A Forgotten Hero
by Emily Sarah Holt
A Forgotten Hero, or, Not for Him, by Emily Sarah Holt.
This shortish book takes us to the end of the thirteenth century,
and, although the people in the book are mostly high-born, the scene is
a very domestic one. It gives us a good understanding of the way life
was lived in those days. Recommended for its social interest.
A FORGOTTEN HERO, OR, NOT FOR HIM, BY EMILY SARAH HOLT.
CHAPTER ONE. CASTLES IN THE AIR.
O pale, pale face, so sweet and meek, Oriana!
Is the linen all put away, Clarice?
And the rosemary not forgotten?
I have laid it in the linen, Dame.
And thy day's task of spinning is done?
All done, Dame.
Good. Then fetch thy sewing and come hither, and I will tell thee
somewhat touching the lady whom thou art to serve.
I humbly thank your Honour. And dropping a low courtesy, the girl
left the room, and returned in a minute with her work.
Thou mayest sit down, Clarice.
Clarice, with another courtesy and a murmur of thanks, took her seat
in the recess of the window, where her mother was already sitting. For
these two were mother and daughter; a middle-aged, comfortable-looking
mother, with a mixture of firmness and good-nature in her face; and a
daughter of some sixteen years, rather pale and slender, but active and
intelligent in her appearance. Clarice's dark hair was smoothly brushed
and turned up in a curl all round her head, being cut sufficiently
short for that purpose. Her dress was long and loose, made in what we
call the Princess style, with a long train, which she tucked under one
arm when she walked. The upper sleeve was of a narrow bell shape, but
under it came down tight ones to the wrist, fastened by a row of large
round buttons quite up to the elbow. A large apronwhich Clarice
called a barm-clothprotected the dress from stain. A fillet of ribbon
was bound round her head, but she had no ornaments of any kind. Her
mother wore a similar costume, excepting that in her case the fillet
round the head was exchanged for a wimple, which was a close hood,
covering head and neck, and leaving no part exposed but the face. It
was a very comfortable article in cold weather, but an eminently
These two ladies were the wife and daughter of Sir Gilbert Le Theyn,
a knight of Surrey, who held his manor of the Earl of Cornwall; and the
date of the day when they thus sat in the window was the 26th of March
It will strike modern readers as odd if I say that Clarice and her
mother knew very little of each other. She was her father's heir, being
an only child; and it was, therefore, considered the more necessary
that she should not live at home. It was usual at that time to send all
young girls of good family, not to schoolthere were no schools in
those daysbut to be brought up under some lady of rank, where they
might receive a suitable education, and, on reaching the proper age,
have a husband provided for them, the one being just as much a matter
of course as the other. The consent of the parents was asked to the
matrimonial selection of the mistress, but public opinion required some
very strong reason to justify them in withholding it. The only
exception to this arrangement was when girls were destined for the
cloister, and in that case they received their education in a convent.
But there was one person who had absolutely no voice in the matter, and
that was the unfortunate girl in question. The very idea of consulting
her on any point of it, would have struck a mediaeval mother with
astonishment and dismay.
Why ladies should have been considered competent in all instances to
educate anybody's daughters but their own is a mystery of the Middle
Ages. Dame La Theyn had under her care three girls, who were receiving
their education at her hands, and she never thought of questioning her
own competency to impart it; yet, also without a question, she sent
Clarice away from her, first to a neighbouring knight's wife, and now
to a Princess, to receive the education which she might just as well
have had at home. It was the command of Fashion; and who does not know
that Fashion, whether in the thirteenth century or the nineteenth,
must be obeyed?
Clarice was on the brink of high promotion. By means of a ladder of
several stepsa Dame requesting a Baroness, and the Baroness
entreating a Countessthe royal lady had been reached at last, whose
husband was the suzerain of Sir Gilbert. It made little difference to
this lady whether her bower-women were two or ten, provided that the
attendance given her was as much as she required; and she readily
granted the petition that Clarice La Theyn might be numbered among
those young ladies. The Earl of Cornwall was the richest man in
England, not excepting the King. It may be added that, at this period,
Earl was the highest title known short of the Prince of Wales. The
first Duke had not yet been created, while Marquis is a rank of much
Dame La Theyn, though she had some good points, had also one grand
failing. She was an inveterate gossip. And it made no difference to her
who was her listener, provided a listener could be had. A spicy dish of
scandal was her highest delight. She had not the least wish nor
intention of doing harm to the person whom she thus discussed. She had
not even the slightest notion that she did any. But her bower-maidens
knew perfectly well that, if one of them wanted to put the dame in high
good-humour before extracting a favour, the best way to do so was to
inform her that Mrs Sheppey had had words with her goodman, or that
Dame Rouse considered Joan Stick i' th' Lane [Note 1], no better than
she should be.
An innocent request from Clarice, that she might know something
about her future mistress, had been to Dame La Theyn a delightful
opportunity for a good dish of gossip. Reticence was not in the Dame's
nature; and in the thirteenth centuryand much later than thatfacts
which in the nineteenth would be left in concealment, or, at most, only
delicately hinted at, were spoken out in the plainest English, even to
young girls. The fancy that the Countess of Cornwall might not like her
whole life, so far as it was known, laid bare to her new bower-woman
was one which never troubled the mind of Dame La Theyn. Privacy, to any
person of rank more especially, was an unknown thing in the Middle
Thou must know, Clarice, began the Dame, that of old time, before
thou wert born, I was bower-maiden unto my most dear-worthy Lady of
Lincolnthat is brother's wife to my gracious Lady of Gloucester,
mother unto my Lady of Cornwall, that shall be thy mistress. The Lady
of Lincoln, that was mine, is a dame of most high degree, for her
father was my Lord of Saluces, [Note 2], in Italyvery nigh a
kingand she herself was wont to be called `Queen of Lincoln,' being
of so high degree. Ah, she gave me many a good gown, for I was twelve
years in her service. And a good woman she is, but rarely proudas it
is but like such a princess should be. I mind one super-tunic she gave
me, but half worn,this was said impressively, for a garment only
half worn was considered a fit gift from one peeress to
anotherof blue damask, all set with silver buttons, and broidered
with ladies' heads along the border. I gave it for a wedding gift unto
Dame Rouse when she was wed, and she hath it now, I warrant thee. Well!
her lord's sister, our Lady Maud, was wed to my Lord of Gloucester; but
stay!there is a tale to tell thee thereabout.
And Dame La Theyn bit off her thread with a complacent face. Nothing
suited her better than a tale to tell, unless it were one to hear.
Well-a-day, there be queer things in this world!
The Dame paused, as if to give time for Clarice to note that very
Our Lady Maud was wed to her lord, the good Earl of Gloucester,
with but little liking of her side, and yet less on his. Nathless, she
made no plaint, but submitted herself, as a good maid should dofor
mark thou, Clarice, 'tis the greatest shame that can come to a maiden
to set her will against those of her father and mother in wedlock. A
good maidas I trust thou artshould have no will in such matters but
that of those whom God hath set over her. And all love-matches end ill,
Clarice; take my word for it! Art noting me?
Clarice meekly responded that the moral lesson had reached her. She
did not add whether she meant to profit by it. Probably she had her own
ideas on the question, and it is quite possible that they did not
entirely correspond with those which her mother was instilling.
Now look on me, Clarice, pursued Dame La Theyn, earnestly. When I
was a young maid I had foolish fancies like other maidens. Had I been
left to order mine own life, I warrant thee I should have wed with one
Master Pride, that was page to my good knight my father; and when I
wist that my said father had other thoughts for my disposal, I slept of
a wet pillow for many a nightay, that did I. But now that I be come
to years of discretion, I do ensure thee that I am right thankful my
said father was wiser than I. For this Master Pride was slain at
Evesham, when I was of the age of five-and-twenty years, and left
behind him not so much as a mark of silver that should have come to me,
his widow. It was a good twenty-fold better that I should have wedded
with thy father, Sir Gilbert, that hath this good house, and forty
acres of land, and spendeth thirty marks by the year and more. Dost
thou not see the same?
No. Clarice heard, but she did not see.
Well-a-day! Now know, that when my good Lord of Gloucester, that
wed with our Lady Maud, was a young lad, being then in wardship unto
Sir Hubert, sometime Earl of Kent (whom God pardon!) he strake up a
love-match with the Lady Margaret, that was my said Lord of Kent his
daughter. And in very deed a good match it should have been, had it
been well liked of them that were above them; but the Lord King that
then wasthe father unto King Edward that now israrely misliked the
same, and gat them divorced in all hate. It was not meet, as thou
mayest well guess, that such matters should be settled apart from his
royal pleasure. And forthwith, ere further mischief could ensue, he
caused my said Lord of Gloucester to wed with our Lady Maud. But look
thou, so obstinate was he, and so set of having his own way, that he
scarce ever said so much as `Good morrow' to the Lady Maud until he
knew that the said Lady Margaret was commanded to God. Never do thou be
obstinate, Clarice. 'Tis ill enough for a young man, but yet worse for
How long time was that, Dame, an' it like you?
Far too long, answered Dame La Theyn, somewhat severely. Three
years and more.
Three years and more! Clarice's thoughts went off on a long journey.
Three years of disappointed hope and passionate regret, three years of
weary waiting for death, on the part of the Lady Margaret! Naturally
enough her sympathies were with the girl. And three years, to Clarice,
at sixteen, seemed a small lifetime.
Now, this lady whom thou shalt serve, Clarice, pursued her
motherand Clarice's mind came back to the subject in handshe is
first-born daughter unto the said Sir Richard de Clare, Lord of
Gloucester, and our Lady Maud, of whom I spake. Her name is Margaret,
after the damsel that dieda poor compliment, as methinks, to the said
Lady Maud; and had I been she, the maid should have been called aught
else it liked my baron, but not that.
Ah, but had I been he, thought Clarice, it should have been just
And I have heard, said the Dame, biting off her thread, that
there should of old time be some mislikingwhat I know notbetwixt
the Lady Margaret and her baron; but whether it were some olden love of
his part or of hers, or what so, I cast no doubt that she hath long ere
this overlived the same, and is now a good and loving lady unto him, as
Clarice felt disposed to cast very much doubt on this suggestion.
She held the old-fashioned idea that a true heart could love but once,
and could not forget. Her vivid imagination instantly erected an
exquisite castle in the air, wherein the chief part was played by the
Lady Margaret's youthful lovera highly imaginary individual, of the
most perfect manners and unparalleled beauty, whom the unfortunate
maiden could never forget, though she was forced by her cruel parents
to marry the Earl of Cornwall. He, of course, was a monster of ugliness
in person, and of everything disagreeable in character, as a man in
such circumstances was bound to be.
Poor Clarice! she had not seen much of the world. Her mental picture
of the lady whom she was to serve depicted her as sweet and sorrowful,
with a low plaintive voice and dark, starry, pathetic eyes, towards
whom the only feelings possible would be loving reverence and sympathy.
And now, Clarice, I have another thing to say.
At your pleasure, Dame.
I think it but meet to tell thee a thing I have heard from thy
father that the Lord Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, thy lady's baron, is
one that hath some queer ideas in his head. I know not well what kind
they are; but folk say that he is a strange man and hath strange talk.
So do thou mind what thou dost. Alway be reverent to him, as is meet;
but suffer him not to talk to thee but in presence of thy lady.
Clarice felt rather frightenedall the more so from the extreme
vagueness of the warning.
And now lap up thy sewing, child, for I see thy father coming in,
and we will go down to hall.
A few weeks later three horses stood ready saddled at the door of
Sir Gilbert's house. One was laden with luggage; the second was mounted
by a manservant; and the third, provided with saddle and pillion, was
for Clarice and her father. Sir Gilbert, fully armed, mounted his
steed, Clarice was helped up behind him, and with a final farewell to
Dame La Theyn, who stood in the doorway, they rode forth on their way
to Oakham Castle. Three days' journey brought them to their
destination, and they were witnesses of a curious ceremony just as they
reached the Castle gate. All over the gate horseshoes were nailed. A
train of visitors were arriving at the Castle, and the trumpeter
sounded his horn for entrance.
Who goes there? demanded the warder. The right noble and puissant
Prince Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, Leicester, and Derby; and his most
noble lady, Blanche, Queen Dowager of Navarre, Countess of the same,
cousins unto my gracious Lord of Cornwall.
Is this my said noble Lord's first visit unto the lordship of
Oakham? asked the warder, without opening the gate. It is.
Then our gracious Lord, as Lord of the said manor, demands of him
one of the shoes of the horse whereon he rides as tribute due from
every peer of the realm on his first coming to this lordship.
My right noble and puissant Lord, returned the trumpeter, denies
the said shoe of his horse; but offers in the stead one silver penny,
for the purchase of a shoe in lieu thereof.
My gracious Lord deigns to receive the said silver penny in lieu of
the shoe, and lovingly prays your Lord and Lady to enter his said
Then the portcullis was drawn up, and the long train filed noisily
into the courtyard. This ceremony was observed on the first visit of
every peer to Oakham Castle; but the visitor was allowed, if he chose,
as in this instance, to redeem the horse-shoe by the payment of money
to buy one. The shoes contributed by eminent persons were not
The modest train of Sir Gilbert and Clarice crept quietly in at the
end of the royal suite. As he was only a knight, his horse-shoe was not
in request Sir Gilbert told the warder in a few words his name and
errand, whereupon that functionary summoned a boy, and desired him to
conduct the knight and maiden to Mistress Underdone. Having alighted
from the horse, Clarice shook down her riding-gown, and humbly followed
Sir Gilbert and the guide into the great hall, which was built like a
church, with centre and aisles, up a spiral staircase at one end of it,
and into a small room hung with green say [Note 3]. Here they had to
wait a while, for every one was too busily employed in the reception of
the royal guests to pay attention to such comparatively mean people. At
lastwhen Sir Gilbert had yawned a dozen times, and strummed upon the
table about as many, a door at the back of the room was opened, and a
portly, comfortable-looking woman came forward to meet them. Was this
the Countess? thought Clarice, with her heart fluttering. It was
extremely unlike her ideal picture.
Your servant, Sir Gilbert Le Theyn, said the newcomer, in a
cheerful, kindly voice. I am Agatha Underdone, Mistress of the Maids
unto my gracious Lady of Cornwall. I bid thee welcome, ClariceI think
that is thy name?
Clarice acknowledged her name, with a private comforting conviction
that Mistress Underdone, at least, would be pleasant enough to live
You will wish, without doubt, to go down to hall, where is good
company at this present, pursued the latter, addressing Sir Gilbert.
So, if it please you to take leave of the maiden
Sir Gilbert put two fingers on Clarice's head, as she immediately
knelt before him. For a father to kiss a daughter was a rare thing at
that time, and for the daughter to offer it would have been thought
quite disrespectful, and much too familiar.
Farewell, Clarice, said he. Be a good maid, be obedient and meek;
please thy lady; and may God keep thee, and send thee an husband in
There was nothing more necessary in Sir Gilbert's eyes. Obedience
was the one virtue for Clarice to cultivate, and a husband (quality
immaterial) was sufficient reward for any amount of virtue.
Clarice saw her father depart without any feeling of regret. He was
even a greater stranger to her than her mother. She was a
self-contained, lonely-hearted girl, capable of intense love and
hero-worship, but never having come across one human being who had
attracted those qualities from their nest in her heart.
Now follow me, Clarice, said Mistress Underdone, and I will
introduce thee to the maidens, thy fellows, of whom there are four
beside thee at this time.
Clarice followed, silently, up a further spiral staircase, and into
a larger chamber, where four girls were sitting at work.
Maidens, said Mistress Underdone, this is your new fellow,
Clarice La Theyn, daughter of Sir Gilbert Le Theyn and Dame Maisenta La
Heron. Stand, each in turn, while I tell her your names.
The nearest of the four, a slight, delicate-looking, fair-haired
girl, rose at once, gathering her work on her arm.
Olympias Trusbut, youngest daughter of Sir Robert Trusbut, of the
county of Lincoln, and Dame Joan Twentymark, announced Mistress
She turned to the next, a short, dark, merry-looking damsel.
Elaine Criketot, daughter of Sir William Criketot and Dame Alice La
Gerunell, of the county of Chester.
The third was tall, stately, and sedate.
Diana Quappelad, daughter of Sir Walter Quappelad and Dame Beatrice
Cotele, of the county of Rutland.
Lastly rose a quiet, gentle-looking girl.
Roisia de Levinton, daughter of Sir Hubert de Levinton and Dame
Maud Ingham, of the county of Surrey.
Clarice's heart went faintly out to the girl from her own county,
but she was much too shy to utter a word.
Having introduced the girls to each other, Mistress Underdone left
them to get acquainted at their leisure.
Art thou only just come? asked Elaine, who was the first to speak.
Only just come, repeated Clarice, timidly.
Hast thou seen my Lady?
Not yet: I should like to see her.
Elaine's answer was a little half-suppressed laugh, which seemed the
concentration of amusement.
Maids, hear you this? Our new fellow has not seen the Lady. She
would like to see her.
A smile was reflected on all four faces. Clarice thought Diana's was
slightly satirical; those of the other two were rather pitying.
Now, what dost thou expect her to be like? pursued Elaine.
I may be quite wrong, answered Clarice, in the shy way which she
was not one to lose quickly. I fancied she would be tall
Right there, said Olympias.
Oh, no, she is fair.
And very beautiful, with sorrowful eyes, and a low, mournful
All the girls laughed, Roisia and Olympias gently, Diana scornfully,
Elaine with shrill hilarity.
Ha, jolife! cried the last-named young lady. Heard one
ever the like? Only wait till supper. Then thou shalt see this lovely
lady, with the sweet, sorrowful eyes and the soft, low voice. Pure
foy! I shall die with laughing, Clarice, if thou sayest anything
Hush! said Diana, sharply and suddenly; but Elaine's amusement had
too much impetus on it to be stopped all at once. She was sitting with
her back to the door, her mirthful laughter ringing through the room,
when the door was suddenly flung open, and two ladies appeared behind
it. The startled, terrified expression on the faces of Olympias and
Roisia warned Clarice that something unpleasant was going to happen.
Had Mistress Underdone a superior, between her and the Countess, whom
to offend was a very grave affair? Clarice looked round with much
interest and some trepidation at the new comers.
Note 1. Stykelane and Bakepuceboth most unpleasantly suggestive
namesoccur on the Fines Roll for 1254.
Note 2. Saluzzo.
Note 3. A common coarse silk, used both for dress and upholstery.
CHAPTER TWO. THE MISTS CLEAR AWAY.
Nec tecum possum vivere, nec sine te.
One at least of the ladies who had disturbed Elaine's hilarity did
not look a person of whom it was necessary to be afraid. She was a
matronly woman of middle age, bearing the remains of extreme beauty.
She had a good-natured expression, and she rather shrank back, as if
she were there on sufferance only. But the other, who came forward into
the room, was tall, spare, upright, and angular, with a face which
struck Clarice as looking very like verjuice.
Agatha! called the latter, sharply; and, laying her hand, not
gently, on Elaine's shoulder, she gave her a shake which rapidly
reduced her to gravity.
Ye weary, wretched giglots, what do ye thus laughing and tittering,
when I have distinctly forbidden the same?Agatha!Know ye not that
all ye be miserable sinners, and this lower world a vale of tears?
Truly, Cousin Meg, observed the other lady, now coming forward,
methinks you go far to make it such.
Agatha might have more sense, returned her acetous companion. I
have bidden her forty times o'er to have these maids well ordered, and
mine house as like to an holy convent as might be compassed; and here
is she none knows whithertaking her pleasure, I reckonand these
caitiff hildings making the very walls for to ring with their wicked
foolish laughter!Agatha! bring me hither the rod. I will see if a
good whipping bring not down your ill-beseen spirits, mistress!
Elaine turned pale, and cast a beseeching glance at the pleasanter
of the ladies.
Nay, now, Cousin Meg, interposed she, I pray you, let not this my
first visit to Oakham be linked with trouble to these young maids. I am
well assured you know grey heads cannot be well set on green
Lady, I am right unwilling to deny any bidding of yours. But I do
desire of you to tell me if it be not enough to provoke a saint to
What! to hear a young maid laugh, cousin? Nay, soothly, I would not
Mistress Underdone had entered the room, and, after dropping a
courtesy to each of the ladies, stood waiting the pleasure of her
mistress. Clarice was slowly coming to the conclusion, with dire
dismay, that the sharp-featured, sharp-tongued woman before her was no
other than the Lady Margaret of Cornwall, her lovely lady with the
Give me the rod, Agatha, said the Countess, sternly.
Nay, Cousin Meg, I pray you, let Agatha give it to me.
You'll not lay on! said the Countess, with a contortion of
her lips which appeared to do duty for a smile.
Trust me, I will do the right thing, replied Queen Blanche, taking
the rod which Mistress Underdone presented to her on the knee. Now.
Elaine, stand out here.
Elaine, very pale and preternaturally grave, placed herself in the
Say after me. `I entreat pardon of my Lady for being so unhappy as
to offend her.'
Elaine faltered out the dictated words.
Kiss the rod, said the Queen.
She was immediately obeyed.
Now, Cousin Meg, for my sake, I pray you, let that suffice.
Well, Lady, for your sake, responded the Countess, with
apparent reluctance, looking rather like a kite from whose talons the
Queen had extracted a sparrow intended for its dinner.
Sit you in this chamber, Cousin Meg? asked the Queen, taking a
curule chair as she spokethe only one in the room.
Nay, Lady. 'Tis mine hour for repeating the seven penitential
psalms. I have no time to waste with these giglots.
Then, I pray you, give me leave to abide here myself for a season.
You will do your pleasure, Lady. I only pray of you to keep them
from laughing and such like wickedness.
Nay, for I will not promise that for myself, said Queen Blanche,
with a good-tempered smile. Go your ways, Meg; we will work no evil.
The Countess turned and stalked out of the door again. And Clarice's
first castle in the air fell into pieces behind her.
Now, Agatha, I pray thee shut the door, said the Queen, that we
offend not my Cousin Margaret's ears in her psalms. Fare ye all well,
my maids? Thy face is strange to me, child.
Clarice courtesied very low. If it please the Lady Queen, I am but
just come hither.
She had to tell her name and sundry biographical particulars, and
then, suddenly looking round, the Queen said, And where is Heliet?
Please it the Lady Queen, in my chamber, said Mistress Underdone.
Bid her hither, good Agathaif she can come.
That can she, Lady.
Mistress Underdone left the room, and in another minute the regular
tap of approaching crutches was audible. Clarice imagined their wearer
to be some old womanperhaps the mother of Mistress Underdone. But as
soon as the door was opened again, she was surprised and touched to
perceive that the sufferer who used them was a girl little older than
herself. She came up to Queen Blanche, who welcomed her with a smile,
and held her hand to the girl's lips to be kissed. This was her only
way of paying homage, for to her courtesying and kneeling were alike
Clarice felt intuitively, as she looked into Heliet's face, that
here was a girl entirely different from the rest. She seemed as if
Nature had intended her to be tall, but had stopped and stunted her
when only half grown. Her shoulders were unnaturally high, and one leg
was considerably shorter than the other. Her face was not in any way
beautiful, yet there was a certain mysterious attraction about it.
Something looked out of her eyes which Clarice studied without being
able to define, but which disposed her to keep on looking. They were
dark, pathetic eyes, of the kind with which Clarice had gifted her very
imaginary Countess; but there was something beyond the pathos.
It looks, thought Clarice, as if she had gone through the pathos
and the suffering, and had come out on the other sideon the shore of
the Golden Land, where they see what everything meant, and are
There was very little time for conversation before the supper-bell
rang. Queen Blanche made kind inquiries concerning Heliet's lameness
and general health, but had not reached any other subject when the
sound of the bell thrilled through the room. The four girls rapidly
folded up their work, as though the summons were welcome. Queen Blanche
rose and departed, with a kindly nod to all, and Heliet, turning to
Clarice, said, Wilt thou come down with me? I cannot go fast, as thou
mayest see; but thou wilt sit next to me, and I can tell thee anything
thou mayest wish to know.
Clarice thankfully assented, and they went down the spiral staircase
together into the great hall, where three tables were spread. At the
highest and smallest, on the dais, were already seated the Queen and
the Countess, two gentlemen, and two priests. At the head of the second
stood Mistress Underdone, next to whom was Diana, and Heliet led up
Clarice to her side. They faced the dais, so that Clarice could watch
its distinguished occupants at her pleasure. Tables for meals, at that
date, were simply boards placed on trestles, and removed when the
repast was over. On the table at the dais was silver plate, then a rare
luxury, restricted to the highest classes, the articles being spoons,
knives, plates, and goblets. There were no forks, for only one fork had
ever then been heard of as a thing to eat with, and this had been the
invention of the wife of a Doge of Venice, about two hundred years
previous, for which piece of refinement the public rewarded the lady by
considering her as proud as Lucifer. Forks existed, both in the form of
spice-forks and fire-forks, but no one ever thought of eating with them
in England until they were introduced from Italy in the reign of James
the First, and for some time after that the use of them marked either a
traveller, or a luxurious, effeminate man. Moreover, there were no
knives nor spoons provided for helping one's self from the dishes. Each
person had a knife and spoon for himself, with which he helped himself
at his convenience. People who were very delicate and particular wiped
their knives on a piece of bread before doing so, and licked their
spoons all over. When these were the practices of fastidious people,
the proceedings of those who were not such may be discreetly left to
imagination. The second table was served in a much more ordinary
manner. In this instance the knife was iron and the spoon pewter, the
plate a wooden trencher (never changed), and the drinking-cup of horn.
In the midst of the table stood a pewter salt-cellar, formed like a
castle, and very much larger than we use them now.
This salt-cellar acted as a barometer, not for weather, but for
rank. Every one of noble blood, or filling certain offices, sat above
With respect to cooking our fathers had some peculiarities. They ate
many things that we never touch, such as porpoises and herons, and they
used all manner of green things as vegetables. They liked their bread
hot from the oven (to give cold bread, even for dinner, was a shabby
proceeding), and their meat much underdone, for they thought that
overdone meat stirred up anger. They mixed most incongruous things
together; they loved very strong tastes, delighting in garlic and
verjuice; they never appear to have paid the slightest regard to their
digestion, and they were, in the most emphatic sense, not teetotallers.
The dining-hall, but not the table, was decorated with flowers, and
singers, often placed in a gallery at one end, were employed the whole
time. A gentleman usher acted as butler, and a yeoman was always at
hand to keep out strange dogs, snuff candles, and light to bed the
guests, who were not always in a condition to find their way upstairs
without his help. The hours at this time were nine or ten o'clock for
dinner (except on fast-days, when it was at noon), and three or four
for supper. Two meals a day were thought sufficient for all men who
were not invalids. The sick and women sometimes had a rear-supper at
six o'clock or later. As to breakfast, it was a meal taken only by some
persons, and then served in the bedchamber or private boudoir at
convenience. Wine, with bread sopped in it, was a favourite breakfast,
especially for the old. Very delicate or exceptionally temperate people
took milk for breakfast; but though the Middle Ages present us with
examples of both vegetarians and total abstainers, yet of both there
were very few indeed, and they were mainly to be found among the
In watching the illustrious persons on the dais one thing struck
Clarice as extremely odd, which would never be thought strange in the
nineteenth century. It was the custom in her day for husband and wife
to sit together at a meal, and, the highest ranks excepted, to eat from
the same plate. But the Earl and Countess of Cornwall were on opposite
sides of the table, with one of the priests between them. Clarice
thought they must have quarrelled, and softly demanded of Heliet if
that were the case.
No, indeed, was Heliet's rather sorrowful answer. At least, not
more than usual. The Lady of Cornwall will never sit beside her baron,
and, as thou shalt shortly see, she will not even speak to him.
Not speak to him! exclaimed Clarice.
I never heard her do so yet, said Heliet.
Does he entreat her very harshly?
There are few gentlemen more kindly or generous towards a wife.
Nay, the harsh treatment is all on her side.
What a miserable life to live! commented Clarice.
I fear he finds it so, said Heliet.
The dillegrout, or white soup, was now brought in, and Clarice,
being hungry, attended more to her supper than to her mistress for a
time. But during the next interval between the courses she studied her
He was a tall and rather fine-looking man, with a handsome face and
a gentle, pleasant expression.
There certainly was not in his exterior any cause for repulsion. His
hair was light, his eyes bluish-grey. He seemedor Clarice thought so
at firsta silent man, who left conversation very much to others; but
the decidedly intelligent glances of the grey eyes, and an occasional
twinkle of fun in them when any amusing remark was made, showed that he
was not in the least devoid of brains.
Clarice thought that the priest who sat between the Earl and
Countess was a far more unprepossessing individual than his master. He
was a Franciscan friar, in the robe of his order; while the friar who
sat on the other side of the Countess was a Dominican, and much more
agreeable to look at.
At this juncture the Earl of Lancaster, who bore a strong family
likeness to his cousin, the Earl of Cornwalla likeness which extended
to character no less than personinquired of the latter if any news
had been heard lately from France.
I have had no letters lately, replied his host; and, turning to
the Countess, he asked, Have you, Lady?
Now, thought Clarice, she must speak to him. Much to her surprise,
the Countess, imagining, apparently, that the Franciscan friar was her
questioner, answered, [Note 1], None, holy Father.
The friar gravely turned his head and repeated the words to the
Earl, though he must have heard them. And Clarice became aware all at
once that her own puzzled face was a source of excessive amusement to
her vis-a-vis, Elaine. Her eyes inquired the reason.
Oh, I know! said Elaine, in a loud whisper across the table. I
know what perplexes thee. They are all like that when they first come.
It is such fun to watch them!
And she did not succeed in repressing a convulsion behind her
handkerchief, even with the aid of Diana's Elaine! do be sensible.
Hush, my maid, said Mistress Underdone, gently. If the Lady see
I shall be sent away without more supper, I know, said Elaine,
shrugging her shoulders. It is Clarice who ought to be punished, not
I. I cannot help laughing when she looks so funny.
Elaine having succeeded in recovering her gravity without attracting
the notice of the Countess, Clarice devoured her helping of salt beef
along with much cogitation concerning her mistress's singular ways.
Still, she could not restrain a supposition that the latter must have
supposed the priest to speak to her, when she heard the Earl say, I
hear from Geoffrey Spenser, [Note 2], that our stock of salt ling is
beyond what is like to be wanted. Methinks the villeins might have a
cade or two thereof, my Lady.
And again, turning to the friar, the Countess made answer, It shall
be seen to, holy Father; while the friar, with equal composure, as
though it were quite a matter of course, repeated to the Earl, The
Lady will see to it, my Lord.
Does she always answer him so? demanded Clarice of Heliet, in an
astonished whisper. Always, replied Heliet, with a sad smile. But
surely, said Clarice, her amazement getting the better of her shyness,
it must be very wanting in reverence from a dame to her baron!
Clarice's ideas of wifely duty were of a very primitive kind.
Unbounded reverence, unreasoning obedience, and diligent care for the
husband's comfort and pleasure were the main items. As for love, in the
sense in which it is usually understood now, that was an item which
simply might come into the question, but it was not necessary by any
means. Parents, at that time, kept it out of the matter as much as
possible, and regarded it as more of an encumbrance than anything else.
It is a very sad tale, Clarice, answered Heliet, in a low tone.
He loves her, and would cherish her dearly if she would let him. But
there is not any love in her. When she was a young maid, almost a
child, she set her heart on being a nun, and I think she has never
forgiven her baron for being the innocent means of preventing her. I
scarcely know which of them is the more to be pitied.
Oh, he, surely! exclaimed Clarice.
Nay, I am not so sure. God help those who are unloved! but, far
more, God help those who cannot love! I think she deserves the more
compassion of the two.
May be, answered Clarice, slowlyher thoughts were running so
fast that her words came with hesitation. But what shouldst thou say
to one that had outlived a sorrowful love, and now thought it a happy
chance that it had turned out contrary thereto?
It would depend upon how she had outlived it, responded Heliet,
I heard one say, not many days gone, remarked Claricenot meaning
to let Heliet know from whom she had heard itthat when she was young
she loved a squire of her father, which did let her from wedding with
him; and that now she was right thankful it so were, for he was killed
on the field, and left never a plack behind him, and she was far better
off, being now wed unto a gentleman of wealth and substance. What
shouldst thou say to that?
If it were one of any kin to thee I would as lief say nothing to
it, was Heliet's rather dry rejoinder.
Nay, heed not that; I would fain know.
Then I think the squire may have loved her, but so did she never
In good sooth, said Clarice, she told me she slept many a night
on a wet pillow.
So have I seen a child that had broken his toy, replied Heliet,
Clarice saw pretty plainly that Heliet thought such a state of
things was not love at all.
But how else can love be outlived? she said.
Love cannot. But sorrow may be.
Some folks say love and sorrow be nigh the same.
Nay, 'tis sin and sorrow that be nigh the same. All selfishness is
sin, and very much of what men do commonly call love is but pure
Well, I never loved none yet, remarked Clarice.
God have mercy on thee! answered Heliet.
Wherefore? demanded Clarice, in surprise.
Because, said Heliet, softly, `he that loveth not knoweth not
God, for God is charity.'
Art thou destined for the cloister? asked Clarice.
Only priests, monks, and nuns, in her eyes, had any business to talk
religiously, or might reasonably be expected to do so.
I am destined to fulfil that which is God's will for me, was
Heliet's simple reply. Whether that will be the cloister or no I have
not yet learned.
Clarice cogitated upon this reply while she ate stewed apples.
Thou hast an odd name, she said, after a pause.
What, Heliet? asked its bearer, with a smile. It is taken from
the name of the holy prophet Elye, [Elijah] of old time.
Is it? But I mean the other.
Ah, I love it not, said Heliet.
No, it is very queer, replied Clarice, with an apologetic blush,
Oh, but that is not my name, answered Heliet, quickly, with a
little laugh; but it is quite as bad. It is Pride.
Clarice fancied she had heard the name before, but she could not
But why is it bad? said she. Then I reckon Mistress Underdone
hath been twice wed?
She hath, said Heliet, answering the last question first, as
people often do, and my father was her first husband. Why is pride
evil? Surely thou knowest that.
Oh, I know it is one of the seven deadly sins, of course,
responded Clarice, quickly; still it is very necessary and noble.
Heliet's smile expressed a mixture of feelings. Clarice was not the
first person who has held one axiom theoretically, but has practically
behaved according to another.
The Lord saith that He hates pride, said the lame girl, softly.
How, then, can it be necessary, not to say noble?
Oh, but Clarice went no further.
But He did not mean what He said?
Oh, yes, of course! said Clarice. But
Better drop the but, said Heliet, quaintly. And Father
Bevis is about to say grace.
The Dominican friar rose and returned thanks for the repast, and the
company broke up, the Earl and Countess, with their guests, leaving the
hall by the upper door, while the household retired by the lower.
The preparations for sleep were almost as primitive as those for
meals. Exalted persons, such as the Earl and Countess, slept in
handsome bedsteads, of the tent form, hung with silk curtains, and
spread with coverlets of fur, silk, or tapestry. They washed in silver
basins, with ewers of the same costly metal; and they sat, the highest
rank in curule chairs, the lower upon velvet-cove red forms or stools.
But ordinary people, of whom Clarice was one, were not provided for in
this luxurious style. Bower-maidens slept in pallet-beds, which were
made extremely low, so as to run easily under one of the larger
bedsteads, and thus be put out of the way. All beds rejoiced in a
quantity of pillows. Our ancestors made much more use of pillows and
cushions than wea fact easily accounted for, considering that they
had no softly-stuffed chairs, but only upright ones of hard carved
wood. But Clarice's sheets were simple cloth of Rennes, while those
of her mistress were set with jewels. Her mattress was stuffed with hay
instead of wool; she had neither curtains nor fly-nets, and her
coverlet was of plain cloth, unwrought by the needle. In the matter of
blankets they fared alike except as to quality. But in the
bower-maidens' chamber, where all the girls slept together, there were
no basins of any material. Early in the morning a strong-armed maid
came in, bearing a tub of water, which she set down on one of the
coffers of carved oak which stood at the foot of each bed and held all
the personal treasures of the sleeper. Then, by means of a mop which
she brought with her, she gently sprinkled every face with water, thus
intimating that it was time to get up. The tub she left behind. It was
to provideon the principle of first come, first servedfor the
ablutions of all the five young ladies, though each had her personal
towel. Virtue was thus its own reward, the laziest girl being obliged
to content herself with the dirtiest water. It must, however, be
remembered that she was a fastidious damsel who washed more than face
They then dressed themselves, carefully tying their respective
amulets round their necks, without which proceeding they would have
anticipated all manner of ill luck to befall them during the day. These
articles were small boxes of the nature of a locket, containing either
a little dust of one saint, a shred of the conventual habit of another,
or a few verses from a gospel, written very minutely, and folded up
extremely small. Then each girl, as she was ready, knelt in the window,
and gabbled over in Latin, which she did not understand, a Paternoster,
ten Aves, and the Angelical Salutation, not unfrequently breaking
eagerly into the conversation almost before the last Amen had left her
lips. Prayers over, they passed into the sitting-room next door, where
they generally found a basket of manchet bread and biscuits, with a
large jug of ale or wine. A gentleman usher called for Mistress
Underdone and her charges, and conducted them to mass in the chapel.
Here they usually found the Earl and Countess before them, who alone,
except the priests, were accommodated with seats. Each girl courtesied
first to the altar, then to the Countess, and lastly to the Earl,
before she took her allotted place. The Earl always returned the
salutation by a quiet inclination of his head. The Countess sat in
stony dignity, and never took any notice of it. Needlework followed
until dinner, after which the Countess gave audience for an hour to any
person desiring to see her, and usually concluded it by a half-hour's
nap. Further needlework, for such as were not summoned to active
attendance on their mistress if she went out, lasted until vespers,
after which supper was served. After supper was the recreation time,
when in most houses the bower-maidens enjoyed themselves with the
gentlemen of the household in games or dancing in the hall; but the
Lady Margaret strictly forbade any such frivolous doings in her
maidens. They were still confined to their own sitting-room, except on
some extraordinary occasion, and the only amusements allowed them were
low-toned conversation, chess, draughts, or illumination. Music,
dancing (even by the girls alone), noisy games of all kinds, and
laughter, the Countess strictly forbade. The practical result was that
the young ladies fell back upon gossip and ghost-stories, until there
were few nights in the year when Roisia would have dared to go to bed
by herself for a king's ransom. An hour before bed-time wine and cakes
were served. After this Mistress Underdone recited the Rosary, the
girls making the responses, and at eight o'clocka late hour at that
timethey trooped off to bed. All were expected to be in bed and all
lights out by half-past eight. The unlucky maiden who loitered or was
accidentally hindered had to finish her undressing in the dark.
Note 1. This strange habit of the Countess is a fact, and sorely
distressed the Earl, as he has himself put on record, though with all
his annoyance he shows himself quite conscious of the comicality of the
Note 2. The depenseur, or family provider. Hence comes the
name of Le Despenser, which, therefore, should not be spelt Despencer.
CHAPTER THREE. ON THE THRESHOLD OF
I will not dream of him handsome and strong
My ideal love may be weak and slight;
It matters not to what class he belong,
He would be noble enough in my sight;
But he must be courteous toward the lowly,
To the weak and sorrowful, loving too;
He must be courageous, refined, and holy,
By nature exalted, and firm, and true.
By the time that Clarice had been six weeks at Oakham she had pretty
well made up her mind as to the characters of her companions. The
Countess did not belie the estimate formed on first seeing her. The
gentle, mournful, loving woman of Clarice's dreams had vanished, never
to be recalled. The girl came to count that a red-letter day on which
she did not see her mistress. Towards the Earl her feeling was an odd
mixture of reverential liking and compassion. He came far nearer the
ideal picture than his wife. His manners were unusually gentle and
considerate of others, and he was specially remarkable for one trait
very rarely found in the Middle Ageshe was always thoughtful of those
beneath him. Another peculiarity he had, not common in his time; he was
decidedly a humourist. The comic side even of his own troubles was
always patent to him. Yet he was a man of extremely sensitive feeling,
as well as of shrewd and delicate perceptions. He lived a most
uncomfortable life, and he was quite aware of it. The one person who
should have been his truest friend deliberately nursed baseless enmity
towards him. The only one whom he loved in all the world hated him with
deadly hatred. And there was no cause for it but onethe strongest
cause of allthe reason why Cain slew his brother. He was of God, and
she was of the world. Yet nothing could have persuaded her that he was
not on the high road to perdition, while she was a special favourite of
Clarice found Mistress Underdone much what she had expecteda
good-natured, sensible supervisor. Her position, too, was not an easy
one. She had to submit her sense to the orders of folly, and to sink
her good-nature in submission to harshness. But she did her best,
steered as delicately as she could between her Scylla and Charybdis,
and always gave her girls the benefit of a doubt.
The girls themselves were equally distinct as to character. Olympias
was delicate, with a failing of delicate peoplea disposition to
complaining and fault-finding. Elaine was full of fun, ready to barter
any advantage in the future for enjoyment in the present. Diana was
caustic, proud of her high connections, which were a shade above those
of her companions, and inclined to be scornful towards everything not
immediately patent to her comprehension. Roisia, while the most
amiable, was also the weakest in character of the four; she was easily
led astray by Elaine, easily persuaded to deviate from the right
through fear of Diana.
The two priests had also unfolded themselves. The Dominican, Father
Bevis, awoke in Clarice a certain amount of liking, not unmixed with
rather timorous respect. But he was a grave, silent, undemonstrative
man, who gave no encouragement to anything like personal affection,
though he was not harsh nor unkind. The Franciscan, Father Miles, was
of a type common in his day. The man and the priest were two different
characters. Father Miles in the confessional was a stern master; Father
Miles at the supper-table was a jovial playfellow. In his eyes,
religion was not the breath and salt of life, but something altogether
separate from it, and only to be mentioned on a Sunday. It was a bundle
of ceremonies, not a living principle. To Father Bevis, on the
contrary, religion was everything or nothing. If it had anything to do
with a man at all, it must pervade his thoughts and his life. It was
the leaven which leavened the whole lump; the salt whose absence left
all unsavoury and insipid; the breath, which virtually was identical
with life. One mistake Father Bevis made, a very natural mistake to a
man who had been repressed, misunderstood; and disliked, as he had been
ever since he could rememberhe did not realise sufficiently that
warmth was a necessity of life, and that young creatures more
especially required a certain brooding tenderness to develop their
faculties. No one had ever given him love but God; and he was too apt
to suppose that religion could be fostered only in that way which had
cherished his own. His light burned bright to Godward, but it was not
sufficiently visible to men.
Clarice La Theyn had by this time discovered that there were other
people in the household beyond those already mentioned. The Earl had
four squires of the body, and the Countess two pages in waiting, beside
a meaner crowd of dressers, sewers, porters, messengers, and all kinds
of officials. The squires and the pages were the only ones who came
much in contact with the bower-maidens.
Both the pages were boys of about fifteen, of whom Osbert was quiet
and sedate for a boy, while Jordan was espiegle and full of
mischievous tricks. The squires demand longer notice.
Reginald de Echingham was the first to attract Clarice's noticea
fact which, in Reginald's eyes, would only have been natural and
proper. He was a handsome young man, and no one was better aware of it
than himself. His principal virtue lay in a silky moustache, which he
perpetually caressed. The Earl called him Narcissus, and he deserved
Next came Fulk de Chaucombe, who was about as careless of his
personal appearance as Reginald was careful. He looked on his brother
squire with ineffable disdain, as a man only fit to hunt out rhymes for
sonnets, and hold skeins of silk for ladies. Call him a man! thought
Master Fulk, with supreme contempt. Fulk's notion of manly occupations
centred in war, with an occasional tournament by way of dessert.
Third on the list was Vivian Barkworth. To Clarice, at least, he was
a perplexity. He was so chameleon-like that she could not make up her
mind about him. He could be extremely attractive when he liked, and he
could be just as repellent.
Least frequently of any were her thoughts given to Ademar de Gernet.
She considered him at first entirely colourless. He was not talkative;
he was neither handsome nor ugly; he showed no special characteristic
which would serve to label him. She merely put him on one side, and
never thought of him unless she happened to see him.
Her fellow bower-maidens also had their ideas concerning these young
gentlemen. Olympias wasor fancied herselfmadly in love with the
handsome Reginald, on whom Elaine cracked jokes and played tricks, and
Diana exhausted all her satire. As to Reginald, he was too deeply in
love with himself to be sensible of the attractions of any other
person. It struck Clarice as very odd when she found that the weak and
gentle Roisia was a timid admirer of the bear-like De Chaucombe. As for
Diana, her shafts were levelled impartially at all; but in her inmost
heart Clarice fancied that she liked Vivian Barkeworth. Elaine was
heart-whole, and plainly showed it.
The Countess had not improved on further acquaintance. She was not
only a tyrant, but a capricious one. Not merely was penalty sure to
follow on not pleasing her, but it was not easy to say what would
please her at any given moment.
We might as well be in a nunnery! exclaimed Diana.
Nay, said Elaine, for then we could not get out.
Don't flatter thyself on getting out, pray, returned Diana. We
shall never get out except by marrying, or really going into a
For which I am sure I have no vocation, laughed Elaine. Oh, no! I
shall marry; and won't I lead my baron a dance!
Who is it to be, Elaine? asked Clarice.
Ha, chetife! How do I know? The Lady will settle that. I
only hope it won't be a man who puts oil on his hair and scents
This remark was a side-thrust at Reginald, as Olympias well knew,
and she looked reproachfully at Elaine.
Well, I hope it won't be one who kills half-a-dozen men every
morning before breakfast, said Diana, making a hit at Fulk.
It was Roisia's turn to look reproachful. Clarice could not help
What dost thou think of our giddy speeches, Heliet? said she.
Heliet looked up with her bright smile.
Very like maidens' fancies, she said. For me, I am never like to
wed, so I can look on from the outside.
But what manner of man shouldst thou fancy, Heliet?
Oh ay, do tell us! cried more than one voice.
I warrant he'll be a priest, said Elaine.
He will have fair hair and soft manners, remarked Olympias.
Nay, he shall have such hair as shall please God, said Heliet,
more gravely. But he must be gentle and loving, above all to the weak
and sorrowful: a true knight, to whom every woman is a holy thing, to
be guarded and tended with care. He must put full affiance in God, and
love Him supremely: and next, me; and below that, all other. He must
not fear danger, yet without fool-hardiness; but he must fear disgrace,
and fear and hate sin. He must be true to himself, and must aim at
making of himself the best man that ever he can. He must not be afraid
of ridicule, or of being thought odd. He must have firm convictions,
and be ready to draw sword for them, without looking to see whether
other men be on the same side or not. His heart must be open to all
misery, his brain to all true and innocent knowledge, his hand ready to
redress every wrong not done to himself. For his enemies he must have
forgiveness; for his friends, unswerving constancy: for all men,
And that is thy model man? Ha, jolife! cried Elaine. Why,
I could not stand a month of him.
I am afraid he would be rather soft and flat, said Diana, with a
curl of her lip.
No, I don't think that, answered Roisia. But I should like to
know where Heliet expects to find him.
Do give his address, Heliet! said Elaine, laughing.
Ah! I never knew but one that answered to that description, was
Ha, jolife! cried Elaine, clapping her hands. Now for his
name! I hope I know himbut I am sure I don't.
You all know His name, said Heliet, gravely. How many of us know
Him? For indeed, I know of no such man that ever lived, except only
Jesus Christ our Lord.
There was no answer. A hush seemed to have fallen on the whole
party, which was at last broken by Olympias.
Well, butthou knowest we cannot have Him.
Pardon me, I know no such thing, answered Heliet, in the same
soft, grave tone. Does not the Psalmist say, `_Portio mea, Domine'?
[Note 1] And does not Solomon say, `_Dilectus meus mihi?' [Note 2.] Is
it not the very glory of His infinitude, that all who are His can have
all of Him?
Where did Heliet pick up these queer notions? said Diana under her
She goes to such extremes! Elaine whispered back.
But all that means to go into the cloister, replied Olympias in a
Nay, said Heliet, taking up her crutches, I hope a few will go to
Heaven who do not go into the cloister. But we may rest assured of
this, that not one will go there who has not chosen Christ for his
Well, said Diana, calmly, a minute after Heliet had disappeared,
I suppose she means to be a nun! But she might let that alone till she
Let what alone? asked Roisia.
Oh, all that parson's talk, returned Diana. It is all very well
for priests and nuns, but secular people have nothing to do with it.
I thought even secular people wanted to go to Heaven, coolly put
in Elaine, not because she cared a straw for the question, but because
she delighted in taking the opposite side to Diana.
Let them go, then! responded Diana, rather sharply. They can keep
it to themselves, can't they?
Well, I don't know, said Elaine, laughing. Some people cannot
keep things to themselves. Just look at Olympias, whatever she is
doing, how she argues the whole thing out in public. `Oh, shall I go or
not? Yes, I think I will; no, I won't, though; yes, but I will; oh,
can't somebody tell me what to do?'
Elaine's mimicry was so perfect that Olympias herself joined in the
laugh. The last-named damsel carried on all her mental processes in
public, instead of presenting her neighbours, as most do, with results
only. And when people wear their hearts upon their sleeves, the daws
will come and peck at them.
Now, don't tease Olympias, said Roisia good-naturedly.
Oh, let one have a bit of fun, said Elaine, when one lives in a
convent of the strictest order.
I suspect thou wouldst find a difference if thou wert to enter
one, sneered Diana.
Elaine would most likely have fought out the question had not
Mistress Underdone entered at that moment with a plate of gingerbread
in her hand smoking hot from the oven.
Oh, Mistress, I am so hungry! plaintively observed that young
Mistress Underdone laughed, and set down the plate. There, part the
spice-cake among you, said she. And when you be through, I have
somewhat to tell you.
Tell us now, said Elaine, as well as a mouthful of gingerbread
allowed her to speak.
Let me see, nowwhat day is this? inquired Mistress Underdone.
All the voices answered her at once, Saint Dunstan's Eve! [May
So it is. Wellcome Saint Botolph, [June 17th] as I have but now
learned, we go to Whitehall.
Ha, jolife! cried Diana, Elaine, and Roisia at once.
Will Heliet go too? asked Clarice, softly.
Oh, no; Heliet never leaves Oakham, responded Olympias.
Mistress Underdone looked kindly at Clarice. No, Heliet will not
go, she said. She cannot ride, poor heart. And the mother sighed, as
if she felt the prospective pain of separation.
But there will be dozens of other maidens, said Elaine. There are
plenty of girls in the world beside Heliet.
Clarice was beginning to think there hardly were for her.
Oh, thou dost not know what thou wilt see at Westminster!
exclaimed Elaine. The Lord King, and the Lady Queen, and all the
Court; and the Abbey, with all its riches, and ever so many maids and
gallants. It is delicious beyond description, when the Lady is away
visiting some shrine, and she does that nearly every day.
Roisia's Hush! had come too late.
I pray you say that again, my mistress! said the well-known voice
of the Lady Margaret in the doorway. Nay, I will have it.Fetch me
the rod, Agatha.Now then, minion, what saidst? Thou caitiff giglot!
If I had thee not in hand, that tongue of thine should bring thee to
ruin. What saidst, hussy?
And Elaine had to repeat the unlucky words, with the birch in
prospect, and immediately afterwards in actuality.
I will lock thee up when I go visiting shrines! said the Countess
with her last stroke. Agatha, remember when we are at Westminster that
I have said so.
Ay, Lady, observed Mistress Underdone, composedly.
And the Lady Margaret, throwing down the birch, stalked away, and
left the sobbing Elaine to resume her composure at her leisure.
In a vaulted upper chamber of the Palace of Westminster, on a bright
morning in June, four persons were seated. Three, who were of the
nobler sex, were engaged in converse; the last, a lady, sat apart with
her embroidery in modest silence. They were near relatives, for the men
were respectively husband, brother-in-law, and uncle of the woman, and
they were the most prominent members of the royal line of England, with
one who did not belong to it.
Foremost of the group was the King. He was foremost in more senses
than one, for, as is well known, Edward the First, like Saul, was
higher than any of his people. Moreover, he was as spare as he was
tall, which made him look almost gigantic. His forehead was large and
broad, his features handsome and regular, but marred by that perpetual
droop in his left eyelid which he had inherited from his father. Hair
and complexion, originally fair, had been bronzed by his Eastern
campaigns till the crisp curling hair was almost black, and the
delicate tint had acquired a swarthy hue. He had a nose inclining to
the Roman type, a broad chest, agile arms, and excessively long legs.
His dark eyes were soft when he was in a good temper, but fierce as a
tiger's when roused to anger; and His Majesty's temper waswell, not
precisely angelic. [Note 3.] It was like lightning, in being as sudden
and fierce, but it did not resemble that natural phenomenon in
disappearing as quickly as it had come. On the contrary, Edward never
forgot and hardly forgave an injury. His abilities were beyond
question, and, for his time, he was an unusually independent and
original thinker. His moral character, however, was worse than is
commonly supposed, though it did not descend to the lowest depths it
reached until after the death of his fair and faithful Leonor.
The King's brother Edmund was that same Earl of Lancaster whom we
have already seen at Oakham. He was a man of smaller intellectual
calibre than his royal brother, but of much pleasanter disposition.
Extreme gentleness was his principal characteristic, as it has been
that of all our royal Edmunds, though in some instances it degenerated
into excessive weakness. This was not the case with the Earl of
Lancaster. His great kindness of heart is abundantly attested by his
own letters and his brother's State papers.
William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, was the third member of the
group, and he was the uncle of the royal brothers, being a son of their
grandmother's second marriage with Hugh de Lusignan, Count de La
Marche. Though he made a deep mark upon his time, yet his character is
not easy to fathom beyond two pointsthat his ability had in it a
little element of craft, and that he took reasonable care of Number
Over the head of the lady who sat in the curule chair, quietly
embroidering, twenty-five years had passed since she had been styled by
a poet, the loveliest lady in all the land. She was hardly less even
now, when her fifty years were nearly numbered; when, unseen by any
earthly eyes, her days were drawing to their close, and the angel of
death stood close beside her, ready to strike before six months should
be fulfilled. Certainly, according to modern ideas of beauty, never was
a queen fairer than Leonor the Faithful, and very rarely has there been
one as fair. Andmore unusual stillshe was as good as she was
beautiful. The worst loss in all her husband's life was the loss of
So far from seeing any sorrow looming in the future was King Edward
at this moment, that he was extremely jubilant over a project which he
had just brought to a successful issue.
There! said he, rubbing his hands in supreme satisfaction, that
parchment settles the business. When both my brother of Scotland and I
are gone, our children will reign over one empire, king and queen of
both. Is not that worth living for?
Soit! [Be it so] ejaculated De Valence, shrugging his
Provencal shoulders. A few acres of bare moss and a handful of stags,
to say nothing of the barbarians who dwell up in those misty regions. A
fine matter surely to clap one's hands over!
Ah, fair uncle, you never travelled in Scotland, interposed the
gentle Lancaster, before the King could blaze up, and you know not
what sort of country it is. From what I have heard, it would easily
match your land in respect of beauty.
Match Poitou? or Provence? Cousin, you must have taken leave of
your senses. You were not born on the banks of the Isere, or you would
not chatter such treason as that.
Truly no, fair Uncle, for I was born in the City of London, just
beyond, said Lancaster, with a good-humoured laugh; and, verily, that
would rival neither Scotland nor Poitou, to say nothing of Dauphine and
Provence. The goddess of beauty was not in attendance when I was born.
Perhaps few would have ventured on that assertion except himself.
Edmund of Lancaster was among the most handsome of our princes.
Beshrew you both! cried King Edward, unfraternally; wherever will
these fellows ramble with their tongues? Who said anything about
beauty? I care not, I, if the maiden Margaret were the ugliest lass
that ever tied a kerchief, so long as she is the heiress of Scotland.
Ned has beauty enough and to spare; let him stare in the glass if he
cannot look at his wife.
The Queen looked up with an amused expression, and would, perhaps,
have spoken, had not the tapestry been lifted by some person unseen,
and a little boy of six years old bounded into the room.
No wonder that the fire in the King's eyes died into instant
softness. It would have been a wonder if the parents had not been proud
of that boy, for he was one of the loveliest children on whom human eye
ever rested. Did it ever cross the minds of that father and mother that
the kindest deed they could have done to that darling child would have
been to smother him in his cradle? Had the roll of his life been held
up before them at that moment, they would have counted only
thirty-seven years, written within and without in lamentation, and
mourning, and woe.
King Edward lifted his little heir upon his knee.
Look here, Ned, said he. Seest yonder parchment?
The blue eyes opened a little, and the fair curls shook with a nod
What is it, thinkest?
A shake of the pretty little head was the reply.
Thy Cousin Margaret is coming to dwell with thee. That parchment
will bring her.
How old is she? asked the Prince.
But just a year younger than thou.
Is she nice?
The King laughed. How can I tell thee? I never saw her.
Will she play with us?
I should think she will. She is just between thee and Beatrice.
Beatrice is only a baby! remarked the Prince disdainfully. Six
years old is naturally scornful of four.
Not more of a baby than thou, said his uncle Lancaster, playfully.
But she's a girl, and I'm a man! cried the insulted little Prince.
King Edward, excessively amused, set his boy down on the floor.
There, run to thy mother, said he. Thou wilt be a man one of these
days, I dare say; but not just yet, Master Ned.
And no angel voice whispered to one of them that it would have been
well for that child if he had never been a man, nor that ere he was six
months older, the mother, whose death was a worse calamity to him than
to any other, and the little Norwegian lassie to whom he was now
betrothed, would pass almost hand in hand into the silent land. Three
months later, Margaret, Princess of Norway and Queen of Scotland, set
sail from her father's coast for her mother's kingdom, whence she was
to travel to England, and be brought up under the tender care of the
royal Leonor as its future queen. But one of the sudden and terrible
storms of the North Sea met her ere she reached the shore of Scotland.
She just lived to be flung ashore at Kirkwall, in the Orkneys, and
there, in the pitying hands of the fishers' wives, the child breathed
out her little life, having lived five years, and reigned for nearly as
long. Who of us, looking back to the probable lot that would have
awaited her in England, shall dare to pity that little child?
Note 1. Thou art my portion, O Lord.Psalm 119, verse 57.
Note 2. My beloved is mine.Canticles 2, verse 16.
Note 3. Two anecdotes may be given which illustrate this in a manner
almost comical; the first has been published more than once, the latter
has not to my knowledge. When his youngest daughter Elizabeth was
married to the Earl of Hereford in 1302, the King, annoyed by some
unfortunate remark of the bride, snatched her coronet from her head and
threw it into the fire, nor did the Princess recover it undamaged. In
1305, writing to John de Fonteyne, the physician of his second wife,
Marguerite of France, who was then ill of small-pox, the King warns him
not on any account to allow the Queen to exert herself until she has
completely recovered, and if you do, adds the monarch in French, of
considerably more force than elegance, and not too suitable for exact
quotation, you shall pay for it!
CHAPTER FOUR. WAITING AND WEARY.
Oh! for the strength of God's right hand! the way is hard and
Through Him to walk and not to faint, to run and not be weary!
We left the Royal party in conversation in the chamber at
Have you quite resolved, Sire, to expel all the Jews from England?
asked De Valence.
Resolved? Yes; I hope it is half done, replied the King. You are
aware, fair Uncle, that our Commons voted us a fifteenth on this
No, I did not hear that, said De Valence.
How many are there of those creatures? inquired Lancaster.
How should I know? returned Edward, with an oath. I only know
that the Chancellor said the houses and goods were selling well to our
Fifteen thousand and sixty, my Lord of Surrey told me, said
Lancaster. I doubted if it were not too high a computation; that is
why I asked.
Oh, very likely not, responded Edward, carelessly. There are as
many of them as gnats, and as much annoyance.
Well, it is a pious deed, of course, said Lancaster, stroking his
moustache, not in the dilettante style of De Echingham, but like a man
lost in thought. It seems a pity, though, for the women and children.
My cousin of Lancaster, I do believe, sings Dirige over the
chickens in his barnyard, sneered De Valence.
Lancaster looked up with a good-tempered smile.
Does my fair Uncle never wish for the day when the lion shall eat
straw like the ox? [Note 1.]
Not I! cried De Valence, with a hearty laugh. Why, what mean you?
are we to dine on a haunch of lion when it comes?
Nay, for that were to make us worse than either, methinks. I
suppose we shall give over eating what has had life, at that time.
Merci, mille fois! laughed his uncle. My dinner will be
spoiled. Not thine, I dare say. I'll be bound, Sire, our fair cousin
will munch his apples and pears with all the gusto in the world, and
send his squire to the stable to inquire if the lion has a straw
doubled under him.
Bah! said the King. What are you talking about?
How much will this business of the Jews cost your Grace? asked De
Valence, dropping his sarcasms.
Cost me? demanded Edward, with a short laugh. Did our fair
uncle imagine we meant to execute such a project at our own expense?
Let the rogues pay their own travelling fees.
Ha! good! said the Poitevin noble. And our fair cousin of
Lancaster shall chant the De Profundis while they embark, and I
will offer a silver fibula to Saint Edward that they may all be
drowned. How sayest, fair Cousin?
Nay, was Lancaster's answer, in a doubtful tone. I reckon we
ought not to pity them, being they that crucified our Lord. But
But for all that, his heart cried out against his creed. Yet it did
not occur to him that the particular men who were being driven from
their homes for no fault of theirs, and forced with keen irony of
oppression to pay their own expenses, were not those who crucified
Christ, but were removed from them by many generations. The times of
the Gentiles were not yet fulfilled, and the cry, His blood be on us,
and on our children had not yet exhausted its awful power.
There was one person not present who would heartily have agreed with
Lancaster. This was his cousin and namesake, Edmund, Earl of Cornwall,
who not only felt for the lower animalsa rare yet occasional state of
mind in the thirteenth centurybut went further, and compassionated
the villeinsa sentiment which very few indeed would have dreamed of
sharing with him. The labourers on the land were serfs, and had no
feelings,that is, none that could be recognised by the upper classes.
They were liable to be sold with the land which they tilled; nor could
they leave their hundred without a passport. Their sons might not be
educated to anything but agriculture; their daughters could not be
married without paying a fine to the master. Worse things than these
are told of some, for of course the condition of the serf largely
depended on the disposition of his owner.
The journey from Oakham to Westminster was a pleasant change to all
the bower-maidens but one, and that was the one selected to travel with
her mistress in the litter. Each was secretly, if not openly, hoping
not to be that one; and it was with no little trepidation that Clarice
received the news that this honour was to be conferred on her. She
discovered, however, on the journey, that scolding was not the
perpetual occupation of the Countess. She spent part of every day in
telling her beads, part in reading books woefully dry to the
apprehension of Clarice, and part in sleeping, which not unfrequently
succeeded the beads. Conversation she never attempted, and Clarice, who
dared not speak till she was spoken to, began to entertain a fear of
losing the use of her tongue. Otherwise she was grave and quiet enough,
poor girl! for she was not naturally talkative. She was very sorry to
part with Heliet, and she felt, almost without knowing why, some
apprehension concerning the future. Sentiments of this sort were quite
unknown to such girls as Elaine, Diana, and Roisia, while with Olympias
they arose solely from delicate health. But Clarice was made of finer
porcelain, and she could not help mournfully feeling that she had not a
friend in the world. Her father and mother were not friends; they were
strangers who might be expected to do what they thought best for her,
just as the authorities of a workhouse might take conscientious care in
the apprenticing of the workhouse girls. But no more could be expected,
and Clarice felt it. If there had only been, anywhere in the world,
somebody who loved her! There was no such probability to which it was
safe to look forward. Possibly, some twenty or thirty years hence, some
of her children might love her. As for her husband, he was simply an
embarrassing future certainty, whowith almost equal certaintywould
not care a straw about her. That was only to be expected. The squire
who liked Roisia would be pretty sure to get Diana; while the girl who
admired Reginald de Echingham was safe to fall to Fulk de Chaucombe.
Things always were arranged so in this world. Perhaps, thought Clarice,
those girls were the happiest who did not care, who took life as it
came, and made all the fun they could out of it. But she knew well that
this was how life and she would never take each other.
Whitehall was reached at last, on that eve of Saint Botolph. Clarice
was excessively tired, and only able to judge of the noise without, and
the superb decorations and lofty rooms within. Lofty, be it remembered,
to her eyes; they would not look so to ours. She supped upon salt
merling [whiting], pease-cods [green peas], and stewed fruit, and was
not sorry to get to bed.
In the morning, she found the household considerably increased. Her
eyes were almost dazzled by the comers and goers; and she really
noticed only one person. Two young knights were among the new
attendants of the Earl, but one of them Clarice could not have
distinguished from the crowd. The other had attracted her notice by
coming forward to help the Countess from her litter, and, instead of
attending his mistress further, had, rather to Clarice's surprise,
turned to help her. And when she looked up to thank him, it
struck her that his face was like somebody she knew. She did not
discover who it was till Roisia observed, while the girls were
undressing, thatMy cousin is growing a beard, I declare. He had none
the last time I saw him.
Which is thy cousin? asked Clarice.
Why, Piers Ingham, said Roisia. He that helped my Lady from the
Oh, is he thy cousin? responded Clarice.
By the mother's side, answered Roisia. He hath but been knighted
this last winter.
Then he is just ready for a wife, said Elaine. I wonder which of
us it will be! It is tolerably sure to be one. I say, maids, I mean to
have a jolly time of it while we are here! It shall go hard with me if
I do not get promoted to be one of the Queen's bower-women!
Oh, would I? interpolated Diana.
Why? asked more than one voice.
I am sure, said Olympias, I had ever so much rather be under the
Lady Queen than our Lady.
Oh, that may be, said Diana. I was not looking at it in that
light. There is some amusement in deceiving our Lady, and one doesn't
feel it wrong, because she is such a vixen; but there would be no fun
in taking in the Queen, she's too good.
I wonder what Father Bevis would say to that doctrine, demurely
remarked Elaine. What it seems to mean is, that a lie is not such a
bad thing if you tell it to a bad person as it would be if you told it
to a good one. Now I doubt if Father Bevis would be quite of that
Don't talk nonsense, was Diana's reply.
Well, but is it nonsense? Didst thou mean that?
It was rather unusual for Elaine thus to satirise Diana, and looked
as if the two had changed characters, especially when Diana walked
away, muttering something which no one distinctly heard.
Elaine proved herself a tolerably true prophetess. Fete
followed fete. Clarice found herself initiated into Court
circles, and discovered that she was enjoying herself very much. But
whether the attraction lay in the pageants, in the dancing, in her own
bright array, or in the companionship, she did not pause to ask
herself. Perhaps if she had paused, and made the inquiry, she might
have discovered that life had changed to her since she came to
Westminster. The things eternal, of which Heliet alone had spoken to
her, had faded away into far distance; they had been left behind at
Oakham. The things temporal were becoming everything.
In a stone balcony overhanging the Thames, at Whitehall, sat Earl
Edmund of Cornwall, in a thoughtful attitude, resting his head upon his
hand. He had been alone for half an hour, but now a tall man in a
Dominican habit, who was not Father Bevis, came round the corner of the
balcony, which ran all along that side of the house. He was the Prior
or Rector of Ashridge, a collegiate community, founded by the Earl
himself, of which we shall hear more anon.
The Friar sat down on the stone bench near the Earl, who took no
further notice of him than by a look, his eyes returning to dreamy
contemplation of the river.
Of what is my Lord thinking? asked the Friar, gently.
Of life, said the Prince.
Not very hopefully, I imagine.
The hope comes at the beginning, Father. Look at yonder
pleasure-boat, with the lads and lasses in it, setting forth for a row.
There is hope enough in their faces. But when the journey comes near
its end, and the perilous bridge must be shot, and the night is setting
in, what you see in the faces then will not be hope. It will be
weariness; perhaps disgust and sorrow. Andin some voyages, the hope
Trueif it has reference only to the day.
Ah, responded the Prince, with a smile which had more sadness than
mirth in it, you mean to point me to the hope beyond. But the day is
long Father. The night has not come yet, and the bridge is still to be
shot. Ay, and the wind and rain are cold, as one drops slowly down the
There is home at the end, nevertheless, answered the Dominican.
When we sit round the fire in the banquet hall, and all we love are
round us, and the doors shut safe, we shall easily forget the cold wind
on the water.
When! Yes. But I am on the water yet, and it may be some hours
before my barge is moored at the garden steps. Andit is always the
same, Father. It does seem strange, when there is only one earthly
thing for which a man cares, that God should deny him that one thing.
Why rouse the hope which is never to be fulfilled? If the width of the
world had lain all our lives between me and my Lady, we should both
have been happier. Why should God bring us together to spoil each
other's lives? For I dare say she is as little pleased with her lot as
I with mine poor Magot!
Will my Lord allow me to alter the figure he has chosen? said the
Predicant Friar. Look at your own barge moored down below. If the rope
were to break, what would become of the barge?
It would drift down the river.
And if there were in it a little child, alone, too young to have
either skill or strength to steer it, what would become of him when the
barge shot the bridge?
Poor soul!destruction, without question.
And what if my Lord be that little child, safe as yet in the barge
which the Master has tied fast to the shore? The rope is his trouble.
What if it be his safety also? He would like far better to go drifting
down, amusing himself with the strange sights while daylight lasted;
but when night came, and the bridge to be passed, how then? Is it not
better to be safe moored, though there be no beauty or variety in the
Nay, Father, but is there no third way? Might the bridge not be
passed in safety, and the child take his pleasure, and yet reach home
well and sound?
Some children, said the Predicant Friar, with a tender intonation.
But not that child.
The Earl was silent. The Prior softly repeated a text of Scripture.
Endure chastisement. As sons God dealeth with you; what son then is
he, whom the Father chasteneth not? [Hebrews 12, verse 7, Vulgate
A low, half-repressed sigh from his companion reminded the Prior
that he was touching a sore place. One of the Prince's bitterest griefs
was his childlessness. [He has told us so himself.] The Prior tacked
about, and came into deeper water.
`Nor have we a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our
infirmities, for He was tempted in all things like us, except in
sinning.' [Hebrews 4, verse 15, Vulgate version.]
If one could see! said the Earl, almost in a whisper.
It would be easier, without doubt. Yet `blessed are they who see
not, and believe.' God can see. I would rather He saw and not I,
thanif such a thing were possiblethat I saw and not He. Whether is
better, my Lord, that the father see the danger and guard the child
without his knowing anything, or that the child see it too, and have
all the pain and apprehension consequent upon the seeing? The blind has
the advantage, sometimes.
Yet who would wish to be blind on that account? answered the Earl,
No man could wish it, nor need he. Only, the blind man may take the
comfort of it.
But you have not answered one point, Father. Why does God rouse
longings in our hearts which He never means to fulfil?
Does God rouse them?
Are they sin, then?
No, answered the Prior, slowly, as if he were thinking out the
question, and had barely reached the answer. I dare not say that. They
are nature. Some, I know, would have all that is nature to be sin; but
I doubt if God treats it thus in His Word. Still, I question if He
raises those longings. He allows them. Man raises them.
Does He never guide them?
Yes, that I think He does.
Then the question comes to the same thing. Why does God not guide
us to long for the thing that He means to give us?
He very often does.
Then, pursued the Earl, a little impatiently, why does He not
turn us away from that which He does not intend us to have?
My Lord, said the Predicant, gravely, from the day of his fall,
man has always been asking God why. He will probably go on doing
it to the day of the dissolution of all things. But I do not observe
that God has ever yet answered the question.
It is wrong to ask it, then, I suppose, said the Earl, with a
It is not faith that wants to know why. `He that believeth
hasteneth not.' [Isaiah 28, verse 16, Vulgate version.] `What I do,
thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.' [John 13 verse
7.] We can afford to wait, my Lord.
Easily enough, replied the Earl, with feeling, if we knew it
would come right in the end.
It will come as He would have it who laid down His life that you
should live for ever. Is that not enough for my Lord?
Perhaps the Prince felt it enough. At all events, he gave no answer.
Well, that is not my notion of going comfortably through life!
observed Miss Elaine Criketot, in a decided tone. My idea is to pull
all the plums out of the cake, and leave the hard crusts for those that
Does anybody like them? laughingly asked Clarice.
Well, for those who need them, then. Plenty of folks in this world
are glad of hard crusts or anything else.
Thy metaphor is becoming rather confused, observed Diana.
Dost thou not think, Elaine Criketot, that it might be only fair to
leave a few plums for those whose usual fare is crusts? A crust now and
then would scarcely hurt the dainty damsels who commonly regale
themselves on plums.
It was a fourth voice which said thisa voice which nobody
expected, and the sound of which brought all the girls to their feet in
Most certainly, Lord Earl, replied Elaine, courtesying low; but I
hope they would be somebody else's plums than mine.
I see, said the Earl, with that sparkle of fun in his eyes, which
they all knew. Self-denial is a holy and virtuous quality, to be
cultivated by all menexcept me. Well, we might all subscribe that
creed with little sacrifice. But then where would be the self-denial?
Please it the Lord Earl, it might be practised by those who liked
I should be happy to hear of any one who liked self-denial,
responded the Earl, laughing. Is that not a contradiction in terms?
Elaine was about to make a half-saucy answer, mixed sufficiently
with reverence to take away any appearance of offence, when a sight met
her eyes which struck her into silent horror. In the doorway, looking a
shade more acetous than usual, stood Lady Margaret. It was well known
to all the bower-maidens of the Countess of Cornwall that there were
two crimes on her code which were treated as capital offences. Laughing
was the less, and being caught in conversation with a man was the
greater. But beneath both these depths was a deeper depth yet, and this
was talking to the Earl. Never was a more perfect exemplification of
the dog in the manger than the Lady Margaret of Cornwall. She did not
want the Earl for herself, but she was absolutely determined that no
one else should so much as speak to him. Here was Elaine, caught
red-handed in the commission of all three of these stupendous crimes.
And if the offence could be made worse, it was so by the Earl saying,
as he walked away, I pray you, my Lady, visit not my sins on this
Had one compassionate sensation remained in the mind of the Countess
towards Elaine, that unlucky speech would have extinguished it at once.
She did not, as usual, condescend to answer her lord; but she turned to
Elaine, and in a voice of concentrated anger, demanded the repetition
of every word which had passed. Diana gave it, for Elaine seemed almost
paralysed with terror. Clarice, on the demand of her mistress,
confirmed Diana's report as exact. The Countess turned back to Elaine.
Her words were scarcely to be reported, for she lost alike her temper
and her gentlewomanly manners. And out of my house thou goest this
day, was the conclusion, thou shameful, giglot hussey! And I will not
give thee an husband; thou shalt go back to thy father and thy mother,
with the best whipping that ever I gave maid. And she that shall be in
thy stead shall be the ugliest maid I can find, and still of tongue,
and sober of behaviour. Now, get thee gone!
And calling for Agatha as she went, the irate lady stalked away.
Of no use was poor Elaine's flood of tears, nor the united
entreaties of her four companions. Clarice and Diana soon found that
they were not to come off scatheless. Neither had spoken to the Earl,
as Elaine readily confessed; but for the offence of listening to such
treachery, both were sent to bed by daylight, with bread and water for
supper. The offences of grown-up girls in those days were punished like
those of little children now. All took tearful farewells of poor
Elaine, who dolefully expressed her fear of another whipping when she
reached home; and so she passed out of their life.
It was several weeks before the new bower-maiden appeared. Diana
suggested that the Countess found some difficulty in meeting with a
girl ugly enough to please her. But, at last, one evening in November,
Mistress Underdone introduced the new-comer, in the person of a girl of
eighteen, or thereabouts, as Felicia de Fay, daughter of Sir Stephen de
Fay and Dame Sabina Watefeud, of the county of Sussex. All the rest
looked with much curiosity at her.
Felicia, while not absolutely ugly, was undeniably plain. Diana
remarked afterwards to Clarice that there were no ugly girls to be had,
as plainly appeared. But the one thing about her which really was ugly
was her expression. She looked no one in the face, while she diligently
studied every one who was not looking at her. Let any one attempt to
meet her eyes, and they dropped in a moment. Some do this from mere
bashfulness, but Felicia showed no bashfulness in any other way.
Clarice's feeling towards her was fear.
I'm not afraid! said Diana. I am sure I could be her match in
It is the fair fight I doubt, said Clarice. I am afraid there is
treachery in her eyes.
She makes me creep all over, added Olympias.
Well, she had better not try to measure swords with me, said
Diana. I tell you, I have a presentiment that girl and I shall fight;
but I will come off victor; you see if I don't!
Clarice made no answer, but in her heart she thought that Diana was
too honest to be any match for Felicia.
It was the Countess's custom to spend her afternoon, when the day
was fine, in visiting some shrine or abbey. When the day was not fine,
she passed the time in embroidering among her maidens, and woe betide
the unlucky damsel who selected a wrong shade, or set in a false
stitch. The natural result of this was that the pine-cone, kept by
Olympias as a private barometer, was anxiously consulted on the least
appearance of clouds. Diana asserted that she offered a wax candle to
Saint Wulstan every month for fair weather. One of the young ladies
always had to accompany her mistress, and the fervent hope of each was
to escape this promotion. Felicia alone never expressed this hope,
never joined in any tirades against the Countess, never got into
disgrace with her, and seemed to stand alone, like a drop of vinegar
which would not mingle with the oil around it. She appeared to see
everything, and say nothing. It was impossible to get at her likes and
dislikes. She took everything exactly alike. Either she had no
prejudices, or she was all prejudice, and nobody could tell which it
Note 1. Some readers will think such ideas too modern to have
occurred to any one in 1290. There is evidence to the contrary.
CHAPTER FIVE. BUILDING A FRESH
Oh, had I wist, afore I kissed,
That loue had been sae ill to win,
I'd locked my heart wi' a key o' gowd,
And pinned it wi' a siller pin.Old Ballad.
On an afternoon early in December, the Countess sat among her
bower-women at work. Roisia was almost in tears, for she had just been
sharply chidden for choosing too pale a shade of blue. A little stir at
the door made all look up, and they saw Father Bevis. All rose to their
feet in an instant, the Countess dropping on her knees, and entreating
the priest's blessing. He gave it, but as if his thoughts were far
Lady, my Lord hath sent me to you with tidings. May God grant they
be not the worst tidings for England that we have heard for many a day!
A messenger is come from the North, bringing news that the Lady
Alianora the Queen lieth dead in the marsh lands of Lincolnshire.
It was a worse loss to England than any there knew. Yet they knew
enough to draw a cry of horror and sorrow from the lips of all those
that heard the news. And a fortnight later, on the 17th of December,
they all stood at Charing Cross, to see the funeral procession wind
down from the north road, and set down the black bier for its last
momentary rest on the way to Westminster.
It is rather singular that the two items which alone the general
reader usually remembers of this good Queen's history should be two
points distinctly proved by research to be untrue. Leonor did not suck
the poison from her husband's arma statement never made until a
hundred and fifty years after her death, and virtually disproved by the
testimony of an eye-witness who makes no allusion to it, but who tells
us instead that she behaved like a very weak woman instead of a very
brave one, giving way to hysterical screams, and so distressing the
sufferer that he bade four of his knights to carry her out of the room.
Again, Edward's affectionate regret did not cause the erection of the
famous Eleanor Crosses wherever the bier rested on its journey. Leonor
herself desired their erection, and left money for it in her will.
The domestic peace of the royal house died with her who had stood at
its head for nineteen years. To her son, above all others, her loss was
simply irreparable. The father and son were men of very different
tastes and proclivities; and the former never understood the latter. In
fact, Edward the Second was a man who did not belong to his century;
and such men always have a hard lot. His love of quiet, and hatred of
war, were, in the eyes of his father, spiritless meanness; while his
musical tastes and his love of animals went beyond womanish weakness,
and were looked upon as absolute vices. But perhaps to the nobles the
worst features of his character were two which, in the nineteenth
century, would entitle him to respect. He was extremely faithful in
friendship, and he had a strong impatience of etiquette. He loved to
associate with his people, to mix in their joys and sorrows, to be as
one of them. His favourite amusement was to row down the Thames on a
summer evening, with music on board, and to chat freely with the lieges
who came down in their barges, occasionally, and much to his own
amusement, buying cabbages and other wares from them. We should
consider such actions indicative of a kindly disposition and of
simplicity of taste. But in the eyes of his contemporaries they were
inexpressibly low. And be it remembered that it was not a question of
associating with persons of more or less education, whose mental
standard might be unequal to his own. There was no mental standard
whereby to measure any one in the thirteenth century. All (with a very
few exceptions, and those chiefly among the clergy) were uneducated
alike. The moral standard looked upon war and politics as the only
occupations meet for a prince, and upon hunting and falconry as the
only amusements sufficiently noble. A man who, like Edward, hated war,
and had no fancy for either sport or politics, was hardly a man in the
eyes of a mediaeval noble.
The hardest treatment to which Edward was subjected, whether from
his father in youth or from his people at a later time, arose out of
that touching constancy which was his greatest virtue. Perhaps he did
not always choose his friends well; he was inclined to put rather too
much trust in his fellow creatures; and Hugh Le Despenser the elder may
have been grasping and mean, and Piers Gavestone too extravagant. Yet
we must remember that we read their characters only as depicted by the
pens of men who hated themof men who were simply unable to conceive
that two persons might be drawn together by mutual taste for some
elevated and innocent pursuit. The most wicked motives imaginable were
recklessly suggested for the attachment which Edward showed for these
chosen friendswho were not of noble origin, and had no handles to
their names till he conferred them.
It is only through a thick mist of ignorance and prejudice that we
of this day can see the character of Edward the Second. We read it only
in the pages of monks who hated their Lollard Kingin the angry
complaints of nobles who were jealous that he listened to and bestowed
gifts on other men than themselves. But we do see some faint glimpses
of the Edward that really was, in the letter-book but recently dug out
of a mass of State papers; in the pages of De La Moor, [Note 1], the
only chronicler of his deeds who did not hate him, and who, as his
personal attendant, must have known more of him in a month than the
monks could have learned in a century; and last, not least, in that
touching Latin poem in which, during the sad captivity which preceded
his sadder death, he poured out his soul to God, the only Friend whom
he had left in all the universe.
Oh, who that heard how once they praised my name,
Could think that from those tongues these slanders came?
... I see Thy rod, and, Lord, I am content.
Weave Thou my life until the web is spun;
Chide me, O Father, till Thy will be done:
Thy child no longer murmurs to obey;
He only sorrows o'er the past delay.
Lost is my realm; yet I shall not repine,
If, after all, I win but that of Thine.
[See Note 2.]
To a character such as this, the loss of his chief friend and only
reliable intercessor, when just emerging from infancy into boyhood, was
a loss for which nothing could atone. It proved itself so in those
dreary after-years of perpetual misunderstandings and severities on the
part of his father, who set him no good example, and yet looked on the
son whose tastes were purer than his own as an instance of irredeemable
depravity. The easiest thing in the world to do is one against which
God has denounced a woeto put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
Another item of sorrowful news reached London with the coffin of
Queen Leonor. It was the death of the baby Queen of Scotland, by whose
betrothal to Prince Edward the King had vainly hoped to fuse the
northern and southern kingdoms into one. It left Scotland in a
condition of utter distraction, with no less than eleven different
claimants for the Crown, setting up claims good, bad, and indifferent;
but every one of them persuaded that all the others had not an inch of
ground to stand on, and that he was the sole true and rightful
The only claimants who really had a shadow of right may be reduced
to three. If the old primitive custom of Scotland was to be regardeda
custom dear to all Celtic nationsby which illegitimate children were
considered to have an equal right to the succession with the legitimate
ones, then there could be no question that the heir was Patrick de
Galithlys, son of Henry, the natural son of Alexander the Second. But
if notand in this respect undoubtedly the custom had become
obsolete the struggle rested between John Baliol and Robert Bruce, of
whom the first was the son of Dervorgoyl, daughter of Margaret, eldest
daughter of David Earl of Huntingdon, brother of King William the Lion;
while the latter was the son of Isabel, the second daughter of David.
Every reader knows that the question was submitted by consent of the
Scottish nobles to Edward the First as arbitrator, and that he gave his
decision in favour of Baliol. In other words, he gave it against the
existing law both of England and Scotland, which did not recognise
representation, and according to which the son of the second sister
ought to have been preferred to the grandson of the elder.
The anxiety of our kings to bring in this law of representation is a
curious psychological fact. Richard the First tried to do it by will,
in leaving the crown to his nephew Arthur; but the law was too strong
for him, and the rightful heir succeededhis brother John. Edward the
First contrived to abrogate the law, so far as Scotland was concerned,
a hundred years later. And eighty years after him Edward the Third
tried again to alter the English law of succession, and this time the
experiment succeeded. But its success was due mainly to two reasons
the personal popularity of the dead Prince whose son was thus lifted
into the line of succession, while the rightful heir was extremely
unpopular; and the fact that the disinherited heir gave full consent
and assistance to the change in the law.
The knights and squires of the Earl of Cornwall's household were
gathered together on the balcony which faced the river. One only was
absent, Piers Ingham, who was occupied in a more interesting manner, as
will presently be seen. His colleague, Sir Lambert Aylmer, was holding
forth in a lively manner for the benefit of the four squires, who were
listening to him with various degrees of attention. Reginald de
Echingham could never spare much of that quality from his admirable
self, and De Chaucombe was an original thinker, who did not purchase
ready-made ideas from other people. Barkeworth invariably agreed with
the last speaker in public, but kept his private views an inscrutable
mystery; while all that could be said of Gernet's notions was that he
had un grand talent pour le silence.
To this quartette Sir Lambert was explaining his forecast of the
political weather. The young knight had a great fancy for airing his
politics, and an unwavering conviction of the infallibility of his
judgment. If Sir Lambert was to be believed, what King Edward would
undoubtedly do was to foment civil war in Scotland, until all the rival
male claimants had destroyed each other. He would then marry the
daughter of one of them, and annex Scotland as her appanage. All being
smooth in that quarter, the King would next undertake a pilgrimage to
Palestine, drive the Saracens out, and confer that country on one of
his sons-in-law. He would then carry fire and sword through Borussia,
Lithuania, and other heathen kingdoms in the north, subdue them all,
put a few more sons-in-law in possession as tributary governors, and
being by that time an old man, would then return to Westminster to end
his days in peace, a new Alexander, and to leave a magnificent empire
to his son.
Easier said than done, growled De Chaucombe, in his beard.
Charming! observed De Echingham, caressing his pet moustache.
A lovely prospect, indeed, said De Barkeworth, with a bow, in a
tone so impartially suspended between conviction and cynicism that
nobody could tell which had dictated it. I should like to win my spurs
Win thy spurs! muttered De Chaucombe again. There are no spurs
for carpet-knights [Note 3] in the wardrobe of the Future.
I think knights should have golden spurs, not gilt onesdon't
you? inquired De Echingham.
Puppy! sneered De Chaucombe. If ever either are on thy heels it
will be a blunder of somebody's making.
Is it necessary to quarrel? asked Gernet, speaking for the first
Oh, I trust I have more generosity than to quarrel with him, rather contemptuously returned De Echingham, who, as every one
present knew, had as little physical courage as any girl.
Make thyself easy, was the answer of De Chaucombe, as he walked
away. I should not think of running the risk.
What risk? demanded Barkeworth, laughing. De Chaucombe looked back
over his shoulder, and discharged a Parthian dart.
The risk of turning my good Damascus blade on a toad, said he, to
the great amusement of Barkeworth.
De Chaucombe went to the end of the balcony, descended the steps
which led to the ground floor, and came on a second terrace, also
fronting the river. As he turned a corner of the house he suddenly
confronted two people, who were walking slowly along the terrace, and
conversing in hushed tones. Sir Piers Ingham was evidently and deeply
interested, his head slightly bowed towards Clarice who was as
earnestly engaged in the dissection of one of the few leaves
which Christmas had left fluttering on the garden bushes. As De
Chaucombe approached she looked up with a startled air, and blushed to
De Chaucombe muttered something indistinct which might pass for
Good evening, and resumed his path rather more rapidly than before.
So the wind blows from that direction! he said to himself. Well,
it does not matter a straw to me. But what our amiable mistress will
say to the fair Clarice, when she comes to know of it, is another
question. I do believe that, if she had made up her mind to a match
between them, she would undo it again, if she thought they wished it.
It would be just like her.
It had never occurred to Clarice to suppose that she did anything
wrong in thus disobeying point blank the known orders of her mistress
that the bower-maidens were to hold no intercourse whatever with the
gentlemen of the household. She knew perfectly well that if the
Countess saw her talking to Sir Piers, she would be exceedingly angry;
and she knew that her parents fully intended and expected her to obey
her mistress as she would themselves. Poor Clarice's code of morals
looked upon discovery, not disobedience, as the thing to be dreaded;
and while she would have recoiled with horror from the thought of
unfaithfulness to her beloved, she looked with absolute complacency on
the idea of disloyalty to the mistress whom she by no means loved. How
could she do otherwise when she had never been taught better?
Clarice's standard was loyaute d'amour. It is the natural
standard of all men, the only difference being in the king whom they
set up. A vast number are loyal to themselves only, for it is
themselves whom alone they love. Fewer are loyal to some human being;
and poor humanity being a very fallible thing, they often make sad
shipwreck. Very few indeed in comparison of the massare loyal to
the King who claims and has a right to their hearts' best affections.
And Clarice was not one of these.
Inside the house the Countess and Mistress Underdone were very busy
indeed. Before them, spread over forms and screens, lay piles of
material for clothinglinen, serge, silk, and crape, of many colours.
On a leaf-table at the side of the room a number of gold and silver
ornaments were displayed. Furs were heaped upon the bed, boots and
loose slippers stood in a row in one corner; while Mistress Underdone
was turning over for her mistress's inspection a quantity of
Now, let me see, said the Countess, peremptorily. Measure off
linen for four gowns, Agathatwo of brown and two of red. Serge for
twothe dark green. One silk will be enough, and one of crape.
How many ells the gown does my Lady choose to allow? asked
Mistress Underdone, taking an ell-wand from the table.
Four, said the Countess, curtly. This was rather miserly measure,
four ells and a third being the usual reckoning; but Mistress Underdone
measured and cut in silence.
Thou mayest allow a third more for the silk and crape, said the
Countess, in a fit of unusual generosity.
Mistress Underdone finished her measuring, laying each piece of
material neatly folded on the last, until the table held a tall heap of
Now for hoods, pursued the Countess. Black cloth for two, lined
with cats' fur; russet for two more. Capes for outdoor weartwo of the
green serge; one of black cloth lined with cats' fur; one of silk. Four
linen wimples; two pairs of cloth boots, two of slippers; two corsets;
three of those broidered kerchiefs, one better than the others; four
pairs of hosen. Measure off also twenty-four ells of linen cloth.
Of what price, if it please my Lady?
Fivepence the ell. And the boots of sixpence a pair. What did that
green serge cost?
Threepence the ell, my Lady.
That is monstrous. Have I no cheaper? Twopence would be good enough
If it please my Lady, there is only that coarse grey serge at three
halfpence the ell, which was bought for the cook-maids.
Humph! I suppose that would scarcely do, said the Countess, in a
tone which sounded as if she wished it would. Well, thenthose
ornaments. She must have a silver fibula, I suppose; and a copper-gilt
one for common. What made thee put out all those other things? That is
enough for her. If she wants a silver chain, her husband must give it
her; I shall not. As to rings and necklaces, they are all nonsensenot
fit for such as she.
Would my Lady think proper to allow a dovecote with silver pins?
The dovecote was a head-dress, a kind of round caul of gold or
silver network, secured by gold or silver pins fastened in the hair.
Not I. Let her husband give her such fooleries.
And may I request to know what my Lady allows for making the
Three halfpence each.
Might I be pardoned if I remind my Lady that the usual price is
For me, perhaps; not for her.
Mistress Underdone went on measuring the linen in silence.
There, that finishes for Clarice, said the Countess. Now for
Diana. She may have a silver chain in addition, two of the best
kerchiefs, andno, that is enough. Otherwise let her have just the
If my Lady would graciously indulge her servant with permission to
ask it, do the maidens know yet what is to befall them?
No. I shall tell them on Sunday. Time enough.
And the Countess left Mistress Underdone to finish the work by
On Sunday! Only two days beforehand! said Agatha Underdone to
herself. Diana will stand it. She is one that would not care much for
anything of that kind, and she will rule the house. But Clarice! If she
should have given her heart elsewhere!and I have fancied, lately,
that she has given it somewhere. That poor child!
But how can we? queried Clarice. If I were to speak to the Lady
even if I daredI doubt
I do not doubt, sweetheart, replied Sir Piers. No, the path must
be rather mere winding than that, though I confess I hate tortuous
paths. Father Miles is the only person who has any influence with the
Lady, and Father Bevis is the only one who has any with him.
But Father Bevis would have no sympathy with a love-story.
I am not sure that he would. But my Lord will, I know; and Father
Bevis will listen to him. Leave this business to me, my fair Clarice.
If I can obtain my Lord's ear this evening after vespers, and I think I
can, we shall soon have matters in train; and I have a fine hawk for
Father Miles, which will put him in a good humour. Now, farewell, for I
hear the Lady's voice within.
The lovers parted hastily, and Clarice went in to attire herself for
mass. For any one of her maidens to be absent from that ceremony would
have been a terrible offence in the eyes of the Countess; nor would any
less excuse than serious illness have availed to avert her displeasure.
Dinner followed mass, and a visit to the shrine of Saint Edward,
concluded by vespers, occupied the remainder of the afternoon. There
was half an hour to spare before supper, and the girls were chatting
together in their usual bower, or boudoir, when, to their surprise,
the Countess entered.
I have ado but with two of you, she said, as she seated herself.
Naturally, the girls supposed that some penalty was about to befall
those two. How had they offended her? and which of them were the
offenders? To displease the Countess, as they all knew, was so
extremely easy, that not one of them was prepared for the next
Two of you are to be wed on Tuesday.
This was a bombshell. And it was the more serious because they were
aware that from this sentence there was no appeal. Troubled eyes, set
in white faces, hurriedly sought each other.
Was it from sheer thoughtlessness, or from absolute malice, or even
from a momentary feeling of compassion towards the two who were to be
sacrificed, that the Countess made a long pause after each sentence?
Diana Quappelad, she said.
Olympias, Roisia, and Clarice drew a sigh of relief. There were just
half the chances against each that there had been. Diana stood forward,
with a slight flush, but apparently not much concerned.
Thou art to wed with Master Fulk de Chaucombe, and thy bridegroom
will be knighted on the wedding-day. I shall give thee thy gear and thy
wedding-feast. Mistress Underdone will show thee the gear.
The first momentary expression of Diana's face had been
disappointment. It passed in an instant, and one succeeded which was
divided between pleasurable excitement and amusement. She courtesied
very low, and thanked the Countess, as of course was expected of her.
Roisia stood behind, with blank face and clasped hands. There might
be further pain in store, but pleasure for her there could now be none.
The Countess quite understood the dumb show, but she made no sign.
Clarice La Theyn.
The girl stood out, listening for the next words as though her life
hung on them.
I shall also give thee thy gear, and thy squire will be knighted on
The Countess was turning away as though she had said all. Clarice
had heard enough to make her feel as if life were not worth having. A
squire who still required knighthood was not Piers Ingham. Did it
matter who else it was? But she found, the next moment, that it might.
Would my Lady suffer me to let Clarice know whom she is to wed?
gently suggested Mistress Underdone.
Oh, did I not mention it? carelessly responded the Countess,
turning back to Clarice. Vivian Barkeworth.
She paused an instant for the courtesy and thanks which she
expected. But she got a good deal more than she expected. With a
passionate sob that came from her very heart, Clarice fell at the feet
of the Lady Margaret.
What is all this fuss about? exclaimed her displeased mistress. I
never heard such ado about nothing.
Her displeasure, usually feared above all things, was nothing to
Clarice in that terrible instant. She sobbed forth that she loved
elsewhere she was already troth-plight.
Nonsense! said the Countess, sharply. What business hadst thou
with such foolery, unknown to me? All maidens are wed by orders from
their superiors. Why shouldst thou be an exception?
Oh, have you no compassion? cried poor Clarice, in her agony.
Lady, did you never love?
All present were intently watching the face of the Countess, in the
hope of seeing some sign of relenting. But when this question was
asked, the stern lips grew more set and stern than ever, and something
like fire flashed out of the usually cold blue-grey eyes.
WhoI? she exclaimed. Thanks be to all the saints right verily,
nay. I never had ado with any such disgraceful folly. From mine
earliest years I have ever desired to be an holy sister, and never to
see a man's face. Get up, girl; it is of no use to kneel to me. There
was no kindness shown to me; my wishes were never considered; why
should thine be? I was made to array myself for my bridal, to the very
uprooting and destruction of all that I most loved and desired. Ah! if
my Lord and father had lived, it would not have been so; he always
encouraged my vocation. He said love was unhappy, and I thought it was
scandalous. No, Clarice; I have no compassion upon lovers. There never
ought to be any such thing. Let it be as I have said.
And away stalked the Countess, looking more grey, square, and
angular than ever.
Note 1. De La Moor is the only chronicler in whose pages it is
possible to recognise the Edward of the letter-book, in which all his
letters are copied for the thirty-third year of his father's
Note 2. Barnes's Edward the Third. I must in honesty confess that I
have taken the liberty of smoothing Dr Barnes's somewhat rugged
Note 3. A carpet-knight was one whose heroism lay more in rhetorical
visions addressed to his partner in the intervals of dancing than in
hard blows given and taken in the field.
CHAPTER SIX. DESTROYED BY THE
Our plans may be disjointed,
But we may calmly rest:
What God has once appointed
Is better than our best.Frances Ridley Havergal.
The Countess left Clarice prostrate on the ground, sobbing as if her
heart would breakOlympias feebly trying to raise and soothe her,
Roisia looking half-stunned, and Felicia palpably amused by the scene.
Thou hadst better get up, child, said Diana, in a tone divided
between constraint and pity. It will do thee no good to lie there. We
shall all have to put up with the same thing in our turn. I haven't got
the man I should have chosen; but I suppose it won't matter a hundred
I am not so sure of that, said Roisia, in a low voice.
Oh, thou art disappointed, I know, said Diana. I would hand Fulk
over to thee with pleasure, if I could. I don't want him. But I suppose
he will do as well as another, and I shall take care to be mistress. It
is something to be marriedto anybody.
It is everything to be married to the right man, said Roisia; but
it is something very awful to be married to the wrong one.
Oh, one soon gets over that, was Diana's answer. So long as you
can have your own way, I don't see that anything signifies much. I
shall not admire myself in my wedding-dress any the less because my
squire is not exactly the one I hoped it might be.
Diana, I don't understand thee, responded Roisia. What does it
matter, I should say, having thine own way in little nothings so long
as thou art not to have it in the one thing for which thou really
carest? Thou dost not mean to say that a velvet gown would console thee
for breaking thy heart?
But I do, said Diana. I must be a countess before I could wear
velvet; and I would marry any man in the world who would make me a
Mistress Underdone, who had lifted up Clarice, and was holding her
in her arms, petting her into calmness as she would a baby, now thought
fit to interpose.
My maids, she said, there are women who have lost their hearts,
and there are women who were born without any. The former case has the
more suffering, yet methinks the latter is really the more pitiable.
Well, I think those people pitiable enough who let their hearts
break their sleep and interfere with their appetites, replied Diana.
I have got over my disappointment already; and Clarice will be a
simpleton if she do not.
I expect Clarice and I will be simpletons, said Roisia, quietly.
Please yourselves, and I will please myself, answered Diana. Now,
mistress, Clarice seems to have given over crying for a few seconds;
may we see the gear?
Oh, I want Father Bevis! sobbed Clarice, with a fresh gush of
Ay, my dove, thou wilt be the better of shriving, said Mistress
Underdone, tenderly. Sit thee down a moment, and I will see to Father
Bevis. Wait awhile, Diana.
It was not many minutes before she came back with Father Bevis, who
took Clarice into his oratory; and as it was a long while before she
rejoined them, the othersRoisia exceptedhad almost time to forget
the scene they had witnessed, in the interest of turning over Diana's
trousseau, and watching her try on hoods and mantles.
The interview with Father Bevis was unsatisfactory to Clarice. She
wanted comfort, and he gave her none. Advice he was ready with in
plenty; but comfort he could not give her, because he could not see why
she wanted it. He was simply incapable of understanding her. He was
very kind, and very anxious to comfort her, if he could only have told
how to do it. But lovespiritual love exceptedwas a stranger to his
bosom. No one had ever loved him; he could not remember his parents; he
had never had brother nor sister; and he had never made a friend. His
heart was there, but it had never been warmed to life. Perhaps he came
nearest to loving the Earl his master; but even this feeling awakened
very faint pulsations. His capacity for loving human beings had been
simply starved to death. Such a man as this, however anxious to be kind
and helpful, of course could not enter in the least into the position
of Clarice. He told her many very true things, if she had been capable
of receiving them; he tried his very best to help her; but she felt
through it all that they were barbarians to each other, and that Father
Bevis regarded her as partially incomprehensible and wholly silly.
Father Bevis told Clarice that the chief end of man was to glorify
God, and to enjoy Him for ever; that no love was worthy in comparison
with His; that he who loved father and mother more than Christ was not
worthy of Him. All very true, but the stunned brain and lacerated heart
could not take it in. The drugs were pure and precious, but they were
not the medicine for her complaint. She only felt a sensation of
Clarice did not know that the Earl was doing his very best to rescue
her. He insisted on Father Miles going to the Countess about it; nay,
he even ventured an appeal to her himself, though it always cost him
great pain to attempt a conversation with this beloved but irresponsive
woman. But he took nothing by his motion. The Countess was as obstinate
as she was absolute. If anything, the opposition to her will left her
just a shade more determined. In vain her husband pleaded earnestly
with her not to spoil two lives. Hers had been spoiled, she replied
candidly: these ought not to be better off, nor should they be.
Life has been spoiled for us both, said the Earl, sadly; but I
should have thought that a reason why we might have been tenderer to
You are a fool! said the Countess with a flash of angry scorn.
They were the first words she had spoken to him for eighteen years.
Maybe, my Lady, was the gentle answer. It would cost me less to
be accounted a fool than it would to break a heart.
And he left her, feeling himself baffled and his endeavours useless,
yet with a glow at his heart notwithstanding. His Margaret had spoken
to him at last. That her words were angry, even abusive, was a
consideration lost in the larger fact. Tears which did not fall welled
up from the soft heart to the dove-like eyes, and he went out to the
terrace to compose himself. O Margaret, Margaret! if you could have
loved me! He never thought of blaming heronly of winning her as a
dim hope of some happy future, to be realised when it was God's will.
He had never yet dared to look his cross in the face sufficiently to
add, if it were God's will.
When the Monday came, which was to be the last day of Clarice's
maiden life, it proved a busy, bustling day, with no time for thought
until the evening. Clarice lived through it as best she might. Diana
seemed to have put her disappointment completely behind her, and to be
thoroughly consoled by the bustle and her trousseau.
One consideration never occurred to any of the parties concerned,
which would be thought rather desirable in the nineteenth century. This
was, that the respective bridegrooms should have any interview with
their brides elect, or in the slightest degree endeavour to make
themselves agreeable. They met at meals in the great hall, but they
never exchanged a word. Clarice did not dare to lift her eyes, lest she
should meet those either of Vivian or Piers. She kept them diligently
fixed upon her trencher, with which she did little else than look at
The evening brought a lull in the excitement and busy labour. The
Countess, attended by Felicia, had gone to the Palace on royal
invitation. Clarice sat on the terrace, her eyes fixed on the river
which she did not see, her hands lying listlessly in her lap. Though
she had heard nothing, that unaccountable conviction of another
presence, which comes to us all at times, seized upon her; and she
looked up to see Piers Ingham.
The interview was long, and there is no need to add that it was
painful. The end came at last.
Wilt thou forget me, Clarice? softly asked Piers.
I ought, was the answer, with a gush of tears, if I can.
I cannot, was the reply. But one pain I can spare thee, my
beloved. The Lady means to retain thee in her service as damsel of the
chamber. [Note 1.]
If Clarice could have felt any lesser grief beside the one great
one, she would have been sorry to hear that.
I shall retire, said Sir Piers, from my Lord's household. I will
not give thee the misery of meeting me day by day. Rather I will do
what I can to help thee to forget me. It is the easier for me, since I
have had to offend my Lady by declining the hand of Felicia de Fay,
which she was pleased to offer me.
The Lady offered Felicia to thee?
Sir Piers bent his head in assent. Clarice felt as if she could have
poisoned Felicia, and have given what arsenic remained over to the Lady
And are we never to meet again? she asked, with an intonation of
That must depend on God's will, said Sir Piers, gravely.
Clarice covered her face with both hands, and the bitter tears
trickled fast through her fingers.
Oh, why is God's will so hard? she cried. Could He not have left
us in peace? We had only each other.
Hush, sweet heart! It is wrong to say that. And yet it is hardly
possible not to think it.
It is not possible! sobbed Clarice. Does not God know it is not
I suppose He must, said Sir Piers, gloomily.
There was no comfort in the thought to either. There never is any to
those who do not know God. And Piers was only feeling after Him, if
haply he might find Him, and barely conscious even of that; while
Clarice had not reached even that point. To both of them, in this very
anguish, Christ was saying, Come unto Me; but their own cry of pain
hindered them from hearing Him. It was not likely they should hear,
just then, when the sunlight of life was being extinguished, and the
music was dying to its close. But afterwards, in the silence and the
darkness, when the sounds were hushed and the lights were out, and
there was nothing that could be done but to endure, then the still,
small voice might make itself heard, and the crushed hearts might sob
out their answer.
So they parted. They took but ane kiss, and tare themselves away,
to meet when it was God's will, and not knowing on which side of the
river of death that would be.
Half an hour had passed since Sir Piers' step had died away on the
terrace, and Clarice still sat where he had left her, in crushed and
silent stillness. If this night could only be the end of it! If things
had not to go on!
Clarice, said a pitying voice; and a hand was laid upon her head
as if in fatherly blessing.
Clarice was too stunned with pain to remember her courtly duties.
She only looked up at Earl Edmund.
Clarice, my poor child! I want thee to know that I did my best for
I humbly thank your Lordship, Clarice forced herself to say.
And it may be, my child, though it seems hard to believe, that God
is doing His best for thee too.
Then what would His worst be? came in a gush from Clarice.
It might be that for which thou wouldst thank Him now.
The sorrowing girl was arrested in spite of herself, for the Earl
spoke in that tone of quiet certainty which has more effect on an
undecided mind than any words. She wondered how he knew, not realising
that he knows more than the ancients who knows God and sorrow.
My child, said the Earl again, man's best and God's best are
often very different things. In the eyes of Monseigneur Saint Jacob,
the best thing would have been to spare his son from being cast into
the pit and sold to the Ishmaelites. But God's best was to sell the boy
into slavery, and to send him into a dungeon, and then to lift him up
to the steps of the king's throne. When then comes, Clarice, we
shall be satisfied with what happened to us now.
When will it come, my Lord? asked Clarice, in a dreary tone.
When it is best, replied the Earl quietly.
Your Lordship speaks as if you knew! said Clarice.
God knows. And he who knows God may be sure of everything else.
Is it so much to know God?
It is life. `Without God' and `Without hope' are convertible
My Lord, said Clarice, wondering much to hear a layman use
language which it seemed to her was only fit for priests, how may one
Go and ask Him. How dost thou know any one? Is it not by converse
There was a silent pause till the Earl spoke again.
Clarice, he said, our Lord has a lesson to teach thee. It rests
with thee to learn it well or ill. If thou choose to be idle and
obstinate, and refuse to learn, thou mayst sit all day long on the form
in disgrace, and only have the task perfect at last when thou art
wearied out with thine own perverseness. But if thou take the book
willingly, and apply thyself with heart and mind, the task will be soon
over, and the teacher may give thee leave to go out into the sunshine.
My Lord, said Clarice, I do not know how to apply your words
here. How can I learn this task quickly?
Dost thou know, first, what the task is?
Then let a brother tell thee who has had it set to him. It is a
hard lesson, Clarice, and one that an inattentive scholar can make yet
harder if he will. It is, `Not my will, but Thine, be done.'
I cannot! I cannot! cried Clarice passionately.
Some scholars say that, replied the Earl gently, until the
evening shadows grow very long. They are the weariest of all when they
My Lord, pardon me, but you cannot understand it! Clarice stood
up. I am young, and you
I am over forty years, replied the Earl. Ah, child, dost thou
make that blunder?dost thou think the child's sorrows worse than the
man's? I have known both, and I tell thee the one is not to be compared
to the other. Young hearts are apt to think it, for grief is a thing
new and strange to them. But if ever it become to thee as thy daily
bread, thou wilt understand it better. It has been mine, Clarice, for
That was a year more than Clarice had been in the world. She looked
up wonderingly into the saddened, dove-like Plantagenet eyesthose
eyes characteristic of the Houseso sweet in repose, so fiery in
anger. Clarice had but a dim idea what his sorrow was.
My Lord, she said, half inquiringly, methinks you never knew such
a grief as mine?
The smile which parted the Earl's lips was full of pity.
Say rather, maiden, that thou never knewest one like mine. But God
knows both, Clarice, and He pities both, and when His time comes He
will comfort both. At the best time, child! Only let us acquaint
ourselves with Him, for so only can we be at peace. And now, farewell.
I had better go in and preach my sermon to myself.
Clarice was left alone again. She did not turn back to exactly the
same train of thought. A new idea had been given her, which was to
become the germ of a long train of others. She hardly put it into
words, even to herself; but it was thisthat God meant something. He
was not sitting on the throne of the universe in placid indifference to
her sorrows; neither was He a malevolent Being who delighted in
interfering with the plans of His creatures simply to exhibit His own
power. He was doing thissomehowfor her benefit. She saw neither the
how nor the why; but He saw them, and He meant good to her. All the
world was not limited to the Slough of Despond at her feet. There was
blue sky above.
Very vaguely Clarice realised this. But it was sufficient to soften
the rocky hardness which had been the worst element of her painto
take away the blind chance against which her impotent wings had been
beaten in vain efforts to escape from the dark cage. It was that
contact with the living will of a living person, which gives the
human element to what would otherwise be hard, blind, pitiless fate.
Clarice rose, and looked up to the stars. No words came. The cry of
her heart was, O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me. But she was
too ignorant to weave it into a prayer. When human hearts look up to
God in wordless agony, the Intercessor translates the attitude into the
words of Heaven.
Sad or bright, there was no time for thought on the Tuesday morning.
The day was bitterly cold, for it was the 16th of January 1291, and a
heavy hoar-frost silvered all the trees, and weighed down the bushes in
the Palace garden. Diana, wrapped in her white furs, was the picture of
health and merriment. Was it because she really had not enough heart to
care, or because she was determined not to give herself a moment to
consider? Clarice, white as the fur round her throat, pale and
heavy-eyed, grave and silent, followed Diana into the Palace chapel.
The Countess was there, handsomely attired, and the Earl, in golden
armour; but they stood on opposite sides of the chancel, and the former
ignored her lord's existence. Diana's wedding came first. De Chaucombe
behaved a little more amiably than usual, and, contrary to all his
habits, actually offered his hand to assist his bride to rise. Then
Diana fell back to the side of the Countess, and Fulk to that of the
Earl, and Clarice recognised that the moment of her sacrifice was come.
With one passionately pleading look at the Lady Margaretwho met it
as if she had been made of stoneClarice slowly moved forward to the
altar. She shuddered inwardly as Vivian Barkeworth took her hand into
his clasp, and answered the queries addressed to her in so low a voice
that Father Miles took the words for granted. It seemed only a few
minutes before she woke to the miserable truth that she was now
Vivian's wife, and that to think any more of Piers Ingham was a sin
Clarice dragged herself through the bridal festivitieshow, she
never knew. Diana was the life of the party. So bright and gay she was
that she might never have heard of such a thing as disappointment. She
danced with everybody, entered into all the games with the zest of an
eager child, and kept the hall ringing with merry laughter, while
Clarice moved through them all as if a weight of lead were upon her,
and looked as though she should never smile again. Accident at length
threw the two brides close together.
Art thou going to look thus woe-begone all thy life through,
Clarice? inquired the Lady De Chaucombe.
I do not know, answered Clarice, gloomily. I only hope it will
not be long.
What will not be long?thy sorrowful looks?
Don't let me hear such nonsense, exclaimed Diana, with a little of
her old sharpness. Men are all deceivers, child. There is not one of
them worth spoiling a woman's life for. Clarice, don't be a simpleton!
Not more than I can help, said Clarice, with the shadow of a
smile; and then De Echingham came up and besought her hand for the next
dance, and she was caught away again into the whirl.
The dancing, which was so much a matter of course at a wedding, that
even the Countess did not venture to interfere with it, was followed by
the hoydenish romps which were considered equally necessary, and which
fell into final desuetude about the period of the accession of the
House of Hanover. King Charles the First's good taste had led him to
frown upon them, and utterly to prohibit them at his own wedding; but
the people in general were attached to their amusements, rough and even
gross as they often were, and the improvement filtered down from palace
to cottage only very slowly.
The cutting of the two bride-cakes, as usual, was one of the most
interesting incidents. It was then, and long afterwards, customary to
insert three articles in a bride-cake, which were considered to
foretell the fortunes of the persons in whose possession they were
found when the cakes were cut up. The gold ring denoted speedy
marriage; the silver penny indicated future wealth; while the thimble
infallibly doomed its recipient to be an old maid. The division of
Diana's cake revealed Sir Reginald de Echingham in possession of the
ring, evidently to his satisfaction; while Olympias, with the reverse
sensation, discovered in her slice both the penny and the thimble.
Clarice's cake proved even more productive of mirth; for the thimble
fell to the Countess, while the Earl held up the silver penny,
laughingly remarking that he was the last person who ought to have had
that, since he had already more of them than he wanted. But the fun
came to its apex when the ring was discovered in the hand of Mistress
Underdone, who indignantly asserted that if a thousand gold rings were
showered upon her from as many cakes they would not induce her to marry
again. She thought two husbands were enough for any reasonable woman;
and if not, she was too old now for folly of that sort. Sir Lambert
sent the company into convulsions of laughter by clasping his hands on
this announcement with a look of pretended despair, upon which Mistress
Underdone, justly indignant, gave him such a box on the ear that he was
occupied in rubbing it for the next ten minutes, thereby increasing the
merriment of the rest. Loudest and brightest of all the laughers was
Diana. She at least had not broken her heart. Clarice, pale and silent
in the corner, where she sat and watched the rest, dimly wondered if
Diana had any heart to break.
Note 1. There were two divisions of damsels in the household of a
mediaeval princess, the domicellae and the domicellae camera. The former, who corresponded to the modern Maids of Honour, were young
and unmarried; the latter, the Ladies of the Bedchamber, were always
married women. Sufficient notice of this distinction has not been taken
by modern writers. Had it so been, the supposition long held of the
identity of Philippa Chaucer, domicella camera, with Philippa
Pycard, domicella, could scarcely have arisen; nor should we be
told that Chaucer's marriage did not occur until 1369, or later, when
we find Philippa in office as Lady of the Bedchamber in 1366.
CHAPTER SEVEN. DAME MAISENTA DOES NOT
With a little hoard of maxims, preaching down a daughter's
Earl Edmund had not been callous to the white, woeful face under one
of the bridal wreaths. He set himself to think how most pleasantly to
divert the thoughts of Clarice; and the result of his meditations was a
request to Father Miles that he would induce the Countess to invite the
parents of Clarice on a visit. The Countess always obeyed Father Miles,
though had she known whence the suggestion came, she might have been
less docile. A letter, tied up with red silk, and sealed with the
Countess's seal, was despatched by a messenger to Dame La Theyn, whom
it put into no small flutter of nervous excitement.
A journey to London was a tremendous idea to that worthy woman,
though she lived but forty miles from the metropolis. She had never
been there in her life. Sir Gilbert had once visited it, and had
dilated on the size, splendour, and attractions of the place, till it
stood, in the Dame's eyes, next to going to Heaven. It may, indeed, be
doubted if she would not have found herself a good deal more at home in
the former place than the latter.
Three sumpter-mules were laden with the richest garments and
ornaments in the wardrobes of knight and dame. Two armed servants were
on one horse, Sir Gilbert and his wife on another; and thus provided,
late in February, they drew bridle at the gate of Whitehall Palace.
Clarice had not been told of their coming by the Countess, because she
was not sufficiently interested; by the Earl, because he wished it to
be a pleasant surprise. She was called out into the ante-chamber one
afternoon, and, to her complete astonishment, found herself in the
presence of her parents.
The greeting was tolerably warm.
Why, child, what hast done to thy cheeks? demanded Sir Gilbert,
when he had kissed his palefaced daughter. 'Tis all the smokethat's
what it is!
Nay; be sure 'tis the late hours, responded the Dame. I'll
warrant you they go not to bed here afore seven o' the clock. Eh,
Not before eight, Dame, answered Clarice, with a smile.
Eight! cried Dame Maisenta. Eh, deary me! Mine head to a pod of
peas, but that's a hearing! And what time get they up of a morrow?
The Lady rises commonly by five or soon after.
Saint Wulstan be our aid! Heard I ever the like? Why, I am never
abed after three!
So thou art become Dame Clarice? said her father, jovially.
The smile died instantly from Clarice's lips. Yes, she said,
Where is thy knight, lass? demanded her mother.
You will see him in hall, replied Clarice. And when they went down
to supper she presented Vivian in due form.
No one knew better than Vivian Barkeworth how to adapt himself to
his company. He measured his bride's parents as accurately, in the
first five minutes, as a draper would measure a yard of calico. It is
not surprising if they were both delighted with him.
The Countess received her guests with careless condescension, the
Earl with kind cordiality. Dame La Theyn was deeply interested in
seeing both. But her chief aim was a long tete-a-tete discourse
with Clarice, which she obtained on the day following her arrival. The
Countess, as usual, had gone to visit a shrine, and Clarice, being off
duty, took her mother to the terrace, where they could chat
Some of us modern folks would rather shrink from sitting on an open
terrace in February; but our forefathers were wonderfully independent
of the weather, and seem to have been singularly callous in respect to
heat and cold. Dame La Theyn made no objection to the airiness of her
position, but settled herself comfortably in the corner of the stone
bench, and prepared for her chat with much gusto.
Well, child, was the Dame's first remark, the good saints have
ordered matters rarely for thee. I ventured not to look for such good
fortune, not so soon as this. Trust me, but I was rejoiced when I read
thy lady's letter, to hear that thou wert well wed unto a knight, and
that she had found all the gear. I warrant thee, the grass grew not
under my feet afore Dame Rouse, and Mistress Swetapple, and every woman
of our neighbours, down to Joan Stick-i'-th'-Lane, knew the good luck
that was come to thee.
Clarice sat with her hands in her lap looking out on the river. Good
luck! Could Dame La Theyn see no further than that!
Why, lass, what is come to thee? demanded the Dame, when she found
no response. Sure, thou art not ungrateful to thy lady for her care
and goodness! That were a sin to be shriven for.
Clarice turned her wan face towards her mother.
Grateful! she said. For what should I be thankful to her? Dame,
she has torn me away from the only one in the world that I loved, and
has forced me to wed a man whom I alike fear and hate. Do you think
that matter for thankfulness, or does she!
Tut, tut! said the Dame. Do not ruffle up thy feathers like a
pigeon that has got bread-crumbs when he looked for corn! Why, child,
'tis but what all women have to put up with. We all have our calf-loves
and bits of maidenly fancies, but who ever thought they were to rule
the roast? Sure, Clarice, thou hast more sense than so?
Dame, pardon me, but you understand not. This was no light love of
mineno passing fancy that a newer one might have put out. It was the
one hope and joy of my whole life. I had nothing else to live for.
To Clarice's horror, the rejoinder to her rhetoric was what the Dame
herself would have called a jolly laugh.
Dear, dear, how like all young maids be! cried the mother. Just
the very thought had I when my good knight my father sent away Master
Pride, and told me I must needs wed with thy father, Sir Gilbert. That
is twenty years gone this winter Clarice, and I swear to thee I thought
mine heart was broke. Look on me now. Look I like a woman that had
brake her heart o' love? I trow not, by my troth!
No; certainly no one would have credited that rosy, comfortable
matron with having broken her heart any number of years ago.
And thou wilt see, too, when twenty years be over, Clarice, I
warrant thee thou shalt look back and laugh at thine own folly. Deary
me, child! Folks cannot weep for ever and the day after. Wait till thou
art forty, and then see if thy trouble be as sore in thy mind then as
Forty! Should she ever be forty? Clarice fondly hoped not. And would
any lapse of years change the love which seemed to her interwoven with
every fibre of her heart? That heart cried out and said, Impossible!
But Dame La Theyn heard no answer.
When thou hast dwelt on middle earth [Note 1], child, as long as I
have, thou wilt look on things more in proportion. There be other
affairs in life than lovemaking. Women spend not all their days
thinking of wooing, and men still less. I warrant thee thy lover, whoso
he be, shall right soon comfort himself with some other damsel. Never
suspect a man of constancy, child. They know not what the word means.
Clarice's inner consciousness violently contradicted this sweeping
statement. But she kept silence still.
Ah, I see! said her mother, laughing. Not a word dost thou credit
me. I may as well save my breath to cool my porridge. Howsoe'er,
Clarice, when thou hast come to forty years, if I am yet alive, let me
hear thy thoughts thereupon. Long ere that time come, as sure as eggs
be eggs, thou shalt be a-reading the same lesson to a lass of thine, if
it please God so to bless thee. And she'll not believe thee a word, any
more than thou dost me. Eh, these young folks, these young folks!
truly, they be rare fun for us old ones. They think they've gotten all
the wisdom that ever dwelt in King Solomon's head, and we may stand
aside and doff our caps to them. Good lack!but this world is a queer
place, and a merry!
Clarice thought she had not found it a merry locality by any means.
And what ails thee at thy knight, child? He is as well-favoured and
tall of his hands as e'er a one. Trust me, but I liked him well, and so
said thy father. He is a pleasant fellow, no less than a comely. What
ails thee at him?
Dame, I cannot feel to trust him.
Give o'er with thy nonsense! Thou mayest trust him as well as
another man. They are all alike. They want their own way, and to please
themselves, and if they've gotten a bit of time and thought o'er
they'll maybe please thee at after. That's the way of the world, child.
If thou art one of those silly lasses that look for a man who shall
never let his eyes rove from thee, nor never make no love to nobody
else, why, thou mayest have thy search for thy pains. Thou art little
like to catch that lark afore the sky falls.
Clarice thought that lark had been caught for her, and had been torn
And what matter? continued Dame La Theyn. If a man likes his wife
the best, and treats her reasonable kind, as the most doand I make no
doubt thine shallwhy should he not have his little pleasures? Thou
canst do a bit on thine own account. But mind thou, keep on the
windward side o' decency. 'Tis no good committing o' mortal sin, and a
deal o' trouble to get shriven for it. Mind thy ways afore the world!
And let not thy knight get angered with thee, no more. But I'll tell
thee, Clarice, thou wilt anger him afore long, to carry thyself thus
towards him. Of course a man knows he must put up with a bit of
perversity and bashfulness when he is first wed; because he can guess
reasonable well that the maid might not have chose him her own self.
But it does not do to keep it up. Thou must mind thy ways, child.
Clarice was almost holding her breath. Whether horror or disgust
were the feeling uppermost in her mind, she would have found difficult
to tell. Was this her mother, who gave her such counsel? And were all
women like that? One other distinct idea was left to herthat
there was an additional reason for dyingto get out of it all.
Thou art but a simple lass, I can see, reflectively added Dame La
Theyn. Thou hast right the young lass's notions touching truth, and
faith, and constancy, and such like. All a parcel of moonshine, child!
There is no such thing, not in this world. Some folks be a bit worse
than others, but that's all. I dare reckon thy knight is one of the
better end. At any rate, thou wilt find it comfortable to think so.
Clarice was inwardly convinced that Vivian belonged to the scrag
end, so far as character went.
That's the true way to get through the world, child. Shut thy eyes
to whatever thou wouldst not like to see. Nobody'll admire thee more
for having red rims to 'em. And, dear heart, where's the good? 'Tis
none but fools break their hearts. Wise folks jog on jollily. And if
there's somewhat to forgive on the one side, why, there'll be somewhat
on the other. Thou art not an angeldon't fancy it. And if he isn't
Of that fact Clarice felt superlatively convinced.
The best way is not to expect it of him, and thou wilt be the less
disappointed. So get out thy ribbons and busk thee, and let's have no
more tears shed. There's been a quart too much already.
A slight movement of nervous impatience was the sole reply.
Eh, Clarice? Ne'er a word, trow?
Then she turned round a wan, set, distressed face, with fervent
determination glowing in the eyes.
Mother! I would rather die, and be out of it!
Be out of what, quotha? demanded Dame La Theyn, in astonished
This world, said Clarice, through her set teeth. This hard, cold,
cruel, miserable, wicked world. Is there only one of two lives before
meeither to harden into stone and crush other hearts, or to be
crushed by the others that have got hard before me? Oh, Mother, Mother!
is there nothing in the world for a woman but that?God, let me
die before I come to either!
Deary, deary, deary me! seemed to be all that Dame La Theyn felt
herself capable of saying.
A few weeks ago, Clarice went on, beforethis, there was
a higher and better view of life given to me. One that would make
one's crushed heart grow softer, and not harder; that was upward
and not downward; that led to Heaven and God, not to Hell and Satan.
There is no hope for me in this life but the hope of Heaven. For pity's
sake let me keep that! If every other human creature is going downyou
seem to think solet me go higher, not lower. Because my life has been
spoiled for me, shall I deliberately poison my own soul? May God forbid
it me! If I am to spend my life with demons, let my spirit live with
The feelings of Dame La Theyn, on hearing this speech from Clarice,
were not capable of expression in words.
In her eyes, as in those of all Romanists, there were two lives
which a man or woman could leadthe religious and the secular. To lead
a religious life meant, as a matter of course, to go into the cloister.
Matrimony and piety were simply incompatible. Clarice was a married
woman: ergo, she could not possibly be religious. Dame La
Theyn's mind, to use one of her favourite expressions, was all of a
jumble with these extraordinary ideas of which her daughter had
unaccountably got hold. What on earth is the child driving at? is she
mad? thought her mother.
What dost thou mean, child? inquired the extremely puzzled Dame.
Thou canst not go into the cloisterthou art wed. Dear heart, but I
never reckoned thou hadst any vocation! Thou shouldst have told thy
I do not want the cloister, said Clarice. I want to do God's
will. I want to belong to God.
Why, that is the same thing! responded the still perplexed woman.
The Lord Earl is not a monk, replied Clarice. And I am sure he
belongs to God, for he knows Him better than any priest that I ever
Child, child! Did I not tell thee, afore ever thou earnest into
this house, that thy Lord was a man full of queer fancies, and all
manner of strange things? Don't thee go and get notions into thine
head, for mercy's sake! Thou must live either in the world or the
cloister. Who ever heard of a wedded woman devote to religion? Thou
canst not have both'tis nonsense. Is that one of thy Lord's queer
notions? Sure, these friars never taught thee so?
The friars never taught me anything. Father Bevis tried to help me,
but he did not know how. My Lord was the only one who understood.
Understood? Understood what?
Who understood me, and who understood God.
Clarice, what manner of tongue art thou talking? 'Tis none I never
No, for Clarice was beginning to lisp the language of Canaan, and
they that kept the fair were men of this world. What wonder if she
and her thoroughly time-serving mother found it impossible to
understand each other?
I cannot make thee out, lass. If thou wert aware afore thou wert
wed that thou hadst a vocation, 'twas right wicked of thee not to tell
thy confessor and thy mistress, both. But I cannot see how it well
could, when thou wert all head o'er ears o' love with some gallant or
other the saints know whom. I reckon it undecent, in very deed,
Clarice, to meddle up a love-tale with matters of religion. I do wonder
thou hast no more sense of fitness and decorum.
It were a sad thing, said Clarice quietly, if only irreligious
people might love each other.
Love each other! Dear heart, thy brains must be made o' forcemeat!
Thou hast got love, and religion, and living, and all manner o' things,
jumbled up together in a pie. They've nought to do with each other,
thou silly lass.
If religion has nought to do with living, Dame, under your good
pleasure, what has it to do with?
A query which Dame La Theyn found it as difficult to comprehend as
to answer. In her eyes, religion was a thing to take to church on
Sunday, and life was restricted to the periods when people were not in
church. When she laid up her Sunday gown in lavender, she put her
religion in with it. Of course, nuns were religious every day, but
nobody else ever thought of such an unreasonable thing. Clarice's new
ideas, therefore, to her, were simply preposterous and irrational.
Clarice! she said, in tones of considerable surprise, I do wonder
what's come o'er thee! This is not the lass I sent to Oakham. Have the
fairies been and changed thee, or what on earth has happened to thee? I
cannot make thee out!
I hardly know what has happened to me, was the answer, but I
think it is that I have gone nearer God. He ploughed up my heart with
the furrow of bitter sorrow, and then He made it soft with the dew of
His grace. I suppose the seed will come next. What that is I do not
know yet. But my knowing does not matter if He knows.
The difference which Dame La Theyn failed to understand was the
difference between life and death. The words of the Earl had been used
as a seed of life, and the life was growing. It is the necessity of
life to grow, and it is an impossibility that death should appreciate
Well! was the Dame's conclusion, delivered as she rose from the
stone bench, in a perplexed and disappointed tone, I reckon thou wilt
be like to take thine own way, child, for I cannot make either head or
tail of thy notions. Only I do hope thou wilt not set up to be unlike
everybody else. Depend upon it, Clarice, a woman never comes to no good
when she sets up to be better than her neighbours. It is bad enough in
anybody, but 'tis worser in a woman than a man. I cannot tell who has
stuck thy queer notions into theewhether 'tis thy Lord, or thy lover,
or who; but I would to all the saints he had let thee be. I liked thee
a deal better afore, I can tell thee. I never had no fancy for
philosophy and such.
Mother, said Clarice softly, I think it was God.
Gently, child! No bad language, prithee. Dame La Theyn looked upon
pious language as profanity when uttered in an unconsecrated place.
But if it were the Almighty that put these notions into thy head, I
pray He'll take 'em out again.
I think not, quietly replied Clarice.
And so the scene closed. Neither had understood the other, so far,
at least, as spiritual matters were concerned. But in respect to the
secular question Dame La Theyn could enter into Clarice's thoughts more
than she chose to allow. The dialogue stirred within her faint
memoriesnot quite deadof that earlier time when her tears had
flowed for the like cause, and when she had felt absolutely certain
that she could never be happy again. But her love had been of a selfish
and surface kind, and the wound, never more than skin-deep, had healed
rapidly and left no scar. Was it surprising if she took it for granted
that her daughter's was of the same class, and would heal with equal
rapidity and completeness? Beside this, she thought it very unwise
policy to let Clarice perceive that she did understand her in any wise.
It would encourage her in her folly, Dame La Theyn considered, if she
supposed that so wise a person as her mother could have any sympathy
with such notions. So she wrapped herself complacently in her mantle of
wisdom, and never perceived that she was severing the last strand of
the rope which bound her child's heart to her own.
O, purblind race of miserable men!
How strangely we all spend our lives in the anxious labour of
straining out gnats, while we scarcely detect the moment when we
swallow the camel!
A long private conversation between Clarice's parents resulted the
next day in Sir Gilbert taking her in hand. His comprehension was even
less than her mother's, though it lay in a different direction.
Well, Clarice, my dame tells me thou art not altogether well
pleased with thy wedding. What didst thou wish otherwise, lass?
The man, said Clarice, shortly enough.
What, is not one man as good as another? demanded her father.
Not to me, Sir, said his daughter.
I am afeared, Clarice, thou hast some romantic notions. They are
all very pretty to play with, but they don't do for this world, child.
Thou hast better shake them out of thine head, and be content with thy
It is a bad world, I know, replied Clarice. But it is hard to be
content, when life has been emptied and spoiled for one.
Folly, child, folly! said Sir Gilbert. Thou mayest have as many
silk gowns now as thou couldst have had with any other knight; and I
dare be bound Sir Vivian should give thee a gold chain if thou wert
pining for it. Should that content thee?
Sir Gilbert was puzzled. A woman whose perfect happiness could not
be secured by a gold chain was an enigma to him.
Then what would content thee? he asked.
What I can never have now, answered Clarice. It may be, as time
goes on, that God will make me content without itcontent with His
will, and no more. But I doubt if even He could do that just yet. The
wisest physician living cannot heal a wound in a minute. It must have
Sir Gilbert tried to puzzle his way through this speech.
Well, child, I do not see what I can do for thee.
I thank you for wishing it, fair Sir. No, you can do nothing. No
one can do anything for me, except let me alone, and pray to God to
heal the wound.
Well, lass, I can do that, said her father, brightening. I will
say the rosary all over for thee once in the week, and give a candle to
our Lady. Will that do thee a bit of good, eh?
Clarice had an instinctive feeling, that while the rosary and the
candle might be a doubtful good, the rough tenderness of her father was
a positive one. Little as Sir Gilbert could enter into her ideas, his
affection was truer and more unselfish than that of her mother. Neither
of them was very deeply attached to her; but Sir Gilbert's love could
have borne the harder strain of the two. Clarice began to recognise the
fact with touched surprise.
Fair Sir, I shall be very thankful for your prayers. It will do me
good to be lovedso far as anything can do it.
Sir Gilbert was also discovering, with a little astonishment
himself, that his only child lay nearer to his heart than he had
supposed. His heart was a plant which had never received much
cultivation, either from himself or any other; and love, even in faint
throbs, was a rather strange sensation. It made him feel as if
something were the matter with him, and he could not exactly tell what.
He patted Clarice's shoulder, and smoothed down her hair.
Well, well, child! I hope all things will settle comfortably by and
by. But if they should not, and in especial if thy knight were ever
unkindly toward theewhich God avert!do not forget that thou hast a
friend in thine old father. Maybe he has not shown thee over much
kindliness neither, but I reckon, my lass, if it came to a pull,
there'd be a bit to pull at.
Neither Sir Gilbert nor Dame Maisenta ever fully realised the result
of that visit. It found Clarice indifferent to both, but ready to reach
out a hand to either who would clasp it with any appearance of
tenderness and compassion. It left her with a heart closed for ever to
her mother, but for ever open to her father.
Note 1. This mediaeval term for the world had its rise in the notion
that earth stood midway between Heaven and Hell, the one being as far
below as the other was above.
CHAPTER EIGHT. THE SHADOW OF THE
In His name was struck the blow
That hath laid thy old life low
In a garb of blood-red woe.
A very eventful year was 1291 in England and over all the civilised
world. It was the end of the Crusades, the Turks driving the Christians
from Acre, the last place which they held in Palestine. It opened with
the submission of the Scottish succession to the arbitrament of Edward
the First, and it closed with the funeral of his mother, Queen Eleonore
of Provencea woman whom England was not able to thank for one good
deed during her long and stormy reign. She had been a youthful beauty,
she wrote poetry, and she had never scandalised the nation by any
impropriety of womanly conduct. But these three statements close the
list of her virtues. She was equally grasping, unscrupulous, and
extravagant. In her old age she retired to the Convent of Amesbury,
where her two granddaughters, Mary of England, and Alianora of
Bretagne, were nuns already, for the desirable purpose of making her
salvation. Perhaps she thought she had made it when the summons came
to her in the autumn of 1291. No voice had whispered to her, all
through her long life of nearly eighty years, that if that ever were to
Jesus Christ has done it all
Long, long ago.
Matters had settled down quietly enough in Whitehall Palace. Sir
Fulk de Chaucombe and Diana had been promoted to the royal
householdthe former as attendant upon the King, the latter as Lady of
the Bedchamber to his eldest daughter, the Princess Alianora, who,
though twenty-seven years of age, was still unmarried. It was a cause
of some surprise in her household that the Countess of Cornwall did not
fill up the vacancy created among her maidens by the marriages of
Clarice and Diana. But when December came it was evident that before
she did so she meant to make the vacancy still more complete.
One dark afternoon in that cheerful month, the Lady Margaret marched
into the bower, where her female attendants usually sat when not
engaged in more active waiting upon her. It was Saturday.
Olympias Trusbut, Roisia de Levinton, she said in her harsh voice,
which did not sound unlike the rasping of a file, ye are to be wed on
Olympias showed slight signs of going into hysterics, which being
observed by the Lady Margaret, she calmly desired Felicia to fetch a
jug of water. On this hint of what was likely to happen to her if she
imprudently screamed or fainted, Olympias managed to recover.
Ye are to wed the two squires, observed their imperious mistress.
I gave the choice to Reginald de Echingham, and he fixed on thee,
Olympias passed from terror to ecstasy.
Thou, Roisia, art to wed Ademar de Gernet. I will give both of you
And away walked the Countess.
I wish she would have let me alone, said Roisia, in doleful
Too much to hope for, responded Felicia.
Dost thou not like De Gernet? asked Clarice, sympathisingly.
Oh, I don't dislike him, said Roisia; but I am not so fond of him
as that comes to.
An hour or two later, however, Mistress Underdone appeared, in a
state of flurry by no means her normal one.
Well, here is a pretty tale, said she. Not for thee, Olympias;
matters be running smooth for thee, though the Lord Earl did say,
added she, laughing, that incense was as breath of life to Narcissus,
and he would needs choose the maid that should burn plenty on his
altar. But the thing is fair unheard of!Ademar de Gernet refuses to
wed under direction from the Lady.
Why? asked Roisia, looking rather insulted.
Oh, it has nought to do with thee, child, said Mistress Underdone.
Quoth he that he desired all happiness to thee, and pardon of thee for
thus dealing; but having given his heart to another of the Lady's
damsels, he would not wed with any but her.
Why, that must be Felicia, said the other three together.
Felicia looked flattered and conscious.
Well, I reckon so, answered Mistress Underdone. Howbeit, the Lady
hath sent for him hither, to know of him in thy presence what he would
Ha, chetife! exclaimed Roisia. I wish it had been
Well, I cannot quite. Hush! here she comes.
And for the second time that day in stalked the Countess, and sat
down on the curule chair which Mistress Underdone set for her, looking
like a judge, and a very stern one, too. In another minute the culprit
made his appearance, in charge of Sir Lambert Aylmer.
Now, De Gernet, what means this? irascibly demanded his mistress.
Lady, it means not disobedience to you, nor any displeasance done
to this young damseland De Gernet turned and bowed to Roisia. This
it means, that I dearly love another of your Ladyship's damsels, and I
do most humbly and heartily crave your permission to wed with her.
What, Felicia de Fay? said the Countess.
Under your Ladyship's pleasure and her pardon, no.
Felicia's face changed evilly.
But who, then? There is none other.
Let my Lady be pleased to pardon me. There is one otherHeliet
The faces in the bower just then might have furnished a study for an
artist. Those of Clarice and Olympias expressed surprise mixed with
some pleasure; so did Mistress Underdone's, but the degree of both was
intense. The Countess looked half vexed and wholly astonished, with a
little contempt superadded. Felicia's face foreboded nothing but ill to
either Ademar or Heliet.
Heliet Pride! cried the Countess sharply. Why, man, she goes on
They will carry her to the chapel, with my Lady's leave, answered
De Gernet, coolly.
Gramercy, but thou wilt have a lovely wife! There'll be no pride in
her outside her name, said the Countess, with a grim smile at her own
joke. Indeed, she was so much amused that she forgot to be angry.
I will see about that, if my Lady will grant me her grace,
responded De Gernet, in the same tone.
Eh, thou shalt have her, said the Countess. I shall get Roisia
disposed of a sight easier than Heliet. So be it. Roisia, thou canst
still prepare for thy bridal; I will find somebody by Monday morning.
The Countess was rising from her chair, when Sir Lambert, after a
glance at Roisia, observed that if her Ladyship found any difficulty in
that selection, he had no particular objection to be chosen.
You! said the Countess. Oh, very good; it will save trouble. Let
it be so.
Roisia appeared to be, if anything, rather gratified by the
exchange. But Clarice, looking into the dark, passionate eyes of
Felicia, felt troubled for the happiness of Heliet.
Olympias, like Clarice, was promoted to a vacancy among the ladies
of the bedchamber. But Sir Lambert and Roisia passed away from the life
at Whitehall. The new Maids of Honour were speedily appointed. Their
names proved to be Sabina Babingell, Ada Gresley, and Filomena Bray.
The Countess declared her intention of keeping four only in the future.
The summer of 1292 saw the King on the Scottish border, and in his
train the Earl and Countess of Cornwall, with their household, moved
north as far as Oakham. The household had been increased by one more,
for in the April previous Clarice Barkeworth became the mother of a
little girl. This was the first event which helped to reconcile her to
her lot. She had been honestly trying hard to do her duty by Vivian,
who scarcely seemed to think that he had any duty towards her, beyond
the obvious one of civility in public. All thought of Piers Ingham had
been resolutely crushed down, except when it cameas it sometimes
didin the form of a dream of bliss from which she awoke to
desolation. A miserable day was sure to follow one of those dreams. The
only other moment when she allowed herself to think of him was in her
It was a relief to Clarice that she had never heard a word of Piers
since he left Whitehall. Her work would have been harder if his name
had remained a household word. And yet in another sense it was hard
never to know what had become of him, whether he were as sad as
herself, or had been comforted elsewhere.
Vivian's manners in public were perfect to every one, and Clarice
shared with the rest. In private she was terribly snubbed whenever he
was in a bad temper, and carelessly ignored when he was in a good one.
The baby daughter, who was such a comfort to Clarice, was a source of
bitter vexation to Vivian. In his eyes, while a son would have been an
undoubted blessing, a daughter was something actively worse than a
disappointment. When Clarice timidly inquired what name he wished the
child to bear, Vivian distinctly intimated that the child and all her
belongings were totally beneath his notice. She could call the nuisance
what she liked.
Clarice silently folded her insulted darling to her breast, and
tacitly promised it that its mother at least should never think it a
What shall I call her? she said to Mistress Underdone and
Olympias, both of whom were inclined to pet the baby exceedingly.
Oh, something pretty! said Olympias. Don't have a plain, common
name. Don't call her Joan, or Parnel, or Beatrice, or Margery, or Maud,
or Isabel. You meet those at every turn. I am quite glad I was not
called anything of that sort.
I wouldn't have it too long, was Mistress Underdone's
recommendation. I'd never call her Frethesancia, or Florianora, or
Aniflesia, or Sauncelina. Let her have a good, honest name, Dame, one
syllable, or at most two. You'll have to clip it otherwise.
I thought of Rose, said Clarice, meditatively.
Well, it is not common, allowed Olympias. Still, it is very
short. Couldn't you have had it a little longer?
That'll do, pronounced Mistress Underdone. It is short, and it
means a pretty, sweet, pleasant thing. I don't know but I should have
called my girl Rose, if I'd chosen her name; but her father fancied
Heliet, and so it had to be so.
Well, we can call her Rosamond, comfortingly suggested Olympias.
So, in the course of that evening, Father Bevis baptised little Rose
Barkeworth in the chapel of the palace, the Earl standing sponsor for
her, with the Lady de Chaucombe and the Lady de Echingham. The Countess
had been asked, but to Clarice's private satisfaction had declined, for
she would much rather have had the Earl, and the canon law forbade
husband and wife being sponsors to the same infant.
Something was the matter with the Countess. Every one agreed upon
this, but nobody could guess what it was. She was quieter than her
wont, and was given to long, silent reveries, which had not been usual
Filomena, who was of a lively turn of mind, declared that life at
Whitehall was becoming absolutely intolerable, and that she should be
thankful to go to Oakham, for at least it would be something new.
Thou wilt be thankful to come away again, said Mistress Underdone,
with a smile.
They reached Oakham about the middle of July, and found Heliet,
leaning on her crutches, ready to welcome them with smiles in the hall.
No news had reached her of their proceedings, and there was a great
deal to tell her; but Heliet and the baby took to one another in an
instant, as if by some unseen magical force.
The item of news which most concerned herself was not told to Heliet
that night. The next morning, when all were seated at work, and baby
Rose, in Heliet's lap, was contentedly sucking her very small thumb,
Mistress Underdone said rather suddenly, We have not told thee all,
I dare say not, replied Heliet, brightly. You must have all done
a great deal more in these two years than you have told me.
Well, lass, 'tis somewhat I never looked I should have to tell
thee. There's somebody wants to wed thee.
Me! cried Heliet, in large capitals.
Ay, theecrutches and all, said her mother laughing. He said he
did not care for thy crutches so they carried thee safe to chapel; and
he ran the risk of offending the Lady to get thee. So I reckon he sets
some store by thee, lass.
Who is it? said Heliet, in a low voice, while a bright red spot
burned in each cheek.
Ademar de Gernet. Two or three voices told her. The bright spots
Is it to be? was the next question.
Ay, the Lady said so much; and I reckon she shall give thee thy
God has been very good to me, said Heliet, softly, rocking little
Rose gently to and fro. But I never thought He meant to give me
Clarice looked up, and saw a depth of happy love in the lame girl's
eyes, which made her sigh for herself. Then, looking further, she
perceived a depth of black hate in those of Felicia de Fay, which made
her tremble for Heliet.
It appeared very shortly that the Countess was in a hurry to get the
wedding over. Perhaps she was weary of weddings in her household, for
she did not seem to be in a good temper about this. She always thought
Heliet would have had a vocation, she said, which would have been far
better for her, with her lameness, than to go limping into chapel to be
wed. She wondered nobody saw the impropriety of it. However, as she had
promised De Gernet, she supposed it must be so. She did not know what
she herself could have been thinking about to make such a foolish
promise. She was not usually so silly as that. However, if it must be,
it had better be got over.
So got over it was, on an early morning in August, De Gernet
receiving knighthood from the Earl at the close of the ceremony.
Mistress Underdone had petitioned that her lame and only child might
not be separated from her, and the Countessaccording to her own
authority, in a moment of foolishnesshad granted the petition. So
Heliet was drafted among the Ladies of the Bedchamber, but only as an
The manner of the Countess continued to strike every one as unusual.
Long fits of musing with hands lying idle were becoming common with
her, and when she rose from them she would generally shut herself up in
her oratory for the remainder of the day. Clarice thought, and Heliet
agreed with her, that something was going to happen. Once, too, as
Clarice was carrying Rose along the terrace, she was met by the Earl,
who stopped and noticed the child, as in his intense and unsatisfied
love for little children he always did. Clarice thought he looked even
From the child, Earl Edmund looked up into the pleased eyes of the
Dame Clarice, he asked, gently, are you happier than you were?
Her eyes grew suddenly grave.
Thus far, she said, touching the child. OtherwiseI try to be
content with God's will, fair Lord. It is hard to bear heart-hunger.
Ah! The Earl's tone was significant. Yes, it is hard to bear in
any form, he said, after a pause. May God send you never to know,
Dame, that there is a more terrible form than that wherein you bear
And he left her almost abruptly.
The winter of 1292 dragged slowly along. Filomena declared that her
body was as starved as her mind, and she should be frozen to death if
she stayed any longer. The next day, to everybody's astonishment, the
Countess issued orders to pack up for travelling. Sir Vivian and
Clarice were to go with herwhere, she did not say. So were Olympias,
Felicia, and Ada. Mistress Underdone, Sir Reginald, Sir Ademar and
Heliet, Filomena and Sabina, were left behind at Oakham.
Olympias grumbled extremely at being separated from her husband, and
Filomena at being left behind. The Countess would listen to neither.
When shall we return, under my Lady's leave? asked Olympias,
You can return, was the curt answer, when I have done with
you. I doubt if Sir Vivian and his dame will return at all. Ada
certainly will not.
Ha, jolife! said Ada, under her breath. She did not like
Clarice, on the contrary, was inclined to make an exclamation of
horror. For never to return to Oakham meant never to see Heliet again.
And what could the Countess mean by a statement which sounded at least
as if she were not intending to return?
Concerning Felicia the Countess said nothing. That misnamed young
lady had during the past few months been trying her best to make Heliet
miserable. She began by attempting to flirt with Sir Ademar, but she
found him completely impervious material. Her arrows glanced upon his
shield, and simply dropped off without further notice. Then she took to
taunting Heliet with her lameness, but Heliet kept her temper. Next she
sneered at her religious views. Heliet answered her gently, gravely,
but held her own with undiminished calmness. This point had been
reached when the Countess's order was given to depart from Oakham.
Even those least disposed to note the signs of the times felt the
pressure of some impending calamity. The strange manner of the
Countess, the restless misery of the Earl, whom they all loved, the
busy, bustling, secretly-triumphant air of Father Milesall denoted
some hidden working. Father Bevis had been absent for some weeks, and
when he returned he wore the appearance of a baffled and out-wearied
He looks both tired and disappointed, remarked Clarice to Heliet.
He looks, said Heliet, like a man who had been trying very hard
to scale the wall of a tower, and had been flung back, bruised and
helpless, upon the stones below.
During the four months last spent at Oakham, Clarice had been
absolutely silent to Heliet on the subject of her own peculiar trouble.
Perhaps she might have remained so, had it not been for the approaching
separation. But her lips were unsealed by the strong possibility that
they might never meet again. It was late on the last evening that
Clarice spoke, as she sat rocking Rose's cradle. She laid bare her
heart before Heliet's sympathising eyes, until she could trace the
whole weary journey through the arid desert sands.
And now tell me, friend, Clarice ended, why our Lord deals so
differently with thee and with me. Are we not both His children? Yet to
thee He hath given the desire of thine heart, and on mine He lays His
hand, and says, `No, child, thou must not have it.'
I suppose, beloved, was Heliet's gentle answer, that the
treatment suitable for consumption will not answer for fever. We are
both sick of the deadly disease of sin; but it takes a different
development in each. Shall we wonder if the Physician bleeds the one,
and administers strengthening medicines to the other?
Clarice's lip quivered, but she rocked Rose's cradle without
There is also another consideration, pursued Heliet. If I mistake
notto alter the figurewe have arrived at different points in our
education. If one of us can but decline `_puer,' while the other is
half through the syntax, is it any wonder if the same lesson be not
given to us to learn? Dear Clarice, all God's children need keeping
down. I have been kept down all these years by my physical sufferings.
That is not appointed to thee; thou art tried in another way. Shall we
either marvel or murmur because our Father sees that each needs a
different class of discipline?
Oh, Heliet, if I might have had thine! It seems to me so much the
lighter cross to carry.
Then, dear, I am the less honouredthe further from the full share
of the fellowship of our Lord's sufferings.
Clarice shook her head as if she hardly saw it in that light.
Clarice, let me tell thee a parable which I read the other day in
the writings of the holy Fathers. There were once two monks, dwelling
in hermits' cells near to each other, each of whom had one choice tree
given him to cultivate. When this had lasted a year, the tree of the
one was in flourishing health, while that of the other was all stunted
and bare. `Why, brother,' said the first, `what hast thou done to thy
tree?' `Now, judge thou, my brother,' replied the second, `if I could
possibly have done more for my tree than I have done. I watched it
carefully every day. When I thought it looked dry, I prayed for rain;
when the ground was too wet, I prayed for dry weather; I prayed for
north wind or south wind, as I saw them needed. All that I asked, I
received; and yet look at my poor tree! But how didst thou treat thine?
for thy plan has been so much more successful than mine that I would
fain try it next year.' The other monk said only, `I prayed God to make
my tree flourish, and left it to Him to send what weather He saw
He has sent a bitter blast from the north-east, answered Clarice,
with trembling lips.
And a hedge to shelter the root of the tree, said Heliet, pointing
Oh, my little Rosie! exclaimed Clarice, kissing the child
passionately. But if God were to take her, Heliet, what would become
Do not meet trouble half way, dear, said Heliet, gently. There is
no apparent likelihood of any such thing.
I do not meet itit comes! cried poor Clarice.
Then wait till it comes. `Sufficient unto the day is the evil
Yet when one has learned by experience that evil is perpetually
coming, how can one help looking forward to the morrow?
Look forward, said Heliet. But let it be to the day after
to-morrowthe day when we shall awake up after Christ's likeness, and
be satisfied with itwhen the Lord our God shall come, and all the
saints with Him. Dear, a gem cannot be engraved without the
cutting-tools. Wouldst thou rather be spared the pain of the cutting
than have Christ's likeness graven upon thee?
Oh, could it not be done with less cutting?
Yesand more faintly graven then.
Clarice sobbed, without speaking.
If the likeness is to be in high relief, so that all men may see
it, and recognise the resemblance, and applaud the graver, Clarice, the
tool must cut deep.
If one could ever know that it was nearly done, it would be easier
to bear it.
Ay, but how if the vision were granted us, and we saw that it was
not nearly done by many a year? It is better not to know, dear. Yet it
is natural to us all to think that it would be far easier if we could
see. Therefore the more `blessed is he that hath not seen, and yet hath
I do think, said poor Clarice, drearily, that I must be the worst
tried of all His people.
Clarice, answered Heliet, in a low voice, I believe there is one
in this very castle far worse tried than thoua cross borne which is
ten times heavier than thine, and has no rose-bud twined around it. And
it is carried with the patience of an angel, with the unselfish
forgetfulness of Christ. The tool is going very deep there, and already
the portrait stands out in beautiful relief. And that cross will never
be laid down till the sufferer parts with it at the very gate of
Heaven. At least, so it seems to me. As the years go on it grows
heavier, and it is crushing him almost into the dust now.
Whom dost thou mean, Heliet?
The Lord Earl, our master.
I can see he is sorely tried; but I never quite understand what his
The sorrow of being actively hated by the only one whom he loves.
The prospect of being left to die, in wifeless and childless
loneliness that terrible loneliness of soul which is so much worse to
bear than any mere physical solitude. God, for some wise reason, has
shut him up to Himself. He has deprived him of all human relationship
and human love; has said to him, `Lean on Me, and walk loose from all
other ties.' A wedded man in the eyes of the world, God has called him
in reality to be an anchorite of the Order of Providence, to follow the
Lamb whithersoever He goeth. And unless mine eyes see very wrongly into
the futureas would God they did!the Master is about to lead this
dear servant into the Gethsemane of His passion, that he may be
fashioned like Him in all things. Ah, Clarice, that takes close
Heliet, what dost thou mean? Canst thou guess what the Lady is
about to do?
I think she is going to leave him.
For earth, said Heliet, softly. God be thanked, that is not for
What an intensely cruel woman she is! cried Clarice, indignantly.
Because, I believe, she is a most miserable one.
Canst thou feel any pity for her?
It is not so easy as for him. Yet I suspect she needs it even more
than he does. Christ have mercy on them both!
I cannot comprehend it, said Clarice.
I will tell thee one thing, answered Heliet. I would rather
change with thee than with Sir Edmund the Earl; and a hundred times
rather with thee than with the Lady Margaret. It is hard to suffer; but
it is worse to be the occasion of suffering. Let me die a thousand
times over with Saint Stephen, before I keep the clothes of the
persecutors with Saul.
Clarice stooped and lifted the child from the cradle.
It is growing late, she said. I suppose we ought not to be up
longer. Good-night, sweetheart, and many thanks for thy counsel. It is
all true, I know; yet
In twenty years, may beor at the longest, when thou hast seen His
Face in righteousnessdear Clarice, thou wilt know it, and want to add
The soft tap of Heliet's crutches had died away, but Clarice stood
still with the child in her arms.
It must be yet now, however, she said, half aloud. Do Thy
will with mecut me and perfect me; but, O God, leave me, leave me
CHAPTER NINE. OVERWHELMED.
I am a useless and an evil man,
God planned my life, and let men spoil His plan.
Isabella Fyvie Mayo.
Oakham was left behind; and to the surprise of the partyexcept the
Countess, her Prime Minister, Father Miles, and her Foreign Secretary,
Feliciathey found themselves lodged in Rochester Castle. Here the
Countess shut herself up, and communicated with the outward world
through her Cabinet only. All orders were brought to the ladies by
Felicia, and were passed to Vivian by Father Miles. The latter was
closeted with his lady for long periods, and rolls of writing appeared
to be the result of these conferences.
The winter moved on with leaden feet, according to the ideas of the
household, and of Ada more particularly.
This sort of life is really something dreadful! said that young
lady. If the frost would only break up, it would make something fresh
to look at. There is nothing to be done!
Poor Ada! responded Olympias, laughing. Do get some needlework.
I am tired of needlework, answered Ada. I am tired of
Felicia came in as the words were spoken.
I have permission to tell you something, she said, with a light in
her black eyes which Clarice felt sure meant mischief. The Lady has
appealed to the holy Father for a divorce from the Lord Earl.
Will she get it? asked Olympias.
No doubt of it, replied Felicia dogmatically.
And if so, what will she do then? asked Ada.
Her pious intention, said Felicia, the black eyes dancing, is to
become a holy Sister of the Order of the blessed Saint Dominic.
Then what is to become of the Lord Earl? queried Olympias. I
suppose he can marry somebody else. I hope he will.
That is no concern of the Lady's, said Felicia, in a tone of pious
severity. The religious do not trouble their holy repose about
externs, except to offer prayers for their salvation.
Why, then, we shall all be turned out! blankly cried Ada. What is
to become of us all?
What will become of me is already settled, replied Felicia
demurely. I am about to make profession in the same convent with my
Thank the saints! reached Clarice's ears in a whisper from
Olympias, and was deliberately echoed in the heart of the former.
But that will never do for me! exclaimed Ada. I am sure I have no
vocation. What am I to do?
The Lady proposes, in her goodness, said the Countess's
mouthpiece, to get thee an appointment in the household of one of the
Ladies the King's daughters.
Ha, jolife! said Ada, and ceased her interjections.
For you, Dames, continued Felicia, turning to Clarice and
Olympias, she says that, being wedded, you are already provided for,
and need no thought on her part.
Oh, then, I may go back to Oakham, answered Olympias in a
satisfied tone. That is what I want.
Clarice wondered sorrowfully what her lot would bewhether she
might return to Oakham. She felt more at home there than anywhere else.
The question was whether, Clarice being now at large, Vivian would
continue in the Earl's service; and even if he did, they might perhaps
no longer live in the Castle. Clarice took this new trouble where she
carried them all; but the Earl's sorrow was more in her mind than her
own. She was learning to cultivate:
A heart at leisure from itself,
To soothe and sympathise.
She found that Vivian had already heard the news from Father Miles,
and she timidly ventured to ask him what he intended to do.
After a few flights of rhetoric concerning the extreme folly of the
Countessto forsake an earldom for the cloister was a proceeding not
in Vivian's line at allthat gentleman condescended so far to answer
his wife as to observe that he was not fool enough not to know when he
was well off. Clarice thankfully conjectured that they would return to
Oakham. She thought it better, however, to ask the question point
blank; and she received a replyof course accompanied by a snub.
Why should we be such fools as to go to Oakham when my Lord is in
Bermondsey! Clarice was surprised. You never know anything! said
Vivian. Of course he is come to town.
Clarice received the snubbing in silence. You are so taken up with
that everlasting brat of yours, added Rose's affectionate father,
that you never know what anybody else is doing.
There had been a time when Clarice would have defended herself
against such accusations. She was learning now that she suffered least
when she received them in meek silence. The only way to deal with
Vivian Barkeworth was to let him alone.
Two long letters went to the Pope that February; one was from the
Countess, the other from the Earl. They are both yet extant, and they
show the character of each as no description could set it forth.
The Countess's letter is a mixture of pious demureness and querulous
selfishness. She tells the Pope that all her life she has intensely
desired to be a nun: that she is, unhappily, in the irreligious
position of a matron, and, moreover, is the suffering wife of an
impious husband. This sinful man requires of herof her, a soul
devoted to religion that she shall behave as if she belonged to the
wicked world which holds himself within its thrall, and shall sacrifice
God to him. She humbly and fervently entreats the holy Father to grant
her a divorce from these bonds of matrimony which so cruelly oppress
her, and to set her soul free that it may soar upwards unrestrained. It
is the letter of a woman who did wish to serve God, but who was
incapable of recognising that it was possible to do it without shutting
herself up in stone walls, and starving body and soul alike.
The Earl's letter is of an entirely different calibre. He tells the
Pope in his turn that he is wedded to a woman whom he dearly loves, and
who resolutely keeps him at arm's length. She will not make a friend of
him, nor behave as a good wife ought to do. This is all he asks of her;
he is as far as can be from wishing to be unkind to her or to cross her
wishes. He only wants her to live with him on reasonable and ordinary
terms. But sheand here the Earl's irrepressible humour breaks out; he
must see the comical side even of his own sorest trouble, and certainly
this had its comical sideshe will not sit next to him at table, but
insists on putting her confessor between; she will not answer Yes or No
to his simplest question, but invariably returns the answer through a
third person. When she goes into her private apartments, she turns the
key in his face. Does the holy Father think this is the way that a
rational wife ought to behave to her own husband? and will he not
remonstrate with her, and induce her to use him a little more kindly
and reasonably than she does? The Earl's letter is that of an injured
and justly provoked man; of a man who loves his wife too well to coerce
or quarrel with her, and who thoroughly perceives the absurdity of his
position no less than its pain. Yet he does feel the pain bitterly, and
he would do anything to end it.
This letter to the Patriarch of Christendom was his last hope.
Entreaties, remonstrances, patient tenderness, loving kindness, all had
proved vain. Now:
He had set his life upon a cast,
And he must run the hazard of the die.
Weary and miserable weeks they were, during which Earl Edmund waited
the Pope's answer. It came at last. The Pope replied as only a Romish
priest could be expected to reply. For the human anguish of the one he
had no sympathy; for the quasi-religious sorrows of the other he had
very much. He decreed, in the name of God, a full divorce between
Edmund Earl of Cornwall, and Margaret his wife, coldly admonishing the
Earl to take the Lord's chastening in good part, and to let the griefs
of earth lift his soul towards Heaven.
But it was not there that this sorrow lifted it at first. The human
agony had to be lived through before the Divine calm and peace could
come to heal it. His last effort had been made in vain. The passionate
hope of twenty years, that the day would come when his long, patient
love should meet with its reward even on earth, was shattered to the
dust. Even if she wished to come back after this, she could never
retrace her steps. Compensation he might find in Heaven, but there
could be none left for him on earth now. Even hope was dead within him.
The fatal Bull fell from the Earl's hand, and dropped a dead weight
on the rushes at his feet. He was a heart-wrecked man, and life had to
Was this manfor his is no fancy picturea poor weak creature, or
was he a strong, heroic soul? Many will write him down the weakling;
perhaps all but those who have themselves known much of that hope
deferred which maketh the heart sick, and drains away the moral
life-blood drop by drop. It may be that the registers of Heaven held
appended to his name a different epithet. It is harder to wait than to
work; hardest of all to awake after long suspense to the blank
conviction that all has been in vain, and then to take up the cross and
meekly follow the Crucified.
Two hours later, a page brought a message to Reginald de Echingham
to the effect that he was wanted by his master.
Reginald, in his own eyes, was a thoroughly miserable man. He had
nobody to talk with, and nothing to do. He missed Olympias sadly, for
as the Earl had once jestingly remarked, she burnt perpetual incense on
his altar, and flattery was a necessary of life to Reginald. Olympias
was the only person who admired him nearly as much as he did himself.
Like the old Romans, partem et circenses constituted his list of
indispensables; and had it been inevitable to dispense with one of them
for a time, Reginald would have resigned the bread rather than the
game. On this particular morning, his basket of grievances was full.
The damp had put his moustache out of curl; he had found a poor
breakfast provided for himand Reginald was by no means indifferent to
his breakfastand, worst of all, the mirror was fixed so high up on
the wall that he could not see himself comfortably. The usual religious
rites of the morning before his own dear image had, therefore, to be
very imperfectly performed. Reginald grumbled sorely within himself as
he went through the cold stone passages which led to the Earl's
His master lifted very sad eyes to his face.
De Echingham, I wish to set out for Ashridge to-morrow. Can you be
Ashridge! De Echingham would as soon have received marching orders
for Spitzbergen. If there were one place in the world which he hated in
his inmost soul, it was that Priory in Buckinghamshire, which Earl
Edmund had himself founded. He would be worse off there than even in
Bermondsey Palace, with nothing around him but silent walls and almost
equally silent monks. De Echingham ventured on remonstrance.
Would not your Lordship find Berkhamsted much more pleasurable,
especially at this season?
I do not want pleasure, answered the Earl wearily. I want rest.
And he rose and began to walk aimlessly up and down the room, in
that restless manner which was well suited to emphasise his words.
Butyour Lordship's pardon grantedwould you not find it far
better to seek for distraction and pleasance in the Court, than to shut
yourself up in a gloomy cell with those monks?
Earl Edmund stopped in his walk and looked at Reginald, whose speech
touched his quick sense of humour.
I would advise you to give thanks in your prayers to-night, De
For what, my Lord?
That you have as yet no conception of a sorrow which is past
distraction by pleasance. `Vinegar upon nitre!' You never tasted it, I
I thank your Lordship, I never did, said Reginald, who took the
allusion quite literally.
Well, I have done, and I did not like it, rejoined his master. I
prefer the monks' soupe maigre, if you please. Be so good as to
make ready, De Echingham.
Reginald obeyed, but grumbling bitterly within his disappointed
soul. Could there be any misery on earth worse than a cold stone bench,
a bowl of sorrel soup, and a chapter of Saint Augustine to flavour it?
And when they had only just touched the very edge of the London season!
Why, he would not get a single ball that spring. Poor Reginald!
They stayed but one night at Berkhamsted, though, to the Earl,
Berkhamsted was home. It was the scene of his birth, and of that
blessed unapprehensive childhood, when brothers and sisters had played
with him on the Castle green, and light, happy laughter had rung
through the noble halls; when the hand of his fair Provencal mother had
fallen softly in caresses on his head, and his generous, if
extravagant, father had been only too ready to shower gold ducats in
anticipation of his slightest wish. All was gone now but the cold
goldhard, silent, unfeeling; a miserable comforter indeed. There was
one brother left, but he was far awaytoo far to recall in this
desolate hour. Like a sufferer of later date, he must go alone with his
God to bear his passion. [Note 1.]
The Priory of Ashridgeof the Order of Bonihomineswhich Earl
Edmund had founded a few years before, was the only one of its class in
England. The Predicant Friars were an offshoot of the Dominican Order;
and the Boni-Homines were a special division of the Predicant Friars.
It is a singular fact that from this one source of Dominicans or Black
Monks, sprang the best and the worst issues that ever emanated from
monachismthe Bonihomines and the Inquisition.
The Boni-Homines were, in a word, the Protestants of the Middle
Ages. Anda remarkable featurethey were not, like all other
seceders, persons who had separated themselves from the corruptions of
Rome. They were better off, for they had never been tainted with them.
From the first ages of primitive Christianity, while on all sides the
stream was gradually growing sluggish and turbid, in the little nest of
valleys between Dauphine and Piedmont it had flowed fresh and pure, fed
by the Word of God, which the Vaudois [Note 2] mountaineers suffered no
Pope nor Church to wrench or shut up from them.
The oldest name by which we know these early Protestants is
Paulikians, probably having a reference to the Apostle Paul as either
the exponent of their doctrines, or the actual founder of their local
church. A little later we find them styled Cathari, or Pure Ones. Then
we come on their third name of Albigenses, derived from the
neighbouring town of Alby, where a Council was held which condemned
them. But by whatever name they are called they are the same people,
living in the same valleys, and holding unwaveringly and unadulterated
the same faith.
It was by their fourth name of Boni-Homines, or Good Men, that they
took advantage of the preaching movement set up by the Dominicans in
the thirteenth century. They permeated their ranks, however, very
gradually and quietlyperhaps all the more surely. For shortly after
the date of this story, in the early part of the fourteenth century, it
is said that of every three Predicant Friars, two were Bonihomines.
The Boni-Homines were rife in France before they ever crept into
England; and the first man to introduce them into England was Edmund,
Earl of Cornwall. A hundred years later, when the Boni-Homines had
shown what they really were, and the leaven with which they had
saturated society had evolved itself in Lollardism, the monks of other
Orders did their best to bring both the movement and the men into
disrepute, and to paint in the blackest colours the name of the Prince
who had first introduced them into this country. In no monkish
chronicle, unless written by a Bonus Homo, will the name of Earl Edmund
be found recorded without some word of condemnation. And the
Boni-Homines, unfortunately for history, were not much given to writing
chronicles. Their business was saving souls.
Most important is it to remember, in forming just estimates of the
character of thingswhether men or eventsin the Middle Ages, that
with few exceptions monks were the only historians. Before we can
truthfully set down this man as good, or that man as bad, we must,
therefore, consult other sourcesthe chronicles of those few writers
who were not monks, the State papers, but above all, where accessible,
the personal accounts and private letters of the individuals in
question. It is pitiable to see well-meaning Protestant writers, even
in our own day, repeating after each other the old monkish
calumnies, and never so much as pausing to inquire, Are these things
Late on the evening of the following day the Prior and monks of
Ashridge stood at the gate ready to receive their founder. The
circumstances of his coming were unknown to them, and they were
prepared to make it a triumphal occasion. But the first glance at his
face altered all that. The Prior quietly waved his monks back, and,
going forward himself, kissed his patron's hand, and led him silently
into the monastery.
Poor Sir Reginald found himself condemned to all the sorrows he had
anticipated, down to the sorrel soupfor it was a vigiland the straw
mattress, which, though considerably softer than the plank beds of the
monks, was barely endurable to his ease-loving limbs. He looked as he
feltextremely uncomfortable and exceedingly cross.
The Prior wasted no attentions on him. Such troubles as these were
not worth a thought in his eyes; but his founder's face cost him many
thoughts. He saw too plainly that for him had come one of those dread
hours in life when the floods of deep waters overflow a man, and unless
God take him into the ark of His covenant mercy, he will go down in the
current. It was after some hours of prayer that the Prior tapped at the
door of the royal guest.
Earl Edmund's quiet voice bade him enter.
How fares it with my Lord?
How is it likely to fare, was the sorrowful answer, with one who
hath lost hope?
The Prior sat down opposite his guest, where he might have the
opportunity of studying his countenance. He was himself the senior of
the Earl, being a man of about sixty yearsa man in whom there had
been a great deal of fire, and in whose dark, gleaming eyes there were
many sparks left yet.
Father, said the Earl, in a low, pained voice, I am perplexed to
understand God's dealings with me.
Did you expect to understand them? was the reply.
Thus far I didthat I thought He would finish what He had begun.
But all my lifeso far as this earthly life is concernedI have been
striving for one aim, and it has come to utter wreck. I set one object
before me, and I thoughtI thought it was God's will that I
should pursue it. If He, by some act of His own providence, had shown
me the contrary, I could have understood it better. But He has let men
step in and spoil all. It is not He, but they who have brought about
this wreck. My barge is not shattered by the winds and waves of God,
but scuttled by the violence of pirates. My life is spoiled, and I do
not understand why. I have done nothing but what I thought He intended
me to do: I have set my heart on one thing, but it was a thing that I
believed He meant to give me. It is all mystery to me.
What is spoiled, my Lord? Is it what God meant you to do, or what
you meant God to do?
The sand grew to a larger heap in the hour-glass before another word
Father, said the Prince at last, have I been intent on following
my own will, when I thought I was pursuing the Lord's will for me?
Father Bevis thinks so: he gave me some very hard words before I came
here. He accuses me of idolatry; of loving the creature more than the
Creator nay, of setting up my will and aim, and caring nothing for
those of the Lord. In his eyes, I ought to have perceived years ago
that God called me to a life apart with Him, and to have detached my
heart from all but Himself and His Church. Father, it is hard enough to
realise the wreck of all a man hoped and longed for: yet it is harder
to know that the very hope was sin, that the longing was contrary to
the Divine purpose for me. Have I so misunderstood my life? Have I so
misunderstood my Master?
The expression of the Prior's eyes was very pitying and full of
tenderness. Hard words were not what he thought needed as the medicine
for that patient. They were only to be expected from Father Bevis, who
had never suffered the least pang of that description of pain.
My Lord, answered the Prior, gently, it is written of the wicked
man, `Thou hast removed Thy judgments from his eyes.' They are not to
be seen nor fathomed by him. And to a great extent it is equally true
of the righteous man. Man must not look to be able to comprehend the
ways of Godthey are above him. It is enough for him if he can walk
submissively in them.
I wonder, said the Earl, still pursuing his own train of thought,
if I ought to have been a monk. I never imagined it, for I never felt
any vocation. It seemed to me that Providence called me to a life
entirely different. Have I made an utter blunder all my life? I cannot
There is no need to think it, my Lord. We cannot all be monks, even
if we would. And why should we? It might, perhaps, be better for you to
think one other thing.
What? asked the Earl, with more appearance of interest than he had
That what you suppose to be the spoiling of your life is just what
God intended for you.
The Earl's face grew dark. What! that all my life long He was
leading me up to this?
It looks like it, said the Prior, quietly.
Oh! but why?
Now, my Lord, you go beyond me. Neither you nor I can guess that.
But He knows.
Yes, I suppose He knows. But the consideration did not seem to
comfort him as it had done before when suggested by Father Bevis.
Perhaps, said the Prior again, softly, there was no other way for
your Lordship to the gate of the Holy City. He leads us by diverse
ways; some through the flowery mead, and some over the desert sands
where no water is. But of all it is written, `He led them forth by the
right way, that they might reach the haven of their desire.' Would your
Lordship have preferred the mead and have missed the haven?
No, answered the Earl, firmly.
Remember that you hold God's promise that when you awake up after
His likeness you shall be satisfied with it. And he is not satisfied
with his purchase who accounts it to have cost more than it was worth.
Will your figure hold if pressed further? said the Earl, with a
wintry smile. The purchase may be worth a thousand marks, but if I
have but five hundred in the world I shall starve to death before the
gem is mine.
No, my Lord, it will not hold. For you cannot pay the price of that
gem. The cost of it was His who will keep it safe for you, so that you
cannot fling it away in mistake or folly. Figures must fail somewhere;
and we want another in this case. My Lord, you are the gem, and the
heavenly Graver is fashioning on you the King's likeness. Will you stay
His hand before it is perfect?
I would it were near perfection! sighed the Earl.
Perhaps it is, said the Prior, gently. Remember, it is your
Father who is graving it.
The Earl's lip quivered. If one could but know when it would be
done! If one might know that in seven yearsten yearsit would be
complete, and one's heart and brain might find rest! But to think of
its going on for twenty, thirty, forty
They will look short enough, my Lord, when they are over.
True. But not while they are passing.
Nay, `No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous.' Yet
`faint not when thou art rebuked of Him.'
It is the going on, that is so terrible! said the Earl, almost
under his breath. If one might die when one's hope dies! Father, do
you know anything of that?
In this world, my Lord, I dug a grave in mine own heart for all my
hopes, forty years ago.
And can you look back on that time calmly?
That depends on what you mean by calmness. Trustfully, yes;
Yet the religious say that God requires their affections to be
detached from the world. That must produce deadness of feeling.
My Lord, there is such a thing as being alive from the dead. That
is what God requires. If we tarry at the dying, we shall stop short of
His perfection. We are to be dead to sin; but I nowhere find in
Scripture that we are to die to love and happiness. That is man's gloss
upon God's precept.
Is that what you teach in your valleys?
We teach God's Word, said the Vaudois Prior. Alas! for the men
that have made it void through their tradition! `If they speak not
according thereunto, it is because there is no light in them.'
And you learn suggested the Earl in a more interested tone.
We learn that God requires of His servants that they shall overcome
the world; and He has told us what He means by the world`The lust of
the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.' Whatever
has become that to me, that am I to overcome, if I would reign with
Christ when He cometh.
We Protestants can hardly understand the fearful extent to which
Rome binds the souls of her votaries. When she goes so farwhich she
rarely doesas to hold out God's Word with one hand, she carries in
the other an antidote to it which she calls the interpretation of the
Church, derived from the consent of the Fathers. That the Fathers
scarcely ever consent to anything does not trouble her. According to
this interpretation, all human affection comes for monk or nun under
the head of the lusts of the flesh. [Note 3.] A daughter's love for her
mother, a father's for his child, is thus branded. From his cradle Earl
Edmund had been taught this; was it any marvel if he found it
impossible to get rid of the idea? The Prior's eyes were less blinded.
He had come straight from those Piedmontese valleys where, from time
immemorial, the Word of God has not been bound, and whosoever would has
been free to slake his thirst at the pure fountain of the water of
life. Love was not dead in his heart, and he was not ashamed of it.
But then, Father, you must reckon all love a thing to be left
behind? very naturally queried the Earl.
It will not be so in Heaven, answered the Prior; then why should
it be on earth? Left behind! Think you I left behind me the one love of
my life when I became a Bonus Homo? I trow not. My Lord, forty years
ago this summer, I was a young man, just entering life, and betrothed
to a maiden of the Val Pellice. God laid His hand upon my hopes of
earthly happiness, and said, `Not so!' But must I, therefore, sweep my
Adelaide's memory out of my heart as if I had never loved her, and hold
it sin against God to bear her sweet face in tender remembrance? Nay,
verily, I have not so learned Christ.
What happened? said the Earl.
God sent His angels for her, answered the Prior in a low voice.
Ah, but she loved you! was the response, in a tone still lower.
The Earl did not know how much, in those few words, he told the Prior
My Lord, said the Prior, did you ever purchase a gift for one you
loved, and keep it by you, carefully wrapped up, not letting him know
till the day came to produce it?
The Earl looked up as if he did not see the object of the question;
but he answered in the affirmative.
It may be, continued the Prior, that God our Father does the same
at times. I believe that many will find gifts on their Father's table,
at the great marriage-feast of the Lamb, which they never knew they
were to have, and some which they fancied were lost irrevocably on
earth. And if there be anything for which our hearts cry out that is
not waiting for us, surely He can and will still the craving.
The Prior scarcely realised the effect of his words. He saw
afterwards that the most painful part of the Earl's grief was
lightened, that the terrible strain was gone from his eyes. He thanked
God and took courage. He did not know that he had, to some extent,
given him back the most precious thing he had losthope. He had only
moved it further offfrom earth to Heaven; and, if more distant, yet
it was safer there.
The Prior left the Earl alone after that interviewalone with the
Evangelisterium and the Psalter. The words of God were better for him
than any words of men.
He stayed at Ashridge for about a fortnight, and then, to the
ecstasy of Sir Reginald, issued orders for return to Berkhamsted. Only
a few words passed between the Prior and his patron as they took leave
of each other at the gate.
Farewell, Father, and many thanks. You have done me goodas much
good as man can do me now.
My Lord, that acknowledgment is trust money, which I will pay into
the treasury of your Lord and mine.
So they parted, to meet only once again. The Vaudois Prior was to go
down with his friend to the river-side, to the last point where man can
go with man.
Note 1. Je vais seul avec mon Dieu souffrir ma
passion.Bonnivard, Prior of Saint Victor.
Note 2. Vaudois is not really an accurate epithet, since the
Valley-Men only acquired it when, in after years, ejected, from their
old home, they sought shelter in the Pays de Vaud. But it has come to
be regarded as a name expressive of certain doctrines.
Note 3. They (the Jesuits) were cut off from family and friends.
Their vow taught them to forget their father's house, and to esteem
themselves holy only when every affection and desire which nature had
planted in their breasts had been plucked up by the roots. (
Jesuitism, by the Reverend J.A. Wylie, Ll.D.) This statement is
simply a shade less true of the other monastic orders.
CHAPTER TEN. FORGIVENESS NOT TO BE
Ay, there's a blank at my right hand
That ne'er can be made up to me.James Hogg.
Before leaving Bermondsey, the Earl had accomplished one of the
hardest pieces of work which ever fell to his lot. This was the
execution of the deed of separation which conveyed his legal assent to
the departure of his wife, and assigned to her certain lands for her
separate sustenance. Himself the richest man in England, he was
determined that she should remain the wealthiest woman. He assigned to
her all his lands in Norfolk and Suffolk, the manors of Kirketon in
Lincolnshire, Malmesbury and Wyntreslawe in Wiltshire, and an annuity
on Queenhithe, Middlesexthe whole sum amounting to 800 pounds per
annum, which was equivalent to at least 15,000 pounds a year. He
reserved to himself the appointments to all priories and churches, and
the military feofs and escheats. Moreover, the Countess was not to sell
any of the lands, nor had she the right to build castles. So far, in
all probability, any man would have gone. But one other item was added,
which came straight from the human heart of Earl Edmund, and was in the
thirteenth century a very strange item indeed. The Countess, it was
expressly provided, should not waste, exile, enslave, nor destroy the
serfs on these estates. [Note 1.]
The soul of Haman the Agagite, which had descended upon Margaret de
Clare, fiercely resented this unusual clause. On the same roll which
contains the Earl's grant, in ordinary legal languagewhich must have
cost him something where he records her wish, and his assent, freely
during her widowhood to dedicate herself to the service of God,
there is another document, in very extraordinary language, wherein the
Lady Margaret recounts the wrongs which her lord is doing her in
respect of this 800 pounds a year. A more spiteful production was
hardly ever penned. From the opening address to all who shall read or
hear this document to the concluding assertion that she has hereto set
her seal, the indenture is crammed full of envy, hatred, and malice,
and all uncharitableness. She lets it plainly be seen that all the
lands in Norfolk and Suffolk avail her nothing, so long as these
restraining clauses are added to the grant. Margaret probably thought
that she was merely detailing her wrongs; she did not realise that she
was exhibiting her character. But for these four documents, the two
letters, and the two indentures, wherein Earl and Countess have
respectively pressed their souls on paper, we might never have known
which was to blame in the matter. Out of her own mouth is Margaret
With amazing effrontery, and in flat contradiction not only of her
husband's assertion, but of her own admission, the Countess commenced
her tirade by bringing against her lord the charge of which she herself
was guilty. As he was much the more worthy of credit, I prefer to
believe him, confirmed as his statement is by her own letter to the
Pope. She went on to detail the terms of separation, making the most of
everything against her husband, and wound up with a sentence which must
have pierced his heart like a poignard. She solemnly promised never to
aggrieve him at any time by asking him to take her back, and never to
seek absolution [Note 2] from that oath! In one sentence of cold,
cruel, concentrated spite, she sarcastically swore never to demand from
him the love for which during one and twenty years he had sued to her
So now all was over between them. The worst that could come had
All was ended now, the hope, and the fear, and the sorrow,
All the aching heart, the restless unsatisfied longing,
All the dull deep pain, and constant anguish of patience!
There was no more left to fear, for there was nothing left to hope.
The Countess, attended by Father Miles and Felicia, left Rochester
in June for Romsey Abbey, where she solemnly assumed the veil of a
black nun. She was now plain Sister Margaret, and in due course of time
and promotion, she would become Mother Margaret, and then, perhaps,
Prioress and Abbess. And thenher soul would be required of her.
Mother Margaret! What bitter mockery of a title for the woman who
had deliberately flung away from her as a worthless weed the white
flower of love which she might have cherished!
Of course, the household was now scattered. Ada had been received
into the household of the Countess of Gloucester, the King's daughter
Joan. Olympias was pining to return to Reginald, if she could form some
idea in what part of the world he might be found; Clarice was awaiting
her imperious lord's commands. The morning after the Countess had taken
her last farewell of them all, as they were still in this attitude of
doubt and expectation, in walked Sir Lambert Aylmer. He was greeted
with delight. Roisia was well, he reported, and sent her loving
commendations to all; but the object of his coming was not to talk
about Roisia. The Earl, with Sir Reginald, was at Restormel, one of his
Cornish castles; but in a letter received from the latter gentleman,
Sir Lambert had been requested to inform Olympias that their master
desired them all to repair to Berkhamsted, whither he meant to come
shortly, and they should then hear his intentions for the future.
The saints send he mean not to be a monk! said Olympias, shrugging
But nothing was further from Earl Edmund's purpose.
They reached Berkhamsted in a day or two, and to Clarice's great
delight, found there not only Mistress Underdone and the two
bower-maidens, but Sir Ademar and Heliet. It was a new and pleasant
discovery that Heliet could travel. It had been a sort of accepted
idea, never investigated, that her leaving Oakham was an impossibility;
but Ademar had coaxed her to try, and Heliet was quite willing. The
result was that she had reached Berkhamsted in safety, to her own
intense enjoyment; for she had never before been a mile from Oakham,
and the discovery that she was no longer a fixture, but could accompany
her husband wherever duty called him was to Heliet unspeakable delight.
It was not till October that the Earl reached home; for he stayed at
Bristol for the wedding of the eldest princess, Alianora, with Henri
Duke of Barre, which took place on the twentieth of September. The
morning after his arrival he desired to speak with the whole of his
household, who were to assemble in the hall for that purpose.
Olympias was positive that her master was about to take the cowl.
And it would be so nice, you see, she said; just a match to the
Nice, indeed! said Reginald, pulling a terrible face. Thou hast
not spent a fortnight at Ashridge.
Well, but he would not want to make a monk of thee, answered
Olympias, rather blankly.
He would not manage it, if he tried, responded her lord and
When the Earl's intentions were stated, it appeared that he had no
further occasion for the services of Sir Reginald and Olympias, and he
had secured for them situations, if they chose to accept them, in the
household of the royal bride. Olympias was in ecstasies; to live in
France was a most delicious fate in her eyes, nor did Reginald in the
least object to it. Filomena and Sabina were provided for with the
Countess of Lincoln and the Princess Elizabeth, Mistress Underdone,
Heliet, and Sir Ademar would remain at Berkhamsted. And then the Earl,
turning to Vivian and Clarice, requested as a favour to himself that
they would remain also. It was necessary to have a lady of rank
namely, a knight's wifeat the head of the establishment. The Earl had
no sister who could take that position; and his brother's widow, the
Lady Constance d'Almayne, had preferred to return to her own home in
Bearn rather than live in England. Heliet might have answered, but the
Earl felt, with his usual considerate gentleness, that her lameness
would make it a great charge and trouble to her. He wished Clarice to
take it, if her husband would allow her, and was willing to continue in
And, truth to tell, said the Earl, with a sad smile at Rosie, who
was making frantic efforts to compass the fearful distance of three
yards between the Earl's chair and Clarice's outstretched hand, you
have here a jewel which I were very loth to lose from my empty casket.
So, Sir Vivian, what say you?
What became of either Clarice or Rosie was a matter of very little
importance to Vivian, for he considered them both in the light of
encumbranceswhich was rather hard on Clarice at least, as she would
thankfully have got out of his way if duty had allowed it. But, as he
had once said, he knew when he was well off, and he had no wish to pass
into the service either of a meaner nobleman or of a harder master.
Vivian assented without a qualifying word.
Thus, with Clarice, life sank back into its old groove, and time
sped on, uneventful except for the two items that every day little
Rosie grew in intelligence and attractiveness, and every month, as it
seemed to her mother, the Earl grew a year older. Clarice doubted if
Rosie were not his sole tie to life. She became his chief companion,
and on the little child who was no kin of his he poured out all the
rich treasure of that warm great heart which his own held at so small a
value. Rosie, however, was by no means irresponsive. Any one seeing her
would have taken the Earl to be her father, and Sir Vivian a stranger
of whom she was rather frightened.
The year 1294 was signalised by a remarkable action on the part of
King Edward. In order to defray the vast expenses of his Welsh and
Breton wars, he took into his own hands all the priories in England,
committing their lands and goods to the care of state officials, and
allowing eighteenpence per week for the sustenance of each monk. The
allowance was handsome, but the proceeding was very like burglary.
The exact religious position of Edward the First is not so easy to
define as that of some other monarchs. With respect to any personal and
spiritual religion, it is, alas! only too easy. But it is difficult to
say how far his opposition to the Pope originated from a deliberate
policy, well thought out beforehand, and how far from the momentary
irritation of a crossed will. He certainly was not the intelligent
supporter of the Boni-Homines from personal conviction, that was to be
found in his son, Edward the Second, or in his cousin, Edmund, Earl of
Cornwall. Yet he did support them to a certain extent, though more in
the earlier part of his life than in the later. Like many another man
in his position, he was ready enough to assist a body of sensible
literary reformers, but, when the doctrine which they held began to
press personally on himself, he shrank from the touch of Ithuriel's
spear. That his subjects should be made better and more obedient by
means of the Decalogue, or any other code, was a most excellent thing;
but when the Decalogue came closer and said, Thou shalt not, to
himself, then it was an intrusive nuisance.
In the following year, 1295, the King laid the foundation of borough
representation, by directing the sheriffs of the various counties to
send to Parliament, along with the knights of the shire, two deputies
from each borough, who were to be elected by the townsmen, and
empowered to consent, in the name of their constituents, to the decrees
of the King and his Council. It is a most equitable rule, added the
Monarch, that what concerns all should be judged of by all.
Concerning the possibility of these members dissenting from his
decrees, however, His Majesty was not quite so eloquent. That
contingency was one which a sovereign in the thirteenth century could
scarcely be expected to take into his august consideration.
But King Edward wanted more money, and apparently preferred to grind
it out of his monks rather than his peasants. He now instituted a
search of all the monasteries in England, and commanded the
confiscation of all cash. The monasteries resisting the excessive
taxation laid upon them, the King seized their lay fees.
In the December of this year, Earl Edmund left Berkhamsted for
Cornwall, taking with him Vivian, and leaving Ademar behind as the only
gentleman in the party. He was going on an errand unpleasant to
himself, for the King had committed to his charge a portion of the
Gascon army. War and contention were altogether out of his line, yet he
had no choice but to obey. He joined his cousin, the Earl of Lancaster,
and the Earl of Lincoln, in Cornwall, and together they sailed on the
fifteenth of January 1296, from a Cornish port termed Plumhupe in the
Chronicle of Worcester, but not easy to identify now, unless it be
taken as a blunder for Plymouth, and the chronicler be supposed
ignorant of its county. With them were twenty-five barons and a
During the absence of the Earl, it struck his cousin, the Kingfor
no other reason can be guessedthat the Earl's treasury being much
better filled than his own, he might reasonably pay his debts out of
his cousin's overflowing coffers. Accordingly he sent to Berkhamsted,
much to the dismay of the household, and coolly annexed his cousin's
valuables to the Crown. But Earl Edmund was a man in whose eyes gold
was of comparatively small value, partly because he set other things
much higher, and partly because he had always had so much of it, that
poverty was a trouble which he was scarcely able to realise.
A sad year was 1296 to the royal family of England. The Gascon
expedition proved so disastrous, that Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, died
of grief and disappointment at Bayonne on the fifth of June; and the
Scottish one, though brilliantly successful in a political light, cost
no less, for an arrow shot at a venture, at the siege of Berwick,
quenched the young life of Richard Plantagenet, the only brother and
last near relation of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall. The triumphant capture
of the coronation chair and the Stone of Destiny and their removal from
Dunstaffnage to England, was contrasted with a terrible famine, which
so affected the vines in particular, that there was hardly wine enough
left for mass.
In the midst of these sharp contrasts of triumph and sorrow, Earl
Edmund returned to England, escorting his widowed cousin Queen Blanche,
and following the coffin of the Earl of Lancaster. They found the King
earnestly engaged in effecting a contract of marriage between the young
Prince Edward and a daughter of Guy, Count of Flanders, and binding
himself to march to Guy's assistance against the King of France.
Ah, had it been God's will that the wife destined for Edward the
Second should have been the pure, high-minded, heroic Philippine of
Flanders, instead of the she-wolf of France, what a different history
he would have had!
For among all the princesses of the thirteenth century one of the
fairest souls is this Flemish maiden, who literally laid down her life
in ransom for her father. It was not Prince Edward's fault that
Philippine was not Queen of England. It was the fault of the ambitious
policy alike of King Edward and the King of France, and perhaps still
more of his Navarrese Queen. They did not know that they were
sacrificing not only Philippine, but Edward. Would they have cared much
about it if they had done?
The regalia of Scotland were solemnly offered at the shrine of Saint
Edward on the 17th of June. Earl Edmund was present at the ceremony,
and after it, weary with the storms of earth, he went home to court
repose at Berkhamsted.
It was the day after he came home, a soft, warm June day. Clarice
and Heliet were playing with Rosie, now a bright, lively little child
of five years old. In rushing away from Heliet, who was pretending to
catch her, Rosie, to the dismay of all parties, ran straight against
her father, who had just reached the top of the spiral staircase which
led to their own rooms. Vivian, never very amiable when his course was
impeded, either by a physical or a moral hindrance, impatiently pushed
the child on one side. It was the wrong side. Rosie struggled to
recover her balance for one moment, during which her father's hand
might have grasped her, had he been quick to do it; her mother had
not time to reach her. Then, with an inarticulate cry for help, she
went down the well of the staircase.
Past Heliet's exclamation of horror came a sharp ringing shriekO
Vivian! Rosie! and darting by her astounded husband, down the stairs
fled Clarice, with a celerity that she would have thought impossible an
Vivian's state of mind was a mixture of selfishness and horror. He
had not intended to hurt the child, merely to get her out of his way;
but when selfishness and remorse struggle together, the worse of the
two usually comes to the front. Vivian's first articulate answer was a
growl at his wife.
Why did you not keep her out of my way? Gramercy, what a fuss about
Then he read his guilt in Heliet's eyes, and began faltering out
excuses and asseverations that he had not meant anything.
Clarice reached the foot of the stairs without heeding a word he
said. But other hands, as tender as her own, were there before her.
Little Rosie! my poor little child! came from Earl Edmund's gentle
lips, as he lifted the bruised child in his arms. Tenderly as it was
done, Rosie could not repress a moan of pain which went to the two
hearts that loved her.
She was not killed, but she was dying.
A few hours, said the Earl's physician, instantly summoned, a few
hours. There was nothing to be done. She would very likely not suffer
muchwould hardly be conscious of pain until the end came.
The Earl bore her into his own chamber, and laid her on his bed.
With speechless agony Clarice watched beside her.
Just once Rosie spoke.
Mother, Mother, don't cry!
Clarice was shedding no tears; they would not come yet; but in
Rosie's eyes her strained white face was an equivalent.
Mother, don't cry, said Rosie. You saidI asked youwhy people
died. You said our Lord called them. Must gowhen our Lord calls.
Clarice was not able to answer; but Rosie's words struck cold to her
Must go when our Lord calls!
She could hardly pray. What went up was not prayer, but rather a
wild, passionate cry that this thing could not beshould not be.
There were those few hours of half-consciousness, and then, just at
the turn of the night, the Lord came and called, and Rosie heard His
voice, and went to Him.
Sir Vivian Barkeworth, during that day and night, was not pursuing
the even tenor of his way in that state of complacent self-approval
which was the usual attitude of his mind. It was not that he mourned
the child; his affections were at all times of a microscopic character,
and the only spark of regard which he entertained for Rosie was not as
his little child, but as his future heiress. Nor was he at all troubled
by the sufferings of Clarice. Women were always crying about something;
they were decided hindrances and vexations in a man's way; in fact, the
existence of women at all, except to see to a man's comforts, and amuse
his leisure, was, in Sir Vivian's eyes, an unfortunate mistake in the
arrangements of Providence. He mourned first the good opinion which
people had of him, and which, by the way, was a much smaller package
than Sir Vivian thought it; and secondly, the far more important
disturbance of the excellent opinion which he had of himself. He could
not rid himself of the unpleasant conviction that a little more
patience and amiability on his part would have prevented all this
disagreeable affair, though he would not for the world have
acknowledged this conviction to Clarice. That was what he thought ita
disagreeable affair. It was the purest accident, he said to himself,
and might have happened to any one. At the same time, something, which
did not often trouble Vivian, deep down in his inner man, distinctly
told him that such an accident would never have happened to the Earl or
Sir Ademar. Vivian only growled at his conscience when it gave him that
faint prick. He was so accustomed to bid it be quiet, that it had
almost ceased to give him any hints, and the pricking was very slight.
A disagreeable business! he said, inwardly; a most disagreeable
business. Why did not Clarice attend to her duties better? It was her
duty to keep that child from bothering me. What are women good for but
to keep their children out of mischief, and to see that their husbands'
paths through life are free from every thorn and pebble?
Sir Vivian had reached this point when one of the Earl's pages
brought him a message. His master wished his attendance in his private
sitting-room. Vivian inwardly anathematised the Earl, the page, Heliet
(as a witness), Rosie (as the offender), but above all, as the head and
front of all his misery, Clarice. He was not the less disposed to
anathemas when he found Sir Ademar, Heliet, Clarice, and Master Franco,
the physician, assembled to receive him with the Earl. It rasped him
further to perceive that they were all exceedingly grave, though how he
could have expected any of them to look hilarious it would be difficult
to say. Especially he resented the look of desolate despair in
Clarice's eyes, and the physical exhaustion and mental agony written in
every line of her white face. He would not have liked to admit that he
felt them all as so many trumpet-tongued accusers against him.
I desired you all to assemble, said the Earl, in tones as gentle
as usual, but with an under-current of pain, because I wish to inquire
in what manner our poor little darling met her death. How came she to
fall down the staircase?
He looked at Heliet, and she was the one to reply.
It was an accident, my Lord, I think, she said.
`You think?' Is there some doubt, then?
No one answered him but Ademar. Pardon me, my Lord; I was not
Then I ask one who was present. Dame Heliet?
I hope there is no doubt, my Lord, answered Heliet. I should be
sorry to think so.
The bushy eyebrows, which were the only blemish to the handsome
Plantagenet face of the Earl, were lowered at this reply.
What am I to understand by that? he asked. Did the child throw
herself down of her own will?
Oh, no, my Lord, no!
Did any one push her down?
Sir Ademar was not present. Were you, Sir Vivian?
Vivian, whose face was far more eloquent in this instance than his
tongue, muttered an affirmative.
Then you can answer me. Did any one push her down?
Vivian's reply was unintelligible, being hardly articulate.
Will you have the goodness to repeat that, if you please? said his
In Clarice's heart a terrible tempest had been raging. Ought she not
to speak, and declare the fact of which she felt sure, that Vivian had
not been intentionally the murderer of his child? that whatever he
might have done, he had meant no more than simply to push her aside?
Conscientiousness strove hard with bitterness and revenge. Why should
she go out of her way to shield the man who had been the misery of her
life from the just penalty which he deserved for having made that life
more desolate than ever? She knew that her voice would be the most
potent therethat her vote would outweigh twenty others. The pleading
of the bereaved mother in favour of the father of the dead child was
just what would make its way straight to the heart of his judge.
Clarice's own heart said passionately, No! Rosie's dead face must stand
between him and her for ever. But then upon her spirit's fever fell
calming wordswords which she repeated every day of her lifewords
which she had taught Rosie.
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
If God were to forgive her as she forgave Vivian, what would become
of her? Would she ever see Rosie again? And then a cry for help and
strength to do it went up beyond the stars.
The Earl was quietly waiting for the repetition of Vivian's answer.
It came at lastthe answernot a repetition.
Saint Mary love us, my Lord! I never meant any harm.
You never meant! replied a stern voice, not at all like Earl
Edmund's gentle tones. Did you do it?
Before Vivian could reply, to every one's astonishment, and most of
all to his, Clarice threw herself down on her knees, and deprecatingly
kissed the hand which rested on the arm of her master's chair.
Mercy, my good Lord, I entreat you! It was a pure accident, and
nothing more. I know Sir Vivian meant no more than to push the child
gently out of his way. He did not calculate on the force he used. It
was only an accidenthe never thought of hurting her. For the sake of
my dead darling, whom I know you loved, my gracious Lord, grant me
mercy for her father!
The silence was broken for a moment only by Heliet's sobs. The Earl
had covered his face with his hands. Then he looked into Clarice's
pleading eyes, with eyes in which unshed tears were glistening.
Dame Clarice, said Earl Edmund in his softest tone, you
wish me to grant Sir Vivian mercy?
I implore it of your Lordship, for His sake to whom my child is
gone, and hers.
The Earl's eyes went to Vivian, who stood looking the picture of
guilt and misery.
You hear, Sir Vivian? You are pardoned, but not for your sake. Be
it yours to repay this generous heart.
The party dispersed in a few minutes. But when Ademar and Heliet
found themselves alone, the former saidWill he love her after this?
Love her! returned Heliet. My dear husband, thou dost not know
that man. He owes his life to her generosity, and he will never forgive
her for it.
Note 1. Rot. Pat., 22 Edward the First.
Note 2. The language of this sentence is remarkable:Jeo ou nul
autre en moun noun purchace absolucion ou de Apostoile ou de autre
souerein. (Rot. Pat., 22 Edward the First.)
CHAPTER ELEVEN. THE SUN BREAKS OUT.
If from Thine ordeal's heated bars,
Our feet are seamed with crimson scars,
Thy will be done!Whittier.
Heliet's penetration had not deceived her. The mean, narrow,
withered article which Vivian Barkeworth called his soul, was unable to
pardon Clarice for having shown herself morally so much his superior.
That his wife should be better than himself was in his eyes an
inversion of the proper order of things. And as of course it was
impossible that he should be to blame, why, it must be her fault
Clarice found herself most cruelly snubbed for days after her
interference in behalf of her graceless husband. Not in public; for
except in the one instance of this examination, where his sense of
shame and guilt had overcome him for a moment, Vivian's company manners
were faultless, and a surface observer would have pronounced him a
model husband. Poor Clarice had learned by experience that any
restraint which Vivian put upon himself when inwardly vexed, was sure
to rebound on her devoted head in the form of after suffering in
To Clarice herself the reaction came soon and severely. On the
evening before Rosie's funeral, Heliet found her seated by the little
bier in the hall, gazing dreamily on the face of her lost darling, with
dry eyes and strained expression. She sat down beside her. Clarice took
no notice. Heliet scarcely knew how to deal with her. If something
could be said which would set the tears flowing it might save her great
suffering; yet to say the wrong thing might do more harm than good. The
supper-bell rang before she had made up her mind. As they rose Clarice
slipped her hand into Heliet's arm, and, to the surprise of the latter,
For what? said Heliet.
For the only thing any one can do for mefor feeling with me.
After supper Clarice went up to her own rooms; but Heliet returned
to the hall where Rosie lay. To her astonishment, she found a sudden
and touching change in the surroundings of the dead child. Rosie lay
now wreathed round in white rosebuds, tastefully disposed, as by a hand
which had grudged neither love nor labour.
Who has done this? Heliet spoke aloud in he surprise.
I have, said a voice beside her. It was no voice which Heliet
knew. She looked up into the face of a tall man, with dark hair and
beard, and eyes which were at once sad and compassionate.
You! Who are you? asked Heliet in the same tone.
You may not know my name. I amPiers Ingham.
Then I do know, replied Heliet, gravely. But, Sir Piers, she
must not know.
Certainly not, he said, quietly. Tell her nothing; let her think,
if she will, that the angels did it. Andtell me nothing. Farewell.
He stooped down and kissed the cold white brow of the dead child.
That can hurt no one, said Piers, in a low voice. And she may be
glad to hear itwhen she meets the child again.
He glided out of the hall so softly that Heliet did not hear him go,
and only looked up and found herself alone. She knelt for a few minutes
by the bier and then went quietly to her own room.
The next morning there were abundance of conjectures as to who could
have paid this tender and graceful tribute. The Earl was generally
suspected, but he at once said that it was no doing of his. Everybody
was asked, and all denied it. Father Bevis was appealed to, as being
better acquainted with the saints than the rest of the company, to
state whether he thought it probable that one of them had been the
agent. But Father Bevis's strong common sense declined to credit any
but human hands with the deed.
Clarice was one of the last to appear. And when the sweet, fair
tribute to her darling broke suddenly upon her sight, the result was
attained for which all had been more or less hoping. That touch of
nature set the floodgates open, and dropping on her knees beside the
bier, Clarice poured forth a rain of passionate tears.
When all was over, and Rosie had been hidden away from sight until
the angel-trump should call her, Clarice and Heliet went out together
on the Castle green. They sat down on one of the seats in an embrasure.
The Earl, with his thoughtful kindness, seeing them, sent word to the
commandant to keep the soldiers within so long as the ladies chose to
stay there. So they were left undisturbed.
Heliet was longing intensely to comfort Clarice, but she felt
entirely at a loss what line to take. Clarice relieved her perplexity
by being the first to speak.
Heliet! she said, what does God mean by this?
I cannot tell, dear heart, except that He means love and mercy.
`All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth unto the lovers of His
will and testimony.' Is not that enough?
It might be if one could see it.
Is it not enough, without seeing?
O Heliet, Heliet, she was all I had!
I know it, beloved. But how if He would have thee to make Him all
Could I not have loved God and have had Rosie?
Perhaps not, said Heliet, gently.
I hope He will take me soon, said Clarice. Surely He can never
leave me long now!
Or, it may be, make thee content to wait His will.
Clarice shook her head, not so much with a negative air as with a
shrinking one. Just in that first agony, to be content with it seemed
beyond human nature.
Heliet laid her hand on that of her friend. Dear, would you have
had Rosie suffer as you have done?
For a moment Clarice's mental eyes ran forward, over what would most
likely, according to human prevision, have been the course of Rosie's
after life. The thought came to her as with a pang, and grew upon her,
that the future could have had no easy lot in store for Vivian
Barkeworth's daughter. He would have disposed of her without a thought
of her own wish, and no prayers nor tears from her would have availed
to turn him from his purpose. Noit was well with the child.
Thou art right, she said, in a pained voice. It is better for
Rosie as it is. But for me?
Leave that with God. He will show thee some day that it was better
for thee too.
Clarice rose from her seat; but not till she had said the one thing
which Heliet had been hoping that she would not say.
Who could have laid those flowers there? Heliet, canst thou form
any idea? Dost thou think it was an angel?
Heliet had an excuse in settling her crutches for delaying her reply
for a moment. Then she said in a low tone, the source of whose
tenderness it was well that Clarice could not guessI am not sure,
dear, that it was not.
If Clarice's sufferings had been passive before, they began to be
active now. Vivian made her life a torment to her by jealousy on the
one hand, and positive cruelty on the other; yet his manners in public
were so carefully veiled in courtesy that not one of her friends
guessed how much she really suffered. As much time as she could she
spent in her oratory, which was the only place where Vivian left her at
peace, under a vague idea that it would bring him ill luck to interrupt
any one's prayers. Unfortunately for Clarice, he had caught a glimpse
of Piers, and, having no conscientiousness in his own composition, he
could not imagine it in that of another. That Piers should be at
Berkhamsted without at least making an effort to open communication
with Clarice, was an idea which Vivian would have refused to entertain
for a moment. For what other earthly purpose could he be there? Vivian
was a man who had no faith in any human being. In his belief, the only
possible means to prevent Clarice from running away with Piers was to
keep her either in his sight or locked up when out of it. The idea of
trusting to her principles would have struck him as simply ridiculous.
Sir Piers, however, had completely disappeared, as completely as
though he had never been seen. And after a while Vivian grew more
confident, and not so particular about keeping the key turned. Clarice
knew neither why he locked her in, nor why he gave over doing so. Had
she had a suspicion of the reason, her indignation would not have been
Public affairs meanwhile maintained their interest. The King marched
his army to Scotland, and routed Wallace's troops in the battle of
Falkirk; but his success was somewhat counterbalanced by the burning of
Westminster Palace and Abbey before he left home. It was about this
time that Piers Gavestone began to appear at Court, introduced by his
father with a view to making his fortune; and to the misfortune of the
young Prince Edward, their musical tastes being alike, they became fast
friends. The Prince was now only fourteen years of age; and, led by
Gavestone, he was guiltyif indeed the charge be trueof a
mischievous boyish frolic, in breaking the parks of the Bishop of
Chester, and appropriating his deer. The boy was fond of venison, and
he was still more fond of pets; but neither of these facts excused the
raid on the Bishop of Chester, who chose to take the offence far more
seriously than any modern bishop would be likely to do, and carried his
complaint to the King. The royal father, as his wont was, flew into a
passion, and weighted the boys' frolic with the heavy penalty of
banishment for Gavestone, and imprisonment for the Prince. In all
probability young Edward had never looked on his action in any other
light than as a piece of fun. Had his father been concerned about the
sin committed against Godexactly the sin of a boy who robs an
orchardhe might, with less outward severity, have produced a far more
wholesome impression on his son; but what he considered appears to have
been merely the dignity of the Prince, which was outraged by the act of
the boy who bore the title. A quiet, grave exhortation might have done
him good, but imprisonment did none, and left on many minds the
impression that the boy had been hardly used.
One striking feature in the conduct of Edward the Second is the
remarkable meekness and submission with which he bore his father's
angry outbursts and severe punishmentsoften administered for mere
youthful follies, such as most fathers would think amply punished by a
strong lecture, and perhaps a few strokes of the cane. Edward the First
seems to have been one of those men who entirely forget their own
childhood, and are never able in after life to enter into the feelings
of a child.
His Majesty, however, had other matters to attend to beside the
provocation received from his heir; for in the month of September
following (1299) he was married at Canterbury to the Princess
Marguerite of France. It was a case approaching that of Rachel and
Leah, for it was the beautiful Princess Blanche for whom the King had
been in treaty, and Marguerite was foisted on him by a process of
crafty diplomacy not far removed from treachery. However, since
Marguerite, though not so fair as her sister, proved the better woman
of the two, the King had no reason to be disappointed in the end.
The Council of Regency established in Scotland, discontented with
Edward's arbitration, referred the question of their independence to
the Pope, and that wily potentate settled the matter in his own
interests, by declaring Scotland a fief of the Holy See. The King was
still warring in that vicinity; the young Queen was left with her baby
boy in Yorkshire to await his return.
It was a hot July day, and Vivian, who highly disapproved of the
stagnation of Berkhamsted, declared his intention of going out to hunt.
People hunted in all weathers and seasons in the Middle Ages. Ademar
declined to accompany him, and he contented himself by taking two of
the Earl's squires and a handful of archers as company. The Earl did
not interfere with Vivian's proceedings. He was quite aware that the
quiet which he loved was by no means to everybody's taste; and he left
his retinue at liberty to amuse themselves as they pleased.
Vivian did not think it necessary to turn the key on Clarice; but he
gave her a severe lecture on discreet behaviour which astonished her,
since her conscience did not accuse her of any breach of that virtue,
and she could not trace the course of her husband's thoughts. Clarice
meekly promised to bear the recommendation in mind; and Vivian left her
to her own devices.
The day dragged heavily. Mistress Underdone sat with Heliet and
Clarice at work; but not much work was gone through, for in everybody's
opinion it was too hot to do anything. The tower in which they were was
at the back of the Castle, and looked upon the inner court. The Earl's
apartments were in the next tower, and there, despite the heat, he was
going over sundry grants and indentures with Father Bevis and his
bailiff, always considering the comfort and advantage of his serfs and
tenants. The sound of a horn outside warned the ladies that in all
probability Vivian was returning home; and whether his temper were
good, bad, or indifferent was likely to depend on the condition of his
hunting-bags. Good, was almost too much to hope for. With a little
smothered sigh Clarice ventured to hope that it might not be worse than
indifferent. Her comfort for the next day or two would be much affected
They looked out of the window, but all they saw was Ademar crossing
the inner court with rapid steps, and disappearing within the Earl's
tower. There was some noise in the outer court, but no discernible
solution of it. The ladies went back to their work. Much to their
surprise, ten minutes later, the Earl himself entered the chamber. It
was not at all his wont to come there. When he had occasion to send
orders to Clarice concerning his household arrangements, he either sent
for her or conveyed them through Vivian. These were the Countess's
rooms which they were now occupying, and the Earl had never crossed the
threshold since she left the Castle.
They looked up, and saw in his face that he had news to tell them.
And all at once Clarice rose and exclaimedVivian!
Dame, I grieve to tell you that your knight has been somewhat hurt
in his hunting.
Clarice was not conscious of any feeling but the necessity of
knowing all. And that she had not yet been told all she felt certain.
Much hurt? she asked.
I fear so, answered the Earl.
My Lord, will you tell me all?
The Earl took her hand and looked kindly at her. Dame, he is dead.
Mistress Underdone raised her hands with an exclamation of shocked
surprise, to which Heliet's look of horror formed a fitting corollary.
Clarice was conscious only of a confused medley of feelings, from which
none but a sense of amazement stood out in the foreground. Then the
Earl quietly told her that, in leaping a wide ditch, Vivian had been
thrown from his horse, and had never spoken more.
No one tried to comfort Clarice. Pitifully they all felt that
comfort was not wanted now. The death of Rosie had been a crushing
blow; but Vivian's, however sudden, could hardly be otherwise than a
relief. The only compassion that any one could feel was for him, for
whom there was
No reckoning made, but sent to his account
With all his imperfections on his head.
The very fact that she could not regret him on her own account lay a
weight on Clarice's conscience, though it was purely his own fault.
Severely as she tried to judge herself, she could recall no instance in
which, so far as such a thing can be said of any human sinner, she had
not done her duty by that dead man. She had obeyed him in letter and
spirit, however distasteful it had often been to herself; she had
consulted his wishes before her own; she had even honestly tried to
love him, and he had made it impossible. Now, she could not resist the
overwhelming consciousness that his death was to her a release from her
fettersa coming out of prison. She was free from the perpetual drag
of apprehension on the one hand, and of constantly endeavouring on the
other to please a man who was determined not to be pleased. The spirit
of the uncaged bird awoke within hera sense of freedom, and light,
and rest, such as she had not known for those eight weary years of her
Yet the future was no path of roses to the eyes of Clarice. She was
not free in the thirteenth century, in the sense in which she would
have been free in the nineteenth, for she had no power to choose her
own lot. All widows were wards of the Crown; and it was not at all
usual for the Crown to concern its august self respecting their wishes,
unless they bought leave to comply with them at a very costly price. By
a singular perversion of justice, the tax upon a widow who purchased
permission to remarry or not, at her pleasure, was far heavier than the
fine exacted from a man who married a ward of the Crown without royal
licence. The natural result of this arrangement was that the ladies who
were either dowered widows or spinster heiresses very often contracted
clandestine marriages, and their husbands quietly endured the
subsequent fine and imprisonment, as unavoidable evils which were soon
over, and well worth the advantage which they purchased.
It seemed, however, as if blessings, no less than misfortunes, were
not to come single to Clarice Barkeworth. A few weeks after Vivian's
death, the Earl silently put a parchment into her hand, which conveyed
to her the information that King Edward had granted to his well-beloved
cousin, Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, the marriage of Clarice, widow of
Vivian Barkeworth, knight, with the usual proviso that she was not to
marry one of the King's enemies. This was, indeed, something for which
to be thankful. Clarice knew that her future was as safe in her
master's hands as in her own.
Ah! said Heliet, when that remark was made to her, if we could
only have felt, dear heart, that it was as safe in the hands of his
Was I very faithless, Heliet? said Clarice, with tears in her
Dear heart, no more than I was! was Heliet's answer.
But has it not occurred to thee, Heliet, nowwhy might I not have
I know not, dear Clarice, any more than Rosie knew, when she was a
babe in thine arms, why thou gavest her bitter medicine. Oh, leave all
that aloneour Master understands what He is doing.
It was the middle of September, and about two months after Vivian's
death. Clarice sat sewing, robed in the white weeds of widowhood, in
the room which she usually occupied in the Countess's tower. The
garments worn by a widow were at this time extremely strict and very
unbecoming, though the period during which they were worn was much less
stringent than now. From one to six months was as long as many widows
remained in that condition. Heliet had not been seen for an hour or
more, and Mistress Underdone, with some barely intelligible remarks
very disparaging to that Nell, who stood, under her, at the head of
the kitchen department, had disappeared to oversee the venison pasty.
Clarice was doing something which she had not done for eight years,
though hardly aware that she was doing ithumming a troubadour song.
Getting past an awkward place in her work, words as well as music
And though my lot were hard and bare,
And though my hopes were few,
Yet would I dare one vow to swear
My heart should still be true.
Wouldst thou, Clarice? asked a voice behind her.
Clarice's delicate embroidery got the worst of it, for it dropped in
a heap on the rushes, and nobody paid the slightest attention to it for
a considerable time. Nor did any one come near the room until Heliet
made her appearance, and she came so slowly, and heralded her approach
by such emphatic raps of her crutches on the stone floor, that Clarice
could scarcely avoid the conclusion that she was a conspirator in the
plot. The head and front of it all, however, was manifestly Earl
Edmund, who received Sir Piers with a smile and no other greetinga
distinct intimation that it was not the first time they had met that
The weddingwhich nobody felt inclined to disputewas fixed for
the fifteenth of October. The Earl wished it to take place when he
could be present and give away the bride, and he wanted first a
fortnight's retreat at Ashridge, to which place he had arranged to go
on the last day of September. Sir Piers stepped at once into his old
position, but the Earl took Ademar with him to Ashridge. He gave the
grant of Clarice's marriage to Piers himself, in the presence of the
household, with the remark:
It will be better in your hands than mine; and there is no time
like the present.
Into Clarice's hand her master put a shining pile of gold for the
purchase of wedding garments and jewellery.
I am glad, he said, that your path through life is coming to the
roses now. I would hope the thorns are over for youat least for some
time. There have been no roses for me; but I can rejoice, I hope, with
those for whom they blossom.
And so he rode away from Berkhamsted, looking back to smile a
farewell to Heliet and Clarice, as they stood watching him in the
gateway. Long years afterwards they remembered that kind, almost
As the ladies turned into their own tower, and began to ascend the
staircasealways a slow process with HelietClarice said, I cannot
understand why our Lord the Earl has such a lonely and sorrowful lot.
Thou wouldst like to understand everything, Clarice, returned
I would! she answered. I can understand my own troubles better,
for I know how much there is in me that needs setting right; but
hewhy he is almost an angel already.
Perhaps he would tell thee the same thing, said Heliet. I am
afraid, dear heart, if thou hadst the graving of our Lord's gems, thou
wouldst stop the tool before the portrait was in sufficient relief.
But when the portrait is in sufficient relief? answered
Ah, dear heart! said Heliet, neither thine eyes nor mine are fine
enough to judge of that.
It seems almost a shame to be happy when I know he is not, replied
Clarice, the tears springing to her eyes; our dear master, who has
been to me as a very angel of God.
Nay, dear, he would wish thee to be happy, gently remonstrated
Heliet. I believe both thou and I are to him as daughters, Clarice.
I wish I could make him happy! said Clarice, as they turned into
Ask God to do it, was Heliet's response.
They both asked Him that night. And He heard and answered them, but,
as is often the case, not at all as they expected.
CHAPTER TWELVE. IN THE CITY OF GOLD.
I am not eager, strong,
Nor boldall that is past;
I am ready not to do,
At lastat last.
My half-day's work is done,
And this is all my part:
I give a patient God
My patient heart.
Vespers were over at Ashridge on the last day of September, the
evening of the Earl's arrival. He sat in the guest-chamber, with the
Prior and his Buckinghamshire bailiff, to whom he was issuing
instructions with respect to some cottages to be built for the villeins
on one of his estates. The Prior sat by in silence, while the Earl
impressed on the mind of his agent that the cottages were to be made
reasonably comfortable for the habitation of immortal souls and not
improbably suffering bodies. When at last the bailiff had departed, the
Prior turned to his patron with a smile. I would all lay lordsand
spiritual ones toowere as kindly thoughtful of their inferiors as
Ah, how little one can do at the best! said the Earl. Life is
full of miseries for these poor serfs; shall we, who would follow
Christ's steps, not strive to lighten it?
It is very truth, said the Prior.
Ay, and how short the boundary is! pursued the Earl. `Man is
ignorant what was before him; and what shall be after him, who can tell
him?' It may be, the next lord of these lands will be a hard man, who
will oppress his serfs, or at any rate take no care for their comfort.
Poor souls! let them be happy as long as they can.
When I last saw your Lordship, you seemed to think that short
boundary too long for your wishes.
It is seven years since that, answered the Earl. It hardly seems
so far away now. And lately, FatherI scarcely can tell howI have
imagined that my life will not be long. It makes me the more anxious to
do all I can ere `the night cometh in which no man can work.'
The Prior looked critically and anxiously at his patron. The seven
years which he had passed in sorrowful loneliness had aged him more
than seven years ought to have done. He was not fifty yet, but he was
beginning to look like an old man. The burden and heat of the day were
telling on him sadly.
Right, my Lord, replied the Prior; yet let me beg of your
Lordship not to over-weary yourself. Your life is a precious thing to
all dependent on you, and not less to us, your poor bedesmen here.
Ah, Father! is my life precious to any one? was the response, with
a sad smile.
Indeed it is, answered the Prior earnestly. As your Lordship has
just said, he who shall come after you may be harsh and unkind, and
your poor serfs may sorely feel the change. No man has a right to throw
away life, my Lord, and you have much left to live for.
Perhaps the Earl had grown a little morbid. Was it any wonder if he
had? He shook his head.
We have but one life, continued the Prior, and it is our duty to
make the best of itthat is, to do God's will with it. And when it is
God's will to say unto us, `Come up higher,' we may be sorry that we
have served Him no better, but not, I think, that we have given no more
time to our own ease, nor even to our own sorrows.
And yet, said the Earl, resting his head upon one hand, one gets
very, very tired sometimes of living.
Cannot we trust our Father to call us to rest when we really need
it? asked the Prior. Nor is it well that in looking onward to the
future glory we should miss the present rest to be had by coming to
Him, and casting all our cares and burdens at His feet.
Does He always take them?
Alwaysif we give them. But there is such a thing as asking Him to
take them, and holding them out to Him, and yet keeping fast hold of
the other end ourselves. He will hardly take what we do not give.
The Earl looked earnestly into his friend's eyes.
Father, I will confess that these seven yearsnay! what am I
saying? these eight-and-twentyI have not been willing that God should
do His will. I wanted my will done. For five-and-forty years, ever
since I could lisp the words, I have been saying to Him with my lips,
Fiat voluntas tua. But only within the last few days have I really
said to Him in my heart, Lord, have Thy way. It seemed to mewill you
think it very dreadful if I confess it?that I wanted but one thing,
and that it was very hard of God not to let me have it. I did not say
such a thing in words; I could talk fluently of being resigned to His
will, but down at the core of my heart I was resigned to everything but
one, and I was not resigned to that at all. And I think I only became
resigned when I gave over trying and working at resignation, and sank
down, like a tired child, at my Father's feet. But now I am very tired,
and I would fain that my Father would take me up in His arms.
The Prior did not speak. He could not. He only looked very
sorrowfully into the worn face of the heart-wearied man, with a
conviction which he was unable to repress, that the time of the call to
come up higher was not far away. He would have been thankful to
disprove his conclusion, but to stifle it he dared not.
I hope, said the Earl in the same low tone, that there are quiet
corners in Heaven where weary men and women may lie down and rest a
while at our Lord's feet. I feel unfit to take a place all at once in
the angelic choir. Not unready to praiseI mean not thatonly too
weary, just at first, to care for anything but rest.
There were tears burning under the Prior's eyelids; but he was
silent still. That was not his idea of Heaven; but then he was less
weary of earth. He felt almost vexed that the only passage of Scripture
which would come to him was one utterly unsuited to the occasionThey
rest not day nor night. Usually fluent and fervent, he was tongue-tied
Did Christ our Lord need the rest of His three days and nights in
the grave? suggested the Earl, thoughtfully. He must have been very
weary after the agony of His cross. I think He must have been very
tired of His life altogether. For was it not one passion from Bethlehem
to Calvary? And He could hardly have been one of those strong men who
never seem to feel tired. Twice we are told that He was wearywhen He
sat on the well, and when He slept in the boat. Father, I ought to ask
your pardon for speaking when I should listen, and seeming to teach
where I ought to be taught.
Nay, my Lord, say not so, I pray you. The Prior found his voice at
last. I have learned to recognise my Master's voice, whether I hear it
from the rostrum of the orator or from the lowly hovel of the serf. And
it is not the first time that I have heard it in yours.
The Earl looked up with an expression of surprise, and then shook
his head again with a smile.
Nay, good Father, flatter me not so far.
He might have added more, but the sound of an iron bar beaten on a
wooden board announced the hour of supper. The Earl conversed almost
cheerfully with the Prior and his head officers during supper; and
Ademar remarked to the Cellarer that he had not for a long while seen
his master so like his old self.
The first of October rose clear and bright. At Berkhamsted, the
ladies were spending the morning in examining the contents of a
pedlar's well-stocked pack, and buying silk, lawn, furs, and trimmings
for the wedding. At Ashridge, the Earl was walking up and down the
Priory garden, looking over the dilapidations which time had wrought in
his monastery, and noting on his tables sundry items in respect of
which he meant to repair the ravages. At Romsey, Mother Margaret, in
her black patched habit and up-turned sleeves, was washing out the
convent refectory, and thereby, she fervently hoped, washing her sins
out of existencewithout a thought of the chivalrous love which would
have set her high above all such menial labour, and would never have
permitted even the winds of heaven to visit her cheek too roughly.
Did it never occur to her that she might have allowed the Redeemer of
men to make her salvation for her, and yet have allowed herself to
make her husband's life something better to him than a weary burden?
The day's work was over, and the recreation time had come. The Prior
of Ashridge tapped at the door of the guest-chamber, and was desired to
He found the Earl turning over the leaves of his Psalter.
Look here, Father, said the latter, pointing out the fifteenth
verse of the ninetieth Psalm.
We are glad for the days wherein Thou didst humiliate us; the years
wherein we have seen evil.
What does that mean? said the Earl. Is it that we thank God for
the afflictions He has given us? It surely does not meanI hope
notthat our comfort is to last just as long as our afflictions have
lasted, and not a day longer.
Ah, my Lord, God is no grudging giver, answered the Prior. The
verse before it, methinks, will reply to your Lordship`we exult and
are glad all our days.' All our earthly life have we been afflicted;
all our heavenly one shall we be made glad.
Glad! I hardly know what the word means, was the pathetic reply.
You will know it then, said the Prior.
You willbut shall I? I have been such an unprofitable servant!
Nay, good my Lord, but are you going to win Heaven by your own
works? eagerly demanded the Bonus Homo. `Beginning in the spirit, are
ye consummated in the flesh?' Surely you have not so learned Christ.
Hath He not said, `Life eternal give I to them; and they shall not
perish for ever, and none shall snatch them out of My hand'?
True, said the Earl, bowing his head.
But this was Vaudois teaching. And though Earl Edmund, first of all
men in England, had drunk in the Vaudois doctrines, yet even in him
they had to struggle with a mass of previous teaching which required to
be unlearnedwith all that rubbish of man's invention which Rome has
built up on the One Foundation. It was hard, at times, to keep the old
ghosts from coming back, and troubling by their shadowy presence the
soul whom Christ had brought into His light.
There was silence for a time. The Earl's head was bent forward upon
his clasped hands on the table, and the Prior, who thought that he
might be praying, forbore to disturb him. At length he said, My Lord,
the supper-hour is come.
The Earl gave no answer, and the Prior thought he had dropped
asleep. He waited till the board was struck with the iron bar as the
signal for supper. Then he rose and addressed the Earl again. The
silence distressed him now. He laid his hand upon his patron's
shoulder, but there was no response. Gently, with a sudden and terrible
fear, he lifted the bowed head and looked into his face. And then he
knew that the weary heart was glad at lastthat life eternal in His
beatific presence had God given to him. From far and near the
physicians were summoned that night, but only to tell the Prior what he
already knew. They stood round the bed on which the corpse had been
reverently laid, and talked of his mysterious disease in hard words of
sonorous Latin. It would have been better had they called it in simple
English what it wasa broken heart. Why such a fate was allotted to
one of the best of all our princes, He knows who came to bind up the
broken-hearted, and who said by the lips of His prophet, Reproach hath
broken mine heart.
Ademar was sent back to Berkhamsted with the woeful news. There was
bitter mourning there. It was not, perhaps, in many of the household,
unmixed with selfish considerations, for to a large proportion of them
the death of their master meant homelessness for the present, and to
nearly all sad apprehensions for the future. Yet there was a great deal
that was not selfish, for the gentle, loving, humane, self-abnegating
spirit of the dead had made him very dear to all his dependants, and
more hearts wept for him than he would ever have believed possible.
But there was one person in especial to whom it was felt the news
ought to be sent. The Prior despatched no meaner member of the Order,
but went himself to tell the dark tidings at Romsey.
He pleaded hard for a private interview with the Countess, but the
reigning Abbess of Romsey was a great stickler for rule, and she
decided that it was against precedent, and therefore propriety, that
one of her nuns should be thus singled out from the rest. The
announcement must be made in the usual way, to the whole convent, at
So, in the well-known tones of the Prior of Ashridge,some time the
Earl's confessor, and his frequent visitor,with the customary request
to pray for the repose of the dead, to the ears of Mother Margaret, as
she knelt in her stall with the rest, came the sound of the familiar
name of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall.
Very tender and pathetic was the tone in which the intimation was
given. The heart of the Prior himself was so wrung that he could not
imagine such a feeling as indifference in that of the woman who had
been the dearest thing earth held for that dead man. But if he looked
down the long row of black, silent figures for any sign or sound, he
looked in vain. There was not even a trembling of Mother Margaret's
black veil as her voice rose untroubled in the response with all the
O Jesu dulcis! O Jesu pie!
O Jesu, Fili Maria!
Dona eis requiem.
In the recreation-time which followed, the Prior sought out Mother
Margaret. He found her without difficulty, seated on a form at the side
of the room, talking to a sister nun, and he caught a few words of the
conversation as he approached.
I assure thee, Sister Regina, it is quite a mistake. Mother Wymarca
told me distinctly that the holy Mother gave Sister Maud an unpatched
habit, and it is all nonsense in her to say there was a patch on the
The Prior bit his lips, but he restrained himself, and sat down,
reverently saluted by both nuns as he did so. Was she trying to hide
her feelings? thought he.
Sister Margaret, I brought you tidings, he said, as calmly as was
The nun turned upon him a pair of cold, steel-blue eyes, as calm and
irresponsive as if he had brought her no tidings whatever.
I heard them, Father, if it please you. Has he left any will?
The priest-nature in the Prior compelled him officially to avoid any
reprehension of this perfect monastic calm; but the human nature, which
in his case lay beneath it, was surprised and repelled.
He has left a will, wherein you are fully provided for.
Oh, that is nice! said Mother Margaret, in tones of unquestionable
gratulation. And how much am I to have? Of course I care about it only
for the sake of the Abbey.
The Prior had his private ideas on that point; for, as he well knew,
the vow of poverty was somewhat of a formality in the Middle Ages,
since the nun who brought to her convent a title and a fortune was
usually not treated in the same manner as a penniless commoner.
The customary dower to a widow, Sister.
Do you mean to say I am only to have my third? Well, I call that
shameful! And so fond of me as he always professed to be! I thought he
would have left me everything.
The Prior experienced a curious sensation in his right arm, which,
had Mother Margaret not been a woman, or had he been less of a
Christian and a Church dignitary, might have resulted in the measuring
of her length on the floor of the recreation-room. But she was totally
unconscious of any such feeling on his part. Her heartor that within
her which did duty for onehad been touched at last.
Well, I do call it disgraceful! she repeated.
And is that all? asked the Prior involuntarily, and not by any
means in consonance with his duty as a holy priest addressing a veiled
nun. But priests and nuns have no business with hearts of any sort, and
he ought to have known this as well as she did.
All? she said, with a rather puzzled look in the frosty blue eyes.
I would it had been a larger sum, Father; for the convent's sake, of
And am I to hear no word of regret, Sister, for the man to whom you
were all the world?
This was, of course, a most shocking speech, considering the speaker
and the person whom he addressed; but it came warm from that
inconvenient heart which had no business to be beneath the Prior's
cassock. Mother Margaret was scandalised, and she showed it in her
face, which awoke her companion to the fact that he was not speaking in
character. That a professed nun should be expected to feel personal and
unspiritual interest in an extern! and, as if that were not enough, in
a man! Mother Margaret's sense of decorum was quite outraged.
How could such thoughts trouble the blessed peace of a holy
sister? she wished to know. Pardon me, Father; I shall pray for his
soul, of course. What could I do more?
And the Prior recognised at last that to the one treasure of that
dead man's heart, the news he brought was less than it had been to him.
He bit his lips severely. It was all he could do to keep from
telling her that the pure, meek, self-abnegating soul which had passed
from earth demanded far fewer prayers than the cold, hard, selfish
spirit which dwelt within her own black habit.
It is I who require pardon, Sister, he said, in a constrained
voice. May our Lord in His mercy forgive us all!
He made no further attempt to converse with Mother Margaret. But, as
he passed her a few minutes later, he heard that she and Sister Regina
had gone back to the previous subject, which they were discussing with
some interest in their tones.
O woman, woman! groaned the Prior, in his heart; the patch on
Sister Maud's elbow is more to thee than all the love thou hast lost.
Ah, my dear Lord! it is not you that I mourn. You are far better
From which speech it will be seen that the Bonus Homo was very far
from being a perfect monk.
The actions of Mother Margaret admirably matched her words. She gave
herself heart and soul to the important business of securing her
miserable third of her dead lord's lands and goods. Not till they were
safe in her possession did she allow herself any rest.
Did the day ever come when her feelings changed? During the ten
years which she outlived the man who had loved her with every fibre of
his warm, great heart, did her heart ever turn regretfully, when
Abbesses were harsh or life was miserable, to the thought of that
tender, faithful love which, so far as in it lay, would have sheltered
her life from every breath of discomfort? Did she ever in all those ten
years whisper to herself
Oh, if he would but come again,
I think I'd vex him so no more!
Did she ever murmur such words as
I was not worthy of you, Douglas,
Not half worthy the like of you!
...words which, honestly sobbed forth in very truth, would have been
far nearer real penitence than all the acts of contrition which
passed her lips day by day.
God knoweth. Men will never know. But all history and experience
tend to assure us that women such as Margaret de Clare usually die as
they have lived, and that of all barriers to penitence and conversion
there is none so hard to overthrow as indulged malice and deliberate
hardening of the heart against the love of God and man.
There was not, as Piers and Clarice had feared there might have
been, any misfortune to them in the way of preventing their marriage.
King Edward had great respect for justice and honour, and finding that
his cousin had, though without legal formalities, granted Clarice's
marriage to Piers, he confirmed the grant, and Father Bevis married
them quietly in the chapel of Berkhamsted Castle, without any festivity
or rejoicings, for the embalmed body of the master to whom they owed so
much lay in state in the banquet-hall. It was a mournful ceremony,
The cheers that had erst made the welkin ring
Were drowned in the tears that were shed for the King.
Clarice and Piers made no attempt to obtain any further promotion.
They retired to a little estate in Derbyshire, which shortly afterwards
fell to Piers, and there they spent their lives, in serving their
generation according to the will of God, often brightened by visits
from Ademar and Heliet, who had taken up their abode not far from them
in the neighbouring county of Rutland. And as time went on, around
Clarice grew up brave sons and fair daughters, to all of whom she made
a very loving mother; but, perhaps, no one was ever quite so dear to
her heart as the star which had gleamed on her life the brighter for
the surrounding darkness, the little white rosebud which had been
gathered for the garden of God.
In other springs her life might be
In bannered bloom unfurled;
But never, never match her wee
White Rose of all the world.
It was not until the spring which followed his death was blooming
into green leaves and early flowers that the coffin of Edmund, Earl of
Cornwall, was borne to the magnificent Abbey of Hales in
Gloucestershire, founded by his father. There they laid him down by
father and motherthe grand, generous, spendthrift Prince who had so
nearly borne the proud title of Caesar Augustus, and the fair, soft,
characterless Princess who had been crowned with him as Queen of the
Romans. For the Prince who was laid beside them that Easter afternoon,
the world had prepared what it considers a splendid destiny. Throne and
diadem, glory and wealth, love and happiness, were to have been his, so
far as it lay in the world's power to give them; but on most of all
these God had laid His hand, and forbidden them to come near the soul
which He had marked for His own. For him there was to be an
incorruptible crown, but no corruptible; the love of the Lord that
bought him, but not the love of the woman on whom he set his heart.
Nowwhatever he may have thought on earthnow, standing on the sea of
glass, and having the harp of God, he knows which was the better
He wore no crown; he founded no dynasty; he passed away, like a name
written in water, followed only by the personal love of a few hearts
which were soon dust like him, and by the undying curses and calumnies
of the Church which he had done his best to purify against her will.
But shall we, looking back across the six centuries which lie between
us and him who brought Protestantism into Englandshall we write on
his gravestone in the ruined Abbey of Hales, This man lived in vain?