "has cast this indignity
on holy church, and on me its minister; but nevertheless, this lord,
powerful though he be, must be taught obedience to that power he has
contemned."

"My lord," replied the monk, encouraged by the abbot's energy, "our
holy church, thank heaven, is not without _one_ able and zealous
advocate. A timorous attitude at this moment would only give fresh
vigour to those who seek to abridge its power."

"Aye, my son, there has been timidity enough in those prelates, who
tamely acquiesced in the late enactment against the clergy; and, alas!
how often since have the servants of God been dragged from the altar
and imprisoned like felons, merely to gratify the haughty barons in
their desire to humble our holy religion! The king, too, is a masked
enemy, and countenances the impious attempts to abridge our rights."

"And yet, my lord," returned John, "the church is the natural bulwark
of royalty: by humbling it, he paralyzes a power the most zealous, and
the best calculated to maintain the divine right of kings."

"It is, indeed, the stay and hope of monarchy," replied Sudbury; "but
kings are men, and fallible. This woman's case will, nevertheless,
demonstrate whether further encroachments will be submitted to by the
prelates without a struggle. I shall write letters to the Archbishop of
Canterbury and the Abbot of Westminster, and you, my son, shall bear
them to London. Retire for the present, and prepare for your journey."

The abbot was as good as his word, and presently the fate of the
obscure Edith Holgrave became a question which kindled the fires of
party zeal in half the noble breasts in the kingdom. It is not to the
purpose of our story to describe the intrigue which, at this period,
tore asunder the court of Edward. Suffice it to say, that after
many stormy discussions in the cabinet, at which the abbot's first
messenger, father John, and De Boteler himself, were interrogated--the
church triumphed; the Baron of Sudley was condemned to offer an
expiatory gift, and a writ was issued to prohibit the court of assize
from trying the prisoner.

On the day the prohibitory writ left London, a small iron box, with a
superscription, addressed to Thomas Calverley, was left by a stranger
at Sudley Castle, and immediately after, by another messenger,
a packet, in which, within many envelopes, a key was concealed.
Calverley, naturally concluding that this key belonged to the box he
had just received, with a variety of perplexing conjectures, unlocked
it, and beheld the crimson damask dress of a pursuivant, on which the
royal arms were embroidered in gold, and beneath the dress a purse
of gold coin and a scroll of parchment, on which the following was
written, evidently in a disguised hand:--

"A chancery messenger will leave London on the morning you receive
this: he is the bearer of a writ to prohibit the court of assize at
Gloucester from trying Edith Holgrave.--Surely justice should not be
thus defeated--the messenger will rest for some time to-morrow evening
at Northleach.--Could not the dress that accompanies this enable you
to demand the writ from the messenger in the king's name. Remember,
however, the writ must not reach Gloucester."

Calverley started at the boldness of the proposition, and resolved,
much as he desired that Edith should suffer, not to engage in so daring
an act. But in a few minutes, as his mind became more familiarized
with the idea, much of the supposed danger of the undertaking
disappeared. He might disguise his countenance so, that, aided by the
dress, detection would be almost impossible; and even if detected, the
letter, which, despite of every effort at concealment, bore evidence
of the Lady Isabella's handwriting, would compel her to exert all her
influence in his favour. Nevertheless, Calverley, possessing less
physical than moral courage, could not bring himself to look with total
indifference upon even the possibility of personal danger, and he
determined, therefore, to associate with him in the adventure the bold
and reckless Byles.

Calverley would have willingly risked every thing _but_ his personal
safety to be revenged of her who strove to attach to him the suspicion
of crime; and even when mounted on his steed, with a large dark
cloak thrown over him to conceal the material of his dress, lest its
singularity should attract observation, he could not help feeling a
slight inward trepidation.

As they proceeded, the heath gradually assumed the appearance of a
scanty wood, the trees became more numerous, the thickets of greater
extent, and the animal on which Calverley rode was frequently impeded
by the withering stumps of trees that had been carelessly felled.
He alighted just at the point where an abrupt opening between the
clustering thickets led by a circuitous path of not more than a hundred
yards to the high road to Gloucester.

Here Calverley's quick ear caught the sound of the tramping of a
horse--his heart beat quick--it might be a traveller journeying to
Gloucester, but it was more probable that it was the messenger. He
threw the bridle of his horse over the branch of a tree, sprang to
the end of the path, and, concealing himself behind the under-wood,
discovered in a moment, by the dark medley hue of the rider's dress,
that it was the man he expected. He hurried back, and, mounting his
steed, waited till the echo of the horse's hoofs could no longer be
distinguished; and then, giving the impulse to his own spirited animal,
he was the next moment bounding at full speed after the messenger,
followed at a distance by his accomplice.

Calverley was a good horseman, and it was but a short space ere he was
within a few yards of the messenger, and shouting to him to halt. The
man stopped, and, turning in his saddle, surveyed with some surprise
(which could be seen even in the duskiness of twilight) the bright
colours that distinguished the garb of a pursuivant.

"What! for Gloucester, friend? You must have been hard upon my heels
the whole way for----"

"No," interrupted Calverley, in an assumed gruffness of tone, and with
something more than his usual authoritativeness, "my journey is ended
now. The king has recalled that writ of prohibition you were to deliver
to the judge. You are to return the writ to me, and proceed with your
other dispatches."

The messenger had heard--for state secrets will sometimes
transpire--that the chancellor had a struggle to obtain the writ; and
this knowledge, though it made him the more readily credit Calverley's
assertion, yet vexed him that his master should be foiled. Looking,
therefore, with a surly scrutiny at the steward--

"The writ," said he, "was given to me by my lord archbishop; and how do
I know that I should be right in surrendering it to a stranger? Have
you any order from his grace?"

"Order from his grace," repeated Calverley, sarcastically: "Do you not
know, my good friend, that _your_ master is in disgrace with _mine_,
and that the eloquent William of Wykeham will, ere many days pass, be
high chancellor of England. Come, come, give me the writ, and don't
lose time. I must not stir from my saddle this night, unless to change
horses, till I reach Westminster."

The news of Islip's dismissal confounded the messenger. This new
pursuivant might be in the interest of William of Wykeham, and it would
be ill policy to make an enemy where every good office might be wanting
to preserve him his situation. At all events, there was little use
in contending: he accordingly unlocked his bag, and Calverley, with a
thrill of pleasure, felt the writ within his grasp.

A hasty salutation passed, and the horsemen rode off in opposite
directions. Calverley then, sending his associate home, spurred on to
Gloucester.

The steward's first care was to put up his horse at an inn a little
within the north-gate of Gloucester; and then, proceeding on to where
the four streets, leading from the four gates of the city form a cross,
he went down Westgate-street, and, passing the beautiful cathedral,
presently reached the Severn. The evening was dark, and, looking
cautiously round, he dropt the damask dress,--and, as he thought, the
prohibitory writ,--in the oblivious waters.



CHAPTER V.


The steward, after thus relieving his mind from all anxiety respecting
the dress, proceeded to the sign of the Mitre in Silver Girdle-street,
a well known resort for certain useful adjuncts to the courts of law.

Calverley entered the Mitre, and, after calling for some wine, was
shown into a little private room by the host. A few minutes after, the
door opened, and a man entered and took his seat at the end of the
table at which Calverley was sitting. The individual who thus invaded
the privacy of the steward was a man not much above the middle height.
His face had once been comely, but a close intimacy with the bottle had
given to his countenance a bloated and somewhat revolting expression.
The latter peculiarity, however, was only to be detected by the few
who read the heart in the "human face divine;" and even these might be
deceived into a prepossession favourable to the man; for his large,
full, blue eyes, beamed with much apparent benevolence, and his nose,
though clothed in a fiery mantle and tipped with two large carbuncles,
was not a nose that Lavater himself could with conscience have objected
to. Large, black, whiskers, and thick, bushy, hair, with a beard of the
same hue, had given him the characteristic _soubriquet_ of Black Jack.
On the whole his appearance and deportment were those of a respectable
burgher of the period. This man was not a stranger to Calverley, and
Black Jack was, by some chance, still better acquainted with the person
and character of the steward. He had heard every particular relative to
the child's death, and consequently divined the motive of the steward's
visit to the Mitre, and, as he now and then cast a keen glance at
Calverley, he might be likened to the author of evil contemplating a
man about to engage in some heinous offence, the commission of which
would connect them in still closer affinity.

A flaggon of ale soon followed Black Jack, in which he drank
Calverley's health with the familiarity of an old acquaintance,
though this was the first time he had interchanged courtesies with
the steward, who returned the compliment coldly, though not in that
repulsive tone which forbids further intimacy.

A pause of a few minutes ensued, and though each was anxious to
introduce some allusion to the intended trial, yet both hesitated to
begin;--Calverley, from a prudential fear of committing himself, and
Black Jack from an apprehension of hazarding a chance of employment by
too ready a proffer of his services.

The latter became tired first of his reserve, and perceiving that
Calverley, like a spirit, would only speak when spoken to, resolved,
with characteristic modesty, to plunge _in medias res_.

"Master," said he, "you are here, no doubt, on the business of the
witch? For my part, I hold such creatures in religious abhorrence.
That's neither here nor there, however--can I do anything to serve
you?--That is the short of the matter."

"Master Oakley," replied the steward, with a grim smile which told he
knew his man, "you have correctly surmised the business that brings
Lord de Boteler's steward to the Mitre--you know the particulars of the
affair?"

"I do."

"Well," resumed Calverley, "the evidence is not so good as I could
wish. A country jury might acquit her."

"Aye, aye, I see--it shall be done--she returns no more to
Winchcombe----"

"But, you know," interrupted Calverley, quickly, "that she deserves
death for the death she has inflicted."

"That's neither here nor there: I never trouble myself about such
matters--I am no schoolman--the judge will see to that; and, if she
_is_ to be disposed of, it matters little whether by substantial
free-holders or myself and my eleven."

The price was now agreed upon, and the purse that accompanied the
pursuivant's dress was more than sufficient to satisfy the exorbitant
demand of the foreman.

"I may depend upon you, Master Oakley?" said the suspicious steward,
pausing at the door.

"By the green wax! may you--Black Jack is a man of honour. As sure as
Judge Skipwith sits on the bench, so sure shall I and my men sit in the
jury-box. He is a carle to doubt me," said Black Jack, as Calverley
shut the door--"Has he emptied his flask? No--by the green wax! he
seems to think as little of his wine as his money;" and, after emptying
the cup, left the Mitre.

The next night, being the eve of the trial, Black Jack entered the
Mitre, and, ordering a fresh gallon of stout ale, proceeded on to the
little room where he had seen Calverley, and in which, around an oak
table which nearly filled the area of the apartment, ten men were
seated. A measure stood before them which they had just emptied, and
were murmuring at their leader's close hand that restricted them to a
single gallon.

This room was sacred to the confraternity: here they held their
meetings--here they were instructed by their chief in the parts
allotted to them in the shifting drama of crime. And here, under
lock and key, pledged to the host, were the garments in which they
appeared in the jury-box as respectable yeomen. Black Jack cast a rapid
glance round the table as he entered, and perceiving one seat still
unoccupied, he frowned with impatience.

"What!" exclaimed he, "has Beauchamp broke cover on such a night as
this? Speak!"

"He has not been seen to-day," said a sleek-faced old man who sat
opposite.

"Not seen to-day--hah!--Has the fellow shrieved himself? or is he laid
up after last night's tipple?"

"Aye, Master," said another, "he is laid up but I fear he has forgot
the shrieving. However, he will never again say guilty or not guilty in
a jury-box, or kiss the book in justification of bail!"

"Saints protect us! not dead!" exclaimed the foreman. The man nodded
assent:--"Then, by the green wax! we shall lose two of the best jobs we
have had these three years. Come, come, Harvey, you only banter--the
knave is lazy."

"By Saint Luke, poor Beauchamp is as dead as he need be, master,"
answered Harvey. "I saw him this morning, and his face was as black
as--your own this moment!"

Black Jack seized the empty flaggon and was about to hurl it at the
head of the facetious under-strapper, when his arm was arrested by the
old man who had first spoken.

"Hold, master," said he, "you will find it difficult to fill
Beauchamp's seat, without making another vacancy."

The irritated foreman replaced the flaggon on the table but swore
he would have no more jesting. "Poor Beauchamp," continued he, "is
gone--the cleverest man among ye--no whining--no qualms about him, when
a shilling was to be earned by swallowing a pill or sending a traveller
before his time to the other world! How unlucky, he had not postponed
his flight for another week; this witch would then be disposed of and
the sheriff satisfied. Poor Jack, poor Jack! where shall we find a
substitute--but a substitute must be had if it were he of the cloven
foot himself! This news has made me thirsty," continued he, raising the
pitcher to his lips, "but remember, no jesting."

Black Jack then buried his face in his hands for some minutes,
meditating how he should supply the place of the defunct Beauchamp. In
vain he racked his brain; he knew many who would accept the offer, but
they were untried.

"This assize will be a hungry feast," he at length exclaimed; "we
may bid adieu to the Mitre--I must refund the money I received on
account of the witch, and the old Ferrett, too, must have his earnest
money--what is to be done? Do ye know any one who could be trusted to
stand in the shoes of Beauchamp?"

"We leave the filling up vacancies to our foreman," returned they.

"Aye, aye! ye shrink from responsibility, and throw all on my
shoulders," returned Black Jack, snatching up a renewed flagon, and
drinking freely, as if to forget his perplexity in the intoxicating
influence of the beverage. "Aye, aye! but, knaves, the money ye have
received must be refunded, and ye may go starve, or rob, for aught I
care."

"But, master, where, think you, shall it be found?" answered Harvey:
"you might as well dissolve this society, as think of making us refund
what is already scattered in every corner of Gloucester."

"Dissolve this society! impudent knave!" retorted the foreman: "I
should like to know what new profession ye are fit for: how could ye
live but for me? Think ye the sheriff would expose himself by communing
with such untaught knaves? No more sulkiness, or I take you at your
word. Give me another swoop of the goblet." It was handed to him, and,
after ingulphing a long draught, he slowly drew breath--his eyes were
observed to brighten with some new idea, and, in a moment after, he
started from his seat, exclaiming, in a burst of joy:

"By the green wax! I've got him!--I've got him at last--I shall be
back in half an hour!" He then darted out of the room, leaving his
confederates conjecturing who the welcome auxiliary was to be that
should fill the void at the oak table.

It was a full hour, however, before the indefatigable purveyor
re-appeared, accompanied by a dark, sun-burnt looking young man,
attired in the garb of a dusty-foot or foreign pedlar. He appeared to
be one of an inferior description of Galley-men, or Genoese merchants,
(as described by Stowe,) who traded to England, and trafficked with a
coin called galley-half-pence. They chiefly resided at a wharf named
Galley Key, in Thames-street, and travelled as itinerant hawkers
through the kingdom. His countenance, however, was not that of a
Genoese--it had more the appearance of the English cast of features,
though, judging from its dark and seaman-like hue, it was many years
since he left his native country.

"Come, my friends, be not cast down! Black Jack and his eleven are
themselves again!" cried the foreman, exultingly. "Here, Harvey, fill
up a goblet for our new friend. Poor Jack's chair is occupied during
the assize; see ye make much of his successor."

"Is he not engaged as a fixture?" asked Harvey, with some
disappointment.

"No, no, Harvey; his feet are not for the narrow limits of Gloucester.
He is a bird of passage, that makes its periodical migrations, and
cannot be called peculiar to one country more than another: in short,
he is a kind of privileged outlaw."

"Aye, aye, master; he breathes the various atmospheres of Christendom,
and yet I'll swear he is a dog of a heathen, notwithstanding, ha!
ha! ha! No offence," he added, addressing the galleyman; "jests are
privileged in this free society."

"Christian men," returned the dusty-foot, good-humouredly, "would be
suffocated in this poisonous air you breathe, and would die, like the
heathen, without benefit of clergy."

"That's right, galleyman--you have hit him there. That knave's skull
is a perfect book of entries, and can furnish precedents for every
crime, from high treason to a simple assault. He'll crack jokes to the
last. But, by the green wax! we must think of a proper description
for him, to insert in the pannel. Let me see--aye, I have it. A man
from Worcester has lately settled at Deerhurst; his name is James
Mills, a substantial man. Here, Harvey," as he took from his pocket
a slip of parchment, and wrote the necessary particulars, and sealed
it carefully, "take this to Lawyer Manlove. We must now see whether
Beauchamp's clothes will suit our friend here."

The host was called in, and unlocked a drawer in which they were
deposited. The galleyman, with visible reluctance, arrayed himself in
the garments, and he was observed to shudder more than once during the
investiture of the dead man's apparel.

"He's better have some warm ale," said the old man we have before
mentioned, with a sneer--"these garments seem to weigh down the spirit
of our new guest."

"Aye, and well they may," returned the foreman: "it is not every
man who could feel at ease in the clothes of a----Hang it! my brain
wanders--fill up a fresh bumper." Another and another followed, and
dispelled all symptoms of compunction in the heart of the foreman and
his companions; till even their new guest, so powerful is example,
was almost persuaded that conscience was a bug-bear. It was late ere
they separated, to re-assemble the next morning for more important
transactions.

The next morning, Sir Robert Skipwith, Chief Justice of England,
entered the court, and took his seat on the bench. After the names of
the jury were called over, Black Jack, and the eleven, respectively
answered, and entered the box, clad in respectable yeomen's or
burgher's apparel, and their countenances wearing a gravity suitable
to the occasion. They looked like a jury to whom either a guilty or
innocent prisoner would, unhesitatingly, have committed his cause. When
the prisoner was asked whether she had any objection to the jury, and
told, that if so, she might challenge the number prescribed by law, the
attention of the spectators was naturally fixed on Edith, who replied
in the negative; and her face and figure were certainly ill-calculated
to make a favourable impression.

Her face was shrivelled and yellow, and the dark full eyes that
now, as it were, stood forth from the sunken cheeks, looked with a
strange brightness on the scene, and seemed well adapted to stamp the
character of witch on so withered a form. And perhaps there were few of
those entirely uninterested in the matter who now gazed upon her, who
would not have sworn that she merited the stake.

Calverley had beheld the group as they entered the court, and instantly
averting his eyes from the mother and son, he fixed them upon Margaret.

The stranger's eyes that now gazed upon her, beheld her as a lovely,
interesting creature; but Calverley, who had not seen her since the day
that Edith was arrested, saw that the rich glow which used to mantle on
her cheek, had given place to a sickly paleness. It is true, that as
she entered the court, there was a faint tinge upon that cheek, but it
fled with the momentary embarrassment which had caused it. That full
dimpled cheek itself was now sunken, the lips were colourless, and the
eyes dim.

A momentary thought of "Oh, had she been mine, would she have looked
thus?" and an execration against Holgrave told that the demon had not
wholly possessed her quondam lover; but the next moment, as Holgrave,
after looking round the assembly, caught the eye of his enemy, the
solitary feeling of humanity died away, and Calverley turned from the
fierce glance of the yeoman with all the malignity of his heart newly
arrayed against him.

After the usual preliminaries, the indictment was read, and Edith
called upon to plead:

"Not guilty, my lord," she replied, in a voice so loud and distinct,
that the surprised hearers wondered so feeble a creature could possess
such a voice.

The evidence was then entered into, and Mary Byles was called into the
witness box. A rod was handed to her to identify the prisoner, and she
then, without venturing to encounter the look of her whose life she was
about to swear away, deposed to having received the liquid which had
occasioned the child's death, from Edith; and to certain mysterious
words and strange gestures used by the prisoner on delivering the phial.

When she had concluded, Edith questioned her, if she had not, at the
time of giving her the medicine, warned her of its dangerous strength,
and strictly enjoined her not to administer more than ten drops;
but Mary, prepared for such questions, positively denied the fact,
alleging, that Edith had merely desired her, when she saw the child
looking pale, to give it the contents of the phial.

"My lord," said Edith, in her defence, "this woman has sworn falsely.
The medicine I gave was a sovereign remedy, if given as I ordered.
Ten drops would have saved the child's life; but the contents of the
phial destroyed it. The words I uttered were prayers for the life of
the child. My children, and all who know me, can bear witness that
I have a custom of asking _His_ blessing upon all I take in hand. I
raised my eyes towards heaven, and muttered words; but, my lord, they
were words of prayer--and I looked up as I prayed, to the footstool of
the Lord. But it is in vain to contend: the malice of the wicked will
triumph, and Edith Holgrave, who even in thought never harmed one of
God's creatures, must be sacrificed to cover the guilt, or hide the
thoughtlessness of another."

"Prisoner," said the judge, "have you any witnesses to call on your
behalf?"

"My lord, my daughter was present when I gave the medicine; but I seek
no defence."

Margaret faintly answered to her name, and entered the box. She
delivered her evidence with so much simplicity and meekness, that it
seemed to carry conviction to the majority of the audience. In vain did
the wily lawyer for the prosecution endeavour to weaken her testimony
on her cross-examination. Truth, from the lips of innocence, triumphed
over the practised advocate, and Edith would probably have had a
favourable verdict from an impartial jury and an upright judge; but
from the present, she was to receive no mercy. The jury were bribed to
convict, and the judge influenced to condemn. Skipwith now proceeded to
sum up the evidence, artfully endeavouring to impress the jury with the
strongest belief in the statement of the nurse, "who," he said, "could
have no motive but that of bringing to justice the destroyer of her
lord's heir;" and, on the other hand, insinuating, as he commented on
Margaret's evidence, that her near relationship to the prisoner must be
cautiously weighed: but ere he had concluded, a sound at the entrance
of the court attracted his attention. Horton, the tall and dignified
abbot of Gloucester, with his mitre on his head, his staff in his hand,
and clad in the robes of his order (that of Saint Benedict), entered
the hall. His crosierer preceded him, bearing a massive golden cross;
on his right and left hand walked two monks, and several others,
(among whom was father John,) closed the procession.

A passage was instinctively made for the dignitary, who walked
majestically on till he stood before the bench, and then pausing, he
said in a clear, firm voice--

"My lord judge, I demand, in the name of holy church, and in the
name of the gracious king Edward, that you deliver up this woman,
Edith Holgrave, to me. A writ from the chancery, signed by the royal
hand, commanding her delivery to the ecclesiastical power, has been
sent down, and how is it that thus, in opposition to the church's
prerogative, and the royal will, I see the woman standing a criminal at
this bar?"

"My lord abbot," replied Skipwith, bowing to the priest, "the writ you
speak of has been recalled; a chancery messenger was here not three
days since."

"Did he not deliver to you the writ?" interrupted the impetuous Horton.

"Pardon me, my lord abbot, but I believe I have already said, that the
writ has been recalled. The messenger, indeed, came with a prohibitory
writ respecting the prisoner; but when, within a few miles of
Gloucester, a royal pursuivant, expressly from the king, overtook him,
and to _him_ the writ was delivered."

The calm dignity of Skipwith's reply produced some effect upon the
abbot; for in a tone less abrupt than before, he replied--

"My lord judge, that writ of prohibition has not been recalled. This
monk," pointing with his staff towards father John, "left London two
days subsequent to the messenger, and there was not then the least
intimation of the royal mind being changed."

"My lord," returned Skipwith, with a slight smile, "know you so little
of Edward as to imagine that no change could pass in his royal mind
without the monk being privy to it?"

"But," returned Horton, losing his temper at such scepticism, "this
monk was lodged in the palace of his Grace of Canterbury; and, at the
very hour of his departure, his Grace spoke as if the surrender of the
woman were already accomplished. Would he have spoken thus had the writ
been recalled?"

"Probably his Grace was ignorant that the prohibition was recalled?"

"Simon Islip ignorant! However, you admit that a writ was sent?"

Skipwith bowed.

"Then as readily may you believe that it had been kept back through
fraud and malice, and that you have brought this woman before a
tribunal incompetent to judge of matters relating to witchcraft. But
now, my lord judge, repair the wrong done, by delivering her up to a
dignitary of holy church."

"Abbot Horton," returned the chief justice, gravely, "the poisoning
has been satisfactorily proved, and a strong presumption of witchcraft
created in my mind, from the mysterious behaviour of the prisoner when
the drug was delivered to the nurse. But even were the witchcraft a
more prominent feature of the case, I do consider the king's courts are
empowered by the late act, which provides that all felonies may be
heard and determined by the king's justices, to take cognizance of this
crime. Witchcraft is a _felony_ at common law."

"That act," replied Horton, hastily, "relates to local magistrates."

"And are the judges of the land to be less privileged than petty
magistrates?"

"I came not to argue points of law, my lord judge," returned Horton,
vehemently, "but to demand a right. Will you surrender this woman?"

"My lord abbot," replied Skipwith, "the indictment has been read--the
evidence has been gone through with the customary attention to
justice--I have only to finish my charge to the jury, and it will
remain with them to pronounce her guilt or innocence."

The cool and determined tone of the chief justice exasperated the
abbot; and, fixing a stern glance upon the judge,

"It is not justice, Sir Robert Skipwith," said he, "to wrest the
unfortunate from the merciful interposition of the church--it is not
justice, but a high contempt of supreme law, to set at nought the
merciful commands of the sovereign--it is not justice to usurp a power
that belongs not to you, in order to crush a friendless woman--it is
not justice to set the opinions of an individual against the sacred
authority of God's church. The church alone, I repeat, has power
to judge in cases where the soul is concerned, as in heresy and
witchcraft."

His voice had risen with each pause in the period, till the last
sentence was uttered in a tone that reverberated through the court. An
instant of hushed silence followed, and then, to the surprise of all,
Edith raised herself up as erect as her feebleness would allow, and
resting one hand upon the bar, she raised the other towards the abbot,
and said,

"My lord abbot, my soul is guiltless of any crime which the church in
its mercy absolves, or the law in its justice punishes--I am neither
murderess nor witch. As much would my soul abhor communing with the
spirits of darkness, as my heart would shrink from destroying the
innocent----"

"Peace, woman!" interrupted the abbot: "peace--presume not to
interfere." And then, turning to the judge, he added, "Sir Robert
Skipwith, I again demand of you the custody of this woman."

"Abbot Horton, you have had my answer," returned Skipwith, in a tone of
perhaps still more vehemence than the abbot's.

The face of the provoked dignitary glowed, his eyes flashed, and he
looked, in his glittering mitre and splendid vestments, like a being
more than human, as, turning from the judge, and raising the staff he
held in his right hand, he pointed it towards the assembled crowd, and
said,

"I call upon this assembly to witness, that I have, in the name of holy
church, demanded the accused--that I have demanded her in the name
of the king, by virtue of his royal writ of prohibition, which has
been basely purloined--and that, unmindful of that divine power, and
despite the king's express command, Judge Skipwith, the servant of the
one, and an unworthy son of the other, has contemptuously refused this
demand. But," he added fiercely, as he again turned towards Skipwith,
and shook his staff at the no less irritated judge, "the royal ermine
is disgraced on the shoulders of such as thee--beware that it is not
speedily transferred to one more worthy to bear it. I say again,
beware!"

The abbot then lowered his staff, the crosierer once more preceded him,
and, followed by the monks, he proudly walked forth from the court, the
people, as he passed, forming a passage, and humbly bending forward to
receive his blessing.

The eyes of the spectators, which, during this strange scene--this
trial of strength between the lay and ecclesiastical dignitaries--had
alternately wandered to each, were now anxiously directed to Skipwith
alone, who hastily concluded his charge, and turned to the jury, as
the arbiters of Edith's fate. Calverley, among the rest, cast a look
at the jury-box: and Black Jack, turning to his companions, proceeded,
in the usual manner, to ask their opinions. Ten, after a minute's
consultation, decided that the prisoner was guilty; but the eleventh,
the stranger who had endeavoured to screen himself from observation,
and whose changing aspect and agitation had betrayed the deep interest
he took in the trial, positively refused to return a verdict of guilty.
Black Jack cast an intimidating glance on the non-content, but he
heeded him not; and as the jury-box, exposed to the eyes of the whole
court, was not a place for further debate, the foreman declared,
that as one of his brethren would not agree with the rest, they must
withdraw.

When the jurors were closeted in their private room, Black Jack asked
the galleyman the reasons of his refusal.

"There was no evidence to prove her guilt--I could not, on my
conscience, say she was a murderess," returned the stranger, firmly.

"Conscience!" replied the foreman: "who ever heard a galleyman talk of
conscience before? By the green wax! you forgot you had a conscience
the day I first saw you. You recollect the court of _pié-poudré_, my
conscientious dusty-foot, don't you?"

"Master Oakley, the thing is quite different," replied the galleyman.
"To cheat a fool of a piece of coin, is what neither you nor I would
think much about; but to rob a poor, helpless old woman of her life--to
hang her up at a gallows, and then to bury her like a heathen, where
four roads meet--no, no; that must not be."

The foreman's face assumed a deeper hue than usual: he looked fiercely
at the galleyman, but there was a determination in the weather-beaten
face that made him pause ere he spoke. "Galleyman," he at length said,
"you knew the business before you came: if you be so fond of saving old
witches' lives, why didn't you say so, that I might not now be in this
dilemma?"

"You told me," returned the other, "she was a witch, and that she had
killed the child. Now I know she is not a witch; and neither you nor
any one here believes a word of the poisoning."

"You heard what the judge said," returned Oakley: "but, however, you
are a sworn jury-man, and here you must remain till you've brought your
mind to bear upon the point."

"Aye, aye," said Harvey; "four-and-twenty hours in this cold room,
without meat or drink, will bring him to reason, I'll warrant you."

"Four-and-twenty days," said the stranger, in a voice so loud that
the eleven started, "if I could live so long, shall never make me a
murderer! No, no; you may go tell of the lushburgs, and hang me for
a coiner," he said, starting suddenly up, and looking proudly at
Black Jack; "but, by the holy well! you shall not make me hang the
woman who nursed my mother, and prayed by her when every body else
was afraid to go near her. She a witch!" he continued, with a bitter
laugh--"by the holy well! if she had been so, she wouldn't have given
the poor orphan a groat and a piece of bread, to come back, after ten
years, to hang her at last! But this comes of carding and dicing, and
sabbath-breaking. The fiend drives one on and on, till at last a man
thinks nothing of murder itself."

"By the green wax! all this ranting is unprofitable. No one could call
Black Jack an informer when his word was pledged," interrupted the
foreman. "The affair of the lushburgs has passed away--it shall rest
so, though I might pocket some good pieces by a breach of faith, which,
after this obstinacy, would not detract much from my honour. This woman
is nothing to us, and surely the judge, who is paid to hang criminals,
knows more about the guilt or innocence than I or my eleven. He told
us, as plainly as man could speak, that she deserved to be hanged. But,
remember, galleyman, neither you nor I break our fast till our opinions
are unanimous?" Black Jack winked at his companions but the action was
unnoticed by the stranger.

During this mock deliberation, Edith remained at the bar; but when
the hour had passed away, and no probability appeared of an immediate
verdict, she was directed by the judge to be taken back to prison until
the jury had agreed.

It was nearly noon the next day, when the under-sheriff entered the
room to ask if their opinions were yet unanimous. The galleyman still
refused.

"My friend," said Manlove; "it matters little now whether you agree
with your brethren or not, the woman is at this moment dying! The
verdict is, therefore, of little moment to her--she can never be
brought into court to receive judgment--guilty or innocent, the law
can have nothing to do with her; but I would advise you to look to
yourself, you will not be released till she is dead. Your brethren are
accustomed to fasting, but you look ready to drop from your seat: and,
if the woman linger many hours, you will certainly be guilty of _felo
de se_."

With a little more persuasion and the most solemn assurances that
the verdict could not possibly affect Edith, the galleyman at length
reluctantly consented to agree with the eleven, and the foreman gave in
the verdict of guilty.

"Let the prisoner be brought up for judgment?" said Skipwith to the
officer in waiting.

"It is impossible, my lord--the woman is dying!"

"Dying!" repeated the judge, "yesterday she spoke with the voice of one
who had years to live. Perhaps she wishes to defer the sentence, which
she well merits, by feigning illness. If she will not rise from her
bed, bring her into court upon it!"

The officer departed, and shortly afterwards re-appeared, and informed
the judge that the Abbot of Gloucester was standing beside the prisoner
and threatened to excommunicate the first who presumed to remove her.

"Does he? Does he dare think to evade justice thus--this subterfuge
shall not avail!" exclaimed Skipwith with vehemence, and then musing
an instant, he continued: "No, this subterfuge shall not avail--I
will constitute the cell of the criminal a court of justice for this
occasion. Officers of the Court proceed. I go to pronounce a just
sentence:" and then, rising from the bench, and preceded by his
officers, he departed to adopt the unprecedented course of passing
sentence in a prison.

When the door of the dungeon was thrown open, Skipwith started at the
unexpected sight he beheld; but, instantly recollecting himself, he
walked on, determined to persevere. Edith was lying on her back upon
the mattress, her eyes half opened, and the ghastly seal of death
impressed on every feature. Margaret and her husband were kneeling on
one side, and the Abbot Horton and Father John standing on the other.
A lighted taper and a box of chrism, which the monk held in his hand,
told that the last sacrament of the church had been administered--a
sacrament that cannot be administered to a condemned criminal.

Holgrave suddenly rose from his knees and withdrew to the farthest
corner of the cell. Margaret continued to kneel, and raised her burning
eyes towards the judge with terrified astonishment.

The abbot turned pale with rage as he beheld the somewhat abashed
Skipwith enter.

"What! impious man! Do you thirst so for innocent blood that you harass
the last moments of the dying! Retire, or I curse thee--depart, ere I
invoke heaven's wrath on thine head!"

"Insolent priest!" returned Skipwith, in a suppressed tone, as his look
wandered from the abbot to the distorted features of the departing. "I
come, not as an individual to harass, but as a judge to fulfil the law."

He then put on the black cap and slowly commenced the sentence. The
life that had seemed to have departed from the still and contracted
form, rallied for a moment--the eyes unclosed and fixed on the appalled
countenance of Skipwith; and, when the concluding invocation of mercy
for the soul of the criminal fell tremulously from the lips of the
judge, she, in a voice low but distinct, answered "Amen!" and then a
slight tremor and a faint gasp released the soul of Edith.

"The Lord will have mercy on her, vindictive judge," said the abbot,
"though you had none; but she is now beyond your malice, and the
glorified spirit will accuse you of this when----"

A wild shriek from Margaret, and a smothered groan from Holgrave,
interrupted the abbot. The judge turned silently away, and left the
dungeon: and, as there was now no prisoner to confine, the door was
left open after him.



CHAPTER VI.


On the evening succeeding the day of Edith's decease, Black Jack's
associates were, as usual, squandering away their ill-got money at
the Mitre. A ribald song was just concluded, when a loud knock caught
the attention of the foreman: the door was opened, and the galleyman
entered. His countenance looked pale and haggard, and without speaking,
he threw himself in a chair.

"What ails you, man?" inquired Black Jack--"you look the worse for your
long fast--here, drink," handing him a full pitcher.

"I want no drink," said the galleyman, impatiently, pushing away the
vessel--"but stay, 't will do me no harm."

He then snatched the pitcher and drank a full quart ere he removed it
from his lips.

"Master Oakley," said he, "you played me false in this game. Do ye
think if I hadn't been fool enough to believe what you and that master
sheriff told me, I would have given in till poor Edith Holgrave had
slipt her cable. Did you not swear to me," added he fiercely, "that the
law could not touch her?"

"True, O king; and though the judge did a queer thing in her case, yet
the woman died like a Christian in her bed after all."

"Is she _buried_ like a Christian?" passionately interrogated the
stranger. "No," he continued, in a quieter tone, "she was buried last
night in the high road without kyste or shroud, or prayer, just as one
would throw a dead dog overboard: but there is no use talking now--this
is not what I came for. I came to ask if ye will give me a hand to get
her out again."

"To dig up the old witch out of the grave!" inquired the foreman with a
stare of astonishment. "To unearth a dead body! By the green wax! man,
your long fast has touched your brain!"

"No," said the galleyman, gravely. "I am as sound and as sober as
ever I was; and, mind you, (casting a quick glance round the table) I
don't want any one to work for nothing--here, (he said, taking a small
leathern purse from his pocket) is what will pay, and I shall be no
niggard. You shall have money and drink too--speak! will you assist?
There is no time to lose."

"What say you, brethren?" resumed the foreman, looking at the rest:
"our friend served us--and besides, it is a pity to let good things go
a-begging."

The brethren felt no great appetite for a job so much out of their
way--and sundry hems! and awkward gesticulations expressed their
reluctance.

"Suppose we do assist," drawled out Harvey and three or four others;
"who is to remove the body?" the galleyman hastily answered,

"Leave it to me--I fear not the dead--though if the old woman started
from the grave, she could owe me no good will. Would you lend a hand if
this Calverley should bear down upon us?"

"Aye, aye," said Harvey, with some shew of courage; "we don't mind,
unless the odds are against us, and in that case, you know, we must
retreat."

"What!" said Black Jack, laughing, "think you squire Calverley would
busy himself about the dead! Come, come, tell out the silver, and
replenish the flagon: we are yours for this adventure--and, by the
green wax! a strange one it is."

The sum agreed upon was paid; the liquor furnished and freely
circulated; and the galleyman, now relieved from a weight that had
oppressed him, gradually became cheerful.

It was about midnight when the party set out, well armed and muffled
in large cloaks, and in less than two hours arrived within view of
Winchcombe. Here, without entering the town, they turned into a lane
branching off to the left, that led to Hailes Abbey, and down this
avenue the galleyman piloted his companions. The way was narrow--at
least two only could ride abreast--with a hedge on each side, and here
and there the picturesque branches of a well-grown elm, displaying at
this season (in the daylight) the soft green of the budding leaves.
They had proceeded in silence about half a mile, when the galleyman
suddenly paused.

"Yonder," he said, pointing to the end of the lane, "where you see the
moonlight full on the ground--must be the place--at least it cannot
be far off, for there the roads meet. There is this lane and the
road straight ahead to Hailes--then away to the right takes you to
Sudley Castle and the other end of Winchcombe; and the road this way,
elevating his left hand, leads on to Bishop's Cleave."

"But you have brought nothing to put the body in?"

"I brought a winding-sheet," replied the stranger; "and when the grave
is dug, and the coast clear, I'll wrap it round poor Edith, and lay her
in my cloak--and ye will hold the corners."

"O yes," returned Black Jack; "we won't go from our promise. But where
do you mean to take her?"

"To Hailes.--But when all is ready, I must go up the lane yonder,"
pointing to the right--"'tis but a step, and fetch Stephen
Holgrave--and the poor fellow shall go with us to see his mother buried
as she ought to be."

The party then dismounting, secured their horses to the hedge; and,
concealing their faces by masks of parchment, smeared over with paint,
proceeded to the end of the lane: but a sudden exclamation from the
galleyman, who was a little in advance, arrested the steps of all.

The moon was standing round and bright in a sky gemmed with stars, and,
as the rover had just said, her beams fell unshadowed upon the open
space where the roads met;--and here, directly in the centre, two dark
figures were revealed. One was kneeling, while the other stood erect,
holding at arm's length a cross. The galleyman gasped for breath as
he drew closer to his companions, who, concealed in the shade of the
hedge, looked eagerly at the objects of their alarm.

"Are they spirits?" asked the stranger in a subdued and terrified tone.

"O yes, my brave heart!" said the foreman, with something of ridicule;
"they are spirits, but spirits in the flesh--like good wine in stout
bottles."

"Aye, aye," said Harvey, encouraged by the unembarrassed manner of his
leader; "they are spirits I'll warrant, that can be laid by swords and
staves instead of prayers!"

The galleyman breathed freer at this united testimony that he had
nought to fear--for he feared none of this world;--and as he still
gazed, almost entirely relieved from his superstitious dread, he
observed the extended arm of the upright figure gradually fall to his
side, as if his prayer or invocation had ended, and he stooped as if
addressing his companion; but the latter still maintained his kneeling
posture.

"It must be Stephen," said he, mentally; "he is mourning over his
mother. Comrades," he said, turning to the others, "it is but the
woman's son: at any rate there are but two. I'll go and hail them; and
if ye see me stop, ye can come forward with the shovels." The galleyman
went forward; but the moment he left the shade, his figure caught the
eyes of him who stood erect. He spoke to the other, who, instantly
starting on his feet, prepared himself to meet the intruder. The
stranger, nothing daunted, hurried on, and, in an instant, stood before
those who, by the menacing attitude they assumed, evidently regarded
him with no friendly feeling.

"It is no enemy bearing down upon you, friends," said the galleyman, in
that tone of confidence which seems neither to suspect or purpose ill.
"Tell me, is either of you the son of her who--who lies here?"

"Why ask you?" replied the taller figure, in a deep commanding voice.

"I will not answer till I am answered: but this I may say, be ye who
ye will, that there is not a man I would befriend sooner than Stephen
Holgrave."

"If you are a friend, I will trust you; and if not, I do not fear you,"
said Holgrave, raising the brim of a slouched hat that had shadowed his
face--"I am Stephen Holgrave."

"Then may luck attend you," answered the galleyman, grasping his hand;
"I thought it was you, and I came, not alone, for I have helpmates
yonder to--to--do, what I thought would be a good turn for you--to bury
your mother."

"It is an act of charity, stranger, to bury the dead," said father John
courteously; "and you are calling down mercy upon your soul like that
pious man of old----"

"Aye, and I have need of mercy," returned the galleyman, "more need
than he, whoever he was. But see, my mates are coming;--we must fall to
work, for the night is wearing."

"But who may you be, stranger, who thus interest yourself for the
injured?" asked the monk, "or why this disguise?"

"It is of no consequence who I am: and as to this mask, why! a man can
work as well with it as without it."

The approach of Black Jack and three of the others (the fourth had been
left with the horses) prevented any farther conversation; and, throwing
aside their cloaks, the galleyman and the three jurors instantly
commenced clearing the grave.

Holgrave drew the brim of his hat again over his face, and folding his
arms, looked silently on as the work proceeded.

"By the green wax!" said Black Jack, approaching at this instant, "as
I stood yonder, reconnoitring the ground, a man shewed his head behind
that ruined wall!"

"'Tis the fiend Calverley, or one of his imps," exclaimed Holgrave,
springing forward to the broken wall; but if any object had really
presented itself, it had, in a singular manner, disappeared--for
Holgrave, after a few minutes of anxious search, returned without
having discovered the trace of a human being.

The body of Edith had been raised during his absence, and, with the
winding-sheet wrapped around the clothes in which it had been laid in
the earth, was just placed in the galleyman's cloak when Holgrave came
up. An involuntary cry burst from the yeoman as he threw himself upon
the ground beside the corpse, and, removing the cloth, passionately
kissed the hands and the forehead.

"Stephen Holgrave," cried the monk, sternly, "where is thy
fortitude?--you have broken your word. Has thy manhood left thee?"

"She was my mother!" said the mourner, rising.

When he had retired, the chasm was hastily filled up; and then Black
Jack, the galleyman, and two other jurors, took each a corner of the
cloak, and, preceded by the monk, reciting in a low voice the prayers
for the dead, and followed by Holgrave and the remaining jurors,
leading the horses, proceeded at a quick pace to the church-yard of
Hailes Abbey.

In little more than half an hour, they arrived at the meadow in which
stood the parish church and the abbey of Hailes. The church, a small,
plain Gothic building, with a red tiled roof, stood in the centre of
a burial-ground, of dimensions adapted to the paucity of inhabitants
in the parish. A low stone wall enclosed it, and some old beech-trees
threw their shadows upon the mounds and the grave-stones that marked
where "the rude fore-fathers of the hamlet" slept.

Father John went forward, and, pushing open a wooden gate, led the way
to the osier-girt mound and head-stone over the grave of Holgrave's
father. The body was deposited on the grass, and a space cleared of
sufficient depth to receive it.

In the mean time, Holgrave had conducted those in charge of the
horses to an old barn at a short distance, and then returned to the
church-yard; and when the deceased was lowered into the grave, the
yeoman knelt at the head, the galleyman and Harvey at each side, and
Father John, standing at the foot, pronounced, in a low but audible
voice, the prayers usual on interment. The moonbeams fell on the
church, so as to cast a far shadow upon the ground that lay towards
the abbey; the foot of the grave was within the shadow, so that Father
John's figure was little revealed; and the branches of a tree (against
whose broad trunk Black Jack leant) concealed Harvey, and cast a
trembling shadow upon that side; but the light streamed full upon
Holgrave and upon the galleyman, who was kneeling at his right hand.

At this instant, an arrow whizzed past Holgrave, and struck fire from
the opposite wall. The yeoman sprang upon his feet; another shaft was
sped, but instead of the object for which it was intended, pierced the
hat of the foreman.

"By the green wax!" cried Oakley, as he lifted the perforated hat from
the grass, "we shall need more graves, if we stand here for marks. Come
round, and stoop close to the wall, and the trees and grave-stones may
ward off the shafts. If they will, let them come to close quarters."

"You counsel wisely, stranger," said the monk, passing round, and
standing in the shadow of the tree on the left of Holgrave, whom he
forced to retire and crouch like the rest.

As this was accomplished, a third shaft tore the bark from the tree;
and in an instant after, Calverley, followed by some of his myrmidons,
sprung down from an aperture of the wall.

"Sacrilege!" shouted he--"sacrilege! Take them, dead or alive!"

Holgrave rushed on the steward, and the clash of steel rang through the
church-yard.

The assailants, however, were somewhat damped by a loud blast from the
foreman's horn, which was instantly echoed by one of his men; and the
tramping of horses in the direction of the gate increased the panic.
The retainers of Sudley at length retreated more speedily than they had
approached, pursued by the galleyman and Harvey, who had burst from
their concealment on perceiving them enter.

Byles, who was of the party, but had hitherto looked on as a spectator,
(being determined to allow the steward and the yeoman to fight it
out,) now glared fiercely around in search of an adversary. A cry from
Calverley, however, drew him unwillingly to his assistance, and he
sprang to the spot; but his uplifted arm was seized by a giant grasp,
the axe wrenched from his hands, and himself hurled violently to the
earth.

A strange sensation thrilled through the heart of the excited monk--an
impulse to shed blood! The weapon of the prostrate Byles was snatched
from the earth--it waved fiercely round his head; nature and religion
warred, for an instant, in his bosom, but the latter triumphed: the
weapon was flung to a distance; and Father John, crossing himself,
disappeared among the tombs.

The combatants were as yet little hurt, for each was well skilled in
the use of his weapon; but the steward, in endeavouring to ward off a
blow that might have cleft his head, only succeeded at the sacrifice
of his right ear, which was severed by the descending blade; and, ere
he could recover this shock, Holgrave sprang within his guard, and
wrenched the sword from his hand. A brief but fierce struggle ensued,
in which Holgrave, at length, prevailed--the steward was thrown
backward to the ground, and the next moment his enemy's hand was on his
throat.

"Mer-c-c-y! mer-c-c-y! oh! mercy, Stephen Holgrave!" gasped he, as,
with a despairing effort, he attempted to unloose the death-hold.

"Yes! mercy, Stephen--mercy to the coward!" exclaimed the galleyman;
"he is not worth your vengeance."

"Mercy! he had little mercy for her," muttered Holgrave, bitterly, as
he tightened his grasp.

At this moment, the voice of the monk was heard, as he rang the abbey
bell, shouting "Murder! sacrilege! Ho! porter! murder!"

Holgrave, struck with awe, relinquished his hold, and Black Jack and
his jurors instantly fled.

"Fly, knaves!" cried the galleyman, addressing Byles and Calverley,
as he released the latter. "And now, meddling steward, if you attempt
to interfere with her who is in that holy berth yonder, or injure the
honest yeoman, her son, for this night's doings, the Lord have mercy
upon you! Here, Stephen," (walking towards Holgrave, who had thrown
himself beside the grave,) "up, and jump behind on my horse, for the
cry of sacrilege will edge their brands, and friend or foe will have
little chance. There--the abbey-gate is thrown open, and out they come
with brand and torch."

"God speed you!" cried Holgrave, as the galleyman turned away, and
grasped his hand: "God speed you! and reward you for this night: and if
ever you or yours are in want of a friend, remember Stephen Holgrave."
The galleyman hastily pressed the extended hand, and, springing to the
gate, was in an instant on his horse, and galloping in the track of his
companions, pursued, but in vain, by the arrows of the abbey retainers.

When Calverley saw his lord after this transaction, the scene, much to
the amazement of the former, partook more of comedy than tragedy, for
De Boteler, when he saw the head of his esquire minus the ear, could
not refrain from laughter.

"Meddling knave!" said he, "why did you interfere? The woman was
dead--what more would you have? Did you understand it to be the custom
of the lord of Sudley to war with dead enemies?"

This mortification only added fuel to the steward's wrath, and he
determined to carry on, with all the vigour of soul and purse, an
action which he had already commenced against his enemy.

Towards the end of June the sessions commenced at Gloucester, and
Holgrave once more stood in the hall of justice--not as a looker on,
but as an actor. Although, at the present period, the charge would have
assumed a truly formidable shape, yet the deed was not then accounted
even as _maihem_--for the simple reason, that the loss of an ear did
not prevent a man from performing military duties.

But in this instance the offence was aggravated, at least in the
eye of the law, by the manner and occasion. The law had not as yet
contemplated the evasion of its decisions, by the disinterment of the
bodies of criminals, and, consequently, there was no provision for
punishing the deed. It was, however, taken into account in the verdict,
and the damages were proportionably heavy. Holgrave, as may readily
be imagined, had not a coin to meet the demand, and his crops, which
had grown and flourished, as if by miracle--for they had been little
indebted to his attention--were now condemned to be cut down, and put
up for sale to pay the damages. The yeoman had often looked upon his
plentiful fields with a feeling of pleasure: not that his mind had
latterly been in a mood to find pleasure in the prospect of gain; but
his house and his land were mortgaged, (for his mother,) and even in
the darkest and most troubled scene, there is a beauty, a redeeming
brightness, encircling the domestic hearth,--nay, perhaps, the heart
clings more closely to home, and treasures, more fondly, the little
nameless pleasures, and even the cares and anxieties of domestic life,
in proportion to the bleakness of the prospect without.

His farm itself was at length forfeited, and Holgrave took shelter
for the moment at old Hartwell's. The hut his father had reared when
he married his mother, was still standing; the roof had fallen in,
the ivy had grown over its walls; but even yet it sometimes sheltered
the wandering mendicant, and often would the blaze of a large wood
fire look cheerily through the shattered casement and the broken
door, and shed an air almost of comfort over the bare walls. Holgrave
remembered the ruin, as he was considering where he could abide until
Margaret, who was far advanced in the family way, should be enabled
to travel farther. His resolution was instantly formed; and refusing
the assistance offered by Hartwell, and some other neighbours, and
as decidedly rejecting the idea they proposed, of striving to regain
possession of his house, he requested Lucy Hartwell to look to Margaret
for a day or two, while he sought out a place to shelter them; and
then, without mentioning his purpose, quitted the house.

It was late in the afternoon ere Holgrave resolved to put the hut that
had sheltered him when a boy, in a state to receive him now; but
there were several hours of daylight before him, and even when the day
should close, the broad harvest moon would afford him light to prolong
his labour. The rushes that grew by the Isborne, the clay from the
little spot of ground attached to the hut, and the withered and broken
branches that lay thickly strewn over the adjoining forest, gave him
ample materials for his purpose.

Holgrave set about his task with that doggedness of purpose which
persons of his disposition display when compelled to submit. His
misfortunes had in some measure subdued a pride that could never be
entirely extinguished;--it might be likened to a smothered fire, still
burning, although diffusing neither heat nor light, but ready upon the
slightest breath to burst forth in flame. Even here he was interrupted
by a visitor.

"Good even, Stephen," said Wat Turner, the parish smith, in as kind
a tone as his abrupt manner could assume; "you are hard at work,
master--are you going to set the old cot to rights?"

Holgrave answered carelessly, and without looking at the smith,
continued his work.

"I think you are doing well, Stephen, not to allow the idle vagabonds
to house here any longer. By St. Nicholas! when these holes are stopped
up, and the thatch is put to rights, and the casement whole, and a
couple of hinges put to the door, it will be a place fit for any man.
When I go home I will send my son Dick, and the knave Tom, to help you."

"You need not trouble yourself," replied Holgrave: "what I want to do I
can do myself."

Turner looked at Holgrave, as if he meant to resent the unsociable
manner in which the reply was uttered; but speedily recollecting
himself--

"I can't blame you, Stephen," said he, "you have had enough to sour any
man's temper; nevertheless, I shall send Dick if I can find him; and
Tom is a famous hand at thatching, and I will step over myself in the
morning with the hinges and a latch for the door. But harkee, Stephen,
if you wish to keep your _own_ house, only say the word, and myself,
and one or two more, will beat the old miser and his men to powder, if
they don't give it up again."

There was so much of good feeling in this rude speech, that Holgrave
turned to the smith and grasped his hard hand.

"Hush! man," interrupted the smith, as his friend attempted to thank
him; "say nothing for the present; only remember, if Wat Turner, or any
belonging to him, can lend you a hand, just say the word, or come over
to my forge and give me a nod, and we'll be with you in a twinkling."

One morning, about a month after this, Margaret had as usual prepared
her husband's dinner. The frugal meal was spread by eleven o'clock,
but Holgrave came not: twelve arrived, and then one, and two, and the
dinner was still upon the table untasted. Margaret was first surprised
and then alarmed, but when another hour had passed away, she started
up with the intention of going to seek her husband. At this moment,
Holgrave pushed open the door, and entering, threw himself upon a
seat. There was a wildness in his eyes, and his face looked pale and
haggard. It occurred to Margaret, that he had probably partaken of some
ale with a neighbour, and having neglected his customary meal, that the
beverage had overcome him. However, he looked so strangely, that she
forbore to question him. He bent forward, and resting his elbows on his
knees, buried his face in his upraised hands, and sat thus, ruminating
on something that Margaret's imagination arrayed in every guise that
could torture or distress. At length he raised his head, and looking on
his wife with more of sorrow than anger--

"I was right, Margaret," said he, "it _was_ Calverley that set the
usurer upon taking the land. He gave the miser something handsome, and
John Byles is to have it upon an easy rent!"

"John Byles, Stephen?"

"Yes, Margaret," replied Holgrave, "John Byles is to have it; he told
the smith so himself. But," he continued, sitting upright in his chair,
and then starting upon his feet,--"does he think he shall _keep_ it?"

Margaret shuddered, as she looked in his eyes.

That night, the freemen and serfs that dwelt on the estate of De
Boteler, and even the inmates of the castle itself, were alarmed
by the sudden glare of red flames rising in a bright column above
the tallest trees, and so fiercely burned the flame, that in a few
minutes the horizon was tinged with a ruddy glow. There was an eager
rush to discover from whence the phenomenon arose, and many were the
exclamations, and many the whispered surmises, when it was ascertained
that the cottage was on fire from which Holgrave had been so recently
ejected.

Stephen stood at the door of his hut, looking with an air of derision
on the vain efforts of the people to extinguish the flames; and
Margaret wept as she saw the flames rising, and brightening, and
consuming the house, which she still loved to look upon even now that
it was for ever lost to _her_. The roof at length fell in, and myriads
of burning particles sparkling like diamonds, showered for a moment in
glittering beauty.

Holgrave was still looking on the conflagration that had in a great
measure spent its fury, when Wat Turner came up to him, and applying a
hearty smack on the shoulder--

"A famous house-warming for John Byles," said he. "By Saint Nicholas!
I wish his furniture had been in to have made the fire burn brisker.
'Tis almost over now; there it goes down, and then it comes up again,
by fits and starts: 'tis a pity, too, to see the house which stood so
snugly to-day, a black and smoky ruin to-morrow; but better a ruin,
than a false heart to enjoy it. By Saint Nicholas! 'twill give the
old gossips talk for the whole week. Aye, 'tis all over now; there
will still be a spark and a puff now and then; but there's nothing to
see worth keeping the karles any longer from their beds, and I think
it is time that we be in ours--so good night. But a word with you,
Stephen;--you did the business yourself this time without help; but
mind you, if ever Wat Turner can lend you a hand, you have only to say
so--Good night."

"Good night," replied Holgrave, though without moving his eyes from the
now darkly-smoking ruin; and there he stood with unchanging gaze till
the sky had entirely lost its ruddy hue, and the smouldering embers of
the cottage could no longer be distinguished; and then he entered his
dwelling, and, closing the door, threw himself upon his bed--but not to
sleep.



CHAPTER VII.


An hour had not elapsed since Holgrave retired to bed, before the
cottage door was burst open, and Calverley with a strong body of
retainers entered, and arrested him for the felony.

The fourth day from his committal, happened to be a Court day of the
manor, and it was selected for the trial, for the purpose of showing
the tenantry what they might expect from the commission of an offence
of such rare occurrence. The hall was thronged to suffocation; for
many more were attracted by the expected trial, than by the familiar
business of a manorial court, and the people beguiled the time till the
entrance of De Boteler in commenting on the transaction.

"Silence!" was at length vociferated by a dozen court keepers, and
Calverley was asked if he was ready to begin. The steward answered
in the affirmative, and slowly read the indictment, during which, a
profound silence was maintained throughout the hall.

"Are you guilty or not guilty?" asked Calverley in a tone, the emotion
of which even his almost perfect control of voice could not disguise.

"Thomas Calverley," replied Holgrave, firmly, "if you mean me to say
whether I burned my cottage or not, I will tell these honest men
(looking at the jury) that I did so. All here present, know the rest."

A buzz of disapprobation at this confession was heard, and the epithet
"fool, fool," was faintly whispered, and then another loud cry of
silence was shouted from the court keepers, as De Boteler appeared
about to speak.

"You have heard his confession," said the baron. "See, steward, that
he is sent to Gloucester, to receive sentence from the King's Judge
when he goes the next assize. Record the verdict, and let the record be
transmitted to the superior court."

Wat Turner, whose attention was anxiously fixed on the proceedings, now
stept forward, and forcing his way till he stood opposite the Baron,
demanded in a voice of mingled anger and supplication, "May I be heard,
Baron De Boteler?"

"Be brief, Sir Blacksmith," replied the Baron, surprised at the abrupt
question, "be brief with whatever you have to say."

"I was going to say, my Lord, that poor Stephen here has called
nobody to speak to his good character, but may be it isn't wanting,
for every man here, except one would go a hundred miles to say a good
word for him--But my Lord, I was thinking how much money that house
of Holgrave's cost in building--Let me see--about twenty florences,
and then at a shilling a head from all of us here," looking round upon
the yeomen, "would just build it up again--I for one would not care
about doing the smith's work at half price, and there's Denby the
mason, and Cosgrave the carpenter, say they would do their work at the
same rate--By St. Nicholas! (using his favorite oath) twelve florences
would be more than enough--Well then my Lord, the business might be
settled,"--and he paused as if debating whether he should go farther.

"And what then, impudent knave," asked the Baron,--"what is the drift
of this long-winded discourse?"

"Why then, my Lord," replied Turner, "this matter settled, I and these
vassals of yours here, would ask you to give this foolish man free
warren again. We (mind your Lordship) going bail for his good bearing
from this day forth, and--"

The Baron reflecting that his dignity would be in some measure
compromised by thus countenancing the Smith's rough eloquence,
commanded him in a harsh tone to be silent, although it was evident
from his altered looks, that his heart had felt the rude appeal. He
beckoned Calverly to approach, and they remained for some moments in
earnest discourse.

"Neighbours," said Turner in a whisper, "my Lord is softened. Let us
cry out for pardon." And the hint was not long lost upon the people; in
an instant a deafening cry of "Pardon, pardon for Stephen Holgrave!"
resounded through the hall. The unexpected supplication startled the
astonished De Boteler, and a loud threat marked his displeasure at the
interruption. Silence was again shouted by the hall keepers.

"Prisoner," resumed De Boteler, assuming a tone of severity, "you are
forgiven; but upon this condition, that you renounce your freedom, and
become my bondman."

"Become a bondman!" cried the smith, disappointed and mortified at the
alternative: "Stephen, I would sooner die."

"Silence, knave!" said the baron; "let the man answer for himself."

"It was on this spot too," persisted the smith, "where, but two years
ago, he did homage for the land you gave him: and by St. Nicholas,
baron, boastful and proud was he of the gift; and if you heard him as I
did, that same day, praying for blessings upon you, you could not now
rive his bold heart so cruelly for all the cottages in England."

Pale as death, and with downcast eyes, Holgrave, in the meantime, stood
trembling at the bar. His resolution to brave the worst, had, with a
heart-wringing struggle, yielded to the yearnings of the father and
the love of the husband. The bondmen pressed forward, and marked the
change; but that scrutinizing gaze which he would so recently have
repelled with a haughty rebuke, was now unheeded, and his eyes remained
fixed on the ground to avoid contact with that degraded class with whom
he was soon to be linked in brotherhood.

Just as the baron was about to put the dreaded interrogatory, to the
surprise of all, father John entered the hall, and walked with a firm
step towards the justice-seat. The monk had not visited the castle
since his expulsion, and he had now no desire to stand again where his
profession as a priest, and his pride as a man, had been subjected
to contumely; but the desire of aiding Holgrave in his defence, had
overcome his resolution.

"What dost thou here, monk?" asked De Boteler, sternly, "after my
orders that you should never more enter this hall."

"Baron de Boteler, I have not willingly obtruded myself. The duty of
affording counsel to this unfortunate man impelled me to enter thus
once again. Stephen Holgrave must choose the bondage, because he would
live for his wife and his yet unborn child; but, ere he resigns his
freedom, he would stipulate for his offspring being exempt from the
bond of slavery."

He ceased, and fixed his eyes anxiously on De Boteler, who seemed
collecting a storm of anger to overwhelm the unwelcome suitor.

"Audacious monk!" said he at length, "this is thy own counsel--away,
quit the hall, or--"

"Hold, Lord de Boteler," interrupted Father John, calmly; "the threat
need not pass thy lips: I go; but before I depart I shall say, in
spite of mortal tongue or mortal hand, that honor and true knighthood
no longer preside in this hall, where four generations upheld them
unsullied."

"Strike down the knave!" cried De Boteler, rising fiercely from his
seat. "Drive him forth like a dog," continued he, as the monk, without
quickening his pace, walked proudly away; but no hand responded to the
baron's mandate. A cry arose of "Touch not the Lord's anointed," and
the monk was permitted to depart as he came, unharmed.

"Now, sirrah," said the baron, whose anger was aroused to the highest
pitch; "say the word--is it death or bondage?"

Holgrave trembled; he cast a longing eager glance towards the door.
Margaret was in the pains of labour, brought on by the shock she
received on his arrest; and this it was that caused him to hesitate.
His face brightened as he beheld the animated ruddy face of a serving
boy, who breathlessly approached. He bent forward his head to catch the
whispered intelligence that told him he was a father, and then, with a
joy which he strove not to conceal, announced his selection in a single
word--"bondage!"

"Then the child is born?" asked De Boteler.

"Yes, my lord, HE is free!"

Calverley's countenance displayed the mortification with which he
received the intelligence, but presented the gospels to Holgrave in
silence.

Notwithstanding the recent flush of pleasure which warmed the heart
of the yeoman, his resolution appeared again to forsake him--he
endeavoured to speak, but in vain--he appeared to be overwhelmed by
a variety of contending emotions; but the stern voice of De Boteler
aroused him, and in a choked voice, he pronounced after Calverley the
fealty of a bondman, holding his right hand over the book:--

"Hear you, my Lord de Boteler, that I, Stephen Holgrave, from this day
forth, unto you shall be true and faithful, and shall owe you fealty
for the land which I may hold of you in villeinage, and shall be
justified by you both in body and goods, so----"

A loud blast of a horn accompanied with the voices of men and the
tramp of horses, interrupted the ceremony; and De Boteler, recollecting
that his cousin Ralph de Beaumont, with other guests, were expected,
turned to Calverley and ordered him to receive and conduct them to the
hall.

"Stephen Holgrave, my lord, has not yet finished his fealty."

"What! do you dream of such things when my noble cousin and guests are
waiting for our courtesy? Away! I shall attend to the matter myself."

Calverley reluctantly departed on his mission, cursing the interruption
that prevented his enjoying the degradation of his rival, and the baron
now inquired whether Holgrave had confessed himself his villein.

One of the retainers, who stood by, boldly answered, "He has, my
lord; Master Calverley gave him the words;" and the baron perceiving
Holgrave's hand still resting on the book, took it for granted; and
then ordering the yeoman to be set at liberty, arose and advanced to
meet his guests.

Holgrave too, retired; and though secretly rejoicing that, legally
speaking, he was as free as when he entered the court, he yet felt
bitterly that in the eye of the baron and the barony, he was as
much a villein as if he had pronounced every letter, and sealed the
declaration with the customary oath.

He returned home gloomy and discontented; and, as he stood by the bed
of the pallid Margaret, and inquired of her health, there was nothing
of the tender solicitude with which he used to address her, in his
manner or in his voice.

"Thank God!" said Margaret faintly, as she took his hand and pressed
it to her lips; "thank God, that you have returned to me without hurt
or harm."

"Without hurt or harm!" repeated Holgrave: "_she_ would not have
said so--oh! no, no, _she_ would not have rejoiced to see me return
thus;--but your soul is not like hers--if life is spared, it matters
little to you that the spirit be crushed and broken: but Margaret, do
not weep," he said, bending down to kiss the pale cheek, over which
the tears his harsh language had called forth, were streaming fast.
"Do not weep, I cannot bear your anguish now: I did not mean to speak
unkindly--I love the gentleness of your spirit--you are dearer to my
heart, Margaret, than even the freedom that was of higher price to me
than the breath I drew!"

"Will you not look at the little babe?" said Margaret, anxious to turn
the current of her husband's thoughts.

"Another time, Margaret--not now; but--the child was born before its
father declared himself a wretch! and I will look upon it--poor little
creature!" he continued, gazing at the babe as Margaret raised it up,
"what a strange colour it is!"

"Yes," said Margaret, "and it is so cold! they think it will not live!"

"So much the better."

"Oh! don't say so, Stephen," replied Margaret, pressing the infant to
her bosom; "I have prayed it might live, and I suppose it was only the
fright that makes it so cold and discoloured."

"May be so," answered Holgrave; "but if your prayers be not heard, and
the child dies----"

It seemed scarcely a human voice which had uttered the last words, so
deep and hoarse was the sound, and there seemed more of threat, in the
sudden pause, than if he had thundered out the wildest words. Margaret
gave an involuntary shudder; and Holgrave, who was not so wrapped up
in his own feelings, as to be wholly regardless of those of his wife,
moved away from the bed, and sat apart, brooding over the dark thoughts
that filled his breast.

On the second day after Holgrave had become a bondman, he was summoned
by an order from Calverley to go to labour for his lord. His heart
swelled as he sullenly obeyed the mandate, and Margaret trembled as she
saw him depart. She looked anxiously for the close of the day; and,
when she saw her husband enter with some vegetables and grain that had
been apportioned to him for his day's toil, her heart was glad. It was
true that the gloom on his brow seemed increased, and that he threw
down his load, and sat for several minutes without speaking,--but she
cared not for his silence as she saw him return in safety.

The next day he went to his task, and pursued his labour with sullen
industry, but no approaches to familiarity would he permit in the
companions of his toils. He still regarded himself as a free man; he
knew not how distant the day of his release might be; but he resolved,
if an opportunity ever did occur, that he should not let it pass.

He disdained the villeins, and he felt that the free men would disdain
him. He would not associate with those now, whom, in his day of
prosperity, he had sought to befriend, and whose degraded state he
had wished to ameliorate; nor would he associate with those who had
so lately been his compeers, lest they should seek to befriend him or
ameliorate his lot.

One evening, about the eighth day after the birth of his infant,
fatigued in body, and troubled in spirit (for Calverley had that day
exercised to the full the commanding power with which he was invested),
he entered the cottage, and found Margaret weeping over the little babe.

"Oh, Stephen," she said, "how I wished you would return--for our child
is dying!"

"Great God!" cried Holgrave, rushing forward to look at the
infant,--the feelings of the father overcoming every selfish
consideration.

"Oh, see!" said Margaret, her voice almost choked with her sobs. "See
how pale he looks! Look at his white lips! His breathing becomes faint!
Oh, my child, my child!"

Margaret ceased to speak, and her tears dropped fast on the little
innocent she was so anxiously watching; presently it gave a faint sigh,
and the mother's agonizing shriek, told her husband that the breath was
its last. Holgrave had beheld in silence the death-pang of his child;
and now, when the cry of the mother announced that it had ceased to be,
he turned from the bed and rushed to the door without uttering a word.

"Oh, Stephen, do not leave me!" exclaimed Margaret. "Oh! for mercy's
sake, leave me not alone with my dead child!"

But Stephen heard her not;--indeed, he was a few paces from the door
ere she had finished the exclamation.

All without the cottage, as well as within, was darkness and gloom.
Perhaps, if the beauty of moonlight had met his view, he might have
turned sickening away to the sadness of his own abode; but as it was,
the dreariness of the scene accorded with the feelings, which seemed
bursting his heart, and he rushed on in the darkness heedless of the
path he took. As if led by some instinct, he found himself upon the
black ruins of his once happy home. No hand had touched the scattered,
half-consumed materials, which had composed the dwelling; the black
but substantial beams still lay as they had fallen. Perhaps, his
was the first foot that pressed the spot since the night it blazed
forth, a brilliant beacon, to warn the base-hearted what an injured
man might dare. The fire had scathed the tree that had sheltered the
cottage, but the seat he had raised beneath it yet remained entire.
He sat down on the bench, and raised his eyes to the heavens; the
wind came in sudden gusts, drifting the thick clouds across the sky;
for a moment a solitary star would beam in the dark concave, and then
another cloud would pass on, and the twinkling radiance would be lost.
He gazed a few minutes on the clouded sky, and thought on all he had
suffered and all he had lost: his last fond hope was now snatched away;
and he cursed De Boteler, as at once the degrader of the father and
destroyer of the child. But a strange feeling arose in his mind as a
long hollow-sounding gust swept past him; it came from the ruin beside
him--from the spot _he_ had made desolate; and, as he looked wistfully
round, he felt a sudden throbbing of his heart, and a quickened
respiration. In a few minutes his indefinite terror became sufficiently
powerful to neutralize every other sensation. He arose--he could not
remain another instant; he could scarcely have passed the night there
under the influence of his present feelings, had it even been the price
of his freedom. He hurried down the path that led from the place where
he had stood, and at every step his heart felt relieved; and, as the
distance increased, his superstitious fears died away, and gradually
gloom and sorrow possessed him as before.

As he walked on, choosing the most unfrequented paths, a sudden gleam
of light startled him, till he recollected that Sudley castle stood
before him; and, without bestowing a thought on the unusual number of
tapers that were seen burning in various parts of the building, he
pursued his way. But the sound of steps approached, and he stooped to
conceal himself in the shade of a thicket, for he was not in a mood
to talk, and, besides, he might now be subject to interrogatories as
to his wandering about in the dark: he had before been accused as a
deer-stealer, and why should he not be suspected now? The steps came
from opposite directions; they met just before the bush where Holgrave
had crouched; and a voice, that he recognised as a neighbour's, said,

"Holla! who is that? man or maid?--for, by the saints, there is no
telling by this light."

"It is I, Phil Wingfield," replied one of the castle servitors: "my
lady was took suddenly ill, and is delivered; and I am going to
Winchcombe for a priest to baptize the child."

"My lady was in the right not to make much stir about it: I suppose
there's not one in the parish knows any thing of the matter. But what
is it, Dick?"

"A bouncing boy, the wenches say. But I wish, Phil, you would come with
me--I don't much like to be trudging this dark road by myself."

The man he addressed consented, and their steps were soon lost in the
distance.

Holgrave raised himself erect as the men departed. Wild thoughts, such
as he had never known before, rushed through his heart. It is dangerous
to snatch from any man, even the lowest of the species, that which
he values above every other thing. Be the thing what it may--be it
grand or mean, base or beautiful, still the soul has clung to it, has
treasured it up, has worshipped before it; and none but the bereaved
can comprehend the desolation which the bereavement causes. Holgrave's
idol was his freedom; it was the thing he had prized above all things
else; it was the thing he had been taught to revere, even as the
religion he professed. It must, therefore, have had a strong hold upon
his feelings; it must have grown with his growth, and strengthened with
his strength: and this it is necessary to understand before a perfect
idea can be formed of the hatred which he now felt towards the man who
had wrested from him his treasure. It is true he might have rejected
his terms, at the sacrifice of a thing of less value--his life; but
there was then love and hope to contend against him--the hope of a
man and a father. But he had now no longer hope; it had fled with the
spirit of his little babe; its last faint breath had dissipated all the
illusions of far-off happiness; and he now looked forward to a life of
degradation, and a death of dishonour.

"Can it be?" said Holgrave, as he looked before him at the castle,
which the tapers revealed--"Can it be, that the lord of this castle
and I are the sons of the same heavenly Father? Can the same God have
created us?--and is his child to live and grow to manhood, that he may
trample on his fellow men, as his father has trampled on me? Is this to
go on from generation to generation, and the sons to become even worse
than the fathers?--No!" said he, pausing; "I have no child--Margaret
must forgive me--I have only a worthless life to forfeit." He paused
again. "I _will_ attempt it!" he said, vehemently--"he can but hang me;
and if I succeed, the noble blood they think so much of may yet----"
Holgrave suffered the sentence to remain unfinished, and he rushed
towards the castle.

There was a wicket in the northern gate, the common outlet for the
domestics, which, as Holgrave had anticipated, the servitor had not
closed after him. He entered, and stood within the court-yard; he heard
the sound of voices, and the tread of feet, but no human being was
near: he paused an instant to consider, and then, with the swiftness of
a deer, he sprung towards the stables, and entered the one appropriated
to the select stud of the baron. A lamp was burning, but the men who
attended on the horses were now away, quaffing ale to the long life of
the heir. The baroness's favourite palfrey was lying in a stall; he
stept across the animal, and, after pressing his hands on various parts
of the wall, a concealed door flew open, and a dark aperture was before
him. He stooped and passed through, and ascended a long, winding flight
of steps, till a door impeded his progress; he opened it, and stood in
a closet hung round with dresses and mantles, and displaying all the
graceful trifles of a lady's wardrobe. There was a door opposite the
one at which he had entered, which led into the baroness's chamber,
where there were lighted candles, and a blazing fire on the hearth.
The floor was thickly strewn with rushes, and he could just perceive
the high back of a chair, with the arms of the family wrought in the
centre; he paused and listened; he heard the faint cry of a babe, and
discovered, by the language of the nurse, that she was feeding it; then
there was the hush-a-by, and the rocking motion of the attendant. In a
few minutes, the sound of a foot on the rushes, and "the lovely babe
would sleep," now announced to Holgrave that the child was deposited
with its mother: then he heard the curtains of the bed drawn, and the
nurse whisper some one to retire, as her ladyship was inclined to
sleep; there was another step across the rushes, and a door was softly
closed, and then for a few minutes an unbroken silence, which the nurse
at length interrupted by muttering something about "whether the good
father had come yet." Again there was a tread across the rushes, and
the door again was gently closed; and Holgrave, after a moment of
intense listening, stepped from the closet, and entered the chamber.
In an elevated alcove stood the bed of the baroness; the rich crimson
hangings festooned with gold cord, the drapery tastefully fringed with
gold, even to the summit, which was surmounted by a splendid coronet.
Holgrave, unaccustomed to magnificence, was for a moment awed by the
splendid furniture of the apartment--but it was only for a moment--and
then the native strength of his soul spurned the gaudy trappings; he
stepped lightly across the spacious chamber; he unloosed the rich
curtains--the heir of De Boteler was reposing in a deep slumber on a
downy pillow; beyond him lay the exhausted mother, her eyes closed,
and the noble contour of her face presenting the repose of death. For
an instant, Holgrave paused: remorse for the deed that he was about
to do sent a sudden glow across his care-worn face--but had not the
baron destroyed his offspring? whispered the tempting spirit. He raised
the babe from the pillows without disturbing its slumber--he drew the
curtains, and--he reached the stable in safety, closed the secret door,
and arrived at the postern, which was still unfastened, passed through,
and gained his own door without impediment.

"Margaret," said Holgrave, as he entered, "put away that babe, whom
your tears cannot restore to life. Here is one that will be wept for
as much as yours.--Do you hear me, Margaret? lay your babe under the
cover-lid, and take this one and strip it quickly, and clothe it in the
dress of your own infant."

"Stephen, what child is this?" her astonishment for a moment
overcoming her grief. "The saints preserve us! look at its dress--that
mantle is as rich as the high priest's vestment on a festival. Oh!
Stephen."

"Silence!" interrupted Holgrave, sternly; "take the babe and strip it
and attend to it as a mother should attend to her own infant; and, mark
me, it _is_ your own! _your_ child did not die! As you value _my_ life,
remember this."

There was a sternness in his tone that entirely awed Margaret. She
continued to weep, but she took the strange infant and did as her
husband desired her. The changing of its apparel made the little infant
cry, but the change was soon effected, and then Margaret put it to her
breast and hushed its cries. While this was doing, Holgrave had taken
a spade and commenced digging up the earthen floor. The sight agonized
the wretched Margaret, and when the task was finished and he approached
the bed to consign the little corpse to its kindred earth, it was
long ere even his stern remonstrance could prevail on the mother to
relinquish her child. She kissed its white cheek and strained it to her
convulsed bosom, and Holgrave had to struggle violently with his own
feelings, that he too might not betray a similar emotion. But fortitude
overcame the yearnings of a father; he forcibly took the babe from its
mother's arms and laid it in the cavity he had prepared; and then, as
the glittering mantle of the stolen child caught his eyes, he took a
small iron box, in which Margaret kept the silks and the needles she
had formerly used in her embroidery, and scattering the contents upon
the ground, he forced in, in their stead, the different articles the
little stranger had worn, and fastening down the lid, laid it beside
his child; and then, as swiftly as apprehension could urge, filled up
the grave, and trod down the earth to give it the appearance it had
worn previous to the interment. A chest was then placed over it, and it
seemed to defy the scrutiny of man to detect the deed.

Holgrave's heart might have been wrung at thus interring his own child,
but his face betrayed no such feeling; it wore only the same stern
expression it had worn since the day of his bondage, and it was only
in Margaret's swollen eyes and heaving breast that a stranger could
have surmised that aught of such agonizing interest had occurred. The
bondman then threw another faggot upon the hearth, and, in the same
stern voice of a master, bidding his wife tend upon the babe as if it
were her own, without a kind look or word, he ascended the ladder, and
threw himself upon a few dried rushes in the loft above; where he lay
brooding in sullen wretchedness over the wild and daring deed he had
committed.

His meditations were soon disturbed by a confused distant noise--then
men's voices and the tread of feet, and instantly the latch of the door
was raised, the slight fastening gave way, and the intruders rushed
into the room beneath.

"Are ye drawlatches or murderers?" asked Holgrave in a fierce voice, as
he started up and sprung to the ladder, "that you break open a man's
house at this hour?"

"If you attempt to come down that ladder, this fellow's glaive will
answer you," said Calverley, in a voice and with a look which the
torchlight revealed, that told that his threat had meaning. He then
cast a hasty glance around the apartment--for an instant, his eyes
rested on the bed where lay the terror-stricken Margaret, who, at the
first sound of his voice had concealed her face in the pillow. His
eyes scarcely rested upon the bed ere he turned quickly to the men who
attended him, and, in something of a hurried voice, desired them to
examine the chest. What dark suspicion crossed his mind can scarcely
be conceived, but Holgrave looked with a bitter smile upon the search
as the men tore open the chest and scattered the contents in every
direction. There was nothing else that required more than a cursory
glance except the bed; Calverley did not look again towards it, and the
men who were with him did only as they were ordered. At his command
three men ascended the ladder, but ere they had advanced midway,
Holgrave had grasped the end that rested on the entrance, and, in a
voice that caused tremor in the craven heart of the steward, threatened
to hurl them to the ground if they advanced another step.

"Do you think, meddling steward, that I have been in the chase again?
Do you expect to find another buck?"

"Proceed--heed not this bondman's raving!"

Holgrave, conceiving that further resistance might awaken suspicion,
folding his arms across his breast, suffered the men to ascend, and
looked on in silence while they carefully examined the loft. But here,
after a minute search, was found nothing to repay their trouble. They
descended, and Calverley said, "There is nothing here to _confirm_
suspicion; but the son of Edith Holgrave is likely to be suspected when
evil is done. We depart," he said to his followers, "but there shall be
a watch kept on this fellow."

Holgrave looked contempt, and spoke defiance; but Calverley retired
without seeming to heed either his looks or his words.

In the morning he went to his task at the usual hour, not however
without again cautioning Margaret respecting the child. Soon after his
departure Lucy Hartwell entered, to talk over the strange news she had
just heard, and to offer her services to Margaret.

"How are you, Margaret? How is the babe?"

"The child is better," replied Margaret, "but I am very ill."

"I am sorry to hear that--I hardly thought that the child would live.
Here, Margaret, take a little of this broth, it will do you good.--Oh,
there are such strange doings at the castle! Yesterday evening my
lady was suddenly put to bed of a boy, and the child has been stolen
away, nobody can tell how. Roberts, one of the castle guard men, told
my father just now, that my lady had accused Sir Robert Beaumont,
my lord's cousin, of stealing the child, and that Sir Robert is
making ready to depart, vowing never to enter the castle again. But
Martha, my lady's maid, said, in his hearing, that nothing but an
evil spirit could have stolen it away. She declared that she saw old
Sukey, the nurse, put the child safely beside my lady, and then, as
her ladyship seemed inclined to sleep, she went from the bed-chamber
into the ante-room, and there she sat till the priest, who had come
from Winchcombe, was ready for the baptism, and then she entered the
chamber to tell the nurse; and when old Sukey went to the bed to take
up the child, behold it was gone! Whereupon old Sukey gave such a
dreadful scream, that the baroness started up, and discovering the
loss of the child, could scarcely be kept in bed, and called the old
nurse and every one who approached her, murderers; and then the whole
castle was in an uproar, and my lady presently hearing the sound of
Sir Robert's voice in the ante-room, shrieked that it was he who had
stolen her child; and then she fell into such a fit of crying, that her
heart sickened and she swooned away. But what ails you, Margaret, are
you worse?" Margaret answered, faintly, that she wished to sleep; and
Lucy's humanity, overcoming her strong desire to speak of the strange
event that had happened, she left her, after doing the little services
the invalid required, to her repose.

Towards the close of the day, father John came to see his sister. "You
are ill, my child," said the monk, as he drew a chair to the side of
the bed, and gazed anxiously at her pallid cheek and swollen eyes.
Margaret answered incoherently.

"Your child," continued he, "is it--is it still alive?"

"My child is well now!" said Margaret in a stifled voice.

"Well! Margaret, can it be possible!--Let me look at the babe, for I
fear you must be deceiving yourself."

"It is sleeping," said Margaret; but the next moment the babe, who had
slept with short intermission during the day, awoke, and no soothing,
no attentions of its nurse, could hush its cries. Margaret saw that
the eyes of her brother were rivetted on the child, and she strove
anxiously to conceal its face.

"It is strange!" said the monk, "yesterday, the low moaning sound it
made, seemed to threaten immediate dissolution; and to-day, its lusty
cries seem those of a healthy child--it is quiet now--give me the babe
in my arms and let me look at it?"

Margaret did not immediately accede to his wish, and the monk looked
at her with a strange inquisitiveness--something crossed his mind,
but what could he suspect? He again asked Margaret, but she still
hesitated. He started from his seat, and paced up and down the floor.
He then stopped suddenly before the bed. Margaret had laid down the
infant, and had covered it with the bed-clothes.

"Margaret," said the monk, fixing his eagle glance upon his sister,
"that is not your child!"

"Hush! Hush! Oh! for the life of my husband, say not so!" The sternness
of the monk's countenance gradually softened as he gazed upon his
agonized sister, and, after the space of a minute he said, in a calm
voice:--

"Fear not me, Margaret--fear not that I would add to the grief which
has weighed on your heart, and paled your cheek, and dimmed your eye.
Fear not that I would add one sorrow to the only being who attaches me
to my kind, and who tells me I am not entirely alone! But, I ask you,
Margaret, not as a servant of the High God, but as an only brother--as
one who has loved you as a father, and has watched over you from
infancy even until now; I ask you to tell me what you know of that
child?"

Margaret bent her head forward and covered her face with her hands,
but made no reply. In vain the monk reiterated his request. In vain
he exhorted her--in vain he assured her that no evil should befal her
husband from whatever disclosure she might make. Margaret still hid
her face and remained silent. Her silence discomposed the monk. He
continued to gaze upon her with a troubled countenance. Anger for the
cruelty that could premeditatedly deprive a mother of her offspring,
and alarm for the consequences that might result to Holgrave, could
have been read in his contracted brow and anxious glance. His sister's
unwillingness to speak confirmed his suspicions, and he felt as fully
convinced that the child that lay before him was the baron's son as if
he himself had witnessed the theft.

"Margaret," said John, "your silence does but confirm my suspicions.
It is a cruel revenge--but it is done--and Stephen's life shall never
be put in jeopardy by a breath of mine. He has suffered, but till now
he had not sinned! But his sin be between his conscience and his God:"
he paused for a minute, and then looking tenderly upon his sister, he
said as gently as he could, "Farewell!" and being anxious to avoid an
interview with Holgrave, abruptly departed.



THE BONDMAN

BOOK II.



CHAPTER I.


About a fortnight after the birth of the baron's son was the feast
of All-hallows, and from All-hallows eve to the Purification of the
Virgin, was little less than a continued festival. Mummers and maskers
attired in fantastic habits, wearing garlands of holly and ivy on
their heads, and bearing branches of the same in their hands, were to
be met, dancing and singing along the roads that led to the castles
of the barons, or to the broad beetling houses of those of a lesser
degree. The castles, the manor-houses, and even the dwellings of those
whom, one would think, could have no earthly object in view in their
building but convenience, accorded little with, or rather was in direct
opposition to, our present ideas of domestic comfort. The spaciousness
of the apartments, lighted, perhaps, by a solitary window, whose small
chequered panes, encased in a heavy frame, and divided into three
compartments by two solid beams, curved, and meeting at the top in a
point, were rendered still more gloomy by the projecting buttresses of
the windows above; but still the very construction of the buildings
was favourable to hospitality. A dozen, or twenty, or thirty, or fifty
persons, according to the rank of the host, might be accommodated,
and not the slightest inconvenience felt. The more the merrier, was
undoubtedly the adage then: guests were greeted, especially on winter
nights, with a genuine hospitable welcome, because, although the
capacious hearth looked snug and cheerful, there was a dreariness
in the void beyond--in the undefined and distant shadows of the
apartment--that could alone be dispelled by additional lights and
smiling faces. It will consequently be a natural conclusion, that in
the castles of the nobles, and in the houses of those immediately or
progressively beneath them, the arrival of the merry mummers was hailed
with almost childish delight.

In addition to this annual exhibition of mirthful mummery, the town of
Winchcombe was enlivened by a fair, periodically held, on the festival
of All-hallows. The fair-green lay just beyond the town, enclosed on
one side by the town walls, and on the opposite by an abrupt, wooded
hill. All Winchcombe was in a bustle; the ale-houses were crowded
with visitors, and the streets filled with strangers; young artizans
or yeomen were escorting their favourite damsels to the fair, to
shew their gallantry by purchasing some of the various articles so
temptingly displayed, as presents for the maidens. Bodkins and fillets
for the hair, and ribbons of every colour, except scarlet or crimson;
and furs, principally cat-skin; and spices, and fine and coarse cloths
of medley, and russets, and hoods, and mittens, and hose, were amongst
the miscellaneous wares exhibited for sale.

But there was one stall that particularly attracted the eyes of
the fair-folks, by the spices, silks, damasks, fine cloth, gold
and silver cords and ornaments, furs, &c. it displayed. The owner
of this stall was evidently a peddling Genoese merchant, or, as
they were then called, galleymen. These foreigners generally bore a
bad character--they were looked upon with suspicion; but, although
suspected and disliked, they sold their merchandize, passed their base
coin, and returned to Genoa to purchase, with English gold, fresh
cargoes for Britain. They somehow or other sold their goods cheaper
than the native dealers, and their coin, if even bad, would generally
circulate through a few hands before it could be detected, and,
consequently, those who purchased were seldom the losers.

The beauty and richness of the chief portions of their cargoes
ensured them a demand from the superior classes; and if a noble, or
courtly dame, or maiden, or knight, or even esquire, would not be
seen bargaining personally with the foreigners, there were always
officious agents who could transact the business, and have some trifle
as an acknowledgment from the itinerant merchant. The galleyman, who
was displaying his merchandize on the fair-green of Winchcombe, had,
towards the close of the short gloomy day, disposed of a considerable
portion of his stock. The damsels of the ladies, residing in the
vicinity, bought even more than they were ordered, so well were they
pleased with the animated glance of the foreign merchant's black eyes,
and with the pretty, almost intelligible, compliments he paid them;
and, above all, with the smiling liberality with which he rewarded
every purchase.

In the villages, the distinctions of dress created by law were pretty
generally observed, but in the towns that law was as generally evaded:
furs, and colours, and embroidery were worn by those who had no
right to them, except the single one of purchase. In some instances,
the law would take cognizance of the violation of its prohibitions;
a fine would be imposed, but even this could not check the vain
assumption;--there was no law to prevent people buying, and those
who could purchase forbidden finery, would, in despite of penalties,
contrive some means of wearing it. But to return to our foreign
merchant.

There was now scarcely light to distinguish external objects, when
a sudden rush was heard from the town, and, in an instant, a dozen
persons surrounded the peddling merchant, and seizing him violently,
while uttering threats and imprecations, dragged the dusty-foot to
the court of Pie-powder.[1] As they were hauling him along, the crowd
increased, the fair was forsaken, all pressing eagerly forward to
learn the fate of the unlucky pedlar. The galleyman seemed perfectly
to comprehend the nature of his danger--not by the changing colour of
his cheek, for that exhibited still the same glowing brown--but by the
restless flash of his full black eyes, glancing before and around, as
if looking for some chance of escape.

The court of Pie-powder was situated at the extremity of the
fair-green, about twenty paces beyond the last stall: the court was a
kind of tent, with a large, high-backed chair in the centre for the
judge, a long table being placed before him, on which were balances and
weights of various descriptions, to ascertain the truth of any charges
that might be preferred against the sellers at the fair: there was also
a smaller balance, a stone, and a small phial of liquid, to prove the
weight and purity of any coin that might be doubted. At each extremity
of the table was a bench, on which sat six men, to act as jurors.
Although in a fair, the court was conducted with some attention to
propriety; the clerk, who sat as judge, assumed as much importance as a
dignitary of a higher tribunal; and, as the crowd approached, hallooing
and vociferating, with the culprit, two men, who stood at the door
with maces in their hands, prevented the rush of the people: and, by
order of the judge, the accuser, the offender, and two witnesses were
the only persons permitted to enter. The charge was laid;--the foreign
dusty-foot was accused of defrauding the accuser's wife, one Martha
Fuller, of the value of half a noble.

The _lushburgs_ (as this base coin was called) were then produced.
The judge took the money, and was raising the phial to apply the test,
when the accused, whose hands had been left at liberty, drew something
from his breast, and threw it on the lamp which was burning before him.
The lamp was extinguished;--a sudden explosion took place; burning
fragments were scattered in every direction; a strange suffocating
smell filled the tent, and nearly stifled the astonished spectators.
Before they could recover from their surprise, the galleyman had
knocked down the two witnesses, crept under the canvas of the tent,
and, with the bound of a deer, reached the wooded hill that lay at a
short distance behind.

The pause of astonishment was scarcely of a moment's duration; and
then, like the hounds pursuing a hare that had broke cover, the whole
multitude, uttering a wild shout, sprung after the flying stranger.
The lightness of the galleyman's foot had often befriended him, upon
occasions similar to the present, but now his bounding step seemed but
of little advantage--for the foremost of the pursuers was as fleet
as himself. There were few spirits more bold, more constitutionally
brave, than this stranger's;--he had struggled with the world till
he had learned to despise it; he had buffeted with the waves till he
had deemed them harmless; and, up to the last five minutes, he would
have sworn that there was neither a man nor a sea that he feared to
meet. But the stranger had, at that time, no law in England;--the
gallows-tree by torchlight, the execrations, the tumult, the
sudden hurrying of the soul away without even a moment to call for
mercy;--all this was distinctly before the eyes of the fugitive. He
had seen others act a part in such a scene, and his turn seemed now
at hand;--and the galleyman almost groaned at the thought of dying
unshrieved.

A large thicket, at this moment, gave the dusty foot an opportunity
of doubling, and, for an instant, diverging from the straightforward
course, though it availed him little, he seemed to feel the breath of
his pursuer on the back of his neck; his foot sounded as if at his
heels; he drew his garment closely around him, turned suddenly to the
right, and, bounding from the ground, the next instant a splash was
heard in the little river, and the fugitive was safe from his pursuer.

We before observed that Stephen Holgrave's dwelling was situated at
a short distance from the little Eastbourne; and, on the night of
All-hallows fair, a quick knocking was heard at the door just after
Holgrave had retired to rest. Holgrave, concluding it was some mandate
from the castle, arose, and, in a surly voice, demanded who was there?

"A stranger who wants a shelter--open the door."

It was instantly opened; and the galleyman, with his saturated
garments, and his long black hair hanging dripping over his shoulders,
entered the cottage.

"Why, what mishap has befallen you?" inquired Holgrave, in surprise.

"Ask no questions," answered the dusty-foot, "but give me a cup of
malmsey."

"Malmsey! and in a villein's cottage," replied Holgrave, bitterly.
"No, no; but here is a small flask of sack which a neighbour brought to
my wife: she will little grudge it to a man in your plight."

While Holgrave was speaking, he emptied the flask into a horn, and,
handing it to the galleyman, the latter eagerly clutched it, and, with
astonishing rapidity, swallowed the contents.

"Is that all you have?" inquired the dusty-foot.

"Yes," replied Holgrave; "and enough too, I think, for any reasonable
man at one time."

"Nonsense!" returned the stranger, "I would drink ten times as much and
be nothing the worse. But hark you, Stephen Holgrave--I have come to
you for shelter, and I expect you will give it."

"While I have a roof the way-faring man shall never sleep----"

"I do not talk of sleep," interrupted the stranger; "I would not
trouble any man for the sake of a night's rest: but to be plain with
you, my life is sought for--the hue and cry is even now after me;--so,
if you mean to keep your word, give me some dry clothing, and hide
me--anywhere."

Holgrave turned from the galleyman in silence, and, opening the large
chest, took out his only spare clothing--a suit of medley; and, as he
offered it to the stranger, he looked at him with an earnestness which
attracted the attention of the galleyman.

"You do not know me?" asked the latter.

"No," replied Holgrave, "I cannot call your face to mind; but surely I
must have heard your voice before."

"May be you have; but that matters little; I know you are an honest
man, and were I even your enemy, you would not betray me."

"No," said Holgrave, "I would betray no man; but I should not like to
harbour--a man that had----"

"Had what!" interrupted the galleyman, impatiently. "I wish I had never
done worse than I have done this day, Holgrave; I have neither hurt nor
harmed; I only gave a pretty little fair-going dame a Genoese piece
instead of an English one."

"Ah! well," said Holgrave; "if she was fool enough to trust a
dusty-foot, she must look to it. I care not what you did so long as you
kept your hand from blood: so come up this way." He then took one of
the branches that were still blazing on the hearth, and conducted the
fugitive to the loft.

The stranger instantly divested himself of his wet apparel, and attired
himself in Holgrave's yeoman's garb; and then, with the natural regret
of one accustomed to traffic, he drew from a secret pocket of his wet
doublet, a bag of coin, the wreck of his merchandize, and with a sigh
for all he had lost, placed it in his bosom. His dagger was also stuck
in his doublet, so that if necessity came, he might use it; and then
attentively listening to Holgrave's directions, he threw himself upon
a heap of rushes in a corner, and soon after his host had withdrawn to
throw the tell-tale garments into the Isborne, he fell into the short,
light slumbers of a seaman.

The first sound of a far-off shout instantly dispelled his sleep; he
started on his feet, and as he became convinced it was really the hue
and cry, he raised a small flap in the roof, as Holgrave had directed,
and forcing himself through, slid down into a sort of rude garden at
the back of the dwelling; then springing forward till he came to a dry
well, he leapt, with a dauntless heart and sound limbs, ten feet below
the surface of the earth.

The hue and cry passed on its noisy course without heeding the cottage;
and about an hour after, Holgrave threw down a rope to the galleyman,
who, with the agility of one accustomed to climb, sprung up the side of
the well, and entered the cottage with his host.

"You can now go to the loft, and lie down again," said Holgrave; "but
do not sleep too soundly; for if any one comes in to look for you, you
must go to your old hiding-place. You see, stranger, that mine is not
the best place you could have chosen; there is ill blood between me and
the castle folks, and they will not let any chance slip to let me know
that even this hut, poor as it is, is not my own, but must be entered
and searched as they would the kennel of a dog. You know me, stranger,
though I know nothing of you, except your voice. You called me by my
name, and you addressed me as a yeoman--think you that I _am_ a yeoman?"

"Yes," said the galleyman; "I knew you were a freeman, and I heard you
were a yeoman."

"Yes, I was a freeman, and I was a yeoman; but I am now a--villein!
Ay, stare--stare! I live through it all. It was but the space of a
moment--the drawing of a breath, that changed me from a man who dared
look the heavens in the face, and close his door, if he listed, on even
the baron himself, to a poor worm, that must crawl upon the earth, and
has not even this (taking up a log of wood) that he can call his own.
True, it was not my birthright, but I earned it, in sweat, in hunger,
and cold, and I fought for it amidst swords and lances--and I sold
it, like a traitor, for--her!" And he pointed, with a look of bitter
reproach, to his wife.

The galleyman, for the first time, fixed his eyes upon Margaret,
who was sitting, nursing her little charge within the recess of the
chimney. She had latterly been accustomed to unkind language from her
husband; but the bitterness with which he had now alluded to her before
a stranger, brightened the delicacy of her complexion with a passing
glow, and caused a sudden tear to tremble in her eye.

"And, by the good cargo I lost even now at Winchcombe," said the
galleyman, after looking at her for a moment, "you could not have sold
it to better advantage. Such a wife would make any man think little of
her price. If you _have_ made yourself a villein, is the world so small
that there is no place but the manor of Sudley to live in? Come, come,
let us talk like friends--we are not such strangers as you suppose."

"No," said Holgrave; "but I cannot think where we have met."

"Never mind that. As for me, I am not quite foundered, although I have
left a cargo behind at Winchcombe that would have bought a dozen
bondmen's freedom. Come with me to London: I have part of a galley of
my own there, and you may either stow away in some hole of the city, or
slip your cable, and be off for Genoa, where I'll promise you as snug
a birth as a man could wish for. Besides, there is your child--is it a
boy?"

Margaret nodded assent.

"Yes, there is your boy--would you let him grow up a bondman?"

"No," said Holgrave. "Now you speak of the boy, I will not leave this
place. Let him live and toil, and suffer, and----"

"And if he was a headstrong boy, and felt one stroke of the lash,"
interrupted the galleyman, "would he not fly from the bondage, even to
become a thing like me? Hark you, Holgrave," he continued, starting
upon his feet, extending his right arm, and fixing his full black eyes
on his face--"hark you, Holgrave! my father was as honest a man as ever
drew the breath of heaven; and yet I trade and traffic in cheatery. My
father's greatest oath was 'the saints defend us!' and he would not
drink a second cup at one sitting; and yet there is not a holy name
that I have not blasphemed every day for these nine years, and scarcely
a day that I have not drunk more--more than my head could well carry.
My father could not have slept if he had missed the shrovetide, and
yet I have passed years, aye, and am likely to pass my life, without a
single shrift. Yes, yes, he continued, dropping his arm, and sinking
down upon his seat, I have done every thing but--murder"--(Margaret
crossed herself)--"and scarcely can I clear myself even of that; and
all because I was a bondman's son! Yes, Holgrave, I know what bondage
is; I know what it is to be buffetted and railed at, and threatened
with the tumbrel. I never was lazy; but I hated to be driven. All men
are not made alike; some are only fit to be slaves, while others are
endowed by nature with a high, proud spirit--of such was your mother."

"My mother! what know you of her?"

"Never mind that," replied the galleyman; "but as for your mother, she
was a good, and a holy woman; but I say she was proud! You are proud,
or you would not think so much of being a villein. And is it not likely
that your boy will be as proud as either?"

"If that child takes after his father," said Holgrave, "he will have
pride enough."

"And if he has," returned the dusty-foot, "he cannot have a greater
cause. It is all very well for the great,--it looks well upon them;
and even the decent chapman and yeomen get little harm by it: but for
the poor man to be proud; to have the swelling heart and the burning
cheek--oh! it is a curse!" He raised his voice as he spoke, and then
sinking it to a whisper, added--"and if it is a sin, surely it has its
punishment."

As Holgrave looked at, and listened to the stranger, his heart warmed,
and he forgot for a time his own selfish feelings; but the picture the
galleyman had drawn, and which his own soul acknowledged to be too
true, determined him not to accept his offer. The baron had earned for
his son the curse of "the swelling heart and the burning cheek," and
the lad should know the toils and sufferings of a bondman.

"We shall talk further," said Holgrave: "in the mean time, we must
consult for your own safety. If your father was a villein of this
barony, it is not likely that the old steward, or the new one--the
fiend Calverley--should forget you; and----"

"Tush, tush!" interrupted the galleyman; "if Stephen Holgrave has
forgotten Robin Wells, how should Thomas Calverley remember him?"

"Robin Wells!" repeated Holgrave, with a long inquiring look. "No--you
are safe! I hardly think the foul fiend himself would detect you. Now I
call you to mind--your eyes and mouth are little Robin's--but the brown
skin and the black hair----"

"Aye," said the galleyman, "you marvel what has become of the red
and white, and the short, thick, yellow curls. Oh, you landsmen know
nothing of the wonders that sea-suns and sea-storms can work. To be
sure, it never would entirely change yellow into black,--so, when I
wanted to turn Genoese, I used a certain drug that made my eyes and
hair look as if they belonged to the same master."

"Well," said Holgrave, looking at his guest with that kindly feeling
that is ever called forth by unexpectedly beholding an acquaintance of
earlier days--"well, how often my poor mother used to talk of you, and
wonder how it fared with you. I remember well when you came to bid us
good-bye."

"Aye, aye, so do I," said the young man, evidently agitated; "but--let
us talk no more of it."

Holgrave, thinking that Wells was averse to being reminded of an
unpleasant circumstance, spoke no more of the day when the orphan boy
had gone forth into a strange world; but, counting upon the sympathy of
the galleyman, he began to recount his mother's fate.

"Hold, hold," said Wells, starting up, and covering his eyes with his
hands; "as you hope for mercy, say no more--I cannot bear it."

He then sprung up the ladder, and threw himself upon the heap of rushes.

The extreme agitation of Wells, although it surprised Holgrave, by
no means displeased him;--be sympathy ever so extravagant, still,
generally speaking, it is gratifying; and Holgrave, at that moment,
would have laid down his life in defence of the man who could feel so
keenly.

Nature had given the galleyman a good and a kind heart, but evil
associates had done much, and dissipation still more, to demoralize his
soul; yet his natural good qualities were not entirely uprooted: the
good fruit would sometimes spring up, but it sprung up only to shew
what the soil might have produced--it bloomed for an hour in beauty,
and then was trodden underfoot, and defiled in the dust.

When Wells had sprung into the loft, accusing himself of the part he
had taken in Edith's trial, and of the nefarious traffic which had
placed him in the power of Black Jack, he vowed that, in future, his
dealings should be strictly honest; that he would give a portion of
his worldly goods to the poor; offer a certain sum to the Abbot of
Gloucester for masses to be said for the soul of Edith, and endeavour
to make what atonement he could by befriending Holgrave. But in a few
hours his feelings became less acute; and we believe all of his vow
that he fulfilled was that of striving to aid Holgrave, and becoming,
to a certain degree, honest in his dealings. The next day he began
to feel that depression of spirits usually experienced by persons
accustomed to stimulants. Several times was he tempted to go out
and brave detection,--but a fear lest some of the fair-folks should
recognize him, made him pause.

In the afternoon Lucy Hartwell came in to see Margaret, bringing
some little gift, and asking how she fared. Wells could distinctly
hear all that passed in the room below; and soon collected, from the
conversation, that the visitor was the daughter of old Hartwell the
ale-seller. He remembered her a pretty little girl when he had left the
village--with hazel eyes twinkling and brightening like a star; with
a step as light, and a form as delicate and graceful as the greenwood
fairy to whom she used to be likened. Her voice had deepened a little,
but it had still much of the sprightly animation of her childhood.

She kissed and admired the infant, inquired of Margaret's health, bade
her hope for better days, and then proceeded to talk of affairs at the
castle;--how the baroness still continued to weep and lament; and how
De Boteler, ever since he had returned from London, had been almost
distracted--one minute crying and raving that there was some traitor
at the castle who had connived at the abduction of his child, and that
he would discover him and hang him up without form of trial,--and the
next offering large rewards and free pardon to any one who could give
the slightest information, even though they should have aided in the
theft;--and once he even went so far as to promise pardon to the actual
offender. As, of course, this strange occurrence had been a prolific
source of speculation to the gossips, Lucy proceeded to detail a number
of stories she had heard on the subject.

Although Wells took little interest in these details, yet he loved to
listen to the sweet tones of a remembered voice; and, as the evening
had begun to close in, and Lucy talked of returning home, he resolved
to put faith in the good feelings and discretion of the maiden. In an
instant he had leaped down the ladder and stood at her side.

Lucy gave a faint scream, and cast a look of astonishment at Margaret.

"It is only a stranger," said Margaret, answering to Lucy's glance,
"whom Stephen has promised to shelter.--You need not fear."

"Fear!" repeated the galleyman, as he gazed on the beautiful features
of the abashed Lucy; "what can such an angel have to fear?--and yet, by
the saints! such a prize would tempt the honestest captain that ever
commanded a vessel. Years have passed away since I last saw you;--you
were then but a child. You have forgotten me--but in storm or in
sunshine, never have I forgotten you: the first sound of your voice,
when I was aloft there, made my heart beat--and I thought I would run
all hazards and face you. But--you don't know who is talking to you--Do
you?"

"No," replied Lucy, "I don't think I ever saw you before."

"Oh yes, but you did;--don't you remember one Robin Wells, a stout
rosy boy with curly hair, that made you a wreath of holly and ivy--one
All-hallows day--and put it on your head, and called you a little
queen? You were ten years old that day, and it is just ten years and
three days since then. Don't you remember it?"

"Yes," said Lucy, blushing deeply, and half raising her bright eyes to
see if she could identify the stranger with the boy who used to pluck
fruits and flowers for her, and make garlands for her hair; but the
fixed gaze of the galleyman compelled her to withdraw her inquisitive
glance, and then there was a moment of silence, during which Lucy's
burning cheeks told she was conscious the stranger's eyes were still
regarding her. But her embarrassment was far from very painful;--there
was something so gratifying, especially to a warm-hearted girl, to be
remembered for so many years by one whom she had herself forgotten--for
poor Lucy never once suspected the truth of what Wells had asserted!

"You are changed, Lucy;" said the galleyman, in a meditative tone,
"and so am I; but a quiet home has reared you into loveliness; while
cold, heat, and storms, have made me what I am. It was that ivy wreath
of yours that made me a wanderer--I spent a couple of hours gathering
and making it, and they promised me a flogging for idling, and so,
after putting the crown on your head I set off, and here I am again
after ten years, looking old enough to be your father--but, hark
you, maiden--sailors are thirsty souls, and here have I been laid up
these two days, without tasting a drop of any thing stronger than--ha!
ha!--milk! Your father has plenty of stout ale, and I'm sure such a
little angel as you will have the charity to bring a flagon to a poor
seaman adrift."

Lucy, glad to escape from the gaze of the galleyman, and also pleased
at an opportunity of showing kindness to an old acquaintance, instantly
arose, promising to return in a few minutes with some ale.

"But, take care," said Margaret, "that you say not whom it is for."

Lucy promised to be circumspect, and in less than ten minutes placed a
flagon of her father's best ale before the galleyman, and then bounding
away with a light laugh, as Wells sprang forward to pay for it with a
kiss, her little form was instantly lost in the darkness of the evening.

About an hour after nightfall the next evening, the galleyman prepared
to depart from Holgrave's cottage: repeatedly did he urge his host to
accept his offer, and with his wife and the little babe remove for
ever from a spot where his proud spirit had suffered such wrong; but
Holgrave steadily refused; and the galleyman, having forced Margaret to
accept two pieces of gold, went forth from the roof that had sheltered
him. Holgrave's dwelling, as the reader already knows, stood upon an
eminence apart from the congregated dwellings that were styled the
village. The only object Wells could discover as he looked around, was
the glimmering of the lights in the adjoining habitations. He remained
stationary for an instant, while he looked across in the direction
of Hartwell's house, and then, smiling an imaginary farewell to the
pretty Lucy, with a quick step and a light heart, he walked away in the
opposite direction.

All was silence as the galleyman proceeded; labour had ceased, the
evening repast was made, and many of the inhabitants of the village
had already retired to rest. The evening was clear and cold, and the
firmament was radiant with stars, the moon being only a few days old.
By some strange impulse, the man who had so often gazed upon the
far-spread beauty of an ocean sky, stood still for a moment here;
and, by as strange a conceit, the silvery semicircle above, as it
seemed, even in the crowd of lesser lights, brought to his mind the
ever-smiling beauty of Lucy Hartwell. The wanderer lingered for a
space--then hesitated--then turned suddenly--and, in less than five
minutes, he had pushed open the hatch of old Hartwell's door and had
entered boldly.

There were no guests; a bright fire was blazing on the hearth, and
the galleyman, throwing himself upon a bench in the chimney-corner,
requested Hartwell, who was sitting on the opposite bench, to give him
a jug of his best ale.

"Here, Lucy," shouted the old man, "bring a jug of the best."

Lucy obeyed the summons with alacrity, but, as she presented the
beverage, a slight start and a sudden blush, told how much the
appearance of Wells surprised her. The galleyman drank off the ale,
and then, walking to the farther end of the kitchen, where Lucy stood.
"Here, pretty maiden," said he, in his usual loud and joyous tone,
"fill it again;" and, as she turned to the cask to replenish the jug,
he added, in a voice that met her ear alone:--

"Lucy, I must speak to you before I go." He took the replenished jug
from the little maiden, and then resuming his seat, paid Hartwell
for the ale, and began chatting upon the weather and the times; and,
when the old man's attention was thoroughly engaged, Lucy took the
opportunity of throwing a large hood over her head and slipping out
unperceived by her father. The galleyman took the hint, and draining
the jug and starting on his feet, declared he should enter Winchcombe
in better spirits after such excellent ale; and then bidding good
evening to the unsuspecting old man, hastened after Lucy.

About thirty paces in the rear of her father's house, was an old
far-spreading oak, beneath whose branches stood Lucy awaiting him, who
was even now, in her mind, to all intents and purposes a lover. As the
dusty-foot looked around in the darkness, a whispered hist! decided his
course, he sprung to the tree, and stooped to clasp the little form in
his arms, and to imprint on the glowing cheek his first kiss; but Lucy
drew back, and, with the dignity of a maiden, repelled the freedom.

"Nay," said Wells, "you know I am slipping my cable, and you shouldn't
grudge a parting salute; but, however, don't stand aloof--I give
you the word of a sailor--I cannot say of an honest one, but that's
nothing--one man's word is as good as another's if he means to keep it,
and so I give you my word that I will not offend again, and now give
me your hand, and I will trust my secret to a sinless maiden."

"Alas!" said Lucy, "I am not sinless."

"May be not so, entirely, yet I am sure you are as sinless as woman can
be--but listen to me, Lucy--you know that I am a bondman's son--that I
fled from bondage--and that ten years of roving freedom, had not made
me free. All this you know, but you do not know that I am the Genoese
galleyman who cheated the chapman's dame at the fair of Winchcombe."

Lucy started, and made an involuntary effort to withdraw the hand that
Wells had taken; but he held it firmly, while he added,

"I need not have told you this, but I would not deceive you--I have led
a wild sort of a life, and I used to laugh at it; but somehow, since I
have beheld the place of my boyhood, I would give back all the lawless
freedom of the seas, and all the money-making traffic of the land, to
be what I was when I left this spot--but this is all foolish talking;
what is past is gone and cannot be helped."

"Aye," interrupted Lucy, "but you can help what is to come."

"Yes, and so I will; but you know I have neither home nor kin. Now one
doesn't like to stand alone in the world like a deserted wreck in the
midst of the ocean--nobody caring a straw whether it sinks or swims. I
think I should not have done as I have done if I had thought any heart
would have grieved to hear I was not steering right."

Wells paused a moment, and then added--

"I have seen blue eyes and black eyes--fair skins--and dark skins, but
I never saw a she of them I cared to look upon the second time; but I
couldn't have sheered off this night without a parting look at you,
if the whole hue and cry of Winchcombe had stood to meet me. You've
never been to sea, Lucy, and so you cannot tell how it cheers a man to
think of the port his vessel is steering to--to look across the heaving
billows and to see, even in his fancy, the snug harbour where he is,
at length, to cast his anchor. Now, maiden," continued Wells, pressing
within his own hard palms the little hand he held, "now tell me, shall
not the wandering seaman look across the ocean to a sure anchorage.
May he not think of a haven where he may at last moor his tossed-about
galley?"

Lucy was little used to the figurative language of a sailor, yet she
easily interpreted his meaning; and, after much hesitation, a little
blushing, many promises of amendment--and many more protestations of
unchanging love, she plighted her troth, and the galleyman departed on
his journey.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: The court of Pie-powder (_pié-poudré_) was a court held
at fairs for the redress of all grievances happening there--so called,
because justice must be done before the dust goes off the plaintiff's
or defendant's feet. See statute 17 Edward IV. chap. 2., confirming
the common law usage of, and detailing some new regulations for, these
courts.]



CHAPTER II.


The next morning, any one ignorant of the interest thrown around
Holgrave, would have been much surprised at the extraordinary sensation
created in the barony of Sudley, by a report which went abroad of the
flight of the bondman. The sun had risen pretty high ere any suspicion
arose that Holgrave had broken his bonds. On the previous Saturday,
Calverley had ordered him to commence his next week's labor with
plowing a certain field; and about two hours before noon, the steward
took occasion to pass the field, in order to ascertain how Holgrave
was getting on with his task; but to his surprise, however, the ground
presented the same unbroken surface it had worn on the previous week;
and after some fruitless enquiries after the contumacious serf, he
at length repaired to his hut, which he found secured. The door was
then forced with little ceremony, and the hearth was found cold, and
the cottage deserted. The bed, the chest, the stools, &c. stood as
heretofore; and it was but the business of a moment for the steward to
glance around the apartment; to raise the lid of the chest; to spring
up into the loft; to descend, and leave the cottage, and close the door
as before.

Calverley had no sooner assured himself of the flight of the bondman,
than he dispatched a messenger to assemble the vassals for the purpose
of carrying the hue and cry in different directions; and he then
entered the castle to inform De Boteler of the event.

Isabella grew pale as she listened; for by some strange instinct she
had so connected Holgrave with the abduction of her child, that his
flight seemed now to have wrested from her her last hope.

"Send forth the hue and cry," said De Boteler. "Scour the country
till the knave be found, and promise a noble to him who discovers the
runaway."

"The vassals have been collected, my lord, and John Byles is now
sending them off by different routes."

"It is well," replied De Boteler; "but can you learn no certain tidings
of his course?" Calverley answered, that the only intelligence he had
yet obtained, was, that Holgrave had been seen at dusk on the previous
evening, standing at his door, talking to his wife's brother.

"What! the audacious monk who thrice entered this castle to insult its
lord?"

"Steward," said Isabella, turning quickly to Calverley, "see that the
vassals have obeyed your orders. Remember, the varlet _must_ be found!"
And, as Calverley withdrew, she said to De Boteler with a thrill of
apprehension, "Roland, do you not remember the words of the monk when
our first darling was lying a corpse? '_The blight has fallen on the
blossom--beware of the tree!_'" De Boteler's countenance changed while
she spoke, from anger to thoughtfulness.

"It is strange, Isabella, that suspicion never fell upon the monk! He
is more artful than the knave Holgrave; and out of revenge for the
church being defeated, might have----"

"No, no," interrupted the lady, "it was Holgrave who stole my child,
although the monk, perhaps, counselled the deed. At all events, he
knows of the bondman's flight."

"Yes, yes, there is little doubt of that: but how can we come at the
truth? Sudbury still retains his wrath against us, and would oppose
an arrest; and even could he be waylaid, and brought hither, he is
stubborn, and might refuse to answer."

"I will write to the abbot," said Isabella.

"Write to Simon Sudbury!"

"Yes, De Boteler," continued the lady, "I will write to him, and try to
soothe his humour. You think it a humiliation--I would humble myself
to the meanest serf that tills your land, could I learn the fate of my
child. The abbot may have power to draw from this monk what he would
conceal from us; I will at least make the experiment." The lady then,
though much against De Boteler's wish, penned an epistle to the abbot,
in which concession and apologies were made, and a strong invitation
conveyed, that he would honour Sudley castle by his presence. The
parchment was then folded, and dispatched to the abbot.

Calverley, after seeing the last, lingering, vassal fairly beyond the
bounds of Sudley, proceeded himself to search in the immediate vicinity
of the castle; but at the close of the day returned without having
obtained the slightest clue. The hue and cry was equally unsuccessful;
and those engaged in the pursuit also returned, cursing Holgrave and
the steward for giving them so much fruitless trouble. The idea now
prevalent at the castle was, that Holgrave had concealed himself
somewhere in the neighbourhood, till the vigilance of pursuit should
relax, when he would attempt to effect his escape. Fresh orders were,
therefore, issued, to search every house, free or bond, on the estate.
Calverley himself superintended the scrutiny; questioned, menaced,
nay, even entreated, but in vain; nobody could tell, except the smith,
because nobody knew; and _he_ would have preferred knocking Calverley
on the head, and abiding the consequences, to betraying a man whom he
had assisted thus effectually to elude detection.

The lady Isabella's application to the abbot had been attended with
as little effect. Sudbury had met with readiness the overtures of
reconciliation, and in accordance with her desire, had interrogated
the monk; but Father John evaded his questions with a firmness which
gave offence to his superior, and convinced De Boteler and his lady,
that he knew much more than he chose to reveal. Spies were set about
his path, but nothing was gained--nothing discovered to prove that any
communication existed between the fugitive, Holgrave, and the obdurate
ecclesiastic.

It was about a month subsequent to this, that one morning, as Turner
was making the anvil ring with the ponderous strokes of his hammer,
two retainers from the castle entered the shed, and delivered an order
from De Boteler for his immediate attendance. Wat laid the hammer on
the anvil, and, passing the back of his right hand across his forehead,
to clear away the large drops that stood there, looked with a kind of
smile at the men as he said,

"My lord wants me at the castle, does he?"

"Yes."

"But does my lord remember the last time I was there? He didn't want me
_then_--he told me he shouldn't be counselled by such as _I_. There is
no rent due, and I have done no wrong--and there can be no business for
me at the castle."

"But, Turner," said the men, "we must not take this answer to the
baron."

"Well, then," replied Wat, "tell him that Wat Turner says he has made
a vow never to enter the hall of Sudley castle again; and if you don't
take that answer, you get no other."

It was to no purpose that the retainers strove to persuade him to send
a reply more respectfully worded. The smith, without heeding them,
put the iron that had lost its heat into the embers, and ordered the
man at the bellows to blow on: and the messengers, after waiting a
few minutes, left the shed without obtaining another syllable. They,
however, shortly returned, and with so peremptory a mandate, that the
smith, not wishing, from prudential motives, to provoke hostility,
threw down his hammer: and first making himself, as he said, a little
decent, proceeded with the retainers to Sudley castle.

Turner thus far complied with the baron's order--but not a foot would
he step beyond the court-yard. He had vowed, he said, when Holgrave's
freedom had been denied him, never to cross the threshold of the hall
again; and without being absolved by a priest, he would not break his
vow, even at King Edward's bidding. De Boteler, accustomed to implicit
obedience, was much provoked at this obstinacy, and, as was natural,
his first orders were to use force; but it instantly occurred, that
no force could compel the smith to speak, and it would be to little
purpose to have the man before him, if he refused to answer his
interrogatories. The compulsory orders were therefore countermanded,
and Calverley was desired to try what persuasion might effect; but De
Boteler could not have chosen one less likely to influence the smith.
The instant that Calverley strove to induce a compliance, Turner might
be compared to a man who buttons up his pocket when some unprincipled
applicant commences his petition for a loan--for not only was his
resolution strengthened not to enter the hall, but he also determined
not to answer any question that might be put to him, even should De
Boteler condescend, like Edward to Llewellin, to come over to him. But
De Boteler was so incensed that the stubborn artizan should presume
to hold out even against solicitation, that, in all probability, he
would not have troubled himself farther with one from whom there
was so little satisfaction to be expected, had it not been for the
remonstrances of the lady, who was instigated by Calverley to have him
interrogated respecting Holgrave's flight. In compliance, therefore,
with her earnest desire, he condescended so far to humour the smith,
as to retire into the adjoining apartment; and as Turner's vow had not
extended beyond the hall, he had no longer a pretext for refusing to
attend.

The frown was still on the baron's brow when Turner was introduced; but
Isabella, veiling her displeasure under a smile of courtesy, said, with
gentle condescension,

"It would be well, my good friend, if all men observed their vows as
religiously as you do."

She paused. The smith bent his head in silence, and the lady proceeded--

"My lord has heard from the steward that you are an honest tenant,
and has directed that any alteration you may require in your tenement
shall be attended to, and that the field which lies at the back of your
dwelling be added to it without additional rent; and, as it gives me
pleasure to encourage the industrious, in any request you may make, my
interest shall not be wanting. And now, honest man," added she, with
even more suavity, "my lord has a question to ask--it is but a simple
inquiry, and I feel assured that a person of such strict probity will
not evade it--know you Stephen Holgrave's place of concealment?" As she
put the interrogatory, she looked earnestly in the smith's face.

Turner was prepared for direct and haughty questions from the baron;
but the covert and gentle manner of the lady rather disconcerted
him: however, though he paused with a momentary embarrassment, yet,
contrary to Isabella's expectation, he firmly, but with a kind of
native propriety, replied--

"Noble lady, I _cannot_ tell you where Stephen Holgrave is concealed."

"It is false, knave!" said De Boteler, who had listened with impatience
to the persuasive address of his lady--"it is false! We are positively
informed that you aided and abetted the flight of this bondman, and
that you alone can give tidings of him."

It was in vain that the baroness cast on him a glance that said he had
adopted a wrong course--it was in vain that his own better judgment
whispered, that he ought to leave the management of the affair in the
hands of her who could smile and sooth, when she had an object to
attain, without the least violence to her feelings: his anger was set
in motion, and it would have required an influence much stronger than
the Lady Isabella's to have calmed its ebullition. Although De Boteler
spoke so rudely, yet Turner was pleased that it was _he_ whom he had
now to contend with; and, looking doggedly at the angry baron, he said,

"My Lord De Boteler, boy or man, Wat Turner was never a knave, and--"

"My good man," said the lady, preventing the interruption she saw De
Boteler was about to make--"my good man, my lord was informed that you
were privy to the bondman's flight; and if you were so far (as you
considered) his friend, I commend your prudent reserve--but I pledge my
word that no harm is intended him: and if he clears his conduct to my
lord's satisfaction, his condition may be better than it has ever yet
been----"

"Isabella, make no promises," interrupted De Boteler--"parley not
with such as he." And, striving to calm himself so as to speak
dispassionately, he added, turning to the smith, "Walter Turner, you
are acquainted with the spot that shelters Stephen Holgrave, and I
insist that you instantly reveal it."

"And think you, my lord," said Turner, firmly, "that if Stephen
Holgrave had told me of his hiding-place, Wat Turner would be the man
to bring him back to his bondage? No, no! I never did any thing yet to
be ashamed of."

"Do you know, blacksmith," interrupted the baron, still endeavouring
to appear unruffled, "that you are not talking to one of your own
class, but to one who has the will--aye, and the power--to compel a
satisfactory reply? And I insist," he added, raising his voice, "that
you tell me where the bondman abides!"

Isabella saw, by the undaunted look with which the smith regarded De
Boteler, that no good would result from this interview; and as she
could not, with propriety, interfere any further, she arose, and left
the apartment.

"Do you hear me, varlet?" asked De Boteler, in a furious tone, as the
smith delayed an answer.

"Why, my lord," answered Turner, with composure, "I told you before
that if I knew where Holgrave was, I would not tell."

"Then you admit knowing where he is hidden?"

"It matters little, my lord, whether I do or not," replied the smith,
in something of a sullen tone; "whatever I know, I shall keep to
myself."

"Say you so, knave?" returned the enraged baron; and then, turning to
an attendant, he ordered that a few retainers should instantly attend.

During the moments that elapsed between the order and the appearance of
the men, De Boteler threw himself back in his chair, and was apparently
engaged in counting the number of studs in his glittering sword-hilt;
and the smith (who, although he felt himself a freeman, yet, from a
natural principle of deference, did not consider he was at liberty to
depart until the baron had given him an intimation to that effect,)
stood, with something of an embarrassed air, awaiting the permission,
and the idea every instant crossing his mind whether this summoning of
the retainers could have any reference to him. But his suspense was
not of long duration--the retainers entered, and De Boteler, raising
himself in his chair, said, pointing to Turner,

"Bear that man to the tumbrel--an hour or two there may teach him
better manners!"

"Bear _me_ to the tumbrel! ha, ha, ha," exclaimed the smith, with that
indescribable kind of laugh, combining derision and defiance.

The retainers approached to execute the order. Turner glanced hastily
around, but no weapon, or any portable article that might serve the
purpose of one, was at hand: he, therefore, had only to step back a few
paces, and to place himself in the best attitude of resistance he could.

"By saint Nicholas!" said he, pushing back the sleeves of his jerkin,
and extending his long sinewy arms, "the first man of ye that lays a
finger on Wat Turner, had better have shrieved himself; for there is
that in this hand (clenching his fist in the face of the man who was
nearest, and speaking through his set teeth)--there is that in this
hand will make ye remember!"

The men paused;--it could scarcely have been through fear, when four or
five were opposed to one, even though that one looked at this moment
rather formidable; but probably they waited for further orders, before
making the apartment a scene of contention, and, perhaps, of mortal
strife.

"Aye," resumed Wat, as he observed the hesitation of the retainers;
"stand back, and I'll warrant ye I shall go quicker than the whole
tribe of ye could drag me. This is no place for me, where, if a man
doesn't tell what's in his mind, the halloo is given to the pack to put
him in the--tumbrel! ha, ha, ha!" Taking advantage of their indecision,
he had walked on to the door of the apartment while speaking, and his
bitter derisive laugh was heard as he crossed the threshold.

"Follow him!" said De Boteler, in a voice that was reverberated
from the high-carved roof, "and place him instantly in the tumbrel,
if the whole force of the castle should be employed." But it was
easier, however, to command than to enforce; the whole strength of
the castle could not attack a single individual; and Wat, on leaving
the apartment, had rushed through the doorway that separated the two
court-yards, and, seizing a large splinter of wood that lay on the
ground, now stood with his back against the wall of the stables.

Those to whom the command was addressed now encompassed the smith,
who, with astonishing dexterity, warded off the blows that were aimed
at his hands and arms to compel him to relinquish the stave. His hands
were bleeding, and his arms swollen; but his heart was like the roused
lion's, and, if unable to conquer his opponents (for the exertion of
parrying prevented him from dealing blows), he would undoubtedly have
at least tired their mettle, had not a stable boy, who saw the fray
from a window above, mischievously flung down a quantity of chaff on
his head. In the surprise and annoyance this created, the weapon was
wrested from his relaxed grasp, and the retainers fastened on him like
wolves. In the manual struggle which now succeeded, Turner was dragged
towards the tumbrel; but, as it met his eyes, he seemed suddenly
endowed with more than human strength. The retainers fell around him,
either from blows or kicks, and blood streamed copiously. At length De
Boteler (who would not permit steel to be used against an unarmed man),
ashamed that so unequal a conflict should so long continue, ordered
that, instead of the tumbrel, Turner should be conveyed to the keep.
This, after much resistance, was effected, and a prison-door was, for
the first time, locked on the intrepid smith.

The abbot of Winchcombe had now become a frequent guest at Sudley.
The feelings enkindled by the detention of Edith, and the defiance
of De Boteler had passed away and were forgotten. Expiatory presents
had been made to the abbey, and a promise given that a gift of land
should be added to its already ample endowments. Sudbury, as we have
already related, had questioned the monk respecting Holgrave and the
child, and, from the evasive replies returned, was strongly inclined
to favour the opinion of Isabella, who now, that the application to
the smith had failed, became more urgent that some compulsory measure
should exact an unequivocal avowal from father John. The wishes of one
so powerfully connected as the wife of the influential De Boteler,
were, no doubt, of some weight with the abbot; but these certainly
would not have influenced him so far as to induce him to adopt a
conduct incompatible with the dignity of his character, had not father
John been known of late to express strange opinions; and the monk,
though poor and friendless, was one of those whose opinions somehow
(it can scarcely be said why) appeared of consequence. It was true
that, although but an illiterate bondman when he gained admission
to the cloister, he was now, if not entirely, the most learned,
undoubtedly the most talented and industrious within its walls: no monk
transcribed so much, none was more devout, more strict in discipline,
more attentive to the numerous and fatiguing duties of his situation
as a secular monk in administering the sacraments, attending the
sick, &c. But, though thus exemplary, strange things were said of
him. He had been heard to declare, for instance, that villeinage was
oppressive, and in every sense unjust; and that every villein was
justified, whenever an opportunity offered, in escaping from bondage.
These opinions, although not sufficiently heinous to have subjected
him to ecclesiastical punishment, were yet considered sinful;--the
first as uncharitable, and the second as subversive of good order: and
they induced Sudbury to act with more rigour than he would have been
inclined to adopt had there been only the vague suspicions of the lady
to urge his interference. Father John, therefore, was again questioned,
and commanded, by his vow of obedience, to disclose the retreat of
Holgrave, and reveal all he knew respecting the lost child: but threats
availed not. In the midst of these adjurations, the abbot received a
paper from a messenger, who burst breathless into the room, with the
intelligence that the Lady Isabella had fallen down in a swoon in her
own chamber.

While perusing this document, and more especially an enclosure it
contained, he looked first amazed and then enraged, casting ever and
anon a look of much meaning upon the monk, who stood cold and calm by
his side.

"Read!" thundered the abbot suddenly, as, after a moment's hesitation,
he thrust the parchment into the monk's hand. "This paper was found on
the dressing-table of the baroness of Sudley!"

Father John read aloud as follows:--

"Thy child is not dead, but sleepeth. At thy bidding, he shall awaken,
and make the desolate heart rejoice. Let Roland de Boteler, Baron of
Sudley, swear, at the altar of Saint Peter's, that, on the day on which
his lost child shall be restored, he will release for ever those whom,
under the law of villeinage, he can claim as his property. Let him
swear this, and, as the Lord liveth, the child shall be restored!"

"Now, what think you of this?" demanded the abbot, when he had finished.

"The sentiments," replied Father John, calmly, "resemble, in part,
those that I have publicly avowed."

"And this is all!--you refuse explanation! you do not even deny the
authorship! Are you not aware, that he who could obtain access to the
chamber now must necessarily be considered the robber of the child?"

"And what is that to me?" coldly demanded the monk.

"Hence, sir! away, unworthy son of the church! away for the present--we
shall soon find a means of bending your stubborn heart!"

Father John's situation from this period became every day more irksome.
He was forbidden to approach the sacraments, and strictly interdicted
from administering them. His brethren passed without noticing him, and
he was not permitted to eat at the board common to all. A small table
was set apart on which his bowl and platter stood, and hints were given
that if his obstinacy continued, he would, ere long, be confined to his
cell.

It was reported that the Lady Isabella had been in a state of great
excitement from the moment of perusing the parchment--that she had
urged De Boteler to make the required vow, alleging that if the
contract was not fulfilled, the engagement would, of course, be
void--and, it was added, that De Boteler himself, had at first appeared
disposed to comply; but, on further consideration, had resolved to wait
till something further should transpire.

There lived, at this time, at the distance of nearly a mile beyond the
town, a man named Giles Gray; and about ten years previous to the time
of which we write, there were few round Winchcombe of whom it might
with more reason be imagined that his days would pass amidst peace
and plenty. Possessed of a farm, which, if not the most extensive in
the parish, was well cultivated and fruitful, and sufficiently ample
to place him among the class of respectable yeoman; with a little
gentle wife, two fine rosy children, and an exuberance of animal
spirits, he seemed placed above the chances of fortune. But his wife
fell into a consumptive illness, which, rendering her incapable of
attending to the domestic affairs, her sister, a pretty, active,
young woman, kindly left her home, at Campden, to take charge of the
family. In less than a twelve-month the wife died, and Jane, the
sister, still continued to superintend, and much was she praised for
her management and for the attention she paid the little orphans.
However, many months had not elapsed, ere strange whisperings went
through the neighbourhood;--groups might be seen conversing earnestly
together;--and, if it chanced that Gray's sister-in-law passed, every
eye was turned up, and every head significantly shook, and Gray was at
length compelled, in vindication of Jane, to produce a certificate,
setting forth that they were married at St. Crypt's Church, in the city
of Gloucester, about six months previously.

But it would have been better for Giles to have left his wife to
the mercy of uncharitable whisperers than have adopted this mode of
justification. The first intimation of his indiscretion was signified
by an order from the parish priest instantly to separate, and by
public penance to merit absolution from the church. A month was allowed
them. The four weeks elapsed, and the incorrigible pair were still
living beneath the same roof; and, on the fifth Sunday, at St. Peter's,
the parish church of Winchcombe, the congregation were assembled; the
tapers lighted, and the missal opened. Some words were then said,
acquainting the people with the crime of Giles and Jane, and cautioning
them against holding any communication with such obdurate sinners. The
bell was next rung--the book closed--the tapers were extinguished, and
the incestuous pair pronounced accursed of God and man. This ceremony
was performed thrice, and when the unfortunate Jane was seized with the
pangs of child-birth, Gray, after having the doors of fifty houses shut
in his face, as he implored assistance for his wife, was compelled to
go to Campden, a distance of thirteen miles, to try what the force of
nature might effect. There his application was not rejected; the aged
mother, although her heart was breaking at the lost and degraded state
of her youngest child, yet consented to accompany Gray; and disguising
herself, that none might recognize her, hastened to Winchcombe.

Jane had been delivered of a dead child about two hours previous to the
arrival of her mother, and lay, trembling and exhausted, in a January
evening, without light or fire. A fever, with violent periodical
shiverings, was the consequence. She slowly recovered; but the two
little children, fondling over their sick mother, (as they called the
unfortunate woman), caught the fever, and in a few days, probably
through want of care, expired.

Things had been getting worse and worse ever since. No labourer would
work for them--no neighbour would purchase from, or sell them, any
necessaries, and all the produce of Gray's individual industry was
carried to Gloucester; for at the populous market of that city, he sold
and bought without it being known that the ban of excommunication cut
him off from all social intercourse with his kind.

It would have been still worse if Gray had rented his farm of one
whose religious principles were more defined than De Boteler's; but
even he, though he would not drive them from the soil, refused to take
recompense for the small portion of land that the man himself could
attend to, and even this portion, small as it was, presented little
of the healthy and cultivated appearance that his broad fields had
formerly exhibited. Sickness often came; and there was the enervating
consciousness of being a shunned and solitary man. Then, too, there
were domestic bitterness and mutual upbraidings and reproaches; and
often did the once industrious and light-hearted Giles, instead of
saving his hay or cutting down his slender crop, lie the whole day
beneath the shadow of a tree, brooding in gloomy discontent over the
dark prospect before him.

Father John, who, for obvious reasons, had not been forbidden to leave
the abbey, was, one evening, in the course of a solitary walk, accosted
by the wife of this man.

"Holy Father," said she, sinking on her knees before him, and raising
up a countenance which exhibited the traces of deep, mental suffering:
"Holy Father, hear me? This entire day, have I been watching for
you.--Oh, do not leave me!" she continued in agony, as the monk,
disengaging his habit from her grasp, with a shudder of disgust would
have hurried on. "Oh! do not leave me?" she repeated, clinging to his
dress. "Have I not heard, when it was permitted me to enter the house
of prayer, that the Blessed Lord had suffered a sinful woman to kneel
at his feet and wash them with her tears! Alas! she could not be as
sinful as I, but"--she bent down her face upon her hands--

"Unhappy woman!" said the monk, in a tone that seemed to encourage her
to proceed--"what would you of me?"

"Oh, father!" said she, raising up her eyes, that were filled with
tears; "it is not for myself--it is for _him_."

Again the monk looked stern, and strove to loosen her hold, but
she held with too firm a grasp to be shaken off, and the trembling
diffidence of her speech changed into the eager and fervent
supplication of one who would not be denied.

"Oh, father! he is dying--the death-sweats are upon him! and can I, who
brought him into sin, see him die under the curse of God? Oh, mercy,
holy father! have pity upon him!--his soul is repentant--indeed it is!
We have vowed, if he should recover, to part for ever--oh, come to him!"

"I dare not--let me go! Is he not excommunicated? has he not lived on
in sin? Let me go."

"Never! never!" replied the woman, with a convulsive scream. "No one
but you dare I ask--and I will not leave my hold, unless you force me!
You know not what is in the heart: even in the last hour there may
be--there is mercy. Let him not die with the curse upon him--and, by
all your hopes in this life, and by the blessedness that will gladden
you hereafter, do not deny the last hope of the wretched!" The woman
again bent down her head, as if exhausted by the intensity of her
feelings.

Father John gazed upon her with a look of compassion; and, though aware
of the danger he should incur, he said, after a short struggle:

"I will go. Can we measure the mercy of the Lord?"

"Will you?" said the rejoiced creature, starting on her feet, clasping
her hands, and raising her eyes to heaven--"may the Lord grant the
prayer that you pray!"

It so happened, that no one passed during this interview; and, as the
monk followed the rapid steps of the woman, he often looked anxiously
around, hoping he might not be observed.

As they entered the dwelling, a child came running forward to meet
its mother: Father John shrunk from the little one, as if its touch
would have been pollution, and approached the sick man. His dim eyes
brightened as they fell upon the monk, and he strove to rise in his
bed, but sank back on the pillow.

"Do not disturb yourself," said the father, in a soothing tone; and,
as the wretched wife left the room, he prepared himself to listen to
the dark catalogue of long-growing crime. Father John exhorted and
encouraged, and with all the fervour of his soul joined the dying man's
prayer for mercy. It seemed as if the spirit had lingered for the
parting consolations of religion; for scarcely were the last prayers
said, ere a slight tremor was perceptible through the whole frame; the
eyes fixed, the jaw fell, and the soul went forth to judgment.

Father John, rejoicing that he had listened to the woman's prayer,
knelt a few minutes in earnest supplication for the departed, and then
rose; but ere he left the cottage, he gently informed the unfortunate
Jane of the event.

It would be a vain task to attempt a description of what followed--of
the agony with which she threw herself by the bed, and kissed the
cold hand and cold cheek, and upbraided herself as the cause of his
sins, and sorrows, and early death; of the desolation that filled her
heart as she looked on the dead, and felt that there was no one now,
except the little child, with whom she dare claim affinity; of the
feeling with which, on the following evening, assisted by a singularly
charitable neighbour, she deposited the body of him she had loved, in
an unhallowed grave, at the bottom of the garden, and went forth in
the darkness of that night, with the child in her arms, to seek, as a
wandering mendicant, the charity of strangers.

It is said, that charity covers a multitude of sins; but how often does
an uncharitable spirit convert that into sin which may in reality be
an act of benevolence; or, at worst, nothing more than the weakness of
humanity? Father John's attention to the dying man was thus distorted.
He was unfortunately perceived parleying with the woman, and followed
to Gray's cottage, by a person employed to watch his motions. The
information was instantly conveyed to Calverley; and as Father John
left the cottage, he started at beholding two officers from the abbey,
standing at a sufficient distance to avoid the contamination of the
dwelling, but near enough to prevent the egress of any one without
their observation. Concealment was impossible; so he stepped boldly
forward, and with the brothers one on each side, proceeded in silence
to the abbey, where he was instantly conducted to his cell, and the
door closed and bolted upon him.

His heart swelled for an instant as the brothers retired; but the
indignant flash presently passed from his eyes, and he rejoiced that
no selfish consideration had prevented him from, as far as in him lay,
saving the guilty soul of the deceased.

The next morning the monk was summoned before the abbot; and with the
same calm and dignified demeanor that generally characterized him, he
obeyed the summons. The two brethren who had conducted him from Gray's
cottage, stood at the table, and the abbot proceeded to say, that upon
the oath of a respectable witness, he had been observed conversing with
an excommunicated woman, and accompanying her to her house, and that
those two brethren (pointing to the officers) were ready to avow they
had beheld him leave it. "Now," continued Sudbury, "what have you to
say? Did you converse with the woman?"

"My lord," replied the monk, "I listened to her earnest prayers."

"Did you accompany her home?"

"I did, my lord."

"For what purpose?"

"To calm the last moments of a sinner."

"Did you not know that his crime had shut him out from the aid of
religion?"

"Yes, my lord; but I was assured, that if he survived, their sinful
intercourse would cease, and that by public penance they would strive
to obtain forgiveness."

"Have you never heard of the fallacy of death-bed promises?" The monk
was silent.

"Did you administer the sacrament of penance to the incestuous wretch?"

"I did, my lord," returned the monk firmly.

"A most obedient son of the church, truly," said the abbot (the
calmness with which he had before spoken, changing into a quicker and
harsher tone). "You have read that obedience is better than sacrifice;
and yet, though suspended from the exercise of the priestly functions,
you have presumed of your own will to absolve a sinner, who, setting
at nought the voice of the church, has lived in sin--a scandal to his
neighbours, and a dreadful example of hardness of heart."

"My lord, I was unwilling that a soul should be lost----"

"Rebellious son! Do you dare to justify your conduct? But this comes
of admitting base blood to the privileges of the gentle. What better
could be expected of a man who held your principles? Now hear me! You
have sinned against the authority of the holy church, and violated your
vow of obedience. You have also exhibited a most contumacious spirit
in refusing to recant those pernicious opinions you professed, and
to answer the questions I before put to you. Retire now to your cell,
and there remain solitary for eight days, that grace may have power to
operate on your soul; and then, if you still remain incorrigible, you
shall be degraded from your order. Retire," he added, waving his hand,
and pointing to the officers to lead him away.

Father John raised his eyes as Sudbury repeated the threat of
degradation. He had expected censure; but he was not prepared for this
extremity of punishment; and the wounded feelings of a high spirit
spoke in the silent glance he cast upon the abbot, as he turned proudly
away, and followed his conductors to the cell.

In eight days he was again brought before Sudbury; but solitude had
effected no change in his sentiments. Three days more were granted, and
on the fourth, all the members of the community were assembled, and the
monk was led from his cell to the chapel. There, in the presence of
the brethren, he was once more asked whether he would publicly confess
his fault in administering a sacrament to an excommunicated man, and
profess his desire to perform public penance for the scandal he had
given; and when he made no reply, he was asked if he would disclose the
place of concealment of the bondman, Holgrave. To this, also, no reply
was given; and finally he was promised, that if he knew aught of the
stolen child of the Lord de Boteler, and would unreservedly declare
all he knew--if he had not actually assisted in the abduction--all
his past errors should be forgiven, in consideration of this act of
justice. But Father John knew, that although by a disclosure he might
avert his own fate, yet he would assuredly draw down inevitable ruin
on Holgrave, and that the hopes he had himself cherished--for the
reader cannot be ignorant that it was he who was the author of the
mysterious document--would utterly fall to the ground; and with that
noble-mindedness, that would rather sacrifice self than betray the
confidence of another, he still refused to answer.

Sudbury scarcely expected such firmness; and there was a minute or two
of breathless excitation and profound silence through the chapel, as
the abbot ordered two brothers to approach the obdurate monk, and strip
off the habit he had rendered himself unworthy longer to wear.

Father John's lips grew pale and quivered; and there was a slight
tremor perceptible through his whole frame, as the monks reluctantly
proceeded to obey the command of their superior. His eyes were fixed
upon the ground; he dared not raise them, for the chequers of the
pavement seemed indistinct and trembling; and yet for twelve days he
had been preparing himself to meet this catastrophe with firmness.
The outer garments were removed; their place was supplied by a coarse
woollen jerkin and cloak, and then the monk, for a moment resuming the
energy that was more natural to his character than the subdued spirit
he had as yet evinced, stood forth from the brothers who had been the
unwilling instruments in the act of degradation, and fixing his eyes
upon the abbot, who stood upon the topmost step of the altar, with his
face turned towards the brotherhood, said in a tone that filled the
whole chapel--"My lord abbot, I shall appeal against this severity.
It is not because I administered a sacrament to a sinner that I am
thus degraded--it is because the Lord de Boteler desires to humble
me--because he foolishly imagines, that a spirit conscious of its own
strength would bend beneath injustice and oppression, that I am thus
dealt with. But remember, my lord, that 'with what measure you mete
to others, the same shall be meted to you again.'" So saying, without
waiting for the ceremony of being driven from the gates, he turned, and
with a quick step left the abbey.

But here his firmness again forsook him;--he had stepped from his
home--from the quiet seclusion that was endeared to him by years of
residence and holy recollections, into a strange world, to struggle and
contend--to sin, and be sinned against; and he leaned against the abbey
wall with such a feeling of desolation as a child may be supposed to
feel, as he bends over the grave of his last surviving parent. A few
bitter drops of wounded pride, and deep regret, forced their way down
his cheeks, and it was not until he became conscious that a group of
persons of different ages and sexes were silently and sympathizingly
gazing upon him, that it occurred to him he ought to remove to a less
conspicuous situation.



CHAPTER III.


De Boteler and his lady, had left Sudley to be present at some
festival in London, the day previous to that on which father John was
degraded; but, from the firmness he had hitherto shown, the result was
anticipated, and Calverley had received orders to arrest the monk on
his being dismissed the abbey, and to confine him in the castle, until
the baron's return.

The degraded priest proceeded slowly amidst the sympathizing crowd
that attended his steps. Several times he stopped, with the intention
of requesting the people to return home and leave him to pursue his
journey as he might, but he could not collect that firmness of demeanor
which had been wont to distinguish him; and ashamed further to betray
his weakness, he each time passed on without uttering a word. They had
cleared the town, and were crossing the bridge on the left, over the
Isborn, when Calverley, and about half a dozen retainers well mounted,
darted from the bridge into the high road. Four of the men, springing
from their horses, surrounded the monk and were about placing him on
the back of one of the steeds, when the faculties, which had been for
the moment chained by astonishment and indignation, burst forth with
unexpected energy, and, with a form expanded to its full height, and an
eye flashing fire, he shook off their rude grasp, and stepping back,
demanded by what authority he was thus molested.

"By the authority of the Baron de Boteler," replied Calverley, as the
monk fixed his eyes sternly upon him.

"It is false!" he replied, "no human law have I violated, and to no
man's capricious tyranny will I submit."

"It becomes the bondman to speak thus of his lord," said Calverley with
a sneer.

"I am not a bondman--nor is the Baron de Boteler my lord," said father
John, in a deep, collected voice.

"O, I crave your pardon, good father," returned Calverley smiling; "I
mistook you for one John Ball, the son of a bondman of this barony."

"My name is John Ball, and I have been the son of a bondman, insulting
craven," replied the father, indignantly;--"but I owe the Baron de
Boteler no allegiance--you well know that the priest can be servant to
none save he who created the bond and the free."

"And this is the habit of some new order, that is to be honored by
being adopted by the unpriestly son of a bondman!" said Calverley,
pointing, in derision, at the coarse woollen dress of the monk.
Something burst from the lips of the latter, but it was lost in
Calverley's sudden command to seize him. The men again approached, but
the first who caught the monk's arm fell to the ground, stunned and
bleeding.

Another succeeded, and met the same fate--then another, and
another;--but at length, overpowered by numbers, the gallant priest was
bound, and placed before one of the retainers on horseback.

There was now a simultaneous rush made to the bridge by the crowd, who
stood watching the horsemen till they entered the castle; when they
formed into groups, wondering at what they had just beheld--at what
might be the fate of the monk, and at their own supineness in suffering
half-a-dozen men, even though armed and mounted, to carry him off
without a blow.

That evening, Wat Turner, who had been liberated from the keep, after
a short confinement, was leaning on his folded arms, which rested
for support on the sill of the aperture in his shed, that served the
purpose of a window. The forge-fire had died away; the servitor and the
journeyman had been dismissed; but Wat still lingered, as if he could
there indulge his reflections more freely than in his own house. His
eyes were bent on the ground, and so far was he lost in some waking
dream, that, until his name was repeated in rather a loud tone, he was
not conscious of any one's approach.

"Ah, Tom Merritt!" said the smith, raising his head and recognizing,
in the dusk, a stout, active, young man, a mason, who resided at
Winchcombe.

"Have you heard the news, Wat?" asked the mason.

"No--I have enough to think of, without troubling my head about news!"

"Aye, aye, true--but didn't you hear of father John?"

"Yes, I heard they dealt badly enough with him, because he would not
betray poor Stephen--and for giving the sacrament to that unfortunate
scape-grace. They told me he was to be turned from the abbey to-day, so
I sent Dick with a few groats to help him on a little--but I don't know
yet, whether the lad is come back, for I have not seen him."

"O, he is among the group that stands looking at the castle walls, I
dare say," said Merritt. "Did you not hear he was thrown into prison?"

"What! my Dick," asked the smith, eagerly, starting up from his posture
at the window, and his listless countenance suddenly becoming animated.

"No, no, not the boy," replied Merritt, rather impatiently.

"Oh," said the smith, again sinking upon the window frame; and then, as
if perfectly comprehending what had been said, he added, as a bitter
smile passed across his lips, "in prison did you say? What had he done
that he should be caged? Refused to say where Stephen is hid?"

"May be so; but I can only tell you this--that when the poor monk was
turned out of the abbey, Calverley seized upon him like a dog, or a
thief."

"Calverley, the fiend!" interrupted the smith, fiercely. "If I could
only give that beggar's vagabond a sample of what this hand could do,
I think I should take a good night's rest--and that's what I have not
done since the night they gave _me_ a lodging in the castle dungeon;
and you say that Calverley has put him in prison? Now, I tell you what,
Tom Merritt," continued Turner, "if there be a drop of man's blood in
your body, they shan't keep him there."

"Will you help?" asked the young mason, eagerly.

"Will I help, man! Aye, that I will, with a good stomach--Why, if they
shut up a dog that I cared for within those four stone walls, I would
help him out!--But that monk is a holy man--and they think to frighten
him as they thought to frighten me. Tom," added Turner, leaning through
the aperture, and laying his hand upon the young man's shoulder, "I
have never held up my head like a man since that night. To be set upon
like a fox! To be dragged and hauled, and thrown into a prison--Tom!
(grasping the arm of the other with a force that made him shrink) when
I think of this in the day when I am at work, I throw down the hammer,
for my blood boils, and I could not strike a sure blow for hours after,
if a king's ransom was offered me. But, by St. Nicholas! 'tis little
work that Wat Turner has done ever since--all has gone wrong--but I
shall soon leave the parish altogether--and then, may be, things will
go on better. For, here, if a man looks at me, it seems as if he would
say, 'Turner, you have been in jail!' Tom Merritt, never boast or brag
of anything!"

"Indeed, master Turner, I have as little as any man to brag of;
for--if--it hadn't been for the watching and the advice of poor father
John, my old mother might have been this day hanging her head with
shame, instead of looking up as bold as any of them, and saying, 'my
son,' or 'my Tom,' as well as the best."

"That's all very well; but, Tom, as I just said, never boast. I used to
brag that there never was a woman dishonest, nor a man a rogue, in my
family; and that none of the name of Turner ever had a key turned upon
them. And you see what it's come to."

"Aye, aye, master Turner," replied Merritt (impatient of a long speech,
yet knowing the smith's irascible temper too well to interrupt him,)
"I don't know what will come next! Here were you, who paid scot and
lot, and cared for no one--see how you were treated! And now here is
the holy father (with whom, though he got into disgrace at the Abbey,
one would have thought, for the sake of their own souls, they wouldn't
meddle,) dragged off like a common thief; and if we do not go to the
rescue, the saints preserve us! who can tell if he will ever come out
again? for there is none but poor Stephen akin to him."

"Enough! Tom Merritt, this is no place for an honest man. I was to have
gone in a few days, but when this night's job is done, I shall just
pack up all I can get together into a cart, and let the black fiend,
or his imp, Calverley, take the rest. Aye! with my wife, the boy, and
Will, I shall be out of Gloucester before sun-rise--and the sooner the
better. But now let us talk of the rescue. How many honest hands can
you get among the town's folk?"

"Why," replied Merritt, "every mother's soul who could grasp an axe;
but I have seen a dozen lads who have sworn to free father John, or
lose their lives. And knowing that you would give a helping hand, I
told them so, though without your leave. We have provided paint for our
faces. The retainers in the castle are few; and while myself and the
men keep guard over them, you, as a smith, know best how to manage the
lock of the keep."

"Give me your hand, for a brave fellow," answered Turner, grasping
cordially the conceded member. "There are yet a few bold spirits in
this manor. I shall seek them, and I'll warrant they will not leave Wat
Turner in the lurch for this bout at least. And as for the lock, the
foul fiend himself could not scheme or forge a spring that could keep
me out for five minutes. Have your friends together in the field at the
back of the town. The nights are dark now; and when I hear the clock
strike eight, I shall be with you with all the hands I can gather."

Merritt presently departed; and at eight the two confederates again
met. Soon a compact and resolute body of more than twenty men slowly
and cautiously proceeded to the castle, and, in double file, ensconced
themselves close to the walls, and so contiguous to the gate of usual
egress as to be ready to rush in at the first opening. They had stood
thus, scarcely drawing breath, for about half an hour; and Merritt,
who, with the smith, was at the head of the little band, was about to
propose that they should attempt to force an entrance, when the gate
opened, and John Byles, who had been engaged upon some business with
Calverley, unsuspectingly issued forth.

The smith caught him in his iron grasp ere he closed the gate, and,
placing his broad hand over his mouth, held him till a bandage could be
properly fastened; then flinging him on the ground, secured him hand
and foot, bound him to a tree at a few steps distant, and, with the two
men who had assisted, rushed after Merritt and the others, who were by
this time in the court-yard.

No sound escaped them, and it was only the quick footsteps on the
pavement that attracted attention. But ere the alarm was given, the
intruders had reached the keep. The smith, with astonishing celerity,
picked the huge lock of the lower dungeon, in which, by virtue of
former experience, he imagined the father was confined; and beheld, by
a torch, which they had now lighted, what fired even the most sluggish
soul among them. The monk lay stretched on the ground, nearly divested
of covering, with his arms and legs drawn by cords attached to iron
rings in the four corners of the cell, and with iron weights pressing
upon his chest.

"By St. Nicholas!" said the smith, as he stooped to remove the
pressure, while the tears started to his eyes, "this is too bad. 'Tis
enough to make a heathen sick to see a christian man served in this
manner. Here, father John, (assisting him to rise) take my jerkin, and
wrap this about you (snatching a cloak from the shoulders of one of the
men). And now, good father, tell me who did this?"

But the exhausting punishment he had endured for above four hours,
together with the cold that penetrated his whole frame, from lying so
long exposed on the damp earth, so much impeded his speech, that he
could not utter an intelligible word.

"And thus they could serve the Lord's anointed!" said Turner,
compassionately, as he looked on the livid and swollen face and
trembling limbs of him, whom he had ever, till now, seen with the
beauty of holiness giving dignity to his fine countenance, and with
the vigour of manhood exhibited in every motion of his muscular form.
"Hark!" added the smith, starting--"there is a scuffle outside! Tom
Merritt will have enough of them." For an instant he paused, and then,
snatching up one of the cords that had tied the monk, he severed it
with his axe from the ring in the wall, and passing one end round the
monk's arm, fastened the other round his own waist. "Now you will
have no trouble in holding by me--keep close. Here, father, could you
not hold this? it might keep off some scurvy knave," drawing a sharp
wood-knife from his belt, and placing it in the monk's tremulous hand.
Turner then ordering the few who were with him to cover the retreat,
to keep compact as they followed, and to strike at all within reach,
with a keen-edged battle-axe in his right hand, and a formidable club,
pointed with steel and firmly bound with iron, in his left, he hurried
from the dungeon.

Turner had not been above five minutes in releasing the monk; but,
when he came to the entrance of the keep, Merritt and the remainder of
the band were sharply engaged with the domestics and the few tenants
who kept guard about the castle. The smith pushed on with the monk;
passed Merritt and the others, who closed in his rear; and, with that
boldness, which often effects what more prudent courage would fail to
accomplish, rushed into the midst of the assailants, brandishing his
weapons, and shouting defiance at the top of his stentorian lungs.

"Stand aside, ye graceless carles! Shame to ye, cursed cravens, to
serve a christian priest like an infidel! Stand back, or, by St.
Nicholas! you will never die on your beds!" dealing sturdy blows as
he spoke, and pressing forward to a postern beside the principal gate
which was not many paces from the keep.

"'Tis the smith!--'tis Wat Turner," shouted a dozen voices.

"Aye, it is Wat Turner," swinging round his club, and levelling a
couple of those who were nearest; "and tell the doomed Calverley, if
ever Wat Turner sets eyes upon him, we shall not part so easily as I
now do from you!"

The weapons wielded by the powerful arm of the smith were not such as
those, who had little interest in the detention of the monk, would care
to encounter. The attacks of the castle people relaxed, the energy
of the rescuers increased; the smith, with the skill of a practised
workman, loosed the fastenings of the postern gate, and the band,
rushing through and forcibly closing it after them, father John was
again a free man.

"Now, lads, to your homes," cried Turner, as they hurried on, "every
man of ye. Go by different roads, and you will not be suspected.
There is not a man they can swear to but myself. Now, brave hearts,
farewell! We may not meet together again: but all the harm I wish ye
is, that Calverley and I may soon meet; and if ever he plagues free
man or bond among ye after that, say Wat Turner is a coward--Away! Tom
Merritt," said he, drawing the mason aside, "do you think of leaving
Winchcombe?--you know there are always busy tongues."

"Thank ye, master Turner, but I think I shall wait and see how matters
go."

"As you like Tom--only mind they don't coop you up. To my mind, there
is not a man in the parish safe;--but things will not always go on so.
Now, good father, we must be gone."

Merritt bent his knee to the monk, who pronounced a tremulous, but
fervent benediction, on the brave fellow, who, bidding a friendly
farewell to Turner, and being assured that father John should remain
under his protection as long as he desired, bounded, with the spring of
a deer, in the direction of his home.

On the fifteenth of July, 1377, about six months after father John was
liberated by the sturdy smith, the city of London was arrayed with a
costliness, and adorned throughout with a radiance in which it was
befitting it should appear on the day when the royal diadem was to be
placed on the brow of a young and blooming sovereign. Father John was
literally borne along in the current that streamed from the adjacent
villages to witness the reception of the young king as he passed over
the city-bridge from his palace at Sheen.

The day was favourable for the pageant, and the houses seemed to vie
with each other in the variety of their silken colours and tinselled
ornaments, glowing and glittering in the morning sun. At Cornhill,
indeed, the meretricious adornments of art were superseded for a brief
space by the simple beauty of nature, and the eye felt a momentary
relief in resting on the green grass, and the few shaded trees that
covered the open ground. But this green spot was succeeded by a dense
mass of dwellings covered with hangings of a richness suitable to the
reputed wealth of the city merchants; here the scene was animated in
the extreme,--the motions of the crowd became unsteady and irregular,
as they were actuated at once by eagerness to hurry on, and a desire
to linger among the rainbow diversity of hues around them, and the
glowing beauty which, arrayed with costly elegance, and smiling with
anticipated enjoyment, graced every open window.

"Alas! alas!" exclaimed a solitary wanderer among the multitude, as
he turned away sorrowfully from the gaudy display, "alas, for this
great city, which was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet,
and decked with gold and precious stones and pearl--for in one hour
will she be made desolate: and, instead of a stomacher, have only a
girding of sackcloth, and burning instead of beauty." But he had hardly
repeated these words, ere a full stream of music, swelling in the air,
overpowered the hum that arose from the multitude, and John Ball--for
it was the degraded priest who had spoken--imagining this to be a
prelude to the appearance of the young king, mounted upon a door-step,
and, from this slight elevation, and favoured by his stature, he
obtained a full view of the procession, which almost immediately passed.

First came the band of musicians, mounted on gaily caparisoned horses,
and clad in jacks of crimson-damasked satin, laced round with gold;
the arms of the city richly emblazoned on the back and front, and the
white velvet sleeves of their jerkins so closely laced and interlaced
with gold, as almost to conceal the material on which it was wrought.
Then two heralds in white-damasked velvet tabards, worked with gold in
a variety of fanciful patterns, and with the city arms also emblazoned
on the back. Then the sword-bearer of the chief magistrate, in a
suit of polished scale armour, and on a steed accoutred in all the
panoply of war. Then the Lord Mayor himself, in a flowing mantle of
rich crimson velvet trimmed with ermine, and with a collar of fine
gold adorned with gems, and mounted on a stately horse, whose velvet
housing, fringed with gold, almost touched the ground. Two pages
suitably attired walked on either side. Next appeared the two sheriffs
in their scarlet mantles and gold chains. Then rode the four-and-twenty
aldermen, two abreast, in loose gowns or robes of damasked-velvet or
brocaded silk; and, finally, the members of the common-council closed
the train.

"And is this the apparel and the bravery of merchants?" said the
wandering monk within himself, as the splendid cavalcade passed by;
"surely the pomp of royalty cannot surpass this." And John Ball did not
draw a wrong conclusion--for when, in about half an hour, the citizens
repassed, escorting their youthful sovereign, although there certainly
was more cost and elegance, there was less of gorgeous display in the
royal than in the civic train.

Richard, then a well-grown boy of eleven, with a countenance the early
bloom of which was brightened by an eye of singular intelligence, sat
with the ease of a practised rider on a beautiful white palfrey. A cap
of purple velvet, trimmed with vair, shaded his fair, open forehead
and thick bright curls, and a purple mantle, lined and edged with the
same costly fur, and confined at the throat with a jewelled clasp, fell
back from his shoulders over the housings of the animal. His tunic was
of damasked satin, of a bright pink colour, and round the waist was a
purple belt, on which a variety of fanciful devices were wrought with
pearls. The housings of the palfrey were of velvet, as soft and rich as
the royal mantle, and of a similar hue, but enlivened with a profusion
of goldsmiths' work, and bordered round with a heavy gold fringe.

Richard looked upon the pomp and circumstance around him with all the
pleasure and vanity of a boy, turning every moment with some laughing
sally addressed to his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, who rode by
his side, or, more frequently, to the young Earl of Arundel, the
newly-installed marshal of England. These were followed by Percy, Earl
of Northumberland, who had so recently resigned the office of lord
marshal, Sir John Burleigh, lord chamberlain, the Earls of Oxford,
Kent, Buckingham, &c.

The procession moved on, and the monk followed amidst the mass; but
if he looked wistfully at the pageant, it was only in the hope that
some opportunity might offer of publicly addressing the young king,
or, rather, his uncle, and appealing for justice; but no opportunity
did offer. Indeed, at such a moment, when the good citizens were
displaying their taste and munificence, it seemed little less than
folly to expect it.

Next to the considerate hospitality (if it may be so termed) of
allowing the water-conduit in Cheapside spout wine, nothing elicited
more unqualified approbation from the lower classes than a temporary
building erected at the extremity of the before-mentioned place. This
building, coloured so as to give an idea of firmly-cemented stone,
presented the appearance of a castle, with four circular towers and a
spacious gateway midway between. The arch stretched across nearly the
whole extent of the horse-road, so that the towers terminating the four
angles of the gateway stood parallel with the verge of the footpath.
In each of the towers, at about five feet from the ground, was an
arched doorway, in which stood a young maiden about sixteen, attired
in a white flowing robe, with a chaplet of white roses encircling her
hair, and holding a gold cup in her right hand, and a crystal vase
in her left. On the castellated summit of the arch, which was about
four feet in depth, and just in the centre between the towers, was
placed a figure of equal height with the maidens, apparently of gold,
representing an angel holding a beautifully wrought crown in its right
hand, which, as the procession approached, the angel bent down, and
presented to the young king. At the same instant, the two maidens, in
the two towers at the east side, filled their cups with wine from a
crystal fountain at their right hand, and each, with a graceful smile,
proffered the draught to Richard. They then took, from the vase on
their left, a handful of golden leaves, which they wafted towards the
young king, and concluded by showering a number of counterfeit gold
florences on his head.

Richard, after tasting of the cups, presented the first to his uncle,
and the other to Arundel; and then each noble, as he passed, took the
replenished cup from the hands of the Hebes, and drank health and
prosperity to the youthful sovereign.

The monk mingled with the multitude, and saw the merry citizens escort
their sovereign to Temple-bar; and then the royal train proceeded, with
somewhat less applause than had as yet attended their route. Indeed,
after passing the few houses in the suburbs, the solitary dwellings of
the nobles stood along the Strand, few and far between--those on the
left with their spacious gardens sloping to the river, and the three
or four on the right occupying a space as extended as the wall which
enclosed the capacious garden attached to the convent of the abbot of
Westminster would permit. So large, indeed, was this garden, as to
cover the whole space between the gardens of the Strand houses and the
site of what is now Long-acre, and eastward and westward the space
between Saint Martin's and Drury-lane. When they had passed the pretty
village of Charing, with its cross, the procession turned to the left,
leaving behind an ample extent of open country, intersected by the
Oxford and Reading roads on the west, and bounded on the north by the
bold and picturesque range of the Hampstead and Highgate hills.

John Ball pressed on with the multitude; but the immediate proximity of
the palace, where all was splendour and motion, was not to the liking
of one who till that day had never even dreamed of such things as had
now met his sight. His nerves were weak, and he felt irritated at the
insolence with which the royal guards, and the pages of the nobles,
drove back the populace. His body, too, was weak, and he felt exhausted
with his long and fatiguing walk: slowly and sadly he at length
retraced his steps to his humble dwelling in the Minories.

The next morning he repaired again to Westminster. The hall of the
palace was open for all who chose to enter, and in the midst, elevated
on three circular marble steps, was a hollow marble pillar, surmounted
by a large gilt eagle, from beneath whose talons flowed wine into four
marble basins, of which all who entered were permitted to drink at
pleasure. But the monk was no wine-drinker; and with the feelings of
one unaccustomed to behold extravagance, he turned away from the pillar
with an inward reproach to the donor, for not applying the money to
a better purpose. He left the hall, and seeing that a path was found
from the gate of the palace to the north-west entrance of the abbey,
by a slightly elevated platform, covered with fine crimson cloth of
tapestry, he naturally concluded that the king would pass that way to
hear mass, and accordingly took his stand as near as possible to the
platform. Inexperienced as the monk was in the etiquette of courts,
he augured ill for his suit when he saw the royal retainers, with all
the insolence of office, range themselves along the platform, and
the nobles and their pages, and the officers of the royal household
in their splendid dresses issue from the palace. But when he beheld
the young king himself, with Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury,
on his right hand, and the Bishop of London on his left, he started
back with an exclamation of surprise (for wrapped up in himself,
and heedless of the passing gossip of the day, he had not heard of
Sudbury's elevation); and forcing a passage through the assembled
crowd, hopeless and despondent, he pursued his journey eastward.

On the sixth morning from the coronation, Richard, satisfied with shows
and revelry, left Westminster, and retired with his mother, the fair
Joan of Kent, to Kensington, to rest, as it were, his young head upon
the maternal bosom. But even here the officious loyalty of his good
subjects intruded; for a gorgeous mummery was to be played that night
by a hundred and thirty of the wealthiest citizens of London.

A little after nightfall, the beautiful widow of the Black Prince sat
in the oriel window of the hall, alternately looking with a mother's
eyes upon her son, who was sporting with some of the young nobles, and
then again turning to the window to listen for the approach of the
citizens. She wore a small conical cap of gold tissue, terminated by a
narrow band of purple velvet, closely studded with diamonds, beneath
which her hair, soft and glossy as in her girlhood, was parted on the
forehead, and fell back on her shoulders in rather a waving mass, than
distinct curls. Her dress was composed of a petticoat and boddice of
saffron-coloured damasked satin, with long hanging sleeves. The boddice
sat close to the bust, and was confined up the front by twelve gold
studs. A girdle of purple and gold, fastened by a buckle radiant
with gems, encircled her waist; and the full long-trained petticoat,
beneath which the sharp points of the poleyn, or gold-embroidered shoe,
was just visible, was clasped in the front at equal distances by two
rose-jewels. A mantle of purple velvet, confined on each shoulder by a
diamond brooch, fell in rich folds at her back.

While she was listening and wondering at the lateness of the hour,
the hall door was suddenly thrown open, and a blaze of light, and
a strain of melody, burst simultaneously upon her senses. A dozen
minstrels gaily attired with timbrels, cornets, sackbuts, and other
instruments, preceded by as many youths, carrying large wax tapers or
torch-lights, formed into a double rank in the hall; in the middle of
which passed the city pageant. The lord mayor was at its head, habited
as an emperor, in a tunic of cloth of gold, tastefully embroidered with
black eagles, and the sleeves, which hung full, confined at the wrist
and just below the elbow, by bands of black velvet, on which eagles
were represented by small pearls. A mantle of black velvet lined with
minever, or powdered ermine, floated from his shoulder. On his right
hand was a citizen attired as the pope. Then followed the twenty-four
aldermen in the dress of cardinals; then forty-eight in the gowns of
say and red cloaks of esquires;--others in the purple robe, lined with
fur, peculiar to the knight: while some, still more ambitious, wore the
emblazoned surcoat of a baron.

The lord mayor approached the table at which Richard had seated
himself, and presenting a box of dice, challenged the young monarch
to play. At the same instant, one esquire placed on the table a bowl
of gold, another a box containing jewels, and a third a golden cup,
as pledges for the civic gambler. Richard accepted the challenge, and
of course was permitted to win; and father John, who stood among the
group looking on, seized the favourable moment of royal exultation to
prefer his suit. He stepped forward, and kneeling before the young
king, to the surprise of all, and to the particular annoyance of the
ostentatious citizens, exclaimed--

"Thou art set over the people, and to the Lord's anointed I come to
seek for justice."

"Who are you, bold man?" inquired the Duke of Lancaster, impatiently,
"who thus break in upon his Grace's sport?"

"I am one," replied the monk, rising, and turning calmly to Lancaster,
"whom injustice has thus forced----"

"Hah!" interrupted Sudbury, advancing, and who had hitherto sat apart
looking on at the mummery; "is it thou who presumest to approach the
presence? Please your Grace, and you, noble duke," looking first at
Richard and then addressing Lancaster, "he is a monk of our late abbey
at Winchcombe, whom, for certain acts of rebellion to our authority, we
expelled."

"Why, monk," asked Richard quickly, "why dost thou appeal to us?"

"Pardon me, my liege," interposed Sudbury, "but it becomes not your
grace to parley with a degraded monk--a bondman's son! one who would
fain excite a spirit of insubordination among the class from which
he sprung: who would sow the seeds of disobedience and disorder, and
inculcate the absurd doctrine that _all_ should be free!"

"Does he indeed hold such opinions, my Lord of Canterbury?" asked
Lancaster.

"He does, my Lord, and that was one of the causes of his suspension."

"Indeed!" said Lancaster; "next then, I suppose, we shall have the
villeins of the soil dictating to their lords, when they hear that a
base-born priest has had the audacity to enter the royal presence! Ho!
attendants! Away with this serf-sprung shaveling! who holds that all
should be free!"

"Triumph not, John of Lancaster, for I say unto you, _all_ SHALL be
free! You, and it may be that the proudest of you all, may yet quail
before the base-born!" and the monk fixed a glance first upon the duke,
and then upon Sudbury. The archbishop turned away, while Lancaster,
laughing scornfully at the threat, commanded the royal attendants
instantly to eject him: and, amidst the jeers of the nobles and
citizens, the monk was, without further parley, hurried away from the
hall.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was something more than a year from the flight of Holgrave, when
business called Calverley to Gloucester; and, on passing along
Silver girdle-street, his eye encountered Black Jack, whom he had
not before seen since Edith's trial. The foreman accosted him after
his usual manner, and whispered that he had something of moment to
communicate, if he would accompany him to the Mitre. After some
hesitation Calverley, consented, more especially as Black Jack hinted
something about news of Holgrave; and, when seated in the room, in
which their former interview had taken place, Oakley inquired if the
Lord de Boteler, some twelve months ago, did not offer a reward for the
apprehension of a certain bondman named--

"Stephen Holgrave!" eagerly interrupted Calverley. "Have you heard or
seen any thing of him?"

"By the green wax! steward, one would think the man was your property,
you seem so anxious--but now tell _me_ has any thing been ever heard of
him?"

"No, not a syllable;" replied Calverley in almost a fever of
excitement, "but be quick, and say what you know?"

"Not so fast, Master Calverley. Did you ever send in the direction of
Dean Forest?"

"Yes, yes, many times," answered the impatient steward; "and we offered
a large reward to any one who would give information of his retreat?"

"A very pretty method, truly! You know not the miners and forgers of
Dean Forest!--why I would stake a noble to a silver-penny, that if you
had discovered he was hidden there, and legally demanded him, he would
be popped down in a bucket, to the bottom of some mine, where, even
the art of Master Calverley could not have dragged him to the light of
day until the Forest was clear of the pack:--but, however, to speak
to the point," perceiving that the steward's patience was well nigh
exhausted--"I saw Stephen Holgrave yesterday, in the Forest."

"And did you not arrest him?"

"No, no, steward--Black Jack is not so sick of his life as to throw
himself into a furnace. There were not less than one hundred smiths and
miners about him; and woe be to the man who should stir their ire."

"I shall back to Sudley," cried the steward, hastily, "and my lord will
reclaim him."

"But, steward, surely it is more than a year and a day since I heard
the shouting of the hue and cry; and you know the Forest of Dean is
privileged. I'll warrant he knows too much of the bondage of Sudley to
venture beyond its precincts."

Calverley did not reply to the interrogatory or allusion, but persisted
in saying that the baron would claim the bondman, and that the ranger
of the Forest durst not dispute the demand: and, besides, should it be
necessary, a royal mandate could be procured.

Black Jack was for an instant vexed, that Calverley did not require his
assistance; but, shrewdly guessing that the steward wished to have as
little to do with him as possible, and also conscious how small chance
there was of succeeding by the direct mode, he laughed within himself
at the probability that, after failing to accomplish the object he
seemed so much to desire, Calverley would, ultimately, be compelled
to apply to him. Indeed, had not the steward's mind been so entirely
engrossed by the thoughts of Holgrave, he could not have failed to
remark how quickly the foreman, from offering the strongest objections
to the plan he proposed adopting, agreed with him that it was the
wisest and best.

"But, Master Calverley," said Black Jack, as the former abruptly rose
to depart, "is my intelligence worth nothing, setting aside the actual
loss I have sustained by sitting for four hours spending my money in
this room, when I ought to have been fishing about for jobs?"

"O yes, I had forgotten," (drawing out his purse, and presenting a mark
to the foreman);--"I could not expect you could have troubled yourself
in this affair without payment;--are you satisfied?"

"Yes, yes," he replied, grumblingly, as he pocketed the coin, "Black
Jack is easily satisfied."

"And so is the cormorant," muttered Calverley, as he closed the door
after him, and hastened to remount his horse.

Supper was served up in the hall ere Calverley had returned to the
castle, and he paused a few moments to consider whether he should
immediately impart what he had heard, or defer the communication until
the banquet were ended; but this hesitation did not arise from any
delicacy he felt in disturbing the social enjoyment of the hour, but
guests had arrived that morning, and Calverley, ever since the loss of
his ear, had been very reluctant to appear before strangers. But the
recollection of his mutilation, thus forced upon his mind, instantly
decided him. The delay of a single hour might enable Holgrave to leave
the forest; for who could say that it was his intention to make the
place a permanent residence? He, therefore, instantly changed his
riding dress for one more adapted for the occasion, and placing a
black velvet cap on his head (for we have before observed it was his
peculiar privilege to remain always covered), without a moment's delay
he proceeded to the hall, and entering it through the upper door,
stood at a little distance behind De Boteler's chair, awaiting until
the baron's eye should fall upon him. De Boteler presently turning to
give some order to a page, Calverley took the opportunity to approach,
and, bowing, said softly, "My lord, I have heard tidings of Stephen
Holgrave."

De Boteler's colour deepened as he made some hasty exclamation in
reply, but the duties of hospitality were paramount at that moment, and
shortly saying he would attend to him another time, Calverley retired.

Isabella's quick eye had observed the action of Calverley and the
momentary embarrassment of De Boteler; and as the idea of her lost
child was connected with every thing strange or doubtful that she
saw, her mind was instantly filled with a thousand surmises.--Had any
trace of Holgrave been discovered? Had the obstinate monk made any
disclosure that Calverley, by some fortunate chance might have become
acquainted with? These, and a variety of other conjectures, possessing
less colour of reason, so much engrossed her thoughts, that she could
scarcely command her feelings sufficiently to pay that graceful and
courteous attention to her guests, for which she was in general so
much distinguished. No opportunity, however, offered of satisfying
her curiosity until the guests had retired for the night; and then,
upon entering the ante-room of her chamber, De Boteler was sitting
listening to the steward's statement.

"Isabella," said the baron, as she entered, "Calverley has ascertained
the retreat of Stephen Holgrave." She had anticipated something of the
kind; but the effect it produced was singular. An electrical thrill
seemed to vibrate through her frame, and a sudden coldness chilled her
brow; but ere it could have been _said_ that her cheek was pale, the
whole countenance was suffused with a deepened glow, and rallying her
energies, she asked, with assumed composure, "where he was hidden?"

"In the Forest of Dean," replied De Boteler; "and Calverley has every
reason to suppose he has been concealed there since he left Sudley."

"Did not the hue and cry pass through the forest?"

"Yes, Isabella; but, by my faith, it seems they are such sturdy knaves
in that forest, that even the promise of reward has no effect upon
them."

"Then they must be compelled to surrender the bondman.--Calverley,"
continued the lady, turning to the steward; "can you rely on your
information?"

Calverley replied in the affirmative: and then, on a motion from
Isabella, withdrew.

"My lord, you will give proper instructions," resumed Isabella, in a
tone that seemed to imply she expected the most rigorous measures to be
adopted.

"I am afraid, Isabella," replied De Boteler, "that the knave has
escaped us. Dean Forest is a royal demesne, and a bondman, remaining
unclaimed, in such a place, for a year and a day, can claim the
privilege of a king's villein."

"Roland de Boteler, do you intend to submit?--but you have not a
mother's feelings!"

"There can be no reasons for the suspicions you still entertain,"
replied the baron, with more seriousness than he had spoken before.
"The knave has been punished enough. There was no great matter of
crime after all in burning the house--it was his own--aye, as much
as this castle is mine. And do you think that any chance would ever
make me consider that another had a better right to this building than
I?--If I could have got hold of him at the time I would--but now, let
it pass--an obstinate spirit like his, is better away. You see what
we obtained by imprisoning the monk--the whole barony up in arms in a
rescue! and the bravest retainer in my castle killed by the club of the
audacious smith! But that shall not pass so easily--for, by my faith,
if I light upon that meddling varlet ten years hence, he shall hang as
high as gibbet can raise him. I repeat," continued he, in a determined
tone, "that I will not interfere" and, rising hastily; as if he meant
to escape from the argument, he left the room.

There might be one reason found for the more merciful feelings De
Boteler evinced on this occasion, when it is said that he was on the
eve of departing for London to join the Duke of Gloucester, who was
preparing to make an incursion into France. The idea, no doubt, of
again treading the French soil, recalled to his mind the service which
the fugitive Holgrave, had performed. The baroness, however, did not
appear to heed the decisive tone of her lord; for, with the wilfulness
of her sex, she determined that his departure should be the signal for
commencing operations.

Immediately upon De Boteler's departure, which occurred in a few days,
measures were taken to procure a royal grant of the villein to his late
lord; and upon the instant of its being obtained, Calverley, attended
by about a score of retainers, left the castle, without the slightest
apprehension for his personal safety, or the most distant fear that his
application would fail.

On arrival, his errand was made known to Neville, the deputy constable
of St. Briavel's, who readily attended him with his men. As they
rode towards the foundry, which had been indicated as the place of
Holgrave's employment, a suppressed murmur from the trees by the road
side attracted the constable's attention, and it was said by those
nearest, that he gave a significant smile as he passed. The party
dismounted at the foundry, and on entering, Holgrave was observed
standing close to the forge, surrounded by about a dozen smiths.
Neville smiled as he addressed Holgrave.

"I am commanded," said he, "by King Edward, to deliver you to the Lord
de Boteler's steward. Here is the royal mandate;" and he drew from his
pocket a parchment bearing the privy signature.

"And here," said Calverley, unfolding the royal grant, "is the deed
that transfers the king's villein to his late and rightful lord."

"Master Neville," said Holgrave, "can the king's grant make a freeman
a slave? or can the king's order give you authority to molest a man
who has committed no crime? I owe no fealty to King Edward, except as a
freeman, and as you yourself are bound to do. I stand here as free as
any man of you, and no one shall compel me to become a slave.--But it
is to you, foul murderer!" glancing fiercely on Calverley, who shrank
from his gaze--"it is to you I owe this! Were my poor mother's death,
my own ruin, and the loss of my farm and my home, not enough, that you
continue to hunt me down like a wild beast?"

"Honest man," said Neville, mildly, "you are described in the king's
writ as a bondman of his grace; and two men have this day deposed that
you acknowledged yourself as Lord de Boteler's villein, and swore
fealty to him in his own court."

"They lie, Master Neville! Bring them here, and I will maintain, in
combat against them both, that they have sworn falsely."

"It was not to parley you came here, Sir Constable," said Calverley,
"but to fulfil the king's command. This bondman, you must have been
aware before-hand, would attempt to deny his bondage, like any other of
his class who break their bonds."

"The king's order shall be obeyed to the letter, sir," replied Neville,
as he looked somewhat contemptuously at Calverley, from whom he did not
expect so abrupt an address; and then, gently taking the unresisting
hand of Holgrave, placed it in that of the steward. A shout of pain
from Calverley declared the cordiality of the gripe with which he was
favoured by his enemy, and he withdrew his crushed fingers, amidst the
cheers and shouts of the spectators.

"Now, steward," resumed the constable, "Mark Neville has performed the
king's commands as a loyal subject, and it remains with you to do the
rest."

"And do you not intend to give me safe conduct through the forest,
Master Neville?" asked Calverley, with some alarm--"this is a part of
your duty. You are bound to convey this bondman to the verge of the
forest, and you are also bound to prevent any inhabitant of it from
abetting his cause."

"Read this warrant," replied Neville: "is there a syllable there of
safe conduct? I am ordered to deliver up the man--I have done so; and
now I wish you good even, and a pleasant ride back."

A loud laugh from the smiths followed this speech; and Calverley, now
overcome by personal apprehensions, caught the constable's arm as he
was passing through the doorway, and inquired, if he really imagined he
was complying with the royal mandate by such a mockery.

"It is no mockery, steward--I have done my duty; and if you cannot do
yours, is it my fault?" And then, shaking off Calverley's grasp, he
mounted his horse, and with his attendants, amidst deafening cheers,
took the road to the castle.

Calverley's eyes turned in the direction of the shout, and a mass of
living beings, variously armed, were seen swarming from the adjacent
wood, and rushing on to the foundry. He remembered that he had not more
than twenty to oppose to this multitude; and his heart died within him
as he saw the glowing cheek and derisive smile of Holgrave, and thought
that now was the moment for _his_ revenge. In an instant, not only
was the foundry filled with the men, but the window and doorway were
darkened with their black heads without.

Calverley was now forced to assume a courage which he did not feel;
and looking sternly around, he asked, in as firm a voice as he could
command, why he was thus surrounded? or whether they intended to make
him a prisoner?

"No, steward," said the spokesman of the smiths, "you are no
prisoner--you are at liberty to go as soon as you like; and I would
advise you, as a friend, to go quickly, for we men of the forest are
not like your Sudley folk." Calverley, in some measure, re-assured by
the unexpected mildness of this reply, quickly said,

"I have no wish to remain longer--give me free passage with this
bondman, and I shall instantly depart."

"Bondman!" exclaimed Holgrave, raising his clenched hand, but he did
not strike--"lying craven!"

"I tell you, steward," said the smith who had before spoken, and
stepping so near Calverley that he involuntarily drew back, "if you
prize your life, you will call no man here a bondman. I am free--that
man is free--" pointing to Holgrave, "and we are all free--all sworn
brothers; and no one shall dare," raising his voice, "to brand, with
such a name, a mother's son among us! You have received fair warning,
and leave to go: retire now--instantly, if you are wise! Clear a
passage there for my Lord de Boteler's steward! There is now room for
you to pass--your retainers are waiting without--and now take the man
you call a bondman, and away with you all. What! you will not lay hold
of him? Take him, I say!" elevating his voice--"seize the villein, and
drag him back to his bondage! What! not a finger, after all the trouble
you have taken?--then, away with you alone!--away!" And Calverley, from
the mere instinct of obedience to a superior power, moved towards the
door. "And if ever," continued the smith, "you are found hunting in
this forest again for bondmen, as you call them, we may chance to give
you a lodging where you will have little reason to complain that the
sun shines too brightly!"

Calverley made no reply; but, without looking either at Holgrave, or
the man who had so fiercely and tauntingly addressed him, took the
advantage offered--passed through the door of the foundry, and through
the yielding ranks of sneerers and jibers outside; and mounting his
horse, galloped rapidly away from the scene of his defeat, with the
shout of a hue and cry following his track as far as the foresters
considered their legitimate domain.



CHAPTER IV.


The tenth evening after this exploit closed in heavily, and the wind
blew chill and gusty, loaded with drizzling rain. Oakley felt little
inconvenience from the night as, wrapped in a large cloak, and with an
unusually broad-brimmed hat, he cautiously approached the low-roofed
dwelling of Holgrave, in the forest of Dean. He had little difficulty
in distinguishing it, Harvey having a few days previously, though
without the least intimation of the reason, watched Holgrave from the
foundry to his home. The blaze of a bright wood fire was streaming
through the casement. Black Jack stept near enough to obtain a view
of the interior, in order to assure himself that he was not mistaken,
although, from the description he had received, he had little doubt;
and a single glance convinced him it was the dwelling he sought.
Holgrave was lying along a bench in the opposite chimney corner, his
right elbow resting on the form, and his right cheek reposing on
the upraised palm. He was looking with a smile at Margaret, who was
sitting with her back to the window, and, by the motion of her right
hand, was apparently engaged in sewing. The gazer conjectured that
Holgrave had been asking her to sing, for, as he stood, she commenced
a strain of such sweet and touching melody, that even Oakley (who,
spite of his being so admirably "fit for treason," _had_ "music in his
soul,") listened with such breathless attention that one would have
been tempted to conclude he might "be trusted." The ballad concluded,
and Oakley still looked on, until Holgrave, after a few moments
of apparently cheerful conversation, arose from the bench, in all
probability with the intention of preparing for rest.

Oakley stepped back from the window, and stood an instant apparently
irresolute. "Plague on this Holgrave!" he muttered--"I wish I had sent
Harvey; he could have managed it as well as I; but one don't like
giving these fellows half the profit, besides making them as wise
as one's self;--but what is the knave to me?" And then, as if his
slight scruples were dissipated by the consideration of the little
sympathy that ought to exist between one circumstanced like Holgrave
and himself, he drew his hat more over his brow, and folding his cloak
closer around him, approached, although, it must be admitted, with
rather an indecisive step, the door of the cottage, and gave a slight
tap. "I will go to the door, Stephen," he heard Margaret say, with
a quickness which seemed to imply that the simple circumstance of a
summons to the door at a somewhat late hour was sufficient to awaken
her fears.

No reply was given, but the door was instantly unclosed by Holgrave.
Black Jack stood in the shade, just beyond the light that streamed
from within, but so close that Holgrave, without crossing the
threshold, merely leant his head forward, and heard him say, "Stephen
Holgrave, do you remember the cross-roads and Hailes church-yard?"

Holgrave started. "Hailes church-yard!" he repeated, bending nearer to
the speaker.

"Aye; and do you remember what you promised the men in the vizors, when
the craven fled, leaving his ear where perhaps his carcase may not find
a resting place, and when the abbey folk were rushing on with torch and
cudgel?"

"Yes," replied Holgrave, in a voice which told that the abrupt
questions had called up all the painful events of that night--"yes,
I remember well, I said that if any of those who helped me then ever
wanted a friend, they were not to forget Stephen Holgrave."

"You did; and do you not recognize me, as he who gave the alarm when
the fellows had peeped above the wall at the cross-roads, and whose hat
was pierced by an arrow as he stood beneath the tree that overshadowed
the grave at Hailes?"

"Yes, yes," said Holgrave, grasping his hand, "I remember
all"--convinced, not by the voice, for on both occasions the voice had
been disguised, but by the presumptive proofs.

"Stephen Holgrave," continued the foreman, still speaking in a low
tone, but slowly and distinctly, "you can now return the service of
that night. I want your aid immediately;--it is not in a matter that
will hazard your life. I have given a promise, and you are the only man
that can aid me to keep it. Will you assist me?"

"I will," replied Holgrave, firmly--"Do you want me now?"

"Yes, instantly. You shall know the business in less than half an hour."

"Stop one moment," returned Holgrave, and stepping into the cottage,
he took a warm frieze cloak from a peg in the wall, and throwing it
over his shoulders, was reaching for a kind of short-handled spear that
lay on a shelf above the fire-place, when Margaret, clasping his left
hand, looked up in his face, and asked with a pale and trembling lip,
"Stephen, where are you going? Who is that man?"

"Do not be alarmed, Margaret. I must go with the man who spoke to me,
but I shall not be long."

"Go with him! Who is he? His purpose cannot be an honest one, or he
would not conceal himself. Who is he, Stephen?" she repeated in a
loud voice, and clinging more closely to the hand he was striving to
disengage.

"He is an honest man, Margaret," replied Holgrave, snatching away his
hand, vexed that one who had befriended him should hear his wife's
suspicions. But, as he fastened his cloak, he added, in a more soothing
tone, "Do not fear. It is one of those who helped to give my poor
mother a christian's grave, and he wants me to do some little turn for
him now."

"Are you sure, Stephen?--are you quite sure it is the same man?" "Yes,
yes, Margaret, quite sure," replied Holgrave in a tone that told her
all further remonstrance would be useless. "Did I not return safe from
Gloucester?" asked he, lingering an instant, as he saw her heart was
sinking with dread.

"But you did not go there in the dark night, and with only one man; and
even then, where would you have been now only for our good friends in
the forest. Oh Stephen!" she continued, starting up and throwing her
arms round his neck, as she imagined she saw something of irresolution
in his countenance,--"do not go this night."

"I must go," he said, as he disengaged himself, and, without venturing
another look or word, rushed from the cottage, and joined Black Jack.

They walked on rapidly through the forest, but neither spoke. Black
Jack, hardened as he was, was not altogether at ease in thus betraying
a confiding man; and this feeling was not lessened by the suspicions
Margaret had expressed, and he endeavoured to deceive even himself into
a belief that he should have been better pleased if the yeoman had
taken the wife's advice. However, he resolved, as he hurried on, that
he would be well paid for so troublesome an affair. Holgrave was not
more composed. In despite of what he considered his better judgment,
he could not help being, in some measure, imbued with the fears of his
wife; and, as he followed his silent conductor, a thousand indistinct
apprehensions floated in his mind.

Their route was a lonely one. Scarcely a light was visible in the
numerous dwellings they passed, and they reached the verge of the
forest without encountering a single human being. They now walked
along the high road, which, with a tract of uninclosed pasture-land
stretching to the right, and a scanty neglected hedge skirting the
left, had a wild and dreary aspect, which however might, perhaps, with
more justice be attributed to the darkness and gloom of the night,
than to any thing particularly cheerless in the road itself. They had
proceeded about a dozen paces beyond a narrow lane, turning to the
left, when Oakley, without assigning a reason, stepped back; and, as
Holgrave turned to enquire the cause, he saw some men close behind
him; and ere, in the surprise of the moment, he could raise his weapon
to defend himself in case of need, a blow from a club felled him to
the ground. The blow did not deprive him of consciousness, and now,
convinced of treachery, he sprang on his feet determined not to yield
with life. But it was not possible for one arm, even though that arm
was nerved by an indomitable soul, to hold out long in so unequal a
strife. It was in vain that he strove to attack or grapple with one--a
host appeared to encompass him. Incessant blows from staves and clubs,
although more annoying than really dangerous, wearied him out, and
one, descending on his already swollen right hand, finally decided the
contest. The arm dropped, and the weapon, that had as yet, in some
measure, protected him, was easily wrested from his relaxed grasp; and
the impotent fury of an almost frantic resistance availed but for a
short space. He was gagged, bound hand and foot, and thrown into a cart
that drew up for the purpose from the adjacent lane.

Black Jack and his retainers accompanied the vehicle on foot, none
choosing to trust himself with one, who, though now to all appearance
firmly secured, had shown such an untractable spirit, and in this
manner proceeded, without interruption, to Sudley.

On the second morning after Holgrave's capture, the baroness, upon
Calverley's entering the room in which she sat, inquired if he had seen
the wife of Holgrave? "I hear," continued she, without noticing the
surprise which the question created, "that she is in the court-yard,
and has had the insolence to ask one of the varlets if she might speak
with me! Go, Calverley, and desire her to leave the castle instantly."

Calverley withdrew and repeated the order to a domestic.

"No," said Margaret, as the command was delivered, "I shall not leave
this court-yard, except by force, till I have seen my husband. Surely
the favour that is granted to the wife of a common drawlatch, will not
be denied to me!"

The steward, although vexed at what he considered her obstinacy, yet
delayed to enforce her removal until he had tried what his personal
remonstrance might effect;--but no man approaches a woman, whom he has
once, to the fullest extent of the word, loved, with that calm and
business-like feeling with which he can discourse with another. The
colour deepened, too, on Margaret's cheek, as she saw him advance, and
when, in an authoritative, though somewhat embarrassed tone, he asked
why she had not obeyed the order that had been given, she raised her
eyes, flashing with a spirit that perhaps had never before animated
them, and replied--

"Thomas Calverley, I told him who delivered the message, that I would
not quit the castle till I had seen Stephen; and I tell _you_ now, that
I shall not go till I know what you have done with him."

"Nothing has been done to him but what he merited," answered Calverley,
haughtily, surprised at her firmness, and by a singular feeling annoyed
that solicitude for her husband should have called forth such an
unusual demonstration.

Margaret felt the falsehood of his reply, but she had not the spirit or
language of Edith to reprove it.

"Then you must choose to submit voluntarily to my lady's wishes," he
added.

"I do not," returned Margaret; "I shall sit here till the Lady de
Boteler thinks better of what she has said, and suffers me to see my
husband." Calverley turned away with a frown, but, ere he had retired
a dozen steps, he turned again. "Margaret," said he, as he approached,
"you are only harming yourself by this obstinacy. The baroness will
not grant you permission to visit the dungeon, and, if you persist,
there are servitors enough about to compel obedience. But if you go
now, I promise to obtain what you ask. Rather than the kernes should
lay a rude hand upon you--I would--gratify even _him_. Come at six," he
added, as he turned abruptly away, forgetful, at this moment, of all
the evil of which he had been the author, and only remembering, with
hate and bitterness, that Holgrave possessed the love which had been
denied to him.

He had spoken with an earnestness that induced Margaret to believe him
sincere. At all events there seemed no better alternative than to
trust him; so she rose and retired from the court-yard. Punctually at
six she appeared again at the castle, and the confidence with which
she crossed over to the keep, shewed the reliance she had placed on
Calverley's word. The keeper had received the order to admit her, and
she ascended the spiral steps and entered the prison that had been
previously occupied by Edith. As Holgrave raised his head when the door
opened, Margaret saw that his face was swollen and livid, and, when
he kissed her cheek as she threw herself upon his neck, his lips were
parched and burning.

"Do not look on me so wildly, Margaret," said he; "these bruises are
nothing. Aye, even that," as she was examining, with the apprehensions
of a tender wife, the black and almost shapeless appearance of his
right hand and arm; "even that would be as well as ever in less than a
month--but it is their triumph and their treachery I feel: it is this
that gnaws my very soul--and all because I thought myself too wise to
take a woman's counsel,--and in the very prison, too, where they thrust
my poor mother! I have not tasted meat or drink since I entered. There
stand the water and the bread--though the burning in my throat almost
drives me mad: not a drop will I taste, though the leech told me to
drink as much as I could--nor a morsel will I eat."

"No, not of theirs," eagerly interrupted Margaret, drawing a bottle
from beneath her cloak, and pouring into a wooden cup, which she took
from her pocket, some diluted wine; "but drink this, Stephen: do drink
it--it will cool your mouth."

"No, Margaret, I have sworn!" and no persuasion could induce him to
alter his purpose.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Steward," said the Lady Isabella on the following morning, "Holgrave
rejects his food--I fear I must release him!"

"Pardon me, lady, it is only a stratagem to get free."

"Do you think so, Calverley?--but the varlet has the obstinate spirit
of his mother--and you know I do not desire his death!"

"Holgrave," resumed the steward, with an incredulous smile, "has no
intention of shortening his life:" and then he strove, with all his
eloquence, to persuade her it was a mere feint.

"However," returned Isabella, "I will send the leech to him."

The leech was sent, and reported that the prisoner was in a state of
extreme exhaustion, arising, it would seem, from inanition, as there
was no evidence of bodily illness sufficient to have reduced him to so
low a state.

Calverley's specious arguments availed no longer, and, muttering curses
upon the jailor, whose officiousness had prevented the possibility of
that consummation he so devoutly wished, he received the command to set
Holgrave at liberty.

That evening Calverley summoned every bondman of the barony to
assemble in the hall. Innumerable were the conjectures respecting this
summons as the villeins hastened to obey the call, and, when all were
collected, a strong sensation of sympathy was excited when they beheld
Stephen Holgrave led into the midst; his countenance still discoloured,
and so pale and attenuated, that it was difficult to recognize the
hale, robust yeoman of former days, in the subdued and exhausted
bondman who now took his stand among his fellows.

When all were assembled, Calverley stated that Stephen Holgrave, having
refused to swear that he would not again take advantage of his liberty
to flee from bondage, the baroness not wishing, from a feeling of
clemency, to punish his obstinacy farther, had desired him to declare
that she should hold each bondman responsible for the appearance of
Holgrave, and should consider their moveables and crops forfeited in
the event of his absconding.

A murmur ran through the hall as the steward spoke; and Holgrave,
exerting a momentary energy, stept forward, and, looking scornfully at
his enemy--

"Lead me back to prison!" said he; "no man shall be answerable for me."

But Calverley, without appearing to heed his address, resumed--

"You are all now publicly warned; and it will behove you, at your
peril, to look to that bondman!" and then, without deigning farther
parley, he left the hall.

There was much discontent among the bondmen as they withdrew from
the castle, conversing on the arbitrary decision just pronounced,
and on the probability that, before the expiration of three months,
that decision would be enforced in consequence of Holgrave's flight;
for they could not conceive the idea of the self-sacrifice of a
generous spirit, which would rather endure, than that the oppressed
should suffer further oppression. Certainly, according to the letter
of the law of villeinage, the bondmen of Sudley had no just cause for
discontent; but then, because it was unusual, at least on that manor,
to exercise the prerogative to its fullest extent, they almost forgot
that this threatened appropriation of their effects was nothing more
than the assertion of a right. But there was one novel feature in the
announcement of which they had some colour for complaining;--their
being considered responsible for one of their own class. However, as in
all similar cases where power gives the law to weakness, though there
might be a little useless murmuring, there was no alternative but to
submit.

Holgrave, as his offer to continue a prisoner was not accepted, left
Sudley among the bondmen, and walked slowly towards his old abode.
Margaret had returned, and been suffered to take possession of the
dwelling that had remained unoccupied during their absence--which had
stood just as she left it on the night of her departure; and Holgrave,
with all the bitterness and gloom of the past, and with considerably
more of physical weakness than he had ever experienced, threw himself
again in his mother's chair in the chimney-corner, and silently partook
of the refreshment that the rejoicing Margaret set before him.



CHAPTER V.


We have as yet confined our observations to the bondmen; but in 1381,
an act of ill-judged policy of the nine nobles and prelates who formed
the council of young Richard gave rise to a sort of coalition among
the lower classes. This act was the famous tax of three groats upon
every individual who had attained the age of fifteen. The hearth-money,
which had been enforced by the Black Prince upon the inhabitants of
Guienne, and which had probably formed the precedent for this tax, had
not worked well, and there appeared little chance that the present
exaction, framed as it was by those who directed the royal councils,
would work better. Certain wealthy individuals contracted with the
government for the collection of the tax, and private rapacity thus
rendered the imposition more obnoxious than it otherwise might have
been.

It was on the evening of a feast day, and the day-labourers and
villeins around Saint Albans were enjoying the repose, that even in
that period of bondage, was never infringed upon, and which, from the
frequent recurrence of the festivals afforded a sufficient relaxation
from manual exertion to recruit the strength; when suddenly, amidst a
group in the market-place, who were discoursing upon the severity of
the poll tax, then collecting, appeared John Ball.

"Men and brethren, are ye bond or free?" he abruptly asked, in a deep,
solemn voice.

"It matters little, good father," replied a gloomy looking peasant, as
he started from the earth where he had been reclining; "the freeman has
little to boast of now beyond the villein."

"The freeman shall be righted, and the bondman freed--and then will the
mission that has made John Ball for thrice twelve months a homeless
wanderer, never resting under the same roof a second night--then
will that mission be accomplished--and even if he lay his head upon
the block, he will have executed the task allotted to him--will have
finished the work he was inspired to begin!"

"The bondman may be freed," replied the man who had before spoken; "but
when shall the freeman be righted? I took little heed of these things
when I heard you preach freedom to the villeins two years ago: but my
children have been sick; my wife has been struck with a palsy; and I,
who had not a penny to call my own, gave eleven groats yesterday for
myself, my wife, and the two boys; and to-morrow must I sell the last
blanket that covers her, to pay the twelfth."

The man turned away as he spoke, and John Ball, whose mission was
rather to the serf than the freeman, commenced an harangue to the
gathering crowd. His figure, as we have before observed, was imposing;
and as his eyes, flashing with an enthusiasm perhaps too ardent to be
compatible with sound reason, fell on the numbers who now encompassed
him, he looked like one fitted to become the apostle of those who had
none to help them.

"The dew of heaven is not for you," he began; "nor is the fat of the
land your portion: but I am sent to pour a stream of light into the
dark chambers--even to enlighten the soul of the weary bondman. I
will sing to them of fearful heart, be strong and fear not; for the
high ones of authority shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall
lick the dust like serpents. The proud lords amongst us buy up the
dastard hirelings with gold and silver, and they clothe them in their
livery! They wear the badge of cruelty and oppression in their hats;
but we shall tread them down like the mire in the streets. Our king,
too, is in bondage, and heareth not the groans of them that are in
fetters!--for he is encompassed by the cold and the cruel--but the cold
and the cruel shall be swept away. As the gathering of locusts shall we
run upon them. Tithes shall cease;--the bondman shall be enfranchised;
and the lands apportioned at an easy rent. The proud and rich prelates
shall give up their wealth to the sick and the poor, and we will have
no clergy henceforth but the order of mendicant priests to administer
the sacraments." Thus, and with much more of the doctrine of general
enfranchisement and equalization of property harangued the monk; and
we need scarcely add, that his words were listened to with breathless
eagerness. In fact, so much was he regarded as a prophet, that more
than one life had been sacrificed since the commencement of his
wanderings, in resisting his capture by the civil authorities.

It was about a fortnight subsequent to this harangue at St. Albans,
that John Ball, who had passed on through London, preaching and gaining
proselytes in his journey, inhaled, once again, the air of his native
valley. His heart bounded, and then sank coldly in his breast, as, on
ascending a hill, Winchcombe, with its church, its habitations, and the
abbey, that had once been his home, burst upon his sight. It was rather
singular, that though the enfranchisement of the bondmen of Sudley had
been his darling wish, nay, that even the thought of personal freedom
beyond that barony had never crossed his mind until the night of his
rude expulsion from Kennington, those very villeins should be the
last into whose sluggish veins he should strive to enforce a portion
of the warmth that inflamed his own. And yet it was not that the
enfranchisement of Sudley was less dear to his heart than it had been;
but it was because that little spot of earth was dear to him, that
he shrunk from visiting it. He had been there respected and beloved;
there, too, had he been degraded and insulted; and that degradation,
and that insult, had not been wiped away, and he cared not to appear
before his own people thus morally cast down. But the hour had now
come. Leycester, the dyer of Norwich, had been appointed king of the
commons of Norfolk. Other leaders, too, had been named; and his own
native barony must not slumber inert while the rest were running the
race.

The shadows of evening were deepening, and the monk still stood gazing
upon the town, and living over again the past, when a female with an
infant in her arms, and leading a child by the hand, passed by. But she
again turned to look upon him, first timidly, then more confidently,
till snatching her hand from the slight grasp of the child, she sprung
towards him, and sinking at his feet, caught his right hand in both
hers, and pressed it to her bosom.

"My sister!" said the monk, bending over her, and blessing her; and
after a moment, during which he calmed the agitation of his feelings,
he added--"How has it fared with you? Where is Stephen?"

But Margaret was many minutes ere she could do more than kiss his hand,
and wet it with her tears. At length, when her emotions of joy and
surprise had in some degree subsided, she replied, that Holgrave was
still living a villein at Sudley.

"What!" exclaimed the monk--"the smith was indeed told that treachery
had betrayed him into the baron's power; but is he chained to the
spot--that for three long years he should bear the oppressor's rod?"

"No," replied Margaret: "he would have found some means of getting to
the forest; but they hold the villeins bound for him--if he flies, all
they possess of crops or cattle will be seized. But here is Stephen. I
was just going over the hill to meet him, when I saw you."

Holgrave approached, and was scarcely less surprised than Margaret had
been; and when he spoke of the report current, that it was the monk
who had gone about striving to burst the chains of bondage, John Ball
replied--

"Listen to me, Stephen Holgrave! I went in before the great ones
of the land; before him who is appointed ruler of the people, to
demand justice; and because I was of the blood of the bond, my prayer
was rejected!--because I was born in bondage I was unworthy of the
privilege of the free. The finger pointed, the lip scorned, and the
tongue derided; and I was driven, amidst the jeers of the scoffer, from
the palace of the king. But as I went forth, the spirit came upon me,
and I vowed that I would not give rest to my feet until the bondman's
fetters should be broken! And they shall be broken! A spirit has been
roused that they reck not of--a spirit that will neither slumber nor
sleep until he, whose first breath was drawn beneath the thatch of
the villein-hut, shall be as free to come and to go as he whose first
pillow was of the cygnet's down!--and no man shall say to him, what
dost thou?"

But it was not merely Holgrave that the monk was now addressing; two or
three passers-by had been attracted. The monk was recognized, and these
were commissioned to whisper secretly in the bondman's ear, that he
who had baptized their children, and breathed the prayer of faith over
their sick beds, and who had wandered through the land, gladdening with
the bright promises of hope the soul of the weary and the oppressed,
had come once more amongst them to speak of personal enfranchisement,
and of rent, instead of the accustomed service for the land they might
hold. Father John then withdrew with Holgrave by a private path, to
avoid any further interruption.

At an early hour the next morning, it was intimated to Calverley that
the barony was all in motion--that the bondmen, and, indeed, all of
the labouring class, were gathering, and whispering to each other, and
evincing any thing but a disposition to commence their customary toil.
These things certainly gave evidence of some extraordinary sensation;
and Calverley's first inquiry was, "had any one seen the prophet?"--for
such was the appellation by which John Ball was distinguished. No
positive information could be obtained; the fact could be merely
inferred, and the steward, who was not one to hesitate when an idea
struck him, ordering a few retainers to attend him, proceeded to
Holgrave's abode. But Holgrave was from home; there was no trace of
the monk; and Calverley, knowing that it would be to little purpose to
question Margaret, bethought him that the inquisitive Mary Byles might
probably be the most proper person to apply to. From those who had
crossed his path, he had merely been able to extract a sullen negative:
but so well had the secret been kept, that the steward's interrogatory
was the first intimation she had received of the probability of John
Ball's being in the neighbourhood. However, Mary volunteered, provided
Calverley would remain a few minutes, to collect some information.
Presently, she returned--John Ball was, indeed, at Sudley! She had
herself seen him come out of a cottage; she had beheld him harangue
some bondmen who were awaiting his appearance, and after many
impassioned words, he had gone on publicly through Winchcombe, with
the blessings of the enthusiastic peasantry accompanying him. Calverley
started at this information.

"Did you see Holgrave?" he asked, eagerly.

"Yes," replied Mary; "he was by the monk when he stood at the door of
the villein's hut, and I dare say he is with him now."

Calverley paused an instant. De Boteler and the baroness were in
London--De Boteler, assisting in the councils of Richard, and Isabella,
by reason of a vow, that, should there be again a probability of her
becoming a mother, she would not trust the life of her child within
the walls of Sudley castle;--and he remembered the strict injunction
his lord had given him in the case of the disinterment of Edith, not
to presume to act again without his authority. He remembered also
that he had been much dissatisfied with the result of father John's
imprisonment, and also with the mode adopted for recovering Holgrave:
but the present was a moment that would warrant decisive measures--so
he proceeded to the door, and desired the retainers to follow on to
Winchcombe, and seize the monk. But there was an evident unwillingness
to obey: the name of John Ball had spread through the land, and
there was so much of misty brightness encircling it--so many strange
stories were told of him--so mysterious were often his appearings and
disappearings--and so high was the veneration his novel doctrines
inspired--that even the lawless retainer shrank from periling his soul
by molesting so sanctified a being. Besides, the former assault was
not forgotten, with all the strange exaggerations which had seemed to
render miraculous the circumstance of a handful of men liberating a
prisoner.

"My lord has little to expect from the faith of those who are fed and
clothed at his hand," said Calverley, indignantly, as he saw, by the
hesitation of the retainers, that the capture of the monk was hopeless.

"I would fight for my lord any day," muttered one; "but I don't like
meddling with a priest."

"And one, too, who prophesies," said another.

"Peace, babblers!" interrupted Calverley: "my lord shall hear how his
retainers act when a seditious shaveling is inciting the villeins to
revolt. Are you afraid of meddling with Stephen Holgrave?" he added,
looking, with a sneer, at the first speaker.

"I am afraid of no man!" he replied, doggedly.

"Come on then? Let us at least secure _him_," cried Calverley,
bounding forward and followed by the retainers. They hastened on
through Winchcombe, and, a little beyond the town, descried the
prophet surrounded by a multitude consisting, not only of the men
of Winchcombe, who took an interest in the subject, but of numbers
residing far beyond.

Calverley pressed forward towards the crowd, and so powerful is the
influence of habitual obedience, that he was actually in the midst of
them before any disposition to arrest his progress was manifested.
But then arose the cry of "The holy father!--the prophet!" and the
retainer, who had replied to Calverley, perceiving from the popular
movement, the error into which the people had fallen, shouted out
"Stand back, men! we will not harm a hair of the prophet's head!--it is
Stephen Holgrave we want."

"And will you allow Stephen Holgrave, who has tarried a willing
prisoner--"

"No! no! no!" from a hundred voices, overpowered the address of John
Ball.

"Away! Holgrave, away! we hold you free!" And Holgrave, taking
advantage of the opportunity, withdrew from the side of John Ball, and
springing on the back of an offered steed, was presently beyond reach
of pursuit, even had pursuit been attempted.

But Calverley was so mortified on being thus baffled, and so thoroughly
convinced of the inutility of opposing the popular feeling, that he
made no attempt to force a passage through the clubs and staves that
were marshalled before him; he turned away towards Sudley, vowing,
however, within himself, that the villeins generally, but more
particularly those whom his quick glance had identified, should suffer
for that morning's contumacy.

The excitement and enthusiasm, which had freed Holgrave, was still
glowing in the breasts of the crowd, when a single horseman was
observed on the summit of the hill at a short distance, galloping on
with the fleetness of the wind. He was scarcely heeded at first, but
when another and another, following with the same headlong speed,
successively appeared, the attention of the people was arrested; and
when the horse of the first rider, reeking with foam and sweat, sunk
down, within a few yards of the mass, and the man, after struggling
an instant, disengaged his legs and leaped in amongst them, exclaiming
in a voice scarcely audible from agitation, "Save me! save me! save a
poor debtor from prison!--from selling himself to pay his debts!--save
me to work as a free man and pay all!"--the fever of excitement seemed
to have reached its climax. Without considering an instant what manner
of man he might be, they closed around him, and pressing the exhausted
wretch towards the monk, vowed to resist to the death any attempts to
arrest him. It was in vain that the pursuers, who had now come up,
stated that the fugitive was not a debtor, but a notorious perjurer who
had fled from Gloucester to avoid his trial: their assertions were not
attended to. The populace felt, that in their united strength, they
could protect as well as free; and it is almost a question if they
would at the moment, have given up the man had his guilt been proved to
a demonstration. However, as it was merely a matter of opinion which
to believe,--the pursuers or the pursued, the result need scarcely
be told; the fugitive was hedged round with men and weapons, and the
horsemen, after uttering many an idle threat, rode on to Sudley Castle
to call upon the steward to assist in his recapture. The accused marked
their course; and, after breathing out the most fervent gratitude to
his preservers, he approached John Ball, and, bending his head, said,
in a subdued tone,

"How have I desired to behold the prophet--who hath risen up to be
the champion of the oppressed. My breast burned within me when I saw
the poor man trampled on. I sheltered a bondman--I was vexed with the
law--stripped of my all--beggared, and nothing left me but bondage or
a jail!--I am weary of the hard hand that presses down the poor! Holy
father, let me join the good cause."

John Ball saw at a glance that the man was above the vulgar, and
rejoicing that he could add one intelligent being to the illiterate
mass who had become converts to his doctrines, he gladly accepted the
offer of an ally who promised to be so serviceable; and, apprehensive
that as the hour for a simultaneous rising had not yet come, a further
display might rather injure than benefit the cause, pronounced a
benediction over the multitude, and promising to appear soon among them
again, desired each man to go to his regular business, and remain quiet
till the appointed hour. He then took the arm of his new colleague, and
hurried him to a secret opening in an adjacent quarry.

In the individual thus opportunely rescued, the reader will probably
recognize Black Jack. He had been detected in a conspiracy, from which,
had his character been already taintless, there would have been but
little chance of escape. But as matters really stood, the slightest
shadow of guilt would have been made to assume a form sufficiently
tangible to convict _him_.

On the second evening after, when Calverley was in his private sitting
room, the door was thrown suddenly open.

"Hist! master Calverley," said Black Jack, entering abruptly, yet
noiselessly. "Don't be frightened, it is only Jack Oakley;--nay, nay,
we don't part so" (springing between Calverley and the door, as the
steward, upon recognizing the intruder, had made an effort to pass
from the room);--"nay, nay, steward, we don't part company so soon;"
and drawing a dagger from his bosom, and seizing Calverley in his
muscular grasp, he forced him back to his seat. "You had more relish,"
continued he, "for an interview yesterday morning, when you led on the
pack to hunt for poor Black Jack! but _he_ had escaped you--yes, _he_
had escaped you," (speaking between his set teeth, and looking as if
it would do his heart good to plunge the weapon he was fingering in
Calverley's bosom.) "Did you think," he added, after a moment's pause,
during which he had replaced the dagger within his vest--"did you
think Black Jack knew so little of you as to trust his life in your
hands, when he saw the blood-hounds making for Sudley? No, no--I knew
too well that Thomas Calverley, instead of whispering to the retainers
that I was a hireling of the Lord of Sudley, would give the assistance
my enemies asked--and you did!--yes, you did;" and his hand, as if
instinctively, was again upon the hilt of his dagger, as he looked for
a moment at Calverley with the glaring eye, set teeth, and suppressed
breath of one who has resolved upon some bloody deed. But the
temptation passed away;--the rigid features relaxed, and withdrawing
his hand from his bosom, and humming a snatch from some popular air, he
walked up to the window.

The reader will readily imagine that this was a relief to Calverley.
Even a dagger in the hands of a man possessing the physical strength
of Black Jack, was not a weapon to be looked upon with indifference,
especially by an unarmed and surprised man. But Calverley, adroitly
availing himself of the evident change of purpose in Black Jack, said,
in as stern a voice as he could command, "This is strange conduct,
master Oakley!"

"'Tis so, steward," returned Black Jack, speaking in his usually
self-confident tone;--"I dare say you do think it strange that a man
should steal into this castle, and hide himself for two or three hours,
on purpose to scare you out of your wits; but it was not to threaten,
or frighten you either, I have come."

"For what purpose, then?"

"For money; and for what money will buy--drink. Have you any wine in
the room?"

"No, but I will fetch you some directly."

"Thank you, steward," replied Oakley, smiling, "but I would rather wait
a few minutes. To be sure, it is a hard thing to be fasting from drink
for two whole days! but then it is better than being a prisoner. We
will be good friends, master Calverley, but we will not put too much
faith in one another. And, as for taking your life--an idea which did
occur to me just now--by the green wax! I don't think I could do it.
To be sure, sometimes an odd fit comes upon me, but I believe, after
all, the pen suits my hand better than the sword; nevertheless, to come
to the point, steward, I must have money. I am going to turn an honest
man; to gain the bondman his freedom, and the free man justice. You
need not smile, for I have sworn to be a leader of the people."

"And I suppose Holgrave has sworn, too," sneered Calverley.

"I believe not; I have heard nothing as yet of his being a leader; but
I left the monk this morning under pretence of rousing the villeins
about Cotswold hills, and so managed to get here."

"Do you know any thing of Holgrave's route?"

"He is gone to London."

"To London!"

"Yes--will you let his wife follow him?"

"Let his wife follow him!" repeated Calverley, looking at Oakley
with unaffected astonishment; but instantly recollecting himself,
he added--"I don't know;" and again, after pausing a moment,
continued--"You, of course, do not mean to keep faith with that
seditious monk?" looking with a scrutinizing glance at Oakley.

"By the green wax, but I do! I can never practise my own calling
again; and, at any rate, have tried cheating, and lying, and so on,
long enough--and what have I got by them?--the honestest blockhead in
England cannot be worse off than John Oakley! So, as I have said, I
shall e'en try what honesty will do! Besides, I owe them something for
saving me from the gallows. But I cannot do without drink!--and drink,
except a beggarly cup of ale or so, is not to be had among them--and
so, steward, you must give me money."

"Yes, yes, you shall have money, Oakley, and I tell you, that if you
could manage to send me intimation, from time to time, of the plots
they are forming, you shall have as much as you desire."

Oakley, as Calverley ceased speaking, looked at him for a moment very
earnestly, and an intelligence passed across his face, as if some new
light had broken in upon him; but suddenly, with a sort of smile,--

"By the green wax!" said he, "you seem to think lightly of Black Jack's
promises! What! you would bribe me to betray their secrets, would you?
One never thinks of doing well, but some temptation is sure to come
across.--Come, come, give me the money--I shall think of what you have
said another time.--Come, come, I can hardly speak for very drought!"

Calverley had no alternative but compliance: but it was provoking
almost beyond endurance to have a creature who annoyed him so much,
completely, as it were, in his power, and yet be unable to avail
himself of the circumstance. There was no alternative, however; for,
as we have said before, he was unarmed, and, withal, no fighting man.
His chamber was retired, and the extortioner a desperate, unprincipled
being, and so Calverley doled out a few pieces of silver, and a piece
of gold, which Black Jack snatching up, departed; but as he closed the
door, a chuckling laugh, and a drawn bolt, told Calverley that he was
overreached by his wily confederate.

The signs of strong excitement became every day more general and more
evident, especially in the counties of Kent, Essex, Hertford, and
Norfolk. The furbishing of weapons; the whetting and sharpening of
hand-bills, wood-knives, and other offensive implements of husbandry;
and the general relaxation, and in many places total suspension of
labour, were like the heavings and the tremblings which betokened an
approaching shock. Indeed, in many places partial risings had already
commenced; but these had originated rather with the free than the
bond: rather in resisting the obnoxious tax than in asserting a right
to freedom; and the more timid and least influential of the gentry,
unable to control the popular movement, had already shut themselves
up in their mansions or castles, leaving to the government the task
of stemming the storm. Even Richard and his council became alarmed;
and after issuing a few proclamations, and a commission of trail
baron to try the rioters, awaited the event, trusting to the want of
organization among the people for a successful termination of the
outbreak.

Affairs had put on this gloomy aspect, the frown of contemptuous
suspicion being met by the glance of sullen defiance, and each man
of the commonalty either in league with his neighbour or regarding
him with distrust, when a meeting of those, who, under the powerful
influence of John Ball, had fomented all this disorder, took place
at Maidstone. It was on a June evening, and just as the twilight had
thrown a kind of indistinctness over every object, that Wat Turner, who
had been lying for the last hour along a bench in the chimney-corner,
to all outward appearance soundly asleep, suddenly started up--

"Is the room ready, Bridget?" he abruptly asked his wife.

"To be sure it is," replied Bridget, who was sitting at the open
casement of the large apartment, decked out in all her Sunday finery;
"but see, Wat, I declare you have upset my beautiful flowers," as
Turner, without heeding the variegated sweets that graced the fireless
hearth, brushed past them, and stood upon the earthen floor.

"Confound you, and your flowers!--you are sure every thing is in order?"

"Yes--didn't I tell you so this moment?" answered Bridget, rising
somewhat indignantly, and replacing the flower-pot in its original
position. "And trouble enough I have had," she continued, "to get in
the table and the chairs, and the benches, and stools, and put the
place so that it might be fit to be seen, all by myself. A fine holiday
the wench has got!--but she shall work for this next week!--How many
are coming?"

"Question me not, Bridget," replied Turner, in a very serious tone;
"but for once in your life try if you can hold your tongue; or, at any
rate, say only what is wanted. Do you remember what I told you? Keep
the door bolted; and when you hear a knock, say, 'With whom hold you;'
and if they answer, 'With king Richard and the true commons,' open the
door; but mind you open it to none else."

"Yes, yes, I will mind: but I verily believe you think me a fool, or a
woman who don't know when to hold her tongue!--you tell me one thing so
many times over! Wat--is that John Leicester coming?"

"Yes."

"How I hate the sight of that man! he is so full of consequence, and
has so many airs, and talks so much about what he will do when he is
king of Norfolk;--just as if an honest blacksmith was not as good as
a dyer any day! Or, as if Wat Turner (Wat Tyler, I mean)--I declare I
often catch myself going to call you Turner in the shop,--aye, as if
Wat Tyler wasn't as good a name as John Leicester! And then he talks
about his wife, too. I'll let him see when you are king of Kent."

"Silence! there is a knock." Turner went to the door: "With whom hold
you?" he asked.

"With King Richard and the true Commons," was the reply; and the door
was instantly unclosed, and John Leicester, a tall, pale complexioned
man, with an aquiline visage and sharp black eyes, accompanied by Ralph
Rugge, John Kirkby, and Allan Theoder, entered the apartment.

"Ye are the first, my friends," said Turner, cordially grasping the
extended hand of Leicester, "and, by St. Nicholas! it is now getting
fast on for ten o'clock."

He then strode across the room, and, throwing open a door, ushered
his colleagues into a place probably used by Bridget as a sort of
store-room, of moderate size, with clay walls, and an earthen floor.
A large iron lamp was burning on an oblong table of considerable
dimensions that stood in the centre. At the upper end of the table was
a chair and stools, and benches were arranged round in proper order.

"Bridget," said Turner, stepping back, "where is the wine?"

"Oh! here--I forgot the wine," said Bridget, handing in a large jug,
and then again returning with a number of drinking cups and another
measure of wine. Turner placed the liquor on the table, and was just
filling some of the cups, when Stephen Holgrave, Thomas Sack, and three
others, pushed open the door, and, after a brief salutation, took
their seats at the table.

"Here is a health to King Richard and the true commons!" said Holgrave,
taking up his cup.

"We have had enough of kings," said Kirkby, "and lords too--I will
drink to none but the true commons!"

"Why, as for kings," said Turner, "I am not sure; Richard is but a boy
yet, and his father was a----"

"I say we will have no Richard, and no king but King of the Commons,
and these we will have in every shire in England!" interrupted John
Leicester.

Turner looked as if he thought that he had as much right to deliver
his sentiments as the dyer of Norwich, and was about to vindicate
his opinions, probably in no very qualified terms, when Black Jack
entering, accompanied by a few others, diverted the smith's attention.

"Hah! Jack Straw--welcome!" said Turner; "you see you are not the last.
The night is waning, and our friends are not all here yet."

A horn of wine being handed to Oakley, he took his seat at the table;
and when about a dozen men had joined them,

"Jack Straw," inquired Turner, "have you made out the conditions?"

"Yes," replied Black Jack, "here they are," drawing a parchment from
his pocket.

"Read them! read them! let us hear!" burst from the party; and Oakley
began--

"First.--The king shall be required to free all bondmen."

"Aye, aye!" shouted the confederates, "that will do--that is the first
thing that must be done."

"Secondly," resumed Oakley, "to pardon all the risings."

"Pardon!" interrupted Turner--"there is no pardon wanted: let them do
as they ought to do, and there will be no rising."

"Thirdly.--That all men may buy and sell in any city or town in
England."

"Aye," said Rugge, "that is as it should be--I know where I could carry
all the hats I could make, and sell them for a good price, if I were
but free of the place."

"Fourthly.--That all lands should be rented at fourpence an acre."

"Aye, and enough too!" said Turner; "and, mind ye, nothing but rent--no
service. Let every man be free to work, and get money for his work,
and give money for his land, and know what he has to pay: I don't
like your services--so many days' labour, or so much corn, or so many
head of cattle, and so on: and then, if any thing happens that he
fails to the very day, though the land should have been held by his
great-grandfather, why he has no claim to it! 'Tis time all this should
be done away with.--But now go on with the rest."

"That was all we agreed upon to ask for," replied Black Jack, looking
round upon his associates.

"What!" said the overbearing Leicester, looking fiercely at the
ex-foreman--"didn't I tell you that _I_ was to be the King of Norfolk,
and Wat Tyler----"

"Tush, man!--nonsense!" interrupted Turner, reddening with mingled
shame and anger. "Let the bondman be freed, and the land properly
parcelled out, and then we can talk about what kings there are to be
besides Richard. But I'll tell you, Master Jack Straw, or whatever your
name is, that if I cannot read and write like you, I will have a word
in the matter as well as yourself--I will have all the lawyers hanged,
for one thing: there is so much trickery in the law, that we shall
never be sure of whatever is granted, while the men of law can have a
crook in it."

"And since we talk of hanging," said Turner, "there is one--" and he
looked significantly at Holgrave--"but, never mind; his time will come,
Stephen!"

"It will!" answered Holgrave, emphatically; and, as he acquiesced in
Turner's implied threat, a smile might be detected on Oakley's lips.

"Friends," said Allan Theoder, speaking for the first time, "I do not
hear you say any thing about this tax."

"If we had no king," said Kirkby, "we should have no tax grinding down
the poor. If that tax had not made a beggar of me, Jack Kirkby would
not have been here amongst you this night."

"But what is it," asked Black Jack, "that I shall add to the parchment?"

"That we shall have no taxes!" said the taciturn Theoder.

"And no king!" added Kirkby.

"And that the lords shall give up their castles, and keep no retainers,
and that all the lawyers shall be hanged!" said Turner.

"I tell you," said Leicester, "that when we are all kings, we can do
what we like with the lords and the lawyers, and----"

"And I will tell you, John Leicester, that if it is my will which is to
decide, we will have no king but one; and that one shall be Richard.
And that all lawyers and escheators, shall lose their heads--aye,
by St. Nicholas! and that before four days are gone, the laws shall
proceed from my mouth!" interrupted the smith, rising from his stool
and striking the table violently with his clenched fist.

While Turner was thus declaiming, a singular looking being, who sat
directly opposite to him, had risen, and, evidently quite unmoved by
the vehemence of the smith's manner, and equally regardless of the
matter of his speech, only awaited until a pause should enable him to
commence his own. The man was about five feet two in height, with thick
lips and a short turned-up nose, black, bushy brows, overhanging a pair
of twinkling grey eyes, and a bald head, receding abruptly from the
eyebrows, like those of the lower animals. The moment Turner ceased
speaking, the man began, in a deep guttural voice--

"I was brought up there, Wat Tyler, and I can tell you of two places
where it can be fired."

"What! Gloucester?"

"What! Sudley Castle?" asked Black Jack and Turner, at once.

"No--the city of London!"

"The city of London!" repeated Turner in a tone that implied little
approval of the suggestion.

"Yes--the city of London, friend Tyler," said Thomas Sack, in that
peculiar tone of confidence which says, I know what I say is the best
that can be said.--"Yes, the City of London, friend Tyler; and when the
city is fired, and the Londoners are running here and there, to save
their houses and goods, what will hinder us from taking the Tower, and
forcing the king to grant what we ask?"

There seemed reason in this--and Black Jack's imagination instantly
picturing the facility which such a thing would afford for the
appropriation of the good citizen's treasures, seizing the idea, said
quickly--

"By the green wax! our friend counsels well."

"He does counsel well," rejoined one at the bottom of the table. "Would
it not be a fine opportunity to pay ourselves for all they have taken
from us?" he added, in a lower key, and looking cunningly round upon
his companions as he put the interrogatory.

"What!" said Turner, sternly, "would you make us robbers!"

"Robbers! Master Tyler, no--no--it is one thing to rob, and another
to repay yourself, if the chance comes in your way, if you have been
cheated."

"I do not understand your one thing or your other thing;" answered
Turner--"but I know this, that we have paid the tax, and that we
will pay it no more--but as for touching what belongs to the London
folks--I'll tell you what, if we do set fire to London, by St.
Nicholas! if I see my own son Tom taking a penny's worth, I will fling
him into the flames!"

"You are right," said Holgrave, "we want to be free men, not
plunderers."

The man did not reply, and Black Jack, congratulating himself that he
had prudently kept his own counsel, endeavoured to turn the attention
of the leaders from the consequences to the cause. Holgrave positively
refused to sanction the contemplated firing: "No man," said he, "has a
right to burn what does not belong to him." But he was only one man,
and the sense of abstract justice was not sufficiently strong in those
about him, to overbalance the advantages that might result from the
deed. Certainly, to speak the truth, Turner hesitated some time before
he assented, but the pithy language of Thomas Sack, and the covert
insinuations of the lettered Oakley, overpowered his better judgment,
and the thing was decided upon.

"Hallo--confederates! you have forgotten one thing, which, after all,
may do us more good than all the conditions put together. What think ye
of burning all the deeds and court-rolls of manors we can lay our hands
on? The knaves will find it no easy matter to prove their title to the
land, or to the rent or to the bondman either."

Twenty brawny hands grasped successively that of the spokesman, and an
applauding murmur ran through the meeting.

"Aye, aye, burn the court-rolls--burn the court-rolls!" ran from mouth
to mouth. "We defy the lords to claim rent or service then."

"Yes," cried Holgrave, starting up eagerly, "if the court-rolls are
burned, who can claim the bondman?"

"Aye, or, as you said just now, Jack Straw, who can say to his vassal
'You owe me this service or that service,'" added the smith.

This proposition was then eagerly adopted and decided upon without a
dissentient voice.

The reader may, perhaps, be surprised that all this should pass without
eliciting either opposition or remark from the king of Norfolk; but the
fact was, that Leicester, although in general a very temperate man, had
been so much pleased with the flavour of Wat Turner's wine, and had so
often replenished his cup that he had not been, for the last half hour,
precisely in a situation either to combat or agree to any proposition.
Indeed, had any of the members been bold enough to submit a motion,
depriving him of his kingship elect, it is a question if he would have
resisted, so much was the natural arrogance and asperity of his temper
softened by the genial beverage.

The wine, too, began to exhibit many other of the confederates in
colours very different from such as they had at first shewn, but
the change generally was not such as was wrought in Leicester;--for
vindictive cruelty and selfish rapacity might now be detected in many
of those who, at the outset, had spoken only of justice and right.
Then, too, were put forth the claims which each fancied he possessed
of ranking above his fellows. "Did not I provide so many clubs or
spears--or, did not I or my father, or uncle," as the case might be,
"give so much corn to make bread--or so much silk to make a banner--or
so much leather to make jacks," &c.

"And have not I," said Turner, whom an extra cup had made more than
usually a braggart; "Have not I forged as many spear-heads as ye can
find handles for? and has not John Tickle, the London doublet-maker,
made me sixty as stout leathern doublets as man could wish to wear? and
can I not bring the tough sinews of the brave Kentish men to strike
down the hirelings of that foul council which has brought all this
misery on the people?--and will ye talk of your pitiful gifts? Am not I
the right hand of the prophet?----"

"The prophet disdains the aid of the boaster!" said John Ball, walking
up to the chair which had stood so long empty, and looking sternly
round upon the confederates. "Is it thus that ye talk when ye assemble?
Are wine-bibbers, and railers, and boasters, to lead the people to
justice? Is the bondman to put off his yoke by means of those who
contend for the highest places? Shame!--shame to ye!" and his eye
rested upon Turner.

For an instant, as the monk spoke, the smith's cheek glowed, and he
thought it was not kindly done to reprove, in so marked a manner, one
who, through rescuing him, had been compelled to fly like a felon, and
assume a name that did not belong to his father. However, he had been
accustomed to pay implicit obedience to the monk.

"Father John," said he, "it was not for the sake of boasting I spoke:
what Wat Turner does, he does because he thinks it is right. I ought to
have said Wat Tyler," he added, recollecting himself and looking round;
"but the truth will out, and there's no use in making a secret. Some of
ye do know the truth already, and some do not: but, however, I'll now
tell ye, that because in a quarrel I happened to kill one of Lord de
Boteler's retainers, I came here to Maidstone and took the name of poor
old Wat Tyler, my mother's brother--peace to his soul! and made the
folks believe that I was a sort of a runaway son."

"And if you had never known me," said Holgrave, starting up and
grasping Turner's hand, "you need not have changed your name: but you
are an honest man, let you be called what you may--and Stephen Holgrave
will never forget what you have done for him and his."

John Ball, whatever he may have felt, had too much good sense to weaken
his ascendancy by making any acknowledgment. If he was the soul of the
confederacy--Wat Turner, or Tyler, as we shall henceforward call him,
was the body;--he might inspire the thought, but Tyler must direct the
physical movement: and, therefore, it was absolutely requisite that the
smith should in himself set the wholesome example of being amenable to
discipline. The monk, therefore, without further comment, began to ask
of their capabilities, their resources, and arrangements; and it was
finally agreed upon, after much deliberation, that Tyler should command
the Kentish division, and Jack Oakley, or, as he now chose to style
himself, Jack Straw (probably from the then custom of bailiffs wearing
straws in their hats), the bodies that were to march upon London from
Essex.

"But--remember!" added John Ball, impressively, and, rising from his
seat, as did all who were assembled; "that ye do not slay except in
self-defence; and that, above all things, ye hold sacred the Lord's
anointed. And may _He_," elevating his eyes and hands, "who inspired
the thought--bless the deed! The first hour of the sabbath-morn has
just struck,--let us not trespass farther on the holy day.--Depart in
peace."

The monk then left the apartment, and the confederates presently
retired.



CHAPTER VI.


But, despite the prophet's injunction, the tumultuary rising commenced
with blood. The courts of trail baron were dispersed, and at Stamford
the jurors beheaded, and their heads borne on lances to overawe those
who might be inclined to arrest the progress of the insurgents; every
building suspected of containing court-rolls was searched; all the
documents found were destroyed, and the villeins met with, in the line
of march, pronounced free and incited to join the popular insurrection.
Their numbers were thus increased every mile of ground they passed
over, till, at length, the whole mass amounted to one hundred thousand
able-bodied men. It is impossible to say what such a force might not
have effected, had there been a proper degree of subordination kept up
among the led, or a proper degree of confidence and understanding among
the leaders: but, as is usual in popular commotions, the reverse of
this was the case. No one chose to occupy the lowest place, and each
thought he could direct movements and affairs much better than the
actual leader. Hence arose endless contentions and secessions, till
at length from want of the grand principle of adhesion--unanimity, the
vast body threatened to fall asunder, as if crushed by its own weight.

These things, however, gave little concern to the worthy who commanded
the Kentish division. Tyler, though an excellent blacksmith, possessed
few of the qualities requisite for forming a good general. Provided
there was no very sensible diminution in the number of his followers,
he cared not a straw for the score or two who, after quarrelling, or
perhaps fighting, withdrew in such disgust that they vowed rather to
pay the full tax for ever than submit to the insolence of the rebels.
One man could fight as well as another, reasoned he; and, provided _he_
was obeyed, what mattered it by whom. Dick went and Tom came--it was
sure to be all one in the end.

Oakley, on the other hand, although, perhaps, equally arrogant when
invested with this novel and temporary power, was more plausible, and
managed to keep up a better understanding among his followers than
Tyler. This sort of conciliatory conduct was, in a great measure,
forced upon him by the circumstance of Leicester being immediately next
him in command, and by the wish he had that no ill feelings against
himself might weaken his authority when any favourable opportunity
offered of reaping a golden harvest.

He knew that he had little co-operation to expect from Leicester, for
independently of the personal enmity of the latter, which would rather
induce opposition than support, the chief of Norfolk had not a particle
of rapacity in his composition. Indeed, it is not often that he whose
gaze is fixed upon some bold elevation, will stoop to rake in mire,
even when sure of discovering gold. Leicester, was very indignant
at thus becoming a subordinate, but the election of the prophet was
decisive, and he was compelled to submit: for John Ball, seeing that
one so rash and haughty, was not adapted to possess the unlimited
control to which his influence, and the sacrifices he had made, seemed
to entitle him; resolved that his indiscretion should be kept in check
by the prudence and intelligence of Oakley.

The Essex division had marched on until within about three miles of
the city of London, and here they halted, partly through fatigue and
partly to interchange communications with the Kentish men; it having
been determined, that while the latter where forcing a passage over
London-bridge, the men of Essex should, at the same moment, effect
an entrance by the east gate, and thus distract the attention of the
citizens.

In the motley crowd, of nearly sixty thousand men, the most conspicuous
figure was, perhaps, John Leicester himself, cased in a complete suit
of steel armour, (taken as lawful spoil from some castle in the route)
waving in the sun a bright Damascus scimitar, while he gave directions,
in an authoritative tone, to a peasant who was unloosing the trappings
of a large black horse, from which Leicester had just alighted.
Standing at a short distance from him, John Oakley, otherwise Jack
Straw, formed an adjunct little less important in the picturesque of
the scene. Unwilling to incumber himself with armour, his portly person
was defended by a leathern jack, covered over with a thick quilting
of crimson silk, dagger proof; and in this guise, he contrasted well
with the monk clad in dark woollen, with whom he was engaged in
conversation--although turning every now and then, his large blue eyes
towards a tempting display of eatables and wine profusely spread under
the shade of a tree. A cluster of formidable-looking men in tough
leathern jacks, were laying aside their hand-bills and swords and
dividing the contents of a large satchel. There was a group variously
armed and accoutred, some wearing the shirt of mail with the yew-tree
bow in their hands and quivers of arrows at their backs; and others in
doublets of leather or freize, with swords, some rusty and some bright,
or staves, or sharp-pointed clubs, or reaping hooks, or wood-knives.

The arrival of such a body as the Essex men, so near the city, and
the approach of the Kentish men, was, of course, no secret to those
who inhabited the Tower, but there was no standing army ready, at a
moment's notice, to march out and oppose their progress. They had,
indeed, six hundred archers within the Tower, but it was considered
the most prudent course not to send them forth, lest, while they were
attacking one division, another might come on and make themselves
masters of the strong hold. Many of the nobles who resided beyond the
city walls fled from their dwellings to seek a refuge in the Tower,
and among these Roland de Boteler, at his lady's earnest entreaty,
withdrew with her, from his mansion just beyond Bishopgate, and sought
a temporary shelter within the fortress.

Isabella was sitting in an apartment with the fair Joan of Kent,
expatiating upon the insolence of the common people, and detailing
a solitary instance of the evil that the family of a bondman might
work to his lord, when the door was thrown open and Richard, with his
beautiful countenance flushed with excitement, and followed by the
archbishop of Canterbury, abruptly entered.

"We are resolved, my lord bishop," said Richard, as he threw himself on
a seat by his mother; and, turning to an attendant, commanded that the
royal barge should be instantly in readiness.

"You surely do not intend leaving the Tower," asked the queen-mother
apprehensively.

"Madam," said Sudbury, with some heat, "his grace has so determined;
and, moreover, contrary to the advice of his noble cousins and
councillors, he will go down the river and parley with the villeins!"

The impetuosity of sixteen was not to be turned aside from its purpose
by the remonstrances of the archbishop, or even the entreaties of a
mother. Isabella, too, ventured to expostulate, but without effect;
and, accompanied by Thomas of Woodstock, his uncle, Sir Robert Hales,
the treasurer, the Earl of Oxford, De Boteler, and Simon Sudbury; who,
though reprobating his majesty's conduct, generously resolved to share
its consequences. Richard stepped into the royal barge with the most
sanguine hopes of quelling the insurrection.

The order had been so suddenly given that there was no intimation
of the sovereign's excursion until the royal barge met the eye,
consequently there was none of that excitement usual upon the most
simple movements of royalty. Indeed, at any rate, the attention of all
classes was, at this moment, so occupied by the Commons, that the king
was scarcely thought of.

They had rowed about a mile down the river, when the chancellor, who
was gazing with vacant eyes, but an occupied mind, upon the water, had
his attentions suddenly fixed.

"Does your grace see that little boat just before us?"

"Yes," replied Richard.

"I am much mistaken," resumed Sudbury, quickly, "if that figure in the
dark cloak is not he whose evil counsel has spread like a pestilence
through the land."

"What! the audacious monk who intruded upon us at Kennington?"

"The same, your grace, if my judgment be correct."

"Let him be instantly seized!" replied the impetuous Richard. The boat
was, accordingly, hailed, and John Ball dragged into the barge, and
at once identified by Sudley and De Boteler. The monk did not resist
either the capture or the bands that were bound around him; neither did
he reply to the reproaches that were showered upon him; but silently
and unresistingly suffered himself to be thrown into the bottom of the
barge.

In a few minutes after this was effected, Richard's quick eye was
suddenly attracted by an appearance on the beach.

"By my faith, cousin," said he, addressing Thomas of Woodstock, "yonder
are the varlets! Do you see how bravely their pennons are waving, and
how, here and there, among their black heads, something bright glitters
in the sun?"

"That is their weapons, my liege," said Woodstock.

"Stolen from the castles and houses they have plundered," added Sudbury.

"Put to shore quickly," said Richard; "and let us see if those rebels
will dare to appear in harness before their king!"

"You would not venture your sacred person among them, my liege!" cried
Sir Robert Hales the treasurer, in alarm.

"What! think you, sir treasurer," asked De Boteler, "that the knaves,
vile as they are, would harm his grace?"

"My lord baron," said Sudbury, sternly, "it is not well that a man of
your experience should speak thus. Give not your countenance to an act
that may yet lie heavy upon your soul!" Richard's cheek kindled as the
baron stood rebuked; and with the generous indignation of youth, he
said, in a tone of evident displeasure--

"My Lord Bishop, the Baron de Boteler did not counsel us to land: he
was only doubting how far the impudence of those commons might go."
Sudbury, knowing that soft words might turn away wrath, and perceiving
that little good would be effected in the present case by pursuing
a different course, suffered Sir Robert Hales to intreat, even as a
father would entreat his only son, that the young king should not peril
his life by venturing his royal person among those who were up in arms
against his authority. But when he saw that Richard's ingenuous mind
was touched by the earnest manner of the treasurer, he then prudently
put his own weight into the balance, and the scale turned as he desired.

"Go you, then, my lord of Oxford," said Richard, "since it does not
appear wise that we, ourselves, should land, and ask those men why they
thus disturb the peace of their sovereign lord the king."

Robert de Vere accordingly, accompanied only by three men at arms, one
to act as herald, and two as a sort of body guard, quitted the barge to
hold parlance with the rebels.

"Why we are thus up in arms?" said Leicester, without circumlocution,
as the herald proclaimed the king's interrogatory,--"why, because those
who should command are thought nothing of, and those who do command
ought to have their heads struck off."

"This is no meet answer, _Sir Knight_," said Oxford, glancing
ironically at Leicester's armour. "You must consider of something
more to the matter of his grace's demand, or Robert de Vere can be no
messenger."

"Yes, yes, we will consider of some more fitting answer," said
Leicester fiercely;--and after consulting earnestly for a few minutes
with Jack Straw, Thomas Sack, and other leaders, he returned to De
Vere, and said--

"Hear you, Robert de Vere, we demand that all whose names are in that
parchment shall be beheaded, because they are enemies to the true
Commons, and evil councillors to the king. And when this is done we
will let his grace know what else we demand."

Robert de Vere took the scroll from Leicester with a haughty air, and
glancing over the contents, without vouchsafing a word, turned away and
rejoined the king.

"These knaves wish to carry things with a strong hand, my liege," said
the Earl of Oxford, bending his knee as he presented the scroll.

"What!" said Richard, as his eye ran over the characters, "John, duke
of Lancaster; Simon Sudbury, lord chancellor; John Fordham, clerk of
the privy seal; Sir Robert Hales, treasurer; the bishop of London; Sir
Robert Belknap, the chief justice; Sir Ralph Ferrers, and Sir Robert
Blessinton. What! is this all the noble blood they wish to spill? By
my faith!" he added, trampling the parchment under his foot, "we will
listen to nothing more the knaves have to say; and ye may tell them
that as they are bondmen so shall they remain; and that as my fathers
ruled them with a rod of iron, so shall I rule them with a rod of
scorpions."

But this burst of indignation soon passed away, and upon the suggestion
of the prudent Sir Robert Hailes, he sent an evasive answer, with a
command that the Commons should attend him at Windsor on the Sunday
following.

The royal barge then returned to the Tower, and John Ball was again the
tenant of a dungeon.

Tyler and his Kentish men were at this time upon Blackheath, awaiting
the monk impatiently, who had strictly enjoined that no attack
should be made upon London till the word was received from him. The
day, however, wore away, and John Ball did not appear. The men grew
impatient, but Tyler, though brooking the delay as ill as the most
ardent among them, hesitated to take any decided step until the
sanction of the prophet should warrant the deed.

"By St. Nicholas!" cried he at last, "something ill has befallen the
holy man, or he would have been here before now. We will march on
directly, and find him, or the London folks shall look to it."

This resolution was received with acclamation, and the whole mass moved
forward with a quick step. Their direct way would have been to keep as
far as was possible the banks of the Thames in view, until they arrived
at London Bridge, but Sudbury's palace was at Lambeth, and Tyler,
suspecting that the archbishop had some hand in the detention of the
monk, vowed that his residence should be burned to the ground if some
tidings were not gained of him. On they went, therefore, to Southwark;
and with shouts and execrations, and torches flaming in their hands,
approached the walls of the episcopal edifice. The gates were forced;
the affrighted domestics and retainers fled; and it was well that
Tyler, as he rushed on through room and corridor, did not encounter
Sudbury; but the prelate being fortunately in the Tower, escaped the
rage of the vindictive smith.

"He has been an ill friend to him," said Tyler, "even if he should not
have harmed him now," (as a trembling domestic assured him that no
prisoner had entered the palace) "and he deserves that his head should
be carried on a pole before us to London Bridge."

And when, at length, the intruders were satisfied that the palace
contained neither bishop nor monk, the search commenced for the
documents and records. Cabinets were broken open, drawers and boxes
forced, and the contents thrown carelessly about; jewels, silk damasks,
and gold embroidery, were trampled under foot with as much loss of
value through wantonness as if the spoilers had enriched themselves--a
thing which, if done at all, was done to so small an extent, that he
only who snatched up a gem or a piece of gold could have said that a
theft had been committed.

In each apartment the writings found were thrown in a heap, and blazing
torches flung upon them. These igniting the flooring and furniture, the
building was presently in a blaze in a dozen different directions, and
the Kentish men, with as rapid a step as they had approached, marched
away, vowing vengeance to all the enemies of their prophet.

It was midnight when they arrived within view of London, but the red
tinge in the southern horizon, and the glare of their thousand torches,
had warned the citizens of their approach; the gates were shut, and
the bridge itself crowded with aroused citizens. Tyler's first command
was that they should rush on and set fire to the gates; but Holgrave
had seen more of warfare than he, and he knew that, even though they
might succeed in passing the bridge, if the citizens were thoroughly
provoked, they might, in their narrow streets, occasion much annoyance;
he, therefore, counselled Tyler to remain with the men marshalled
before the bridge, while three or four, who had some knowledge of the
city, and whom he would himself accompany, should pass stealthily over
the river, and ascertain if their friends on the other side were ready
to assist them. Tyler reluctantly agreed to this proposal.

Holgrave and two others then departed from the main body, unloosed a
small boat from its moorings, and, in less than five minutes, they were
walking, in the twilight of a starry midsummer's night, down the rough
stone pathway of Thames-street.

While the guide paused for a moment to recollect the way to the
head-quarters of the insurgents, some one who passed was heard speaking
in a tone which fell upon Stephen's ear like a sound he ought to
remember; he sprang from the side of his comrades, and, standing before
the strangers, demanded, "With whom hold you?"

"With King Richard and the true commons!" was the reply. "Is it not
Stephen Holgrave?" continued the galleyman, holding out his hand.

"Yes," replied Holgrave, giving it a friendly pressure; "I thought I
knew your voice."

"Do you know _my_ voice?" asked one of Wells's companions.

"Ah! Merritt, you are the man I wanted--when did you see father John?
can you tell any thing of him?"

"Is not the father with Tyler?" asked Merritt. Holgrave then knew that
some mishap must have befallen the monk; and the possibility of his
being in the Tower occurred to all.

"Hollo!" cried the galleyman, as, at this moment, a party of men
approached--"with whom hold ye, mates?"

"With whom should we hold," said the foremost, "but with King Richard
and the true commons?"

"Well met, then," said Wells; "for the true commons are up--no time
is to be lost--the prophet is in prison. Let each man steer his own
course, muster all the hands he can, and meet on Tower-hill. Hark!
that stroke tells one--remember we meet at two, and we will see if
the Londoners and men of Kent cannot shake hands before the clock has
tolled three."

The galleyman then hurried Holgrave up a narrow dark street, where,
tapping gently at a door, it was instantly opened, to Stephen's great
surprise, by old Hartwell.

"Is that you, Robin?" said a soft voice; and a female face was seen
peeping half way down the stairs.

"Yes, yes; but go, Lucy, and tell that Stephen Holgrave is here."

"What! Stephen Holgrave!" said the warm-hearted Lucy, springing down
the stairs; but, light and quick as was her step, another reached the
bottom before her, and, with a faint shriek, Margaret Holgrave fell on
her husband's neck.

"Father," resumed Wells, "take up that lamp, and we'll get a flask of
the best, to drink a health to the rising; and do you, Holgrave, go up
and just take a look at your children, and then we must be gone."

"And the strife will begin this night!" said Margaret, fearfully,
as Holgrave, bending over the bed, where lay two sleeping children,
glanced for an instant at a dark-haired boy of five or six, and then,
taking a little rosy infant of about a twelve-month in his arms, kissed
it, and gazed upon its face with all the delight of a father.

"There will be no strife, Margaret, to-night, or to-morrow. The commons
of London are rising to help us, and the king will not hold out when he
sees----but no matter. Tell me how you have fared. When I left Sudley,
to join the commons, you were taken charge of by your brother, who,
no doubt, placed you here with your friend Lucy, on her marriage with
Wells----"

"Stephen!" said the galleyman, from below.

"Good heavens! I must go. Bless you, Margaret!--bless you! I will see
you again soon! May God keep ye both!" Gently laying down the still
sleeping babe, he tore himself from the arms of his weeping wife, and
rushed down the stairs.

Holgrave had never much reason to boast of the gift of speech, more
especially when his feelings were in any wise affected. Even the
galleyman was not as eloquent now as upon former occasions, and the two
issued forth, and walked on for about five minutes, without exchanging
a word. Wells, at length, stopped at a house in the vicinity of St.
Bartholomew's Priory, with a heavy, gothic, stone arch, inclosing
an iron studded door, and the windows of the first, and still more
the second, story projecting so as to cast a strong shadow over the
casement of the ground-floor. Wells tapped twice with the hilt of his
dagger at the oaken door, which was softly opened, and he and Holgrave
entered.

A low, stone passage conducted them into a spacious wainscotted room
well lighted, and so full of company that it was not possible, at a
glance, to guess at their number; and here, at the head of a long,
narrow table, was Black Jack standing erect on the seat which he should
have occupied in a different manner, and, with his eyes dancing, and
his nose and cheeks glowing, haranguing the crowd in style of familiar
eloquence.

"What, my old friend! what do _you_ do here?" said the galleyman aloud,
but evidently speaking to himself.

"Why," replied Holgrave, imagining the exclamation addressed to him,
"I suppose he has left the Essex men to try what can be done among the
bondmen!"

"But what has _he_ to do with the Essex men or the bondmen?" asked the
galleyman.

"Why, do you not know that that is Jack Straw, the Essex captain?"

"He Jack Straw!" cried Wells, with such a look as if his eyes rested
on a spectre. "Have I not heard John Ball say that he wished Wat Tyler
were like Jack Straw?"

"Yes; father John thinks better of him than of any who leads: but to
tell you the truth," added Holgrave, in a whisper, "though he can read
and write, and is as father John says, a prudent man--I don't like him."

"Do you know him?" emphatically asked the galleyman.

"To be sure I do!"

"But I mean," impatiently resumed Wells, "did you ever see him before
he was with those Essex men?"

"No."

"Then, Stephen Holgrave, a word in your ear:--_I_ know him; and let
that man hoist what colours he may, steer clear of him--you understand
me!"

Holgrave had not time to reply, when Wells suddenly, in a gay careless
tone, accosted a man who was approaching the spot where they stood.
"Hah! Harvey! who thought of seeing you among the true commons?"

Harvey looked at the speaker an instant, and then, recognizing him as
poor Beauchamp's successor in the jury, was about to joke him upon his
long fast, when his eyes, gleaming upon Holgrave, he thought it the
most prudent course to make no allusion to the matter, but directly to
reply to Wells's salutation.

"Why my business in the country," said he, "fell off a little; and so I
was trying to make out a living here, and Tom Merritt coming across me,
it took little to persuade me to hold with the commons."

"In hopes of being well paid," thought the galleyman, though he said
nothing; he merely smiled an answer, and then, drawing Harvey a little
aside, whispered him--

"But what gale drove our worthy foreman here?"

"Oh! you know, I suppose, that he is a sworn brother among the leaders,
though I didn't know it till this very evening, when it happened that
I was sent to the Essex men to know when they thought of marching. You
know Black Jack gets on badly without a drop, and, as he could hardly
obtain enough among them to wet his lips, he took the opportunity, as
he said, of my coming to raise a good spirit among the bondmen--but in
truth to----" and he put an empty wine-cup, that he held in his hands,
to his mouth.

The apartment was so densely filled, that the door had opened, while
this conversation passed without attracting the least attention; but
Wells, who bethought him that the minutes were flitting, found a
passage for himself, and, approaching the table, placed a stool that he
took from behind one who had relinquished it, in order that not a word
that fell from Jack Straw should escape him, and, mounting upon it,
shouted out at the top of his voice--

"With whom hold ye, friends?"

There was a sudden hush at this abrupt interrogatory, and Jack
Straw was about to answer in no very gentle manner, when, fixing
his penetrating eyes upon Wells, a significant glance informed the
galleyman that he was recognized, and, suppressing the epithet he was
about to use, Oakley merely replied--

"We hold, as all honest men ought--with King Richard and the true
commons!"

"It is of little use holding with them," returned Wells, "if you
stand talking there all night;--the time is now come for action, not
speech--at two the commons of London meet on Tower-hill--that is my
message." He then turned away, and was hurrying with Holgrave from
the room, when Jack Straw, stepping round from his post of orator,
intercepted him, and, seizing him by the arm, whispered in his ear--

"Are you leaders too? By the green wax! I suppose I shall see
the ghost of the ferret among the good commons next! But mind ye,
galleyman--not a syllable that we ever met!" glancing his eyes at
Holgrave.

"Not a word," replied Wells, breaking from the foreman's hold, and
effecting a precipitate retreat.

At the appointed hour the commons of London mustered in strong force on
Tower-hill; and, headed by Wells, passed on to London-bridge. Here they
halted, and, upon a blazing brand being affixed to a long spear, and
elevated in the air, a sudden shout from the thousands occupying the
southern bank, was re-echoed by the Londoners, and caused, as might be
expected, a strong sensation among the citizens, inducing a disposition
rather to concede than to provoke. The elevation of a second torch was
the signal that a parley had been demanded by the loyalists; and then
the sudden silence was almost as startling as had been the previous
tumult. The horn of the Lord Mayor's herald again sounded the parley:
those who styled themselves the commons, demanded that the gates should
be opened, and their brethren of Kent permitted to pass. There was some
scruple as to the propriety of acceding to this demand, which, however,
was soon got over by the unequivocal assurance that the commons _would_
pass at any rate; and that, if further opposition was offered, their
first act, upon entering the city, would be to tear down the houses and
demolish the bridge. This argument was forcible; and, as there appeared
no alternative, the mayor, first stipulating that the houses and stalls
on the bridge should remain unharmed, and that free passage should be
granted to the citizens to return to their dwellings, passed, with the
civic force, between the opening ranks of the dictating commonalty.
Those of the latter, who had arrows rested meanwhile on their bows, and
those who were armed with swords and spears on their cross-hilts and
handles;--and thus, in the attitude of submission, and in the silence
of peace, stood the confederates until the last citizen had gone by.
Then the close and the rush, and the simultaneous shout, came upon the
eye and ear like the gathering of mighty waters; and, ere five minutes
elapsed from the departure of the mayor, the bridge groaned with the
hurried tread of the insurgents, and Tyler planted midway the banner of
St. George on the highest house-top.

Shouting for the prophet, Tyler and the galleyman led on the multitude
to Tower-hill; but when here, it was to little purpose that the
former and Holgrave went rapidly along the verge of the moat, from
one extremity to the other, and to as little purpose did the smith's
practised eye run over every bar and fastening that came within his
ken--he could detect nothing in the massive walls but the strong work
of a skilful artizan.

"The ditch is deep," said Holgrave; "but a part could easily be filled
up; and if we had ladders, the wall is not high."

"Age, or if you had a score or two of hempen ropes, with good grappling
irons, it would be but boy's play to get aloft," said the galleyman.

Unfortunately, however, they were provided neither with ladders nor
ropes; but even had they been so, it is doubtful whether they would
have been put in requisition--for now arose the question as to
what part of the building they ought to attack, and where lay the
prison of the prophet, admitting that he was a prisoner. A thousand
suppositions and conjectures were afloat, but no one was sufficiently
well acquainted with the building to give a decisive answer. Indeed, it
appeared that scarcely a single individual among them had ever crossed
the drawbridge.

An angry debate now ensued among the leaders. Some, confiding in
their numerical force, and zealous for the liberation of the prophet,
were for storming the fortress at any point, and for effecting their
object more speedily, proposed razing to the foundation some of the
neighbouring houses, and filling up the ditch with the materials.
Others thought such an attack might rather militate against themselves
than turn to any account in redress of grievances, and after all
might fail to advantage the monk: these proposed that a parley should
be demanded, and their resolutions submitted to the king, with a
requisition for the prophet's release.

"Men of Kent!" shouted Tyler, indignant at this pacific proposal,
"what, do you suppose King Richard and his council, who are cooped up
yonder, will think of us while we stand talking and gaping here? Think
ye they will take off the poll-tax, or free the bondman? or open the
prison door of our holy prophet, while they see us waiting like so many
beggars, for them to read what is written on the sheepskins? I hold,
that leaving half our brave fellows here, to let them know that if we
do not mount their walls, we have an eye upon them, the rest should go
on and see what is to be done in other parts of London. Who knows but
we might get hold of that mortal fiend, John of Gaunt; if we once had
him, by St. Nicholas! we might ask for what we liked. Stephen Holgrave,
do you keep watch here, and let no one come or go: should there be any
thing to be said, you know what to say--that is enough." And then,
marshalling off a strong and picked body from among his followers, the
smith hurried forward, accompanied by the galleyman and Kirkby, through
the city, injuring neither person nor property, but only exacting from
every one they encountered in their progress, a shout and a God-speed
for the true commons.

The barred gates of the Fleet prison flew open before the assailants,
and the wretched inmates felt their feverish temples once more cooled
by the pure breath of liberty. At about a hundred paces from the Fleet,
they passed a house, having the bush suspended in front, indicating
its possessor to be a vintner; and the host himself, with singular
foolhardiness, stood looking out from the open casement of the first
story.

"With whom hold ye, friend?" said Tyler, as he passed, imagining, from
the dauntless manner of the man, that he was a friend.

"Not with such traitors and rebels as ye, with whomever else I may
hold!" returned the man.

At the instant, a bow was drawn, an arrow whizzed, and the imprudent
vintner fell back from the casement.

"Break in the door!" said Tyler, "and let us see if the cellars of this
unmannerly knave have any thing more to our liking than their master's
speech."

There was no need to repeat the order--the door was smashed to
splinters, and, in the rush to get at the cellars, several were thrown
down, and trampled on. A large can, filled with wine, was handed to
Tyler, and another to the galleyman, who, each quaffing a long draught,
permitted the like indulgence to their followers; and then the word to
march on was shouted by the chief. But now the smith perceived evidence
of the folly he had been guilty of: the wine was too tempting to be
left so soon--the vintner's house rang with execrations and tumult--and
even among those who kept their station in the street, the dangerous
liquid continued to circulate.

"This comes," said Tyler, enraged at such sudden disorder, "of letting
folks taste of what they're not used to; but let them tipple on. By St.
Nicholas! they may: I will wait for no man;" and snatching the banner
of St. George from its half-stupified bearer, and waving it in the
air, he applied a small bugle to his lips, and at the blast, all whose
reason was not entirely lost in their thirst, followed the smith from
the scene of inebriety.

Their next halt was at the beginning of the Strand, opposite the
princely mansion of the bishop of Chester. The gates were forced
in, and the garden encircling the building filled with the commons,
who, hissing and shouting, bade John Fordham come forth. When it was
discovered that the bishop was not within its walls, the house was
presently glowing in one bright sheet of flame. It was told to Tyler,
while this was going on, that a body of the Essex men had marched
on from Mile-end, and taking a northerly direction, had pillaged and
destroyed many dwellings, and among others, that of the prior of Saint
John of Jerusalem, at Highbury; while another division was rapidly
advancing by the way of Holborn, to attack the palace of John of Gaunt
at the Savoy.

"By St. Nicholas!" said Tyler, "they shan't have it all their own way
there;" and the Kentish men made all haste to be first to commence the
work of destruction; but ere they had left the burning house, the dark
body of the division of the Essex men was seen pouring into the Strand
by the wall of the Convent garden.

Tyler and the other leaders, followed by hundreds, now rushed on to the
palace;--the massive gates yielded to their blows, and the assailants,
pouring in through the arched passages, ran along gallery and window,
and through seemingly countless apartments. Yet, even amidst their
eagerness to capture Lancaster, they paused a moment, casting glances
of astonishment and pleasure at the beautifully inlaid cabinets, rich
tapestries, and embroidered cushions, which every where met their
gaze. The galleyman, however, was perhaps the only one among all the
gazers who knew the value of the things he looked upon; and he could
not repress a feeling of regret, as he glanced at the damask hangings,
and the gold cords and fringes, and remembered that all these would be
speedily feeding the flames. As he was thus occupied, and thinking what
a fortune these articles would be to a pedling merchant, he saw Jack
Straw in the act of whispering in Harvey's ear (who, by some strange
sort of moral attraction, was standing by his side), and he noticed
them linger until the group they had accompanied passed on to the
inspection of other apartments. Oakley then opened a door in a recess
in the corridor, which, when they entered, they closed hastily after
them.

"Master Tyler," said Wells, springing up to the chief, "they are
boarding a prize yonder;" and he pointed to the half-concealed door.

"Have they got John of Gaunt?" vociferated the smith; but as he turned
his eyes from the spot to which his attention had been directed, to
his informant, the galleyman could not be distinguished among the
group--for, in truth, he was rather solicitous to avoid any kind of
contact with his old associates.

"Confound the unmannerly carl," muttered Tyler, as he rushed forward
with his men to seek an explanation in the room itself. The door,
however, resisted all their efforts; and this only strengthening their
hasty suspicions respecting Lancaster, the stout polished oak was
presently split asunder by their axes, and they forced an entrance into
a small light apartment, furnished in a style of eastern luxury. From
the carved ceiling were hanging the broken links of a gold chain; and
on the soft crimson cushions of an ebony couch, and on the floor, were
scattered the miscellaneous contents of an exquisite ivory cabinet.

"He has escaped us!" shouted Tyler and the others, as, after casting
a rapid glance around the empty apartment, they darted through an
open door on the other side. This led into a luxurious dressing room,
and this again into a sumptuous dormitory. If there were any outlet
from this room, it was concealed by the splendid hangings, and the
pursuers, after assuring themselves that no human being was within,
returned to the dressing-room. The door of egress from this apartment
was secured on the outside, and so, without a moment's delay, they had
recourse to their former expedient, and the door was instantly hewn
to splinters. On creeping through the aperture, and passing through
a short passage, they found themselves in the gallery that ran round
the hall. Here, chafing with disappointment, the pursuers had only to
hope that they might, by chance, take the right scent, and were rushing
along the gallery, when Tyler, casting his eyes below, and observing
the galleyman cross the hall, hallooed to him; and then springing
along the gallery, and down the spiral stairs, seized Wells rather
unceremoniously, and upbraided him with conniving at the escape of
Lancaster.

"Avast there! Master Tyler," said Wells, shaking off the grip of the
smith; "I know no more of Lancaster than yourself: I told you this
morning he was on the borders--and so, how, in the name of all the
saints, could he be here?--but I tell ye, there are some here who would
rather lay hand upon John of Gaunt's gold than upon John of Gaunt's
body!"

"They have better not come across me," replied the smith, comprehending
the galleyman's hint; but still persisting in his scepticism, he
resumed his search. But even the smith was, at length, compelled to
admit that, whether Lancaster had escaped or not, it did not appear
likely that he would be found;--and the order was given for firing
the palace. At the same instant a leathern jack, covered all over with
a thick quilting of blue satin, was held upon the point of a lance,
and as many arrows shot at it as they would more willingly have aimed
at the breast of its owner. The building was already smoking in fifty
different places, and at some points the flames were already rising.
Tyler, who had determined not to believe in Lancaster's absence, after
lingering about the palace with the hope that the devouring element
might force him from some hiding-place, accidentally found himself in
the chapel close to the sanctuary, and just at the opportune moment to
detect a sacrilegious hand removing a massive gold candlestick from the
altar.

"Infidel! devil!" shouted Tyler, springing over the railing of the
sanctuary, and raising his clenched fist: the candlestick fell from the
grasp of the delinquent, and he reeled against the altar with the force
of the blow. "What!" continued Tyler, aghast, "can it be Jack Straw?"

"Yes, it is," replied Oakley, fiercely, in some measure recovering
from his confusion, and from the effects of the blow, "and, by the
green wax! a strange way you have of claiming acquaintance--what did
you think, Tyler, I was going to do with the candlestick? Will not the
Commons have churches of their own, when they obtain their rights,
and would it not be a triumph over Lancaster, to have these brave
candlesticks gracing our altars."

Tyler had turned away while Black Jack was speaking, but suddenly
stopping, turned abruptly round, and looking full at him--

"I'll tell you, Jack Straw," said he, "were it not for my respect for
father John, I would have every door of this chapel fastened up, and
then the flames that are already crackling the painted windows yonder,
would just give you time to say a paternoster and an ave, before they
cheated the gibbet of its due! but, as it is, let _him_ who put you
over the Essex men look to you, but, by my faith," he added, stamping
his foot against the pavement, and speaking quicker, "if you do not
instantly leave this place, all the monks that ever told a bead shall
not save you!"

It was yet possible for Oakley to feel shame, and it was not entirely
with rage, that his whole body at this moment trembled. He looked at
the smith as he spoke, and half drew a dagger from his bosom, and, an
indifferent spectator, regarding the two--Oakley still standing on the
upper step of the altar, and Tyler, at a dozen paces down the centre
aisle--would have thought that there could have existed but little odds
between the physical power of the men; but Oakley, although he ground
his teeth, and felt almost suffocated, had too much prudence to expose
his gross enervated body to the muscular arm of the vigorous smith.
Therefore, assuming an indignation of a very different character from
his real feelings, he said, as he stepped from the altar into the nave
of the chapel,

"I don't understand your language, Master Tyler--am not I a
leader?--Does not the prophet know me, and trust me?"

"By St. Nicholas! the prophet does _not_ know you! Do you think he
would have trusted you, if he had thought you would have skulked into a
chapel to steal the very candlesticks from the holy altar!"

An execration passed between Oakley's teeth--he sprang upon Tyler, and
had not the smith dexterously raised his left arm and arrested the
blow, Black Jack's dagger would have been buried in his bosom.

"That for ye, coward," said Tyler, striking him with the flat side of
his bared weapon. Oakley aimed another thrust which was again turned
aside, and the smith, now flinging down his sword, seized upon his
right hand and wrenched the dagger from its grasp. After a short
struggle, Oakley fell heavily on the pavement with the blood streaming
from his mouth and nostrils.

"Lie there, for a dog--to strike at a man with a dagger!" said Tyler,
as he took up his sword, and muttering something about "if it was
not for the sake of the prophet," strode hastily away. And there was
little time for delay; the atmosphere of the place was becoming quite
insupportable, and the flames were spreading with such rapidity, that
the smith, half stupified and scorching, had enough to do to escape
from the mischief he had kindled.

That afternoon, Richard was standing on a turret of the fortress,
looking at the column of flame which still rose brightly from Lancaster
palace, even above the heavy smoke and occasional sparklings which told
elsewhere of the whereabout of the incendiaries.

"Our cousin will have to crave hospitality, when he returns home,"
said Richard, addressing the Earl of Oxford, who stood beside him.

"The knaves have been merry on their march," replied Oxford. "Does your
grace see the bonfires they have lit yonder?" and he pointed towards
the north.

"By my faith, it is more than provoking to see the audacity of the
kerns. Think you not," added Richard, after pausing a moment, "that if
that monk was brought forth, and his head laid on a block, some terms
might be made with the rebels. Do you see," continued the king, as they
descended to the battlements, "they are bringing huge beams towards the
drawbridge."

It indeed seemed evident that some bold measure was contemplated, and
Richard's suggestion respecting the monk was about to be acted upon,
with only a prudent hint from Sir Robert Hales not to provoke the
Commons to desperation, when De Boteler's page approached his master.

The baron was standing apart from the other nobles, scanning, with a
gloomy countenance, the dark undulating mass below. Once he could have
sworn that Stephen Holgrave stood upon the verge of the ditch before
him, but if it was he, he stood but an instant, and then was lost
amidst the multitude. This circumstance gave a new turn to De Boteler's
meditations; he thought too of the monk of Winchcombe Abbey--this John
Ball, who was styled the prophet; and it seemed to be no less true than
strange, that the germ of all this wide-spreading disorder had sprung
from his own soil. So much, in fact, was he absorbed in these ideas,
that he actually started when his page, who had been for the space of
a minute endeavouring to draw his attention by repeated obeisances,
ventured to pronounce his name in rather a high key, as he presented
to him an arrow which had been found sticking in the door-post of the
building in which father John was confined. "And this was shot from
the river?" asked De Boteler, as he received the arrow and unrolled a
parchment wrapped round it.

"Yes, my lord."

"Tell Calverley to come hither directly."

The page withdrew, and De Boteler, after perusing the parchment,
presented it to Richard. It ran thus: "A retainer of the Lord
de Boteler, will come, unarmed and alone, beneath the southern
battlements, at ten o'clock. He is a leader of the commons, but, being
touched with remorse, he will, if admitted before the king in council,
disclose all the secrets of the rebels."

"Know you any retainer of yours who could have written this?"

"My steward, who approaches, can better answer the question, your
highness," returned the baron.

The parchment being handed to Calverley, he instantly recognized the
hand, and, in answer to De Boteler's question, replied--

"This is the handwriting of a retainer called Oakley."

"Do you know the man?"

"Yes, my lord."

Calverley then retired, and those whom the matter concerned, withdrew
to an apartment, and gave their opinions according to the view in
which the thing appeared to them.

That it was a stratagem to gain entrance to the Tower, was the opinion
of several, but, after much discussion, it was decided that the man
should be admitted, and that the monk should be exhibited merely to
intimidate the rebels, until the result of this promised communication
should be known.

About ten, a small boat was observed to approach the southern walls of
the fortress. A man stepped from it and was permitted to ascend the
terrace, and Calverley, who was standing there, challenged the stranger.

The steward clapped his hands, and immediately the bows of a hundred
archers stationed around, were unbent, and he addressed Oakley as
follows:

"It was you who shot the arrow?"

"Yes."

"Are you a leader, Oakley?"

"I was a leader," returned Oakley, gloomily.

"It was well that I was here to recognize your writing."

"Where there is a will there is a way, steward, and I should have found
means of getting revenge even if you had kept safe at Sudley."

"Is it for revenge, Oakley, or for gold?"

"I tell you Master Calverley, it is revenge," said Black Jack, stopping
short, as they were crossing the court-yard, "It is revenge! When
I joined the commons I swore I would not betray them, and I would
not--betray them for gold did you say?--listen--I had gold--aye
gold enough, to have kept me an honest man all the days of my life,
after this rising, and that--that blacksmith, who killed the baron's
retainer--"

"Turner! what of him?"

But Oakley went on without heeding the interruption. "What was it
to the knave whether I or the flames had them--and to be cuffed and
threatened!--but the gibbet shall not be cheated of _him_. Do you know
they threw Harvey into the flames--I heard the shrieks of the wretch,
but I could not help him, though I knew my treasure was burning with
him! for I was crawling, all but suffocated, and seeking for an outlet
towards the river. I heard the cry, but for an instant, and then
nothing, through the long passage but the rush and the roar of the
flames."

"Then the gold you speak of was lost?"

"Yes, by the green wax! it was. If I had only been wise enough to have
kept the bag myself, poor Harvey might have been alive, and I should
not have done what I am going to do this night. No;--I should only have
cursed the smith and forsworn the Commons, and made the best of my way
to where I could have turned the gold and the gems into hard coin. Is
my lord De Boteler here?"

"Yes."

"Then, master Calverley, although, as I have said before, it is to
revenge myself, you must tell the baron that the king must not expect
to have my assistance in betraying the Commons without paying for it."

"My lord will not see you but in the presence of the council."

"Not see me! then, by the green wax! I may be cheated; for one can
hardly ask the king for money to his face."

"The baron has pledged himself that, if your intelligence and services
are such as you hinted at, you may claim your own reward."

"May I?--then John Oakley will be no niggard," his countenance losing
much of the gloomy ferocity it had been marked with. "But, steward," he
added, as they walked through the building, "the smoke and the flame
are even now in my throat;--you must give me wine, or I shall not be
able to speak a word."

De Boteler was instantly acquainted with Oakley's arrival, and the
council assembled, impressed with the importance of detaching so
influential a leader from the Commons. Indeed, energy had given place
to indecision, at a moment that required prompt measures. Tyler had,
but an hour before, sent an intimation, that, if the prophet was not
released in twenty-four hours, the city would be fired, and the Tower
assaulted: and, even at the moment when the members of the council were
entering the chamber, the air was rent with the shouts of the Commons
on Tower-hill and Smithfield, as some skilful artizans among their
body had nearly matured some machines for facilitating the attack.
Symptoms of panic or indifference had been also manifested among those
who guarded the Tower. The strange stories whispered of Ball, his
prophecies, and his calm bearing while confined in his dungeon, with
his oft repeated assertions of being liberated by the Commons, were
calculated, in such an age, to fill their minds with the belief that
he was, in truth, a prophet, and one whom it would be impiety to meddle
with.

After Richard, surrounded by the lords, had taken his seat at the
table, Black Jack was introduced by De Boteler as the writer of the
scroll.

"You are a leader of the rebels?" interrogated Sudbury.

"I am, your grace," replied Oakley.

"Which division of the kerns do you command?"

"The commons of Essex."

"What! all?" interrupted Richard.

"My liege, I am leader of fifty thousand men."

"Then what is the design of this rising?" again asked Sudbury.

"To free the bond--to acquire land at a low rent--to be at
liberty to buy and sell in all cities and towns, without toll or
interruption;--and lastly, to obtain a pardon for this insurrection."

"By my faith!" said Sir Robert Hales, "these are bold demands, which
the sword alone must decide."

"Peace! Sir Robert," said Sudbury.--"What have you to suggest which may
benefit the realm, sir leader?" he continued.

"Ere I say more," said Oakley, falling on his knees before Richard, "I
crave a general pardon, not only for myself, as leader in this rising,
but for all other trespasses by me committed."

"Ha, ha, ha," laughed Richard, "the knave is wisely valiant! He has an
especial care of his own neck. Rise--thou art pardoned."

"But, my liege," continued Oakley, still kneeling, "there is one
confined in this fortress for whom I would solicit freedom."

"To whom do you allude, knave?" asked Sudbury, with some surprise.

"To father John Ball."

"To father John Ball! to that son of satan--that vile author of all
this confusion. Be content with saving your own head."

"Then, my lord archbishop," said Oakley, rising, "if a hair of that
monk's head is touched, I will not answer for the result. Wat Tyler,
my lords, is a man of desperate purpose. He has sworn before the
multitude, that, if the prophet is not freed before the twenty-four
hours, the heads of all these noble peers around me shall answer for
it.--Nay more----"

"Hold, kern," interrupted Richard fiercely; "we despise the threat."

"But, my liege," persisted Jack Straw, "let the council consider the
danger of the delay. I have reason to know, that those you reckon upon
to oppose an entrance here are not to be trusted: the prophet has
worked wonders, even within the fortress."

"How know _you_ that?" asked Richard, with surprise.

"My liege, there are disciples of John Ball in the Tower--aye, even
among the royal household!"

"'Tis false!" returned Richard, angrily--"who are they?--confess!
confess!"

"No, my liege--though I have renounced the confederates, I cannot
betray them; but if the monk is freed, I will, at the risk of my head,
quell the rising, without blood."

"How?--speak!" said Sudbury.

"My lord, you have heard the conditions, which have been drawn up by
John Ball himself. I would humbly suggest, that charters of freedom
should be granted under the royal hand and seal: if it so please
you--they can be revoked at leisure. The Essex men will be content with
these charters and a general pardon--but the prophet must be first set
at liberty: he abhors bloodshed, will curb this Tyler, and thus this
formidable array may be dispersed. I would further suggest, that your
highness, attended by a slight retinue, and unarmed, should repair
to-morrow to Mile-end, where I shall have assembled the leaders, and
will sound them on these points. The charters may then be read, and, my
lords, you are aware, that even the royal franchise cannot destroy your
right over the bondmen, without an act of parliament."

While Oakley was speaking, all eyes were fixed upon him with something
of astonishment at advice that would not come amiss from the sagest
among them.

"Retire," said Sudbury; "we shall consider the matter."

"My lords," said the wily prelate, in a solemn tone, "this man has
anticipated my counsel. It may not be safe to meddle with this Ball
for the present. The charters may be made out, and, of course revoked
hereafter; but I like not your grace perilling your person, alone and
unguarded, among the kerns."

"My lord," said Richard, "we are resolved to meet these bold men,
and hear what they have to say. Shall you attend us, my lord of
Canterbury?"

"I would fain be excused, with your highness's leave. A dignitary of
holy church should not degrade his calling by communing with the scum
of the land!"

"Then, my lord bishop, let who will stay, we go. My lords, will you
attend your king?"

"To death, my liege," said De Boteler and the rest.

"'Tis well--let this man be recalled."

"Tell the commons, that King Richard will see them to-morrow," said De
Boteler.

"Then, my lord, the monk is to be freed?" asked Oakley.

"His life is spared till after the conference," said the treasurer;
"his freedom depends upon the disbanding of the Essex men."

Oakley was then led forth from the council by De Boteler, who pledged
himself that the monk should not be harmed; and, after receiving,
from Calverley, a part of the stipulated reward, he retired from the
fortress by the way he had entered.



CHAPTER VII.


The Tower clock had just struck ten, and father John was reading a
Latin manuscript by the light of a small lamp, when the door of his
prison opened, and the glare of a large wax-light, preceding a lady,
almost dazzled his eyes. The torch-bearer, placing the torch in a
convenient position against the wall, retired, leaving the monk and the
lady alone.

There was but one seat in the dungeon, so John Ball arose, and
presenting his stool to his visitor, seated himself on the bundle of
straw which composed his bed.

Isabella de Boteler placed the stool so that her own face might be in
the shade, at the same time that the light played full upon that of the
monk. They sat an instant silent; and as the baroness bent her eyes
upon the father, she saw, in the deep marks on the forehead, and in the
changed hue of his circling hair, that he had paid the price of strong
excitement; but yet she almost marvelled if the placid countenance she
now gazed upon could belong to one who had dared and done so much. At
length she spoke.

"You know me, father John?"

"Yes, lady."

"Know you why I have visited this cell?"

"It is not for me to speak of what is passing in the heart of another."

"Tell me, monk," asked Isabella, "did you see the multitude who filled
the open space when you were led upon the battlements this afternoon?"

"I did, lady, and my heart rejoiced--even as a father at sight of his
children!" a slight tinge passing over his cheek.

"You speak too boldly," said Isabella, with some impatience; "but if
your eyes were gladdened with what they saw on Tower-hill to-day,
they will not be gladdened at the things that will meet their glance
to-morrow!" She hesitated, and then went on rather hurriedly: "When you
are led forth again, the rebellious commons will be dispersed, and the
block will be standing ready for your own head!"

"Man is but dust, and a breath may blow him away. I was born, Lady de
Boteler, but to die; and there is not a morning, since I have abided
in this dungeon, but, as I have watched the first rays of light stream
through yonder grating, I have thought, shall my eyes behold the
departing day! and, as well as a sinner may do, I prepared for my end.
But, lady, are the thousands but as one man?--and think you that the
spirit which has gone forth----"

"I tell you, father John," interrupted Isabella, "that even at
this moment a leader of the rebels is before the council--and ere
to-morrow's sun shall set, the turbulent villeins will be either hanged
or driven back--and _you_ will be beheaded!"

"Is the betrayer a captive?" asked the monk; and he fixed an anxious
searching glance on the baroness.

"No, the man came voluntarily----"

Isabella paused. The monk, however, did not reply; but she inferred,
from a sort of quivering of the upper lip, that her information
affected him more deeply than he chose to tell. She passed one hand
across her forehead, and then, clasping them both, and resting them
upon her knees, looked earnestly at John Ball, and said, impressively--

"The rebels are betrayed, and you are condemned; but, if you will
hearken to my request, this hour shall free you from prison:--Will you,
will you tell me of my lost child?"

"Lady," said the monk in a stern voice, "think you so meanly of
John Ball that he would do for a bribe what he would not do for
justice sake? The time was when ye might have known, but ye took not
counsel----"

"Then he lives!" said Isabella, in a suppressed shriek; and she bent
her head on her bosom, and covered her face with her hands.

For a minute she sat thus, and then slowly removing her hands, and
raising up her pale and tearful face, said tremulously, and in so low a
tone as to be scarcely audible, "My child then does live?"

"Baroness de Boteler, I said not that your child lives."

"Oh, father John, torture me not so," said she, with hysterical
eagerness. "Oh, tell me not that I have a living son, and then bid me
look upon the grave. Oh, lead me to my child, or even give assurance
that he lives, and you shall be freed; and if he whom I suspect did the
deed, he shall be pardoned and enriched."

"The Baroness of Sudley," replied father John, "does not know the
poor Cistercian monk. Were the bolts withdrawn, and that door left
swinging upon its hinges, I would not leave my prison until the voice
of the people bade me come forth. And know ye not, lady, that with what
measure ye mete to others, the same shall be meted to you again. Did ye
deal out mercy to Edith Holgrave? Did ye deal mercifully by Stephen,
when ye gave him bondage as a reward for true faith--and then stripes
and a prison? And, as for me,--can ye expect that the bondman's son is
to set a pattern of mercy and forgiveness to the noble and the free?"

"I was right, then," said the baroness, in a more composed tone--"it
was Stephen Holgrave who did the deed; but father, if you spurn my
offers, at least answer me yes or no to one question--Am I the mother
of a living son?"

It was in vain, however, that Isabella promised, implored, and even
threatened; John Ball would not vouchsafe another reply, and the
baroness, at length, wearied and indignant, arose, turned abruptly
from the monk, and summoning her attendants, hastened forth to her own
apartment, and there, throwing herself in a chair, wept and sobbed
until her heart was in a measure relieved.

That night was a period of strong excitement within and without the
Tower. Without, the moonlight displayed an immense mass of dark bodies
stretched on the ground, and slumbering in the open air; while others,
of more active minds, moved to and fro, like evil spirits in the
night. Beyond, in the adjacent streets, occasionally rose the drunken
shouts of rioters, or the shrieks of some unhappy foreigner, who was
slaughtered by the ignorant and ferocious multitude for the crime of
being unable to speak English. Within the Tower there was as little of
repose; there were the fears of many noble hearts, lest the renegade
leader might not be as influential as he vaunted, concealed beneath the
semblance of contemptuous pride or affected defiance;--then there were
the sanguine hopes of the youthful Richard;--the maternal fears of his
mother;--the anxious feelings of the baroness;--the troubled thoughts
and misgivings of John Ball;--and the strange whisperings among the men
at arms and archers, who all "did quail in stomach," we may suppose,
at the novel combination of a prophet in prison, and an armed populace
besieging the fortress.

The next morning Richard, without breastplate or helmet, but simply
attired in a saffron-coloured tunic and an azure mantle lined with
ermine (on which opened pea-shells were wrought in their natural green,
but with the peas represented by large pearls), a cap of azure velvet,
edged also with ermine, and with no other weapon but a small dagger
in the girdle of his tunic, prepared himself to meet his rebellious
subjects. The idea of letting down the drawbridge, and passing by
it from the Tower, was too imprudent a thing to be thought of, and
Richard, therefore, attended by De Boteler, Oxford, Warwick, Sir Aubrey
de Vere, and a few others, were just about taking water, in order to
pass a little way down the river, and then proceed to Mile-end on
horseback, when the Princess Joan, attended by the Lady Warwick, joined
the party, and intimated her intention of accompanying her son.

It was to little purpose that Richard expostulated; the fair Joan was
resolved to share in whatever perils might befal her son. As they
approached Mile-end, the princess started at the deafening clamour
which arose from the multitude; some shouting for Richard as they saw
him advance, and others vociferating as loudly that all should hold
their peace until they knew what the king would grant. When the tumult
had in some degree subsided, Sir Aubrey de Vere and Sir Robert Knowles
rode forward in advance of the king, and approaching Jack Straw, who
was also on horseback:--

"Sir leader," said De Vere, "we have come at the king's command to make
known to these assembled Commons his grace's pleasure. Are ye willing
to listen to the royal clemency?"

Leicester was not among the leaders, for, disgusted with Oakley's
tardiness, he had about an hour before passed the city gates with
a large body, to join Tyler. Jack Straw, therefore, had not him to
contend with, and a flattering plausible speech in a few minutes
procured attention to the following charter:--

"Richard, king of England and of France, doth greatly thank his good
Commons, because they so greatly desire to see and hold him for their
king; and doth pardon them all manner of trespasses, misprisions,
and felonies done before this time, and willeth and commandeth, from
henceforth, that every one hasten to his own dwelling, and set down all
his grievances in writing, and send it unto him, and he will, by advice
of his lawful lords and good council, provide such remedy as shall be
profitable to him, to them, and to the whole realm."

"Ye may tell his grace," cried Rugge, "that I for one will never return
to my dwelling until a charter is granted to make all cities free to
buy and sell in."

"And shall we go back to our homes to be bondmen again?" burst in a
wild cry from thousands.

At this moment a messenger rode up to Oakley, and, putting a letter
into his hands, instantly retired.

"A message from the prophet!" cried Black Jack, as he glanced over the
writing, and then read aloud, "John Ball greeteth Jack Straw, John
Leicester, Ralph Rugge, and the other leaders, and also all the true
commons assembled at Mile-end, and commandeth them that they listen to
the voice of their anointed king, and hasten back to their own homes;
and John Ball, who is now freed, will obtain from the royal hand, the
charter of freedom, for the bond, and the redress of all the grievances
that weigh down the free."

There was much murmuring and discontent at the tenor of this epistle;
and but little disposition manifested to obey the mandate: but the
example of their principal leader, Jack Straw, who instantly, as in
obedience to the prophet's command, divested himself of his sword, and
presented it to Sir Aubrey de Vere, intimating his submission to the
king, occasioned a sort of general panic, or rather, a distrust of
their own powers. This, added to the specious and equivocal promises of
Richard, who now approached; and the persuasive eloquence of Oakley,
operated so far on the credulous multitude, that the king, amidst a
universal shout of "Long live the king of the Commons," turned his
horse's head towards London, rejoicing in his heart that so far the
rebels were dispersed.

But in this instance his exultation was of short duration, for one,
who had leaped from the battlements of the Tower unheeded, and had
swam along the river unharmed, approached Sir Robert Knowles, who
was riding something in advance of the party, and with his saturated
apparel bearing testimony to his assertions, announced the stunning
intelligence that the Tower was at that moment in the possession of the
commons. This brave defender of the fortress was Calverley.

There was a sudden halt at this intelligence, and many an exclamation
at the presumption of the insolent commons. However, after some
consultation, it was deemed most prudent to come as little as possible
in collision with the rebels, but, under countenance of the mayor, to
pass through the city, and then, as the most probable security, claim
the hospitality of the worthy abbot of Westminster.

We shall leave Ring Richard with the fair Joan of Kent and the nobles,
to pursue their journey to Westminster, while we give some idea of
the means by which the commons, so soon after the departure of the
king, became masters of the tower. The galleyman had been a resident in
London for some years; and it will of course be inferred, that during
this time he must have formed many acquaintances, which circumstance,
indeed, had been of much avail in gaining admittance into the city, and
now turned to as good account in effecting an entrance into the Tower.

It was about midnight that Wells, who had been thinking a great deal of
the probability of gaining access to the fortress, went to the smith's
quarters, and proposed to attempt an entrance. Tyler commended his
devotion; and the galleyman, provided with a rope, to which an iron
hook was affixed, and a flask or two of wine, dropped unobserved into
the water. He swam on as softly as possible beneath the wall, and in
the shadow cast by the moonlight. There was one part where he observed
that an angle of the building cast a broad shade on the parapet; and
here, without a moment's hesitation, he stopped, and throwing up the
rope, the hook caught. Though encumbered by his wet apparel, he climbed
up with the agility of a boy; but the instant his figure appeared above
the wall, two men with drawn swords sprung forward.

"Hold there! I have brought ye a drop of wine."

At the first sound of his voice the weapons were lowered. "It was well
that ye spoke, master vintner," said the men, taking each a flask of
wine and draining its contents.

It so happened, that these men had a strong sympathy for the commons,
and besides this, they had been much wrought upon by the stories,
whether true or false, circulated through the Tower respecting Ball;
and it did not require much persuasion to gain them over in assisting
Wells's project. A female domestic belonging to the lieutenant, a
sweetheart of one of those men, secreted Wells in an apartment in her
master's house, and contrived to purloin the keys of the gates after
Richard's departure. The galleyman, aided by a few daring disciples
of the prophet, with whom he found means to communicate through the
same female instrumentality, surprised the few who guarded the gate,
and drawbridge; and the blast of a horn was the signal for the smith
to advance. So suddenly was this feat accomplished, that the men at
arms, who were scattered up and down the fortress, had not time to
seize their weapons or oppose the thousands who, headed by Tyler and
Holgrave, rushed forward, and entered the Tower. With exulting shouts
the conquerors took possession of the building. Some made strict
search for the members of the council; others, with blows and taunts,
employed themselves in divesting the panic-struck soldiers of their
arms; and others, the more numerous of the intruders, were intent only
on forcing the wine-cellars, regardless of the threats and buffets of
their leaders. But above all this wild clamour, arose the voice of
Tyler, who strode rapidly on, like some demon of power, striking and
reviling friend or foe who was unable to point out where the prophet
was confined.

At length one of the keepers was seized, who conducted Tyler and
Holgrave to his cell.

"Father John, you are free--the Tower is ours!" exclaimed Holgrave,
flinging wide the massive door.

"And I am freed? and by the bond!" exclaimed the monk.

"Aye, father John, you are free," said Tyler. "We have found you at
last; but, by St. Nicholas! we have had a long search. Hah!" as he
glanced on the monk, "have the knaves chained you. Bear him forth, men
of Kent--Wat Tyler himself will strike off those irons."

The monk was then conducted to the outer door of the prison. It would
be in vain to paint the frantic joy of those without. Deafening shouts
of "The prophet is free!" passed from mouth to mouth, and then came the
rush to obtain a prayer or benediction.

"Back, men of Kent--back," vociferated Tyler;--and then arose the long
wild shout as Tyler freed the monk from the last link of his bonds.

Just then a movement among the people was observed, and a man, hastily
forcing his way through the yielding ranks, announced to the astonished
smith, and yet more astonished monk, that Oakley had, by command of the
prophet, made terms with the king, and that even now the Essex men had
broke up their camp, and were marching homewards.

"And is this thy counsel, father John?" said Tyler, reproachfully:
"but, by St. Nicholas! this robber of the high altar shall not depart
scatheless. Kentish men!--my horse, my horse!" and he stamped his armed
heels upon the pavement.

"Wat Tyler," returned the monk, sternly, "this is _not_ my
counsel--this, then, is the traitor!--but perhaps he has obtained the
charters!"

"The charters, father John," responded Tyler, with a sneer: "aye, by
St. Nicholas! he has got _his_ charters in good broad pieces, I'll
warrant!--My horse, Kentish men, I say!"

"Confound the whole rising, if he escapes me! Stephen Holgrave! as the
father doesn't like me to go, tell Leicester to take a chosen body of
the Kentish men; and, mark ye, he must catch that fiend, and bring him
to the Tower, dead or alive!"

"Stephen Holgrave," said the monk, "let not one hair of his head be
meddled with! And now, Wat Tyler, I enjoin thee to clear the fortress
of those who have forgotten their duty--but slay not. I now go to
the chapel, where I shall remain a short time in prayer." The monk
then waved his hand, and drew his cowl closely over his brow, to hide
from his gaze the evidences of debauchery he encountered at every
step in his way to the chapel. The gutters and kennels ran with wine,
and some, for want of vessels, were lying prostrate, lapping up the
flowing beverage--some, entirely overpowered, were stretched across the
doorways, and in the court-yards, serving as seats to others, who were,
with wild oaths, passing round the goblet.

"And this is the first fruits of liberty," muttered the monk--"but no
good can be had unalloyed with evil."

The chapel, during all the tumult, was unnoticed, probably less through
respect for the place, than from neglect; and thither those who had
most to fear from the people had hastened, expecting safety from the
sacredness of the spot. Among the rest, or rather leading the way,
went Sudbury, who was shortly afterwards joined by the constable and
treasurer, on perceiving the commons in possession of the Tower.

In order to impress the place with a still greater degree of awe,
Sudbury, with his attendant priests, had robed themselves, and
commenced vespers.

Father John entered the chapel, and prostrating himself thrice at the
door, arose, and silently advanced to the foot of the altar. Here he
recognised the archbishop, and, checking his emotions, knelt in prayer,
unnoticed till the service had concluded. In the midst of the sacred
song, terror was depicted, more strongly than piety, in the faces of
all the worshippers, save Sudbury; he seemed calm, except, indeed, when
a shout from without caused an indignant frown to darken his brow.

The monk was at length perceived, for the treasurer, on raising his
eyes, met the glance of father John. "My lord bishop," said he, "yonder
stands the monk, John Ball!"

"And why not, my lord treasurer?" said father John, in a clear, full
voice, his face, before so pale, glowing, and his frame trembling so
much that he grasped a pillar for support; "this temple is open to
all--the just as well as the unjust."

"Darest thou, rash man, to defile the holy place?--why art thou not in
thy prison?" said Sudbury, whose glance fell proudly and scornfully on
the monk.

"Simon Sudbury," answered Ball, with a look of equal defiance, and
still deeper scorn--"my dungeon doors obeyed the spirit of the free;
and God alone can judge who is defiled, or who is pure----"

"Away, degraded priest!" answered Sudbury, fiercely, and he raised his
arm, and pointed towards the door.

"Simon Sudbury," retorted the monk, "if, as thou sayest, I am degraded,
to thee no authority is due--if I am still a chosen one of the Lord,
methinks I am free to enter and worship in his temple: but," he
continued, elevating his tones to their fullest compass, "whether I am
a priest or no priest, yet _here_ I am powerful, and, proud prelate,
_I_, in my turn, command _thee_ hence!"

"And is this the way, misguided zealot?" cried Sudbury--"is this the
way that _you_ preach _peace_? What hast thou done with the royal
Richard?"

"The royal Richard," returned father John, exultingly, "is but king
of the _commons_; but the royal Richard is well served," he added,
sarcastically, "by Simon Sudbury and the nobles, who leave their
prince, in his peril, to hide them in holes and sanctuaries!"

The treasurer turned pale, and hung his head.

"Aye, Sir Treasurer, thou hast reason to sink thy head! Thy odious
poll-tax has mingled vengeance--nay, blood--with the cry of the bond."

"It is thou, foul spirit!" cried Sudbury, descending a step from the
altar--"it is thou who hast stimulated the thirst for blood, and hast
brought the royal prerogative and holy church into contempt--away! ere,
with my own hands, I drive thee hence!"

"And away, ill-starred prelate!--away (as I prophesy) to thy doom!"
returned the monk, advancing a step towards Sudbury; "aye--aye--away!
and----"

The monk did not finish the sentence, for the door of the chapel was
for a moment darkened with the shadows of two men, who were just
entering; and father John, wrapping his cloak around him, walked
rapidly towards them, and, with a single adjuration of "Friend Tyler,
spare!" issued forth from the chapel.

Tyler, in his haste to seize the archbishop, stumbled over a lance
which one of those who had fled with the prelate had dropped.

"Confound the hand that dropped thee!" muttered the smith, as he sprang
on his feet. "John Kirkby, is not that Sudbury yonder? It is he, by St.
Nicholas! Seize that babbling old man!--he with the mitre!" They had
now arrived at the altar.

"Not one step further, kern!" cried the treasurer, seizing his sword,
and placing himself in front of Sudbury.

A shriek from the women who had clustered around the treasurer, made
matters worse; for, attracted by the noise, the chapel was instantly
filled with armed men.

"Sir Treasurer, think you to scare him who leads the Kentish men?
Kirkby, drag the antichrist from the altar!"

Kirkby advanced a few paces, but a glance from Sudbury seemed to
unnerve him, and he stood for a moment irresolute.

"There, chicken-hearted carle!" cried the smith, felling Kirkby to the
ground with his mailed hand--"there, dog!--Wat Tyler must be obeyed!
And now, Simon Sudbury, take off that blessed mitre, which ill befits
thee, and come forth; for, by my faith and the blessed St. Nicholas! in
one hour hence, thy head shall be stuck on London bridge, wrapped up in
the hood of thy own mantle!" And with this, Tyler placed his foot on
the first step of the altar.

Another shriek from the terrified females but seemed to augment his
fury; and the treasurer, after a few vain parries, fell stunned and
bleeding by a powerful blow of the smith's axe.

"Lie there, dog!--there goes one of the accursed council!" and,
springing up the step with a giant grasp, he seized the mitred
chancellor by the neck, and dragged him forth into the centre of the
church.

"Hold, impious man!" said the undaunted prelate; "the noblest and
gentlest heart in England lies bleeding and gasping on the high altar
in defence of the Lord's anointed; but even the blood of the anointed
shall stain the sanctuary ere _He_ quail before man in his master's
temple!"

"By St. Nicholas! then you shall be cheated of dying here," said Tyler;
and, snatching the mitre from the grey locks it covered, he threw it to
Holgrave. "There, Stephen, that shall soon sit upon a worthier head:
and now, sir priest, or sir prelate, be quick with an ave--for the
block is ready and the axe sharp. And you, Kirkby, (who sullenly stood
by), mind and lift up that knave yonder," pointing to the treasurer;
"for, by St. Nicholas! he, too, shall die!" and the treasurer, faint
and almost lifeless, was, with Sudbury, borne away to Tower-hill.

John Ball, in the meantime, had passed on from the chapel, heedless of
the greetings that met him at every step, and of the riot and confusion
that would, at another time, have called forth his rebuke. At length,
as he passed the royal apartments, he heard sounds that seemed to recal
him to himself--they were the shrieks of woman! Throwing back his cowl,
and casting an indignant glance at Kirkby, who had just emerged from
the building, he said--

"What dost thou here, John Kirkby, and why these screams?"

Kirkby muttered something of the council.

"And darest thou, John Kirkby, a leader of the people--darest thou be
the foremost to set at nought my commands? I repent me of my endeavours
to right the oppressed, for, alas! they have been like stray sheep
without the care of the shepherd!--and now, that the shepherd has
sought and is among them, they heed not his voice."

But the shrieks were again repeated, and father John commanding Kirkby
to follow, passed rapidly through the apartments, where every thing
presented the trace of the spoiler. In many of them were stretched, or
rather huddled together, peasants in the last stage of inebriety, some
on the beds, and others on the carpets; and the shattered garniture
of this abode of Richard and his fair mother, served but to mark its
recent costliness and splendour.

The monk groaned deeply as he observed four or five men hewing with
axes at a door which had resisted their first efforts to burst open;
while two others were struggling with a man who seemed to be disputing
their entrance; and a few paces from these lay, on a richly-worked
counterpane, an infant, whose shrill cries mingled with the strife.

The flashing eye and indignant rebuke of the monk, on beholding this
scene, unnerved the fear-stricken peasants.

"It is the prophet himself!" burst from the lips of the men, dropping
their weapons and looking abashed.

"Aye, it is he whom you say is the prophet," cried father John, "and
accurst, say I, be the house-breakers!" his eye fell on Ralph Rugge.
"What, another of the chosen!" he added, with a withering glance. "All,
all are unworthy--my heart is sick!" and he turned away and covered his
face with his hands.

"Father John, you have come in good time," said the galleyman, who now
approached the monk, and who was he that had been contesting with the
two men; "for, good father, if my ears serve me rightly, within that
berth is the Lady de Boteler!"

The monk started.

"And where is her lord?"

"I know not, unless he be with the king at Mile-end."

"Lady de Boteler," cried the monk, "if thou art within come forth!" and
Isabella, at his voice, at once threw open the door.

"Lady," said Ball, who, in a low voice, had exchanged a few words with
Wells, "here thou art no longer safe. Conduct this lady, my friend,
to the abbey of Westminster," addressing Wells, "and encounter not
those who might, unchecked by me, commit further outrage. Take a boat
from the water-side--that way is yet open. Farewell, lady, I must
hence;--for even Simon Sudbury, who made John Ball what he is now, may
be in peril, and it is for the Lord alone to smite.--_I_ seek not the
brand to right me!"

The idea of Sudbury's danger had been confirmed by the behaviour
of those whom his presence had arrested in guilt; and the monk,
whose sympathies were thus awakened, hastened away, and gained the
court-yard. Here his ears were assailed by a loud shout, which was
repeated thrice, and which, he conjectured, proceeded from Tower-hill.

The monk hurried to the northern battlements, and stood, for an
instant, gazing intently on the confusion which filled the vast area
before him. At one point, and towards the centre, he observed a circle
formed of some mounted commons, and he perceived a man in the midst
in a kneeling posture. His voice now arose deep and startling as he
exclaimed, "Wat Tyler, I adjure thee, touch not the prelate--touch
not the Lord's anointed! Forbear! forbear!" and then, with an agility
which, since his boyhood, he had not probably before exerted, he
descended the platform, hurried through the fortress, crossed the
moat, and then striding rapidly through the people, who made way as he
approached, stood in the centre of that circle towards which his fears
had impelled him.

A glance informed father John that vengeance was swifter in the race
than mercy, and his eye now fiercely sought for the guilty author
of the drama. _He_ stood a few paces to the right, leaning on the
instrument of crime, and his eyes rivetted on the prophet. Upon his
dark countenance was marked triumph and agitation, for he feared the
storm which he expected was now to burst upon him. But whether it
was the spectacle which the monk's first gaze encountered, or that
indignation, too deep for utterance, overpowered his energies, cannot
be said; but, after regarding Tyler with a look which seemed to combine
every thing of horror and disgust, father John turned away, and was
quickly lost in the multitude.

Those who witnessed this brief interview saw enough to indicate, in
that glance cast on their leader, the monk's displeasure at the deed;
and Tyler himself well understood the silent rebuke, for, turning to
Kirkby, he said, in a bitter, though subdued tone,--

"John Kirkby, the father is angry, and this is all one gets for one's
pains. Now that the mitre waits for his head, he will not put it
on;--and did not that traitor Jack Straw often say the father wished
for Sudbury's place; and though I hate bishops, I would not mind seeing
_him_ one. But, by St. Nicholas! he added fiercely, no more bishops for
Wat Tyler--and----"

The smith was here interrupted by a messenger from Richard, with
a proclamation for the Commons to meet him the next morning in
Smithfield, when they should have every thing they required.

"Ye may tell King Richard that the Commons _will_ meet him; but mind
ye, and tell him to have no lords, nor men of law, nor any of that
brood of bishops with him, if he wishes them to wear their heads;--mind
ye that, sir pursuivant."

Tyler then retired, but first strictly enjoining, on pain of death,
that the bodies of the archbishop and treasurer should not be removed
nor interred.

When night came, and father John did not return, the feeling became
general that, disgusted with the spectacle of the morning, he had
abandoned the cause; and it became apparent, even to Tyler himself,
that some decisive step must at once be taken, before those whom the
monk's eloquence had aroused and united, and his promises inspired with
a confidence of success, should, deprived of his guidance, return home
in despair.

The smith was as great an enthusiast for the freedom of the bond as the
monk himself; but his mode of obtaining it did not coincide with the
peaceful bent of the father. Tyler's plan was bold and sanguinary,--the
monk's, intimidation without violence; and energetic and accustomed as
was the smith to act on his own impulses, yet, even in his fiercest
moods, he willingly yielded obedience to the monk's suggestions.
Indeed, he had long been accustomed to pay that deference which father
John's mildness had, as it were, extorted; and the circumstance of
their first connection, from the liberation of Ball from the dungeon
of Sudley to the present period, had so increased his affection and
veneration, that now, deprived of this pillar of support, he felt a
loneliness and dejection which nothing around could dispel.

The morning was just breaking; and the moon shone full and bright on
the surrounding buildings, on the trees, on the tents that marked the
lodgement of the leaders, and on the groups that lay tentless on the
ground, buried in profound sleep. All within the boundary of the rude
encampment were reposing in the confidence of power, without guard or
centinel, save one, whose eye-lids closed not. Alone, in the corner of
a tent, which stood in the centre of the encampment, sat Tyler, whom
the moonbeams revealed, as they streamed through a rent in the canvass.
His right hand clenched, and his elbow resting against the side of
the tent, supported his head; and in his left he held a small gold
crucifix, on which he was gazing, not with a countenance on which pity
might be traced, but rather a look in which sorrow and despair seemed
blended.

"Aye, it was _his_ gift," said he. "However bad, father John, you may
think Wat Turner, he cares for this holy relic more than the life his
mother gave him. And was it not because he thought to place you above
them all that Sudbury lies on Tower-hill? And did he not take off that
mitre with his own hands?--and did not his heart beat joyfully when he
saw you come, that he might put it on your head? And now you leave him
with the work half done. And the poor commons, too, must go back again
to be kicked and cuffed, and to bear the load heavier than before.
Aye, father John--and did he not snatch you from the stripes and the
bolt?--and were not his hands red with blood that blessed night?--and
was he not forced to fly like a felon, and take this accursed name
of Tyler?" Here his agitation increased, and his articulation became
indistinct and husky; he started up, thrust the crucifix into his
bosom, and paced the tent for a few minutes in silence; then looked
upon the sleeping mass, and resumed, as he re-entered the tent--

"Aye, ye may soon sleep your last sleep. They will have at ye in the
morning; for the proud barons are gathering their might; but, by St.
Nicholas! I may do something yet. Yes, there will be more blood--I see
it;--I must have an order to behead the lords; and then, if Richard
will be king of the commons, and no more lords or bondage, father John
himself could not wish for more."

He, at length, became somewhat composed, and threw himself upon the
floor, to get a few hours' rest.

At an early hour, he prepared to redeem his pledge of meeting the king;
and the Commons, as they arrived, commenced forming in order of battle
along the west side of Smithfield. When marshalled, they presented
the appearance of a wedge, broad behind and gradually diminishing to
the front; the banner of St. George was in the centre of the line,
supported by the men at arms; while on either side were disposed the
slingers and archers.

In this order, they awaited the king; and, in the interim, Tyler
employed himself in riding up and down the ranks, exhorting the people
to be firm, and to take care that they should not be cheated out of
their rights by king or priest. Indeed, his whole demeanour supported
the night's resolve, and vindicated a determination of purpose which
imparted itself to the thousands who cheered him at every step in his
progress.

We must premise, before describing the coming interview, that the
Tower was again occupied by Richard. A sudden attack during the night
surprised those left in possession; and here the assiduity of the lords
had collected a strong force, by means of the communication from the
river; and they determined on giving battle to the commons, should they
refuse to return home on obtaining the charters. A large body of the
citizens had, by previous concert, thrown themselves unobserved into
the priory of Bartholomew, in order to operate, under William Walworth,
with those in the Tower.

Precisely at ten o'clock, Richard, without pomp or circumstance, issued
from the Tower, attended only by De Boteler, Warwick, and a few others,
Sir John Newton bearing the sword of state. He was apparelled in the
same manner as when he appeared at Mile-end, when he went forth to
meet the Essex men, and with that unsuspecting confidence that marked
his early years, entered Smithfield with as much gaiety as if he were
going to a banquet. Sir Robert Knowles and his men at arms had orders
to follow at some distance, but on no account to show themselves until
there might be occasion. After surveying the formidable array, which
stretched far away into the fields, and listening to De Boteler's
remarks on their clever arrangement, either for attack or defence,--

"By my faith! my lord," said Richard eagerly, "these knaves will not
be trifled with; but lo! who have we here?" as he perceived a single
horseman gallop forward from the centre.

"My liege," said Newton, as the horseman neared the royal train, "that
man is Wat Tyler."

"And if my eyes do not mislead me," said De Boteler, looking
searchingly on Tyler, "I know the graceless kerne."

Newton then pushed forward to open the conference, and said, as he
joined the smith--

"My lord, the king, wishes to hear you on the alleged grievances."

"And who are you, knave, that dare ride in presence of Wat Tyler?"

"I am, Sir John Newton, the king's sword-bearer," returned Newton,
proudly.

"Then, by St. Nicholas! none shall ride here but Richard and myself.
Come down, braggart," and he seized the bridle of Newton's horse.

Richard now rode up, perceiving the peril of his attendant.

"And what would ye have, Wat Tyler?" asked Richard, in a conciliatory
tone.

"Sir King, I would first have this knave well whipped for riding in my
presence."

"But what would ye have put in your own charter, Wat?" again asked
Richard, endeavouring to draw the smith's attention from Newton.

Tyler, however, was more intent on unhorsing the sword-bearer, than
listening to the king, for he now grasped Newton by the shoulder, and
endeavoured to drag him from his horse.

During this altercation, a small body of archers had advanced from the
lines to within bow-shot of the disputants.

Richard observed the movement, and beckoned to Sir John to dismount,
who, choking with mortification, surrendered the animal to a man whom
Tyler had beckoned to approach.

"And that dagger too, surly knave," said the smith. "How dare ye come
here armed. Go to, thou art a knave!"

Richard could contain himself no longer. "Thou liest! sir leader," said
he, reining back his charger, whose bridle had come in contact with the
head of the smith's horse.

"The dagger, knave," muttered Tyler, still intent on humbling the proud
sword-bearer, and raising his axe in a menacing attitude.

The dagger, like the horse, was then relinquished, and Tyler, with a
glance of triumph, turned to Richard, and continued--

"King Richard, I'll now tell you what the commons want: first, I want a
commission to behead all the lords, and those who began the poll-tax--I
would have no more lords nor bishops, nor lawyers, nor bondage; and I
would have you king of the commons--and now sir king, be quick with
the charter, for, by St. Nicholas! I shall not eat or drink till every
mother's son of those yonder, can go and come, when and where they
will; aye, and be as proud as the proudest of ye."

"These are bold demands, Wat Tyler," returned Richard, his cheek
glowing with indignation, "and more, by my faith, than we shall listen
to."

Tyler, during the colloquy, had seized his axe, and though it was not
raised above his saddle-bow, yet the convulsive motion of the hand
as it grasped the weapon, might seem to indicate danger to the young
king. Richard was now surrounded by his retinue, among whom was William
Walworth, the Lord Mayor, who had crossed over from the priory on
perceiving his peril.

"Sir leader," cried the mayor, boiling with rage, and approaching
Tyler, "ride not so close to his grace, it ill becomes such as you to
ride or speak so in the king's presence."

"Ha! and do ye say so?" returned Tyler, elevating his arm, "take ye
that for your insolence:" but the blow, which would have deprived the
worthy citizens of their sturdy chief, was arrested, ere it descended,
by Warwick, who seized the uplifted weapon from behind, and the next
moment the smith received a stunning blow from William Walworth's mace;
then, as the reins dropped from his hands, a thrust from De Boteler's
sword, ended the cares of one who, doubtless, had he lived at a later
period, might, in the cause for which he bled, have been a Tell or a
Hofer.

A thousand spears, and as many shafts, prepared to avenge his fall, and
an instant more of indecision, and Richard would have been spared the
humiliation of after years; but a bold inspiration at this critical
moment, hurried him fearlessly forward into the midst of the commons.

"What, my lieges!" he exclaimed, with a smile of confidence, "are ye
angry that your leader is slain? Richard of England shall supply his
place--follow me to the field and ye shall have what ye desire!"

And, incredible as it may seem, the lances were lowered, the bows
relaxed, and those who so lately had vowed to live or die with Tyler,
followed the king to St. George's fields, rending the air with cries of
"Long live King Richard!"

The men-at-arms, headed by Sir Robert Knowles, and the citizens, under
Walworth, hurried after the commons, and when the charter had been
granted, and the people were dispersing, suddenly, and treacherously,
fell upon them.

Unprepared for such an attack, and now no longer formidable, the
insurgents, panic struck, fled on all sides; and, after a brief
struggle, many of the leaders were cut down or secured. Numbers of the
people perished, and Richard once more entered the Tower in triumph.

It is almost useless to add, that the charters were soon after revoked,
and thus failed the first struggle of the British helots.



CHAPTER VIII.


When the commons, trusting to a deceitful promise, had lost that
unity which could alone render them formidable, it was no matter
of difficulty to secure Holgrave, as he rushed forward to revenge
Tyler's death. Besides his being a leader, a reward from the baron was
offered for his capture; and it was to little purpose that he fought
and struggled against a body which attacked him on every side; he was
overpowered, and thrown into a cell in St. Bartholomew's priory, from
which, when the tumult had ceased, he was removed, and, at the baron's
request, delivered over to him for punishment.

This unexpected consummation wrought upon Holgrave so much, that, with
the sullen determination which had marked his character on previous
occasions, he resolved not to answer any questions whatever. We should
have premised, that the galleyman had given Holgrave a solemn promise,
that if any ill befel him, Margaret should be cared for like his own
wife. This was a solace to him, as he thought over his mother's death,
and his own evil destiny. But there was another solace, that, strange
as it may appear to some minds, arose from the thought, that whatever
might befall him, the baron's heir would share in it. At first, when
he had been removed to Sudley, mild measures were resorted to. He was
lodged in a comfortable apartment, fed plentifully, and promised his
freedom with whatever reward he might claim, if he would but speak
satisfactorily as to the lost child. When this failed, he was sent
to the keep, and for a week black bread and cold water were the only
articles of aliment supplied; and then the _peine forte et dure_ was
resorted to. But though his face was swollen, and of a livid, purple
hue, and the eyes seemed starting from their sockets at the pressure on
his chest, as he lay with his limbs extended on the earth, yet would
he not speak the word which would have released him from all this
suffering. The extreme punishment, however, of adding weights until
nature could sustain no more, was delayed from day to day. The baroness
had twice given birth to children who had survived but a few hours;
the third had lived, but it was a daughter; and as she dwelt upon the
approaching extinction of their noble line, she dared not permit the
order to be given that might deprive her of all hope. Day after day
were the weights pressing and stifling, and forcing the blood that
still crept through his veins to his extremities, and distending the
hands and feet with a feeling of agony. But though the pressure was at
each time removed when the leech pronounced the prisoner exhausted, yet
it appeared repetition, though slow, would effect the work as surely
as if the punishment had been in the first instance applied in all its
legal rigour.

Calverley, although he feigned to exert himself, would not in reality
seek for Margaret while Holgrave lived; but Black Jack, who, after
eluding the pursuit of Leicester, returned to Sudley, and domesticated
himself in the castle under the hope of supplanting Calverley, had, of
course, no motive for deception; and the baron's offer of gold was too
tempting not to call forth all his ingenuity. But neither he, nor fifty
other mercenaries who were out upon the scent, could discover the track.

Holgrave had been about a month a prisoner, when Sir Robert Knowles
came to Sudley, to announce that Richard would honour the castle with
his presence on the following day, and on the next proceed on to
Gloucester to hold a parliament. As they were sitting at the evening
banquet--

"My Lord de Boteler," said Sir Robert Knowles, "do you remember the
circumstance of a certain vassal of yours being accused of shooting a
buck?"

"Yes, perfectly."

"His name, I think, was Stephen Holgrave--the same Holgrave that was
among the rebels, is it not?"

"The same man, Sir Robert."

"So I thought," returned the knight; "but, however, that must not weigh
now. Have you a vassal named John Byles?"

Calverley, who was handing a replenished goblet to Sir Robert's page,
started so much at this interrogatory, that the wine-cup dropped from
his hands.

"Yes," replied De Boteler.

"Has that man a wife named Mary?"

"He has," quickly replied Isabella, unable to divine the cause of such
singular enquiries.

"Then, my lord, I request that John Byles and his wife be instantly
brought before us; and with your leave, no one passes from this hall
except my page, till they appear," continued Sir Robert, as he observed
a movement in the steward, indicating an intention to retire.

"Martin," he added to his page, "go you to one of the servitors in
the court-yard, and tell him to accompany you to this John Byles; you
know how to keep your counsel, and remember, that the Baron de Boteler
commands John Byles and his wife to come instantly to the castle. Do
you not, my lord?"

"Yes, if it is your pleasure," said the baron, with a smile.

"I perceive," resumed Sir Robert, as the page withdrew, "that my
conduct surprises you; but I cannot yet explain."

The surprise, indeed, was not confined to the individuals who sat at
the upper table; gradually, as the purport of Sir Robert's words was
whispered about, did the hall become hushed, and the eyes of those
who sat below, and of those who were in attendance, were fixed with
a kind of painful expectation upon the baron's guest. The domestics,
however, were not so entirely engrossed by Sir Robert as to be wholly
unmindful of Calverley; and significant nods and smiles were exchanged,
as they saw, or fancied they saw, evidences of extreme agitation in the
steward. After a few minutes' expectation, John Byles and his wife were
ushered in by the page.

Sir Robert looked inquisitively at the yeoman and his wife, but
more particularly at Mary; and, as if he read her character in her
countenance, said something in a low voice to De Boteler, who instantly
ordered Byles to retire into the ante-room till called for. The door
being closed, the baron, at Sir Robert's request, bade Mary Byles
approach. Mary, upon entering the hall, had looked a very comely sort
of personage; but as misgivings gave place to the flattered confidence
which had given firmness to her step as she entered, she now presented
a totally different aspect.

"Come closer to the table, Mary Byles," said Sir Robert, addressing
her in an authoritative, but yet in a familiar tone--"come nearer; and
with my Lord de Boteler's leave, I shall ask you a few questions." Mary
curtsied, and rather hesitatingly approached the foot of the table.

"Now, Mary Byles, I wish you to tell me what kind of a night it was
when John Byles and your servitor, Sam, went into my Lord de Boteler's
chase to kill a buck?"

Mary was of a florid complexion; but at this unexpected question,
she stood before the searching look of the baron with her cheeks as
colourless as if she had been struck by the angel of death.

"Are you striving to recollect?" asked Sir Robert, without any symptoms
of anger.

"I don't understand your lordship," at length tremblingly articulated
Mary.

"Do you not?--I think I speak plain language--however, if you forget
the appearance of the night when the buck was shot, perhaps you can
tell me on what day of the week your man, Sam, managed to get into
Holgrave's cottage, and steal the shafts from the quiver over the
fire-place?"

Up to this period the hall had been as still as if Sir Robert and Mary
were its only occupants; but at this point a murmur arose, as if by the
power of magic, each was in a moment convinced of Holgrave's innocence.

"Peace!" vociferated De Boteler--"Answer, woman!" he continued,
stamping his foot.

Mary saw that she had nothing to do but deny, and this she did most
stoutly.

"Wretch!" said De Boteler, "Why do you not tell the truth?"

But Mary was not to be intimidated, and Sir Robert, perceiving he could
gain nothing from her in this way, arose, and approaching the baroness,
who had been looking on with much interest, said, softly, "My Lady de
Boteler, I wish to put a question or two to this woman, but as what I
shall ask must be distressing to you, perhaps you had better retire."

"No--no," replied Isabella, "do not fear for me?--This is so strange, I
must hear what you have to say."

"Prepare yourself then, lady," said Sir Robert, and he resumed his seat.

"Mary Byles," he began, "I have one more question to ask you. How many
drops of that fatal potion was it that Edith Holgrave told you to give
my lord's infant?"

A smothered sob from Isabella, now added to Mary's perplexity, her
cheeks and temples became flushed, and, with a bewildered look, she
said--

"I don't know--I don't remember any thing about it!"

"Now, Mary Byles," resumed Sir Robert, speaking more decisively than
he had yet spoken, "I insist upon your giving me a true answer to
this--Did you not say to your husband, on the evening you returned from
Gloucester, after Edith's trial, 'Edith's death lies like murder on my
conscience; oh, I wish I hadn't taken Calverley's advice, but had told
my lady of the mistake?'"

"Calverley!" repeated De Boteler, "What did you say of Calverley? What,
did Calverley advise you to?"

Mary had sustained herself wonderfully well, considering how unprepared
she had been, but this last interrogatory of Sir Robert, conjuring up,
as it were, Edith's ghost, was too much; she struggled against nature
for an instant, and then, giving an hysterical shriek, fell back in
strong convulsions.

Two of the domestics were ordered to bear her from the hall; and, when
there was again silence, Sir Robert said, "That woman is too artful to
betray herself! Let Byles be called in?"

The yeoman re-entered, and Sir Robert began, in a voice so familiar,
that Byles was thrown off his guard. "John Byles, how came you to be so
foolish as to fall in the ravine the night you and Sam went to shoot
the buck?"

"It wasn't I who fell in, my lord--it was--"

"--Sam--who fell in," said Sir Robert, as he saw Byles hesitate to
proceed farther. "You are right, yeoman, it was Sam, and you helped him
out--but I desire you to tell me, if you had succeeded in conveying the
buck to Holgrave's shed, how many nobles Master Calverley was to have
given you?"

Byles looked at his interrogator as if he had been the evil one
himself; but he had committed himself, so he thought it the wiser way
to say nothing.

"Why do you not answer, man?" continued Sir Robert, at the same time
giving De Boteler a glance, intimating that he wished not to be
interrupted. "I know how many the steward promised you, but I desire to
know how much you received."

"I neither gave nor promised him any thing," said Calverley,
approaching the table under the impression of giving a tone to what
Byles should say.

"Thou liest, kern!" said Sir Robert, rising suddenly, and in a voice
which made Calverley start back. "My Lord de Boteler, I accuse your
steward of bribing yonder caitiff to slay a buck with shafts stolen
from Stephen Holgrave, and then to lay the slaughtered animal in
Holgrave's barn. I also accuse him of prevailing upon that man's wife
to lay the crime of murder upon an innocent woman! And, my lord, if you
will hold a court to-morrow morning, one whom I found in the Tower,
will prove my charges, and the wronged shall be righted."

"Calverley done all this!" said the baron in a tone of incredulity; but
then, as the steward's persevering hostility to Holgrave flashed across
his mind, it seemed to bring conviction.

The hall at this moment presented a strange spectacle. Every individual
except Isabella and Oakley, were on their feet. The domestics, though
not venturing to proceed beyond their own table, were bending their
heads eagerly forward, to look more particularly at Calverley than at
Byles, as if this charge of crime had developed some new feature in
the man. Byles, with his hale complexion, changed to the paleness of
a corpse, stood trembling at the foot of the table, at the head of
which was standing De Boteler, with a flushed countenance and his eyes
fixed upon Calverley, with such a look, that if the glance of an eye
could have killed, the steward would have been consumed on the spot.
There was an instant of silence, or at least there was nothing but an
indistinct murmur from the lower end of the hall; and Calverley, who
seemed strangely composed, took advantage of the moment to say, though
without raising his eyes--

"My lord, whatever charges Sir Robert Knowles may have against me, I am
ready to meet them."

"Peace, wretch!" said De Boteler, choking with passion. "Here, let
these plotters be confined separately till the morrow--and, Luke," he
added, to the old steward, "let you and John Oakley go instantly to
Holgrave, and see him removed from the keep, and put him into a warm
bed--and take ye a flask of wine and pour some down his throat--and
see that the leech attend him." He now turned to Isabella and strove
to dispel from her mind the sad thoughts that the last half hour had
called up, but it was not, as the baron imagined, the remembrance of
her murdered child alone, which had sent a paleness to her cheek, and
a tremor through her frame; it was rather the thought that through
judging rashly she had been an accessory to the death of one who
perhaps deserved reward rather than punishment.

The next morning the hall was again converted into a court of justice.
De Boteler took his seat, and the eager vassals crowded in to hear
the expected justification of Stephen Holgrave. Calverley, as being a
party accused, was of course incapacitated from filling the accustomed
situation in the court; and as old Luke was too infirm, Oakley was
selected. Black Jack had begun to be very calculating--a portion of the
money he had received in London had already disappeared in his secret
debauchery. The bribe was not so large as he had been led to expect,
and he had sense enough to know that his habits were not adapted for
turning what remained to any account. The stewardship of Sudley was
so easy and profitable! The very thought of it was delightful--and
as nothing had as yet transpired to criminate him, he accepted of
the temporary dignity with the most sanguine hopes that Calverley's
delinquencies might fix him in it permanently.

But lo! when Calverley's prison door was opened, for the purpose of
conducting him to the hall, he was not to be found! It was to no
purpose that the baron stormed and threatened, no trace of Calverley
could be discovered; but John Byles was brought forward, and, upon
being confronted with his own servitor, and promised that if he made
a full disclosure, the punishment of the crime should be remitted,
he confessed all with which the reader was made acquainted in the
early part of the tale. The question of poisoning was then put, but
Byles had cunning enough to remember that no one was privy to this
but Calverley, and as it might peril Mary's life, he stoutly denied
all knowledge of the matter. Mary Byles, who had also been kept in
durance, was then introduced, but she was more collected than on the
preceding evening, and would admit nothing. She knew not any thing
of the buck--and she could say nothing more respecting the poisoning
than she had already said at Gloucester, and the supposition of
Edith's innocence, was compelled to rest upon the servitor's oath,
who swore that he had heard Mary say, on the evening she returned
from Gloucester, what Sir Robert had repeated. This, coupled with the
circumstance that, together with the poisoning, Mary had denied what
her husband had admitted, and what could not have happened without her
knowledge, brought sufficiently conclusive evidence to convince every
one that Edith had died a martyr to Mary's cruelty or carelessness.

As the baron had promised not to punish, Byles and his wife were
dismissed unharmed; but from that hour forward, they were regarded
by all as under ban, and therefore shunned as much as possible. We
should premise, however, that before Byles was permitted to leave the
hall, Stephen Holgrave was led in, that he might receive a public
acquittal. When Holgrave entered, supported by one of the servitors,
and, appearing unable to stand, was seated on a stool, Sir Robert
Knowles, who had more than once taken a strong interest in him,
started up, and was about to make some observation; but recollecting
himself, he resumed his seat, and remained silent. De Boteler himself
felt a glow of shame and a qualm of conscience, as he looked upon
the white, swollen face, and bent and shrunken form of one who had,
in the moment of peril, sprung, with the vigour and ferocity of the
tiger, between him and death. Holgrave had not been informed why the
agonizing punishment had been remitted, nor why he had been placed in
a comfortable bed, and every attention paid him; and he only suspected
that, perceiving severity could effect nothing, they were unwilling
to lose their victim, and wished again to try the effect of a milder
treatment. His suspicions seemed confirmed, when, upon an order from
De Boteler, a page approached, and presented him with a cup of wine.
Although, as we have said, suspecting the motive of so much indulgence,
he drank the wine, and then, looking round the hall, wondered why there
had been such a gathering of the vassals, and why their looks were
bent upon him with such friendly interest, and why words of pity and
triumph were murmured amongst them; then he wondered why Jack Straw was
sitting in Calverley's place, and what fault John Byles and his wife
had committed, that they stood there like criminals. These thoughts,
however, had scarcely passed through his mind, when the baron addressed
him in a gentle tone.

"Stephen Holgrave," said he, "you remember, some seven years since,
being accused of shooting a buck in my chase. It is not to repeat
the charge that I sent for you, but, before this noble sir and these
vassals, publicly to acquit you of the base deed. He who stole your
arrows, and shot the animal, stands there!" and he pointed towards
Byles.--"And he who bribed him to be a thief and a liar, aware of his
guilt, has fled, and has for the present escaped my vengeance. And now,
Holgrave, it repents me that I dealt so hardly by your mother, for, as
I hope to die a Christian's death, I believe she died innocent."

Sir Robert had remarked the sudden flush, and then the death-like
paleness, which had passed over Holgrave's face, as his glance fixed
upon Byles; and perceiving that, as his dead mother was spoken of, he
became excessively agitated, he ordered his page to carry him another
cup of wine; and the two criminals being removed, De Boteler continued,

"Approach, Stephen Holgrave."

Holgrave arose, and though he trembled, excitement had lent him such
strength, that he walked up to the baron without assistance. De Boteler
then, taking Holgrave's right hand, pushed him, with a gentle violence,
away, at the same instant repeating, in a loud voice, "Away! thou
art free!" and then added, "Hear, all ye assembled, that I, Roland
de Boteler, release Stephen Holgrave from his bondage, and that from
henceforth he oweth me no allegiance, except what is due as a vassal in
chivalry."

And now the vassals, who had hitherto kept in tolerable order, upon
seeing Holgrave again a free man, set up such a joyful shout, that the
approach of the royal guest was not known until the portals were thrown
open, and Richard, leaning familiarly upon the arm of the Earl of
Oxford, entered the hall.

"You hold a court to-day, my Lord de Boteler," said Richard, as the
baron hurried forward between the ranks of the shrinking vassals to
welcome the monarch.

Words of courteous gratulation were uttered by De Boteler, as he led
his visitor to a splendid chair which had been prepared for him, and
presented, on his knee, a cup of spiced wine. During this, Isabella
and Lady Ann Knowles had entered the hall, and, after being presented
to the king, Lady Ann whispered to Sir Robert, who requested that
Holgrave, who was about to depart, although no longer a prisoner,
should remain in the castle, at least for that day. Holgrave promised
acquiescence, and the hall being cleared of the tenantry, Richard and
the attendant lords, whom he and his favourite had by half an hour
outstripped, presently sat down to a splendid banquet.

During their ride, Robert de Vere had acquainted Richard with the
singular disappearance of his sister's infant son, and with the
suspicions she entertained respecting Holgrave. That love of the
marvellous, which seems inherent in youth, was awakened in all its
vigour in the young king; and, as the repast concluded, he heard, with
a feeling of pleasure, De Boteler ask permission to interrogate a
vassal in his presence.

"Please your highness," continued the baron, "the man is exceedingly
stubborn. We suspect him of having stolen our child, but nothing has as
yet been able to extract a confession, though, perhaps, your highness's
presence may have some effect."

The domestics at the lower table had withdrawn, and Oakley, who was
continued in his functions as steward, was ordered to see that
Holgrave attended.

"Stephen Holgrave," said De Boteler, as the former approached, "I have
sent for you, to certify, in this presence, that I restore to you
the land you were once possessed of, with its stock and crops; and
whatever you may need besides shall be given you from the stores of the
castle:--it is only giving you back your own, Stephen. But it is his
grace's pleasure, that now, as your late offences are forgiven, you
make a full disclosure of whatever you know respecting my stolen child."

All eyes were now riveted upon Holgrave; and a mind, less firm, would
have trembled and hesitated until the whole truth was either revealed
or suspected: but Holgrave, although prepared for such interrogatories,
did not appear disposed to give an immediate reply. He had lost the
confidence in fair speeches he once possessed. His freedom had been
torn from him, and, though now pronounced free, what surety had he
that the morrow might not again behold him a bond-slave? Thoughts
like these could easily be detected in the contraction of the brow,
and compression of the lips; and there might also have been detected,
together with a resentment for the suspicions which had been cast upon
his mother, a determination not to subject himself to the chances of
further persecution by acknowledging the wrong he had done. At this
moment, when the colour was receding from De Boteler's cheek, and
when every respiration which Isabella drew was distinctly audible, a
figure, which had stood unnoticed behind one of the statues, moved on,
and, ascending one step of the elevation, threw back a cloak from
his shoulders and a cowl from his head, revealing the strongly marked
countenance and imposing figure of John Ball! Several of the attendants
sprung forward to secure him; but a motion from De Boteler restrained
their zeal, and, without noticing the action of the menials, the monk,
regarding those only who sat round the table, addressed them in that
deep, solemn tone peculiar to him.

"Start not," said he, "John Ball is not come to harm you;--he never
harmed any to whom God gave the breath of life,--neither did he counsel
the blood which has been spilt. A price is set upon his head--but think
ye the homeless wanderer fears to die? Baron of Sudley, I have come
thus far to tell you what I told you once before--that if ye will swear
to set free the bondmen of Sudley, the child you mourn as dead shall be
restored to you!"

"O! swear, Roland! swear!" said Isabella, starting from her seat, and,
forgetful of all save her own intense feelings, she clasped her hands
on her husband's shoulder.

"I do swear," said De Boteler, taking a crucifix from the monk, who
extended one towards him, and kneeling before Richard; "I do swear,
upon this blessed cross, and before my liege lord, that if my child is
restored to me, so that I can claim him as my own, I will release every
bondman within this manor, and that, from thenceforth, there shall be
no more bondage in the barony of Sudley."

"Stephen, will ye restore the child?"

"I will," replied Holgrave, with softened feelings and a brightening
countenance, "the child, my lord, shall be given up to you."

"He shall be given up," repeated the monk; and then, clasping his hands
upon his bosom, he descended the steps, strode through the hall, and,
in less than a minute, re-appeared, leading in Margaret and the child,
and followed by the galleyman.

Although, from the growth of the boy thus introduced, it might be
judged he was about eight years, yet there was that sparkling vivacity,
and that lightness of lip and eye which belong to an earlier age; and,
as the wandering glance of the dark eye, and the smile of the red lip,
met De Boteler's gaze, a tumultuous throbbing in his bosom told him
that the child was indeed his own.

Isabella rose, and attempted to approach the boy--but the body was not
able to bear the fervour of the spirit. Her heart sickened, the light
faded from her eyes, and she sank back in the arms of the sympathizing
Lady Knowles.

"That boy is yours, my lord," said Sir Robert Knowles, "let who will be
the mother!"

"Peace, profane jester!" said the monk. "Baron of Sudley, do you
believe that this is the son thy lady mourned?"

"I do believe," returned the baron, in a more subdued voice than mortal
had ever heard from him before; and he approached the child, who was
nestling close to Margaret, and looking around with an abashed but
inquisitive countenance.

"My Lord de Boteler," said Holgrave, drawing the child almost forcibly
from Margaret, "as I hope that my mother is a saint in heaven, the
child is yours. I was a bondman--was motherless--childless--and I
thought it would be no crime to make you, too, desolate!"

De Boteler looked at Holgrave as he spoke, but did not reply; but,
placing his hand upon the full shoulder that rose above the boy's
tunic, he bent his head down and kissed the child's forehead.

"The child is exceedingly like you!" remarked Richard.

"There is a resemblance, my lord," said Oxford: "but it is not
likenesses nor assertions that will satisfy me--I require proof!"

"And proof you shall have," replied the monk. "Holgrave, declare how
you obtained the child!"

Isabella, who had recovered her consciousness, and who now, with almost
convulsive extacy, was embracing the child, cast an angry glance at
her brother, as if she feared that some discrepancy in the proof might
bring her right to claim him in question. De Boteler, however, did not
appear displeased, but merely said, "Holgrave, you have not declared
how you obtained the child."

"If it please you, my lord, when I was a boy, I was one morning rubbing
down one of the late lord's horses for the servitor, whose duty it was
to do it, when, all on a sudden, as I was stooping down to wipe the
horse's feet, I saw the wall at the back of one of the stalls open, and
out came the old baron. He looked round, but fortunately, or it may be
unfortunately for him who is now lord, he did not see me."

"And you discovered where the secret opening led?"

"Yes--with all the curiosity of a boy, I afterwards found that the
secret door led by some long dark steps to the bed-chamber of the old
lord!"

"Did you mention your discovery to any one?"

"To no one, until after I had stolen the child--and then I told all to
father John."

"This story," remarked the Earl of Oxford, "requires proof as much as
any thing else."

"You shall receive that of your own eyes," said Holgrave, "if it
please you to accompany me;" and Richard, expressing a wish to witness
every thing connected with the strange discovery, arose, and, with De
Boteler, Oxford, and Sir Robert Knowles, proceeded as we have before
described, to the bed-chamber. "From that bed, my lord," said Holgrave
to De Boteler, "I took the child--it slept soundly--I crept down these
steps--it was a dark night--and I got home without being seen!"

"This is not satisfactory proof," said Oxford.

"My lord, I have more to shew you," resumed Holgrave.

They then descended to the stabling, and, followed by many inquisitive
eyes, went on to Holgrave's cottage.

It was uninhabited, but the door was fastened, and Holgrave forcing it
open, led the way into the deserted abode. A chill came over him as
he removed the chest; but taking up a shovel from a corner, where he
himself had thrown it, he prepared to remove the clay. He hesitated
for a moment, and then began his task;--he had dug about a foot deep,
when, raising up a slip of wood about one foot broad and two in length,
the perfect form of an infant, lying beneath, caused those who were
looking silently on to utter an exclamation.

"Poor babe! it was a sad night I laid ye there," said Holgrave, bending
over the grave, and looking earnestly at the little corpse; and then
kneeling down, he attempted to raise one of the hands, but it dropped
crumbling from his touch.

Holgrave, although he had exerted himself much during the last hour,
was extremely weak; and this little circumstance affected him so deeply
that he started on his feet, and, to hide the weakness of tears, turned
away his head from those who were gazing upon him.

"I was a man, and I felt as a father," said Holgrave, turning again and
looking at De Boteler, "and yet I stole your child, and dug that grave,
and with my own hands laid in my little one;--and why did I do it?
Because I had determined that your child should wear the bondage you
had given to me."

"This seems strange language from a bondman," said Richard, aside to
Oxford.

"The man has an obstinate spirit, your grace," returned the earl.

"De Boteler," said Sir Robert Knowles, "this bondage should never have
been."

"Was I more than man, that I could tell the traitor Calverley deceived
me?" impatiently returned the baron, as he felt, though not choosing to
acknowledge it, that he had done wrong when he insisted on the bondage.

During this brief colloquy, Holgrave had again bent over the grave, and
had taken up the box in which were deposited the articles that had been
on the young De Boteler. Sir Robert, mistaking his motive, observed,
"You must not think of removing the babe, Holgrave. This hut is but of
little worth--you can throw it down, and bring a priest to say a prayer
over the spot; and then the grave will be as good as if it were in a
church-yard."

Holgrave bent his head in acknowledgment to the knight; and, placing
the box under his arm, observed, "I hid these, lest they should be
witness against me; and now, if it please ye, noble sirs, to come back
to the hall, I will restore them to my lady."

When the yeoman had returned to the castle, and presented the box to
Isabella, the evidences it contained, in the dress and crucifix, were
so conclusive, that the Earl of Oxford gave a kiss of welcome to the
little Ralph.

"Baron of Sudley," said John Ball, "do ye acknowledge that child as
your son?"

"I do, monk, and I will fulfil my vow. Stephen Holgrave, to you I give
the charge of collecting all my bondmen;--see that they are assembled
here to-morrow morning. They shall be freed; and from henceforth, as I
vowed, there shall be no more bondage in Sudley; and, by my faith! I
believe I shall be better served by freemen than serfs."

"And, my Lord de Boteler, we feel much inclined to follow your
example," said Richard. "The shire of Hereford is our royal
patrimony--have ye a scribe here who can draw up a charter?"

Oakley was called upon, and desired to prepare an instrument, to the
effect of freeing the bondmen of Hereford.

John Ball, who had looked on and listened with a deep interest, now
approached the king, and knelt before him.

"The work that I strove for has begun, and it will finish; but mine
eyes will not live to see that day. From the hour that blood was shed I
forsook the cause; but I hid myself from the snares that were laid for
me;--for I said, surely the light shall yet rise up in darkness! and
it has risen; and it will grow brighter and brighter;--but John Ball's
task is done, and he gives himself up to the death that awaits him."

De Boteler said something in a low tone to Richard, who turned to the
monk.

"Retire!" said he, "we shall consider of your punishment."

As the monk withdrew, Oakley, who had retired, for the purpose of
transcribing the charter, re-entered; and the instrument being
presented to Richard, received the royal signature. While this was
being done, Oakley, under the impression that the affording a proof of
Calverley's guilt, more tangible in its nature than mere assertions,
could not possibly injure himself, and might turn to his permanent
advantage, approached De Boteler, and, producing the prohibitory writ,--

"Please you, my lord," said he, "while searching among Thomas
Calverley's writings for parchment, I discovered this."

"Discovered this among my steward's writings!" said the baron as,
biting his lip with vexation, he spread open the parchment on the table.

"Why, my Lord de Boteler," said Richard, taking up the writ, and
glancing over the characters, "this is a prohibitory writ from the
chancery! Where was this found?"

"My liege, in a private box in the steward's room, which, it seems, he
had forgotten to lock," replied Oakley, with that propriety which he
knew how to assume.

The galleyman had stood in the hall, a silent, but delighted, spectator
of all we have detailed. His heart yearned to grasp Holgrave's hand,
and tell him how much he rejoiced in his freedom; but he dared not
presume so far until the yeoman should have been dismissed. Besides,
his thoughts were bent upon another object: as Richard raised the
parchment for perusal, the seals attracted his attention, and he
instantly recognized it as one he had observed Calverley drop in
Gloucester, at the time of Edith's trial; but as he saw the ungracious
look the baron cast on Black Jack, he thought he would not irritate him
further by mentioning it: yet, stepping forward as Oakley ceased, he
said--

"Please your noble grace, that man lies. _I_ found that parchment in an
hostelry-yard at Gloucester, six years ago--I know it by the seals; and
that John Oakley told me it was an old lease of no use, and so I gave
it to him."

"And who are you, varlet?" said Richard, evidently more amused than
offended, as he expected some fresh incident to grow out of this affair.

"Please your grace," replied Wells, encouraged by the king's manner,
"I am a vintner in the city of London, and I came down to Sudley with
Stephen Holgrave's wife, to see what could be done for her husband."

"By my faith! my Lord de Boteler, your hall seems a fitting place to
act miracles in," said Richard, laughing.

"There have, indeed, been strange things done here to-day, my liege,"
replied De Boteler, smiling, but at heart annoyed at the thoughtless
observation.

"Oxford," said Richard, "ask the knave if he have any more disclosures
to make."

"Please you, my lord," said Wells, "I have only to say again, that
John Oakley did not find this writing in the castle, and that he is a
traitorous liar, and that I here challenge him to mortal combat."

"Retire, kerns!" said De Boteler, glancing with anger at Oakley and
the galleyman, "and settle your vile feuds as ye may. Disturb not this
noble presence longer."

"Be not angry, my Lord of Sudley: we request you to ask yonder varlet
why he calls his fellow such hard names?"

"Please you, my lord," said Wells, nothing daunted, "did not John
Oakley get Stephen Holgrave from the forest of Dean?"

"He did," answered De Boteler, who now remembered Wells as he who had
assisted Isabella.

"Then, my lord, I call that man a liar, because he said he found
the parchment in the steward's room; and I call him a traitor and a
liar, because he got Stephen Holgrave out of the forest of Dean, by
saying, that of his own good will, he helped to lay his mother in a
church-yard, when he was paid in good broad pieces for doing the work."

Holgrave, weak as he was, and forgetful, even, of the royal presence,
sprung upon Oakley. The sight of the writ that would have saved his
mother, almost maddened him. He did not exactly comprehend what had
been said about the writ; but it seemed, that Oakley was in some
measure connected with this, and the sudden conviction, that he was,
indeed, the betrayer, gave him such a frantic energy, that Black Jack's
face grew still blacker beneath his grasp, and he would have dashed him
to the ground, had not the baron risen and commanded Holgrave to loose
his hold.

"I think," said Sir Robert Knowles, who saw that it was only under the
influence of strong feeling that Holgrave could at present be a match
for Oakley--"I think it would be better that this retainer accept the
vintner's challenge; and should he worst him, then he and Holgrave
can settle their quarrel, when a few days shall have given him more
strength." This, despite of Holgrave's assurances that his strength
was undiminished, was decided upon, and the galleyman and Oakley were
directed to hold themselves in readiness to try the strength of their
weapons on the morrow. They were then ordered to withdraw--Oakley and
the galleyman to be lodged that night in the retainers' court, and
Holgrave to tell over all he felt to the affectionate Margaret, who,
for the present, at Isabella's request, was to occupy an apartment in
the castle.

The more Oakley thought of the challenge he had been compelled to
accept, the less relish he felt to engage in it. Even should he conquer
his strong-knit antagonist, he must have to fight over again with
the vindictive Holgrave; and he cursed the folly which had induced
him to produce the writ. However, he had found a golden treasure
in Calverley's room: and as he lay tossing on his sleepless bed, he
resolved to take an opportunity, during the bustle of the next morning,
to leave the castle. And, indeed, during the bustle of the next
morning, an individual of much more consequence than Black Jack might
have escaped unheeded.

The incidents of the previous day had caused a strong sensation, not
only at Sudley and Winchcombe, but in all the immediate neighbourhood.
The presence of a king; the recovery of an heir; and the unheard-of
circumstance of giving freedom to the serfs of a whole county, were
things well calculated to attract crowds to the castle: and then there
were the feastings, and the rejoicings which were to gladden the hearts
of all who chose to partake.

The gentle class, and the most respectable portion of the tenantry,
prognosticated only evil from this all-advised proceeding. As they
looked on, and saw the bondman and nief, with animated countenances,
pouring into the hall, and beheld De Boteler, in the presence of the
king and the nobles, give freedom to all who approached him, and order
that from henceforth they should hold what land they possessed by copy
of court-roll, they wondered how far this unprecedented innovation
would extend, and how people were to get their land cultivated, if the
peasant was allowed to go where he liked, and work as he pleased.

When the last bondman was freed, John Ball, who had stood looking on
with devouring eyes, knelt down, and raising up a cheek suffused with
the crimson of high-wrought feeling, and eyes glistening and radiant,
ejaculated, in a scarcely audible voice,

"Now will my soul depart in peace, since mine eyes have beheld this
day!--now will my spirit rejoice, since thou hast had compassion on
them that were in fetters, and hast released the children of the bond!"
Then rising, and extending his clasped hands towards De Boteler, he
said, in a louder tone, "May the Lord add blessings upon thee and thy
children! May length of days be thy portion, and mayest thou dwell
for ever in the house of the Lord." Then approaching Holgrave, he
continued--"Farewell, Stephen! The clemency of the King has saved my
life, and the voice of the anointed priest hath proved me cleansed of
the leper spot--but I must now be a dweller in a strange land. Tell
Margaret that we may not meet again; but surely, if the prayers of a
brother can aught avail, mine shall be offered at the footstool of the
Highest for her. I could not bid her adieu. Bless thee, Stephen, and
bless her, and fare thee well!" He then pressed Holgrave's hand.

"Nay, father John," said Holgrave, with emotion, "we must not part so."

It was to no purpose that the monk requested, and then commanded, that
he should be permitted to pursue his journey alone. Stephen insisted
upon accompanying him out of Gloucestershire, and father John, to
avoid contention, feigned to defer his departure; but when the tables
were spread, and the domestics and vassals had sat down to the feast,
Margaret, who had been seeking the monk about the castle, looked and
looked again among them all, and at length had to weep over the
certainty that she should never more behold her brother. Nor did she;
for John Ball did not long survive his exile. On the second anniversary
of the bondman's freedom, his own spirit was freed, and his body rested
in the cemetery of the monastery of Cistercium, in Burgundy.

But to return. When the ceremony of enfranchisement was fairly
over, there arose the cry for the combat, and great was the general
disappointment when, upon the galleyman's standing forth prepared for
the encounter, no Oakley could be found. "He has skulked off to the
craven Calverley, I'll warrant," said one. "Aye, aye, as sure as the
sun shines, they are sworn brothers," said another: "they think more
of saving their heads than sparing their heels." "Did ye ever know
one who could read and write, who didn't know how to take care of his
carcase," said another, with a sagacious nod; but though these good
folks were all very shrewd, they did not happen to fall upon the truth,
which was simply this, that as Black Jack was watching an opportunity
to escape, without observation, he happened to see the cloak and cowl
the monk had thrown off when first appearing in the hall, lying in a
corner of the court-yard, where it had been carelessly placed by one
of those whose business it was to keep the hall in order. It instantly
occurred to him that this might be of use, and contriving to remove the
cloak, he put it on, and, thus disguised, succeeded in leaving Sudley;
but though disguises had so often befriended him, it proved fatal in
this instance, for, upon taking a northerly direction, as one where he
was least likely to be known, he was recognized as a leader of the
commons, and his monkish dress inducing a suspicion of his being John
Ball, (the monk's pardon not being known), Oakley, although swearing
by every thing sacred that he was no monk, was hanged without form
of trial, at St. Albans, as one who had stirred up the bondmen to
insurrection.

Little more remains to be said. De Boteler, upon discovering that Byles
held Holgrave's land by virtue of the mortgage transferred by the
usurer to Calverley, pronounced, in the most summary way, the whole
thing illegal. Byles was dispossessed, and the farm, now the largest
in the manor, returned to Holgrave, who thus, like old Job, became the
possessor of greater wealth after his misfortunes than he had enjoyed
before.

When Holgrave's strength was re-established, he waged battle with Byles
to prove the yeoman's guilt and his mother's innocence. Byles was no
craven, but he was vanquished and mortally wounded, and, when death was
upon him, confessed the whole transaction. Mary, with her children,
fled on the instant; and, some few years after, was seen by Merritt,
who had again become a peaceful artizan, begging alms in London.

Isabella, although, of course, never acknowledging her share in the
writ, yet, as some atonement, gave a large benefaction to Hailes Abbey,
on condition that a certain number of masses should be offered up for
Edith.

The little Ralph grew up with a strong predilection for the sea,
contracted, it was often suspected, by the strange stories he had heard
the galleyman repeat; and it is upon record, that Ralph de Boteler,
Baron of Sudley, was the first high admiral of England. The young heir
always evinced a strong affection for Margaret; so much so, indeed, as
sometimes to raise a suspicion in the baroness that her son loved his
foster-mother better than herself.

We must not forget Bridget Turner, who was so affected at the death of
her husband, and perhaps, too, at the failure of the rising, that she
took a journey on foot from Maidstone to Sudley, on purpose to reproach
Holgrave with having been the cause of her husband's death. Margaret
strove to tranquillize her unhappy feelings, and Holgrave endeavoured
to convince her that, although Turner's removal from Sudley might be
attributed to him, his connexion with the rising was his own act. And
at length Bridget, finding that she was paid more attention by Margaret
and Holgrave than she had received even from her own son, took up her
permanent abode with them: and sometimes, when she could get the ear
of an old neighbour, and talk of former times, and tell what her poor
husband had done for Holgrave, when he was a bondman, she felt almost
as happy as she had ever been.

About twenty years after this, Margaret, who had become a full, comely
dame, and was by many thought better-looking now than in her youth, was
one day bustling about her kitchen, for on the morrow her eldest son,
who had accompanied the Lord Ralph on a naval expedition, was expected
to bring home, from the galleyman's, in London, a counterpart of the
pretty little Lucy. She was busy preparing the ingredients for some
sweet dish, when one of Holgrave's labourers came in, and requested
her to go to his hut directly, for an old man, who seemed dying,
desired much to see her. Providing herself with a little wine, Margaret
hastened to the cottage; and here, on a straw bed, lay a man with grey
hairs hanging about his shoulders, and with a face so emaciated, and
a hand so skeleton-like, that she almost shuddered as she looked. The
invalid motioned the man to withdraw, and then, fixing his black eyes,
that appeared gifted with an intense--an unnatural brilliance, upon
Margaret, who seemed fascinated by the gaze, he said in a tremulous
voice,--

"Margaret, do you know me?"

"Know you!--know you!" she repeated, starting from the seat she had
taken beside him, and retreating a few steps.

"Do not fly me, Margaret. I cannot harm you--I never could have harmed
_you_.--Do you not know me?"

"Surely," said Margaret, trembling from head to foot--"surely it cannot
be----"

"I see you have a misgiving that it is Thomas Calverley--it is he! But
be seated, Margaret, and listen to the last words I shall ever more
breathe in mortal ear."

Margaret was so shocked and overpowered, that she obeyed.

"Margaret," said the dying man, as he raised himself a little from his
bed, "I know not why I sent for you, or why I dragged my weary limbs
from beyond the sea to this place; but as I felt my hour was coming, I
longed to look upon you again. You are and have been happy--your looks
bespeak it: but, Margaret, what do mine tell of?--Of weary days and
sleepless nights--of sickness of heart, and agony of soul--of crime--of
pain--of sorrow, and deep, destroying love!" His strength was exhausted
with the feeling with which he uttered this, and he sunk back on the
bed.

Margaret was exceedingly agitated, and was rising to call for
assistance, but he caught her hand in his cold grasp. "Do not go yet,"
he said, in a low voice--"I came far to see you!" His grasp relaxed,
and Margaret, drawing away her hand, poured some wine in a cup, and
held it to his lips; he swallowed a little, and, looking up in her
face, she saw that his eyes were filled with tears. "You are going to
leave me, Margaret?"

"Yes," she replied, "I must go now, but I will see you again."

"Never!--you will never see me again!" he said, with fresh energy:
"but, before you go, tell me that you forgive me all that is passed."

"I do forgive you, indeed, as truly as I hope to be forgiven!" said
Margaret, affected--and turning away, she left the cottage.

On the third day from this, Calverley, bearing the felon's brand,
unwept and unknown, was laid in the stranger's grave.


THE END.

Transcibers note: Original spelling, including inconsistencies, has
been retained.


 LONDON:

 PRINTED BY STEWART AND CO.

 OLD BAILEY.



VOLUME VI.

WILL APPEAR ON THE FIRST OF JUNE,

CONTAINING

THE SLAVE-KING,

From the "Bug Jargal" of Victor Hugo.

 This story, which describes the emancipation of the Slaves of St.
 Domingo, effected by themselves, and by force of arms, will be
 enriched with the original Notes of a recent English Traveller.


A TALE OF THE CARAVANSERAI,

By James Baillie Fraser, Esq. author of the Kuzzilbash, _is nearly
ready_.


The celebrated historical Romance of

THE SIEGE OF VIENNA,

Condensed and adapted from the German of Madame Pichler, _is ready for
the press_.


Original Works of first-rate talent, by the most distinguished writers
of the age, will follow in succession.



THE LIBRARY OF ROMANCE,

EDITED BY

LEITCH RITCHIE,

_Author of "Schinderhannes, the Robber of the Rhine," "Heath's
Picturesque Annual," "Turner's Annual Tour," "London Nights'
Entertainments," &c._


This new and important undertaking has now received a four months'
trial; and the result is a determination, on the part of the
proprietors, to carry on the series with redoubled spirit and energy.
The patronage of the public, and the prompt, manly, and generous
support of the periodical press throughout the country, leave them
no excuse for carelessness or timidity; and they pledge themselves,
therefore, without hesitation, to spare neither personal labour nor
expense in redeeming the promise of the Prospectus, by producing a
series of works of fiction "_greatly cheaper than the cheapest, and
fully as good as the best that have preceded them_."

A reduction of more than _two-thirds_ in the price of an original
novel (effected in the Library of Romance) is of itself an important
consideration, in times when economy is a matter both of fashion and
necessity; but there are other circumstances connected with the form
of the work which are equally deserving of public attention. Hitherto
it was as necessary to extend a work of fiction to three volumes
as a tragedy to five acts. The publisher was a kind of literary
Procrustes, and compelled the _Attic_ wayfarers who fell into his
hands _to be all of one size_. This would have been comparatively a
slight evil, or no evil at all, if the scale had been a moderate one;
but it may be conceived what pulling and stretching were necessary in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, and how long, and lean, and lank,
and shapeless, the victims looked after the operation. We, too, have a
standard of our own; but it is short enough to be reached by any author
of respectable dimensions. Compression, therefore, will be our chief
labour; and, generally speaking, the sufferer himself will have most
cause to rejoice.

It has been suggested to the proprietors by the Circulating Libraries,
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into parts, or books, so as to admit of its being bound up, at the
option of the possessors, into separate volumes. To effect this more
easily, the work will be sold to the Libraries in sheets as well as
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Library of Original Romance.

EDITED BY LEITCH RITCHIE, ESQ.

 A uniform Series of Original Tales, Novels, and Romances, written
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PRICE SIX SHILLINGS, ELEGANTLY BOUND IN CLOTH.


_The First Monthly Volume, of the Series was published last New Year's
Day, entitled,_

THE GHOST-HUNTER AND HIS FAMILY.

 By Mr. Banim, Author of "The O'Hara Tales," and is acknowledged to be
 "_the most talented and extraordinary work that has issued from the
 press for many years_."

 "The very graceful volume before us must sell by thousands to repay
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 has put forth all the vigour that belonged to the old O'Hara Tales,
 and avoided the weaknesses that sullied his subsequent efforts. He has
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 that has appeared this season."--_Athenæum._


_The Second Volume, published on the 1st of February, contains_

SCHINDERHANNES, THE ROBBER OF THE RHINE.

By the Editor, Leitch Ritchie.

 "This volume calls for unqualified praise. It is elegantly written,
 abounds in striking incident, and is, throughout, replete with
 highly-wrought and well sustained interest. In short, this is
 decidedly one of the best romances we have ever read, whether we judge
 by incident, character, or plot."--_Court Journal._


_The Third Volume, published on the 1st of March, contains_

"WALTHAM," A Novel.

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 and most heartily do we wish success to the "Library of Romance."
 Many a flower, otherwise "born to blush unseen," will, we trust,
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_The Fourth Volume, published on the 1st of April, contains_

THE STOLEN CHILD, A TALE OF THE TOWN, FOUNDED ON A CERTAIN INTERESTING
FACT.

By John Galt, Esq., author of the "Ayrshire Legatees," "Annals of the
Parish," "Lawrie Todd," &c.

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SMITH, ELDER, AND CO., CORNHILL.



WORKS

IN THE PRESS, OR RECENTLY PUBLISHED,

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_Preparing for the press, and to be speedily published,_


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 Natives, their Manners, Weapons, and other Peculiarities. The whole,
 throwing a new light on the Country that was explored.


_Preparing for publication, in Demy 8vo. Illustrated._


Narrative of a Journey to the

FALLS OF THE CAVERY;

With an Historical and Descriptive Account of

THE NEILGHERRY HILLS:

 Illustrated by correct Views of the very splendid and striking Scenery
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 The work now proposed will form a complete Guide both to the invalid
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Price Fifteen Shillings, neatly bound in cloth.

_Just published, beautifully illustrated, price 7s. 6d. cloth extra, or
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_Just completed, in Demy 8vo. with Portrait, Price 10s. 6d._


THE LIFE OF THE POET, WILLIAM COWPER.

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_Just completed, in Post 8vo. illustrated by Parris, price 10s. 6d.
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LONDON NIGHTS' ENTERTAINMENTS;

A new Edition, with additions, of TALES AND CONFESSIONS.

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original edition, it will be recollected, (although not containing,
like the present, any of the later efforts of his pen), was pronounced
by the London Reviewers to be "the most extraordinary work of fiction
that has for many years issued from the press."

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THE ADVENTURES OF NAUFRAGUS,

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 certainty of its reality adds greatly to the interest of his eventful
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 "If you wish for a pleasant travelling companion, or a friend to
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 interesting, we might truly say, a wonderful picture of real life,
 read the Adventures of Naufragus."--_Scotsman._


THE LAST OF THE PLANTAGENETS.

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 the Ecclesiastical and Domestic Manners of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth
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 library of English Romance can furnish. The plaintiveness, purity, and
 simplicity of the diction, and the monastic quietness, the unaffected
 tenderness, and repose of the incidents, must render this Volume a
 permanent favourite with all readers of taste and feeling."--_Atlas._





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